Grace Church of Greater Akron Named by Outreach Magazine as One of the Fastest Growing Churches in the US

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Each year, OUTREACH magazine lists the fastest growing churches in America. What an honor that Grace Church of Greater Akron (Jeff Bogue, senior pastor) is one of the top 100 churches in the entire USA for fastest growth! Grace Church is ranked at 76th in the nation with a 13% growth and averaging over 5000 people each week on their campuses.

Grace Church was the recipient of the Church of the Year award through CE National Honors this past year and we add our congratulations to Jeff, his staff, and the entire church family of Grace Church!

Urban Hope’s Carnival of Hope a Huge Success

Posted in: Featured

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A few minutes of rain as the bounce house and the carnival games were being set up couldn’t stop Urban Hope from having a joy-filled day at the Carnival of Hope! The people who attended heard testimonies, danced along with D-Trex, played messy games, shot some hoops, and gave away fun prizes. However, in the end, one thing was clear: this carnival was filled with the Hope of Jesus Christ. Urban Hope praises God for the seven people who came forward desiring to know Jesus personally!

Read more about the Carnival of Hope on Matt and Amber Besson’s blog.

Come Visit Urban Hope for Half the Cost!!

Posted in: Featured

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SUM Invitation Weekend October 14-17

The SUM program at Urban Hope seeks to prepare believers to “Reach the World by Reaching the City.” It is a nine-month college level program to equip you to deal with issues faced in Urban Ministry and give you experience in models of ministry that are working in the city.

If you are an adult, college student, or high school senior and are considering being involved in urban ministry, come to Urban Hope for a weekend to learn about the program and experience Philadelphia.

The cost of the weekend is $40 and includes: breakfast, lunch, lodging and transportation (from Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana). Please bring money to purchase dinner and meals while traveling.

If you are interested in attending, please email James Holt at James@urbanhope.net to register.

A Celebration of What God is Doing at Urban Hope

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2016_sept_23_celebrateA note from Ed Lewis, CE National executive director.

There is nothing that motivates me more than hearing stories of people’s lives being changed by Christ.  To see people go from death to life—there is nothing like it!  I don’t care if they are children, young people, folks who have been incarcerated, people who have been caught in addictions, are living in blatant sin, or even people who have been living “good” lives.  When Jesus makes someone a new creation—WOW—that is exciting, motivating, and encouraging all at the same time!

For almost thirty years, CE National has hosted an annual event at the Good n’ Plenty Restaurant in Smoketown, Pennsylvania.  Each year, we have loved the opportunity to give reports of God’s blessings through changed lives. The time of interaction with you and people in our region of the country is always wonderful.  Then there are the noodles, mashed potatoes, shoofly pie, and more.  We are so grateful for the use of the restaurant for so many years as it has been a wonderful venue, but it is now time for a bit of a change.

This fall, I want to invite you, your missions commission, and your church family to “An Evening with Urban Hope.” On Sunday evening, October 30th, from 5-7 pm at Grace Church in Lancaster, we will gather for a meal and to celebrate lives that the Lord has changed.

We are going to be bringing several individuals from Urban Hope to share what God has been doing in their lives and to report on the future focus and scope of the ministry.  They will share about LIFE CHANGE and the blessings that God is choosing to give.  I am excited as it promises to be a memorable night with great blessing.   It will be a casual evening with a simple “box dinner” kind of an event along with soup and good times of interaction.

Could you please help me?
Please take one minute right now and e-mail invitations to your church missions commission members, anyone who has had (or may have) an interest in the ministry at Urban Hope in Philly, and other church staff members.  Tell them it will be worth their time to attend.  That’s it.  Oh, and put the event on your personal calendar and come join us, too!

There is no cost for this event, but we do need to have a count of how many are coming so we may order the right amount of food. Please let Judy know who will be attending by emailing ( judy@cenational.org) or calling (574.267.6622). Both churches and individuals may register, whichever is easiest and best for your local church.

Thank you for all you do for the Kingdom.  God is at work.  I look forward to seeing you on this special evening.

In His Work,

Ed Lewis

Politics and the Pulpit. What’s a Pastor to Do? Pastorpedia

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Pastors Knute Larson, Jeff Bogue, and Jim Brown discuss how to talk about politics from the pulpit.

See the video and download the PDF.

Politics and the Pulpit

No one wants to divorce the pulpit and the Scripture it presents from our daily lives. And yet our daily lives–at least a lot of conversation and communication–are filled with politics.

Shall we talk about the presidential election coming soon?  About the Supreme Court judges, since judges are in the Bible?

About the way the lead candidates talk about each other without evidence of the fruit of the Spirit?

Here we try to tackle some of the questions, taking sides on the issue of whether or not we should take sides, and hoping we can get us all thinking and planning.

See what you think. We hope you will at least vote, as it is important.

Glad to be friends through this monthly connection,

Knute, Jeff, Jim

Pastors who love pastors

Operation Barnabas 2017 Tours and Administrative Leaders Announced

Posted in: Featured

Christian McCallister

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Last summer, Operation Barnabas was retooled, revamped, and reinvigorated. Orientation was streamlined, our tour length adjusted to three weeks, and an intentional curriculum on character development was emphasized.  Our students and leaders embraced these changes and OB 2016 experienced a dynamic resurgence of energy and enthusiasm. We are excited for what is already planned for OB 2017!

Christian McCallister

Christian McAllister

Christian McAllister, associate pastor at Palmyra (Pennsylvania) Grace Brethren Church, and Timothy Kurtaneck (TK), director of Operation Barnabas & youth leadership training, will serve as the team administrative leaders.

Christian’s team will include ministry stops in New York City, Washington DC, and Urban Hope Training Center with participation at StreetWise youth conference. TK’s team will focus their ministry in the Midwest with partnerships at para-church organizations, church plants, and traditional church ministries. The planned dates for OB 2017, which include orientation in Winona Lake, Indiana, are June 18 – July 11.

Operation Barnabas remains committed to helping students learn ministry and how to share their faith in Jesus. Team members receive biblical training and practical ministry experience to better prepare them to make a positive impact in our culture by living ON MISSION.

Timothy Kurtaneck

Timothy Kurtaneck

If you know a high school student who loves Jesus, is involved in their local church, and ready to take the next step in their walk with the Lord, then OB is for them!  You can find out all the details and applications at operationbarnabas.net.

Pray for Urban Hope’s Carnival of Hope This Weekend

Posted in: Featured

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Please pray for the Urban Hope Community Church as they put on their annual Carnival of Hope this Saturday.

  • Pray that many from the Urban Hope church will serve as volunteers.
  • Pray for visiting groups who will be helping.
  • Pray that the hearts of the 1500+ attendees will be sensitive to the truth of God.
  • Pray that new families will come to church Sunday as a result of their time at the carnival.

The ministry of Urban Hope only happens through faithful prayer. Will you help?

CE National Honors Award Presented to Dave Koontz for His Work Protecting the Unborn

Posted in: Featured

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Each year CE National’s board of directors and Ed Lewis, the executive director, provides “CE National Honors” which recognize individuals who live their lives ON MISSION for Jesus Christ.

During Right to Life of North Center Indiana‘s Legacy of Life banquet on September 19, Dave Koontz was presented with a 2016 CE National Honors Award by CE National staff member, Dave Rank.

Dave Koontz, executive director of Right to Life of North Central Indiana, has been a champion for over 20 years for those who are often neglected and marginalized by our society: the unborn.

Monday night’s banquet was the 20th consecutive year that Dave has organized and led the Legacy of Life banquet, raising awareness and funding for LIFE.

Congratulations, Dave, for living ON MISSION through your work with the often overlooked—the unborn!

Watch the video of Dave Rank presenting the award.

Momentum Youth Conference Emphasizes the Importance of Scripture

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CE National believes in the importance of reading Scripture and Scripture memorization. At Momentum Youth Conference, we emphasize Scripture in our main sessions and work towards our Power Track Seminars and all Momentum programming emphasizing importance for students and leaders to be soaking in God’s word. At the beginning of the week we give every attendee an OnTrack Devotion so each day they can start in the Word.

This past summer at Momentum 2016, Scott Feather, pastor of Gateway Community Church in Parkesburg, Pennsylvania, talked about spiritual warfare during a student track. Scott emphasized the need to read the Bible in order to combat temptations and to keep living for Jesus. Now that our students are back home and back to their everyday lives, which may include many temptations while they are at school and spending time with peers, we hope they will keep Scripture as the highest importance in their lives. You can watch the Power Track by Scott Feather on Spiritual Warfare here and you can get Scripture reading into your daily life by using OnTrack Devotions as a tool here.

CE National and Momentum Youth Conference desire to help others effectively run after Jesus. That starts with a daily relationship with Him and His Word, The Bible.

Dave McClellan Encourages Pastors to Preach From the Heart

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Pastor Dave McClellan addresses the group during Pastorpedia Live

Pastor Dave McClellan addresses the group during Pastorpedia Live

Pastor Dave McClellan, pastor at The Chapel at Tinkers Creek in Streetsboro, Ohio, spoke during the September 14 Pastorpedia Live at CE National’s Russell Center. Pastor Dave talked about how pastors can free themselves to speak directly from the heart and less from abstract and secondhand theory.

The next Pastorpedia Live will be November 1 and will feature Dr. Mike Wittmer, professor of systematic and historical theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.
Dr. Wittmer will talk on the topic of marriage, gender, and sexuality.

Nothing is changing faster in our culture than the ancient views on marriage, gender, and sexuality. The challenge to civilization and our Christian faith is daunting, both to lay people and the pastors who lead them. Our seminar will examine the source of society’s confusion, the consequences for our culture, churches, and para-church organizations, and how we can best take advantage of this golden opportunity for the gospel.

Take-aways from this Pastorpedia Live event:

  • How have Christians lost the theological and moral ability to address questions of marriage, gender, and sexuality, and how can we get it back?
  • What biblical and theological truths will enable us to counsel those struggling with gender and sexuality issues?
  • What is marriage, and why does it matter?
  • Is marriage an ordinance of the church or state?
  • Should pastors get out of the wedding business? Should all Christians?
  • How can we help our lay people navigate the new challenges of doing business?
  • What can a pastor and church do to protect themselves from lawsuits?
  • How can we defend religious freedom without sounding shrill?
  • How can we demonstrate that the biblical sexual ethic comes from love?
  • How can we lead our churches without compromise, yet compassionately care for those in our congregations who are caving to the world’s pressure?
  • Isn’t this the best time in recent history to be a minister of the gospel?

Grace Seminary and CE National are offering a this Pastorpedia Live on Wednesday, November 1. Visit cenational.org/pl to find out more and to register.

Kingdom Kids at Urban Hope – How Can Your Church Come to Serve?

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Kingdom Kids is Urban Hope’s main outreach to kids in the community throughout the year. Each week 100+ kids are a part of this “church” for kids. Block Captains from Urban Hope Community Church oversee one to three blocks of a street where they pick up kids for the hour-long program each week.

Kids come to play games, memorize Bible verses, rap biblical truth, sing worship songs, learn Bible stories, and talk and pray in small groups about what they learned.
The main goal of Kingdom Kids is to challenge children to commit their lives to Jesus Christ.

How can your church come to serve? At Kingdom Kids, Urban Hope is in need of groups of 20-30 people each Sunday. This is an example schedule for any team who visits.

2:00 – Visiting teams arrive for a brief orientation
2:30 – Leave with Urban Hope Block Captains to pick up kids.
3:30-4:30 – Help during the program by sitting with the kids in their squares
4:30-5:00 – Walk kids home with Block Captains
5:00-5:30 – Debrief with Block Captains and learn how to reach kids in your own community

The available dates are:

  • October 2, 9, 16, 23
  • November 6, 13, 20
  • December 4, 11
  • February 26, 2017
  • March 5, 12, 19, 26, 2017
  • April 2, 23, 30, 2017
  • May 7, 14, 21, 2017

If you have questions about any of this information, please contact Amber Besson, children’s ministry director, at amberbesson@urbanhope.net.

See You At The Pole – “Wake Up Call” at Your School

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Students gather for prayer at Momentum Youth Conference

Students gather for prayer at Momentum Youth Conference

It was only a month and a half ago that you could have been meeting with a few hundred other students each morning for prayer at Momentum Youth Conference 2016. Wake Up Call each morning was lead by a student with about 400 students joining him in prayer. Many students commented on how amazing it was to wake up in the morning and get to pray with their peers. The amount of students who showed up for Wake Up Call was outstanding!

What if you could do the same thing at your own school with peers who you will see at school each day?

May we challenge you to step out in faith and be bold at your school by being a part of See You At the Pole 2016 where you might not know what to expect or who will be there?

Wake up early and get to your school to stand up for Jesus and meet your peers who are doing the same. Pray for people you’ll pass by every day at your school. Pray that you’ll have intentional conversations with people about your faith and what you learned at Momentum. Pray for your teachers and your government. Pray for Jesus to be changing lives at your school!

See You At The Pole is on Wednesday, September 28, at 7 am local time. All around the globe, in every time zone, students will be gathering at their flagpoles, praying for their school, friends, families, churches, and communities. See You At The Pole is a day committed to global unity in Christ and prayer for your generation. Will you join in? Find out more at syatp.com.

Pray for Students at Urban Hope

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Please be praying for students at Urban Hope as they start the school year.

  • Pray that believing students and teachers will stand for truth amidst peer pressure.
  • Pray that believing students and teachers would seek each other out during the school day and pray with and for one another.
  • Pray that the school district will support the administrators, that the administrators would support the teachers and staff, and that the teachers and staff would support the students.
  • Pray that the believing students would be encouragements and lights to unbelieving peers and teachers.

Operation Barnabas Training, 17 Years Later

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Sabrina Bratcher with some of her school children in Honduras

Sabrina Bratcher with some of her school children in Honduras

We recently received this update from Sabrina Bratcher, who went on Operation Barnabas in 1999 on the Great Plains team. We were very encouraged to read what she shared about her OB experience and how God has used it in her life!

I went on Operation Barnabas the summer between my junior and senior years of high school. God shaped me so much on OB. He pushed me out of my comfort zone, showed me how to meet people where they are, how to be relational and how to be gracious and appreciative of people’s hospitality. These skills are needed in all aspects of life and skills that many people are lacking.

I’ve been a LEAD Teacher at Good Shepherd Christian Academy in Zamorano Valley, Honduras, since the end of January. Prior to that, I had been teaching middle school math for 11 1/2 years. God called me to go to Honduras at the end of November, I resigned my job half a week later, and was in Honduras 60 days after He called me.

The school is on the property of Good Shepherd Children’s Home. It serves both the orphanage kids and kids from the community. I teach 5th grade, and 5th grade and under is all taught in English, which is good, since I came to Honduras knowing zero words of Spanish (and having never been in Honduras before).

In addition to teaching, I spend a lot of my “spare” time with the kids at the home, since the LEAD teachers live on the property. We play with them, help them with homework, help put them to bed, and love on them constantly. There are 97 children at the home, ranging in age from 1 to 18.

I have been on many missions trips since Operation Barnabas, but what I learned on OB has stayed with me through them all and has definitely helped prepare me for my move to Honduras. I was blessed to see an OB team at my home church of Penn Valley in Telford, Pennsylvania, when I was home for a week in July. I had just turned 34, so was exactly double the age I was on OB. I got choked up watching the OBers sing with their whole hearts to God, knowing where He brought me 17 years after OB, and praying that each teen on that team would still be living their lives for God in 17 years.

Since students are applying for Operation Barnabas 2017 now, it is a good time to emphasize that the ministry tools OB team members acquire are not just intended for the summer, but can and will likely be used long after tour is over!

Sabrina blogs about her ministry experiences at fulfillinghispurposes.blogspot.com if you’d like to follow more of her adventures.

Participation on Operation Barnabas is an investment with long-lasting benefits. Who do you know that you should encourage to apply for OB 2017? You can find all the details and application information at OperationBarnabas.net.

Are You Impacting One Person for Christ?

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ONE is about every believer impacting one person for Christ. Each believer should be focusing on developing a relationship with one person, reaching that person, teaching that person, and releasing that person to multiply his/her efforts into the lives of others by making disciples.

Hear Ed Lewis talk more about ONE, find resources to help, read testimonies, and let CE National know about your commitment to join the initiative on the ONE website at one.cenational.org.

An Amazing Week at Camp Conquest for Urban Hope’s Kingdom Kids

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2016_sept_9_uh_camp_conquestAmber Besson, children’s director at Urban Hope, talks about the amazing week Kingdom Kids had at Camp Conquest.

We have been so amazed by how God has blessed Kingdom Kids @ Camp Conquest through your
generosity and prayers this year. God did amazing things in the lives of 71 campers and 42 staff members.

Thank you so much for the role you played in helping children and adults to grow in their knowledge of who Jesus is.

At chapel, we studied Romans 8 and learned about being a part of God’s family.

Monday, we talked about how to become a part of God’s family by putting your faith and trust in Jesus as our Savior.

Tuesday, we learned about how we gain brothers and sisters in Christ to help us follow Jesus when we become a part of God’s family.

Wednesday, we learned that in God’s family, God is our Father; we can turn to Him and talk to Him even when we can’t turn to our earthly fathers.

Thursday, we talked about our Family Power Source, the Holy Spirit, and how that power helps us to continue making choices to honor God, our Father.

Friday, we ended the week talking about the fact that being a part of God’s family means we inherit the suffering that Jesus went through on earth, but we also inherit the Kingdom of Heaven—that is where our hope must be!

At “Sista Time,” the girl campers learned how to be godly sistas who turn to their Heavenly Daddy for all they need. They talked about how to be Sistas who have each other’s back. They also learned that we have a good, good Father in heaven, even when our dad is not here for us on earth. Lastly, they learned that we pray about our dreams and trust that God’s
plans are always best.

At “Man Time,” the boy campers learned how to be brothers who lean on Jesus. The “men” learned how to ask Jesus for help. They also talked about how to respect women. Finally, they learned that real men work hard.

Each night at campfire, members of our staff who are from the neighborhood and have been transformed by Jesus, shared their “family stories.” This time was dedicated to showing our campers that being a part of God’s Family isn’t always easy, but in the end we have a good, good Father in Heaven.

Through all of these teaching times, many campers and staff left camp a part of God’s family and wanting their family and friends in the neighborhood to join God’s family, too!

To find out more about Urban Hope, visit urbanhope.net.

Bible Quizzing Helps Students Memorize God’s Word

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Bible Quizzing at Momentum Youth Conference

Bible Quizzing at Momentum Youth Conference

Bible Quizzing a great way to get students studying and memorizing God’s Word in a fun way. For those students who have a bit of the competitive “gene” Bible Quizzing is a great outlet for those energies.

There are many benefits for those who participate in the Bible Quizzing program. First and foremost is the opportunity to memorize God’s Word. Bible quizzing is a fun way to learn the verses. Second is the teamwork involved to learn and compete together. Third is the fellowship of students as they spend time practicing and quizzing with other teams. Another important aspect of Bible Quizzing is the mentoring that takes place between the coach and the team. It is an awesome opportunity for a coach to pour into the lives of each quizzer in a personal and spiritual way.

There may be someone in your church, or maybe you, who wants to influence students in positive ways. Bible Quizzing gives you that opportunity.

If you are looking for something that will impact students for the rest of their lives, consider adding a Bible Quizzing program to your youth ministry. There are also Junior Bible Quizzing programs as well that cover less material.

For information on Bible quizzing for junior and senior high school students, please visit cenational.org/quizinfo for the rules and information on getting a program started. If you have questions, please contact Lois at lois@cenational.org or call 574.267.6622.

District questions can be purchased for $55 per set.  Contact Karen Burger at karinavaleria@gmail.com.

Everyone Could Use a Ride – A Need at Urban Hope

Posted in: Featured

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With over 1500 individuals visiting the Urban Hope Training Center each year to be trained in how to share their faith and serve others, many specific needs arise. Sometimes the need has to do with providing for children’s ministry—prizes, camp scholarships, and the like. Other times, the need has to do with specific times of the year like the annual Thanksgiving and Christmas outreach opportunities. Yet others have to do with specific, tangible needs that will impact every part of the overall ministry. And now we have one of these “all-encompassing needs.”

Urban Hope has the use of two buses that are wonderful for the ministry. But the minivan that is used for numerous errands, administration, and for helping visiting groups is on its last leg. Rather than put more money into the vehicle, it is becoming evident that the next step is replacing this important vehicle.

UHTC is in need of a new van. The need is not for a “fancy” or “new” vehicle, but a good, dependable, solid, and reliable van. A 15-passenger van or mini-bus would be appreciated as well.

Would you be interested in helping to meet this need? Do you know someone who might be? We are able to offer a tax deductible receipt if anyone is able and willing to donate a reliable, used vehicle. Thank you for thinking of and praying with us!

Any party interested in learning more about meeting this need is invited to contact Jason Holt at jason@urbanhope.net.

Urban Hope at Camp Conquest — by the Numbers

Posted in: Featured

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During the week of Urban Hope’s Kingdom Kids at Camp Conquest, 71 campers were challenged by the truth of the gospel each day. Campers and Staff were impacted by images that clearly displayed our separation from God because of sin. Without Christ we are blind, dead slaves. With Christ we are children of God and members of His forever family.

These simple, yet life transforming truths were expounded upon each day.

  1. God loves me
  2. I have sinned
  3. Jesus died for me
  4. I need to decide to live for God.

At campfire each night brothers and sisters from the neighborhood shared testimonies of family struggle and the transforming power of Jesus.

Several children began to grow a burden for their family members who are not yet part of God’s forever family. We, as a camp, were challenged to share Christ and this good news about His family with our loved ones.

Sunday after camp there were 211 people at our Celebration Service with 51 out of the 71 campers in attendance. Most of them brought family members with them.

  • Please pray that the kids would reflect on the truths they heard and the family loving they felt while at camp.
  • Pray that entire families would know and submit to Christ as King. Pray that cycles of sin would be broken as these families chose to live as heirs in God’s forever family.
  • Many of us, children and staff, come from broken, messed up families. Pray that God’s healing power would overwhelm us as we submit to his reign in our lives. Pray that our identities would be grounded in our membership in God’s family.
  • Pray against the enemies attack on those who have made commitments.
  • Pray for protection for those in difficult homes.