Oak City Church Homegroup Trimesters

The Summer homegroup trimester comes to an end on Saturday, August 22. The Fall homegroup trimester kicks off the week of Sunday, September 13.

For those of you who may not know, our homegroups meet in three large chunks of time throughout the year that we call “trimesters.” The beginning and the end of each trimester varies based on the annual calendar, but in general, the Spring trimester starts soon after the new year and goes until around Easter. The summer trimester takes place during May, June and July and the Fall trimester usually starts in late August or early September and goes until right before Christmas. In between each Trimester we usually take 2-4 weeks off. During this time we take a break from our normal weekly meetings and do other things.

Several people have asked recently “If home groups are supposed to be about living life together on a regular basis, why do we take trimester breaks? Doesn’t that pull people away from regularly meeting together the way they should?” This is a fair question, shows some really deep thinking and good arguments can be made for not taking breaks, but the truth is that we have found so many good reasons to operate in trimesters that its hard to put them all down in writing! Still, I hope to list a three good reasons over the next several paragraphs.

The first reason I want to mention is a bit theoretical but simply put, we have found that its incredibly helpful for our groups to operate in rhythms and seasons. Life isn’t constant. Sometimes is fast. Sometimes its slow. Sometimes you run hard and sometimes you slow down. We have found that it’s helpful to embrace this fact and use it to our advantage. In the life of our church and our home groups, there is time for people to rest, relax and take a few weeks off from their normal schedule, and there is a time for people to “go hard” and commit to a routine and normal meetings.

The Bible is chock full of farming metaphors; stories about planting, watering, crops and “the harvest” are everywhere. In 1 Corinthians the apostle Paul writes about the discipleship and growth of the people at the church in Corinth. He says that he “planted”, another apostle “watered” but God caused the “growth.” In lots of ways this farming metaphor describes what we are doing as a church. We do our best to “plant” and “water” the gospel in our lives knowing that God is the only one that can bring growth as disciples.

Now I don’t know much about farming but I do know that 1) there are different seasons of the year, 2) those seasons are all completely necessary and important and 3) there is almost nothing more important to a farmer than knowing what to do during those different seasons. Tilling the fields is obviously incredibly important but a farmer knows that can’t till all year long. They need time to plant and water and pray for rain. And then time to let the crops grow. And then time to harvest the crops. And then time to burn the fields and let them rest for a while. All of this happens in seasons. Those seasons are a good thing! Each one is valuable and necessary for yielding a successful harvest!

We have simply decided to embrace this farming metaphor in the life of our groups. Different seasons are a good thing and are helpful in our growth as disciples as we spend different seasons resting, planting, watering and praying that God would cause us to grow.

The next two reasons are a bit more practical….

Leading home groups can be a little bit stressful. There is work involved. There are teachings schedules to make…. and keep. Loads of emails to send. Bible studies to prepare for. Meals to cook. Social nights to attend. Childcare rotations. Prayer requests. Worship nights….There is no shortage of things to do as group leaders attempt to steward the time and resources of the group in a way that brings about maximum discipleship in the people in their group. This is a good thing! God expects homegroup leaders to work hard and to “plant and water” intentionally and strategically and then pray that He would bring the growth as only He can!

Part of leading a group then, is needing time to review where the group has been, what they have been doing and how they have grown. Group leaders should ask questions like, “How is this whole thing going? Do we think what we are doing is working? Can we do it better? Does God want us to emphasize some other aspect of discipleship for a season?” These are really important questions that every servant team and every group leader needs to be asking on a regular basis. In addition, Group leaders need time to prepare for the future and consider what would be best for the group in the upcoming season.

One of the things that we have found is that unless we intentionally create time for leaders to review the past and plan for the future, then these times of review and planning happen infrequently, if at all.

For this reason, we encourage group leaders to get together during trimester breaks to review and plan. Trimester breaks provide the perfect time and space for group leaders to get together for these purposes. Trying to work it into an already busy schedule often leads to group leaders never getting together at all.

A third reason that our homegroups take trimester breaks relates to people who are not part of homegroups at all.

For a newcomer to Oak City or for somebody who is looking to get plugged into a group for the first time, walking into an already established group of people that know each other well and are in the middle of, say, a 10 week long teaching series can be really intimidating and can actually discourage people from checking out home groups at all. That’s a challenge that we have to face! Having newcomers to Oak City get plugged into a home group is one of our main goals! We should do everything that we can to make this an easy process for them!

We have found that by having three “starts” to our groups throughout the year, we are able to provide an easy and obvious time for newcomers to go check out a homegroup. All of the groups are just getting started with whatever they are doing for that trimester. There is no catch-up time, no trying to figure out what’s going on. Everyone is on the same page from the start. That’s a good thing and we have found that it makes it easier for new folks to get plugged in.

During this time we do our best to make sure that people who are a part of Oak City but not necessarily plugged into a group know that 1) the trimester is about to start and 2) the start of a trimester is the perfect time to go check out a new group.

I hope this serves as a good reminder of why we take trimester breaks. I would encourage you over the next few weeks to celebrate what God has done in your groups during this summer trimester. Encourage the members of your group by reminding them where you have been, what you have done, what you have learned and how God has worked in your group.

Let them know that you are taking a few weeks off from your normal schedule so that your servant team can review and plan for the upcoming trimester. Plan some cookouts. Have some fun. And tell people to get ready for the fall!

If you aren’t part of an Oak City homegroup please consider getting involved. We really believe that homegroups are where real church life happens. Not only are they the place to find community but they are the place to grow as a disciple of Christ.

Life in community can be tough, messy, frustrating and take some hard work but its so worth it. Living as an active, committed part of the body of Christ is incredibly fulfilling and life-giving. If you truly dive in, you will not regret it. If you would like more information about an OCC homegroup please email me, Patrick, at patrick@oakcitychurch.com.


Jesus is Still Working

God is doing something in the people of Oak city Church and it has been so amazing to hear the stories that people have been telling. The newly renovated and installed Expression Wall contains little snippets of upwards of 70 stories that were posted in just the past week. Incredible. To me, those “Expressions” are like monuments to things that God has done and is doing in our lives. They are things worth memorializing and the are stories worth telling. The church body is so encouraged when individual people stand up (or log in) and testify.

And then this past Sunday at our Sunday morning gathering, 12 or 13 people stood on stage and testified to the fact that God has been moving and doing downright miraculous things in their lives. Again, incredible. We are talking about marriages saved, addictions broken, calls to move overseas to spread the good news of the gospel. God providing new meaning. It’s amazing stuff.

But all of us have at least one great thing that God is doing in our lives. You just have to look for it. Maybe its as simple as God letting you see new beauty in a sunrise…and giving Him glory for it. Maybe God has given you and your spouse a new level of connection that you have never had before. Maybe you have been looking for how you can give God glory through your work and He has finally shown you how. Maybe you have been praying for an opportunity to invite someone you work with to church and God provided that opportunity…and made you bold enough to go through with the invitation! Maybe you are being reconciled with family members that you thought you would never speak to again. I could go on….

When we look for God, we see him. We are in a season as a church where it has not been hard to see God working and it’s exciting.

It occurs to me that this type of thing shouldn’t surprise us.


So many of the amazing things that happen in the New Testament are recorded in the book of Acts. It’s in this book where the apostles, empowered by the Holy Spirit, take the good news of the gospel to the broader middle east..and further. There are numerous stories of healings, casting out demons, God providing in crazy ways, people being transported in the Spirit to far away places, thousands of people coming to know Jesus. Again, wild stuff. The apostles were not surprised that any of these things were happening. They had been with Jesus for three years. They had seen Him do the same things.

Acts starts with this verse:

         In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he                                  was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. (Acts 1:1-2 ESV)

….Jesus BEGAN to do…

When, in normal conversation, we say someone “began” to do something we are normally implying, unless we note an end point, that what they “began to do” is still going on. The book of Acts begins by mentioning the things that Jesus began to do while He was still here on earth. The implication is that Jesus, even though he is not here on earth at the moment, is still doing those things! He was doing them when He was here, He kept on doing them in them book of Acts and He has never stopped. He is doing them today.

If you don’t believe me, just look at the Expression Wall.


Oak City Church. We are like those people in the book of Acts. We are the same church. The same body of Christ, just 2000 years later. God is working and will keep working. We should expect it!

Let’s keep watching and waiting for God to move. And then keep celebrating it when He does.



Hey Oak City Church. I just want you to know that I think that 2014 was a great year. Jesus did lots of great things through our church. We learned how to pray together. We learned how to worship together. We studied the book of Job (WOW!) We baptized people. Marriages were saved. People who did not know Christ as their savior came to know Him at our church. And we did it all in our new building!

We also saw some trying times as a church in 2014. Reminders that the world is still stained by sin cause us to wait with great anticipation the day that Christ will return,  complete his work of making all things new, and rid us of the presence of sin completely.


But the year 2014 is gone and the older I get the faster the years seem to go. Today is the first day of 2015 but I realize that soon 2015 will be gone too and that 2016 will be here before we know it. So it makes me wonder, what do we want to accomplish as a church in 2015? Where do we want to be when this year is over? I could answer that question in lots of different ways (lets get coffee…I’ll tell you all about it 🙂 ) But there has consistently been one verse that has come to mind when I think about 2015 and Oak City Church –

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. – Matthew 16:24-25

In this scene, Jesus has just finished telling His disciples that He is going to be killed and will rise from the dead. And He tells those who are following Him that if they want to truly “come after” Him that they have to “take up their crosses” and die too. “dying” is the only way for this disciples to truly find life.


We say often that the business of the church is to make and grow disciples. Well according to Jesus, disciples die. They take up their crosses, die to themselves and follow Him ….

……and, in that, they truly find life.  

See, our temptation is to be selfish. To seek our own good. To trust our own abilities to decide what is good and what is bad, what is right and what is wrong for ourselves. The call to follow Christ can feel demanding at times. It can seem like an imposition on our normal lives and it can feel like following Him is costing us more and more of ourselves (..and our time and our talents and our money…and our lives). And so our temptation is to stop, and hold back and “save our lives” by holding onto things that we believe can bring us life.

SO when the call comes to give money so we can provide food and water for 6 year olds in Nicaragua or India we say “no” because we need that money to go to Bojangles…

OR when the call comes to give up a night at home so that we can provide a place to stay for a single mom and her 4 kids who would otherwise be on the street we say “no” because it’s a pain in the butt to sleep on a cot in our sanctuary for one night…

OR when the email goes out stating that no one has stepped up to teach at homegroup on a particular night we read that email and just hit “delete” because it might take an hour to prepare for that teaching and we would rather spend it watching Law and Order…

OR when God brings us into contact with the same person every couple of days and we feel the Holy Spirit telling us to engage that person and invite him or her to our homegroup or one of our Sunday Morning Gatherings we say “no” because we would rather not make things awkward…

I get it. All of those things genuinely require something of us. They require us to give more. Or expend more energy. Or step out in faith that God will come through in some way and do something we don’t think He can. Or be willing to make an otherwise comfortable relationship somewhat awkward. It makes sense to us in those situations to just do what we want, trust our own wisdom and “save our own lives.”

But Jesus says the opposite is true. When God calls us to do something and we say “no” to God’s call we are actually losing our lives. Only by saying “yes” to the calls that God puts on our lives, “life-consuming” as they may seem, will we actually find our lives.

If you try to save your life you will lose it. But if you are willing to lose your life, for the sake of following Christ, then you will truly find it.

That’s what disciples do. They take up their crosses. They die to themselves. And they follow Christ. And what they get for that is a life that is better and more fulfilling and more purposeful and more impactful than they could ever have imagined or come up with on their own.


……God has done so many great things in and through our church. It has been exciting to see. But I believe that He wants to do so much more. I don’t think we have even scratched the surface of what God will do through Oak City Church for His glory if we will die to ourselves completely; if we will die more to our own dreams, our own goals and ambitions, our own sense of entitlement, our own selfishness, our own schedules, our own wisdom, our own sense that we belong to ourselves instead of to the God who has purchased us at the cost of His own life. And we will truly take up our crosses and follow Him. If we will say “yes” immediately to whatever His Spirit leads us to do. If we will think less of ourselves and more about Him.

We see in the gospel how God has shown us so much undeserved love and grace. It’s incredible. He wants to use us to share that love and grace and the good news of the gospel with others. This is mission that He sent us on before He ascended to heaven. How do you get yourself on that mission? It starts with daily “dying to yourself,” taking up your cross and following Him.

We no longer live but Christ lives in us. He must increase and we must decrease.

One my greatest hopes for Oak City Church in 2015 is that we would die. Let 2015 be a year that our church looks back on and says, “We have given up so much for the sake of following Christ. And look at the incredible things He did. THIS is what life is really about. It was all worth it.”


Sunday – 9.15.13 – Song of Solomon

This week was the second week in our series on the Song of Solomon. Last week we saw into the heart of the young woman featured in the Song. What she was after? How did she feel about herself? How she wasn’t willing to compromise her own character to get what she was after.

This week’s message was directed mostly at men and to make the points needed Jeff stepped out of the Song for just a minute and took at look at Proverbs 5-7. The main point is this – the character of a man is revealed in the type of woman he pursues and the reasons he pursues her.

Proverbs 5-7 paints a good picture for us of what NOT to look for in a woman when it describes what it calls, “the forbidden woman.” Biblically speaking this would be anyone other than your wife (or future wife.) It tells us that she goes for “the look” that guys tend to fall for. Her speech is smooth and flattering. She knows how to press a guys buttons. She is seductive, enticing and cunning. She preys on men who are weak and foolish. She says there will be no consequences for infidelity.  But Solomon’s warning to stay away from her could not be stronger. He tells us that going to her leads to death and those who go to her don’t even realize it.

The question is, what else does a seductive woman offering unlimited pleasure with no consequences make you think of? Prostitutes, extramarital affairs and fornication are real problems but the problems don’t stop there. Our culture sells almost everything with sex. From commercials to magazine covers we are inundated with it. And you can hardly read Solomon’s account of the forbidden woman without thinking of pornography. It’s an epidemic in our culture, a 10 billion dollar industry. We spend more on porn than on the NFL, MLB and NBA combined.

Let’s be honest and say that pornography is mostly a male problem, though the statistics on women using pornography increase all the time. In pornography, we find all the lies our culture tells is about sex and women; sex is only physical; there are no consequences to promiscuity; women are to be objectified and used for pleasure and to fulfill an appetite that is identical to needing food. These things are lies from the pit of hell. Sex and sexual sin is so much more than this. 1 Corinthians 6:15-20 tells us that the sexual union is physical, emotional and even spiritual. That it is an act of two becoming one. This is a huge deal. So What men are looking for from the forbidden woman is more than physical, it is spiritual and emotional. Studies show that what men are really looking for in sex is respect, relationship and refuge.  Pornography, prostitutes and fornication pretend to offer these things but they can only be found with sex within the context of marriage.

Sex inside of marriage provides everything that God intended sex to provide. We were meant to be naked and unashamed and sex inside of marriage can provide this but it requires vulnerability. Vulnerability in marriage is hard. It involves admitting who you are to yourself. You’ll discover – or your spouse will point out to you – that you are not always right and that in many ways you are “the wrong person.” And instead of defending against that and lashing out about how they are the wrong person too, you have to accept it. For vulnerability and acceptance to really exist, the other person has to forgive you for your sins, which have inevitably affected them. And for it to be really good, both people have to be willing to do this.  And it takes a really safe place to do that. And THAT is what sex is meant to be paired with. Men, seek and pursue a woman who understands this. Proverbs 31 describes a woman  who is generous, caring, hard-working, optimistic, kind, intelligent, diligent, and dresses classy – a woman of character. He mentions almost nothing about what she looks like.

God designed sex to be the place for a couple to experience outwardly the intimacy and connection that they have committed to inwardly and ultimately sex is a picture of God’s commitment to us and our union with him.




Sunday – 7.28.13 – Gap Jumps

We had the honor of hearing from one of our elders this morning – Todd St. John. In short, Todd spoke to us about living a life of faith. Todd is an avid mountain biker and, accordingly, titled his message, “Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Mountain Biking.”

One of the most attention-getting aspects of mountain biking is the gap jump. As the name implies, the technique involves jumping gaps of varying sizes with your bike. They vary from  low penalty jumps to high penalty jumps. The parallel to acting in faith or taking “leaps of faith” is a obvious one. Sometimes God calls us to things that seem easy. Often times these things carry not-so-large consequences if we fail. Other times God calls us to leaps of faith that seem incredibly hard and the consequences of failure are enormous. All throughout the Bible God calls people to act in faith. From Abraham leaving his home and going to find a new one; to being asked to sacrifice his only son; to God calling Moses to try to part the Red Sea; to God calling Peter to get out of the boat and walk on water, all of these stories involve the people of God being called to take leaps of faith and trust that God would come through. God calls us to the same thing these days but how good are we at acting on faith.

With gap jumps, mountain bikers build up the bigger and bigger jumps. As their confidence and ability grows they are able to approach the jumps confidently. In the same way, when we become believers God begins to call us to act in faith and take steps that require us to have faith in him. If you are walking with Christ then you should be in situations that require God to come through. Are you in a relationship that seems hopeless? Are you looking for that promotion so that you can preach the gospel louder? Maybe you need help starting a ministry, paying that bill, beating cancer, reaching out to a neighbor; in all of these situations God calls us to trust him, believe him and have faith that he will come through.

What keeps us from landing jumps? Jesus is clear that often times a lack of prayer and faith affects our ability to land the jump. That’s a hard pill to swallow but that’s what he says. Other times we can appear to fail because God’s timing is not like our timing. Still other times we can appear to fail because we have the wrong definition of success. God may be doing something in our situation that we will not see for many years to come. Sometimes it may appear as though we have failed when we have really succeeded. Even Jesus chose to act in faith and take on the sin of the world, go to the cross and die for our sins. For three days it looked like Jesus had failed. Only later did we find out that he had landed the biggest gap jump of all time.

God is sovereign and his purposes will be accomplished no matter what we do, but God calls us to take bold steps, act in faith and trust that he will take care of us.

What leaps of faith is God calling you to right now? What are the consequences of failure? What will the results be of success? Even if its hard to know the answer to those questions the command from Jesus is clear – jump.




Sunday – 7.21.13

This week we concluded our series studying the great “I Am” statements made by Jesus in the book of John.

In John 15 Jesus makes the statement, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” It’s easy to jump straight to “abiding” when looking at this passage, and abiding in Christ is very important, but at the core this message is not about abiding; it’s about bearing fruit. One of the easiest ways to think about the fruit that we should be producing as believers is by looking at the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5 – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. All of these things should be evident in the life of a person who is abiding in Christ.

God, the vinedresser is going to “prune” the branches. Branches that don’t produce fruit are cut away and removes. Branches that do produce fruit are going to be pruned so that they produce even more fruit. One of our first reactions to this passage might be to think that we need to work harder to produce more fruit. But that’s not the way that “fruit” happens. It’s not helpful to say, “I have to be more loving!” and then try to love people more. It doesn’t bring peace in a hectic world to stress out about making yourself more peaceful.

The thing to see here is that fruit does not grow on its own. There is a process to bearing fruit and one of the first things we need to realize is that WE do not produce fruit. We are just branches on the vine that is grounded in the soil that actually produces the fruit IN the branches. If we are to produce the fruit that God wants us to produce then we must stay grounded in him. It will never come about through any effort of our own. In the same way that a farmer trying to grow more and better corn will focus almost exclusively on the soil, so we should focus on cultivating the soil of our relationship with Jesus and abiding in him. He is the one who will make the fruit grow.


Band for the week was:

  • Ben Davis – guitar + vox
  • Amaree Davis – violin
  • Katie Pritchett – vox
  • Brent Francese – drums
  • John Enzor – bass
  • Patrick Downing – guitar + vox

Setlist for the week was:

  • Rising Sun
  • Spring of Life
  • I Surrender
  • Jesus Only Jesus
  • Open Up Our Eyes

Sunday – 7.14.13

In John 14 we find Jesus who is just 9 hours or so from his death. His disciples have been with him for 3 years now but the time has come for Jesus to be arrested, tried and crucified. In short, He is going away. When Jesus tells them this He knows how they will respond so he tries to head them off. Over and over in this passage Jesus tells his disciples to not be anxious. This is completely understandable. Remember these are Jesus’ disciples we are talking about. DISCIPLES. They followed him everywhere. They went where He went. Said what He said. Tried to do what He did. When Jesus was physically there with them this was somewhat easy to do. But now Jesus tells them that He is going away and that they can’t come. Clearly the disciples have reason to be anxious.

They respond in different ways. Determined to follow Jesus on his own, Thomas asks Jesus to tell him the way to get to where He is going. Philip simply tries to bypass Jesus all together and asks Jesus to just show him the Father. Both miss the point completely. Jesus responds to Philip and tells him that if he has seen Jesus then he has seen the Father because Jesus and the Father are one. He responds to Thomas and tells him that HE is the way; there is no other. And then He adds that He is also the Truth and the Life.

Then to top it all off, Jesus tells them that there are “greater things” coming. Imagine what this must have sounded like to the disciples. They have seen Jesus turn water to wine. Open the eyes of the blind. Make lame people walk and deaf people hear. They have even seen him raise people from the dead. Still, He tells them that even greater things are on the way.


So many times in our lives we are just like these disciples. We think that we can make our own way to the Father. We can do something to make him accept us. Jesus tells us that there is simply no other way than Him. Other times we are seeking life in things other than Jesus. We run to things that make us temporarily happy looking for fulfillment. Other times we forget what we know to be true – that life is found only in Jesus and that the only way to the Father is through Him. We spend time trying to do great things for God when the great things of God are done only through the spirit of Jesus living in us.

Jesus, help us be better disciples of you and remember that YOU are the only way to the Father; you are the only thing thats true and that life is found only in you and in nothing else. We pray for your spirit to come and do greater things than we can even imagine. 

Sunday – 6.30.13 – I Am the Resurrection and the Life

This week we continued our series in the “I Am” statements that Jesus makes in the book of John titled “Who Do People Say that I Am.”

The Book of John tells us that when a certain friend of Jesus’ named Lazarus was ill, rather than going immediately to help or heal him, Jesus stayed in the place where he was for two more days. In the meantime, Lazarus died and his family (Mary and Martha) were pretty upset about it. John tells us why Jesus did this – because He loved them. When Jesus finally arrives on the scene, Lazarus has been in the tomb for 4 days. At this point Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus assures her that Lazarus will rise again to which Mary responds that she does know that He will rise again in “the resurrection” on the last day, as many Jews believed would happen, but Jesus responds to her that HE is the resurrection and the life. Jesus was always in control of this situation and worked in such a way that would show Mary and Martha and everyone else God’s glory.

Jesus proceeds to call to Lazarus and raise him to life. Lazarus who has been dead for several days now, gets up and walks out of the tomb.

What we see here is that Jesus has given us the power of the resurrection now. He has overcome sin now, not “then.” Not sometime in the future. Martha is sad because Lazarus is dead and not coming back. He tells her that Lazarus can come back  and She says, “Yeah, I know, a long time from now, at the resurrection. But what good does that do me now?”  And Jesus says, “I am the resurrection. The resurrection is right now.” She is saying, ‘Then,’ but Jesus is saying, ‘Now.’ I am the one who brings you from death to life. He is saying, “You don’t have to wait to move from death to life. It can happen now.”  In this way, Jesus has broken us free from the chains of sin. The Bible says thats we were once dead in our trespasses and sins but God has made us alive – NOW. We are Lazarus in this story. We were once dead, but God has made us alive.

First, know that Jesus is always in control of the situation and sometimes He will allow you to suffer for His glory. Remember that it’s not your story; it’s His and He is the one who gets the glory.

Second, know that Jesus has overcome death in the here and now and so life is available here and now.

Sunday – 6.23.13 – The Good Shepherd

We have been in a series at Oak City Church where we have been studying the great “I Am” statements made in the book of John. This past week I had the honor of teaching on a passage in John 10 where Jesus declares that He is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. For starters, know this – when Jesus says that He is the Good Shepherd, He is also saying that we are sheep. The question is, “What does Jesus mean when He says that we are sheep?” Its not a compliment 🙂

All the research I have done says that sheep are incredibly dumb animals who need a shepherd to do basically everything for them. Shepherds lead sheep to green grass to eat and lead them to clean, still water to drink because sheep can’t find either of these on their own. Shepherds have to walk in front of the sheep clear the path for where the sheep are going. And they have to go to the places that they will lead the sheep before the sheep even get there to make sure that those places are good and safe. All the while the shepherd has to be on the lookout for predators like wolves or cougars. Since sheep have absolutely no natural defense mechanisms the shepherds is their only protection. There is no such thing as a wild sheep because wild sheep will soon die. Accordingly, sheep HAVE to follow the shepherd if they want to have a chance of survival. However, the good shepherd’s end goal is not just that the sheep would survive. Everything he does is designed so that the sheep will thrive and live full, productive lives. Good shepherds are contrasted with bad shepherds who do none of these things. While the good shepherd’s sheep are protected, fat and happy the bad shepherds sheep are sickly and pathetic. The quality of the shepherd is seen in the wellbeing of the sheep.

When thinking about sheep in this way it could be a little bit hard to think about ourselves as being as helpless and clueless as sheep. However, I would humbly suggest that we are. In the same way that sheep don’t realize these things about themselves, neither do we. Left on our own, we will never find the things that truly fulfill and bring peace. We have no ability to get to the place we want to go in life and aren’t even sure where that place is. Whenever we look back at our past selves we realize how little we knew “back then” and think we have it figured out now when the truth is we will never have it figured out. Thankfully we have a Good Shepherd who knows and provides all things for us. Our mission is simply to hear his voice and to follow him.

Finally, in John 10 Jesus mentions the greatest thing that the good shepherd does – he lays down his life for the sheep. When the flock is in danger the good shepherd is ready and willing to sacrifice himself to save the sheep. The fact is that the Bible says that we are all in danger. Isaiah 53 tells us that we have all gone astray like sheep and are in need of rescue. We have all rebelled against our good shepherd and “gone wild” and, as wild sheep do, we will soon die. Isaiah 53 also tells us that Jesus died in order to save us; that Jesus became like a sheep himself and took the punishment for our since in our place.

Nowhere else are two more seemingly contrasting statements made right next to each other. Jesus says, “You are a sheep and are completely helpless and clueless.” And then he immediately says, “But you are worth so much to me. I value you so much you are worth my life.”

He is truly your Good Shepherd. Everything he does is for your good; not just to keep you alive but that so you will thrive. Seek to hear his voice and to follow him. If the Lord is your shepherd what else could you want?



Sunday – 5.19.13 – Spending Time with God

This week was our 4th week in our series called Rooted in the Word. Jeff spoke on the idea of spending time with God.

The idea of being with God is a huge theme in the Bible and it goes all the way back to Genesis; to creation. In the beginning God created Adam and Eve and he put them in a garden which they shared with each other and with God. And God would come and walk with them over and over again. When they disobey God the very first thing they do is to hide from Him. But God does something interesting – He comes looking for them. Even after sin and death had entered the world God still wanted to be with mankind. But as we know, God had to kick Adam and Eve out of the garden. What we learn from this is that being present with God is possible, but only on His terms.

Throughout the Old Testament we see God’s desire to be with his people. He had Moses and the Israelites build the tabernacle so that he could be with them. He had Solomon build the temple so that he could be with His people in Jerusalem. The prophet Isaiah tells us that “the virgin will conceive” and that God himself will come and be with us as a man. John tells us that “the word became flesh and dwelt among us”; God had come in human form to be with his people and to make a way for them to be with Him. When Jesus died we read that the curtain in the temple, that separated man from God, was split in two declaring that now, and only now, could man really be with God. Before Jesus ascended back into heaven he told his disciples that He would be with them always “even to the end of the age.” Finally, in the book of Revelation we read that when John is having his vision of the future he sees that the “dwelling place of God is with man.” This is the whole story – God wants to be a part of your life, of our lives together. He wants to be with his people. The questions then for the believer is, do you really want to be with Him? Do your actions reflect a desire to be with Him that is anywhere close to the desire to be with you that is reflected in His actions?

In spite of all that God has done to be with us and in spite of the fact that we were made for it, it cant be hard to spend time with God. This is true for many reasons. Sometimes we want to spend time with God out of guilt or as a means to get his favor. These are the wrong reasons that will ultimately lead to not spending time with Him. Sometimes our lives are just moving to fast and we should pray for strength to slow down. Sometimes we might be afraid of what God will say if we get close enough to Him to hear Him and give Him control of our lives. And often times we just don’t know how to create a healthy habit of spending time with God. Try finding some time to be alone; reading; praying; use a devotional; sing and worship; meditate on God’s word and listen for His voice.

Ultimately there are no shortcuts to getting to know God. It comes through seeking Him and spending time with Him. And enjoying Him. So struggle for it. Fight for it. Be disciplined about it. And know that He has moved heaven and earth to be with you.




Midweek Sermon Review – The Story of the Bible

There are plenty of old books out there. Some of them are still relevant today. Others really aren’t. The Bible was written between 3,500 – 1,900 years ago so is it still relevant to us today?
This week Jeff spent a consider portion of Sunday morning gathering retelling the story of the Bible. By way of reviewing this story I want to steer you towards a video that our friends at The Summit Church made recently; it’s an artistic retelling of the whole story.
Knowing the big, overarching story of the Bible makes all of the little stories make sense. Our church has several different resources that we have used to help us all learn that overarching story.
The fact is there is no book out there that is more relevant and will have more impact on your life than the story of the Bible. The more you read it the more you see that it actually reads you. Like your favorite movie that you watch over and over again and never get tired of, let the Bible be the one book that read you every day, even just a little bit, for the rest of your life. It will change you forever.
Let me know if we can do anything to help.

Sunday 5.5.13 – Why Should I Believe the Bible is True?

This was the second week in our series called Rooted in the Word. Jeff tackled the question, “Why should I believe the Bible is true?”

The Bible is constantly under attack from all directions. There seems to be an endless supply of attacks on its legitimacy; new information coming out that “disproves” it; new books of the Bible discovered that prove that the the Bible is incomplete or inaccurate. However, as a church, we absolutely affirm the Bible is the word God wants us to have. We base all of our decisions on our best understanding of the words found in it.

Truthfully, there is no way to cover the vast amounts of material that exists that back up the reliability of the Bible. While there are common objections surrounding things like the legitimacy of the Bible, the completeness of the Bible and the accuracy of the translations,  know that scripture itself claims to be the inspired word of God. In numerous places and in various ways the Bible makes the claim that it is God’s word, inspired by the Holy Spirit and written down by men. Jesus himself recognized the completeness of the Old Testament and the writers of the books in the New Testament expected there to be an eventual collection of books known as the New Testament. You can begin to see very early on that the apostles recognized contemporary writings as scripture. And in spite of plenty of textual criticisms the fact is that what we have today as our Bible is about 99.5% accurate to the original writing.


There are plenty of reasons that people resist or fight against an orthodox view of scripture. Some are genuinely curious and skeptical. Others are in it for personal gain. Still others simply don’t want to deal with the implication of the gospel if they come to find out that it’s true. If you are skeptical of the Bible and it’s claims you are not alone. But  know that there is an incredible amount of evidence that points to the Bible being trustworthy and true. Read it. Study it. It’s 66 books were penned by 42 authors over some 1,500 years but it tells one story – the good news about the man Jesus.



Band for the Week Was:

  • Jake Taylor – guitar + vox
  • Amaree Davis – Violin
  • Brent Francese – drums
  • John Enzor – bass
  • Katie Pritchett – vox
  • Alex Dellapenta – guitar + vox

Sunday – 4.21.13

This week we were honored to hear from one of our elders, Ken Cantrell.


The Bible is an amazing book filled with all kinds of incredible things. As Christians, we recognize that the Bible is God’s word to us. It has answers to many of life’s questions, but we have to recognize that we may not find them quickly. It may take years. And the truth is, there are some questions we will never find answers to. But we have permission to ask. The Bible and the God that it reveals can handle our questioning. In its 66 books the Bible includes narrative passages, historical accounts, books of law, books of prophecy, letters, poetry, etc. All of these books were written by some 40 authors over several milleniums. In all of that, the Bible tells one consistent story. It tells a story that reveals who God is and what He is like; who mankind is and what mankind is like. It also reveals the good news about what God has done to reconcile mankind to Himself. But, because this story can be hard to believe, those who do believe it don’t always like to tell this story to others. In spite of God telling us to not be ashamed of the good news often times we are ashamed to share it.

What is the singular story that the Bible tells? It tells us that God is the creator of all things and that we, mankind, are part of his creation. We were made to be in relationship with God and with each other; to love God and depend on Him at all times. The problem is that every single one of us doesn’t want God to be in control. We want control ourselves, and so have rebelled and in doing so have sinned against God. And this sin against God as broken everything from the physical world that we live in to the relationships that we have with both each other and with God. And so we all deserve punishment, death, an eternity separated from God in hell. But the good news, the gospel, is that Christ took our punishment for us and died in our place. And now, for those who believe, God looks at us and only sees Christ, and welcomes us into an eternity in the relationship with Him and with each other that we were created to have in the first place. We can forgive one another because we know how much we have been forgiven. We can serve God and one another without guilt of without trying to earn favor with God or with others. We can truly love one another because we know how much we have been loved.

And this is the good news, the gospel that God calls us to share with others. Don’t be ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.


Band this week was:

  • Aaron Chappell – guitar + vox
  • Alex Dellapenta – guitar + vox
  • Ben Davis – guitar + vox
  • Julie Watkins – vox
  • Brent Francese – drums
  • Patrick Downing – bass

Sunday – 4.14.13 – Oak City Church

Welcome to Oak City Church!


This past Sunday we officially changed our name to Oak City Church! This process has been about a year or so in the making (officially) and we are glad to have finally made the switch.

In light of the change, Jeff took some time this past Sunday to talk about our purpose and vision as a church. Simply put,

Oak City Church exists to bring glory to God by making disciples of Jesus who are growing as a family of learners, lovers and givers and are sent to make more disciples.”

There are several reasons for this new name not the least of which is the fact that “Oak City Church” fits our mission statement well and is more accessible for folks new to the church. Because we have used the language of ‘growing’ as disciples, we’ve had images of trees prominent on our website and in our building for several years. Oak City Church allows us to tie in this theme of growth. It also carries the connotation of strength, permanence, and fruitfulness that we strive to live out as a church. Raleigh is the ‘City of Oaks’ and we have sought to be a blessing to our city from the beginning. This new name identifies us as being for our city.

Additionally, Isaiah 61 speaks of God’s people being ‘called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified’ and bringing renewal and God’s kingdom to the earth. This has been our desire from the beginning and continues to be our desire – that God would use our church to bring glory to his name, and in doing so draw the people of Raleigh and surrounding areas to himself.


Discipleship has been a huge part of our language for years now. Growing together as disciples of Jesus Christ is a big part of what we are all about (note that this involves making new disciples as well 🙂 In many ways, the essence of discipleship is change. Mankind was made in God’s image for God’s glory. We were made so that people would look at us and think about him. But we rebelled against God and now that image of God in us is tarnished. For those who believe  God is conforming us, molding us, changing us back to that image. This is the change we are after, knowing that it’s God who does the changing. Our goal is to be disciples and follow Christ.

We believe that as disciples, we are called together as Christ’s Family and striving to be  Learners of God’s story and our place in it, Lovers of God and all he has created, Givers of all we have been given, and Sent to make more disciples. Everything that our church does is to this end.

We are incredibly excited about the future of Oak City Church and are happy that you have decided to be a part of our body here.

Sunday – 4.7.13 – Encouragement


This week Jeff spent some time digging into the church’s call to encourage one another.

We read in Ephesians that believers in Jesus Christ are, “God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” and we read in Ephesians that God has given the ministry of reconciliation to US, his people. Over and over again, the writers of the New Testament remind the church that we have been saved through faith in Jesus Christ not by any works we have done.  At the same time they encourage us to persevere in the good works that God has now called us to after He saved us. But no one said these works were going to be easy. We know for a fact that they will be hard and we will have to persevere. In this persevering, we have to have the church – the body of Christ – to help us.

We were not created to be alone. We were created in God’s triune image to live in community with one another and support each other. The author of the book of Hebrews tells us to “spur one another one” in the works that God would have us do and this encouragement us essential. The important thing to remember is this: courage comes from the gospel of Jesus and nowhere else. In our culture this can be confusing. We tend to think people just need to “be positive” or need to have higher “self esteem.” But these notions are not grounded in anything and ultimately carry no weight. Believers in Christ should know that courage comes from Jesus and the knowledge of what He has done for us. Do we need to feel guilty about our mistakes? No. Jesus was guilty for us. Do we need to be ashamed of our shortcomings? No. Jesus took our shame. If our marriages are difficult we can take courage from the fact that God knows all about difficult marriages; He is married to an unfaithful spouse – the church. In every situation that we encounter we can know this – God knows about it and has been through it himself. Jesus came and suffered the same temptations and struggles and sorrows that we face. He did that for us and He promises that He will be with us. Take courage!

When we in the church encourage one another we should remind each other of Christ and the strength that we have in Him and His presence in our lives.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25, ESV)”

Band this week was:

  • Jake Taylor – acoustic guitar + vox
  • Patrick Downing – acoustic guitar + vox
  • Scott Wenger – bass
  • Kendal Quinn – djembe

Sunday – 3.31.13 – EASTER!!!

This past Sunday was Easter! This is the day that the church worldwide celebrates the fact that Jesus was dead but that he rose from the dead and is now alive!

This Sunday we looked at a passage from 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul is speaking to the church at Corinth about the resurrection. He tells them three main things.

First, the resurrection can be hard to believe. Paul tells the church at Corinth three things; that Christ died for our sins, was buried and was raised to live again, but Paul emphasizes Jesus being raised over and over again. He tells how Jesus appeared to Peter, then to all 12 disciples, then to 500, then to James, then to the apostles and lastly to Paul himself. Paul did this because people have a hard time believing in the resurrection and Paul was simply telling them how many witnesses there were. There was a teaching going on in the church at that time saying that resurrection was not possible so people had a hard time buying it but Paul assures them that Jesus was raised from the dead. We sometimes do similar things with the resurrection story. It’s easy to have a conversation with someone about Jesus being a good man who died for us, but try bringing up the fact that he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. This conversation can be a little tougher. Paul mentions all of these witnesses to assure us that Jesus DID rise from the dead.

Second, the resurrection is absolutely essential. Paul makes the basic argument that the whole thing is a house of cards that is built on Jesus’ resurrection. If you take out the fact that Jesus rose from the dead then the entire Christian faith falls apart. He tells us if Christ has not been raised from the dead then Paul’s preaching and their faith is worthless and believers in Christ are to be pitied.  Those who have already died will never be raised to new life in heaven. If Jesus has not been raised from the dead then we are totally wasting our time. But Paul calls us to believe it because it happened and he calls us to put all of our hope in the fact that Jesus Christ died but was raised from the dead.

Third , the resurrection is our ultimate hope and it should shape our lives. All of us hope in something and what we hope for shapes our lives. Some hope for fame or success or happiness and those things shape who they are and what they do. Paul calls us to put all of our hope in the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and those who believe in him will be joining him in his new life. Christ’s death and resurrection don’t just mean that our sins are forgiven, they also mean that our future with God in heaven is secured. This should shape everything! Our ambitions and our fears should all be shaped by the fact that our future is secured by a God who has power over death and calls us to join him in eternal life.

Church, know that the morning that Jesus rose from the dead is fulcrum of our faith. If Jesus didn’t rise then we are wasting our time. But if he did rise then it’s all true. Hell has been defeated. Death has no power. Our sin has been forgiven. Eternal life is possible in Christ and He is making all things new. And on Easter we as a church celebrate the fact that it’s true.

Christ is risen.

Band for the Week was:

  • Alex  Dellapenta – guitar + vox
  • Jon Pritchett – guitar
  • Julie Watkins – vox
  • Zack Van Hoy – drums
  • John Enzor – bass
  • Patrick Downing – guitar + vox


Just a point of note….this post will make a good bit more sense to you if grew up in churches like I did…so


This much is undeniable, church music is different than it used to be. This is true from lots of perspectives but I want to focus on one in particular.

Maybe it was just the church I grew up in but when I was a kid it seemed like SO many songs  revolved around Old Testament pictures and language of who God is, what God is like.

We sang songs like this…

And this…

Also this….


Frankly, I love this stuff….

Now, to be sure these songs are dated in a few ways. From a musical standpoint, something was up in the late 80’s and early 90’s that caused the church to get on some sort of strange Russian or Jewish orthodox sounding kick (am I right, James??). I honestly don’t know what that was about. But it’s a fact that when I was 8 years old and everything sounded like Stephen Curtis Chapman, Twila Paris, Poison or Nirvana, the whole fiddler-on-the-roof sound made quite an impression on me. It was foreign and other-worldly.  I am older now and I can listen to those songs and I know exactly what they are playing and how they are playing it and so it has probably lost some of its mystery. But it’s still interesting.  But here’s what is strange to me about these songs (…or at least how we see them today). It feels like they are dated lyrically. And I don’t understand that.

First, it seems like most of these songs have like 10 lines total…they just repeated them over and over. Let this be a lesson to those of us who write songs for church…

Second, and this really is just my opinion, it seems like the writers of these songs were into singing about God in a way that we don’t really do today. There was a commitment to singing scripture almost word for word that, honestly, we find almost comical today. We joke about the song “As the Deer” at least once a week. But its almost straight from Psalm 42! That makes me a little bit sad when I think about it.

I’m not even sure what my argument is here in this post. There were plenty of goofy songs back then. Don’t get me wrong. There was just a certain strain of song back then that I thought (and think) was awesome in a way that we aren’t coming anywhere close to today.

3.24.13 – For God So Loved the World

This past Sunday was Palm Sunday, the day that the church celebrates Jesus’ arrival to Jerusalem.

Prophecies have foretold this day for centuries; the day when Jesus presented himself as Messiah to his people. Ultimately they rejected him as their Lord and savior. They were looking for another type of messiah, someone who would bring them the freedom they thought they needed. And someone who would bring about that freedom in the manner in which they thought they needed it. The people in Jerusalem didn’t like Jesus’ message of repentance and grace. They did not like the message of the Kingdom of God. The message that Jesus brought was offensive to them, and eventually, Jesus is killed. They didn’t understand that God knew them and knew exactly what they needed whether they understood it or not.


John 3:16 is a very familiar verse to many of us. It tells us that God loved the world in exactly the way that the world needs to be loved – by sending his one and only Son to die on the cross for our sins so that whoever believes in him would have eternal life. But many of us, like the people in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus disagree that this is the way in which we need to be loved. The message of Jesus is no less offensive to our culture today than it was to the culture 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem.

Most in our society believe that they “do their best” to be morally good people and that, if there is an afterlife, when we get there God will accept us because he loves us and he will overlook or forgive the bad stuff we did. We think he owes this to us because, while we know that God calls us to be perfect, “nobody is perfect”. We lower the standard so that we can meet it. We tend to grade ourselves on a curve and as long as you are somewhere in between Hitler and Mother Teresa than you have been “good enough” and God will accept you.  So the idea of a bloody cross being the only way to be accepted by God seems to be a bit unnecessary. Heaven is something that we are entitled to because God loves us and will ultimately forgive us.

The major downfall in this line of thinking is that many of us don’t want to acknowledge the gravity of our sin or the magnitude of the God whom we have sinned against. Unlike us, God does not change his standard. He does NOT grade on a curve. Jesus got an A+ and the rest of us have failed. But we don’t actually believe that we are that bad. We don’t believe that our sins are enough to condemn us to an eternity apart from God in hell. We don’t believe that there is nothing we can do to get back in God’s good graces. This is a hard truth but this is exactly what the Bible teaches.

But the message of the Bible is that God still loves us. He loves us in exactly the way we need to be loved, by sending his own Son Jesus to die on the cross to die for our sin.

Band for the Week Was:

  • Jon Hathaway – guitar + vox
  • Brent Francese – vox
  • Christie Gould – vox
  • Alex Dellapenta – guitar + vox
  • Jon Pritchett – guitar
  • Scott Wenger – bass

Sunday – 3.17.13 – The End of the Story

This week we concluded our study in the book of Jonah. Jonah has finally gone to Nineveh and preached the message of grace that God told him to preach. Nineveh has repented of their sin and turned to God.

Nineveh’s repentance is a huge deal and Jonah should be thrilled but instead we read that, “it displeased Jonah exceedingly” and it angered him that God relented and did not destroy the city. He hates the Ninevites so much and is so angry that God has mercy on them that he asks God to kill him. As He has throughout the entire story, God has incredible patience with Jonah. From the very beginning God has been teaching Jonah that his priorities are far from being in line with God’s priorities.

As Jonah sits outside the city and waits to see if God will destroy it or not, God causes a plant to grow over Jonah to shelter from the elements and the Bible says that Jonah is “exceedingly glad” about this plant. But the next day God makes the plant die causing Jonah to again wish for death. God uses this little episode to not only show Jonah that his priorities are off but he actually speaks to Jonah and tells him as much. Jonah cares more about the plant that he cares about the more than one hundred thousand people living in Nineveh. His heart was very different than God’s heart and one thing that we learn through this story is that God will not stop working on you until your heart matches his heart. Jonah’s heart was for himself but God’s heart was for the people of Nineveh. Jonah thought God was on his side not the side of the Ninevites, but God was on everyone’s side. He was for the sailors who came to know Him. He was on the side of the Ninevites who he sent a messenger who told them to repent of their sin. He was on Jonah’s side when he worked to change Jonah’s heart to be more like his own.

In the end, we honestly are not sure whether or not Jonah “gets it”. We don’t know if Jonah ever repented of his hatred of the Ninevites and learned to love them like God did. But what we can learn from this is that we all have places in our hearts that do not line up with the heart of God; things we don’t like, places that we don’t want to go, people that we don’t want to love the way that God loves them. We all need to grow in our capacity to love the way that God loves and in order to love like God loves we need to know that we are truly, deeply loved by Christ.

Band for the week was:

  • Zack Van Hoy – drums
  • Greg Hookstra – bass
  • Aaron Chappell – guitar + vox
  • Patrick Downing – vox
  • Jon Pritchett – guitar

Sunday – 3.10.13 – The Message

In our study this week Jonah finally goes to Nineveh.

Now history shows us that the Ninevites were really bad people who seem to be most well known for their use of torture to subdue other people groups. Jonah’s resistance to go preach to Nineveh was that Jonah did not want God to spare the Ninevites. In that, seems to understand something that we don’t; no one, no matter how far away from God they might seem, is out of God’s reach. Jonah was not scared that they would do something bad to him. He was scared that God would do something good to them. This makes more sense to us than we know in that it’s probably true that there are people in all of our lives who we have a hard time with and think will never come to know Jesus. There might even be people who we don’t want to come to know Jesus.

Eventually though, Jonah does go to Nineveh and preaches the exact message that God told him to preach; he simply delivers God’s mail. There is an important lesson in this for us in the church. For several years now the church has made a move away from simply speaking and preaching the good news about Jesus to just “showing” the gospel to people through the power of our transformed lives. The words of St. Francese have become the theme – “Preach the gospel always.  If necessary, use words.” What we learn here from Jonah is this: You, and your life, are not the most important message that people need to receive about Jesus. The gospel is the most important message that people need to receive about Jesus. With apologies to St. Francis of Assisi, words are necessary. The power is not in your life. The power is in the gospel. It is also helpful to think about two different commands of Jesus. 1) Love your neighbor. 2) Go and make disciples. These are not mutually exclusive things. You don’t do one to the exclusion of the other. We are to do both at the same time.

So Jonah preaches the message and people of Nineveh repent. God worked through the message that he told Jonah to give in ways that Jonah could never have imagined; or ways that Jonah didn’t even want. God was working the whole time to bring the Ninevites to repentance. In the same way, God is working to bring those around us to know him and turn and be followers of Jesus. God is using us to do that and we just have to be obedient, deliver the mail that we are called to deliver and trust God for the outcome.

Band for the week was:

  • John Enzor – bass
  • Jake Taylor – guitar + vox
  • Katie Pritchett – vox
  • Brent Francese – drums
  • Alex Dellapenta – guitar _ vox
  • John Pritchett – guitar