Starting from the scratch
Over the last year and a half, the church I’m part of has embarked on a major transition. We began as a twenties ministry called Status about nine years ago, and in July we launched out as a unique expression of the local church called City Beautiful Church. As God took us from one era to another, there were several new things we wanted to step into and a few things we wanted to make sure we held on to.
We recognized this wasn’t starting from scratch. So often, we want to step into things simply for the sake of the feeling of newness. But we knew the things coming in our future are the result of how we’ve stewarded the things that came before. I’ve been part of churches that constantly re-launch program after program hoping the next new thing or embracing the freshest trend will somehow have a better result than the previous twelve attempts. Many leaders search for a gimmick that will get people to buy in or stick around. But the parable of the talents teaches us that influence increases – not by working to build more of it – but by stewarding what we already have.
Through the process, God is teaching us that effective action begins with, is sustained by, and ends with prayer. We could come up with good ideas all day long, but God-sized ideas come from God. So we embarked on a season of prayer that would, hopefully, strengthen a prayer habit within us. Jesus did what He saw the Father doing and said what He heard the Father saying, and we believe that’s the same reality we’re meant to live – that everything we step into should be bigger than we are and only accomplished through divine provision. That means what we’re called into must not only begin with prayer, but be sustained by prayer as well. And as God empowers us to accomplish tasks, He’s also transforming who we become. It’s in the process that we’re shaped to be more like Jesus. And lastly, as God accomplishes His purposes through us, effective action ends with prayer. We give thanks and glory to the one who deserves more than we can give.
As we’ve been praying together, God has made us more aware of His presence and movement. So, people are stepping into moments of faith and seeing God heal and deliver. This past Sunday, one of our younger guys, Max, shared a story of standing in line at a theme park and seeing one of his friends bending over to stretch his back. He asked what the problem was, and his friend said that several years ago, while playing baseball, he injured his back. Max prayed over his friend’s back, and his friend experienced healing right there in the line. It’s not that we’re seeking the supernatural for supernatural’s sake, but being in God’s presence and remaining aware of His work positions all believers in a place of power.
So as we stewarded what God had entrusted us with and as we sought His direction for us, it became clear that He was birthing in us a desire to have significant influence – beginning with the heart of our city. So, despite all the obstacles, we moved into downtown Orlando in September. And in our hearts, God has placed a huge reality that is hard to conceptualize: God wants His movement through the Church in Orlando to be our city’s greatest attraction. With Mickey Mouse having fame that extends to even the poorest and most remote reaches of the globe, it’s hard to imagine that God’s heart for our city is a release of His movement so powerfully, it becomes a defining characteristic of where we live. Nothing with far reaching impact has ever rested on the shoulders of a single person, and it’s obvious this is one of those moments. And so, it was time to release.
We began by increasing the size of our leadership team from about 12 to over 30 – distributing ministry responsibility to those whom God has called. It’s been a lesson for me, as a leader, on letting go and entrusting responsibility to others. It’s the reality that, together, we are exponentially more effective than we are individually. The challenge has been sustaining a sense of family in the midst of such an increase, and it’s something we’re continuing to navigate. But we also realize that such a huge vision cannot even be accomplished by one church doing a lot of things well. The transformation of a city is accomplished through the unification of the Church in that place. So in addition to increasing the size of our leadership team, we have begun to ask and pray for a oneness in vision – passion and pursuit among the hundreds of local churches throughout our city.
Just this week, I received a call from one of the people in our church. Kevin works in a commercial real estate office here in town and said that his boss – the owner of the company – had recently been stirred to see a city wide serving initiative among our city’s churches. Kevin called to connect us because it was obvious that this was one of those moments where God was simultaneously stirring the same vision in the hearts of many to accomplish His purposes.
Our mission statement begins with the words, “Together, we…” We must always remember that the church isn’t a building. It’s not a place. It’s not a bunch of isolated individuals. The Church is a series of interconnected relationships of all those who have trusted Christ. And our relationships with one another is the place we continually see the greatest amount of spiritual attack. It makes sense. If Jesus has empowered the Church to accomplish His agenda of reconciling all of creation back to Himself and bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to earth, then the agenda of the enemy is to destroy the relational bond that connects us as the Church. In effect, we become powerless in accomplishing what God has commissioned us to do.
Fortunately, the only power the enemy has over us is the foothold we give him. So through prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit, the gates of hell will truly not prevail against His Church. Our pursuit is not becoming a great organization. Our pursuit is seeing the Kingdom come. And one of the pieces of good fruit that comes with His Kingdom is that the Church becomes one of the most effective organizations the world has ever seen.
Article art by Lauren Boebinger.
About Cole NeSmith:
Cole was formerly the Creative Director and is now the pastor of City Beautiful Church in Orlando, FL. He also creates interactive and reflective art and worship experiences through his company, Uncover The Color. He blogs at colenesmith.com and is on Twitter @ColeNeSmith.