The following letter was written by Pastor Kris to Peace Tree's mother church, Collierville UMC, and it appeared in their church newsletter on Thursday, September 18, 2015. Read the entire issue of The Interpreter HERE.
This upcoming Sunday, September 20, the Launch Team for Peace Tree UMC will be commissioned by our mother church, Collierville UMC. This group is composed of CUMC members who have taken seriously the mission to know God and to make him known. They've committed themselves to reach out in love to our neighbors as we seek to reach the un-churched and the de-churched, those who've left the church for one reason or another, and those who've never stepped foot inside a sanctuary.
The journey to this point has been eye-opening, grace-filled, and humbling. There were many things that I needed to learn as your church planter and lead pastor of Peace Tree. Over a dozen books on church planting, two church planters' conferences, three informational meetings with interested church members and non-members, numerous face-to-face conversations, and many hours of prayer led us to our official start date of July 1st.
In the months since July 1, we've put our beliefs into action and lived out our mission to Love God by Loving Others. We passed out hundreds of bottles of water and ice pops to children and families who were out at Suggs Park on one of the hottest days of the year. We hosted a back to school cookout at the Lawhon's farm where we fed sixty three people and shared the vision of Peace Tree UMC. And most recently, we showed our appreciation to our local police officers, firefighters, and EMS crews on 9/11 as we delivered cookies and thank you notes to our local police and fire stations in Collierville.
At the same time, we've begun worshiping in homes during our House Group gatherings and Launch Team meetings. Over 30 people from Midtown to Collierville, East Memphis to Germantown have now experienced Bible study, Communion, prayer, and fellowship in these small group settings. And with the start of the NFL season, we have 14 young men that meet on Monday Night to grab meals together at Collierville restaurants while they watch football, talk about life, and open up about their faith in God. We believe that Church can happen anywhere, and we work to meet people where they are.
These first three months have been extremely fruitful for Peace Tree. We've seen how God has blessed us and we strive to remain faithful to the calling God has placed on our hearts. Still, we covet your prayers and ask for your support. I personally have felt affirmed each time a CUMC member asks us how we're doing or offers to help cook a meal for an upcoming gathering. Other ways you can support us is by visiting our website (www.peacetreeumc.org) and reading over our mission, vision, and values so that when someone asks about Collierville UMC's church plant, you'll be able to share the Peace Tree story.
We look forward to celebrating our commissioning with you on September 20th. Our Launch Team will be introduced in all four worship services with the commissioning moment taking place during the 10:45 service in the Poplar Sanctuary. We're also delighted to have Lynn Taylor, Director of New Church Development, represent Bishop McAlilly's office and join us for the commissioning.
Thank you for your trust in me and in my team. Continue to pray for us as we go out and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
+Peace and Love from Pastor Kris
We've had several weeks of House Groups that have met for worship, Bible study, Communion, dinner, planning, and fellowship. They've all been meaningful times together, whether there were four people or twelve people present.
I was searching for an illustration to describe our House Groups in a way that wasn't so "churchy." Sunday school is a concept which will be familiar to those who grew up in a church setting, and it is true that our groups share the same DNA as a Sunday school class: a body that meets to study God's Word and occasionally gets together for social gatherings. But how do I describe the feeling and the atmosphere of our meetings to someone who hasn't visited a Sunday school class or attended a Bible study? I was beginning to think I'd find nothing with which to compare our House Groups, until I watched the premiere of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Fans of Stephen's former television program, The Colbert Report, which aired on Comedy Central, noticed familiar elements popping up in the new Late Show. Addressing the 'Nation,' over-the-top skits, Captain America's shield, interviews with political figures, superstar musical cameos that completely fill up the stage, and a commentary on Donald Trump that mimicked his former sketch, The Word, were all present in the September 8th premiere.
So what does any of this have to do with Church and House Groups?
For starters, Stephen was simply being himself. During one interview, Colbert stated that he played the fictional role of a "narcissistic, conservative pundit" for several years on The Colbert Report. But in this new role as host of The Late Show, Stephen gets to be himself. There was nothing fake or phony about who he was or how he acted in last night's premiere which must have been a relief to the late night talk show host. There were no catch phrases or gimmicks he had to perform. He could shed the pundit persona and simply be Stephen.
Likewise, our House Groups have allowed people to come together and simply be themselves. Since our church meets people where they are, there is no dress code or Rules of Conduct at a Peace Tree gathering. Sometimes people show up late because they're fighting traffic and driving to a meeting straight from work. Others open up about how bad a day or week it has been since we last met. Dogs are free to run around and jump on couches and beg for food. And everyone is free to be as vulnerable or as guarded as they feel they need to be in a new place with new people who are starting to meet for the first time. This is a good thing for some individuals who have social anxiety walking into large rooms of strangers or who feel self-conscious about the clothes they wear. It's also a good thing for people who are new to the Mid-South and fear they may sit in someone's "reserved seat" at a local worship service. We've tried to remove all the roadblocks one may throw out as reasons for not attending a church.
"Be Yourself" is a concept that works for both Peace Tree and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. We want people to know that they belong here and that they can always "come as they are." God loves you completely, and at Peace Tree we hope that all people will experience the fullness of God's love.
Secondly, there was a genuine sense of community that the show sought to create, especially during the musical performance of Sly and the Family Stone's hit, "Everyday People." The vast number of talented musicians who gathered on the same stage was a classic Colbert move. Derek Trucks, Brittany Howard, Ben Folds, Mavis Staples, and numerous others were led by Jon Batiste, the new Late Show bandleader who found ways to incorporate different musical genres throughout the show and who successfully brought the aforementioned musicians together for a fun number.
The lyrics of "Everyday People" are just as true today as they were in 1968, but the line that sticks out to me is "We got to live together!" Even though we are all different in one way or another, we need to find ways to live together as a community.
Different strokes for different folks was another concept that was featured throughout Colbert's premiere. Colbert pointed out how he disagrees politically with his brother, and yet he still loves his brother. The beginning of the show featured a montage of Stephen singing the Star Spangled Banner with people of different ages, races, and genders in different environments (baseball fields, bowling alleys, workshops, the Washington Mall, etc.). There was even a gag after the credits that took place in the fictional Late Night Locker Room which involved Colbert saying goodnight to Jimmy Fallon, his Tonight Show competitor. Even though these two hosts will be judged according to ratings and viewership from the same time slot, they both are playing nice with each other. Perhaps they both have realized first hand that "we got to live together!"
Some of you may know that Live Together is one of the core values of Peace Tree. And just like an overcrowded Late Show stage, we've seen our share of different folks who have gathered together for good food, Bible study, and community. Our House Groups contain both retirees and young adults working in their first full time jobs. We've seen individuals say goodbye to spouses and parents who have recently passed away, and we've also experienced new beginnings via weddings and pregnancy announcements. We've worshiped with high school and middle school students as well as graduate students who are continuing their studies in the city of Memphis.
Our House Groups have included people of different ages, races, and genders meeting in different environments (houses, restaurants, apartments, and even traditional places of worship such as Collierville UMC - our mother church). The people who come to these gatherings are different folks who have differing opinions regarding politics, education, child rearing, and which team will emerge as SEC football champions this season. But they follow Christ together with the understanding that they will be loved by the people they encounter at their weekly House Group meeting.
Stephen Colbert has taken a TV program that has existed for over two decades and he has updated it for a new day and age. People are encouraged to be themselves because the host can finally be himself. And when you tune in, you know you'll discover a genuine community of people in front of the cameras and behind the scenes who seek to brighten up your night with a fun hour of television.
Peace Tree's House Groups have taken an ancient concept of worshiping God in homes from the first century and has tailored it to fit our everyday lives. People are encouraged to be themselves because God loves us completely. When you show up to a gathering, you'll discover a genuine community of people who seek to love all, serve all, live together, and follow Christ. I thank God for this first month of House Group meetings, and I pray that God will continue to grow and multiply these groups.
+Peace and Love from Pastor Kris
Follow the journey of a new church as we answer the call to reach people in Collierville, Memphis, and the Mid-South.