This past Sunday, Creekstone was formally “particularized” as an organized, self-governing congregation in the PCA. It was a day of much rejoicing and celebrating, as it should have been. However, Bob Cargo, who was supposed to deliver the sermon, was sick and unable to join us. In lieu of his message, I was tasked with making some comments concerning the occasion. It really wasn’t difficult, as there was already so much in my heart that I was ready to share. So, in case you, like Bob, were providentially hindered from being present, here is the transcript of my comments on Creekstone’s Particularization Sunday.
That song we just sang echoes the heart of Creekstone Church. It echoes what we want the world to know, what we want Dahlonega to know, and what we want you to know. “There’s a place where sin and shame are powerless, Where my heart has peace with God and forgiveness through the person and work of Jesus.” This is what we want for adults, college students, our youth and our children.
In fact, we have a ministry dedicated to seeing children come alive to the wonder of the gospel. That ministry is called GradeKids, and any children through 5th grade who would like to attend GraceKids are free to be dismissed at this time.
During the welcome, Jerry Schriver, a Teaching Elder at Perimeter Church, explained that today is a unique service. Jerry and three other elders have been commissioned by the Metro Atlanta Presbytery to “particularize” Creekstone as a self-governing congregation by ordaining and installing elders and by installing an organizing pastor. Along with Jerry, we are grateful to have with us Dave Vogelpohl, a Ruling Elder at Gracepointe Church in North Forsyth County, and Kipper Tabb, a Ruling Elder at Perimeter Church. The other commissioner is Bob Cargo, the Director of Church Planting at Perimeter, who has served as my church planting supervisor for the past six plus years, and without whom, we probably would not have made it to this day. Bob was planning to preach for us today; however, he has come down with a nasty stomach bug and, sadly, is unable to be here. Nevertheless, he deserves a tremendous amount of thanks not only from me, but from the entire Creekstone church family. The same goes for my church planting coach, Alan Foster, who is a member of Georgia Foothills Presbytery, and will be delivering a charge to the congregation, to our elders and to me in just a bit. So, Jerry, Dave, Kipper, and Alan, thank you for serving us today and celebrating with us!
My name, by the way, is McKay, and I would like to also thank you for coming out to such a special and significant moment in the life of Creekstone Church. If you have a Bible, feel free to turn to Acts 20. As a church planter, you wonder, “Will this day ever arrive?” Well, it has arrived, and I can’t tell you how overjoyed and thankful I am.
When my family and I moved to Dahlonega on July 25 of 2009 to start a new church, we didn’t have a name for the church. We didn’t know the faces of people who’d be part of the church. We simply arrived with a dream – a dream to see a community established where the grace of God in Jesus was the defining truth of our lives.
Today, that dream has become a reality. But we should emphasize that the realization of this dream is the result of God’s faithfulness in bringing together a community of people committed to the same dream. Being part of a church plant is a sacrifice. It takes an “I am here to give and to serve” attitude. The teachers who just took our children to their GraceKids classes are a perfect example. So are the folks who show up early on Sundays to set up the high school into a worship environment, those who host and lead our home fellowship groups, those who help with youth, who serve in the nursery, those who lead discipleship groups for men and women, and others who give in so many ways. And of course there is our stage crew, our musicians and tech folks, staff and various team leaders who are listed in your bulletin, many of whom have been working diligently on the celebration party that will take place immediately after the service.
Although time prohibits me mentioning each of you by name, there are a few names I will mention. One is my wife, Kristy. Three others include my children, Ann Ferris, Schaeffer and Sarah Wynn. Without their support and commitment, Creekstone would not exist. They have seen me at my worst, and have extended to me the kind of grace that I often only talk about, but fail to embrace with my whole heart. But through their embrace of me, God’s love has become tangible and transformative, empowering me to keep walking by faith in God’s grace to me, as he has shown it through my family.
In addition to my family, to those of you who call and have called Creekstone home, thank you all for allowing me the privilege of pursuing with you our one, overarching, focused mission, which has been and still is “to glorify God by helping people come alive to the wonder of the gospel… all to the praise of God’s glorious grace!
In our inquirer’s class, Creekstone 101, I tell the story about when I first visited Dahlonega. It was a beautiful day much like today. We drove up GA 400 and turned left on Highway 60. I couldn’t believe that Dahlonega was a town not only where a river runs through it, but also a town that was surrounded by one of the most beautiful mountain panoramas I’d ever seen. You’ve experienced this, maybe even this morning. Just as you crest Crown Mountain and prepare to make your descent into town, you can’t miss it. The panorama is utterly stunning – captivating. The beauty of the rolling mountains, with the allure of trails and creeks and scenic views, all I wanted to do upon that first glimpse of the Blue Ridge was to drive up into those mountains and explore.
In that moment, I realized… THAT is what I wanted for a church. To view the glory God’s grace in Jesus, like the glory of that mountain panorama, and for it never to become ordinary or familiar. Just like I never wanted to take the beauty of the mountains for granted, I wanted to lead a church that never took the beauty of the gospel for granted, because just like the mountains call us to explore, the gospel does the same thing. It calls us to explore more deeply and enjoy more personally all of the beauty and wonder that is God’s grace.
That experience dovetails perfectly into a passage in the Book of Acts that would establish Creekstone theologically and missionally. This passage in Acts 20 describes Paul’s personal mission statement – a statement that I eventually would adopt as my own and establish as the driving purpose of Creekstone Church. In Acts 20, Paul is about to leave his friends in the city of Ephesus, where he started a church and remained for over three years. But now he has sensed a call to minister the gospel in Jerusalem. In v. 22 he said to them, “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.” That is how I felt about Dahlonega. Before receiving a call to serve as a church planting resident at Perimeter Church in Johns Creek, I had never heard of “Dah-lon-ega.” Those of you who know the story are aware that as a church planting resident, I was given the opportunity to research a church planting location anywhere north of I-20, as it runs from Alabama to South Carolina through Atlanta. I looked at two dozen communities, but kept spending all of my free time up in a small college town just north of the suburbs – a town I had been told was too small for a new church. But over time, I felt a strange draw to that place, like Paul, compelled by the Spirit, to go there… to come here. To plant roots here. To live the gospel here. And so, back in 2009, my heart resonated with Paul’s in verse 22. “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Dahlonega.” Then in v… 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. Okay, so church planting has its challenges, but thankfully, no prison for me yet. When things get hard, I remember these words of Paul. Yet, the main verse for us as a church is v. 24, where Paul says, 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
This is why we moved to Dahlonega. Not primarily to establish an organization, but to testify to the good news of God’s grace in Jesus. And eventually, as more and more people came alive to the wonder of the gospel – a church began to grow.
This is why today’s particularization is a dream come true, and is why we now have a motto that flows from our mission. We say it all of the time, “Grace changes everything!” It’s not only a motto. We have seen God’s grace change us in real, personal, practical ways. In view of the cross, we are beginning to shed our fleshly, self-righteous moralism, and are living more and more as forgiven sinners who have received immeasurable mercy. This has changed our marriages, how we parent our children, how we respond to criticism and most of all, how we see ourselves before God. Because Jesus was condemned for us, we are no longer condemned enemies, but may live now and forever as fully forgiven, perfectly accepted and dearly loved sons and daughters of the Father. These are things worthy of the most glorious celebration!
Yet, as we celebrate this day, I want to remind us that this does not mean that we have arrived as a church. If you want an image for what today is, consider a rocket sitting on a launch pad. The clock is ticking down, 5– 4–3–2–1…
Today is not arrival. Today is liftoff! And I am convinced that the best days– the best days by far– are yet to come. So again, to those of you who have been part of this grace-movement called Creekstone from near or far, thank you for your prayers, for your financial support, your hands, feet and heart.
And yet our greatest thanks is to God. One way we give thanks to God is through giving. We give because we have received. We give in response to his giving to us the indescribable gift of Jesus. You see, the gospel tells us that ultimately God is the giver and we are the recipients – the recipients of inexhaustible, unfathomable grace.
So, as the offering baskets are passed, may God multiply our gifts for the benefit of the kingdom as he multiplies the influence of his grace in and among us.
Father, that is our prayer. On this special day, would you multiply the influence of your grace among us, for your glory and our joy. For having first received, we now give to the advance of the gospel in the name of Jesus. Amen.