Death By A Thousand Chihuahuas

Death by a Thousand Chihuahuas

Matthew 4:18-19

Dr. Jim Denison

Do you live by a calendar and a clock, or a compass?

Some of us are governed by our calendars. We keep them at our desks, hang them on our walls, or carry them in our pockets. We record them with pencils or computers. And every day we do what they tell us to do.

They run our lives, with the help of our clocks. On the wall or our wrists, the clock tells us when to do what the calendar tells us to do.

I am as much a slave to my calendar and clock as anyone I know. But today I announce to you that I repent of their lordship over my life, and choose to live instead by a compass. And so should you.

There is only one “true north” in the Christian life. Only one purpose which will direct your life with unerring accuracy, which will guide you home every single time. We’re going to find it today.

On the first weekend of this new year we discovered God’s Kingdom purpose for his people. Now we’ll discover his Kingdom purpose for you. You’ll need to remember and live by this purpose, this “true north” every day this year. Or you’ll die the death of a thousand Chihuahuas.

Finding “true north”

Our text begins: “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew” (v. 18). Reading the text, we assume that this is their first meeting. But Matthew’s original readers knew this was far from true.

In January of AD 26, Jesus of Nazareth was baptized by John the Baptizer in the river Jordan. After his temptations in the wilderness, he returned to Bethany, the place of his baptism. There he first met these fishermen (John 1:28, 35-51).

John and Andrew were disciples of John the Baptist. The Baptizer pointed them to Jesus, and they began to follow him. Andrew brought his brother Simon to Jesus as well (1:42).

Jesus then called Philip to follow him. Philip was from Bethsaida, the same hometown as Andrew and Peter. Philip introduced Nathaniel to Jesus. And John introduced his brother James to him as well.

Now, the small entourage traveled from Judea back to their homeland of Galilee. Here Jesus turned the water to wine in the village of Cana (John 2:1-11). He stayed in Capernaum with this band of followers and his family (John 2:12). He and they traveled to Jerusalem for their first Passover together, March 21 of AD 27. Jesus met Nicodemus while in Jerusalem (John 3).

After John the Baptist was imprisoned, they traveled north to Galilee again. Jesus met the Samaritan woman on the way (John 4) and was welcomed back to Galilee (John 4:43-45). After this year together, the men returned to their homes and their work.

And so Simon Peter and Andrew, James and John knew Jesus. They have believed in him and followed him for a year. But not full-time, not with their lives and their futures, their all. Not until today.

Now Jesus begins his public preaching ministry in Galilee with the central theme of his life and work: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17).

And now he calls these men to join him in this work, permanently.

“Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19), he says. “Come” is a command: “come here.”

“Follow” means “be full-time followers, pupils, disciples.” The construction is plural, showing that this is Jesus’ will for each and all of them.

“Me” shows that they will follow Jesus personally. Their loyalty will not be to a religion, an institution, a program, but a person. The Son of God himself.

For what purpose? “And I will make you fishers of men.” “Make” means to equip for a job, to give you all you need. “I will make you” shows that only Jesus can do this. And that he will—this is his promise.

“Fishers”—people who will catch something. What?

“Fishers of men”—all men. Not just Jews, but Gentiles. Not just men, but women. Everyone. The entire world. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16). “Make disciples of all nations,” he commands us (Matthew 28:19). “You will be my witnesses to the uttermost parts of the earth,” he tells us (Acts 1:8).

Understand: these men knew Jesus. They had believed in him and followed him for a year. But they had not worked for him. They had not brought others to him. They had not given their lives to his service.

So he called them to be “fishers of men,” people who would bring other people into the Kingdom of God. People whose lives would influence other lives spiritually. People who would help other people follow Jesus.

And this would become the “true north” on the compass of their lives, the central purpose for which they would live, and die, and be rewarded in eternity.

Is this God’s call for your life and mine?


Why fish for men?

Yes. Jesus’ call to them became his charge to his entire church across all time. “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) was his Great Commission. “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts1:8) were his last words on earth. Spiritual fishing, helping people follow Jesus, was and is his purpose for every believer.

You are not really a businessman or woman, a homemaker or lawyer or teacher or doctor or student. You are a spiritual fisherman. Your school or home or business is simply the lake where God has put you, so you can catch the spiritual fish who swim there. So you can pray for them, be a spiritual example to them, encourage them, help them with their problems, invite them to worship, lead them to faith. That’s why you live in your boat, on your lake.

You see, there is no clergy/laity distinction in the Bible. In fact, the word “clergy” is unbiblical, as is the concept. Every member is a minister; every Christian is called to Kingdom work; you are saved to serve. Spiritual fishing is God’s plan and purpose for every Christian life, yours included.

Separating this call from the congregation is one of Satan’s greatest strategies. Imagine a football team where only the coaches touched the ball, a business where only the CEO saw customers, or a hospital where only the administration treated patients. Satan knows that when he can convince you that spiritual fishing is my job and not yours, he hurts us both. I cannot do this work alone, and you cannot be fulfilled until you do.

Helping people follow Jesus is the highest purpose of life, and God’s will for your life. And God’s will is “good, acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1). When we are in God’s will, he meets all our needs according to his riches in glory through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19); his peace which passes all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7), and we can do all things through Christ who sustains and strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). There is no better or safer place in all the world to be than in the will of God.

God made us, and he alone knows what most fulfills us. He can do far more with our lives than we can. When we commit ourselves to this purpose, he rewards and uses us for all eternity.

God’s purpose will give your life its greatest purpose.

Martin Luther was an anonymous medieval priest before he started spiritual fishing. By his death he had sparked a Reformation which changed the world, translated the entire Bible, published more than 400 pamphlets and books, written 37 hymns, and printed 2,300 sermons. God’s purpose gave his life purpose.

Billy Graham was an unknown farmer’s son before he started spiritual fishing. And he has shared Christ with more than any person in Christian history. God will use him to touch Dallas this October, and your life and mine.

W. A. Criswell was a little-known preacher in Oklahoma before First Baptist Church asked him to follow George Truett. He felt he had not the stature for the call, and declined it. His wife called the church to accept for him. And thousands were touched by God through him in our city and across the world.

God can do more with your life than you can. Make his purpose yours, and I can testify personally that you’ll always be grateful you did.

How do we fish for men?

So, what does this call require of us? First, our lifestyle commitment.

In ancient Galilee, some people were fishing investors. They bought and sold licenses and gave financial support to fishing. Others were fishing employers. They owned the boats and hired the fishermen. And some were fishing practitioners. They actually caught the fish.

Jesus has enough spiritual investors and employers. He’s looking for practitioners. Spiritual fishing is 24/7, a lifestyle commitment. Not just at church but at work, at school, at home. Spiritual fishing takes commitment.

Second, spiritual fishing may require courage. Sudden squalls threatened fishermen, then and now. Jesus said we would have tribulation in this world (John 16:33). Sharing your faith, touching others spiritual, standing for God requires courage.

Third, spiritual fishing requires training. They had to know how to catch fish. In our text they used the “amphiblaistron,” a net nine feet across weighted on the perimeter which they threw from the boat. Sometimes they used the “sagainai,” the drag net behind their boats. And sometimes they used a fishing line as we do (cf. Matthew 17:27). They were trained to fish.

So we must be trained to fish for men. The same Holy Spirit who saved us will equip us. He gives us spiritual gifts to do all God asks of us, as you’ll learn in Bible study today. You must know and use your spiritual gifts, to be a spiritual fisherman.

Last, spiritual fishing requires humility.

The fisherman must be invisible to the fish, or they’ll not go near his boat. What counts is not the size of his boat, or the beauty of his equipment, but the fish he catches. This is the only measure of success.

So with spiritual fishing. The Master does not measure our success as we do. Not by how many fishermen we can get to join us for discussions of fishing, or how beautiful our boat is, or how advanced our equipment. Not by your status on your lake, or how many boats you own, or how many fishermen you employ. By how many fish you catch. Humility is crucial to spiritual fishing.

How do you measure success?


Make God’s purpose yours and you’ll avoid the Chihuahuas which will eat away your heart and soul, fulfillment and significance. And you’ll share the greatest miracle in all of life.

We celebrated with Bryan and Kerri Stone in the dedication of their son Turner to the Lord. Last week they shared with me their son’s story. Kerri has a rare physical condition which has made her completely unable to conceive a child—there were absolutely no medical options. But God gave them Turner anyway. Their doctor has written them a letter testifying to the miracle that is their child.

If Jesus is your Lord, you are the child of God. And God has written a letter testifying to the miracle that you are his child. The miracle that he could forgive all your sins, save your soul from hell, and give you eternity in his glorious heaven.

Imagine standing by someone in heaven who is there because of you. Because you were a spiritual fisherman. Because you made God’s purpose yours.

Will it happen? That’s up to you.

Life’s “One Thing”

Life’s “One Thing”

Matthew 4:12-17

Dr. Jim Denison

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions? It seems the Babylonians started the tradition 4,000 years ago, resolving to return borrowed farm equipment. I didn’t borrow any farm equipment this year, but nonetheless made a resolution I want to tell you about today. Most of you made one as well.

Why? Something in us knows that we’re not all we should be. Does anyone here believe that you’ve completely arrived? That you are doing all God intends you to do with the life he has given you? That your life has completely fulfilled its God-given purpose?

Can you define your purpose, your reason for being?

It’s imperative that we find our “one thing.” This William Barclay quote is crucial to my life: “A man will never become outstandingly good at anything unless that thing is his ruling passion. There must be something of which he can say, ‘For me to live is this.'” Do you know your “reason to live”?

What should your life purpose be this year? God’s word answers our question today.

Is God your King?

I remember my first sermon well. A Sunday night service at Calvary Baptist Church in Alvin, Texas, outside of Houston. Signs at the city limits tell you that it’s Nolan Ryan’s hometown. To my knowledge, no one has added to the signs, “And place of Jim Denison’s first sermon.” Remembering the sermon, I don’t blame them.

Jesus’ first sermon in Matthew was memorable beyond description. When we open the New Testament, these are the first public words we hear from his lips: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (v. 17).

This is the first request he taught us to pray: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

This was the substance and essence of his preaching and teaching. 108 times in the gospels our Lord spoke of the kingdom of God.

And he promised that one day he would return to consummate this Kingdom: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory” (Matthew 25:31). Revelation promises his glorious rule: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).

So what is this “Kingdom of God?”

Jesus gave us its simplest definition in the Model Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). In other words, God’s kingdom comes wherever his will is done. Wherever he is King, wherever we serve him as our Sovereign and Master, his kingdom comes. When we do his will on earth as it is done in heaven.

The Kingdom of God defines everything that matters in our world.

The Kingdom defines God. He owns all that is, for “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). As creator, he is owner and sovereign of the universe. He can do whatever he pleases, for he is King.

The Kingdom defines us. We are subjects of this King before we are anything else. Every aspect of our lives is governed by this fact. Unlike a democracy, where the government affects us only in limited ways, a monarchy affects its subjects in every way. We are subjects of this King.

The Kingdom defines our world. This planet has fallen into rebellion against its King. Now there is the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world, and they are at war. You and I live in the kingdom of the world, but we live for the Kingdom of God. Our loyalty is to our King alone.

The Kingdom defines our success. Our purpose is to extend the full rule of Christ into as many lives as we can. We must be loyal subjects of our King, and lead as many people as possible to make him their King. This is how he judges and rewards us.

Building the Kingdom of God on earth was Jesus’ “one thing.” It should be ours as well.

How do you make him your King?

So, how do we make God our King? Our church teaches four priorities above all others: love God, live by his word, give to his work, and impact his world. Let’s think about each one in turn.

First, love God and he will be your King. The first and greatest commandment is that we “love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind” (Matthew 22:37). Enthrone him as your King every day, as the day begins. There is room on the throne of your heart for only one person. Put him there every morning.

Say with the Psalmist, “The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and is armed with strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity” (Psalm 93:1-2).

Say with Exodus 15:18: “The Lord will reign for ever and ever.”

Say with Psalm 29:10: “The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever.”

Say with 2 Kings 19:15: “O Lord, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth.”

Say with Zechariah 14:9, “The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name” (Zechariah 14:9).

Have you made him your King today?

Second, live by his word and God will be your King.

In our text, Jesus went to Galilee (v. 13), an area known for its enormous Gentile population and backwards culture. If you and I had been Jesus, we would have settled in Jerusalem, not Galilee. But our Lord went to Galilee in obedience to God’s word. The prophet Isaiah had promised seven centuries earlier that the Messiah would come to “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Isaiah 9:1-2). And so he did.

You make God your King when you live by his word and will as Jesus did. Ask of every decision, what does Scripture say? What does God want? Invite the Spirit to lead you and he will. Live by the word and will of God.

Why? Because your King has a wonderful plan for his subjects: “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). But he can only fulfill this plan when we allow him his way, when we make him our King.

Most of the pain you and I have suffered in life has come from rebellion against the Kingdom of God. Our sins or those of others. His plans are perfect for his subjects. So, be his subject. Live by his word.

Third, give to his work and God will be your King.

Earlier, our text says, “When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison …” (v. 12). A year after Jesus’ baptism, John the Baptist was made a prisoner in the Castle of Machaerus, east of the Dead Sea. He lived there for a year, until he was executed by Herod.

Why was John jailed? Because he spoke the truth about Herod’s adulterous marriage. Because he spoke God’s word in God’s will, whatever the cost. Because he gave everything to his King. And his eternal reward far outweighs its temporal cost.

Our King expects us to give to his Kingdom. Our time, talents, and treasure, our abilities and resources are all at his disposal. He is our Sovereign. We give our lives to his Kingdom’s work.

And last, impact his world and God will be your King. Jesus gave a “great light” to those “living in darkness,” in “the land of the shadow of death” (v. 16). His obedience changed his world. So can ours.

Help us extend the Kingdom of God into Dallas and around the globe. Make this your life purpose this year. And you will serve your King well.


My resolution this new year is to make God my King. King of my life, every part of my life, in every way. I invite you to make this resolution yours.

Here’s the most powerful way I know to make this commitment. On this first Sunday of the new year, I want us to hear again a faith statement we’ve heard before. It’s printed on Bible markers at the doors for you to take and use all year long. This is the way an African pastor, later martyred for his faith, made God his King. Let’s renew our commitment to our King by making his words our own:

I am part of the ‘Fellowship of the Unashamed.’ I have Holy Spirit power. The dye has been cast. I’ve stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of His. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by his presence, lean by faith, love by patience, live by prayer, and labor by power.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal in heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, pander at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, shut up, let up, or slow up until I’ve preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ.

I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go until he comes, give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until he stops. And when he comes for his own, he’ll have no problems recognizing me—my colors will be clear.

Is God your King? Did you enthrone him today? Are you living by his word and will? Are you giving fully to his Kingdom’s work? Is your life extending his Kingdom into your world? Have you made God’s “one thing” yours?

If not, there’s time today to obey Jesus’ sermon: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Repent of putting your ambitions or possessions or pride on the throne of your life. Of putting yourself or another person where only God belongs.

Repent. Get off the throne of your life. And put Jesus on it. Crown him your King today. Bow before his Lordship. Make him your Sovereign Lord. Do it in humble gratitude. For your King wore a crown of thorns for you. He chose for his throne your cross. The Supper we receive today shows the price he paid to make you his subject and his child.

He chose to become your Savior. Only you can choose him to be your King. The God of the universe is waiting for your decision, right now.

What You See Is What You Get

What You See Is What We Get

Matthew 4.20-22 / Luke 5.1-11

Dr. Jim Denison

William Barclay said, “Many people saw steam raise the lid of a kettle; only James Watt went on to think of a steam engine. Many people saw an apple fall; only Isaac Newton went on to think out the law of gravity. The earth is full of miracles for the eye that sees” (Barclay, Luke 57).

Others saw fishermen; Jesus saw apostles. A preacher for Pentecost; a writer for his Gospel, his letters, his Revelation. Others saw a Galilean itinerant rabbi, a small-town carpenter; these fishermen saw God.

The Bible says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18, KJV). Some years ago I learned this fact: I am not what I think I am. I am not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am. Almost always that’s true for me, and for you.

But there’s a better way. The Bible shows us today what God thinks you are. When you become what God thinks you are … well, let me show you.

Fishing with God (Luke 5:1-11)

Have you ever been fishing with God? Peter did, and so did his brother Andrew. So did their business partners and friends, James and John. So should we today.

In Luke 5 we find Jesus with Peter. Remember, they’ve spent a year together. Now they go fishing together.

Peter and his partners have caught nothing all night, the best time to fish. But when Jesus tells him to let down the nets, he agrees. “Master,” he calls Jesus (v. 5), their word for teacher; this fact will be important in a moment.

Almost instantly, they catch so many fish that Peter and Andrew must call James and John for help. Still the massive catch threatens to capsize their boats.

Now Peter knows he’s not just in the presence of a great teacher and healer, but God himself.

“Go away from me, Lord,” he cries (v. 8). Now he calls Jesus not Master but Lord—kurios, their word for Emperor, God.

Why? “I am a sinful man!” (v. 8b). Remember Isaiah’s cry in the presence of the holy God: “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5). When we see God as he is, in that light we see ourselves as we are. Sins, stains, dirt, and all.

Now comes the good news.

Jesus replies, “Don’t be afraid” (v. 10). Be assured of God’s grace and forgiveness. The Bible says, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

In fact, Jesus loves Peter so much that he invites him to join Jesus in his divine work on earth: “From now on you will catch men” (v. 10b). As you caught fish—more than you could imagine, now you’ll catch men. Billions, in fact.

They’ve been fishing with God. Now they are called to fish for God.

Their response? “They pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him” (v. 11).

Matthew’s gospel gives us more details. Peter and Andrew left their nets; James and John left their father Zebedee, and their boat. “Immediately,” v. 22 says.

To go fish for men. To help people follow Jesus. They moved from the Sea of Galilee to the sea of souls, from lake to lives. To use their gifts and abilities, their resources and relationships, to help everyone they could to know God as King and live forever in his Kingdom. To change eternity. And they did.

Fishing for God (Matthew 4:20-22)

See the boldness of their vision: “immediately” they made Jesus’ call their lives. No ambivalence, waffling, questioning. Instant obedience.

See the sacrifice of their vision: examine what they gave up to make Jesus’ vision theirs. They sacrificed their profession and their prosperity. They left behind their family and friends. In fact, Peter would later say to Jesus, “We have left everything to follow you!” (Matthew 19.27).

See the courage of their vision. They followed Jesus’ vision with no idea where it would lead them, no five-year plan for their future. They “went out not knowing” (Hebrews 11:8), with nothing but their courageous faith.

See the results of their vision.

Peter would preach the first sermon in church history. Later the Galilean fisherman would pastor the church in Rome herself.

John would write the Gospel and letters which bear his name, and the Revelation of Jesus Christ. 20 centuries of pilgrims would journey to his exiled cave on Patmos, and would worship his best friend and Lord.

Today we name churches for these fishermen, and place their pictures in places of worship. We read the books of the Bible they wrote, and meet God in their words and lives. Imagine God using you to do this, and you sense the surprise they must feel this morning in heaven.

Jim Elliott, the missionary martyred by the Auca Indians he tried to reach, wrote in his journal this now-famous life motto: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.” These men wrote that motto across their lives. And they were not the last.

Fishermen before us

We began this year with Jesus’ Kingdom vision, and learned last week that he calls us to the same Kingdom work. Now, how can we be as bold, as sacrificial, as courageous in our vision for our lives and church as these disciples were?

There’s a way, and our leadership has asked me to announce it to you.

First, let’s gain some historical perspective. Jesus commissioned his church to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). He told us to begin with our Jerusalem, and work until we have reached the “ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

He showed us how: meet needs in his name, earning the right to meet spiritual needs with his love. As he fed the crowds so he could feed them spiritually, opened blind eyes so he could open blind hearts, so he calls us to meet the needs of our community, so we can meet their soul’s need for god.

So it was in 1939 that 70 brave souls gathered in the University Park Elementary School to begin the Park Cities Baptist Church. No church sponsored them. They simply believed that “there ought to be a church” in the Park Cities, and pledged their lives to reaching this community with the gospel.

Their first pastor matched their bold, sacrificial, and courageous vision. Dr. Alton Reed left a thriving congregation of more than 1,500 for a congregation of 142 meeting in an elementary school. But God led him and his family to join his vision for this church and this city.

They purchased the home at 4201 Lovers Lane, now the administration building of the Highland Park Independent School District. They planned a massive capital campaign and building project for that land, to commence in June of 1944. Remember what was happening in America in 1944? But part of the land was unavailable to the church.

So they bought 7½ acres of land for $15,000 on Northwest Highway—as far north as you could go on a paved highway in Dallas. And they built this campus. A sanctuary large enough for all who would come; the first church gymnasium in Dallas; outstanding facilities for preschoolers and children.

Over time, Park Cities would give more money to missions than any other Baptist church in Texas, some say in the country. And God would extend her global reach literally around the world.

All of this began with some spiritual fishermen and women who left their boats and nets and church families to come here. To start a church where there was no church, in an elementary school, without a pastor. Would we be that visionary today? My friends, we must be.

Fishing today

You see, the world has changed. Southern Baptist Sunday schools grew by 27% in the 1930s, 31% in the 1940s, and 57% in the 1950s. But they grew by 2% in the 1960s, minus 1% in the 1970s, and minus 8% in the 1980s. A recent demographics study indicates that our church is now located in that part of Dallas with the highest percentage of people who say they have “no faith involvement,” as much as 46% of the population. 130,000 people live within three miles of our church; total average worship attendance for the churches in this radius is 14,576; so at least 100,000 living right around us are not in church today.

And so we must find new ways to fish for this generation. New ways to meet the needs of our community effectively, thus meeting their spiritual needs.

Our immediate community has no recreational facility.

There is no senior adult center in our community, yet the senior adult population is exploding around us.

There is no community center or public library in this immediate community.

Our church has a very significant parking and traffic impact on our neighbors, and this issue must be addressed.

Meanwhile, we are experiencing enormous growth and space needs with our congregation. Our preschool and nurseries are completely out of space. Our children’s space is at capacity in the second hour on Sunday morning. Our youth are up as much at 50% from last year; 375 are enrolled in next week’s DiscipleNow, the largest number in our history; and they meet in six locations on Sunday morning. Areas of our adult and senior adult ministries have significant space needs.

And so I am privileged to announce to you a strategic initiative our leaders have titled, “Continuing the Vision.” A capital project which will meet each of these needs and build bridges to our community for the gospel. An initiative which will enable us to reach lost people more effectively than ever before.

The project would create a three-story facility on our existing east parking lot. The first floor will be dedicated to preschool and youth. The second and third floors will be a double gym with a jogging track, and aerobics and recreational facilities. Our library would move to the first floor of this building and be available to the community. The Howard Center would move to this facility, with new and larger classrooms for its curriculum.

Beneath the new building would be a three-floor underground parking lot which will give us a net increase of 575 parking spaces, greatly minimizing our traffic impact in the community.

Our existing gymnasium would be extended 40 feet to the north and become a Great Hall, seating 600 for dinner and 1,200 for conferences. The area below would be fully excavated and become a new Senior Adult center.

Colonnades would be added to the exterior of the Sanctuary for inclement weather traffic flow, and offices would be congregated in the north tower to return current offices to Sunday school space.

Now, let’s measure this initiative by the vision of those who founded our church.

Is it bold? Yes, but they began a church with no history, no facility, no pastor, no support. They were ready to initiate at least as great a capital project in 1944.

Is it sacrificial? Yes, it will cost approximately $35 million, though $2.5 million has already been given without any solicitation whatsoever. But those who founded our church sacrificed their church homes, their faith families, and sacrificed greatly their finances to build the campus we appreciate so much today.

Is it courageous? We’re stepping out by faith, but so did they.

And so did the first spiritual fishermen Jesus called. We must be as bold, sacrificial, and courageous as they were. If we are, God will use us to reach our world, as he used them to reach theirs.


Today’s announcement is about building the Kingdom of God. This is not about our will, but his. This is not our church, but his. We will seek his face, his will, together. And we will be the spiritual fishermen he has called us to be.

Over the next two weeks every Sunday school department will be given detailed presentations and explanations of this project. Open forums will enable every member of our church to know the project and ask any questions you like. Community groups have already been organized in fourteen homes to present the project to our neighbors; a large such gathering will take place this Tuesday on our campus as well.

We hope to be in position to vote as a congregation on this initiative during the weekend of February 16-17, to apply for needed zoning and permits immediately thereafter, and to begin the fund-raising dimension of the work after Easter.

Meanwhile, let us pray. Let us seek God’s face, his will. For our church and for each of our lives personally. Let us seek God’s vision, for it is far greater than any we can achieve ourselves.

These fishermen could not see how their faith would change their world. 70 people meeting in an elementary school could not see how their faith would change our lives. We cannot see how our faith in 2002 will change the generations to come. But it will.

My friend and mentor Dr. John Haggai once spoke words, which challenge me to this day: “Let us attempt something so great that it is doomed to fail unless God be in it.”