Interview with Stephan Pues of Nordstern Church, Frankfurt

This is a short interview video with Pastor Tony of IDC and Stephan Pues of Nordstern Church in Frankfurt, Germany. Nordstern is IDC’s partner church plant in the Redeemer City to City network (redeemercitytocity.com). In this video Stephan gives an overview of Nordstern and several prayer requests for the church and city. You can read more about Nordstern here and here.


IDC AdminInterview with Stephan Pues of Nordstern Church, Frankfurt

Harvest Church, Part II: God Plants the Seed

Harvest Church, Part II: God Plants the Seed

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”  Philippians 1:5


Brothers and sisters of Imago Dei,

Thank you so much for your prayer and support for Harvest Church. We would like to give you a brief update on our church planting journey.

Back in July we were commissioned and sent out from you guys as the core team to plant Harvest Church (how special was that!). God had just opened the doors in a miraculous way for the plant in Cary, and this summer we got to see Him be no less active in uniting and preparing us for the mission.

We met for the last couple months on Sunday evenings to share a meal, have an informal worship service, and to have relevant teaching/training in regard to the plant. Largely speaking, this was the season dedicated to forming the DNA of Harvest Church. We traveled together through Ephesians, gazing at the awesome grace of God in saving us in Christ, forming us as a people in Christ, and sending us on His mission for the glory of Christ. We caught God’s heartbeat for His church in general, and also dove deeply into what we felt God has called Harvest Church to specifically—how we are to function in practice within our overall philosophy of community and mission centralized on the gospel.  

Because we had two very different groups trying to unite for the church plant (the young crew from Imago and the older crew from North Cary), we were a bit unsure how things were going to go. But of course, if God can unite Jew and Gentile, He can also take this motley group and unite us. And that He did! This has been one of the sweetest, unexpected blessings of the plant. These older folks have become dads and moms, and granddads and grandmoms to us. And we have become their sons and daughters and grandchildren. Truly awesome! We feel united in such a way at this point that it defies explanation apart from God’s handiwork.

A third component to the summer, in addition to the teaching and relational aspects, was getting the property ready for launch. While we have been blown away with the provision of a facility, we also believed there was a need for a major renovation and general update. This involved a massive clean and purge, the knocking out of walls, new paint everywhere, some new flooring, and a completely revamped sanctuary. We have been especially blessed with the generous donations of time and money from many folks to help with the cause—and it has paid off! We could not be any more pleased!

That would also express our sentiment toward God for the whole summer season of preparing to plant. God has shown us again and again just how faithful and good He is as He continues to work and build his church in spite of our weakness.

On November 9, 2014 the seed of Harvest Church officially went into the ground. Glory to God! It was a wonderful day. Many of you were able to join us, making it extra special! Several folks came up from Georgia, as well as family and friends from around the Raleigh/Cary area. We had over a hundred hearts with us in worship! It was simply a beautiful and glorious morning! This was also our time of covenant signing for the core team. With the witness of those present, all 25 of us signed together to covenant as the first members of Harvest Church.

We eagerly anticipate all that God has in store for us. We thank you for setting such a worthy example for us to imitate. How often have we thought, “Hmmm, what would Imago Dei do?” WWID. Just kidding, but seriously. Your love for Jesus, His people, and His mission is deep in our souls. It has shaped us, and is now influencing all that we do for Christ through Harvest Church.

If you could, please continue to pray for us. We realize that the most fragile time in the life of any plant is when its just coming out of the ground, not to mention the fact that we have a real enemy bent on our destruction.  We trust God is sovereign, but He has also sovereignly united Himself with the prayers of His people.  

So if you would, please pray for us in these specific ways:

  • God’s glory and His will above all things
  •  Jesus to be the Hero of everything
  • The presence of the Holy Spirit (for individuals and in corporate gatherings)
  • Our community groups and their leaders (for existing ones and for new ones to be formed)
  • Wisdom in shepherding folks with illnesses and disabilities
  • God to send someone to help lead us in musical worship
  • Direction for local and international missions (places and people to pour into long term)

We thank you so much! And look forward to continued partnership in the gospel! We love you!HarvestBuilding

For more information, or if you would like to support us financially, please visit our website at www.harvestchurchcary.com. Also, feel free to email Matthew (matthew.poole@harvestchurchcary.com) or Drew (drew.raynor@harvestchurchcary.com).

IDC AdminHarvest Church, Part II: God Plants the Seed

Sermon Series Introduction: Mission 555

Mission 555
5 Networks. 5 People. 5 Tasks.

“Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” (Lk 5:4)

This week we’re starting a series of sermons on reaching our city with the Gospel of Jesus, through network evangelism. The goal of the series is to encourage, equip, and inspire you to be more faithful at spreading the good news. Please know that we don’t intend to guilt trip you each week into doing something you hate doing. This series is actually designed to help you get started, taking small steps, in this important endeavor. We simply want to do more in this area than we are currently doing, and we think we have a biblical and faithful strategy for improvement. Further, we just don’t want this to be a series of sermons. The aim is to create a mindset, or a way of life, that helps you live with gospel intentionality.

(Our normal preaching pattern is to work through books of the Bible every Sunday, but the elders believe that this short series is very needed for our congregation at this time. Also realize that we will be expounding a text every week in the 555 series, just not from one book alone…. Starting in January, the plan is to go verse by verse through the book of Acts. We’re prepared to spend a year or more studying this book, and we’re eager to do it).

Typical approaches to evangelism in the past have either involved crusade evangelism, or cold-call evangelism (door-to-door visitation). While not depreciating these strategies, we believe that an approach that takes into account those in our networks has real potential for effectiveness, and also has a historical legacy behind it. For the early church grew, in large measure, through a web of relationships.

In Tim Keller’s Church Planting Manual, he recommends this approach and says the following:

There must be an atmosphere of expectation that every member will always have 2 to 4 people in the incubator, a force-field in which people are being prayed for, given literature, brought to church or other events.

We have added to Keller’s idea just a bit, and tried to think of five particular networks. Think about 2-5 people in each network. Think about praying, giving literature, inviting, serving, and actually speaking the gospel.

By giving you some tangible ways to interact with those in your network, we think everyone can be involved. You can at least pray for those in your networks. Surely, you can give a book or a Bible to someone in your networks. Perhaps you can give an invitor card to someone in your network, right? Hopefully, you can do all of this in the normal rhythm of your life. One may not have to necessarily add a new activity to an already busy schedule. This is a challenge to simply identify the people you see and know, and to live with gospel intentionality among them everyday.

So again, here’s the plan: 5 Networks. 5 people in those networks (as a goal). 5 tasks.

5 Networks
1. Familial Network: Family you have
2. Vocational Network: People you work with
3. Commercial Network: Businesses you frequent
4. Geographical Network: Neighbors you see
5. Relational Network: Friends you make (not necessarily neighbors). These can be cultivated through recreation or missional endeavors.

(Note: Not everyone will have the same amount of people in the networks. That’s fine. Think about identifying more people in the other networks).

5 Tasks
1. Pray for Them
2. Serve Them
3. Give Gospel-Centered Literature to Them
4. Invite Them
5. Speak the Gospel to Them

Below is our tentative sermon schedule. (Some of these texts are very tentative at this point). After the first sermon, we will spend two weeks on each of the 5 tasks.

1. Let Down Your Nets (Luke 5:1-11) ​​​​​​​ [Sept 14] 2. Task #1: Pray for Them …. That They May Be Saved (Rom 9:1-3; 10:1-21)​​​  [Sept 21] 3. Task #1: Pray for Them … Because God Answers Prayer (James 5:16-18; 1 Kings 18:36-40) ​ [Sept 28] 4. Task #2: Serve Them … With the Father’s Mercy (Luke 6:27-36)​  [Oct 5] 5. Task #2: Serve Them …. With Genuine Neighbor Love (Luke 10:25-37)​​​ ​ [Oct 12] 6. Task #3: Give Gospel-Centered Literature to Them … Because Truth Matters (Col 2:6-23) ​​ [Oct 19] 7. Task #3: Give Gospel Centered Literature to Them …. As You Contend for the Faith (Jude 1:1-4) ​ [Oct 26] 8. Task #4: Invite Them … To Your Parties and to Jesus’ Party (Luke 14:12-24 Part 1)​​​ [Nov 2] 9. Task #4: Invite Them … To Your Parties and to Jesus’ Party (Luke 14:12-24 Part 2)​​​ [Nov 9] 10. Task #5: Speak the Gospel to Them … Following the Pattern of Jesus (John 4)​​​  [Nov 16] 11. Task #5: Speak the Gospel to Them … As Christ’s Ambassador (2 Cor 5:11-21)​​​  [Nov 23]

As an added feature, our goal is to have a testimony each week, who is living out this vision in practical and encouraging ways. We will also be having a special time of prayer on the weekend of Sept 26-27. But please begin praying now. May the Lord add to our number daily those who are being saved (Acts 2:47).

IDC WebmasterSermon Series Introduction: Mission 555

IDC’s 3rd Year Anniversary Celebration & Worship at the Lake

Beaver Dam

What: IDC’s 3rd Year Anniversary! We will be having one corporate worship service on the lake at 10am on Sunday, September 7th. Baptisms in the lake will follow (please contact Pastor Nate @ nate@idcraleigh.com if you are interested in baptism). Then we will celebrate in fine IDC style with a pig pickin’ (pig provided by IDC and cooked by our Grill Master Jay Humphrey), food, games, swimming, etc.

Who: all IDC members, regular attenders, first time visitors, guests, – invite anyone!

When: Sunday, September 7th @ 10am. Please try to arrive early (by 9:30am) so you’ll have time to park and get to the beach area.

What to Bring: Please bring your assigned food item (contact your growth group leader for more details). There is a parking fee of $6 per car so plan to carpool. Only first-time guests, visitors, and those unable to pay will be covered by IDC (inform the worker at the gate you are with IDC if you fall into one of those categories). Please bring blankets, lawn chairs, games, Frisbees, Kan-Jam, etc. Also, there is a lake to swim in and a bath house for changing, so plan accordingly!

Where: Falls Lake State Park, Beaverdam Recreation Area. Note that the entrance to the Beaverdam Recreation Area is on Hwy 50 (Creedmoor Road), 3 miles north of Hwy 98. Coordinates are: 36° 2’6.67??N, 78°41’6.36??W. It should be the third entrance of Falls Lake State Park on Hwy 50 (look for IDC flags!)

We plan to use the shelter down near the lake, Shelter 20. Please plan to drop your food off at Shelter 20 before heading to the lake for worship! In the event we cannot use Shelter 20 (it is first come, first served), we will be using Shelter 21 for food drop-off.

Visit http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/fala/directions.php to see maps & directions.

IDC WebmasterIDC’s 3rd Year Anniversary Celebration & Worship at the Lake

Harvest Church, Part I: God Prepares the Field

Harvest Church logo
Written by Matthew Poole
One of the most beautiful words ever uttered is the Greek word tetelestai (three words if you’re translating into English). It means this, “It is finished.” These are the words our King Jesus said while He hung on that blessed tree in our place, bearing the full weight of our condemnation. In those words He affirms the reason for which He came—to die . . . to ransom a people for His own possession, to purify a people who would be zealous for good works.

The mission of God cannot fail . . . because Christ has accomplished the mission.

And we know that’s not the end of the story for Jesus. God raised Him from the dead, vindicated Him, and exalted Him above every name that can be named. And then, as Ephesians 1:22 says, “[God] put all things under His feet [under Jesus’ feet] and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”

The mission of God cannot fail . . . because Christ is the sovereign ruler over all.

And listen to what Paul says in the very next chapter, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them”(Ephesians 2:10).

The mission of God cannot fail . . . because God has ordained good works for us to walk in.

That’s a pretty good combination of truths. Christ has accomplished the mission. Christ is sovereign over the mission. Christ has prepared the mission for us.

If you have been around Imago Dei recently you have likely heard about their mission to plant Harvest Church in the Cary area. What may be unclear though is the story of how the Harvest Church plant became a reality. We want to take this moment to briefly share that story, highlighting God’s sovereign activity in “preparing this good work.” We hope this story updates you on Harvest Church and encourages you in faithful service to the King.

Back in March we had our church plant town hall meeting. At that time, Drew and I had just committed to planting together and although we had a general desire to be in Raleigh, we had no idea exactly where or what this might look like or who might be involved. Then, in the matter of literally just a couple weeks, all of this significantly took shape. God was preparing to flex his muscles and show off His sovereign skills.

We had located a region of interest just between Raleigh and Cary, and were beginning to really lift up our prayers in this matter. As it turns out, while Drew was praying over the spot on his computer map, in came a most providential email. This email, from a Southeastern contact, relayed that North Cary Baptist Church was a dying church looking for a new direction. When he looked up the church address . . . the location pin fell directly in the center of the region we had marked out.

Okay, God? I guess we’ll follow up on this one.

After some initial conversation with North Cary, things progressed rapidly. Drew and I met with the leaders of the church, making our vision clear that we were wanting to plant a new church in the area. We were not sure at all how this might go, but we were absolutely blown away with their response. Basically, they said they thought we were God’s answer to their prayer.

One of the highlights which we will never forget is when a few of their key leaders said, “We are tired of leading; it’s time for us to serve.”

But it wasn’t just a matter of their hearts being willing to serve under new leadership. We wanted to start a new church from scratch. That means we wanted to do all things new—new bylaws, new membership, new covenant agreement, new church structure, new everything. Again, we were unsure how this next step was going to go, but they were fully on board!! We have been amazed with their humility before God and their desire to sacrifice for the mission. Sure, let’s get rid of everything we have and turn it over to a couple young pastors who we just met a couple weeks ago. They also have over six acres of land, a wonderful sanctuary, a fellowship hall, and a classroom/kids/administrative building.

On May 4, less than 2 months after we first heard of this opportunity, North Cary Baptist Church voted unanimously to dissolve and become Harvest Church.

Drew and I have been filling the pulpit in North Cary the last few months. That is why you have not seen us around IDC much. We have been taking them through a sermon series on the nine marks of a healthy church. And although much of what we have covered is new to them (plurality of elders, church discipline, membership covenant), they are eager to learn and to put everything into practice. Even in restructuring the church away from a Sunday morning emphasis toward an emphasis on community and relationship (small groups), they have received it with great joy. In fact, they told us that this new church model is what they have been trying to get to for so long but have not known how to achieve it.

On the same night the vote took place we also had an informational meeting with people from Imago Dei who had expressed interest in the church plant. From this group, we now have 16 Imago Dei members who are committed to being a part of our core team in the plant. We could not be any more thrilled with this group of people that God has called out to help fulfill the mission in Cary. Over the last couple months we have had some team building get-togethers, and we are constantly learning about how awesome each of these members are (Imago Dei is really sending out some all-stars!). Just to give you an idea of how committed these folks are, half of them have already picked up and moved to Cary!

The only way to explain all these many factors involved in the merging of Imago Dei and North Cary is to attribute it to a sovereign God who orchestrates His people to fulfill His mission. Praise God!

That brings us to the present day. This coming weekend the Imago Dei elders will ordain Drew and I and then, the following day, during the worship service, our entire Harvest Church core team (those from Cary and those from IDC) will be commissioned.

I hope the story of Harvest Church (thus far) has encouraged you. By no means am I implying that God always prepares good works for us in this manner—surely not. Probably most good works in this life will feel more like a cross than a cruise. But the point to remember, though, is that the mission cannot fail. Christ has accomplished the mission for us and He now reigns on the throne enforcing the victory through His people.

If you would like to know more information about Harvest Church, please visit our in-construction website at http://harvestchurchcary.com/

Or feel free to contact one of us, Matthew (matthew.poole@harvestchurchcary.com) or Drew (drew.raynor@harvestchurchcary.com)

If you would like to support Harvest Church financially, you can give to Imago Dei by earmarking your designation, or you can give directly to Harvest Church by sending a check payable to:

Harvest Church
505 Reedy Creek Rd.
Cary, NC 27513

If you would like to support Harvest Church through prayer, please pray that we would be faithful to fulfill the great commission by making disciples of Christ locally and globally.

Thank you IDC family! We love you!

For the harvest,

Matthew and Drew (future elders of Harvest Church)

IDC WebmasterHarvest Church, Part I: God Prepares the Field

IDC Women’s Saturday at the Park and Coffee & Koinonia

We are privileged to have two upcoming opportunities for us to gather as the women of the Body and share in fellowship with one another. The goal of the our get-togethers is always to foster the only two things IDC has to offer: gospel and community. Please join us and find the details listed below:

Saturday at Baileywick Park

Join us in fellowship and outreach at Baileywick Park on Saturday, May 3rd, from 10am to 12pm. This will be a recurring women’s get-together that will take place the first Saturday of every month, weather permitting. Invite friends, coworkers, and bring your children! We want to emphasize that this event is not just for moms; it is an opportunity for us all to fellowship with other women at IDC. Come & go as you please.

Baileywick Park Address: 9501 Baileywick Road, Raleigh, NC 27615

Coffee & Koinonia Brunch

Join us on Saturday, May 10, from 9am to 10:45am at the IDC Building for a Coffee & Koinonia Brunch. We will be hearing from several ladies being sent out from IDC this summer as missionaries or with church plants. As the women of IDC, we want to encourage them and learn how to pray and support them in their future ministry. We will be spending time in fellowship and prayer with these ladies and one another.

Consider bringing a brunch item to share. Coffee will be provided!

IDC RaleighIDC Women’s Saturday at the Park and Coffee & Koinonia

Church Planting

Recently, IDC held a Church Planting forum to highlight five church plants that will be sent out from our church and one church planting effort that involves seeking to plant churches among unreached people groups living in NC (https://vimeo.com/89198128).

Here is what we are asking of you and here is what our church plants need moving forward:

Prayer – Our church plants need much prayer as they handle the logistics of church planting but also much prayer that many in these cities would hear the gospel and be changed by it. Paul writes in Colossians 4:12-13 – “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis.” Our church plants and planters need us to be Epaphras’ for them that we would work hard on their behalf in our prayers!

Financial Support – Our church plants need financial support as well as they move their lives and families to these cities. Our brother John writes this in 3 John 5-8 – “Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.” It is our prayer that many will give sacrificially to help these planters as they go on “their journey” and that we should support people “like these” so that we can be “fellow workers for the truth.” (If you would like to give financially directly to our planting efforts you can do so by designating to the “Missions/Church Planting Fund” on an offering envelope or online donation here for members and here for other guest contributions)

Goers – In addition, our church plants need “goers” who will go with them who are zealous to make disciples and see a church planted in these cities. Paul writes in Philippians 1:3-5, a church that he helped plant, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” It is the hope of the elders that you will seriously consider going with one of these plants. We pray that many will consider taking a risk for the gospel and go with these plants either here locally or nationally. In particular, we hope our men who are considering going into vocational gospel ministry would give serious consideration to going with one of these plants to help plant the gospel in major cities in our country.

*So please pray through how you can be a partner in the gospel with these plants and planters. Below we provide their information so you can reach out to them to hear more specifically about their needs and plans.

Church Plants:

– Philadelphia, PA (Brian Davis – Brian.s.dav@gmail.com)
– Boston, MA (Aaron Lumpkin – aaronlumpkin@gmail.com)
– Buffalo, NY (Ben Palka – benny2221@gmail.com)
– Raleigh, NC (Matthew Poole and Drew Raynor – matthewpoole1@gmail.com and draynor86@gmail.com)
– Los Angles, CA (Jason Wright – jason@revjtw.com)

International Church Planting here at home – if you are interested in helping with church planting among unreached people groups in the Triangle, Triad, and Charlotte you can contact Zac Lyons (lyons.zac@gmail.com) or Keelan Cook (keelancook@gmail.com)

IDC RaleighChurch Planting

127 Worldwide Announcement

*Posted on behalf of Sara Beth Fentress, Executive Director and Founder of 127 Worldwide

Hello! My name is Sara Beth Fentress, and I have met many of you during my last few visits to IDC. I serve as the Executive Director of 127 Worldwide, a ministry created to connect people to the needs of orphans and widows around the globe. We are passionate about helping people discover how they can live out James 1:27 in more tangible ways. I am excited to announce that 127 Worldwide and IDC are partnering together to help implement the global PEACE plan.

The mission of 127 Worldwide is simple:

We want to take people to see poverty first-hand (GO).

Next, we want to educate people on how to be an advocate and speak intelligently about the needs of orphans and widows (SPEAK).

We then provide trustworthy, secure opportunities for people to invest their time, talents, and resources (INVEST).

We also want to create an environment where people are supported to pursue their creative ideas to take care of orphans and widows (EMPOWER).

127 also focuses on empowering local leaders to minister to orphans and widows in their community. Currently, we have partners in Kenya and Uganda with plans to expand to Haiti and Honduras in 2014.

I will be relocating to Raleigh in the next few months to serve as a resource to IDC in the realm of orphan/widow care. Please check out our website, (http://127worldwide.org), and let me know if you are interested in partnering with us in any way. I look forward to meeting with each one of you who is interested in discovering more ways to get involved in the local and global orphan care movement. I am excited to see how God is going to be glorified through the partnership between IDC and 127 Worldwide!

IDC Raleigh127 Worldwide Announcement

First Choice Walkathon

My bones were not hidden from you
when I was being made in secret,
when I was being skillfully woven in an underground workshop.
Your eyes saw me when I was only a fetus.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book
before one of them had taken place.

(Psalm 139:15-16)

Did you know that +50 Million children are aborted worldwide? That’s about 115,000 each day. You will be surprised to know that 1.2 Million children, that’s 23,706 per week, 3,846 per day, 6 days per week were aborted in the U.S. alone. In Wake County, 6,654 children were aborted in 2012. That’s 128 per week, and 21 children per day.

Please take a moment and let those numbers sink in.

There is no comfortable way to talk about abortion. This is an issue that can’t continue to be swept under the rug. This is an issue that can’t be ignored in our churches as if it doesn’t exist. 1 in 4 women in the local church have had an abortion that no one knows about. We implore you to stand alongside First Choice Pregnancy Solutions and their 4000Steps Walkathon scheduled for Saturday April 26, 2014 located at North Raleigh Christian Academy. 4000Steps is a walkathon to raise awareness and financial support for men and women who are confronted with an unplanned pregnancy in Wake County. The ministry of First Choice Pregnancy Solutions is impossible without your financial support, prayers and willing hands and hearts to see lives saved and changed by the gospel.

Guys, don’t tune out, this is for you too! 81% of women who aborted said they would have had their baby if the guy was supportive. This is an issue where men can step in and make a difference. It is also a great way for small groups to serve together. By participating in 4000Steps you have the opportunity to help minister to men and women healing from past abortions

This walk is designed to engage the hearts and minds of the participants and help them understand the realities involved in the Cause of LIFE. During the fundraising period (March 1st-April 25th) walk participants will receive helpful information to equip them on how to talk with a friend facing an unplanned pregnancy, statistics and client stories.

You can sign up to be a walker as part of a team or lead a team of 10 walkers from the church, small group, or group of friends. Each walk participant gets a Personal Fundraising Web Page provided by First Choice Pregnancy Solutions to make raising money fun and easy! Link it to Facebook, Tweet it around the world, and email it to your friends and family! Help end the perceived need for abortion in Wake County.

More information will be available at a special information table in the lobby for the next several Sunday mornings. Please stop by to learn more and to sign up to be a team leader or participatent. If you you have any questions about the Walkathon or First Choice, please contact Tennisha Brow at teebrown79@gmail.com.

You can also resister for the walk here: http://www.ministrysync.com/event/website/home/?e=7245

IDC RaleighFirst Choice Walkathon

How The Gospel Can Overcome Sex Trafficking

At the ERLC Leadership Summit, Tony Merida will be speaking on “Traffic Stop: How the Gospel can Overcome Sex Trafficking.” Register for the Leadership Summit here.

Why is the issue of human trafficking important for evangelical churches to consider?

It’s an important question culturally because it’s so widespread. Every person should be concerned about his or her abused neighbors.
But it’s also an important question theologically. When thinking about sex trafficking, we need to answer questions like these: (1) Who is God? (2) What is a person? (3) How powerful is the gospel?
If we believe that God is a God of justice, then we should desire to reflect his character by seeking justice on behalf of the oppressed. If we believe that people are actually created in the image of God, then we must conclude that they are worthy of respect, dignity and basic human rights. We should value all people because we value their maker.

In addition to basic human rights, I also believe that it’s not right for someone not to hear the gospel, and in many cases, those trapped in slavery may never be exposed to the Good News, which promises them new life, and a kingdom where lions and lambs play together. Jesus is the life-changer – he can change the hearts of not only those enslaved, but even the hearts of wicked enslavers. By his grace, God causes the dead come to life; the enslaved to go free; the unrighteous to become righteous; and the broken to dance with joy. That’s the ultimate hope that we have to offer the world, but we may never have that privilege if we don’t first engage on the physical, economical, judicial, and societal front.

We can’t live with our heads in the sand on this issue; we need to be alert, wise, compassionate, and gospel-driven in order to love our enslaved neighbor, and to reflect the nature of our merciful and just God.

When you think about human trafficking, what is a key aspect that churches aren’t addressing adequately? Why is that the case?
I can’t speak for every church, but my instinct is that we aren’t doing much of anything. Of course, they’re exceptional churches, but my hunch is that many churches aren’t addressing the issue theologically, consistently and strategically.
Why the neglect? Well, some think that doing justice ministry is a distraction to the real mission, that it’s a “slippery slope to liberalism,” that it’s a fad or that it’s something that’s simply optional. I reject all of these.

Others aren’t engaging the battle because of fear (justice work requires courage), despair (“the problem is so great, what’s the point?”), apathy or ignorance (they’ve never been taught about the issue and the Christian response).

One of the areas I’m most passionate about – and an area I think the church should explore more – is aftercare. Many victims who are rescued from trafficking need loving, restorative care. They need everything from basic skill training to a basic understanding of the gospel. They need to see what a healthy family looks like, and what a healthy church looks like. We who have been welcomed into the kingdom by Jesus, should be quick to welcome those who need healing.

Of course, this is not the only thing we can do (we should also be speaking truth to power, praying, relieving poverty and trying to fix broken structures that increases vulnerability), but this is one area that comes to mind immediately. Gospel-centered aftercare is a huge need.

This conference seeks to apply the gospel to issues related to human sexuality. What are some ways the gospel relates to human trafficking?

In Luke 7, there is a beautiful scene of a woman who is simply called “A sinful woman.” Most commentators think she was a prostitute. We don’t know her name, and we don’t know why she got involved in such a life. But what we do know is that she worshiped Jesus far better than the religious Pharisees. Why? Because she had been changed by Jesus. She who spent her whole life practicing a perverted form of hospitality (prostitution), was now, in purity, washing the feet of Jesus with her hair; she who spent her whole life giving unholy kisses, couldn’t stop kissing his feet; she who spent her whole life being abused by men, was being valued by the greatest of all men. Her dignity was restored. Her sins were forgiven. And consequently “she loved much” (7:47). Jesus says, “Do you see this woman?” We should see her, and we should act. Let’s free battered and broken people from the jaws of evil men, and introduce them to the Savior, who alone can say, “Your sins are forgiven…. Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (7:48, 50).

If evangelical churches transformed the way they handled the subject of trafficking, how would it reshape their congregations?

It would make us more like Jesus. We should be measuring spiritual maturity by how much we look like Jesus, not by how many books/blogs we’ve read, how many retweets we got this week, or by how many sermons we podcasted this week. When you read the New Testament, you can’t help but to catch the spirit of Jesus’ concern for the poor and the marginalized. We should long to look like him. And if we would care for these individuals, we would not only look more like Jesus, we would also find amazing personal blessing, we would realize that word and deed ministry go together powerfully, and we would provide an attractive witness to a watching world.

Originally posted at the ERLC

IDC RaleighHow The Gospel Can Overcome Sex Trafficking