Community and Confession are the keys which unlock the power of discipleship. Jesus’ command to his followers is clear; “go and make disciples…”1 Community and Confession; two words that are tossed around in “church speak” often times without a clear path or process to put them into practice in our lives. Building relationships and deep bonds with each other takes time, willingness and intentionality. Sharing a little coffee or participating in our traditional Sunday a.m. “greet your neighbor” time will help build the “familiar” but not the family. In the deep fellowship of the New Testament church – the word they used was; “koinonia”, = share and participate … Acts 2:42-47 is a beautiful picture of koinonia at work. Sometimes these bonds of sharing are forged in the crucible of pain or tragedy such as walking through grief, cancer or even war. Sometimes the bonds are built in celebrating great victories and achievements in life. And, of course, these deep bonds of community can be attained simply through experiencing the day-to-day ups and downs of life with the people you are bound to through Christ… your brothers and sisters… your family, God’s family, the church. The people who lash themselves to you become the deepest and most treasured part of your community. Jesus had his twelve out of the hundreds of followers and beyond that he had his inner circle of three; James, John and Peter. We can agree that “community” is valuable, and even necessary, in the life of one who wants to know, love and follow Jesus.
Confession is the other side of the “community” coin. The bible has several examples of believers confessing their sins; confessing their faith in Jesus; confessing their needs… all of them, not just some, but ALL of these confessions were in community.2 If we want the healing and restorative power of confession to make a difference in our life; it must happen in community… in koinonia… in His beautiful church; the ecclesia – the called out church.
So, how does this grow? What is our path? How can we be better equipped to go, baptize and teach?
Step one; create an environment and opportunity for people to be drawn together over a common bond. After working through the worship team and church board we have decided to change our Sunday Morning services. Beginning the first Sunday in September, (Sunday, Sept. 7) we’ll lead off with our Sunday Worship at 9:30 a.m. – including music, communion, giving and preaching. Following this service we will break out into “D Groups” or discipleship groups. Each group will then be able to participate in discussion and further Bible study as they establish action steps in correlation with that day’s sermon. We also realize that some groups will grow best when connected through a reliable and familiar curriculum. Therefore, the Adult Christian Standard Class will still be offered. In order to help connect families with young children one of our D Groups, which will meet in the Church Parsonage, where Pastor Tom and his wife Kathy live, will be intergenerational… meaning – bring the kids, - a mix of old to young and everything in between. These groups will be scheduled to dismiss at 11:30 a.m.
Step Two: We will also explore the option of adding D Groups to our Wednesday night church programming which is currently focused on reaching children through 8th grade with Bible Buddies and Jr. High’s youth group; “Truth.” By adding the dynamic of an adult outreach ministry to our current programming it opens new doors of connection to Cherokee. In many cases the families who bring their children to our Wednesday night programming identify with First Church of Christ as their “church home.” That being the case, we should make every effort to nurture, love and disciple those who already call us “home.”
We have an incredible opportunity for community impact and growth through these steps.
On a more personal note, I would like to share a little insight about steps I’ve been taking to continue in a path of growth and relationship with Jesus. I’ve been studying through a 2012 sermon series from College Heights Christian Church in Joplin, MO3 entitled “A Year With Jesus.”4 There was one particular section that really grabbed my attention. It was convicting, healing and inspiring all rolled into one. Ozark Christian College professor, Shane Wood, preached a series of five messages which addressed some hot topic and personal issues head on. I’ve used those sermons as the foundation for the current “Warning Signs” series we are working through here at First Church in Cherokee. I’m excited about preaching these messages and have been praying that God will use these to both challenge and heal … me - along with you.
In other news, my week at Nebowa Christian Camp was FANTASTIC. I had the joy of working alongside my co-dean, Debbie Bennett, Children’s Minister at Missouri Valley Christian Church, with 26 staff and 40 campers. We enjoyed great weather, excellent worship and classes, very good home-made meals, and the crazy antics of a rubber chicken named Bob. I was also blessed to spend a day at Nebowa with 15 “brick house” students and 3 staff from the MCS boys home along with Matt Wentz and 4 guys from the Florence Christian Church in Omaha. Fishing, great food and three worship and teaching times made for a FULL and FUN day! The “white house” boys will go to Nebowa on Wednesday, August 6. Again, looking forward to a fun and full day of fishing, worship and teaching!
Kathy and I are getting ready to “empty the nest.” It doesn’t seem possible… Amanda was a freshman in high school and Hannah was only in 6th grade when we moved here on September 29, 2007. Amanda will return to Nebraska Christian College to begin her 3rd year in her Family Life Counseling degree and Hannah will enroll at Ozark Christian College to begin her Worship Arts and Youth Ministry degrees. Our tribe will be on the road August 12-17 as the girls make their big move. Kathy and I are so grateful to this congregation for your love and support you have shown our girls. We need to say, “thanks” to those who will be checking in on the kitty and watching the house while we are out of town. Right on the heels of this whirlwind I’ll be attending a rural church leadership training seminar at Nebraska Christian on Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 18-19. We just ask for your prayers and look forward to how God will use this next season of our life.
Looking ahead to fall kick-off information; Cherokee schools start classes on Thursday, Aug. 14. Our Bible Buddies and Truth programming starts Wednesday, Sept. 3. Sunday morning worship and D Groups will start their new times; 9:30 a.m. Worship, 10:45 D Groups on Sunday, Sept. 7 and the Thursday afternoon ladies’ bible study will pick up with Acts 15 on Sept. 11.
In the middle of all this is life… yours, mine, ours. Let’s be sure to share in it and grow through it. Looking forward to life with you.
1 Matthew 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)
2 Matthew 3:6; 10:32; 16:13; Mark 1:5; 8:27; Luke 12:8; Acts 19:18; Romans 10:9-10; II Corinthians 9:13; Philippians 2:11; I Timothy 6:12; Hebrews 4:14; 10:23; James 5:16; I John 1:9; 2:23
4 The start of this series can be found here: http://vimeo.com/channels/665118/34755006