YOU ARE NOT UNKNOWN.

On November 11, 1921, the United States laid to rest the remains of a World War I soldier, his name “known but to God.” The Virginia burial site is known as The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and symbolizes respect and dignity for the warriors who gave their lives in obscurity.

Every November 11, since 1926, we observe Veteran’s Day as a Nation.

 

Each of us longs to be seen and known.

 

We want someone to witness our lives and know that we really did exist, that we really did matter. But in this push-and-shove society, it’s hard to be noticed and easy to feel invisible. When life is good and happy, God can easily become just another set of eyes in the bleachers. But when we’re running for our lives or wandering through the wilderness of isolation, failure or rejection, the discovery that God is watching is worth nearly everything.

 

Genesis 16 tells the tragic story of Hagar, a "soldier" that is used, exploited, rejected, and cast away ... forgotten. What follows is a story of eventual redemption and greatness that only God can write.

 

“You are the God who sees me. I have now seen the One who sees me.” - Genesis 16:13

 

For all those unknowns who have fought for our freedom, and for those who may feel unknown today ... you are seen, appreciated, destined for greatness, and loved.

If you don't know God ... you're no stranger to Him. He created and loves you! In fact, He's pursuing you. Feel it? Would be my total honor to introduce you to Him and walk with you. 

 

Just message me.

Posted by Brant Porter at Tuesday, November 29, 2016 | 0 comments

What is JOY?*

 

 

WHAT IS JOY? It might surprise you. We confuse joy with happiness, and believe it is found in pleasure, security, and prosperity. However, that's a lie. The Bible doesn't say, “Count it all joy when you fall into an easy chair.” It says,

 

"Count it all joy when you fall into various trials." — James 1:2.

 

What!!? So often, the Bible is totally upside down, contradictory to what our culture says. Joy is not the same as happiness — although they may overlap.

 

Happiness depends on circumstances; joy depends on God. Happiness vanishes when life turns painful; joy keeps going and may even grow. Crazy, huh!?

There's no adequate substitution - joy comes from a living, vital relationship with God. I can't explain it well enough. There's no sugar coating it. But ... it's so true.

 

It comes from knowing this world is only temporary and that someday we will be with God forever. It comes from the fact that, although we do not yet see God, we “believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8). It comes from a life of submission to the Holy Spirit — regardless of circumstances.

Be filled with true joy today.

 

If you don't know God ... frankly, you're missing out. You're no stranger to Him. He created and loves you! In fact, He's pursuing you. Feel it? Would be my total honor to introduce you to Him and walk with you. Just message me.

 

[*adapted from Billy Graham "Hope For Each Day"]
Posted by Brant Porter at Wednesday, November 16, 2016 | 0 comments

Hope, Change, and Greatness

I will never forget my 8th grade year. Rev. Jesse Jackson was vying to be the first African American man to become President of the United States, and he came to visit our school. I remember the heart of his message: “Up with HOPE! Down with dope! Keep HOPE alive!” When I graduated from the 8th grade that year, my teacher, Mrs. Johnson, whispered in my ear as I crossed the stage, “I expect nothing less than President out of you.” Wow, talk about casting a vision for an impressionable young man! I had no idea at the time that I would become an automotive engineer and later, a pastor. I actually thought at the time I would grow up to be a neurosurgeon. However, I did know that there were people in my life who wanted me to always set my sights high, and to live with optimism. That optimism, planted at a young age, has carried me through my adult life.  Keep HOPE alive.

Over the past 12 years, as I have watched the last few election cycles in the United States, it has been interesting to listen to the various campaign promises. One candidate promises to bring hope and change. Another candidate promises to make America great again. The promises made during a campaign are all very interesting.  Yet, the consistent message I have found myself proclaiming again and again to the congregation where I serve, is that true HOPE is rooted in a relationship with Jesus. True CHANGE is found in the transformative power of the Holy Spirit, and true GREATNESS is only found in the character of God.  In other words, if you want to keep HOPE alive, see CHANGE in our nation and world and experience GREATNESS, you have to draw close to God through a relationship with Jesus. No President can truly deliver HOPE like Jesus can. You can’t legislate morality, love or purity, but Jesus is still in the business of changing hearts and minds.

I love the vision of the local church where I serve: 

We aspire to REACH all people, ENGAGE the community, AWAKEN spiritual growth, and LAUNCH everyone into service. 

 

Earthly rulers will come and go. Presidential candidates and campaign slogans will come and go. But Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. As we reach real people, meet real needs, make real disciples and call people to real service, the world will be in awe of, and drawn towards, the HOPE of Jesus. Of course folks should get out and vote. Of course the choice of candidate can and will affect our day-to-day lives. However, one of the ways that I keep HOPE alive, is by reminding our congregation regularly that no matter who wins in any given election, our mission and vision will not change. I HOPE to see as many people serve and follow Jesus in my lifetime as possible, so that their entire worldview is transformed and the world around them is changed.  

HOPE is alive, and His name is Jesus. 

Posted by Pastor Kyle Ray at Friday, October 21, 2016 | 1 comments

Love well ...

 

Strength to endure the pain,

Wisdom to think things through,

Courage to face the fears,

God’s Love to conquer it all.

 

Love well …

 

Reading this short devotion from a KCC pastor, I found myself reflecting on God’s perfect timing. Personally, I was emerging from a difficult time. A “violent storm” in my current season of life. The words fit so well in describing how God was leading me.

 

A short time ago I was devastated to learn that a close family member had committed acts of abuse. The relationship between us had been estranged for years, but recently, we had reconnected and begun to rebuild … then, this truth came to light. As a family, we grieved together. How could this happen?

 

Faced with an arrest and the truth revealed, repentance has come to the heart of the abuser. The victims of the abuse are receiving Christian counseling, prayer and lots of love. But the consequences still need to be faced, and not just by the one who committed this sin, but by their victims and all who love them as well.

 

Those four short statements spoke clearly to my heart …

 

Strength to endure the pain

Following the trial, I spoke with the victims' mom, who shared that my family member had been sentenced to not less than 5, no more than 15 years in prison. I made the decision not to attend the court proceedings as I knew that some very personal and painful information would need to be shared. I have not been involved in the lives of the victims and in my spirit it did not seem appropriate to sit in on such private and difficult proceedings. After speaking with the mother of the victims, I am more than convinced that I made the right decision. With that said, my relationship with her continues to grow. We seem to understand the pain each one carries and because of our shared faith in God, we have been able to support one another.

 

Wisdom to think things through

God has this! From the beginning when this horrible situation was revealed, God has guided my heart, mind and spirit. It is His wisdom that my family and I must rely on. My spouse has been supportive with encouraging words and prayers. The parents of the victims are leaning on the Lord in knowing how to best nurture and mend the tender hearts of their children. All are now enrolled in a therapy program designed specifically for children who have been abused (among other counseling).

 

Courage to face the fears

Life without them. My relationship with this person had been almost non-existent. Only in recent years had it blossomed. I am now having to face the fact that not only will I not have the relationship I had always hoped for, I will most likely never get to see them again (at least not face-to-face or on this side of heaven). My heart is having to say goodbye … for good. The finality of that fact is painful and the finality of the court proceedings brings fear for my heart. The consequences for their actions are appropriate, but knowing this does not remove the fear I have for their well-being.

 

God’s love to conquer it all

The guilty party is repentant. They have accepted Christ as their personal Savior. The victims are being counseled by loving Christians who understand the depth of pain the actions of the abuser have caused. The mother of the victims shared with me that, as they left the courtroom, “strangers” followed them out and hugged the family. They then circled around the family in the lobby and prayed over them. The mom has said she is in awe at how God provided “angels” (her words) at just the right time to love them and show the depth of God’s love for them.

 

This “storm” has caused an otherwise close family to experience division. The pain of that is weighing heavy on the mom of the victims. I have prayed with/for her and for wisdom in navigating family dissension. Not all family members are Christ followers. We continue to grieve, but through it all seek to follow the Lord’s leading to love well.

Posted by Webmaster Kentwood at Tuesday, July 26, 2016 | 0 comments

They used to always ask where the fathers were. Now it feels like the fathers are being killed…

 

They used to always ask where the fathers were. Now it feels like the fathers are being killed …

 

I woke this morning to news of another African American man shot and killed by White Police Officers in Louisiana. I showed my wife the video of the shooting. It was hard to watch and difficult to process. I will admit that my first reaction is not necessarily emotional; it is often analytical because, as the son of a retired police officer, I truly want to give people the benefit of the doubt. As the day progressed, I found myself growing increasingly frustrated as the typical cycle began:

  1. More is shared about the victim’s background than the shooter’s
  2. It is quickly suggested that the shooting has nothing to do with race but instead, everything to do with the rigors of police work
  3. The community rallies to protest while the media perches as if in hopes of more violence
  4. The shooter is placed on Administrative Leave while an investigation is conducted

As if this typical pattern is not heart-wrenching enough, in this instance a 15 year-old boy was screaming in tears at the news conference that he just wanted his father – his broken, sinful father, but his father nonetheless. ‪#‎AltonSterling

 

They used to always ask where the fathers were. Now it feels like the fathers are being killed…

 

I remember a time in our nation’s history, when a young African American would commit a crime that would be televised by the media, and some of the first comments you would see on news sites would be, “Where was this young person’s father?” Implying that fatherlessness was causing the moral decay of the African American community. Fatherlessness is a major problem. However, now, some years later, there are times when it feels like African American fathers are being systematically taken out, sometimes right in front of friends and family members. It feels systematic. It FEELS like it is systematic!!! I emphasize the feelings because some want to debate facts about data and statistics before they process feelings of grief, sadness and loss among a people group that looks different from their own. It is called empathy—trying to put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a moment. Empathy runs low these days in topics of race relations.

 

The typical news cycle follows. Protests, debates, and calls to action. Some will be vocal about the topic on social media but silent in real life. Some folks will be silent on social media and ACCUSED of being silent in real life. Yes, we have actually started to believe as a culture that if you are not talking about something on social media then you are not doing anything at all … not grieving, not organizing, not praying, not changing systems … not anything.

 

Don’t believe the hype.

 

There is often more going in the background at a relational level than what gets shouted from social media posts.

 

The Police Officers may be charged and found guilty or they may not be charged at all. Either way, the sin of racism will continue to permeate communities, and there will still only be one solution for sin – the transformative work of Jesus. There will still be people who claim to be Jesus’ followers that say and do ridiculous things that cast all Jesus followers in a negative light. Yet, Jesus will still be working through the power of the Holy Spirit and committed followers to bring peace, healing, reconciliation, and transformation in the midst of great brokenness.

My mission today is still the same as yesterday – lift up the name of Jesus as the only one who saves.

 

The very next morning I woke, somewhat re-engaged and refocused on continuing to reflect the love of Christ, speaking the truth in love, extending compassion and forgiveness, and working to promote unity rather than division. Imagine my shock to see and hear video of yet another African American man killed by a Police Officer. Another hashtag. Another video. Another viral story. Another protest. Another father … this time in front of a child. ‪#‎PhilandoCastile

 

I was overwhelmed with emotion. No analytical reaction this time, just raw emotion. I went to my 16 year-old son’s room, and gave him a big hug. All I could say to him was, “Be wise today. I love you.” He had no idea why I was waking him up to hug him. I want him to always know that he is loved by his father and loved by God.

 

It troubles me that because of gun violence, there are far too many fathers who can no longer hug their sons—fathers of all ethnicities—in fact, mothers as well. There are an increasing number of sons and daughters in the African American community who will no longer be able to hug their fathers and mothers.

 

It saddens me that we have become so divided as a nation that we have forgotten how to grieve with those who are grieving and mourn with those who are mourning.

 

It saddens me that as a Pastor, folks are fine with me talking about other sins, but when I bring up the sin of racism, it is suggested by some that I am being divisive and falling into the mainstream media’s plot to make everything about race. “Preach a word of conviction Pastor, but don’t try to convict us about THAT sin. You make folks feel guilty and uncomfortable.”

 

However, I am hopeful because more White folks on my social media feed spoke up regarding this incident than previously following this type of incident. That was encouraging.

 

They used to always ask where the fathers were. Now it feels like the fathers are being killed…

 

Honestly, I don’t know exactly what to say or do in terms of immediate next steps. I lean on God for wisdom. God has a plan. I continue to pray for our nation.

 

I hope people can be more compassionate and less dismissive.
I hope that people can recognize their own biases and work to eliminate them.
I hope people will pursue cross-cultural relationships and listen well.
I hope the facts come out within the legal process
I pray for peace, justice and comfort for all of the families involved.

 

Following the writing of the above … news of more violence brought on the following prayer …

 

Dear Lord, I am asking that you comfort the families of those Dallas Police Officers who were victims of sniper fire. I am asking in the name of Jesus, by the power of your Holy Spirit, that you will bring healing and recovery to those who were injured. Bring peace to the families of those who died in all these shootings. Lord, I know that violence in response to violence is not the answer. I especially pray for those law enforcement officers in my congregation and my community who serve faithfully seeking to honor you through their service.

 Lord, it is clear to me that spiritual revival is needed. Lord, use me as a mouthpiece to speak boldly about the power of your love to overcome evil. People are dying in sin. You have provided the cure, and the cure is Jesus. He is the one who reminded us to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. He is also the one who reminded us to love our enemies. I am asking for a mighty move of the Holy Spirit to sweep across this nation and world to facilitate change. May it begin with me, Lord.

 

As Christ-followers, give us opportunities to remind people with even the hardest of hearts that you love them, provided a way for them, want to empower them, adopt them, transform them, equip them and save them from themselves and the brokenness of this world. Use committed Christ-followers and Christ-centered churches to boldly speak truth, generously extend grace, and lavishly love on people who are angry, hurting, lost, broken, confused or apathetic.

 

Bring revival, Lord. Draw people to yourself in the coming days ... even those who think that you are not real, are irrelevant or are just plain mean. Thank you for giving the Church a real opportunity to step up and show the world some optimistic action rather than pessimistic despair. Help us to actually do what we say we believe. Make us into world changers. Amen.

 

I'm still processing, but thankful that I have Christ as my guide, and hopeful that I will be able to hug my sons, my wife, my father, my mother, my extended family and my friends for many days to come. ‪#‎JesusIsStillTheAnswer ‪#‎IChooseToLiftHimUp

 

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral; begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” 
#‎MartinLutherKing's 1967 "Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?" p67
Posted by Pastor Kyle Ray at Friday, July 8, 2016 | 3 comments

All About Perspective

 

 

It’s all about perspective.

 

Recently our Nagpur, India campus director was here visiting the Kentwood Campus and during that time we were able to enjoy a wonderful luncheon to connect with him that featured some tasty Indian food! It reminded me of my childhood and I found myself revisiting that time in my thoughts.

 

I was in 4th grade and living in Costa Rica.  My circle of “best friends" was an interesting group. There was me, the missionary kid. Gretchen, the daughter of a high ranking official at the American Embassy. Leslie, the daughter of a very wealthy Honduran sugar cane plantation owner and Anu, a little girl from India who lived with her mom while her father was a political prisoner in Costa Rica. Our perspective as children was simple. It didn’t matter where we came from, we just enjoyed playing with each other. We were besties and my perspective on life was good!

 

Perspective ... in a moment our perspective can completely change.

 

I have some very tough memories of events that happened the following year ... I was now in 5th grade, still the "missionary kid", but had a major shock to my young world. My dad was smuggling Bibles into Mexico and as a result, was arrested and put into jail in Mexico. I was there and witnessed the arrest, tough. He was eventually released ... but I remember the impact that had on me and on my perspective on the world. Now as an adult I remember my dad who, two years ago, died unexpectedly while doing something he really loved. He loved to watch birds in Gods great world and capture photos of them. He was able to photograph a bird he had been searching for for a long time just before he died. Memories of my dad ... the tough ones and the good ones ... shape my perspective.

 

I recently received some tough news once again. My brother, a godly man, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. We are at the beginning stages, I have no idea what is ahead. Again I am left considering my perspective as I think how this illness will affect him and our family. He shared a video after receiving the news of the following story that offered me some new insights on "perspective" ...

 

"A woman walked around a room of people talking about how we handle tough news/stress. She raised a glass of water as she walked. Everyone expected she would ask the classic, 'Is the glass half empty, or half full?' But instead she asked, 'How heavy is this glass of water?'. After receiving a few guesses she replied, 'The weight has no real significance. What does matter is how long one holds the glass. If I hold it for a minute, it doesn't feel so heavy. If I hold it for an hour, I'll eventually start cramping up in my arm. If I hold it all day, my arm will become numb and feel paralyzed."

 

As I look around at the people I work with, do life with, I see incredible burdens. Almost insurmountable burdens. "What matters is how long we hold the glass ..." But I know if we set our burdens down at the feet of Jesus, our lives will get lighter. Holding onto them, attempting to hold them up on our own ... will ultimately lead to feeling numb ... paralyzed. Our problems won't go away, but our perspective on them can change.

 

I pray for my brother. I ask others to pray. He has a wife and three young-adult children. He is overwhelmed and yet ... he is trusting in Jesus. Let’s remember to pray for one another and the burdens that we often try to carry; let’s give those burdens to Jesus! He will lighten our loads.

 

a guest post from Francine V. | Explore & Grow administrative staff

Posted by Webmaster Kentwood at Tuesday, May 17, 2016 | 0 comments

Overcoming Grief

 

 

As a man, I think culture expects us to be strong. To "man-up." To overcome our emotions. But the reality is ... losing a loved one can be a horrific and emotionally exhausting event in our life. GriefShare, a video series and support group for people grieving the loss of someone close offered at KCC, gave me a safe place to understand "loss" from psychologists, pastors, and professionals, as well as a community of others who understood my hurt, and reminded me I wasn't alone.

 

Now, I feel better equipped, as I've discovered REAL strength to overcome grief comes through my relationship with Jesus, and the community He's provided me.

 

The next session of GriefShare begins Wednesday, May 18, at 6:00p.m. at the Kentwood Campus. This 13-week class includes a video session, workbook and group discussion. The DVD series features Christian experts on grief and recovery from a biblical perspective. You are welcome to begin attending our GriefShare group at any point. Each session is "self-contained," so you can start at any time. For ages 16 and older. Cost is $20 for materials. To register, contact Shelly.

 

a guest post from Rob Hughes, vice-chair KCC Local Board of Administration 2016 and co-founder of R3 Coaching

Posted by Webmaster Kentwood at Wednesday, May 11, 2016 | 0 comments

A NEW Experience - Party On the Beach In Nagpur!

The Nagpur Campus of Kentwood Community Church marked its first holy week with services for Good Friday and Easter. These are the most remarkable days in the history of mankind when Christ was arrested, put to death and rose again to life! He did this for one reason, that we could be freed from the slavery of sin. He paid a heavy price!

 

We hope to be good hosts when it comes to our services, so that all who come feel welcomed, at peace with their surroundings and loved with the presence of God! We therefore carefully planned our Good Friday Service, as well as the Easter Service, with those goals in mind. We wanted to serve our community well. This also involved monitoring the time factor that we should not drain our friends and make them fall asleep! But no matter how hard we tried, we had so much to share about the sacrifice and love of Jesus, we still knew we would go quite a bit longer than our normal service.

 

The Good Friday service planned to focus on the final seven statements from Jesus as he hung on the cross. We invited Pastor Abhinav Paul (an alumni of Haggaii Institute) who preached a short sermon on each statement. We had friends who dropped in from several different churches to experience something new from their usual Easter practices.

 

The voice of the Lord was strong and the significance of His death on the cross for us was visible from the response of those attending … out of 122 people who came, over half stood up and made commitments to take next steps in their faith, including some who recommitted their lives during the Salvation Invite. We look forward to doing some follow up with them and see how we can walk with them to help bring consistency and spiritual growth in their walk with Christ.

 

Here are just a few highlights from the week:

  • Late at night when one of our staff was returning home, he spotted a guy who, from behind, looked like an old friend. When he stopped his moped and called out his name, it turned out to be a different guy, who happened to be Muslim. He managed to tell him about the service on Good Friday and invited him to come. He didn’t think he would show up but to his surprise that Muslim friend came, stayed for the entire service and loved every part of it! While he didn’t make any formal commitment, we are certain God spoke to him and we will continue to follow up with him in love.
  • Our normal Saturday service had a special blessing! Our regular band was given the chance to rest to prepare for the next day (Easter) and we had a new team lead us into worship instead. They did a fantastic job and we were all blessed by the amazing time of worship.
  • Our wonderful team of volunteers helped to make the Easter service a blessing! Though after two days of services, we were drained and a bit exhausted … the excitement kept us going. Many stayed late at night to get things ready for the next day. Blowing up the beach balls used in the service, among other things, sucked much of our energy, but we were up to the task! Though we are a small team of volunteers, we hope to grow in the coming days and the team we have, is amazing!

 

 

  • Sunday morning the worship band arrived at 8a which is unusual as for most of them, this is their normal time to wake, but they were there with hearts ready to worship and God was pleased with their sacrifice! With our run through complete, we were ready for the service! Despite a slightly lower attendance at this early service, we continued to worship and had a great beach party! 

  

 

Here are some Real Stories* of those who participated in the services:

  • A.– “Through the sermons at KCC, God always answer my questions. What a blessing KCC is to me.”
  • S. – A Muslim by culture, but a silent follower of Christ, is now an active member of the Worship Arts Ministry at KCC. Pastor Kyle’s Merciful Strangers sermon from the TroubleMakers series used a modern illustration of the Good Samaritan, giving the example of loving Muslims as our neighbors. This spoke to him practically, as the Nagpur KCC family is able to love on him every week. He feels proud and happy to be a part of the KCC family.
  • P. – who belongs to a non-Christian background, was invited to KCC by a friend and mentored by a local leader at KCC. She now calls KCC her home, takes care of wrapping up equipment after service and loves Christ. Last week her question was – “Is it necessary to have ‘hindu religion’ erased from my caste certificate (Educational Certificate) and replaced with Christian, will that be a way to heaven or just my believing in Christ will take me to heaven?” What joy to be able to share with her that trusting in Jesus as her Savior is all she needs!
    *Names are not shared to protect privacy

We are able to REACH all people, one of our aspirations, we are REAL and are making a difference in our community. At KCC Nagpur answers are found, lost souls are saved and broken lives are repaired by the power and grace of Jesus. We pray God continues to move powerfully at KCC Nagpur. We pray we can worship freely by His grace. Thank you to our KCC Family in the USA for your prayers. You must all visit us once, and experience for yourself the change your prayers and support are making in so many lives.

 

a post by Jatin Barse | worship arts director, kcc nagpur campus

Posted by Webmaster Kentwood at Thursday, March 31, 2016 | 3 comments

Spreading Hope and Joy | KCC's Response to the Flint Water Crisis

After arriving home from Flint, I’ve had this deep desire to share what was seen, heard and felt as I visited the churches and neighborhoods affected by the water crisis. However, each time I sit to type any part of this story out, I simply can find no good way to clearly paint the picture. There is just so much to share, stories,the good bad and ugly — but I do see a future of this mixed-up mess being used for something beautiful and good! Though I visited three churches, the one that laid heavy on my heart is Joy Tabernacle Church. Their statistics are: entirely African American congregation; located in the most affected neighborhood; no relief organizations have come through except for the National Guard once; residents received one case of water and pamphlets on how to pick up water way across town; many residents can only read at a third grade level or can’t read at all; lead levels in this community are so high on many of the blocks in this community, that filters cannot clean. Let me give you a story of just how devastated this community is, but also how determined Joy Tabernacle is!

 

Pastor Robert has been serving 15 years and receives no paycheck. The building is the oldest church structure in Flint and yet … is completely run down. Worship services are now conducted in the basement. Yet, this church is resilient! In the summer, the young men of the church look for ways to serve their community. These men bring lawn mowers, weed eaters or whatever they have and walk up and down the street for several block mowing the lawns of the abandoned, burnt-down and neglected houses. Whatever they can do to help bring hope and a sense of pride to their neighborhood.

 

With such great need resulting from the water crisis, in this already depressed area, in order to receive help from the other big relief organizations, residents must drive to the fire department, show ID and then they are given one case of water, per day, per family. There’s no door-to-door delivery in this neighborhood. Many residents in this specific community are elderly, sick (many due to the bad water), don’t drive or don’t have IDs. Therefore they cannot receive water! No drinking water, no cooking, no bathing/showering, no washing your laundry, basically no water to use except flushing a toilet. Residents are ill. Sickness results from first the lead poisoning and now, from the lowered hygiene practices due to lack of water. Their children are sick.. Hearing loss, memory loss, rashes, heart problems and the list goes on! The effects of lead poisoning is irreversible and long-term.

 

Flint Grassroots Initiative is a newly formed collaborative effort of The Wesleyan Church, Poured Out, Evangelical Covenant Church and the CCDA. KCC is partnering with this group as together we focus on this community and will continue to do so into the future! Our KCC trip on March 12 will be multi-faceted from loading water, delivering it to Joy Tabernacle Church, then distributing water and hygiene products to residents! Several homes that can use filters need faucets changed to allow filters to fit. KCC has a few plumbers who have volunteered to help this effort specifically. We realize passing out water and hygiene kits is a Band-Aid to resolving a bigger problem.We cannot fix the pipes or remove the lead but we can support and love on this community.

 

Hope is needed, water is needed … Jesus is needed! There is something to saying: “water is life” and we know that Jesus is the “living water” and only He can truly satisfy our hearts. This community needs His peace! Please pray for Flint, for this newly formed relief collaboration and for the volunteers who are preparing to serve with us on March 12. There’s a lot of work to do but we know God is on the move! This is only a small piece of what the picture is for our Michigan neighbors who live only two hours away. This is not a third world country—it’s literally in our backyard. Please prayerfully consider joining us! This trip will not be the last, we anticipate more dates happening over the next year.

 

Four Ways You can ENGAGE the Flint Water Crisis:

  1. Donate water (gallons or bottles), baby wipes and hand-sanitizer (both US campuses – ongoing)
  2. Give toward the purchase of water and filters at our special offering during the services on March 6
  3. Assemble hygiene kits following the service on March 6 (both US campuses)
  4. Go to Flint on Saturday, March 12 to distribute water and install filters (visit ENGAGE page on website for more info)
 

 a post by kristina herron | community engagement coordinator


Posted by Webmaster Kentwood at Friday, February 19, 2016 | 0 comments

Giving Our Utmost ... for His Glory

There was one sentence my friend used when we gathered together to pray, ‘break us (Lord) and allow us more trials’ that we may become stronger in our dependence on You."

 

When we first began to fast and pray together, we understood how much effort it would take for us to stay away from food and not give in to hunger. We all love food! But it was an amazing experience. To kick-start the year with fasting and prayer in utmost dedication was great. After a season of Christmas where we all indulged in, and thoroughly relished, every special dish that was served ... switching to a lifestyle of fasting caused us to pause. That pause helped us to look back and reflect on all the great things God has done in our lives, and also to look forward to some amazing things God is going to do, both in and through us.

 

This time of fasting and prayer also brought us together in fellowship, meeting together and lifting each other up in prayer and support. To be honest, fasting can be difficult. I found the first three days to be terrible as my body tried to adjust to different levels of fuel, but it does become easier as I progressed. Several of us who regularly attend the Nagpur Campus had made this commitment to fast and pray together from January 3 through 24. It required utmost faithfulness in prayer and spending quality time with God. Meeting together three times a week and praying for different issues,helped to maintain our focus and we saw wonderful spiritual results as well as building us as a community.

 

It was such a blessing to see one lady who is a new believer in Christ making a special effort to join us for prayer whenever it was possible for her. She comes each week with faith and looks forward to a day when her entire family will come to know the Truth of Jesus' love and be saved. There were several others who couldn’t make it for the times we met for prayer, but sent in prayer requests so that we could pray for them. In praying faithfully for them we hope they will be assured that we are there for them as a church family.

 

As I reflect on this time of fasting and prayer, I find life seems more disciplined, more organized and I feel the urge to spend more time in God’s presence. My body feels healthier and prayers are being answered, we are seeing growth at KCC Nagpur. We find we are able to hear God speaking more powerfully during our services, and through this, lives are being impacted. Talking to God brings change. Prayers are vital and it’s so important to spend quality time talking to Him. We believe God will bring clarity in our vision for 2016 as we look forward to achieving our goals, both as a church and as individuals in faith.


Taking time to fast and dedicate quality time to spend with God and others in prayer, I can highly recommend! I am confident that introducing the discipline of fasting to your life ... once a week, month or whenever possible, can help you to focus on hearing God's voice so that you may follow Him.

 

a post by Jatin Barse | worship arts director, kcc nagpur campus

Posted by Webmaster Kentwood at Wednesday, January 27, 2016 | 0 comments

Unity of Spirit

This summer 107 people who call KCC their church home came together to support World Vision’s water projects as they trained to participate with Team World Vision in the annual Grand Rapids Marathon. This is but one of many races across the country (six just this past weekend!) in which Team World Vision helps to encourage local churches and groups to participate in a marathon event in order to raise funds for clean water.

 

This year's Grand Rapids Marathon took place Sunday, October 18, 2015, and it was a beautiful day to run for clean water! Over $236,000 of the $250,000 goal for this event has been raised thus far by the 361 team world vision runners in Grand Rapids--enough to provide clean water for life to more than 4,700 people.

 

The 107 participants from KCC had an amazing experience together, not only at the race, but training together over the past several months. They met for group runs each Saturday since June to encourage and support one another to not only meet the physical goal of training for a marathon or half-marathon, but to celebrate each life saved by the dollars so generously given. This diverse group, joined together around a common cause, working together and supporting each other, was incredible. The unity of spirit in Jesus, shown by the group, is a reflection of the community of KCC as a whole. This event was a great expression of our vision to:

 

  • REACH (those receiving the gift of clean water, the donors, and the friends and family of those running with the love of Jesus)
  • ENGAGE (our community and world by meeting a desperate need for water, and for hope in Christ)
  • AWAKEN (spiritual growth as they sacrificed time, demonstrated good stewardship of resources and disciplined their bodies) 
  • LAUNCH (by serving in the effort to raise funds and by supporting and encouraging one another)

 

As a church family, we believe in supporting World Vision’s water projects in Africa because they are "... comprehensive, complex and sustainable. They engage the community, religious leaders and local government. After rigorous assessment, engineers choose from different types of water points depending on the geography and the needs of a community. Projects also focus on improved sanitation and hygiene solutions like building latrines and organizing communities to implement good habits such as handwashing."*  

 

Thank you to all who supported this effort!  

 

 

 

Here are a few testimonies from KCC participants …  

 

"Only God could have done this. Even though I was in pain I couldn't stop smiling. Thanks to all that were encouraging me through out the course and those who have been an encouragement during these months of training. You people are amazing best team ever!! I could have never done it without you guys. Love you!! 

 

“Completed my first Half Marathon today with team world vision to raise funds for clean water. I had 20 donations come in before the race and together we provided CLEAN WATER FOR LIFE to 26 people!! So thankful for all the wonderful support from so many. It was a good day.”

 

“As I drove home in reflection, I got a little choked up (and still do) - as I remember running the last 100 yards, and seeing my amazing wife on the sidelines, and then my 3 little boys joyfully darting into the street and running alongside me to the finish. I PRAISE GOD for the children in Africa that NOW can laugh and play, and delight in life more than traveling the many brutal hours, carrying heavy jugs of water (I’ve picked them up. Unbelievable.) for their family every day. I can hear their joy and see their smiles as the tears fall down my face. What an honor to be a part of this touch of God, and the many people on my personal team that helped make it happen. What a blessing you have given me. Heartfelt thanks.”

 

We survived. It was really hard and I am glad it's over but being a part of Team World Vision and knowing that in the process of running we are helping change lives makes it all worth it!!!

 

 *Source: teamworldvision.org    
Posted by Webmaster Kentwood at Wednesday, October 21, 2015 | 0 comments

The Pace of Life

Jesus took the time to show his love and listen to those he encountered; he asked the same of His disciples. The disciples were told by Jesus to drop their nets (or the things that kept them busy) and simply follow Him, that they might learn from him. God’s word tells us that Simon, Andrew, James and John all dropped their nets immediately.  

 

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. Mark 1:16–20 (NIV)

 

 

 

There have been times in my life in which I have not been willing or perhaps reluctant to, “drop my net” to be fully attentive to Jesus. I have discovered that this sort of behavior stems from a lack of boundaries in my life.

 

A few years ago the Lord challenged me to develop and define clearer personal boundaries. This came as a result of personal prayer, reflection and the reality of needs not being met within my own family. I began to recognize that I was “carrying my nets” nearly all of the time and that those nets were getting in the way of hearing from the Holy Spirit or simply taking the time to love others the way I should.

 

My natural default is to live life at “full throttle” keeping busy with ministry activities, work deadlines and frankly, doing things that have no real significance in Kingdom building efforts. All of these things (and more) represent the “nets” in my life. Certainly, I can bring honor to the Lord fulfilling these responsibilities, however, I must continue to ask myself, “are my motives always God centered, am I really bringing honor to Him with my busyness?”

 

I find it pretty easy to hide behind my nets “for the sake of the Kingdom” ... it is more difficult for me to drop my nets “for the sake of the Kingdom”.  

 

a post by Renee Diaz | kcc staff   

Posted by Webmaster Kentwood at Wednesday, October 7, 2015 | 0 comments

A People in Crisis

 

We had a very different border experience today.

 

God kept our team of six safe as we traveled to the border of Macedonia. Located in south-eastern Europe, Macedonia is currently one of many European countries receiving an overwhelming influx of refugees from Syria. As KCC missionaries in Macedonia, we had the opportunity to experience being inside the refugee camp that has been established. It was a little surreal walking through thousands of desperate people while carrying diapers and baby wipes while being escorted by police officers in riot gear. God  allowed us to play a very small role in an overwhelming situation for several hours by distributing care items in the name of Jesus. By the grace of God we were able to pray with some small groups of people intrenched in this situation, and in doing so, to learn how better to serve those involved in this crisis in both the near and long term future.

 

   

 

God also allowed us to help answer questions for many refugees (who knew so many Syrians spoke great English!) who didn't have a clue what was going on. For example, how and where to catch the bus to the Serbian border, or that the Macedonian trains are no longer functioning because the train drivers are now on strike, or that it is unwise to take taxis as the advertised price is not really what you'll be charged, or that the police yelling at you in a foreign language are really trying to help you, or that Hungary has closed its borders to refugees and you must now try to find asylum in Germany! How could one possibly know any of this after traveling by foot the last three weeks? Not all of our answers were of the variety we liked to give ... but we hope, at least this way they now have a more realistic understanding of their next steps. Perhaps with better information, they can try to come up with a "plan B."

 

  
 

As of September 10, 2015, over 3 million people have fled their home country of Syria. None of us know what that is like. There were approximately 10,000 refugees in the camp the day we were there, with that same amount coming in the next 24 hours. What the media is reporting (3000 people per day) is not anywhere close to reality. There is not near enough infrastructure, volunteers, means of effective communication or resources to meet the large spectrum of needs of people coming to Macedonia through Greece.  

 

PLEASE CONTINUE PRAYING that our team and church here, with limited volunteers and resources, can continue to be an effective part of the relief efforts. In addition pray for discernment and that the Church worldwide will step up during this crisis.

 

 a guest post by Joel & Tiffany Toonstra | KCC missionaries in Macedonia


If you want to ENGAGE Globally and donate to help provide relief, you may do so through the refugee relief fund of the Wesleyan Church, of which KCC is a part.

 

Posted by Webmaster Kentwood at Wednesday, September 16, 2015 | 0 comments

Be the Dream, Sharing through Mentoring

I love to reflect on the vision that God has given KCC in this season. There are 13 words: REACH all people, ENGAGE the community, AWAKEN spiritual growth, and LAUNCH everyone into service. One of the ways that I personally get to ENGAGE the community is through the Be The Dream Initiative in partnership with the Kentwood Public Schools.  Back in 2012, the superintendent of the Kentwood Public Schools approached me about a specific need in the elementary schools in Kentwood. He and others realized that it was possible to go through your entire elementary school career in this incredibly diverse school district yet never have an African American male teacher. Obviously, there are some deeper issues to address such as recruitment of diverse teachers and intentional efforts of the staff to reflect the diversity in the surrounding community. In the meantime, it was determined that if we could raise up 75 African American men from the community to read for 60 minutes per week (two classrooms at 30 minutes each), then we could cover every elementary school classroom in Kentwood. The Be The Dream initiative was born in 2012.  

 

I have been joyfully serving as a reading mentor for the past three years with the privilege of reading with children, aged kindergarten thru 4th grade. No, I have not ventured into the wild and crazy world of 5th graders yet! (That would be a whole different story!) One session that stands out to me was around Easter this past year when I was reading a book about Easter. One first grader defiantly asked the question, “What is Easter all about anyway?” I responded that it is a holiday that many people in the community who are known as Christians celebrate because a man named Jesus who had been dead came back to life for a pretty amazing purpose. This first grader declared, “My family doesn’t celebrate any holidays!” I responded that it was okay if his family does not celebrate holidays. However, before I could say anything else, other children began to describe why they celebrate Easter, the meaning of Easter, and what it meant to their families. I felt like God not only protected me from violating any school rules about proselytizing but He used this young man’s peers in a powerful way to share the most important story in human history. I love serving in the Be The Dream Initiative as a reading mentor.

 

As a congregation, we are constantly in recruiting mode for people who want to engage the community more deeply. If you are interested in serving, simply call KCC and ask to speak with someone on the ENGAGE team about serving as a mentor or a tutor. Even if it is not through the Be The Dream Initiative, it would be great to find a way to get you plugged into the surrounding community.

 

A post from Kyle Ray | lead pastor   

Posted by Webmaster Kentwood at Wednesday, September 9, 2015 | 0 comments

Praying Through

This week several staff and KCC attenders are doing prayer-walks throughout the neighborhoods surrounding the Kentwood Campus. Our Wyoming Campus has been doing weekly prayer walks since mid-August, and will continue to meet over the next several weeks, eventually covering a one-mile radius surrounding the campus.

 

Why are we doing this?

 

When we pray for others (intercessory prayer) it not only expresses our love for our neighbor, but it draws us personally closer to the heart of God.

 

You may have heard prayer walking described as "praying onsite with insight" ... walking through a specific neighborhood one can see with their own eyes the condition of the neighborhood and even have the opportunity to meet the people in the area through which they walk. It opens the door for our communities to meet us as well.

 

Last week, a group from our Wyoming Campus was able to pray with a gentleman during their walk who was experiencing several health crises in his family. He was so thankful for the prayers offered up and for the love shown to him by those who prayed. At our Kentwood Campus this week, a group was able to walk and pray through the grounds of the local High School and Middle School, and even pray over the buses that will carry students all year long. One participant shared:

 

"It was amazing, the power of prayer. I have great confidence in the prayers that were prayed for the students, teachers, administration and bus drivers. God burdened my heart for the brokenness and the potential healing that will take place as Christ-followers stand brave and firm this coming school year. I expect our students will be sharing Christ and many wonderful stories of how God is working in their own lives as well as the lives of others on those campuses. Praising God in advance for the answered prayers!"

 

Focusing on the people who are outside the walls of our church and sharing with them the Good News of the love and forgiveness of Jesus is at the core of who we are as a church! We desire to live our lives as an act of worship, doing everything as if we are doing it for God. We pursue and listen to God in faith, through prayer, as His Spirit guides us.

 

Will you join in "praying through"?

 

Praying through your neighborhood. Praying through your school. Praying through your family. Praying through this life God has granted ... to reach all people with the all-surpassing love of Jesus.

 

by Tammie Sandlin  | communications director

Posted by Webmaster Kentwood at Wednesday, August 26, 2015 | 0 comments

We Need Community!

Because of the faithfulness of the KCC family, the Woodfield Community Center is finishing its ninth summer. KCC has been able to provide a safe place for the children of Woodfield to play and learn about God. This year, we have an incredible team of close to 30 volunteers! Many are KCCers, some are from other area churches, and a few are Woodfield residents themselves. It has been inspiring to see families and multiple generations of leaders working together in this ministry.

We wanted to share some stories from the students who enjoy being a part of the ministry that happens throughout the summer. These kids touch our hearts! It is such a joy to share the love of God with them!

 

According to 6-year old Christian, 100 is the number of hugs each volunteer might receive during a night at the Woodfield Community Center. When Christian first started attending the Community Center in 2014, he barely spoke English. His family recently moved here from the Congo. The Congo is by far the most represented country of origin for many of our children. This year, Christian and his sisters have been known to teach some of the volunteers Swahili (and you should hear the giggles when he teaches them words such as chicken instead of I love you without them knowing it.)

 

Christian’s 7-year old cousin, Francine, gets a good laugh out of this as well. Francine’s favorite activity is coloring and drawing. She usually draws a sun, and writes the words, “I love community!” all over the paper. God has taught us some of the greatest lessons through the children at Woodfield, and Francine reminds us of an important one: we need community! We need each other. We need friends, family, and neighbors to walk through life with us. The Woodfield residents are neighbors of KCC, and together, we provide a place of belonging for children and families in our community.

 

Want to know more? Visit our Woodfield Community Center page!

 

by Mandy Vanderhill  | woodfield community center

Posted by Webmaster Kentwood at Wednesday, August 19, 2015 | 0 comments

Press On

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” [Philippians 3:13-14 NIV]

 

When Paul writes the words, "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead", we have to wrestle with what that means in real life. For Paul, it meant forgetting his days as a persecutor of the Church. It also meant forgetting his days as an ethnocentric, legalistic Pharisee who thought he could earn God's favor. Paul's forward focus involved building up the Church, including all people, and embracing the free gift of grace.

 

What does that mean for the Church today?

 

First, it means forgetting the patterns of sin that may have dominated our past. Whatever sins we may have struggled with in the past, they are not what define us now. Christ-followers have been delivered in amazing ways from past sins. However, some of us seem to live the rest of life trying to make up for the years when we did not know God. We get caught up in a new form of legalism that can never bring joy as we try to earn God's favor. Embrace the grace of Jesus that has been poured out upon you. If anyone knows that your heart has been transformed, it is God. Stop trying to prove it to God, and simply live in the new identity that God has given you.

 

Second, it means finding hope and healing from any wounds from our past. KCC has a great ministry called Celebrate Recovery, which meets every Monday evening in groundzero at the Kentwood Campus. It is a place where people can be real about the hurts, habits, and hang-ups in their lives. While our past hurts will always be a part of our story, those wounds do not represent our new identity. Our new identity is rooted and established in Christ. We have people in our congregation who have been victimized by abuse, neglect and abandonment, but Paul's words remind us that victory is found in pressing on. We press on by remembering that Jesus carried our wounds, our suffering and our shame to the cross. Of course, counseling has its place and the role of community is powerful, but Paul reminds us here that a big part of pressing on is making the conscience choice to move ahead rather than dwelling on the past.

 

Make the choice today to focus on hope for the future. click to tweet

 

Finally, it means reaching out to all people in your sphere of influence. I live in a diverse community with people from many different ethnic, socioeconomic and generational backgrounds. Kentwood Community Church is a congregation that just 16 years ago was made up of predominantly of one ethnic and socioeconomic group. Now the congregation is made up of people from a variety of nations with varying ethnic, socioeconomic, and generational backgrounds. Our congregation has an amazing past, but our congregation also has a very bright future as we embrace the vision that God has given us.  

 

We aspire to

            REACH all people,

            ENGAGE the community,

            AWAKEN spiritual growth, and

            LAUNCH everyone into service.  

 

The goal is to embrace the prize that God already has set aside for us - eternal life with God in Heaven. One way that we look at it in the life of KCC is that eventually, we will be worshipping with every tribe, nation and language in eternity, so we might as well get some practice now.  

 

We press on towards what is ahead by getting out of our comfort zones and sharing the love and truth of Jesus with all people, not just the ones who we are most comfortable reaching.  

 

I want to encourage you today to press on and walk in victory over sin, shame and the past. God has a bright future for you and for the Church. Press on!!  

 

A post from Kyle Ray | lead pastor  

Posted by Webmaster Kentwood at Wednesday, August 12, 2015 | 0 comments

A Heart for Nagpur

After returning to Nagpur this past March to fulfill my calling to serve at KCC, I was excited and very much looking forward to accomplishing the task of preparing the campus meeting space for the upcoming launch. That excitement quickly turned to determination and a deep reliance on God. When I arrived the amount of work yet to be done was so great, it was completely overwhelming. We had so few days and so very much to accomplish.

 

We began right away. The entire venue needed to be acoustically treated. We had to purchase wood, glass-wool, cloth, hire laborers for the task and then explain what was needed and set a schedule for the work to be done. It was an uphill task where everything looked absolutely impossible to achieve in such a short span of time. It was easy to see, we would have to have the help of the Lord if we were to complete the work! We got together, prayed and started to move forward with the work. Remembering the heart Nehemiah had to rebuild the wall ... encouraged us to continue, almost without stopping. One obstacle we immediately came up against ... the start of the terrible summer months, with temperatures hitting 40° Celsius, (104° F) and rising to 45° C (113° F) as we began the work. We trusted that God had a plan. If the task were simple and easy to do we wouldn’t have had to totally depend upon God. We wouldn’t have come together to see how God works through prayer and by bringing us into fellowship to uplift each other and to achieve greater things than we could ever have accomplished on our own.

 

As we followed God's call and prayed through the process, we were able to reach out to the people involved, especially to the laborers. There were times when we were able to show Christ’s love in surprising ways. One worker who did the electric fitting has now become a regular attender at our services! He even joined the Tech Team to work on designing/running the lighting each week and through this, he is expressing a great heart for the Lord. Another instance was when one of the carpenters had an accident and fell off his ladder, dislocating his shoulder. It was scary, but God was in control and he was able to receive the care he needed. We were able to be with him, supporting him as part of our family. He is back to work and is now doing well. Finally, God gave immense patience to our family members, who allowed us to take time away from home as we stayed late for many days. We are so grateful for their sacrifice and forbearance. God provided strength so that we could withstand the heat and the workload. God gave favor, provision and protection.

 

Before the launch we were also blessed with many people who had pledged to serve, volunteering in areas like ushering, worship team, greeters and tech crew. It was a special feeling to see the Worship Arts Ministry (WAM) team grow as that is the team I am directly leading. As we hold regular meetings and fellowship together we are focused on growing together as WAM family. Building our worship team for the preview services and for the launch was actually not that challenging. We were blessed with many talented people who were ready to serve. The challenging part? Most were used to playing in a concert setting. To put them in a church service was where the challenge came in. With the amazing venue God had provided for the Nagpur Campus, many would see the lighting and sound technology available and start thinking, "it's gonna be a concert every week!". It's still a challenge, but folks are beginning to understand what it means to lead as part of a church service. It is truly a blessing to serve with them!

 

God has a heart for Nagpur and He wants this city running into His arms. Though KCC is an entirely new way of "doing church" for the people of Nagpur, we trust will see greater things yet to come, for we know ... "Your (Our) beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your (our) future be." (Job 8:7)

 

a post by Jatin Barse | worship arts director, kcc nagpur campus

Posted by Webmaster Kentwood at Wednesday, July 29, 2015 | 0 comments

Once In A Lifetime?

In 2011 my husband and I had an opportunity to explore a remote area of Alaska on Kodiak Island. The opportunity was presented to us and we could not pass it up! By definition, “once in a lifetime” implies that the experience will be memorable and exceptionally rare. Our trip certainly lived up to that definition.


 

 

“Once in a lifetime” is a phrase we often use in an effort to persuade others to participate in an activity, purchase an item or simply, add a little drama to our storytelling. It has become such a cliché that we are oblivious to its true meaning and the impact such an experience may have on our lives.

 

I can think of many times in my life in which the Lord presented me with (presumably) “once in a lifetime” experiences. A few of the more challenging experiences provided me with the opportunity to grow in my faith. Other experiences such as the trip to Alaska, I consider to be a gift of love from the Lord.

 

I believe there is another important element to be considered in regards to “once in a lifetime” experiences or opportunities. Perhaps, the experience or opportunity is not about me after all? Consider the everyday citizen who steps up to assist a person facing a life-threatening situation. Surely, the rescuer did not wake up that morning planning to save a life! Likewise, the person facing the perilous situation did not anticipate this “once in a lifetime” experience. At least two lives are forever impacted, and forever changed.

 

As a Christ-follower I believe that God orchestrates many of life’s experiences. I also believe that God may choose to involve us in those experiences in order to be His instrument in the “once in a lifetime” experience of another human being. Wow.

 

Christian singer/songwriter Greg Long has a song entitled, “Fifteen.” The premise of the song is that you or I may be the first, fifth, seventh or somewhere in the line, of those who are to REACH out and share the love of Christ with a spiritually lost person. Greg challenges us to consider that it may take as many as fifteen people reaching out to share the love of Jesus, before that person chooses to follow Christ as their Lord and Savior. I am challenged by this song and by God’s truth, to reach out and share my faith. After all, this “once in a lifetime” decision will impact a life for eternity!  

 

As instruments of Christ the weight of this truth rests on our shoulders. There is joy in this awareness as well. Witnessing a “once in a lifetime” decision to follow Jesus Christ is something one never forgets. Being used as God’s instrument ... is even more breathtaking. I often ask Jesus, “please open my eyes and heart to many more ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunities to share your truths!” Will you do the same?

 

a post by Renee Diaz | kcc staff  

Posted by Webmaster Kentwood at Wednesday, July 15, 2015 | 0 comments

How should we pray?

I was once in a group of people praying together who prayed for sunny skies and no rain because of a week-long children’s event being held at their church. Earlier that same day, listening to a Christian radio station, the announcer had asked all Christians to join with communities who had been praying for rain, for drought relief.

 

Witnessing these two opposite requests I thought, "who would God answer?".

 

I’m sure at this very moment, there are believers praying for outcomes in their schools, communities and perhaps even in their churches, that do not always agree with the prayer requests of their fellow believers. 

 

Who will God answer?  

 

I’m confused. Does He take sides?

 

Everybody knows about prayer – and nobody knows about prayer. Books by the hundreds have been written on prayer – most of them a little different. Prayers for “things” have been answered while others have prayed for “things” for years with seemingly no answer.

 

Jesus prayed. What did He pray for?

  • He prayed for “oneness” of His followers (John 17:11, 20-21)
  • He prayed prayers of praise and thanksgiving (Luke 10:21, Mark 14:22)
  • He prayed for the Kingdom to be established on earth (Matthew 6:9-13)
  • He prayed for the Father’s will to be done (Marl 14:32-39)
  • He prayed that others may know the Father (Matthew 11:25-26)
  • He prayed that all He did would bring glory to the Father (John 12:27-28)
  • He prayed for protection from evil and temptation (Luke 11:2-4)
  • He prayed for the necessities of life (Matthew 6:9-13)

I’m no expert on prayer. For me, prayer brings me closer to God. Closer to knowing how to act and how to be His hands and feet while on this earth. I don't want to pray for things, God knows my needs before I do. Instead, I will try and remember what Jesus prayed for and try to do likewise.

 

How is God calling you to pray today?

 

 a guest post from pastor Phil Smart |  Director of Church Engagement at World Hope International*

*Reposted from an July 2012 KCC blog.

Posted by Webmaster Kentwood at Wednesday, June 24, 2015 | 0 comments

Hang Out to Hang In

 

Picnics, campfires, family vacations, sailing, gazing at the stars trigger thoughts of summertime. Officially, the summer season is 90 days long, although residents of Michigan optimistically state that we have about four good summer months.

  • How are you going to spend your summer?
  • Do you have any plans for the summer?
  • Are you taking a summer vacation trip somewhere?

 I’m sure we’ve all been asked questions like these more than once.  

 

How about it; anything different about how you will spend your time and who you might spend time with? Often we plan numerous activities for the sole purpose of spending time with others outdoors. Imagine with me hearing waves gently rolling into the shore, listening to the birds, smelling flowers, soaking up some warm rays … do you ever share these season blessings with anyone or do you fly solo? Where are you on the "hang out" scale? Do you have lots of hang out time with family and friends or just a little? Taking time to "hang out" with others meets a deep need that helps us "hang in" ... to stay engaged and to participate in the gift of life that God has given each of us.

 

Hanging out with others also pleases God. Psalm 133:1 expresses that: “See, how good and how pleasing it is for brothers to live together as one!” (The Voice)

 

God also promises us that He participates when we hang out. Leviticus 26:12 states His promise: “I will walk among you and be your God. And you will be My people.” (The Voice)  

 

I recently read that a psychology professor said: “People need someone to whom they can tell the story of their lives”. All of us have a story and all of us have a profound longing for friendship … for hanging out. All of us desire that kind of connection that makes our lives significant to someone else.  

 

God will bless your efforts to risk yourself to others. Hanging out does help with the hanging in. So, who are you going to watch the sun set with this summer?

 

a post by Tricia Chapman | executive pastor

 

Posted by Webmaster Kentwood at Wednesday, June 10, 2015 | 0 comments

Getting to the "Root"

The day started off like any other Sunday. We were blessed that day to spend time caring for our precious little grandchildren. Soon after their departure however, I began experiencing a throbbing sensation in my lower jaw. It did not take long before I realized it was going to be a long night. A call to the dentist led to an appointment with a specialist within the next few days. I was surprised to learn that the actual problem was not coming from my lower jaw but rather, an upper molar. Perplexed, I asked why. The specialist explained that pain in the jaw area can be a bit tricky in determining the source. Jaw pain can be misleading … drawing your attention to one area when it is really another area that is in trouble. As I have begun to heal from the solution … a root canal, I have been thinking about how often this is true in how our sin and/or life problems come to light.

 

How many times have I exhibited frustration over a circumstance, when really the problem lies within me? How many times have I searched and searched for an answer to a problem only to realize that God, His Word and His people are available to me night and day? The pain of circumstances may appear to be related to “this person” or “that situation”, but when the issue is placed under God’s “microscope” the magnification allows me to see that the root of the problem is simply … unconfessed sin within me. Root canals are no fun, but sometimes they become necessary. Uncovering and confessing sin within is a bit like a root canal. It results in a release from pain while exposing any hidden infections. The pain served a purpose, but the healing process brings on a new and better day!

 

Left untreated, a localized tooth problem can cause a wider range of problems in the future.  I suppose I could have ignored my aching tooth (though that seemed quite impossible at the time). If I had I taken that road, I am quite certain I would still be on the sofa in the fetal position (yes, it hurt that much) moaning about how “I wish it would just go away.” Inaction rarely works … so I get off the sofa, “make the call” and, through the grace of my Savior, my problem is solved. With the antibiotics of prayer, God’s Word and a little time, all is soon well.

 

There have been times when I have allowed the infection of sin to fester in my life. My decision to stumble around in my own sin and despair (and yes, it is a choice) goes “untreated” and before long, that sin brings me to my knees. There may be consequences I will need to deal with HOWEVER, my God is a God of forgiveness and restoration. With JESUS and time, all is well.  

 

 a post by Renee Diaz | kcc staff

Posted by Webmaster Kentwood at Wednesday, June 3, 2015 | 0 comments

LOL³

In today’s high tech, fast-paced, texting-savvy world; it appears that a whole new language has emerged. We moved from formal English to American English to culture specific slang words to acronyms and acrostics. What has caused this “new” language to emerge is for the purpose of communicating faster and more frequently. I sometimes have to stop and think about the degree of effectiveness this fast-paced communicating approach is having on relationships. Texting, emailing, tweeting are all written communication tools … what has happened to having a conversation with another over coffee or tea or on the telephone?

 

Imagine for a moment if our entire conversation was a series of slang/shorthand expressions. Then I would have to say, "why bother meeting for coffee?". That’s not to say there isn’t value in abbreviating some expressions and words; but for sure that shouldn’t take the place of a heart-to-heart conversation.  

 

For the purposes of this blog; I thought I’d have some fun with slang expressions; thus; the title, LOL³. Why LOL³? Well, LOL commonly represents two different expressions … I created a third. Read on and you’ll see.  

 

Back in the day when people hand-wrote letters and mailed them through the postal service; many times folks added the expression: Lots of Love. Lots of Love became the first LOL and those three letters were written on letters and envelopes too. The content of the letter was written with lots of love intended for the person receiving it. The author was sending along LOL.  

 

From Lots of Love we move to another expression of LOL that means, Laugh out Loud. This is where the person that’s communicating thinks the content of what they’re sharing is funny and basically intends for the other person to "Laugh out Loud". My question for this LOL is:  Wouldn’t it be more fun to LOL with another person instead of at your computer monitor or mobile phone screen? I realize that we can’t share all of our funny moments "live" with someone; so perhaps sharing this LOL would brighten another person's day.    

 

Finally, may I suggest yet one more slang/shorthand expression of LOL? Labor of Love. This is simply love in action, speaking kind words, approaching conflict with a gentle spirit, acting out of love expecting nothing in return. This LOL can be an act of worship when it is done because of the love we have for God. I Thessalonians 1:3 says: “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NIV)   When we express a LOL (Labor of Love) we bring God glory and we bring help to another. As Christ followers are we not commanded to do acts of service with love? If we had to keep track of all the times we offered a LOL; would our list be long or short? Do we offer a LOL for others, do we share our funny stories for others as a LOL, does our LOL reflect Christ’s character?  

 

When we serve it is a LOL (Labor of Love) for others because of what Jesus did to serve us. Will you immerse yourself in discovering and growing in your God-given SHAPE so that your LOL will impact the Kingdom even more? How can Launching into service at KCC be a LOL?

 

a post by Tricia Chapman | executive pastor 

Posted by Webmaster Kentwood at Wednesday, May 27, 2015 | 0 comments

Inappropriate? Maybe not ...

I was recently on a short motorcycle ride here in Grand Rapids. Heading down one street, I noticed the neighborhood beginning to change. More and more buildings that were either vacant or looked older and run-down began to whiz by. A few blocks up the road I saw a large cluster of motorcycles, most were of the "Harley" variety. They were all parked together in a lot in front of an older building with no windows. There was also a group of … I guess the best term is “bikers” hanging around outside.

 

Well, my curiosity and love of motorcycles (plus my inappropriate desire to insert myself into situations that don't concern me) caused me to disregard the apparent “bad neighborhood” and pull into their parking lot to find out what was going on. It quickly became apparent that all the safety gear I customarily wear: helmet, gloves, body-armored jacket and pants, were slightly different from the apparel of the folks riding these motorcycles. Plus, there was also the fact that I was riding a Triumph motorcycle (a British, not American, bike). So … perhaps I didn’t quite “fit in”.

 

Regardless, I stepped up to them, unstrapped my helmet, adjusted my beard (in a feeble attempt to try and fit in) and said, “Hi, I am Pastor Bill, from Kentwood Community Church. What's going on?” The response … dead silence. I had not quite anticipated that reaction. It was then that I noticed a larger gentleman to my left. He was sporting all the traditional biker gear and tattoos to boot! Eventually, he took a long look at me and said, “I’m ‘Chaos’.” I paused and said, “I believe you. That’s a cool name.” Apparently, that was enough to “break the ice” and it was then I learned that they were doing a fundraiser for the President of their club in order to cover some of his medical bills. I asked if I could make a donation and they replied in the affirmative.

 

As I walked around their club, the President came up to me and asked, “Who are you again?” Again I responded, “Pastor Bill, from Kentwood Community Church.” We began to talk and he told me his story of having a heart attack and of having to be revived from being “dead.” I told him, “I can't help but ask, where are you with Jesus?” He said he and Jesus were “cool.” As we continued to chat I learned that he had grown up in a Pentecostal church. We talked some more and I met a few other folks from their club. I’m glad I stopped and talked with this group hanging out in what might be considered a “rough part” of town … however, in light of our vision to REACH all people, I continue to have this nagging sense that there is more to do.

 

Have you ever felt prompted to stop and “insert yourself in a situation that doesn’t concern you”? How did you respond? What did God show you?

 

A post from Bill Johnson | oasis teaching pastor


Posted by Webmaster Kentwood at Wednesday, May 13, 2015 | 2 comments

Destiny ...

“Jesus commands my destiny!” ... this one line gives me hope like no other phrase.

 

Keith Getty and Stuart Townend together wrote a song back in 2001 entitled, In Christ Alone. Set to a strong Irish melody, the song tells the amazing story of our Savior in such a powerful way. Whenever I hear it, I am reminded that even death could not contain Jesus and that this matchless power of Christ actually lives in me. I have a God-given destiny! Before I was even one day old, my days were planned and written in God’s book (Psalm 139:16 NCV). So when life is a struggle, when I am misjudged, when I am treated unjustly, Jesus continues to command my destiny. It’s my choice to stay in His will when I pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven …” When He guides me in one direction or another it’s my decision to follow. If people or circumstances try to get in the way, Jesus is not surprised. He knows the way around the obstacle. Jesus wants to fulfill my destiny even more than I do.

 

When my words are twisted and I am unfairly criticized, I remember that during His arrest, Jesus’ words were twisted, but He remained silent. Always conscious of His destiny – to save and free those who would trust in Him – Jesus carefully monitored and structured each life-giving word … and stayed quiet when He knew His words would be misconstrued or misused. Remembering that Jesus has a destiny in mind for me, should influence the words I speak.

 

For the last few years God has urged me to go to Seminary. I have put it off for various reasons: "there are lots of things I would rather do, school is expensive, God has not told me WHY He wants me to go" ... one person even discouraged me because of my age ... but those are all excuses. The longer I delay, the longer I will continue to miss out on all God has planned for me in serving Him in this way. We do it all the time. In fact, you could go through your entire life and completely miss God’s purpose – just by choosing to ignore His voice and listening to your own instead. If we spend all our time chasing pleasure, popularity or money instead of God, we will miss out on the amazing purpose and plan God has for us. And that’s tragic.

 

What is Jesus nudging you to do – big or small? Does Jesus command your destiny?

Posted by Jill Bennett at Wednesday, April 29, 2015 | 2 comments

Free ... from Facebook?!

a blog post from kathy rc | pastor of spiritual formation

 

I have become accustomed to people looking at me with disbelief when I tell them I am not on Facebook. Typically, that truth about my life comes out when people say something like, “I’m sure you saw ____________________ on Facebook” or “Check out __________________ on Facebook.” That conversation has happened enough for me, that I believe my choice demands an explanation. First of all, I am not philosophically against social networking and recognize that it has huge potential benefits relationally and for ministry. I do believe, however, that just because “everyone” is doing something does not make it a foregone conclusion that I should do it too. I rather spontaneously set up a Facebook account a year or so ago, and as soon as I did it felt convicted that I didn’t pray enough about that decision. Over the next couple of weeks I was restless and prayed and sensed the Holy Spirit saying to me, “Not now, Kathy.” So, I closed my Facebook account. Why? It was an act of obedience. And I honestly believe that in this season of life devoting any time to connecting with a bunch of people on Facebook would rob me of time I otherwise would be investing in my primary relationships, with God, my husband, my children and close friends. As a working mom with a husband who also works full time, my moments at home are too precious to devote to technology. I don’t have a smart phone, I don’t check my e-mail on the computer at home ... and I don’t do Facebook. That’s my prayerful decision for this season in life, and I have no regrets.

 

A close friend of mine is an empty-nester, and Facebook absolutely helps her to stay more connected to her children. Other pastors at our church utilize Facebook as a vital ministry tool. I don’t judge those who have prayerfully decided to be on Facebook and use it intentionally for developing authentic relationships, but I do wonder how many people have not devoted that decision to prayer. Does social networking help or hinder the primary relationships in your life? 

 

Reposted from an October 2012 KCC blog. To date, pastor Kathy remains "Facebook free".

Posted by Pastor Kathy Resler-Chambliss at Wednesday, April 22, 2015 | 0 comments

The Cage is Broken

a blog post from kyle ray | lead pastor


Every year around now I start to get a little nostalgic about Kentwood Community Church. Our fiscal year runs from June 1 through May 31, so this is a time when we often reflect on all that has occurred in the past year and then look ahead to prayerfully seek God’s desire for us in ministry during the coming year. During our recent Easter celebrations, we used a visual of a caged lion. At one point during the sermon, the lion roared and broke free from the cage. The cage served as a symbol of the tomb that could not hold Jesus. We celebrated the resurrection of our Savior, reflecting on the fact that He came as both sacrificial lamb and roaring lion. It was a wonderful celebration.

 

I am grateful that there have been many such moments over the past year, when people found new hope because of our mighty Savior.  Whether it was during the spontaneous baptisms in August, the weekly Celebrate Recovery gatherings, our dynamic children's and student ministry environments, our weekly worship celebrations or many of the other ministry environments in our church family, we have had the privilege of seeing many lives changed this year. People have given generously of their time, talent and treasure to help make life-changing ministry happen here at Kentwood Community Church.

 

Last week, we began a new series of messages entitled, Free. Over the next several weeks, I look forward to emphasizing the idea of freedom. Jesus makes a bold statement in John 8.  He says, "So if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed." I am excited to share about this topic because I know there are many who are held captive by sin or the cares and concerns of life, and do not know how to find freedom … or even that they need to find it! There are many Christ-followers who have been set free, but they do not know how to walk in that freedom. My hope is that this series will lead to great life change for you! I am praying that all who need to be in our worship gatherings will be there. I’m praying for you to be there.

 

As I think about the upcoming message series, it has been very humbling to consider that there are folks around the world tuning in. The launch team for our campus in Nagpur, India has been gathering to listen to a past KCC message each week as they prepare to launch in June. I am regularly prompted to pray for that team and for that city. There are literally millions of people who do not know the freedom that can be found in Jesus. I pray that there will be people from all over the world who will break free from captivity in the coming weeks. Will you join me in prayer?

 

God has been good to KCC this year, and it is exciting to me to know that God is not done yet.

Posted by Pastor Kyle Ray at Wednesday, April 15, 2015 | 0 comments