A decade of mission
In this interview before our recent leader's summit, Elim's national leader Chris Cartwright outlines Elim’s plans for 2021 and beyond.
A year ago, you told us about your plan to launch a decade of mission for Elim, then the pandemic struck. As we emerge from it, is this still your vision?
“Yes. At the start of the Covid pandemic, I sensed that Elim needed to advance in terms of radical mission and discipleship, and I still believe God wants us to do this. Towards the end of 2020, the National Leadership Team felt reminded that God was speaking to us about going afresh into a decade of mission.
“Elim churches are really diverse, so to help them do that we established four priorities last year: we want to make disciples – mature men and women of faith who are going to grow, be fruitful and live life for Jesus in every sphere; we want to develop leaders – not just pastors, but people in all areas of ministry; we want to plant and grow healthy churches; and we want to reach the nations.
“That’s our priority for the next decade and we want to work with our churches to help them achieve this.”
Can you give an example of how you’re supporting churches and leaders to develop in these ways?
“We had the Really Good News initiative over Easter, which was a strategic gospel push that invited people to have a fresh encounter with Jesus. Our evangelist Mark Greenwood focused on creating online resources for churches, and his team produced 30 or so daily video testimonies, telling short, varied stories about how Jesus has changed people’s lives.
“Over the Easter weekend, they put together online material that churches used as gospel presentations to help them reach their communities. Those are still available.
“The third part is the nationwide Alpha course. Recently, some of our churches in Cornwall worked together on a county-wide Alpha. From that initiative, Mark developed Elim's nationwide Alpha.”
Tell us about The Elim Leaders Summit and how it also equipped Elim leaders and churches?
“The Summit is our greatest opportunity to engage with a wide range of people on the frontline of serving Jesus.
“This year the emphasis was on developing leaders – not just those who are already established, but emerging leaders in different ministries such as worship and youth and children's work.
“Increasingly, the summit gives us an opportunity to bring in trusted voices from leadership, community transformation and ministry to help us do that. We were particularly excited to bring in some outstanding leaders to inspire, encourage and impart fresh faith and practical wisdom.
“Danielle Strickland and Ed Stetzer from the States, Glyn Barrett from the Assemblies of God, and Krish Kandiah; we asked them to speak about their own experiences, bearing in mind our commitment as a movement to pursuing the priorities of radical discipleship, making Jesus known, living out mission, and community transformation.”
And beyond the Summit, what’s on your heart for Elim?
“My heart for Elim is very much that we’re called to advance the kingdom of God as individuals and church communities.
“There is a stirring across our movement to partner in what the Holy Spirit wants to do. We’re in very different times now, but the call of God to be real people in real places with a passion for making Jesus known has not gone away.
“In Todd Bolsinger’s book 'Canoeing the Mountains', he makes the point that we have entered a season where things are changing so much, but ministry and mission don’t change. We need to be ready to be more flexible, bridging the gaps in our communities. We need to be full of faith for a fresh move of God, where people are radically converted and discipled into becoming fruitful followers of Jesus.
“That said, there is much sorrow and sadness too. People, like their resources, are running out. But in faith, we’re strong and confident that God is going to do something wonderful through this.
“I don’t mean to downplay the impact of the pandemic, but the church has an opportunity to love Jesus and people more than ever; to trust in Him for something to happen that will meet people’s deepest needs.
“The past 12 months may not have been the year we were hoping for, but it’s clear that God is calling us to live wholeheartedly for him, and for our churches to be out in the community offering healing, hope and transformation.”
During the pandemic, what have you seen Elim churches doing that has impressed you?
“I’ve been hugely encouraged by the amazing effort, energy and passion of so many pastors, teams and volunteers who have learned new skills and found all kinds of ways to maintain their care for and connection with church members and communities.
“Tremendous creativity has come out of that too. People have been really inventive in how they share, fellowship, and study the Word of God; how they worship and pray. We’ve seen fresh initiatives and original ideas coming out of our churches, and from people who are not necessarily on staff, but are just alive with a real desire to strengthen the church community and reach out in new ways.
“I have also been greatly moved by just how deeply our communities have been suffering from the relentless impact of this pandemic and how it has brought about extraordinary expressions of deep care, concern and love for others.
“There have been all kinds of surprises of grace, and the evidence of God at work, even in the most unlikely circumstances.
“This confirms in me the great hope for what God is going to do in, with and through us in the coming years.”
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