Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

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It’s rare when you come across someone who doesn’t like Christmas music. The timeless melodies and tunes always seem to put a smile on my face and give me all the warm and fuzzier inside.  Among the numerous Christmas songs, this is one of my favorites…of course Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” is on up there too but that’s a whole different blog. 

I wanted to take a quick moment to post and allow you to take some time to read through these verses. Often times routines in our lives can become well…routine. They tend to lose their meaning and flair. Before long it becomes more of an obligation than anything. Christmas falls into that category. Year after year it always catches us off guard in the aftermath of our Thanksgiving food-coma. Decorations have to go up in a timely manner. Gifts must be purchased and frantically wrapped because you’ve put it off to the last minute. Plans of getting together with family are stressfully filling the calendar. More layers must be worn in order to survive the cold. Language has to be changed so as to incorporate phrases like “ ’tis the season” and “the reason for the season.” And in the blink of an eye, it’s all over and we’re getting ready to bring in the new year. 

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” is a beautifully written Christmas hymn that reminds us of why we really celebrate Christmas. If you’re familiar with the first verse and can sing it in your sleep, then take a closer look at the other verses…

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King:
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!” 
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
join the triumph of the skies;
with th’angelic hosts proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!” 

Refrain:
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King”


Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord, 
late in time behold him come,
offspring of the virgin’s womb:
veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
hail th’incarnate Deity,
please with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel. [Refrain]

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that man no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth,
born to give us second birth [Refrain]

WORDS: Charles Wesley, alt. George Whitefield
MUSIC: Felix Mendelssohn

This hymn is so beautifully and poetically written. In just three verses we get a taste of who Jesus is and why Christmas is so important. Christmas is the day we remember “Christ, the everlasting Lord,” who veiled himself in flesh and brings peace between “God and sinners” (that’s us!). Though it doesn’t talk about his death, Christ took our pain and punishment that was reserved for sinners and took it all on Himself so that all who would believe in His life, death, and resurrection would be reconciled. Because of that He brings peace, hope, light, new life, healing, mercy, reconciliation, joy. 

Remember this. Take the time to stop and remember why we are truly celebrating Christmas. Remember what a beautiful and merciful gift of grace it was for our Savior to take on flesh. Remember the peace we have with one another is a grace that reflects the true peace found in Christ. Remember the beautiful lights and decorations that are visual reminders of redemption and the new light and life we find in Jesus. 

Prepare Him Room

With Thanksgiving right around the corner and Christmas music already playing in many of our homes (sorry not sorry), it is time to begin preparing for the most wonderful time of the year: ADVENT.

Meaning “arrival” or “coming,” Advent is the season leading up to Christmas where we remember the longing and expectation for the promised savior and celebrate his coming. We’re all familiar with the “reason for the season” but are we equally versed in why it is so significant? Do we know what the coming of Christ is the answer to? Advent is a beautiful season of remembering God’s promises to Adam, Abraham, David, and the whole world, and celebrating that they find their answer and fulfillment in Jesus. Christmas is a kept promise, and the promise of our future hope!

Prepare Him Room - in the Classroom

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This year, our New City kids are going to soak up the promises of this season and spend all of December in an advent curriculum titled Prepare Him Room by Marty Machowski. This 4-week lesson plan guides kids through the promises of the Old Testament and how Jesus is the fulfillment of all of those promises.

The publisher, New Growth Press, describes the book:

Prepare Him Room … takes a biblical, theological approach to the Old Testament promises and New Testament fulfillment in Christ in a way kids can understand. With age-appropriate instruction and activities for three different learning levels—preschool, lower elementary, and upper elementary—Prepare Him Room builds gospel hope and enduring theological depth into each child’s celebration of Christmas.

Machowski is the author of the Gospel Story for Kids series including The Gospel Story Bible, Long Story Short, Old Story New, the Gospel Story Curriculum, as well as several other gospel-centered books and resources for children.

Each week will focus on a piece of the Christmas story and the corresponding prophecies, ultimately pointing our kids to our hope in Jesus to redeem and restore the world.

Prepare Him Room - at Home!

In addition to the classroom curriculum, Machowski has a family devotional that goes right along with the weekly lessons! This is a wonderful way to reinforce what they are learning on Sunday mornings and to celebrate the coming of Christ at home! We will be selling the family devotional companion at the Resources shelf on November 18 and 25 for $10. We have a limited number, so if you want one and they sell out, you can find them here and here.

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Finally, if you’re looking for some beautiful, Christ-centered Christmas music, check out Sovereign Grace Music’s “Prepare Him Room.” You’re sure to find many of the songs we’ll be singing on Sundays during the Christmas season!

Christmas is such a sweet time of the year, especially for kids, but it is most special when we realize how God’s promises are fulfilled in an amazing way in the birth of Christ. That’s why I want to take some time out of our normal routines and curriculum to dwell in this season and help our kids understand that Christmas is an amazing answer to all of God’s promises to redeem and restore our world.

A Place to Belong... and Chili

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Everyone is seeking it, a place to belong, a place where we are known and accepted and even loved. We were created for that, not only finding it with God but with one another.
What’s that got to do with chili?
I’m glad you asked, it’s why we have a chili cook off every year.

I’ve lost count now of how many chili cook offs we have had through our 11 years together but the goal in each is the same - win the chili cook off!! Nooooooooo. The goal is creating a place to belong - a place for our New City people to connect with friends and MC leaders, maybe to meet people they don’t know.

But more than that, our goal is to create a place where those who don’t belong in a gospel-centered family can. Our hope is to create an event that our New City family (that’s you if this is your church home) can not only come and enjoy, but an event that you can invite others to enjoy with you. Our hope is to provide a place where your unconnected friends can connect with your church family. The chili cook off is an opportunity to be missional through relationship.

Many people have given up on church, not because they don’t believe in God or even the work of Jesus, but because they have been hurt by people in the church. The chili cook off is an opportunity to reintroduce those people to your family.

Perhaps for others, their only experience with church is through the many stereotypes they’ve seen and heard about (imagine the strangest of those!). The chili cook off is a great opportunity for those friends to see and experience the truth about our family. Yes we may have a crazy uncle or two, but for the most part we’re just regular people.

In either case, the chili cook off, like our summer lake day, is a fun way to introduce unconnected friends to your family. Its an easy, non-threatening way to give others a place to belong.

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Here are 5 ways you should approach November 17’s Chili Cook off
1) Talk about the missional aspect of the event with your spouse and MC.
It’s easy to think of this as “just a church event,” but it should be more than that!

2) Pray and think about who you know that may need a church family to belong with.

3) Invite someone to join you.
Ride together, make chili together or just meet here but take advantage of the opportunity.

4) Come as an MC.
The mission was never meant to be engaged on by individuals. This is a family effort! If your whole MC is gathered, cooking s’mores over a fire and sampling everyone’s chili and hanging out, you provide a natural place for your unconnected friends to connect!

5) After the event pray for God to use the time to connect your friends to your family. Pray as well that they join you at a New City gathering or at your MC.

The Tower of Babel is About Jesus

Last Sunday, our elementary age students learned about the Tower of Babel in their classes. A story many of us are familiar with, we can probably recount the message: don’t build yourself up with pride. Ok, good. But is that all we should hear from that story?

Teaching kids about the Bible may not seem terribly difficult. After all, it’s full of good, moral examples of characters who obeyed God perfectly and were rewarded, right? Not really.

It’s difficult for adults to understand many of the stories and how they are relevant to our lives. So how do we teach it to our kids? Should we even try?

The Bible is the sacred text of the Christian faith, the way the Creator of the Universe has chosen to reveal himself to us. It is masterful, beautiful, powerful, and his very word to us. God’s word is powerful, active, and at work in the lives of his people, and he uses it to shape us and transform us (Heb 4:12; 2 Tim 3:16). It is not only worth it to teach the Bible to our kids, it is necessary for them to know and love God.

There is however a danger present whenever we attempt to teach the Bible to our kids. More often than not, we take stories in the Bible and teach our kids to behave in one way or another. We read about heroes of Old Testament stories and teach that we should have faith like Daniel or a heart like David’s. We read about Jesus in the New Testament and teach that we should love others because that is what Jesus did. Are these wrong? No! Of course not. We should desire great faith, a heart after God, and to love one another as Jesus loves us. But are they the whole story?

The danger of teaching kids a moral lesson from each Bible story is that we offer an empty hope. We present to them that faith in Christ is about trying to be good, honest, moral, and loving. We teach them to modify their behavior without ever reaching their hearts. This is a weight too great to bear. If we hope in our ability to obey well or live rightly, we will be disappointed and devastated by our failure over and over and over until we give up or fall into despair.

Again, don’t hear what I’m not saying. We should teach our kids right behavior. We must teach them to love and respect one another. These are good things and part of our job as their family. However, if we stop there, all we will do is raise good, moral children who behave well. We won’t raise Christians.

The hope of the gospel – and of every Bible story – is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. On our own, we will always fall short of perfect behavior, right motives, and good morals. We need a change that runs deeper than our behavior. We need a change of heart.

The story of the Bible is one of a fallen and broken humanity in need of rescue, and that God in his great mercy provided that rescue for us. It tells us that our hearts are broken – we need a repair in order to work properly.

So what do we take away from the Tower of Babel? Our hearts are like the people of Babel’s. We desire our own fame, glory, and recognition. We don’t desire to worship God for who he is. We need someone to change our hearts. The only way we will recognize and honor God rightly is if he changes us. Because of Jesus’s perfect life, his death in our place, and his resurrection and defeat of death, we can change. He gives us his power to live well and obey God when we trust in him. And when we fail, he forgives us again and again.

The Bible tells one big story – that God created everything to be good, and we have broken it. But he doesn’t leave us in our brokenness and promises to redeem and restore everything in his good world again. He does that by sending his son – God as a human – to be the perfect human and take our place. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible tells this story. Of God rescuing and redeeming the world he created through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son.

This is more difficult than teaching kids that they should change their behavior. It is harder to understand, and there are fewer quick takeaways they can color on a craft and take home. But it is necessary and so so important. There are lots of resources for teaching kids the Bible, and we’re grateful for the two we use now and the way they help us tell this story: The Jesus Storybook Bible for Pre-K ages, and the Gospel Project for elementary ages. Adults and kids alike, Jesus is our only hope.

Comfort When You're At Your Wits' End

We live in a day and age where it is not normal to tell people how hard life really is at times. We tend to cover up our difficulties from fear of judgement or rejection. We don’t share our suffering with others from fear of overburdening. We often don’t share the realities of how hard life really can be because we don’t want to give up the facade that we actually have our lives all together. We often feel we have to downplay our difficulties because we don’t have it near as bad as others; so words like “suffering,” “depression,” or “despair” are words we would never imagine using for our own circumstances.

My wife, Hanna, and I have been in the middle of a very difficult season over the past few months. At times we’ve felt alone, anxious, angry, and fearful. We know we are not alone in our suffering, but often times in the middle of it we can feel very alone. Our church family, friends, and blood family have been surrounding us with love and comfort but even so, there are times where life has you feeling out of options, pressed deep into a corner, without hope and in the dark—at your wits' end.

When we look to Psalm 107:23-27 we see a group of sailors in an equally dark situation:

Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the great waters;
they saw the deeds of the Lord,
his wondrous works in the deep.
For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
their courage melted in their evil plight;
they reeled and staggered like drunken men
and were at their wits’ end.

The sea strengthens, the winds lift, and the men become incredibly fearful. They’re scrambling in their ship, searching for an escape, with nowhere to go but down. You’ve been there, too, pacing the halls of your home without answer. If there is relief, you certainly don’t see it. The cancer hasn’t left, you’ve lost your unborn child, your family is on the verge of meltdown, your spouse wants nothing but divorce. In these moments, we become desperate.

The sailors were there, too. They realized they were not able to create their own way out and “they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress” (Ps. 107:28).

Believe me when I say this: even when the days are dark, God hears and answers the cries of desperate people. Sometimes we become so enslaved to our depression or suffering that we cannot even believe there is hope. If you’ve never been there, you will be. When you are at your wits’ end, know and believe that God is not at His. He is near and He has not left you alone. Cry out to him. He loves His children and He will answer their cries for help.

Jesus has been there too, crying out to his Father is his despair searching for a way out. He wept in the garden and he will wipe your tears away. He’s felt the pain of being turned on by his closest friends. He’s suffered through the loss of loved ones. When you’re at your wits’ end, He has already been there. He suffered alone, so that we never have to. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).


The Call to Lead: Student Ministry

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Part 6 of our The Call to Lead series pertains to Student Ministry. 

Student Ministry. Jr. High and High School. I know what you’re thinking…”Oh man, working with Jr. High and High School students? I just don’t have the patience.” Sadly this is a common response I’ve heard over the past few years. 

As we have been talking about leadership this past month, Student Ministry is an area where leaders are desperately needed. We don’t just need the “ideal” leaders like college students and young married couples. We need leaders in every stage of life so our students can witness what it is like to follow Christ in other stages of life. 

Teenagers are a part of the church. This is so true at New City Church. Many of our students serve regularly whether its in New City Kids or at our MC’s. They need leaders to come alongside them and their parents to help train and disciple them in the gospel just like we ALL do. 

Our desire at New City is to train and disciple leaders so they are equipped to lead well in every area of life. The hope is to share the gospel with others. Whether its Team Lead on Connect Team or a Teacher in Kid’s Ministry, we want you to grow and take those skills to the world. Student Ministry is no different. Here is the Pipeline structure that New City has adopted:

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Leaders in Student Ministry don’t just hang out and babysit but they lead and serve. They setup food and clean but also have the opportunity to lead students into thinking about the gospel and applying it to their lives. Over the past month I have been working on a pipeline structure to develop leaders in our Student Ministry. Here is the Student Ministry Leadership Pipeline: 

  • Lead Self: Helper | Setup and clean up for MC gatherings along with any other needed tasks as well as support other leaders

  • Lead Others: Discussion Leader | Guide the conversations in our small groups to the Gospel

  • Lead Leaders: Speaker | Prepare and contextualize a message from the sermon

  • Lead Ministry: Student Director | Supports leaders and guides the overall mission and vision of the Student Ministry

We need leaders who are willing to love and invest in our students. We need leaders who are willing to grow in their leadership and set an example for our students. We need leaders to share the gospel with our students. We need leaders to invest in and disciple other leaders. Our mission is to love and serve these students and help them find their identity in Christ and to live in light of the gospel. 

Check out the other blogs in our The Call to Lead series. 

3 Ways to Engage the Bible from The Bible Project

I have recently been greatly encouraged by the work of a nonprofit based in Portland called The Bible Project. It’s an animation studio that makes short, beautiful videos about biblical themes, words, and how to read and interpret Scripture. In addition to these super helpful videos, they produce a podcast, print resources, and an app that guides readers through the Bible in a daily reading plan. They have a great respect for the Bible and believe it is one unified story that points to Jesus, and they want to help people all over the world engage with it. What an awesome project!

But they also recognize what many of us don’t: the Bible is not always easy to read. It is a beautiful and complex collection of books written in multiple languages and cultural contexts over hundreds of years. We believe it is God’s word to us and has implications for our everyday lives, but it’s not always readily apparent exactly how. Most of us haven’t been taught how to be good students of the Bible, so we are confused by what we read and give up too quickly. But if this is God’s word to us, shouldn’t we learn how to read it?

That is why I am so excited about the work of this group. They are combining deep biblical scholarship with beautiful visual storytelling to help all of us better understand how to read the Bible for ourselves. It is accessible, easy to understand, and inspiring.

God’s word is powerful, active, and at work in the lives of his people, and he uses it to shape us and transform us (Heb 4:12; 2 Tim 3:16). There are TONS of resources we can consume about God and his word, but if we never engage with his actual word we are missing out on his divinely inspired message. So I hope the videos produced by The Bible Project help equip you and encourage you to engage with the Bible. It takes work on our part to be good students, but God is faithful and is accomplishing his purposes through his word (Isaiah 55:11). We can trust him as we learn.


The following post was published by The Bible Project.

Here at The Bible Project we love the Bible. But you probably know that by now. We believe it's a divine-human book that speaks God's Word to his people and ultimately leads us to Jesus, the one who has power to change lives. Amazing, right? Through the Bible, Jesus transforms us.

Yet, most of us struggle to engage the Bible. For some, it feels like an oppressive book of outdated rules. For others, golden tablets that dropped out of the sky, offering no wisdom for the modern world. Then there's those who love the Bible, but can't find the time or energy to engage it. Or fear that they don't know how. And, of course, a lot of us are just in a Bible reading rut. We started strong in January, but we've kind of…faded. Better luck next year?

Wait! We Want to Help!

We think the Bible is worth engaging, even in February. Or March. Or any day really. That's why we create videos, podcasts, and study guides that explore the Bible's unified story, overarching themes, and individual books. It's also why we're writing this article. The Bible is just too fascinating for anyone to stay in a "Bible rut," so we want to give you simple ways to engage God's Word afresh and resources to help you towards that end. We have highlighted 3 ways to Engage The Bible.

1. Read the Bible with Other People

Reading the Bible in community is one of the quickest ways to get out of a reading rut. It's a practice that God's people have always done to remind themselves of who they are and what they've been called to. This remains true today. As we come together to read and discuss a passage, our pre-existing (and often staunchly held) stories about God, ourselves, and the world are challenged. We're forced to see the text in new ways and grapple with it, pushing us deeper into the biblical narrative, which in turn shapes us as God's people rather than us shaping it.

Reading alongside others also guards us from distractions and deception. If we only read the Bible by ourselves it's pretty easy (and all too convenient) for God's voice to start to sound like our own. Being part of a bigger dialogue about the Bible protects us from self-deception and keeps us focused on what we're reading. It also offers rich, redemptive fellowship. Something we all crave. If you want to know more about this practice, check out the "Public Reading of Scripture" video.

How to Start:

One way to read the Bible in community is to sign up for the Read Scripture series or download the app and ask someone to go through it with you. It's pretty straightforward. Read assigned portions from Scripture every day, meet with another person, people, or small group regularly to discuss what you've been reading, and then respond to God's Word together. It can be as formal or informal as you want.

Another way to read in community is to check out our suggested reading for each biblical book. When you read brilliant scholars you're entering the ongoing conversation taking place in the Christian community at large. Their area of expertise gives you new insight into the biblical books. Insight that's easy to miss when you're reading alone. You may never meet these scholars but you can benefit from being in community with them through their writing.

Finally, we'd invite you into our community, a community spanning 229 countries with over half a million subscribers committed to reading the Bible together. We're constantly learning new things about the Bible as we read and explore its story and create content to communicate that story to others. You can join The Bible Project Community HERE.

2. Meditate on the Bible in Private

Reading the Bible with other people doesn't mean you shouldn't read the Bible alone. Both are integral parts of growing as disciples. So, if your reading has grown stale another way to shake things up is private meditation. By "meditation" we don't mean emptying ourselves by chanting mindless mantras. Quite the contrary. Christian meditation is about filling our hearts and minds with the divine, not emptying ourselves.

In terms of Bible reading, meditation is the practice of entering into the text by reading and rereading it out loud, allowing it to speak to us in such a way that we listen and truly hear it. We fix and order our minds around the text, reading and rereading, until key words, phrases, and ideas jump off the page at us. Then we chew on these words and ideas and begin to form questions that lead us into deeper reflection. This causes us to slow down and experience the text in a way that affects our hearts and minds with the love of God. If you want to know more about this practice, check out "The Bible As Jewish Meditation Literature" video.

How to Start:

Choose a chapter or passage from your current reading plan and focus on it. If you're using our Read Scripture plan, pick a section from today's reading and read it out loud several times (the daily psalm would be a great place to start). Allow the text to roll around in your mind as you mutter the words aloud. Try to put yourself in the passage. What emotions are you feeling? What details do you notice? What would you think if you were hearing these words for the first time? What words or images jump out at you? Meditate on these questions and allow divine love and grace to fill you as you reflect on the answers.

Another creative way to meditate on Scripture is to listen to a text over and over again with a Bible app. We recommend YouVersion's free Bible App, which you can download on any device online at Bible.com. Once downloaded, choose your section of Scripture and play it over and over again doing the same practices mentioned above. Hearing a text repeatedly is a great way to actually hear the text, which is the goal of meditation. Not to mention, it's more accessible for some people, like young moms or busy caretakers, during chaotic seasons.

3. Respond to the Bible in Prayer

A wonderful way to engage the Bible is through prayerful reading of Scripture, a mode of reading with an eye towards finding language out of which we form a prayer of response. This differs from meditation in that meditation is an entering into the world of the text and allowing it to speak to us, while prayer is us speaking to God in natural response to the text.

To be clear, "prayerful reading" is not wrapping up our Bible time with general prayers about our lives. It's a specific kind of praying that uses words and ideas from the text to shape a prayer of response. The language and tone of the prayer should reflect the language and tone of the text. For example, if you're reading through lamentations you form a prayer of lament that's filled with grief over all the sin and wreckage in our broken world. Or, if you're reading through Philippians, you form a prayer of thanksgiving that's filled with joy in the midst of suffering using Paul's language. It's not reading and then praying, as if the two were disconnected. It's prayerful reading.

How to Start:

The best place to start is in the Psalms. God's people have always looked to the Psalms to give voice to their prayers. Plus, they were written to be prayed and sung aloud so they're perfect for practicing prayerful reading.

If you use our Read Scripture plan, we've built this practice into the reading. Every day you read a psalm slowly, meditating on it and then forming a prayer of response. Use the psalmist's words and make it your own as you respond to all that God has revealed to you in the text. Finally, take that prayerful language into your day's responsibilities and relationships, allowing it to shape your day and, when done over time, shape your life. It's a simple practice that yields huge benefits in terms of spiritual formation.

Don't Wait Until Next Year

We know it's easy to fade in Bible reading. We've all been there. But don't give up and buy into the idea that next year will be different. It won't be. Today is the best possible day to engage God's Word. So forget the guilt over "what was" and resist the temptation to think "what could be" and jump in right now. Try mixing things up with one of the ways listed above and use our resources freely-that's why they're there. And remember, God's Word is a living Word that speaks life to his people and leads us to Jesus, so it really is worth engaging.

The Call to Lead: Connect Team

This is Part 5 of our The Call to Lead series. You can find Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here.

Over the past couple of months, the staff and elders have been working hard to develop leadership pipelines for all of our areas of ministry at New City Church. In case you aren’t aware of what I am talking about, go back and read through the previous blog posts in this series (links above). Essentially, leadership pipelines are the systems in place where disciples are developed for various levels of leadership within and outside of the church. The goal is to develop Christian leaders, not only for the church, but also for the world who are equipped and capable to lead as Jesus would lead in all of life.

Leadership Development

We believe that every leadership position should be a temporary role. Leaders should always be looking for and developing future successors. Jesus calls us to “make disciples”, to help other grow and mature to be more like Jesus in all of life. For the Connect Team, as we think about leadership development, our development of people will be equipping them to be Christ-like servant-leaders wherever they are. We want to help develop people to be like Christ in the workplace, in their schools, at home as a spouse or parent, or as a single person. Wherever God has placed our people we want them to live the servant led lifestyle that Jesus modeled.

Our pipeline for all of our ministries at New City looks like this:

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As we develop people into Christ-like leaders, it will be a progression that models this pipeline.

Connect Team Pipeline

For the Connect Team, we already have many people who are helping to lead in so many ways. We want to formalize our leadership process in a way that everyone can see the natural progression for leadership. We desire for every Connect Team member to know what it would look like for them to move into a new leadership role within their team; along with that, we want them to be receiving training to be ready to move into a new role.

Our Connect Team Pipeline looks like this:

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We already have Volunteers, Team Leaders, and a Ministry Leader but we will be introducing Area Leaders over the next few months. There will be three Area Leaders for each team: 1) a Parking Lead, 2) a Greeting Lead, and 3) a Coffee Bar Lead. These positions will be for people who want to lead a few people in a specific area. They will be helping to teach the roles and responsibilities within a particular area as well as train them how to see and develop new leaders. Our goal here is not to create great leaders so our ministries look great and function well (though we believe our teams are great!), our goal is to train and equip Godly disciple-makers who will be great leaders in all of life.

Imagine what it would be like if every believer modeled the life of Christ wherever they eat, work, and play. How amazing would it be for the outside world if we all lived a servant-led life where we truly desired to see others succeed and grow more than we desire our own promotions and gratifications? What a great apologetic for the gospel it would be if we were excited when others succeeded or when others received promotions or raises. I believe this is the life of servant-leadership that Christ has called us to, within and outside of the church. I am so excited for what is happening in and through New City and we are expecting God to do great things in the coming days! If you have any questions or are interested in serving with us or stepping into a leadership role within the Connect Team, please contact me by email. I cannot wait to hear from you and to see what God is going to do through you in the coming days!

The Call to Lead: New City Music

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MOSES. For most the name conjures up thoughts of this great leader who lead God’s people out of an enslaving nation. Some thoughts may even harken back to the bearded Charlton Heston. Moses, a guy who fearfully obeyed God’s calling to stand before the Pharaoh and brazenly ask to let his people go, his entire workforce mind you! The guy who lead people through dry land through what I can only imagine the most magnificent hallway made of ocean water anyone could ever imagine, escaping the Pharaohs pursuit. The one who's face was glowing after conversing with God Almighty and brought down the ten commandment written on stone tablets. Talk about some HUGE mile”stones” to tell your kids and grandkids!! (See what I did there?)

There’s one accomplishment of his that I have overlooked: Making disciples. As great as Moses was, he was finite. Life would end eventually. The people would still need a leader. “He understood that leadership is always a temporary assignment—always.” In Exodus we read as Moses was carrying on his duties and his life in general, Joshua was there by his side. He personally invited and invested in Joshua. Joshua was by his side on Mt. Sinai when God gave Moses the ten commandments, when Moses smashed the Ten Commandment tablets with a righteous anger, when Moses communed with the Father in the Tent of Meetings. When the time came for Moses to pass on, Joshua was ready to lead the people. 

In recent weeks the staff and elders have been going through Designed to Lead. The book urges for leaders to be raised up in the church. The motivation here is not to have others do the work. Rather, the motivation is to see God’s work continue on and be done well as well as to see God’s work in the hearts of His people. How irresponsible it is to think that the entirety of going and making disciples and reaching the community is left up to one or a few on staff! 

The leadership at New City has been planning and discussing how to best disciple others. How do we go about this? What is the best system for this? We have been working on leadership pipelines in our respective areas of ministry. There’s still a lot of tweaking and fine tuning but we believe it is going to be great for the future of New City and ultimately for the future of God’s work here in Macon, GA. 

WORSHIP PIPELINE

Each of the pipelines are based on this flow chart: 

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In the area of Music/Worship, here are the levels of leadership:

Lead Self: Musician | Talented and gifted with the ability to play instruments or sing and are willing to serve and lead through music on Sunday mornings
Lead Others: Liturgist | Writes, plans, and leads through the gospel-centered liturgy on Sunday morning
Lead Leaders: Music Director | Organizes and leads musicians in band practice who is well-acquainted with song structure and music theory
Lead Ministry: Worship Director | Guides the mission and vision of the ministry and supports the leaders

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. 
— Joshua 1:1-2

Though the transition of leadership from Moses to Joshua was smooth, natural, and well thought out, Joshua’s leadership tells a completely different story. Nowhere do we see Joshua actively raising and discipling others. The tragic conclusion of his leadership was that the next generation did not know the Lord or His works. (Judg. 2:8,10) This is a sobering warning to the church and it’s leaders. We need to be continually discipling leaders more and more leaders. Our desire is not to simply replace ourselves or lighten the load, but to prepare leaders to go and serve and lead not only within the church body but wherever God has planted us in life. 

If you want to read our previous blogs in this series click here and in the search bar type, “The Call to Lead.”

We Are New City: Leading in the Family

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Over the past four years of Air Force Reserve duty, “I am here for the health insurance” has become my mantra. I served on Active duty for almost five years and felt I had done my time…there was nothing else I needed to prove. During these past four years, I have been asked to put on another rank, move into a supervisory position, help lead in our unit…and my mantra has always been my response. No thanks, I’m just here for the insurance.

I just returned from two weeks in Charleston fulfilling my annual commitment, and again I was asked to lead, and again I said no thanks. Then I was put into a situation where I had to lead, and something changed inside me. With all of its stress and weight, I actually enjoy leading although I’m hesitant to do so. This past weekend I identified some problems and developed a solution and brought it to my leadership for them to correct. I didn’t come in a critical spirit of blaming or accusing, but more of seeing an area that we needed to work on and expecting my leadership to lead us in it. I walked out of that meeting just a little frustrated.

“Airman McConnell, I absolutely agree that is a problem. And I love your solution. Now…you go do it.”

Wait, what!?

“You are a part of this team. You have identified a problem and came up with a solution, and I 100% agree with you on both accounts. I am not the Air Force…WE, are the Air Force. You can’t expect supervisors to fix every problem. I’m empowering you to make changes. Now, go make it happen.”

I had voiced my complaint to a couple of my teammates, and they had concurred. They had encouraged me to go talk to our leadership, and I had done that…and in a moment, I was reminded that it takes a team to lead, make changes, and implement solutions.

As I walked away from that meeting, my frustration turned into an embarrassment. I had made the same mistake so many in the church body make. I had seen problems, and I had even come up with a solution…but I wanted someone else to fix it. I wanted someone else to lead, guide, and implement solutions.

WE are New City.

WE are a priesthood of saints.

WE are a body, perfectly fit together to be the church.

As we continue in our series describing who New City Church is and who we are as individuals, working together corporately, this served as a good reminder for me. We all see things a little different. We notice things that others may not notice. We are all equipped with different gifts, skills, and abilities. When we put our collective experiences together, we benefit, the church benefits, and our community benefits.

We are a family, serving together to see the Gospel advance in the world. If we see a problem or an area that we can grow in, don’t grumble, complain, or leave. Don’t just show up for the insurance. Remember your identity and live it out!

We Are New City: Discipleship like Jesus'

New City is a little different. But different isn't our goal.
Discipleship is.
That's the task Jesus left his original disciples with; that's the task of the church - discipleship.
Just after the resurrection and just before his ascension, Jesus gave the disciples their orders, "18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28

A disciple of Jesus is someone who loves and follows Jesus. That should describe every true believer - we love Jesus and follow him. Following him means that as disciples we are growing in our own knowledge and walk with him, becoming more and more like him (Romans 8:29). Following him also means that we are "making disciples," sharing the good news of Jesus (baptizing them) and helping others grow as his disciples (teaching them to obey his commands).

So - the church is people who love and follow Jesus, disciples. And the mission of the church is to be disciples (growing in our own walk) who are making disciples, helping others come to love and follow Jesus (or, helping others live in light of the gospel). Really that's it.
Love and follow Jesus and help others love and follow Jesus.

While there are many ways for discipleship to take place in and through the local church, here's how New City approaches discipleship following the model we see in the life of Jesus:

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Jesus Discipled the Multitudes
There are many stories in the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) of huge crowds gathering to hear Jesus teach. So he taught the multitudes who gathered. 
For us, that's our Sunday morning gatherings. Every Sunday our liturgy, songs, sermons and kid's classes declare the gospel to both believers and unbelievers with the goal of seeing people come to love and follow Jesus. This is discipleship but not all that effective for deep growth.

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Jesus Discipled the Twelve
Jesus didn't spend all of his time with the multitudes. In fact he often tried to escape the multitudes with his disciples. Jesus spent a great deal of time with the twelve. They ate together, ministered together, did mission together. They celebrated weddings together and mourned funerals together. They faced adversity together. In all of that, Jesus was teaching this small group and preparing them to continue as disciples and make other disciples even when he was away.
We do this through our Missional Communities. Missional Communities (MCs) are like small groups but with a heavy focus on discipleship - helping others love and follow Jesus. Our MCs seek to apply each week's sermon to the life of those in the MC, learning to follow Jesus. Each MC is also on mission together, reaching out in a variety of ways to see others come to love Jesus as well.  Here discipleship deepens and becomes much more practical than a Sunday morning sermon. Here we live the "One Anothers" of Scripture which includes, Colossians 3:16, "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. "

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Jesus Discipled a Few
Throughout the ministry of Jesus you find him spending extra time with three of his disciples - Peter, James and John. These three were closer to Jesus than any of the disciples. Jesus was investing more deeply in them and in their discipleship. These men would become primary leaders and evangelists in the first church. Jesus was preparing them to lead.
At New City we call these small groups DNA Groups. "A DNA Group usually consists of three people—men with men, women with women—within a particular (MC), who meet together regularly to be known and to bring the gospel to bear on each other’s lives so that they grow in and live out their gospel identity. DNA Groups are not about self improvement, but God’s unending grace to transform us through the gospel–Jesus’ perfect life, death, and resurrection. (Galatians 1:102 Corinthians 5:21)"  (from www.saturatetheworld.com).  We'll be talking much more in the coming months about DNA Groups and getting more DNA groups started in our MCs.

Jesus made disciples who, by the power of the Spirit, changed the world.
We believe his method is worth repeating - reach the multitudes, disciple small groups, pour your life into a few who will also pour their lives into a few, disciples making disciples.  This is our focus. This is where we invest our time, talents and resources. This is how we make disciples who make disciples.

 

The Call to Lead: New City Kids

This post is part three in our Leadership Development series. You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.

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When many of us are tasked with developing leaders in our respective areas of influence, we respond with hesitancy. “I don’t have time to train someone else, I can do it faster myself.” “Who would even want to learn this skill or system?” “Where would I even begin?” So we agree that it is a good idea in theory, but never move to practice because it’s just too hard. (Oh, that’s just me, OK)

Leadership as Discipleship

But as followers of Jesus, called to make disciples as we go, we don’t have the luxury of just nodding our heads in agreement and never taking action. For the Christian, leadership development is directly tied up in discipleship because all of life is tied up in discipleship. Whether it’s in our families, our businesses, or our church, investing in the character and abilities of the people in our spheres of influence strengthens and equips the body of Christ for her work. When we teach, train, and develop the people around us to be better leaders, we are equipping them to be better disciples who make disciples. We cannot separate the two.

How does that affect us at New City? We believe the Bible teaches that we are disciples who make disciples wherever we go, and we desire to see the Kingdom of God transform everything in our reach. How does that happen? Through people. You and me. The men and women who fill our building each Sunday. We are called to change the world through the power of the Holy Spirit – right where we are, with the gifts and abilities we have. In school, at work, at home. Developing leaders means we are intentionally investing in people, pointing out their strengths and weaknesses, and helping them to grow in their capacity to reach people. We desire to develop leaders because we desire to see people changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Leadership is synonymous with discipleship.

In recent weeks, our staff and elders have been thinking through how to build this into our systems and processes so that we can’t help but develop leaders. We are working on ways to make this kind of equipping so natural in our church that we are all being discipled and discipling in different areas all the time. We are putting structures in place that will keep us accountable to this goal of growing leaders so that we aren’t able to consign it to a good idea without any real practical application.

Making it Practical

Our "pipeline" for each ministry at New City looks like this:

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In the area for which I am primarily responsible, New City Kids, we see a few levels of leadership opportunities:

  • Lead Self: Volunteer | Loves and cares for our kids and supports the gospel-centered teaching in the classrooms
  • Lead Others: Teacher | Organizes lessons and engages kids with the gospel in a way they can understand
  • Lead Leaders: Class Coaches and Team Leaders | Class Coaches help give direction and support to those teaching each age group, and Team Leaders organize and administer effective systems to welcome people in
  • Lead Ministry: Children’s Director | Guides the mission and vision of the ministry and supports the leaders

Some of these levels of leadership are already in place and just need greater support and direction. Others will be brand new opportunities for our people to stretch themselves, step into new areas of leadership and responsibility, and grow as disciples of Christ. At all of these levels, we desire to see New City Kids team members grow in their understanding and love of the gospel. We want the ministry of our kids classes to serve not only the kids and their parents, but the many faithful volunteers by helping them to live in light of the gospel. The goal is not to move everyone all the way through the pipeline, like finishing a course or training program, but to put concrete systems in place that allow us to disciple our people in every area. Some will move through each level of the pipeline, but the people who don’t are still leading the ministry and growing in Christ.

I’ll be honest. It’s tempting to keep all of the responsibility for myself. To hoard the areas of leadership because I fear letting go of control. But the truth is that this is God’s ministry at New City, I am just a steward. And if I fail to steward well the people in my sphere of influence, I miss the opportunity to make disciples who make disciples. God is not limited by our failures, but he has chosen to advance his kingdom through his people. We get to participate in the amazing work of redemption and restoration that God is doing in the world and in Macon, GA, and he is calling many more to join in that work. The stakes are too high to not develop leaders.

 

Lesson from my garden: The Fruit Comes from The Root

Would you all believe that this year, while I didn’t say anything to Marilyn or anyone else, deep down inside I expected to have a bumper crop from my garden this year?  Really, I had already gotten prepared to brag and boast about the great green thumb that I have (or supposedly have).  Please mind you that all I really know about gardening is that if you plant something in good soil it ought to grow. 

This year I reasoned that if I till my garden early and then wait a few weeks and then till it again I could kill the weeds.  This would be so much easier than pulling up weeds the root by hand. I did that and then waited a few more weeks and tilled the ground a third time supposedly assuring me that there would be few if any weeds. 

As fate would have it, as the months continued I discovered that I had a hernia for which I had to have surgery.  Because of having surgery, I can no longer till the soil or pull weeds.  Over the course of weeks with lots of rain and watering my garden I soon discovered that I had more weeds than I’ve ever had before.  Why did I have all of these weeds?  The real problem was that I never really got rid of the weeds. I merely turned them over in the soil. 

So then what are the lessons that I learned from this disaster of a garden that is inundated with weeds, ugly and out of control?  The writer of Hebrews said this in Hebrews 12:15-16. “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;” This statement comes in the context of submitting to God’s discipline of us as an expression of His love for us, and His training and correcting process to help us live a life pleasing to Him and for our good. 

·       Sometimes it seems easier to bury things, leave them alone, or simply turn them over as opposed to getting them out in the open.  It would have been better if I had taken the time to pull the weeds out of my garden as they appeared and doing away with them permanently as opposed to just turning them over and hoping that they would go away for good. 
Sometimes we experience problems with others, difficulty in living, and other real issues because we have sin in our lives that are rooted in our pride, selfishness, lack of forgiveness, covetousness, lust, or whatever.  Those problems, difficulties, and issues are the fruit that comes from the root of our sins.  Rather than truly acknowledge our sins to Jesus and follow God’s instructions for true cleansing, repentance, and making things right, we find easier ways to turn them over or get busy enough to forget them.
Sooner or later they spring up again. We are unable to experience real victory in areas of our issues, problems, & difficulties, because most of the sinful issues with which we struggle are the fruit of something deeper. Sometimes our deep rooted sins that we just turn over can lead to anger and bitterness which we can’t seem to overcome.  Often these things lead to broken relationships, anger, bitterness, and a host of other undesirable fruit.

·       Just like the weeds in my garden have to be pulled up from the root, so also we have to deal with the real sins that are the root of our sinful fruit.  God extends His grace to us to obey Him and submit to His will and His ways in all things. That is why the writer of Hebrews stated that we should, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God.”
The way we obtain God’s grace in all matters is to confess our sins because He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  In doing so we obtain His grace in the matters with which we hurt or struggle.   What’s really exciting about getting to the root of our issues is that, “… no "root of bitterness" springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”  In other words when we deal with the root we avoid the fruit that causes us so much trouble.  

So then what is this great lesson for life that I learned from the weeds in my garden?  Look inside yourself for the root.  The psalmist said in Ps 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!"

With a sincere and upright heart ask Jesus to reveal your sins.  Then you can confess them and forsake them.  Prov 28:13 states, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who  confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”  The problems, issues, and difficulties brought on by sin will surely pass away if you realize that the fruit comes from the root.

Lesson from My Garden: Faithfully Witnessing Is the Right Thing to Keep Doing

Every year I try to have a garden.  I don’t really know why I like having a garden, but I do.  Two years ago, we moved into another house and I planted a garden the very first year.  My back yard is characterized by that good old Georgia red clay in which I started my garden.  First I had to till that red clay.  What I found in tilling the red clay was that underneath it was some better soil.  When the better soil mixed with the red clay it provided a better environment for which to plant vegetables. 

In addition to tilling the soil, I added fertilizer to the soil to better nourish the plants and to hopefully give the plants a better opportunity to bear fruit.  Of course, I had to water the garden consistently so that the plants could absorb the nutrients from the ground and produce fruit.  Ultimately, I had no idea how my garden would turn out.  I had to wait on mother nature to work underneath the ground in order to see the fruit.  The garden did okay.  I got sweet potatoes, peppers, collard and turnip greens, and cucumbers. 

So what are the lessons that I learned from my garden about being a faithful witness for Jesus?

·       Whenever we tell people about Jesus we do so by faith. We witness in faith not knowing what God is doing or what He has already done in the heart of that person. Just like the soil in my garden, people’s hearts have to be prepared to receive the gospel. When we witness we may be JUST tilling the soil.

·       God’s word and the work of the Holy Spirit are the ingredients that when mixed with a person’s heart makes the person susceptible to the gospel. So whenever we take steps of faith to tell people about Jesus and how they can know Him or when we invite them to church to hear the message of Jesus, we are either planting which may include tilling or we are watering their hearts with the fertilizer of God’s word or the witness of His people living in fellowship with each other.

·       Ultimately, just like I never have any idea how my garden will turn out, so we have no idea what is going on in the hearts of the people to whom we witness or bring to church.  The Holy Spirit and God’s word work together in people’s hearts & spirits just like the fertilizer works in ways unknowingly to us to produce fruit, i.e. salvation.  Therefore we must be persistent in praying for the salvation of people, sharing the gospel, or inviting people to church and other fellowships because in doing so we are either tilling, planting or watering.

·       Paul said this in 1 Cor 3:6-9  -  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers.

So then what is the overriding but simple lesson that I got from my garden?  Be persistent in praying for the salvation of others, witnessing to others, and inviting them to church by faith.

The Call to Lead: Missional Communities

This post is Part 2 of our The Call to Lead series. You can find Part 1 here.

Over the past couple of months, the staff and elders have been going through the book, Designed to Lead, by Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck. We have been talking and brainstorming lots about developing leaders within our church; for our church and for our city. We have been creating leadership development "pipelines" for each of our ministry areas.

Leadership Development

Todd Adkins, in reference to leadership development, says "a critical part of leadership is recognizing that your fruit grows on other people's trees." We hold this true, but we're not talking about harvesting where you haven't planted or some kind of winner-takes-all leadership model. I am talking about a style of leadership reproduction as the primary way to cultivate multiplication.

Every role in leadership is a temporary role, and every leader is not successful until they have developed at least one successor. In the Great Commission, Jesus calls us to "make disciples," not just to grow and develop ourselves. Paul also challenges church leaders not to do all the ministry themselves but to train and “equip the saints for the work of the ministry" (Eph. 4:12). Far too often in our society and sometimes in our churches, leadership is seen more as a position of power than a position of responsibility. Development takes time and effort. It must occur up close. Jesus rarely did the work of the ministry by Himself. Sure, He spent time alone, but when He ministered to people, His disciples were always nearby. He even gave them responsibility and space to lead. He shared responsibility.

Our "pipeline" for each ministry at New City looks like this:

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Why Do MC's Need a Pipeline?

By God's grace, New City is growing! This is great news. We have welcomed so many new people into our family this summer (a time of the year that is slow for most churches). Most of our MC's are exploding in size; many of which have 30-40 people attending their gatherings each week. The intended size for an MC is 12-15 adults with room to welcome in outsiders. Long story short: we need to plant more MC's. To plant more MC's we need more leaders. 

Where Do We Go From Here?

As an MC leader, it is easy to take on the most responsibility and do everything yourself. This is painful and counterintuitive for everyone involved. We need to constantly be training and equipping others to lead and progress in their giftings. This requires us relinquishing control and stepping into life-on-life discipleship.

Our "pipeline" for Missional Communities is a plan of action for developing everyone into the person God has designed them to be. It is a plan to help everyone live their lives fully in light of the gospel. Our Missional Community pipeline looks like this:

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This will look different for every person and not everyone will go through every level of the pipeline. We are simply wanting to create a model and plan to help us equip and develop everyone at New City into all God has created them to be. There is overlap in some of these pipeline levels; for example, an MC Host (Lead Servant) doesn't have to be equipped to facilitate sermon discussion time to host an MC gathering, but they certainly could be. So, don't feel limited within these categories. This is simply a way to streamline leadership development.

Implementing Pipelines and Leadership Development

The defining legacy of any leader is the quality of those you develop and your ability to transition out of your role -- at any time and for any reason. Whether sacred or secular, organizational leadership matters. We are called to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. If we do so, we will see unity in the body (Philippians 2), maturity measured in the fullness of Christ (Colossians 2) and a multiplication of disciples making disciples (Matt. 28:18-20) that hasn't been seen since the early church.

If you have any questions, please reach out to me and I will be happy to answer any questions or provide any help that I can.

To the Ends of the Earth...through college students

 photo from mercer.edu

photo from mercer.edu

I get really excited about this time of year. I mean REALLLLLLY excited.
Colleges are starting up their Fall semesters and its Mercer's move-in weekend!  #gobears

I love seeing the new faces on Sunday mornings - all smiles and laughs as the new year starts. I love hearing the voices of students who love Jesus loudly singing with us. I love how so many of the students who come jump into serving roles with kids, students, the band and all sorts of places. I can't wait to get our students back and meet our new students!
BUT
There is something more than just students at New City that excites me as I think about this weekend and this Fall - it is how those students will go places and reach people that most of us will have no access to, it is how they will travel to the ends of the earth as both students and graduates... and we have an opportunity through them to see eternity changed.

It is true that some students come and go and never connect. But it is equally true that many students come and stay connect deeply with New City. I remember when we were starting New City - we held an informational meeting at a small cafe downtown. A handful of people showed up to hear more. Two of them were Mercer students - Meredith and Catfish. They were dating at the time. They came to help us start New City. They connected. They served. They joined a missional community. They married. They had a son. And Catfish became a doctor. Just this summer they accepted a position close to home and 11 years later, they left us. But they leave taking a bit of us with them. They leave with a deeper love for Jesus and greater understanding of what it means to be His family. They take that to South Georgia.

Zac and Mia Rice come to mind.  They served us so well. They also were served well as Arthur coached and discipled Zac because Zac served in our student ministry. They recently moved to  California and take with them a greater gospel depth. 

Jessica Encalrd. Goodness. New City was the first protestant church Jessica had ever been to. She knew about Jesus but she didn't really know Him. Jessica became a believer. She was baptized at New City. She and Sam were our first wedding at the Cherry Street building. Jessica and Sam live in the Atlanta area. She's a doctor now. They have a beautiful family and serve in their church.

In the last month or so I received a message from Davis Lacey. Davis was a part of New City during his Mercer years. He contacted me to let me know he was gearing up to plant a church and he wanted me to know that New City had a great influence in his decision to plant.

I remember meeting, talking with and praying for a Mercer couple - Dan and Alex. Alex was a newer believer and Dan was a not yet believer. They joined an MC who loved them and prayed for them. I counseled them and married them. I watch them now, mostly from a distance - Dan supporting and loving his growing family well it seems, Alex serving in Young Life and pointing so many to Jesus.  Aiken, SC doesn't know how blessed they are to Have Dan and Alex.

I could go on and on. New City has influenced countless students through years who are now all over the country and even the world. So often they leave us changed forever by God's grace. When they do, they take that with them, wherever they go.  This morning I have shed a few tears thinking about them and how amazing God has been through these years at New City. They are all evidences of God's grace!

This weekend a whole new batch of students will likely be with us.
Where will they go?  Who will they touch?  Will they marry? Have children? Raise families? Will they plant churches? Will they travel to distant places?
YES they will. They will do all of that and more.
And we have an opportunity to send them well prepared - to send them loved - to send them saturated in the beautiful news of Jesus - to send them changed by the gospel.

New City, please don't miss this.
Please don't overlook what God is doing here.
Please don't miss our opportunity to reach the ends of the earth....through college students.

Lesson from Old Concrete Workers: I Got It!

About this Series:  One of the characteristics of my personality is that I love to tell stories (not lies).  I think I acquired this from the way that I grew up.  In my childhood days we use to sit around and listen to my father, mother, uncles, aunts, and other adults tell about various events from their day. Those stories were often true, sometimes exaggerated, exciting, funny, sometimes sad and would you believe that many of those stories and the practice of telling these stories are still inside me.  

What’s interesting about these stories is that most all of them always had some sort of lesson for life in them.  Over the years as I unconsciously picked up this practice of telling stories based on things that happened no matter how insignificant they seemed at the time.  I found that there are so many lessons for life just in the simple things of life.  These lessons can drive into our hearts biblical truths that enable us to better live our lives for Jesus.  I thought that it might be encouraging for some to get some spiritual insight for living just from the simple things in life.   So here we go!

Lesson Learned From Some Old Concrete Workers: I Got It!  

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Way back in June 1978 I finished my enlistment in the Marine Corps.  After I got home I needed to work so I went to work with a man from my neighborhood who was a concrete finisher.  He was up in age and so were some of the men that worked with him.  My first day on the job he had the contract to pour the concrete floor for a large building.  On the way to the job I very distinctly remembered going over in my mind that I would never allow an old man to out work me. I determined on the way to work to be the very best worker on the job.  

Once we got to the job they explained to me what I had to do.  Since I have no experience with concrete I was the laborer. My job was to haul concrete in a wheelbarrow from one side of the building to the other.  As soon as the first truck arrived and was prepared to unload the concrete I stood by the concrete chute ready to take the concrete across the building to the finishers.  The truck poured out this heavy substance. It filled the wheel barrow and away I went across the floor, holding the wheelbarrow high because I was a young strong man and able to work at an unprecedented pace, or so I thought.  

The old concrete worker who hired me, Herman Stone said to me.  “Don’t walk so fast with that concrete!  I said to him, “I got it!”  Then he said to me, “You are holding that wheelbarrow too high.” I said to him, “I got it!”  Next he said, “you’re not going to be able to work all day moving that fast!”  I said to him, “I got it!”  
Then another worker said, “Leave him alone.  He’s got it!”
Then another worker asked the others, “do you all think he’s got it?”  
They all said, “yeah!  He’s got it!”  

At the time they were working kind of slow.  Little did I know that as they worked they would pick up the pace.  Now they had two wheelbarrows on the job.  One stayed with the truck and the other one was the one that I carried across the floor.  As soon as I got back with the empty wheelbarrow the other was already full so there was no rest in between carrying loads.  This took place in the middle of July.  
Those skilled professional workers who had been utilizing their skills for their entire lives were about to teach me a lesson that is still with me today.  They began working faster.  
As they worked they talked and laughed.  Interesting is that their conversation was all about me.  They began to have fun at my expense.  Here is sort of how their conversation went.  
Do you all think he’s going to work out?  Yeah! He’s got it!  Look like he’s slowing down.  Is he giving out of gas?  No! He’s got it!  Look at him go. He’s still going.  He’s got it!
By this time I had been working only about an hour.  I looked up and there were two or three more concrete trucks in line waiting to empty their load of concrete into my wheel barrow.  

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I wasn’t saved then but I called on the Lord. I said Oh Lord I’m in trouble.  Now remember that Mr. Stone told me to quit lifting the wheelbarrow so high. Well I was wearing down fast. My clothes were soaking wet with sweat. My eyes had turned red. I soon stumbled over the wire on the floor and wasted a load of concrete.  One of the men shouted, Are you all right?  Before I could answer another one said, “Yeah!  He’s alright!” “He’s got it!”
Another one said it doesn’t look he’s got it.  Another one said, Yeah he’s got it!  He’s a good worker!  Don’t Y’all see he’s got it. They were laughing their tails off at my expense.  

Now the real problem that I had was that I was too prideful to say that I needed help.  In addition, when they were first trying to show me how to use a wheelbarrow and pace myself I wouldn’t listen.  I had no idea that there was a method to using a wheelbarrow that would prevent me from getting tired and worn out.  Right after that I was standing at the concrete truck and holding the wheelbarrow as the concrete was being poured out and the wheelbarrow and I fell over right at the truck.  This started another round of conversation and laughter with the men talking loud enough for me to hear with all of the conversation leading to the one statement.  He’s got it!

I was getting weaker, slower, and felt like I was going to pass out.  
By God’s grace (whom I didn’t know at the time) I managed to make it to lunch.  
For maybe the first time in my life I chose to sleep during lunch instead of eating.  

While I was lying down Mr. Stone set beside me and he said these words.  Now you can listen to me if you want but working the way you are you won’t last long.  You have to work the work instead of letting the work work you.  One thing you are doing wrong is that you are lifting the wheelbarrow.  We don’t lift the wheel barrow. We hold it and push it with our legs.  Next you’re trying to move too fast.  Just keep a steady pace.  By then I was embarrassed and broken but I listened.  When it was time to go back to work I allowed him to show me how to work and I listened.  

God has so wonderfully given us instructions for life and godliness.  Often our pride gets in the way and we refuse to listen to Him or follow His instructions by faith in obedience. This causes great pain and difficulty in living even for some to the point of giving up on life.  

You see when it comes to living none of us have it.  I didn’t have it hauling concrete nor do I have it living life. What I do know is that Jesus Christ has it all and knows all.  Isn’t it wonderful that we have a loving, merciful, and compassionate Savior who still reaches out to us and desires to show us the way.  Proverbs 29:1 states,  He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing.  I remember that day as if it was yesterday.  I had no regard for the skill that those men possessed.  I assume that by my youth and strength and power that I could do better than they.  I thought that I had it.  

By the end of the day one thing that I learned was that I needed to learn from men who have been that way before. Jesus lived the life that we couldn’t live and showed us how to live, love, and serve one another.  Pride is that thing in us that elevates us over Jesus and says, “I got it!”  We must willingly and eagerly submit to His will so that as we go through life we do so in a way that makes it easier to live and glorify Him.  

It took a group of old concrete workers to teach me lessons that would later benefit me as a Christian.   I learned to esteem others more highly than myself.  I learned that pride indeed comes before a fall.  The most humble lesson that I learned is that I don’t have it.  All I have is Jesus and in Him I have everything pertaining to life and godliness.   
 

The Call to Lead

For the last couple of months, New City staff and elders have been reading the book Designed to Lead by Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck. The book begins with the premise that the Church should be a locus, or center point, for leadership development. One reason for this is that “leadership, apart from the work of God, cannot produce true flourishing or eternal results.” (p. 2)

And we aren’t just talking about leadership within the Church, though that is certainly a need. The leaders that are developed within the Church can impact our culture on a much larger scale, as they become leaders in many areas of life. In other words, “If we believe, as William Temple stated, ‘The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members,’ then all of humanity benefits from the leaders created and formed in the church.” (p.3, emphasis added)

Why We Need Leaders

We are at an amazing place now at New City. We have grown so much, and God continues to bring new people through our doors just about every week! As attendance increases, the need for volunteers does as well. It’s a really great problem to have! We are so thankful.

As we have grown, we have also begun to feel the need for more leaders acutely and in every area. Sometimes the easiest thing for those leading is to just do everything themselves. However, by doing so, they wear themselves out, and, even worse, do a disservice to those they lead by failing to disciple and develop leadership skills.

The challenge in leadership development is that it takes WORK! It isn’t random. Leaders don’t just spring up out of nowhere. There has to be a plan, a strategy for development and training. It is an investment of time, energy and other resources. The cost can be great, but we believe the reward is even greater as we begin to see our culture changed and the gospel advanced.

What now?

For that reason, we have begun developing leadership “pipelines” in each of our ministry areas. A pipeline is a clear and concise plan. Leadership pipelines name the different levels of leadership and define the character qualities, skills and responsibilities corresponding with each level. Most simply, the pipeline shows the “goal” and how to get there.

Some of you may not see yourselves at leaders. You read all this about development and pipelines, and maybe you’ve already dismissed yourself as a candidate. DON’T DO THAT! We are all called to bring others around us to Jesus. We are all called to play a role in shaping our culture, at home, work, and play. That’s leadership! You are called whether you feel like a leader or not. And God is faithful to equip the ones He has called.

It will look different for everyone. Not everyone will move through the pipelines, and that’s ok. Our hope is to provide the framework and plan, to help others identify potential leaders in every area of ministry, and to help all of you develop the gifts God has given you.

The Goal

As with everything we do at New City, the ultimate goal is to see lives transformed as people begin living in light of the gospel. We don’t just want to develop leaders for the ministry’s sake, or to make our jobs easier. We don’t want to develop leaders just so we can say we did and check it off the list. It is so much bigger than that. There is a whole world of people who need to hear the good news of Jesus. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few (Matt. 8:37). The goal is to raise up leaders who will labor for the sake of the gospel. Won’t you join us?

In the coming weeks, you will be introduced to pipelines in our different ministry areas. If you have questions, please feel free to contact an elder or staff member, and we will be glad to answer!

Back to School and Back to Church: 5 Ways to be Missional on Sunday Morning this Fall

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Summer! So many plans. So much fun.
Trips.
Vacation.
The lake.
The pool.
Cookouts.
No school.
No homework.
Playing till dark.
No real schedule.
It really is a great time. And it's hard to believe that another summer has come and gone.

This week many schools start the new school year. As trips come to an end and homework and sports practice take the place of schedule-less nights and playing till dark, we'll settle back into routines and rhythms. This provides us with a great opportunity as a church!

Fall is typically one of the biggest times of growth in churches. As families who have been scattered begin to settle into their new school routines many find it a great time to add new routines or re-establish the long lost routine of church. 

So here are a few ways that we can make the most of this opportunity as a church:

  1. INVITE
    There is really no bad time to invite someone to join you at church, but a great time to invite someone is when they are more likely to say yes. Fall is one of those times - a new day, a new start and new routines. Even if you have invited someone in the past, Fall provides a great opportunity for a re-invite. So look for an opportunity, make an opportunity and invite someone to join you at our Sunday gathering.
     
  2. COME EARLY
    Visitors are almost always early! They arrive 15 minutes early so that they can easily find their way to the building, find parking and get to a seat. Statistically, visitors decide in their first 6 minutes whether or not they will return. That means their first minutes are crucial. When they arrive they should find friendly faces and welcoming friends. They should be cared for and made to feel like family. If no one is here to welcome them and care for them because we arrive 15 minutes late, that will never happen. So get up, get moving and as part of God's mission, come early.
     
  3. STICK AROUND
    Instead of rushing out after our last song on Sunday, take a minute to speak to people you don't know. This has to be an intentional thought and plan. If its not, we are prone to rush to lunch or check in with the friends we haven't see since last Sunday. Make it a goal to meet someone you don't know. If you think they may be visiting, ask, "Hey, I don't think we've met before. Are you new to New City?" The end of the service is not too late to help someone feel at home with us.
     
  4. ASK ABOUT MCs
    When you do meet someone new, even if they aren't a first time visitor, ask if they are involved in an MC. If they aren't, invite them to your MC. Everyone is looking for a place to belong, a family to be a part of. We were created with that need. Invite them to join you at your next MC gathering.
     
  5. FOLLOW UP
    How you follow up depends on what you talked about. If they agreed to check out your MC, plan to follow up with them so you can give directions - maybe by phone, email or social media. If your conversation didn't get to that point, then look for them in the coming weeks on Sunday and make sure you speak to them if they return. This goes a long way in making visitors feel like they are known and welcomed.

Our mission at New City is to help others live in light of the gospel. Doing that takes time with people, time in our worship gatherings, time in our MCs and often time one on one. We will only get that time as people feel welcomed enough to return. That's where you come in.

In Colossians 4:5 Paul urges the church to make the most of every opportunity that they had with those not a part of the church. Let's make the most of the opportunity that this Fall brings.