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 hold 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.
This morning, Pastor Kris joined with our local pastors to pray for the town of Collierville and its citizens as we observed the National Day of Prayer. Prayers were lifted up for single parents, first responders, those serving in the military, young people, teachers, elected officials, local pastors, and the unemployed. We were also led in singing by the Central Church praise choir. It was a blessing to see everyone come together as one town worshiping God. Below, you can read the prayer that Pastor Kris shared, and at the bottom of the post you'll find the Facebook Live video that was shared by the Town of Collierville. We hope that you will be in prayer today for all people in this great land and for all of our neighbors in countries near and far.
God of all nations, we turn to you this day in worship and prayer as your children. We know your character, and we have seen how you look favorably upon the youngest in society.
You protected Moses when he was but a babe floating down the Nile in a basket made of reeds. You chose David, the young shepherd boy to lead your people, Israel. Your angel came to Mary, a young virgin, and asked her to be the mother of the Messiah. And from the Gospel of Luke, we see how Jesus Christ as a teenager grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and all the people.
Christ himself said, "Let the little children come to me." So on this day, we ask that you would watch over the young people in the town of Collierville. Bless them as they study, and learn, and explore the world around them. Guide them as they grow and develop into young adults. Place good role models and upstanding examples in their lives. And watch over all the parents and adults of our town, for we know that these young people look to us and take in all that we say and do.
May we not look down on Collierville's teenagers and young people simply because they are young. But may we learn from them, may we listen to them, and may we build them up and direct them towards your perfect plan for a prosperous future full of hope and peace.
Dear God, bless the families of this great town and bless our young people. Watch over them and fill their homes with your good and perfect love and the power of your holy presence. We ask all of this in the mighty name of Jesus, who was born as a baby in Bethlehem, who fled to Egypt as a young child, who conversed with teachers in the Temple as a teenager, and who was baptized in the Jordan as a young adult. It is in His name that we pray for all of our youth. Amen.
Last weekend, the Guatemalan Mobile Consulate returned to the Memphis area to assist Guatemalan citizens who are living and working in the United States. Consulate officials helped individuals process updates to their documentation including passport renewals, birth certificate applications for children who have dual-citizenship, marriage licenses, certificates of death for loved ones who had passed away, and government-issued identification cards.
Trinity United Methodist Church (Midtown) served as the host site for this event, with Iglesia Metodista Unida "El Redentor" acting as the liaison with the Consular General in Atlanta and Peace Tree UMC coordinating volunteers for the two-day event. Volunteers came from the three churches mentioned above as well as from the following groups & organizations: Collierville UMC, Emmanuel UMC (Memphis), St. Paul UMC (Lakeland), Trinity Baptist Church (Cordova), Teach for America, Latino Memphis, University of Memphis Spanish Department, Sigma Chi Fraternity (EK Chapter), and the Congregational Health Network from Methodist Healthcare. By the end of the weekend we had helped serve 929 neighbors, and Christians of all ages from varying socio-economic levels and different cultural backgrounds had come together to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.
The Guatemalan Consulate hopes to return to Memphis for another visit in 2017. So if you'd like to work alongside all these amazing people, then please Contact us today. Reverend Luz Campos is the pastor of El Redentor, and below you can read her letter to the volunteers. With her permission and with light editing, we share it with you now:
It was 5:30 p.m. on Friday, March 24th when we realized that there were already some cars in the parking lot with people waiting for the line to start. When we returned at 2:00 a.m. the line was very long; men and women with children in their arms prepared to spend the night waiting in line in order to receive assistance from the Guatemalan Mobile Consulate.
Unfortunately, during the early hours of Saturday the 24th, a storm with strong winds and heavy rain approached Midtown. But no one moved from their place in line. Thanks to the compassion of Rev. Jonathan Bratt Carle and for Rev. Goyo de la Cruz who coordinated the details of opening the Education Center at Trinity UMC, at 4 o'clock in the morning we were able to allow people to enter. Everyone was obviously soaked but thankful for the shelter.
The church housed between 400 to 500 adults plus children that Saturday morning. And at 8:00 a.m. the officials from the consulate arrived to assist the Guatemalan community. Everyone was very grateful because the volunteers from Trinity UMC had shared water, fruit, and cookies. There was even a group of volunteers who took care of the children. We are also very grateful to our neighbors from the Vollintine Evergreen Community Association for their support in allowing us to park along the streets of their neighborhood throughout the weekend.
There is a Latino saying that says “Union Makes Force" (La Unión hace la Fuerza). It is true! The union of three churches (Trinity UMC, Peace Tree, and Iglesia Metodista Unida “El Redentor”) and many volunteers made it possible for us to be the hands and feet of God in this journey.
Thank you brothers and sisters! And to all the volunteers, thank you for working so hard to serve our neighbors. They were very satisfied, not only because they were able to carry out their official consulate business, but also because they met people who truly love God. They encountered people who exemplify the love of God burning in their hearts by serving others. So once again, "Thank You."
Rev. Luz Campos
Iglesia Metodista Unida "El Redentor"
When we began planting Peace Tree in the Collierville/Memphis area in 2015, we knew that we needed to offer something different. There are over 50 houses of worship in Collierville alone, so we believed many would ask, “Does Collierville really need another church?” Our answer is YES, Collierville needs new churches to reach new people. While a majority living here would say they have a church home, there are literally thousands of Collierville residents who have marked “No Religious Preference” on their census forms. We imagined the number of people we walked by every day who weren’t part of a church family, the number of people who’ve experienced a life crisis with nowhere to turn, with nobody to talk to. We knew that thousands of our neighbors were spiritually homeless and we needed to do something now.
As we dreamt of a new church for Collierville, we were sure of two things: 1) we wanted to do Church differently and 2) we didn’t want to put all of our efforts into a Sunday morning worship experience (remember there are over 50 churches in this town with Sunday morning gatherings). So how could we flip the “church planting script” and build up a congregation without first launching a weekly Sunday morning worship service?
This is how the idea of House Groups was born. If we truly wanted to reach our neighbors, then we needed to go into our neighborhoods. Neighborhoods are made up of people who live in homes, and play in parks, and eat in restaurants down the street from where they live. This was where our church would start; these were the places where we’d plant Peace Tree.
Seventeen months after we began this work, we can say that God has blessed us with six House Groups spreading across East Memphis, Germantown, and Collierville. We meet in homes, restaurants, and apartment complexes and our community events often take place in our town’s parks. We’ve welcomed over 180 people who have visited one of our House Groups in 2016, and many have made Peace Tree their church home.
There’s a difference between a church which offers Small Groups as a program opportunity and a church that is entirely made up of small groups. We’ve aimed to be the latter. And since we didn’t pour all of our efforts into a Sunday morning celebration, we now have a solid foundation of House Group participants who want to see members of the other groups more regularly as well as serve alongside one another in Kingdom-building work. After a season of monthly Preview Services, and after much prayer and discussion with our Launch Team and volunteers, we are happy to announce that one month from today Peace Tree will be launching weekly Sunday morning worship services at the Malco Collierville Towne Cinema starting January 8, 2017.
These Sunday morning large group celebrations will simply be one way that we worship God together. Our main opportunities for learning, service, and fellowship will still be found in the House Group setting. Think of Sunday morning worship services as a “family reunion.” It’s a chance to see friends from other House Groups that we haven’t seen in a while. Sundays will give us a moment to say hello to fellow volunteers from various service projects while together we seize the opportunity to rest in God. These large group gatherings will allow us the space and time to celebrate God together, to lift up our praises, and to be inspired by God’s Word.
For some of you reading this, your first encounter with Peace Tree will be on a Sunday morning when you walk into the theater to check us out and see what we’re all about. We think that’s great! But as we’ve already mentioned, the true heart of Peace Tree is in our House Groups. We hope that everyone who visits us in January will take the next step and find a House Group that they can attend during the week. We currently have House Groups that meet on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and we have plans to launch new groups in the new year.
You’ve read the blog post this far and you may be wondering, “Am I a good fit for Peace Tree? Is Peace Tree a good fit for me?” Well, you should know that our goal is to reach individuals who have left the Church, those who have turned their backs on God or have given up on religion altogether. We also hope to reach people who are spiritual and religious but haven’t found a safe place to explore their spirituality and to ask the big questions about God and our place in the universe. There are also individuals who didn’t grow up attending church services, going on youth retreats, and participating in Vacation Bible School over their childhood summers. Maybe their families didn’t believe in “going to church,” or maybe they were raised in a different country with different belief systems. We feel called to reach these neighbors as they take their first steps into Christianity. So, if you fall into any of these categories please believe me when I say that our hearts go out to you. We’ve already connected with some of you, but to the rest: we’re so anxious to meet you!
We hope you’ll consider joining us for our outdoor Christmas service, Carols and Candlelight, on the Collierville Town Square. It’ll be Friday, December 16th with hot cocoa being served at 6:00 pm and our program beginning at 6:30. House Groups are continuing to meet throughout December with a few taking one week off for a seasonal break. And be sure to mark your calendars for January 8th when we begin hosting weekly worship services at Malco Collierville Towne Cinema. Doors will open at 9:30 am for coffee & donuts. Worship will start at 10:00 and Peace Tree Kids is open to children at 10:30. We also provide a nursery with Safe Sancutaries-trained workers to care for your little ones.
As always, please contact us if you have any questions about Peace Tree. My personal email is email@example.com and our office phone number is (901) 286-5532. We’re so excited to see what God has in store for 2017, and we hope you’ll be part of this new thing that God is doing. Happy Advent, Merry Christmas, and remember: Church Can Happen Anywhere.
+Peace and Love from Pastor Kris
In a few days we'll be ringing in the new year and welcoming 2016. But in the midst of the twelve days of Christmas, my thoughts still linger on the people we visited in Scripture during our House Group worship, the characters of the Nativity Story: Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds. Each was greeted by an angel, each was terrified by the news they received (or simply by the sight of God's holy messenger), and each heard the phrase, "Do Not Be Afraid."
These are words that I've needed to hear time and time again during these first six months of church planting. Whenever I doubted myself and my calling to plant a new church with the mission of reaching new people, I heard God whisper, "Do Not Be Afraid." As I feared whether or not I could raise enough of my salary to support my wife and unborn child, our friends and family showed their support and assured us, "Do Not Be Afraid." As I've led a Launch Team into the unknown, they've had my back and echoed the angelic phrase, "Do Not Be Afraid." So far this journey has been fantastic and humbling as I've trusted God, put my faith in his provisions, and depended on others to work alongside me as we fulfill our mission to Love God by Loving Others. We've shown our corner of God's Kingdom that Church can happen anywhere, and we enter the new year greatly encouraged and more excited than when we took our first steps this summer.
We want you to know how God has been moving through Peace Tree and how God has been using us as His hands and feet. We volunteered our time and recruited others to serve at the Guatemalan Consulate Visit in early December where more than 800 individuals received assistance from their government's officials. When you factor in children and spouses who also attended the event, we ministered to over 1200 people! Over 163 people have attended one of our community events including our Suggs Park Field Day and Back to School BBQ. Over 145 people have worshiped with us outdoors including our most recent service, Carols and Candlelight on the Collierville Town Square. 74 different people have visited one of our House Groups. And back in September, we showed our appreciation to police officers, firefighters, and EMTs during our Public Safety Appreciation Day by delivering baked goods to the Collierville Police Department and six Firehouses.
Thankfully, Peace Tree has several strategic partners and sponsors that have made this ministry possible. We're thankful to our mother church, Collierville UMC, for their continued prayers and support. And we are grateful for the Memphis Annual Conference and the Metro-McKendree District of the United Methodist Church for their assistance through funding and resources. I am most especially thankful for the more than 55 individual donors who have made charitable contributions to Peace Tree totaling $25,339! Their gifts make our ministry possible and helps support my work as a church planter.
As we approach January 1st, there are a few more days for individuals to make a gift to Peace Tree. So, if you believe in our mission and support our core values (Love All, Serve All, Live Together, Follow Christ), we hope you'll consider making a gift to Peace Tree HERE. Our online giving portal makes it possible for donors to give instantly and securely and assures them that their gift counts towards 2015's charitable contributions.
We are thankful for many things this Christmas season. We see a genuine community forming in front of our eyes. We've reached out in service and loving-kindness to our neighbors. We've worshiped Christ and studied God's Word together. And surrounding each of us has been a Spirit of Love and Peace. We hope that you will continue praying for us, sharing our story with others (especially those who feel far away from God), and that you will join us at an upcoming House Group gathering or community event. I am sure that I will still have moments of fear and trembling, but at the same time I stand amazed at everything God has done through us in just six short months. If you see me sometime soon, please remind me (as I remind myself daily), "Do Not Be Afraid." The Savior is here! A new year is about to begin, and with it comes multiple opportunities for this new church to reach new people for Christ. Amen.
+Peace and Love from Pastor Kris
Susan and I have been active members of Collierville United Methodist Church for the greater part of our lives. We love our church, and we love telling others about it! Through the years we have served on dozens of committees, work areas, and both local and international mission teams. So when the opportunity arose to collaborate with Pastor Kris in the planting of a new church, we eagerly volunteered for such a unique outreach.
In spite of the hundreds of congregations found in Collierville and in neighboring towns, some folks still have a hard time finding themselves in church these days.
Peace Tree UMC is a new type of church plant supported by Collierville United Methodist Church. We are committed to reaching friends and neighbors who are currently M.O.S. “Missing on Sundays.” Many people who are not connected to a faith community are people who live and work amongst us: they attend local schools, serve in restaurants, work in hospitals, repair our cars, guide us with our investment portfolios, prepare coffee at Starbucks, and even exercise with us at the gym. Peace Tree wants to form new relationships and share the promise of God’s love with all people in all kinds of places and spaces, every day of the week.
The question that Susan and I have asked is, "How do we help foster these new relationships?"
Recently, we attended a New Church “Boot Camp” hosted by the Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences. One of the topics of the 3-day conference was a fascinating but unsettling session regarding millennial attitudes and impressions towards Christians and traditional worship. We were surprised to learn the statistics on how poorly Christians are viewed by a majority of 18 to 39 year old young adults who do not have a regular connection to a faith group. In the follow-up session, the leaders of the workshop presented us with case studies of helpful techniques used by successful church plants that have brought thousands to Christ.
Once we completed "Boot Camp," Peace Tree UMC formed a Launch Team, and we regularly meet for worship, fellowship, and ministry planning. The primary way we hope to build community is by planning a network of House Groups in preparation of Peace Tree's official launch. By sponsoring weekly house meetings as well as small group meetings held in public spaces, we hope to connect our Mid-South neighbors with new friends in the faith. Our prayer is that these small groups of believers will connect with other small groups within the Peace Tree family in order to one day form a larger missional, worshiping community. There is much work in front of us, but we look forward to what God has in store for Peace Tree!
+Len & Susan
The following is a blog post from a fellow church planter, Rev. Travis Garner. With permission, we share Travis's thoughts on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage:
Unless you’ve not been paying attention to anything going on in the world, you know that this week was a landmark week in the United States, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could no longer ban marriage between same-sex couples. In many ways, the way the decision was reached and the response on social media are more indicative of the current state of our culture than the decision itself. It was a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court, and the justices were very divided in their writings on the decision. If you’ve been reading social media (and who hasn’t?), you’ve seen incredibly divided responses as well. I have good friends, people of faith, who fall across the spectrum on their response to this ruling.
The question I’m pondering this morning as I prepare to head to church is this: How do you pastor a congregation in a 5-4 world?
The fact of the matter is that we are a divided nation, a divided people. In today’s culture, every possible division between people is emphasized and expanded and exaggerated and exploited. Everything is turned into an “either/or” scenario. Either you agree with me, or you’re a bigot. Either you agree with me, or you’re completely immoral.
This week, there are people who, in the midst of their story and their struggle are celebrating equality. But this week, there are also people who disagree, people who have a different story and a different experience. The reality is that there are not “two sides” on this issue. There’s not a singular gay experience or a singular straight experience. Each of us has a different story, unique experiences, particular struggles, and when we make anything a simple “either/or,” we greatly miss the mark. When we proclaim from our soapboxes that you’re either in favor of this decision or you’re a hateful bigot, we’re being shortsighted. When we say you’re either against this decision or you’re championing immorality, we’re failing to understand the complex reality in which we find ourselves.
What I’m feeling this morning as I prepare to head to worship in such a divided time and cultural landscape, is a deep sense of gratefulness that I believe in a God who loves all people. I’m thankful to be part of a church that has an open table: all people are invited to sit at God’s table. Which means, by the way, that people with whom I strongly disagree are loved by God and invited to sit at God’s table. People who are and have been hurtful to me are loved by God and invited to sit at God’s table. After all, Jesus died for bigots. Jesus died for the immoral. Jesus died for all of us.
Every single one of us in the family of God are a mix of saint and sinner, of struggle and victory, of lost and found. None of us, singularly, have it all figured out. We need each other, the people who think and act like us, but maybe even more particularly the people who are different from us. For it is in our difference and diversity that the body of Christ finds its true strength.
As a pastor, I’m a pastor to both the 5 and to the 4. I’m a pastor to people who sharply disagree with one another. And the bottom line is this: all are welcomed in my church and loved unconditionally by God. And all are asked and enabled to become more than what they are when they walked in the door – a person who is continually growing and transforming into the likeness of Christ. I am grateful that this morning, at my church, there will be space for everyone; all are invited.
From Ephesians 4: May we all be rooted and established in love, completely humble and gentle, patient, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Remembering that there is one body and one Spirit, and one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
To read more of Travis's thoughts, visit his blog at www.travisgarner.net. To learn more about his new church plant in the Nashville-area, visit www.thevillagenashville.com.
Follow the journey of a new church as we answer the call to reach people in Collierville, Memphis, and the Mid-South.