Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – A Perfect Choice for Fall 2018

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They call it “The Greatest Sermon Ever Preached,” though I don’t really like to rate sermons because that involves both subjective and objective elements. What is not effective for one person might be the most life-changing sermon ever for someone else, right?

Still, it is hard to argue against Matthew 5-7 as the greatest sermon of all time. I mean, what is preaching but to exposit and herald God’s Word? And, what do we have in these chapters but Jesus, the incarnate Word of God, heralding the Word of God!

And, if this was the only fragment of Scripture you could get your hands on, it would be sufficient for salvation and a life of maturing faith. That can’t be said about many other sermons.

Our Story This Fall

Construction Delay

Returning leaders and members who know that we do an all-church sermon and small group series every fall have begun to wonder, “What IS our fall series going to be this year!?”

You might know that we were planning to create an in-house series again this year, that would use God’s Word to define who we are as Christians and as LC3, in conjunction with the move into our new facility. But, with the move now delayed to November, that fall series plan was suspended.

This sent us back to the drawing board, which ultimately resulted in a decision which has proven relevant and timely. Before we move into our new facility and explore the facets of who we are in Jesus, we will dwell for a season in Jesus’ words and become truly more like Him!

Curriculum Choice

distinct

“We were made to be different and live in such a way that it’s clear we aren’t bandwagon crowd-followers; we’re followers of Jesus. That fact makes us stand apart—distinct from the crowd.” – Michael Kelley

We were happy to discover “Distinct,” a solid and simple small group curriculum that will perfectly accompany our sermon series, breaking down Matthew 5 into the same six sections that our sermons will cover. It is solid in that it is centered on the Word, produced by trusted LifeWay Publishers, and taught by Michael Kelley, who, as the Director of Groups at LifeWay, knows how to craft a useful guide for groups.

It is simple in that the chapters and videos are insightful yet short, leaving plenty of time for guided group discussion about the Bible texts. The book’s extra features, like ice breaker questions, thought provoking exercises, and attainable applications, are all excellent.

As always, our group leaders will be well equipped in our training sessions to maximize the benefit for their groups from the weekend sermons, the accompanying curriculum, and the time we have together this fall.

Important Dates

Here are the key dates to mark on your calendars!

  1. Month of August – August is our busy and active month of identifying and equipping new Small Group Leaders. Is God calling you to lead or host a group?
  2. August 17/18 – Small Group Coaches Prayer & Planning Overnight Retreat. Will you make a note to pray for this leadership team over these two days?
  3. After August 18 – I and the coaches begin touching base with all returning and potential small group leaders. Major promotion and communication begin.
  4. August 25/26 – Small Group Signups begin!
  5. Wednesday, September 5 – Small Group Leader Training, WITH DINNER, 6:00pm – 8:00pm. (RSVP’s needed – for dinner and childcare. Returning leaders watch for e-vite. Everyone else, feel free to email me at reg.overstreet@lc3.com.)
  6. *Week of September 9 – Official Small Group Kick Off Week, leaving two “get to know each other” weeks before the “Distinct” series begins.
  7. Sunday, September 16 – Small Group Leader Training Makeup Session, during second service, 11:00am – 12:15pm. (As always, we offer the training session on two dates, to hopefully get 100% attendance.)
  8. Six Weeks, September 23 – October 28 – All-Church Sermon and Small Group Fall Series, “Distinct”
  9. Week of December 9 – Official end of fall semester. The series finishes six weeks before the fall semester ends, allowing leaders the option to continue studying further in Matthew (resources available), and/or to do other group activities such as outreach/service projects, worship/communion nights, fun nights, planning for next semester, Thanksgiving dinner, and, of course, a finale Christmas Party!

*Notice that our leader training is a bit later than usual. This is because our fall series starts a little later than usual, and because we are going to avoid Labor Day weekend, AND this will allow the maximum number of hopeful small group leaders to participate.

Books and DVDs

distinct

Small group leaders can pick up their book and DVD (and their group’s books if they choose) at the SG Leader Training. Small group members can get their books 1) from their leaders, 2) at the small groups table on weekends, or 3) in the church office, starting in September.

Children’s and youth small groups will also do this series, adding to the family experience!

How to Join a Group

Beginning on August 25/26, we will launch several methods to join a group: signup display in the foyer, an opportunity to meet leaders, the “small group catalogs” passed out in the worship services, and the online “Group Finder” on lc3.com/ministries/small-groups.

I am looking forward to deepening our walks with Jesus and each other, and praying for this fall right now!

Pastor Reg

P.S. If you are not presently a leader or in leader training, but would like to explore your gifts and possible calling in that area, please feel free to attend the leader trainings, or let me know about your interest by emailing me, reg.overstreet@lc3.com.

Fall 2017 Testimonies and 2018 Dates

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It was a fall of mass shootings, National Anthem protests, increasing worldwide persecution of Christians, sexual misconduct scandals, and of course our own personal life challenges. Where is God in all of this? How can we know Him, have faith in Him, and share our faith in Him unashamedly with others?

God directed our church into an entire fall devoted to these tough questions; wrestling through them together in our sermons and small groups. After a successful Ministry Summit focused on training leaders in apologetics, we launched the all-church sermon and small group series, The God Questions. We saw God grow our faith and our church, and our witness in the world.

And, now, it is time to recount and celebrate some of those ways!

Fall 2017 Testimonies

It is that time of year again when I get to share just a glimpse of what God is doing in and through our church and each unique small group. Below you will find some of the testimonies, goals, and celebrations reported from our groups this fall.

(Following those are important upcoming 2018 dates.)

Now, take a moment to read, praise God, and enjoy!

Stories and Praises from our Groups

small-groups-logo-pro.jpgWe had a great time at the corn maze!”23031284_253318151862956_5672789143419651049_n.jpg

small-groups-logo-pro.jpgWe’ve had a few new ladies visit and join us who haven’t been involved in a small group. One said they feel like they’ve finally find a place they belong.”

small-groups-logo-pro.jpg “I am very thankful our exchange students have observed our small group (voluntarily).  It makes me much more conscious of our conversations and how an outsider might view us.  For that, I am thankful.”

small-groups-logo-pro.jpgPraise: “One couple got to spend extended time with a relative that has been on our prayer list for a long time. Although he still has not made a commitment to Jesus, he opened up about what was going on in his life, which is not his normal way.”

small-groups-logo-pro.jpg“We continue to be a helping and sharing group, coming to each other’s aid as needed. Examples have been: donating funds to help members in need, assisting with household tasks of others, helping find employment for family members, and provided transportation on short notice. We are a group of believers and friends who do not hesitate to ask for and offer support to others as needed. We mailed a care package of food and other items to a missionary family in mid-August.”

small-groups-logo-pro.jpg“Praise the Lord that we have new folks this semester.  We are blessed that everyone is quickly comfortable with participating and sharing.”

small-groups-logo-pro.jpg“We had one group member who at the start of the first discussion, said he had a hard time answering someone who said ‘If everything was created, who created God?’ By the end of the night he had an ‘ah ha’ moment as we reviewed the discussion and went back to page 12 in the God Questions book and concluded that only someone bigger than the universe [an infinite God] could have created the finite universe. The diagram was essential as all the pieces were falling into place. We also had a lively discussion about the truth of the Bible and marveled at the reality about how much more evidence there was for the New Testament [24,000] to be true than Homer’s Iliad [643].”

small-groups-logo-pro.jpg“We have had great attendance this fall. Everyone has participated and been very open in discussions. Considering that we are new group and still trying to get to know everyone, this is huge. Plus, two members got engaged this last Sunday!”

small-groups-logo-pro.jpgThe Grisham group completes their annual Habitat for Humanity group project!girsham.jpg

small-groups-logo-pro.jpg“We prayed for a member to quit tobacco at Small Group and he has quit for months.”

small-groups-logo-pro.jpg“Praise that as a group over the past year, the ladies have grown together as a family while most of the men were gone. We’ve studied Financial Peace University over the summer and some have gotten out of debt, and/or increased their giving and being better stewards overall of finances. Another praise that all the husbands are back and it feels like a new season/kickoff as a group because of that.”

small-groups-logo-pro.jpgA new member’s response to our prayer list: “Wow, amen to all of those beautiful prayers. I will be praying for you all, I hope that you all have a beautiful day/Halloween and stay safe! God bless each and every one of you. Very happy to have had the chance to become a part of such a awesome small group.”

small-groups-logo-pro.jpg“Our group raked five yards for our service project this fall. It was a blast for everyone, and the number of new conversations with neighbors that prompted was unlike anything I’ve seen in from one project.”

small-groups-logo-pro.jpg“One member came to the church due to the flyer that the church sent out and has felt welcomed. He is a recovering from some life circumstances and has many questions about Jesus.”

small-groups-logo-pro.jpgThe Snyder’s group Christmas Party 24796268_934040673418747_8111483452175010245_n.jpg

small-groups-logo-pro.jpgOverstreet Group Tree Farm Field Trip and Christmas Party christmas party

 

small-groups-logo-pro.jpgNobles/Kern Christmas Party24173525_10212360492702303_1757439126550020914_o (2).jpgsmall-groups-logo-pro.jpgPinneo Group Christmas Decorating24131204_10214153665097623_7620166677154561062_n (2).jpg

New Leader Goals

A national survey of thousands of church small group leaders revealed that fewer than 1/3 had ever set any kind of goal for their group. That demonstrates a concerning lack of intentional leadership. In response, Lake City Small Group leaders were asked to set 1-3 goals for their semester – things they believe God would like to see happen under their leadership.

Below are several examples of what our leaders identified as goals this fall, in addition to the standard duties of small group leading.

Do more outreach outside of the church family, and see members grow spiritually.

Develop new group activity outside of normal meeting time.

 

Inspire our group to share Jesus with others and not keep it bottled up in our small group.

Identify potential leaders, and give them at least one opportunity to lead the group.

Continue at least two outreach ministries that we can do outside of the group.

Distribute the work of leadership to a core team.

Transition leadership effectively.

Work a Habitat for Humanity project in Tillicum.

To assess where each member is in their walk with Christ and what each needs to reach the next stage.

To serve food at the Tacoma Rescue Mission, with celebration dinner at conclusion.

To develop a prayer plan during the second half of this semester that allows more time for group prayer.

For our members to reach out and use what they are learning to witness to those around them.

To equip members to take ownership of their own spiritual growth.

To see more individuals serving within the group.

Get at least one service project completed, and have at least 1 fun filled event. I.E. Game night, Movie night, bowling.

New Roles and Ways Group Members Have Gotten Involved

Our leaders are also devoted to training  their members towards serving God with their own unique gifts and abilities. As 1 Peter 4:10 instructs, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 

Following are several new roles our leaders excitedly reported their members taking this fall:

  • LoveOps (mission project) Leader
  • Worship Leader
  • Food Coordinator
  • Social Coordinator
  • Communication
  • Rotate host homes
  • Rotate Scripture readers
  • Men’s/Women’s Breakout leaders
  • Guitar player
  • Became Co-leader
  • Sharing discussion facilitating, new person leads each week
  • Leading a service project with Young Life
  • Everyone shared their testimonies
  • Everyone contributes food every week
  • New assistant leader
  • Prayer request coordinator
  • Coordinates correspondence with our missionaries

May God continue to grow us all in our desire and ability to make disciples who make disciples, in 2018 and far beyond.

Important Upcoming 2018 Dates

2018

As you can see, God blessed our church communities this fall. We are breaking for a greatly anticipated Christmas celebration, but people are wondering… what is coming ahead in the New Year?

Put these on your calendars right now!

  • Saturday/Sunday, December 30/31 – Small Group Signups begin (small group listings at foyer table, in worship services, and church website)
  • Sunday, January 7 – *Small Group Leader Training/Vision Session, 11:30AM – 1:15PM, Upper Gym, with lunch (NOTE: There is a makeup session the next week if you CANNOT attend this.)
  • January 14–20 – Official SG Kickoff Week!
  • Sunday, January 14 – *Small Group Leader Training Makeup Session, 11:30AM – 12:40PM, snacks but no lunch. 
  • Saturday, February 3 – LCCC Membership Class

*Our small group leader trainings are not exclusively for returning small group leaders. Anyone interested in any type of church leadership is welcome. 

Watch for more information regarding the January training sessions, and the preliminary work involved with them.

Praising God for the success He granted in 2017. Expecting great things in 2018,

Pastor Reg

Apologetics NOT? When to Defend and When to Proclaim

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by Catlan Sardina, Lake City Small Group “Coach in Training,” Army Psychological Operations Officer,  seminary student, husband and father (not necessarily in that order)

God Questions2In the upcoming God Questions series, Lake City is going to explore the world of apologetics. This will be an exciting season of growth for many of us, and reassurance of the truth and validity of the Bible as God’s Word for all of us. Apologetics, the $10 word for “defending our faith,” is a great tool for any maturing Christian. But, as with any other tool, it is important to know what it is, what it’s not, and when to use it. As I’m sure the Great Carpenter would have told you, “Don’t use a saw on a job that calls for a drill.”

In this post, I would like to humbly suggest a point of reflection for all my brothers and sisters at Lake City: Don’t confuse apologetics and evangelism, they are different jobs and require different tools.

A great starting point for differentiating apologetics and evangelism is by clearly defining apologetics, what is it and what isn’t it. The passage of Scripture most often quoted to introduce apologetics is 1 Peter 3:15b:

…always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, — English Standard Version

This is a passage often taken out of context, to turn apologetics into a commanded discipline. The context of 1 Peter 3 is suffering, where to place our hope when we face persecution, and what to do when we are persecuted. In this context, our greatest takeaway from verse 15 is that when things get terrible, believers should have so much hope that people ask us for a reason for it. Hope in the face of suffering is our greatest apologetic.

This seems almost unfathomable in our current cultural setting where Christians are prone towards becoming hopeless, downtrodden, and defensive every time America loses some of her Christian heritage. Just before the November 2016 elections, a writer submitted this question to Billy Graham:

I don’t see any hope for our nation. I think we’ve gotten so far from God that He’s just given up on us. That’s what happened to people in Old Testament times, wasn’t it?

Of course, Billy Graham answered the questioner by encouraging him to have hope, but this sort of thinking is not unique and does not portray the hope that Peter talked about in 1 Peter 3:15. Wouldn’t it be an amazing testimony if Lake City Community Church started The God Questions series by first preparing our hearts to have hope in times of persecution?

Imagine living out 1 Peter 3:15 as a community. Our hope in the grace of Jesus Christ would be longsuffering and unquenchable. People would see that we cannot be brought low, no matter how terrible the persecution or suffering. It would be in this context that we would provide a defense for the hope that is in us. This type of defense and witness already seems counter to the in-your-face brand of apologetics that tends to make Christians look like the defender of God. By the way, God doesn’t need a protector, we need God to be our protector.

If then, 1 Peter 3:15b does not primarily command us to prepare a logical, intellectual defense for the Christian faith, where does Scripture tell us to do this? The best passage in Scripture for understanding apologetics comes from 2 Corinthians 10:5.

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, — English Standard Version

The context of this passage is far more appropriate for the discipline of apologetics. Here, Paul is talking to Christians about worldly opinions influencing other Christians. In this chapter (just two verses later) Paul talks about people being confident that they are Christ’s. In this context we derive the instruction for using logical arguments to destroy lofty opinions that may cause doubts within the Church. Did you notice the difference here? Reaching back to the analogy that apologetics is a tool, the “job” that most appropriately calls for apologetics is the moment when a Christian begins to have doubts about the validity of Scripture because of a worldly argument.

Our leadership at LC3 has already framed The God Questions series in a light very similar to this, with a goal of preventing our youth from doubting their faith in middle/high school. Bryan Osborne, from Answers in Genesis, showed some troubling figures about Christian children finding doubt and referenced the book titled Already Gone. Our church does an excellent job at discipleship. If we want to continue to take discipleship seriously, then we need to build up the hope in our less-mature believers. Apologetics is a great tool (alongside prayer, testimony, exposure to Scripture, and the power of the Holy Spirit) to assist in “destroying arguments of doubt to help take every thought captive to obey Christ.” One step further, Romans 14 proclaims that mature Christians have a responsibility to sacrifice our Christian liberties, time, and effort to disciple immature believers.

If apologetics is a hammer, the seeds of doubt within the Church are the nail. But, what about when dealing with lost-unregenerate people outside the Church? Well, now we aren’t dealing with the same problem, and if the problem doesn’t call for a hammer then we shouldn’t reach for it. It is important to remember that no one has ever been saved by a good argument, but only by the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Here is some Scripture for thought on why not to use apologetics for arguing with lost people:

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing — 1 Corinthians 1:18a, English Standard Version

Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles — 1 Corinthians 1:20b-23, English Standard Version

“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”… After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. — John 6:56-58, 66 English Standard Version

All three of these passages have something in common: lost people think the Gospel is foolish. Jesus did not try to make the Gospel more appealing and more believable, he made it powerful. In another passage, Jesus was sending out His disciples to evangelize and he explicitly told them not to prepare an apologetic-type message:

When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. — Matthew 10:19-20

A last passage of Scripture to help us when preaching the Gospel to the lost as opposed to combatting them with logical (albeit truthful) arguments comes from the Gospel according to Paul:

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. — Romans 10:17, English Standard Version

Halfway through The God Questions series, when you are at work at the water cooler and you find yourself in a position to use your newfound apologetics Kung Fu, practice restraint. The Gospel that lives in us is not revealed through arguing over the age of the earth. The Gospel is not represented by a defensive know-it-all. The Gospel is represented daily by faithful, humble, submissive, persecuted, longsuffering, and HOPEFUL Christians. When your hope has stretched to the point that people around you have no choice but to ask for a reason, defend it with the Gospel. By your preaching of the Word of Christ they will hear, and by hearing they too will have faith. Use your hammer on a nail, but don’t try and repair a broken window by hammering it back together.