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Thank you, Deni!

Dear Church Family,

For the past 2 years, we at Community of Faith have been tremendously blessed by the ministry of Deni Sunderly, who has served faithfully in the role of Director of Operations. As you might have heard a few weeks ago, Deni has felt God leading her to return to children’s ministry, which is what she did for a number of years before she joined us here. Deni possesses a number of exceptional gifts and takes our Lord seriously when he says, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). If you’ve been around Deni for even a brief period of time, you know this to be true. Deni will be joining the staff of First Presbyterian Church of Haines City as the Director of Children’s Ministry there. Her last Sunday with us will be on October 2nd.

I’d like invite you to join us for a farewell reception for Deni immediately after the 10:30 service on October 2nd. We will gather in the lobby area for desserts and then give everyone a chance to express their appreciation for Deni’s ministry. In addition, we have a basket for cards located in the lobby. Be sure to stop by the store this week and grab a card for Deni. If you’re out of town and can’t make be there Sunday, you can send your card to the church office and we will make sure Deni gets it.

Please join me in thanking Deni for all she has done. Her contributions at COF have made a lasting difference in our church-and, in turn, the kingdom of God.

Blessings,

Chris


A Special Note from Pastor Chris

I know I’ve shared this story with you before, on a number of occasions, but it’s worth repeating. Actually my hope is that this story becomes as embedded in your memory as it is in my own.

When I was in seminary, one of my professors served for a time as a United Methodist bishop. He told our class that, within the Conference he served, local churches often extended invitations for him to preach-which he gladly accepted. Little did these church know that he was using these invitations as an opportunity to get a sense of what each congregation was known for.

The Saturday before he was to preach, he would park his car in the church parking lot and walk around the nearest neighborhood. If he saw somebody outside raking their leaves, or washing their car, or walking their dog, he would stop that person and ask, “What can you tell me about that church over there?” There were too many instances, he said, where the person would look at him with kind of a dumbfound expression. Then that person would finally blurt out, “I can’t tell you anything. They kind of just keep to themselves.”

I don’t remember everything I learned in seminary, but I will never forget what my professor said next. And I pray that you will never forget these words either. He looked at our class and said, “If you really want to know about a church, don’t ask the people who go to that church. In other words, don’t bother talking to the members or the attendees. Instead, ask the people who live in the community that surrounds that church. Their response-depending on what it is-will give you a really good indication of what that church is really all about.”

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From Creation to Community

I’ve received lots of great feedback about our sermon series on the opening chapters of Genesis. People have shared that it’s gotten to them to see some familiar stories from Scripture in a new way, with a greater appreciation for what these stories ultimately teach us about God, the Universe, and ourselves. We’re going to conclude the series this weekend by looking at the story of the tower of Babel, which is found in Genesis 11:1-9. If you want to get a jumpstart, go ahead and read the text. We’re also going to continue with the talkback session after Communion. So make sure to bring your questions and observations!

Overall, people really seem to be getting into Scripture. Over the last two weekends, we’ve handed out more than 40 copies of the Bible, not to mention Bible-reading plans. At this rate we’ll have to order more soon-which is a good thing! If you don’t already have a Bible, feel free to grab one off the table located in the lobby area. Or, if you know someone who doesn’t have a Bible, feel free to give one to that person. We believe all people should have a copy of God’s word.

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Our Voices of Hope

Obviously our prayers continue to be with our sisters and brothers in Louisiana who have had to endure terrible floods. I recall talking to a visitor at our 10:30 service several weeks ago who had just moved to Davenport from Baton Rouge. When I asked her if she still had family there, she nodded her head to affirm that she did. Then, when I asked how they were doing in the wake of the floods, she told me that her parents had lost their house.

It’s one thing to see an image on a TV screen; it’s another to hear a story about those who have been affected directly by this tragedy. These are real people whom we are called by Jesus to love and support.

The donations in our Voice of Hope giving baskets for the weekend will go to help the victims of this tragedy. The monies will be channeled through our United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), so you can be assured that every cent of every dollar you put in to those baskets will go directly to Louisiana.

But there’s another way you can help.

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Connecting in the real world

As of late, a number of you have been asking me about what our church is doing to reach out to the larger community around us. It’s a great question that shows an underlying desire for COF to do what we’re charged to do-make disciples of Jesus.

Part of the way we can make our presence known to our neighbors is through signage and newspaper advertisement. But we’ve had difficulty with the former (county regulations and such) and the latter tends to be expensive. Plus, in my experience, most people in 2016 don’t find their church through a sign or the newspaper; they find their church through word-of-mouth, the most compelling form of advertisement there is.

A few weekends ago, we were blessed with an influx of new families at our 10:30 service on Sunday morning. I was talking to one of these families as the mom was signing her kids into Children’s Church. This young mother explained to me that she and her family had moved to the area recently, and that, with the school-year starting up, she and her family decided to get in the routine of attending worship. When I asked her how she found our church, she said with a smile, “Oh, somebody told us about you all! I’ve heard a lot of great things.”

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Touch The Sky

I began a new spiritual practice recently that I want to pass along to you, trusting that if God can use it in my life, he can use it in yours, too.

Every morning, when I wake up, I roll out of bed in such a way that the first thing to hit the ground are my knees. From this place of surrender, I then offer a word of prayer. In this prayer, I renew my commitment to Christ and to being his servant in the world.

I don’t recommend implementing this daily ritual without a doctor’s approval (lest you hurt your knees!). But for me personally, it’s been an enriching practice that’s helped me orient my whole day around God.

A profound spiritual truth I try to cling to is that my life is not my own. It belongs to the Creator who made me-knit me together in my mother’s womb-and who, in Jesus Christ, calls me to be a disciple. My disposition, as a child of God and disciple of Jesus Christ, is to be one of surrender to the plans and purposes God has for me.

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a few random notes

Dear COF Family:

I have just a few random things to share with you in this Friday email.

First, our sound system in the sanctuary has been repaired! (Praise Jesus!)

Last weekend I had the unique experience of sitting in the congregation during the sermon, and I could definitely tell there was something “off” about the sound. The acoustical quality seemed to be better in some places than in others. Fortunately, all that has been fixed, and we should be good to go for THIS weekend. Thanks so much for your patience during the last few months. I know it hasn’t always been easy. The apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 10:17 that faith comes by hearing. Well, it’s a relief to know that we’ll finally be able to hear, with greater clarity, what’s being communicated during our services!


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The Road Ahead

Happy Friday, church!

Earlier this week, I put the finishing touches on sermon topics through the rest of 2016. I think you’re going to like what we’ll be discussing in worship over the next few months.

After we finish our “Everyday Disciples” series in late August, I’ll be preaching through a series called “From Creation to Confusion.” The series is going to focus on the first 11 chapters of Genesis, more specifically the 4 “big stories” recorded in those chapters-the Creation of the Universe, the Fall of humankind, Noah’s Ark, and the Tower of Babel. One question we’ll address is how do we interpret these stories (figuratively, literally, or both?). Another question we’ll tackle is what do these stories teach us about God and what do they teach us about ourselves. We’ll wrap up the series just before “Be, Go, Do” weekend in late September.

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Faith is a Journey

I’ve come to appreciate the “Question and Answer” session we recently started doing as part of our time together in worship. Somebody asked a question this last weekend that really got me thinking.

If you were there, you’ll know that I was preaching about the importance of committing our lives to Jesus and putting Jesus before anything else, even our families if necessary. Then somebody at the 10:30 a.m. service on Sunday asked the question, “Pastor Chris, what would you say to the people here today who attend Community of Faith but whose spouses don’t come with them?”

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Lessons from our VBS kids

In my short Vacation Bible School (VBS) message last week, I shared my long-held conviction that kids often teach us more about following God than we teach them. Well, here’s a story to illustrate that point.

On Tuesday of this week, I was sitting in my office when I randomly got a phone call. The man on the other end of the line explained that he was sitting in the VBS service on Sunday when he felt God speak to him.

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Known by our Community

When I was in seminary, I had a professor who, prior to his appointment at the divinity school, served as a bishop in the United Methodist Church. On one occasion, he said he had been invited to preach at a church in his Conference. Before he did so, he decided to walk around the local neighborhood to get a sense of what that church was known for. He found a few people raking leaves in their yard or walking their dog. Then he asked them, “What can you tell me about that church over there?” For the most part, though, all he received were these dumbfound expressions, looks that basically said, “There’s a church over there? I had no idea! They kind of just keep themselves.” I don’t remember everything I learned in seminary, but I’ll never forget that.

My prayer is that, so long as COF exists, we will always be a church that’s known by our community.


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Our Awesome Youth

Throughout this week, we’ve had 33 students and 5 adult volunteers at the Warren W. Willis United Methodist Camp in Fruitland Park, Florida, just an hour or so north of here. I hope you’ll join me in continuing to pray for these students; that their week was an enjoyable one, and that they encountered God in a new way. Camp is a “thin place” where students and adults alike sense God’s presence powerfully. I am so glad our church continues to support this life-changing ministry.

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