Back for More
As the legendary singing cowboy, Gene Autry, used to croon, “I’m back in the saddle again.” And I’m SO glad to be back!
I started back to work on Monday, July 31, and have been re-connecting, updating, and in some ways, re-learning some new ways to lead Journey for this new season of ministry. That’s really how I see it. Even though I have served as your Lead Pastor for seven years, the Sabbatical served as a re-set period for my next chapter of ministry and Journey’s next season of growth.
It’s an odd thing when something you had looked forward to for so long finally happens…and then ends. There were many things Melinda and I planned to do on our first ever Sabbatical. Some of them we accomplished, and many of them we didn’t. Sabbaticals–like all of life–play out differently than you think they will. We had some wonderful, breath-taking moments as we traveled, rested, prayed, and just soaked in time together and with the Lord. And then there were some things that happened that we didn’t see coming, and we had to come up with a new plan. And yet, wherever we were and whatever we were experiencing, the Lord met us there.
We experienced nine different churches and worship environments while we were off and that is one of the things I looked forward to the most: to be able to sit with my wife and listen and learn and just BE with the Lord without DOING anything. I have to say, we saw a wide variety of how people in other states and cultures worship, and each time I came away encouraged and eager to put into practice a new best practice. We worshipped in a multisite mega-church where the teaching was relayed via a screen, like at our Mount Dora campus. We worshipped in an elementary school with a brand new start-up church on a Hawaiian island. We worshipped with a couple of dozen people at times, and at other times we worshipped with thousands. We even took a weekend to visit an online campus and worshipped while watching our computer screen.
I have concluded that the Body of Christ is alive and well across our country and even better on a global level. The church can and should always be learning and improving and getting healthier, but from where I sat, I could sense a hunger and thirst for the righteousness of Jesus that our Journey pastors talked about in the summer teaching series on the Beatitudes.
Speaking of that, how about the incredible job the Journey pastors did preaching while I was away?! I have listened to almost all of the messages from “The Pursuit of Happy” series, and I was so proud and pleased at how each one spoke from their heart, and did the best job of teaching I have heard from any of them. One of our members wrote to me and summarized the summer teaching like this:
Joel was powerful and practical. Harvey was convicting and truthful. Both Eddie and Ryan were engaging and presented the word with passion. I believe they have changed many lives, but surely they have spoken to me and changed my heart to allow God to bless me as I follow Him into the places He has for me to live for Him.
Amen! There are so many good things that happen when we see the church as a place where everybody gets to use their gifts of teaching, leading, encouraging, correcting, welcoming, and training to build up the Body and help it get rooted deeper in the fullness of Jesus. That’s why I love my church!
So starting this weekend, we begin a new series of messages called “I Love My Church,” and I really do love my local “little-c” church (Journey) and The global and unconquerable “big-C” Church. This series will help us refresh our vision and renew our values to be a growing community of Jesus on a life-changing journey with Jesus where everybody’s welcome, nobody’s perfect, and through Jesus, anything’s possible.
We have a special gift for all those in the worship center at either our Apopka or Mount Dora campus. You will want this, but you have to show up to get it! No taking one home to somebody who isn’t present! I’ve recorded another “Call’em All” reminder for this new series that you can expect to receive some time Thursday evening. Remember, it’s not a live conversation with me, so don’t try to say anything back; and secondly, if you don’t like those kinds of calls, they only last 30 seconds and you can hang up on me anytime. My digital-self won’t be offended or hurt.
I’ll say it again: I can’t wait to see you this weekend. I’m so excited to start a new season for Journey. I believe so many good things are in store for us as we love the journey together.
P.S. Pray, pray, pray for our Mount Dora campus as they prepare to offer TWO worship gatherings starting this Sunday, August 6. The Mount Dora campus will be worshipping at 9:30 and 11:15AM, the same times as our Apopka campus on Sundays. We believe this will lay the foundation for our Mount Dora campus to break through the 200 attendance barrier by providing more worshipping/serving options to reach more people. Pray for Pastor Joel Craig and his team right now!