Aspiring to be an Elder

New City Church is led by a team of pastors called elders. The elder team is made up of both staff and non-staff elders. This team prays for the church, seeks to protect the church, and leads the church in following Jesus and in fulfilling his mission for her. 

I am often asked about New City's process for seeing someone become an elder. It is a question from our own New City folks as well as from other pastors and church planters. Following is our letter to a potential elder candidate. It outlines our process.

If you aspire to be an elder at New City Church, please email me so that we can begin the conversation. Whether you aspire to be an elder or not, would you pray for those who are?

On Becoming A New City Elder, the Process and Paperwork

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

My Brother,

It is a good and noble thing to aspire to eldership. It is also a task that can be quite difficult and taxing. It is the highest leadership role in the local church. Because of this, God has given some very specific qualifications that a man should meet to serve in this leadership role.

The elders of New City Church, Macon believe that you may be a man who meets these qualifications and is capable of leading with the Elder Team of New City. In addition to that, you have said that you do aspire to be an elder. With this letter, we begin the process of assessing your life and faith in light of the qualifications required to be an elder and begin a process meant to prepare you to lead well as a New City Church Elder.  The following is an explanation of this process:

Paperwork
Attached you will find questionnaires for you and your wife concerning things such as your devotional life, your family life, and your theology.  These questionnaires serve to help us get a clearer picture of each of those areas of your life and will help us to later formulate a growth plan for you, helping you to grow in any area(s) of weakness.

The questions should be answered honestly. The answers do not need to be extremely lengthy. They should fairly represent your thoughts, beliefs, understandings and life in general. While there is no expected turnaround time for the paperwork, we do find that the time to return the completed paperwork often reflects the applicants desire or lack of desire to serve as a New City Church Elder.

Interview
When your paperwork has been received it will be shared with the Elder Team. After the Team has had an opportunity to review your paperwork, an interview will be scheduled with you and your wife. The interview gives the Elder Team and their wives the opportunity to clear up any uncertainty from your paperwork and ask additional questions.

Following your interview, the Elder Team will discuss strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for growth. The Elder Team will make one of the following decisions:
The candidate is ready to become an Elder,
The candidate needs some growth to serve as an Elder,
The candidate is not qualified at this time or in the very near future to become an Elder.  The reasons for not qualifying generally fall into the categories of Character, Competency, and/or Chemistry.

Growth Plan
Most Elder candidates have areas in which they need to grow to serve well as an Elder. The existing Elder Team will formulate a plan of growth to help the candidate who is not quite ready to be an Elder grow into the role of Elder. A Mentoring Elder will meet with the candidate to talk through the plan and walk with the candidate through the growth plan. Often, this time of mentoring reveals other areas of need and the plan may grow or shift. This is a growth process, not a checklist of things to do to be a New City Elder. When the Mentoring Elder feels that the candidate is prepared for serving as a New City Church Elder, he will advise the Elder Team, and next steps will be taken.

What is Being Assessed?
The assessment process is designed to help us make certain that the candidate meets the Biblical qualifications for the role and will be a good fit for the New City Church Elder Team. We assess in three primary areas:

Character
In addition to the biblical character descriptions of I Timothy 3 and Titus 1, a New City Church Elder must be:

o   Able to take direction and criticism.  We all fail and make mistakes.  Direction and criticism are given for the good and growth of the Elder and for the good and growth of the church.

o   Able to laugh at themselves and have a healthy sense of humor.  This is critical to our Team. We love to laugh at life and laugh with (and sometimes AT) one another. 

o   A self-starter.  A New City Church Elder must be able to manage time and resources independently and responsibly.

o   A team player.  An Elder must be willing to step in and do whatever needs to be done.  We do not tolerate the statement, “That’s not my job”.  If a light bulb needs to be changed or a toilet unclogged, a New City Church Elder should be willing and prepared to do it.  There are not tasks that are beneath any of us.

 

Chemistry
It is very hard to quantify chemistry, but it is a non-negotiable.  It is often most recognizable by its absence: when you dread seeing someone, cannot imagine sharing a meal together in your home, or would never want to be stuck in a car with them on a 10-hour drive.  When you are afraid to disagree with them or constantly feel judged by them.  When you don’t trust them to keep a confidence or deal with you fairly.  When you avoid speaking to them at the staff Christmas party.  You get the point.  Lack of chemistry will kill a healthy team dynamic.

Competence
The big question here is, Is the candidate competent as a shepherd? Three of the areas we are particularly examining are:

o   Theology. Does the candidate have a good understating of basic systematic and biblical theology? Does the candidate have the tools and knowledge on using those tools to answer questions that may come their way?

o   Leadership. Is the candidate well respected by others in the church? Will others follow his leadership?

o   Gospel.  Does the candidate have a good understanding of the depth and breadth of the gospel? Is he able to counsel and teach others in every area of life through that gospel lens?

As you can see, the assessment is quite extensive. This is because the role of Elder in a local church is a serious and weighty matter. A New City Church Elder is a Pastor and pastoring a congregation is a great responsibility; it can be the hardest thing you have ever done, and it can be the most rewarding. You are receiving this letter because we believe that you are up to the task. The letter and invitation come with prayer – prayer for you, for your family, and for this process. It is an honor to serve with you and to have you entrust so much of your life to us through this process.

God Bless,

Pastor Keith,
on behalf of the New City Church, Macon Elder Team.

What If I Don't Want to Sing?

The struggle is REAL on Sunday mornings isn’t it? We stay out a little longer than anticipated on Saturday evenings. When the morning comes, it’s a frantic, frustrating rush to get everyone fed, groomed, and out of the door by a specific time. Or maybe we’ve had a particularly hard week with what is going on at work or with our family. Many times we need to hear and be reminded of the truths of the Gospel. Or, maybe others around us need to hear this good news! Here is a great article by Matt Damico on why we ought to sing on Sunday mornings. 

-Arthur


At our church, everyone shows up ready to sing with full hearts each Sunday morning. Nobody arrives after a tense car ride to church, or a difficult morning with children, or a late night of studying, or a long week of work. Everyone is well-rested and eager to make melody to God.

Except, not really. 

Each Sunday, a good portion of our churches gather for worship with genuine anticipation for singing, praying, and hearing the word. But not everyone. Life is too real, and the ancient fall of Genesis 3 is still too valid, to think nobody walks into church with scars, shame, or even cold apathy. 

But let’s be honest. Even the most stably enthusiastic in our gatherings have had Sundays when we wished our hearts burned more brightly. We experience an inner struggle in these moments. On the one hand, we know that we should sing because we’re at church. On the other, it’s good to be authentic and real, so it feels like a lie to sing when we don’t feel like it. Is it better to be honest and silent than an audible hypocrite? 

Of course, we don’t want to portray something false about ourselves. Nevertheless, we have at least two good reasons for us to open our mouths and lift our voices even when we don’t feel like it.

You Have the Voice Your Neighbor Needs

People in every congregation have no voice at times. They’re not singing, but not because they don’t want to. They’re weak and worn, and in that hour they can hardly speak, much less sing. Maybe it’s a young woman who can’t sing “It Is Well” because that Sunday marks one year since her mother’s death, or a young couple who can’t sing “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” a few days after another miscarriage. 

In God’s infinite love, he has not left these people alone. Instead, he has ordained for corporate worship to work not only vertically, but horizontally. In that moment, when the broken believer struggles to address God, we remember that God has told us to address one another with our songs (Ephesians 5:19).

When we don’t feel like singing, we have an opportunity to consider the interests of others and count them more significant than our own (Philippians 2:3–4). We have the privilege, in a way, to open our mouths for the mute (Proverbs 31:8). You may not want to sing, but the person next to you, in front of you, or behind you may need you to sing. The sight and sound of your singing may impress on them the truths of the gospel, or spur them to believe, with the psalmist, “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you” (Psalm 63:3). 

The sight and sound of God’s people singing is a powerful, stirring exhortation for struggling hearts to believe the truths they hear sung around them. The next Sunday you’re inclined to keep quiet, remember your neighbors and sing their song.

Singing Bends Our Souls to God

Another reason to sing when we don’t feel like it is this: singing can be the best way to start feeling like it.

It is impossible for us to desire the right things all the time. Our wills and affections often lag behind our knowledge. I know I should exercise more, but the desire is sometimes absent. I know I should pray more, but my heart is often cold. Does that mean that when I do exercise or pray after some self-convincing, I’m not really exercising or praying? Of course not. It’s better to desire everything we ought, but we need not wait to feel rightly before we act rightly.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis articulates this with typical poignancy in regard to loving our neighbor when the desire isn’t there:

Though natural likings should normally be encouraged, it would be quite wrong to think that the way to become charitable is to sit trying to manufacture affectionate feelings. . . . The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets: When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.

So it is with our singing. Let’s not wait for our hearts to burn before we open our mouths. Opening our mouths can be an important part of kindling the fire.

This isn’t an up-by-the-bootstraps approach to corporate worship. Lifting your voice, when you’d rather not, can be an act of faith, believing that God’s word is true: “it is good to sing praises to our God” (Psalm 147:1). You may need to pray, “O Lord, open my lips” (Psalm 51:15), but before long, don’t be surprised to find your heart beginning to refill with thanks and praise.

Perhaps it will be this weekend. Another Sunday is coming when you will feel a cool disinterest toward the singing of the saints. When that happens, remember God’s promises, remember your neighbor, and remember what a privilege it is, and what a catalyst it can be, to sing to the one who has saved us.

Still Dreaming in Milledgeville

Buffingtons, where it all began. (photo by tripadvisor.com)

Buffingtons, where it all began. (photo by tripadvisor.com)

In the Summer of 2010 God opened several doors with New City Church which allowed us to focus in on planting our second New City Church, New City Church, Milledgeville.  We had been praying about Milledgeville, visiting Milledgeville and working with a couple of families and several students at GCSU toward a church plant there.  We all felt strongly that there was a great need for a gospel-centered church like New City there.

In the Fall of 2010 with a small core group of people and a big dream to see God change lives in Milledgeville, we launched!  Our first gatherings took place at Buffingtons, downtown.  That location was short-lived as it was evident that there wasn’t enough space for the many people coming to worship Jesus and hear the gospel.  New City Church Milledgeville was doing just what we dreamed.

Through those first years the church was deeply involved through our Missional Communities in the life of Milledgeville.  New City was an active part of seeing downtown Milledgeville’s revival. We served the city well by not only participating in many of the events in the downtown area, but also by serving. As we served and loved our city, the gospel continued to advance and the church continued to grow.

Through the years we have seen God do incredible things in the lives of people.  We have seen brokenness mended and marriages healed. We have seen many salvations and witnessed dozens of baptisms as people come to love and follow Jesus – just as we dreamed.

That dream isn’t over.  There is still a great many people who need to know the grace and mercy of God, who need to hear the beautiful message of redemption and restoration in Christ, people who need the gospel.

Andy has resigned. There is the loss of a pastor and a friend. Loss is difficult.
But the mission, the dream isn’t tied to that person. It is tied to the person and work of Jesus. It is tied to the countless people in Middle Georgia who still need Him. Because of this, we are committed to continue the work in Milledgeville, to roll up our sleeves and do the extra work of moving forward.

Patrick McConnell is shifting some of his Macon responsibilities to me and to others so that he can be much more involved weekly in Milledgeville.  He will begin leading the gospel charge in Milledgeville as the Interim Pastor immediately. While he lives in Macon, much of his time and attention will be in Milledgeville.  Patrick was already involved with Missional Community leaders and training in Milledgeville and will continue that role.  He has also began working with leaders to implement many of things discussed in Milledgeville’s Strategic Planning meetings for Sunday mornings. Patrick will share the preaching responsibilities in Milledgeville with Pastor Lawrence Robinson from Macon freeing Patrick up to be involved in many of those Sunday morning details.

We believe that there is still much to see God do in Milledgeville and we want to see it!

But we can’t do it without you guys.  We need your help to reach Milledgeville with the gospel – friends, family, coworkers, students… We need you to dream with us – to dream of what God might do in and through a people who truly desired to help others live in light of the gospel – to dream with us of what would change if the gospel really began to transform us, our church, our city and the world.

Then we need you to roll up your sleeves with us.
Join us in serving.  We need volunteers for set up and on Sunday morning for coffee, greeting, children’s ministry and music. We need MC Leaders and co-leaders. We need people who love Jesus and want to see Him known and are willing to pray, to give and to serve in order to see that happen.

Would you dream with us?
Would you join us in seeing the dream become a reality?
Would you let Patrick know that you are in?  Tell where you or how you can be a part of seeing the gospel transform Milledgeville and beyond.

A Day of Joy and Sadness

Today was a day of two extremes. In Macon we celebrated God's provision and a great new space. It is a day of joy. But in Milledgeville today is a day of sadness. Following the New City gathering in Milledgeville today, Pastor Andy Blankenship resigned from his position with New City.  On a personal level this has been tough. Andy has been a loyal friend. He has been a fellow laborer in the gospel. He has been with New City since 2012 but my relationship with Andy goes back to 2011 when we dreamed together about church planting. 

I love Andy, Mary Kathryn and the kids. I know that many of you do. I hope that you will join me in supporting and encouraging Andy and the family in their decision. I hope as well that you will pray for them in the days to come.  Below is Andy's resignation letter followed by a letter read to our Milledgeville Partners this afternoon.

Dear Partners,

Today I want to bring you all into a decision that will change the landscape of New City Milledgeville. After much fasting, prayer and weighing through personal conviction I have arrived at a place where I must resign from my post as the pastor of this church. This decision was most certainly not easy as I have a very deep and abiding love for you and the work Jesus has done and is doing in your lives. However, I am becoming increasingly more aware of burnout that mentally, emotionally and spiritually has taken its tole and the result has been poor care of some of you as well as myself. To continue in this capacity and pace of ministry with New City would ultimately not serve me or you well as it would result in a slow death for me and poor shepherding for you.

To say this is agonizing is putting it lightly. New City has been a huge part of my life for almost 6 years. However, despite the enormity of this Mary Kathryn and I have a deep peace from Jesus that this is the right decision to honor Him personally and to ultimately honor you. We love you very much and have considered our time here great evidence of God's grace to us both. We will always have fondness of memory and joy in our hearts at the thought of you and our time with New City. We will be praying earnestly for you and the leadership of New City in the days ahead of transition. We will always pray that the gospel would transform everything within your reach!

Because He Lives,
Andy


From the New City Elders:

Partners,

First and foremost, we are thankful for the work the Lord has been doing in Milledgeville through New City Church. It is your faithful service to the Lord where he has planted you, in your jobs, your neighborhoods, your families, that has seen the Gospel continue to redeem and change lives in Milledgeville and beyond. We remain excited to be a part of His work here with you.

We are also thankful for Pastor Andy’s commitment to Milledgeville and his shepherding of this New City congregation over the past several years. While we will miss Andy and his partnership in ministry here at New City, we are thankful that he has decided to take some time to re-center on his relationship with Jesus. The elders of New City love Andy, Mary Kathryn and their children and seek to minister to them as they take some time away from ministry. The Blankenship’s will be provided with a severance package that continues his salary until the end of May.  In addition, we would like to help Andy and maybe Mary Kathryn as well to work through some of the burn out that he has recently recognized. We ask that you continue to pray for the Blankenships during this time of renewal and pray for New City Milledgeville as we continue on in ministry.

Moving forward, we believe that the Lord is still very much at work in Milledgeville through New City, and we are excited to continue working alongside you. Beginning today, Pastor Patrick McConnell will assume the role as Interim Pastor of New City Milledgeville. Patrick has served for the past two years as the Community and Family Pastor in Macon. He has been very involved with the MC Leaders in Milledgeville over the past year.  Having shifted several Macon responsibilities away from Patrick over the past week will allow Patrick to become the Pastor for MCs in Milledgeville and begin to work with Sunday morning leaders including Chris Brett as well.  Patrick and Pastor Lawrence Robinson will be splitting preaching time.

Andy’s resignation came suddenly for us. It will obviously mean change in a lot of areas. We are still working through much of that as Elders. We covet your prayers and support for Andy and his family and we covet your prayers and support for us and for one another as we continue to take next steps in the great mission that God has called each of us to in Milledgeville.

We know that you guys will have a lot of questions.  We want to answer them. At the same time we want to respect Andy’s privacy and we want to honor him and his family and the great ministry that has taken place over these last years that he served here. We love them. This means that there may be some questions that just aren’t necessary to answer.  If you do have questions, please feel free to reach out to me or one of our elders via email,
(first name)@newcitymacon.org. 

God Bless,
Keith

Our Identity in Jesus

The other day my wife Marilyn blessed me by buying me some new work boots.  For those of you who don’t know me I am always doing something.  I am almost always doing something whether working in the yard or on some project.  This has been my practice for years.  Several years ago Marilyn bought me a really nice comfortable pair of work boots. I have worn them so much so that they are worn out.  When I tried on the new pair of work boots they fitted nicely and they looked good. As I began to focus on how they looked I was thinking about not working in them but wearing them with my jeans and other casual clothes.  They made me look fashionable and manly.  Then I got to thinking that if I just wear them to look good I would still need another pair of work boots because I still have lots of work to do.  Then it hit me!  Some of us view our identity in Jesus much the same way as I was viewing the use of my work boots.  This identity that we have in Jesus is a working identity.  It is not the kind of identity that God gave us just to make us look good.  It is the type of identity that allows us to glorify our Savior as we live for Him and serve Him.  Our identity is given us for the purpose of building the kingdom.  That sounds like work to me! Unfortunately some of us, by way of practice, have taken our identity in Jesus to make ourselves look good.  Think about the life that Christ to which has called us.  He called us to a life of worship.  We worship Him in words of thanksgiving and songs of praise.  We worship Him by the way in which we walk in obedience and live out our identity in Him.  He called us to a life on mission.  We reach out to others and use all things given us by Jesus to bring loss sinners to Christ.  He called us to the work of discipleship whereby we nurture and train others to become transformed into the image of Jesus.  He called us to a life of intercession whereby through prayer we constantly intercede on behalf of our nation, state, communities, families and the people around us so that our Savior might accomplish His will through His people in the environment where He placed us (get this) to work.  He’s called us to community whereby we connect with each other in such a way that the world would know that we are His disciples by the love we show for one another.  He’s called us to a life of service and gave each one of us at least one spiritual gift to contribute to the edification of the body.  There is still more but you get the picture.  From what I see this new identity we have in Jesus that we call Christianity is a working identity.  Jesus said this in Matthew 5:16.  “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  It seems to me that the light He made us to be, shines bright as we work from Him, for Him, through the strength that He supplies.  Our identity in Jesus is a working Identity.  We don’t have to work to receive His love, forgiveness or mercy.  He gives that to us unconditionally and so much more.   Jesus also said this in John 9:4. “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.” 

Work boots are designed for working. They are good for digging in the yard and building things. They are good for working in bad weather and rugged environments.  Work boots are designed for just that, working!  Our identity in Christ Jesus is a glorious, beautiful, working identity that God gave us for building the kingdom, working in rugged and adverse environments. It does make us look good as we walk in it as we should but in reality it is a working identity.  Therefore instead of just trying to look good and even be good, (those are important too), we must be about the mission of reaching the loss, discipling the saved, worshipping our Father & Savior, and fulfilling the work to which Christ has called all of us.  Jesus gave us this wonderful understanding about this working identity we have in Him.  He said this through our brother Paul in Ephesians 2:10. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  So as you have put on Christ Jesus, Get To Work!

What Do You Think?
Rev. Lawrence Robinson

It's Hard but It's True: A look at the underlying problems that adversely affect African Americans

I am a man greatly torn on the inside.  My heart has been very heavy over the last few years.  My grief is for my people, African Americans.  Why am I grieved? I am grieved because from my perspective (which could be narrow) my people are not faring well in life.  It is true that many African Americans do well and will continue to do so.  However, statistically speaking and if we stay on our present course, we will see a major demise in the quality and character of people in our culture in all aspects of society. 

One reason for such a downturn, from this black man’s perspective, is that we refuse to look at the real underlying problems that adversely affect our community and address them.  We’ve cited high unemployment as a problem.  We’ve cited a new rise in racism as a problem.  We’ve cited lack of funding for our communities and education.  We’ve looked at the low achievement of our people in the education system.  We’ve even cited the failure of our government to understand our needs and to be proactive in addressing our needs.  I did not mention the waves of murders of our young black men or the failure of African Americans to be active in the political process.   While the list of issues is quite extensive, it is my belief that all of the aforementioned and others are simply manifestations of the underlying problems that has birthed most of the ills concerning us. 

Firstly, let’s establish what an underlying problem is.  An underlying problem is a problem that gives birth to other problems.  Let’s take the problems associated with single parenting for an example.  Statistically speaking, when a child is born to a single parent that parent becomes poorer because she is now living for two.  Let’s say that this child is born to a teen mother whose daddy is irresponsible.  She now has to get government assistance to help her feed her child, to provide medical care, day care, and the like.  As the child grows up and the father is absent the mother struggles and she is unavailable to the child as parents should be, because she is trying to carve out a living.  In situations like this it is not uncommon for a woman to turn to another man for help because she is trying to make it.  Before she knows it she is pregnant again.  All we have to do from this point on is to look at the many negative statistics caused by angry children particularly from families with absentee fathers.  On a problem like this, if we state the hard truth, we can’t blame white people for the pregnancy.  We can’t blame white people for the irresponsible father.   We cannot even blame republicans for cutting back on entitlement programs. The underlying problem is that there was an absence of morality on the part of the mother and father of the child. 

The solution for us as a people would be to teach and emphasize what is morally right regarding sexuality.  We must address the importance of abstinence.  We must greatly, greatly, emphasize the importance of family and having both mother and father raising their children.  We must get away from glorifying “my baby’s daddy” or “my baby’s momma.” Now here is the real problem in this example as well as some of the others that will be presented later.  An issue like this is addressed in the Bible.  For this argument I realize that not everyone has accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.  However the principles that God set forth for living life works whether you are a Christian or not

In this same example if that young lady and young man had abstained, her situation would be different.  Her opportunities to advance would have been easier.  We would not have an angry or irresponsible child.  We certainly would not have the second child.  Society would benefit because the young lady would have a better chance to become a contributor to society.  The chances that her children would repeat the cycle is eliminated because there are no illegitimate children and no single parenting.  All of the adverse issues that she would encounter and that could promote other adverse issues are eliminated simply because she practiced abstinence.  In this case the underlying problem is his and her immorality.  Our reactions to a situation such as this would be to focus most of our energies and resources on the problems that are the “children,” the consequences of the underlying problem.  This is one of the main reasons why we continue to struggle.

I am not advocating ignoring the “children” of the underlying problems.   I am advocating for us to start dealing with the underlying problems that are giving birth to many of the major ills in our culture and communities.  If we are willing to do this, I have no doubt that we can turn things around.

What I will express in these writings is hard but it’s true.  This journey for real change that I am embarking on in no way diminishes the efforts that have been put forth and are now being put forth for change and improvement.  My goal is three-fold:  1) To reveal the fact that we’ve been working on the symptoms of our problems and not the real issues;  2) To put forth the underlying issues in our culture that give birth to the many other ills that do not promote the wellbeing and success of our people.  I do not want to simply put forth these issues for conversation.  3) To offer viable and attainable solutions that will help unite us as a people, give us hope, give us direction, empower our future, and greatly diminish a large portion of these ills. 

In the next blog I will identify what I feel is the number one underlying problem that hinders the progress of the African American community.  It is the problem for which many of us are culpable.

What do you think?

Reverend Lawrence Robinson

 

 

 

EXPOSED BY THE MISSION

In a recent conversation about 'Life on Mission', we explored what that could look like and some of the reasons we try to push it away. Jeff Vanderstelt does a great job at exploring the importance of living on mission in community, as well as some of the reasons why we try to excuse it away.


Yes, we can pretend to have it all together while sitting in a pew on Sunday or while impressing one another with our knowledge of Scripture. But mission exposes our inadequacies and need for grace.

If you are in a small Bible study group, one of the best things you could do is move the study out into the neighborhood. When you read a command in Scripture, ask, “How are we going to obey this command together on mission?” In other words, ask yourselves what this passage says you should do together (life in community) and how you might do it in the middle of a mission held together (life on mission).

Doing this will bring up all sorts of opportunities for discipleship: excuses will be expressed, fears acknowledged, lack of confidence or courage realized, and inadequacies verbalized. Then you’ll be getting somewhere in terms of people’s discipleship.

In this process, you will discover the truth about everyone’s present state. When you actually get out of the comfort of your Christian community and onto the streets of mission (in your neighborhood, at a café, in the park, or at a local high school), you will discover together where everyone still needs to be discipled. The junk will come out, and then you will be able to disciple one another in the everyday stuff of life.

I was surprised by this on my first mission trip, but after a few of them, I knew it was coming. Soon, a part of me began to hate taking mission trips because I knew things would get bad—we would fall apart and we would be seen as needy.

Yet that was why I continued to lead them. Such brokenness has to happen if real discipleship is going to take place.

Sometimes I wonder if this exposure is why Christians avoid getting on the mission of making disciples together in the stuff of everyday life. We know we will be exposed. We will be seen for the needy, desperate people we really are. Our junk will come to the surface. Yes, we can hide and pretend to have it all together while sitting in a large gathering on Sunday or while impressing one another with our knowledge of Scripture in a weekly Bible study. But out on mission, the need for grace and power from God will never be more clearly manifested.

That’s exactly what we need. We need to see and know our need for Jesus. We need to see and know others’ need for Jesus. Then we need to give one another the truths of Jesus to change us, empower us, and allow His Spirit to work through us effectively. We also need to experience God using weak, tired, and broken people to do amazing work.

This happened in the early church as well. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He told His disciples to wait for power from God—the Spirit of God was going to come upon them and empower them for the work (Acts 1:8). The disciples were sent out with God’s power and presence with and by His Spirit. They faced persecution. Many died for their faith. They lost possessions and family members. Many messed up and grew in the grace of Jesus as a result. And they grew in their love for one another, their devotion to obey God’s Word, their prayerful dependence on God, and the powerful proclamation of the gospel. They all grew while on mission (Acts 2:42–47).

The mission revealed their need and required God’s help!

I’m amazed at how often Christians want to experience the presence and power of God apart from the mission of God. I’m also surprised at how many people believe they can grow people up toward maturity in Christ apart from getting them involved in the mission of making disciples.

This stuff can’t happen in a classroom. It does not happen in one-on-one meetings. And it does not happen if we just hang out together as Christians all the time. We have to get out on mission to fulfill the mission of being disciples who make disciples.

I used to think we should take people out on mission trips once or twice a year. Now I’m convinced we need to help people see they are on mission all the time.

Unfortunately, many disciples of Jesus don’t get beyond seeing church as just attending an event on Sunday or Wednesday or doing a Bible study together. They are not experiencing what it means to be on mission together in the everyday stuff of life. So they live with the facade that everything is OK. On the surface, they look as if they are all in for Jesus. But brokenness, pride, insecurity, and selfishness are all there under the surface.

(taken from Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life.)

 

New Address, Same Mission

In the next couple of weeks we will be holding the first service in our new space.  The building is shaping up to be quite beautiful and really amazing. It is the start of a new chapter for New City. We will no longer be sharing our space with various businesses and other organizations. It's ours.

With the move comes a great danger. The danger is that we settle into our beautiful new building and become comfortable. I am praying even as I type that this doesn't happen. I am praying that we not forget the great task that the church has been called to and the great joy that comes in working to fulfill it. God has called us to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel in every area of life - proclaim it to ourselves, to our church, to our city and to the world.  This is why we are here.

This week our new doors were installed on the church's main level. Many, many people will hopefully walk through those doors. As I considered what we might do with the space above the doors it hit me, that blank space could serve as a reminder to us - a reminder that there is much to be done. So, I gathered scraps of woods, measured, cut and began installing the Jerusalem Cross. The Jerusalem Cross is made up of five crosses. The center and largest cross represents the Good News of Jesus Christ. The four crosses surrounding it represent the four corners of the world. The Jerusalem cross is a reminder that we have been called to herald the Good News of Jesus Christ to all the world.

I am praying that more than ever New City Church proclaims the Gospel to the ends of the earth. I am praying that God would do far more than we have imagined in and through New City Church - that we would be influencers on our city and beyond. I am praying that God would raise up and send out missionaries and church planters and pastors. And I am praying that we might all see as we enter and leave, that the mission of Jesus isn't just for "specialists" and the ordained, but for everyone who believes.

May we more mindful now than ever before of the great mission of the cross, and may we be ever more involved in the gospel reaching the ends of the earth!

Pop Culture Catechism, (Part 1)

Recently, I have been having conversations with one of my children about the differences between fiction and reality. This has led to poignant conversations about themes from a cartoon called Max Steel. Our conversations have spanned topics such as fostering/adoption, morality, and Jesus. I've used some of the direction in our conversations from the following article. As we head into the Christmas season, our kids will most likely be bombarded with Christmas-themed stories. Take a moment to read Derek Heibert's article below and don't let an easy opportunity to shape your children's thinking pass you by.

Patrick

Your kids need to see how the story of Jesus’s redemption is distinct, unique, better, and greater.

Taking stories from popular culture—especially movies—and relating them to the story of the gospel is one of the best forms of catechism. (By catechism, I mean that process of training a young person in the biblical story and core truths of the gospel.) Here is why pop culture stories are helpful in this process:

First, the entertainment industry is delivering stories to us by the truckloads. Unless you live in an Amish community, chances are your children and those in your church are engaging these stories on film at least on a weekly basis, or they are hearing about them from their peers. As parents, we should be intentional about how we use these pop-culture stories to train our kids in the Christian faith.

Second, we might as well enjoy the fact that we have such a thing as stories and appreciate them as the natural outgrowth of humanity and culture. The human ability to create stories is one of the benefits of being created in the image of the storyteller God, who invented the whole idea of story. Every human being, young and old, naturally loves stories. In light of this, we should not dismiss or escape them but engage them well for the sake of discipleship.

Third, stories from pop culture are always exploring important questions and ideas. Most good stories, whether a movie, TV show, or book, are created not merely for entertainment but for teaching. They are telling their story to say something meaningful and significant about life, about the world. Much like Jesus’s parables, the authors of these stories have an agenda: They are telling their stories in such a way to ask thought-provoking questions and offer ideas to those questions. In light of this, it is important to become skillful in understanding how stories work, what to look for in their question-asking and ideas, and how to compare and contrast them best with the biblical story.

Here is a three-step method I seek to practice in our household:

Step 1: Before the Movie

First, ensure you know the essential storyline of the Bible: Creation—Fall—Redemption—New Creation. This storyline is found more or less in every story common to humanity. Others may use different words, but the core movement of this plot is the foundation of every story.

Creation (beginning): God creates a perfect humanity and world to be in close relationship with him.

Fall (problem/conflict): Humans do not trust God’s goodness and love. As a result, they rebel and set into motion a death-curse of decay and brokenness that affects every human and all of creation. Death, not good and perfect everlasting life, is now the reality.

Redemption (solution): God in Christ comes to redeem and forgive, reversing the curse and recreating a new humanity. As the hero, he achieves this victory at great cost to Himself and by the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. Those who believe this story are brought into this new life and future.

New Creation (“happily ever after”): God recreates the entire universe into a “new heavens and new earth” that can never die. He and his new humanity are united forever in perfect relationship.

Prepare your kids for the conversation before the movie starts. Let your kids know you’d like to have a short conversation with them after the movie. Encourage them to look for, if possible, these main parts of the story:

Creation: The beginning of the story. What does life look like in terms of the characters’ family and community? What does the story say, if anything, about the origins of life?

Fall: What the main problem is in the story. With what do the characters come into conflict?

Redemption: The hero’s solution to the main problem in the story. Who is the main hero, and how does he or she solve the problem?

New Creation: What everyone experiences now because of the hero’s solution. What is the “happily-ever-after” ending of the story? (“Happily-ever-after” may be more useful language to use with children, depending on their ages.)

 

Step 2: During the Movie

As you watch the story unfold in the movie, be on the lookout for the Creation—Fall—Redemption—New Creation themes played out through the main character—who typically is the hero—and the situations in which he or she finds himself or herself. The most important themes in every story are the main problem, the hero, and their solution to the problem. No good story exists without a clear picture of these themes. Then think through how this compares and contrasts to God’s storyline in the Bible.

Step 3: After the Movie

Ask your kids what they thought was the Creation—Fall—Redemption—New Creation themes in the story. Then do step two with them, helping them connect the biblical storyline with specific details of the movie storyline. Help them to contrast the story of the movie with the Story of God, pinpointing the difference between Jesus as our true Hero with His solution to our problem of sin, and the hero and solution offered in the movie’s story.

Comparing and contrasting the Hero Jesus with the hero of the movie’s story is the most powerful part of this process. Your kids need to see how distinct, unique, better, and greater the story of Jesus’s redemption is compared to pop cultural stories. When lining up any story with the true Story of the Bible culminating in our redemption, that story is ultimately shown to pale in comparison because it fails to solve the most universal problem of humanity and the whole world: sin and its brokenness. Furthermore, most stories will tell of a hero who saves the day through personal strength, ingenuity, or some kind of magic. The biblical story, however, is unique and compelling because it offers us an upside-down example of a hero, one that is so counter-intuitive to what we usually imagine in this world: a hero who wins through weakness, self-giving love, suffering, and ultimately death. The Hero Jesus then achieves total victory over sin and death through His resurrection by the power of God.

In part two of this series, I will provide an example of how to do this engaging a recent family movie.

Yes, We Will Be Gathering on Christmas Day

Weeks ago the elders met to talk about the fact that Christmas falls on a Sunday this year... would we gather as a church family? Would we take the Sunday off?  For us, there was very little discussion - of course we would gather!  Both Macon and Milledgeville will gather at 10:30 in our regular meeting space (tba in Macon).  Because we are uncertain of where we will be gathering in Macon, we will not be holding our normal Christmas Eve service.
Below is a helpful article from the Gospel Coalition.  Merry Christmas!


A PLEA TO PASTORS: DON’T CANCEL CHURCH ON CHRISTMAS
by Kevin DeYoung

December 1, 2016

Dear brother pastor,

I hope it’s not too late to make you reconsider your decision to cancel church on Christmas.

I know that December is crazy busy—for you and for everyone else.

I know you probably have Christmas Eve services, maybe even one that bumps up against midnight.

I know that families like to gather Christmas morning to open presents.

I know that many of your people may be traveling, and others won’t come to church on Christmas after coming on Christmas Eve.

I know that canceling church for one Sunday will not send all your people slouching to Gomorrah.

I know that getting volunteers for the worship team, and for the sound system, and for the nursery may be challenging.

I know that you’d rather not have to work on Christmas when you already had to work on Christmas Eve.

I know that you may have places to go and family to see.

I know that when Christmas falls on Sunday it’s an all-around big pain (why couldn’t Leap Day do us a favor and skip over this problem?!).

But don’t do it. Don’t cancel all your services on Christmas. Scale back on the nursery perhaps. Take the week off from Sunday school. Make things closer to an hour than to an hour and a half. Skip the life groups or even the second service for a day. But don’t close the church up on Christmas.

You need reasons? Here’s a few.

1. Most people will come back. Even if half of your people don’t show up (and I imagine far more than half will be there), that’s still a gathering of 25 or 50 or 150 or 400 or 1,200 people. In most churches, most of the people will still come to church on Christmas. And let’s not kid ourselves to think that we can encourage everyone to have a meaningful, thoughtfully prepared do-it-yourself service at home.

2. Visitors will be looking for a place to worship. Family members from out of town, neighbors, non-Christians, twice-a-year churchgoers—they may venture into your church on Christmas out of habit, out of curiosity, or just to hear some Christmas songs. Will anyone be there when they show up?

3. Family is a gift, not a god. I love, love, love waking up on Christmas, doing the Advent wreath with the kids, having a big brunch, and opening presents with the family. Yes, it will be hectic to get everyone out of the house for church (thank you to my wife!). Yes, it will mean a delay in all the normal festivities. But maybe the normal festivities should not be deemed more important than the Festival itself. I want my family to know that we rearrange our schedule for corporate worship; we don’t expect corporate worship to be rearranged for us.

4. It’s Christmas for crying out loud! It’s the day we celebrate the incarnation, the birth of the Messiah, the entrance into our world of the second Person of Trinity. Don’t we want to sing? Don’t we want to celebrate? Don’t we want to preach and praise and pray?

5. It’s Sunday for crying out louder! I don’t have a problem with Advent and Christmas. In fact, I love this time of year. I’m not a huge church calendar guy, but I’m not bothered by focusing on the incarnation once every twelve months, especially when the world around us may, by God’s kindness, be tuned in to some of the same spiritual realities at the same time. But I’m enough of a Puritan to think that December 25 is Sunday before it’s Christmas. It’s the Lord’s Day. It’s a resurrection morning. It’s the day on which Christians have gathered for 2,000 years to sing the Bible, preach the Bible, pray the Bible, and see the Bible in the sacraments. It’s the day of the week given for rest and worship. Why would we cancel church on Sunday just because that Sunday is extra-special?

Maybe you’ve already printed the Advent schedule. Maybe the plans are already set. But it’s not too late to change your mind. Will your church’s ministry crumble without church one Sunday? I doubt it. But might it say something good and healthy about your convictions and priorities if you gather for corporate worship on December 25 just like you do every other Sunday? Something to think about.

Remember, Remember...

“This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made.
Let us rejoice, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Is this song familiar to anyone? It has been engrained in my head ever since college. A friend of mine that served in the college ministry we were a part of would sing this every morning. Whenever we were at retreats or any overnight function, as soon as the sun came up, he would hop out of bed and start singing it over and over again at the top of his lungs while shaking everyone awake. Because of that, to this day I wake up randomly singing that song. 

In many cultures, songs have been used to help tell stories and remember them and pass them down from generation to generation. Songs convey ideas in such a way that help us to remember words and thoughts. One of the many reasons we sing at New City Church is to remember. The best thing that we can remember is the Gospel, the truth of God, the Lord and Creator redeeming and adopting our wandering hearts through the blood of Christ. 

Let’s face it, remembering is hard. How many times in a week do you forget something? Or even, how many times in a day do you forget something? I can tell you that if I don't write something down, I will probably forget. Forgetting is so common that there are numerous phone apps that help us jot down and remember, not to mention the endless wall of daily planners you find at bookstores. 

At New City Church, we gather as a family to remember the gospel. In preaching the word of God, the gospel is presented. Through music, the story of the gospel is presented through Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. Songs are filled with the truths of scripture for us as a church to sing them together with one voice. The hope is that these songs would stick in our minds and hearts so that whatever comes our way throughout the week or in life later, we are prepared to respond in such a way that glorifies our Lord Jesus. Whether we just won the lottery or our kids got into the right school or the passing of our loved one, we remember our Sovereign Lord and Creator who continually loves us. We remember our Father who is for us and not against us. We remember our Lord, Jesus and His work on the cross. We remember that we are not alone. We remember our brothers and sisters in Christ. We remember the Holy Spirit that dwells in us richly. We remember that God uses these circumstances to shape us more into the image of Christ. We remember the Gospel. 

We have a Spotify playlist put together for the sole purpose of remembering. The playlist is filled with truth-filled songs that we sing on Sunday mornings at New City. Whether you are commuting to work or winding down at home, or maybe you're having a particularly tough day, listen, learn, and sing these truths and be reminded of who God is, who we are, what He has done for us, and our response.

          NEW CITY SOUND PLAYLIST

This next link below will take you to a playlist that changes every week. Each week we sing different songs, some new and some old. To prepare us for Sundays, this playlist was created to help us learn and prepare our hearts to sing together on Sunday mornings. It's hard when we don’t know the songs or aren’t familiar with them. Now we have the opportunity to learn and know the songs we will sing during our gathered worship. We can now come prepared to sing along with our brothers and sisters in Christ, unified through the truths of scripture in song. Create an account and follow this Spotify playlist to prepare every week for gathered worship.  

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               NC SUNDAY MORNING

If you want to read more about what our Sundays look like at New City, check out our previous posts on Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration in the link below. 

The Songs We Sing…

CREATION

FALL

REDEMPTION

RESTORATION

The Gospel Isn't a Cul-de-sac

The cul-de-sac was a phenomenal invention for the suburbs.

It created a safe and peaceful place for families to raise children.

No one passed through. In fact, the only time strangers can appear is after a wrong turn and they find themselves at the dead end. The design made it simple for those who don’t belong to quickly turn around.

It also kept everyone who belonged there in one place. Once you came in, you didn’t have to leave. You could remain the rest of your days with likeminded folks, playing games in your asphalt sanctuary.

The cul-de-sac is the epitome of the suburban life and vaues. However, the gospel is not a cul-de-sac. It isn’t a safe sanctuary that separates you from the dangers of the world—it throws you into the world. It isn’t your private enclave to secure your values and doctrines. It ushers you into a hospitality for the other—the not like you.  The gospel is doctrinal, changing what we believe. It also is personal, changing who we are. But it is more than that.

THE GOSPEL IS MISSIONAL: IT CHANGES WHERE & HOW WE LIVE.

If we just focus on the doctrinal and personal aspect of the gospel, we will neglect its missional aspect. If the doctrinal gospel changes what we believe, and the personal gospel changes who we are, then the missional gospel changes where we live and what we say. It is the hopeful announcement that God is making all things new in Christ Jesus! The gospel ushers us into a new kingdom and new world. We no longer live in a world dominated by death and deconstruction but one of life and re-creation!

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” —Luke 4:18-19, Isaiah 61

THE GOSPEL CHANGES EVERYTHING

The gospel changes everything. It is not only good news for us, but also for our neighbors, the poor, our city, and the world. It affects the social, cultural, and physical fabric of the universe. In Luke 4, Jesus preached the gospel to the poor, marginalized, and oppressed. It is good news for them because through his death and resurrection he has defeated sin, death, and evil (1 Jn. 2:13; 3:8). The gospel announces the in-breaking reign of Jesus, which is in the process of reversing the order of things. The poor become rich, the captives are freed, and the old become new.

THE GOSPEL SENDS US ON MISSION

Those who follow Jesus join his mission by making disciples of all ethnic groups by going, teaching, and baptizing (Matt. 28:18-20). We are sent to teach, speak, counsel, discuss, and proclaim the gospel to others so that they might be baptized into God’s new creation and join his mission of making all things new. We are called “ambassadors of reconciliation” and given the privilege of sharing in Jesus’ ministry of reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor. 5:17-20). Those who have been changed by the gospel share its life-changing power with others. We should announce and embody the good news by caring for the poor and rebuilding cities (Is. 61:4). In fact, the future for the people of God is an entirely new city in a new creation (Rev. 21). The church should be a movie trailer of this grand, coming attraction, when all things will be made new!

REMEMBER, THIS IS WHO YOU ARE

The result of the church—you, us—being sent is that we live as a community of disciples—not only devoted to Jesus and to one another—but devoted to our neighbors and our city, too. When we come to Christ, we are all sent on his mission.

We are new and have a new purpose. Christ reconciled us to himself and we are a new creation. Our old way of finding identity and our broken ways of finding meaning are over. We are reconciled and ushered into a vibrant and living relationship with God. This is the gospel, that Christ has reconciled us to God through his death and resurrection and is making all things new—even us. We are recipients of the gospel, messengers of the gospel, servants of the gospel, and are representatives of the gospel’s work. See, you cannot separate our identity in Christ from our purpose in Christ. That identity and purpose requires some sort of expression of gospel focused community on mission:

  • We live on mission because we have received the gospel.
  • We live on mission because we are messengers of the gospel. He is making his appeal to the world through us.
  • We live on mission because we are ministers of reconciliation—servants of the gospel.
  • We live on mission because we are ambassadors—representatives of the gospel.

12 SIMPLE WAYS TO BE ON MISSION THIS HALLOWEEN

(From Verge Network)

This coming Halloween offers a great opportunity for many to engage in new relationships with those around us or to revisit some old relationships with new missional intentionality. Regardless of what you think of the holiday and it’s roots, the culture we have been sent by Jesus to reach is going to celebrate Halloween. We all have in front of us a wide open door for missionary engagement in our neighborhoods. I want to encourage you not to miss out on the opportunity.

If you are looking to be more intentionally engaged this year, I want to present you with a few ideas for how you can more effectively walk through the open door that Halloween presents to us as Jesus’ missionaries.

BE HOSPITABLE

Don’t just give out candy:

1. Give out the best Candy

Please, don’t give out tracks or toothbrushes or pennies…kids are looking for the master loot of candy. Put yourself in their shoes.

2. Think of the Parents

Consider having some Hot Apple Cider and pumpkin bread or muffins out for the parents who are bringing their little kiddos around the block. Make your entry-way inviting so they want to come closer and hang for a bit if possible.

3. Be Present

Don’t hide out all night. Come out to the door or hang out on the porch and if they stop to have some cider, get to know their names and where they live in the neighborhood.

4. Be Encouraging

Tell the kids you love their costumes and to have a great night. Practice building others up with words.

5. Party

If you’re really into it, you may want to throw a pre-Trick or Treating party. Provide dinner and drinks. Then, send the dads out trick or treating with the kids while the moms continue hanging with some hot apple cider, coffee or tea. Then reconvene with the parents and kids together to examine all of the loot (kids love to show their parents and other kids the loot).

6. Learn the Stories

If you are out Trick or Treating with the kiddos or staying back with the other parents, ask questions…get to know their stories. Pay attention to their hearts and their felt needs. Look for opportunities to serve them later. This is how I first got to know Clay (while Jayne was hanging with Kristi and the other moms). I learned his story while we were with the kids and Jayne got to know hers. This led to both of them eventually coming to faith in Jesus.

GO TO THEIR PLACE

Join what is happening elsewhere:

7. Attend the Party

If others are throwing parties, you may want to join them. If so, bring drinks, food or whatever is needed. Then, serve by helping to clean up.

8. Join the Community

If your community has key events, join them and invite some neighbors to go with you (then get to know their stories along the way). Our area has a trick or treating event on a main street where all the businesses give out candy, the firemen give tours of the fire engines, etc. We go with a group of friends to this each year and consistently meet more people to reach out to.

9. Head to the “Watering Holes”

If you do not have kids or are not going to engage in the Trick or Treating activities or events, consider going to the local pubs, restaurants or clubs near you for their events and get to know the people there. Make it your goal to learn the story of at least one person who needs Jesus and walk away with some next steps on how to serve them. You will want to do this with others so that you don’t go it alone.

BE PRAYERFUL

Ask for the Spirit to lead, guide and work:

10. Pay Attention

Ask the Spirit to open your eyes and ears to the real needs around you.

11. Stay Dependent

Ask the Spirit to help you listen, care and serve those around you.

12. Open Doors

Ask the Spirit for open doors for new relationships and gospel conversations

(- Jeff Vanderstelt)

14 More Resources to Help You Be on Mission this Halloween

  1. 3 Tips for Discipling Your Kids on Halloween
  2. Halloween: Trick, Treat, or Missional?
  3. 3 Practical Ways to be Missional This Halloween
  4. Why Throwing Parties is Missional
  5. Halloween is for Mission - 5 Practical Ways to be Missional on Halloween
  6. 3 Tips for Reaching Your Neighbors this Halloween
  7. How to Use Hospitality to Reach Out to Your Neighbors
  8. 5 Simple Ways to Move Your Neighbors from Strangers to Missionaries
  9. How to Listen to Your Neighborhood
  10. 3 Simple Ways to Give True Hospitality
  11. How to Have a Missional Meal
  12. 5 Ways to Bless Your Neighbors
  13. Simple Ways to Share Your Faith
  14. Halloween is Not Important

Derailed by the Good

Tracks.jpg

One of the most beautiful and intimate stories in the Bible is found in Luke 10:38-42.  This story reflects the dilemma that I have in my life and that many others who desire to live for Jesus may have.  In this story a lady named Martha invites Jesus to her home.  How awesome is it to have Jesus personally come to your home?  In actuality that is what He does when we invite Him into our hearts.  He comes and dwells within us through the Holy Spirit. In this story you can tell that Martha has a heart for Jesus.  In fact, she is so glad that Jesus came to her home, she welcomed Him and proceeded to do everything within her home to make Jesus feel comfortable.  Martha became so consumed with doing for Jesus, a good thing, that she got derailed from something even better than doing for Jesus.  She exchanged being with Jesus for doing for Jesus.  Doing for Jesus was a good thing but being with Jesus was better. 

Why am I writing about this particular story?  I see a parallel in this story to where I am in my life today and possibly where some of you struggle.  There is something within me that wants to DO.  There is something within me that doesn’t seem to be able to stop doing.  My mind continually comes up with things to do.  They are all good things but they pull me away from the best thing.  I get so caught up in good things that I have very little time for the best.  In America, we are privileged to have access to so many things.  The more things we get the more things there are for us to get and to get into.  I’m not even considering bad things, though they pull at us as well.  For example, I struggle with immersing myself in a demanding job and being excellent at it, as opposed to involving myself in a greater capacity in ministry.  My heart truly aches- to do better in my job can mean less time in ministry, less time in discipleship, less time in so many things that are eternal.  Is there anything else? Of course there is!  At this point in my life I’m turning sixty. I realize that my time is much shorter.  I want to finish well.  What’s preventing me from finishing well?  I have things to do.

So then how can I rectify this dilemma, this hurting that’s in my heart?  First I must remember that just because I am doing in ministry doesn’t necessarily mean that I am being all that Christ wants me to be.  I am loved by Jesus. I am accepted in Him, yet there is a deep aching and yearning in my heart to reciprocate all that He has done for me.  I want to do something for Him.  What can I do?  Jesus told Martha to take a cue from Mary.  “But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’" (Luke 10:41-42)

Maybe you and I can take some cues from Mary that will help us to not get so distracted by doing good things.  First we must learn to focus on the best and not get distracted by the good.  Martha wasn’t wrong by any means in what she was doing and neither are we.  For all the good things that we do, keeping the house inside and out, taking kids to games and spending time with family, watching sports, working extra and so forth are all good things. Only one thing is necessary- that we spend time with Jesus.  The good things derail us from serving well.  The good things derail us from giving our all.  The good things capture people like you and me and hold us hostage to doing and accomplishing as we neglect the sweet fellowship found in the presence of Jesus.  The psalmist David said this- “One thing I have desired of the Lord and that I will seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my living.”  David was a king with no doubt hundreds of things to do every single day, yet somehow he was able to choose the best thing, and that was spending time with Jesus. How was David able to focus?  He probably did what Peter instructs us to do, “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)  Some things we must by faith give over to Jesus. 

Secondly, we must concentrate on doing a few things well and be at peace with letting other things go.  This dilemma has created an emotional train wreck in my heart.  In writing this, my heart cries “Hypocrite” all day long because so many good things derail me from the best. How in the world can I counsel you?! Letting go of the good is a faith step in the transformation process.  For me doing good things seems to be a stronghold in my life that crept in somehow over time.  Jesus said this- “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation for the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Matt. 26:41)  Maybe in my involvement in ministry, in people’s lives, and in trying to live out the gospel in everyday living I failed to watch the temptations from every aspect of my own personal life.  I’ve probably been keeping a watchful eye for the sinful things but I probably never thought about the good things being temptations that can derail me from the best.

Help me Holy Ghost!  I can’t go on!

Reconciled in Christ | Thoughts from Asia

As many of you know, earlier this year, New City partner Erik P. moved to Asia as a teacher. He is able to attend an international church that is made up of people from many different countries. They are currently going through a study of Ephesians. Take a moment to read Erik's thoughts on Paul's prayer in Ephesians 3:18-21, and continue to pray for how God will use Erik on His mission in Asia.

Ephesians chapter three ends with a beautiful prayer: 

I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

I have read that prayer, stood in awe of its description of the power of God and the love of Christ, and prayed it myself many times, but I've never asked why Paul prayed it. What drove him to this soaring acknowledgment? Beyond the fact that this prayer is a true statement about God's character, I believe Paul had a specific purpose in praying this way for the believers in Ephesus, and for that we need to go back to the beginning of the book of Ephesians.

Paul wrote this letter to, "The saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus." These saints were Gentiles living in modern day Turkey. Paul wrote to tell them about, "God, who is rich in mercy" (Eph. 2:4) and the great grace of God. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – not the result of works, so that no one may boast." (2:8,9) He then proceeds to remind the Ephesians where they were before they knew Christ.

So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called"the uncircumcision" by those who are called "the circumcision"- a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands -remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Eph. 2:11,12

They were separated from God, not a part of his chosen people Israel, and without hope. The Jews were God's chosen people and these Ephesians were not. But God in Christ changed all of this and I love the way Paul describes it. "You who once were far off have been brought near." (2:13) "He has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is the hostility between us." (2:14) "That he [God] might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two." (2:15) "[That he] might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility." (2:16) "The Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body." (3:6)

Not only has God brought these two formerly hostile groups together into one body, but he specifically designed the church to shout this good news of reconciliation to the world. "That through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be make known." (3:10) The wisdom of God is the gospel, his plan from the creation of the world to bring grace to his creation, and for the Ephesians, to reconcile the Jews and the Gentiles through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This is the reason Paul prays the way he does. He experienced God's great mercy, love, and grace and was commissioned to bring this good news to both Jews and Gentiles. Paul wanted the Ephesians to celebrate their reconciliation, live in the family of God, and stand in awe of, "Him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine." (3:20)

We can join this prayer. "I pray that you may have power to comprehend...the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge...to him who...is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine." Do I really comprehend that love or understand God's power? If the love of Christ and the power of God can reconcile Jews and Gentiles surely God can reconcile blacks and whites in Christ and bring us both into his family. When I look at our world and see refugees and migrants on one hand and 4th and 5th generation citizens on the other, do I believe God's love can reconcile both groups? Paul says yes in Christ! The Jews and Gentiles two thousand years ago are the proof that God's power can accomplish far more than we can imagine.

What people do we imagine are irreconcilable today? Which groups have a dividing wall of hostility that's just too high? Different races? Can God bring conservatives and liberals into the same family through Christ? Popular kids and the loners? Imperialists and the conquered? Poor and rich? Terrorists and the terrorized? Those too dirty to set foot in a church and those too clean to reach out? God give us power with all the saints around this world to grasp the breadth, length, height, and depth of your love for us and for our unreconciled neighbors. God, show us your power at work within us that can accomplish far more than we can ever dream. And God, when you reconcile us with those we are separated from, please use our church to display your glory to the world.    

Welcome to New City Church - You Are Invited!

OUR VISION

What’s in a name? In this case, everything. We believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ is indeed transformative. Therefore, we believe that as we share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the people of our city, our city will be transformed and made new, but not just our city, the world! 


Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed...
— Romans 12:2

Because of this, we dream of seeing the gospel transform everything within our reach  - ourselves, our church, our city and the world.

OUR MISSION

Our mission is to help people live in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

OUR IDENTITY

We believe that we will best fulfill this mission and see this vision come to be as we live as a family of missionary servants, disciples of Jesus making disciples of Jesus.

YOUR INVITATION

If you do not currently have a church home or maybe you have never had a church home, we would love to have you be a part of New City Church.

Join us this Sunday!     

Milledgeville Campus
197 Log Cabin Rd

Coffee 10:00         
Worship 10:30  

Macon Campus
533 Cherry St
         
Worship 9:30 or 11:00

as Christ has welcomed us...

Each week at New City, between a time of songs together and a time in the Scripture together we hear these words, "... now let's take moment to welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us."  Those words lead us into a couple of minutes of greeting one another.  

We often take those words and this time lightly.
We shouldn't.
It is a moment to remember the gospel, a time to act it out.

Jesus, told his disciples a parable about his return, judgment, and things that are dear to Him said in Matthew 25, "34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’"

The King welcomed these people into the Kingdom because they had welcomed others. We shouldn't read this as good works being the way to the Kingdom; Jesus is the way. We should however see that, at the very least, those who enter the Kingdom love and welcome others. 

In a spiritual sense, before we met Jesus, each of us could be classified as hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, or imprisoned. We were all desperately needy and had nothing to offer. The Good News of the Gospel is that in our broken, weary, needy state, Jesus not only saw us, but sought us, and beckoned to us. He reached out to us and met our every need. Jesus welcomed us, not because of what we offered, but because of his great love. 

I was that guy - hungry, thirsty, naked, sick and bound in sin.  I was desperate and needy. I had nothing to offer, nothing to bring to the table... and yet, Jesus welcomed me. That was then and is now such sweet news to me. It is the Gospel. Christ welcomed me full of joy and mercy - the perfect picture of grace.

For us, every Sunday morning's greeting time is an opportunity to remember how he welcomed us. And it is an opportunity to welcome someone else in the same way- be it a friend or a stranger... joyfully, mercifully - a beautiful picture of grace extended.  

Will you join me this Sunday in welcoming others as Christ has welcomed you?
Will you show the same hospitality that he has shown to you?
You have the opportunity to be a living portrait of his grace extended... for a moment to be the good news in flesh. Will you?  Greetings are never just greetings.

Children & Missional Communities

One of the questions I am often asked of people interested in joining a Missional Community at New City is, "What do we do with our kids?" It is often asked as if a family had attended a small group before coming to New City, but there was some resistance for children to attend. 

At New City, children are a blessing and most of our Missional Communities are filled with 'challenging' blessings. As I have trained new MC Leaders, this is also a common question, "What do we do with kids?" Jayne Vanderstelt unpacks this common question like this:

Keep in mind, when we think about children and our missional community, we ask: How can our children join us in the overall mission? How do we disciple them all week long? How do we make sure the mission is accessible for them? How do we ensure they can participate? How do we help them reach their peers as well?
When we think about our gathering on Tuesday nights, we don’t feel like we have to address all of these in our 2–3-hour time together. We address these through the whole-week approach.

Stepping back from the once a week, 2-hour Family Gathering, the question really needs to be asked from an all of life perspective in order to help us understand how to handle kids during the weekly event. If an MC is intentionally doing life together in community, children will be discipled during the normal course of the week. This could include family devotional times, meeting with other families at the park, enjoying meals together, and even recreational sports.

Our children also should be included in our monthly Third Place activities as well as the Missional Focus that the MC is engaging. This gives parents an opportunity to not only talk about their lives as a family of missionary servants, but to show them that their daily lives are fully engaged in practical life practice. Most children, like many adults, learn best by combining action and words. Incorporating our children into regular rhythms of loving and serving others allows them to grow up in community and increases their value of it.

When we look at the specific Family Gathering, we need to be very intentional with our time. We are intentional about meal planning, finding childcare, crafting questions and inviting, so we need to be intentional with our children. Here are a few ways that will help in blending children into the MC Family Gathering.

  1. Time – Start and stop on time. Not only does this respect the time of your MC, but it also helps to clarify the time frame that the children’s time needs to be planned. Typically, the MC conversation lasts 45 min. to an hour long, so that is about how long kids will be separate from the adults. 
  2. Variety – Normally we have children of a variety of age groups, so planning one activity to engage every age is difficult. Also, if the kids do the same thing every week, boredom will quickly set in and intentional discipleship time could be wasted. I have found that coming up with a rotation (stations) is extremely helpful in keeping kids engaged, and providing a structure for the childcare worker to work from. A rotation doesn’t have to be super complicated and can include a bible story, watching a short video, coloring, free play, outside games, a craft, etc.
  3. Place – While we encourage our MC’s to keep their kids with them during the meal time and some can even enjoy the other activities that MC’s often incorporate into their Gathering such as prayer time, music and even hearing someone’s Story, it’s important to for them to have a space of their own. This could be an extra bedroom, a separate living room, or even a tent in the backyard where kid's can play, watch, read or work on crafts.

Children can be an important part of a Missional Community, not a hindrance that must be endured. Children in community have the unique opportunity to see their parents living out their faith, so clear pathways for them to engage is important. Having someone who can spend time with the kids instead of a parent, allows parents to fully engage in the conversation and for some, give a much needed break from a difficult week.

Remember that you are not being stuck back with the kids, that your discussions are NOT superior and more important than your interactions with these young ones. You can’t look at these kids as a hindrance or interruption. They need to be taught and guided, and sometimes, depending on their ages, this needs to be done in a separate area of the house so they can best learn and engage. It is an honor and privilege to pray for, prepare lessons for, and to hang out with them.
Most of the obstacles in our own group have been not logistics but a heart issue. I have totally struggled with this in the past, which is why I feel I can speak into it. My heart in the past has looked down on this task and looked at it as overwhelming and “not fair” that I am always “stuck” with figuring it out. I am ashamed of that—but thank you, Jesus, for interrupting my thoughts and forgiving this sin, revealing to me this is a situation to embrace, not “solve.” Hopefully, by the grace of God after a little teaching to your adults, you will have people arguing about who gets to be with the kids next. I will pray you will see that happen.

If you are new to New City and considering joining a Missional Community, know that your children are welcome, planned for, and engaged with. If you would like help in getting plugged in, contact Patrick at patrick@newcitymacon.org.

(adapted from Jayne Vanderstelt’s article posted at saturatetheworld.com)

How Would You Feel, If He Were Yours?

Terence Crutcher was a father, a son and a brother. He had four children. His friends described him as, "relaxed, fun, reserved." His pastor said that Terence Crutcher was in church almost every Sunday. He sang in the choir. He was taking classes at the local community college.
He was shot and killed by a police officer in Tulsa, OK on September 16.
The details of exactly what happened are still being sorted and as always they conflict, depending on who you hear. 
But set that aside.
Watch the video and honestly ask yourself, "If he were my brother, my son, my father, my classmate, my choir mate, what would I feel? If he sat next to me every Sunday at church, how would I see these events? If he were my brother in Christ, watching this video, how would I respond?  If this was my friend, would I be sad? hurt? angry? Would I see these events as just and fair?"

Let me share my feelings...
I am hurt. I am angry. I am sickened. I am saddened. 
I don't know what I can do to change this - to fix it.
But I know that I can't be silent on this. I can't be any more silent on Terence Crutcher's death than I would be if he were my brother, my son, my dad. This is a sick and sad injustice.

Dear Lord, help us.

 

*edit note:
I do not plan on responding to comments. I think that the post clearly explains my thoughts. We are all entitled to our opinions. Let's keep them peaceful.

New City Sessions: “Death Has Lost Its Sting”

Death Has Lost Its Sting

Words by Isaac Watts, Adapted by Rebecca Dennison, Arranged by Mike Cosper

Amanda Christopher - Vocals
Adam Crosby - Vocals
Arthur Lin - Guitar
newcitychurches.org/

Video by Andy Carter Photography
andycarterphoto.com/

My God, how many are my fears
How fast my foes increase
Conspiring my eternal death
They break my fleeting peace

The lying tempter would persuade
My heart to doubt your aid
And all my swelling sins appear
Much greater than your grace

Arise, Oh Lord, fulfill your grace
While I your glory sing;
My God has broke the serpent’s teeth
And death has lost his sting

But you my glory and my strength
Will on my tempter tread
Will silence all my threatening guilt
And raise my drooping head.

Arise, Oh Lord, fulfill your grace
While I your glory sing;
My God has broke the serpent’s teeth
And death has lost his sting

And though the hosts of death and hell
All armed against me stand
No more will terrors shake my soul;
Secure within your hand.

Arise, Oh Lord, fulfill your grace
While I your glory sing;
My God has broke the serpent’s teeth
And death has lost his sting