I wrote in last week’s blog that we are “closed for good” — meaning God is doing good in us through this trial. That is his way.
I don’t know when we’ll open the campus again, but because of this trial, I have opened my heart to something better than “going to church,” and I invite you to do the same.
I believe God is purifying his Church by burning off the complexities and confidences that we’ve allowed to clutter the gospel and confuse faithfulness. Proverbs 23:1-8 is jarring but speaks wisdom to us in this time:
"When you sit to dine with a ruler...do not crave his delicacies, for that food is deceptive. Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle. Do not eat the food of a begrudging host, do not crave his delicacies; for he is the kind of person who is always thinking about the cost. 'Eat and drink,' he says to you, but his heart is not with you. You will vomit up the little you have eaten and will have wasted your compliments."
The Western Church has long dined with rulers and craved their delicacies. We have worn ourselves out to attract and assimilate people. We have trusted in our own cleverness and have “cast but a glance” at effectiveness, only to see it “fly off” time and time again. We have eaten the food of a begrudging host and are vomiting up what we have eaten.
Every disappointment we face in life and in ministry should remind us of the temptation of doing things by our own cleverness and for our own benefit. Such disappointments are for our good because they bring us face to face with truth.
I am renewed in my conviction that it is not our job to “grow the Church.” Jesus already told us that he would build his Church. Our job is to proclaim Christ, not our church brand, and to teach people about Jesus, not about us.
If only God would call all congregations back to this simple and pure desire! If only we would renew our love! If only we would strengthen and encourage each other to remain true to the Lord! If only we would remind each other that being the Church is about living in Christ, not going to church or promoting a church brand!
Each week I give the blessing to “go be the Church” and by that I mean to “go be followers of Jesus” together. That's it. And “together” means together with all believers everywhere, wherever you find believers! And "together" means friendship with people you can pray with and encourage to remain true to the Lord. This is much more significant than belonging to a "big church" or a "small group." It's belonging to Jesus.
I believe "Church" is getting ready to look different. It already looks different, but I believe this is opportunity to do a new thing. In fact, this is my confidence and hope, that as we currently rest from onsite gathering, God is calling us to something better than just onsite gathering.
This is good, and it’s for God’s purpose. We are being shaken so that what is unworthy will fall off. And when that has happened, let it be true that whatever remains is simple and pure and worthy of his praise.
To that end, I invite you to prayerfully consider: How best might we “fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission with Great Compassion and Great Conviction” in this new era? Not as a new program to try, but as a simpler, more pure way of being the Church.
Thank you for your support!
Thank you for continuing to honor God with your finances! May you be blessed for your Generosity! We continue to receive checks from many in the mail, or by text, or online. (Please note that we now have an option for those who give online to pay the transaction fee incurred by the church so that all of your offerings goes to the church itself.)
A few weeks ago we ran a fundraiser to help a widow in our community get a new roof. We chose to use GoFundMe because we wanted to connect as many as possible to the opportunity, believing that not only is it a gift to the recipient, but the opportunity for people to show compassion is itself a gift. We had a goal of $4,000 and exceeded by nearly $1,000 which we will apply to similar projects. We are excited to coordinate tangible help like this!
Spread the Word
The gospel provides hope that this world desperately needs. And God's wisdom speaks so profoundly into the struggles we all face. It's my joy to open scripture each week against the backdrop of current events. And I'm encouraged by many who say they are encouraged.
I want to explain this hope to as many people as possible, so I make the weekly teachings available on YouTube. But just putting a video on YouTube doesn't help people find it. I need your help.
Not everyone is called to preach or teach, but if you have social media, you have the ability to spread the word. (And if you've been encouraged by the weekly sermons, others will be encouraged too!)
So here's what I'm asking you to do:
Together, we can sow the hope of the gospel into every relationship!
Call to Prayer
As staff and overseers, we have been walking the church parking lot regularly to pray for our congregation, and for Sarasota. I believe we have only begun to see what God wants us to see in this, and I am filled with anticipation and enthusiasm about it.
He is good, loving, and powerful. And he is not perplexed or indecisive.
And so, as I wait on God, even though I am disturbed by the destruction and ungodliness I see in the world, I am not disquieted. As I measure the days, I am filled with righteous indignation, yet I trust in the Lord and am filled with love. I do not know the future, but I am confident that we must apply ourselves personally to fulfilling “the Great Commandment and the Great Commission with Great Compassion and Great Conviction.” And I believe it will look different than what we have done in the past.
I believe and pray that in these days, the name of Jesus and the grace of the gospel will become more eminent as the judgment of God becomes increasingly imminent. This is our confidence and our urgency.
May the Lord “fill the world with love joy and peace as we sow the hope of the gospel into every relationship.”
With sober conviction and hope,
Pastor of Sarasota Community Church since 2009.