sojourner, hearer, & follower of Jesus

Tag: Grace Community

Why #givegrace?

© All rights reserved by mollie | corbett | photography

© All rights reserved by mollie | corbett | photography

This past Sunday we gathered as a community to eat together and to hear about how our financial resources continue to allow us to live into God’s call for our life together as a congregation. Some of us met each other for this first time — over half of attendees at the meal have been with us twelve months or less — others were able to finally catch up with friends and neighbors.

We have much to celebrate. Our children and youth ministry continue to grow and each weekend we have many guests that are looking for a place to call home. Those that are new to our community speak to our welcoming atmosphere as a primary reason why they choose to return. Our new people describe our congregation as loving, kind, and filled with energy. Wherever I go in Shreveport folks tell me that they have heard great things about our church.

We are blessed in so many ways!!

As I walked away from our time together on Sunday afternoon I began to wonder about the impact that our congregation has had, is having, and will have in the future. I began to wonder about the stories that illustrate our impact, that tell of the many ways that we are encountering God in this place and of the ways that this place is helping each of us see God in places unexpected.

I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we have received it!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we cannot help but respond in generosity!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we know that our congregation is needed in this city and beyond!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because there are so many children, youth, and adults experiencing God’s unconditional love!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we are finding healing from our addictions, freedom from the things that keep us bound, and redemption into new life, abundance, and joy!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we are a unique community called by God to provide a place for ALL people!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because everywhere I go I meet people who have disconnected from the church and are looking for a place where they can be who God has called them to be!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because our identity is rooted in service of neighbor, especially those who would be easily forgotten, who have been ignored!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we have been called to be a diverse community that reflects God’s love for ALL people, no matter our story!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we are a community willing to live in the tension of unanswered questions and the messiness of life stories!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we believe God is found in unexpected places!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because our only requirement to come to the table is to be hungry for Jesus!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because we know that being a follower of Jesus is more than just showing up at church or talking about Jesus, it’s about loving ALL and growing in that love!
I want us to #givegrace in 2017 because only together we can live into our call to welcome, love, and serve!

I am so thankful and honored to be one of your many leaders. Leading in this season towards a fruitful and life-giving future is challenging but extremely rewarding. Leading in this season inspires me because our unique community is sorely needed.

So why will you #givegrace in 2017? Tell me in the comments here on the blog or in the Facebook comments. I cannot wait to read of all the ways that inspire you to make our 2017 ministry possible!

A Generation of Missionaries: Our Prayer

beachsunbeamsYou are probably wondering, what does this all mean? Where are we going?

In 2003 your founding pastor read from Exodus 13, there the Israelites where not given a map for how to get to the promise land, instead they were given the presence of God in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He told us that although the picture might not be clear, that we could indeed “follow a cloud or a pillar of fire.”

Can you see it? Can you see it in your neighborhood, where you shop? Can you see it as you drive down Ellerbe Rd. or go down the interstate? Can you see it when you drive by Cedar Grove or head downtown? Can you see it as you encounter someone with whom you disagree? Can you see it when you face oppression, evil powers, and harmful structures? Can you see it when you encounter a city that obviously needs a word of Grace?

Grace Community, I leave you with the prayer that you prayed together long ago:

“Lord, thank you, for caring enough
to call us into a deeper life.
Thank you for awakening in us
an understanding that there is so much more
than the here and now;
that there is so much more than what we need or want.
That we have an opportunity
to walk in the realm of Biblical reality, and you will use us!!

God, where we are broken, heal us,
where we are shivering, warm us,
where we are uncertain, give us courage,
where we are weak, be our strength,
where we are complacent Lord, maybe give us a kick.
We long for you, we are desperate for you.
Increase our faith,
we ask in Jesus name. Amen.”

The Rev. Dr. Rob Weber, Founding Pastor
in 2003 State of the Church Address

A Generation of Missionaries: Three Movements

9021045256_1a5ad61dc3_kIn 2003 we were at a crossroads and now in 2015 we find ourselves at a crossroads again. This is an opportunity to live into our identity as a missionary people, there three movements that I believe we must make in order for us to be able to be who God has called us to be.

The first movement is to foster spiritual maturity among our members. This means that we must go beyond providing space for the seeker but also provide opportunities for people to grow deeply in their life of discipleship. It also means that we must recognize that we are not a small church with its deeply interconnected relationships and ways of life. Instead we are a large congregation that is seeking to deploy a large numbers of disciples to make a difference in our city and beyond.

We must strengthen our discipleship pathways, our missional partnerships, and our worship life to include the discipleship needs of more mature Christians. We must also learn to practice honest assessment of our systems, pathways, and processes. Do they align with our mission of being a missionary people, of turning seekers to the servants? Are we doing that, how? Can we do it better? These are only some of the questions that will help us not just attract people who are seeking but retain people who are turning to servants.

Maturity in the life of faith includes emotional as well as spiritual practices that lead to growth in God’s love. I am excited to announce that on March 1, The Samaritan Counseling Center will be opening a satellite counseling office here at Grace Community.

This partnership seeks to bring to this part of our city much needed counseling services, as well as giving us an opportunity to model for the community that spiritual transformation and emotional healing are part of the whole that we call an abundant life.

Soon you will hear about some opportunities like care giving seminars for the sandwich generation, parenting workshops, and couples groups (to name a few) that will be birthed out of this partnership.

The second movement is to begin modeling “courageous conversations.” We must begin to become open to hear the stories of others, to be made uncomfortable when we recognize that our diversity is complex, and to open our doors to community conversations. It is my hope that our partnership with the Robinson Film Center, especially with their Faith in Film initiative provides us with an initial seed towards this end.

I also believe that our partnership with the Common Ground Community also provides for fertile ground as we seek to live justly, mercifully, and lovingly with one another.

We must model, GRACE, giving each other the benefit of the doubt, asking three key questions before we engage in conversation: Does it do harm? Does it do good? Does it build up the body?

It is my prayer that we become known in this community for our space-making and for our love in spite of difference. I cannot think of a bigger witness for the Gospel in a culture so divided and polarized. Can you?

The third movement is to become once again passionate for those who are not yet part of this community. In her episcopal address last year Bishop Cynthia Harvey said:

“You have to tell people about this abundant life in Christ; you have to tell people about your connection in the community. You have to share your own experience of the living God . . .You have to live this testimony by living out of your own life. Living and telling the story by how you live, who you are – to BE – is a telling of the story. When people meet us–before a word is uttered–they ought to get a sense that there is something extraordinarily different about us.”

This passion for those who are not yet here is what propels us to fruitfulness. To making sure that we together are part of the infrastructure that helps those who are not here yet find this community, enter into this community, find healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation in this community, then are deployed to do the same for others, to be agents of God’s justice, reconciliation, forgiveness and love, to be witnesses to the presence of Christ in the world.

In order to help us with shaping the structure we have been selected as one of 10 churches across the Annual Conference who are part of what is called the Benchmark Project. This project I believe gives us a helpful structure by which we can dream new dreams, and make a clear pathway for our ministry now and into the future. Chris Williams will guide this team and you will hear from this initiative soon for it calls us to grow by 10% in our average worship attendance by mid-year 2016. Cannot wait to see the fruit of this team’s work!

We find ourselves like those disciples long ago . . . I know I do! We are being called to the root of our identity as followers of Jesus. Leaving behind the comfortable, the familiar, and the self-centered is difficult. But I believe that we hear that call, and that we are ready to leave home and go on the amazing adventure called the Christian Church.
Next- A Generation of Missionaries: Our Prayer

Tell Me The Story Again . . .

IMG_3858I’ve been a sojourner all of my life. From house to house, school to school, town to town, culture to culture, and for almost a decade now, church to church. In some ways I’ve become used to this way of life, to the point that most of the time the difficulty is in rooting, staying, and making home. I am sure that I am not alone. Many of us are sojourners be it geographically, physically, or spiritually.

As I once again sojourn I am deeply aware that this time we had indeed rooted, stayed, and made home. Although rooting makes it difficult to leave it makes it better to live. I am glad that my family has chosen to always root, stay, and make home!

As we prepare to enter into a new place we have spent much time rehearsing our story. Pictures found while cleaning out provide for constant narrative, inquisitive children provide for an opportunity to recall and tell the story again, and again. We are amazed at how much our story shapes and forms the future. Each place providing a layer to our life together.

It is the same in our life of faith, especially as a community of faith. We come with our story, we join the story of a congregation, and we enter into the story of God. The story of God begins and ends with God-self, who chooses to become woven with humanity, creating, naming, calling, making covenant, pursuing, redeeming, and restoring.

This coming weekend we’ll meet and begin rehearsing our common story. We’ll begin weaving stories together as we commit again to a rooted life, stayed life, a life made in our home in God.

It’s almost time for the truck to head out . . . soon our stories will meet. See you this weekend!

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