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

 photo from mercer.edu

photo from mercer.edu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lesson from Old Concrete Workers: I Got It!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Call to Lead

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

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

Why We Need Leaders

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

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

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

What now?

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

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

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

The Goal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Missionary God and His Missionary People

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Last week our New City students had the opportunity to go to Radius Camp in Auburn, AL. I want to say a huge thank you to our leaders that went as well as the staff of Radius Camp for serving and putting on these camps. It was such an awesome week of learning and growing for all of us, leaders included! Relationships were strengthened between our students. We saw many of the students getting out of their comfort zone and opening up. I’ve heard more than once, “Wow! I didn’t know he/she was so fun and bubbly!.” 

The theme of the week was “The Missionary God and His Missionary People.” From the very beginning of time, God was missional. Though we turn from Him, He pursued us and our hearts. That pursuit was ultimately exemplified through Christ taking on flesh and stepping down into creation. He lived a perfect life and bore our punishment on the cross. He rose victoriously from the grave. He did all that to save those who would believe. He was missional. 

Each day we had the privilege of serving different local ministries in the area. Part of our team served at New Birth ministries and the others served at Big House ministry. New Birth ministries helped those who were coming out of substance abuse and addiction, providing housing and programs to help. Our students helped organize piles of donated clothes as well as do yard work. They were able to sit and listen to their testimonies of God’s faithfulness and missionary heart. Some of our students even shared their testimonies as well. Big House ministry helps provide clothing, toys, and school supplies to foster families. Although stipends are given to foster families, often times it isn’t enough. Big House serves by receiving donations from the community and providing for the needs of children in foster care. We were able to organize tons of clothes they had as well as do some much needed yard work. 

I was so encouraged by everyone’s attitudes and willingness to serve. It was extremely hot, yet our students continued to step in and serve without the slightest complaint…well, maybe a little bit…but not much! :) I’m very proud of our students and the work that was done. 

Our students’ eyes were opened to the fact that we are disciples called to make disciples (Matt. 28:19-20). If you are a Christian, being a missionary is not an option. As school starts back up with different clubs, classes, and sports, each student picked one person in mind they were going to share the gospel with. Would you pray for our students? Pray that God would continue to grow them in seeing what it means to be a missionary right where they are. Pray that they would be continually reminded of God’s love and His missionary character. Pray that our students’ eyes would be open to the opportunities to share the gospel with their friends. 

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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
— Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV)
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New Kids Classes for Fall

A new school year brings lots of changes for our families, and also for our New City Kids classes! Beginning the first Sunday in August - 8/5/18 - we will launch a new set of classes on Sunday mornings. 

The following classes will be offered during both the 9:00 and 11:00 services:

Nursery: infants to 2 years old
New City Zoo: 2 and 3 years old
City Park: 4 and 5 years old (including kindergarten)
Theater: 1st & 2nd grade
New City Cafe: 3rd, 4th, & 5th grade

This is also the week that our grade school kids will move up to their new class (even if they haven't started school just yet). 

Why make changes? 

At New City, we believe everything we do is part of our mission - and God's mission in the world: to see the gospel of Jesus Christ transform everything within our reach. That means we use every opportunity and every tool we have to tell the good news! As we continue to grow and see more kids come through our doors, we want to make sure we have the space to welcome them in so they can hear the good news too. Our building and our kids classes are just some of the resources God has entrusted us with to share in his mission. We want to steward them well!

Our younger classes are our largest age groups, so we are rearranging to make more room! This change will help keep each class balanced and below capacity so we have plenty of room to grow. 

What are they learning?

We have two curricula running simultaneously in our kids classes, but the goal of each is the same: to teach kids the gospel by showing them how the whole Bible points to one big story! The 4K and K class just restarted the Jesus Storybook Bible, while the 1st-5th graders are working through The Gospel Project. We also recently added videos to both programs to enhance engagement and retention of the stories!

What should I do now?

Celebrate with us! Our classes are growing, which means more people are hearing the good news of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection week after week.

Prep your kids! If they will be moving to a new class soon, try to get there early and show them around. Talk about the theme of their new class in advance and help get them excited!

Jump in! Will you join us in the mission? Our fantastic team of volunteers participates in making disciples and advancing God's kingdom by faithfully presenting the gospel each week, modeling Christ's love to their classes, and welcoming new families. We would love to have you join us!

Thank you to the many people who make the ministry of New City Kids possible!

 

A Story of Multiplication

When my wife and I lived in the Dominican Republic we developed relationships with several long-term missionaries there. In many places, missionaries come and go often; sometimes only for a couple of months at a time. This takes a toll on the long-term missionaries there because they develop family and share life with people only to see them leave months/years later. Even though people are leaving to go where God leads them, it is still difficult to see them go.

Multiplication within missional communities, much like relationships within foreign missions, is difficult and messy on nearly every level. It takes energy, emotion, and relationship. Ultimately, it means some of your dearest friends and those you have invested in the most leave you for something else. Despite this, we step into multiplication because the gospel is worth it and Jesus commands us to go and make disciples. For all of its difficulty, the sending of new communities is an incredible apologetic for the gospel to others. Brad Watson, equipping leader with Saturate, says in regards to planting new MC's that, "sending new people out means an increase in gospel demonstration and proclamation."

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Multiplying missional communities requires multiplying leaders. The process of new MC's beginning in new neighborhoods begins with two or three leaders with a deep love for Jesus (who He is and what He has done) and a track record and/or desire for service (people who are leveraging their lives for others and the gospel).

Let me share a story with you. The Crosby MC began in 2016 with a small group of people willing to step into leadership and a vision for reaching the lost. With around 20 people in their community, they began to share life together; eat together, play together, and love together. This group began to grow and see more and more people come into their family. This meant more and more people were learning the truth of the gospel and seeing that truth transform their lives. This group grew to around 40 people within a years time. The Peek MC was planted from this group. Then, not long after, the Warner Robins MC and the Tattnall Square Park MC were planted. This month, the Peek MC has planted another MC. 

From that seemingly small beginning, we have seen five Missional Communities planted. Think about it this way: in 2016 there were 10 people in one MC and now in 2018 there are roughly 100 people in five separate but still connected MC's. This is now five groups doing mission in different places throughout Macon rather than only one group. Some are in their neighborhoods, others are in parks, while others are on mission to the businesses of downtown Macon. This is now five MC's who have space to invite outsiders into their homes, lives, and families rather than one. This is multiplication. This is gospel advancement. This is Kingdom work.

People are encountering Jesus for the first time. God is bringing His people back to Himself. He is redeeming and restoring what has been broken. Now is the time. Let's embrace our God-given identity and live as a family of missionary servants making disciples. Put your "yes" on the table and let's plant more Missional Communities and reach more people with the gospel of Jesus. Would you be willing to lead or host an MC? If so, let us know here. Do you want to go through our training this Fall to get a better idea of what it would look like for you to help lead? Email me. Multiplication is hard and messy at times but the reward is great!

Its Time to End Our Double Lives

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I don't know when or where it happened, what led to the place we find ourselves now. We are tired, stretched thin and always busy with stuff...
Our life is full - dating, school, spouse, children, sports, hobbies, WORK.
There is hardly enough time for it all. It is really exhausting. By the end of the week we just really need some rest - some "me" time, some family time.
Still we find time for our religious life - we carve out time - a Sunday morning here and there, a week night for our "small group," some occasional reading. It is tough to balance our religious life when there is so much of the rest of our lives.

Life was never meant to be like this and yet it is. We find ourselves exhausted and we struggle to find the time to "do" the Christian life. 
We want to.  We hear the call to serve, the call to be a part of God's great mission.
We feel certain that we should.
But when?  How? We can't possibly add another thing to our already chaotic life.
We find ourselves divided. And this is no small divide, the sacred and the secular.
The sacred is our religious life, the secular is everything else - work, school, friends, kids...

Somewhere along the way of Christianity we lost our way. The problem isn't that we somewhere got too busy. It isn't that we necessarily do too much. In fact we were meant to work hard, play hard and enjoy much! We were meant to live full lives - the kind of life that calls for rest. That's not the problem.
No, the problem is not the busyness. The problem is the divide.  God never intended for our lives to be divided. He never intended us to have sacred lives disconnected from our secular lives. We are meant for both - not individually - but inseparably, both as one.

In practice, we have divided life into all sorts of segments - our 9 to 5 job, our home life with spouse and kids, our "me" time, and Sunday is for our Christian life. This is the problem! We are not doctors who are Christian or mechanics who are Christian or moms and dads who are Christian, as though we are first and foremost something plus Christian.
No, we are Christians who are doctors, mechanics, moms, dads, students... We don't stop being Christian when we go to our job or gather with friends - we are Christians, if we are followers of Christ, always. In fact, the apostle Paul says in II Corinthians 5 that when we come to believe in Jesus, we are not just forgiven of sin, we are made new creations - the old is gone and we are new. He calls us, in this new life, Ambassadors of Christ.  An Ambassador is someone who represents another person. We represent Jesus. So we are Ambassadors of Christ as we go to work or to school or play ball with the kids. We are ambassadors of Christ when we hang out with friends or serve in the community.
This new identity isn't simply something that we add to our already busy (secular) life - it is who we are in Christ (sacred). 

The truth is that there is no divide for us as followers of Christ. All of our life is meant to be sacred. This means we don't add religious things to an already busy life, but that all of our busy life is religious. Sunday is really no more sacred than Monday!  And Monday through Friday are equally sacred as we live like Christ in the places we work, study and play. We don't add mission to our life, mission is the life we are called to "as we go" about our sacred everyday life. We don't add religious works and duties to our post-work life; they are every part of our everyday life as we do all things for the glory of God and work as unto the Lord.

This is freeing, if you stop for a moment to think about it.
Its freeing in the sense that God isn't expecting me to add a bunch of stuff to my life. God isn't requiring me to give up all of my kids' sporting activities nor is He angry because I play golf every now and then. Its freeing because I don't have to try to balance life - the sacred and the secular. I'm free to live - to work, to play, to enjoy life to its fullest - only with intention. I live it all as an ambassador of Christ. I live it all as a missionary. I live it all for His glory.
No more confusion.
No more double life.
I am a Christian pastor, a Christian crossfitter, a Christian biker, a Christian friend, a Christian community leader, a Christian dad, a Christian husband - for the glory of God and the good of people, always.

You Are Sent

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If you have been with us these past few Sundays, you may have noticed something different at the end of our gathered worship. Instead of saying “You are dismissed” we began saying, “You are sent.” Why the change? Does that even matter? Should I really read this blog over this tiny change where in which I’m usually just focused on what I’m going to eat for lunch? The answer is a resounding Yes! It does matter!

Every Sunday at New City we gather with our church family to be reminded and encouraged by the Gospel. We sing the gospel. We hear the gospel. We preach the gospel. This is a gloriously crucial time in our week. It opens our eyes to God’s big story and how our lives, our stories, are part of that story. 

Let’s face it, we are a forgetful people. I’m lucky if I remember what I did yesterday! We need to be continually reminded of the saving grace of Jesus that impacts every area of our lives. God in His sovereignty created all things and called it good. We rebelled and sought our own glory. Because of this rebellion we deserved punishment, we deserved death. Yet, in love and kindness Jesus took on flesh and lived the perfect life we never could, died and took the punishment of the cross and God’s wrath we so rightly deserved, and rose to life so we could be transformed and made right with the Father. Now, He calls us His own.Think about it: we were sworn enemies, deserving of God’s wrath, and He extends His hand of grace and mercy through Jesus to be called sons and daughters. He gives us a completely new identity, calling us to go and spread this good news.

“You are sent” is said at the end of service as reminder that in Christ we are a new creations and in Christ we are transformed and given the identity of missionary. If you are a believer, you are called to spread the gospel in every part of your life…when your at home with the family, when your at work, when your out with friends. There is no part of your life that isn’t affected by the gospel. Remember, you are completely, fully transformed. You are an ambassador for Christ. You are sent. 

 - inspired by Designed to Lead by Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck

Same Message, Different Methods

I grew up in a family of six and my older brother and I were only two years apart from each other. We are very close now but growing up we fought like cats and dogs. Sometimes my parents would disciple us separate from each other and I remember getting upset because it seemed like I got punished differently than my brother. I would complain that it wasn’t fair and that they loved my brother more than me. As I’ve grown older, I’ve began to see that my parents weren’t showing favoritism but rather they were disciplining us with the same goal in mind, just with different means because my brother and I have unique personalities that receive discipline in different ways.

This truth applies well to the work of evangelism. As Christians, we must affirm the message of the gospel and that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation is true and unchanging. As for methods of evangelism, they can be fluid and change over time. For example, there is the confrontational type where the individual is forthright and urgent in sharing the message of the gospel. There is also the relational type in which someone wants to be hospitable and warm and build a relationship prior to sharing the gospel. Maybe consider the service style of evangelism where someone sees a felt lead and enters in empathetically, meets that need, and then proceeds to share the gospel message. All of these are right and true and appropriate because in all three cases they are trying to emulate Christ in all they do and proclaim the gospel message to a lost and dying world.

So for us, we must be genuinely interested in our neighbors, co-workers, classmates, roommates, friends, and family members to get to know them, their stories, their personalities and then adapt our method of sharing to that individual situation. For example, if your neighbor is an astrophysicist you know that she is highly intelligent and you may want to approach your evangelistic efforts with more of an intellectual approach. What about your co-worker who comes from a Middle Eastern country that is very big on hospitality? What you can do is invite him into your home, around your table, to eat with your family because it is through that that he will be open to receive the gospel message you have to proclaim to him.

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Again, let me affirm that the message of the gospel is never-changing but the method of sharing the gospel is ever-changing. The reality is this, as Tim Keller said, “there are some needs only you can see. There are some hands only you can hold. There are some people only you can reach.” The command, privilege, and joy of sharing the gospel is yours and mine. You can reach different people with the gospel than I would ever be able to reach. How amazing is it that God has invited all of us into His Story to play a part in redemption and restoration? It truly is a great joy to play a part in God’s Story! Are you sharing the gospel with those around you? Do you need help learning how to share the gospel? I’ve tagged some resources below to help you get started.

Change the World With Me

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It only takes 6 weeks to form a new habit. Some say it only takes 21 days.
There may not be agreement on how long it takes to form a new habit, but there is agreement that habits can be formed in a relatively short period of time. The same is true for breaking old habits.

I am being challenged.
I recently picked up a copy of The Simplest Way to Change the World: Biblical Hospitality as a Way of Life. I haven’t been able to put it down. Clearly from the title, the book is a call for followers of Christ to practice biblical hospitality for the sake of the gospel. The authors define biblical hospitality in this way:
“At its core, the practice of biblical hospitality is obeying the command in Romans 15:7 to “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you.” It’s receiving others into our lives—into relationship and, yes, even into our homes. It welcomes Christians as a way to walk in the truth that we’ve been made family through the gospel, and it welcomes non-Christians in an attempt to model and extend the gracious invitation we’ve received from God in Christ.”

I have believed that the gospel is best communicated through ongoing relationships. That seems to be one of the primary means that the gospel spread so quickly in Christianity’s infancy. It is in keeping, I believe with Jesus’s teaching of the disciples in Matthew 28, “As you go, make disciples.” As you go about life, as you go to work, as you go to school, as you go to your child’s ball game, as you go about the normal rhythms of your life, make disciples. New City Church has preached this from our first days. I’ve practiced it, to some degree. But not so much at home.

Home has been my sanctuary – my place of safety and a refuge. Apparently, I am not alone in this view of home. In chapter 3 the authors list 4 “cultural currents” (trends) that describe our view of home:
isolation – our home is our private get away. It is where we go to separate from people;
relaxation – our home is a place for us to kick back, veg out, unwind and recharge;
entertainment – our home is a place to binge watch Netflix, scroll through social media and play games;
busyness – life is filled with work and play and children causing us to constantly be on the go, so much so that there is no time for home and certainly not for hospitality.
Do any (or all) of those describe you? This isn’t how it was meant to be, how it should be, and thus my being challenged.

This isn’t just a fad, “everyone’s doing hospitality now.” It isn’t just a rule, “thou shalt have people over.” It is a picture of the hospitality that God has shown to us from the garden to this day. In the garden, God not only provided a beautiful place for Adam and Eve to be and amazing food for them to eat, but He came to them in the cool of the day, spending time with them. With Israel He was with them in the cloud and fire, eventually making His home with them in the temple. Jesus is God with us! He came in the flesh to serve His people, to walk with them, care for them and provide for them – for us. Even now He provides for us in His indwelling Spirit – God is still with us! The gospel itself is God providing hospitality - all that we need to be with Him; it is Him providing, caring for and loving us. The authors wrote of this connection, “When we invite into our homes and lives those who are far from God, essentially we say to them, God loves you and He hasn’t given up on you. We present that message with our actions before we even get a chance to share the gospel with our words. If we are truly God’s ambassadors, as Paul called us in 2 Corinthians 5:20,2 then when we open our doors to a non-Christian, it is as if God Himself is opening His door. When Christians practice this simple action repeatedly, it changes the world.”

I like that – the idea that you and I can be a part of changing the world. I like the thought of my home and life at home pointing people to a God who loves them deeply and to His Son who has given so much for them. I want that.
But it is not my habit.
My habit is to see my home as a private get away from the world and people, a place for me to relax, recharge and be entertained. My habit is a busy life with little room for hospitality. I am confessing.

They say it only takes 6 weeks to form a habit.
So I will see. Maybe it will only take 21 days. I’m going to try.
“You won’t accidentally fall or stumble into changing the world through biblical hospitality… If you do nothing, you will continue to think the same way you always have and do the same things you’ve always done. Maybe a simple movement against the current becomes a way of life that leads to seeing lives and neighborhoods transformed.”

First I’m going to finish this amazing book!  You can pick up a copy and join me. It is a great read and incredibly practical.

I’m going to get a copy for Amy and get her reading.

I’m going to schedule with her a night – maybe just twice a month for now (it’s a start!) to open our home for hospitality.

I’m going to invite people around me to dinner. I’m going to be a friend. I’m going to listen. And when I am able I will share with them how good Jesus has been to me, how he has loved me and how he loves them.

I’m praying now for those who might come. I’m praying that this will become a beautiful habit for me. And I praying that maybe it would become a habit for you as well.

Our Growing Student Ministry!

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Upcoming 6th Graders, you are invited to join the Student MC this Summer! Here are the dates that we will meet: 

June 10 - Student MC 5:30-7:00
June 24/25 - Sermon Notebook Decorating Girl’s Night/Guys Night
July 7 - Pool Party 11:00-2:00
July 8 - Student MC 5:30-7:00
July 29 - Student MC

We are very excited about this next year in New City’s Student Ministry. A number of 5th graders will be moving up to 6th grade. We will just about double the number of students we have now. Guys, that’s a lot!!! What an awesome opportunity to partner with parents in helping raise their students into the men and women God created them to be. 

With that being said, We Need HELP!!! With the increased number of students, we need more leaders to serve our students and invest in this next generation. The role is not just for college students, it is for the church too! They need leaders of all ages who model faith in a variety of life stages. Take a few minutes to read the article below. If you have a heart for students and seeing lives changed by the gospel, would you pray and consider serving our students??

Please email Arthur Lin at arthur@newcitymacon.org if you are at all interested! 


Most of us have an image in our minds of the ideal youth leader. Maybe when you think about youth ministry in your church, you imagine the cool college student or the attractive young married couple as best suited to spend time with teenagers. But raising our young people in the faith is meant to be a shared calling among all of God’s people.

If younger Christians are to imitate the faith of their leaders, they will need more than one type of adult in their lives to model faith in a range of callings. This means we may need to re-envision our ideas about what constitutes the ideal youth leader.

Here are five leaders I’m always hoping to recruit for our youth ministry team

1. The Parent of a Current Student

It’s difficult to imagine youth leaders with more skin in the game than parents of current students. Parents are already the most significant spiritual influence in their children’s lives. They have ready access to their children’s peers, making them effective at contact work. They’re also able to identify immediate needs, since their children are personally affected.

Youth workers should ensure that parental participation will be a good fit for the parents’ own teenagers. I always ask those interested in serving with youth to find out how their children feel before signing on. At the middle-school level, it often works well to have parents serve with their own kids. In high school, though, consider how to give older students space to be vulnerable and to wrestle with big faith questions. If your church is large enough to have small groups for different ages and genders, a parent might lead a group other than their child’s. The parent will then be able to come alongside other youth while still participating in their own child’s world.

Several dads at my church have opted to keep serving with middle schoolers once their children have moved up. They minister beautifully to many students while staying connected to the broader ministry.

2. The Stay-at-Home Parent

Parents who stay at home with their kids make some of the best, most nurturing youth leaders. If their children are school-aged, they may also have capacity to help with administrative tasks, event planning, and contact work with students. Those with younger children often relish the opportunity to interact with a different age group.

One young mom in our church serves on our high-school team. Sometimes she brings her preschoolers along to special events, allowing students to see what it looks like to honor Christ as a busy mom. Other parents have given 10 or more hours per week just to help me—a huge gift of time.

3. The Recent Empty-Nester

The recent empty-nester can be one of the most high-capacity youth leaders. These are the movers and shakers in our ministry. They’ve “launched” their own kids, giving them loads of parenting wisdom from which to draw. Because they tend to be busy professionals and even leaders in their organizations, a youth worker might have to meet with them at 6 a.m., but those early-morning breakfast meetings are well worth the investment.

The recent empty-nester might require a little extra wooing. This age group is sometimes the most intimidated by teenagers, imagining that students won’t relate to them. Youth workers will have to be especially winsome in their assurances that “warm is the new cool.” The recent empty-nester can provide invaluable vision and experience.

4. The Grandparent Figure

Older adults are often overlooked as potential youth leaders, but this shouldn’t be. Deuteronomy 32:7 urges younger people to seek the wisdom and experience of older generations in the community. Older adults generally have time to give—in addition to wisdom. If they have grandkids (or nieces and nephews), they may already be pros at relating to younger people. Certain youth group games may not be up their alley, but their capacity to love and care for students is always a win.

We have a grandparent figure on our middle-school team who often plans hiking and bike outings for students, sharing his love for the outdoors. He has mentored one student well beyond middle school, teaching him important life skills and talking about the faith. An older married couple on our high-school team has shared vulnerably with students about recent health struggles. Our high schoolers adore this precious couple and frequently list them first when we ask for prayer concerns.

5. The Single Person

It’s tempting to fill our teams with married couples or individuals with parenting experience, but don’t neglect single people in your church. Whether young professionals or older adults, singles often have time, energy, and care to give. Their independence often makes it simpler for them to spend time with students outside of youth ministry programs, and they can demonstrate the familial nature of the church in beautiful ways.

Our students are single, and they need to see others walking with Christ in the calling to be single. By actively recruiting singles to serve, we show students that both marriage and singleness are good gifts from God (1 Cor. 7).

Youth workers should note that single people in your ministry will often appreciate time to process their experiences with you. They will likely expend significant energy on behalf of students, and they may need more support from a youth worker. These relationships are among the most life-giving for me, since single leaders are often more available to spend time praying for our students and discussing ministry needs.

The call to befriend and instruct younger people is clear throughout Scripture, and we need the whole congregation—men and women of all stages and walks of life—to be passionately involved in this pursuit. So as you look for those fun college students and newly married couples, be sure to prioritize other godly examples, too. Thinking outside the box helps youth ministries to flourish; your students, after all, need the whole body of Christ.

Article by: Chelsea Kingston Erickson, 5 Leaders Every Youth Ministry Needs

Motivated for Mission

The call to share the gospel is often an intimidating, unsettling thing--even for the most seasoned believers. We know that we should, we know Jesus' words in the Great Commission to "go, make disciples," and yet we still don't. We let fear rule our lives, worrying that we will say something wrong, we won't know the answers, or the listener will respond poorly. We don't want to be pushy, we don't want to make someone uncomfortable. We don't know how to bring it up, we don't feel equipped. The excuses can go on for miles, and I have felt or said every one of them.

(For a reminder of who needs to hear the gospel, read Pastor Keith's recent post: Good People Don't Go to Heaven)

The gospel gives us answers to every one of these excuses, but more than that, the gospel gives us powerful motivation to share the gospel. Jesus shows us the motivation for mission, because it is after all his mission.

Motivated by Compassion

A few weeks ago, Pastor Keith shared a quote from Darrin Patrick's book, Church Planter:

The motive for mission is compassion. We join Jesus on his mission not because we want to grow our church or because we like to dispense apologetic insights to skeptics or even because we like to hang out with unbelievers. We go on the mission of the Savior because we share the compassionate heart of the one who sees people as sheep without a shepherd.

Patrick states that the #1 reason we share the gospel is compassion: "sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others." Where do we find the perfect model of compassion? In Jesus.

It is impossible to read the Gospels without noticing Jesus' care and concern for people. Everywhere he went he met the needs of people around him, healing them, caring for them, raising their loved ones from the dead, providing food when they were hungry. But before he met their needs, he saw their needs. He looked at people cared about what he saw:

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matt 9:35-36)

Over and over again people came to Jesus, broken, hurting, sick, dying, and he felt compassion for them. Not only were they in need of physical healing, Jesus saw that they were slaves to sin, unable to have fellowship with the Father, and far from him. He healed their physical afflictions, but he also healed their spiritual sickness. 

When Jesus began his ministry, Luke recounts Jesus essentially giving a summary of his mission on earth:

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “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,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  Luke 4:18-21

The prophet Isaiah wrote about a coming savior who would heal all of our brokenness and give us freedom from sin and death. As Jesus reads this aloud, he says, "Look! This is why I am here. I have come to meet broken people where they are and give them new life." Jesus' earthly ministry and his work on the cross were driven by his care for the broken condition of his people.

So how does this motivate you and me to join him on his mission? Sure, Jesus was compassionate, but what do I do when I realize I'm not?

Compassion for others begins to well up in our hearts when we remember the compassion Jesus showed to us. The gospel shows us that on our own we are hopelessly, helplessly sinful, enemies with God, unable to save ourselves (Romans 3:10-12, Ephesians 2:1-3). But God does not leave us there. Instead he sends Jesus to live a perfect life, die a horrible death, and raise to life again, defeating the power of sin and death in our lives (Ephesians 2:4-8). When we can do nothing to get to him, he comes all the way to us--doing all of the work and giving us new life.

The gospel frees us to look at the world around us and see their deep need for Jesus. Because we were once far from God and he pursued us, we know what it is to be in need of a savior. When we rehearse the truth of the gospel regularly (I was far from God and he rescued me), we are reminded of how incredible his grace is and how undeserving we are of it. This frees us to look at the people we interact with (at work, school, the grocery store, down the street) and care that they are far from God. That they are without hope and slaves to sin. That without the good news of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, they are hopelessly lost. When we remind ourselves and one another of the need Jesus has met in redeeming us and bringing us back to the Father, we can join him on his mission to rescue and redeem the world. 

There is no compassion without action. We can't see the lostness in our city and choose to be silent. We can't believe that we care for people and never tell them about the God who loves them and desires to forgive their sin. Compassion will impel us to bring the good news we have to them, not just treat them well or be nicer to them. We have incredibly good news to share. 

Lord, you are indescribably good and merciful. You give grace upon grace to people like me who could never deserve it. Open my eyes to see the incredible grace you have given me, and to see the people around me who still need to know you. Help me to see the truth of the gospel more clearly so that I grow in my care and compassion for the people around me.

3 Circles: A Gospel Presentation

Recently, I wrote a blog post about how the gospel advances through everyday believers and how we should all be eager to share the gospel with everyone we come in contact with. You can read it here. If you go out and begin having conversations with people, you will begin realizing that people are all broken. Regardless of whether people have a church background, whether they believe in God, whether they know what sin is, people do understand brokenness because they’ve been hurt. They understand what it means to feel cheap and empty and used. They understand what it means to have no sense of purpose. They understand what it means to be confused about gender, sexuality, and family structure.

Christians have a unique opportunity to speak the gospel into people's brokenness in a way that no one else can. At our most recent Quarterly Training, we discussed a tool for sharing the gospel called the 3 Circles. A good opportunity for sharing the 3 Circles is when someone mentions a problem or something painful going on in their life. That usually doesn’t take very long. It’s truly amazing how quickly our conversations move toward these kinds of experiences. The person’s difficulty, pain, or disappointment gives us the opportunity to say, ‘I’ve had experiences like that too. I’ve had experiences that made me feel similar to the way you’re feeling now. Could I just show you something that gave me a tremendous amount hope during my time of struggle?" Then you just draw the three circles and walk the person through the gospel, God's plan to redeem and restore broken sinners.

The tool helps people use three simple circles that represent God's Design (Creation), Brokenness (Fall) and the Gospel (Redemption & Restoration) -- which can be drawn, for example, on a napkin during lunch -- to communicate the Gospel. This is simply a tool. It is not magic. It does not save people. But this is a simple, reproducible tool that can be a great way to share the gospel with a neighbor, co-worker, friend, or acquaintance.

Watch this video below and learn to tell God's Story in a simple way. More importantly, learn to train others to tell God's Story, getting His message out until there is no place left for it to go. Practice the 3 Circles and become comfortable sharing it. Then, go out and share the gospel using this simple tool.

*Thoughts gathered from Ray Vaughn and Jimmy Scroggins*

When Mother’s Day Hurts

"There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.” 1 Samuel‬ ‭2:2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This verse will be our call to worship Sunday. It comes from a prayer of Hannah, the mother of Samuel, a prophet of Israel. If you’re not familiar with her story, Hannah was a woman who knew grief. She experienced infertility for a number of years (the Bible doesn’t specify how long, just that it went on year by year), and finally gave birth to a son, whom she gave in service to the Lord at the temple once he was weaned. You can read more in I Samuel 1-2.

Sunday is Mother’s Day, and while it is a wonderful day to show appreciation for the moms in our lives, for many it is a day of grieving. Many women feel the ache of infertility, secondary infertility, or pregnancy loss. Others have experienced the tragedy of losing a child. Others still have lost their own mothers, are estranged from her, or perhaps never had the loving relationship with their mom that everyone else seems to have. There are even moms who, for various reasons, believe they have utterly failed at motherhood and feel no hope for forgiveness or reconciliation with their children.

Even though that prayer of Hannah was after she had given birth to Samuel, it still came from a heart that knew deep longing and anguish. She knew the pain of years of seemingly unheard prayers, of longing for a child whom she may never be given. Anyone who has experienced suffering knows that although the suffering may end, it’s effect on our soul can linger for years. 

What Hannah also knew was that the Lord was her rock. She kept praying for years because she knew God DID hear. She believed, even in sorrow, even though God may have seemed silent and distant.

You may be feeling deep sorrow this Mother’s Day. We want to acknowledge your pain and say that you are loved and valued.

Your identity and worth are not defined by your ability to have children, the number of miscarriages you’ve had, your strained relationship with your mom or children, the loss you’ve experienced, or the countless things you have filled your life with in hopes of dulling the pain. If you’re a mom, your identity and worth are not even defined by how great of a mom you are. 

Your value is found in Jesus. Because he became flesh, experienced pain and suffering, and bore it all even to death on a cross, you have a Savior who knows your hurt. Because he rose again and overcame sin and death, you have a new and living hope and can trust that your pain will not last forever. In Him, you are a loved, accepted and cherished child of God, who loves to do good toward you. Believe that. Let your grieving and sorrow bring you to the feet of Jesus and the hope found only in the gospel.

Yes, our world and our bodies are broken, and the pain can seem unbearable. But in Christ we can trust that our pain will not be wasted- he will always use it for our good and His own glory- and that one day Jesus will come back, wipe away every tear from every eye, and mend all our brokenness.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:18-19

Anonymous

Good People Don't Go to Heaven

You believe they do, and, very practically thinking, so do I.
Most of us spend our time with people who are like us. They enjoy the things that we enjoy. They speak our language. They watch our television shows. They have jobs or go to class. They pay their bills. They dress decently. They are nice. They are like us.
And we are believers - Christians.
They live in our neighborhood.
They work with us.
They look like us.
They act like us.
They talk like us.
If we are Christians, they must be Christians too.

We give it little thought. We assume.  We assume that because they are "good" to us, they must be "good" with God. Honestly, we probably don't even give conscious thought to this because they are so good, so much like us. But the truth is, no matter how good they are to us, good people don't go to heaven.

The Bible is clear that we are all sinners: we have all failed to love and follow God, and there are no "good people." The Bible is also clear that sin separates us from God. Our separation from God is unending apart from forgiveness of our sin. At the very least, this separation means that we won't be with him in "heaven." Worse, the Bible teaches that there is unending condemnation and even suffering when we die separated from God. Those forgiven will spend forevermore with him in a world free from sin and the consequences of sin. Those not forgiven will not.

The difference between those two groups - those who will be forevermore with him and those who will suffer unending condemnation - isn't measured by behavior, but belief. It won't depend on whether or not a person was "good," nice, hard working, a great dad or mom, neighborly, honest, dependable... but on whether or not they believed the good news of Jesus.  The good news of Jesus is a proclamation that by trusting in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus we are forgiven of sin, made right in God's eyes and restored to a right relationship with him. By faith in his good work for us, we are made truly good in God's eyes (righteous and holy).

The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 10:8 "But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Paul is explaining that forgiveness and restoration with God comes through faith, faith that is centered on the work of Jesus!  This faith is very specific. It isn't faith that God is good. It isn't faith that God is loving. It isn't faith that all roads lead to one great God. It is faith that God has provided for us, in Christ, a way of forgiveness - salvation. 
There is no other way of forgiveness, no other way of salvation, no other way of being good. It only comes by faith in the work of Jesus.

Then Paul adds this...
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone proclaiming to them? 
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be forgiven and saved.
But how can they call on him if they haven't believed?
And how can they believe in him when they haven't heard?
And how can they hear without someone proclaiming the good news to them?

The "good" people around us don't go to heaven- only the forgiven who trust in the good news of Jesus. And our niceness, service in the community and church attendance isn't the gospel. The gospel is the good news of his life, death and resurrection proclaimed. Our good neighbors, good co-workers and good friends need to hear about Jesus, and they need to hear from us.
My friends need to hear it from me.
Your friends? They need to hear from you.
“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

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Women of the Word Book Review

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Studying the Bible can be hard.

The language can be difficult to understand. The cultural context is so different from ours. Some chapters or books seem irrelevant to us now. The timeline can be confusing. There are so many books, chapters and pages that even figuring out how or where to start can be overwhelming.

With so many bible studies, books and sermons so easily accessed these days, it can be tempting for us to rely on second-hand bible knowledge. To let someone else do the work and tell us what we need to know or believe. But as children of God, we should seek to know our Father personally, not simply to know what others know about Him, and He has given us his word as a means to know Him.

Another temptation can be to use the Bible as a type of therapy. By that I mean, you have an issue in your life- a worry, a sin, a conflict- and we turn to the Bible to find an answer, or to make us feel better. This is not to say that the Bible doesn’t have answers or won’t be comforting. But if that is our sole use and main purpose for reading our bible, then we are missing the point.

Our families, churches, cities and the world need women who are firmly grounded in the good news found in scripture. In Women of the Word, Jen Wilkin encourages women to know the word personally and to seek out the “big story” of God’s redemptive plan throughout. Her plan for studying your Bible is challenging, but one that anyone can do. After studying a passage, her application questions are: 1) What does this passage teach me about God? 2) How does this aspect of God’s character change my view of self? and 3) What should I do in response?

(Do those sound familiar? They are a lot like our four questions! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, find them here.)

Women of the Word will encourage and excite you about studying your Bible, knowing God better and more personally, and learning to see how everything in the Bible points to Jesus and our need for him. It is an enjoyable read and well worth your time!

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

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Hymns have a special place in the hearts of many. The unique melodies, the artfully crafted words, the rich theology…oh so good! We love the old hymns at New City. There’s a sense of encouragement and humility knowing that we sing the same hymns that generations before us sang. It gives me a sense that this Christianity thing is way bigger than me. These songs have helped people worship our God for generations and generations, before we even set foot on this earth. 

For some many of the hymns harken back to stories of faith and they know every word of every verse. For others these songs are brand new. No matter which side you fall on,I want to encourage you to sing these words loudly. As you sing, really listen and think about what you’re singing.

His word shall not fail you He promised
Believe Him and all will be well
Then go to a world that is dying
His perfect salvation to tell.

Here we sing of the inerrant Word of God that never fails us. God uses Scripture to communicate the awe-inspiring message of Jesus Christ. It carries God’s promise to those who place their faith in Him. It provides hope to the dying world around us. We sing of the cruel effects of sin and the need for a Savior. In this last part we have a call to us as Christ-followers to share this perfect Savior to the world. What a powerful way to remember these truths! 

This Sunday we will be introducing a new arrangement of this old hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” that was written in 1922. Be sure to join us and come ready to sing!!

O soul are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior
And life more abundant and free

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there
Over us sin no more hath dominion
For more than conqu’rors we are

His word shall not fail you He promised
Believe Him and all will be well
Then go to a world that is dying
His perfect salvation to tell

“Turn Your Eyes”  words by Helen H. Lemmel
arrangement by Joesph Tracy, 2017
© Public Domain
CCLI Song # 15960

It May Be Biblical, But It Isn't Christian

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"If your preaching never gets to Jesus, and particularly to his life, death and resurrection, then no matter how good it is, it isn't Christian."  I don't remember who said it, but it has greatly impacted my life. What makes Christianity unique is Jesus, the gospel. No matter how good our teaching may be, no matter how helpful it is with life's problems or how morally good it is, if Jesus makes no difference in the sermon or teaching then it simply is not Christian. Christianity is about the Christ.
Take a minute on that one.

I was reminded of that this week as our staff talked about an article by Tony Merida featured on The Gospel Coalition website.  Read the article below.  We say the word "gospel" a lot at New City, but does that make us gospel-centered?  We preach the Bible at New City, but does that mean we are gospel-centered?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

Where would you see yourself in Merida's explanation of churches and the gospel?


Your Church May Not Be as Gospel-Centered as You Think

APRIL 10, 2018  | Tony Merida

"The book of Romans is about more than the “Romans Road.” It’s not just a book about individual salvation (though it certainly communicates this glorious message). It’s also about gospel-centered community and gospel-centered mission.

Michael Bird says Paul is “gospelizing” the believers in Rome. He wants every aspect of their lives to be shaped and empowered by the gospel. This is reflected especially in the latter half of the book. Therefore, Romans stands as a great book to consider, not only for theological clarity, but also for insights on gospel-centered leadership.

Before discussing the benefits of gospel-centrality, it’s important to understand how it differs from other approaches:

Gospel-Denying Churches

These shouldn’t be called churches. Various cults and extreme brands of liberalism would fit this category. They deny the essential truths of the gospel.

Gospel-Redefining Churches

Related to the previous category, these add to or subtract from the gospel. Examples include the prosperity gospel and the social gospel.

Gospel-Assuming Churches

These churches say they believe the gospel, but they rarely preach it plainly and deeply. It’s “Christianity-lite.” Leadership talks, therapeutic sermons, and practical-improvement messages fill the air.

Gospel-Affirming Churches

Like the previous group, these churches believe the gospel doctrinally, but the gospel is only meant for evangelism, and it is segmented out of the life of the church.

Gospel-Proclaiming Churches

These churches are known for preaching the gospel every week in corporate worship. But the gospel is still viewed as simply evangelistic. The gospel tips people into the kingdom, but it isn’t taught as that which also shapes and empowers Christian living. Often what is communicated to believers is some form of post-conversion moralism.

Gospel-Centered Churches

These churches preach the gospel every week explicitly—but not just to the unbeliever. They also preach and apply the gospel to Christians, as Paul did for the Romans (Rom. 1:15). It shapes and empowers Christian ethics and the life of the Christian community.

For example, marriage is taught by looking at Christ’s love for the church (Eph. 5:25); generosity is viewed through the lens of Christ’s generosity (2 Cor. 8:9); the call to forgive is rooted in Christ’s forgiveness of us (Col. 3:13); hospitality reflects the welcome of Christ (Rom. 15:7). Calls to social action—like caring for the orphan, the widow, the refugee, and the poor—are also made to believers with reference to their own identity in Christ.

Gospel Implications

We could give many reasons to pursue gospel centrality, but I’ll limit it to five.

1. The gospel changes lives

If you are a church planter, pastor, missionary, or ministry leader of any kind, it’s imperative that you have an unshakable confidence in the gospel. It is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). God loves to save sinners, and he does so when the gospel is proclaimed. Further, God loves to sanctify his people, and he does this as the gospel is applied.

If you are a church planter, pastor, missionary, or ministry leader of any kind, it’s imperative that you have an unshakable confidence in the gospel.

2. The gospel leads us to worship

The gospel transforms us from the inside out. And when affections change, everything changes. If a person loves Jesus deeply, it will change his or her behavior dramatically. Paul’s theology regularly leads him to doxology (Rom. 8:31–3911:33–36).

3. The gospel lifts us from despair

Sin, suffering, and death cause us to despair. The gospel lifts the saints from dark nights of the soul by reminding us that God’s verdict has already been pronounced; that though we suffer now, we’re still in the grip of the Father’s grace. Even death cannot separate us from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:31–39).

4. The gospel unites diverse believers in community

In Romans 8, Paul is exulting in glorious gospel promises. It’s important to see the plural language Paul uses: “us,” “we,” “brothers/sisters,” and so on. Paul is seeking to unite both Jews and Gentiles in Christ, so he labors over the beauty of the gospel for several chapters in Romans. He wants to help them pursue unity in the gospel, and to consider how they should love one another practically (Rom. 12–14).

When we get to chapter 15, Paul’s appeal to unity climaxes with this prayer: “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 15:5–6). Paul is applying his theology to build a unified, diverse people.

5. The gospel fuels our mission

You can endure opposition when you have promises like those in Romans 8. When you have a gospel this big, you’ll want to take it to the nations. Many don’t have a passion for the nations precisely because they don’t have a gospel worth preaching.

When you have a gospel as big as the one in Romans, you’ll want to take it to the nations. Many don’t have a passion for the nations precisely because they don’t have a gospel worth preaching."


Our desire at New City is to be gospel-centered in everything that we do, every ministry, every outreach, every service opportunity, every Missional Community and MC discussion. We pray that we might become gospel-centered in every area of life - where we live, work, play and worship.  We know that we can't be that church if we aren't those people - gospel-centered leaders, worshipers, church-goers, parents, children, students, employers, employees and friends. 

It isn't enough to use the word "gospel" a lot. It isn't enough that we are "biblical."  There are many religions and plenty of people who are morally good and who serve their communities. We must be wholly Christian.  We must learn to see all of life through the lens of the gospel - the life, death and resurrection of Jesus - how we work, how we parent, how we relate to others, Christian and non-Christian... we must be truly gospel-centered.

How did you evaluate yourself?

Gospel-Denying?  Gospel-Redefining?  Gospel-Assuming?  Gospel-Affirming?  Gospel-Proclaiming?  Gospel-Centered?

 

The Gospel Advances Through Everyday Believers

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What comes to your mind when you think of the word missionary? Do you think of goals being accomplished? Do you think of the Great Commission? Do you think of people selling everything and living in a remote village in Africa? When you think of missionaries, do you think it's reserved only for the Elite or Top-Tier Christians? Do you think of yourself when you hear the word missionary?

The reality is this: most Christians do not live their everyday lives as missionaries. Barna Group says this:

  • 84% of Protestant churchgoers affirm that they have a personal responsibility to share the gospel with the lost.
  • 75% feel comfortable sharing their faith with the lost.
  • Only 35% of those actually share the gospel with the lost.

State of Modern Evangelism According to Barna Group

The final command that Jesus gave before ascending into heaven was what we call the “Great Commission” (Matt. 28:18-20). Mark Dever said in his book, Understanding the Great Commission, “During his ministry before the crucifixion, Jesus had said that his mission was only to the lost sheep of Israel (Matt. 15:24). But now, after the resurrection…Jesus’ rule extends beyond Israel to all nations. He asserted his authority, then told his disciples to make disciples.” Then in Acts 1:8, believers are given the promised Holy Spirit and commanded to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Six chapters passed in Acts and the gospel still had not gone outside of Jerusalem. Then in chapter 7, Stephen was stoned which began persecution in the church on a large scale and caused the believers to be scattered all throughout the regions.

The interesting thing that we see in Acts 8, according to verse 1, is that those who were being scattered were all the believers except the apostles. It wasn’t the church leaders or elders taking the gospel to new places. It was the normal, everyday believers spreading the gospel into new regions. Verse 4 tells us that wherever they went, they were preaching the Word. Don’t see the word “preaching” and assume it is talking about a pastor in a service, the word preach here simply means “to proclaim.” It was normal, everyday believers proclaiming the gospel in word and deed.

This is the picture we see in Acts 8—God’s saved people proclaiming the gospel to people who did not know Jesus. God certainly used church leaders and preachers in the New Testament, and still does today, but the gospel first spread out of Jerusalem through normal, everyday believers.

What about the church today? We gather every Sunday to worship God, hear the preaching of the Word, fellowship, pray, take communion, and sing the gospel. Then we scatter. Week after week we scatter into different communities, into different offices, into different jobs, into different families, and occasionally into different parts of the world. This is what the church does. We gather and scatter. The challenge is this: as we scatter, preach the gospel. God is working behind the scenes in all of our scattering to ordain relationships, conversations, interactions, and even tragedies—may it be so that we see these as opportunities to proclaim his gospel.