Russ

Mar 022012
 

Hebrews 3:13 (ESV)
13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

The word “exhort” means to “plead” or “urge” or “encourage”.  The writer of Hebrews is encouraging the reader to stay connected in your faith by being involved with other followers of Jesus.

Our mission at Church at the Grove is to lead people to follow Jesus and Make Disciples and we accomplish that by doing three things:

We create environments where people can explore faith and what it means to follow Jesus at their own pace.
This begins with our Sunday morning gatherings at Walnut Grove High School and Social Circle Middle School.  We gather, worship Jesus and study the Bible.  God speaks, we listen and hopefully we are challenged to obey.

We encourage relationships.
This happens primarily through our Community Groups that meet in homes at various times throughout the week.  Some do meet in offices or other places.  Discipleship happens best in the context of relationships and you can’t encounter this type of community by sitting in a row on Sunday morning staring at the backs of people’s heads.

We start discussions in the community that lead to sharing the hope that is found in Jesus.
This happens everyday through crossing paths with your neighbors, family members and the people you see at work or in your circle of friendships.  We often do ministry through community projects that crosses our paths with people in our community.

Here are a few specific ways to connect with people coming up at Church at the Grove:

Easter Sunday April 8

Easter is an incredible day to invite your friends and family to join you for church.  Don’t miss this opportunity to connect people you know to Church at the Grove on the day we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus!

Walnut Grove “Starnes” Project (CANCELLED DUE TO INCLEMENT WEATHER)

Last Saturday we had a team of 25-30 people gather to do a clean up job following a house fire that recently burned a family’s home.  We will try to complete the demo project this Saturday 8:30 till about 3pm.  This will serve this sweet elderly couple who will not have the adequate funds to demo the old house and completely rebuild with a new home.  Please join us! This is a huge way to connect with others in our church family.

Next Steps Newcomer lunch

About once per month we gather in a home following a Sunday gathering so newcomers can hear about the vision, mission and purpose of Church at the Grove.  Sunday March 4 is the next “Next Steps” gathering.  Email or call if you would like to make a reservation.

MAKING DISCIPLES

Church at the Grove desires to lead people to follow Jesus and Make Disciples.  Disciples follow Jesus and get involved in multiplying relationships.

As a pastor, one of my roles is to plead, urge and exhort you to get involved and connected in the life of a church!

 Posted by at 6:57 pm
Feb 232012
 

Charles Swindoll in his biography of the Apostle Paul he asserts that “our theology gets fuzzy here in the United States because of our addiction to the creature comforts” to which we have become so accustomed.

Here is the general idea that many American Christians have, “Pain and suffering come from the devil.  Since God wants His servants well and free of pain, healing and happiness are of the Lord.” (pg. 91 Swindoll)

As a result of our addictions to creature comforts and some faulty theology, many followers of Jesus do not know how to “suffer well”.  Here is a simple truth that we often don’t want to admit.  God uses suffering and difficulties in our lives to accomplish His will in us and through us.  There can be joy, fulfillment and the “shalom” of God as we journey through less than desirable circumstances in our life.

Paul was an authority on suffering.  Read 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 Simply read the entire 2nd letter to the Corinthians and you will discover much of the suffering Paul experienced in his life.  I do not consider myself an authority on suffering.  I have lost a brother and a father and I have experienced some difficult times in life but I don’t know that I can say that I have experienced true suffering.  My wife has some ongoing health issues that causes her quite a bit of pain.  I have a friend, Terry Ivy who I consider a godly man who has encountered a great bit of suffering.  I love how he writes about God’s purpose in suffering and you can find it at TerryIvy.com and click on his category of “suffering”.

Paul teaches us that God does accomplish His will through our suffering.  Here are a few of the ways that God uses our suffering and difficulties to accomplish his will:

  • God uses our pain to allow us to comfort others in pain. Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-4  Paul experience pain to the point of not wanting to live. Check our 2 Corinthians 1:8
  • God uses suffering to keep us from boasting in ourselves.

Paul boasted not in his ability to endure but in his weakness. 2 Corinthians 11:30 Paul writes about having a “thorn in his flesh” 2 Corinthians 12:7 that ensured him having a humble spirit.  Have you ever thought that God may use “thorns” in our lives to keep us from becoming proud people.

“Pain plants the flag of reality in the fortress of a rebel heart.”

  • God uses pain and suffering to compel us to rely on God’s “sufficient grace” that He provides through Jesus!

We often want relief from pain and sometimes God grants it, but when he doesn’t grant relief, He will give us something even better, His Grace!  Paul pleaded three times for God to remove the thorn and Jesus replied that his grace is sufficient and his power is perfect in our weakness. See 2 Corinthians 12:9

“His grace supplies more than we ned to endure whatever it is that threatens to undo us.” (Swindoll pg. 101)  It is not always God’s will that we are healed.

  • Pain also awaken us to our simple need for Jesus.  

My father was one of the most independent, prideful people I have ever known and his self-sufficiency is what kept him from turning to Jesus.  He suffered with illness in his later years to the point that he could not do anything for himself.  In his realization that he was no longer independent and strong, he turned to trust Christ.  He realized that he needed something outside of himself and it led him to salvation.

C.S. Lewis said,

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Let’s learn to suffer well in a way to bring glory to God and make Him known to people around us. 

What are your thoughts on suffering?

 

 

 Posted by at 12:37 pm
Feb 202012
 

One of our core values of Church at the Grove is “Intentional Simplicity”.  We desire to keep the MESSAGE and the METHODS simple in our pursuit of leading people to follow Jesus and Make Disciples.

Keeping the Message Simple:
We emphasize that God’s plan was to eliminate unnecessary religious components and make it simple to connect with God.  In order to accomplish this we attempt to remove any and all religious “hoops” that churches can tend to force people through to connect with God through a personal relationship with Jesus.  By religious “hoops” I mean things like dress, worship styles, liturgy (all liturgy is not bad), terminology, or connecting certain disciplines or religious activity to your acceptance with God.  Please don’t get me wrong, we do teach doctrine and we encourage spiritual disciplines as a means to grow spiritually.

Read this: Acts 15:19

The NIV states “we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”

We are constantly evaluating how we communicate the gospel to our church and our community.  Our desire is to “lead” people and not emotionally coerce people into a growing relationship with Jesus.

Keeping the Methods Simple:
We realize that we live in a culture that is more and more demanding on an individual’s and family’s time.  We believe that we (Church at the Grove) can accomplish more by doing less.  I learned in a seminary class that the most committed people in a typical church will potentially spend 14 hours per week on the campus of their church keeping the operations going for that local body.  If they are spending that much time on keeping the church going, there is very little time left to invest in people outside the walls of the church!  Our desire is to simplify the methodology of our church for the purpose of freeing up time for people to invest in the mission of the church.

We do three things at Church at the Grove to accomplish our mission of leading people to follow Jesus and Make Disciples:

  • We create environments where people can explore faith in Jesus at their own pace.
  • We encourage relationships through Community Groups where people can connect in meaningful and discipling friendships.
  • We start discussions that lead to sharing the hope found in Jesus by serving our neighbors and our community.

Things we will not do or require to keep it simple:

  • We will not start a Christian school.
  • We will not launch a sports league.
  • We will not require men to be circumcised.
  • We will not ask or force people to serve in multiple areas to be a Small Group leader.
  • We will not ask people to spend all their free time doing work to keep the church going.

What we do ask people to do to keep it simple:

  • We ask people to simplify their lives for the purpose of having margin for God’s mission.
  • We ask people to utilize their children’s sports and other extracurricular activities as a way to invest in people for the purpose of sharing Jesus and inviting them to The Grove.
  • We ask people to connect in a community group.
  • We ask people to serve on a Sunday Serve team regularly.
  • We ask people to look for opportunities to start conversations that lead to sharing the hope that is found in Jesus.
  • We ask people to do these things in their normal circle of influence.

How do you keep the message and the methods simple in your life?

 Posted by at 11:24 am
Feb 172012
 

Assuming a churchplanter or pastor wants to share the gospel and impact a local community, there are some ways that a planter can connect quickly and over time in his community to began making inroads that lead to building bridges over which the good news can travel.

Here are some ways I/we began to connect when we planted just over 5 years ago.

Start in your own neighborhood and homeowners association
For a planter/pastor/leader to lead others, he or she must model what he wants others to put into practice.  Start with your own neighborhood or relationship circles closest to home.  There is nothing more powerful than a pastor sharing personal stories about how God has worked through his personal relationships to see people connect to God through Jesus.  I started getting to know neighbors through neighborhood events, homeowner association meetings and my wife and started a discussion group for couples on marriage and family issues.  As a result, we have seen multiple families and people from our neighborhood trust Jesus and get connected at Church at the Grove.

Local Schools
Our church’s two campuses both meet in public schools.  We began building relationships with the principles and staff through feeding them and loving on them in a variety of ways.  We told them we want to be their first call if they need something.  It has worked and they love us and have become “raving fans” of our church.  Here’s the deal:  If you tell them to call you, you better be ready to follow up and meet their request.  You must maintain a healthy credibility with the community.

Police Department
The Police Department knows as well as anyone what is going on in the community.  I went to the local police department and asked them if they had a chaplain.  They didn’t and I volunteered.  Within a year or so, we baptized the Chief and he now plays in our worship band.  We partner with the department on a number of things but the partnership with the greatest fruit has been our “Shop with a Hero” Christmas project that touches over a hundred children through the public schools.

Funeral Homes
One of my mentors told me that when he planted a church years ago he went to the local funeral home and volunteered to do funerals for people without a church. WOW!  I do over a dozen funerals a year for unchurched families.  It is a great way to connect with unchurched people and meet a practical need.  More and more people navigate death and loss without the security and hope that eternity offers us through Christ.  Several families have given our church a try through these connections and countless people have heard the gospel.

Counselors
We try to maintain relationships with what we call the “365 people” that deal with community needs everyday of the year. These are the police, firefighters and school counselors that deal with the basic needs of people on an ongoing basis.  We go to the school counselors and tell them that our church wants to be at the top of their list when it comes to helping meet needs.  They love us.  Here’s the deal: You better be ready if you make yourself available.

Social Workers
You will be able to meet practical needs if you make your church available to help with DFACS, county or city social workers or any leadership that is connected to everyday needs in the community.

Coach or volunteer in a local sports league
This is one of the best ways to connect with people in the community.  If you love what people love, they will listen to what you have to say.  If you pour your life into their children through coaching a sports team, it will be the easiest way to connect people to your church.  This may be the most productive means by which I have personally connected people into our church!  People are hungry for leadership with character and integrity and it is hard to find on the youth sports field unfortunately.  You can’t go wrong with volunteering to coach kids in the community!  Be ready, because people will be watching how you handle yourself on the field!

Prayer walk
There is nothing better than simply walking a neighborhood or town and praying over everything going on in a local community.  Prayer walking does not provide instant reward or feedback and it doesn’t seem like a glorified activity but God promises to reward prayer.  It is one of the best things a leader can do and it should be a regular part of a leader’s routine!

What have you done to successfully connect in the community?  I would love to hear one of your ideas that has worked!

 

 Posted by at 2:00 pm