articles about core [nlcf] theology, philosophy, and practice

A City on a Hill

“You are the light of the world, a city on a hilltop cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket, instead they put it on a stand where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine out for all to see, so that everyone will give praise to your Father in heaven.” – Jesus

Jesus said these remarkable words to some of the weakest, least powerful, most oppressed people that our sin-broken earth had fielded in a long time. The Jews, handed off from super power to super power, who grew up in the shadow of the massive building program of King Herod, who was able to conceive of buildings as beautiful as his heart was ugly.

But when Jesus began to institute his new Kingdom and selected the leaders of his church, he didn’t go to those trained in those beautiful and massive buildings. He went to a bunch of poor and powerless Jews. They were to be the light of the world, a marker of something much bigger and more beautiful than the buildings. They were to reflect the light of Christ to a world that desperately needed it.

In the shadow of Lane stadium the fruit of the commitment of those Jews heard the same thing spoken of them. This campus and community doesn’t need Christ more than they did prior to April 16, 2007.

But they can see that need him a lot more clearly.

And so, as that cluster of leaders from [nlcf] walked up to the top of the stadium that night, they dedicated themselves to fulfilling the mission instituted by none other than God on earth, Jesus. He called a bunch of people to live for something massive, and to dedicate themselves to seeing the light of God reflected to those around them that need it.

Our area needs memorial ceremonies, and football games and placards with inspirational signs and the prayers of those around the world directed on them. But what it needs more is for the believers that are already there to be the thing that Jesus called out that day on that hill.


This year [nlcf] is called to be a city on a hill. Not the only one. But one nonetheless. To reflect the light of Christ to a dark world that desperately needs it. And on August 27th, a group of followers of Christ spoke on behalf of a much larger church and said that they would. We won’t do it any more flawlessly than the early church leaders did. We will trust God for our strength, our direction, and then we will trust him to take what is not enough in us and make it enough.

Who would have ever guessed that those that heard Jesus’ words that day and began to live them out would have had the impact they did?

The only questions are… what will he do through us now? And will you join us?

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What is the Downtown Congregation?

[nlcf] — older.

Seem oversimplified? Not really. The mission of [nlcf] is to…

  • invest in spiritual growth
  • invite others to follow Jesus
  • inspire each other to change the world

With a bold mission like that, something like a downtown congregation makes perfect sense. The reality is that we have a style that is very intriguing to many and ways of doing things that you don’t run into very much in the evangelical church. Our beliefs are overall quite orthodox, it is just that our practices aren’t.

This approach has led us to be highly effective with two of the least likely demographic groups to darken a church’s doorstep, essentially, college-aged men and women. With a church with just under one thousand involved, that is working nicely.

The down-side of that is that if you aren’t in that demographic you can feel really out of place. So, often times, graduate students and local community members, married or not, with children or without, often feel they must choose. Between an approach to following God they really connect with and feeling like they can also connect with people encountering the life challenges and blessings that they are. Making great decisions in your workplace, or figuring out what in the world you will do once your dissertation is finished (six months past your original date). Growing as a husband or wife or being single in a culture that makes that hard beyond a certain age; without feeling like you have been left behind. Being a real and honest parent to your kids. Feeling honored as a stay at home mom.

At [nlcf] we believe that the focus of our gathering communally should be on God and not us. Yet we also want to make sure that it is the connecting with one another, loving those inside and outside the church and implementing what we are learning that should be the main point. The same reason we use contemporary translations of the Bible leads us to birth a new congregation within [nlcf] that is distinct in its focus on those who are a bit older, but still consistent within [nlcf]’s mission and strategy, where we remove extraneous distractors so that our focus can be on living the mission we feel God has given us.

Our desire is to always be growing and planting new churches like the one we started in Los Angeles and the one we are starting in Richmond VA as we speak. But we also desire to, where it makes sense, reproduce congregations within [nlcf] to allow us to connect with and develop even more people.

The downtown congregation, as we are calling it, will take the same approach to meeting people’s needs and challenging their lives that [nlcf] always has. But with a different group that is being primarily focused on, sometimes the outcome will be different.

In light of that, [nlcf] � older makes a lot of sense.

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A Day in the Life of a Staffer

It’s a challenge sometimes to accurately communicate the 9 to 5 of someone on staff… partly because the 9 to 5 doesn’t exist when you are working with college students and partly because every person on staff has a different job description. I’m not even sure where I’d start if someone were to simply ask me “What does a typical day look like?”

I’ve been on staff for 6 years now and every semester has looked incredibly different. Some might not really enjoy a forever morphing life but personally I love it! Even though there are constant changes, there are the things that I can count on.

I can count on time with God. Even this looks different daily and during different times of the year but it is always a part of my day in some capacity.

I can count on a weekly staff meeting. The one time of the week when we are all get to see each other. A time where we can be crazy or be serious, a time to share about lives both personal and in ministry, and a time to attend to the things that we feel God is calling us to.

I can count on meeting with gals one-on-one to talk about life, ministry, etc.

I can count on being involved in a HomeGroup and LifeGroup and connecting with a community throughout the week.

I can count on developing workshops and training times for LifeGroup Leaders and Apprentices, for Discovering your Divine Design, or for LittleLights. I’ve enjoyed over the last couple of years developing these workshop times and really seeking out what is happening in these various ministries outside the New River Valley.

I can count on always having something that needs to be planned whether it’s activities in the fall like Mission Move-In (MMI: 07 is just 5 months away!) or the fall retreat or the Christmas Banquet or the Leadership Community Banquet or the Seniors Chinese Lunch in the spring… there is always something on the calendar!

In addition to my 9 to 5, I enjoy hanging out with friends and being involved in the community of Blacksburg. I play in a community steel drum band called Panjammers as well as teach piano lessons. Over the years I have really discovered the importance of having a couple outlets that help me to step back from work and get involved in the lives of my neighbors.

It’s funny to look back and reflect on where I thought I’d be today 10 years ago. I don’t think that this life was even the smallest red dot on my radar however this IS where I have landed and I cannot imagine anything else.

I’m sure that I’ve left some of you with more questions then answers on what does the day in the life of a staffer looks like. I do apologize! Feel free to contact me and perhaps we can set up a day for you to shadow one of us and see staff life first hand! After all, that will probably be the best answer to the question!

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Why We Work With the College Generation

Up until the magical age of 18, most individuals have someone to help guide them in their journey of life, be it parents, grandparents, or some other guardian. When young people get to college a new door is opened up allowing an opportunity to taste freedom never imagined. Yes, mentors are still there, but ultimately they are making hundreds of different choices by themselves for the very first time.

We’ve found that many individuals in the college environment are looking to add purpose and meaning to their lives. Many will choose a lifelong career, consider a mate, and make choices that will impact the rest of their lives. So often we see poor choices being made because individuals are not looking to God for answers. They are walking around lost, broken, lonely, and confused.

Steve and I (Amy) were impacted to make choices to follow God with all of our hearts through our involvement with [nlcf] while in college, and that made all the difference in the world. God showed us what it meant to truly live and make smart choices. He showed us that we needed to be surrounded by people that really loved us and Him to help us in our journey. We found a family at [nlcf] which helped us see God for who He really is.

Without Christ, people continue to live for themselves and this world. Christ’s message of love, grace, and hope adds new meaning to our lives and gives us something bigger than ourselves to live for. It is so important for people to find God during this time and discover that they are made to be an important piece of God’s story. Finding God opens up the way to live life with purpose in each step instead of aimlessly wondering.

About the authors

Beginning in 2007, Steve and Amy Englund are raising their financial support to both be able to work on [nlcf] staff full time.

When did you come to Blacksburg and why?

In May after we got married. We felt led to come to [nlcf] at Tech to be more integrated with the staff team, and we had a sense that God had plans for us in Blacksburg.

What did you study in college?

Steve: Sociology, minor in English. Amy: Recreation Parks & Tourism, concentration in Recreational Therapy… yup, it’s a mouthful.

What movie(s) inspire you the most and why?

Steve: Invincible because it’s a story of a guy who against all odds gets to live out his dream. Amy: I’m going to have to change mine to a song. I’m often inspired by songs but not so much by movies. It’s kind of funny but “Let Me Love You” by Mario is one of them because every time I hear it I think of Jesus singing to me of His desire for me to let Him be the #1 man in my life. It reminds me that He is the one who completes me.

How would you describe yourself in three words?

Steve: courteous, service-oriented, hospitable. Amy: lots of fun! but if you were looking for 3 adjectives I would say purposeful, goofy, creative.

A place you’d love to travel together?

Hawaii, yeah baby!

What do you love most about [nlcf]?

The people and the energy. You can really sense God’s Spirit moving.

What do you, as a couple, do to stay passionate for God?

We pray together but to be completely honest we feel that this is an area that God is trying to put His finger on in our marriage so we can grow closer together and to Him.

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What We Believe

We value the ancient roots of our faith. Soon after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the church began to develop a clearly articulated expression of what Christians believe. Various creeds and confessions emerged. The church struggled as a community to achieve a communal expression of the faith. This ultimately (but not exclusively) culminated in the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. We stand together with Christians everywhere across the centuries that have embraced these basic statements of faith. These creeds form the core expression of our faith. At [nlcf], these creeds are foundational for how we understand and express the truth of God’s story today.

The Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.

He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.


The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made; of the same essence as the Father.

Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven; he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary, and was made human. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried. The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom will never end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life. He proceeds from the Father and the Son, and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified. He spoke through the prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church. We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and to life in the world to come.


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The [nlcf] Manifesto

A working document.

We believe that New Life Christian Fellowship is called out by God…

To invest in spiritual growth by

  • choosing to be the church, not attend it
  • enjoying the richness and reality of face-to-face relationships in a technologically isolated age
  • becoming true brothers and sisters in a family where God’s love and grace spreads contagiously
  • wrestling through Scripture together, seeking God’s message for our church and our culture

To invite others to follow Jesus by

  • welcoming all people outside the family of [nlcf] as valuable to Jesus and us
  • knowing, living, and speaking the gospel (the good news of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and return) to each other and the world
  • living lives of constant change from selfish and broken impurity to a renewed wholeness as a sign that the Holy Spirit is at work in us
  • creatively expressing the gospel from our unique perspectives through visual arts, performance, writing, and other media

To inspire each other to change the world by

  • giving our time to serve and love each other, and to serve and love our neighbors, both here in the New River Valley and throughout the world
  • giving our money to build a kingdom where the world is healed through the sacrifice of our King
  • giving the control of our lives over to the King who invites us to live in a bigger story than we can plan for ourselves
  • giving our careers for God’s glory whether cleaning toilets, preaching the Bible, programming computers, or feeding the poor in a distant land

Like stated above, this is a working document. Feel free to make a contribution.

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How to Become a Christian

Being a Christian is simultaneously the easiest and hardest thing a person can do. Simply put, it is an action of two words: trust Jesus. Some people say this is just a one-time mental agreement to a spiritual affiliation, but Jesus asks for a complete surrender of our heart, soul, mind, and body from beginning to the end of our lives. If it were up to us this would be impossible but God has made it possible.

It starts with a basic overview of history: 1) God created mankind to be in a relationship with him. 2) We blatantly rebelled. 3) Despite our best efforts we cannot restore the situation. 4) Because of his love for us, God took on flesh in the form of Jesus to win our hearts back. 5) Jesus broke the chain of rebellion by practicing and preaching a perfect life of love. 6) He not only lived a great life, he died a great death by standing in our place to take the punishment we deserve in a bloody public execution. 7) Three days later he came back from the grave to demonstrate his power over death. Jesus made it possible for everyone to be restored with God forever.

A Christian is someone who puts all their trust in the most amazing, powerful, intelligent, mysterious, compassionate, and meaningful person who ever lived. Just like following a master artist or musician or leader, one must begin a careful study of the person’s life so they can better know who they are trying to emulate.

Once we discover what Jesus said, what he did, and the significance of his life, we must make a decisive action to change our life’s course. This is what it means to repent, to turn from our own path and choose to walk on the path of Jesus. The actual event of repentance is a mysterious moment that happens both instantly and continuously throughout our lives. Repentance is only possible by God’s initiation, yet somehow, he holds us accountable for making this decision.

Once we begin to trust Jesus, God comes to reside in our lives through the Holy Spirit who gives further instruction on this new course. He is a guarantee that God will be with us until our final day on earth to help us follow through on our decision to trust. Some say that becoming a Christian is a one-way decision, but the Bible tells of situations where a person can deliberately push the Holy Spirit away and discontinue the relationship. In view of this possibility, the Bible urges every Christian to press on towards the goal of knowing God better and remaining faithful to him to the very end. Finishing is as important as starting.

In order to know God better, distribute his love, and remain faithful to the finish, Jesus established that his followers should share their lives with each other in an extended family called the church.

Further reading:

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What is a Homegroup?

John Eldredge describes the average church experience like this: “We come; we learn; we leave. It is not enough.”

You and I were created for community. Before God even finished his creation, he said it wasn’t good for us to be alone (Gen. 2:18); Jesus’ teaching that we should love one another can only be accomplished if we are doing life together; and Hebrews says we should “encourage one another daily.” These are just a few reasons we at [nlcf] believe so strongly in our home groups, smaller groups of 20 to 40 people who get together during the week for music, teaching, sharing—and usually food. A home group is one of the best places to develop meaningful, lasting relationships with people like you who are going after the same things in life.

Whether you are a freshman, or a grad student, or living and working in the area—wherever you are in life—I would like to strongly encourage you to check out one of our home groups. A couple years ago, a graduating senior said to me how much he regretted not getting involved in a home group. Now he was moving away, wishing he had his time in college to do over, wishing he could have shared it with a group of close friends.

This full life Jesus calls us to is too wonderful not to share it. If you’d like help finding a group that fits you, let us know. All of our home groups have a slightly different feel to them, so there is surely one that will fit your personality. We have home groups for undergrad students, grad students, married couples, townies—pretty much anyone. Drop us an email, and we’ll get you connected.

Matt Rogers
pastor, [nlcf]
matt at nlcf dot net

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