Elder Connection: A Letter From Our Elders (July 2019)

[Editor’s Note: This is a special-edition Staff Journal written by David Hall, one of our Governing Elders. This letter from David is the second in a series of quarterly updates from the elders as a way to create an open line of communication from the hearts and minds of the elders to you, the church.]

Hello Grace Community Church!

The Elders have been working on many things over the past quarter. A sub-group of Elders has been working on syncing our current leadership practices with our Church By-Laws. Over a period of many years, we have grown and changed, and our By-Laws have just not been updated to match these changes.

The first item that needed attention was the role of Staff Pastors as Elders. It has been decided the best way to match our current model of leadership would be to have two groups: Pastoral Elders and Governing Elders. The Governing Elders would be the elected Elders and the Lead Pastor. The Pastoral Elders would be the Staff Pastors at the discretion of the Governing Elders. This documentation change makes it much clearer as to what the different pastors’ roles are within our Elder meeting, plus matches what we are already doing in practice. 

The Elders have received and reviewed the surveys that were completed earlier in the year regarding all of our children’s ministries up through the high school level. Currently, we are creating action steps where needed. We really appreciate all the feedback!

The Stewardship Council recently gave a report on Capital Projects. You may have already noticed some of the items they have been working on, such as brighter lighting, a new ice machine, parking lot improvements, and new video equipment in the sanctuary. Praise the Lord for what He provides! Some of the things under way for future projects, or consideration for future projects, are landscaping improvements, refresh of the foyer/main entrance area and Fireside Room upgrades. Thank you to these men and women for their wisdom and hard work!

Oh, by the way, welcome to Grace’s newest team member, Casey Teater. She will be working as the Children’s Ministry Director.  Please pray for her as she looks to fill many spots and roles for the upcoming Sunday School year and Awana. Please prayerfully consider if you could help in one of these roles when asked. Better yet, give Casey a call at the office and ask her where she could plug you in.

Praise the Lord for the many children and families that were reached with the Gospel via Summer Quest! Thank you to all that helped pull off this massive endeavor. 

Juli Dirks is hard at work on many things, not the least of which is putting together the Council for “Extend.” This group has lots of important work to do with the missionaries that we support. Juli is also very busy working with upcoming “All–In” events such as the baptism celebration at the Newton city pool and a First Responders Appreciation event. All of you cookie bakers should be getting ready!

Loren Kurtz just finished planning and leading the Igniter group to and from Children’s Haven in Reynosa, Mexico. If you see Loren, don’t forget to thank him for his work! And, thank you to all of you who rented a student to help towards their expenses for this trip.

David Hall

God is with us in the "wreck"

We were driving east on I-94 in Indiana, less than a mile away from the Michigan state line. The traffic was stop and go, and one of the lanes was blocked off. So it was a little congested. 

All of a sudden, the car in front of us slammed on their brakes. It’s a good thing that I'm a cautious driver. I had just enough room to stop in time. There was a moment of silence and of joy. “God, thank you that we did not hit the car in front of us.” As that prayer was rising up to heaven, a loud crashing noise and sudden jolt filled the van. At first, I was stunned. I realized that we had been hit, but all I could do was look behind me at the five children still safely and quietly sitting in their car seats. Ten eyes wide opened stared back at me with a look of confusion and fear. But they were fine.

I got out of my car and saw the damage. It looked like the Incredible Hulk punched the back of our van. If you’ve ever stomped on a can, you’ve seen the wrinkled look of metal. It’s not what I was anticipating for family vacation. Yet, this was my favorite vacation we’ve ever had. 

God intervened and gave grace in many steps on the journey.

First, if we had been in Michigan, our insurance would have skyrocketed. Michigan is a “no fault” state, and insurance coverage would have been a nightmare. Since we were in Indiana, the insurance of the person who hit us has taken care of everything. 

Second, even though I had to remove and pack our luggage without opening the back hatch (I have sweated more in the past couple of weeks than in a whole year), we were able to squeeze in the added luggage we brought home.

Third, our kids have been “tested” to trust God in a new way. They saw mom and dad deal with a frightening experience and watch God take care of us. We still made it to the Christian camp on time, and they had a blast.

Our van was drivable. Our kids were fine. The people who hit us had insurance. They admitted fault. Their insurance covered it. And we got to be a good witness to them as well. At one point the couple said, “...You guys are so nice about this.” What a tragedy it would have been if we made a fool of ourselves and our faith.

I’m grateful to God that He goes before us and promises to be with us when we get into a “wreck.” Whether it would have been my fault or not, God doesn’t quit being my Father who cares for me. He provided a wonderful vacation for our family, and I’m glad to be back.

This Sunday we will study James 4:13-17. James has a wise and sobering way of writing about our practical lives. I pray that God speaks to our hearts and matures our minds.

Galatians 6:9-10,
Jack Napier

Getting to know Casey Teater, our new Children's Ministry Director!

We are so excited to be adding our very own Casey Teater to the team as our new Children’s Ministry Director!


Casey is married to Troy and they have 5 kids (4 girls and 1 boy), ranging in age from 9-20. As a family, they enjoy competitive game nights (anything from trivia to Uno) and relaxing movie nights. Personally, Casey enjoys gardening, reading, and taking crafting classes.

Casey and her family have been regularly attending Grace for more than 10 years now. During that whole time, Casey has been serving in the full scope of the GraceKids ministry - from nursery to Sunday school to Awana - in a variety of roles - from helping with check-in to being a helper and a teacher and a director. There is always a lot to learn when starting a new job, but Casey is coming into this new role with a load of valuable experience and an understanding of how the various branches of GraceKids operate.

Casey’s journey to taking this position was one that required deep trust. For nearly the last year, Casey has felt God telling her that He had something else in store for her. She initially inquired about the office administrator job, but felt God close that door. Then she inquired about the Executive Director of Ministries job, but again felt God close that door.

Yet the feeling was still there - that God had something else in store for her.

Then the Children’s Ministry Director position came open and Casey finally felt confirmation that this was what God had in store. It was a scary step in faith to take this job, but Casey could tell God was telling her to do it. (And we are glad she listened!)

Casey is thankful to be stepping into a thriving GraceKids ministry. She is excited to continue the good work of grounding our kids in God’s love and His truth, while exploring opportunities to take this ministry to the next level. Leading the team of awesome volunteers will be a big part of Casey’s job and she is really looking forward to getting to build relationships with the volunteers who make GraceKids happen.

We are thankful to God for providing for our need of a new Children’s Ministry Director with such a good fit from within our own church family. Please join us in welcoming Casey to the church staff, and please pray for her as she dives headfirst into a busy season of recruiting volunteers and planning for the start of the new year in just a few short weeks.


If you are interested in joining Casey’s team and being part of what God is doing through GraceKids by volunteering to serve in nursery, kids Sunday school, or Awana for this coming school year, please let us know through the Connect With Us button.

By serving in one of the available spots, you would be such a big blessing to Casey and to our church as you help lead the younger generations to love God, love people, and lead others to do the same!

Growing Deeper with Jesus

I don’t know if you love or hate hot weather, but I had my eyes opened a couple of days ago to something that’s putting purpose and spice into summer for a lot of people! 

I discovered that since the end of school and the beginning of summer, a number of families in our church have taken on our GraceKids-sponsored “Summer Family Challenge.” They’ve embarked on some wonderful and “funtastic” projects designed to grow family connection, build joy, and help kids go deeper in their relationship with Jesus.

I had heard about the challenge, but honestly I really had no interest in it until this past Monday night.

Monday nights are four-generation family dinner nights at our house. Those around the table include Bobbie’s 92-year-old dad—“Lito”—who, with his walker and dog in tow, makes his way carefully across the street from his driveway to ours. Completing the circle are our son and daughter-in-law, Andy and Julie, who with their three kids usually pile out of their minivan around our six o’clock dinner time. 

This past Monday, however, Julie and kids (Kesler, Audra and Naomi) chose to make the nearly 5 mile trip to dinner at Gramps and Mammaw’s on their bicycles!

The ride was part of a “Summer Family Challenge” activity which rewards 400 miles of walking, running, or biking with a whopping 350 points! Spurring motivation is a grand prize awarded at the end of the summer to the family with the highest number of points (and also to one fortunate and randomly drawn participating family).

Intrigued by my family’s enthusiasm and impressed by my grandkids’ willingness to tackle biking on a hot afternoon, I picked up a “Summer Family Challenge” guide at the Connection Desk to get a better picture of the creative ways families are being encouraged to bond, serve, and grow!

I loved what I discovered.

A family water gun fight is worth 10 points. So is going through one’s closet and giving unused things to charity. There’s another 10 points for calling one’s grandparents and asking them if they have any prayer requests! (I like that one!) Also, lying on a blanket and counting shooting stars adds 10 points to the family total.

As I browsed the brochure I noticed some higher point challenges, worth 25 points apiece and containing some spiritually stretching activities: making a home video based on one of the parables of Jesus, reading through the Gospel of John, or memorizing Psalm 23 together.

“What great ideas for families to have fun while growing their relational and spiritual connections!” I thought to myself. Hats off to challenge provider Deeper KidMin, whose creator is a former children’s pastor who wanted to equip parents and ministry leaders to grow kids deeper in their relationships with Christ through creative, engaging, and affordable online resources!

(If you are interested in joining the Summer Family Challenge, it’s not too late! Pick up a booklet with instructions and the list of challenges at the Connection Desk this Sunday morning.)

“Growing deeper with Jesus” resonates with me as a wonderful summer goal for anyone regardless of whether or not it’s part of the “Summer Family Challenge.”

In my Bible reading the other day I came across a beautiful jewel of a description in Ezekiel 31:7 of a towering and majestic tree whose “roots went down to abundant waters.” Something in that expression called to my heart as I said to the Lord, “That’s what I want my life to look like!”

Down where no one notices, below the ground level of busy schedules and pressure-filled days, I love the thought of drawing my life and vitality from the unfathomable spiritual riches abundantly offered by Jesus to anyone who takes the time to quiet with Him and soak in His Word.

How about joining me in going deeper with Jesus this summer?

And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (Ephesians 3:18-19, NLT)

Let’s be praying for Pastor Jack and family on vacation, for Casey Teater on her first Sunday as our new Children’s Ministry Director, and for Pastor Kyle who will be leading worship AND preaching!

Warmly in Jesus!
Pastor Steve

Be Careful What You Pray For

We have all heard the phrase “be careful what you wish for!”

I have also heard someone say, “be careful what you pray for!”

And I felt that phrase right in the heart this week. It felt like God was calling us out for talking a big game but not having our hearts in the right place.

Did you really mean that?

You see, Addie and I have prayed for years that we would be able to hold our stuff (our belongings - our actual, physical stuff) with an open hand. That prayer has taken on a new life in recent months as our ever-curious 14-month-old Caleb grows in mobility and dexterity.

I don’t know how many times we have said to each other, “It’s just stuff. Our job is to create a safe place for Caleb to play. If something breaks, oh well. It’s just stuff.”

And so we watch with a smile (on the outside) as he pulls books off the shelves, thumbs through them, then tosses them into a pile, bending pages and covers every which-way.

“It’s just stuff. Our job is to create a safe place for Caleb to play. If something breaks, oh well. It’s just stuff.”

That’s easy enough to say when it’s just some paperback books getting bent out of shape. (And, believe me, I call books ‘friends’, so it’s probably fair to say I have a more emotional attachment to my books than the average person. So it’s not really that easy.)

But then this week turned into put-up-or-shut-up time.

Twice, on back-to-back days, things actually got broken. Like, broken-beyond-repair broken.

“It’s just stuff. Our job is to create a safe place for Caleb to play. If something breaks, oh well. It’s just stuff.”

Or, that’s what we were supposed to say…

But these were two wedding gifts. From two special people.

We were sad. Sad that they got broken. But also sad that we were sad that they got broken.

That sadness made it clear that we were giving lip-service to holding our stuff with an open hand without having our hearts in the right place.

So now we return to that prayer with a new fervor, asking God to transform our hearts to truly see all that we have as a gift from him that we are free to let go of at any time He sees fit.

And there’s a tricky balance there, as there is in so many situations: we don’t want to be reckless with our stuff - we want to steward well what He has given us - but we also want to guard against being so attached to our material possessions that we are sad when they break or are lost.

As Addie and I have been processing through the events of this week, the chorus to one of the songs that we sang during Summer Quest came to mind:

As the world shake shakes
And things break break
You are my rock my everything

The reality of our fallen world is that things do break. Cake stands break. Wooden crosses break. Bodies break. Relationships break.

But the beautiful gospel never breaks: no matter the brokenness around us, God stands strong as our rock, our everything.

I pray that as you find yourself in the midst of brokenness - whether you are sweeping up broken pieces of glass, sweeping up the metaphorical broken pieces of a relationship, or sweeping away tears over the broken body of a loved one - you would find peace and strength in the truth of God’s steadfast faithfulness that endures forever.

I love you, Church!
-Nathan Ehresman

Living Life With God

It’s summer!

So far the word I would use to describe summer is full. Summer is full of trips, camps, and being busy.

I’ve been interested in how our youth spend their summer time and what they enjoy about summer. The common answers this year are sleeping in, watching YouTube, playing video games, participating in various sports, swimming, hanging with friends, and traveling.

As I remember my summers growing up, and even as an adult, I know summer can become so full that we can diminish or disregard a relationship with God.

Our summer focus with the students is to ignite and fuel a love for Jesus that will address and fight the natural diminishing or disregarding that can take place when schedules get full. So much of this comes down to our thought life.

A.W. Tozer said that the thoughts we have about God are the most important thoughts we have. I resonate with that. I believe the apostle Paul knew that when he tells us about the “renewal of our mind.”

Our thoughts of God shape and form our relationship with him. One writer said it this way: "Many people have settled for a darker existence in which they relate to God in a way that leaves them discontent."

Over the summer we are going to address some faulty ways of relating to God that can leave us discontent, apathetic, and stunted. The good news is that Jesus tells us when we come to him in faith we begin to experience a new quality of life. He calls it eternal life. In other terms, it is life with God.

The Psalmist says in Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

The phrase “fullness of joy” stands out to me. If we have diminished or disregarded a relationship with God that phrase is hard to believe or know what the Psalmist means. Yet, we can experience this life as we rely on and trust Jesus. By relying on his word we learn to recognize and enjoy God’s presence and we live the way we were made to live.

Grace and peace,
Pastor Loren

Our Worship Repertoire

In some circles of thinking, the purpose of worship through song (which we will simply call worship in this journal entry) is to prepare people for the preaching of God’s word. In a Sunday morning service, worship is seen as a way to soften hearts and prepare people to receive the truth coming up in the sermon.

While I know that the Spirit works in us as we sing, and our hearts are softened, I would not articulate worship this way. I think it is misleading to say worship is preparation for receiving God’s truth, because our songs are overflowing with Scripture. 

Colossians 3:16 reminds us “Let the word of Christ dwell in you… as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs”.

The content of our songs is the word of Christ.

We sing scripture, we sing truth, and I would suggest that the goal of worship is to get God’s truth on the lips and heart of the church. This isn’t necessarily to prepare to listen to the preaching of God’s word, as sometimes we respond in worship, like we did this past Sunday. In worship, we sing to each other reminding each other of truth, singing songs about God. In worship we also pour out our hearts singing directly to God.

With that said, our repertoire of songs is a little different than many other churches. While you could walk into some contemporary churches and know all the songs if you listen to K-LOVE, a little less than half of the songs we sing are on Christian radio.

We are intentional about our repertoire and you’ll find that our songs are rich in God’s truth.

So many of you have expressed appreciation for the songs we sing, and many Sundays I have people asking what the names of certain songs are. Because of this, we’ve created a playlist on YouTube and Spotify with songs from our repertoire.:

If you are interested, I’ve also created a list of songs I’m currently using in private worship that we don’t sing on Sunday mornings:

It’s a beautiful thing when people worship privately and then come together on Sunday morning to worship corporately!

I hope that these playlists will help you learn the songs that aren’t as familiar to you, and I hope it will help put God’s truth on your lips and on your hearts! May the word of Christ dwell in us through our worship!

My Rightnowmedia pick is a series we’ve used for discussion on our worship teams on the Psalms with Pastor John Piper and worship leaders Shane and Shane.


For His Glory,
Pastor Kyle

Meet God on the Midway

Who am I? 

Who gives me strength? 

How do I do life with Jesus? 

What do I treasure in life? 

These are questions we're going to ask and answer at Summer Quest next week. It's crazy to think that in just four short days we'll have eleven teams in place to meet the children who will be attending Summer Quest! 

Around 150 volunteers from GCC and New Anthem Church have been working creatively to prepare for this major, all-in outreach event. The 300+ children we are anticipating this year will be met by warm, inviting volunteers who will strive to provide a fun, safe experience that will most importantly point kids to the gospel and build relationships with families in our neighborhoods. 

This year our theme is Colossal Carnival: Meet God on the Midway. Here's a taste of what we'll be up to:

Our theme verse is Matthew 6:21, "For where your heart is, there your treasure is also."

On Monday - we'll explore the Hall of Mirrors and learn how we are created in God's image.

On Tuesday - we'll visit the Strong Man to understand that our strength and courage come from God.

On Wenesday - we'll ride the Tilt-a-Whirl to see that in order to navigate the twists and turns in life, we need to walk by faith and trust in Jesus.

On Thursday - we'll stroll the Midway to learn that the eternal life Jesus gives is our ultimate prize.

On Friday - we'll host a fun carnival here at the church, called Summer Fest, for those who have participated in Summer Quest over the week and their families. Along with food, fun and live music, Pastor Jack will share a gospel message and invite them to join us at Grace on Sundays.

Please join us in praying all week for God to be at work through our volunteers and in the hearts of the chlidren who come. We covet your prayers! In fact, we'll have prayer wristbands and cards with specific prayer requests available on tables around the church facility this coming Sunday. Please stop by and pick them up.

We appreciate your support!

Juli Dirks
Executive Director of Ministries

The Meta-Narrative of the Universe

Some of my favorite childhood movies have been remade this year, and I admit that I’m anticipating my own comfy chair in front of the big screen. If I went, I’m sure I wouldn’t be alone. 

This same fanbase occurs with books and novels. Chronicles penned by the human imagination seem to be birthed out of a God-planted desire for storytelling. We don’t just want to hear it or see it; we want to experience it.

Human beings have always been mesmerized by a good story. That’s why movie producers are rich

But what else am I purchasing with a movie ticket? What kind of “tale” are they really telling?

You could say that the Bible is a “story”—the greatest story ever told. It represents the most invigorating drama that ever captured the hearts and minds of its audience. And it’s also the story I live to tell.

The first pages begin with the origin of the universe and the purpose for every living creature. Intense action covers thousands of years, depicting love affairs and wars and angels and demons. Within the storyline we find greed, jealousy, hatred, sex, betrayal, hopelessness, draught, famine, depression, and death. Some stories I cannot even share with my children yet.

Every scenario is portrayed with honest candor, sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly. The overarching plot pivots upon one character who was murdered by the scheme of lying men. And the climax hangs in our imagination as yet to be seen.

But the reason why the impact of the Bible is inescapable is because it’s true. It presents itself as a non-fiction book inspired by the very breath of God. Couple that reality with the fact that the Bible has endured the greatest scrutiny the secular mind has ever conjured. No attack against the veracity or reliability of the Scriptures has ever punctured a hole in its integrity. 

Only a fool would turn a deaf ear to the testimony of his Creator. 

The Bible stands in a league of its own. Undeniable, unavoidable, infallible, and unashamed of its content. Its followers champion the call to die to self, and still call it the Good News. In one sense, the last chapter has been written. In another, we don’t know exactly how the last days will unfold. The pages are ancient but alive, challenging us to examine our hearts and lives.

It is the meta-narrative of the universe. And yet, the whole account forces us to answer one ultimate question: “Who do you say Christ is?” It’s a record that draws us to a person—a relationship.

I may go to the movies this summer. I may be entertained. But I won’t be fooled. I know what my heart is hungry for. And there’s only one Author that satisfies my appetite.

-Pastor Jack

“Please come to our wedding!”

“Please come to our wedding!”

Earlier this spring, when Bobbie and I received an invitation to Armando Lucas and Sophi Santee’s wedding in Lawrence this coming August it brought back to me a flood of memories from our Amigo Team mission trips to Mexico.

I first met Armando in 2006 at the Children’s Haven International’s children home in Reynosa, to which we as a Grace Community Church family had been taking annual mission trips since 1999.

Armando arrived at the home that year as a 12-year-old with huge needs. Over the course of multiple Amigo trips, we had the privilege of seeing the incredible work that God did in Armando’s life through the life-giving, Christ-centered family environment of the Children’s Haven home.

As he grew, Armando trusted Christ as his Savior and excelled at school. Following graduation from high school, he attended and finished dental school.

Each time we visited the children’s home, we got to see Armando’s love for Jesus and his heart for service increase. He went on several mission trips with his church in Reynosa and became an older brother in the faith to all the younger kids at the home.

Now, God has led Armando to a godly young woman and he’s ready to launch a new chapter in his life, planning to emigrate to the United States and marry Sophi in Kansas as soon as he receives his dental license from the Mexican government.

Many of you know that after taking 20 Amigo mission trips to Reynosa over the years, we didn’t take a team this past March. It was a weird March for me, not being able to connect with the children at the home.

However, there has been in my heart what I believe is a God-given desire to take one more team of families down to Reynosa next year and lead one final Amigo Trip—“Amigo 21,” we’ll call it. Dates are February 29 (Saturday) through March 7 (Saturday), 2020, and you’ll be hearing more about registration later this summer.

I hope you and your family will pray about joining our twenty-year tradition of more than 230 adults and children from our church who have been the hands and feet of Jesus and shared his love and served his purposes in the lives of children like Armando.

I’m looking forward to this Sunday when we will recognize our graduates and hear a sermon from one of our Igniter alums, Gage Weller!

Pastor Steve

Room for Mystery

I love mystery stories.

I love the sense of awe and wonder when I get to the big reveal and I am totally amazed at how the hero (probably a certain mid-nineteenth century British consulting detective) sifted through the misdirection and minutiae to uncover the truth.

I also love the process of taking in all the information for myself and trying to figure out what is going on before I get to the end. (The more insignificant it seems the more important it really is, right?)

I enjoy this process so much that I like to go back and reread the same mystery story again because I pick up different details/clues/hints along the way. Each new detail that I discover reveals more of the story and the more I am drawn into it.

This is what all the studying for my Theology courses this semester has been like.

Just like going back to the same mystery story mining for more details, the more I study who God is the more details I pick up. And the more details I see the more I am in awe of Him.

That is a beautiful truth about our infinite and perfect God.

Because God is Creator and we are his creatures, we can only know God insomuch as he reveals himself to us. Even then, we are unable to fully grasp who he is because of our fundamental difference in nature: he is infinite and we are finite; he is perfect and we are broken.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this is a “you’ll never get to the end of the story so don’t bother starting” situation. No, this is a “the story is indescribably beautiful so keep keep drinking in its beauty with each day of your life” situation.

It is a noble task to devote oneself to knowing him more and more each day even though we will not know God fully until the day we stand face-to-face with him. That is why I believe there is also room for mystery in getting to know God.

In my recent reading I came across this prayer from Augustine’s Confessions in which he captures the beautiful mystery of God’s nature:

Most high, utterly good, utterly powerful, most omnipotent, most merciful and most just, deeply hidden yet most intimately present, perfection of both beauty and strength, stable and incomprehensible, immutable and yet changing all things, never new, never old, making everything new and “leading” the proud “to be old without their knowledge” (Job 9: 5, Old Latin version); always active, always in repose, gathering to yourself but not in need, supporting and filling and protecting, creating and nurturing and bringing to maturity, searching even though to you nothing is lacking: you love without burning, you are jealous in a way that is free of anxiety, you “repent” (Gen. 6: 6) without the pain of regret, you are wrathful and remain tranquil. You will a change without any change in your design. You recover what you find, yet have never lost. Never in any need, you rejoice in your gains (Luke 15: 7); you are never avaricious, yet you require interest (Matt. 25: 27). We pay you more than you require so as to make you our debtor, yet who has anything which does not belong to you? (1 Cor. 4: 7). You pay off debts, though owing nothing to anyone; you cancel debts and incur no loss. But in these words what have I said, my God, my life, my holy sweetness? What has anyone achieved in words when he speaks about you? Yet woe to those who are silent about you because, though loquacious with verbosity, they have nothing to say.

What an amazing sense of wonder and mystery at our good and great God who is immutable yet changing all things, who is wrathful yet tranquil, who pays debts despite owing nothing.

So my challenge to you is to embrace the mystery of getting to know God. Continue searching for more and more details that unravel a fuller picture of who God is. But also take time to sit and enjoy the glorious mystery of his incomprehensible nature.

I love you, Church!
Nathan Ehresman

National Day of Prayer 2019

Prayer can have the feeling of duty and at other times delight.

When prayer is mostly about a discipline in our lives that we are suppose to do, then we sometimes fall into the trap of feeling like prayer is a duty. But when prayer is mostly about delighting in knowing, talking, and listening to God then it can become a way of fellowshipping with God often resulting in a co-laboring with God to accomplish good and advancing His will on earth.

Today is the National Day of Prayer. It is a day set up to focus on how we need God’s help and wisdom as individuals, communities, and as a nation.

This year’s theme of “Love One Another” comes from John 13:34 where Jesus says “...love one another: just as I have loved you...”

Below is a link to a prayer guide for today:

Tonight from 6:30-7:30pm in the Worship Center we will be hosting a community-wide prayer and worship gathering for the National Day of Prayer. Everyone is welcome to attend as we unite with other believers across our city in worship and prayer. We’ll pray for the local Church, for our community, our state, and our nation. Our hope for tonight is that we can delight in prayer together and be co-laborers with God and one another as we seek to love as Jesus has loved us. We hope you'll join us.

Grace and peace,

Welcoming Others as Christ has Welcomed Us

The second greatest commandment in the Bible is to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39), or simply “love people” as we say here at Grace.

I’m constantly praying that we would grow in our love for people! I pray that we would be known for how we love people, and I pray on Sunday mornings that we would welcome one another as Christ welcomed us (Romans 15:7).

Yesterday presented me with an opportunity to do this. I met someone who looked like a man, but was dressed like a woman. I felt an initial reaction in my flesh that I had to fight. I could sense myself becoming judgmental and I didn’t like it. My heart wrestled, wondering if I would find myself in a predicament not knowing how to address him.

How would I hide my confusion about simply starting a conversation with him? Would my expression show that I think dressing like that is wrong, and would he simply feel judged? How would I love this person? 

I’m so thankful for God’s Spirit within me.

After an initial reaction of judgment, the Holy Spirit stirred up in me a strong desire to simply love this person. I needed to treat him like a person created in God’s image. I needed to treat him as I would want to be treated.

After I got my dinner I went and sat across from him. I simply made conversation and asked him how his day was. We talked about work, and his new phone, and where he’s from.

One thing that I found out in talking to him is that I never had to think about whether he wanted to be known as male or female. When I talked to him I simply addressed him as “you”. There wasn’t any awkwardness in the conversation with him at all. It’s actually when I talked about him to someone else (my friend who was there with me) that it was awkward and I found myself wondering if I should say he or she. I want to say I was talking with my friend to figure out how to talk with this transgender, but now I’m pretty sure that conversation simply ended up being gossip.

We’ve been called to love people, and we’ve been called to show hospitality to strangers. I’m saddened that the church is “known” for hating people who are different, and I’m saddened that media is simply perpetuating that. Yes, we are committed to God’s Word. Sin is sin, and we won’t call it ok when God says it’s not. But I want the church to be known for how we love people, not for what we are against. I can love people and I want to love people because God loved me when I was his enemy. He loved me when I was unlovable.

Will you join me in praying that God would grow our love for people, and that we would welcome others just as Christ has welcomed us?

My Rightnowmedia pick of the month is a good one for parents in this age of cell phones and social media! Check it out here:


For His Glory,
Pastor Kyle

Elder Connection: A Letter From Our Elders

[Editor’s Note: This is a special-edition Staff Journal written by Marc Friesen, the chairman of our elder board. This letter from Marc is kicking off a series of quarterly updates from the elders as a way to create an open line of communication from the hearts and minds of the elders to you, the church.]

Greetings Grace!

This letter is the first installment of what the elders hope to be another line of communication to the body. We are aiming for this quarterly letter to update you with what is on the hearts and minds of the elders. This need has been communicated. We hope this forum will better inform you, but that it will also highlight concerns and correspondingly the great things God is doing in this body for both celebration and prayer. The elders want to emphasize that we are here for the body.

The first thing we want you to know is in our monthly meetings one of the very first things we do is pray. We take an extended time of prayer. We pray for the body. We pray for individuals. We pray for conflicts, health issues, and other worries. We also pray to celebrate the joyous, the awesome, and the big and small.

Looking forward, we are surveying how GCC can encourage connection both here and in the Newton community and greater area. We are looking at communications, programs, and even our physical buildings and grounds. All these factors can, and should, work together to make GCC a place of encouragement and connection to Jesus. Our directional team does a lot of this work.

March was our first meeting with a report from our new XDM (Executive Director of Ministries). Juli has been busy diving into her new role, taking on several tasks that the elders have accumulated over the past several years just waiting for somebody like her to take. Two of those projects are developing employee evaluation tools and growing council unity. These tasks are in addition to the ongoing search for a new Children’s Ministry Director. The elders are grateful for someone like Juli in this role.

One of the mainstay agenda items of our meeting is the stewardship report. It is easy to become complacent when this area is running smoothly. The Stewardship Council does a lot of the work aiding the elders in what we are entrusted. We are grateful for all that He provides in His beneficence, and we want to be diligent in that management. 2019 is off to one of the better starts in recent memory from a financial perspective, which is even more reason for the diligence.

We also have been working on revising the church bylaws and employee handbook. Both projects involve many people, varying considerations, and a significant amount of detail.  The undertakings are slow, but steadily, moving forward.

In closing, I find myself continually struck and humbled by our familiar sending -- “YOU are the Church. Now go BE the Church.” My challenge is how I can embody and respond every day. I hope you also feel that same Spirit-led urgency.


Marc Friesen

We would love to have you join us for our two Holy Week services!

A reflective service focused on the cross and capped off by celebrating communion.

Two identical services celebrating the resurrection and highlighted by 17 (!!) baptisms.

"This is the best day of my life!"

With tears in his eyes, at only six years old, he told us: “This is the best day of my life.” One day, I hope he knows it was one of the best days of our lives too. 

Russell, our second-born, made a profession of faith on Super Bowl Sunday (02/03/2019). It all began as a normal Sunday. I’m not that into football or the Super Bowl, but it was a great day at church, and we had plans to stay home and rest as a family. Like many Americans, we had pizza and Courtney made some dip for us to enjoy.

I turned on the game, not expecting to watch it. However, the game actually kept my attention. The score and teams always seemed evenly matched against one another. It came down to the last 2+ minutes of the game, and I wasn’t sure who was going to win.

Out of nowhere, Russell sat on the couch and said he wanted to ask Jesus to forgive him and that he wanted to be a Christian.

“What?! Now? Is this happening!?”

Before I could respond, he ran to his room. Now, I know I will be judged by some. But the truth is the truth; for a moment I thought, “Surely I can talk with him after these 2 minutes are up.” But of course, the Holy Spirit gave me that “really?” feeling, so I came to my right mind and followed him to the room.

He jumped on the bed and immediately began praying. It was as genuine a prayer as you could imagine. He asked God to save him from his sins, confessing that he believed Jesus died on the cross for him. It all happened in what felt like a brief second. He said “Amen,” and I just knelt in shock and wonder.  

You see, Russell had the knowledge that Jesus died on the cross for him, and he had said prayers before acknowledging this, but we had yet to see a heart change or any fruit in his life. I had been praying for months that God would give Russell a pure heart; that Russell would walk after God and follow Him all the days of his life. I had faith, but I suspected it would take decades for any assurance. God answered that prayer much sooner than I expected.  

After we went back in the living room, Russell hugged his mama and sat on the couch. I just stared at her in disbelief. Seeing the tears in my eyes, she knew it was real.

As we silently celebrated together, Russell shocked us both again. Within a minute or two of sitting back on the couch, he started crying real tears and said, “This is the best day of my life!” As he wiped away his own tears, we began releasing ours. This was a true moment of sincere humility and repentance.

I never did see the end of the game. I don’t remember who won. But that evening was a night I’ll never forget.

I don’t know what you’re praying for. I don’t know the odds stacked against you or your hopes. But I do know one thing: God is able. He is able to answer those impossible prayers. He is able to change a heart. He is able to move a mountain. Trusting in Him is always worth it. You never know exactly what He’s going to do, but you can always trust Him. I’m glad we did. And I’m eternally grateful that Russell did.

I love you guys and hope to see you this Sunday! We’ll be looking at James 2:14-26. That passage has a special place in my heart, and I can’t wait to share it with you.

God bless!
Pastor Jack

Broken Brackets

March may be over, but the “Madness” continues!

This coming weekend’s Final Four competition in Minneapolis will crown another national champion in the NCAA men’s basketball league, and alas, my bracket is totally “busted”!

I filled one out several weeks ago just for personal enjoyment, not anticipating how engaged I would become in the process. I swelled with pride when I guessed right on a majority of the early Round of 32 contests, but then hit the skids on my Sweet 16 picks. My national champion choice didn’t make it out of the Elite Eight!

My broken bracket notwithstanding, the reality of the tournament is that 67 out of 68 teams exit the competition without hoisting the championship trophy. While there are some beautiful Cinderella stories to be celebrated--a Big 12 team that’s not KU is in the Final Four!--a lot of dreams have been shattered during these days.

Expanding the analogy a bit, I think it’s safe to say that life has a way of breaking our brackets and smashing our dreams. All of us have tasted the pain of defeat and disappointment. Whether it’s a loss of livelihood, a cancer diagnosis, or the death of a beloved spouse, child, sibling, or parent, we’ve all tasted grief and been battered by our sorrow. I can’t remember a season in my 21 years here at Grace when we’ve had as many funerals in such a short span of months as we’ve had recently.

Some of us have had our “marriage bracket” broken by the loss of peace, oneness and hope, and we wonder if there’s a “consolation bracket” for wounded hearts!

I love how author Dallas Willard responds to that when he writes,

“The human soul is a vast spiritual (nonphysical) landscape, with resources and relationships that exceed human comprehension; and it also exists within an infinite environment of which, at our best, we have little knowledge. We only know that God is over it all and that the soul, if it can acknowledge its wounded condition, manifests amazing capacities for recovery when it finds its home in God and receives his grace.” (Renovation of the Heart, p. 202)

Enter the grace of Jesus Christ!

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6)

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)

See you Sunday, as Pastor Jack continues his sermon series on “Real Faith” from the book of James.

Pastor Steve

The Heart Behind Our Sending

If you have been with us regularly over the last few months you may have started to pick up on a pattern in the way we end our services.

We end our services with what we call a “sending.” We call it that because we see the end of our service as the beginning of your week of living out your faith—we are being sent to go live out the truth we just sang and heard.

Sometimes the sending is a reflection on the sermon we just heard, sometimes it is a benediction from Scripture (like the priestly blessing from Numbers 6), and sometimes it is what we call our sending. Our sending is something we wrote as a staff that we feel captures God’s heart for our church.

So, as the words of our sending are hopefully becoming familiar to you, I wanted to take a few minutes to share the heart behind them.

I will break our sending down into a few chunks and add some commentary on each chunk. Here’s the first part:

We have been motivated by the love God has shown us in Christ.
We have been united in our worship of the living God together.
We have been encouraged by our fellowship with one another.
And We have been equipped by the preaching of God’s Word.

These lines get at what we see as the purpose of our Sunday morning services. Our services are designed so that we would be a church that is motivated, united, encouraged, and equipped.

Motivated to love God and others because He first loved us. United as one body, worshiping the one true God together. Encouraged to persevere and grow by sharing life with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. And equipped to apply the Truth in our own lives, as well as to minister to those around us.

It is our prayer that by gathering together for an hour (or so) on Sunday, we would all be better equipped to go be a gospel witness for the other 167 hours of the week.

Now, go in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is the power in you each and every day. Isn’t that kind of crazy to think about?! But it’s true: “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you,” (Romans 8:11).

So, think about what that means for you: you do not have to wonder if you said the right thing when your coworker asked about your faith—it’s the Spirit’s job to change hearts. You do not have to rely on your own strength to get through the pain of heartache—the Spirit gives you strength. You can lean into the Spirit’s leading and trust Him to do the work only He can do.

In all that you do, love God boldly.
In whatever neighborhood, whatever workplace, whatever school God has placed you, love people sacrificially.
In whatever stage of life you find yourself, look for opportunities to faithfully lead others to do the same.

This is our purpose as a church: to love God, love people, and lead others to do the same. This purpose is something that can permeate all aspects of your life, no matter where you are or what season of life you are in.

We believe God has you in your specific neighborhood, your specific job, your specific school because you are part of His plan for reaching that neighborhood/workplace/school with the gospel.

We also believe that whether you have been a Christian for ages or your faith is just blossoming, there is someone you can learn from and someone who can learn from you about loving God and loving people. Be diligently seeking out those people, and make the most of the opportunities you get.

YOU are the church. Now go BE the church.

The church is not a building; the church is a people. It can be tempting to think it is the church’s job to teach people about God, or it is the church’s job to visit the vulnerable in their affliction. But remember: you are the church. So, yeah, it’s “the church’s job”—but that means it’s your job… it’s our job.

We won’t always end our service with these words, but we will frequently because we believe they echo God’s heart specifically for our church—for you. It is our prayer that hearing this sending gives you a more clear understanding of how God is calling you to be part of what He is doing in and through Grace Community Church.

I love you, church!
-Nathan Ehresman

Preparing for Easter

Ever have the holidays or a special occasion sneak up on you?

I have.

This usually puts me into a last minute scramble of trying to find a present, or write a note, or make appropriate plans. It’s stressful to say the least, and after the event passes I’m always left wondering why I can’t seem to remember that I want to remember these important moments or I’ll have a sense of shame for missing out on the significance of celebrating something or someone in the way it or they should be celebrated.

I share that because this is something I’m working on.

We are headed towards Easter. Can you believe it?

Remembering and celebrating Easter is one of those significant occasions that can sneak up us.

Paul, writing in 1 Corinthians 15, says, “and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain… and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins… if in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

Needless to say, the resurrection is a big deal.

I want to walk into church on Easter Sunday having already prepared to deeply appreciate and celebrate Jesus as the risen Savior and Lord that he is.

One way many have found helpful in preparing to draw one’s attention to the significance of Easter is to walk through the season of lent prior to Easter. If you look it up on Wikipedia you’ll see that lent is for the believer to prepare “through prayer, doing penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and denial of ego.” Many traditions will do a fast of some sort to create space for prayer.

In my experience, lent has proven to be an extended time of digging into my profound need for Jesus. It has been an opportunity to practice and invite God to do what the Psalmist says in Psalm 139:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!”

Every year, I gain a greater appreciation for Jesus as he continues to do his good work in my life. Often he has tenderly dealt with my weaknesses, addressed pride, and my tendency toward wandering.

Then when Easter comes my soul swells with gladness. 

Jesus being raised from the dead confirms he is who he said he is and his offer of forgiveness and new life can be trusted.

Easter is coming. I'm praying it won't sneak up on us but that we can meaningfully rejoice and in our risen Savior and Lord.

I look forward to worshiping with you on Sunday as we continue in our Real Faith series, exploring “An Obedient Faith” from James 1:22-27!

Grace and peace,
Pastor Loren

Praying During Our Services

So there I am on Sunday morning, gathered with a couple dear brothers in Christ praying for God to move in our church in mighty ways:

  • We’re reading and praying through scripture, calling on God’s promises and faithfulness that His word will accomplish His work (Isaiah 55:10-11)

  • We’re praying for our hearts to be like good soil, to receive God’s truth (Matthew 13:23)

  • We’re praying for the living and active word of God to expose our hearts (Hebrews 4:12)

  • We’re praying for the Holy Spirit to move among us, to convict us, to empower us (John 16:8; Acts 1:8)

It shouldn’t surprise me that the very first time we have a dedicated group of people praying during the service that a projector crashes on us. Thankfully we have 2 projectors!

We know God wants us to get teams of people praying for the services, and we know that Satan doesn’t want that. I’ve been expecting attacks from Satan and I expect that we’ll have more challenges as we continue to get prayer warriors together to pray during the services.

If you are interested in being on a once-a-month rotation to pray during the 9am or 10:30am service, please let me know!

For some of us, praying for an extended time is easy, for some it may be a challenge. Some of us prefer praying silently, while others prefer praying out loud. Some of us pray while kneeling, some of us pray while pacing back and forth in a room. Some of us like it really quiet, for others we like to have worship music playing while we pray. 

It really doesn’t matter how experienced you are, how comfortable you are, or how you prefer to pray, if God is stirring in your heart to do this, contact me! [Editor’s note: you can send Kyle an email at kyleschanbachergcc@gmail.com]

If you’re not sure how to pray during the services, I’ll be working with Debby Graber to have some material to help guide us in our prayers, and we’re working on a space in the church facility to provide a secluded prayerful atmosphere for our teams to gather. We also know that many of you may want to walk around the church facility while you pray and that of course is encouraged as well.

2019 has started out with a great emphasis on prayer, and we are committed to growing the ministry of prayer at GCC. We are dependent upon God, and we want to see him work in mighty ways!

Also, you may not know that every Thursday at 3pm in the Worship center a group of people gathers to pray! If you can be a part of that, we’d love for you to join us! And even though it’s really early, you can come pray with me in the worship center on Sunday mornings at 6am! I have to warn you though, I like to play worship music fairly loud while I walk through the chairs praying for people as they come to mind and praying for the service.

I’m looking forward to singing praises together on Sunday morning, and continuing in the book of James! This has been such a great challenging series so far! Hope to see you then!

For His Glory,
Pastor Kyle


I went to a chiropractor for the first time. I woke up with a neck that decided it wasn't going to turn anymore. And when I tried to fight against its will, I lost. 

I don’t want to complain or whine... most of my friends have been through this and worse. But it's my first time. And you know how the "first time" can seem intense.

Throughout the day I could barely look down or turn my head to the right. Depending on how I moved my arms, I got a shooting pain that stopped me in my tracks. The doc said it should get better; to call if it’s worse; and I met with him again two days later.

I realized throughout the day that it was a trial meant to humble me. God and I both knew I had ignored His "quiet voice" the previous day, I just wasn't bringing it up in prayer.

Do you ever have those moments where you try to pretend that everything is fine because you're not committing major sins? 


Here's how it started: The morning before, I felt the urge to fast and pray. It was a normal Tuesday, but I really needed to seek God's face about some things. But instead, I ended up renting a movie to watch after the kids went to bed. To make it worse, I stayed up even later than that watching comedy (clean) and political videos online. What a waste of time! These are not bad activities within themselves... but I knew Jesus was asking me to fast and pray, and I decided to ignore the prompting. I was what the Bible refers to as, "stiff-necked" - pun intended. 

So I prayed in pain, realizing that I had some fessing up to do. I gave into the entertainment and food idols I’ve been flirting with since I was a kid. I don’t know why I constantly find myself going back to those empty buckets with holes at the bottom… I already know better. 

I know the difference between right and wrong, most of the time. But certain moments/days/seasons I feel extra tempted. Extra tired. Extra selfish. I've learned from older saints that I shouldn't waste time focusing on the temptations themselves, but ask God, "What is the root of this? Where am I not trusting you? Why am I not going to You instead?"

I'm glad He doesn't give up on me. I tell Him: "I'm really young in that area... always feeling like an infant. Would you fill me with Your Spirit, and transform my heart? I am a child. I am helpless. Would you help me? I know You're better than anything the world has to offer. Help me be honest... I can't do it without You." 

Amazingly, He wants to answer those questions WITH me. Even though I don't always know what to ask for, I am always grateful that He meets me in those moments, desiring to "process" my pain and addictions with me. He does not shame me or guilt me. He ministers to a contrite heart. He never turns away the repentant sinner.

My interactions with Him reminds me, “If He couldn't work with a sinner or saint needing grace, He wouldn't have anybody to work with.” That's not an excuse, just the truth.

It took a sore neck and chiropractic appointment to open my eyes. But I’m glad He gave it to me. I know it’s because He loves me.

I look forward to this Sunday. [Nathan’s note: Don’t forget to set your clocks forward an hour on Saturday night! Or, you know, count on your phone to do it for you.] We’ll be talking about temptations and the power of pleasure.

I’ll see you there,
Jack Napier