The Greatest Sermon Ever Preached

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When you remember great sermons that have been preached by pastors current and from the past, they pail in comparison to the Master of great sermons. Jesus’ few words are so packed with amazing truths. We are allowed to preach by gathering inside information via the Holy Spirit, commentaries, and theological professors. Jesus preaching was from within.

That leaves me to formulate a thought here. Shouldn’t we as spiritual leaders also be preaching from within as we draw day by day closer and closer to Jesus? Our sermons should by all means be more heart felt as we preach time and time again. I pray that I can be a Jesus preacher as well.

I am beginning a new series based on the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7. Here is the  schedule. Raising The Standard!

April 23—Blessed Are You! Matthew 5:1-12

April 30—The Salty Life, Matthew 5:13-16

May 7—The Law of Grace, Matthew 5:14-20

May 14—Mother’s Day

May 21—Heart Check-part 1, Matthew 5:21-26

May 28—Heart Check-part 2, Matthew 5:27-32

June 4—I Cross My Heart, Matthew 5:33-42

June 11—Love My People, Matthew 5:43-48

June 18—Father’s Day

June 25—Generous Giving, Matthew 6:1-4

July 2—Praying for the Kingdom, Matthew 6:5-15

July 9—Do I Have to Fast? Matthew 6:16-19

July 16—The Treasure of Your Mind, Matthew 6:19-24

July 23—Kingdom Matters, Matthew 6:25-34

July 30—Who’s Your Judge? Matthew 7:1-6

Aug 6—Go Ahead and Ask, Matthew 7:7-12

Aug 13—Danger: One Lane Bridge Ahead, Matthew 7:13-14

Aug 20—The Sad Reality, Matthew 7:15-23

Aug 27—Built on the Solid Rock, Matthew 7:24-29

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Do you need Assurance? To Believe or not to Believe…

When it comes to your faith, all of need some assurance that what we say we believe in is the real thing. IMG_4063

Everyone believes in something. You must believe in something in order to survive in this life. When you go to sleep at night, you believe you will wake up in the morning. Nothing that we have in all scientific evidence guarantees that we will awake to a new day once we fall asleep.

When you sit down in a chair, you believed that the chair would hold you. You never thought that maybe you have exceeded the weight limit once you sat down.

When you placed your key in the ignition switch of your vehicle to go somewhere, you believe that it will start, even though most of us have no clue how that is even possible.

So, don’t tell me you don’t believe in things you don’t have a full understanding of. We all believe in something that is bigger than ourselves.

I want you to know that you can believe in the Bible, which portrays to us, a magnificent God, who is madly in love with us. You can believe it!

Lightness or Darkness, Love or Hate, Jesus or Satan, Righteousness or Sin, Life or Death, Truth or False, and To Believe or not To Believe. Be Assured! God has revealed Himself to the world!

This from 1 John 5:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Concluding Affirmations

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

16 If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

18 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. 19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. 20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

21 Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.

You can believe today! Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Church Planting

Today I am posting an article from Ed Stetzer. I was intrigued by it because as a church planter, our church never officially launched with a big hoopla. We started in November and God has been so gracious to us.

Church-Planting Shifts, Part One: The Launch

Consider your people group and the time of year.
Church-Planting Shifts, Part One: The Launch

Church planting is somewhat of an entrepreneurial enterprise that tends to be on the front end of change, both catalyzing change and being catalyzed by change.

This is the crux of what I want to discuss in this four-part series. The series is intended to keep grounding us in the realities of church planting while helping us seek creative ways to engage with our specific contexts.

Let me be honest, church planters tend to think that their individual and local church-planting model is the norm globally. That’s not the case.

Furthermore, our tendency is to cling to whatever conference we attended and mold our plant around a personality, model, or successful movement. That also makes it hard to think about different methodologies being helpful and appropriate.

For example, let’s looks at the church planting launch service.

The methodology of starting a church with a publicly announced beginning has probably influenced all of us. Even if we are doing a missional incarnational approach to church planting, at some point we realize that there is value in inviting people to our community. This may not be at the scale of the traditional approach, but because people are intrigued to check something out the first time, most church planters have a grand opening of some type.

One of the lessons we have learned is that big beginnings are now becoming less common. Although many still have ‘grand openings,’ since the 1980s and the 1990s there has been a decline in the size and audaciousness of large launches when planting new churches.

But large launches are still out there.

Large launches tend to be successful when we consider a few factors. These factors are not things I’m saying are good, but things I am saying help promote a large launch.

First, it helps to have clearly identifiable people groups living in relatively close proximity if you are planning a large launch.

In addition, large launches also benefit from new people moving into a community or sufficient homogeneity that gives the church traction and acceptance within a certain subsection of the community population. Let’s say the community is predominantly Haitian and there are not a lot of Haitian churches. A larger start to the church might see more success because of the need and void present.

Second, it is critical to consider what time of year is best to launch in your context.

Let me give you a helpful example. Many churches aim to launch around Easter. Although this may seem like the ideal time due an openness to the gospel this time of year, the proximity to summer (a down and travel time for many) and inflated numbers may lead to discouragement shortly after the launch. In my experience, fall is the best time to launch a church plant.

You typically have a three to nine-month window to launch the church and get the small groups and other ministries going. If you go longer than that, you will lose people who fear the church will not be sufficient for their needs.

Another rule of thumb when it comes to timing: you also have three to nine months of preparation and meeting before you need to officially launch the church, so plan accordingly.

When it comes to reaching people in our community, we always need to celebrate new beginnings when our core team is ready, but the prevailing trend is to downplay the launch somewhat and build in core strength for the long haul, where real growth occurs.

More on that next time…

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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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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