Through the Threshold Week 6: Building Grace Beyond Ourselves

Sermon Transcript

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Well, good morning to everybody, and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We’re in a series called “Through the Threshold.” Many of you all know that I do this. If you’re new, you’ll appreciate it, probably, or if you missed a couple of weeks. I try to do a little bit of recap or a summary of what we’ve been doing and covering in the series, and I’m committed to doing series’. Let me explain, once again, why I do series’. I think that my particular role in the body of Christ, as I read it in Ephesians 4, being a pastor and a teacher, is to equip the saints so that the saints can work ministry.

In other words, you all are the saints and you’re the stars. This is just like every time we come in here on the weekend it’s like half-time. You know? And the coach goes, “Come on. We’ve got to do this and change this and get this going. We’ve got to block this guy or tackle this guy. We’re going to go out and do it again.”

So the stars come in. You all are the stars. I do my best to equip you so we can go out and go get ‘em after half-time. To come back in here, it’s like the perpetual half-time every time we come in.

So what I want to do is to equip you so that you can do the work that God has called you to do. And the best way for me to know how — or the best way I think I can do it is doing it through a series where I take a big idea, and whatever that big idea is, then I sort of run different angles and different lenses through that big idea so hopefully we learn how to grow in that area and to make a difference in our lives. So this particular series, “Through the Threshold,” the big idea that we’ve been trying to look at is how to learn to really live life by unlearning large portions of the life that we’ve been living. See, as we go through life, we pick up ways in which we learn to live. We pick up thoughts, habits, coping skills, mechanisms, interpersonal relationships. And then, at some point, you and I make a decision that we really want to follow Jesus. We say, “I’m in for the Jesus thing.”

And let me just take a moment here. If you’re new here and you’re not really sure where you’re at with Jesus. Maybe you just showed up today and you’re not quite sure. That’s okay. You can belong here before you believe. Just listen to what I have to say. But for the majority of us, we probably have decided at some level we want to follow Jesus. And what happens, inevitable, is we open up Scripture, we hear a sermon or we start going to church, and the pastor or the Scripture or something that we’re watching on the internet says, “This is who Jesus is, and He’s different than that.”

And we go, “Wow. I didn’t know that. I didn’t know.”

And some of it, we read and we go, “Man. That’s not the way I would’ve done it. I definitely would not have loved somebody the way he loved them. I surely wouldn’t have turned the other cheek,” or whatever it may be. So what happens is is we learn that as we’ve been living life, there are things that we have to unlearn in our lives so that we can learn the way God does it so that we can live the abundant life that He has for you and me.

So we’ve talked about a number of different things this whole series, and I think it’s been profitable as we’ve learned to sort of unlearn some things so that we can grow in who the Lord is and what He has for you and me. But I knew when I titled this series “Through the Threshold,” I knew at some point during this series, we were going to have to walk through a threshold that would be probably the biggest threshold this church has walked through as a body up to this point. And that is are we going to move from where we are to the place that we think we are going to move? And I knew that was going to be a real challenge for all of us. I know that we had voted and it was unanimous, but some time has gone by and I knew that we needed to re-up this and re-talk about this and do all of these things.

So what I want to unlearn with you today — I want to start the process unlearning this, and it’s probably going to continue on for a year or two. Not that we’re going to continue to talk about the same subject over and over again, but I’m hoping that the way we do things and the way we communicate things will help all of us to unlearn bad church capital campaigns. Can I get an amen?

Right? There should be a big shout. I mean, that’s like, “Come on!”

You know? Already preaching better than you all are letting on. But I don’t know about you, but I’ve gone through some doozies. If you never have, God bless you. I hope that you never do. But I was in a church, and I won’t name the church or where it was at, but it was about 1,500 people. The pastor got together with the staff and said, “We’re going to build a building.”

“Okay. We’re going to build building.”

He said, “This is what it’s going to cost.”

And I’m listening. Like, I have no mechanical bone in my body. I have no construction bone in my body. I couldn’t put two bricks on top of each other. I mean, I can’t even get Legos to go together. So it’s just none of that. Give me a Greek word, I’m in. Give me Legos, I’m out. Anyway, he called us in and said, “Here’s what we’re going to do and this is what it’s going to cost.”

And I’m sitting there going, “There’s no way in the world. This is like three times more expensive than what he’s saying.”

And I don’t know if it was me or somebody else on staff, but one of us got up enough nerve to go, “How are we going to build that for that amount of money?”

“Oh, it’s going to be real easy. We’re going to go down to Taylor Rental and we’re going to rent cranes, backhoes and tractors and bulldozers, and we’re going to get all the people in the church riding those things and doing those things.”

And I’m going, “No.”

I’m just seeing Brother Jim fall through the roof of the church and dying. Like, church campaign ended; Brother Jim went to heaven. You know? It’s like, seriously? And I was like, “This is not going to work.”

And I’m not trying to be negative. I’m just saying they ended up building the church. It got done. I’d left. I got out of Sodom and Gomorrah before that thing — I’m just kidding. But they built the church, God bless them, and I’m sure that some people have been touched or whatever. But here’s the bad part: That church has not paid one principal payment toward that church. It’s only been paying interest only, from what I can ascertain, for probably the last 15 or 20 years. So that’s not a great church campaign. It’s just not.

What we don’t want to do is do something like that here. So we want to be as open, honest and transparent, and work together as a church as we can. So here is the big idea. This is what we want to try to get at this weekend. We want to learn how to go through a capital campaign in such a way that we don’t end up needing a full-frontal lobotomy, leave the faith, have a picture of the pastor and staff to throw darts at, and going full-on social media rant about the church we just left. Amen? So that’s what we’re going to try to do here and talk about today going forward here as a church. And I’m going to try to be as honest as I can be and as transparent as I can be.

How are we going to do that? Well, if you do take some notes and you like taking notes, there’s three things that I think are sort of imperative as we go forward that we get right. First, this is not about a building. It’s not. This is about God growing us as people. I’ve always said this, and I will continue to say this: Michael Phelps was an Olympic gold medalist swimmer before he jumped in the pool on the race that he got his first Olympic gold medal. He already was there. The gold medal was just a coronation of everything that he had already become.

I want you to see, as we try to go from here to there, this not as trying to buy a piece of land or building a building, but this is a process and a journey where God is going to do things in us that He’s never done. We’re going to grow in areas that we never knew that we could grow. And that’s what happens. See, God wants you and me to grow in every area of our life. We can have — in suffering, we can grow. In pain, we can grow. In jubilance and all kinds of enthusiasm, we can grow. In a good marriage, we can grow. In a bad marriage, we can grow. There’s all places that we can grow, but what God’s wanting to do is birth His Son in us. And the more things that we can do and the more experiences that we can have give God more opportunity to grow us.

We’re going to grow as a church through this process, because it’s not going to be about a building. A building is a temporal thing. It’s not like when Jesus comes back He’s going to go, “Yeah. You know what? All the other buildings in the world are going to just sort of get burnt up. But we’re going to keep that one in Sarasota, because that’s a special building.”

Dude, it’s not. It’s temporal. If that’s where our heart and our affections are at, in a building, they’re in the wrong place. This is asking God to grow us. Look at what Peter said to his church: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

He says, “I want you to grow. I want you to constantly be growing. I want you to know more of who He is. I want you to grow in His grace. I want you to grow in the knowledge of more of who Jesus is.”

This is going to give us an opportunity, if we do this right, to grow in areas that we’ve never grown. Secondly, and this is huge if this is going to be done right: This is not a fundraiser. This is a faith raiser. And there’s a big difference between the two. I don’t know how you all are, but during Christmas time, because we have a lot of kids, Mindy will usually send me to Wal-Mart or “Tar-jay.” Y’all shop at “Tar-jay,” right? I’m just making sure. If you shop at “Tar-jay,” it’s better than “Target.” Just use that attitude. So, anyway, she’ll send me there and, inevitably around Christmas time, the Salvation Army person is there ringing the bell or whatever. I always come out, I reach in my pocket and put a couple dollars in or whatever, because that’s a fundraiser. There’s nothing wrong with a fundraiser. There’s plenty of things to give money to and to help them in raising funds.

That’s not what we’re doing here. This is not about a fundraiser. This is about a faith raiser. We’re hoping that in this church, as we move forward and people are stretched and people are pooled and people make sacrifices, that what they’re going to do is they’re going to increase their faith and their trust in the fact that God truly can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ever ask or think. We’re hoping that that is what goes on here. It’s not about raising money. It’s about us raising faith and becoming the church that God wants us to be.

We’re not going to be ready for that building and more people if we’re not already the people that God wants us to be in the process. And we have to be. And you see — people look at church campaigns and they go, “Oh, it fell apart because they didn’t raise enough money, they didn’t do this, or they did this.”

Usually why church campaigns fall apart is because what’s going on is the people are not growing and they’re not having their faith raised. God’s not doing that spiritual work that needs to be done to get them to where they need to go. And we want to make sure that that happens.

I want to show you here how Paul saw that. How Paul saw ministry and how it worked. He’s in Roman prison. In Rome, the Philippian church is giving to him in his ministry. They believe in his ministry. They believe in what he’s doing. So they’re giving. And I want you to look at the way Paul addresses that to them.

He says, “And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel,” — when I started off, when I was a nobody — “when I left Macedonia, no church [not any] entered into partnership with me...” — “Nobody believed in the ministry that I was doing and gave like you guys did. Nobody did. Nobody did.” — “in the giving and receiving, except you only.”

Now, Paul is saying, in the giving and receiving, as they gave to his ministry, they received from God in that partnership. They receive the fact that when Paul would preach the Gospel and people would get saved, they were a part of that because they were a partner with Paul in his ministry. But I want you to look at what he said, because it’s so important here.

He says, “Even in Thessalonica you sent help for my needs once and again.”

In other words, “You were giving gifts to me. You were bringing gifts to the Kingdom of God to do ministry.”

And this is so important what he says here: “It’s not that I seek the gift,”

“It’s not a fundraiser. I’m not after you Philippian’s money at all. What I’m after is I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.”

Paul says, “See, I realize that when you give, what happens is God does things in your life. I’m not looking for your gift. I’m looking for what God accomplishes in you as the process goes forward.”

That’s what we want as a staff. We’re not looking for the resources. We’re looking for the fruit that increases to everybody here as their faith raises. Now it doesn’t mean that we don’t have goals or we won’t need resources, but that’s not the primary focus. The primary focus is, “How can we move from here to there and become all that God wants us to be?”

Because if we have become all that God wants us to be when we move into a new building, God’s going to continue to do the things that He’s doing because we’re the people that are ready for those things.

Third thing, and this is important here, too: We’re not asking for equal giving, we’re asking for equal sacrifice. Big difference. Big difference between equal giving and equal sacrifice. Paul writes to the church a Corinth. Paul knows, and you can read all through the Scripture. He always talks about giving to the local church. He talks about elders and the ministers can live out of the ministry and all of those things. He has no problem at all in giving to the local church. But he also realizes that above and beyond giving to the local church, there are offerings, collections and things like that that are above and beyond.

In Jerusalem, at the time Paul is writing to the church at Corinth, they’ve gone through a really bad economic time and there’s famine. And they need help. Paul sees a great opportunity to bring Jew and Gentile together by taking up a collection from the Gentile churches to bring to Jerusalem. But look at what he says here. This is the above and beyond giving after they’ve given to the church. Look at what he says here to them.

He says, “Now concerning the collection for the saints,” — these are the Jewish people in Jerusalem — “as I have directed the church of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you...” — not 20% carrying 80% of the deal. Each of you. Every single one. Paul expects everybody in the church to be a part of this.

He says, “Each of you is to put something aside and store it up.”

This is not taking up an offering for the church at Corinth. This is an offering for people in Jerusalem. This is above and beyond local church giving. This isn’t an offering. He said, “What I want you to do is I want you to put — each of you, not some. Each of you put something aside and store it up.”

And here’s what he says. Listen: “As he may prosper.”

In other words, if God gives you a lot, you can put more aside. If God doesn’t give you a lot, you can’t put as much aside. But I want everybody to be a part of what we’re doing here, because I realize this is the way it works. And he says, “So that when I show up, I don’t even have to take up an offering. I don’t have to go, ‘Hey, guys. Let’s give to this thing. You guys have done exactly what you should have done.’”

That’s the way Paul sees this. See, Paul does not see this as equal giving. He sees this as equal sacrifice. Let me give you a story here. This is a true story. This happened. And we know it happened, because we know the people that were involved. A church was going through a campaign and when the church had started the campaign, they picked some team captains that would sort of lead that group and be a part of that group as we’ve done, and we may add some more along the way. But we’ve got sort of a group, and we’ll talk about that in a second. But each person wasn’t picked because of what they could give. They were picked for different reasons. There were different reasons why they were a part of that group. Some of them could give, but some of them were really involved in the church and really involved in ministry.

So the pastor got that leadership team together and he said, “We’re going to do what the Bible did when they built a temple. David gave first. Me and my wife have given. Then the leaders gave. We’re going to give. Then we’re going to go to the people and give.”

So he’s sitting around the table. They talked about it. This was the time for them to say, “This is what I’m going to give for the campaign.”

One man at the end of the table said, “I’m going to give 100,000 dollars.”

That’s a lot of money. Everybody in here knows that’s a lot of money. So he writes that down and he turns his card over. The lady sitting to his right is poor, but she’s got the biggest heart for the church and she is just a servant. And he knows that her giving just to the church probably taps her out. To give above and beyond, there’s going to be no money. And he looks over at her card and she says, “I’m going to give one dollar a week for the next 52 weeks.”

Well, when he left that conference room, he got in his car and he started crying because he realized, “She has sacrificed so much more than I have.”

So what did he do? He wrote a million-dollar check in addition to his 100,000 dollars. He sent it to anonymous group to send the check to the church so that nobody would know that he had written that check. But that check happened.

What happened to that individual? That individual realized, “Hey, it’s not about how much we’re giving. It really is about if we’re willing to sacrifice.”

And ultimately, that’s going to come down to you and me here in the church. We’re going to realize, “Do we really believe that God has done things here or not?”

And it’s going to get to us. And nobody’s going to get up here — I’m not going to get up here and beat this and preach and spit and try to get you all. We’re either going to do it or we’re not going to do it, because I really don’t enjoy getting up here and doing these things. But I knew that rather than having a business meeting, I needed to do this with the entire church, 1,200 people or so, to make sure that everybody knew what was going on.

So, that being said, what’s going to really make this journey different? I want you to listen to me, because this is a story that you’ve probably heard. But I want you to hear the way I’m going to take it, and really sort of shape it for what we’re doing. What really makes the journey? Those three things are great, but what really makes the journey for you and me?”

It says, “The same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood on the beach.”

Jesus understood. He didn’t have sound equipment or any of that stuff, but He understood how to use acoustics. He had pulled a boat out along the shore, and He would talk to the people.

Matthew says, “And he told them many things and parables,” — and then He started the parable.

He says, “A sower went out to sow.”

Everybody who was on the beach, they understood what that was. This is an agrarian society. This is the way people live. You’ve got to plant seeds and then you’ve got to tend them and then they grow and hopefully you have food so that you don’t have famine or you don’t have enough to eat.

“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.”

And we don’t really understand the first century as well as probably we should, but when you had a piece of land, there would be paths that would go through that piece of land. They didn’t do it like we do today with perimeter stuff and tractors and stuff, because you had to get out into the center. So there would be paths along the way. What you would do is you would walk out the path and you’d try to make sure that the seed went on the soil rather than on the path, but some of it would fall on the path inevitably.

Birds, when they saw the sower going out to throw the seed, they sort of started circling around. They’d come down onto the path. I don’t know if you all have ever been to the beach and met these birds called “Satan-gulls.” Have you met them? I hear in the south you call them “seagulls,” but they’re definitely “Satan-gulls,” because we were out one day and Luke, my little boy, had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He had taken a bit. He was having a good time. All of a sudden, one of those birds comes and grabs his sandwich, and off it goes.

He said, “Ah! Mommy!”

You know? I’m glad he yells “mommy” for stuff like that. Because I just look at Mindy. I love it. I’ve got them trained good. “Yell, “Mommy,” at three o’clock in the morning, not “Daddy.”

Anyway, “Some of the seed fell by the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Some of the seed fell on rocky ground.”

Rocky ground, for those of you all who are Tennessee, is not the same as “Rocky Top,” but rocky ground was where there was a little bit of soil and limestone underneath it, and the water would gather on the limestone with the soil. So those plants would pop up fast.

So, “Some of the seed fell on rocky ground, where they didn’t have much soil; and immediately they sprang up since they had no depth of soil; and when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seed fell among thorns.”

In other words, they fell into an area where there were some bushes that would come up and choke them out.

“And the thorns grew up and choked them. But other seed fell on good soil and produced grain: some a hundredfold and some sixtyfold and some thirtyfold.”

And Jesus says, “Those who have ears, let them hear.”

And if you go on to understand the story, Jesus is talking about those people that teach the Word of God. It’s talking about when you hear the Word of God or the Gospel, what type of result that there is. And He tells them that. But here’s what’s important about this parable, and it’s important to you and me: This parable is not about the sower or the seed. It’s really about the soil. I know when we read it in our Bible it says the parable of the sower, but it’s not about the sower. It’s about the soil. What soil is that seed taking root in?

And what we learn is that the seed that falls on good soil has the best chance of growth. So what I’m asking everybody to do is, knowing that we’re going to try to go from here to here, the best thing that you and I can be doing right now is saying, “God, make me good soil for all of the growth that’s going to go on around here, so that I can get everything that I’m supposed to get during this season. Help me to be good soil. Shape my heart. Shape my soil to be the best soil so as You start doing things here and You start pouring out things, I’m at a place where I can receive, and I can grow in the maximum way.”

The more all of us do that together, the more this is going to be an incredible journey as a church. So, that being said, what do we, as a church, need to know this weekend? What are the things that we need to know? First of all, we have goals here at the church. This may surprise you, but the first goal that we have going into this campaign is spiritual. You may have thought that it would’ve been financial. We do have financial goals, and we’re going to tell you how that’s all going to work out here in just a second.

But the first goal that we have here is spiritual. If this isn’t right, this will never be right. This has to be right. And I don’t want a building and the church falling apart because we didn’t have this. It doesn’t work. The goal of this campaign is primarily to watch God grow us as a church into what He wants us to be in that next step as His people.

The next thing I would tell you is people say, “What’s my part, Chip? What can I do?”

Well, there’s two things. First of all, you can start praying. We’re going to talk about that here. We’re going to have all kinds of different prayer times and other things. We will bathe this thing in prayer, I can assure you of that. It’s to pray. God, what would You want me to do? How would You prepare my heart? All of those things.

And then participate. We really want to see everybody participate. We don’t want a 20% doing 80%. We want to see everybody in the pool together. Because, honestly, for this to work, it really takes all of us. And if all of us aren’t in it, then we’re not going to shoehorn this and try to make something happen that can’t happen. This is going to take all of us involved. And what are our expectations? We expect God to move. We’re not just looking like, “How do we get from here to the next building?”

We’re going, “How do we get God to move in our church in such a way that He’s changing lives and doing all this stuff and that we really, truly live out our vision and put the hands and feet to the vision of our church to really reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ?”

Those are the expectations. Now, that being said, this is the timeline, because this is really important. And there’ll be much more that we talk about not in services. We’re only going to do this this one service here in the way that I’m doing this, because it’s important that everybody gets this information disseminated to them.

But the first thing that we have here is we chose some team captains. Now, I’m not saying it is limited here. We’re just starting this thing off. This is what we’ve got right now. It doesn’t mean there won’t be other additions. So please don’t think this is an ironclad thing. But the people that we have right now as team captains have primarily been involved in our building committee. That doesn’t mean this is not going to grow. I just want you to see who they are so that you can at least see their face.

We have Barry, Larry, CJ, Larry, Michael and Dee. These are great people. They’re all different backgrounds, all different things. I will say this, though: For CJ, he has been the biggest proponent of a new building. He has hounded me and Tom for two years going, “Are you guys going to do anything? Are you guys doing something? What are you doing? We’re running out of space. There’s too many people here. There’s too many people here. Are you — hey. Are you guys Christians? Do you listen to God? We need a building. Chip, what are you doing?”

So, CJ’s been awesome. But this is a great group of people. I think we will have some additions here. But I just want you to get an idea of who initial team captains are.

Next thing is first steps, which we’re going to do right now in just a minute. I’ll come back to that, so hold on for that. And then we’re going to pray today, and then we’re going to start doing some initiations where there’s going to be some times of prayer, times set aside, prayer meetings and those things and all of that great stuff.

Then the next thing that we’re going to do after we start the first steps and get prayer going on, we’re going to have what we call VIPs. These are Vision Information Parties. What we’re going to do is probably break up in terms of small groups that we have, and then other people that are not in small groups ill break up into groups of 10 and 15. And what’ll happen is we will come in, have a meeting and in that meeting we’re going to be so incredibly transparent. I mean, we’re going to give you everything. Like, there’s going to be nothing. You don’t have to think, “When’s Toto going to come and pull the curtain back?”

We’re going to do that for you. We’re going to be as honest and real as we can be. We’re going to listen to your feedback. We’re going to listen to what you think. We’re going to show you this stuff. We even have brochures that were being made up that have all questions answered, that have stuff laid out, how this is going to happen, how we’re spending money, how we’re doing stuff. I mean, we’re going to be as transparent as we can possibly be.

After we’ve done all of that, then — and only then — will we talk about collecting anything. And that’ll be a commitment weekend, which will probably be towards the end of April if you want to get an idea of where we’re going. That way, we want to know that everybody’s in, that everybody agrees, that we have passion about this, that we’re excited. Otherwise, we don’t want to go into a bad burrito church campaign. We just don’t want to do that, because it’s just not who we are.

So what are we doing today? First thing we’re doing is we’re not calling it a capital campaign anymore, because I don’t like that term. We’re going to call it a vision expansion campaign, because the reason is the building isn’t what we’re trying to get. What we’re trying to do is reach more people. We want our vision to have a place to do more, and a building just accomplishes that. But it’s not about the building. It’s expanding the vision that God has given. So these people will be called “Vision Expansion Captains” rather than “Capital Captains” or whatever else. But first steps is what we’re doing this weekend.

And here’s what we’re doing. There’s a card on your seat. If you notice here, we’re not taking up an offering. There’s no money. None of that. There’s no phlebotomist out in the sanctuary or out in the hub to take your blood on the way out or anything like that. None of that. All this is is introducing to you what we’ve called this next time, and this is going to be probably a campaign that takes about 24 months to fully go.

It’s called “Building Grace Beyond Ourselves.” Why did we choose that? Because we’re not going to be able to do this within ourselves. We’re going to need God. But it’s also who we are as a church. We believe that we want to get outside of ourselves and reach the community. On the back of the card, it’s real simple. It says, “I’m excited about what God’s doing at Grace Community Church.”

If you go, “I’m not excited,” well then, just put it in your pocket and don’t sign it. It’s no big deal. Nobody’s going to come around with a spotlight. “Did you do it? Did you not do it?”

None of that. What we’re trying to do is we had a vote, as you all know, and it was unanimous that we would go forth and do the things that we’re doing. We’re just trying to make sure that everybody’s still there, because some time has gone by and this is a great way to do it. It says, also, “I want to do my part.”

And if you’re not there, that’s fine. But it just says, “Pastor Chip, you can count on me. I’m going to begin to pray that God will bless, and I’m also going to start to ask God for guidance regarding my financial commitment.”

All we want is a name. Please nobody write their name in tongues, because none of the staff has the gift of interpretation. So, if you would, just make sure that we can read it. You can sign it here. We really want your email. Why do we want your email? Because we can communicate to you about all the things that are going on so that we don’t have to do it here on Sundays and Saturdays, so that we can tell everybody. And then you can date it. So, if you sign this. If you need pens, they’re passing out pens. But don’t jack the pens, because we’ve got one more service that we’ve got to do.

No five-finger discounts. Okay? So make sure, if you need a pen, let them know. All we’re asking you to do is we’re trying to get a temperature for our church. Are we still in? Do we still want to do this? Is this what we want to do? So, as you’re signing those, you can tear that off, take the card with you, carry that around, pray about that card, put it in your car, put it on your refrigerator, tape it to your forehead or whatever you want to do and all that. And you can sign these and we’re going to collect them in just a second.

I want to tell you, though, what’s going on. We have started into contractual — we’ve not signed anything as of yet, but we’ve started talking to Lakewood Ranch. I want you to know, in that process, we’ve saved 130,000 dollars off the bat just by doing some of that. On top of that, the first schematics of what the church could potentially look like in terms of the flow and everything have started. I’ve been working with an architect. I want you to know that we have found a way to build a 750-seat sanctuary down, 250 up. I want you to listen to this. This is so cool.

The sanctuary will not be any deeper than from the front of the stage to the back of that wall. So we say, “Are you going to build this big church?”

You’re not going to feel like you’re walking into a big church. It’s going to be wide, but it’s going to be in the round, which means that everybody can see what’s going on, you’re not going to be in the back in the cheap seats having nosebleeds trying to see if Chip’s there or whatever. You know? None of that stuff. We’re really being intentional in the things that we’re doing. We’re going to have a covered portico, so when it’s raining we’ll be the one church in town where you can pull in, drop your wife off and be a Christian, and you get wet and she doesn’t. You know? And all of those good things.

But there are a lot of things going on here. We just really want to know that the church is behind us. We really want to know that everybody wants to see this thing happen. What’s important here is that this not become something about money, but this become something about you and me growing together. So the ushers are going to come. They’re going to just collect the cards. You can just throw them in the bucket as they come. Again, nobody’s watching you. Nobody’s going to police this. We’re not asking you to do something that you don’t want to do. There’s none of that. We’re just trying to get a gauge of where the church is at on this thing. And then what I want to do is I want to take a moment and I want to pray with you as a church that God will bless this time and God will bless this effort as we start, today, to move from talking about this to actually doing this. And I hope that you all agree that rather than doing five and six and seven services, and burning out the staff and volunteers, it would be better to have a little bit bigger place that we could do the things that we need to do.

Yeah. Tear that off. I told them to tape it to their forehead and all that good stuff. So, tear that off and keep that, because we want you to have that. And then what I’d like you to do is you can keep one eye open if you haven’t put your thing in the bucket. You can watch and pray. Jesus talked about that. You know that? Watch and pray. So we’re going to watch and pray here as we close out service. So, if you would, bow with me and let’s ask the Lord to bless us.

Dear Heavenly Father, we realize that when a church undertakes something like this, it really is a defining moment. Many churches undertake this, and it just really goes sour quickly. Lord, You know our hearts. I stand here publicly before You. God, search me and know my heart. If there be any wicked way at all, show it. Expose it. Lord, don’t just expose it to me. Expose it publicly. Because, God, the last thing I want to do, in any way, shape or form, is do something here at Your church with Your people that causes any problems. But Lord, in my heart and in the staff’s heart, we believe that You’ve called us to such a time as this. We believe, Lord, You’ve opened up doors for us to move forward.

So Lord, what I’m asking is that you would help us not to go to the left or to go to the right, but Lord, to follow You in everything that we do for Your glory and for Your honor. And I pray that this would be such a special time for our church as You stretch us and mold us and move us and show us things that we’ve never seen and grow us in ways that we’ve never been grown. And Lord, we look back and realize that the journey that we’re on has just brought us to the point of where we are at that point. And we’re ready, because You’ve prepared us in the process.

I pray, Lord, for everyone that put a card in the bucket. I pray for those that didn’t. Lord, this is just a time where we’re trying to figure out if this is what You want us to do, do we have the church support. And Lord, if we do, I pray that You would lead, guide and direct all of us as Your body together to do the best things that we could possibly do for Your glory and for Your honor so that we can see You move in Lakewood Ranch in ways that You have never moved before.

So Lord, as we leave here today, I pray that You would continue to lead, guide and direct this church, I pray that You would watch over us and protect us, and I pray, Lord, that You would keep us always focused on the fact that You have brought us here to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. And help us to do that in everything that we do. We love You, we praise You and we honor You. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”

Give the Lord a big hand clap. God bless everybody. See you soon.

John Flowerree