pastor’s corner


Light of the World, a city on a hill

I never met my grandfather. He died in 1969 in an automobile accident when my mom was only 14. When I was young, my mom was upset that my siblings and I would never personally know her father. So she made a point to tell us stories about him, including how he had fought in World War II.

It’s disheartening to think that the ideals my grandfather and others like him fought to preserve and protect are under attack right now in America. As you know, last weekend, Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and white nationalists showed up at an alt-right gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia to spew messages of hate, bigotry, prejudice, and intolerance. The tragic aftermath of that gathering resulted in the death of Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old woman who was killed when a car driven by a man from Ohio plowed into a crowd of demonstrators protesting the rally.

How are we as a church to respond to these events?

To begin with, we don’t respond as Republicans, Democrats, or Independents. We don’t even respond as Americans (as much as we value our citizenship in this country). Instead, we respond as followers of Jesus Christ, as people whose primary allegiance is not to a flag or a country, but to the King and His Kingdom.

The first page of the Bible-the book of the Church-tells us that all people, regardless of skin color, have been made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27); therefore, all people possess intrinsic worth and value. Furthermore, when Jesus came, he came for everybody. And when Jesus died, he died for everybody. In the book of Revelation, John of Patmos paints a vision of heaven that includes people from every tribe, nation, and language worshipping at the throne of God (Revelation 7:9).

Given the inclusive nature of God, for us as Christians to say that racism is wrong or bad doesn’t even begin to get at it. It’s disgusting. It’s repulsive. It’s abhorrent. It’s repugnant. It’s evil in every sense of the term.


Telling Stories and Back to School!

Dear Church Family,

Last weekend, we started a brand-new message series on the parables of Jesus called “Stories Jesus Told.” We are taking a closer look at these ancient stories — told by Jesus in order to express truths to us about God and the kingdom of God — in a whole new way. If you missed the message last weekend (based on the Parable of the Vineyard Workers in Matthew 20:1-16), you can find it here:

Join us this weekend as I walk us through what might be the most misunderstood (or, at the very least, watered-down) story of Jesus, which the Parable of the Good Samaritan. I realize that’s a strong statement, so let me explain.

See, in my experience, most of us assume the Parable of the Good Samaritan is simply an ethical story designed to encourage us to help people in need. However, there’s more going on in this story than this reading suggests. I have the sense that, after this weekend, many of us will never look at this parable the same way again. So, don’t miss out!

Also, don’t forget that we’re blessing backpacks at the Saturday night service in addition to the 10:30 service on Sunday. What this means is that if you’re a student, parent, or school-worker, you’re invited to join us up at the front of the sanctuary (just before the sermon) for a special prayer of blessing as we begin another school-year.


New faces and old stories

Dear Church Family,

If you missed worship last weekend, we announced that our next Director of Worship Arts and Discipleship is going to be Justin Moore. Justin comes to us from Piqua, Ohio, which is located about 30 minutes from Dayton. He currently serves on staff at Grace United Methodist Church, where he’s been the worship leader for the last several years. When Justin arrived at Grace, his position was part-time. However, as the church grew, so did his position, which is now full-time. Justin was by far our top candidate, and he comes with a wide array of skills, including instrumental and vocal abilities as well as excellent leadership gifts. More importantly, Justin is personable, which means he’ll connect well with his volunteer base as well as with the rest of our church.

Justin is married to Ashley, and two of them recently celebrated their 13th wedding anniversary. Ashley’s a “PK” (Pastor’s Kid), which means she literally grew up in church and is well-acquainted with the joys and challenges of full-time ministry. Ashley’s passion involves working with children, and she’s already expressed an interest in joining our volunteers in Children’s Church.

As I mentioned last week, Justin’s first weekend will be September 2nd and 3rd. Make sure to join us that weekend as we celebrate the arrival of the Moores to our church.


Putting the pieces together

Dear Church Family,

I hope you had a great week.

This weekend, we’re going to wrap up our current message series, “Revival: The Faith of John and Charles Wesley.” We’ll focus on Methodism’s historic emphasis on the whole gospel, which includes growing in our personal faith and addressing social ills. Sometimes churches tend to emphasize one of these sides of the gospel to the exclusion of the other. However, Methodists have always resisted this tendency. Given the topic, it seems appropriate that we’ll be taking up a special offering for our Florida United Methodist Children’s Home (which began out of Methodism’s concern for vulnerable children).

As I mentioned last week, we’ll also be announcing the person who is set to become the next Director of Worship Arts and Discipleship at Community of Faith. This person’s background, skills, and experience make him the ideal fit for the position. I’ve asked this person to put together a short video introducing he and his wife to us, which he’s done. We’ll play that video toward the end of services this weekend. This person’s first weekend in worship with us will be September 2nd and 3rd. (Yes, that’s Labor Day weekend…all the more reason not to travel, and instead, be in worship!)

In a few weeks, I’m going to be meeting with our Committee on Nominations and Leadership Development to prayerfully consider new members and leaders for our various committees. People often ask me what kind of criteria we look for when it comes to selecting committee members and leaders. Generally speaking, these are the questions we ask:


Watch this Space

Dear Church Family,

When I was 17 and halfway through my senior year of high school, I found out that the beloved youth pastor of my home church was leaving. He had gotten invited to serve another church in Florida and, after praying about it, decided to take that other church up on their offer of employment. A few weeks later, one of the pastors at my home church approached me and asked me to serve, as a youth delegate, on what he called the “Youth Pastor Search Committee.” Made up of about 10 people, the Committee was charged with reviewing resumes and interviewing candidates for the open position of Youth Pastor. We were then to pass along our pick of top candidates to the Staff Parish Relations Committee, the members of whom would make the official hire. On the one hand, it made the process more long and drawn out, but on the other, it taught me that, even as a youth, my input mattered.

I firmly believe that when it comes to hiring church staff, particularly program staff, multiple voices need to be heard. These voices don’t just include the pastor’s own voice (as necessary as that voice is!). They also include the voices of volunteers and others who will be working with that person.

That’s why I take such pride in the staff we’ve come to hire in the last couple of years. Not only were the members of the Staff Parish Relations Committee involved in the decision to hire these persons, others were, too. And our church is stronger for it.


Thanks for helping Team 3:16

Dear Church Family,

Our office has been kind of quiet this week. The main reason is 2 of our staff members, David Stump and Kathy Beuttenmuller, have been away with our students at the Warren W. Willis Camp. As many of you know, our church has a long history of supporting the ministry of camp, and we intend to build on that history in the coming years. Indeed, camp is an avenue through which God changes lives. Every year, our students come back energized and transformed, with a renewed sense of calling and purpose. Many of them even make a first-time commitment to Christ!

I want to sincerely thank those of you who have financially contributed to Team 3:16, a fund that assists students, including by providing scholarships for them to attend camp. Several parents approached me this week in order to express their gratitude for the 3:16 fund. These parents told me that, had it not been for our church’s generosity, their kids likely wouldn’t have been able to go to camp. So, thank you, Community of Faith. God is using every dollar that you give here to literally change lives. Is there anything better?


John and Charles Wesley at Oxford University

Dear Church Family,

I hope you had a great 4th of July as you celebrated, with family and friends, the freedom we enjoy in America. It’s hard to believe that we’re almost halfway through the summer. As I do every Friday, let me share with you a few things that are going on in the life of our church.

First, if you were with us last week, you’ll know that we launched into a brand-new message series called “Revival: The Faith of John and Charles Wesley.” The series-inspired by my recent visit to England-examines the story of John and Charles Wesley, especially as it relates to the rise of Methodism. The series also focuses on important features of Wesleyan theology (what the Wesleys believed and taught about God), and how those features influence us as United Methodists at Community of Faith.

Our takeaway from last week was the Wesleyan emphasis on grace, especially the idea that God’s grace, the grace of God in Jesus, is available to everybody (universal grace), and present in our lives even before we know who God is (prevenient grace). If you missed the message, you can find it


Join us, this weekend, as we talk about John and Charles Wesleys’ time at Oxford University where they had a growing desire for holiness, to become more like God, and how that desire led to “the first rise of Methodism.”


While I was Away

Dear Church Family,

It’s great to be back in town! As many of you know, Amanda and I were away for an almost ten-day visit to England. We traveled with a group of five other pastors and their spouses to visit the historic sites associated with Methodism. First, we went to Epworth and saw the parsonage (house owned by the church) where John and Charles Wesley grew up. We also saw St. Andrew’s Church where their father, Samuel, was the rector (pastor). Next, we traveled to Oxford and saw where John and Charles went to school as they were studying to become pastors. Third, we went to Bristol and visited the first Methodist preaching house as well as the home in which Charles Wesley lived. Finally, we rounded off our time in London. In London, we saw John Wesley’s home and City Road Chapel, which is considered to be the “mother church” of Methodism. All in all, it was an awesome trip!

I want to thank the members of our amazing staff for all their hard work while I was away.

David Stump led a mission trip with the youth, which, I’m told, fostered new levels of spiritual growth among our students. Kathy Beuttenmuller put together an outstanding VBS program and led a rock-solid VBS service. Diana Petras and Sophia Burgess used their administrative gifts to hold our office together. And Teresa Terranova continued to provide direction and oversight to our finances.

To say that COF has some talented staff members is an understatement. The staff we have love God, care about our church, and are deeply committed to our mission of making disciples. Make sure you offer them a word of thanks and appreciation the next time you see them!


VBS Weekend

Dear Church Family,

This week has been a whirlwind, but of the BEST kind! We have had music and laughter filling the hallways, lots of smiling faces, singing, dancing, storytelling. You guessed it… we have been hosting Vacation Bible School (V.B.S.) this week! And… I was talking about the grown ups!!!

We’ve had the joy of hosting approximately 100 children from Pre-K through the 5th grade this week. They have come to us from the Learning Center, our Children’s ministry, and the local area. Folks, I have to say I am very proud to call COF home. The volunteers shined all week (even if they were tired). From the people who donated, to the teachers, leaders, helpers, snack makers, cleaner-uppers, sound booth, and youth volunteers. You’ve made this a special week for our Super Heroes!

“Super Heroes” you ask?? Come to service at 10:30am on Sunday to find out more about this year’s theme and what the children learned. We’ll dance and sing and celebrate all that God is doing through this church, with these children, and the children will join us in worship. With events like this, it often feels like we’ve been blessed even more than they have been.


Father’s Day Weekend

Dear Church Family,
The halls have been quiet this week, with so many of our team travelling, and school out for the summer, but we have still been as busy as usual – there is so much happening in the life of our church!
Both David and Kathy are out of the office this week chaperoning our Youth Group Mission Team in Pahokee, Florida. From the Facebook posts it looks like a wonderful trip, and reminds us once again that we “think” we are going on a Mission to impact others, and in turn we end up being the ones who are impacted. We’re looking forward to hearing about their experiences when they return on Saturday!
Pastor Chris and Amanda are enjoying a special trip to England on a study tour and visiting historic sites where John Wesley worked, preached, and stayed. I am sure they are making special memories, and we pray they have safe travels and come back home to us inspired.
In the meantime, we have a lot to look forward to this weekend! Pastor Loida Divine will be preaching. She comes to us from Pastor Chris’s previous church, Community UMC in Fruitland Park. She said she is already praying that God will bless us as we worship together, and I know we are looking forward to hearing her message that she shares with us.


Radical Hospitality

Dear Church Family,
Back in 2007, Bishop Robert Schnase penned a book called Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. In the book Bishop Schnase laid out five practices that make up healthy, thriving, and growing churches. These five practices include: 1) Radical Hospitality, 2) Passionate Worship, 3) Intentional Faith Development, 4) Risk Taking Mission Service, and 5) Extravagant Generosity. Now, I’m sure there’s room for us at COF to grow and improve in all of these areas, but I want to spend a few moments focusing on radical hospitality.
Here’s why.
Over the past year and a half, I’ve received correspondence now from 4 different families who visited our church. While they enjoyed the service, these families ultimately decided not to return. Why? Because no one ever said “hello” to them. When one family shared this information with me, I thought their experience was an anomaly. After all, I reasoned to myself, we’re a friendly church! But then I got another letter where a family said the exact same thing. Then another. And now (as of last week) another one again. Okay, I’m listening to these folks, because I think they’re saying something we-myself included-need to hear. How are we, as a church body, extending radical hospitality to the people who come through our doors?
Now, let me be clear that I share this information not to make us feel bad or guilty, but rather, to encourage us to consider how we can all play a role in making COF appear warm and friendly. In truth, we are warm and friendly… visitors just don’t know it yet! The author of Hebrews reminds us not to hesitate to show hospitality to strangers, because by doing so, some have entertained angels (Hebrews 13:2). Let’s make it our goal to treat every person who walks on our campus as an angel who’s come directly from God.


Pentecost weekend – Wear Red!

Dear COF Family,
As I do every Friday, let me share with you some exciting things that are happening in the life of our church.
First, this weekend marks the occasion of Pentecost, where we remember how the Holy Spirit-after the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven-came upon the disciples, thereby giving birth to the Church. Pentecost is a holy day that Christians all over the world observe and celebrate. My sermon this weekend isn’t going to directly tie in with the events of Pentecost. But we will certainly highlight the gift God has given us through the sending of his Spirit. As the apostle Paul reminds us, the same Spirit that raised Jesus from dead is alive in each of us as Christ-followers (Romans 8:11). What I’d ask is that you wear red when you come to worship. Red symbolizes the Spirit’s activity and power. 
Speaking of the Spirit’s activity and power, it’s hard to deny that the Spirit of God is moving in our motley crew at COF. For instance,
we have 6 baptisms we are performing this weekend. That’s right-6! To start, I will baptize all 5 members of the Lloyd family on Saturday night. These 5 members include mom (Kimi), dad (Bill), and their three children (Nathan, Elizabeth, and Tyler). To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever baptized an entire family before, so this will be a first for me! After they’re baptized, the Lloyd family will then officially join our church as new members. Second, we will also have a baptism at the 10:30 service on Sunday. That baptism will involve a beautiful little girl named Jayda, who attends our church with her mom and sister. Baptism is a sign of the new life God gives us in Jesus. I am glad that folks are experiencing this kind of new life through the ministry of our church.