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This past spring, our church completed its first sermon series by going through the book of Ephesians. Many scholars view Ephesians as the foundational document of the church, a type of New Testament “constitution”, making it a timely and helpful guide for our newly formed community.

As we transition into the summer months, when many of our people are temporarily scattered from the body, we wanted to preach a series that focused less on the life of the community and more on individual maturity - with the hope that the more mature each disciple becomes, the healthier the entire church becomes.

While there are dozens of biblical marks of Christian maturity, these 9 were specifically curated for our community, aided by inventories used in other Acts 29 and Soma churches (specifically Bob Thune and company at Coram Deo Church in Omaha, Nebraska). This hybrid collection has resulted in a 9-week sermon series that we hope acts as an index of sorts for our members to measure their proficiency and commitment to Union Church’s core values of Gospel, Family and Mission. We hope that a deeper dive into these 9 characteristics over the summer will increase our commitment to following Jesus and a healthier church to serve Auburn.

Week 1 - Self Awareness

Week 2 - First-Hand Knowledge of Jesus

Week 3 - Fruit of the Spirit

Week 4 - Gospel Fluency

Week 5 - Deep Friendships Inside and Outside the Church

Week 6 - Faithful Presence

Week 7 - Servant Posture

Week 8 - Generosity

Week 9 - Courage

Sermons will be posted weekly at unionchurchao.com.

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Description:

Lent is a season of prayer, fasting and contemplation leading to Easter. Many Christians commit to abstaining from certain foods, habits or luxuries as a spiritual tool to sharpen prayer and declutter the mind in anticipation of Jesus’ resurrection. Lent lasts for 40 days (mirroring Jesus’ 40 days of fasting prior to his public ministry), beginning on Ash Wednesday (March 6) and ending on Holy Saturday (April 20). Lent incorporates 46 calendar days (the six Sundays during Lent are considered feast days and therefore not counted in the 40 days of Lent).

Theology:

Because of our union with Christ, we understand that we cannot earn the forgiveness of sin or the approval of God through fasting or sacrifice – these things have already been permanently credited to us by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9). Therefore, spiritual disciplines do not make us more precious to God but can be an effective tool to help make God more precious to us. Furthermore, we understand that some spiritual breakthroughs, victory over demonic opposition and kingdom advancement can only come through prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29).

Purpose:

There are many reasons to participate in corporate fasting, perhaps the most crucial are 1) an increased devotion to and margin for prayer - particularly in areas well beyond the resources and capacities of our church (e.g. revival on campus, racial reconciliation, the salvation of our friends and neighbors), 2) a symbolic but meaningful declaration that our desire to see the Spirit move supersedes our physical cravings, and 3) a shared investment in the spiritual health of our church. 

Logistics:

·      Start Date: March 6

·      End Date: April 20

·      Abstain from a singular food, habit or luxury (coffee, sugar, bread, Instagram, Netflix, etc.) for the duration of Lent in order to devote that time/awareness/margin to prayer.

·      One day a week – fast from one meal – use time for specific prayer.

·      Sundays – Feast and pray together at 9am Prayer Breakfasts (March 10, 17, 24, 31, April 7, 14)

Prayer Emphases:

Personal

·      Pray for a unique understanding of your union with Christ.

·      Pray for a special sensitivity to the Spirit.

·      Pray for courage.

Church

·      Pray for increased racial diversity at Union Church.

·      Pray for width (increased Sunday attendance, House Church participation, relational growth).

·      Pray for depth (increased gospel fluency, spiritual maturity, community intimacy).

City

·      Pray for specific unbelieving friends to be saved.

·      Pray for revival on campus and in Auburn/Opelika.

·      Pray for racial harmony across Auburn/Opelika.

 

 

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Ultimately, Christianity is a wedding feast. It is a marriage.

 And if you don’t understand that, you are missing out on the greatest hope humanity has ever known.

 “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure…” Revelation 19:6-8

If you are a believer, this is your future. This day is coming.

I went to a wedding recently that reminded me of this wedding to come. The wedding was incredibly Christ centered, but the bride’s entrance is what most stuck out to me.

As soon at the doors swung open, She began crying and laughing uncontrollably – at the same time. She laughed and cried, the entire walk down the aisle.

The. Entire. Walk.

 The crowd couldn’t help but join with her. It was such a genuine response to the situation. How often she had dreamed of this day! How much had she gone through to get to this moment! What else could she do but cry? What else could she do but laugh? I can’t think of two more authentic reactions. Her joy was palpable. It was almost like there was a feeling of relief in the room. I can imagine her thinking it now.

“Finally this day has come. Finally, it is here.”

Dressed in pure white, she passed row after row of joyful, teary-eyed faces (mine included) towards her adoring husband who waited for her eagerly. Who waited for her with excitement. Never have I seen such joy in a wedding. Never have I seen such unadulterated happiness.

People think crying is synonymous with bad. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. We cry because we care. And when we care about something that makes us happy, we cry and smile. That day, smiles and tears abounded.

I think that is what it’s going to be like at the wedding of the Lamb. I think we, The Church, Jesus’s bride, are going to be laughing and crying the whole way down the aisle. I think the heavenly hosts will join in with us as they see us walking down the aisle towards our Savior. 

This is our hope. The wedding feast of the Lamb, where God and Man will one day be reunited forever is coming. The hope of that day is how we get through this day.

And on that day, all of the fear, all of the tears, all of the failures – on that day we will realize it was all worth it. The pain will disappear. The long night will be over. “The joy set before us” will finally be before us. It will be before us because He will be before us.

 “For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called." Isaiah 54:5

P.S – Taylor and Brandy, you (and your wedding) are truly inspiring. Thanks for everything. 

- Drew Mixson

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Union Church Blog by Chris Brister - 6M ago

As this semester cranks back up and the city and campus come back to life, we are making the transition from a monthly worship gathering to a weekly one. We are excited about this strategic move for three primary reasons:

1. It will provide us with 17 consecutive opportunities (January to early May) to invite friends and neighbors, preach exegetically through the entire book of Ephesians, and enjoy a regular rhythm of worship and communion. Our house churches are designed to be familial and intimate which can actually can make it a difficult introduction for those used to a more traditional, Southern church expression. Weekly gatherings are an easy first step for most Southerners and function as a gateway towards the house church where the majority of our discipleship takes place.


2. It will allow our house churches (we're expanding to a second one in February - our living room is already maxed out at 40) to function as a pure missional community and not carry the weight of being the only weekly point-of-contact for the body. This shift will allow our groups to become more localized as we begin to more specifically engage in local neighborhoods.


3. It will provide more opportunities for the body to serve and assume leadership roles as the scope and complexity of the church expands. Transitioning to weekly worship gatherings will force our members into new roles as kids volunteers, greeters, musicians, audio technicians, etc. These are all roles that must be regularly filled and provide an opportunity for our people to serve and invest rather than watch and consume.

From day one, our vision has been to be a church that exists primarily as a network of scattered missionary teams that reunite each Sunday to worship Jesus. We are in the middle of transitioning from a single family, to a family of families and we are excited to see this evolution take shape.

Union Church is growing and we're so thankful that the Lord has put this new family together. We covet your prayers as our leaders, systems, and structures grow along with it.

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I went to a candle light service on Christmas Eve.

And just like many of you, my favorite part was at the end of the service - holding my candle high while singing Silent Night. With relief, longing, and joy, everyone’s voices rise in unison to sing out “Chriiiiiist theeeeee Savioooorr is boooorn”.

But this year’s rendition of Silent Night was different. And honestly, looking back I’m glad it didn’t go as smoothly as it normally does. It was better this way.

There was a man with special needs sitting a few pews in front of me and he was singing. Loudly. Like, really loudly. And he wasn’t getting the words exactly right, and his timing was off.

And I won’t lie to you.  At first I wasn’t super pumped about it. I’m not asking for much. Remember, Silent Night is my thing. I didn’t want to have to deal with a really loud guy in front of me singing off key. No hiccups. No missteps. Just a perfect Silent Night. I wanted it my way.

But by God’s grace, I quickly saw the beauty of it all.

I realized that him singing super loudly wasn’t a hiccup or a misstep. It wasn’t distracting – it was disarming, unrestricted, and relatable. The guy was singing his heart out. More than anyone else in there that night, that man was genuinely celebrating the birth of Christ.

The man with special needs in front of me is exactly what worship is all about. He meant the words he was singing. He was excited. He was present. He was there to worship. It’s irrelevant if he had the words right or if his pitch was perfect. Is the point of singing Silent Night to sound “good”?  No.          

The point is that Christ the Savior is born.

The point is that Jesus Christ is finally here.

The Son of God, the living breathing actual Son of God has been born onto planet earth.

The one promised to save us from all of our sorrows, the one who’s going to defeat death itself? Yeah, he’s here. We should sing loudly.

I’m so thankful God put that man in front of me Christmas Eve. God used his authentic worship to show me how inauthentic mine had been. Honestly I came in wanting a perfect performance. I came into church wanting Silent Night checked off the list of Christmas traditions. I came in worried about myself.

I left filled with wonder – Jesus Christ, the promised savior of all mankind, the one we’ve been waiting for was born two thousand years ago. He was born in the humblest of ways – on a silent sight in a manger in a stable in Bethlehem. He’s here. He has come.

Christ the Savior is born.

Let’s sing loudly.

- Drew Mixon

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Not to be a grinch, but the commercials leading up to Christmas are out of control. These things usually fall into two categories. First, is the gratuitous sex and violence category. I can’t watch the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl (an American tradition we all should cherish and clear our schedules for…) without covering my 3-year-old’s eyes 4 or 5 times a half to shield him from video game ads. What the heck? Additionally, have perfume ads always been this explicit? Why does selling cologne require people to be half-dressed and soaking wet all the time (its a predominately visual medium why are we selling fragrances on here anyway)? The second category is less offensive but somehow more annoying; in what universe are these young couples buying luxury cars for each other? What economy are these cats living in? What 29 year-old is buying a Jaguar for his wife? How is this, in any way relatable to a normal person in 2018?

Anyway, I’m ranting now but the point is I’m having to stay on my toes now during commercial breaks; which is why I was particularly engaged, and strangely encouraged when Chevy tried to sell me a truck over the weekend.

Just in time for the Christmas holiday, Chevrolet is now offering employee discounts to the general public. Real, live Chevy employees (not actors) decked out in flannel and mittens, making Christmas cookies and selecting Christmas trees said, “My mom works for Chevy, we’re part of the Chevy family and right now… so are you.” The hook is simple, what is normally available only to insiders is now available to outsiders as well. This is good news.

Consciously or not, Chevy has waded into theological waters. The logic of the Gospel (which literally is fleshed out at Christmas) says that outsiders, enemies, and traitors like us are now welcomed into God’s family and treated as if we actually deserve to be there. Because of our union with Christ, we are not treated like the rebellious orphans we are but instead, receive all the rights and privileges of the one true son of God.

Im probably not going to buy my wife a car, but Chevy did remind me of the gospel this week and considering what I usually get from commercials… I’ll take it.

“Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ…” Eph 2:12-13

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Union Church Blog by Chris Brister - 8M ago

Sunday evening we will gather again for worship, but this time, we will gather through the specific lens of the Advent Season. Advent (which simply means ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’) is the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas and is reserved to intentionally reflect on the arrival of Christ.

Because of the overwhelming pomp and circumstance of Christmas in the Bible Belt, it’s difficult to not be aware of the arrival of Christ (the message of Christmas) but few of us consider how Jesus’ coming affects our going (the method of Christmas).

The incarnation (God taking on flesh) is a mind-bending doctrine. A cosmic deity voluntarily becomes a local, physical person is a staggering truth. But it is far more than just orthodox information to be aware of - the incarnation should shape how we interact with the world.

Here are three ways that the incarnation, that we uniquely celebrate at Christmas should affect our everyday Christian walk.

  1. This was an intentional act, a direct mission of God, therefore we shouldn’t be casual or haphazard about reaching out to our lost friends. We should have a specific and thoughtful approach to loving our friends. Jesus did not enter the world as a generic human - he came as a first century, Aramaic speaking, Jewish man. Therefore we do not have generic, stock gospel presentations, instead we spend time listening and interacting with our friends and neighbors - specifically looking to understand their questions, concerns, wounds and insecurities.

  2. This takes time. While there is a real urgency to share the gospel, there is not a single instance in Scripture where Jesus is described as frantic or rushed. In fact, Jesus worked in relative obscurity for 30 of his 33 years as a local carpenter before beginning his public ministry. The incarnation reassures us that it is God who saves. Spiritual birth and growth will not be rushed.

  3. Jesus did not enter the world as a conquering king, he didn’t even enter as an adult – he came to us as an infant. This suggests to me that the church should always assume a posture of humility, vulnerability and service. Philippians 2:6-8 says, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross…”

The church does not need rock stars to make the gospel relevant, she doesn’t need celebrities to make the gospel popular, she just needs obscure local carpenters that will be faithful… that’s how our founder did it.

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The 10 Anchors of Union Church are theological convictions and philosophies of ministry that we are tied to in order to remain faithful to our core values of Gospel, Community and Mission. These Anchors inform everything from our partnerships and budget to our church government and Sunday liturgy. We believe that a strong commitment to these Anchors will create a culture that will bring God glory and us joy.

Anchor # 10   - House Churches

We are committed to a missional community (house church) model and rhythms. One of the largest impediments to holistic discipleship is the cultural misunderstanding of church as a weekly event to attend rather than a missional family to belong to. The former sees Jesus as simply one aspect of life that can be catered to the particular preferences of the individual. The latter sees Jesus as Lord of all – Monday through Saturday, where preferences are set aside for the health of the group.

In an effort to dismantle that paradigm we want to be intentional with our language – we don’t “go to church,” we “go to the worship gathering,” for example. If our basic theology defines the church as a “gospel community on mission” then small groups of 10-25 people constitute a church as well (on a micro-level). We see this “house church” language used multiple times in the New Testament (Philemon 1:2, Acts 2:46, 1 Cor. 16:19, Col. 4:15). Our vision for Union Church is not to only be a weekly assembly of believers but rather a network of house churches, strategically scattered around Auburn and Opelika and the AU campus, missionally investing in neighborhoods, apartment complexes and schools in specific ways so that every person in Auburn and Opelika has a daily encounter with Jesus in word and deed.

Under the banner of holistic discipleship, we want the house churches to be more than an additional midweek meeting. We want these micro churches to Eat, Listen, Story, Bless, Celebrate and Recreate alongside one another as well as the unbelievers in their contexts. These missional rhythms will both stretch and encourage the believers and consistently display the gospel to those in their circles of influence. Within each house church there are gender specific groups of three called “fight clubs.” Fight clubs act as small discipleship groups that help fight against sin and fight for joy by pushing one another to embrace depth and consistency in our identities as Gospel Learners, Family Members and Kingdom Ambassadors.

 

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Jesus is the best thing I’ve ever come across.

He’s perfect. Not just in a moral sense (though he is and his purity is a theological necessity) but he’s the perfect mix of awe-inspiring strength and tear-jerking mercy. He always demands justice while maintaining a posture of unmerited kindness. He puts the arrogant in their place and yet gently coxes the outcasts out of hiding. He is unflappable in the face of overwhelming opposition; he naps in the face of hurricanes.

He’s the most interesting man in the world.

He is unlike anything we have ever seen and yet is accessible, relatable. He’s intensely serious yet relaxed, unhurried. He has every right to be judgmental, dismissive and distant and yet moves into our neighborhood, lives in obscurity, voluntarily submits himself to fabricated accusations, corrupt proceedings and excruciating torture – as a ransom for those who don’t deserve it.

He had no personal agenda, never once did he make a calculated effort to advance his career. He assumed the role of a servant, even though he was the anointed king.

Jesus is the literal, historical incarnation of the best parts of every fictional hero ever written.

He’s Robin Hood.  He’s Luke Skywalker. He’s Superman.

Except he’s real.

What kind of hero dies for the villains?

But even more than that, he’s MLK without the sexual impropriety, He’s Lincoln without the political calculus. He’s the better version of Jonah, Moses, David…

He’s Adam 2.0.

He is the prototype that every politician, CEO, parent, coach, doctor should aspire to.

I love him. I want to be just like him. I want to be on his team and walk next to him every day.

I can’t believe the good news that I am functionally, spiritually, legally connected to him. My Union with Christ is a mystery and a blessing to profound too comprehend.

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The 10 Anchors of Union Church are theological convictions and philosophies of ministry that we are tied to in order to remain faithful to our core values of Gospel, Community and Mission. These Anchors inform everything from our partnerships and budget to our church government and Sunday liturgy. We believe that a strong commitment to these Anchors will create a culture that will bring God glory and us joy.

Anchor # 8   - Prayer Meeting

We are committed to regular corporate praying. Every church at least theoretically is committed to prayer, but we want to be systematically organized to be praying – with the same amount of time, energy and resources put toward prayer as the Sunday worship gathering and the scattering of the house churches. A weekly, corporate prayer meeting will be the centerpiece – the engine – of Union Church. As Spurgeon once said, “The condition of the church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer meetings. So is the prayer meeting a grace-ometer, and from it we may judge of the amount of divine working among a people. If God be near a church, it must pray. And if He be not there, one of the first tokens of His absence will be a slothfulness in prayer!”

The effectiveness of Union Church will be proportional to our investment in prayer. The talent of the leaders, the commitment of the members, and the size of the budget are all insufficient to accomplish what lies before us; the racial reconciliation in the South, the death of religious consumerism, and spiritual revival on college campuses can only be accomplished through the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus, Himself taught us, some spiritual breakthroughs can only be accomplished through prayer (Mark 9:29). The New Testament describes God’s power as almost an involuntary reaction to faith (Luke 8:46), so as a church we need to regularly stop working in our areas of ministry and intentionally spend time placing our faith in Him. Our regular prayer meetings will serve as a corporate posture of dependence and faith in the One who can accomplish more that we could ever manufacture through human effort. This will be our collective effort to “abide” in Christ, “apart from whom, we can do nothing” (John 15:5). We are not only committed to the weekly prayer meeting as a built-in rhythm but we are also committed to making prayer a high priority within the Sunday gathering, individual house churches and leadership meetings.

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