CHOOSE YOUR HARD!

The simple truth is that being unhealthy is hard on your body, your emotions, and possibly even your relationships.

It’s also true that getting healthy is hard. It requires discipline, determination, and resisting temptation.

One has a negative impact on your life, while the other has a positive impact on your life.

So, choose your hard!

Learning to Love Yourself

Hey everyone, I am beginning a brand new journey towards living a healthier lifestyle, and I would like to invite you to follow along as I take this journey!

I am absolutely convinced that my body is “the temple of the Holy Spirit” and as such, am further convinced that I need to focus more on “temple maintenance” by eating better, exercising more, and taking better care of myself, so that I can live a more energetic, robust life serving God with greater passion!

And… IT ALL BEGINS with LOVING MYSELF better.

In today’s video I discuss in further detail precisely what this means. I hope you check it out and that it encourages you in your journey as well. Blessings!

HONORING OTHERS

Honoring Others

One of my favorite games we used to play when I was a kid was Barrel of Monkeys. If you’re anywhere north of your mid-to-late-30s, you know what I’m talking about. Those of you who are younger, well, just Google it.

As I look back on it now, I find it somewhat humorous just how simple the instructions were for this particular game. Here they are:

“Dump monkeys onto table. Pick up one monkey by an arm. Hook other arm through a second monkey’s arm. Continue making a chain. Your turn is over when a monkey is dropped.”

Simple enough, right? Well, it wasn’t until I was older that I began to realize the deeper life-lessons that the game was teaching me at the time… and that is the power of relationship. You see, the thing about the game is that you could not reach the intended goal of completing the chain of monkeys if you only had one monkey to play with. I’ve since come to understand that this is a powerful life principle; it is always better working towards corporate goals within the context of relationship, whether it’s with other people, your spouse, co-workers, or a group of friends on a similar journey.

GOD WIRED US THAT WAY. We were not created to do life alone. We were never intended to live in isolation. We were not made to fly solo. In fact, we were uniquely designed to crave relationship—doing life with others.

From the very beginning, in the Genesis account of creation, we see that when God created Adam, there was an obvious void, an emptiness that even God Himself apparently could not fill in Adam’s life. Think about it, God and Adam had uninterrupted relationship together, yet in Genesis 2:18 God says something very peculiar:

“It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

If ever there were a seemingly perfect formula for ultimate relational fulfillment, one would think that uninterrupted fellowship with the Divine would be it, right? However, we clearly see in this portion of Scripture that there was still an element of aloneness in man’s heart. So, God created another human being for him to enjoy doing life with. Why? Because we have been hardwired from the very beginning to desire connection with others. And nothing is more powerful than when two or more people are connected for a common cause and a singular purpose. The Apostle Paul goes to great lengths to share the power of relationship within the context of biblical community in Philippians 1:3-11. I would strongly urge you to go there and read it with fresh eyes on relationship.

In Romans 12:10 we are compelled to…

“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other”(NLT)

Did you catch that? Not only are we expected to love others…. we are actually admonished to take it one step further by “honoring each other.” And not grudgingly, mind you, but to literally be delighted in doing so!

Years ago, the Salvation Army was holding an international convention and their founder, Gen. William Booth, could not attend because of physical weakness, so he cabled his convention message to them. It was one word: “OTHERS.”

What a simple, yet profound way to communicate the purpose of the organization that he had founded. The original goal of the Salvation Army was simply to serve others by meeting their needs!

The Church was established and built on this very principle. Jesus died and gave His life for “others.” He filled us with His Spirit so that we might be better equipped to reach “others.” The local church is designed to be a safe-haven from the storms of life for “others.” All of life is designed as such that it only works properly if shared with “others.”

May we continue to grow in the area of honoring the “others” in our lives, and demonstrate with even greater authenticity the Jesus-centered life. After all, the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commands–Loving God and Loving Others (see Matthew 22:37-39).

Why not pause for just a moment and pray this simple prayer with me… “God, teach me to love, serve, and honor others better than I have, and help me to see the value in every person that you bring into my life. Amen!” 

Why Plant Another Church?

 

Why Plant Another Church-

A couple of years ago, Karine and I set out on the journey of a lifetime when we resigned an established church with a full-time salary, packed up everything we owned, and moved our family to Bradenton, Florida to begin the process of planting Synergy Church. This naturally begs the question, “Does Bradenton really need another church?” After all, like most American cities in the Southeast, there’s definitely no shortage of churches here. So, the simple answer is yes… and no. Let me explain.

The Sarasota-Bradenton area is booming with explosive growth and an influx of new people moving here from all over the country. Recent studies show that the Sarasota and Manatee Metro area is the 11th fastest growing area in the US with more than 20,000 new residents moving here in one year alone!* That’s the size of our neighbors to the south… Venice, FL. Not only that, but the estimated population of Manatee County alone is over 375,000 (factfinder.census.gov), and the latest stats indicate that only 23% of Manatee County residents attend church any given weekend, which subsequently results in a staggering 77% that are unchurched. What this indicates is that there are approximately 290,000 people who don’t attend church anywhere! Needless to say, there’s a ton of potential for a new life-giving, Spirit-empowered church on Florida’s Gulf Coast!

So, our vision is not just to start another church with the same format, same programs, and structure as other churches out there. Our vision is to start a vibrant, life-giving church that influences a city and shapes a culture. 

When Andy Stanley started North Point Community Church over twenty years ago, he began with the following premise:

“Atlanta doesn’t need another church. Atlanta needs a different kind of church. Atlanta needs a church where church people are comfortable bringing their unchurched friends, family members, and neighbors. A church where unbelievers can come and hear the life-changing truth that God cares for them and that Jesus Christ died for their sin. We’ve come together to create a church unchurched people will love to attend.”

A “CHURCH THAT UNCHURCHED PEOPLE LOVE TO ATTEND.” I love this for so many reasons! And it has absolutely NOTHING to do with watering down the message.

First, many churches today have become so inward focused that they have all but lost their initial reason for being (any church worth its salt begins as an extension of God’s love to the lost); Second, it resonates with the mission of Jesus, who “came to seek and save those who are lost” (Luke 19:10, NLT) and who would even “leave the ninety-nine… and go out to search for the one that is lost” (Matthew 18:12, NLT); Third, it mirrors the life and ministry of the Head of the Church–Jesus, who was known as a “friend of sinners” (see Luke 7:34); and lastly, I am convinced that there are ways of “doing church” that no one has even thought of yet, and this excites me!

I often find myself thinking about the possibilities and dreaming about the type of church that God would have us plant. There are so many creative ways that have yet to be imagined to connect lost people to God, and I want to be a part of this creative process with Holy Spirit as He reveals and inspires us on this journey. After all, as I mentioned in my previous post, we serve a…

“…God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20, NLT)

The good news is that God wants a vibrant, life-giving Jesus community where all people are welcomed and are finding freedom, forgiveness, hope, and purpose for their lives… even more than we do! This requires stepping out of our comfort zones, taking some risks, and dreaming of new ways to do church that will connect with those who need it most–those who are far from God.

Let’s be clear. Bradenton really doesn’t need another church. Neither does the community in which you live. What they need are grace-filled, Good News-centered, Spirit-empowered, life-giving movements that are truly making an eternal difference in peoples lives. Our goal is for Synergy Church to be that type of church. And with God’s power and provision, we will see a miracle birthed!

So, to answer the question “why plant another church?… may I suggest that the eternal destiny of the 77% just may very well depend on it!  Continue reading

Parachute Planting

PARACHUTE PLANTING

“It’s not for the faint of heart.” That’s what one facilitator bluntly said at a church planters conference when describing one of the models that’s used in church planting. In fact, I have since come to discover that this is not the recommended model by many within the church planting universe. The model? Parachute Planting.

Parachute Planting is when a church planter and their family “parachute” drop into a new location, having no connections, no relationships, and often times limited resources… and they start a new church from scratch. It can be very challenging, even discouraging at times, and immensely faith-stretching. However, on the flip-side, I’ve also been told that it can be one of the most rewarding and enriching endeavors as well. That’s what we’re banking on 😉

About a year ago my wife and I, with our four children in tote, “parachuted” into Bradenton with the goal of starting a dynamic, life-giving, Spirit-empowered church. From day one, our ambition and dream of making a difference in people’s lives has not wavered. Not only that, but we have discovered some key principles along the way that are helping to shape our approach to planting Synergy Church within our community. Here’s a few of them:

  1. It takes T.I.M.E.  This is simply because relationships take time. It takes time to connect with people you have only recently met, and to earn the trust of those that you are asking to join you on this journey. It takes time to learn the culture of your new community, with all of its ebbs and flows, its “peak seasons” and dormant seasons, as well as its history and socioeconomic makeup. You can do this either by doing a quick Google search to discover community trends, demographics, and events in your area or by talking to those who have lived there longer than you have.
  2. It takes a TEAM. Statistics indicate that the larger the launch team, the better the chances will be of survival for the new church. In Planting Fast-Growing Churches by Stephen Gray, he suggests that in successful Church Plants… 88% have church planting teams, and 63% have a core group of 26-75 people. It may be a somewhat overused or perhaps even cheesy saying, but “teamwork really does make the dream work”, especially in church planting!
    • If you would like more information on joining our Launch Team, simply email me at james@mysynergy.church.  
  3. It takes PARTNERSHIP. The simple fact is that it requires resources and equipment to effectively launch a church, which obviously takes money (usually lots of it), which in the early stages means raising outside support from those who may or may not be directly connected to your Launch Team, but want to support you on your new journey. Partnerships with other people and organizations can be absolutely critical to the health of any new church. But even this requires time and trust and doesn’t always come easily.
    • If you would like to become a partner of Synergy Church, you may do so quickly and securely by clicking here.  
  4. It takes DISCIPLINE (focusing on what matters most). It can be extremely tempting to dive in headfirst, with tremendous passion and vision in order to blaze this new trail. However, it is vitally important to keep first things first throughout the church planting journey. For us, that means keeping Jesus first and always at the center (He wants a relationship with you more than He wants a church from you); it means tending to the needs of your spouse, making sure not to neglect this most important relationship and further ensuring that the ministry does not come between the two of you; and it also means prioritizing family time. For us, this may be a weekend trip to Disney to celebrate big days, or simply hanging out a couple evenings a week watching movies, playing games, or just being “present.”   

Bottom line… Church planting is hard. Very hard. And parachute planting, I am finding, can be all the more challenging and frustrating. Nevertheless… when God calls you to a certain task in a specific location for a divine purpose, you can be sure of one thing…

With God’s power working in us, God can do much, much more than anything we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20, NCV).

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a pretty wild imagination… and when tied to God’s purposes, it can result in some pretty awesome, life-giving faith journeys. All you need to do is take a step of faith and JUMP. Then trust God with the journey.

Are you ready for the ride of a lifetime? Here we go. 1, 2, 3, JUMP!

 

We’ve Moved… again

moving in (filtered)

Cencebaugh family update:  We’ve finally moved to our target area of Bradenton. Florida.

This past month, we were finally able to move from Ruskin, FL (approximately 30 miles north of Bradenton) to our church plant target area of Sarasota-Bradenton. What does this mean? Well, besides the fact that we’ve moved yet again (we lost count once we got into our teens)… it also means that we are now located in the community that God has called us to reach with the Message of Jesus… which also means that we can begin to transition our focus more towards building lasting relationships within our community, and getting a clearer understanding of the needs of our neighbors…. so that we can begin investing our lives into the people whom God loves and has sent us to.

We are asking that you would please pray with us for the following as we continue this Church Planting journey:

  1. Church Finances & Resources
  2. Church Location
  3. Launch Team
  4. Personal Finances
  5. Favor with the Community

Also, you can financially support this mission by contributing in one of two ways:

  1. A single, one-time gift or
  2. Regular monthly support (whether it be $25, $50, $100 or more per month) over the next 12 months.

THERE ARE TWO WAYS TO GIVE

You can give online

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=ADTSZSVXAPDZG

You can give by check

Please make checks payable to: 

Synergy Church  |  768 Rosemary Circle  |  Bradenton, FL 34212

All contributions are 100% tax deductible. You will receive a statement next January for tax purposes.

Keep watching for more updates. Until next time, let’s keep working together to make Jesus famous!

Good Idea? Or God Idea?

many small light bulbs equal big one

I’ve come across a lot of creative ideas, even ‘good ideas’ in my 20 years of ministry; ideas that on the surface appeared to be “life-changing” and “earth-shaking” and “innovative,” only for them to fall flat, producing little or no fruit. Ever been there? It can be quite frustrating, time-consuming, and disappointing.

Yet, the Great Commission (see Matthew 28:16-20) compels us to keep reaching, keep telling, keep loving, and to keep serving…

I once heard Craig Groeschel say something to the effect,

“To reach people no one else is reaching, we need to do things no one else is doing”

Instead of simply adapting and trying to carbon copy what another church may be doing, it’s vital that we get our own word from God for our own unique situation and location. Does this take more work? Yes. Can it be riskier this way? Yes. Might it be a little scary? Yep. Is it worth it? Absolutely!

When you do this, you will not be leaning and relying on your own understanding, but will diligently be seeking after and following God, receiving direction and instruction from Him (did I mention that this will also improve your prayer life?)  Then He will get all the credit and receive all of the recognition, and His Kingdom will be built not on your personality and skill-set, but on His Word and Spirit.

My personal goal has been to model this by searching after God’s heart, studying His Word, and leaning on His Spirit, much like the men of Issachar did in 1 Chronicles. This is a great example of leaders understanding the culture in which they lived, knowing the best course of action to take, and boldly acting on their intel:

All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take. (1 Chronicles 12:32, NLT)

These leaders could have come up with a dozen ‘good ideas’ and maybe even made some progress. Instead, they came up with a ‘God idea’ that led to David eventually becoming their king and “There was great joy throughout the land of Israel” (1 Chronicles 12:40, NLT).

Swiss theologian Karl Barth once said, “One should preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.” Our goal should be to “understand the signs of the times” by studying our culture, knowing what’s going on, and better yet, what to do… then sharing God’s Word with clarity and conviction within that context.

Whether you’re a church leader, business person, school teacher, or parent, the same is true for all of us… Life can be tricky; it’s often confusing; rarely predictable, always changing; and we can feel out-of-touch with reality pretty quickly. Yet, one God idea will trump a thousand good ideas for your particular situation and lead you to sweet victory.

Sounds like a winning strategy for any phase of life, wouldn’t you agree?