Not One, But Two

Opportunities, that is.

For what? Bending the gospel outward at OGC this weekend.

The first comes this Friday, December 20, in the form of a free Christmas concert featuring a new group getting airtime on Z88.3 FM in Orlando called “All Things New.” Here’s a sample of what you will hear:

You can go on mission with this option in one of two ways. First, you can volunteer to serve on one of the teams. We need greeters, parking attendants, security, among other things. Contact the church office if you want to get in on the fun. Second, you can bring a friend and use the time together as a chance to connect about spiritual things. For more information about the concert click here.


The second opportunity takes place the very next morning at 9 AM at the All Women’s Health Center in Altamonte Springs. Various churches from around the city will convene at this abortion center for a twenty minute Christmas caroling and prayer service on the sidewalk. The mill will be open for “business” during this time. I have been asked to lead in prayer as part of the service. For those who can, the group will proceed from there to other abortion clinics in the Orlando area. For more information, contact the church office and ask for me. Ample parking is available at Pharmacy Specialists just north of the center on Maitland Avenue. This is a no brainer mission opportunity for us at OGC since our facility is right down the street from this house of horrors. You won’t have to do anything more than pray and carol and trust God to work in the hearts of some folks that may lead to the rescue of one or more infants in the womb.

Come on church. Let’s bless the city and storm the gates that won’t prevail against the church of King Jesus!


Live Like a Missionary

Yesterday morning our church planter in Salerno, Italy, Jutty Valiquette gave a moving message from Daniel 7 entitled Missionary God, Missionary People. You can listen to the audio here.

Last night, in our monthly concert of prayer, I led off with a devotional from 1 Peter 2:9-10.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

The connection between the two texts lies with the word proclaim. As missionaries of sorts in the places where we live, work, and play, God has made us His own for the purpose of humbly proclaiming the excellencies of Jesus to those who don’t know Him. A person with a gospel-shaped identity gets this and lives it out by God’s grace on an ongoing basis.

Tim Keller, in his book Center Church, comments:

Christians should  be engaged with others. Mission for a contextualized believer is a matter of everyday life–of developing nonsuperficial relationships with their neighbors, colleagues, and others in the city.

Then he goes on to offer practical, simple ways to do this with neighbors in particular:

  1. Take regular walks in your neighborhood to meet others who are out and about. Keep a regular schedule. Go to the same places at the same time for groceries, haircuts, coffee, shopping. This is one of the main ways you get to know those who live geographically near.
  2. Find ways to get to know others in your building or neighborhood–through a common laundry area, at resident meetings, and in numerous other ways [like neighborhood book clubs!]
  3. Find an avocation or hobby you can do with others in the city. For example, don’t form a Christian backpacking club, join an existing one.
  4. Volunteer alongside other neighborhood residents at nonprofits and with other programs.
  5. If you have children, be involved at the school and get to know other parents.
  6. Participate in city events–fund-raisers, festivals, cleanups, summer shows, concerts, etc.
  7. Serve in your neighborhood. Visit the community board meeting. Pick up litter regularly. Get involved in neighborhood associations. Find individual neighbors (especially elderly ones) and find ways of serving then.
  8. Be hospitable to neighbors–when and where appropriate, invite them over for a meal or a movie, etc.

Why not prayerfully pick one or two of these suggestions to implement in your own “live-like-a-missionary” life and see what God will do?

Keller also has some suggestions for ways to engage with colleagues, coworkers, and friends. Lord willing, I will include those in my next post.

Colton Who?

If you are an American Idol fan, you probably didn’t react that way when you heard, if you did on Sunday, about Colton Dixon coming to OGC for a free mini-concert on Friday evening, February 8, at 7 PM (doors open at 6:30 PM). I must admit after all these years I have yet to view a single episode of that enormously popular show. Call me culturally challenged.

Without knowing who the young man was, I actually witnessed him minister a powerful rendition of Jesus Paid It All at Passion 2013 in Atlanta a few weeks ago. Apparently Dixon, a unapologetic Christ-follower, fared quite well in season 11 of Idol finishing 7th. He is only the second artist, other than the winner of that season, to release an album with The Messenger. He appears to be one of those very rare unique individuals able to bridge the gap between pop culture musically and the Christian music scene.

Our friends at Z88.3 have made this possible, for which we are very grateful. For more information on their advertising of the event click here.

I am excited for the unique opportunity that this is, but I confess I am even more excited about the opportunity this will afford to promote our Living in the Grip of the Gospel conference with Greg Gilbert, author of What Is the Gospel, slated for April 19 & 20 at our church. The more people we can expose to the truths of the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the better in my book.

Thank you, Lord, for dropping such a sweet opportunity into our laps. God is good. All the time.

August Resource of the Month

Now that we have occupied our new facility and now that we have a lovely dedicated space for displaying resources for sale to our people, I want to introduce a new feature of the blog beginning this month and I hope recurring every month from here on.

Welcome to the resource of the month!

We currently stock approximately forty different titles covering a wide range of subjects on the shelves in the middle of our entryway .

When I thought about which title would get top billing here in August, I immediately considered the fact that this month is missions month at OGC (hope to see you at 9:30 AM on Sundays this month in the auditorium for interviews with various ones of our missionaries). That would have made John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad an easy selection for promotion. However, I opted not to go that direction. I landed on J. D. Greear’s book Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary. Why is that?

I do see a connection between missions month and Greear’s book. Only those held fast in the grip of the gospel will likely engage in Jesus’ mission to reach the world in global missions and the city in local outreach. It’s just too tough a sell otherwise. In getting a bunch of our folks to invest in a copy of Greear’s book, I hope to fan the flame of our church’s passion for both from a supernatural motivational perspective.

The author states his aim in the book quite plainly:

Over the next several chapters, I want to reacquaint you with the gospel. Not just with the doctrines, but with its power. The gospel is the announcement that God has reconciled us to Himself by sending His Son Jesus to die as a substitute for our sins, and that all who repent and believe have eternal life in Him. I want you to see the gospel not only as the means by which you get into heaven, but as the driving force behind every single moment of your life. I want to help, in some small way, your eyes to be opened (again) to the beauty and greatness of God. I want you to see how the gospel, and it alone, can make you genuinely passionate for God, free you from captivity to sin, and move you outward to joyful sacrifice on behalf of others (p. 5, emphasis mine).

Obviously J. D. Greear writes with a mission to believers in churches like ours . He wants to show us the vital importance of seeing the gospel as not just something we believed in the past but as something in which we stand and are being saved moment-by-moment in the present (1 Cor. 15:1-2).

He goes about that in a most practical way. He introduces in Part 2, the bulk of the book, what he calls the Gospel Prayer. I blogged on that elsewhere in the past so won’t repeat the concepts here. This feature and the practical application it offers in the challenge to pray this prayer daily as an antidote to gospel amnesia makes Greear’s book my choice for putting before us when, in fact, a good number of other books out there focus on the gospel as well – Matt Chandler’s The Explicit Gospel and Greg Gilbert’s What Is the Gospel also excellent options just to name two.

May I encourage you to invest in a copy of Pastor J D’s book? A number of copies are available on the shelves of our resource center for $10 each. You can put your cash or check in the payment box supplied on one of the shelves for your convenience.

Imagine with me, if you will, a church full of people who embrace this thought with which Greear closes on p. 248:

The gospel is not merely the diving board off of which you jumped into the pool of Christianity; the gospel is the pool itself. So keep going deeper into it. You’ll never find the bottom.

Fancy a swim in this particular part of the pool? You won’t regret it as you plumb further the depths of the glorious gospel of our blessed God (1 Tim. 1:11).

How Gospel Grace Can Shape Our Grand Opening

After four soft-launch Sundays, Grand Opening Sunday at OGC’s new facility has finally arrived. Thanks to everyone who has worked so hard to move us in and make us functional in this terrific resource the Lord has entrusted to us.

Here are some thoughts on how the gospel of Jesus who gave His life for us to redeem us from sin and the curse of the law can shape us in continuing to prepare for and engage in this historic day in the life of our church.

First, it can shape the way we reach out to those where we live work and play. I have a colleague in ministry who regularly reminds his folks of the three I’s – Intercede, Invest, and Invite. We will never have another opportunity quite like this one to invite unchurched people to a service. We still have some printed invitations available if you would like to come by the church and grab some. If you can only come after hours, let us know and we will leave some out for under the covered walkway.

Second, it can shape where we park and where we sit on Sunday. In our efforts to reach others, we may well have a full house on Sunday. To make room for the additional cars we have secured the use of the vacant lot to the south of our property. Please consider parking there or in other spots on the grass around the periphery to ensure plenty of spaces for our guests. Also, seating in the auditorium may be tough to come by. We will have the overflow sections (W1 & W5) set up. Please consider starting in one of those rooms to allow space for newcomers. Also, in the auditorium the back tends to fill up first. Consider coming to the front and filling in the rows to leave the outer seats available.

Third, it can shape they way we engage on Sunday. Rarely does anyone like visiting a church and going away without a warm greeting. Let’s look first for those we don’t know to talk with and save our familiar friends for later. May we follow that pattern in the reception hour after the service too. Let’s be ready to ask folks if they have any questions as they move around the building checking things out. Let’s put out the most hospitable welcome mat we can.

Fourth, it can shape the way finish up things on Saturday. Yes, that means another work party. We need to do some key things on the exterior in order to look a bit less like a jungle and more like a cultivated garden. I am concerned for this not only because of this Sunday, but also for the sake of our guests who will attend the Mitchell/Welsh wedding on the 13th. The fun starts at 8:30 AM. Please bring the standard lawn equipment (labeled with your name – rakes, weed pullers, wheel barrows, etc.) This is a great opportunity for anyone who has yet to pitch in on the new property to put in some volunteer hours as part of the body.

Why do I couch these things in terms of the gospel? Because reaching out to others in all these ways, our mission as a church, must stem from the fact that Jesus sought us out and bought us to make us His own. That is the only motivation that will sustain through any ministry effort.

May we all pray fervently that God in His grace will show up on Sunday with power and glory so that some indeed will bow the knee to King Jesus and know the all-satisfying joy of knowing Him!

Grand Opening Invites Have Arrived!

The invites are finally here.

We have 1000, plenty for everyone to give to folks that might have an interest in checking out our new digs this Sunday.

Drop by during regular business hours and pick up as many as you need. If you can come by after work and therefore need us to leave some on the porch for you, just let us know and we will be happy to do that for you.

I am planning on preaching a message from 1 Tim. 3:14-16 entitled Why Church? A Case for Christianity in our Many Gods  Age.

Please pray for the Spirit of God to work in the hearts of many.

An Opportunity We Simply Must Buy Up

I just finished hemorrhaging over my latest message earlier today. I decided to study and write with a grand opening of our facility service in mind. I felt led to camp out in 1 Timothy 3:14-16. I entitled the message Why Church?: A Case for Christianity in a Many-Gods Age. I worked from the word pictures Paul employs for showing the true nature of the church and why it should compel our priority participation in its ministry.

We still don’t know when we will schedule such a service. It all depends on the granting of a CO by the city and the timetable for “soft openings” so we can get our act adequately together for a “hard opening” service likely to happen no earlier than sometime in June.

But mark my words. Whenever it does happen we have to determine to act intentionally and strategically with a Colossians 4:5 kind of mentality in mind. Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.

Paul actually uses the metaphor of walking in the original for the way we live our lives. He calls for us to walk in wisdom toward outsiders, those who have yet to embrace faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What does that kind of wise walk look like? It involves making the best use of the time. This is an interesting phrase in the original. Literally it reads redeeming or buying up the time or opportunity.

The New Bible Commentary makes this remark on the idea here noting that the word redeem or buy up suggests an intensive activity, a buying which exhausts the possibilities available because they recognize that their time is limited. Kind of like determining to purchase all the remaining copies of some print of a famous painting because you know its a limited edition.

May I suggest that the occasion for opening our facility and publicizing an inaugural service in that facility represents a unique opportunity for reaching out to those outside in a winsome and wise way that we as a congregation simply cannot afford to miss?
Thus I wrote a sermon specifically with this in mind. Thus we will do a mail out with this theme in mind. Thus we will provide printed  invitations that you can give to the folks where you live, work and play that you have been laboring to reach for the gospel that they might hear that gospel in a contextually crafted, biblically sound way (oh, Lord, I pray that’s what I have written in this message!) with this in mind. Thus we may determine on that Sunday to host a barbecue following the service to meet and greet those who come specifically because of the opening of our building.
So let me ask you to pray with me that God will work powerfully in this once-in-a-lifetime-of-our-church opportunity to acquaint many of those “outside” with the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is an opportunity we simply must buy up exhausting all the possibilities available because we recognize that the time is limited.

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.

Souper Bowl Sunday

No, that’s not a typo.

I meant the play on words with “souper.”

As you know this Sunday brings us to Super Bowl XLVI between the Patriots and Giants. Many plan to watch and enjoy with family and friends. The whole deal has turned into something of a national holiday.

For the last several years at OGC we have cooperated with the Christian Service Center of Orlando in conducting a canned food, non-perishable item food drive to help stock their pantry for feeding the hungry in Orange County.

We want to continue that tradition this year but with a twist.

Given the fact that our friends at the SDA have started this year operating a soup kitchen for feeding the hungry every Sunday afternoon, we have decided to donate this year’s offerings from our church to them. We want to say thank you for their hospitality in renting to us over the years. Furthermore we feel this represents a legitimate way for us to partner with them in mercy ministry in our very own neighborhood.

All that to say, as I announced yesterday, please bring to church with you this Sunday, February 5, your gift of such items for the cause. But here’s the thing! Please don’t bring any meat products. The Adventists, in line with their convictions, will only accept vegetarian, non-meat items. The list they gave us includes things like beans, rice, pastas, cereal, oil, pancake mix, etc. You get the idea.

We will designate a spot at the SDA this Sunday for you to put your items as you bring them with you. Just look for the sign.

And thanks for being a church that puts Titus 3:14 into practice!

Groundbreaking Countdown!

It has been so long since I’ve done a blog post, I’m not certain I remember how to do it!

Fortunately our website has returned to the land of the living. Thanks, Greg, for going the extra mile to get us back in service.

What better way to return to the blogosphere than by reminding everyone that in just a little over a week we will break ground for our first ever facility?

Here’s what you need to know:

As the sign indicates, the date is set for February 6th at 3:00 p.m (not 4 as originally communicated) on our property at 872 Maitland Avenue. We will be having an informal picnic on the property immediately after the worship service. Pack a lunch or go pick up something from your favorite take-out place and bring it to the property. Also bring lawn chairs (extra for guests if you have them) and/or blankets for seating. Parking will be on the vacant adjacent property just south of our parcel. Portable “facilities” will be on site for our convenience. Please, each household also bring a finger food to share among ourselves and our guests after the ground breaking (A-M – savory; N-Z – sweet). Drinks will be provided. Members, and those working toward membership, will also want to bring a couple of ounces of dirt from their own properties to place in the hole that will be turned by our groundbreaking shovels to symbolize the participation of all our people in the building of God’s church. Every family that attends will receive a special gift memento.

The property won’t look like this for much longer. February 6 is right around a corner. It will be a banner day in the history of our church!

Please pray that the invitations that have gone out to the surrounding homeowners will result in some attending the groundbreaking ceremony and that the gospel of Jesus will touch their hearts.

And it wouldn’t hurt to pray for decent weather as well, now that I think about it.

Hang on to your hats. It’s gonna be a great year for Orlando Grace Church!