Moody's 2019 commencement season concludes
Bringing the Bible to the Least Bible-Minded City
Moody grads Isaac and Jessica (Jentink) Ferrell were visiting an Iowa church one Sunday when they heard the pastor plead with God to send a church planter to Cedar Rapids. Isaac and Jessica, who graduated in 2011 with theology degrees and had been praying about that very thing, looked at each other, wide-eyed. Could God be calling them?
Wait—before you answer . . . here’s one surprising detail about Cedar Rapids. It regularly pops up on Barna’s list of the least Bible-minded cities. And after Isaac and Jessica completed a church-planting internship, they were disappointed by the preaching they heard in area churches. “We had it in our mind that the city needed another strong gospel church,” says Jessica, who grew up there.
“At first glance, church plants seem doomed to fail,” Isaac admits. “Atheism is on the rise, the Bible is taking a back seat to cultural subjectivism, and more people identify themselves as being unaffiliated with any particular religion.” It’s also a challenge to motivate evangelicals who are becoming increasingly jaded by the culture war, he adds.
Yet the Ferrells are full of energy and optimism as they raise funds and share their vision for the new church. Soon they will begin holding Bible studies and interest meetings, with plans to launch Trinity Presbyterian Church by Easter 2020. “We believe the kind of church that can successfully engage our culture and inspire its own people to do the same will be historical, philosophical, city-centered, loving, and most importantly, biblical,” he says.
To that end, Isaac and Jessica are eager to use their Moody training to bring the gospel to the lost and rally believers to join them.
A longtime factory town, Cedar Rapids has a growing, changing demographic. Besides white- and blue-collar workers, a large influx of younger professionals have relocated to eastern Iowa. The Ferrells hope to plant their church near the artistic community known as New Bohemia. Though ambivalent toward church, the residents of that area are seeking something that transcends daily life—goodness, truth, and beauty. The Ferrells have the answer in the gospel of Jesus Christ and are praying for boldness to share as opportunities arise.
Here is how Moody prepared Isaac and Jessica for their work:
Remember church history. Isaac’s concentration in historical theology at Moody taught an important balance. On one hand “the Bible is God-breathed and inerrant, our final authority in faith and practice,” he says. On the other hand, don’t ignore the wealth of wisdom handed down from Christian churches that wrestled with similar issues long ago.
Isaac finds this background to be helpful as he interacts with all levels of the public, from dishwashers to city council members. He regularly talks to both while he works afternoons and evenings at a fine dining restaurant downtown.
Have philosophical discussions: Although Jessica was raised in a Christian home—her parents, Jay ’86 MA ’98 and Donna (Krueger ’86) Jentink, graduated from Moody—she went through a period of doubting as a teenager. “Do I really have good reasons for what I believe? Or is it just something I’ve been raised with?” Moody’s emphasis on philosophy and apologetics helped Jessica understand the presuppositions underlying any debate with God.
“I have a heart for people who are skeptical and doubting,” she explains. “I want people to feel like they can ask honest questions and that God will honor their seeking. His Word is rich and true and will provide the answers that people are looking for.”
Embrace the city: “Moody made us love the city,” says Isaac. “Cities are the cultural movers and shapers of our world,” he explains. “People congregate in cities and effect real change. If culture is shifting in the heart of the city, then the gospel needs to be declared to those shifting that culture.”
To reach the urban population of Cedar Rapids, Isaac is meeting with other evangelical churches, guest preaching, and planning events together. “It is a strong passion of mine to stand with brothers and sisters in Christ who are accurately preaching the gospel, and work hard with them to get this gospel out.”
Love like Jesus: Through Moody’s Practical Christian Ministry assignments, Isaac and Jessica ministered in inner-city programs as well as suburban youth groups. “Just learning how to meet the different ministerial needs in both of those communities was eye-opening,” Jessica says.
Isaac adds, “Moody taught us that we don’t have to decide between seeking first the kingdom of God and also caring for the tangible needs of the marginalized and the oppressed. We follow Jesus, who taught that He was the Bread of Life by feeding the hungry.”
Stay biblical: “More than anything, Moody taught us to be lovers of the Word,” Isaac says. “However post-Christian our society may be, it’s still starving for a good old-fashioned sermon.
“Some pastors appear to be bored by their Bibles, resorting to YouTube clips, quippy illustrations, and trendy, well-lit worship music in a desperate attempt to keep their congregants (perhaps even themselves) interested in church,” he adds. “We have to stop muzzling the Scriptures with lazy exegesis and our own lack of faith in its power and relevancy. God’s Word created the world out of nothing. And it brings the dead to life!”
Dr. Michael Rydelnik is passionate about teaching students. He wants them to be confident as they understand and apply Scripture with an eye on impacting lives for Jesus.
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