On August 21, 2022, Grace+Peace celebrated their particularization service. It was clear that God had raised up the right men at the right time to lead Grace+Peace and serve the community, so the church was ready to particularize.
Benjie reflects, “We didn’t just need people who could serve; we needed people who God has clearly called to serve. This took time, but there was a real spiritual benefit to the leaders. There were a few men at Grace+Peace who already owned our vision and were helping move the mission forward. They began to see where we were headed, and they were there when we needed people on the ground. Shepherding happened through crisis situations.”
Ansley remembers helping with one crisis situation in particular. “The men who were in the class but hadn’t been officially elected yet all hopped in to help and checked in with me to ask what they could do.”
The particularization service was a moment of praise and celebration for Grace+Peace and for Benjie personally. “A couple of my friends from seminary and from previous ministries came to the service,” he says. “They’d heard me dream and talk about what God has put on my heart, and now, they got to see the faces of this community. It was meaningful to me for them to validate that what I thought was happening really was happening. It’s gratifying to believe that God calls you to something and then see that He actually uses you to do something.”
As with most of the presbytery’s particularization services, August 21, 2022 was a show of unity and support from many churches in the area. Brian Salter of Lookout Mountain Presbyterian preached at the service. Sam Brown of Trinity in Cleveland, Jerrod Huffman of Restoration Southside, John Jones of Covenant Presbyterian, and other churches from all over the presbytery joined for the service. “The presbytery has really had a hand in creating what we’re doing,” says Benjie. “It’s a big part of our story, and on that Sunday, our people got a sense that we’re part of the bigger work that God is doing.”
Benjie began the particularization service with a story about being dropped off at college. His parents helped him move in, set up his room, and then came the time for goodbyes. “I had a moment of realization that I’d grown up, but I was still just a freshman in college with a lot ahead of me. Grace+Peace is kind of in the same boat. Our particularization service was like saying goodbye to your parents when you’re dropped off for college. We’ve grown up, but there is a lot of good work to do ahead.”
“Two years ago, when I joined Grace+Peace,” remembers Ansley, “we asked people to bring their neighbors and have skin in the game. Even though we’re no longer a church plant, we still do that. So many people moved to Ooltewah for jobs, so they don’t have family here. That means they’re especially searching for community, and we know that Grace+Peace can offer them community.”
Benjie feels humbled that people will take the risk of inviting their friends to church. “They trust that I won’t say something embarrassing and scare off their friends, but instead will preach the gospel clearly and with passion. They’re placing a lot of trust in me and in what our church is doing.”
Grace+Peace still worships at the Ooltewah Seventh-day Adventist church. Because Ooltewah is such a new development, there are very few old buildings for sale, so the church will most likely begin looking at land to purchase and build on in several years.
Looking to the future of this body of Christ, Benjie’s hope is to see different kinds of people come to Christ. “I talk a lot about the American suburban vision. We get comfortable in our big, safe houses, and we hole up there and do what’s good for us. I long to see people intentionally sacrificing for the good of other people.”
Praise the Lord with us for this milestone in the life of Grace+Peace. Benjie, Ansley, and the rest of the team look ahead with faith and trust in what the Lord is doing through this church. Benjie says, “We talk about being a place where people delight in the gospel. We want to see more people find Jesus to be a delight for them.”