New years. New beginnings. A time of change. A chance for a clean slate. Some of us will make goals, but not do anything at all. Some of us will actually try for a while. Some will stick to it and make new habits. We do this every new year. Why? Why do we really believe that change can actually happen? Why do so many of us have things we want to change? And why do we always try to do it on our own? People seem to think this is the only season to start building new habits.
So, we make resolutions and we build. And yet, sometimes, it still doesn't go as planned. So, what? Wait until the next New Year's rolls around? Well, what if we had access to a reset for our lives? What if Jesus was offering each and every one of us a chance to be renewed regardless of who you are, where you have been or what you have done? It's time for a restart; a redo. It's time to reset.
Well, good morning everybody and also good morning to those who watch via the mobile app and the internet. We are in a series called "Reset." And I like, at the beginning of every time that I preach because I just naturally assume that we have a few visitors and maybe some people that have missed a part of the series, I like to bring everybody back up to speed so that nobody feels like they are left out.
What we're doing in this series called "Reset" is basically pressing the reset button. Maybe you have an internet router at your house or you've had to reset your computer when it sort of bogs down and it starts flowing again. At the beginning of every year as a pastor, I want to try to make sure that we talk about things that are important to us collectively as a church and some things that are important to us individually so that we can be the best church and individuals going into 2017 that we can possible be for the Lord Jesus Christ and be able to see Him work in our lives in the abundant way that He wants to.
So, that's what we've been doing over the past many weeks. If you're new and you enjoy today, it's got some really good stuff. It'll help you understand where the church is going and what we're all about. This weekend, though, we're dealing with something a little different. And, to be honest with you, I want to be upfront with you, I'm a little bit out of my comfort zone on the message this weekend. You may think, "Oh, well. Chip, you know, you seem like you always seems like you know what you're doing."
You know, sometimes preachers are out of their comfort zones. Because, here's the deal. I'm a teacher by nature. What I like to do is talk about things that are real life, applicational things to people in their lives. Many of you all have grabbed me after service and said, "Do you have a camera in my house? Do you know what's going on?"
Because, I really try to say things that are right there, practical, in the real world. So, as a natural sort of bent, my stuff is right here in the here and now. Some preachers are fantastic, though, at being able to paint a picture of where things are going, and that's not really my strong suit. So, I'm going to have to get out of my comfort zone today as I talk about the future of Grace Community Church. And let me explain to you how we got here for those of you all who are new or maybe missed a few weeks or maybe you've joined us just recently.
Grace Community Church, over the past two and a half years, has grown from around 200 people to around 1,000 people in weekly attendance here in our four services. We've blown out that over there, which use to be offices. Some of you all don't know that. That use to be, where those doors are, where you entered the church. Now it's sanctuary. The hub behind that door use to be the youth room. It's no longer the youth room. We didn't have two hubs. We've had a lot of growth and a lot of excitement around here. And during those times of growth, we've tired to figure out what's next for this church. So, we've looked at some things. We've looked at land. We've looked at buildings. We've done those things. And nothing ever really, as a congregation, felt like that's what we should do.
So, a few months ago, we had a business meeting and everybody in the business meeting unanimously said, "Chip, we think, on the second weekend in February, what you need to do is shine a light on our building fund so that we can start raising some funds for the building fund so that we can move forward into the future."
So, here's the deal: I'm only doing what I was asked to do today, if you're new. Okay? See how that works? So, there you go. Just sit back and enjoy. It's going to be alright. It's really not going to be as bad as you may think it is right now. It's actually going to be a really fun, fun sermon. So, we're going to look into the future. What is Grace going to look like in 10 years? We'll talk a little bit about building and all of that stuff. But, here's the deal: As the pastor of this church, I have a stake and it is firmly in the ground. And that stake is this: If we're not a church that looks like Jesus and presents the authentic Jesus, no matter what we build and no matter what we do, we'll be in vain. And I'm committed to that.
So, before I talk about the future, I want to talk a little bit about Jesus. Because, it's important that we get Him right as Grace Community Church. So, to that end, I'm going to only look at a couple of verses here in Scripture today. It's out of Mark.
It says, "As he [Jesus] passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, 'Follow me.' And he rose and followed him."
Now, as a general rule – and no fault of our own – most of us would read that and we would be on to the next verse. But, there is a lot of depth going on here that we might not realize because we don't live in this culture. We don't understand some of the background issues that are going on here. One of the things that we're told about here is the tax booth. And we have an idea of a toll collector like if you cross the Sunshine Skyway. We've done those things.
But, the tax booth was a unique entity in the first century. The Roman empire had tax booths all over the empire. It was a way that they could get money for the kingdom. The way the tax booths worked was this: If you were a wealthy person, you would go and bid for that tax booth. Whoever bid the highest, got the tax booth. So, you were already on that hook when you bid for that tax booth for whatever you'd promised the Roman government you were going to pay them. And often, it was a really big amount of money that would be hard to get at the tax booth. So, not only did you have to pay that, but then the person who bid on that tax booth and won, they had to figure out how they're going to pay themselves.
So, what they would do is they would add their padding on top of what they had to get from persons that came through the tax booth to get what they wanted for their own living. So, you can imagine people didn't like that. Well, it got worse because whoever they employed to work the tax booth himself or herself, what would happen is you would have to get the money for Rome, you'd have to get the money for the owner and then you'd have to collect some money for yourself. So, you can imagine how well everybody enjoyed going to the tax booth in the first century. It was not a popular thing.
In fact, it was so unpopular that you'll see in the Gospels that the phrase "tax collectors and sinners" are often used together. It's like "sinner" wasn't a good enough word for a tax collector. You know? It's like, that's not good enough. We have to get deeper here. You get your own separate line. It's the tax collectors and sinners.
So, Jesus comes by and He asks a guy named Levi here at Capernaum to follow Him. That's radical. I mean, Levi would have probably been just absolutely flabbergasted that some religious dude would ask him to come and follow Him. I mean, it was unheard of and crazy stuff. So, he's so enamored that he decides to throw a party. It's like, "Man, I can't believe that Jesus did that."
And he probably knows Jesus through the fishermen because he's at Capernaum. He probably was a tax collector that collected taxes on fish. So, he knew the fishermen. He knew about Jesus. Jesus says, "Come follow me."
I do think it's interesting that He didn't say, "Levi, if you put your head down and your eyes closed here and raise your hand."
Or anything like that. He said, "Follow me," and Levi stood up and started following Jesus to take a journey.
Then Mark tells us, "As he [Jesus] reclined at table in Levi's house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him."
I'm just going to tell you straight up. This is scandalous. This is radical. This is unbelievable. Jesus was hanging out with the tax collectors and the sinners and reclining at table with them. In that world, you didn't eat with these people. Touch not the unclean thing. Stay away. I mean, you had your divisions of the righteous and the unrighteous and those that were in and those that were out. All these nice little labels. And here's Jesus just hanging out with what would be considered the riff-raff of society. The outcasts. The marginalized. Those that no religious person would want to have anything to do with. He is there hanging out at a dinner.
And to be honest with you, to say that this dinner would have been a seedy place would be an understatement. Jesus is there hanging out with the tax collectors and sinners. And many of us, we grew up in church, have heard about Jesus. Many of us might be here as visitors or maybe we've only been coming to church for a little while and we go, "Man, that's not the Jesus that I got taught about. That's not the one I heard about. I heard about a Jesus that was different."
Yeah. You might have heard about a Jesus that looks a lot like the religious leaders that are getting ready to ask a question. And the scribes and the Pharisees, when they saw that He was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they wouldn't come in. They wouldn't even get close. They're like calling to the disciples, probably outside of the house, going, "Hey, why's He doing this? I mean, you know we've heard Him speak in the synagogue. I mean, He seems to know the Old Testament pretty well and He has got some power. I mean, He heals people. But, man, did He hit His head last night or something? Did He drink something bad last night? Some bad wine or something? Because, this is not what you do if you're religious. This is not the way you act. You don't hang out with these people. Something's wrong. Did somebody forget to tell Him you're not supposed to touch the unclean thing? Did somebody tell Him that you're not supposed to associate with these people? Because, if people see you associating with them, they might think bad of you. Did anybody tell Him this?"
Well, before the disciples could even answer, Jesus answers. He says to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician. Not those. It's those who are sick. I didn't come to call the righteous, but the sinners. I didn't come to call the people that thought they had it all together. I came to call the people that didn't have it all together."
And what I can tell you about Jesus here – and it's the Jesus of the Gospels, not the Jesus that's been portrayed in churches. But, the Jesus of the Gospel is a scandalous dude because He exhibits grace that is radical to those people that you would never have thought would be exhibited grace to. You cannot sanitize the scandalous grace of Jesus Christ. And if you want to be a church and I want to be a church that looks like Jesus, what I can absolutely tell you for a fact is it will not be safe. It will not be comfortable. And when I thought about that, about the safe thing, I thought about a passage out of C.S. Lewis' book called "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."
In that book – and they've made movies out of it – Aslan is a type of Christ. He's the lion. And I just want to read an excerpt out of it because I think it just makes total sense to what I just said here out of Mark.
"Aslan is a lion. The lion. The great lion."
"Ooo," said Susan. "I thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."
"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver. "Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But, he's good. He's the king, I tell you."
You know, when you say you want to be a church that looks like Jesus, it's going to be uncomfortable. It's not going to be safe. It's going to challenge all of us at our core. And what would that look like? What would that look like if you just say in a succinct way, some very clear ways, what does it look like? Because, we can build everything we want to build. But, if it's not authentic and it's not real, it's in vain. Well, I can tell you what that would look like.
To be a church where the unchurched feel welcomed. That's what it would look like to be like Jesus. To be a church where people who are away from God or people that have never met God or people that got burned by religion, the unchurched, they actually feel welcomed. Do you know, in churches all across America, people who visit say, "I didn't feel welcomed." Do you know how that happens? Most of us would go, "Hey, we wouldn't make anybody feel unwelcome. We would never do that."
But, here's the way it happens: As a church grows and grows, what happens is you find yourself being very close to two, three, four or five people in the church. And those are your really close friends. And when you show up at church, you want to talk to them, you want to visit with them, you want to hang out with them. So, you're out in the hub talking and sharing, sitting around a table or whatever, and a visitor walks in and everybody else is focused about their friends and doing what their doing. That visitor walks in, nobody says anything to them and they come in and have a seat. And what did they feel? They felt unwelcome.
Listen, it's not just on me and it's not just on the staff. It's on every single one of us and everything that we do. We need to make sure that we are exhibiting incredible amounts of grace to everyone that we come in contact with. Because, I want Lakewood Ranch to go – if somebody's out there and hasn't been to church, has never been to church, never knows anything about God, use to go to church, I want them to think, "If I would step my toe back in church, I'm going to go to that church that makes everybody feel welcome, and that church is Grace Community Church."
Not only that, but to be a church where outreach is the primary way to maturity. Now listen, here's the deal. Lean in here and understand this. We are absolutely for small groups. We have plenty of small groups going on. We're all for that. We're all for Bible studies. All of those things are great. But, we believe, as a church – and passionately believe as a church – that if you look at all of the Bible resources that churches have in America and all the small groups that go on in America and all of the things that go on in America and you ask how well is the church doing getting outside of the four walls and really winning the lost, we're not doing a very good job.
Let me explain why. I saw a little clip on Facebook this week that I thought was fantastic. The preacher said, "Remember Simon Says?"
For us, that's like the only way we can corral all 34 kids at night is to play Simon Says. Give them a treat or something. It's like 5:30 or 6:00 at our house is like the witching hour, because everybody's tired and cranky, you know? And we have to do exorcisms every night and pour Wesson oil on the kids and all that stuff. So anyway, remember Simon Says? Everybody remember Simon Says? Simon says, "Touch your nose," and you touch your noise. If you don't touch your nose you're what? You're out. Okay?
The preacher said, "Do you all remember Simon Says? How come we don't do that with Jesus says?"
We go, "Hey, you know what? Let me go memorize that passage. Let me go sit down and study that passage. Let me look at it in such a way that I can figure out how that's not really saying what I thought it was saying so I don't have to go do exactly what it was that He said I needed to go do. Let's not do that Jesus says thing."
And we've concocted theologies to get us out of doing stuff. Let me make something very clear here. The Bible is incredibly clear. I don't care what book you've read, what DVD you've watched, I don't care who you've listened to. The Bible says that God has given every single one of us that are Christians everything – not some; not half – that pertains to life in godliness. Everything. And for you and I to say that the Holy Spirit that lives within us and breathes within us is incapable. When Jesus says, "I want you to go into all the world," that that's not what He means? Somehow it means something different than that? Or all of the things about, "Hey, make sure that you're living right or do all this stuff."
Somehow we want to concoct that and make that something like, "Don't put guilt on me or don't do all that stuff."
That's just absolutely ridiculous teaching. Now, I agree. You know, if you asked me," In and of myself, in and of my own strength, can I go and accomplish those things?"
No. We all know that we can't. But, Jesus lives inside you and me. The Christ that lives within you and me can help us accomplish the things that the Christ that lives within you and me wants us to accomplish for His glory. And it's in going out and doing the things that God has called us to do where we stumble, where we fumble, where we make mistakes. But, it's in those moments that we really start to grow as Christians. I'm convinced we're thousands of pounds of Scripture overweight. A lot of Scripture we know to do we just simply don't do it. So, it's not a matter that we're committed here at Grace. The reason we do all this outreach is because we believe that's what Jesus did with His disciples.
"Let's go to a town, baby."
"How'd you do?"
"We called down fire on them, man."
"No, you dummies! You can't do that. That's not love."
"Oh, really? Okay. Yeah, let's sit down and let's talk about that. Let's revisit."
So, the thing is is the more we're out doing the things, the more we start to grow, the more we start to trust in Jesus. We're committed to that. Not only that, to be a church that celebrates unity and not uniformity. Do you know what I love about Grace? We've got people here that don't agree on hardly anything. But, what we agree on – thank God – is that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh, died on a cross, rose again on the third day and one day is coming back. And that's enough to center our unity around, not our uniformity. Yeah. That's good.
You don't want a church that's uniformed. You want a church that's in unity. You want to have some butting heads. You want to have some times where you go, "I can't believe they said that or did this."
That's okay. We're not going to be uniformed here at Grace. You know what people do? We've had people come here from other churches that have said, "I don't know how you all have the different groups of people that you have here. How did you do that?"
I'm like, "What do you think heaven's going to look like?"
Do you think heaven's going to be like a country club? No. It's going to be people from all backgrounds and kindred and tongues and socioeconomic statuses and cultural statuses and language statuses. Listen, if we're not reaching everybody – I want everybody that believes this way and everybody that believes that way. I want us to figure out a way to put all of that junk in the closet and get serious about follow Jesus. People start seeing that in a church and they'll want to be a part of it because they'll say, "You know what? They're not trying to make me this. They're focusing around Jesus."
That's a lot better preaching than you all are letting on. Man. The guys on the internet are shouting. They're like, "Yeah!"
Let's continue on here. We want to be a church where evangelism takes primacy over legislating morality. The church, for all too long, has been telling people how to live rather than leading them to the one that can actually give them life. Let me say that again, because I'm not sure you're hearing me. We've been telling everybody how to live and we've not led them to the one that can give them life. We need to tell people about Jesus, not some moral issue.
People go, "I can't believe they don't believe that."
I'm like what do you think? Do you think they're going to believe that? Read 1 Corinthians 2. Very simple. Paul says, "The natural man..." – that's somebody who's not a Christian – "...does not understand the things of the Spirit of God. It's foolishness unto them."
You want to know why, when you're telling everybody how to live, they think you're foolish? And you call that being persecuted for Jesus? That's not being persecuted for Jesus. That's not doing your job. That's not fulfilling your role. Your role is to tell them about Jesus. Your role is to lead them to Jesus and let Jesus sort all of this stuff out. Listen, I'm not going to be here and try to manage sin in this church. I'm here to lift up Jesus. He's the one that can do all the things that He needs to do in our lives.
Not only that, but we want to be a church that does everything with excellence. I believe that God sent the perfect sacrifice, the greatest thing He could send, His Son, to do the things that He's done for you and me. And the one thing I refuse to do as a pastor is to offer up the community or offer up people something that's half baked. It needs to be excellent. And you want to know why we go all out in all the things that we do and why we do the things that we do? Because I want people to go, "Man, that church invests in us. It might be worthwhile to go there and see what's going on because they make us feel welcome, they do things in excellence. You know what? Maybe I ought to go check that out."
Because, everything that we do, every thing that we do, is based around one thing: We want people to come home, to know who their Father is and to know that God loves the prodigals and loves the outcast and He loves the marginalized. And you know what? I want to drag as many people into the Kingdom of Heaven as I possibly can while I'm here on earth. I want to make it hard as can be to go to Hell if you live in Lakewood Ranch. We do those things and we really are living out who we are. Reaching the unchurched by being intentional neighbors who reflect Christ.
So, if we exhibit these things, then I think we can build. Let me sort of share where I think we're going in the future. And I do want to brag a little bit. I'll ask for forgiveness in a minute for doing a little bragging. But, I created this PowerPoint and I'm happy. I want you to know. I'm happy. Because, I've been in my office and Tom's like, "What are you doing?"
I'm like stretching and pulling and doing all this stuff trying to line all this stuff up. It felt like a victory. I was saying to my computer, "I rebuke you in the name of the Lord."
Anyway, let's talk about the future vision here and about where we're going to go. I can't tell you that these are going to be sequential. They're sequential to me, but they may not be sequential depending upon what God does. He can have the veto power. But, here's the deal: I think the next step that we need to take is we do need to start focusing on the fact that we have a building fund. We need to shine a light on it. We have close to $400,000 in that building fund and we've not really talked about it ever. So, I want to talk about that today because I think the next step that we've got to do is we have about 300 plus people that come here to this service and then you all leave and we have about 250-300 people that come to the next service. And you all know that parking is a hindrance right now. It's hemorrhaging.
I watch every Sunday people pull into the parking lot. I watch them because I stand at the door and I watch them pull in and I watch them turn and go back out the other way. It just drives me nuts. Sometimes I've actually tried to run out and chase them down. I'm like, "Can I park your car for you? What can I do?"
You know? There's people that were in today and I tried to open the door and lead them in. I call it the bat cave entrance. "Here. You come in through the office."
I just don't want people to be inconvenienced. So, we need to think about a building and a land. I think that what we're looking at here is probably somewhere between eight to ten acres. We want to stay in Lakewood Ranch. We feel called to Lakewood Ranch. God has given us favor in Lakewood Ranch.
Now listen. Somebody said, "Well, what happens if God gave you 50 acres?"
Then we'd be Grace Community Church of Arcadia, baby. You know? But, that being said, until He does that, we think Lakewood Ranch is where we need to be. And if it's building, we would like to build something that was around a 30,000 square foot building where we could start having a preschool. I also partnered with StartChurch. There's a reason I spent 18 years in the business world. Because, you know, I learned some good things with business. You don't know this probably. 50% of the meat sold in every place you eat is Mormon steak. The Mormon church has all these cattle companies and it's all legal with the government. You can have a 501(c)(3) business that is a for-profit business that funds the local church.
We Christians are behind the times. There's people that know things that we don't know. We need to get wise as serpents and understand how to use the things of this world to fund the Kingdom of God. We want to do all kinds of stuff with this building and land. And I want to say real quickly, too, here before I get too bogged down and I can't get you out on time. Let me say this to you: We're committed to not building a church that's got some huge sanctuary where people start feeling disconnected. We're committed to that. We're committed to always having a sense of intimacy in the church.
You know, I don't know what that would look like at some point. I think the first plan would be maybe a church of 700 or 800 seats. But, we'd maybe have some ability to move that to 1,200. But then that would be it. We're not looking to build a 3,000-seat mega church so people don't feel connected. We want to continue to create the community that we're doing. And I'm not telling you this is it. But, this is sort of like an idea here. You know, you've got wood and stones. We wouldn't have cactus' because we don't live in Arizona. But, this is inviting. Plenty of parking space. It doesn't feel religious. It feels like that. And we would build the church in such a way that the sanctuary could be pushed back so that it could be used by the community for all kinds of civil things.
We'd want to have polling places, blood drives, community conferences and all that stuff. We want the surrounding community to feel like, "Hey, this church is for us," because we want people to feel welcome. To do that, we need about two and a half to three and a half million dollars in a building fund to do something like that, because we pay a certain amount of money here to stay here and we're committed to not going above what we pay here. We've already got that that we pay for lease. We don't want to take on any more debt. We want to do this debt free other than the fact of what we pay here. We would take out a mortgage just as if it's just what we're doing. But, we need about two and a half to three and a half million dollars to pull something like this off. Because, as we look at the land and the property and the building, this is probably a six to eight-million-dollar project. And we know that if we were to borrow three million dollars at 5% over a fifteen-year period, we wouldn't be too far away from what we're paying currently right now.
So, that's really what we have to do. Not only that with the building and the land, but we're going to plant satellite churches. Over the next 10 years, we will plant 6 satellite churches all around this area. Maybe in Parrish, maybe in Venice, maybe in Bradenton. We're going to plant churches and those churches are going to be somewhere between 400 and 800 people in each of those units. They'll be in gyms, they'll be in schools, we'll have to do portable stuff, we'll have to buy vans or trucks that can pull a trailer with all of the computer stuff, all of the children's church stuff. It'll be an endeavor. Those usually cost somewhere between 60,000-100,000 each just to get them off the ground.
Why would we go to satellite churches? Because we're not going to build some megalopolis thing with all this type of money where everybody feels like they're just in this big cavern of stuff. We want people to feel authentic community in the churches that they go to, because that's just who we are. We started off with me and Jenn greeting everybody and everybody got greeted by Jenn with a, "Hey, baby!"
You know? All that stuff. We don't want to lose the "Hey, baby" part of Grace Community Church. Not only that, but we're going to buy an inner city building and we're going to renovate it, we're going to plant a satellite church in it and we're going to have a HOPE center in it. HOPE is an acronym for Helping Others Pursue Excellence. That center would be a 24/7 inner city need-meeting ministry, job training, placement services, literacy programs, after school tutoring, food and clothing closet, recovery programs, mentoring.
You say, "Chip, why do you want to get into the inner city?"
Because, I don't want to just spiritually touch the community. I want to go into the inner city and see Jesus transform and bring restoration to people physically. I want to see families grow. I want to see drugs eradicated. I want to see God come in and do something massive and we're going to be a part of that. Not only that, that's somewhere between two and three million dollars, probably, to buy that building and to do all that stuff. And some of you are going, "Wow, man. Your vision really exceeds your capital."
Let me tell you something. My God owns the cattle on a thousand hills and He owns the hills as well. I believe if God is birthing a vision in a church, I believe that He can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ever ask or think. And if it's God's will, it's His bill. Not only that, we want to do a broadcast ministry. We're not sure how that works. We just know that over the years we've had hundreds of people say to us, "We wish these messages were out in front of more people than what's here."
We don't know if that's a better mobile app, a better internet service. We're not quite sure what that looks like. But, we're committed to getting the messages of Grace out to more people. And the reason is because we think that what we're doing here is on the cutting edge of what churches are doing by being so involved in the community and we want to help create those visions in other places. Not for our own glory, but so other people will get a hold of wanting to do something great for the Lord.
Not only that, but there will be a succession plan in place within the next 10-12 years where I will personally find my replacement. We'll also be training up other leaders. But, I'm going to find somebody who's smarter than me, better than me, awesomer than me, and I'm going to train them and pour into them so that Grace Community Church will have longevity for the future. Because, this is not about me. This is about the Kingdom of God. And I can tell you this: It won't be one of my kids. I can assure you of that.
Somebody says, "Well, what if one of your kids gets called to preach?"
Well, that's great. They can go preach somewhere, but they're not going to be the one that follows me. Because, it just doesn't usually work very well and I'm aware of that. So, the deal is we'll find somebody and, hopefully, in the next 10 years, you'll start seeing somebody speak a little bit more and I'll groom them and shape them and teach them the things that I know and Grace Community Church will move well into the future.
So, all of those things are what we see as part of what is going on. So, what it looks like is this: Grace has longevity, has satellites, has a training center for people who see things on the broadcast ministry that'll come in. We can train them and help them go out and do churches that won't be Grace churches, but they'll be churches like what we're doing. We're going to have for-profit businesses and a HOPE center. All of these things will be going on, I think, within the next 10 years. And I think God will bring these things to a reality. And I know this: If that's really what God has put in our heart, that's what He will do.
Now, you're probably asking at this point – at least I hope you're asking at this point – "What can I do to help, Chip?"
Well, first of all, as a church, we need to commit to prayer. Because, nothing happens until God's people start praying. We need to pray. This year, we're going to have times where we set aside prayer times. It may be seven days; it may be twenty-one days. But, we are going to start prayer. If you were here last week, you got a prayer card. If you weren't, please go online and watch last weeks’ sermon because I talked about prayer. We need to be committed to prayer.
Not only that, I'm also asking everybody to commit to faith raising, not fundraising. There's a big difference. I'm not asking you just to give some money to give some money. I'm asking you to get involved as a church into the future of what God is doing here. And get involved in what He's doing. Because, what will happen is as you're involved and as you give towards those things, what you're going to see is God does things in your life and the life of this Church. You're going to find your faith starting to be built and all of us are going to start to realize that, man, we can really trust God. He really will take care of us. I guarantee you when God does something and everybody goes, "Wow," the ones that feel that "wow" the most are the ones that have participated and been a part of what's going on around here.
That's just the way it is. He told Mary and Martha, "If you'll only believe, you'll see the glory of God," when Lazarus got raised. And because they had prayed about it and they were invested in it, their experience of that was far different than just the crowd that saw it. So, these are the two things here. That being said, we're going to be very specific and very clear here. Here's the way we're going to try to accomplish this with the building fund.
First phase is a 90-day jump start. Don't make fun of me for bad slogans. It's the best I could come up with. 90-day jump start. What we're doing is I'm asking everybody in the church to seriously go home and pray about giving above and beyond your regular giving. I don't want you to take from what you give to the church, because we need what you give to the church to do what we've been called to do. I'm asking you to go home and pray. And I want you to hear this here because this is important. Some people go, "I don't have enough to give."
Because, see, we humans look at the amount. Let me tell you how God looks at it. God doesn't look at the amount you give. God looks at the amount you give based on the amount you have. Big difference. Matthew 23. The little lady who throws in two coins. Jesus says, "She gave more than everybody here."
Well, she didn't give more than everybody there. People gave way more than her. But, to Jesus, she gave the most because what she gave was what she had. So, I'm asking everybody to get involved. You know, it's easy sometimes. Some people can write big checks. But, those big checks really don't cost anything. Sometimes, when we think about giving, we just don't really think through the process here. I'm not trying to shake anybody down. I'm not trying to get anything from anybody. I'm truly saying that if we will give and we will pray about this, I guarantee you God will show up in ways that I couldn't even begin to tell you how He's going to show up. But, He will. And the faith of this church will start to raise.
So, we're going to do this for 90 days. We're not going to do this every Sunday and get up here and, "Rah, rah, rah," and all that stuff. We'll probably send an email every once in a while. Maybe somebody will say something on the plug about how we're doing. It's just going to be focused. It's going to be very soft. We're not passing out cards today where you have to sign up for the next three years and give a pint of blood and promise your firstborn or anything like that for those of you all who have been in bad church experiences and all of that. Just let me put you at ease. None of that. We're just saying, "Hey, will you go home and pray? Will you just be obedient to God?"
That's it. Simple. For 90 days. Let's just really jump start this thing. Let's really get focused. And then, after the 90 days, we're going to simply do what we committed to do and what we were asked to do for the church which is a second mile second week. After the 90 days where we go, "Let's focus on this and let's see where we're at," every second Sunday of every month, whether it be on the plug or whether I just put a little announcement on it, we'll just remind everybody that, "Hey, please make sure that you're continuing to give towards the building fund."
It will not be hokey; it won't be guilt ridden or any of that. And I believe this is a very biblical idea. Because, Paul tells the Corinthian church, "Hey, there's a famine in Jerusalem and I need to come and get some collection to take to them."
And here's what he tells them to do: "On the first day of every week, each of you should put something aside and store it up as he may prosper so that there will be no collecting when I come."
What he's saying is this: You still give to the church, but what I want you to do is as God prospers you, I want you to lay up some money on the side. So, when I come and need to take a collection for the famine in Jerusalem, I won't even have to take a collection because you guys will already put stuff aside.
I would love for us to have a building fund that we've put aside that when the opportunity comes to purchase something, we're ready to go because we've planned and we've done. And that's about all I'm going to give you today on that. But, here's what we're going to do as a church. While you're still seated, the ushers are going to be coming right now and they're going to be handing out to you a really nicely done future vision campaign. There's nothing in here to give. There's nothing to sign up for or anything. All it simply is is information. I'm asking every person to go home and look through this. It's got the same picture that I showed. That doesn't mean that's the church we're going to build. It's just an idea. It tells you what we're going to do in the future, why we need to do it now and what the needs are very specifically. And it tells you how you can give.
You can give by check, you can give online, you can give by the mobile app. We're going to put some future giving kiosks out there and you'll be able to give through those. I'm just asking you to go home, as a church, and say, "God, what would You like me to do towards the building fund, above and beyond my regular giving, over the next 90 days?"
That's all I'm asking everybody to do. So, if you would, would you stand with me, please, as we dismiss? I just want to have a word of prayer and then we'll get out of here.
Dear Heavenly Father, I believe with all of my heart that You have uniquely called Grace Community Church to do something in this community, Lord, to really reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. God, I wouldn't want anybody to put a penny towards anything if they did it out of guilt or coercion. Lord, I'd rather not even pastor a church if that's what we became. Lord, I just simply know that you're a God who can provide and You typically provide through Your people because You want them to understand that they can trust You.
So, Lord, I'm just asking humbly and sincerely that You would speak to all of us as to what we can do so, Lord, one day we can look back and realize that we were really a part of something that was far beyond what any of us could do as an individual. God, that we truly saw a move of God in Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota and Bradenton. God, I believe with all of my heart that You have uniquely placed us here for this time. And God, I just ask that You would humbly speak to Your people as to what they can do above and beyond their regular giving towards our building fund.
Lord, as we move into the future, we want to stay absolutely focused on You. We don't want to move to the left or to the right. We want us to be all about Jesus here at Grace. But, Lord, I pray that You would continue to help us do what You've called us to do. Lord, as a pastor, I know that running out of room is not an option when You've called us to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. So, Lord, I'm asking humbly that You would speak to all of us as to what we can do for Your glory.
We thank You, Lord, for what You're doing here in our church. I pray, God, that You would go with us as we leave. Watch over us and protect us and continue to lead and guide this church to become all that You've called it to be. Bring us back safely to when we meet again. We love You. We praise You. We honor You. In Jesus' name, and everybody said, "amen."
Give the Lord a big hand clap, tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody.