UNLEASH – Personal Study #4


Read Jonah 3.

In the first few verses, we see Jonah finally obey God, and in courage and obedience he preaches repentance in Nineveh. What would you say is your top reason for reluctance (maybe even disobedience) to share your faith/share the Gospel with others?

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your evangelistic engagement in this life (1 is never sharing your faith and 10 is trying to share your faith daily).

We see here that the Word of the Lord told Jonah to go and preach in Ninevah. Review these verses that are some of the cornerstone instructions from the Lord on sharing our faith: Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15, Acts 1:8, Luke 12:8; Matthew 12:30; 2 Corinthians 5:20). Circle the one that stirs you most to share your faith. Why?

  • We see in the Jonah verses that people respond. What actions do you see among the Ninevites that show us they truly believed?
  • What happened in your life when you came to the place to truly believe in Jesus as Savior? What were some instant changes? What changes have taken time?
  • How do our resources play a part in evangelism?
  • How do we use our money to connect with people who need Christ?
  • How do we use our money to help the church connect with those who need Christ?

As we dedicate ourselves to unleashing our resources for more evangelistic impact among our neighbors, the nations, and the next generations, how has God been stirring you in a greater motivation to use money in order to reach others with the Gospel?

Have you ever had someone respond to you sharing the Gospel by believing in Christ? If so, you know how exhilarating it is. Someone coming to faith in Christ is our greatest joy. In order for you to experience this joy more often, check the top 2 action steps you feel need to happen most in your life:

  • Get myself in a place where I have repented of a plaguing sin in my life so I can preach authentically.
  • Learn to share the Gospel more effectively (remember the 3-circles conversation guide is our recommended tool).
  • Learn to better share my own testimony (this is one of the best ways to get to a spiritual conversation and create spiritual dialogue and curiosity).
  •  Pray for greater sense of urgency, compassion, and awareness of unbelievers around me.
  • Be more courageous when God opens a door.
  • Increase my consistency and generosity with the money God allows me to steward toward more evangelistic efforts.
  • What practical next step will you take to engage growth from this exercise?

UNLEASH – Personal Study #3

In Christians circles, people talk about times when they were “broken,” broken in their self-sufficiency, their dependence on self and turned to God dependence. Have you ever had a time where you were “broken”? Think about that time. What did God do in your life through that? How did that season change you as a friend, parent, child, co-worker, neighbor, other?

Spend some time right now thanking God for the brokenness and the fruit that has come from it.

Jonah repented in the belly of the fish. Charles Spurgeon defines repentance as “a discovery of the evil of sin, a mourning that we have committed it, a resolution to forsake it. It is, in fact, a change of mind of a very deep and practical character, which makes the man love what once he hated, and hate what once he loved.”[1] Martin Luther, the 16th century Reformer, said “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said “Repent,” he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.”[2] The New Testament was written in Greek, and the Greek word for repentance is metanoeo, which literally means “to turn around.” It assumes a turning away from something and a turning toward something.

Read Jonah 2. This was Jonah’s response in the belly of the fish. It seemed like he was repentant for his resistance, but we will see that it doesn’t appear that this repentance was long lasting or went down deep enough into his heart. Think of your own life. What is true of you when you truly repent of a sin? What is true of you when you are sorry you were caught but not quite repentant? What can you do to make sure that you are repentant and not just sorry for the consequences?

It has been said that God sent the fish not to pay Jonah back, but to bring him back. What does that say about God’s heart? About God’s way? About sticky places you may be right now that are very difficult?

Read Psalm 51. This psalm was written by David after being found out as an adulterer. Describe what a heart of repentance is, based on this psalm.

Read the story of Zacchaeus from Luke 19:1-10. Knowing that Zacchaeus was not an honest or moral man, Jesus still offered salvation to him. What is true of Jesus’ heart for those who are not part of his family?

What was the personal, family, and community impact of Jesus’ interaction with Zacchaeus? What is the personal, family, and community impact when we are able to lead someone to Christ?

Our UNLEASH campaign works to unleash Cuyahoga Valley Church to reach our neighbors, the nations, and the next generation. This will require a greater effort on our part. It’s easy for us to be lethargic and even lazy when it comes to doing the work of Jesus.

What do you need to repent of when it comes to our neighbors, the nations, the next generation? Is it prejudice? Neglect? Selfishness? Pride? Lack of compassion? No urgency? Greed? Lacking a heart for the lost?

Spend some extended time of prayer asking God three things.

  • First—To grow your awareness of embedded sin in your life.
  • Second—For legitimate repentance like Zacchaeus.
  • Third—To grow your heart for the lost, just like Jesus’ heart.

UNLEASH – Personal Study #2

Running from God

Spend some time praying the P.R.A.Y acronym. Praise God for who He is and what He is doing in your life. Repent of your sins before Him. Ask God for the things you need. Yield to him areas of your life that you need to yield. Set a timer and pray for 15 minutes.

Read Jonah 1:4-16

Jonah refused to believe God and resisted God’s leading and guidance. Jonah ran from God’s presence (which was a silly thing to think he could do). We can often do the same time. Review some of the reasons you listed last week as to why we run from God.

The contrast of Jonah, a man who knows the Lord, asleep in the boat while the unbelieving sailors on the deck of the boat are crying out to the gods of their tradition or choosing is stunning.

How has God woke you up to the realization that you, as a person who knows Christ, were sleeping on the job?

As you read through the verses in Jonah, it becomes very apparent he comes to that moment of realization that he will need to sacrifice himself to save others.

How has God use the sacrifice of others to reach you?
How has God been calling you to sacrifice to reach others?

It is easier for Christians to run from God in private and personal matters. It’s much more difficult to run from God when others can see what we are doing. We realize that money is a very personal and private matter for many people, but it is something that God is deeply interested in. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matthew 6:21).” What does running from God in relation to our money look like? What does it look like in your life?

What does the Bible teach about giving? Read these verses and write down observations: Luke 6:38; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15; Mark 12:41-44. Write out some observations.

Who do you consider to be generous? Write out the qualities of that person:

For you to consider a person financially generous, what percentage of their income would they need to give away?

An exercise of sober realization – Spend some time looking at your financial records for the past six months.

  • How much have money have you given away?
  • Take that number and divide your income during that time. That gives you the percent that you have given in the past six months.
  • Are you proud of that number?
  • Would you consider yourself a generous person?
  • What is keeping you from being a generous person?
  • What are you missing out on when you aren’t as generous to the capacity God has given you?

Spend some extended time asking the Lord to show you and help you realize areas in your life where you are running from him. As he shows you, remember to repent of that sin and turn toward him.

Now ask God to wake you up to where you need to sacrifice to help save others and commit to follow through with what he puts on your heart as you exercise your faith in Him


UNLEASH – Personal Study #1

by Chad Allen, Cuyahoga Valley Church Lead Pastor

During the UNLEASH Series, we will provide five weekly personal studies – one for each week – that will coincide with the UNLEASH sermon series and LifeGroup Study Guides. These personal studies will help you assess your own life, look for and act upon applications you can draw from, and encourage you toward extended times of focused prayer.

Each devotion does not need to be done in one sitting. Rather, you can break it up into chunks and even spread it out through the week depending on your schedule and available time. We encourage you to spend about an hour, including the prayer time, on each devotional.

Spend about five or ten minutes praying the A-C-T-S acrostic…

  • A – Adoration: tell God your love for him and his great worth
  • C – Confession: confess sins and ask for His strength to turn away from those sins
  • T – Thanksgiving: thank God for Jesus, what he has done in your life, the things he has given you
  • S – Supplication: ask God for things.


Read through the book of Jonah once.  As you read, capture some of your observations about Jonah’s heart toward God and toward others.

Jonah clearly heard God’s command to go to Nineveh and share God’s message. But, he turned away and did the opposite. We do the same thing. Is there anything in your life that you know God wants you to do or stop doing but have not obeyed? Why have you turned from God’s command?  Is it because of fear, laziness, disbelief, insecurity, difficulty, or something else?

Jonah ran “away from the presence of the Lord.” When we run from God’s command, we run from God himself. But this is silly because there is nowhere that we can go from God’s presence (Psalm 139). But, we can run from experiencing God’s presence through the Holy Spirit. Sin dulls our senses to God’s love and faithfulness to us.

  • On a scale of 1-10 (ten being highest), how much have you been experiencing God’s presence in the last month?
  • Do you have any idea why this is the case, either positively or negatively? Spend some time right now in prayer asking God to show you how to experience God’s presence and power, and where you may be running from Him in your life in a way that is hindering your relationship with Him.
  • Where have you been running from obedience to God in your personal life?
  • Why have you been running?

For Jonah, it was a lot easier to believe about God than live for God. But, we can only live for God to the level that we know about God. Do you think you need to grow in biblical knowledge (knowing about God) or living for God (loving and obeying God)? What is one game-changing action step you can take starting today to help you grow in this area?

UNLEASH is about unleashing Cuyahoga Valley Churchto reach our neighbors, the nations, and the next generation. We want to do this by freeing the church of the financial burden of our debt so that we can maximize our resources better, especially toward the next generations, to also resource the translation of the Bible for the SOLI people, and to prepare to invest more significantly in Northeast Ohio through launching future campuses. When you think about these three purposes, what excites you the most?

  • How have you been running from God when it comes to reaching your neighbors?
  • How have you been running from God when it comes to reaching the nations?
  • How have you been running from God when it comes to reaching the next generations?

Ultimately, UNLEASH is about the gospel of Jesus Christ. We respond because He gave of His life so that we could be forgiven and unleashed to love others. Slowly read through Isaiah 53. Thank God that he gave us Christ, who was willing to go through what He did on the cross. Write out why you are thankful for Christ.

Spend some extended time now praying.  Confess the area you have been running from God and declare your repentance to Him and ask for the heart to obey. Pray also for the UNLEASH campaign and how God wants you to fully engage and participate these next two years.



Walking Honestly With Your Darkness

by Rick Duncan, Cuyahoga Valley Church Founding Pastor

My passion for Christ, the glory of Jesus in me AND my pathetic selfishness, my ugly darkness within, are both true about me.

If I am honest, I must admit  that I have both.

I shared a quote in a Sunday message from Edna Hong in her book, The Downward Ascent, wrote, “My self does not live in a sweet, sunny, one story rambler but in an old ancestral Gothic house of many floors and rooms and hallways, of dark passageways and spiral staircases, of damp and gloomy cellars and cellarages. The maze of subterranean corridors go downdowndown and eventually converge in one dizzily winding and descending th that dead-ends at the Room of Riddle, the Fall, Original Sin, Original Guilt.”

Deep down inside, we are messed up!

Are you willing to take a long, honest look at your dark side? Am I? Oh, we know we are flawed. But we want to ignore it, minimize it, or dull it somehow.

When we are most deeply aware of our fallen nature, it’s not a bad thing. Perhaps at that moment, on this side of heaven, we are never closer to true joy and a sound mind.

Around Cuyahoga Valley Church, we say we want to live new. If that’s to be true, we must recognize that darkness, that fallenness, that depravity that still lives in us and we must constantly stand at the foot of the cross and receive the gift of forgiveness through the precious blood of Christ that flows so that we can be born again and again and again.

Edna Hong writes, “I feel quite cheerful about my cheerless view of me.”

See, that’s what makes us run to Christ. Forgiveness of sins is why Jesus came. It’s what the gospel is all about. It is good for us to sense the guilt of sin. Because without sensing the guilt of sin, we will never humble ourselves and repent. It’s repentance that makes forgiveness possible. And when we receive that forgiveness, our gratitude for Jesus will grow. And that gratitude to Jesus will arouse in us a desire to serve, sacrifice, love, and work for justice.

If we can’t be sorry for not being sorry for our sins, we are in trouble. If we cannot sorrow and bring ourselves to say “Wretched man that I am!” then we cannot rejoice and say, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

We must maintain this tension – the conviction that our fallen sinfulness is far worse than most of us realize AND that our redeemed humanity is more amazing than we will let ourselves believe.

Let’s be equally distrustful of our fallen selves AND thankful for our redeemed humanity. Let’s be equally sorrowful for our sinful pride AND rejoicing in our great salvation.

This is what it means for us to die to self and live new.

Don’t get used to the grace of God in Christ. Be amazed by grace. Bruce Marshall in Vespers in Vienna wrote, “What one really needs is a new little conversion every day, a fresh bright light inside oneself to make one anxious to like fresh bright lights in other people.”

Yes, I am a forgiven son. I rejoice in my reconciliation with my Father. I’m newborn, a new creation, a new Adam. I can live new. But I am still a human fallen son of a fallen Adam, as well as of a heavenly Father. And my chief enemy is still the I of myself. The I of myself as my own worst enemy, for in the self of me there is still a fallen sinner.

I will break my loving father’s heart again and again. As I live out this life in Christ, I will understand His will more and more. And I will also see more and more subtle and secret ways in me that I disobey. I will have to face the consequences of the symptoms. At the same time, I will recognize that he loves me just like I am. There is nothing I can do to make him love me more and nothing I can do to make him love me less. Therefore, how could I not continue to run to Jesus. Again and again.

There is no sin that cannot be forgiven when we come to the foot of the cross. When do we know that we have found and have rested in forgiveness? Soren Kierkegaard said, ” A person rests in forgiveness when the thought of God does not remind him of sin but that he is forgiven, when the past is not a memory of how much you trespassed but how much he has been forgiven.”


by Chad Allen, Cuyahoga Valley Church Lead Pastor

I’m white.  Scottish/Irish/Italian white to be specific.  I have a white wife. I also have a bi-racial African-American daughter, a Chinese daughter, and technically a bi-racial son who is ¼ Mexican, although you would never know it by appearance.  I absolutely LOVE the diversity in my family.  It is a beautiful kaleidoscope gifted to us by the hand of God.  I also love the growing diversity I’m seeing in our church.  This year we had the largest percentage of diversity at our annual sports camp in all its history.  I love looking out and seeing the kaleidoscope in our church body too.  I love having the awareness that I worship with people who come from European roots, Jewish roots, African roots, Asian roots, Latino Roots and the like. That is one of the reasons that I am absolutely sickened by what happened in Charlottesville, VA last weekend.

Racism is ugly.  Racism is ludicrous.  Racism is ungodly.  Racism is unbiblical.  Racism is evil.  Racism is hate.  Anyone who believes in, participates in, or teaches racism is a proponent for hate.  Racism is “hate-ism.”  Racism isn’t new. And contrary to what it may feel like, it isn’t necessarily worse than previous eras.  In our insta-post culture today, we are just made more aware of it when it happens.  I agree with the actor Will Smith when he said, “Racism isn’t getting worse, it’s getting filmed.”

What’s tragic is that racism is now being veiled as patriotism by those who are champions of such hate.  It was surreal to watch KKK, Neo-Nazi, and other white supremacists have the freedom to provoke and carry out the rampage that floods our screens.  Freedom of speech is one thing, but freedom of violence?  And white supremacy? Really?  The only “white” we should celebrate is the white-as-snow cleansing of our filthy souls through faith in Christ (Is. 1:18; Ps. 51:7; 1 John 1:7-9) and the only supremacy we should celebrate is the supremacy of God over all of creation (1 Chron. 29:11-12; Ps. 103:19; Col. 1:17).  And yes, there is only one race… the human race (Acts 17:26).

If racism isn’t bad enough, hearing white supremacists twisting God’s Word to fit into their mold of hate is repulsive!  I watched portions of an interview with one of the white supremacists who proudly proclaimed that he is a racist and said that he is doing the Lord’s work.  Really? Which work?  Loving one another as Christ commanded (John 13:34-35)?  Serving one another in love (Gal. 5:13)?  Making disciples for Christ (Matt. 28:19-20)?

Regardless of your faith background, I hope you are discerning enough to reject the “Christianizing” of hate.  Wrapping hateful words and actions in a Bible verse will never justify it.  Racism is clearly in opposition to the God who made all men in His image (Gen. 1:27).  It is beyond bizarre that white racist people seem to forget that God sent His Son, a brown Middle-Eastern man, to die on the cross!  If I wanted to isolate one verse that directly addresses racism from Scripture it would be:

1 John 2:11 – But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Racism is darkness.  It is blindness.  It is hate.  And it isn’t just in Charlottesville, or the South.  It’s everywhere.  Even in our communities.  Denise, our Children’s Minister, shared a sad story from our own church sports camp of a first-grade girl turning to another first-grade girl and saying, “My mommy told me I can’t play with kids with dark skin like yours.”  I don’t know if this child goes here or was a guest, but what I do know is that there was evidence in that moment of an attempt to teach her to hate.  No one is born racist.  They learn it.  What are you teaching your children about God’s beautiful kaleidoscope of creation and His design of diversity?

There is hope in the midst of the hate.  As Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. said in his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

As followers of Jesus, part of being a Christ-glorifying, Gospel-sharing and Bible-believing person is to stand with and for those who are being victimized by racism.  Jesus told us to go and make disciples of all nations.  Embedded in the Great Commandment is an affirmation of diversity.  So, what can we do to help counter racism?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Purge yourself of any racism. There may racism blatantly or subtly lurking around in your own heart. Ask God to show you it if it’s there. And then lay it before God in prayer and ask Him to take it away and replace it with a love for others who are different than you.
  • Cultivate friendships with people of a different ethnicity. Do you have diversity in your friendships? We benefit greatly from expanding our friendships to people of different ethnicity. Part of being a relational risk-taker is getting to know people who may not be exactly like you.  Listen to them and learn from them.  Share perspectives and stories.
  • Speak up. We cannot be silent nor still when physical, mental, and emotional violence is being carried out upon people God loves.  We are to neutralize racism in peaceful, prayerful, and proactive ways as we see it.  We can speak against it, write against it, post against it, vote against it and teach against it, especially in our homes. In fact, the picture that comes with this post is from a family in our church. The mom was trying to explain what had happened in Charlottesville when her 9-year-old African-American son took it upon himself to place his hand with his white sister’s hand to form a heart. He then told his mom to take a picture of it and post it to “show everyone that love not hate wins.”  There is light in the midst of the darkness and there is hope in the midst of hate!
  • God can do more than man ever will.  Pray for those who have been hurt by racism.  Pray for their families.  Pray for those who have been ensnared in racism—perhaps even discipled in hate—that God would push away the darkness and blindness and shine the light of His love into their hearts. Pray for our churches to be safe and diverse.  Pray for Christians to be the salt and light in their homes, neighborhoods, and communities to help make a difference.




Ancient Ways for the Modern Family – RESOURCES

by Chad Allen, Cuyahoga Valley Church Lead Pastor

It’s tough raising a family in the world today.  Each day has new challenges, new problems, new fears.  Where do we turn for help?  Parents today are bombarded with books, articles, videos and advice from countless voices telling us how to have a healthy family.

Our hope isn’t to overwhelm you with resources but to point you in the right direction in hopes you’ll find what works for your family and parenting style. When it comes to parenting, here’s a list of our favorite recommended resources.



  • www.cpyu.org – It’s a must for families with 11-19 year-olds.  Walt Mueller does all the hard legwork of having a team keep up with youth culture.  He gives biblical frameworks to think about what’s going on in our teens world.

DVD Series:

Looking into the Fridge: A quick peek at the primary end times views

by Chad Allen, Cuyahoga Valley Church Lead Pastor

There is an interesting phenomenon that we all participate in.  We occasionally like to go to our refrigerators, open the door and just gaze at the contents for a minute.  Sometimes we grab something, but sometimes we just close it and walk away.  What are we looking for?  Why are we looking?  It’s usually our way of seeing if there is anything new in there or anything that appeals to our appetite.  It’s a funny behavior.

When it comes to the topic of “Eschatology,” the study of end time events, we tend to do the same thing.  We open the Word of God, a book, a link, or a blog on the doctrinal stances that surround the return of Christ, looking for something new or appealing.  Sometimes we find a helpful nugget of encouragement about the return of Christ, or sometimes we scan the same content and positions that we are familiar with and move on.

So, for those who have a degree of familiarity with end time doctrine, enjoy gazing in the fridge as I briefly summarize some of the main theological stances for those who may be unfamiliar or need a refresher.


The Millennium
The foundation of where you land on the coming of Christ depends heavily on your interpretation of Scripture in relation to the millennium.  The word millennium means “one thousand years.”  This is a large piece of our eschatology because as God is revealing the future to John the Apostle in the book of Revelation, John sees the devil bound for a thousand years (Rev. 20:2), he speaks about a resurrection of faithful saints who will reign with Christ for the thousand years (Rev. 20:4), and a final resurrection of the dead after the thousand years (Rev. 20:5).  When is this thousand years to take place?  Here is a brief summary of the three primary historical views on the millennium in the Christian faith:

  • Amillennial View – There is not a literal thousand-year reign, and the language in Revelation 20 is symbolic. Those who will reign with Christ, as referred to in Revelation 20, are believers who have died and are currently reigning with Christ now in heaven while we currently live in the church age waiting for the second coming of Christ which will usher in all of the end time events at one time followed by our final state of eternity with Christ and His kingdom.


  • Premillennial View – The millennium is a literal span of a thousand years and will take place following the great tribulation and the second coming of Christ. Upon Christ’s return, Jesus will personally and bodily reign on earth over His kingdom and it will be an era of peace and righteousness. Satan will be locked up for the thousand years and the believers that are raised from the dead will join the believers that are alive during Christ’s return and reign with Christ during the millennium.  After the thousand years is up, Satan will be loosed from his captivity and will lead one last rebellion against Christ with many unbelievers who are alive at the end of the millennium but will be defeated.  Jesus will then resurrect all unbelievers for the final judgment in which both believers and unbelievers will then enter their final eternal states.


  • Postmillennial – The view that the millennium will be ushered in by the church through growth and evangelism during this church age.  As more people are increasingly converted to Christ and as the righteousness and peace of God’s people becomes more prolific on earth, then Christ will return after the millennium to then resurrect all believers and unbelievers for the final judgment and their eternal states.


The Tribulation
Jesus taught about a coming time of great tribulation, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be (Matt. 24:21 – ESV).  He also said that this tribulation would come right before His second coming (Matt. 24:29-31).  In the book of Daniel, the tribulation is prophesied to be seven years long (Dan. 9:24-27).  So, when will this tribulation be and will the believers in Christ alive at the time go through it?  There are three primary views related to this part of end time doctrine as well:

  • Pre-tribulation view – Jesus will appear before the tribulation begins to “rapture” the church (1 Thess. 4:17) and spare believers from God’s wrath during the tribulation. His second coming will then take place following the Tribulation when Christ appears to establish His forever kingdom.  Believers in Christ will not be present during the tribulation.


  • Mid-tribulation view – This view takes the distinction in Daniel 9:27 between the first half of the seven-year tribulation and last half (great tribulation) and believes that Christ will “rapture” the church in the middle of the seven-year tribulation after the first three and a half years, when man’s wrath ends and the wrath of God begins. Then, following the tribulation, Christ’s second coming and kingdom will occur.  Believers in Christ will be present for only part of the tribulation.


  • Post-tribulation view – This view sees the rapture and the second coming as one simultaneous event following the seven-year tribulation. Believers will welcome Christ as their coming King, who comes and sets up His forever kingdom.  Believers in Christ will go through the tribulation and need to prepare to endure suffering.  In this view, believers will be present during the tribulation. The saints rise to meet the Lord in the air and accompany him back as the rightful King of the earth. This implies that the church will go through the tribulation on the earth.

So there you have it.  Some of you are having a refrigerator moment.  After reading this blog you will close the door dissatisfied because nothing new is in here, or you craved something that wasn’t present.

Please keep in mind these are simplified summaries of these primary views. There are numerous versions, combinations, and interpretations of end time events.  For two thousand years credible, reliable, and biblical leaders have arrived at different views based on the interpretations of the same passages that they mutually see as God’s infallible and inerrant Word.

As you take these doctrines into consideration, and as a self-feeder, take on further study of them, keep in mind that we major on the major (Christ is coming back suddenly, literally, and bodily) and minor on the minors (when He returns, what events transpire pre or post His return).  I encourage you to align with a view, but hold it loosely.  We can’t be dogmatic or unloving to others for the sake of our favored positions.  We must remember and live a great principle of our faith – In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.

With that being said, in my next post I will share where I personally lean and why.  I may also share where a few of our other Cuyahoga Valley Church pastors lean as well.


Recommended Resources:

Wayne Grudem Systematic Theology

Wayne Gruden audio lecture and related notes easily accessible.





You Don’t Have to be a Pastor to Share Your Faith

Every heart with Christ, a missionary; every heart without Christ, a mission field. 

  -Dick Hillis, Author and American Missionary to China 

We’re afraid of ridicule. Maybe nervous that we won’t have all of the right answers. Maybe we’re putting off having that conversation with a coworker or loved one because…well,  there’s always tomorrow, right? Interestingly enough, world renowned illusionist and outspoken atheist Penn Jillette  has something to share on the matter:

“I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward–and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me along and keep your religion to yourself–how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?

It’s not always easy or comfortable to share your faith with someone, but as beloved children of the almighty and loving God, it’s our duty to step out in love and share the wondrous fact of salvation and eternal life. It’s something that anyone who has a relationship with Jesus can do, regardless of education or profession. Founding Pastor Rick Duncan has a few suggestions on where to begin:

  1. Start wondering about the spiritual condition of everyone you see.
  2. Focus on five non-believers you know, and pray every day for them.
  3. Every day, tell somebody you know something good about God.
  4. Find a question (or two) that you can use.
    • How can I pray for you?
    • Do you have much of a spiritual background?
    • How would you describe your spiritual journey?
    • How do you make the most important decisions in your life?
    • Sometime I’d like to share with you what’s most important in my life. Would that be ok?
  5. Be ready to share the good news in a simple, non-threatening way.

Here at CVC, we’ve adopted a growing method to sharing your faith in a simplistic manner. All it takes is some paper, three circles, nine words, and someone to talk to. Click here to view how this Gospel conversation works!


Sharing the 3 Circles

Facing Affliction for the Faith

by Rick Duncan, Cuyahoga Valley Church Founding Pastor

Here in Northeast Ohio, our people take seriously the command to “make disciples.” We see ourselves as missionaries cleverly disguised as baristas, homemakers, lawyers, bricklayers, teachers, plumbers, nurses, etc.

Because of this reason, many from Cuyahoga Valley Church have faced opposition, ridicule, and rejection. We shouldn’t be surprised. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:

that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know”
(I Thessalonians 3:3-4).

On Facebook, I asked, “What kinds of criticism, opposition, ridicule, rejection, alienation, or marginalizing have you faced for sharing your faith with your family, in the marketplace, or in your community?”

I’m grateful that many from Cuyahoga Valley Church are standing strong for Jesus in spite of the opposition we have received. Here are the responses… 

  • Laughed at…
  •  Words such as, “Oh you are one of them, you are a Jesus freak”. She said that often to me, with a great deal of anger. Or, “that doesn’t sound very Christian of you”
  • That may be for you, but it is not for me. I’m good with God so leave it alone. Why do you Christians think that you got it right anyway? And everybody else has it wrong?
  • That is not what the nuns and priests taught us!
  • Cut off by family who do not want you included because of your spoken beliefs 😕
  • Being a hospice nurse I have had three encounters this week with two agnostics and one atheist. One a lawyer, one an engineer and the other a famous photographer. The lawyer and the engineer shared that there is something out there but scientifically don’t know what it is. The lawyer told me that he hates organized religion. The photographer an atheist, was on his deathbed. I boldly stated “_____, you are going to meet Jesus soon now you have to make a decision”. By this time he could not speak. I said the sinners pray with him. He motioned his hands in prayer. I believe that my patient is saved. He passed away gently three hours after that prayer. Praise you Jesus!
  • Verbal and relational hostility/adversity- couched in accusations of being narrow minded or bigoted- often it seems like misdirected anger toward God
  • Forbidden to talk religion in workplace hospital
  • Family very liberal…gay family members
  • Oh, you’re one of those Jesus freaks
  • Oh you’re not Catholic anymore?
  • I’m a server at a restaurant and since this past Sunday, am wearing a “I Love Jesus” pin on the collar of my shirt. I caught some of my co-workers walking by looking at the pin and rolling their eyes. I watched as some customers read it and smiled. Not taking it off!
  • Christian are not supposed to be human and make mistakes or that would be a hypocrite.
  • As a Candidate for Mayor of Cleveland this year I was called the devil. Must say that was a first.
  • Not practicing the rituals that were practiced with Catholicism. Why do they not baptize babies? Why don’t they “make” their communion” “why don’t they go in a confessional” “”why don’t they make confirmation” “where does the church money go? How can the pastors be helping people if most of their homes are gorgeous” “how come communion isn’t every weekend,” “why does it seem like the pastors there only talk to people they know” ….and the list goes on…
  • My Son Samuel who I Love dearly has criticized me for my belief in The One and Only Way, JESUS/YESHUA! Sammy thinks there are other ways, like Buddhism or others. One night Sam asked me if He would go to hell if He did not believe in JESUS/YESHUA. I told Him the TRUTH. JESUS SAVES! Only JESUS/YESHUA SAVES! I could see pain in His Beautiful eyes at my answer. I felt pain for my Son. TRUTH is,The TRUTH will set You Free !!! I Pray daily for the Salvation of my Children, Lauren Marie, Marisa Lee, and Samuel David. I PRAISE GOD for The Salvation of my Daughter Rachel Eve !!! My Son thinks I am narrowed minded. That is O.K. with me. I hope and Pray He and all my Children see and Walk The Narrow Way, The One and Only Way. JESUS/YESHUA!!!!!!!
  • I always get, You believe the Bible? Your one of those holy rollers that think same sex marriage is wrong. Get a life.
  • I was born again in 1980. At the time, I was the only true Christian in my predominantly steeped in religion family. For years, I was an outcast. Given the ultimatum of your new church or the family I chose the church. I had no contact with my family for almost three years
  • I had a relative berate me because I didn’t believe how they believe and they since have decided to have nothing to do with me.
  • Don’t you feel badly or guilty for what you did by turning your back on the Catholic Church?
  • When I started going to church on a regular basis in my 30’s, I realized how hungry I was for God’s word, and was going to the classes, bible studies, became a Sunday school, etc. My mom called me a Jesus freak, which upset me very much, and I went into defense mode and didn’t know how to respond as a Christian. Later it came to me that my response to that is now, “Thank you!”
  • I was criticized by my boss because Zek and I were waiting for marriage for sex and living together, because “the Bible doesn’t say that” and it’s something that Christians have decided to do so they can seem better than other people
  • Made fun as a Jesus freak behind my back.
  • People I converse with usually have legitimate reservations about biblical mysteries, be it the creation timeline or seeming contradictions, that there really is no agreed upon explanation for.
  • “If you’ve read the book, then you know the rules. Just follow them. It’s not that hard but all you Christians can’t figure it out. It’s hypocritical.” That’s a big one. Also, I hear the idea that we’ve “evolved beyond a text that is over 2,000 years old”; it’s not timely anymore; too many interpretations, no one knows which is the “original” text; evolution arguments, etc. I could go on!
  • I was told when I first came to CVC that I could have gone to the other church in our family- the Catholic Church. I said I was looking for a church for my daughter but found it was for me too. Now I get you have great messages at your church and we pray together daily
  • I’ve been told in the past that I have to be careful of mentioning too many God or church things when co-workers talk casually about what we did over weekend to ensure I don’t offend anyone. In 13 years, though, I’ve not had any be offended by my faith.
  • That faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord can’t be the only way… or often times a person will intellectually agree but as soon as they are examined personally (just like James of the Bible would do) they reject that faith and obedience in Christ is the only way to be right with God.
  • We’ve been told we are narrow minded. We are creating self-fulfilling prophesies for ourselves and when these come true we say “God” did it (according to this person, there is no god and we are just creating it all for our own feel good story). We are just part of a club/organization. There’s no real proof. The bible was written and made up by man.
  • My husband had to put his Bible in the desk drawer.
  • My mother told me you do not talk about politics, raising kids, and religion when I tried to talk with her. She did not want to hear about Jesus or God. Just before her death my brother had an opportunity to share the Lord with her, Praise God, she accepted him within a week before dying.
  • I have been ostracized and forbidden to say the name of Jesus to children in the family.
  • My father often tells me that is not how or what a Christian should say or do. He says it about really silly things. So I know he is watching, I am trying but not always perfect. I have suggested that he should become a Christian then he would know how they act.
  • Broken family relationships, threats, ridicule, backstabbing, and name calling, spit on, becoming unpopular (praise God), and misunderstood. How Glorious it is to be faithful in spite of these things!!! Why? Because the living God Always shows up, speaks to defiant hearts, and overwhelms their offense with His Truth and Presence saving many. What a wonderful life we have in being abused for Jesus sake. Jump for joy. Matthew 5:11-12!
  • I was told to put down the Bible and get back to the real world. All because I was trying to defuse a bad situation.
  • You name it, I’ve gotten it & in 3 different languages! I’ve been pretty well shunned because I gave up the “true” religion, I’ve been gossiped about, corrected on my ‘bad doctrine”, grilled about the bible, poked fun of because I do not believe in evolution, been Facebook bullied. Many times people are just down-right angry and I have to remember that “those who are unreconciled with God are always angry”. But- it’s worth it all to please my Jesus.
  • My first job as a graduate from high school was as a maintenance man at Findlay State Park. We worked a 40 hour week but could alternate Saturdays or Sundays Once a month. When I told my boss I preferred to work Saturdays so I could attend church on Sundays he was absolutely incredulous and deliberately scheduled me on Sundays. He took every opportunity to make fun of me. At that initiation into the world I never understood the depth of scorn he had for me. When I got older I began to understand the spiritual battle the enemy wages when we intentionally share Christ. In my family I experienced absolute hostility from some because I identified with Christ. I didn’t say a thing to them about The Lord but they just knew. I believe we, myself included do not take seriously the truth that a battle rages for people’s souls. We must use the armor God provides. This is suffering that happens when openly professing Jesus but does show the genuineness of our faith.
  • Wow….a lot. Mainly at work. I will share my faith by trying to advocate for the individuals with disabilities by trying to request for rides and enough staffing to get the ones who want to go to church so they can celebrate THEIR faith. I run into roadblocks constantly with staff who feel that it is not important enough to take them because the staff doesn’t want to go. When I try to fight for the individual’s rights, I get told not to mix work with church or to stay out of it. I am trying to find a way to pick up these individuals and bring them to church and I am using all my avenues. I have been written up for getting involved and told that I need to back down. I tend to be looked on as a troublemaker and not as a religious advocate.
  • It is rather challenging mentioning Jesus because my parents are in a totally different religion. Even though they accept me for my faith they don’t want things said about Jesus.
  • I will say this. My family had been the hardest on me when I gave my life to Christ. 14 years later they have lightened up but I still find of chuckle when they don’t tell me about things they are doing because they know I will call them out on it. My nickname is “Moral Compass”. Just being honest I kind of like it.
  • Some of my husband’s family was afraid that we had joined a cult. My husband’s grandfather was mad at us at first and asked my husband-why did you do that? You were born a catholic, you don’t change that. We were also called the holy rollers by another family member and all because we wanted to talk about JESUS. In the workplace, I became good friends with a co-worker and one day she interrupted me to say… I never talk religion or politics. As time went on (and I kept talking “religion”) she allowed me to and has been to CVC several times!
  • My dad refusing to allow me to bring up the topic of “Jesus” and often yelling if I forgot this prohibition. Of course, God changed his heart in the end but for years I struggled to honor my dad by attempting to clearly communicate Christ with my actions while muzzling my mouth.
  • I was told by a relative not to return to the country of my upbringing because my faith would make it dangerous for my extended family to live in peace.
  • My siblings roll their eyes at me and sarcastically say, “hallelujah!” Then tell me to, “get out of here with that stuff.”
  • My sister gets very angry with me because all her children “who have a good heart will go to heaven.” And if you say they have to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior….boy…..she turns into a lion protecting her cubs and rips me apart. OUCH!
  • “Stop forcing your religion onto others, you not always right”
  • A friend said that he believes that when you die that’s it there’s nothing. I said you can’t believe that’s all there is. He said there must be other life out there or we just feed the worms. I said what would the other life out there do or have to do with it. He said he didn’t know he hasn’t read anything that told him. I said read your Bible and start with the book of John.
  • Two events come to mind. Having a rifle jammed under my chin as I was threatened by a communist “organizer” in Ethiopia. And, being held hostage in front of a chanting angry mob in the midst of a revolution in Ethiopia. In the second case a short prayer, “Lord, please cool down this mob.” About 10 minutes later we had such a heavy rain we could not see more than 20 feet. The mob was cooled and dispersed. We were safe.