It’s fair to say 2020 has been a crazy year! Now that the dust is settling, how do you feel about the health and future of Grace Church?
When the pandemic first started, I was getting questions from people about whether or not I thought the church was going to make it. And of course that’s like trying to tell the future – you have no idea. So I spent time praying, and that’s when God gave me the Pray Serve Give Gather sermon series. And people really showed up for that. They actually did those four things – whether they were gathering online, giving online, serving in small communities, or Zooming – and it was super helpful.
Now, we’re going through another transition as we reopen to in-person services. Just like anything else, we can’t foresee the future, but we can be filled with faith and trust and have a listening ear toward God. As I’ve been taking the opportunity to listen to the Lord, I sense Him saying we’re going to come out of this stronger than we were when we went into it.
One beautiful thing is that we’ve already started to see evidence of that. This past Sunday, I walked into a meeting being held at the Orlando campus by our Connections Pastor, Josh Dean, and I realized I didn’t recognize half the people in the room. Pastor Josh invited me to say something, and I greeted everyone and asked, “By show of hands, how many of you have been at Grace for less than a month?” and 50% of the room raised their hands.
This is happening across all our campuses – we’re seeing an increase in people visiting church for the first time. Just this week, I met a guy at Grace who had never been to a church service in his entire life. I love that! At Grace we want to disciple believers, but we also want to help de-churched people reconnect to God, and unchurched people connect to God for the first time. And it’s been really exciting to see people reengaging with their faith. I think it has a lot to do with the stress in the world right now. People are anxious, and they’re valuing community more than ever.
With that in mind, another thing that I believe will be super strong for the church is the counseling center. Last month we had 30 first-time clients jump on board with Grace Counseling. So not only do I think we’re going to come back strong, I think we’re going to grow – numerically and spiritually – as we see a great harvest coming out of this crisis.
When you’re stripped of all the things that make you feel confident about your abilities, all you have left is Jesus. And that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.
The mission of Grace is to help people take their next steps toward Christ. How has God led you, personally, to take next steps toward Him through this unpredictable year?
I think actually in your question is a bit of my answer, because I’m a very strategic person by nature, I love looking out into the future: planning, moving ahead, and casting vision for the church. But this year we were completely robbed of the opportunity to do any of that. So, for me personally, one of the things that has really helped me grow through this season has been the absolute necessity of dependence on God.
It’s one thing to lead in good times, but when you’re stripped of all the things that make you feel confident about your abilities, all you have left is Jesus. And that’s a good thing, not a bad thing. But, it doesn’t always feel that way at first. What an amazing lesson! I feel like this year I’ve learned a ton of lessons about listening to God and depending on Him because the outcomes of everyday life are just completely contingent upon Him.
We’re kicking off a new sermon series called Finding Momentum: Unstick Your Spiritual Life. Tell us a little bit about the series and why the leadership of Grace picked it.
Recently, I spent some extended time in prayer and personal retreat, and God laid this theme of momentum on my heart. I’ve talked to so many people lately, who are struggling in their marriages and families, struggling with jobs, finances, and anxiety. And it feels as though collectively, we’ve lost so much momentum this year. We’re just kind of “stuck” spiritually.
This sermon series is all about pointing us back to the qualities and behaviors that the apostle Peter says will strengthen and shore up our spiritual lives. Our text, 2 Peter 1:1-11, is really beautiful. It talks about seven powerful character traits, and we’ll be discussing one each week through this new series.
With just three months left in this year, what are your goals for Grace Church for the remainder of 2020?
Our primary focus right now is rebuilding. God has been so faithful to us, but we still have a responsibility to show up. We always say around Grace that when we show up, God shows up, and I think it’s very true. So our goal as a church is to show up consistently to re-engage and rebuild for the future.
Some of us will feel more comfortable worshipping online right now, and that’s perfectly fine. But eventually we hope to re-gather the majority of the church for in-person worship and really push our online experience to an audience beyond Grace’s walls, because we do believe that the church is meant to physically gather.
Ultimately, my prayer for these last three months of 2020, is that we would be spiritually refreshed and reenergized so that we’re ready to hear from the Lord as we approach Advent and the New Year.