Category: Family

Pastor’s Weekly Update

So that just happened.…Hurricane Irma has occupied most of our time and attention over the last 7–8 days. It is has been both an eventful and amazing week in as the impact of the storm changed all of our normal plans and schedules. Seeing the destruction that Hurricane Irma caused to our city has been devastating. However, I know that we will recover and it has been so powerful watching this community come together to help others during crisis.

Since the hurricane, we have mobilized over 100 volunteers who have helped families clean up their properties. Wednesday night, we fed 500 people, many of whom were there because they did not have power. One family left a note that said this was their first hot meal since Saturday! What a privilege it is to have the resources to care for people.

Our church does not want to just be a church in Jacksonville, but a church that is for the city and for the Northeast Florida area. We are calling our church to respond to help meet needs and use that as a platform for gospel witness. We have helped clear houses of debris, provided food and water, helped relocate families, and we have many more opportunities. A relief organization contacted me on Tuesday and offered us multiple tractor trailer loads of supplies. Our people have organized, opened warehouses, and mobilized to help us deliver water and supplies. What we are not using we are redirecting in a timely way to South Florida where needs are great.

Additionally, most of our property and facilities came through largely unscathed by the storm. God was gracious and our support staff did an incredible job. There was obviously damage on the auditorium and damage to some of our property at our Rehabilitation Farm in St. John’s County. We are working with our insurance company on processing these claims and repairing what has been damaged. The fact that this was a named storm means that our deductibles will be considerably higher than normal. These are issues that we will work through in the days ahead.

Here is how you can engage with us as we serve the community.

  1. Sign up to work on a debris clean up team. We continue to get requests to help either church members or people in our community that need help cleaning up. These are a great way to serve people and let them know that our church loves and cares for them. You can text “Relief” (all one word) to 555–888 to be notified for future needs. We have teams going out on Saturday. Please meet at 8 am by the football fields.
  2. We are asking Classes and Small groups to help with providing food for families in need. We are doing this on a small scale at this time, but these are important opportunities for us to help in tangible ways. You may be contacted by someone to assist in providing food and supplies.
  3. We are working with churches in the North East Florida area to secure cleaning buckets. We launched a Crisis Bucket Campaign to help meet this need. Over the next 10 days, we will be collecting buckets and items to help assist families in their recovery efforts. You can bring a complete bucket or bring items to fill a bucket! All items can be dropped off to the Plaza at our Hammond location, Monday through Friday, 7 am-7 pm. You can also drop off items during Sunday service times at either Hammond or Oakleaf. These are buckets with a supply list that help families that have experienced water intrusion in the home and need help getting started in cleaning. Here is a link with information about the buckets.
  4. Please give to Hurricane Irma. (Click here to give.) We are using our resources to meet needs, and what we do not use directly we will donate to local relief efforts to help people in need.
  5. Finally, be in one of our services this coming weekend at either Hammond or Oakleaf. Obviously, there were not services last week and we missed most of the offering opportunities except for that which came in online. We need a good offering this week just to recover and help with our ongoing weekly expenses. If you are not able to be here Sunday you can give online

Our city is needy. While much of the need is fairly obvious, the greatest need is for the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are privileged to help bring that gospel witness by word and deed to the community that we love. This should impact all of us. This is the perfect opportunity for us to teach our children and lead our families to serve, to give, and to sacrifice for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I want our church to be known in the community as one that is here for them and one that points them to Jesus Christ. See you on Sunday and know that it is a joy to serve the Lord with you.

Tom Messer


Pastor’s Weekly Update

As you and I prepare for what will likely be a relaxing three-day Labor Day weekend, I hope that you will remember the people who have gone through the unimaginable devastation in Texas, and now Louisiana, from Hurricane Harvey. This is a time for the church to respond and to come alongside those who are suffering and affected and do what we can to help. There are two ways that I think that we can help in the short term. First, I would encourage you to pray. Praying for protection, safety, and recovery efforts are great places to start and praying for people to have their hearts turned toward God in this crisis can be a turning point for so many. Second, we have created a convenient way for you to give. Visit, and select Houston Disaster Relief. Every penny that is given will be sent directly to SEND Relief, a Christian, on-the-ground disaster response team. You can read more about their efforts here: Additionally, we are looking also at opportunities to send members from our church to go and help.

Coming up on October 1, both campuses will be hosting our Annual Fall Big Day. The purpose of this day is to give our church members an opportunity to invite their neighbors, coworkers and friends to come and see what Trinity is really like. Remember that there are people around you who are simply waiting for a personal invitation, and October 1 is a great chance for you to invite them to come. It is a great way for us to put an emphasis on outreach, and give you a specific target for inviting unchurched people to experience what God is doing here at Trinity. I truly believe that we have a place for everyone here. So start thinking now about those you plan to bring with you!

I’m looking forward to this Sunday as we continue our series on Finding Happiness in Unexpected Places from the Sermon on the Mount. When you experience the rule and reign of Jesus in your life you will find a happiness that is impossible to experience any place else. It is truly where you discover heaven while living here on earth!

See you on Sunday.

Pastor’s Weekly Update

There is nothing quite like the way that our campus comes to life with the opening of schools and the gearing up for fall worship services. It is always fun to be part of a ministry that is filled with young people, both Academy and College, who can become influencers for Christ.

In addition, the new Connection Plaza opened to the community this week and the response has been awesome. Many parents from our surrounding neighborhoods have found out about the indoor playground, and are thrilled to have a safe, fun and cool place to bring their kids to play. Another draw is the coffee shop; it is the best place to get coffee on the Westside!  Many people already have shown up to grab a cup of coffee and let us know that they would be regulars! It excites me to think about all the people we will be able to connect with through the use of this building.

Our back-to-school teaching series, Finding Happiness, launched this week. This practical study through the teaching of Jesus, from the Sermon on the Mount,will help us to discover the kind of life where we are flourishing inwardly and outwardly. Join with me to invite those you meet to experience what God is doing on one of our campuses or in one of our services.

What God is doing is the result of what you have done in praying and giving to make ministry possible. I believe that we are making a difference in our community and that we are the key to helping people find and follow Jesus.

Pastor’s Weekly Update

I am writing this week’s blog while sitting in a condo at the beach. Our entire family, as well as close friends, are here together and we are enjoying a little time away this summer. It is always fun to get to be with the family and some friends as we get ready to gear up for what I believe is going to be a great fall at Trinity.

I am hearing wonderful reports about VBS this week, and appreciate every leader in children’s ministry and the great number of volunteers who are helping us to share the gospel and teach Biblical truth to children in a high impact setting. We have over 100 volunteers who are serving each night and 35 first time guests! Our Children’s Pastor, Jason Brown, told me of one particular guest who was invited by Susanna Zekas. Since he has special needs, one of our teens, Jensen Beck, has gone out of his way each night to make sure he is included and having a great time. It’s awesome to see Jensen as well as many other teens step up to serve.

This is a combined campus effort and I love to see what we can do when we work together.

This weekend, Daniel Riddick will be speaking at Oakleaf, and I will be back at Hammond. We have a few weeks left in our series through the book of Galatians, and this week’s topic is how the gospel transforms us. Most of us want to change; we just do not know how that takes place. This week will be practical and inspiring as you see how the gospel can change your life.

Pray for Pastor Daniel this week, as his dad went home to be with the Lord. I know that he appreciates your prayer and support during this time.

One of the things that I am most excited about on the calendar over the next few weeks is a multi-campus prayer emphasis. On August 4–5, from 4 PM to 4 PM, we are going to do a 24 hour prayer event at Hammond. On August 13, we are going to do a prayer initiative at Oakleaf that focuses on the 7 schools that we serve in the Oakleaf area. When I think about the needs of our city, the desire of our church to impact Northeast Florida, and the opportunities before us, it is impossible to underestimate the need for prayer!


Pastor’s Weekly Update

I hope you and your family had a wonderful Fourth of July. Our festivities started on Sunday and we experienced a great day! Both campuses had food trucks and inflatables and both campuses had a great number of guests. In fact, Oakleaf had the largest number of guests all summer and the largest single service since they began almost three years ago! There is an energy that we get when we are all together and we have opportunities to hang out and visit with people that we don’t always see because of multiple services. We already are looking at more opportunities for similar events in the future.
Read more

Pastor’s Weekly Update

Last week I sent a 15 year old to Haiti on his first mission’s trip, and this evening I will be picking up a 16 year old at the airport. I’m thankful for our Student Pastor, Joel Milligan and Mission of Hope leaders who threw him a Haitian birthday party. I’m even more thankful for a church and leaders who care about missions and help mobilize our people — including young people — to share the gospel around the world. It takes a lot of work and resources to put together these trips, and I know they are life-changing for our youth. I’m really looking forward to hearing about their experiences!

I have never been so energized about what I see happening in our ministry. There are stories that demonstrate that God is working in and through our people in so many different ways. For example, last Saturday, Kris and Tabitha Parson, who started The Believe Foundation, hosted a movie night in the Dining Commons for pediatric oncology patients and their families. They provided pizza, popcorn and a movie, and had a family who is here from the U.K. show up. I know they were able to encourage this family by spending time with them. I love to see our church people get creative in how they minister to people and I also love to see our facilities being used for that purpose.

It takes hundreds of volunteers every week to help us pull off ministry on both campuses. This past Sunday, we engaged 60 new volunteers who will begin serving this fall. Serving is an important next step on your spiritual journey and we try to make it as easy as possible. If you’re interested in signing up to serve at our Hammond campus, click HERE! If you’re interested in serving at our Oakleaf campus, click HERE!

This coming Sunday is going to be fun! There will be one combined service on both campuses — Oakleaf at 10 am and Hammond at 10:30 am — followed by food trucks and inflatables for the kids. I love that our campuses are strategically located in areas where we have many neighbors and opportunities to reach new people. I encourage you to think of one family or one friend that you can bring with you to worship with us and enjoy a time of fun and fellowship after church this Sunday. This event will be a great opportunity for them to experience what God is doing at Trinity and get to know us.

We are continuing our series through the book of Galatians. This week we will be studying the last part of chapter 2 and talking about how the gospel touches every single area of our life. Because of this, we are to arrange our lives around the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Praying for God to do great things in your life this week!

Pastor’s Weekly Update

I am always amazed at how fast time flies. We are already transitioning from the end of the school year to the summer season. I hope that your summer is off to a great start! This is typically a time for Lisa and I to spend as much time with our family as we can; in fact, we just had guests at our house for a week as we celebrated Lisa’s mom and dad’s 60th wedding anniversary. In addition, this summer we are engaged in evaluating our current programming and working on future ministry opportunities. I am really excited about what is happening in all of our ministries this summer and especially what God is doing in our church through both of our campuses.

If you’ve been on our Hammond campus lately, you’ve probably noticed the progress being made on the Connection Plaza. We are getting close to finalizing the building and should be able to announce an opening date soon. The reason for the facility is to help us invite people into our church and provide a welcoming space where they can easily connect with others and deepen their relationship with God. Every single one of us should be engaged in reaching friends and inviting people to church each week.

Not only does the camping season get into full swing this month, but we also have several groups heading to the mission field. Last month Pastor Greg Mann took several college students to Guyana, we have a group from our Oakleaf campus heading to Haiti, and a group from our Student Ministry is also going to Haiti the following week. That is in addition to a TCA missions trip to Costa Rica that was led by Crystal Lawrence, one of our TCA faculty and church members. There are a number of other individuals in our ministry who are investing time and money for the sake of the gospel – both in mission work and other forms of outreach. I love that we are seeing young people engaged in the work of God, not just here at Trinity but literally around the world. What a privilege it is to be a part of a ministry so passionate about mission work.

This past Sunday, we started a new teaching series through the book of Galatians. You can listen to the sermon HERE. I’m so thankful for the unique, supernatural, and transformative power of the gospel. This study can be a catalyst to real spiritual growth in your life and it can serve our church well as we move forward committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This week we will celebrate Father’s Day. I hope that you will invite men — especially dads — to come and be challenged about the importance of being a spiritual mentor in the life of their children.


Honoring a Faithful Servant, Dr. Willinger

Proverbs 20:6 says, “Most men will proclaim their own goodness, but a faithful man, who can find?” That question can be answered by the life and ministry of Dr. Lenny Willinger, who served the Lord and the people of Trinity Baptist Church for over 48 years as Associate Pastor.

Dr. Willinger, stationed in Jacksonville as a part of the United States Navy, became a member of Trinity in 1959. He later graduated from Tennessee Temple University and was called to be the Associate Pastor by the church in 1968.

A tireless worker and dedicated soul winner, he led our first College & Career Ministry, oversaw a large evangelistic Bus Ministry, and taught a Men’s Bible Class for many years, which primarily was made up of a large group of men from the Trinity Rescue Mission. There is no possible way to measure the kingdom impact of Dr. Willinger’s service. Under his steadfast leadership, countless men, women and children came to know the love of Jesus.

Dr. Willinger served as Headmaster for Trinity Christian Academy. In 1993, he started the International Student Program. Since that time, TCA has been privileged to educate over 274 international students from 17 different countries, which is a direct result of Dr. Willinger’s initiative to educate students and share the gospel on a global level.

He retired from ministry just over a year ago, and passed into the presence of Jesus this past Friday afternoon, March 11. His legacy will live on in the hearts of those he ministered to and through the ministry that he so loved.

Dr. Willinger is survived by his beloved wife of 57 years, Mary Ann; four children: Marlene, Paul, Danny, David; 13 grandchildren: Jonathan, Danielle, Alexa, Kari, Tara, Jewels, Whitney, Ariel, Chloe, Amberlyn, Cassie, and KaCee; and five great grandchildren: Wade, Mary-Kate, Crystal, Crimson, and Brylee.

The viewing will be in the Trinity Baptist Church auditorium, on Thursday, March 16, at 12:00pm, and the memorial service will follow at 1:00pm. Interment will be at Gethsemane Memorial Gardens. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for donations to be made to either the Trinity Rescue Mission or The Willinger Fund for International Education at TCA.

My Favorite Family Thanksgiving Traditions

I think there is something healing and rejuvenating that comes from the holidays. I love how my mom has created and carried on so many sweet traditions in our family. Taking a break from the busyness and slowing down to enjoy those that we are most thankful for is comfort to our souls.

I love our family Thanksgivings. I love that everyone is responsible for the same things every year. My mom prepares the turkey and dressing and basically just tries to keep the kitchen somewhat orderly while my dad morphs into master chef. I will give him credit, he has talent in the kitchen, but cleaning as he goes is not his strong point. My dad is always in charge of the gravy and no one makes better gravy than Tom. My grandma makes at least eight homemade pies. She is sure that everyone has their favorite, and most of the time, they all make it to the house. I say that because a couple of years ago, one ended up in the grass outside of our house. We all laughed… and cried a little on the inside. My amazing aunts fill in the sides and they have all mastered their dish. My mom’s entire serving counter is packed meticulously to make sure every dish fits. I can close my eyes and picture it!

After meal time and meaningful conversations, my mom covers her dining room table with a tablecloth and we break out the crafts. Most of the time, we paint Christmas ornaments and assemble gingerbread houses… and most of the time, we laugh at our finished products.

As our family grows, traditions adjust, but the sweetest tradition is just being together.

Last year, I went to Monroe, Georgia with my husband’s family. I love becoming acquainted with his family and their traditions. I recognized that it doesn’t matter where you are or what food you eat (or even some times what food you burn or drop on the way into the house), family gatherings are beautiful, unique and never to be taken for granted.

My little family has adopted our own Thanksgiving traditions. One that I have really enjoyed is our Thanksgiving tree. I’m normally pretty strict about waiting until AFTER Thanksgiving to celebrate Christmas, but I do make an exception for one of our trees. It is our Give Thanks Tree and it has become such a meaningful part of our holiday. We write down what we are thankful for and hang it on the tree in our dining room. It does my heart and soul good to remind myself of all the ways God has blessed me. I cannot walk by it without thanking Him. My cup surely runneth over.

I hope you enjoy your family traditions this year, and remember — it is never too late to start some that will make a lifetime of memories.

Enough is Enough

Here at Trinity, we are currently in a series called “In God We Trust” that is focused on developing a biblical view of how we handle our money.  Click here for the sermon videos.

Most of us live our lives wishing we had more: more money, more time, more clothes, more, more, more.  The problem is that getting more doesn’t stop the itch.  The first billionaire, John D. Rockefeller, was once asked how much money was enough.  His reply was “One more dollar.”

The Apostle Paul, while thanking a church for their financial support, said that he had learned to be content no matter what financial state he found himself in.  He had learned how to be content while having a lot of money and while having very little (Philippians 4:11–13).  Here are some things you can do to find contentment in your current financial position.

Learn to be Content – Philippians 4:11

Notice Paul tells us that he has “learned” contentment.  So many times we get frustrated with ourselves and others who are not content.  We expect it to come naturally, but Paul himself had to learn contentment.

Have you ever wondered how Paul could be content no matter what state he was in?  He had learned through experience that God had provided him with the resources he needed to fulfill His plan.  In your life, contentment is hinged upon your realization that God has provided the resources you need to accomplish His plan in your life.  His plan may not include a huge house and multiple luxury cars so you may never have resources to afford those.  If that is the case, you have to give up that goal and be content with the state you are in.  God will teach you contentment.  You can choose to learn it by experience or by example.

Know What “State” You Are In – Philippians 4:12

Paul says he knew how to be content with little money and with a lot of money.  This was possible because his life reflected this worldview:

I am content in my circumstances because I know God is in control and has provided me with the resources I need to accomplish His will for my life.

A problem many of us face is that we don’t know what resources we have and how we are using them.  We must evaluate our resources and our obligations and use what God has provided in the most effective way.


A budget is simply a plan to manage the money in your home.  When used correctly, a budget will help you determine what kind of house you could live in, what kind of car you could drive, what kind of clothes you could wear, etc.


Step 1 – Begin with your current situation.

  • Identify how much money you are currently making.
  • Identify how much money you are currently spending. Note:  If you are spending more than you are currently making – STOP!

Step 2 – Track your Spending.

  • Using a diary or an online tool, identify what you spend money on for one month. I use Personal Capital to track my spending. (
  • Assign it a category.

Step 3 – Develop a plan.

  • Use a budget worksheet to determine what your expenses should be. Here’s a great budget tool. *Download Monthly Budget Plan
  • Discuss ways you can increase income or decrease expenses to make the plan work.

Step 4 – Work the plan.

  • Exercise your faith in God by trusting Him to meet needs with the resources He has provided.
  • Example: Your budget only allows $250 per month for a car including maintenance, insurance, gas, and payment.  Trust God to provide you a vehicle that fits with the means He has provided.  In other words – don’t drive a $500/month vehicle if God has only provided the $250/month!


Realize the Source of True Contentment – Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” has been used by athletic teams, motivational speakers and many others for multiple things.  Paul wrote it while talking about dealing with money.  His point was that he could handle any financial setting by relying on God.  Having a lot of money didn’t ruin him because Christ was his strength.  Being broke didn’t ruin him because Christ was his strength.

Acknowledging our dependence on God to use our finances in accordance to His will is the key to learning to be content and living within our means.  For you, it will not be your will-power or lack thereof that determines your success in this struggle for contentment; it will be your willingness to depend on God and His strength.