I’ll warn everyone up front, today’s blog is going to be a bit raw. I want to give folks a peek behind the curtain into the life of a church planter, pastor, husband, uncle, brother, and friend. I have never worked so hard in my life! I have put more hours into City on a Hill Church than anytime before in ministry. Please don’t cry for me:) It is a true labor of love. I didn’t have to plant City on a Hill Church God let me plant COAH. I don’t have to I get to. So don’t feel sorry for me I am living out God’s purposes and the dream God placed in my life. I am doing what I was made to do. Make no mistake about it the cost was and is high, but the results are priceless! Eighteen months ago when my wife and I looked each other in the eyes and decided to follow God on this journey we had no idea how awesome or how hard it would be. God’s hand of favor and provision rested upon us and City on a Hill Church in an unmistakable and undeniable fashion and it still rests heavy upon us to this day. I was willing to work one or two secular jobs to see COAH come to life. We bet everything on Jesus. We walked away from a career, a good salary and benefits into the unknown. The bills didn’t quit coming folks, even though the paycheck isn’t there they still send the bills and they expect you to pay them:) I have no idea why but by God’s grace I never had to take a secular job He provided through City on a Hill Church. I don’t have a full time job I have an all time job to the glory of God. Just because of this blessing doesn’t discount what was pushed to the center of the table and what ultimately was riding on trusting God with our whole lives. It just makes the story more amazing like manna from heaven. I can’t answer why God has favored me so. I am just awestruck at His grace to me. I have two bible stories that I get even better now than I did before because I lived them. I felt like the rich young ruler when Jesus said go and sell everything you have and follow me then you will have eternal life. I was in professional ministry, in a great church, doing God’s work, however I was trapped in the cage of responsibility. I allowed the career, the guaranteed money, the benefits cause me to play it safe. I wasn’t living. I was just making a living. Jesus came and asked me can I have it all? Can I have your position? Can I have your salary? Can I have your benefits? Can I have your security? Ultimately he was asking can I have your trust? Do you trust me? When Jesus found me I had nothing. 21 years later everything I had and have in my life is because of Jesus so when He asked me can I have it all back the answer was yes! All I had left was Jesus and a dream. Two things move people the push of pain and the pull of hope. Both were at work in my life. The push of pain due to living in professional ministry in a corporate environment almost killed my faith in Christ and the Church. The pull of hope that I could lead a movement and bring about change reignited my desire. The second bible story is the story of David in the caves of Adullam. For seven years I was in the caves learning the lay of the land and God was shaping me into the church planter He needed me to be. The pain I experienced, the loneliness, the despair, the grief, the anguish, was overwhelming. All of that was preparation for my leadership. I was in the refiner’s fire and it was hot, hot, hot! Words can not describe the broken place I was in. God does His best work in those times. I was broken, not not like china or glass, I was broken like a war horse was broken. Broken for battle, broken to storm the gates of Hell in this city to the glory of God. God’s hand of favor has been upon me the whole time even in the caves. I have heard people say or they have asked me, “What do you do for a living?” “What do you do all week?” “What is your real job?” “It is easy to plant a church in the same city you have been in for seven years.” Honestly most days it just rolls off my back. Some days it doesn’t. So today I thought I would give people a look behind the curtain. Recently my precious wife was crying and I asked her, “Honey what is wrong?” She said, “I don’t know how you do it. How do you do it?” She had heard something ugly that was said about me. I told her, “I’m a pastor. Sometimes sheep bite and they bite hard. You love them the way Jesus loves you.” She went on through her tears, “If these people knew how much you loved them and what it costs you and what it costs us every day they wouldn’t be so ugly.” She wasn’t just speaking of people who attend COAH she was speaking of other detractors and commentators as well. She has seen me weep over our church and over our city. She has heard my cries to God for the lost and the wanderers. She knows better than anyone how much time, prayer, and effort that goes into this church plant. Even though I am careful to make time for her she knows the endless hours I spend seeking God for City on a Hill Church and our city. I told her, “God is good and He expects us to be good.” Still wrought with emotion she said, “There isn’t a devil in Hell that will keep us from doing what God wants to do in us and through City on a Hill Church! There ain’t a devil in Hell. We will do whatever it takes” I smiled and said, “It is all about Jesus it has always been about Jesus, and it will always be about Jesus. I ain’t even tired yet Baby Girl.” I wrote this today to give you a peek behind the curtain. Anyone who thinks church planting is easy or glamorizes “full-time” ministry needs to take a long hard look. To quote a popular song, “What they don’t know is how hard it is to make it look so easy.” Anyone who doesn’t know how hard it is or what it is like to walk away from everything not knowing the outcome needs to weigh their words wisely. Just because God in His sovereignty felt that seven years in the caves of Adullam was enough and provided for my family through the church plant doesn’t nullify or make the sacrifice any less. My vision isn’t for sale, rent, lease or loan never has been and never will be. I wanted to give you a peek behind the curtain today not to cause you to feel sorry for me or to garner support. I wanted to give you a peek behind the curtain so that you will be encouraged to live out whatever God is calling to do for Him. We live our lives before the face of God! We live our lives for an audience of One! No one but Jesus will ever know what it truly costs. There will always be people trying to steal God’s glory by explaining away His successes in your life. So what! Let them say what they will. There are three people that know what it costs to bring City on a Hill Church to life, me, my sweet wife, and my Savior Jesus! All I had was Jesus and a dream and all I still have is Jesus and a dream, all I’ll ever have is Jesus and a dream. Hope you enjoyed your peek behind the curtain:) Be encouraged!
Monthly Archives: October 2011
I am sitting here in my office on a Monday morning shaking my head in awestruck wonder at the faithfulness of our God. I know I shouldn’t be but I can’t help it. God is just so amazing and His hand of provision, favor, and protection has rested heavily upon this 18 month old baby church plant called City on a Hill Church. Two core values come to mind as I sit here typing this morning. They are always in my heart but when they flesh themselves out daily I’m still incredibly and humbly amazed. The first core value is that we are blessed to be a blessing. COAH believes and every member of COAH believes this core value and we walk it out in our daily lives. When God is your benefactor one of the biggest benefits is generosity. We can not help but be generous when we recognize just how generous God has been to us. We can not help but live our lives in a way that expresses just how blessed we are. I have to share a couple stories that as a pastor have warmed my heart and made me very proud to pastor COAH. There is a single mom in our church with two precious children. She found herself in need. Before COAH could step in and do anything another wonderful lady in Christ got wind of the need and took them shopping and provided more than just their basic need. Glory to God! Isn’t that just amazing? But it doesn’t stop there. I know of another brother in Christ who wanted to minister to young lady who is pregnant so he and his girlfriend take this young expectant mother shopping for baby clothes even before the baby arrives. Praise God! These are just two stories of folks in our congregation recognizing God is their benefactor and living out the core value of being blessed to be a blessing. This happens on a church wide level as well. November 13 we will have our third Stuff Swap. A Stuff Swap is like a yard sale without the exchanging of money. If you have stuff you think others will benefit from we bring it bring it and put it on tables and if you see stuff you need you take it. It is an Acts 2 kind of event. Imagine that! Blessed to be a blessing. We’ve had two so far in our church’s history and they have just been amazing. When God is your benefactor we don’t need to hoard instead we learn to trust. We also do something that is a total God thing around the holidays. It is something some pastors would call us crazy for. It takes audacious faith to do but hey if anybody can do it let them. We like God sized assignments because He gets all of the glory. Every year we do the “Christmas Blessing”. Here is how it works without fail there are people in our congregation, and yours, who are looking to be blessed to be a blessing around the holidays. They are always looking for a way to help a family who is less fortunate. Conversely, without fail there are always families within our church, any church for that matter, who find themselves in need because life happens at the speed of life. What we do is try and anonymously put these families together. The family that wants to be a blessing and the family in need. Now here is where we get down to brass tacks. When you make that kind of public statement within the church you must be willing to back it up and help every family that needs help. The trustee board and I knew the gamble and we bet it all on Jesus last year and guess what happened? Yup! You guessed it we never even had to reach into the church’s account because so many folks stepped up to be blessed to be a blessing. We were fully prepared to trust God as our benefactor. Every time it looked like we would need to take care of a family God would speak to another family’s heart and they would get the honor and privilege of meeting that family’s needs. It was amazing. There was no pressure on us and all the pressure was on God:) That is the benefit of having a heavenly benefactor. People are not resources to be used up and discarded. People are people and deserve love and respect not to be strapped with a heavy yoke. God is our benefactor and He uses people to be a blessing. The big lesson here is trust God to speak to people’s heart. Trust God to provide manna from heaven. Trust God to meet the needs in your congregation. Don’t preach guilt and condemnation, preach Jesus! He changes lives by changing hearts. When Jesus has the hearts of the people in your church they don’t just give a percentage to God they give their whole lives to God everything they have and everything they don’t have. Some pastors will read this blog and go have an anxiety attack! When I tell pastors I don’t check the giving records that is between God and His people they look at me like I have two heads! Call me crazy but God is the benefactor of City on a Hill Church. We are blessed to be a blessing! I have never seen the righteous forsaken or God’s seed begging for bread. We are called to be wise stewards. Do I care about giving? You better believe it! The first gift we give is our heart to Christ. When we has our heart He has it all. We can not help give when we have a true authentic life changing encounter with Jesus Christ. I don’t want to give God 10% I want to give God 110% of everything I am. That comes out in a combination of time, talent, and treasure. God has given us all a certain amount time, talent, and treasure and He expects us to use it for His glory to make Him known in our city. Two core values: We are blessed to be a blessing and God is our benefactor not man. We must be careful to never limit what God can do by how many people are in our pews [seats, whatevs] or how much money goes in the plates weekly or monthly. The benefits of having a heavenly benefactor frees us to live our lives to the glory in such a way that all glory goes to Him and everybody who looks can see the greatness and the goodness of our amazing God. Just this week we had another incredible gift come in and bless us. Every time we have stepped out in faith, every time we have focused on accomplishing God’s purposes in our church and city God opens up the windows of heaven and pours out His blessings. I sit here in my office totally awestruck at God’s provision. I feel like I am living in a Bible story and have been for the past 18 months. You can’t make this stuff up guys. In April of 2010 I named this blog Showing Off because God wasn’t just Showing Up in my life and in the life of City on a Hill Church He has been Showing Off to His glory. God’s purposes can not be thwarted check out Job 42:2! Be encouraged!
Yesterday at City on a Hill Church I announced our God sized citywide outreach “For The City”. I was so stoked to share with everyone the vision, goal, and purpose behind this event. I was totally thrilled with the response as I shared my heart. I looked out into a congregation filled with people genuinely enthusiastic and excited about loving God by loving our city.
Can you dream with me for a minute? Dream with me and imagine a whole church mobilizing loving on each other and living out Acts 2 through the Stuff Swap where everyone brings what they don’t need or feels lead to share and takes what they do need. Directly following the Stuff Swap we saddle up and go out into the city to distribute bread to hundreds of home and blankets and socks to the homeless and ask for nothing in return. We just bring a message that God loves and cares about them. I can see it now in my mind’s eye, someone praying, “God if your real knock on my door.” and then they hear a knock. I get filled with emotion and anticipation just praying about, dreaming about, and believing God for these kind of divine appointments. Going and not asking anyone for anything rather saying, “God sent me to give you this bread/ blanket/ socks today because He loves you.”
Isaiah 58 resonates in my spirit. One particular verse strikes me with unrestrained hope. Vs. 8a says, “Then shall your light break forth like the dawn and your healing shall spring up speedily.” It says your healing will spring up speedily. Our healing and hope is found in bringing hope and healing to others. Church isn’t a place we “go” it is who we “are”. If we can make this switch and connection in our brains we will realize we can never leave something that we “are”. Churches will begin to grow and live out the Gospel in real and tangible ways. We will live Christ centered, cross centered, Gospel centered lives that will bring hope and health to our city, our churches, and ultimately our lives.
Isaiah 58:1-5 reveals a group of people playing church. A group of people who viewed church as a place to “go”. A religious practice without any relational aspect. They went through the motions in attempts to demonstrate their love for God but they ignored what God loves most, people. They even got mad at God when He didn’t do what they wanted Him to do for them. They were self-focused full of self-righteousness. I don’t want that for City on a Hill Church. We are just an 18 month old baby. Right now we are learning how to walk in the city and we are just getting our voice in the city. By God’s grace I desire for us 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 can only do that by Loving God, Loving People, and Preaching Jesus. We can only remain successful in God’s eyes if we remember daily, “It is all about Jesus it has always been about Jesus and it will always be about Jesus.” Then we won’t ever live out Isaiah 58:1-5 instead we will live out Isaiah 58:6-14.
November 13 we will live out Isaiah 58 to an even greater degree than we already have. Since we opened we have partnered with the Dream Center, The Next Step Pregnancy Center, and St. Vincent DePaul to bring hope in our city. We have sent a team to Belize to share the Gospel on foreign soil. On November 13 our whole church will mobilize as an Army of Hope heading into our city to share the love of Christ and advance the Gospel. This is a mission trip that every member and every family member can go on together. This is a all church missions trip right into the heart of our city. What is even more exciting is we are partnering with our partner ministry the Dream Center for sustainable relationships and results for years to come. This is no one hit wonder or feel good tour. This is a chance to come along side a ministry that is on the front lines, deep in the trenches sharing Christ and advancing the Gospel. We can help them do what would take them months if not years to do in an afternoon. Come on, that has to get you excited!
Isaiah 58:6-11 – [ESV] “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. 9Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, 10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. 11And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
Every time I read Isaiah 58 I openly weep because of the promises and the hope that I see in the text. The text doesn’t start out very promising in the first five verses we see people who have gotten lost in religious practices. We see people who became comfortable going to church, no longer recognizing that we are not to just “Go” to church but rather we “ARE” the Church.However, I don’t get hung up there because the promises are too big to get bogged down in finger pointing and self-righteousness.God doesn’t leave them there and He doesn’t leave us there either. Glory to God! Instead I see His promise that if we set aside religious practices and focus on our relationship with Him and with others we get to be world changers! We get to be called “repairers of the breach and restorers of paths to dwell in.” My heart leaps with joy and anticipation knowing that the God of the universe chooses us to bring light and hope to our world through Jesus Christ.
November 13 we will be right in the middle of a series entitled HOPE. God has chosen that day to work in us and through us to change our cityscape forever to His glory. We have set out 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 and now we can make that dream an even greater reality. By God’s grace Sunday November 13 we will mobilize our whole congregation to impact our city like never before. It will start will our regular scheduled church services: Servant’s Service at 9 am and General Gathering at 10:30 am. Services will be followed by the Stuff Swap, taking care of those within our church family. The Stuff Swap is like a yard sale without the money. Simply put if you have stuff you don’t need you bring it and put it on the tables to be a blessing to someone else and if you need something that you see you simply take it. If you don’t have anything and you need it you just take it. Everything left over will be taken to the Goodwill directly following the event with the exception of coats, heavy shirts and jackets we will use those later in the day.
After the Stuff Swap [11:45 am to 12:45 pm] we will depart from the church and meet at Campbell Park just north of our partner ministry the Dream Center. We are encouraging everyone to grab a few loaves of bread and either bring them to church with you or grab them after church on your way to the meeting place. There we will join with the Dream Center to visit the hundreds of homes and apartments surrounding the Dream Center distributing bread to each home, offering an invitation to the Dream Center and praying for those who may need prayer or collecting prayer requests to be prayed over later in the day. Pastor Sam and his team have been in the community bringing hope and light but the workers are few. Can you imagine with me for a moment what a couple hundred people could do? Imagine the impact we could have to the glory of God! We could effectively do in a few hours what would take Pastor Sam and his team months if not years to do! Talk about living out Isaiah 58 and our life verses Matthew 5:14-16! The coolest thing is everything is being done in the name of the Jesus. But wait there is more!!!
Directly following the Bread Giveaway [1 pm to 3 pm] we will depart from Campbell Park and head over to Williams Park where we will become a Blanket Brigade and distribute blankets, the left over clothes and socks to all of the homeless folks in the area bringing hope and demonstrating the love of Jesus in a real and tangible way. We are asking folks to grab a 6 pack of socks or a blanket and bring it with them Sunday so we can give them away Sunday afternoon. This is a chance for us to live out Isaiah 58 in our city offering hope. Along with giving away socks, clothes and blankets we will also be offering prayers and taking prayer requests to be prayed over later. This just makes me smile knowing we get to love who some would call unlovable. It makes me smile because it makes God smile. How do I know? Isaiah 58 and Amos 5.
Finally after the Blanket Brigade [3:15 pm to 4 pm] we will hold a celebration service which will include Prayer, Worship, Testimony, Communion, and the Gospel from 5 to 6:30 pm. It will be a full day of living out the Gospel. One of the biggest blessings is this isn’t just a one hit wonder. We will be joining with our partner ministry the Dream Center advancing and enhancing the ongoing work they are already doing in the city. I encourage everyone to mark your calendars gather your families and let’s impact our city like never before. Let’s be the Church we see in Isaiah 58. City on a Hill Church isn’t a place we “GO” it is who we “ARE”! Let’s show our city, “It is all about Jesus, it has always been about Jesus and it will always be about Jesus!” One of our core values is, “We can not say we are about the city if we are not in the city.” This outreach is appropriately named For the City. I hope to see you there! I hope to lead a congregation of hundreds into the streets of the city to bring hope and to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word and in deed. Please pray about being a part of this powerful move of God. This is also an incredible way we can celebrate Thanksgiving with our families and our church family giving glory to God for His hand of favor, blessing, and protection. We will loudly declare that Jesus is For The City!
If you are reading this blog from another city or another part of the world you can be a part. Please pray for us! Be Encouraged!
We are 18 months into this church planting journey. A journey that truly began with a broken pastor thinking and eventually crying out, “It is not supposed to be this way.” I really didn’t know how true that statement was until I was reading a great book entitled Redemption. I saw in scripture exactly what I had been feeling in my heart. It is not supposed to be this way. I was serving Christ but I had become jaded by professional ministry and looking at the church from a business perspective rather than her eternal purpose. Everything in me cried out, “It is not supposed to be this way.” Reading Redemption and the biblical account in Genesis 1,2 and 3 it clicked. In the past I had resisted the idea and declaration, it is not supposed to be this way as my own hurts and hang ups but finally I saw I was right. I was affirmed that it is truly not supposed to be this way. When God made Adam and Eve they experienced perfect shalom, which means peace. They were at peace with God, creation and each other. It was perfect the way it is supposed to be. But sin entered int the picture and radically changed everything leaving them and us to cry out, “It is not supposed to be this way.” Deep down in our hearts we know it is not supposed to be this way. Our hearts cry out for the shalom/ peace we as mankind once knew. Peace between God and man. Just reading this biblical account and taking into consideration that creation itself knows it is not supposed to be this way gives me a sense of shalom. Thanks be to God as soon as Adam and Eve knew it was not supposed to be this way God preached the first Gospel in Genesis 3:15 promising that once again we could have perfect shalom. Before we can experience it sin had to be dealt with and Jesus Christ’s arrival, life, death, burial, and resurrection defeated our three greatest enemies satan, sin, and death. Through faith in Jesus Christ we gain peace between us and God. The Bible teaches us that before we turned to Christ we were enemies of God and objects of wrath. However, through faith in Jesus Christ objects of wrath become objects of affection and we regain the shalom our hearts have been crying out for. Not yet perfect shalom not until the return of Christ but a shalom that passes all understanding even in the midst of trials and life’s storms. Our hearts cry out, “It is not supposed to be this way.” The Holy Spirit confirms it and comforts us by saying it doesn’t have to be this way and it sure doesn’t have to stay this way. Jesus can change it and restore the shalom that we seek. I know this to be true because I was done with the church proper, not God’s people just the “corporate church” which is no church at all. Just my opinion, Whatevs:) I knew it wasn’t supposed to be this way so I stepped up to the plate and out in faith and trusted Christ with the whole of my life. The shalom I felt was like nothing I’ve ever felt before. My wife and I were driving home from Ocala when we made one of the most radical and faith filled decisions we had ever made in our lives. It had the potential to break us but we looked at each other and said, “I have never felt such a peace like I feel right now.” We both laughed and cried and said, “This is amazing! There is no way we should feel this peaceful and calm right now in the midst of this storm but we do.” It was then that I knew I was right, it wasn’t supposed to be this way and God was about to show me just what it could be like. God gave my wife a saying as we planted City on a Hill Church, “We may not be everything we’re gonna be, but we are everything we’re supposed to be.” With that statement came the freedom to boldly and unapologetically say, “It is all about Jesus, it has always been about Jesus, and it will always be about Jesus.” 18 months into the journey I feel the same way. I love the church and I know we can’t change anything from the outside in it has to be changed from the inside out. Abandoning the church isn’t the answer becoming the church is the answer. My life has been one big Bible story the past 18 months and my level of peace has been at an all time high even in the face of heavy adversity God’s sovereign hand of favor, blessing and protection has rested heavily upon COAH and my life. Reading that book redemption along with the Genesis text really helped me understand the shalom I seek isn’t of this world or in this world. ore importantly it helped me to help others to see the same truth. All of creation cries out to be redeemed. Our city needs Jesus like never before. We need Jesus! To quote a Christian rapper friend of mine we need to, “Love my Jesus like old ladies playing bridge, want my Jesus like I’m gong for the fridge.” It is not supposed to be this way! Now we know it what are we going to do about it? The first step is peace between God and man through faith in Jesus Christ. The next step is living out our faith in a world full of choices. Jesus set things right and he has asked us to do the same with the help of the Holy Spirit. the next time you hear someone say, ‘it is not supposed to be this way.” Affirm them, tell them they are absolutely right and then share Jesus with them. Be encouraged!