Tag Archives: Followers of Jesus Church Atlanta

Churchfunding: 2018 Year-End Report

Since our “churchfunding” house loan was a public adventure, I want to give public updates from time to time. How is it working for us by now? In short, we are making monthly repayments as planned and remain deeply grateful for all who helped us purchase this house. However, there are changes to our church planting activities which I will share at the end of this post.

(Here is the post that officially launched this churchfunding adventure. We purchased our Atlanta house on March 25, 2016, paying the seller in full immediately, thanks to loans and gifts from nearly 90 individuals or families.)

At the beginning of 2018, we owed $48,037.50 in house loans. By the end of 2018, we owed only $41,937.50. Here is how that $6,100 difference breaks down.

We repaid $5,470 in loans in 2018 at the planned rate of $500 per month. Why is this total not $6000? Several lenders, when offered their promised repayment, declined the 10% interest we had promised. One declined $500 in principal as well. We are thankful for this generosity!

In total, we were forgiven $630 in principal and interest in 2018. $630 plus $5,470 equals $6,100. This means our house debt declined by $100 more than we expected in 2018.

When can the remaining lenders expect repayment?

At the promised $500 per month, we should have all remaining lenders repaid within 7 years—before the end of 2025.

Cash Flow and House Happenings

Our cash flow is tighter than I predicted a year ago that it would be. I continue to work three days a week for Choice Books (extra over this holiday season), but my number of piano students plateaued in 2018. I temporarily reached 23 students, but finished the year with the same number I had a year ago—about 18. On the positive side, as was true a year ago, I have a handful of students planning to resume or begin lessons in January. If I could reach 30 students, our cash flow would be more manageable.

Our largest expense in 2018 was buying a “new” (2002) Toyota Camry to replace an old Jetta. We were not sad to see the Jetta go, though we received less than we asked for it, and slightly less than the buyer promised to pay. Other “extra” expenses included a Greek class for me (highly recommended—see here), cello and violin lessons for our two oldest daughters, and some business tax I had overlooked.

House projects in 2018 were very minor. A hall closet finally got proper shelving:

And, much to the mutual relief of thirsty neighborhood children and a mother weary of distributing drinks, we installed a fountain in our front yard!

The dead backyard trees and leaky shower and unusable basement entrance I mentioned a year ago are still awaiting their turns.

Meanwhile, we experienced our first significant flooding in our basement just this past week, due to heavy rains.  A leaky and inadequate city sewer line through our yard exacerbated the problem. Priya and I carried out about 100 gallons of water in pails. I expected this would happen sometime. Now we know where the “weak points” are. I am hopeful we can seal off some of the leaks and slow the flooding next time.

House prices in our neighborhood continue to rise. More vacant homes are being refurbished and inhabited, including on our own street. The real estate website Zillow, which estimated our house value at $81,000 back in March 2016 just before we bought it for $65,000, now estimates our house is worth about $188,000. It predicts the value could increase by around 15% in the next year to nearly $216,000. God knows and time will tell.

Church Changes

“The house that God bought” saw many ministry opportunities over the past year, such as:

  • 23 Sunday morning church gatherings (avg. 13 in attendance)
  • Several Bible study sessions
  • Many piano students and a “Living Room Recital”
  • Sharing our yard, bike pump, and fountain with neighbor children
  • Sharing food with hungry people knocking at our front door
  • Hosting international students for Thanksgiving
  • Homeschooling our children

In early November, however, the couple who invited us to Atlanta to join them in church planting decided to step out of this church planting effort. The Smuckers are focusing instead on other learning and ministry opportunities in the community. As a result, Followers of Jesus Church Atlanta is no longer an active gathering.

Our family is seeking God’s direction for this changed situation. We have opened up ourselves to the counselors who helped us during our decision to move here. Meanwhile, we have been attending a church on the east side of the city, Cellebration Fellowship, where my Choice Books supervisor and his family have also recently started attending. The pastor and church there have shown us grace.

We realize that many of you who supported us in our churchfunding house loan project did so in part because you were excited about supporting a church plant effort. We have not given up on this possibility, but feel a need to re-evaluate this goal in light of changed circumstances.

We welcome your prayers as we seek God’s light for life and ministry in the coming year. If you have questions or counsel, we invite you to contact us privately.

We remain deeply grateful for all our churchfunding supporters. We want to faithfully steward this house for Jesus in 2018 and be salt and light in our community.

For Christ and his Church,
Dwight & Zonya Gingrich


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What Does a True Follower of Jesus Look Like?

How can you identify a real Christian? What are the marks of a genuine Christian?

Mark Dever is famous for his list of “Nine Marks of a Healthy Church.” Others, including the Protestant reformers, produced lists of marks of the “true church.” (A church can be unhealthy but still true, so the latter lists are shorter.)

But I am asking primarily about the individual, not the group: How can you identify who truly belongs to Jesus?

There are many good, biblical ways to ask and answer this question. What does Christian mean, anyway? The term was first used in the ancient Syrian city of Antioch, and it appears that unbelievers were the ones who coined it. According to commentator Ben Witherington III, the term Christians (Χριστιανοι) in its original historical context meant “those belonging to, identified with, or adherents or followers of Christ.” (Pardon his poor grammar!) So in this post I’ll frame it this way: What does a true follower of Jesus look like?

I was motivated to ask this question because our little church gathering here in West Lake, Atlanta goes by the name of Followers of Jesus Church Atlanta (FJCA). Since we chose to bear that name, I decided I should examine the New Testament more closely to see whom we are supposed to be!

I shared my findings with our church and we discussed them together. Now I’ll share them with you.

First, some clarifications.

What follows is not a summary of the gospel. If it was, I’d need to be clearer on the work of Jesus.

Nor is it a description of the church. If it was, I’d need to discuss things like leadership and decision-making.

Some might fault this list because it focuses strongly on behavior. But this is a natural result of simply reading how the Bible, Jesus in particular, describes followers of Jesus. They are certainly people who believe certain things—and my list begins with belief, even if it doesn’t use the traditional language of faith. But they are also people who act, or at least ought to act, in certain ways. Again, this focus on behavior is because I am aiming to describe not the gospel itself, but a primary fruit of the gospel—people who are changed to follow Jesus.

This list is not intended to be comprehensive. It began with a simple concordance search for “follow.” Immediately several central themes (suffering for Jesus, selfless love, etc.) became clear. Though I expanded my search, there are too many related concepts to have found all the relevant biblical data. I did try to throw a wide net—sometimes perhaps too wide—but I realize now that even some basic concepts like repentance and faith could be strengthened. I expect I’ll update this list from time to time.

Lastly, perhaps this list would be better titled “marks of healthy followers of Jesus,” since no one follower exhibits all these qualities perfectly.

Read my summary paragraphs after each heading. Compare my summary statements with the Scriptures that follow. Perhaps you’ll find Jesus’ call to follow as challenging as I did!


Marks of True Followers of Jesus

Suffering witness: Jesus’s followers bear confident witness to his true identity as fully God and fully man—the Son of God, the promised Messiah-Christ-King, the Lamb of God who saves us from our sin, and the risen, ruling Son of Man. These followers are so devoted to Jesus that they willingly suffer for his sake, leaving all—possessions, family, and honor—for the sake of Jesus and the eternal rewards of his kingdom.

They bear witness of Jesus and his kingdom to each other, to the watching world, and to all of creation. They bear witness by word and action, by their gathered worship and their daily lives, and ultimately by their deaths.

In this way Jesus’ followers honor his greatest commandment—to love God with all our being.

Matt. 4:19; 16:15-17; 28:18-20; John 1:35-49; 6:66-69; 10:4-5, 27; 15:26-27;  1 Cor. 11:23-26; Col. 3:16-17; Rev 14:1-5; Matt 4:18-22; 8:19-22; 9:9; 10:37-39; 16:24-26; 19:21-23; Mark 8:34-37; 10:28-30; Luke 5:11, 28; 9:23-24, 57-62; John 12:23-26.

Loving service: Jesus’ followers imitate his way of loving others. They gladly suffer injustices without retaliating. They offer generous forgiveness to all who offend them, without holding grudges. They pray for their enemies and look for ways to creatively bless them, refusing to take up the sword. They are faithful in their marriages and all other relationship commitments.

Their whole lives are characterized by selfless service, for they imitate the One who came not to be served but to serve—who gave up his divine rights, washed his disciples’ feet, and laid down his life for the world.

In this way Jesus’ followers honor his second great commandment—to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Mark 15:41; John 12:26; Matt. 20:25-28; Mark 10:42-45; Luke 6:27-36; 22:25-27;  1 Pet. 2:20-24; 3:9-18; 5:1-3; Eph. 4:32; 5:1-2, 25; Col 3:13; John 13:14-16; Phil 2:4-7; Rom 15:1-3, 7.

Christian unity: Jesus’ followers know there is one Flock and one Shepherd. They affirm that all who belong to Christ, the Head, also belong to the Church, his Body. They rejoice that people of every culture, color, and class find oneness in Christ alone. They know Jesus has promised to build his own Church which he purchased with his own blood.

They don’t divide over human leaders, but they do honor the teaching and imitate the example of Jesus’ apostles, whom he appointed as a foundation for his true Church. They welcome all whom Christ has welcomed while disciplining those who falsely claim to belong to him.

In this way Jesus’ followers honor his final recorded prayer for them—that we may all be one in him.

Matt. 12:30; 16:18-19; 18:15-20; Mark 9:38-41; Luke 9:49-50; John 10:16; 17:20-23; Acts 2:42-47; 20:28;  1 Cor. 1:10-13; 3:3-9; 11:1; 12:12-13; Eph. 4:4-6; Rom. 15:5-7;  2 Tim 1:13-14; 3:14-17; Rev. 7:9-10, 17.

Spirit-powered obedience: Jesus’ followers honor his words by doing them. They do this by the Holy Spirit, their Helper sent by Jesus. They know they—like Jesus during his earthly life—will bear good fruit only by the power of the Spirit within them.

They expect the Spirit will bear witness to Jesus by miraculous signs and special graces given as he wishes. They also expect the Spirit will empower them to live clearly counter-cultural lives of moral purity, relational integrity, and neighbor- and enemy-love—lives of humility, contentment, and trust in their heavenly Father.

In this way Jesus’ followers honor the great commission he gave them—to make disciples who are taught to do all that he commanded.

Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 6:46-49; John 14:15, 21-24;  1 John 2:4-6; Matt. 5-7; 22:37-40; Acts 10:38; Luke 3:21-22; 4:1-2, 14-15, 18; Luke 3:16; 11:13; 12:11-12; 24:49; John 14:16-17, 25-26; 15:26; 16:7-15; Acts 1:4-5, 8; 2:1-4, 32-33, 38-39; Gal. 5:16-25.


Here is a PDF version of the same list:

Download Here

Marks of True Followers of Jesus

Where are North American Christians most falling short of these marks? How would you summarize the biblical picture of a true Christian? Share your insights in the comments below.


Endnote: As I did my research, I ended up with about seven main points. I wanted to be more concise, in case we end up using some version of this list as a church values statement someday. So I combined points until I had only four somewhat memorable headings. Many other combinations could have been equally possible, however. For example, combining “suffering” with “love” rather than with “witness” would also have expressed something that is clearly biblical: “Suffering love.” “Spirit-powered unity” also sounds good! The richness of Scripture cannot be summarized in any four, seven, or nine marks.


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