It is a wonderful blessing to know that the work that the Lord does at Cottonwood Creek Church touches so many lives. Some of those lives are on the other side of the world. Meet Ellen, a dedicated follower of Christ and one of our many viewers online.
Ellen has been living in Germany for the past forty years, although she has family residing in Allen, Texas. She has been a believer in Jesus since she was fourteen years old. Although she loves and follows God, living in a fallen world had caused her to walk a “crooked path”. However in the past few months, God had been speaking to her in many different ways, most prominently through Cottonwood Creek Church.
Ellen says she felt “desperate to find good preaching… and was very hungry for God’s Word.” That lead her to searching online where she found Cottonwood Creek Church’s website. She was excited to see that there were already a plethora of sermons prerecorded and she began downloading and listening to them. She then realized that Cottonwood offered online services which led her to “faithfully watching” them every weekend. “Pastor John Mark is a wonderful pastor. He explains everything so very well in simple terms. It makes me hungry for more… I can’t explain how blessed I feel having found Cottonwood and how blessed I feel having the Lord.”
The main quality that Ellen says Cottonwood Creek Church exemplifies is true, genuine love. Whether it be the topics of the sermons or the activities that the church puts together, she thinks the Cottonwood family has been true sowers of the seed. Ellen is completely grateful to be a part of the Cottonwood Creek family, even by just watching it online. She says, “I can’t stop watching. I can’t stop getting enough of God’s Word because of your church.”
Ellen has been extremely touched by different testimonies from Cottonwood Creek. One particular testimony struck her heart, however: Gail Williams. “Her testimony, I watched over and over again because it touched my heart. It talked to me directly in having the same kind of hardships… if she can get past her struggles with the Lord Jesus Christ’s help, so can I.”
Ellen says that loving and following the Lord has been the simplest thing to do. “What greater love do you need to see? Jesus loves you and your life can be so easy having faith in someone who loves you so very much. Life is so much easier and you’re blessed. Even though you have struggles… you’re going to have peace.” Because of this revelation, Ellen praises the Lord fervently and calls Him her Beloved Prince of Peace.
During this time, Ellen truly felt the call to show her obedience and faithfulness to the Lord through baptism. She was blessed with that opportunity just a few months later in December 2016 at Cottonwood Creek Church.
Ellen knows that even though she is only one person all the way in Germany who watches online, she still feels drawn to Cottonwood Creek. She says she would love to listen to the live music and live sermons and be a part of the congregation in person. “I want everyone to know how truly blessed you guys are to be able to physically come to a church like this and be able to hear good messages of God’s Word and music and praise to the Lord Jesus. I don’t know how to express enough how blessed I think you guys really are and I hope you guys know that.”
IGNITE Week 2017 was a huge success! Over 500 Cottonwood Creek volunteers cared for our community by serving with 22 local organizations and ministries. We ministered to the homeless, fatherless, impoverished, disabled, immigrants, and children.
We have so many opportunities to serve our community going forward! We want to IGNITE you to continue showing the love of Christ in your community by getting plugged into a local ministry.
Follow this link to find your own OnMission opportunity:
When I first saw the trailer for the movie The Shack, I rolled my eyes and muttered under my breath, “Oh brother. Not again.” For those who aren’t familiar, this movie is based on the 2007 best-selling book by William P. Young. The Shack is a theodicy: Through a fictional story, the book attempts to answer the question that if God is good, loving and all-powerful, why do pain and suffering exist?
At first glance, The Shack sounds like a good book. But the book has been controversial since its release, largely centered around whether it presents a heretical view of the Trinity and salvation. As expected, several people began blasting the new movie for promoting false doctrine, and rightly so. There are MANY theological problems that come out of the story. But this is not the focus of this post.
The focus lies in the shift of my attitude. I began to reflect on the implications of this book becoming a movie and God worked on my heart. Rather than purely discarding it as heresy, I began to see it as a potential opportunity. So, a few weeks ago, I went to a pre-screening of the movie.
I want to submit to you a few reasons why and how believers should see The Shack:
- Why should you see The Shack? It opens the conversation.
1 Corinthians 9:22b-23, I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Whether we want to admit it or not, this movie will be seen by millions of people. These millions of people will see a fictional representation of God interact with a man who is questioning God’s existence/purpose/goodness during unspeakable tragedy. The goal of this movie is to give God credence, not to discredit Him.
God is depicted as love. He is caring for and pursuing Mack (the main character) after his daughter was murdered. God is relentless, persistent, forgiving, and relational. From man’s perspective, Mack walks through the stages of intense grief with God’s help.
These are “broad brush stroke” themes, but they are present. In the book, I was quicker to downplay these broader themes because of the various problems in the details. But as a movie, the potential audience has grown and the opportunity to “open the conversation” has expanded.
What I mean by “opening the conversation” is that The Shack opens the door for gospel conversations. Many people will watch this movie and resonate with Mack. Maybe they have experienced a tragedy or have gone through a season of pain and suffering. We can all identify with a broken world. Why? Because we have ALL been created in the image of God and sin distorted that image. We are always wanting to get back to God’s design.
I believe that we can use what Hollywood has put together as an open door to share The Good News of Jesus.
- How should you see The Shack? We should build the conversation.
1 Corinthians 2:2-5, For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
We should watch this movie critically. This is not critical in the sense of only negative, this is critical in the sense of analyzing and processing various themes as they interact with Scripture. We must see The Shack as the open door, not the path to our destination.
There are many problematic statements from the characters that are more aligned with sentiment than Biblical truth. Let me give you a few critical questions you need to ask as you watch the movie:
What does the movie communicate versus what does Scripture say about…
- The depictions of God and the Trinity?
- God’s presence in the midst of tragedy?
- God’s wrath, judgement, and hell?
- Redemption, reconciliation, and salvation?
- Love, joy and fulfillment?
There are many more questions that need to be addressed, but this will hopefully direct you on the path of critical engagement. This process should lead you to hold onto the truth that is found in the movie and use that as a spring board into the full truth of the gospel through God’s Word. The Shack opens the conversation, and critical engagement lets us build the conversation around Scripture and not the movie.
- What should you do after you see The Shack? Engage in the Conversation.
1 Corinthians 9:16-17, For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship.
I can remember the first time I played softball. Up until that point, I had only played baseball, so I was accustomed to a faster pitch. My first swing at my first at bat, I swung almost two seconds early and completely missed the ball. After that, I realized that I was making this game too hard. I slowed down and adjusted.
This is the way I feel about The Shack. It is a lobbed softball coming down the plate and we have an opportunity to hit the ball. If we try too hard, we’ll miss the opportunity. We’ll either completely embrace the story and miss the true gospel, or we will completely discredit the story and miss the opportunity to share the gospel. We can’t overthink it. My prayer is that we use this story to stir up meaningful questions and address them with Biblical truth.
At the end of the prescreening I attended, Brad Cummings came out and addressed our theatre. Cummings is one of the producers for the movie and worked with Young on the book. He told the story of shooting this movie in the Hollywood setting. He said he was amazed by how many non-believers would work on such an explicitly “religious” movie trying to answer the question: “What if there is a God who loves you?”
Then, in his last few comments he said, “Over our 38 days of shooting, we led six people to the Lord… Pray for this movie.” I think there is an appropriate way to approach this movie. May we use it to open conversations that would allow for the Biblical truth of the gospel.
 You can find a list of articles that address many of the theological problems here:
The Shack: Helpful or Heretical, by Norman Geisler and Bill Roach
The Shack – The Missing Art of Evangelical Discernment, by Albert Mohler
“The Shack” Review, by Tim Challies
The Shack – Impressions, by Tim Keller
Do you have questions about heaven?
Why does or why should Heaven matter to us? Pastor John Mark talks about the important role Heaven plays in the life of a Christian and why it is so important. Do you have questions about heaven?Text them to Pastor John Mark: Text QUESTIONS to 77978.