Downtown Cornerstone Blog
Mar 21
2019

Life in Community | Loving and Serving One Another

Community | by Justin Keogh

The Life in Community series highlights aspects of our life lived together in community through a mixture of theology, vision, and personal stories. Cornerstone Communities are the primary means of forming meaningful discipling relationships where we can be known, encouraged, and challenged by brothers and sisters in our body, and live out the “one another” commandments in our daily lives.

For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another…. By this we know love, that [Jesus] laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:11, 16-18)

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:19-21)

There is a direct relationship between our relationship with God (our “vertical” relationship) and our relationship with others (our “horizontal” relationships). How we love our brothers and sisters horizontally reflects our understanding and beliefs about how God has loved us vertically in Christ. This was not immediately apparent to me in my early days of faith – I claimed to love God, but that love did not result in love for my fellow Christians. It was in my freshman year of college, during a Bible study on 1 John, that God drew this to my full attention by His Spirit and through His word.

There I was, thinking I had a right understanding of God’s love – to which God called me a liar. I saw the stark contrast of my horizontal relationships which lacked any tangible grace, forgiveness, or love with the extremely tangible peace, forgiveness, and love of God to me in Christ. Thankfully, by God’s grace, this led not only to a deepened understanding but wholehearted repentance, which still to this day shapes the way I see my brothers and sisters in Christ. If you struggle to love your brothers and sisters in Christ, I encourage you to reflect on the ways in which God has (and does!) loved you in Christ, the depth of the forgiveness he has for your sins (i.e., all of them), and the abundance of his provision for you as co-heirs with Christ.

As the understanding of God’s love for us has hit home, and we desire to love and serve others as Christ has loved and served us, some very practical questions quickly arise. Here are four of the most common questions that frequently arise as we seek to love and serve one another in our communities.

1. What does it look like to love others “in deed and in truth”?

In contrast to “loving in word or talk,” we see that loving others is an action. On this topic, James writes: “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (James 2:15-16). We see throughout Acts – there was practical and tangible care for one another that included meeting material needs (Acts 2:45; 6:2). In our context, this could be as simple as picking up the bill for a shared meal for a friend who doesn’t have the same financial means, or it could mean rallying together as a community to help someone in your community pay rent and make ends meet when they are in between jobs.

2. What if I don’t have the financial means to help others? Or, what if the needs of others are not financial?

In either of these scenarios, we can still meet the practical needs of others. We have all been given a unique set of time, talent, and treasure from God to steward, which varies by his providence and grace. These gifts not only differ from one person to person but also from season to season. Therefore, we should not expect that there is a ‘one size fits all’ way to serve. Meeting material needs is not the exclusive way to love and care for others. How then? Well, it depends on the unique needs of others and your gifts of time, talent, and treasure. A family with young kids might have their material needs covered, but need a babysitter so that they can get a date night. A single young professional might have their material needs covered, but need Godly counsel and guidance. Together, they might form a mutually-edifying relationship where they meet each others’ needs and grow closer in the process!

3. How do I prioritize who to serve?

There are more people in the world with greater needs than you will ever be able to meet. Thankfully, God has not called us to be the savior of the world, but to love and serve those whom we are able – with the gifts that he’s uniquely given to us. The bible doesn’t give us a prescription on how to split our efforts, but rather principles on how to love our family in Christ and our neighbors. Knowing that I have to prioritize and choose whom I will serve, here are a few of the questions I prayerfully consider:
Who has God sovereignly put into my life already?
What are their needs?
What does the balance of my time, talents, and treasures look like this season?
Have I sought to love both my family in Christ and my neighbors?
Are there folks who cannot repay me, that I might serve unconditionally (cf Luke 14:12-14).
Very often, I don’t have to think long before I find God’s Spirit directing me to those around me – in my community, my church, my workplace, and my geographic neighborhood.

4. What if I’m the one in need?

We all have needs, and there is no shame or condemnation for being in need (Rom 8:1). Even so, we don’t generally like to be in need. For starters, by definition, it means we’re lacking in something. Secondly, asking for help from others can be a huge (albeit good) blow to our pride – fighting our social norms of individualism and our self-made images. Yet, we know that God has given us needs that we might depend on him and come to receive what we need for his glory and our good (cf. John 9:3).We want our Cornerstone Communities to be places of authentic, loving, discipling, and mutually-edifying relationships. This means that they need to be places where we can share our needs and our time, talent, and treasure to meet one another’s needs. It takes a humble vulnerability from the person sharing the need, and a compassionate action from those around the person sharing the need – but as this happens, people’s needs are met, we grow closer to each other, God is glorified, and the world around us sees a glimpse of the Kingdom of God (cf John 13:35).

If you’re part of a Cornerstone Community, I invite you to prayerfully consider who is in need around you that you are uniquely gifted to serve this month.

If you’re not yet part of a Cornerstone Community, sign-up for the next Foundations class to get started.

Justin Keogh
Director of Communities & Mercy Ministries

Feb 22
2019

Life in Community | Dynamic Communities

Community | by Justin Keogh

The Life in Community series highlights aspects of our life lived together in community through a mixture of theology, vision, and personal stories. Cornerstone Communities are the primary means of forming meaningful discipling relationships where we can be known, encouraged, and challenged by brothers and sisters in our body, and live out the “one another” commandments in our daily lives. 

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

On a Sunday this past fall, Pastor Adam asked for a show of hands for those who are not native to Seattle – and it was the vast majority of our body! We have people joining us from all over the country (and the world!), across the gamut of occupations and life stages, with a wide array of personal backgrounds and experiences. This is itself a beautiful picture of the diversity of God’s kingdom (Rev 7:9) and His supernatural power at work to bring together a new people as his treasured possession (1 Pet 2:9-10). With such a significant portion of our body being relatively new to Seattle, there are many implications for who we are as a people, including and especially how we live life together in community.

As such, I’ve taken to describing our community life as dynamic. While we are always working to build meaningful discipling relationships in our communities, that looks different season to season. It also looks different than we might expect, either from our own past experiences, or desires for new experiences. So I think it’s helpful for us to consider a few ways that our mobile urban context can work for – or against – the goals of our life together in community. I’m sure there are others, but here are five implications that have been forefront in my mind this year.

First, we are called to welcome others as we have been welcomed by Christ (Rom 15:7).

We ought to always be on the lookout for those who are new, but knowing that most of us are relatively new should keep this commandment forefront for us. Along with welcoming is to practice hospitality with one another, inviting others into our homes and our lives (Rom 12:13, Heb 13:2, 1 Pet 4:9). Welcoming and being hospitable is more than just taking someone out to lunch or having them over for dinner (though that is certainly included), but in the broader sense to be welcoming and hospitable is to say to others “I see you and I have room for you in my life.” In our hyper-busy culture, we must be intentional to make room for others, and in so doing, by God’s grace, live as welcoming and hospitable people.

Second, we should expect there to be movement as a part of our life together, without keeping a distance.

Our primary purpose in community is to foster meaningful discipling relationships – and the fact that some folks might be leaving can tempt us to keep things shallow, to avoid getting real with others. But we must walk this tension to build and maintain authentic community – and seek to make meaningful relationships with those who are in our body, for as long as they’re in our body. God is sovereign over all the details of our lives, and that includes the people that he’s brought into your life and our body today.

Third, we should commit – in community, in church membership, and in stewarding our gifts for the upbuilding of the body (1 Cor 12:7).

Commitment is like a bad word in our day and age, but it’s essential in order for us to be a healthy family. In order to be known and know others, we have to commit and consistently show up. When we aren’t willing to commit to go be with our community, what we’re really saying is that community is primarily about “What’s in it for me?” rather than “How can I steward my gifts for the upbuilding of the body?” Surely, there will be days when circumstances prevent our full participation, but that should be the exception and not the norm. Directly related is our experience of intimacy with others – if we’re not willing to commit and show up, then we won’t be able to receive the blessing of meaningful relationships with others. This same consumer mentality can lead us away from church membership, which then limits how well we can care for each other because we’re not committed to each other. And not surprisingly, if we aren’t committed to others in community or the church as members, it will be impossible for us to commit to using our gifts for the upbuilding of the church – which is a disservice to ourselves, our community, and our church family.

Fourth, we should get involved quickly, even if we’re not sure how long we’ll be here.

Some of us may only plan to be in Seattle for a year or two and be tempted to say that it won’t be worth the relational effort to get connected. There are three reasons that this temptation leads us to waste our time: First, 1-3 years can see a LOT of growth, and if we don’t take a step to commit, then we’ll miss out on the opportunity to grow while we’re here (after all, Jesus only spent three years physically with his disciples). Second, I’ve known many people who’ve set out to be here for six months, only for the project to get extended three months at a time, or a new relationship started, or a job change, which leads to them being in Seattle for years. But because they hadn’t committed to anyone, they’ve remained on the outskirts and being lonely for much longer than they thought they would be. Third, the commandments for us to make the best use of our time (Eph 5:16, Col 4:5) still apply to us, even when we’re expecting to be somewhere for a short period of time.

Fifth, we need to persevere and not be discouraged if people you’ve invested in leave.

Often we will grow close to someone and then seasons change and they move away – leaving us behind, perhaps relationally tired or even hurt. The temptation arises to say “Well, I’m done getting hurt or spending my energies on others.” But if we withdraw, this leaves us further isolated and hurting. So, the solution is not to withdraw, but to welcome others. Certainly, there will be some relational cost and loss as people move away – but for us as brothers and sisters in Christ, it is less like we’re losing family but extending our family. Lord willing, those relationships can still exist to some extent even if people move to another community, out of state, or across the world – but even if not on this side of heaven, we’ll be able to celebrate for eternity when we gather together around Jesus. Our call is the same – to continue to stir one another up to love and good works, and continuing to meet together (Heb 10:24-25).

If you’re not yet in a Cornerstone Community, the best place to get started is with the Foundations class, which lays the groundwork for our life together in DCC. The next class starts this Sunday, 2/24, at 9a. You can read more details and register here.

Jan 10
2019

Life in Community | Expectations of Community

Community

The Life in Community series highlights aspects of our life lived together in community through a mixture of theology, vision, and personal stories. Cornerstone Communities are the primary means of forming meaningful discipling relationships where we can be known, encouraged, and challenged by brothers and sisters in our body, and live out the “one another” commandments in our daily lives. 

In his book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes both the blessings and the challenges of a Christian community and how our own expectations have a significant role to play in our participation in and experience of community. As we enter a new year and a new season with our communities, let’s consider what community is and what we can and should expect, as well as what we cannot and should not expect.

Christian community, in the broader sense, happens throughout the life of the church: in Sunday gatherings as well as in our Cornerstone Communities, Discipleship Groups, and interpersonal interactions. It is a gift for believers in the present church age used to strengthen, equip, build-up, encourage, exhort, and care for one another. In DCC, we speak about our Cornerstone Communities as the place where we can get to know others and be known by others; where we primarily live out the “one another” commands to love our brothers and sisters in Christ; and where we form meaningful, mutually-edifying, discipling relationships. And it is our sincere desire that everyone who calls DCChome would have such a community.

BLESSINGS OF A CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY

Bonhoeffer describes the nature and very tangible good of the Christian community, which suggests some healthy expectations for community:

  • First, the desire for Christian community – the companionship and presence of other believers in our lives – is natural and reflects God’s own trinitarian nature in us as his image bearers. Moreover, God works through various means to achieve his purposes, and by his grace, we get to be part of those means in our care for each other such that when we visit, comfort, or exhort another we are a tangible sign of God’s grace to our brother or sister. So we should expect that we would show the love of Christ to others, and be shown the love of Christ by others (Gal 5:13)
  • Secondly, the Christian community is a gift and a privilege and not a guarantee or an entitlement. Like any of God’s gifts, God distributes according to his varied grace (1 Cor 12:18). Realizing it is a gift should lead us to thankfulness for what we have received. It should also lead us to understand the purpose of a Christian community, like the other gifts, is to build up the church and should be motivated by love for others (1 Cor 12:7, 13:1-13).
  • Thirdly, we have only one foundation for this community: Jesus Christ, who is our peace with God and with each other. Christ’s work on our behalf enables us to be in relationship with God and with other adopted sons and daughters in his family (Eph. 2:13-14). We should expect that we have this common ground that brings us together, and that our community is not rooted in anything else. Of course, it is great to find shared interests with those in our community, but those shared interests are secondary and are not required for a Christian community.

CHALLENGES OF A CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY

Bonhoeffer also speaks some cautions about community, particularly on our desires for and expectations of the community. He writes this:

Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it has sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams…. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

  • We can often import our desires to be loved, or expectations of others to be more to us than they ought, into our communities. And so we must be aware of whether or not we’re seeking community in and through Christ alone, or if we’re seeking something else. It is possible that we would make an idol out of the community (along with any other good thing) if we allow it to become the ultimate thing. (Phil 3:8)
  • We must realize that our Christian community is one that serves to point each other to Christ, and not to be Christ himself. We are not saved through a community, but we are encouraged and pointed to Christ in a community. (1 Cor 3:5-9) Realizing too that we’re not perfect, we should expect that there will be times when we sin against and are sinned against by others in our community. That does not mean we should seek to sin against each other, but rather that we should be in the practice of confession and forgiveness when we do sin (James 5:16, Col 3:13).
  • We must also be careful not to seek out simply the relational connection of human affection or emotional experience. Surely, we can hope to experience affection and positive emotions in our connection with one another, but this is a byproduct, not the end in itself, of the spiritual reality of being united in Christ and therefore must not be the driver for our expectations. In Romans 12:10 Paul actually instructs us to have brotherly affection – which is to say, we are to shape our affections for others in the body, not to base our participation in the body on our existing affections.

OUR ROLE IN A CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY

Taken together, these encouragements can help us calibrate our desires and expectations for our communities. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, they call us to participate in building these healthy communities. So, for those already in a Cornerstone Community, I’d encourage you in these ways:

  • Start with thanksgiving to God for the gift of community that you already have, rather than to lament the community you don’t yet have. Pray for those in your community – by name, and often. Reach out to others with prayers and encouragements for them.
  • Use your gifts to serve and encourage others in love, for God’s glory and their good. Ask “How might God use me to bless those in my community?” rather than asking “What will I get from this community?”
  • Commit to being an active part of your community. You can only grow in knowing others and being known by showing up. Invite those who are new to your community to grab a coffee and start to get to know each other.

If you’re not yet in a Cornerstone Community, get started with the Foundations class, which lays the groundwork for our life together in DCC. The next class starts this Sunday, 1/13, at 9a. You can read more details and register here.

Oct 5
2018

Stories of Grace | How God is Redeeming my Asian American Identity

Community, Stories of Grace

“The Stories of Grace series is intended to capture snapshots of God’s grace and glory amidst our every day lives. They are real stories of real people who have seen the fingerprints of God amidst the ordinary—God’s favorite canvas. Each story is personal, unique and, often, unfinished. Through it all we get glimpses of God’s steadfast love, sufficient grace, and ongoing presence with his people.”

“What’s it like being Asian here?”

I’ve been asked this several times in Seattle, and I still don’t know how to answer this question. I’m an Asian American, and among many other first-generation immigrants, we are often times called “third culture kids,” because we’ve created a third culture among ourselves that is neither truly “Asian” nor truly “American.”

As a result, much of my life has been a quiet tug-of-war, of never quite fitting into the Asian norms or high expectations set by my family, but also feeling like a foreigner to many American mannerisms. Was I supposed to stay silent or speak out? Was I supposed to obey authority or challenge it? To me, it was a dichotomous place of tension I lived in, never really knowing how to reconcile the two cultures from which I learned.

Coming to DCC, the disparity of Asian and minority representation in leadership was something I acknowledged but was not unaccustomed to. I grew as a believer in predominantly white churches, but the personhood of Jesus Christ always made me feel so close to Him and His people, despite our ethnic differences.

It wasn’t until recently that I felt safe enough to talk about my Asian quirks and heritage to non-Asians here. I attribute this space of comfort to my community, which has taught me so much about God’s acceptance and love far beyond any body of Christ I’ve encountered.

I moved from a group of Asian Americans to a community of majority white members. I knew my community cherished me, but there were many times I still felt on the fringes, catching the tail ends of pop culture references and missing punchlines to jokes. Those were the moments I asked myself, can a Christian feel lonely even among Christians? How terrible if this were the permanent reality—of being not only a stranger to this world but also a foreigner among other believers as well?

But thankfully, this was not the plan God had for me. After a year of persistently attending community, sharing vulnerably with my discipleship group, and receiving an abundance of generosity from my Christian friends here, I’ve been deeply filled and refined into a godlier woman.

When I was overwhelmed and pining desperately to leave Seattle, it was my Scottish-Swedish friend who comforted me when I had no words left to say. When I was flailing for friendship and laughter, it was my German friend who brought me ice cream and took off her make-up alongside me. When my lease ran out of time and I didn’t have a place to stay, it was my Jewish-German friend who immediately offered her place for me to stay. When I was harassed on the street and felt completely helpless, it was my German-English friend who empathized with and comforted me. When I was stressed from the demands of work, it was my German-English friend who gave me perspective and reminded me of the grace of God. When I felt stagnant in my faith, it was my Chinese friend who consistently prayed for me and challenged me to think beyond myself.

I say all of this to remind myself that the Lord provides, loves, and restores. He created me with black hair, brown eyes, and a small frame. He created me and put me in an Asian household among American neighbors. He planted me in Seattle and watered me slowly, nurturing me through interracial friendships and a church that is becoming more and more diverse.

For most of my life I had always believed that ethnic differences were divisive. But I’ve learned that humility, vulnerability, and intentionality regardless of race are the things that break walls of judgment and lies about people. I’ve received such deep love from these brothers and sisters that I want to continue demonstrating the same kind of God-given love to those in the next chapter of my life, whether or not they are Asian or American.

“Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” -Colossians 3:11

-Michelle Shieh, your Taiwanese-Japanese-American

If you are a member with DCC and have a story of grace to share please email info@downtowncornerstone.org.

Sep 27
2018

Life in Community | Why Community?

Community, Discipleship | by Justin Keogh

The Life in Community series highlights aspects of our life lived together in community through a mixture of theology, vision, and personal stories. Cornerstone Communities are the primary means of forming meaningful discipling relationships where we can be known, encouraged, and challenged by brothers and sisters in our body, and live out the “one another” commandments in our daily lives. 

— 

On most Thursday nights, I come home to our living room set up with all the folding chairs we own. The table is cleared of the usual place settings to make room for a potluck buffet. In a few minutes, somewhere between ten and twenty people show up, placing food and drinks on the table, catching up with each other, and marveling as the kids run in circles around it all. Is it a party, every week? Sometimes it feels that way, but in reality it’s our community gathered for quality time together over a meal, studying and discussing God’s word, and praying for one another.

As we go around the circle and share the evidences of grace we’ve each experienced that week, I marvel at how quickly these people, once strangers, have become family. I reflect on how these brothers and sisters in Christ have more in common with me than many of my own biological relatives, despite some being a decade younger or older, some of a different ethnicity and race, some of a different political persuasion, and some with different educational and economic backgrounds. At times I may have preferred an evening out with coworkers, but God has used the diversity of His body to challenge my assumptions and bring fresh conviction, expand my understanding of grace, and grow me in my compassion for others. What could bring us together, week after week, to form meaningful, mutually encouraging, discipling relationships where this sort of personal change could occur? Nothing but the love of God found in Jesus Christ, experienced by us all and lived out together.

In all the circles I find myself in, the bonds within the Body of Christ are the strongest. No matter how much my graduating class has shared experiences, my coworkers have shared goals, or my friends have shared interests, nothing brings together as diverse a people in as meaningful ways as the gospel of Jesus Christ. This amazing gospel brings us into a restored relationship with God and adopts us alongside others into a new family who now share a common identity.

This is Christian community. We, the adopted sons and daughters of God, are now part of God’s family, citizens in His kingdom, members of His body, and stones in His temple. We gather throughout the weeks and across the city in people’s homes in these Cornerstone Communities, intentionally living our lives together, so that we might encourage, and be encouraged by, one another in our faith. Throughout the history of the church, brothers and sisters in Christ have met together in similar fashion. The early church in Jerusalem is described in Acts chapter 2 this way:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.  – Acts 2:42-47 

The heart of Christian community is relationship. We structure our Cornerstone Communities by neighborhoods in hopes of best facilitating shared life together. It is our prayer that everyone who calls DCC home will find this kind of genuine life-on-life community, where they can be known, encouraged, and challenged in their faith – and do the same for others. Here’s my encouragement…

  • If you’re already part of a Cornerstone CommunityI hope you’ll continue to press in and use your gifts for the upbuilding of those in your community.
  • If you’ve been on the fringe of a community and haven’t been regularly connected, we’re just kicking off the year and now is a great time to jump back in.
  • If you’ve never been a part of a Cornerstone Community, sign up for the DCC Foundations class starting this week to learn more about who we are, what we believe, and how we operate as a local family and get connected! Register here
Jul 11
2018

Stories of Grace | Community Over Comfort

Community, Stories of Grace

“The Stories of Grace series is intended to capture snapshots of God’s grace and glory amidst our every day lives. They are real stories of real people who have seen the fingerprints of God amidst the ordinary—God’s favorite canvas. Each story is personal, unique and, often, unfinished. Through it all we get glimpses of God’s steadfast love, sufficient grace, and ongoing presence with his people.”

I sink onto the stained and faded not-so-white carpet, surveying the cardboard boxes stacked half way to the ceiling. My fearless toddler free-climbs the newly formed summits. I call to her to descend and decide to leave the boxes hungry while I rest. Though tired and a bit overwhelmed, I pause to thank God for this entirely unexpected but miraculous move.

I’ve never lived alone. Born the youngest of three kids, I immediately moved into a full house. After high school, I moved into college dorms. I shared a house with six women and then my husband. I moved six times in less than four years, but not once did I reside on my own.

The summer following my senior year of high school I had no residence to call my own after my family’s house, the only home I had ever known, was foreclosed, and we were evicted. It was that summer I first lived with my friend, Anne Johnson.

I crashed on her couch until the dorms opened. We were roommates throughout college, which is where we met our respective husbands, who also happened to be high school best friends. We intentionally sought to be next-door neighbors, both couples renting apartments above our church’s gathering space in Pittsburgh, PA. When Ben and Anne moved to Los Angeles, we figured our co-residing days were past. But God had other plans and brought us all to Seattle.

We shared an apartment in South Lake Union until Ben and Anne were ready to become foster parents. God provided a home for me and Justin just two blocks away so we could continue to do life with the Johnsons. During our sabbatical, we asked God “What’s next?” He answered by providing a four-bedroom house in the heart of Capitol Hill so that Justin and I could begin our family while living with the Johnsons.

Many single people cut costs by communal living, and some married folks do as well. But two families living together seemed unique to many, enticing to a few, and flat-out absurd to others — namely our Washington State Foster Licensor. She sat across our dining room table, eyeglasses situated sternly on the edge of her nose, staring at us in disbelief.

“I just couldn’t understand why two families who were unrelated would ever want to live together. I thought you all were crazy. But now that I’m talking with you, I see what you have here is really quite special.”

God not only changed our licensor’s mind but He also moved mountains of paper work and bent bureaucracy to create our co-joined foster home. He fashioned a family that shares no DNA but dinner around the table every night. And then He nudged us to grow more. God laid it on the Johnsons’ hearts to extend hospitality to more children in need of a home, but we had run out of space in ours. We either needed to live apart or do the impossible of finding a five-bedroom house within our budgets in Capitol Hill.

With the unlikelihood of us finding such a house, the comforts and conveniences of living apart crept into my mind. I began to linger on how I could put things where I wanted them and not have someone else move them. I thought about a fridge full of food only I wanted to eat and having no parameters around using shared space. I could finally build my own little kingdom unchallenged by anyone else.

But as I pressed into prayer over our next living situation, the Spirit changed my plea from “Lord, provide a place for me to build my kingdom,” to “Lord, what will bring You the most glory? Living together or living separately?” As I prayed, I became confident He would provide the exact residence that would give the glory to Him rather than to me.

After several weeks of looking for our “unicorn” house in vain, we decided to stay in our current house until God provided a bigger space. Letting go of my fantasies of the control and comfort of living as separate households did not come immediately or easily, but I trusted this was the best option even if it felt like a sacrifice. But the Johnsons still wanted to grow their family, so as a last-ditch effort, we reached out to our landlords to see if we could convert the basement into a fifth bedroom.

“No. That’s totally illegal,” they responded, “but we have another larger four-bedroom house if you want to check it out.”

Though it lacked the essential extra bedroom, we agreed to look at it. The house happened to have a second living room space, which we asked if our landlord would be willing to convert to a fifth bedroom.

“Sure. I could do that. It’d take me a weekend to put up a wall and a door.”

We were astonished. Our God, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence that which did not exist, created the exact house we needed. And in doing so, He obliterated any bases for me clinging to my comforts over the narrative He was unfolding between our two families living together.

If you’ve ever done it, you know living with others can be tedious and frustrating at times. God has used those moments of unwashed dishes, misplaced items, and damaged property to again and again reveal the depths of my own selfishness and idolatry of comfort. Community living provides regular occasions to die to myself and out-do my brothers and sisters in showing honor, whether by taking out the trash or cooking a meal. Living with another person helps challenge the happy delusion that I’m in control and the world revolves around me. Multiply that by two families living together and the opportunities for conviction are constant.

But living in community with fellow believers yields far sweeter fruit than my creature comforts could. We enjoy a house filled with laughter and prayer, singing and always an extra set of hands, others to pick up the burden when one of us falls sick or exhausted. We play board games; we talk about what we’re reading in the Word; we sharpen one another.

There are days I’m still tempted to believe that conveniences of living as a single-family-unit outweigh the riches of living together. At those times, I recall how God has gifted us this house and that He is building His Kingdom, not mine. So I join Him by praying, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, in our home as it is in heaven.”

– Jen Keogh, DCC Member

If you are a member with DCC and have a story of grace to share please email info@downtowncornerstone.org.

Jun 27
2018

Cornerstone Community Update – Summer Schedule

Community, News | by Justin Keogh

As we enter the summer months and our city comes alive with sunshine, festivals, and cook-outs, so too do our communities shift gears to enjoy this short and wonderful season together. In years past, communities have seen great fluctuation over the summer months as folks take vacations, travel, hike, camp, and seek to engage with neighbors and coworkers during the extended sunlight. So this year, as we enter the summer, we’re intentionally planning for a shift of rhythms over the next two months. Understandably, this may raise some questions – and so I’ve captured some FAQ here.

Why are we adjusting our rhythms?

In part, there is a recognition that rhythms naturally change over the summer as mentioned above. But more than that, this is part of an intentional structure to enable rest for the community leaders and apprentices, women’s discipleship leads, and community hosts who faithfully serve during the year week in and week out. Rest is a means of grace and spiritual discipline, and is essential for the health of those leading, which significantly impacts the health of the communities overall.

What will our communities be doing?

We’ve encouraged the leaders of each community to pursue a rhythm that fits for their community this season. With 21 communities, that is likely going to mean 21 different plans for the summer – and that’s okay! Some communities are leveraging this time to seek intentional missional opportunities to host neighbors and non-believing co-workers; other communities are adjusting to serve together; still others are taking space for prayer and worship together. All of the communities will be doing something together, whether that’s a structured gathering or something informal, at least once a month over the summer (many doing more).

When will we be back to the regular rhythms?

We’ve set July and August as the designated time for this summer schedule, and will return to our regular rhythm of weekly discussion gatherings in September, following Labor Day.

How else can I stay connected over the summer?

There are a number of great ways to stay connected, even while our community rhythm shifts. Consider the following means:

1. Continue in worship on Sundays. While you’re at it, why not invite someone new to grab lunch following the gathering?

2. Continue serving, or join a service team. Our Sunday worship will remain and still needs your help to run smoothly. Not only does serving on Sunday bless the church body, it also creates and supports meaningful relationships with those that you serve with.

3. Continue meeting with your community in the adjusted rhythm. Just because your community may not be meeting for the regular meal and discussion, doesn’t mean the time isn’t relationally valuable. If your community doesn’t have plans set just yet – consider taking the lead to put together a social, missional, or service event!

4. Save the date and join us for our corporate gatherings this summer

  • July 31st – Prayer Night
  • August 25th – Summer BBQ @ Myrtle Edwards Park

What if I’m not currently in a community – can I still jump into a community over the summer?

YES! As mentioned above, there is still great value in being connected to other brothers and sisters in our local family. If you’re not yet connected to a community, check out the map of existing communities here to find out which community is nearby your home or work, and then email connect@downtowncornerstone.org and let us know which one you’d like to jump in to, and we’ll connect you!

 It is our prayer that everyone who calls DCC home will be meaningfully connected to others in our body for their mutual discipleship and spiritual up-building. If you have any questions on how best to get connected, don’t hesitate to reach out!

May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13)

Jun 25
2018

Stories of Grace | Treasuring God’s Design

City Life, Community, Stories of Grace

“The Stories of Grace series is intended to capture snapshots of God’s grace and glory amidst our every day lives. They are real stories of real people who have seen the fingerprints of God amidst the ordinary—God’s favorite canvas. Each story is personal, unique and, often, unfinished. Through it all we get glimpses of God’s steadfast love, sufficient grace, and ongoing presence with his people.”

Three years ago I was on a plane, flying out of Honolulu. In the last week, I had stayed in a high-rise resort, dined at five-star restaurants, and visited the most exclusive venues. From my first-class seat, the ocean below was otherworldly, a perfect blue.

It was just another business trip: days overflowing with meetings and projects, and very little sleep. On these weeks, my colleagues and I arrived at the airport on Sunday morning at 5:00am. I traveled a few times a month – once, five times in five weeks. At home, I lived alone. In the office, I alone knew Jesus.

Before, the weekly presence of God’s family in my life had been constant. They were the people with whom I learned, sang, and prayed on a regular basis. Now, time together was rare. I read and prayed alone, and listened to hours upon hours of sermons. In isolation, luxury, and fatigue, the months passed in a blur.

This work was never meant to be a long-term situation, just a stopgap while I figured out what to pursue after college. But work and worry closed around me like a trap. The breakneck pace and all-nighters that were supposed to end after graduation only increased. I was too busy to let anyone into my life, too tired to have any profound time in the Word, and too stressed to think about making a change. Underneath the glamour, my heart felt deeply anxious. I knew, and learned again, that not even professional success can satisfy the deep places of my soul like Jesus can.

One year in, I took a long-planned mission trip with a small team. During those two weeks of kingdom work in Christian community, I knew more joy, more clarity, and more peace than I had known in months. God graciously gave me time to pray deeply with people, enjoy his company, and consider the direction of my life. Shortly after, I decided to trust God with my priorities, leave the familiar safety of my job, and move to Seattle after my projects ended to be closer to family.

The terrifying thing was that I didn’t know what was next. I had no job and no plan. But week by week, Jesus was with me as I prayed, thought, and researched. He encouraged me with his promises to sustain me and provide for me (Matthew 6:19, 25-34). A friend offered me a place to stay outside the city while I looked for housing. Two days before the move, God gave me a great job downtown. I unpacked and got involved with a gospel-teaching church near my friend’s house. All seemed to be falling into place.

But in the next few months, my social safety net unraveled. Best friends got married, moved churches, and drifted apart as they either neglected or forgot to live out the gospel and show grace to each other. I also struggled as a friend and roommate; the long commute and a shared room left little time for me to be alone with the Lord. After months of looking for an affordable place, and heartache over all the personal and relational failure, I moved into the city. I learned that not even my greatest friendships are as trustworthy as Jesus’ care.

It was wonderful to have my own room and to cut an hour each way off my commute. But it was very challenging to get to the suburbs during the week in time for community, and then back to the city. I asked Jesus what he wanted me to do.

A few days later, a work errand brought me past a large “EASTER” sign posted on a nearby building. Surprised to find a church two blocks away, I read its doctrinal statement and discovered with joy that it taught the gospel and the whole Bible. The first visit confirmed that it was indeed home. My church in the suburbs sent me off with their blessing, and I have been with DCC for the last two years.

My life is so simple and quiet compared to what it was three years ago. Instead of jet-setting for demanding projects or rushing through a work-filled week, I have time to be with the Lord and his people. For the past year, I have relished living in a house with four dear sisters in Christ and a family downstairs. We pray for each other, challenge each other, and delight in giving grace to each other. We host coworkers, family, and friends, making connections between them and disciples of them. I am daily in awe of God’s kindness to us. It is a mighty gift to know that my life’s greatest accomplishment is simply to know and love him and others in the ins-and-outs of life.

Two months ago, we were on the plane, flying out of Boston. A dear DCC sister and I had just spent a week walking, laughing, and learning about this city and each other. Every morning, we took time to be alone with Jesus. The trip used the last of my frequent-flyer miles from business travel. It was a special chance to celebrate not only a sweet friendship, but also the gracious way the Lord taught me to treasure his design of life together, for his glory and our joy.

“He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.” – Psalm 18:19

– Megan Addison, DCC Member

If you are a member with DCC and have a story of grace to share please email info@downtowncornerstone.org.

Apr 4
2018

Stories of Grace | Family Found

City Life, Community, Stories of Grace

“The Stories of Grace series is intended to capture snapshots of God’s grace and glory amidst our every day lives. They are real stories of real people who have seen the fingerprints of God amidst the ordinary—God’s favorite canvas. Each story is personal, unique and, often, unfinished. Through it all we get glimpses of God’s steadfast love, sufficient grace, and ongoing presence with his people.”

Almost eight years ago, my girlfriend at the time made a choice to pack her bags and leave the sunny shores of California for an internship opportunity in New York City.  She was confidently pursuing a dream that she had held for a very long time. I knew better than to be the one to stop her.

While Amy and I had talked about what it would look like for me to move to the East Coast as well, I was extremely hesitant to leave behind my very comfortable surroundings. Both of my parents were from families based in California. I had grown up my whole life in Orange County. Since as early as I could remember, I had been blessed in knowing and being known in church families that were integral parts of my life. From Christian summer camp friends, to small-group men that became roommates when I first moved out, I was never without friends and family close-by.

Yet despite all of these undisturbed comforts, God had begun to put on itch on my heart to leave California and follow Amy to New York.

Skipping many of the details of the way God “parted the sea” for my extremely effortless move to New York — which, talk to anyone that’s moved to New York from out of state, it’s not easy! — I soon found myself living in Brooklyn, only a block away from Amy. It was fall and the Christmas holiday was quickly approaching.

Amy and I spent Christmas together in New York that year. After doing our best to recreate the traditions we would both do with our families, we quickly realized how far removed we were from being with those people who were closest to us. We were those annoying family members who called and asked to be passed between all the relatives and family friends so we could feel like we were there.

Despite meeting numerous people over the next year, often we still felt like our closest friends were on the other side of the country. This stopped us, in many ways, from being fully present in several of the relationships and opportunities that God put before us.

Building into this same story, we were slow in finding a church to be a part of. Now, to be clear, we were going to church every weekend. In fact, we found the biggest reformed Christian church in the city and loved attending and soaking up the riches of the Sunday sermon.

But something was still missing. We were “attendees” of a church, and not creating relationships beyond the weekly meet and greet. Funny enough, the church was so big, we used to joke it wouldn’t matter if we remembered the names of the people sitting behind us, because the likelihood of actually seeing them again was so slim.

Having grown up in a family that was highly involved in the local church, I knew what we were doing was not “church’’. Going to church does not mean you are a part of the church. Even more so, we were going to church but had no desire to give back to the church.  It wasn’t until a year later when we were able to realize the joy of being a participating member of the church family. And what a difference it was.

By our second year in the big city, we stumbled upon another church we had heard about through the grapevine. It was another reformed gathering that had great music, good teaching, and people in similar stages of life as we were. The difference was it also had community gatherings, and the leaders often spoke about it and encouraged people to get plugged into these. Amy and I, now engaged, had never been a part of a community gathering in this type of sense.

In our remaining two years in New York, our Brooklyn community became a core source of support and friendship. And these were not just friends we would occasionally bump into. These were friends we would celebrate holidays and birthdays with, babysit for, ask for moving help from, road-trip with, call with heavy decisions to make, and much more. And yet, I will tell you emphatically — and this is not just because New York attracts the most unique people — we could not be more different from one another.  Something bound us together in a very fitting way.

I learned this is one of the hidden mysteries of Christ. Outside of any job or set of hobbies, any gender or ethnicity, any hometown or parallel past, Christ was the common bond that always rose above.  I had found a family of people that loved God and loved me for the imperfect sinner that I was.  We longed to do life with one another.

Reflecting on this experience reminds me of the verse in Revelation 7:9-10 that says, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

God, by His grace, continues to reveal this mysterious truth to me, even now in Seattle, where we’ve been for nearly three years. There is always a family, a local church, that God has prepared for us.  Always a family that is welcoming me “home” even if it is 3,000 miles from where I just was.

After learning the joys of being a part of community, you only can imagine how eager Amy and I both were to find a community when we first came to Seattle. In fact, I sent several emails to local churches asking to hear more about their community gathering.

I received a reply from the community deacon at DCC.  He excitedly connected me to the community leader in Queen Anne. Before I could even finish typing my “thank you” response, I received an email from the local community leader, himself. He wanted to know what service I typically attended so we could meet up that Sunday.

Once again, I am beyond blessed to say I have found a family like I could never have anticipated or imagined here in Seattle.  And this, I confidently know, is something God has prepared for any and all of His disciples wherever they go.

– Dave Osborne, DCC Member

If you are a member with DCC and have a story of grace to share please email info@downtowncornerstone.org.

Feb 21
2018

Meet Our Newest Elder Candidate: Luke Davis

Community, Discipleship, News

Downtown Cornerstone,

Last Sunday we presented Luke Davis to the church as a pastoral candidate. We are taking the next four weeks to give you time to meet with him, ask questions and/or express any concerns you may have. One of the over-arching qualifications for a pastor is that he must be “above reproach” (1Tim 3:1). This waiting period is our attempt to ensure all bases are covered and you have an opportunity to speak into the process.

The office of pastor (or elder) was created by God, for the leading, feeding, and protecting of his flock, the local church. Therefore, we treat the equipping and installation of such men with great seriousness – and joy!

Luke will not be on DCC’s pastoral staff (i.e. vocational pastor), but will serve as an elder in a volunteer capacity (i.e. lay pastor). Therefore, by necessity, the scope of his pastoral involvement will be limited when compared to a staff pastor. However, his service will be equally significant. As a non-staff pastor Luke will be involved with preaching, counseling, membership interviews, officiating weddings and funerals, elder meetings and practical leadership (which currently includes leading a Cornerstone Community). Our hope is to have many non-staff pastors in the future, as it helps diversify and strengthen the elder team and, therefore, the church.

Luke is a good man with integrity, love for Jesus, and for Jesus’ church. As elders we believe he is called, qualified, and ready to be installed as a pastor of Downtown Cornerstone. However, we are taking this time in case you know something that we do not.

That said, would you pray for the Davis’ in this season? Would you also pray for our church? It is a sign of God’s grace to us that we have men, like Luke, being raised-up to lead, feed and protect Jesus’ flock. Let’s ask Him for more.

Provided nothing arises that would cause us to stop the process, which we don’t foresee, we will install Luke as our fifth pastor, and first non-vocational pastor, on Sunday, March 18th. It will be a great celebration and a joyous moment.

What follows (below) is a short interview with Luke so that you can get to know him a bit better.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns you can email me directly at adam@downtowncornerstone.org.

Christ is all,

Pastor Adam

On behalf of the elders of DCC

-———————————————————————————

Q: How did you meet Jesus? How has he changed you?

LD: God was often on the perimeter of my mind making forays to the forefront around visits to church on Christmas and Easter. The rhythm of my relationship with Him drastically changed when dad decided our family needed to become faithful members of a local church. The timing coincided with my entrance into high school. As the message of the Gospel became clearer my heart put up a fight. I didn’t want to accept that I was busted without Jesus. But the Spirit patiently melted away my crazed attempt to grasp at some measure of merit and Christ became a living hope.

I guess just about every area of my life has been affected since following Jesus half a lifetime ago. We would not be in Seattle, for instance, were it not for submitting my vocation to His will. Jesus has been the closest of friends, fulfilling promise after promise. My marriage, family, and work have all been profoundly shaped by Him.

Q: Tell us a little about your family.

LD: My beautiful bride, Lynn, and I have been married for almost a decade (wish us a happy anniversary on March 8th!). Within those years we have welcomed William (10), Ezra (8), Rowan (6), and Haven (1.75). Our little girl is the lone Seattleite in the bunch. The rest of us hale from Florida.

Q: What are you most passionate about?

LD: I am deeply committed to seeing wisdom and virtue cultivated in the hearts of children. Paul admonishes all parents to bring up their kids in the discipline and instruction of the Lord; to lead them in the way of Jesus. It is a joy of mine to partner with parents as they pass on what it means to be human.

Q: How did you get involved with DCC?

LD: It was paramount for Lynn and I to identify a few churches where we could worship in good conscience while considering a move to Seattle. DCC, along with some other churches, appealed to us because of its theology and location. When attempting to line up some personal connections during a first visit to the city, David Parker’s warm communication and generous invitation drew us in like a beacon. Our very first impression of DCC was full of good conversation, camaraderie, Gospel care, and hospitality. The connection was set at that first meeting and we have been celebrating our local church ever since.

Q: What are your current areas of oversight?

LD: Within DCC I oversee the Belltown West Community.

Q: How did you determine you were called to be a pastor?

LD: I have desired to serve the church in this capacity for 16 years. At the simplest level I originally recall a pull to the pastorate when initially reading through 1 Timothy 3 as a young Christian. But discerning the pastoral call should never be done in isolation. The desire grew in clarity, understanding, and affirmation through wise counsel, prayer, and mentoring. My prayer is that our Lord may use me to help lead, feed, guide, and protect the flock.

Q: How can we be praying for you and your family in this season?

LD: Lord willing, I will be the first lay elder in DCC’s history. That distinction is attended by humbling honor and trepidation. Our pastors expend themselves, body and soul, for the welfare of the church. I need wisdom to walk out this call well in the midst of being a husband, father, headmaster, and citizen of Seattle. Please ask our Father for the grace to serve DCC well without betraying the other responsibilities in my life.

Additionally, my family has called Belltown home during the duration of our time in Seattle. As I write this I am surrounded by bins. We are moving just a couple miles east to the Central District within the next week. Leaving Belltown is going to hurt. But we are celebrating our transition to the CD. Please pray for quick connection with neighbors and vision for flourishing within a neighborhood full of historical hurt and triumph.

Thanks, Luke!