November 2021 Message from Pastor Blake

Be Encouraged: The Gates of Hell will not Prevail against the Church

I am so thankful that Appleton Community Evangelical Free Church called me to be their pastor. If God gave me the opportunity to pick everything I wanted in student ministry, I don’t think it would be nearly as good as the student ministry at ACEFC. I told this to the students as we were debriefing during Operation Fox Valley because their love for Jesus filled me with joy.
It seems like we are constantly hearing bad news. Every poll is reminding us that the church is losing ground in our culture and less and less people are trusting Jesus as their Savior. The numbers seem to be getting worse for every generation. All these things may be true, but God’s word gives us hope.
Jesus asked the disciples, “who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Peter confesses, “You are the Christ, son of the Living God.” Jesus praises Peter and says, “on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. ”There is much debate on this passage, but I will condense pages of commentary to summarize it like this. The church will push forward the gospel even in the midst of opposition. Jesus, the Son of the Living God is building his church and Satan and his cohorts will not be able to stop it.
These verses still ring true even when it seems like we are losing ground to the “gates of hell.” God is raising up the next generation of Christians right before our eyes!
This summer we did a local serving trip called Operation Fox Valley. The youth students helped build a memorial for Logan Collison, planned a Backyard Bible Club, and hosted a teen night for their friends. My heart was full of joy as I watched the students serve. One student described building a fire pit as “digging a hole just to fill it back up.” That was a great way to put it and they did it without complaining.
The students planned an entire Backyard Bible Club for Marshall and Shay Legg’s neighborhood. The students prepared all the lessons, planned all the crafts and games, and led the worship time. Fifteen kids heard the gospel over those three days! The students are helping to raise up the next generation of the church.
The last night of the serving trip they planned a teen night and invited their friends to the church to hang out, play games, eat pizza, and watch “A Case for Christ”. They wanted to start ministering to their friends and share Jesus with them. The movie created ways to have gospel conversations with their friends. Some of their friends even come to youth group now and are asking questions about Christianity.
We just got back from Fall Fest where I continue to see growth in their lives. They spent a weekend having fun and learning deep theological truths. They unpacked those truths in small groups and applied them to their lives. Some of the students at teen night also came to Fall Fest! We had new students come and our students welcomed them into their community. I saw the fruit of the Spirit on display as I watched them interact with each other and other youth groups.
Be encouraged! Satan may look like He is prevailing but he’s not. The numbers in the church here in the US may ebb and flow but God is still working. You can see if for yourself if you come on a Sunday night for youth group or a Wednesday night for Awana.
You will see students encouraging one another, loving one another, and bearing each other’s burdens. We end at 8:00 but students hang out until 8:30 most nights. Sometimes they are even staying late for small group as they wrestle with understanding scripture and applying it to their lives.
I love this church and I love these students. I will say it again. I don’t think I could have written a better scenario than the one God orchestrated. I am grateful for Lisa, Matt D. Matt B, Ramsey, and Katrina who have been discipling these students for years and continue to disciple the students. I am also thankful for the students as they do the work of pushing the gospel forward in an unbelieving world.

Matthew 16:13-20
The Expositors Bible Commentary, DA Carson 370

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