Assurance Sermon Series

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Today, as I write this post, I am reminded of the great gift God has bestowed upon us-assurance. We are allowed to live out our life in assurance. We can know who Jesus is and who we are in Him. This aspect of the Christian walk can transform our being. We no longer have to be intimated by a society that believes we are the ones who have lost our way.

The letters of 1, 2, and 3 John are what I like to call the black and white, cut and dry, and zero gray areas of Christianity. There is this a theme throughout that says it either this or that with no in between.

Light or dark, good or evil, love God or don’t love God, heaven or hell, Jesus or Satan, righteousness or sin, life or death, eternal or temporary, and truth of false.

This will be an 8-week series leading up to Easter Sunday. I look forward to our time together as we journey through another book of God’s amazing Word of Life.

I plan on posting some notes each week for each of the 8 sermons here on this blog.

In the meantime, stay in the light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Leading a Church of Less Than 100

Are You on Track if You Lead a Church of Less Than 100?

Most of the time church planting is a long, hard slog.
Are You on Track if You Lead a Church of Less Than 100?
I came across this article and really thought of this as reality. I lead a church of 80 or so at the beginning stages of year 2. I sometimes feel as if the growth isn’t going fast enough and as numerically as it should be. You too may feel that way too. Read the article below and be encouraged if you are a church planter!

Every church leader or pastor desires ministry to be fruitful and to influence their community. But we need to be reminded that we can no longer depend on the success of the past to be the shelter of our future.

While leadership is important, a church’s size can change frequently, depending upon other factors like changing demographics of the community or cultural shifts. But how do we respond when the previous generation was much more numerically effective than we are? What do we do when people ask, “Why don’t you have the results they had before?”

Older members of any given church typically seem more nostalgic about the past and use that as a measure of success in the future. It is important to remember, however, that culture has changed in such a way that it becomes misleading in many places to expect the numerical success of the past for a new generation.

Reaching for the Unattainable?

Several years ago, at a conference at Saddleback Church, I noticed that all the other speakers were pastoring a church between 5,000 and 25,000. However, what they also had in common was they had planted churches in another era.

At the time, I was pastoring a church whose size was far less than 5,000. When it was time for me to speak, I kept looking at Rick Warren out of the corner of my eye. I was scheduled to preach at Saddleback on Sunday, so I did not want to tick him off!

But I also had something to say.

I told listeners that conferences like this are great, but that they can also be really confusing and disheartening. When you drive onto Saddleback’s property, if I recall correctly, you drive up a four-lane highway called Purpose Drive and then you come to a stop light at Saddleback Way before parking your vehicle and entering one of the many entrances into the main sanctuary.

People came into this conference and heard speaker after speaker tell implausible stories of preaching and teaching only to see thousands of people showing up. I reminded those in the crowd that this conference could help them, or it could hurt them. “If you aren’t careful,” I told them, “this conference can be ministry pornography for you. It will be an unrealistic depiction of an experience you’re never going to have that distracts you from the real and glorious thing.”

Let me be clear: I’m not saying that everyone in the next generation isn’t going to reach as many people as they would like. There will always be outliers. I know of numerous faithful church planters who are attracting relatively large numbers. There are stories of tremendous, immediate success. We praise God for these situations. But we also need to acknowledge the reality that most of the time church planting is a long, hard slog.

And it is a lot harder than it used to be.

When Smaller Is Better

The typical church plant averages around 100 in attendance until after the four-year mark. Most churches in the U.S., in fact, have 80 people or less attending their weekend services.

Pastors and planters should know the statistical realities of the average church instead of assuming they are a disappointment if they don’t match the atypical success stories they see at conferences or read about in books. It is for this reason that I launched the Breaking the 200 Barrier series. It is time we have more chastened expectations; this, in turn, will make us more likely to succeed. A Lifeway Research study found that one of the four correlative factors to church-planting success was coming in with realistic expectations.

So, you are probably not going to have 1000 in a year, and it will be harder than you think, but knowing that will help you reach people as you grow.

Now, I know that does not fill conferences. People don’t rush to attend a conference with the guy who failed at planting a church or the one who took six years to get to 100. But the truth is, speakers who pastor or lead smaller churches are in the ideal situations to give practical help and encouragement to pastors struggling to reach their community. Having a right perspective always helps.

Let me share an illustration from how I watch television with my daughters. To help them realize that what they see is mostly unrealistic, we actually google pictures of the women on the screen without make-up. We do this so my daughters can have a better understanding of beauty and perception.

(If you have young daughters, try it—you may be surprised by their response.)

Similarly, church planters need to know that the expectations they see on conference platforms are unrealistic. Pastors need to remember that ministry in the past should not serve as the only measuring stick for ministry in the present. If we don’t remember this, then planters and pastors may see the tremendous success on the stage or in the past and assume they are failures if they don’t reach those virtually impossible-to-reach levels.

It is past time that churches measure success based on the current realities of their cultural context instead of past glories or present-day anomalies.

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21 Day Daniel Fast

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Daniel 10:2-3, At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.

As the Lead Pastor, it is an honor to call our church to a 21 day prayer & fasting to seek spiritual wisdom & guidance for the future of City Church Del Rio. We are currently at the end of our study through the book of Daniel and this Sunday is Daniel chapter 10. Daniel is given a vision by God, but wants to have understanding so he prays & fasts for 21 days in order to able to receive the vision.

I believe that is necessary at our current time and place for our church right now. We need Jesus like never before. We need to seek His face like never before. We need each other like never before!

So, beginning this Sunday, January 8 at 12 noon, and ending on Sunday, January 29, at 12 noon, I am challenging all of City Church Del Rio and anyone else who would like to join us to this season of emphasis in our spiritual growth.

What vision do we want to see? I believe we need to make sure that what God is seeking for us is given to us through a united effort in order to be in one accord.

Here is a list of vision casting I believe we want for 2017: 1. Consistency, tithing of our time, talent, 7 treasures, a community center, and a place to call home. Won’t you join me?

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Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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City Church Del Rio, 1 Year later

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In Nov 2015, City Church Del Rio was birthed with a core group of 30 people. We prayed for God’s Holy Spirit to guide us and begin a new work that would last for years to come. I can honestly say that after 1 year of ministry in City Church Del Rio, things are looking very good. God has paved a path for us to minister to our community of Del Rio. So, what has that looked like?

  1. A complete staff of loving ministers that enjoy being with each other and invest in each other’s ministries, lives, and families.
  2. A missional mindset of being the church.
  3. A giving church that gives 11% of all undesignated receipts to missional causes including the Del Rio Baptist Association, Texas Baptists, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Unique Student Ministries, and other local mission efforts.
  4. Covenant membership classes.
  5. A multicultural fellowship with a focus on millennials and young families.
  6. A body of believers sold out to servant lifestyles.
  7. Elder led congregation
  8. Contemporary style worship including music, preaching, and life groups.
  9. A church with connections to Mexico, River Ministry, local church bodies including other denominations, churches from Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Baptist Student Ministry groups, Literacy Connexus, and many local state agencies.
  10. 70 plus worshipers.

Thank you to all who have prayed, given, and come to minister in Jesus name to the border. We are blessed beyond measure. God has provided ever step of the way!

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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The Writing is on the Wall

In the 5th chapter of the book of Daniel a finger writes on the wall of the fate of king Belshazzar. Finished, game, match.

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This term used today, “The writing is on the Wall,” usually refers to roughly the same thing. An almost certainty of an end, hence the writing is on the wall. With our God, there is an absolute ending where we can say the writing is on the wall. Death has been swallowed up and no longer has control over Christians. With certainty we can live our lives as free people, as people who have victory, and as people without fear. Fear is not of God, His Spirit is all power!

As I have been preaching throughout the book of Daniel, I am amazed at the resiliency of those who are against God. Even when given clear messages, clear evidence, and clearly chance after chase to get right with a merciful God, the dissolution that somehow you can undermine a Holy God exists.

I am grateful for His love and mercy, but we must realize that our God is still a God of fairness, therefore He is just in His dealings with His people. The next time you want to see God, read the book of Daniel and see Him at His best!

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Can Revival Really Happen Today?

I was in San Antonio, TX last week preaching at a local congregation, known as United By Grace. The week-long services are what would be called a revival. Revival services used to take place in many of our churches on an annual basis. It was an opportunity to awaken the membership from a possible content or casual view of why we are even doing “church.”

Over the past decade or more, annual scheduled revival meetings have gone away and many churches never have them anymore. It has been said that you really can’t schedule a revival. Only God Himself could even conceive of crafting up a revival within a church. So, churches have moved in the opposite direction and now don’t even try to present an  opportunity to see if God would dare move during a scheduled revival meeting. 

I haven’t personally preached a revival series in many years myself, but this seemed to be different. As I prayed through wether or not to accept the invitation to do so, I began to examine events in Scripture that were planned out, yet God decided to “show up.”

Jesus performed his very first miracle at a scheduled wedding. Jesus was crucified at a scheduled Passover annual event. So God can show up even if man created or scheduled event. 

I took the church through a process of what I believed might be a way to have an actual revival. I preached through the 51st Psalm. I called it the “Create in me a clean heart” revival series. 

First, there is a process of crying out for mercy. Second, a process of reminding ourselves of the Justice of God. Third, and an important phase for revival, is the crying out to be cleansed. And lastly, once all the other elements had been dealt with, we can cry out for a total restoration. 

Through it all, many church members renewed their commitment to Jesus, and on Sunday morning of the last sermon of the revival, 11 new souls were saved. 

Did revival really happen? I believe it did. My prayer is that it is a lasting revival that will be able to sustain United By Grace for years to come. 

Stay in the Light,

1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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A Weekend Like No Other

I haven’t had time to place in perspective what I experienced over a 3 day period that was so eventful, it has made an impact on me personally. September 23-25, 2016 will be one of those weekends that will forever be one that is talked about for me personally.

On Friday, Sep 23, our family loaded up the minivan to head north to Granary, Texas for a close friend’s wedding. The young woman that was getting married happened to be one of our former youth at one of the previous churches that I had served. No, I wasn’t officiating the ceremony as many of the weddings that I attend. I was going along for the enjoyment of being a regular participant. Pastor seldom are able just to be. We are usually always on and participating in our calling, but not this time. My wife would be the one that was “on” for this exciting chapter of life. She was asked to do the photography for this event. Lucy has a love of capturing moments in time that grasp at our heartstrings. She does photos for fun.

Saturday, Sep 24, was a great morning. We spent time with our 3 grandchildren, and daughter-in-law in the hotel lobby where we were staying. Anytime we get to see our family is a good day! We spent an hour with them, talking, hugging, dancing, and just enjoying each other’s company. Papa (that’s me) was able to groove to some music with our youngest grandchild who adores music. He isn’t yet 2, but has an eclectic palate for music already. That has a lot to do with our oldest son, who is a very talented musician and songwriter.

Then, Lucy was off and running from 11 am through the need of the night, which ended at 9 pm. 10 hours of clicking a camera at every bite eaten, make-up placed, bridesmaids and groomsmen preparing for the big day. At 5:30 in the afternoon, the wedding was on. I was sitting with our children in the middle of many of our closest friends. The pastor did a really great job, mixing in very current aspects of the lives of the husband and bride to be. I learned a lot just being able to participate from the “regular” side. Ceremony, food, and dancing all within a few hours and just like that it was off to the honeymoon for the newlyweds. Our weekend was far from over. We had to get back to the hotel and get some shut eye so we could awake by 3 am to make it back to Del Rio in order for me to preach.

Sunday, Sep 25, 3 am, we leave only to be greeted by downpours of rain on and off throughout our 6 hour journey. We ran over several different wildlife that were in the road and thank God, we made it back just in time for all of us to shower and get prepared for our 11 am service. This service would be different. I was preaching at friend’s church as part of our vision to unite congregations in order to better be the united body of Christ. As time approached for me to preach, we were able to worship with an amazing praise team at the church.

Time, for me to preach. I was preaching a text fr0m John 1 titled “Just Believe.” The congregation of about 350, were totally engaged and God was able to speak through me by the power of the Holy Spirit. During the invitation, 7 lives were added into the Kingdom of God through a saving relationship with the living God! Wow, I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratefulness toward God for these new souls added to the Lamb’s Book of Life. The day was far from over.

After church, we grabbed a bite and was able to relax for awhile. During the afternoon, we had our marriage class for our City Church husbands and wives. Then, at about 7 pm, 10 pastors from around the city came together at our house to enjoy a time of fellowship with all kinds of food. We were there to watch the Cowboys do their thing. We ended the evening with a sense of fulfillment that God could bring together pastors from different walks of life, different backgrounds, different denominations, and different languages. Only God!

This was a weekend like no other. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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