If there is to be any sort of building that is to be sturdy enough to rise to the sky, then the foundations have to be both deep and strong enough to sustain such a structure. Today was the sixth week we held our bible study at Starbucks. Unbelievably and unimaginably are two words that have crossed my mind when I have thought of gospel ministry happening in South Beach. And so it is. The Lord has been gracious enough to us in providing a place and the people to come out to these bible studies which have seen its tracks being made in the book of John. Would you pray for us as the gospel continues to be advanced here in an unchurched place through these relationships and through these studies? There are great things happening here, and even though its happening brick by brick, we know for certain that there is no other foundation that we would rather be building on than on Christ alone. Please pray for us as we continue to share the gospel with a view toward planting a church here and pray for South Beach.
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”-Galatians 6:9-10
Sometimes it is easier to see the glass half full, to see the “areas of opportunity” in everything around us. With scandals lighting up our government, the world being war-torn, natural disasters affecting the heartland of our country, it is easy, in fact it is very easy to redouble any favorable thoughts toward the goodness of God. And yet, for some, just the opposite may be happening. In all of this, the frantic search for meaning may just be the very thing that is moving some hearts toward a desire to know God. If this is the reality, then we know that God is at work. Only He can give life to dead hearts, and move those hearts toward a knowledge of Christ.
This is what scripture teaches.
In the midst of these things, I have been privileged to see the Lord at work here in South Beach. There are unbelievably ground breaking things happening here and the architect of it all is the Lord Himself.
Sure, it is true that I am bivocational, working as a manager at a local Starbucks. And on the ground here, where the rubber meets the road, we get to see first hand the Lord bringing someone from death to life, from the enslavement of Satan to the freedom found in Christ. The work has not been easy, and it is not everyday that people here in South Beach are running to Christ, but witnessing this miracle in the workplace is more than winning a lottery, or inheriting millions, or gaining international prestige.
Here on 16th and Alton the Lord saw and spoke “Live!” to my coworker and he responded with a most earnest desire to leave all behind and follow Jesus.
This is true. There is no fluff about this.
No decision card was filled out.
No offering plate was passed.
No sinners prayer was prayed.
Just an earnest cutting to the heart and a desire to repent and follow Jesus. This all after the Lord provided an opportunity for us to talk and for me to share the gospel plainly.
Love and wrath. Holiness and sin. Adam and Christ. Nakedness in the garden to garments of righteousness in Christ. All of this in a short brief encounter provided for by the Lord so that I would witness His power to save and so that my coworker would experience the power of the cross and know the greatness of his salvation.
There have been countless conversations that have been sprouting now more than ever. That these conversations have been happening have been an answer to prayer, yours and mine together. Our prayers have seen the Miami porn convention move out of South Beach. Our prayers have seen the miracle of a coworker coming to know the only one worth knowing in this life and in the life to come: the Lord Jesus Himself. Our prayers have seen the first men’s bible study dubbed “church Starbucks” occur this past thursday at my store on 16th and Alton in addition to a once a month bible study here on the beach.
This is the building of lasting relationships that will continue forever because there is eternal life in the Lord Jesus.
This is only the beginning. The Lord is paving the way for the joy and restoration of a city called South Beach. But it isn’t for the sake of South Beach because one day all of these buildings will be gone. It is for the sake of His name. One day South Beach and all the people here will be no more. So the Lord is building a legacy by calling people out of darkness into the light of the glory of the Lord Jesus so that they would have eternal life in knowing Him.
So please, continue to pray as we work to lay gospel centered, Christ exalting foundations here in South Beach.
Our prayers will see gospel centered church plants here.
Our prayers will see gospel centered conferences here.
Our prayers will see and always aim for the glory of God in the Lord Jesus Christ here.
This is only the beginning.
So long as there is sin there will always be an opportunity to doubt God. Doubting God would be the umbrella category under which falls every area of disbelief ranging from His existence, to His revelation in Christ, His Word, His works, His power etc. For those who do not know God personally, He is in fact “the big man in the sky”, the “fairy tale”, the “opium for the masses”. This worldview is subjected to the current frame of thinking that runs the course of this worlds affairs which is in every sense of the word “antichrist”.
It is against this backdrop that I begin this blog post by giving thanks to the one and only God who has truly revealed Himself in Christ Jesus. Although it has been a week since the second bible study we’ve had in South Beach, the fact that He has allowed for this to occur is an outright privilege. As we have begun a series in “Knowing God” going through John’s first letter, there has been no shortage of His grace being evidenced in our lives.
In our first meeting, clouds looming with heavy rain overhead threatened the bible study seeing that we meet outside on the New World Symphony lawn. However, we prayed and the Lord diverted the clouds and rain until the late evening. Some may say “coincidence” and yet in the economy of the Lord Jesus, we know all things work together for the good of all who are called according to His purpose. And that includes us.
We spoke of holiness this week and what it means to walk in the light.
God is Light and His character exposes our sinfulness, yet because of Christ’s atonement, we are grafted into fellowship with a supremely powerful and holy God.
Christ forgives sin and since this is the case, all eyes and attention are to be diverted to Him so that we treasure Him and His work at the cross.
With the sun shining over us and the cool breeze of Sunday afternoon skimming our ears, we sang a hymn together and shared what the Lord has been doing in our lives. For this I am truly thankful.
The Lord is at work in the graveyard of the saints called South Beach. This is perhaps the most dangerous place not for believers, but for Satan because we have all witnessed what the Lord does with valleys and tombs of dry bones.
To have a bible study on the beach amongst others is to have small outposts of light in the midst of a canopy of darkness. These lights will one day grow into wildfires so that all of South Beach is consumed with life and joy in the light of the gospel of Christ.
Mark my words.
And so to this end, we pray. We do this together. We pray that the gospel will consume Miami. And Broward. And South Beach. We continue to ask that the Lord will send gospel centered laborers into this vineyard where I know there is a rich harvest waiting to be reaped and of which I am privileged to be a part of. For now, we are laying a doctrinally sound, gospel centered, Christ exalting foundation and we ask that you join us in this partnership in prayer whenever you think of us because we believe that South Beach will be transformed from death to a bustling city of joy and life in Christ. Already our prayers have been met with response from the Lord since the Miami Porn convention will not be held in the Miami Beach Convention Center this year as it has for the past eight years. We praise the Lord for His working this out for His names sake. This is is just one massive prayer request answered amongst many more to come. In this warfare for the advancement of the gospel here in South Beach, please, continue to partner with us by praying for us as we gear up for next months meeting.
This is only the beginning.
For those of you who have been keeping up with this blog, I need to express both my apologies and my gratitude seeing that I have not posted anything recently apart from a picture with a date. Thank you for visiting this site. I am thankful to the Lord Jesus who has been directing my affairs from the day to day operations of my life and the goal of seeing His name proclaimed and hailed as a banner over South Beach. As you may know, (or not), South Beach is indeed a place where the gospel is not proclaimed. It is not a place where Christ Jesus is treasured. In fact, for those who know anything about this place, it is far from anything sacred. This place is deeply religious and even though many would refute this, the truth is that South Beach is devoutly religious.
As a manager for Starbucks, I encounter many people everyday who treat us baristas as though we were their therapists. Then there are those who we are truly friends with and have built relationships with. This is a gift the Lord has provided me. This highly relational environment provides a fertile ground for the fruit of conversation to grow out of.
Within the context of these conversations, the Lord has also opened the door on a nearly weekly basis for the regular sharing of the gospel and this is a miracle.
It is a miracle because the conversations come with an ease that isn’t forced nor is it awkward, but comes in the streams of thoughts and ideas expressed in this marketplace of world views which frame our outlook on life.
Since moving down here, and prior to this move, it has been a desire of mine to see the gospel take root in a community in which Christ has not been proclaimed and to lay the foundation for gospel centered ministry to occur for future generations. You may notice in both this post and in the one before that there are dates with the words “Rescue, Restore, Renew” beneath. If these drew your attention and caused you to ask for their meaning, here it is:
Every third Sunday of the month, I have decided together with my fiancee and other believers that it would be a good idea to begin laying this foundation by having a bible study on what it means to know God. We meet on the lawn of the New World Symphony where every Wednesday evening a movie is shown for people who want to picnic in the park.
Laying a foundation is not an overnight task. And although there are some who have the overhang of pragmatism guiding their affairs in church planting, I will say that this is a sure way to a quickened failure.
When building a structure, one cannot hurry the process or shortcut the process of laying a foundation. Therefore, as I have been here, I have not neglected to pray and pursue building on Christ and sound doctrine.
With that said, this does not necessarily mean that I have flawlessly done the work of a church planter with ease. Actually, the Lord has worked diligently on my character which has been shrouded inside and out with pride, youthful shortsightedness, and many other sins.
Here then is the conclusion of this, which is what I would hope that you, the reader, would take away:
1) The Lord builds His Church.
Although there is the temptation to look to other ministries daily and attempt to outdo them by trying out new things, this runs contrary to what the Lord Jesus says to Peter in Matthew 16. Paul also picks up on this and says that it is the Lord who gives the growth. Therefore, as I look to my brothers and sisters who have gone before me in the mission field life Adoniram Judson and William Carey and countless other missionaries both living now or in decades past, it was the Lord who gave the growth as they plowed diligently the farmland of ministry the Lord called them to. As I work here in South Beach, I am comforted in knowing that whatever labor is done whether by me or others, that it is not done in vain if it is for the glory of God in Christ Jesus.
2) Church planting is about the Glory of Christ and the Majesty of God.
If this is not the focus of why we do ministry, even church planting, then we are bound to be disappointed, burned out all too easily, and withdraw our swords and plows from the field. That God’s name would be proclaimed must be the aim of our individual lives and our ministries. South Beach does not need “more churches” so much as it needs a church that strives relentlessly to see the name of Jesus proclaimed and heralded, worshipped and adored and treasured above every other name and thing.
To have a numeric quota of churches in a region in which this becomes the primary goal for church planting is actually more detrimental to a community than to have one church whose goal is the glory of God in Christ.
I say this because though we may say our goal is the glory of God in Christ, our practices reveal that this goal becomes secondary and methodology becomes primary. Countless times throughout the scripture, God proclaims that His name will be exalted above the nations, not our methods. There is a fine line that needs to be discerned between the glory of God and the pursuit of that worship. If the pursuit of that worship is not driven by a love of God through the constant living in the Scripture and daily communion with His Spirit, then the result may simply be pragmatism. And this we want to avoid.
3) Every labor that is aimed at the glory of God in Christ will be met with real spiritual warfare.
If you do not believe in spiritual warfare then there is only one reason: you may not be a believer.
There is a real enemy of the cross and his name is satan. 1 John clearly states that there is sin we fight, the world is under the power of satan, and that we are running in a stream contrary to the flow of the world which is passing away quickly.
If we do not spend much devoted time in scripture and prayer, the framework by which we make day to day decisions will be shaped by the world and fleshly values rather than scriptural values that are grounded in Christ.
If we do not spend time with other believers, we will grow cold in love and the horrid reality of a root of bitterness that defiles many will be absolutely present in our hearts. Therefore, just as our bodies need our hands, so we believers need one another.
4) Every effort to see the glory of God displayed ought to be pursued in the community of believers.
We see the disciples going out in pairs at the very least throughout the book of Acts. It is important to note how many times Luke uses the word “we” which is significant. Whatever godly ambition we may have, let us do it with the blessing and help of the body of Christ.
All that said, the third Sunday of every month here in South Beach we will have our bible study in 1 John and grow in knowing God. Partner with us by praying for us as we pursue the glory of God here in South Beach.
Even though there is much more to talk about, and many other questions I’ve probably left unanswered I’ll stop here and write some more in the coming week.
Let our aim be holiness wherever we are without which, as the author of Hebrews says, no one will see the Lord.
Thank you again for taking the time to read this and pray for us.
This past Sunday, we all met at Lighthouse church on Lincoln Road and Washington and spent about an hour and a half hanging out with each other. There were five of us, and as we all shared what had been going on during the week, we began our series in the gospel of John for a half an hour learning about Jesus and His coming into our world with an eternal purpose to deal with ordinary men and women like us who are broken and at one point in darkness. He is the true light, John said. He is the Light who enlightens everyone, which implicates that the world was in a state of darkness and required the light of the glory of the One true God expressly seen in the revelation of Christ Jesus who is God.
Why this was so significant to us Sunday night was because we live in a culture that worships everything else but Jesus. South Beach, as beautiful as it is and as beautiful as the people are, men, women and children, the truth is that they all live in darkness. And this missionary God who breaks into the world sends us to break into the culture of South Beach as He at one point had done with us when He freed us from death and brought us to true life. We didn’t earn this. We weren’t looking for it. And we certainly didn’t deserve it. If this was true for us, then it is true for everyone on South Beach. John makes it clear that this Light came into the world and the darkness has not overcome it. This was certainly true for us. With this message of hope we found this to be significant enough to consider ourselves as not only partakers of God’s unmerited favor, but missionaries into our culture in South Beach.
At Lighthouse: Lite, Lighthouse church’s young adults group, we are building a community from scratch. We are building a community where we take Hebrews 3:13 seriously and look to encourage one another while it is still called “today” to safe guard against the deceitfulness of sin. As we encourage one another and engage our friends and neighbors and community as missionaries, we believe that the Lord will grow this into a church plant. This update is meant to be both an update and a request that you continue to pray for us to see the glory of Christ on a beach that lives enslaved to the lies and deceitfulness of this world and sin. Hope is on the way. South Beach needs a big God working in broken people to rescue them to Himself to the glory of Christ. And we will see it with our own eyes.
-David J. Rios
It’s been a while. Yes. You and I both will admit that. As I have been working in South Beach as a floor manager for a local Starbucks, I have been busy connecting with people, having conversations centered around the gospel with curious men and women who have never really heard the Gospel before. This is a mission field where, as one distinguished pastor puts it, there is “theological famine” prevalent. The famine is extensive here.
No one knows Christ here and the people that have heard like to keep it at just that: they heard.
Church planting is not for wimps, but it is for people who are both called to it and are zealous (word choice here is definitely fitting) to see the glory of God and will lay down everything at the altar of God to relentlessly pursue a vision of Christ centered, gospel saturated, heart moving, pulse beating, cross driven, authentically sweaty and tiring, refreshing yet challenging, community.
So with that being said, I am working with a local church plant called Lighthouse Church here in South Beach and do ask for your generosity in taking just five minutes after reading this to pray for a new church plant called Rescue City Church.
Yours in Christ-
David J. Rios
He said to them, “ Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” ‘-Luke 8:25
The fact that Jesus asks this question displays that we who follow Him and believe in Him ought to know and understand that this is no ordinary man that was with them, but God Himself. The God who made all things was with them, traveling with them, and unlike the Baal whom Elijah mockingly said was sleeping, Jesus who slept still had authority to calm nature and completely subdue it to His command. Even if Christ were to die in that storm, the will of The Father was that He would die at the cross which meant that no storm could kill Him. What is more is that the lives of His disciples were perfectly preserved being in the company of Jesus as He said in His high priestly prayer: “not one of them has been lost” (John 17:12). What this means is that we who are in the company of Christ have our lives preserved by the life of Christ Himself. Because He lives, we live (John 14:19) and this is a three dimensional promise in that 1) we are living physically awaiting redemption and will die only when it is appointed for us to go on to be with the Lord; 2) we live spiritually in Christ by the regenerative work of the Spirit,’and 3) we will live in new and glorified bodies at the return of Christ. This life we have is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3-4) and it is guarded until the time of Christ’s return (1 Peter 1:5), which ought to give us hope and encouragement in all the daily affairs we encounter. Our faith ought to be grounded in God in Christ, which begs the question: Oh Christian, where is your faith?