Easter Highlights

We had an incredible Easter Sunday at Awaken as we celebrated our Triumphant King Jesus! God graced us with beautiful weather, record attendance, and a powerful move of His spirit as we saw lives changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ!

I’m so proud of our partners and volunteers. Easter was our first Sunday doing two services and they pulled it off like they’ve been doing it for years! Everything from set-up to tear-down ran smoothly. And, all that with a record number of adults and children in attendance and baptism after both services. Awesome job!

Over 30 people indicated they trusted Jesus as Savior! 5 of those immediately took the next step and were baptized on the spot. There were a couple of incredible stories:

  • During the first service, a mom and her two kids all trusted Jesus as Savior and were baptized following the service. The family was invited by one of our Partners who stayed with them the entire time and was absolutely overjoyed at what God did in their lives!
  • In the second service, a lady trusted Jesus as Savior and took the step to be baptized. Her husband and parents were with her and all were totally overjoyed. After the baptism, her parents told me with tears in their eyes how they have prayed for years for their daughter to trust Jesus as Savior and God answered their prayer on Sunday!
  • Between services, a man told me he trusted Jesus as Savior and wanted to be baptized after the second service. The cool thing about that is on Monday, he and his wife had their second child! A new Christian, baptized, and a dad again all in the span of a few hours – amazing!
  • Later on Easter afternoon, I talked with one of our AwakenKids elementary students and her parents. She trusted Jesus as Savior and after talking with her parents, she wanted to let me know. She kept saying over and over how the gospel became real to her on Sunday! Way to go parents and AwakenKids team!

All this week, we have heard story after story of people who were at Awaken on Sunday who have not been to church in years, if at all. With almost all of them, we’re hearing those same people say they can’t wait to come back this week. And, thanks to the initiative of some of our Community Group leaders, some of those who were with us for the first time on Easter have been invited to and are attending various Community Group gatherings over the next week or so. Win, win, win win!

I could go on and on. Suffice it to say that Easter was a game-changing day for Awaken Church. We saw our mission to make God’s name great through lives changed by the gospel of Jesus come to life. I can’t wait to see what’s next. I know this much already – the best is yet to come!

Somebody Invite Somebody

Anticipating is building for Easter at Awaken Church! I absolutely cannot wait to see how God moves as we gather to celebrate the Risen Jesus.

If studies are correct, then over 80% of your friends who are not Christians or do not attend church are at least open to and likely to respond favorably to your invitation to church for Easter Sunday. In anticipation of what God is going to do and to create more room to invite more people, Awaken will have two identical Easter services at 9:30 am and 11:00 am. It’s going to be a huge day!

A lot of you grabbed a stack of invite cards on Sunday and by the time you got home, the fear had already begun to set-in. What if they say no, what is they punch me in the face, what if they cuss me out, what if inviting them hurts our friendship…all these thoughts may have run through your head.

Let me encourage you to push out of your comfort zones and fight through the doubts to invite your friends to hear the gospel and worship Jesus on Sunday.

If you had free tickets for choice seats to see your favorite sports team, you would have no problem inviting people to join you. This is really no different…but it is because what Jesus has done for us is WAY more important than anything teenagers or grown men/women have ever done with a ball or a puck!

Here are some practical ways you can invite friends to Easter at Awaken:

  1. Pray for people by name  each day. Trust that God is already at work in their lives. Ask Him to soften their heart.
  2. Share a meal with your friend and invite them over the meal. Pick up the tab and invite them to church. Or, you could invite their family over for a meal in your home. Serve them well.
  3. If you go out for a meal, ask how you can pray for your server before you bless your food, tip them well, and hand them an invite card before you leave.
  4. Offer to eat lunch together after church on Sunday. Offer to pick them up or caravan with them on Sunday morning.
  5. Talk about Easter at Awaken on Facebook and Twitter. Aim for at least one status update per day that would include an invite to Easter at Awaken.
  6. Point people to our website. They can listen to previous sermons, get all the info they need for AwakenKids, etc.
  7. Prayerwalk through your neighborhood and invite people who are out working in the yard, playing outside, out for a walk, etc.
  8. Put some invite cards on your desk, your coffee table, your car console, etc. where people will see them and ask you about them.
  9. Keep invite cards with you all the time and be ready to step up when the opportunity pops up!
  10. There are literally a zillion ways to invite people…these are just a few.

The point is this – God can use your invitation to radically transform a life. Don’t miss this incredible opportunity to invite your friends to hear and respond to the gospel on Easter Sunday.

AC’ers…I’m praying for you as you invite your friends and people you cross paths with this week. I am praying for and expecting a move of God on Sunday – that God would make His name great through lives changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Friday Five

It’s been an incredible week as I was able to spend a couple of days with church planters and leaders from across our state dreaming and strategizing about what it looks like for our churches to be “in the city, for the city.” This week adds to my already pretty high excitement about what is happening around Awaken in the upcoming weeks.

Here are the top 5 things happening at Awaken that you need to know about :

1. Community Group registration is open and groups will officially launch the week of March 20. We are very excited about this important next step for our church! Join us Sunday for part 2 of Tangible Kingdom as we cast vision for Community Groups at Awaken. You can also visit the website for more info and to sign up for a group.

2. Our next Partnership Class in on Sunday, March 27. We use the term Partner instead of member because we want our Partners to be active participants in our mission of making God’s name great through lives changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. You can check out our website for more information on Partnership. If you’re ready to jump in, you can register online right now.

3. Our new sermon series, Christ Alone, launches next Sunday, March 20. I am praying for a harvest during this series – that we will see many, many lives changed by the good news of what Jesus has done for us. Start inviting your friends now – we will have series invite cards available on Sunday. Christ Alone will run through Easter.

4. More and more people are signing up for Online Giving, which is awesome. Online giving is a great way for you to give consistently and generously. To get signed-up for online recurring giving, check out our website and follow the instructions. It’s easy, safe, and helpful.

5. 2011 is off to a great start for Awaken Church! January and February were the best back to back months since we launched and I am confident it is just the beginning. If you’re not involved yet, I want you to be a part of what God is doing in our city. Take advantage of these opportunities and join us in making God’s name great through lives changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

A Culmination and A New Beginning

Last Sunday at Awaken was electric! I loved every minute of our worship service as we wrapped up the RESTORE series through Nehemiah and launched into a new season of life and ministry as a church.

In response to how God worked among us through the RESTORE series, we have embraced a new mission statement as the rallying cry for why we do what we do. It is the ultimate answer to why we exist and what we hope to accomplish. Everything we do…everything…will be aimed at fulfilling this mission.

Our mission is “making God’s name great through lives changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Making God’s name great :: there is no other name worthy of being made great. In 1000 years, no one will remember Awaken Church, Jay Hardwick, or anyone else…but God and His glory will reign forever. Therefore, we will live our lives to make His name great, pray for His name to be made great in our city, and use what He has given us to make His name great in lives, communities, and sectors where it is not.

Through lives changed :: we believe there is healing, redemption, and new life in the name of Jesus. The path to change in a city begins with change in a life and a family. We want to see Jesus move people from death to life, from broken to whole, from slave to free, from immature to mature, from consumer to missionary.

By the gospel of Jesus Christ :: the only means of real change and the only lasting change in a person’s life comes by the gospel of Jesus Christ. While God uses events and circumstances to align us with His purposes, it is ultimately the gospel – that Jesus has died for our sins and by His resurrection, given us redemption, forgiveness, and victory – that changes lives. We will ferociously seek to know, live, and share the gospel.

In short, we desire to be a force for God’s glory in the city of Columbia and around the world! He’s called us to be a city within a city whose sole desire is making His Name great through lives changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

God has done a great work in us over the last 40 days of this series and season of prayer and fasting. Now we are ready to act on what He has put in front of us knowing that He is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than we could ever ask for, dream of, or imagine…ALL for His glory (Eph 3:20-21).

I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but I do know that the best is yet to come!

The Means of Renewal

I’ve been preaching through the book of Nehemiah the last few weeks at Awaken. Nehemiah’s vision was never just to rebuild the walls, but to rebuild the walls and renew the people as a means of restoring the glory of God to Jerusalem.

Yesterday, we turned the corner from the work of rebuilding the walls to the work of renewing the people. What we find is renewal in any city starts with the people of God and renewal within the people of God always starts with God’s Word.

God’s Word is not a moral law book that must be followed in order to receive God’s love. Just the opposite, it’s the story of God’s love and pursuit in spite of our absolute failure to follow His law. Our joy and freedom to follow Him are based on what He has done for us, not what we must do for Him to earn His grace or favor.

It’s in experiencing this joy and freedom that is ours in Christ that we long to submit to His authority and to live for His glory. It’s through His Word that God gives us His heart for people, our city, and the nations.

That can’t happen if we are not intentionally studying God’s Word with others and individually.¬†Here are some tips to help you take that important step:

  1. Set a no exemption time and place to meet with God. Get up extra early, use your lunch break, take a break during the day. Whenever, wherever…just pick the time and place and commit to it.
  2. Start your Bible reading with prayer. Spend time worshiping God for His goodness and grace. Spend time confessing known sin in your life and ask God to restore you. Ask God to speak to you through His Word.
  3. Have a plan. Don’t just flip the Bible open and go. You need a place. There are several great plans you can follow online or on your phone, several you can print and take with you, and others you can use a variety of ways. Pick one that works and go with it.
  4. Write down significant insights and scriptures. Get a notebook or a journal and spend time after each Bible reading writing down key insights and scriptures. Write about verses that give joy because of how they reveal the gospel, verses that convict you of present sin, verses that teach you how to follow and honor God, etc.
  5. Share your reading and insights with others. Following Jesus and gleaning from His Word was never meant to be a solo sport. You need others to keep you accountable and to help you understand and apply the Word. You can do the same for others. This will be a key part of Community Groups (launching in March!) at Awaken.
  6. Commit to action. The book of James calls us to not just be hearers of the Word, but doers. As God reveals His will to you through His Word and as He prompts you to follow Him, do what He says! Give, serve, share, go, tell…whatever it is, do it!

If we want to see renewal come to our lives, our city, and if we truly want to see God’s name made great in and through out lives and our church, then we must be people who are hungry to hear and committed to do God’s Word.

Get started today. If you miss a day, just pick up where you left off and keep going. Just because you miss a meal doesn’t mean you stop eating!

Go for it – your joy and freedom to follow Him will explode as you dive into His Word!

Friday Five

Wrapping up what was a busy, but very productive and forward-reaching week for me and Awaken Church. I’m excited about what is ahead for our church! Here are a few personal and Awaken Church updates:

  1. We have two weeks left in the RESTORE series. I am very excited about these next two Sundays as we cast some specific vision for next steps at Awaken. To say these are can’t miss Sundays would be an understatement!
  2. On that note, we had to make a slight change in plans for Feb 27. We had to cancel the Night of Worship we planned to have that evening. Never fear, we’ll do it as our morning worship service that day as we cry out to God on behalf of our city and beg God to use us to make His name great in Columbia and beyond.
  3. Pastor Steve Burnette, our Community & Admin Pastor, led our first Community Group leader training this week and groups will launch in mid-March! I absolutely cannot wait and I thank God for Pastor Steve’s leadership.
  4. I have the honor of preaching at the South Carolina Baptist Convention Evangelism Conference next week in Anderson, SC. Please pray that God will use me to encourage pastors and leaders from across our state to push back the darkness and work for the glory of God in their cities.
  5. Our family is finally well! After battling a flu-like bug for over a week, everyone is pretty much back to normal. Somehow, I didn’t get it. But, my appreciation for my wife went to whole new level as I attempted to care for her and our girls while they were sick. Moms are amazing!

Have a great weekend and Awaken Church…I’ll see you Sunday!

Around Awaken

Here are a few things happening around Awaken Church:

  1. This Sunday, we will receive the Advance Offering. This year, the Advance Offering will help fund international missionaries through the IMB, fund our local ministry partnerships and benevolence ministry, and help Awaken add a pastoral staff member. I am asking all AC’ers to come prepared to give on Sunday. If you will be out of town or are out of town, but would like to give, you can give online.
  2. Make plans to attend and invite your friends to Christmas Eve at Awaken :: Friday, December 24 at 5:00 pm at Polo Rd Elementary School. The family-friendly service will feature some great Christmas music from our band, a Christmas message, and Communion. There will be no childcare so you can attend and worship together as a family. Should be a great night as we worship Jesus!
  3. Because we are having a Christmas Eve service, we will not have a worship service on Sunday, December 26. Spend the morning celebrating Jesus and worshiping with family and friends. Our staff and volunteers work extremely hard to make a Sunday happen at Awaken, so this is also a chance to give them a Sunday off.
  4. 2011 is going to be a great year! God is stirring up some incredible opportunities and giving clear vision for the next steps for Awaken Church. Let’s pray and work hard to finish 2010 with momentum and believe God for even greater things in 2011!

See you Sunday at 10:30 am at Polo Rd Elementary!

This Sunday at Awaken :: Going All the Way

Going All the Way (Part 5) :: Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God

Did you really think we would do an entire series on marriage an not talk about sex?! For some of you, this is probably THE sermon you’ve been waiting on!

Far too many marriages slowly drift into a dark, cold, roommate-like relationship void of the romance and pursuit that defined the dating and engagement stage. Sex, then, becomes an obligatory, forced, and less than enjoyable experience that is endured occasionally rather than celebrated often.

We must not and cannot takes our cues for romance and sex from the sinful impulses of ourselves and the world we live in. The good news is that God has not left us in the dark. Join us on Sunday as we see what God says about growing in love for one another and celebrating the gift of sexual intimacy the way He intended it.

Awaken Church meets on Sundays at 10:30 am at Polo Road Elementary School (1250 Polo Road, Columbia, 29223). AwakenKids classes (6 weeks – 5th grade) open at 10:10 am.

This Sunday at Awaken :: Going All the Way

After a powerful One Year Anniversary celebration last week, I’m excited about jumping back in to the Going All the Way Series this Sunday at Awaken.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forgive him.” “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forgive her.”

Have you ever said that in response to something your spouse has done or said? Does it seem that every new disagreement winds up in an argument about past sins and failures? Have you said, “I forgive you,” but struggled to actually do so in your heart?

10 out of 10 marriages have to deal with sin and failures. You’re not perfect and neither is your spouse. Join us on Sunday to find out how to deal with sin and failures by offering the greatest gift you could offer your spouse. It’s the same gift Jesus freely gives to you.

Sunday promises to be a powerful day. Don’t miss it and be sure to invite friends to join you. See you Sunday at 10:30 am at Polo Road Elementary.

Sunday at Awaken :: One Year Anniversary

Hard to believe, but one year ago this Sunday, Awaken Church said “Hello” to the world. Absolutely cannot wait to celebrate on Sunday!

We have much to celebrate – lives changed by the power of God, marriages healed, addictions broken, community renewal, global opportunities, growth. We also have much to look forward to – even more of all the above!

I hope you will make plans to join us on Sunday. After what promises to be a powerful time of worship, we will have a baptism celebration with many who are going public with their faith. It’s not too late to be baptized, but you need to get registered today.

I have so much hope for Sunday and for the future of Awaken Church. As much as we have already seen God do, the best is STILL yet to come!

See you Sunday at 10:30 am at Polo Road Elementary School (1250 Polo Road, Columbia, 29223).


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