Every Seat Has a Story

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Our new chairs arrive this week! In fact, we will be celebrating with a ‘chair party’ on Thursday. For those of you reading this who are not in ministry, a ‘chair party’ is a weekly event in church world (sometimes 2-3 times a week) that deals with moving chairs around in preparation for events or even Sunday service. A lot of fun….ok not really.

As we near the end of our NEXT Campaign (our building project) where so many of you have prayed for, given financially and helped physically with electrical, carpentry, painting, among many other things, we pause to think of all God has in store for these new seats.

As i shared on Sunday, huge decisions were made in these previous seats for so many who have attended here.

For me, I think of some of the bigger ones:

  • My wife Vicki accepts Christ in one of those chairs and because of that decision, she invites her mom Cindy who brought her husband Bob. Bob went on to influence so many here including countless teens before he passed away. Cindy has served here in so many capacities, group leader, greeter, administrative, and care team.

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  • My wife decides to sing for God. It’s one Sunday where Vicki fills out a Connection Card and checks off an interest in serving on our Worship Team. It’s her, along with the other talented vocalists and musicians, who lead the service off by drawing our attention on God through music. This ‘sets the table’ for us to clear our head and hear what God wants to tell us through the message.

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  • I decide to enter ministry. It was in one of those seats where I decide to leave 20 years of managing 4 health clubs to enter a new career. Entering the complete unknown with a lesser income and young children was crazy! God had to make things pretty obvious to me. I felt (and still feel) unqualified. I look back and see just who God is by putting me (of all people!) into ministry and I’m so thankful!

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My son and daughter say YES to Jesus It was in one of these seats where both Bennett and Sadie accepted Jesus into their hearts. It was also where they decided to go public with their faith and be baptized. It was in these seats where they ‘owned their faith’ and I am so thankful!

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My children invite others It was because of my children’s decisions they made in these seats with their faith that they decide to invite their friends from a summer camp, Samantha and Marissa. They, in turn, invite their mom and boyfriend, Becky and Fabio. Samantha and Marissa, along with being here every Sunday, attend our teen environment (Living Proof) each week and continue to grow in their faith. Becky and Samantha were baptized last year (see photo below). Becky serves every week here as a greeter. Fabio is on our worship team as a drummer. God is so good!

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Because of the previous generation’s generosity, my family and friends have been blessed with a church full of seats that are full of potential, full of future vital decisions and full of incredible stories. I can’t wait to hear the stories one day of all these seats we will be adding here on Thursday. Won’t you join us in being a part of this story by purchasing seats today? Your purchased seat may in fact contain one of the greatest stories yet to be told.

Fellowship: It’s Not Just the Name of our Church

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GUEST BLOGGER: KRISTIN SARNO

Look at the person next to you and give them an awkward smile,” says Pastor Stephen Furtick as he first comes onto the Elevation stage.  I spend a lot of time watching and listening to YouTube sermons where the pastors say funny things like this.  I believe there’s more to it than just trying to get a laugh from the audience, though.  How many times have you walked to your seat, sat down, and started scrolling through your phone without making eye contact to the people around you?  

There are about 1600 seats at Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Here, at Fellowship Church we have 300 seats.  It’s not nearly as many eyes we can chose to avoid, but still it seems intimidating to someone who may be experiencing their first time at our church. 

 I think back to when I first became Christian.  I was introduced to the Bible by a friend at work, and dove right into it.  I started looking into local churches with excitement to find other people like me, filled with love for Christ.  

The first Christian church I entered, not one person said hi to me, but I promise you that they knew I had arrived.  The other church goers glanced in my direction with what I took as judgmental stares.  I instantly questioned everything that brought me there.  What was I thinking?  I wasn’t ready for church.  I didn’t know enough about the Bible.  Was I even dressed appropriately?  When service was over, I put my head down, and hastily walked to the door to leave.

In reality, I’m almost positive that those glances were simply people noticing me as a newcomer.  We’ve all been there when we see someone new at church.  They more than likely had a feeling inside of them that was pushing them to speak with me and welcome me to their church.  Unfortunately, their own insecurities overcame them just as mine had overcome me.  Maybe if I had given them an awkward smile it would have been different.  Maybe if they had given me an awkward smile it would have been different.

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 After a year of attending several churches, misreading far too many glances, and struggling to find a church family, I gave up.  Soon, I was led astray by unbelievers.  I found myself slowly wandering in a path of darkness and self-destruction.  The devil is creative like this.  He makes his move a little at a time.  Before I had even realized it, I began to rapidly fail in life.  To turn my back on Christ after knowing a life filled with His never-failing love is something I never want to experience again.  

Several years later, I turned my life back over to Christ.  This time was different, though.  This time I made a family.  I was blessed to find my future husband, and be introduced to Fellowship Church.  Still, I remembered we aren’t all lucky enough to walk into church for the first time, and walk out having felt like we found a new home.  I wonder often about where I could be now in my walk if God hadn’t led me to a welcoming church like Fellowship.

I’ve made a priority of serving mostly at the coffee bar. That’s not just because I love anything that has to do with a kitchen.  I also love the thought that at any moment the person who I am handing a cup of coffee to could be the same person who needs a friendly smile.  It could be that person’s first time at our church, and I want to let them know they aren’t alone.  When the coffee bar closes, I walk to my seat.  I look around me at the sea of faces, and I find that one I don’t know.  I still briefly hesitate by my own insecurities, but I no longer avoid that feeling inside of me that pushes me towards this new face.  “Hello,” I say, “it’s a great Sunday for church, isn’t it?”  This alone, can change someone’s life.  This alone can fill another one of our seats. 

A New Man

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GUEST BLOGGER: Randy Sarno

As the inaugural season of The Forge Series 6 comes to a close many things were impressed upon the men who attended. While we may struggle with different vices, the ability to become transparent and use our situations to help others is inspiring. The men that attended have had an overwhelming love and desire to know Jesus more. It is clear that none of us have it all together. We have admitted that and have laid down our pride to learn from others. The saying goes, “You can’t fix fake.

We are all being refined by fire. The trials we go through not only can teach us, but can also allow us to tell others how we got past them. One thing I am convinced of is we do not, rather should not, do it alone. Rough edges of our personalities can be shaved smooth by a pure friendship. "These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold-though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong by many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world."(1 Peter 1:7). How hot are you letting your fire get?

Even if you have never attended Sunday school when you were younger, you have probably heard the story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17). We all want to be the hero of our story. We all want to be recognized or compared with David conquering our Goliath's. But did you ever sit back and think you've become your own Goliath to temptations, going out in front of them constantly parading around thinking you can overcome them no matter what they bring at you? All it takes is a small crack or a small stone thrown to make you fall completely. 

I have often become my own Goliath walking back and forth in front of temptations. I flex in front of these temptations to show off until, before I know it, I am in sin again. Thankfully, I get encouragement from the family I have grown in, being a part of Fellowship Church. I have made stronger bonds with many in these men here the past few weeks based on our spending Monday’s with them. The setting is so comforting and filled with men becoming more like the Biblical version of a real man. Whether you are going through taking a slight detour to pass that bar flexing "I don't need that drink" or passing that bakery flexing "I don't need that doughnut", before you know it, you have a bottle in your hand or sprinkles stuck to your shirt. Whatever your temptation lies, wherever you like to flex, you need to know there are so many men at Fellowship readily available and more importantly willing to pray over you to help you through.

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We as a church are so lucky to have men that pour into us. I have many friends constantly interested in having a more complete faith but will turn me down or think the topic is not relevant to them when invited out. I continue to pray for them. I also pray for those that do not yet know Christ or feel too busy to get into a group of men or women in your church. The uncomfortableness will last only a moment before you will be showered with love.

Series 6 was just a start. Can’t wait to see where these men of FC go!