A Blended Church–Church Planting and Alumni Profile
A BLENDED CHURCH: A Heart for God’s People and a Testament to His Grace
by Ivey Rose Smith
“Absolute in Truth…Unrelenting in Grace…Universal in Outreach”
NOT YOUR TYPICAL CHURCH
A towering sanctuary rests in the heart of the bustling Westchester area in Miami, a largely Cuban community, and it’s home to Christ the King Anglican Church at Olympia Heights Methodist Church. Yes, you read that right.
The pastoral staff at Christ the King features several Knox alumni. The Senior Priest, Rev. Jorge Finlay, has a broadly evangelical background spanning largely Baptist and Reformed theological training and time spent as a youth minister in a Methodist church. While at Knox, he was heavily influenced by reformed thinking and the works of Robert E. Webber, author of such works as Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail: Why Evangelicals Are Attracted to the Liturgical Church. Almost five years ago, he and his wife Jeanine felt God shifting them toward the Anglican tradition and a deeper, more authentic, and liturgical style of worship that includes the Book of Common Prayer.
Burning with a heart for God’s people and a desire to see this style of worship lived out in Miami, they planted Christ the King Anglican Church while Rev. Finlay was completing seminary. As new church planters they faced what so many preceding them faced—no money, a bi-vocational workload, a young family, and a post-Christian culture. When asked about testing and trials he says, “My prayer life was never stronger!” Perseverance and God’s faithfulness to provide carried them through those initial years of church planting.
Christ the King was started in a backyard with four couples present. As the numbers at their weekly gatherings increased, they transitioned to meeting in an upstairs room of an old municipal building in Miami that was being used for a variety of associations. A city worker showed favor on them and said that he couldn’t charge for the Lord’s work. Their “rent” then became paying the building’s water bill.
Christ the King met and their vibrant Hispanic congregation grew there for over four years. In the fall of 2012, Rev. Finlay faced a growing congregation and severely limited space. Olympia Heights Methodist Church had a sprawling facility but faced declining membership and an empty pulpit. Christ the King needed a more permanent residence and Olympia Heights needed a pastor. In July of 2012, the churches came together and made the merger official.
A BLENDED CHURCH
Rev. Finlay describes the church as largely evangelical with the Methodist influence, but when describing the worship he says, “We have the beauty of the tradition but we also have the gospel.” The blended services are vibrant and that is elegantly balanced by the sublime nature of liturgical worship.
Not new to the Methodist tradition, Rev. Finlay has combined the strengths of both denominational traditions. This blended congregation demonstrates that churches can come together and work simultaneously for the good of their local community. The church currently holds two services on Sunday mornings—an English service and a Spanish service that serves as an outreach to their largely Hispanic community.
Such a significant merger hasn’t come without a few stretches for both churches; Olympia Heights members had to get used to the increased frequency of the Lord’s Supper and a more formal worship service. Christ the King was pushed by having to manage a large facility, a staff, and run a multitude of ministry organizations as part of their outreach at the church.
In a testament though to God’s hand in this merger, Olympia Heights members say that they believe their church identity has been retained and not marginalized since the two churches became one. They find full expression in their tradition and the kind of “arms and feet of Christ” community outreach that Methodists are known for demonstrating.
The idea of “outreach” comes in all forms. Beyond the building is the presence of the church that you don’t necessarily see in the community but that touches another sense and is heard. An Olympia Heights member gave a touching testimony to the importance of the church bells and what they mean to her. In a deeply meaningful way, she articulates the church bells as echoes of the church in the local community. Even as people go through a drive-through window at a local fast food restaurant, they hear the church bells and the presence of the church resonates in the minds, hearts, and foundation of the neighborhood.
The impressive facility is home to many ministry organizations. In the back of the church complex is a thriving preschool setup. In addition to the preschool operation that brings in lots of traffic and people daily, ministry meetings and Bible studies are held during the week along with prayer services. Multiple churches meet in the upstairs portion of the ministry wing. An Evangelical Free Church and a Hispanic church plant meet and gather on the second floor. A friend to other churches, Rev. Finlay says, “I know what it’s like to have a church without a building” so he opens the doors for other churches to plant the seeds of their ministries at Olympia Heights.
Having spent time studying at Knox, Rev. Finlay credits Dr. Bruce Waltke and Dr. Warren Gage with opening his eyes to the beauty of biblical typology and the classics studied in the Master of Arts (Christian and Classical Studies) and describes them as being truly unique for ministry. One familiar with the teachings of Dr. Gage could certainly hear shades of his teaching in what was a Sunday morning sermon on the second coming of Christ. Rev. Finlay talks about the teaching at Knox as being Christ centered and that all students are taught how the entirety of Scripture, Old and New Testaments, points to Christ. This is a universal message that can be agreed upon by any denomination.
As a true pastor, Rev. Finlay enjoys shepherding aspirants to the priesthood and mentoring them as they come up in the faith and life of the church, as they are the future of the church. When asked what is next for Christ the King at Olympia Heights and his heart for South Florida he says, “I want to be a church-planting church that will, with God’s help, plant at least four more churches just in Miami.” One knows that when talking to him, he firmly believes that regional growth and ministry impact in South Florida comes with collaboration and working across ministry lines and denominations, and that is evident when one visits Christ the King Anglican Church at Olympia Heights Methodist Church.
A FAMILY BUSINESS
Rev. Jorge Finlay is joined in ministering to God’s people with his brother and Knox Master of Divinity graduate, the Rev. Juan Finlay. He was ordained to the diaconate in 2012 in the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) and will be ordained as a presbyter in 2013. While gaining valuable pastoral and ministry experience at Christ the King, he is also pursuing a master’s degree in Christian counseling and plans to sit for the state boards to become a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC).
Brother Robert Finlay has been on the worship team since the church was founded. His wife Traci also sings on the worship team and the two of them together lead the youth/college group.
MORE KNOX FAMILY
The Rev. Greg Llerena is a Doctor of Ministry student at Knox and an ordained minister in the Christian Reformed Church. He currently serves at Christ the King as the church evangelist in the local community.
To view a photo album of pictures from Christ the King Church at Olympia Heights, please click here. *Photography by Howard Lewis.
*This article was in the spring 2013 issue of Knox Now. See the full article and magazine here: