Hey everyone! I apologize for the lack of updates in the past month. It's been a busy four weeks. I'd like to share with you a burden that has been laid on the heart of our church leadership team. A few weeks ago Ronnie and I were in Chicago for a conference at Willow Creek Community Church. We came back from Willow with the conviction that we needed to be serving more, and not just serving for the sake of serving, but really making a difference by meeting the greatest needs in our city. So in the recent weeks we've begun praying that God would reveal what the greatest needs are in our community and what we can do to meet those needs. Yesterday our Sunday service was focused around this theme of serving our city. Ronnie preached about the following passage from Matthew 9:
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."
Ronnie talked about 3 important principles from this passage: 1) Jesus WENT – He didn't wait for the lost and hurting to come to Him, He met them where they were. 2) Jesus did 3 things: taught, preached, and HEALED – so often we only concern ourselves with teaching and preaching and we neglect the third part of what Jesus did: meeting people's physical needs. 3) The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few – pretty simple: the need is great, but the number of people to meet that need is not. Sometimes we focus too much on talking when trying to spread the Gospel, but when we love people through our actions, we gain credibility with our words. This is what we have felt convicted of not doing as a church. And this is something we're striving to change.
While making a video for yesterday's service I came across some astonishing statistics about our city. There are thousands upon thousands of disabled, widowed, shut-in, and poverty-stricken people in our community. I know it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that there are people in need no matter where you live, but when I don't come in contact with these people, I tend to forget. So Pelham, Alabama is our harvest, and the harvest is plentiful. Please join us and pray that God would lead us in really loving the people in Pelham, Alabama by meeting their greatest physical needs. Pray that God would show us the greatest needs in our city and what we can do to meet those needs. Pray that He lights a fire in the hearts of our congregation and that the harvest workers increase. And pray that by meeting physical needs, God opens the door to meet spiritual needs.
We started New Era because so many people, especially in our area of the country, have exchanged a life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ for a dead religion of habit. One of my favorite writers, Donald Miller, says, "If [Satan] can sink a man's mind into habit, he will prevent him from engaging God." I recently heard an interesting comparison between dead religion and a flu shot. Apparently when someone receives a flu shot, they are actually having the flu virus injected into them. However, the amount is small – just enough for their bodies to build up an immunity to the flu. A lot of people have "just enough Jesus" to build up an immunity to Him. They believe in God and they go to church, but in reality they don't really know Jesus on a personal level. This is why we exist as a church and why part of our vision is to passionately change the culture around us. We want to show those who are lost and hurting how real and fulfilling a relationship with Jesus is. This past weekend we celebrated our 2 year anniversary at New Era (starting with karaoke at a local coffee shop). Yesterday our Sunday Service was devoted to giving God glory for what He's done in and through our church in the past 2 years. Ronnie preached on how in the Old Testament of the Bible, when God did something miraculous for His people, they would build an altar so that they would never forget what God had done. Last week we built our own altar (a wooden cross) and yesterday we encouraged people to write on the altar what God has done during the past 2 years of their life. It was an upbeat, joyous celebration. Here are a few cool statistics of what God has done through our humble church in the last 2 years: 50 people have come to know Jesus as Lord, 28 people have been baptized (public declaration of faith), over 30 people are involved in small discipleship groups, and at least 40 people are using their gifts to serve God and His people. May we never forget what God has done in our lives.
Leading up to Easter Sunday, our pastor, Ronnie, really challenged our church to invite, invite, invite friends, family, co-workers and total strangers to our Easter Service because Easter (like Christmas) is one of those days where people who don't normally go to church, often attend. Yesterday, at our Easter Service we had an abundance of visitors. The church was packed. Ronnie preached a powerful message geared mainly towards those who may not know the Lord. He talked about faith and doubt and encouraged people with doubts to "poke around" the idea of Jesus, much like Thomas physically poked around the wounded body of Christ after His resurrection. He also shared about how God loves us based NOT on what we say or do or believe, but that He loves us because He loves us. It was a moving message and at the end, before we took communion, Ronnie gave an invitation to accept Jesus Christ. 8 people accepted Jesus for the first time! Praise God! It was a wonderful celebratory morning and the presence of God was felt in a undeniable way.
Here's a few recent pictures of little Joe. He's just over 4 months, weighs close to 16 lbs, and is 26 1/4 inches long (97% percentile for his age!). He's started rolling over, chewing on EVERYTHING, and last week on vacation he got in the pool with mommy for the first time. More pictures (and maybe even video!) coming soon.