This past Sunday I preached from Luke 4:14-30 on Jesus’ sermon to his hometown church.  It’s an incredible story where the crowd starts out marvelling at what Jesus says, but then ends with murder in their hearts as they try to kill him.  Through our study of the text, we saw that their hearts hardened Jesus exposed their false sense of self righteousness. They thought they were doing just fine, but Jesus showed them how, spiritually, they were a wreck.

Self righteousness is something that is pretty easy to see in others, but can be really hard to see in ourselves.  It is an insidious weed that wants to grow in us and choke out our gratitude for Jesus Christ. I find it helpful to regularly ask myself a set of questions to make sure I’m not letting the weed of self righteousness grow:  

1.  How often do I get offended at other people?

o   In order to be offended at someone you have to think that you are better than them.  This doesn’t mean that people can’t wrong us and hurt us. However, if I’m living out of an awareness of how gracious God has been to me, then I should have a lot of grace for others.  

2.  How hard is it for me to forgive people?

o   My willingness to forgive others speaks to my understanding of how much I think I’ve been forgiven by Jesus.  

3.  Are there people I am writing off from ever being able to become Christians?  

o   If you think there is someone beyond the reach of God’s mercy, then how inflated have I become about myself and my own need for God’s mercy?

4.  How is my heart towards serving others?  

o   An inward focused life reveals that I’ve forgotten how much I’ve been served by Jesus.

The truth is that I can drift into many of these things.  That’s why I want to ask myself these questions, so that I’m not blinded by my sin, but can continually run to Jesus for grace.

May the good news of Jesus never stop being good news to us.  May we stay humble and aware that our righteousness is nothing.  All we have is Christ.

Pastor Jeff


There's baseball and then there's life- A Phillies Testimony

Earlier this year, through a series of God ordained events, I had the opportunity to take on a discipleship role with several of the Philadelphia Phillies.  It’s a long story and one that I’d be happy to share with you personally. What was really encouraging though was to see the support of Christ Church for this opportunity. Our desire as a church is to not confine our ministry to the four walls of our church, but to seek to be an influence for the cause of Christ, wherever the Spirit might lead.  So while I’ve been on the front lines with the players, from day 1 we have talked about how this is OUR ministry as a church. The support and prayers of the church have been so incredibly important. To help Christ Church see the difference they are making, I invited several of the Phillies to our service on Sunday and asked one of them to share his testimony.  Unfortunately, our video file got corrupted, so we can’t post the video. Below is a transcript of our conversation.

Jeff:  Christ Church, please welcome up my friend Adam Morgan.  “Clapping”... Hey bro, thanks for being with us.

Adam:  My pleasure.

Jeff:  Let’s just pretend we are in the family room having one of our weekly chats.

Adam:  Alright, that makes it a bit easier.

Jeff:  So Adam, let me introduce you to my family.  Adam, this is Christ Church. Christ Church, this is Adam.

Adam:  How’s everybody doing?  Thanks for having me here today.

Jeff:  So I thought before we get into some deeper questions, that the church could just get to know you a little bit as a person.  So how about you tell us a little about where you’re from and your family?

Adam:  Alright, so I’m from Georgia.  Live up here in Philly during the season with my wife and dog Huck.  Love it here in Philly. We just had a baby girl, our first child, on July 29th.  So our family is growing in Philly. Excited to go back home, but we love it here too.

Jeff:  So with the offseason coming, what are you looking forward to the most?

Adam:  Oh man, I dunno.  Being home. I mean being home and just being a regular  family for a few months. Not having a schedule for a minute is going to be nice.  The season is so busy and so just being able to wake up and be with my wife, be with my baby girl, be with my dog, just somewhere together, that’s what I’m looking forward to the most.  

Jeff:  That’s great.  So one of the things that has really jumped out at me this year, seeing baseball from the inside a little bit, is some of the unique challenges you guys go through as professional ball players.  Can you talk to us a little bit about that?

Adam:  For sure.  So we don’t get an opportunity to spend hours on a Sunday in church.  We don’t get time to really do anything. Time is something that we can’t get back.  We have a crazy schedule where we play every day. We try to squeeze chapel in on a Sunday, but we are always pushing up against time.  And that makes things hard. When you don’t keep God first, that’s when temptations become harder and stuff can really get to you. One of the things that has been awesome this year is how accommodating you have been able to be on time, so that more guys can get involved.  I’ve never seen more players involved as this year. We had almost 15 guys at chapel that one time, didn’t we? 15 guys, that’s awesome. But time is really tough. Not everyone is on the same schedule. Not everyone’s a position player, there’s different times of stretch or pitchers doing a bullpen session, everyone is every which way.  So I think time is our biggest challenge.

Jeff:  Yeah man, I know that time and the grind you guys get in throughout a long season gets pretty tough.  How does that affect you?

Adam:  It’s tough.  It gets discouraging.  It gets fatiguing. It is a grind.  That’s why having the consistency of seeing you every week has been so big for us.  It’s just a place for us to rest up a bit.

Jeff:  So what’s this year been like for you?  How do you feel like you’ve grown personally through our chapels, bible studies and stuff?  What’s God doing in your life?

Adam:  I used to always think that being a Christian meant that everything would be good.  If I’m a good person, then God will do right by me and everything will be peaches and cream.  But this year I’ve learned that a lot of the Bible is full of struggle and how you persevere through that.  That really helped me understand that there’s baseball and then there’s life. When you get those two intertwined that’s not a good recipe. But understanding that no matter what happens you still have God, you still have Jesus and that’s all that matters.   That’s been a game changer for me.

Jeff:  So I remember when we were first talking in the beginning of the year, you weren’t sure what your testimony was.  So where are you at now?

Adam:  Haha, I dunno.  I can’t really put my finger on it, but I’m here now and God has definitely done something in my life.  This is my first time speaking in front of a church. So this is a huge step forward for me. You know, I’m just excited.  Faith has become alive to me. You’ve helped me so much man. I speak for myself, and I think I speak for all the guys, when I say that it has been a tremendous blessing to have you this year.    

Jeff:  Thanks bro.  I’ve loved being with you guys.  As you know we talk about though, I couldn’t do it without the support of my church family.

Adam:  Yeah, for sure.  Thank you church.  You guys have been awesome.  Thank you for sharing Jeff with us for 6 months out of the year.  

Jeff:  Cool man, well final thoughts?  How about you share with the church what you’ve learned about grace?  Haha, I know that was your big takeaway when we were recapping the year together last week.

Adam:  Oh man, that’s one thing I’m still trying to wrap my mind around.  Grace is so many things. Grace is huge. Grace is everything. I don’t think I ever understood that before.  But just knowing that God’s grace has paid for everything. God’s grace is why I’m here. God’s grace is what I have in Jesus.  Grace, is just everything man.

Jeff:  Fantastic bro, thanks again for being with us.

Adam:  Let’s do it again.

I should have closed the interview by getting him to tell the story about his daughter’s name.  Her middle name is Grace.

We have gone through an evaluation process with the advisory team and our elders and we’ve decided that I am going to continue another year in this role.  We are just hungry for more testimonies like Adam’s. Also, we think that we’ll be able to do an even better job managing my schedule and not letting it have any impact on the church, so that this can continue to be our ministry.   Looking forward to doing that with the Phillies next season and seeing what God has in store for us.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Jeff






Biblical Justice

Hi Friends,

Last week most of our leaders were away at the annual Sovereign Grace Pastors and Wives conference. It was a wonderful time to be refreshed and reinvigorated for God’s mission that is taking place all over the world.

We heard a lot of world class preaching, but my favorite sermon by far was Jared Mellinger’s entitled “A Passion for Biblical Justice.” Justice is so easily perverted in our “trial by social media” world that we live in, resulting in many victims being further hurt and many new victims being created. It is crucial that Christians understand how to think critically about what justice actually is and how we are engage in social justice in our world. God cares about justice and as His followers, we should care too.

I’d encourage you to listen to this sermon!

https://www.sovereigngrace.com/sermons/sermon/2018-10-04/a-passion-for-biblical-justice

Grace and peace,

Pastor Jeff

Story Saturday: Alone in a dark room

I came into the church building the other day and someone from the neighborhood was sitting in our sanctuary. He was alone and the lights were off.  I knew who he was, so I went over to check and make sure he was ok. He said he was fine, just wanted some time to pray and think. I had another meeting I had to get to, so I just left him to his prayers.  About 20 minutes later I finished my meeting and went back to check on him. However, as I looked down into the sanctuary from my office, I saw that he was no longer alone. He was still in the dark. The lights were still out.  But there was John Carlson talking with him and praying with him.

For those who don’t know, John Carlson is the Executive Director of our non profit Transformation to Recovery (www.transformationtorecovery.com).  He has done a phenomenal job getting that up and running and putting us in a position to really care for people who are battling with substance abuse.  John is a really busy guy, especially during these past few months as we seek to raise funding so that this ministry can become self supporting. But this is what I love about John.  This is why I trust him to lead this incredibly important ministry of our church. John is someone who knows the importance of slowing down and being present. He isn’t just focused on the big picture (although he is and needs to be!), but also the person right in front of him.  Seeing him there speaking to a hurting individual who had been sitting alone in a dark room, that summarized to me what John and TTR are all about.

When I took time to encourage John and express how I see God working through his life, I was so provoked by his answer.  He said, “Jeff, if I’m not taking time to do that then what can I say that I’m doing? I’d just be a salesman and TTR a product.  Shame on me.” I love that response!

Please be praying for John as he continues to work every day for those with addictions.  People continue to die every single day. He’s on the frontlines for us and so we need to be behind him with all the prayers we can.  Also, if you aren’t yet a financial partner of TTR, we sure would appreciate your help. As little as $25 per month can go a long way to getting someone off the street and into a safe place where they can be discipled in Christ.  www.transformationtorecovery.com/donate

Grace and peace,

Pastor Jeff


Hurricane Florence Relief

Hi Friends,

Our family of churches just started a new church down in Wilmington, NC. For the past week that area has been getting pummeled by Hurricane Florence. Please read the update from my friend Josh Earl.

Hurricane Florence Update by Joshua Earl

Dear Sovereign Grace family,

It has been a difficult last week for the residents of southeast North Carolina. As you have all seen, Hurricane Florence made landfall just south of Wrightsville Beach early on Friday, September 14 as a Category 1 hurricane. The storm moved at a crawling 6 mph and eventually slowed to 3 mph, thrashing rain and wind ceaselessly on the area for three straight days. By Sunday, September 16, Wilmington received more rain from the storm than any other single weather event in the city’s history, shattering the previous yearly rainfall record set in 1877. A half a million people lost power and hundreds had to be rescued from floodwaters. Even as I write this post, Wilmington is surrounded by water, neighborhoods are flooded, many trees and power lines are down, gas is scarce, roads are impassible, and power outages are widespread.

Gratefully, most of Grace City Church’s core group was able to evacuate Wilmington, including our family and the Beane family (Aaron and I serve alongside each other at GCC). Our families escaped to Charlotte and are doing well here, but we are unsure when we will be able to return due to flood waters that are blocking major highways. A few folks in our group have remained in Wilmington and are doing well, considering the circumstances.  Thank you to the many of you who have sent texts, messages, or emails. They have encouraged us and bolstered our faith during this trying time!

Right now, there are so very many prayer needs in our city right now. Please join us in praying:

  • For people who are still flooded inland and stranded, and for those who may be flooded further when the river's crest today or tomorrow;

  • For gas, ice, and food supplies to get back into Wilmington;

  • For tree removal to take place in neighborhoods as soon as possible and for the safety of the linemen trying to restore power;

  • For power to be restored, especially for the elderly and diabetics who need meds to be refrigerated;

  • That the waters will recede on I-40 and other major highways leading into town;

  • For church buildings and business that have been damaged, including the Bridge Church and Hampstead Baptist Church;

  • For the Army and National Guard troops who are rescuing people and removing debris;

  • For officers who have responded to hundreds of emergency calls and looting that has been taking place at area stores;

  • For the doctors, nurses, and medical staff at area hospitals who have been working around the clock caring for those admitted;

  • For the many people who have sustained damage to their homes;

  • For the family members of those who lost loved ones. There have been 32 fatalities in North and South Carolina thus far;

  • For FEMA and other much-needed help to arrive;

  • For safe passage home for the many thousands who have evacuated the city;

  • For Christians in town to be strengthened to serve their neighbors in any way possible, and to continue to depend on God’s grace during restoration;

  • For Grace City Church, and the many churches in Wilmington, to band together to care for this city. Restoration will be long and slow, so please pray that through it the name of Jesus will be glorified throughout the southeast!

Our church has also set up a special relief fund which will be used to meet the temporal needs of our neighbors around us. There will be many, many opportunities to care for people upon our return, including helping with immediate home repairs and purchasing food or gas. Please give generously to this fund! A full report will be compiled and posted on our Facebook page as to how funds are distributed.

Thank you for your faithful prayers, encouragement, and generosity. Our hope is Jesus, who commands and calms the storms without and within, and we are filled with anticipation to see how He will use this devastation to build His church in Wilmington!

“‘This is like the days of Noah to me: as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, and will not rebuke you. For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:9-10

If you want to reach out to Joshua directly, you can email him at joshua@gracecityilm.org.

Partner With Grace City Wilmington


Story Saturday: Seeds being planted

Dear Friends,

One of our members, Kristen Catoe, recently emailed me this story and it was too good not to pass along to all of you.

The other day in the school yard, I started talking to a new Kindergarten mom. We hit it off and just chit-chatted about our kids, school, jobs, etc. She brought up a story that mentioned her Mom's old church which no longer exists. I followed up with "Our family goes to church. It's on 2nd and..." and she immediately filled in "Christ Church on 2nd and Moore? Yeah, I know it!"

A little surprised but playing it off cool, I asked her how she had heard of the church before and she said "Oh they host these incredible, huge festivals at the park for Easter and the end of summer. Everyone in the neighborhood knows about them. The people at your church seem really nice." So I asked if she had ever come out on a Sunday and visited before and she said "No. But there is a really sweet patient at the dentist office I work at who keeps inviting me out. I'm sure she would love if I just finally did go visit. Do you know Michelle?" "Haha yes, I do."

It's simply the start of a new school yard friendship for me but I was freshly aware of God's activity in what sometimes can feel like a completely barren land. Here, with this new friend though, I'm walking into some soil that has already been tilled by God.

I love so many things about this story!  I love Kristen's intentionality to reach out to a new Mom and work in a spiritual conversation about our church.  I love to hear (which I hear all the time) that our church has a great reputation in our neighborhood, because of the stuff we do for Easter and Summer Festival.  I love hearing about people like Michelle's intentionality to engage people as she goes about her day and spark up spiritual conversations. This is what we are to be about, Christ Church!  It takes a ton of work to be intentional with people as we go through our days. It is much easier to just go about our days and keep to ourselves. It takes a ton of effort to pull off things like the Summer Festival.  But through that work God is tilling up the soil of people's hearts. He's planting seeds. I believe in his promise that there is a harvest to come.

Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest." (Mat 9:37-38 ESV)

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Gal 6:9 ESV)

Pastor Jeff


Sermon Follow Up

Hi Friends,


Every Sunday we put up on our screen that if anyone has a question about anything that gets said in a sermon, they can text that question in and get an answer on this blog.  We haven’t gotten any questions for awhile, but this week we received these two:

Question #1:  What was the origin of the word/phrase you used for the glory of God?

On Sunday I spoke on Luke 2:1-20 and in verse 9 when the angels appeared to the shepherds it says that the “glory of God shown around them.”  There are several words used for God’s glory in scripture. The word that is used here is “Shekinah”. God’s shekinah glory is the glory of his manifested presence.  I gave the history of where we see this in scripture during my sermon, but here’s a quick recap. This is first implied in Genesis 3 when it talks about God walking with Adam and Eve in the cool of the garden.  It is first used explicitly in Exodus 13 as God leads the Israelites in the pillar of fire and cloud of smoke. It gets used in Exodus 40 as God comes to dwell in the tabernacle and again when the Temple is built. It’s final appearance in the OT is in Ezekiel 14 when the Shekinah glory of God leaves the temple and departs from Israel.  The next time it is seen is on this Holy Night in Bethlehem. It wasn’t just the angels who showed up to announce the birth of Christ. God Himself had come again to His people to announce the entrance of His Son into the world.

Question 2  You tied "fear not" from the angels to the shepherds as them addressing the "fear of death". A couple weeks ago, you talked about the angels proclamation of "fear not" to Mary and Joseph because of the immediate fear anyone would have at even looking at the majesty of an angel. Can you draw out the correlation between the two "fear not" explanations possibly... if there is one? Or was there two different definitions from these "fear nots".

This is why I like this opportunity to interact, because sometimes people mishear things and it is good to be able to clarify.  I actually didn’t say that the angels message of “Fear Not” was addressing the shepherd’s “fear of death.” The shepherds fear of the Angels was certainly the same as Zechariah's fear and Mary’s fear and almost every person in the Bible’s fear when they see Angels.  For sinful people to look on the majestic beings of heaven is a fearful sight. However, what I said was that the angel’s message of Fear Not to the Shepherds was God giving a message to all of us stretching out through history, for the angels went on to speak about how peace had come.  It wasn’t just about the shepherds not needing to fear them, but now that Christ came, there is no longer any reason to fear anything. There are not different definitions, but layered meaning. And that’s when I tied in this quote from John Piper,

God sends Jesus with the word: Fear not! Hebrews 2:14 says: Jesus became man "that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death have been held in lifelong bondage." Doesn't this last phrase imply something tremendously liberating for our daily life? If the worst fear—fear of death—has been taken away through the death of Christ, then surely God does not want us to fear the lesser things in life: job insecurity, not having enough time to finish a sermon, failing a test in school, being rejected by your friends, etc. The message of Christmas is fear not!- John Piper

I hope that clarifies.  Thanks for asking!

Pastor Jeff


Impacting Our Community

It has been said that a church should not measure their attendance on Sunday, but rather the impact they are having on their community.  I’ve been thinking about that more and more as God continues to open up incredible doors for us to impact our community. We aren’t a big church with money to burn and multitudes of volunteers.  We aren’t an old church that has a long established culture and history. We are a small, young neighborhood church. But by the grace of God, we are having amazing opportunities to have an impact on our community.

This past Monday John Carlson and I had a meeting Roland Lamb, who is the Deputy Commissioner of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health.  He oversees Addiction and Substance Abuse Treatment for our city. In the words of one of our members who works for DBH, “He’s a really big freaking deal.”  We got this meeting through John’s connection to PRO-ACT which is a very well respected organization in our city, as well as through his wife Jeanine, who sits on the Mayor’s Drug Commission board.  Mr. Lamb is incredibly down to earth and big hearted, but as he was sitting in my office I kept thinking to myself, “what on earth is he doing talking to us?” Our addictions ministry is very small and just getting started.  And yet, he walked away thoroughly impressed by what we are doing. He gave us a long list of names of people he wants to connect us to in the city. South Philadelphia has the second highest drug overdose death rate in our city.  Only Kensington beats us. Mr. Lamb said there is nothing down here like what we are doing and he is eager to see us take off and have a wide influence throughout South Philadelphia.

 Pastor Jeff, John Carlson (Executive Director of Transformation to Recovery), and Roland Lamb (Deputy Commissioner of DBHIDS)

Pastor Jeff, John Carlson (Executive Director of Transformation to Recovery), and Roland Lamb (Deputy Commissioner of DBHIDS)

Also, on Monday we had the privilege of serving breakfast at our local public school, Kirkbride Elementary.  Last year they approached us and asked if we’d like to start exploring a faith based partnership with them. What a strategic opportunity to impact the next generation in our neighborhood and to be a blessing to the teachers and staff who work so selflessly.  So it was our joy on Monday to give them a free meal for the staff’s first day back to school.

 Setting up for Breakfast at Kirbride Elementary School

Setting up for Breakfast at Kirbride Elementary School

That’s just two examples from one day!  I say none of this to pat ourselves on the back.  This kind of stuff just floors me as I see the impact God is giving our small church in only 3 years of existence.  God has a heart for our city. God wants to move in South Philly. He’s been here before us already. He’s doing tons of stuff through so many other fantastic churches.  It is just an incredible privilege that He is bringing us into His good work here.

Thank you for your ongoing support of Christ Church through prayers, giving and serving.  There is a powerful ground swell that is building, friends, and I truly believe that we can’t even imagine the things that God wants to do.  Let’s keep following Him together!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Jeff

Story Saturday: Summer Festival

This past Sunday we had our third Summer Festival.  It was a tremendous time. We didn’t do an official head count, but based upon our best guesstimates we had between 1,200-1,500 come through during the course of the day.  Those are incredible numbers. Our rep from the Parks and Recreation department said he had never seen another event with so many people at the park in his 30 plus years of working there.

It is not about the numbers though.  It is about what those numbers represent.  Those numbers represent people. They represent our neighbors, our mission field.  Some are friends we have known for years. Others are people that we just met. Each is an eternal soul in need of God’s love.  We don’t do this event to try to preach at people. There is a place for preaching, but why we do this is because we want to, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Mat 5:16 ESV)  We do this event because we want to be known as a church that does good works for our community. Whether people believe like we do or not, we want them to be grateful that we are here and hopefully that will lead to further spiritual conversations. We don’t do many events as a church, because we want to keep people free to spend time with their neighbors.  However, we do have this strategic event to make a loud statement of our intention to be FOR our community.

An event like this is no small feat.  It takes a ton of people to pull it off.  Here are the saints who joyfully sacrificed their time and served our neighbors with joy;

  • Hannah Salmon
  • Jon Mayse
  • Michael Bernardo
  • Robert Pino
  • Rose Wortman
  • Sarah Miner
  • Sherill Beatty
  • Lexi Beatty
  • Jim Beatty
  • Elise Neumann
  • Eric Neumann
  • Joe Catoe
  • Kristen Catoe
  • Julie Mattaliano
  • Tim Mattalinao
  • Nick Walker
  • Ali Walker
  • Todd Shade
  • Dorothy Tomaino
  • Charlie Tomaino
  • Karen Gregory
  • Steve Gregoy
  • Steven Gregory
  • Mickey Gregory
  • Chris King
  • Georgina Norrs
  • Ben Norris
  • Rebecca Julie
  • Jeremy Julien
  • Vikki Cooper
  • Rob Finizio
  • Eassa Faheem
  • Jennifer Faheem
  • Arlene Zavala
  • Elaine Dennis
  • Gus Bottiglieri
  • Phyllis Bottiglieri
  • Matt Slingerland
  • Jess Slingerland
  • Isabelle Slingerland
  • Jenna Slingerland
  • John Carlson
  • Josh Nussbaum
  • Rebekah Nussbaum
  • Nick Tedeschi
  • Dottie Latrella
  • Henry Brenes

Special shout out to our kid’s band who made their first live concert debut:  Matt Magitz and Angie Boettcher. They practice for hours and hours and I know I’m biased, but I think they did a phenomenal job.  If this whole pastoring thing doesn’t work out for me, having Angie become a professional kid’s entertainer is now my backup plan.

We had a fantastic event planning committee that put in dozens of hours.  Huge thanks to Bekah Nussbaum, Elise Neumann, Julie Mattaliano, Nick Walker and Jon Mayse.

Finally, all of this was coordinated by the leadership of Joe Catoe.  I am very grateful for his servant’s heart, consistent encouragement and tireless work ethic.  This is a huge undertaking and he does it with joy.

We already had several couples visit our church as a result of this event.  However, whether this event leads people to come to our church or try visiting another church, our hope is that this event would change the grid through which they view church and open them up to rethinking how God might want to meet them through His church.  

Grace and peace,

Pastor Jeff

Two Questions We Should Ask

Hi Friends,

Something we talk a lot about at Christ Church is our need for relationships.  We can’t be faithful to Jesus’ mission for the church of making, maturing and multiplying disciples if f we aren’t in relationships with people to disciple.  However, it’s not enough just to have relationships. We need to be disciplemakers in those relationships. Here are two questions to regularly bring up in conversation that will help you do that.

Do you have any type of spiritual background?

This is the question I ask when I’m first starting to get to know someone.  I am hoping to gain two things from this question. First, I want to know where they are coming from so that I can know the best way to go about sharing the gospel with them.  The core message of the gospel is that Jesus died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3). However, how we go about sharing that message should change based upon the background of the person we are interacting with (1 Corinthians 9:20-23).  If someone has suffered spiritual abuse, I want to talk about the love of God in the gospel. If someone has suffered injustice, I want to talk about the justice of God in the gospel. If someone struggles with guilt, I want to talk about the forgiveness of God in the gospel.  Also, I’m hoping that they ask me about my spiritual background, so that I can share my testimony. Asking this question often opens doors to share the gospel and sharing the gospel is how disciples are made.

What have you been learning from God’s word lately?

This is obviously a question for someone who I know is a Christian.  God’s word is meant to be our daily bread (Matthew 4:4). I love the picture given of the Berean church that took what Paul preached and then Luke writes that they were, “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Act 17:11 ESV).  Nothing leads to richer fellowship then discussing God’s word. We should discuss things that we are trying to work through, questions we have, ways we are trying to apply it. Talk about the sermons you are hearing and what you are taking away. Asking this question opens the door for us to dig into God’s word together and digging into God’s word is how disciples are matured.

With you on mission,

Pastor Jeff

Please Pray!

Hi Friends,

Our model for ministry is that we don't put on many events, or programs, but rather focus on equipping our members to be impact makers in their spheres of life.  We want to intentionally pursue having an simple church schedule, so that we can be free to involved in our community around us. 

However, we do put on two events for our neighborhood.  We have an annual Easter Egg Hunt and Summer Festival.  The goals of these events is not to be preachy, but rather just to bless our community through having a huge FUN blast (and it's all free!).  Our desire is that these events would help break down walls and stereotypes that people have about "church" and bring joy to our neighbors.  We are a church that wants our neighborhood to know that we are FOR them.  

Last year we had 150 people indicate on Facebook that they were interested in coming to our Summer Festival, but 500 showed up.  For our Easter Egg Hunt we had 250 indicate on Facebook that they were interested in coming, but 1,000 showed up.  For our Summer Festival this year, we've had 600 people indicate on Facebook that they are coming.  I don't know what that means about how many will actually come, but please pray!  

Here are some specific prayer requests:

1.  That there would be fair weather, so that we can enjoy the day!

2.  That our volunteers would serve with the strength and joy of the Lord and be God's light to everyone they interact with.

3.  That all the many details would come together this week, so that we can be positioned to bless our neighbors.

4.  That God would give us many opportunities to talk with our neighbors about the love of God that inspires us to love and bless others.

5.  That we wouldn't run out of food too fast!

Grace to you,

Pastor Jeff

Story Saturday- Stuff Only God Can Do

Hi Friends,

This past Sunday Brittanie Demeno shared the following testimony at Christ Church.  Be encouraged by how God is at work!

Pastor Jeff

I’ve been coming to Christ Church since May of 2016 and I have been beyond blessed to see the Lord work within myself, friends, and our church community. God has been so kind to surround me with friends that bring me closer to him through this church and I can’t thank Him enough for bringing me here. The last time I spoke in front of our congregation like this was in October of 2016 when I got to proclaim my faith by getting baptized. God has been at work all around me since then and I’m excited to share what He’s done with you, as I truly believe sharing with you will honor Him and bring him glory.

If you weren’t here last time I spoke, I’ll give you a quick recap. I grew up in a loving secular home in New York City and competed competitive gymnastics for most of my life. I spent 30-40 hours practicing a week and gymnastics became my identity at a very young age. I ended up receiving a full ride to Temple University to carry on my gymnastics career, and if I thought my identity was in gymnastics as a child, it grew to be even more in college. Successes, failures, and experiences came and went, but it never felt like it was enough. During my final year of gymnastics, God took it all away quicker than I ever imagined he could. Before my final season was up I suffered an injury that would end my career for good. This brought me to the lowest point in my life that I can remember. As if it wasn’t bad enough that I couldn’t compete anymore, Temple continued to require me to show up to practices being a scholarship athlete. During this time a new coach showed up to practice with a smile on his face and asked me more questions than anyone else had before. I hated him and everything he brought into the gym because the last thing I thought my injury would bring me was joy, which is what he kept talking about. He told me who Jesus was and eventually I got to a point where I felt like I had nothing left and had to give this Jesus guy a try. I would’ve said you were crazy if you told me then that I would be standing next to the same man on a regular basis living and sharing the gospel with young kids and their families on a weekly basis today. He started bringing me out to church, my ankle began to heal, and I started praising God for what he had done because without the injury, I never would have been in an emotional or mental state to open my heart to him and truly understand what his sacrificial love meant. 

Fast forward to May of 2016 and God brought me here to Christ Church. My first day was definitely one for the record books, but I don’t have enough time to tell that story. That’s a fun one for another time. From the moment I walked in here I knew this place was something special and God began to get to work right away. The people I met on the first day quickly became some of the best friends I ever experienced, and asked me questions a lot like that new coach did at Temple. I was welcomed with open arms, and I experienced a kind of love I had never been exposed to. It wasn’t just a community, but a community of people who took joy in serving others because of a love outside of themselves-Christ’s love. If you don’t know just how much God has changed me even since coming to Christ Church in May of 2016, let me tell you this- I did not like children one bit, little ones anyway. In fact they used to hide from me because I was the mean one that no one wanted to be around. ONe of the major signs of God at work in sanctifying me is that He has given me a deep love for the children of this church and I’m so blessed to see how this has flourished in my life.

Throughout the year of 2017 God had a special way of removing toxins in my life that prevented me from growing closer to him. I learned the meaning behind terms like accountability, modesty, service, and selflessness. None of these lessons were easy by any means, and my sinful heart resisted each and every one of these lessons. But God knew the entire time exactly who to surround me with to keep me on track during these times. I will never be able to express my gratitude towards those that were there every step of the learning process. In 2017 I really jumped into the community here at Christ Church, not for my own self gain, but because my love for the Lord flourished more than I ever could have imagined. This love also brought various trials and tribulations within my family and friends who don’t know Christ, but as hard as those times got, God met me every single time. God doesn’t have to speak or reach any of us in any kind of special way, yet He continued to showed up

As 2018 approached, I felt like there was something missing in my walk. I realized I was in South Philly three to four times a week and spending more time here than in my own apartment. I believed it was a waste to search for another apartment because I had such a good thing going in the complex I lived in. And I mean, I couldn’t buy a house right? Only married people bought homes… this quickly became another one of the many lies the enemy had convinced me if being true. When I mentioned the idea to a friend, things began to happen. I’ll never forget him saying. “Oh don’t worry, we’ll get you down here.” I thought he was nuts, and next thing I knew I had received a mortgage pre-approval, scheduled house viewings, and started to realize that it might be financially possible for a house to happen.

Next thing I knew I was under contract for a house a couple blocks away from here in March, and instead of praising God, it ended up bringing me to a place of entitlement, pride, and complacency. One week later God used that contract to humble me in dramatic ways. He removed a chunk of my finances, removed supports He had given me prior, and brought me back to a place where I had no choice but to turn to Him for dependence. After coming out of the contract, I thought that his house thing wasn’t going to happen. It had been months of searching, nights filled with tears, and more frustration than I had felt in a long time. I thought the house search was over. However, God showed up again on April 30 and gave me Job 36 (NIV: Bear with me a little longer and I will show you that there is more to be said in God’s behalf). By the end of May I went under contract for another house, and this time was able to keep His mission my number one priority and made the effort to focus on the many other mission fields I that were in front of me, such as my workplaces at school and the gym, and amongst my family and friends. Things started moving quickly on this house, and it was very difficult to hold my emotions in. I prayed that God would reveal to me whether or not was the house because wondering was distracting and taking an emotional toll on me. God met me where I was, again, as He has continued to do so. I had a sense that the house number meant something. 725… and the first scripture I was brought to was from Matthew. (And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock). I mean, I don’t know about you, but that to me was as if Jesus was standing in front of the doorway opening it up telling me, “Hey Britt, this is your house!” As wonderful as this high was, how quickly I was able to go from being comforted and surrounded by God’s love, to questioning Him again. I prayed, and still do that God would protect me, guide me, and provide for me throughout this home owning experience. I heard from my lender prior to settlement that I would have to pay an entire year’s worth of homeowners insurance up front on top of the rest of the closing costs. Naturally I panicked, because that was going to be coming out of the funds I set aside for closing. God knew though, He knew the entire time, and how quick I was going to question Him and was more than prepared. My Philadelphia income tax return had been missing for months… On a Monday I found out that my insurance quote was $1097.59. On that following Tuesday my income tax finally came in through the mail. I had no idea how much it’d be as I opened it. I fell to the floor and completely burst out into tears of gratefulness and disbelief at just how real God is. My insurance quote was $1097.59 remember? The check was for $1098.

As I approached closing on the house, I had many family members and friends tell me I would never get done what needed to be done in the house and that no one would help me, because why would they? Before I could start to fully believe these lies, I was surrounded by what the body of Christ can look like. Within three days, different members of the church flooded the house with service and the house quickly looked like a different place. On day two I couldn’t keep my emotions in when I looked around a realized all that God had done and was in the middle of doing. The house isn’t finished by any means, but it is pretty darn close, and not because of me, but due to a variety of different members here and their willing hearts. As I think about it, I can’t help but get excited to finally be a part of the community mission here in South Philly and also be able to serve and host a variety of people who have served and hosted me time and time again. As things move forward, I ask that you’d join me in praying for the house and people who live in it- That God would continue to grow us all and use one another to help make us more like Jesus. And that anyone who walks in would leave knowing who Jesus is, what He has done, and would be surrounded by His love whether they realize it or not. 

God has been all over the place in my life since coming to faith in 2015. I can’t begin to fathom just how much He has done in under three years, it’s very surreal to me. God sure knew what He was doing when He brought me here to Christ Church a couple years ago, and I feel so blessed that He has placed me to walk this walk here alongside all of you.

Story Saturday- Community of love

Hi Friends,

This past Sunday Caleb McCurley preached from 1 Corinthians 13 on how the Holy Spirit wants to empower us to be a people of supernatural love.  He commended our church for how we exhibit this and urged us to continue seeking the Spirit, so that our love might continue to grow.  Kristen Catoe put up a post on Facebook that I think really showed what it looks like to be a community of love.  Praise God and may we continue!

Pastor Jeff

It's good to go away but it is a sweet, sweet wonderful to come home.

We literally can't do life without our people, our community. As we were away we did a lot of reflecting. We may have been blissfully alone for almost three weeks but the story plot behind our adventure was PACKED FULL of standing on the shoulders of our amazing village's army sized love that had sent us out. It's a long gratefulness list but it only scratches the surface of the people that breathe blood through our veins.

My sister Sarah and Joe's sister Becca drove over 22hrs and across several state lines between them to bring our kiddos every ounce of love and stability that they would need. SEVEN additional families from our church, our schools, and the neighborhood took our kids on epic summer playdates. The Slingerlands and McCurleys added in overnights, making memories that we already know will last the kid's lifetime. THREE other families took in our pup and spoiled him so much that he was almost sad that we had come home, haha.

And when we arrived back in the middle of a heat wave to a suddenly broken AC unit and our home with dangerous atmosphere levels... our church family let us ride our jet lag out as they not only took us in but gave us their very best. Jeff and Angie had us all, dog included, come spend the night with them... but not just us, they also brought in a second family suffering from heat problems too. Like dormitory roomies, we crashed their floor with mattress all around that the Nussbaum family walked down the block for us. Julie organized with Dottiewho immediately had us over for a pool-pizza party for a much needed cool off. Joe's job allowed him to bring our dog Trent to work so the poor thing wouldn't suffer a heat stroke. Jessie had us use her home for cool afternoon naps only to talk with Caleb and send us off with not only an AC unit to borrow... but their biggest and best one. Now able to at least use our main floor safely we still have more lunch offers coming in along with cool house nap offers, three other camping out for the night adventures, and our neighbor Martin-Muzz offering us another AC unit of his if we needed it...

As another neighbor mentioned to me last night simply reflecting on her observing our village at work, we have it "so blessed, so very blessed and we need to make sure we stop to savor it." She is so right. This active, welcoming, generous, genuine village of church and friends and neighbors is the answer to so many years of prayer for Joe and I. There was a time when it wasn't this full. But here we are. It's good to go away but it is a sweet, sweet wonderful to come home.

- Kristen Catoe

Excited to be back regularly!

Hi Friends,

I’ve been a little bit slower on the blog posts as the summer is in full swing for me.  However, I’m really excited to announce that I’ve been able to work on my Sunday schedule and get things changed around with the Phillies, so that I can be with our church family every Sunday and don’t have to miss any more services.  Our interns and pastor in training have done a great job stepping up in my absence and I will still need to lean on them for help in the pulpit. We are committed to leadership development and I want to continue to use our pulpit to raise up future preachers.  However, I’ve really missed being with you all on a consistent basis. I’m really grateful for the favor God has shown me with the Phillies and their ability to accommodate a change in the schedule. God has really used this season to press home to me the truth from scripture that our spiritual walk will suffer if we neglect to meet together.  I would not say I have suffered, but I think I would if this scheduled continued. I’ve also noticed that there has been an increased inconsistency amongst our attendance. I’m sure part of this is just due to summer vacations, however, I want to lead by example in showing the priority of our gathering. Not only is it vital for our own spiritual health, but God can’t use us in the lives of others at our gathering if we aren’t present at our gathering.  As Caleb said on Sunday from his fine sermon on 1 Corinthians 13, “It’s not loving to think that we can just skip out and leave greeting new people, serving and participating up to other people.” While I certainly haven’t been just blowing off our meetings, but rather engaged in ministry, I don’t want my example to give any excuse for there being less of a commitment to our mission. So I am really encouraged that this change was able to be made and I look forward to seeing you back in a normal rhythm.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Jeff

Story Saturday: Strategic Missional Opportunities

Hi friends,

We are about halfway through this experiment of me being the chaplain for the Phillies.  To be honest, this has been personally very challenging. Why I feel called to do what God has me doing with the Phillies, I also miss you terribly when I’m not with you.  I am so excited about the work God is doing to change people’s lives through our ministry and I just hate missing out any part of it. Because of this, I’m trying to change my schedule to allow me to be present on Sundays, even when I have to do chapel for the Phillies.  I’ll keep you posted on what happens.

However, there are two significant things though that I am very grateful for so far.  I want to draw your attention to these things, so that you can rejoice at how God’s grace is at work in our church.  I believe that both of these things are strategic missional opportunities given to us by God that will bear tremendous fruit for His glory.

1.  We are raising up future preachers who will help advance the mission.

It’s pretty popular right now for churches to talk about planting churches.  However, I think too much is at stake to just have that be a cool talking point.  We live in a city where well over a million people are waking up each day without knowing the love of God in Christ.  That’s a tragedy. I truly believe that God has us here, not just for our neighbors, but to be part of his movement of reaching our city through one neighborhood church being planted at a time.  My prayer is that God would use us to reach 1% more of Philadelphia in the next 50 years. That’s going to take us planting dozens and dozens of churches. In order for that to be more than a prayer and a dream, we need to start taking action now.  I can think of no more strategic action then training future pastors. I don’t know if any of the current guys in training will be used to plant churches, but I do know that if they aren’t trained, that we won’t be able to continue to grow and plant more churches.  And so having them step up and take on more responsibility has been huge. I’m so proud of how hard they are working, how much their families are sacrificing and seeing how well they are doing. Sure there have been a few bumps. They are obviously still learning and aren’t that polished yet.  But the only way to get better is to continue to get more experience. And so you are participating in their preparation and our future mission by hearing their sermons, giving them encouragement, feedback and prayer. I’d love for our church to be known as a place where many, many preachers are born.  I’m grateful for how you as a church are embracing that role.

2.  What God’s been doing with  the Phillies is starting to gain national attention

Starting in spring training it has just been one miraculous story after another of what God is doing in the lives of many of the men (and their families).  The staff has noticed and other teams have noticed. I regularly get questions about what is going on. This went to another level last week though when, during two of the games, the broadcast team showed footage of the Phillies praying together before the game and said they have never seen a baseball team that is so spiritual.  If you watched either of the last two games against the Giants, the faith of the players was mentioned several times throughout the game and the story was even picked up on social media. I have to follow a strict no media interview policy, but I’ve started getting interview requests (which if my boss is reading this, don’t worry I decline!) because so many people are curious about what is going on.  While I don’t think anyone is becoming a Christian because they see the Phillies team praying, I love hearing stories about how God is using this to give many people opportunities to talk about their faith. I have heard story after story about people talking to family members, neighbors, co-workers, etc… who had written Christianity off as something for only simple minded people, but now are giving it another look and asking questions.  So through your faith to support me in this role for this year, God is reaching literally thousands of people.

Friends, I am so grateful for what God has been doing.  We are a small church, but God is using YOU in a huge way.  Your investment into our mission through your time, prayer and support is making a huge dent in the kingdom of darkness.  I’ve never been more excited for our future!

Gratefully,

Pastor Jeff

Resources for further study about the Holy Spirit

Hi Friends,

I am really excited about our new sermon series on the Holy Spirit and how I believe God is going to use this time in the life of our church.  If you’d like to get further into study, here are a few recommendations.

Entry level

1. The Forgotten God by Francis Chan

Not a very theologically precise book, but it will whet your appetite to know more of who the Holy Spirit is and how He is meant to work in your life.

Intermediate

2.  The Sovereign Spirit by Martyn Lloyd Jones

At some point in their life, every Christian should read something that Martyn Lloyd Jones wrote.  This book is not a bad place to start.

3.  Keep in step with the Spirit by J.I.Packer

A great book by one of the great modern theologians.

4.  Father, Son and Holy Spirit by Bruce Ware

A great book on the doctrine of the Trinity.  Pretty thorough theological treatise, but very concise and easily read.

5.  Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves

Another great book on the Trinity that really emphasizes how the Triune God necessitates God being a God of love in his very nature.  Really powerful read.

Advanced

6.  The Holy Spirit by Sinclair Ferguson

One of the best books I have read on this subject.  I think he writes in a pretty easily understood manner as well, although the book is a bit long.

7.  Showing the Spirit by D.A. Carson

An exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14 and in my opinion, the best commentary written on those 3 chapters of the Bible

8.  Empowered by the Spirit by Gordon Fee

An exposition of every single mention of the Holy Spirit in the writings of Paul.  Very long, very technical, but if you can wade through it, an incredible read that will stir your affections for God the Holy Spirit.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Jeff

Baptism in the Spirit

Hi Friends,

Here is a question that came out from my sermon this past Sunday.

Question:  If all believers have the Holy Spirit at conversion, then what does that mean about the baptism of the Holy Spirit?  That was clearly a post conversion experience for the disciples at Pentecost, shouldn’t we look for that post conversion experience as well?

Before I answer this question, I want to state upfront that while my answer will be loaded with scripture, I recognize that there are many within orthodox Christianity who will disagree with me (mainly my Pentecostal friends).  I want to be clear that I don’t feel this is an issue to split over and that we have way more in common than we do that separates us.

OT Background

We have to understand the context of Pentecost.The Holy Spirit was not a novel idea to the New Testament authors, but something they expected from God’s revelation made to his people of old.  Thus, the New Testament refers to the Holy Spirit as the one whom God promised (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5, Acts 2:38-39, Galatians 3:14). In the majority of the Old Testament incidents involving the Holy Spirit, the Spirit acts as a channel of communication between God and man, usually through a prophet’s speech.  The prophets were the ones who made God’s will and wisdom known to his people through the revelation brought to them by the Spirit. Yet, the prophets pointed to a future time when God’s Spirit would rest upon all his people and no longer needed to be mediated through the prophetic office (Joel 2:28, Isaiah 32:15, 44:3, Ezekiel 39:29).  Each person will come to know the Lord for themselves (Jeremiah 31:34) and through this knowledge become transformed into people of true obedience (Jeremiah 31:31, Ezekiel 36:24-29, Isaiah 44:3-5). Thus, Ezekiel writes, “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live” (Ezekiel 37:14). The people of God would have their very lives intimately connected to this indwelling of the Spirit.  And this coming outpouring of the Holy Spirit would be brought by the Messiah. He would be both filled with the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:1-4, 42:1-2, 61:1-2) and inaugurate the Spirit age for his people (Joel 2:28).

Now, it could be argued that this filling and indwelling of the Spirit that the prophets referred to is not meant to be interpretative for the New Testament idea of being “baptized in the Holy Spirit”, but rather limited to describing the experience of every Christian coming to faith through the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit in converting their hearts.  However, it is important to note that the most common metaphor used to describe this coming experience of the Holy Spirit is that of “pouring” or “outpouring” and is usually coupled with images of water (Isaiah 44:3, Ezekiel 39:29, Joel 2:28). Thus, this coming of the Holy Spirit was always associated with an immersion like experience analogous to baptism of John and Jesus’ day.  The OT anticipated a day when the Spirit would come and pour over God’s people like water, a day when they, all of them, would be baptized in the Spirit.

Gospel Narratives

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is one of only a handful of subjects that are discussed in all four gospel narratives (Matt 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33).  While these texts do not allow for definitive conclusions about the nature of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, second experience baptism versus conversion baptism, they do point to the fact that baptizing his people in the Holy Spirit was of paramount importance to Jesus’ redemptive mission.  In each of these four texts, John is comparing and contrasting his baptism with Jesus, stressing the point that just as John’s ministry was marked by water baptism, so will Jesus’ ministry be marked by this baptism of the Holy Spirit. Through these recorded words of John, this baptism of the Holy Spirit is shown to be not just an experience that Jesus’ followers will have, but part of the unfolding of salvation history.  In each passage John states that Jesus’ baptizing with the Holy Spirit would take place in the future. There is a sequence that is being stressed about the progressive nature of Jesus’ redemptive work. Jesus is born, he lives, he dies, he is resurrected and then he sends the Spirit. As Richard Gaffin concisely writes in his book Baptism and the Holy Spirit, “Baptism with the Holy Spirit was nothing less then the culmination of the Messiah’s ministry.”  This is because it is through the Spirit that the Christian acquires all the benefits of Christ’ works (1 Corinthians 12:3).  The baptism of the Holy Spirit was the final act of Jesus’ redemptive work for without this baptism everything else that he had accomplished would have been for naught.  Therefore, although these Gospel texts do not definitively indicate the nature of this baptism of the Holy Spirit, they do sow the seed for the coming baptism to be seen as a redemptive-historical event.  Thus, when Pentecost occurs it is first and foremost to be interpreted as a redemptive-historical act, the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy kept through Jesus Christ. I think to read Acts 2 as an argument for a second baptism of the Holy Spirit that is meant to continue on to today misses out on the rich promises of God that were being kept in that unique moment of history.  The purpose of its inclusion in Holy Scripture was not primarily to be illustrative of a second experience that modern Christians should expect, but rather the historic event of the outpouring of the Spirit that the Old Testament prophets spoke about and which John the Baptist said Jesus would bring. Pentecost is part of the once and for all work of Jesus Christ. Therefore, just as his death is never to be repeated and his resurrection is never to be repeated, so too is this act of his work never be repeated.  The gospels set us up for Pentecost as a non-repeatable redemptive historical event of inauguration into the Spirit-filled age.

NT Writings

1 Corinthians 12:13 is the only epistle that explicitly uses the phrase, “baptism with the Holy Spirit.”  Paul writes, ““For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”  In order to interpret this text the context of this letter must be taken into account. Paul was writing to a church that was rife with division.  Spiritual elitism had run rampant through the congregation. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul is building an argument for unity in the church through the unity that they share in Christ.  He grounds their unity in their shared belief in Jesus as the Lord, a belief that they did not come to in their own wisdom, but in the Holy Spirit (12:3).  This point reaches its climatic conclusion when in verse 13 Paul writes, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” With this context in view, it makes no sense for Paul to be making a distinction between those who have received the baptism of Holy Spirit in some lesser form, simply by being converted, and those who have received a more powerful filling of the Holy Spirit through a second baptism.  This would effectively create two separate categories for Christians which is the exact opposite of what Paul is trying to do.

How then are the other second experiences recorded in Acts meant to be interpreted?  First, it is important to recognize that there is not really a plethora of examples, but only one.  Acts 8 is the only text that clearly describes a situation where some people became Christians, but were not immediately baptized with the Holy Spirit.  From this record of the baptism of the Holy Spirit upon Samaritans, Pentecostals argue that this is strong evidence that Pentecost is not just a redemptive historical event, but an ongoing experience that Christians should anticipate.  However, this argument fails to take into consideration the cultural context of the significance of the Samaritans being saved. There was a history of animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans. Thus, if the Samaritans were to be included in the church of Jesus Christ it was important that the highest level of leadership in the church testified to the fact that they were to be treated as full members, not second class citizens. The events in Acts 8 should be read as a “Samaritan” Pentecost, a unique redemptive historical event through the Apostles as a demonstration that being a member of Jesus’ church was not to be limited to people only of Jewish ancestry.

What about people today who have an experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit that is separate from their conversion? 

The final argument that Pentecostals will make for a second experience baptism of the Holy Spirit is that similar experiences to those recorded in Acts still occur today.  On this final point, I agree wholeheartedly, but would challenge the word that is being used to describe these experiences. I believe scripture is clear that baptism of the Holy Spirit happens immediately upon conversion.  However, this does not deny that there can be ongoing experiences of the Holy Spirit coming upon Christians in a distinctive way. These experiences are not to be understood as “baptisms of the Holy Spirit”, but rather “fillings of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4, 4:8, 4:31, 9:17, 13:9, Eph 5:18).  These instances are situations that call for an immediate and special endowment for a particular task or spiritual emergency. Thus, all Christians should expect, and in fact are commanded to desire (Eph 5:18), ongoing fillings of the Holy Spirit.

This blog post was way too long, but if it makes you feel better this is a cliff notes version of an academic paper I wrote at the Pastor’s College.  If you are interested in this subject more and have an affinity for Greek grammar, church history, etc… I’d be happy to provide you with the full version. Just hit me up on Facebook, twitter, instagram, email, or carrier pigeon.

Your friend,

Pastor Jeff