Guest Posts

Guilt, Grace, Gratitude

John Evans has been part of Christ Church for several years, most recently as a community group leader and office manager, before moving to Atlanta this week to pursue job opportunities. He asked to share this with you about his time in our church:

I started coming to Christ Community Church in the summer of 2008. It was a long road that led me there. Growing up, religion got me what I wanted – but when I got to college, it didn’t. I memorized scripture, I read the books, I even listened to John Piper sermons. Some of it was seeking, but lots of it was stiffness and about halfway through college, I felt the depth of my failure. I sensed the ways I had turned my God into a vending machine – I felt my heart grow hard and eventually my behavior reflected the emptiness inside. I realized, if my relationship with God relied on me living and loving like Jesus I was in big trouble. Mainly because, even if I could control my behavior, I knew I could never control my heart. I hated God’s righteousness and I thought He was angry with me because I could never measure up to the Christian life. I had quietly bought into the idea that Jesus gets us a second chance with God, but it’s up to me the second time around – the noise of life had drowned out the melody of the gospel.

It was about that time I started going to our Church. I went to one Community Group before I decided to join. I found family. I found a worldview called Grace. I began to tap my foot to the phrase, “gospel, community, mission.” As I sat under Matt’s preaching, I heard the power of the gospel – “We are not defined by our performance, we are defined by the performance of Jesus.” Our sin does not write our story, the gospel does. And the gospel is not just for evangelism – the gospel is for Christians! Over and over, I had been asking, “what do I do so that God will love me?” I got my answer, there is nothing I can do – and there is nothing left for me to do. Everything God requires of us, Jesus finished for us. There is daily grace for those who have tried and failed – the ability to succeed AND the freedom to fall short as we strive to follow the God we love!

I wonder how many Christians, like me, still think God is angry at them? Living like a gun is pointed at our head, expecting God to pull the trigger when we mess up. How quickly we forget that all the divine justice that was aimed at us, was emptied on Christ at the cross. We have to continually reaffirm this: Jesus stood in our place condemned, now we stand in His place perfectly loved and accepted by God forever. It is the best deal in the universe, it is a gospel for real life and it is a gospel for real sinners.

Our church has helped open my eyes to the nature of the Christian life, a life spent repenting over my sin and rejoicing over my Savior – resting in undeserved mercy and then fighting to live for the smile of God and the good of others. Today, there is no greater relief than my belief – Jesus died, He rose, He will come again. And I have no greater gift than my relationship with a God who is so good, great, gracious and glorious that… even I cannot help but love Him.

You’re supposed to post these when you join, I’m posting mine after three years of being stunned by God’s relentless pursuit of me through our gospel community. I am unbelievably thankful for Christ Church, my community group, the ministry of Frank Beedle and David Melton, and so many in our family… thank you Matt and Aaron, and most of all, Jesus. Love y’all.

 

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Our Family Is Growing-Andy and Amy Tucker

Amy and I met in Athens, GA twelve years ago and upon marrying lived in Augusta, GA for several years before making our way back to Athens and into the Watkinsville area.  We took our time and visited many churches in the area before meeting Aaron and Camille Slaten and visiting Christ Community Church.   We felt an instant connection and continued visiting for year before coming members.  We have been so blessed to be back into the area we call home and are even more blessed with the family and friends we have made at Christ Community.  Joining a community group with other couples with young children has really made us feel more of a part of the church. We are looking forward to growing friendships with families and watching our children grow as part of Christ Community. Andy works as a photographer for UGA and Amy works as a Social Worker for the Area Agency on Aging.  We have 2 small children, Jackson, age 5 and Ellie, age 2.

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Adopted By Grace - Alice Woodard

At the heart of the Christian faith is the belief that God has adopted us into his family. As one man writes:

Our acceptance by the Father is therefore the foundation of our Christian lives. Before we do anything for God, we know that we are beloved by God. By grace, we have brand new identities as sons and daughters, and we are brand new creatures. Being loved by the Father becomes the very core of our existence. This is both our legal and actual status before God.

One of the ways this doctrine has been made evident in the life of our church is in the story of Alice Woodard:

One day when I was 10, I abruptly asked my mom “was the baby you lost a boy or a girl?  Quietly, she responded, “a girl”.  Very matter of factly I replied, “Now I know why God gave me to you.  He knew you needed a little girl and I needed a mommy.”

I didn't know much scripture, but from that day on, I knew God had a plan and purpose for me being adopted.  When I did learn scripture, Romans 8:28 became my life verse, “all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose.”  I had no idea why I couldn't  grow up with my biological parents, but it was clear God meant it for my good and His glory.

As an adult, I began to see the importance of knowing and understanding your story.  My story was like a huge puzzle... the picture was beautiful, but a piece was missing.  After receiving my father and brother's blessing, I decided to search for my biological mother.  What unfolded was an amazing story of God's grace and provision.

My biological mother died 2 years prior to my search, so unfortunately I never met her. Nancy Neal's story is a tangled web of struggle.  She was plagued with bad health, loved multiple men and regularly took drugs.  Substance abuse is a recurring theme in many of my siblings lives.  In fact, it's been reported that the family Christmas Celebrations included most everyone on the front lawn getting high together.  Depression, anxiety and bad choices abound.  Jail time, living on welfare, abortions, beer in baby bottles, acting in porn movies, taking drugs, dealing drugs, are all so much a part of their lives.  School wasn't important and college never an option.  It's almost too overwhelming to put on paper ~ it takes my breath away to type these words.

The only reason I didn't grow up in the same environment, is that I was born first.  Nancy wasn't married, so her parents made her give me away.  I didn't do anything to earn or deserve a better life.  I was plucked out of much sadness and turmoil, because God simply called me out.

No one knows who my biological father could be.  At first I was sad I would never know him and then it occurred to me that often God gives us substitutes.  Ken Rockey has been more than a father.  He's been my daddy; I couldn't ask for more.  God gave him to me as a substitute, just as He gave us Christ as a substitute on the cross for our sins.  We don't have to pay the price of our sin; Jesus already took care of it.

At my adoption agency, a baby is placed into THE Cradle for Adoptive Parents to view and see if they want the baby.  My parents walked in, saw me and began to dress me to take me home.  The case worker questioned, “oh you want her?” Immediately they responded, “yes, we want her.”  I didn't promise to love them well, always behave or keep my room clean; in spite of myself, they picked me up and made me their own.  Isn't that much like when we reach heaven?  Just when we expect the gavel to fall and proclaim us unwanted, Jesus steps in and says, “She's mine.  I want to take her home.”

I can not grasp why I've experienced so much GRACE in my life.  I continue to rest in Romans 8:28, that “all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose.”  I continue to trust that He knows best, that HE is the Author and Sovereign Creator of my life.

“Jesus you are mercy, Jesus you are justice, Jesus you are worthy, that is what you are. You died alone to save me, you rose so you could raise me You did this all to make me a chosen child of God.”

 

 

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Advent Conspiracy Update - January 31, 2011

Last December, you helped our church invest over $11,000 in gospel projects here in Athens and in Africa. Here's an update on the work of Better For Kids in Africa from Todd Harrison, one of our candidates and a leader in the Better For Kids movement:

The idea of Better for Kids is to impact a community with a more comprehensive gospel approach, through ministry to kids.  In Zeway this started with a 20 child orphan home.  With that as a community "home base" we will begin to expand ministry beyond these 20 to other street children, orphans, at risk kids AND their families.  The idea can be summed up in a formula:

  • 1 orphan, from
  • 1 poor area, partnered with
  • 1 family, from
  • 1 local church, that is a "friend church" hooked up with
  • 1 USA church, in order to demonstrate the gospel, back in to that
  • 1 poor area.

So you can see the ministry plan that involves local churches, USA churches, at risk kids, through a variety of ministry projects, in order to impact the entire community with the gospel.

We will have a BFK local ministry coordinator that will be trained by BFK folks from Egypt to facilitate comprehensive ministry of the gospel.

The next project that will PROBABLY happen is the school in a surrounding village in order to impact more children and the village for the Kingdom.  It will encompass expanding and renovating the school, supplying a water line, developing a 15 acre farm plot, and running the school for 300 children, ages 4-7.  This village is Abinegarmama, 6800 folks, 85% Muslim.  The elders from this village invited us to do the school project, and they know we are believers.

 

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Our Family Is Growing - Ryan Schulze

We've recently completed membership interviews with several people and I've asked some of them to talk about why they've become part of the Christ Church family. Here's Ryan Schulze's story: Sometime about a year I walked into an old, dusty high school gym. There was rolled-out carpet and a stage that looked like it might break at any second. But after a few weeks of going there I didn’t notice those things anymore; all I noticed was how much Christ was working in this church.

A year later, the location and scenery of Christ Community looks a lot different, but Christ has never stopped working. That is one thing I love about the church: how evident it is that God is working there. It’s an amazing thing to see and get to be a part of.

I recently became a member at Christ Community and it is an atmosphere I don’t know how I ever lived without. I grew up with a huge commercial mentality of the church: go every Sunday, spend an hour of my day half-listening to somebody talking about Jesus, and then I’m good for the rest of the week. It has taken me years to realize truly how unbiblical that mindset is and how dangerous it is for my soul.

I feel like a lot of churches today base how they do church off of how it fits into their lifestyle, personal beliefs, schedule, etc. This would be okay except for the Bible. The church is God’s bride, and God has a specific plan and purpose for it. One big reason I chose to become a member of Christ Community is because they rely on what the Bible says about church and incorporate it into everything; not the other way around—starting from their lives and seeing how the Bible fits in.

Another reason I wanted to join the church was because of how much I have grown there. Colossians 2:6-7 says, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Throughout the last year, Christ Community has been instrumental in helping me to do this. I love going every week and hearing music, readings, and a message that all teach me more about the Bible and more about Christ, the God I seek to be rooted and built up in.

I think if every member were asked to describe Christ Community, there would be one word that would come up more than any other: Family. Anyone who walks through the doors can see how connected and strong the family is at the church. And walking through the doors of that old, dusty high school gym I was no different. I saw Christ working in the family at Christ Community. As I have gotten more involved in the church I truly feel part of the body of Christ, personally witnessing how every person is willing and wanting to help every other person.

I thank God for blessing me with Christ Community.

 

 

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When A Son Honors His Father - David Melton

David Melton and his wife Jenny have been part of the Christ Church family for several years. I met David through his work as campus director for Campus Outreach on the UGA campus. I consider him a friend and have walked with him through the last days of his father's fight with cancer. Greg Melton died last Friday and on Sunday, his son stood in front of a room full of people in Dalton, Georgia to honor both his earthly father and his Heavenly Father. What follows are the notes David used in preparation to talk about his dad and the God who now calls both David and Greg his sons:

Good Afternoon.  Over the past few days I have been talking with some of you about all the things that my dad really loved in life…things that made him the man we all knew and loved. So I decided to put together a list of some of my dad’s hobbies and mannerisms that we can all enjoy together as we remember him today:

  1. Golf…there was always a mat and a 9 iron in our living room…and Lowell Fritz was practically a member of our family
  2. Georgia Tech sports - and screaming at the TV when they lost (which was quite often)
  3. Popped collars and sweater vests (classic Greg Melton)
  4. Jogging through Fairington – at a snail’s pace, wearing a sweat suit, and carrying a   plastic bat… which he used to hit any of the neighborhood dogs with that came after him
  5. Wearing the same gold glasses and wrist watch my entire life
  6. Landscaping

My dad really loved this town and I think that is evident here in this room.  We are so thankful for all of you… our family and our friends and for the support we have had leading up to this day. Some of you may be thinking, “Haven’t they been through enough?” “What are the odds that both Debbie and Greg would suffer from cancer?” “How is their family going to deal with this?” “I wish it could be another way.”

I’m speaking on behalf of my entire family, including my dad, when I say… “We wouldn’t have it any other way.” This is a story of God’s redemption, and mercy, and love and we want to give him all the glory. My dad and I have had many conversations over the past few years that we would have never had, had it not been for cancer.

Although we loved each other dearly, we had your average male relationship in which all we talked about was news weather and sports. Cancer changed all of that. We started talking about life, faith, the gospel – we were given this gift of being forced through the surface level conversation that we are all held captive to at times.

7 years ago when my mom was diagnosed with brain cancer the Lord began a work in our family that would change everything. I was a sophomore in college and looking for life and satisfaction in success and respect and girls and alcohol but that all changed in an instant. When your mom is in a hospital bed, you are given the ability to see all those other things as what they really are: a façade…things that promise true fulfillment but don’t deliver.

That began an investigation of Christianity for me and a real soul search. I had to ask myself the hard questions: Is there really a God? Is there really life after death? If so, where do I stand? By God’s grace alone I came to saving faith through Jesus and then my sister came to faith, and then my mom. If you have been around my mom for 5 minutes she will tell you how her faith has grown through cancer. But then there was my dad…

Many of you haven’t seen much of my dad over the past 5 years since he was diagnosed with cancer.  I’m here today to testify, on his behalf, to what the Lord has done in and through him during that time.

He and I talked about the Christian faith a good bit over the last few years, and like any good lawyer he had many objections. You can also imagine his response when I took my Georgia Tech degree - that he paid for…all 5 years of it - and decided to go work for a college ministry at the University of Georgia. “You want to go where?! And do what?!”

Although he may have been skeptical initially, my dad always supported me 100% and quite often told me how proud of me he was. I never doubted that he loved me and was proud of me. But as we would address different objections to Christianity that he had, my response eventually would always be “Dad, regardless of theology, or church government, or denomination ALL Christians are unified under the foundational, biblical truth – that Jesus is the only way unto salvation. Christ said, “I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” So Dad, what do you believe about Jesus?

Our best conversations were always in the hospital, or in the car on the way to the hospital, and especially this last month when he was at home. A week ago, while we were snowed in, the Lord blessed my dad and me with one final conversation.  I read 1 Peter 1:3-7 to him and asked, “Dad, have you thought much about our last conversation?” He said – “I have son I have been thinking about it a lot and I’m glad we are talking again.”Me – “well dad, do you know Jesus?” Dad – “No I don’t think I do. So here is what I need to do.  I need to get healthy and then I can start this spiritual journey.” Me – “Dad I love you but you’ve still got it backwards. Christ said on the cross “it is finished." You don’t need to take a spiritual journey because Christ already took the journey on your behalf. He lived the perfect sinless life that neither you nor I could ever live AND he died the gruesome death that we deserved to die. It is finished, all you must do is repent of your unbelief and accept Christ’s payment on your behalf. Dad's tear-filled response was “So what do we do?”

Me – “All we can do is pray. Let me pray for you.” So we prayed through 1 Peter 1,  that God would “cause him to be born again to a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, that is being kept in heaven for him.”

So please know that although my dad will be deeply missed, we are thankful for how everything has transpired and we consider it an honor to suffer in a very small way for God’s glory. My dad is leaving behind a loving family, wonderful friends, a thriving and well respected law practice, and a beautifully restored building downtown affectionately known as “the PIG.”

But he is gaining an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading…and that is a pretty good trade off.

 

 

 

 

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Our Family Is Growing - Jim Tocci

We've recently completed membership interviews with several people and I've asked some of them to talk about why they've become part of the Christ Church family. Here's Jim Tocci's story: Last April, a friend of mine asked me to go to the Good Friday service at Christ Community Church. Since my plans to attend the service at the church I was attending at the time fell through and I wasn’t comfortable enough to go alone, I told him yes. As we drove over, the familiar feelings that I think we can all understand began to surface. I became increasingly anxious about what people would think of me and whether or not I would fit in with the group. I was expecting to be “that guy”, the one who ends up awkwardly standing around when the person who brought them eventually leaves their side and they have to fend for themselves. However, when we arrived, people who had never met me stepped out of their comfort zones to welcome me and get to know me. This is what I remember about my first visit to Christ Community Church. I don’t remember Matt’s message, what music was played, or what kind of food served beforehand. At the time, I didn’t care what the theology was behind the church, what the mission statement was, if they did communion every week, or if they baptized infants or adults…I came back the next week and continued to come because I felt like people actually welcomed me, cared about me, and loved me.

Over time, God was faithful in continuing to pour out His love and grace upon me, not only through continuing to develop the building of a family but opening my eyes to the true importance of how good, great, gracious, and glorious He is. He did this through the preaching and teaching I received at Christ Community Church and the men and women in the church. My heart was melted and I was continually convicted and brought to my knees in light of seeing God “in his greatness, glory, holiness, power, majesty, and authority” and myself in my depraved and sinful state.

Prior to being a part of the Christ Community family, I thought of church as a place or an event that “good” people went to. People come in, get their weekly instructions on how to be better and then leave. What I’ve learned is that the problem is that we can never be good enough and that I need the gospel preached to me every single week. I need God to continually change me from the inside out, not to consume information and instruction for a better me, but to be able love Him and love other people through understanding that I am so helpless on my own that God Himself had to come to die for my sin. God has put me in a place and a family at Christ Community Church that continues to remind me of this and encourage me toward dying to myself and giving my life away. As I write this, the friend I mentioned and four other men I’m living with are my best friends and brothers and I can only praise God for that.

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Our Family Is Growing - Lewis Hensley

We've recently completed membership interviews with several people and I've asked some of them to talk about why they've become part of the Christ Church family. Here's Lewis Hensley's story: My name is Lewis Hensley, and I have recently become a member of Christ Community Church. I’m twenty years old, a third-year at UGA, and I decided to become a member for several reasons:

  • I plan on being involved with a campus ministry for the rest of college, but the church is primarily how God will use and teach me for the rest of my life. I want to learn how to plug in and invest in a church now, so that I can do that while I am here in Athens and also wherever I end up in the future.
  • Christ Community Church has become a family to me. These aren’t people who I see just once a week, but people with whom I walk through life. I know that there are people here who care about and are invested in my life.
  • It is a place where I know I will be reminded of the gospel, whether that is in our weekly gathering, in my community group, or in everyday conversations with people who are a part of this family. I know that this is a place where I will be reminded of the hope and purpose for living found in Jesus.

Look for more stories in the days and weeks to come - we're halfway through our membership process with more than 20 people!

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Protege - Justin Kimmel

Justin Kimmel is part of our Protege team - here are his thoughts about his decision to get involved:

Last fall I felt like I was on an island.  The majority of my friends had moved on from Athens and the ones that were still here were pursuing marriage or busy finishing up school. I had passed the torch on at RUF as far as my role with the ministry went.  Concerning my place in the church, I just didn’t fit in at Redeemer anymore.  I felt like I was losing my ministry and had all but lost community.  I didn’t feel like I had any direction at all.

The decision was made.  I would leave Athens and start over somewhere else.  I was looking at schools and jobs all over the country that included working for churches, music school, agriculture, journalism, business, etc.  You name the location and I probably considered going there.

During this time, God brought some pretty awesome people into my life.  These guys just loved each other unconditionally and were exactly the type of friends I needed at this point in my life.  A few of them attended Christ Community Church and I was pretty ready to leave Redeemer, so I figured I’d join them one Sunday.  It immediately felt like home.  So I went again, and again, and again and so on.

I remember about the third time I visited CCC, the internship program, Protege, caught my eye on the church bulletin.  For the next month, as I continued to looked to move on from Athens, the internship wouldn’t get out of the back of my mind.  I finally decided to get in touch with somebody so I could hear more.  I emailed Matt and he got me in touch with Aaron, who I went and got lunch with.

I’m a music guy.  I love the music at CCC and felt like Aaron would be someone I could learn a lot from, and that made the Protege program even more heavy on my heart.  Leading corporate worship is something I’ve done for years and am definitely interested in doing it for a church in the future.  The opportunity to work with Aaron just outweighed everything I was considering at that time.  To have people come beside me and want for me to dream and realize those dreams is something I am very thankful for.

Since the internship started, I feel like I’ve learned more than I expected to.  I’ve learned plenty about the job, but I’ve learned some pretty tough character-building lessons as well.  Aaron is showing me every part of his job possible, which has way more to do than just preparing the music for our Sunday gathering.  The idea is for me to do every single thing that he does so I become more than just familiar with the job.  The hope is that I come out of the internship very capable to do for another church what Aaron does for CCC.  I am very grateful for the opportunity I have through the Protege program that, to sum it up, is equipping me for life ministry.

If you'd like to ask Justin any questions about Protege, email him at jkimmel@missionathens.com

 

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Protege - Wes Cooper

For those of you considering whether to apply to be part of our next Protege team, I asked Wes Cooper to write about his experience:

I graduated from the University of Georgia Honors Program with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Economics in May.  About a year ago, I was pursuing my Master of Arts in Economics and intending to go to law school in California.  However, my plans were not God's.  I began to feel a pull to ministry that I had never felt before.  After speaking with many people who I knew well and respected, I realized God wanted me to surrender my plans for the future and trust His calling into ministry--college ministry specifically.

It became evident that Athens was where I needed to stay.  God wanted me here.  He had blessed me with too much and opened too many doors for me to simply walk away.  Furthermore, I have grown to love Christ Community Church.   Protege offered me an opportunity to stay at a Gospel-centered church under Matt, who coaches and assesses church-planters throughout the Acts 29 Network.  Since I think church-planting and pastoring may be where God is leading me, Protege was a wise decision to say the least.  The two-year program allows me to take courses in Gospel Character, Biblical Exposition, Mission, and Appologetics.  Also, I am able to meet with Matt and get one-on-one coaching on  things such as leading a community group to conversations about speaking with people who are malicious towards Christianity.

The program is a great opportunity.  I yearn to see the campus of the University of Georgia changed by people who love Jesus Christ and want their friends to know how much the Lord loves them.  I long to see a community built that is founded on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Lord is working and has placed a heavy burden on me to see this community grow through the people I meet in the dining hall, in Ramsey, and through playing sports and Protege provides me with training and education to confidently approach conversations with the Gospel, to examine the Bible as it points to Jesus Christ, and to lead Gospel-centered group discussions.

I can speak more about how this program equips me to communicate the Gospel to a 4 year-old and a 40 year-old.  It helps me to find my strengths and weaknesses and improve in areas.  It has been a blessing to go through the Porterbrook material with others and learn from each other as God uses us to reveal Himself to each other.  If you have any questions about this program, I'd love to talk with you and tell you more about my experience so far.  Please pull me aside at the gathering on Sunday, or send me an email and we will get in touch.  I think this is a great program and Matt and Aaron genuinely want to see people grow in their love for Jesus Christ.

If you'd like to talk with Wes about your interest in Protege, contact him at wcooper@missionathens.com

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