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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
By Allen Allnoch
Ten years ago, bluegrass music legend Ricky Skaggs released an album, “Salt of the Earth,” with his wife, Sharon White, and her family band, The Whites.
The title song described the honest, selfless, genuine people who embody that phrase:
They’ll all come runnin’ if there’s someone in need
They’ll reach out if someone’s hurt
Diamonds and gold could not match what they’re worth
Good people are the salt of the earth
Shane Clark is one of those salt-of-the-earth kind of people. It’s telling that he was reluctant to have photos of himself made for his new Shane Clark Music Facebook page. Actually, he was reluctant to have a Facebook page, period. For this humble servant of God, life is not about drawing attention to himself, but rather about fulfilling Jesus' Great Commandment – love God, love your neighbors.
On his newest CD, “The Hymn Awakening,” Shane has surrounded himself with a whole company of salt-of-the-earth folks – including Skaggs himself – who also happen to be world-class musicians and vocalists. The result bears out his purpose of using his gifts to serve God and other people.
Shane, a Columbus native with close ties to Christ Community Church, leads Camp Laughing Child, a Christ-centered therapeutic adventure camp for institutionalized children living with terminal illnesses in southern Mexico. Sales of the CD benefit the camp, which provides creative nature-based and animal-assisted therapies on seven acres of beautiful mountain surroundings.
“The Hymn Awakening” is a collection of traditional hymns anchored by Clark’s rich vocals and flavored by a diversity of guest artists. It features a lineup of contemporary bluegrass all-stars, including fiddle virtuoso Andy Leftwich, singers Sonya Isaacs and Claire Lynch, guitarist Ron Block (a member of Alison Krauss’s band, Union Station), five-time Grammy winner Rhonda Vincent, and rising star Sierra Hull.
From Leftwich’s elegant opening notes on “Lead Me to Calvary,” to the toe-tapping rendition of “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” with Skaggs and Jimmy Fortune (formerly of the Statler Brothers), to Shane’s chill-bump harmonies with Vincent on “My Jesus, I Love Thee,” the CD is a delightful new take on a timeless set of familiar church songs.
Just as Shane and his guests have poured their hearts into these songs, he’s pouring his life into the lives of sick children 2,000 miles across the continent.
Those kids – and we, too – are richer because of these good, salt-of-the-earth people.
Copies of “The Hymn Awakening” (along with Shane Clark's first CD, “Deep Blue Hymns”) are available in the CCC Resource Center for a suggested donation of $15 apiece. All proceeds benefit Camp Laughing Child. Follow Shane on his new Facebook page at facebook.com/ShaneClarkMusic.
A look at what CCC kids and adults are doing out in the community during our June 4-8 Week of Hope outreach.
Why are we designating this particular week a “Week of Hope?” Shouldn’t we be putting our faith into action and taking hope to the world every day?
Yes we should. Loving our neighbor is a 24/7 biblical mandate, to be sure. And it’s fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit, as Pastor Keith taught in this week's Sunday message.
But just as with our Church Has Left the Building outreach last year, a ready-made outreach sometimes can be the nudge we need to get “out there” and be the hands and feet of Jesus.
And certainly any time we help “the least of these,” we are blessing someone and serving Christ himself.
Week of Hope also is a great opportunity to get to know some of our local ministry partners and get involved on an ongoing basis – organizations such as International Friendship Ministries, Heal the World Thrift Store, Open Door Community House and Sound Choices Pregnancy Clinic.
We’re working with eight ministry partners in all this week, but that’s only a small segment of the organizations we link arms with throughout the year. Visit our Around the City page for a look at all of our area partners, and click the "Contact" link if one of them stirs your heart to help.
As for Week of Hope, we’ve been comparing it to a mission trip, with a few key differences to make participation easier: 1) It’s right here in Columbus; 2) It doesn’t require hundreds of dollars in expenses; and 3) You can do it in two-hour increments – shifts at 9:30-11:30 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. each day (Monday-Thursday).
You can find all the details, including information on each partner/work project, right here. Pick a shift – or two, or more, even – and get out there!
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.
What's a church to do when its spring picnic is threatened by gray skies and chilly temperatures? Move it to the sanctuary. Our "March Gladness" gathering marched right on as planned yesterday, with hundreds of attendees grouped into teams and connecting over a bountiful feast and a variety of games and other friendly competitions. No way was a little bad weather going to stop these ordinary people from experiencing extraordinary life in Christ-centered community.
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.
Aspire, CCC's newly revamped women's ministry, gathered in the sanctuary on February 10 for an evening of celebration and connection. Go to ccclive.org/women to earn more about Aspire and other opportunities for women at CCC.
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.