Family of God,
I wish that I had enough space on this page to take the time and share with you the beautiful portrait God has painted in my life. It is a book that I could not have written because it is a path that I would not have taken. However, through the prodding of the Holy Spirit, God has led me into the place in this world that He has designated for me since before the beginning of time. I am thankful that He can laugh at our plans and all the while lead us into the purpose that He has for us.
God led me to Grace Bible Church in 2008 to be the Director of Student Ministry. During this time, I continued touring with my Christian Rock band, Love Like Gravity, while also pursuing my Bachelors and Masters degree in Business Administration. Upon completing this education, the Lord stirred in my heart and initiated my “exit” from the music business. He had other plans. Shortly following my exodus, God brought me into the Executive Pastor role at the church in the Spring of 2012. In the Winter of 2013, our former Lead Pastor stepped down. Under the leading of our Lord, the direction of our Elder Board, and the counsel of an appointed group of advisors, I was called into the Lead Pastor Role.
The journey that the Lord takes us on is extraordinarily challenging and undeniably worth it. The good news in all of this is that He walks before us and holds our hand every step of the way. We just have one simple, yet massively crucial, incredibly challenging and astoundingly intricate task. This very task has caused wars, healed the lame, caused blind men to see, opened the hearts of the unbeliever, and even shaken the very foundations of the world. What He wants from us, I mean really wants from us, is for us to stick with Him. All the power is in Him and comes through Him. We are just plainly given this charge: be a branch, because “I am the vine and apart from me you can do nothing.”
As a church, I believe our mission is clear: To know Him and to make Him known. We are and will be a church committed to making disciples who make disciples. We will continue to walk in faithfulness to God’s Word, to love like Jesus, to be a hospital for the spiritually sick, and to be a training ground for those on the journey of which God has called us all.
Raised in an Education Pastor’s home, God saved me as a ten year old boy. I was discipled as a teenager, and came to grips with the lordship of Christ at age 16. God then called me into full-time ministry while a senior at the University of Florida. Though most of my experience has been with students and their families, I have always felt the Gospel was my calling and full-time ministry the vehicle to living out that calling. After growing up in Orlando, Florida, I attended Valencia Community College and earned an Associate of Arts degree in 1978. Two years later, I graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Public Recreation. I then moved on to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas, where I received my Masters in Religious Education in 1985. I have 30 years of ministry experience, 27 as a youth pastor and 3 as a church planter.
My wife, Connie, and I will have been married for 30 years this December 30. She is my best friend, helpmate and ministry partner. She is a gifted teacher, tireless worker, lover of God’s Word and of His people (especially little ones). We have four grown children: daughter, Jenny, who is married to evangelist/campus minister Josh Pilgrim and lives in Rome, Georgia; son, Sandy, who is married to Lindsey and is father to our first grandchild, Ellis (10 months old) and lives in Nashville; our son, Ben, currently a collegiate at Polk State College; and our daughter, Joy, who is currently assisting with a church plant in Delaware, but coming home this fall to attend South Florida State College.
My ministry responsibilities focus on five main “team” efforts. I say “team” because one ministry “professional” is unable to accomplish everything God designed for an entire church body to accomplish. The five areas needing this team effort are:
Small Group Ministry- Meeting in small groups in homes, on campus, etc. Why? Because the larger we grow, the smaller we must become. Connection is vital.
Leadership Development- Develop team leadership (Deacons, Counselors, Small Group Leaders,etc.) Why? The Church will only be as strong as its leaders.
Discipleship- Providing multiple avenues for spiritual growth, focused on the basic disciplines of Bible study, prayer and witnessing. Why? We need to make disciples who make disciples.
Counseling- Continue to expand and train willing and able Believers who can counsel Biblically those in need. Why? Because hurting people need God’s healing touch to be healthy and whole, and in turn help others.
Pastoral Care- God has gifted our Deacon body and others in care and service-type ministry. When everyone serves, the Body of Christ is strengthened. Why? Ministry isn’t restricted to a few, but open to all who want to serve Christ.
I’m excited about the Journey…as we journey together! Bro. Frank
Paul Christian John Bender