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Hope for the Future

Read this message transcript from the "God Dreams" message series

Brian Cropp: We have been in a series of messages over the last several Sundays called God Dreams. We have defined a God Dream as a vision of the future that first started in the mind of God, and then He’s given a doable assignment out of that vision to us. We’ve been using this frame as an illustration for what we’ve been talking about. We’ve been looking at the different sides of that frame and looking around that picture of where we’re going in the future. In your program, there is this card that is a summary of our trip around the frame, if you will, over the last several weeks. There’s more detail on the back. If you missed any of the other messages in this series, I encourage you to check us out on our podcast, YouTube channel, and you can do a deeper dive on all of this information. This is kind of a description of where we have been going and where we’re going in the future, so the mission is this what. What has God asked us to do? We would say that our mission is to invite people to discover and experience God’s ways. We’ve been looking at the why… Oh, and the reason for this is we think that as we experience and discover God that His transformation can happen. We can mature into the men and women that God wants us to become, so we value certain things that are very core to who we are as a church. You see there: to please God fully, love people wisely, and steward opportunity faithfully. 

Then, there at the bottom of the frame is our strategy. These ways that you see listed there are ways that you can continually be taking next steps and growing in maturity as you’re investing your time and your life into the life of Hope Church. Then, we’ve been looking at our measures most recently. How will we know that we’ve been a success? How will we know that we’ve done what God has asked us to do? How do we know that you guys are maturing, that your family is transforming? That kind of stuff.. So, that’s what we’ve been looking at at the measures. This morning we’re going to look at that picture right there in the middle, and what does that mean? I’d like to invite our senior pastor, Harold Bullock, to the stage. There is a listening guide in your program along with a pen, and you can follow along with what Pastor Harold is going to share. We think this will be a help and an encouragement to you. Thanks again for worshipping the Lord with us this morning. 

Harold Bullock: Thank you, Brian. Before we get into the message, I’d like to just speak to you guys about the men’s summit. This is something we don’t do every year. It’s been a little while since we’ve done one, a number of years. It’s especially an opportunity for you to buy up. Opportunities come, and then, they’re gone, so I would encourage you to be a part of it. Whenever opportunities show up in my own life, they have never shown up at an easy time. There’s just always some problem, so you have to make some decisions. There are going to be some things that happen that it would really help you to be a part of. It’s important to pull away from life every now and then. You’ll have an opportunity to connect with other guys and be challenged and do some learning together. What we tend to do today… We’re in a sort of on demand society. You know, if you miss the movie at the movie theaters, Netflix has got it; just go there. Your TV series you missed all of last year, you can watch On Demand. Whenever we want it, it shows up. The problem is whenever opportunity shows up, it shows up, and it goes away. 

The Pentecost, the birth of the church, came 2,000 years ago, and the church had been gathered in prayer like the Lord had said to do. 120 people gathered in this large upper room in a building, and all of a sudden, supernatural things started happening. It was incredible. I’ve often thought, there were probably guys who said, “Yeah, this is not a good time for me to be there. I’ll just get the dvd.” Well, with an mp3 or a dvd, you get the information; you don’t get the interaction. The interaction is very helpful. For me personally through the years, one of the things that’s helped me to stay on track because Deborah and I we’ve been married a long time and we began Hope many years ago… The way if you really try to follow Christ… You hit some really difficult places, and one of the things that has really helped me stay on track are the people I got to know early in my walk with the Lord, men who really walked with God. Whenever I hit the storms, those relationships really helped stabilize me. You want to form relationships with other people, guys. I would encourage you--be there. 

For me, this is my last time to do this. We’re in process of finding a new senior pastor, and I will be around, but this will be my last time to lead. So, I’d love to have you join me, but take advantage of the opportunity. Your rut in life is already deep enough. You don’t have to wear a few more feet; you will anyway. We all have patterns; take the opportunity. Opportunity comes and it goes; the Greeks had a statue of opportunity. It was a young man running. In front he had long hair, but past his ear and back he was as slick as an egg. He was bald. The thought was if you want to catch opportunity you have to grab him by the hair as he’s running at you because afterwards there’s nothing to get hold of. Take the opportunity. 

Let’s talk about this picture up here. We’ve been looking at all around the frame, looking at who we are. The picture in the frame represents where God’s leading us. We’re not going to that physical place, but it represents where God’s leading us. Any picture like this has some different layers to it. Up here on the top, there’s this over the the background...over the horizon rather. Here’s the background; that’s the horizon, but you can see past that. There’s some things for us that keep on pulling us into the future. There are some places, though, that we are headed and identifiable. There’s also a mid-ground; if we’re going to get there, we have to get through this part. Then, there’s the foreground where we’re at right now, and we need to move forward. Whenever people paint pictures, they do it like this. They create the background; there’s a foreground, a mid-ground. If you take a picture, you have background and foreground. You’ve probably made some of those pictures where people stand in front of plants, and there are these things sticking out of their heads. You forgot to think about the background. We have some things we’re headed toward, and they’re in the future and we’re moving toward them. 

In 1978, the congregation began, and people would come by. We were mostly younger people, and people would come by and talk to me and say, “I like the bunch, but there are just no older people here.” My response was, “Well, just hang around.” Sure enough, they are here now. We’re heading into the future, and we’re accelerating. We’re an interesting group. Now we’re a group of people who are multi-generational. We have kids, parents, grandparents. Some of you many years ago came into the congregation as a single, young single adult, got married. Your kids have grown up, and now your grandkids are a part of the congregation. One of the things we wanted to do; we wanted to do church life in such a way that kids grow up learning about God and walking on with us. There’s always some loss. Right now, Bible-believing churches lose about 80%. So far, we’ve been able to retain 80%...retain that. We’re a multi-generational church...people of different ages.

We’re diverse. We’re diverse culturally; we’re diverse ethnically. We’re diverse economically. People from different nations… We’re diverse educationally. We’re a diverse bunch, and we’re welcoming. People are warm and actually genuinely caring. People feel that as they join us; they’ve told me. We’re Biblically-rooted; we know what the Bible says, and we’ve been actually working on living it out. We also...we have a passion for teaming together. We do that, and for innovating to expand God’s Kingdom, we’ve done different things. Then for developing people, people have not only come to Christ here, people have really grown. We’ve seen that; we love to see that. We’d love to see more of it. 

If you want to look where we’re going, back to the picture here, there are things that pull us on beyond the horizon. We’re headed toward them as we hit the background. I’d like to use three images to get a feel for where we are going. The first one is pioneers. We build the future. Pioneers build the future; we build the future. Fort Worth is a famous place. Let me show you a movie poster. “Fort Worth, Texas”-- it says on the movie poster. Things were coming apart, and he sewed it back together with lead. Well, I think that’s Randolph Scott. You might watch the movie; it’s an interesting movie. Fort Worth is where the West begins the sign says, the movie poster does. Where the West Begins… In 1843, there were a line of trading posts here near where the two parts of the Trinity River connect... the West Fork and Clear Fork.  That was Fort Worth.

In 1849, a fort was founded, and a town began to grow. Let me show you a picture of early Fort Worth. We’re going to take the lights down because this is really unclear. This is downtown Fort Worth; that’s where this is...long ago. There are about six or eight buildings there. Downtown Fort Worth where the West begins! The West in Western Civilization thinking...the West is the edge of new development. It’s where things are moving to. Where the West Begins--Those who were here, they were here not because of today. Today was opportunity to build tomorrow. Where the West Begins stands for the world of tomorrow, what will be. Where the West Begins, it was also the world of adventure. You were on the edge of all kinds of stuff where you had to just handle things. It was an adventure. Since those days, downtown has changed a lot. This is downtown now...beautiful thing. It’s a little bit bigger. Those who were here then have set the stage for this. 

1974--My wife, Deborah, and I arrived in Fort Worth. I’d been in ministry for several years, and God led us here to finish up theological education. We came to where the West begins; we came here from Los Angeles, and Fort Worth was a nice-sized town. 15-minute traffic jams were 15 minutes long; it was much better than three hours in Los Angeles. It was a good size; we enjoyed it. It was also the largest seminary in the world at the time. It had thousands of Jesus Movement converts, and many of those were willing to pioneer with Christ. It was a great environment. 1977--We finished our master’s degrees, and then we began Hope Church in 1978. Out of the ministry experience we had and out of the work we had done, we wanted to begin a church were Christians, actually, people, individuals, would learn to walk with Christ, and then they would actually treat people and treat life like the Lord said; where unchurched people would yield their lives to Christ, and then learn to live like God said; where leaders would be trained to start similar types of ministries. Personally, just me and my wife, we wanted to see this grow and spread for 150 years; that was our personal dream. And, we began.

Like Fort Worth, Hope has gone through a lot of different stages over time. I’d like for those of you who’ve been around for awhile, I’d like to give you my take on what we’ve done. We did not start, Deborah and I did not start, with a master plan where we knew how everything would work out, it was just a matter of doing it. We started with faith. We had general outlines, and we knew we would have to learn a lot from God. But, it was very clear God wanted us to do this. So as we look back, you can see these stages. 1978-1984--We were forming the future here. We were starting the church and forming a different church culturing. We were sharing Christ and training leaders, and the different culture actually did form. I talked with a consultant a while back, a man who works with a lot of churches; he had taken a look at Hope Church. He told me, he said, “You know, I’ve worked with huge churches and small ones; I’ve worked with churches all over the United States, and everyone says, ‘Well, you know our church is different.’” He said, “You know, there are some differences, but as I begin to peel back the layers, it’s pretty much the same thing all the time.” He said, “But as I’ve looked at your church, it actually is different. Every church I’ve worked with wants people to clear up relationships.” He said, “In your church, people actually do it.” He said, “I’ve never seen that before. Yours is the first different church I’ve ever worked with.” He’s been doing this for many years.

Now, I’m telling you that, not to boast, not to brag; I’m telling you that because we set out to create a different culture, and there really is a different culture. Not so we could brag, but because this is what the Lord said to do. So, that has happened. 1985-1995--We were in another phase where we were spreading widely. We were sending people all over the US and all over the world. Leaders who had come through, particularly related to seminaries, though we had people who came to Christ, trained and went out and started churches. We were growing the church and sending leaders very, very widely. Phase Three--1996-2006--We were focusing on Fort Worth; we were anchoring the church here, creating facilities. We bought, moved into this building in 1998, twenty years after we started. We were mobile for 20 years...creating facilities. Raising the Next Righteous Generation--We have the NRG group here; we’re trying to work on helping our kids grow into adults with a lot of focused attention. 

2006-2015--Creating the Network--We did a lot of training; we had to recreate the staff here, creating the network of churches, and developing a lot of key training programs during this time period while church life is going on. 2016-2020--The phase we’re in right now is trying to shift gears so that we can accelerate. We installed a new governance system, 2016. We’ve been clarifying our guiding principles, our key philosophy of doing things in communication; that’s what this represents that’s taken a couple of years, and then senior pastor transition. I’ll be transitioning out of the senior pastorate in 2020, and a new person will be installed.

From 2020 on, what we’re looking at is accelerating and blessing the metroplex. Through the years, we’ve helped people create futures, really. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says this: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” The new has come; what you have been, what has been is not what has to be. With Jesus Christ, there are doors that open; He can do things that bring tremendous change in you. So when people have come to Christ, they’ve built very different futures. We’ve seen lives changed; we’ve seen marriages changed. We’ve seen families blessed by the changes. 

As we work together, we’re building, like pioneers, we’re building tomorrow. We’re building it in the lives of people, and then in the Kingdom impact on our region here. Right now there’s a current media clamor against Christians and Christianity. We’re the problem that the whole nation is having. All kinds of things could happen, if it weren’t for us. My friend, we are not the problem. Let me show you a quote; this is from Breakpoint. That’s a radio broadcast that also has a newsletter with it...very sharp people; Chuck Colson began this group. This is a recent quote from them. “A 2011 study by the state-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences…” This is Communist China; they wanted to find out what the key to the West was, and these are not Christians. These are very committed, atheistic people. “We were asked to look into what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world…” Why is that? Why did they get to do that? “After the researchers studied everything from a historical, political, economic and cultural perspective…” Those are their words. They “realized that the heart of (the West) culture is (its) religion: Christianity. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life is what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics.” An official of the Academy added in his words, “We don’t have any doubt about this.” 

We’ve actually been the core of the blessing of the West. It’s not that we’re perfect, but to the extent it has been blessed, it has flowed out of us. We… The West developed with a little bit of influence from Greece and Rome, ancient Greece and Rome, but it drank very deeply from God and God’s Kingdom. We’re out to bless the people around us, and we do bless, so we’re willing to adventure with the Lord. We’re pioneers, and we’re willing to break new ground to see the Kingdom move forward. Actually, tomorrow is moving to us right now. The metroplex has about 7.5 million people in it. Actually right now, I read, it’s larger than the Houston area; it’s the fourth largest metropolitan area in the US. Houston’s the fifth, after New York, Los Angeles, Chicago. In 2018, Fort Worth...I’m sorry, by 2030 in ten years, we now have 7.5 million; in 10 years, there will be 9 million people here. A million and a half moving in over the next 10 years. 

In 2018, Fort Worth added 27 thousand some hundred people; 12,000 families moved into Fort Worth, not Tarrant County,but Fort Worth...12,000 families. Four thousand were from other states; eight thousand were from other countries...just tremendous opportunity. Families who have moved, they are much more open to considering a new approach to life and to God. There’s tremendous opportunity; we’re where the West begins, on the edge of the future and on the edge of adventure with God. Where we’re heading is transformed lives and new congregations to see more of that happen and bless the area. We’re pioneers; we’re building the future. What opportunity is in front of us!

Let me talk about another image: bridges. Fort Worth has lots of bridges; it’s hard to get around without them. Here’s the Main Street Bridge; it’s a pretty thing. Why did we need a bridge? Because it’s hard to drive through water. Seventh Street--It’s got a lot more architecture to it. Take a look at downtown; this is an aerial view with the bridges circled in green. Let’s dim the lights, so maybe we can see the green circles. They’re not real big. There are all kinds of bridges, just around downtown. Why? Because of the rivers. They keep winding throughout the area, and if you want to go anywhere, you need bridges. 

We… We’re bridges; bridges connect. They connect people; they connect areas. They cross over chasms; they cross over barriers. People are separated from God by chasms...idea chasms, fear chasms (afraid of what might happen if they really got serious), or maybe guilt. Things have happened in their past, and every time the thought of God comes up, the guilt just burns. We bridge the chasms between them and Christ. When they meet someone who has actually crossed to them, crossed the chasm, that relationship becomes a bridge for them. The bridge...that bridge requires trust. People have to trust you before they believe you. The key question is: “Are you actually out for my good, or am I a project for you or a stepping stone?

Most people don’t trust Christ until someone that they trust tells them how to, so Romans 10 says.... This is out of The Message paraphrase. “How can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That’s why Scripture exclaims, ‘A sight to take your breath away! Grand processions of people telling all the good things of God!’” That’s what we’d love to be that grand procession of people telling the good things of God. We’re bridges, bridges between people and the Lord.

This next year in 2020 this is the strategic initiative we’re going to be working with. We’re calling it 4 + 2 + 6. We’re asking… Our target, our goal is that 1,000 people will have received an invitation to discover and experience God’s ways through events they’re personally invited to. Five hundred people will have heard how they can begin a relationship with Jesus Christ. 4 + 2 + 6… 1,000 people 500. The way we want to accomplish this is by 250 people. We’re going to ask 250 people to commit to inviting four people (that’s the 4) who don’t yet know Jesus to some Hope event, then sharing their story and the gospel with 2 people. That’s the two, four plus two. Then the Hope Staff equipping members to share their story, but also organizing six events that will engage the community for the purposes of the gospel, 4 + 2 and this is the six. This is going to be our focus as we roll into 2020. We’ll be talking to you more about this. We’re bridges. God intended that. Every time you cross one in Fort Worth, which will probably be a lot, think about that. We’re bridges.

Third image--Something that’s all around; you experience it all the time. You never see it though. It’s the wind. We send beyond us; the wind keeps moving here. It’s always coming from somewhere...north, south, east, west, and it’s always blowing to somewhere. It just doesn’t stop. What is it? Which city is the windy city? Chicago, yeah! In Chicago, the wind speed, the average wind speed over the year is 9.6 miles per hour, the “Windy City.” In Dallas-Fort Worth, it’s 10.5, so maybe we should be the “Windier City.” It just doesn’t stop. If you come from a part of the country where the wind is a lot calmer, it’s sort of a shock. It just never stops.

The wind is like the Good News. The Good News came to you from somewhere. If you’re already a Christ follower, it came from somewhere. It came through time for 2,000 years, then it hit you at some place, and it keeps on moving on. God wants us to pass on His Good News to the ends of the earth. He says in Isaiah 49:6, “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will ALSO make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” We’re here to extend God’s transformation in our community, but on beyond our community like the wind blows. We’ve been recipients of His historic work and Gospel through the church. It comes to us; we want it to move on past us, like the wind, to other places beyond us. 

God tells His people here, “It’s too small to restore you to a nation. I’ll make you a light to the nations.” This is a prophecy. Many years later, a group of people had settled back into the area where the nation of Israel had been. The nation had been destroyed because of rebellion against God; it was gone. They moved back from Babylon to begin to try to rebuild the nation, and they were really hard at work. They’re having to create their farms and support themselves working hard. They were raising families, and they’re trying to rebuild the nation. But God tells them, “You know, also I want you to send my solution to the ends of the earth.” God says, “What you’re doing is good? Businesses and farms, that’s good. I wanted it done, but it’s too small. You’re parenting; you’re raising families. That’s good! I want it done, but it’s too small. Nation-building, that’s very significant. I want that done, but it’s too small. I also… I addition, I want to make you a light to the nations. God has actually designed the church to allow us to have jobs, allow us to raise families, allow us to team together to do His work.

God does call some out of the church to go to new places, begin new works. They need to train, need to prepare before they go. God calls some, but for most of us, He leaves us where we’re at to continue the work in our area. To the church, He says, “Yeah, what you’re doing is good, but there’s more to it than this. I want this to move past you,” like the wind moves through Fort Worth. We have raised up people over the years who have gone to other places, and right now we have the Antioch Project. That’s a ministry training program where people learn to do ministry career. On completion they can receive a fully-accredited master’s degree. What that basically says is the training is serious. However, they have to have more than information. You can accumulate all kinds of information but not know how to lead. So, they’re trained actually in process as a part of church life to learn how to do real ministry. They may go on to new places; they may serve on church staff somewhere else.

The rest of us remain; we team together to transform lives here. We’re pioneering here, but we send some on. Giving is the best way to help people go. Bryant and Dana Phillips are moving on now to Mississippi. We help them move on; we send the wind on. We’ve been working through Antioch to put our own church staff in better shape, to develop high-quality, trained leaders. Right now, nine people have graduated Antioch and are serving on church staffs. Some have started new churches. Over time, you’ve seen this occur. The wind moves on past us; we want to be a part of that. We’re pioneers; we’re building a future, and we’re bridges personally. We need to be the bridges of God into the lives of people, and then we want to be a part of what God’s doing throughout the earth. I’ve been looking for quite awhile at who we are and where we need to go, and this is it. Who we need to reach locally... we’re going to be reaching a diverse group of people--ethnically, culturally, economically, educationally--very diverse group. They’re disconnected. The people moving in; they don’t know anybody. They’re moms on the internet looking for friends in Fort Worth because they’re moving here. They’re disconnected physically, relationally, and spiritually. They need bridges, and then it’s a rapidly growing community. There’s going to be a lot of change, and that means amazing opportunity in unsettled lives. We’re just the group to reach them because we’re multi-generational. We have people of all kinds of ages, and we’re diverse. We’re different ethnically, culturally, nationally, educationally. We’re different, and we’re Biblically-rooted. We’re welcoming; we’re Biblically-rooted. We know the Scriptures, and we’re actually working on trying to live them. We have a passion for teaming together, for making things happen, and we don’t mind innovating. We’re willing to break new ground. We love to see people develop. We’re the group to do it by the help of God.

Where are we going? We’re going into the future with the help of the Lord. By the help of God… You have on your handout these statements. By the help of God, we will communicate to our communities that we are for them. That’s what we’re going to do and that we want them to taste the delight of God’s ways. God’s ways just bring a better life. We want to build genuine friendships with people, inside Hope Church and outside; to model and teach God’s ways to new people; and to produce new believers (people who come to Christ). We want to expand Kingdom influence in the metroplex through transformed lives and church plants. We want to develop leaders to lead in the congregations and to start new congregations. This is where we’re going. Our next pastor, as we find a new senior pastor…our next pastor needs to lead into this. We’re already going there; they need to help move us that direction and lead toward it. This is where we’re going by the help of God, and we are moving. We’ve been through a time of shifting gears, and we’re moving now. I invite you to put your shoulder to the load, join with us, and work on this. 

Become a member… To be a member of Hope, you need to have decided to follow Jesus Christ as your Lord, your Savior and have indicated that by being baptized out of your own free choice. Then commit to help us accomplish this. Go for the dream within the framework; advance our mission. Live by our values; the values that we have are sort of like a GPS setting. It keeps getting you back on course. I don’t know about you but if I get off course, I get back on course. It keeps getting you back on course. Then work with our strategy and work to arrive at the measures we’ve talked about. Help us see lives transformed. Help us to see the community blessed. We’re where the West begins...where the adventure begins. We’re where tomorrow is being built, and we’re in motion. So, I invite you; join us. This is where we’re going, and we’ve been going in existence for about 42 years. A lot of things have happened, and we’re setting out to accelerate. Adventure lies ahead!