Dear Soteria Avondale



Dear Soteria Avondale, 

There are moments when God allows us to get a small glimpse of his power and sovereignty. He pulls back the curtain and we are able to see that the very ordinary occurrences in life are opportunities to impact eternity. No doubt there are days when we wake up and feel as if our work is pointless; when we question whether or not the sacrifices we have made are worth it. Often it is in those moments when we are most frustrated and discouraged that God gives us a small glimpse of what he is doing. He reminds us that He is working behind the scenes in ways we could never have imagined. A few weeks ago, someone told me of a very specific way that God has used our church body. Soteria Avondale, you are the answer to a mother’s prayer! 

Not long ago I ran into an old friend — figuratively of course not literally. We began talking about life and she asked how things are going at Soteria. As we talked about some of the ways God is working, I made the comment that we are planting a new church in Arizona and how excited I am about the team God has brought together. When I said this she smiled and responded, “That is so wonderful! I am praying that more churches would be planted in Arizona. My son and his family live there  and don’t really have a good church to attend.” She mentioned that her son isn’t currently living for the Lord but was excited to hear that our church had considered Arizona for a church plant. I asked her, “So where in Arizona does your son live?” She began explaining that he lives in the Phoenix area; not in Phoenix but in a suburb to the Southwest. She said, “It is a city called Avondale.” It was my turn to smile! I looked at her and said, “That is where our church will be located.” She began to cry and told me that she has prayed for years that a solid gospel-preaching church would come to her son’s city. It was such a joy to tell her that God had answered her prayer. 

Dear Soteria Avondale, you are the answer to this mother’s prayer. We never know the impact that the little moments (and big moments) can have in people’s lives but one thing is certain: God is at work in ways we cannot see and is doing things that we could never imagine. There are still more prayers to be answered and more sons who need to hear the Gospel and be made alive in Jesus (in both Avondale and Des Moines). We have the amazing privilege of intersecting with these stories every day. Clearly, God is at work and I am confident that He has big plans for Soteria Avondale. It is exciting to think of all the other prayers God wants to answer through Soteria Avondale. 

We love you, we are praying for you, and we’re so grateful for the ways God is going to transform lives using the “ordinary moments” in your life. 



Nick Harsh 

Identity Determines Mission



"Sound theological understanding underlies distinctively Christian ministry. Servants who understand their masters purposes have a clearer sense of mission. Theological perception of God’s program in the world helps formulate long-range goals in life for those who do his will on earth. Servants who know who they are can function more freely with a sense of identity."

— Integrative Theology, pp. 47-48.


Most of us have experienced it before, the uncomfortable feeling of the first day on the job. Each situation is different but often the first day (or even the first few months) at a job is uncomfortable because we aren’t completely sure what we are supposed to be doing. Early on we rely heavily on our job description because it records our responsibilities in propositional form. Our job description clearly defines our identity with the company or business we are a part of. The job description tells us who we are, what we are responsible to do, and the authority that we have to carry out those tasks. In other words, our identity determines our responsibility.

While this is certainly true in the workplace, it is also true in every other aspect of life. If you are a mother, that identity carries with it a certain set of responsibilities. If you are a father the same is true. If you are a student, then your responsibilities are often accompanied by a deadline. This is equally true when it comes to our walk with God. Identity determines mission. If I don’t know my job, I am not going to be able to do it well. So as believers, what is our job? What should we accomplish? We find the answer in Matthew 28:18-20.

Matthew 28:18-20  And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”


While it might seem like there are four commands in these verses, it’s important to realize that there is really only one command — make disciples. The other phrases, which look like commands (e.g. Go therefore, baptizing, and teaching) are called adverbial participles. That’s just a fancy name we give to words formed from verbs that function like adjectives. In other words they describe the action of the main verb, which is “make disciples.”

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Whoa…that’s a lot of grammar! But it’s this vital information that helps us better understand our job description as believers.


One would think that a mission which extends to all nations would require a complex strategy. Yet this is not what we find in Matthew. Instead, we find three simple, yet life-consuming methods for making disciples. Specifically, we are to “Go, Baptize, and Teach.” That’s our job description. We are to make disciples by going, baptizing, and teaching. This is a very sobering, but freeing reality. It is sobering because of the scope of our mission. We are not trying to make mere church-goers; the goal is to make disciples of all nations. That is a massive task! Yet this singular mission enables us to be faithful and to grow where God has planted us, which then frees us from the desire of always having to chase the next big thing. We don’t have to perpetually grasp for the next big ministry opportunity. If you want to do God’s work, find a local church and start serving. Build friendships with unbelievers that can support gospel conversations.


But, what gives us the confidence to complete such a lifelong task? The answer is really quite amazing. We have been given the stewardship of Jesus’ authority and the promise of God’s presence. Notice how the command in these verses is sandwiched between two promises.

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The clarity of a job description and the backing of an employer enables and empowers us to work with focus and diligence. In the same way, the clarity of a singular mission – to make disciples – and the promise of God’s authority and presence should motivate us to work toward the mission with diligence.

1 Integrative Theology, pp. 47-48.

"Something to Read"

 Jared Segerstrom

 Awhile back I heard someone recite a little poem which helps family members know what items to buy for kids. It goes, “Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.” I have found this little poem helpful in thinking through what to give our own family for Christmas. I think teens could also benefit from receiving items in that list, especially “something to read.” But if you have walked through Barnes & Noble lately or scoured the list of books on Amazon, the mission of buying books for teenagers can appear impossible. I want to offer a few suggestions for books which would suit every teenager this Christmas.



No, I am not trying to pull a fast one on you. If we truly believe that our sons, daughters, nieces, and nephews should be reading the Bible regularly, then we ought to give them a quality Bible of their own. I remember receiving my first study Bible for Christmas my freshman year of high school and it helped me tremendously in my walk with God. There are many good Bibles available for teens:

Study Bibles:     The ESV Student Study Bible, which reads at a 10th-grade level, offers thousands of notes along with 80 maps, illustrations, and dozens of character profiles. At about $30, the ESV Student Study Bible offers quality without breaking the bank. If you think your student would benefit from a slightly more readable version, I would recommend the NIV Zondervan Study Bible, which reads at a 7/8th-grade level. As a word of advice, when given the choice, go with a bonded leather instead of a hardback edition of a study Bible. Though they cost a little bit more, bonded leather Bibles handles the wear and tear much better than hardback Bibles.

Journaling Bibles:    Another great option for teens is a journaling Bible. My wife received a journaling Bible for Christmas a few years ago and has enjoyed recording notes and observations as she studies the Word both at church and at home. This Bible is especially helpful for artistically-inclined students. The ESV Journaling Bible comes in a variety of attractive styles and patterns and costs around $45. You can also buy an NIV Journaling Bible for a comparable price.


Devotional Book

While we never should give a devotion book as a substitute for Bible reading, a quality devotional book can be a big encouragement in the spiritual life of a teen. The best devotional books are those which point the students’ attention toward the Bible says, not away from it. One excellent resource for young teens is the book God’s Mighty Acts in Salvation, which walks teens through the book of Galatians. Each of the forty lessons offers the Bible passage, a connection to the gospel, and discussion questions which build on Paul’s teachings. God’s Mighty Acts is a great resource for a middle school student.

Though not strictly considered a devotional book, What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care? by Ed Welch is an excellent resource for teens. The author designed the book so that students answer pointed, heart-examining questions as they read. By the end of the book, teens will have been challenged to develop a biblical view of God, self, and other people. I went through What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care? with one of our teens this past summer and both of us found it to be encouraging and transformative. I recommend this book for all students, but especially those in high school.


Book to “Get the Ball Rolling”

Perhaps the teen on your shopping list shows little-to-no interest in reading. You want them to read, but they don’t want to read. What are you supposed to do? No one wants to be that person at Christmas who gives a gift for which the recipient has no interest, but still gives the obligatory “thanks” and hides the gift away to collect dust (I have less-than-fond memories of a cassette tape of harmonica music I received in the late ‘90s). 

Giving books to non-readers requires two things. First, it requires discernment.  As you shop, you will inevitably need to delve into a topic or subject you might not be acquainted with. Skim through books before you give them. Look online to see if Christian book reviews are available for a particular title.

Second, giving books to a non-reader requires knowing the teen. You need to take time to learn their interests and passions. There is a book out there for everyone if you look hard enough. For the Star Wars fan, find one of the many novels based on the story and give it to your young Padawan. For the budding entrepreneur, give him or her a book on business or finances. For the gaming wiz-kid, find a book on the history or development of video games. For the sports fan, find a biography of a famous athlete (I recommend a biography of a Christian athlete like Tim Tebow or David Robinson). The possibilities are truly endless!

• • •

One final thing to remember in giving books as gifts is that reading begets reading. By that, I mean once students get into the routine of reading things they enjoy or find fascinating, they will then be more willing to embrace more difficult, but enriching books.

These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to suggested reading for teens. The task of buying books for teens is a tall one, but I hope you can use this list as a starting point. Happy Shopping! 


Finger-Pointing at the Mirror

Each morning I wake to an unwritten, yet very regimented routine. 

I shut off my alarm, check my phone for notifications, tiptoe past my toddler-aged daughter’s bedroom to the bathroom, shower, get dressed, and make my way to the living room. 

When seated in the living room, I unlock my iPad, read my Bible, and check social media. It seems every time I scan Facebook or Twitter, I’m either disappointed, discouraged, or disheartened by what I read. Disappointment comes by reading a post from a family member or classmate who grew up hearing the gospel, but has now abandoned the faith. Other times my stomach is turned at a headline announcing an unthinkable act of evil or a devastating natural disaster. I find myself frustrated at the division and unrest in our country.

After closing my iPad and getting up from my chair, I make my way to the kitchen to brew coffee. As I wait for the water to heat up, I contemplate what I just read. I think, “I can’t believe how evil some people can be” or “What is our society coming to?” Sometimes these questions are valid reflections on evil in the world. But way too often, my thoughts reveal a self-righteous heart. I want to blame society for the evils in the world without ever considering that I am a part of society. In fact, our evil, sinful culture is simply an accumulation of many evil, sinful persons, including myself. 

James addresses my self-righteous attitude in his letter to dispersed Christians. He asks them this rhetorical question: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?” (James 4:1). I know how I answer that question. Most of the time I find myself in a disagreement because of another person’s unreasonableness or ignorance. Other reasons include a long day at work, a poor night’s sleep, or an empty stomach. 

But that’s not what James says is the reason we sin and engage in conflict. He answers his question: “Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” James says that the reason I fight and quarrel is because my desires are out of control. I want to have things my way more than I want to love and serve other people. I can’t blame the society around me for my sinful thoughts, words, and actions. I can’t blame my upbringing, my genetics, or my environment for my sinful responses. Instead I have to point the finger at myself.

While it might seem depressing to place the blame for sin on myself, ironically that’s where hope is found. You see, I can’t change how other people treat me. I can’t change my genetics, upbringing, environment, or society at large. But God CAN change me. He uses His Spirit, His Word, and His people to change my sinful heart to better reflect His heart. This change is slow and painful at times, but it is a joy to know that God is working for my good to change me into the image of His Son (Romans 8:28-29).

Based on this renewed understanding of who I am and how God works, I’ve decided to add one short step to my morning routine. After I tiptoe past my daughter’s room and before I brew my morning coffee, I’m going to look into the bathroom mirror and point my finger at the drowsy face I see. I’m going to tell that face, “You’re the most sinful person I know. The reason you sin is because of your out-of-control sinful desires, not society or your environment. But Jesus died for you. He took your sin, so you don’t have to be slave to it anymore. God can change you. Trust Him, and stop blaming others.” 

With that short, but valuable addition made to my morning routine, I can humbly, joyfully (and quietly) proceed to the kitchen and brew a delicious cup of coffee.


By Jared Segerstrom