Good morning. My name is Phil Human and a little over six years ago there was a small group of people meeting in the basement of Jim Warren’s home and we were praying that God would be kind and help us as we tried to figure out how to start a new church.
I had been in church ministry for 18 years at that time, I had never been a lead pastor of a church. I had never even considered starting a church, but the Spirit of God began working inside of me – leading me to begin thinking about what it would be like to start a church.
Jim Warren had been in ministry much longer than I had been. A LOT longer. He used to travel on his horse from town to town as an itinerent preacher. They paid him in eggs. That they threw at him as he preached. Though at one time he actually was the pastor at two churches at the same time in the Lincoln area.
Though Jim was born and raised in this town, he tells me that he had never been given the green light to begin a church in this town. But in 2008 God began speaking to his heart – churning within him – the voice of the Holy Spirit telling him the time was right to start a church in this town.
Jim and I knew one another but not very well. Jim had been talking to a friend about this calling upon him to start a church, and Jim described a church for people who don’t like church. About that same time, I had coffee with the same friend, (Who happens to be Ian Vickers, one of our elders here at Journey) and I was talking to Ian about a church for people who don’t like church. And Ian said, you and Jim need to talk to each other.
We met for coffee at the beanery on a Tuesday morning in the summer of 2008 and as we talked it was obvious that God brought us together. And one of the biggest issues in starting a new church is where to meet. A meeting facility is normally the largest single expense a new church must finance. Jim and I stopped by to talk to Dr. Riley, the school superintendent to share with him our vision for a new church in the community.
Dr. Riley was excited about our plan. Just so you know – he told us that he believed that every student needs a family that loves them, a school that unconditionally supports them, and a faith to guide them. Then Dr. Riley said this. “Why don’t you use one of our schools for your church? We have Thomas Elementary available.” Okay – how much is the rent.
Gang, can I tell you that in Omaha right now it costs $5,000 a month to rent a school? Dr. Riley said, Nothing. You’ll get keys, just clean up and lock up on your way out. We asked him, how long can we stay in the school – and he said, you can’t stay forever – but if it helps the last church was in that school for ten years. Now you can do the math, right? What’s $5,000 a month for ten years? $600,000. We had just been given a $600,000 gift.
On my way home that afternoon I was so excited my hands were shaking. I called Jody and said, Babe, it looks like we are moving to Gretna.
We began calling friends, and calling on friends. Some friends promised to come and help us start the church by attending and serving each week. Some of them are sitting here in this room this morning.
Other friends said, we don’t feel called to attend, but we will give money – and for two years a group of people who never planned on attending Journey gave money every month in order to help us get started.
And without them – this church never would have happened. Such generosity. This church exists today because a group of people loved you all before we ever knew you. A group of people sacrificially gave so that you might be able to hear the good news about Jesus today.
We began our church officially on March 1st 2009. We had about 165 people in attendance. And last week – we had the most people we’ve ever had a Journey Church – more than 665 people.
Why is Journey Church growing? Seriously, does anyone know? It isn’t the preaching. It isn’t the sweet chairs. It’s isn’t our awesome sound equipment. It’s not even the donuts! But to be honest they don’t hurt, do they?
I will tell you why Journey is growing. Because Jesus is growing it. This church belongs to Jesus. It is His – and He is building it. The Church belongs to Jesus and he has been growing it for two thousand years. Check out this passage in Matthew 16.
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
Now at this point Jesus is a rabbi without a synagogue – traveling around Israel teaching people about the Kingdom of Heaven. And he is performing miracles, and healing the sick, and word about him is getting out and crowds are forming. Jesus wants to know – who do the crowds say that I am?
14 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” 15 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”
See although many have come to see the show and hear his preaching, Jesus only has 12 disciples. Twelve men completely devoted to him. Twelve people who know him the best – and Jesus wants to know – okay you twelve – who do YOU think I am…
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
You are more than a prophet – you are the anointed one – the savior of the world. You are the Son of the Most high God.
17 Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. 18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.
So here is Jesus. Comes from nothing. Poor. No land. No money. No synagogue – a total of twelve followers. Jesus lacks money, prestige, followers, but what he doesn’t lack is confidence!
Jesus says that I’m going to take you Peter – I’m taking you as leader of these twelve, and upon you twelve people I’m going to build My Church. And nothing will be able to stand in it’s way.
That’s confidence, friends. Confidence. Jesus says, I’m taking the twelve of you, and I will build my church and nothing can stop it. Hell itself will not prevail against it. Hell itself will get steamrolled by the church.
Just listen to the ownership that Jesus takes here. It’s whose church? It’s Jesus church. And HE ‘s doing the building. And for two thousand years – the church has grown. See Jesus made the Kingdom of God available – he threw open the doors to the alternative Kingdom of the “Every person for themselves” world into which we are born by default.
And within the Kingdom of Heaven we are promised that Jesus himself will personally lead us – as a shepherd leads us to green pastures and still waters and where our souls are refreshed. Where his presence guides and protects us.
And everyone who enters into the Kingdom of heaven is collectively called his church. Now there are many expressions of this church in all of our local churches. Each church has it’s own DNA – if you will. It’s own personality. Even it’s own unique vision.
But – though every church is unique – we all have the same purpose. Jesus made the purpose of every church very clear in Matthew 28:18-20.
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.
The universal church has one purpose. Make disciples. Make apprentices of Jesus. But each church has it’s own vision to how to make that happen. We started Journey in order to make disciples of the skeptic, the stalled, the new starters, the restarters. And the people who love those people. That’s our unique DNA i the overall picture.
Why is Journey Church alive and well today? Because this church belongs to Jesus and he is building it. Jesus loves his church. It has a unique vision and place in the Kingdom. It is His and He is building it.
And even moreso – Jesus loves this community. HE loves Gretna. He loves your neighborhood. And Jesus’ chosen instrument to show His love to this community – is his church.
Jesus loves this community – and he intends to love it through your hands and your feet and your mouths – Jesus created this Church because he loves this community – and his love is for it is being expressed through you.
Can I show you something interesting? Let me show you the beginning of all of this. For us to understand how Journey got here we need to go much further back than the beanery in 2008. We need to go all the way back to the book of acts. Let’s look at how this all got started.
Jesus has been crucified. Those twelve people? Bolt. Jesus is resurrected and he brings the twelve back together – eleven now, minus Judas. Jesus spends forty more days with them, and before he ascends into heaven Jesus instructs his church – which has now grown to about 120 people – to wait until the Holy Spirit comes upon them and empowers them for ministry.
In Acts 2 we read about the day the Holy Spirit came and filled his followers. Peter stands up to preach. His message is simple. Trust in Jesus. Repent of your sins. Get baptized to show the world you believe in Him. Be filled with the Spirit and begin a new life in the glorious alternative Kingdom of heaven.
Acts 2:41 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.
Jesus says I will build My church. 12 to 120. 120 to 3,000 people. Imagine that donut order – last week we ordered 10 dozen. Next week we’ll need 250 dozen donuts. Yeah, we grew a little.
But now 3,000 people strong, this first church began to live and love on one another and now we come to a beautiful description of what this first church looked like. And this is a description of what it looked like behind closed doors. What was happening inside the church?
42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.
This is an idyllic picture of what the church that is working, looks like. A church that is loving the way Jesus loved, looks like this. It is a church that is being taught to obey everything Jesus taught. To know what he taught and follow through with it.
It is a church that deeply cares about one another. Genuine love.
You know – we often say that we wanted to start a church for people who don’t like church. And many of you would raise your hand if asked and say – yes I was one of those people who had little regard for the Church. And if we were to take a poll and ask – what don’t you like about the church. What is it about the church that turns you away from it?
Incredibly – people would say that the church is filled with people who don’t love one another. It is filled with people who are judgmental – waiting to pounce upon you if you make a mistake. Ready to exclude you and shun you if you don’t have your act together.
Isn’t that a far cry from this picture of an idyllic church in Acts 2? Jesus built a church and they loved one another. In fact, they were famous for their love. They loved one another so deeply that they were willing to sell their possessions to make sure that they were caring for the poor – for the hurting. It says 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. that they freely gave what they had in order to care for those in need.
Remarkable love. Jesus says I will build my church- and the foundation of this church is two things – truth and love. The truth of the good news – place faith in Jesus – and the result of following Jesus teachings – which is love. Tremendous sacrificial love amongst the church.
You know that if we are becoming like Jesus we will become more loving. More loving. Our goal is to help you become the most loving human you can become.
And this love stood out to the community – it was noticed. Listen to how the love of this church affected the community. Verse 46 says the believers had hearts that were glad and sincere. The NLT says it was with great joy and generosity. And furthermore – listen to the results of this church within the community. Verse 47 says that the church enjoyed the favor of all the people.
Jesus is building his church. And one of the hallmarks of the church was that it was a positive influence in the community. It was a church that blessed the community. People were cared for. The poor were taken care of. The widows, the orphans, the needy – cared for through the hands of Jesus’ people.
From the very beginning – Jesus expresses love to a community through his church. And now, two thousand years later – Jesus is building his church here at Journey. And what a joy and privilege to say that you all are a church that has blessed this community. You really have.
Jesus loves Gretna – and our surrounding city of Omaha. Jesus loves our community and he loves them through you, his church.
And you are doing some really cool things in our community, Journey.
Whether it is through volunteering your time – and you all are incredible volunteers. And I mean outside of Sunday – outside of the church – you volunteer like crazy in here but then you take it out of here – love leaves Journey through you and you volunteer time – right?
Many of you are mentors in the school? Mentors through the Teammates program? We have about a dozen Journey people mentoring students – meeting one on one in the school during lunch once a week – it’s a fantastic mentoring program-many are involved.
Many of you have traveled to the Heartland Hope food pantry with your families to serve, right Hundred’s of you have done that. Hundreds.
Many of served at the open door mission. Others volunteer at the Gretna neighbors association. You are servants. One time the disciples were squabbling about greatness and Jesus responds by washing feet – if you want to be great in the kingdom be a servants.
And you all are servants in this community. Jesus loving Gretna and Omaha through you.
Many of you – hundreds – have contributed money to help those who need help. We’ve given money to heartland hope, done food drives and diaper drives and toiletry collections.
Through your generosity we’ve been able to assist people in our church and community We’ve paid medical bills, turned electricity and gas back on.
Through the assistance program we’ve been able to subsidize professional counseling in order to make it affordable for more than 50 families in our church and community.
Over the past six years Journey has provided nearly $200,000 in assistance in our community to people who need a helping hand. Because you love our community. Because Jesus loves this community. Because Jesus loves our community and he loves them through you, his church.
Now I said all of that – to say this. Would you dream with me about what it would look like to do far more in our community? We are grateful for what God has done through us – and we believe that God wants to do far more.
And God is able. Ephesians 3:20 says 20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
We believe that the time has come for us to believe that God wants to do far more in our church than we have ever imagined he could do. And that means that the time has come for us to find our permanent place in this community. It’s time for us to get very intentional about finding a home for Journey Church.
You know when I sat in Dr. Riley’s office – he said we could stay in a school for ten years. At the time I thought – that’s a lifetime from now! That was six years ago!
The time is now for us to believe and trust that God has something for us beyond this incredible gift of the school. It’s time we take a step of faith and trust him to provide for Journey a place to call home for generations.
So we are today, kicking off a project that we hope will soon end with a location for Journey to be able to build a permanent home from which we bless our community.
We are asking God to provide enough money in the next three years so that we might be able to buy enough land to build upon. We believe we need about ten acres of land. Land now in Gretna is about 60 thousand an acre. We are hoping to raise enough money to be able to buy and prepare enough land to build our permanent home upon. We think it will take $750,000 to buy the land and get it ready for a building.
Now there are many questions to be answered – and not enough time this morning to answer them all. We have a pamphlet we put together with some FAQ’s – and over the next three week we will answer more questions as we go – I promise we will do out best to get you the answers you are seeking – but today is not the time to answer each question.
You can write questions on your community card and we will answer them to the best of our ability as we go.
Let’s talk about what it will take to move this from the realms of ‘ideas’ into the realm of actual land that we can build on? It will take money. And it will take prayer and it will take commitment and patience.
So I want to be as specific as I can. And by the way if you are our guest here today – you need to know this talk is out of the norm for us – but after six years, we are pretty excited about moving forward. So we need to talk this way to make sure we are all on the same page as a family.
And if you are a Journey regular and you’ve brought your friend to church today for the first time and you are like, I can’t believe that I brought them to the day we talk about money! Don’t worry about it. Your friend understands.
Plus, to tell you the truth – if this is your first time here – I am going to tell you the truth, because I love you. If you aren’t already doing this, I’m doing you a favor when i tell you that you need to give some of your money away. Regularly. And I’m telling you the truth. Some people’s wallet’s have a death grip on their soul and the only way to be free is to give some of it away.
Everyone wants to be a generous person. So get rid of some money. And I can say this because if this is your first time here you shouldn’t give it to Journey – unless you trust us. And how can you trust us if this is your first week here. Do some research and give your money to a charity you trust.
And I’m doing you a favor. Save 50 cents and buy a stamp and you can write me a thankyou note later. How’s that for truth?
Now if Journey is your home church though – if you have been around here long enough to know our heart and trust us – then I’m asking you to support this project.
I’m asking you to go home and pray about what you can give to this project over the next 36 months. And I’m asking you to consider what you can give above your normal giving. Because it will not help us to move our money from operating the church, into a building fund. And if we stop caring for orphans to build a building then what’s the point of building a building, right? We can’t stop being Journey Church. And Journey Church cares for the poor and the orphan and the widow and the lost.
So what can you give toward making this project a reality in the future? In e sense I’m asking you to do the same thing I asked that first group of people to do six plus years ago. I asked them to give to help make Journey Church a reality for a group of people who had not yet walked through the doors of our church.
And I am asking you to do the same thing now. I’m asking you to give generously and sacrificially in order to bless a group of people who slept in today and believe that God has no place in their lives.
But here’s the truth – right now God is working on hearts in this town. He is always at work in every one we see. And that it just might be that one day that person will discover the real Jesus and maybe in this church right here. And they will sit in a room and I will be 90 years old and I will pop my teeth in and say – “You might not even believe God exists – and you need to know we are glad you are here – you are welcome here – but beware – Jesus is out to win you over.
I’ll tell you that I believe this town needs this church. This town needs a church like ours, to join in with the other Jesus loving churches, to join with them as we together love people in the name of Jesus.
So here’s how we are going to close – Two things – I want you to pray. Pray about this entire project. This is a spiritual endeavor – not a financial one. So we need to pour prayer all over it. Pray for land. Pray that God would provide the land and a great price. Pray for Journey and for our community.
Secondly – I want to challenge you to think about how you can make the largest gift you can make in order that we might get this job done and we can move forward. Will you ask God to show you how you can be part of this project over the course of the next three years?
I’m going to ask you to come prepared on May 3rd to bring back some kind of faith commitment – which will be a number on a piece of paper that says, God willing, we are planning to contribute X amount toward this project.
No one is going to come knocking on your door. You will never be invoiced. More than anything we need to determine whether this is actually do-able.
Now I know for some people your budget is tight -right? Listen, Jody and I will have two kids in college over the next two years so we understand a tight budget. But we are asking God for help – what can we give up. How can we earn extra – so that we can participate all we can.
I understand some are going to be able to contribute more than others. But this is what I am asking – If you consider Journey Church your home church – then I want you to plan on contributing something. Anything. Because everything counts. But more than that, I am looking for 100 percent participation in this project. I would like everyone to pitch in something.
Jesus loves our town. And he loves it though his church.
Lastly – you know why we decided to call this series Far More? Because everytime that God has asked us to take a step of faith he has done far more than we ever imagined he would do.
So today marks day 1 of an exciting adventure for us. Keep notes. Share them with your children and grandchildren someday – about how God did far more in this project – in order that He might do far more in our community.