Missional

A Place to Belong... and Chili

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Call to Lead: Missional Communities

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

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

Leadership Development

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

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

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

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Why Do MC's Need a Pipeline?

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

Where Do We Go From Here?

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

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

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

Implementing Pipelines and Leadership Development

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

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

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

 photo from mercer.edu

photo from mercer.edu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Three Gifts to Give Your Kids This Christmas

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While Christmas may be “the most wonderful time of the year,” it’s also one of the busiest and most stressful times of the year.  Often times, we rush around to decorate our homes, attend Christmas parties, make memories with our families, make and send Christmas cards, and buy gifts – all on top of our normally packed schedules. For those of us who lead in the church, from elder to staff member to dedicated volunteer, our service to our church family crowds our schedules even more.

We are just a few days away from Christmas and many of us are probably finding ourselves short on time to finish up our Christmas to-do lists,. The hope of making this year’s celebration meaningful and memorable seems to be a fleeting thought. Whether or not your children get their “must-haves,” there are a few gifts that won’t show up on their lists that may just be the most important.

THE GIFT OF YOURSELF

For kids, there’s nothing like presents piled high beneath a tree on Christmas morning. But even if you got them everything on their list and more, it’s far more important that you remember to give them the gift of yourself. It can be tempting to think that because we sought out, paid for, wrapped, and gave a bunch of great gifts that our parenting duties for Christmas are done. That is far from the truth.

As parents, we are called to represent the heart of God the Father to our children. He doesn’t simply give us gifts that we want because we want them. What He wants most is for us to enjoy Him, not the gifts He gives us.  That’s what we really want and need, anyway – to be known and loved by our Father God.

He doesn’t simply give us gifts that we want because we want them. What He wants most is for us to enjoy Him, not the gifts He gives us..jpg

Our kids, too, want something more than a new toy.  They want to be known and loved by their parents, and to be secure in that love. And as you give them that gift of yourself, you are pointing them to their deeper desire to be known and loved by a heavenly Father.

So, after Christmas lunch, resist the urge to go take a nap, watch TV, or get some “me” time in. Take time to play with all the new toys that you just gave your kids. Watch your favorite Christmas movie with them, even though you've seen it ten times already. Get beaten at that new video game over and over again.  Build a tower with their new blocks, watch them knock it down, and help them build it again.

By giving the gift of yourself to your children, you’ll be blessing them and yourself as well.  And after all, the best gift that God ever gave us was the gift of Himself, as a baby boy on that first Christmas morning.

THE GIFT OF GIVING

In Acts 20:35, Paul quotes Jesus as having said “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” As a new parent, this year will be the first year that I have the opportunity to stay up late on Christmas Eve and prepare the living room with Asher's presents. This is something I've waited so long to do; it will truly be much better to give than to receive this year. However, our children simply won’t believe it. Their Christmas lists are full of things that they want to receive, not things they want to give.

That means it’s up to us, their parents, to lead them to experience and understand this great truth. Find ways for your family to give to others together this Christmas. Talk to your Missional Community about any needs in the community, or simply make cookies to give out door to door to your neighbors.

I know of one family who wanted to serve children in the Dominican Republic over the summer, but they were having a tough time raising all the needed financial support. So, they decided to use most of the year’s Christmas budget toward their mission trip, and let their kids know about their decision. While it wasn’t the children’s favorite Christmas morning ever, after the trip, they expressed how thankful they were that their parents had made that decision. Their eyes had been open to the true joys of generosity.

As you lead them in generosity, you’re giving them the gift of joy. After all, Jesus Himself promised that it is more blessed to give than to receive, so it’s a promise you can count on.

THE GIFT OF KNOWING GOD

Only the Holy Spirit can draw your children to know and trust in Christ. However, there is a lot that we parents can do to point our children to the joy of knowing God and to their need for a Savior. One of the best gifts you could give your kids this Christmas is a renewed dedication to leading your children to know and follow Jesus Christ.

He doesn’t simply give us gifts that we want because we want them. What He wants most is for us to enjoy Him, not the gifts He gives us. (1).jpg

Leading your kids to know Christ as Lord starts with you knowing and loving Him yourself. Your children are learning from your example each and every day, whether you think they are paying attention or not. That’s why Moses, when he is telling Israel how to lead their children to know the law, starts with this statement:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-6)

It is only after he says this that Moses talks about teaching your children diligently as we go about our lives.

For some of us, the greatest gift we can give our children this Christmas is a renewed commitment to pursue Christ. Perhaps our habits of regular Scripture reading and prayer have slipped in the holiday busyness. Pray that God would renew your passion to know Him, and then dedicate yourselves to growing in your faith. It will be good for your spirit, and good for your kids too. I pray that all of us parents would be able to say with Paul, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

Another gift you can give your children is leading them to know God themselves, not simply by your example. If every child in your home doesn’t have their own, age-appropriate Bible, then I recommend adding that to the gifts under the tree this year. The Jesus Storybook Bible is excellent at pointing our minds to Jesus throughout all of the stories of the Bible. Also, pray with your spouse about how you can help your children develop the habit of reading the Bible and praying daily, either as a family or individually.

Even though these three gifts – the gift of yourself, the gift of giving, and the gift of knowing God – won’t make any child’s Christmas list this year, I guarantee our children will be blessed on receiving them. I pray that we all will find time in this busy Christmas season to make these gifts a priority.

Dear Church: Be a Foster Parent or Be the Village

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

- Patrick

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gospel & Social Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Blessing and Challenge of Leading as Couples

 Photo:  Emmaus Church

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

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

Advancing the Gospel...When Life is Hard

This past week we spent our time in Philippians 1:12-26 as Paul demonstrated his absolute commitment to Jesus and His mission, even while he was in prison facing a trial that could lead to his execution.

His demonstration of Jesus' Gospel becoming his own Gospel was a powerful illustration of commitment to serving God's Kingdom and not our own. We all have challenges and circumstances that we can use as a reason to not live out the call on our lives, but don't fall to the temptation. Paul relied on the Holy Spirit and the prayers of friends to remember his identity in Christ. His actions revealed his heart.

When life get's hard or distracting, how do you keep your focus on God's Kingdom and not distracted by our own?

Take a moment to read one family's struggle with the same temptation and their fight to stay on the mission God has called us to.

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MAKING DISCIPLES AS A SPECIAL NEEDS PARENT

Families with complicated lives can still be missional.

by Rachelle Cox

How was a family like ours supposed to live out the practice of discipleship? The instruction in Matthew 28:19 seemed impossible for us.

Roughly six years ago, a miserable “stomach flu” turned into cause for celebration; I was pregnant with my second child. My husband and I had previous miscarriages, so we held our breath through the first trimester. After a few months of a normal, healthy pregnancy we apprehensively picked out a name for our daughter: Katherine. At 35 weeks, however, my unremarkable pregnancy turned perilous. A sonogram revealed our baby had developed fluid on her brain, building up dangerous pressure under her skull. Further inspection also uncovered the evidence of a stroke. Katherine was delivered within 24 hours of the frightening discovery, and throughout the next year she was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, Epilepsy, Blindness, Autism, heart defects, and much more.

Our lives changed almost immediately. Medical bills and appointments began to stack up, and my husband had to pick up a second job. Meanwhile, I quit my career to chauffeur Katherine from hospital to hospital. Our parenting debates even changed; instead of cloth versus disposable diapers, we were discussing whether our infant should take Klonopin or Valium. By the time Katherine was two, my husband and I were mostly adjusted to this new reality, and these once-intimidating tasks were almost easy.

We were still stumped by one problem not medical in nature, but missional. How was a family like ours supposed to live out the practice of discipleship? The instruction in Matthew 28:19 seemed impossible for us. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” Jesus couldn’t have meant all Christians, right? In addition to the responsibilities all families juggle, Katherine had an average of ten appointments per week and a dozen medications to keep track of. We felt like we had too much on our plate to be effective disciple-makers. We believed our family was the exception to Christ’s commandment, and so for several years we were only on the receiving end of discipleship. Friends would serve us, counsel us, encourage us, and teach us. It seemed unlikely we would ever pour back into anyone other than our kids. Eventually we realized our perspective on discipleship was too limiting and that Christ’s call was for everyone—even special needs parents.

Correcting Misconceptions

Modern evangelical culture has painted us a somewhat narrow picture of discipleship. When most of us think about discipleship, we imagine the weekly coffee shop cliché where we quietly discuss the Bible and swap prayer requests with ease. This style of discipleship will probably never be attainable for me or my husband.

The Bible provides us with more than one method when it comes to discipleship. The disciples of the Bible learned from Jesus while they worked and ate meals together (Luke 5:27–32), as they traveled together (John 7:1–13), as they celebrated holidays together (Matthew 26:17–30), and more. We are not limited to the peaceful coffee shop Bible study but are free to make use of our everyday routines to build up the church body. When we understood discipleship is a way of living rather than a specific event or meeting, making disciples seemed much more attainable despite our situation. For our family, “life on life” discipleship now included medical appointments, wheelchair fittings, and IEPs. In fact, bringing other people into this unique world of ours has become our primary discipleship methodology. When others enter our most vulnerable spaces, they aren’t just spending time with us but get to witness struggles they never considered before and are brought into contact with people they never would have met otherwise.

For example; several church members have sheepishly admitted to me that they once felt uncomfortable around those with intellectual disabilities, but spending time with Katherine has reduced their unease. Confessions like these showcase the fruit of our discipleship efforts. These friends were once afraid to love freely and engage an unreached and isolated people group, and now they are able to simply because I had them tag along for a few appointments. As our community lives alongside our family, they are being equipped to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone. If we had refused others access to our unique experiences, we would have denied them an opportunity to grow as disciples.

Making adjustments for the mission

Even with this new perspective, discipleship as a special needs parent still requires some practical adjustments. Participation in our church’s missional communities was a challenge. Our daughter can’t walk, and most MC leaders don’t have homes that are easily accessible for her. It was tempting just not to participate at all, but we decided to host our missional community at our apartment instead. This is somewhat unique for families like ours, who tend to sequester themselves into their houses with limited community contact. If someone had asked me five years ago if I would have a dozen people over for dinner and fellowship once a week, I would have laughed at them. God used our unique challenges as parents to push my husband and me out of out comfort zone, and now sharing our home is typical for us.

Teaching our daughter

It’s a challenging reality that our daughter may never be able to read the Bible or understand exactly what Jesus Christ did for mankind. My husband and I are supposed to teach her the Gospel as well, but she may be the toughest one to teach! While there are many unknowns when it comes to her discipleship, I do know this; Katherine is beloved by our church family and is constantly surrounded by disciples who are trying to make more disciples. By merely opening our lives up to our brothers and sisters, our disabled kindergartener has seen discipleship and community more clearly than many adults have. That communicates something powerful to a little girl with limited understanding—that community living and discipleship is God’s desire for those who love Him.

I am the Bad Neighbor

  by Caleb Beddingfield; adapted from a sermon by Joe Thorn at Redeemer Fellowship

by Caleb Beddingfield; adapted from a sermon by Joe Thorn at Redeemer Fellowship

 A common belief about neighbors in the States is that to be a "good neighbor" you need to be one who causes no trouble, doesn't impose, and typically keeps to himself. Most people think they should avoid interrupting others lives as much as possible. This sentiment is far from biblical.

Asking The Wrong Question

This whole conversation tends to revolve around the idea of what we want from our neighbors. Typically, people don't want confrontation. This is what I want most of the time. When my day is wrapping up, I want to kick back on the couch and spend time with my wife, not engage in meaningful conversations with my neighbors. This way of thinking makes me not expect my neighbors to intrude on my life, as well as hinders me from intruding on their lives. It is much easier for me to walk to the mailbox with my head down so that I don't notice my neighbors, rather than making eye contact which could lead to a "hello," which may lead to a conversation. If I'm honest, I don't want that after a long day.

The question seems to be "what do I want from my neighbor?" much more often than "what do I want for my neighbor?." When we remain distant from our neighbors, we potentially sin.

Asking the Right Questions

"Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me." (Romans 15:2-3 ESV).

Remaining distant from your neighbors does them no harm, but it can be a kind of evil because God doesn't command us to ignore our neighbors. God calls us to invest in their lives personally and genuinely care for their well-being. When we begin asking "what do I want for my neighbors?" we begin to see our hearts change and our neighborhood affected by the gospel.

This sounds like something we can all do, right? Here's the catch: when God commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves, to invest in them, and care for them, He is calling us to intrude upon them. God doesn't want us remaining distant, he wants us to have them over for dinner, and he wants us to be invading their space.

This is not just a call to intrude on our neighbors who are easy to love, but this is a call to love even our ‘bad’ neighbors. When we ignore our neighbor's lives, but they see us pack up the family for our church gathering every Sunday morning, what does that portray to them? When we ignore our neighbors, we are robbing them of the ministry God has called us to fulfill on their behalf.

What To Do

As in our MC's, it is smart for each of us to assess our influence and begin thinking about who our "neighbors" are. Once you know who they are, begin praying for them individually. This will serve them, whether they know it or not, and it will also begin to prepare your heart to better serve them. Christians have a unique opportunity in their communities that the world doesn't have. God has blessed us with the opportunity to impact our neighbors in both temporal and eternal ways. This can range from hospitality and generosity to seeking out real needs they have and meeting them, to inviting them to church or sharing the gospel with them. We have been called to bless our neighbors in ways the world simply cannot.

The Motivation

Here's the reality: I can read and believe this, feel guilty for my passivity, and even prepare a course of action, yet still do nothing. If I suppress these convictions for long enough, the guilt will disappear, and I will forget about the issue. The only thing that will move me and evoke change in me is Jesus.

Jesus is the only one who showed me perfectly how to love my neighbor and even took it a step further by saving me. Jesus did not merely talk about this; He sought my good and my redemption. Jesus loves me, the bad neighbor, enough to leave His throne and intrude into my life and rescue me from slavery to sin. Jesus refused to remain distant from me and chose to pursue my heart and seek my good. I am convinced that, because of this, I am called to interrupt the lives of my neighbors with the gospel. Let us be Christians and MC's who are marked by being in the mess of our neighbor's lives, for the sake of their welfare and the gospel.

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.)

 

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

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)

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.

To The Ends Of The Earth

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
Ecclesiastes 3:11

When New City Church launched weekly gatherings in January of 2008, understanding, living out and proclaiming the Gospel was at the very core of who New City intended to be in Macon and beyond. Over the past eight years, New City’s vision has never changed - we dream of seeing the gospel transform everything within our reach - ourselves, our church, our city, and the world. Over the years, we have been a part of God’s work in Middle Georgia launching New City Milledgeville and New City Warner Robins (now known as Sojourn Church). These three campuses have been instrumental in proclaiming the Gospel in their perspective city, loving their city, and equipping people to live in light of the Gospel. A passionate preaching and living out of the Gospel through Sunday morning services, missional communities, and local community partnerships have all been at the heart of seeing this vision come to fruition.

But a local focus has only been a portion of how God has used New City’s vision of seeing the Gospel transform everything within our reach. New City has always played a vital role in sending out people for global missions, both short and long-term. A year ago, the Elders of New City asked Seth Ralston and Caleb & Hanna Bedingfield to begin praying and dreaming about how God might use New City in a new way globally. Little did we know that God had a slightly different plan than we had in mind.

Caleb and Hanna Bedingfield are now serving in the Dominican Republic as Student Life Directors with SCORE International. "SCORE is an organization that seeks to evangelize the lost, engage people in missions, equip disciples, and encourage others through serving." Soon after, Seth announced his plan also to enter full-time mission work serving Witness Kicks Foundation as their Director of Global Outreach. "Witness Kicks exists to plant the seed of God’s word and spark a flame of His joy in the hearts of anyone and everyone we can, one pair of shoes at a time."

Other New City folks like Sophie Green are serving on the Campus Outreach staff reaching college students in the Philippines. The vision of Campus Outreach is "Glorifying God by Building Laborers on the Campus for the Lost World." And some folks we can't even mention their name or location because of the danger they face in-country.

Celebrate God's goodness to us as we keep these New City global missionaries in our prayers. I recently asked Seth to share some thoughts on his own journey at New City as he transitions to this new missional focus with Witness Kicks.


People come and go. Opportunities appear and vanish. Doors open and close. After only 14 months, my time in Macon has come to a quick end. However, I’m leaving with countless new friendships, a stronger faith, and a greater understanding of our heavenly Father. It was during my time in Macon that I learned a valuable life-lesson and comprehended just how perfect God’s timing is on everything…literally, everything.

The journey that I’m about to embark on is a complete leap of faith—something I don’t think I’ve ever truly done before. I’ve always been big on routines, making sure everything I do is planned out perfectly and organized entirely. But God has shown me recently that He doesn’t work like that. He is a courageous and unfailing God; asking us to trust in the unknown, serve the unwelcomed, and do the undesirable. This new opportunity has been presented to me solely because of the people that God has placed in my life during my time in Macon, especially at New City.

As I move on from Macon and pursue a career in global ministry, I’m encouraged. I’m encouraged by the work God is doing through the body of believers that make up New City Church. If God didn’t bring me to Mercer, I would have never met people like Hayden Blessing…a friend who is now my partner with the Witness Kicks Foundation. Or Caleb and Hanna Bedingfield…a selfless couple who shares the same passion as me for mission work and are now international connections for Witness Kicks in the Dominican Republic. And even Keith Watson and Patrick McConnell…mentors and leaders throughout the Macon community who lead New City Church on a weekly basis. The list goes on and on with the friends and people who have made an impact in my life this past year.

“…God works so that people will be in awe of Him.” - Ecclesiastes 3:14

I’m writing this because I stand in awe at how God never stops working in our lives. Even if it’s for a split second, God places people and events in your life that can—and will—change your life forever. Regardless of what you’re going through, remember that His timing is perfect, and He has placed you in that very moment for a reason. As I look back on the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met in recent years, I see now that it all led up to this moment and place in time. Being human, my comprehension of things is very limited. But we serve a God who is omniscient and omnipresent. The trials or triumphs that we experience on a daily basis are only a small detail of God’s plan for our life. Cherish those around you, embrace the moment that you’re currently in, and trust that God’s promise is waiting for you at the end of the process.

Thank you, New City Church, for taking me in and now sending me out.

Living Sent,

Seth Ralston


 

25 Simple Ways To Be Missional in Your Neighborhood

We are often thinking through how to be more involved in our community for the sake of the gospel, but at times we can over complicate the simple act of being neighborly and showing hospitality. We can quickly get into a rut of returning home from work, barricading ourselves in our homes until we have to leave for work the next day. This is a challenge that I struggle with, and maybe you do as well.  The following is a post from Josh Reeves posted at Verge that outlines 25 practical ways that we can build relationships with folks right in our own neighborhoods. 

There is nothing mind blowing or earth shattering in this list, but simple ways to be intentional with the rhythms of life you are already living out. As Josh points out, every one of these ideas will not fit your context, but you may find some that work perfectly. Use these ideas as a way to begin brainstorming simple ways to be missional.


I have found that it is often helpful to have practical ideas to start engaging the people around me. Most of the things on this list are normal, everyday things that many people are already doing. The hope is that we would do these things with Gospel intentionality. This means we do them:

  • In the normal rhythms of life pursuing to meet and engage new people. 

  • Prayerfully watching and listening to the Holy Spirit to discern where God is working. 

  • Looking to boldly, humbly, and contextually proclaim the Gospel in word and deed.

Below is a list of my top 25. Not all of these are for everyone, but hopefully there will be several ideas on the list that God uses to help you engage your neighbors. Would love to hear stories of how you have lived some of these out or other ways you have engaged your neighbors.

1. Stay outside in the front yard longer while watering the yard

2. Walk your dog regularly around the same time in your neighborhood

3. Sit on the front porch and letting kids play in the front yard

4. Pass out baked goods (fresh bread, cookies, brownies, etc.)

5. Invite neighbors over for dinner

6. Attend and participate in HOA functions

7. Attend the parties invited to by neighbors

8. Do a food drive or coat drive in winter and get neighbors involved

9. Have a game night (yard games outside, or board games inside)

10. Art swap night – bring out what you’re tired of and trade with neighbors

11. Grow a garden and give out extra produce to neighbors

12. Have an Easter egg hunt on your block and invite neighbors use their front yards

13. Start a weekly open meal night in your home

14. Do a summer BBQ every Friday night and invite others to contribute

15. Create a block/ street email and phone contact list for safety

16. Host a sports game watching party

17. Host a coffee and dessert night

18. Organize and host a ladies artistic creation night

19. Organize a tasting tour on your street (everyone sets up food and table on front porch)

20. Host a movie night and discussion afterwards

21. Start a walking/running group in the neighborhood

22. Start hosting a play date weekly for other stay at home parents

23. Organize a carpool for your neighborhood to help save gas

24. Volunteer to coach a local little league sports team

25. Have a front yard ice cream party in the summer

Do you have some other ideas or ways that you or your Missional Community have engaged your neighborhood? Let us know below in the Comments section!

Missional Tip: Pick one of these ideas and act on it this week.

 

Enjoying God's Mission For You This Summer

 photo by Carlos Flores

photo by Carlos Flores

As children, summertime was always a time of playful anticipation, dreams of family vacations, and the relief of no more homework. Children love the summer because there is no schedule and they get to take a break from school. The problem we face at times as parents is preparing them to return to school at the end of summer. Granted, some children look forward to returning to school, but my experience is those children are the rare exception.

Parents usually have the opposite experience of summertime. The children are now home, and those well-oiled schedules have been thrown out of the window. Every summer I get phone calls or requests for lists of free camps in the local area with the hopeful plea of providing activities for their children to engage in during the summer. A recent conversation made me think about another break that we are often tempted to take…that is a break from our church family.

Over the next couple of months, we will begin a series that will assist us in staying on the mission that God has called us. As you consider your summer plans, take a moment and keep up with this series in order to enjoy one of the best seasons of the year to live as a family of missionary servants.

(The following is a post from Todd Engstrom on Verge)

We are family.

Summertime always prompts images of grilling in the backyard, vacation road trips, watching baseball, and adventures in the neighborhood.

In the church, it’s often a season where we “take a break” from ministry and community. I’ve always found that idea somewhat odd when I consider my identity in Christ. I don’t really ever “take a break” for an entire season from my earthly family, so why would I skip out on my spiritual family for three months?

My family rhythm certainly changes in the summer, but it doesn’t disappear entirely. The kids are out of school, and we’re on the go more, but we don’t stop teaching our kids about Jesus and His Word. We certainly don’t cease to be brothers and sisters in Christ with our church family during the summer either.

What if your community continued striving to be a spiritual family this summer, rather than pushing pause?

In my experience, there are a few things that will help a community thrive in a season where many fade away. Here are three ideas to consider implementing:

Gather in new ways.

Because summer is a new season where rhythms change, take the opportunity to change up your gathering. Instead of the regular weekly routine, try gathering on Friday evenings for a BBQ on the deck and some low-key conversation. If you have younger kids, let them have a sleepover and stay up way too late, while the adults enjoy some conversation outside.

Summer is also a great time to connect your community with those who don’t know Jesus. Try gathering at the park or the pool, and intentionally have folks invite their neighbors. We call this a “Third Place” at The Austin Stone, and it’s our primary way of engaging in God’s mission with our community.

Share the facilitation of MC conversations.

Because of vacation schedules and other events, most people will end up attending a group, on average, six times over the summer. The flow of a group will inevitably be interrupted. Create a schedule with your MC members for different conversation leaders to create the questions you work through and guide the discussion.

Change the way you ask questions within the conversation time. Utilize questions like “what was the most helpful thing you learned?” and “how did this change the way you interacted with your family/friends/neighbors this week?”

Summer is also a great time to incorporate the use of digital technology to help foster conversation. Rather than depending entirely on the face-to-face gathering, try having an ongoing discussion through email, a Facebook group, or even offering vacationing families to Skype into the conversation.

Vacation together.

This one requires planning, but it’s the best thing my community does – we enjoy a vacation with one another. We’ve done it a number of ways – going to a lake house, road tripping to the mountains, and going to family camp together.

Having our entire families interacting and creating memories with one another fosters such unique and authentic community that it’s compelling for our neighbors who don’t know Jesus.

A week of community vacation also presents an opportunity for more intentional time for discussion, as well as much more informal time for sharing life and dreaming about the future of your community. You can do so much more in one focused week than you can in an entire semester’s worth of group gatherings!

Enjoy your summer to the glory of God.

Summer is a hard time to start new things, but it’s a great time to adapt a lot of your existing practices to the challenges of a summer rhythm. Most importantly, though, is to rejoice in this season that God has graciously given for His glory and our good. Summer is a blessing to be enjoyed, and an opportunity to change up your normal rhythms.

Enjoy it!

 

Five Simple Ways to Serve on Easter

Easter weekend is one of the highest attended church gatherings of the year. This weekend is the celebration of salvation, the death and resurrection of Jesus. Times of worship and celebration at New City includes a Good Friday Service, an Easter Picnic and Egg Hunt, and of course two Easter services on Sunday.

At each of these gatherings, there will be unfamiliar faces, some infrequent attenders and some will be first time guests. We have an opportunity to make a Gospel impression on these folks by loving and serving well.

 Here are 5 ways that you can make an eternal difference this weekend.

  1.  Pray. Pray that the Spirit will give life to dead hearts. Pray for Pastors Andy and Keith as they prepare Good Friday and Easter sermons. Pray for those serving on Sunday as they give of their time. Pray that the Spirit will help you serve others as Jesus has served you.

  2.  Invite. Invite family, friends and co-workers to attend the events this weekend. Invite the coworker or client you have been developing a relationship with for the sake of the Gospel. Invite a neighbor who you have been developing a friendship with. Invite the family member who has drifted away from church. Invite your fellow college student who is still looking for a church home.

  3.  Connect. Arrive 30 minutes before the service starts so that you have time to get your family situated and be available to greet new visitors. Look for people that you may not know, unfamiliar faces. They may have been a part of New City for years, or they may have come for the first time, that’s ok. Introduce yourself and if they are new, invite them to sit with you, walk them over to the Connect Table to get information on New City or introduce them to your MC Leader.

  4.  Accommodate. Park at the most distant spot to free up parking for visitors. Sit towards the front of the Service and towards the middle of the row in order to free up the more easily accessible seats on the ends of the row and in the back. Don’t leave any open seats between your family members or friends, sit close in order to free up seats.

  5. Follow Up. After meeting a visitor, invite them to your MC, exchange information and follow up with them during the week. Facebook is an easy way to get connected with someone, so send them a friend request. Show them that you care by moving beyond the “Welcome to New City” greeting and invite them into the life of New City Church. 

Remember that our vision is to see the gospel transform everything within our reach - ourselves, our church, our city and the world. Remember that our mission is to help people live in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 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.

These are five easy ways to make a difference in the lives of others this weekend. These are simple but powerful ways of serving others, so consider adopting these acts of service as a normal part of your Sunday morning.