Posted by & filed under Current Issues.

A divisive presidential election. A protested inauguration. The Women’s March. Democrat vs. Republican. Liberal vs. Conservative. Rural vs. Urban. Blue states vs. Red States. Pro-life vs. Pro-choice. Rich, poor. Black, White, Hispanic.

People are divided… politically, economically, geographically, spirituality, by gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. As Christ-followers, it is easy to begin to see the world and other people in the “us vs. them” paradigm. Without much effort, we begin to relate to others based on our differences with them. When we relate to others based on our differences, we tend to be defensive, focus more on being right than kind, or gravitate toward isolation and association only with people “like” us.

While “us vs. them” feels necessary, is it biblical? How then do we live in a nation divided into so many different identities and ideologies?

1) We must not be surprised when the “world” does not act like “us” as Christ-followers, and we must remember what we were like before Christ.

Do not be surprised that people do not recognize truth (Romans 1:18), prefer feel good teaching over truth (2 Timothy 4:3), and fail to see God in creation, Scripture, or the gospel.

We all should read and reread Titus 3:3. Because of who we were pre-Jesus and what He did for us (Romans 5:8), Christ-followers should be the most humble, gentle, patient, and merciful people on the planet. It is not “us vs. them”, it is “us” in humble compassion and grace toward “them.”

2) We must get judgment right.

We are called to judge sin IN the church—the sin of Christians or of those who claim to be (I Corinthians 5:13). This means our posture is “us” versus the sin we found in ourselves and each other in the church. Paul commands the church to live so that those outside the church can’t criticize (Philippians 2:14-15) and instructs church leaders to have good reputations among non-believers (I Timothy 3:7). For example, are we more concerned about what the Supreme Court says about marriage or about how the people in our small group are actually doing in their marriage?

Why is this important? So that our testimony of Christ can be heard without distraction or creating disgust, and we are reminded that this testimony is how God is for people in Jesus, not against them (John 3:17). In other words, we are not tools of condemnation for “them”; instead we are ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19-20) and “salt and light” to “them” (Matthew 6:13-16).

3) We must manage the tension between truth and love with wisdom.

By relativizing truth to individuals, one’s ideological preference, or one’s dominant identity, all we need is love, right? The world only wants to hear about acceptance, tolerance, and equality guised under the category of “love.” However, there is such a thing as absolute, objective truth. To ignore or dismiss truth does not make it less true; however, to hide truth is potentially unloving. However, we do not share truth in pride or condemnation or to be right or to win an “us vs. them” battle. As Tim Keller said in a sermon, “truth without love is imperious self-righteousness. Love without truth is cowardly self-indulgence.” As human beings, we all need truth, and we all need love. We need truth expressed with love and love that aims at truth.

4) We must go deeper into the gospel to live effectively in the world today.

The gospel humbles us with the difficult truth about ourselves, yet displays our worth through the radical love of God. The gospel tells us the ground at the foot of the cross is level, and that we are all fellow pilgrims searching for the truth that will free us and the love that will not disappoint us. In the gospel, it is not “us vs. them.”  It is all of us in need of the One Who became one of us: to die for us, to die instead of us, and to rise from the dead to give life to any of us who would place our faith in Him.

Posted by & filed under Leadership, RBCC Vision & News.

In Acts 1:15-26, Matthias was chosen to be the new and 12th apostle. In Acts 6:1-7, new leaders were added to the church. In Acts 11:25-26, Barnabas went to get Paul and add him to Antioch’s leadership. In 2 Timothy 2:2, Timothy is instructed to raise up more teachers in the Ephesus church. In Titus 1:5, Paul tells Titus to finish the uncompleted work of adding elders to the church in Crete.

What do we “see” from these examples?

1) God adds leaders through prayer and providence.

God uses circumstances—even problems—to bring about the need for additional leadership in the church. Additionally, prayer is a critical component of New Testament leadership selection.

2) Leaders are added to fuel momentum.

The church has a mission, and it’s not maintenance of the status quo. Matthias was added so that the apostolic witness would be complete and the command to be witnesses of the resurrected Christ could go forward into the world. Seven servants were added to minister more effectively to widows and to ensure the apostles could teach and pray with focus. The result? More disciples (see Acts 6:7)! Paul helped teach in a church that later became the springboard that launched Christianity from a regional to a global movement (Acts 13:1-2). Teachers and elders were added in Ephesus and Crete because when the Gospel advances, lives are touched, changed, and incorporated into the church.

This is why we celebrate our staff. When we hired them, they were an answer to prayer; they still are. The vibrant presence of staff means God is moving, God is faithful, and we are cooperating with the grace He is giving to us. Personally, few things give me more pleasure in ministry than the staff partnerships we have at RBCC. Corporately, our church is blessed by the dedication and presence of Christ working in and through our staff.

This is why I’m excited to announce that Ryan Stigile will be our new Executive Pastor (see the post, “XP: What & Why?”). He’s originally from Virginia and his wife, Emily, is from the Marietta/Atlanta area. They attended Lee University in Cleveland and have recently been ministering in Ohio. He has visited Rock Bridge twice, and gone through several interviews and conversations with our staff, elders, and church members.

Ryan emerged as our leading choice after months of elder meetings, staff conversations, and hours of prayer. He shares our vision to connect disconnected people to Christ and loves to develop systems to support big visions. The elders and I believe God has brought Ryan and Emily to Rock Bridge, and we look forward to adding another team member and ministry partner to the Rock Bridge family!

God is at work at Rock Bridge to position us for MORE … so believing that the best is yet to come, please pray for our staff, for Ryan and Emily, and for fresh zeal for God’s glory!

Matt

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

The Annual Rock Bridge Budget: 2017

Each year Rock Bridge members have an opportunity to review and adopt our annual

budget. The budget is a combination of wise stewardship, faith for the future, and fiscal

restraints that strategically advance our mission and reflect our most recent priorities,

while protecting the financial integrity of the church.

 

The budget is only one part of how we “strive for excellence” in financial integrity.

Additionally, we receive an annual audit and have recently received church

accreditation from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. Our Stewardship

Team also meets monthly to review our financial statements and provide oversight of

our financial practices.

 

How is the Budget Created?

Rock Bridge establishes funding for our mission and various ministries through a

process that includes drafting multiple versions of a budget before a final draft is

submitted to the congregation. Staff members begin the process with a preliminary

draft. Our Pastor of Operations, David Park, works with the staff and interfaces with the

Stewardship Team to review and adjust this preliminary document.

A subset of Directional Elders then reviews the budget draft, continuing to refine the

budget towards it final form.

After review by the Elders, the budget is submitted and recommended to the

membership for adoption.

 

The bottom line is that our annual budget goes through a process that sees our ministry

funding proposals pass through several “sieves” in order to produce the final draft.

 

What is in the Annual Budget?

Our budget is organized around a few broad categories. The categories loosely

correspond to how we describe life in Christ: love God, love others and live sent:

Love God, Love Others: Preaching & Worship; Discipleship; Care

Live Sent: Local and Global missions

Ministry Support: administration; operations; facilities

If you have additional questions about our Annual Budget, feel free to contact our

Pastor of Operations, David Park: david@rockbridge.cc or our Church Administrator,

Brenda McClure: brenda@rockbridge.cc, or at 706-279- 3175.

 

**If you are a Rock Bridge member, please click here to review the budget and

participate in the approval process.

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

1) 2016 was a GREAT year!

We saw a 10% increase in small group involvement, launched our 5th campus in Hixson, moved into a permanent facility in Chatsworth debt free(!), served our communities through HOPE, and continued to grow in Christ-likeness and faithfulness.

2) The BOLD Initiative continues …

After the Chatsworth building was completed, we began to design the “ministry platforms” (buildings) in Ringgold & Calhoun. The initial cost estimates came back higher than we expected. The Directional Elders “pushed pause” to look at all options for reducing the overall price of these projects. This process continues, but should result in moving forward in wisdom and good stewardship in 2017.

BOLD giving continues to go well. We have brought in 36% of what our church pledged and we are roughly 33% finished with the 3-year period.

Please know how much any gift to BOLD matters and helps us move the ball downfield to connect more people to life in Christ!!

3) 2017 Budget

In all likelihood, we will present the 2017 Budget for members to review and affirm online as we have in years past. Expect a budget in the range of $5.6-$5.7 million, which is roughly an 8-10% increase from 2016’s budget.

4) Our Executive Pastor (XP) search is entering the final phase.

We have reached the final stages of this search where we are connecting and interviewing specific people for this very important role in our church. Please pray for wisdom, discernment, and clarity as we move forward.

5) 2017 …

  • We have a possible opportunity to launch a Rock Bridge campus in Rome, GA/Floyd County! Our initial goals are two-fold: saturate this in prayer and start a small group in Rome within the first few months of 2017.
  • We are doing very intentional outreach to Spanish-only speakers in Whitfield County with a target goal of launching a worship service in Spanish in 2017.
  • Disciple-making, disciple-making, disciple-making.
    • I want to learn more from and become more like Jesus in 2017, and I pray that over all our church members and attenders too!
  • Connect, connect, connect.
    • Would you boldly pray that God would use YOU to connect at least one person to Christ and into church community in 2017?!?
  • THE BEST IS YET TO COME … !!

I Corinthians 2:9 — But as it is written: “What eye did not see and ear did not hear, and what never entered the human mind—God prepared this for those who love Him.”

Posted by & filed under Current Issues.

The crazy 2016 presidential election is over, and Donald J. Trump is now our President-Elect. I (Matt) have heard so many differing reactions to these results—from fear to elation and everything in between—that we need to wrestle with the question, “How should a Christian respond to Election 2016?”

1) Pray

Whether you voted for Trump or not, whether you like the results or not, as a Christ-follower, you must pray sincerely for our 45th President (1 Timothy 2:1-3).

2) Honor

The Bible also commands us to “take delight in honoring one another” (Romans 12:10b). This means we should honor those who disagree with us, honor those who voted differently than we did, and honor those who are troubled by the election results. And above all, refuse to let pride, fear, or suspicion be your controlling attitude.

Here are practical suggestions for showing honor:

  • Don’t assume the worst about those who voted differently than you did.

Don’t assume that those who voted for Hillary are secularists or pro-abortion.

Don’t assume that those who voted for Trump are insensitive to minorities or race issues. In a two-party system, very rarely will there be one candidate that perfectly espouses your position on the issues or your values. Voting reflects our convictions, our conscience, and the reality of the choices we are given.

For example, I know many Christ-followers who were genuinely troubled by many of Trump’s comments, but who are single-issue voters for the pro-life candidate.

  • Show empathy.
Many of our African-American and Hispanic brothers and sisters are confused and fearful. I have spoken to some who have already been called names and been verbally insulted since the election. We remember that everyone is made in the image of God and we are a church for people “from all walks of life” because that is the reality and hope of the Kingdom of God. However, while awaiting the fullness of that perfect Kingdom, people’s hurts, fears, and worries must be acknowledged, respected, and heard – not minimized or disregarded.

3) Justice

Our commitment is to truth and justice, not to power or party. While we want our President to succeed because we love America, we must never hesitate to speak out with clarity and courage against injustice, no matter who or what party occupies the White House.

4) Unity

As Christ-followers, what unites us in Christ is bigger than what might divide us in our politics. We honor one another; we empathize with one another; we stand up for justice; and we remember we are ONE in Christ, united together eternally in His Kingdom.

5) Hope

Remember our hope is not in who occupies the White House, but in WHO sits eternally on the throne of Heaven. We do not put our hope fully in a man or woman. Do not let any current or future occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue steal or diminish the hope you have in Christ.

People are still looking for hope that does not “disappoint” (Romans 5:5). Donald Trump will disappoint us, and Hillary Clinton would have too. They are not saviors, not God, and not worthy of our hope or worship. As Christ-followers, live and share the best and most secure hope available—hope in King Jesus who reigns forever!

 

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Our Elders have called us as a church to a Day of Prayer & Fasting on Wednesday, November 2nd. We see connections in Scripture between the intense prayer and fasting of God’s people and God’s work among those same people (see Acts 13:1-3).

For many of us, fasting can seem out of reach—only for a few “super” spiritual people. Yet this is a satanic deception and discouragement aimed at preventing God’s people from using one of their great spiritual weapons and from robbing God of the glory He gets when His people grow in their hunger and desire for Him.

So here’s a primer on fasting.

What is fasting?

Fasting is voluntarily going without food—or any other regularly enjoyed gift from God (such as social media or the internet).

We fast from what we can see and taste because we have tasted and seen the goodness of our invisible, infinite, and majestic God. We fast because we want more of God.

How to Fast

1) Expect it to be hard. Whether from your aching belly or simply because it’s new, fasting will not be easy.

2) Start small. Don’t go from ‘never fasted’ to trying a week-long fast. Start with one meal or use a modified fast where you abstain from food, but drink fruit juices and even smoothies. Do not attempt to fast from water for any length of period.

3) Have a plan: fast with your Bible open. Have a plan for what spiritual activity you will engage in during the time you would normally eat. Replace the desire for food (or whatever you are abstaining from) by feeding on God’s Word or listening to worship music or praying.

Remember that the point of fasting is not to just go hungry, but to give up something temporarily to intentionally pursue God.

4) Fast together. This is a church-wide fast called by our Elders so we can support and encourage one another in our fast. In your small group, pray together during a mealtime instead of eating together. Send encouraging texts to one another.

Let’s plead together by fasting together for more of God’s favor, help, strength and wisdom to be on our church.

5) Fast from something other than food. Some health conditions prevent fasting from food. If wisdom for you is to not go without food, consider fasting from television, the computer, social media, a hobby, or some other activity you enjoy … and replace that activity with intentional pursuit of the greatest joy found in Jesus.

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Our elders are calling our church together for a special day of prayer and fasting on Wednesday, November 2nd. The hope is that many of us will commit to coming together for prayer at various times throughout the day, but culminating at our First Wednesday service that night. Additionally, we hope you will consider fasting from food, social media, or something else that involves sacrifice and frees up time for prayer. Many of us hope to fast from Tuesday night at 6:30 pm until the Lord’s Supper during First Wednesday’s service.

     

Why are we doing this?

a) A NEW SEASON: We are preparing to enter the next phase of BOLD and need fresh wisdom and power from the Lord.

b) SPIRITUAL WARFARE IS REAL: Jesus taught that some enemies can only be dealt with through prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:21).

c) A DESIRE NOT TO BE AWOL: We recognize that God has ordained prayer as a wartime weapon to affect the accomplishment of His purpose. No AWOL soldiers at Rock Bridge!

d) NOTHINGNESS: We acknowledge that apart from God, we can do nothing!

What specifically will we be praying for on this day?

  • Wisdom for the season we are in as a church
  • Favor from the Lord for salvations and disciple-making
  • The Holy Spirit to empower our church for God’s glory
  • Spiritual protection from deception, unbelief and the schemes of the enemy
  • America as we choose our next president

How do I fast?

We’ll be providing some more resources on this soon. Right now, just begin to pray for this season and how you might seek Him in fresh ways through fasting. If you feel ill-equipped, unqualified, or that you just can’t do it … that’s awesome because weakness is the GOAL of fasting because weakness increases our dependence on the Lord!!!

  • If you have never fasted before, consider fasting over lunch on Wednesday, Nov. 2nd.
  • If you have medical issues and need to eat, consider fasting from something you do every day such as using social media, watching TV, or drinking coffee. The purpose of fasting is not abstaining from food but focusing more intently through sacrifice on the Lord Jesus.
  • If you fast from eating, drink plenty of fluids, including shakes and smoothies!
 

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Below is a summary of the truths, principles, and guidelines Rock Bridge would aspire to as we make disciples of Jesus and act as “salt and light” in the world in which we find ourselves.

     

1) The central issue is the Lordship & Kingship of Jesus Christ.

We must be careful not to make sexuality appear as the central “platform” of Christianity. We must be careful not to create a special category of sins or sinners. At the center of Christianity is a cross and a crown. Jesus bore the cross, and Jesus gets the crown. We cannot align with Jesus only when we agree with Him; if so, we fail to understand the scope of His authority and the breadth of His reign.

 

2) God loves people from “all walks of life.” (This includes the homosexual.)

We can’t define “all walks of life” too narrowly. God loves sinners. Period. No one measures up to God’s holiness. No one bears His image perfectly. No one is beyond His grace and love.

   

3) The Bible is clear on what constitutes sexual sin.

Many people undoubtedly question or deny the authority of the Bible. Others would seek to reinterpret the Bible to justify or excuse certain behaviors. While others debate the Bible’s authority, at Rock Bridge we accept not only the Bible’s authority, but we also seek to interpret it with integrity.

We cannot deny that Jesus strongly affirmed marriage as between one man and one woman. We cannot deny that Paul called homosexual acts sins, and that in Romans 1 his argument against homosexual behavior was based on God’s design in creation.

We cannot deny that the Church for nearly 2000 years has universally viewed homosexual behavior as sinful behavior (only in the last 20 years or so has there been any debate on this issue).

However, we can’t limit the Bible’s sexual ethics to only homosexuality. The Bible teaches a sexual ethic of purity. Purity covers way more than most of us realize. We all must pursue repentance and purity in the area of sexuality, understanding that human sexuality (including gender) is spiritual, sacred, and to be sanctified to Jesus as Lord.

   

4) Our attitude toward others must be humility, not hostility.

Christians speak as those who were “dead in [our] … sins … but made alive with Christ” (Ephesians 2:1-5). Christians speak as those who apart from God can do nothing (John 15:5). Therefore, we must be humble and gracious, compassionate and merciful. There is no place for hostility, condemnation, or alienation.

   

5) Ultimate joy and happiness are ultimately found in Jesus, not in sexuality or sexual experiences.

Our society teaches that a person cannot be happy or fulfilled without sexual satisfaction. We must reject this lie and the confusion and despair it brings to those who believe it. The joy we seek is found in the Person of Christ. Therefore, we cannot say to someone, “Stop what you are doing (sexually)” without saying to them “Here is the One (God in Christ) your heart was made for.”

We cannot overcome sexual urges, temptations, or deceptions unless we have a greater affection for Christ. We are not seeking to convert people from a particular sexual orientation, but to convert people to Christ as Lord, King, Savior, and eternal and infinite Treasure.

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Our Next Staff Position: Executive Pastor (XP)

What? Why? When?

Off and on for several years, our church has contemplated creating the position of Executive Pastor (XP) within our organization. The impulses for this consideration have been driven by two factors: the growing complexities and dynamics of our ministry and the limitations and capacities of our current leadership. Due to the size and scope of our ministry and our team, more attention and energy are required for collaboration, coordination, and implementation. We have learned that we are one of the few churches our size or larger in America that currently does not have an XP.

Increasingly, Matt is being drawn into details and problem solving that—while necessary—pull him away from championing our strategic direction, from prayer, communication, and teaching. In effect, over the past several months, his prayer and study time have diminished substantially; we discern this to be a precarious position for him and the church. Additionally, we are seeing that our staff need more clarity, more communication, more coaching, and more support. We believe that these issues could create an unhealthy climate and culture within our staff where miscommunication, lapses in ministry execution, and lack of accountability exist.

Additionally, our elders foresee that these challenges will only increase as we continue to multiply campuses and expand our discipleship and missional outreach. Our elders foresee the need for an infusion of additional leadership gifts within our church body to help us not only solve our present challenges, but prepare for the future Kingdom opportunities we anticipate by God’s grace and for His glory.

As a result, we see the need for someone in our organization to focus on implementation of vision and ministry priorities, coordination between departments and campuses, supporting our staff by providing coaching and resources, and helping us prepare organizationally for the next season of fruitfulness God will bring to RBCC.
The XP role is designed specifically to focus on these organizational dynamics of robust coordination, clear direction, follow-through, and execution. Additionally, the XP serves the staff by ensuring they have the share of resources they need. The XP can function like the human “nerve center,” ensuring the right things get done the right way so that harmony and faithfulness to our vision and values prevail.

We will be using the ministry search firm, Vanderbloemen Search Group, to help us identify the finalists for this new role on our team. Potential candidates should apply through the link above.

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

We are entering a prayerful time of discernment as our elder selection process begins for 2017. Our church has also existed as an Elder-guarded and Elder-guided church. Practically, this means that our elders do the following:

   
  • Guard the mission, vision, doctrine, unity, and resources of the church.
  • Serve as shepherds/overseers guarding our members through care, prayer, and discipleship.
  • Chart the strategic trajectory of our church through their collective discernment, prayers for wisdom, and consensus-based decision-making.
   

At Rock Bridge, we have two subsets of elders: directional elders and campus/congregational elders. All of our elders serve at a local campus where they act as shepherds and discerners. Some of those elders then also serve as directional elders where they help guide the comprehensive, multi-campus direction of RBCC.

 

On a personal note, I thank God over and over for the plurality of eldership we find in the New Testament. God has repeatedly throughout our history protected our church through the wise counsel and Spirit-given discernment from our elders. By God’s grace, we have never had a “power play” or “political move” from any of our elders. Our elders have given me coaching, accountability, and encouragement. They have led us through building campaigns, cases of church discipline, and intense periods of outreach and expansion. They have put the brakes on at times and called us to pray. They have pressed the accelerator at times and moved us to seize God-given opportunities. Through all of this, they have operated in humility, unity, and passion for God’s glory and His church at Rock Bridge.

   

How are elders chosen?

First, elders must have been a member of our church for at least one year. Elders are also expected to tithe and be involved in the ministry of the church. Elders are not expected to be “perfect,” but should be actively demonstrating the characteristics and virtues found in I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.

 

Potential elder candidates are first considered confidentially through prayer and private conversations. Next, they are approached to see if God has given them to desire to serve as an elder (see I Timothy 3:1). They are asked a series of questions about their conversion, Christian lifestyle and witness, understanding and ownership of the Rock Bridge vision, support of our belief statement, and financial stewardship.

As these areas continue to affirm the Elder candidate’s call to this role, we present names to the church for prayer. For a period of two weeks, we ask our membership to pray. If a member has a question or concern about a candidate, they are asked to share that privately with a pastor or elder. Any concerns will be addressed and either resolved or cause the candidate to be no longer considered.

 

Finally, the elder is then affirmed by the current elders to serve a three-year term.

If you would like to suggest someone for consideration, first pray and ponder I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Then you may email matt@rockbridge.cc.