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Reflections on the 1st Year
October 4, 2009 a new church was born in Baltimore. Over the last year we have seen God do an amazing work in our region. God has given us a front row seat to see many people come to faith and be baptized as a public sign of following Jesus.
In addition to the 87 who have come forward in our services to receive Christ and the 26 baptisms we saw in our first year, we’ve seen many people come back to Christ after years of drifting. We’ve also been able to become a church home for some people who felt called to become missionaries with us and found Captivate to be a place on mission where they could use their gifts for God’s glory.
There are four major "human" reasons I believe we've had a great first year:
1. Unique Vision matching Pastor and Place- God has been birthing this vision in my life for many years. I'm a match for the culture and the vision is a match between my giftedness and our area.
I get sad when I ask a potential church planter about the area to which he is called. When the conversation jumps to spreadsheets I start to snore. During our fundraising phase I had guys call me every few weeks to ask how to get started. Finally I stopped being polite and started being honest. I told one guy "I don't hear a gut-wrenching vision. Why should people give money to YOU for THIS PLACE? What is the God-story?" I told him to save his graphic-design budget until God revealed to him why he was the one for the task.
What is your God-story? How has God been preparing this church to be birthed? If God has called you, you must be able to articulate the answer to "Why you?", "Why there?" "Why now?" and "Why you, there, now?"
2. The Team- I could not do this alone. Let me repeat, I could not build Captivate Church by flying solo.
I just deleted a long rant about my frustrations with parachute plants and the denominational employees who advocate them. Moving on...
We're so blessed with Captivate. There are many people who sacrifice without fanfare. They are the ones who make Captivate happen.
3. A Strong Base of Support- We have been blessed with two major pieces of support. Financial and Human. I have documented over the last year the people and churches who have helped us. We were blessed to receive a great financial push at the beginning. This allowed us to launch well. We are so thankful to have these partners committed into year 3 of our church. This is huge for us.
4. Preach through the Invitation- I've learned to preach through the invitation. I heard this principle at Elevation Church's THR3E on April 28, 2009. Pastor Furtick spoke on the fact that Pastors often preach a strong sermon but then ask nothing in the way of response.
In my previous ministry experiences I didn't put as much of an emphasis on response to the sermon. I've come to see that as a mistake.
When God is moving in someone's heart it is so important that we allow that person to respond. We have a come-forward altar call at the end of every service for people making a decision to follow Christ. Here are a few reasons:
A. Puts The Pressure On- I don't want to encourage 'easy' decisions. People don't just check a box, they actually acknowledge Jesus publicly.
B. Allows Our Church To See God At Work- As a Pastor I often get emails, cards or phone calls from people who want to share what God did in that week's service. As a church I want our people to have access to all God is doing as well. It's an encouragement to the church to see God active around them.
C. Reminds Our Church That Preaching Prompts Response- Part of what I love about the altar call is that the Christian in the seat has a few moments where they can respond to God at the end of every service before the worries of the day get in the way.
To Be Continued:
At Captivate we have much to learn and a long way to go but I will tell you that I have started to pray for the day when God gives our church the honor of seeing Him work in 1 day the way He worked in us this first year. I'm asking God to allow our ministry to grow to the point when we will see 87 salvations and 26 baptisms in the same day. I believe that day is coming and coming sooner than we may think.
ReFRESH Conference Recap
The reality is that most of you do not know much about Sherwood Church in Albany, GA. if you do, you know them from their movies: Facing the Giants and Fireproof.
My Greatest Gift
When I returned home from a recent trip to visit one of our great partners- Dr. Johnny Hunt, Mr. Bill Agee and the rest of the FBC Woodstock faith-family, I walked into the hall leading to our downstairs office to find this: Pictures of those we have seen baptized at Captivate Church in this last year.
Each of these people is a life that Jesus has transformed! Each of these people are people who have seen God move in an amazing way. Each of these people represent why Captivate Church exists and why my family moved here to start this church nearly a year ago. This wall also represents the labor and sweat of many people who give and serve at Captivate week after week to make it happen. It is a wall that represents the sacrifices of church members from our amazing partner churches who give their tithes, offerings and time to see Captivate reach Baltimore with the gospel of Christ.
I serve with some amazing people. Two of them are Mikael and Ashley (who came up with this idea and executed it while I was away). They told me that they ordered extra frames. I tested their faith by asking "How many did you order? How big is your faith that we'll need more?" Lets just say that by their answer (and the size of their order) that they believe God is about to do "immeasurably more than all we would ask or imagine." Ephesians 3:20 type of stuff!
Welcome to a life-giving Church, welcome to Captivate Church!
Sun Stand Still
Wilgis Fam On The Farm
We went to Webers Farm today as part of their Johnny Appleseed Festival. We had a great time and came away with some cool family memories!
I'm In Awe
I'm in awe of God. What we experienced on Sunday is difficult to put in words.
As I shared on Saturday, our church showed up big time at our East Baltimore location where we are preparing to launch our next campus. The Baltimore Sun ran a story about an initiative that some political leaders are trying to get started in our area. Unbeknown to us, we are on the cutting edge. :) Check out the story by clicking here.
Back to Sunday: This Sunday was one of our most powerful services to date. We baptized 6 at the beginning of service. I'm including the video at the bottom of this post. CHECK IT OUT. When we baptize I like to take time to tell their stories. I truly believe Baptism becomes one of the greatest avenues for the Gospel to be shared. It's one thing for a Pastor to preach and tell people what they should do. It's an entirely new ballgame when someone sees an adult profess Jesus as Lord and follow through in Baptism. Suddenly it's not the Pastor preaching... its their friend or someone with whom they can easily identify. (See pictures at the bottom of the post)
I preached from Luke 15 about the lost sheep and then asked people if they would like to respond to the prompting of Christ in their life. What happened next was powerful. Over the next few minutes we saw 10 people come forward to respond to the invitation to receive Christ. We have people come forward to make a public decision. One by one I hugged each person as our church celebrated. This is new life in Christ! Every one of those people are special but one of them was my own 15 year old sister. I was wrecked when I saw her coming.
What you should keep in mind about our weekend was that not only did a bunch of our people come to serve in East Baltimore on Saturday. They brought friends and 10 received Christ. Then after service we had a "VIP" team meeting. (We've jacked the VIP concept from our friends at Elevation Church) While the previous week we had 12 sign up... close to 40 came out to the training!
Not only that but it was raining here and the restaurant we selected wasn't conducive for a meeting so a few of our guys went and grabbed our VIP tents and set them up outside of the restaurant. Right there, outside, in the middle of the Towne Center we held our VIP team training! Our people are ready to do whatever they can to reach people with the Gospel and I love them for it!
What a weekend, what a church, what a God!
East Baltimore Block Party
I could not be more proud of the people of Captivate Church than I am today!
If you want to see the photos in an album, simply click: View all
Our 'model' hasn't been done as far as we know. I was told to my face by someone who approves church planting that they wouldn't have supported our concept because "You can't get suburban white people to care about inner city black people." This person has obviously not met the people of Captivate Church!
Here is a random stream of thought from the day. I'm so humbled and thankful for what God is doing here in Baltimore. It isn't flashy, it's just seeing the gospel of Christ saturate a city one life at a time. In word and deed we saturated a community with Christ today.
- Today we were able to supply many kids with backpacks filled with school supplies. Everything was donated by the people of Captivate. The same people who served at this event today.
- We had a prayer tent set up. It was cool to glance over and seeing our people talking to and praying with people. Praying in public doesn't draw the crowds like games or food so whenever I saw one I silently prayed for them and the Captivate church member doing the ministering. About 10 years ago I saw a prayer tent as part of an outreach strategy in New York. I thought it was the absolute stupidest idea ever. I thought that until I actually prayed with people. I realized in that moment that some people don't have a clue what it feels like to hear their name spoken before a holy God. That act alone, praying out loud by name for someone can be one of the biggest bridge builders there can be. Not a lot of people are willing to come over to a canopy with "prayer tent" written on it... but when they do, it's usually one of the most powerful moments of that person's life.
- Over 500 meals were eaten at our event today. Because the event lasted 3 hours on a city block it's hard to estimate the crowd over that time but the food is a decent indicator.
- We hired a DJ who is a Christian and loves what we're doing. He's been amazing to work with and always knows how to keep a crowd into it. As a church the community is expecting to dismiss you. We've built a great reputation in the neighborhood and little things like a DJ help in that regard.
- This is the community where a little 9 year old girl asked me last year "what's a Pastor?"
- This is also a community where a program called "Safe Streets" exists in an effort to reduce gang violence. We've had many shootings and several murders in this community within the last few months. Click here to see a video of a shooting response from a few years back. It's good in giving you a tone of what they do.
- Safe Streets came out to our event today. We believe in developing great partnerships. Unfortunately in the city environment most churches get taken because they don't choose partners carefully. I've come to appreciate Safe Streets and I'm glad they're in our area. I've got love for them. They show love to us as well.
- The McEldery Park Community is practically begging us to start Sunday services. Today I received no less than 15 requests to start the church. I've been waiting for the right time. I think we're close. It's good when people start to nudge you to open.
- I talked to a young man who had a good friend shot 3 times in the face around Memorial Day. The shooter unloaded the rest of the gun. The murdered young man was 18 years old and the one arrested for the crime is 18 as well. Two lives gone over what amounts to nothing. This incident happened right behind our church building. We must start and revitalize churches in Baltimore. There is a hope in Christ that people don't know because we're not there. As a side note I wonder how many of our famous Christian leaders minister in areas where violence like this is commonplace. I'm concerned we have our priorities out of whack in pop-Christendom.
- One young woman from Captivate Church worked a 16-hour shift at Johns Hopkins Hospital and then drove over to work another 4 hours at our block party! I was in awe to see her serving children and sharing Christ in her scrubs and a Captivate T-shirt!
- Several of our Captivate families stopped me to tell me that they have never before felt so alive than to be in a church as active as Captivate. I firmly believe the way to grow a great church is to put people on mission following Jesus and being the ambassadors He's called us to be. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
- Another man in our church shared with me that God is working him over about priorities in his life. We had this conversation on a street in the middle of East Baltimore. If you knew just how different his life is from where we were standing at that moment, you'd never again doubt that God can move hearts to care for those who are very different than us.
- In some of the pictures above you'll see we had a rap group perform. I was a little nervous (I rapped in college a little bit and I enjoy the music) because Christian rap suffers from quality issues but these guys tore it up. If your ministry doesn't require a rap group from time to time, come hang with me for a while :)
- Several of the people who served today are being baptized tomorrow! God has been moving in lives at Captivate in a big way. I'm so thankful for what HE is doing.
- My family has been big in supporting the work I've been doing. My mom and two of my sisters attend Captivate while today my other sister (who attends a church plant near her house) came with her husband to help as well. From my grandfather to uncles to several cousins, God has given me a huge blessing by seeing my family drawn closer to Christ over these last two years. In some ways that was happening before I came home and in others it's been noticeably stronger upon my arrival here. In both ways I thank God that I get to have a front-row seat to their spiritual growth. He's an amazing God.
- Our staff team and a few others who organized this event were absolutely incredible! I did NOTHING for this event today. I cast vision and started to work on other things. They did everything from dealing with the city to shut down the block, to calling the Fire Department to get them to bring their truck, to organizing, purchasing, picking up supplies (using the church truck which means they had to unload, then load, then unload and reload again tonight before they unload into the church tomorrow and reload again...did you get that?) God has brought to me a group of loyal and strong men and women who want to see God sweep across the city of Baltimore through Captivate. They are truly 'Heart and Soul' type of people. I love them dearly.
Labels: Changing The World
Wheels on The Bus
Today was Caleb's first day riding the bus. He couldn't wait. To him this was like getting to ride a roller coaster by himself.
He's enjoying this stage. Kristy and I don't want him to grow up.
Kristy wants to create a scrapbook of him holding the name of the grade he's in on each of his first days. In Kindergarten this is fun... I'll be interested how he reacts in the 9th grade.
At the bus stop! The little girls on the left were enamored with Ainsley. I understand, she's a cute kid.
Cman was pumped. He almost forgot to give his mommy a hug... almost. :)
A new chapter in my little man's life has begun.
Jesus: Your Pocket or Your Platform?
On a regular basis I remind the people of Captivate that while there are many ‘good’ things we could do, we are intent to focus on being ministers of reconciliation. We are not the Boy Scouts, we're not the 4H club, we're not a social justice organization, and we are not a social welfare agency. Those groups have a purpose and are intentional about their scope. They don't apologize about their focus and they work hard not to shift from their focus. The church has a focus. Jesus. We are a local expression of the body of Christ who is charged to use everything we have to be Christ's ambassadors.
There is nothing more powerful, more relevant or more exciting than the local church focused on the glory of God through His son, Jesus Christ. Conversely there is nothing more pathetic than to see a Pastor put Jesus in their back pocket and use the pulpit and platform to point to something else.
One of the most powerful verses of scripture is found in 2 Corinthians 5:11-21.
The passage of scripture focuses on the final few verses:
20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
What is the unmistakable message of your church? In your church could someone do what is asked of them without Christ? Could they 'do' what is taught and not speak the name of Christ? When your Pastor preaches this week, is Salvation in Christ his focus or something else?
No matter what you're talking about it must ultimately be about the person and purpose of the gospel, Jesus Christ.
Pastors, please take Jesus from your back pocket and put Him on the platform. Jesus is the first, last and only reason for the church to exist. Don't allow your church or yourself to become spiritually bankrupt by maintaining a focus on anything else. Many things are good for the church to do but there is only one who should get our worship. Let no one be confused about who or what you worship.