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Discipleship, Evangelism, Ministry Update

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June 14, 2016

 

 

For the last five and a half years I’ve been working to make disciples among the young adults in the Fargo-Moorhead area through Threshingfloor Communities. For the last year and a half I’ve also been on staff with Verge Ministries, expanding that disciple-making scope to include coaching ministry leaders and helping launch ministries throughout Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and Iowa.

There’s a ridiculously huge need for ministries targeting this age group (roughly 18-34 years of age, according to most demographers). In Minnesota alone there are 1.2 million young adults. According to national studies from the past few years, only 22% of those young adults are evangelical Christians, with that percentage declining as you move to following generations. According to Kinnaman and Lyons, “one third of college-aged adults want nothing to do with religion, and 59 percent of Christian young adults drop out of church at some point in their twenties.” (Good Faith, 12)

That means that there are at least 1,170,000 young adults in Minnesota alone who don’t self-identify as evangelical Christians. Informal studies here in Fargo have shown that under 5% of the 70,000 young adults that are residents are engaged in a local church, meaning there’s well over 66,000 in just my city that aren’t connected to the body of Christ.

The harsh reality is, as Jesus makes clear, simply self-proclaiming on a survey or attending church regularly doesn’t equal being born again. There are literally millions of young adults and college students in our cities and states for whom Jesus’ beauty, power, and love are, at best, a nice myth.

My passion is to see those numbers change. I want to see thousands of churches, individuals, and ministries rise up in the power of God’s love to see the Kingdom of God established in the lives of those wandering twenty-somethings. I want the depressed 23 year old girl in Bismarck to discover the joy of the Spirit of Christ. I want the porn-addicted 19 year old student at Bemidji State to find freedom in the Gospel. I want to see the 30 year old man in Des Moines whose past few years have been devoured by video games encounter the powerful purpose that God has for his life.

It gets me pumped up just writing about these stories. I’ve seen ones like them become realities over the past 5 years of ministry as we’ve worked, prayed, and stepped out in faith. The momentum is growing, and both Kelly and I are feeling the call to do more.

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To do that we need your help. For the past year and a half Kelly and I have supported ourselves with a few different income streams; I’ve worked three days a week at a vendor for Microsoft and raised enough support to fund two “full” days of ministry work, enabling me to travel to cities like Park Rapids and Bismarck to coach young adult and college ministry leaders, as well as grow Threshingfloor towards having deeper impact in Fargo, going from one to three communities. Kelly’s worked full time. Our combined income has been enough to cover both ministry and living expenses thus far.

But things are changing in the next month. We’re expecting our first child at the end of July, which means that Kelly won’t be working full time for much longer. My part time job and minimal support won’t be enough to provide for our family. I need to make an important decision in the next four weeks: do I go back to working full time to provide for our family and significantly cut back the ministry I’ve been doing, or will God provide the financial support to enable me to continue with the ministry work?

Regardless of which one happens we’re going to continue disciple-making and working with the young adults God has put us into contact with, but in a more limited capacity. In order to stay on track and increase the hours I’m putting towards making disciples of young adults throughout the Midwest, we need to raise an additional $2000 a month of support. Some of this money will go directly to ministry expenses and launching new ministries, and some will go towards our living expenses. If you want a specific breakdown of how donations are used, email me – ben@verge28.org.

Would you consider helping us reach young adults and train ministries leaders by investing $25 or even $100 a month, or giving a one-time donation?

There are so many huge opportunities amongst this generation. Even as the world is getting darker and more distant from the “Christian” culture of 50 years ago, there’s a deep hunger among young adults for something true and lasting; something that’s found only in Jesus. Your support is a true blessing and investment in seeing those young adults reached.

 

If you do want to give you can do so here.

If you want to join our prayer newsletter and stay up to date on the ministry that’s taking place, go here.

 

 

Christian Life, Discipleship, Evangelism, Ministry Update

Evangelism and the Provoked Spirit

August 31, 2015

Does the spiritual state of your city distress you? Does the fact that so many of the people in your apartment building/neighborhood/school provoke your spirit? If not then it’s little surprise that we aren’t seeing more people come to Christ. If we’re not emotionally engaged in the plight of the lost, it’s unlikely that we’ll be engaged at all.

As the five year anniversary of Threshingfloor has come and gone I’ve been spending quite a bit of time thinking back to those first couple years. If I’m honest I believe that my passion for seeing people come to know Jesus has being dampened by the menial week-by-week work of “ministry” and keeping something simply running. I use quotation marks around ministry there because it’s so easy to get caught up in the logistics and habits of a program or practice and lose track of God’s true heart.

Acts 17:16 records that when the Apostle Paul was staying in the city of Athens “his spirit was provoked within him” when he saw that the people of the city were giving their lives to idols. So provoked that he headed to the public gathering place and started evangelizing, discussing, and reasoning with whoever would talk with him about the Gospel, Jesus, and the resurrection.

My friends, are our hearts provoked within us when we see the people around us sacrificing their lives to the idols of success, sexual pleasure, comfort, and a thousand others? Does seeing people held captive by addictions, lies, and satanic influences cause a righteous anger to rise within us against the gods of this world who have bound those people? Do our hearts fill with sorrow at the sight of someone disconnected from their loving Creator?

As much as we like to ignore it, we are very often led by our emotions and desires. Our mind is incredibly skilled at creating “logical” reasons why we should have what we want. Without our emotions engaged in something it inevitably becomes a back-burner, easily forgotten object.

When our hearts don’t feel the provocation that Paul felt in Athens evangelism is more of an obligation than a passion. Disciple making becomes a “ministry” rather than a joyful way of living.

Let’s set aside – for a moment – the demands of logic and let God engage our hearts fully.

Will you join me in praying, for the next seven days, that God would align our emotions with his towards the lost? I want my spirit to be provoked within me at the sight of people who need Christ. I want that provocation to be the catalyst to my action of laying down my life in love and boldly declaring Christ’s offer of salvation to any and all who will hear – from neighbor to co-worker to stranger.

Ministry Update

Ministry Update – 07/06/2015

July 6, 2015

Verge has been in conversations with Faithbridge Church in Park Rapids MN about reaching young adults in their region, and this past week a couple of the young adults from the church got to come out and observe what Threshingfloor is doing to reach the young adults in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

JulyUpdate1Our Threshingfloor community’s summer grill outs have been bringing together around 80 people each week (and growing) and have been an awesome space to meet young adults from the Fargo-Moorhead community and invite them further into relationships where discipleship will take place. If churches in Park Rapids can leverage that same idea to reach young adults there, that’s awesome! There’s no proprietary information in the kingdom of God. One of my favorite things about the network of ministries that we’re developing through Verge is that kind of opportunity for cross-pollination and co-working to make disciples.

As I mentioned in my previous update, Kelly and I are nearly 25% of the way funded. As we’ve prayed and looked into the future to identify what God is calling us to for the end of the summer it’s become clear that I need to move into full time ministry by the end of August regardless of whether or not we’ve achieved full support. There are too many opportunities awaiting to let money worries keep us from stepping forward in faith.

Will you join us in praying for this last step of the transition to full time ministry? Pray for God’s complete provision and for a deeper faith for us.

 

Also, pray for the numerous people who will encounter Jesus’s love through Threshingfloor’s summer grill outs and ask Him to move those who aren’t believers into faith. Pray for the two Verge Leader Communities that will be taking place at the end of July/start of August.

Journal, Life, Ministry Update, Spiritual Growth

In Season, Out of Season

June 22, 2015

For the past few weeks life has felt like more of a burden than normal. No singular reason that I can point to, just a fog of heaviness. Things that normally get me excited are simply less so, days seem longer, and I feel drained of the passion that I usually have for the ministry I do on a day to day basis. (Worth noting that the days are literally getting longer thanks to summer, but that’s beside the point.)

Today in particular is a melancholy day – cloudy and cool. The steady breeze blowing through the window through the office where I’m writing mixes with the (unintentionally) somber music that I turned on to be background to my writing. My page long to-do list feels daunting and I know that I won’t be able to accomplish most of it in the time I have. Almost every night this week is booked with meetings and events, all good but all demanding significant amounts of energy. The labor of fundraising so I can move into full time ministry is long and arduous. The work of God often feels slow and plodding when I want it to be brilliant with speed.

My guess is that quite a few of you are sitting where I am this Monday morning, somewhere other than you’d like to be and unsure of whether or not you’ll ever get there. It’s times like these where our faith is laid bare. Do we operate on the flights of emotion or are we settled, steadfast, and anchored in Christ in season and out of season?

I’m writing this – even though I don’t really feel like it – to give some advice to myself. To follow the pattern of the writer of Psalm 42. To preach what is true when it doesn’t feel true.

In those out of season moments and mornings and months when you just want to step out of the ring and sit at home reading fiction or watching movies or whatever it is that you do to fulfill the longing, don’t believe the promises of earthly satisfaction. Why so downcast, o my soul? Put your hope in God.

Step out of the ring, but not for fleshly pleasures. Those things will fill you like cotton candy and ice cream. They’ll taste great but leave you sick afterwards and inevitably fail to give you the power you need to get back to the fight. Step out and meet with the Lord. Come to him in prayer to draw from the wells of his grace. Meet him in the meditation on the Word to find satisfaction for the hungers of your soul. Remind yourself of all that God has done for you. Put your hope in God.

In season and out of season, good days and bad, through joys and burdens and successes and failures, we need to learn how to draw near to God. Don’t give up my friends. Your Father is with you, even to the end of the age. The victory has been won, regardless of how we’re feeling at the moment. The gates have been opened and the King of Glory has entered in and dwells within you. Give him praise. The burdens will melt away in his presence.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

Journal, Ministry Update, Threshingfloor, Verge

Ministry Update – 06/02/2015

June 2, 2015

It’s been an eventful couple weeks for Kelly and I. Two weeks ago I came home from work to Kelly lying on the bed in some serious pain. After talking for a few minutes we decided to take her to the emergency room. A good thing we did too, since it turned out that she had appendicitis. It made for a late night, but Kelly had surgery that night to remove her appendix before it burst.

We were blessed with a surgeon who knew exactly what he was doing. The operation took barely 30 minutes, and Kelly was back home by 10AM the next day. Sadly, the recovery time meant that we wouldn’t be able to go to the wedding we had been planning on going to in Montana on Memorial Day weekend. But God, in his amazing way, had something better.

As a result of our staying in Fargo we were able to spend Sunday evening with several of our apartment neighbors who we’ve been praying for since moving in. They’re a rough crowd and exactly the kind of people that Jesus love to associated with. We got to spend an evening with them, pray for one of the guys’ back and leg pain, and heard some of their stories. It’s so refreshing to be with people who don’t know Jesus and see just how much he can transform someone’s life.

For the past four months or so God’s been increasing the tension in my spirit about the fact that though Threshingfloor has created some amazing communities and seen people who are believers grow deeper in their faith and a couple people seeking Jesus join us on a regular basis, we haven’t seen significant movement of people encountering Christ and faith for the first time. I’ve been spending significant amounts of time in prayer on this topic. I want to see our communities come to the place where they are packed full of people who aren’t Christians but are getting drawn to Christ by his love displayed through us.

It’s because of that desire and those prayers that I’m excited for the changes coming to Threshingfloor this summer. Our communities are shifting their strategies in order to go deeper and further in disciple making. Our community will be breaking from our normal gatherings and spending the summer hosting a grill out every Wednesday night as a place for people to connect with community and encounter the kingdom of God. The other Threshingfloor community will be spending the summer learning and equipping each other, using the Story of God to go deeper in the Gospel in preparation for making disciples among international students once school starts back up in the fall.

One of our Threshingfloor Communities

One of our Threshingfloor Communities

Things are on the move for Verge as well. This coming weekend we’ll be gathering all the Verge staff from across the country in the Brainerd area for a weekend to pray, play, plan, and learn together. It’s going to be a critical weekend for us, all the more since our team so rarely gets to be together in one place for an extended period.

On top of that we’re preparing to launch a new Leader Community – an awesome space for ministry leaders to connect and equip each other – in the Twin Cities, discussing partnerships with churches in Glyndon and Park Rapids and several other communities in the Midwest, and preparing for the Leader Advance retreat this fall.

There’s a lot happening, and within it all I’m pressing towards completing the process of fundraising for my position with Verge/Threshingfloor. At $950/month of support, we’re practically 1/4 of the way to fully supported, and halfway to the point where I will be able to move into full time ministry. Continue laboring with us in prayer that God would provide full support by the end of July!

You can also join us in praying:

  • The God would lead me (Ben) to a couple new guys to disciple deeply
  • Opportunities to demonstrate God’s love and grace to our apartment neighbors
  • That our community’s summer grill outs would draw 20 new people to Christ
  • That Threshingfloor would multiply to three communities this fall
  • Opportunities for Verge to serve disciple-makers in Iowa and the western Dakotas
  • Connections for Verge to help increase disciple-making at Community College and noncollege cities and towns in the Midwest.
  • Wisdom and skill for leading a ministry team that’s spread across multiple states

Kelly and I can’t express our gratitude enough to each of you who are helping make it possible for us to move forward in making disciples among young adults in the Midwest. We literally wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing without your spiritual and financial support. Such a huge blessing to have friends and family who are willing to invest in us! We want to stay deeply connected to each one of you. If you want to chat, hear more stories about what God is doing, visit us here in Fargo, or have us come and visit you, let us know! In case you don’t have it, my contact information is;

ben@verge28.org
@thefallout

Christian Life, Evangelism, Ministry Update

The Paranoid Farmer

May 18, 2015

The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
– Mark 4:26-29, ESV

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
– 1 Corinthians 3:5-7, ESV

No farmer spends his days sitting in the fields, staring at the dirt, exerting his will in hopes of making his crop grow. The farmer tills the ground in preparation, plants his seeds, waters, fertilizes, and trusts that growth will happen because that’s what happens when seeds are planted in good soil. There may be seasons of drought and dismal harvests occasionally, but the earth has an amazing capacity to produce life from its soil. The farmer’s staring or willing doesn’t make any difference. His tilling, fertilizing, and watering can prepare but they don’t make things grow.

In three weeks the fifteen or so people in our Threshingfloor community will all be giving our Wednesday nights through the summer to plan and host weekly grill outs at Island Park, a park in downtown Fargo. Last summer Luke and Matt, a couple guys from the community, started the grill outs as a way to give international students something to enjoy during their weeks. In a matter of a month or so it went from 20 to about 60 people coming each week to eat, talk, play games, and enjoy the beauty of God’s summer nights. The majority of people there, to my knowledge, weren’t Christians.

We want to continue with what God blessed last year and make a space for people who aren’t believers to encounter the love, service, joy, and peace of God’s people. We’ll be spending the next few weeks preparing to spend our Wednesday nights through the summer as missionaries, demonstrating God’s love and welcoming near his ever-near kingdom by feeding people, praying for them, and who knows what else.

We won’t be paranoid farmers, fretting over our fields. We know our God is the one who causes growth. We’ll scatter seeds and lay down to sleep. I’m confident that when we come to the end of the summer, after we’ve done the work of prayer and believing and loving, God will have caused growth and a salvation harvest will be taking place. It’s going to be awesome.

Journal, Ministry Update, Threshingfloor, Verge

Ministry Update – 5/04/15

May 4, 2015

A lot has happened in the last week within Verge and Threshingfloor, so I wanted to give you all a brief update. Here’s what’s been going on.

Verge

Last week was a huge step towards accomplishing Verge’s Phase 2 vision. We’ve officially established a presence in the Twin Cities with a new networking partner and a new ministry partner. We’ll release specific details soon, but that means that we’re now working towards launching a Leader Community – one of our key vehicles for networking, educating, and equipping ministry leaders – in the Twin Cities area by end of summer.

One of the things that has me most excited about some of these new connections and conversations that are currently taking place with churches and ministry leaders around the region is the amazing variety of denominational, theological, and even racial backgrounds that we’re getting to talk with. They each have a huge passion for young adults. Regardless of differences, they’re all asking the same questions, expressing the same desires, and all eagerly desiring to see young adults discipled to and in Jesus in powerful ways.

Threshingfloor

After the exciting news of two new ministries partnering with Verge, I got to spend a great weekend with several of the Threshingfloor community leaders in a cabin in the woods, praying and seeking what God has for our communities for the rest of 2015.

IMG_4508

Part of the TF leader crew

We had some great conversation, got to relax together, and laid out specific action plans for our communities to accomplish in the next six months or so. A sampling of the things that our different communities will be doing includes;

  • 2 days of fasting and prayer each month
  • Increase the practice of hospitality by inviting international students into homes
  • Change the schedule of community gatherings so that the people in the community have time to go out and do ministry
  • Identify new apprentice leaders

To name just a few.

I love that we’re not stuck in the way we’ve been doing things, and that our leaders are more than ready to make any changes that will make us more effective at developing a network of disciples and discipling communities. That flexibility is critical in reaching the ever-shifting reality of culture.

 

 

All in all it’s been an encouraging week or so. As I sit here on this Monday morning and look out over the fast-approaching summer and dream about what God will do, I believe it’s going to be amazing.

We’re praying that God would continue to increase the movement that he’s beginning. I truly believe the last five years of Verge ministry is just the start, and I feel the same way about the last 4 1/2 years of Threshingfloor. There’s massive things that are coming in the next 6 months. I want to be ready for it. Join me in praying toward all that God has for us, both in Fargo and in the larger Midwest Region!

Journal, Ministry Update, Threshingfloor, Verge

Ministry Update – 4/14/2015

April 14, 2015

Let’s call this a level-set of what’s currently going on in Kelly and I’s lives and ministries. As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I’m going to start incorporating ministry updates into my regular mix of musings and devotional material here on the blog. Since there’s quite a bit currently taking place it made sense to me to start with a post that runs down the list and will hopefully give each of you some insight into what we’re devoting our days and nights to.

Threshingfloor Communities

This coming August will be the five year anniversary of Threshingfloor Communities. Crazy. We’ve gone from five college students meeting in a freezing basement to two communities totally about 40 people. I lead one community here at our apartment working to jump-start our network of disciples and discipling communities, and Nate and Paul (both awesome dudes) lead the other community that’s reaching international students at NDSU.

Our leadership team is sitting right around 10 people, counting community leaders and apprentice leaders. We’ll all be taking a weekend at the end of April to get away to hang out, pray, and brainstorm as a team. We’ve set out a few goals to pray and work towards this spring and summer – 10+ people coming to Christ for the first time directly through the ministry of people within TF and connecting with a discipling community, two additional communities, and 75% of the people presently in our communities getting deeper connected by taking part in DNA groups.

We’re on track to reach the two additional communities by the end of summer and we’ve seen some awesome stuff happen as people have gone deeper in their faith through DNA groups. Honestly though, I feel like we’re struggling in getting traction on seeing people come to Christ. Maybe it’s that we’re too inward focused, or maybe it’s that the structures and systems we’ve defaulted to due to mostly being people raised in churches aren’t attractive to non-believers. Whatever the case is, we’re going to shift whatever we need to in order to see people encounter the glorious grace of our savior!

Verge Ministries

Verge ministries does awesome work, and, to my knowledge, a ministry that no one else in America is doing. Headed up by Andy Abramson since their inception 5 year ago (several months before Threshingfloor began it’s infancy stages) they’ve worked to serve and equip churches, communities, and campuses in discipling young adults and college students. Verge comes alongside existing ministries to help them build, deepen, and multiply; helps new ministries launch and sustain; sets up networks so that people leading ministries can connect and work together; and works to educate people on the needs and opportunities among young adults for the Gospel.

Andy approached me about 8 months ago and asked if I would come on staff as their Midwest Regional Director to oversee the 10+ ministries they’re currently working with in the region. After a few months of prayer, discussion, and seeking the opinion of many people both Kelly and I respect, it became clear that going on staff with Verge was the next step God was calling us to take.

My job will be to help coach current ministry partners and sites, develop a deeper network of relationships, and basically do whatever I can to help see the young adults and college students across ND, SD, MN, and IA encounter Jesus in ever-deeper ways. I’ll be travelling throughout the region to meet with ministry leaders, hosting Leader Communities (there’s one coming up this weekend in the Brainerd area), and working with the Verge national team to do the annual Leader Advance conference.

There’s a huge need for the church to press into discipling young adults. The majority I encounter are, at best, indifferent towards their faith. Many think of Christianity as hateful and judgmental (though most of them are interested in Jesus in some way).

My day-to-day work with Verge at the moment consists of meeting our existing ministry leaders, working to raise the $4000/mo of funding that will enable me to provide for Kelly and I while doing full-time ministry (you can donate at the Verge website), and working to identify where Verge can serve and help lift up more ministries to young adults. We’re particularly targeting non-college and community-college cities and towns, as well as the western Dakotas and Iowa.

Personally

On a personal level and beyond “official” ministry stuff, I’m working part time at arvato as an Execution Readiness Project Manager (that means I train new employees and plan for new product/system launches and policy changes) three days a week. Kelly is working full time at Old Lutheran doing graphic design. We’re living in a three bedroom apartment in southern Fargo. Andrew, one of the guys I’ve been discipling for a few years now, is living with us.

Life is full and time races by, but we love what we do. It’s so awesome to get to see people grow in their depth of love for Jesus, break free from sins, anxieties, depression, and other bondages that have held them for years; to see lonely people become part of the Jesus family; and to have a marriage that is truly a partnership in doing Christ’s work.

It gets to be a lot on some days though, and we greatly appreciate the prayers of those of you who are praying for us. We would be honored if you would consider joining our official intercessory prayer team and want to receive email and text updates on urgent prayer issues. Please only sign up if you’re actually going to commit to serious prayer.

A couple specific things that we’d appreciate prayer for at this moment are:

  • The Threshingfloor goals mentioned earlier – 10+ people coming to Christ, 2 new communities by the end of summer.
  • $2,000 of funding raised by the end of April, $4000 by the end of June.
  • Energy, joy, and satisfaction in life for Kelly and I
  • A couple people that Kelly and I can connect with on a deep relational level who will encourage and inspire us in life, marriage, and ministry
  • The Verge Leader Community taking place this coming Saturday. Pray for unity, an environment of love and honesty, and huge encouragement for every leader who attends

Thank You

Thanks for reading this lengthy update! Things are moving forward and I’m so glad to have you along for the journey.

Grace and Peace,

Ben

Journal, Ministry Update, Threshingfloor, Verge

Ministry Update – 4/13/15

April 13, 2015

As of a little over a month ago I officially came on board as the Midwest Regional Director with Verge Ministries, working to help a bunch of awesome ministries reach the tens of thousands of young adults and college students that are scattered across ND, SD, MN, and IA. Both Kelly and I are hugely excited about this new season in our lives and how God is going to use it to grow both us and Verge, a ministry that we’ve been closely connected with for several years now through Threshingfloor and our friendship with Andy and Jenn Abramson.

We’re stepping out as missionaries to our own generation, and I truly believe God has some huge stuff awaiting in the future. Because of our move to operating as missionaries and my step into “vocational” ministry I’ll be transitioning this blog, which has historically been mostly poetry, devotional, and theological content to be more of a ministry journal so that those who are a part of Kelly and I’s support team can track along with us, Verge, and Threshingfloor. For those of you who have been following the blog for awhile, don’t worry too much – I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to resist continuing with the devotional and theological goods.

I’ll be posting at least twice a week, so check back regularly if you want to follow along on our ministry journey of following Jesus wherever he leads. In a day or two I’ll be posting a longer update on the specifics of what’s going on in our lives now and where we’re headed in the next couple months. There’s some big plans for Threshingfloor, some exciting meetings for Verge, and all sorts of craziness that I can’t wait to share!