Mission: Loving the People Where You Are

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My view of mission for the believer has been radically reshaped over the past several years. I once viewed mission as GOING to far away lands where languages and cultures were different - South America, Asia… I saw missionaries as those people who were especially sent by God to reach those foreign people with the good news of Jesus. It was what I learned. The great commission after all says, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations…”

As I write this we have a team that just returned from a mission trip to Honduras and another that is currently in Guatemala, I love mission to far away places and peoples who are very different.
But I also have come to know that mission is as much “next door” as it is far away. You see, the great commission, I believe, is not a call to GO, but a call to MAKE DISCIPLES. And I believe that it what we translate as “go” in the original language would better be translated, “as you go.” I believe that because first, it is a participle and second because all of the disciples didn’t “go.” Most stayed where they were. There, where they were, as they went about their normal routines and rhythms of life, they made disciples. As they met new people and made new friends, they told them about Jesus.
They loved the people right where they were,in their neighborhoods and where they worked.

This is mission. Loving the people where you are and loving them enough to tell them about Jesus. It is intentionally living as a missionary right where God has you, as you go about your life.

Last week 2 of our MCs (missional communities) gathered in different places but with the same goal - meeting neighbors and through new relationships, telling them about Jesus. Beautiful!

These aren’t the only MCs intentionally reaching out to their neighbors! Others have had or regularly have neighborhood gatherings with food and drinks and games for the kids! This is becoming the norm - mission, loving the people where we are. What a grace!!

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of
mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel …
Philippians 1

You Are Not Enough, and That's Ok

You are perfect.
You are enough.
You have everything you need inside you.

If you’ve spent any time on social media lately, you’ve likely read a variation of one of those mantras. They are well intended but feeble attempts to move us away from the temptation to compare ourselves to others and feel “less than.” I say well intended because those statements do come from a good place with the purpose of being encouraging. I say feeble because, well, you’re not enough, actually. Neither am I. And it’s ok.

When I don’t finish my to do list, when I lose my patience and snap at my children, when I’m short with my husband, when I once again give into any temptation that I have been fighting, I am not enough. I am not productive, patient, loving or strong enough. And no matter how many times I say to myself “Tomorrow I’ll be better, tomorrow I won’t mess up as much,” I still struggle and fail the next day. This begins a terribly discouraging cycle of failing, trusting in myself to do better, but failing again, then feeling hopeless that I can ever change. I am not enough.  

The truth is, when I struggle and fail, I don’t need to be pointed back to myself. The very fact that I DO struggle and fail shows that I need something much greater than myself.

The Bible is clear that we are sinners in need a savior. Jesus is that savior. Through his life, death and resurrection, He has redeemed us. And that is not just redemption from sin and hell… it is redemption from work.

We are broken and needy, and we believe that we need to work to prove ourselves. We need to do better, do more, try harder, and then we will be good enough. If I have everything I need inside me, then I must work harder so that others will see it and know that I am worthy. But Jesus turned all of that on its head.

When he took on flesh and lived perfectly, bore our sin and carried it to the cross, when he died and rose again and overcame sin and death and brokenness, he did all the work. He accomplished everything that we need. When our brokenness and need and his goodness and grace collide, oh, it is glorious. It is beautiful. And it is freedom. Freedom to rest in his accomplished work. Freedom to run to him when we fail. Freedom to do our best and trust that His purposes will stand. Freedom to be “not enough” because he is more than enough.

I don’t need more of me. You don’t need more of you. We need more of Jesus.  

The Goal of Biblical Fatherhood

With Father’s Day right around the corner, I thought it would be great to reflect on what it means to be a Godly, Biblically-driven parent. As a father of an almost 2 year old and a soon-to-be newborn, I am learning that parenting is one of the primary means of sanctifying grace that God has given to me. At times parenting is frustrating, challenging, and confusing; while other times it is beautiful, joy-filled, and glorious.

Through the ups and downs my main goal in parenting, alongside my wife Hanna, is to help guide my children to love and follow Jesus supremely above all other things. This sounds great but the pressure to have trendy, well-behaved, smart, and nutritious kids is sometimes overwhelming. It sometimes drowns out my goal to create an environment where my children learn to love and follow Jesus above all of those things. It’s a process. I’m growing. But what I’m learning is that the sanctification and holiness of my family is so often directly related to the pursuit of Jesus that they see from me. Fathers, we have a weighty responsibility.

I came across a list that Ray Ortlund put together called “10 Things You Should Know about Fatherhood” and it has been extremely helpful in thinking through practical ways to be a godly father who leads his family well. Be encouraged and Happy Father’s Day!


1. Fatherhood began in God, since he is our Father.

God is our Father at two levels. One, he created us: “Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you?” (Deut. 32:6). Two, he adopted us: “You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Rom. 8:15). Ultimate reality is not mechanical but relational, not physics but fatherhood.

2. The fatherhood of God, rarely taught in the Old Testament, is strongly emphasized in the New Testament.

It was Jesus who taught us to pray to “Our Father” (Matt. 6:9) and to see God as our Father (Luke 15:11–32). What Jesus emphasized proves that perceiving God as our Father is a high-point in biblical teaching.

3. Fatherhood came down to us men as a grace from above.

“I bow my knees before the Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named . . .” (Eph. 3:14–15, ESV margin). We didn’t project our notion of fatherhood onto God. Rather, God handed down to us his own vision for what fatherhood means.

4. A father can enrich his children with a great spiritual inheritance.

“O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old” (Psalm 44:1). Each generation does not have to relearn everything from scratch. A father can give his children a head start by passing along the old stories of what God has done.

5. Sadly, a father can also pass down to his children sinful patterns.

“And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers” (Nehemiah 9:2). Some family traditions need to die!

6. A father must guide his children toward what is right and good.

“The LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:12). Discipline is an important way a father loves his children.

7. A father is careful, in disciplining his children, not to become harsh.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger” (Eph. 6:4). After all, God our compassionate Father, “remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13–14).

8. A father boldly claims his entire family for the Lord Jesus.

“As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh. 24:15).

9. A father provides for the legitimate earthly needs of his family.

“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:18).

10. A man becomes a spiritual father by leading someone to faith in Christ, and a pastor is a fatherly presence among his congregation.

“I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment” (Philemon 10). “For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God” (1 Thess. 2:11–12).

Abortion is the Antithesis of Christlikeness

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Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Philippians 2

I write this morning to those who call themselves Christians, those who profess Him as Lord and Savior, those who claim to love and follow him.

The Apostle Paul, in writing to the believers in Rome said, “28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. “  (Roman 8)

This is a beautiful passage on God’s plan to shape us into what was intended before sin entered into the world - his people, holy and righteous - a people who look like Jesus.  This passage describes what we call “sanctification.”  Ultimately sanctification is our being shaped into the image of Jesus, one who loved God perfectly and loved others perfectly. Paul describes this process as a guarantee - we will be shaped into his image (glorification). If we are truly Christian, then our life on some level should reflect this process of sanctification. We should be growing more and more into the image of Jesus.

Which brings us back to the Philippians 2 passage.
Jesus left the comfort and glory of heaven, NOT considering his own interests only, but the interest and needs of others. He did not act selfishly, but selflessly.  He inconvenienced himself for those who were in great need and helpless to meet their own needs. Though he was creator, he willingly humbled himself for the good of his creation, even to the point of suffering abuse, torture and death at their hands. Jesus willingly set aside his rights for the good of someone else. He suffered so that someone else would not have to. 

This is the image that should mark our lives. It is the image we should reflect.

It is like Christ to be willing to set aside my rights for the good of another. It is like Christ to give myself for someone else. It is like Christ to be willing to be inconvenienced for others. It is like Christ to have plans changed. It is like Christ to put the needs of the unborn above my own needs. It is like Christ to do whatever is necessary for those who cannot do for themselves.
It is the opposite of abortion for the vast majority of people.
As Christians, we are the beneficiaries of such a sacrificial and selfless love and we are called to love like Jesus. It is part of bearing his image, of being Christian.

So I appeal to you as Christians, no matter what the Law of our state or country says, no matter how loudly our culture says that this is about your freedom and your rights, choose to live like Jesus, for the good of others, even the unborn… abortion is the antithesis of Christlikeness.

If you find yourself unexpectedly pregnant, afraid and need help, know that you are not alone. There are people and organizations who will love you, counsel you and help you. Here are two organizations in Middle Georgia: Caring Solutions and Covenant Care. You can also reach out to any of our New City Church staff and elders.

For those who have already chosen and carried out an abortion, know that in Christ, because of what we read in Philippians, you can receive forgiveness! It’s why he came. It’s why he suffered and died. You and I have sinned. And we cannot forgive our own sin and we cannot do enough good to make up for it and sadly we continue to sin.  Jesus came to live the life that we have not - perfect and without sin. He came to die the death that we deserve -the righteous died for the unrighteous. And on the third day he arose, defeating death and sin and Satan. And for those who trust in his work, those who believe in who he is and what he has done, there is grace - forgiveness of sin. The Bible says that our sins are cast as far as the East is from the West, never to be remembered by God!  Paul said to the Romans, because of the work of Christ and our faith, there is therefore no condemnation for us.  That is beautiful and amazing. Accept it. Rest in it.

Welcoming the Youths

Youth group was a big part of my teenage years. I was saved in youth group. I experienced community and growth in the youth group. I absolutely loved how God used our youth gathering times on Wednesdays to form and shape me and to help me realize that I was His, that I was in need of His saving grace through Jesus Christ. As I reflect on on things God has used to shape who I am today, Sunday morning church gatherings stand out!

Sunday gatherings were the time when I was able to interact with those older and younger than myself. I developed some truly great and deep relationships with those older than me that I still keep in contact with today. I didn’t realize how significant those relationships would be back then. I didn’t realize how witnessing those intergenerational interactions would form and shape how I interacted with others. 

Seeing and experiencing our Sunday gatherings with folks of all ages helped me realize that this Christianity thing wasn’t just something trendy or cool. It wasn’t something that just parents force onto their kids. It wasn’t just a fad that would soon end like trendy diets (Paleo…Keto…I mean seriously, what’s next??) Sunday mornings helped me realize that Christianity was for the entire life. I needed to witness young married couples point each other toward Christ. I needed to see fathers shepherding their family. I needed to see seniors worship through song that have been steadfast in their faith for 40+ years. I needed to hear the Word of God preached and learn to listen and apply the gospel to my life. I needed to see warm, smiling faces. I needed to sit next to my church family who loved and cared for me. I needed to feel my hand almost break from shaking hands with men I respected. I needed to feel the loving embrace of those who were my grandmothers in Christ. All of this has helped form and shape my views of what the gospel lived out looks like. 

I loved our Sunday gatherings because it was a chance to be with my church family. I was warmly welcomed by grandmothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. They would ask me how my week was going. They would invite me over for lunch afterwards or invite me to come hang out with their families during the week. I got to experience what a gospel-centered family looked like, both the good and the bad. 

Whether you are recently out of youth group or far from it, students need to see you live your life for Jesus. Not just from afar but relationally on Sunday mornings. I know it feels awkward to go out of your way to greet and welcome one of the students but it’s worth it. Don’t let the students just stand in the corner by themselves. Rather, greet them. Ask how they are doing. Invest in them and cheer them on at sporting events. When new families come and they have teenage students, be sure to recognize them as well. Don’t just focus on the parents. Students are also fellow image bearers of the King, whether they know it yet or not. 

I pray that you don’t just hear this as another to-do for Sunday morning. Like with everything, our motivation is not just to be nice or to add another box to check off. Why do we do this? Our motivation should be the Gospel. We have a great and mighty God who created each of us as image bearers to be in relationship with Him and with each other. Sin severs that relationship. We hide. We fear. We worry. We place ourselves above others. While we were wanting, needy, and helpless, Christ came to welcome all those who would place their faith in Him as our Savior. Through His life, death, and resurrection, He openly welcomes and invites us to know the Father and know life everlasting. He invites us to know true acceptance. This is the Gospel. This is our motivation. Christ welcomes us with open arms. As His children, we are to do the same. It’s often said before our greeting time at New City, “let us welcome others just as Christ has so lovingly welcomed us into His family.” It’s not just during that time. It’s when we’re getting coffee. It’s in between services. It’s before services. It’s after services. We welcome others because we have been so graciously welcomed into the family. We welcome because we want others to come into His family too. This includes students. The teenager off to the side who feels awkward and uncomfortable because he/she doesn’t know anyone or whose parents made them come. They need to see your smiles. They need to see your attentiveness to the sermon. They need to see you singing loudly the truths of God. Welcome and invite them in just as Christ has. I can honestly say that I would not be who I am today without God working and welcoming through His people. 

Pew Research reports that twenty-to thirty-year-olds identify with Christianity at half the rate of their parents and a quarter of the rate of their grandparents. These young adults were teens a decade or two ago, and many of them were active in church youth ministries. Many are asking what we can do to get them back into church. Maybe young adults are not actually leaving the church; they were never there to begin with.

Wright, Dave (2016). Gathering God’s People. In Cole, Cameron; Nielson, Jon (Ed.), Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry (pp. 110). Wheaton, IL: Crossway

Resources for Raising Tiny Theologians this Summer

Summer is here! We’ve made it through the school year to the time when schedules are flexible, days are longer, and your tiny people are home a LOT more than usual. Summer brings opportunities to change up routines, find new rhythms as a family, and try things out that you haven’t had time for in other seasons. So as you’re thinking about the next few months, I wanted to share some resources to help you pass on the faith to your kids!

Can kids be theologians?

Before we talk about resources, I wanted to spend some time thinking about why we should teach our children the Bible and the doctrines of the faith.

The Bible makes clear that it is the primary responsibility of parents to raise their children in the Lord and teach them what it means to love and follow Jesus, always aware that it is God who is at work to redeem their hearts. Our teaching is the kindling laid at their hearts, waiting for the fire of the Holy Spirit to ignite their faith. We can’t save them, but we can teach them and ask the Lord to use it.

Training our Kids in godliness is not something that happens once or twice a week, nor is it something we can put off until they are older, but it is part of the regular rhythm of life in the family of God. In Deuteronomy 6:4-9 we read:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

The local church is the family of God, partnering together to spur one another on, including in raising our children. So we want to come alongside parents, encouraging and equipping them in the joy of training our children in the faith!

Everyone is a theologian - everyone has thoughts and ideas about who God is. That includes our children. The real question is have we taken the time to be good theologians, and are we teaching our children to do the same?

My hope is that some of these resources will help you teach your children, especially in this approaching season!

1. Tiny Theologians (ages 3-12)

This small shop creates discipleship tools perfectly suited for parents teaching their children core tenants of the Christian faith! From attributes of God, to church history and the doctrine of union with Christ, this small company creates beautiful and functional products to teach deep truths to small minds (I love their vision so much that I borrowed their name for this post title!). Their products are high quality and intended to last, so they are on the pricier side. This would be good to choose one tool to work through for the summer!

2. The Gospel Project (ages 6-12)

If you have a kiddo who is in one of our elementary age classes on Sunday (meaning they just completed 1st through 5th grade), you could reinforce what they are learning in the classroom with some review at home during the week! Lifeway’s Gospel Project curriculum has tons of tools, one of which is intended for families to talk about at home! Their “Big Picture Cards” include the key verse, gospel-connection, and summary of each week’s story, so you could use them to help kids retain what they’re learning. They are very affordable and would be a simple tool to use at the breakfast table to have good conversation in between Sundays.

3. The Bible Project (ages 5-80)

The age range was tough to define here because the Bible Project videos are intended for a huge audience! While this isn’t a children’s resource, they are beautiful, creative animated videos of Bible stories, themes, and concepts that would be a lot of fun to watch together as a family. Bear in mind that these are written for adults so some of the concepts may be tough for young kids to understand, but they would be great conversation starters for older kids, and could still engage young ones in the biblical story! Just be sure to watch them first to make sure the content of the video you choose is appropriate for your kids’ ages!

4. New City Catechism (ages 4-11)

Catechism is a fancy word that means “oral instruction.” It is an ancient tradition of teaching new believers the core tenets of the Christian faith by memorizing key questions and answers for the purpose of growth in faith. Memorization of integral truths about who God is give our children (and us!) a framework and a language through which they can interpret an immensely confusing world. It is a method of teaching that has largely fallen out of practice but is seeing a resurgence in things like the New City Catechism. This collection of questions and answers has a full version intended for adults and a shortened version for children, available in both a book and a free app! Both guide learners through core doctrines of the Christian faith, rooting their understanding of God in Scripture and orienting their worldview through the lens of the gospel. It is a valuable tool in discipleship at any age.

5. Scripture Memory

Memorizing Scripture can seem like a daunting task if you’ve never done it before, but our kids are surprisingly well suited for it! And as they learn, we learn too! Hiding God’s word in their hearts is one of the most valuable and lasting gifts we can give our children. In moments of fear, pain, confusion, and despair, they can call to mind the very words of God to give them hope. He has given us his word! What a joy. This can be as simple as printing verses from biblegateway.com, or using cards like these at the breakfast table. Give it a try! Offer an incentive, make it a game, memorize with them, use funny voices, and see how amazing our kids can be at memorizing God’s word.

6. Risen Motherhood

My last recommendation is actually a list of recommendations. Risen Motherhood is a ministry geared toward helping moms view all of life through the lens of creation, fall, redemption, restoration. It is a gospel-centered ministry with a heart for passing on the faith to our children, and we love that! They have a robust list of resources for training children, and it’s worth a look all its own. They also frequently share new things they are reading on their social media, so give them a follow if you’re interested!

Just start

If you’re anything like me, you’re looking at this list and are completely overwhelmed. My encouragement to you (and to my own heart) is to just do one thing. Don’t try to catechize your children overnight, and don’t implement a homeschool program of Scripture memory over the summer. Just choose one tool that interests you and seems like something your family could use, and start there! Every intentional moment we spend passing on the hope of the gospel to our kids is valuable. So start small, but just start.

I hope this summer is full of fun, laughter, sleeping in, and good robust theological education! :)

Bonus

If you’re a podcast junkie like me, check out these episodes on why we can and should train our children.

Knowing Faith - Can Kids Be Theologians?

Risen Motherhood - Teaching Our Children about Jesus and How Do I Disciple My Children?

And all summer, make sure to jam out to our New City Kids playlist on Spotify! It is chock full of rich theological truth, Scripture set to catchy music, and it won’t make you want to pull your hair out.

Loving Our City: Small Visitation Room at DFCS

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a little with you about the work we are doing in a small room at DFCS where teenagers hang out while waiting for a placement. We were able to take furniture, a TV, a Wii and some books, games and coloring books and markers. We’ve still got some finishing touches to warm the room up a bit, but it is taking shape! We hope it will make the kids’ time at DFCS a little better. Check out the pictures below!

We still need some teen-appropriate movies for this room (G or PG-rated). You can bring them to church any Sunday and we will get them there!

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Pop-Up Church (in the Park)

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Have you heard of Pop-up Shops? Here’s a snap shot description of a pop-up shop from Wikipedia:

A pop-up retail space is a venue that is temporary: the space could be a sample sale one day and host a private cocktail party the next evening. The trend involves "popping up" one day, then disappearing anywhere from one day to several weeks later. These shops, while small and temporary, are used by companies to build interest in their product or service, and seed their product with cultural influencers. 

Pop-up shops have been a trend in recent years. Pop-up shops have been used to successfully introduce products and the companies selling them. Pop-ups are attractive because they reach potential new “shoppers” and do so at a low overhead when compared to major marketing campaigns and opening new stores.

So if pop-up shops are successful at reaching people, why not a Pop-Up Church?
I’ve been asking this question for well over a year! Why couldn’t we do church this way? What is there to stop us from trying to reach people who don’t attend New City by going where they are and holding a pop-up church service?
The answer? NOTHING.
There is nothing to keep us from trying!
So, we are going to try a pop-up church in the park!

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What Are We Doing and When?

May 19,
5:00 pm
Tattnall Square Park,
Coleman Ave side of the Fountain

Our service will start at 5:00 - but come early! Play in the park. Meet park goers and invite them. Bring a picnic! At 5:00 We’ll have acoustic music and a shortened, gospel-centered message. Our goal is to introduce people to Jesus and invite them into His Kingdom. Since we are His Kingdom present, your role in the afternoon is super important! We want them to see His goodness, grace and kindness in us. We want them to see and hear us as we enjoy one another, enjoy the park, and enjoy God’s goodness to us. They should get a small taste of what the Kingdom is like because we are in the park!

What Should I Do?
Here’s what we are asking you to do:

  1. Pray - Pray for great weather. Pray for a park full of people. Pray they are drawn to join us. Pray that the Spirit would go before us to do the work that only He can do. Pray for a great response from our own people.

  2. Put in on Your Calendar - Go ahead and mark the date and plan to be there! We need you.

  3. Invite an Unchurched/Unsaved Friend - Use this personally as a time to reach out to someone you care about and invite them to join you! The park is far less scary to most people than going into a “holy” church building.

  4. Come and Be the Kingdom Present - Join us there and be the joyful Kingdom of God present! Be there to welcome others as Christ has welcomed you! Be there ready to fill the park with joyful praise as we sing.

What Should We Expect?
I have no idea! That’s partly what makes this fun!
I don’t know what people will think or how they will respond if we do this.
BUT
I do know what to expect if we don’t… NOTHING.
So we will try! And as we pray and try, we’ll dream of reaching those who don’t know Jesus and helping them meet Him! We’ll imagine what it would be like to grow the Kingdom through afternoons in the park! We’ll look forward to baptisms and baby dedications and new MC Leaders and church elders coming because we tried.
Then… we’ll plan the next one, and we’ll plan a month of Sundays, and we’ll plan pop-ups all over Macon, and why stop in Macon when there are people in places all around us who need the same thing!?
And from them, maybe we’ll plant new churches who do new pop-ups that reach new people and raise new leaders who also plant new churches, that also do new pop-ups… you get it.

We’ll never know if we don’t try!

Loving Our City: DFCS Project #2

Over the last few weeks, we have been working on several projects to serve the Macon-Bibb Department of Family and Children Services. This crucial government office serves some of the most vulnerable populations in our city, often with massive caseloads, minimal funding, and dedicated but overloaded staff members. We want to bring the hope of the gospel to DFCS and to the many families they serve, and help them meet the needs they are faced with day after day. This is an ongoing partnership we are so excited about, and one of our Missional Communities started work on another project this week!

Clothing Closet

DFCS occasionally receives donations from the community of clothes, toys, household items, and much more, but doesn’t have the time or capacity to sort through all of them to make them useful and accessible to foster families. Most of the donations have been in huge boxes of miscellaneous items, making them unusable when families need them.

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One of the top projects DFCS asked us to tackle was to turn one of their rooms into a clothing closet. Thankfully, they have lots of available space in their offices, but it needs some organizing that they rarely have time for! This week the Smith MC started work on that clothing closet by installing shelves, sorting through massive boxes of donations, and organizing the clothes that could be used into age and gender specific boxes.

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There is still lots of work to do, but it was a great start to go through the bulk of the donations and sort out what could immediately be useful. When we go back, we will install two more shelves in the closet for hanging clothes, finish sorting clothes, and begin tackling the gigantic boxes of shoes that have been donated! We plan to maintain the closet and keep it organized by continuing to go in and sort new donations so it is a useful and helpful resource for foster families.

We are so grateful to have the opportunity to keep going to DFCS and working on projects that make their incredibly difficult jobs just a little bit easier. Our hope is that we continue to build relationships with the people we meet and to share the hope that we have in Jesus. He is making all things new, bringing order out of chaos, and our work here is a part of that! He has made us new creatures, brought us from darkness to light, and we in turn look to the world around us and take part in renewing and restoring it in his name and for his glory. We are the kingdom present, bringing the rule of King Jesus into every place we encounter.

Welcome Strangers, Especially this Easter

Have you ever been somewhere and felt like an outsider? Like you just didn’t belong, fit in, or know anyone? If you’ve been there, it’s not a fun place to be. If we’re not careful our churches, missional communities, and even our families can become this way. Jeff Vanderstelt says hospitality is “making space for people to be who they are and to become more like Christ within community.” Making space for this is not always easy, but it is part of the mission God has called us to.

Gospel Motivation

The truth of the matter is the discipline of hospitality is deeply connected to the gospel and God’s redemptive story. Good hospitality is an outworking of the gospel, for in the gospel God is hospitable to us. J.I. Packer said, “adoption is the highest privilege of the gospel. The traitor is forgiven, brought in for supper, and given the family name.” If we truly believe that we were once the outsider who God graciously welcomed in, then we should be the first to treat outsiders as if they belong, and love them as we love ourselves.

As we trace the Biblical narrative we see God caring for his people in the wilderness. God’s people are to welcome the stranger, just as he welcomed them (Lev. 19:34). We see hospitality in the life of Jesus. Jesus is constantly eating with people. He is labeled as a “drunkard and a glutton, a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34). He hangs out with people hated by society, like Levi and Zacchaeus. The early church also exhibited hospitality in numerous ways throughout the book of Acts. Welcoming strangers is common practice for God, Jesus, and the early church.

Practical Hospitality This Easter

The truth about being hospitable is we cannot be hospitable to the stranger or outsider if all we do is hang out with our friends. We should be proactive, outward-facing, and intentional so that we will see our guests this weekend and reach out to them. Be diligent in this. A guest who is attending may represent years of prayer, service and invitation by a church member. These are people coming to us to hear and see what we believe to be true about God and the gospel. Let’s be careful to be good stewards of the people God is bringing to us.

What could this look like during the different events we have going on this weekend?

Good Friday Service - Friday 6:30pm

During our Good Friday service, find a family or someone you don’t recognize and ask them to sit with you. Get to know them and tell them if they have any questions during the service you’d be happy to explain anything they don’t understand. Good Friday isn’t your typical church service, for it’s not as much a celebration but a time of remembrance. Guests or those who aren’t as acquainted with church may have questions. Invite them to meet you for coffee or dessert after the service so you can further get to know them or answer any questions they had about the service.

If you meet a family invite them to our Easter Picnic and Egg Hunt the following morning. This would be a great way to reconnect with them and continue to build a relationship.

Easter Picnic and Egg Hunt - Saturday 10:30am

This is an awesome event to invite your friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors to. This is a very low-barrier ask for someone and chances are, if they don’t already have plans, they will come to something like this. When you’re at the picnic and egg hunt on Saturday look for people you don’t recognize. Invite them to eat with you and hang out with you some throughout the day. We will have people show up who don’t know anyone and these events do little for the Kingdom if we don’t connect with those people.

An event like this will also attract unchurched, not-yet-believers so we have the awesome opportunity to introduce these people to New City Church and the gospel of Jesus. Begin a relationship with the people you meet and start getting to know them. Be prepared to share your story of what God has done in your life and be prepared to share the gospel. If you need help thinking through ways to share the gospel, check out this other blog post I wrote a few weeks ago: 6 Tips for Sharing the Gospel. Pray and expect God to work through you and your family on Saturday.

Sunday Easter Services - Sunday 8:00am, 9:30am, 11:00am

  1. Outward Facing Posture - Be on the lookout for guests. We will have lots of them on Sunday morning. Research shows that guests will determine within the first 6 minutes if they will ever return to a church. Do you know the number 1 determining factor in whether or not guests return to a church? 84% of them return if someone made a personal connection with them. Be intentional in talking to them and learning more about them, being watchful for anyone who seems to be feeling out of place or without someone to talk to. This may be hard to hear but this will require you to not huddle with your friends all morning.

  2. Make a Connection - According to Lifeway Research it takes guests at least four visits to commit to staying at a church longterm. What can you do to help them come back? Make a connection with them. No matter how good our preaching and singing is (which I think both are pretty great), guests will not stay and invest longterm unless they build relationships. Get to know them and their family, ask them to sit with you during the service, personally invite them to your MC.

  3. Be Kind and Welcoming - Be kind and welcoming to the people you don’t recognize and go out of your way to make them feel welcome. We have a Connect Team but the culture of our whole church body should exemplify hospitality. The “greet your neighbor” time before the sermon can either be the most awkward or one of the most meaningful times of the morning for guests. Don’t find your friends this week. Look for someone you don’t know, go shake their hand, and welcome them to New City.

  4. Go the Extra Mile - Don’t just tell someone where to go, show them. If someone enters in the main floor and doesn’t know where to check-in their children, walk them downstairs. If someone doesn’t know where the restrooms are, walk them around the back of the sanctuary and show them. This will go a long way in making our guests feel welcome.

7 Reminders For Easter Weekend Volunteers

It is hard to believe that it is almost Easter weekend again. Easter weekend is such an exciting time to celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Many people will enter our services this Good Friday and Easter Sunday for the first time and we have the great opportunity to welcome them into the family of God. These 7 reminders will help us to put our best foot forward. Thank you so much for serving this weekend!

  1. Remember why we welcome guests. Through the gospel, God welcomes us (the stranger) into His family and gives us a seat at His table. We are commanded in Scripture to be hospitable. The word “hospitality” in Romans 12:13 and Hebrews 13:2 literally means to "love strangers”. We love and welcome others as Christ has loved and welcomed us.

  2. Show up on time. If you do this, your task-work will be done well before people begin arriving and this will free you up to be responsive & available to guests.

  3. Outward-Facing Posture. The point of the Connect Team is to point people to Jesus. We can’t serve our guests if we’re in a huddle with our friends. New City’s Connect Team should be proactive, outward-facing, and intentional so that we will see our guests before our guests see us.

  4. Be diligent. A guest who is attending may represent years of prayer, service and invitation by a church member. These are people coming to us to hear and see what we believe to be true about God and the gospel. Let’s be careful to be good stewards of the people God is bringing to us.

  5. Check your excitement level. Drink your morning coffee! Be energetic, excited, and happy. Give guests a great experience by showing them you’re excited they’re here. Spend some time in prayer before you serve this weekend and ask God to help give you a spirit of excitement to welcome people into His family.

  6. Pay attention to details. Pick up trash on the floor and outside. Don’t assume guests know where to go. Point them to the children’s check-in, connect bar, restrooms, mother’s room, and the sanctuary. 

  7. Thank you. Last but certainly not least, your volunteer “job” is very important. When the Connect Team nourishes a culture of hospitality, we are a concrete reminder to the entire congregation that guests matter. Think of the Connect Team as "missional training wheels" for our church. Focusing on welcoming reminds people our church exists for those who are not yet a part of it.

Loving Our City: Serving DFCS

In case you missed it, in recent months we have been working with Bibb Co Department of Family & Children’s Services to find ways we can serve their department and kids in foster care. Several weeks ago, a few of us met with some women at DFCS and identified three projects that we will be tackling in the coming months:

1. A small visitation room: this is a room where older kids will spend time as they wait for a placement. The sad reality is that there are few foster homes who will take a teen placement, which means these kids sometimes spend a whole day waiting for a placement. So, we want to make this room comfortable and provide different ways for them to pass the time.  

2.  A large visitation room: this is a really large room that is used for family visits- parents visiting their kids, siblings visiting each other, etc. Currently it has some toys and kids tables, but it has also become a kind of catch-all for clothes, shoes, car seats, suitcases, and other items that don’t really have a place. Our goal for this room is to make it warm and inviting, and a fun place for kids to play and spend time with family members. 

3. Clothing closet: DFCS often receives clothing donations that could be very helpful for foster kids and families. However, they don’t have the manpower to get it all organized, so most of it sits in boxes. We want to get this room organized with shelves and rods for hanging clothes. Bringing order will make the clothes and shoes much more accessible for foster parents when they welcome a new child into their home. 

Once these projects are completed, we will continue to serve by cleaning, organizing, and providing donations as needed. Diapers will be an ongoing need, as well as snacks, books, coloring and art supplies. I’m sure we will identify more as we continue to be involved! 

Our very first step is to take some furniture for the small visitation room. We will be doing that as a staff Monday morning. Here’s a sneak peek of some of the items we will be taking! I can’t wait to share pictures of this room once it’s done!  

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The TV stand and side table were built by Pastor Keith!  

We love our city and, as with everything we do, our desire in partnering with DFCS is to see the gospel redeem and transform the lives of those we touch. Will you pray? Pray that we have opportunities to share the good news of Jesus, and that we do it with boldness. Pray for the children in foster care. Pray for their families, biological and fostering. Pray that those who don’t know Jesus would place their trust in him. 

And after you pray, give! New City has money set aside toward this project, and half of all wedding profits will be designated for DFCS. But we need your help with small items like diapers, snacks and other donations. We will keep you posted as those needs change! 

We are so thankful for this opportunity to love and serve DFCS and can’t wait to share stories with you of how God works through it! 

6 Tips for Sharing the Gospel

Sharing the gospel can be difficult and nerve-wracking for some. Many time Christians become overrun by fear or just become too busy to share the gospel. This really shouldn’t be the case. God declared in 1 Peter 3:15 “have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” We should always be ready to share the gospel. I hope and pray that these 6 tips would serve you and the Kingdom well as you share the gospel.

  1. Pray and Expect God to Work

    Before anything else we must pray for people to be saved. Only the Lord can raise the spiritual dead among us. Who are we seeking the Lord for day after day? Buck Parson's said “if God answered your prayers, would your neighbor know Christ? Or would you have lots of stuff?” God tells us, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2). Growth in evangelistic faithfulness begins by asking God for it more often. Anticipate the work of the Spirit. Believe He wants to save those you’re praying for. Pray for them more than you pray for yourself. Expect Him to work!

  2. Listen

    Mission should be done with a posture of humility & compassion. We humbly approach people knowing that they don’t need us but that they need Jesus. We approach people with compassion knowing that Jesus is the answer to everyone’s brokenness.

    Listening can greatly bless those who feel a need to be heard, known, and understood before seriously considering another person’s viewpoint (which, in this case, would be the gospel). Listening shows the other person we actually care about them; it also enables us to actually know what to say.

  3. Know the Gospel

    You can only share what you know. It doesn’t have to be complicated, you don’t have to take a course, and your presentation doesn’t have to be perfect. When sharing the gospel, tell of the powerful, all knowing God who is on a rescue mission to redeem His Creation! Share of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. At New City, we often talk about God’s story in 4 themes: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration. These themes are a great way to walk through the gospel. This is good news, so be excited when you share!

  4. Believe Good Theology

    Theology doesn’t help us in sharing the gospel if we don’t truly believe it. I don’t mean just affirming truth, I mean by our lives we truly believe it. These four theological truths anchor me in my evangelistic efforts, but only when I truly believe them!

    • God is sovereign and by His Spirit, He is the one who saves. People’s salvation doesn’t rest on our shoulders. You don’t need to fear that you don’t have all the answers. You don’t need to fear that your gospel presentation has to be perfect.

    • You are a child of God; loved and accepted. You don’t need to fear what people will think of you when you share your faith. You don’t need to fear that you will mess it all up.

    • You are not alone! The hand of the Lord is with you, because when Jesus finished his work, he finished it, and he gave the Great Commission. The last thing he said was this: “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus is always with you. Make disciples under that authority.

    • Hell is real. This should give us a sense of urgency. Mark 9:36 says, “When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Do you look upon your neighbors with compassion knowing that Jesus is the only answer to our brokenness?

  5. Vary Your Approach

    There are many ways to share the gospel. We will all do well to avoid blindly reciting the same method over and over. Pray, listen, and observe your encounter with someone and then share based on where they are. Below are three approaches I use when sharing the gospel:

    • The 3 Circles: This is a great, simple gospel presentation that is easy to lead into when someone shares a problem, issue, or concern. It could even be drawn on a napkin during lunch. It’s just a tool but it’s simple, reproducible, and effective. Pick up the book on The 3 Circles in our resource section on a Sunday morning to learn more on this!

    • Sharing your story (testimony): This is one of the strongest apologetics we have for the gospel. It doesn’t have to be 20 minutes long or full of deep theological truths. Paul lays out an easy format for sharing your story in Acts 26:1-23. Give a brief description of what your life was like before Christ (vv. 4-11), then describe how God brought you from darkness into light (vv. 12-18), then finally share how your life has changed and is still changing after Christ (vv. 19-23).

    • Transition questions: Questions are a great way to transition into sharing the gospel with someone. There are endless statements to bridge a conversation to the gospel. Below are a few of the ones I often use:

      • “If God could do a miracle in your life today, what would it be?”

      • “Would you consider yourself to be near or far from God?”

      • “Would you mind if I shared with you what I read in the Bible today?”

      • “Could I tell you about the best thing that has ever happened to me?”

  6. Play the Long Game. Persevere.

    Sometimes becoming a Christian takes a long time. Most believers can look back over many things that God used over time to bring them to Himself. Sometimes when people hear the gospel, they immediately repent and believe. Other times, it can take years. The Holy Spirit’s regenerating work happens instantly, but only God can see that. What we see is people working through questioning, contemplating, doubting, suspicion, and believing.

    Practically, this often looks like following up with people and developing friendships so gospel conversations can continue to happen. This also allows people to see us demonstrate the gospel alongside our declaration.

How to Pray for Your Children

It’s not hard to think of things to pray for our children. Their health, safety, an easy path to a happy life - we want good things for our children. This is good! We should care deeply for our children and desire good things for them. This is one way we image our good Father who cares for us and loves to give us good things.

However, our reflection of our good Father is not a perfect one. We are human, and our vision of what is good is not perfect, so our ideas of what is good aren’t always complete.

Does that mean we have to stop praying for good friends, safety on school trips, and healing from illness? No! But it does mean we can broaden our understanding of what is good for them to include and be shaped by who God is and what he has done for us in Jesus.

Scripture gives us countless ways to pray for our children that are in line with God’s character and his plan of redemption. Melissa Kruger wrote a helpful little book called 5 Things to Pray For Your Kids with the goal of orienting our prayers around God’s revealed character and his good purposes for his children. It’s a practical and gospel-centered resource and it’s less than $5! Some of her points are summarized in the article below from Risen Motherhood, and I was both challenged and encouraged by them. I hope you are too!

This morning, I’m praying these truths for the kids of New City. Pray with me!


From the moment I held my newborn baby in my arms for the first time, I understood my complete dependence on the Lord in new ways. Becoming a mother awakened me to my own inadequacy—there was so much I couldn’t control, so much I couldn’t do, but this little baby depended on me to take care of her. So, I prayed and asked God for help. It became a moment by moment conversation, and I gained a new understanding of what it was to pray without ceasing:

Lord, please help her be able to nurse.

Lord, help me understand why she’s crying.

Lord, please help her to fall asleep.

Lord, help her fever to go down.

Lord, give me wisdom.

Lord, help me.

As my children have grown, I’ve continued to pray for the daily circumstances of their lives: friendships, sports, health, test scores. And, these are good things to pray for our children—the Lord invites us to cast all our cares on him.

However, as I’ve read and studied Paul’s prayers for those he loved, I’ve also realized the fundamental importance of praying for my children’s spiritual needs. Some days, in the busyness of living, these are forgotten. Yet, my children’s greatest need is not temporary happiness, but increasing holiness. Holiness and happiness are not in opposition to one another, but are integrally linked. Holiness leads to true happiness: the eternal joy of a soul rooted in Christ. I’m praying for my child’s best and highest good when I ask God to make them holy.

Paul’s prayer for the Philippians has helped guide my prayers for their holiness in four ways.

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:9-11).

Affection

We rightly desire good behavior in our children. (Please stop throwing your Cheerios on the floor and hitting your sister!) However, our ultimate goal is more than outward obedience, we want inward affection for God. Just like Paul, we can pray our children’s love for the Lord would abound more and more with each passing year. Only God can give them new hearts that beat with deep affection and delight for Jesus. May our children love the Lord with all their heart.

Knowledge

Every day our children are learning. They learn to tie their shoes, to count to ten, to put their plate in the dishwasher, and one day, they’ll learn to drive a car (this will provide a new opportunity to pray without ceasing). They’re also learning about God. Pray that the Bible stories they learn, the scripture they memorize, and the sermons they hear would lay a strong foundation of knowledge that would provide a spiritual lens through which they understand the world. May our children love the Lord with all their mind.

Discernment

Today your child may be struggling to decide which lunch box to choose, but one day they’ll be making choices that shape the course of their lives. They’ll need discernment to know what friends to choose, which job to pursue, and who to marry. Their ability to make wise choices begins with a right reverence of the Lord. Pray that your child will be able to discern what is good and seek the Lord for wisdom. May our children love the Lord with all their soul.

Fruit

We often think of success in terms of money, fame, or academic excellence. However, God’s goal for our children is something more, something better, something eternal: a harvest of righteousness. It’s not something they can attain on their own (or something we can force). It’s the fruit of a heart that seeks the Lord. We often attempt to produce righteousness outside of relationship, but it’s only by the Spirit’s power that our children can bloom into people of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. So, we pray, asking the Gardner of their soul to produce a plentiful harvest. May our children love the Lord with all their strength.

We have so many hopes for our children. We want them to be healthy and happy and for circumstances to go well. However, more than perfect health or circumstances, our children need the Lord. Teach them his word, teach them to pray, and, most of all, ask the Lord to be at work in their hearts, doing immeasurably more than we can even imagine.

May our children love the Lord with all their heart.

May our children love the Lord with all their mind.

May our children love the Lord with all their soul.

May our children love the Lord with all their strength.

Love is Not Our Mission

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“Preach the gospel, and if necessary use words.” This is a quote often credited to Francis of Assisi.
The idea behind the quote is that we should be good people who do good things and that, when done well is our gospel proclamation. We should only use words as a last resort.  Often this is translated as loving others. We should love others so well that our love and actions are our gospel proclamation.
So we have come to believe that Jesus calls us to love the people around us and to love them no matter what, so extravagantly that no words are needed.  We have come to believe that Jesus’ mission for the church is love.

It is True, Christians Are Called to Love Others in Deed
Much of John’s letter entitled I John in our Bibles is about how we are to love others.
I John 4:19 – “We love because he first loved us.”  Because He loved us, we love others.
I John 4:20 – “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
I John 4:21 – “And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

John adds that love is only truly love when it is accompanied by actions:
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers,” I John 3:16.
“But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?” (I John 3:17)
“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  (I John 3:18)

We also know that Jesus said that the second greatest command of all of the commands is that we should love our neighbor as we love our self (Matthew 22:39).  Jesus went on to say that all of the other commands of Scripture in part are descriptions of what it means to love others.

Indeed, as followers of Christ we are to love in action.  As Christians we should love as we are loved and that is extravagantly and sacrificially. His love is not earned, it is an act of grace – a gift. This is how we are to love others. If there is a need and you are able, meet it! Give. Do. Act.

BUT

Love is not our mission, love fuels our mission.
OK, I know you Piper heads are freaking a little here!  “No,” you say, “worship is the fuel for mission!” I won’t argue that. Stick with me…
John 3:16 tells us that it was love that fueled the sending of the Son – “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son…” We also see this in I John 3:1, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God…”  One more for good measure from John, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (I John 4:9).  Love preceded the coming of Jesus. 
Love fueled the Father’s mission to redeem and restore humanity through Jesus.

True love does more than meet surface needs. While it is true that we give to feed a hungry person or clothe one who is in need, our deepest needs involve the soul.  Jesus, speaking to the disciples about their fear of man said, “4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!”  In other words, fear God. Fear the day of judgment that will come for your sin.

God did not simply meet our daily need for sustenance, though He could. He didn’t provide a meal and clothing, put a roof over our heads and call it done as an expression of love – though it may very well be loving. God meets our deepest need.

Jesus came to live the life of sinless perfection that we cannot.  He died that death that we deserve because of sin. He bore the wrath of God toward sin that we deserve for sin. Then on the third day, Jesus was raised from death, defeating death and sin and Satan.  When we trust in his work to bring about our forgiveness and bring us to our Father (faith) then through that faith we are forgiven. He becomes our substitute – His righteousness is credited to us as if it were our own and our sins are given to Him and nailed to the cross as if they were His. Through faith we are forgiven.  Forgiven. As far as the east is from the west, our sins are cast from his eyes. They are no more.  Not only are we found “Not Guilty!” but we are found “INNOCENT!”  Innocent, as if we had never sinned.
Because of this, when we stand before Him who is able to not only kill the flesh but judge the soul and cast into hell, we have nothing to fear – we are innocent.  We have nothing to fear – our penalty has been paid.  THIS is our greatest need!

God loves us too much to stop at a meal.
He loves us too much to provide us with a little cash or some clothes.
God’s love was made known to us through His Son, Jesus. And the Son’s love for us was made known, ultimately, not through healings and feedings, but through the cross.  His mission was not to love us, it was to redeem us, to see us restored to our Father!
And if we love people then we will be moved by that love to do the same!
We will be moved by love to see them redeemed and restored - to tell them about Jesus.  In fact, I would say that if we stop short of actually telling them the Good News (gospel) of redemption from sin and restoration to a right relationship with our Father, then we have not truly loved. 
This is the ultimate fulfillment of loving our neighbor as we love ourselves!
As Christians, we love Jesus. We are thankful for the Gospel and all that He did to save us.
As Christians we are awed by His gracious gift.  It is often too difficult even for us to believe that we are forgiven and free from sin!  We are made sons and daughters of the most high King in Christ. 
We know that our deepest and most serious need is met by God’s gift of His Son.
Our eternal standing is secured, we are His. We look forward to the day when we see Him face to face.  We long for the day that we are fully restored to all that He intended us to be. We can’t wait to see the new Kingdom where there is no more sin and suffering, no pain or death, where He will be our God and we will be His people.
This is not only our greatest need.
This is the greatest need of everyone around us – redemption and restoration.

I am not saying, “Stop doing good deeds.” I am not saying stop meeting the needs of the people around you.  I am saying that truly loving others doesn’t stop with those deeds. Truly loving others means that we share with them the same of hope of the gospel that we have.

The mission isn’t go love.
The mission is, out of your love, go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:18-20).  Feed the poor!  Clothe the naked!  Care for the widow and orphan! House the homeless! Dig wells for water! Build orphanages!
Love your neighbor as yourself. 
And don’t stop until you have proclaimed the good news of the gospel.
That is truly loving.
And honestly, if our mission falls short of the name of Jesus, then it really isn’t Christian at all.

A People Sent: Mission Among Wolves

Things may have been this way forever, but it certainly seems that in today’s cultural climate, the church is known more for what we are against than what we are for. I would even argue that within most churches the culture is more negative than positive. Dhati Lewis calls the following idea “anti-vision” and “vision". The idea seems to be to teach what we need to change in our lives to become faithful Christians (anti-vision), rather than teaching all the things God actually wants us to do and take part in (vision).

When I finally realized that God was not simply calling us to stop doing things but He was also calling us to start doing things, my life changed completely. Yes, God is calling us away from some things but, He is also calling us to some things. James 4:7-8 says, Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” God is calling us to both resist and submit. We are to submit all of our life; not to run away from something, but to run to something: Christ!

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In Matthew 16:18 Jesus is speaking to the disciples, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” This is the proactive vision Jesus gives to his people: God is mobilizing an army to attack the gates of hell! The church isn’t just meant to abstain from the world, the church is meant to be on the offensive for mission. Jesus uses the picture of a gate in Matthew 16. Gates are defensive, they protect whatever is inside. When an enemy approached a city, the farmers outside the walls would retreat to the city gates. A city would do everything within its power to keep enemies out of their gates, because the enemy knew if they could get inside the gate, the people are vulnerable and easily defeated. But this isn’t what God called us to be. He didn’t call the church to be a city with walls not letting anyone in. He calls us to seek out the lost.

This is what we see in the story of Joshua (Joshua 6:1-21). Moses was tasked with delivering God’s people to the Promised Land but once word came back that they would be defeated, he neglected God’s command to him. He was overcome by the idea of the enemy and it took 40 years for God to allow Joshua to defeat the city of Jericho and take His people into the Promised Land. The church is not the city of Jericho under attack in the story of Joshua. The church should be, like Joshua, mobilizing an army of disciple-makers to attack the enemy and darkness, and Jesus promises that even the gates of hell won’t be able to stop His church! Moses’ generation missed out on the promised land because they chose comfort and safety. God is calling us to be like the generation of Joshua and Caleb, to choose trust and faithfulness. We have been called to rally the people around us around God’s vision for mission.

Two weeks ago, Pastor Keith preached from Luke 10:1-16 and challenged us to live as Sent people. The Holy Spirit has been pressing on my heart since then and one of the things He has been telling me is to believe that our God is for me and that He will protect me. Jesus said, “Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves” (Luke 10:3), because He knew this wouldn’t be easy. BUT God didn’t call us to do what is easy. He calls us to be faithful. He calls us to believe that He is who He says He is.

The Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) ends the same way the gospel began, with a promise of presence. He is for us. We can go into battle knowing that our God is good and that He is for us. We are called to make disciples. We are called to share the gospel with our neighbors, co-workers, family, friends, and acquaintances. But we weren’t called to do it alone. Our God is for us. Our God is the great Shepherd protecting His sheep from the wolves. I am committing this year to live on the offensive, constantly looking to share the gospel. Would you commit with me?

Pray With Us, an Invitation

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At our very best, at our strongest and brightest, we are weak, frail and needy.
Maybe not compared to some people, but compared to God - compared to the Creator of all that is - compared to the King who is eternal, sovereign and utterly other.
The Bible is clear we are dependent on Him.
He is our provider. He is gracious to love us, gracious to care for us, gracious to forgive us and in Christ make us His own. He is merciful to withhold judgment, merciful to lead us out of trouble and suffering and pain. He is merciful in our weakness. He is a good Father who is kind, loving and patient with his children. He is a dad who is willing and able and ready to give His children His best and what is best for them.

We are weak and He is infinitely strong.
We are frail and broken and He is unbreakable.
We lack in wisdom and He is fully wise.
We are prone to mistakes and He is perfectly infallible.
We don’t know what the next minute holds and He know all things.

And He calls to come to Him with our needs. He urges us to ask Him for help.
He almost seems to plead with us, “Come and talk to me, your Father all about your wants and needs. Come and ask me for help. I am here for you. I am able.” Too often we don’t.

Too often we depend on our own wisdom and abilities. Too often we lean on our own plans, our talents, systems and structures. How prideful - to ignore His calls for prayer and His offers to help because we are confident in ourselves. Truthfully, this is why we don’t pray, pridefully we don’t believe how desperately we need God.
But we do.
We need Him desperately to do what only He can do.
We need Him to save our family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers who are far from Him.
We need Him to move through politics and systems, through voting and appointing and all other means to bring about true unity, peace and justice in our city.
We need Him to overhaul our broken school system and bring about lasting change for the good of students and the good of our city.
We need Him to strengthen and restore families.
We need Him to lead us in a fight against poverty and racism.
We need Him to transform us and through us, our city and beyond.
We need Him, desperately, because these are things far greater than us.
We need Him, so we should pray.
The truth is that we need Him, even in the small stuff, every day… so we should pray.

This is Your Invitation
Join us in praying.
Join us not only in your own private prayer, but join us 15 minutes before the start of each service on Sunday morning. Simply come to the stage and if you are able, kneel and talk to our Father - ask Him to do great things in your life, in the life of our church, in the lives of the people around us, in our city and our world. Ask Him to heal. Ask Him to fix. Ask Him to save. Ask Him to do what only He can do.

PS - If you come for prayer and it is only you, remember, it isn’t only you! Your Father was there ahead of you, waiting for you. Kneel and pray. You will lead others to join you there.

Milledgeville Prayer Time:
10:15

Macon Prayer Times:
8:45 & 10:45

A People Sent, the Great Commission

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 the Great Commission

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This is one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture, and maybe the most life changing for me.
I grew up going to church with my parents. I remember several churches who strongly emphasized “missions” and who supported international missions and multiple international missionaries. I remember those missionaries speaking on Sunday mornings about their work in far away countries, sometimes wearing tribal clothing and always with a slide show.
Missionaries were “those people.” They were a special group in my mind, called to far away places with exotic cultures and unknown languages. They were a different kind of people with a different kind of “calling.” Theirs was the calling of the Great Commission, I thought, GO to the nations and make disciples!

Then I discovered something.
I was learning Greek and practicing what I was learning by looking at different passages in the original language. I looked at the Great Commission and I saw something that I had never seen or heard before, at least as far as I could remember. I remember my amazement like it was yesterday!
The command of the passage isn’t GO. Go is actually an adverbial participle modifying the actual command of the passage which is MAKE DISCIPLES.
I KNOW, RIGHT!!!??? Exciting stuff! lol
But it is!
GO, as an adverbial participle might better be translated as “GOING,” or “AS YOU GO.”
So it may better read, AS YOU GO, make disciples.

As you go… this I had to check out!
Jesus was talking to his disciples. These were his walking orders if you will. “I am leaving you,” Jesus was saying, “and here is what I want you to do as my disciples. As you go, make more disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded (I’ll get back to this last part!)
When I looked a little closer at the lives of those disciples it became apparent that not all of them WENT. Some would travel to distant places while others traveled to the market and temple and maybe their friend’s home. And wherever they went, near or far, as they went, they made disciples. Christianity grew in Jerusalem and Judea because many of those disciples didn’t go far. Christianity also grew to the uttermost parts of the world because others did.

One more thing stood out to me… teaching them - the new disciples - to “obey everything I have commanded you.” These disciples were to make disciples as they went about life - baptizing them as new believers and teaching them to obey Jesus’ commands - all that he had commanded them.
What had he just commanded them?
His most recent command was, make disciples as you go.
So if the existing disciples were to teach the new disciples to obey all of his commands it would include the command to make disciples as they go about life.

Jesus wasn’t sending a few disciples to the mission fields of far away places.
He was sending ALL disciples to the mission field - some to far away places and some to the mission field right where they were!

What that means is that the Great Commission isn’t just their commission and it isn’t just the commission of those going to distant lands - the Great Commission is YOUR Commission. We, the whole church are a sent people. We are all missionaries, as we go. You, if you are a believer, are a missionary. These are OUR walking orders - as we go about life, we are to make disciples.

Imagine that.
Imagine what might change in our neighborhoods and communities and that’s what we were - the whole church - sent missionaries. Think of the changes we might see - changes in our schools, in our government, in our systems of justice…

What if the church, us, lived as a people sent?

Father, I Need You

by: Beth Renfrow

by: Beth Renfrow

My Dad took me on a lot of dates when I was a little girl and those memories still stick with me today. Breakfast was, as it is now, our date-of-choice so we went to Waffle House where dad shared his love for hashbrowns with me and I discovered “pee-can” waffles. After Waffle House, we would head across the street to Burger King, Dad would order mini cinnamon rolls for us while I played on the indoor playground. But my Dad did more than share his love for hasbrowns with me on these sweet dates, he used this time to invest in me and make one very special promise. At some point, I can’t remember when exactly, he taught me to say four magic words  whenever I was hurt, scared, or confused. “Daddy, I need you,” was all I had to say in order to have him by my side, helping me in any way. As I grew up, he continued to reiterate this promise, reminding me that it did not have an expiration date and, especially as I entered college, it was not limited by distance.


I’ve said those four words more times than I can even remember. They apply to all situations, like falling off of my bike when I was six to rescuing me from sleepovers in my teens to coaching me through multiple college major changes. Most recently, his fulfillment of that promise looked like driving me back and forth from Milledgeville multiple times when I got a concussion during my senior year of college. I know that no matter the time of day, the distance between us, or the absurdity of the request, my Dad has my back.


The promise he made me makes me feel secure and loved, but I think it did more than he even realized it would. See the thing is that my Dad’s promise to me is a beautiful reflection of God’s promise to His children. In Isaiah 41:10, God says to His people, “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. God says cry out to me and I will help you, which is just like what my Dad said to me. From an early age, my Dad taught me that it is okay to ask for help because there are a lot of things I can’t handle myself. There’s also a lot of problems that my Dad just can’t solve because he’s great, but he’s not God. God is with me always guiding my steps (Psalm 23) and He knows every day that has been formed for me (Psalm 139).

“Father, I need you. You are strong where I am weak and perfect when I am sinful,”


I take comfort in the fact that I can go before my heavenly Father with the same words Dad taught me. This can be difficult for me at times though because I like to be in control; I tend to try and do things on my own rather than ask God for help. I forget the lesson my Dad taught me and think well if I just have more time to think about it or if I can just complete this one task, then everything will work out. But that’s a lie, I cannot possibly live my life without God; I would fail miserably. “Father, I need you. You are strong where I am weak and perfect when I am sinful,” has become a constant refrain in my prayers especially with college graduation only a few months away. God’s plan for my life is perfect and He is where my joy comes from so I must humble myself and ask for help even if the solution won’t be as easy as giving me ice cream after I fall off my bike.


The next time you feel hurt, scared, or confused try praying and saying, “God, I need you.” Because doors are going to close, people are going to die, and you’re not going to know what comes next, but there is someone who does and He is the ultimate healer and protector.


P.S. Dad, if you’re reading this, I love you very much.



Five Reasons to Read the Bible Tomorrow | Desiring God

As we near the end of February, much of our zeal for the ways we want to be better in 2019 is beginning to dwindle. Gym memberships are left unused, snooze buttons are well-worn, and our Bibles sit on the coffee table unopened.

This is not new, and it is not surprising. As broken humans in a fallen world, we all sometimes take two steps forward and one step back at some point in our efforts to grow as people and as disciples of Jesus. This is not reason to feel shame and guilt, but our inconsistency should impel us to refocus and try again.

Because of Jesus’ perfect life, death, and resurrection, we can trust that our record before the Father is perfect and blameless. We need not dwell in shame for our failures because the righteousness of Christ has been placed on our account! What grace!

At the same time, we can gain motivation to live faithfully by looking to Jesus. The one true God, creator of the universe, loved me and gave himself for me. He has given me his perfect record in exchange for my failure and has called me loved and accepted. I can look to him, grateful for the amazing work on my behalf, and start again. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I take another step toward faithfulness.

So if you’re feeling discouraged about your Bible reading plan and thinking you’ll try again next year, I want to encourage you to try again tomorrow (or today!). Kathleen Nielson is a Bible teacher and author and she wrote the following article for Desiringgod.com to do just that.

Look to Jesus, the one who has made you right with God, and then open your Bible again (or your CBR app) - eager to know the one who made you and loves you.


Why? Instead of just the guilt-inducing, duty-bound statement, “I should read my Bible,” why not ask why you should read it?

And why ask about tomorrow (as opposed to in general)? Tomorrow is concrete. As I type this, I’m flying back to the U.S. from Indonesia, arriving late afternoon. I will pick up milk on the way home today, because I know I will want milk in my coffee tomorrow morning.

And why read my Bible while I’m drinking that coffee? The coffee’s not optional. Well, I suppose in the end the coffee really is optional, but is the Bible reading optional? What will draw me to stop everything else and take the time to read Scripture and pray through its words?

The question, instead of setting rules in front of me, gets at the soul inside me: Why should I read my Bible tomorrow morning?

1. My soul gets hungry.

I will get hungry, and I will eat (unless I’m fasting or ill). That’s how bodies are made: we need food to live, and our bodies tell us so day by day.

Our souls are hungry as well, for we humans are made to live on the word of God. We have God's word on this: “Man does not live by bread alone, but . . . by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3Matthew 4:4). We live as we feed in faith on God’s inspired word. In that word we find Jesus the living Word, the bread of life (John 6:35).

Disturb me, my soul, with your growlings. Am I restless, or discontent? These may be hunger pangs.

2. I say I love God.

I’ve sung, “I love you, Lord,” and “My Jesus, I love thee.”

Let’s confront ourselves: Can we love God and not listen to him consistently and attentively in his word? We turn our ears to the seemingly endless murmurs of daily needs, but the end will come, and on that day everyone will listen to his voice. Oh, that his voice will come to us then as a beloved voice, one we know, one we’ve followed into his presence through his Son.

Be whole, divided soul of mine. The psalmist would ask me not to split apart his poetic parallelism:

Blessed are you, O Lord;
     teach me your statutes! (Psalm 119:12)

3. The God of the universe has spoken.

It’s a wonder. We forget the wonder again and again. Just like we forget the wonder of the Word made flesh, as Christmas passes. We’re compelled by a political leader’s words, or a controversial article gone viral — or a call from someone we love who lives far away. We’ll stay up or wake up for that.

Wake up, my sleepy soul. Wake up and tremble at God’s word. Tremble with fear — and tremble with joy! With the mercies of a new morning, wake. Hear his voice cutting through:

But this is the one to whom I will look:
     he who is humble and contrite in spirit
     and trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:2)

4. I must share what he has said.

How can I proclaim this word? I am fearful, and sinful. I am busy, and with good things. The world is unreceptive and unkind. I will get to this in time.

Be quiet, my self-full soul that feeds on fear. Feed instead on the word that makes us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Depend on the Spirit, by whom God breathed out these words, to understand and communicate them adequately. And look to God’s people, the body of Christ.

What a mercy that we are not called to read and speak the word alone. Our daily bread comes as part of the feeding of God’s people, gathered regularly to worship, learn, and pray — and then to go out together, to live and share good news. How comforting to receive Paul’s plural exhortation to “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).

5. God has given me work to do.

We’re just a few weeks into a new year and perhaps already frustrated by our work — overwhelming, or unsatisfying, or elusive work. If we could only remember this: there is no way my daily callings will find their proper place apart from the calling of God in Christ — to which I must constantly tune my ears according to God’s word.

The Bible promises and equips us for good works that are not separate from our daily work; they are the joyful calling that shapes all we do.

Dull soul of mine, please hear God’s word tomorrow, and believe tomorrow, that I am, and all God’s people are, God’s workmanship . . . “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

Listening Through Busyness

Though these reminders can help wake up our souls, we will still wake up tomorrow morning facing the urgency of bodies and families and friends and appointments and emails and deadlines. It’s not simple, at any stage of life.

It does help to make provision in the midst of busyness: for example, this year I’m using an online Bible reading plan that sends me daily links to the next four chapters in the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan. If I can’t sit down quietly with coffee and Bible in hand, I can easily do what I did today: click on my next chapter and read while waiting in a car or standing in a line.

More and more, the wonder of it does break through: the very voice of God. What everyone will hear in the end. What we live on today, and tomorrow.