Hundreds Filled with the Spirit on Pentecost Sunday
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But the wave of Baptisms didn’t just happen and it wasn’t really unexpected — it has been five years in the making and has its roots about 60 miles northeast of Orlando in Ormond Beach.
About five years ago, Jeremy and Missy Dunn planted C/Life Orlando Church after having served as young adult and youth pastors at Calvary Christian Center (CCC) in Ormond Beach.
“We’re a church focused on outreach, evangelism, and true Pentecostalism,” says Jim Raley, CCC’s senior pastor. “We’ve intentionally held strong to the part of our distinctives that we are unashamedly Spirit-filled.”
When Raley, 54, originally shared the opportunity for the Dunns to plant a church in Orlando, Jeremy was not initially excited — he was planning to return to his hometown of Nashville and he was not a big fan of entertainment-driven Orlando. “We prayed and fasted for five days,” Dunn recalls. “After that, God changed our hearts and we knew we were supposed to go plant a church in Orlando.”
But this wasn’t to be a church plant designed to please the culture of the community — the Dunns were set on bringing the DNA of CCC to The Theme Park Capital of the World. “As I laid on the floor at CCC, praying,” Dunn says, “I begged God for a Presence-driven church that was multicultural.”
God has granted the request. The church, which started in a living room with 10 people, now meets in the auditorium of the Chain of Lakes Middle School, with about 450 attending on a weekly basis. Dunn estimates the congregation is made up of 40 percent African-American, 40 percent white, and 20 percent Hispanic and Asian.
“Our mission statement is to turn hearts, give hope, and release dreams,” Dunn says. “We’re turning people’s hearts to Jesus to find the hope they need to experience the dream God has for them.”
Although the Dunns recognize that many new church plants have focused on millennials, that has not been the case for C/Life Orlando — it wasn’t what they prayed for. Instead, in addition to being multicultural, God has blessed them with a multigenerational church.
But what really draws people to the church isn’t so much the diversity of ethnicities or ages, according to Dunn, it is a culture of expectation of a move of God. People come anticipating God is going to work miraculously in hearts and lives — they walk into the service and can feel His presence.
It has taken time to build this culture of expectation. Dunn explains that every year for several weeks leading up to Pentecost Sunday, they focus on the Holy Spirit and why people need Him, how to experience the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and what happens when His presence is in a person’s life.
“Following the final service on Pentecost Sunday, we have a soft release, dismissing people to go, but encouraging those who want to be filled or filled again with the Spirit to stay,” Dunn says. “The first few years, maybe 20 or 30 people stayed, but this last year, I’d say at least 90 percent stayed.”
The fact that 100 people of all ages were baptized in the Spirit this year wasn’t necessarily a huge surprise for Dunn — God has been moving in all kinds of miraculous ways at the church. As does his congregation, he also expects God to move, though maybe 100 Baptisms exceeded his expectations . . . a bit.
Dee MacCloskey, 32, assists her husband, Myles, as youth pastor and has been leading worship since C/Life Orlando launched. She believes the willingness to be flexible to the Spirit’s leading rather than sticking to an agenda has been key to experiencing the presence of the Spirit.
She explains that the energy in the room isn’t artificial — it’s not band led. Instead, it’s the genuine presence of the Holy Spirit. ‘The Holy Spirit is so present every single week, it’s like we’ve been a little spoiled,” MacCloskey says with an appreciative laugh. “We get to experience this time with the Lord every single week! I don’t know if everyone else gets this in their church, but we know every Sunday the Spirit is going to move.”
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise to learn that on Pentecost Sunday, CCC in Ormond Beach, which, in total, runs about 3,500 to 4,000 in weekly attendance, saw 500 baptized in the Spirit, and another of its church plants in New Smyrna Beach also reported nearly 100 Baptized.
“I told Jeremy that he needs to build a church that in five years it would still be a church he would want to go to — a place the Spirit of the Lord has residence and reign,” Raley says. “They’ve done that. Jeremy and Missy have done a great job in building a church that is intentionally Pentecostal.”
Raley’s praise isn’t limited to a single Sunday, but the years he’s seen the Dunns swim against the culture. “We must be as relevant as we can be,” Raley says, “but to try to be relevant without the Holy Spirit is irrelevant. What gives us our relevancy is the power of God.”
Chris Railey, Church Multiplication Network (CMN) director, also has praise for the Dunns.
“CMN has a vision to see a healthy church in every community,” Railey says. “We believe that healthy churches also teach Pentecost and allow space for the Holy Spirit to move and empower people. We celebrate the heart of Jeremy and Missy who have cultivated a place where people can receive and experience the gifts of the Spirit.”
Dunn, who is also the CMN Florida representative, says that so far this year C/Life Orlando has grown by 30 percent, while the presence and move of God remains an expectation every Sunday. A phrase often repeated — and experienced — at the church is, “God can do anything at anytime,” which has included miraculous physical and spiritual healings.
Although he is quick to say that C/Life Orlando isn’t “better” than other churches, Dunn does believe that if a church caters the gospel message to meet the desires of the culture, they’ve made a significant mistake.
“If we feed people what they’re hungry for, it’s a disservice,” Dunn observes. “What we want to do, instead of feeding them what they’re hungry for, we want to change their appetites so they hunger for things [God’s things] that they haven’t hungered for before.”