Wright Sabbatical Q and A

Below are several questions and answers that were reviewed at LIFEgroups during recent elder visits regarding the Wright’s upcoming Sabbatical. Previously we posted the letter written by Danny which was also read in your LIFEgroups. You can read that letter here. In addition, at the end of this post we provide ways in which you can pray for Danny and Charity and the kids during their sabbatical.

I’ve never heard of Sabbaticals before the Bradshaw took one. Where is this coming from?

For most of us, the concept of a sabbatical seems pretty new. To be clear, the process of a sabbatical is not required by the Scriptures by any means. This isn’t one of those issues of command (as if we’re living in disobedience as a church if we do not practice it), but simply one of wisdom. The Scriptures have much to say about rhythms of rest in the midst of activity.

  • Genesis 2:2-3: Before the Fall, God instituted a pattern of resting one day a week. Therefore, we can see that rest isn’t a product of sin, nor of the curse. God is glorified when we acknowledge our need for rest.
  • Exodus 20:8-11: The fourth (of the ten commandments) commandment to Israel was to faithfully practice a Sabbath rest, once a week. A rest that included servants, foreigners in your home and even livestock!
  • Exodus 23:10-12: On the seventh year of farming, the Israelites were to give the land rest. Amazingly, God promised to provide enough crops in the 6th year to carry the Israelites through the seventh year (of land rest) and even until the harvest of the 8th year (first year of planting again), so that they wouldn’t have to go without.
  • Leviticus 25:1-22: Year of Jubilee. Every 50th year, the land was given an extra year of rest (on top of the 49th) as well as the release of all debts between Israelites. Incidentally, God tells the Israelites that their 70 year captivity was due to giving the land rest for the years that the Israelites skipped, instead of practicing Jubilee.
  • Mark 6:30-32: Jesus only has 3 years to train the disciples of the ministry that will be the entire foundation of the church throughout history…yet Jesus would call the disciples away to rest.

Again, Scripture doesn’t say pastors/elders must be given periods of rest, but the principle of rest seems consistently taught in the Bible. The Sojourn Networks talks about wanting healthy churches to plant healthy churches. Their emphasis on health has helped us develop regular patterns of rest and recovery in the midst of ministry schedules. (We’ve become more adamant that our staff take a day off each week, use their vacation time and take a day quarterly to work on soul care.) From that point, we have begun exploring the benefits of occasionally giving our staff as season of sabbatical.

Incidentally, there are other fields that practice concepts of a sabbatical. Many who work in education are given a significant amount of time where they are not in the classroom. And in many college environments, professors are even given scheduled semesters off. The military regularly grants periods of rest between deployments and assignments. However, we regularly talk about “Darke County Work ethic.” It’s a great virtue as long as we’re not seeing it as a form of righteousness before God. So, in the midst of people who work really hard, all the time, why are our elders advocating sabbaticals for staff pastors:

  • Spiritual conflict. Just because we don’t see a lot of “shock and awe” events happening around us doesn’t mean we want to ignore this very real component of everyday life. We are all engaged in spiritual conflict (Ephesians 6), but some have described pastoral ministry as being on the front lines of that conflict. Time away helps strengthen the man for continued conflict.
  • Intangible Fruit. Many of us work a job where a product is produced, clients are pleased or dollars are made. As long as a goal is reached, the task is deemed successful. But how do you assess ministry fruit? The only way a ministry to a person is completed is when they are placed in a grave, which is even a bitter-sweet moment. This can create a feeling that your task is never completed, and even what you have finished, you have difficulty assessing how you did. A sabbatical places a pastor in a position where he isn’t tempted to constantly assess results.
  • The nature of soul care. Every situation in ministry involves at least one soul; your own. Every sermon prepared needs to be addressed to your soul. Every interaction with another person is not only concerned with their spiritual well-being, but should include yours as well. The desire to serve others can create a temptation to neglect your own soul. A sabbatical forces the pastor to focus on the care of his own soul, and provides the space to do so.
  • The temptation of ministry. It is so easy for any of us to find our value and worth in our occupation. It is especially tempting to equate your ministry with your spiritual walk. The goal for any of us should be intimacy with God. However, just like the people in Matthew 7, it can be a temptation for any of us to equate what we think we are doing for God with our relationship with God. A sabbatical serves as a hard reset for the pastor; giving him time to spend with the Lord that is not directly related to the ministry with others.

Is there any significance to the timing this year? Is this some sort of emergency?

Many churches that practice sabbaticals grant them to staff around the seventh year. At the time we adopted the principle of sabbatical we had two staff families—the Wrights (13 years) and the Bradshaws (11 years)—who had served more than seven. We felt it was wise to not give the first sabbatical simply on the basis of seniority, but to give it to the Bradshaws for the following reasons:

  • Advocating: We didn’t know how the body would respond to sabbaticals. (As elders, we were very pleased with the response we received.) If it would have been necessary to advocate for the concept of sabbaticals, Danny felt much more comfortable appealing for something for someone else, rather than himself.
  • Life-change: The Bradshaws had just been through the whirlwind process of adopting Sam. As many in our church know, the adoption process includes elements like “hurry up and wait,” figuring out the relationship with the birth mother along with other issues. On top of that, just adding another baby to the home changes dynamics and robs parents of sleep! (The Bradshaws were ready for some rest.)
  • Discerning Calling: As we shared at the time, Jason had spent 3-4 years trying to work through the nature of his calling. It was nearly impossible for Jason to discern while he was right in the heart of ministry responsibilities. The time of sabbatical allowed the Bradshaws to assess their gifts, their passions, spend time in prayer away from the everyday demands of ministry. (And the process worked…we planted our first church as a result of this process! Yeah!!!)

So, why two years later, are we doing another sabbatical? Are the Wrights dealing with the same issues?

As elders, we knew that a sabbatical would create more work for others. We suspected that it was not something we’d want to do in consecutive years. Once the Bradshaws returned and we assessed the process, it was confirmed. If possible, we’d prefer to do a sabbatical for a member of staff no closer together than every-other-year. (This also means we are considering 2019 as a time for the Gipes to be able to take a sabbatical).

Advocating. Doesn’t really seem necessary given the way the body responded last time. Our primary desire this time around is to make sure we are educating and communicating about the process.

Life-Change. The timing for the Wrights is not so much about life change, but is great timing in regard to life stage. The kids are in a great place as far as being able to remember this time, having independence, yet still living in the home. This is a great time in life for them to experience sabbatical. (Incidentally, this is one more way that Grace Church is giving the Wright kids a different impression of the local church than many “p.k.’s” experience. They are seeing a church that wants to invest in them and not just use mom and dad up. Thank you!)

Discerning Calling. Here’s a statement from Danny in regard to the issue of calling.

What are the Wrights doing during the sabbatical?

  • There will be a lot of sightseeing: Yellowstone, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon…and all the sightseeing in the car between!
  • There will be visiting with some family we usually don’t get to see. Charity has a sister in Fresno, California that we’re going to spend some time with. Danny and Charity are even looking to travel to England to visit with Andrew and Marcia Berry. (Charity’s uncle who preached a Grace a couple years ago.)
  • Lots of relaxing. We will be spending a month in a condo at Lake Tahoe, with no itinerary or agenda.
  • Spiritual refreshment. Looking to take time for prayer and study (without lesson prep).
  • Family time. Less “screen time” and running to extracurricular activities.
  • We are finalizing the details of the “coaching” we will receive during the sabbatical. This will ensure that our time is not simply a long vacation, but a shift in ministry responsibilities that allows us to take full advantage of the opportunity afforded us.
    • One element that the coaching is going to help us navigate is communication. The Wrights are going to miss everybody a ton. We’re asking the coaching team to help us figure out frequency and types of communication that are natural and healthy, yet also preserve the purpose of a sabbatical. We will get those details to the body as they form.

What is Grace going to do during the sabbatical?

  • Pulpit scheduling is already being filled out. There will be a combination of staff and elders as well as some guest preachers coming in.
  • Between the other 6 elders who are still at Grace, we’re confident shepherding needs will be cared for within the team.
  • During summer months, our church usually enters a different rhythm anyway. This allows the church to “rest” without guilt. We’re not shutting things down by any means, but we don’t need to feel the pressure to go full speed either.

How can we pray for/during the Sabbatical?

  • Safety and health for the Wrights during this time.
  • Pray that the Wrights experience rest, renewal and even repentance where necessary.
  • Pray that the experience of so much “family time” would be a formative (and enjoyable) time for all.
  • Pray for the elders and staff as their load increases, and for those who also help out in unique ways.
  • Pray that Danny would be encouraged both by his “replace-ability” (the Lord builds His church, not Danny) as a pastor at Grace, but also would rejoice in his unique calling there.
  • Pray that Grace would see in fresh ways how the church is more than any one person’s ministry, yet also rejoice in the unique role He has given each of us at Grace.
  • To that end, pray that the mission of Grace would continue to move forward even as we experience a unique season.
why lifegroups

Church Leadership Qualifications

Qualifications for an Elder

Biblical Qualifications

  • Above Reproach (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6). An elder will not be perfect, but his reputation must be such that he is not known for violating the other qualifications.
  • Husband of One Wife (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6). We do not believe that divorce and remarriage automatically disqualifies an elder. Again, the issue is reputation. Is this man known to be faithful to his wife? It should be noted that this also means the man should not be known for having wandering eyes or being flirtatious.
  • Temperate/Self-controlled (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8). Though an elder may be passionate, he is not driven by his emotions.
  • Prudent/Sensible (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8) The elder is able to demonstrate common sense. He has an ability to think rationally and exercise good judgment.
  • Respectable (1 Timothy 3:2). Not only an indication that others show him honor and respect, but the elder is also one who shows respect to others. He treats others with the value they deserve as people created in the image of God.
  • Hospitable (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8). The elder is willing to open up his home (and also his life!) to the church body and to non-believers of the community. He does not act secretively or distant from those around him.
  • Able to Teach/Holds Fast the Faithful Word (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:9). This does not mean every elder must be able to preach or share in a large assembly. Titus goes on to say he must be able to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict. The elder must know the Word well enough to be able to both communicate truth and identify and correct false doctrine.
  • Not Addicted to Wine (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7). This does not require that an elder abstain from alcohol, but alcohol should not control him.
  • Not Pugnacious (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7). While an elder needs to be able to stand for what’s right, refute those who are wrong, and earnestly contend for the faith, he is not to do it in a combative way. The elder should not resort to force or intimidation to accomplish his purposes.
  • Gentle (1 Timothy 3:3). An elder is not to be weak, but he should never use more strength than is necessary. His desire should not be to break or crush, but to handle others carefully.
  • Peaceable (1 Timothy 3:3). Reconciliation should always be the goal of an elder. Even if the elders determine that a person must be put out of the church, it should be with the desire that a person is won back over to the Lord, not as an act of final condemnation.
  • Free from Love of Money/Not Fond of Sordid Gain (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 5:2). An elder should not compromise decisions, either for his own financial gain, or simply to appease the will of those who might give to the church. He should never use his position as an opportunity for personal wealth.
  • Manages Household Well/Having Children Who Believe (1 Timothy 3:4; Titus 1:6). No one can cause the salvation of another, so this qualification does not mean an elder’s children must all be believers. However, 1 Timothy 3:4 goes on to say, “keeping his children under control with all dignity.” This should be seen as a parallel to Titus 1:6 which can be translated “children who are faithful.” Even if an elder’s children are not believers, while they are under his care in the home, they should conduct themselves with respect toward their father.
  • Not a New Convert (1 Timothy 3:6). Scripture does not define a “new convert” by a specific length of time. First, an elder must have walked with the Lord long enough to develop a reputation of “above reproach.” Also, the elder needs to have been a believer long enough that he is not able to boast or become proud at the rate of his Christian growth.
  • Not Self-Willed (Titus 1:7). The elder should never use people to serve his purposes but should use his office to serve the people God has entrusted to him.
  • Not Quick-Tempered (Titus 1:7). An elder should not sin when angry but should be quick to listen. He should not react simply because he is annoyed or frustrated but should act for the purpose of sanctification, both his own and the congregation’s.
  • Lover of What Is Good (Titus 1:8). An elder should not have his eyes unhealthily fixed on what is wrong and sinful with the world, nor should his attention just be on abstaining from bad things. His desire should be set toward the gospel, wanting to draw others to what is good and right.
  • Just (Titus 1:8). An elder does not show favoritism, nor is he given to compromise. He is righteous and law-abiding.
  • Devout (Titus 1:8). An elder is committed not only to teaching the truth, but to living it. He seeks to do what is holy and pleasing to the Lord. The Word stands as his binding authority.
  • Serves Voluntarily (1 Peter 5:2). An elder does not serve the congregation because he feels he has too, but because the Lord has put a desire within his heart to serve. He finds joy in his service to the Lord and the congregation.
  • Not Lording, But as an Example (1 Peter 5:3). In shepherd imagery, sheep are not driven (like cattle) but herded. That means that the shepherd is down among the sheep. An elder is not just a shepherd, but one of the sheep. He must seek to influence and lead in a personal, close, and vulnerable way.
  • Good Reputation with Those Outside the Church (1 Timothy 3:7). Very similar to “above reproach,” an elder’s reputation with those outside of the church will be positive if he is walking according to the other qualifications.

 

 

Qualifications for a Deacon

Biblical Qualifications

  • Dignity (1 Timothy 3:8). While a deacon may be a fun-loving guy, he needs to also have a serious side. When necessary, a deacon must be able to handle himself with reverence.
  • Not Double-Tongued (1 Timothy 3:8). A deacon must speak truth, not allowing his audience to dictate his words. Regardless of the audience, a deacon must be consistent in his speech.
  • Not Addicted to Much Wine (1 Timothy 3:8). This does not require that a deacon abstain from alcohol, but alcohol should not control him. He should also avoid drunkenness.
  • Not Fond of Sordid Gain (1 Timothy 3:8). A deacon should not compromise decisions, either for his own financial gain, or simply to appease the will of those who might give to the church. He should never use his position as an opportunity for personal wealth.
  • Holding to the Mystery of Faith with a Clear Conscience (1 Timothy 3:9). A deacon must be a man who practices what he preaches. His actions should be the result of his doctrine, and his doctrine should clearly be centered on the work of Christ on the Cross.
  • Must be Tested…Beyond Reproach (1 Timothy 3:10). A deacon should be examined and then found to have a good over-all reputation. This does not mean that the deacon must be found perfect, but that his general testimony should be one that points to Christ.
  • Husband of One Wife (1 Timothy 3:12). We do not believe that divorce and remarriage automatically disqualifies a deacon. Again, the issue is reputation. Is this man known to be faithful to his wife? It should be noted that this also means the man should not be known for having wandering eyes or being flirtatious.
  • Good Managers of Their Children and Their Household (1 Timothy 3:12). No one can cause the salvation of another, so this qualification does not mean a deacon’s children must all be believers. Even if a deacon’s children are not believers, while they are under his care in the home, they should conduct themselves with respect toward their father.

 

christmas

Culture, Legalism, and Christmas Morning

Eleven years ago, our current building was just finishing construction. While we tried to keep our eyes on ministry around us, “the big move” was obviously a distraction as well. We were receiving nearly week to week updates on when the building would be completed and when we could potentially move in. I remember sitting in a staff meeting in the basement of Fair Street when we started looking ahead at our calendar and it hit us:

Oh no. Christmas is on a Sunday this year. What do we do?

 

We weren’t alone in that question for it almost immediately became a conversation for Christian radio, podcasts and even blogs. It seemed like two camps were seeking to pull churches in opposite directions. “Jesus should come before family, gifts and figgy pudding. If you are not at church you are caving to idolatry!” one voice would shout. The other side would respond, “What’s one week out of 52? Couldn’t we send a positive message about family by encouraging people to stay home? Besides, we don’t want to be a legalist.”

Ultimately, we decided to go ahead and hold services. I’m so glad we did. In fact, that experience meant that it wasn’t even a debate for our elders when this Christmas Sunday rolled around. We are having our Christmas Eve service at 7 pm and Christmas morning service at 10 am. These are two different services entirely. But now the ball is in your court, and I want to encourage you to consider what you plan to do this Sunday, but also to consider the issue of creating culture in your home.

First off, let’s get the silly “legalism” argument out of the way. Unless the elders stated, “Righteousness will be made available by attending church on Christmas day,” it is not legalism that we stick to our church calendar. In fact, it’s not legalistic for us to also say we really hope you will consider coming, even making sacrifices to family tradition and comfort to do so. I’m not asking you to reconsider your holiday plans out of legalism or guilt, I want you to consider “culture.”

Establishing Culture in your home

Parents, one of your biggest jobs is to establish the culture of your home. This is difficult to describe but critical to the home. In fact, it’s unavoidable. You are creating a culture in your home. The question becomes, “What kind of culture are you establishing?” With this in mind, my challenge goes beyond, “Will you come to church on Christmas Sunday?” but, “What will your attitude be about coming to church on Christmas Sunday?” Here’s some ways I’d encourage you to think:

  • We can view Christmas Sunday as just one out of fifty-two. What’s the big deal to skip? Or, we can view the gathering of saints as an all-to-rare privilege. We could see each of those gatherings as special and rejoice that on Christmas Day we get to celebrate the gift of being the Body of Christ with one another.
  • We can view Christmas Sunday as an interruption to our to our family traditions or we can see it as an invitation to create new traditions. Looking ahead, the next three Christmas Sundays are 2022, 2033 and 2039. For most of us parents, that means your kids will be in your home for two or three Christmas Sundays. What if we embraced the uniqueness of that tradition, and passed it on to our children (Though it feels rare, it alternates between every six or eleven years.)
  • We can view Christmas as a season, more than just a day on the calendar. One reason I love our more intentional discussion of the Advent Calendar is that it has drawn us into anticipation for weeks. The Incarnation of Christ deserves more pause and reflection than just a day or even week. Will a church service disrupt some Christmas plans and traditions? Probably. But what if you embraced those changes as an opportunity to extend out the celebration!
  • We can view Christmas season as culture shaping rather than tradition interrupting. If your home is like ours, we typically start Christmas morning with a special breakfast. We head into the living room where the gifts are under the tree and I read the Christmas story in Bible. As I read, I feel like the gate at the Kentucky Derby, just barely holding the thoroughbreds back. We say the day is to be about Jesus, pray and then “BANG, they’re off!” and the day just doesn’t feel as much about Christ as I wished. This year, the sacrifice of shifting around all our typical plans may be a way for us to insert a slightly more Christ-centered perspective to our holiday.

These are just a few of my own thoughts. In our home, the question has been asked, “Do we have to go to church on Sunday?” Charity and I both grab ahold of that question and respond, “No, we get to go to church on Sunday.” Sure, it brings an eye roll immediately (and we know it’s a slightly exasperating response, so we don’t even condemn it!), but then we seek to bring our kids along to see the beauty of gathering with the body of Christ to celebrate the fact that Christ took on a physical body for our sake.

I understand that for many, you may not even have a say about what happens on Christmas morning, as grandparents and extended family may be making the decisions for the calendar, where you are on Sunday morning may truly be out of your control. If so, go and rejoice with family. Seek to celebrate Christ in whatever environment you find yourself.

But if you can control your calendar, I’d encourage you to seek to gather with the saints on the Lord’s Day–not because you are legalist and think you’ll be more righteous because you did—but because you are a culture setter, and you want your family to truly rejoice in the gift that God’s grace to us is!

why lifegroups

Church Gathered v. Church Scattered: Why do LIFEgroups exist?

According to Scripture, when we worship on Sundays or get together for other large gatherings, we do something unique that we can’t do in small groups, or even alone. When the Church Gathers, we get a regular reminder that we are part of something larger than ourselves and that we, while struggling with this or that, can offer encouragement and comfort to others and be simultaneously encouraged ourselves. We get a perspective adjustment. While we sit under the preaching of the Word, we are convicted of sin; we find true comfort for our suffering and we experience Spirit-wrought confirmation of our security in Christ. We sing hymns, psalms and spiritual songs to each other and the Lord, and in so doing we give a unique and collective praise back to the One to whom all praise belongs. Our gatherings are glorious to God and encouraging to our souls.

“We believe that we can best begin to encourage one another in our daily walks through meeting once a week in small groups.”

Large gatherings are necessary.

We desire to be a people who willingly submit to the call of Scripture. Therefore, we gather under the Word, with praise on our lips for the glory of the grace of God that Jesus Christ our Lord lavished on us. But if that’s all there is to our grace-fueled walk with Christ, we forsake a huge piece of living under His rule and reign –

Community. Being in the crowd when we gather is glorious, but we can hide easily and find a contrived solace in our attendance. Right before the call to not forsake the gathering together of the church in Hebrews 10, the author says that blood-bought believers should be a people who are also marked by the constant consideration of how to “stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” We believe that we can best begin to encourage one another in our daily walks through meeting once a week in small groups.

In an attempt to be obedient to the call of Scripture like Hebrews 10, LIFEgroups have become a vital part of Greenville Grace. Not because they are a good program, but because they serve as the primary venue for her members to learn to be the Church Scattered…followers of Christ in their day-to-day living. LIFEgroups enable us to live openly and intentionally in an environment that challenges us to become more like Christ.

Our mission, per Hebrews 10, is simple. Whenever we gather, we do so to stimulate one another to love and good deeds – love that finds its example in Jesus and good deeds that find their motivation in the goodness of the Father to send Him. Faithful exposition of the Word should find us itching in our seats to “work out our faith,” to do something as a result of us being made more like Jesus because of what we’ve heard, processed and believed more deeply.

LIFEgroups are our attempt to create the environment for us to learn to love one another well as we are convicted more and more of the deep, deep love of Jesus for us.

And it sounds wonderful. And simple. And it looks so neat and tidy on this page.

And it is.

But it’s also messy.

It’s messy because you don’t get to always choose who’s in your LIFEgroup…or who isn’t. It’s messy because you don’t get to choose how often they come to group…or don’t. It’s messy because you don’t get to choose how much your group members share…or don’t. It’s messy because you don’t get to choose the circumstances that members of your group come from, find themselves in, or seem to be putting themselves in.

And, quite honestly, this messiness of life is what we think makes LIFEgroups work…and enables, even forces them, to declare the glory of God as found in Christ.

We believe that the Gospel is best preached in an environment that seeks discipleship.

And discipleship is, well…messy.

If we are honest with ourselves, it takes a work of God within us to enable us to get along with others. We need a bigger mission, a bigger plan and a bigger goal to bring us together for a common purpose. We desperately need Jesus’ work on our behalf and the ensuing mission of God to make our being the Church Gathered or the Church Scattered have meaning, be deep, or have any potency in us or our context. Like God declared once and for all through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross, and like Jesus’ intercessory ministry at the right hand of the Father declares from heaven right now; to be in meaningful relationships takes work. God work. Human work. Hard work. Sweaty work. Tear-filled work. Repetitive work. Soul tearing work. Sacrificial work. Hopeful work. Joy-filled work. Soul mending work. Redeeming work. This is our heartbeat. If Christ is our love and our savior, then He is both our example AND our hope. We don’t gather expecting to be mired in our mess, but redeemed from it.

“We believe that the Gospel is best preached in an environment that seeks discipleship.”

John 1 tells us that Christ is “the Word become flesh”. When we gather as His people, we have Him in our midst…not in a mystical way, but in a very precise and practical way. We have His Word. We should want, then, because we know that we need Him, to have His Word be central in our gathering and scattering. John is declaring in John 1 that when God’s people gather, God comes with them. We don’t need to invite Him. We already have Him. We have the Spirit of God indwelling us.

So, with the Word of God central, we gather. And we scatter.

And as we do these two things around the message and person of His Word, under the direction of the Spirit, we are constantly considering how to stimulate each other on to love and good deeds that result in God getting more glory. This is our intention. Our heartbeat. The thing that we must not lose.

To put it more succinctly: We willingly live among one other, under the sole authority of the Word of God, while comforting, convicting and confirming each other as we joyfully participate in God’s mission.

why lifegroups

Why LIFEgroups? We need each other.

We’ve invited several of our own to post on the blog from the prompt, “Why LIFEgroups?” We hope you enjoy their reflections and are driven to reflect on God’s goodness to you as well. Thanks for reading.

It had been quite the day. I don’t remember the details of it all but my sinful heart collided with the sin of my children and the colossal mess that resulted left me wishing for a restart. We were taking a short drive to meet family for dinner and as my husband drove, I sat in the passenger’s seat contemplating. “Do you ever wish you could just press a button and restart?” I asked the question aloud but my mind was not yet done. I began to play out that scenario in my mind and if the feeling about my current reality was discouragement and failure and hopelessness, the result of letting my mind wander left me just as discouraged and just as hopeless, if not more so. You see, I knew that if I were able, at that very moment, to press a restart button on my life, or even on my day, I would still mess it up. I would still fall far short of perfect or right, far short of even good. Read more

why lifegroups

Why LIFEgroups? Encouragement, Prayer and Accountability.

We’ve invited several of our own to post on the blog from the prompt, “Why LIFEgroups?” We hope you enjoy their reflections and are driven to reflect on God’s goodness to you as well. Thanks for reading.

The Greenville Grace website states that “LIFEgroups are our weekly small group ministry… the Church is to be about encouraging one another, praying for one another, holding one another accountable, sharing with one another, loving one another, teaching one another (and much, much more).” It goes on to note that because it’s simply not possible to meet all these goals solely by participating in a large assembly, at least not as deeply as God surely desires, LIFEgroups exist to help us meet the goals of a healthy, thriving local body of Christ—to promote praying thoughtfully for our fellow group members, to stimulate careful, collaborative study of the Word, to help us care for one another in immediate and tangible ways, and to allow for frequent and intimate fellowship with each other. Read more

white privilege

White Privilege: Thoughts on the recent shootings by law enforcement officers

No one should have to worry about getting shot and killed because of a non-violent crime (especially traffic violations).

That I’ve never ever worried my life was in danger when I’ve been pulled over, and others do, speaks of “white privilege.” It’s only reality for some of us to recognize we don’t face the same obstacles as some of our brothers and sisters around us.

However, to feel “white guilt” is not healthy either. It’s not wrong that a ticket is your greatest fear during a traffic stop. We should not long for their danger to be applied to all of us. We should long for others to experience our safety. Our desire should be for justice. Our hearts should long for any person of any color to be treated justly and as an image bearer of God. Read more

15 More Songs to Invest In

Last year, we introduced a list of 26 songs that would be good to spend some money on. That list represented the most used songs during the period stretching from April of 2014 to April of 2015. Well, it is now May of 2016 and it would make sense to add an addendum to that list: What songs have found themselves among the most used at Greenville Grace in 2016. Read more

mobile apps

Apps That Can Aid Spiritual Growth

Smartphones. We seemingly all have them now, don’t we? Sometimes they feel like more hindrance than help in regards to the hectic pace of our spiritual lives. Doesn’t it seem impossible to finish a conversation without getting a call or receiving a text?

But let me introduce you to a revolutionary concept—your phone can aid your spiritual development in some ways, too. It doesn’t have to just be a distraction, it can act as a stimulus to spiritual growth. Read more

joy

Joy in the Mess: A Blessed Life – Charity Wright

We’ve invited three of our own to post on the blog from the prompt, “what does a blessed life look like?” We hope you enjoy their reflections and are driven to reflect on God’s goodness to you as well. Thanks for reading.

It was 8:15 on a school morning. We were running behind, as usual. I sat my first grade daughter, Rachel, down (again) at the kitchen table, barely holding it together as I tried to impress upon her the urgency of finishing the last couple of math problems from her homework assignment, due that day. The eggs were burning. The baby was crying. My 4-year-old son was having a meltdown because he’d stepped in something (probably his own pee) and gotten his socks wet. And the clock was ticking. I turned around to see Rachel hunched over what I thought was her Math homework, only to find that she had dumped out a box of crayons, and was intently coloring – coloring! – on what looked like a little pile of scrap paper. Read more