Frank and Betty: Growing in Christ-centered Friendship

Story & Photos – Kyle English

Frank and Betty DiMarco have been leading a discipleship group out of Tacoma’s west end for the past year.  For them, it has been a year marked with joy, growth, and rich blessings; all of which come from faithfully engaging in Christlike fellowship with others.  I recently had the opportunity to meet with them and asked them to reflect on their experience as leaders. 

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WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT LEADING A DISCIPLESHIP GROUP? 

Frank: Watching friendships grow was one of the most enjoyable parts for me.  I remember that first night of group when people just sat there and didn't really say much.  It was uncomfortable.

We were all Christians, and yet there was this tension in the room.  But you know, we’ve come such a long way from there to this past Tuesday night – we had a cookout in our backyard, cherry-spitting contests, laughing, and just having a good time together - I think that that's very enjoyable for me.

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Betty: I definitely enjoy seeing the friendships grow, but I also think about our own personal growth and development.  As we were preparing for group discussions, we had to be prepared ourselves.  If we were talking about spiritual disciplines, to present that, we needed to be growing in all of those disciplines as well.  That was an accountability thing for us that really strengthened my walk and my relationship with the Lord.  I'm very grateful for that, for us individually and as a couple.

DID YOU HAVE ANY RESERVATIONS ABOUT BECOMING GROUP LEADERS?

Betty: I think that we were concerned about the amount of time that it would take.  But you know, God blesses a commitment like this.  It's turned into something very enjoyable, something that we want to do, and something that we have prioritized.  When you look at the Bible, what does it say in Acts about the fellowship of breaking bread together, and praying together, and how important that is?  It has just become a lifestyle for us.  It's exciting when you can turn away from some of the worldly things that would pull you away and be more focused on something that helps us, and others, be more like Jesus.  It has been a blessing, and it has not turned out to be a problem for us at all.

Frank: Time was something that held me back for a while.  But I tell you, I just felt a nudging and a nudging and a nudging from the Lord that we were supposed to do this.  We prayed on it, and then just trusted that God was going to work out all the details, which He did.  We ended up so blessed with the group that we got.  We’ve lost some people along the way - they moved, changed jobs, and those sorts of things - but we've really been blessed by those growing relationships.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES YOU FACED AS LEADERS AND HOW WERE THEY OVERCOME?

Frank: Well, one of the things that I had to watch out for is not giving too much input, in conversations, meetings, or groups.  That was a challenge for me - to be thinking about questions and to engage as many people as possible – rather than just trying to give my own input.  The other side of the challenge is to promote an understanding that we’re all helping each other to grow.  I really liked that in our group there were people bringing things in to add to the study or sending emails with all kinds of resources and references. 

Betty: I think one of the things that we were a little bit unsure of at first was how we were going to minister to the needs of everybody and pray for everybody.  I think that having prayer partners on a weekly basis helped us a lot because you knew that you couldn't be responsible for everybody during the week.  Trying to reconnect with everyone during the week can be a challenge when you’ve got a group of 12 or more.  But in having prayer partners, we knew that people were communicating with each other, especially if there were special needs, crises, or struggles that they were going through; and that somebody else was there to reach out and help.  That was encouraging.

WHAT ARE SOME WAYS YOU'VE SEEN GOD AT WORK IN THE PEOPLE IN THE GROUP?

Frank: For me, the biggest one was a guy that had been disconnected from everything for a while when he came into our group.  He was pretty withdrawn at first.  But we got to watch him grow, and to watch him become more open; especially when the guys would break out into smaller groups.  We would do some sharing and some good accountability, and he really grew a lot.  

Betty: I think too that we're seeing people step up in ownership of things because they value the group. It’s really been a joy to see other people step in and do things.  It's not just Frank and me leading now.  It's taken time, and I think that it takes time to build trust and relationships.  This is not something that has happened overnight, and I'm excited to see continued growth in the fall as we come back together.  

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I think spiritually I’ve seen people have more of a conviction and a heart for some of the spiritual disciplines, as we went through that; especially with our women's group.  We were able to encourage each other with different tips and ideas as to how to be in the Word every day, how to excite and encourage our prayer life; and the material was so rich and so good that I think people grew in the spiritual disciplines; through the Word and through each other.

DO YOU HAVE ANY WORDS OF WISDOM FOR ANYONE INTERESTED IN BECOMING A DISCIPLESHIP GROUP LEADER?

Frank:  If you are someone who feels that God is drawing you into a DG leader position, pray deeply on that.  And then I would say if you have the sense to move forward, go for it.  We have such a great set up in our church for leadership and discipleship training.  There's a whole system of coaches who are there to support you, to facilitate monthly meetings to help iron things out and to help you to grow.  It’s just a blessing to be in the kind of church that we have, one that's all in for discipleship, all in for solid Biblical teaching, and being part of the effort of moving our church forward; which means reaching people for Christ.  Go for it!

Betty:  We serve such a relational God, and we were not meant to do life alone.  It’s just such a blessing to be part of a group of people that encourages one other to see their value as children of God; to love them well, and to help them meet their needs.  There were so many times where we were able to meet the actual needs of people here - even simple things like taking somebody to the airport or bringing them food if they were sick or in the hospital - and those are the kinds of support things that make you a family.  I just think it's such an important aspect of our faith that we can all live out our faith together as a group.  It's empowering, it's exciting, and it's fun.  I would say go for it too.  It's been a great journey, and we're excited to continue!
 

Jesus is Working for My Good

Jesus is Working for My Good

Brionna's Story:

"A year ago, my husband unexpectedly left, walked away from the church, and filed for divorce. By God's sovereign grace with the help of my church community God used this rejection to call me out of my sin and take hold of my heart. In the midst of that devastating time, I was able to celebrate God's faithfulness and experience a genuine closeness with God I had never had before in my faith. In losing my marriage God has given me a story to share which shows how His grace is sufficient to cover sin and weakness.  

Moving forward from this season, God has opened up doors for me to relate to other women and friends in my life who are struggling in their marriages, contemplating divorce, or experiencing loss in ways I never had been able to understand or walk alongside in a genuine way before. The peace I have coming out of this season is the promise that Jesus is real and present and working for my good, my joy, and His glory and that is enough."

A Life Restored by Grace

Story & Photo – Kyle English

“To this day, I've torn apart more Blackhawk engines than I can shake a stick at; and yet never changed the oil in my own car.”

John laughs as he talks about his stint as a helicopter engine mechanic in the Army.

“…And I'm determined not to change the oil in my car, just so I can keep that joke.”

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You may not know John Cummings by name, but if you’ve been around Resurrection Church for any length of time, you’ve probably seen him around the lobby between services.  He has a real knack for engaging in thoughtful conversation, with anyone who should come within a ten-foot radius of him. And he does so with all the positive enthusiasm of a man on fire for God.    

This past Easter, John was one of over thirty people to get baptized at Resurrection.  Like many of the others, he has a story to tell. His is a story of God’s redemptive grace and relentless calling.  A calling out from brokenness, and seasons marred by addiction; a calling into renewed hope and faith, and new life in Jesus Christ.

 

WHAT DOES BAPTISM MEAN TO YOU?

John: When the idea was brought up to me of getting baptized on Easter, I had not really thought about it at first. You know, I had only been walking with God for the last six months or so.  I was baptized when I was seventeen, me and all my brothers. We got baptized, and it was kind of an expected thing; that was the way I took it anyway.

But this time, it was a celebration of what God has done in my life.  My relationship with God is a relationship now! It was never an actual relationship before.  My baptism was a celebration of what the last six months have been, and Him bringing me back to Himself; shaping me, changing me, and growing me.  It was also a public dedication in front of my church family, saying that I am committing the rest of my life to being all about the Lord.

 

WHO WERE YOU BEFORE YOU MET CHRIST?

John: I would say broken, but I’m still broken.  I mean, I grew up in a very solid Christian home. Around age eighteen I decided I didn't want anything to do with that anymore. I wanted to walk away and do my own thing.  

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And I did… for about 11 years.  

I was very active in my lack of pursuit of God. I didn't want anything to do with God, or anything remotely related to God.  I was going to live my life my way, do the drugs that I wanted to do, sleep with who I wanted to sleep with, and make the choices I wanted to make; without guilt or reproach.  I would try to find reasons to disprove God, so that I wouldn't feel guilty in the way that I lived. That was my life. That was my reasoning. I always knew I could never quite shake my faith or my belief in a God, but I was always trying to find a way to disprove Him.  

I like to say that I didn't get kicked out of my parents’ house, but that I lost the privilege of living at my parents’ house… twice.  That was through poor decisions, bad life choices. I found myself homeless for a period of time, in Orlando, and got myself to the point where I'm like: “Okay, I really need to do something to change my life around.” What I was doing was not really working very well.

Joining the Military seemed like a good way to go.  I originally tried the Air Force, but they needed me to lose about thirty pounds, and I had never done anything physical in my life.  Not only had I no idea how to even begin to lose that kind of weight, I really had no desire to. Then the army stepped in and said, “we have a waiver for that. Sign here and you can come in as fat as you want.”  So, I joined the Army for 5 years. I was a helicopter engine mechanic and learned a lot of really cool things.

I actually ended up getting kicked out early.  Again, poor decisions… drug addiction.

But God pulled me out of that drug addiction before I was even walking with him again, which I still find amazing.

 

HOW DID GOD PULL YOU OUT OF YOUR ADDICTION?

John: I got involved with “spice,” a synthetic marijuana.  It’s really bad. I was to the point where I couldn't really function. You can't function while on it, and I couldn't function without it.  I needed it constantly. I got into it while I was in the military. It was my way of being able to get high without getting caught. I mean, they could drug test me all day and not find anything.  So, they ended up finding a different way to kick me out, which was a lot worse.

When I got out, I got worse into my drug addiction.  God gave me a really good paying job, which just meant that I could now afford to spend twenty-five to fifty dollars a day on it.  I needed it. I couldn't live without it. Somehow, I was able to pull myself out of it at one point, but then I relapsed a few months later.  It would get really bad, I would pull out of it again, and then it would get really bad again. I honestly don't remember a lot of that time. I was high constantly.  That and some other things led to an addiction to marijuana. I basically just traded one addiction for another. It was legal, and I knew it was a little bit healthier… or at least it wasn't “as unhealthy” as the spice was.  

Looking back, it was such a terrible time, but now I can't see anything but God's hand pulling me out of it; even though I had no desire to want anything from Him.  Even from pot, where I went from smoking it all day, every day, I started coming back to Him. I decided that I wanted to follow Christ again, for the first time really.  I wanted to come back, but I didn't really know what that looked like. I made the decision that one of the things that I needed to do was get rid of this addiction in my life.

And so, I quit.  Cold turkey.

I quit October 3rd of last year, and I've been clean ever since.  I've already celebrated six months, and you know, it was a big milestone for me.  It blows my mind. I never thought I'd be able to go a couple of days. To go six months, and to not really crave it as much anymore… it's amazing!

 

WHO ARE YOU NOW THAT YOU KNOW CHRIST?

John:
Something that I noticed when I was walking away, and I wasn't able to put into words very well, is that I was angry.  It was never a problem when I was a kid - maybe my mom would tell you otherwise - but I don't remember having that much anger in me.  I had become very bitter, and my fuse was so short.

You know, something funny happened to me just the other day.  I was having a rough day, and at one point I got really frustrated with someone for cutting in front of me on the road - I drive for a living, so it happens all day, every day. I found myself getting really mad at this person.  But it raised a flag for me. This wasn’t me. This wasn’t what God wanted from me.

I honestly can't remember the last time I felt like that.  It had legitimately been so long since I've even had that feeling arise in me.  It was such an amazing thing to be like: “Okay, yes, I'm still broken. I'm still struggling.”  The way I used to treat other people was that I’d forgive them outwardly. Inwardly, I would find myself being really judgmental and harsh.  But God has taken that away, and in such an amazing way.

Now, more often than not, my natural reaction is to think: “I don’t know where you’re coming from, and I don't know the full situation.  Realistically I am a broken, broken, person saved by grace. The least I can do is give you some grace... even if I don't know why I should be giving you grace… even if there's no better reason to give you grace than the fact that Jesus gave grace to me.”

There’s been so many different aspects of my life in which God has changed my heart.  I genuinely believe that the person who walked into this church six months ago is not the man standing before you today.  I might look somewhat similar, but I am not the same person.
 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. ~2 Corinthians 5:17

 

Growing Through Discipleship

Story & Photo - Kyle English

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Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. ~Matthew 28:19-20

AJ grew up in an active Catholic family, but never fully felt like he understood the Gospel.  His life began to change when a Christian girl came into his life. “She started taking me to a Christian Church,” he recalls, “and taught me how to read the Bible, and was just a great example of what it meant to walk with Jesus.”  As the relationship progressed a few months, he began to undergo a major shift in perspective and heart attitude. “God opened up my eyes and my heart to see the depth of my sin, and His endless love and grace over my life.” Soon thereafter, he began serving in his community, and volunteering at the Tacoma Rescue mission.  It was there that he met a new friend who attended Resurrection Church and kept insisting that he come check it out; which he eventually did. “I have now been attending Resurrection Church for the past year and a half and am very blessed to be a part of it,” he states.

In the Fall of 2016, AJ had the opportunity to attend an immersive discipleship experience at Resurrection Church.  The training, then called Disciple, lasted ten weeks, and looked at what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.  It provided the tools and learning environment for participants to grow in discipleship and disciple-making; while learning about the church’s five core values: Jesus, Love, Truth, Transformation, and Legacy.  If this all sounds familiar to you, it’s because Disciple eventually refined into our church's ten-week Disciple Maker series; laying the foundation for our current Disciple Maker Equip and setting the direction for Discipleship Groups.

AJ is up front when asked about his initial reason for wanting to take part, stating “I initially enrolled because I was told it was needed to become a member (it’s not any longer).”  However, he took to the learning experience very quickly, and found himself enjoying the discipleship and new community he plugged in with. He adds, “just after the first class, I ended up really loving it, and got to know some really great people!”  

A big part of growing in discipleship, in addition to gaining a better understanding of what it means to be a disciple, is learning to disciple one another.  This is practiced, in part, by participating in small discipleship groups. The purpose of these groups, is to continually engage each other in discussion, prayer, fellowship, and accountability.  AJ says of his group, “from the very start, God was really moving among us. Meeting a group of complete strangers… and yet at the end of the first day, we had all felt like we’d known each other for a long time.  As time went on, we got to really know each other and grow as brothers in Christ.”

When asked what discipleship means to him, AJ responds that it “means actively walking with Jesus.  Spending time with the Lord through prayer, scripture reading, and fellowship to where we are continually learning and growing in His likeness.”  

He goes on to talk about his greatest takeaways from the experience: “Overall, there were many great practical tools I acquired that I can honestly say will be used throughout the rest of my life.  The number one thing I personally have taken away is that discipleship is meant to be done in community; and through it all, God has not only blessed me and equipped me in that aspect, but in all areas to live a life devoted to Him.”

As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.  ~John 17:18


Disciple Maker Equip and Discipleship Groups continue to be important parts of Resurrection Church.  If you are not yet part of either, you can connect by texting the numbers below or by visiting the Connect Desk on Sunday.

 

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Sharing Faith

“10/10.  The date’s a special day…”

Frank smiles, as he recalls something that took place seven years ago, to the day: “I had the privilege of leading a guy to Christ.  Things were not going well for this man, in his marriage.  He had come into my office at church, on a Sunday, just to get some clarity about the Gospel.  We talked for an hour and a half.  It was a wonderful time.  And he accepted Jesus that day!”

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He then goes on to talk about sending this man a short text message earlier in the day, just to wish him a spiritual “happy birthday:” “You know, today’s a special day… And he really appreciated it.”

For those that know Frank DiMarco, it should come as no surprise to hear him talk about his passion for sharing Jesus; nor should it come as any surprise to hear about his heart for the spiritual welfare of others.  We recently had the opportunity to share a meal with Frank and his wife Betty, while asking him some questions about his approach to sharing his faith with others.

Why is sharing your faith important to you?

Frank: What’s important to me are people’s eternal lives.  When I came to understand that I could have a role in that, to be a conduit for the Lord, helping people gain an understanding of the Gospel, and what’s at stake, it just became irresistible to me.  I knew what the Lord had done my life, and in Betty’s.  I had a vision like Bill Fay’s [author of Share Jesus Without Fear].  Bill Fay had this vision, when he got saved.  It was like he was on a sinking ship, just getting smashed against a rocky coast.  He was able to get out and climb ashore.  Others were trying to climb ashore too.  Rather than remaining in a safe place, he just kept going back to help the people who were still being battered in the water.  

I really saw that as what I was being called to do.  The Lord just used me with people.  When I would be talking to them, people tended to trust me, and to share things.  So, there were opportunities within that; to talk to them about Jesus, and to really talk them through key scriptures; to tell them what the Bible says about us, and about eternal life.  It’s a passion that the Lord gave me.    

What do you think prevents people from sharing their faith?

Frank: That’s a really complex question, and there are lots of reasons; reasons that are not valid, but people are still hampered by them because they think they’re valid.  Sometimes it’s a belief that they don’t know the Bible well enough.  Maybe it’s fear… fear of rejection, or fear of losing a friend.  It’s like they think: “I don’t want to lose a friend.  I would rather say nothing at all, even knowing what’s at stake, than risk them rejecting me as a friend.”

I think that it comes down to that if you really believe what the Bible says is true… I don’t see how you can not share it.  But as I say that, you know, I’ve been hampered too, many a time.  Times where my mind just wasn’t in the right place at that moment, to see what was going on.  Times where I didn’t take the opportunity to ask questions that built on whatever was going on; to open a door.

But anyway, I think there’s also a fear of having a lack of knowledge; being afraid you might say the wrong thing; being afraid that if you start to open a conversation, you might be asked a question that you can’t answer.  I love Pastor Bubba’s response to that, which is like “Hey, you know what?  I don’t have the answer right now to that.  But let’s open up the Bible together.”  And to use that, saying let’s just read the Bible, and see what it says,” to initiate meeting with someone on a regular basis.  

Tell us about a time when you felt a conviction to share your faith

Frank: I was on a men’s weekend through my church, and I heard this message about us all being called to be an influence in our environments.  I worked in a very tough, secular, environment.  I zoned in on that, asking “How Lord, how?  How am I going to share my faith in this School?” – I was the principal of a school at that time – “How am I going to do that?”  My hands were starting to sweat, literally, when I was hearing that message.  That was the thing that launched me, that message.  I understood from that, that that’s the call for us; to be disciple makers.  I’m so type A… my mind was spinning during that session.  The Lord put on my heart then, “Frank, don’t get ahead of me!  I will show you, and you will move forward.  Otherwise, you will wait.”  So that was in my mind, and the key for me was to be prayed up all the time; to be prepared in every way.

One time, and this was really crazy, involved a first-year teacher in the school where I was principal.  We were probably three weeks into the school year.  I was awakened at three o’clock in the morning.  Awakened with a thought in my head, that I was supposed to share the Gospel with her; this new teacher.  I couldn’t even go back to sleep.  This was the first time that something like this would directly happen in the school.  I prayed about it, asking the Lord to show me my approach; and even though I had been taught how to share the Gospel, I ended up going out the “chicken door” in my mind.  I went to work that day, saw her, but didn’t say anything.  I just felt… “maybe I didn’t have this right.”  I don’t know.  So, I finished out the day and went home.  That night, again, second night in a row, I was awakened at three o’clock in the morning.

And I said “Alright Lord… I’ll do this.”

“…And I’m trusting you, because I can’t figure out how I’m supposed to do this.”

That next morning, I was in school early.  I’m in my office, and hear some noise coming from the front office area.  So, I’m thinking it’s a custodian coming in - I would usually catch up with them in the morning, and see what’s going on; or see if there’s anything I needed to know about the building.  So, I went out there to say hello to the custodian… but it wasn’t the custodian.  It was the teacher.  After saying good morning, and asking her why she was in so early, she said “I don’t know.  I just woke up.  I couldn’t sleep.  And I just felt like I was supposed to come in.”  I asked her if she had any time that day, like during her scheduled planning period, when we could have a chat.  To which she said, “What did I do wrong?”  So, she came to my office, during her planning period, scared to death – she had gone around to talk to all the other new teachers, just to see if I had met with any of them too; so, she was convinced that something was wrong.

She came into my office, and I said “What I’m going to tell you right now is crazy.  I believe – and God has awakened me two nights in a row, at three o’clock in the morning – I believe, that God wants me to share some Bible passages with you.”  And then I said, “You know, right now, I feel like I have accomplished everything I was supposed to do; because I’ve asked you if you would like to look at those passages.  But you can say no.  In fact, I think I would be pretty anxious if I were you.  You know… brand new teacher, first-year, and now being asked this by this religious weirdo; maybe thinking if you don’t say yes, your job’s going to be in jeopardy.”  

After I expressed all of that, I told her sincerely, “It is absolutely fine… if you’re not comfortable with this… because it’s so crazy.  Honestly, if you want to go to the superintendent and express a concern about this, that’s fine with me.  This is just that crazy.”

And then she said, “So you really believe that God wants me to look at some passages in the Bible.”

“With ALL my heart.  Because this has never happened to me before.”

And she said, “Okay.  I’d like to do that.”

I opened up my “Share Jesus” Bible, and began to have her look at each key verse; reading them aloud, and saying what she thought they meant.  We got to about the third or fourth verse, and she started to cry.  I asked her what was wrong, and sobbing, she shared this story with me.  A while back, she was in another part of the country, living a really “way off the mark,” life of sin.  She felt this man was stalking her, on this one particular night, and ran to get away.  She ran up to a random house, that was in a residential area, and just pounded away on the door for help.  A woman who was home answered the door, and asked what was wrong.  She told her she thought someone was going to kill her, and that she was really scared.  The woman invited her into her home, assuring her that nobody was going to harm her; and that she was going to be okay.  After giving her a cup of tea, the two began to talk.  

At this point in telling me her story, she was sobbing uncontrollably, and couldn’t even get the words out: “This is the verse that the woman showed me.  She talked to me about Jesus, and I turned it down.  I didn’t want to have anything to do with it.  But now I know… I know that God is working today.”

And out of that, she gave her heart to Jesus.

There’s more.  As it turned out, she had a forty-minute planning period, followed by a forty-minute team time.  It was a double block that was set up for the teachers.  So we went through the whole forty minutes, straight through to the next forty.  My secretary, who was brand new to this school, was a strong Christian.  When I finally finished up talking to the teacher, she came to my door, looking petrified and anxious.  She said, “I tried to call you on the phone a few times, but you wouldn’t answer.”  I told her, “I couldn’t answer the phone, because I was sharing Jesus with someone!”  She then told me that I had forgotten about the 8th grade meeting that I scheduled!  There were 350 kids, and all their teachers, in the auditorium, waiting for me to come and do a presentation that I had been doing with all the grade levels.  They waited about 20 minutes and left.  And the president of the union, who was an aggressive guy, was one of the teachers in that meeting; and she [my secretary] said that he had come down to my office, and really wanted to talk to me!  So, I said “Alright, I’ll meet with him.  But I’ll tell you this.  Nothing is going to happen.  God has got this so covered, that nothing is going to happen.”

He never did come back.  And it all just drifted away.  Nobody even talked about it.  God had us protected.  Plus, it gave me an opportunity to show my new secretary my heart; and also for her to see how the Lord was moving in that school.

Do you have any advice for fellow Christians sharing their faith?

Frank: 1 Corinthians 16:14 – Let all that you do be done in love.  That is a very powerful verse that I am always mindful of.  And this is what is so beautiful about our Disciple Maker series, and Discipleship Groups.  It is not viewed as a “one-off” kind of thing, or “learn these skills and let the next group in;” but rather it is really a lifestyle.  That’s what’s so important about what this church is doing.  It’s teaching people what it means to be a disciple who makes disciples.  It’s incredible, when you think about how the Lord actually allows us to be used; to be a conduit; to help somebody move from time into eternity; to change everything; because eternity for that person begins the moment they say yes to Jesus.

Let all you do be done in Love, and just keep your eyes open for where God’s moving.  The truth is, He is moving everywhere; all the time.  We don’t see it, because we’re not looking.  God is moving all the time, and we get to be a part of that!

Advent with Friends

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Home for the holidays. This familiar phrase begins to make its regular appearance around this time of year. Images come to mind of families driving through the snow to grandma’s house, college kids returning to mom and dad’s, and that one strange uncle making his semi-annual appearance with extended family.

On the one hand, this phrase is not particularly significant, as it’s mostly associated with sentimentality that rarely has anything to do with the true meaning of Christmas—you know, the birth of Jesus and the salvation of mankind. But on the other hand, holidays and other significant dates on the calendar serve to remind us of a very important truth that we each know deep down: we were made for relationship. Because God is exists eternally in three persons, he is relational in the core of his being. And because humans are created in the image and likeness of God, we were made to be in relationship. The idea of “Christmas togetherness” can serve to remind us as Christians that we are designed by God to be in relationship with the family of God.

Not only do we believe that this is true for individuals, we believe that this truth extends to churches as well. Simply put, local churches need other local churches for relationship, partnership, and camaraderie. It is this at led idea that led to our new sermon series for December,
Advent With Friends.”

Here’s what this will look like. Four preachers from four churches in the Puget Sound region are taking the four traditional Advent themes and then sharing those messages at each of the four churches involved. Each preacher will share at a different church for each Sunday of Advent, with Christmas Eve Sunday spent at their home church. This means that the topics will be a little out of order from the traditional arrangement, but hey…what would the holidays be without a little chaos? 

We are excited to partner together with these churches for the Advent season. Our prayer is that Jesus would get much glory in our partnering together for his gospel!

Here is the Advent With Friends sermon schedule for Resurrection Church:
 

  • Dec 3rd - Pastor Aaron Gray (from Sound City Bible Church in Lynnwood) will preach on “joy” from 1 Peter 1:6-9.
     
  • Dec 10th - Pastor Seth Winterhalter (from Harbor Church in Olympia) will preach on “love” from 1 Peter 1:22-23.
     
  • Dec 17th - Pastor Matthias Haeusel (from Cross & Crown Church in Seattle) will preach on “peace” from 1 Peter 3:10-12.
     
  • Dec 24th - CHRISTMAS EVE SERVICES (4pm, 6pm & 8pm)
     
  • Dec 31st - Pastor Bubba will preach on “hope” from 1 Peter 1:3-5.

Christ's Love Allows us to Love One Another

At Resurrection Church, we want to share stories of how God is working in our lives, as individuals and as a community. We are a church of real people, with lives that aren’t perfect but where grace abounds.

Stories of Grace is a way for us to let one another into our joy and our trials to encourage one another as we witness the steadfast love of God. We hope this story is an encouragement to you.

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A self-proclaimed “farm boy from the sticks” of southeast Missouri, Nick Francis has a gift for leadership; and through God’s refining grace, a heart for others.  He and his wife, Siobhan, met while attending nursing school, got married two years later, and then moved up to Washington, on what was supposed to be a temporary basis.  Their initial intention was to move on to another state, to take part in a church plant.  When those plans fell through, Nick states, “We asked God if we could stay [in Washington], and He said yes.”

Nick currently leads our Discipleship Team at Resurrection Church, the team that helped develop the training and devotional material for our current Disciple Maker series. The series is designed to help grow us as disciples and as disciple-makers. He and Siobhan have been involved since its earlier incarnation as a class.  


What does discipleship mean to you and why is it important?

Nick:  When I think of a disciple, I think of a follower of Christ.  So if you look up the definition of disciple, it’s probably more like just a follower of any particular thing; and maybe even someone who wants to mimic someone else.  But discipleship is the act, or rather state of being, in which you are following Christ; desiring to be more like him; growing in his image.  

God created us to image him, and to live/be a certain way.  Discipleship is the process of growing to be more like Christ, which is who we were originally intended to image in the first place.

Discipleship is actually about being more truly human, because that is how we were intended to be. Discipleship is about imaging God and doing that which we were called.  But even more than that, it’s about enjoying God.  It’s about fulfilling our purpose as human beings.  
 

What do you love about getting to disciple others and help build up God’s people?

Nick:  Well, that wasn’t always the case.  I used to not like people at all.  That’s something that God changed in me, and probably the most powerful portion of a testimony that I have of God’s work.  He did change me, to love people and have a heart that wants them to grow to be like Him.  And I think at this stage of my life, the thing that I enjoy most about being around God’s people is that they are all so different.  When you really get to know somebody, you learn how different from you they are.  At first, that can be hard.  But it’s really a beautiful thing.  God is so much bigger than we are, and we all image Him in different ways.  From a leadership and personal standpoint, it’s wonderful to get to know different people and personalities, because they are all reflections of God.
 

What barriers to loving people has God broken down in your life?

Nick:  The biggest one occurred about five years ago.  I didn’t like people.  I definitely didn’t love people.  God had given me gifts to be able to organize things and put together events.  But I wasn’t able to do those things in ways that were helpful, or glorifying to people.  I would just use people for their skills, and not actually care about them when I was using them.  When I came up here, I was told that if I wanted to be a pastor, I should be a small group leader.  At first, I didn’t like the idea… But then, kind of relented.  

I remember in one group meeting, I was an apprentice, and a girl started crying while we were praying.  She got up and left the room, and I remember thinking ‘I’m glad she left the room.  I don’t want to deal with that.’  That was incredibly unloving!  I’ve struggled with it for a long time, and I still see it sometimes, in that I don’t want to go into the mess of life with people.  I just want to stay where it’s clean, and where people have their stuff together.  And that’s something that God has changed in me, and I think, is continuing to change in me; and that allows me to love people like He loves people.
 

How does God’s love for you inform your interactions with others?

Nick:  It’s not something that I think about enough, the fact that God loved me.  I just read last night, in John 4:10, the definition of love: ‘not that you loved God, but that God sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins.’  That’s God’s definition of love.  Sacrifice everything that you have for someone else, or for others; and that’s what it means to love.  That’s a crazy high calling for us!  But God reminds us later on in that same text that we are holy, because of Christ’s sacrifice.  So on one hand, you don’t have to live up to the expectation to sacrifice everything you have; but on the other hand, that’s the calling.  That’s what it means to love.  And if I think about that every moment of the day, I’m going to live life differently.  But I don’t think about it every moment of the day.  And when I do think about it, it changes me.  Because Christ loved me perfectly, I can love others.  It seems trite to say that, but it really is the truth.  When I live in the reality that God gave everything for me, and that’s all I care about or am focused on, then the only thing I have a desire to do is give it back to the Lord.  And the way that he calls us to do that is actually by giving it back to others.  To love God is to love others, because that’s what He did.

So now, when there’s a differing opinion between myself and another christian, it’s no longer a personal thing, or that I need to be right.  It’s now, ‘Oh wow, this is something I should consider;’ even if I’m right, or even if I still think I’m right.  It brings about a humility.  It brings about all those fruits of the spirit.  That we can have love; joy; peace; patience in the midst of difficulties; kindness toward others, when they are unkind with us; self-control when things are out of control; and the giving up self for the Lord; is what enables us to do all the things that God asks us to do; which ultimately provide us with an unstoppable joy, despite circumstances; and a different kind of love than the world has ever seen!

Linda's Testimony

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At Resurrection Church, we want to share stories of how God is working in our lives, as individuals and as a community. We are a church of real people, with lives that aren’t perfect but where grace abounds.

Stories of Grace is a way for us to let one another into our joy and our trials to encourage one another as we witness the steadfast love of God. We hope this story is an encouragement to you.

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I (Linda) grew up in Tacoma, not within any kind of Faith. I rejected the idea of Christianity early on as a young adult. I felt like it was one of many religious myths.

Right out of highschool I started dating Mat (who is my husband now) and we dated off and on for a couple years but it didn’t work out because we were really young and our lives took different paths.

I spent a lot of time seeking and trying to figure out what I believed about spirituality, God and the afterlife. I decided that I thought there was a God but I didn’t think there was Heaven or Hell. And then I had a really bad experience with someone that I thought I was lead to be with and from there I rejected God.

About a year and a half ago, Mat contacted me on Facebook. I hadn’t spoken with him in almost 25 years. His wife had left him and he thought of me and so he reached back out to me. He was a Christian and that was, to me, a reason we shouldn’t date. We thought very differently about faith and politics, but I was so drawn to him because I was so crazy for him before. We started seeing each other and we knew right away that this was it; I’d be with him, he’d be with me, as soon as we reconnected.

And so I really came to Jesus through my relationship with Mat because he was a Christian and going to church every week. So I started going to church with him because I just didn’t want to not be with him, not because I wanted to be at church. In fact, it was quite hard for me to be at church because it flew in the face of what I believed and reminded me that what I believed was super harsh.

After a couple of months I often would leave super sad because of the reminder of what I believed; that my life was just going to end and that everything I knew would just end. It was really hard to re-face over and over, because it is a super harsh reality.

So it started getting to a point where I felt like I couldn’t even go with him because I would come home and be depressed for a day or two. It was hitting me really hard. And so I told him I would just wait in the lobby when he would go to church because I still wanted to be with him.

Matt never pressured me about Christianity. If I had questions he’d just try his best to answer them. He was very understanding if I felt like I couldn’t do church.

Then suddenly I had a connection point where I felt like there was something more to me that is expansive. There is something about me that feels eternal. I think that was the first crack in my defenses towards Jesus.

Shortly after that I started reading a lot of books for skeptics and listening to a lot of podcasts from different churches and videos of different apologists and continued to go to church with Mat. Even though I didn’t believe, I wanted to hear.

On Palm Sunday I talked with Pastor Bubba, asking questions like, “Is this really real? It feels like it’s a myth. Am I going to buy into something that’s not real like I did before?” And Pastor Bubba said “It’s the real myth, think of it that way. It sounds like a myth but it’s real.”

Later that day I was reading more and I had a moment where I just crossed over! I was like, “Oh my goodness! I can’t deny that this is real!” And having studied and read so much about the history and all the supporting information about why Christianity IS real and these events REALLY happened and this IS what Jesus said and He CAN be believed. I just finally had that moment, where it was undeniable. How could I not believe?

I got baptized on Easter and two weeks later Matt and I got married.

I feel like it was intended that I be Christian before we got married. Because a Christian marriage is so much more bonded. You have that connection with Christ and you’re both pursuing Christ.

I think that Christ used Matt to come find me to bring me home. Almost every day we have a conversation about how I cannot believe this is my reality.