Over the weekend, Christ Community Church celebrated its longtime founding pastor, Keith Cowart. Keith and Pam Cowart began Christ Community Church inside of their home in Columbus twenty years ago, taking it from a five-person gathering, to a church with over one thousand members. Keith and Pam have exemplified what it means to be planters of the harvest, sowing seeds of God’s fruit in the hearts of the Chattahoochee Valley. In recent months, Keith has been elected to serve as the superintendent of the Southeastern Region of the Free Methodist Church, and Pastor Derrick Shields will be transitioning into the Lead Pastor position here at Christ Community at the end of the month.
On Sunday evening, we gathered for Family Fun Night to celebrate what God has done in and through Keith and Pam over the last two decades with food, games, fun and fellowship! Earlier in the day, CCC enjoyed a special Sunday morning worship service in the Cowarts’ honor, with Keith and Pam both sharing their gratitude and love for the congregation with a special joint message.
Check out these photos from Sunday and see if you were spotted at Family Fun Night, and remember to join us on Sunday, October 28th as Derrick Shields is officially installed as the lead pastor of Christ Community Church.
Over the weekend, Pastor Keith and Pam Cowart led a large group of married couples into “The Land of Us” during the 2018 Marriage Retreat. As they imparted godly wisdom, counsel, prayer and their own personal testimonies, the Lord moved, and many marriages were restored, transformed and even healed. It was truly a weekend of restoration and grace.
In addition to leading the group into “The Land of Us,” there was one final destination on the map into one of the greatest decades of all time, the 1980’s.
As they stepped back in time, leisure suits, big hair, leg warmers and yes, mullets galore, began walking in from all directions to enjoy a 1980’s-themed prom. Check out the photos from this weekend here!
"Preparing Us to be Workers in the Harvest Field:" Reflections from Prayer Week at Christ Community Church
During Prayer Week, the congregation of Christ Community Church gathered each night for corporate prayer and worship, intentionally coming before the Lord and asking Him to prepare obedient workers in the harvest field (as Jesus told his disciples to pray in Matthew 9:35-38). Take the City's founder and director, Andrew Chalmers, led the church family into intentional time with Christ through four nights of teaching, praying, listening and responding.
Each night, there was a centralized focus on one word and supporting scripture:
"Last year in June, God spoke a specific phrase to me and it was, 'Stay in, live in, dwell in my presence, so shall the knowledge be that I will pour into thee.' Around the time He spoke that to me, I was going through a really tough time and I was spending a lot of my early mornings in His presence. Fast-forward to a year later, I found myself longing to spend that time with Him again, but it was so hard for me to get up early in the mornings like I had been doing previously. About two weeks ago, I set my alarm clock to 5am so that I could get up and spend at least an hour with Him before I started my day. Well, it was so hard to get out of bed and I really wanted to do it.
Sunday night after Andrew taught on abiding and we went into our time of individual prayer with the Lord, I looked up the word "dwell" since God had brought the phrase He spoke last year back to my remembrance. In the New Testament “dwell” most frequently stands for oikeo or one of its compounds; also, skenoo, and meno, which however, are always translated "abide." I knew then what God was saying to me. After acknowledging I understood what He was saying I then asked the Lord what He wanted me to do. He said, 'just give me an hour.' I set my alarm for 5am and on Monday morning, and I spent an hour with Him before getting my day started. I have been getting up at 5am since Monday morning. He didn’t give me a time period on how long to do it so I will just keep doing it until He says otherwise."
"I am here. I have always been with you, even though you sometimes disobey my
commandments and do what you want to do… though you forget me and are sometimes gripped with anxiety when all you have to do is ask me… though you make decisions for your future when I already know the plans I have for you. Give me your heart my child. All you have to do is put your hand in my hand. I am just a breath away. Abide with me as I am always with you.”
"In a nutshell, I was asking God to help me in loving someone and asking Him to help me see them the way He does. I was confessing that I can't do this. (I love God's kindness and humor - his response to this was "of course you can't do it! We've seen that you can't do!" -- but His tone was full of so much love... like a father joking around with his daughter). After this confession, I felt like God was inviting me to take some time to take authority over selfishness, self-centeredness, sarcasm, and harsh responses and to bring them under the authority of Jesus... and then to speak and claim peace, kindness, patience, love and gentleness. How I long for the fruit of His Spirit to be all that is produced in me.
There was another part that I felt I heard that I think is for all of us -- I felt like God was saying "I really am giving you all you need for the people and tasks that I put along your path. Take it. Take what I am offering you. Take me. Hold tight to me (abide). I'm glad you cannot do this on your own-- I never intended for you to do this on your own. I want to be a part of this. I want to do this with you and through you!"
The Lord gave Brian a vision on the subject of "pruning."
"I saw a fruit tree, and one of the bottom limbs was spindly threatening to break, pulled downward because of the weight of the fruit it bore. The fruit was still attached to the limb, but the fruit was also on the ground because the limb could not support it. I have couple of things I think God was trying to say to me and to our church:
The presence of fruit isn't necessarily determined by the strength of the branch. God can use any branch attached to the Vine to produce at any time. In fact, there may be branches that appear to be fully mature, but they can have seasons with no fruit (1 Sam 16:7).
Bearing too much may break us. If there's no one to harvest and no one to prune, even good fruit can overwhelm us (for instance, I have all these good things in my life... kids, spouse, work, friends, church, hobbies, but I am too exhausted to appreciate them (Luke 10:40). So, we may have to give up some fruit in order to regain strength or composure. Fruit that is attached to the branch but touching the ground will rot; we need pruning and harvesting (Psalm 39:6).
When we are the laborers in the field (Luke 10:2, Matthew 9:38), we must see the field as full and ripe. We can't assume spindly or damaged branches will not produce fruit and therefore overlook them (1 Sam 16). It's the vinedresser's job to prune, and He will do it in the right season. Even in dormant seasons, He tends the branches."
"The passage in John 15 speaks of the gardener as one who prunes and cuts off branches that do not bear fruit with the goal of helping the branches produce more fruit. An “ouch” response surfaced at first when I read this thinking of all the places where I need pruning and how often it hurts to go through the pruning seasons. Often in the presence of the gardener, I feel like I have missed the mark and that I have disappointed Him as he cuts and prunes… but When I looked at the definition of gardener, the dictionary stated that a gardener is “a person who tends and cultivates for a living," my heart softened as I realized that my Heavenly Father and Gardener is tenderly tending to me. He is spending time with me. He is cultivating the soil of my heart, and He does this for a living. He is constant and attentive, and He delights in His garden. His tending and cultivating are all for the display of His splendor and glory. His tending and cultivating are rooted in His love for me."
Sunday: "Speak up! Speak up to those where you are-- kindly speak up, for their time may be short; your time to speak is now. Jesus, you gave me a voice. I will speak what you tell me to speak."
Tuesday: "Don’t keep quiet: be the reconciler."
Wednesday: "Listen to the words you are reading in the Bible as if Jesus, whose Spirit wrote them, is reading them aloud to you. That is how you get to know his voice."
"My precious love, why is your soul downcast? Are you striving? Carrying burdens that you shouldn’t be? Pleasing others? Trying to control? My truth reminds you that my love has set you free! I have carried all that has entangled you and all that has weighed you down, to the cross! It was nailed there, and all has been redeemed, restored, and made new! Run to me, dear one, climb into my lap and rest in my everlasting arms! I will hold you close and speak my freeing, loving truth to your weary soul! I have good that you need to be rested up for: plans of hope! Child, you are my unique, treasured possession, that I have created for my glorious good!! I knew this long ago, before the foundations of the world, and I know exactly what you need. As you nestle in my lap, I will lavish you with my peace, my wisdom, and my Words of affirmation, my joy, and my hope. These truths will carry you boldly and courageously as you take steps of faith abiding in Me. The peace that I have for you surpasses your own understanding, that is why your time sitting with me is so important. You do not fully know or understand my greatness, but when we spend time together I will continually supply you with all you need. I promise that you will be equipped to face each new day. Trust me, my child. Delight yourself in me, enjoy all my goodness. The more time we spend together, the more you will find out about me and the rich love I have for you, the good plans of hope that I have for you! There is so much that I desire to share and teach you, it’s greater than you will ever fathom or imagine. I am always here for you, never leaving and never forsaking. The things that have broken your heart break my heart, too. I know every precious detail about you. I know your life before, now, and what is to come. Crawl up in my lap, sit for a while I rejoice over you with singing and quiet you with my overcoming love. Rest safely with me as the storms come and go in this world. We will laugh together and I will strengthen you with my truthful joy, we will cry together and I have and will know every teardrop that falls. Set your gaze on me, child, know that I will fill you the fullest measure and equip you in every way with all you will ever need. The great love that I have for you and for you to share will bring my HOPE to this broken world. I will safely supply, carry, and empower you moment by moment until I get to see you face to face... right now, our world needs you and my goodness that you carry! I love you, your Father"
May we all continue to reap the benefits and fruits of our week in prayer and press on after the Lord of the harvest.
Over the summer, one of Christ Community’s largest focuses was outreach, bringing this year’s theme of Harvest out of the church doors and into the community. In total, CCC served the community by planning and serving in 29 outreach events. While many of the ministry and outreach partners benefitted from these activities, those who participated were equally as impacted by their experiences.
Check out some of the testimonials from the CCC volunteers:
“I loved that I served with people I normally don’t hang out with. Brandon and the whole Arise gang totally made our Lakebottom cookout a success. It was great getting to know those guys and see their passion for loving others like Jesus first hand. I also loved joining Bernard Ford, who I’ve met briefly on Sunday mornings, and my good friend Kristin Shreve for the neighborhood outreach. The community I experienced in outreach was one of my favorite parts of the summer!” – Lauren Heath, Lakebottom Outreach
“As we left CCC to go on the house to house outreach, it seemed so appropriate that we would be going to share with those right in our backyard. People right near us are in need of the love and forgiveness of Christ. We had ones receive us at their doorstep, one sharing her deep burden for prayer. It showed me the need for sharing Christ with those near and far.” – Barbara Carroll, Door to Door Outreach
“Early in 2018, Pam sent a video to the Staff from a ministry run by some of our CCC folks; that was my first introduction to Enoch Ministries. When I saw that building a tortoise and bunny habitat was one of the Summer Outreach events, I was intrigued! I remembered from the video how she uses these animals in sessions with her clients of all ages to help teach boundaries; every animal (and there are a lot) is used in the healing process, it is beautiful. We had two work days this summer and made great progress on the fencing, benches, and flower boxes. It is our desire to have two work days this fall to lay sod, plant trees and building a mud hole for the tortoises. This a great outreach for the whole family!” – Denise Stephens, Enoch Ministries Outreach
“God blew me away during mysummer outreach experience! The plan was a simple one - take treats and encouraging notes to Treadstone Summer staff twice a month. The result was by week three-- I had staff meeting me at the door offering to carry in the basket of “happies” just so they could tell me how much the note had meant to them last time or that the treat had been their lunch. Really? It was just a power bar, a water bottle and a pack of crackers and tuna. Then, I realized it was the touch that mattered. It was looking in their eyes and telling them thank you for teaching kids this summer and keeping them safe. They were seen, they had been prayed for and in the process the blessing was mine because for a very brief time our prayers, time and treats made a difference in these young adults. Praise be to God.” – Laura Lea Martin, Treadstone Climbing Gym Outreach
“It can feel intimidating reaching out to strangers, especially about church because we aren’t sure how our outreach will be received. However, I was able to serve with some sweet, loving church members who just offered strangers a bottle of water. This opened the door to invite them to church or offer to pray for them. Everyone we encountered was kind and I truly loved spending the time with the other church members!” – Patti Kelly, Rails to Trails Outreach
“Our small group handed out water and oranges on the rails to trails path. Outreach sounds really scary at first, but writing encouragement in sidewalk chalk and offering people water wound up being a lot of fun—for our whole family. Some people stopped to talk and we shared Christ Community with them and invited them to church. Some just grabbed a treat and were able to keep running. Either was fine. It was such a blessing to have a chance to watch our kids eagerly serve. I hope that by doing things like this now when they are young, it will make serving something they aren’t initially scared of when they’re my age. “ – Amanda Newman, Rails to Trails Outreach
“Summer neighborhood outreach was the perfect opportunity for my children and I to practice sharing God's love with our neighbors, even if they may be strangers. As we went door to door passing out VBS invites, our hearts grew with excitement with each doorbell ring. We were met with people that were open to our invitation, hungry for the community our church offers, and met with sincere prayer needs. As I prayed for each person, they would always say "thank you" or even have streams of tears flowing down their faces by the time I said, "amen". What a treasure for my children and I to experience first-hand the love of our living God!” – Kristin Gow, VBS Outreach
“I was so moved to watch the excitement rise on the faces of Reese Rd Educators as they came together for Prayer, Pep Rally and a delicious hot breakfast. Five of us from CCC came together, beside them, as they started their journey on the good foot, with God leading the way. Teachers were uplifted, pleased and encouraged by our participation. It made me feel more connected with the teachers of Reese Road.” – Pat Flowers, Reese Road Leadership Academy Outreach
Check out some of the photos from this summer's outreach activities below!
Interested in how you can serve your community? Visit the LIVE Booth this Sunday to find out where you can give your time, financial blessings and prayers or view the calendar for outreach opportunities here!
By Haley Borin
By Allen Allnoch
Dr. Grant Scarborough laughs as he tells the story of how MercyMed of Columbus acquired its name.
Scarborough founded MercyMed in 2011 after spending four years in Augusta, where he had co-founded a similar health care center “for people in all walks of life.” That facility was called Christ Community Health Services of Augusta. Thinking along those same lines when he moved back to Columbus, his hometown, he discovered another local institution already bore the name “Christ Community.”
He didn’t want to create confusion, so he decided on MercyMed for the new practice.
“So it’s pretty much your fault we have that name,” Scarborough joked as he spoke to a group visiting from Christ Community Church last Monday.
Branding issues aside, there’s only one name that really matters at MercyMed: Jesus. The entire practice is built on Him, with a mission “to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and to demonstrate His love by providing affordable, quality primary healthcare for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the underserved in Columbus, Georgia and the surrounding area.”
MercyMed seeks to treat not only physical ailments, but to care for its patients’ mental and spiritual wellbeing as well. It offers prayer and counseling services, and it has an expanding menu of specialty services that currently include dental, GYN, vision, cardio, dermatology and ultrasounds. Patients without insurance are charged on a sliding scale for as little as $30 a visit.
Scarborough holds degrees from the University of Georgia and the Mercer University School of Medicine. He completed residencies in internal medicine and pediatrics at the University of Tennessee-Memphis. But for all his knowledge and skill, he’s most concerned with helping people connect with God.
Faith in Jesus is not a requirement to see a MercyMed doctor or nurse. But patients will see, hear and feel the touch of the Gospel when they enter the former bank building on Second Avenue. (A second Columbus location opened on Steam Mill Road in 2014.) Scripture adorns the walls, and staff will discuss matters of faith when opportunities arise.
“I’m not the Great Physician,” Scarborough says. “I’m an OK physician. But I know the Great Physician, and that’s who we want to point people to.”
Scarborough and Billy Holbrook, MercyMed’s director of development, hosted the CCC group for lunch and a facility tour. The latter included a look at one of the newest initiatives, a community garden. MercyMed staff are growing fruits and vegetables with the goal of helping neighborhood residents improve their diet and, ultimately, their health.
The pair also shared prayer needs and volunteer opportunities. All of the following bullet points are prayer needs, and some are tangible ways CCC members and attenders can plug in. If you have an interest in giving time to Mercy Med, or have ideas or resources that would help staff fulfill their vision, please email email@example.com. For more information on all aspects of Mercy Med, visit mercymedcolumbus.com.
Prayer, Material and Volunteer Needs
On February 22, 1998, CCC held its first public worship service, at Arnold Middle School. Twenty years and four buildings later, this local church body has made a remarkable impact on the Chattahoochee Valley community and beyond. On Sunday evening, we gathered to celebrate what God has done in and through us over those two decades. From a look back at the story of how CCC came to be, to a look ahead and a rousing invitation for God to "COME ON," it was a joyful occasion. Click the buttons below to watch the celebration service and a compilation of memorable moments from over the years.
Harris III was our guest speaker on Sunday, January 28. Named “one of America’s most influential young people” by Catalyst Conference, Harris engaged and wowed the congregation with some creative sleight-of-hand tricks, then spoke from 2 Corinthians 4:1-18 on the notion of truth, deception and walking by faith.
Truths from 2 Corinthians 4 and 5
By Keith Cowart
We have cried out to God, “COME ON!"
Jesus answered our cry: “I have come ..."
"I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
What is the nature of this life? It is not a life divorced from the realities of the world, but one infused with supernatural resources that enable us to live fully and freely in all circumstances. Though the Bible consistently warns us to expect trials, persecution, and suffering in this life, it also uses words like “conquerors” (Romans 8:37) and “overcomers” (1 John 5:4) and “victors” (2 Corinthians 2:14, The Message) to describe the way we respond to those challenges.
Yet, I have to confess that the abundant life we Christians proclaim and claim to possess sometimes seems fleeting. Without question, I have tasted it and found it to be incomparably good. But I also find myself missing it more often than I would like to admit. As a pastor, I have met with hundreds of individuals over the years who have been at various stages of either desperately pursuing or giving up on the hope of extraordinary life.
Why the struggle?
Jesus answers that question in the other half of the same verse: we have an enemy who opposes in every way the life Jesus came to bring. He fights to keep us from it, and once we have it, though the war is lost, he and his minions continue to snipe at us from afar like a rogue guerilla unit that refuses to admit defeat. Let’s not forget this reality as we pray for a fresh move of God’s Spirit. Our prayers will be opposed. At the same time, let’s also remember that while the battle is very real, it is not a battle of equals. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead (and destroyed the power of sin and death!) now lives in us. That means we do not fight for victory, but from victory as we pray for one another.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11: 28-30)
We awaken this morning to another call from Jesus to “come on." Hear his invitation in this scripture. Hear his desire to love you in a very specific way. Today’s particular call is to those of us who are tired, worn out, burned out on religion. But what is he calling us to? Oh, the beautiful truth of the real remedy to our weariness! He is calling us to Himself. “Come to Me”. That is his call to you today.
Jon Bloom of desiringgod.org unpacks this call:
The simplicity of Jesus’s promise is both striking and refreshing. Jesus doesn’t offer us a four-fold path to peace-giving enlightenment, like the Buddha did. He doesn’t give us five pillars of peace through submission as Islam does. Nor does he give us “10 Ways to Relieve Your Weariness,” which we pragmatic, self-help-oriented 21st century Americans are so drawn to. Unique to anyone else in human history, Jesus simply offers himself as the universal solution to all that burdens us.
And his simple promise is audacious: “Come to me.” The only way that this isn’t megalomaniacal lunacy is if Jesus is who he claims to be: the eternal Word made flesh, our Creator (John 1:1–3, 14; John 8:58; Hebrews 1:1–3). His simple promise implies a power behind it more than sufficient to lift what weighs us down.
What does coming to Jesus mean? When we read the context of this promise (Matthew 11–12), his meaning becomes clear. In his rebuke of the cities (Matthew 11:20–24) and religious leaders (Matthew 12:1–8) that saw firsthand his miraculous works, so clearly demonstrating who he was (John 5:36), and still refused to believe in him, we know that when Jesus said, “come to me,” he meant, “believe in who I claim to be and therefore what I am able to do for you.”
And here is where our burdened souls are tested. Will we believe in him; will we trust him? We want to rest our souls on the knowledge of how and when our burdensome problems will be addressed. But Jesus does not provide those details. He simply promises us that they will be addressed.
Jesus does not want our souls resting on the how and when, as if we are wise enough to understand and determine them. Rather he wants our souls resting on the surety that he will keep his promise to us in the best way at the best time. “Come to me,” he says, “cast your anxieties on me for I care for you” (see 1 Peter 5:7). “Trust in me with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding” (see Proverbs 3:5), he says, “and you will find rest for your souls.”
The CCC Blog is a collection of writings and images from staff members and guest contributors, all pointing to the extraordinary life made possible by a relationship with Jesus.