Getting To Know You – Wesley Sweigart

The Getting to Know You series is a series that we will be starting on the blog to help the church get to know our faithful interns that support M28, the college ministry here at CrossWay. On our first post, we have the privilege to introduce you to Wesley Sweigart.

Who I am

Hello, my name is Wesley Sweigart. I’m here today to say a bit about how I got to where I am and where I’m going from there. I am a Charlottean, born and raised, and I have been a part of CrossWay my entire life. I’ve been blessed to be a part of Mission28 the past two years, and have helped serve on the Leadership Team over the past year. It has been encouraging to see all that God has done through this ministry, from people committing or recommitting their lives to Christ, to those who realize a new depth in their relationship with their heavenly Father. I’m currently in the middle of my college career, but I’m taking a year off to focus on evangelism at UNCC, and I couldn’t be more excited about this new period of my life.

What I’m doing

This year, I have the opportunity to serve with Mission28 as a full-time intern. I will be on campus reaching out to students as well as helping with ministry administration, planning, and coordination. I’m so excited to see what God has in store for us this year at M28.

Please join me in praying

1)    That I would receive support for this year. It is my hope that I would be able to raise all the funds that I need for this year so I can have my focus fully on the mission at UNCC.

2)    That the Lord of the Harvest would send out workers. There are multitudes of lost souls at UNCC, and there is a need for students with a heart heavy for the lost, who will go out and share the gospel. The Lord will build his church.

 

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OWNERSHIP AS SACRIFICE

Brad House » Mission Church Evangelism Community

Does our community own the mission of God for our church, or do we just agree with it?

THE INSUFFICIENCY OF MERE AGREEMENT

Agreement simply means that people like the idea of the mission and are excited about someone at the church carrying it out. They may not, and probably don’t, see themselves as the church, or at least not the part of the church that lives out the mission.

This manifests in casual attendance and participation in programs and events that serve their needs but don’t require anything of them. Agreement can even involve serving in various ministries if the bar is low enough—but if the mission is not owned, if it is not internalized within the people, then they will not take risks for the sake of the gospel. They won’t risk comfort, time, money, or self-interest for the mission to see Jesus glorified.

OWNERSHIP AS SACRIFICE

Our churches are filled with people who agree with the mission but do not own it. Ownership is marked by joy-filled sacrifice that sees kingdom work as a “get to” because of what Christ has done, rather than a “got to” out of Christian duty.

Ownership looks like people serving the church and the city with a passion for the gospel. It looks like people cheerfully and sacrificially giving out of love for Jesus to see the work of the gospel move forward. Ownership looks like people participating in the messiness of community and being inconvenienced for the sake of another’s sanctification.

OWN THE PROCLAMATION

If we want to be a missional church that sees the lives in our cities transformed by the gospel, we must foster a holy discontentment with the status quo and resist apathy toward God’s mission. Compelled by the grace of God manifested in the atoning work of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection, we can take ownership of proclaiming the truth of the gospel and living it out in community.

The Gospel & Irregular Rhythms of Life

Author: Mike Sandefur

We often talk about how our gospel identities as family, missionary and servant are lived out in the everyday rhythms of life. But for many of us life is full of irregular rhythms. We may have complicated work schedules, kids activities, or any number of other things that rise up as barriers to what we perceive as regularity. My wife and I both work full-time but on very different schedules. I work days while she works nights. The only common day off we have is every other Saturday. Between work and our weekly MC dinner we only have three free evening each week and those get taken up by kids events, DNA, date night, etc. At times this can lead to a sense of frustration because it feels like we can’t do what we want to do or what we’re expected to do.

Because of the work of Christ we have nothing to prove.

So how do we make sense of the irregularity? First let me address the frustration. Because of the work of Christ we have nothing to prove. There is nothing we can do that will make him love us more. There is nothing we can do or fail to do that is going to screw up his plan. And for many, understanding that very sovereignty is what is missing. Do you believe that God is in control even over the irregular craziness of your life? Failure to believe that puts all the pressure to make sense of life and get things done squarely on our shoulders. That is a hard place to be because we simply cannot do it. Peace and understanding only come from trusting him to make it clear. Our starting point must be prayer and confession.—asking God to show us where he’s at work in our lives and being honest about the ways we’ve tried to do it ourselves.

With that heart and attitude I can then begin to look at opportunities and rhythms in my own life. Tim Chester put together a basic set of questions that I’ve found very helpful. He simply asks, “What are the things you do everyday, every week, and every month?” Once that list is down on paper there are three additional questions.

  1. For any of these things how can I involve someone from my Missional Community?
  2. How could I involve an unbelieving friend or neighbor?
  3. How can I involve a gospel conversation?

What is valuable about all these questions is that it helps focus on the things I’m already doing instead of trying to come up with additional things to add into what is already a tough schedule.

Sometimes the challenge to spend time with others regularly has to do with their irregular schedules. Let’s face it we’re not the only ones with challenging life schedules. Again, pray for insight. Keep your eyes open and listen with open ears. We’re not talking about being a gospel stalker but just using basic observations as the Holy Spirit gives us understanding. Once you have a general idea of their rhythms of life, be willing to sacrifice some comfort to match even a small part of their schedule. It can feel really awkward at first but the dividends are well worth it.

Finally, we need to be aware of the most irregular rhythm of all. The Northwest rhythm of weather is so unpredictable and yet it impacts a lot of our lives. Going to the old Boy Scout mottobe prepared” is important here. Why? Because when the weather is good, regardless of the time of day, people get outside. And we need to be prepared to use every last minute of that time to bless others, to get to know them better, to eat together. How that looks is dependent on your neighbors and friends. In my neighborhood that means everyone is out talking at this retaining wall next door till 2am after grilling some food.

Through it all, remember God loves you—he gave everything for you. If we’re not praying for wisdom and guidance in this and relying on our own efforts, frustration is guaranteed. That does not mean that trusting this to God and letting the Spirit guide us and empower us will make things easy. Satan uses our busyness to derail our obedience. One of the most important things you can pray about is for God to reveal things you need to drop from your schedule. To do that takes trust and a willingness to let go of things we may see as important. But in the end it’s worth it—the amazing thing about living in Jesus’ ways is that not only is it for his glory, it is always also for our good.

Make God Look Great. Create.

by STEPHEN ALTROGGE
I’m excited to announce that my new e-bookCreate: Stop Making Excuses and Start Making Stuffis officially available for only $2.99!

Repeat after me: I am creative.

It’s not just the painters and poets who are creative, everyone is creative! God has wired creativity into our DNA. Being creative is one of the ways we reflect the image of God, and God expects that all of us will use our creative gifts to glorify him. All of us have a divinely inspired drive to create and organize and bring beauty out of chaos.

But creativity is hard work. It takes work to create a poem or garden or car engine or piece of furniture or blog post. It requires killing our laziness and working faithfully over extended periods of time. It requires a willingness to receive criticism with humility. It requires sweat and elbow grease. It requires diligence and faithfulness. It’s easier to not make anything at all. To be a consumer. To suffocate the creative gifts that God has given us.

That’s why I wrote this little book. It’s meant to be a divine kick in the pants, of sorts. It’s meant to inspire you and motivate you to use your creative gifts for the glory of God. To help you stop making excuses and start using your gifts.

You have creative gifts. You are a gifted musician or mechanic or teacher or dancer or woodworker or organizer or landscaper or quilter or preacher, and God wants you to use your gifts for his glory. He doesn’t want you to waste them or hoard them. He wants you to use them to benefit those around you and to bring him honor. He wants you to steward your gifts, not waste them.

Your church needs your creative gifts. Your family needs your creative gifts. Your friends needs your creative gifts. You have gifts that no one else has. We need your gifts. Stop making excuses, and start making stuff.

You can get the book on Amazon, or if you don’t have a Kindleyou can get it in PDF format.

Now, can I ask you a big favor? If you find this book to be helpful could you do two things?

  • Share about the book on Facebook or Twitter?

Here are some of the nice things people have said about the book:

This piece on creativity is a gem. Conversational, practical, and biblical. As Christians we have the Creator as our Father, and so we should be the ones with the most creativity. Sadly today Christianity is reduced to corny songs and cheesy t-shirts. However, in this short e-book I was greatly encouraged deep in my soul to step out in faith and be creative knowing my Father already loves me and approves of me in Jesus. Stephen winsomely shows how we aren’t just supposed to be creative, but its actually what we were created for!

– Jefferson Bethke, poet, author of “Why I Love Jesus, But Hate Religion”

Create, by my friend Stephen Altrogge, will inspire you to do just that. It’s biblical, gospel-driven, practical, insightful, funny, and only 43 pages. Whether you think you’re an artist or not, Stephen will inspire you to do what you do better for God’s glory.

– Bob Kauflin, author of Worship Matters, director of worship for Sovereign Grace Ministries

Out of nothing God created matter, out of the unformed matter he formed the world, and then he stood back and enjoyed it all. It was Augustine who suggested musicians do the same thing by embracing unformed silence and order it into tones and notes and symmetry and beauty. And as Stephen so skillfully shows us in this book, this applies to musicians and composers and equally to bankers and bakers, painters and poets, homemakers and handymen. In the ordering of our small portion of the world we image the Creator. I was made to create. You were made to create. And if you’re not sure what that means for you, or if you’re just not convinced it’s true, read this short book to be persuaded and inspired and (maybe most importantly) disciplined for a life of making stuff.

– Tony Reinke, creator of the book Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books

Stephen Altrogge is a creative guy, and this is a short, easily digestible, Biblical book that will encourage you to be creative and won’t cut into your time to be creative. It’s also full of practical scriptural wisdom on taking criticism and the value of working hard.

– Ted Kluck, award-winning author of several books, including Facing Tyson: Fifteen Fighters, Fifteen Stories and Dallas and the Spitfire

This book is short enough for you to read in an hour, although you may want to take it a few pages at a time, marinating in its wisdom. You’ll not only learn how Stephen finds the time to create art in multiple formats, but you’ll learn from other skilled creatives as well. In Create, you’ll learn how to get started and overcome your fears, how to accept and learn from criticism, how to form habits that will strengthen your creativity, and how to persevere. This will be one of those books that I turn to again and again, when I feel like I’ve gotten stuck on a sandbar.

– Bobby Gilles, songwriter, author, Sojourn Church Director of Communications

Creativity is scary. It’s hard work and it’s time consuming. But it’s oh-so-worth it, and in this fantastic little book Stephen Altrogge reminds us why. He points us to the power and significance of God’s creative image in us and with wit and wisdom pushes us to be creators. He encourages the fearful and prods the lazy with grace and humor. Altrogge draws in those who have yet to express the creativity they recognize hidden inside and he launches forth those who already are seeking to honor Christ with their creative endeavors. I will revisit this book often for the encouragement and inspiration it holds.

– Barnabas Piper, Blogger and columnist for WorldMag.com

Admit it. You saw the title of this book and said, “Oh, I’m not creative…” Stop it. Creativity isn’t limited to fancy wordplay, pretty pictures, or clever major/minor key switches. Creativity isn’t something for a special class of people—it’s for stay-at-home moms, baristas and accountants, too. In Create, Stephen Altrogge offers us practical guidance and encouragement in getting over the fears, excuses and setbacks that prevent us from setting ourselves to the task of being creative to the glory of God. Read this book, get motivated and stop making excuses (although accountants, don’t get too creative—I hear the IRS frowns upon such things).

– Aaron Armstrong, author of Awaiting a Savior and Contend, blogger at bloggingtheologically.com

What is the purpose for openness?

By Jeremy Oddy

William Smith, in his new book Loving Well: Even If You Haven’t Been, has challenged me to love others better.  I need it, and so does the church.  In one part of the book, he writes about the purpose of openness with one another as Christians.  As a Christian, I want to be more open with others, and they with me.  As a pastor, I want to see a church that thrives in biblical fellowship and community life for the purpose of growing together as disciples, caring for one another as a family, and on mission together as an army of gospel messengers.  So, what is the purpose for openness?  Smith simply states it is for Christians to experience more of Jesus together.  He writes, “Our mutual calling is to live out our faith together, not simply provide solutions to one another.”  When a person opens up his or her life to you, they are actually inviting you to a relationship – to growing together.  Any answers and companionship in suffering you offer exist within the larger context of “we are on a journey together of learning to see and experience more of Christ in us as we live in his kingdom.”  ”Answers are important,” writes Smith, “but they’re not the end goal.”  We do struggle together to make sense of life, but struggle is not the end goal either.  Here is the end goal:  To see a little bit more of Jesus than we did earlier as we open up our lives to one another.

When someone shares their story with you, we may not have all the answers.  We may only understand a little of what they are experiencing.  But what we must do in sharing our lives together, we got to see where Jesus was and what he is doing.

Here are three simple ways that Smith suggests to practice openness with the purpose of experiencing Jesus together:

  1. First, respond by simply appreciating his or her openness as an invitation to share your lives together.
  2. Second, ask questions that invite the other person to share more.
  3. Third, make sure at some point to ask, “where is Jesus involved?”

Christ opened up his life to us, may we open up our lives to one another to experience more of Him together.  May our friendships reflect our lives being shared freely, welcoming one another into our struggles, and growing into the fullness of Christ with one another.