Sunday, January 3, 2010

What a difference a year can make...

A year ago today, Hollygrove Church of Christ opened it's doors and had their 1st worship service. Today, brothers and sisters of all kinds- rich, poor, black, white, young, old, and everything in between- gathered from around the country to celebrate God's great work there. The church is a testimony to not only the faith of those involved in the planting of the Hollygrove church but also to the awesome power of our God. It's no secret that the Carrollton and Hollygrove churches are a big part of my life, and have greatly influenced the way I think about God.

In the past year at Hollygrove kids and teens in the most dangerous neighborhood in America were given an alternative to life on the streets through summer programs and after-school tutoring, over 350 neighborhood guests were welcomed to the church with a fish fry and block party, 12 people were baptized into Christ, and 22 families received assistance during the Christmas season. It is evident that the Lord is moving in New Orleans. Here are just a few of the many lessons to be learned from the Hollygrove Church:

- To meet great need you need great love. What I mean is, Charles and Angela (the Hollygrove ministers) are working with some of the poorest families in the city, in a very dangerous area where the lack of education and physical needs of the children and youth they interact with are overwhelming and apparent. For example, many of the children that attend church there don't receive proper nutrition or sufficient medical care, some don't have winter coats, others wear shoes that are too small and pants that are too large simply because their families struggle to make ends meet. Some people would come into a neighborhood like that and want to throw a lot of money at the problem. However, Charles and Angela know that what that neighborhood really needs is the love of Jesus. Don't hear me wrong- they absolutely need help, and Hollygrove certainly needs monetary support to continue to reach out to the community, but Charles and Angela do not fret over money. They are up close and personal with the God who fed 5,000 with just 5 loaves and 2 fish. They know, no matter what they've got, when they give it to God he is able to do immeasurably more than all they could ask or imagine. Its rare to find that kind of faith, and dedication to sharing God's love in the church today.

- At Hollygrove, everyone's invited: rich, poor, young, old, white, black, educated, uneducated, the single mother, the ex gang member... it doesn't matter. Everyone has a place there. When you look around most churches in America today you often see a terrible segregation. Churches are often segregated by race and are more and more starting to segregate by age as well. However, this morning at Hollygrove I think the service reflected what Heaven will be like. At some point we've got to be willing to make a place for people who aren't like us, maybe even people who make us a bit uncomfortable because they sing different songs from us, or preach in a different style, or whatever. The mission of both Carrollton and Hollygrove is simple: "We are a family of God's children serving our community." No matter how different we are, we are indeed a family, that is incredibly blessed by the love of our Father in heaven, that is seeking ways to share that love with those in New Orleans.

- The Lord blesses us with partnerships to accomplish big jobs- we can't do it on our own! Today I watched Kirk and Charles both compliment each other for teaching the other how to be a better minister. They are two totally different men, who have different ways of doing things, and often different opinions of how to accomplish a given task- but they both LOVE God. Further, I am reminded of the way Hollygrove and Carrollton are a team and even beyond that they rely on the prayer, love and support of sister churches like Park Plaza in Tulsa, Southern Hills in Abilene, White's Ferry in Monroe, and Northlake in Atlanta. Each of these congregations need each other, and it is no accident that God enabled them to work together to do good in New Orleans. In my own life I have been blessed to have many great partners (Matthew and Perry, are coming to mind) in ministry and it often not until later that I realize how much God was teaching me through their ministry, and how much more work could be done because of the other person.

What a great Sunday!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

shannon, what a great summation of what church means! It IS hard to be somewhere different, do different things, and be with different kinds of people, especially when it comes to church life. We cling to "the way we were raised", and it's only because we trust in God that we can learn to trust where he leads us.