Today was our last day gathering together as CrossRidge Church. Over the past decade, CrossRidge has been a place for people from all walks of life to gather for worship, learning, growth, small group, and community service. And even though it was not part of our plan, CrossRidge became a conduit for the grace and love of God to penetrate our hearts like never before. Five years ago, Jimmy and I approached CrossRidge as visitors coming to share in a dear friend's burden as she grieved the loss of her young husband. We approached as visitors with no intentions of staying because, after all, we were comfortable with our no-strings-attached experience at a much larger church.
God drew us to this small church plant and changed our lives. Our connectedness to the Body of Christ took on a new meaning as we learned to truly share life with the people of our church- the good, the bad, the ugly. Our knowledge and love of the Word grew as we learned to study scripture, and, alongside our church family, applied it to our lives.
Jimmy has served as an elder in our church for the past couple of years, and God has grown him in wisdom and leadership. Every Sunday, along with the worship team, he humbly ushers us into the presence of God with songs, hymns, and spiritual songs. We have made the most precious and authentic eternal friendships here. I learned to teach children in Sunday School just in time- before my own younguns came along. God has used our meager offerings of food and effort and multiplied them to reach our community with His love. I could go on and on about how God has surprised us with good gifts and how thankful I am for the opportunities to serve, learn, and grow with this group of people. I say all of this for the glory of God!
Jimmy eloquently spoke of CrossRidge at our last gathering on Sunday. He mentioned our growth in numbers over the years, and our waning in numbers. He reminded us that God has been in it all... in the coming and going of people, and alas in the remnant who remain, eager to continue on in God's great commission.
I wrote a little about the vision for our new church in a previous post. More can be found at the Awaken Church Florida website. Our first Sunday service together will be in north Lake Wales on February 9, 2014.
So... there are several ways folks can respond to this news.
If you are wondering,"Why ANOTHER church?"
John Piper writes in one of his sermons,
If somebody falls out of an airplane with no parachute on and you don't have one either, you aren't going to jump out after them. It won't do any good. Two deaths aren't better than one. But if you have a parachute on, you just might try one of those awesome rescue attempts, and free fall like a bullet to catch the helpless and pull your cord. It's the hope of safety in the end that releases radical, sacrificial love now.
Planting a new church is just one release of radical, sacrificial love, propelled by the hope of glory we know we have in the end. Folks are lost around us and we have the map. People are searching and we have the answer. If Awaken Church fills a void and reaches people with the love and truth of Christ... this is why.
If you are a Believer and are not connected to the Body of Christ, come play a part in genuine community as God desires and be a laborer! The field is ripe for harvest and we need folks to join us as the hands and feet of Christ as we embark on this new journey as Awaken Church. Our launch meetings are underway; we are gathering for planning and discipleship each Tuesday evening in downtown Lake Wales. The schedule and details can be found here.
If you are searching for fulfillment and purpose in life, come learn more. Hear our stories, listen to the Word of God, and see how this God we serve is great and faithful, and worthy of our lives.
If you are a Believer and are already connected to the Body of Christ, pray for us and for those we are meant to touch! We do not desire to grow by acquiring existing church members, but rather by spreading the Gospel to those who haven't heard and by providing a place for unplugged Christians to connect and live out eternal life knowing God well. A new church is not competition for an existing church! We are on the same team, Praise God! So get excited about what God is doing all over the place! And please, pray pray pray.