Cyd Holsclaw, Life on the Vine
We’re pretty excited about ‘resurrecting’ our old practice of sharing stories of wonder every time we gather for worship. Each story of wonder highlights a way that God is working in an individual’s life, family, neighborhood or workplace. As people tell stories, our community hears concrete examples of what the inbreaking kingdom might look like in their own lives. At first, it was difficult to convince people that they had a story to tell… now, we run into the problem of having to tell people that our next available date is in the new year! We post the stories on our website each week: http://lifeonthevine.org/stories-of-wonder/
Amy Graham, The District Church
The District Church baptized 10 people this past September. The stories of change were wide and varied. Some of those baptized have struggled with addiction, sexual orientation, skepticism, atheism, and even prostitution. All of them have now experienced the love, grace and restoration of Christ Jesus in their lives. Here are testimonies from three of those people whose lives have been changed:
“I sought salvation by worshiping everything but the Lord. My doctrine of moral relativism (“seek and never find” was my motto) led me to drug addiction, alcoholism, sexual depravity, new age practices and more. Self-sufficiency failed me and I ended up in a literal hell of depression and isolation. I sought God like only the dying can, willing to abandon my opinions and “beliefs” in exchange for absolute truth. He was the last house on the block I knocked on! Jesus Christ answered and showed me, opened my eyes to the error of my ways and the fallen nature of everything, revealed there is such a thing as the Truth! Jesus pulled me off of the titanic I had been bailing water on and brought me to life. I trust Him completely today because he is the Truth that set me free in a very real way.”
“Before I knew Christ, I trusted in the streets and my addiction. It led to nothing but hardship and hard times. Through getting to know people from church at the dinner fellowships, I decided I wanted a piece of how these people were living. I wanted God, because He is our Creator and I know He wants me to know Him. Trusting God has changed my life because I’m starting to see many blessings from obeying and trusting in God more and more. I don’t need the things I used to do or rely on. And because of trusting in God, I have more friends. I have more friends who are really there for me.”
“I’m from a Jewish background. Today is our New Year. It’s all about repentance. But this year for me it’s all about following Christ. I was fortunate to be raised by a bunch of different people. Two of the people who raised me – one was a feminist and the other was a gay man. So I was taught to be open minded. But I didn’t get the memo about the grace of God until I was 24. God has brought me from a place where I was agnostic. I was a very angry person. But now God has done a work in my heart. He has allowed my heart to un-harden and come to a place of humility. To come to a place to be able receive and give love. I’m thankful for the work He has started in me.”
These testimonies, and so many more, have demonstrated to us that God is absolutely at work and moving in our church community and in our city. We feel honored and privileged to serve in this community and witness what God is doing. It is humbling and powerful to see the ways God is changing lives here in DC.
Winn Collier, All Souls
One interesting thing that has emerged is Beer & Hymns, on the second Monday of each month at Trinity Pub. We do it with St. Mark Lutheran, and it’s an opportunity for those distant from faith to come and taste (literally).
Bryan Long, Agora Community
We are in the infancy stage of planting our church, The Agora Community, in Rochester, NY. With everything so new, there are many things that need to happen. I often attack projects head on, and with my head down. However, my coach, J.R. Briggs, uses a phrase that has stuck with me over the course of this season: “If this is your church, you better hurry up and start. If this is Jesus’ church, you better slow down and listen.” When you plant a church, you begin to realize how little you have to bring to the table. If this thing is to be fruitful, it will be because God is moving.
I had been given a number of a person in the area who might be interested in what we’re doing. I generally don’t like cold calling people as a first point of contact, so while I took the number, I sat on it for awhile. A week later, I was walking a path in the town we are starting the church, and praying for how we could break into the community. I was alone and felt comfortable praying out loud. As I prayed, a jogger snuck up behind me and certainly heard me “talking to myself.” While I felt funny, in that exchange I also felt the Lord telling me that I needed to call this guy I had been putting off. Right there on the path I gave him a call. I left him a message and waited for a call back. A few hours later he responded and told me he owns a percussion shop in town and invited me to come by to talk. As soon as I walked into the store we both recognized each other. He was the jogger on the path. What followed was a conversation about a small group of people who were gathering at his home to explore what a fresh expression of church might look like in their community. This group had formed at the beginning of the summer and had been sensing that they needed direction. Just that morning he had been praying to provide the next step for the group – then he got my call. The result has been a weekly Sunday gathering as we are praying, worshiping, and discussing the potential of joining together. God is moving.
Gary Alloway, Redemption Church of Bristol
Here is a link to a blog post I just wrote about Hurricane Sandy and Redemption: http://garyalloway.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/149/
Melba Miller, Crossroads Church
Like all of the churches in the Ecclesia network, our heart at Crossroads, and our commitment, is to equip our people to live on mission, showing and sharing Jesus’ love in our community and our world. When a church family makes that commitment and sets out to live that out, it’s always a lot of fun to watch how God works to put together partnerships that give a local church the opportunity to be a part of helping build God’s Kingdom is ways that are so much better, and so much bigger, than we could ever come up with on our own! For Crossroads, one of those God-given partnerships is giving us the amazing opportunity to help make Jesus known in the Haryana state (surrounds Delhi) of India, where fewer than 2% of the millions of people who live there know and follow Jesus. If you and your church are praying for a partnership that will give your people the opportunity to be a part of building God’s Kingdom and changing lives, please consider joining us in this partnership!
Our partners in India are Karsan and Melia. Karsan and Melia stepped down from their 22 year ministry with Campus Crusade for Christ in India to answer the call to church planting that God has given them. The ministry is training bi-vocational pastors and their wives and equipping them with both biblical and theological training and practical training in a variety of trades that will help them start a business in the village where they seek to start a church. As the ministry has grown and has been blessed to be part of the establishment of almost 2500 new church plants, Karsan and Melia have also sensed God directing their hearts toward the children who live in the slums around Delhi.
The ministry started out taking children who had never been to school and couldn’t pass the entrance exams to enter the local public schools and put small local schools and teachers in place to work with the kids to help them pass the exams and go to school, and share Jesus ‘ love with the kids and their families. Over the past several years God has given Karsan and Melia an increasing burden for starting a completely new work- a school that would take the place of the poorly staffed and funded public schools where the children they’ve been helping get in won’t get a decent education with opportunities to go to college, or to hear about Jesus. The potential this new school would have to help break the cycle of poverty that children from the slums live with, and to send Christ- followers who are eager to share their faith out into the universities and into trades and businesses through-out the region and the country is simply staggering. Not to mention the impact the school could have on each child’s whole family. Definitely a God-sized opportunity!
Crossroads is so excited that God has given us the privilege of partnering with their ministry to help them with the finances for this new ministry! It’s hard for us who live in America to believe that $20 could go so far in India, but Karsan and Melia tell us that $20 will pay all of the expenses for one child to attend the new school for one month. In addition to the money we budget each quarter and send to India to help this ministry with church planting, our church family is working together this fall and winter to raise money for the new school and we’d love for some other Ecclesia churches partner with us to support this new ministry. We’re also in the early stages of planning a mission trip to India to help our partners with church planting and in the new school, and we’d love for your church members to join our mission team. If you’d like contact information for Karsan and Milia or more info about any of the partnership opportunities mentioned here, we’d love to hook you up! You can email email@example.com – we look forward to talking with you about how God might want to use your church in India!