Welcome to the first edition of our monthly newsletter!
When I first started working here almost ten years ago, I never could have imagined all God would do. We’ve spent the past decade at Grace Church laying the foundation for what it means to live out our distinct calling as an ezer—to bring life-giving strength, aid, support, and refuge in and through our relationships. We've talked a lot about what it means to invite, nurture, and partner. And we’ve waded into the deep waters of shame, sexuality, the body, and our speech—all of which present both challenges and opportunities for our growth in discipleship. God has used each of these studies to expose me, challenge me, humble me, and encourage me. But one of the greatest privileges I’ve had has been watching so many of you courageously and lovingly walk alongside one another in intentional discipleship. We’ve been on quite the journey with one another, but we’ve only scratched the surface. The ezer calling extends into every aspect of our lives, and we have a lifetime of work to do in these five areas.
As our team began looking toward the future of the Ezer ministry, we realized there are some areas we need to shore up. While the studies serve the purpose of providing a biblical foundation and short-term discipleship in groups, I am concerned that we are in danger of too quickly moving on to the "next" thing and missing out on the kind of harvest that comes through a slow obedience in the same direction. So this year we plan to build on that foundation by further equipping you for a life of intentional discipleship in these specific areas and together figure out what it looks like to live out our ezer calling in practical, life-changing ways.
Ezer Equipped will loosely be organized around a monthly theme that will be divided into four short sections: Grow, Read, Connect and Move. Each month we will feature articles, podcasts, books, or other resources that are meant to provoke self-reflection, conversation in biblical community, and movement. The resources we highlight will be from both Christian and non-Christian perspectives. We may not agree or endorse everything the authors or speakers have to say but have found their views to be worthy of further examination and discussion and applicable to our lives as women created in God’s image. I am so excited about the year ahead and grateful you are on this journey with us!
— Chrystie Cole
The Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation reveal that God is inviting and hospitable to those who have nothing to offer him in return. He extends the same invitation to the rebels, drug addicts, prostitutes, adulterers, outcasts, outsiders, destitute, prisoners, orphans, widows, and foreigners as he does to the saints, the apostles, the prophets, and the martyrs. In accepting his invitation, each one of these finds new life, strength, hope, redemption, and restoration in his presence. God, through Christ, has made room for all who will accept his invitation.
As women, God has equipped us to display his heart of invitation to others. Part of fulfilling our call as an ezer means making room for others—including the outcast, the marginalized, and the downtrodden—in our own lives, in our communities, and in the church. It means we create an environment that is welcoming and clears a path for others to get to Jesus. This is the essence of Christian hospitality. This month we hope to expand your understanding of hospitality and help you come up with practical steps to make room for others.
by: Rosaria Butterfield
This book challenges our view of hospitality and makes us examine our excuses for not making room for others in our lives. It paints a jarring picture of hospitality that is both radical and ordinary—and extends to those outside our comfortable circle of family and friends. This book is disruptive and will make you uncomfortable, but that is when God often does his best work.
"Practicing radically ordinary hospitality necessitates building margin time into the day, time where regular routines can be disrupted but not destroyed."
"Christian hospitality cares for the things that our neighbors care about . . . It means starting where you are and looking around for who needs you. It means communicating Christian love in word and deed. It means making yourself trustworthy enough to bear burdens of real life and real problems."
by: Mocking Bird
As we consider what it looks like to make room for others, this article causes you to wonder if you and others in your community are so polished, clean, together, and “Christian" that those whose lives look very different from yours find you, the church, and Jesus unapproachable.
"[T]he good news is good news for everyone, precisely because everyone is a spiritual have-not. Accepting the good news means accepting that Jesus suffered on the cross every bit as much for my subtle displays of pride as he did for that other guy’s spending the family grocery money on a heroin binge. Grace isn’t one bit cheaper for folks with good jobs and nice families."
by: Rosaria Butterfield
In addition to her book, here is an interview with Rosaria Butterfield in which she discusses the distinctions between Christian hospitality and Southern hospitality:
by: Matt Williams
Along with the article, this podcast reminds us that extending hospitality, compassion, and neighborliness to others is a response of faith to the God who has been so hospitable to us.
"Hospitality is core to who God is. He is a God who pursues and invites and makes room for people and cares for them."
We encourage you to use these conversation starters as a means of self-reflection and for discussion within your community.
We all make excuses for not making room for others. What are some of yours?
In what ways is your desire to perform and over function a hindrance to making room for people?
Who have you withheld hospitality from because of preconceived ideas, stereotypes, or because it makes you uncomfortable?
What would it look like for you to practice radically ordinary hospitality in your dorm, home, neighborhood, workplace or school? Think outside the box!
What next steps can you take in your life to extend God’s hospitable nature to those who have nothing to offer you in return?
If you aren’t sure, we have listed a few possible steps below:
- Make extra food! Keep it on hand to deliver or freeze for a neighbor, a widow, divorcee, single mom, or someone else who may need to feel the love of Christ.
- Invite someone who isn’t in your regular community for coffee or lunch after church.
- When you sit down for a worship service, take a moment and notice anyone sitting near you who may be alone. Make an effort at some point to go over and talk to them and introduce yourself or even invite them to sit with you!
- Contact Anne White at [email protected] for more information on host home requirements for Grace Church interns or to get more information about hosting a group of interns for dinner.
- Sign up to attend the JumpStart prison ministry training seminar in February to learn more about how to love and serve those who are incarcerated.
- Support and care for men and women living in assisted living facilities across the Upstate. Click here for more information about the Senior Honor ministry or click here to sign up.
- Provide a date night for foster families or families with special needs children through babysitting, support, and care. Click here for information on how to serve during a Grace Church Foster and Adopt date night.
This resource is adapted from our Ezer Equipped monthly newsletter dedicated to equipping our women with content, from both within and outside of our church, to help us continue to grow as disciple and disciple-makers. To subscribe to the Ezer Equipped newsletter, click here.