An elder letter, by Dan Russell

Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was on them all. Nor was there any among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. Acts 4:32-35

Greetings beloved brothers and sisters in Christ our Lord, Who has set us apart as His church to shine as lights in this world bringing His gospel for hope and peace to all men, women, and children.

Luke’s second letter to his friend Theophilus, the book of Acts, shifts from his gospel account to his description of the work of the Holy Spirit in the newly formed church in Jerusalem. These early days set the course for the church for what has been almost 2,000 years. And while we must be diligent to stay the course, we know that His grace will indeed carry us on to completion, for our God is faithful!

The type of mutual care and concern for each other in Christ’s body was so extraordinary in the early church that God blessed them with “great power” in their witness as well as “great grace” on them all. It seems that our distant brothers and sisters showed their faith through the love of one another, sharing their possessions with great joy!

I am encouraged in my faith each time I see or hear of members in our body loving and caring for each other through service and giving; indeed, “great grace” is on us all.

When we look at the poverty of the ancient church we might think that in all our material prosperity we could never feel that acute need for extraordinary sharing that we read about in the book of Acts. However, even in a society like ours, where each of us has been blessed with so much, we may at times still be brought to a point of need in which we must reach out to our brothers and sisters in Christ and say, “I need some help”. God purposely allows for our trials to bring opportunity to work out our faith through love and thereby grow in His grace toward Christ-like character and maturity.

This is the purpose of our benevolence fund; when we find that our pilgrimage in this earthly life is beyond our ability to carry our load on our own. It is then that we truly find that Christ has supplied all things that we need as a body, not merely individually. Oh what a grace; what a joy to share with others the good things that God has given to us.

Our benevolence offerings are an important way that we as a body can share with other members in urgent need. We can do this on a regular basis, as we often do after our communion services, to insure that the benevolence fund is ready; or we can give whenever the need arises and it is made known to us. Usually the specific need is kept confidential and the elders only inform the congregation that funds have been used and need to be replenished. One of our oldest members used to tell me that he thought our benevolence giving should be encouraged publically more often, and this letter serves that purpose.

Our gracious God has indeed blessed us in many, many ways; our pastors and children’s director and their families, the many servants here at Grace that tirelessly serve using their God-given gifts and talents (too many to name!), our comfortable new facility with ample room to move around and gather (equipped with cool air in the summer and warm air in the winter), a place for our children and youth to play and sing and learn about their Creator, a café and kitchen area to greet one another and find refreshment. We have so much to be grateful for; may He receive the sacrifices of praise from our lips and our hearts.

Another blessing for which we now can be grateful is no longer packing up and storing our ministry materials and equipment in bins! We have been granted by our Lord to have 24/7 storage space in cabinets and shelves in our classrooms and the kitchen. He has even been so gracious to give us a refrigerator for cool waters and juices and snacks. You will even notice a “shopping list” on the refrigerator door so that you can write down whatever your weekly ministry refreshment needs are or what your ministry folks have used recently so that the kitchen can be restocked each week before our Sunday services. You will also notice that all the various sundries have been “united” and placed in labeled cabinets and cupboards so that we all can find just what we need when we need it! Our God is so good to us!

All this and the additional opportunity to show grace and understanding toward each other as we minister together to build up the body of Christ and bring His gospel to our world. May our God truly receive all the glory due His great name!

Dan Russell