“Gentlemen, this is a football.”

As the story goes, each year at training camp, legendary football coach Vince Lombardi would hold up a football and say these words, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” It sounds odd that he would perform this ritual, but the point was, if you don’t master the basics, you can’t win the game. We talked about the fundamentals for us as a church this past weekend at The Fellowship. It was the first week in our new series Training Camp. Take a few moments to watch, then join us for part two this coming Sunday. Worship is at 10:45 a.m., with LIFEgroups at 9:30 a.m. See you there!

“Fundamentals” from The Fellowship on Vimeo.

Would you pay the bills of the man trying to sue you?

Love this!! -Matt
Atheist Shocked When Church Helped With Bills.
ATHENS, Texas (BP) — The man who threatened to sue a Texas county for placing a nativity scene on the courthouse lawn has had a shift in perspective, dropped the lawsuit and now plans to move to the county with his wife and cat.

Patrick Greene, an atheist, said he was shocked when a church began raising money to help battle a detaching retina. Greene previously had fought to have a nativity scene removed from a courthouse lawn. Photo is courtesy of the Athens Daily Review.
Patrick Greene, an atheist cab driver from San Antonio, had said he found the placement of the nativity unconstitutional and intended to use the legal system to force a judge to order its removal — that is, until he began losing his vision because of a detaching retina.

With surgery on the horizon, no health insurance and a job that he could no longer maintain with his deteriorating eyesight, Greene realized he needed to focus his energies and finances on life’s necessities, leading him to withdraw his lawsuit.

When Jessica Crye, a member of Sand Springs Baptist Church in Athens, Texas, found out, she called her pastor, Erick Graham, to see if he had heard the news — not only about the dropped suit but about Greene’s health. Crye asked Graham if their church could help him. Graham’s answer was simple.

“Sure we can help him,” Graham told her.

Graham said he didn’t need to take time to pray about the matter or to mull it over because Christ had already provided an answer.

“We don’t need to pray about it,” Graham said. “We’ve already been given the command to do it.”

Crye began to organize an effort to send support to the Greenes, and Graham explained to the church that they had an opportunity to show Greene the love of Christ.

Greene did not accept the offer of the church to pay for his eye surgery, but eventually agreed to let the church help him with bills and rent, which were becoming increasingly difficult to maintain with medical costs stacking up and no job to bring in income.

Greene said when he agreed, he and his wife never thought the church would actually follow through and send money.

“My wife said, ‘We’ll never see that,'” Greene said. “Two days later, a check for $400 came in the mail. We are totally flabbergasted.”

Donations have not ended there, though.

“The money continues to come in for him as it’s been made more public,” Graham said, explaining that Greene then asked them not to send any more. “But I can’t keep the people from giving. The money keeps coming and it’s not ours to hold onto.”

In the meantime, Greene has changed his mind about accepting help in funding his eye surgery, saying the Christians from Athens have worn down his resistance to outside help. He even set up a website http://gofundme.com/i5htw) to receive donations, publicly thanking Graham, Crye, and the Sands Springs church family.

Greene said in his entire life, he never has had a Christian treat him the way the Christians in Athens treated him. (Athens is the county seat.) The so-called Christians that Greene had encountered had refused to pay their fare in his cab because they did not want their money going to the “devil.” They also had also refused to lease him apartments because of his disbelief in God. But they had never loved him, he said.

“No Christian at all that we’ve ever met in our lives, had ever been nice to us,” Greene said. “No Christian has ever done anything for us. Our own families have totally forgotten our existence, and strangers — Christians and atheists all around the country — are helping us. One of the things Jesus said to was love your neighbor as yourself. These people are acting like real Christians.”

Greene said he and his wife have received enough money to get caught up on rent, bills and taxes and that the surprise of the Christians’ generosity and selflessness has not worn off.

“We are literally still in a state of shock,” Greene said. “I feel like we’re in the Twilight Zone.”

Shock or not, though, the Greenes are moving forward, with plans to make Athens their permanent home with the help of Sand Springs Baptist Church and others who have heard about Greene’s story and wanted to help. In Athens, where the cost of living is lower than in San Antonio, the couple has found an apartment within walking distance to Walmart, meaning they will not need to drive anywhere to get their groceries.

Greene said when he gets to Athens, he plans to become friends with the very people he once fought against.

“I’ve already invited [Jessica] and her family to dinner,” Greene said. “I want to get together with everybody. We are not isolated anymore.”

Though Greene has not changed his beliefs, Crye said Greene told her he would come to some of her church’s services when he and his wife move to town.

So taken by the generosity was Greene and his wife that they purchased and gave a star to Henderson County for the very nativity scene they sought to remove.

The Greenes said they expected the Christians only to help them if and when they decided to convert to Christianity and were surprised by their unconditional gifts. Crye said Jesus has called Christians to love not just their neighbors but also their enemies — and to love both without condition.

“That’s what God called us to do,” Crye said. “It’s very against our nature to one, love people, and two, to love them unconditionally. If we’re not, the world is not seeing what Jesus is like. They’re seeing that view that Patrick has always seen.”
–30–
Sharayah Colter is correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, online at http://www.texasonline.net.

Open Letter to The Fellowsihp

What a great month we’ve been experiencing at The Fellowship! I continue to be amazed at all that God is doing in so many lives. I’m thankful for the salvation decisions that have been made in our services, for the recent baptisms and the awesome spirit of worship. Honestly right now I am just so thankful. Here are a few things that I wanted to personally share with you:

1. Thank you for your participation. By this I don’t just mean your attendance, but how you are actively jumping in and leading in so many areas!

2. Thank you for your attitude. There is so much going on and so many new things happening. The majority of you have been overwhelmingly supportive and have just continued rolling with the punches.

3. The Fellowship at Mt Juliet Campus Update. Our new campus kicks off in 3 weeks (April 1) with a preview service. We look forward to seeing what God is going to do in this area. Be in prayer for everything that will be going on there.

4. Two Rivers Campus Update. God continues to move here and we are looking ahead to our future home once this facility sells. Pray that God shows us the perfect location for this new place of ministry that will allow us to even more effectively reach this community!

5. Invite, invite, invite!!! We want there to be a culture of invitation here at The Fellowship. This means that in our everyday lives we are looking for opportunities not only to show Christ to this world, but to invite people to experience what God is doing here at The Fellowship.

6. Our Couples Retreat May 4 & 5. This is going to be a refreshing time of seeing God’s plan for marriage and encouragement in the midst of frustrations. The cost is $35 per couple. (Dinner on Friday night is included). We will meet at the church but have a special rate for a hotel if you want to get away that night as well. Hope to see you all there.

This past weekend, we started a new series called Backwards. I hope you will make being with us a priority this coming Sunday! Invite someone to join you. Worship begins at 10:45 a.m. with LIFE Groups at 9:30 a.m.

On The Journey Together!

Matt

Are Churches Really Failing?

I saw this article and thought I’d share it with you. Let me know what you think.

Study Says God-Connections at Church are “Rare”
Are churches failing, or are our expectations too high?
by Skye Jethani

Let’s be honest for a minute. Most churches expend the vast majority of their resources on weekend worship gatherings. It’s when facilities are most utilized, when programming is most robust, when volunteers are most required, and what many pastors spend the majority of their time preparing for. This great emphasis on Sunday is often justified because it’s when people gather to meet with God.
But new research released this week from Barna reveals that most churchgoers rarely experience God in worship services. While most people surveyed can recall a “real and personal connection” with God while at church (66%), they also reported that these connections are “rare.” Among those who attend church every week, less than half (44%) say they experience God’s presence. And one-third of those who have attended church report never feeling God’s presence in a worship gathering.

But “experiencing God” is a wishy-washy, emotional, and subjective idea, you might argue. We’re in the business of transforming lives. Well, the Barna study has a dose of reality for you too.

The survey also probed the degree to which people say their lives had been changed by attending church. Overall, one-quarter of Americans (26%) who had been to a church before said that their life had been changed or affected “greatly” by attending church. Another one-fourth (25%) described it as “somewhat” influential. Nearly half said their life had not changed at all as a result of churchgoing (46%).
A closer look at the breakdown of the survey participants is also illuminating. Generally, the older generations (Elders and Boomers) reported more positive church experiences than younger generations (Busters and Mosaics). The report says “There were significant gaps between young adults and older adults when it came to feeling part of a group that cares for each other, experiencing God’s presence, knowing the church prioritizes assisting the poor, and being personally transformed.”

What should we conclude from this report from Barna? That is going to depend upon your own setting and congregation. But here are a few of my wonderings:

-Many (perhaps most) churches still have structures/values that appeal to those 50+. Despite all of the rhetoric since the 90s about “emerging generations” and new models of church, there is little evidence it has been implemented broadly or effective.

-Is the problem really our worship services, or what we expect from them? Some might look at these numbers and respond by updating their music selection, adding some icons or candles, and getting younger leaders up front. And that might be wise. But I wonder if most people aren’t “experiencing God” in these gatherings because they aren’t experiencing God Monday through Saturday either. Perhaps we (church leaders) have over-emphasized worship gatherings because they are something we can control, when we ought to be training people to commune with God apart from formal services.

-Finally, a friend of mine has vented in the past about all of the “transforming lives” talk that permeates ministry gatherings these days. “Transformation isn’t our job,” he rants, “it’s God’s! All we can do is lead people to him.” Granted, my friend is highly Reformed, but he has a point. Might it be time to consider what Paul said about ministry in 1 Corinthians 3? Some plant the seeds, others water it, but ultimately it is God who causes the growth. I don’t believe we should ignore outcomes or allow lazy, ineffectual discipleship to take root in our churches. But we must also admit that life transformation is more mysterious, more God-driven, than making widgets in a factory.

I welcome your responses to the Barna study.

Serving Alongside,
Matt

If You Missed LEAD Time

I’m excited about The Fellowship and what God is doing right now. I’m even more excited about the future. Here are a couple of highlights from Lead Time, our quarterly leadership/vision time.

• As a church we are convinced that God can use The Fellowship to impact Nashville and the world!
• We are called to be a multi-site church. God has called us to impact not only our immediate area, but our entire city as well. We will be praying and studying about how to make this a reality.
• We are praying through strategic partnerships in other parts of the world, to join in hopes of seeing the gospel spread and strengthening churches.
• We believe God has called our church to be a strategic partner in establishing churches in the most un-churched urban areas of North America. Right now we feel Pittsburg may be the first city.
• Core Classes. As we reach more and more people of all backgrounds and faith practices, we believe it is important to equip our people to live out God’s Kingdom plan here on the earth. The first two classes offered this semester are “What We Believe” and “Spiritual Practices”.

Please join us in accomplishing these callings to the glory of God. We need you!
LEAD Time 8-7-11 (.mp3)

We Don’t Need More Christians…

This is a great post by Matt Chambers. Catchy title. What are your thoughts?

We don’t need more Christians who are trying to be radical.
We don’t need more Christians who are trying to stand out.
We don’t need more Christians who are trying to be celebrities.
We don’t need more Christians who treat other Christians like celebrities.
We don’t need more Christians who don’t listen.
We don’t need more Christians who look down others.
We don’t need more Christians who think they’ve arrived.
We don’t need more Christians who fight about things that don’t matter.
We don’t need more Christians who exclude.
We don’t need more Christians who intrude.
We don’t need more Christians who make promises they can’t keep.
We don’t need more Christians who turn a blind eye.
We don’t need more Christians who are better at politics than community.
We don’t need more Christians who pretend.
We need more Christians who look and live like Jesus.
———
“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” // Ephesians 3:14-21
———
The days are short. The fight is hard. The journey is worth our lives.
———
This post today was a reminder for me. I hope it is for you as well.
What does it mean to look like Jesus?

A Big Week at The Fellowship

Wow, I can’t believe the summer is already coming to an end!

While this is sad for some, it’s an exciting time for myself and our staff. You see, each August, when school starts back, we basically kick off our new year at church. There is an excitement to see everyone back from vacations and for the mission to be re-emphasized to the body.
This week in particular is big in that our staff team and Elders are having all-day planning and prayer days to grow together and seek God’s face for the direction and future of our church. Please join me in praying for this time and for our church as we seek to do “whatever it takes to develop committed followers of Jesus Christ!”

Also don’t miss two big opportunities for the church:

1. Serve Day this Saturday from 9 am -1 pm. We will be doing ministry projects throughout our community, showing and sharing the love of Christ.

2. LEAD TIME, August 7th at 5pm. This is all volunteers and leadership. We will have a time of training and equipping as well as sharing the vision for the coming days of the church.

I hope to see you all there. Again, don’t forget to pray for us!

Serving Alongside,

Matt

Start Spreadin’ the News…

Most people recognize those words as the opening to the song made famous by Frank Sinatra, New York, New York.
But today, we are excited about spreading the Good News of the Gospel with children in Nashville.

In case you weren’t aware, our Vacation Bible School: Big Apple Adventure kicked off to a great start this morning. It was exciting to watch children and their parents pour into the building ready to take New York. VBS is a special time. And it can be a lifetime memory for most children.

For those of you that are part of The Fellowship 200, thank you for praying for VBS each day this week. And for those of you that are just joining us, I’d love to share with you some specific prayer requests for the week. Perhaps you can print this off and keep it handy. Will you join us in praying for the children, parents, and volunteers participating in VBS this week? Here is a suggestion guide:

DAY 1
Pray that the kids will have open hearts to hear the Word and connect what they hear with their actions.

DAY 2
Ask God to help kids see that our natural response to Jesus’ love should be to love Him.

DAY 3
Pray for the kids who do not know Jesus as their Savior and Lord. Ask that God will begin to reveal His plan for their lives in His timing.

DAY 4
Ask God to reveal opportunities for the kids to tell others what they are learning about Jesus.

DAY 5
Pray that kids will have the courage to live out their faith and perform every action with love.

Thanks again for praying! We appreciate you.
Serving Alongside,
Matt

20 Days of Fasting & Prayer, Day 5

DAY 5 – Racial Tension in the church.
READ: Acts 6:1-7

The 12 Apostles were not only preaching and teaching, they were also in charge of all administration and the ministerial programs of the church! It was just too much. They were doing lots of things, and not doing all of them well. And it was starting to show. As we see in today’s reading, the Greek church members were claiming that Hebrew widows were getting preferential treatment in the food program! “The 12” solved the problem by telling the congregation to choose seven men that everyone fully trusted. The criteria? They had to be men full of the Holy Spirit and good sense. Those men would be selected, and assigned, to solve the problem and to work the distribution program. Meanwhile, the original 12 stuck to their assigned tasks-that of prayer and teaching God’s Word.

How does that apply to me?
We need to be willing to take a look at what we are doing as a church and say, “Who needs to be doing what and just how should it work?” We need to step back and focus on what we as a body of believers are called to do–and then do it well. When we’re stretched too thin, things can fall through the cracks, misunderstandings can happen and feelings get hurt. Chapter 6 also shows us that cultural tensions aren’t new. They were even found in the new church and in one of the first church outreach programs. Once again, however, internal dissension and grumblings didn’t stop the message of the Gospel or the growth of the early church. When we experience similar tensions, we shouldn’t let them deter us from the present mission.
For those of you new to the Two Rivers family, our mission statement is this: Doing whatever it takes to develop committed followers of Jesus Christ. That’s what we’re here for, and that’s what it’s all about. Together, we’re learning what that looks like and what it all means. See you Sunday!

Acts 6:7 The Word of God prospered. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased dramatically. Not least, a great many priests submitted themselves to the faith.

Praying Together: Let’s ask the Lord to show each of us where He would have us best use our gifts, and serve, as we continue in our new mission.

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