I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
As we look forward to a new ministry year at TCC, we have felt it helpful to pause and reflect on what God has done this past year, and consider what God is leading us into for the year to come. Last year, our Partners in the Gospel theme rooted in Philippians helped us launch new initiatives such as “First Sundays Together“, a refreshed 11am education hour, and renewed partnerships in missions and giving, culminating in our first all-church service blitz, Serve 72. It was a great year!
Every Spring our staff team begins to prayerfully discuss potential themes for the following ministry year. We also consider the insights of the congregation and our own observations of the life of this community. During the past few months, Jesus’ words above from John 15:5 kept coming to the top as a key verse for our church.
Jesus’ words, “I am the vine, you are the branches,” is a call to vulnerably trust God to the point that our connection with him produces Christlike thoughts, emotions and actions.
“In a nutshell, abiding in Christ means allowing His Word to fill our minds, direct our wills, and transform our affections.”Sinclair Ferguson, “In Christ Alone”
Out of that connection flows a flourishing lifestyle which produces an abundance of many kinds of fruit. Sometimes fruit can be internal changes in our own lives: generosity, patience, a renewed love for God’s Word, or other fruits of the Spirit. Other times fruit can be external: friends turning to Christ, changed relationships or physical needs met with abundance.
Jesus then said, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit, and apart from me you can do nothing.” These words are at the same time both a great source of fear and of comfort. The branch does nothing to produce fruit on its own. Its only job is to stay connected to the vine. Cut off from the vine, the branch withers away and dies.
Are we connected to (abiding in) Christ, our source of life? Or are we cut off and struggling to produce life on our own?
In the parable of the growing seed (Mark 4:26-29), Jesus reminds us that we don’t need to worry ourselves with exactly how to produce fruit (“the farmer knows not how”), we should just be faithful to the tasks given to us.
What exactly does that look like? Here are several ways we hope to thrive in 2019-2020.
Jesus tells his disciples to abide or remain in him. The Greek word here, meno, often translated abide or remain, also means “live” or “remain in one place for a time.” For us, this is a call not only to remain connected to God through prayer and Bible study, but through the many ministries with which we already play a part. When we stick with it, God will produce the fruit.
One such ministry we want to prioritize is LIFE groups. Within these small groups we cultivate true friendships and build environments of transparency and encouragement. We like to think of them as little churches. Within each of our 16 LIFE Groups is a community that cares and supports one another, prays for each other, serves together, and studies God’s word.
We want to invest in these groups, and especially in the LIFE group leaders. We want to support and train them to teach how to study the Bible and help them as they care for people in their homes. This year, we will bring more training to LIFE group leaders through special training sessions and more pastoral visits to LIFE groups.
Our Christian Education hour on Sunday morning will continue with new classes in the fall (at 9:30am – stay tuned for announcements on new classes). We are also partnering with Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary to offer a unique seminary course right here at TCC! Dr. Jim Singleton, Associate Professor of Pastoral Leadership and Evangelism, will teach “Evangelism and Discipleship in the Local Church,” made possible at a very low cost in part through a grant from a Lily Endowment and through support from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. That class is offered September 20-21 & October 25-26, 2019, and space will fill up quickly, so signup soon! Read more about that course and register here.
Last year’s church-wide service project (Serve 72) was such a great reminder that we want to be a church that serves others. As we helped our neighbors with yard work and cleaning, we made connections and built relationships. In addition to our Guatemala mission trip and other short-term trips, as well as our work at the Bridge House, Pearl Street Cafe and Emmanuel Gospel Center, we hope to continue these service projects in the fall. We are organizing a service blitz centered on doing yard work for the local elderly and those in need. We will also participate in another spring Serve 72 weekend. We hope that the projects and relationships sparked by initial church service projects will be a catalyst for deeper relationships with our neighbors and more potential possibilities to serve others.
We also look forward to renewed efforts from our Deacons in opening up the Deacon’s fund to support new special projects to serve our community. This fund is an effort to make our mission to serve one another as the body of Christ a tangible reality, encourage deep and supportive community ties within TCC, and reach out into the broader community of MetroWest as an example of the love and light of Christ. The goal is two-fold: 1) to use the funds collected by the Deacons to serve real needs within our community: home maintenance, babysitting, meals, companionship, etc. and 2) to encourage members to actively seek out needs that may be small or unspoken but, being met, would serve as opportunities of love and connection. Learn more about the Deacon’s Fund.
We are focused on how we engage our entire church community on Sunday mornings. To that end, we are excited to offer a new worship service at 11am.
What will the new format look like? We are in active prayer and conversation mode on the particulars of the order of worship. The non-negotiables of our worship hour at 9:30am are not changing (a blend of hymns with other scripture-based and theologically rich spiritual songs; the centrality of Christ and His atoning sacrifice and forgiveness; the importance of confession and intercession; the centrality of the reading and proclamation of the Word; giving as a full act of worship; focus on mission and evangelism). At 11am, we will continue TCC’s passion for authentic and reverential worship and will enhance participation. In the tradition of Tim Keller, we will include Q&A time with Pastor Tom after the sermon as well as time to respond to the message with a few discussion questions to help us apply the word to our lives.
There are several reasons why we want to modify the 11am service with adaptive changes. First, we want TCC to be a house of blessing and prayer to people of all ages and life stages. As we actively seek to reach our non-Christian friends and neighbors, including area college students and young adults, we pray that this modified service will be a place where they can connect. With outreach to young adults we are renewing the tradition of Pastor Don Ewing who had an active and successful ministry to college students in the area.
Second, children’s and student ministry leaders and some volunteers attend the 11am service, sometimes with families in tow. We want to make sure we provide a worship hour that has the same energy and enthusiasm as the first service. The purpose here is to continue toward the goal of multi-generational worship, so all our volunteers feel the sanctuary is also their own place to worship the Lord.
Third, we have reached capacity in the 9:30am, while we see the 11am consistently underpopulated. We hope that by creating a new format, some people who normally attend 9:30am who prefer a different format will want to join a new service at 11am. This will help open up seats for more new people to come at 9:30am (our main worship hour, with full Children and Student ministries services).
We are confident that as we invoke His presence at both 9:30am and 11am, the Lord will make Himself manifest so that we might draw closer to Him, until the day comes when the knowledge of the Glory of the Lord will cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14).
So that is what we want to do this coming year as a church. Or rather, it is what we believe God wants to do to us. He wants us to thrive! Join us as we follow Jesus this year and celebrate with us each Sunday in worship.
Are you hungry to grow in evangelism and discipleship, but have not had a chance to learn how?
Thanks to our relationship to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, we are excited to announce a course being offered right here in our church. Dr. Jim Singleton (preaching here on September 1, 2019) will teach “Evangelism and Discipleship in the Local Church” in two, two-day sessions this fall.
September 20, 2019: 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm
September 21, 2019: 9:00 am – 4:30 pm
October 25, 2019: 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm
October 26, 2019: 9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Registration Deadline: September 13, 2019
Many church leaders today are recognizing that we live in a very complicated season for congregations. The things that seemed to spark growth and evangelism in years past are not having the same impact today. This course is about how individuals and congregations can learn to do both evangelism and discipleship in a church setting. The more people are equipped to do evangelism and discipleship, the more likely they will practice them.
There are three ways to participate:
The design of this course to help leaders understand the process involved in both evangelism and discipleship within the context of a local congregation. For generations evangelism happened when people eventually showed up at a church service or a revival meeting. Most often, it was through preaching that people came into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Today people are not just showing up at a church service or a revival meeting. Today most people who come to Christ do so through a relationship with a Christian. Often these relationships emerge in neighborhoods or workplaces. This course will help you in preparing how to be the kind of friend who can function as a “missionary” in your life context.
Once a person comes to Christ, the Great Commission urged that we make disciples – meaning that we make disciplined followers of Jesus Christ. Yet, most people never experience a natural way for that to happen. We grow by “bits and pieces, here and there”. This course will also guide believers in ways that can naturally help others to grow in Christ.
Who Should Attend?
The course is for ministry leaders in congregations – both pastors and lay leaders. We believe that leaders need real reflection on these two subjects in order to be equipped for a new cultural context that we are facing today. The way of church thriving in the 1980s is very different from today. Yet, the way we engage evangelism and discipleship today can involve people in new ways.
Topics to be Covered
• What is the Grand Story of Scripture – the Gospel?
• How to Communicate that story in a new era
• How to change the culture of a congregation for evangelism
• Recognizing the need for Discipleship today
• Understanding how you have grown through the years
• Creating plans for discipleship in Congregations
Jim Singleton, Th.D
Assistant Professor of Evangelism and Pastoral Leadership
Dr. Singleton brings over 30 years of pastoral experience to his role at Gordon-Conwell. Prior to arriving at GCTS (2012), he served as senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Colorado Springs, CO. He is also the director of
Thriving In Ministry and Evangelism
It’s difficult not to get incensed at the blatant ways evil makes itself known either in words (who enjoys social media ‘rants’?) or actions -large-scale systemic injustice or small acts of unkindness. This is why the line of the Lord’s prayer, “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” actually creates a real tension because the will of God (everything that’s right, good and holy) is not always apparent.
Psalm 2:1-12, among others, gives us a backstage pass to what’s really going on: there are forces at work that “conspire” against the Lord and His anointed. The nations of this age are themselves manipulated by spiritual forces at work against the will of God (Ephesians 6:12). We are in fact in a contested territory on planet earth, where the Evil One is always trying to thwart the will of God, with some measure of success in the short term (1 Thessalonians 2:18; Revelation 12:9). However, in light of eternity, these victories are mere signs of his future demise (Revelation 12: 10-12).
God invites us also to see beyond the power struggle (the rancor of public discourse in our culture, for example) and embrace the reality that the rod of the nations (Isaiah 10:24) is no match to God’s rod of authority and power (Psalm 2:9). The reality is that God’s anointed, the Lord Jesus, carries a bigger stick, the sword of His Word (Isaiah 11:4; Revelation 19:15). So, when we say “your will be done,” we affirm we are getting ourselves into a big fight, but we are also affirming that God has already established his authority and that ultimately it is His will that prevails.
Isaiah 12:1-6 provides a powerful image of this reality and actually builds upon the revelation of who God is to Isaiah (Isaiah 6:3). The first part of Isaiah 12 (a psalm of victory) is an individual confession of salvation. To give thanks is actually to confess and to praise him. “He has become my salvation” alludes to the transition from fear of God’s punishment for our sins to embracing his comfort. When I am exposed to God’s holiness, the natural reaction is fear (Isaiah 6:3). When we pray “hallowed by thy name” (may your name be holy), we are in fact inviting God to show himself for who he is in our lives. He is infinitely holy, unlike any other created being. He alone is the Creator and He alone is holy. The whole earth is filled with his glory and there is none like Him. Once this realization of God’s holiness hits you, just as it did Isaiah, it will always creates a sense of restlessness and uneasiness, not because God is the source of fear (He clearly is not; God is love and perfect love casts out all fears 1 John 4:18). Instead the fear comes from within us, when we realize we simply don’t measure up before God’s holy presence. Isaiah says, “woe is me, I am undone, I have unclean lips!” (Isaiah 6:5). Now for a prophet of God, this is saying something! These are the guys who speak in the Name of the lord all the time. To speak the word of God is their tradecraft. But once Isaiah sees a glimpse of God’s holiness, he ducks for cover, because he knows he’ll always fall short of the glory and holiness of God. This is where we find ourselves too. We fear the judgement that our own insufficiencies can bring to us, we fear failure because we know that ultimately we cannot ever measure to the standard of perfection. This is why we put our faith in Jesus. He, the Holy One makes us holy, by clothing us with his holiness by faith in him (1 Corinthians 1:30). We as individuals have now received God into our lives as our Father; he no longer is our judge.
The real litmus test for everyone of us, is whether we still struggle with this idea. Do I fear God because he is going to punish me or do I fear him because I know he is holy and I fall short of that ideal (Isaiah 6:3)? Some of us struggle deeply with the fear of punishment. True salvation is that we are set free from that fear and we have embraced his love. As John says, perfect love casts out all fear. He also says, whenever our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts (1 John 3:20). To put it pointedly: do you know God this way today? Or are you still wrestling with the thought God is going to punish you for your sins. By faith in Christ, we believe he has taken upon himself at the Cross the wrath of God we truly deserve. He now is a source of comfort and no longer a source of anxiety (Isaiah 12:1).
Isaiah 12:3-5 switches to a corporate prayer in the plural ‘you.’ Because now we know Him and don’t fear but trust in Him, we engage the nations and make known His deeds = that He saves and rescues us. We proclaim His name and we praise Him. Instead of fear, there is now joy and we sing and shout aloud (Isaiah 12:5-6) because “the Holy One of Israel” is with us. The holiness of God is no longer fearsome but it is a source of joy and freedom to proclaim His love and forgiveness to others.
So, let the will of God be known among the nations, proclaim His love to the nations. These are vision statements that stick and give us a great sense of purpose at TCC and wherever the Lord calls us. We don’t simply exist to pay the bills and provide for our families and succeed at work but God has a higher calling on all of us to proclaim His name among the nations, whether they are across the streets or across the globe. When we pray, your will be done, we are actually commissioning ourselves afresh to fulfill the Great Commission to go into the whole world and preach the Gospel, whether in Wayland, Washington, or Western Samoa.
Do you see God as your judge or your Father? The temptation will always be for us to view ourselves in a way that is not in line with the way God views us. Maybe it’s time to reboot your relationship with God through Jesus and start seeing your own life God sees it. To believe in God is also to trust Him. So just as to trust in Him is a process, not an event, the faith journey from fear to trust doesn’t happen overnight and isn’t a one time event. Maybe some us need to recommit our lives afresh to Jesus.
Have you lost a sense of the big picture in your life? Let Jesus be your vision. He has a great plan for your life, a plan that includes the proclamation of His great deeds to the whole world. In what way can you start participating in this great vision? TCC is committed to World Mission and mission at home right here in MetroWest. Start seeking the Lord as to what ways you can feel part of this great vision. We are also committing to launching adult mission trips (stay tuned). For instance, I can think of over 9 opportunities for short-term overseas travel for 2020 for myself! I will obviously pare it down to one or two but the point is, opportunities to proclaim His deeds among the nations abound. Commit to praying as to what way you can be part of this great plan. This is the application of “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven:” we become engaged in a stiff fight, we proclaim His deeds among the nations and we sing about His triumph over evil. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news…who proclaim, our God reigns!”
Hello church! We post these Sunday recaps to highlight the awesome things God did each Sunday at TCC. Here’s a recap of our Sunday services and programs last weekend.No sermons found.
I get the best view in the house. As we worship together on Sundays, I get to look out onto the sea of faces and see families embrace, grinning ear to ear as they sing “Great is His love for us!” As we gave our offering I was reminded of the verse from Psalm 127:1 – that it is the Lord alone that can build our house. Our “house” can refer to anything we ascribe value to in our lives: our careers, our families, our bank accounts, and even our identity. It is God that builds us up. Anything of our own effort is, as the writer of Ecclesiastes states, “a chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:14)
On this Independence Day weekend, we sang for our final hymn a text that thanks God for our great country, and also prays for peace around the world and that God’s kingdom would come and his will be done – a great segue into next Sunday’s sermon on the Lord’s prayer. You read about the text of that hymn here.
It was a joy to have our children worshiping with us the entire hour as our Children’s Ministry team took a Sunday of rest. Games, activity clipboards, and extra seating in the lobby helped make the church feel welcoming for kids of all ages.
Our conversations with God tend to go very well when He says “yes” to our requests. Matthew 7:7 is the model when God says yes. All we can do when this happens is say, “praise the Lord.” When God says yes, it is the heart of the Father that comes through to give us good gifts (James 1:17). Psalm 104 is a great hymn to God as the great provider in our lives. As the saying goes, He is good all the time.
But what about the times when God says no. The times when the door not only is shut, but is slammed into our face and we are left wondering where God is. Psalm 43 is one of those psalms (Psalm 43:1-2) where we pray and we feel abandoned. “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” is a powerful image. The casting down comes from the idea of being grinded into dust, like pesto in a mortar and pestle.
To this state of despair, the answer of Psalm 43 comes in verse 5: “hope in God.”
What does it mean in our daily life? Here the language of hoping actually is the language of waiting. To wait is to hope and to hope is to wait. Psalm 43:5 “Hope in God” actually can mean “wait for God.” In fact there is a strong case that can be made that we should really read it as “wait for God” Micah 7:7 is a good example where the same language is expressing waiting for God. So when the answers are not what we are looking for from God, He tells us, ‘wait for me; wait for my timing, wait for the ways in which I will make myself known through your circumstances because it’s in the waiting that the hoping comes.’ Rather than having a “wait and see” attitude (a sort of passive-aggressive way to grin and bear it through the times when things don’t go our way), God is saying: ‘wait and hope.’
The benefit of this posture of waiting/hoping when God says no is that it gives God time to change our own attitude. The waiting allows Him to prepare us for His answer. We do the waiting/hoping in His Presence where there is “exceeding joy” (Psalm 43:4- a unique phrase in the language; see Jonah 4:6 for a similar idea). The presence of the Lord Jesus is what ultimately bring us fulfillment and joy: “hope/wait in God for I shall again praise you” (Psalm 43:5). It is in this ‘waiting room of life'(a phrase borrowed from someone I know well)that we learn to praise Him, whether we get what we ask for or not. He is to be praised in all our circumstances.
So in the end, the answer is still yes. Only now we are saying “yes” to Him and His ways, whether we receive what we ask or not. We also realize that our hope is not found in getting answers we like from God, but it is found in Him and Him alone.
Hello church! We post these Sunday recaps to highlight the awesome things God did each Sunday at TCC. Here’s a recap of our Sunday services and programs last weekend.No sermons found.
What a weekend! Special thanks to the more than 50 kids and adults who served. We connected with 7 local families through yard work, cleaning and basic home repair projects; our team also prepared meals for the Bridge House (Local Christian Halfway Home) residents as well as 5 families in the community. And who could forget the Sunday morning worship service, which included 8 different projects celebrating the ministry year theme “Partnership in the Gospel.” Check out the pictures below!
During the weekend we discussed many scripture passages that demand further reflection and discussion.
As you debrief your Serve 72 experience with friends and family, consider the following the passages and questions:
Luke 10:25-37 – The Parable of the Good Samaritan: Who is your neighbor and how are they wounded?
Philippians 1:1-5 – Living Out a Partnership in the Gospel: How is God calling you to “pray, give and go” in support of missionaries?
1 John 3:16-18 – Do you sometimes feel burdened by the needs of others? How does the Gospel free us to serve joyfully, even when those we serve are ungrateful and entitled?