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A Little Light is Breaking Through


Yesterday, I found myself in the midst of a miracle that moves me to my core. I stood in an arena alongside 5,000 brothers and sisters who closed the doors of their local congregations for the morning to simply come together as “The Church of Tampa Bay.” Through diversity of expression, we lifted the name of Jesus in worship and in prayer for hours. Baptists prayed. Charismatics prayed. House churches prayed. Megachurches prayed. We prayed in English. We prayed for every tribe, tongue, and nation as representatives cried out to heaven in their native language. With hands extended to heaven, we called for the Holy Spirit to fall on our region just as He did in Acts 2. And it wasn’t merely talk. 


We shared the sobering statistics of the brokenness and darkness assaulting the hearts of those God adores in our city, committing to follow Jesus into the fields that are ripe for harvest. The Holy Spirit’s filling has never been about you or me getting blessed so we can live a comfortable happy suburban life as we “thank God we’re not like that sinner.” No. God’s Spirit compels us to the front lines, arm in arm, as the light of the world, fixing our faces against the darkness of the place we call home until “it is on earth as it is in heaven.” Yesterday, we stood as ONE, committed both to go and to stay. 


We will GO into the harvest, and we will STAY together. 


This morning, can I tell you what I’m most excited about? 


It wasn’t an event. We are becoming a FAMILY. 


I don’t say that lightly. In truth, yesterday wasn’t the point. True unity under Jesus has always been our aim. Yesterday was simply another glorious family reunion and a catalyst for the Church of our city to continue in love, together. 


Four years ago, our region faced a fire-starter moment when several sons of God brought the things they were individually sensing from God together. Here’s just a few. Two pastors named David had been gathering a handful of ministry leaders monthly, seeking revival in our city. My spiritual father, Len, met quietly on his back patio with a number of area pastors, asking God to restore, realign, and ignite His specific call on their lives. My buddy Gio got a burning in his heart about Pentecost Sunday and what could happen if the saints came together as in Acts 2. And my dear friend Caleb did what he does, breathing oxygen onto the fire for it to spread. They asked me if the large field on our church property could host a day of celebration called, “ToGather,” and something really special was born. 


In the last 4 years, we have stood in AWE of God in all of the ways God is making His Church ONE. That monthly gathering of ministry leaders has now grown into SEVEN “Minister’s Connections” that meet for men and women all across our region. Pastor Len has invited a number of other ministers to join in the work he is doing, resulting in a number of spiritual fathers and mothers raising up sons and daughters everywhere. And ToGather has grown, year after year, into a space where the One Church gets mobilized to carry the Gospel to our city. Yesterday, we linked arms with 40 Missions organizations who are meeting the most dire needs of our city, that none of us would run in isolation ever again. God is doing something special. 


It isn’t just for our city. It can happen in your city. 


Unity is hard-fought. It doesn’t ever happen without conviction, surrender, and continued intentionality. As we feel we are just starting to sense the light breaking through in our region, here are 3 truths we cling to:


Unity > Uniformity


Our local church expressions are beautiful and needed. But here’s the truth. The Bible never addressed local churches, but only the ONE Church of a Region. It was the Church of Philippi, the Church of Ephesus, the Church of Corinth. All of the smaller congregations circulated Paul’s letters to one another, seeing them in the truest sense as belonging to one together. We must regain this sense of unity that will not merely tolerate our differences, but actually celebrate them. God said that our enemy is put on notice by the “multi-faceted wisdom” of His Spirit flowing through us (Ephesians 3:10). As we’ve stayed together, we begun to see that it is our differences that allow us to contend to see Jesus reign over all of the needs of our city. Multi-faceted needs need multi-faceted expressions who belong to each other! We are choosing to put our focus on the main thing: One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, and we are beginning to see just how good it is for us to dwell together in unity!


Fighting for Forgiveness > Walking Away Wounded


You will be hurt. Many times. The problem isn’t the church. It is sin. Ego. The pursuit of empire. The heartbreak is that, yes, it happens in the church too. There are life-giving churches and there are churches where tragic things happen, in the same way there are life-giving workplaces and toxic ones. But we don’t give up on vocation because we had a bad job (or a few). It has become trendy to scapegoat the Church of Jesus in favor of some kind of a la carte solo faith walk of “just me and Jesus.” The problem is that Jesus never promised to build “individuals” so that the gates of hell could not stand against them. He promised this only of His Church. Whether we like it or not, we were made for one another. The global followers of Jesus are the Body of Christ, and the eye still cannot say to the hand I don’t need you. 


In my local congregation and in the Church of our city, I have inadvertently stepped on many toes, and I have had mine stepped on more times than I can count. In my zeal, I have sometimes been so focused on the thing I believed Jesus wanted that I left someone precious to His heart behind and hurt them greatly. I have made decisions that seemed like wisdom, only to find myself weeping when the dust settled because I missed it. I have shed many tears at things whispered behind my back and some nasty things said to my face. I have endured judgments, misdirected anger, and a host of unrealistic expectations others have tried to lay on my shoulders. I have had to humble myself and seek forgiveness, and I have had to keep thick skin and a tender heart to forgive when I’ve wanted to run. That’s what families do. If we are ever going to walk together as Jesus intended, there is no other path than the refiner’s fire of humility and forgiveness.


WE > ME


In Eden, God said, “it is not good for the man to be alone.” It’s still true. Jesus is coming back for a Body and a Bride. His Church is worth contending for. If your heart has been broken by followers of Jesus, I am so sorry, and I am praying for you: for healing, for peace, for life to its fullest. But I am also praying for you to take up your place again in the Body, because we could never be US without YOU. Jesus is building His Church, and He will finish what He’s started. And there are MANY beautiful, vibrant, Kingdom seeking congregations receiving and releasing heaven. I know. I’m in a city full of them. You are too. Take heart, beloved friends. It may seem dark outside, but if you’d look, you’ll see…a little light is breaking through!



Reflection Questions:


What burns in my heart for Jesus to do in my city? What is my part? Who in my city could come with me?


Who makes up the “Church” of my city? Name the congregations that come to mind. Do I walk with them in any significant ways? Why or why not? Where is Jesus inviting me to take the next step? 

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