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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

Reverend Lawrence Robinson

 

 

 

EXPOSED BY THE MISSION

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

New Address, Same Mission

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

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

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

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

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

Pop Culture Catechism, (Part 1)

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

Patrick

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 1: Before the Movie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Step 2: During the Movie

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

Step 3: After the Movie

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

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

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

Yes, We Will Be Gathering on Christmas Day

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


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

December 1, 2016

Dear brother pastor,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You need reasons? Here’s a few.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember, Remember...

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

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

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

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

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

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

          NEW CITY SOUND PLAYLIST

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

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               NC SUNDAY MORNING

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

The Songs We Sing…

CREATION

FALL

REDEMPTION

RESTORATION

The Gospel Isn't a Cul-de-sac

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE GOSPEL CHANGES EVERYTHING

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

THE GOSPEL SENDS US ON MISSION

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

REMEMBER, THIS IS WHO YOU ARE

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

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

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

12 SIMPLE WAYS TO BE ON MISSION THIS HALLOWEEN

(From Verge Network)

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

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

BE HOSPITABLE

Don’t just give out candy:

1. Give out the best Candy

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

2. Think of the Parents

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

3. Be Present

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

4. Be Encouraging

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

5. Party

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

6. Learn the Stories

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

GO TO THEIR PLACE

Join what is happening elsewhere:

7. Attend the Party

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

8. Join the Community

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

9. Head to the “Watering Holes”

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

BE PRAYERFUL

Ask for the Spirit to lead, guide and work:

10. Pay Attention

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

11. Stay Dependent

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

12. Open Doors

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

(- Jeff Vanderstelt)

14 More Resources to Help You Be on Mission this Halloween

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

Derailed by the Good

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

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

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

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

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

Help me Holy Ghost!  I can’t go on!

Reconciled in Christ | Thoughts from Asia

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

Ephesians chapter three ends with a beautiful prayer: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to New City Church - You Are Invited!

OUR VISION

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


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

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

OUR MISSION

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

OUR IDENTITY

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

YOUR INVITATION

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

Join us this Sunday!     

Milledgeville Campus
197 Log Cabin Rd

Coffee 10:00         
Worship 10:30  

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

as Christ has welcomed us...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Children & Missional Communities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Would You Feel, If He Were Yours?

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

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

Dear Lord, help us.

 

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

New City Sessions: “Death Has Lost Its Sting”

Death Has Lost Its Sting

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

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

Video by Andy Carter Photography
andycarterphoto.com/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So You Feel Called to Ministry...What Now?

"I really feel like God is calling me to ministry," has become a phrase I, happily hear pretty often. I love hearing it. Almost always it is stated with some degree of fear and uncertainty. The uncertainty is almost always centered on, "What now?"  So here are a few thoughts on what now, ministry and feeling called...

  • Keep doing what you're doing
    If you're in school now, as is usually the case here, work hard to make good grades and earn your degree. Unless you feel incredibly strongly and others providing wise counsel agree that you should do something different, don't.  As you continue,
  • Talk to your church leadership
    The New Testament most commonly shows the leaders in the church agreeing on God's calling for ministry in a person's life. The church trained ministers,  "sent" them out, and supported them in ministry. That is a great model. Do the leaders in your church affirm you in this calling? Do they agree that this seems to be your life's trajectory? Do they confirm this calling?  God places you in the church for such a time as this. 
  • Serve
    Often I have been surprised by young men telling me that they felt like God was leading them toward vocational ministry. The reason that I am surprised is that they have not been very connected to the church and they have not been serving anywhere, either in the church or their community. All Christians are called to serve!  In fact, it is not just something that we all should do, it is our identity - as Jesus was a servant, so we, shaped in His image should also be servants. Are you serving? Are you serving in your church? You've been gifted and equipped to do just that!
  • Don't wait
    Ha!  I know - it sounds like I am contradicting what I started with - keep doing what you're doing. But what I mean is don't wait to "do" ministry or "be" a minister. You already are. I sometimes hear people talk about ministry as if you have to have a certain education before you can jump in and minister... like, one day, when I finish this school and that school, THEN I'll be a minister. After school, then I will pastor. In the last two weeks, I have talked with a couple of different guys and said, "You are a minister now. What are you waiting for? There are people all around you who need someone to point them to Jesus - THAT'S YOU!" School and training are certainly crucial, but they don't end in ministry. They should further equip ministers. You are already a minister - just a good one or a bad one. School won't make you a minister. It will only shape your ministry. Be a minister of the gospel in some sense now. 
  • Do wait
    Patiently, prayerfully wait on the Lord. Let Him lead and speak as you minister where you are, as you serve in your church, on your campus or job, in your home. Allow your church leadership time to help you in assessing your calling and direction and keep doing what you are doing as God brings it all together.

If you are a part of New City and want to talk more about What's Next for your life in ministry, email me (keith@newcitymacon.org) and lets get together.

Welcome to New City Church!


One of the things that we work hard at New City is forging a family; it’s not easy. Like a biological family, it takes dedicated time and loving intentionality. One of the ways we work hard at welcoming people into the family at New City starts with a very simple step on Sunday mornings when we see most of our visitors. 

The Connect Team serves as the tip of the spear in welcoming and connecting visitors to New City Church. Every Sunday they set up for the service, provide coffee and serve as the welcome team in order to help visitors know they are welcome and to get connected. But we go a step further in encouraging the church as a whole to welcome visitors into New City like you would welcome someone into your own home.

This Sunday we have the unique opportunity to invite Mercer students back to Macon and back to New City Church. We are excited to have our college students back and we want to make sure they know they have been missed and are welcome at New City Church! Here are three things we are asking you to do this Sunday…and even beyond.

Our worship doesn’t stop when the singing ends, or the preacher says, “Amen.” It continues as we greet, encourage, serve, pray for, exhort, and care for one another. God chooses to use people to edify his body (1 Corinthians 14:26). You and me. Isn’t that amazing?
— Desiring God
  1. Prepare Saturday – We have been attending church with kids for 17 years. Early on, I was not a pre-planner, so it made attending church with kids a challenge. Something I have learned and now practice every week is to prepare on Saturday. Simple, practical things like laying out clothes, thinking through breakfast, and setting an alarm have made all the difference. A blog post from TGC even suggests that you play hard on Friday night, but be boring and go to bed early on Saturday night. Now that we attend church for both services, arriving an hour before service starts and being one of the last families to leave the building, I can’t imagine not pre-planning for all six of our kids. We are not special or superhuman; we just practice pre-planning.
  2. Arrive 30 minutes before service starts – Typically, visitors arrive 15 minutes before service starts because it’s a new place and they want to get comfortable with unfamiliar surroundings. If your family arrives at the exact moment that the service starts or 15 minutes after the service starts, you will not have an opportunity to meet a visitor. Arrive 30 minutes early so that you have an opportunity to welcome new visitors into New City.
  3. Wait 30 minutes after the service – If a visitor has not made a connection with anyone, they will leave directly after the service is over. Think about it. It’s like going to watch a movie alone, when it’s over, you leave. But if you watch a movie with a group of friends, usually you hang out a bit and talk about it. Waiting 30 minutes after the service gives you an opportunity to meet someone new, invite them to lunch or answer any questions they may have about New City. The Connect Table is also a great place to direct them in order to learn more about our Missional Communities. 
We believe that we will best fulfill our mission and see this vision come to be as we live as a family of missionary servants, disciples of Jesus making disciples of Jesus.

Brandon Cox, Lead Pastor at Grace Hills Church, shared the following six important principles to consider when intentionally greeting new visitors and I think there are a few things we can learn from him.

  1. You are the first loving touch every guest will meet, which sets the stage for people to be open to life change. People will be more or less receptive to the teaching depending on how they were made to feel on the way in.
  2. Most guests will decide in the first few minutes if they will return, even before the music starts. It’s easy to walk into church if you’re there every week, but do you remember what it was like walking in for the first time, when you didn’t think you’d know anyone and wondered if anyone would want to know you?
  3. Your biggest goals are to 1.) eliminate awkwardness and 2.) encourage people. We worship together in a movie theater, so we have the advantage of knowing that people already know what it’s like to walk into a theater, but they’re still asking themselves questions like: Am I following their rules? Am I dressed appropriately? Will I be able to find the bathroom without asking?
  4. You are a tour guide who takes people to their destination, not a travel agent who sends them there. Walking parents and kids all the way to the next volunteer in the kids’ worship room is far better than pointing a finger and saying, “it’s down there on the right.” Walk with people and ask them questions on the way. Be genuinely interested in their lives.
  5. You can have a ministry of encouragement and even offer to have a brief prayer with people. Obviously, some first time guests may not be comfortable with such forwardness, but sometimes it may be highly appropriate to pray with guests before they enter the auditorium, especially if you’ve sensed a spiritual need in them. Keep it brief and don’t make things awkward, but communicate that you care.
  6. Everybody ought to receive a smile, a word of welcome, a loving touch (such as a handshake), and a bulletin on their way in. A smile disarms people and boosts their confidence. A word of welcome is common courtesy. A loving touch, such as a handshake or a brief hug, might be the only loving touch that guest receives this week. And a bulletin, at least in our case, is like a map for what’s going on and allows the guest to respond to the message and request more information.

Functioning in a Racially Torn Culture

We were one week removed from the Sterling /Castille, Dallas police shootings, when three more policemen were killed in Louisiana.  Since then there has been other killings. Truly our society is broken. Typically our mode of operation is to express anger, hurt, and then dialogue in various places.  After things die down we continue life under “business as usual” until the next tragedy and then we go through the cycle again.   The reason for not moving forward lies in the complexity of moving forward.  People often ask, “What can we do to prevent these tragedies embedded in racial hatred?”  The problem lies in the question.  The question is too broad and too complexed because there is no single task that we can do to address all of the issues embedded in the hearts of people.  We don’t have any kinds of laws or legislation to cover all of these things.  However, I would like to put forth a proposal for the Christian community to function.  The reason that I sight the Christian community is because we are bound to each other (whether we admit it or not) by God’s law.  Others can join in but Jesus commands us to love one another.  This command is not just a command to white people, African Americans, or any particular race that have accepted Jesus.  The command to love is incumbent on all who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior.  So then what does love on all of our part look like and how does love for each help us to function particularly at a time where killing people because of their race seems to be a justified action for someone’s hate?  Let’s take a look at it.
The outcry, rage, and anger was tremendous in what we, particularly in the African American community believe is the murder of Sterling and Castille.  Equally, the outcry, rage, and anger are tremendous in the murder of the policemen in Dallas, Louisiana, and other parts of the country.  In both communities the discourses began and continues.  I choose not to comment on the various reactions or responses on either group’s part.  I do however choose to comment on what I believe is the right response from the Christian community from both groups because we have a higher calling to live out the gospel and we have the power of the Holy Spirit working in us to empower to live out the gospel even in tragic situations.  
So then what should be the response of African American and White Christians in a time such as this?  Our response is not going to be easy at this very difficult time in America but I believe that the right response is to put love in action.  Jesus said this in John 13:34-35.  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."  True love is an action on the part of one that benefits the other.  When we are loving each other, we must stand for what is biblically right and speak up for our brothers and sisters of a different culture.  First and foremost we must identify with our Savior & Lord more than our race and our culture.  In the many conversations we may have with our peers, identifying with Jesus will often be counter culture.  We must stand for what is biblically right as opposed to what may be racially acceptable among our peers.  The fracture exists among us because are taking sides.  In some cases black folks are right.  In other cases white folks are right.  The righteousness of Jesus dictates that we stand for what is right even if that stand is unpopular with others in our culture.  We can’t take sides.  For example in all of this much of the blame has been laid at the feet of white people in general, instead of the few who harbor hate and prejudices in their hearts.  Many of our brothers and sisters are white.  Many of them are hurting at the loss of lives “period” and that our nation is in this hate rut.  Some are emotionally devastated. Some want to reach out to many of their black friends but are afraid to try and because they don’t know what to say and are afraid that they might say the wrong thing.   America is in such a dilemma trying to overcome the race issues we have ignored the fact that our white brothers and sisters are hurting too.  How do we as black Christians love them?  First we say thank you for their compassion and willingness to try and understand our hurts and pains as difficult as it may be for many of them to understand what we are and have been experiencing.  Therefore we should join with them in their hurts and pains as they grieve.  1 Corinthians 12:25-26 states, “that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.   Next on their behalf we must say to our people that nothing in the past or present justifies killing policemen. Some of our African American brothers and sisters feel that the killing of these policemen are justified and shouldn’t be mourned.  That is the wrong spirit.  We live by a different Spirit, the Holy Spirit.  We are compelled to do and say what is right and reflects the righteousness of Jesus.  Any attitude among our people that is different is sin not love.  At a time like this we must reach out to our white brothers and sisters in love and comfort them and to understand them just as we want them to see our hurts and pains.  It is true!  We’ve been suffering a long time. It is true the injustices seem to mount.  It is also true that we live in a fallen world under a condemned enemy that seeks to destroy us all through seizing our emotions and marring the image we have in Jesus Christ.  We cannot allow that under any circumstances.  So by faith in full confidence that our God and Savior set a wonderful criteria by which we operate, we can love and put our arms around our white brothers and sisters who are also hurting, angry, and distraught over what is happening in America.  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2.  This is our calling.  This is who we are and under no circumstance should we succumb to the cries of our cultures.
So to my white brothers and sisters thank you for expressing compassion and hurt to us at a time like this.  We also want to say to you that we’re sorry as well for the needless killings of the policemen.  It was wrong and it is our prayer that it won’t happen again.  You must also express your love to us.  You cannot turn your head or be ambivalent to what we’re experiencing.  In our community and from our perspective we see these murders of African American males as not only an expression of the America’s disdain for African Americans, but we also see a display of a devalued attitude of African American lives. We experience a major disparity in the justice system.  White perpetrators of crime get far lesser sentences than blacks for the same crimes.  We are the last hired and the first fired.  We are witnessing the rise of immigrant cultures to a better socio economic status than us while it seems that we have been “selected” by this country to be in a perpetual status of being second class. We are constantly reminded by the attitude and practices of white people on a daily basis on our jobs and in various walks of life, that we are inferior to them. Our opinion doesn’t count. Our expertise doesn’t count.  We have to continually prove ourselves even when our credentials justify our qualifications.  We get scrutinized and evaluated differently than our white peers.  If you think that I am imagining things or that I am too sensitive  take something minor like football and the position of quarterback.  The really good African American quarterbacks will almost always be described as talented.  Your average white quarterbacks will be described as intelligent and manages the game well. The indication to us is that talent doesn’t require intelligence and that intelligence is far superior to talent. i.e. the white quarterback is superior to the black.  You may think that I am reaching for straws but African Americans view life from this perspective. We believe that these killings are outright murder by “guardians of the system. ”  When the perpetrators of killings like these go unpunished after going through the judicial process, we see that as a major expression from America “that we don’t count.” If our white brothers and sisters are going to love us, then you cannot turn your head to this hurt we’ve been experiencing and that we’re experiencing right now.  So what must you do as a white Christian to express your love to us?  You have to make sure that you are not part of the problem.  You have to call your white brothers into account who may still hold on to a mentality towards African Americans that is not godly.  You have to be mindful that your actions affirm to us that we are equal.  
The action of loving each other on both of our parts is major.  It takes work. The real challenge for us is to live out the gospel in every aspect of life particularly when we interact with people of another race.  In times like these we should go the extra mile in expressing love to each other.  We should stand together in Christ Jesus and demonstrate to the world that we do love each other and that we bear one another’s hurts and pains.  We cannot succumb or acquiesce to the cry of our cultures.  We stand together in the call of our God and Savior.

Lawrence Robinson