mission

What Are You Thinking? Our DFCS Partnership.

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“The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) investigates reports of child abuse; finds foster and adoptive homes for abused and neglected children; issues SNAP, Medicaid and TANF; helps out-of-work parents get back on their feet; and provides numerous support services and innovative programs to help families in need.” (from the dfcs about page)

I have had to contact DFCS as a mandatory reporter when I witnessed child abuse. I have prayed for and with families who have been falsely accused of child neglect or abuse. I have been questioned by DFCS about abuse and neglect. I have been interviewed regarding cases I was connected with through family and friends. I have seen children with great needs go to families who were told the child had no special needs. I have seen children removed from good families. I have seen children go to bad families. And we have likely all heard stories of cases gone wrong. I have seen children weeping, biological parents weeping and foster parents weeping - each and all in some way devastated by circumstances and decisions.

Why in light of all of the negative interactions would you choose to partner with DFCS? That was the question that our primary DFCS representative asked recently. It is a fair question. It may be a question that you have had. This morning, though someone else had already answered the question, I emailed our DFCS contacts with my answer to that question as I also made a plea on behalf of one of our families. I deleted the plea from this post but wanted to share the WHY of our partnership.

Dear __________,
Amanda shared your questions with me a couple of weeks back about how we came to the decision to work to help DFCS as a church. You asked that in light of some of the negative interchanges our people have had with DFCS over the years. I want to answer that…

Theologically we understand our world in light of the Bible’s story of creation, fall, redemption and restoration:
God created the world and all that is in it, and created Adam and Eve and placed them in the garden. Things were “very good.” Adam and Eve’s relationship with one another was exactly as it was designed to be and theirs with their creator was exactly as it was planned to be. At this point there was no sin or brokenness in the world.
Then Eve disobeyed God, and Adam followed. Sin had entered the world. Immediately everything changed – Adam’s relationship with Eve, hers with him, each of them with God. Brokenness from sin would quickly fill the pages of history – abuse, murder, wars, famine, death.

God promised a redeemer as early as Genesis 3:15 – one who would come to fix the brokenness. Over and over throughout the Old Testament that redeemer is promised.
We meet him in the Gospels. His name is Jesus.

Jesus lived the life that we cannot – perfect and holy,
He died the death that we deserve – the penalty for sin,
He was raised on the 3rd day defeating death and sin and Satan, ultimately for us.
He ascended to the right hand of the Father where now he intercedes for those who love and follow him, those who trust in his work of redemption.

He has promised that he is returning.
He is coming again to finish the work that he has only begun. When he returns he will judge his enemies and all those who are lost in their sin. He welcome those who are his own into his presence and into the Father’s presence and then, he will restore all things to what was intended in the garden, when there was no sin. Then there will be no more sin, no more suffering, no more brokenness and we will be with him forevermore.

Until then we live in the brokenness of a fallen world. We live with the hope that we have in him and the future that he has promised. Until he comes to fully and finally redeem and restore, we, the church are to be His Kingdom present. We strive to bring shalom to the world we are in. We work to bring a glimpse of what will be to what is now.
In that kingdom there will be no abused children – we will all be loved.
There will be no more suffering and all will be cared for.

That is your job.
God gave it to you through the government that he established (Romans 13).
He has given DFCS with all of its (own) brokenness to help with the brokenness of families. We want to help you help families and kids.

We want to bring an end to suffering and (to) care for others as best we can, as a glimpse of the kingdom that will be. So we have made a commitment to you and through you to families and children.

And our plan is to stick with you.

For all of the difficult situations I have been a part of with DFCS, I have also been a part of numerous good situations… good in a broken world. I have seen abused and neglected children rescued from terrible situations. I have seen them loved and cared for. I have seen the adoptions of families who have made these children their own. I have been in the attorney’s office and heard the judge’s declaration of adoption. I’ve seen tears of joy not just tears of sadness and hurt. I have seen foster children loved as if they belonged to a family as preparation was made for their forever home. I have seen kids cared for as parents work on addiction and other issues. I have seen DFCS workers who are under-paid and over-worked, vigorously pursue the best interest of children. I’ve seen them fight for the safety and well being of children. I’ve also seen them not only work to help mothers and fathers but go well past the extra mile to try to keep families together.

Their job is hard. I honestly cannot imagine doing it. But they do. Many of them very well.
They often do so with little appreciation from families on either side, only criticism.
Their job is important. God has ordained this government to care for those who cannot care for themselves. Children’s lives are at stake and at the very least, in every interaction their health and well being are at stake. That is a lot. It is a hard job.

DFCS is a broken government organization that is staffed by broken people (like we are all broken) seeking to work with broken children and broken families in a sadly broken world.
Jesus has come to mend the brokenness.
Though we will not see the brokenness fully fixed until He returns, the church is here, in part, by his grace, to give a glimpse of what will be. We are here to mend what can be mended, to serve as He would serve, to defend those who cannot defend themselves, and where we are able, to be instruments of healing.
I cannot think of a better partnership than this one.

We are thankful for the DFCS workers. May we pray more and more for you and all that you do.
We are saddened and sometimes angered by moms and dads who abuse and neglect. May our anger be righteous as it reminds us that this is not how things were intended to be and may our sadness lead us to prayer and action on your behalf and on behalf of your children.
We are brokenhearted for the children who suffer daily and need desperately to be loved. May we love you like Jesus loves you and serve you as His own.
We see you fostering and adoptive families! May we pray for you, pray with you and support you more and more in the days to come - you are part of his answer for now to all of this brokenness.

In all of it may we be reminded that we labor for a kingdom that is coming and for a king who will do all that he promised. May we hope in his promises because he is faithful and true.
And let us not grow weary of doing good… Galatians 6:9

Mission: Loving the People Where You Are

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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