Happy Birthday Loving Community – Three Years Old!
Has it been three years already? It HAS — and in the words of most founders of any organization, be it for profit or non-profit as is the case of Loving Community, it’s been the hardest thing and the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done! I often tell friends that if my life had come to an untimely end without the experience of the past three years, I would’ve felt jipped!
It was in June 2014 that Loving Community was prayerfully birthed and incorporated in the State of Texas as a faith based community organization. Nine months later we were approved by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) public charity. With the mission statement of being good neighbors by connecting people into relationships and serving the needs of our community we launched with a prayer team of twelve, a community advisory team of fourteen, a board of directors of six, one full-time employee (me) AND a $60,000 annual budget to raise.
And now three years later, we can only explain the days that have followed with the words from Ephesians 3:20 CEB, “Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us…”
- We are grateful for the many prayers offered and answered.
- We are humbled by the financial sacrifice and investment by so many.
- We are dependent on the wisdom of those who give us counsel.
- We are amazed at the hundreds of volunteers and thousands of hours given.
- We are encouraged by the embrace of our community partner organizations.
- And finally, we are unbelievably thankful for the many gospel conversations, people beginning to follow the teachings of Jesus, missionaries being trained, and ultimately joining with God in seeing his kingdom come and his will being done on earth as it is in heaven.
I could talk for hours, tell more stories than you could stand, and probably border on the extreme with the enthusiasm of a first time parent. Needless to say we love this expression of the good news we were led to name Loving Community.
As we left our last church assignment at Valley Ranch Baptist (and we are grateful for their continued prayers and support), we characterized our move as God lovingly and strategically pushing us out of the nest, not easy at the time! And yet three years later, and in my role as a Community Pastor and Neighborhood Advocate, God has done an amazing work in giving us more energy, more passion, more dreams, more friendships, more opportunities, and yes, more FUN in doing life with those in our neighborhood and typically outside the walls of any church!
Ultimately, we know Loving Community is God’s gig and he just asked Sharon and I to be faithful to the call, “show up at the show up place”, and follow him. We simply steward the good work he is doing in our relationships with you and in our community.
As we live as missional practitioners in our community, we orient our days around the missionary practices and habits expressed by Michael Frost in his book, Surprise the World and the acronym BELLS.
- BLESS Others — We find every way we can to bless our neighbors in our community (which of course means investing time with them). We freely share the good news (gospel) in every way we can creatively imagine.
- EAT Together — We eat LOTS of meals with people and drink coffee, and throw parties and picnics, and frequent our local third places https://www.pps.org/reference/roldenburg/ following the practices of Jesus who it says in Luke 7:34, “came eating and drinking”. And yes with all this eating and drinking, Planet Fitness is one of our third places in which we exercise and work out!
- LISTEN to the Spirit — Our daily schedule is more of a listening and watching and waiting for the people God has brought to our paths. We listen for how and what he wants us to invest our days in doing. It ultimately is resting in God’s agenda not our own.
- LEARN Christ — Jesus was and is the good neighbor. He taught us we should be as well. He moved into the neighborhood (John 1:14) and lavished his time and attention on others. He told people if you have seen me, you know what my Father is like. (John 14:9) We hope and pray the same as we learn and live out Jesus to others.
- And understand that we are SENT by God — In a Western church culture where often the emphasis can be on only attracting people to come to our church building to see and hear about Jesus (which of course is not a bad thing), we believe that we are ALL sent as missionaries to the places God has called us to live, work, and play. Jesus said, “…as the Father has sent me, I am sending you…” John 20:21
Finally, in our hope to be faithful to our call, and encouraging others to join in with us, whether though prayer, volunteering, or financial support, this is just a snapshot of a few of the ways we have seen God at work this past year:
- Mentoring 67 children and students at four schools via our school based mentoring programs such as Boys2Men, Rockbrook Reading Initiative, Operation Success, Men of Distinction, etc…
- Providing companionship and volunteer services with over 100 volunteers involved at neighborhood senior adult and memory care facilities.
- Coaching and training 12 men and women to live as missionaries where they’re already doing life via the Missionary Residency Program of Forge Dallas.
- Investing in our neighborhood by organizing community bible studies and groups, picnics and potlucks, national neighborhood night out, progressive dinners, welcoming new neighbors, prayer walking, and volunteering projects.
- Providing leadership in local business and city government through the Lewisville Area Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Lewisville and City of Lewisville, Neighbors Leading Neighbors.
- Walking with individuals and families through the highs and lows of life by providing pastoral care trough officiating at 64 weddings and 7 funerals
- Organizing Community Collaboration Conversations to help businesses, education, faith communities, government, and non-profits work better together.
- And ultimately as an organization investing 6,773 hours of volunteer time back into our community which is valued at $25.15 per hour or in total dollars $170,341.
On this third birthday of Loving Community, and In reflection on this past year and cumulatively the past three years, we feel blessed and encouraged! And at the end of the day perhaps the best thing in all of this is that we feel we are “being changed as we bring change”. Thank you for being on this journey with us. We look forward to what God has in store for us in this next year as we together surprise the world!
Jim & Sharon
PS – My board of directors would not be pleased if I did not offer an opportunity to help support the work of Loving Community either by volunteering or a financial birthday gift. These are the links in order to do that. Thank you!