Isaiah 53:5-6 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Monthly Archives: March 2011
On this very day one year ago I was released by God to pursue my calling. Seven years of preparation from 2003-2010 had come to an end and I was facing a new beginning. I thought I would become a lead pastor of an established church in a city on central Florida. Church planting never cross my mind. God’s plans were so much bigger and so much more exciting and full of life. The journey was full of disappointments and I almost lost my footing a few times but Jesus wouldn’t let me slip and he wouldn’t let go of me. In 2001 I found myself disillusioned with the church and ministry and began pursuing a second vocation as a salesman. It wasn’t until September 11, 2001 when I was in New York City on business that I realized I don’t even belong here. I am not a sliced fruit salesman I’m a pastor! 2003 I thought my time had come and I was called and invited to be the lead pastor of my home church. I thought this is absolutely it I have found my calling. A few days after the invite I was called back and told I was too young and too inexperienced and they needed someone to lead the congregation and beat the sheep into submission. I didn’t have what it took. A few months later I went to my last assignment before church planting. During those years God was shaping my vision. In 2003 I started a document called the Church of the Future, not everyone’s future my future. Over the next seven years God shaped my dream and placed a burning passion in me to lead. In October of 2008 I almost gave up while away at a conference on Atlanta. I learned the difference between conviction and condemnation. I called my wife Lorena from Atlanta crying uncontrollably and told her know why I am not a lead pastor. Of course she asked why and I replied, “I am just not good enough. God can’t trust me.” She told me that was ridiculous and spoke such powerful words of affirmation into my life and rebuked me in love. November of 2008 God spoke the name of my church City on a Hill to me while I was packing Thanksgiving Day Boxed dinners for the under privileged in our community. I thought it was a cruel joke at first because I still had feelings of condemnation and not being good enough. But then I began to dream again. Thank God for the gentle guiding of the Holy Spirit.
One year ago this week I was still seeking direction concerning the timing for taking the biggest faith step in my life into church planting. Climbing my mountain down at Fort DeSoto on a daily basis in the morning fasting and praying I was asking God for faith and wisdom. Lorena and I knew it was what we were called to do. We just didn’t want to get out in front of God. We wanted to be faith filled not foolish. God was asking us to trust Him with everything. If this was a business decision or a career move it would have been ill advised to walk away from everything and truthfully and honestly have no plan B. We had Jesus and a dream called City on a Hill Church. God had shaped the dream into a vision now we were waiting on our marching orders. We received them Sunday March 21, 2010. Lorena was in first service at our former church and she clearly heard God ask her this question as she was in prayer and worship, “Why are you still here?” She left and went to work without seeing me. I went to second service and watched a young minister take the stage and I heard God say to me, “You may leave.” I felt such a sense of relief my seven year journey of preparation had come to and end and my biggest most exciting challenge was placed before me. When Lorena got home we sat down and shared our stories, drafted up a resignation letter, cried, prayed, and stepped out onto the high wire of church planting with no safety net. I resigned the very next morning. Little did I know that God had already gone before me and had already been preparing a people and calling a congregation into existence from all over the city. Not only was He calling the congregation He was setting in place a incredible series of blessings like I have never seen. His hand of favor, provision, and protection was resting heavy upon us. I had given a 90 day notice but the church only needed 30 days this was in itself awesome! We needed a place to hold launch team meetings and Native Sun warehouse gave us the meeting space for as long as we needed it free of charge. We our had our first launch team meeting and 45 people showed up, the day I turned in my laptop by that afternoon I had a laptop given to me, I began looking for a place for City on a Hill Church to call home we were already too big for the normal church plant meeting places like hotel fellowship rooms and the like. I went o Willis Johns Recreation Center and as I was walking out Brad Rice called out to me. Brad’s wife Leisa called me that evening we met the next day and signed a lease for the center which is an 11,000 square foot campus filled with enough seating for 452 people, children’s rooms, youth rooms, video games, games, toys, 2 playgrounds, swimming pool, skate park, and it is right in the center of the community! Glory to God. We needed sound equipment Frank Wilson gave us a fully functional sound system enough to fill a stadium with sound and volunteered to train our people how to set it up, tear it down, and run it. Then we needed a way to store it and move it around Carlisle and Michelle Cox gave us a covered trailer to store all of the equipment, during this time our Launch team had grown 80 strong. Our original opening date was to be September 12, 2010, we found ourselves in a sovereign move of God so we moved it up to June 20, 2010, but the blessings kept flowing so amazingly that we set the opening day to be May 23, 2010 which just so happens to be the Day of Pentecost the birth of the Church [Big C]. We opened our hearts and our doors that day to the city whom God has called us to and we watched as 340 people came from the North, South, East, and West. We opened with a full compliment of ministries from nursery to hospitality to worship to children’s to parking to greeter to you name it and we had it by God’s grace. Since that day we had an average attendance of 154 and we grew throughout the summer and right into the new year. Today our average attendance by God’s divine design and grace is 240 and rapidly growing. We had our first baptism on September 12, 2010 and saw 285 people attend to witness 22 people follow the Lord Jesus in baptism. We also watched as God held back the rain by divine intervention until we closed the door of our trailer. He even held back the rain, come on people that is praise worthy! Our Trustee Board was formed in April 2010 and at our first meeting in May we felt led by God to give away 10% of our income to local and global missions we started supporting 5 and now we have 8 monthly missionary efforts we support. To the glory of God and by God’s grace we have given over $24,000 to missions since May of last year and we have our first mission trip set for September 17-24, 2011, if the Lord is willing, we will send a team of 26 to Belize on our first oversees mission trip! Every third Saturday since May we have met at St. Vincent DePaul to purchase, prepare, and serve the less fortunate and homeless in our city. Some would say well this guy is just tooting his own horn. I would say to them I am rehearsing the good deeds of God and sharing a faith story that sounds like a Bible story because it is. I feel like I have been living Acts 29, a real life Bible story. I am humbled and amazed that God has chosen me to lead City on a Hill. This church planting experience has been truly a grace gift given to me and Lorena by an amazing God. We desire to build, become, and be a city within a city reaching our city with the life changing message of Jesus Christ one life at a time. We believe this can and will continue to happen if we always remember it is all about Jesus it has always been about Jesus and it will always be about Jesus. Our heart is to live out our life verse Matthew 5:14-16 as we Love God, Love People, and Preach Jesus in our city, region, and world. I began this blog two weeks before we opened and I titled it Showing Off because God hasn’t just been Showing Up He has been Showing Off. My prayer is that as you read this blog you will pick a fight with a giant that you can not defeat without God’s help, that you will go on a adventure with God has your guide, and that you will step out in faith with no plan B realizing that Jesus is all we need. When I started this journey all I had was Jesus and a dream. One year into this journey all I still have is Jesus and dream. I intend to run the score up on the kingdom of darkness in this city. I have no intention of playing not to lose, I play to win. I play to the glory of God! Some trust in chariots and some trust in horses but we trust in Jesus our God and King. God has been, is, and always will be our benefactor. If this was your first visit to our blog I hope this has inspired you. If you are one of theCOAH faithful who has been on this journey with us I hope this trip down memory lane has reminded you of the grace gifts we have been given by God. The greatest gifts He has given us is each other, Church family, and a place to call home. Glory to God forever! Our first Easter approaches rapidly last year was the first year in many, many years that I wasn’t privileged to be a part of a baptism. As I stood on the pier watching with tear filled eyes the Lord spoke to me and said next year will be a year you will never forget it will be City on a Hill Church’s first Easter baptism. I can’t wait to see everyone God is calling to be a part of that special morning. My heart leaps and my eyes fill with tears even now as I think of it! It is going to be glorious! God’s promises are yes and amen. City on a Hill Church is a living trophy of grace and testimony to an amazing, loving, kind, gracious, and powerful God.
Planting City on a Hill Church has been one of the most faith building if not the most faith building experience in my life. It has also been absolutely the most challenging task I have ever faced. You can not strike directly into the heart of darkness in a city and expect not to pay a heavy price. This time last year I walked away from it all to follow Jesus and go on a faith journey called church planting. It has been incredible! By God’s grace I have seen Him call and draw wanderers from the North, South, East, and West back into His kingdom and back into His service. I have seen God call wanderers who were left to walk the city streets alone with no church family back into safe pasture. I have seen lost people found and those blinded by the god of this world given sight and saved by God’s amazing grace. It has been glorious. But I have also seen the enemy of our soul turn up the heat on the precious people of COAH. I have seen men and women of God come under heavy attack. I have seen the enemy of our soul try to sow seeds of discord. I have seen all out assaults on people’s homes, relationships, faith, workplaces, businesses, families, health, and minds. City on a Hill Church is a testament to the sustaining power of the grace of God. By God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit we have stayed in the fire fight. This battle is a battle that is fought and won through faith in Jesus Christ and prayer and fasting. I hold fast to this truth:
Isaiah 58:6-14 [NIV] 6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. 9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. 11 The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. 12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; You will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. 13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, 14 then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
All throughout human history we can see specific traits traced to spiritual awakenings. They are persistent prayer, exaltation of Christ, repentance of sin, preaching the Gospel of Christ, bold service of God, and acknowledging God’s authority. God has called me to this city for such a time as this. We planted City on a Hill Church with the intention of building a city for God among the city of men. To build a city within a city reaching our city with the life changing message of Jesus Christ. In the past month our city has been through Hell! Hopeless, brokenness, feelings of helplessness, anger, fear, and the like have assaulted the precious people of our city. But out of the ashes God has raised up His Church. Pastors and churches have crossed denominational lines and given up unspoken territorial claims to pick up the blood stained yet hope filled banner of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our city has become a city of prayer. These tragedies have brought our city and those who live in it to our needs in persistent heart felt repentant prayer. I have heard pastors and church members repent of apathy. I have seen Christ exalted and the name of Jesus boldly proclaimed without shame or fear. Our eyes have been opened that we are not self-autonomous, self lording and we have turned our eyes back to our one true King.