The Kingom of God is like a Good Party

I suspect that Jesus enjoyed a good party.  We know he had a reputation of of hanging out with the sinners.  At the request of his mother, he intervened to solve a problem at a wedding party by turning water into wine.  And we also have examples of Jesus comparing the Kingdom of God to a great banquet/party.  However, I do not think that Jesus enjoyed parties simply because of his personality.  I think he realized that there is something about a good party that points forward to God’s hope and plan for people and all of creation.

For this reason, we want River City to be a community that knows how to enjoy and throw a good party as a way of representing the goodness of the Kingdom of God that we hope for.  So, Last month we threw a couple of parties.  Now, I need to say that when River City throws a party, at least at this point, it is simply that the Lewises or the Motts or whoever is part of our community has thrown a party.  We don’t have to put a River City label on it or organize it somehow around a church theme.  It is a River City party because some part of the River City Community is part of it.

The Lewises hosted the first party.  It was a Christmas party in which we invited the new friends we had made in Wichita over the past year.  We had around 18 adults and 7 children who came to party with us.  It was a great evening of fun and sharing.  We gave our friends the opportunity to contribute to the party by bringing something to eat and everyone brought an inexpensive gift to share.  We played some great games and had a great time.  It was really fun bringing together our friends and some of the Motts new friends to enjoy a fun evening together.

The Motts hosted a different kind of party a couple days later.  They opened their home for a come and go open house for our neighbors.  (If you don’t know, we live about 3 house down from the Motts)  After the first thirty minutes we were wondering if this was a really good idea since no one had showed up yet.  But shortly after that the Mott’s home was full of adults and children from seven or eight houses in the neighborhood.  It turned out to be a really good way to get to know our neighbors.  Everyone was interested to know who was living around them.  One of our neighbors even brought some information on the history of our neighborhood all the way back into the 1920s.  It gave us a good opportunity to share about our church planting mission in Wichita.  One of our neighbors was really curious and I was able to have a lengthly conversation with her about River City and church planting.  She and her daughter have begun participating with River City and plan to make our weekly communion gatherings a regular practice.

We came away from these experiences excited about how God was at work in our parties and we are thinking and praying about how we can bring our friends and neighbors together to party again.

In other miscellaneous news:

  • We are working on our final task list for River City to become incorporated and receive our 501(c)(3) status.  We hope to be finished with these task this month and simply be waiting on the State of Kansas and the IRS for approval.

Thanks for keeping up with us.  Party on!

 

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Church Planting Update

This is part of an update that Kyle, my church planting partner wrote.  I thought he did a good job describing our work over the last month so I thought I would share it with you.  Enjoy!

October and November were busy months that brought new blessings and adventures into our lives.   In October, our church began seeking, praying, studying and listening to God and our community in order to select a church name.  We wanted something that would connect with God’s mission, our mission and with the community.   After a month of praying and listening, we as a church, decided on “River City Christian Community.”    We feel like God’s mission through us is to bring the message of God to the city of Wichita, but we do this as a community that we can invite others into living the lifestyle of Christ.   Micah and I have been working with a wonderful attorney who has been walking us through all the steps to get incorporated and also getting us in the right direction to receive our 501c3 status.

October we also welcomed a new member to our church, and we have had several different visitors from among our friends and family.   We also continued building relationships with some new friends.  Kristen and I were able to host a soccer party for the families of Chloe’s soccer team.  We grilled up around 60 hotdogs and opened our house for the team to come over and play.  We have since gone trick or treating, to a pumpkin patch, ate lunch, played at parks and the girls have been shopping with our new friends.  I can’t really share with you on paper the excitement we are all feeling around here as we continue to connect with people who are not in a relationship with God and invite them into our lives.  Also in October Micah and I were able to preach at the Riverwalk Church of Christ on their mission Sunday.  Micah and I were able to help raise money for several missionaries around the world that are supported by Riverwalk.  It was a very blessed day and we received some wonderful feedback from the congregation.

During the month of November, Micah and I sent out fundraising letters and spent time visiting other Churches of Christ here in town to talk about our church and mission.  We are currently trying to reach a goal of 20,000 in fund raising, in part to meet our personal needs, but most importantly, to be used to meet the needs of those in our community.   At the end of each of our church communion gathering times we spend the last 15-20 minutes talking about what we are currently doing to live on mission, and what opportunities are available for us in the future. We want to make sure that we are being the hands and feet of Christ to those in our community.  We as a church continue to partner with Carpenter Place, a local children’s home, helping out where we can and spending time with the girls there.   Our church also has a big passion for a ministry called Simple House.  Simple house operates from a building downtown that serves the community by providing food and clothing to those in need.  Last week I spent some time talking with 2 young girls who have absolutely nothing  at this point.  We prayed, shared stories, and were able to bless them with some warm clothes, food and place to come back to.  Micah and I spent last weekend working with the Delano (a neighborhood in the downtown Wichita area) Association to help with a clothing and food drive.  We drove around downtown and picked up donations and meet several local business owners.  We were also able to take the clothes and toys from the drive and we are planning to spend time this next week passing them out to the local schools, homeless shelters and at Simple house.  We feel strongly about works of justice in our community and we want the good news to be something tangible for everyone.

Thanks for keeping up with us.  Keep us in your prayers!

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River City Christian Community!

Being new residents to Wichita, we have gotten very used to a conversation that goes something like this:

Us: we just moved to Wichita

Them: Where did you move from?

Us: The Dallas area

Them: What brought you to Wichita?

Us: We came to help start a new church?

Them: What church?

And for the longest time we had to tell people that the church does not have a name yet.  But that day is no longer.  We are now excited to introduce the River City Christian Community!

We spent a lot time thinking, praying, and talking about a name.  We chose River City Christian Community because it represents what we want our church to primarily be about, which is following Jesus by trusting God and living on mission together.  Including “Christian” connects with our desire to live out a trusting relationship with the God revealed to us by Jesus Christ.  We chose “River City” because it connects us to our mission, the city of Wichita.  “Community” connects with our value of living life and mission together in Christ.  River City Christian Community, trusting God and living on mission together.

There are few other reason we like our name.  For one, we have gotten a lot of positive feedback from our disconnected friends.  While choosing a name, we felt like it was not going to do a lot to attract other people to us.  But it could drive people away, so we mainly wanted to choose something that did not make people cringe.  I think we have.  Another reason is that River City in some ways keeps us connected to our sponsoring church, the Riverwalk Church of Christ.  We value their partnership and support in this mission.  And finally, rivers and cities have some rich biblical imagery associated with them.  I’m especially mindful of the city written about in Revelation 22 with a river flowing from the throne of God filled with the water of life.  Next to it is the tree of life whose leaves are for the healing of the nations.  I hope our River City will point forward to that one.

So there it is…River City Christian Community!  Keep praying for us that we may live into the best of that name as we follow Jesus.

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Launched?!

I guess it is about time for another update on our church planting mission.  Some really significant things have happened in the last couple months.

Motts Arrival in Wichita

First of all, the Motts finally made their move to Wichita.  They arrived in late August and after a few hurdles closed on  a house just down the street from us.  It has been really fun to start learning how to be good neighbors.  One rhythm we have begun is to go to the park across the street from us on Monday nights to hang out and meet people.  We are continually amazed how naturally conversations and friendships begin to emerge at the park.  Kyle has also started work at another Starbucks in town and is doing really well.  He has become a steady, dependable worker and friend to a store in transition.  He exemplifies the kind of disciple described in Acts 2 who “enjoy[s] the favor of all the people.”  We are so excited to finally have the Motts on board with us.

Developing a Discipleship Process

Another important development is our formation of a process of discipleship.  The Great Commission of Jesus Christ instructs all believers to go and make disciples.  We believe that if we go and make committed disciples of Jesus, then we will have a church.  So rather than spending our time and energy developing a meaningful worship service, the last several months have been focused on developing a process of discipleship to teach people the way of Jesus.   We begin by sharing the story of God.  Then, over several weeks we explore what it means to have a trusting relationship with God, what it means to live on mission, and how to share all of this with the church.  Our goal is for people to encounter the living God and be formed into the likeness of His son.  If a participant is willing to go deeper we work with them to develop their own rule of life incorporating specific practices, such as prayer, reading scripture, service, and community.  We just finished bringing our first set of people through this process and now have five adults (which include the Lewises and Motts) who are committed to each other and to living the way of Jesus here in Wichita.

Formation Groups & Communion

The month of September has been a month really focused on developing some systems and structures that make up our new churches practices.  One of these practices is our formation groups.  These groups are gender specific groups of 2-3 people who meet regularly to intentionally focus on their own spiritual formation in Christlikeness.  A formation group meets to answer these 5 questions:

  1. How is your heart/spirit this week? – It is important to spend time sharing our lives with each other and giving context for the emotions of our heart.  Listening to each other on a heart level also helps us tune our ears to listen for the heart of God.
  2. What have you been hearing from God this week? – Sharing our relationship with God and what we sense Him saying to us is an important tool for discernment and often an encouragment for others to press into their own relationship with God.
  3. How have you been doing living your rule of life this week? – This is an important time for self-reflection to continually move deeper into the lifestyle of Jesus.  It also offers a time to encourage and hold each other accountable to commitments you have made to living the way of Jesus.
  4. What brokenness/sin do you need to confess this week? – It is necessary to our spiritual formation to have regular times for confession and to assure forgiveness to one another.
  5. How can I pray for you this week? – Spend time praying for each other.

We call our other main practice of Christian community Communion.  This time is the equivalent of a worship service or house church gathering.  We wanted to name it something different so as not to communicate that this time equals church.  Our time of Communion is more than just a time to share in the Lord’s Supper but only a part of what it means to be part of our church and live the way of Jesus.   We spend time each week eating together, sharing the Lord’s supper, reading scripture, telling stories, connecting with God, and preparing to live on mission.  We spent September developing what this time would look and feel like and this past weekend starting including others for the first time.

Launched!

With the development of our discipleship process, formation groups, and communion we feel like we are off and running in this church planting.  We currently have a church of nine people who are committed to living the way of Jesus by trusting God and living on mission together.  We are focused on living on mission and we have started asking others to participate in our discipleship process to “try on” the way of Jesus.  Keep praying for us!

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Fundraising, Transition, and Anticipation

July has been a busy month.  Much of this month has consisted of fundraising and preparing for the Motts arrival in Wichita.

Early in the month, I spent a week on staff at Sooner Youth Camp while Amy and the kids spent time in Texas with family.  I always have a great experience at camp and get to renew friendships with some of the best, most generous people I know.  That is a group of people who exude the spirit of Christ and make the Kingdom of God a reality for a week.

Kyle and I have made some good fundraising progress this month.  July has been our best month of fundraising by far.  We have made a lot of progress toward our goal of getting the Motts to Wichita.  We still have some work to do, but we feel confident about moving forward and trusting God.  Our total 5 year fundraising goal is $280,000.  To date we have raised just over $190,000 in gifts and pledges which makes our remaining need around $90,000.  We praise God for his faithfulness and trust we will have everything we need for the mission he has called us to.

The Motts spent several days in Wichita this month looking for a place to stay and for a part-time job for Kyle.  After much searching they have a contract on a house close to ours and continue the arduous process of purchasing a new home.  We are excited for them to move into the neighborhood and join us in living on mission for Jesus sometime near the end of August.  On August 4th they closed on their old home in Kingsport, Tennessee and are spending time with family as they wait to close on their new home.  Kyle will also be working at a Starbucks in Wichita and is set to start the week of August 22nd.  Continue to pray for the Motts as they navigate this transition.

We continue to draw close to God and seek to follow him as he leads us in this mission.  There are still many unanswered questions as we move forward, but we sense that we are right where God wants us to be.  Relationships continue to develop.  People are starting to show some interest in our mission and I am having my eyes opened to the brokenness of poverty, homelessness, human trafficking and sexual exploitation in Wichita.  I don’t know exactly where we are going, but I’m pretty sure we are going somewhere.  My sense is that we will have something resembling a church living on mission together pretty soon!  Keep us in your prayers.

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Shaving a Beard and Good Storytelling

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of going to Sooner Youth Camp on staff as a Bible class teacher.  This has become an annual blessing for me.  I figured out that this year was my seventh time to be on staff in the last nine years.  I have developed some really good friendships with the rest of the staff.  They are some of the best people I know.  If I can make it to camp, I’m going to camp.

Camp is one of the few times throughout the year that I am away from my family.  And this year I decided to take advantage of it.  I have never attempted to grow any facial hair since I started dating Amy.  For one reason, many of those years I couldn’t grow facial hair.  But for the last few years it has mainly been because Amy likes my clean-shaven face.  So being away for the week was the perfect opportunity to start growing a beard, and who knows, maybe if I can get past the scratchy, scraggly stage Amy will realize she actually likes it.

So I have a great week of camp and come home with a beard.  It is great to be back together as a family, but it is clear that Amy is not a big fan of the beard.  Everyone else seems to like it, but not her.  And just to be clear, she is actually really sweet about it.  She doesn’t nag me or try to talk me into shaving or anything, but after living with someone for nine years, you can usually tell when they don’t really love something.  And she doesn’t really love it.

Meanwhile, I start reading a fantastic book by Donald Miller called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.  I would highly recommend it.  Miller writes about his experience of learning to write a good story for a movie and how that has helped him learn to live a good story with his life.  It was really inspirational to me.

So I am in the middle of reading this book about a week or week and a half after I have gotten home from camp.  I take some time one day to pray and listen to God.  As I am taking some quiet time to try and listen to God, I sense him telling me to shave my beard. One of the things that I try to do when I sense God telling me to do some is to actually do it, especially if it seems relatively easy.  And this seemed pretty easy, so I went to the bathroom and shaved off the beard.

So why would God want me to shave my beard?  I think it actually has a lot to do with living a better story.  In Miller’s book, he talks about one of the Rocky movies and reminds us several of the things Rocky does at the beginning of the movie that nobody ever remembers.  Stuff like helping a disadvantaged kid, or changing a light bulb for some lady, or telling stories of his past fights to some of his fans.  Nobody really remembers those parts, but they are important to the story because if he doesn’t do those things, nobody cares if he actually wins the fight at the end of the movie.

The small things we do that put others first are the things that help make our story a better story, a story worth living.  I think my story got better when I shaved my beard.  Not because having a beard or not really matters, but because my relationship with my wife actually does.  I doubt that my marriage would have fallen apart if I kept the beard, but the beard was a selfish indulgence.  Shaving the beard was putting my wife first and the more we put others first, the better our story gets.

Maybe nobody will remember the 2 weeks of me having a beard, but maybe this is one of those things that helps whatever audience is out there to care about the rest of my story.  Thank God for helping me live a better story.

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July CP Update

I’m still reading a lot of 1 Samuel right now.  I think it is one of my favorite books in scripture.  I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on most of the main themes of the book.  The strongest theme I see running through the book is, like I mentioned in my last post, that this is God’s story.  By that I mean that life is God’s story, whether it is the stories in Samuel or the stories in Wichita, Kansas.  He is the one driving along the plot.

It has now been a couple of months since we have been commissioned to plant a church here in Wichita.  If I’m being really honest, I’d like to be further along than we are.  There are a number of things contributing to this anxiousness – a burden for lost people, personal desire to succeed, a supporting congregation’s expectations, financial and fundraising concerns, and perhaps others I don’t even realize.  However, there are also reasons that make me think we are right on track for the work God has called us to here.  When I consider my friendships with non-church people, I get a sense that moving faster and trying to push things along would be disrespectful and disruptive to those relationships.  Even more important than that, as I take time to listen to God, I sense that he is telling me to be patient, to not be anxious, and to trust that He is at work planting his church here in Wichita.

Right now, high on our list of church planting priorities is getting the Mott family here to Wichita to join us.  We were really excited to hear that they recently agreed to an offer for the sale of their house in Tennessee.  We pray that the closing moves along as scheduled (August 4) and they will be available to join us soon.  Our other hurdle in getting them here is fundraising.  We have made some good progress in the last month, but we are still around $14,000 short of our goal for bringing them to Wichita.  We are hopeful and continue working to reach this goal.

We continue to develop relationships with both our Christian and non-Christian friends.  Community is slowly forming as we share meals, play games, and serve together.  We pray that Christ is revealed and working his way into all of our lives.  Amy and I are seeking God about the possibility of inviting some of these friends to join us in living on mission.  We wait for God’s guidance as we move forward.  Keep praying!

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