Johnnys Blog
  • Leaked Internal Email from GCC Leadership

    I wanted to inform the church, as soon as possible, that I have identified a mole in the organization that has been leaking intentions, motives, and strategies to anyone who will ask. Some of the leaks are even documents that have secret plans on them. It seemed most prudent to have everyone find out about this situation at the same exact moment in fairness everyone involved. We are all aware of how fast news like this spreads. The best way to handle a predicament like this is to just let the facts speak for themselves so here is the deal:

    I am the mole, and I even have proof.

    Let's all just be honest right now and admit that is one eye-catching and juicy lead line! Don't be disappointed and stop reading! I really have some proof you need to see and even an internal document from the last 48 hours that was circulated in the leadership of GCC that you need to read! I have made no edits to this document. Nothing is blacked out. We are going to put the entire thing right here in this post so everyone can read it!

    I have been meeting with people talking about the things that God is stirring in the heart of His church. It has been exciting. I want to share a story about it with you to let you peek into the heart of what we are aiming for, and then I'll ask you to read the internal document we are sharing.

    I met with one gentleman recently and answered some questions he had on a variety of topics. It’s usual for me to ask for advice and be transparent about the decisions leadership prayerfully makes. When you don’t have an answer to a problem, the best thing to do is just say so. A few days later my wife ran into the wife of this gentleman. They exchanged greetings, and then this lady expressed to my wife that it seems like we are simply "over our heads." Please don't think that this is crazy for me to ‘out’ a single person in this way. It wasn’t the first time that Jen and I have heard this in the past 22 years of following the call to proclaim Christ crucified. It hasn’t been a single person nor would we ever receive such a word about our ability from a person without following Christ’s instructions to ‘take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ’ (2 Cor 10:5).

    So I have been taking . . . And retaking that comment captive over a few weeks. As I strive to make all thoughts obedient to Christ, I am reminded of His Word to me in so many beautiful ways.

    • God didn’t call Moses because he was capable. God was capable, and Moses was obedient.
    • Paul rejoiced in his inadequacies. Paul rejoiced in his weakness. As a matter of fact, that is how Jesus gets more glory! He writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9b-10, Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

    You have got to know these stories.
    You have got to know these scriptures.

    How can you make thoughts obedient to Christ if you don’t know what His metrics are? What are His teachings that would guide how you should be classifying thoughts? How are you going to know when to throw an idea out or keep it and build your life on it. One wrong decision could drastically alter your life course. It’s imperative that you know how to make thoughts captive!

    What is being put in front of you right now? What is going on in your life that you need help deciding? We all have messages sent our way. One of the hardest skill-sets to acquire is the ability to discern. Life experience is helpful. But nothing will ever be able to compete with the potency of knowing the entire counsel of God’s Word to guide and direct your life.

    When we come together on the weekends as a church, we are exercising muscles to help us cope and maneuver through the difficult messages sent our way. We are going to exercise proclamation this week. As a body, we need to:

    • Testify to one another the goodness of our God.
    • Boast in our weaknesses and God’s ability to overcome.
    • Share our burdens with one another.
    • Proclaim God’s healing victory in our lives.
    • Witness to people who are in our midst and lost that Jesus is REAL.
    • Encourage one another in love and good deeds.

    We need a warm-up exercise. If you want to get the most out of a workout, you don’t just jump right in. There are steps. Knowledge deepens the experience. I am compelled to share this recently declassified internal document to help us in preparing our hearts for the weekend!


    To,

    The Staff, Elders, and Key Leaders:

    I want to invite you into the prayer, planning, and leadership of a special element during this weekend's services. Our Theme song during this "For You" Series is “Welcome the Healer” and the message and words of this song have helped craft this element. This email is intended to join us together in unity for a specific moment as a church in response to God’s Word.

    What is it?

    We are inviting people in the audience to come and Finish the sentence: “I welcome the Healer ______________”. This will happen at the end of the message during a planned response time. We are crying out to Jesus to come and heal us as a single entity and as individual members. People will be directed to go to the center cross aisle in the sanctuary where a few key leaders will have the public address microphones.

    Some great examples of what would be edifying and appropriate to the body would be:

    We welcome the Healer . . . 
    ...Into my unbelief 
    ...to bring unity
    ...Into my addiction 
    ...to our church
    ...Into my Anger 
    ...to our sadness
    ...Into my brokenness 
    ...to the division 
    ...Into my depression 
    ...to our fear
    ...Into guarding my heart and mind 
    ...into my Dr. report
    ...Into what I will wear 
    ...into my secret life
    ...Into what others think about me 
    ...into my insecurities
    ...Into my thoughts about suicide 
    ...into my priorities 
    ...Into my past 
    ...into my work

    Why Should we Do this?

    It is Biblical. God's Word demands a response. The New Testament letters were written to believers. They were written to the church to encourage, continue in our equipping and to assure us of the hope that we have. Our weekend gatherings need to incorporate our testimony to who God is and what He is doing NOW in our lives. As believers, we have not arrived. We are in progress, being sanctified. It is messy and yet beautiful. The more honest we are about that process, the more attractive the Gospel is! When people see us inviting a real living Spirit into our lives, into our brokenness, we DEMOLISH (2 Cor. 10:5) every argument against the Gospel! Let these verses pour over your heart as God prepares us for this weekend!!

    Psalm 107:2 Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story-- those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,...

    1 Peter 3:15b Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for hope that you have.

    Matthew 10:32 "Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven."

    Luke 8:39 ESV "Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you."  And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him. 

    Mark 5:19b "Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how had mercy on you."

    Acts 1:8 "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has comes on you, and you shall be My witnesses..."

    Declaring our need for the Healer is Biblical. Praising Him immediately for the help He brings is Biblical. This practice is intended to be a part of our corporate worship times! 

    What is my role?

    • Stand and be counted. Levites are WARRIOR Priests who were positioned first in battle. I am asking the WARRIOR Priests of GCC to prayerfully consider how you would invite the Healer into our Church and your life.
      • Let your words and attitude reflect the words in Philippians 4:8 ESV, “...whatever is true, whatever is honorable whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
      • May the way you invite the Spirit into our Church edify the Body of Christ.
    • Listen to this song over the next 48 hours.
      • Pray it. Learn it.
      • Sync up with the sentiment and message.
    • Ask for the outpouring of God on our Church this weekend.
    • Forward this email to people on your team, call people, ask them to be prepared to Testify, respond, witness, confess, on Sunday. I am thinking of so many people who need to get a phone call or be specifically asked. I won't take that from you. It would not be Biblical. Jethro told Moses to delegate! It has been said that it takes 400 people to make a weekend happen at GCC, then 400 people should get this email or a phone call in the next 48 hours from church leadership. If a person serves in your area, then please forward to them with a personal invitation to participate in this weekend's services.
    • Reflect on what God is doing at GCC and your part in it.
      • Isaiah 43:19a, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” God is doing a NEW THING at our church! What a great thing to be a part of. Embrace this fully. It is FOR all of us. He is genuinely leading our experience.
      • Acts 5:39 “But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."

    It’s not my thing!

    I get it. Public speaking is NOT a requirement for following Christ or being an active Kingdom worker. We can't have every staff member, elder, small group leader in every service take up all the available time we have. The body NEEDS to participate in this moment. Paul has guidance for us here:

    Ephesians 4:11-12, So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors, and teachers,  to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up...

    Fill your role as led by the Holy Spirit! I am trusting that God will guide this coming weekend. He has been leading in the song, the message, even in the obstacles. God ADVANCES before the Bride in Spiritual Warfare. Here’s the last scripture😊. I hope you are still reading! We DESPERATELY NEED TO KNOW THIS Word from God. Paul is instructing the church in Corinth:

    1 Corinthians 11:17-19, I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.  For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.

    As individuals, we are all in constant need of the Healer. Let us come together for the better! I need the Healer (Jesus) in EVERY WAY. You need a continuous ‘Healer’ encounter. Our church also needs healing in many ways. May John 17 Unity abound. May the storehouse of the Lord be made full in obedience during this season at our church. May the people see the new thing that God is doing and give to the continued work of the Lord at GCC. May the eldership and staff continue to be knit together in Biblical Unity that the body perceives and rejoices in!

    Let’s welcome the Healer in this place!

    Johnny


  • Choir

    A Choir:

    • We are starting a Choir.
    • We will have regular Practice.
    • Our Choir will perform and enhance our weekend services regularly.
    • We are staffing and resourcing it for excellence.

    Here is my heart on it . . .

    I’m partial to loud electric guitars. It’s true. I’ve said many times before if young shepherd David had known about a Marshall half stack and Les Paul, he would have chosen that over a harp and who knows just how awesome his Harp would have been! 



    Music in response to and responding to God clearly plays a role in all of God’s Word being threaded throughout our experiences with Him. But I can’t deny the special place that the human voice has over all other responses in the Bible. All of the decisions we make should be grounded in God’s timeless Word! Please take some time to read the biblical foundation for a choir that I have laid out with our creative art team’s help. Also, engage in the conversation about culture, art and the influence that we aim to have for Christ through this initiative moving forward!

    I have a personal belief in the role of voices in our response to God. My wife and I talk about our ‘Response' to God's Word so often that she is actually made it her word for 2019 (Shout out to Christy Cass & Thank you)


    Jen is teaching our Spring UNwavered event on this theme from God's Word. FEB 10!! Don't Miss it! Singing is one of our main Bible examples of responding to God. How can we more clearly do this in our services? I realize we are all singing, but something happens when we model things on stage for everyone to unmistakably understand our intentional response to Christ's gift of grace.

    The place of the voice in scripture begins as early as the first chapter of Genesis. It was the Word of God that spoke the earth into existence. The instances of God’s people being called upon to respond to His Word is a constant theme in the Bible.

    There are over 400 references to signing and 50 direct commands to sing.

    It's not an Old Testament thing that we can walk away from either; it's commanded in Ephesians 5:19 and Psalm 47:6. Jesus himself sang Hymns with the disciples (Mark 14), God Sings over us in Zephaniah 3:17 and when we are filled with the Spirit as described in Ephesians 5 we get connected to singing as new believers. Our three in one God of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all lead us to sing. We can't help but imitate our God!

    I love our instrumentalists who volunteer and play so skillfully! It strikes me that we all come to the gathering with an instrument - our voice! We need more voices leading skillfully to help us engage in meaningful ways during our corporate worship times. If you want to sign up for any instrumentalist position, click here.

    Why I think our church NEEDS this right now . . .

    Singing is really praying!

    Many of the songs in scripture are simply people talking or praying to God. Mary sings a prayer upon hearing about her miracle conception. Moses and Miriam sing a song in Exodus 15. It is all over God's Word. The best words to pray back to God are those from his Word, and we find the example in scripture of people praying many times through song.

    Singing is obedience!

    God’s Word instructs us to get together and have worship with music in community! That should be exemplified clearly for everyone to see! Specifically, having a choir accomplishes this task. We say that our audience is Christ and we are worshiping Him, yet we have a stage with only a few people on it playing instruments in many corporate worship settings. By having a vibrant, growing and expressive choir join our musicians, we are helping everyone connect with the object of our worship in a less distracting way. A multitude is what is described in Heaven worshiping Christ. We are trying to replicate what we know to be true in our hearts. Our combined artistic expression of worship in corporate sessions needs to match the reality of heaven as much as possible! It is difficult for a few singers and few band members to match the intensity and power of a multitude on stage reminding us visually of what is happening in Heaven!

    • Colossians 3:16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
    • Ephesians 5:18-19 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,...

    God gave us the very breath in our lungs and by singing; we are declaring His place in our hearts by offering that breath back to him in thankfulness and worship.

    Singing memorizes God’s word

    Rabbis have learned massive amounts of the Old Testament by singing it. This was also the case when Christ himself was alive. Have you ever thought of the repetitive nature of some of the Psalms? Much of the scripture I know in my life is memorized through song.

    Singing Is Evangelistic

    When you read scripture take note of what happened to the individuals who had a genuine encounter with God. Moses was wondering the desert, a murderer, and after meeting with the Lord, he was the leader of a nation. When people encountered Jesus, the sick were healed, the deaf could hear, the blind could see, the lame could walk, and the dead were raised to life! When one encounters the Lord, they will not leave the same! Scripture tells us that The Lord inhabits the praise of his people (Psalm 22:3) so when we worship, the Lord is present. There is no greater way for someone to experience the Lord, than in a gathering of believers worshiping the living God!

    Singing battles against spiritual realms

    Look at this example of singing as spiritual warfare against the enemy in 2 Chronicles 20:22, As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. Anything that God has done before He can do again! He desires to see victory in our lives and our praises lead the way. This means our corporate times of praise MUST have boldness and confidence as described in Hebrews 4:16, Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Our confidence in God going before us in spiritual battle is appropriate! So we need to visually set up what is actually happening spiritually. In these corporate worship moments, our hearts are being strengthened!

    Singing blazes a trail for inner Joy

    Despite our circumstances, our praise is the pathway to joy! Psalm 57:7 links the idea of inner peace and singing, My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make music.  Of all the songs in the Bible, the starkest contrast of circumstance and joy might be Paul in Silas singing while in prison. In Acts 16:25 it says, About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.

    There is a crowd of people gathering weekly at our church. In that number are believers who are burdened, and non-believers who are seeking something of substance. Our best testimony is in the changed lives of those who have been redeemed! Let the redeemed of the Lord tell what Jesus has done! (Psalm 107:2) There is power in our stories. (1 Thessalonians 1:5) When a crowd of redeemed people stand on stage and testify to what God has done Jesus is lifted up! (John 12:32)

    This is a Bible idea. This is the picture of New Testament worship!

    Singing Unifies The Church 

    Singing unifies the church in worship in a way that NOTHING else can do. I am reminded about the unity of our minds (and heart rates) by this passage:

    • Romans 15: 5-6 says, May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

    Singing is our destination 

    The end of the New Testament is really a hymnal! There are 27 Songs recorded in the book of Revelation: Songs on God’s Holiness, Worthy is the Redeemer, Worthy is the Lamb, Salvation belongs to the Lamb and many others!

    Our services are to be a reflection of Heaven. We are called to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth Now! One significant way we do that is we mimic as best we can the reality of the Throne Room! This includes excellent choirs and songs! If we are calling people to know God and see Him for who He is we need to worship now in the way we will worship for eternity!

    What does OUR Choir look like?

    Psalm 133:1 (NLT) How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! Music is what brings us together, but it is more than a choir. Harmony is a community! Some translations substitute the word "live" for "dwell." Yes, we will rehearse the music for the weekends, but we will also create opportunities for fellowship, (go bowling together or have cookouts, etc.) service opportunities (saved people serve people) and other chances to do life and grow together in the Lord. It is an on-ramp for service in Worship Ministry. It is also a chance for lay leaders to exercise ministry gifts in leadership (more sheep require more shepherds).

    Some specifics:

    • Our Choir experience will be an opportunity to invite people to the team who want to use their musical gifts without the commitment level that is required of other positions on the worship team. It will also serve as an introduction to the worship team for vocalists, with possible potential to serve on a deeper level of commitment and service.
    • Our Choir will be a multi-generational worship choir that seeks to worship authentically in a way that examples and encourages congregants to fully engage with singing to the Lord during the weekend experience.
    • Our choir will NOT be a show choir, a "special numbers" choir, a "Pageant" choir and so on. Because we value congregational singing, these types of songs do no typically foster congregational singing. We will not do performance pieces unless they are strategic and intentional.
    • Our Choir will be open to middle schoolers up through adults. No audition will be necessary. Harmony will be an expectation of our current worship team vocalists who will have an opportunity to grow as they assist in shepherding those that God calls to this ministry. The current vocal team members will be the heart of the choir, providing core musical, spiritual and relational leadership.

    On the dates that our Choir is scheduled to sing, and the 2 weeks prior, we will rehearse on Thursday night from 6:30PM - 8:30PM to prepare for services. Every service opportunity will have at least 2 rehearsals. The songs will be distributed well in advance via the quarterly songbook or at the first rehearsal for each scheduled date. These songs will be available through Planning Center Online where everyone can access the material to look at, listen to and learn the songs. The rehearsals will not be primarily music teaching times, they will be a time to put together what has been previously prepared at home.  Our first practice will be Thursday, April 4.  

    SIGN UP HERE.

    It's multi-generational. It is intentionally blended in message and art to enhance our experience around God's word. It is relevant culturally. It is a tool for the Holy Spirit to speak to people. It is evangelistic. It is a Grow Group experience. It is pastored by shepherds who know and care for their sheep.

    An attempt to paint a more vivid picture of our choir . . . 

    I actually showed a clip from the movie "The Greatest Showman" about a year ago in a sermon. The sermon was technically about being careful to messages that you hear. The dominant context of the song I showed I cautioned people against. It was straight humanism. But through the lens of Christ and just a few words added, it could be a powerful worship song. Unfortunately, they are worshiping the human Spirit and Not the God who gave us life.

    The moment is not really from the film. Many who have seen the movie and then watch this clip agree that the first time they ever practiced this for studio executives was perhaps their most raw and striking performance. All piano players need to take note of the energy and dynamics from the guy featured in this clip! If you check out the link, you will see the story behind this pre-filming clip. I am compelled to put this clip into this blog because the energy, zeal, and grit displayed by the choir in this short song hit the bullseye for what I would want to our choir to look and feel like. There is no instrument as accessible, energizing, captivating as the human voice! Blended with other musicians, the mix and melody of this moment capture the potential of what our Praise to a Living God looks like unleashed. When the young man stands up and takes the second verse or when the music all stops the heroine walks over to Hugh, and he responds with a laugh of almost unbelief I am reminded that the instrument we all bring is our soul in obedience, crying out to an awesome God. May they be expressive. May they be skillful. May our voices blended in unity bring Glory to a Deserving Savior!

    Greatest Showman Choir

    I continue to come back to the tool of a choir and their place because of my experience in leading people in worship as a band member. It is just hard to sing and play guitar. It's hard to do both well and have the expression you want on your face technically. You desire to LOOK like a person who is welcoming, inviting, and kind. When you are reaching for a chord or trying to remember a piece of music, your face usually looks confused, hurt or afraid! Ha! I have so many awkward photographs of my face on a screen, and I am communicating precisely what I DON'T want to convey. Oh, how I wish I could have traveled with a large choir of welcoming faces who were intentionally expressing love with their countenance! People see what they feel long before they hear what they feel!

    And yes, I listened to this song on repeat while writing this blog.

    Here are some of the members of our Creative Arts Team that lead on stage and behind the scenes to help us ‘Respond’ every weekend! We have some folks that work full-time throughout the week to help prepare and some who come on the weekends only! God continues to knit together an incredible group of talented hearts who understand worship. Here they are:

    Seth Ulrich - Pastor of Creative Arts

    “We live in an intricate, beautifully designed world. I genuinely believe our creativity is a direct reflection of our Father, the ultimate Creator. When we use our God-given gifts, and talents to further his Kingdom, we are living in His design for our lives. I spent 9 years with Christ In Youth learning how technology and production could create, not only an environment of worship but also motivate the next generation to become Kingdom workers. I then felt called to the local church, and I accepted a job at a church in Orlando. I spent 4 years there, training up a production team to know and use their abilities to serve God and serve His church. Last year, I was offered the role of Creative Arts Pastor at Generations Christian Church, shepherding and overseeing all technology, production, and worship at GCC and felt completely called to this new role by God for my life. It's a blessing to serve Him and the family of GCC”

    Zack Moslander - Associate Pastor of Creative Arts

    Zack has been leading worship weekly with GCC at the Spring Hill Campus. Zack has made the full time move down to GCC Trinity and will be participating weekly in our services.

    “I believe we were created for an intimate, close and worshipful relationship with our God. My desire leading worship is to create an environment where we can get a glimpse of the all-powerful, all-consuming God who holds the universe in the palm of His hand. Once we get a glimpse of this loving, merciful, and great God that we were created for, our response is simply to worship and praise. I have been leading worship in the local church since 2006 when I was in high school. I've spent time in ministry, leading worship, and on a church staff in Montana and Colorado. In May of 2017, my wife and I felt the call to leave our home in Montana to join Generations Christian Church. During this time, I also received a ministry degree from Lee University. I am excited about the future of GCC as we continue to pursue Jesus, the one whom we were created to worship. Colossians 1:16 states “…all things were created BY him [Jesus], and FOR him. We were created to worship!”


    Rebecca Chase

    Rebecca grew up around North Tampa and is no stranger to GCC. Before spending time recording and building a performance career in Nashville and LA, Rebecca was working in North Tampa churches as a young teen. We are blessed to have her most weekends! Rebecca is a full-time Kindergarten teacher locally and has an evident passion for leading God's people in authentic worship.

    Charles King

    Charles will be appearing on many select weekends throughout 2019. GCC is super blessed to have Charles and his worship leadership experience. Charles has been involved in music ministry leadership since age 9. In his formative years, he would begin discovering his purpose, and the mission of his gifts as he explains is, "to become a bridge between generations & cultures; unifying The Church & expanding God's Kingdom". 

    Zack Moody – Associate Pastor of Next Generation Worship

    “Worship has always been a part of my life. Most of my childhood was spent driving around the country doing worship with my family. Seeing my dad lead thousands in worship, and sacrifice to bring people to praise at the feet of Jesus inspired me to give my life to full-time ministry. While I attended and for a few years after I graduated, Ozark Christian College, I lead worship with Christ in Youth. This experience gave me a heart for teaching the next generation how to surrender while worshiping our King Jesus completely. I served at a local church for 4 years, learning even more about how worship can impact a church body. These experiences equipped and prepared me to lead Next Gen worship here at Generations. I've seen God do so much in peoples lives through worship as they are ushered into the Throne Room of Jesus and it gives us so much hope as believers to what heaven will look like.”

  • Perhaps He gave us EXACTLY what we need . . .

    (an apology for the office of Deacon within the church structure)

    Recently I was having a conversation in my office with a volunteer at our church. We were discussing the roles of servants and the massive job in front of us. 

    “The main vision behind the role of deacons in the church is they help do many ministry things such as care for people, benevolence, reaching our to orphan’s (children with just one parent) and taking care of elderly, and widows. The amount of needs in a church body is overwhelming but doable only through the work of many hands. Deacons are the glue that helps pull everything together. Having Deacons established allow a church to use resources efficiently by remaining focused on their dedicated areas of expertise”

    Ultimately, the purpose of this specific blog post is to continue casting Vision for Generations Christian Church in 2019. We had an incredible time this past week looking at our critical first priority mission given by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20. I do believe that our church has deacon and deaconesses working and serving faithfully. I'm humbled to serve alongside them weekly in many capacities. Some people serve tirelessly and fall in the category explained in the books of Acts. There is merit in looking at what Acts teaches closely. For GCC, there is a more significant experience I don't want us to miss. It is the participation, knowing and reaching together what God's word says about Church governance. 

    Watch Sermon

    We had limited time to discuss the things that God has for this exact time and place as they pertain to our unique expression of the Body of Christ in North Tampa. The breaking news in this Vision post is that we intend to identify and install a body of deacons who will serve this local body of believers in this significant way. This may take all or most of 2019.

    There are a few statements that have resonated deeply while preaching through my first year as a Senior Pastor at GCC. One of those sayings stems from the structure for church governance seen in the book of Acts. I have repeatedly said, "Let's just do God things 'God's way.'" It is certainly not original with me. I've heard it said many times in different ways. Perhaps one version of this statement could be derived from one of the Restoration Movement founding ideals, "we speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where the Bible is silent." God's Word has plenty to say about the setup and structure of Church governance. Our blueprint for the operation of the Church is 2,000 years old. It has outlasted empires and evolving political ideologies. It has the ability to adapt to different cultures yet still instruct us in dealing with every issue that may come up in the Church today. 

    I recently had a friend offer this perspective concerning the nomenclature of church offices; this is not an exact quote but the basic premise of their reasoning for not having ‘deacons' in their church governance model. "If you don't call someone by the biblical office of ‘deacon' and just call them ‘key leaders' it is easier to make a change in that ministry or get new people leading it." I agree that it would be easier to deal with a "Key Leader" who for some reason may be hurting ministry or has an unrepentant sin issue, it is not, for me, a good enough reason to stop following the framework laid out by the book of Acts for how a church should function.

    I'm not really stuck on the exact title of deacon as much as I am on the function and New Testament intent on the job and the need they fulfill in the Bible. There may be something to the clarity of calling the positions what they are in the Bible so that we don't walk away from what the original text points out as important. The original text talks about the qualifications needed to hold this specific office. This may seem like antiquated thinking, but as I constantly read about the things millennials find attractive about the church, I continually see gravitation to anything authentic. The weight of the liturgical forms of worship resonates deeply because there seems to be a rootedness in them. The service and felt needs that the deacon office attends to clearly lines up with core felt needs of the next generation. James talks specifically about the heart of the millennial’s disenfranchisement with much of what they see in Church, James 1:22-25 ESV, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. However, the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing”.

    I had a millennial on our staff read this section and talk with me about what is attractive in the Kingdom to their generation. He said, "I think what everybody craves and desires is to be a part of something bigger than themselves whether you're a millennial or have seen six decades. Moreover, that's what this whole millennial talk is all about these days as millennials and every generation. It's something more than what is just being sung at in a service. They want to be a part of the experience."

    Possible Results 

    Wrong Prioritization

    I have seen it happen when deacons are not serving in the body, that Elders start doing "lesser" things. It's important to know the origin of Deacons. It can be found in Acts 6. The church was growing in number, and there came some complaints to the Apostles about the neglecting of a certain group of widows. The Apostles gathered everyone together in an effort to fix the larger problem. Clearly, they wanted the widows fed. They wanted all the needs of the body to be met, and the deficiencies in their system as a new Church were continually coming to their attention to deal with. When they had summoned the young church together, they said this in Acts 6:2b NIV, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.” Waiting on tables is not a bad thing. There is a prioritization for the elders to “not neglect the ministry of the word.”

    Financial Impact

    Churches start to pay for things that deacons are instructed to do. Not in all cases, but in some perhaps, paid staff is doing things when volunteers could handle them. One of the issues with church drop off in America is the transition that happened in professionalizing all aspects of the church. While I am all for trained vocational ministry leaders, there is also something to be said for workdays at church. There is a palatable sense of ownership that develops when we show up and contribute to the body, not just the building. We can pay one-person full time to go and check on all the widows of the church. At some point, the sustainability of this breaks down. To share the blessing with multiple people caring for widows in the body spreads the feeling of ownership and ultimately impacts the finances of the church positively. The early church leaders had finances to put someone on the waiting of tables full time. This wasn't the best plan then or now in some instances.

    The Deacon Target Removed

    These are noble things to work towards. In a day when apathy is killing a generation of men, the enemy has to be excited to extinguish the target for us. The book of Acts declares that we should all aim for these things: We have been given this picture of the moral character to shoot towards. It is an honorable purpose to work towards having the character described in the New Testament (see scriptures below). 

    I have a card on my desk from a widow that just needs some stuff done. It’s the kind of things that I need done and do around my house weekly: light bulbs changed, furnace filters, Christmas put up in the attic. I know this lady. She can’t do these things. We got the list taken care of about a year ago. I kept the card. It’s on my desk. It’s been a reminder to the things the Lord called us to and the tools He gave us to accomplish them. It’s not a bigger budget. It’s not more staff. It’s the biblical office of deacons serving our church.


    The lesser things are still Holy things

    I can't deny what Peter said about the prioritization of reading scripture, praying and teaching people. This was the lifeblood of the early church. People had to know the good news. However, when the services were over, and everyone went home, the needs of the body were real. I love that Stephen's example of serving is the next big thing to happen in the book of Acts. Stephen was one of the young believing men doing these ‘lesser' things. He served in such a way that the power of his testimony and ministry was so impactful that he was ushered into a conflict that led to his martyrdom. The first person ever killed for proclaiming Jesus as their Lord was doing these very ‘lesser' things. There are no small places of service in the kingdom of God. 

    The book of Acts allows the first recording of anyone being persecuted for their love of Jesus to originate not from a mighty preacher but an obedient servant! 

    Below is an excerpt from my weekly elder briefing I sent in the fall of 2018 to focus our prayer time for Vision in 2019. I invite you to pour over the scriptures concerning deacons and their place in a New Testament modeled church.


    I have become acutely aware of a governance structure we are missing in doing God's business. I have talked with each of you face to face about the need to re-establish God's plan for church governance and the office of Deacons in our body. I would hope to work on this in 2019. Here are some verses I would like to have us pray over as we continually shape our view biblically: 

    Philippians 1:1 ESV

    Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons."

    Paul writes to deacons and overseers (distinctly separate and distinct groups), and they were trusted with his instruction and precious letters to the church. They must have had function and place in the original intent of the New Testament Church.

     Acts 6:3-6 NIV
    "
    Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word. “This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.  They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

    Our young men are aiming for the wrong goals because we have taken this God-given goal from them and it must be reinstated.

    1 Timothy 3:8-13 ESV

    “Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.



    He gave us exactly what we needed 

    I genuinely believe that the Word of the Lord stands forever. I doubt many other things and rightly so. I doubt my own ideas. I doubt my own heart. (Jeremiah says not to trust it at all.) So, I would advocate trusting what God gave us as far as guardrails for stewarding His church. He gave us exactly what we needed. The office of deacon is clear and biblical. Let's re-institute this publicly. May there be a deacon installation service at GCC in 2019 to the glory of God and edification of this body of believers. This project didn't seem to take too long in the early church to accomplish. We will be doing exactly what was described in Acts 6, "selecting from among the body” individuals who meet the qualifications outlined in scripture. It is so important to understand the whole counsel of God’s Word. In all of these church office appointments Paul instructs caution in 1 Timothy 5:22 ESV, “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.” 

    Be excited. When we obey, God blesses.

    Be in Prayer. May God guide us in choosing the right people to serve in this area.

    Be encouraged. Be encouraged that God's Word is guiding the leadership of GCC.

  • The Rabbi

    “Who do you say that I am?”, The Rabbi asked Peter this question in Matthew 16 and continues asking us today. Some simply called him ‘Teacher’ or Rabbi because He clearly positioned himself at the beginning of His ministry time as a Jewish rabbi. He had a following of young students, taught in open forums and synagogues as His ministry began. From His first teaching around the Galilee region, to His final questioning before the Sanhedrin leadership council, they asked the same question of Him – “what kindof Rabbi are you?” As a Rabbi, he was confusing to people, and it's easy to see why many didn't understand. His teachings were new, they added to The Law, they explained The Law, and His teachings completed The Law.

    The first time I visited Israel I was filming for a teaching series on the life of Christ from the angle of what people of Christ’s day really knew about the greatest Rabbi ever, as He stood before them and taught.


    Once a person learns about the death and ultimate resurrection of Christ, it gets hard to rewind the tape and listen to the words of Jesus apart from that knowledge. I was on a journey to try and hear His teaching like the first audience. Like you perhaps, I have read and heard the Bible my whole life, and I was really ready for a physical journey to a special place, the Holy Land, where the Rabbi walked. People are still on journeys today to seek the Rabbi and sit under His teaching. This is some reminiscing and teaching from one of my adventures to this land. I invite you to join Jen and me as we prepare for another trip to Israel from November 10-19, 2019.

    Israel Trip Details & Sign Up Link

    We had a small, agile crew, with a tight schedule darting between the tourist buses and regular citizen transports. We had an ambitious filming schedule, and I was self-producing the trip, so my binder was full of specialized filming permits that required us to adhere to prompt regulations.

    The first few days played out about the same at every stop. We would arrive at a traditional, historical site. I would long for each one to be just like it was when Jesus walked there but, naturally, 2000 years later these sites are now beautifully manicured, and somewhat commercialized. Regardless, that didn’t deter our anticipation of discovery.


    Don't worry; the gritty version is there. You just have to beat the streets and look a few layers deeper. We were on a quest for the most bonafide experience. Everyone wants to experience the most authentic journey possible when walking in the Promise Land. The more reliable the facts are surrounding a specific site, the more popular it becomes. This is because everyone is naturally drawn to the most genuine Jesus experience. I don’t want to see jet skis on the sea of Galilee! I’m squinting, trying to block out anything that might not fit in my perception of what a day in the life of Jesus was like. We didn’t want to re-create our own mind’s version of what the most original landscape was. Our film team would leave the classic site and find an offbeat location to get a shot that pulled us back into the time that Jesus walked the earth.

    The tourist industry in Israel is organized and managed strictly by the government in a way that my American experience wouldn't understand until I saw the beauty of it in action. Our top-notch and credentialed guide explained that not just anyone can walk people around and explain the sacred history. He was most proud of the National Tree Planting Movement. Israel is crazy about planting trees everywhere and all the time.

    We were driving down from Mount Carmel where Elijah fought the prophets of Baal. There were so many new trees planted in the last 15 years I felt like I was in the foothills of Colorado with evergreens outlining the hills. The landscape is changing in the country. You could feel the optimism and sheer determination of these people to reshape their land.


    I sank deep down in my seat and thought about the terrain of the valley from the Galilee in the north to the Dead Sea 65 miles to the south. I remembered the time before Sodom was destroyed and Abraham let Lot choose the region that is now most like the Dead Sea. “How many days it would take me to hike from Galilee to the same hill that Lot looked out over as he chose this better land, I thought. I pictured a landscape full of furry animals and freshwater sources more fruitful than any untapped paradise I could imagine. We coasted down Mt Carmel. The van shifted its weight back and forth over the mountain’s descending switchbacks. Thought about how the land would look again as those trees continued to grow. The sunset over the trees. Most of them had been planted since the formation of modern-day Israel in post-World War 2 days.


    There are people from all around the world coming to the most incredible piece of real estate in the world. The Brazilian groups seemed to be the only people smart enough to have their leader carry a flag so everyone in the group could easily re-assemble after bathroom and gift shop breaks. It sounds so normal; gift shops, bathroom breaks, and then you realize you are standing next to the most interesting archaeological sites in the world.

    This is the place that God promised to the sons of Abraham. This is the most strategically placed country, not only in the days of the Old Testament; but the same is true even to this day. Israel is a land bridge between three continents: Africa, Asia, and Europe. Every empire eventually had to fight and win this connecting stretch of land between cultures and people. Rome conquered and held it during the time of Christ. The Ottoman Empire fought and won it for a season. Even Napoleon would march through on his way to Egypt. All of this history buzzed by right outside our windows as the van sped in and around traffic. Every dinner conversation we looked for new words to express our discovery that: "Truly, this is the center of our entire physical, literary and artistic world." Watching out the window the irony set in. We were searching for links to an ancient world that rejected the Son of God, and all of our world's advancement in technology, understanding, and knowledge would come to this place and wonder what a single day was like when the Rabbi came to town.

    The favorite treat stop by far is a coffee bar called Aroma. Aroma is a chain of coffee shops found all over Israel. They have a coffee flavored slushy-shake like drink that is on the ‘must have’ list. Three cups a day was the average in our van! 


    This chain of coffee shops, which has branched out to the US now, is plentiful in Israel and perfect to cool off after a hike back to the transport bus. After one Aroma stop our group was waiting for the last people to climb in and I thought out loud for all of us, "The world that Christ walked was just right here, not the asphalt at this specific Aroma coffee shop & gas station, it looks circa 1982, but perhaps over that hill on the other side of the road. Perhaps they walked that way one day to cut through to a village, and nobody else has since then. It makes so much sense that God would send His son to this place in the center of His world . . . the Rabbi came here." Like an unspoken but mutually understood rule was agreed to, we spent lots of time quietly looking out the window between shoots daydreaming about what history we walked upon at every spot we stopped to film. It wasn’t the history we were told about that had us peering through the windows, but the endless possibly stories we didn’t know about but trekked right on top of. John 21 reminds us that, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”

    I found myself re-playing a song by the late great Rich Mullins called ‘Boy like you Man like me.' One line says, "I grew up around Indiana, He grew up in the Galilee." They regularly talk about how you have to dig down in many places to get to the part of the earth that was actually there 2,000 years ago. One can't help but wonder if a single grain of sand or water drop hadn't circulated through the clouds and storms from the shores of the Galilee to Lake Monroe, Indiana.

    You lose track of days when you fly halfway around the world. We rented a boat, rented a camel, rented a garden (THE GARDEN – as in Elvis ‘I come to garden alone' kind of Garden at Gethsemane" and had permits to shoot in the most important sites in Israel. 


    It was hectic. Every day feels like the best VBS you could ever imagine. As we lost track of the days, Sunday came as a surprise! Of course, we should go to church while in the Promise Land! We found a Jewish Messianic church through some local friends and made plans to attend. This worship experience caught me by surprise. I was ready for a special moment walking around the Galilee or when we first entered the gates of Jerusalem. Getting ready for church that day almost felt like a pause on the adventure part of the trip. We go to church all the time. It felt more normal than anything we had done in the past six days. The moment prepared for me wasn't one I had anticipated. Worship began, and a picture of the larger single church was overwhelming due to the number of projectors it took to put four different languages on multiple screens. We had Hebrew, Russian, English, and Aramaic. There was a nineteen-year-old boy in the band dressed in military dress. All Israeli citizens are required to serve. They have requirements for uniforms and keeping their weapon readily accessible. Needless to say, we were not in Kansas anymore.

    A fleeting memory came back to me of another specific culture shock moment. I hadn't thought about my boyhood move to Colorado in quite some time. We moved from a predominantly urban mixed culture of black and white middle-class families to a much larger Latino populated city. I remember the first time I saw a boy's name in my grade spelled out Jesús. Again, I hadn't grown up around Latino culture or language very much. I was struck at the normalcy of how many young boys had a derivative of the name of what I thought was Jesus. The name Josh wasn't weird in my 8-year-old experience. The name Jesus, for a young boy my age, was new to me, however. I was used to friends having the names of popular Bible people but never Jesus. It struck me as odd for a brief moment, and I never thought of it again. I had forgotten about this momentarily, to me, curious abnormality. The peculiar-ness of names and the identity we tie them to was for a small second representative of a larger idea I wasn't ready for. Like my 8-year-old friends, Jesus at one time had been eight years old too. His name was a neighborhood kid name of a real person at one specific point in time. That boyhood of memory mine came rushing back to me in an instant looking at the screens. All the languages. All the names of Jesus. Everyone crying out in their own heart language to the name of Jesus.

    Now at the age of eight, I wasn't aware of the linguistic derivative of the name Joshua coming from the Hebrew Yeshua. Nor was I aware that Joshua translated from Hebrew into Greek, in which the New Testament was written, the name Yeshua becomes Iēsous. The English spelling for Iēsous is “Jesus.” This means Joshua and Jesus are the same names. One name is translated from Hebrew into English, the other from Greek into English.

    In an instant, a fuller realization of the humanity that Christ ‘put on’ came upon me. Hebrews 2:14-18 explains, “He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason, he had to be made like them,fully human in every way, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.”

    We all have a name in our native tongue that we attribute to the Son of God. What was more impactful in that room of worshipers was the thought of what my personal Jesus was called by those who followed him, for those who sat as He taught on those very hills our van drove on, that exact name Yeshua. The idea that Yeshua is what his dearest friends may have called him made my awareness of His human experience in some way more stirring in that moment. Singing a song to Yeshua in the land that He lived in turned into a very poignant experience.

    Every song that talked about the power or value of His name was instantly lovelier. Every song or scripture that flooded into my memory about His obedience to take on my form was more effectual. Snapshots of Jesus crying over His dead friend Lazarus, begging Peter to stay awake and pray with Him in the garden, asking the disciples if they too would leave Him ran like a new movie that I was familiar with, but all of a sudden was watching again for the first time with more profound understanding.

    You don't have to fly to Israel to have an epic adventure seeking the Rabbi. GCC experiences life with the Rabbi in our fellowship, breaking of bread and devotion to the scriptures through all of our activities. You are invited to join us! The Rabbi was way more than just a teacher. He is the ultimate master teacher. He is not evasive. The Rabbi can't be found under a rock in the country of Israel. 


    I did learn more about Him and understood many things on a deeper level from my visits to Israel. I do love to take people there to experience the very pulpit that Jesus himself taught from in the new Magdala dig. Jesus said somewhere around 2,000 words in the New Testament revealing Himself perfectly to us. If you want to really know the Rabbi, He isn’t hiding! If you would like to get your boots dirty and join Jen & I on an epic adventure, then we invite you to sign up for our November 10-19, 2019 Israel Trip. We will be seeking the most authentic experience possible . . . and Aroma coffee stops!

    Israel Trip Details & Sign Up Link

  • Spring Hill Plant

    I love church. I love house church, church plants, underground church, big church, inner-city church, and rural country church. When's the last time you were in church and everyone sensed the moving of the Spirit was happening right then? There is nothing better! This is the biggest thing on earth! There is no other business more important to Jesus than the changing, morphing, growing expressiveness of His Bride. I experienced that tonight with our church.

    I want to thank those who gave, dreamed and worked in obedience long before I was in service at GCC to make tonight a reality! Glory be to God! Here is the play by play of one church and how we walked through communicating the process of a Multi-Site Campus becoming an autonomous church!

    On January 22nd, a meeting was held at the GCC Spring Hill Campus to discuss the details concerning the desire of that body of believers to become an autonomous church. The elders of GCC and a Spring Hill appointed Transition Team gathered last night to seek the Lord and clarity in preparation for tonight's Spring Hill Congregational Meeting.

    I would point all of us to Paul's words for Church governance in Titus 1:5;
    "The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished        and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you."

    The very thing that Paul instructed to be accomplished in Crete is EXACTLY what is happening in Spring Hill! This might not be the exact vision that has always been in place by GCC leadership for the Spring Hill location but is clearly not out of bounds according to Paul's instructions. Paul continues his thoughts on Church governance by instructing what kind of men are to be called into the overseer position in Titus 1:6-9;
    “An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are       not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages          God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not             given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be               hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and                 disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught so that     he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”

    The Elders of GCC met with the following Elder Candidates last night:
    Dennis DeRight
    James Sapia
    John Carver

    These men have been called to Biblical Eldership by Campus Pastor Al Squitieri and the Spring Hill Transition Team: Robert and Irene Nieman, Kaylene Squitieri, Tom Richards, Lee Lopez, John Murphy, Craig Bias, Ted Warren, and Herb Steffey.

    A word of encouragement I would give to our church at this point comes from Paul in the very next sentences. The same attacks have been used against the Bride of Christ since the start of the church. We are called in this very text to ‘silence them.' There are no new problems in the church. The old ones usually work just fine to trip us up! Let's have our guard on during this time of the Lord's moving. It is clear that what is happening in Spring Hill is not against what God set as guidelines for churches to follow. So let there by none of the types of disruptiveness that is described by Paul in the early church in Titus 1:10-11;
    “For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially     those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced because they are disrupting           whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach . . ."

    These scriptures were shared tonight, Wednesday, January 23rd, at our congregational gathering in Spring Hill. The following bullet points lay out some information concerning questions people may have as we move forward in working together to transition to ‘plant' Spring Hill successfully.

    • We desire to bring Clarity and Continuity of New Testament Church Fellowship
      • There is no reason to worry about the day-to-day and weekly operation of what God is doing in the church. We are walking closely to ensure that programming happens in every area of the church at a high level of quality.
    • The Generations Christian Church Trinity Eldership endorses this new direction and body of Elders.
      • We believe that the desire to be an independent church, functioning with a distinct culture and DNA that honors Christ, is an acceptable desire and we support the hope of a good many in the Spring Hill family to see this happen. This is the third meeting in over two months. The first was before Christmas. Pastor Johnny and some of our GCC Elders attended a large congregational meeting to simply listen. Two more open meetings have happened in an orderly fashion to include the full heart of Spring Hill in this decision.
    • We endorse the decision to continue exploration into the additional 5,000 square feet adjacent to current facility for immediate church needs.

    The Land:

    • The Elders of this new body have met and discussed the most prudent decision for Spring Hill. At this time, they do not want to take on any debt for the land.
    • GCC desires to continue all our efforts to bless the work in Spring Hill.
    • Our new goal is to gift a portion of this land free of debt to Spring Hill and still position GCC to continue a Multi-Site strategy in the future. To do this, we will begin to explore options that allow us to sell portions of the land to pay for the part that Spring Hill needs for the future site and also repay the $850,000 expenditure made by GCC in 2018 in acquiring this land.

    Timeline:

    • We are asking for your patience and grace as we work out many details. We will take as long as is needed to honor the Lord and follow the example of Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves”.

    We want to promote everyone to be ‘all in' for Spring Hill, in deep prayer and true encouragement. We will endorse a campaign for Spring Hill's future. Many at GCC have sacrificially given to the see the gospel proclaimed. Those Kingdom investments are growing and will produce fruit for the Glory of Jesus. Long before I arrived at GCC, the mission was to ‘connect people to Christ.' That central idea still compels us in every decision we make. This mission will continue in Spring Hill. We encourage everyone to be in prayer for our new sister congregation!

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