Where we are
We look over the past couple of months and are grateful for the many opportunities to learn, grow and serve. We have seen our relationships grow with the other believers here at Treasuring Christ Church as we’ve been blessed with new avenues to serve alongside them and to be vulnerable with them. New ministry experiences have brought both blessing and positive challenge. Elizabeth has been able to return to counseling on an informal basis out of our home, and she recently participated in a weekly women’s discussion group of Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert’s book When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself. This discussion was an exciting tool to engage hearts towards loving the community in which God has placed us with the Gospel. In March, Craig attended the Advance the Church conference, which focused on building faithful and effective churches. He has also enjoyed neighborhood meetings and events such as Raleigh’s Oaks and Spokes Bicycle Festival in March and the City of Raleigh Fair Housing Conference, where he was able to hear from organizations serving ex-offenders and the chronically homeless. Craig has also recently joined TCC’s “set up & tear down” team so that he can experience the pragmatic process of turning an empty room into a place where believers can gather for worship. Elijah and Anna have thoroughly enjoyed Raleigh’s warm spring weather and love exploring new parks and playgrounds. We’ve discovered that sand toys are essential to take along to Raleigh playgrounds!
The primary concern on our hearts at the moment is narrowing our focus on a specific city to call home into which we will pour our hearts for Gospel planting. We hunger to lead a multi-ethnic team to start a work in an area of the country that is underserved in Gospel presence, urban in context, and diverse in ethnicity and socio-economics. We want to watch God form a community of reconciliation that displays the Gospel in its representation of poor, middle class, and upwardly mobile all loving and serving one another in one diverse family for the fame of Christ. We currently have both Pittsburgh and Chicago in view as cities which are in need of additional Gospel presence. We have been gathering religious statistics and demographic information on both cities, as well as praying for God’s wisdom in evaluating how our skills and gifts from Him might best align with what He is already doing among either Chicago or Pittsburgh culture.
In April we spent a week in Pittsburgh, visiting many of its neighborhoods and interviewing multiple planters and pastors throughout the city. It was a joy to hear from people already doing Gospel ministry there, to hear their passion and strategy, and to hear from them what neighborhoods are most lacking a Gospel presence. We found genuine camaraderie there among a grassroots movement of ministers who want to see at least one Gospel-centered church established in each of the city’s 90 neighborhoods. While in town, God provided us the opportunity to attend a local church planting conference called Renew Western PA, which brought together about 30 like-minded men intent on this vision. We were also blessed with the opportunity to participate in a multi-ethnic worship service at a church located in the Shadeland community before returning home.
We will be taking a similar trip to Chicago next week, during which we will meet with planters and organization leaders ranging from Woodlawn in the South Side to Wicker Park in the West Side, and several other locations across the city. We are specifically praying for God to align our passion and desire to one of these two cities as we research the Gospel dynamics in each and spend time walking the streets. Please join us in asking God to clarify the most strategic location for us to put the gifts and experiences He’s given us in line with the work He’s already doing.
What is God teaching us?
I, Craig, have been dwelling in the letter of 1 John lately. It has struck me the way that John paints a picture of love being a downward exchange that is poured out from one who possesses much to those who have nothing to offer in return. Love is defined for us at the cross as Jesus, who breathed life itself into existence, breathed his last breath for dead men like me. Love does not equal mere acceptance of someone; love equals taking on the guilt and shame of the other person and swallowing it. Bound up in love is its pre-emptive nature: I will give all of me for all of guilty you (1 John 4:9-11). We want to give ourselves fully to the task of sharing the news that the debt has already been paid for the guilt which abounds in our cities. We want to make God visible by exhibiting shame-aborbing love for the shamed.
How can you partner with us?
We continue to need your partnership in several ways.
- We need your prayers. We continue to need discernment in growing our relationships for the long-term goal of forming a church planting team. We also continue to need godly wisdom as we make financial preparations for a new church. However, the most crucial step for moving forward in the interim is the selection of one of our two cities, Pittsburgh or Chicago. We appreciate your calling out to God on our behalf while we are in Chicago next week, comparing the neighborhood dynamics and Gospel needs to our experience in Pittsburgh.
- We need your financial consideration. We are still not yet officially raising support, as we nail down the details of how to most wisely and honorably receive funds for the future. Please do continue to prayerfully consider what, if any, financial help you can give in the future. Once we transition to support-raising over the course of the next few months, we will provide more detailed information regarding specific financial needs and a residency/planting timeline.
- We need your friendship and your presence. We are so grateful for your words of encouragement and continued relational support! We need you to consider what part God might have you play in this new church in the future. Would God have you join us in such a work?
Craig, Elizabeth, Elijah, and Anna