Happy Easter! I love Easter! It helps that it comes every Spring that parallels the rebirth of our natural world. It reminds me every year that God is still in the business of bringing newness to our lives. He’s the author of new life! Easter brings hope. It declares that while death dominates this world, which Covid has made so obvious this year, that God ensures that we don’t have to fear death for there’s life after death. 

Here’s the scripture that I’m going to be speaking about this Sunday. It’s from Ephesians 2:1-5 in the Message version: 

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. 

God took our “sin-dead” lives and made us alive in Christ! That’s Easter! That’s what we’ll be celebrating this Easter Sunday. 

Join us online or in-person at 7 am, 9 am, 11 am, or 1 pm. The music will be outstanding. We’ll be celebrating baptisms. If you want to be baptized, let us know or simply come to the service of your choice and respond when I provide the invitation during my message. Our kid’s ministry has planned an amazing experience for our children. And at our East Campus, we offer a free breakfast outside – pancakes and sausage for all, and there will be a couple of Easter photo spots. 

Don’t forget to reserve your spots for the Easter service. You can sign up at www.pantano.church/easter. Easter services provide a great opportunity to invite your family, friends, and even your “one.”

Glen Elliott

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One Person Matters

Jesus told a parable or story in Luke 15:1-7 about a shepherd who left ninety-nine sheep in the dangerous open field to find one that was lost. That one sheep mattered to the shepherd. That one represents anyone who is not connected to God and has lost a life-giving relationship with him. The lost ones of the world matter to God. I believe Jesus wants us also to focus on our “one,” loving people to Jesus one person at a time. 

Who’s Your “One”?

We just finished a series we called Engage One. If you missed any of the three messages, I encourage you to watch them through our Pantano On Demand channel. This year, our focus as a church is to identify and pray for one person that we can love to Jesus. Who’s your “one?” Who has God put on your heart to pray for? Who can you love through kindness and service? Who is that “one” whom you can engage with both the love and hope of Jesus? 

Need Help?

Need help identifying, praying for, engaging, or sharing the hope of Jesus with your “one?” We’ve created a resource page to help you. Go to pantano.church/engageone/ and you’ll find ideas and five short videos to help you love your “one” to Jesus. We’ve also listed some additional books and articles to equip you to engage and help your “one” find Jesus. 

Invite Your “One”

We’ll be providing regular opportunities to invite your “one” to discover faith. For example, I’ll be sharing the message of Jesus and salvation on Easter Sunday, April 4th. Invite your “one” to join you. Don’t forget to reserve your in-person space at either 7 am, 9am, 11 am, or 1 pm services. We’ll have additional special times when you can invite your “one,” like our Father’s Day car show and our Deeper Dives as well. 

Our teaching series after Easter will speak to the challenge of living under the burden of “shoulds.” We’ll explore the dangers of when we put “shoulds” on ourselves, others, and on God, as well as the “shoulds” others put on us. Invite your “one” to explore how practical, helpful, and freeing the Bible is about everyday life.

Alpha Course

On Easter, we’ll encourage folks who are not yet following Jesus to consider the eleven-week Alpha Course. Over 30 million people in 112 countries have taken this course! We’ll be offering it both in-person and online starting Wednesday, April 14th. I’ll specifically be inviting your “one” and others like your “one” to join us. Sign up here – pantano.church/event/alpha-course/

If you haven’t yet selected your “one”, pray about who that might be, invest in the relationship, and prepare to watch God move in their life!

Glen ElliottSubscribe: https://pantano.church/blogsubscription

March is here, and in my mind, that translates to Spring has arrived. Even though we are in a drought, somehow, the weeds are starting to pop up at my house! This is a good time to give some updates, and look forward as Spring approaches here at Pantano.

Lead Pastor Search 

Please remember that we are not in a hurry to find my successor. We will be prayerfully careful in our process and selection. Please pray for the Interview Team and Elders as they do the initial work, which requires lots of time and is not an easy process. Once we find my successor, there will be a period of overlap, which could take a year or so. So, you won’t see any real changes until possibly sometime in 2022.

Let me clarify again that I’m not retiring. At 65, I’m not done in ministry. I’m just looking for a change of role. I will give my successor the freedom to determine what that role might look like after I pass the baton.

The Interview Team and Elders are well along in the interview process of the first round of candidates. They started with six candidates. We have recently received five new candidates that the Slingshot Group vetted, and the Interview Team is just getting started with those candidate profiles. We are not releasing the names of any candidates at their request and for their well-being.

Engage One Series

This Sunday, we launch a new series that I personally believe is one of the most important that we’ve done in the 22 years I’ve been at Pantano. Why would I make that huge statement? Here’s why: About 85% of Pima County doesn’t go to any church. Most of our neighbors are post-Christians, meaning that they lack an understanding of who Jesus really is or what the Bible and the church are all about. Except for a few Atheists, most are not against God; they just don’t know him or have a relationship with him. They are unlikely to visit a church, and COVID has made it even more unlikely that folks will want to go to a church building. 

So we have to go to them. Our mission and purpose is to love people to Jesus, launching passionate people to make a difference. In this series, we are unveiling a year-long effort to equip and prepare our church to intentionally engage those not connected to Jesus. Starting Sunday, I will introduce this idea and share with you some of the tools, resources, videos, and courses we’ve been developing over the last year.

Auditorium Upgrade

We need to fix some things in our East Campus Auditorium. The carpet is beyond repair. Many of the pews are broken, and we can’t fasten them to the floor. The floor has a terrible and dangerous slope, and the list goes on. For years we’ve tried to push the proverbial can down the road, but we’ve come to the place where we need to make some changes. We are in the process of planning so we can’t give details yet, but once we decide and commit to a plan and have permits, I’ll let you know more about the details, timing, schedule, and cost.

Easter – April 4

I love to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus! This year, we’ll have four Easter Sunday services, both in-person and online, at 7 am, 9 am, 11 am, and 1 pm. We are using a reservation system (choose a service here) for in-person attendance to ensure that none of our services are too full and provide safe physical distancing. Sign up now!

Glen ElliottSubscribe: https://pantano.church/blogsubscription

Happy Easter everyone! Who would have ever guessed that we would not gather physically for Easter services in 2020? But, we are in a critical time when physical distancing is vital, so we’ll celebrate digitally this year. 

I know many are disappointed that we can’t gather for worship this Easter. We love to dress up! We look forward to the energy of celebrating the resurrection. We can’t wait to sing the songs of hope. May I encourage you to be intentional about making worship this Easter just as meaningful as any Easter in the past; but it might take a little more thought and effort. Maybe you dress up this Easter, even though you won’t be leaving your home! How about preparing a special set up for communion and make it something you’ll never forget? But most importantly, prepare your heart to worship and celebrate that Jesus is alive. 

I find the conversation Jesus had with a Samaritan woman in John chapter 4 so applicable to our current situation. She was focused on the “proper” physical location where worship is to happen. Jesus replied by saying it is not about where we actually meet, rather, he said: Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. (John 4:24, 25). This Sunday, as you watch online, prepare yourself to worship in the Spirit and in truth.

I believe more than ever we need to celebrate Easter, even if it is digitally. Our team has worked hard to prepare a meaningful Easter service. You can watch at 9 am, 11 am and 1 pm online, on Facebook or YouTube. In case you didn’t know, we have an amazing service for our students on Instagram and YouTube. And, there’s something for our kids online also on Easter Sunday.

Also, in case you missed this, our student leaders are connecting with our students live on Instagram every weekday at 9 am and 8 pm. 

This COVID19 pandemic has created a profound interest in spiritual things. I just read a report about the spike in Google searches about prayer over the last few weeks. It’s in times of crisis that folks are open more than ever to the Gospel. Folks need to hear the message of hope found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Invite your friends and family to watch. You can even do a watch party on Facebook! We have created some social media Easter graphics for you to use to invite others.

Glen Elliott

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Lent begins next Wednesday (Ash Wednesday – February 26). It marks the 40 days before Easter (not counting Sundays). Lent is practiced by both Catholics and Protestants. Nine years ago we started our first Lent service at Pantano. Many were surprised we would offer this, as that had not been our tradition. While it is not specified or required in the Bible, we practice this because it is a powerful spiritual season to focus on the disciplines of fasting, prayer and Bible reading, all of which were important to Jesus and the apostles. This season helps prepare our hearts for Easter. 

It was especially the fasting part that prompted me to initiate the practice of Lent at Pantano. As we begin Lent, we’ll challenge you to fast from something you’ve been dependent on. As we fast from things we’ve relied on, we often become more aware of our need to depend on Jesus more. The things we fast from can tempt us with a false basis of support, protection, comfort or what we wrongly consider will give us “real” life. We’ll encourage you to “fast” from something that promises to provide what really only God can ultimately provide. Then use the extra time and energy to talk to and focus on Jesus, the One who truly supplies what we need most.

Start now by asking the Holy Spirit to guide you in what you’ll fast from. You can choose to fast from a meal or a certain kind of food or drink like sugars, caffeine, soda, etc. (as long as it is medically safe to do so). Some choose to fast from social media, TV, video streaming, gaming, music or anything that you rely on daily or that’s an important part of your regular routine.

Join us Wednesday night – February 26th at 6:30 pm for our Lent Service. We’ll begin with worship and then Michael Goodwin, our Outreach Pastor, will bring a message to help us prepare for our celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection on Easter. We’ll partake in Communion together and then as the service ends, you’ll have the optional opportunity to receive ashes on your forehead or wrist. I look forward to Lent every year and I’ll see you there.

Glen Elliott

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God commanded a Sabbath for physical rest but also because we need to pause at least weekly to reflect back and see all that God has done. Otherwise, we just keep running ahead and forget all the big and small ways God has guided, provided, blessed, and protected. In our work and effort, we easily miss his amazing grace. Now, Jesus and his apostles made it clear that we don’t have to legalistically keep a Saturday or Sunday or any particular day as the Sabbath. But, the principle is still important to observe. And here’s why – we need to slow down, quiet our frenetic agenda, and be still so we can practice and experience gratitude. Gratitude is a vital path to experience the fullness of God’s grace.

So as I write, it’s the Monday after Easter. I put in over 40,000 steps, climbed over 30 floors, walked more than 18 miles on Saturday and Sunday and burned almost 7,000 calories in those two days! Gotta love the Fitbit! So it’s time to slow down and take some time to reflect. Here are a few of the many things I’m grateful for:

I’m grateful for the man baptized on Sunday who decided he had his last drink. And an older gentleman was baptized Sunday who came to our church deeply wounded by the ugliness of religion and found grace and a renewed relationship with God. And a man came up at the last minute to be baptized who had been fighting surrendering to Jesus for months. I’m deeply grateful for the 94 people baptized and for the life change and new beginnings for each precious soul loved by God and the people in their lives.

I’m grateful for all of you who invited people to join you at our Family Fun Fest and Easter services. I spent a good part of both days meeting the people who were your guests. That is one of the best parts of Easter for me. I love it! Thank you all for caring enough about people to invite them and to love them to Jesus.

It’s amazing that we gave away 50,000 Easter eggs filled with scripture verses, candy, and small toys. But, what blows me away are all of the folks who spent hours filling them and taping them shut! Folks also donated water, soda, candy, and all the supplies so we could make the Family Fun Fest a free event. Wow! And how great are the hundreds of people both Saturday and Sunday who volunteered and put in long hours to serve the 5000 people who came on our campus for the Family Fun Fest and the 6780 people who attended Easter services… Wow!

I’m so grateful for our staff and volunteers who put in long hours preparing, long before Saturday and Sunday. I’m grateful for our leaders who love people and will do what it takes to make every experience the best it can be and be done with excellence. On Saturday and Sunday, I was overwhelmed by the creative gifts exercised and used by so many of our artistic folks. I’m just so proud of our whole church. I love our church!

Don’t forget to join us and invite folks to hear our new teaching series that starts Sunday – Upcycle. In Upcycle, we’ll learn how to move past our past to start again with God. We’ll tap into the transforming power of God that makes beautiful things from the ruined, used, old, or worn out pieces of our lives.

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This Sunday we will celebrate that God raised Jesus from the dead. It is a big deal! The resurrection changes everything, in every way, for everyone who believes. There are two passages from the Bible that I love to reflect on at Easter time; each has a special meaning to me and I want to share them with you. The first is found in Matthew 28:5-6 (NIV) – The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.”  Because Jesus is alive and because Jesus conquered death there is nothing we have to fear in the present, for he is with us, and nothing to fear at the end, for death is only a door to life that never ends. As God raised Jesus from the dead, we too share that same hope. If we really believe in a risen savior, fear no longer has to rule in our lives.

Last Sunday I read from Romans 10:9 (NIV) – If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Paul describes our salvation as based on surrendering to Jesus and making him “large and in charge” of our lives as Lord. It is also based on the deeply-held belief that Jesus is alive. God raised him from the dead. He is our living Lord who guides us in our daily lives. But that hope is based on the fact Jesus is alive!

Join us Easter Sunday as we celebrate the risen Jesus. Services are at 7 am, 9 am, 11 am, 1 pm. Children’s ministry is at all services except the 7 am. We’ll have free breakfast and lunch between services. Our team has created an amazing service to celebrate the resurrection, including baptisms. We’ll have two baptisteries on stage this year!

On Saturday, from 8 am to 2 pm, we’ll have our Family Fun Fest on campus. It’s a FREE event that features family-friendly activities and a 50,000 Easter egg hunt. There will also be a petting zoo (the largest we’ve ever had at an event), an illusionist, train ride, crafts, games, inflatables, a slip ‘n slide (if you want to get wet, come prepared!) and more! It’s not too late to sign up to help us serve either Saturday and/or Sunday.

He has risen! Indeed! And that changes everything.

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I love Easter! It isn’t the trapping of the holiday that much interests me; I’m not an Easter egg or chocolate fan. I’ve never been much amused by the Easter bunny. But I love Easter because of the reason for the special day. Jesus rose from dead and he’s alive. That’s huge. That changes everything! That is THE basis of our faith. That is the basis of ALL hope! Put in the negative, if he’s still in the grave, then we are hopeless. But, we have a hope that death can’t shake; and that’s the message of our Easter services this year.

We’ll have four Easter Sunday services at 7 am, 9 am, 11 am and 1 pm. We’ll have children’s ministry at all services except the 7 am service (it’s hard to get kids up, in their Easter best and arrive to service that early!). Our middle school and high school students will be with their families at all four adult services.

May I ask you a huge favor? Given the history I’ve followed for years, I can pretty much predict that the 9 am and 11 am services will be full. If you can, would you please consider attending the 7 am or 1 pm services? You’ll have a much easier time finding a seat and parking at those services, which also makes room for our guests at 9 am and 11 am. Thank you in advance.

We’ll be having baptisms at all four services. This year, we are upgrading that experience. We are going to have two baptisteries on stage. It will be amazing! The view and video will be so much better. If you or your friends or family have been thinking about being baptized, this will be a great day to make your promise to follow the living Jesus.

We’ll continue our tradition of a free Easter breakfast and lunch. We’ll serve pancakes and sausage for breakfast between the morning services (8 – 9 am, 10 – 11 am) and free hot dogs and chips for lunch (12 – 1 pm). The free meals and beverages will be available in the outdoor covered court area.

And, don’t miss our annual Family Fun Fest (formerly called the New Life Celebration). We are extending the hours from 8 am – 2 pm and have increased the fun things to do as well. We’ve added a water “slip and slide,” expanded the petting zoo, and more.

The Family Fun Fest and Easter Sunday service are great events to invite your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors to attend with you. We have invitation cards available at Guest Services.

Jesus is risen…indeed! And our living Savior is THE game changer! Join us in celebrating the most important event that ever happened!

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