On September 16th, I celebrated the completion of 27 years as the Senior Pastor of The Shepherd's Community Church / The Bridge Bible Fellowship. Time has flown by and the only reason it seems that long is the fact that I'm getting more and more questions about what it's like getting older. Now I can say things like, "You know you're getting older when you try to straighten out the wrinkles in your socks and you aren't wearing any." "You and your teeth don't sleep together." "Your idea of weight lifting is to stand up." "It takes longer to rest than it did to get tired." "The pharmacist has become your new best friend."
I want you to know that it is a true privilege to grow older with all of you! The last 27 years have flown by because you have been a constant blessing in my life. Your prayers, encouragement, and active participation in ministry have made my life and ministry a true joy. Your desire to hear the truth from God's Word, no matter how painful it may be, has given me a freedom to proclaim the truth without pulling punches. Your obedient response to the truth inspires me to study more diligently and walk more closely to the Savior. And your sacrificial giving has allowed us to impact not only the local area but so many other areas all over the world. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
As I think about the next 27 years, I really want to make my life count for eternity. If I make it another 27 years I will be the same age as Caleb (one of my heroes in the Bible) when he wanted to conquer the most difficult area in the Promised Land (Joshua 14:10-12). It seems to me that we are in a difficult area of the world here in Southern California. The enemy of our souls has had his way with this area for far too long and I want to see this area under the Lordship of Jesus. Will you let me dream for a moment of what God could do in and through The Bridge in the next 27 years?
Worship. I dream of worship services where people arrive early to pray and seek the Lord before the corporate service begins. I dream of teams of people praying fervently that God would move mightily in the worship service bringing people to saving faith and/or to new places of growth in their lives. I dream of everyone fully engaged in singing and praising God with all their being. I dream of hungry hearts that want to hear from God and want to be doers of what He says. I dream of an infectious unity and love that makes others want to join us.
. I dream of every member of the church actively sharing their faith on a regular basis with family, neighbors, co-workers, friends, and even strangers. I dream of hundreds of people being baptized each year. I dream of teams going out into the streets, parks, shopping malls, etc., telling people about Jesus. I dream of students going out on their middle school, high school, and college campuses sharing the gospel and making disciples.
Discipleship. I dream of every member actively involved in discipling one or more other people to maturity. I dream of LIFE Groups in every community where 10-20 people can gather together for prayer, instruction, fellowship, accountability, service, and evangelism. I dream of a church filled to overflowing with mature, reproducing disciples of Jesus.
Church Planting. I dream of healthy churches starting up all over Southern California to reach more and more communities with the Gospel. I dream of our church training up leaders to move to those communities and start those churches. I dream of this spreading throughout the U.S. and around the world.
Missions. I dream of teams of people from The Bridge going out on short-term trips to impact the world for Christ. I dream of more people being sent out full-time to every country of the world. I dream of every small group praying fervently for and supporting at least one of those missionaries.
Shepherding The Nations. I dream of the day when we aren't just training 500 new church planters to go to unreached areas (like we are right now in Nepal, India, Bolivia, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico), but of a day when we are training 500,000 to go to every unreached area of the world.
Facilities. I dream of church facilities at The Bridge that will allow us to carry out all of those ministries efficiently and effectively. I dream of a church campus that has been strategically planned to maximize every square foot to carry out our mission.
Finances. I dream of a time when every church member is tithing to The Bridge and giving above and beyond that to support missionaries around the world. I dream of a Foundation being established with millions of dollars in it to facilitate ministry world-wide.
After all of that is accomplished, I dream of a day when I'm at the end of my time here on earth, and I hand everything over to a generation of younger saints who love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and who are desperate to make disciples of all the nations. Then I want to hear Jesus, my Lord and King, say to me, "Well done."
Can all of that be done in the next 27 years?
"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen." (Eph. 3:20-21 - NASB95)