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.
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.
It’s never too early to start instilling leadership lessons in young people. At Reese Road Leadership Academy, such lessons are implied in the school’s very name, and carried out on a daily basis.
Teachers make prodigious use of the Steven Covey book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and “The Leader in Me,” Franklin Covey’s whole-school transformation process, to foster principles and skills for living a fulfilled, productive life.
For the past three years, Christ Community Church has helped RRLA recognize those high-achieving students with the quarterly S.O.U.L. (Spirit of Uncommon Leadership) Awards.
Two students from each level of the K-5 school are recommended for the award by RRLA teachers and other adult leaders. The CCC staff typically hosts a ceremony for the students and their parents, with each student receiving a certificate, a written commendation from their teacher explaining why they were chosen for the award, and a framed photo.
The most recent ceremony, on Thursday, May 11, took place on campus at RRLA and followed the same format.
“We teach students the right way – the Roadrunner way – of doing things,” said Principal Katrina Collier-Long, alluding to the Reese Road mascot. “We love being able to honor them [with the S.O.U.L. Awards].”
CCC and Reese Road are part of the Greater Columbus Partners in Education (PIE) program, a joint venture of the Muscogee County School District and the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce. Through individual partnerships with businesses, churches and other local organizations, PIE enables schools to tap resources to meet unique needs in a student body, provide excellent educational programming, and recognize achievement.
As RRLA's Partner in Education, CCC encourages volunteer engagement from within our congregation. One upcoming opportunity is during our upcoming Week of Hope – RRLA is one of our ministry partners for this "local mission trip" initiative. But the possibilities to serve don’t stop there – the partnership is year-round, and RRLA Media Specialist Ruthie Hite says the school welcomes volunteers for one-on-one tutoring and reading to classes, as well as donations to fulfill certain material needs.
If you would like to serve with Reese Road, or for more information, email Karla Curran, CCC’s volunteer liason with the school.
By Andrew Cowart
A beautiful event – a Kingdom event – took place at CCC last Friday evening. Three people – missionaries Chance and Dee Dee Galloway, and CCC staffer Kelli Wommack – took a big step further along the walk God has called them to by becoming ordained in the Free Methodist Church.
The February 24 ordination service was held in conjunction with the FMC's Georgia/Alabama Annual Conference.
FMC ordination is much more than a formality. When a person is ordained, we are affirming their call into ministry for themselves and for everyone who will be following their leadership. This affirmation is a beautiful recognition of God’s call and that person’s obedience.
Kelli, CCC's Pastor of Leadership Development, described being saved at an early age, growing up in the church and sensing a call to ministry during her freshman year of college. She wanted to follow the call, but was conflicted by a belief that it was wrong for women to pursue positions of higher leadership in the church.
“Because of the way I grew up, I didn’t see women do those things, so if I did, it must be wrong," she recalled thinking.
Kelli got involved in the Free Methodist Church in 2008 and has since found freedom to follow God’s call without hesitation. ”Thank you to the Free Methodist Church for giving me the opportunity to serve in a way that I never could before," she said.
Kelli aims to be a role model for young women being called into ministry around her, and she is definitely hitting that mark.
Chance and Dee Dee are missionaries in Kyustendil, Bulgaria, where they work with the Roma people, train pastors, and are involved in anti-human trafficking and agricultural ministries.
Chance, who grew up in Phenix City, met Christ while jailed in solitary confinement. “It was there that I experienced the love of my heavenly father and surrendered to him, saying, 'Not my way anymore,'" he said.
Chance got involved in the Free Methodist Church when he met CCC Lead Pastor Keith Cowart and member Phil Webb at a Calvary Christian School football game in 2003. Of being ordained, he said, “It is a recognition by other elders and Christians that you are called to serve God." Chance certainly has obeyed that call and selflessly poured himself into the people he is serving.
Dee Dee has faced many difficult struggles during her walk with Christ, but continues to surrender to the Father as well. “I was diagnosed with cancer during the pregnancy of my second child," she said. "I was told I had to terminate the pregnancy to live; it was not my way, but His way, and Catherine was born on the International Day of Prayer.”
That attitude of surrender also is evident in her family's work in Bulgaria: “It’s an adventure," she said, "and we love living this life because it’s not our way, it’s His way.”
FMC Bishop David Roller had each ordinand place their hands on the Bible and prayed, “Take authority to minister the word of God, faithfully proclaim his word, declare his forgiveness, and shepherd his people.”
Roller explained that, "Today we are ordaining you to be imitable." Each of these people clearly has followed that call. They have walked a long path to ordination, and it's certainly not the end of the road. They will continue to serve Christ with the trust and support of the Free Methodist Church and the body of Christ.
When asked what ordination meant to them, each shared a similar response: That ordination is an encouraging recognition from the denomination and its elders that they are on the right path. Christ Community is extremely proud of the accomplishments of these ordinands and awaits in eager anticipation of their accomplishments to come.
By Allen Allnoch
More than 300 people gathered – converged – in Columbus over the weekend to hear a powerhouse lineup of speakers and have conversations about unity in diversity.
The occasion was the Converge 2:14 conference, inspired by the words of Ephesians 2:14 – “For [Jesus] himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.”
Dr. John M. Perkins, civil rights pioneer and founder of the John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation, spoke at the conference’s closing session Saturday night, and again during morning worship services at Christ Community Church Sunday morning.
At the latter, Dr. Perkins shared the story of seeing his brother die, shot by a law enforcement officer, and of his own unjust jailing and torture at the hands of police in his native Mississippi. He saw two choices before him: Retribution and hate, or forgiveness and love.
“If I had a grenade, I would have pulled the plug and killed us all,” he recalled. “Then I saw that my heart was just as bad. I saw that white people were broken and black people were broken. I said, ‘God, forgive me first. I want to preach a gospel that is about love.’”
Simply put, Perkins said, only the redemptive power of Jesus Christ will overcome the sin of racism. He reminded listeners of how Peter was forced to confront his prejudice against Gentiles, as related in Acts chapter 10. No “equal opportunity or affirmative action” program would do; Peter “needed the Gospel,” Perkins said. “The Gospel calls us to a higher standard.”
Likewise, Christians today must look to Christ and, in His power, invest in each other’s lives.
“We gotta do more than drink coffee together,” Perkins said. “We gotta do more than wash each other's feet. I like to drink coffee and I like foot-washing, but we gotta do more. We need to confess our sins one to another. Instead of looking for somebody to hate, we need to look for somebody to love. Then people will know we are Christians.”
Other takeaways from Converge 2:14 speakers included:
And this from a conference attendee, who tweeted, “I was so fired UP from the @Converge214 conference, I skipped the [closing session] to hit the block in my hood with the Gospel.”
May we all be so motivated to put our faith in action and seek to break down the dividing wall of hostility.
By Allen Allnoch
Never discuss religion or politics in polite company,” goes the old saying. Whoever came up with that maxim could have added race to the list of taboos. All three topics are fertile ground for harsh words and hurt feelings.
But facing, rather than ignoring, the difficult issues can result in much good. Such was the case here at CCC, where a small but diverse group of members had the courage to launch an extended discussion about race relations.
Indeed, there were painful moments. But those conversations ultimately produced deeper, richer relationships, as well as the groundwork for an event that promises to impact not just one church body, but also the city and region that surround it.
On May 6-7 CCC will host Converge 2:14, a conference on unity in diversity in the Church. The idea is to “Converge” around the promises of Ephesians 2:14 – “For [Jesus] himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” – and lay a foundation for a Church that is “Separate No More,” the conference’s tagline.
Converge 2:14 features a lineup of influential voices on the topic, including Dr. John Perkins, Rev. Dr. Soong-Chan Rah, Pastor Bryan Loritts and his father, Dr. Crawford Loritts, Dr. Korie Edwards and Dr. John Fuder. CCC Lead Pastor Keith Cowart also will speak, Executive Pastor Derrick Shields will serve as conference host, and worship leader Dewayne Creswell has assembled several teams from a variety of backgrounds and musical styles.
Throughout its nearly 20-year history, one of CCC’s core values has been “Unity in Diversity.” Cowart and Shields have preached sermon series on racial unity, and Shields, on several occasions, has led a class called “In Loving Color.”
One of those occasions was in fall of 2014, with the class reading and discussing a book edited by the younger Loritts, “Letters to a Birmingham Jail: A Response to the Words and Dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” About 20 participants had “some great conversations, and some hard conversations,” Shields recalls. “As we continued to work through that book together, we got past the hard conversations and got to be good friends.”
During that process, the group learned of a conference on multi-ethnic churches, Kainos, that would take place in Memphis, Tennessee the following spring. Sixteen people from CCC attended and were encouraged by what they heard – so much that, Shields says, “we just couldn’t get away from the idea of creating something similar in Columbus. So the first call we made was to Bryan Loritts [who had spoken at Kainos], to see if he would even be able to come, and he said yes. We started contacting other speakers and they said yes, and it’s just continued on from there.”
Just as Converge 2:14 was born out of a series of conversations within CCC, Shields hopes it generates further dialogue on a larger scale.
“We want to get people talking to one another,” he says, “to get some practical ideas on how we, His church, can start to remove this dividing wall of hostility and minister to our communities.
“Since the Free Methodist Church is growing and making some headway in the South, I think this conference is timely for our denomination as well,” Shields adds. “The Free Methodist Church was born out of a belief that slavery wasn’t right, so it’s in our heritage as Free Methodists, this whole social issue of racial equality and unity.”
To learn more, visit converge214.org.
On the homepage of our Led to Lead Leadership Conference website, Pastor Keith Cowart wrote: “God wants to use church leaders to influence and shape the culture of a faith community in ways that maximize its ability to live out its values and realize its mission. To that end, Led to Lead offers main sessions and breakouts that not only inspire, but offer concrete examples of that kind of leadership in action.”
Little did Keith know that one of his main session topics – “Building a Culture of Leadership Development” – would be demonstrated in such a highly visible way during the conference.
When the event began on Thursday, February 26, Keith had developed a sore throat. As the day wore on and he delivered three main session talks, his condition worsened. By Friday morning, he could barely speak.
Enter Kelli Wommack, CCC’s Pastor of Leadership Development. Kelli is truly a product of CCC’s leadership development culture, and she stepped in admirably for Keith and delivered an outstanding message on the topic on Friday morning.
Similarly, Pastor Derrick Shields pinch-hit for Keith in the closing session on Friday night, challenging the audience to not just “go to church, but start being the church” and calling for God’s people to stand as one regardless of denominational and doctrinal differences.
More than 100 people representing over 40 churches and ministries attended the event. In seeing Keith, Kelli and Derrick lead as they did, they witnessed a key component of CCC’s culture being played out before their very eyes.
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.