June 25, 2020 / 0 551
by Jim Killam | 10-minute read
In this “everything but the kitchen sink” interview, Lead Pastor Luke Uran talks about adjusting to a unique season, the Ten Commandments sermon series, the national conversation on race, COVID-19 and gathering again for worship.
First, how are you?
I’m hanging in there. It’s been a whirlwind, going back to the beginning of the coronavirus and now obviously with the racial tension and divide that our country is facing. I think it has definitely affected everyone in one way or another. There is a heaviness to these days. It’s still taking some adjusting. Read More
by Kathy Holliday | 7-minute read
Sunday after Sunday, my dad and I sat in the last row of the church balcony, under the clock. As the organ swelled, we stood to sing hymns from a well-worn maroon hymnal. We always shared, and I remember my dad’s thumb, always on the lower righthand corner of the page.
As a young schoolgirl standing next to my dad, it didn’t occur to me to wonder why we always kept that weekly appointment. It was part of our weekly family rhythm. Years slipped by and eventually I started to question: Why do we keep coming? The hymns never change. What we hear never changes. What’s the point? Read More
by Jim Killam | 5-minute read
Periodically on the blog, we talk with a pastor to go deeper into the subject of a particular sermon. This week, in a two-part interview, we talk with Josh Pardee, Pastor of Congregational Life, about Part 3 of Love Walked Among Us. Here’s the second half of our conversation.
So, we’ve talked about some misguided thinking on all this. What are some right ways to think and process as we experience fear, uncertainty, suffering? What’s a way we can focus ourselves that doesn’t take us to these judgmental places?
One, understand that Jesus sits with us in that pain and suffering. He’s fully present to that. Two, know that he ultimately has victory in the long scheme of things, whether that happens in my physical life or on the other side of resurrection. He already has defeated sickness and this virus and even death itself. Then beyond that, this is where I think local community is so key. Because I sit with my brothers and sisters and I try to discern: God, where are you at work in this and what are you inviting me into? Read More
by Jim Killam | 8-minute read
Periodically on the blog, we talk with a pastor to go deeper into the subject of a particular sermon. This week, in a two-part interview, we talk with Josh Pardee, Pastor of Congregational Life, about Part 3 of Love Walked Among Us. Here’s the first half of our conversation.
Can we start by tackling the prevailing assumption that when bad things happen, it’s God’s judgment? Where does that come from? Is it biblical?
A lot of it probably comes from the psyche of the law in the Old Testament. It’s blessing and cursing … If you do this, then I’ll do that. In Luke 13, Jesus references the tower in Siloam and says the people who died in that tragedy were no guiltier than anyone else.
To me, there is a direct correlation between living a life contrary to the ways of God and suffering the consequences. Like, if I don’t tell the truth in my relationship with my kids or my spouse or my employer, that’s going to eventually lead to mistrust and probably devastation. Sometimes, there are also demonic influences that are trying to lead us down the path of death and destruction. Read More
by Jim Killam | 7-minute read
As we look forward to Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we spoke with Lead Pastor Luke Uran about what it’s like to be a pastor in this most unusual season.
I mean this beyond the superficial greeting: How are you doing?
We have good days and bad days. There is a certain amount of grief and loss. Some of the freedoms that we love, we miss. Jessi and I were just talking about this. We are in this posture of: What is God trying to teach us in this? I’m not one who says there’s a lesson in everything or who tries to over-spiritualize things. However, there are a lot of things that God is teaching us in this. He is teaching us the preciousness of being able to meet together as the church, in a physical sense. For us, we are living differently than we have ever lived before in our lives. Community in a person-to-person, physical sense has completely changed. Read More
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
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
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
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.
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