Church Blog

Building Community Through A Book Club

February 2 2016 at 9:30 am 0 Comments

Enjoy Tracy Branchaw's testimony of how God used her to start a book club that created community and strengthed relationships through fellowship. If you're interested in starting and joining a group of your own, check out Super Group Sunday after the service THIS Sunday (Feb. 7.)

I’m going to pretend I’m typing an email:

It’s 2013

Dear so and so,

John and I are starting a new book club and we wanted to know if you would be interested. As you know, we’ve been in limbo for a year or 2 since we stopped leading a youth care group and our pastor left to start the church plant in Mt Airy. We are thinking about something different and thought that the 3 things we like best: sharing a meal, reading a good book and hanging out with folks, could combine into a potluck book club. There is a book we found that would be great to go through with others in the same season of life. It’s called You Never Stop Being a Parent: Thriving in relationship with your adult children. We are inviting 9 other couples, some we know a little, some we know a lot. You may not know them at all. It’s likely that not everyone will want to join the book club. We will meet once per month. I’ll host the first one and I’ll make the main course and then everyone can bring sides and dessert. John will lead the first meeting and you just need to read the first chapter. The book has 10 chapters so we can finish it in about 1 year. And even though our house is on the small side, we’ll just pack in so it will be cozy. Then, we’ll switch houses every month and whoever is hosting will throw out possible dates, make the main course and lead the discussion. That way nobody will get overwhelmed. If you want to come, reply asap and we will see you at 6:30 on Saturday.

I sent this email 3 years ago and this book club is still going strong.

Although we had lead, enjoyed and benefitted immensely from caregroups in the past, we were looking for something different. We had started a supper club with a few friends and were thinking of starting another, but it seemed too labor intensive. Then we thought about having a book club. We thought about not being with the same friends we normally gravitated toward. We didn’t pick people who knew each other. All were in the same season of life-almost or absolute empty-nesters. Some had kids who were doing well, some had kids who had walked away from Christianity. Divorce, engagement, marriage, homosexuality, irresponsibility, prodigals, college issues...these were all topics that would end up being addressed in our new group with our 1st book.

Our second book was Prayer by Timothy Keller. Although it’s a good book, it didn’t work out very well for discussion. I hate to say it, but I’m not a silent sufferer and I complained quite a bit about how hard the book was for me (and I’d picked it!) but others were getting a lot out of it and they tolerated me. A better book for discussion might have been A Praying Life by Paul Miller, we might do that for our fourth book. We had also thought about doing a work of fiction like “Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson.

Our current book is Jesus Outside the Lines - a way forward for those who are tired of taking sides. It’s about politics, poverty, money, and the institutional church. Everybody has an opinion and not everybody agrees and that’s just fine.

Book clubs may or may not have the depth of discipleship of a caregroup, it depends on your vision for it.

But if you are looking for something a bit different from the norm, think about some folks that would make a diverse group, pick a great book, throw out some dates and start your new book club! It could be in your neighborhood, your school, or your place of work.  And don’t forget the food! That’s the real reason people want to get together anyway-to eat and talk and savor the time.

If you're interested in starting and joining a group of your own, check out Super Group Sunday after the service THIS Sunday (Feb. 7.)

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Sharon Harvey and Introducing God

November 24 2015 at 2:59 pm 0 Comments

This January we are once again holding the Introducing God course. On Sunday, we enjoyed Sharon Harvey's testimony of how God transformed her life through the last session of Introducing God.

Learn about Introducing God  |  Volunteer with Introducing God.

"I can't begin describing my Introducing God experience without first sharing a bit about my personal spiritual journey. I grew up believing that success depended on my own efforts. I was hard on myself when I failed, and even when I did succeed, my life felt empty. I was never satisfied, and I felt I needed to be perfect all the time. Gradually, I began to think my hard work defined my self-worth, and I started seeking other people’s approval to fill that emptiness. I reached a low point after college, and questions in the back of my mind began to surface. What is all this hard work for and what is my purpose? I had grown up hearing my cousin speak about God, but I had always been indifferent. However, God, in his mercy and grace, used this weak point in my life to persuade me to learn more about Him.

With the encouragement of a friend and now a precious sister in Christ, Hannah Stogsdill, I started attending Sunday sermons at Covenant Life Church. Introducing God happened to be starting their Spring 2013 class around the same time, and Hannah invited me to attend the course with her. During the next 9 weeks, I witnessed God's transforming power, heard countless testimonies, and learned more about God's merciful and forgiving nature. Most of all, I came to experience Christ's love through the thoughtful conversations, questions, and care of my discussion group. As I grew closer to Hannah and these brothers and sisters, I also grew closer to the Lord. I learned through them that Jesus Christ sacrificed his perfect life on the cross for a sinner like me. I didn’t need to earn God’s love. He loves me unconditionally, and he was calling me to satisfy all my needs and desires in Him. The emptiness I felt in my life started to be filled. A few months after taking the course, I had proclaimed my trust and faith in my Lord and Savior.

The Lord used these godly brothers and sisters, some of whom have become my best friends, to be salt and light in my life, and it is with joy and thanksgiving that I can now be a witness to others of God's saving power. I would like to invite you now to join me in serving in this ministry to be a witness to others and to be a part of God's great commission to make disciples. God's plans are bigger than our own, and He may just use you to transform another person's life like he used many others to transform mine. And if you are not a Christian, I encourage you to attend. Not only will this course challenge your own beliefs and give you a fresh perspective on Christianity, it will also give you lifelong friends and a heart for the Lord."

Learn about Introducing God  |  Volunteer with Introducing God.

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A Love Story, Redeemed

November 10 2015 at 1:25 pm 2 Comments

Onix and Miguel Castaneda loved each other. Neither were Christians, and the values they brought into their relationship mirrored what they saw in the secular world around them. Then God's grace broke in and changed everything.

Share your Testimony

Want to encourage the church by sharing your testimony, or a story of God's grace in your life? Contact the Story Team.

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Peter Giglio and the Laytonia Basketball Outreach

October 20 2015 at 2:18 pm 0 Comments


Did you miss Peter Giglio's video testimony on Sunday? Check it out here. It's encouraging to hear how God is using the basketball outreach he started to build relationships among teens here in our community.

Have an idea for your own outreach in our community? Apply for a Go Grant that could provide funds to help get your idea off the ground!

Learn more about the Laytonia Basketball Club. Questions about Local Missions? E-mail Drew Garfield for more information.

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Dave & Jen Brewer on Foster Care

October 13 2015 at 10:48 am 0 Comments

On Sunday, we heard from Dave and Jen Brewer about how the Lord has used them as foster parents to minister to children in need in our community. If you're considering getting involved in foster care, or possibly adopting a child, contact The Beloved Ministry for guidance and additional resources.

Dave: Being a foster parent to abused or neglected kids is something that Jen and I had talked about for a number of years, but we put it into the category of “when our kids are out of the house, maybe we could use the space and time to invest into kids in the community.” A pivotal moment that began to change our timeline was when Jen and I started doing short term missions trips. Jen participated on the church missions trip to Uganda, which was an amazing, life changing time for her. She came back and told me she wanted to move our family to Uganda to start an orphanage. I said, “babe, that ain’t happening!” but this thought caused us as a family to ask “Well, we may not be able to move to Uganda to start an orphanage, but where are there orphans in need here in MoCo?” This led to a long, prayerful and deliberate process of our family considering if we should do foster care sooner rather than later. In considering this idea, we asked a lot of questions, sought a lot of counsel, and we simply took the next step we felt God was placing in front of us, all the while praying that he’d make His will clear to us, and by the end of months of classes, interviews, meetings with foster families, we were confidant that this is where God was leading our family.

"Well, we may not be able to move to Uganda to start an orphanage,
but where are there orphans in need here in MoCo?"

Jen: We received our first placement of two children in our home two years ago. They ended up staying in our home for almost a year. Since then, we’ve had three more children in and out of our home. It’s been incredibly rewarding to give our lives to help others, but it has also been incredibly difficult at times as well. But the blessing to our family has far outweighed the challenges, as we have been able to help children right here in MoCo, who have basic needs for things like food, a bed to sleep in, clothes to wear and most importantly, love.

The goal of foster care is reunification with their biological family in the quickest and safest time frame possible. And as you can imagine, that process has its difficulties. You are receiving a child who has been abused or neglected, who was just removed from their family, and is now being dropped off at your home. You get to know these children like they are your own, knowing that one day, at a time undetermined by you, you will be saying goodbye to them and most likely never seeing them again.

Dave: It’s a very difficult proposition…but, a couple things have helped our thinking:

Gensis 3 gives us a framework for understanding how painful this world can be because of the effects of sin. And when Christians step toward meeting needs in this broken and fallen world, that in itself can be painful and messy. Will our hearts get broken? Yes. They will. But they are broken already because we see children in need and hear their stories. James 1:27 – “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction…”

"'Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction…' Who else is going to help these children? I really do believe that Christians should be on the front line of taking-in orphans, kids who have been abused or neglected, and thereby introducing them to saving power of Jesus Christ."

Who else is going to help these children? I really do believe that Christians should be on the front line of taking in orphans, kids who have been abused or neglected, and thereby introducing them to saving power of Jesus Christ. Hopefully, by helping these children, we are teaching OUR OWN children what following Jesus is about. Be a disciple who makes disciples. Be compassionate. Take care of those weaker than you. Share what you have. Love people.

Lastly, we were helped by another foster family in our church, who said, “What an opportunity we have! Whether it’s for a day, week, month or year, we get to love kids and share Jesus with them with as much time as we are given!”  

If foster care or adoption is something you are considering or praying about, feel free to contact The Beloved Ministry for more information.

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Roadside Missions

October 6 2015 at 11:32 am 3 Comments

A couple weeks ago we recieved this encouraging story about how God can use simple acts of kindness to provide opportunities to advance the gospel. We want to thank Donna Banks for providing an encouraging example of being faithful in caring for others in our community and for sharing how God is at work.

This morning as I was driving in a steady rain on the way  to Shady Grove Hospital, I came across a group of teens (possibly Indian or Pakistani) standing on the sidewalk in front of a disabled car along Snouffer School Road.  The car had flashers on, so I pulled in front of it and asked if they needed to use a cell phone or some other assistance. They said that their Dad was in the car and all they wanted to do was push the car backward about 50 feet to get it off the main road. I told them I would block the traffic with my car so they could do that (people could still drive around us). Anyway, I did and it all worked out. They were able to push the car into a free parking spot (God plans everything). 

Because of the rain and the crisis I was not able to meet the Dad but I said, "God bless you" to the young people.

This afternoon, amazingly, a man came up to me and asked if I was the lady who had helped them. I confirmed that I was. He said, "It may seem like a little thing to you, but it was a big thing to me. People were passing by all the time and did not stop. Why did you stop?"  I told him that I am a Christian and as God has shown me so much love I want to show others His love too. I gave him one of my cards with my contact information and told him to contact me if he had any needs (and I wrote down the name of our church on the back).

Totally cool!


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