of 12 /12

My Vision For The Church

Embed Size (px)


A booklet that lays out some history and vision for Calvary Chapel Sarasota by Pastor Carl Dixon

Text of My Vision For The Church



CHURCHPastor Carl Dixon







CHURCHPastor Carl Dixon

Editor: Andrea Sommer

May 2009

My vision for the Church ~ Pastor Carl DixonI was recently asked about my vision for the church. I did not answer the question well even though I have a clear vision for the church and I am confident of my part in that vision. I felt this would be a good time to write a small booklet that we can all have to share with others about the purpose and vision for Calvary Chapel of Sarasota. Because we are part of the Calvary Chapel Movement we have already been given a vision by Pastor Chuck Smith who God used to start this amazing movement so many decades ago. However, that is not where my vision came from. When I discovered the Calvary Chapel Movement I was overjoyed that Pastor Chucks vision was in fact exactly the same as mine. I had come to the same conclusion from my personal study of scripture. This has been a common occurrence throughout various Calvary Chapels. My friend Pastor Danny Hodges of Calvary Chapel St. Petersburg Florida tells about arriving at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa California for the first time and he immediately thought, I feel I am at home here. He too had come to the same conclusion about ministry that Pastor Chuck was already teaching in Costa Mesa. My vision for the church here in Sarasota is first and foremost biblical. I could use many passages of scripture but Acts 2:42-47 is as good as any. Acts 2:42-47 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.


This passage is both descriptive and prescriptive: it describes what the early church did, but without any of the practical details. I am thankful they did not have a certain architecture that was the church building or a specific order of service. We can learn much from the Book of Acts and Church History but we are very free to schedule services on various days and decide how long or short or frequent we engage in any of the activities we call Church. We can meet in a building or a tent or a warehouse or under a tree. But regardless of the place and time and length of our meetings, we ought to devote ourselves to the same priorities of the Early Church. So, I would say the first statement for my vision is that we teach the Bible at almost every meeting of the church. I would even enlist a Calvary Chapelism and say that we do not teach from the Bible but we actually teach the Bible itself. My goal when I teach is for everyone listening to leave the teaching time understanding what the Bible actually says in the passage taught, and how it relates to us today. I believe that anyone who attends two services per week and a Home Fellowship could have the equivalent of a good Bible College education after only one or two years. It has been my experience over and over again that when some families or individuals leave here and move to another state or city, they find themselves very dissatisfied with the lack of Bible teaching wherever they go. This is not a good sign, and there are exceptions, nevertheless, it underlines the urgent need for us to never move away from teaching the Bible. I would even go so far as to say that if teaching the Bible is all we ever did it would produce an army of men and women growing spiritually and impacting the world for Christ. Pastor Chuck Smith proved this, as he had no other plans but to Pastor his small congregation so that they would come to know the Bible. So I believe that because we teach the Bible we can fully expect many opportunities to minister to people in various ways. Therefore, I would say our primary vision for the church is to teach the people to be devoted to the Apostles doctrine or teaching.-2-


The next priority outlined in Acts 2 is fellowship. I am going to call this community. I find this particular Early Church distinctive the most difficult to imitate, but it is essential if the modern church is to impact the society it exists in today. I am constantly teaching the need for us to come to know one another and to allow ourselves to be known by each other. For example, I often quote Romans 12:5, So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. This concept is very difficult for us Americans to conform to: it is ingrained in our Constitution and history for us to be rugged individualists and go it alone. However, over the years I have seen people even Americans adapt to a more Biblical worldview and I expect this to increase as we develop more community impacting ministries among the people here at CCS. Our increasing emphasis on Home Fellowships is already making a difference. The D2S ministry (Disciple/Counseling Ministry) has been spectacular in saving marriages and helping troubled men and women develop a more biblical worldview. That ministry alone has helped me become more effective in my study as I seldom have to personally counsel others and can therefore concentrate on developing my teaching skills. Both the Mens and Womens Ministries have grown and developed more small group opportunities that bring about relationships. I am particularly impressed with the spontaneous fellowship in our coffee shop after services and would like to see it triple in size. It is common for me to still be talking to others in the coffee shop an hour after the Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday services. We also have a great Internet community called unifyer that has been effective in bringing people together around common interests. When someone chooses to make CCS their home church we supply them with a free account and password so that they can log on and keep track of what is happening in the various ministries they may be interested in participating with. Fellowship loving one another is the ultimate purpose of the church gathered. We are to be a very close family that truly loves and cares for each other practically and spiritually.-3-



The next part of the passage is on breaking of bread and prayer. The breaking of bread primarily concerns the Communion service where we remember to remember the cost of our salvation, and we presently do this once a month on Wednesday evenings. I was saved in a church environment that had Communion every Sunday as a separate service. I actually enjoyed that but I do not believe it would work in our present way of doing church. I am not worried about having Communion once a month as we mention the life and death and resurrection of Jesus in almost every service. I also try to encourage the Home Fellowships to have Communion from time to time. I think this is the best environment to share this ordinance together as we remember Jesus dying for our sins and our need to live in light of what He has done for us. Prayer! This is the hardest thing of all for the church today. Corporate prayer has largely become a thing of the past in Church circles. When I became a Christian every church regardless of denomination had a published weekly prayer meeting. But even then (thirty years ago) most of the prayer meetings were simply mid-week church services where the public prayer was longer than usual and the teaching shorter. In our church the Home Fellowships are the main group prayer centers. In my own Home Fellowship we usually pray for about 45 minutes in two distinct groups. Those who are on the prayer chain and unifyer are real prayer warriors. I would say that because of our Bible teaching and prayer chain and the Home Fellowships we probably have more prayer now than was produced by the mid-week prayer meeting church services of thirty years ago. I would add that when I talk about prayer as the subject of a sermon I always have people who ask me for further advice on how to have effective prayer times. Our church was largely birthed out of a Friday night prayer meeting that lasted at least three hours (starting at 10PM) and was very well attended for about three years. But we learned that this kind of prayer meeting cannot be manufactured (we tried many times) and has to be something that God raises up among us. So please pray for a true revival of prayer in our church.-4-

A n d


If we continue reading in the Acts passage we discover that the original Christians devoted themselves not only to Apostolic teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer, but also to having all things in common with one another. I believe we at CCS practice this, and that it extends even to Christians in other parts of our Country and around the World. There are many in our Church Body who have fallen on hard times because of economic difficulties or sickness that give glowing testimonies of how others in the Body come alongside and help. Sharing our material and emotional resources is one way we have all things in common, but we also share our God-given ministries. We have a large number of really committed and sacrificial workers in the Nursery, Childrens Ministry, Home Fellowships and Caf who are a real blessing to me and everyone else in this church, and the worship team is an inspirational picture of long-term faithfulness and excellence in serving the Body. Also, we are a church that shares the blessings that come with having many different age groups; we have the wisdom of the aged, but we also have the vibrancy of youth. Our crowded youth group meetings give us hope and encouragement for the future of the church. Someone commented recently during an after-service coffee how the Caf sometimes sounds like a nursery and kids play area. He said this while smiling at one of my favorite one-year-olds. I agreed with him and said when the sound of young tears disappears from our church we are in trouble. So, even though our church has an old Pastor we still have young families coming to our church. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:47). The ways that the Early Church gathered together to pursue God and one another resulted in many more coming to know the Lord. One of the concepts of a biblical church we have presented most clearly and frequently to the CCS congregation is this idea of the church gathered and scattered. I have had this series put in a very attractive package that can be purchased in our coffee shop. It was through this series that I made it clear we will only grow as we gather for biblical instruction, fellowship and other godly pursuits, and scatter to do what we have learned while together. The key is in the repetition of coming together (to receive) and coming apart (to disperse). -5-




Someone asked me why we do not do bigger events like crusades or outreaches to bring people into the church. I am not against outreaches. Our Easter services and the Christmas play have been inspirational outreaches. We have had concerts in the park and special events during such times as Halloween. These are good things and tend to give us all a rallying point; I hope to see many more creative outreaches in the years to come. But the primary way a healthy spiritual church grows is through the people who call CCS their church home talking to others about Jesus in their neighborhoods and businesses and schools. We all should be inviting our friends to experience our church services and events. I have heard many testimonies of non-Christian visitors coming to our services and being impressed with what they find. It is still true that the number one reason someone attends any church is because a friend invites him or her, or the person simply hears about the church from a close associate of some kind. It is my desire and the desire of the leadership to see an increase in attendance through these means. The Home Fellowships are also a great entry point for people to come get to know us. On unifyer there are many groups meeting together that would be a welcoming environment for non-believers. I believe if we will pray and ask God to show us others we can talk to about Jesus, He will lead us in that God-honoring task. This brings us to one of our most important pursuits, and an essential part of our Churchs vision statement: Go into all the world. We have done a good job concerning Missions over the years our church has existed. And since the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is a command from Jesus, this is an area we should always be purposely promoting. People that come to our church from other churches almost always point out they knew almost nothing about World Missions until they came to our church. Many have come here and found themselves outside the country on a short-term mission trip for the first time in their lives. The Mission Team, led by Pastor Jim, is a very committed and enthusiastic group. The work they do is impressive and I expect our worldwide outreach will only increase as the years go by and as God blesses us with people and finances.-6-

Missions again! No, I didnt make a mistake. This is an area where we can always do better. Those who come to our church for a time soon admire the many families who have chosen to leave our great country and live in a foreign country to reach people who do not know Jesus. Their sacrifice is impressive as they leave America to reside in parts of the world that most of us do not mind visiting as long as we are coming home in a week or so. But God has called us all to be missionaries: when Jesus prayed for us in John 17:18 He called us sent ones, like He was sent. We are to be purposefully doing exactly the same as a missionary to the Philippines would dolearn the language, understand the culture, dress like the people, attend their events, and strategize ways to reach them with the Gospel of Jesus. We (especially me, Pastor Carl) must always be thinking of ways to communicate to one another our calling to reach others at home and at work and at play for Jesus. As I meet new people during my bike rides I need to slow down occasionally to develop relationships that lead to conversations about Jesus. When attending a football game or basketball game it is great to cheer for my team, but what about that person sitting beside me? This is why Mars Hill Church in Seattle has been so effective in reaching the lost in that very unchurched city. That is why Chuck Smith was so successful in reaching the hippy culture of the 60s and 70s and is still so effective in the 2000s. We are a missionary-minded church: we care about people in China and Russia and Africa and South America and Sarasota and Bradenton. Now, concerning those helping guide the church body: the leaders. Leadership is the crux of our future: as the leadership goes so goes the church. The leaders at CCS are faithful men who are committed to this church body. We love the people who are a part of CCS and who love our city. It is our desire to be an example and an encouragement to you as we all grow together. We take leadership qualifications seriously and encourage everyone to read 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 and hold us to that standard. We will not lord it over you but we do expect you to respond to our vision and leadership as we seek God to direct us, a living and active part of the Body of Christ meeting at 3800 27th Parkway in Sarasota, Florida.-7-



Just as we will not lord it over the body, we also will not prefigure the various ministries of the church. An old friend of mine who has a PhD in education and has worked in the Florida education system introduced me to a principle that clearly explains how I see ministries started and maintained here. He said that when new schools are built they learned not to put down the sidewalks on large campuses until they saw the paths people would walk first; if they put down sidewalks immediately most people would not use them. I see ministry that way. We are not in the habit of developing programs for new ministries until it is apparent there is a need in our Body and faithful men and women among us are willing to respond to the need. Our school is a good example. I was initially asked if we could have a very small regular meeting with some parents who wanted to teach their kids together. That was allowed and now Calvary Chapel Christian School is the result. I was asked about having a small meeting to learn about a Counseling Ministry that might help the church; I allowed that meeting and even took part in it myself. Over the years it has grown to become our D2S ministry without me having to do anything other than keep in touch with the leaders. The organized church organized neither the Mens Ministry nor the Womens Ministry, but these ministries are radically impacting those who have made CCS their church home. The only ministry we have really sought to organize is making sure there is age-appropriate Bible teaching in our Childrens Ministry. This allows Mom and Dad to relax in the adult service to worship and learn from the Scriptures without distraction. This also allows their children to learn about Jesus in an age-appropriate manner, which really is the best way for children to learn. But we feel that all other ministries can be started and maintained by the faithful individuals that make up the CCS Body who are inspired by God to do specific ministries simply as they sit and receive the Word of God and endeavor to put it into practice. As the layout of my vision for the church draws to a close, I wish to reiterate the importance of my very first statement, which is that solid biblical teaching is to be at the heart of everything we do at CCS. I receive comments very often about the impact of the Bible teaching here at Calvary.-8-

One family told me that before coming to CCS they saw church as just a weekly commitment that was required of their Christian faith. But after attending for a time they realized the Bible teaches that the Body of Christ (the Church) is to be a part of their lives and they are to participate and use their gifts to minister to others within it. Their lives have been changed and others have been led to Jesus as they noticed the change. All throughout Christian History the Church has thrived when the Word of God has been faithfully taught, and has dwindled when the Bible has taken a secondary place. Someone said to me recently that she has been in church all her life but coming to Calvary helped her understand the Bible directly. Even from our live Internet broadcasts we are receiving letters telling us how helpful it is to be able to learn in a thorough and straightforward manner what the Bible says and means. If we, individually and corporately, will allow Gods Word to impact us our church will continue to grow in grace and we will become the world changers we often sing about. Well, this booklet is far from complete. You, the reader, can make it complete by understanding our vision and becoming a conduit for making it better. We are very open to hear about ideas and advice that will help us grow. I especially like to hear ministry ideas from you but warning! If you do ask me about a ministry idea I am likely to ask you when you will be starting that particular ministry among us! ~ Pastor Carl Dixon