Recently, I wrote an article for the May/June 2020 issue of Tour Collierville Magazine which I share below. I was asked to focus on current events and how to rely on God during times of uncertainty, doubt, and trouble. As we continue to see rising numbers of positive COVID-19 cases, small business owners struggling to stay afloat, and numerous protests for racial equality and police reform, I pray that these words may offer some comfort and assurance of God's protection. +Peace and Love from Pastor Kris.
So many things are happening in our world right now. It seems like we hear from federal, state, and local leaders on a daily basis as they present new guidelines and best practices for how to deal with COVID-19.
There’s a growing concern around our economy and how long it will take for us to rebound. Many individuals have applied for unemployment benefits, some families are dipping into their emergency funds, and all of us have had to adjust our lives as we practice social distancing and follow “Safer at Home” orders.
It would be very tempting to give in to fear. It’s taking more effort to keep thoughts of doubt or despair at bay given the current situation. If you find yourselves worrying more than usual, then I encourage you to look to God’s Word and discover joy and hope during this time.
Turn your minds to the Easter story found in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 28. Here, we see two women discover the empty tomb. An angel instructs Mary and Mary to go and tell the disciples that Jesus has risen from the dead. They hurry away “with great fear and joy” before meeting the risen Christ on the road. These women demonstrate how it is possible to live a faithful, joy-filled life and still experience moments of fear, doubt, or anxiety.
Earlier in the same Gospel, we see how Jesus’ followers had concerns and worries about their basic needs being met. Jesus, as their teacher and friend, points to God’s provisions. God supplies food for birds and dresses the wildflowers so that they’re more beautifully adorned than any runway model. If God cares about these living things, then how much more will God care for humankind—beings created in the image and likeness of God?
Psalm 46 begins with some very powerful words: “God is our refuge and strength, a help always near in times of great trouble.”
Our community, our nation, and our world is experiencing a time of great trouble, but I don’t think we’re alone. I believe that God’s Holy Spirit is present with each and every one of us, and I trust that God is guiding us through this pivotal moment in world history.
Psalm 46 also references earthquakes and tsunamis, the rantings and ravings of nations, and the destruction of weapons used for war. In the midst of this chaos, the Psalmist does not fear. Through it all, her eyes are on God.
The women at the empty tomb are filled with both fear and joy at the thought of Jesus overcoming death. The angel speaks a greeting, “Don’t be afraid,” and Jesus repeats these comforting words when he meets them on the road.
Earlier in his ministry, Jesus says to his followers, “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” Instead of worrying, the Messiah encourages his disciples to pay attention to what God is doing right now and to not get worked up about what might happen tomorrow.
Friends, it’s completely natural to experience fear in times like these. Becoming worried about our health, our safety, and our finances is a very real, human response.
Through it all, I pray that you will seek God first. Discover joy and hope in the Psalms and in the Gospel stories. Put your trust in the Lord, because God will protect and provide for us. God is always ready to help when we need Him most. Thanks be to God!
The following is a transcript from a video I streamed earlier this evening via Facebook Live. Contained in this article are helpful links, practical advice, and updated information for how Peace Tree is addressing COVID-19 concerns in our community. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns. God bless!
+Peace and Love from Pastor Kris
Hey friends, I hope everyone is having a blessed day today! It is March, Friday the 13th in the year of our Lord 2020, and I wanted to take a moment to share some information about Peace Tree and what our congregation is doing to address recent COVID-19 / coronavirus concerns.
We’ve recently received word from Bishop McAlilly, the resident bishop of the Nashville Episcopal area, advising churches across West Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and Western Kentucky to consider suspending worship and other large gatherings for at least two weeks in order to slow the rate of transmission of the coronavirus.
So, after consulting with several of our church leaders and office staff, we’ve decided to suspend our Sunday morning large group worship services at Peace Tree for March 15th and the 22nd. Following this period of time, we’ll regroup and decide on whether to hold future in-person worship services on a week to week basis.
Even though we will not be gathering as a large group for worship on the 15th and 22nd, a small group of worship leaders will meet with me on Sunday mornings to broadcast a worship experience online via our Facebook Live video stream. We hope you’ll participate in this online worship service by asking questions in the Comments section, Liking and Sharing the video to your profile, and sending us Prayer Requests through Messenger or the form on our website.
The easiest ways to access this live stream is to visit our church website, peacetree.church, and click on the box that says Worship Online. You can also log onto Facebook and search for Peace Tree UMC. If you’re on our Facebook page at 10AM Central Time on Sunday morning, you’ll be notified that the Live Stream is in progress.
For my friends who live in other states, and even for local friends whose churches don’t offer a live stream service, we invite you worship with us on Sundays at 10:00AM Central Time. Leave a comment on the video to let us know where you’re watching from.
As we continue to respond to the situation, please know that office hours at our Shelby Drive location may change in the upcoming weeks. We encourage you to call ahead if you plan to stop by office. The best number to use is 901-286-5532.
If you do come by the office, please know that we have several hand sanitizing stations throughout the church building as well as flyers from the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization with helpful information for the public.
We’re encouraging everyone in their everyday lives to practice “social distancing” by not shaking hands with your friends & co-workers. Instead you may simply smile, nod, and wave to your neighbor as you greet them.
Since we won’t be meeting in person for the next couple of weeks, we won’t be passing an offering plate. However, if you’d like to support the work and ministry of Peace Tree, you can make a donation to the church from your smart phone by texting the word PEACE to 77977 or by visiting the website peacetree.church/give.
Not only are we suspending our Large Group in-person worship services, but we’re also asking Small Group leaders and their participants to suspend their in-person meetings for the next two weeks.
This includes our Sunday school classes, UMW Circles, House Groups, and our various monthly gatherings. If you’re a member of one these groups, please reach out to your hosts and leaders to see if there are ways to share prayer concerns, conversation, and other interactions via group text, email, or video chats & online hangouts.
We’ve also been in touch with outside groups who utilize our church facilities, specifically our gym. We’re here to support them in their decisions, and each group leader is communicating with their members letting them know whether their regularly scheduled events are still being held or if they’re being cancelled.
There is no outbreak of the Coronavirus in the Memphis area, and right now there are only two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Shelby County. We’re trying our best to take responsible steps and to do what we deem necessary in order to keep our church family and community members safe from the potential spread of this disease.
You may already know that the symptoms of COVID-19 range from mild to severe and include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Older adults and individuals with underlying medical conditions are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, and since the age of our church family spans a wide range from a newborn only a couple of months old to someone who is over 90 years old, we want to ensure everyone’s safety and prevent unnecessary risks for our older church members.
We’re continuing to monitor the situation, staying up to date with announcements from the CDC, the Shelby County Health Department, and the Memphis Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Just earlier today, President Trump held a press conference declaring a national emergency. As I understand it, certain federal regulations will be put on a temporary hold to allow hospitals to make decisions that are swift and in their patients’ best interest. The government is also partnering with the private sector to make testing kits for this virus more readily available at drive thru testing locations. You can learn more about these protocols at coronavirus.gov.
We will keep the lines of communication open with you, sharing information through your small group leaders, social media posts, email blasts, text message groups, and newsletters which we will mail to our home-centered church members.
If you have any concerns or questions, you can message me directly over Facebook and Instagram. You can also email me at email@example.com, and you can reach our office staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remain vigilant, practice healthy habits, and be kind to one another. Stay safe and God bless!
The following article was shared by Pastor Kris during Vision Sunday on January 26, 2020 which concluded our "2020 Vision" sermon series. Architectural designs and concept art were shared with our congregation at a special meeting following the 10AM worship service that day. During the meeting, church leaders guided table discussions as we dreamt and imagined how a potential building renovation would impact our ministry and extend our missional outreach into the community.
If you'd like more information about the renovation proposals, please visit us in person at 9315 E Shelby Dr and pick up a copy of our FAQ document. You can also take a look at the design boards displayed in the main lobby with images of the entrances, hallways, chapel, and signage. Questions? Email us at email@example.com.
These are exciting times! God is at work with the people of Peace Tree, and we have sought to live into God’s vision for our growing congregation. What began in the summer of 2015 as a dream for a new church led by a church planter with a launch team of 12 people, soon became a network of house churches which met in neighborhoods, apartments, and restaurants touching dozens of lives.
Our mission was simple back then, and it remains our focus to this day: To Love God by Loving Others. As a new church plant, we sought to love those who had left the church for one reason or another, to welcome back those who had fallen away from the community of faith, and to reach those who had never been exposed to Christianity or encountered Jesus in their lives.
Instead of asking people to “come to church,” we worked tirelessly to “take the Church to them,” and to “meet people where they are.” We accomplished this through community events and weekly House Groups. As God grew Peace Tree during the course of our first year, our church leaders saw a need for a Sunday morning worship service.
“Church Can Happen Anywhere,” so we decided to rent space in a non-traditional location for our Sunday morning Large Group Worship Celebration - we believed this would make us more approachable and that it would clear any hurdles for individuals who were weary of walking into a traditional church building. After considering the YMCA at Schilling Farms, Collierville Schools, and the Malco Collierville Towne Cinema, the best value for our money was the local movie theater.
The Malco Collierville Towne Cinema provided us with a large lobby to greet families and neighbors, Safe Sanctuary compliant classrooms for our Nursery and children’s church, and an auditorium that could seat over 250 people comfortably. The staff was wonderful and we included them as fellow team members.
The Sunday morning worship service introduced us to people who had not yet encountered Peace Tree, and it also welcomed others who could not attend a mid-week House Group. These individuals came with talents, gifts, and ideas for new monthly gatherings like Family Fun Night and Book Club. They helped us live out our core values: Love All, Serve All, Live Together, Follow Christ.
The Malco Collierville Towne Cinema was planning a number of renovations and this ultimately caused us to move locations to the Malco Forest Hill Cinema in Germantown. New families discovered us because of the change in location, and we saw the number of people involved in House Groups and Sunday morning Large Group steadily grow.
We were pushing up against our maximum capacity in the Malco Forest Hill Cinema during big worship services (Easter, Christmas Eve, Founders’ Day, etc.) and we started looking for a larger space to rent that would also be accessible during the week for other programs and ministry opportunities.
We looked at buildings and office suites that other churches had previously occupied - one in an office park and another off of Highway 72. We toured spaces that were available for lease in shopping centers and at Carriage Crossing. We even found an online listing for a church building & parsonage in Collierville priced at $2 million.
God continued to grow our church and we continued to look for a new home, and that’s exactly when the pastor of CrossRoads Church reached out to me about a potential church merger. The Peace Tree Leadership Team proposed the “baby step” of renting the gym from CrossRoads while their congregation continued meeting in the chapel with their pastor continuing to serve the CrossRoads congregation. But after meeting with the lay leaders and committee chairs from CrossRoads, it was clear that they wanted to merge with Peace Tree.
During the merger process, we learned a lot about CrossRoads - how many of its members had once been part of St. James UMC and decided to move out to Collierville and re-charter as CrossRoads Church, how the people of CrossRoads worshiped in a warehouse for several years while the building on Shelby Drive was constructed, and how worship took place in the gym while the chapel was being built.
Wherever we go, God is already there! So whether we gather for worship in a warehouse, a movie theater, a coffee shop, someone’s home, a chapel, a gymnasium, or a restaurant - we know that God is with us. Since we shared the same spiritual DNA with this sister congregation, we decided to proceed with the church merger.
The leaders of Peace Tree emphasized our desire to renovate the building, updating signage, replacing carpet, painting the walls, and transforming the chapel into a space that could function in many different ways, welcoming community organizations and outside groups into our sacred space.
CrossRoads had opened their doors to outside groups in the years leading up to the church merger. The YMCA had hosted Y Camps in the children’s wing during the summer months; fitness classes, team sports, and pickle ball take place inside the gym; and Cub Scout Pack 37 was chartered and continues to meet inside the building.
We hope to build upon this important work and to open the doors of this church facility even wider. There is so much potential for this space, and there are plenty of opportunities to reach new people whom other churches have missed in the past.
I had absolute trust that the church merger would help our congregation grow and that moving into this building would give us a safe space for individuals and families to call home - and by all accounts, that’s exactly what’s happened.
I believe that the proposed renovations will extend our reach into this community and the surrounding areas. As we take our next faithful steps together, I hope you’ll pray for me and for our church family as we continue to seek God’s vision for Peace Tree.
+Peace and Love from Pastor Kris
The following report comes from Pastor Kris and Johnny Jackson, our congregation's Lay Leader. It was shared with Sunday morning's Large Group on September 8, 2019. Scroll down to the bottom of this post to see video from the worship service.
KRIS: We want to take a moment to recognize our first 100 days as a newly merged church worshiping together in this space as Peace Tree.
Many of you know that conversations began last year to bring the congregations of CrossRoads and Peace Tree together as we sought to further God’s mission, to build the Kingdom of Heaven here in our corner of the world, and to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
A team of faithful individuals came together to discuss the details, to list our rocks in the river, and to share our dream and vision for the future. I’m extremely grateful for all those who contributed their energy and effort to the merger of CrossRoads and Peace Tree, and today we want to report on the progress that’s taken place in a little over three month’s time.
I’m going to touch upon the Mission, Vision, and Values of our church and how we’ve been living those out, then Johnny Jackson, our Administrative Board Chair and Church Lay Leader will talk about some noteworthy successes from our first 100 days.
Peace Tree’s mission is to Love God by Loving Others, and I feel as though we do a good job of demonstrating that. In fact the first of our four core values is to Love All.
We remember that God first loved us, so we try to express love in all that we do, whether it’s greeting people at the front door, offering coffee and donuts on Sunday morning, welcoming newcomers to House Groups and Large Group worship, or interacting with our followers on social media. We want everyone to know that they’ll be loved, respected, encouraged, challenged, and welcomed by the people of Peace Tree.
Our second core value is to Serve All. For decades, this facility has been utilized by multiple groups in the community such as the Cub Scouts, Futsal Escola girls’ soccer team, pickleball players, and even our neighborhood's Homeowner’s Association, and we’re continuing to nurture and build upon those partnerships.
We’re dreaming up more ways to use this facility to serve the community, and at the same time, our people have taken the church out of the building to meet people where they are. We have more House Groups and monthly gatherings than at any point in Peace Tree’s history which means we’re reaching more people than ever before.
Our House Groups have supported the Big Heart Fund, the Family Violence Council of Collierville, the Reynolds Hospice House, and several local schools. Our UMW circles and BRO and SIS groups have supported local reading programs, the Page Robbins Adult Day Center, and My Town Miracles’ Family Picnic & Field Day. And for the fourth year in a row, our church is organizing volunteers for the Guatemalan Mobile Consulate.
Live Together and Follow Christ are the last two core values at Peace Tree, and we participate in this work every time we gather in this place for Sunday morning worship. Members of our House Groups and small groups come together to form one Large Group in order to pray together, to sing God’s praises together, and to learn together as we explore God’s Word.
Our Adult Sunday School class started back up this morning after taking a break for the summer, and we’re exploring ways to launch a Confirmation Class for our young people. Groups which meet in coffee shops, restaurants, and neighborhood clubhouses have given us a chance to evangelize and witness to our neighbors. And House Groups have used a variety of resources for their studies as we all seek to follow Christ ever more closely.
Now, I’d like to pass the mic to Johnny Jackson, our church Lay Leader, as he shares a word about our first 100 days…
JOHNNY: Thank you Kris and thank you congregation for this “first” 100 days. It is right to pause, reflect, and to celebrate this milestone.
In the first 100 days:
Speaking of the children, one of the real motivations for Peace Tree joining with CrossRoads in this merger was the need for a safe and inviting space for our children to learn and grow. Over the past 100 days we have renovated 5 classrooms to create this space for our children of today and for those families and children to come.
I would like to extend a huge thank you from Connie and myself for the work of all the volunteers who pitched in and helped out.
If you have not yet checked out the new children’s space, I invite you after today’s service to walk down the west hall and check it all out. As you do, dream about the possibilities that the Peace Tree campus offers for extending the kingdom of God.
As you observe the new children’s space and imagine the future, let me give an update for proposed renovations of our facilities. Over the past 100 days we have had a number of meetings with ANF Architects reimagining our facilities. In the coming weeks we will be compiling the design recommendations to review with the district board and the district superintendent. We will be presenting this recommendation to you, our church, as we prayerfully consider what God would have us to do. The renovations under consideration include:
As stated we will be presenting this information in more details in the coming weeks as ANF wraps up the conceptual design. It's been an active 100 days. I am excited to be a part of what God is doing here at Peace Tree, and I look forward to the future.
KRIS: I want to end this time by reminding you of our overarching vision statement: Church Can Happen Anywhere. At its core is a simple reminder that I am the Church, that you are the Church, that we are the Church together. Whenever we walk out of the doors of our homes or this building, we are walking out into the mission field.
God is already out in the world, waiting for us to arrive so that we might participate in God’s mission of disciple-making. Demonstrate God’s love to your classmates at school, be the Church in your workplace, pray for each other and encourage one another with words of affirmation online and in person, seek out the path that Christ has prepared for you.
Four years ago, Peace Tree was approximately two dozen people meeting in two different living rooms - Wednesday nights in Collierville and Thursday nights in East Memphis. Today, we’re a congregation of 350 members & regular attenders on the roll with an average Sunday morning worship attendance of 140. There are also 100+ people each month who get together at House Groups or other Peace Tree gatherings.
We reach hundreds of people each month online with our worship service Live Streams, and we reach thousands with our Causely check-ins which have encouraged your friends to message you and ask, “Hey, what’s Peace Tree? I see you checking in at the location all the time. Can you tell me more?” We’ve entered an age of digital evangelism, and you are at the cutting edge!
Just as Jesus told Peter that he would build his Church, we trust that God is building up this congregation, using each of us to serve as living stones for God’s holy temple. In the upcoming weeks, you’ll have opportunities to hear about our renovation proposal so that our facility can reflect the joy, hospitality, and spirit of our people while attracting newcomers and partner organizations to utilize this space seven days a weeks, extending our reach into this community.
But for now, let’s celebrate our first 100 days, let’s give thanks to God, and let’s continue worshiping together at the table. Thank you!
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.
In January, I had the opportunity to travel to Israel and visit the holy sites on a Christian pilgrimage. On the first day of our trip, we visited Cana of Galilee, the site of Jesus’ first miracle in which he turned water into wine for a wedding celebration at the behest of his mother.
While we were in the basement of a church built over the spot where this miracle took place, I noticed a minister performing a ceremony for several couples who had come to Cana of Galilee to renew their wedding vows. What better place to renew your vows than the wedding site where Jesus performed his first miracle!
In that moment, I was reminded of a lesson we receive from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. Whether a couple is renewing their marriage vows, or an engaged couple is standing at the altar reciting wedding vows for the very first time, we all need to remember that marriage involves three important individuals: you, your spouse, and God.
Ecclesiastes talks about the value of a friend. Chapter 4, verse 9 reads, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil” (NRSV). This same sentiment can be heard in the words of Lyn Collins’ 1972 funk hit “Think (About It):” “It takes two to make a thing go right. It takes two to make it out of sight!”
The Scripture goes on to say that friends help each other up, keep each other warm, and watch each other’s backs in a fight. Then verse 12 ends with the words, “A threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Up to this point, we’ve only read about two friends. So, why does a THREEfold cord suddenly appear? This is where God is reminding us that His presence is a necessary part of any relationship, including the marriage relationship.
As we consider God’s presence in the midst of our relationships, we must first acknowledge that we are made in God’s image. We see this in Genesis 1:27 where it says, “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (NRSV).
Those who practice the Christian faith believe in the Triune God. In the midst of the Trinity’s mystery exists a community: God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Just like our Creator, we are meant for community, and at the center of our community is God. It is God who blesses and sustains our communities. In our hearts, we know there is no life apart from the Divine Presence. Jesus demonstrates this with his own life by surrounding himself with friends and family as he begins his three year ministry in Israel.
He healed individuals, families, and entire groups of people. Before He was arrested and ultimately sentenced to death on a cross, He taught his disciples a new commandment: “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34).
When a couple marries, they start a new family. If they decide to have children or to adopt, then their community grows larger. God desires to live at the center of this community, to bless these relationships, to serve as a necessary strand in the threefold cord.
Whether you’re planning a wedding and preparing for a lifelong marriage this year, or you’re celebrating another anniversary with your spouse, I encourage you to always put God first.
Abide in God and remember that you are made in God’s image. God the Father exists as community, so be mindful of the community surrounding you and your significant other. God the Son cared deeply about relationships, so remember to invest time and energy into the relationship and friendship you share with your spouse. God the Holy Spirit holds everything together, strengthening your marriage so that it will not be broken. Love each other the way Christ loves you.
Treat your spouse the way Christ would treat them. And together, ask yourselves how the two of you may make a difference in your world, in your community. God is part of yours and your spouse’s threefold cord, ready to bless you both as you tie the knot. Thanks be to God!
+Peace and Love from Pastor Kris
(This article originally appeared in the March/April 2019 edition of Tour Collierville Magazine)
How many of you remember the climactic scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? If you’ll recall, Indiana has to pass through three challenges in order to reach the Holy Grail and save his father from certain death. His father, played by Sean Connery, had been researching the Holy Grail and wrote down three clues to allow for safe passage through the challenges, allowing someone to successfully reach the Grail.
Indiana makes it through because he has a book to guide him. Now, I don’t know how often you feel like you’ve had to make a Leap of Faith. For me, agreeing to be on the Peace Tree Launch Team in 2015 was a Leap of Faith. Like Indy, I’m not sure I would have made the leap if I didn’t have my book, the Bible.
My first year on the Launch Team was my last year of Disciple Bible study (six years earlier when I started the Disciple series, I wasn’t sure I would get past the first year much less complete the whole series). Planting a church was not on my radar. I had no thoughts of leaving Collierville United Methodist Church.
I was comfortable. Paul and I had joined Collierville UMC in 1999. We had been members long enough that we had been involved in several areas and knew many people. We liked our Sunday School class a lot. I even started to occasionally fill in for our Sunday school teachers during the summer months to give them a break.
Our youngest child, Caleb, was very involved in all of the children’s programming and continued to be involved as he grew up and joined the youth program. He earned a trophy memorizing the books of the Bible and taught himself guitar so he could play in the youth praise band. Rev. Harry Durbin had invited him to be on his team in a Scrabble tournament, and he went on numerous youth trips to Mountain TOP, Breakthru, BigStuf Camps, Lake Junaluska and Lakeshore Camp.
I had been intrigued by Disciple Bible Study for a while. I knew many members of my Sunday School class had taken Disciple lessons, and they all spoke highly of the courses. I had enrolled once before but I was still working a full-time job, and with the kids’ schedules it was a struggle to keep up.
Finally the time came where my husband, Paul, and I could take the course at the same time. We started with over 20 people that first year. People came and went over the six years we participated in Disciple, but a core group of six made it through all six years. We formed really close friendships with those people as we studied Scripture together and prayed for each other during that time.
Little did I know that as I was working through these lessons throughout the Bible and on Christian & Methodist theology, God was preparing me to take my Leap of Faith. Just getting the overview of the Bible in the first year and understanding how the Old Testament and the New Testament work together was eye-opening. By Year Six we compared the Gospels and talked about what was the same, what was different, and why.
When we heard at Collierville UMC that Pastor Kristofer would be planting a church and putting together a Launch Team, I was immediately excited. But that excitement was followed by a great sense of doubt. What if I wanted to serve on this team but my husband didn’t? What if we wanted to do this but Kristofer had enough volunteers or didn’t feel he needed us? How long would we have to commit before we could return to CUMC?
I am not sure how called my husband felt to this new church plant, but he agreed to join me for a face-to-face talk with Pastor Kris. I do remember telling Paul after our talk that I did not want us to be at separate churches, so if he wasn’t comfortable with moving forward then we would stay at CUMC. However, since we had built up a better Biblical foundation through Disciple, and because we truly believed Kris was answering God’s call, we decided to take the leap.
Then as Rev. David Atkinson, the senior pastor at CUMC said, it got real! It became clear to us with each passing week that church planting was bigger than we realized and better than we hoped.
Faith is not a one-time thing. Faith is part of the lifestyle of a disciple of Jesus Christ. Faith is trusting Him. John Wesley was particularly concerned about inviting people to experience grace and to grow in their knowledge and love of God through disciplined Christian living. He emphasized that Christian living is putting faith and love into action. Wesley believed in salvation by God’s grace but was convinced that salvation should evidence itself as faith and love in action.
We each are called to take a Leap of Faith. We each must answer our own call. Your call may be the similar to someone else’s call; it may be completely different. The point is that we have a Good Book to help us get ready and to prepare for that call. The Bible is a book that will help us see the signs and recognize them. It’s a book that teaches us the correct response to God’s call. It leads us to the understanding that faith grows through our participation in the church community — a community where we are nourished and equipped for mission and service to the world.
Every House Group host at Peace Tree takes a Leap of Faith when they open up their home to both church members and guests. Young people and families take Leaps of Faith when they come forward to be baptized and when they decide to join our congregation as members. Our service groups SIS and BRO have taken Leaps of Faith when they decided to organize and begin serving the people of our community with their time and energy. Our students have taken Leaps of Faith by joining multi-generational House Groups instead of joining a more age-specific children’s program or youth group.
So, now the questions for you are: How is God calling you? Are you ready to take your Leap of Faith? May God bless you as you answer the call.
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, those struggling with addiction, and local business leaders. The 9:00 a.m. observance was held on the steps of Collierville's Town Hall 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 two prayers that Pastor Kris shared, and at the bottom of the post you'll find the Facebook Live video that was live streamed by Germantown Baptist Church. We hope that you will be in prayer today for all Americans as well as our neighbors in countries near and far.
“Love Thy Neighbor”
God of all nations, you have so richly blessed this community. We give thanks for all the ways you provide for us and for our neighbors. We confess that we do not always put others’ needs above our own, that in this world of “me first,” we often neglect those around us. Lord give us eyes to see and ears to hear.
From an early age we learn to do unto others as we would have them do to us, and yet you’ve set the bar so much higher. You sent your Son into the world to love us unconditionally. He gave his life to serve as the atoning sacrifice for our sin, and before he left, he instructed his disciples to love one another as he loved them. We recognize that our wants and desires are no longer the standard; your good and perfect love is the standard, Lord, and we strive to model our lives after the example of your Son, Jesus Christ.
His message and challenge still rings in our ears: to love others as Jesus loves us, to see others the way God sees them. May the things that break your heart also break our hearts. May we laugh with sisters and brothers who laugh and weep with those who weep. Allow us to see our neighbors as people who have been created in the Image of God. Give us the strength to stand against racism, sexism, injustice, and prejudice in any form that it may present itself.
There are so many people in this wonderful town of varying ages, genders, creeds, and ethnicities, and all have sacred worth. May we no longer dismiss someone for being different from ourselves, for being too young or too old, for being “the other gender,” for having a skin tone that differs from our own, or for originating from another country. Help us realize that everyone has a seat at your table, that the Body of Christ is made up of many individual members and no two are the same.
Again, we thank you for this beautiful town and its people, and we praise you this glorious morning. Forgive us when we sin; soften our hearts - mold us and put us to what you will. Fill our cups, Lord, and use us as ambassadors of your holy Kingdom. Guide us to those who are in need, especially the widow and the orphan, the foreigner and the stranger, the invisible and the untouchable. Enable us to see our neighbors as you see them, and by your Spirit, help us to love one another as you first loved us.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
"A Prayer for Families"
God of grace and God of glory, we give you thanks for this beautiful day that you have blessed us with. We especially thank you for the great city of Germantown and the many families that make up this community. Because of our fallen nature, we have not always been the loving neighbors and caring citizens that you call us to be; but, by your Spirit, we are able to walk a closer walk with your Son, taking up our cross to live our lives as a forgiven people.
This afternoon, we humbly approach your throne and ask that you bless the families of this community. Fill each home with your unconditional love. Call each mother and father to lead their families with boldness, with grace, and with wisdom. Bless each child as they discover and explore this world. Watch over families as they welcome children into this world at Methodist Le Bonheur Hospital. Care for each mother and her family in the Women’s Pavilion.
Expand our understanding of “Family,” Lord. Help us to see the widow and widower in our neighborhood as part of our extended family. Encourage us to show hospitality to those who are moving into this city from other towns, states, and countries. Guide our conversations and discourse so that we may build each other up and work towards common goals.
Attend to the needs of grandparents who have stepped into the role of parent or guardian. Assist husbands and wives who struggle with infertility. Guide those who are fostering children in need, and advocate for those who seek to adopt. Lord, you have adopted each of us into your family through the justifying grace of Jesus Christ. We thank you for grafting us into your family tree, and we pray that we inherit the family traits of righteousness, purity, and kindness.
Again, we thank you for this National Day of Prayer and for this opportunity to gather as the people of Germantown. May we continue to conform ourselves to the example of Jesus Christ, our brother, the firstborn, your only begotten Son, who laid down his life so that me may truly live.
In his name we pray. Amen.
It takes dozens of volunteers to make our Sunday morning Large Group worship celebrations possible each and every week. As a way of showing our appreciation to these amazing individuals, we’re taking a break from holding a worship service this Sunday. We believe it’s important to rest and to spend time abiding in God. So, we’ve assembled the following worship materials for you and your family to use in order to worship God wherever you’re spending this holiday weekend.
We believe “Church Can Happen Anywhere,” and we hope you’ll invite others to join you in reading Scripture, praying, singing, and discussing the Gospel message from Luke 2:22-40. Remember to “Check In” to Peace Tree UMC on Facebook and Instagram. Every check-in will provide a Book of Hope to a child living in a persecuted or hard-tor-reach area thanks to our partnership with Causely and OneHope. And be sure to use the hashtag #books4kids so that other people will know about this month’s charitable cause.
Have a safe and happy New Year’s weekend! We’ll see each of you back at the Malco Forest Hill Cinema on January 7th at 10AM as we kick off our new sermon series, “ReNew Year.” If you’d like to make donation to Peace Tree this week, you can give HERE, and if you have any prayer requests, then please share them with us HERE. God bless!
+Peace and Love from Pastor Kris
OPEN WITH PRAYER
O almighty God, by the birth of your holy child Jesus
you gave us a great light to dawn on our darkness.
Grant that in his light we may see light.
Bestow upon us that most excellent Christmas gift of love to all people,
so that the likeness of your Son may be formed in us,
and that we may have ever brightening hope of everlasting life;
through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
(The UMC Book of Worship 1965, Alt.)
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought [Jesus] up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.
Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him.
Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
(Luke 2:22-40, New Revised Standard Version)
Watch this music video for Francesca Battistelli’s “Holy Spirit.” Listen to the lyrics (or sing/read them below) and consider what God is calling you to do this week.
There's nothing worth more
That could ever come close
No thing can compare
You're our living hope
Your presence, Lord
I've tasted and seen
Of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free
And my shame is undone
Your presence, Lord
Holy Spirit, You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord
Your presence, Lord
Let us become more aware of Your presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness
Holy Spirit, You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord
(Written by Cyril Garrett Neville, Gaynielle H. Neville, Hack Bartholomew, Norman Caesar • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group, Capitol Christian Music Group)
CLOSE WITH PRAYER
May the Christ who by his Incarnation
gathered into One things earthly and heavenly,
fill us with the sweetness of inward peace and goodwill;
and the blessing of God Almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be upon us and remain with us always.
If someone had told me that I would one day be a part of the Leadership Team for a new church plant, I would have said, “I don’t think so.” But that is exactly what I am doing right now, and I'm loving every minute of it.
Several years ago, I found myself as a member of a church but not participating at all, not even going to worship on Sunday mornings. Why? I guess I was frustrated with not feeling like I was a part of the church, never being asked to volunteer even after signing up on volunteer forms, not being nurtured in my faith or cared for when it was needed.
I have been in the Church most of my adult life and have always been involved in church leadership by chairing committees, working with Sunday School classes, volunteering with the congregation's youth group, and just about anything else I was asked to do. The Church was my family, but I had been missing that feeling of belonging and of worth. I desired the closeness that I had once felt to God and with my fellow Christians.
I missed working for God and feeling like I was part of a church family, and I wanted what I once had. At the same time, I kept feeling nudges from God to find another church. Then, I watched as Peace Tree was getting started. So, one day I said to my husband that I wanted to check out Peace Tree. We met with Pastor Kris over coffee and we liked what we heard.
Pastor Kris invited us to try out a House Group, so we went to the Martinsburg Cove House which meets Sundays at 6:30 p.m. I can’t tell you how loved I felt and how we were welcomed into this group from day one. I had found what I had been missing! I wanted more and even said to Kris that I was ready to get plugged in doing something for the Church.
Several months later, Pastor Kris invited us to be a part of the Leadership Team. Again, the feeling of warmth, love, and camaraderie was present from day one at these team meetings. We accepted the challenge to serve God in this way and we haven’t looked back.
It has been such a wonderful experience being a part of the Leadership Team and witnessing the launch of our Large Group worship celebrations. Planning opportunities for ministry and serving God as church planters has been such a joy. I can’t tell you how great it feels to be a part of this new church and how it is such a big part of my life. I can see God moving through this group, and the love and care shared by others is authentic and genuine. I feel God's presence at every event, every worship service, and at every House Group gathering.
I thank God every day that I listened to His nudging and pursued Peace Tree. If you're like me and you are looking for that feeling you once had at church years ago, or if you're just looking for a new church home, then try Peace Tree. You won’t regret it! Love lives here and God is in our midst.
Follow the journey of a new church as we answer the call to reach people in Collierville, Memphis, and the Mid-South.