Planted in Pearland

What's going on in the life of Covenant Community Church

Giftedness February 19, 2012

Filed under: Covenant — Sarah @ 2:51 pm

One of the things that struck me at Covenant’s two year annivesary service was how God has put together a body of people at Covenant who are gifted in a huge variety of ways. It is truly amazing to see the diversity of skills and talents contained within our church family, and it is even more amazing to see those skills and talents put to use in service of our church and in service of those in our surrounding community who don’t know Jesus.

As I was pondering all this, I was reading along in the Bible reading plan that I have been doing since the beginning of the year. Some of the people in our church decided to read the same plan this year for the sake of accountability and discussion. As a result, several of us are reading through the Bible chronologically, which puts us in Exodus right now. Here is something I shared with our church family on our church’s online community, The City. I thought I would share it here, just to do a bit more bragging on God and all that He is at work doing through a bunch of messed-up sinners like us.

{{{Message to Covenant on The City}}}

A couple days ago, I read this from Exodus 31: 1 “The LORD said to Moses, 2 ‘See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, 4 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 5 in cutting stones for setting,and in carving wood, to work in every craft.”

And then yesterday, I read this from Exodus 36: 1 ‘”Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whom the LORD has put skill and intelligence to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary shall work in accordance with all that the LORD has commanded.’ 2 And Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whose mind the LORD had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to do the work.”

As I read these two passages, I was struck by two things: 1. All our skills, talents, resources, time, money, energy, health- all of it, every single thing we have- are gifts from the Lord. That is, the only reason we have them is because God has given them to us. 2. They are to be used in the service of the Lord, to accomplish the work that He has given us to do. God hasn’t given us any of the things we have so that we can use them for ourselves. We are to use them for Him, for His purposes and for His glory.

I was also struck by how, by God’s amazing grace and through the power of the Holy Spirit, this has been on display in our church family, especially in light of Covenant’s anniversary and what God has been up to in our midst the past two years. 1. God has gifted us immensely: there are those among us who sing, play music, take photographs, make movies, draw, sew, paint, organize, teach and care for children, build things, do carpentry and electrical work,  have extra bedrooms in their homes, have extra money in their bank accounts, talk easily with strangers, cook, bake, effortlessly make others feel welcome and included, roast coffee, have strength in their bodies for manual labor, have knowledge of computers and media equipment… the list goes on and on. 2. I can think of so many ways I have seen these gifts used in the past two years, to bless both those inside and outside of our church family. It makes me praise God to see not only all the ways He has gifted our church but also the ways He has motivated our church to use those gifts selflessly and joyfully in service of others and the gospel of Jesus.

Finally, this part from Exodus 36 was my prayer yesterday morning: 3 “And they received from Moses all the contribution that the people of Israel had brought for doing the work on the sanctuary. They still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning, 4 so that all the craftsmen who were doing every sort of task on the sanctuary came, each from the task that he was doing, 5 and said to Moses, ‘The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the LORD has commanded us to do.'” I pray this would be true of Covenant, that there would be MORE THAN ENOUGH workers for all the tasks God has called us to do.

More than enough. I admit it’s hard for me to even have a category for that. Can you imagine? More than enough children’s ministry volunteers? More than enough music ministry servants? More than enough set-up/tear-down crews? More than enough people wanting to lead and host community groups? More than enough people serving their neighborhoods, telling their neighbors about Jesus? More than enough people stepping into the messiness of hurting marriages and fractured families in order to bring the hope of the gospel? More than enough people praying consistently, interceding for all the brokenness in our own lives and in the lives of those who are dying around us? More than enough people wanting to care for orphans, widows, the poor, the oppressed? Whoa. I pray that we would continue to see all our resources, time, talents, skills, etc., as an opportunity to serve Jesus and be anxious and excited to use all of those things for the sake of the gospel. And that by God’s grace working actively and powerfully with us, we would have more than enough of everything we need to do what God has called us to do.

Check out this quote I stumbled upon today. Totally amazing. I hope it can be said that Covenant is like “the early church, where folks met Jesus and their lives careened wildly off course. They were called lunatics, heretics. Like the pagan satirist Lucian (130-200 c.e.) mocked: ‘The earnestness with which the people of this religion help one another in their needs is incredible. They spare themselves nothing for this end. Their first lawgiver put it into their heads that they were all brethren.’”

How. Awesome. Is. That. I am so encouraged by how this quote already describes our church body in many ways, and I pray it will come to describe us more and more as we push in closer to Jesus and are empowered by the gospel.

Love you, Covenant. So thankful to have you as family.

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Happy 2nd Birthday, Covenant! February 14, 2012

Filed under: Covenant — Sarah @ 7:37 am

Covenant Community Church kicked of public services on Valentine’s Day in 2010. So that means, this past Sunday, February 12, we celebrated that milestone with a 2-year birthday party. There were so many fun and special things about this day. I’m not even sure how to talk about them all, so I’m just going to be lame and list them:

  • It just happened to fall that our 2-year anniversary was the week after a couple of our lead servants (deacons) in the area of set-up/tear-down/connecting had been to another older, more established church plant in Houston to see how they do their set-up and tear-down stuff. The fruit of that visit was immediately visible the Sunday of our 2nd birthday party. The chairs were set up in a new orientation, the curtains, screen, sound system, everything had been arranged a little differently and made things look a little more worship center-like (to the extent that is possible in a dance studio, of course).  I walked in and my first thought was how great everything looked. My second thought was how funny that this new look had fallen on this particular Sunday, instantly making the church seem a little more “grown up” on a day we were celebrating growth milestones.
  • We always have a portion of the service called “Community Spotlight.” It’s a time each week when we hear from someone in our church family about what God is doing in their lives, which just gives us as a body a time to praise God corporately for what He is doing among us individually. I love it; this is possibly my favorite part of service. Well, for our anniversary Sunday, community spotlight was opened up for people to just shout out what God has been doing in the past 2 years in and among us at Covenant. The testimonies were amazing. God has literally provided homes and food for people who did not have these things. He has repaired marriages, exposed hidden sin, begun the process of healing long-standing hurt, and drawn close to Himself people who were once far from Him. Covenant didn’t do any of that; God did that. And the fact that He invited Covenant to be a part of all that beauty and redemption is amazing and overwhelming.
  • A Covenant party cannot exist without two things: copious amounts of food and a bouncy house. There are exactly seventeen children at Covenant for every one adult. Ok, the ratio is not exactly that skewed, but it can certainly feel that way sometimes. Enter the bouncy house, entertainer of children and savior of parental sanity. The kids had an awesome time bouncing away, and parents got to visit, at least a little bit.
  • And the food, oh, the food. There is a precious lady at our church whom God has gifted extraordinarily with the ability to cook giant amounts of delicious food. She prepared the yummiest  jambalaya I have ever had in my life for ALL of the nearly 100 people at this party. It was so incredible. I am continually amazed by this woman, both her exceptional giftedness in this area and her selflessness and generosity in using this gift over and over in service of our church family.
  • We had a birthday cake! And not just any old birthday cake. Check it out:

  • Isn’t that awesome? Another sweet lady in our church family used her giftedness and creativity at cake-baking and made this delicous and beautiful cake for us to share. It was so fun to sing “Happy Birthday” to Covenant and celebrate all that God has done among us.
  • I have stated elsewhere that I really love birthdays because they are natural time to remember, reflect and refocus. Leading up to this birthday party, a guy in our church who is really gifted in media and film interviewed some people to make a movie about Covenant, just chronicling Covenant’s story and how God has been at work in our body. He interviewed me and Tim, among others, and while it was quite awkward to have a camera in my face as if I was on 20/20, it was fun to rehearse Covenant’s story from our perspective, where we have been and where we are going and have a chance to recount God’s faithfulness every step of the way.
  • In the same way, our lead pastor/planter Daniel stepped out of our normal series preaching through the book of Matthew on our anniversary Sunday, in order to remind us of why we are doing what we are doing. His sermon was a powerful reminder of what we already knew but tend to forget: that our mission is to enjoy and spread the glory of God in the gospel of Jesus. He unpacked what this means and how it would look. I greatly encourage you to listen to the sermon here.
  • I was struck throughout the morning at how gifted our church family is. God has truly given our church a multitude of varied and exceptional talents and skills, resources and wisdom, that He has in turn used in amazing ways in service to our small church body and the wider community of Pearland. Really, that’s a whole separate post. Hopefully, I can get to that soon.

All in all, it was such an amazing day to just celebrate all that God has done. With each passing day, month and year, I am more and more thankful for Covenant Community Church, and I am more and more aware of the fact that God is active and moving, busy doing His incredible work of redeeming and saving that which is lost…. And I am so grateful He has graciously invited our church family to be a part of what He is up to.

 

Covenant Update September 2011 September 30, 2011

Filed under: Covenant — Sarah @ 3:29 pm

Anyone familiar with weather in Houston, Texas, knows that September is still very much part of the summer season. While some areas were experiencing a welcome relief from the heat, Houston was holding strong with temperature in the high 90’s, exacerbated by the fact that Houston is currently in one of the worst droughts on record. So, while the routines of the school year and community groups were back in full swing, the weather outside still felt like we should be hanging out at the pool and playing in the sprinkler every day.

As such, I will admit, September was a rude awakening for this spouse of a teacher/pastor. In most parts of the country, school gets back into the full swing by September, so the change of pace is to be expected, but it is interesting to see how that seems to happen in church life too. This year, it seemed as though the lazy days of summer abruptly became the mad-dash days of “fall” (and I use that term incredibly loosely- see above), and I had to scramble to catch my breath and figure out what in the world happened.

As we got back into the flow of community groups, we started implementing a new format according to the training we community group leaders had received. It was hard to know what to expect, since it was quite a drastic change from what we had been doing, but we jumped in and prayed for the God to use this new way of doing things for His glory and purpose. And boy did He ever. The response from our first few groups was so positive, and we were so encouraged. There are definitely still some ongoing kinks to work out, as each group experiences some “growing pains” related to the changes that have been implemented, but from conversations and feedback, I can tell that it is the good kind of growing pains, that make our groups healthier and stronger and able to welcome and disciple more people. How exciting it is to see God using the stories found in His word to grow and stretch people and make them more like Jesus.

In September, a sister Acts 29 church, Kaleo, hosted a men’s conference over a Friday/Saturday weekend, and they invited other Acts 29 churches in the area to bring groups of men from their own churches. Not being a man, I didn’t attend this conference myself, but my husband Tim did, and as we spoke after the conference and he shared with me the ways he was challenged as a husband and father by what was taught, I was so thankful for Kaleo putting this event together and inviting our Covenant guys along. It was a great blessing to the men in our church family, and I am excited to see how God continues to use it in the lives of our men.

Finally, I have to draw attention to one of the sermons that was preached at Covenant in September. If you have never listened to a sermon by one of our pastors, I beg you, please listen to this one called “Walking on Water.” Our main planter/pastor, Daniel Davis, returned from an extended family vacation at Disney World with this sermon for us, and it really and truly rocked my world. It was just such an awesome re-telling and explanation of a story that those of us (like me) who grew up in church have heard hundreds of times, that is, when Jesus’ disciple Peter walks on the water. God used this well-known story and this sermon to breathe fresh hope and passion into my heart as I seek to follow Jesus and learn what it means to love Him and walk with Him. Listen to it. Please. PLEASE. I pray it blesses your heart and gives you an renewed excitement about following after Jesus, as it did for me.

 

Covenant Update August 2011 August 31, 2011

Filed under: Covenant — Sarah @ 3:23 pm

During the months of July and August, Covenant did something that we have never done before: we took a break from meeting in our regular weekly community groups, and we encouraged one another to use the two hours we would normally spend in our community groups with others in the church we don’t normally get regular time with and with friends, neighbors and co-workers who don’t know Jesus.

It made for a wild and crazy summer. Out of the community group routine (along with out of the school year routine for my bivocational school teacher-pastor husband), for us the weeks seemed to fly by completely unmarked. We definitely had many lazy days, and yet there were just as many day filled to the brim with activity, as we went all over the place visiting different people for different meals, play dates and occasions, as well as opening our home for service and hospitality.

Throughout the summer, we were thankful for the opportunity to get to know people who are part of our church family but who we do not get to hang out with on a regular basis. In addition, we were encouraged with stories of people in our church and community group who were hanging out with neighbors and helping others by watching kids or mowing lawns. The Covenant baby arrivals did NOT take a summer break, and our church was presented again and again with the opportunity to love and serve those in our midst in new-baby season through meals and childcare.

In August, we also had a community group leader training. Before the start of the new community group season, our pastors wanted the current leaders to be trained on an outreach and discipleship technique that a local missionary is using in his ministry. It is called storying. It basically involves telling different Bible stories and then discussing what the story reveals about God and ourselves. It sounds super simple – and it is! – but it is NOT simplistic. It is really about getting familiar with listening to and telling the stories of the Bible and letting those stories- the very words of God- speak for themselves. To be perfectly honest, it was such a switch from the way community group discussion had been led in the past that I was a little nervous about how it would go. But I trusted that our pastors were leading us in a good direction, and I enjoyed and learned alot from the training. It made me excited for the community group season to start again.

And start it did. Community groups kicked off again with the start of the school year in late August. We had a celebratory meal to commemorate the re-start of community group, complete with BBQ lunch and a bouncy house (indoors! very important in Houston in August! one of the benefits of meeting in a giant warehouse-turned-dance-studio!). The summer was a refreshing break and a stretching period, challenging us to push our idea of community outside of  a few hours one night a week. And yet it felt good to get back to the “normal” routine. We still didn’t know what to expect with the new format and layout of community group (and the fact that almost every group re-started with more people than before the break!), but it was nice to be getting into the groove again.

 

Covenant Update July 2011 July 31, 2011

Filed under: Covenant — Sarah @ 4:41 pm

Covenant decided to do a Vacation Bible School of sorts in July. Now, if you are at all familiar with church life in the Bible belt, that sounds exactly right to you. July = Vacation Bible School. Sure, of course. Further, if you have been following this blog for awhile, you know that, as a tiny church plant, Covenant has limited volunteer manpower and resources, (as in, exactly the kind you would guess would be needed to pull off a Vacation Bible School). Further, Covenant does not have a permanent building. We rent space in a dance studio for Sunday mornings, rent office space at a local coffee shop for meetings and counseling and then beg and borrow from other churches, community centers and church members’ homes for all our other meeting space needs. Just call us the nomad church. I don’t describe us this way to complain. Far from it. I am continually amazed and humbled to see how God continues to provide us with the people, resources and the space that we need to meet exactly when we need it. I love that our church so hard-working and is often the recipient of such generous and varied hospitality. And I am so thankful for it. It’s just that when you are talking about vacation Bible school, it’s hard to think about it outside of the context of a lot of volunteers and a building (at least for this home-grown, Bible-belt girl).

Enter the most amazing, precious group of kids and a kind, generous sister church. Grace Bible Church in Killeen, Texas is one of our sending churches. Daniel Davis, Covenant’s lead pastor, interned at Grace for a year before heading out to plant Covenant, and our church family has been the beneficiary of wise, godly counsel and various resources and support through Grace Bible Church. We are so grateful for them for numerous reasons, not the least of which is their contributions to our Vacation Bible School in July.

You see, Grace’s version of Vacation Bible School is called “Backyard Bible Club” (BBC). Grace trains teenagers from their youth group to teach stories, lead songs and play games with elementary aged kids, puts these trained teenagers into teams and sends them out to parks and backyards throughout their city to engage neighborhood kids with the story of Jesus. And these teenagers are so good at what they do. We were so grateful when Grace sent two teams of teenagers (and chaperones, of course) to Pearland to help run these BBC’s in our neighborhoods.

So for one week in July, we had five different BBC’s running- two in the morning, two in the afternoon and one large one in the evening- at different homes and parks throughout Pearland and one in Deer Park. Covenant people banded together to provide housing, meals, snacks and evening entertainment for this group of teenagers, as well as provide snacks, pass out invitation and open their homes for the clubs, and the Grace kids did an awesome job of engaging and loving the kids they came in contact with at the parks and homes, allowing us the opportunity to get to know our neighbors a little bit better.

Not that this week went off without a hitch. No way. About halfway through the week, the Grace kids were struck with the stomach bug that had been going around Covenant for the previous month. One by one, each of the kids fell. We felt awful about it. And yet, in God’s kindness, He orchestrated that they stay at the home of Covenant member who works nights as a pediatric nurse and has contacts who can call in an emergency anti-nausea prescription when needed. In addition, not all the kids got sick at once, and the ones who were well enough were eager and willing to carry on the clubs, even though their teams were short-handed. We were truly amazed at the Holy Spirit at work in these precious kids, making them so ready and happy to serve in spite of difficult circumstances.

Covenant continues to be overwhelmed and humbled by God’s provision and perfect equipping of every thing we need to accomplish the tasks that He has given us. It is awesome to see Him work.

 

Covenant Update June 2011 June 30, 2011

Filed under: Covenant — Sarah @ 3:40 pm

June was a good month at Covenant. When our pastors started preaching through Matthew back in December 2010, they explained that since Matthew is so long (28 chapters) and we would probably be working through it for quite some time, they periodically would step out of Matthew for a little bit in order to address a topic they thought was important for the teaching and instruction of our church family. Cool. Sounded like a good plan to me.

What I did not know is that the first time they would take a break from Matthew they would decide to address a topic so near and dear to my heart. The month of June, Covenant heard sermons from two of our pastors, Daniel and Dave, on biblical manhood, biblical womanhood, marriage and divorce. Yeah. Whoa. Heavy stuff. Since I am a pastor’s wife, I sometimes get the inside scoop on what’s coming up, and Tim (my husband) told me about this June sermon series a couple weeks ahead of time. As soon as he did, I was so. stinkin. excited.

You see, hearing my pastors preach on this topic automatically took me back to the first time I heard this topic preached from the pulpit, at our old church in Louisville. It was nearly four years ago, but I remember it so vividly because it rocked my entire world. I had grown up in church my whole life but had NEVER heard anything like what the pastor was preaching. It was a four week sermon series, and I remember walking out of the service each Sunday, absolutely incredulous at what I had just heard. That sermon series started an entire “independent study” for me, in which I devoured countless books, journal articles, blog posts and sermons on the topic of biblical womanhood (and, by extension, biblical manhood, marriage, divorce, parenting, etc.) I just couldn’t get enough. And still today, I love to read, study and discuss that subject. Knowing what God says in His Word about being a woman, and closely related, being a wife and a mother, has completely transformed my life, as I have sought to apply this knowledge with the help of the Holy Spirit and my community.

So, my excitement at knowing this topic would be preached at Covenant was brought about by my own memory of how God had used a similar sermon series to, quite literally, change my life. I immediately began praying for our pastors who were preaching and the people who would hear. I asked God to use the truth from His word that would be preached in this series to stir hearts and change lives, as it had done and continues to do for me. Listening my pastors preach that series made me so thankful. I was so thankful to be part of a church where the pastors are unafraid to speak truth. Biblical masculinity and femininity, biblical marriage and divorce are not popular topics in our culture today. In fact, most of what the Bible has to say about these topics directly contradicts what our culture tells about these topics. As a result, there is confusion even among Christians on what it means to be a man, a woman, married, single, etc. It can also result in a temptation to water down or apologize for what the Bible says is true regarding these things. I was so grateful that our pastors, with great compassion and wisdom, fearlessly proclaimed the Word and taught us well what God says concerning these issues.

This series was also unique in that we stepped out of our normal community group routine to do something different. The week biblical manhood was discussed, the guys went out and girls stayed in. The week biblical womanhood was discussed, the guys and girls switched. The week marriage was discussed, the pastors and wives hosted a “marriage night out” and couples went out to discuss what they learned while their kids were cared for. It was just an awesome way to break up community group and make it tailor to the subjects we were discussing.

Overall, this series was incredibly convicting to me, as God revealed areas of my life as a woman and marriage where I was allowing sin to creep in and sow death. It was eye-opening to see that even though I have studied this topic intensively and therefore ostensibly “know” many of the right answers, it is still possible (and probable, because of my sinful heart) that wicked habits and thoughts can infiltrate my heart and marriage to divide and tear down.  I desperately need the conviction and guidance of the Holy Spirit and the insight and wisdom of my community to help me see these areas and root them out by the power of the gospel. And He continually provides that for me. God is so good.

 

Covenant Update May 2011 May 31, 2011

Filed under: Covenant — Sarah @ 3:31 pm

I’m going to pretend it hasn’t been several months since this blog was updated and just change the dates on the posts so that it looks like I actually keep up with things. If you could play along, I’d really appreciate it. Kthanks.

May was a good month for our little church family. Our pastors preached a short sermon series on Mission. These sermons were all from the book of Matthew, which we’ve been working through since December, and it was interesting to see how themes arise as you steadily work through a book of the Bible verse by verse, chapter by chapter. These sermons were some of the most powerful for me because Mission is something that I really stink at. It’s true. I stink at mission, which is tragic since one of my identities as a believer in Jesus is a missionary (you know, the Great Commission and all that?) As I listened to my pastors preach on Mission, I was convicted, challenged, inspired and equipped to be on mission in the arenas where God has placed me.

The best thing about this sermon series was that it ended with a church-wide challenge: All of the community groups were challenged to throw a block party in their neighborhoods on Memorial Day. **Just as a bit of back story, a block party is something Tim and I have been “meaning to do” since we moved to Pearland. What’s that you say, you  mean you have lived in Pearland two years and never thrown a block party? Yes, sadly, that is exactly what I am saying. Worst. Church Planters. EVER.**

This challenge from our pastors was exactly what we needed to get us moving. We made invitations and went door-to-door handing them out. Going door-to-door was an adventure in and of itself. We learned quickly that we needed to say three things as fast as we could: We are neighbors. We live down the street. We are having a party and we want y’all to come. Until people heard those three things, we got these suspicious what-are-you-selling-or-what-religion-are-you-peddling looks as soon as the door opened. At the same time, it was so fun to see the suspicion melt and the smiles appear once we told people what we were doing. We got a lot of really positive responses. It made us excited for party day.

Party day dawned with perfect weather, and we got to work. We moved all our chairs and tables out to the front yard so that people could just see what was happening from down the street and join in if they wanted. We set up our backyard as kid-central with kiddie pools, slip-n-slide and sprinkler. Some friends from community group showed up with food and to help us get cooking, and the party began… sort of… I mean, no one came… for awhile. We had put on the invitations that the start time was 2pm. So, it’s 2… then 2:15… then 2:30… Then all at once, a family comes strolling down the street, then another, then another. We ended up having a great time visiting and getting to know about 5 different families from our street, people stayed for quite awhile, and it was really fun. I was incredibly thankful for Mark and Charon from our community group who were on food-and-drink duty so that Tim and I could just visit and talk with our neighbors. I was also thankful for the other families from our church who came to mingle and socialize (and help us clean up when it was over!)

Overall, it was a great success and has opened doors for further meals and interactions with our neighbors. What I am most thankful for, though, in the experience was when it was all over and I realized how foolish we had been to put it off for so long. It had seemed like such a massive undertaking and huge time-commitment, and I had used that as an excuse. In reality, it took an evening for passing out invitations, a little-bit-longer weekly trip to the grocery store and an afternoon of opening our home. Quite simple, really. We are so thankful for the challenge to do it and the fruit we have seen from it. If there is one thing church planting has done for me, it has pushed me out of my comfort zone time and time again, only to be given all the tools I needed to survive exactly when I needed them. There’s a word for that. Grace. Thanks be to God.