Why We Take Time Off Over the Holidays

Kent Bateman, the author of this post, serves as one of our pastors and our communications director. For more information about our leadership, visit our Leadership page.

During the holiday season, we do something that might seem strange to some people: we don't host Gatherings for two weeks (details here). This is something we've done pretty much since the beginning of our church, and since it's a little different, we thought we'd take some time to explain it in a blog post.

In the beginning, our church was mainly made up of young folks, many of whom scattered and traveled over the holidays. Because of this, taking two weeks off made a lot of sense. But as we grew as a church, the rhythm of taking off two weeks during Christmas became a really healthy rhythm for our staff and our church family. It gave all of our pastors and their families time to relax and enjoy the Christmas season, and helped people in our church not feel like they were missing out if they traveled over the holidays.

Church ≠ Sundays

In addition, we always like taking opportunities to symbolically remind people that the church is a family, not an event. Christmas and New Year's seems like a great opportunity to do just that. We also cancel Gatherings for Sundays like Super Bowl Sunday, in an effort to encourage people to go and be the church on a very easy day to be missionaries in our city.

While Sundays are important to what we do, they are not the whole of what we do. So although our churches will not gather corporately gather on December 28 and January 4, they continue to function as churches just the same.

What to Do the Next Two Sundays

Since there are no Gatherings the next two Sundays, here are a few ideas on what to do instead:

  1. Host your own informal worship gathering.Christmas is a great time to lead your family in remembering Jesus together. Join with your LifeGroup or another family to craft your own Christmas-themed worship gathering. Get the kids together in a living room and talk together about who Jesus is and what he's done for us, and then sing a few Christmas songs together. If you'd like some resources to study Christmas and/or the Advent season together, there are great ones available from Verge Network, The Village Church, and Desiring God.
  2. Be a missionary. Christmas is a great time to be hospitable. Almost everyone is in a partying mood, so invite some friends and/or coworkers for a Christmas party. Make it an event and play a game of White Elephant, or low key and just with some Christmas cookies in the oven and coffee on the pot. Our culture still generally slows down on Sundays, so Sundays end up being a great time to have people over without everyone feeling pressed for time.
  3. Serve our city. Christmas is usually the hardest time of year for nonprofits in Columbia to find help, so contact somewhere like Transitions or Babcock Center about opportunities to serve. Usually, there's plenty of opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus by meeting practical needs alongside great organizations in our city. (Serving together as a family or LifeGroup is also a great thing to do!)

Whatever You Do, Do it Because of Jesus

No matter what you choose to do over the next two Sundays, I'd encourage you to not just do it mindlessly. If you host an informal worship gathering, remind yourself that it's because Jesus' incarnation is news worth remembering and celebrating. If you host a party for friends or co-workers, remember that the reason we welcome strangers is because Jesus welcomed us first through his humble birth and death on the cross. If you serve our city, remember that we serve others because Jesus first served us.

Every opportunity is an opportunity to remember the Jesus. So my prayer for you and your family is that you take these next two Sundays to celebrate him just as much as we would if we were all at a Gathering together. We'll see you in the new year!

We'll resume Gatherings at our Downtown and Two Notch church on Sunday, January 11. For more information about our Gathering schedule over the holidays, read this post.

Your Year-End Giving Statement

Ryan Rike, the author of this post, is one of our pastors-in-training, an alumni of our Residency Program, and currently serves as our Executive Director. To find out more about our leadership, visit our Leadership page.

We're approaching the end of the year, and we are beginning to finalize things for our end-of-year procedures. In January, pursuant to IRS rules, we will be sending out contribution reports listing each donor's tax-deductible giving records.

A Year to Celebrate

As an update, this year we have seen all-time highs with giving and I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has been generous in supporting what Jesus is doing here. We have seen amazing things and Jesus has used our church family! So thank you if you have been obedient with trusting Jesus with finances and giving sacrificially.

Before we close the books on 2014, you may find it beneficial to go ahead and check your current giving statement for the year so far. Please review it and if there are any discrepancies we can look into it and clear it up. Also, it gives you the opportunity to check your records and make sure you have kept on pace with giving or if you need to catch up.

How to View Your Giving Statement

  1. Go to CCB's log-in page.
  2. Log in if you know this information (if you do not, click forgot password or sign up to register)
  3. Once you log in: look at the right side of the screen. Your name and picture (if you have one) will be at the top. Click your name, and then click “Profile”
  4. In your profile, click on the “Financial” tab
  5. Under “Printable Statements” click “Giving Statement”
  6. Select the date range "This Year," then underneath "Tax Deductible," select "Deductible Only."
  7. Click “Create”

If you have any questions please email me at rrike@midtowncolumbia.com.

|giv| Money | Blue Skies Retreats

In April 2014, Allen and Courtney Tipping received news that their four year old daughter Zoe had a Wilms' tumor, diagnosed as Stage IV cancer. In the midst of a whirlwind of a emotions, Courtney heard about Blue Skies Retreats, a ministry serving families dealing with pediatric cancer. Allen and Courtney's experience at the camp was one of the most welcoming, hospitable, refreshing experiences they were a part of during Zoe's treatment. Blue Skies is a Jesus-centered camp that provides a hassle-free environment for families in the midst of treatment to get away and have fun together. Everything is taken care of while there, from meals to activities to laundry.

While they experienced Blue Skies Retreats, Allen and Courtney couldn't help but think of the countless families they know from the hospital clinic that would love to go to Blue Skies, but don't have the means to get there.

So as part of our |giv| series this year, we want to provide $10,000 to pay for 10+ families to travel to Blue Skies Retreats, where they can relax, be served and cared for, and hear about the good news of Jesus.

We'd love for you to partner with us as we respond to God's generosity with generosity of our own.


Ready to |giv| with us?

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|giv| Shoes | DSS Foster Care

In November 2014, Jon and Erica Ludovina adopted four kids through the Department of Social Services (DSS). Through the process, they heard about a number of needs DSS has in their efforts to care for and serve kids in and out of foster care through their organization. One of the most practical needs DSS has is properly fitting shoes for kids in DSS. Many of the kids don't have shoes, and many of them have shoes that don't fit and are painful to wear.

So this year for our |giv| series, we wanted to join together as a church family to buy 300 pairs of kid-sized shoes to donate through DSS.


Feel free to bring shoes to any of our Gatherings on December 14 or our Christmas Gatherings at Downtown or Two Notch.

|giv| Time | Mentorship with Ezekiel Ministries

During our recent conversation about #Ferguson, Race and the Gospel, we mentioned that there is a huge need for mentorship for inner-city kids. A local ministry, Ezekiel Ministries, spends time with inner-city youth after school and has a tremendous need for volunteer mentors to spend time helping the kids with homework, and life in general. So as part of our |giv| project this year, we're wanting provide 20 mentors to commit to serving one hour per week for a minimum of one year with Ezekiel Ministries. Volunteers will be trained to spend time each week mentoring the kids and teaching them about Jesus.


Ready to get involved?

[button label="Become a mentor" link="https://midtowncolumbia.ccbchurch.com/form_response.php?id=464" shape="default"]

Discussing Race & Racism

Adam Gibson, the author of this post, serves as one of the pastors on our vision team, as well as one of our primary teaching pastors. For more information on our leadership, visit our

Leadership page


Different Responses to Sunday

There might not be a more controversial topic in our country right now than racism and racial bias. Yesterday, I spent some time with Two Notch pastor Ant Frederick discussing the issues in Ferguson, race in general, and how the gospel informs our view of all those things.

Many have expressed gratitude simply for the topic being brought up and discussed. On the other hand, some in our church were offended by what was said, and I’ve already received feedback expressing such. Some are saying that we over-exaggerated the extent of racism in our country, while others said that we wimped out by not declaring the full extent of it. Ant and I knew that we would not please everyone with what we said, and with a topic like this I’m not even sure it’s possible to please everyone.

Things to Keep in Mind

As the conversation shifts into our LifeGroups now, I wanted to offer just a little bit of counsel:

  • Let’s keep the conversation centered on Scripture. I’m not sure that it would be most beneficial to hash through your opinions on the media’s handling of race-based issues, what changes should be made to our police forces, etc. Below are some pertinent passages of scripture. Let’s focus our conversation on God’s word.
  • Make it personal. What role does racism or racial bias play in your life? Do you have sin that needs to be repented of in this area? Don’t be quicker to point out others' sin than you are of your own. (Matthew 7:1-5) Before this is a political issue, it is a sin issue and a human issue. Don’t miss that.
  • Be quicker to listen than to speak, especially if you have racial diversity in your group. Ask others about their personal experiences. Don’t assume that the America you know is the same as the one everyone else has experienced.
  • If someone says something offensive, lovingly correct him or her by explaining why what they said was offensive. Don’t passively let it slide and don’t angrily attack back. Let’s learn to extend the grace extended to us by Jesus.
  • Never lose sight of the fact that Jesus has made us a family. We are a new race, a new humanity, the kingdom of God on the earth. The power of the gospel to unite us is more powerful that anything that might otherwise separate us. The gospel has been overcoming racism for centuries, there is no reason to think that can’t happen still today. So whether white, black, Hispanic, Asian, police officer, activist, liberal or conservative, Jesus has made us one big crazy family. Speak and live as such.

Some Helpful Scripture

As you look to process these subjects with your LifeGroup, church family, family, and friends, please consider the following Scripture:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick  to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger (James 1:19)

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. (Proverbs 18:2)

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15)

And he answered, “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace,who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:11-22)

For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28)

O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. (Psalm 10:17-18)

For this passage, just replace "sojourner" with "minority":

“You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow's garment in pledge, but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this. “When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this. (Deuteronomy 24:17-22)

“When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers.  I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless,  plead the widow's cause. “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet,  they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. (Isaiah 1:12b-18)

A Seminar for the Ladies

A couple weeks ago, we hosted our Ladies Only Saturday Seminar for our Downtown and Two Notch churches. Ladies from our church family got together to celebrate Jesus and hear practical teaching on how to live a life devoted to Jesus in today's world. We had an incredible turnout, as well over 100 women came to spend time with us for our seminar. We've posted some photos of the event below:

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Our Holiday Gathering Schedule

With Thanksgiving and Christmas quickly approaching, we wanted to update you on what our Gathering schedule will look like over the next couple months:

  • November 23: Baptism at the Music Farm. Both Downtown and Two Notch will join together for one city-wide Baptism Gathering at the Music Farm in the Vista. Get all the details here.
  • November 30-December 14: 9:00am, 11:15am and 5:00pm Gatherings for our Downtown church (no 7:00pm Gatherings), normal 3:30pm Gatherings for our Two Notch church. Details on each church's Gatherings here.
  • December 21: Downtown's Christmas Gathering at 10:00am & 5:00pm, Two Notch's Christmas Gathering at 10:30am together with CCF.
  • December 28 & January 4: No Gatherings. On the weeks surrounding Christmas & New Year's, we close down our offices and don't host Gatherings to allow our staff time off to spend with their families.
  • January 11: First Gatherings of the new year. Downtown at 9:00am, 11:15am and 5:00pm, Two Notch at 3:30pm. For the new year, Downtown will take a break from Luke and begin a series titled What's Killing Me, where we study things like envy, anger, and anxiety and how the gospel frees us from them. Two Notch will begin a series on worship titled Worthy. Be looking for more details on each series soon.
  • January 18: All Gatherings resume. Downtown at 9:00am, 11:15am, 5:00pm and 7:00pm, Two Notch at 3:30pm. All Gathering times can be found here.

Live Q&A, Ouija Boards, & Better Answers

This post is authored by Adam Gibson. Adam serves as one of our primary teaching pastors along with Jon Ludovina and also is a part of our vision team, overseeing the overall direction of our church. For more information on our leadership, visit our

leadership page.

Live Q&A sessions are always dangerous. Especially when the topic is Satan and Demons and the answers are being recorded! Yet, like gluttons for punishment, that’s exactly what Jon and I did during four Downtown church Gatherings a couple Sundays ago. The questions were thoughtful and overall it went pretty well I think. There was one answer that I gave, however, that I would like to request a “do-over.”

During one Gathering (maybe two?) we were asked about ouija boards and how Christians should think about them. Up until that point, to be honest, that’s a question that I had not given much thought to. I know that ouija boards “work” by having felt pads that glide easily on top of a very smooth surface, giving the appearance of moving without human effort. Because of this, I stated that it would be dangerous to use a ouija as a way to connect with the spiritual realm, but that it comes down to the motivation of the user.

I was not aware, however, that the very premise of using a ouija board is to ask spirits present in the room to present themselves and make contact. After receiving some helpful feedback from people who were concerned with my answer, I now want to answer a bit differently in the hopes that no one is misled by what I previously said. To do so, I thought I would just copy and paste a very helpful email I received from a woman in our church in regards to using ouija boards:

Hi guys--

First off, I want to express how grateful I am to be a member of a church body that appropriately addresses the issue of heaven, hell, and the spiritual realm. Seeing as the Bible is explicit in acknowledging the truth of a spiritual battle, both seen and unseen, it is crucial that we, as believers, be aware of its existence and influence on our lives, and cling heartily to the truth that we can trust in Christ's victory over sin, death, and spiritual evil.

While I felt that both the sermon and written materials did a great job of illustrating both subtle and explicit spiritual warfare, I did have a serious objection to one of the topics addressed during the Q&A discussion. While you all acknowledged that ouija boards are a controversial topic, I do not agree that their admissibility lies in the motivation of the user. You both said that as long as you are appropriately in tune with the Holy Spirit that playing with a ouija board purely for entertainment purposes could be okay. I feel like this is in major conflict with how we as believers are called to interact with the spiritual realm.

The very premise of using a ouija board (even if you don't believe in its merit as a medium) is that you are asking spirits present in the room to reveal themselves and make contact. Though you were clear that their is no "grey area" in spirituality--that spirits are either holy and angelic, or evil and demonic (though they may mascaraed otherwise--2 Corinthians 11:14), any contact made could only be spiritually dark in nature.

If a message/revelation is heaven sent, God chooses the messenger and the means; it is not contingent upon our seeking it out via a medium to know God's will. As believers, we all are filled with his Holy Spirit through which he communicates, therefore any attempt to contact the spiritual realm, though it may by appearances seem as trivial as a board game, is equal to rejecting God's chosen means of revelation in exchange for some secret truth that is not of him. Because angels are obedient to God, they go where they are sent--they do not answer when we summon them. Any appearances of communication with an angel through a medium should be held in suspect, and is probably only a means of diverting the rightful worship of Jesus (i.e.--Joseph Smith's revelation by an "angel" following time spent dabbling in the occult).

Because Satan's purpose is to rob God of the glory that is rightly his, this "open invitation" allows demons to present themselves in whatever way they see most fit in order to frighten, possess or deceive. While my personal stumbling block didn't come directly from ouija boards, my seemingly benign (or at the very least neutral) contact with spirits/energies led me to begin to doubt that the Bible was telling the whole truth about the spiritual world. Because the energies I encountered very rarely showed themselves in their true form--as demons bent on thwarting God's plan, I began to believe that there must be something other than just angels and demons. For me, this led to a systematic investigation of other religions and apocryphal/gnostic gospels that in turn led me to reject Christ as the only means to gain salvation. After all--if the Bible failed to speak to something spiritual that I very clearly experienced, then how could I trust it in full?

Luckily, God reached into my life and removed the veil from my eyes, but it troubles my heart to think that we may be permitting a medium that the enemy uses as a foothold, even if we do so under innocent pretenses. Satan is a deceiver. Expecting anything good to come out of an interaction that invites his forces to speak freely is to doubt their nature as being true evil.

Thank you for taking the time to read through my concerns. Sorry it was so lengthy. Thanks for being a pastoral staff that I feel comfortable reaching out to, and for having the guts to tackle a difficult topic that is easier to just ignore.

Yep, that’s how I should’ve answered.

#JesusAndDemons, Next Sunday at the Gathering

In the gospel of Luke that we're currently studying, Jesus has dozens of interactions with Satan, demons, and the demonic. For many of us today, this strikes us as odd because we don't often (or ever) think we've experienced anything clearly demonic.

So, when it comes to the subject of Satan and demons, most of us have a lot of questions. Why do we not feel like we experience the demonic like the people in the bible do? Are we blind to it? Does Satan work differently today than he did then?

To add to the confusion, we're coming up on the Halloween season, which sometimes is the time of year that people get obsessed or entertained by things that are or seem demonic in nature.

To help, we'll be tackling the subject of Satan & demons next Sunday at the Gathering as part of our Luke series. We want the sermon to be as helpful as possible, so we'll be taking your questions into consideration as we craft the sermon, and will have some Q&A time at the end of the sermon to answer any additional important questions.

Ways to Participate:

There are two different ways to submit your questions:

  1. Twitter & Facebook. You can submit any question you have on Twitter or Facebook by including the hashtag #JesusAndDemons. Just make sure your privacy settings are public enough for us to see them (Tweets "unprotected" on Twitter, and by selecting "Public" on the drop down when you post to Facebook).
  2. Email us. If you'd rather not post your question on Twitter or Facebook, or you want your question to remain anonymous, feel free to email us your question. Just include #JesusAndDemons in the subject line.

Thoughts from Two Notch's Fall Retreat

We interviewed Mazie Jasper, a missionary member of our Two Notch church, about her experience at Two Notch's College Retreat this past weekend. Find out more about our Two Notch church on their page.

How long have you been a part of our Two Notch church?

I have been a part of our Two Notch church since February. We had our first ever 3 Ministries 1 God event during this month. This event is where 3 ministries (Impact, Younglife, and Midtown Two Notch) come together around the truth that we are three ministries, with one God. We had one of these in February and one in March and our church started having regular services from there.

What made you want to go on Two Notch’s Fall Retreat?

I LOVE retreats! I’ve been going to this retreat for the past 3 years with IMPACT. I’ve loved it each time. We have a ton of fun. We go to a few sessions, have worship, chill on the beach, eat great food, and enjoy being family! I also thought it was really neat that Two Notch got to be over planning for our sermons and worship.  This was our first time ever being able to do that.  So honored that we GOT to be a part of this. Grace!

What was this trip like?

The trip was AMAZING! It was at Myrtle Beach. This by far, was the best retreat I’ve ever been on. I loved how close everyone was. It was really neat seeing people come together from different places and treat one another as if they have known them for years. There was so much love. One cool experience on this trip was when a large group of people joined together on the beach and worshipped God. It was incredibly powerful.

What was your favorite part of the trip?

My favorite part of the trip was being able to spend time with everyone. It was a gift to have a whole entire weekend to hang out, process sermons together, eat, go to the beach, etc. I love spending time with my brothers and sisters. We are always laughing and our conversations are so life-giving.

I saw God use the trip in some great ways. I witnessed God drawing my LifeGroup even closer together. A group of guys in our Impact and Two Notch family spent time outside of the sermon in a group processing and praying for each other. I thought that was amazing. God gave all of us some new connections and life-long friends. We are all thankful.

Overall, this trip pointed us back to the gospel in our sessions. We were challenged to think of the idols that we have in our life and how we should run to the fountain that truly satisfies. I truly enjoyed this retreat.

Why Recovery Matters

Jeff Hsiang, the author of this post, is a part of the Midtown Residency Program facilitating our LifeGroups and Recovery ministries. For more information about our leadership, visit our Leadership page.

As part of my time in the Residency, I have the privilege of being a part of our Recovery ministry, as well as leading it. Recovery is a ministry for anyone who's dealing with something that feels unbeatable in life. Having been around the last few years leading and helping out, I am incredibly thankful that Recovery exists in our church family.

Because Recovery is a place:

  • for the hurting and the weak
  • where people find hope in the gospel
  • where people can see there is now no more shame, no more guilt
  • where people see that we can be fully known and fully loved and accepted because of the gospel
  • where people who feel like they have been drowning their whole life, can now breathe in deeply
  • where people start to understand that no matter what we have done and because of what everything Jesus has done, our Heavenly Father now looks at us and declares over us “This is my son, whom I am well pleased.”

More People than Ever

And this cycle we've had more people coming than ever before. When the Recovery cycle started two weeks ago, we had 100 people courageously come and say “I need help, I need Jesus.” It’s a beautiful mess. And also more than ever, most everyone who came to Recovery is in a LifeGroup. And that is a big deal because they can continue to walk with their LifeGroup intimately and deeply even after the Recovery cycle is over. They can continue to lean on one another and encourage each other with the hope that is found in Jesus.

None of us have the perfect Instagram life; none of us can say we have the picture-perfect life where nothing is wrong and everything is exciting. We all have dealt with shame, insecurity, suffering, pain, or guilt at some point in our lives. We all long for to be fully known and fully accepted. Some of us have even defined who we are by our shame or our past.

The Gospel for the Recovering

The beautiful news is that the gospel answers all of it. Not only is our shame and past completely paid for on the cross, but Jesus has given us new names: names like righteous, perfect, and redeemed. I have seen in past Recovery cycles where people begin to see their new identity in the gospel, and from that, lives began to change. Lives heading towards even more brokenness and chaos are now heading towards restoration.

At this cycle of Recovery, I cannot wait to see what Jesus is going to do. We celebrate people coming to Recovery because coming to Recovery is acknowledging we can't do life on our own and that we need to hear about a Savior.

1000: A Number Worth Celebrating

In the church world, leaders tend to track a lot of numbers. This can be a healthy thing, looking at figures to track health and growth—or it can be an unhealthy obsession where leaders use numerical markers to determine their identity or perceived worth. Our goal has always been to make disciples of Jesus, and not just to draw a crowd. We could bring in circus performers or have a dirt bike jump over a pastor (that’s a real thing) if our only objective was to beat last Sunday’s attendance.  But from the beginning of our ministry, we’ve had a desire to care about the right numbers in the right way.

Our Most Important Number & Why

One of those numbers that we track and care a lot about is the number of people we have in LifeGroups. There are many reasons why we care so much about this number, but here are just a few:

  • Discipleship happens in community. We believe corporate gatherings are an essential part of Christian formation, but we realize that Gatherings alone will not make disciples of Jesus. The Holy Spirit applies and works the things we learn on Sundays into our lives during the rest of the week as we rub shoulders with one another and practice the “one another” commands from the New Testament.
  • Mission happens through community. The type of community that Jesus creates is so compelling, and we believe the best way for people far from Jesus to truly see the gospel is to experience it by getting a front row seat to a gospel-centered community. We want non-Christians to get to see the gospel lived out in real, messy people and relationships.
  • Care happens in community. Life is really hard and there are so many temptations to get off track, even as believers. There is an incredible correlation between a person’s long-term spiritual health and their connectedness to genuine Christian community. If a person is deeply connected to community, they can persevere through anything. If a person is not connected to Christian community, it is typically only a matter of time before they go off the rails somehow. As pastors we have seen this happen too many times to mention. We were not created to follow Jesus alone.
  • We believe it’s an indicator of health. If only 10% of people that come on Sundays are walking in community, that’s a major red flag. For the past year or so, we’ve actually had more people in LifeGroups than we’ve averaged on Sundays, and we love that. That's an indicator that many people are being brought into LifeGroups through relationships and not just sign-ups, and means that much of our church are living missional lives throughout the week.

A Crazy Goal & a Crazy Celebration

A couple of years ago, we set quite a lofty goal at the time—we prayed that we would get 1000 people into LifeGroups. What could happen, we thought, if we could get that many people plugged into healthy, vibrant, and outward-focused community? How would that change our city? How amazing would it be to have 1000 missionaries on the ground here, seeking to help those around them take next steps towards Jesus?

For years, we prayed and we worked towards this. First, back in 2012, we hit the 500 mark, and we celebrated it in ridiculous Midtown fashion (we had a cake made with our LifeGroups pastor's face on it). Because of our population and high rate of transition (mostly from being in a college town), growing that number is actually not easy (we lose about a quarter of our church every year, so we have to grow by 25% just to stay even).

Then we prayed and worked some more, and during the spring of 2014 we went through Grassroots Kingdom, a formative series for the health of our LifeGroups and our mission as a church. That helped launch us into this fall, where we have hit our goal of having 1000 people in LifeGroups!

Why We Celebrate this Number

We are very excited about hitting this goal, as it’s been something we’ve been praying about for a long time. Jesus has been so faithful to us, and He has used our meager efforts to grow His church here in Columbia in really beautiful ways. We are so proud of our church family and the way you guys are owning the mission of God in everyday life. Namely:

  • You’re walking in community with each other.
  • You’re loving one another, serving one another, and walking in the light with one another.
  • You’re strategically building relationship with those far from Jesus and inviting them into your community.
  • You’re carrying each other’s burdens and watching out for one another’s blind spots.

What's Next?

Jesus is building His church here in Columbia, and it’s amazing to be a part of. He’s raising up disciples and sending out missionaries. And He’s not finished—not by a long shot.

There are many more who are far from Him, many more who need to be discipled, many more who need to see the gospel in community, and many more who will be raised up to be sent out as missionaries.

That’s going to happen primarily through people getting plugged into healthy, Jesus-centered communities—so let’s get after it.

I'm a Pastor Because You Got Baptized

Kent Bateman, the author of this post, serves as one of our pastors overseeing our communications department. Find out more about our leadership on our Leadership page.

I was a mess in college. I showed up for my four-year degree in Columbia completely convinced that this was my time to let loose. I had grown up in a small religious southern town. So while I would’ve said I was a Christian, I didn’t understand the gospel and certainly didn’t see how getting drunk and partying all the time were at odds with Jesus–it was just what people did in college, right?

But God had a different idea.

A Weird Gathering and a Weirder Venue

Two years into my college career, I somehow ended up at a Midtown Baptism Gathering. My first thought was this isn’t the type of church I’m used to. The Baptism Gathering was being held at the Coop–a building near the stadium used for tailgating. So the smell in the air was a distinct mix of beer and popcorn, and the floor was so sticky that your shoes stuck to it. I made small talk with a few people on my way in, and then the Gathering started. I remember being weirded out by the music, specifically by the guy with huge gauges in his ears playing a huge kick drum in the band (who now is my good friend Mikey).

Once the music ended, everyone turned their attention to the video screen, where we heard stories of everyday normal people who had been rescued by Jesus out of sin and into freedom. Some people had been around church for a long time, and some people had never heard the name of Jesus before they started coming around our church family, but everyone’s story included them acknowledging that Jesus was better than anything else they had attempted to build their life around.

Something Crazy Happened

It was while hearing these stories that something crazy started happening in me. As I listened to each person in the videos tell their story, almost all of them had something in common: they sounded exactly like mine.

There were so many people in those videos that had grown up rejecting Christianity because the Christianity they had seen wasn’t really Christianity at all. It was religion, legalism, emotionalism–really anything at all other than the gospel. But all of them had found something now that resembled more what Jesus taught: a love for him that expressed itself in a love for each other and a love for their neighbor.

That night before I left the Baptism Gathering, I made sure to stop by the Connect Table and sign up for a LifeGroup–I had to find out more about these people and what made them so different. And sometime over the next six months of experiencing Jesus through a LifeGroup, I gave my life to Jesus.

Then God made me a Pastor

Now, I get to serve as a pastor of the church family that first showed me the gospel. I get to spend every day loving, caring, and shepherding the people that played such a huge part in loving, caring and shepherding me. And the plan is for me to help lead a church plant in a brand new city soon, so that many more people can experience what I got to experience.

I am forever thankful to the people who shared their stories and got in that cold water to be baptized at the Coop. God used them and their stories in an incredible way to draw me to himself, and teach me how incredibly gracious and persistent he is. It’s amazing what God can do with your story.

Have you met Jesus recently and want to be baptized? Find out more about baptism and get signed up here.

Introducing Midtown Fellowship: a Family of Churches

Ever since we began as a church, we’ve looked for ways to effectively engage people throughout Columbia with the gospel. Our methods for accomplishing this are constantly evolving, since Columbia is a diverse place with diverse people.

During our |giv| series in 2012, we announced that we had plans to plant a church in the inner-city neighborhoods surrounding Allen University and Benedict College, as well as the Pinehurst neighborhood around Two Notch Road. Our goal from the beginning was to use the resources at our disposal to best equip this church to reach these areas of our city with the gospel.

It was this thinking that lead to forming our family of churches.

A Family of Churches

Currently, our family of churches is made up of two churches: Downtown (meeting on Devine Street), and Two Notch (meeting on School House Road). We also have plans underway to plant a Lexington-area church in fall of 2015.

So our family of churches looks something like this:


The goal is that each church in our family of churches would benefit from central resources that help them accomplish their mission at the local church level. As a result, these local churches will be able to reach more people in their area with the good news of Jesus. For those interested, this is our version of an approach commonly called the “parish” model.

How We Benefit from a Family of Churches

Some advantages of this approach are:

  • Contextualization. Each local church has freedom to contextualize the gospel, church family, and mission in a way that makes sense for the people they’re reaching. Reaching a Downtown population looks different than reaching a Two Notch population which looks different than a suburban Lexington population. This model allows for each congregation to have their own personality while remaining true to our DNA of being a Jesus-centered family on mission.
  • Central resources. Each church gets to benefit from infrastructure already set up. Necessary things like business, human resources, and communications can be taken care of by existing systems, freeing up local churches to focus on tangible ministry in their communities.
  • Leadership development. This structure helps us to continue to empower people to do ministry and spread authority out.
  • Best of both worlds. With this model of church planting, each church benefits from the resources of a larger church with the local, personal feel of a smaller church.

One of the goals in this process will be to keep each local church up-to-speed with what is happening at the other churches, so that we can all pray and celebrate together as a big family. Be looking for videos and updates from both churches as we continue our mission to be a Jesus-centered family on mission in the Columbia area.

For more information on our family of churches, listen to the audio from our August 2014 Family Meeting.

Thoughts from Zambia


This summer we sent a team to Zambia to spend time with missionary members Wyatt and Amy Bardi, who run the organization Clothed in Hope. We interviewed missionary member and Resident Landon Thompson about the trip.

What was life like in Zambia?

We were in Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia. We stayed in a lodge probably comparable to a Motel 6 (so somewhat nice for Lusaka), but worked in a compound about .25 miles away. Lusaka is full of compounds, which are like mini cities/slums. The one where Clothed in Hope is located is about 3x3 miles, but 80,000 people live there. Most Americans would think it's a pretty gross place to live, but most Zambians who live in these compounds never leave.

Everything you need can be found there: clothes, food, water, fabric, barber shops, building materials, etc. Everything is either made out of homemade cinderblocks, chicken wire, or sticks and hay. While material poverty is high, most people can find a way to feed their family at least once a day. A lot of homes in the compound have some sort of electricity, but there is no indoor plumbing or any sort. People have to fetch any water they need to use at one of the wells in the area.

As said before, it took us Americans a while to get used to the drastic lifestyle change, but after walking through the compound nearly everyday for 3 weeks, we started to learn that most of the people loved where they lived and were really happy. There was a strong sense of community.

What types of things were you doing in Zambia?

Mostly encouraged and built relationships with the women that missionary members Wyatt and Amy Bardi are working with in Clothed in Hope. We had a couple small projects which were painting some murals and building a chicken coop. We also spent time hanging out and having fun with Wyatt and Amy. Having a dose of church family goes a long way when you're serving as hard as they are.

What would you say was the best part of the trip?

Learning from the Zambians in the compound. Watching the women pray and care for their families was really challenging.

What did you learn from going on the trip? What did God teach you about Himself while you were there?

God reminded me that He is just as involved in a small church plant in the heart of Africa as He is in a thriving church here in America. Is so hard for me to wrap my brain around that, but it's great because it reminds me not to get wrapped up in the small things in life because God is working on such a large scale. It's easy for us to get sucked into American individualism, but we must keep our focus outwardly in our community, because God is working in miraculous ways. We'll just never see it if we stay focused on ourselves.

Global Missions: Thoughts from Argentina

This year we sent missionary members to four different locations across the globe to love and serve together. When the final team returned to Columbia for the summer, we interviewed team members from each trip, in order to celebrate with them all that Jesus accomplished through the trips.


We interviewed missionary member Marcus Richardson about his trip to Pila, Argentina.

What inspired you to go on the trip?

I love Latin America and the Lord has given me heart for the people, language and culture. I had never done a construction trip before but when i heard of this ministry's needs and their hearts for having a healthy church in a small community I felt I needed to be a part of whatever the Lord was going to do.

What was life like in Argentina?

Argentina is mix of European and Latin culture and feel. Pila is a small town in the Buenos Aires Province. Going from downtown Buenos Aires to country side Pila is like going from New York City to Columbia. Life is just slower and simpler and the people are kind and welcoming.

What types of things did you do while you were there?

In Pila we worked with some of the men from the church to build the roof and paint the building that they will use for Sunday services. We also lived with host families and it was great chance to fellowship with Argentine brothers and sisters and also put Christ on display for their friends and family who do not know the Lord.

What was the best part of the trip?

I would say lunches and dinners. Not only was the food great but it was also a time for our team to come together from what ever we had been working on during the day. Our team laughed and joked and sang so much that every time we came together with the church members it was like a party. There was so much joy!

What was the hardest part of the trip?

Going on a trip like this is always great because we are removed from our everyday distractions. Without those distractions, when the Lord speaks to us (like He always does), we can't distract or busy ourselves so we are given this beautiful and difficult opportunity to see and evaluate our sin without text messages, Netflix or emails. This is always hard, but so very good.

What did God teach you during the trip?

I think the Lord reminded me that He desires and can love me and wants to have a personal relationship with me. I spend a lot of time meeting with people and reading books and Scripture for others and its very easy to believe the lie that the Lord just wants to use me to express His love for others but He is to busy to share and express that same love to me. Wrong.

Yes, we are to be used by the Lord and to put His love on display for others and we can because He has poured and does pour that same love out on us. He knows us by name and draws close to each and everyone of us. He is capable of loving us all fully.

Global Missions: Thoughts from India

This year we sent missionary members to four different locations across the globe to love and serve together. When the final team returned to Columbia for the summer, we interviewed team members from each trip, in order to celebrate with them all that Jesus accomplished through the trips.


We interviewed missionary member Chris Ramaglia about his trip to New Delhi, India.

What inspired you to go on the trip?

I feel that the Lord has been calling me to do some kind of full-time vocational ministry for the past couple of years. Initially, it was a very broad calling, but He has slowly made His calling on my life more and more clear. As I prayed about what full-time ministry looked like for me, the Lord led me towards considering full time international missions work. As my prayers began to become more specifically focused towards full time missions work, the Lord opened up the door for me to go to India. It was really awesome that the Lord provided an opportunity to go overseas as I pursue the possibility of doing something like it full time. Additionally, I was very excited to get to see what the Lord has been doing in India through our partnership with Project Rescue.

What was life like in India?

Life in New Delhi is absolutely overwhelming in every sense. Take any adjective you can think of and put overwhelming in front of it and that's India. It's hot, congested, busy, loud, spicy, smelly, poverty stricken, spiritually dark and so much more. We lived in a well-off neighborhood at our bed and breakfast, but the slums were our next-door neighbors.

In any available space in the city, you will find squatting villages of poverty stricken families who receive no help from the local Indians. Women and children are forced to eat, cook, sleep and bathe in the streets as the average middle class Indian passes by without even noticing. There are child beggars on every corner asking for food and water in the extremely hot temperatures of Delhi, rickshaws driving into oncoming traffic to get their passengers to the nearest metro station, cars honking on their horns non-stop, waste overflowing into the street from every sidewalk and man made idols being worshiped on nearly every car dashboard, temple and street side market.

However, if you can close your eyes for a second, you can find silence in the chaos and see that the Lord is truly at work. Buildings and temples are slowly falling apart as God dissembles them, native Christians are growing to be more bold in their faith, churches are moving into the red light district to start proclaiming the truth of the gospel in the face of 600 years of sex trafficking and the children at the children's homes are receiving spiritual, physical and emotional healing from childhoods that they have endured as they grow to learn about God's love for them through Jesus. India is a heavy place, but definitely a place where God is moving and saving lives.

What would you say was the best part of the trip?

There was a lot, but there is one moment that definitely sticks out to me. We went to prayer walk in the Jama Masjid Mosque one day. The girls were forced to remain outside and pray while the guys and I went inside to pray. We found a quiet place on the prayer rugs and began praying for the Muslim men that surrounded us. It was the month of Ramadan when we were there so there were a lot of people. We prayed that the Muslim people would find the freedom that is offered in Christ. We prayed that they would come to know that they cannot bare the burden of their own sin on their own shoulders or obtain salvation on their own, but instead that salvation is offered freely through God’s grace in Christ Jesus.

We also prayed that someone would come up to us so that we could pray and share the Gospel with him. Just as we prayed this, a man interrupted our prayer and began a conversation with us in English. Sometimes God answers prayers immediately! We had a long conversation about Islam with Abdula and then he tried to get us to proclaim a faith in Allah. We respectfully declined, but asked him if he would be okay with us praying for him. He accepted our offer and we shared the gospel in the context of our prayer. After opening our eyes, Abdula gave us 30 rupees as a small gesture, we all gave him a hug and then parted ways. When we met back up with the girls, they told us that they had prayed for someone to approach us in the mosque. It was incredible that the Lord provided that opportunity and I feel with confidence that He planted a seed in the life of Abdula that will flourish into an understanding of God's saving grace through Jesus Christ!

What was the hardest part of the trip?

Again, I can't pick out a specific "hardest" part of the trip because there were also many. However, the day we visited the red light district was heartbreaking. Before visiting the red light district, I had an image in my mind of what it would look like. I pictured women attempting to flee from their physical bondage and an overwhelming sense of sorrow in the faces of the women you could see in the brothel windows. However, what we encountered was very different.

As we drove down G.B. Road, every day life went about as normal on the ground floor shops and there were smiling women staring down from the barred windows of the upper story brothels. The most heartbreaking thing about witnessing this was the façade of normalcy that covered the underlying evil that is present there. None of the women there chose to be there, but they are forced to put on smiles to prevent themselves from receiving further beatings. They are forced to pretend like nothing is wrong for fear of being killed otherwise. It was gut-wrenching and angering to say the least. Even though their smiles attempted to tell the world that they were fine, you could see the torment in their eyes. This was very hard for our entire team to experience, but at the same time it also gave us perspective for how much healing the children have received by being at the Project Rescue children's homes.

The more evil sin becomes to us, the more capable we are of understanding how beautiful Jesus is, so in a weird way, experiencing the darkness that is in the red light district helped us to see how much work God is doing in the lives of the children who have been saved from the sex trafficking industry.

What did God teach you while you were there?

It was very easy to visit India and point out blatant idolatry by the worshiping of man-made figurines and statues that occurs there, but the Lord also revealed idols of my own during the trip. In our own country, many of our idols lie hidden under the surface because they aren't tangible objects that we can touch, but instead they manifest themselves as status, image, comfort, relationships, amongst many others. I have idolized many of these. Not only that, but we often justify our idols by covering them up with pride and Christian lingo.

"#blessed" has become an all too convenient justification for things that we so often put in place of the Lord. I am completely guilty of this. This was extremely hard to come to terms with, but by the Lord’s grace, He continues to tear my idols from my firm grip on them. Through this, the Lord reminded me that even though I know the Lord and am growing in a relationship with Him, I am still in just as much need of His grace as anyone else that walks the face of the Earth because of my sin. My need for Him hasn't changed since becoming a believer; I've just become aware of it. I must live every day thanking God for making me aware of my need for His grace and pray that others would come to be aware of its availability through Christ Jesus.

Global Missions: Thoughts from Guatemala

This year we sent missionary members to four different locations across the globe to love and serve together. When the final team returned to Columbia for the summer, we interviewed team members from each trip, in order to celebrate with them all that Jesus accomplished through the trips.


We interviewed missionary member Alisha Mitchell about her trip to Coban, Guatemala.

What inspired you to go on this trip?

My parents were international missionaries from the time I was born until about age 9, so I knew part of the purpose for international missions stemmed from Matthew 28 in which Jesus calls us to go out into all the nations and make disciples. The New Testament tells us that God cares for people of all nations, and as Christians we understand that Jesus sacrificed everything for us, giving us the freedom to do the same, so that others may know of his love through his death and resurrection.

Since becoming a believer, I wanted to go on an international missions trip as a response to these truths. The trip to Guatemala interested me the most because I had heard a little bit of the stories of the children and I wanted so much to display God's love for them as His children, that they are not defined by the abuse and neglect they have experienced already.

What was life like in Guatemala?

Cobán is a city in the mountains of central Guatemala where life seems to revolve around a central market. We were considered fortunate to have toilets and sometimes hot showers.

The poverty of the city was probably seen most clearly in the children's hospital that my team visited. There were children crying in corners of rooms, barely any clean or good medical supplies, and there were not many qualified nurses or doctors, much less ones that actually cared.

As far as spiritual life, you are either Catholic or practiced some form of Vodou or multiple-god religion. What I gathered is that most of the people that claim to be Catholic are following more of a prosperity gospel where they only attend if they are sick or need help and think that their attendance will make God like them or give them what they need. Before the children came to the home a lot of them were abused, both physically and sexually, or seen as nuisances and ended up being neglected.

What types of things did you do while you were there?

We spent the first few days hanging out with the children of the home and getting a feel for what their every day life was like. We would play table games or juegos de mesa, freeze-tag, and spend time with them over meals. The conversations with the children over meals were the most fruitful as we were able to ask them questions about their childhood or just getting to know them as individuals. It reminded me of how Jesus spent a lot of his time in an effort to love people and share life with them.

One of the days my team went to the children's hospital in Cobán and donated a lot of medical supplies including ibuprofen and diapers for the babies. The second half of the week we were brought to the new property (meant to have 2 children's homes, a hospital and a school) to plant trees and to pray over it. It was absolutely beautiful and would allow a much greater amount of children to be rescued from neglect and malnutrition.

What would you say was the best part of the trip?

First of all, Christian and Eugenia, the parents of the home, have prayed incessantly for years for funding to start building on the property. God–who's ways and timing are perfect and good as he is always working for the good of those who love him–PROVIDED the funds completely! This news arrived while we were there and it was/is such a joyous gift.

The second was seeing how many of the children truly loved Jesus. It was easy to see as you watched them love one another patiently and sacrificially, caring for each other before taking caring of themselves. They would sing constantly and talk about how they wanted to be missionaries in countries all over the world. It was beautiful getting to see how Christian and Eugenia raised these children to fear and trust God, and to know that Jesus has saved them from spiritual darkness.

How did you benefit from the trip personally?

I learned a lot about what it means to be family with people of all nations because of the blood of Jesus and how the Holy Spirit binds us together as one. Because of this trip, through fundraising, being with the children and being with my teammates, I saw so clearly what it looks like to be different parts of the body of Christ. We are his body, his church and his bride, on mission with him until we die and are able to finally be joined with him perfectly as one.

I also learned more of how God's promises will always be true. In this case, from Romans 8. I didn't know the language well, I was plagued with insecurities and fear, but because of Jesus' righteousness, God does not forsake his children, even in their weaknesses. In the moments when I wanted to hide, he gently and graciously pursued me, letting me know that He will not let His daughter go. He used all of these things for my good and his glory, and He won't ever stop.

A Letter to College Students


Adam Gibson, the author of this post, serves as one of our vision team pastors along with Allen Tipping, and is one of our primary teaching pastors. To find out more about our leadership, visit our

Leadership page.

College Adam

I loved college. I loved it so much that I stayed for a fifth year of it. I love college students and having so many of you in our church family. God changed my life while I was in college. I didn’t know who I was going to be or what my life would be about and God blew me up, primarily through putting me around a group of guys who were normal guys with an abnormal love for Jesus. I had never seen guys my age who were regular guys but really loved Jesus and wanted to follow him and see others follow him. God used it to change my life, call me to ministry; eventually through those relationships I met my wife…all during my time in college.

Why You Matter

Then when we were starting our church, we were primarily made up of college students. Students who faithfully served and ministered and helped us get going as a church. Students who were just crazy enough to believe in a vision to see a church become a Jesus-centered family on mission in Columbia. We absolutely would not be the church we are today apart from the amazing, godly, Jesus loving college students that God has brought our way through the years, including you who are here now.

With a new school year approaching, I want to encourage you to own your time in college, particularly how God might work in you and through you during your time in Columbia. I genuinely believe that our church is set up in way that, if we can get four years of your life, upon your graduation you will be sent out with the tools you need for a lifetime of following Jesus wherever you go. So take advantage of it!

Getting the Most out of College

I believe there are several practicals that will help you to get the absolute most out of your time in college:

  • Get into a LifeGroup. Work to cultivate those relationships into deep, Jesus-oriented friendships.
  • Serve. Pick a way to serve and give back to church family, and don’t just take. Make our church your family, not just a place you go on Sunday. Use the gifts and talents God has given you…we need you! And, you will grow through serving and giving even more than you will through simply consuming what others are doing for you.
  • Pursue outsiders. Be intentional in building relationships with your friends who are not believers and invite them around our church family. Start the year by taking advantage of the First Week events going on and by bringing people with you. Pray that God would run them down just like he ran me down when I was in college!

Overall, own your time here–don't just drift.

I’m glad that summer is coming to a close. Our church isn’t fully “us” when you guys are gone. If the church really is like a family, then I’m looking forward to you being back home, with us. See you soon!