The Verse That’s Blown Me Away This Year!

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Luke 15:1: Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.

This is the verse so far this year that has made the most impact to me!  It is the very beginning verse in one of the most famous chapters in the Bible, featuring the Parables of the Lost Sheep, Lost Coin, and Prodigal Son.  This chapter is famous due to the parables that speak of God’s relentless and reckless grace, but this first verse has really made an impact on me the last couple of weeks.

Here’s the question that came to my mind that in the past I’ve just taken for granted when I’ve blown through this verse in order to get to the “good” stories:  Why were sinners so willing and even eager to listen to Jesus?  Jesus didn’t have an easy message that tickled people’s ears.  Jesus never compromised on sin and said that everything they were doing was acceptable.  They weren’t gathering around Jesus because he was putting on some sensationalistic show of signs and wonders. At this point in Luke’s narrative the emphasis is on Jesus’ teaching and miracles are hardly even mentioned.

Why did the “lost” seek out Jesus rather than run from him? I believe the answer is his compassion. Jesus loved them and showed them that love with a compassionate instead of condemning attitude. He preached more what he stood for than what he stood against.  In the next verse, it’s going to tell us that Jesus “welcomed sinners and ate with them.” One of the definitions for the Greek word translated as “welcomes” in this verse is to “receive as a friend.” This was Jesus’ attitude toward those who were lost in sin. Jesus welcomed them; he was compassionate and accepting of them despite their sins and faults. He was a friend and not a foe.  Jesus had an attitude that lost people were attracted to, do we? For us as individuals and as a church to reach people we are going to have to show that same love and acceptance and create an environment where no matter what you have going on in your life, you are welcome to be a part of my life and you are certainly welcome to walk through the doors of our church.

Every decision that we make as individuals and as a church moving forward ought to be based on reaching the “tax collectors and sinners,” in our day, those that we would call “lost.”  A person who is “lost” biblically is a person who is dead spiritually to God.  A person, who if they do not ever receive the grace of Jesus in their life, will suffer the eternal consequences of Hell being separated from God’s presence forever.

Are we creating an environment (in our personal lives and in our churches) that the “lost” would want to come to?  Do we have the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus who was compassionate and not condemning, who was welcoming of them as a friend even though he had differences, and who preached more for what he stood for then against.

Most of the time in our day, the “tax collectors and sinners” don’t come to us anymore.  If anything, they run from us.  They aren’t eager to listen to what we have to say about Jesus, because for far too long we’ve been saying the wrong things.  We haven’t shown them love, grace, and compassion.  We’ve come off as judgmental and hypocritical.  It’s time to change that.

And to do that, we can’t wait for them to come to us.  We have to go to them.  We are to go to them and give them love and grace and compassion.  We are to go to them and welcome them as friends and then maybe, just maybe after establishing a real relationship with them, they might try coming to church.  But even if they don’t, we still go to them with the same Christ-like attitude that He had with the tax collectors and sinners.

And should they ever come to church, what’s the environment like?  The “lost” have been dodging church and Jesus most of their life.  That’s why first impressions at church are so important.  For some Christians, it takes years of going to a “lost” person, befriending them, investing in their life, and inviting them to come to church for that one person to try “church” just once.  And if anything goes wrong, they may never come back again.  People focus a lot on their church buildings, but the reality is that you can have the coolest building in the world, but if it’s filled with a bunch of judgmental jerks then the “lost” will walk out the door and likely never set foot in a church again.  And even worse, they may walk away from God altogether.

Focus with intentionality this year on what sort of environment you are creating.  Are you creating the sort of environment where “lost” people would come eager to listen to what you have to say about Jesus?  If not, what needs to change?

Posted by Zach Zehnder with
in Church

14 Awesome Things in 2014, 15 Upcoming Awesome Things in 2015

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14 Things That Were Awesome in 2014

  1. Longest Speech Ever: On November 7th-9th, Pastor Zach preached for 53 hours, 18 minutes and collectively the team raised more than $102,000 to go towards Hand-in-Hand! The story was covered internationally and our church and community pitched in incredibly well!10305335_925576757471215_6847361427068053215_n
  2. Growth of worship attendance to over 300 on an average Sunday! The place is packed in both services and we need a new worship space!
  3. Speaking of a new worship space, we signed a lease on a new space in April of 2014. Big thanks to all of the volunteers who have helped get this space ready. We are close…it’s opening February 22nd!10714543_943053872390170_3628589712944207098_o
  4. Baptisms…more than 20 this year. This is what it’s all about! Bringing young and old to faith in Jesus!1451456_715642231798003_1255908316_n
  5. App designed in June: We’ve had nearly 600 downloads of the App already! It’s been an awesome way to stay in communication, to submit prayer requests, to watch sermons, and even to donate to the cause! You can download it here!
  6. Parent’s Night Out: This ministry has been an amazing outlet to let parents go out on a date while their kids have an awesome program at the church! Thanks to the Lang’s for their leadership!10349087_944197535609137_2298420162429897675_n
  7. L-Teams: From Sunday morning Bible Study to softball to making blankets for the needy, all-in-all we had about 30 teams rolling all year long!
  8. Tattoos: We’ve got 20 people walking around with theCross logo on them! This story received international publicity and was a great way to bring awareness and more people to the church.1962709_785403124821913_1678352335_n
  9. PowerHouse Recovery Community Opening and Hand in Hand 501c3 status. This ministry has helped a lot of people and the PowerHouse has received its first 5 guys into the program!
  10. Over 100 New Members joined theCross this year. 105 to be exact! We are excited to be bringing in new people to the church!  We can do more together than we can separate!
  11. Shopping Cart Race Champions: theCross reclaimed the title over the Mount Dora Police Department! Way to go Kenny Howe, Dan Millan, and Charlie Davis!10687124_912190238809867_488954723234439244_n
  12. Resurrection Run on Easter Sunday: Over 70 runners ran through the streets of Mount Dora to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord!
  13. Giving back over $150,000 to Charity this year (over $130,000 to Hand in Hand, over $15,000 to Lake Cares in money and food, $4000 to Relay for Life, $300 to Life’s Choices, etc.) Wow! That’s all I can say!  Wow!
  14. Social Media Growth: We’ve now got 2600 likes on our Facebook page, and Silas Barr has done a great job getting us started on Instagram as well. In addition, our sermons our viewed nearly 75-100 times per week on Vimeo!

15 Things That Are Going to Be Awesome in 2015

  1. New Space Opening February 22nd: I can’t wait! Invite all your friends! It will seat around 350 people giving us room to bring more people into theCross!
  2. Coffee Shop Opening Late in 2015: We are hoping to open our coffee shop towards the end of 2015…it’ll be a great place to grab some free Wifi, hang out for a few hours, and meet some great people!
  3. Hiring a Full-Time Minister to lead Student and L-Team Ministries: We are looking to hire somebody in the first half of 2015 to give more attention to our student ministries and lead our L-Team Ministries. We’ll be bringing in 3 different people over 3 different weekends to make sure we hire the right person for the job!
  4. More creative billboards: Big thanks to our donor for paying for advertising for theCross. Our billboards are a staple at theCross now and so many know of our church in just over 3 years!
  5. Seeing our first group graduate from the Powerhouse Recovery Community and welcoming a 2nd group: The first group would graduate around November! Please keep these guys in your prayers often.
  6. A Whole New Year of Sermon Series: I’m excited to bring some more Gospel through the Sermon series we have picked out this year!
  7. More baptisms: This is the highlight of the church! We’ll be doing a baptism bash on February 22nd, our grand opening date. Need to get baptized?  Let Pastor Zach know!
  8. Growing a church from 300 involved to 500 involved: We believe God has big growth on the horizon for us. With more space and more people involve, we are praying for exponential growth!
  9. More L-Teams…can we have 40 going at one time? Do you have an idea for a new team. We’ll be kicking off L-Teams 3 times during the year, with our first one being January 25th!
  10. Softball Team Winning the Championship?: We’ve been getting better every season…maybe we can get over the hump this year!
  11. The development of the worship band with our new equipment: I’m excited to see what our band can do with new equipment as they continue to grow! Thanks to Tom for his leadership in this area and his wife Nilette for making them sound good from the back on the sound board!
  12. Live-Streaming: We’ve already started this but we’ll be heavily promoting it once we get over into the new space!
  13. A revamped Imagine Kids Program in their new space: It’s not just the adults that will get a new space to meet, the kids will too! They’ll be meeting in the space where we currently worship!
  14. Receiving official word from Guinness that we’ve broken the world record for Longest Speech Ever! We hope to hear back by the end of February.
  15. The Things I haven’t thought about that God is going to do through us even if we can’t think or imagine it! Every year God has amazed us at what He has done. I’m excited to see what it will be this year!