Circling the Blood

Can you imagine living in a country where less than one percent of the population are Christians? We’re talking about places like Afghanistan, Somalia, Turkey, Yemen and Iran. Imagine that at every store you walk into, every restaurant you eat in and every school your children attend…you are mot likely the only Christian in the building. Imagine how odd that would feel? Imagine how sad would it be to know that almost every face you look into belongs to a person that doesn’t know Jesus?

Large crowd of people

Well, I am not talking about Somalia or Turkey or Afghanistan. I am talking about Utah County. I’m talking about this specific area we live in, the very spot where Pioneer Community Church has just opened. Utah County is .84 percent Evangelical. To put that into perspective, both Pakistan and North Korea are TWICE as Evangelical as Utah County. To say that starting a church here is difficult would be an understatement. It is a dry and rocky soil both physically and spiritually. Not many Christians come and few of those that do stay. But how can you reach those no one is reaching without going where no one is going? God knew that PCC would be planted in soil that has received little attention. He knew who He would call to serve and exactly what that would look like. I do not now what lives ahead but I know the One who does and that is all I need to know.

So…PCC is officially open! We had our very first public service on 09/10/17. (That was also the 50th anniversary of our sending church, FBCW. What a perfect anniversary present…a baby church!) We are very excited about what the future holds for this little church. Our team is not made of professionals but it made of faith, prayer and a passion to tell people about Jesus.

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Hank & I lead worship, Lori works with the children and Barry preaches. We also have our four amazing kids working too in the technical areas and in children’s. It is truly a team of eight. Barry’s parents live with us for part of the year and they are currently here and will help in big ways until they head back east.

We have a website, podcast (Search for us – Pioneer Community Church, Utah), Instagram and Facebook page. We still run the diaper and formula pantry as an outreach ministry and Barry & I have officially been approved to be a part of the NAMB family. We are even listed on their website. (Fancy!)Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 1.18.34 PM

We’ve been incredibly blessed with prayer from all over the country. We also are incredibly thankful for our home church, FBCW, and all of the dedication and time they have spent on us personally, on this church campus and on praying for the Lord to move in a big way in Utah County. We’ve been blessed by multiple teams on short term mission trips that chose to spend their time here learning about, sharing the Gospel with and falling in love with the people of Utah. We’ve had an amazing intern here for the past two summers and we plan to have him more in the future. God has provided an amazing location for us to meet in each Sunday, multiple community events for us to participate in and plenty of sweet babies that we get the privilege of helping with diapers and formula. He has been so faithful!

Will the church growth here look like it would in Florida? Can you imagine it would in Afghanistan? It won’t here either unless God wants to give us a miracle. Still, I heard a story recently that has changed my mindset and I would like to share it with you. (If you are completely anti-hunting, feel free to skip this part…)

Another church planter was frustrated and discouraged because he had been preaching in the same place for 4 years and the church had not grown past 15 people in attendance. His friend and mentor asked him if he’d ever gone hunting. “When you shoot a deer or whatever game you are hunting, you have to go find where it ran to after being shot. In order to find the animal, you follow the blood. If you keep walking and no longer see any blood what do you do? You go back to the last place you KNOW you saw blood and circle that area until you see where that blood trail leads.” The mentor asked his friend, “Where is the last place you KNOW you saw God’s calling?” The pastor said it was in the church he was preaching in. His mentor then said, “Keep circling the blood until God leads the trail somewhere else.”

We KNOW we saw God’s call to this exact place and at this exact time. So regardless of what success might look like to us or to anyone else, we will keep circling the blood until He leads the trail elsewhere. I can’t think of anyplace I’d rather be.

Hebrews+13-20-21

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Harvesters Needed in Utah

As you know, the Smiths and the Brains moved from Florida to start a church in Saratoga Springs, Utah.  Pioneer Community Church will have its first official service on September 10, 2017 but we’re already meeting for preview services.
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As we move toward our launch date, we have an immediate need for workers. Worship – Can you play an instrument and/or sing? Childcare – Can you rock a baby or sing Jesus Loves Me? Greeters – Can you smile and talk? We’re looking for people who love the Lord, have a servant’s heart, and can use their gifts to share the love of Jesus with people who do not know Him.
We’re not asking anyone to drop everything and move out here permanently, although we wouldn’t turn that down, we’re just looking for people who are willing to come out here even if it’s for as little as one service to help us fill the gap until the Lord shows us who He has picked to fill these roles on a more permanent basis. So this is an open invitation for you and all of your friends to come out as soon as you can for as long as you can 🙂
We’re a completely unpaid team so we can’t offer an income, but we can offer room and board.  More than that, we can offer a vision for one of the least churched communities in the United States. Saratoga Springs and the city we live in, Eagle Mountain, are located in the most Mormon county in Utah.  Every single one of our neighbors are LDS. In an area of 60,000 people there are 2 churches that meet on a weekly basis with about 100 people total in attendance.  Pioneer Community Church will be the third. Less than 2% of our community would consider themselves an evangelical Christian. 80% are LDS.
We love having people come out so we can teach them about the LDS religion and expose them to how lost our state is.  Our prayer is that God will call more people to move to Utah and help us share the gospel of grace with our neighbors.  Perhaps you or some of your friends would like that opportunity.  If anyone would like to come for an extended period of time, we would help them look for work to help cover their expenses.  Again, free room and board.
As far as theology goes, Pioneer Community Church is being planted by First Baptist Church of Windermere.  We are currently going through the paperwork and interview process to be part of the NAMB family of church plants. Our main focus is to be a Bible only, Jesus is Enough preaching church.
Our website is a work in process: PCC Also, we’re on Facebook and Instagram if you would like to stalk us.
Despite its incomparable beauty Utah is a lost, dark place, but we know we have the Lord’s undivided attention.  We’re seeing Jesus move. Missionaries have come before us and spent decades sowing seeds in hard, hard ground and we believe the harvest is coming.  This is an ideal place to be right now.
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Would you prayerfully consider coming out here for a week, 2 weeks, a month, forever (no pressure) to help us with worship, child care, greeting, youth? Would you also share this need with your friends?
If you have questions, please email us, call or text me or whatever.  Questions about Mormonism, our little church, what the plan is, anything!
Barry Smith – 385-630-1648
Jennifer Smith – 385-630-1793
Hank Brain – 385-267-0136
Lori Brain – 321-438-4019
God is good, He is on the throne, and He will provide.

Harvesters Needed in Utah

As you know, the Smiths and the Brains moved from Florida to start a church in Saratoga Springs, Utah.  Pioneer Community Church will have its first official service on September 10, 2017 but we’re already meeting for preview services.
Screen Shot 2016-12-08 at 9.18.19 PM
As we move toward our launch date, we have an immediate need for workers. Worship – Can you play an instrument and/or sing? Childcare – Can you rock a baby or sing Jesus Loves Me? Greeters – Can you smile and talk? We’re looking for people who love the Lord, have a servant’s heart, and can use their gifts to share the love of Jesus with people who do not know Him.
We’re not asking anyone to drop everything and move out here permanently, although we wouldn’t turn that down, we’re just looking for people who are willing to come out here even if it’s for as little as one service to help us fill the gap until the Lord shows us who He has picked to fill these roles on a more permanent basis. So this is an open invitation for you and all of your friends to come out as soon as you can for as long as you can 🙂
We’re a completely unpaid team so we can’t offer an income, but we can offer room and board.  More than that, we can offer a vision for one of the least churched communities in the United States. Saratoga Springs and the city we live in, Eagle Mountain, are located in the most Mormon county in Utah.  Every single one of our neighbors are LDS. In an area of 60,000 people there are 2 churches that meet on a weekly basis with about 100 people total in attendance.  Pioneer Community Church will be the third. Less than 2% of our community would consider themselves an evangelical Christian. 80% are LDS.
We love having people come out so we can teach them about the LDS religion and expose them to how lost our state is.  Our prayer is that God will call more people to move to Utah and help us share the gospel of grace with our neighbors.  Perhaps you or some of your friends would like that opportunity.  If anyone would like to come for an extended period of time, we would help them look for work to help cover their expenses.  Again, free room and board.
As far as theology goes, Pioneer Community Church is being planted by First Baptist Church of Windermere.  We are currently going through the paperwork and interview process to be part of the NAMB family of church plants. Our main focus is to be a Bible only, Jesus is Enough preaching church.
Our website is a work in process: PCC Also, we’re on Facebook and Instagram if you would like to stalk us.
Despite its incomparable beauty Utah is a lost, dark place, but we know we have the Lord’s undivided attention.  We’re seeing Jesus move. Missionaries have come before us and spent decades sowing seeds in hard, hard ground and we believe the harvest is coming.  This is an ideal place to be right now.
2013104331harvest_300
Would you prayerfully consider coming out here for a week, 2 weeks, a month, forever (no pressure) to help us with worship, child care, greeting, youth? Would you also share this need with your friends?
If you have questions, please email us, call or text me or whatever.  Questions about Mormonism, our little church, what the plan is, anything!
Barry Smith – 385-630-1648
Jennifer Smith – 385-630-1793
Hank Brain – 385-267-0136
Lori Brain – 321-438-4019
God is good, He is on the throne, and He will provide.

2016 in Review – The best is yet to come

Happy Friday! It has been a long time since we were able to update the blog. Please know that is isn’t because we don’t want to or that nothing is really happening here. Blame it on my head and not my heart as my childhood pastor used to say.

This year has been AMAZING! Words just won’t do justice to describe to love we have felt but a picture says a 1,000 words so…

January – We had friends and family here.

February – The Brains moved to Utah to join us in ministry and my childhood best friend brought her family to visit.

March – The first ever Brain/Smith ski day, Lori’s parents come to Utah & our Easter lunch with our Bible Study group.

April – A weekend trip to Zion,  a terribly broken foot and the most amazing prayer team ever.

May – Some of our favorites come to visit and Christian music in the park.

June – Aquarium fun, Bobby come to Utah, diaper pantry stock up, Pony Express Days & VBS #1.

July – Barry’s parents in Utah, kayaking, a night at Snowbird, VBS #2, the most amazing mission team & camping in Yellowstone.

August – Lance & Lauren come to Utah, hiking and the Littles first year back in traditional school.

September – Enormous pumpkins and the fall guitar concert.

October – Fall is officially here, cupcake party, Halloween in Utah & adenoid/tonsillectomy.

November – Surprise visit from Thea, hiking and the first snow of the season.

December – Elf the Musical, the beginning of a new work at home job for Jen & so much more to come!

While 2016 has been amazing, we can’t wait for 2017! We will be heading back to Florida 02/15 – 02/21 to share about all God is doing in Utah and the exciting things we have coming in 2017. We would love to come to your church or small group and let you know what’s happening and how you can be a part of it. If you are interested in having us come speak, please let us know. (barryjensmith02@hotmail.com) We’d love to add you to our calendar! We will also have a couple coming with us that are ex-LDS and they have a great story to tell.

We love y’all and we are so grateful for the prayer and support you continue to shower us with. May God be glorified in 2017 like never before!

God’s Team

I’ve been thinking over and over about something Barry had read and relayed to our Bible Study group on Sunday night. He was using the analogy of a football game to our churches. 

If you bring a friend to a football game and they have very limited knowledge of football, you don’t ask everyone to change the game, the environment, the verbiage because your friend is there. Instead, you make sure your friend knows the basics (touchdown, which team is which, point values, etc) and you enjoy watching the game with them. Usually, the passion and excitement of the people in the stands will be so contagious that your friend will be engaged in learning the game and often will decide that your team is now their team too.

Imagine if as Bible believing Christians we had as much passion about the Gospel as we do about things like football, politics, our families, music, vacations, etc. None of those things are bad. In fact, some of them are great things to have in our lives but the greatest aspect of our lives as believers is Jesus! 

Do you know that the majority of church goers do not share their faith with others? That is heartbreaking truth. We are not a country club. We are THE CHURCH! Jesus did not give us the suggestion of going out and making disciples; he gave us a command to do it.

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” ~ Matthew 28:19-20

The United States is part of that great commission. You don’t have to go to Africa to be a missionary. You can go across the street or to the next cubicle over. 

Maybe if we start to be as openly excited and joy filled about our eternal life with Christ as we are when our team wins a championship then we would see that passion become contagious and we might see a revival of lost people who decide that they want to be a part of God’s team too.

Summer 2016 Review

Well, the Littles are on their 5th day of school so that means that we officially made it through Summer 2016.

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Trust me, it was touch and go there for a while. We crammed a TON  into those 12 weeks. The kids sailed through it but for an old lady like me, it took some effort.

We started the summer by working some local events to get Pioneer Community Ministry‘s name out there. We passed out bottled water and swim diapers along with information about the diaper and formula pantry service and our upcoming VBS. It was such a wonderful insight into the needs of the community. We met a lot of people and were able to make some connections with other local community groups. We heard positive comments from several people about having diversity here in Eagle Mountain. As a Christian, white, stay at home mom I never would have thought that my presence would add diversity but when you’re in Utah it certainly does. (The Christian part – nothing else)

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We were fortunate to be able to have Bobby Vanderzalm with us for the majority of the summer as a ministry intern. Bobby is funny, incredibly smart & has a huge heart for Jesus. He has the ability to talk to anyone and that is such a gift in ministry work. Bobby helped out with all of our events, lead games for our VBS, delivered diapers and formula, led devotionals and witnessed to those who would listen. He spent time at Temple Square and met with various local pastors. He was an incredible help to us during a very busy time and we will forever be Team Bobby!

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Lori and I also led another VBS during the summer. We were the directors for SMCC‘s VBS too. Somewhere in a moment of delusion we thought “Hmmm, leading two vacation bible schools in one summer, 2 weeks apart with completely different curriculums??? Sure, no problem!” Unfortunately, Lori seems as crazy as I am sometimes so we are going to need to schedule out moments of clarity between us. Honestly, both weeks of VBS turned out amazing. Far better than we could’ve expected. The SMCC VBS allowed us to get to know many people in the church that we wouldn’t have met otherwise. Plus, our 4 kids were able to experience serving in the church in a major way.

The PCM VBS blew us away! In a place like Utah County, we were unsure if anyone would actually show up. On day one I was in tears as I saw real live kids signing in. My heart was so happy and grateful. Can you imagine the mess I was when we showed up for Day 2 and there were MORE kids there than Day 1? Out of all the kids that attended our VBS, only one child was not LDS. For us, that was overwhelming in such a good way. Those kids were hearing the truth of the gospel day in and day out for an entire week. They had questions about doctrinal differences and we were able to share with them what the Bible says about who Jesus really is. It was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to do it again next year.

We also held a VBS family night on the last day of that week. Barry was able to preach a short message that night and I may be slightly biased but he was incredible. Not only were we there with the families from the VBS week, but there were so many other families at the park that evening and they heard the word of God being spoken and sang that night. Praise God for His hand constantly at work.

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We had an incredible mission team that came from FBCW plus Lori’s niece and her boyfriend to help us run our VBS. These eight people will forever have a special place in my heart. They really immersed themselves in the culture here in Utah, learning about Mormonism and sharing their faith with those they met. They were exactly the eight we needed and God knew just who to send. We love y’all!

13686664_10210575266724454_767538118439622135_nWe also crammed in a little family fun time this summer too. We spent the day at the aquarium with the Brains and Lori’s parents, Mike & Barbara.

13407192_10210303372687273_6129512874168453918_nWe went camping in Yellowstone & visited The Grand Tetons with our PCM Bible study  group.

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We had family come to visit, played cards, went kayaking, went hiking, spent the night at Snowbird Lodge & enjoyed hanging out and watching the Olympics with our Bible Study peeps.

God is working in Utah County. Is it an uphill climb? Yep. Is the enemy pushing back against us? Yep. Do we get tired and discouraged sometimes? Yep. Still, my God is the one who created the universe and holds it in His hand. He is the God who has always been and will always be. God is constant. He is truth. He is love. He LOVES the people here in Utah. He loves them in spite of the fact that they are following a false gospel. He is the champion of heaven and He will reign forever. What a privilege it is to be a foot solider in the army of the King!

All Missions are Local

During this time of national election season I remember a phrase former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill would use, “All politics is local”. That is such a funny phrase considering we have city, county, state and national elections. Now you would think on the surface that at the very least national elections would not be local politics. They would be grander and more issue driven. But as we have seen over and over again in this primary season, to win the national nomination you have to win at the local level by securing your delegates and sometimes that has very little to do with the big picture or so we would believe.

Election concept in word cloud

Now what does that story have to do with missions? I believe that no matter where you are in the world or how you are serving in the mission field that all missions ARE local. I can hear some of you objecting right now from your homes in Florida, Georgia or Panama but let me explain.

In I Thessalonians 1:4-8 Paul writes to the local church in Thessalonica –

1 Thessalonians 1:4-8New International Version (NIV)

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it.

We all know who Paul, Peter, Barnabas and Timothy were but do any of us know by name members of that local church in Thessalonica? Why not? Paul says about them they “became a model” throughout all of Macedonia and Achaia. This is a huge area of the known world at that time. This is an area that included Athens one of if not the most influential city of this time! This didn’t just happen because Paul and Timothy planted it and so it flourished, no it happened because the local believers became imitators of the Lord and endured suffering with joy given by the Holy Spirit!

The Church at Thessalonica was modeling what it looked like to be a Christian in first century Greece. Because of their commitment to Christ and his church we know who Paul and Timothy are. I am sure there were plenty of church members walking around Greece saying

“Let me tell you about Paul, can you read? I have a copy of this letter he wrote to us and Paul is just so great going around sharing the Gospel…”

You don’t know what the Gospel is? Let me share this good news with you”

You see it was early church planters from Jerusalem who started local churches in these far off cities and lands who spread the word of who Jesus is and ultimately of whom Paul and the other apostles were. These local missionaries were the life blood of the early church. They took ownership of a city or a whole area like Macedonia and became permanent fixtures in those cities, in a good way. Without the locals the Gospel becomes like that seed planted in shallow soil. It’s great to have a visiting pastor, teacher or mission team to refresh the spirit but ultimately it takes local believers that have THE HOLY SPIRIT to grow disciples in any community. You have to BE THE CHURCH in your shared culture not just bring a church to a foreign culture. We see every day what it looks like to have Christians who have been in in Utah nine, thirteen and even seventeen years teaching the gospel with intentional words, phrases and actions that the local culture will respond to and have responded to. We have also seen what it looks like to bring a service straight out of a typical Southern Baptist Church in the South from the 1980’s and how, because they are not trying to integrate the local culture, they are just being ignored by the locals. We need to think local and teach local!

This is not to sound like some “Locals Only” surf culture we see an example of being sued in Federal Court. You know the guys that are soooo protective of their break that they chase off any non-locals. Because they invented surfing and have never had an outsider surf their waves before. Except you know Hawaiians had to show the white guys from California how to surf, and all the surfers not related to this “crew” that surfed Lunada Bay in the 1960’s. I am not trying to say to non-local Christians, “Get off my wave!” On the contrary, I think all Christians should treat even those short term mission trips as local missions. We have to pay attention to those Christians who were there before, see what is working, see what isn’t, and especially pay close attention to those Christians who were born and raised in that particular area or culture.

As Tip O’Neill showed time and time again, if you don’t win the hearts and minds of the local delegates you are never going to make it. So shape your message to those you are talking to. If you are talking to a union hall filled with electricians you don’t tell them about the need for a local hospital but you do tell them you are bringing a large construction project to build a hospital that will require lots of electrical work.

Paul said in I Corinthian 9:22…“I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” Paul knew and modeled how to contextualize the Gospel. Jesus of course was the master of this. He used scriptures Jews would know to show them he was the Christ. When speaking with the woman at the well he breaks all convention and asks her for drink, putting her at ease so she could understand the Gospel of Grace. Learning how to put the Gospel into a context that “locals” can understand IS becoming all things to all people. So no matter if you are at work talking to an engineer and explaining how the order of the galaxy screams “LOOK AT THE CREATOR WHO SET THE STARS IN THEIR PLACE” or are delivering diapers to a young single mom showing that God is the Father to the fatherless, you are doing local missions.

So when thinking about your next mission trip to Kenya, Nicaragua, or Utah or when talking to the lady in the next cubicle over remember All Missions Are Local and treat your preparation as such.