AWAKE: The Gospel and Race (2.4.19)

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THIS WEEK: The battle for racial equity has been a hot topic in the culture dominating social media, news outlets, and conversations in America. In the midst of the tension, the church has often been silent, moderate, and complicit as marginalized people groups are under-resourced, forgotten, and mistreated. Additionally, the white church can (and usually does) avoid the topic of the Gospel and Race but this must change.

If the church is a people who represent the Kingdom of Heaven, and wielding the good news of the Gospel, it should be driven and compelled to fight for racial justice in all its forms. The church is overdue for action and must become awake, impassioned, and engaged in the efforts to see racial justice in America.


SCRIPTURE: 2 Cor. 5:14-21; Rev. 21:1-6


LISTEN: Spotify Playlist


  1. How has Western Individualism affected our view of sin, salvation, and the Gospel?

  2. What is the Gospel story and how does it connect to the ministry of reconciliation? How is this different than what you have been taught?

  3. How does the Gospel compel us to engage the fight for racial justice in America?

  4. How is God telling you to get involved and engaged? Ask your House Church or Transformation Group to keep you accountable to following through.

* Sermon Sources taken from White Awake by Daniel Hill

OIKOS Pt. 2: UP-IN-OUT (Jan. 27, 2019)


THIS WEEK: As we model our lives after Jesus, we see a rhythm of live that revolves around 3 relationships: with God (UP), with His own community (IN), and with those in the world (OUT). These values are expressed through our 3 Pillars of Engagement: devotion, community, and mission. This week, we will take a deeper look at what each of these relationships mean so that we can pattern our lives after the way Jesus lived. Want a quick summary? Watch this…

READ VERSES: Luke 4:31-44 Think about the way Jesus interacts “up, in, and out.“

LISTEN: Songs we sing in a Spotify Playlist.


1. How do you personally engage your heart, mind, soul, and body with the living God, in community, and through mission? Are you growing stronger in these areas? Are you intentional or do you simply hope you will grow stronger in these areas?

2. Think of your environments: How are you engaging through Sunday Gatherings, House Church, or through transformation groups of 2-3 people? If you want to start a Transformation Group within your House Church or with someone you know, go to the Connection Center in the CGNE lobby for a Life Transformation Group (LTG) printed pamphlet or check out a PDF below.

3. Think of your time: How can you build rhythms into your life that connect you to God daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonally?

4. What is God telling you? What do you think God might be asking you to adjust about your spiritual life? What can you change THIS week?


- Rognlien, Bob. A Jesus Shaped Life: Discipleship and Mission for Everyday People. 3DM.

- Breen, Mike. Building a Discipling Culture. 3DM.

Celebrating the Life of Martin Luther King Jr. [01.21.19]


During spring break last year, our family travelled to Memphis, Tennessee. One of the primary destinations during the visit was the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel where Dr.Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968. We went to the motel/museum about one week before the 50 th anniversary of Dr. King’s death, which lent a particular poignancy to, and reflection about, the ongoing importance and impact of his legacy. During the trip, we also visited the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum—a museum which was far less polished in its appearance, yet still instructive in an important part of our journey as a country. In addition to the obvious link between the history and realized experience of African Americans in our country, the connection for me between the two museums was the role and impact of communication.

Among other things at the Underground Railroad Museum, we learned how the travelers on this harrowing journey to freedom used quilt patterns to communicate directions to their next safe station. Different designs depicted directions, milestones, roads and warnings—using a pictorial code known only to those who were involved. Spoken words were so dangerous that even whispers which might be overheard had significant and dire consequences.

Approximately 100 years later, Dr. King’s words, still based in a desire to seek freedom for those who were oppressed, cost him his life. His words, now spoken aloud, were carefully chosen, poetically delivered, and drew supporters and detractors—as will any communication of substance. His peaceful approach to this most difficult of conversations should have drawn the support of a broad swath of a country that was in crisis. Certainly, those words should have garnered the support of the “white moderate” about whom Dr. King referred in one of his famous writings. Of course, that support did not exist and Dr. King’s dream remained aspirational.

While Dr. King’s life ended because of what he said and what he stood for, the impact of his life and his words certainly continues. At a sluggish, fitful pace, his message is impacting a growing portion of white America that is slowly, yet assuredly, becoming more aware of, and awake to, systemic issues that have always impacted racial relations in this country. Now fifty years after Dr. King’s death, the torch of this conversation about racial equality is being picked up by a growing collective of voices, and I want my voice and the voice of my church to be a part of that shared conversation. While our church was late in joining the chorus of communication declaring the Image of God in all people, we have now adopted a model of reconciliation with all people as a key aspect of our individual and collective spiritual formation. The topic still creates anxiety in many, including myself—the fear of saying the wrong thing in the wrong situation is real. However, I have realized that communicating nothing is just as powerful and just as wrong. My silence speaks just as loudly to my friends of all races about my perspectives and fears. Will I speak out against inequality at the risk of creating instability and anxiety among some who typically don’t experience that feeling? Will I vocally confront and raise concerns about the comments of those with whom I disagree? Will you?

The decision of whether or not to visibly and vocally engage in this conversation is still my privilege and the privilege of the white moderate. How will I and how will each of us respond today to the frustration voiced by Dr. King so many years ago? The answer to that question is one measuring stick of the legacy of the man that we celebrate on January 21 st .

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

- Martin Luther King Jr.’s (Strength to Love, published in 1963).


Bill Neal is an Elder at Common Ground Northeast. He has been involved in various ministry opportunities including house church leadership, and children’s ministry. He and his wife Carrie have been married for 20 years and have two daughters. He retired from Eli Lilly and Company and in the process of figuring out what is next professionally. In the meantime, he is enjoying the extra time with family and the increased flexibility in schedule!

Important Announcement (1.16.19)

Hello Common Ground Northeast Family,

In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon wrote, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” As we walk through various seasons, we encounter moments that are filled with laughter, joy, confusion, and even sadness. Through it all, we are asked to trust God’s guidance and know He is working all things together for His purposes and His glory. Today, it is with sadness that we are announcing Ian Morley’s decision to resign as the Worship Pastor of Common Ground Northeast.

Over the last few years, Ian and Clarissa Morley have served Common Ground in a number of capacities and have meant so much to our community. Ian has served through pastoral changes, shifts in leadership, and an evolving job description. This has not always been easy to navigate for our entire community, and Ian has often been the only pastor on staff as we have walked through the changes. We are grateful for his consistency, leadership, and friendship along the way.

Since we were planted by the Midtown campus, our church has come to embrace a communal identity, values, and a sense of renewed vision that has also come with growing pains. In our conversations, Ian has stated his leaving is “not another transition in a long list of transitions in the life of Common Ground,” but is part of a single, years-long process of our community’s self-discovery and figuring out what kind of church we ought to be. Ian is excited and 100% supportive of Common Ground Northeast’s vision and ministry focus, but has been prayerfully considering what his role would look like as this vision continues to develop.  Ian felt he was the right person to get us going in the right direction but he believes leading through the next phase of life at Common Ground Northeast will require a different skill set.

Ian will be transitioning out of his leadership position over the next few weeks and will then be investing more time in his and Clarissa’s business Pots & Pans Pie Co. Ian will be truly missed as a vital member of our staff but we are confident that God has been, and always will be, the ultimate guide through the changing seasons.  Please pray for them during this time as they make decisions for their next steps in life, family, and ministry.

In Christ’s Service,

Pastor Erik and the Elders of Common Ground Northeast

The New Center [01.13.19]



THIS WEEK: The early church known as The Way was living out a radical form of community and embodying the Gospels power of reconciliation as they went out and disciples. What was unique about they way they lived their lives? What parts of this community allowed for them to live as an "upside kingdom?" How were they able to do this in the midst of the oppressive Roman Empire?

READ: Acts 5

LISTEN: Songs we sing in a Spotify Playlist.

Oops...a quick note about the Sunday message.

Hello CGNE Family!


In yesterdays message I made reference to a popular TV Show family in the 1950’s, that was somewhat confusing. My wife and I were discussing it later in the evening and we realized that the picture I put in the slideshow was NOT the family I was describing in my message! We laughed and cringed at the possible misunderstandings that could be construed. First, thanks to my wife for pointing out the mistake! Second, I thought it would be good to clarify that the show I was intending to mention was Father Knows Best.

To reiterate my point, the common image of “family” depicted in pop-culture (and the values they attempted to normalize) have always been marred been imperfect from the 1950’s to 2019. Also, these depictions don’t necessarily reflect our personal family experiences nor do they depict an accurate picture of the first century Jewish understanding of “OIKOS.” Nevertheless, we have a tendency to read scripture through our cultural and personal lenses. It is my hope to point out the influences in order to present Jesus with a proper understanding of the culture in which He resided.

I hope this clarifies any confusion that may have happened and may we shed our false lenses to see Yeshua as He came to us!


For the King & His Kingdom,
Erik Thien
Lead Pastor

OIKOS: Becoming A Family on Mission (Jan. 6, 2019)


THIS WEEK: The word “OIKOS” is the greek word for “household.“ In the first century, the average Jewish household was larger than the immediate family and included the extended family and the household servants. The entire OIKOS revolved around a family trade wherein all members had a part to play in order to ensure the families success. Jesus inverted the family structure to be inclusive rather than exclusive and created a new family trade that He described as “fishers of men.“ For the first time in Jewish history, the family EXISTED for a mission greater than itself! What does your family exist for?

VERSES: Luke 4:14-44

LISTEN: Songs we sing in a Spotify Playlist.


1. How does Jesus interact with those in His hometown of Nazareth?

2. How does Jesus’ definition of family compare to your patterns of family life?

3. What would change if your family were to explicitly identify a mission greater than itself?

3. What do you think God might be saying to you right now?

*Resources from: Rognlien, Bob. A Jesus Shaped Life: Discipleship and Mission for Everyday People (Kindle Locations 1177-1180). 3DM. Kindle Edition.

Into Faith I Go




If you were in our Sunday Gathering yesterday (listen here if you missed it), Pastor Erik challenged us to consider “Risk & Reward in the Kingdom of Heaven.” We are at the cusp of 2019 and we want to be a community who refuses to stay in the “safety“ of our comfort zones (safety is a myth after all). We asked Jesus to stretch us, pull us, and lead us into new territory as a church…and we believe He will do it! Taking steps of faith can be difficult and manifest itself as fear, anxiety, or unidentified discomfort. However, we cannot get to new ground or territory in our faith without taking steps of faith.

As we read the story in 2 Samuel 10, we observed that God’s people were TRAINED FOR ACTIVE FAITH and SUPPORTED BY A FAITHFUL COMMUNITY before they STEPPED OUT IN FAITH to confront their enemies. But, even with all of this in place, they knew God was the one who ultimately had control of the battle. As they step out to fight against two fronts, Joab said, “Be strong, and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The Lord will do what is good in his sight.” Win or lose, they took the risk and trusted that God was strong and God was good.


As you pray for direction about your next faith-risk, ask yourself:

  1. How are you trained, disciplined, and sharpened to be a usable vessel for God’s Kingdom? What rhythms of life do you embrace? Where are you consuming scripture and allowing it to transform you?

  2. What faithful community surrounds and supports you? Are they encouraging you to move into new territory or in the facade of safety? Is God asking your community to take a step of faith together? If you don’t have one, consider joining a House Church at!

  3. How are you asking for direction? Consider the things that God has already told you to do that you may have put aside, stopped considering, or thought was “too hard.” Ask your family and friends to speak into your faith-risk. Ultimately, God is in control so your next step is onto the battlefield…take a step!


Into Faith I Go is a powerful song of encouragement for those who hear the nudge of God to step out in faith and need some courage to move forward. Give it a listen as you pray:

Risk & Reward [12.30.18]

THIS WEEK: In every area of our lives, we are managing risk: financial risk, relational risk, physical risk, an emotional risk. However, the future is in the hands of God and not humanity. Are we living in a way that displays trust in God by taking faith-risks or are we preoccupied with maintaining comfort, security, and recreation?

READ: James 4:13-17; 2 Samuel 10

LISTEN: This Sunday on Spotify

Advent Pt.4: Kings [12.23.18]

THIS WEEK: From our vantage point, it seems that the Kings of the earth rule the world. And, when King Herod considers the coming messiah to be a threat to his empire, he acts out of fear and resorts to mass violence. Mary, Joseph, and their baby are in danger but, while the King “plans his way, the Lord directs his steps.” God’s intervention leads to a different outcome than Herod expects.

Once again, we can see that, in God’s economy, the valleys are lifted up and the mountains are brought low. Which are you: a mountain or a valley? A shepherd or a king?

READ: Isaiah 40:3-5; Matthew 2:1-20

LISTEN: This Sunday on Spotify

Advent Pt.3: Shepherds [12.16.18]

THIS WEEK: Shepherds are given the great honor of announcing the birth of Christ.

READ: Isaiah 40:3-5; Matthew 2:1-20

LISTEN: This Sunday on Spotify

Advent Pt.2: Angels [12.9.18]

THIS WEEK: The New Testament gives an account of a young woman named Mary who received an unexpected visitor. She was favored in the eyes of God and an angel told her she would miraculously bear a Son. This unexpected pregnancy would become the most difficult season she would ever have to walk. Still, she had the FAITH to trust in God and it was worth it. When was the last time you heard from God and acted in faith?

READ: Luke 1:26-38

LISTEN: This Sunday on Spotify

Advent Pt.1: Prophets [12.2.18]

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THIS WEEK: The Exile Prophets of the Old Testament promised the arrival of a coming King who would lead God’s people out of bondage and suffering into a new era of victory. Though they had to wait, their message created expectation which gave birth to HOPE. As we begin the journey of Advent this season, ask yourself: where do you get your promise, where do you place your expectations, and in whom is your hope found?

READ: Isaiah 9 and Isaiah 11

LISTEN: This Sunday on Spotify

World Aids Day


“Where you live in the world should not determine whether you live in the world."

Musician and activist Bono stated this about 14 years during a TED talk. While most of us do not have a connection with Bono, besides the time his album appeared on everyone's iPhone in the mid-2000's (sorry U2 Fans), this is a profoundly true statement. Many of the life outcomes of those living in our world can be determined based off of where someone lives. Access to resources, support, and safety are often a toss-up based off the location of your birth. This is not how God designed the world, this is not how God desires for the world to exist! Every human has the infinite value of being a child of God; every part of creation is beloved and known by God. Yet, many of the systems of our world lack the capacity to see all lives having value and mattering. It is the revolutionary way of Jesus that calls us to live in such a way where we flip that system in favor of the Kingdom of God.

As a church we have a history of putting ourselves in a position to do this, whether it be supporting vision partners across the globe, supporting adoptive families, or pursuing racial equity. The mission of reconciliation is not new to us. Now a new opportunity comes before us, one that requires little to no effort for us to use our God-given tools and positions to advocate for change. On December 2nd we will honor World AIDS Day, a day of remembrance and solidarity with those afflicted with the AID/HIV disease. For years countries have banned together to fight this disease specifically in Africa, many of those years with the United States leading the charge. However, the leadership of the United States is deciding to no longer commit to supporting the fight against AIDS.

This is where we come in! We have a voice, influence, and power along with tens of thousands of other believers to stand up and call our leaders to support the effort to eradicate AIDS. We simply ask you would sign the petitions we will have provided on December 2nd which asks for support for PREPFAR, a bipartisan-supported fund that has been used to save literally millions of lives. Let's stand in the gap for the marginalized and in just a small way help bring the Kingdom that much closer to our reality.


Josh Riddick

Director of Intercultural Engagement

As You Get Ready for this Week's Gathering (Nov 25, 2018)

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This Week: We will continue our exploration of the meaning and purpose of liturgy. As we think about the liturgical rhythms of life that want to build into our communities, we look to the inception of the church in the book of Acts for ideas. But, whenever you add things to your life, it means examining your current patterns to see if something needs to change.

Read: Acts 2:42-47

Listen: This Sunday on Spotify

Advent Guide Now Available

by Jody Lukowiak
November 16, 2018

Advent is coming! Are you ready? Advent is a time of anticipation and excitement, a time of waiting and remembering the birth of a savior the world desperately needs. Advent begins on December 2 and ends on Christmas Eve. We have created an Advent Guide to help you, your house church or family engage in this season. The guide will give you a weekly devotion as well as step-by-step instructions on how to utilize an Advent wreath throughout the season - a helpful reminder of the reasons Jesus came to dwell among us. We hope this guide helps you take time in a busy season to focus on God’s presence and love.

Click here to download the 2018 Advent Guide

As You Prepare to Gather this Sunday... (Nov 18, 2018)

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by Erik Thien
November 14, 2018

This Week: As we approach Thanksgiving, we are focusing on the meaning and purpose of traditions or, for the Christian faith, liturgy. Liturgical practices are created to lead us toward Jesus - but when they are divorced from their original intent or context, they can take on distorted and even oppressive properties.

Read: Mark 7:1-13

Listen: This Sunday on Spotify

Letter to the Congregation from Pastor Erik

by Erik Thien
November 13, 2018

Hello Common Ground Northeast,

We cannot thank you enough for the hospitality that you've shown as we have transitioned to Indy. Many of you opened up your houses, brought us meals, and even helped us unpack.  The more I get to know you, the more I feel affirmed that CGNE is exactly where God wants our family to be - at this point it is grace upon grace...upon grace! We are humbled and honored to join in with the movement, vision, and values embraced by the community. 

I am excited to say that this weekend is my first sermon as the Lead Pastor at CGNE.  Henri Nouwen says a preacher should be in the habit of "closing the furnace" so that when they open up to give a message, the flame is HOT.  There is a lot that God has kindled in me over the past couple years and I can't wait to share it with you!  

In order to prepare our hearts for the weekly gatherings, I have been working with Pastor Ian to create resources that allow you to begin meditating on the content, reading the scripture, and listening to the songs we have chosen to point our minds and hearts toward God.  Keep an eye out for them via email, social media, or on the site here. 

Join with me in praying for God to make us attentive to the Spirit as we engage with God together and lead our congregation. May we BE the church at all times and in all places as we represent God throughout the week and in our house churches!


For the King & His Kingdom,
Erik Thien
Lead Pastor