A Wonderful Grace

By Rob Pifer

For the past couple of months, Shannon and I have been spending our Friday mornings exploring the many hiking trails around Tallahassee, enjoying the cool weather before the Florida summer heat settles in. One of our favorites is the J.R. Alford Greenway on the east side of town, a beautiful, expansive park with an abundance of trails and open spaces. This scenic spot is perfect to get lost in for a few hours and disconnect from our usual fast-paced routines.

One trail recently took us over a New England-type covered bridge which straddles a train track, through the woods and around Piney Z Lake. As we looped around the lake and headed back toward the trailhead and our car, discussing where to go for lunch and plans for the rest of the day, something stopped us in our tracks. A simple sign hung from a tree which read: “Bill’s Memorial Trail…Designed and Maintained by a Loving Daughter.”

That was all. No last name for Bill. No first name for his daughter. Nothing to explain why this trail in this park in this town. Nothing about Bill or his daughter or their relationship. No reason for this memorial other than the fact that Bill’s daughter loved her dad.

As we walked on, I found myself admiring Bill, whoever he was. He had obviously left a legacy for his family, enough so that his daughter felt compelled to mark his existence and impact on her life with a peaceful trail through the woods bearing his name. I found myself asking the obvious question, “Am I leaving such a legacy for my children? What legacy am I leaving?”

Whether we know it or not, we are all leaving a parental legacy for our children. What is yours?

The reality is that as Christians, our parental legacy isn’t really supposed to be about us at all. Our legacy should always point our children back to God through the Gospel of Grace through our Lord Jesus Christ. Parents, our legacy should be shaped by what we find in Deuteronomy 6:5-7:

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

I’m thankful that I don’t have to figure out on my own how to do what this passage commands of me as a parent. The reality is that I’m not meant to do it alone. God has given us the church, a family of believers to walk alongside me and my children on this road of sanctification. I’m thankful that there are other older men and women at Four Oaks that can speak wisdom and truth into my life and into the lives of my children (Titus 2:3-6), because we so desperately need it. What a wonderful grace this is for all of us!

When I’m asked about what it is we do in Student Ministries at Four Oaks Church, it’s easy for me to start listing out the many activities going on, because trust me, there’s always something going on. Our Student Ministry activities are abundant and great, and we’ll always have something happening, but 4Oaks Students is about so much more than the trips and activities. It’s about calling the body of believers of Four Oaks Church to work together so that a Gospel-centered legacy is passed down for the next generation to embrace and live out. It’s about the church meeting teenagers right where they are, sharing the Gospel with them, teaching them the Word of God, and discipling them as part of the church as they grow in their own faith. This is the legacy I pray everyday that Four Oaks Church is leaving behind for our next generation.

Whether or not you are a parent of a teenager yourself, you can be a part of that legacy, and I hope that you will. 4OaksStudents has many ways for you to be involved in legacy building, from serving on Wednesday nights or Sunday mornings as a small group leader, to discipling teens through one of our new “Life Groups,” to financially supporting a student raising money to go on a summer trip; the opportunities for you to be a part of this legacy are abundant. In fact, you can go to 4OaksStudents.com to find out more about all of our activities and how you can have an impact on the life of the next generation in our church.

Be like Bill, and strive to leave a legacy of faith that a child, physical or spiritual, will be thankful for someday. You just might have a trail named after you.

The Kept Campaign and Ministry Plan

By Lance Olimb

I wanted to take a moment and reflect on something about the Kept campaign. Most initiatives like this are undertaken to raise funds for capital purchases or improvements, which is why they are often called capital campaigns. We certainly have some aspects like that with our debt reduction and Midtown location hunting. We would like to raise (and spend) a large amount of money once in order to free us up for ministry down the road.

However, I also think the Kept campaign is more expansive than that in some very intentional ways. I really considered that fact after preaching on Give last week. In Kept, we are also attempting to point to some long-term ministry initiatives we are committing to undertake. So, we’ll raise and commit less money (in the short-term) for the Give and Scatter portions of the Kept campaign, but only because those categories are not traditional capital expenses. We do not want them to be a one-time expense. We want to give and give and give and scatter, scatter, scatter.

The goal with Give and Scatter, then, is to weave them into our DNA and spending for the next few decades. What will be an initial allocation of $150K or $250K, or whatever, will hopefully become yearly commitments as ministries become established. It may very well be that 5 years from now we are allocating $100K each and every year from our normal budget for ministries like this.

You may resonate with more traditional capital portions of this campaign. You can’t wait to be free from debt or to plant a stake in the ground in Midtown. Or you may resonate far more with the idea that we will have ongoing ministries to the poor, vulnerable and unreached areas of the world. Either way, my prayer is that you see our big picture goal remains the same… we want to complete the Great Commission and see Jesus receive the goal due His name.

Thanks for thinking and praying and talking with us about the future.

A Pastor's View

By Josh Hughes

I had a grizzled old pastor tell me early on in my ministry journey that church leadership is really hard, “but you can’t beat the view.” In 10-ish years of ministry I’ve seen him proved right over and over again. One of the greatest earthly joys of my work as a pastor is the “preferred seating” I have for God’s work in and through his people. I thought in this week’s edition of the Weekly I’d give you a quick glance of the church from my point of view.

This week I heard the story of a woman in our church who became a Christian through the kind, patient witness of another woman who is a member here. This member invited her to church, answered her questions, and was a faithful presence in her life and got to pray with her to receive Christ a few months ago. I heard of multiple folks who travelled to Gainesville to visit, pray over, and minister to a brother recovering from major surgery at Shands hospital. I heard the story of a girl in Belfast, Ireland who became a Christian through the work of one of our gospel partners. I got to counsel and pray with a couple in our church who are pursuing adoption.

All that, and it’s only Wednesday. What a church you are! What a Savior he is!

I’m praying you would have eyes to see Jesus at work today, and that you may have the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Kept to Gather, Give, and Scatter

Beginning February 5 and continuing through March 5, we will be unpacking a biblical and strategic vision that we believe God is calling our Killearn and Midtown congregations to run after and embrace. The theme of this vision campaign is simply this: KEPT. Kept is the word that has consistently come to our minds as leaders as we have reflected on the first 25 years of Four Oaks’ history together. God has been so faithful in so many ways: to preserve us, to hold us up, and to press us forward into faithful and fruitful gospel mission and ministry. It seems right, then, for us to celebrate and to thank God during this season for the many things He has done in our midst.

As important as it is that we reflect on God’s goodness in His keeping us, it is equally important that we ask ourselves this question: What has God kept us FOR? When churches stop asking questions about why they exist and what God is calling them to, what was once a gospel movement quickly turns into a gospel monument. Our desire as a church is that we press forward and seek God’s will for how He would use Four Oaks to transform lives for the gospel in the next generation. Our prayer is that this would become YOUR desire as well.

As pastors and elders, we have been prayerfully considering how God would have us answer this question of, “Kept for what?” We now want us to explore this question with you, so you are going to be hearing about what it is that we believe God has Kept us FOR: He has Kept us to Gather, Kept us to Give, and Kept to Scatter. We believe your heart will be moved as ours have been in thinking about: ministering to “the least of these” in our community; establishing a gospel presence in other parts of Tallahassee and North Florida; securing a home for our Midtown Congregation; and positioning ourselves financially as a church so that we can serve and minister to others for years to come.

During our Sunday morning worship times, we will dive into God’s Word to look at these themes together, and then highlight the opportunities God has laid before us to participate in the building of His kingdom – locally, regionally, and beyond. We will conclude our series on March 5 by asking all of us to consider together how God would align our hearts and resources to this vision. Between now and then, please join us in praying that God would do more than we could ever think or imagine!

The Prayers Of A Motley Crew

by Lance Olimb

This month we have studied prayer together. It’s an odd thing, prayer. Every time I study prayer I think, “This is so stunningly simple. What sincere, open access we have to God. It’s a relationship!” But then? Well, then I stumble miserably in actually praying the way I’d like. Stunningly simple turns into stunted starts and stops. At one point in my life I struggled with sleepy praying so I decided to pray only on my knees. You guessed it. I’d fall asleep kneeling, leaned on my forehead.

It’s hard to feel good about the way I pray. Or we pray. Maybe you’ve broken through and are just killing the prayer game. If so, keep up that monkery! For the rest of us, it is helpful to remember how Jesus teaches on prayer. Not so much the content or focus (we are hitting that on Sunday mornings) but the characters of scriptural prayer stories. Proud pharisees. Babbling gentiles. Stubborn, destitute widows. Starving, raving, midnight men. Drowsy, doubting disciples. What a motley crew!

No matter how much you struggle with prayer, you can fit right in. You might be "Slightly Bitter Betty” or "Only Sundays Oscar” and you are still welcome. Jesus is teaching people exactly like us. Those who struggle and stumble and doubt. More than that, the Father is inviting us to speak with Him. Be encouraged that you’ll never be turned away due to incompetence. Let’s take all the struggle, set it aside, and talk to our Father. It’s that simple.