Celebrating God’s Faithfulness

More than we could ask or imagine. Five million, four hundred ninety-nine thousand, six hundred sixty-seven dollars and thirty cents ($5,499,667.30). Amazing! We have reached our starting point for the everyONE initiative. Let me say that another way. We’re not at the finish line. Everything we have been doing to this point has been to get us ready for our journey. Now is the time to act on the commitment we’ve made, while at the same time asking others to join us on this journey. While our financial goal is important, our desire is to see 100% participation. During these next two years, we would love to see everyone who calls Community Bible Church “home” to be a part of everyONE. It doesn’t matter if the gift of your time, talent and treasure is large or small, every gift and sacrifice matters.

Our financial goal is just a vehicle for the greater goal: life transformation, ministry alignment, and gospel focus. God’s work to bring about congregational transformation, alignment and focus will only be accomplished on a shared journey and through a shared experience. EveryONE is a focal point for us to work together to fulfill the vision God has laid in front of us.

EveryONE is about impacting one another, our city and the world through our ministry plan (budget). It’s about updating and renovating our campus and gathering spaces because we believe our building is an important part of the discipleship process, a vehicle for every person to creatively connect for the sake of the gospel. And we want to fiercely focus on the future God has for us by continuing to ask, “What’s next, Jesus?”

Four questions set the stage for our next steps.

“What Do We Do Now?”

The everyONE initiative officially launches on Sunday January 5. That’s when we are asking everyone to begin honoring their commitment to the everyONE initiative. However, we’d love to go big and bold into the new year. If you are able and prepared to offer one-time gifts to the everyONE initiative right now, we would invite you to do so. We also want to keep in mind that we desire to finish out the current calendar year well. We have current ministry obligations that we need to honor, and your generosity matters. Every story of life change – such as the five we witnessed in baptism last Sunday and the seven we will witness during baptisms in December – are generosity stories. What you give towards gospel initiatives at Community Bible impacts lives.

“If We’ve Met Our Goal, Why Do You Need Me?”

Early on in this journey I asked the question, “If someone writes a check for $5.5 million, will we still do this initiative?” The answer is a resounding “yes”. That’s because this journey is about transformation, not a financial goal. We want every person who calls Community Bible home to experience Jesus in a new and fresh way because of this journey together. The everyONE initiative is not about what God wants from you; it’s about what God wants for you.

So, if you have not yet filled out a commitment card, we invite you to do so. Even if you are unsure about what you can give toward everyONE, we’d still love to know that you are with us.

“What Does It Mean that We Are at 99% of our Goal?”

The number announced on Sunday morning (found at the beginning of this blog) represents the following:

  • Pledge amounts indicated on submitted commitment cards (of those who completed a pledge card, we are seeing an increase in giving of 53%!).
  • Anticipated giving from the generosity patterns of regular committed contributors to our annual ministry plan (This is the same data we use annually to plan our budget. For example, if an attendee at Community Bible gave $5,000 the previous year, we budget anticipating their giving will continue at that same level or an increased level the following year).
  • A conservative estimate that every person who gives generously to gospel initiatives at Community Bible, but who did not complete a commitment card will increase their regular gifts by at least 5% (This is a very conservative estimate which usually ranges from 5%-12% and is used in all generosity initiatives).

“What’s Next?”

The Initiative Leadership Team will begin planning our next steps as we look towards 2020. We will be meeting with the architect next week to finalize our conceptual drawings. The architect will then develop our construction drawings. Once those are completed, we will begin work with the city of High Point to get project approval, and then bid out the campus renovation project to the at least three contractors. Those bids will provide hard numbers for actual construction / renovation costs.

In early January, the elders, Initiative Leadership Team, and finance teams will begin working together to outline how to prioritize each element of the everyONE initiative. The ministry plan (i.e., budget) is always priority number one. What we do week in and week out for the sake of the gospel will never take a back seat to the other elements of the initiative (campus renovation and debt elimination).

Here’s how the One Fund works:

  • The first fruits of our weekly offering will go toward our ministry plan. For example, if our weekly ministry plan requires $30,000 to meet our operational and ministry expenses, and we receive an offering of $37,000, the first $30,000 will go towards our ministry plan, and $7,000 will be put in reserve to be applied to the other priorities in the everyONE initiative.
  • We will build our reserves on a weekly basis and prioritize our needs based on how leadership has determined what our next steps should be.
  • We could conceivably begin campus renovations in summer 2020, depending on the availability of contractors, financial status and reserves, etc.
  • Lord willing, at the end of 24 months, we will have funded a two-year ministry plan, revitalized our campus meeting spaces, and completely retired our debt (including the costs of the campus renovation).

This is an incredibly exciting time to be a part of this family of redeemed sinners called Community Bible Church. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us. I can assure you we haven’t even conceived of everything he has planned to do!

More Than We Can Imagine

Three wishes. What would you ask for if you could be granted three wishes? In the movie Alladin, he asked the genie to make him a prince and save his life. For his final wish, he asked that Genie be set free to live a life outside the confines of his magic lamp. It can be fun to ponder what you would ask for if you could have anything your heart desired.

Think of your most extravagant thought. Think of something beyond your wildest dreams. No matter how creative your imagination is, and no matter how insatiable your appetite for pleasure might seem, there is still a limit to what you are able to conceive. There are boundaries around what you imagine happiness and fulfillment could be. There’s a limit to what you can comprehend.

But God does not have the same limitations you and I do. For the past several months I’ve been meditating on Ephesians 3:20-21:

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

God is able to do far more abundantly than what we’ve asked him to do. He is able to do immeasurably more than what we think. There are no boundaries or limitations to his power and work. God knows no earthly boundaries that can confine or confound the work he is pleased to do through the church. Nothing and no one can prevent him from fulfilling his best plans and purposes for his children.

Did you notice where his immeasurable work is accomplished? It is accomplished “within us”. The immeasurable, inconceivable, incomprehensible, unmatched work of God isn’t accomplished as an outside force or power imposed upon us. It is the power of God at work from within us as the presence of Christ dwells in his people (Ephesians 1:13, 3:14-19).

God, who has overcome our weakness and sin and rebellious hearts, who has redeemed us by faith through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, who ensures our endurance through the trials of this life by the power of his Spirit, is capable of far more than we can ask or imagine. Think about it. Who of us thought the latter was possible? Who of us, at our conversion, were as confident in God’s power to set us free from the slavery of our sin, as we are today? We can testify of God’s power to do for us more than we imagined him doing when we first met him by faith in Jesus. He’s done great things in our lives that we never imagined, and perhaps didn’t even ask him to do.

We have every spiritual blessing we need in Christ, and yet, in our experience of Christ, we’ve only scratched the surface of the reality that is promised to us by faith in Christ. God is not just able to do more than we can ask or imagine. Because God’s goal is great glory for himself and our great joy in his glory, he is going to do more than we think to ask or imagine. He understands we are far too easily pleased and distracted because there are limits to what we can imagine. C.S. Lewis speaks to limits on our imaginations in his sermon, “The Weight of Glory”:

If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Here’s the thought that has consumed me in recent weeks: we are not asking enough of God. While I can’t wait to share with each of you stories about what God has done and will continue to do in our church in recent weeks in the everyONE Iniatitive, I can’t escape the haunting thought that we’re asking God to do far less than we should be asking him to do. I truly believe he has more for us. More transformation. More discipleship. More freedom. More impact in our city and around the world for the glory of his name.

Will you consider joining me in asking God to help us dream big for Jesus beyond the limits of our imagination? I want a more audacious faith. I want a boldness before God that shamelessly asks him to make Ephesians 3:20-21 real at Community Bible Church. What I want is not more of God’s blessings. I want more of God. I want to know in ways I’ve yet to experience the fullness of joy that is found in Jesus alone (Psalm 16:11). I want us to live full lives in his acceptance and embrace.

The Strength, Encouragement & Power of God’s Word

Isaiah 40:6-31 is an amazing passage of Scripture that is so encouraging, comforting, challenging and uplifting. Verses 6-8 remind us of the frailty of mankind in this life (compared to grass and flowers) and in contrast the eternity and the power of the Word of God. 

Verses 9-11 reveals that although our Sovereign God is all powerful (Omnipotence) and He rules justly, He also takes care of us like a shepherd tends and gathers His lambs.  He gently holds us in His arms, close to His heart. In addition, He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek and obey Him (Vs. 10b & Hebrews 11:6).

The word “who” is repeated 6x’s in three verses (12-14) asking the question “who did all these things”, referring to all of creation.  The text goes even further to reveal that our great God had no counselor or advisor as He created everything that exists, and that He, as the Sovereign ruler of all, has never needed nor will ever need any assistance in sustaining or ruling over His creation. Our amazing God is omniscient (He knows everything) and therefore is fully capable of ruling and reigning over all things.

Lest we think that God’s Omniscience and Omnipotence are limited, verses 15-17 make it clear they are not, but rather are over all nations. The nations are but a “drop in the bucket” to our great and awesome God (vs. 15). Hebrews 4:13 makes it clear that nothing is hidden from God’s sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account. This reveals God’s omnipresence (God everywhere at the same time).  Mind blowing, right?

As a result, it is a ridiculous thought then to reduce God to mere images and objects of worship (verses 18-20.  It is a horrible attempt to reduce God to what our small minds can conceive God as. Isaiah blasts this blasphemous thought and idea by proclaiming in even more vivid detail truth about who God is and what He has done (verses 21-25).  We, like grass and flowers before, are now compared to grasshoppers (vs. 22).  There is no one greater than our God, not kings, rulers or princes. He simply blows on them and like the grass, flowers and grasshoppers, they perish like, when a whirlwind sweeps away chaff (vs. 23-24).

In verse 26 we are called to look to all creation (general revelation) for evidence of who God is and what He has done (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-20). God does indeed speak through all that He has created! Yes, we are without excuse based on God’s self-revelation in all of creation.

Verse 27 reveals that our ways are not hidden from the Lord.  Our lives and the paths that we are on are not out of God’s sight. God has not forgotten us. He knows our joys and sorrows and has bottled up our tears and knows our wanderings (Psalm 56:8).  He knows that we are but dust (Psalm 103:14).

Then the finale and summary truth about God comes in verses 28-31.  Read it and glory in who God is and what He has done and continues to do today:

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary they will walk and not be faint.

The Word of God can bring perspective, insight, wisdom, discernment, strength, comfort and peace to us if we will but believe and trust in it (Psalm 119; Proverbs 1-9).  God has revealed Himself in the general revelation of creation for sure, but He has specifically revealed Himself in the Scriptures! In this passage of Scripture, God has given us insight into who He is and what He has done on our behalf.  This is why we need all of Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments.  Look at all of life through the lens and filter of God’s Word and more of life will make sense. We won’t have all the answers this side of heaven (Deuteronomy 29:29), but we can live life very differently if we will take Him at His Word.