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The Mission Field Next Door

What if Jesus meant for you to love your neighbors? …Your actual neighbors.

“But when the Pharisees heard that [Jesus] had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22: 34-39 ESV (emphasis added)

In this passage we see the Pharisees ask a tough question with the hope of stumping Jesus, or at least tricking him into saying something they could use against him later.

Instead of stumbling into the trap, Jesus tackled the question head on. The Pharisees didn’t have to wonder what Jesus wanted his followers to do, and neither do we: love God, and love your neighbor.

Simple enough, right?

But so often, we hyper-spiritualize these instructions. We assume that Jesus meant that we should love all people, which is well and good and hard to argue. But in that thinking, it’s easy to skim this passage without being challenged – without getting to where Jesus is trying to get us. The ambiguity of our well-meaning definition leads to ambiguity in our love, which translates to a nice sentiment without a lot of action behind it.

What if, instead of a sweeping, all-encompassing instruction to show love to the world, Jesus was saying exactly what he meant?

What if Jesus meant that we should love our actual neighbors?

Clear Creek Community Church’s vision in planting churches and campuses is rooted in the belief that the gospel moves along relational lines.

People who have been transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ want others to be transformed too.

What we’ve learned from planting three campuses is that people are three times more likely to get connected in a church if it is close to where they live.

If more and more of Christ’s people live in close proximity to unchurched people, then we have more and more potential to reach not only our friends and families, but our entire neighborhood and their friends and families, and not only our neighborhoods, but our entire geography.

Don’t believe me? Check out this map.

This is a representation of the population of Clear Creek Community Church. Our people in our neighborhoods, with each dot representing a home of a CCCC family, color-specific to which campus they attend.

 

Let’s zoom in a little further.

This is one neighborhood in League City. As you can see, someone from CCCC lives on almost every street.

In one meeting, as we were building a launch team for our East 96 campus, we challenged our people to sketch out a map of their street and the houses around their own. Then we challenged them to write the names of the people that live in those houses, and to list the physical and spiritual needs of those people.

It was a convicting exercise for many, because not everyone was able to complete the task and many struggled to even list their neighbors’ names.

What if we started there?

What if we took the challenge to love our neighbors this summer? What if we invited them into our own homes, and shared a meal together? What if we invited them to worship alongside us at a campus that was really close to where they live?

We launch our East 96 Campus this weekend. Our team is inviting everyone they know – including the people who live on their street. But that isn’t just something launch teams do, and it’s not just an important exercise for new campuses to take part in.

It’s for every man, woman and child that calls themself a follower of Christ.

What if God purposefully planted your family in your specific home, in your specific neighborhood, with your specific neighbors, so that you would take his love to that place in a way no one else could?

– Aaron Lutz, East 96 Campus Pastor

Storyteller

Stories are important. They force us to look beyond the things we can only see on the outside, aid us as we build relationships, and help us understand each other.

But maybe the most powerful aspect of stories is that we all have one.

Whether you’re a high school student or a grandfather, all of our experiences, decisions, personality, and social circles come together to form a unique journey through life that is all our own.

For a follower of Jesus, the narrative of how the gospel of Jesus has intersected your life is the defining chapter of your story.

By faith every follower of Jesus Christ has been rescued by God’s grace, brought from death to life, and now lives with an eternal hope in a reconciled relationship with God. How you came to believe that truth, what your life was like before Christ, and how you’re living out your faith today are all integral parts that comprise the story of you.

But sadly, many Christians downplay their stories, feeling that they don’t measure up or may even bore people. They think that if their story isn’t dramatic enough, it isn’t worth telling.

In reality, everyone’s story is significant.

Even if you weren’t a drug dealing gang member at the age of seven, your story of being rescued by God’s grace is still beautiful and significant. It’s a grand story because it’s the telling of how the Creator of the universe, and the author of the greatest story ever told, saved you, made you alive, rewrote your story, and continues to walk with you in this life. What could possibly be unimportant, boring, or insignificant about any of that?

You see, telling your story plays a major role in declaring the gospel to the world around us. It leads to deeper conversations about the message and meaning of Christ.

Many stories begin the same. But because of the way the gospel narrative has intersected your own, the rest of your story will look much different from many others, intriguing, and maybe most importantly, hopeful to the world around you.

As you develop closer relationships with people who are not followers of Jesus in your circles, ask them good questions, and get to know their story, their hopes and their dreams. And then ask God to give you opportunities to share your story.

– Ryan Lehtinen, Egret Bay Campus Pastor

What Do We Do Now?

Have you ever gone out of your way to show the love of Christ to someone else, only to have things not work out the way you had hoped? Or not work out at all?

Last week the student ministries from all of our campuses went to Trinity, Texas for five days of summer camp. A major component of the trip for the high school students included serving throughout the Trinity area at churches and mission sites. It was encouraging to see teenagers building a wheel chair ramp, painting houses, serving at a food pantry, and repairing a historical church building.

But things didn’t go as planned for one group of our students. They were set up to host a Vacation Bible School (VBS) at a church positioned on the main road in town. Signs had been posted, invites made, crafts prepared, lessons reviewed, and prayers said.

No one showed up.

Then the strangest thing happened. Our teenagers got excited. They went door to door with the hotdogs that had been made for lunch, inviting parents to bring their children by the next day. They offered free lunch to people who might not have had one otherwise. One teen used her phone to discover a local Facebook message board and posted details about the VBS. Along the way our students encountered poverty, skepticism, negativity, and a deep racial divide. What would have discouraged or frustrated many of us only seemed to fuel their excitement to be part of something different.

Six kids showed up on day two. Six kids learned about the love of Jesus from two dozen high school students. How cool is that?

We would all do well to keep this story in mind as we Go Bold and serve throughout our community. Things often don’t go as planned and it can be easy to let frustration set in and change our hearts. What if we served with the excitement and persistence of the teenagers mentioned above?

What if we loved the people we set out to serve more than we loved our plans, our hopes, our time, or ourselves?

What if we loved people like Jesus loved us? No matter what.

I saw that in a lot of teenagers last week and I hope it’s contagious.

– Lance Lawson, Church on Wednesdays Campus Pastor

Never Ever Quit

The Texas Rangers baseball team, upon beginning the new reign of manager, Jeff Banister, turned his trademark twitter hashtag, #nevereverquit, into their team mantra. Jeff, a longterm resident of our community and attender of Clear Creek Community Church modeled that phrase in all aspects of his life. Personally overcoming adversity, he continued to press on to now being one of Major League Baseball’s finest managers.

When you hear NEVER EVER QUIT, I’m sure you’ve got a story to tell as well. Maybe it was an academic challenge that you persevered through, an athletic competition that brought out your best, a health scare or a relational crisis, a work project or personal fitness goal.  You did it, and despite the pain, the obstacles, the heartache… you never felt better.

I think of the story recorded in Luke 5 where we see a NEVER EVER QUIT moment:

And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. – Luke 5:18-19

These guys get the NEVER EVER QUIT t-shirt.

You talk about determination, fighting through obstacles, doing whatever it takes! They carried a guy on his bed who couldn’t walk. They couldn’t get through the crowded door, so they carried him upstairs to the roof. They ripped the roof apart and lowered the man down.

Why? Why this never ever quit attitude that resulted in never ever quit actions? They were desperate for their friend to meet Jesus! They would not quit no matter what. That’s what we are called to do.

Who do you know that you are praying for… that you are desperate for them to meet Jesus? Are you willing to do the hard things to expose them to Jesus? Are you willing to be uncomfortable, be misunderstood?

Are you willing to be bold? #nevereverquit

– Chris Alston, West Campus Pastor

The Influence of Generosity

It was 1985. I was a recent graduate with an Accounting degree, I was a Christian, and I had a pulse, so they asked me to lead the financial ministry at our little church. The job mainly consisted of counting the weekly offering and depositing the money in the bank. I wanted to help so I said, “Yes.”

I was hesitant to take the job because I personally wasn’t much of a giver. I had good reasons for not giving much money. I was a new Christian and I had only recently heard of the concept of giving a tithe (to tithe is to give the first 10% of all your income to God) – that seemed both radical and impossible to me at the time. I was just out of college and newly married and living from check to check. We gave money to our church but only out of the tiny little bit left over after we paid our bills and so it wasn’t a lot. I felt unqualified for the job but I still said, “Yes,” maybe because that was easier than explaining why I would have said, “No.”

A good friend who worked at the same plant I did also attended the same church. He was an engineering manager – he had a good job. One of the first things I noticed every week as I counted the money was how large an amount he gave as his weekly offering.

No one was preaching about money to me at the time. No one even knew what I gave – since I did the counting, no one had to know. I remember a particular Sunday I was adding up the weekly offering when I came to my friend’s check yet again. As I looked at it this time a question entered my mind: “Which one of us really loves the Lord?” It was an overwhelming thought. No one in that church but me knew how much my friend gave. He wasn’t proving anything to anyone or getting any material benefit from his generosity. He was just being obedient with his money. He was simply investing his money in his local church because of his faith. In that moment, God began to change my heart toward money. He’s grown it a lot since, but that is when he first gave me a genuine desire to be generous with him.

We couldn’t change our giving all at once. We really couldn’t do much more than we were doing at the time. But I made a commitment that day to be consistent and continually increasing in my generosity with God. Over the years, we took the opportunity with every raise or promotion we got to increase the proportion of our income we gave to God. That started over thirty years ago and we haven’t stopped. I remember celebrating in my heart when we actually reached the place where we were giving 10% of our income to God – it took us a few years to get there. But the whole journey was and is a satisfying and faith strengthening part of our lives. We didn’t stop at 10%. We have over the years continued to increase our giving well beyond a tithe… that’s just what God has led us to do.

I tell you this part of my story in light of Bold Love to ask you to consider two things:

First, that generosity is influential. God still uses my friend’s influence on me to grow my faith and faithfulness. My friend never knew it – I never said a word about it to him. He may not know how God used his faith to grow my faith until we’re in heaven. I’m sure he’s okay with that. The point is you have no idea how profound an impact you are having when you are just being faithful.

The second thing is to consider giving God more of your money starting now. Do what I did if you have to and just commit to giving a greater percentage each time your income goes up. Twenty or thirty years from now you will have been very financially generous, but every journey requires the commitment of a first step.

Let Bold Love be the thing that God uses to put you on the journey of generosity. Let the example of generosity set by the leaders of CCCC encourage you to join us as we devote the resources needed to share the gospel with the 4B area. There is no time better than now. Start from wherever you are and make a commitment to grow. Someday someone you never met will be very glad you did.

– Greg Poore, Associate Pastor

The Challenge of Adventure

Last week I spent some time with my brother-in-law in Phoenix. We both like to run. It’s what we do when we are together. But, I am used to running on the flat, humid sidewalks of suburban League City. He’s acclimated to running desert trails in the mountains of Arizona. One morning on our trip, we woke up early and began to hike through San Tan Mountain Regional Park just as the sun was rising over the mountains. Our hike turned into a climb, which turned to a jog, which turned into a 5 mile run over rocks, around cactus, up steep switch-backs and down the slippery gravel slopes back to where we started. About a quarter mile in I realized I was way out of my comfort zone. I was using the same muscles and same endurance I was used to as a runner, just in a much different place. But, it wasn’t just a normal run… it was an adventure. I find great joy in moments like that.

I’m used to my normal running routes in League City, and they provide good training. I have learned endurance there. I have community there. Running in Phoenix, however, brought a new challenge that was good for my soul.

Serving people, in the name of Jesus, is kind of the same way. During this Bold Love season we are challenging you to serve inside and outside of the church. You serve inside the church by discovering and using your spiritual gifts. People serve in children’s ministry, tech/arts roles, they make coffee, set up cones, hold open doors, preach, teach, and serve in countless ways to make Clear Creek Community Church a welcoming environment to explore faith and grow spiritually. It takes endurance to serve faithfully inside the church. Not only is it what is best for the church – for us to use our gifts to serve – but it’s what is best for us personally. Serving is part of God’s plan for his people to grow to maturity: to develop endurance and strength to serve.

Bold Love is also calling us to serve those outside the church by “going bold.” We are inspiring each other to show radical love to people outside the four walls of a church building. We make God’s grace, presence, love and generosity felt in the community when we serve people who are far from Him and when we serve with no strings attached. But let’s be honest, often this way of serving is far more outside of our comfort zone than the ways we serve in the church. Serving in the church is predictable, it’s sustainable. We have a community of teams that we enjoy serving with. Serving outside of the church by going bold is unpredictable. It’s messy. There are slippery slopes, steep climbs, big rocks, and obstacles to run around or through. It takes great focus and endurance to serve like this.

This kind of Bold Love is what God is calling us to. It’s how His kingdom advances. It’s the challenge of adventure.

Serving in the church is good for the soul… it builds the muscle and endurance needed. We have to learn how to serve there. But there is an adventure waiting outside of the church too… a place outside of our comfort zone where we can run the same race but in a much different place. It’s in this run, serving those who are far from God, that we experience the joy of adventure and see the kingdom of God push back against systemic brokenness in our world, see people experience the grace of the gospel for the first time, and see lives transformed because of it.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way…” – Philippians 3:12-15

Serving in the church produces the endurance and strength necessary to enjoy the adventure of serving those outside of the church. May we run this race well.

– Aaron Lutz, East 96 Campus Pastor