Bio Notes: Noel McRae has been a follower of Christ for well over fifty years. His educational background includes an undergraduate degree was from Seattle Pacific in Greek and Biblical studies. Later He taught at Portland Christian High School and in the process got a masters degree in speech pathology.
His favorite "free-time" pastimes includes still "enjoying" cutting and selling about 10 cords of firewood each year and packing into wilderness areas with their llamas with his wife, Georgia.
The House: "Spiritual discipline is hard . . . what draws you back, or keeps you in?"
Answer: I am trying to become consistent in reading the Word, studying books that challenge my understanding of what it means to be a Christian, how to encourage Christian community, and a greater appreciation of Jesus. I think I am becoming better, but it is still easy to have things distract me and intrude into my schedule.
Noel was born in Vancouver, but spent most of his early school years in Coos Bay, OR. When asked what one life lesson stands out from the rest, he responded, "Time is my ‘gold’, and if I am to be of any use to the King, I have to lay it before Him."
Noel found it hard to define in a simple answer what it is that he is most grateful for, but settled on this: "It has to be that Jesus would include me as one of his family and even consider me of any use to his Kingdom. That is pretty amazing."
The House: For those of us who might be unfamiliar with the role of an elder at EHA, could you tell us how you see your assignment as one of our elders?
Noel: I see the role of elder as one of the coaches, or guides, to help the church helping people to reach their potential and develop God’s plan for their lives. It’s a lot like a sheep rancher: taking care of the sheep involves feeding, watching over, helping the sick; meeting any needs that arise, just as a rancher takes care of his flock. My desire is to know the flock better.
The church should be a loving community, and elders are to foster that. For example, we want to help our fellow followers to mature enough to help others achieve their maturity in their faith, passing it on to one another. If we are to have a significant impact on our community and impress then with the love of Christ, we must be living that way with each other.
The House: We’re hearing more and more about planting a new church in Longview/Kelso. As an elder, I assume you support this vision. Why do you think it’s something we want to do?
Noel: This church planting effort is important because it is the most effective way to meet new people and reach them for Jesus Christ. Our goal is not just another building, but to reach more people for Jesus.
We are almost "maxing out" at Burcham Street. Planting a new church at a different location makes what we are doing here more accessible for new seekers.
It also helps us to "get out of our comfort zone". If some of the faces and friends we are used to seeing at EHA begin to go to the new location, that might encourage us to reach out to them sometime other than at a celebration service, and deepen our relationship with them. Kingdom growth is more important than seeing our friends conveniently at EHA, and gives us the opportunity to grow in deepening our Christian relationships and our spiritual walk.
The House: What was your initial response, as an elder, to the idea of church planting?
Noel: I was a little hesitant at first I was concerned that, if we were going to do this, it should be thoughtfully and prayerfully done, not in a haphazard way. I had read that most church plants don’t succeed beyond about two years, but as I listened to our district representative, Randy Shaw, explain that statistic, he said that most churches in that demographic were started with "people with big hearts and no plans".
He went on to explain that Alliance church plants have an 8 out of 10 success rate because of a slower process with a wise mix of "heart for the mission and skills to carry out the task".
The House: We’re also focusing in this month’s newsletter on taking risks in our faith. How would you define the risks we might be confronted with as we go forward with this effort?
Noel: Sometimes it’s scary to think we’re moving beyond our comfort zone. We will be bringing new people into positions of leadership. We will be sharing some of our people with the newly planted church. Some of us will be asked to take on new responsibilities, and to step up into open positions.
Having a new climate of "I’m needed" instead of being a "comfortable spectator" forces us to grow and take on new roles and gives us more opportunity for everybody to be part of the functioning body of Christ.
We need to be challenged to take a risk, stepping up, and accepting responsibilities and obligations we’re asked to prayerfully consider. This is not a "spectator sport"!
The House: How can we as individuals, and part of the body at EHA, make ourselves available to God’s plan for this effort?
Noel: Pray that God would make each of us open and willing to be a part. Ask Him to give you enthusiasm for personal growth, and growth at EHA, including this church planting.
Pray for the EHA leadership, that we would not run ahead of God’s timetable. Ask Him to fuel the vision for lost and new people who need Him, and can find a place to grow in their faith walk through this new church, as well through the changes that will take place at Burcham Street.
As elders, we have the same problems and questions as the rest of the congregation. We are all sheep. We all need shepherding, and we are all called to do this together, as His flock.
The House: Is there anything about the church planting experience you would like to add to your comments?
Noel: We have such great unity and spirit here; it is so comfortable. God wants us to get out of our safe boat and test our faith on the water (and there may be some waves to shake us up). We are going to get to see God in action. That is both awesome and scary.