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First Thoughts Blog

Monthly Archives: April 2016

What Does It Look Like to Walk Side by Side?

As a preacher, I really wish God worked with a different formula. Here’s the one I would like: preaching=immediate change. But God’s way of changing us includes another key ingredient—each other. Because God has made us as relational creatures, and because he has called us to the community of the Church, the formula for discipleship looks more like this: God’s Truth, processed and experienced in community, creates change. That community piece of side-by-sideness can’t be left out of the equation. It’s why at First Presbyterian, we really care about community. We want people to walk side by side with each other as they process and experience together the truth of the Gospel. 
Ed Welch’s book Side by Side is a fabulous introduction to this idea. If you want to know some simple, practical ways that our community can process and experience the Truth of the Gospel together, start here. Here’s the way Welch describes the book in the introduction…

The basic idea (of this book) is that those who help best are the ones who both need help and give help. A healthy community is dependent on all of us being both. So the book is divided into two parts. The first part guides you in sharing your burdens; the second part guides you in bearing the burdens of others… (God’s formula) is the perfect system. If God only used experts and people of renown, some could boast in their own wisdom, but God’s way on doing things is not the same as our way. We ordinary people have been given power and wisdom through the Holy Spirit and are called to love others (John 13: 24). From this beginning, we are compelled to move toward others rather than stay away…

We think the message of this book is so good that we’re going to give these books away. Free. After our combined worship service on May 29, we will have free copies of Side by Side at the Connection Center. Just come get one. Furthermore, we’re going to devote one of our Sunday school classes this July to discussing the book and its major points. 
Going to the beach this Summer? Need something short but powerful that you can keep by your bedside? Why not read Side by Side? And why not read it together? 
I hope you’ll pick up a copy on May 29. And I hope you’ll commit to read it. Talk to a friend, your spouse, your neighbor about reading it together. I think you’ll be happy you did. 

Showing Up Together

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them.” Matthew 18: 20

God has entrusted us twenty-first century Christians with an enormous opportunity: in the midst of a culture that promotes isolation and self-sufficiency, we can show forth the transformative beauty of gospel-centered community. 
So often our culture measures success by how much we can accomplish without the help of anyone else. We rarely feel the need to communicate face to face. So many of us have access to anything and everything right at our fingertips. We do not even need to leave the privacy of our own homes to create a dramatic worship experience on any given day or time: pick your favorite pastor, download his sermon with the most likes on Facebook, incorporate the up-and-coming praise and worship music and voila!, you have yourself a “church service” that keeps you entertained. I hear it all too often: “I livestreamed this week because I wanted to sleep in. I just didn’t want to have to get up early, put on make-up, you know, it's just so hard when I work all week long.” 
I regret that I have been guilty of this kind of attitude myself. To be sure, for those people who are unable to participate in corporate worship or community groups, access to technology can be an invaluable resource and they should feel no shame in using it. Technology is not in and of itself a dreadful thing, but it becomes debilitating when we use it in a way that diminishes our participation in the Great Commission to which the Lord has summoned us. 
What a joy it is that God has given us the gift of going “deeper in Christ and further into the world” together, as a family who meets together regularly to spur one another on as we exalt the Lord Jesus through our worship and our mission!
Through my job, I have the privilege of meeting many visitors and new members of our church. It always warms my heart to hear their experiences as visitors and it makes me very grateful for each and every one of you. I hear comments like “this is the friendliest church I have ever attended” or “I’ve been searching for a church for a long time and this place truly feels like family.” These friends of ours would not have the opportunity to participate in Christian community if we were not present here. Because we are present here, we know the joy of putting the gospel on display as we love one another, care for one another and partner together in ministry. 
Thank you for inviting your friends, neighbors and co-workers to church. Thank you for reaching out to new faces and inviting them to your Bible studies, Sunday school classes, small groups or even into your homes for dinner. When you see a new face in your Sunday school class or during the greeting time, thank you for making an effort to reach out to them and introducing yourself.
Friends, let’s continue to show up together, for the glory of Christ and the good of one another.
First Presbyterian is brimming with opportunities to participate in Christian community. If you would like to talk about connecting more with First Presbyterian, please contact me (
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