PH: (231) 946-9451

Operation Christmas Child 2018

We’ll be assembling shoe boxes this fall and here’s how you can help …

  1. Purchase items and drop them off in the OCC collection box in the lobby
  2. Pack your own box and drop it off at the church (boxes will be available starting in November)
  3. Donate toward shipping costs, $9 per box

Curious as to what you should purchase or pack. Packing lists are available by the collection box in the lobby and also at

Posted in Blog

Youth Ministry kicks off Wednesday, September 12

Join us on Wednesday, September 12 from 5:30-7:30 pm for a cookout, 4 Square In The Air, and a scavenger hunt. All youth in the 4th-12th grades are invited to attend. Bring a friend!

Starting the following Wednesday, we will have weekly programming for 4th-5th graders and 6th-12th graders from 6 – 7:30 pm, with the youth room open from 5:30-8 pm.

Posted in Blog

2018 Women’s Fall Retreat: October 19-20

Mark your calendars now! Join us at the Waldheim Lodge on Old Mission Peninsula. It’s guaranteed to be a fun, reflective, Holy Spirit-filled retreat. Cost is $15 per participant and there will be a sign-up in the church lobby for items to bring for dinner and breakfast.  Our speaker this year is JaLaura Riness. More details are coming soon! October 19, 6 PM – October 20, noon.

Posted in Blog

New Apprentice Series starting in January 2018!

Too often Christians may experience a changed mind about God, or even a changed heart toward God, without having a changed life with God. Where is the breakdown between belief and discipleship? Why isn’t the transformative power of the gospel more apparent in the daily workings of our lives?


James Bryan Smith believes the gospel is about change in our lives today, not just our eternal destiny. In his Apprentice Series, he aims to help Christians develop a robust discipleship by helping them understand who God is, what it means to be a Christian and what it means to live in community as a part of God’s kingdom. Throughout the series, which includes The Good and Beautiful GodThe Good and Beautiful Life and The Good and Beautiful Community, Smith helps us discard the flawed narratives of our hearts and replace them with the truths God reveals in his word about himself, the Christian life and his Church.


This series encourages you to read, journal, pray, discuss and participate in weekly spiritual exercises to help you engage with the text. As you work through the books individually (or more ideally in a group setting) you’ll discover your heart being shaped by the truth of Christ -and your life being changed.


If you are seeking the real transformation that comes from knowing the real God, the Apprentice series offers no simple formulas or secret paths of knowledge. Instead Smith offers the chance to be with Jesus and discover the narratives that he lived by. Get to know the God Jesus knew and the Kingdom he proclaimed. The transformation you seek will come as a direct result of spending focused time with him and his people.


Part 1: The Good & Beautiful God, January – March 2018
Part 2: The Good & Beautiful Life, September – November 2018
Part 3: The Good & Beautiful Community, January – March 2019


Registration information will be coming later this fall!
Posted in Blog Spiritual Formation

Fall Women’s Retreat

Finding Joy
God is light and in him is no darkness at all 1 John 1:5
Guest Speaker Crystal Larson
6:00 pm Friday – Noon Saturday
Waldheim Lodge
1429 Bayview Ave, Traverse City
$15 registration fee includes dinner, brunch, and lodging
$7.50 for either Friday evening or Saturday morning
Coffee and Tea provided, bring non-alcoholic drinks to share
Scholarships are available
An additional love offering will be taken for the speaker
Bring bedding, pillow, towel, washcloth, and toiletries
RSVP to the Church office at 946-9451 or sign up at the Welcome Table in the lobby
Need transportation? The car pool will be departing the church at 5:30 pm sharp
Saturday, Noon-2:00 pm
Nature Walk (weather permitting) or relax by the fire
Posted in Blog Personal Growth Spiritual Formation

Church merger: an update

As you may know, we are in the process of considering the request of Peninsula Bible Church to merge with us. The boards from both churches have met together twice, and the two boards, church staff, and merger teams met last Friday evening for a relaxed meal getting to know one another. The merger teams from both churches are now working together as they look closely at the three areas of culture, facility, and finances.
On Sunday, April 17, pastor Jeff will be preaching at Peninsula Bible Church, so Pastor John Sowash from PBC will be preaching at Christ Church. Then, on Sunday, April 24, Peninsula Bible Church will be joining us for worship at Christ Church with Pastor Jeff preaching.
Remember, ultimately the question we must answer is, “Are we better together?” Can we engage in WORSHIP, WORD, and WITNESS better together than we can apart? If the answer to that question is, “Yes!,” then we’ll figure out how to make the details work. And remember, neither the core identity nor the pastoral leadership of Christ Church will be changing. Please join me in prayer daily over the next few weeks as we seek to discern the path God is laying before us. May the prayer of the people of both churches be, “God, what might you be doing here? Are we truly better together?”
Posted in Blog Church Merger

Church merger update

As you may know, we are in the process of considering the request of Peninsula Bible Church to merge with us. The boards from both churches met together for the first time on Saturday, March 5. At that time, we outlined the process that we would be going through over ensuing two months.
In addition to the boards from both churches looking at the possibilities and challenges inherent in a merger, we have formed a team of four people from each church to consider, independently of our board, the possible merger. The focus of their work will be on three areas: the cultures of the two churches, facility, and finances. The representatives from Christ Church are Frank Stoll, Jim Keely, Jamie Schichtel, and Lew Farrell. These four people will meet with the Christ Church elders later this spring to share their thoughts and recommendations about the merger. We are also pursuing both an inspection and an appraisal of the Peninsula Bible Church facility. Then we will be scheduling a congregational meeting (date to be determined) after worship during which we will be sharing our findings and recommendation and giving you the opportunity to ask any questions you may have at that time. Because we are a pastor and elder-led church, there will be no congregational vote on a merger, but we will be taking a poll of the people present at that meeting. We want to hear from you! Feel free to ask questions of Pastor Jeff, Wayne Swallow, Gregg Law or one of the team members at any time.
Remember, ultimately the question we must answer is, “Are we better together?” Can we engage in WORSHIP, WORD, and WITNESS better together than we can apart? If the answer to that question is, “Yes!,” then we’ll figure out how to make the details work. And remember, the neither the core identity nor the pastoral leadership of Christ Church will be changing. We are dedicating the entire prayer gathering on April 6 from 6-7 pm to the potential merger. So join us in prayer there, and join me in prayer daily over the next few weeks as we seek to discern the path God is laying before us. May the prayer of the people of both churches be, “God, what might you be doing here? Are we truly better together?”
Posted in Blog Church Merger

Are we better together?

If you’ve been in worship recently, chances are you’ve heard that another church in town, Peninsula Bible Church, has approached us about the possibility of becoming a part of Christ Church of Traverse City. Church mergers are fairly common, but we certainly weren’t out looking for one.
Since they first approached us in January, my heart and mind have consistently been filled with a single, very simple prayer: “God, what might you be doing here?”
Let me be very clear: we haven’t committed to anything yet, but we are taking an honest look at the possibility. The elders and I have discussed the potential merger at some length, and we’ve met as a board with their board. People from PBC attend worship at Christ Church almost every weekend, and people from Christ Church have begun attending worship at PBC so that we begin to get a feel for one another. Our Wednesday morning men’s prayer breakfast has also extended an invitation to any PBC men who might like to attend. A team has been formed consisting of four people from our congregation and four people from Peninsula Bible Church to look at their fit with us, focusing on three areas: culture, finances, and facility.The people of Peninsula Bible Church do own their own building, and if the merger were to go through, we would move to that building, located at the corner of Fair St. and Titus Ave., adjacent to the Grand Traverse County Civic Center. The identity of Christ Church would not change. Nor would the pastoral leadership.
Ultimately, the question we must answer is, “Are we better together?” Can we engage in WORSHIP, WORD, and WITNESS better together than the two churches can apart? If the answer to that question is “Yes!,” then we’ll figure out how to make the details work. Peninsula Bible Church is a wonderful church with a long history of effective outreach in our city. We already partner with them in serving a free community meal to the poor and homeless every Saturday night. They also have a food pantry that has about 8,000 visits per year! In fact, the reach of their outreach has far surpassed the ability of their congregation to keep up with it! And we have vibrant children’s and youth ministries that are actually much larger than one would expect for a church of our size. The possibilities for real engagement with our community from that location are virtually limitless.
In late April or early May we will have a meeting after worship to answer any questions you might have, although you are welcome to talk to me or to any of the elders at any time. We’ll also be taking a poll of the congregation at that meeting, and then the elders will make a decision in early May. If we decide to welcome Peninsula Bible Church into the Christ Church family, the transition would happen over the summer. I’d like to invite you to spend the next 6 weeks in prayer with me as we seek to discern what path God is laying before us. May our united prayer be, “God, what might you be doing here? Are we truly better together?”
Posted in Blog Church Merger

Situations of Great Adversity

As I think about the people who are a part of Christ Church I think about all of the reasons people are here. Many are here because of relationships with someone in this congregation. Some are here because they’ve heard about us through the grapevine and want to see what we are about. And many are here because they come out of situations of great adversity.


It’s no secret that Christ Church is a church born of adversity. Many, if not most, of our initial attenders are good people hurt and confused by things that happened in other settings. When it became clear that, perhaps to the surprise of some, I was going to be the lead pastor of Christ Church, I made two things very clear. First I said was that CHRIST CHURCH WILL NOT BE A REACTIONARY CHURCH. And I stand by that statement to this day. We are not a church with a chip on our shoulder. But we knew that people would be coming to this church carrying with them a wide variety of emotions. And we knew that along with great sadness and deep hurt and confusion, we would have some people who were, and maybe still are, angry. Our goal is that Christ Church be a place of healing. We want you to know that whatever experiences, hurts, and emotions you are carrying from your past with your family, your friends, even a past church, you are welcome here. You can heal here. But those emotions, particularly anger, which can lead to a “let’s show them” attitude, will not influence the direction of our church.We want you to know, clearly, that anger will not serve as a foundation for this church, and I will be doing everything in my power to help anyone who needs the help to process their hurt and anger, integrate their experiences from the past, and move forward.


And second: CHRIST CHURCH WILL NOT LOOK LIKE VERY MANY OTHER CHURCHES IN OUR COMMUNITY. Yes, we have worship services, and we preach the word of God clearly, and we have small groups and Bible studies. But as we move forward and develop, we’re going to be doing things that feel unfamiliar to those who have been in the church for the last 30 or so years. We are not a program-oriented church. We are a people-oriented church.


So what are we moving forward into? What is the future God has for us? We’ve just been through a major transition 10½ months ago, and now another one, with a teaching pastor moving on, may have some people on edge, frightened, or frustrated. And I’ve been studying counseling and am almost done with this second master’s degree. So what if pastor Jeff leaves too? Maybe we need a consultant some might be thinking. We don’t want to think about having to find another church again so soon. Things seem shaky. The good news is that God does some of his finest work when we feel like we’re on shaky ground. In fact, we’re going to be looking at some of those situations in the coming weeks and months. But let me put some of your fears to rest, and give you another glimpse into the future of Christ Church, understanding that we ARE Christ Church, and our future is ultimately in his hands. For starters, I’m not going anywhere. Now, will the day come when I decide to move full-time into counseling practice? Probably … as it turns out, I’m pretty good at it. At least, that’s what my clients and supervisors have said. But for now I’m staying right here. And if and when God allows me to move in that direction, Christ Church will be more than ready. This church will never find itself without a shepherd, even if I need to start a private practice early to ease financial burdens for the church.



Speaking at Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit, that year, Bill Hybels summarized the findings of a study of Willow Creek  this way: “Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back, it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.  He called this research “the wake-up call” of his adult life. Hybels confesses: “We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become “self-feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own. In other words, spiritual growth doesn’t happen best by becoming dependent on elaborate church programs but through the age old spiritual practices of prayer, bible reading, and relationships. And, ironically, these basic disciplines do not require multi-million dollar facilities and hundreds of staff to manage.”


Folks, my goal is not to build the next “greatest thing” in Traverse City, to be the next church that all of the already churched people in our community flock to. We aren’t going to spend tens of thousands of dollars to hire consultants who know nothing about our community to come in and tell us what we should be doing. When I read my Bible, is the call of Christ “Go and make disciples,” and is the heart of most churches, large and small. So what are we going to do? We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing. And we’ve got the research to back that approach.


Smaller is better these days, churches are finding. For years, churches have used metrics like numbers of people in attendance, numbers of people in small groups, budget size, and building size to determine effectiveness. In fact, if I were to survey this congregation today, I’ll bet there’d be some people in here who wonder why we aren’t already up to 200 attenders. Boy, wouldn’t it be great to be able to say, “Yeah, we showed you! Look at how fast we’ve grown already!” Ah, but remember, bitterness and anger aren’t going to influence our direction … Christ is. This is Christ Church.


So as we look to the future, we’re going to look at cutting edge trends now, and “smaller is better” is one of those trends, as churches struggle to figure out and reach the largest generation in American history … a generation that right now is largely not attending church anywhere this morning. Now I know that not every member of any generation perfectly fits the composite that comes from generational research. But the components of that composite picture of a generation grow out of the fact that there really are traits that are more common in one generation than another. Tom Rainer is a church researcher and blogger who has done a lot of research with thousands upon thousands of people currently in their 20s and 30s, and these are some of the things he and his research teams are finding: that they tend to be attracted to smaller, more intimate venues, that they would rather see culture as something to influence rather than an enemy to be avoided, that they prefer to cooperate with other churches in their communities, that they tend to abhor worship wars over music style.


So here’s what we are already doing. We already have our first class of participants about ready to finish their participation in the Apprentice series, which is a partnership between Grace Episcopal Church, Feast of Victory Lutheran Church, Christ Church of Traverse City, and First Congregational in which small groups of 12 participants or so, including participants from more than one of the churches, under the leadership of trained lay leaders, walk through three books designed to help followers of Christ learn how to practice the spiritual disciplines. And we’ll be launching a new series shortly after the new year! By the way, the first spiritual discipline, and I’m not joking about this at all, is sleep. That’s how I talked the already way overbooked Gregg Law into going through leader training for Apprentice.


And we have our two annual within-church small group campaigns. And those groups won’t ever be broken down by demographics or similar likes. Do you have any idea how boring it is to sit around with a group of people who are all in the same life stage and situation as you are, with all of the same perspectives and ideas? Not to mention how frustrating it is to have a small group of young parents doing a study on how to keep your marriage alive in the early years of parenting, with everyone looking around the room  knowing, all these people are just as busy and sleep-deprived as we are. There’s no way we’ll find someone to babysit our kids so we can go out on a date regularly in this group. But what if each small group had some young parents alongside some more experienced parents and even some grandmas and grandpas willing to babysit every once in a while. Talk about a small group suddenly becoming a blessing instead of a burden. And imagine the more lively discussions as people from differing perspectives, divorcees and long-time marrieds, young and old, singles and retirees, all join together. How much more fun is that?


And we’re going to keep straddling that line that divides so many churches … the worship music line. You see, we believe that a body, and that’s one of the biblical images for the church, is not a bunch of parts that all look, act, think the same, or even like the same things. We believe the body is supposed to be a diverse group of parts working together under a single head, and that head is Christ. And that requires emotional maturity. That requires being able to die to yourself and learn to sing some old songs, or maybe some new songs. Folks, the altar of personal preference, which is just another version of selfishness and pride, has to die. It has no place in Christ Church. And let’s be honest, if we were doing things by the book …. Following one of the dozens of church planting models out there, with the capabilities of the men and women who lead us in worship every week, we would have come out of the gates rocking and just let the horses run. But I made a decision early on that we weren’t going to do that. There were too many really special people in my life who really like to sing hymns. And guess what … so do I. So we decided to toe this line between contemporary and liturgical, and we will continue to do so. I told the others … if you want just another church, I’m not your man. I said “no” when Dr. Walls said I needed to lead this church more than once. And besides … the really great church, large and small, never follow the guide book. They follow Christ. I mean who starts a church when they’ve been a Christian for just five years with absolutely no theological training of any sort? That doesn’t follow any guide book. But that’s exactly what Bill Hybels did … at 22 years of age, and a Christian five years young, and Willow Creek was born. No, the really great churches never follow the guide book … they follow Christ.


I hope to see you soon!


Pastor Jeff

Lead Pastor

Posted in Blog