As a new year begins, the Church United story enters into year four of our mission to unite churches of our region for the purpose of seeing God’s kingdom descend upon South Florida. For the last three years pastors and ministry leaders have been connecting and collaborating together in their common desire to share faith, give hope and extend love. If 2018 taught us anything, it proved that we really are stronger together. As one local pastor put it at last year’s Love South Florida night of worship and celebration, “Church United is moving deeper into our hearts.” Looking towards 2019 and beyond, we are confident that God is with us on this journey and recognize that the hard work of seeing our vision realized begins now.
I love how The Message translates Ephesians 1:23, “At the center of all this Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the word; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he filled everything with his presence.”
The Church — God’s people — you and I, are the means by which God brings his Kingdom to our world. You and I, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is how God fills our cities, neighborhoods, workplaces and dinner tables with his presence. Let that sink in for a moment. The world isn’t waiting on God; God is waiting on his people to embrace their calling and the power of their influence as his sons and daughters to demonstrate faith, hope and love. What Ephesians 1:23 is essentially saying is that Jesus didn’t die so that we would come to church. He died so that we would become the church. As Scott Arbeiter, the President of World Relief once said, “As Christians we are reminded that God has called us to respond to the stranger as our neighbor — with compassion, a warm welcome and as advocates for their well-being.”
Every Christ follower is critical
In this next season the gifting, voice and ownership of every committed Christ follower will become a critical component in seeing our vision realized. At its core, Church United is dependent on the mobilization of Christians — not just pastors and ministry leaders. We need boldness, courage and grace for what lies ahead.
Without Christ’s continued leading and the power of the Holy Spirit, our labors will all be in vain. We do, however, believe that risky, intentional, visionary leadership and collaborative action will be essential to transforming South Florida for Christ. The road ahead is hard. It will take supernatural grace – both for this movement and for one another, as we will no doubt offend one another and step on each other’s toes on more than one occasion.
Rising to this moment will be costly beyond finance. We will need each other — to challenge one another to build new habits, experience fresh grace, give generously of our time and resources. We must trust God for a new way of thinking, belonging and experiencing the cost and benefit of living out John 17 unity — so that the watching world will know and believe in Jesus Christ.
A Gospel movement
At this moment in time, we are privileged to have the tools and resources to understand the general state of Christianity in our region. We know that if the trend holds, there will be a large and lasting portion of South Floridians who will not know Christ. If we are honest, we see it — the hints in many of our churches and cities are apparent. No doubt the task ahead will be difficult. It means change and sacrifice, and at times it will be tiring and unfamiliar. To see our vision realized will mean working together in ways and places that we have not historically found great unity. We encourage each of you to prayerfully consider how your unique gifting and calling will play a role in laying the foundation for a gospel movement in our region. The vision of doubling the number of Christ followers as we make our way towards a tipping point, requires every Christian to see themselves in light of the greater story God is writing in South Florida. As we enter a new year we believe God is with us and that this is our great opportunity: to unite and mobilize God’s people for mission.
Edwin Copeland serves as the Director of Church United with the National Christian Foundation of South Florida where he works to unify the Church through collaboration and celebration to see faith, hope, and love spread throughout South Florida.