pastor’s corner


Work as though you were working for the Lord

September 21, 2018
Dear Church Family,

I realize I’m late with this, but maybe you heard about what happened over the Labor Day holiday with Geoffrey Owens. The 57 year-old actor used to star on The Cosby Show, playing the role of Dr. Elvin Tibideaux. But after The Cosby Show went off the air in 1992, acting gigs became sparse and money became tight. Not long ago, Owens took a job working as a cashier at a Trader Joe’s in Clifton, New Jersey where a customer snapped a photo of him and posted it on a celebrity website. The image became the basis for the Daily Mail’s story under the job-shaming headline, “From learning lines to serving the long line!”

The story exploded on social media – ironically over a weekend meant to honor labor. Fortunately, many people, among them fellow actors, rose to Owens’ defense.

Chris Rankin, who appeared in the Harry Potter movies, said he worked in kitchens after the popular film franchise came to an end. “I needed a job, no shame in that. And you know what? I really enjoyed it! You do what you need to do and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

Former athlete-turned-actor Terry Crews commented, “I swept floors AFTER the #NFL. If need be I’d do it again.”

Actor Blair Underwood tweeted, “#NOSHAME in good, honest, hard work. He’s being a man in doing what he needs to do to provide for himself and his family. Much respect to you Sir!”

Of course, as a pastor, the story prompted me to think about Scripture and what the Bible says about work. In both the Old and New Testaments, human work is celebrated.

In the book of Genesis, for example, God charges Adam with the task of tilling the ground in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15). Later we’re told that Moses and David once worked as shepherds (Exodus 3:1; 1 Samuel 16:11, respectively). Shepherds go on to make an appearance at the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:16-17), and Jesus himself is born into a carpenter’s family (Mark 6:3). Finally, we discover that some of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen (Matthew 4:18-22)!

My point is, God honors work, and no task is menial in God’s eyes if it’s done with integrity.

The apostle Paul puts it this way, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Colossians 3:23 (NLT, emphasis mine).

I hope the Owens story has put an end to job shaming. There should be no embarrassment when it comes to good, honest work. Whether we’re scanning groceries at a Trader Joe’s or starring on a sitcom, all work matters and should be done to the glory of God. 

I close with these excellent words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr:

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’ No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”


Bring your cans of Chef Boyardee this weekend

Dear Church Family,

As I write this note, Hurricane Florence is expected to make landfall in the Carolinas, blasting the region with heavy winds and rains over the next few days. I trust you’ll join me in prayer for those in Florence’s path. While God doesn’t send hurricanes, God does send his church to relieve the suffering of those affected by hurricanes. To that end, our church is standing by and will be ready to respond in the aftermath of the storm. 

We’re coming to the end of our 6-part message series on Moses. This weekend’s message will focus on Moses’ journey with the Israelites in the desert. We’ll look at 3 leadership lessons Moses gleaned from his 40 years in the desert and how we can apply those lessons in our own lives. The message will be deeply biblical and highly practical, so I hope you’ll make plans to be in worship. We’ll also be celebrating a baptism at our Saturday night service, which is always exciting.

Don’t forget to sign-up for Be, Go, Do if you haven’t already and make sure to bring your 2 pop-top cans of Chef Boyardee to weekend worship. Like I mentioned during my pastoral challenge last weekend, if everyone brings 2 cans, our church will save around 400 dollars, which will help us manage our financial resources more effectively. Thank you, in advance, for your generosity and willingness to give. By the way, I’ll have another challenge for you this weekend when it comes to donating a grocery item!

Finally, I want to let you know that our church is gearing up to offer some fall classes beginning in mid-October. You’ll hear more information about that in the next week or two, but just know that we’ll have a variety of classes at different times to fit your schedule. Part of our mission at Community of Faith is to “Live by Faith.” We believe classes provide an awesome avenue for us to engage our faith in deeper ways. 

If you’d like to discover what else is going on in our church, check out the rest of this email.

See you this weekend! 



be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry

Dear Church Family,
I don’t know about you, but sometimes watching the news is exhausting for me. Now, don’t get me wrong. I like to be informed about what’s happening in the world, but it seems that every week our country finds a controversial topic that prompts engagement and battle lines.
This week’s controversy involves Nike’s decision to use Colin Kaepernick as their new spokesperson. Kaepernick is a former NFL player who sparked public outrage in 2016 when he kneeled during the National Anthem. Kaepernick’s decision to kneel was motivated by his desire to bring awareness to racial injustices against black Americans. However, many people felt that the Kaepernick was acting disrespectfully to the members of our military who fought so hard to defend our freedoms. For that reason, Nike has been under a storm of criticism this week. Some folks have boycotted Nike. Others have even gone so far as to post videos of themselves on social media burning their Nike gear. 

My intent is not to give an opinion on this issue (though I certainly have one just like many of you do). My intent is to remind us (and me!) that there are better ways of engaging controversial topics than what we see modeled to us in our culture. James, the brother of Jesus, puts it like this:

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” James 1:19 (NLT emphasis mine)
Notice that James says two things about listening. First, it happens right away. And, second, it comes before speaking. Yet is that the order we go in when discussing hot-button issues? No way! First, we speak and then maybe–if the other person is lucky enough–we’ll listen. The end result is that we talk past each other and grow upset when others don’t see things from our point of view. Sometimes we’ll stop talking to people with whom we were once friends because they don’t see things our way. Other times we’ll be rude to them or cold or crass.
What if we were crazy enough to resist conventional method of engaging in the culture wars and instead followed Scripture’s counsel as presented here in James? That is, what if we listened, really listened, to each other and genuinely tried to see things from another’s point of view?
What if (when it comes to the topic of Nike, for example) we listened to those who are outraged by racial injustices? Likewise, what if we also listened to those who love our military and deeply respect our veterans? What if we came to the table and had a heartfelt conversation about this issue? What if we stopped seeing each other through the lens of the issues we oppose and instead saw each other through the lens of the image of God in which we have all been made (Genesis 1:26-27)? Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:29-31). The truth is, our neighbors are not issues. They’re people who care about things like we do. So, let’s hear them out. I’m certainly not saying we have to agree with them. But, at the very least, let’s hear them. Let’s show the world that there’s a better way of engaging in controversial issues-a way that’s rooted in love.
p.s., If you’re upset about this email or disagree with anything I said, that’s okay. All I ask is that you’d talk to me! Send me an email. Give me a call. Grab coffee with me. Who knows? We might both grow in the process.
p.s.s., I hope to see you in worship this weekend as we continue our series on Moses by looking at the Ten Commandments! 

6 aspects of Lay Leadership at COF

Dear Church Family,

Yesterday evening, I met with Lori Austin who serves as Community of Faith’s Lay Leader. During our meeting, Lori and I shared a preliminary conversation about congregational leaders for the next few years. Community of Faith is a lay-driven church, which means we’re led not simply the pastor and staff, but by members of the congregation. Lori and I will continue our conversation next week as we meet with the members of the Committee on Nominations and Leadership Development-the committee charged with the awesome task of recommending new leaders.

Every once and a while somebody will ask me, “How does one become a leader at Community of Faith? What sort of criteria do you look for?”

Generally-speaking, these are the questions we ask:

1. Does this person clearly love God? Is she or he committed to ongoing spiritual growth?

2. Does this person uphold church membership vows including regularattendance in worship (unless sick or out-of-town) and consistent financial giving to the church (weekly, biweekly, etc.)?

3. Is this person generally positive about the church and supportive of our mission of making disciples? Will this person stand with the church in times of trial and hardship? 

4. Does this person demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)?

5. Does this person exhibit spiritual and emotional maturity? Is she or he open to other viewpoints? Will this person treat others respectfully even in areas of profound disagreement?

6. Lastly, does this person, by virtue of his or her training or background, carry expertise in a certain area such as finance, human resources, or building maintenance? (I should note that this criterion, while preferable, is not nearly as important as the other five.)

I hope the above list gives you somewhat of an idea of what the members of the committee and I will be looking for next week as we consider new leaders. Please pray for us as we engage this important work!

It’s a privilege to be your pastor and to serve with you on your journey of faith! And I hope to see you in worship this weekend as we continue our series on Moses, looking at the story of the Exodus. 



An early start to Fall

Dear Church Family,

Last Sunday afternoon, Amanda and I started to put up fall decorations around the house. Now, I know what you might be thinking. Fall doesn’t technically begin until September 22, and it’s a little weird for Floridians to observe the season given that it doesn’t really affect our climate here. Still, Amanda and I enjoy fall, so we decided to put up some decorations ahead of schedule.
As we were decorating, Amanda asked me what I liked most about fall. After thinking for a second, I said, “It’s one of my favorite seasons to be a pastor.”
The truth is, there’s so much that happens during the fall months that I get excited when the season finally rolls around.

  • People return from summer vacation, which means church services and programs start to fill up.
  • Students go back to school, which means there’s more kids at the building.
  • Be, Go, Do is in late September, which gives us a chance to serve our community in tangible ways. 
  • Trunk-or-treat is on Halloween night, which is a fun event and a great form of outreach to young families.
  • Celebration Sunday occurs, where we celebrate God’s work among us over the last year.
  • Advent and Christmas-and the excitement they bring-are just around the corner.
I’m sure there are other things I could add to the list. Suffice it to say, I’m glad that fall is almost here.
I hope you’ll join in my enthusiasm as we welcome the fall season at Community of Faith and anticipate the movement of God’s Spirit over these months. 

New School Year and New Sermon Series

Dear Church Family,
It’s good to be back with the Motely Crew after spending some time away! I saw many of you in worship last weekend where we said a special blessing over our school workers and families beginning a new school-year. If you want to see photos of the blessing, I invite you to check them out below!
Saturday Service

Sunday Service

On Monday, Justin Moore and I spent the first day of school passing out bottles of water to our Learning Center parents as they dropped their kids off. The parents were more than receptive of our presence, and some of them even indicated to us that they plan to visit one of our worship services soon. Thank you again for your donations of cases of water, which went a long way in helping us be the church!
This weekend, I’m back in the pulpit where I’ll be kicking-off a brand-new message series entitled “Called: The Unlikely Chosen.” The series is going to focus on Moses, one of the most important figures of the Bible. Moses wasn’t necessarily the kind of person we would assume God would use to change the world, and yet God has a tendency of calling the most unlikely among us to do his work. 
This weekend’s sermon isn’t going to focus so much on Moses. Instead, it’s going to lay the groundwork for Moses’ story, highlighting the events that led up to Moses’ birth. I hope to see you this weekend as we unpack one of my favorite passages of Scripture.
I want to close this brief note by thanking you again for giving me some time away. I feel energized and recharged-ready to see what God’s going to do in the coming weeks. 
Have a great day!

Back to School Blessing this weekend

Dear Church Family, 
As I write this email, I’m coming to the end of my vacation. I took about a week off to rest and spend some time with family.
Amanda and I left with the twins last Thursday to go down to Fort Lauderdale, which is where I grew up and where some of my family still lives.  We saw my dad, my brother, my sister-in-law, as well as my niece and nephew. My favorite part of the trip was watching Hannah and Noah meet their cousins, Natalie and Max, for the first time. My other favorite part was introducing Amanda to all my favorite restaurants down there!
On Saturday, we drove back up to Davenport, where we relaxed (or as much as Hannah and Noah would let us relax!) and laid low for a few days.
I’m spending the rest of this week at the Global Leadership Summit, a 2-day conference whose goal is to strengthen leaders. I have the privilege of attending this conference with 3 talented and capable leaders of our congregation, one of whom serves on staff (Diana Petras) and two of whom serve on our Administrative Council (Lori Austin and Gillian Wolfe).  Please pray that God will use this conference to develop our gifts and encourage us to exercise bold and courageous leadership within our Motley Crew.
As I close this email, I want to remind you of 2 things. First, the Back-to-School Blessing is this weekend. We’re encouraging all students to bring their backpacks to our Saturday night or 10:30 Sunday morning services as we invite them up for a special prayer. We’re also inviting parents, teachers, administrative staff, and anybody involved in this school system to join us for this prayer. We’ll pray for God’s comfort and peace to infuse all those who are preparing to kick-off the new school-year.
Second, as I mentioned last week, Justin Moore and I plan to pass out bottles of water to our Learning Center families on Monday, which is the first day of school. If you haven’t already donated a case of water, please consider bringing one to worship this weekend. Your donation will go a long way in helping us extend radical hospitality to these families. We’ll use any extra water bottles for a similar form of outreach in the near future.  
Please enjoy the rest of this email in which you’ll find out what else is happening in the life of our church. 
I hope to see you in worship this weekend!

The Last Days of Summer

Dear Church Family,

As I write this email, I am spending the day resting after all the activity of last week. Between Vacation Bible School, finishing up my midweek Bible study, the Craft Fair, our special Vacation Bible School service, and then going on a trip to the beach with the youth group, I’m wiped! This summer has been busy, and it’s hard to believe that summer’s almost over!

Of course, the end of summer also means the beginning of a new school-year. In our area, the first official day of school is August 13th. In preparation for the new school-year, we’re inviting all students, parents, teachers, administrators, and anyone else involved in the school system to join us at our contemporary services on August 11th or 12th for a special Back to School Blessing. Students are encouraged to bring their backpacks to this blessing as we pray for the success of the new school-year. 

In addition, given that school is just around the corner, we need your help with something else. We need donations of bottles of water by the end of next weekend. Justin Moore and I plan to pass out these bottles of water to our Learning Center families on August 13th as the parents drop their kids off at school. This simple gesture is a way for us to connect with these families, letting them know about the ministry of our church. Actually I had a family approach me after one of our services a few weeks ago. The father commented that he and his family started attending our church after they had received a bottle of water on the first day of school 2 years ago. He said,”We had just moved back to the area and I told my wife we should check out the church. We’ve been here ever since.” This man’s story reminded me that the simplest gesture can go a long way. So, thank you, in advance, for your donations of water bottles. Justin and I will definitely use them on August 13th. (And, if we have some leftover, possibly another day!) 

If you’d like to learn what else is happening in the life of Community of Faith, I invite you to check out the rest of this email. Have a great weekend!


VBS – Combined Service Sunday 10:30am – Craft Fair Tomorrow!

Dear Church Family,
As I write this email, I hear the sounds of children all over the building. We’re coming to the end of Vacation Bible School (VBS) where well over 130 kids are getting anchored in the truth that Jesus carries them through every storm of life. I’m so proud of Kathy Beuttenmuller, our Children and Families Director, and all our volunteers for putting together such an awesome program. The positive effects of this program will be felt by these kids and their families for years to come.

Don’t forget that we won’t have our Saturday night or 8:30 Sunday morning services this weekend. Instead, we will have 1 joint VBS service at 10:30 a.m. It’s going to be lots of fun, so you don’t want to miss it!

I also want to let you know that our Craft Fair is at the building tomorrow from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. This is a community event, which means there’s something for everybody. We’ll have a bounce house for kids and vendors selling all kinds of goodies. I’m also told that Santa Claus will make an appearance tomorrow since the theme of the Craft Fair is Christmas in July.

Okay, that’s all I’m going to say for now since I want to get back to VBS! I’ll close by saying I hope to see you at the Craft Fair tomorrow and at our VBS service on Sunday morning!



Vacation Bible School 2018 starts this Monday!

Dear Church Family,

Last Sunday afternoon Amanda and I got the chance to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the documentary movie about Fred Roger’s life. I had just finished talking about Mr. Rogers in my sermon that weekend, so we figured we should see the movie. I’m glad we did! The movie gave me a window into a man whose work has inspired millions of people over the years. One thing I appreciated most about Mr. Rogers was his emphasis on unconditional love. At one point he said, “Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into healthiest of people.” What an awesome statement! Of course, this statement got me thinking about Jesus who loved people exactly as they were, and, by loving people exactly as they were, gave them the chance to spiritually thrive. (I’m reminded of the Samaritan woman, the 12 disciples, Zacchaeus, Mary Magdalene, and others.) If you haven’t gotten the chance to see this movie, I’d certainly recommend it. You’ll be inspired by Mr. Roger’s story and encouraged to reflect on the claims of our faith. 

I hope you’ll join us for worship this weekend as we wrap up our current message series, “Revealed: Ending Misnomers about the End.” We’ve had a lot of fun in this series debunking popular misnomers about the end of the world. If you missed any of the messages, you can find them on our Vimeo page ( The message this weekend is going to focus on the book of Revelation. In particular, we’ll try to understand the overall message of Revelation and how that message gets communicated. We’ll also bring clarity to popular aspects of Revelation, including the four horsemen of the apocalypse and the mark of the beast! If you’ve ever struggled to understand Revelation, this is definitely a sermon you don’t want to miss. 

I can’t believe Vacation Bible School starts this Monday! VBS is one of my favorite weeks of the summer. We’ll have well over a hundred kids in our building learning what it means to be loved by God. If you haven’t dropped off your donated items to VBS, make sure you do so this weekend. Also, don’t forget about the volunteer meeting, which will be after the 10:30 service on Sunday. Finally, if you’re available, we’ll be setting up the decorations for VBS around 2:00 p.m. this Sunday, and it’d be great if you could help us with that. 

Check out the rest of this email if you’d like to discover what else is happening in the life of Community of Faith. 

Hope to see you this weekend!


We are fearfully and wonderfully designed in His image

Dear Church Family,

Like all of you, I watched with fascination and interest the rescue of the soccer players and their coach from the flooded cave in Thailand. As you’re well aware, the entrance to the cave collapsed shortly after the boys and their coach went inside on June 23. Heavy rains along with rising floodwaters exacerbated rescue efforts. I was heartbroken to hear of the death of one of the rescue workers, and I felt relief when the final boy had been pulled from the cave.

I think this story has reminded the whole world of how precious human life is. As the writers of Scripture observe, we have been made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27), and we are fearfully and wonderfully designed (Psalm 139:14). Therefore, no person on our planet is without value. I praise God for the brave work of the rescue workers and that these boys and their coach will soon be reunited with their families.

This week, we’ve had 28 students at the Warren Willis Camp in Fruitland Park. We also have 2 young adults from our congregation serving on Team as counselors. Our church has a long history of supporting camp, because we’re convinced God uses the ministry of camp to change lives. I want to thank those who of you who have donated to our 3:16 fund. Because of your generosity, a number of students are able to attend camp and not worry about the cost. Camp is place for these students to discover what it means to live as a child of God and follow Jesus in this world. I am excited to hear about the week they’ve had. 

I hope to see you in worship this weekend as we continue our new series called “Revealed: Ending Misnomers about the End.” In this series, we’re debunking popular misnomers many of us have when it comes to the end of the world and the return of Jesus. Our misnomer this weekend involves the rapture. Is the rapture a teaching rooted in the Bible? That’s the question we’ll be exploring in our worship services, so join us for that! 

We’re also honored to have my friend, Bryant Manning, lead music for us this weekend. Bryant is the Associate Chaplain at Florida Southern College where (among other things) he leads worship on a weekly basis. Bryant is a talented musician, and I know you’ll be blessed by his gifts. 

Make sure to sign-up to volunteer at Vacation Bible School and drop off your donations at the building if you haven’t already done so.

If you’d like to learn more about getting involved in the life of Community of Faith, check out the rest of this email.

See you soon!



Sanctuary Chairs Reset Today @ 3pm

Dear Church Family,

I hope you enjoyed a fun and safe Independence Day! My dad drove up from Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday and stayed with us for a few hours. We had a great visit, and I know he had fun seeing the babies!

As I mentioned before, this weekend we’re starting a new sermon series called “Revealed: Ending Misnomers about the End.” The series will examine what the Bible says (and doesn’t say) about the return of Jesus. In doing so, we’ll bring an end to common misnomers people have about this topic. The misnomer we’ll be clearing up this weekend involves the figure of the antichrist. Who exactly is the antichrist? Join us for worship on Saturday night or Sunday morning to find out!

Hopefully you received a separate email yesterday letting you know that we’ll be setting the sanctuary chairs later today (Friday) at 3:00 p.m. If you can help us in any way, please show up at the building during that time. The more folks we have, the better! 

Enjoy the rest of this email as you seek to find out ways to get involved in the life of Community of Faith. 

Thank you for the privilege of serving as your pastor!