“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.”
1 Corinthians 1:27
Years ago, I heard a former Calvary Chapel Pastor say, “Find the most messed up person from the most dysfunctional background, and you probably just found the next Calvary Chapel Pastor.” While those words may not describe every pastor of every Calvary Chapel across the globe, they certainly describe yours truly. Twenty-Five years ago, for reasons that are still a mystery, God in His infinite wisdom sent me to Brighton, to start a home Bible study which would eventually become Calvary Chapel Brighton. During this upcoming Sunday’s message, I will share the story of how our church was planted, but for now I wanted to reflect on how our church has been a product of God’s grace.
When God sent me to Brighton to plant this church, he was not sending an experienced church planter who knew what he was doing. He was not sending a skilled leader who knew how to inspire his team and give clear direction. He wasn’t even sending a gifted Bible teacher. In fact, the first time Amy heard me preach she fearfully thought, “If God is calling Paul to step out to plant a church and preach the Word, we’re going to starve.” Now the truth is that when I was a young 27-year-old man coming to Brighton to plant a church I thought I was all those things. Or as the kids used to say, “I thought I was all that, and a bag of chips.” With youthful zeal I started this Bible study out here, honestly believing that I was a dynamic public speaker, an inspirational leader whom his followers would be willing to run through walls for. Turns out, I was the epitome of 1 Corinthians 1:27, I was the “foolish thing,” God was using to confound the wise. Someone once asked Hudson Taylor, the founder of China Inland Missions, who many felt to be an inadequate leader, why God would choose someone like him to lead such a significant ministry. I love his answer when he said, “God was looking for someone small enough and weak enough to use, so He called me.” Why does God call the foolish things, the weak things, and the insignificant things? The simple answer is this; if something significant does happen then the only explanation is that it was God. God Himself put it this way in 2 Corinthians 12:9b “My power shows up best in weak people.” Likewise, our church's 25-year history is a living testament to the grace of God and proof that God is mighty.
I remember a year or two after planting Calvary Brighton a businessman attending our church asked me, “What’s your vision for the church?” Nervously, I answered, “My vision is that everybody that was here this Sunday, comes back next Sunday.” As an inadequate leader, I had no idea what a “vision statement” was. My five-year plan was to come up with a plan. All I knew, as you’ll hear on Sunday, is that God called me to come to Brighton, plant this church, and preach the Word verse by verse. My simple plan was to be faithful to the Lord, faithful to His word, faithful to my family and faithful to His flock. Two and a half decades later by the way, that is still my simple plan.
Then one day, God gave me His vision for the church. Literally, God gave me a vision. Now at the risk of sounding like a wild-eyed televangelist, let me share this vision with you. About eighteen or nineteen years ago I was doing some household chores, when this vision was given to me. In my minds-eye so to say, I saw a first century “casting net” being lowered from the sky and falling upon Brighton, and the Denver Metro area. As the net came down, I sort of heard “Go into all the world and preach the gospel” (Mark 16:15). It was then that I discovered that God’s vision for our church was to be the kind of church that equips God’s people with God’s Word to go into their world and reach the lost for God. That’s when I realized the reason God sent me to Brighton was to preach the Word verse by verse is to equip you to reach your co-workers, neighbors, friends, and unbelieving family with the Word of God.
This vision helped me understand the reason I was sent to Brighton to preach the Word verse by verse was two-fold. Number one, the preaching needs to reach the lost. Whether that is giving an “altar call” allowing someone to make a decision to give their life to Jesus. Or to preach in such a way, that the message speaks to and makes sense to someone who is not yet a Christian. It’s easy for pastors to preach to the choir so to say. To speak in phrases and terms that only makes sense to people who are already Christians. But I realize that part of God’s call on my life is to reach the lost where they’re at. Secondly, the teaching needs to equip God’s people. Ephesians 4 verse 12 says that the reason God gave prophets and apostles as well as pastors, teachers and evangelists to the church is to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” The pastor isn’t called to do all the work of the ministry, rather he is called to equip the rest of the church to do the work of the ministry. In other words, the call on my life is to equip you with the Word of God. As I take you verse by verse through the Word, the end result is that you are being equipped to reach those who are lost in your life with the Word. For example, perhaps one day you’re talking to a co-worker with marriage problems and suddenly in that moment the Holy Spirit helps you recall something you heard at church when we talked about marriage in Ephesians chapter 5. Maybe you’re talking with someone who believes that if they work hard enough, if they keep the right rituals, or as long as their good deeds outnumber their bad deeds they’ll go to heaven. In that moment perhaps the Lord brings to your remembrance something from our Galatians series so that you can share with them how God will save them by Grace. There are people in your sphere of influence who would never listen to me. But you have earned their trust and have become someone they would listen to. Therefore, my role is to help equip you to reach them.
Additionally, from this vision to reach the lost, God has given us several opportunities to step out in faith. One such opportunity was our radio ministry Simply The Word. That casting net I saw was not only being lowered onto Brighton, but on the Denver Metro area. When I discovered that 35% of the listeners of Christian radio are not Christians, that’s when I realized by putting our teaching on the radio, we were casting the net over the Denver Metro area.
Over the years we have had the opportunity to reach our community in a variety of ways. We’ve done large outreach events at Benedict Park for Independence Day. In the early 2000’s we partnered with a local gas station and gave away free gas. As you could imagine people were lined up for blocks to get their free fill up. However, along with a tank of gasoline, they received Bibles, a CD with our churches Bible teaching and information about our church. In 2010, we conducted an outreach at the Brian Aragon Skate Park (by the Justice Center), with Pro-Skaters, Pro-BMX riders, bands and guest speakers, a couple thousand kids showed and several accepted Christ. In 2017, when The Case For Christ movie was released, we rented out two theaters at the AMC Brighton Pavilion, and gave away tickets to anyone in the community who wanted to see a free movie. Both theaters were packed. Along with a free movie, everyone received a free copy of the book The Case For Christ, a CD of our teaching and an invitation to our Easter service. On another occasion we gave away a prize-winning Low Rider to reach out to those in a “gang lifestyle.” A couple years ago we partnered with FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) and brought evangelist Ryan Ries to share his testimony at Brighton High School, where we saw hundreds of teens come forward to accept Jesus. These are a few examples of how, by God’s grace, we have been trying to “cast the net,” over our community and the metro area, since God gave us our vision.
It's been said that the work of the ministry is a journey filled with “highs” and “lows” with “peaks” and “valleys.” Throughout these past two and a half decades God has given me the unique privilege to be there for people during their best days and their worst. It has been a tremendous blessing to stand with countless couples at the altar on their joyous day. On the flipside, I have the unique opportunity to help others walk through their darkest valleys when they’ve lost loved ones. These past twenty-five years have been filled with holding precious little babies in my arms as their parents dedicate them to the Lord. Wonderful baptism services where in addition to those who planned on getting baptized there are people in the crowd who make a spur of the moment decision to dedicate themselves to the Lord and get baptized. It’s been wonderful over these years to see people get saved, marriages restored, families healed, and people discover and fulfill the purpose that God has for their lives.
For Amy and me, it’s also surreal to reflect on our church's twenty fifth anniversary. We got married one year before we planted this church. So, for almost our entire marriage this church has been a major part of our lives. It has been such a blessing watching our son and daughter grow up in this church. Today both Zach and Samantha are now young adults who love the Lord and are serving Him. It’s a special privilege to watch as the Lord has raised up my son to serve alongside me in this ministry.
Twenty-five years ago, I stepped out in faith, but mostly in fear believing that God would do a wonderful work, but also terrified that I would fail. Yet, all these years later, there has been so much wonderful ministry that has taken place. It’s just living proof that God indeed uses “foolish things.” The only explanation for all the amazing things we’ve seen over twenty-five years is that God was in it.
Today, if you were to ask me what my “vision” is for the church? I would say, it’s to continue for the next several decades to be a church that ‘Goes.’ A church that equips God’s people, with God’s Word to Go into their world and reach the lost for God. To continue to preach the Word verse by verse in a way that not only reaches the lost but equips you to reach them as well. To continue to find ways to cast the net over our community and the metro area. Ultimately my vision is to continue to be the “foolish thing” that God can use for His glory.
The life verse for the Calvary Chapel Movement at large, and certainly for our church, in fact it is tattooed on my left shoulder, is from Zechariah 4:6; “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” Just as the Spirit of the Lord has been effectively using our church for the last twenty-five years, my vision is that God will continue using us for the next twenty-five and beyond.
Baptism in the Platte River - 1999
The Low Rider we gave away
Altar call at Brighton High when Ryan Ries shared his testimony
Flier we handed out for the Case For Christ Movie outreach - 2017