Five People I Want to Thank from the First Five Years of Christ Centered Church
When the Lord called us to move from north Alabama to Miami and plant Christ Centered Church, I knew one person in Miami. I sent him an email to share the exciting news, and he replied, “That’s great! Our family is moving to Nashville!” So, when we say the Lord has sent us every person who has been a part of this journey, we mean every single person. You are all so dear to us, and on the occasion of our fifth birthday I want to take time to say thank you. Here are five people I’m thankful the Lord has sent our way.
Person #1: The Supporter
The Christ Centered Church family is so much larger than those who gather with us for worship. So many of you have given, prayed, encouraged, sent cards, shared social media posts, and supported Christ Centered Church in 1,000 other ways. Thank you. We would not be here without you.
Christ Centered Church has been a grassroots effort. Sure, we’ve had our big donors, but for the most part, the startup funding for Christ Centered Church came from those of you who faithfully gave $50 when you could, collected change for “Change South Florida” (does anybody remember that!?), gave to VBS offerings, sent a monthly check in the mail, stuck a $100 bill in our hands on fundraising trips, or bought a book. You’ve supported us, and without your support, we would not be here.
Person #2: The Short-Term Missions Volunteer
Early on, we realized that people wanted to come to Miami and help us. And for most of you, a mission trip to Miami wasn't just a voluntourism opportunity. You knew we needed help, and you were willing to drive 10, 15, or even 20 hours south to invest some shoe leather in Christ Centered Church. You’ve passed out thousands of water bottles, hung thousands of door hangers, served thousands of hotdogs, contributed thousands of hours of service to local projects, and invited thousands of people to Christ Centered Church.
The first summer for a church plant can be a make or break time. Like all churches, church plants experience a summer slump. Unlike most churches, however, a summer slump can devastate the momentum, cash flow, and morale of a church plant so badly that it cannot recover. Leading up to our first summer, we prepared for a summer slump, but it never really came. Why? Because we had hundreds of people come to Miami and help us invite thousands to attend a service. Before launch, after launch, and even now, mission teams have been crucial to our success.
Person #3: The A-Team
By A-Team, I mean to say you are the best, but I also mean to say you were the first. The first to commit. The first to move. The first to attend a prayer meeting or small group. Before there was even a launch team, there was an A-Team. I could name names, but I won’t. You know who you are. Some of you moved your lives to Miami after hearing this speech, “I can’t pay you, I can’t find you a place to live, and I can't help you find a job. The promise I can make to you is that as long as I have a roof over my head and food on my table, you’ll have the same.” You thought I was kidding, but many of you ended up living on our couch!
Some of you joined up with a naïve, slow talking, way too nice pastor from Alabama who moved to your city and asked you to help get a new church started in the area, only to realize “the area” meant a community 15 miles away in a different county where you didn't really have any connections! Some of you skipped a few services at your home church just to make sure we would have someone sitting in the room for our services. Some of you attended a poorly executed monthly service and pretended it was as good as the Passion Conference. Some of you took a look at what we were doing and decided, “If someone doesn’t help these people, they aren’t going to make it,” and you helped. With everything. Whatever role you played in the early days, it was vital.
Person #4: The Faithful Member
Over the past two weeks, I’ve been looking through pictures from the past five years, and I’ve noticed two things. First, the Lord has given us the opportunity to invest in so many people who have moved on to other cites or just other churches. While that can be a little discouraging, there’s another group of people—a smaller group—that I’ve noticed in those same pictures. It’s a group of you who have been there since day one. You’re there in pictures from our pre-launch love louds, our monthly services, or launch day, and we can count on you to be in the pictures we take this month.
Through the ups and downs, from the ballroom to the theater, from C2 to CF and back again, you’ve been there. We’ve prayed together, served together, rejoiced together and cried together, sometimes in a worship service and sometimes around our family’s table. When we’ve asked you to get into a group, you’ve done it. When we’ve asked you to join Dream Team, you’ve signed up. When we’ve asked you to pull weeds or paint walls, you’ve rolled up your sleeves and gone to work. You’ve been there, and it has not gone unnoticed.
Person #5: The Newcomer
By the grace of God, we are in a season where the Lord is sending us so many new people. Some of you are new to the Christian faith and some of you are long-time followers of Jesus. You’ve come because you recently moved close by, because you recently found out there is a church in your area, because you are trying to get your life back on track, or because a friend invited you.
It’s not easy to come into a new church, but we are so thankful you are with us. You bring fresh life, excitement, and renewed vision. We’ve prayed for God to send you to us, and we are thankful He has answered our prayers. You remind us we live in a city of millions who need the gospel, and we have so much more work to do. Without you, we would be like a tree that isn’t producing leaves—standing, visible, taking up space, but counting the days until we dry up and fall apart.
Bonus Person: The Local Pastor
“Don’t come.” That’s what one local pastor told me when I asked him, a few months before moving to Miami, “What advice would you give a guy who is about to move from Alabama to Miami to plant a church?” He wasn’t being cruel. He was trying to help me. He was trying to save me from the “place where church plants come to die” as one local pastor put it and “the city that chews up pastors” as another described it. I can imagine many of you, as local pastors, must have had similar thoughts when we first met, but I don’t blame you; I know you were just trying to help me.
By God’s grace, I’ve thankful that we have remained. You men have become my tribe. Even though we don’t get to see each other as often as we would like, when I suit up for spiritual battle every day, I know I am going to war with a good company of men. We are few in number, but we are strong of heart! It has been through your prayers, your encouragement, your discouragement from the more insane ideas we’ve had, and most of all, your genuine friendship, that the Lord has sustained us.
Whoever you are and whatever your role has been in the story of Christ Centered Church, when I think of you, I am reminded of Paul’s words to the church at Philippi,
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:3-6