Vision

Ash Wednesday and the Practice of Lent

This morning, we gathered for a brief, informal Ash Wednesday service. As a liturgical church, we embrace the historic church calendar as a way to organize our worship gatherings and congregational ministries. So what is Ash Wednesday, and what does it look like to practice the Lenten season as Protestants?

Lent is the six-and-a-half week season leading up to Good Friday and Easter. It is a time for repentance through self-examination and renewal through identification with the journey of Jesus. We follow him from the Upper Room (John 13-17) to the Garden of Gethsemane and onward to our trial and crucifixion. It’s a time for prayer, fasting, and giving ourselves away. At Lent, we say, “Not my will but yours be done.”

It’s of huge spiritual value that we recover the spiritual intent of Ash Wednesday and the Lenten spiritual season. Faith is not simply a belief system; it’s an active embodiment, a life lived out in true practice in prayer, fasting, and giving ourselves away. And these are not just impersonal rituals; this is an engaging, demanding, committed relationship.

In Lent, we’re doing battle against four things: Laziness in our spiritual life; Negativity in our outlook/attitude toward circumstances; Lust for power and comfort; and Destructive words, actions, and thoughts.

Those four things are replaced through relationship and virtues: Wholeness in our spiritual life; Humility in our outlook toward circumstances; Patience in the waiting; Love—sincere care for others. (See Bruce Weber's Ancient-Future Faith.)

ASH WEDNESDAY

Thousands of years ago, the church began the practice of Ash Wednesday, centering on the themes remembrance and repentance. It is the somber day where we Remember that we will die and we Repent of our sin. (I’m convinced that when pastors came up with Ash Wednesday in the 4th Century, it was to have a therapeutic outlet for our own daily encounters with sin, grief and hopelessness. Each year, we can have one utterly depressing service.)

As Christians, we don’t have to search for clever things to say about pain, suffering and death. We have our own experience, we have the experience of our church family, and we have the Scriptures, which speak profoundly into the human problem. We each have our own personal wounds and we carry with us the wounds of our church family: Sickness (anxiety, depression, chronic pain, cancer and disease); Brokenness (broken marriages, broken homes, broken hope and the worst form—loneliness); and Death (miscarriages, family deaths, and spiritual deadness apart from Christ). 

We also know pain, suffering and death because we have God’s Word, and the holy Scriptures that are brutally honest about corruption, sin and loss. Christianity is full of paradoxes, and this is one of them. Death has lost its sting, but death still stings. Death has been swallowed up in victory, but we’re all still one call away from tragedy.

REMEMBER THAT YOU WILL DIE

One of the classic Ash Wednesday texts is Psalm 90, written by Moses, who was no stranger to the hardship of life. Orphaned as a baby, a foreigner in a heathen country, he killed a man and fled to the hills. Then God appears to him, and instead of crushing him, calls him to ministry. God uses him to deliver the people out of Egypt, through the Red Sea and into… The wilderness. 40 years with the Israelites: they’re sad, they’re whiney, they’re writing songs about how no one understands them—they’re the original hipsters. From the wilderness, where food and water were scarce, heat and cold were constant, and with two million people looking to him for deliverance, Moses turns his face toward God, and writes Psalm 90. 

1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place
   throughout all generations.
2 Before the mountains were born
   or you brought forth the earth and the world,   
   from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Moses starts with an acknowledgement that God is God— he is everlasting, he is Creator, he is our dwelling place. And now he pours out his prayer to God:

3 You turn men back to dust,
     saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men.”
4 For a thousand years in your sight       
     are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.
5 You sweep men away in the sleep of death;      
     they are like the new grass of the morning—
6 though in the morning it springs up new,
     by evening it is dry and withered.

The Bible is not silent about the hardship of life, the reality of suffering and the curse of death. Moses reminds us that we will die. To our eternal God, even a thousand years is like the falling and rising of the sun. So God is eternal but we are very much finite. We are swept away; we grow, dry out and wither; we are cut down.Moses continues:

9 All our days pass away under your wrath;
     we finish our years with a moan.
10 The length of our days is seventy years—
     or eighty, if we have the strength;
yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,
     for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

So life is short but even the days that we do have are filled with trouble and sorrow. 70 or 80 years—gone in a moment. This is what we say: “Time flies! Where did the time go?” In his Reflections on the Psalms, C.S. Lewis asks why we have such trouble keeping track of time.

“It is as strange as if a fish were repeatedly surprised at the wetness of water. And that would be strange indeed; unless of course the fish were destined to become, one day, a land animal.”

Moses knew there was more to life than momentary suffering and certain death. So he finishes his prayer:

13 Relent, O LORD! How long will it be?
     Have compassion on your servants.
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
     that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Moses’ simple prayer: “Lord, have mercy!” Don’t let us suffer forever. Have compassion on us. Satisfy us with your love; let us experience joy and gladness—even in this mess. Moses is praying for what God has already promised!

REPENT OF YOUR SINS

God promises are clear and compelling throughout Scripture. God promises salvation for all who repent of sin. Repentance is turning from one way completely to another—not just a partial turn, but a complete and decisive, 180-degree turn. It is not just admitting you are sinful, that’s a partial turn; it’s also trusting in Christ.

God promised the prophet Isaiah (30:15, 18):

In repentance and rest is your salvation,
   in quietness and trust is your strength…
The Lord longs to be gracious to you;
   he rises to show you compassion.

Repentance is not just something you do once to free yourself from God’s wrath; it is a lifestyle of turning from sin and trusting in Christ. Jesus made this invitation, which holds true today (Matthew 11:28-30):

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

REST IN CHRIST

Christianity makes sense of our weariness and our burdens, and it also invites us to the One in whom we can find rest. So while you remember that you will die, and repent of your sins, you can now truly rest in Christ. 

You can rest in Christ because you are now freely accepted by God. If you haven’t fully received God’s grace in Jesus, then you cannot fully rest. But from a position of rest and security, we enjoy a holistic, full, blessed life with God; what the Hebrew writers called “shalom.” You don’t have to pull yourself together; you don’t even have to suffer well. You can suffer poorly, because Jesus suffered well.

In Christ, we can rest even while fighting our decaying bodies, while attending funeral after funeral. In the 18th Century, a Christian poet riddled with depression wrote a famous hymn:

God moves in a mysterious way,
  His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,     
  And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines     
  Of never failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,      
  And works his sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,      
  The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break      
  In blessings on your head.

Judge not the LORD by feeble sense,      
  But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence,     
  He hides a smiling face.

COVERED BY THE CROSS

The ashes traditionally imposed on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday help us remember that we have sinned and we will die. We return to the dust from whence we came.

And throughout the Bible, a person’s face is a significant theme—it’s his or her true self, representing our identity as well as our deepest emotions. When Cain killed Abel, God marked his face as a curse. Moses hid his face from God because he knew he was full of sin. And Jesus called the religious people of his day “hypocrites,” an acting term for putting a mask over your true face.

The Cross is a symbol of both shame and grace, and whether it's a literal cross as on Ash Wednesday or the invisible reality of its power over our lives, we can wear it on our faces proudly. Psalm 34 says:

4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me;     
      he delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant;      
     their faces are never covered with shame.

This Cross is a reminder that Christ was covered with shame so that we can be covered with grace. The truest thing about us—our faces—are no longer covered with shame; now we are covered by the Cross. 

 

How Do We Make Disciples? (Part One)

When discussing discipleship, many things may come to mind—a class, a program, a Bible study, family worship, one-on-one mentoring, a core set of doctrines, or an early developmental stage.

At Trinity, we believe discipleship is the work of the church. Jesus left his disciples with this command:

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)

We think discipleship is not as difficult as the church has often made it to be, and there are no magic bullets to guarantee discipleship. Discipleship is neither a duty to perform nor a puzzle to solve. Before we can discuss how we make disciples, we have to define the process and the goal. 

Here’s how we define it: 

Discipleship is the life-giving, grace-filled process of being with Christ and becoming like him together.

First, discipleship will be life-giving if it is truly centered on Jesus Christ.

He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Our groups should primarily be marked by life and not stagnation, joy and not defeat, encouragement and not gossip. In other words, discipleship must be “gospel centered”—ministry rooted in Jesus and his gospel.  

Second, discipleship is grace-filled. 

We recognize that spiritual transformation comes through God’s grace, not simply our effort. God’s grace enables us to want to be with Christ and become like him (Titus 2:11-13). We will fail frequently, but his grace sustains us along the way.

Third, discipleship is a process.

It’s not a theory, a class, a program, or a time of the week. Similar to a worldview, a process—a new way of living, with new habits and routines—must be produced if we are to life like Christ and as his salt and light in the world.

Fourth, discipleship is a process of being with Christ.

It is not a primarily way of doing more for him or the church. The first invitation of discipleship is not to growth or change or even obedience; it is simply to come to Jesus. The words of Matthew 11:28-30 demonstrate our Lord’s heart for his disciples:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Fifth, discipleship is a way of becoming like him.

Once we have spent time in the presence of the King, we will gradually become more like him. Our growth in Christlikeness produces a real change, and our obedience becomes an internal desire rather than an external compulsion. We become what we behold, according to Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:18.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 

Lastly, discipleship happens together.

Our being and becoming like Christ is not an individual pursuit. It is deeply personal, yet it does not happen primarily in a “Jesus and me” context. Instead, the best possible place of spiritual transformation is the local church—and most specifically, a small, regular, committed group of believers pursuing the same end.

 

If we want to find a blueprint for discipleship, we must begin where all true discipleship should begin, by looking at the earthly life and ministry of Jesus.

Stay tuned for Part Two! 

 

This post is an excerpt from the forthcoming ebook, Life-Giving Groups, by Jeremy Linneman. It releases from Sojourn Network on October 25, 2017. 

What is Liturgy?

During our Sunday night home gatherings, we use a formal liturgy—an intentional order of service that prioritizes pre-written prayers, songs, and Scripture readings. Why do we follow a liturgy?

If you’re new to a formal liturgy, it can take some getting used to. It can seem like a Catholic thing or an Episcopal thing, but it actually predates the Protestant Reformation and can be dated back to the early church.

But in another sense, every church has a liturgy: Every congregation has some regular pattern of gathering, whether it’s tightly planned or loose and informal. The question is, What does our liturgy communicate?

Our Sunday Liturgy

Consider the flow of our service. Each element includes either a Scripture reading or pre-written prayer.

Call to Worship: Worship starts with God and his Word; we are invited into his presence, not vice versa. 

Confession of Sin: We respond with confession of sin, typically a Scripture reading or pre-written prayer.

Lament: We corporately (as a whole church) grieve the brokenness of the world.

Forgiveness and Restoration: We celebrate having received forgiveness from God through Jesus, and announce the coming restoration of all things in him.

Peace: As a result of peace with God, we have peace with one another.

Preaching of the Word: We gather around the Scriptures to discover God’s invitations to us as his people.

Communion: We weekly practice the Lord’s Supper by taking wine or juice and bread together; in this, we remember that his body was broken for us and his blood was spilled for us. (Currently, we eat an entire meal together as a community as our form of communion.)

Prayer of Response: We pray together in response to the preaching and Lord’s Supper.

Benediction: Our gathering ends with a blessing, but we don’t cease being a church—instead we are sent to our families, neighborhoods, and work as witnesses for Christ.

Why do we follow this pattern? Our hope is that our Sunday liturgy reminds us of several realities.

Participating in the Gospel

Our liturgy helps us remember and “enact” the gospel. The Scripture passages, readings and prayers follow the pattern of how God works in our lives: He comes to us, forgives us, restores us, connects us to one another, and sends us out on mission.

Second, our liturgy reminds us that we submit to the Scriptures in all of life: the readings expose us to more of the Bible throughout the gathering, so that there is teaching not just in the sermon but the whole gathering.

Third, a liturgy enables us all to participate in the church gathering. Liturgy means “the work of the church,” a way of participating together, not just watching or observing a presentation or a show.

Lastly, liturgy teaches us how to pray and worship. The liturgy is a training tool, designed to shape our habits—how we pray, what we pray for, how and what we sing, and even how to treat one another.

 

Together, when practiced week after week, these practices become familiar and even habitual. Not only do these practices shape us as individuals, the liturgy forms us as a community together. 

Talking About Charlottesville

In response to the racist gatherings in Charlottesville, we responded with a communal prayer of lament last night at Trinity Church. Here is what I shared with our congregation, and the prayers of lament and assurance follow. - Jeremy

Our lament tonight is a little bit different, so I want to explain why we do these sorts of laments. Part of our liturgy is the communal confession and lament, where we confess our own sins and cry out against the sins of others and the brokenness of the world—it’s a type of prayer that comes directly from the Psalms.

This past week, as you probably have been following, there was a rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. The rally in itself is a tragedy worth lamenting—thousands of people celebrating the marginalization of other human beings, promoting further racism against people of color. But then, a 20-year old man in support of the rally, drove his car at a high speed directly into a crowd that was opposing the rally. Heather Heyer, a 32-year old local woman who was an advocate for marginalized communities, was killed, and at least 19 others were injured.

Why We Need to Talk About This

We need to be the type of church that stops to talk and pray about these events. As a church with white leadership, we want to make it explicitly clear that we completely reject and condemn white nationalism/supremacy. The so-called “alt-right” is not a political group; it is an evil and demonic position of hatred.

We talked about this in Ephesians 2:11-22 about this a few weeks ago: There is simply no way to be a Christian and look down on people not like you. You cannot be changed by grace, transformed by Christ, and then try to exalt yourself at the expense of others.

I admit I have a hard time talking about these things; it’s tempting to just keep it light-hearted. I can talk about fantasy football for hours, but stumble to find a few words to speak on injustice. But that reflects my own life of privilege, where thinking and talking about injustice and suffering has been optional. But out of love for our black and brown brothers and sisters, we want to talk about these things.

An Inescapable Network of Mutuality  

In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dr. King wrote to a group of mostly white church leaders. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” What was most discouraging to Dr. King was not the white supremacists’ hatred toward him; he was most grieved by white Christians, especially leaders, not clearly rejecting racism.

He continues in the letter, “Over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council or or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to… the absence of tension [than] to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”

Trinity Church has to be a place where racism simply cannot take root, where we create space for people of all ethnic backgrounds. But that’s not enough: We have to be a people and a place that doesn’t remain silent and hope everything will work out. We have a responsibility, as Christians, to promote justice in every community where we have an influence. That’s not a “social gospel,” it’s a “deep gospel.” If our leadership team is still all white in five years, we will have failed miserably.

Our neighbors of color are suffering in our communities every single day, and we have far more in common with them than we do someone of a similar skin color to us. We were once outsiders, but now we have been invited into the family of God, entirely by grace.

Let's pray together; you may read the italicized portions aloud if you'd like.

Prayer of Lament

This lament is adapted from one by Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

Father, we remember the cross of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, as the place where you love, your mercy, and your justice were fulfilled. You came down and transformed us by your mercy, even while we were your enemies. We now ask with faith that your mercy and justice might transform our world. 

We specifically mourn the events of Charlottesville, Virginia, where evil has, once again, manifested itself against image-bearers, against your holy Church, against you. We mourn the sinful institutions that have preyed on image-bearers for generation upon generation. We mourn with those who have suffered for decades under prejudiced laws and cheap justice.

O Lord, we confess that we have too often ignored the pain of our brothers and sisters who face constant hate, death, and hopelessness. And even when we have had the eyes to see these injustices, Father, we confess that we have been tempted to turn in hatred against those who have perpetrated such evils.

With sorrow, God, we confess that the Church is often one of the last places where justice is heralded.

Have mercy on us, O God, according to your steadfast love.
Have mercy on us, O God, according to you perfect goodness.
Have mercy on us, O God, according to your unshakeable faithfulness. 

Move among your people. Empower us with your Spirit. Give us the passion to love the unloved and to welcome the stranger. May your Gospel unify your Church, that we may see your peace reign in our hearts, in our neighborhoods, in our cities, and in this nation. Amen

Prayer of Assurance

Now, let's pray this together:

Remember that formerly you were outsiders by birth and called “unclean.”
But now, in Christ Jesus, we, who once were far away, have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Remember that at one time you were separate from Christ, excluded from family of God.
But now Christ himself has become our peace; he has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility between peoples.

Remember that you were orphans without a father and refugees without a people, without a place. 
But now Christ has created, in himself, one new humanity from every nation, making peace through his wounds.

Remember that you were once without hope and without God in the world. 
But now Christ has made a way for all peoples to return to God, by way of the cross. Thanks be to God.   (Adapted from Ephesians 2:11-16)

The Peace of Christ

Our desire at Trinity Church is to be so full of the peace we have received from God in Christ that we continually show that same grace-saturated peace to one another. 

The closing of Dr. King's letter seems an appropriate plea to finish with: 

“Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away, and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow, the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”

 

Does Columbia Need Another Church?

The Columbia area is home to more than one hundred local churches. Do we really need another one?

At Trinity, we believe that it takes a large, diverse network of faithful churches to reach and serve an entire area. There are a few specific reasons why we feel Columbia needs not just one more church but dozens of new churches.

Fulfilling the Great Commission

When his earthly ministry was completed, Jesus called his disciples—all of his followers—to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:20). To baptize means to immerse people in the faith of a local church community. When someone becomes a believer through a local church body, he or she is far more likely to grow as a true disciple of Christ.

Reaching the Unchurched

Whereas existing congregations have excellent resources to provide spiritual care, training, and service opportunities for mature and maturing believers, brand new churches tend to be more effective in reaching the unchurched. Although it is not always the case, churches are most fruitful in reaching unchurched people during their first ten to twenty years. Typically, church plants and young churches set aside significant time and funds for reaching unchurched people, while existing churches allocate more time and money to member care and facilities. Mission scholar C. Peter Wagner once wrote, “Planting new churches is the most effective evangelistic methodology known under heaven.”

Reaching the Next Generation

New churches also tend to be the most fruitful in reaching young adults. Similarly, new residents in a city are more likely to attend a new or young church than to join an existing one. Fewer long-standing traditions mean young adults and new residents can engage deeply and take service and leadership roles more quickly.

Population Growth

Columbia was recently reported to be the fastest-growing city in Missouri (Columbia Missourian, March 25, 2017). Columbia averages one church for every 800 new residents. Over the last six years, Columbia’s population has grown by 14,000 residents, meaning we would also need about 18 new churches planted during that time. Several new churches have started, but many more are needed!

At Columbia's current rate of growth, 
we need more than 20 new churches every decade
just to keep up with population growth.

City Renewal

Church plants are good for existing churches, too. New churches serve the community of churches by increasing the total number of church-attending people in a city, by equipping servant-leaders and releasing them into the marketplace, and by creating innovative and effective new forms of ministry that other churches can adopt. In many cases, new churches will build a relationship and baptize a new believer, then the new believer will join a different, existing congregation, and the whole city benefits from both churches’ involvement.    

As Tim Keller, a pastor in New York City, writes: “A vigorous and continuous approach to church planting is the only way to guarantee an increase in the number of believers, and is one of the best ways to renew the whole body of Christ."

 

We believe church planting is the most effective and fruitful way to invest our lives in the city of Columbia. Church planting—when done slowly and intentionally through strategic networking, winsome evangelism, and intentional discipleship—is God’s primary means for spiritual renewal.

 

Why We're Called 'Trinity Church'

What are we called 'Trinity Community Church'? What is the significance of the Trinity for us?

The Trinity is the historic Christian theological framework for describing the glorious mystery that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit—three in one. There are a few reasons why this is a perfect name for our new congregation.

History

It is a fundamental Christian doctrine that has been affirmed throughout the ages, a point of unity between believers across the globe. As a result of its theological importance, “Trinity” is a very traditional church name. The name has been adopted widely by Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Charismatic, Methodist, and Presbyterian traditions. We have been influenced and blessed by many of these different streams of Christianity and want to identify ourselves by a traditional name rather than something new and different. 

Beauty

Indeed, the Trinity is a beautiful truth. Within the Trinity, we discover the glorious riches of God’s person and nature. In the Trinity, we come to a fuller understanding of the gospel: The Father loves us and calls us; the Son lived, died and was resurrected for us; and the Spirit applies that love and work to us, indwelling us with his presence.

Side Note: Our logo—created by our friend Chris Bennett in Louisville—is designed after a traditional stained-glass window. For centuries, churches have used stained-glass windows with three panes forming a single shape to signify the three Persons of the Trinity. Based on the famous “Trinity knot” design, the window is a lens for seeing the Church and for seeing from the Church into the world. The soft gold color is a nod to both our sending church (Sojourn Church in Louisville uses the same color scheme) and our heart for the students of the University of Missouri.

Unity

Since God is a relational being—he has eternally existed in relationship—and we are his image-bearers, we cultivate meaningful, committed, loving relationships with one another. We seek to have our relationships marked by Trinitarian ethics, putting one another first and seeking the glory of the other.

Diversity

Within himself, God has both unity and diversity—God is three persons and yet there is one God. In our unique differences and backgrounds, we are wonderfully diverse yet united by the image of God. As a result, we promote diversity of gender, age, ethnicity, economic background in our congregation and will seek to establish a leadership that reflects unity in diversity.

Paradox

God is three persons and yet there is one God. God is intimately knowable, and yet he is totally beyond us in beauty and purity. God has established our path yet given us freedom. The Christian life is full of paradox, and we would rather celebrate and trust God in the paradox rather than seek to question or doubt his nature and his ways.

 

There is no best name for a church. But we think ‘Trinity Community Church’ gives us a great opportunity to hold the historic truths of Scripture in a beautiful way. And in God’s hilarious providence, our first Sunday home gathering (June 11th, 2017) happened to fall on the annual date the liturgical church historically calls… Trinity Sunday.

 

 

Why We Love Columbia

There are as many reasons to love Columbia, Missouri as there are people here—so, roughly 130,000. Here are just a few of our favorites: 

Young

42% of Columbia residents are Millennials (age 18-34) compared to a 27% national average. This percentage includes almost 40,000 students at the University of Missouri, Columbia College, and Stephens College.

Diverse

A demographic research study by the Percept Group described Columbia as “Very High” in lifestyle diversity and racial and ethnic diversity. With families from more than 100 ethnic backgrounds and with more than 2500 international students at the University of Missouri alone, we love living in a place with people from so many backgrounds. It gives us a good picture of what the new heavens and earth will look like!

Smart

Columbia is highly educated (7th most educated city in the U.S.; 51% of adults have college and/or graduate degrees compared to 29% U.S. average), but not snooty. The city has a great combination of thinkers and doers, of scholars and starters. As a result, a church that has influence here likely has influence far beyond here.

Progressive

Outside Magazine named Columbia among the “best progressive towns in America” some years ago. Our community is willing to ask tough questions, challenge the status quo, and seek alternative ways forward. This is a place where ideas thrive, where you can be Democrat or Republican, or like most of us, something else entirely.

Creative

What happens when you have a young, diverse, smart, and progressive community? Creative things happen. Columbia is home to an ever-increasing number of art galleries, concert venues, new restaurants, non-profits, and startups. What other city our size can boast in things like the True/False Film Festival, Startup Weekend, Ragtag Theatre, and such good coffee?

Active

Mid-Missouri is home to some of the most beautiful city, state, and national parks we’ve ever seen. The MKT Trail, leading out to the gorgeous Katy Trail, is one of the highlights of the Midwest. As a result, individuals and families seem to be outdoors every evening and weekend. In particular, my family loves the youth sports community, the cycling opportunities, and the ARC. Bike lanes everywhere!

Fast Growing

Not surprisingly, our city is expected to grow 38% faster than the rest of the U.S. over the next five years—making it the fastest-growing city in Missouri and one of the fastest across the Midwest.

Under-Churched

Even though there are many great churches in Columbia, the city’s church-going population remains lower than national averages. According to our research with the Percept Group, only 10-12% of the adult population holds any evangelical affiliation. Further, the population rate is growing much more quickly than church attendance is growing, meaning the percentage of church-going people in the city is constantly dropping. This presents a unique opportunity for new churches to be planted, especially in neighborhoods less reached by existing congregations.

Home

Most importantly, Columbia feels like home to us and almost everyone who spends a few months here. Jessie and I lived there eight years total and felt it was the perfect place for us to put down roots, plant our family, and serve in the marketplace. 

How Trinity Church Came to Be

Trinity Community Church officially began with a gathering of about ten adults in our home in June 2017. But the Lord had been working for months—actually, years—to bring about this new church. What’s our story?

At Home in Missouri

Jessie and I (Jeremy) are native Missourians and first met here in Columbia in 2003. We were involved with Campus Crusade, studied journalism (her) and microbiology (me) at Mizzou, and graduated in 2006. We were also married in 2006 and, living in our tiny South Columbia apartment, tried to discern what was next.

From 2007 to 2010, we helped start Karis Community Church in downtown Columbia; for the first time, we saw a local church actively involved in evangelism and discipleship. We loved it! After nearly four years serving as volunteer leaders, we felt the Lord calling us to Louisville, Kentucky so I could take an internship with Sojourn Community Church and finish my graduate theological degree at Southern Seminary.

Seven Years in Louisville

But God had big plans for us in Louisville as well: We ended up investing seven years in Sojourn. I became an executive pastor and then a community and counseling pastor during a season of incredible fruitfulness at the church—Sojourn more than tripled in membership, leaders, and even worship gatherings during our seven years there. It was a beautiful season of growth, training, and service.

Our family, meanwhile, was growing as well—to three boys (three boys!) and our first house. We built lifelong friendships, enjoyed leading several community groups in our home, and saw God deepen our faith in him through many great days and many trials, through much joy and much pain.

But in the early months of 2016, though, we began to sense that the Lord was inviting us to a new season of life. We felt that it was time for a “coming home” to our truest gifts and calling, but also the time to come home geographically. We had the strong sense it was time to head back to the state where we grew up, where we are known, and where we could plant ourselves for the second half of our lives.

In the Fall of 2016, with the support, prayer and counsel of close friends and mentors, we settled on returning to Columbia to plant a church. We received immediate support from Sojourn’s pastors and members, and a few our friends have committed to join our mission as well—Mark & Allison Wopata, Lindsey Poenie, Garrett & Nicole Pearson, and Paul & Betsy Arthur have all moved to lead this effort with us. We spent about eight months transitioning out of my role, laying the foundation for the new church, and taking a sabbatical. Around May 1st of this year, we moved into our new home in southwest Columbia.

Returning Home

Upon arriving in Columbia, we began to realize all the ways the Lord had prepared our family and our team to serve and be fruitful here. Some old friends from Kansas City relocated here for work and joined us right away. We met a retired minister who said he’d been praying for a church planter to move into our part of town. Numerous churches and ministries have warmly welcomed us, affirming the need for another Christ centered congregation serving and reaching the unchurched in Columbia.

Our hope has been to plant our family and our team in neighborhoods where we can build and maintain a faithful presence over decades. We have taken jobs in the community where we can cultivate relationships with the unchurched. We have bought houses, enrolled in public schools, and begun to get to know our neighbors. We have opened our homes to young professionals, busy families, grad students, and retired folks.

Our first gathering took place in our home on Sunday, June 11thon the day traditionally celebrated by the liturgical churches as Trinity Sunday. (We couldn't have planned that any better!)

The Lord Before Us

We have also been incredibly blessed by families, churches, and organizations outside the city. We are currently receiving funding from Sojourn Church (Louisville, KY), Sojourn Network (Louisville, KY), Redeemer Fellowship (Kansas City, MO), Antioch Bible Church (North Kansas City, MO), Karis Church (Columbia, MO), Scarlet City Church (Columbus, OH), Sojourn Church (Beaumont, TX) and Fellowship Associates (Little Rock, AR).

Our desire is not to take the city by storm. We aren’t trying to be the only or the best or the coolest church in town. I often think of Thomas Merton’s statement: God was at work before we got here and will be at work long after we’re gone.

Yet we are confident that the Lord is going before us, making a way for this new work. As he has done for centuries before us, he is gathering a people for himself, for his glory and for the good of his people. Whether we are 15 people or 150, we hope that Trinity Church embodies grace and peace, loves its neighbors, and promotes renewal across the community.

We are joyfully diving into his work here, and we would love to have you or your friends—anyone who doesn’t have a church home in central Missouri—to join us in this incredible adventure!

Jeremy