The Latest on the Property Transition Plan

I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that Romans 8:28 is still in the Bible. God works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

The bad news is that the opening of our facility is still four weeks away. I have it from reliable sources that there is no way everything that needs to get done on the building before we can apply to the city for a certificate of occupancy will occur before then. Go figure.

Frankly, the thing that troubles me most in this? Jared and Jillian don’t get to have their wedding in our new facility. May I ask you all a favor? Would you join me in rallying around these “kids” in offering to do whatever it takes to make their rehearsal/wedding/reception on the weekend of April 13-14 a smash-bang-over-the-top-out-of-this-world success? Thankfully, a contingency plan exists. More to come on that. If you feel led to ease the sting of losing their distinction as the first wedding in the OGC facility, contact Jared and/or Jillian as soon as you can and offer to help. I am counting on the people of Orlando Grace to smother these dear ones in love. Thank you!

Beyond that, a bunch of dominoes fall. First, we are likely to hang around the SDA facility a bit longer. Hopefully the good folks at 455 Maitland Ave will delight to take our money into the month of April. We will keep you posted on that. Second, our annual meeting on April 1 needs a new home. Hopefully we can reserve the SDA for the eve of April 1 for that purpose. We will keep you posted on that. Third, the Good Friday service gets problematic. We’re working on a plan. More to come on that. Fourth, the Kristian Stanfill concert is cancelled for April 15. Hopefully we can reschedule. Somebody please put me out of my pastoral misery!

Isn’t this fun? Nobody said the Christian life and church dynamics would leave you bored! Thanks for being patient with the process as we navigate this once-in-a-lifetime season in the life of our church.

Seriously, let me remind us. Let’s keep the main thing the main thing. Let us live moment-by-moment in the assurance that God has everything under control and that what we need to do more than anything else is love one another as Christ has loved us so that the world may know that we are His disciples.

Property Clean Up Work Party This Saturday

I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news.

The good news is they are getting ready to landscape our property at 872 Maitland Avenue.

The bad news is they need us to clean up the site before they can do it. We have to clear trash, rocks, foliage, and miscellaneous debris as part of prepping the place for overall beautification.

So, as you may have heard our faithful and fearless building committee chairman announce on Sunday, we have scheduled a volunteer work party for this Saturday, March 10, at 8:30 AM on the site.

We need as many hands on deck as possible. Also, please bring whatever you may have in the way of appropriate tools, e.g., rakes, clippers, loppers, shovels, wheel barrows, etc., in short, anything you think might help us get the job done in an effective way.

Some form of a snack or lunch will be provided as we move toward the lunch hour, but please bring your own beverage supply for the duration.

This will mean a delay in resuming our Oxford Club for Men meetings this Saturday, as we don’t want the priorities to conflict.

If you have any questions about the task at hand, contact Ross Hudson at rossdhudson@gmail.com.

An Inherent Danger in Owning a Building

I suspect there are more than one. This post concerns the prospect of danger in church growth given the fact that we will double our space at 872 Maitland Ave. We will have a lot more room for a lot more people. That alone, coupled with finally gaining a physical presence within our community, along with the nature of our ministry by God’s grace, rightly causes me to expect us to grow in terms of our numbers.

What’s wrong with that? Where’s the danger? The danger lies in the nature of the growth. If the increase of numbers comes in the way of disenfranchised believers migratng from other churches alone, we have a problem. That’s dangerous. Because while we understand that such a thing happens (not always for good reasons I might add, but God does move His people around according to His purposes), we need to recognize that growing that way alone or predominantly does not reflect our mission to reach people outside the faith.

Those kind of folks, caught up in our hyper-modern, pluralistic culture, will likely not come to us just because we open a building. They likely could care less about us getting a home of our own. They’ve crossed Christianity off their list a long time ago. It’s no longer a spiritual come-and-see landscape where a Field of Dreams philosophy of ministry – if you build it, they will come – carries the day in the good old USA. Not on your life.

Tim Keller, in a blog post of his own entitled The Big Issues Facing the Western Church listed this concern among others:

The growing cultural remoteness of the gospel. The basic concepts of the gospel — sin, guilt and accountability before God, the sacrifice of the cross, human nature, afterlife — are becoming culturally strange in the west for the first time in 1500 years. As Lesslie Newbigin has written, it is time now to ‘think like a missionary’–to formulate ways of communicating the gospel that both confront and engage our increasingly non-Christian western culture. How do we make the gospel culturally accessible without compromising it? How can we communicate it and live it in a way that is comprehensible to people who lack the basic ‘mental furniture’ to even understand the essential truths of the Bible?

Good questions all. I commend them to us.

If we will avoid this danger inherent in having our own building, then we must think all the more like missionaries to our surrounding neighborhoods. Let me suggest some action steps to that end.

  1. Pray for outsiders regularly. Have you written a prayer card yet with key people you are asking God to save in 2012?
  2. Make time for outsiders in your schedule. Do you have times built  into your schedule that put you in the vicinity of people who need Christ?
  3. Build bridges through acts of mercy when you see need. Are you on the look out for opportunities to demonstrate the love of Christ when circumstances open a door for such?
  4. Learn a gospel presentation or stock copies of the same. Do you have a supply of Two Ways to Live tracts to use, or some other favored resource, when someone expresses interest in the gospel?
  5. Invite outsider friends to Easter Sunday’s grand opening of our building on April 8. I promise to bring a message on the resurrection aimed in part to helping you share your faith. More people accept invitations to visit a church on Easter than any other time. It’s the one time the come-and-see strategy can work now a days, especially when coupled with a I-would-love-to-show-you-our-new-church appeal.

The rest of the time we must ask the Lord to give us gospel hearts that adopt and execute a go-and-tell-in-love strategy. Once the new building reaches capacity we will suffer the danger of thinking we have accomplished our mission when, in truth, there will still be a whole lot more people out there than there will be inside our four walls.

Lord, give us a heart of compassion and mercy for the outsider.

Tentative Transition Plan for Our Move

Let me stress the word TENTATIVE. Everything in the way of timing hinges ultimately on the city issuing us a certificate of occupancy. No CO, no move.

However, barring any unforeseen complications, we hope to have that all-important document in hand by March 15. Without going into any detail, I want to outline the likely dates and events that, Lord willing, will shape our transition from the SDA facility to our own building.

  • March 18 – last Sunday at SDA followed by open house on the property (BYO picnic lunch)
  • March 25 – first Sunday in the building (soft opening – our own people only – focus on working out the kinks as a family)
  • April 1 AM (Palm Sunday) – second Sunday in the building (soft opening per March 25)
  • April 1 PM (Palm Sunday) – official dedication of the facility (our people and invited guests)
  • April 6 PM (Good Friday) – communion service (our people)
  • April 8 (Resurrection Sunday) – grand opening of the facility (public invited)
  • April 15 PM – praise and worship celebration of thanksgiving for God’s gracious gift with guest artist Kristian Stanfill and his worship band

I would encourage you to mark your calendars accordingly but remember as you do that crucial word TENTATIVE. We will update you as things progress. Hopefully we can get more definitive the closer we get to completion of the project.

Please continue to pray for a strong finish, for favor with the city in every way, and for the Lord’s glory on display as we make this transition into our brand new home!

The Happiest Workers Ever

So expressed Charles Spurgeon in terms of his hopes and aspirations for his people, his fellow-servants of the Lord, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle.

In a sermon on Psalm 127:1-2 entitled Co-Workers with God,  he exhorted his parishioners:

Now, I want all of us to feel that as workers for God—pastor and people, Sunday school teachers and you who teach the Bible classes, you who distribute tracts, you who preach at the street corners, all of you, my beloved fellow helpers—we are doing grand work! You know that it is God’s House that we are building. Under God and with His help, we are building up His Church with stones that He points out to us, helps us to quarry and enables us to bring into their places. And the work goes on so easily, too, if we will but do it according to the Great Architect’s plan. And if we do not get too fussy and busy, and if we do not think that we should knock a corner off here, and alter the shape of a stone there, but will just do it as God would have it done, in His fear, in simple dependence upon Him, confident that it is all right—the great Master-Builder will complete His work! I think that we ought to be the happiest workers who ever lived! It should be a joy to us to do anything for the Lord Jesus. And, oh, when it gets finished, and the top stone is laid, and the Lord descends and fills the House and none of us will be any longer needed, for the priests will not be able to stand and minister by reason of the Glory of the Christ who has filled His Church—oh, then what joy we shall have that ever we were engaged in the work (emphasis mine)!

Last night our church gathered for its first ever worship service in our under-construction building. What a sweet and special time, never to be forgotten by this pastor! I took unceasing delight in person after person who came to the mic and shared verse after verse of Scripture that got written on those steel girders. Just to hear from the lips of so many such great esteem for God’s word thrilled me to the depths of my pastoral bones.

Many of those selections still swirl in my brain, but one stands out in particular. Unless the Lord builds the house those who build it labor in vain. What more appropriate reminder could we need than that as we near the half way point in the construction process? God must occupy the center of everything we do. When He does, we don’t get too busy and fussy with the work and we do know the joy of the happiest workers who ever lived. It is indeed a delight to do anything for the Lord Jesus.

And we get to labor together with His help in constructing a facility to house our ministry. As I reminded us last night, I remind us once again. We get to do this. This is our stewardship. The privilege is great. The rewards will prove worth it all. With the Lord’s help let us serve more than ever as the happiest workers who ever lived!

OGC Goes Graffiti

Yes. That’s right. Tomorrow night in a special service on the property we will encourage sanctified graffiti as the main event. This is a one-time only offer, folks. After we open the building, any graffiti writers will suffer the full consequence of the law. So make good on the chance while you can.

After we sing a couple of tunes and hear a brief devotional from 1 Timothy 3:13-16, we will hit the steel girders all over the building with Sharpie pens to scribble away ’till our hearts’ content. All you need to know to get in on the act are some Bible verses that you want to record that express your hopes and dreams for OGC for years into the future. Eventually the steel will disappear behind finish walls, but we will forever remember that we took an evening for a pre-dedication of our facility with the word of God in mind.

After we get done, we will gather together again and have a time of sharing about the verses we wrote and why we chose them. Children are encouraged to participate too!

Please bring a folding chair. Sharpies will be provided for those who need them.

Following the service, members of the building committee will conduct tours of the various sections of the building so we may further visualize what God will give to us come 2012.

I look forward to seeing you tomorrow evening at 6 PM!

No Sixth Sola Banner Period

I nearly drove off the road with excitement the other night as I headed home from the office and saw the steel begin to go up on the property. We really might get to do this building!

The closer we get the more decisions we need to make. Recently someone from the interior design team sat me down over lunch and asked me what I as pastor-teacher envision this place looking like. Honestly, I hadn’t thought much about it. But one thing I imagined came to mind quite quickly. I would love for us to hang banners from the sanctuary ceiling naming the five solas of the Reformation – scriptura, Christus, fide, gratia, and deo gloria – Scripture alone, Christ alone, faith alone, grace alone, and to the glory of God alone. These things put the grace in the “G” of OGC.

But I can assure you that a sixth additional banner must never fly from our rafters – sola bootstrapsa. I ran across that term not long ago in reading Bryan Chapell’s excellent book Christ-Centered Preaching – Redeeming the Expository Sermon. He explains:

Messages that are not Christ-centered (i.e., not redemptively focused [pointing listeners to the gospel and the finished work of Christ on the cross as the ground of their sanctification]) inevitably become human-centered, even though the drift most frequently occurs unintentionally among evangelical preachers [tell me about it]. These preachers do not deliberately exclude Christ’s ministry from their own, but by consistently preaching messages on the order of “Five Steps to a Better Marriage,” “How to Make God Answer Your Prayer,” and “Achieving Holiness through the Power of Resolve,” they present godliness as a product of human endeavor. Although such preaching is intended for good, its exclusive focus on actuating or accessing divine blessing through human works carries the message, “It is the doing of these things that will get you right with God and/or your neighbor.” No message is more damaging to the true faith. By making human efforts alone the measure and the cause of godliness, evangelicals fall victim to the twin assaults of theological legalism and liberalism-which despite their perceived opposition are actually identical in making one’s relationship with God dependent on human goodness.

He goes on to answer a critical objection:

Preachers may protest, “But I assume my people understand they must base their efforts on faith and repentance.” Why should we assume listeners will understand what we rarely say, what the structure of our communication contradicts, and what their own nature denies? Can we not as preachers confess that ever we feel holier when our devotions last longer, when we parent well, when we pastor wisely, or when tears fall during our repentance? While there is certainly nothing wrong with any of these actions, we deny the basis of our faith when we begin to believe or act as though our actions, by their own merit, win God’s favor. Were this true, then instruction to “take hold of those bootstraps and pick yourself up so that God will love you more” would not be wrong. But sola bootstrapsa messages are wrong, and faithful preachers must not only avoid this error but also war against it (p. 288-89).

Let it be known and never questioned that OGC stands for the doctrines of grace and will always champion the solas of the Protestant Reformation. For that reason we will never hang a sixth sola banner, especially bootstrapsa, period, end of discussion.

That of course is the easy part. The hard part comes with keeping this preacher from avoiding the error, given his nature, and even warring against that error by a relentless proclaiming of the gospel of Jesus within every text of Scripture that serves as the basis of his sermons. You don’t have to hang a literal banner from the ceiling to communicate the same deadly message. It just takes a lethal case of gospel amnesia coming from the pulpit.

God forbid.

Another Each One Seek One Story

Before we got going on our prayer time last Sunday evening on the property I told our walkers the following story.

Recently I got an early morning text.

PC, call me when you get this. I’ve got good news!

Now I get texts I want to answer and then I get texts I don’t want to answer. Which do you think applies here?

As soon as I got to the office, I placed the call.

When X (I’m sworn to secrecy) picked up, he/she told me about a letter that came in the mail the other day. X had only opened it that morning. It came from the lawyer of a distant relative. Unfortunately that person passed away a while ago. Little did my mystery texter/caller know but the relative included X in the will!

X could hardly contain the excitement about the amount (no, I don’t know details). But suffice it to say that X got really excited about the ability to do three things as a result: pay off debt, give to some missionaries, AND contribute his/her $1000 to the Each One, Seek One initiative for increasing our building fund monies.

And I quote: I wanted to contribute but I had no idea how I would do it. I prayed about it and God came through! Or words to that effect.

And that, of course, IS THE IDEA. Ask, seek, and knock. God loves for us to pester Him with requests that when He answers bring Him glory.

So let X’s story encourage you if you have yet to see His provision. Keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking.

And when He answers, don’t forget to send me a text! I promise to call as soon as I possibly can.

The Insignificance of the External

Last Sunday we kicked off yet another edition of Discover OGC, our newcomer orientation series.

Per usual I started by presenting a brief apologetic for why church membership is biblical. I took the group to 1 Peter 2:4-5.

[4] As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, [5] you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Peter uses the word picture of a temple, borrowing from Old Testament imagery of the Jews’ place for worshiping God, to describe the nature of the church. God is building a spiritual temple out of living stones. This describes the true nature of the church, not the sticks and bricks of a literal building.

This imagery remains a pertinent reminder as we draw now one month closer, Lord willing, to the opening of our facility on Maitland Avenue. Someone recently sent me this quote by J. C. Ryle that expresses the truth well:

Let it never be forgotten that the material part of a Christian Church is by far the least important part of it. The fairest combinations of marble, stone, wood and painted glass, are worthless in God’s sight, unless there is truth in the pulpit and grace in the congregation. The dens and caves in which the early Christians used to meet, were probably far more beautiful in the eyes of Christ than the noblest cathedral that was ever reared by man. The temple in which the Lord Jesus delights most, is a broken and contrite heart, renewed by the Holy Spirit.

Well said. May we not forget it even as we look forward to the fairest combination of materials we can assemble in a building to house our assembly of living stones.

12 Months & Counting

Don’t you just hate it when billboards display outdated info? Some event stays logged on the sign for all to see when in reality it happened days, even weeks ago? Bugs the tar out of me. I am so easily perturbed.

I refused to let that happen yesterday after our groundbreaking celebration.

I cornered our contractor after the ceremony.

“OK, Dave, give the straight scoop. How long before we get in this thing?” I asked. He never even blinked. “One year,” he replied.

Say no more. I shot over to the office and pulled the new letters for our sign.

Come March 6, we’ll do it again with eleven. April 6, ten. And so on until we start to count the days in 2012. Won’t that be sweet?

If per chance you missed the groundbreaking for some reason, we still have vials of soil with a commemorative label on them from the event. We’ll have them at the SDA this Sunday if you want to pick one up.

If you missed the service as well, the message from Matthew 7:7-11 is now on the website. You can access the audio here. I would urge all covenant members to make a point to listen to this message entitled Each One Seek One. In it I made an application challenge for our people aimed at closing the $100,000 gap in our capital fund raising campaign for the building.

My thanks to all who labored so hard to make yesterday such a moving and special event. We won’t soon forget it. Lord willing, only twelve months to go before we get to experience the even greater thrill with the dedication of our new church home.

I’ve already started dreaming potential plans for that weekend! Wonder how busy Mr. Stanfill and his group will be around that time?