Sponsor a Runner for Our 2nd Annual 5k

by FCS on

Nothing bonds people together like sweating together or eating together. We’re going to do both in one day! Early in the morning on October 27th, a group of neighbors will be running and walking just over three miles in support of FCS during the Generosity Series’ 2nd Annual Fun Run.

All funds will go directly toward FCS’ community development initiatives. Fresh on our minds, though, will be Jeff Delp’s reflections on the relationship between economic development and walkability. We see this 5k event as a chance to remember how much fun it is to enjoy an urban environment on foot with friends. The event will feature a DJ, prizes (like the fundraising superhero announcement!), and hot coffee for friends manning tables. 

You’re welcome to come and walk or run with us! If you’d rather be asleep at 7:30am on Saturday, consider sponsoring one of our runners. In the past, we’ve seen the likes of Jeff Delp, Katie Delp, Shawn Duncan (who placed second overall last year), and even the whole Woodson Clan. Don’t worry about too much trash talk, the intra-office competition remains friendly!

Thank you for participating in our work of building a thriving community in Historic South Atlanta. 



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Neighboring 101

by Bob Lupton on

A young man interlaces his fingers over an open Bible.

A young man interlaces his fingers over an open Bible.

Some time back, I was invited to speak at a conservative Bible college known for its high view of scripture. The occasion was "urban emphasis" week and I was a keynote speaker. The most enjoyable part of my time on campus was interacting in the classroom with bright young students who had many insightful questions about ministry in the city.

During one of those lively discussions with a group of upper-classmen, I posed a question. "What is the number one mandate for Christians?" I asked them.

"Evangelize!" came the immediate and emphatic response.

I pushed them a little harder: "But what did Christ say was top priority for His followers?"

"Make disciples," they responded with some confidence.

"I know that evangelizing and making disciples is important", I agreed, "but what did Christ actually say was that most important mandate for His followers?"

After a moment or two of reflective silence, a student in the back of the room ventured a hesitant response: "You mean 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’?” The student’s King James quote was precise. Another student added, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

"Absolutely," I agreed, "that's exactly what our Lord said was the greatest command, didn't He?" There seemed to be general consensus. "Given that the Bible clearly declares this to be our number one mandate,” I continued, “I’m wondering what courses you have here at this college on loving neighbor? I know you have an entire department of evangelism. Who teaches Neighboring 101?"

There was an uncomfortable silence as the implications of my question began to sink in. One of the students finally admitted, "We don't have any courses on neighboring."

"You’re kidding!” I expressed my disbelief. “The biblical mandate so crucial that all the rest of scripture hangs on it and you don’t have a single course on it? Then this Bible college is just not biblical enough!"

The stunned expressions their faces led me to suspect that I had crossed a line. By then it was too late. So I waded ahead. “If you’re going to be biblical, you cannot skip over the greatest command on your way to fulfilling the great commission. The Great Command is a theological bedrock. A Christian training institute that ignores what Christ declares to be ‘the essential’ command can hardly be considered Biblically faithful.”

Word would soon reach the faculty and administration about my heretical remarks. Oh well, I might as well enjoy the banter while it lasted. A sharp young theology student took up the challenge. "Do you believe in a literal heaven and a literal hell?"

I knew the reasoning behind his question. If I believed that either eternal paradise or eternal damnation awaits every person after death, then the most loving act is to share the Gospel with as many people as possible, saving them from everlasting destruction. Evangelism, then, fulfills the Great Command’s mandate to love one’s neighbor. It's a persuasive argument. The problem, of course, is that such thinking inevitably leads to viewing neighbors as souls rather than people. And when we opt for rescuing disembodied souls over investing in loving human relationships, compassion can soon degenerate into evangelism techniques. The joys and sorrows of daily human life fade in importance - souls become the only thing worth caring about. Thus, the Good Samaritan story that Christ told to illustrate the Great-Command-in-action becomes irrelevant unless the victim in the story experiences a spiritual conversion.

"I can see you have your theology buttoned down well," I admitted to the young theologian-in-training. "But I think the more important question is: 'What did Christ actually say we should be about?'"

I have not been invited back.

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Michelle Witherspoon: An Old Friend Becomes a New Team Member

by FCS on

Michelle and her two daughters at Camp Grace 2019

Michelle and her two daughters at Camp Grace 2019

We are excited to announce that we are receiving Michelle Witherspoon, formerly of Remerge, to our staff team as the Youth Development Coordinator. With her, she brings the South Atlanta Youth Group under our umbrella. Michelle is a longtime neighbor and friend, we’ve partnered with Remerge for years and have been aligned missionally. Alongside Remerge, we’ve decided strategically to bring Michelle and her youth programming under FCS. We’re thrilled to see our long-standing partnership with Remerge and Michelle bloom into a new branch of our organization!

Michelle arrived on the South Atlanta scene about nine years ago, when the South Atlanta Youth Group was already in full swing. Initially, Donna Barber led the group as the youth engagement arm of the Community Life Fellowship Church. Her son, Joel Barber, still serves as a leader for the group. The Youth Group, a place for young neighbors to bond, gather, and learn, offered a rich space for community-building. Some youths have been faithfully coming since they were eight years old! Michelle served as a volunteer for about four years before, as the church transitioned, she was asked to assume the leadership. 

Currently, about forty-five kids between the ages of eight and fifteen traipse into youth group every Wednesday night. They spend the first part of the evening unleashing their energy into games and mobile activities. “I think it’s really important to honor the fact that kids need movement,” Michelle says. After working up a sweat, the kids eat a meal together, and then break off into two groups for a collaborative learning time. Usually this learning involves scripture study, discussing a topic, or simply a time when youths share what’s going on in their lives and encourage each other. 

“The lens I have is family,” Michelle remarks, “I believe in the family of God. We have to live into being family together, honoring each other, and treating each other that way. That means we eat together, play together, and celebrate together as we learn about God. These are the things we do one Wednesday night on the regular.” 

Michelle protects this family dynamic, and mindfully cultivates a sense of ownership in the group. “When people offer to make food for our group, we welcome the meal and the guest, but we ask for guests to assume a posture of letting the youth group members host them,” she shares. The kids serve the guest and clean up after them. 

“It would be weird for you to come to my house, cook me dinner, and clean up after me,” she says with a wry smile, “we don’t want to do that, either. It’s the kids’ space. We welcome people to join, but we want to do it in a way that honors the dignity and integrity of the group.” 

When she thinks about this organizational transition, Michelle notes, “I have loved the fabric and DNA of Remerge, which is all about joining lives and being curious about how our lives connect with people different than us. I’m really thankful for my time there and for the leadership I’ve experienced. I think it’s similar DNA to FCS.” She paused, switching into thinking about the future shift. “I’m really excited about the hyper-local focus of FCS. It’s this nine-block radius. We can just hone in and work together for this area.” 

Beyond the organization behind the work, Michelle prioritizes the relationships she’s gotten to build with the members of the youth group. “They inspire me,” she says, “they remind me that it’s worth taking the risk of trusting someone who’s different than you. They show me what resilience looks like, and that there’s beauty in innocence and undying hope.” 

We are grateful for the many hands who have incubated and cared for the South Atlanta Youth Group over the years. We’re eager to receive this tiny, beloved community and steward it under Michelle’s attentive leadership. 

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