It's been a joy and a privilege to spend this week with you guys. I love this network and I love this week. It's my honor this afternoon to introduce to you guys our speaker for today. I've been to many conferences and I hear a lot of introductions, and I'm cynical enough at the end of those introductions, I think, I wonder if half of what that guy said is true about that guy he's introducing.
I'm going to tell you right now that half of what I'm going to say is true. The other half is pastoral conjecture. I am delighted and honored to introduce Jamin Stinziano who is one of the founding pastors of Summit Church in Southwest Florida.
There's much I can say about Jamin, but I thought it would be good to recruit the help of his six children. His five girls and his one boy. His daughter said, "I love him because he plays tennis with me and because he watches baseball. I love him because he always surprises us and dances with us. I love when he watches the Yankees score a home run and he just goes crazy. I love him because he takes care of us and makes us laugh. Sometimes he tells us really good jokes. Sometimes."
His other daughter said, "He comes home happy to see us with hugs and kisses and gifts."
His son said, "He's funny because he tells waiters he's allergic to pickles so they won't put pickles on his food."
His oldest daughter said, "Dad is an amazing teacher because he believes everything he preaches about and lives it out. He inspires us and loves us no matter what."
I can tell you that Jamin is not only a gifted communicator, a brilliant theologian, but he's also a faithful husband and pastor. It is my privilege to call him my friend. I am also his neighbor. We get a lot of each other. This is the brother that has taught me more about Jesus than I could say anyone in my life has ever had.
Can you welcome with me Dr. Jamin Stinziano.
Jamin Stinziano: Thanks. You've got to be kidding me. I wasn't emotional before I came up here, now I am. Although that last song we just sang was, oh, such beautiful truth in that. Someday soon we'll be in glory, right? Such good news for all of us. I'm so thankful to be here with you today, and certainly to hear those things that my kids wrote to Orlando. I'm sure that even less than half of it is true.
I do ask for no pickles, and I always tell them I'm allergic, and my kids call me out for lying every single time. One time I asked for no lettuce on my burger because I was allergic to lettuce, and could I have a side salad instead of the fries? I was caught.
Anyways, so thankful for the opportunity to be here. My name is Jamin Stinziano. I am one of the pastors at summit church down in southwest Florida. That's Summit church, not to be confused with JD Greer's "The" Summit Church, like "The" Ohio state university, right?
I don't like Ohio State, it was just ... what I was trying to communicate is those people that are like, we are "the" ones ... that's what I was trying to communicate.
We're summit church and people ask us all the time why ... are you part of JD's network, we'll say no, we're not part of that. They'll say, well certainly you're connected, because your website is summitlife.com, and I guess JD has a podcast called Summit Life. We say no, no we just got the website first.
Then they say, well certainly, you're involved in some way because you live in southwest Florida, and there's no mountains, certainly a church called Summit planted you, and we shake our heads and say no, we were just that stupid. It sounded like a cool name at the time, 14 years ago.
Orlando is part of a team with myself and some other folks, other families that planted summit 14 years ago. By god's grace, we get to still do ministry together with other great friends and partners. One of our great joys is that we get to be a part of this network. I love Sojourn Network.
I was thinking about it when Joel was speaking earlier this morning. I thought Joel just did a great job talking about what it looks like to plant ... absolutely. To plant as partners. I was thinking about it, when he was talking about it, why we joined Sojourn.
We planted 14 years ago, Sojourn network wasn't around. In fact, networks weren't a big thing at the time. When we joined a couple of years ago, it was because we had met churches in the Sojourn network. Churches that are here today, Churches that we wanted to learn from. Literally, we had been about ten years in, and we had no idea how to move forward and what it looked like to be faithful. It felt like every day was a new day, we had never been down that path before, we still feel that way sometimes.
To be able to look at other churches who were a little bit further down the road than us and to be able to learn from them and to glean from them. We're here at Sojourn community church, Sojourn east, I think of the guys at Sojourn, the guys and ladies and how they welcomed us in. I want to thank you churches, Sojourn folks, I want to thank you specifically. I think of Mike and Brad and Kevin and Jonah and Lyle and Jamal and the rest of the team. The way that you've taught us, it's a true picture of partnership, and I'm really, really thankful for that. I hope that you feel that as well.
If you're part of this network, I hope that you feel the access to these partnerships and to these relationships. We aren't just a bunch of people who get together every once in awhile, either up here in Louisville or down in Florida somewhere. We're a group of people that are linked together by the gospel, first and foremost. We're part of the body of Christ, that's what we'll talk about here today.
Then, there are shared convictions that we have. There's a uniqueness about this group that I hope that you feel the beauty of what it means to be a part of this. Some of my dearest friends are here in this room, and I just want to let you know that I love you, and I'm thankful for you.
If you have a bible, you can turn to John, chapter 17. That's where we will be today. WE're going to look at some of Jesus' high priestly prayer. Poor Joel, Joel did a great job this morning but he told me he was originally going to preach John 17, and then heard that I was doing that. He was gracious in allowing me to have this text. He did reference this morning and really set us up, really in a helpful way to be able to now talk about what it looks like.
We've been talking about planting. What does it look like now, to think about collaboration? Kingdom collaboration, but not just with the folks who are in this room. Alright?
It's easy, I'll say it's easy. It's easy to come to a room like this and to gather together with men and women that we agree with, right? We mostly agree with each other on things like doctrine and salvation and Ecclesiology. Even like liturgy and how we do things in our context. It's a totally different thing to then leave this place and recognize that as a representative of this group of churches, we now go back as a part of the greater body of Christ with a responsibility to collaborate, yes, with those that we're in close agreement with, but also with other churches and other pastors who may not be a part of our tribe.
Maybe they're not part of the denominations we're a part of. Maybe they're not part of the networks that we're a part of, but they love Jesus, and they preach Jesus. Men, women and children are coming to trust in Jesus in their churches.
Today, the challenge for us as we look at John 17 is to consider, okay, what does it look like to partner locally for the sake of kingdom collaboration, ultimately because we want to see gospel saturation take place in our geography. I would imagine if I were to ask you, "Do you want to see gospel saturation take place in your geography, you would say "yes. Absolutely. No doubt about it."
Then, if we were to all talk about how we're going after that, probably most of our conversations would focus on our one church. How are we doing it? While that's not wrong, it's only part of it. I want you to ask yourself some questions, I want you to ... excuse me. I want you to think about some things.
I want you to think about your local geography this afternoon. Wherever it is that you live, maybe it's a city, a town, a geography, for us we are summit church, we're in southwest Florida, that's what we call our geography.
We're in the Ft Myers, Naples area. As far south as you can go on the west coast of Florida, that's where we are. 1.1 million people in southwest Florida. That's where god has put us in this time in history, for such a time as this, so we would be a part of the earth being filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, back in chapter two.
I want you to just think about your geography. As you think about your geography, I want you to ask yourself this question. What does God see and think about your geography? When God looks at your city, when God looks at your town when he looks at your region, when he looks at whatever it is that you are in, what does he see and what does he think? What does he want for the people of that geography?
What is God's desire for them? I want you to think about your own church in your geography. Maybe you were already thinking about that. I want you to think about your own Church. For me, I'm thinking about summit church, in southwest Florida, 1.1 million people. WE're set there in this time in history for God's purposes.
I want you to ask yourself this question. If God was writing a letter to the church in your geography, who would it be addressed to? If God was writing, and I'm not saying there was new revelation at all, please don't communicate that to anyone, but if God chose, in his wisdom, to communicate to the church in your city, town, region, who would it go to?
All we have to do, we have to consider, when God was doing this as scripture was being given to us, we recognize that he was speaking to geographies, wasn't he? I know it's different and the churches were just being set up in those places and because of history and because of the growth of the church there's many churches in the same place.
I can't get away from these words as I read through the scriptures. Just hear some of the ways that Paul and the other authors communicated. "Romans, to all those in Rome, who are loved by God and called to be saints."
For the church in Corinth, "For the church of God that is in Corinth," Galatians, "To the churches of Galatia." Ephesians, "To the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus." Philippians, Dave spoke out of Philippians last night, did a great job. Paul writes, "Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi."
We could go on through all of the letters. OF course, the letters that are written to individuals, like Timothy and Titus, they aren't addressed to regions, but most of the epistles are addressed to certain regions. Not just that, but you go into the book of Revelation, when God wants to communicate to the churches in certain geographies. Again, he communicates who they are by naming the place that they are in.
He talks about the church in Ephesus. He talks about the angel of the church Smyrna. The angel of the church in Purgama. The angel of the church in Thyatira. I asked you to think about this question. If God was writing a letter to the church in your geography, who would it be addressed to?
I would venture to guess that none of us in this room are either ignorant enough or arrogant enough to say that it would be our church. I'm not going to go on record and say, "God would write that letter to Summit Church in southwest Florida."
None of us would say it, but some of us might be ignorant enough or arrogant enough to think it. DO you know what I mean by that? We would never say it, because we know what that communicates. We would never put that out there, but somewhere inside of our hearts, we may believe that when God looks at the place where we are, we are the ones that he's most excited about.
Certainly, we want to be faithful, and we want to follow what scripture says and we want to do it the best way we know how. I also think many of us are also trapped in this place where we actually believe that we're doing it right, and we're going to do it our way, and we're going to go in this direction and we are god's gift to this geography.
What we want to talk about today is, what does it look like to collaborate, to partner locally, for gospel saturation? Some of you, you have the benefit of being in geographies that have a lot of Sojourn network churches in that area. Maybe even pretty close by. We don't have that.
We have Jeremiah down in Miami. We're so thankful for what god's doing in their work over in Miami. We have the guys up at Four Oaks and what they're doing up in Tallahassee, but when we look at our geography, we're forced to actually look outside of these lines to consider what it looks like to partner for gospel saturation in our geography.
What I would want to put before you is that I believe every single one of us in some way or another need to wrestle with these things. We need to struggle through these understandings and hopefully go home stirred in some way, to at least press deeper into collaboration and the unity that comes because of the gospel.
Final question I want you to ask before we move forward is what is it going to take for the knowledge of the glory of the lord to fill your geography? It's going to take more churches, isn't it? Joel talked about that this morning. It's going to take your church partnering, by planting more churches. It's also going to take all of God's people in your geography to accomplish the things that he desires for his body.
With that all being said, let's go to the lord in prayer. Father, we thank you for who you are this afternoon, and we ask that you would speak to us now. God, just shape us by your word as we consider what it is that Jesus prayed for us. God, that we would take this encouragement to actually wrestle through these things, and that we would leave this place, at least willing to engage in the conversation.
God, there are other churches and other denominations and other networks all around us. God, for those that preach the gospel, the good news that Jesus is the only way, the only truth, the only life. That salvation comes through him and him alone, god, for those churches, we pray your richest blessings over them. God we ask that you would empower pastures all over the united states and all over the world for the mission that you've called them to. Father I ask that you would show us what it looks like to play our part, faithful, small fish in a really big pond. Faithful to be and to do the things that you've called us to.
Father we thank you for the words that we've heard already, and we ask that you would continue to speak to us in this time. It's in Jesus' name, that we pray together, amen."
Many of us, in looking at collaboration would probably think that we're doing it, but there's a difference between collaboration and cooperation. I don't want to assume that everybody here is not collaborating locally. I'm sure you are. I want to just be challenged even in our understanding of collaboration and cooperation.
If my wife Vicky and I were struggling in our relationship, we lived in the same house, but we existed as if we didn't really care about each other, as if we didn't really love one another. We agreed, okay, you're going to sleep in that room. I'm going to sleep in this room. You're going to do dinner at this time, I'm going to dinner at this time. You can hang out with the kids then, I'll hang out with the kids then.
You would look at that, and you would say, there's a whole ton of dysfunction. At the least, there's dysfunction in that home. And thought we might be cooperating, because we've agreed on certain things, we're not collaborating in the home. We're not working together to build this culture of family in the home. The same is true for, not only the church but it even goes into business. In the Harvest Business Review, Ron Ashkenas says this, and I thought it was helpful for understanding where we want to go this afternoon. He says, "everyone seems to agree that collaboration across functions is critical for major projects and initiatives."
This is in the business world, but it applies to everything else, as well. "The reality, however, is that meshing the skills and resources of different departments, each focused on its own distinct targets, to achieve a larger organizational goal is much easier said than done.
In fact, it takes much more than people being willing to get together, share information and cooperate. It more importantly involves making tough decisions and trade offs about what and what not to do. Having worked with hundreds of managers over the years, I've seen that very few admit to being poor collaborates. Mostly because they mistake their cooperativeness for being collaborative.
Indeed, most managers are cooperative. They're friendly and willing to share information, but what they lack is the ability and flexibility to align their goals and resources with others in real time."
What we're going to do right now, we're going to look at the biblical foundation of collaboration. What I hope to do is talk about the biblical foundation of collaboration, then talk about a vision for what that could look like in our context, and then I want to talk about some practical steps of moving forward, okay?
As we look at the biblical foundations, what we're going to look at is the conviction for it, what is it anchored in and what's the purpose behind all of it? Let's look at John chapter 17, verses 20 through 23. This is Jesus' high priestly prayer.
In the high priestly prayer, we have all sorts of things going on. You have Jesus talking about what the father has given to the son. You have Jesus talking about what he has given to believers, what the son is asking the father to do, and also what Jesus wants for his followers and the rest of the world. It can be broken down into three parts, as you know. Jesus praying for himself, at the beginning of the prayer. Then he goes in the middle of the prayer and he starts praying for his disciples, the ones who were there, with him in that place.
Then, at the end, Jesus' attention, it goes to a different place. It goes down the corridor of history to you and to me. He says this. Verse 20, "I do not ask for these only, meaning those who were there with him, but also for those who will believe in me through their word."
Let's just pause for a moment and try to grasp the reality that Jesus is literally praying for you and for me in that moment. That you are in Jesus' mind. That I am in Jesus' mind that the church is in Jesus' mind. One author says this, Jesus is poised between the conclusion of his earthly task and the glory awaiting him at the Father's side.
Like a mountaineer gazing out from an eminence across the expanding vista, as range succeeds range into the distant horizon. Jesus gazes out across the rolling centuries. He beholds and embraces the harvest of the ages. The church of the redeemer gathered from every nation, people, language and tribe. He is praying for us.
"I do not ask for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one."
That word one, I looked it up, I studied it. It literally means one thing. One. He says, "That they would all be one."
Just as you father, are in me, and I in you. Here's Jesus empowered by the full presence of the holy spirit, praying to the father, you see this beautiful picture of the trinity in operation here at this moment. He says, "My prayer for them is that just like you and I are, they would be too.
That they may all be one. Just as you father are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us. That the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me, I've given to them that they may be one. Even as we are one. I in them, and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and love them even as you loved me."
This is a text that's talking about unity, isn't it? It's talking about the unity of God's people. Jesus' prayer and his desire for those that would believe in the message of the apostles. Praying that they would be unified, and here we are, talking about partnership and collaboration that flows from the unity that we have in Christ Jesus.
We know that because of the work of Christ on our behalf, the barriers, they've been broken down and we are now all unified as one in Christ. Jesus knows this and he's praying vision in this moment. He's dreaming about this moment, when his people would actually work together as one.
When they would recognize what it means to be a part of a body. Not just one, local expression, but the whole. Before you think that I'm advocating for one, large institutional church, I'm not at all. There's a lot of beauty in the uniqueness and the differences in local churches and denominations and networks and all of those things. I really do. God, in his providence has brought about a beautiful harvest through those things.
We can't argue with the fact that when Jesus was thinking about us, he was thinking about our unity and what that would look like to the world around us. Some biblical foundations, as I see them, you might see some more, the first is this, it's the conviction. The collaboration is one of the things, just one of them, but it's one of the things that Jesus prays for his body.
Again, I know it might seem like I'm belaboring the point, but just consider this, that the son of God, God in the flesh, prayed this. There was a conviction inside of him that this must be so. He prayed it to the father. Earlier in verse 9 of John 17 he had prayed the same things for the disciples who were there with him. He says, "I'm praying for them. I'm not praying for the world, but for those whom you've given me, for they're yours."
Jesus praying for you. Jesus praying for me. Jesus filled with the conviction that this was an absolutely necessary piece of the gospel being put on display to a watching world. The question that I have for myself and for our church, is that if this is a conviction, then why do we opt out of it so much?
You see, when it becomes a conviction, a biblical conviction, there's no room to opt out of it. We look and we say, "Okay, God's word says that you care for orphans and widows."
It's not like we have an option to step into that or not. It's there. It's a conviction, it's a mandate. We're going to do it. We're going to try to figure out what it looks like. Tells husbands to love their wives. It's not an option to wiggle out of that. In the same way, when he prays for us that we would be one, and when this actually becomes a conviction of the people of God, there's no way to wiggle out of it.
I'm speaking to you not as someone who does this really well. Just going to be honest with you. As a church, for 14 years we have tried over and over and over again to partner locally. Recently, you know there was a hurricane named Irma, wasn't the only hurricane, we had Harvey as well that did so much damage in Texas and our brothers and sisters in the Houston area here. WE had a hurricane that went through our area, Irma.
Irma did massive damage in our area. It was so exciting to see the church of Jesus Christ actually mobilized, stepping out and ministering way before the government or any other organization showed up. That's a beautiful thing, and I actually believe that that took place because of the work of the spirit that's been going on for years in southwest Florida. Not just southwest Florida, but other places as well. The work of the spirit that's been taking places, as pastors have loved on each other, called on each other, prayed for each other, done all of these things.
It was just a natural thing to step in to serving together when the need came about. The issue with collaboration is, so many of us anchor our collaboration in humanitarian efforts or good things, which are all wonderful. We do backpack drives, we help with Irma, we fill pantries. We do orphan initiatives, we do all of those things, but those things can't be the end game. Those things can't be the goal.
The goal I believe, biblically speaking must be that the glory of the lord would be put on display, that the knowledge of the glory of the lord, in its redemptive purposes, would fill the earth for us in our language, it's that every man, woman and child, and I know that that's an over statement, but that every man woman and child would have repeated opportunities to see the gospel, hear the gospel, respond to the gospel.
To conviction for us. When something like Irma happens, we can't wiggle out of it. We've also got to remember what the conviction is. Are we helping people just to help them? No. It goes way beyond that to gospel saturation. Gospel saturation can only take place if all of Christ's people are a part of it.
So many of us, we are convinced that we are going to reach 1.1 million people on our own. You're not going to. Could God do it? Yes, absolutely. God could do it, but I don't think that's how he's purposed it. He's put you in one local congregation, in one local context to be a part of a much larger move of what he's doing.
YOu're a part of Sojourn network, or you're aligned with the things that this network believes, and that's a wonderful thing. That's one part of his body. What does it look like for you and for I, me to go home with a conviction that says, if Jesus prayed this for us, then we've got to care about it way more than we care about it right now.
Makes me think of Ephesians chapter four. Paul's writing to the church in Ephesus and he says, "I therefore a prisoner of the lord, I urge you," this is coming from the gut for Paul, "I'm urging you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you've been called. With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the spirit and the bond of peace."
Before I go forward in that text, let me just tell you something. For 14 years, nothing has been more frustrating at Summit church than trying to work with other churches. Have you ever tried to work with other churches? It's often times the most frustrating and infuriating thing in all of the world. Here's Paul saying, "I'm urging you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you've been called," and here's what's that looks like. Humility.
Joel said it earlier, if you're going to partner to plant churches, it requires humility. Humility, gentleness, patience. "But they're so stubborn and they don't believe the right things!"
Okay. Patience. Bearing with one another in love. Eager to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of piece. Paul says there's one body and one spirit. Just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call. One lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all through all and in all.
Is it a conviction for you today? Do you believe that part of walking in your calling is to actually live postured towards other brothers and sisters in your local geography in this way? I'm not talking about partnering or collaborating in ways that cause you to compromise the gospel. That would be, that would not be a wise decision.
For those churches that hold up the gospel, again that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, that no man comes to the father, no person comes to the father, except through trusting in him, through those churches, are you willing to root for those churches? To cheer for those churches, to serve those churches? To come along side of those churches, to partner with those churches, for the sake of the advancement of the kingdom of God, darkness being pushed back in your local geography.
If it's a conviction, you'll do something about it. If it's not, you won't. We had a meeting this past week at Summit. We're supposed to have 30 people show up. Five showed up outside of our team. Five, we were so discouraged. We want to give up. We've given up before, let's give up again. It's not going to work, it's just not going to happen, but there's a conviction.
There's a conviction that says, even though that's the way it is right now, that's not the way it's supposed to be. Will you press into that more? Because of the second thing in the biblical foundation. Collaboration, the anchor for us, collaboration reflects the glory in the nature of God. It literally puts the glory of God on display.
There's all these clauses in this text, you know that, like connecting things, the henna clause, or whatever you want to call it, where it says something and then there's this clause that says that ti's so that this happens?
What we see is that the conviction is always anchored in what Jesus believes about the trinity. What he believes about the nature and the glory of God. He's saying, "This is what I want, Father, this is what I'm praying for, that as our people are one, that the whole world would see that you and I are one. That the trinity is on display in all of these things. When people look at the body of Christ, they see the glory of the God who has put that body together!"
Right? Does this mean that we have to sacrifice our individuality? Is it telling us to lay these things down? No, absolutely not. In the manifold wisdom of God, he brings together this multifaceted people. This diverse group of people. I love what Kent Hughes says about this text. He says, "one of the glories of the gospel is that it hallows our individuality. It consecrates it and allows that to be special. It hallows our individuality, even while bringing us into unity."
That's what happens with multi cultural unity, that's what happens when men and women come together. It's what happens when other churches come together. It's what happens in the plurality of leadership in the churches, that it hallows our individuality. I'm gifted in a certain way for a certain purpose here in this context, but it brings us together in unity.
As Jesus is talking, Jesus isn't saying "I am you, father."
He's noticing the difference. But he's saying, "Even though there is a uniqueness about us, we're one. We are the same. What the world is aching for, you know this just like I do, is a picture of who God really is."
One of the things that god has ordained for his people, all of Christ's people, is that they would live as one in their local congregation, yes, but even outside of their local congregation, in their local tribes and their national tribes and denominations and networks. That the church of Jesus Christ would be one, and put the beauty and the splendor and the majesty of God on display.
That's the purpose, right? You have the conviction. Jesus prays it for us, we better be praying for it. The anchor, it's the nature and the glory of who God is, then it's the purpose. As Joel mentioned earlier, that it communicated the gospel to a watching world. That there are people in our neighborhoods that see a southern baptist church and a presbyterian church. That see a Sojourn network church and an arc church. That see an assemblies of God church and a non denominational church.
There's a world that sees all of that and says, "Why are they different from one another."
They must not believe the same things. No, we don't all believe the same things. I'm so thankful for works like Mohler's Theological Triage, where there's these first level things. There's second level things, there's third level things.
When we get to those second and third levels, would we be willing to collaborate and partner, not compromising on what we believe, but recognizing that if someone else believes different from us in those areas, that doesn't necessarily hinder the mission of God in our community.
Could the assemblies of God and the nondenominational churches work together? Could the baptist and the Presbyterians work together? Could the Sojourn network, and Acts 29 and Arc networks work together? Absolutely? Why? Because God has ordained it. Because he's actually said, "When my people live as one, it puts me on display."
Kent Hughes again says, "Christian Unity is important, because the world's pursuit of unity is futile. When genuine unity is authentically demonstrated, it is irresistible. Real unity between Christians is a super natural work, and it points to a supernatural explanation. Jesus Christ in us."
Tim Hawks, a friend from Texas says, "The unity of the body is the missing apologetic that the world needs to see. The world is aching and longing to see who God is. God has purposed that they would know who he is through the oneness of his people."
What's the vision for it? Got to move quickly here. The vision is for collaboration that leads to saturation. We have a conviction, it's anchored in the glory and the nature of who god is, we understand our purpose, but then what are we going after? Just to give you two terms here, the first being gospel collaboration, I thought Dave did a wonderful job unpacking what collaboration is last night.
I, in full agreement with him, am wanting to just put forward even this definition of what that could look like, to take risks on messy people and to share power, to do all of the things that he talked about last night. That God's people would actually take the responsibility to partner with different expressions of his body for the gospel saturation of a place.
Now, if a church doesn't believe the gospel, they're not a part of his body, okay? Let's evangelize that. If they believe the gospel, then am I willing to partner? It's going to look different with each one, isn't it? Some of us, we might plant churches together. I think of our Church, we planted a church together with a reformed baptist church in our area.
We think differently, we have different methodology, different philosophy on things, but man, it was a beautiful experience. YOu're going to see that. Others, you're going to plant with other denominations and other networks, and it's going to be okay. You're going to figure that out. Others, you're going to say, okay, what would it look like to put the gospel on display through serving the community in different ways?
It's going to look different for all of us, but it's god's people partnering with different expressions of his body for the gospel saturation of a place. I know, some of us we're church planters. We're talking about partnering with others, and you're keep saying, "I don't have the bandwidth to think about anything outside of the responsibilities that I have right now."
Anyone know what I'm talking about there? I get that. I get that. Allow a moment like this, or a time like this when you gather together with brothers and sisters to stir your soul in such a way where you go home and say, "I don't have time, but if it is a conviction, which maybe it is, maybe it's not, you've got to determine whether it is or not. IF it's a conviction, then I'm going to pray. "God, would you give me margin."
God, would you show me how to do this? Would you bring me into relationship with other churches? Would you open up doors? I don't know how to do it. Open up doors. We've been talking about being in the downtown area of Ft Myers. We've been talking about what it looks like to be a part of what God's doing there. It's again, an ethnically diverse area.
We are in the suburbs, our other congregations, part of the process in that is actually meeting the churches in that area. Meeting the pastors in that area. Talking to them, hearing from them, what's God doing in your location? How can we come along side of you? Pray for you, partner with you.
I'm just thinking, Dave and I, we're meeting one night, and we're hanging out, and Dave takes a phone call, which Dave does sometimes, he takes a phone call, and he's talking to someone. The guy's sitting right across form me, and we just start talking. I'm thinking, in this moment, I should probably share the gospel with this guy because we're sitting right face to face. I never do that.
WE're just sitting there, and I ask him his name. Turns out, he's a pastor of the most influential primarily black church in our downtown area. We never would have met. Almost impossible to get a meeting with him, but God in his providence has us sitting right there. Right across from each other. Dave taking a phone call. Me, feeling like I should evangelize this man, so we can actually learn, wait a minute. Maybe the lord's opening up a door for us to work together and to collaborate together.
To take it from, wasn't that a special thing to meet and talk and share, but then to actually move to the next place and say, "We've got to get together. It would not be faithful if we did not move forward on this."
What's it look like for you to pray, God, would you show me what that looks like, because you want to see gospel saturation take place. Whether you use that language or not, I don't care. We're heavily influenced as a church from saturation church planting international, an organization we work with, Christ Together, which is a network that we've been a part of, and helped start.
We're heavily influenced by that language. You call it whatever you want. For us, we're looking and we're saying, humanitarian aid, that's not at the center. Hurricane relief, that's not at the center, because sooner or later, the people are going to be helped. That need goes away. We're going to go back to our silos of churches.
When gospel saturation stays at the forefront, we know that until Jesus comes back and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is lord, until that day, we've got to give ourselves to collaborating towards that end, gospel saturation.
Gospel saturation is the church, not just one church, but the church owning the lostness of an identified people, in a defined place, insuring that every man, woman and child has repeated opportunities to see, hear and respond to the good news of Jesus Christ. That's something I can get up in the morning for.
I can get up in the morning and be stirred by that, yes. That the people and the place where you've put me, father, would see your nature and your glory put on display through my life as an individual through my family, through my relationships, through our church, through your body in southwest Florida.
Some practical steps, we've got to end. One of the things that we do that's just been so life giving for us, and has produced a tremendous amount of fruit, and we mean it when we do it, is every week in our services we pray for other churches.
Not just churches that are part of Sojourn Network. Every week, churches in our location down the road, churches that agree with us on things, churches that disagree with us. We pray for those churches. We communicate to the father, "Father, we need them to be successful, because we know if they're not successful, then we as a body can't be successful in the mission that you've given to us. God, would you bless these pastors and these churches in these areas."
Practical steps towards that is first, ask for humility and grace to collaborate with other local churches. Some of us, we're arrogant. We need to hear it. Our theology puts us in this place where we believe that we are better than other people and other churches, and that is sin. What we need to do today is to ask the lord for forgiveness and ask him to give us the grace and the humility to collaborate. God, would you do this?
We need to build intentional relationships in our circles, and I'm sure you guys are doing this. When we talk about circle, we have a circle of accountability, a five mile radius that we draw around our congregations. University campus, five mile radius. 55,000 people in that radius. We've got a responsibility there that they would hear, see and respond to the gospel.
We're going to do everything we can. We're going to plant other churches, we're going to, but meet with the other pastors in that circle. Pray with the other pastors in that circle. Consider what the father's calling us to as a people.
Some of you need to start today. Call the pastor down the street. You don't go with an agenda. You sit with him and you say, "Can you just tell me what the lord is doing at your church?"
Tell me how he's working. I want to be encouraged by what he's doing, and how can I pray for you? I'm telling you, it will blow their mind when you leave without asking for something.
Third, look to those who are doing it and learn from them. There are actually churches in regions that are doing this. Some recommendations, the Houston church planting network. Up in Buffalo New York, the Church Planting Initiative of Western New York. Both of those networks have come together with 10 to 14 churches that are different denominations and different networks and they've said, "Can we do residencies together?"
When residents come in, depending on what their theological bent is, we'll steer them towards the right church to do their residency, we'll all pay for it together, and we'll all be part of launching churches out of these other churches. It's amazing.
Do we have the guts to do it? I don't know. Do we know how to do it? Absolutely not, but there are people that are doing it. Christ Together in the greater Austin area is doing it as well.
Number four, swim in streams that you're not comfortable with. Go to a church that you're not comfortable with. Meet with people that you're not comfortable with, not to compromise the gospel, but to consider what the lord might be saying to you.
You don't speak in tongues? Okay. We believe that the lord still works in that way. Why don't you go to a church that speaks in tongues and see what the lord wants to do? Sit with those pastors and consider, what can we learn from each other?
Finally this, and then I'm done. This is the thing that I think we can all do. Start with a yes and manage the difficulties that arise. My hope for you, my prayer for you is that if you haven't said yes already, that you'd start with a yes. That you'd say yes lord, I do believe this is a conviction, and because it's a conviction, I'm willing to be a part of putting your glory and nature on display.
I don't know how to do it, but I'm willing to try. I'm going to start with a yes, and just like with your church plant when you started with a yes, you can manage the difficulties that arise. You started with a yes in your marriage. Yes, difficulties arise. Okay, we can walk through this. The same is true in collaboration. Let's believe it, and let's believe that the lord has greater things, not just for our local churches, but for our local geographies. Amen.