Our Theme in 2016: Solving Problems

Did you know that churches tend to have certain kinds of problems, and have always had certain kinds of problems? It is the problems that churches have that make Christians the butt of jokes and satire, like Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady” on Saturday Night Live. Even though that schtick is over twenty-five years old it still strikes people as funny. In serious conversation Christians are often set apart for being “hypocrites.” It’s tough to hear, but true enough that it sticks. Many churches with over 50 years of history behind them have had their best days — more people, more programs — in the past. One big reason is that Church People have not related well to the world around them, but an even BIGGER reason is that Church People have not related well to EACH OTHER. Spiritual explorers who are searching for communities of faith in which to get involved, have seen that, noticed that, discerned that, and decided –for their own good– to move on to more nurturing environments.

When I say “churches have always had these problems” I don’t just mean “since the 1980′s.” I mean the problems go all the way back, to the stories of the Bible. After Jesus was risen from the dead, he deposited his Holy Spirit on his witnesses, and these men and women took the gospel throughout the Roman World. Almost as soon as any church got going it began to have the kinds of problems we still have today:

1) People judging each other meanly over external things, like clothes and manners.

2) Ethnic bigotry.

3) Moral bigotry — accountability deprived of grace.

4) Moral laxity — Grace deprived of a gospel of effective ethical transformation.

5) Leadership egos squabbling over power.

6) Hypocrisy — people presenting untrue pictures of themselves.

7) Generational disputes.

8) Factions. “I want what I want and I don’t care whether “THEY” get what THEY want.”

9) Theological error.

Sound familiar? It has ALL happened BEFORE. The New Testament leaders Peter, Paul, Priscilla, James and John all had to address them. That is why we at Elgin Covenant are going to make 2016 a year of studying problems in the church AND their solutions — as reported in the New Testament and applied to the Church of today.

You will learn:
1) That problems in Churches have their root causes in sin and their solutions in repentance.
2) That churches with a core culture of repentant hearts are active in the power of the Holy Spirit, while churches with a core culture of unrepentant or hypocritical hearts operate under their own power –which might work for a while, but unravels over the long term.
3) That the problems you have seen for yourself as a Christian in different church settings, in everything from hissy-fits of jealousy on the church’s margins to outright moral collapse among leaders, are not unique to your experience and do not indicate that the church you have been involved with is somehow especially bad or sick or sinful. These problems were seen by the apostles themselves, and addressed by them.
4) That just because these problems are normal does not mean they are unimportant. These problems poison the “wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3) and keep churches from flourishing as places where seekers want to test the wells — the depth and the purity of what we claim to be “living water” (John 4:10). A further note on the importance of solving these problems: I am using the Bible’s “wells” image to speak to the religious priorities of the Millennial generation in their search for authenticity. But it is not the millennials who first left the church. In the United States they are continuing the trend long-established by X’ers (mine) and Boomers, and the trend was already underway in Canada and western Europe.
5) Knowledge that these problems have been common should heighten our desire to see how they are solved in the guidance of the Spirit and the Apostles, that is, God’s Word, the scriptures.
6) Knowing that none of us are not tested beyond what is common to all , we can have empathy and grace as believers for each other across congregational and denominational boundaries.
7) The solutions to the problems come not by living perfect lives and never sinning (I John 1:8-9), but by love for one another (I John 4:7-12), since love “covers a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8); by broken and contrite hearts which the Lord receives as his own (Psalm 51:17); and by the power of the Spirit of Christ dwelling within us, teaching us Christ’s own empathy for the weaknesses we find in ourselves and others (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Our goal in bringing this preaching emphasis is that those who hear and participate with us will be inspired to live in God’s strength as the joyful, repentant, contrite, bold witnesses to Jesus Christ that we are called to be, within the churches we belong to, and beyond.

Christmas 2015 At Elgin Covenant

The last update on this page was in September, and our fall heated up and flew by with our schedule of 125th Anniversary events. Now Christmas is upon us. Some of our annual celebrations are already complete, but there is much more to come. We hope you will join us to mark the holy season of Advent and Christmas.

Dec. 5, Santa Lucia Coffee, 9 AM. Over one hundred people turn out for this open house every first Saturday of December.
Dec. 6, Advent Communion (10:30); kids and family Gingerbread House and pizza party, 4 – 6 PM.
Dec. 13, Night of Christmas Music featuring Jeorge Holmes, Diva Montel, the Elgin Salvation Army Brass Band and Murna Hansemann on piano, 5 PM with a cookie reception following.
Dec. 16, 5:30 PM, dress rehearsal for the Christmas Children’s and Choir Program
Dec. 20, 10:30 AM, Christmas Children’s and Choir Program
Dec. 24, 7 PM, Candlelight Christmas Service
Dec. 25, 6 AM, Julotta Christmas worship
Dec. 27, 10:30 Christmastide worship
Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve Party: 6 PM, Potluck Dinner; 7 PM, Worship; 8 PM, dessert buffet and games; (videos will be show for kids as alternative at 7 PM).
Jan. 3, New Year communion, 10:30 AM.

125 Years of Ministry: Celebrations this Fall

After the SOLD OUT smorgasboard on Friday, September 18, Elgin Covenant is poised for even more celebration of its 2015 anniversary year in October and November.

On October 4, 2 PM, all are invited to Elgin Covenant for an organ concert featuring Jose’ J. Rosado, organist and Director of Music at St. James Episcopal Church, West Dundee, IL. Admission is free. A reception will follow.

On October 11, retired and former Elgin Covenant pastor, the Rev. Dr. Herbert Hedstrom, will preach at the 10:30 service. A lunch will follow. All are invited.

Saturday, November 7, the President of the Evangelical Covenant, Rev. Dr. Gary Walter, will be the featured speaker at the Anniversary Banquet. This is a ticketed event.

Sunday, November 8, all are welcome to worship which will include a visit and greeting from Central Conference Associate Superintendent Peter Sjoblom, Elgin Covenant’s “vitality coach,” with a cake reception following.

If you have any questions about these events please call the church at 847-888-2302. We hope you can join us when you can and celebrate with us 125 years of ministry in Elgin and the Fox Valley.

SHIFT into a New Gear

Our church wants to be “Disciples Who Make Disciples.” There are two sides to that: First is being disciples, that is, being intentional about learning from Jesus and his Word; second is making disciples, that is, sharing our stories of faith in Jesus with others and inviting them to receive Jesus for themselves.

SHIFT is a teaching and learning emphasis that helps us be true to the vision of being disciples. We are beginning this six-week teaching emphasis in September in our children, youth, and adult learning, and in Sunday morning worship. Each week’s lesson is self-contained. You are invited to come to what you can, and not be discouraged by anything you have to miss.

Week One: Shift Your Relationship with God, Bearing Fruit on the True Vine; John 15:1-17

Week Two: Shift Your Relationship with Others, From “Me” to “We;” Philippians 2:1-18

Week Three: Shift From Self-Fear to God-Confidence; Isaiah 6:1-7

Week Four: Shift into Empathy; Luke 10:25-37

Week Five:Shift Perspective, See As God Sees; Genesis 11:27-12:9

Week Six: Shift Into Action; Acts 10

Church Picnic August 30: KIDS CELEBRATE 125 YEARS

This year our annual church picnic is going to have some extra touches as we make it the church’s 125th Anniversary Party for KIDS. The plan is that children will have special involvements in the worship service, and the picnic itself will feature games and activities of various kinds — hopefully including a “bouncy castle” (used to be called “moonwalk”).

This picnic party is an open invitation to the whole city of Elgin. It will take place on the church campus at 1565 Larkin Avenue. Activities will begin with worship at 10:30, followed by lunch. Meats and beverages are provided, participants in the picnic are invited to bring their own picnic ware and a side-dish to share.

Student Parking Permits 2015-2016

It is that time of year when we prepare our parking lot for the new school year. We have good news for the year 2015-2016. The donations we receive for the privilege to park goes exclusively into our parking lot maintenance fund. This summer plans are underway for a complete resurfacing of the lot! Our plan is to have everything finished, including spot lines  repainted, by the beginning of the school year. If you are looking for a parking permit, please go to the tab “Student Parking” where the forms for 2015-2016 are now ready for download. Be sure to tell your friends about this opportunity to park near the west entrances of the school. Let’s fill up the lot in 2015-2016!

Camp Sunday July 5, Covenant Harbor, Lake Geneva Wisconsin

Thank you for looking us up! This Sunday, July 5, is the one Sunday of the year that we will NOT have worship at our campus, 1565 Larkin Avenue. Instead we are supporting Covenant Harbor Bible Camp this week by participating in their Summer Sundays worship. Covenant Harbor is in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. You can find more information about the camp and their summer programs at covenantharbor.org. Please join us July 12, 10:30 AM, as we continue to celebrate 125 years of ministry at Elgin Covenant. While you are here, surf this site for information about our programs, and beliefs, our past, our present and our future, including pdf versions of newsletters and sermons.

Welcome: The Difference Between “Inviting” and “Affirming”

God Bless you, friend. Thank you for checking out this website!

A new post has been added  to “Hot Topics.” The Hot Topics are arranged alphabetically. Scroll down to “W” and find Welcome: The Difference Between “Inviting” and “Affirming”

All are welcome to the Evangelical Covenant Church. In today’s world, however,  words are drifting in meaning. Being a “welcoming” church has taken on implications that reflect the arguments going on in the world about sexuality and marriage. As is clear from the rest of this website, Elgin Covenant holds to what American society now calls “traditional” or “conservative” views of sexuality and marriage. (We prefer the terms “Biblical” and “God-ordained” but those are words that also spark all kinds of controversy and strong emotion.) We are an “inviting” church, we are not an “affirming” church. If you need more explanation, you may begin with the Hot Topics article.


Living Again

Spring took its time reaching the upper midwest. March was “in like a lion,” but out like a bear. Even so the signs of life, the longer daylight, the warmth, the flowers, are reminding us of beauty and of joy in simple pleasures.

Many religions have long understood spring as a metaphor. Some have seen it as a metaphor of cycles, circular time, and sameness — for philosophies of reincarnation. The Christian faith has seen in spring a sign and metaphor for resurrection, for new life coming from the dead. The analogy should not be stretched too far. Trees that bud are not resurrected, they are coming out of dormancy — we see that in the animal kingdom too, among some mammals that hibernate for a period of time during winter.

Each cycle of the seasons move time forward. Trees get bigger and taller. Animals, including human beings, advance through stages of maturity. And then, eventually, life dies. The tree does not bud in spring, but becomes a dry trunk.

The amazing good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be simply deduced from the cycle of seasons and the life-cycles of trees and animals. It must first be declared and lived and spoken by God as an act of self-revelation, in a way that we can understand. This good news is that Jesus was dead, all the way dead. He was not hibernating, he was not in a deep coma, he was dead. Then God raised him back to life in a body that will never die again. That is good news for you and me because of what God promises in the words spoken through Jesus Christ, that by faith in him we also can share in his eternal life, we also can rise from the dead in new bodies that will never die.

The hints of spring cannot replace God’s special, spoken and revealed Word. This Word lived in the flesh of Jesus Christ, is preserved in the Old and New Testaments, and is experienced directly through the presence of the Spirit of Christ dwelling in and renewing the minds of believers. His Spirit dwelling in us is our deposit on eternal life, the guarantee of the promise. Be thankful for the seasons and for what spring means to the cycle of life, but be ever more thankful for what God has done to make that which is dead and that which will die, to live again forever.

Spring and Celebration

We are now deep into 2015, our 125th Anniversary Year. We launched our celebration on February 15 with a short film showing the origins of our tradition. On March 8 the Rev. Dick Lucco brought the word, preaching on Zaccheus and our call to be like Jesus in taking notice of others. Holy Week began on Palm Sunday, March 29, featuring a liturgical dance by a team of women and then a song by the children. April 1, missionary Ryan Karp of Chosen People Ministries took us through “The Messiah in the Passover” and led communion. Good Friday and Easter were also special worship times.

The celebrations continue. On April 26 we are holding a “Welcome Baby” shower for Josiah Johnson, born to Pastor Greg and Shannon Johnson. On May 10 our youth are hosting a special Mother’s Day breakfast (FREE) and then are leading worship with Pastor Greg. On May 17 we are having our special “Church in Mission” emphasis with our outreach pastor, Henoch Fuentes. On June 7, Central Conference Superintendent Jerome Nelson will be our guest preacher, along with a guest choir, for the celebration of Pastor Greg’s ordination and Pastor Jonathan’s graduation with a Ph.D. All of these events are on Sunday mornings and open to the public. Come to the party!