Have you considered water baptism?

Kimberly and I on the night of our baptisms in 1998

3 events, separated by 25 years, tell the story of my spiritual journey when I came to be a Christ follower. 

The first event was when I was baptized as an infant.  I was born to two amazing parents who wanted to raise me in a Christian home.  They brought me to church each Sunday growing up.  I do not remember a time when church was not a part of my life.  This is such a huge blessing.  When I was just a few months old, my parents had me baptized at the church we attended. 

The second event was when I placed my faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of my sins.  This was a major turning point in my life.  I had attended many church events, memorized many verses, knew the words to many hymns, and even had been confirmed as a church member . . . but I did not know what it all meant.  Jesus was a historical figure . . . Christianity was a subject.  It was not until Easter Sunday 1990 that the Spirit of God convicted me of my sin and I turned to Jesus as my rescuer from sin and judgment.  I have been following Him ever since.

The third event came when I was baptized upon profession of faith in 1998.  At the time I was an Associate Pastor at a church in Coppell, Texas.  I decided to be baptized at that time because as I studied Scripture, I saw a pattern emerge: people believed in Jesus, then they were immersed in water baptism.  This was the pattern of the early church, and it was consistent with the teaching of Jesus.  The Scriptures were clear (in my mind) about the pattern of baptism, but in order to be baptized I had to clear a few hurdles:

  1. I needed to talk to my parents.  I was so thankful for the legacy of following Jesus that they had passed on to me.  I did not desire to reject that heritage by being “re”baptized.  However, my desire to follow the clear teaching of Jesus trumped my risk of offending my family, so I decided to be baptized.  I called my parents to tell them about my decision.  I also wanted to tell them THANK YOU for the spiritual investment they made in my life.  They were so gracious and celebrated this decision with me.
  2. I needed to talk to my Pastor.  As I mentioned, I was already serving as an Associate Pastor at a church.  I was afraid that my Pastor might react negatively to the notion that one of his staff wanted to be baptized!  I met with him and told him what God had been teaching me.  He graciously celebrated this decision with me and together we planned to baptize me at a friend’s swimming pool during a youth group meeting that next Wednesday night — a youth group meeting I was LEADING!  I also had the privilege of baptizing my wife (who had come to a similar conviction) right after I was baptized by Pastor Wayne.    What a night!
  3. I needed to talk to Jesus.  No one’s salvation depends on the act of being immersed in water.  Salvation is by grace through faith, and not as a result of works (including water baptism!)  However, the New Testament is really unfamiliar with the idea that an adult could be a Christ follower and yet intentionally choose to NOT be baptized with water.  If I were to reject His command of baptism, I would be saying “no” to the One who bled and died for my sins.  In prayer, I expressed my decision to be baptized as an outward expression of my inward faith.  I declared to Jesus that I was not baptized in order to BE SAVED, but as an expression of the salvation that was already given.

Friends, I write this note today to encourage everyone who reads this to consider water baptism.  In our culture, sometimes we think baptisms are for children or students (since many of those baptized are younger in age.)  However, the New Testament does not put an age parameter around baptism.  People of ANY age are baptized . . . after they have professed faith in Christ. 

Like me, you may be a college student or adult who has not been baptized since trusting Christ.  Like me, you may have avoided baptism because of the 3 conversations I mentioned above.  You may fear talking to your parents about a christening that happened in your early years.  You may fear talking to me, because you don’t want to appear as someone who does not “have it all together.”  You may have never considered that NOT being baptized was actually saying “no” to Jesus’ command.  Whatever your story, I want to encourage you today with a few thoughts:

  1. Take this opportunity to thank your parents or grandparents for the investment they made in your life.  Being baptized since trusting in Christ is not an affront to your family, it is a public declaration of who you are following today.
  2. Talk to me (or one of our other Pastors/staff) about this.  We will absolutely THROW A PARTY!  We love celebrating any step of faith God is leading you towards — including water baptism!
  3. Take this opportunity to talk to Jesus about it.  Baptism does not save you, but it is a step of faith in following Him!

To help facilitate all of these things, we have a web form found at wildwoodchurch.org/baptism .  Fill that out and we will get back in touch with you ASAP.  We even have some classes about the biblical teaching of baptism that we offer on Sunday October 21 (for children, students, and adults) for all who are interested.  We look forward to hearing form you in preparation for our next baptism service at Wildwood Community Church on November 18.  Hope to hear from you before then!

50th Anniversary (part 3): Sermon Audio

On Sunday, September 30, 2018 at Wildwood Community Church, I preached a message looking at the “4 Fors” of Wildwood.  This message was a part of “Looking Ahead” and concluded our 50th Anniversary Celebration.  Below you will find the audio from the message to listen to or share.

 

To listen offline, click the link to download:

Celebrating 50 Years #3 9.30.18

 

To listen online, use the media player below:

 

To watch the entire service, view via our Facebook Live stream:

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50th Anniversary (part 3): Sermon Questions

On Sunday, September 30, 2018, I preached a sermon at Wildwood Community Church highlighting the “4 Fors” as a part of “Looking Ahead” as a church.  This message was the third installment in our 50th anniversary celebration. Below you will see a set of questions related to the message for personal reflection or group discussion.

 

Sermon Questions:

  1. Pray
  2. In Matthew 16:18b, Jesus says He is building His congregation.  Though we often think of the “church” as a physical location (i.e. Wildwood is at 1501 24th Ave. NE), the church Jesus was building was a BODY that was alive!  Therefore, church is not just a place you attend, but a life you live together with others.  How do you primarily view church involvement?  Attendance only, or something more?
  3. Think of your relationship with God over the past decade.  In what ways has God grown you spiritually over that period of time?
  4. Who are 3 people in your “sphere of influence” that God wants you to reach with the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
  5. Have you considered hosting or co-hosting a block party in the next 6 months with Wildwood?  Details:  wildwoodchurch.org/blockparty
  6. Who are some missionaries you have had the privilege of praying for over the past 12 months?  If you don’t know anyone to pray for, visit http://wildwoodchurch.org/global-outreach/ for ideas.
  7. How are you helping to pass along your faith to the next generation?  Why do you think this is so important?
  8. What is one particular application you took away from this message?

Access these questions in pdf format by clicking here.

50th Anniversary: A Look Ahead (Sermon Preview)

In prominent cities around the world, museums exist to tell stories of the past.  Artifacts, plaques, and presentations combine to instruct and to inspire.  Whether the subject matter of the museum is art, history, or science, one thing each museum has in common is that they are all D-E-A-D.  The items in the halls of these buildings may inspire those in the present to make a better future, but the very nature of a museum is a chronicling of the past. 

As you probably know, this month we are celebrating Wildwood’s 50th anniversary as a church.  As a part of any anniversary, you spend some portion of time looking backward.  This gives us a chance to remember God’s work in the past to inspire us for our present and our future.  However, there is something significant we cannot forget . . .

The church is not a museum. 

Mistakenly, translators of our English Bibles failed to properly translate Matthew 16:18b into accurate English.  In Matthew 16:18b, Jesus says, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”  In this verse, the Greek word “Ekklesia” is translated “church” by modern English Bible translators.  The word “church” is actually a word with German roots that means “the Lord’s House” . . . and could even be translated the “Lord’s Temple.”  The only problem is, Jesus did not speak German when He spoke the words of Matthew 16!  The Greek behind that statement is better translated into English as “congregation” or “assembly of people.”  For a variety of reasons (most of them political) the first translators of the English Bible (save William Tyndale who was killed for his translation!) called it a “church” and that translation has been the tradition ever since. 

Why do I give that piece of history here?  I give it because if the church is a PLACE . . . a BUILDING . . . it could be a museum – a place to simply look back and remember.  However, the Ekklesia Jesus is building is a gathering of people.  A Body.  And it is ALIVE!

Remembering this, we know the church does not just have a past, it has a present and a future!  This Sunday at Wildwood, we will be wrapping up the celebration of our 50th anniversary by looking ahead to some exciting opportunities we have as a church to invite the church, the community, the nations, and the next generation to follow Jesus together with us to the glory of God.  Make plans to be at Wildwood this Sunday, September 30, 2018, at 9:45 or 11:00 as we worship together.  O Church arise!

50th Anniversary: Mission of the Church (Sermon Audio)

On Sunday, September 23, 2018 at Wildwood Community Church, I preached a sermon refocusing our congregation on the Mission of the Church.  This message was part 2 in the 50th Anniversary celebration.  Below you will find the sermon audio to listen to or share.

 

To listen offline, click the link to download:

Celebrating 50 Years #2 9.23.18

 

To listen online, use the media player below:

 

To watch the entire worship service from our livestream, view the Facebook Live event:

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50th Anniversary – Mission of the Church (Sermon Questions)

On Sunday, September 23, 2018, I preached a message at Wildwood Community Church on the mission of the church.  This message was the second Sunday of our 5oth anniversary celebration.  Below are a set of questions related to the message for personal reflection or group discussion.

Sermon Questions:

  1. Pray
  2. What value have you seen in understanding the “mission statement” of an organization (any organization you have been a part of)?  What are the potential challenges with organizations that do not know their core mission?
  3. The Church is led by Jesus Christ.  What are some of the verses you can think of in the Bible that help us to understand the mission of the Church?
  4. 87 times in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), the word “Follow” is used in conjunction with people’s response to Jesus . . . 26 times as a command – Jesus saying “Follow Me.”  Why do you think this was the most common descriptor of the first Christians? 
  5. What would it look like for a church (and Christians) to be more concerned with God’s glory than their own? 
  6. 5 ways were mentioned today of how we can follow Jesus:  Following Him into His Word, Worship, Community, Ministry, and Mission.  Think of your own life for a moment in light of these 5 areas.  How has God used these 5 things to grow your faith in the past?  Is there any particular area where you would like to grow more this year?
  7. What is one particular application you took away from this message?

To access these questions in pdf format, click here.

50th Anniversary (part 2 – The Mission of the Church)

Think of any organization where you are a member.  What is its purpose?  Why does it exist?  The answer to that question is meaningful and has real world consequences.  Often times organizations summarize their purpose in a single mission statement to help unite the group around its common cause.  A quick survey of some of the organizations my family is connected to reveals the following mission statements:

Norman Youth Soccer Association:

“To encourage, promote and stimulate interest and participation in the game of soccer by organizing recreational and competitive soccer teams; developing our players, coaches and referees; promoting sportsmanship; maintaining proper playing facilities; and operating in a financially responsible manner.”

Norman Public Schools:

“To prepare and inspire all students to achieve their full potential.”

Cleveland County YMCA:

“To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.”

Reading these statements gives you a sense of what these organizations are all about.  For prospective members, the mission helps them decide if they want to align with the group.  For existing members, the purpose reminds the regulars what they are collectively trying to accomplish.

As interesting and informative as the above statements are, it is also important to stop and think about what the mission statement is for the Church.  What is our purpose?  What are we called to unite around?

In Matthew 16:18b, Jesus said, “I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it!”  This statement is critical on so many levels, but one thing Jesus makes clear here is that the church (the true church) is HIS.  As a Pastor, if I view Wildwood as MY church, then I am building something that has an uncertain future, resting on a faulty premise of ownership.  But, if I rightly view the Church as JESUS’ Church, then I can rest confidently in the glorious future He has guaranteed! 

As it pertains to mission statements, the above principle of ownership makes a clear and important application:  since the church is Jesus’ then He sets the mission, not us.  And, since Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, the mission He set out for His church in Matthew 28:19-20 still holds true today.  Our mission is to: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold I am with you always to the end of the age.” 

Though the mission of the Church has not changed for 2,000 years, the articulation of that purpose can morph from time to time to refocus us (through contemporary language) on its original meaning.  So, with Jesus as our captain, and Wildwood’s 50th anniversary as our catalyst, we want to take this Sunday (September 23, 2018) to remind us anew of the mission of Wildwood Community Church.  This Sunday we will introduce some new language pointing to an ancient purpose for our church. 

If you are new to Wildwood (either only been a Sunday or two or not yet attended) this Sunday is a GREAT Sunday to come and check us out.  You will hear our understanding of our mission.  If you have been around Wildwood for a long time, this Sunday is a GREAT Sunday to come and refocus on why we are here and the importance of our assembly.

Hope ALL of you can be with us Sunday in our 9:45 or 11:00 service as we remind each other of our mission together.  Hope to see you there! 

50 Years

King David lived a life marked by God’s blessings.  As a young boy he was anointed Israel’s next King, became a military hero by knocking down the giant Goliath, and (as if that was not enough) he also was a prominent musician in his day – playing for the current king and his court.  In his adult life, David was the King of Israel, a writer of sections of the Holy Scriptures, and a “man after God’s own heart.”  Near the end of David’s life, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, David wrote Psalm 103 — a great Psalm of praise to God.  This Psalm begins this way:

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name!  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits:”

Of this statement, John MacArthur says:

“We must not forget ALL His benefits, because He has forgiven ALL our sins!”

All believers in Jesus Christ can (and must) thank God for the benefits of our salvation, our ultimate healing (in glory), and the way God loves and cares for us (things detailed in the rest of Psalm 103).  In addition to these things, though, as a church family, Wildwood Community Church has the privilege of blessing the Lord and remembering ALL His benefits to us as a church over the past 50 years.  Since 1968, God has provided abundantly for our church family, and over the next 3 Sundays (September 16, 23, and 30) we want to bless His holy name together, forgetting none of these benefits!

This Sunday, September 16, we will be kicking off our 50th anniversary celebration in several special ways:

  • Our worship services will be at their normal times (9:45 and 11:00).  In the services this week, we will be looking back at God’s faithfulness to us as a congregation.  The Worship Team has prepared a special medley of worship songs throughout our history, Wildwood’s history will be recounted through a special video presentation, and Teaching Pastor Bruce Hess (who was the Senior Pastor at Wildwood for 37 of our 50 years) will be guiding us in a reflection of God’s goodness to us as a church.  Make plans to attend one of these two identical worship services.  Children’s ministry will be running as normal during both hours, Student Ministry (Middle School and High School) will be running during the 9:45 hour, Adult Groups will be meeting at their normal place and time, and College Life will be meeting at noon in the Fellowship Center for a free lunch.
  • On Wildwood’s front lawn will be two 40ft. by 40ft. tents all morning long (from 9:00AM – 12:30 PM . . . before, during, and after the worship services) that will feature a variety of ways to commemorate our anniversary.  A giant map will be present giving you the chance to mark places we have gone as a church (and individuals) over the past 50 years, a giant timeline will be up where you can mark when you first came to Wildwood, and a door will be present for you to sign if you have entered into (or re-entered into) a relationship with Jesus Christ during your time at Wildwood.  Light refreshments will also be served.  These interactive elements are for the entire family, so if you plan to visit these attractions before or after services – please have your kids with you (or go pick them up and bring them with you) as you visit the tents.
  • The interactive elements mentioned above will remain around Wildwood for weeks to come, so you will have a chance to see them and interact with them later if you are not able to make it to the tents on Sunday.
  • Just off our Gathering Hall in our “Living Room” area, we will have a camera crew stationed this Sunday before and after services to record any testimonies you want to share about how God has worked in your life through your time at Wildwood.

Make plans to be with us this Sunday, September 16 . . . and the rest of September . . . as we bless the Lord and remember His benefits together.  Whether this Sunday is your first Sunday or you have been a part of Wildwood from the beginning, we have the privilege of following Jesus together.  Looking forward to worshipping with each of you this Sunday at Wildwood!

Sink or Stand (part 5) Sermon Audio

On Sunday, September 9, 2018, I preached a message at Wildwood Community Church based on Matthew 15:32-16:12.  This message was part 5 of the “Sink or Stand” sermon series.  Below is the audio from the sermon to listen to or share.

 

To listen offline, click the link below to download:

Sink or Stand #5 09.09.18

 

To listen online, use the audio player below: