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My Preaching Professor and Central’s Mission

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Forty years ago Tacey and I were both students at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, MA. It was a blessed time for us as we worked our way through school. I was the grounds keeper and Tacey was the house keeper on a large estate (we lived in the servant’s quarters which was our little version of Downton Abbey – but much more dramatic).

My preaching professor was a wonderfully kind, older gentleman from Wales. He cared deeply about the careful exposition of God’s Word and that the Lord’s people needed to remember and apply that Word to their lives. His method, however, was a wee-bit narrow. Every sermon we wrote was to have three points (no more and no less) and all three points were to begin with the same letter (alliteration). I found this approach to be dogmatic, demanding, and demeaning. Nevertheless, I was determined, dutiful, and deliberate in my attempts to comply.

The rationale for the classic three-point sermon was based on the notion that the typical adult parishioner was not able to remember more than three points.

Congregations likewise need a kind of memory device to remember who (and whose) they are and why they exist. Central Presbyterian Church has a wonderful existing mission statement that has appeared in many of our publications. It is theologically rich and strategically comprehensive, but it is difficult to memorize. Our youth ministry, led by Jeremy Blythe, took our existing mission statement and recreated a shorter and more concise statement that you are beginning to see and hear:

We want to know Christ and His Word, which is why we place great emphasis on Bible preaching, Sunday school and Equip Central classes, and the study of God’s Word in homes, small groups, and a host of other venues.

We want to be known in the context of Christian community. We recognize that relationships matter deeply to God and that flying solo in the Christian life is fraught with danger. God created His church to be a place where His children delight in knowing and serving Him and in knowing and serving each other.

We want to make known the glorious gospel of Christ to those all around us, both locally and globally. We do this by loving and serving our neighbor in deeds of mercy and justice and evangelistic ministry.

There you have it – our collective reason for being. This is how we glorify the God of the Bible: know, be known, make known

When congregations have a clear God-honoring direction and purpose, it brings greater clarity, unity, and focus to them. Ministries begin to align with these purposes, resources are stewarded to achieve these purposes, and people are energized to pursue these purposes.

You will be hearing a great deal more about this at Central. For now, would you be willing not simply to memorize our purpose but also to prioritize it in your prayers?

My departed seminary professor would be pleased with this approach. After all, it is clear, concise, and compelling. 

Blessings to you all,

Pastor Bob

Posted by Bob Hopper

Ping Pong & Service Times

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Orlando, Florida, 2008

The parking lot was full and I was nervous and about to have a double rude awakening. Others had fancy bags over their shoulders while I had a tattered paddle stuck in my belt in the small of my back. No one said a word to me as we walked into the large gymnasium and waited in the registration line. The person sitting behind the registration desk simply said: “Sign here, the cost is $20, wait in those bleachers.”   And so it was as I waited to play my first match at a large table tennis association. “Pastor Bob, I didn’t know you were such a ping pong ninja. How did that happen?” Thanks for asking.

Tacey and I sensed God leading us to plant a new EPC church in Orlando in 2008. We knew one couple, but other than that not a soul. There was no core group. So I did what most church planters do (and what all believers should be doing) – I started to look for opportunities to meet and befriend people who probably don’t know Jesus. I joined a local gun club that yielded one new friendship. Then I saw an ad in the local paper for a table tennis club. Cool, after all I was the reigning ping pong champion of the Hopper household (although Tacey would give me a run for my money – she is so competitive and needs to repent of that).

The Lord, in His kind providence, taught me two things that night. First, I am not a very good ping pong player (I got crushed in every match I played). Second, many visitors to many churches feel the exact same thing when they visit on a Sunday morning. Through our neglect, they feel intimidated, invisible, and unwelcome. This ought not to be so.

At Central, we are doing something about that. In fact, it is the primary reason we have changed our service times and designated our Fellowship Hall for . . . fellowship! Starting this Sunday, our new schedule begins. We thank the Lord for Julie Krauss and all the volunteers who made our summer brunches so spectacular. Now we embarking on a exciting and intentional journey to transform Central into a warm and welcoming place for those whom the Lord brings to us as visitors. Consider a few ways that this new schedule will help us be more visitor-friendly.

  • We will be less rushed between services, which will allow us to engage newcomers more easily.
  • We have a place (Fellowship Hall) where you can invite a newcomer to share a cup of coffee.   Take them there and introduce them to someone else (its OK to be a little late for or even miss your Sunday School class).
  • There will be several pastors and staff present there, so please introduce your guest to one of them.

Imagine that from parking lot orange-vested volunteers, greeters, ushers, and congregants our visitors sense that they are welcomed, cared for, and introduced to the love of Christ through each of us! Lessons learned from my ping pong experience place a burden on my heart that the people of God would demonstrate the love of God to people who desperately need to discover the grace of God.

Last Sunday one of our warm and welcoming members invited an unchurched co-worker to Central for their first visit to a Protestant church. Everything was new and strange and unfamiliar. Yet I was so blessed to see how this newcomer was being engaged by our members, and on my way out they made a point to approach me and thank me for what they had just experienced. That, dear friends, is the gospel in action! No one on this planet will perish because they can’t play ping pong. Countless will perish unless they come to know Jesus. We have the great privilege to be the means (secondary cause) to that glorious end. May it be so.

– Pastor Bob

P.S. Don’t forget to take advantage of our excellent Sunday School offerings for all ages. In fact, you might even treat the visitor that you have befriended to a cup of coffee, and then invite them to go with you to one of these classes.

Posted by Bob Hopper

Adult Sunday School Returns!

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We were not created to walk through life alone.  God designed us to flourish best as part of the family of God, united to God and one another through Christ Jesus. As sisters and brothers to one another in Christ, we grow in spiritual maturity and wisdom by worshiping, learning, and serving in the community of God’s people.

We invite you to commit fully to God and his people by participating in Central’s ministries of spiritual formation. We offer places to connect and belong, to know and be known, to be accepted by the grace of Christ and transformed by the power and love of Christ in every aspect of your life. We hope you find your place and your purpose in the family of God at Central.

If you have questions, or would like help finding the right opportunity for you, please contact Pastor Mike Farley at .

20s & 30s

9am, Classroom B

This community for young adults is a great place to connect, grow, and learn.  This fall, we will read The Art of Neighboring to learn practical ways to share the good news of Jesus in word and deed.

Leadership: Scott & Barb Wait, Pastor Todd & Sherdonna Denholm

My Sunday Family

9am, The Gathering Place

My Sunday Family is a community seeking to connect and support each other while learning to follow Christ together as the family of God.  Our meetings always include teaching and small group discussion as well as time to share life’s joys and struggles and to pray for one another.  This fall, we will study aspects of the Christian life addressed in the letters of Paul.

Leadership: Tyler Stephens and Thom Avery

 

Navigators

9am, Parlor

Navigators is a community of mixed ages and stages that seeks a deeper faith and relationships through study, prayer, discussion, and community. This fall, we will use the Gospel Transformation study to learn how to understand and live all of life on the basis of the grace of God in Jesus Christ.  

Leadership: John & Veeda Holmes, Doug Kennedy, Ed & Judy Koehler, Carl Lothman

Gleaners

10:30am, Parlor

Gleaners is a group of men and women of mixed group of ages, marital status, and biblical knowledge who study the Bible to apply it to their lives and seek greater obedience and faithfulness to the glory of God.  This fall, we will study 1st and 2nd Timothy to learn from the apostle Paul’s instructions about the life and ministry of the church.

Leadership: Neal Nielsen

 

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