Biblical Vitality

Greg Robson

Unpacking the Impact of the ‘Fully Alive’ Series

From start to finish, the “Fully Alive” sermon series was created with the intent of building on the robust ministry and legacy of four decades at Northland Church while also looking forward to an abundant and lasting future. Armed with a new vision statement and a new devotion to purpose, the congregation responded in a way that was palpable from the very first weekend. “There was more movement and vibrancy in the foyer,” notes Connect team volunteer Jason Vogt. “So many people embraced the series as they covered themselves in Fully Alive swag,” including shirts, wristbands and tattoos, also grabbing magnets and taking photos at the photo booths. That sense of movement was not isolated to just one weekend. “So many people seem to have a desire to get plugged in, according to Vogt. “Whether it be with a small group, volunteering or the Belong & Grow class, there’s certainly an uptick in movement.” That’s an opinion shared by congregant and lay leader Dan Kreider, who says, “There has certainly been more engagement than I have seen in some time. The important thing to me is that the call to movement and action is out of response to what God has done for us.” Kreider notes that the Fully Alive sermon series instilled a sense of rebirth. “I have sensed a renewed enthusiasm and interest in engaging with what God wants to do through His people at Northland.”

But the scope and reach of the Fully Alive sermon series went beyond just those worshiping at 530 Dog Track Road. Congregant Randy Harvey watched the duration of the series online, but even watching the services remotely, he felt an instant impact. “Through the ‘Fully Alive’ series, I am encouraged that Northland is leading the way for all God’s children to experience His never-ending love through Jesus Christ,” he says. “It makes me happy to see Northland including all God’s creation in our ministry.” As all of us in the congregation engage in a life that hinges on our belief in Jesus, we are also cognizant that biblical beliefs require action and next steps. In the days and weeks since the first “Fully Alive” sermon, there has been a flurry of activity within the walls of Northland and beyond. Whether it was the release of the “Fully Alive” worship CD or the dynamic power of Baptism Weekend, there appears to be an intentional effort by the congregation to grab hold of the vision statement and impact those around us. For Harvey, the “Fully Alive” sermon series has directly correlated with where he is in his spiritual journey. As he explains, “The Fully Alive sermon series and ministry has very much mirrored my own spiritual walk.” That opinion is shared by Vogt. For him, one sermon stood out more than any other. “I most enjoyed the sermon on longings, which caused me to investigate my longings more.” Kreider cannot pinpoint a favorite moment but notes, “I have enjoyed the consistent biblical teaching throughout the series. In it we are reminded of the amazing life that we have in Christ.” Online minister Nathan Clark shares a specific example of the profound and lasting impact the series had. “I ran into a new Northlander at Chick-fil-A the other day. He was wearing the ‘Fully Alive’ bracelet, and we were just able to briefly connect. But it was striking to me, realizing how so many of us have started wearing our faith on our sleeve through this series. Since faith is just putting belief into action, that faith isn’t just something we’re wearing either; faith is something I’ve seen so many people walk, whether through baptism or practical day-to-day steps.”Kreider shares that sentiment: “I have been encouraged by seeing the response of the Northland congregation. Having opportunities to engage with people desiring to go deeper in their relationship with Christ has been encouraging.” That palpable sense of encouragement has carried over to Student Ministries.

On Saturday, September 15, Student Ministries hosted a pancake breakfast that served as both a fund-raiser and a fellowship opportunity. It was also a chance for the congregation to meet new Student Ministries Pastor Rob Hemphill. During the breakfast, Hemphill shared initiatives he is orchestrating that provide an opportunity to minister to various high schools throughout Seminole County. Having already met with the junior varsity and freshman football squads at Lyman, Lake Howell and Winter Springs high schools, Hemphill is eager to visit with more high schools in the weeks to come. This bold and creative endeavor reaffirms Northland’s commitment of engaging people to be fully alive in Jesus. Students engaging with the gospel is something Susan Eissele has seen firsthand. As the administrator for The Studios at Northland, she has been witness to a flurry of activity from students both in the congregation and in the community. “The ‘Fully Alive’ series ran alongside the start of the school year, which is typically a time when some students try out new activities, such as sports or performing arts,” she says. “Rehearsals are now under way for the Children’s Choir as well as the Student Ensemble for middle and high school students. Both choirs [performed] at the Northland Family Feast, on Sunday November 11 at The Rink. All of these rehearsal elements better position The Studios to serve as a catalyst for engaging students and their families in exploring and deepening their faith together. We look forward to seeing what God will do this fall in the lives of these students and their families.” The Sunday before the pancake breakfast, more than 60 congregants gathered in The Hub to participate in the Belong & Grow seminar and learned how to partner with Northland beyond just weekly church attendance. Below & Grow attendee Jeanette Rivera said the “Fully Alive” series is what engaged her to take the next steps. “I think the transition from Pastor Joel to Pastor Matt was excellent. Seeing this church thrive during this season of transition has been an answer to prayer,” she shares. “My husband and I enjoyed attending Northland, but it was not until the ‘Fully Alive’ sermon series that the Holy Spirit engaged us to be more active at Northland. That is why we participated in Belong & Grow. We’re very glad we did.” The Riveras’ decision to participate in Belong & Grow is something Vogt witnessed each Sunday during the “Fully Alive” series. “Fully Alive has birthed so many new connections. There have been lots of people visiting the New to Northland table, and we had more sign ups than seats for the Belong & Grow class.” Hosting Belong & Grow while the congregation also navigates the “Fully Alive” series is something Kreider found most fitting: “I think it was great to hold the Belong & Grow experience during the ‘Fully Alive’ series. It was a very natural next step for those being challenged to embrace the vision of Northland. “

In the series’ penultimate weekend, Pastor Matt offered an invitation of salvation to those who had not yet entrusted their lives to Christ. The invitation to salvation was followed by an emphatic imploring for each of us to authenticate our commitment to engaging people to be fully alive in Jesus. Heeding that command, more than 900 filled out Fully Alive commitment cards, and nearly 150 congregants went under the water and were baptized during Baptism Weekend. For online minister Clark, this year’s Baptism Weekend had extra significance. “My 7-year-old, Augustin, got baptized! He made the decision on the drive in to church on Sunday morning, and it was such a sweet family moment,” he shares. “Not only did we have extended family in town that weekend, but the sanctuary was filled with friends and people who’ve had significant roles in his life, like his kindergarten teacher. It was such a great picture of the gospel, seeing so many people who have loved him so well over the course of his life there to celebrate with him.”

Throughout the eight-week series, Pastor Matt has encouraged us to engage our lives beyond our hearts beating and our lungs breathing. The end result, as he reminds us, is to allow our hearts to dance to the rhythm of the gospel. When we do that, our relationship with God invades our zip codes and office cubicles and impacts the world around us. Whether those action steps include choir rehearsals, baptisms, commitment cards or dinners with football teams, the end result is that we intimately, submissively and vibrantly relate with God.

Trying to encapsulate the enormity of the “Fully Alive” series is no easy task, but Clark has found an analogy that just might hone in on what took place throughout late August and all of September. As he sees it, “Sometimes after you take a photo, you’ll run it through filters and discover that in its original state, the settings were just a little off. As a result, the colors were a little flat. But when you tweak those settings, suddenly the photo is filled with vibrancy and vitality. There’s been more energy and expectancy in the life of this church as we seek together to better understand and experience what it means to be fully alive in Jesus.”