We Are Planting A Church!

September 20, 2016

By Clayton Ritter.

We are planting a church!

Yep, that’s right. Romey and I are planting a church. Just a year ago I never thought I’d be saying these words but a lot can happen in a year. So how did we get here? What kind of church will it be? When are we getting started? Where is the church going to be? Let me tell you the story of how we heard from God about His next step in the plan for our lives.

In 2000, we were invited to come onto the pastoral staff of what was then Virginia Beach Christian Life Center, now Wave Church, to begin “full-time ministry.” Though Romey had been on staff at two previous churches, I’d only had one job since college, playing professional basketball. I used quotation marks around “full time ministry” because I believe playing basketball was as much ministry as being a pastor on staff at a church. That’s because every Christian is in full time ministry.

2 Corinthians 3:6 says, “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

2 Corinthians 5:19-20 says, “God has given us the message of reconciliation and we are therefore Christ’s ambassadors as though God were making His appeal through us.”

In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…”

Every Christian is a minister.
Every Christian is an ambassador.
Every Christian has the message of reconciliation.
Every Christian is a disciple.
Every Christian is a disciple maker.

While every Christian is called to ministry, that ministry will look different for each individual. Romey knew before she was ten years old that she would serve God. I knew God had called me to spend the rest of my life helping others meet Jesus and find their own calling. When we found Wave Church, we knew it was the next step in our journey.

We have spent sixteen years on staff with Wave Church and are grateful for our years there. We helped the church grow from just a few hundred people to thousands and multiple campuses.

God spoke specifically and consistently during our time at Wave Church, to “be a son and a daughter of the house, and serve Pastors Steve and Sharon Kelly.” So for sixteen years that is exactly what we did.

About two years ago, God began to speak to my heart, saying, “You have been a son, now it’s time to be a father.” I wasn’t sure what that meant exactly so I asked God to show me. Through His Word and in my prayer time, He started to show me what spiritual fatherhood looks like.

Another year later, we both began to feel the Holy Spirit was conceiving in us an incredible vision for a church and ministry that was different from where we were. We knew this was God wanting to birth something through us. Like a baby growing in a mother’s womb, we had something growing in our spirits, something big and something beautiful. At first it was unseen, but eventually it was getting bigger and stronger, and it was becoming obvious.

I wrestled with whether this was something God wanted to do at my current church but it soon became clear this was a new work of God and He wanted to do it through Romey and me. We loved our church and pastors but it became clear what God was doing. He was calling us to lead a church and He wanted me to do it as a father.

We did what anyone should do in our position, we brought this to our pastors, Steve and Sharon. They listened to us, prayed for us, and blessed us to seek God about the where and the when.

I had accrued a lot of sabbatical and vacation leave so we decided this was a good time to pray and fast and ask God one simple question: Where was this church going to be? I firmly believed God would give us a heart for a city or a people group. We went into this prepared to go anywhere. We looked at cities up and down the East and West Coast, Colorado, we looked at Australia and Africa.

On the second day of our fast God showed up in a powerful way. On that day I heard from God clearer than I have heard anything in my life that he was calling us right where we were, my hometown of Virginia Beach! I was floored. I honestly thought we were headed to the West Coast or maybe D.C. On that same day God gave me several miraculous signs, as confirmation of His words to me. I have only shared these with a few people, but may share more openly some day. Every day since, God has confirmed His words to us by directing us to passages of Scripture. We both received several prophetic words from people confirming what God had been speaking to us.

I know God has spoken to us about this. I know we are called to plant a church in Virginia Beach. But this comes with complications. In the church paradigm in which I have served, planting a church in the same city where you have been on staff is frowned upon. There are several reasons for this, some legitimate, some not. When God first told me His plan for us I told Him He was wrong or that I must have heard Him wrongly. Though we have since found several churches in our city that have done this and are flourishing, it was not the vision of Wave. I argued with God, “I can’t plant a church in the same city as Wave.” But God had other things in mind.

Knowing for certain that God has spoken to us, we brought it to Pastors Steve and Sharon and after some very honest conversations, we agreed to wait a year before starting our church. In doing so, Pastors Steve and Sharon told us we will have their blessing.

So we are happy to announce that in September 2017 we will be launching SEASHORE CHURCH!

I’ll explain the name later but it’s a pretty cool story. In the meantime, Romey and I are looking for jobs to support our family, praying over our city, sharing the Gospel with anyone who will listen, and spending the year letting God shape the vision for SEASHORE CHURCH.

If you are reading this and planted in a good local church, we encourage you to stay there. If you’re looking for a good church, there are lots in this city. We will have a church but it is a year away. Psalm 68:6 says, “God sets the lonely in families…” Our desire is for people to hear from God for themselves about where He has called them.

Here is what we do know:

SEASHORE CHURCH will live to see God’s Kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

We will make disciples.

We will plant churches… LOTS of them.

We will worship our amazing God passionately in Spirit and in truth.

We will preach the Gospel of Jesus and teach the Bible with authority from heaven.

We will win, build, and send people to fulfill the call of God on their lives, no matter what or where it is.

We will endeavor to develop every believer as ministers of the new covenant through the power of the Holy Spirit.

And we will have the time of our lives doing it!

Glamorizing pride

August 12, 2016

Let’s all of us decide to stop trying to convince the world that Christianity is true because Jesus makes us prettier, happier, thinner, wealthier, bigger, more successful, more popular, healthier, stronger, and more influential than everyone else. ~Mike Yaconelli

The world glamorizes pride. We should expect it to. We should expect the world to glamorize people and make a big deal of positions, titles, and opportunities. We should expect the world to glamorize talent, money, and success. We should expect the world to glamorize my-great-big-life of opportunity… designer clothes, jewellery, jets, important friends, entourages, celebrity, fame, and sometimes infamy.

The world glamorizes pride. We should not. The world system is centered on pride. It would seem that the more pride a person has, the more they are celebrated, often enabling even more success, in turn, reinforcing greater pride. But what happens when this thinking makes its way into the Church?

Pride pushes Jesus off to the side. Not obviously, very subtly. Subtlety is one of the devil’s best games. Pride’s deceit is in its subtlety. Pride has chameleon-like characteristics. Pride is great at making excuses, subconsciously. The self-deceptive nature of pride is remarkable at hiding unseen in our lives.

Pride seeks to put me front and center of my life and will work relentlessly to keep me there.

Pride grows. It is insatiable.

Pride competes for our attention. It seeks to squeeze Jesus out. Pride will keep me unaware I’ve left little room for Jesus in my heart. 

Pride lies. It will lie to me about who is really at the center of my life. In this way…

Pride limits the Holy Spirit’s activity in me, and blocks the Holy Spirit flowing through me.

Pride leads to a self-centered life that validates resentment, unforgiveness, bitterness, and allows a great many other sinful conditions to take root in my heart.

Pride is the devils end-game. Pride is what was found in Satan’s heart that led him to sin. Ezekiel 28 tells the story of God kicking Satan out of heaven. Satan cannot touch God, but he makes war against God’s people. Having been kicked out of heaven, he tries to keep heaven out of the lives of God’s people. Pride is one of his greatest tools in this battle.

Pride steals. It kills. It destroys. Does this sound familiar? Jesus said of Satan, our enemy, the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, John 10:10. Our enemy seeks our utter destruction. He wants to ruin individual lives, families, leaders, churches, denominations, and whole nations.

So is there hope for us?

Pride is something every believer has to face. No one is immune. Not while we live in this flesh body. The only antidote to pride is keeping our eyes fixed on JesusHebrews 12:2. This means we have to stop looking at all the things we do and stop looking for any sense of worth from them.

Our hope is Jesus. Focus on Jesus’ completed work on the cross. His blood shed. His resurrection. His glory. His love. His Spirit-given to us, filling us, changing us, empowering us. His Word renewing our minds. Jesus is the Living Word!

When our focus is Jesus, our heart affections shift away from ourselves and the many attention-seeking things of this world that pride stands on. We become free to see Jesus in all His glory and His majesty. Our sense of awe and wonder of Him brings us to a place of continual desire for greater depth of intimacy with Him. Worship becomes a continual flow from our heart back to Him and He purifies and makes true our worship.

It is only in Jesus that the grip of pride is loosened from our lives. Continued focus on Him and what He has done removes any ground pride has to stand on in our lives.

It is Jesus. It has only ever been Jesus. It will always be Jesus. He is Who has loosed us and given us this victory… 

Love thy neighbor

July 21, 2016

Jesus said, “love your neighbor,” Mark 12:31, and yet so many of us pick and choose who gets our respect, who we honor, who we love.

Too often, we choose the rich, the popular, the favorite pop-culture-icon, the seemingly successful. These people get our attention. They get our listening ears. They get our respect. They influence our lives. They may get our wallets. And we even do this in church. We pick and choose and we get it wrong. Very wrong.

We are not meant to pick and choose at all. God does not show favor to the rich over the poor, Job 34:19. God does not show favoritism (or) God is no respecter of persons Acts 10:34 (NIV/ASV). God is not partial, Galatians 2:6. And James 2:9 says, if we show favoritism, we sin… 

A glaring truth about our own spiritual maturity: 

How and to whom we show respect, honor, and love is a measure of our spiritual maturity.

If we pick and choose, show respect to some but not others, we show we are not that spiritual. Instead, we are following after the world system that looks at all the externals.

The externals are the huge bank account, the beautiful, the trendy, the position, the title, the achievements. Externals are also spiritual gifts, to prophesy, abilities given to communicate, perform miracles. All these can be done while we are dishonoring, disrespecting, and even withholding love from people. Believe it or not, but, God gives gifts to people and doesn’t take them back, Romans 11:29. So a person can exercise all manner of spiritual gifts, but not really love people. This is a scary truth, and one reason we are so easily misled when looking at externals.

If we pick and choose who gets our respect, honor, and love based upon personal choice or external measures, we turn people away from the Gospel and we give people the view that relationships in church are broken and dysfunctional; in this case they are.

But when we show respect, honor, and love to people when they haven’t done anything to deserve it–possibly can’t even give it back–it opens people up to the Gospel and healthy relationship. Why? Because it is so rare. Love like this is so rare, but this is the way God loves us, and it is the way He wants His love to be demonstrated through us, God is love, 1John 4:8.

We are all the work of God’s hands. God places immeasurable worth on every person. There is not one person who escapes His all-seeing and loving eyes. There is not one person more deserving of His love. Nor is there any person less deserving. God has dignified every one of us. God is the One who places great value upon us and calls us His precious-beloved child. God shows extreme honor to us by making our heart His home–something none of us deserve, but God does this because of His extreme love for us. 

If we think God is a harsh judge, requiring service and duty and rule keeping, a wrathful fear-inducing punisher, relationally cold or distant, these traits will show up in the way we relate to people. If we are critical of people, always suspicious, judging and measuring behavior, we ourselves don’t know God because these are the traits of a tyrannical ruler, not God.

God is our loving Father. He is joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, and gentle. God is lavishly generous, compassionate, willingly self-sacrificial, forgiving, and unceasingly graceful. God welcomes everyone, and shows extreme honor to us by making our heart His home–the God of heaven honors us by making our heart His home. He desperately desires relationship with us. If we are people walking in ever-growing intimacy with Him, we will be growing more like Him. Intimacy with God produces in us more of His nature and character, and this will be seen daily in the way we relate to people–all people, everywhere…

What’s in my heart will be my prevailing conversation. I might talk about other things, but I will keep coming back to the theme of my heart.

We can’t help it. The thing we love the most will leak out of us. We cannot stop it. We start to talk about other things, but we will come back, again and again, to the thing that holds our greatest affection. Jesus said, the mouth speaks what the heart is full of, Luke 6:45.

Some people leak Jesus, beautifully. They leak the presence and power of the Holy Spirit and it affects great change in the lives of people all around them. It seems as if they leak the very fresh air of heaven. This is God’s intention for our lives: that we would leak His love, His presence and power, and that heaven would be felt through our lives. This is what Jesus meant when He said, the kingdom of God is within you, in your hearts and among you, surrounding you, Luke 17:21AMP.

But if our hearts are full of the self, money, the things money can buy, or whatever other idol has our heart, these will be our prevailing conversations. Occasionally we may talk about Jesus and his kingdom, but inevitably we will again start talking about whatever has our heart. We cannot help it. We were created this way, the mouth speaks what the heart is full of, Luke 6:45.

God’s intention however, is that we would be filled with Him. We were created to be carriers of His presence and power, and He wants to flow out of our lives like a river of living water, John 7:38.

We are to leak Jesus all over people. Jesus wants to be our prevailing conversation. He wants to be what our heart is full of.