Rain couldn't stop our Big Church Party on Sunday, December 4. We just moved the festivities indoors and celebrated the holiday season in closer quarters. Below are highlights from the evening, which included the "Wrapping All the Way" children's musical.
This fall CCC launched Empowered to Foster, a ministry designed to support foster care families and raise up new ones at CCC and in our local community. The idea is to help families navigate the challenges of foster care by providing meals, assisting with transportation, performing household chores and much more.
About the same time we began to call for volunteers, Christal and Mark Gavin began attending CCC and heard about Empowered to Foster. Here we'll let Christal pick up the story, as shared in an email to Misty Faircloth, who is helping head up the new initiative.
Just wanted to touch base with you and tell you thanks for the work you're doing with the foster ministry.
My husband and I talked about fostering children, even while we were dating. And over the years (we've been married 15 years) we've continued to talk about it.
He's active duty military and we moved here, with our three kids, over the summer. We had a feeling that God had something specific planned for us here. But we didn't know what.
I felt strongly that I wasn't to go back to work and that I was to limit my volunteer ministries. We also have a spare room that we felt we were supposed to leave empty for the time being.
After hearing you speak about the foster crisis in Muscogee County a few weeks back, we decided to pray more seriously about whether God wanted us to pursue becoming foster parents.
I shared all the info from [the initial October Empowered to Foster] meeting with my husband, and it just confirmed what we had both been feeling: Absolute peace with beginning the process of becoming foster parents.
We're excited about how seamlessly God seems to be guiding our steps. We appreciate you being open to his call to raise up awareness and begin this ministry.
We look forward to seeing his hand continue to move.
Christal is blogging about her and Mark's journey through the foster experience. Follow her at ourfosterstoryblog.wordpress.com/blog. If you would like to get involved with Empowered to Foster at CCC, email Misty Faircloth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The men's ministry spent the weekend of October 7-9 at Camp Kaleo in Forsyth. The theme was “Step Up 2016 – A Call To Courageous Manhood,” with Royce Railey of GoFish Ministries serving as guest speaker. View the slideshow below for highlights.
Brandon Branigan is Outreach Coach for CCC's ARISE Young Adults ministry. He led a mission team to Detroit in July and shares some of the group's experiences here.
“When you keep saying somebody ought to do something creative here, helping the people, and no one else steps up to the challenge, you find out quickly that God is calling you to do it.”
These were the words of Mark Cryderman, lead pastor of The Harbor, a church that has dug its roots in Detroit without a building. After years of pastoring traditional churches in the Detroit/Taylor County Area, Pastor Mark and his wife, Marry, felt called to do something different.
An old school building that belonged to the Detroit Free Methodist Conference was not being used at the time. The idea developed to use it for Sunday brunch services – a gathering that would include breakfast with less-fortunate people in the area, arts and recreation for children, short messages for the kids and adults, and a discussion around the dining table.
A couple of years into this outreach, Mark and Marry noticed that Sundays were not the most popular day in the area for spending time in fellowship and worship. This was when they first felt the call to bring church into the local communities during the week and do church without a building. They realized the people did not need to come to them; they needed to go to the people.
After months of prayer and preparation, a series of weekday dinner services was launched this summer. Our team of 11 from CCC got to participate and lead in these services during the week of July 24-29. When we arrived in Detroit, we shared our plan for arts and recreation with Mark and Marry, and we were delighted to see their joy and their trust in us to lead that effort.
We served in a community center for children/students, a church and a community park. The first day of ministry was long, but filled with joy. We provided games for the children, such as transferring water from one bucket to another with a sponge and “walking the plank.” Our theme for the week was pirates, and one of our members, Tyler Pierce, did an amazing job acting this out.
We could tell that many of the kids had never experienced this type of love before, and often they would latch on to us, which brought great joy. I was blessed to connect with two boys and speak life into them, which I could tell was very important to them. Near the end of the day we shared a meal with the parents and were instructed to lead the discussion at the dinner tables, as well as pray over each parent.
Another team member, Josh Heath, connected with a man so strongly that they exchanged contact information and vowed to keep in touch. There was a moment in which I looked up to see each team member praying over multiple people in the room – what an amazing sight!
Our last day of ministry was the most blessed for many of us. The plan was to spend an entire day in Detroit sightseeing and having fun, but the Lord had another plan. Mark and Marry had connected with a barber in Detroit weeks ago, a man who had built a community park across from his shop as a way to bring positive influence to the area. It just so happened that on that Wednesday morning, they ran into the barber again and they all agreed to do dinner church that day.
We got to witness the first day of a dinner church plant in Detroit! Upon arrival in the park, Josh fired up the grill, Camille prepped the food service station, Florence found a lady to minister to, and all of us spread out to meet the people and spend time in fellowship. Once again, connections were made and long conversations held. We all walked away that night fully convinced that Detroit is not a lost cause, as the media often portrays it, and that God has a huge heart for this city.
Another memorable aspect of the trip was that we got to see something unique in the city every day. Pastor Mark wanted us to walk away saying Detroit is a great city, and he did a great job arranging these excursions, which included a trip to Mexican Town, a visit to the Detroit Museum, a great deep dish pizza place, and a walk along the river where we could see Canada!
The team ended the week with a trip to Cedar Point, Ohio, a theme park with some of the best rides in the U.S.
Our team is so thankful for their heart and the fruit we got to witness this summer. Clearly God is up to something huge in Detroit, and it is a great place to experience.
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.
CCC took the day off from morning worship services on Sunday, April 24, and instead went out to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the community that surrounds us. The work included:
Anja Staten is Executive Assistant to the Senior Leadership Team at Christ Community Church, and a member of the planning team for Converge 2:14. Here she shares her heart – and our collective heart at CCC – for the conference.
Our dream for Converge 2:14 is to gather the people of God from their scattered places in our region and converge in one place with the purpose of exploring the promises of Ephesians 2:14 – unified peace in Christ Jesus.
Some of us are still wrestling with why we need diversity. We are reaching the lost and seeing people commit their lives to Jesus, but the faces around our dinner tables and in our churches look like our own. Aiming for diversity can feel awkward, out of our comfort zone, and artificial. There can be underlying feelings of racial guilt or even frustration that this still seems to be an issue.
For this group, we will have a conversation centered around what we believe the Bible teaches about diversity – that it is good, even vital, for the health of any church. We will talk about the consequences of “separate but equal,” and lay a Biblical foundation for this as a social justice issue. It is our hope that those wrestling with this would leave with a desire and hunger to converge.
Some of us are already convinced that we need diversity. We desire it, but we are having a hard time living out this value. Our Facebook friends and dinner guests tend to look like us.
For this group, we will have a conversation about what has worked in various community contexts. There will be personal stories of hardship and triumph. There will be practical breakout sessions detailing current ministries. It’s our hope to draw as much diversity as we can to this conference, and hope that people not currently engaging in life together can continue to converge.
Some of us are already living a diverse life. Our Facebook friends and dinner tables reflect diversity. We know the challenges and advantages of opening our lives to people who don’t look like us. In this process, hurts and challenges can cause us to retreat to our comfort zones. New challenges arise we have never encountered.
For this group, we will have a conversation about how to maintain this openness and expand it into more areas of our lives. We will provide opportunities to continue to converge.
There is intrinsic value in these conversations. There is even more value in moving from these conversations to concrete actions. Our desire is to converge around the richness of the unified, diverse and abundant life that Jesus Christ died to purchase for us, and before a watching world, to be living epistles reflecting the beauty, power and peace of lives and communities that, empowered by the Prince of Peace, are Separate No More.
Our dream is to see this conversation result in opportunities to continue to converge:
We need your voice in this conversation.
Come to Converge 2:14!
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.
By Allen Allnoch
Last week a team of seven from CCC traveled to Jackson, Kentucky to serve at Oakdale Christian Academy. This Free Methodist-affiliated institution was named by TheBestSchools.org as one of the 30 best Christian boarding schools in America. It’s easy to see why.
Oakdale is a Christ-centered community where faculty and staff live on campus and create a nurturing environment that positively impacts students from a variety of backgrounds and locations.
For these educators and administrators, Oakdale is more than a job – it’s a full-time ministry, and they are playing a key role in “training up a child in the way he should go.”
Just as God’s work is evident in these leaders, the campus environment is a testament to his handiwork as well. Nestled along a two-lane highway in eastern Kentucky, Oakdale is bordered by lush hillsides and a burbling creek, forming an idyllic natural setting in which students can enjoy His presence.
The CCC team helped with several campus maintenance and beautification projects, including cleaning and painting the administration building, painting and staining a water-damaged residence, and spreading mulch around the grounds. The team also took turns throughout each day in the “Prayer Chair,” a quiet place to intercede for students, staff and fellow team members.
There was ample opportunity to interact with students during meals. The concept of “community” is apparent at this unique institution of learning. It’s also one of the pillars upon which CCC itself is built, and this mission team thoroughly enjoyed being a part of it in rural Kentucky for a week.
Oakdale Christian Academy is one of more than 40 ministries that CCC supports around the world. If would like to help support Oakdale individually, or simply learn more about its work, visit oakdalechristian.org.
A building is not a church. But a church can meet in a building. It can also leave that building, as the CCC family did on the weekend of March 15-16. Weeks prior to our Church Has Left the Building outreach, Mason Stewart, CCC’s Director of Young Adults, penned a beautiful meditation on what Christ has done for us, and what we are called to do in response.
"The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon's Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that as least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem,bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed" (Acts 5:12-16).
It was a new age. The Son of God had come, ripped open the curtain and exposed the Holy of Holies to fisherman, tax collectors, and prostitutes. And so the Church left the building.
The Spirit of God, no longer bound, came roaring out of His cave, like a bear in mid-spring, searching for a new dwelling. He found it in men and women. And so the Church left the building.
When the Spirit of God left that ancient temple – left it weatherworn and crumbling in some places – ritual, empty ritual, came in and took His place. And so the Church left the building.
The vanity of man, flaunted itself from a safe distance through the protection of those four walls. But the people stopped paying attention. They had seen something that was truly captivating. It was true power. It was true love. The Creator met the created out on that front porch. And so the Church had left the building.
The prideful were on the inside; the humble and hungry were on the outside. The need-met served themselves, while the needy served each other. The people. The broken. The sick.
And the oppressed were on the outside. And so the Spirit and His Church left the building. The Son of God left heaven. He's come to you. He's healed you. He drew you near to Himself and He whispered in your ear, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
He gave all that He had in Him – every last drop of blood – for the harassed and helpless, for His sheep who had no shepherd.
He asks you, "Do you love me? Feed my lambs."
He asks you, "Do you love me? Take care of my sheep."
He asks, "Do you love me? Will you, too, leave that building?
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.