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November 14, 2016

City Grace Environments

Benjamin Spalink
Andy Stanley has some helpful insight on ministry.  All ministry utilizes environments - the physical places and feel of places we use to preach, worship, study, fellowship, serve or in other ways engage our guests. Worship happens in an environment. Community groups happen in an environment. Leader meetings happen in an environment. Stanley's goal is to create "irresistible environments." I'd settle for "winsome." Point is, people love the environments and want to come back. Leaders shape these environments whether they know it or not. ...
November 14, 2016

Reflection on Trump Discussion at church

Benjamin Spalink
New York City, I'm sure you've noticed, is distraught. People are visibly upset.  There is a sense of collective shock - how could this happen?  This is a historical moment, and it is a time to pay attention to how God is moving in his church. So yesterday we broke protocol. I didn't give a sermon. Instead, we opened up that time for an open forum discussion.  I wanted to check our pulse, to see how people are feeling and reflect on the events of this past week. Most importantly, I wanted for us to try to hear God's voice at this critical ...
November 03, 2016

Why I stopped trying to fix people

Benjamin Spalink
One of the things that has become abundantly clear to me in nine years of ministry is that my ability to change people is actually rather minimal.  Coming out of seminary, I was naively eager to fix people with my M.Div tucked firmly in my belt. It's humbling to realize 1) you need fixing just as much as anybody else and 2) trying to fix people isn't a great strategy (it's oftentimes hurtful) and 3) there's actually not much you can do for broken people anyway.  It's actually much easier to love people if you can simply accept them as they ...
September 14, 2016

True Rest

Benjamin Spalink
I'm back after having taken a ten week sabbatical. This sabbatical wasn't what you might think. There were no ambitious writing or research projects, no seminary classes and little traveling. Instead, I tried to treat it as one long continuous sabbath - learning to find rest in God himself.  Surprisingly, it wasn't easy, at least not at first. The first couple of weeks, I bounced back and forth between "this is too good to be true" and "I feel so guilty for not doing anything productive."  I tried to relax, read a little, went on long w ...
June 07, 2016

Jesus and the church

Benjamin Spalink
The harvest is ripe but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.  So begins Jesus' commission to the seventy-two disciples as he leads them in the next installment of their own discipleship.  Harvest time can last a few days or a few weeks. It's the time when extra hands are hired to bring in the crops before they're destroyed.  Jesus has work to do and can't do it alone. His disciples-in-training are sent to continue his work, equipped by his Spiritual power and authority and message to do ...
April 13, 2016

"Personal relationship with God?" Let's use better language

Benjamin Spalink
Can I have a personal relationship with God? Constantly heard in evangelical churches is this idea: “You can have a personal relationship with God!” For many, this sums up the Gospel message. This is the reason Jesus died on the cross.  Megachurch pastors, televangelists, crusaders and regular church pastors alike are all claiming that through Jesus this is possible. But is it true?  A quick word search in the Bible will show that the phrases, “personal relationship with God,” “relationship with God,” and “personal relationship” never ...
April 07, 2016

The True King

Benjamin Spalink
Reading through II Chronicles in the Old Testament is a bit depressing.  Rehoboam, Solomon's heir, takes the throne and decides against the better wisdom of Solomon's advisers to exert brutal pressure on the people. All but Judah and Benjamin rebel, and the kingdom is torn in two. Subsequent chapters detail the ensuing rivalry between the two kingdoms and their subsequent risings and failings depending on their leadership. A theme soon develops. The fate of the nation in the hands of any one king depends almost entirely on one factor - the ...
March 23, 2016

Am I a real Christian

Benjamin Spalink
"Am I a real Christian?" The question is a helpful one to ask periodically.  God wants us to move beyond doubt when it comes to our salvation.  But because of the prevalence of sin that goes under the guise of "Christianity," it is necessary to test ourselves time to time.  Whether you answer in the positive or negative, the answer is helpful. If "yes," you can feel secure and thankful to God.  If "no," the Spirit is convicting you to bring about true repentance and faith - you may have saved yourself from disaster. I John is filled with ...
March 10, 2016

Receiving Forgiveness

Benjamin Spalink
"Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" (John 21:16) Simon (also named Peter) committed a terrible sin. He betrayed Jesus during Jesus' worst moment, denying that he even knew him.  Following Jesus' death, Peter is so wracked with guilt and sadness, he gives up the whole following Jesus business to return to his former way of life.  Jesus asks him this question. Jesus knows the answer, but he wants John to hear himself say the words, "Yes, Jesus. I love you."  He wants to absolve him of his guilt and remind him of his purpose - "Feed my ...
December 23, 2015

Space transition

Benjamin Spalink
City Grace is currently in the midst of a transition.  After being at the Village 7 movie theater for about 4 years, we were abruptly asked to find another venue to worship. The movie theater is in the midst of renovations, and the new seating only accommodates 54.  December 20th was our last service there. In a way, this comes at an opportune time.  City Grace has been thinking about its vision and purpose, and this move will help us to clarify both while we think intentionally about what kind of space we want to be in long term.  It's not ...
June 05, 2015

Greed is idolatry

Benjamin Spalink
Paul names greed as idolatry (see Colossians 3:5).  Imagine being a 1st century Jewish person.  You recite the Shema daily, and now you're being told you're an idolater because you're greedy.  It would be shocking and offensive. But here's God's challenge to us - inordinate desires for things like money, sexual gratification, physical pleasure (like the pleasure we derive from food, drink, entertainment, etc...) constitute sin on the same level as making and worshiping idols made of wood and stone. Inordinate desires point to allegiance and ...
June 02, 2015

Die with me

Benjamin Spalink
All of us are called to die with Jesus.  These aren't just nice sounding words. They have real life application. Someone once suggested to me that everything that is "spiritual" in the Christian faith has real world implications. Spiritual means real. This dying is not just spiritual. It's real. We are really called to die to things in our lives that are not true reflections of the new reality of who we are in Christ.  But this dying is a gradual process. It doesn't happen overnight, nor does it happen at once upon conversion. It is one which ...
May 29, 2015

Path to Spiritual Growth

Benjamin Spalink
One of my favorite passages in the New Testament is Colossians 3:1-17.  In it, Paul describes what a response to the Gospel of Jesus' kingship looks like - a continual life-long process of putting off the old and putting on the new. This passage is so rich I believe it could lay a foundation for continual sanctification for an entire lifetime. At every moment of our lives, we should be asking two questions - what am I being called to die to? And, what am I called to come alive to?  And all of that is based on grace - on the new reality of who ...
May 20, 2015

Reformed Charismatic

Benjamin Spalink
I'm prepping for Pentecost, preaching on John 16:5-15 and realizing that Christianity without pneumatology is actually not Christocentric.  Reformed Charismatic is really the best kind of Reformed to be.  Think about it - If you believe in Jesus but don't appreciate the ongoing supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, you're essentially declining to accept from Jesus the most important gift he gives - that of his continued voice and presence in your life!  You could read the text as Jesus suggesting that having the Spirit is BETTER than having ...
May 08, 2015

Steps towards spiritual growth? Try again

Benjamin Spalink
Ten steps towards spiritual growth.  A program of discipleship.  The sinner's prayer. I could go on and on. A model for church growth. Tell me how to inherit eternal life, the rich young ruler said to Jesus (Mark 10:17). A natural question, really. Isn't that what we want? Instructions!  Steps. A formula to follow. The older I get, the more I encounter the utter failure of programs and steps and models.  The world is so much more complicated, isn't it? Nothing works as it's supposed to. You try the steps and realize the heart of what you're ...
May 04, 2015

The Transforming Effects of Jesus' Lordship

Benjamin Spalink
Colossians is about one thing: the lordship and supremacy of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In Christ is All David Bryant suggests that the current malaise in the American church is a crisis of supremacy.  Folks, including most Christians, simply don’t appreciate Jesus for who he is and for all he is. His book is essentially a doxology to Jesus, urging Christians to rediscover the glory, majesty, authority, power, centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ. In our current sermon series on Colossians, we’re discovering this glorious Lord and ...
October 06, 2014

Looking back to look ahead

Benjamin Spalink
In Joshua 4, Joshua commands the Israelites to build a stone monument beside the Jordan river to remind future generations of Israelites of the incredible saving acts of God in their history.  At this place, God brought the Israelite through the river on dry ground.  Monuments to remind us of God's powerful acts in the past are important for a couple reasons. First of all, they say things about who God was, and by extension, who God is now. Flourishing in ministry requires an ongoing confidence and trust in God, who has done great things and ...
September 17, 2014

Get Involved

Benjamin Spalink
The best companies spend much time training their employees, sharing their values, and helping them to understand their culture.  Apple, for example, teaches sales associates the nuances of Apple-style customer service.  Knowing the culture and expectations helps employees know how to fit in and help the organization achieve its aims. Taking a page from the employee orientation playbook, I wanted to share with you a little bit about the culture of City Grace Grace and how you can plug in to the community.  When it comes to our regular ...
September 08, 2014

Mission, Vision and Values

Benjamin Spalink
The mission of City Grace is to share the life that is truly life. Through worship, discipleship, fellowship and mission, we seek to embrace this life together and to lead others into it.  In worship, we celebrate Jesus’ victory over sin and death and worship the God who calls us into intimacy with himself.  Through discipleship, we encourage a lifestyle of faith and repentance. We empower each other to live out our callings in the city.  As we share our lives together in true fellowship we enjoy the encouragement, community and love of the ...
September 03, 2014

New to New York? Church Shop. Then Settle.

Benjamin Spalink
Whether you're an incoming freshman or moving to New York for work, the temptation is to spend the next year visiting different churches.  No doubt you'll check out Redeemer and Hillsong.  You might attend for a while, then realize you want something a little more manageable in terms of size.  So then you'll shop around, visiting other churches. You won't get plugged in anywhere because you'll never be at one place long enough to actually get to know people.  A year will go by, maybe two, and you'll realize you still don't have a church home. ...

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