Downtown Cornerstone Blog
Jun 8
2020

Engaging Conversations on Race with DCC

Community, Global Issues, Prayer | by Pastor Justin Keogh

Pastoral Note

Friends,

Recent events highlighting ongoing racial injustice have moved many to want to learn and act positively to address racism and injustice from a biblical perspective. To that end, we want to continue facilitating meaningful, faithful, and loving discussion with each other, while encouraging one another toward Gospel-centered action.

As Christians, we know that every human is made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), who is the source of human value and dignity. Yet, we live in a fallen world, marred by the sin of racism, that devalues others on the basis of their skin color.

In American history, this has tragically led to ongoing violence and inequality for African Americans and other minorities—which is not the way it will be in heaven (Rev. 7:9), not the way God desires it to be on earth (Ps. 37:28), nor in his church (James 2:1-13).

Therefore, we’re bringing together a number of opportunities this summer to help us engage in these issues with others in DCC. Our hope in these sometimes difficult conversations is to draw close to one another in love, founded in our unity in Christ, in order that we may live out the commandments to love one another (John 13:34) and to be salt and light to our city (Matt. 5:13-16)—a testimony to the world around us of God’s love and his power at work among us.

Here are four practical steps you can take with us:

#1 PRAY

Flowing from our recent day of fasting and prayer, we are encouraging our body to get out and pray for Seattle. Our desire is to see our people gather in groups of 5 or so walking the streets and neighborhoods where they live with one goal—pray for the welfare of that place you live, from Isaiah 59:14-16. See our prayer walking guide for more details on how to join us in this!

#2 DISCUSS

This Sunday, June 14th, we’re hosting an event called the UNDIVIDED Forum, which will be a chance to open God’s word and discuss with others the biblical call toward racial reconciliation, especially within the church. Read more and register HERE.

#3 READ

This summer, I will be hosting a book discussion of Divided by Faith (a look at why the church in America is racially divided) followed by United by Faith (a look at multi-ethnic churches as a solution). If you’re interested in joining this book discussion, please email me at justin@downtowncornerstone.org

#4 CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION

We’ve created the Racial Reconciliation group on Church Center as a place for us to post content, discuss topics of race, and share opportunities to take action together. Read more and join HERE.

Let’s continue to pursue mercy and justice as we love and pray for one another in all humility, gentleness, and patience.

Blessings,
Pastor Justin

Jun 3
2020

A Call To A 24-Hour Fast

Community, Global Issues, Prayer | by Pastor Adam Sinnett

Pastoral Note

Friends,

We are living amidst tumultuous times (e.g. ongoing racial injustice, protesting, violent rioting, exploitive looting, a once-in-a-century-pandemic, near record-level unemployment, deep political divisions, an inability to gather as a church, in addition to the every day trials and temptations of our personal lives) and one vital means of grace the Lord has given to his church amidst such storms is fasting and prayer.

Therefore, I am writing to invite you to join the elders in a 24-hour food fast (fasting from food, but not water) beginning tonight after dinner, Wednesday, June 3rd, and lasting up till dinner tomorrow, Thursday, June 4th (i.e. skip breakfast and lunch on June 4th).

If protests are an appeal to earthly powers, fasting is an appeal to the Highest Power. Peaceful protests and calls for justice are good, right, and have their place. But, only the power and presence of God can bring about the nature of changes that are most deeply needed in our city. That means, we must pray.

Ask yourself: Am I seeking God’s face with the same intensity by which I am seeking to remedy the injustices of the world? Does the heat of my prayer life out-do the heat of my protests? Does my pleading with God out-weigh my pleading with others? Does my virtue signaling signal that God is my highest virtue? If not, we must pray.

Racism, violence, and injustice are demonic at their core (Eph. 2:2-3; 6:12f), not earthly, and a spiritual cause requires a spiritual solution. Therefore, while there are many things we could do, the one thing we must do is pray.

One of the primary ways to bring focus to our prayers is to fast. The purpose of fasting is to express absolute dependence on God. It is a way to say to God, “This much, O God, we need you! We are not self-sufficient, but entirely dependent. We can’t sort this out on our own. You must act if anything is to change!” As such, fasting is always coupled with prayer as you allow every hunger pang to highlight your need for God.

Over these 24-hours, and beyond, let’s pray…

  1. That God would unexpectedly show up in His saving, life-changing, and heart-transforming power, in Jesus. That His local churches would be innocent and wise (Mt. 10:16), being salt and light in their spheres of influence (Mt. 5:13-16), and communities of love that shock the city (Jn. 13:35). That the gospel would be clear and central. That the unifying power of the gospel would be displayed in His reconciled, multi-ethnic people who are bound together by the Spirit, which is stronger than blood, as local embassies of the kingdom to come.
  2. That justice would prevail, especially in favor of communities of color. These recent events are not isolated, but are part of a long, unbroken string that stretches back hundreds of years. Shockwaves of past injustices continue to ring out into the present. Let’s seek to be a force for good, because we are gospel people. Further, let’s pray that earthly justice would not end there, but ultimately lead to gospel revival and renewal, and true reconciliation, throughout our city. Let’s pray that this city-wide desire for justice would lead those of our city to Jesus, the only purely Just One.
  3. That city, state and national leadership would have wisdom. These are complex times. Let’s ask our gracious God to grant favor, wisdom and mercy to decision-makers. Let’s pray that our leaders, and upright police officers, to humbly love truth, walk in the light, and leverage their positions of influence for good, not harm. They are under tremendous pressure and are finite, like us, so may God grant them mercy.
  4. That we would learn to depend and do good amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. This disease continues to kill people every day, plunder the economy, promote personal despair, and prevent Jesus’ people from gathering. Let’s pray this season will come to an end soon. That we would learn the lessons He has for us to learn. That our hope and joy, in Him, would not waver. That we’d have spiritual eyes to see how He is moving around us, so that we can join Him in that work.

Joining with you, in fasting and prayer. Let’s pursue Him together.

With you, in Christ, for the sake of the world—
Pastor Adam

P.S. If you are unable to fast for medical reasons, or your schedule does not allow you to participate on the dates above, please feel the freedom to adjust the type or length of fast you practice and/or the dates on which you practice it.

May 15
2020

Longing for Justice in a World Gone Mad

Community, Global Issues, News | by Pastor Adam Sinnett

Downtown Cornerstone,

By now you’ve seen the news of the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery on February 23, 2020, outside Brunswick, Georgia. Travis McMichael, and his father, attempted to make an armed citizen’s arrest of Ahmaud, who they believed was involved in a string of residential burglaries, while he was jogging unarmed. However, an altercation ensued and Ahmaud was shot two times in the chest, resulting in his death. Since the victim was an unarmed African American and the assailants were armed white men this is understandably seen as another sad episode of racial violence in our nation’s history. Additionally, the fact it took three months for the McMichael’s to be charged has rightly raised significant questions about the just handling of this case by local authorities.

So, what are we to do with this news?

FIRST, WE MUST LAMENT

Regardless of the details, this is another deeply troubling manifestation of a world groaning under the weight of sin. This world is not as it should be—it hasn’t been since the fall (Gen. 3) and it won’t be until Jesus returns (Rev. 20-22). Relationships break down. Words are wielded to wound. Power is abused. Sexuality is distorted. Biases exploit. Emotions manipulate. Violence reigns. Justice is perverted. Unarmed joggers, made in the image of God, are shot in broad daylight. Unfortunately, this isn’t new; this is as old as humanity itself. It is right to long for justice amidst a world gone mad.

So, how are we to cope? The Bible’s answer is, in part, to lament. A lament is a passionate expression of grief and sorrow to God. The Psalms are filled with such laments (e.g. Psalm 12, 22, 44, 88). In fact, an entire book of the Bible is called Lamentations, which laments the fall of Jerusalem to foreign invaders. To lament is to express your pain, your struggles, your doubts, and your unresolved questions to God. Start with lament by directing your pain Godward.

SECOND, WE MUST MOURN

The historical relationship between whites and blacks in our country is filled with unconscionable violence and unspeakable injustice. That history serves as an important backdrop for how events, such as this, are perceived. From one angle, this situation could look like an over-zealous attempt-gone-wrong to protect your neighborhood. But, from another angle, it looks like yet another incident of a young unarmed black man who is killed without due process (e.g. Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, et. al.). Was race a factor? We don’t know. But, it certainly doesn’t appear that ‘black lives matter’ when it takes three months and a public video release for the wheels of justice to get set in motion.

Regardless of the details, we must mourn with those who mourn (Rom. 12:15). Not every minority or African American processes such incidents in the same way—just like anyone else. After all, suffering isn’t monolithic. But, we can still mourn that such situations continue to be a reality. We can mourn that some may wonder if they’ll be ok if they go out for a jog. We can mourn that some little boys and girls grow up wondering how they’ll be treated in a majority context. To every African American, we express profound pain and sorrow with you. We join you in this time of mourning and stand with you.

THIRD, WE MUST LEAN IN

These issues didn’t emerge overnight nor will they quickly go away. So, we must take the long view even as we seek to do as much good as we can today. If we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (which is the second greatest commandment, Mark 12:31) that means we must lean into areas we are unfamiliar with out of love for those who are different from us. As a church we continue to work to create a culture where we can lean into these issues honestly and openly, even amidst our many differences. To do so we continue to write articles, preach sermons, offer classes, and recommend reading. We must lean in together as we seek to bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). For example:

ArticleRacism is a Radical Evil
SermonsThe Racism-Crushing GospelA Gospel Forged People in a Divided AgeGod’s New Humanity.
ClassUndividedIdentity Politics and the Death of Christian Unity
Reading: We also recommend reading Divided by Faith and its counterpart, United by Faith.

FOURTH, WE MUST BE PATIENT

It is easy to get caught-up in the emotional and politicized roller coaster of the news cycle. We want to take control. We want to do something. We want justice to prevail. We want leaders to propagate our vision for the world. We want the indifferent to wake up. We want to signal our virtue. We want this fixed now. This must not happen again. Enough, we think, and rightly so. There is much that is good, true and noble about such sentiments.

Yet, if we’re not careful, in our desire for justice, do we become unjust?

In our yearning for peace, do we create division?
In our passion to love, do we become unloving?
In our hope of righting wrongs, do we inadvertently add to them?
In our hunger for justice, are we also hungering for righteousness?
After all, only the poor in spirit, will enter the kingdom (Mt. 5:3)

We must be patient, but patience doesn’t mean passive inactivity. It means prayerful, God-centered, restraint in the face of opposition. It means being quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19). Why? “Because the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James. 1:20). To be patient is to love (1 Cor. 13:4). Patience allows time for more answers to arise. Patience gives space for repentance to occur (Rom. 2:4). Patience is more likely to earn us a hearing with others (Pr. 25:15). We must be patient, even as we act.

JUSTICE IS COMING

Friends, let’s continue to humbly submit ourselves to God when we see events like this unfold before us. We know that politics, blogs, and social-shaming can’t ultimately change the human heart. We know that racial utopia is not possible in this life. We’re not naive. But, neither are we paralyzed. The world is in search of answers; we know who He is. While we long for justice in a world gone mad, we know justice is coming (Rom. 12:19).

We are in this city to know Jesus and to make Him known. Let’s build meaningful relationships with others who are different from us. Let’s engage in the discussion with wisdom, tenderness, and courage. Let’s passionately share the heart-changing, all-satisfying good news of Jesus. Together, let’s be a visible, albeit imperfect, local expression of Jesus’ redeemed and reconciled (!) people to a divided world in desperate need of healing hope.

My heart is with you, my prayers are for you,
Christ is all, always.
Pastor Adam

Apr 16
2020

Discipleship in this Season: Classes, Community, and Connect & Prayer

Community, Discipleship | by Pastor Justin Keogh

Discipleship in this Season

Downtown Cornerstone,

This is certainly a unique season we find ourselves in amidst Covid-19 and “social distancing.” As we continue to approach God’s throne of grace for mercy (Heb. 4:16), we know that God is sovereignly in control (Ps. 46:10) and that He, in His wisdom, has appointed this time and season (Eccl. 3:1-8). We can trust that He is working through this season to carry out His will and purposes in ways both seen and unseen.

Among those purposes, we know that God desires for his people to continue to grow in knowledge, faith, and obedience (Col. 1:9-14). And we, as Jesus’ church, remain called and committed to discipleship (Eph. 4:11-16) and have shifted our normal rhythms to virtual platforms. This season especially highlights the value and necessity of personal discipleship and meaningful relationships!

NEWCOMERS’ COFFEE AND FOUNDATIONS

If you are new with us, we invite you to join us this Sunday, April 19th at 12PM for our upcoming Virtual Newcomers’ Coffee. This is an opportunity for you to meet a pastor, connect with leaders, hear our story, ask any questions you may have, and identify your next steps—along with others who are doing the same. Learn more and register…

We also encourage you to join us for the Foundations class on Wednesdays at 6:30PM, starting on April 22nd. This five-week class covers the essentials of who we are as a local church and is the primary relational on-ramp into the life of our body. Throughout the class, we’ll discuss who we are and what we believe while building relationships and community together. Learn more and register…

SPRING CLASSES

As you consider how God is calling you to take the next step in your faith, our upcoming set of classes are a great way to grow in your knowledge and love of God and all that He is for us. In light of Covid-19, we are offering these classes virtually via video call where you will be live with the instructor.

  • Session 1: Begins Wednesday, April 22nd and includes Christianity Explained and Suffering: Understanding & Experiencing God’s Grace.
  • Session 2: Begins May 27th and includes Developing Meaningful Relationships and Meeting With God.

If you are new with DCC, we would encourage you to start with the Foundations Class which takes place at the same time.

Learn more about our classes and register…

CORNERSTONE COMMUNITIES

For those who have already taken the Foundations class and have been participating with us for a while, we invite you to further embed in the life of our church by joining one of our Cornerstone Communities. While this season presents new barriers to fellowship, our communities are still operating virtually, and would love to welcome you in!

To join a Cornerstone Community, check out the current list of communities, and fill out this form.

CONNECT & PRAYER

Below are some additional ways for us as a body to connect, pray together, and share life in the midst of “social distancing”:

  • Pre-Livestream Connect & Prayer: These calls are facilitated by DCC pastors and are an opportunity to go before the throne of grace before the livestream gathering-while-scattering. Look out for Sunday Morning Guide email with meeting details.
  • Midweek Connect & Prayer: These calls are facilitated by DCC pastors as well and are meant as a way to fellowship with one another through the week. Check out our weekly DCC News emails for meeting details.
  • Prayer Night: We regularly gather together for an evening of prayer, scripture, and song, asking our Father to do what only He can do. Our next Prayer Night will be on Sunday evening, April 26th. Learn more…
  • New to DCC and looking to meet others? Cornerstone Connects exist to help connect people with shared interests. With current gatherings restrictions in place, our Digital Connect is a way to meet others in our body for social hangouts, games, and more! Check out upcoming events and join here.

Lastly, I encourage you to stay connected with us by installing the DCC App where we post important church-wide updates and notifications.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at justin@downtowncornerstone.org. I am praying that this season will be one of growth in your knowledge, love, and trust of the Lord!

Blessings,
Justin

Jan 3
2020

How To Grow With Us This Year

Community, Discipleship | by Pastor Justin Keogh

Hello!

As we head into 2020, there are a number of ways to grow with us – and we hope you will take full advantage of all that God has prepared for you this year! It is our prayer that all who consider DCC their home church would be relationally connected, intentionally growing, meaningfully serving and giving, missionally engaged, willingly accountable, and known by a pastor. Fundamentally, we are a local people in gospel-forged relationships who desire to know Jesus and make him known. To that end, I’d invite you to consider what your next step would be to grow in 2020.

NEW WITH US?

If you’re new to DCC, join us this Sunday, January 5th, for our next Newcomers’ Coffee. This will be held after both gatherings and is an opportunity for you to meet a pastor, connect with leaders, hear our story, learn what we believe, ask any questions you may have, and identify your next steps—along with others who are doing the same (No need to RSVP).

I’d also encourage you to join us for the Foundations class on Sundays at 9 am, starting on January 12th. This five-week class covers the essentials of who we are as a local church and is the primary relational on-ramp into the life of our body. Throughout the class, we’ll discuss who we are and what we believe while building relationships and community together. Learn more and register HERE.

LIFE WITH DCC

For those who have already taken the Foundations class and have been participating with us for a while, we invite you to further embed in the life of our church through:

CLASSES & DISCIPLESHIP

Lastly, as you consider how God is calling you to take the next step in your faith, our upcoming set of classes are a great way to grow in your knowledge and love of God and all that He is for us:

  • Session 1 begins this Wednesday, January 8th: Systematic Theology II, Financial Stewardship, and Unity & Diversity.
  • Session 2 begins February 12th: Systematic Theology II (contd.), Parenting, and Missions.

Learn more about these classes and register HERE.

For the ladies especially, there are two unique opportunities this winter:

  • Women’s Bible Study: Wednesday mornings from 10 am – 12 pm, starting January 8th. This will be a 13-week study on Ephesians, with childcare incorporated. Learn more and register HERE.
  • Women’s Discipleship Day: Saturday, February 1st, from 9 am – 4 pm. This will be a relational, interactive day with singing, mingling, discussion, and times of learning, reflection, and prayer. Learn more and register HERE.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at justin@downtowncornerstone.org. I am praying that this next year will be one of growth in your knowledge, love, and trust of the Lord!

Blessings,
Justin

Mar 21
2019

Life in Community | Loving and Serving One Another

Community | by Pastor 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 Pastor 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 Pastor 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