Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Jonah Class Online

This Sunday we begin our series on Jonah. Jonah is one of my favorite books of the bible and so it's no surprise that I have already had the privilege to  offer a class a couple of years ago on Jonah. So as we enter into the series, I wanted to make available those classes online for anyone who wanted to go back and listen in depth to them.

Jonah Bible Study Lesson 1 of 3 from Samuel Weems on Vimeo.

Jonah Bible Study Lesson 2 of 3 from Samuel Weems on Vimeo.

Jonah Bible Study Lesson 3 of 3 from Samuel Weems on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


With the recent name change from Trinity Presbyterian Church to Trinity Wellsprings Church, I thought it might be helpful to clarify that while we have a different name that we hope will both 1.) attract seekers of THE Wellspring, Jesus Christ, to our campus to learn and follow him more closely and 2.) remind us that we ambassadors for Christ filled with His Spirit and sent out into the places we live, work and play as wellsprings of God's grace, we are also still very much Presbyterian.

Of course everyone who comes to our Newcomer Seminar to learn about who we are as a faith community will directly and explicitly understand that we are Presbyterian and what that means, but I've written this brief blog post as a simple way of understanding what and why we are a part of a Presbyterian system of church government.

First, Presbyterian primarily is a word that is derived from the Greek word that translates Elder. So fundamentally Presbyterian churches are elder led churches. We have a group of 12 elders (nice number huh?) that are the spiritual shepherds of this church. Some of the prominent passages that talk about elders are Exodus 18, Numbers 11, 1 Timothy 3, and Titus 1. Of the 12 elders, 9 are "ruling elders" (or elders recognized from within the congregation) and 3 are "teaching elders" (commonly referred to as pastors). All elders, whether ruling or teaching, have the same authority and ability to speak and vote on issues with regards to leading this faith community. There is no one individual over the Church other than Jesus Christ because we believe He is the head of the Church and that He is with us! Pastor Benita recently gave a sermon about the type of leadership that elders are called to from a biblical perspective when Luke Barnes was ordained as a teaching elder (pastor). You can read it by clicking here, or listen to it by clicking here. The third ordained position within Presbyterian churches are deacons. Based on the offices of the Old Testament Church (Israel) and those same offices fulfilled in Christ, the three basic offices in the Presbyterian Church are ruling elders (King - primarily responsible for ruling), teaching elders (Prophet - primarily responsible for teaching the Word and performing the Sacraments) and deacons (Priest - primarily responsible for serving the heartfelt needs of the people).

Beyond the individual level, the regional and national leadership structures also follow this model of teaching and ruling elders. The regional leadership (called Presbytery) is made up of teaching and ruling elders from the churches in that region and the national leadership (called Synod) again is made up of ruling and teaching elders from churches across the nation. Our Presbyterian denomination is called ECO: A Covenant Order of Presbyterians.

Presbyterian churches for the most part all subscribe to a general system of theology called Reformed Theology. (We did a sermon series and a churchwide study back in January and February of 2012 called Re-Formed describing this. You can always go back and read former sermons or listen to them on our webpage.) While all Presbyterian denominations have this type of church government (elder led) I've been describing, there can be significant differences in what they believe as made manifest by over 30 different Presbyterian denominations in the United States alone.The essential beliefs or tenets of ECO are posted on their website and all elders (teaching and ruling) as well as deacons must affirm these beliefs to be in ordained leadership. Now to be clear, we have many attenders, covenant partners, and even people in key servant positions who are not fully committed to these Reformed beliefs and that's ok! These are not the essentials to being a Christian, they are the essentials to be in ordained leadership. Some Presbyterian denominations don't require people to commit to any specific statements of theology at all, but ECO, and our faith community, believe that what you believe and particularly core statements of our faith are crucially important.

I hope that in future blogs I can write more about these Essential Tenets and explore them together with any potential readers out there. There are of course many more historical, traditional, and cultural ways to identify as Presbyterian, but these are the main ones. If you have more questions about who we are as Presbyterians or want to learn more about our vision and values, join us for one of the Newcomer Seminars or schedule an appointment to speak with one of our teaching elders (pastors). We have been called to serve you!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Focusing our Outreach

One of the cultural tendencies the Church needs to be aware of in our own particular context is the heavy pull of Consumerism. This is very dominant in our particular culture and in some churches has resulted in models of church and mission that look more like an entertainment and services provided model than the colony of heaven described in Scripture. One way this sometimes manifests itself is when the missions department of the church offers a menu-like buffet of mission partners for people to support financially. Often churches will try to have as many partners as possible in order to offer a larger menu for people to select from like the Cheesecake factory. This looks great from the surface but often times results in low impact for the kingdom of God.

More often it's focused partnerships in a few key areas that have more impact than when we offer a plethora of partnerships. We've seen this principle in every day life. The more the pressure, or impact, is spread out the less effect there is and the more focused that pressure becomes the more impact is felt. I once read that the pressure of the heel on a high heel shoe has the same amount of force in that one small area as an entire elephant's foot! Maybe you've seen people do fun demonstrations on a bed of nails where they lay on it and yet even when jumped on the nails do not pierce them. Ask those same people if they would take one nail with the same amount of force on it. They'd say no! The more focused our efforts, the more impact they will have.

We've recently begun making more effort to have a few key areas of focus geographically based on Acts 1:8 " But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Jerusalem represents our immediate context and neighbors, which of course would be Satellite Beach. Judea represents a larger region which for us is Brevard County. Samaria represents somewhere close, but of a different culture which for us has become the Booker T. Washington neighborhood. Finally the ends of the earth for us means Haiti and also places where the Church is not able to flourish on its own with unreached people groups.

Not only are we focusing in geographically, but also philosophically as well. At the beginning of this year we had a sermon series reflecting a desire of our faith community to help not only with emergency needs, but with long term redevelopment and a hands up versus a hands out mentality. We're also focusing in most cases on partnerships that overlap with our faith community relationally, and have places that allow for us to be the Church, serving and caring for others, rather than purely transactional relationships where we simply send financial support. Of course we also, as the Church, want to partner where we are able in places that will not only serve others physically but also allow opportunity to share the hope we have in Jesus.

Using these guidelines we've begun finding some areas that fit our geographic and philosophical areas of focus, as well as places our church has been engaged historically. While we still have multiple partnerships beyond these, and encourage both life groups and individuals to go where they are called, here are some of the areas we hope to begin to have more intentional relationship as a church. In our immediate area we will continue to focus on the community at Sea Park Elementary and hope through a new military ministry to begin efforts with the community centered around Patrick Air Force Base. Our partnership through Love In The Name of Christ (Love INC) connects us with over 50 different churches in Brevard county who are all working collaboratively to reach our county. In the Booker T. Washington Neighborhood we continue to partner with Brevard Neighborhood Development Coalition (BNDC) and their DOCK after school program, Habitat For Humanity, and Project Light. Not only that, but our senior pastor Michael Carey and his wife Lynn Brockwell-Carey, the executive director of BNDC, have moved in partnership with Habitat for Humanity into this neighborhood themselves! Finally through focus with partners like Bethel Church in India and "JD" in "Narnia" (we use code words for this missionary's protection) we seek to fulfill the call to reach the ends of the earth. We continue our focus on redevelopment and Haiti through our partnership with CODEP and the Haiti Children Feeding program.

At the last congregational meeting I shared some of this with those afterwards who were interested in learning more about our direction with regards to outreach. As we continue to move into more intentional and focused relationships there will be adjustments. I encourage you to come speak to me and share any concerns or questions you may have in the process. You can email me at sweems@trinitywellsprings.com. If you'd like to get involved in volunteering our volunteer coordinator Carla Carson (ccarson@trinitywellsprings.com) can help.

I'm so thankful that we are a community, a church, that engages others and seeks to see His kingdom come not only on this campus, but in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. I'm looking forward to see how we can be an impact in these places and in these lives where God has called us as His body to be at work.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What is Missional?

Missional is currently a buzzword in the Christian culture. Just Google the word and you'll see a number of current articles, books, and websites dedicated to explicating and getting people on board with and understanding "Missional". Because the word "Missional" is "in" right now, we find that the word is being put on just about any and every activity of the church to legitimize those activities and through use of the lingo to bring more attention to those activities. The problem is that when everything is missional, then nothing is. If talking to my next door neighbor about the weather, buying some chicken from publix, serving at the local food pantry, giving money to support a foreign missionary, and so forth are all missional, then what does that word really mean? Haven't I been missional all along before this word even became in vogue? Maybe, but most likely not. It's important to define what we mean we use this word, especially since it is at the core of our vision and values as a church, and as you read some of the key distinctions below I think you'll find that while we all have missional impulses (how could we not as the people of God), many of us (myself included) have yet to fully and intentionally lean into living our lives as missional Christ followers.

1. Missional vs. Attractional

One of the key aspects with regards to the missional movement fundamentally drives at the model of the church. Is the church primarily to draw people to the Sunday service  and involvement in the ministries of the church or are we as the people of God primarily called to go and serve and disciple others in their contexts of community? The answer, of course, is both. Statistics indicate that the attractional model, inviting people to come with you to church to listen to the pastor or to get involved with what's going on at Trinity, is still, on average, effective at reaching about 40% of the population. This number changes based on individual contexts. This number is much lower, for example, on the West Coast. But what about the other 60%? That's where we are called to adopt a missional mindset. We go and we form creative expressions of church in neighborhoods, workplaces, and places that people gather. If you invite your neighbor to come to your church, you are being attractional - this will work, according to the numbers, about 40% of the time. If you begin gathering your neighbors together and in the process (more below) find a way to serve, love, and share Jesus with them then you are being missional - this is for the 60% who do not know Jesus.

Another way to think of it is like this. Are you being "one of" those you are trying to reach or are you asking them to come be "one of" you? Are you asking someone to try and adapt to and fit in with the Christian culture that exists at Trinity (attractional) or are you adapting as a missionary would and seeking to be one of them in their culture and communicate Jesus to them in that context (missional)? You can see how it would be more difficult to be missional, a missionary to a particular group of people, and yet this is God's mission, it is the mission of Jesus, it is the mission of the Church to seek and save the lost and our pastors and staff are here to lead, support and equip you in this. This is what we mean when we say YOU are the Church!

2. Missional vs. Missions

I love missions. I am the Missions Director here at Trinity after all! The way in which we interact with our mission partners is not, however, necessarily missional. These words are very similar and for that reason can mislead people to think, if I go on a mission trip or serve at a mission partner then I must be missional. This is not true. Again, the key difference hinges on whether or not you are becoming "one of" the people you are serving in order to share Jesus within their context or you are being "for" or perhaps even "with" them. Here's an example. Let's say you have a calling to serve the homeless community. If you are "for" that community, you may regularly support Trinity or even send direct support to one of our mission partners that helps those who are homeless. You are clearly "for" them. You care for them and want to see them cared for. That's good. We are called to have a heart for others and all of our mission partners have been helping in significant ways. You may even take the next step and decide to be "with" the homeless community. You may decide to serve with one of our mission partners that help the homeless. You may even know some of their names if you serve more regularly. This is missions. The missional step would be for you, and perhaps a few others with a similar heart, to begin to spend time with the homeless community outside of the mission partner, to eat with them, to listen to them and their stories, to share Jesus with them in a way that makes sense to them, and for you to eventually disciple them and worship Jesus together with them. The same way that God was not only "for" us and "with" us, but actually became "one of" us is the way we are sent to reach others. Jesus through the incarnation, taking on flesh, became "one of" us, so the missional impulse is for us to do ministry "incarnationally" becoming "one of" the communities we seek to reach going beyond missions.   For more on being "One of", check out the stand alone sermon shared through the Monday night service podcast - How Are We to Be the Church 10-6-14 or read this short free e-book about beginning the missional journey.

As a side note, many of our mission partners are themselves being missional to a certain degree. Those who run those organizations are often seen as "one of" the communities they serve. Yet they often fall short of calling themselves a faith community, of calling themselves the church and challenging those they serve to worship within their own context and rather encourage them according to the "attractional" model, to adapt and find a church culture they can fit in.

3. Missional vs. Hanging out with People

So developing relationships and being one of the people is all there is to being missional right? Wrong. If you are hanging out and listening to people you and not focused on trying to get them to make the cultural leap into the campus culture we have at Trinity then you're on the right path, but if you have no goal, no mission, then you've lost the whole impetus of the mission. The mission is to bring people into relationship with Jesus. Jesus came and was "one of" us but his goal was to seek and save the lost, to bring us back into relationship with the Father, to have His spirit dwell within us. If you hang out every evening at a local bar, everyone knows your name, you've developed trust, you know the language, and you stop there then you are not being missional. You're just hanging out at a bar. If you intentionally are looking for ways to develop a Christian community in that context, to disciple, to share the story of Jesus, to invite them into community with you and ultimately with God, then you've made the shift from hanging out to being missional. That sounds really difficult right? Again that's why our pastors and staff are here to help direct you to resources and equip you ourselves in context appropriate ways to develop, as our vision says, "creative expressions of church." As "incarnational" is a key word in the last paragraph, the word "intentional" is key here. We are to be intentional about the ways in which we seek to bring others into relationship with our heavenly father.

I hope this might be helpful as we seek to live into what we mean by missional. Again, we are called to share the gospel with all. For 40%, traditional evangelism, missions, and invitations are effective. We must continue this and do it well! For 60%, only if we are sent and go in ways that feel radically different to traditional church will we have an impact for the kingdom of God.

As always, feel free to ask me specifics by email (sweems@trinitywellsprings.com), by commenting below or we can schedule some time for one on one conversation.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tom Campbell's Story of Haiti

As the “in county” trip leader for this year’s trip to Haiti my experience was quite a bit different than the previous year where I was a team member with Pastor Samuel as the lead.  In contrast to last year, this trip was more focused on the team and their experiences.  My self-reliance and introspection from last year was overtaken by keen observation of how the group was interacting and taking in the experience.  While traveling I was conscious of the safety of the group and our adherence to our “development creed”- “first, do no harm”.  We needed to consider fully the consequences of our actions – mistakenly creating barriers to relationship building, or fostering a dependency of the Haitians on missionary efforts.  Of course, I also wanted to ensure we were good guests and stewards of the CODEP facility and thusly we worked hard to keep the place clean and pitch in around the grounds while following the rules set forth by our host and CODEP Director, John Winings.  

During our small group meetings in the evening I enjoyed listening to what was learned and also how we were able to connect the daily devotional passage to the Haitian people or the experiences of the day.  The group was additionally blessed by having John Winings with us each evening during our group discussion.  John has a tremendous heart for the Haitian people and had become very proficient in Creole.  Additionally as a minister he had learned about the Haitian perspective of the Christian faith and the Haitian Creole translation of the Bible.  As an illustration of this, one evening while reviewing our devotional John pointed out a basic difference in our view of God versus that of the Haitian people.   For us our God is a God of Joy and Hope in contrast to Mercy and Justice in the perspective of the Haitian people.  To help us understand John shared this concept through the parable of the good Samaritan where in our culture the lesson shared by Jesus is to help those in need.  Because of the tumultuous history of the Haitian culture, including slavery and death from natural disasters, it is a common viewpoint that in the story of the good Samaritan the Haitians represent the traveler in the story.   In the Haitian perspective someone (missionaries) will come to help (charity, aid, development) them.  This hit me like a ton of bricks and cemented what we had been studying about “development versus charity” and also how cultural perspective can result in vast differences in how we experience our God.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Ashley Walters' Story from Haiti

To read the main article and other stories click here.

Where do I even begin? Human logic tells us things have a beginning and an ending. Our earthly logic has its limits. Many things of God,God himself, and the Holy Spirit far exceed our earthly understanding, knowledge, and logic. Perhaps we are designed to always be this way, after all it humbles us and grows faith. Maybe God has been preparing us and continues to prepare us for more and more knowledge and understanding. Like any Father, although wiser and greater than anything we can even imagine, he knows when we are ready for such things and when we are not. Just like a baby can not eat solid food, we are not born ready to understand abstract concepts first, only the concrete. All people at some point ponder this among many of God’s other creations, plans, and intents. All people at some point are likely to argue over such things because they have come to believe one thing over another based upon our earthly logic and understanding. I am far too small, far too ignorant, far too earthly, to try and fit such holy matters into my own logic for my own understanding and benefit. The more words I say, the more I am aware of how little I am and how Great my God is. I pray that God and the Holy Spirit guide my words so they do not make nonsense, but say or do not say the exact things they would will them to say.  

I am writing to share my experiences in Haiti. Thanks to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit for they are present everywhere, and have provided me this opportunity through Trinity. I have been really growing and learning the past 2 or 3 years about God, Jesus, and the Bible. I use to open the bible and try to read it when I was younger. I even tried to break it down in small sections and try different versions to really understand and learn from it. I would open to a random page and say God speak to me! Finally with success in small group and life groups, I decided that I never was a reading enthusiast so reading the bible maybe was not the way for me to learn. A few days before my trip my husband and I had a wonderful day led by God, just as we had when we first met. Our conversation flowed and we talked effortlessly about the love of God and Jesus. That afternoon he went to work and I had an immediate desire to go and retrieve my bible. I opened it and read Ephesians 5:13 which says, “But all things that are exposed are made manifest by light, for whatever makes manifest is light.” This verse was so beautiful and colorful, I had to continue. So I read until the end of Ephesians falling in love word by word. After I finished, I went back and began from the very start of Ephesians and read the book in its entirety. I fell to my knees in prayer, the beauty, the color, the light, the truth, I thanked God and Jesus. Since then I have had a burning desire to keep reading the bible. Now that is another story, but directly relates to how I perceived things on my trip in Haiti. I fell in love from the time our airplane neared Haiti. I continued to grow in love the whole time in Haiti through the places, the people, and the Holy Spirit who guides and tends my heart. The bible says all things will be made new, or something along those lines in a few  different places. There is a direct connection to when we notice God and his presence, all things we once felt, thought, and saw become new in the light of God. The same is true for once we understand and truly accept Jesus and the Holy spirit. Matthew 9:35-38 says, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of Harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

I hope this does not seem unrelated to Haiti, for there are no other words or ways to describe it for me and do it justice. As far as CODEP the organization we are partnered with, I leave feeling that they are a rare, special organization that is being led by light and we should continue to be partners offering whatever the Lord puts on our hearts to them. They are bearing fruit, and their branches are expanding! For if it is of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, it will also be directed by. Praise God and may he bless, in Jesus name! Amen.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

McKenzie Simmler's Story of Haiti

To read the main article and other stories click here.

My experience in Haiti was amazing. I’ve always wanted to go to Haiti, and it was such a blessing to have had this opportunity. Each day I woke up smiling to the sound of children laughing and singing at the school next door.  Then through each day we met more and more smiling, happy, loving, welcoming faces. The Haitian people have taught me valuable lessons, and shown me what this life is really all about. They have taught me to accept anyone and everyone. I learned that no matter how many “things” you have, God will always be enough, and that the key to happiness is giving. The people are beautiful, the country is beautiful, and they have made a beautiful impact on me. What shocked me most was how giving they were. Even with what little they have they were always trying to give something. I would recommend this trip to anyone and everyone, no matter where you are in your walk with God.