Tag: community

Neighborhood Christmas Lights

I love Christmas! I love the music, the festivities, the gifts and the amazing light displays.  A few years back we lived in a different state. We had some neighbors that went all out with their lighting display.  The lights were synced with Christmas music that played from speakers in the yard, and you could even tune to a particular station on your radio and listen to the music while watching the synchronized light display from the warmth of your car. It was amazing!

While I thoroughly enjoyed the beauty of their light display, I never met those neighbors. I don’t know their names. I don’t remember anything about them other than their light display. I don’t think that is exactly what Jesus had in mind when He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).

As Christians, we often talk about evangelism with grand and serious language. We tend to imagine evangelism as a great crusade or a door-to-door sales strategy, but Jesus didn’t think about it like that. He never used the word, “evangelism.” He never passed out tracts or put up billboards.

HE SIMPLY ASKED US TO BE INTENTIONALLY KIND TO THE PEOPLE THAT LIVE AROUND US.

He told us to do really nice things for our neighbors. You know, love them like you love yourself or your own family. It may not be rocket science, but it is certainly not common in our current culture.

We pack our schedules with so much stuff that we never have an opportunity to interact with our neighbors. We work hard, squeeze in some church meetings and sign the kids up for every possible extra-curricular activity. Consequently, we roll into the garage just in time to eat a quick bite, help with homework and fall into bed. This is the norm in our culture, but it is difficult to merge this lifestyle with the call of Jesus to, “love your neighbors.”

So, how exactly do we love our neighbors?

HERE ARE A FEW SIMPLE STEPS THAT CAN MAKE A PROFOUND DIFFERENCE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD:

  1. Be intentional – it will not happen unless you actually make time.
  2. Learn the names of every neighbor on your street, block, dorm hall, etc.
  3. Then get out, introduce yourself and make conversation.
  4. Continue to be social. Create opportunities to interact with your neighbors.
  5. Learn about their lives, family, needs, hurts, desires, etc.
  6. Eventually, after they know you care, ask how you can pray for them.
  7. Someday in the future, when they are having dinner with you at your house, it will be natural for you to talk about the One you love, the One who changed your life, the One that loves them also.

Loving your neighbors is the simple strategy of Jesus to change the world. It works. Start with these few simple steps and watch Jesus create an awesome light display in your neighborhood.

By Weston Nichols – Adult Pastor

Why I Joined Community: An Interview with Andre Chapa

Lifegroup is at the core of who we are as a church. It is a place where we see authentic community come together to live out the purposes God has for our lives. Andre Chapa is a part of the Antioch staff, and we recently sat down with him to hear a little more about how community has impacted him and his family:

How did you get connected to Antioch?

A couple of years ago I felt like God was leading me to more. There came a point in my life where my routine changed, and I had times to just sit still. It was the first time that I was just still in 10 years, and I kept hearing God speak “family.” Even though we were involved in our church, our home life wasn’t consistent and I wasn’t spending enough time with my family. It wasn’t that our home was a wreck, it just wasn’t in order. I felt like God was leading us to more. I had a routine but there was no fruit in the routine. Through hearing about other peoples’ experiences, we decided to check out Antioch.

How has community changed you and your family?

When we started going to Antioch, I began meeting with Vincent Carpenter every week. It was the first time in my 10 years of following Jesus that someone sat down and really just talked with me. When he started letting me in his life, I felt a shift. Hearing someone else and hearing his story was huge for me.

We started visiting Lifegroups and we’ve been in the same Lifegroup for a little over a year now. As far as what Lifegroup means to me, it has been a place where I can be myself. I really never knew who I was and never knew my identity in Christ. I was living like I thought God wanted, but I wasn’t allowing Him to live through me. Being around people who are living out what God has called them to and having people who are willing to let me into their lives has made all the difference for me.

In discipleship the other day we were reading in Corinthians, and Paul says, “By the grace of God, I am who I am.” Hearing that, even again, gives me freedom to be who God made me to be. I have learned that I can be me, and through my passions God is glorified. I didn’t know any of that because I didn’t have fellowship or community to walk with through life.

Community has given us structure and the ability to come together as a family and help each other. My kids are connected to other kids their age. We are all coming together and there is unity in our family. My kids are enjoying their Lifegroups and they have a desire to know God more.

Why should someone get plugged into community?

Lifegroup gives you a setting where you are able to be transparent, and you are able to walk out the Scriptures you’re reading. You are able to be vulnerable and there are people who want to help you walk through whatever you are facing. If you are hungry and you want change, Lifegroup is where it is going to happen. We have all the information and Lifegroup is where we apply it. Lifegroup brings you into a reality where you can live out what God has for you.

Weep Together

The woman in the purple dress said, “My eight-year-old granddaughter was diagnosed with cancer this week—and I wanted a drink so bad.”  The room fell silent. Suddenly I could feel my heart stand at attention. It was like a queen had entered, speaking to her most trusted advisers. We all listened close.

Tears fell down her face as she shared her story. When she finished, I looked across the room at an older man shaking his head in the corner. He whispered in an honorable tone, “That’s horrible, just horrible—but I’m glad you didn’t take a drink.”

It was my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. About twenty-five individuals sat along the edge of the room.  The space had tile floors and bare walls (except for a clock and the Twelve Steps posted behind the desk). The room smelled like coffee and cigarettes. In the group, there were businessmen, business-women, grandfathers, grandmothers, single moms and dads, married folk and even a few unlikely twenty-somethings (who seemed too young to be there). The group was both melancholy and hope-filled; it felt human.

An older gentleman with overalls took a turn sharing. There was a restful resilience about him, like he had weathered a thousand storms and still trusted there was good in the world. He looked around the room with kind eyes, and spoke to his AA family,

“I’ve found that it’s better to weep with my wife, than to get drunk alone.”

His words echoed in my mind, like a new proverb had been coined, a saying forged in the fire of failure and suffering. Relational truth is sacred. It is born from lonely moments, sleepless nights, shame, despair, hard decisions and hope. The old man preached a thousand sermons with that one phrase: “It’s better to weep with my wife, than to get drunk alone.”

The group had welcomed me in to observe for graduate school, and they gave me more than I bargained for.

Their combined stories told me that in our pain, tragedies, struggles and addictions we’re all wanting the same thing—connection, comfort and intimacy.

We may not all go to AA, but we’re all human. Whether we have problems with pornography, food, shopping, sports, work, drugs or movies, we all cope with pain wrongly at times.

Addiction reveals our need for God.

Jesus is life, love and hope eternal. He’s the love we’re all looking for; the hope of nations. His name is Emmanuel, God with us—reminding us we’re never alone. Talking with the Lord satisfies, especially with a cup of coffee in hand, and the Psalms are a good place to bring your tears.

There’s another truth, though, left undiscovered by too many. We need safe trusted friends who love us beyond what we can do for them. We have a craving for worth beyond our skills, looks and assets.

The Creator designed us to agree with this truth: I need you and you need me—and that need is good.

It doesn’t mean you’re a silly, clingy, needy, weak person if you need someone. It means you’re alive, and you’re probably being honest.

Of course, we all have tendencies to err in relationships; after all, we can be too independent or too dependent at times (occasionally in the same day).

But in the end, no matter what, we all need real face to face interactions, not holograms or Instagrams.

Scripture encourages us to love one another authentically, and it’s more than texting or rushing someone to fit your agenda. We desire soul-to-soul conversation. When we reach into our dark past or stare at our fearful future, what will we do with our pain? Will we go at it alone again, or try something new?

It’s scary to reveal real emotions to one another. It’s even more difficult to admit weakness or failure. Numbing our pain through addiction isn’t working. Hiding our fear isn’t making us less afraid. Our pride that says, “I’ve got this, I don’t need anybody,” isn’t making us more humble and loving. Stuffing our sadness is not making us happier, and isolation is definitely not making us stronger.

So, if denying our sorrow with a plastic smile isn’t helping us heal, what could we do differently?

When Lazarus died, Jesus wept. He didn’t say, “Don’t worry about it,” or, “Don’t be sad,” or something really absurd like, “There’s no crying in the New Testament!” He showed the world something beautiful by opening His heart and humanness to the family.

We have to risk vulnerability with one another.

Humility is our last option. The church could learn a few things from Alcoholics Anonymous. The truth is, fake happiness is worse than real sadness. Sharing our pain and finding God’s comfort together might be messy and inconvenient, but real connection and intimacy waits for us on the other side. It’s better to weep together than drink alone.

By Jarrod Justice – Antioch Knoxville

antioch jarrod justice

 

 

 

 

 

Find the original post at Foundlinghouse.com.

The Value of Lifegroup

Are you looking to connect at Antioch? We wholeheartedly believe the best way to connect to the church and ultimately the best way to grow in your faith is through a discipleship community, which we call Lifegroups.

Twice a year we host an event called Connect in order to help you find a Lifegroup. We plan to have more than 100 Lifegroups represented at the event which allows you to meet multiple different leaders in order to find a group that fits your unique needs and season of life. While we are always happy to help you find a group, this event is by the far the best opportunity to discover the right Lifegroup. Childcare is free, but please register in advance. A light dinner will be provided. The event is Thursday, September 22nd at 6:30pm. See you there!

To learn more about how community can transform your life, check out this video:

 

Ditch The Sporks

Have you ever eaten butter-laden mini-carrots and peas in a Styrofoam container with a spork? Most likely, we have all shared this dining experience in some form. One of the hardest times of my life was my freshman year of college when the styrofoam-spork life, all alone in my cinder-block dorm room, became my new normal.

“It is not good that the man should be alone.” Genesis 2:18

At that time in my life, I experienced an acute lack of community with people, and an abundance of “community” with my buttered veggies and my sporks. Thankfully, I was eventually able to ditch the sporks for something better, and you can as well.

Here is what helped me in my aloneness:
  • Answering the questions “Who is God?” and “Who am I?”

That year, what I discovered on a deeper level was that God Himself existed as a community: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. With that revelation, I then understood more clearly what it meant to be created in God’s image – I was created by a divine community (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) for both divine and human community.

“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.” Genesis 1:26

  • How to live out what we were created for.

For me, the answer was not in broadly knowing a lot of people on a surface level because that is what I tried that year of my life. Rather, I found that knowing a lot of people was great, but within that I had to know a smaller amount of people on a deeper level. Ultimately, I began to gather in a small group community, a Lifegroup, where the greatest transformation transpired through both experiencing authentic community, being discipled and making disicples. This helped me “ditch the sporks.”

In Response:

What are you waiting for?

If you are not experiencing the type of community that you find in the Person of God, ask God for help to “ditch the sporks.” The easy thing to do is to blame others, blame an organization or give up. My encouragement is to not do those very tempting things, but rather to find God faithful to provide what you were made for: community with Him and community with others.

 

By Jordan Ogden – Antioch Ann Arbor Lead Pastor

Ogdens 2

The Power of Community

Married couples often meet privately with a counselor when working through relationship struggles or just trying to make a good marriage better. However, church survey information suggests another effective option. Antioch conducts a church-wide survey every two years to determine if the members of the congregation understand and live out the values of the church.

The 2014 survey clearly showed that people who attend Lifegroup far more effectively live out the church’s values than people who do not participate in Lifegroup.

Another interesting fact from the survey was that people who attend Lifegroup reported a significantly higher degree of martial satisfaction than people who did not attend Lifegroup.

Jay and Donna, Lifegroup leaders at Antioch, affirm the findings of our survey. The couple recently shared that participation in Lifegroup has strengthened their marriage as well as their individual walk with Jesus. Donna said Jay has always been a faithful husband and provider, but since joining Lifegroup he has also become a stronger spiritual leader in their home. Donna testified how blessed she felt when Jay surprised her at a Lifegroup meeting by challenging all the couples to begin praying together and how Jay took on and followed through on the challenge himself. Jay said meeting with the other men and being accountable to them was a major factor in his spiritual growth. Donna said since joining Lifegroup she has committed to pray more and that has made the biggest difference in her life.

Consistently sharing life issues with similar people creates an environment of growth and development.

This is why we desire every person who attends Antioch to join a Lifegroup. The church wants to make the process of joining a Lifegroup easy, so Thursday, Oct. 1 from 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. the church will host an event called Connect. At Connect, our Lifegroup leaders will assemble in the Auditorium so individuals looking for a Lifegroup can meet them and get information about the groups. Dinner and childcare will be provided.

Sign up today!

 

By Vincent Carpenter, Teaching and Administrative Pastor

 

Finding Family

Lifegroups are the best way to experience family in a large church and family is essential for all of us to grow in our identity and callings.

Maybe you were like me when you were younger and dreamed of being part of one of your friend’s family’s, a family that appeared to have it all together. The longer I live the more learn that there are no perfect families, but some families are healthier than others. The family I grew up in was not especially healthy (to put it lightly). When I was in middle school my mom, the healthiest member of our family, went to be with the Lord. After her death things went from dysfunctional to worse. I bounced around a lot. When I could find a place to live my dad would pay my room and board, but for the most part I was free to do whatever I wanted to do. That kind of freedom for a teenager was fun but super dangerous.

As an insecure high school student, I would dream about being part of my best friend Andy’s family because they were healthy. One day Andy’s younger sister, Amy, heard about how rough things had been for me and that I was living out of my car or couch hopping. Amy is very compassionate but she also has a high justice meter. She called a family meeting with her parents and two brothers and said, “Donny’s situation isn’t right. He needs a family and we are a family and we should ask him to become part of ours.” Someone had a practical question, “Where would he sleep? There is not enough space in Andy’s room for two high school boys.” She quickly replied, “We can make space! Donny and Andy can have my bedroom and I’ll move into Andy’s room.”  (*Side note – Why do girls always get the bigger bedrooms?!)

About a week later Mr. and Mrs. Harrison approached me after church. I was seized with fear and certain I was in trouble and about to be asked not to hang out with Andy anymore. You can bet I was shocked when they said, “Donny you’ve bounced around a lot since your mother passed away and that can’t be good for you. We want you to live with us, but we do not want to offer you a room to rent. We want you to live in our home and be our son and a part of our family. We want you to be ours.” They made space and I moved in. Only God knows where I’d be in life if they had not adopted me. Because they made space for me, my life was changed for the better and I am now living in the identity and calling God has for me.

Family is essential for all of us to grow in our identity and callings.

Second Samuel 14 shares a story about King David being heartbroken because his son, Absalom, was banished from the kingdom after killing Amnon. A women told King David, “Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, He devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from Him.” Now this story gets worse before it gets better, but regardless God’s Word is true and His desire for us motivates Him to devise ways so the banished do not have to remain estranged from Him. This is my story. And yours.

In my life, the Harrison family was God’s “devised way” for me – a self-absorbed, broken and rebellious punk – to not remain estranged from the Father and His purposes for my life.

Bottom Line: God is still devising ways for the banished to not remain estranged from Him.

It is exciting to think of the many ways He has and will use each of us to make space for others to experience His family. This Thursday, February 5th, we will have an event called Connect. It is one of our ways of helping people find a Lifegroup. Important note, there will be free food and free child care…or as I like to call it, “date night.” Ha!

In Response

If you’re looking for a Lifegroup, or know someone who is, please make plans to join us this Thursday.

Sign up to attend Connect.

By Donny Martin, Family Pastor

House Weekend 2013

Students spend lots of time throughout the weekend in their Lifegroups, learning about community and relationships in the church. They spend time in the Word of God asking, “What if the words on the page actually came to life in our midst?”

On Saturday night we worshiped and sought God together, and students put aside the things that were distracting them from God and returned their focus to Him. It was powerful!

Pray for our Junior High and High School students, that they would become devoted followers of Jesus in their youth and lead those around them into the Kingdom.

Kimberly and Candice: A Testimony from Baton Rouge

“When I was little, my mom wanted me to go to Sunday school, but since I only knew the story of Adam and Eve, I didn’t want to go because I felt dumb.”

Kimberly, who had been coming to our Lifegroup for a couple months, told me this after I asked her if she had a relationship with God. I followed up by asking her what was different now and why she liked to come to church and Lifegroup. Her response stirred my heart: “I come because I love the community. Anytime you guys read a scripture in Lifegroup, I go home and I look it up. I like being around y’all and I don’t feel dumb.” I could’ve cried hearing these words, as this is what we are all about; building a life-giving community that reaches people no matter where they are in their walk with God. Kimberly shared with me that she didn’t know how to have a relationship with God, but would be interested in finding out. I shared the Gospel with her and her immediate response was a desire to know Jesus and give her life to him! We prayed together and she said she had specifically felt God with her that day as she had almost gotten into car wrecks three different times. She felt like God was keeping her safe that day and that He was with her.

Kimberly’s friend Candice also started coming to Lifegroup after my husband and I met them over lunch one Sunday. Both girls quickly jumped into our church community, even though neither of them had made a personal decision to follow Christ. A couple weeks before Kimberly’s decision, Candice and I went on a walk, during which I asked her about her relationship with Jesus. She told me that although she had gone to church for many years, she had never made a specific decision to give her life to Christ. Normally in this situation, I would’ve shared the Gospel with her, but I felt like I was supposed to hold off. A few weeks later, during worship at a friend’s birthday party, Candice asked the group gathered in the room if she could say something. She shared that on the day of our walk, she had decided in her heart to follow Christ and give her life to Him. Then she said, “But tonight, I want to publicly tell all of you that I have decided to give my life to Jesus and follow Him.” Of course the room erupted in cheers and praise as we gathered around to pray for her. Candice later said that what drew her in was community, the body of Christ gathering together to love Jesus wholeheartedly.

Through community, Kimberly and Candice saw Jesus. And through that same community, both girls decided He was absolutely worth following. It is incredible to be a part of that community, and to see lives powerfully changed for eternity.

By Jillian Armstrong

Jillian and her husband, Matthew, are pastors at Antioch Baton Rouge