May Update | 2018 Prayer Initiative

For practical update and prayer requests looking ahead to the summer, start at the 10 minute mark.

 

Lifestyle of Hospitality & Finding People of Peace

  • For people to come to know Jesus and be baptized
  • For each member of The Oaks to create margin & live intentionally to be present in the places of influence God has placed us.
  • For favor from the Spirit to open doors for each one of us with “People of Peace” -people in our city who are not yet enjoying Jesus, but who are open to relationship with us and conversations about Jesus
  • For wisdom to know how to ‘overlap’ our ‘life together’ as the Church & our ‘life on mission’ with people in our community

Pursuit of Holistic, Healthy Diversity

  • For ‘Denverites’ (believers and not) to join our Church to provide balance of cultural understanding & relational networks to our team of transplants
  • For people of color to be called to join our Leadership Team so we can holistically serve the ethnic diversity represented in our neighborhood
  • For wisdom & favor to love & empower the women in our church, both in leadership capacities & overall culture of The Oaks
  • For healthy, holistic wisdom & favor to learn how to enter in to the various socio-economic & generational diversity that exists in our neighborhood & that our church would grow reflecting this

Dependence on the Spirit

  • For moment by moment enjoying & trusting Jesus, follow the Spirit’s leading in everyday life, and a posture of intentional, focused, bold faith & prayer
  • For understanding & boldness to be a Church that is sensitive to and operating in the full gifts of the Spirit with the authority of God’s Word
  • For each of us to have a greater sense of clarity of our God-given purpose, including an understanding & identification of each of our gifts of the Spirit, clarity of each’s specific role to play in making disciples/leadership through The Oaks, and a depth of self-awareness/soul care of how we each have been formed uniquely by God

Continued Favor of Partnerships

  • For continued open doors in the cultural domains that exist in our neighborhoods with neighbors, organizations to love & serve, local government officials, and local businesses/events in SouthEast Denver to be a faithful presence embodying and pursuing the Kingdom of God here
  • For more churches & individuals to be called to partner together with us by investing money, prayer, and relational support to help us advance the mission we’re called to
  • For wisdom as we develop our 2019 budget/strategy in terms of how to leverage our money & time, which partnerships to develop, how much to save/give away, etc.
  • For clarity around our 2-5 year plan. Pray that as we experience gospel growth, that we would prioritize multiplication, not merely addition. If/when The Oaks grows through multiplication of home groups, what is the long-term outcome? Do we pursue a building to gather weekly? If so, where & when? Do we look to buy? If so, what could we use a facility for throughout the week that seeks the holistic flourishing of our city and not just a place for us to “do church”? When & where will we seek to multiply by planting more churches/send to the nations? 

March & April Update | Answered Prayers

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
- 1 John 5:14-15

2018 is a year I believe God is inviting me into deeper dependence. As I look back on the last couple months since our last update, our days have been filled with grace upon grace of subtle (and sometimes obvious) gifts of a heightened awareness of God's presence, coming face-to-face with how foolish any attempts at self-sufficiency are, and door after door of opportunity and favor being opened wide in ways only explainable as answers to the prayers of God's people. I am learning dependence- not just because I am studying it, but because I am living it. 

My first couple weeks in the city were frustrating. Filled with fear, struggling to know what to do in this 'in between' stage of our church, and the unsettledness of learning and living with new everything- new relationships, new surroundings, new culture, new jobs. I was driving up I-25 early one morning into downtown, grumbling to God about how he felt far away and I felt alone, overwhelmed to know what to do first or what to do next- and how futile everything seemed that I had done over the last several days.

Then I saw the Rocky Mountains.

I mean, I always see them (Denver ain't a hard place to live, ya'll). And they're always beautiful and awe-inspiring. But that morning I saw through them to the God who spoke them into existence by the power of His Word. Those mountains are majestic...how much more must their maker be? It was almost instant... clarity, conviction, confidence.

My God is big. Really big. With man, a lot of stuff is impossible, but with God all things are possible.
My God is glorious. All the longings of my restless heart are filled up with just one glimpse of His beauty.
My God is able. The God who simply spoke everything from nothing and holds it all together is the one who has spoken new life into my dead soul and is the one who sustains my feeble faith, promising to keep me until I see him face to face and he makes it all new.
My God is near. He's not just my sovereign king, but my kind-hearted Father who has come near. This gospel we're giving our lives to is first the gospel that gives me life.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd who led us here to Denver, who made me and lit these convictions and dreams in me. He promises to lead me, to protect me, to provide for me. He's proven this by laying down His life for us, His sheep. Sheep are stupid, defenseless, and totally in need of someone outside of them to do for them what they cannot do for themselves. And just as Jesus walked in sync with the Father's heart, hearing and obeying His voice, he tells us that he knows us and we will know him- that we can hear his voice and follow him. 

That morning was a turning point in my heart. It was almost a tangible experience of what Paul prays for when he asks to have "the eyes of our heart enlightened." It's a gift to have the lights turned on to the liberating reality that our insufficiencies do not get in the way of God's sufficiency. It's the proud (self-focused, self-reliant) that God opposes. It's the humble (God-focused, self-forgetful) that gets His grace. It was in this humbling embrace that I was convicted of my prayerlessness. Sure, I pray. I'm talking about a life saturated in a posture of prayer because we've come to know the desperation Peter felt when he said, "where else will we go? You have the words of life."

Most of my anxiety and "feeling stuck" could be traced back to functionally picking up the cares I had cast on him, because deep down I really didn't think he cared for me like His Word tells me He does.

I'm learning what it means to cast cares at his feet and leave them there. To truly pray, fast, and seek his heart. To not just tell people you will pray for them, but to actually pray. I'm learning that there's a difference between praying expectantly and praying presumptuously- for far too long I've let fear of the latter keep me from doing the former. I'm learning that there is a level of intimacy and communion with God when you stop trying to make things happen and instead, you pray and trust and wait. I'm learning that feelings and faith aren't the prerequisite to a prayerful life; they're the result of one. The things God has stirred up in me while praying, the very specific requests He has been answering in very specific ways, the hope that is welling up from taking God at His Word and simply asking. I could tell you story after story of how we have been experiencing answered prayers. There are many prayers we're still waiting on God to act according to His good purposes and his perfect timing. In it all, we're learning to live dependent on Him for everything. This isn't an easy thing, but I'm eager for more.

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Here are a few specific updates & requests for The Oaks...

Clarity of Neighborhoods

In our last update back at the end of February I asked you to pray God would give us clarity within 90 days of which neighborhoods we will focus in on to love & serve. THANK YOU for praying. By God's grace He has answered. God is calling The Oaks to begin in SouthEast Denver. 

We've identified roughly a 3 mile radius that we as The Oaks will take spiritual and social responsibility for. In that 3 mile circle there are several distinct neighborhoods- Glendale, Virginia Village, Washington Virginia Vale, Windsor, Indian Creek, Dayton Triangle, University Hills.

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Why this southeast corridor?

  • Density | In this 3 mile radius there are approximately 235,000 people. 

  • Spiritual Apathy | Even the most liberal statistics estimate only 10% of Denver's population claim to follow Jesus. The more realistic prospectives push this number to more like 3-5%. That means that in this corridor of 235,000 people, over
    211,500 to 227,950 people are not yet enjoying Jesus.

  • Lack of Gospel Presence | There is only 1 SBC Church in this corridor of 235,000 (an established African American Church) and only ~ 10 more evangelical churches, most of which are plateaued or declining and several would not be considered gospel-centered or engaging in mission to their neighbors. 

  • Diversity | Denver is a city that is predominately white, fairly affluent (cost of living is significantly high), and is one of the top destination cities for millennials, so the city trends very young (and insanely 'hip'). This part of town is one of the exceptions. Within this 3 mile corridor you have a neighborhood like Glendale, which is largely high-rise apartments filled with mostly young singles. Just South of there is Virginia Village which is filled with somewhat older, more established families who have lived in Denver longer than the average (which is ~2-5 years). University Hills is highly educated and very affluent, but head just 1 mile NorthEast into Washington Virginia Vale, Windsor, and the Dayton Triangle into lower income, lesser educated, and very diverse communities. One school in this neighborhood has students speaking over 60 different languages from 40 different countries. The socioeconomic, generational, and ethnic diversity of this corridor creates many obstacles to church planting, but by faith we see those obstacles to be tremendous opportunities to be obedient to Jesus' command to make disciples of all nations & to see an expression of the Kingdom of God in the midst of a city struggling with significant division and segregation.
  • Please pray for us to have supernatural wisdom as we seek to learn the culture, the people's stories, their fears, and the idols that exist here. Pray we could have discernment to know what areas of brokenness to step into and to do the good work of learning the 'language' of this particular subset of Denver so we can speak the good news about Jesus in ways that makes sense to them. 

Development of Kingdom Relationships

Since identifying our focus area, our team has been praying, asking questions, and spending intentional time in these neighborhoods to learn the specific aspects of both the beauty and the brokenness of this area and discover how the gospel uniquely speaks to both. There's 3 things I'd love you to pray:

1 | Pray for our team as they begin to look for housing in this corridor. 2 families have secured homes here and the rest will be looking to relocate there within the year. Where we all find housing with narrow our focus even more, as this gives greater clarity on which neighborhoods to serve first & determines a centralized location where we will seek to gather when that time comes (likely Fall 2019 or early 2020).

2 | Pray for favor & open doors for partnerships with organizations, schools, local businesses, and other churches in this corridor. We are isolating our initial focus on organizations serving refugees/poverty & the Denver Public Schools. We have had several opened doors within the last 3 weeks. One that we're really excited about is a subset of the Denver Metro YMCA called the Diversity, Inclusion, Global Initiative which partners with refugee resettlement organizations, the school system in Denver & Aurora, and the local government to provide holistic help for refugee and immigrant families. The director of this program has been gracious to us and helped us network with several people and opened the doors wide for us to serve with them. After some initial meetings, I accepted their offer to sit on their board. The Oaks will help with our first event with refugee families next weekend (4/21). Please pray God will continue to show favor to us and that we will be humble, bold, selfless servants to our community.

3 | Pray for needed relationships. We're asking God for continued favor with people in this corridor. We're asking God to show us "people of peace" who are open to hearing the gospel and sharing life with our church as we seek to be hospitable and who can help us enter into relational networks in our city. We're asking God for diversity for our team, particularly in the area of leadership within our church so we can love and serve our diverse culture in healthy, reproducible ways. We're asking God for "Denverites" to join our team. God has been so kind in the way He has raised up men & women to relocate to Denver to help see the vision of The Oaks become a reality (and we're praying for more to do just that), but we also see the tremendous need for believers who know Denver and its unique culture to join our team to ensure we do not try to plant "a southern church" here. We have blindspots we're not aware of, and we need people with different cultural backgrounds to help us. 

Pray for Gospel Partnerships

Our 2019 budget is ~175,000 in ministry expenses + a goal of $50,000 in our account for startup expenses + savings for after Years 3-5 when our church partnerships begin to dwindle to account for potential gaps in self-sustainability. 

We are currently at ~$107,000/year and $22,000 in our start-up account. We are asking God for 10 more supporting churches and 20 more supporting individuals/families investing in what God is doing through The Oaks. Will you pray with us toward this end? Will you join our team of financial partners to help fund this mission going forward in Denver? Can you help us network with churches/partners who may be interested in what we're doing? We cannot do this alone.

Thank you for walking this journey with us! 

-Derick & The Oaks' members

 

February Update | Boldness in Fear

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…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

-Ephesians 6:18-20

I am filled with fear. 

That’s a statement that is typically not true of me. Self-sufficiency, disappointment, insecurity— these are all emotions I feel regularly, but not fear... except that fear has been the predominant mood I’ve experienced these last three weeks living in Denver. 

Many of you have asked how we are adjusting to our new life in our new city and our answer has been “really, really naturally.” In many ways Denver is not a hard city to live in- it is absolutely gorgeous, the people are kind and really open to conversation (for the most part), the vibe & culture of this place is really laid back, and we have fantastic relational networks here already (part of our team who have already relocated, the Summit Church, other planters in our network, and even some old college friends who now live here). This fear isn’t stemming from “culture shock” or even trying to acclimate to a cross-country move. My fear is far more convicting than that.

The pastors at The Summit Church are preaching through the book of Romans throughout 2018, and this past Sunday was the theme verse of the book- “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” As I came across this text last week I wept as the Spirit exposed the root of my fear— a subtle (but real) shame to be associated with the name of Jesus. 

I am fearful in every conversation with neighbors when the first question I am asked after they find out I just moved here is, “Oh, so, what brought you out here?” I should be the bold church planter and walk confidently and expectantly into this gospel opportunity as I let them know God called us here to plant churches to help people like them know, enjoy, and follow Jesus. Instead, I’d rather punt the fact that I'm a pastor down the field for a later conversation. Some of this may be coming out of a healthy, loving concern to help remove some big stumbling blocks to getting to know Jesus caused by the negative stereo-types (many of which are true) of what urban Denverites feel and assume toward Christians in general and churches in particular. But it also reveals my disbelief in the goodness and power of God in the gospel- that the gospel doesn't just have power, but that it literally IS power to save.

Jesus doesn’t need me to be cool, winsome, or relational. The gospel works. I believe that so deeply, yet functionally I live as if the gospel needs to be propped up by something I bring to the table. The beauty of the gospel is often drowned out by my fear of man and I can almost become apologetic of the truth. I functionally don’t trust that the Spirit of God is at work or that He is inviting me to join what He is doing— even if that means bearing reproach and enduring loss. The way of our Savior is the way of suffering, after all. “Don’t be surprised,” Jesus tells us, “when the world hates you. They hated me without cause.” 

I know, I'm a hot mess. 

This inward struggle has taken me off guard, but God has been so faithful to show Himself in the middle of it. In some weird way, I’m becoming thankful for the fear (but deeply repentant of the sin it causes). I’m really not even asking God to take it away right now, but instead to teach me what it means to move forward in spite of it. I’m learning to be grateful for things that expose my weaknesses and inabilities because those pry my grip off the illusions of control & self-sufficiency and become a call of invitation to fall into the arms of a loving, strong Father. My heart grows courage as he pours his love over me no matter how dark my heart can get. In fact, He maybe gets more glory as He fills up the caverns of my weakness with His strength. His grace really is greater than our sin.

In my pride I so want to get to a place in my walk with God to no longer
have to be dependent on him for everything,
but being dependent on Jesus is what Christianity is.

As you pray for us, please pray that we would continue to live, not for the approval of others, but for the pleasure of God. Pray there would be no fear or shame as we see the surpassing weight and beauty of this good news! Pray we would gladly endure reproach and if need be, suffering, for the name of Jesus. Pray we would love our neighbors well be humbly and boldly talking about the good news about Jesus. Pray the Spirit would go before us, preparing the soil of hearts of the people of Denver to be able to see Jesus is better. Pray for wisdom and favor as we seek to embody the values of the kingdom of God as we live life on display serving our neighborhoods. Pray our joy in Jesus would spill over into the joy of real people in Denver.

_____________


Here’s some things we’re thanking God for as we look back over the last month

I’m thankful for the Church.

We don’t want to move across the country again any time soon, but God was so kind through the entire process! It was bittersweet to say goodbye & be sent out by our friends at Sojourn Community Church. We are so thankful for what God did in us during our time with them and we’re thankful for their partnership in the coming days!

  Commissioning from Sojourn Church

Commissioning from Sojourn Church

We spent a week back in East Tennessee spending time with family and friends before we made the thousand mile trek to the Rockies. We cannot put into words how much we feel loved by our faith family and sending Church at Tri-Cities. We have been loved on, prayed for, and just covered in generosity by our brothers and sisters there. Some of our best friends, Wes & Jennifer Tucker, even made the 2 day drive with me. It worked out that Pastor Gene and his wife, Gayle, were in the city the same weekend we arrived, and they cared for us by taking our entire team out to lunch. Their help was so crucial, but I can’t put into words how much just having them with me for my first weekend in the city meant. They (and many others) have loved us in ways we didn’t even know how to ask for or knew we needed. Churches really do plant churches and I am so glad we’re not alone in this. Tri-Cities has modeled what it means to be a sending church and I pray The Oaks can care for those we send out the way they have cared for us.

  Our dear friends, Wes & Jennifer Tucker

Our dear friends, Wes & Jennifer Tucker

I’m thankful for kingdom partnerships. 

As most of you know, we are planting with The Send Network. This entire process has been such a gift for Cayla and me. I am serving through 2018 as a Church Planting Apprentice. One of the generous ways NAMB is blessing us is they are allowing us to live in one of the homes they own in the city for an insanely discounted monthly lease. As part of the apprenticeship I am working part-time on staff with The Summit Church (summitdenver.org) as a Church Planting Resident. It has been so refreshing to work closely, serve, and learn from these like-minded brothers and sisters to learn what faithful gospel-shaped mission looks like in Denver. We’ve been met with such hospitality and care from other fellow planters all across the city. And just this week I’ve been part of two fantastic equipping and networking events for pastors. I’ve been blown away by the collaboration and lack of competition of churches in urban Denver! It makes me so hopeful of what God will continue to do through the larger Church displaying the unity of the Body of Christ!

  Our Duplex (we're on the left!)

Our Duplex (we're on the left!)

I’m thankful for community.

We have 3 families who are now with us in Denver already (with a few more joining us over the summer). It was a bit surreal to have everyone in our home for the first time last weekend. Our faith is strengthened as we keep hearing the stories of how God has called each of them to Denver to be members of The Oaks. I’m eager to see the story He is writing with our lives together.

  Our first shared meal of The Oaks members (of those who have already relocated to CO)

Our first shared meal of The Oaks members (of those who have already relocated to CO)

Please pray for these
4 Main Goals for The Oaks
in 2018

1 || Pray we would lead and love out of an overflow of walking with God

There’s a lot going on in all of our lives as we get settled in, learn our city, work jobs, and do all the logistics of finding our new rhythms. Pray our team would carve out intentional space to be with God, our joy would be full, and we would live everyday life with a posture of intimacy and awareness of God's presence. Pray we would not reach the city of Denver and lose our souls or neglect the joy and flourishing of our own families. 

2 || Pray we would love one another as family

Our team is just now getting to know one another. All of us have been called from different contexts, so a top priority together is just to build a depth of relationships with each another. Pray we would not try to manufacture this, but instead live out of our identity as the family of God united around our position in Jesus. Pray for unity and a devotion to lean into “the one anothers” that God has called us to. Pray for wisdom and clarity around each person’s unique gifts and personalities they bring and how they fit into the mission & vision of The Oaks.

3 || Pray for wisdom to live in the tension of rest & fruitfulness

We are in an unique season. 2018 is a gift for the pressure to be removed to have to “build something.” The tension comes in that we're all having to “unlearn” what it means to be faithful right now. We all come from established churches (thanks be to God for established churches), but the reality is the “baby-stage” of our church planting journey means that a lot of the roles and practices we're all used to when we think of being the church just isn’t formed yet. Pray we would learn from the Word what it means to truly live as a community shaped by the gospel and sent on mission, even before a lot of the "structures" are ever in place. Pray we would rest well and enjoy this season of extended opportunity to listen and learn without many other demands. Pray for wisdom as we do begin to have conversations and build systems and structures of what it means to be The Oaks Church.

Throughout this year our team will be gathering in our home each Thursday night to pray, immerse ourselves in the Scriptures, and talk vision! Pray this time will be fruitful and rich! We are currently doing a study on how we grow to be like Jesus by faith in Jesus. Pray we would learn to know the gospel, love the gospel, and seek to apply the gospel to our own hearts and speak it to one another as we make disciples!

4 || Pray for a burden & direction for the context of our mission

Our entire team lives within 10 minutes of our house in South Denver, but our current neighborhood isn’t where we will be long-term. Our goal is to prayerfully explore a diversity of neighborhoods throughout urban Denver before we officially identify the spot where we will plant our lives over the long haul. Our goal we are praying and working toward is to have clarity in 90 days of which neighborhoods God is calling us to plant The Oaks. Will you pray for this massive decision? In the meantime, pray we will love our current neighbors well. Pray for time mangagement and sacrifice for all of us to be hospitable and to spend intentional time in our target areas learning and asking good questions! Pray for me as I seek to spend time intentionally with people far from God. My personal goal is to have conversations with 100 people in the next 100 days.

Partners & Friends,
thank you for locking arms with us, staying informed, and lifting us up in prayer! We love you!

_______________________

If you would like to invest in The Oaks by partnering financially you may set up monthly gifts or give a one-time gift! We can't do this without the generosity of God's people!

 

 

Meet Our Team | The Hutchisons

In 2015 Cayla and I began to name a deep stirring and restlessness down deep in our souls. After many prayers, tears, conversations, doubts, and affirmations- here we are three years later just a few days away from moving across the country to call Denver 'home,' believing that God is able to do more than we could ever ask for or imagine. 

A prayer I have been praying- even before we knew a city or had any 'vision or strategy' language down on paper or had even fully surrendered to 'go'- was for God to be faithful to raise up people to join us; specifically for deep relationships to form and for leaders who share a burden to help people know, enjoy, and follow Jesus. Cay and I are always floored when people approach us telling us they are praying about relocating their lives to be first members of The Oaks and 'live sent' to the neighborhoods of Denver and the nations of the world with us. 

Throughout 2018 I want to introduce you to our team as they move in to the city.
Our first family to relocate to Denver is The Hutchisons. 
I'm excited to share their story with you!


Meet The Hutchisons

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My name is Ben Hutchison, and with my wife Kate and two kids, Eli and Emma, we have been on the pursuit of abundant life and rich fellowship with the Lord. In our pursuit for the abundant, Spirit-filled life, we’ve been brought into alignment with the vision and mission of the Oaks Community Church. We are by grace, in faith, learning to leverage our lives, every decision and opportunity, for the sake of Kingdom love and growth. 

You should know, I am a man who views the world through a lens of reason. I find safety in intellect, and I typically don’t make a move without a well thought through plan. So you can imagine what a humbling, fumbling path of submission this journey to embrace the abundant life of fellowship with the Lord has been for me. You can also imagine my wife’s surprise way back in 2015 when I brought our youth group home from summer camp with a hesitant yet confident proclamation that God was telling me to have faith. To have faith in what? I didn’t know. To do what? I didn’t know.

By faith I was brought into the family of God as a kid, but through sanctification I was being moved away from a predictable and manageable faith into a functional position of surrender. I was being invited to let go of my control over this life.

So my wife and I prayed for the reckless faith that it would take for us to step wherever the Lord led, to follow Him in hope and confidence. This call to faithfulness fell on the uninhibited and adventurous ears of my wife – yes, it’s true, opposites attract. And so we began eagerly praying. This was followed by months of pruning, searching through doubts, engaging in difficult discernment, and waiting in anticipation. 

I was serving as a youth minister in Mississippi at the time, and the Lord had begun igniting a desire deep within my heart. My wife and I would almost whisper when we seldom brought up this seemingly unrealistic, definitely unreasonable, desire to serve internationals in the West and to be a part of the multiplication of churches through the urban church planting model. If I talked too loudly, the voice of reason would rise up and bring reality crashing down on us. What about my dream to teach? How will we afford living in the city? How could we raise our children so far from their grandparents? 

In January of 2018 as I sit here in Colorado, a church planting team member and affiliate professor at Colorado Christian University, I see how reasonable the Lord’s path has been for my preparation and equipping to bring glory to his name. But in the Fall of 2015, accepting the invitation of the Lord to hold fast in faith to the vision he rooted in our souls felt absurd on the good days and down right irresponsible on the bad days. 

In faith, I followed the Lord as he led my family away from a secure, fruitful ministry in the spring of 2016. We re-rooted in New Orleans, a city we thought we’d never live in again. We both started seminary at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 2010 as newlyweds. In 2013 we moved away for a full time ministry opportunity and a chance to grow our family closer to our parents. We love New Orleans, its rich culture, diversity, and hospitality, but the city signified a place of financial struggle, uncertainty, and grueling scholarship. In His goodness, through these difficulties we were reintroduced to, God provided. Most importantly, he provided a partnership with an established church plant in the city where I was mentored and introduced to the realities of urban church planting. 

During this time I pursued ministry opportunities in California. How much further West could we go? I pushed on doors, many doors, and the Lord kept them closed. In May 2017, my wife and I decided to plan a trip to California in October, praying that God would direct our steps as we planned the details. Show us the churches and seminaries to visit, the people to meet, the city to go to. Within the week of us committing this “unreasonable” plan to the Lord, I was talking to a former youth student of ours who attends Tri-Cities Baptist Church in Tennessee. Listening to the story of God’s leading in our lives, James felt compelled to share about one of his pastors who was leaving Tennessee to plant a church in the West. In God’s providence, I was connected with Derick Sherfey, the pastor of the Oaks Community Church. A few conversations with him, a few stubborn, failed attempts at more “reasonable” ministry opportunities, and I became confident and humbled in the Lord’s leadership as it became apparent The Oaks Community Church would be the fulfillment of the vision we felt rising up in our souls back in 2015.

In my pursuit for abundant life and rich fellowship with the Lord, God has redefined my idea of what qualifies as reasonable. He has baptized me in his truth and sanctified me in his wisdom. In 2015, my son Eli was 2 and he began asking us to sing “Trust and Obey” at bedtime. We’ve sung it every single night since, and every single night I sing with the conviction that these children don’t need to be protected by my sense of reason. They need to be guided into Kingdom minded living, forsaking this world for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus as their Lord. I am reminded night after night of the simple assurance of trusting in God’s goodness and obeying his guidance. I fight against the rationality of this world every day and ask your prayers for strength of mind and focused intentionality as we seek to love our neighbors here in Denver, learn their needs, and humbly offer the love of Christ through our words and deeds. 

-The Hutchisons

 

January Update | Dependence

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.”

-Psalm 103:13-19

 When you read God’s Word as given to us in the Scriptures, how do you imagine God’s tone? Do you envision him as harsh, impatient, and disappointed by you? Or kind, full of grace, and delighting in you?

One of our pastors at Sojourn Church asks this question frequently and I think it is an important one. The reality is God has revealed himself repeatedly as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.” Tozer famously said, “What you think about God is the most important thing about you.” So much of my growth in faith, hope, and love these past few months has come from seeking to “unlearn” so many subtle, yet dangerously wrong caricatures of God that have been twisting and clouding my view of and intimacy with God as Father. And when our view of God becomes distorted, the lens through which we see everything else will be off, as well.  

We have learned SO much during our time in Louisville, but by far the biggest lesson I have learned (and I pray will never stop learning) is “Jesus loves me; this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong; they are weak, but he is strong.” 

Beau is just now beginning to learn this song
and his mommy and daddy are just now learning to believe it. 

God’s love for us does not ebb and flow. Sally Lloyd Jones describes the Father’s steadfast love to be a “never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always, and forever” kind of love. He is for us. He is proud of us and he delights to be with us. There is no condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus, not because we aren’t worthy of being condemned, but because Jesus himself took our guilt, our shame, and our death and freely and fully gives us his righteousness, his favor, and his life as if it were ours. He chose us and he won’t change his mind. To say God’s commands are more like invitations to intimacy from Abba instead of orders barked from a slaveowner doesn’t mean God doesn’t take sin seriously or that sin doesn’t have serious consequences or that he doesn’t warn us or discipline us. It’s just that we must learn to see all these things (and all our doubts and inconsistencies) as they are and not how we may have wrongly learned them. This makes all the difference when it comes to our pursuit of joy, obedience, faithfulness, and empowerment for this mission He is letting us take part in.

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Like many of you I have tried to carve out intentional time over these last few weeks to look back over 2017 & look ahead into 2018. While we may have grown more than any other season before, this past year was a really difficult one for us personally. And if I am entirely honest, while I am filled with eager anticipation for all 2018 holds, we have a great deal of anxiety and fear of the uncertainty and “bigger-than-us-ness” of all this.

For those of you who know me know that each year, instead of resolutions, I try to listen to what I sense God calling me into for the new year and identify a “theme” for the year. 2017’s was TRUST. Looking back it is startling how faithful God has been to deepen our trust in Him. I believe 2018 God is calling us into greater DEPENDENCE

My prayer for 2018 is that we will continue to deepen in trusting God’s heart for us- that his commands are invitations to intimacy and his ways are better than mine could ever be. “If you love me, you will obey my commands,” Jesus tells us. I want my affections for my Savior to be so real that nothing he asks of me is too much and no area of my soul is off limits. I think this next season, though, is going to be one of relinquishing control and truly experiencing the Spirit’s power to be strong through our weaknesses and witness God do the impossible in our limitations as we seek to fully surrender ourselves to his control, his leading, and his agenda. 

I so often see myself watching my strong-willed, stubborn, and naive 2 year old think he can do so much on his own already. And I also see myself when he becomes frustrated- and sometimes terrified or hurt- when his way doesn’t work or causes him harm.

I’m all for my way until it is exposed to be the toddler-folly that it is.

I pray I can begin to see myself more in more the way Beau runs up to me, his daddy, asking me to fix it or hold him or whatever it is...just trust and dependence after a broken will and a renewed confidence in daddy’s abilities and an embracing the safe place in daddy’s arms.

Dependence is a call to do all The Father has demanded from us, but to do it the way he always intended- to stand up and move forward being held up in his arms, with his wisdom and his power working through us and in spite of us. Let it be so!

Here’s a few specific updates & prayer requests. Thank you for locking arms with us!
We love you!

  • Cayla & I received word mid-December that we have officially received the “green light” in our assessment process with The Send Network. As most of you know this has been an intense, but deeply transformative process that started for us early in 2016. While this doesn’t make us “more called or more qualified,” it has been very affirming for us and we are grateful for partnerships that work alongside our sending church to ensure we not only plant a church, but plant healthy churches that last. Hitting this mile stone means we are now able to take our next step, which means we will relocate to Denver on February 1st!  We will ship our belongings on January 22nd and we will spend the last several days of January back in East Tennessee before we head West! Denver has been just an idea for so long, so it’s a bit surreal and really exciting to actually be packing boxes (again!!), but this time to actually move to this place!
     
  • The remainder of 2018 will be the next phase of our preparation before we actually “launch” our life together as The Oaks Community Church. Starting in February I will begin serving as a Church Planting Apprentice in partnership with The Send Network and a local church in downtown Denver called The Summit Church (summitdenver.org). The purpose of these relationships is to continue to deepen in our development of what it means to plant healthy churches who are faithfully on mission in a unique cultural urban context like Denver, as well as cultivate kingdom partnerships to truly learn and seek the good of our city. What we’re called to is so much bigger than The Oaks and we long to collaborate in strategic ways with like-minded brothers and sisters who have been in the trenches serving faithfully. God is already at work in this city and we are just seeking to discern where and how and jump into what He’s already up to! Practically this means my family (and our team as they begin to arrive to the city) will be part of the community at The Summit and I will personally be invested in by the leadership there and we will seek to love and serve them for 1 year. Throughout 2018 we will focus on getting to know our city and will seek to deepen relationships, pray like crazy, cast vision, and equip one another on what it means to be on mission to make disciples through The Oaks church in our unique neighborhoods. In February 2019, The Oaks Church will officially “launch” and we will begin multiplying our groups, gathering together, and serving locally and globally in much more intentional and strategic ways. At least that's the plan right now, but we're learning to write our plans in pencil and to keep a really big eraser handy. 
     
  • God has absolutely humbled Cay & I as we have watched him write a story that we could’ve never even known to have dreamt up in the way He has built a team around us. Currently we have ~15 adults (and about that many kiddos) who have committed to join us and are at varying stages of finding jobs and planning logistics. One family arrived in the city on December 26th and another will make the trek this month. The rest will likely arrive at various times, but most should be in Denver by the start of the Fall. Please continue to pray for God to work out all the specifics as these people look for work and housing and make the expensive and complex process of relocating 2,000 miles away. Also, keep praying for God to raise up more workers to be sent & for the people in Denver who have yet to find their joy in Jesus who will join our church! I can’t wait for you to meet these awesome people in “guest posts” this year!
     
  • I am excited to let you all know I have accepted a part-time job with The Upstream Collective (theupstreamcollective.org)! This is a huge answer to many prayers- not only for needed income, but also as an opportunity to pursue what I know God has called, burdened, and gifted me to do. Upstream is a nonprofit committed to helping every church be a ‘sending church’ and every Christian to live out their identity as ‘sent ones.’ I am joining their team primarily to help develop and implement a content strategy to help produce and market an intentional online/social media presence, blog & podcast content, and the development of other resources like e-books/books, tools, and papers to help equip the church on mission. May the nations be glad and sing for joy!
     
  • An update on where we are financially: We are at ~$72,000 of our $100,000 annual goal from monthly support. God has also provided ~$15,000 in one-time gifts that have been helping with our vision trips & our team’s moving expenses and will help with start-up costs during our first years in the city. We also have $12,000/annually for our MULTIPLY Fund that is devoted exclusively to our global sending strategy. In 2019 we are anticipating our budget to increase to $250,000/year. 

We invite you to invest in what God is doing and will do through The Oaks Church. Will you pray about how God would have you contribute financially? We are trusting God to continue to show himself strong for our remaining needs- and even the needs we don’t know to ask him for yet! 

Thank you for partnering with us for gospel advancement for the glory of God, the good of Denver, and the joy of all nations!

-Derick

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December Update | God's Generous Heart through God's Generous People

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God is a generous God. He’s not stingy. He “opens his hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing.” He promises “no good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” His posture is open toward us as His kids. He is a good Father who “delights to give good gifts to His kids.” His generosity is defined out of the abundance of who He is, who supplies “all our need according to his riches in glory.” He love isn’t like our love. He ‘lavishes’ his love on us to the point that it’s almost too good to be true.

But it is true. He teaches us what this means in its fullest sense as we gaze at “God with skin on” in the person and teachings of Jesus, who “did not count equality with God a thing to be held onto, but emptied himself" by taking the form of a servant who would die for his enemies to make us his kids. He teaches us that it is “more blessed to give than to receive” and he embodied this in the way he lived, as Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve us.

This is beautiful, isn’t it?

I pray we can all slow down our pace during this Advent season to take a long, lingering look at him. All our problems have as their root a problem of ‘seeing.’ We refuse (or have become too distracted) to see just how gorgeous God’s heart is, how perfect his ways, and how reasonable any sacrifice or obedience is in light of who he really is and what he has actually done, is doing, and will do. This new Kingdom reality we’ve been caught up into is the thing we’re all desiring and longing for. It’s coming, but in very real ways it’s already here if we just have eyes to see. But it’s hidden in places we may never look if not for the Spirit’s work in us.

__________________________

I took time this morning to pray for all of our partners by name. I’m praying this season of Advent we’re in would be a deep, meaningful one of renewal and a refreshing breathe for all of us. I’m also praying a fresh experience of the generosity of God towards us in the gospel would produce an open handedness in our lives where we acknowledge that every “good gift and perfect gift comes from above.” Paul understood this in his second letter to the church at Corinth when he links their generosity to the generosity of God. He exclaims, “thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” after he has reminded them that God does not need our generosity, but he does get glory from multiplying our little into more than we could ever comprehend. He writes,

“He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For this ministry of service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.” (2 Cor. 8:10-13)

This passage has always been true and we’ve always believed it, but these last few weeks we have been tasting it and experiencing it doing a work in us as we’ve witnessed the love and generosity of so many people towards us.

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As most of you know, we hosted our first Vision Dinner a month ago back in East Tennessee. What a special night! We had over 120 people join us as we shared a meal and shared a glimpse of what God has been up to these months as we prepare for The Oaks Church to become a reality in Denver. We were also able to introduce a portion of our team (who will each be writing a ‘guest post’ in the coming months, so you will be ‘meeting’ them soon!), and spend time in worship and prayer for Jesus to be enjoyed through the multiplication of churches through The Oaks! It was definitely one of those moments we will forever look back on as pivotal in our journey.

I also want to provide a snapshot of where we are in terms of financial provision from partners who are called to invest in The Oaks. Our financial goal for 2018 is to raise $100,000 in monthly partners as well as $20,000 in one-time gifts for our start-up expenses.

The $100,000 includes my salary/benefits (which is set through the Send Network alongside our sending church, Tri-Cities) and an initial ministry operating budget which includes hospitality, loving & serving our neighbors, resources to get the word out about church, and initial start-up expenses.

By 2019 our goal will increase to ~$175,000/year due to legal fees, increased ministry budgets, and the inflated real estate cost of leasing a space to gather within the city of Denver.

 

Here’s where we are to date:
 

~$14,000 in one-time gifts

 ~$5,200 in monthly partnerships

$12,000 annually for specific use for our global partnerships/sending strategy among the nations (separate from our budgeted needs)

This means we are trusting God to provide for 2018 through His people an additional…
 

$6,000 in one-time gifts

$3,100 in monthly partnerships

We know partnering financially with us is not something everyone ought to do, but we do want to invite you to prayerfully consider investing in the vision & mission of The Oaks Church for the glory of God, the good of Denver, and the joy of all nations!

If you would like to begin investing monthly gifts or contribute a one-time gift, we would be deeply humbled and grateful!


Thank you for joining with us by staying informed and praying specifically for us! 
-The Sherfeys

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Fall Update [October & November]

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Friends,

I cannot thank you enough for how you all continue to pray with us and for us! It has been a very busy couple months since our last update, but I wanted to give a brief recap of what has been happening in our lives and invite you to pray for us in what's to come!
 

  • We continue to enjoy our time with Sojourn Community Church. In October my "field work" assignments (where I spend intentional time prayerfully learning the neighborhood and its culture, building relationships, sharing the gospel, and developing partnerships) switched to another neighborhood on the South End of Louisville called Beechmont. I am excited to spend the remaining of my time here in this part of the city as it is one of the most ethnically and economically diverse neighborhoods in Louisville, with thousands of people from people groups all over the globe. I will largely be focusing on learning from various organizations in this part of town and learning how to bridge disciple making in the Church through collaboration with nonprofits in the community! Cayla just finished up helping lead a women's bible study through the book of Colossians. And our Community Group continues to grow!
  • Several weeks ago I was able to sit in on a week long field training for cross cultural workers with our friends at The Upstream Collective, an organization based out of Louisville that helps equip every follower of Jesus live as a "sent one" and every church to be a sending church. This training largely focused on learning how to understand and best engage a new culture and how the gospel uniquely speaks to the specific narratives and idols of a particular place. This is crucial as we look to move to neighborhoods in Denver and seek to take the posture of "learner" that we might love our new neighbors well. Also, through my close relationships with the folks at Upstream, we are learning tons about what it means to build sending + mission into The Oaks Church DNA from day 1! 
  • We were blessed to make several trips back to East Tennessee the last couple months where I officiated two weddings of couples, updated & preached to our sending church, as well as preached at their student + college retreat. This was a rich, sweet time of ministry and spending time with family and friends that was deeply good for our souls!
  • A few weeks back I helped serve with logistics for a leadership conference for The Sojourn Network, hosted at our church here in Louisville. Several hundred church planters and pastors around the U.S. came to be equipped and encouraged. I was thankful to not only be poured into at this event, but also to love on, pray for, and learn from so many faithful brothers in the trenches of ministry. 
  • This past week I was part of a two-day training intensive for a handful of pastors in California learning from We Are Church, a collective of churches in San Francisco led by Francis Chan and his team of elders. This was such a gift to learn how these brothers are structuring the replication of missional churches. It was a challenging and sharpening couple days and I learned a lot about what it means to love neighbors, train leaders, multiply disciples, and plant churches in very reproducible and financially responsible ways. 
  • On my way back from San Francisco I stopped in Denver for the weekend to spend some alone time prayer walking some of the neighborhoods where we believe we may plant our lives as we and our team move to Denver. I was able to gather with 3 different Send Network church plants in the city and networked with several planters as we continue to learn about our new home! 

As you can see, it's been a busy few weeks!
Here's how you can pray for some next steps!

  1. Our Vision Dinner is this Saturday, November 11th at 6pm at Tri-Cities Baptist Church. Cayla and I are eager to share more of the vision, introduce some of our team, and discuss how people can partner with us for gospel multiplication for the glory of God, the good of Denver, and the joy of all nations! Please pray this is an encouraging, fruitful time as we take this massive next step in our journey of financial provision and prayer partners! It's not too late to RSVP if you haven't already. You can find more information at theoakschurch.net/dinner.
  2. Please pray for the team God is forming. Currently we have a group of 8 adults and 9 kids who have completed our process and believe God is calling them to relocate to Denver in 2018 as first members of The Oaks and as missionaries to Denver. Please pray for all things involved in such a massive transition, but mainly for their joy in Jesus as they trust Him with everything! There are more people who are in various parts of the journey of discerning God's call. Please continue to pray they would have great clarity.
  3. Before we officially nail down a timeline of when Cayla, Beau, and I will move to Denver, we have one last step in our assessment process with The Send Network. We have a meeting coming up before the holidays with the North American Mission Board where they will help (alongside our sending churches) assess our readiness and health with our development of the vision and team. We pray this is a helpful, clarifying, and affirming step in our journey. Afterwards we will be working with our sending agency and sending church to determine an official date when we will move. Unless something dramatically changes, we are looking at getting on the ground in February/March of 2018! 

Thank you for walking this journey with us by keeping in the loop and praying on our behalf! May Jesus be enjoyed by all the peoples of this world! 

-Derick

September Update| Beauty in the Journey

If you are one of the 103 people receiving this update via email, thank you for joining with us as a prayer partner. If you are reading this through social media or on our website, would you consider locking arms with us in this way? If so, just subscribe at theoakschurch.net to be added to our Prayer Partner List who receives these monthly updates to their inbox. Our goal is 250 prayer partners by the time we relocate to Denver next Spring.

Please help us network by sharing these updates!

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Every time I become crippled by fear or insecurity about the unknowns and “bigger-than-us” calling we’re stepping into…

…or when I get fatigued deep in soul and become plagued with a sense of
“I just don’t know if I want to do this”…

...or when my ego becomes overinflated with pride and I become deceived by the illusions of self-sufficiency and forget my desperate need for the Spirit to breathe life into my plans…

…our Father is faithful to keep doing His good, slow work in me to get my eyes off of me, my desires, my sin, the insane prices of Denver homes on Zillow (I think you get the idea), and lifts up my head to get a glimpse of who HE is, what HE has already won for us, what HE is working even when we cannot see, and what HE has promised He will do.
By His grace and through His Spirit, I pray I can linger there.

_____

With every step on this journey, we go deeper in a knowing of His almost-to-good-to-be-true grace, His comforting presence, His steady never-giving-up love, His faithful work of cutting off the barrenness in us to make room for the fruit of a fully formed us that is like Jesus. And we’re learning that ‘Denver’ and ‘The Oaks’ isn’t really the destination. The destination and goal is more of Jesus…and the beauty of the journey is that anything and everything is being used to die to self and come alive to all that He is for us. This adventure has been beautiful so far, but it definitely hasn’t looked exactly like we thought it would. It’s not as hard as it could be by any means, but it’s definitely been anything but easy or comfortable.

Yet I look back on how He has so sovereignly and wisely led us down paths we never would’ve walked on our own and I am overwhelmed at His good, sweet providence. He really is writing a better story for us than we could ever write on our own. I don’t know what the specifics of obedience looks like for you today and in this season of your life, but…
trust Him with whatever it is. He is better.

Remembering God’s faithfulness in our pasts and being aware of how God is working in our present is what fuels hope, courage, and boldness that
motivates and sustains us to take steps of obedience into tomorrow-
whatever that may hold.
 
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Last week Cayla and I spent a few days in beautiful Denver spending time with two couples who are praying about joining our team as some of the first members of The Oaks and missionaries to Denver. Above is a photo of one of those ‘moments that a church planter will never forget’, as this group of new friends read and prayed Isaiah 61 over the city of Denver in a neighborhood we love and believe may be a great place to plant roots to live our lives next year. As we prayed, verse 11 was shouting at me…

For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.
-Isaiah 61:11

We have great anticipation of what God will do in this city and among the nations through The Oaks and we are overwhelmed with the reality that it is utterly impossible in our own strength. Just as the physical world grows and reproduces only by the work of God in slow, often unseen ways, so God is the one who will cause the growth of our joy and the joy of others to sprout up into Oaks of Righteousness, the planting of the Lord that He may display His beauty.” (Isaiah 61:3) We are resting and clinging to the reality that success is God’s work; faithfulness is ours. God has been working in Denver long before He called us there and He will continue long after we're gone. We're just eager to join Him.

Here’s how you can pray specifically for us
as we pursue faithfulness this month:

  • Pray for our team| God is stirring in the hearts of many who are living in a posture of surrender, willingness, and trust to however, wherever, whenever God would lead them. Please pray for those who are seeking discernment of whether or not that means Denver and joining our team. Cayla and I’s faith has been so strengthened seeing how God has put the vision of The Oaks down deep in others- some we know well, others we had never met before. For those who are still uncertain, pray for clarity. For some who are to the point of looking for jobs and housing, pray for the needed open doors and wisdom to know which ones to walk through and grace as they begin to transition from life where they are to their new city. And will you pray for yourself, personally? Is God calling you to join us?
  • Pray for our development| We are so thankful for the people of Sojourn Community Church here in Louisville. Being part of this community has been so good for us. The residency and training I am receiving is affirming and deepening our calling and clarifying the vision and mission God has put in my heart and helping me strengthen these muscles to better live it out when we get to Denver. Pray for us to continue to balance things well and to grow in the ways we need. Cayla and I will have a final assessment with our partners with The Send Network (NAMB) sometime in October/early November (date TBA soon), which will help clarify a lot of specifics about partnerships and specific details about our first year once we move to Denver. Please pray this will be a helpful ‘next step’ in this journey. Pray for wisdom and direction on a specific timetable for our family’s move to Denver. It’s so surreal that we’re getting close to finalizing these things.

  • Pray for partnerships| On Saturday, November 11th Cayla and I will host a Vision Dinner at Tri-Cities Baptist Church Gray Campus. We are finalizing details over the next few days. Once everything is set, I will send out another update and official invite of how you can register for this. I will also be preaching in all 3 services at Tri-Cities on Sunday, October 15th providing an update and details about this, as well.

But for now, here’s what I'm asking of you... 

1| Mark this date (11/11) on your calendars

2| Set a reminder on your phone to remember to pray for us once a week. As you pray, please pray for the right people to partner with us and for our needed finances to be provided

3| Will you pray about how God would have you partner with us financially by giving monthly or a one time gift to help with start-up costs? You can do that now at theoakschurch.net/partner by clicking “Give Now.”

We love you. Thank you for loving us by praying for us.

Until we see His face,
The Sherfeys

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August Update| Extraordinary in the Ordinary

If you are one of the 103 people receiving this update via email, thank you for joining with us as a prayer partner. If you are reading this through social media or on our website, would you consider locking arms with us in this way? If so, just subscribe at theoakschurch.net to be added to our Prayer Partner List who receives these monthly updates to their inbox. Our goal is 250 prayer partners by the time we relocate to Denver next Spring.
Please help us network by sharing these updates!

 ______________________________________________________________________________

 

Learning to follow Jesus means we must learn to live in the tension. Grace and truth, God’s sovereignty and our responsibility, joy and suffering, rest and obedience are a few of the tensions we must learn to live in so we don’t get stuck in the ditches that exist on either side of the road of faithfulness. Over-focus on one leads us to neglect the other.

One of these tensions I have been wrestling with the last few months is the tension between urgency and waiting on God. If you were to ask me how I’m doing, most days I’d probably lead with Busy…” I hear it a lot from others, too, so I feel like I’m not alone. There are a lot of reasons for our incessant busyness. My biggest excuse often is some version of how weighty and hard the calling to ministry is. In other words, I tend to link all my frantic activity to faithfulness- that this is just what is required of us. This mission is big and massive and urgent, after all. In a lot of ways this is true. In light of eternity, the glory of God, and the need around the world, we all probably should spend and be spent for the Kingdom in ways we’re not currently doing.

Yet the other side of this tension pulls me closer to ‘center’ as we take a long, hard look at just what God is really inviting us into as His children. I’m learning its crucial to not view “faithful obedience” merely through the lens of checking the boxes on all the right “what’s” that God requires of me in this season of life, but equally caring about “how” I am doing these things, “why” I am doing them, and maybe most importantly- “who” I am becoming in all the good stuff I am doing. God is not merely after our behavior with the posture of “slave.” His work is much more thorough and beautiful than that. He is inviting us to join Him in a way of life, posturing as his beloved children with the imputed righteousness of Jesus already covering us as a free gift of His grace. Much of the output may even stay the same…but my, how much of a difference this makes. Wasn’t this true of our King and Savior? His life shows us what a life lived toward the Father looks like- a perfect, holistic obedience of proclamation, doing, and being. If He’s making me like Jesus, then this is the goal of my life, too!

Somebody much smarter than me said once that
God is not asking of us a less busy life, but a less busy heart.
On one hand, we should live with a sense of urgency,
but we must guard against the impulse to get in a hurry.

The way of life in the kingdom of God is often slow. It’s unseen, subversive, and upside down from the way of our culture and the ways our hearts are prone to label “success” and what “good” really means. We all want to enjoy the exquisite tastes of a home cooked meal, but we want it in ‘microwave’ time. God is teaching us that extended, focused time in prayer is not wasted time. That sometimes the ‘holiest’ thing I can do is say no to another meeting and wrestle my boy. I’m learning that there is joy in receiving moments as good gifts from His hands- not just the explicitly “Christian” things, but just small, everyday moments. Maybe that’s why God made the Sabbath a thing- to regularly STOP doing things for God and rest in who He is and what He is doing for us, in us, through us- that we’re loved by Him because He chooses to love us, not because we are useful to Him or getting it right today. It’s a declaration with our lives the theology we declare from our lips.   

This has been a wonderful and miserable lesson as we continue to trek through our church planting residency. Wonderful, because its freeing to come to Jesus in our weariness and find burdens that are light and to find a deep soul rest as He speaks over us “It’s already Done!”

It’s also been miserable because I place so much pressure on myself to “figure out” the perfect strategy for this church-in-the-making. This season is such a sweet gift of learning, equipping, and preparation, but we’re learning that the goal of this time is not to get the answer to every question just right or develop the best vision, mission, and strategy. God is graciously beginning to shift the questions we are asking and He’s beginning to open up the bud of new life of the beauty of what kind of people He may choose to make us as The Oaks and what the Kingdom of God could look like in the neighborhoods of Denver.

The mission is extraordinary, but it is often carried out in really, really ordinary ways.

It’s extraordinary because it’s only possible by the Spirit tilling up the rocky soils of our hearts so that the good seed of the gospel may take root and grow into all He has for us (insert great reference about being Oaks of Righteousness here).  The extraordinary parts are up to God and we by faith trust Him to do what only He can do. Our part is pretty ordinary. Just steady, small acts of obedience to what He has called us to do right now. If the gospel is to be preached into the everyday stuff of life, then the everyday stuff of life actually matters. We’re learning to change the conversation a bit from “how do we plant a church?” to “how can we really love God and love people” in a particular place over the long haul. Peterson once called faithfulness “a long obedience in the same direction.” I want to learn what these means as we dream really big dreams! When we see as God sees, we will begin to feel, speak, and do as God feels, speaks, and does.

Here’s a few more ways you can pray for us…

  • Long story, but God has provided a better part-time job opportunity for me for my reminder here in Louisville. This month I transitioned away from my job at the coffee shop downtown and I’m now working for the YMCA. I’m working a couple mornings at the front desk, but the bulk of this new job is as Teen Leadership Development Director. I’ll be leading a program that works with youth throughout the city to cultivate leadership characteristics and creates opportunities for involvement and service in the community. I’m very thankful for this open door, as it is better for our schedule and our budget and is work more in line with some of the ways God has wired me. Cayla is enjoying her part-time job as a nanny—and it’s great for Beau to realize the world doesn’t revolve around him! His ‘only child syndrome’ is being challenged, and this is a good thing. 
  • Speaking of Beau, he’s growing a ton. He talks non-stop (wonder where he gets that from?) and never, ever stops playing. He is a lot of fun and we are tired! Pray for us as we learn all the new things that comes with each new stage of his growth, particularly that we would model what it means to follow Jesus in front of him!
  • Cayla and I just launched a new Community Group with folk from Sojourn Church and we’re jumping in head-first with various ministries and bible studies. Pray for us as we continue to learn and grow in what it means to make disciples and build friendships, knowing we’re leaving again so soon.
  • Pray for us as we come to our final few weeks of ‘field work’ where we have been strategically engaging a particular neighborhood here in east Louisville learning what it means to live missionally and lay the groundwork of what church planting actually is. Pray for gospel fruit here, even if we may never see it personally.
  • Continue to pray for God to build our core team as He sees fit. There are several people who are in conversations with us at varying levels of praying about what moving to Denver could look like. We have a few people visiting Denver on vision trips this fall. Pray for clarity and a posture of obedience to what God is calling them to specifically and open doors as they pursue jobs and housing.
  • Cayla and I will be traveling to Denver on September 21st-24th to meet with partners there and prayerfully focus-in on specific neighborhoods to take more steps in determining where God is calling us to live life beginning next Spring. We’d love your prayers for God to speak clearly as we seek direction and discernment on this important decision.
  • We hit a technical road block this month to being able to begin raising financial support. We pray this will be solved in the next few days. Once all the logistics are finalized, please pray that we will have the humility, boldness, and energy to begin this journey of partnership development. Will you begin praying about how God may have you join us in this way?

We love you. Thank you for loving us by praying for us.

Please share this link to those in your circles that may resonate with what we’re doing and want to jump on board as a prayer partner. Remember, make it ‘official’ by subscribing to our email list!

-The Sherfeys

 

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July Update | We walk by faith, not by sight

If you are one of the 101 people receiving this update via email, thank you for joining with us as a prayer partner. If you are reading this through social media or on our website, would you consider locking arms with us in this way? If so, just subscribe at theoakschurch.net to be added to our Prayer Partner List who receives these monthly updates to their inbox. Our goal is 250 prayer partners by the time we relocate to Denver next Spring.
Please help us network by sharing these updates!

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“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
-Hebrews 11:1

We are being stretched and pushed a lot, but we are learning and growing a lot. God seems to be continually drawing us deeper into this journey of what it means to truly trust Him- to walk by faith and not by sight.

According to this verse from Hebrews 11, faith is not just a ‘religious’ thing. We all have faith in something or someone. Faith is living one’s life with a sense of assurance (it will be) and conviction (it must be)…even though we cannot see or directly experience what we’re hoping for. We all build and align our entire selves around things we cannot make sense of or experience directly with any of our senses. When we do this, that’s called faith. Everyone, everywhere, then, has faith. The question is in what or in whom will we place our faith? (Relationships, power, money, pleasure, etc.) And will that thing prove to be worthy of our assurance and hope and trust and come through for us? Or will it leave us lacking, frustrated, or worse…totally lost and destroyed?

For those of us seeking to follow Jesus, life is a journey of “fighting the good fight of faith” – or, pushing through in grace by His Spirit to keep the object of our faith God as He has shown Himself to us in Scripture. We can’t see Him or what exactly He’s doing around us. We weren’t there to witness the crucifixion and resurrection. We have no empirical way of objectively knowing that all God has promised for our futures will prove true. Yet even though we cannot see fully, we step out in trust that God is who He says He is and that He will do what He said He would do.

The strength of our faith in Jesus lies not in how strong our belief and trust is, but rather in the surety of God to be faithful to us. It’s the object of our faith- not the amount- that ultimately matters.

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Cayla and I have been experiencing the gift of conviction. Our Father is peeling back layers in our souls to reveal our faith is very weak and how so often we allow our own insecurities, fears, worries, and the circumstances around us to cause us to doubt God and clutch for other things in which to put our trust.

Yet we are also experiencing the gift of His presence. The Spirit is teaching us more about who we are (and who we are not) and it’s in this place that He is revealing so much about Himself- things we thought we knew, things we had totally wrong, and things we’re unlearning and relearning about His heart and His work.

It’s been weighty, but wonderful. We have had some dark moments these last few months, but there is light that He really is enough, His ways are better, and He always is worthy of our trust. We constantly find ourselves crying, “We believe, help our unbelief!”

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How you can pray for us

Our pace has slowly increased during the month of July as our time of sabbatical has come to a close and I have officially begun the initial stages of our residency with Sojourn Community Church. We have deeply enjoyed the unhurried way of life and extended time with family the past 2 months, but it’s also refreshing now to get back at it in this next chapter of our lives and calling.

Pray for the health of our souls & marriage

  • God has opened our eyes to see that, while we are here to prepare for Denver and to work on our church plant, we are primarily here for God to prepare and work on us. I would totally have said that before we moved, but I’m not sure I really meant it. In my pride, I didn’t really think we needed it as deeply as we do. God is showing us the vision of The Oaks and all we hope to see happen in others needs to happen in us. I (probably more than anyone else) need His love to keep redeeming me, renewing me, reconciling me, and restoring me. Pray that we would continue to learn ourselves so we can better speak the good news of the gospel into every part of who we are and what we are to do. Pray for Cayla and I to keep learning what it means to keep our hearts open to one another as we both process and grow and learn through our time here. We don’t want to focus on loving and serving everyone else and be tempted to neglect our relationship with one another and our discipleship of Beau.

 Pray for our development & disciple-making

  • Our residency with Sojourn will focus on a holistic paradigm for development for Cayla and me. We are jumping head first into the life of the church as we visit Community Groups, join serving teams, get involved in loving the city with various partnerships, and diving deep into relationships with the great people of this Faith Family. We have focused readings (roughly a couple books every month) to sharpen our understanding. We will have many one-on-one meetings with various Sojourn Elders and members for soul care, mentorship, and to help us think through various aspects of leading and becoming a church on mission in Denver. Another specific aspect of our residency includes “field work” where we are being taught practical skills of what it means to live life on mission in a specific context and seeking to put it into practice in particular neighborhoods in Louisville. The next 3 months we will be focusing on a neighborhood in East Louisville (followed by 2 other neighborhoods over our remaining time here) where we will seek to apply things like following the Spirit’s leading/prayer walking, neighborhood mapping, learning the culture, building relationships, and speaking the better story of Jesus into the story of this area of the city and the individual people God sends our way. Pray that as we spend time here that we would not only be better equipped as we learn how to love our future neighborhoods of Denver well, but that we would also see redemption, renewal, reconciliation, and restoration happen here in East Louisville! Pray for us as we seek to bring leaders and other followers of Jesus from Sojourn and other area churches along with us, that we would find ‘people of peace’ where we can begin to see intentional discipleship taking place that could potentially multiply long after the Sherfeys move!
     
  • A big prayer request right now is that we would learn to truly love others. We talk often about wanting to learn the simplicity of becoming better neighbors who live open to what God is doing around us and in the lives of others. Pray we would leverage our ‘unhurried’ pace, not for ourselves and our comfort, but for the good of others and the flourishing of our neighborhood and workplaces. Keep praying for me (Derick) as I build friendships with folks downtown through my part-time barista job and for Cayla as she begins a part-time job next week where she will be a nanny for a family we have been connected with. We thank God for providing strategic jobs for our needed income, but also as pathways for relationships!

Pray for partnerships & provision

From the very start of this journey Cayla and I have prayed that God would use our story to strengthen the Church and help be a catalyst for mission and sending. We have been so encouraged to see how this prayer is already been actualized and we’re hopeful to see how this deepens in the months and years ahead as we partner together with individuals and churches for gospel advancement in Denver and among all nations. 

  • Pray for our Missionary Team | There are several adults who are in various stages of our ‘pipeline’ who are praying about relocating out West to be missionaries to Denver and first members of The Oaks Community Church. Please pray for these individuals and families, that the Spirit would make each step clear as these people begin to take steps in obedience to discern whether or not God would have them join Him in what He is doing in Denver with our team. Pray I would have the grace and wisdom to shepherd them well and learn what it means to equip these members as the team grows. Pray God would continue to raise up the right people as He sees fit!
  • Pray for Local Church Partnerships | We are in conversations with several local churches casting vision of what God has called us to. We have a few churches already committed to locking arms with us through prayer, finances, and relationships! Please continue to pray God would show Himself strong in developing the base of local churches that will be essential for the holistic mission He has given us with The Oaks.
  • Pray for Financial Partnerships | Beginning in August, Cayla and I will jump into the journey of raising financial support. Honestly, this is something that we have deeply dreaded doing and we have many fears and insecurities about this. Pray that as we gear up for this that we would not make it about us and our feelings toward “having to raise money,” but that we would continue to learn what it means to lean into and rely on Jesus’ Church. We truly want people to give out of a love for Jesus and obedience to Jesus’ mission and ownership of our vision of making much of Jesus in Denver and among all nations. Pray for humility, boldness, and wisdom as we take this next step of trusting God to provide through His people. Pray for God to prepare and make clear the natural relationships of people we are to make Kingdom investments in this way.
     
  • Mark your calendars | On Saturday night, November 11th we will have a Vision Dinner hosted at Tri-Cities Baptist Church in East Tennessee. We will share much more details in the coming months, but if this is something you’d be interested in, please carve out this time on your calendars.

We love you. Thank you for loving us by praying for us! Please share this update and invite people to subscribe at theoakschurch.net as Prayer Partners so we can reach our goal of 250 by Spring 2018.

Jesus is worth it,
The Sherfeys