I gave the following update at our worship service this past Sunday, but for those of you who missed it, check this out. God is doing some amazing things!
Last week Angie and I traveled to Dallas, Texas to attend the Baseball Chapel Conference. Don’t worry, I was proudly sporting my Eagles gear most of the time. It was a pretty sweet moment, since I have been around Cowboys fans all my life talking about how the Eagles have “no rings”.
Baseball chapel is an incredible organization. They hire, train and resource bible preaching, gospel loving, Jesus following chaplains for every minor and major league baseball team in the US and Latin America and beyond. It was impressive to see their massive infrastructure and how God is using them to further the cause of Christ in the world of baseball. In particular, Angie and I had three big takeaways:
1. We are so encouraged by what God is doing all over the country
We met some great people at this conference who are doing really awesome stuff for the mission. Coming in as the “newbies” we weren’t sure what to expect, but we were immediately greeted by many and taken under their wings. I have never walked into a place and felt so welcomed. We made several new friends. One was Jon Talbert who runs a church planting network in the Bay area that connects around 100 churches. His organization is financed by the CEO of VMWare and it produces resources for church planters, connects churches and helps to collaborate together for kingdom work. He’s pretty much living my vision for Philly. We talked long into the night and I think he is going to be a tremendous resource for us moving forward.
We met Ellis and Ginger Prince from Baltimore. They planted a church that started with just them. That two person church plant has grown into a thriving church that has planted 4 other churches in Baltimore and is doing great things in that city. They took a special interest in Angie and I and I think this is a friendship that is going to last for a while.
Finally, we met Chris Lane who runs a ministry called First Priority that serves 250 high schools in Florida. I talked with him about how to pursue things further in Furness High School and our new relationship that is developing with Kirkbride Elementary school.
One of the schools that Chris serves is Parkland High School and this past Wednesday, when the gunshots broke out, their minister was at the school. He survived, but God had him there to minister the gospel at that critical moment. It was powerful to hear about what God is doing in the midst of that tragedy and to pray for Chris Lane.
I don’t know about you, but it is so easy for me to just get so focused and wrapped up in what’s happening here. I loved having my gaze lifted and hearing how God’s Kingdom is going. I was challenged more than ever to not just be about the 4 walls of our church, but what God is doing all over for his glory.
2. We received some great training that will be a benefit to our church
For the past several months, I have been talking and praying with our leadership team on how to grow in ministering to millennials. We do a pretty good job reaching young families on up, but that millennial generation is a tough nut to crack. It is the largest generation in our country and 70% of them want to have nothing to do with church. This is a crisis that needs to be addressed.
The majority of baseball players are part of this generation, so Baseball Chapel has done extensive research on this demographic and we took away some great, missional insights.
Also, I’ve been praying more and more about how to reach across racial barriers, particularly with people for whom English is their second language. That’s what 50% of baseball players are, so there was a lot of conversation about that as well.
So here’s how God works, I have praying about how to learn and grow in these areas and I just got paid to learn about the very areas about which I had been praying. Oh and they gave me a bunch of resources too for free. At one point I just started looking around, because it felt like robbery. Our God is so generous!
3. Unique missional opportunity
We heard a bunch of former players share their testimonies about how they didn’t grow up in the church, knew nothing about the gospel, had never opened a Bible until they went to their club’s chapel service. It was particularly powerful to hear testimonies of kids who Dads got saved through baseball chapel and now these kids are grown and ministering in baseball chapel. I was so pumped when they said, “Don’t just run a bible study and preach a message. Challenge these guys to use their unique platform to influence your city for the cause of Christ”. Yes and amen!
Friends, it so amazing to me what God is doing through Christ Church. We are only going to be celebrating our 3 year anniversary in March. We started with 29 adults and 15 children, so a total of 44 souls. Now we have 163 souls. We have almost quadrupled our original team. And those aren’t just numbers, but stories of life change. Also,
We are opening a recovery house in the next month where men will be able to get discipleship and experience new life in Christ.
We have a bible study at our local high school and they are the ones who invited us to come!
Our local NA group asked to use our building for their meeting, which is one of the largest in South Philly. Every Monday night we have about 70 people in our church and members of our church are there reaching out.
We have opened our building and are partnering with an organization that provides resources for underprivileged children in our city. They serve over a thousand households.
We have started conversations with Kirkbride Elementary school about how we can partner with them and serve their kids.
One of my favorite quotes is,, “A church’s impact shouldn’t be measured by the size of attendance on Sunday, but the influence they have in their community”. It is just absolutely incredible to me the influence God is giving Christ Church in only three years. This is all His doing as it certainly wasn’t in any of my plans.
Friends, more than ever, I am freshly aware of our need for prayer. We want to be good stewards of all these opportunities God is giving us, so we need His wisdom. Please pray for Christ Church! We are desperately dependant on the Lord. May God continue to bring many into knowledge of Him for the glory of His name!
Grace and peace