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Vision Sunday 2015

January 23, 2015

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vi·sion (noun)  /viZHən/
  • the faculty or state of being able to see
  • the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom
  • a mental image of what the future will or could be like.

Every year, our church takes the opportunity to paint a picture! This depicts not only what our church could look like, but the community around us if we truly take hold of what God has for us. Of course we do this more with words, than with a paintbrush.

Our church was born out of vision. You can read more about it at-length here: The Living Church >> Our Vision

Quite simply, it’s this: We are the church! And we’re not here to offer nice programs and routines, but rather “life change” through Jesus Christ! This is true for wherever we might be (not being confined to four walls on a street corner) and whoever God puts before us. Our heart is for Hartsville and that’s where we focus our efforts in reaching broken, hurting people. The Lord has done, is doing, and will do some awesome things through our ministry!

Being born of vision is a more important distinction than you may realize, as most churches around today came as the result of division. Pride in the form of church politics (and all of its orange carpet glory) being the usual suspect.

One of the safeguards TLC employs against division is to share the vision at-large every chance it gets. We want everyone on-board, whether they’ve been with us since the beginning, or are visiting for the first time! The term “buy-in” is critical and participation is what helps bring our vision into a reality.

So if you come on Sunday, January 23rd, you will be presented with possibilities. These things can happen with your willingness to let God lead your life, all while being encouraged and equipped in a loving fellowship of Christ-followers. We are not a sleepy, sit-on-the-sidelines kind-of-church, but instead an active body that has a burning desire to see the more than 60% of our local neighbors without a church family, find God!

Come and discover what we’re up to for 2015 (and how you can help!)…

Our Sunday worship service takes place every Sunday, 11am at the Hartsville Family YMCA.

We’d love to see you there!

You Have Options! Right?

January 16, 2015

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There are so many “options” out there in this crazy world of ours. “Variety is the spice of life”, or so they say. Well, I’m on the road today sitting inside a coffee shop (which should be of no surprise to anyone) as I type this. Right before my eyes is a seemingly endless selection of just one kind of drink (coffee), yet there are a few dozen versions to choose from: Black coffee, decaf coffee, cappuccino, latte, frappe, macchiato, and many more. I’d hate think of how “hard” life was back-in-the-day when coffee was just, well… coffee!

There are more beverages in the world than coffee, of course. On a recent visit to the Hartsville Sonic Drive-In (which is apparently the best Sonic in the world), I came across this sign:

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This advertises the fact that you could go to your local Sonic for all three meals (and even a happy hour stop thrown in for good measure) every day for the rest of your life and you would still not be able to try every possible drink combination they have to offer! Which boggles my mind, as I hardly ever veer off the tried-and-true path of a cherry Coke with extra cherries.

What this says about the culture we have today is that there are plenty of options/alternatives/variations/choices out there for you to choose from. Religion is no different! A simple Google search yields the statistic that there are 19 major religions, which then can be split into 270 large religious groups from there. Out of that, there are 34,000 Christian groups that exist, with 1,000 of those coming from North America claiming to be the only true form of the Christian faith!

On a local level, there are over 150 churches in our city of Hartsville, SC. I have honestly lost count, as that stat is at least a year old. When we first started in 2009, the number was 109. For those that know little about this All-American City, as of the 2010 census we have a city limits population of 7,764 and a greater area population of 32,284. Hartsville is not the largest community around, but it likes wear to big boy pants! ;)

So while 150+ churches sounds like a lot for a relatively small area, the fact remains that most of these churches are under 50 members. It’s also important to note that many of them were started of division, rather than vision! The community is actually quite under-served when it comes to dynamic, life-giving churches (which is why The Living Church is here)!

But I digress, as I’m not writing this blog post today to bore you with mundane city demographic stats. This is as merely an opportunity to clue you into part three of TLC’s Nobody Knows series this Sunday.

You see, in all areas of life you will have options. Which one is right?

One way to look at that question is the fact that many people will take it to mean “which religion is correct”. We live in a day-and-time where any and all religious conversation is clouded by hot button issues and the talking heads that use them to rile people up to respond, even if with biter vitriol. It’s pretty difficult to find answers and resolve, so a lot of folks just rather reside in apathy… staying out of the matter altogether (this is by the design of the one in opposition to God).

The other aspect of that question, “which one is right” is the common tagline “for me”. Political correctness is the driver of that vehicle, as just having one way in anything would not only be insufficient, but offensive! No one thing can be truly and exclusively “right”, therefore everything is okay. That is disastrous is too many ways to mention here.

The reality is this: The Christian faith competes with so much more than just other religions, as religion in-and-of-itself doesn’t solve anything (necessarily). The competition also includes lifestyles and ideologies now more than ever before, it seems.

Some truth emerges from this fight, however. True Christianity is not to be found in one denomination, but in one application: letting God take full control of every area of your life, not just the “spiritual” part!

So while it may upset some to hear, I can say comfortably that not only is Christianity the “one true religion”, but it the only way to live!

Jesus Christ says in John 14:6,

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  

This is to say that Jesus knew full-well that not only did people have religious options (which even for Jesus’ day were still plentiful), but options in how they lived. Varying views on morals, marriage, money, eternity, etc. were nothing new then. However, Jesus makes a clear distinction in that He is the only way to know God and by knowing Him we have life!

The 17th century Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal once wrote, There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”

The needs we have inside of us are uniquely met by the God who created us. While there are many other things we can find to fill in this void (drugs/alcohol, food, relationships, material possessions, and even religion) only one thing can do anything about it in a truly lasting sense: Jesus Christ!

That may sound divisive, but it really can’t be anything else if we desire clarity on a personal level. Come and join us this Sunday, 11am at the Hartsville Family YMCA as we take a deeper look at the heart of God!

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“Nobody Knows”… New Series Starts This Sunday!

January 2, 2015

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Have you ever been somewhere and felt like you didn’t “belong”, “fit in”, or “connect”? One of the biggest hang-ups people have with churches is that very problem. (You might feel that way now!) Churches can be very clique-ish and the culture seemingly intended for “insiders” only. This serves as a roadblock for some to fully invest in a church community!

I experienced this feeling first-hand growing up, but not necessarily with a church. You see, my family moved around a fair bit due to my dad’s line of work in the paper industry. Part of the challenge with that as a kid, I was going into a new state, new city, and a new school. Several times I had to start fresh, making new friends in an unfamiliar environment. This would often be right after I had finally got a handle on the previous “home” and made friends, becoming comfortable with my surroundings.

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This experience, however, lends itself well with my ministry career in that I’m able to see through the eyes of a first-time visitor. I can harken back to that first day of school (which may had been in the middle of March) where I didn’t know a soul but you learn to adapt and try to identify with others who shared a similar interest. That lingering doubt of “no one is going to like you” haunted me during those first few days and weeks of school. The distrust I had built up in my head of others often delayed me making meaningful friendships. (Kids can be rough, believe it or not!)

One of the things I take pride in with The Living Church is how friendly our members and volunteers are! Not only friendly, but willing to share their life with others. They’re open books, without getting too chirpy about it (or making it all about them). They know that their life experiences was shaped by the hands of a loving Father that wants us to give ourselves over to Him, in order to be used by Him to reach others.

Knowing how far we’ve come and that there’s purpose in it all, gives us the freedom to be open and honest with those who come our way looking for a community to build them up. In turn, they eventually work within to help those who will come our way later.

So while we may refer to ourselves as a “church family” quite often, no one feels “left out”. This is vital in reaching our neighbors who may not be keen on this whole church/God/Jesus thing in the first place! Our church and every church should be about providing a family feel, but with an inclusive dynamic that is able to break through awkward, uncomfortable first encounter that may otherwise send someone out the exit door (without plans for coming back!).

From the minute someone walks through the doors of the Hartsville Family YMCA on a Sunday morning, to when they leave TLC’s worship service, we make it a point to make them feel welcome. Whether it’s our greeting team who shakes their hand (and might even hug their neck), or the numerous on-ramp opportunities (New Members Class starts back up January 18th!), we look for ways to make everyone feel like they can be part of something.

But part of what keeps people here are the deeper connections they make! Relationships based on trust, which is birthed out of that aforementioned attitude and willingness our members carry in sharing their story and letting others in on it. This is called, “commonality” which means we identify with one another in a church by understanding them. Understanding comes as a result of relationship and conversation rooted in redemption.

The single mother now has hope, because she’s seen God work in a woman who may have once been right where she was years before! The recovering drug addict has made a new friend who has long been sober. The college student from three states away has found a family away from home.

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This is what we aim for every Sunday with The Living Church… to help bring people into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, surrounding them with loving support as a family should. No one should feel isolated in their pain! There is someone that can relate and point you in the right direction (up).

Join us this Sunday at 11am as we start our new message series, “Nobody Knows”.

A Tradition of a Church of Few Traditions

December 12, 2014

THE PEANUTS GANG REJOICES IN THE TRUE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS

tra·di·tion

noun \trə-ˈdi-shən\

1a:  an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom)
1b:  a belief or story or a body of beliefs or stories relating to the past that are commonly accepted as historical though not verifiable
2:  the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction
3:  cultural continuity in social attitudes, customs, and institutions
4:  characteristic manner, method, or style <in the best liberal tradition>


At the five year mark back in September of this year, we retired the term “church plant”. Instead, we refer to ourselves as a “young church” or just plain, “church”. Regardless of the designation, The Living Church is from the tradition of well… very little tradition. Part of our vision when we launched was/is to be a church that would be a welcoming, grace-filled, but nonetheless Biblical body of believers that didn’t rely on programs, committees, or that word again… traditions, in order to reach the city we love!

Having the freedom to pursue “raw”, “organic” ministry enables us to create our own traditions when/where we see fit. Ones not born out of obligation, but out of purpose that ties in with our identity (WE ARE THE CHURCH). Traditions that don’t truly serve a purpose, but instead exist “just because” zap time and energy away from the church body. This obviously isn’t a good thing and can become a hindrance to real ministry taking place instead.

One tradition of TLC’s that has survived the filter of purpose has been our annual Christmas caroling outing! It’s been a great way to connect before many of our members leave for Christmas break, as Hartsville is in some ways a very transient community. Not to mention, we have a large number of Coker College students that attend. In some ways, this is the last chance at seeing one another until the new year.

This Sunday evening at 6pm, we’ll be visiting local area nursing home facilities and doing our best to spread some Christmas cheer! Afterwards, we’ll come back to the Hartsville Family YMCA (our current location) for the “after-party”. It can get pretty crazy, you know, with all the cookies, hot cocoa, and all…

Not to mention, we’re giving away a $25 gift certificate to the Midnight Rooster to whoever has the “best” ugly Christmas sweater! Make plans to join us.

RSVP on Facebook!

GO GREEN! Make the move with TLC!

November 11, 2014

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In case you haven’t heard, The Living Church has moved its worship services and Bible studies to the Hartsville Family YMCA (111 E. Carolina Ave.). This was a strategic move that will provide more facility space and help cut down our monthly operating costs that were previously tied up in a lease. What this means is: becoming better stewards of God’s resources = more ministry being done… more life change in Hartsville!

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In the past month that we’ve been here, we’ve enjoyed having the larger spaces (plenty of room to grow). The child nursery is HUGE and there are several classrooms open for youth, Kids Church, and weekly small groups. However, there are still some kinks to work out.

A gymnasium doesn’t always provide the best acoustics for a worship service, but we’re improving every week on making it work. Lighting is still a bit tricky… you may need to bring a book-lamp if you want to take good notes during my sermons!

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We’ll get to where we need to be soon enough. You can help! TLC is raising money via GoFundMe to make this transition as smooth as possible. We wish to provide the most attractive environment for worship and growth for our church members and visitors. In addition to intentional prayer and care, we want to make our new home feel like… well, “home”.

Gym set up (1)

As you can tell from the pics, we’ve already been able to get backdrops made, but there’s still plenty more to be done! Items most of us don’t necessarily think about, but are great to have around. Banners, signs, and pipe/drape stands go a long way in setting the atmosphere.

It’s easy to give! Simply go to www.GoFundMe.com/GoGreenTLC and select a support level. There’s TONS of cool stuff attached (t-shirts, car decals, coffee, and more!) or you can give whatever amount you feel led to.

Curious as to what “church” is like at a YMCA? We’d love to have you worship with us this Sunday at 11:00am! We are a life-giving church that aims to change our city with the hope of Jesus Christ.

For more info about our church, check us out: www.TLCHartsville.org

Four things to remember on National Day of Prayer (and after)

May 1, 2014

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Today is the National Day of Prayer. In recent years, The Living Church has made concerted efforts for public acknowledgement of this day and partnered with other local churches and civic groups in putting on ceremonies or services. These are great opportunities for fellowship, to show solidarity in the community, and most importantly to glorify God!

At these ceremonies, there’s typically a list of prayer concerns that are geared towards broader issues at hand: National leaders, the economy, wars/military, etc. While these are all needed and valid prayer points, what can get lost in it all is a local focus and our personal application. Even then, many church service attending Christians today know little on just how to pray.

Thankfully, Jesus says a lot about the practice of prayer in Matthew 6 (NIV),

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.’

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

There’s much to chew on in this passage, as it uses a lot of dangerous language. It was a bold statement to make in the time of super-religiosity in the Jewish culture of that time period. Reciting prayers in public was an act “to be seen” doing by others, rather than out of genuine passion. In other words, it was out of their heads and not their hearts!

I don’t believe Jesus explicitly is banning public prayer here, but rather pointing to the intentions behind it. If we look close enough (and really, not all that hard), we’ll see some great guidance on prayer habits:

1. Find a private space for prayer, wherever that might be. All Christ-followers should have a “safe haven” where daily devotionals and times of prayer can occur uninterrupted. This way, it’s just you and the Lord with no outside influences (or eyes watching). Today this might also mean to leave the cell phone on silent and keep your computer in another room. There’s too much temptation for distraction!

Find yourself a nice study Bible, a solid devotional book, and a prayer journal. These go a long way in maintaining healthy habits of spiritual growth.

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2. Make your prayer language personal, not scripted. Part of the folly of religious leaders in Jesus’ day was the eloquent prayers that were written and memorized, which often were then used by others. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with written prayers, as many Christian denominations utilize them in useful and proper ways. But at the same time, there is the potential for a loss of sincerity. Sincerity comes as a result of your words coming from a true place within, not from a page. With verse 7, Jesus basically gives us the principle of “K.I.S.S.” - Keep It Simple, Stupid!

This is important because so many people are intimidated and confused on how to pray. This is not a new phenomenon! In this passage, Jesus offers us an easy on-ramp to intimacy with God through prayer. Adding superfluous words (like I just did with the word, “superfluous”) is unnecessary when you have the perspective of knowing who you are talking/praying to… the Creator of the Universe! He already knows you intimately.

We are clued into this fact in Jeremiah 17:10 (NLV),

But I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.

With that said, let us not waste our time (because we really can’t waste God’s time, seeing that He’s eternal in His nature and all) with flowery language. Be “real”, genuine, humble, and to-the-point. God knows what is on your heart and more than that, why you’re presenting it to Him in prayer. His awareness does not negate the need for offering it up, however.

Our God is a god of personal interaction who desires a deep relationship with us, His children. He wants to see trust displayed in Him and not in ourselves, other people, or things (i.e. idols). Prayer is very much a way to honor God by going to Him first, rather than a last resort. (God should comes first in everything!)

Speaking of honoring God…

3. Be reverent. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines “reverent” as, “showing lots of respect”. This means that we truly see God for who He is really is, not just the idea of Him or what we want Him to be. The prayer that Jesus gives as example in Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV) is referred to as, “The Lord’s Prayer”.

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.

Despite Jesus telling us NOT to pray elaborate, scripted prayers in the verses prior, The Lord’s Prayer is the most often repeated prayer among Christians. It’s as much ingrained into our common vernacular as the Pledge of Allegiance or maybe the Oscar Meyer wiener song.

And due to that, the prayer loses much of its meaning and intent in the first place. In Matthew 6:9, Jesus includes the words, “Pray then like this:” As in, pray in this manner or style. But also pay attention to the elements of the prayer itself, first giving God praise and honor, Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

The word, “hallowed” means “holy”, “sacred”, “blessed”, or “highly respected”. Starting off in prayer with an acknowledgement of who God is, is like the caller I.D. on our smartphones. We know who we’re talking to! If we are talking to the Lord Almighty (and as Christ-followers, we should only be praying to God), and we believe He created man from dust and knows how many hairs on our head that we have (for me these days, it’s not a whole lot), then we should act like it. While God is to be revered and respected, also keep in mind that He is also our friend.

Abraham is referred to as a friend of God in Genesis 15 and Jesus calls us, believers, His friends in John 15. This should be refreshing and encouraging to you, if you had not heard that before! God is a friend you can share your thoughts and problems with and do so in a secure place of trust. This lends itself well to an overjoyed expression of His divine nature, knowing that He isn’t going to take your deepest, darkest secrets and go gossiping around with them.

Instead, He will take all of those things and deal with them directly through His mercy, grace, and forgiveness.

4. Keep forgiveness at the front, not the back of your tongue. Instead of us desiring “revenge”, “justice”, “what they deserve”, read what Jesus ends this particular passage in Matthew 6 with:

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

In addition, Paul reminds us in Romans 12:19 (NIV) that “revenge” is of the Lord, not for us to be concerned with if we have a Kingdom (eternal) perspective:

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

We cannot carry on as Christ-followers if we don’t allow forgiveness to come through A.S.A.P.  Unforgiveness is poisonous and becomes a burdensome weight we walk around with painfully. And how foolish it is for us to think God will forgive us and answer our prayers when we haven’t forgiven others?

The sooner we release this pain through genuine forgiveness (possibly pushed through with time in prayer), the better we’ll be to move forward and even offer the other party to experience restoration. Our Christian faith, after all, is not all about us! We are to point others to Christ in every way imaginable.

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In more general terms, we should make forgiveness the corrective lenses of our prayer time as it brings into focus what Jesus has done on the cross. We cannot possibly offer God more than what He has already given to us! The gift of salvation is something we never could have obtained on our own, yet it was freely provided for us even though we, as sinners, didn’t deserve it.

As we are reminded of our salvation, we remain humble and encouraged. God loves us that much! This thought affects our approach to prayer itself and helps weed out the self-centered concerns we might have.

Keeping these four things in mind on this National Day of Prayer and for all the days following it will make your prayer time more focused, personal, and powerful!

Eight ways you can help TLC this week

April 13, 2014

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What exciting week ahead for The Living Church and for Hartsville! We’re putting on a BIG egg drop this Saturday, April 19th at 12 Noon and it should be a blast. Food, prizes, bouncy houses, and 10,000 Easter eggs!

Then on Easter Sunday, April 20th we’ll be having TWO worship services: 9:30am and 11:15am. This is a great opportunity for our church to reach more of our neighbors!

Help us PREPARE THE WAY for next weekend! Here are some ways you can do just that:

1. PRAY! - This is, by far, the best thing you can do this week! Pray for all of our efforts to point others to Christ to be fruitful. Pray for our street team for safety and to guide their conversations. Pray for our BIG Egg Drop to be a fun event without any accidents. Pray for our Easter Sunday services for the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of those who seek Him! We want to see many people come to Jesus!

2. Purchase hot dog wieners, hot dog buns, potato chips, cookies, sodas, paper plates, napkins, bags of hinged plastic eggs, Easter baskets, and Easter candy (individually wrapped “fun” or “mini” size candy, no loose candy (like M&M’s) please!)

    bring items to…

3. Our Egg Packing Party this Wednesday starting at 6:00pm at our Ministry Center (149 E. Carolina Ave.). We’re aiming for 10,000 eggs for this Saturday and we’ll need your help to get there! Roll up your sleeves and make plans to join us.

4. Stop by our Ministry Center this week to pick up some cards or posters to distribute at work, school, or to your neighbors! Personally aim to invite five people!

5. Sign up for our street team and go knock on some doors around Hartsville! Please email us at: info@TLCHartsville.org for more info. You’ll even get a free t-shirt out of it!  :)

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6. Volunteer to help this Saturday at the BIG Egg Drop and spread out eggs, monitor the bouncy houses, keep an eye on kids, and give out/prepare hot dog lunches. Be at Burry Park by 10:30am to help us set up!

7. Come out a little early for our 9:30 am service next Sunday. This will free up seats for our 11:15 am service and allow you to serve in other areas around our Ministry Center that morning! (greeting team, coffee lounge, Kids Church and Child Nursery)

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8. Last but not least, we had an outdoor worship service this morning at Burry Park and we weren’t able to have an offering opportunity. Your support helps us reach Hartsville efficiently and effectively! Feel free to give your tithes and offerings online through PayPal on our website: www.TLCHartsville.org/support 

Should you have ANY questions, please feel free to contact me:

Phone: 877-843-4TLC x.2, or Email me at:  chris@TLCHartsville.org

Thank you! Let’s bless this city! 

Pastor Chris

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