Archives For Emmaus Bible Church

shutterstock_190858196What does it mean to have faith? I have gotten this question numerous times as a pastor. Faith is a term that is vitally important but often also loosely defined or applied.

People speak of faith as if it is a “leap of faith.” In this way it sounds like an acceptable embracing of something that is irrational. The Bible does not present faith as irrational.

Others speak of faith as simply intellectual ascent. I believe the facts about God much like someone believes the facts about the life of George Washington. While facts are important there is more.

Still others will speak of the way they feel. God makes them happy when they should be sad. Emotion corresponds with faith but is not all that faith is.

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Job Opening at Emmaus

Erik Raymond —  March 31, 2014

Emmaus is hiring a music leader. Interested applicants should read the posting on our website (here) along with the full position description.

We are a church that heartily agrees with the premise of Chapell’s Christ Centered Worship and sings many Indelible Grace tracks along with some Sovereign Grace and Enfield. We have about 12 musicians (cellos, violin, guitars, flute, keyboard, and organ).

Pass it on to folks who may be interested.

The grace of God is sufficient.


I know this but sometimes it is hard to believe it. I operate under the false assumption that I have to augment God’s wisdom, power, and presence with my own (wisdom, power and ability). Every now and then God does the spiritual equivalent of a quick crossover over dribble and a two-handed dunk in the lane. He surprises me and reminds me that he is awesome. He is awesome in power, wisdom and love. I just stand up and cheer as I watch the false idol (that I created) writhing in pain from the broken ankles (it’s March Madness, you have to expect basketball illustrations).

God did this recently. I talked with a brother who has endured an astoundingly heavy trial. As I talked to him he boasted in the God of the Word and the Word of God. The best part was, I know it wasn’t fake. I had talked to him awhile ago and he was laid low by the affliction. Now he was truly encouraged.

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If you read this blog then you very likely are rejoicing in the resurgence of church planting. This rejoicing leads to increased burden for gospel ministry to advance in all areas–rural and urban, affluent and poor. The gospel is for all people.

In our context, God has called us to plant a church in an urban, diverse context of Omaha. As we endeavor to be faithful we are reaching out to friends for help. This is why we at Emmaus are excited to welcome our friends from 20schemes to come for a Saturday morning training session on ministry in poor contexts. Mez McConnell will also preach on Sunday morning at Emmaus.

The details for the event are listed below. But here is the truth: it will be very helpful and very free. If you are anywhere near Omaha for the weekend of April 5th, then please come an join us. If you need a place to stay message me via the contact form.

Please register here.

here is the info—

Every ministry that endeavors to be biblical will ask the question: “How should we faithfully minister in our poor communities?” The question can be answered on multiple levels from the perspective of the individual Christian to the local church.

On Saturday morning, April 5th, Emmaus will be hosting 20schemes to consider how to faithfully minister in a lower income is a ministry based in Edinburgh, Scotland that is committed to seeing the poorest communities in Scotland transformed through the revitalization and planting of gospel-preaching churches. In Scotland a “scheme” is a housing project. The ministry is aggressively pursuing this effort by recruiting, training, supportimng, and sending church planters, female outreach workers, ministry apprentices and short term interns to work within Scotland’s housing schemes.

At Emmaus 20schemes founder Mez McConnell will speak on this topic and then lead a discussion on church planting in urban, poorer contexts.

This would be a strategic event to invite pastors, leaders, and others with whom you would like to cultivate a gospel-centered, missionary focus. It is open to both men and women.

Here is the schedule:

0800-0900 Breakfast & Coffee

0900-1000 Principles for Working Among the Poor

1000-1015 Break

1015-1100 Discussion on Church Planting and Mercy Ministry

Register for this event here

The Road to Apostasy

Erik Raymond —  December 9, 2013

When someone walks away from the faith it sends seismic ripples throughout the church. Somewhere amid the shock and emotions, we realize that we saw alarming signs but didn’t think they would materialize. I personally have seen this happen far too many times. In each case however, the steps, the path is strikingly similar.

So, how does it happen? Let me walk you down the road to apostasy. This is intended to illuminate this dark and often camouflaged path.

First let me give you a bottom line proposition: The road to apostasy is paved by bricks of apathy towards Christ. If you want to persevere, then give attention to your affections. This is a summary. Let’s work it out.

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The Gospel Man

Erik Raymond —  October 22, 2013

photo (7)Nearly a year ago some of the leaders at our newly planted church sat down to assess what we were, for lack of a better word, “creating.” We examined what our culture, systems, and structures were producing. We measured it against what we were aiming for, to make and train disciples who make and train disciples. During this healthy period of self-examination we determined that we were not hitting the mark in a satisfactory manner. As a result we started with the end in mind, reverse engineering our overall approach and execution of discipleship with the goal of producing a certain type of guy. This guy was aptly named, “The Gospel Man.”

Before telling you what The Gospel Man is like, let me tell you why I think it is absolutely important for leaders to do this.

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Over the years I have heard a lot of sermons; some have been good others, not so much. If you are a preacher then you, like me, want to get better. In this post I’ll take for granted that we understand that no sermon will get off the ground unless it is preaching the Scriptures. If you are not doing this then anything I write here will not help you. What follows here are 5 simple, practical preaching helps. As I study preaching and preachers these things are present in consistently helpful, good expositions.

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Why Church Membership?

Erik Raymond —  June 18, 2013

During a meeting recently with some new folks at our church I was asked why we have church membership. The question has actually become more common as many churches do not have a formalized membership process. What follows is our rationale at Emmaus for church membership.

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At Emmaus we have adopted a more historic, Reformed Liturgy for our worship gatherings. At several points throughout the service the Bible is read aloud. In some of these times we include a responsive reading of the Scriptures. In this post I want to answer two questions that I often receive:

1. Why do we read the Bible during worship?
2. Why do we do responsive reading?

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In my monthly article for Ligonier I wrote about God’s sovereignty. Often people see such high theological concepts as stuffy and impractical. In this article, however, I provide a recent snapshot from our church family that shows it is far more than this. The gist of the article is this: When God’s sovereignty is believed by somebody it is perceived by everybody.

Here is the link to the full article.

This past weekend our local newspaper (The Omaha World-Herald) ran a story on some of the things happening in our church, Emmaus Bible Church. As you can imagine it was a great encouragement to us to have our paper take interest in what we are doing. But it was a double surprise to see the the article on the front page of the Saturday paper, on Easter weekend!


Without giving away the article, here is one of the lead quotes:

As Easter approaches, a youthful congregation marks the end of its first year in a striking church — 103 years old.

As the saying goes, what’s old is new again. But not too new.

“We practice cutting-edge, 16th-century Reformation theology,” quipped Pastor Erik Raymond, 36. “We’re very old-fashioned, but we try to do it in a fresh way — engaging, compassionate and authentic.”

The funny thing was that this question was in response to the writer’s question, “What new things are you doing to attract this growth?”What a blessing to testify to the enduring power of God’s Word to change lives and the beauty of Christ to captivate hearts. In a pragmatic, subjective culture, this is a fresh gust of the gospel breeze (on the front-page no less!).

Another interesting note. On Wednesday nights our kids come together for Bible memory, devotions, singing, and games. My wife teaches the kids music. One of her most successful methods in teaching the kids to participate and memorize Scripture has been Christian Hip-Hop. In particular Shai Linne’s song “Holy, Holy, Holy”. The kids love it. When the photographer came out she took some pics of the kids and then the front page of the paper noted that my wife teaches hip hop to young kids. We smiled at that in light of the previous quote about the 16th Century.


As some of us at Emmaus talked about this we said it is like our Dad owns the paper. No not Warren Buffet. But our Heavenly Father. He allowed us to be featured on the front page to promote gospel growth and renewal. This greatly encourages us as we remember that everything is truly about him and his fame. May God use the article to this end!

When the gospel takes root in a person and a church there are obvious and less obvious consequences. We know the obvious. People will be characterized by prayer, humility, joy, sacrifice, generosity, and mission. But what about the less obvious benchmarks of a gospel-centered church? This is what I am after here. I have been reading, watching, listening and learning from others as well as dusting our own congregation for clues as to better discern the look and feel of a gospel-centered church. I am doing this because I believe that being gospel-centered is inextricably linked to being faithful. In other words, being gospel-centered is not one option among many, it is the only option that we are given. It really is that important.

What follows is not a complete list but it is a start. In other words, these things will be present in a gospel-centered church. If the church is not gospel-centered then they will not. I can say this confidently because they are necessary implications of the gospel.

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What does it mean for a church to be gospel-centered?

My friend and fellow Omaha pastor Bob Thune is extremely helpful when he writes in his book The Gospel Centered Life:

Churches often obscure the glory of the gospel by reducing it to something less than it is. Some understand the gospel only as doctrinal content to be believed. Others diminish it to a personal, subjective experience of God’s presence. Still others see it as a social cause to be championed. The gospel is none of these, and yet it is all of these. A truly gospel-centered church understands and embraces the fullness of the gospel as message, community, and mission.


The Gospel is a message that is to be preached or proclaimed (Mark 1:14; Acts 14:21; Rom 1:16; 1 Peter 1:12). It is the story of God’s redemption of his fallen creation. It is the good news that God has acted in history to conquer evil, rebellion, and sin and reconcile sinners to himself through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor 15:1-12). A gospel-centered church is one where the gospel is proclaimed clearly, consistently, and compellingly and applied to every aspect of life (1 Cor 9:16-23).


The gospel is not just a message to be believed, but a power to be experienced (Rom 1:16). The gospel shapes a new community as those who were formerly God’s enemies are reconciled to Him (Rom 5:10) and adopted into his family (Gal 4:4-7). The church is not a place, but a people – a community that is continually being reformed and renewed by the transforming power of the gospel (Col. 1:6). This new family becomes the conduit and vehicle for God’s mission in the world (Acts 2:42-47).


The gospel is a call to mission – a declaration that “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). Just as Jesus became a missionary in his incarnation, he sends us into the world as missionaries: “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21). We are sent to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and to work for the restoration of all of creation to its original “good” (Gen 1:31; Rom 8:19-22). A gospel-centered church will train people to live on mission in the practical rhythms of everyday life.

A Gospel-Centered DNA

Erik Raymond —  February 5, 2013

I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be gospel-centered, specifically in our context at Emmaus. Over the next few days I’ll be writing about what gospel-centeredness is and how it works itself out.

Emmaus is a gospel-centered church. This means that everything we believe and do is calibrated by the gospel and its implications. We have a Gospel-Centered DNA.

What does this look like? We use three words that capture it: Christ, Gospel, & Community.
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I am currently reading through Tim Keller’s masterful new book entitled Center Church. In so many ways it is a textbook for church leaders. Keller has spent many hours at the whiteboard planning and evaluating ministry. We are the beneficiaries of his prayerful and faithful ministry for these many decades.

He draws one particularly helpful contrast early on. He writes of how some church leaders simply evaluate their ministries by their faithfulness. Without discounting the priority of faithfulness he cautions that ministers might feel too much security to question ministries that are bearing little fruit.
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Most church planters go through a very painful, but essential refining process. It goes something like this:

  1. I could plant a church.
  2. I could never plant a church.
  3. I believe God wants me to plant a church.
  4. I can do this by God’s help.
  5. I think this can work–we are going to do this!

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Chances are someone has invited you to a prayer meeting. Your immediate response is probably predictable. “What time is it? And where do you meet?” Your next response is also highly predictable, “Why should I go to a prayer meeting?” My goal in this post is to provide help with the latter question.

Here is my short-list of 6 reasons why you should go to a prayer meeting.
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Is Transfer Growth Bad?

Erik Raymond —  October 10, 2012

If you read books, blogs or hear talks on church planting or church growth you will eventually hear someone decry transfer growth. As the term would imply, transfer growth is the moving of people from one church to another. This is to be contrasted with conversion growth, which would describe new Christians joining a church.

The question that must be answered is, is transfer growth bad?

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Scene 1: The Muslim world is rocked by protest and violence following the release of the film The Innocence of Muslims. The short film mocks Islam and in particular the prophet Muhammad. As a result, many Muslims are calling for the death of the filmmaker.

Scene 2: A guy in his 30’s comes home from work and to find his wife telling him that he has dropped the ball on several things and that she feels like she can’t talk to him. He gets angry and tells her that she is nit-picky, oversensitive, and hard to talk to herself.

Scene 3: A high-school kid shakes up his can of spray paint and angrily begins tagging the City’s graffiti removal truck. The City worker was painting over this kid’s work.

What do all of these scenes have in common? The need to protect and preserve something. What is that something? Honor.

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A window in the worship hall of Emmaus.

Over the last year the elders at Emmaus Bible Church have worked to create and sustain a gospel-centered DNA for the church. One of the first areas we had to evaluate was our order of service. We started asking ourselves questions like: What was the goal of Sunday morning? What are we going to do to meet this goal? What are we currently doing that distracts from this goal? What have churches done historically for their order of service? And, why?

I will probably write more in the future about some of the steps and lessons learned along the way, but for now I want to highlight three intentional moves that have really served to help us in our context and with our goal.

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