Small Things with Great Love

A few years ago, one of Clear Creek’s small groups was convicted that they needed to do something more. In addition to their usual times of fellowship and Bible study, they were sure that Jesus wanted them to be reaching out and serving. As they started looking for service opportunities, they quickly realized how tough it can be to get something planned. Small group members weren’t free at the times most organizations needed volunteers. Some service opportunities didn’t work well with the group’s large number of children. And the activities that were the easiest to plan, often seemed like the least interesting.

For the next year the small group tried serving in different ways, but nothing seemed right. Then one day they came across a quote from Mother Teresa, “You can do no great things – only small things with great love.” Rather than trying to plan a great service event or figure out what issue they cared most about, they decided to get involved with a community that needed love. The next month they went to Patten Towers (a downtown public housing development) for the first time. They walked around, met people and offered to pray. Nothing fancy and no big agenda – just being present and loving like Jesus did. Some residents smiled, others ignored them. Some were happy to pray, others refused. But everyone in the small group agreed that it felt right.

Picture2The small group quickly made Patten Towers a regular part of their monthly routine. Over time they met more people and began to be recognized around the building. They started offering a free dinner at the building every few months to meet more people and have more time to talk. Even the building’s housing manger asked how they could help! Being a regular part of the Patten Towers community allowed residents to see the light of Jesus. It made it easier to the small group to see the actual needs of people in their community. It also made space for God’s Spirit to work in unexpected ways.

One of the most interesting relationships to emerge from this ministry is with a middle-aged man named Ameen. Ameen is a Muslim refugee from Iraq. He speaks broken English and goes fishing a lot. He’s also incredibly friendly and willing to study the Bible. Members of the small group developed a friendly relationship that is growing into something more. There have been multiple Bible studies together. Ameen has been in their home for dinner. And he has gone to worship with them as well.

Looking back over the last couple of years, it’s exciting to see how God took a desire to serve and turned it into even more. This group has been blessed with chances to grow, new friends, opportunities to share the Bible, and so much more.


And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: ‘This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’”
Zechariah 7:8-10



Middle School Servants

One big way I saw God this summer is in the Middle School girls’ willingness to serve. They took time out of their summers to be a blessing to other people. They could have been doing anything else, but they chose to serve. Riley Oleksik really showed the teens and the adults who were helping what it means to have a servant heart. 1During our mission trip, Riley had a broken hand, and I never heard her complain once. She worked hard while always having a smile on her face. She didn’t let her injury get in the way of shaping the community of Madison, Tennessee. She challenged us to never stop serving even when there are obstacles in the way. She forever changed my heart to be even more willing to serve. Her example made our whole team want to give their all for the church and community we served that week.

Another big way I have seen God working is how open and vulnerable the Middle Schoolers are willing to be. At Impact, I was amazed by how the girls opened up with one another in small group devotionals at night. It can be hard to share about the messy and hard parts in life, but they were willing to confess many of their struggles and fears. The environment that God has created in the Clear Creek Youth Ministry is open and accepting of people, flaws and all. Our girls’ willingness to be vulnerable has taught me it is okay to be open about the messy parts of my life.


Young Influencers

I have been deeply affected by all of the high schoolers in my time here as an intern. They are all powerful instruments for the kingdom and are bearing witness to Jesus, both to each other and to those outside of Clear Creek.thumbnail 6

Jeanna Parker and Julie Clevenger are influencers. I had the privilege of giving a devotional with them in Haiti. We chose the story of Thomas doubting the resurrection from John 20. To hear these two young women of God speak openly about their doubts as well as the character of Jesus as revealed in his response was beautiful to behold. They then each led prayers asking the Lord to soften our hearts and become vulnerable.

Eden Henderson is an influencer. In many conversations, she has been vulnerable with me and with others in a powerful way. She has led me and those around her in an expression of vulnerability that provides safety, not judgement. She has shown me that the two most powerful words that can be said when someone shares a deep part of themselves with you are “me too”.

Charlotte Vance is an influencer. She has been a voice to our ministry team and her peers about the importance of asking difficult questions about God, faith, how to connect with those who do not know Jesus, and what it means to be a true disciple. Her openness and wisdom are contagious.


Brag on the Work of the Spirit

All the youth boys blew me away this summer. From participation in small group discussions on Sunday to busting up pallets and digging in the dirt on the Mission Trip, they impressed me with their desire to be involved. However, I would like to brag on the work of the Spirit in some specific boys.

I witnessed Christ moving in the heart of Evan Pirtle many times. At Impact, he reflected Jesus constantly through his attitude, his depth, and his worship. At all of our events, Evan participated and took discussions seriously.  On the Mission Trip to Nashville, he was a huge boost to the group.  I believe Evan is already a leader in the youth group so there is no doubt in my mind that the Spirit is preparing him to lead his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

I also saw God working in Matthew Stone. Matt loves to make others laugh (and he is good at it). He is a fun presence and he makes any event he is at much more exciting. This summer, I got to see a vulnerable, thoughtful, convicted Matt that some people might not usually see. I witnessed the Spirit moving Matt’s heart towards new, mature leadership of the group.3

Patrick Russell impressed me over and over this summer. He is a man of integrity, discipline, and he cares about others. He is also very patient, forgiving, and full of grace. Patrick was a constant leader this summer, through both words and actions. He contributed to every discussion, worked very hard whenever it was needed (he and Sam assisted Mitchell and myself with intense, nasty, dirty yard work just because they wanted to help) and was a positive voice in the group.  Patrick is already full of the Spirit and is following God’s plan for his life.


See Goodness

Clear Creek’s children are surrounded by influences that are showing them how to disciple. Volunteers, like Dan and Helen Cothron, are setting examples for our children that are not going unnoticed. Houston Hicks, Ethan Lane, and Sadie Reynolds come to mind when I think of children who are using their abilities to disciple other children. Houston and Ethan both volunteer to pray and greet in the children’s wing as often as they can. Sadie is consistently the first to volunteer every time I have asked and encourages others to do the same.


This summer, I have seen goodness in our children. It has been a joy for me to witness the Lord shine through them. A few instances that quickly come to mind are the fifth graders on the mission trip to Atlanta, the inclusion of the visitors at music camp, and the joy they found at Summer J.A.M. Among all of those, one instance stands out in my mind the most.

Sundays in the three-year-old class are fun, joyful and chaotic. There are several children in that class and one of them loves to be read to at the end of class. One Sunday, she had a roughmorning and she needed the routine to make her feel better. The teacher who had been reading to her had to talk to a parent at the door and I was working on a project with some kids at the table, leaving her without someone to read her book. One of the children, Alexia Rodger, walked over and “read” the rest of the book to her. It was a beautiful thing to witness a child, who cannot even read, doing what she can to make a friend feel better. She let her light shine that day.



Blazing Hope Update

thumbnailBlazing Hope Ranch recently accepted a third survivor of human trafficking into their transitional program at HOPE Haven. The transitional living program at Blazing Hope Ranch provides a place where Healing, Opportunity, Protection and Education can happen on a daily basis.

Clear Creek small groups have been involved at Blazing Hope in a number of ways. Some provide gifts of love and other necessities to residents at Blazing Hope. Other groups have helped at Blazing Hope’s camp by serving meals and leading activities. One of our members said he was surprised that the campers were grateful for our coming to serve food and help with the activities. The camp opened his eyes to opportunities for service that he had never considered. Partnering in the ministry of Blazing Hope has provided opportunities to join Jesus in his ministry of reconciliation and restoration.


Hello, My Name Is…

It’s a phrase we have all had to speak when meeting new people, but imagine having to say it in a language that’s not your native tongue.  The SE Asia ESL class began as a way to take the work Clear Creek has been doing for several years in Asia, and continue it right here in Hixson. Similar to our overseas missionaries, teaching English as a second language is an avenue to connect people to God and to each other.

IMG_8768In 2012, while thinking about our time in China (and missing Chinese food), we met Andy and Ivy Cheng, owners of New China restaurant.  They spoke just enough English to intrigue someone from Soddy-Daisy, so we started a conversation and began a relationship. When we met Ivy and Andy, their children Elin and Sharon were still living in China with their grandparents, but were planning to move to America. Over the next six years, our families grew closer, celebrated holidays and spent time in each other’s homes.

In 2017 we saw how the Great Commission was being played out in reverse with people from all over the world coming to Hixson. We launched the SE Asia ESL class on Sunday mornings to build relationships, improve English and show Jesus to our Asian brothers and sisters that live in our city. God is working through these ESL classes to impact families. Ivy and her two children along with her mother and father-in-law are attending the ESL classes and connecting with other families in the Children’s ministry and other Christians at Clear Creek. What began as a craving for Chinese food, God used to create friendship and opportunity.



Early in July, a woman’s life, death, and resurrection was captured on Facebook Live…

She had spent the day with a friend riding around Chattanooga using drugs. Her friend offered her heroin and even though she had never tried it before, she let the friend inject her with the drug. The woman overdosed and started convulsing. She stopped breathing and lost her pulse. Her friend frantically beat on her chest to no avail. Horrified and afraid of the criminal charges that could be brought against her, the friend pushed the woman out of the car into the street. The woman lay lifeless in the gutter while the car sped away. A good Samaritan rushed to the woman’s aid. He performed CPR, restoring her life’s breath. First responders rushed to the scene.Picture3

Cry for the Broken reached out to this woman, giving her the opportunity to receive help if she was willing. Justin and Catrina Cabe drove her to a detox facility in Nashville and ministered to her heart on the way. This woman is now clean and sober thanks to a loving God who saw her brokenness and is now putting her pieces back together. The ladies of Cry for the Broken are following up with the woman by writing letters and sending cards. We hope to welcome her home soon. Catrina has also reached out to the friend who pushed the woman out of the car in hopes that she will accept help as well.


Cry For The Broken is a Clear Creek ministry that reaches out to addicted prostitutes to build personal relationships and share the love of Jesus as they help to transition them into sobriety-based living. They pray for and with these ladies in hope to lead them out of their broken lifestyle into a life-changing relationship with Jesus.


Being with Jesus and Doing what He Did, Together

One of the greatest joys in following Jesus is the invitation to participate in both the great command and the great promise that he articulates in Matthew 28. The command is to make disciples and the promise is that Jesus himself walks with us as we go. One of the questions we get asked all the time is, “Why another church plant in Chattanooga?” It’s a good question, and the answer has everything to do with participation. Participation hello-i-m-nik-687249-unsplash
with Jesus in the mission of God is an essential component of discipleship. The call of Jesus in the Gospels is to be with him and to do what he does. Showing up to a construction site is not enough to become a master carpenter. To be a carpenter one must learn from and be with a master carpenter. The same is true for apprenticeship to Jesus. That is discipleship – learning from Jesus to do life in the Kingdom of God.

At City Collective we’ve seen that planting a church has allowed people to rally around a vision and has given them opportunities to put their talents to work in the Kingdom. The reality in a new church is that all must participate in order for the vision to come about. This need creates space for new leaders to be raised up, equipped and discipled in the Kingdom. As churches grow and multiply there is a natural need for more teachers, more worship leaders, more volunteers and generally more participation in both the life of the church and the mission of God. More discipleship happens as people discover the love of God toward them and the way their talents uniquely equip them for participation in the mission of God in Chattanooga.

Significant discipleship happens in the context of small, committed communities that gather around the person of Jesus.  Some people in our city will walk into a church plant when they are unwilling to walk into an established church. In this way, planting new churches creates the opportunity for more discipleship. There is a young woman in the church who recently expressed that learning the ways of Jesus in committed community has helped her begin to walk again as a disciple. It was relationship with people that allowed her to experience renewed relationship with Jesus in spite of the wounds and pain that life has given her. The community of faith carried her and believed for her until she could believe and trust again. The intimate community born out of the vision of partnering with God in a new expression of his Church in a city can be a catalyst for this kind of rugged discipleship.

Discipleship happens as we walk together in intimacy with Jesus. That intimacy cannot be microwaved. It only comes about by doing life together around Jesus. The beauty of following Jesus in the context of church planting is that if we can create a new space to be with others and with Jesus and to practice his ways together, he will do the transforming work of making those who have come into good disciples.


The Music of Discovery Bible

Any musician will tell you that there is a shockingly large number of songs that all use the same four chords. In fact, they not only use the same chords, but they often use them in the exact same order. With the chords G major, D major, E minor and C major, you would be able to play everythimalte-wingen-381988-unsplashng from “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and “Don’t Stop Believing” to “Let It Be” and “Let It Go”. What’s so amazing is that, even though theyshare the exact same structure musically,each song is unique; producing music in vastly different genres and evoking wildly differing emotions. None of these songs would ever be mistaken for another on the list, yet history has proven that each song is a success.

When you take something with exceptional structure and add in the human element, bringing with it all the creativity that people possess, it is amazing how beautiful and varied the result can be. By adding in the spiritual element, the quality of the product you end up with can be improved 1,000-fold.

That, in a nutshell, was the entire idea behind Discovery Bible Study (DBS). DBS was created so that you can apply the same basic structure and approach to studying the Bible with your community, then let the personalities of your group and the influence of the Holy Spirit create something beautiful. At its core, DBS provides an avenue for us to study the word of God in a way that will point each of us to Jesus, get us into the rhythm of following Him more closely, and help us disciple others more intentionally along the way. It’s a very simple approach that can be applied to any scripture and is easily replicated from one community to the next. Because of its structure, DBS can even be used to study the Word with anyone regardless of their knowledge of the scriptures. This approach to studying the Bible will help get your group (or those you wish to begin studying with) into the routine of reading God’s Word, applying what you read and journeying alongside one another.

Several of the communities in our Clear Creek family have already been reaping the benefits of using DBS. When Dennis Henderson’s small group leader stepped down, Dennis’ transition to become the leader was easier because of the environment DBS created in their community. He was able to quickly and easily disciple those around him because of the accountability component provided by this approach to scripture. Rob and Kim Feisley have effectively used DBS with two differing people groups: college students in China and young professionals in the United States. In both situations, they have been able to help others take steps on their journey by providing them the means to lead a Bible study without feeling like they needed to be “biblical scholars.” And the list goes on…

Like the music chords we talked about earlier, DBS offers an amazing backbone ready to be used in conjunction with the creativity of people and the power of the Holy Spirit to challenge and inspire. Even though replicating it is simple, each environment will have a different DNA while achieving the same goal: to help us be in the Word and live out the Word together in community. If you would like to learn more about this approach to studying God’s Word, you can contact the church office or stay tuned for additional information as it rolls out in the next few weeks.