live oak church family

More Than Enough

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By Laurel Senick

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  Luke 6:38 NIV

When I began tithing my life differed greatly from what it is now. I was a single, newly born-again believer who lived paycheck to paycheck. I had a small amount of debt from a credit card and from my first computer a huge Apple desktop. Does anyone have desktops anymore? Dave Ramsey, the finance guru, would have called that a dum-dum purchase. But at the time I didn’t know who he was.

I actually think it was helpful to have some debt when I started tithing. It took more faith to give, which built muscle. God had shown me he was faithful with whatever I gave him. My home, my sexuality, and my boyfriends were the major struggles in my eyes. Funny, finances came last. The last frontier of a life submitted to God? Maybe it’s that way for everyone, like the wild wild west of religion! But in my tithing journey there have been a few defining moments.

In those pre-tithe days, my car was one oil change from its grave; that is, if I were ever to get one. Did I mention I’m tough on cars? Finally, when it kicked the bucket a friend directed me to Engine Angels, a ministry born from a dad helping his daughter fix her car. Then this dad went on to fix his daughter’s friends’ cars and then their friends’ and so on. Engine Angels will let you buy a car that has been donated and inspected, at Blue Book value, paying whatever you can afford every month at no interest. Being a single female with a job is all you needed to qualify.

What a miracle my ‘87 Grand Prix, fondly nicknamed Big Blue, was to my worried soul. Driving on and off the beach with the foam straps and surfboard—this eye-sore was one of the ways my husband Don first noticed me. Who could have thought of that but God! I was learning God’s goodness by trusting him with my tithe.

The next defining moment was after Don and I were married and the company I worked for suddenly shut its doors. While the owners skipped town, most of us finished out the work week with our special needs clients knowing we wouldn’t be paid. Days before our church had just completed a money series, prompting Don and I to spruce up our budget - including a heftier tithe.

Despite the absence of my paycheck we trusted God and gave the full tithe that would have been included with my check. God says test him in this whole money thing you know. Not only did God provide an opportunity for me to pray for my co-workers during the crisis of losing our jobs, but by the end of the next week another company had adopted all our clients and us. Suddenly, I had my old job at a new company and this one provided health insurance. We cannot out give God. I wonder how often we miss out on this promise.

Recently I had a doozy of a faith test. I didn’t realize my automatic draft for tithing had stopped until I began working on a new budget and realized I hadn’t tithed in eight months. Uh oh. Suddenly I had to make a decision. There was no extra money sitting in my account. That money was G.O.N.E. I spent it even though it wasn’t my intention not to tithe. Surely someone should have let me know, right? Oh, I had excuses, lots of excuses. Trust me—it was a battle. “The money in my savings account is mine,” I whined.

I can just imagine God getting quite a chuckle watching me wrestle this out. I wonder if he thought, let’s see if she really trusts me. He must have whispered something like, “Don’t forget you’re mine, dear daughter. Have I ever forgotten the lilies of the field or the hairs on your head?” Because I remembered His faithfulness and I knew what to do. I knew all the times when it made little sense to give but somehow, I always had enough. More than enough.

“‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’” Malachi 3:10-11 NIV


Devoted: Serve Others

Left to Right: Ryan Ivey, Jason Miles, Dana Hebert & Natalyn Bachek

Left to Right: Ryan Ivey, Jason Miles, Dana Hebert & Natalyn Bachek

Google says it perfectly. Quoted from Merriam-Webster, of course: “The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” Hospitality. To be hospitable.

Hopefully if you are reading this, you’ve walked through our doors at Live Oak and experienced our Hospitality Team greeters. Whether rain or shine, a team of bright, shining faces will welcome and open the door for you before our service begins. If you’ve missed us, then chances are you are late 😊 but no need to worry, we’ll catch you at the end of service! The goal of our Hospitality Team is to be the first welcoming face of Live Oak to usher you into our family. Not only will you catch us at the front doors, but behind the coffee bar, helping you find your seat or just generally showing you around the place.

Of course, we have the PERFECT example of hospitality in Jesus Christ. He is and was the end-all, be-all in hospitality and welcoming those around Him. He was friendly and generous to everyone he came across, no matter their beliefs, background or way of life. In Acts 2:42-47 we enter a scene of exuberant excitement for what is going on. When I read these verses, my heart jumps a little and my mind is set at ease. We find a large group of people who are following Jesus and are literally dropping everything they’ve ever worked for to follow this amazing Teacher.

“That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.

Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.

They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.” – Acts 2:42-47 (The Message).

Can’t you feel the high energy of this group just from these few verses? They are utterly enthralled by their new-found way of life and want to shout it from the rooftops. Recently at Live Oak, we’ve been focusing on a sermon series called “Devoted,” all revolving around this passage of scripture and focusing our gaze on being like this ecstatic group of followers. We want our love for Jesus to ooze from us like it does for these people, not just on Sundays, but every day. To be so consumed with Jesus’ love that it naturally radiates from us and invites others to investigate.

With our hospitality team, this is a way we can naturally serve others and welcome them into our Live Oak family. To share our love for Jesus and people on a regular basis to all who walk through the doors. From that first hand shake to the second cup of hot coffee or an empty chair beside us in service, our mission is to connect and truly create relationships that allow us to do life together and not alone. We really do believe that God made us to do life together and these relationships not only bring us closer together, but closer to Him.

Our hospitality team usually consists of eight to ten people who serve regularly, anywhere from every week to once a month – whatever works in their stage of life. Each Sunday we meet for fifteen minutes to go over the day and pray for the service ahead. From there we go to our spots and prepare to greet people or assist them in finding their way around Live Oak. A natural, organic feeling can be felt when serving on our hospitality team, as if you are just hanging out with friends you haven’t seen all week. A lot of times our team consists of people who serve regularly and many deep relationships start from serving the same day each month with someone else, allowing comfortability and a family atmosphere to form.

We hope that each Sunday we represent a culture that supports a “friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers,” and pray that strangers will cease to exist as soon as you walk into our doors.

Pictured above are a few of our hospitality leaders that are willing to help in any way to make your time at Live Oak as natural and comfortable as possible.


Devoted: Give Generously

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By Lindsay Few

Have you ever felt greed sink its teeth into you? Wrap its tendrils around you like a pestilent vine, growing more quickly than you thought possible? I have. Let me tell you.

Very early into marriage, Brian & I went shopping for our first grown up purchase: A new couch. We were both still in school and we worked both a patchwork of breakfast, lunch and dinner shifts waiting tables. We were officially broke as a joke, but we lived accordingly: We spent sparingly, tithed 10% and had carefully saved up $500 for the big purchase.

We walked into a discount furniture store ready for the occasion. Immediately our budget, which had seemed generous, looked measly next to the brand new sofas and loveseats. This was disappointing. Could we afford anything at all? We almost walked right out... but then decided it couldn’t hurt to look around a little, right?

As we looked, we got a little more comfortable. We test-sat and imagined lounging happily at home (while trying to ignore the salesmen circling like birds of prey). We found one - could it be the one? A sprawling brown leather number; shiny and new - especially compared to the free giveaway couch we were replacing - and it was marked with a “sale” tag. Emboldened, Brian asked about the price. “$2,000,” the salesman answered, glad to help. (*Gulp*) But wait! He could give us no-money-down financing. We could take it home today and pay nothing until later! Were we interested? Uh, yeah, we definitely were. The smell of new leather filling our nostrils, we looked at each other, almost giddy with the possibility. It seemed too good that we could have a couch worth four times what we could pay! I think we both began to realize that maybe it was too good. “We’ll think about it and come back,” we said.

Driving home we chattered about how we would position the couch in our living room; how happy we’d be with this fancy new upgrade. Back at home, we grew quiet. How quickly we’d been lured into wanting - no, needing! - the couch once we’d found it. Backing out now would be such a let down. Yet, knowing how easy it could be to abandon our $500-budget plan; seeing how effortlessly we’d both moved from a mindset of stewarding each dollar carefully to “must-have-it-now” spooked us.

We decided not to go back for the couch. The tentacles of greed seemed wrapped up in it. Instead, we agreed to take half our budget and put it toward the capital campaign at our church. Giving $250 felt huge, but we wanted a hard break from grabby greed. A reset of trusting God and stewarding well what He provided.

Generosity is one of the best antidotes to the poison of greed. But why give to the church, specifically? Many say that buying lunch for a friend or donating to a favorite charity “counts” as tithing. These things may be generous, but they aren’t tithing.

Following Jesus means loving Him; treasuring what He treasures. The Church is high on that list. Scripture refers to the Church as Christ’s bride, and the level of care that indicates is clear: “No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body.” Ephesians 5:29, 30. He loves His bride enough to die for her.

If we say we love Jesus, but fail to also love His Church, we are missing out. This is what made it easy then to give to our church: In giving, we partner with God to build up what he loves. Giving reminds us that our lives are not just our own, but are part of something bigger. We are invited to build God’s kingdom right here in our own church body. God doesn’t need anything we can give, for as He says, “the world is Mine, and the fullness thereof.” (Psalm 50.) It’s all His anyway; we are graciously invited into the mission of building His kingdom on earth. The more we trust Him into the details of our actual life; into the details of our dollars, the more we can live the fullness of life He invites us into.

  • Start with a consistent percentage

  • If you’re unsure of “where the money goes” at church, ask!

  • Ask God how he wants you to give. Notice how He shapes your heart as you do what He says

Epilogue: A couple of weeks later, Brian stopped by Pier One to look for a couch. They had one on sale; additionally discounted since it was the floor model. It was $250 exactly and felt to us like a gift from God.  


The Interview Series | Sam Marsh

By Natalyn Bachek

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You’ve seen her on stage either wailing away on the drums, playing guitar or singing her heart out leading the praise band. She’s got a powerful musical gift and a heart for ministry, but what is behind that shining, welcoming face?

I had the pleasure of recently having lunch with Samantha “Sam” Marsh, surrounded by the Thanksgiving hustle and bustle of Whole Foods. We scarfed down our ultra-spicy brussel sprouts, of which neither of us could leave a crumb behind, and I got to really take a peek into Sam’s life and see how the Lord has shaped her path and led her right to Live Oak.

Sam was born in England, moved to New Jersey at the age of two then swiftly moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. Sam grew up riding horses, working at a horse barn and ultimately falling in love with music by learning to play the trombone at an early age. 

Sam got accepted to Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, and continued her love of music by being a music major until, in Sam’s own words, “God decided to close a door.” She ended up finding out that a sharp pain in her jaw was not just a quick fix, but after a winding road of doctor’s evaluations and inevitably a surgery, the diagnosis was a broken jaw. This may have stopped many in their tracks, leaving them wondering what to do next, but with Sam, the Lord allowed this instance to mold and shape her. This is where her relationship with the Lord really started to grow and was ultimately the beginning of her relationship with Him.  

From there on out, she switched her major to religion studies and was introduced to an amazing campus ministry at App State called Campus Christian Fellowship. It was there that she began an internship with CCF. After graduation, she accepted an internship with CCF and moved to Missouri to work on the campus of Missouri University of Science and Technology. There Sam led three hundred students (wow!) and a thirty-member worship band regularly, but she missed her “home state,” and moved back to Charlotte to enroll at Gordon Conwell University for Seminary. 

It wasn’t until she was settled in Charlotte that she was offered a full-time position as the Women’s Minister for CCF at a little-known school called UNCW in Wilmington, NC. Although this was a full-time gig, Sam accepted and was able to still remotely complete her seminary schooling on the side (She is still powering through her seminary classes with graduation in the future!). Although a much smaller ministry than the one she previously ran in Missouri, Sam says that this is more her pace, as she leads fifteen UNCW students weekly. This allows for her to individually engage in each of their lives. Most of these students are international students and one of the perks is that Sam is involved with taking them shopping every Friday in the big CCF van. They all load up and head to our local Walmart to get necessities and form relationships off campus.

All in all, CCF and UNCW brought Sam to us at Live Oak through an invitation from her roommate one random Sunday. (THANK YOU FOR BEING THAT VESSEL ROOMMATE!) We are so very thankful the Lord led Sam our way and that her God-given talents can be used to engage more people each week. She is part of a much bigger picture that we only can see a hint of, but we know that God has it all planned out for his glory.

Fun facts about Sam:

- All of her extended family still lives in England

- Loves to skate & longboard

- Self-taught drummer!

How we can pray for Sam:

- Several months ago, Sam tragically lost her mom. Please be praying for healing and peace for her and her family. That she would lean on God daily for strength during this grief process.

- CCF Ministry at UNCW and all the students Sam encounters