It's Time to Plant Again... sort of

MACON.

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It's time.
New City is a Church Planting church. We believe strongly in planting new churches to reach new people with the good news of Jesus.
And it's time... for a 2nd service in Macon.

Yes, a second service. As we have grown, we have quickly maxed out our facilities for one service - we are down to only a few open parking spaces even after cleaning up more parking area next door, our kid's classes are often 110-120% capacity, our main floor worship area (which is packed pretty tight) consistently runs at 75%+ capacity. This is not a surprise. We hoped that this would happen and happen quickly and it has.  So we are aiming for adding a second service January 14, 2018.  Service times will be 9am and 11am - we'll post more on that as we get closer.

Why talk about church planting and scare us all, then talk about a second service...

Because starting a new service is much like planting a new church.

We plant new churches with the goal of reaching new people.
That's the goal of starting a second service - reach people who aren't in church or don't know Jesus!  Adding different service times extends the reach of the church, which opens the possibility of reaching new people.

Planting new churches requires extra work and energy.
Starting a second service will mean that we are stretched in every area for workers. It will require us to do more, or it may just require a few more of us doing.

Planting a new church means there are new people we don't know and some people we don't see as much.
Starting a second service will mean that there are people at New City that we don't see and others that we don't know. While that is a negative in some ways and maybe feels uncomfortable in other ways, it is also a great positive - it means that we are reaching more people!

Our facilities are maxed. That's a great problem!  But it is still a problem. A problem that adding a second service easily making room for us to grow by reaching more people. 
So here's what we need from you, our New City people:

* If you are already serving, THANK YOU!  Keep doing what you do so well!

* If you aren't serving or serve infrequently, we need you. We will begin ramping up our Connect Teams, our Children's Teams (teachers, helpers) and possibly our Tech and Music Teams, if you are able, serve.

* Pray. Pray that New City would continue to reach out to friends, family members, neighbors and coworkers.  Pray that as we do, God would give us opportunity to be a part of seeing those people come to love and follow Jesus AND become a part of our New City family!

* Expect. As we pray, serve and share with those around us, I expect God to do great things. This is after all, His mission. Expect people to come when you invite them, expect non-believers to believe because they hear the gospel and see its transforming power, expect our services to fill again and our MCs to grow and plant new MCs - expect great things from God because seeing those things is His desire.

PS
While we expect growth to slow some over the upcoming holidays, if it doesn't, we could be adding that second service sooner!  Stay tuned.

Singing Helps Us Feel the Gospel

God has taken the most precise way of communicating truth, which is words, and combined it with the vaguest way of communicating truth, which is music - and he’s put them together to make singing. The purpose is that what we know with our minds gets connected in our hearts.
— Bob Kauflin paraphrasing Harold Best

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One of the biggest joys for me at New City is singing gospel truths together. At our Sunday worship gatherings we walk through and sing the gospel story. We sing old hymns and new songs, all in response to who God is and what He has done for us. In an interview with Bob Kauflin, he states that not only does singing help us to know these truths intellectually, but it helps us to actually feel the gospel. As we are singing, we slow down and take time to read and repeat certain lines “and in doing so, the weight and significance has longer to ring in our souls and penetrate to our depths,” says interviewer David Mathis. Check out the rest of this interview with Bob Kauflin.


by: David Mathis

You were made to sing. God created music, and designed humans to sing along. 

Mere naturalistic theories cannot adequately account for this global phenomenon, present among every people group on the planet. The fingerprints of the creator mark the sound of music.

And what nature makes plain, God’s own word makes even clearer. The Psalms alone issue nearly thirty commands to sing. Another thirty passages include promises that we will sing praise. The Bible celebrates song from the very beginning, as Adam sings for the woman God made for him (Genesis 2:23), through to the very end, as the bride of heaven sings for the groom God gave her — with choruses old (Revelation 15:3) and new (Revelation 5:914:3).

Jesus himself — fully God in full humanity — sang on earth (Matthew 26:30Mark 14:26), and he sings even now among the happy congregation of heaven (Romans 15:9Hebrews 2:12). One day soon his Church will be fully gathered with him, and she will enjoy endless music with him.

Sing to Stir the Soul

Something mystical and seemingly supernatural works in us when we sing. Music cultivates the happiness and wholeness of the human soul. Singing stirs and engages the heart, celebrating our greatest joys and consoling us in our deepest sorrows.

Ask songwriter and beloved worship-leader Bob Kauflin about the place of song in the church’s corporate worship, and he’ll direct you to two times the apostle Paul explicitly mentions singing. Ephesians 5:19 speaks of our “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” Colossians 3:16 instructs us, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Colossians 3:16–17 comes in the context of Paul describing what it looks like to live a gospel-fueled life as a community in the midst of a pagan society,” says Kauflin. That picture is increasingly relevant in our day. 

“Right in the middle of it, he talks about singing. It’s similar to Ephesians 5where he goes right from singing to household relationships. Why does he do that? Why is singing so important?”

Connect Mind and Heart

Kauflin’s answer is penetrating, and it is instructive for why God would have music and song occupy such a prominent place not only in worship, but in all of life.

“There’s something about singing that both enables and encourages the rich indwelling of the word of Christ in our hearts. The ‘word of Christ’ is the gospel. It’s who Jesus is, what he’s done, and why it matters. That gospel is to dwell in us richly through singing. Singing is what helps us do that and express that.”

Paraphrasing musicologist Harold Best, Kauflin says, “God has taken the most precise way of communicating truth, which is words, and combined it with the vaguest way of communicating truth, which is music — and he’s put them together to make singing. The purpose is that what we know with our minds gets connected in our hearts.”

God designed singing “to help us feel the truth. More specifically, it’s meant to help us feel the gospel.”

Affect the Affections

How, then, does singing help us feel the gospel? One way, among many, is “singing helps us meditate and reflect on the words we’re singing by drawing them out. We slow it down, we repeat it” — and in doing so, the weight and significance has longer to ring in our souls and penetrate to our depths. This slowing down and repeating sets song apart as markedly different than mere speech.

“If we spoke like that, it would be odd. People would wonder what your problem is. But when we sing, it makes perfect sense. It allows time for those truths to seep down into our souls and impact us and affect us and change not only our emotional state but the choices we make, the things we do, because we do the things we love.

“God gave us singing to affect the things we love, to remind us of the things that are most important about what Jesus Christ has done to save us, to redeem us — those things are most important in life. We want to be amazed by those truths.”

God Gave You a Song

Singing serves our true happiness and wholeness as humans, but that doesn’t mean we all incline toward music with the same intensity, or have the same skill in song.

Some of us simply don’t like to sing; others, as the expression goes, couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. Yet that shouldn’t keep any human — and especially any Christian — from the power and pleasure of music and song.

“The question isn’t, ‘Has God given you a voice?’ but, ‘Has God given you a song?’ I’ve worked with guys who are tone deaf, literally tone deaf . . . . I would rather have them sing and express what God has done in their lives, in their hearts, than just remain silent.

“God has given you a song. You just need to find out the ways you can sing it, and use every opportunity you can to sing it — because God means for song not only to express what’s in your heart, but to encourage what’s in your heart, or what should be in your heart.”

What should we do in corporate worship when we don’t feel like singing? Kauflin has a hopeful remedy. 

“Confess your weakness, confess your inability, ask God to reveal his glory to you in Jesus Christ, and start singing the truths of God’s word. Most likely, it won’t be too long before your perspective changes, and you’re not thinking about whether you feel like singing anymore. You’ll be thinking about how worthy Jesus is to receive the praises of his people.”


Why I Pray In Response To Tragedy

photo: Pascal Bovet

photo: Pascal Bovet

by: Morgan Coyner

I prayed that God would strengthen my own faltering beliefs, that though I know God is good and sovereign, that when lives are taken en masse, it seems like he is neither of those things.

Waking up to the news of the Las Vegas shooting, I felt broken. I thought of one of my favorite worship songs, Hosanna, and the line that says "break my heart for what breaks Yours." I felt it. In the very core of my being, I felt sorrow and pain and anger about the loss of lives I do not know, will never get to know.

The first thing I did after getting out of bed was open my bright pink, glittered prayer journal and write. That's the easiest way for me to talk to God. I write him letters, open and honest, my heart leaking onto the page through purple ink.

I prayed for peace and comfort for those who may not have physical injuries but are most certainly going to be dealing with mental and emotional trauma after what they witnessed. Peace and comfort for families who have lost their worlds, their shining stars, the dearest parts of their hearts.

I prayed for understanding, that we would somehow glean meaning from what is an otherwise senseless and meaningless act of violence.

I prayed that God would strengthen my own faltering beliefs, that though I know God is good and sovereign, that when lives are taken en masse, it seems like he is neither of those things.

I prayed for God to reveal himself through this tragedy, for it to somehow, some way, bring people to Him.

What happened in Las Vegas, in Orlando, in Blacksburg, is a constant reminder that we live in a broken world functioning within broken systems being led by broken people. It's no wonder we often feel that things are falling apart. When the shoe rack hanging on your closet door breaks (which mine just did), you don't rehang it with its only remaining hook. You take it down and create a plan to get a new one, a fully functional one that will hopefully be more effective than its predecessor.

It's clear to me that we need a plan of action. We need to act on that plan of action. But that doesn't mean we don't pray. Prayers are not platitudes. Prayers are not meaningless words whispered or shouted into the abyss. Prayer is a real connection to our living God.

When the Israelites were in slavery, they prayed constantly to God. I imagine their prayers weren’t always faithful prayers. They were probably desperate prayers of anger. “Why are you doing this to us? How could you let us be treated this way?” Don’t we pray the same way?

During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.  — Exodus 2:23-25
"Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them." — Exodus 3:7-9

God knew the suffering of his people. He heard their cries. He reached out to Moses and set in motion a plan to give them victory, to deliver them from slavery in one of the most majestic and awe-inspiring stories in the Bible.

God tells Moses that he does this so that “his wonders might be multiplied” (Exodus 11:9), so that the glory is given to Him. We, as Christians, are to recognize God’s glory, proclaim God’s glory and reflect God’s glory. He gives us those opportunities.

...praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saint — Ephesians 6:18

God sent his Son to die for us, to carry our shame, to pay for our sins on the cross. When He did this, he gave us a connection to him, a way to speak to Him. The Bible tells us that we can pray all kinds of prayers and all kinds of requests. That doesn't mean every request will be granted, but we can ask for whatever we want with the confidence that, at the very least, it will be heard. This verse is written as a command. We are commanded to pray, not only for ourselves, but also for the Lord's people.

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. — 1 John 5:14

I know this post has been kind of scripture-heavy, but I want to make sure you know I'm not making this up based on my own personal ideas. It is written that he hears ANYTHING that we pray. And I know that things like peace and comfort and justice are part of his will. He hears these things.

I understand the heart behind the frustration with “thoughts and prayers” being a common and empty response. The frequency of violence and subsequently, the frequency of hearing that people are praying has desensitized us to the power prayer yields. God hears us, and God acts on our prayers. We can ask him for any request; we can ask him for changed laws, for better equipped politicians. God’s people still had to work to get out of Egypt. He didn’t simply pluck them up and place them into the land of milk and honey. We have work to do. We have senators to call, rallies to plan and attend, books to write, hard conversations to have with friends and families. But that work begins in prayer.

Why You Should Stop Trying to Numb Your Pain

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Today, across our nation and world, people are hurting. Maybe you are hurting over the tragedy in Las Vegas, or maybe it's from the pressures of life. Instead of masking and numbing your pain, there is a better way.


by Adriel Sanchez

As a pastor, part of what I do is deal with wounds. I’m not talking about scraped knees, or broken bones (although I do deal with those as a father of three kids!), but the deep spiritual wounds we all have. It doesn’t matter who you are, you have pain. I do, too. Right now, you might not be aware of your pain, but that’s not because it isn’t there. It’s because you’ve been numbing yourself.

Numbing yourself is a way of dealing with pain. The hurt is still there, the wound may even be infected, you just don’t feel it. Israel’s false prophets helped the Hebrews numb themselves, and God rebuked them for it. God told the prophet, Jeremiah, that those prophets had “healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” (Jer. 6:14) Instead of exposing the wound, and making it felt, they put a band-aid on what was broken.

You see, it’s much easier to put band-aids on ourselves (and it’s easier for pastors to do this for their parishioners) than it is for us to deal with our pain. You might not be feeling your wound because you’ve stacked so many band-aids on it.

We all have different ways of masking our pain. It could be excessive alcohol consumption, binging every night on Netflix, pornography, shopping, or eating. The list goes on and on, but quite simply, band-aids are those things which we use to escape our painful reality. They’re the stuff that helps us not to feel. They’re the things that say to us, “Peace, peace!” when deep down we’re a mess.

Stop and think for a second about what that might be in your life. What do you use to escape reality? How have you been medicating yourself to avoid having to feel your wounds?

We’re all guilty of this, but Jesus offers us a better way. You see, there’s something about his wounds that should bring us healing. The prophet Isaiah wrote of Jesus, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isa 53:5) This is not peace like the false prophets promised, artificial and temporary, but true healing.

Here again, we’re not talking about physical ailments per se, but the deep spiritual injuries caused by sin; the pain from broken homes and relationships, insecurities, anxieties, betrayal, hatred, and sexual failure. This list also goes on and on, and it’s difficult to talk about, which is why we try to avoid it at all costs.

But Jesus says we don’t have to avoid it. We don’t have to numb ourselves until we die after years of self-made-morphine. Instead of numbing our pain, we can be open and honest about our wounds so that the true healer can operate. We can see the wound for what it is, and not be terrified of feeling it. In fact, God would have us be aware of those wounds, and the pain can be a means of bringing us into his presence daily (yes, sometimes the hurt doesn’t go away).

Instead of trying to mask your pain, let it make you desperate for the one who knows what it feels like to be pierced, crushed, chastised, and abandoned. Find solidarity with his suffering, and healing in his stripes. Christianity doesn’t offer us an escape from pain, but the ability to truly feel it, because we don’t have to fear it. Our God, Jesus, is intimately aware of pain, having experienced it in his body, and he can deal with our wounds in a way that Netflix and six beers can’t.

Next time you’re tempted to numb out, turn to the One who felt pain for you. Allow yourself to feel your brokenness instead of pretending like it isn’t there. There may be tears, and that’s okay, God keeps track of them (Ps. 56:8). Ask God to do what only he can do, and grant you peace.

You may find yourself praying that prayer on a continual basis, but perhaps that’s one of God’s points in allowing suffering in the first place. It’s in our weakness that God’s grace often shines the brightest (2 Cor. 12:8-10), and should God be pleased to shine in your sorrow, let him. When he does, you’ll find the experience to be infinitely better than the band-aids you’ve been stacking.

 

Grace and Holiness: on Justification and Sanctification

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We talk a lot about the good news of the gospel at New City Church. Our weekly gatherings are ordered, and words and songs are carefully chosen to proclaim that good news. During the week we gather in homes all across Middle Georgia to talk about what it means to live in light of that same good news.

Jesus came to save sinners. He did that because we can't save ourselves. No matter how hard we try, we cannot overcome the sin and the guilt of sin that are ours. The good news is that Jesus lived the life that we could not. He died the death that we deserve. And in His resurrection, Jesus defeated death and sin and Satan. When we come to Him by faith, trusting in His work (his life, death, and resurrection) and not our own, then through faith we are forgiven of our sins and made forevermore to be children of God.  It is by His grace that we are saved through faith - it is His work and not our own (Ephesians 2:1-10). This good news we proclaim every week at New City. 

Most weeks at New City I urge those gathered on a Sunday to trust in Jesus and believe this good news. I plead with our congregation to stop trying to be righteous and earn good standing with God, Jesus offers it freely. I remind them and myself that even if I have failed this week or this morning, by faith I am a forgiven child of the King's, loved dearly. I say to all of us, "in Christ you have nothing to prove and no one to impress. You are a beloved son or daughter of the King and your Father is already impressed with you." It is true and it is indeed good news! You don't have to be perfect, holy and righteous in order to be loved - in fact you can't - that's why Jesus came... to save sinners.

This sometimes leads to the question, "Does this mean we can live any way want to?" Some say that this sort of salvation is a cheapening of grace.
Is it? What does this mean then about how we live as Christ followers?

To rightly answer, we need to understand two words, justification and sanctification.  

Justification is a legal term meaning the act of declaring someone just or righteous in God's eyes, fully meeting the divine requirements (Millard Erickson p918). The problem with bringing about our own justification is that we have all messed up and failed somewhere along the way - we aren't righteous and just. And an unrighteous and unjust person can't simply declare themselves righteous and just. No amount of good deeds takes away whatever bad deed(s) there may be. This is why Christ came - to take away our sins, to grant us His righteousness. The only way we are justified is through His life, death, and resurrection. This is freely offered to us and all that is required is faith.  We are justified by His work, not our own, through faith. 

Sanctification is a biblical term that refers to the setting aside of something or someone as holy. For those who trust in Christ and follow Him (Christians), this is progressive, meaning that while in Christ, God accepts us as righteous and just, we do not immediately become perfect in our thoughts, actions, and behaviors. We still mess up. We still sin. It is progressive because we spend our life growing in Christ and more and more being shaped into His image (Romans 8:28-30). We grow in holiness. While justification simply requires faith, sanctification is a process that requires our effort and discipline. We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) and to be holy as He is holy (I Peter 1:15). The beauty of this work is that it too is truly an act of grace!  Though we work and participate in our sanctification we do so because our hearts desire now to please Him. We work, not to earn His love or good standing with him, but because we are loved and now we love Him. It is also a work of grace because it is His Spirit that convicts us, empowers us and enables us toward sanctification.  

We do not work for our justification, but we work with the help of the Holy Spirit in our growing sanctification. We are saved from sin and its consequences wholly by grace. And we are saved TO a life of growing holiness, also by His grace.  James said that faith that is not accompanied with the fruit of works is not saving faith. So, while our works never justify us, those who are justified in Christ do have lives of growing holiness.  Tim Keller said it this way, "You are saved (from sin and the consequences of sin) by faith alone, but not by faith which remains alone... you're really saved by faith, not by how sanctified you are. But if you're not getting sanctified, then you don't have saving faith... Sanctification is the sign of salvation but not the cause"  (Tim Keller & John Piper). 

At New City, we proclaim both - Grace and Holiness. They are not mutually exclusive. Our justification is a free gift of grace AND a call to holiness. A call that we strive for and will one day reach because of His grace.

Welcomed In

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What comes to mind when you hear "hospitality?" Is it Martha Stewart or Joanna Gaines? A beautifully decorated home or a well-crafted meal?

Many people feel fear or guilt at the mention of hospitality, believing that it requires us to present beautiful and impressive homes that smell like Yankee Candle and are devoid of unfolded laundry. We desire to impress and delight, and our pride holds us back from inviting others in for fear of what they might think. While we can certainly show hospitality by inviting others into our homes and giving them a good meal, the heart of hospitality is so much more than that. Hospitality is not rooted in a 21st century concept of perfect homemaking but in the good news of the gospel.

On our own, our sin separates us from God. Making us not only strangers, but enemies to God. We have no seat at the table. But in Jesus, God has welcomed us in, treating strangers - and even enemies - as honored guests. Making us family. So how do we respond? We turn to the strangers and guests in our lives and invite them in as well.

In Matthew 25, Jesus is talking to his disciples about what a faithful follower looks like at the end of his life:

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

This is the kind of welcome that Jesus extended to the people he met during his ministry on earth, but it is also what he does for us right now. 

At Home

Our homes are a great place for this - making space for strangers in our most intimate and comfortable place. However, in a world that longs to impress and delight, we often let pride be the enemy of hospitality by focusing on the presentation rather than the people. I often feel fear when I think of inviting people over, worried that it's not enough. Not well-decorated enough, not large enough, not impressive enough (not to mention that I'm fighting a losing battle with my dog's hair). But all of the anxieties I feel around inviting people into my home only betray my fear of man and what they will think of me. The good news of the gospel tells me that I am loved and accepted by God, so I don't have to worry about what people think of me. The gospel enables us to invite people into our messy and broken lives, without fear of approval or disdain.

At Work

Home is often the first place we think of when it comes to hospitality, but there are so many opportunities to make space in our lives for the stranger or the guest. Bethany Jenkins wrote an article about hospitality in the workplace:

[H]ospitality is not just for the private sphere of our lives. It’s for our work, too. God called Israel to leave the edges of the harvest for the sojourner and the poor (Lev. 23:22). The harvest was their work and livelihood. Leaving some harvest for the poor cut into their proceeds. Their hospitality was costly.

Jenkins includes many helpful, practical suggestions in her article about the ways we can use the 40+ hours per week we spend at work to turn strangers into friends. When we separate our lives into distinct and unrelated bubbles, we miss important opportunities to influence our communities with the gospel. 

At New City

Hospitality is also an important part of our mindset and preparation for gathered worship on Sundays. Without practice in this, it may seem counter-intuitive. So many of us are used to walking into church on Sunday morning ready to receive - to be welcomed, to be fed, to be encouraged, to be loved. These are beautiful and good things, things that I desire for everyone who walks through our doors. But that only happens when the community of believers is also prepared to offer those things to one another and to the strangers we meet. We build this into our processes each week by organizing volunteers because it is important to us, but it goes so much further than the people who are wearing name tags. Hospitality is a natural response to the gospel, a desire to make others feel welcomed and loved as we have been. If we prepare for Sunday morning by praying for and seeking out those who are new to us, we are much more likely to meet a stranger and welcome them in.

Hospitality is For You

If you've made it this far, it is probably because you have a tendency toward or gift for hospitality and this subject interests you. If that is not the case, I want to encourage you. While there are some who are more readily inclined toward turning strangers into friends, hospitality doesn't require any special skills or abilities. All that it takes for us to show hospitality is a willingness to sacrifice our own comfort to make someone else comfortable. Sometimes that's physical comfort (offering a place in your home), financial comfort (buying a meal), or social comfort (striking up a conversation when you feel awkward). Jenkins writes:

Whatever our particular situations, though, the heart behind hospitality seeks to turn strangers into friends. And it’s amazing how many colleagues are strangers—needy, unseen, relationally disconnected people. Seeking them out for a relationship might be a rare kindness to them.

People are almost always loved, not argued, toward faith. We sometimes think the life of a Christian starts with conversion, then community, then discipleship. In reality, though, it usually starts with community. We first get to know some Christians. Then coming to faith seems plausible—in spite of our initial objections. Sometimes conversion takes years. When we build authentic, hospitable relationships with our colleagues, we begin to embody the truth of the gospel with our lives—even if we don’t immediately share it with our words. In our relationally broken culture, being a true friend is a rare thing.

How can you welcome someone in today? How will you prepare for Sunday?

Guarding Our Children

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Since stepping into the role of Student Director at New City, I have had a number of conversations and overheard many parents talking about keeping their students safe and well guarded when it comes to the internet. Becoming a father recently has caused me to think even more about guarding young eyes. Here is an article by Tim Challies with helpful tips, resources, and thoughts about how to protect your family. 


"I am a father of three children who are fully part of the digital generation. They are as comfortable with iPods as I am with a paperback and have only ever known a world where almost all of us have cell phones with us at all times, where Facebook is a teenager’s rite-of-passage, where every home has five or ten or twenty devices that can access the rest of the world through the Internet. Yet I know of the dangers that are lurking out there, waiting to draw them in.

I want to protect my children in a world like this, but I want to do more than that. I want to disciple my children to live virtuously, to use these new technologies for good purposes instead of bad ones. I believe this is a crucial part of my calling as a parent. To address this great need, I have put together what I call The Porn-Free Family Plan. It is a plan designed to protect my children from online dangers so that I can train them to use their devices and technologies well.

The Porn-Free Family Plan

A thorough plan needs to account for three types of device:

  • Fixed devices. These are the devices will only ever be used in the home. Here we have desktop computers in the home office or Internet-enabled televisions and gaming consoles. Parents can have a significant level of control over these devices.
  • Mobile devices. These are the laptops, tablets, smart phones and other devices that can be used in the home but also carried out of the home and used elsewhere. Parents can have as lesser degree of control over these devices.
  • Other people’s devices. These are the computers children may use at another person’s home or the tablets other children may show to their friends. Parents can have no control over these devices.

In all of this there are two broad goals: To prevent those who want to find pornography and to protect those who do not want to find it but who may otherwise find themselves exposed to it, to confound those who want to see porn and to shield those who don’t. And while the plan is geared specifically to combat pornography, it will also help battle other online dangers.

The Porn Free Family Plan has four steps: Plan, Prepare, Meet and Monitor.

Plan

You’ve heard the old maxim: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. The maxim applies well to what we are attempting to accomplish here. A successful plan will need to account for every device in your home that combines an Internet connection with a screen. So let’s get to work.

Step 1: Inventory
You need to know exactly how many Internet-enabled devices you have in your home. To do this, you will need to take an inventory. Make a list of all your Internet-enabled devices: desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smart phones. Don’t forget the Playstation 3, Xbox, smart televisions, Apple TVs, iPods, and e-reader tablets. Even a Kindle reading device has basic web-browsing capabilities. A family recently reported that after doing this they were shocked to learn they had 22 devices to account for!

Step 2: Budget
Decide whether you are able to make Internet security a regular and recurring monthly expense. Where it used to cost money to access pornography, today it often costs money to avoid it. While there are free options available, the best services have a cost associated with them. A budget of $20-$25 per month will allow a family to take advantage of the premier options.

Step 3: Learn
Now that you have taken your inventory and have a better grasp of the devices your plan needs to account for, it is time to learn about the options available to protect those who use them. There are four broad categories of protection we have available:

  • Filtering. Filtering proactively detects and blocks objectionable content. (Examples: If your child does an Internet search for “naked girls,” it will block the search; If your child mistakenly clicks a link to a pornographic web site, it will block access to the site.)
  • Accountability. Accountability software tracks web sites visited from different devices and then prepares and delivers regular reports. (Example: If your child visits a pornographic web site or performs a search for “naked girls,” the accountability software will note it and include it in a report emailed to you.)
  • Parental controls. Parental controls block certain functions of modern devices (Examples: Preventing the use of the Internet browser on an iPod Touch; preventing the use of the Facebook app on a tablet).
  • Communication. We cannot rely on technology to solve all of our problems, so the plan must also involve regular, deliberate and open communication.

Because none of these offers complete protection, the wise plan must use some combination of all four. The Porn-Free Family plan uses the following tools:

  • OpenDNS. OpenDNS uses filtering to automatically block objectionable web sites for every device connected to your home network. It is activated by making a small change to the settings on your existing router. 
  • Covenant Eyes. Covenant Eyes tracks the web sites visited by your computers and mobile devices and sends regular email reports; it also offers optional filtering that can be configured specifically for each member of your family.
  • Parental Controls. Parental controls allow parents to disable certain functions on devices.
  • Meetings. The most indispensable tool is regular, open, deliberate communication between parents and their children.

Step 4: Discuss
Before you begin to implement the plan, it may be a good idea to meet with your family to explain what you are about to do and what you hope to accomplish by it. You will be inconveniencing your family and putting rules in place that will impact them, so it may be wise to discuss these things with them.

 

Prepare

Let’s get started in putting that plan in place. This will take a couple of hours, so set aside the time, brew yourself a coffee, and get to it!

Step 1: Create Passwords
Master password. At the very top of the list is creating your master password. Your whole plan may fail if you choose a bad password or fail to protect it. Make it good (something that is difficult to guess and combines letters with numbers) and make sure you store it somewhere safe if you are not certain you will remember it. You may also need to create a 4-digit master password for mobile devices.

Family passwords. You also need to create a password for every other person in your home. Create passwords that will be easy for them to remember, but hard for others to guess. Every child needs to know his own password and only his own password. Make sure you record these passwords somewhere safe. If your children use mobile devices, you may also need to create mobile passwords for your children—usually 4-digit codes. Once again, make sure you know these codes and make sure you store them somewhere safe.

Step 2: Sign Up & Create Accounts
With your passwords in place, it is time to sign up for the services you will be using.

OpenDNS. We will begin by signing up for OpenDNS.

  • Visit OpenDNS (www.opendns.com) and look for their Parental Control Solution. OpenDNS Family Shield is a great place to begin (Alternatively, OpenDNS Home VIP is the optional, premier solution and costs $19.95 per year). 
  • Create a user account for yourself using your master password.
  • Take a look at the different filtering options and set the ones appropriate for your family. Whatever you set here will apply to every device that accesses the Internet through your home network.
  • Note: It would be best to set the filter to block more rather than less, and to loosen it if and when you find that it is blocking too many sites.

Covenant Eyes. You have signed up for your filtering; now it’s time to sign up for the accountability software.

  • Visit Covenant Eyes (www.covenanteyes.com) and create an account using your master password.
  • Add each member of your family as a user and assign the password you created for each of them.
  • Sign up each user for accountability monitoring and have the reports sent to your email address every 3 to 7 days. Choose an accountability level appropriate to their age and maturity.
  • If you would like to have user-specific filtering in addition to the general filtering with OpenDNS, configure that as well. Choose a filtering level appropriate to each person’s age and maturity. It may also be wise to disable Internet access during certain times (Example: Disable all Internet access for your children after 9 PM and before 7 AM).
  • Note: It is best to set the filter and accountability to block and report more and to relax the filtering levels only if and when it is proving cumbersome.

Computers. Now you need to create user accounts on each of your computers and laptops (and tablets if they allow multiple users).

  • For every computer in your home you will need to create an account for each person who uses it. This means that if there are five people in your family and they each use the family computer, you will need to create five accounts—one for each of them.
  • Create an account for yourself using your master password and ensure that you have administrator privileges.
  • Then create a user account for each family member using the password you created for them; make sure that they do not have administrator privileges.

Let me offer a warning: This step can be laborious, especially if you have multiple computers. Persevere!

Step 3: Install Software
Now that we have created our accounts, we can install and activate OpenDNS and Covenant Eyes.

Install OpenDNS on your router. OpenDNS is activated with a simple change on your home router and managed through an online interface at www.opendns.com. You will need to refer to OpenDNS to learn how to change the appropriate settings. As soon as you do this, your filtering will be activated. Just like that, you are already beginning to protect your family.

Install Covenant Eyes on every laptop and desktop computer in your home. Visit www.covenanteyes.com, log in to your account, download the appropriate software, and install it. Log in to each account on each computer and ensure that the Covenant Eyes software is running properly (look for the “open eye” icon).

Mobile Devices. If you have decided to allow browser access on your mobile devices, install the Covenant Eyes browser on those devices (typically by visiting an app store and downloading the app). Note: If you wish to have Covenant Eyes on your mobile devices, you will also need to use parental controls (see below) to block access to any other browser on those devices.

Gaming Consoles. Remove Internet browser access on all gaming consoles. Also consider removing access to YouTube, Netflix and other video sites.

Other Devices. Return to your inventory list and see what other devices you need to account for. Your plan will only be as strong its weakest point.

Step 4: Apply Parental Controls
Set parental controls on all mobile devices. To make this effective on devices owned by your children, you will need to set a parental control password and use this password to ensure only you have access to the parental controls. Here are the settings I recommend for devices used by children:

  • Ensure devices lock as soon as they are no longer in use.
  • Turn off web browsing. If your children need web browsing, install the Covenant Eyes browser and use parental controls to block access to all other browsers.
  • Turn off the ability to install new apps without inputting your password.
  • Turn off the ability to change their own password or account information.
  • Consider turning off Facebook, Twitter and other social media apps (since these apps often have a built-in browser that will allow them to visit web sites while bypassing all accountability software).
  • Consider turning off the camera access if you are concerned that your child may misuse. Be especially cautious with applications that combine social media with a camera (Snapchat, Instagram, etc).

Congratulations! You made it through. You know what devices are in the home, and you have accounted for each one by installing filtering and accountability software. There is just one problem: Everyone in your family is upset with you! So now it is time for that family meeting.

Meet

We tend to believe that problems caused by technology can be solved by more technology. However, what is stronger, better, and longer-lasting than even the best technology, is character. The family meeting is where you discuss and emphasize the importance and the growth of character.

I suggest having an occasional family-wide meeting to discuss the system, and regular one-on-one meetings with your children to ask them specific questions and ask for specific feedback.

Step 1: The Family Meeting
The actual content of the family meeting will depend to some degree on the age of your children. Here are some ideas for talking points:

  • Concern. Because of your concern for their well-being, you have taken actions to protect them as they use the Internet. Explain that you do not view your children as criminals or porn addicts, but that you do wish to protect them from online dangers. Depending on the age of your children, this may be a good time to explain that there are so many people who struggle with pornography that they may need to expect that some day they will face the temptation as well.
  • Privacy. Your children—and especially young children—should have no expectation of privacy when they use their devices. They should know that you will have liberty to check their devices without their permission and that their online actions will generate reports that you intend to monitor. You are doing this in order to love and protect them.
  • Passwords. Everyone needs to know the importance of passwords and that you expect them to protect theirs. They may not share their passwords with their siblings or their friends.
  • Readiness. You need to speak to your children about Internet safety outside the home. Talk to them about what to do if they are accessing devices in other people’s homes. Explain to them what they should do if someone shows them pornographic or otherwise inappropriate material.
  • Mom and Dad. If you have decided to hold yourself to the same standards—to use filtering and accountability software (something I recommend!)—this is a good time to explain that to the children.

Step 2: One-on-One Meetings
Parents and their children will benefit tremendously from having regular discussions about online dangers and concerns. The conversations will vary a great deal depending on the age and maturity level of the child. Here are some questions you may consider asking:

  • Are you able to access everything you need to access online?
  • Are you feeling tempted to look for things online that you know you shouldn’t look for?
  • Do you know if your friends are looking at pornography and talking about it?
  • Have you looked at pornography since the last time we met?

I trust you have prepared yourself for some push-back and some frustration, especially at the beginning. Your children will probably find that they cannot access certain sites or that they need to input passwords where before they did not. Your spouse may find that she cannot access certain sites she wants to. Persevere, and address each issue as it arises.

Monitor

The plan is in place, and your family is now benefiting from some level of protection. But this not a plan you can set in place and simply leave to run its course. It requires monitoring and maintenance.

  • Covenant Eyes Reports. Covenant Eyes will send you regular reports. Do not expect these reports to be as helpful as you want them to be. You will need to take some time—two or three minutes—to look carefully over the report looking for anything that seems amiss. Follow-up with any of your children whose report shows a red flag.
  • OpenDNS Reports. OpenDNS also collects reports, including pages and searches it has blocked. While you will not know who is responsible for these blocks, you would do well to keep an eye on them, to look for patterns, and so on.
  • Adjust. As your children grow older you may find that you need to adjust their privileges. You may also find that as they grow older they face greater temptations which will require fewer privileges. Be willing to adjust accordingly.
  • Maintain. Covenant Eyes updates their software on a regular basis. As they do this, you will want to install the new updates.

Conclusion

And that’s the Porn-Free Family Plan. It takes a couple of hours of hard work to set up, but it is time well-invested. Even then, this plan is not fool-proof—no plan is completely fool-proof. There will be ways around it for those committed to finding those ways. Covenant Eyes will occasionally block something harmless; OpenDNS will sometimes fail to filter something that obviously ought to be filtered. Yet the plan will suffice for most families in most circumstances. You are well on your way to training and protecting your children."

Racism: How Do We Change Things?

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I see a lot on social media, blogs and in the news describing the depth of racism's roots in our country. I read and see a lot of anger and hostility over racism. Statues are being torn down, removed, or moved. There are protests and counter-protests. Much of what I see and read is ugly and quite discouraging. Worse, there is little offered as a solution to the problem of racism.

At New City, we have begun a series of discussions on race. DISCUSSIONS. We have set up a time that we can talk and listen - learn from one another - share experiences. The reality is, that these discussions won't change our nation. Our hope is that they begin a process of change in the hearts and minds of some... a few... maybe a church and a larger community.

I am thankful for the willingness of our New City people to be a part of these discussions and their willingness to invite our city to be a part as well. I am thankful to those brave enough to share their stories last month.

We aren't completely sure HOW to bring about change, but we know we can't take steps forward without trying, without talking, without listening. And we also know this, the Gospel of Jesus Christ not only reconciles us to our Father, it reconciles us with one another. Jesus lived and died and was raised to bring about our racial reconciliation.

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.   Ephesians 2:13-15

Here is a link for some of the discussion.  We'll have another open discussion soon.  Pray with me that the body of Christ would live in light of the good news of Jesus, and in us the world would see a people reconciled.
Pastor Keith

Dear Church: Be a Foster Parent or Be the Village

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Many times we struggle with living out what we know. As a church, we tend to gravitate to 'knowing' more but flounder when it comes to transferring our knowledge to action. I mentioned adoption and fostering in last week's sermon in connection to living as a community, a family. As a foster/adoption parent, I can tell you from experience that the following post is a simple, but powerful way to reflect that you not only understand the gospel, but you are choosing to live it out.

- Patrick

 

(The following post by Katie from Loving Well Living Well is a practical, tangible way to live out the gospel in the specific area of fostering/adoption.)

Two years ago I ran into a friend who I hadn’t seen in weeks. “How are you?” I asked.  She had just started fostering a sibling group of three kids about two months earlier. Tears formed in her eyes and she began to weep. “You are the first person in weeks to ask how I have been,” she said.  I was stunned; partially because this woman was clearly struggling and isolated, but even more so because this woman was an active member of her church and lead bible studies. She was plugged into her church community and it was no secret to anyone she was fostering.

“Has anyone brought you a meal or asked to watch the kids to give you a break?”  “No”, she said. “But plenty of people tell me they are praying for me. “

Where was the church body in this? The body of Christ?  The Village?  Why was it in a church full of young families, constant play dates, and VBS, this family was receiving no support from the church body?

Unfortunately, this family is no longer fostering and joined the staggering statistic of 50% of foster families who stop fostering after their first year.

Two months later I attended a national adoption/foster care conference. Clones of my friend’s story were told over and over by various women from across the country.  While they are actively living out James 1:27 in every moment of their life, their church family was playing a meager role in supporting them outside of a flippant “I’ll pray for ya.”

Fast forward two years and my husband and I began fostering.  It wasn’t long before we took in 10 different placements at various times, over a 2 month period.  Our first placement was a little boy, and the second another sweet boy, and the third placement was a sibling set of two boys and a girl.  The flood gates opened and we were on the front line living life with these kids; all precious and all traumatized.  With each placement, we found a member of our church at our door, bringing meals, boy clothes, pull ups, and formula.  A friend brought over her therapy dog and bubbles to keep the kids occupied one afternoon, and another friend showed up with a crate of fresh eggs from her coop.  Teenagers from the youth group came over and handed my husband Josh and me iced coffee (my personal love language) then stayed for hours playing with the kids to give us a breather.  Josh and I were running a marathon and this love and support gave us the continuous cup of cold water needed to keep running the race.  Our experience is rare; embarrassingly rare, especially when other foster families catch wind of our support that they have been so desperate for.

Is the church filled with terrible and apathetic people? No. But perhaps the church has blinders on and doesn’t realize their role in foster care.  Not everyone is supposed to be a foster parent, but every Christian is supposed to play an active role in orphan care.

What actions can the church body do to live out James 1:27?  First, recognition must take place that taking care of orphans is a commandment, not a calling.  James 1:27 uses the word   “visiting” when describing orphans.  The word visiting is an ongoing word of action, not simply a one-time event.  Within this commandment of “visiting orphans” are individual callings.  Some people are called to be foster parents and others have a place to support those families.

Here are some specific yet simple ways to be the village and the body of Christ, to foster families in your church.

Create a Meal Calendar- A one-time meal is nice, but this foster family is running a continual race.  If you have more than 10 families in your church, each family can sign up to bring a meal once a month.

Free Babysitting- In most states, there is a “normalcy” clause when it comes to foster children. That means, if you would allow a babysitter to come over to watch your kids for a couple hours, then that is also appropriate for foster kids.  Offer free babysitting to the foster family.

Clean the foster family’s home for an hour– Tell the family you are coming over for an hour to clean/organize, or do their laundry.

Give Care packages– Diapers, food, formula, kids clothes, car seats.  These kids are dropped off at this family’s house at a moment’s notice with typically nothing besides the clothes on their back.

Send members of the Youth Group over to play with the kids on Saturdays- These foster children will be blessed by the love and the fun with the teens, and this is also a great experience for teenagers to see their important impact.

This is not an exhaustive list but is a good start.  These meals, these acts of love are the game changer which keeps foster parents in the game verses throwing in the towel. My hope is that this list is shared and then implemented in churches around the country.  It will change and refresh foster families and will also change churches.  It’s time for the Church to play their part, to be the village and the body of Christ which is so clearly articulated in the Word.

Should Parents Lay Down The Law Or Give Grace?

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Register today to learn more about gospel-centered parenting from Paul Tripp through his live stream event! Space will fill up quickly at New City Milledgeville, so register today!

Parenting Conference Sept. 29-30

I have parents who talk to me all the time about their struggle with the question, "When should I enforce law and when should I give grace?" The problem with the question is that it treats God’s law and God’s grace as two opposing forces. 

Think of biblical history, when the law was given: God had redeemed his children out of captivity, but they didn’t know how to be the children of God. They didn’t know how to walk with God and they didn’t know how to live this new life of freedom that they were given, so God gave them his law. 

Think about this: his law was grace. It was an act of beautiful, gorgeous, loving grace that God would give his law to his children. So grace is a way of bringing the guidance and regulating authority of God’s wisdom to my children. Grace is not suspending the law. Grace is not rejecting authority. Grace is not walking away from the need of my children to have boundaries in their life—grace is about the way that I do that. 

So, as I know my children need the awareness of God’s law, they also need the self-awareness that law gives them. They need the guidance of God’s law. I also know that I need to bring that in a spirit of tender, patient, kind, loving, and forgiving grace. 

Parenting needs to include a law/grace balance because they are not opposing forces.

The Gospel is for Kids

The Gospel is for Kids

At New City, we desire to see the gospel change everything within our reach - ourselves, our families, our communities, and the world. We believe that the good news of Jesus changes us, and that it is the answer to all of our questions, hurts, joys, and longings. Because we are committed to the gospel, we teach it to our children every week.

Singing Truth

I absolutely LOVE the songs we sing at New City Church. Here are just two of the songs we will be singing this Sunday. Listen, learn, and be encouraged by these gospel truths set to song. To listen to and learn the rest of the songs we we will sing this Sunday, check out our Spotify playlist entitled, "New City Sunday Morning." Join us this Sunday!

Death Has Lost Its Sting

Words by Isaac Watts, Adapted by Rebecca Dennison, Arranged by Mike Cosper
CCLI Song# 5939116
© 2011 Sojourn Community Church

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

 

Christ is Mine Forevermore

Mine are days that God has numbered
I was made to walk with Him
Yet I look for worldly treasure
And forsake the King of kings
But mine is hope in my Redeemer
Though I fall, His love is sure
For Christ has paid for every failing
I am His forevermore

Mine are tears in times of sorrow
Darkness not yet understood
Through the valley I must travel
Where I see no earthly good
But mine is peace that flows from heaven
And the strength in times of need
I know my pain will not be wasted
Christ completes His work in me

Mine are days here as a stranger
Pilgrim on a narrow way
One with Christ I will encounter
Harm and hatred for His name
But mine is armour for this battle
Strong enough to last the war
And He has said He will deliver
Safely to the golden shore

And mine are keys to Zion city
Where beside the King I walk
For there my heart has found its treasure
Christ is mine forevermore

Come rejoice now, O my soul
For his love is my reward
Fear is gone and hope is sure
Christ is mine forevermore!

CCLI Song # 7036096
Jonny Robinson  |  Rich Thompson
© 2016 CityAlight Music
For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.
All rights reserved. www.ccli.com
CCLI License # 3181384

 

The Gospel & Social Media

In a 20-mile radius of Milledgeville, Facebook has the potential of connecting with 45,000 people and the same distance in Macon has the potential to reach 190,000 people. A recent study showed that the average time spent per day on social media is 116 minutes, that’s a day. This is a powerful tool that businesses, non-profits, and affinity groups use to reach our cities with their messages. Think of the reach that a simple click of a button has in our cities!

I was thinking about the power of social media and the gospel this morning and just wanted to encourage you. As God’s people, we can accept, reject, or redeem our culture. Facebook has become one of the most important ways for people to find information about others and organizations. As much as we may not like it, it’s the reality in our day and age. It is worth redeeming.

Let’s be a church that is known for our deep love of Jesus and the community He has called us to reach.

As a church, this is actually a huge advantage for us because people who are moving into the area or checking out churches, inevitably turn to social media to research churches. A simple way to promote the church is to like and share whenever something is made public on the New City Milledgeville or New City Macon Facebook pages. As an example, when Chris or Arthur shares a Spotify playlist for us to prepare for Sunday morning, like it and share it. Maybe even place a comment if there is a specific song that you like in the list.

By liking, sharing, and commenting, this does two things. First, it helps with curb appeal. When someone visits our page, it shows activity. It’s like driving by a house that you are interested in buying. If the grass is cut, the bushes are trimmed, the paint is fresh, you are more likely to stop by and take a look.

Second, it directly affects the Facebook algorithm. This is the formula that Facebook uses to automatically have the post pop up in others Facebook feed. We aren’t trying to become the church with the most ‘likes’, but we are trying to be a church that is known in Milledgeville and Macon. This is a quick and simple way to help support the mission.

So, keep an eye on the Facebook pages (and Instagram if you use that app), and like, comment, and share! Let’s be a people who are so passionate about the Gospel that we choose to take every advantage to make Jesus known in our cities.

With and For Our City. Local Mission(al Communities) Part 2

Last week I shared with you a post on our approach to local mission - through our Missional Communities and about how one MC was reaching out through Tattnall Square Park. This week I wanted to share with you another great outreach - teachers in a local school.

One of the members of the Brewer MC was a teacher last year at Burdell-Hunt Elementary School in Fort Hill. Teaching is a tough task. Teaching in one of Macon's poorest neighborhoods is often even tougher. So the Brewer MC adopted the teachers of Burdell-Hunt. When the Principal heard New City wanted to partner with teachers, she was thrilled! So last week the Brewer MC kicked off its outreach to Burdell-Hunt and on Thursday took a car load of goodies, school supplies and cards of encouragement for the teachers.

Here are a few of the things the MC is hoping to do over the school year:
* More snacks and goodies for the teachers regularly throughout the year
* More cards of prayers and encouragement for the teachers
* Supplies for students and classrooms throughout the year
* Prayer! At each MC gathering and individually throughout the week

There has even been some talk about a teacher appreciation Sunday, a holiday luncheon provided by us for the school teachers, help for student families at Christmas, and a readiness to help in any way possible.

The Brewer MC wants the teachers to know that they are prayed for, cared for, and appreciated. Our teachers matter and their work is difficult. Their work is significant to the health and well being of our city!
The Brewer MC is hoping that this outreach grows into new relationships with the school and teachers and that maybe through those relationship Jesus would be made known!

That's good stuff!

With and For Our City. Local Mission(al Communities)

The mission of the church, as we understand it, is to help others live in light of the gospel. That means sharing the good news of Jesus with those who don’t know him and helping those who do know him understand how the life, death and resurrection changes everything. This is not an institutional mission, it is actually the life call of every believer.

In most of the churches that I have been a part of or even led, the mission as a church was carried out in a handful of activities that we (the whole church) did together throughout the year. Some of those things included Vacation Bible School, annual Mission Trips in and out of country, and maybe a Fall Festival – all really good things. After years of leading in many of these and participating in others I came to realize that only a small portion of the actual church family were involved in these mission opportunities.

So, with the start of New City we sought to change that, to engage more people in the church’s mission together by pressing local missions primarily through our Missional Communities.  The Crosby MC has recently decided to engage with one of Macon’s greatest parks, Tattnall Square Park, downtown.  I asked one of the Crosby MC folks to tell us a little more about what they are doing.

Emily: 
“We chose Tattnall park as our missional focus for the year.
A. It was a convenient location for our group- which includes families from Macon and Warner Robins.  it's easily accessible from the interstate and most of anywhere in Macon.
B. It was a place that any of our families could go to alone, or at their convenience, as well as together.
C. Given we have lots of families with kids, the park is a natural environment for us to hang out.  We said kids attract kids - we knew we would already have something in common with some of the people we would meet there.

Tattnall also provides opportunity to interact with Mercer students and the families in the neighborhoods surrounding the park. We liked that with church being downtown.  New City would also be easily accessible for the people we meet at the park.

We want to be present often in the park - Lunches, play dates etc. We will also have some kind of group presence two Fridays a month, which may include food- grill in the park/ pizza once a month… something like that.  We will advertise the events in the park as well as the Tattnall Square Park Facebook page, just to let people know.  We will also try and stock the little library in the park with appropriate and fun books
We want to build relationships with the people we meet and that will only happen if we continue to go back.

Our first group event there was in July. With the hype lately about the rock painting and hiding- we thought that would be a fun way to interact with people, and leave some "happy" around the park after we left.  
We created a facebook event, shared with friends and shared to the Friends of Tatttnall Park Facebook page. Had a great turnout. People brought picnic dinners for their families. We had tables set up with paint supplies and rocks. Kids and adults alike painted and hung out together.  We had friends and walk-ups join us. Then we dispersed in groups and hid the rocks around the park.
It was a great night of fun and fellowship.

The kids and I were at the park the following week and we ran into Isaac- one of the first men we met at the park a few weeks ago.  Isaac lives somewhere downtown, is not employed and seems to frequent the park during the day. He was thrilled we remembered his name and he had one of the rocks we painted in his pocket. The kids and I were able to hang out with him for a while- we learned he loves Mountain Dew and cookies- so I'll be sure to have those again next time we head down.

That day was a reminder for me of why we need to keep going back - It's relationships - and we can't build those if we don't keep interacting with the same people- we have to keep going back. I can't wait to see what the next year holds. I think we have a huge opportunity to love on that community and to show them what gospel-centered community really looks like.”

Imagine… 10 Missional Communities with similar commitments – to parks, schools, neighborhoods.
Imagine the whole church engaging with its city and communities over and over throughout the year.
Yeah.
That.
Won’t it be beautiful?
Through those new relationships we will have the opportunity to demonstrate the love of Jesus for the people and places of our city and to tell them.

Praying by Faith

This Sunday in Macon, our first "official" Prayer Team will be eagerly waiting to pray with and for our attendees. We're excited to add the team but even more excited about what God may do through our prayers.

We gathered last Sunday afternoon to talk about expectations, some practical "how-to's" an of course pray. I shared with the team some helpful and encouraging words from Sam Storms on "Faith and Healing" from his book, The Beginner's Guide to Spiritual Gifts.  Whether you are on the official Prayer Team or not, I think you will find Sam's teaching on the kinds of faith for healing a challenge and encouragement.

First there is "the faith that God is your sole source for blessing, that He is your hope, and He alone." "Faith turns us away from our own power and resources to His. Faith says, 'Lord, I am nothing and You are everything. I entrust myself to Your care. I cling to You alone. My confidence is in Your word and character no matter what happens.'"
Pray with a faith that recognizes God is God and you are not.

"Second, there is faith in God's ability to heal."  He is able!  He spoke into existence the universe. There is nothing that is beyond His ability.  Pray, knowing that He can.

"Third, there is faith in God's heart for healing. This is faith in God's goodness and His desire to bless His children."  God is good. Even in our pain and suffering this is true. His heart is indeed BIG for his children and for our healing. This doesn't mean that we will always receive the healing that we desire now. But that doesn't change His goodness. We know that His heart for healing and for us is enormous when we consider the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. In His life, death and resurrection, the Father lovingly provided for our eventual healing and restoration. I don't say it that way to dappen hope for healing, now. Rather I share that so that we can know that God is concerned with our pain and promises that we will be healed! God is good and Jesus is evidence of that goodness.  God will heal, and Jesus is evidence of that as well. So pray with great faith in God's heart for healing!

Fourth, "there is the faith not simply that God can heal, not simply that God delights to heal, but faith that God does heal." That's right - God DOES heal.  Healing isn't just a thing of the past!  God heals now, today! 

"Fifth and finally," Storms writes, "there is the faith that it is His will to heal right now."  This isn't a prayer "that we pray whenever we want to," he adds. "It is a unique prayer, divinely energized only on those occasions when it is God's sovereign purpose to impart a gift for healing."  "...this appears to be faith that He, in this particular case, is not only willing to heal, but is also willing to heal right now."  This fifth prayer of faith is described by Storms as unusual and occasional.

God heals when God desires.
That doesn't change our charge to pray for healing and to pray with faith and expectancy -
faith that God is the source of our blessing, faith that God is able to heal, faith that God is good and has a heart for healing, faith that God still heals today, and expectancy that God will do great things.

This is how we will pray for you. 
This is how we should pray for one another.

If you would like prayer with one of our Prayer Team members, we'll be waiting to pray with you during communion and our final song(s) of worship each Sunday.

Christ Is Mine Forevermore

I have experienced pain and sorrow in my past. Yet, in those times, Jesus had shown himself to be even greater than those circumstances. He comforted me, cared for me, provided for me. If He was faithful to care for me back then, wouldn’t He care for me in whatever present or future situation? We have to remember that God works things out according to His good, meaning it doesn’t always work out like WE think it should. Pain and suffering may last longer than we want or expect. I love the lines of this song:

“But mine is peace that flows from heaven
And the strength in times of need
I know my pain will not be wasted
Christ completes His work in me.”

Whatever the case, we remember who God is and what he has done for us. We remember that Jesus pursued us with a love like no other. We remember He endured the agony and suffering we deserved. We remember He rose and defeated sin and death. We remember that He did not leave us alone but sent His Holy Spirit to reside in us, spurring us on to be formed and shaped into the image of Christ. We cling to and remember Word of God. 

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words. And we know that for those who love God and all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:26,28

Yesterday both New City Macon and New City Milledgeville introduced a new song, Christ is Mine Forevermore by CityAlight. The sound and structure is like a modern hymn meets the Psalms. Like many of the psalms, the writer is speaking to himself, his soul, spurring himself on to rejoice and be glad! Take a listen, learn, and be ready to sing this coming Sunday! 

 

Christ is Mine Forevermore

Mine are days that God has numbered
I was made to walk with Him
Yet I look for worldly treasure
And forsake the King of kings
But mine is hope in my Redeemer
Though I fall, His love is sure
For Christ has paid for every failing
I am His forevermore

Mine are tears in times of sorrow
Darkness not yet understood
Through the valley I must travel
Where I see no earthly good
But mine is peace that flows from heaven
And the strength in times of need
I know my pain will not be wasted
Christ completes His work in me

Mine are days here as a stranger
Pilgrim on a narrow way
One with Christ I will encounter
Harm and hatred for His name
But mine is armour for this battle
Strong enough to last the war
And He has said He will deliver
Safely to the golden shore

And mine are keys to Zion city
Where beside the King I walk
For there my heart has found its treasure
Christ is mine forevermore

Come rejoice now, O my soul
For his love is my reward
Fear is gone and hope is sure
Christ is mine forevermore!

If you missed this week’s sermon, you can listen to it on here.

CCLI Song # 7036096
Jonny Robinson  |  Rich Thompson
© 2016 CityAlight Music
For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.
All rights reserved. www.ccli.com
CCLI License # 3181384

The Blessing and Challenge of Leading as Couples

Photo: Emmaus Church

Something that may be different for you the first time that you visit a New City Missional Community is that husbands and wives lead the MC. We believe that the unique gifts that the Holy Spirit imparts to individuals are to be used within community. Husbands and wives often have differing stories in how they met Christ and unique experiences they have walked through during their spiritual journey. These gifts and experiences culminate into leaders who disciple and train others to disciple.

What does it look like to lead a missional community together as a couple? Drew and Lindsay Webster share how they have been able to utilize each other’s unique strengths and perspectives as they lead together, engaging with their neighbors in ways that they would not be able to do on their own. They have found it important to be open with their missional community about challenges in their marriage as they seek to rely upon Jesus and their community in their leadership. - Saturate

A Season of Change

To say this past year has seen a lot of change is an understatement! It has been one long season of change - from searching for a building to closing on the building and finishing work on the building to shifting and adding staff.  We are looking forward to a year of settled focus! So here's where we are:

Building - We are in and enjoying the new space.  We've been able to go from 2 services to 1 service with the added children's space and worship space.  Join us at 10:30 every Sunday!
There are still some things to finish and some bugs here and there to be worked out.  But we have a great space, great parking, great kids space and room to grow!

Staff - June will be our final transition month, but what a lot of transition.
Patrick McConnell will be taking the Lead Pastor Role in Milledgeville beginning full time in July. He has been working in this role while also helping keep his normal areas of Community and Children's ministry moving forward.  Jennifer McConnell has been a huge part of the Children's part of that - we are very thankful for her!  As Patrick transitions to full time in Milledgeville, so will Jennifer and the rest of the family. 

Caleb Bedingfield has just stepped into the role of Community and Connections Director, taking a portion of what Patrick was overseeing.  Caleb will primarily be working on Missional Communities and our Sunday morning Connections.
caleb@newcitymacon.org

Heather Perrin will be taking on the Children's Director role. Heather has already been working with Jennifer and Patrick and will continue transitioning through June. We are excited about adding this role and having Heather join us on staff! Each week we fill our downstairs with children and the more children we have added, the clearer it has become that we need someone on staff dedicated to children. Welcome Heather! We'll have her bio up on the Leaders page soon.
heather@newcitymacon.org

Amanda Christopher has been working for us at New City for years!  Amanda actually started working with New City her senior year of college as an intern. Over the past few months her role has become much more official. Amanda serves the staff as an Administrative Assistant. Amanda helps with almost everything from website, social media, and print materials to conferences at New City.
amanda@newcitymacon.org

We are excited about the days to come!  This has truly been a season of change, but as always, God has blessed us beyond our expectations. Continue to pray for this huge transition as well for all of our staff and elders!

Exciting News!

We are happy to announce our new Community and Connection Director, Caleb Beddingfield!

Caleb and Hanna left us a year ago to serve on the mission field in the Dominican Republic. Caleb saw the position opening and wrote, "We love Macon. We love New City. We love Missional Communities. We planned to be here in the DR this coming year, but when the position opened up at New City it was hard to pass on applying. Over the last two years, Missional Communities have become a passion for me. I've seen them work, and I know how valuable they are to believers and how effective they are in reaching non-believers and we couldn't possibly think of a better place to be serving than Macon with New City."

Caleb will begin working immediately with our Missional Communities as well as our Sunday morning Connect Teams. He will also begin working to establish mission partnerships for us outside of the US.

Patrick will be helping with the transition through the month of June and will then shift his full attention to New City Milledgeville.

Welcome Caleb and Hanna!