Lately, I have been asked many questions about my calling and the calling of Sandals Church. Why is it necessary to have so many new campuses? Is Sandals following Christ or building an empire? Can you really be an effective pastor in a mega church? These questions have caused me to examine my own calling and to reflect on my dad, who is no longer with us. Continue reading Our Calling: Why Sandals Church Should Continue to Grow
I have always wanted to be part of something BIG. I worked for my dad during and after college, and my sister once said to me, “You should get your masters degree and go work for a big company like Nike”. She knew I wanted to be part of something bigger and thought that was the best route to get there. I didn’t get my masters or work for Nike, but through the years I knew God was preparing me for something BIG. Like my sister, I thought it would be in business, but it was bigger than that. I became a campus pastor at Sandals Church. Continue reading A Part of Something Bigger: The Launch of Sandals Church Moreno Valley
I was sitting at the dinner table with my family eating tacos when the phone rang. Who calls at this hour? Apparently, our Executive Pastor Dan Zimbardi does. And when he calls, you answer. “DZ” casually got straight to the point: “Hey Adam, Pastor Matt and I want to meet with you on Thursday to discuss the possibility of you becoming our next campus pastor. Are you available?” You know, no big deal, just another phone call. Except this wasn’t just another phone call! Wrapped up in this one phone call were all kinds of other things… Continue reading Not Just Another Phone Call: The Launch of Sandals Church East Valley
It’s difficult to think of the word “launch” without imagining myself at 18 years old launching water balloons at unsuspecting house boat owners in the middle of a marina in Lake Mojave. We hid. People scattered. ( And we proved how fun and lame teenagers are.)
Whenever you launch something new at church, the response isn’t all that different. Continue reading Launched By Faith
Everyone is an other to someone.
And because we are all different and “an other” to someone else, it is easy for division to set in. Division is a natural condition. The church thrives on Unity. Unity is an intentional decision.
As I reflect on the the last five years, I see the intentional pursuit of unity as one of the most impactful components that has led to the incredible growth of Sandals church. I believe our staffs ability to unify under the direction of our lead pastor has resulted in a richer experience of Christian community and ultimately, tremendous blessing from God.
The reality is, division is a huge problem for the church and the enemy uses division to stop or slow down the church from realizing its mission.
In fact Paul writes to the New Testament churches about the need for unity.
1 Corinthians 1:10: “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.”
Ephesians 4:1-6: “Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.”
This has led me to believe that leaders in the church must be Champions for Unity.
Here’s how I see the impact of unity:
Corporately – Unity is like gas in the tank of the church while division is like sand in the tank of the church
Individually – Unifiers go further, faster and have a greater impact for the Kingdom
Here’s 2 ways you can be a unifier in the church despite being an other to someone:
Work hard towards empathy – The definition of empathy is the ability to understand and share feelings of another. Empathizing with someone is difficult when you disagree. When someone who looks different from you or has a different background, you may have to work harder to get to a place of empathy. Simply recognizing that you don’t understand the experiences of an other can bring you to a place of empathy. Empathy often leads to unity.
Don’t give into the temptation to divide over differences – The enemy wants to divide and will whisper in your ear with the hope that you will become a tool to divide. When satan tried to tempt Jesus in Matthew 4:1-11 Jesus rebuked satan with scripture. When the enemy tries to tempt you to be a divider let him know the truth that is found in God’s Word. Be awake to the work and voice of the enemy and don’t allow him to use you to divide the church.
Ambush of the innocent
Shot at without fear
The noise of evil pierces
Yet know that God is near
Encouraged in their evil
Hiding all their snares
Tongues like swords are sharpened
In Him protection is declared
A perfect plan of injustice
Cunning hearts and minds of man
An evil plan encouraged
But God holds out his hand
Enemies will not prevail
God will strike them down
Shot with truth and arrows
Our Almighty wears the crown
Their deeds will come against them
Their instruments of doom
Heads by faith will shake in scorn
While witnessing their ruin
Proclaiming God is mighty
The faithful rise in awe and fear
Take refuge in the strength of Him
In great numbers stand and cheer
The heart of the upright praise him
Worshiping our God alone
Righteous rejoice in favor
Our King is on the throne
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9
I have started to discover in the past few years what it means to be secure and solidified as a knit creation in the image of God. Raised in a single family home, the assumption from others was that, due to my circumstances, I would be nothing but a statistic, and another African-American kid without a dad. I grew up in a home that saw everyone as equal and had a heaven-like viewpoint when interacting with others of various cultures and differences. Yet, a big struggle was growing up in an environment that was predominantly Caucasian. It was a challenge connecting with others who looked like me and who were of the same culture and race. I was criticized for looking and acting differently, degraded, and called unthinkable names. Continue reading Through the Lens of Our Creator
What is it that gives a person their value and worth? Some believe and live as though skin color, socioeconomic status, or benefit to society are what determine it. For Christians, the book of Genesis begins to provide the answer in the opening chapter. The latin phrase ‘imago dei’ means “image of God”.
In Genesis 1:27 Moses writes, So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Men and women, the human race, everybody is made in his image. Thus, a person’s worth and value is infinitely high. Continue reading Imago Dei
There’s an interesting and often overlooked detail in church history that jumps out at me every time I read it. It’s regarding the church at Antioch.
Stephen was murdered in Jerusalem while Paul, then Saul, looked on in agreement. This scattered the Christians throughout the region, with many of them settling in Antioch. Once there, they began living life and sharing the Gospel with many non-Jewish (Gentile) people who became believers themselves. This was a big deal because, up until this point, Christianity was viewed as an evolution, or at the very least an offshoot, of Judaism. Non-Jews were still seen as non-essential and unimportant as it related to the Gospel.
But something interesting happened. Because so many Gentiles were being converted in Antioch, there needed to be a new name attached to this group. Jews didn’t want to be associated with this motley crew of former temple prostitutes, Greek sinners, poor people and other folks who didn’t look the part of evolved Jews. It was the fact that they were marked by love for each other and the people around them that they needed a new monicker – something other than their language, skin color and place of origin – to define them. So people around the region began to come up with another title – “Followers of the Way” or Christians.
There may be one, but to my memory, I can’t think of any other time in history that a group has been identified because they are different. Most groups bear the titles of their shared political leanings, sexual orientation or racial identification. They celebrate others like them but wage war against others not like them. But the Christians in Antioch forced their culture to come up with a new identifier because there was nothing that they shared – other than their love for Christ lived out in their love for each other. Their leaders – identified in Acts 13:1 – included a black man, a Hellenist, a Levite and a former radical terrorist named Saul. It was because of their differences that they were able to best meet the needs, capture the hearts and minister to the various people of their community.
Before I can give an “I Have A Dream” kind of ending, let me be honest. I’m disappointed in the church because we have allowed the brand “Christian” to mean just about everything but what it meant in the first century. We have developed “denominations” that share our views. We’ve developed colleges to expose our thoughts. We have more -isms and -ologies than we can manage and we’ve been far more political than the founding fathers of our faith would’ve been comfortable with. My fear is that we will continue to retreat into other labels instead of doing the work to reclaim our name.
But I also have a hope. I hope, over the next few weeks, we can show people that there is a home for them.
A home where they can be invited in and served.
A home where the color of their skin, the difference in their gender or the vibrancy of their culture embellishes their story and ours as well.
A home where they see they are deeply loved by God and his people.
I love how the writer of Ephesians clearly states this same sentiment. God, may we be able to clearly say the same:
“You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.”
Ephesians 2:19 – 22 (MSG)
Reflect On This…
Are there particular groups or labels you prefer to identify with, or be identified as?
Are there particular groups or types of people, particularly types of Christians, you struggle to identify with?
Read again Ephesians 2:19-22. What stands out to you? How is God inviting you to help others feel and know they belong in the home God is building, beyond your preferences and comfort zone?
I wore a suit two times this weekend.
One for a wedding. One for a funeral.
I got asked a few times how I was doing and the general state of my heart. I didn’t really have a good answer outside of “okay”. Not because I wanted to avoid sharing deeply about what I was feeling in my heart. Not because I was numb to emotion after being in ministry all these years. Not because I was unaware of how I felt. The reason I answered “ok” was intentional, and encompassed the truth of how I was: somewhere in the middle of sadness and anger and joy and celebration. Continue reading Present In Pain