In the year 2015, April 28 fell on a Tuesday. I woke up early that morning and drove my rental car to Idlewild Baptist Church, just north of Tamp, FL. I was attending the Exponential Conference, the largest gathering of church planting leaders in the world, and on Tuesday the 28th of that year, I was taking advantage of a pre-session forum titled “Planting a Church.”
Fast forward four years to April 28, 2019 and the dream of planting a new church in Collierville and the Memphis metro area has become a reality! Peace Tree is many things to many people: a church that meets people where they are, a congregation that is not defined by its location but by the relationships formed by its people, a faith community that lives up to its vision statement, “Church Can Happen Anywhere.” And now, as of Sunday the 28th of this year, Peace Tree is an officially chartered United Methodist congregation!
Some may read that statement and ask, “Officially chartered congregation? So what have the last four years been about? Haven’t you been baptizing and receiving members? Didn’t you have a Launch Day back in 2017? Aren’t you already a church? Why is chartering such a big deal?” And those are all valid questions, so let’s start at the beginning.
Yes, we began our work in the summer of 2015 with community events that were meant to make a splash in our town and garner attention. Yes, our House Groups were small in number and size but eventually multiplied and helped launch new expressions of faith reaching upwards of 140 people each week. Yes, our Sunday morning worship service has grown year to year, reaching more people with the Gospel, teaching more children about Jesus, and welcoming in those who might otherwise be “spiritually homeless.”
But we accomplished all of these feats as “a fellowship of the United Methodist Church.” Our hope to one day charter as a full-fledged congregation was never guaranteed.
Peace Tree started out as the “daughter church” of Collierville UMC, and our work was sustained through funding from the Metro District and the Memphis Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Each year, we were slowly being weaned off of this institutional support so that now we are no longer receive assistance with program fees, and we are no longer considered a “daughter church” (but please know that as a pastor, I still receive modest support from the Conference for my housing and health benefits which are being stepped down over the next 19 months).
Even more important than the blessing of financial backing has been the faith of God’s people. We believe that Peace Tree’s success is more dependent upon God’s blessings than human plans, skills, or aspirations.
This past Sunday, we read from Matthew 16:13-19 and I pointed out how Jesus declared his Church would be built on the rock of Peter, his right-hand disciple. I interpret this to mean that God’s church is not dependent on budgets or the number of degrees the pastor holds. God’s church is dependent on the faith of God’s people and the relationships that exist between them.
We are the building blocks of Jesus’ Church, and we believe that God is continuing to build up God’s Church on earth; thankfully, this includes the faith community known as Peace Tree. Our Charter Sunday on April 28, 2019 serves as a milestone in our journey as a church, and I am thankful for everything it stands for.
Being chartered means that we are fully included and recognized by the United Methodist denomination, blessed by its connectional nature and challenged by the wide spectrum of its global membership (conservative and progressive, domestic and international, traditional worshipers and modern worshipers, large congregations and small congregations and everything in between).
It means that we are no longer a “fellowship” of the UMC, but a proper congregation. It also means that over 120 individuals who were either baptized at Peace Tree or who transferred their membership from other congregations are now Charter Members of Peace Tree United Methodist Church.
No church planter arrives at this point by themselves, so I’d like to thank a handful of people who helped make our Charter Sunday possible. First, I’d like to thank my wife, Alyssa, for supporting my call into ordained ministry as an Elder in the UMC as well as my call to church planting. Her faith and trust has served as an encouragement to me, especially during times when I doubted my decisions or grew anxious about the future. I would not have made it this far as a church planter had it not been for her.
I’m thankful for the Launch Team who first followed me into this church planting work as well as the Leadership Team which evolved from that original group. These disciples of Jesus Christ followed me into the unknown, ready and willing to do whatever was asked of them. They all have gifts and graces that complement each other, making us whole, demonstrating how it takes all of us to make up the Body of Christ. Their excitement and commitment for reaching new people with the Gospel of Jesus has made this work meaningful and rewarding.
I’d like to thank Bishop Bill McAlilly, the staff of the Memphis Annual Conference, my church planting coach, Rev. Chad Pullins, the congregation which served as our “mother church” for three years, Collierville UMC, and my District Superintendent, the Rev. Dr. Deborah Smith. All of these individuals and organizations played a huge role in our start up and in our continued success.
An additional Thank You is given to Dr. Smith for worshiping with Peace Tree this past Sunday. She was the one who made us “official.” All United Methodist congregations are ordered and organized by the Book of Discipline (BOD), and given our denomination’s name, you can bet that there is a prescribed “method” contained within the BOD for how a new church is meant to be chartered.
We first held a Constituting Church Conference during which time we named the first members of our Nominations and Leadership Development Team. Once we finished that task, we shifted gears and held a Charge Conference which is when we nominated church leaders to serve on our Administrative Board and Finance Team. Once all of this official business was completed, we ended our time together with the reading of Scripture, the proclamation of the Word, and by gathering together at the Table for Holy Communion.
We’re still Peace Tree and we’re still focused on our mission to “Love God by Loving Others.” God continues to grow our numbers and build up our church. We’re the same people that you’ve met and worshiped with over the last four years. We’re still prioritizing our House Groups and the real community that takes place in those small, intimate settings.
The only thing that has changed is our status; we are now an official congregation of the United Methodist Church, fully chartered and recognized by the denomination. Thanks be to God!
+Peace and Love from Pastor Kris
This morning, Pastor Kris joined with local pastors to pray for the town of Collierville and the city of Germantown as we observed the National Day of Prayer. Prayers were lifted up for parents, first responders, those serving in the military, young people, teachers, elected officials, local pastors, and local business leaders. The 9:30 a.m. observance was held at Central Church with singing led by The Orchard Church. The Noonday observance was held in front of Germantown's City Hall, and several lay people participated by leading prayer.
It truly was a blessing to see neighbors, government officials, and faith communities come together for a single purpose. Below, you can read the prayer that Pastor Kris shared, and at the bottom of the post you'll find some snapshots of the ceremonies. We hope that you will be in prayer today for all Americans as well as our neighbors in countries near and far.
"A Prayer for our Neighbors and for Those in Need"
God of all peoples, we thank you for your presence with us today. We approach your throne this morning as a community which is made up of many different people. We look to the future excitedly, and at the same time we hold onto our traditions and remember our heritage. We preach tolerance and inclusion; however, we tend to favor our own tribes, customs, and ways of living.
As human beings, we often put our own needs ahead of others — our access to housing, food, education, and security. And yet, your Son taught us to die to self. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus called his disciples to deny themselves, to take up their cross, and to follow him. Later, the apostle Paul wrote, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
Father Almighty, help us to look past our own selfish ambitions. Challenge us to put the needs of others above our own. Encourage us to not only read the Bible but to follow the example of your Son, our Messiah, in how he lived his life.
Send us your hungry so that we may feed them. Send us your thirsty so that we may offer them a cup of cool water. Send us the stranger so that they may be fully seen, fully known, and fully loved. Send us those who are shivering so that we may clothe them. Send us out to visit those who are sick and in prison so that they may know that they are not forgotten.
Gives us eyes to see and ears to hear, so that when we encounter a neighbor who is in need, we may see them as a beloved child God. And help us to understand that when we serve the least in our midst, we are in fact serving Christ.
Who is my neighbor, Lord? Your Son taught us to look in unexpected places. Is it the church leader from my local congregation? The lay leader from my Sunday school class? Lord Jesus, what about the person who practices a different religion from me, the one who comes from a different country of origin, the one who speaks a tongue other than English as their primary language?
Yes, this is my personal Samaritan, the one who shows me mercy, the one who would pull me out of a ditch, bandage my wounds, and restore me to health. Humble me, Lord, so that I may see this person as my neighbor, that I might lay down my own prejudices and biases to see all people as my neighbors.
Mold us into your likeness, so that others would no longer see us, but would see you living through us. Fill us with your Holy Spirit so that our cups would run over. And use us to build up your Kingdom here on earth as it is in Heaven.
May we love our neighbors as you first loved us, so that others would know who we are and whose we are.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Follow the journey of a new church as we answer the call to reach people in Collierville, Memphis, and the Mid-South.