mission

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I want to be passionate about my city because my God is passionate about people.”

On August 25th, Our church will be hosting an event that will bring people from all over the Southeast. The Chick-fil-A® 3on3 Basketball Tournament and Family FunZone is a premiere event which provides a 3on3 basketball competition for communities. As well as the basketball tournament, the event holds a Family FunZone for families who are just looking for something fun and exciting to do on a weekend.

Probably the most exciting part about this event for our church is that the event is in Downtown Athens. Our backyard! 

People from all different backgrounds, different lifestyles, and different seasons of life will be coming to this event. 

So…you are asking yourself…Why should I care? I don’t play basketball. I don’t have kids.

Those may be true, but you still live in Athens. You still may work with some guys who love basketball, you may be in a bookclub with some girls who have young children, you still may have classes with people who are just searching for something to do.

We are all surrounded by someone who could be affected by this event. Not because basketball is so great, or the Family FunZone is extremely FUN! 

But, because when all the programs and funzones and basketball courts have come and gone, the greatest means of compelling people to come into the kingdom of Christ will remain your personal witness to the truth and greatness of Jesus and how he meets your needs. YOU are the salt of the earth. YOU are the light of the world.

Now, how do we get connected? How do we put ourselves in a spot where we can start or continue relationships with people we encounter?

The biggest way is by volunteering for the event on August 25th. To register to be a volunteer, follow this link—-> http://bit.ly/NKaVF2. At the top of the page, above the video, you will see a tab for Volunteer Registration. This tab will take you to a secure site in which you can register to become a volunteer.

Another way is by inviting people to the event. This event will be a great starting point for inviting friends to your community group or church.

As always, what we truly ask for you to do is pray. Pray for Athens. Pray that this event will be a big step towards redeeming our city. Pray for the people, the families, the friends that will be attending. 


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Restoring Brazil and Athens

It’s hard to believe that in just 34 days, 7 students and 4 adults from our church will be headed out to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for 9 days.

Trips like this create much anticipation for the people going. Several us on the team have been on overseas mission trips, many of us have not. Which gets me thinking - I like and dislike the term “mission trip” at the same time. It’s quite a fitting title. We will be going on a trip … and we’re on mission for people to know Jesus while we’re there. But could we classify the rest of our days as being on a “mission life”? I certainly hope so.

As our church hopes to become a family of missionaries right here in Athens, why are we leaving to be missionaries in Brazil for a week? I think there are lots of reasons to go, and though there’s no felt need to defend the trip, here’s why we see this short overseas mission trip as a part of God’s plan:

  • We hope to bless and encourage everyone we meet in Rio de Janeiro with the message of Jesus. We hope we remind them and they remind us that Jesus is on the move all over the world (Colossians 1:3-6).
  • We hope that the thought, effort, fundraising, and overall preparation for this trip will remind everyone going that living on mission does not happen on accident.
  • We hope our team will see the value and effectiveness of living in community long term after we experience it intensively for a week.
  • We hope to be fulfilling the call “to Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” as Paul outlines and to “make disciples of all nations” as Jesus calls.

So from now until we leave on June 4th, and from then until we return on June 12th, would you pray for our team? Pray for Aaron Slaten, Collin Ross, Rachael Mirabella, Katuschka Rakovec, Thomas Woodard, Emma Hunt, Kimberly Case, Cam Mallett, Kay Mallett, Simon Hunt and Gabby Nicols. Pray for our hearts to be changed by the Spirit as well as the people we encounter in Rio. Pray for wisdom and knowledge in what to prepare for VBS, what other ministry activities to participate in, for humility in serving, for boldness in conversation, and for the Gospel to be clearly communicated through a culture and language gap.

We are excited to go, and we are excited to return and share stories of our mission trip! If you get a chance, talk to one of the people going before and ask why they’re excited to go. And after, ask one of them what they learned and saw there.

May Jesus’ name gain fame in Brazil and in Athens,

Rachael & Collin

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Mission Context - Buy Nothing Day

Ben Sheppard is a member of Christ Community and a senior at UGA. He wants to serve the church by encouraging Christians not to just consume, condemn, critique or copy culture — but to continually create a culture that testifies to the reality of the gospel. More specifically, Ben is taking a look at the places, practices, institutions, events, and cultural patterns that contribute to our cultural context in the American South, the city of Athens, the UGA campus, and the surrounding communities. 

Check out this post for an explanation of what he’s doing, why he’s doing it, and where he got the idea.


It’s that time of year again – that special time of year when people get together and gripe about how early Christmas decorations come up. I’m willing to bet that no one reading this actually likes Christmas decorations coming out at the same time as Halloween candy.  If that’s the case – if nobody actually wants Christmas to come this early in the year – why does it keep happening? 

 

Maybe it’s because there’s a disconnect between how we want to think about Christmas – sleigh bells, Christmas cheer, Advent calendars, Nativity scenes – and how we actually act. Stores put up Christmas decorations early because for them, “Christmas” equals “money,” and the fact that they keep getting away with it is pretty good evidence that Christmas means money to our culture, too. 

                                             

We all know about “Black Friday,” but what about “Buy Nothing Day”? Buy Nothing Day (BND) falls on the same day as our national pre-Christmas shopping binge, but obviously has a quite different focus. BND is the brainchild of activists in Vancouver, BC, and has been championed by the Adbusters Media Foundation. In addition to not buying, people have celebrated BND by hosting free parties, racing around Wal-Mart with empty shopping carts, or staging “Consumer-Zombie” walks in shopping centers. Why? What does Buy Nothing Day assume about the world should be?

 

Kalle Lasn, founder of Adbusters, offers a clue

“I found out that consumption can be as addictive as anything else. And after that, that can then change their lives. Many people have had profound epiphanies on BND and then they eventually get together with their families and want to experience a different kind of Christmas, they start talking about a Buy Nothing Christmas, or a buy less Christmas and try to put a bit more spirituality in their Christmas season.”

                                                        

Now compare that quote with this one: “Christmas should be a time to love our friends and family in the most memorable ways possible. Time is the real gift Christmas offers us, and no matter how hard we look, it can’t be found at the mall.” This isn’t about BND; it’s talking about Advent Conspiracy, an initiative our church has been a part of for several years now. 

 

Through Buy Nothing Day (and the expanded version, Buy Nothing Christmas) Lasn and Adbusters are mounting the same kind of critique of consumerist culture as Advent Conspiracy. Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and money” (Luke 16:13); Buy Nothing Day proves that even people who don’t have faith in Jesus can recognize the symptoms of slavery and addiction to money and consumption. Advent Conspiracy gives us an opportunity to address the same problem, but with the ultimate solution: the good news of freedom and abundance found in Jesus Christ. 


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Mission Context: Borders

This is Ben Sheppard taking a look at the places, practices, institutions, events, and cultural patterns that contribute to our cultural context in the American South, the city of Athens, the UGA campus, and the surrounding communities. 


I can’t remember ever feeling this way about a store closing. It might be because books are the only thing I ever go “shopping” for; it’s also probably because Athens is the only place where I’ve spent enough time to get attached to a particular store. In any case, I’m really disappointed that Borders – specifically, our Borders, in the Beechwood shopping center – is closing its doors forever. So while I introduce a new series here at the Mission Athens blog, I’ll farewell to one of my favorite places in Athens.  

 

I want to use this space to examine elements of our culture and to reflect on how they fit into our missionary context. I believe that humans create culture because we are made in the image of a Creator, and that taking the time to observe and understand the culture we live in is a worthy goal in and of itself. Understanding and enjoying more of the world means coming closer to God, to each other, and to the people that we’re called to serve. The point is not to draw lines in the sand between “their culture” and “our culture,” but to comprehend how the gospel engages not just every aspect of a human being, but every aspect of the cultural universe humanity has created.

 

In Andy Crouch’s brilliant book Culture Making, he sets out five questions for analyzing cultural objects. I’m only going to shamelessly copy two of them here, but you can see all five and how they apply to specific cultural objects at the Culture Making blog. The first question I want to ask is, what does Borders – or any large bookstore – make possible? The second is, what does a bookstore make impossible (or at least difficult)? I’ll answer from my own experience, so chances are the way I answer these questions won’t be the same way you would. I don’t have all the possible answers.



 

What does having a large, chain bookstore make possible? For me, Borders was a great place to go and hang out, alone or with friends. I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent killing time in the Religion section there, or leafing through the new arrivals at the front of the store. I love going to bookstores with friends. Not only can you talk about specific books that you like (or don’t like), but a bookstore the size of Borders or Barnes and Noble provides jumping off points for conversation about anything and everything. Even if you don’t like to read, just perusing the titles in the Sports or Politics sections gives you the opportunity for actual conversations with your friends about stuff that matters to you. 

 

Here’s another thing Borders and other big bookstores have made possible for me: finding books I never would have found in a smaller store or from an online vendor. Searching on Amazon gets me a single, specific work, while finding a book in a bookstore means passing by hundreds and hundreds of other titles. I would never have read some of my favorite books if I hadn’t found them while browsing through a bookshelf. I would have missed out on Patrick Neate’s City of Tiny Lights if I hadn’t passed it in a Barnes and Noble; likewise, I would never have discovered Bob Ekblad’s fantastic Reading the Bible With the Damned if the title hadn’t caught my eye on a store shelf. 


 

But here’s the thing: as the writer of Ecclesiastes pointed out, “Of making many books there is no end” (12:12). According to all-knowing Google, there are 129,864,880 books in the world – and counting. Even if we were just counting works in English, there are too many books out there to fit into a single store. Even the biggest chain stores can only present a fraction of books from any given genre or on any given subject; their inventory is skewed toward the popular and the general. Although I try to read a variety of books, I read a ton of books on Christian theology, and your average chain store just doesn’t have room for something like G.K. Beale’s The Temple and the Church’s Mission.

 

Another thing that is impossible (or at least difficult) in a chain bookstore is getting second opinions on books before you buy them. Publishers will always be able to find someone whose good review they can slap on the inside flap of their latest hardcover. Where are you going to get a second opinion? If the book is popular enough you might be able to ask one of the employees, but even the whole staff combined won’t have read every single book in the store. Pulling a book off a shelf is a risky proposition, and this is where online vendors like Amazon have a leg up. Their review system, while flawed, at least gives you a second (or third, or three-hundredth) take on, say, whether Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is worth your time and money (it’s not; just watch the movie).

 

That’s my take. What do you think? What do bookstores make possible for you? What do they make impossible (or difficult)?


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...All For The Glory of God

From Christopher Wright's The Mission of God's People:

The mission of God's people is carried on in and for the world; it centers on the gospel of God; and it lays a demanding privilege on the church.

Wright goes on to show that this involves serving creation and society with a gospel that integrates the individual and the cosmic, believing and living, proclamation and demonstration as part of a people who own up to our own failings and shortcomings, live a countercultural ethic, make disciples among the nations - all for the glory of God.

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Just So We're Clear

You don't show up in our worship gatherings on Sunday to support Aaron and me in our ministry. Aaron and I show up to support you in your ministry. And just so we're clear, your ministry - the one that really counts as mission - is outside the walls of the church, in the world, being salt and light in the marketplace.

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Using The Whole Bible

From Christopher Wright's The Mission of God's People:

Mission has to do with the whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world, [which] means using the whole Bible. It simply will not do to quote a verse or two from favorite 'missionary' bits of the Bible and call that a 'biblical theology of mission.'

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Spiritual Warfare Is All About The Gospel

From Tim Chester on Ephesians 6:

Spiritual warfare is not about naming territorial spirits, claiming the ground or binding demons. It is all about the gospel. It is to live a gospel life, to preserve gospel unity and to proclaim gospel truth. It is to do this in the face of a hostile world, a deceptive enemy and our own sinful natures. And it is to pray to a sovereign God for gospel opportunities. Advance comes through godliness, unity, proclamation and prayer.

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About That Newspaper Article...

Recently I was interviewed along with Bob McAndrew, pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church, for an article in The Oconee Enterprise about our two churches meeting in the same space. That doesn't happen often and apparently was deemed newsworthy. The article is out in this week's paper and I thought it painted a fairly accurate picture of the situation: there has been no tension between the two churches, we're extremely grateful to Faith for their hospitality, and we are looking for our own facility.

One sentence, however, jumped out at me as inaccurate and potentially confusing so here is my attempt to clarify. The article states that I said that we are targeting downtown Athens. For a number of reasons that is misleading.

What I said is that it has become obvious to the leadership of the church that by God's providence, we simply can no longer consider ourselves a church for Oconee county. As the article states, more than half of our church are students at UGA and Gainesville. And we believe we have a moral compulsion to help bring the blessings of God's kingdom to the downtown area - particularly in light of the fact that Athens-Clarke County is one of the most impoverished counties in the nation for a population of its size.

In essence, what we're saying is that we believe God has called us to have a distinct footprint in Oconee County (and other suburban areas of the Athens region), the UGA campus, and the downtown Athens corridor. That does not mean we are leaving one part of the region for another; it means that we want to remain open to the needs and opportunities in all three predominant cultures in our region.

To pull back the curtain even further, this means that we are looking for facilities in the Oconee and West Athens area, discussing how we can serves a catalyst for missional engagement on the UGA campus and praying and waiting about how we can help individuals, ministries and churches become part of the fabric of the downtown Athens corridor for the sake of Jesus and the good of the city.

Hope that helps if you were surprised or confused by that statement in the article.

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