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From Multi-site to Church Launch Site

It all started with a vision to reach our community for God’s Glory. It was during the first CCPN Church Planting Conference at Twin Peaks when we knew God wanted us to start a work in Santa Paula, CA with the solid Bible-teaching Calvary Chapels are known for.

Two moments figure as central in establishing the work:

The first was birthed in prayer. The elders of CC Oxnard gathered at a home in Santa Paula for a time of counsel and prayer. The home has a beautiful view of a good part of the city. I was moved to invite the elders to step outside, look over and pray God’s blessing down onto the people. At that moment the seed of a vision was dropped into my heart.

The second moment critical in launching the work was at a men’s fellowship at CC Oxnard. A man recently relocated from Oregon offered his home in Santa Paula as a place for a home Bible study. We’d recently attended the Church-Planting conference at Twin Peaks and were praying for a door to open in the city where we could begin meeting. It was clear God was cultivating the little seed He’d planted in our hearts. The vision began to grow and more people came alongside to assist in the work.

Like many new churches, we’ve faced the challenge of facilities but God has now settled us in the heart of Santa Paula in a permanent home. We are currently a video campus for CC Oxnard with a dedicated ministry team. I teach once a month but as the fellowship here has taken root, we will be phasing the video out and becoming a church plant.

Pastor Fabian Moreno is the campus pastor at Calvary Chapel Santa Paula in California, a satellite site of Calvary Chapel Oxnard. The campus will launch into a church plant in the near future.

Be Connected To Christ!

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

The beauty of grapes…

What do you consider to be the most important spiritual principle? Certainly there are countless great answers. Surely there are many acceptable and reasonable answers to the question. So here is mine:

One of the blessings of living in California is seeing the beautiful vineyards in a region of the globe renown for producing some of the world’s best grapes. It is breathtaking to see row after row of vines lifted up on stakes hanging with heavy clusters of grapes as far as the eye can see. An image that is easily associated with Jesus’ teaching in John 15 where He declared that He is the true vine and His disciples are the branches. The whole imagery of grapes lifted up watered and pruned to produce fruit, more fruit and much fruit is familiar to people in this part of the world as it was to Jesus’ original audience.

The Master explained that the key to bearing fruit was the believer’s connection to Christ. Jesus repeats the word abide [meno] almost ten times in ten verses to emphasize the cause and effect relationship between bearing fruit and dwelling with Christ. To abide means to remain or dwell with. To continue the agrarian imagery we can see that abide means to be connected to – like grapes to a vine, and a believer to Christ.

Jesus repeats the word abide [meno] almost ten times in ten verses to emphasize the cause and effect relationship between bearing fruit and dwelling with Christ.

Selma, California, is a region in the fertile Central Valley of the state and is recognized as the world’s largest producer of raisins. You can drive for miles in awe seeing row after row of large clusters of grapes lying on the ground upon brown paper drying in the California sun. It is an impressive and a sobering site because the only difference between a grape and a raisin is the connection to the vine and the passage of time.

In the context of John 15 Jesus’ theme was fruit bearing rather than salvation. So, I’m not suggesting that any true believer can lose their salvation. What I am suggesting is that someone who is intimately connected with Christ manifests the beauty of grapes in all their fruit bearing glory. Christians who are distant from Christ start to appear more like raisins in their spiritual lives. So how can you as a follower of Christ and a Christian leader remain close or intimate with Christ? I’d like to suggest three ways to remain connected that have been essential to my spiritual life:
1. Connecting to Christ through the Word of God,
2. Connecting to Christ through prayer, and,
3. Connecting to Christ through the awareness of your story intersecting with the author and finisher’s work.

What does connecting with Christ through the Word of God mean? As followers of Christ we know intuitively the importance of the Bible as God’s revelation. Also, we have discovered that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God [Matt. 4:4]. So disciples seek to regularly read the Bible. Perhaps you have a plan to read a certain number of chapters a day or week, or perhaps a certain amount of time for bible reading. As leaders who teach the Bible you also spend presumably significant time studying the Bible to prepare to teach. These times of Bible reading are opportunities for connecting with Christ. Each of us has ideally had the experience of sensing God speak to us through His word. You’ve sensed that a particular verse or passage of Scripture was God speaking to you in a unique way that was intimate and wonderful – the epiphany moments.

I remember early in my ministry experience when I read John 15 and came to verse 5, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” I felt so convicted. It felt like God was speaking in a still small inner voice to me that I was trying to do ministry in my strength and that my intellect or disciplines could not produce any good apart from Christ. I felt humbled as I sensed God speak, but wonderfully encouraged that God was speaking and it was intimate, powerful, and I knew I was connected even as I was corrected. Then I sensed the Lord gently encourage me with the promise that is also contained in verse 5, that if I was connected to Him I would bear much fruit. Again there was the awareness of the reality of the risen Christ and the peace comfort and assurance of our connection and His desire to bless me. This experience was merely one of countless that would be enjoyed and cultivated through the years.

Connecting through the Word can be likened to a marriage relationship. My wife and I enjoy many meals together and time together when we discuss the events of the day, life, our plans, and perhaps our feelings. Generally there is an overall sense that we are connected in relationship and that I want to hear from her and share with her. Sometimes they can be somewhat superficial and sometimes amazingly vulnerable and intimate.

This is how I view my regular Bible reading times. In addition, we have regularly scheduled date days or nights where we spend significant time together. In the midst of those opportunities there have also been wonderful memories and times of intimate connection. In my marriage I thank God for the comfort in our relationship and the general awareness that we are connected. But I also long for those special times where the sense of connection and intimacy is greater. Those are the epiphany moments I’m seeking to experience with Christ through His word. Sometimes they come in the course of routine reading and sometimes they are cultivated as I carve out significant time to hear from God through His word. But whenever they happen they are treasured.

What does connecting with Christ through prayer mean? Have you ever had one of those experiences where you are praying and feel especially connected to Christ? Sometimes our prayers don’t seem too connected or inspired. I assume we’ve all prayed for God’s blessing over a meal without a great sense of connection.

I was recently reading the account of Paul’s voyage to Rome and the terrible storm [Acts 27]. At verse 29 we read, “They dropped four anchors from the stern, and prayed for day to come.” Who are the “they” referred to in the verse? Presumably the Egyptian sailors or Roman soldiers on board the ship. So presumably the Egyptian and Romans are pagans praying to pagan gods. They pray for “day to come.” In essence it is a prayer to stop the storm or to survive the storm. Certainly Christians should pray like this to the true and living God. We should cry out to God in our desperation and make our requests known to Him. However as followers of Christ our prayers can reveal a deeper sense of connection to God.

For example my wife suffers from lupus. It is appropriate and good for me to pray and ask God to heal her and to cure the lupus. But when I’m feeling connected to Christ [or want to feel connected] my prayers may sound like this, “Lord what do you want me to learn from this? How are you using this to teach me to be more compassionate or empathetic? Lord how are you using this to make me a better husband or dad? Jesus will you please remind Karen that you are using this for your glory and her ultimate good. Please show her that you love her and that she is not being punished.” When prayers are intimate and/or intense there is often a wonderful sense of connection to Christ.

When prayers are intimate and/or intense there is often a wonderful sense of connection to Christ.

What does connecting to Christ through the awareness of your story intersecting with the author and finisher’s work mean? Sometimes we make the connection of the intersection of our life story and the author and finisher of faith – Jesus [Heb.12:2]. While riding my bike on the Pacific Coast Highway [PCH] I was hit by a car. The car was likely going over 50 mph and I wasn’t wearing a helmet. I suffered an elbow fracture and plenty of abrasions and lacerations. Remarkably I walked away and six weeks later was essentially fully healed. Following the accident I had the awareness that God had spared my life because He was going to keep using my life to represent Him and advance his kingdom. There was a sense of connection as I saw God’s story and my story intersect. Throughout each day in countless ways there are opportunities to see the intersection of God’s story and your life. When you discover the intersection there is often a greater sense of connection to Christ.

I’ve discovered that when I seek to be connected to Christ and pursue these familiar places of connection to Him that I tend to feel more like a beautiful cluster of grapes rather than a spiritual raisin. So for me the most important spiritual principle is to be connected to Christ.

I’ve discovered that when I seek to be connected to Christ and pursue these familiar places of connection to Him that I tend to feel more like a beautiful cluster of grapes rather than a spiritual raisin.

Pastor Bruce Zachary planted Calvary Nexus in Camarillo, CA and is the director of Calvary Church Planting Network. Many of his resources are available for free online, including Kingdom Leaders and the Church Planting Manual. You can follow Pastor Bruce on Facebook and Twitter @BruceZachary.

The Benefits of a Spiritual Exercise Plan

I’m no authority on the subject of physical exercise but it seems to me that the people who seem to benefit most have an exercise plan. Exercise in the physical or spiritual realm requires intentionality and tends to be more effective when done with another. People who want to develop in the physical realm determine the various options such as weight training, cardio, flexibility, etc. and then seek to create an exercise plan that is right for them. The plan is designed to help you grow from where you are to where you want to be. An exercise partner ideally encourages you and creates accountability in a way that helps you to implement your plan. Creating a culture of intentional growth is great for the individual and the community.

In the spiritual realm we need to be careful to avoid reducing a relationship with Christ to a spiritual workout or creating any impression that doing more spiritual exercise makes you more right with God. If you are in Christ you are right with God because of the work that Jesus did and by receiving that gift from God by faith when you submitted to Christ. Nevertheless, I’ve discovered through the years that a spiritual exercise plan and an accountability partner have helped me to grow in Christ. Similarly, I’ve seen that a spiritual exercise plan has been helpful for new believers, mature believers, and Christian leaders. So how do you create a spiritual exercise plan?

Consider the list below and set personal goals for your spiritual development. Don’t worry about comparing your list with someone else’s plan it is not a competition, but a personal spiritual growth plan.

1. Bible reading: for example consider a Bible reading plan to read through the Bible in a year. Perhaps you want to create a plan based on a certain amount of time (e.g. a half hour) for a certain number of days each week, or any plan that works for you.
2. Prayer: plan to set aside time to pray alone or with others. Consider a list of prayer requests to help you.
3. Reflection: Take time to journal or for some quiet time to reflect about God and your life with Christ.
4. Sharing your faith: How often would you like to share your faith with an unbeliever or unchurched person?
5. Authentic relationships [community]: What is your plan to be involved in a community group?
6. Serving others: How would you like to serve God by serving others in the church in this coming season?
7. Generosity: How do you plan to give of your financial resources to advance God’s kingdom through the church in the coming year?

Once you have a plan share it with a friend who will help to encourage you and keep you accountable. I try to meet with my spiritual exercise partner every couple of weeks to talk about life in general, any challenges we are facing and to encourage one another to keep growing in Christ. These times are far more than reviewing a checklist. Sometimes we don’t even talk about our spiritual exercise plans, and these meetings are some of my favorite times of life.

Remember the purpose of a spiritual exercise plan is to help you to grow in your relationship with Christ and others. It is a flexible plan and you can adjust it whenever and however you choose. I suspect that the last thing that Christ desires is you feeling guilty that you are not doing enough. Instead consider the plan as a tool to help you be intentional about your growth.

Pastor Bruce Zachary planted Calvary Nexus in Camarillo, CA and is the director of Calvary Church Planting Network. Many of his resources are available for free online, including Kingdom Leaders and the Church Planting Manual. You can follow Pastor Bruce on Facebook and Twitter @BruceZacahry.

A Leader Passionately Prays

Nehemiah 1:11c For I was the king’s cupbearer.

Every great story has a beginning. The book of Nehemiah is a great story full of amazing leadership principles and great accomplishments —but it all started with Nehemiah praying. Don’t overlook this. Nehemiah passionately prayed. Before the great accomplishment of a wall being built, the restoration of a ancient city, families being restored to their homeland and the rise of a great leader, it started with prayer. It started with God.

Prayer is simply talking and listening to God. As we pray to God, we are aligning our hearts to His will, and we get to know Him in a closer way. This is why Jesus prayed, “not my will, but your will be done,” before he endured the cross. So we also pray according to God’s will. Many even say the words “in Jesus name,” which is another way of saying “according to your nature and will.” We take all sort of circumstances, situations, and emotions to God through prayer and allow His will to be done and pray for His plan to succeed.

Often, when we hear successful stories of leaders, we want to learn from them so we can succeed as well. We learn that Nehemiah wasn’t a great commander or leader in the nation of Israel, he wasn’t even living in the Jewish nation at the time. He was simply working as the cupbearer for King Artaxerxes in a foreign land. Although he didn’t seem like the greatest candidate to lead the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, God had great plans for Him to accomplish this great task. We see His journey start with him praying passionately to God for the nation of Israel, and as he prays, God starts to align his heart to His plan to restore His people, the city and rebuild the wall through Nehemiah. I believe Nehemiah’s success started with the secret Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:6 “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”

Don’t miss how this book starts off. In Nehemiah chapter 1 we see Nehemiah passionately praying. If you want to lead well, it will be good for you to pray to God as well.

If you want to lead well, it will be good for you to pray to God as well.

Luke 14:11 ”For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Pastor Daniel Williams serves at was used of God to plant Redemption Church in Delray Beach, FL, in 2011. You can read his blog and follow him on Twitter, @pastordwilliams

Book Review: Spiritual Warfare by Brian Brodersen

Recently while traveling to a church planting conference I had an opportunity to reread Pastor Brian’s book on spiritual warfare. I was once again blessed. I was also reminded of the need for spiritual empowerment in every phase of ministry, but perhaps especially important for church planters to be mindful of.

The issues related to spiritual empowerment – prayer and spiritual warfare, are so critical to church planters. Yet, these matters are often neglected as church planters are so overwhelmed by the constant pressures associated with starting a new work. It is so very important to understand the issues. Also, we must develop a strategy of prayer support and a plan to be victorious in the spiritual battle that we are engaged in.

…we must develop a strategy of prayer support and a plan to be victorious in the spiritual battle that we are engaged in.

Brian provides a biblical explanation of the reality and nature of: the spiritual battle, Satan’s influence in this age, the schemes of the devil, temptation, the armor of God, and engaging in the spiritual battle. Paul, in his writings to the Corinthians, said that he was not ignorant of Satan’s devices (2 Corinthians 2:11). Neither can we be ignorant of Satan’s devices. It is Brian’s intention in this book not only to reveal our enemy’s character and devices, but also to guide you in the appropriation of the victory that God has given us over him.

It is Brian’s intention in this book not only to reveal our enemy’s character and devices, but also to guide you in the appropriation of the victory that God has given us over him. 

You will consider Satan’s kingdom as well as his activity in the world and his assault upon God’s people. You will be reminded that although he is crafty, intelligent, and well armed, he is powerless against a Christian who is fortified with the whole armor of God and spiritually fit through prayer. Understanding these truths is useless unless we apply what we’ve learned to our daily walk of faith. Brian will encourage you that the spiritual principles from God’s Word can only be acted upon through the power of the Holy Spirit. He encourages you to ask God to fill you with His Spirit and to lead you on to victory. You can be sure God will. Brian concludes, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” [Ephesians 6:10].

…although [Satan] is crafty, intelligent, and well armed, he is powerless against a Christian who is fortified with the whole armor of God and spiritually fit through prayer.

I was blessed by Brian’s book, as I am by his teaching in general, but especially the teaching on spiritual warfare. Brian has taught and written extensively on the subjects of the work of the Holy Spirit and spiritual warfare. He shares not only a rich, well-reasoned treasure trove of theology on the subject of spiritual warfare, but inspiring illustrations of these truths in the lives of some of the great influencers in the church. He also gives us a peek into some of his own experiences with these issues. As usual, his style is easy to relate to, practical and easy to understand.

Thanks to Pastor Brian’s generosity, the book is free to CCPN [download in tools]

Reflections on a Church Plant Pt. 2

Ed Compean pastors Calvary Chapel Githurai, in Nairobi, Kenya. For more info, go to the church website at calvarygithurai.org. This is Part 2 of a 3-part blog series as Pastor Ed looks back on church planting. Make sure to read Part 1 here.

My original intent was to simply pass on a list of things I wish I had done better in this church plant. The list is far from exhaustive and though it is not in any particular order, I am noticing that it there are some rough groupings. The first post included, 1) unjam and unhook areas of ministry that are bogging down growth,  2) following up on delegation, and 3) purposely identify and disciple young leaders. In this second post I can see a slight theme based around the maturing of the church…

Endeavor to Pray More

We prayed. We prayed a lot. I wish I had wanted to pray more. Do not misunderstand, I have a deep passion for God, His glory among the nations and His church. I cherish times with God and love to be with Him for the purpose of interceding for what I already know He’ll do. It is only that I sometimes found myself busy with the tyranny of the urgent and actually thought I did not have time to pray. Looking back, I think if personally and corporately we doubled, or tripled, our time in focused prayer we would still have desired more time in the presence of the Lord. My point is not developing discipline, but cultivating a desire for more intimacy.

My point is not developing discipline, but cultivating a desire for more intimacy. 

Establish Systems

We launched with a group of about 20, of which the vast majority were unchurched. It was mostly bunch of new friends that were learning to be God followers and God worshippers. Unfortunately I discovered we could not grow without some basic systems in place, even before it would appear we needed them. It seemed God would bring the people only after we had structure in place rather than adding to His church and then waiting for us to catch up with systems. This gave me a deeper insight into God multiplying the disciples in Jerusalem after the apostles established deacons and systems to care for the widows (Acts 6:7) and encouraged me to establish structures and systems in anticipation of what I wanted God to do instead of waiting.

Emphasize the Baptism of the Holy Sprit

We began as a Bible teaching, Christ exalting and Spirit filled church, but to a visitor the church looked like a reformed and cessationist church. My fears of the excesses of much of Pentecostalism had quenched the Spirit of God and the pendulum had swung too far. Certainly that there is a healthy church in Githurai when there had not been one before is a testimony of the empowering of the Spirit. I wonder what could have happened corporately and among the individuals if we would have emphasized the empowering of the Spirit and allowed for Godly correction rather than quenching before the fact.

Exhibit God’s Faithfulness

Today it is common to hear testimonies as part of the normal worship service at Calvary Chapel Githurai, but I wish we had begun earlier. The testimonies, sometimes as sermon illustrations, have created a climate of expectation. God’s people expect God to save and they expect to be used in bringing people to Him.

God’s people expect God to save and they expect to be used in bringing people to Him.

Some of these challenges are much more complex than the space I am giving them. It is my desire that those involved with church planting will similarly reflect on some of the challenges they are facing.

Fasting: Replacing Good with Better

Church planting and ministry in general are spiritual works. However, it’s easy to get so caught up in the administrative/practical side of things that we lose sight of the spiritual side. One way to refocus is through fasting. I try to regularly (a few times per year) lead our church through times of corporate prayer & fasting. If fasting is something new to you or someone you know, below is a run-down of the how and why…

WHY FAST?

In Matthew 6, as Jesus begins talking about fasting, He says, “When you fast…” assuming that His followers will fast. In Mark 9, a demon-possessed boy is brought to Jesus because the disciples couldn’t cast the demon out. Jesus casts the demon out (none stand a chance against Him), and the disciples ask why. He replies, “These can only come by prayer and fasting.” It seems that there are certain victories that can only be won through extra time dedicated to prayer and fasting. Regardless of the scope and specifics your church or ministry, as Christians, we are waging war on the spiritual realm. Fasting is a tool that God has given us to sharpen and deepen the power of prayer.

It seems that there are certain victories that can only be won through extra time dedicated to prayer and fasting.

Prayer doesn’t always have to be accompanied by fasting, but fasting should always be accompanied by prayer. Fasting without praying is just starving yourself, and Jesus wasn’t laying out a hyper-spiritual dieting plan. Instead, fasting is replacing something good (food) with something better (prayer & worship). Fasting disconnects us with earthly things and connects us with the things of God. Instead of feasting on a meal, you have extra time to feast on God’s faithfulness (Psalm 37:3).

What if I can’t skip meals?

Fasting in Scripture is almost always from food, but there are lots of ways to fast, especially for those who medically can’t skip meals. You can substitute time that you would normally spend watching TV, sleeping, on social media, or just 1 meal instead of all 3. The goal is not punishing yourself – it’s clearing your schedule to devote more time to prayer.

The practical side of fasting…

Wean yourself off of food. Don’t shove an entire tub of ice cream down your throat at 11:57 as your “last meal before the fast.” That will set you up to fail.

Stay hydrated. When I’m fasting, I drink way more water than typical. Since your body isn’t taking in nutrients through food, make sure you stay extra-hydrated.

Watch out for coffee. I’m a big coffee drinker, except for when I’m fasting. I’ve found (for me) that coffee on an empty stomach is a bad combo, so I lay off for the day.

Work out spiritually, not physically. Doing lots of hard labor while not eating can be dangerous, so be careful. I go to the gym often, but not typically when I’m fasting. And if I do, I’ll eat a small meal afterwards, just to replace what I just burned.

Ease back in. Don’t slam 7 bowls of cereal the next morning after a fast. Ease your body back into a normal routine of eating by eating fruits and vegetables and drinking plenty of water.

Don’t flaunt it. Jesus says that if you use fasting (or prayer) to be seen by men instead of heard by God, you’d better listen up for everyone’s applause…because that’s all the reward you get. Instead, take good care of yourself and smile! The joy of the Lord is your strength.

PRAY MORE. That’s the whole point of fasting. During the time when you would have normally been preparing a meal, eating, or doing whatever activity you’re giving up, spend that time in prayer.

Fasting is a great tool that’s highly underused. Let’s bring it back. And remember: God is big. Pray like it!

Fasting is a great tool that’s highly underused. Let’s bring it back.

What are some of the practical ways you fast and/or lead others to fast?