All posts in “Community”

Wisdom for hospitality

by Jessi Uran | 5-minute read

 

Someone asked me once if I was ever nervous that my husband was going to talk about me or tell an embarrassing story about me in his sermons. I said, “No. I’m not nervous. Because he knows who makes his lunch for him when we get home.”

All joking aside, I have a smart man who is not about to expose his wife’s weaknesses from the platform. So I thought I’d take matters into my own hands and take off the filter that might be applied to anyone in full-time ministry with their spouse — that we have it all down when it comes to Biblical hospitality.

In the name of transparency, here are the top five things I am currently learning or re-learning when it comes to the transformational practice of hospitality. Read More

Coronavirus: a prayer guide

Several mission organizations are asking for a global day of prayer Wednesday, March 11, for an end to the coronavirus, COVID-19. Here’s a guide, first developed by the international organization SIM and now being used by many around the world. Feel free to share this with anyone interested.

 

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Prayer Points

1

Pray for the Lord to intervene to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Pray in Jesus’ name that the virus would recede from this day forward, and that the numbers of those infected would decline rapidly. Pray, trusting the Lord to intervene today with his loving care.

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. –  1 John 5:14 Read More

Bridging boundaries

by Jim Killam | 5-minute read

 

Before First Free moved to its current location in 1980, it was a fixture in a vibrant Rockford neighborhood called Midtown.

Today, Bob and Jill Campbell spend most of their waking hours continuing to invest in the spiritual health of that neighborhood — their neighborhood.

For most of the last 30 years, the Campbells have been part of the Christian Community Development Association. One of the organization’s keystone values is to live in the neighborhood where you serve. Bob and Jill have lived in two Rockford neighborhoods: first for 10 years in Coronado Haskell and now for the past 15 years in Midtown. Bob serves as executive director for Zion Development Corporation, the ministry working to transform Midtown. Jill serves with CRU (Campus Crusade for Christ), running a newsletter mailing service from a Seventh Street office. Read More

Loving the Stranger: Q&R with Hunter Wiggins

by Jim Killam | 6-minute read

 

Chicago attorney Hunter Wiggins

Chicago attorney Hunter Wiggins frequently travels to the Mexican border at Laredo, Texas, to give free legal representation to people seeking asylum in the U.S. At our March 15 forum, he will lay a Christ-centered foundation for understanding immigration issues. Then he will discuss changing interpretations of U.S. immigration law, what is happening to families and individuals at the border — and how Christians can respond.

Here’s part of our recent conversation with Hunter.

 

How did you get involved personally in this issue?

For a long part of my career, I have been involved in a whole range of pro bono issues. A couple of years ago the law firm I was working with at the time had opened an opportunity to go down to Laredo, Texas. They built a small immigration clinic to work firsthand, primarily with women and children who were seeking asylum coming across the border into Texas.

As a result of that, and of the things that God was doing to me in my heart, I became very captured by this. … I just kept going down there more and more, close to 15 times, and meeting with hundreds of women and men who have been held, frankly, in prisons that are not called prisons. Who are seeking asylum. Read More

Common ground

by Jim Killam | 5-minute read

 

Community and understanding thrive in this unusual Life Group

Newly married and living in a Rockford neighborhood, Brennan and Jade Hailey knew what they were looking for: Close-knit community. Accountability. A chance to learn and grow. A chance to extend the love of Jesus to others, and to work past our culture’s stereotypes about Christians.

But they were having trouble finding all that, especially with people their own age (late 20s). First Free’s Life Groups were fine and all, but what else might they try?

So they thought: We have friends who go to different churches. We have other friends who don’t consider themselves Christians. We know them all pretty well. What if we invited everyone to hang out at our house and talk about faith together?

So they started inviting people. This would mean foregoing a regular life group with church friends to do something that felt a little riskier. Brennan and Jade saw the decision not as sacrifice, but as opportunity cost.

To their surprise and delight, people said yes. Read More

Communion

by Jessi Uran | 1-minute read

 

True fellowship with one’s neighbor can never be born out of the particulars. It is not hidden in twinkling café lights, elaborate bouquets, or copious amounts of candles. It doesn’t stem from a farm to table menu, soulful music, or even from fluid conversation.

Particulars alone cannot carry meaning.
So by nature, they can never foster true enjoyment with one’s neighbor.

Only when a table is set on the cloth of universal truth can any real fellowship be shared.

To look into the eyes of another immortal and declare, “We are the same.”

This is what infuses life and beauty into hospitality.

The best part?

Any time this universal is laid forth, the particulars can be linen napkins and fine china, or paper plates and pizza, and still beautifully point

to the better feast to come.

 

 

Tea in the time of war

by Jim Killam | 3-minute read

 

In 2013, a colleague and I were sent to Jordan by ReachGlobal, the Free Church’s world mission agency, to find stories of God at work. The war in Syria was almost two years old and Jordan was overwhelmed with refugee families. The church there represents a tiny minority population, but it has led the way in extending the love of Jesus.

Pastor Nour Sahawneh greets Syrian women arriving at the Christian Mission Alliance Church in Mafraq, Jordan. 2013 photo: Jim Killam

As journalists, we found more stories than we could ever tell — in makeshift apartments, in refugee tents and in churches serving as relief stations. We interviewed families who had just crossed the border after nightmare journeys out of Syria. Some showed us cellphone video of their homes being burned. We saw desperation in parents’ eyes as they arrived at a church, kids in tow, UN refugee papers in hand. Letting people tell us their stories was a way to extend dignity. Read More

Coffee in the driveway

by Rob Ullrich | 4-minute read

 

“It’s hard to believe, but this used to be a nice place to live.” 

My dad’s car crawled past sagging houses, half hidden behind waist-high weeds. 

“There. That was our place. Over there, the Olsons and there, the Zimmermans.” He went on naming the whole block, narrating his old neighborhood legend. “See that addition on the house? We put that up in one day. Every guy on the block was there.” 

I didn’t think much of those stories at the time. But my neighborhood experiences have been very different. I definitely don’t know the whole block. We haven’t built anything together. In fact, I only know many of our neighbors as the lady with the dog or the guy with the sunflowers or the house with the oversized election signs. Others I’ve never seen.  Read More

Not your parents’ parenting conference

by Jim Killam | 4-minute read

 

Like any parents, Chris and Tona Johnson can be baffled by something one of their three boys did. And, like any parents, their first response might be: “Why did you do that? What were you thinking?”

A big insight for them came during a parenting conference by the organization Raising Boys & Girls. When kids do something crazy, they probably aren’t thinking. Their brains can’t yet make the connections that their parents’ brains can. Just understanding that, and knowing a different approach or two, has made a difference for Chris and Tona as parents.

A few years ago, Tona was one of several women from First Free who attended a conference in Franklin, Tenn. A breakout session on parenting by authors David Thomas and Sissy Goff caught their attention.

“We were like, wow, that’s life-changing,” Tona says. “I didn’t know any of that. How come no one’s told me all of that stuff?”

Read More

First Free Rockford book spotlight recommendation header image

Book Spotlight: February 2020

Evangelism books never sell very well.

There are some good ones out there, usually written by extroverts with the spiritual gift of evangelism. They make the reader feel guilty. Inadequate. The gist is, “Here’s what I did, and here’s how many people came to Christ. Go and do likewise.”

I’ve read a few of these books. I even wrote one. Ghost-wrote it, actually, for a husband and wife who were better at neighborhood hospitality and evangelism than anyone I have ever known. People who read the book (I think there might have been eight) told me it convicted them, but they could never do what Norm and Becky did. God then used this incredible couple to build a neighborhood hospitality ministry in India. Thousands have come to faith. It’s a wonderful story.

The Simplest Way to Change the World by Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements.

The Simplest Way to Change the World is written by two people who sound more like me: a guy who would sooner unclog a toilet than host a block party. Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements confront this immediately:

Half of all people identify as introverts, so if you are one, we realize you may be thinking, Yeah, but I really can’t practice — I don’t want to practice — hospitality because I’m an introvert. It would be too draining. Please do not read this book thinking the message is, Force yourself to be an extrovert because of the gospel! Please don’t let your personality type be a barrier to living out a God-ordained calling that is actually tailor-made to suit your personality type.

Read More

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