pastor’s corner


All of Who We Are

Dear Church Family,

I want to thank you for your generous support of the Wesley Foundation at the University of Central Florida. We collected $875 in our Voice of Hope (VOH) baskets last weekend, which will be used to help fund the ministry led by Pastor Erwin Lopez. I am proud of our congregation’s willingness to give to causes outside of our church. That said, the VOH basket this weekend will go to support UMCOR, our United Methodist Committee on Relief. I invite you to give generously to UMCOR and be confident that every penny of what you give will go to directly to the work of disaster relief. 

I also want to thank those of you who have donated candy for Trunk or Treat and/or signed up to help us with the event. We still need more trunks in order to make Trunk or Treat a success, so please sign up if you haven’t done so already! Halloween is just a few days away, and we need as many people as possible!

This weekend, we start a brand-new message series called “All of Who We Are.” The series will explore our tendency, as Christians, to hold back once we make a commitment to Jesus. However, Jesus doesn’t want us to hold back. Instead, he wants us to give our whole selves over to him, including our time, treasure, talents and trust (what we’re calling “the 4 T’s”). Join us at one of our weekend services as we explore the first of these T’s, which is time! In addition, we’re going to hand out a packet of information that will go directly with the series. Make sure to read this information and prayerfully consider how God might be calling you to give all of who you are to the ministry of Community of Faith over the next year.

See you this weekend! 



COF needs trunks (and candy) for Trunk-or-Treat

Dear Church Family,

I’ll get to the point. We need trunks for Trunk or Treat. This time last year we had around 30 people signed up. (We ultimately ended up with 50.) I just checked and, so far, we only have 13 people signed-up. Simply put, Trunk or Treat cannot happen without trunks. We’re anticipating well over a thousand people on our property on Halloween night. So, please, please sign-up for Trunk or Treat if you haven’t done so already. In fact, I’ll make it easy for you. You don’t even have to sign-up yourself. All you’ve got to do is hit “reply” to this email and indicate you’ll be there, and I’ll sign you up! There you have it. The pastor will sign you up! Did I mention we need trunks for Trunk or Treat? Please hit “reply” to this email, or, if you prefer, sign-up when you come to worship this weekend. 

Speaking of Trunk or Treat, we also need candy. Lots and lots of candy. Make sure to bring a bag of candy when you come to worship this weekend. You can drop your candy bag off in one of the bins we have set up in the lobby area. I want to thank you for all your help as we seek to make Trunk or Treat a big success.

I also want to thank you for your donations to our Voice of Hope baskets last weekend. As a result of your generosity, we raised just over 1200 dollars for disaster victims. This money will go a long way to relieve the suffering of those who are hurting and help them begin the process of rebuilding their lives. 

This weekend, my pastor friend, Erwin Lopez, from the UCF Wesley Foundation will be delivering the message. Pastor Erwin’s message will focus on spirituals gifts, particularly the gift of prophecy, and God’s determination to use all of us in ministry. Erwin is a gifted speaker with a great sense of humor, so you definitely don’t want to miss his message. 

By the way, don’t forget about Cluster Charge Conference this Sunday afternoon.Charge Conference happens every fall, and it’s where we look at our business as a church. We won’t be alone for this year’s Charge Conference, but instead, will be joined by 12 other United Methodist congregations. We’re the host site this year, which means we get to show off both our building and worship band to other area churches. So come on out, and let’s show these other churches what it means to be part of the Motley Crew. The fun starts at 3:30 p.m.

That’s all I’ve got! Enjoy the rest of your Friday, and I hope to see you in worship this weekend.

Oh, and sign-up for Trunk or Treat!



God’s Provision

Dear Church Family,

As I write this email (Thursday afternoon), Hurricane Michael has already made landfall and devastated Big Bend and the Florida Panhandle. We pray for those in the path of the storm. At the same time, we recognize that God calls us to couple our prayers with concrete action. That said, the money we collect in our Voice of Hope baskets this weekend will go to support UMCOR, our United Methodist Committee on Relief. I ask that you give generously to UMCOR, and please be assured that 100% of what you give will go directly to disaster relief.

This weekend, we’re going to wrap up our brief, 2-week message series titled “God’s Will: Unraveling the Mystery.” In this series, we’re trying to discern what Scripture teaches (and doesn’t teach!) about the will of God.This weekend’s message will focus on God’s will involving prayer, specifically unanswered prayer. Does God care about us? And, if so, why do our prayers seem to go unanswered? If you’re somebody who’s ever doubted God because of unanswered prayer, this is definitely a message you don’t want to miss.

We’re fortunate to have my friend, Bryant Manning, and the Florida Southern College Chapel Band lead the music in our contemporary services this weekend! Bryant and the band are going to be filling in for Justin Moore who’s on vacation this week. Also, when you come to worship, make sure to bring your candy donations for Trunk or Treat and sign-up to help us with the event!

I’m grateful for God’s provision to Community of Faith. We continue to grow and take in more and more new members. We have 4 new members joining us this weekend, which brings our total number of new members to 40 persons so far this year! By the way, we’ve taken in more new members this year than any year since I’ve been here. (And the year’s still not over yet!) Please continue to tell your friends and family about Community of Faith. You can even hand them a “Sit with Me” card and invite them to sit with you at one of our weekend services.

Finally, I want to encourage you to be in prayer for the family and friends of Sara Harris. Sara was a longtime member of our congregation who passed away several weeks ago. A memorial service for Sara Harris will take place Saturday, November 3 at 2:00 p.m. here in the building. All are welcomed to attend this service!

If you’d like to learn what else is happening in the life of Community of Faith, check out the rest of this email!

Hope to see you at worship on Saturday or Sunday!



Understanding God’s Will

Dear Church Family,


I want to start by thanking the 206 people who participated in Be, Go, Do last week! Your volunteer work made a difference in the lives of countless people in our community. Together you assembled hygiene kits and bags of groceries, spruced up local schools, sorted clothes, handed out pizza to hungry people, made blankets for shelter animals, and visited first responders, not to mention the other service projects in which you engaged. I am so proud of the work of our congregation and for our willingness to step out of our comfort zones and recognize that we don’t exist for ourselves. Instead, we exist to bless others with the hope and love of Jesus!

This weekend, we’re back to our regular weekend services. I hope to see you in worship on Saturday or Sunday as we kick off a new 2-week series called “God’s Will: Unraveling the Mystery.” The will of God tends to be one of the most mysterious aspects of faith, so we’re going to spend some time trying to see what Scripture says about the will of God. This weekend’s sermon is going to focus on God’s will for our individual lives. What does it mean to say that God has a will for my life, and how specific is God’s will for my life? For example, does God have a will when it comes to who I marry, where I go to school, what job I have, or how I spend my retirement? If so, how can I know the will of God? These are questions we’re going to be exploring in the sermon. We’ll also be welcoming 3 new members to our Motley Crew, which is always exciting. 

By the way, I mentioned that we’re back to our regular services this weekend. That’s not entirely true. Comunidad de Fé, our Spanish-speaking service led by Pastor Fernando Malave, is going to be meeting on Saturday morning beginning this weekend. Pastor Fernando and his team have prayerfully discerned moving their service to a different time in order to reach more people in our community. We hope that this adjustment will lead new people to Comunidad de Fé. If you know of anybody in your life who’s looking for a Spanish-speaking service, please refer them to Pastor Fernando (
We continue to be in prayer for the people affected by Hurricane Florence. Now those prayers extend to our sisters and brothers Indonesia in the wake of the natural disasters that have happened there. The donations we collect in our Voice of Hope baskets this weekend will go to UMCOR, our United Methodist Committee on Relief. Please be confident that every cent you give to UMCOR will go directly to the people impacted by these tragedies. Also, please consider bringing a bag of candy to worship as we begin the process of collecting for Trunk or Treat. 

I want to close this note by sharing that, during my Pastoral Challenge this weekend, I’m going to reveal something special that I believe will help us fulfill our mission of making disciples of Jesus. You’ll have to come to worship to find out what it is!

See you soon.


Be-Go-Do Sunday 2018

Dear Church Family,

This is it! This is the weekend we’ve been moving toward for a while. I look forward to seeing those of you who are in town for Be, Go, Do this coming Sunday!

Keep in mind that we will not have a worship service on Saturday. Instead, we will have one combined service on Sunday. We’ll gather in the sanctuary at 9:00 AM for a brief time of worship, and then we’ll continue our worship of God through service in the community. Be, Go, Do is one of my favorite days of the year, and it’s definitely one you don’t want to miss. So, whatever you’re doing this weekend, make sure Be, Go, Do is among your plans! (Seriously, if you have other plans that don’t include Be, Go, Do, break them!) When you come this Sunday, make sure to bring your donations of fruit cups and pop-top fruit cocktail juice. Those donations will go a long way in helping us steward our financial resources. 

In one of his last speeches, Jesus announced that our service to others will be the criteria by which he will judge us (Matthew 25:31-46). I’m grateful to be a part of a church that takes these words seriously and, at all costs, seeks to be in mission.

See you Sunday. 


p.s. All women are invited to attend our United Methodist Women Mission Sampler tomorrow (Saturday). Registration begins at 9:30 AM and the program starts at 10:00 AM!

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!