Why Hope Matters | Project Hope

Why Hope Matters

How do we reach our community with the love of Jesus? 

That’s a question the church has asked for centuries. The Great Commission doesn’t just reach across the globe; it also reaches across the street. In some ways, it is easier to share the gospel in a foreign context where you can minister quickly, then go home. But to share the good news with people in your hometown can be trickier, because it involves long-term relationships.

When Jesus came to His hometown of Nazareth, he told everyone what He was about to do by reading from Isaiah 61: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, to preach good news to the poor, … to proclaim deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). 

In other words, He had come to bring hope to those who needed it most.

The best way for us to love our own community is to follow the mission Jesus followed.

Next month, churches and organizations all around Lane County will come together in a united effort to do just that. Project Hope aims to show the hope of Jesus to those who need it in our own context: children, schools, and families.

Here’s what will happen: on August 26th, more than 40 churches will prepare grounds & facilities of local schools. The following day, more than 70 churches and community partners will host five Kids’ Fair Back-to-School Giveaways. There, we will give new shoes, socks, backpacks, school supplies, haircuts and small meals to more than 3,200 children in need.

Through the years, Project Hope has become a powerful witness to the Willamette Valley. Church and school leaders have become friends. Principals and pastors have realized they are on the same team, working for the common good of our community.

When we share the hope of Jesus like this, the whole community wins. Rather than enforcing an “us vs. them” mindset, this type of ministry tells our neighbors that we are with them, we are for them, and we are here for the long-haul.  Rather than being seen as a cultural opponent, the Church becomes an ally to the city.  As a result, hearts soften.   And doors we thought were shut suddenly open. 

This is why hope matters. It opens people’s hearts and points the way to God Himself.

We hope you’ll join us on August 26th and 27th as we share that hope together.

Click here for ways to get involved!

Jason Hague
One Hope Blogger

May 21: His Kingdom Coming, Joy Arising

His kingdom coming, joy arising

When Jesus demonstrated how we should pray, He included this line: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:20). This is an important request with big implications for followers of Jesus today. Christ’s desire is that our home would resemble His home. 

So what does heaven look like, and what’s our part in the Willamette Valley resembling heaven a little bit more? Revelation chapter 7 gives us one small glimpse that we would do well to pay attention to:

“Behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev 7:9-10)

What a compelling and colorful picture! In heaven, everyone worships the Risen Christ. This is a dynamic and raucous celebration of saints from every place and every race. They are not floating on starchy clouds with dull harps. Rather, they are crying out with loud voices in praise of their conquering hero. Their worship is diverse and full of joy. 

What if we, the Jesus-followers in the Willamette Valley, postured ourselves in the attitude of heaven? What if we purposed in our hearts to praise God more through celebration and song, across denominational and racial lines? Would there be more joy?

On Sunday night, May 21st, believers from all around Lane County and beyond will gather at Northwest Christian University to do just that. We will praise God with loud voices full of thanksgiving and celebration. While we worship with one voice in one place, we will pray in accordance with the second part of Jesus’ prayer: that the Father’s will would be done throughout our community, just like it is in heaven. And He promises to answer the prayers when they are united. (Matthew 18:19)

There is so much to be thankful for. . . The church in our region is more united than it has ever been. Pastors and leaders have been praying together regularly for more than two decades, and our congregations have been praying around the clock in our One Church-One Day initiative for the past two years. We are seeing great answers to these prayers. In fact, we celebrate God’s answers, as Community-Wide Worship will mark the beginning of three years of continuous prayer. Jesus is on the move.

Though in years past, people would site surveys about Oregon being among the least-churched areas in the country, say things like, “Eugene is a dark place,” that is a thing of the past. It’s time for us to set that picture aside. That view is old and not current with what God is doing in our midst. Of course, there is darkness, but the light is increasing. God is knitting together the hearts of His church across all lines of division. He is teaching us how to love and serve our city together as one.  Little by little, His kingdom is coming, on earth as it is in heaven. Joy is rising.

Let’s celebrate that light and joy together. Join us at NCU on May 21st at 6:30 PM. Let’s worship on earth like they do in heaven.

Jason Hague
One Hope Blogger

On Praying “Together-Prayers”

It all Started at the Prayer Summit . . .

Every January, pastors and ministry leaders from around the Willamette Valley retreat to a secluded, little spot on the coast. There are no sermons. There is no strategic planning. There is no recruitment for this cause or for that. No, the sole reason we gather is to pray a special kind of prayer; together-prayers: the kind where we quiet our hearts, and combine our diverse petitions into one. 

Together-prayers have preceded most of the great moves of God throughout the ages, which should come as no surprise. The Bible is filled with assurances of the Lord’s faithfulness “when two or three are gathered;” and when those two or three are agreeing for God’s blessings on the community they already serve and love, special things happen. Competitions dissolves. Theological disagreements fade. Friendships are born. And God speaks.

One of those together-prayers happened at the coast in 2014, when in an open room, more than fifty pastors and leaders sought God together. The prayers they prayed and the answers God gave are still altering the spiritual landscape of our community before our eyes. Here is what happened.

Instead of simply praying for the community, as was the Prayer Summit’s Tuesday night tradition, the pastors quieted themselves before the Lord and asked Him to speak. Then, they waited.

After their time of silence, they regrouped and began to share what God had spoken. It didn’t take long for two major themes to emerge: prayer and proclamation of the gospel. Two different people believed the Lord was specifically highlighting Colossians 4:2-6:

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.  At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for our message, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”

Clearly, God was speaking. He was urging these pastors and their churches to keep increasing in prayer, and to declare the Good News together.

Increasing in Prayer

Easter was coming, and following the Summit, those leaders took the opportunity to put Colossians 4 into practice. In the weeks leading up to Resurrection Sunday, they led their churches around the valley in focused prayer, asking God for favor in their Gospel proclamations. They made bookmarks and distributed bracelets with Colossians 4:2-6 imprinted on them, as specific prayer points and tangible reminders of God’s direction. People from more than 40 churches joined in agreement for an increase of prayer and a bold witness.

Soon, a new favorite phrase entered our lexicon: “pray for more prayer.”  And we did. Following the three weeks of Colossians 4 prayer toward Easter, prayer leaders continued to meet. Momentum was increasing. However, while short-term spurts of prayer were effective in their own right, what they really hoped for was a strategy for sustained together-prayers all around the valley.

Soon, a strategy emerged for a community-wide effort to cover the region in around-the-clock prayer. It would not happen at a single location, but rather in homes and churches all over the valley.

One Church - One Day

The effort was dubbed, “One Church - One Day”, and the idea was simple. Churches would sign up to cover one day every month to pray, both for their own church and the community. People in each congregation would take shifts until all 24 hours were covered. All it would take, then, to cover the whole valley in continuous prayer, was 31 churches to join the effort.

But what made the plan especially intriguing was the prayer guide. If we wanted to pray “together-prayers” across various times and locations, we would need to agree on what we were praying.  Thus, we compiled prayer requests from strategic teams of Christ-followers who already worked throughout the community. Teachers gathered to discuss prayer needs for the Education sector. Firemen and police officers formulated prayers for First Responders. Coaches met to discuss prayer for athletics. And soon, we had requests from 10 different sectors. The list of requests went out to every church who signed up, and before long, a whole host of churches were praying united prayers.

One Church - One Day Map Image.jpg

We implemented this strategy in 2015, and the response has been phenomenal. Forty churches have joined the prayer effort—that’s more than enough to cover the entire month! More importantly, the Lord is responding to our prayers. Time and time again, testimony after testimony, He is proving that He was serious when He promised to hear our cries. God is moving throughout the valley!

Proclaiming Good News

And now, we look forward to the next fulfillment of what He spoke, back in 2014, through Colossians 4: a new, fresh proclamation of the Gospel throughout our region. In the spring and summer of 2018, we are partnering with the Luis Palau Association to present the Good News to our community. We’ll do it through united service projects. We’ll do it through concerts and sporting events. We’ll do it in large venues with great speakers, and in small groups with intimate conversations. And we’ll do it in love, because God Himself is love.

Such a large scale effort won’t be easy. It will require effort, time, and boldness. But we know God will finish what He has started, as we stand side-by-side, praying together-prayers.

- Jason Hague
One Hope Blogger

A Reason for Thanksgiving . . .

Thanksgiving began in a season of uncertainty. Almost four hundred years ago, the Pilgrims who first broke bread at harvest time were not living in days of optimism and plenty. Rather, Governor Bradford and his people had gone through unimaginable hardship. During their first year in the New World, almost half of their 101 members died. So what did they do on the eve of their second brutal New England winter? They gathered with their neighbors—Chief Massasoit and ninety of his men—to celebrate God’s generous provision. They came together across racial lines in times of uncertainty, and gave thanks to God for the harvest.

It is only fitting, then, that churches from across Lane County come together again this Sunday night for our annual Community-Wide Thanksgiving Worship and Prayer Gathering. Like the Pilgrims and Native Americans before us, believers today face troubled times. No, we are not on the verge of starvation or freezing, but in some very real ways, 2016 has been difficult. It has been a year fraught with violence, disaster, and a grueling election season that revealed a great deal of division to our nation. Many feel afraid for their future, and helpless towards what lies ahead.

So why should we gather now? Why should we give thanks now? Because God’s name is also His greatest promise. He is called Emmanuel, “God with us,” and indeed, He has been with us. He has been working in us, His church. He has been working through us, and sometimes even in spite of us. And even though this year hasn’t been easy, His Kingdom has been advancing in our midst in some truly remarkable ways:

● Our One Church - One Day Prayer Initiative continues to expand. We now have 41 churches praying for our community around the clock, every day of the week. God, too, is answering our prayers.

● Our mission to help children in foster care is taking off. Through a collaboration of church and ministry leaders from around our area, “Every Child Lane County” is now raising up and training new people and foster families to take care of vulnerable children within our region in many ways.

● At Project Hope in August, our faith community showed Jesus’ love to our public school system and its students. We came together to serve more than 35 schools, and offer more than 3,000 shoes and backpacks filled with school supplies to families who’d benefit.

● This month, we will work together again to provide complete Thanksgiving Meals to 1,000 families in our area.

Each of these efforts involve collaboration across denominational, racial, and social lines, and they all effect the good of our region. It is clear that God is doing something new. These are no longer isolated events. Rather, this has become a city-wide movement of the Gospel, and it is right and good that we celebrate it, and continue in prayer for our community.

We gather on this Sunday night, November 13th, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at First Baptist Church of Eugene. Everyone is welcome. Come, join us as we thank God for what He is building among us: for the unity among congregations, the genuine love and affection between leaders, and for all the opportunities to truly bless our friends and neighbors, while we continually grow in loving our community.

God’s Kingdom always shines brightest, no matter the times. We celebrate that Kingdom, not because everything is perfect, but because God’s name is still Emmanuel. We may be pilgrims on this earth, but we are His pilgrims. He has not left us or forsaken us. For that, He deserves our praise, and our thanks.

We’ll see you Sunday night!