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City Church Unite On KKLA – 99.5 FM Los Angeles

CCU Executive Director, Tracy Weaver, was featured in an interview on KKLA-99.5 FM.

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Richard Kennedy and Tracy Weaver at the KKLA studios.

Richard Kennedy is the Director of Ministries for KKLA Radio 99.5 FM and the host of the weekly radio program “A Passion For Christ” which airs on KKLA every Saturday evening at 7pm. Richard and Tracy (and their wives) met at a recent ministry leadership gathering in Pasadena, California.  The two shared a kindred spirit and Richard was intrigued by the mission of City Church Unite – To strengthen the spiritual vitality and visible unity of the Church of the city. 

A date was set and the two met again at the KKLA studios to record an interview with Tracy regarding the ministry and vision of City Church Unite.  We invite you to take a few moments and listen to their conversation.

A second, follow-up, interview has already been recorded and will air this Saturday (7/21) at 7pm on KKLA 99.5 FM or you can listen online by using this link – KKLA 99.5

Listen to Interview #1 

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Pastors United In Prayer

Pastor's Prayer

They meet the first Wednesday morning of every month at a different local Church.  They represent the Body of Christ of the Santa Clarita Valley.  They include different denominations, different traditions, and different ethnicities.  What they all share in common is a devotion to Jesus Christ and the gospel of salvation by grace, through faith in Him.  They are ministry leaders from across the Santa Clarita Valley who have a vision for the unity of the Church of the City.

These ministry leaders, and many more like them, have been gripped by Jesus’ prayer in John 17, I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (vs. 20, 21).  Jesus prays that the relational solidarity of his followers on earth would reflect the oneness that characterizes the Godhead and result in the salvation of the lost.

The unity and oneness of the broader body of Christ is more than a noble idea, it is a biblical mandate.  As an expression of sovereign grace, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have opened up the triune life of God to all those who respond to the gospel with saving faith.  As Christians we have been adopted as children of the Father, united in Christ, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  Just as every believer is on a progressive journey to become more like Christ in their attitudes and actions, in the same way the Body of Christ – the Church – is to increasingly reflect the oneness and unity of the triune God.  The unity of the Church is a super natural expression of the reality of our participating in the life of the triune God.

This triune unity of the body of Christ most naturally finds its expression in local gatherings of believers (churches) and in the relationships those gatherings have between one another – the Church of the city.

City Church Unite exists to nurture the spiritual vitality and visible unity of the body of Christ in the context of cities.  We believe that God is already at work around the globe, uniting his people and drawing the lost to Himself through the visible united witness of His Church.  How can you enter into this movement of God:

  • Begin a prayer group in your local Church that meets regularly to pray for the vitality and unity of the body of Christ in your city.
  • Begin to identify the stubborn realities of your city (homelessness, mental illness, teen drug use, the needs of foster families, teen suicide, racial prejudice) and begin to strategize how the body of Christ (churches, marketplace ministry leaders, and non-profits) in your community might work together to meaningfully begin to address these issues.
  • Encourage your pastoral leaders to meet and pray with leaders from other churches across your community.  Affirm them in their efforts to build relationships of trust with believers and leaders from other churches, denominations and traditions.

City Church Unite would welcome the opportunity to support and encourage the strengthening of unity in your community.  Contact us at info@CityChurchUnite.com

We also invite you to prayerfully consider becoming a partner with City Church Unite in strengthening the visible unity of the Body of Christ.  Blessings!

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CCU Blog

Teaching Them To Obey … Everything

A primary directive of the Great Commission in Matthew 28 is teaching disciples of Jesus “… to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20).

Jesus’ most frequent command for his followers is to be men and women who love greatly.

  • We are to love God with all our capacity (Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:30).
  • We are to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:39; Mark 12:31).
  • We are to love our enemies and bless them (Matt. 5:43-44; Luke 6:27-28).
  • We are to love one another just as Jesus has loved us (John 13:34).

This practice of expressing extraordinary love toward God, toward our adversaries, toward those in our sphere of influence, and toward brothers and sisters in Christ is to be so characteristic of God’s people that Jesus says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

Question – Does the Church in your community have a reputation for remarkable love?  Are God’s people characteristically thought of as being pace-setters for kindness, compassion, and reconciliation?  Do you know the testimony of anyone who has come to faith in Jesus because of the extraordinary love they witnessed between local churches and amongst God’s people?  Do the churches in your city honor one another and partner together for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom?

By this we knowTragically, the widespread perception outside the Church and, for many, the experience inside the Church is that God’s people are petty, selfish, and unkind.  In many communities there are lines of division between church families that are in direct disobedience to Jesus, the Head of the Church.  The message of the New Testament is that there are two kinds of people on the earth: those who are spiritually alive by the grace of God and those who are spiritually dead, who are to be the focus of compassionate united gospel endeavors in the hope that they might be saved. We have ignored the vital role of the unity of the Body of Christ in accomplishing the great commission and in doing so we have placed our own personal preferences above the salvation of lost souls. Rather than strengthening the visible unity of Christ-followers as an expression of obedient love, many ministry leaders have given themselves permission to only align themselves with those in the Body of Christ with whom they feel comfortable.  Rather than being willing to die for all the brothers, many have drawn a circle, determining who is “in” and who is “out” based on another’s view of spiritual gifts, worship style, and other non-essential criteria.

The Church in the western world needs to repent of its disobedience to Jesus, the Head of the Church, when it comes to the unity of the broader Body of Christ. The apostle John writes, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers”  (1 John 3:16).  The measure of our love for the Church of our city is a willingness to give our lives for the brothers and sisters who attend another church across town and express their love for Jesus differently than we do?  Certainly, if we are willing to die for brothers and sisters in Christ, we can partner with them for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom.

Father, we humbly confess our failure to love others beyond our own comfort zone.  We have ignored the vital role of the unity of the Body of Christ in accomplishing the  great commission and in doing so we have placed our own petty preferences above the salvation of lost souls.  God forgive us.  As an expression of your grace and mercy we ask that you would awaken your Church to its true identity of being one new man, one body, one temple, one bride, and one united expression of the presence of Jesus on earth.  May the collective Body of Christ in our community, repent of its isolation and independence and embrace the high calling and privilege of representing you as one united Church of the city.  May those in our city begin being aware of a dynamic change in the way congregations are genuinely loving and caring for one another.  May pastoral leaders abandon any motivations of pride and ego and, instead, find significance in becoming champions of the visible unity of the Body of Christ in their city.  May Jesus be lifted up and a wave of new believers be drawn to him through the love and unity of your people.  May it be increasingly so in cities across America and around the world.

We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen

CCU Blog

Christ is Risen … and so are we!

“Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a doornail. …There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.” (Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, 1843, Stave 1: Marley’s Ghost.)

Charles Dickens begins his classic story of the Christmas transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge by emphasizing the deadness of his partner, Jacob Marley. Understanding that Marley was “as dead as a doornail” is essential in Dickens’ mind, for his readers to be wonderfully impacted by the story he is about to unfold. If you don’t know that Marley is dead, then you won’t be shocked and amazed when he mysteriously appears.

In a similar way, there is a foundational truth that needs to be distinctly understood by those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ in order for us to fully appreciate and be wonderfully impacted by what has been accomplished in our lives. We need to understand with absolute clarity our condition prior to placing our faith in Jesus.

Read the following verses and see if you can identify the key truth.

  • “… death came to all men, because all sinned” Rom 5:12
  • “For the wages of sin is death” Rom. 6:23
  • “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” Eph. 2:1
  • “When you were dead in your sins …” Col. 2:13

It’s not hard to spot, but have you allowed the reality of your condition without Christ to sink in? You weren’t simply spiritually sick or suffering from spiritual malnutrition or in need of spiritual rehab. You were dead! Spiritually dead. There was absolutely nothing you could do to correct your situation. No amount of moral improvement could possibly address your need before God. As Dr. Howard Hendricks frequently said, “Our need was total, not partial.”

Imagine for a moment that you are sitting in a spectators gallery, overlooking an operating room in a prestigious University Medical Center. Lying on the stainless steel table under the sterile fluorescent light is a corpse—cold and lifeless.
Surrounding the table is a team of doctors. They are the brightest minds in the medical world. Each has unsurpassed expertise in a particular field. This is a medical dream-team.
The question at hand is “How can life be restored to this lifeless body?” There is a sense of excitement in the room over the possibility of witnessing a medical miracle. This may not be your area of training but you are mesmerized by what you are seeing.
One by one the experts begin to make their recommendations. The first doctor says, “I believe this patient needs to strengthen his heart and should begin a cardiac rehab program immediately.” The next doctor says, “The lung function is definitely diminished. I prescribe a change of climate and intensive respiratory therapy.” Yet another doctor, a world-renowned nutritionist says, “This patient is suffering from severe malnutrition. He needs to begin an enriched diet of protein, minerals and vitamins.” An expert in exercise physiology says, “This patient has poor muscle tone. He needs to begin a rigorous program of physical therapy and exercise.”
The rest of the medical students seated around you are nodding their heads in thoughtful agreement and feverishly taking notes of the doctor’s medical wisdom and insight.
You can’t believe your ears! You’re looking around in disbelief. Are these people crazy? The closest you may have come to attending Medical School is eating in the cafeteria, but you know that what these doctors are prescribing is ridiculous. You can’t restrain yourself. You stand to your feet and yell at the top of your lungs, “The man is dead!”

The Bible is declaring the same message regarding our fallen condition. Because of sin, mankind is spiritually dead! The need isn’t for changed behavior, it is for new life to be imparted. Telling a spiritually dead person to engage in good works in order to become spiritually alive is like telling a corpse to eat the right foods and exercise in order to regain physical health. The only remedy is for spiritual life to be given from a source outside ourselves!
It is only when we realize the severity our hopeless, lifeless condition without Christ that we can begin to appreciate what He has done for us with a sense of joyful awe and wonder.

  • “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” Eph. 2:4-6
  • “God made you alive with Christ” Col. 2:13
  • “… offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life …” Rom 6:13
  • “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” Col. 3:1

The wonderful reality is that Christians have been raised from the dead in union with Jesus. We are risen people! Dr. Ravi Zacharias says it this way, “Jesus did not come into this world to make bad people good. He came to make dead people live.” Having placed our whole reliance upon Jesus and His death and resurrection, we are now the grateful possessors of eternal life. Our sins have been forgiven, the righteousness of Christ has been credited to our ‘life account’ and the personal presence of God dwells within us.

Many Christians live each day of their life without knowing the reality of who they are in Christ or being aware of what God has wonderfully accomplished on their behalf. Observe Paul’s passionate desire for some believing friends he loved:

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.”

– Ephesians 1:18-20

A calling of hope, a rich, glorious inheritance from God and incomparably great power— did you wake up mindful of those realities in your life today? Notice that the power Paul identifies as being at work in believer’s lives today is “like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead.” (Eph. 1:20)

As Christians, we have been the recipients of resurrection power! We are risen people, and the church is the fellowship of the risen! As we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus this Easter it is completely appropriate for us to affirm, “Jesus is risen … and so am I.” But we have not only been given resurrection life. There are also a multitude of blessings that are ours because we have been raised with Christ through faith.

Consider these examples:

  • We have received the righteousness of God (Rom. 3:22)
  • We have died to sin and been set free from its rule in our lives (Rom. 6:7, 22)
  • We have died to the demands of the Law, being released from its condemnation (Rom. 7:4-6; 8:1)
  • We have received the indwelling presence of God (1 Cor. 3:17; 6:19)

The list could go on. Peter writes, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3).

To live the Risen Life is to be awakened to the reality of what God has accomplished on our behalf. Every Christian has been spiritually raised from the dead by the same resurrection power that raised Jesus on Easter morning. Realizing this wondrous truth, we are then called by God to live our lives in keeping with the reality of who He has made us to be in Christ.

  • Offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life – Rom. 6:13
  • Live a life worthy of the calling you have received – Eph. 4:1
  • Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ – Phil. 1:27

The Risen Life: walking in the reality and power of Christ’s resurrection and allowing these extraordinary truths to inform and fuel our faith, is the distinctive calling and privilege of every individual that has placed their faith in Jesus.

The Church, the Fellowship of the Risen, is to serve as a united resurrected community to raise the dead spiritually through the power of the gospel (Evangelism), equip the risen with the liberating and empowering truths of God’s Word (Discipleship), and mobilize a resurrection generation to spread the transforming news of hope that because Jesus Christ is risen … they can be too!

In these strategic days, as Christ’s return draws ever closer, God is awakening his Church to their identity as Resurrection People and their calling to live for Him as those who have been brought from death to life (Rom. 6:13).

If Charles Dickens were writing about the Risen Life, he might well say:

“We were spiritually dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. God declares it, scripture reveals it, and our sinful behavior confirms it. There is no doubt that we were spiritually dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the resurrection story that scripture relates.”

Tracy Weaver serves as the Executive Director of City Church Unite, a nonprofit ministry devoted to uniting the Church to transform the city.

CCU Blog

Are You A Church Paradigm Pioneer?

What Is A Paradigm?

A “paradigm” is a typical example, model, or pattern of something. Our lives are guided by our paradigms. They act as the set of rules in our mind that define the boundaries of our perception of reality and tell us how to behave inside those boundaries to be successful. Paradigms influence everything from the way we make our bed in the morning, to the way we conduct business, to the political candidates we support.

A Paradigm Story

WatchFor 60 years the Swiss dominated the world in watch manufacturing. They were first in the watch-making industry with no one in close second. Then, something happened.  A paradigm shifted.  Their market share dropped from 65% to less than 10%.  What happened? The digital quartz watch. Suddenly Swiss excellence in manufacturing gears and mainsprings was irrelevant. Fifty thousand Swiss watch makers lost their jobs and the nation faced an economic crisis. The ironic part of this story is that the digital watch was invented by the Swiss themselves. Their decision makers, however, couldn’t envision a world without gears and mainsprings so they didn’t even protect the new technology. The new invention was picked up by Seiko of Japan and the rest is history.

The Paradigm Effect

Our paradigms define our view of reality.  A Paradigm Shift is the introduction of something new that changes the rules and brings everyone “back to the drawing board.” Because we see the world through our paradigms they can blind and deafen us to other possibilities, other paradigms. This is referred to as the “The Paradigm Effect.”  The quartz watch was a Paradigm Shift.  The Swiss were blinded by the effect of their “watch” paradigm and could not envision a world without gears and mainsprings. 

The Paradigm Question

Joel Arthur Barker, and expert in paradigm dynamics, suggests the following question to begin pressing paradigm boundaries:  “What is impossible to do in your organization today, but, if it could be done, would fundamentally change it for the better?”  Your answers to this question in any given area of endeavor will begin to point you toward a new future of what could be.

Paradigm Pioneers

To be a Paradigm Pioneer you must have the courage to risk releasing an old paradigm and envision what the future could look like with the new paradigm actively in place.  So here’s a key question for Christians and especially Christian leaders: What is your paradigm of “church” and are you open to a Shift?  We all have a paradigm of Church.  Our paradigm includes our ideas of what we should wear to church, what a church building looks like, what kind of songs should be sung, and the role of pastoral leadership.  However, if you ask yourself the paradigm question (see above) regarding “Church”, then what might God want to initiate in your city that could result in remarkable spiritual transformation and visible unity.

A New Paradigm of Church

Allow me to suggest a biblical idea that I invite you to study, pray about, and dialogue with others.  Here goes – Jesus’ ecclesiology is far different from what we typically see in our churches today.  Jesus’ ecclesiology is focused on a cohesive expression of his family that is influencing and transforming cities … together.  

Consider these New Testament truths:

  • Jesus fervently prayed that his followers would be “one”, even “perfectly one” so that the world would know and believe (John 17:21-23).  In this passage, Jesus directly links the effective accomplishment of the Great Commission (knowing and believing) with the visible unity of his followers.
  • The Apostle Paul directed the majority of his epistles to all the believers within a city or region. “To all those in Rome” … “To the church of God that is in Corinth” … “To the churches of Galatia” (a region) … “To the saints who are in Ephesus” … ‘To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi” … “To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae” … “To the church of the Thessalonians.”  Therefore, all the imperatives to love, honor, be kind, forgive, forbear, be devoted to, etc., are incumbent on all the believers to one another within the city and not simply to their local gathering.  Paul addressed the “Church of the City”.
  • We typically apply Paul’s “body” metaphor in 1 Corinthians 12:20-22 to our congregation, stressing our individual need for each other – “The eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you.”  But since this passage is directed to “the Church of God that is in Corinth” a more accurate application needs to include clusters of believers or congregations not being able to say to another congregation “I have no need of you.” First Conservative Church can’t say to First Charismatic, “I have no need of you.”  Jesus’ vision for his Church is a movement characterized by visible unity within the context of an entire city or region.
  • The metaphors of the Church in the New Testament all speak of one cohesive Body – Christ’s Bride, Christ’s Body, One Temple, One Man, and One Loaf.  Paul exhorts all the saints in Philippi to be “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel (Phil. 1:27).
  • All Seven Letters in the book of Revelation are written to the City Church and not simply a single congregation within the city.

Jesus makes it clear that he only speaks and does what the Father directs (John 12:49-50).  The core value of Jesus for the oneness of his followers, therefore, reflects the heart of the Father.  The implications of this are profound.  Our Lord’s desire must become the priority of the Body of Christ.  The Church must pursue and embody the prayer of our Lord for the visible unity of his followers.

The strong implication of these passages (and many more) is that the Lord’s under-shepherds, as stewards entrusted with the care of the saints, must play a vital leadership role toward breaking free of established cultural norms (old paradigms) and pursuing Christ’s call to supernatural unity and visible witness.

Email logo draftCity Church Unite exists to serve as a supportive catalyst in the lives of leaders and churches to nurture the oneness and vitality of the Church of the City.  Pastors play a strategic role of embracing and modeling Christ’s heart for the unity of his people in the Church of the City (the broader Body).  Their Church family and ministry peers will be influenced by their example.

Are You A Church Paradigm Pioneer?

Remember the Paradigm Question – “What is impossible to do in your organization today, but, if it could be done, would fundamentally change it for the better?”  The idea of a unified Church of the City – congregations devoted to one another and working together to spiritually transform their community – challenges our strongly established paradigm of Church.  We are all deeply influenced by our independent, western culture.  Don’t be surprised, therefore, if you sense a natural resistance within yourself (see the Paradigm Effect above).  We can think of many reasons why “it will never work.”  However, if the Holy Spirit began a movement of reconciliation and extraordinary love among Christ’s followers and The Church became a redemptive source of healing and unity in broken, angry, and fragmented communities … just imagine the Kingdom impact!  The ultimate question, of course, for all of us as members of Christ’s body is “What does God’s word call us to do?”  I invite you look at the passages, consider the implications, and ask the Lord of the Church if this truly is the desire of his heart for his followers.  -TW

Father, We realize that we have deeply embedded ideas about what your church is and what it should look like.  We affirm that our primary commitment, Lord, is to you and your word.  We want to be willing to release false assumptions and courageously embrace a new vision of your church if we clearly see it in your inspired word.  Grant us faith, wisdom, clarity, and courage to be paradigm pioneers.”  -Amen

For further reading:

City Church: Working Together to Transform Cities by Kelly Malone

A Disruptive Gospel by Mac Pier

This blog article is part of a 31 day devotional entitled 31 Days of City Church, currently under development by City Church Unite.  We value your comments and questions.

 

CCU Blog

Anne Graham Lotz – Church Awaken!

At Billy Graham’s funeral on March 2, 2018, Dr. Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz gave a challenge for the Church to awaken to the urgency of its role in society in light of Christ’s soon return. City Church Unite exists to unite the Body of Christ as a catalyst toward spiritual awakening. We invite you to watch Anne Graham Lotz’s comments and invite God to speak to your own heart about the role you are to play.