Elder's Corner

A monthly update letter from our elders

Elder's Corner

December 2021


Dear Salem Family,

Each year I count down the days until Christmas (well…not literally). Somehow the snow, the tree, along with all the decorations & music, create a symphony that sooths me into a place of euphoria. As a pastor, I long for the sweet and holy vigil of Christmas Eve. Those hallowed moments that capture our full attention, as candlelight wafts a special glow through the sanctuary, where people of all ages gather together to be stirred by songs and scripture – drifting into an eternal reality – the hope we have in Jesus. Beautiful.

It’s odd then to think that from Genesis to Jesus, people waited for centuries for God to make things right (Gen. 3:15). In the time that passed, generations of people died not receiving the promise (Heb. 11:39). Yet here we stand, thousands of years removed, on the other side of Jesus. Be amazed at what Peter says in 1 Peter 1:3b-4,

“According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an in heritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you…”

I like to think then that our hope is death proof, sin proof, and time proof. Certainly, the good news of Jesus is extravagant beyond measure, a gift that offers the thrill of hope that rings louder than all the bells of Christmas combined - nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:39)! In this season, isn’t that the encouragement that the world – the church included – needs to hear?

These last years have been filled with heartache, angst, and disbelief. It seems to me, that while those are not yet fully removed, they have settled into a general state of discontent. The Christian story is that human beings since the fall in Genesis have needed hope. But as I’ve reflected and prayed during this season, I’m trusting that the difference now is that people want hope. In our discontent we long for something better. We all do – both those inside the church and those outside the church. It’s interesting to ponder the question, “Is it possible that this Christmas season is potentially the best opportunity the church has had for outreach in the past two years?” Consider then with fresh perspective,

“How beautiful are the feet of those that preach the good news!”(Rom. 10:15).

My encouragement to you is this: we have a hope more beautiful than all the gifts the world will supply this Christmas season. It’s a hope better than all the garland and music combined. Lord knows our heart needs that kind of hope! May we not be swayed by anything this Christmas other than Jesus. My challenge to you is this: as we are entering into the final weeks of this season, I want to encourage us all, myself included, to be praying and seeking for opportunities to bring hope to the people where we live, work, and play. Would you please consider partnering with us in ministry this year by inviting a friend, or family to our Christmas Eve services? After all, we all need hope!

As we come to the end of December, I also want to thank each person for giving to our church financially so faithfully. As a pastor, we cannot do this apart from your support. It’s your generosity that allows us to be faithful ministers to you. But more so, we believe (and are excited to see) that God wants to continue to work powerfully both in and through Salem in the year to come (Eph. 3:21). Would you please consider partnering with us in such a way that we finish the year beyond expectations?

There is much work to be done that benefits both Salem and Fargo-Moorhead. We invite you back in January as we recapture the biblical view of heaven in a two-week series called “Surprised by Hope.” Afterwards, we’ll do a semester long series in the prophet Jeremiah in a series called “For this City” as we seek to examine ways that we can both pray for and seek the welfare of the city that God has planted us in (Jeremiah 29:4-7).

To Recap:

- Join us in ministry by asking God to present you opportunities to bring hope to a neighbor, co-worker, or friend. Perhaps invite them to Christmas Eve services at 2:00, 3:30, or 5:00.

- Join us by partnering with us financially as we seek to end the year strong. If you are unable, please join us in prayer, asking God to supply all we need.

- Join us in January as we seek to grow our community in the gospel as we reclaim the biblical idea of heaven, and how we can partner in God’s kingdom by being a blessing to Fargo-Moorhead.

To all of you we wish you a Merry Christmas!

Seth Dunham

Senior Pastor – Salem Evangelical Free Church



Dear Salem Church Family,

Other than to praise God, there are few things we are called to do more frequently in Scripture than to give thanks. The New Testament speaks about thankfulness 71 times, and the Old Testament even more frequently. But life is fraught with disappointments and frustrations, which make it difficult to give thanks. COVID-19, social problems, and personal challenges we all face have given plenty of reason to grumble, rather than give thanks. And yet, in I Thess 5:18, Paul says explicitly, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” At face value, this sounds glib -- “give thanks everyone, and oh yeah, put on a happy face.”  But why are we called to give thanks in all things and how are we to do it?  

In the Old Testament we see giving thanks within the context of acknowledging that God is good, and that his love outlives any circumstance we might face (I Chron 16:34). This is a call to refocus our minds on the certainty of God’s faithfulness even when times are tough. Giving thanks isn’t a polite thank you, or a perfunctory prayer of thanks; nor is it a sappy insincere comment to meet the requirement of Scripture. No, there is a special grace when we are able to give thanks, even when a feeling of sadness, frustration, or even anger remains. No one in Scripture spells this out more explicitly than the writer of Ecclesiastes, “In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other.”  So giving thanks is to acknowledge what is right and good about our Heavenly father, and to speak that truth to ourselves even when we may not be feeling it. It is to remain confident that God does work all things together for good, even when in the hard times.

 In the New Testament, the word for thanksgiving is eucharisteo, which simply means to “give thanks.” You will recognize this word from what Jesus did when he broke bread with His disciples in Luke 22:19, He eucharisteo (“gave thanks”). We are to give thanks when we pray (Philp 4:4-7), we are to give thanks because we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Heb 12:28), and we are to give thanks as we allow the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts (Col 3:15). Give thanks, what a powerful response to life’s circumstances.

Salem, what are you thankful for this Thanksgiving season?  What blessings have you experienced for which you thank God?  What circumstances have brought you to depend more deeply on God, and on people, for which you are thankful?  What adversities have you faced, which while not making you feel happy, have still allowed you to give thanks because our God is faithful and true despite the circumstances? Take some time to reflect on the past year and give thanks.

As elders we are thankful for each one of you who have made Salem your church home. We are a body, and just as a body has many members, so though many, we too are one body (I Cor 12:12). We are thankful for generous donors who have kept our finances stable during a difficult time. We are thankful for all the newcomers who have begun to make Salem their home in the last year.  We are thankful for our pastors and staff who serve the gospel and each one of us in a humble Christ-like way. We are thankful for God’s guidance and protection during the COVID challenges, and everyone’s support and sacrifices allowing us to keep our fellowship strong and our ministries vital.  We are thankful for a productive annual general meeting, during which we heard Seth spell out some of his thoughts about the direction of our church.  And as elders, we are thankful for the privilege of serving you during this time. 

And by the way, medical evidence consistently shows that giving thanks facilitates positive emotions, makes us more resilient, increases long-term happiness, positively impacts psychological well-being, improves our relationships, and even helps us find meaning in our work.

With gratitude,

Mark Strand on behalf of the Salem Elders


Dear Salem,

This past September, Salem’s chairman (Daryl Heinen) provided an “Elder’s Corner” email update. Elder’s Corner is a monthly communication from the elder board to the members of Salem and is intended to provide a brief update regarding some of the items the elders are thinking and praying about with respect to Salem’s ministry and operations. This Elder’s Corner will provide an update for the month of October 2021.

For many, the fall season is a blur of activity: new schedules and routines, earlier mornings, new teachers and classrooms, more programs and activities, big projects and deadlines at work, more driving, less sleep, and the list goes on. It’s easy to become distracted and worn out by the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But fall is also one of the most beautiful seasons of the year. The fall foliage and colors are truly magnificent and provide a breathtaking reminder of the majesty of our God. If we become too distracted and worn out by the grind of our everyday life, we may miss out on the quickly fading beauty that is all around us. Over the last several weeks, Pastor Seth has been preaching through the book of Ephesians. During this series, we have been reminded again and again of how important (and amazing!) it is to remain rooted in the abundant love of Jesus. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 3 that when the Holy Spirit lives within us, our hearts are changed! Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can experience first-hand the incredible and immeasurable love and beauty of Jesus – a beauty that never fades! My prayer is that each of us would slow down, fall to our knees, turn our eyes to Jesus, and bask in the amazing love that He lavishes upon us.

Salem’s mission is to Live Lives of Love with God, in Community, and on Mission. Our core values are Love, Truth, Community, and Service. Throughout this last year, the elders have started discussing and praying over a vision for Salem. We are asking God how, as a church body, we should live out our mission and core values. Part of this process has included our study of a book called “Future Church” by Will Mancini. Mancini and other respected church leaders and authors would acknowledge that vision-creation is a slow-drip process; it can take months and perhaps years to complete. For Salem, we acknowledge and embrace the fact that much has changed over the last eighteen months. But our mission and core values haven’t changed! We trust that God will continue shaping this new vision for us, but we expect the process to take time. Would you join us in praying that God would direct our hearts and minds toward a vision that will lead Salem into a powerful new chapter of ministry?

Finally, we are looking forward to presenting the 2022 Budget during the Congregational Meeting on November 14th at 12:45 PM (lunch provided beforehand). Our year-to-date offerings for 2021 are on a similar pace with last year’s offerings. We are so thankful for the many generous individuals who have sustained us during another challenging year! However, as we near the end of the fiscal year, we are praying that God will stir the hearts of many cheerful givers to help us finish strong and propel us into 2022. As a reminder, we will be voting on the budget at the Congregational Meeting, so member attendance is expected and strongly encouraged. If you are a member of Salem and are unable to attend, please complete a proxy form in advance of the meeting (proxy forms can be completed online here or in-person at the Connections Center). The agenda and a copy of the Budget will be emailed to you the Monday prior to the meeting.

On behalf of the elders, thank you for your continued support, encouragement, and prayers. It means so much to us.

Praying Ephesians 3:14-21 together,

Michael Carlson