“Every preacher who does not make prayer a mighty factor in his own life and ministry
is weak as a factor in God’s work.”
– E. M. Bounds
Home Groups. Missional Community. House Church. Small Groups. Bible Study. There is no shortage of terms to describe communities of individuals gathering around the word of God in small groups. Depending on who you talk to, all these terms have multiple meanings depending on the person saying them. For the sake of understanding, we need to clarify the definition of Home Groups.
Home Groups are the communities where discipleship and relationship take root. They are located in the homes of our members and at their core, are the context where the heart of the church is most vibrant.
Many people confuse the Church with being the Sunday corporate gathering, but the truth is that if you cannot do it under a shade tree in Africa, then Jesus didn’t die for it. Corporate worship gatherings too often rely on pomp, dramatic lighting, and are too dependent on a few skilled individuals instead of celebrating the diversity and participation of all its members. Furthermore, they are restricted by the square footage of a church building and the technological capacity to pull off a highly choreographed worship service. These elements can all be good things, but at their core, they are not necessary to make much of Christ in the lives of his followers.
Jesus is just as much in our home gatherings as He is in our corporate gatherings.
The first century was so prolific in spreading the Gospel because it went forward in the homes and back rooms of the businesses of the first believers. We seek to restore that dynamic where we see God moving in mighty ways in our families and communities, in addition to our weekly corporate gatherings.
BARTLETT HOME GROUP:
As indicated previously, our first Home Group meeting will be Thursday March 10 at 6:30 PM at the Steward Residence in Bartlett, TN. The main audience for this group is individuals who seek to be a part of a vibrant community of faith who 1) live in the Bartlett and surrounding areas, and 2) want to gather with other like-minded individuals and live life together and reach our neighbors and communities.
DOWNTOWN HOME GROUP:
The first downtown Home Group will meet on Sunday March 13 at 10:30 AM. The main audience for this group is individuals who seek to be a part of a vibrant community of faith who 1) live in the downtown and surrounding area (all the way north to Millington), and 2) want to gather with other like-minded individuals and live life together to reach our neighbors and communities. This Home Group will also have a missional expression to reach to the downtown area, so if you have a heart to reach the Edge District, this would be the perfect group for you.
CHILDREN: Children are welcome to attend. Part of being a community is helping to raise each others kids and being a lap for them to sit in while we come around the Word of God together. Faith is one of those unique intangibles that is both CAUGHT and TAUGHT. We want our kids to see a faith that is worth wrestling with even when areas of our own life (both public and private) don’t line up with it at the moment.
Please consider joining us for this next season. Bring some friends along with you for the ride also.
This is the question I have been asking myself over the past few weeks. Not because I haven’t thought about it, but because there is just too much to do. So many directions I could turn, I’m constantly asking myself, “Which one would be the best use of my time and attention?” It is a difficult balance in giving a solid effort to my employer, quality time with my family, and the spiritual responsibility of my church.
For Riverdeep, the next task before us is to root Home Groups and begin the process of establishing a discipleship pipeline. Far too many churches start with a gathering and hope that they will get the discipleship component figured out later. However, that is a major problem. The Great Commission says nothing about a gathering and everything about discipleship. While the two are not diametrically opposed, if we do not make discipleship a priority now, we will face an uphill battle in trying to make it happen without people viewing it as just another church program. From its infancy, we want discipleship to be a major part of the DNA of the work that God is doing among his people through this church.
Therefore, we will be starting Home Groups beginning the 2nd week of March. We will begin with two groups in two different locations. Sunday mornings will consist of a group meeting downtown in our current location for singing, prayer, and study. In addition, there will be another Home Group that meets out in the Bartlett area with the same format and goals, but it will meet on a week night. Individually, each of these groups will start with a weekly meeting. For now, both groups will gather together in corporate worship on the last Sunday of the month. While we are in the initial stages of building, this would be the healthiest rhythm until additional leadership has joined and is able to support a weekly corporate worship gathering.
Beginning in August, we’ll meet weekly in homes for small group discipleship and every week on Sunday for large group worship and teaching. Our current season is foundational for us as we become a family with deep commitments to one another. This weekly small group rhythm allows us to celebrate the victories in each others’ lives, pray through the difficulties, and to find ways we can support and encourage at every opportunity.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting some of the content we went over during our three interest meetings. Specifically, I will expand on the three tenants of the church vision (Deep Faith, Deep Relationships, & Deep Mission), as well as post a little information about the concept of Family and its important role in the discipleship context.
We have some exciting times ahead!
What is one of the least evangelized mission fields in America? How do we strategically reach those people far from God? The Church must find a way to train, empower, commission, and send out disciples to fulfill the Great Commission. How many people sitting in churches today would say they feel adequately trained to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, let alone the end of the street? Christians run into so many people at work, school, Crossfit classes, or on neighborhood walks that would never think to come to a church to hear the Gospel. This is Mission.
Christians MUST fulfill the Great Commission. In order to do that, they must be discipled to AUTHENTICALLY and ORGANICALLY share the Gospel. We need to remove the awkward and plastic-ness of much telemarketer manual witnessing scripts, and just share the Hope in Christ in a compelling and biblical fashion. Be winsome. Too many Christians today, many who have sat in pews for a long time, feel inadequate to share their Hope. And if they feel inadequate to reach those far from God, then their participation in the Great Commission stalls out right there.
What if God has given us everything we need to share the Gospel in this authentic and organic way? What if His chosen vehicle for advancing the Gospel is right in front of us? I believe that it is. Not in some secret knowledge that only a few know, but in an often overlooked component of our society. The family. And not just in the biological sense, but a family unified around a common interest or cause. This family makes it possible to live in DEEP MISSION.
This Saturday night (February 6) at 6pm we will discuss how a church can be a family on mission and advance the Kingdom locally and abroad. The schedule will look roughly like this:
- 6:00 – Coffee & Snacks/Desserts
- 6:30 – Worship (w/ David & Jessica Epting)
- 6:50 –Deep Mission Discussion
- 7:25– Q&A
- 7:45 – Mingle
CHILDREN ARE WELCOME! We will have childcare available for those who are inclined to utilize it, but it will also be perfectly acceptable to allow your kids to be in tow throughout the night. Family is an important part of the culture of Riverdeep, and these interest meetings are no different.
The night will include worship led by Jessica & David Epting (& Friends), a group discussion about living on mission in our changing culture, and end with a time of prayer throughout the building. There are some exciting developments in the neighborhood around the church, but there are also some exciting things happening in the communities throughout the Memphis area where we will be gathering in home groups beginning in March.
We’d love for you to join us if you are available to hear about where God is moving and how you can be a part of it through prayer and participation. Incredible days ahead!
For additional information about our church plant, please check out the PROSPECTUS.
A name is important. It is an identity. It has the power to change circumstances. A name communicates.
Riverdeep Church. Why Riverdeep?
The first step with the church planting effort in downtown Memphis was to change the name. Why not stay with Church on Edge? Or even revert back to its original name, International Baptist Church? I hope to address these questions below.
Why change the name from Church on Edge?
The key to understanding this decision has more to do with a preposition. I know…I already alluded to Shakespeare and now I am discussing parts of speech (I’m really making my high school Lit teachers proud). But bear with me. The preposition in question is “on” as in Church ON Edge. If I were to say, “My boss is on edge,” you would assume that they were in a bad mood and that it would be best to steer clear of them. Now surely no church would be on edge, right? But at the very least it would give pause and require consideration to understand what the church name was actually trying to communicate. While this name was helpful to identify a street or neighborhood location (which was one of the intents for the name change a few years ago) it creates difficulty when planting community groups and additional campuses in the future.
A second reason we chose to change the name from Church on Edge was one of the church’s core values: Geographic Diversity. It is our hope that God would assemble a congregation from all over the city and that ultimately, the church would become a network of churches across the Midsouth. The name “Church on Edge” strongly identifies the church with the Edge District. While this strongly identifies with a community, it is problematic when trying to scale beyond the current district and footprint. When trying to adapt the name, “Church on Edge – Southaven” or Cordova becomes a confusing proposition. Therefore, to better communicate a welcoming environment and also to align with our core values, we decided to find a better suited name for the church planting effort.
Why not revert back to International Baptist Church?
While it is our hearts desire to see a multi-ethnic and diverse congregation come together at the church, it is not currently the congregation that gathers to worship weekly.
Furthermore, we are looking to grow the congregation throughout the Midsouth. In this context, there is baggage associated with the “Baptist” qualifier. While Riverdeep is a Baptist congregation that affirms the Baptist Faith & Message, it is important to understand how Southern Baptists became just that. The Southern Baptist Convention was specifically founded because of disagreements over slavery and the convictions of slave ownership. Although efforts have been made to reconcile its past, there is only so much healing that a doctrinal statement and resolution can offer. Sensitivity to this issue is important, especially when ministering in a city that is 60% African American. Because of the history and the culture, we have decided to not identify Baptist in the name. Our banner is not Baptist. Our banner is Christ.
So, why the name Riverdeep?
First, Memphis is known as the River City (among numerous other nicknames). Historically, its economy was directly tied to the Mississippi. The river has shaped and influenced the rhythm and identity of the city today.
Second, we wanted to closely identify with the core vision of the church planning effort. The three cornerstones of Rivedeep Church are to have 1) a Deep Faith, 2) Deep Relationships, and 3) Deep Missions. More specifically:
- Deep Faith – We desire to be people identified by a deep hunger for God’s Word in both our private and public worship.
- Deep Relationships – We desire to be a community–or family–that celebrates and supports each other as we grow in our understanding of God.
- Deep Mission – We desire to be a congregation that engages in mission work daily in our homes, communities, and occupations; first here in the Midsouth and then also out to the ends of the earth.
Therefore, the “River” identifies us with the Midsouth-wide effort and the “Deep” identifies us with the qualities we strive to embody. We are Riverdeep.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
What a great night! This past Sunday evening we gathered in my home to talk about our heart for restoration. We shared our passion for seeing lives restored by the Gospel. Slowly we walked through prospectus and discussed a few of our hopes, dreams, and needs.
As we briefly shared, we honestly confessed that we deeply need people praying for us. If people are not praying for us, then what are we really trying to do? Most likely, just trying to do something in our own strength and power. Both of which are insufficient. We are unable to bring about any great movement of God unless He moves first. In our weakness and inability, we ask the Lord.
For the past couple months our church has set aside Thursdays as a day when we would all pray specifically for the task before us. Although we are geographically scattered, we unite together in the effort of prayer for our church and our city. It has been a great privilege to ask God to prepare the way, and to see him actually doing it in the lives of our people! Part of our heart for the city, is also to allow as many believers as possible to be a part of the new expression of God’s Spirit. And this is where you may come in.
The PROSPECTUS outlines a desire to have 100 people covenant to pray with us through the entire planting process. For the next year, we want at least that many to be praying with us and asking God to:
- Protect leadership
- Send more leadership,
- Mobilize Christians to become a part of the church plant,
- Re-awaken hearts that have grown cold toward the church and to give them a white-hot passion for community
- Begin kindling the unbelieving hearts of those who are far from God toward the things of God
- Give us great success in reaching the communities God is calling us to reach
- Inspire and equip believers to start new and vibrant ministries and take those ministries around the world
- Open peoples eyes to the opportunities for Kingdom advancement all around them
- Help Riverdeep become an extended family of people on mission that make an eternal difference
By no means is this an exhaustive list. And it honestly doesn’t attempt to fully capture all the things we hope for in the next years and decades. But by it I hope you can see that we are a needy people–most fully in need of your prayer.
If you haven’t had a chance to read through the prospectus, please take a few minutes to read it and see if God moves your heart to covenant with us to pray. It’s a one-year commitment to set aside time each week to pray on behalf of all that God wants to do and is asking us to do in moving the Kingdom forward. By committing to pray, we will simply add you to an email list. It will be sent every couple weeks to help you celebrate the victories and triumphs and to pray specifically for the needs of the effort as they come before us. Satan wants nothing more than to stop the Kingdom from going forward, but Believers get to fight against the spiritual forces that will try to stop what God wants to do. Therefore, we need you.
If you have read the prospectus and are feel compelled to covenant with Riverdeep in prayer, you can follow the link HERE –> Covenant Prayer Sign Up . Signing up will add you to the list of 100 people we hope to come alongside us and pray as we walk forward in pursuit of God.
The next interest meeting will be Sunday, January 10, 2016. Once again at my house. And once again with worship, teaching, and Q&A. If you were not able to make it to the last meeting, this would be another chance to get involved. We will quickly reiterate our core vision and values, and then delve into what a dynamic community of Believers looks like in our rapidly changing culture. What does it really mean to be counter-cultural in a climate that is hostile to basic Christian beliefs? We will unpack that on January 10. We’d love to see you there!
It has been a discipline of self-control that has prevented me from publishing this prospectus before now! Jessica and I are ecstatic to tell people about what God is doing and how He has guided us to where we find ourself today!
This prospectus is meant to help you gain a greater understanding of what the church planting (or more accurately, re-planting) effort will look like over the new few years. I have embedded the prospectus below, but also provided links to a downloadable PDF as well as an EPUB format which is formatted for most tablet devices. Both downloadable files can be viewed using eReader programs such as iBooks or Kindle.
One of the first things you will notice is the name change. Beginning in January, Church on Edge will be known as Riverdeep Church. This Sunday night we will provide a brief explanation of the name change, as well as discuss the future vision for the church. I previously posted about the Interest Meeting and have updated that post with the address for the meeting. Children are welcome at the interest meeting. We will have activities and supervision for them so the adults can engage and listen for what God is saying to them.
As stated previously, we are excited about the direction God is leading. I hope you would prayerfully consider joining the work that God has begun in the city. Over the next few months we will begin gathering both downtown and here in Bartlett to share life together and celebrate Christ and his goodness towards us.
PDF Version (Download):
EPUB Version (Download):
The day is almost upon us! While Christmas is still a few more weeks away, it feels like Christmas to me. Something that the Lord has been doing in my family’s heart is about to become public and we are excited to invite other people to be a part of it.
On Sunday December 6 at 6PM, we will open our house to everyone. Like so many times in the past, we will share coffee and snacks with friends and talk about eternal things. But instead of discussing a text from the Bible, we will be laying out a roadmap for the next few years of our life. To better help you anticipate and prepare, I have included some details below.
This will be the FIRST of THREE interest meetings being held for the new church planting effort. While each meeting will be independent of the others, the content will be a progressive reveal of the DNA of the church. The heart and vision of the church is “To see lives restored through the Gospel of Jesus.” We believe this is best seen in three key areas:
- Deep Faith
- Deep Relationships
- Deep Mission
On Sunday night, we will unpack the overarching mission, vision, and values. In addition, we will delve deep into the question, “What does a deep faith look like today and how does one get to know God deeply?”
Although we are not restricted by the following schedule, the structure of the night will look something like this:
- 6:00 – Coffee & Snacks/Desserts
- 6:30 – Worship (w/ David & Jessica Epting)
- 6:45 – Prospectus
- 7:15 – Q&A
- 7:45 – Mingle
The CHURCH PROSPECTUS has officially been published online. It will also be available in print form at the meeting on Sunday night.
CHILDCARE: We are currently in the process of finding childcare. The plan os of right now is to allow the kids to gather in a separate room to watch a movie while the adults and students who come will gather for the time of worship, presentation, and Q&A. There will be responsible adults (or young adults) watching the kids while they are apart from everyone else for the meeting.
This will be the only interest meeting of 2015, so we’d love for you to make every effort to attend. Whether you are looking for a new church home or are just coming alongside us to pray, we need you. We are excited to share our hearts, souls, and our very lives with you. Great things ahead!
3135 Briarly Lane
Bartlett, TN 38135
The leaves are turning. New shades of brilliant oranges and yellows seem to be exploding from somewhere deep within. As the world around us acknowledges the natural shifting of times, my heart and mind can’t help but also look towards new seasons.
Earlier this year, my family and I began to enter a new season of ministry. Walking away from most of what we’ve known for the past 15 years, we began praying and seeking God to understand what could be next for us. As we talked with friends and acquaintances in our life, the recurring thing we heard was that people were walking away from their churches in droves. People were hungry for community. They wanted to be trained and mobilized for mission in their Monday-Saturday lives. And having looked to their church for guidance, they were left wanting. The statistics seem to validate the overarching sentiment of those we spoke with.
But if Christ loves the church enough to die for her, why were so many people finding so few answers in their weekly worship? God’s people wanted much more than a worship service to passively observe and instead wanted to actively participate in the advancing kingdom in every area of their lives and families.
With this understanding, Jessica and I walked out in faith into this next season that God was calling our family to pursue him in. To say it has been an easy journey would be an inaccurate statement, but we have seen God’s hand of protection, guidance, and faithfulness every step of the way. After spending much time in prayer, seeking wisdom, and discernment, we are excited about God’s direction and how He has led us to plant a church in the Midsouth.
While this will be a different model than many people are accustomed to in the Memphis area, and while we are sure it will be more difficult than we are even aware of now, we know God’s hand has been with us so far and there is no reason to doubt that He will continue to guide and provide for us going forward. I cannot wait to share the vision God has kindled in my family’s hearts over the past few years and allow many of you to pray through the opportunity to join the work of God in your own families too. How incredible would it be to see God move throughout the greater Memphis area in a huge way?
We long to see families be the place God builds disciples. We long to see disciples reach their workplaces and campuses. We long to see students launched in their careers to cities and countries around the world that may not have a bright witness of the Light of Christ. We long to look back decades from now and say,”WOW! Can you believe all that God has done?”
To help everyone gain a greater understanding of what the church will look like, we will release the Church Prospectus early next week.
In the meantime, mark your calendars. December 6 at 6PM. The first interest meeting for this new work in the Midsouth will be held in my home (affectionately called StewCasa). If you feel your heart being released from your current church or have been looking for a new church home for a while, please plan to attend. We are excited to see if God quickens your heart to this vision of families being trained and mobilized for Kingdom movement. We would love for you to be a part of this exciting move of God! Even if you aren’t looking for a new church family, we would love for you to come and hear how God is moving. We need as many people praying for us, and this new work, if we have any hope of God establishing another community of believers living on mission at home and abroad. If you are anything like me, I am always excited to hear how God is blessing other believers in their faithful pursuits of God!
Please plan to come to hear how you can partner with us as well as join through PRAYER. It will be an exciting night of worship, vision, and a time of Q&A.