Sermon Recap

Sermon Recap | Ephesus


This week we wrapped up our Lessons from Church Planting series by looking at the Church of Ephesus. We have more information about this church than any other in the Bible (Acts 19; 1 and 2 Timothy; Ephesians; Revelation 2) Kent Bateman, pastor of City Church in Knoxville, walked us through two particular passages of scripture to see what we might apply from the church of Ephesus to our own lives.

Acts 19:11-20

11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. 13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this.15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all[a] of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. 18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.

Following Jesus is necessarily disruptive.

The power of God is so evident through Paul that followers of Jesus bring everything that represents their former way of life, place them on an altar, and destroy them. Their way of life was disrupted in a major way by following Jesus.

When following Jesus disrupts someone’s life, it’s an absolutely beautiful thing to watch.  And when followers of Jesus allow Him to disrupt their lives, we begin to see what the church in Ephesus saw: the power of God prevailing mightily.

Acts 19:23-27

11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. 13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this.15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all[a] of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. 18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.

Following Jesus not only disrupts your individual life but the life of your city.

Following Jesus so impacted the lives of believers there that the very city felt the shock of men and women no longer worshipping idols in Ephesus.

But somewhere along the way, something happened. And when we see the church of Ephesus addressed in Revelation, it comes with an instruction of warning:

Revelation 2:1-5

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.

2 “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

The church in Ephesus had lost their preference for the things of God.

The word that the Bible uses for love in this passage means “to choose to show unconditional preference for something.”

Jesus warns the Ephesians (and us) to not follow the natural drift that will cause everything else to disrupt their love for Jesus. He encourages them to rediscover their love—their preference—for following Jesus that they had in the beginning.

Every time Jesus or what the Scriptures teach conflicts with how we like our lives to be, we have two choices. We can choose to view these moments as threats or as opportunities. And all of that depends on whether or not we’ve allowed Jesus to disrupt our lives.

When Jesus disrupts people, lives change and cities change. So let’s be a part of seeing God’s power prevail. Let’s be a part of the beautifully disruptive kingdom of God. And that all starts with Jesus disrupting us.

Sermon Recap | Athens


This week we learned from Paul in a city called Athens as he was asked to provide a reason for why anyone might trust Jesus and become a Christian. The following is one of the most studied and discussed passages in scripture on the topic of mission and engagement. What we see is Paul contextualize the gospel for the city of Athens. He meets people where they are and, using their own quotes and ways of thinking, presents the good news of Jesus. 

Acts 17:16-34
16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.

Paul is motivated by love and concern for these people who are misled, confused, and wrong. Everything that he says and does next flows out of his love, compassion, and concern. This is what drives mission in our lives. People are not projects. We love people because God loves people and we believe that Jesus is worthy of being worshipped by the people He loves. Like Paul, we believe that lives begin to fracture and break down the more that the one true God is pushed out and replaced. 

17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,[a] 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’;[b] as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’[c]

29 Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst.34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

What should we take and apply?

1. Observe the idols
What are our idols? What are the objects of our worship? Everyone is pouring out their lives for someone or something. The opposite of Christianity is not atheism but idolatry. We need to know our friends’ and neighbors’ beliefs and idols. 

2. Undermine the idols
Nothing created can bear the weight of providing us with identity and meaning—only God can do that. What do our friends and neighbors believe? What are their idols and how can we help them see disconnects?

3. Show how Jesus is better
We show this to our neighbors and friends in two ways: First, by showing them that Jesus is a transcendent treasure unto Himself and second that whatever it is that they are pursuing in life, Jesus offers a better version of it. Repent and believe is always the invitation. Jesus is the only God who won’t let them down, who laid down His life for them, and rose from the dead to prove that every word He ever said was true and right. 

4. Be provoked
And with all of this, we have to be provoked, like Paul was. We must be provoked by our city and the brokenness that we see. We must be heartbroken over the ways we see people trying to make their lives work apart from God. We must see our indifference as wickedness. If we love the people around us and we believe the gospel, we must figure out every possible way to communicate it effectively.

Sermon Recap | I Am the Light of the World

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Again, Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” - John 8:12 

In this statement, Jesus is saying that we all exist in spiritual darkness and that He’s the only one capable of turning on the lights. He then goes on to explain what gives Him the authority to be the light of the world: 

Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. - John 8:14

Jesus’ evidence for his authoritative statement is that He knows where He came from and where He is going. Later, in John 12, He further draws out this comparison:

32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. 34 So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?”35 So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”

One way that we, as humans, have adapted to living life in the dark is that we tend to operate the truth train backwards and lead with our feelings and experiences. All these feelings and experiences only add up to speculation. But Jesus offers us something much better than speculation; Jesus offers revelation. In John 12:8, Jesus invites us to follow Him out of the darkness and into His light. 

The rest of the book of John will continue this refrain:

9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” – John 11:9-10
46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. – John 12:46 

Jesus invites us out of darkness and with this invitation we can stop basing our lives on speculation and instead center them around revelation. 

Revelation says that God’s truth is the only truth. What we feel and think matters, but it does not bend reality in any way. 

If you are going through a difficult season right now, the good news about Jesus being the light of the world is that we do not grieve as those who do not have hope. We don’t suffer the same way as people stuck in the confusion of the dark suffer because we’ve been led out of it. He brings us out of our very limited view of our lives and tells us that He’s working all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. 

Because Jesus is the light of the world, He shows us over and over again that we’ve been looking at things all wrong. He’s come to call us out of darkness—out of speculation—and into His glorious, unchanging revelation. 

Jesus is the light of the world. He knew where He came from. He knew where He was going. He is the only trustworthy authority to follow out of the darkness. Thanks to Him, we don’t have to base our lives and eternities on speculation anymore.

Sermon Recap | I Am the Good Shepherd

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When Jesus claims to be a shepherd, He’s saying two things:

  1. He’s leading God’s people. He’s the one who cares for us.
  2. We are the sheep

Ezekiel 34:1-23 paints the picture of us as sheep in need of a good shepherd to save us. Jesus fulfills the prophecy of Ezekiel 34:22-23. God has not forgotten His flock and He sent Jesus to rescue and care for His sheep.

Three ways that Jesus is our Good Shepherd:

1. Jesus gathers God’s people (John 10:1-6)

Jesus fulfills the prophecy to draw God’s people back to Himself. Jesus knows and calls each of us (His sheep) by name. He knows everything about us. We follow Jesus because we are His sheep.

2. Jesus protects God’s people (John 10:7-10)

Jesus isn’t just the shepherd; He’s also the door of the sheep. Jesus protects us from the destruction of sin and gives us joy. In Jesus, regardless of circumstances, we can find unshakable joy and abundant life. The Good Shepherd promises that the closer we walk with Him and more intimately we follow Him, the greater our joy will be.

3. Jesus dies for God’s people (John 10:11-18)

When the sheep are in imminent danger, our Good Shepherd lays down His life. A hired hand loves his own life more than he loves the sheep. Jesus isn’t a hired hand. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. The sheep belong to Him and He loves them more than He loves His own life. That’s why He lays down His life for the sheep. When He sees the enemy coming, He doesn’t run; He steps in front of the sheep.

Who are you following? You are following a shepherd. We all are.  We are all sheep. The question isn’t whether or not you’re following a shepherd, it’s whether or not you are following the Good Shepherd.

Sermon Recap | Pray Like Jesus - Part 3


This week in our Personal Liturgy series, we continued to explore the spiritual practice of prayer as a tool to fight self-reliance. We focused on the communal aspect of prayer and the power of praying together.

When looking at the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13, it’s easy to miss that the prayer is filled with communal language. We are family, which means when we pray to our Father, we pray for all of our needs, we ask for forgiveness for our sins as a community and culture, and we pray for help against temptation for one another.

Part of why Jesus teaches us to pray communally is because He knows we will never become the beautiful, supernatural, life-giving community He intends...until we learn to pray together. And the first four chapters of Acts give us a beautiful picture of how right Jesus was:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Acts 2:42-47

As the early church is devoted to prayer, incredible things start to happen: the church taking care of everyone’s needs, people interweaving their lives together, and God adding new believers into their community. We see a second and equally beautiful picture in Acts 4:

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

Acts 4:32-35

We again see an example of a Jesus-centered family on mission. This type of church may seem a bit out of reach for us, but what happens in between these two beautiful pictures gives us the clue to how this kind of community can come to be.

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God.

Acts 3:1-9

We see from this passage that Peter and John and the early church community are consistently praying together day by day. In that context of prayer, God shows them an incredible opportunity for God’s might to be displayed. God opens their eyes to a kingdom opportunity right in front of them, through prayer.

However, after this amazing moment, Peter and John get arrested and thrown in jail for healing in Jesus’ name. After a long, unjust trial with no basis, the two are let go and immediately go to their friends’ house where they start to ... pray:

When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’ — for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Acts 4:23-31

They start their prayer by acknowledging who God is. They bring all their problems to God, interpreting them through the lens of Scripture and through the lens of God’s sovereignty. Then, they ask God to help them keep speaking God’s Word with boldness. Peter and John just got thrown in jail, and they pray for boldness, not safety.

The early church prayed for strength to keep doing what God had called them to. And they asked God to keep doing what only He can do: healing people, performing signs and wonders...all in the name of Jesus.

In the end, we have to recognize that the church is supposed to be supernatural! God didn’t institute the church to be a big, happy get together of nice, polite moral people. Instead, God calls the church to show off to the world what life with God is like. We cannot be a part of God’s miraculous kingdom work here on earth without prayer.

The church is supposed to be a place where things are happening daily and the only explanation is “Yeah, I don’t know. God did it.” Unexplainable things are supposed to be happening in our midst - things that require gospel explanation and point to the mighty handiwork of our God.

In LifeGroup this week, we will practically apply this call to communal prayer, and lift our voices together to God, like the early church did in Acts 4:23. There are normal hesitations to participating in group prayer, but we hope this will be a good, gospel encouragement to join our voices together to our Father:

“Grace means we aren't saved by our prayers. Jesus’ perfect prayer life has been substituted for ours. We stand before God now counted as perfect pray-ers of perfect prayers. And grace means we accept each other freely. We give room for weaknesses and struggles. We help each other grow and learn out of kindness and acceptance. We don't need to impress God or each other.
You are already loved. You are already righteous in God’s sight. You will not be judged by God or by us as to the quality of your prayers. There is nothing to fear."

Sermon Recap | The Things You Do Do Things To You


Galatians 5:16-25

Apathy: not caring about the things God created you to care about

*You can be a very passionate, driven person and still be eaten up with apathy where it matters most." 

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The word “neutral” sounds like it means, “having little to no effect on me” but this isn’t actually how life works—especially if you are a Christian. In Galatians 5, Paul shows us how life following Jesus actually works:

Galatians 5:16-17: But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

According to the Bible, when you become a Christian, you have two natures inside of you: the flesh and the Spirit. The flesh is that natural, selfish, sinful nature you were born with. The Spirit is God’s spirit that Jesus gives us to remind us that God is for us, not against us. Galatians 5:17 tells us that once you’re a Christian, the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit. When you become a Christian, not only do you have a new belief system, a new way of relating to God and others , and a new moral code, but you also get a new set of desires. At the deepest part of you, the Spirit will birth in you new desires that love God and want to trust and obey Him more than anything. Yes our desires will be at war, but the desires of the Spirit are what we really want now. 

Believing and following Jesus is about letting God show you what is best in life and letting His Spirit grow new desires in you that want what is best. 

Galatians 5:18-21: But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy,[a]drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do[b] such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

In these verses, Paul describes the kind of life that the flesh wants to pull us toward. The deeper you dig into this list, the more you realize how aptly it describes where human nature takes us apart from God. But in Christ, and filled with God’s Spirit, there’s a new life available: 

Galatians 5:22-25: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

This is what human life looks like when it is led by God’s Spirit to put the flesh to death. This is the test Paul gives us for how we will know if we’re allowing the flesh to pull us or if we’re keeping in step with the Spirit. 

So how, as Christians, should we think about all of the “neutral” items from the first chart? Biblically, the answer is: in light of the battle working between our flesh and the Spirit, nothing is neutral. All of the stuff that we think of as “neutral” must be reframed in a new category called “It depends.” 


Because the flesh and Spirit are always at war, pulling us in different directions, there’s not a biblical category for stuff having no impact on us. Instead of “neutral,” the Bible would say it depends on:

  1. Why are you doing it?
  2. How much are you doing it?
  3. When are you doing it?
  4. What effect does it have on you?

For many of us, the majority of our daily habits and rhythms fall into the “it depends” category which seems completely harmless. This is the precise American recipe for an apathetic Christian life. Without even knowing it, we have filled our lives with morally justifiable things that don’t cultivate any real spiritual life in us. 

The “Personal Liturgy” app this week is going to help us do some diagnosis of where we are spending our time. It is going to help us analyze our habits and realize where we might have been cultivating apathy without even realizing it. Be prepared to share with your LifeGroup this week as together we take a look at the “it depends” category in our lives. 


To learn more about the “Personal Liturgy” app, check out this short video where one of our pastors, Brandon Clements, walks through how to use the app:

If you don’t have a smartphone or would prefer to receive the challenges via email, you can sign up here: 

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Sermon Recap | The Life You Were Made For (And the Things That Ruin It)


The word ‘liturgy’ describes the rituals or practices of the people of God as they gather to worship. But what we often don’t realize is that we all have a personal liturgy. 

You have an order to your life and the things you do are doing things to you. 

The habits you practice every day are forming you into a certain type of person. The small decisions you make in an ordinary day of your life have enormous impact on the quality of your life. The things you do do things to you. Your habits and practices shape who you become. 

According to Jeremiah 17:5-8, two types of life are possible for us and the things we do in the ordinary rhythms of our daily existence will largely determine which type of spiritual life we are experiencing.

The Blessed Life: Humans were designed to get resources and nutrients from God. There is a life available to us when we walk with God in such a way that we are never moved from the life and nutrients that make us thrive. 

  • Jesus is the model of the Blessed Life. He depended on the Father perfectly. He existed with a settled disposition of fullness and joy that was not lacking in anything. Jesus stayed connected to His Father in a such a way that when the very worst circumstances came for Him—when the heat and drought came—He did not wither. 
  • Jesus invites us to this Blessed Life. Jesus invites us into what He had (John 7:37-39). Jesus came to put the blessed life inside of us so that the river of God’s spirit could live in our hearts and we could experience a vibrant spiritual life that feels like a tree planted by water. 

The Cursed Life: The cursed life is characterized by the desert. As a society, we lack purpose, hope, and joy. We have intentionally cultivated life in the desert without even realizing it. 

  • 5 Enemies Contributing to the Cursed Life (that particularly tend to attack Americans’ lives):
    • Apathy: not caring about things God created you to care about
    • Distraction: being unable to focus on God and others because your attention is taken by less important things
    • Self-Reliance: living your day-to-day life depending primarily on your own strength and resources
    • Cynicism: a posture of skepticism that leads you to doubt God’s presence and activity in your life
    • Self-Absorption: being preoccupied with your thoughts, feelings, desires, and concerns above all else.

These five spiritual enemies will be focus points in our series for us to fight against together. If it is true that we have unknowingly cultivated these things into our lives, then we have to start working against them. We have to fight them. 

For the next five months, we are all together trying to create a personal liturgy that puts these enemies to death and helps us become the kind of people God designed us to be. 

Each of the five sections in our series will help us to intentionally fight against one of the five spiritual enemies. Each section will have a daily challenge that we will all do together in order to practice becoming people who are transformed by God. Research says that it takes about 21 days to start a new habit so we are praying that a lot of these challenges that we do together become habits we do over the long haul that lead us into the life we were made for. 

To help us keep up with these daily challenges, we created an app for the series. The app is called “Personal Liturgy” and for the next 120 days, it is going to have a specific and daily challenge for us to complete. 

Our challenge for the first few weeks is simply to journal every single day to fight apathy in our souls. It’s to start a simple habit of opening up the app and honestly answering the questions for each day, and training ourselves to think more deeply about our lives so we can intentionally engage with God. 

To learn more about the “Personal Liturgy” app, check out this short video where one of our pastors, Brandon Clements, walks through how to use the app:

If you don’t have a smartphone or would prefer to receive the challenges via email, you can sign up here: 

Subscribe to our mailing list

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Sermon Recap | In the Image of the God Who Serves


This past weekend over 500 people served across the city with our seven partner organizations. This equates to over 2500 service hours! 

Part of why this is so huge is that the Bible tells us that we are created in God’s image and one aspect of that image that we were created to bear is called, Ezer

Ezer means helper—one who comes alongside and gives necessary strength and protection to serve those who lack the strength to protect themselves. 

Over and over throughout scripture, we see God as Ezer for us:

Psalm 30:20: Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.

Psalm 70:5: But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay!

Psalm 124:8: Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 146:5: Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.

When God gives the Israelites miraculous victory over the Philistines in 1 Samuel 7, Samuel celebrates by erecting a large stone altar that he names Eben-ezer: Stone of help. It’s a reminder that God is our helper. God comes alongside and serves His people. 

God is a God who serves. It’s a fundamental aspect of His character. Every day, every moment, God is holding creation together; He’s providing for, loving, forgiving, encouraging, and pursuing His rebellious, sinful, broken image bearers. 

Colossians 2 says that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. He perfectly reflects who God is. So it’s no surprise that when Jesus shows up He says. “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) 

We were all made in the image of God. We were made to reflect His image. When we serve, we align ourselves with what we were made for. We align ourselves with reality in the universe. We are discovering part of our designed identity. We are reflecting the God who serves: Ezer

Sermon Recap | Redefining Greatness


Mark 9:33-35 and Mark 10:35-45.

In both of these passages, Jesus flips the script and redefines greatness for his disciples and for us:

Mark 9:35: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
Mark 10:43-45: “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be servant of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

We all get caught up trying to prove ourselves, compare ourselves, and show ourselves to be better than those around us. A helpful tool is The Princess Test, a questionnaire that helps reveal areas where we functionally believe we should be treated like royalty, instead of like a servant. 

The Princess Test:

  • I expect life to be smooth and free from burdensome people or problems.
  • I often get angry at people for not treating me right, or not acting a certain way toward me. 
  • I often feel resentful. I feel bitter towards those who have what I want. 
  • I feel annoyed and slighted when I am asked to do menial tasks. 
  • I get frustrated when I don’t receive the thanks or notice from people I think I deserve. 
  • I get upset when I don’t get my way in a group decision. 
  • I am rarely the first one to offer to help out or serve. 
  • I find it hard to recover when I am made fun of or my ego is bruised. 
  • I judge people based on their usefulness or what I think they can add to my life. 
  • I get mad at God when I don’t think He’s making my life go how it should.

The reality is that we are all enslaved to our own pride and our own desire to be great until we see true greatness crucified on the cross. Only when we come to understand that the greatest servant who ever lived poured out His precious blood as a ransom to pay for us, can we begin to have the real, internal confidence that it takes to serve the people around us. 

A huge part of what Serve the City Weekend is about is training us to walk in the new servant greatness identity that Jesus has given us. We are not just spending a weekend doing nice things to feel better about ourselves; we are hoping to foster an ongoing desire to become the servant of all—to love those who have nothing to offer us—to serve those who are hurting, messy, and broken. Because this is exactly what we needed the Son of Man to do for us when we were hurting, messy and broken, and had nothing to offer Him. 

It’s not too late to sign up for our Serve the City Weekend! In fact, several sites are still in need of volunteers! We’d love for you to sign up with our North Main Block Party (kid-friendly and a great Saturday-only option!), Ezekiel (kid-friendly), or Transitions teams. Get all the information you need here

Sermon Recap | Grace for Our Sin


The goal of our |giv| series from it’s beginning has been simple: we as a church family want to fight against the chaos of the holiday season which focuses on and promotes consumerism, and we want to refocus our attention on our gracious and generous God who gave everything to rescue and redeem a people for His own possession.

The Problem: Self Imposed Captivity

Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for there shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean. Shake yourself from the dust and arise; be seated, O Jerusalem; loose the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion. For thus says the LORD: “You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money.”  - Isaiah 52:1-3

The Old Testament tells the story of God’s people in rebellion against Him and the punishment they experienced because of their rebellion. They sinned and chased after other gods, thus breaking their covenant with God. This open rebellion and rejection of God led to Israel’s captivity.

What’s taking place with Israel is a picture of what sin does in all of us. Sin brings captivity, and we become its captives. 

Perhaps in this season you feel the weight of your own chosen captivity: 

  1. Captivity feels like weighty chains. Maybe you feel like you can’t measure up. Maybe you feel like no matter how hard you try, no matter how much effort you put forth, you don’t seem to be the person you know you ought to be.
  2. Captivity feels like entrapment. Maybe you can’t believe you did “that thing” again. Maybe you feel overwhelming shame of having to admit in LifeGroup that you did “that thing” again. You continue to fail over and over again and you feel defeated.  
  3. Captivity feels like you are unrescuable. Maybe you feel like you’re too far gone, as if you are outside of the reach of God’s saving arms. Maybe you feel like you have done too much, so you carry guilt and shame. 

The Promise: God Will Send a Redeemer 

For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. - Isaiah 53:2-6

Redeem: The deliverance from bondage based on the payment of a price by a redeemer.

Israel in the midst of its own captivity is crying out for a deliverer, a messiah, someone to rescue them from captivity. We too have longed for and continue to long for a savior, a deliverer, someone to deliver us into freedom.

The Solution: Jesus 

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” - Matthew 1:18–21

In order for captives to be freed, either a ransom must be paid or the power must be overthrown. God, in Christ, does both. He delivered His people from captivity by paying for their sins and overthrowing the rule of sin and death.

No matter what you might be feeling, Jesus came to bring freedom from captivity. 

  1. Freedom from weighty chains. We are credited by His righteousness, so there is no more pressure to perform or live up to an unattainable standard. Through Christ, we have become sons and daughters whom God loves and is well pleased with. 
  2. Freedom from entrapment. Our Redeemer has overthrown the power of sin and death. Sin has lost its grip on us. We now have the freedom to choose righteousness. 
  3. Freedom from the lie. We are prone to believe the great lie that God does not love you, that you are too far gone, or that you are not worth the price. The truth is, God’s love for you is so great that he crushed His own son for you. 

In this Advent season, as the holiday craziness quickly approaches, let’s focus our hearts on freedom. Don’t look to the perfect holiday to set you free, look to the perfect Son who alone can set you free. 

Sermon Recap | Participate Like Parts of a Body

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We don’t all have the same function or gift and that’s good! The body works together as the individuals understand their functions and use their gifts together. 

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith. -Romans 12:4-6

God, in his grace and mercy, gifts each of us with specific ways that we are called to contribute to the body. 

These gifts differ (1 Corinthians 12:14-21) and that’s a good thing! God knew what he was doing when he put us in a body together.  For us to be a Jesus-Centered Family on Mission here in Columbia, we have to understand that as Christians, all of us are gifted. All of us are called to serve. All of us have a role to play. 

Three pushbacks people have:

  1. I don’t have any gifts. Your job is not to analyze your gifts and determine if God did a good job or not, but instead, put your gifts on the altar and offer them to serve in love for the building up of the body.
  2. I don’t have that gift. Not having a specific gift isn’t an excuse to disobediently refuse to grow in Christlikeness that all of us are called to walk in. 
  3. I don’t need other people’s gifts. The truth is, we all need each other. 
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. - Romans 12:6-8

Three Categories of Spiritual Gifts:

  1. Gifts that serve with your words: prophecy, teaching, exhortation.
    Words have power! For a refresher on this topic, listen to the sermon, “Wisdom and Words” from our “Proverbs” series.  
  2. Gifts that serve with your hands: serving, acts of mercy, leading
  3. Gifts that serve with your stuff: generosity

*Tune into the blog later this week for a post that breaks down each spiritual gift in more detail 

Three Next Steps:

  1. Try something. Serve! All of us are called to have a posture of service. If you’re not serving somewhere, go to
  2. Try everything while looking for the best fit. Don’t wait for your giftedness to be needed; Jump in and contribute. If you don’t know what your giftedness is, chances are, you won’t discover it until you start serving. 
  3. Specialize. As you learn more and more of your gifts and strengths, try to shift more and more of your time in that direction. This is going to require saying, “no” to some opportunities. 

Sermon Recap | Belong Like Parts of a Body

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members,[a] and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. - Romans 12:3-5:

Church unity looks like one body with many members.

4 things that threaten church unity:

  1. Consumerism - A pervasive mentality that treats church as a provider of spiritual goods and services. Marked by the question, “What am I getting out of this?” 
  2. Conflict - Sinful people always end up having conflict. The only question is whether you let that conflict drive you away from unity or into greater unity through forgiveness, repentance, grace and reconciliation. 
  3. Circumstances - If Jesus is central, then His call to belong to each other as a body dictates how we build the rest of our lives. When He isn’t, we will always have excuses that prevent us from commitment. Our schedules reveal our priorities. 
  4. Condescension - A prideful comparison of viewing yourself as smarter and more important than other people in the body. 

No matter which mentality you are tempted to believe, the answer for all of us is grace. Jesus’ body was broken so that we could be brought together as one body in the church. 

Sermon Recap | Transformation vs. Behavior Modification 

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I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. - Romans 12:1-2

Romans 12 captures what God designed the church to be: a Jesus-centered family on mission. If you lose any of the three parts (Jesus-centered, family, mission) you no longer have a healthy church.

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. - Matthew 5: 13-14

As the church, we are called to be salt and light but we can’t be the church we’re called to be if you’re not becoming the person God intended you to be; The more that you come to look like Jesus, the more that we come to look like a Jesus-centered family on mission. 

In light of what Jesus has done, we are each to present our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1; Galatians 2:20)

There are three things that we must become dead to as we offer ourselves as living sacrifices:

  1. self-rule/autonomy
  2. worshipping the things we used to worship
  3. certain ways of thinking/patterns of thought (Romans 12:2)

In order to be transformed by the renewal of our minds, we must remind ourselves of the gospel over and over again. This week, think through the lies/certain patterns of thought that you are tempted to fall into. Then, practice renewing your mind by replacing those lies with the truth of the gospel. And finally, ask yourself, “What is the practical application of this truth?” Consider writing this down on a notecard that you can look at throughout your week, as together, we fight to be individuals who are becoming the people that God intended us to be so that together, we can be a Jesus-centered family on mission. 


Sermon Recap | "If you do good things, good things will happen to you."

And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. –Galatians 6:9

While most people in our culture don’t ascribe to a holistic, religious karma worldview, the mentality that people who do good things will get repaid with a good life is everywhere. And there’s a problem with a karma-way of thinking: we grow weary of doing good.

Three ways that karma creates weariness:

  1. Karma can’t explain the random, chaotic nature of human suffering in the world. (Ecclesiastes 8:14; Luke 13)

  2. Karma leads to believing things about God that He never actually said about Himself. God never promises to keep everything bad from happening to his people. What he does promise is to be with His people in the midst of anything they go through and He promises that someday He will do away with all brokenness in this world once and forever.

  3. Karma fuels a sense of entitlement in us. 

What does the gospel offer that is different? 
We get something way better than karma; We get grace. 

Through the gospel, we are called and motivated to do good because underserved good has already been done to us. (Ephesians 2:1-10)

God will return to remake the world and do away with all suffering. We look back to the cross and we look forward to that promise that God will do away with all weariness and all pain and all suffering. 

Sermon Recap | "Follow your heart."

“Have the courage to follow your heart.”
“Listen to the little voice inside of you.”
“Don’t let anyone tell you what you can or can’t do.”
“You can do anything you want to do as long as you believe it.”
“I have to be free to follow my heart.”

In all of these sayings, what we are talking about is freedom and restrictions. So how should we think about rules and expectations? Should we really throw off all restrictions that are put on so that we can follow our hearts?

As Jesus was talking to a crowd of people, He said: "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." –John 8:31-32

There is an inherent relationship between truth and freedom.

There is no freedom outside of the truth. If you really want freedom, you must know the truth. Jesus says the rules are designed to set you free.

Galatians 5:1 says: "For freedom Christ has set us free"

Jesus wants to set you free, but not in the same way that culture does.

As a culture, we are pretty dialed in to how life crumbles in the presence of the wrong restrictions. It’s just that we aren’t as dialed into how life also crumbles in the absence of the right restrictions. We’re missing a key insight of Jesus’ here: True freedom is not found in the absence of restrictions; true freedom is found in the presence of the right restrictions.

When we understand what we, as humans, are designed for, then we can begin to live under the good, necessary, and life-giving restrictions that God has given us:

  1. We are designed for love

  2. We are designed for carrying weight

  3. We are designed for God

One of the most dangerous aspects of “just following your heart” is that sin is present in our hearts and sin desires to enslave us.

In John 8:34-35, Jesus says to the crowd: "Truly, truly, I say to you everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever."

True freedom isn’t found in running away from God but in running to Him.

So run to Jesus, who, instead of enjoying the freedom He had in heaven, took the weighty restrictions of sin onto Himself in the cross so that we could be free.

So if the son sets you free, you will be free indeed. –John 8:36