Groundbreakings and Grand Openings

In sporting life there is an added excitement to OT—overtime! When it comes to reading through the Bible there is the challenge right at the beginning: OT—the Old Testament. It seems like right after you get out of the Garden of Eden and Noah building a big boat that you start thinking, “How much longer is this book?”

I guess there are various ways you can look at it. There are stories that pop up from time to time—David vs. Goliath, Jonah and the Whale, Joseph, Ruth, Esther, Job, and of course Daniel in the Lion’s Den. I could go on. But you have to work your way through to find those. What about all those laws? All those impossible to pronounce names, one after another, after another, after another? There is poetry (if you like poetry). There are witty statements of wisdom. And, of course, there’s plenty of prophecy for Bible scholars to impress us with.

This could start to feel like a real downer. But there’s one thing you can count on in the Old Testament . . . celebration!

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God of the Party

God is the God of the Party! As the children of Israel continually find ways to turn their back on God, He seems to be calling them back to celebrate OT! Come on you guys, let’s feast! Let’s remember the amazing things that I did for you! Let’s party! The prophets keep repeating their message over and over again—worship the true God! Celebrate His blessings! Take a few days off! Feast! And it seems like all the children of Israel can say is, “What have you done for me lately?”

One of the blessings of my role at CDF is that I constantly get to see the God of the Party at work. I have been to more groundbreakings and grand openings than you can possibly imagine. I get to see it over and over again. And at these events, churches like to party!

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That first shovel of dirt thrown will elicit smiles and laughter all around. How can you stand there straight-faced while a bunch of well-dressed people grab an oversized pair of scissors to cut a giant ribbon when they could actually just drop it on the ground and let everybody walk in? Wait! You can’t do that! You’ve got to celebrate when God has done something great. That snip of the scissors elicits the same cheers as the shovels of dirt.

Cannonball

Recently I attended a groundbreaking that was one of the most poignant events I have experienced at anything throughout dozens (scores? hundreds?) of groundbreakings and grand openings. It was at Community Christian Church in Tamarac, Florida.

Community had a capital campaign that went by the name “Cannonball.” (They wanted people to be all in, like making a cannonball jump into a swimming pool.) As I came to the groundbreaking site I seriously thought that Pastor Scott Eynon was going to do a cannonball into the large tub of water next to the stage. That would have been hilarious! What a way to party! But Scott and his team recognized the God of the Party to a greater degree than I did.

On tables strewn across the site where their new children’s building would be built, they had ceramic tiles and Sharpie pens. The gathered congregation was challenged to grab a tile, write their name on it, then write the name of a person they would be praying for to receive Christ as Savior. Then everyone placed the tiles in the portable baptistery next to the stage. It was powerful imagery watching person after person, literally hundreds of people lined up, coming by to gently place those tiles prayerfully in the water. Seeing people stop and pray, take selfies of this sacred time, shedding tears over loved ones they are praying for, was something I had never experienced in that way. And I was moved.

Those tiles were then gathered and will be used as part of the décor for the construction in that new building. What a great testament to the New Testament! Buried in Christ, raised to walk in newness of life.

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After the service at Community they served cake to everyone and gave out commemorative tiles with the Cannonball theme and date of the groundbreaking. People came up to get their picture holding a shovel in the dirt, plus there were other photo ops with a Cannonball background. Some sat on blankets and chairs and joyfully shared the experience beyond the official time of the service—there were smiles all around.

But what happens after groundbreakings and grand openings? Church staff and an army of volunteers go to work, carrying out the ministry of the local church. Lives are changed. Marriages restored. Children are reared under the guidance of a healthy environment. The gospel is preached. And people walk into the baptistery, “buried with Christ and raised to walk in newness of life.” What a way to celebrate!

I say we throw another party—wouldn’t you agree?!

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