Welcome to Saint Paul’s!

St. Paul’s is a different kind of church.  We’re not a large megachurch with a sound stage and a suped-up production machine, but we strive to be a church full of authentic followers of Jesus.  No matter how you come to visit us, we pray you’ll find clear examples of God’s love, whether through us or through our ministries – but hopefully both!

You might be excited about finding a church to belong to, or you might be a bit fearful from bad church experiences in the past. Either way, if you are looking for a church that focuses on creating spiritual fruits, not religious nuts, then you have come to the right place!

I hope the information on this website will help you get to know us, whether you’re an online or in-person visitor. Feel free to email me if you have any further questions that are not covered here.
Our Mission statement at St. Paul’s says a lot about who we are and what we do:


As a Christian family of faith,
Saint Paul’s affirms God’s love by
transforming lives,
connecting generations,
impacting our community & world,
making disciples for Jesus Christ.

Affirming God’s Love by
transforming lives:
Here at St. Paul’s we believe that we are supposed to transform peoples’ lives for the better because of our Christian faith. Whether it is feeding people who are hungry, giving hope to the hopeless, or voice to the voiceless, faith is not just for our own benefit, but is supposed to be for the whole world!
Matthew 25:31-46
Affirming God’s love by
connecting generations:
Here at St. Paul’s we believe that connecting generations is a key part of how we affirm God’s love. We believe in ministry that serves the needs of particular age groups but also connects generations together. This can be seen when our Children & Youth make and deliver gifts to our homebound members, when adult volunteers attend a “youth” mission trip, or when our younger members are welcomed to be a part of our adult ministries. We believe that it takes a village to raise a child, and that we all benefit when we are all involved in age-related ministries.
Matthew 19:13-15, Mark 10:13-16, Luke 18:15-17
Affirming God’s love by
impacting our community & world:
Here at St. Paul’s we believe that our faith needs to have an impact in our community (through local ministries such as Interfaith Emergency Services and Open Arms Village) and our world (through Disaster Relief, Rise Against Hunger, or Peace by Piece Sewing Ministry)
Matthew 5:13-16
Affirming God’s love by
making disciples for Jesus Christ:
Here at St. Paul’s we believe that the core mission of the church to which all our activities point is to make people into disciples (followers) of Jesus Christ.
Matthew 28:18-20
St. Paul’s Christian School shares its campus with us and many of the families in our church and school come from the surrounding neighborhood. In this quiet, picturesque corner of Ocala we are like the neighborhood park – you’re likely to see families playing on our playground, couples taking a stroll around the campus, someone sitting for a prayer in our Memorial Garden, or our Scouts having a meeting at the fire pit. This is really the vision we have for St. Paul’s: a place that offers God’s grace, love and comfort to the people around us.
Want to know more?  Come and see what we’re all about, either online or in-person!
In Christ,

Robert’s Blog

Moving Into Lent

Moving into Lent


“As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love.” —Jesus in John 15:9

The Bible is full of characters, and the four gospels are riddled with the characters of Jesus, John the Baptizer, King Herod, Anna, Mary Magdalene, the woman at the well, Joseph, and many others. It’s because of these characters, and their interaction with God and each other, that we see the profound and eternal truth of God’s message through Jesus Christ.

Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), in his celebrated treatise called Spiritual Exercises, expounded on a technique of reading the Bible he learned while he was recovering from battle injuries in 1521. Essentially, the technique was to put yourself in the Bible passage you were reading, imagining yourself a character in the story. As he read the Bible this way, he began to see the transforming reality of the Bible in a way that transformed him personally from a life of dueling, vanity, and ambition to a life of Christian service.

We aren’t spectators to the stories of the Bible. Instead, we are meant to relate our own lives to them. The Bible isn’t supposed to be used as a piece of furniture, but rather as a mirror to see our true selves—warts and all—more clearly. It’s in this way we should come to Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent.

This Lent we will be putting ourselves in the story of Jesus through the disciples. Each week we’ll look at a mirror through the story of one disciple and ask ourselves how we can become a more faithful disciple of Christ. In this season of recovery and uncertainty from the high drama of General Conference, let us center ourselves on the main thing in our faith—Jesus the Christ.


The peace of Christ be with you,



A Fresh Start

As we begin this new calendar year, we have a lot to celebrate! Josh & Karly have a new arrival named Eden Claire, Christmas Eve services have come and gone, we’ve hopefully reconnected with friends, family, and God over the holidays, and now we await 2019 with yet another sense of expectation. It’s kind of like Advent all over again, come to think of it! Years ago, someone gave me this little recipe and I give it to you for a little New Year inspiration:   Recipe for a Happy New Year (Anonymous) Take twelve fine, full-grown months; see that these are thoroughly free from old memories of bitterness, rancor and hate, cleanse them completely from every clinging spite; pick off all specks of pettiness and littleness; in short, see that these months are freed from all the past—have them as fresh and clean as when they first came from the great storehouse of Time. Cut these months into thirty or thirty-one equal parts. Do not attempt to make up the whole batch at one time (so many persons spoil the entire lot this way) but prepare one day at a time. Into each day put equal parts of faith, patience, courage, work (some people omit this ingredient and so spoil the flavor of the rest), hope, fidelity, liberality, kindness, rest (leaving this out is like leaving the oil out of the salad dressing— don’t do it), prayer, meditation, and one well-selected resolution. Put in about one teaspoonful of good spirits, a dash of fun, a pinch of folly, a sprinkling of play, and a heaping cupful of good humor. May God bless you in 2019! ~Robert  

The Way Forward

The Future of the United Methodist Church— A Way Forward!  

(Published in the Epistle December 2018 edition)
You may or may not have heard, but the United Methodist Church has been dealing with some controversies lately. As with all controversial issues, we can be overcome with the shock of the topic and lose our sense of perspective. My job, as your pastor, is to provide information, resources, and a healthy outlook on the place we find ourselves as United Methodists. The coming months will be crucial to the future of our denomination, and I encourage you to read the resources in this article so you have first-hand knowledge when the inevitable rumor mill begins its work in the near future. General Conference meets every four years and is the highest legislative body in the United Methodist Church (UMC). It is only at General Conference that our book of church structure and law, the Book of Discipline, can be revised. The UMC gives full voting rights to international delegates; so this is a worldwide gathering, connecting cultures and Annual Conferences from Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. At every General Conference since 1972, our denomination has debated, voted and re-voted over our position on human sexuality. In 2016, a resolution was passed so that this topic would not grind General Conference to a halt, and a “Commission on a Way Forward” was formed. Their work was to do a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph of the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church. This Commission, made up of United Methodist Laity and Clergy, has been working since 2016 to prepare for a special called General Conference to decide on the future of the UMC in light of our impasse on human sexuality. This General Conference will be held in St. Louis, Missouri, from February 23-26, 2019. While there are many options being considered from other groups within the denomination, the Commission has come up with three possible plans for the UMC going forward: The One Church Plan: The One Church Plan provides a generous unity that gives conferences, churches, and pastors the flexibility to uniquely reach their missional context without disbanding the connectional nature of The United Methodist Church. In the One Church Plan, no annual conferences, bishops, congregations, or pastors are compelled to act contrary to their convictions around human sexuality. If approved, changes to the UMC would be phased in after the 2020 General Conference. The Connectional Church Plan: The Connectional Conference Plan, while requiring an almost complete change of our denominational structure, reflects a unified core that includes shared doctrine and services. Under this plan, the UMC is built around three connectional conferences based on theology including perspectives on LGBTQ ministry. Due to the complex nature of this plan, changes will be phased in over the next couple of General Conferences. The Traditionalist Plan: The request for a “Traditionalist” Plan was made to the Commission late in their process. As presented to the Commission, the Traditionalist Plan steps up accountability to the current Book of Discipline language. This Plan requires every Annual Conference to certify that they will uphold, enforce, and maintain the Discipline’s standards on LGBTQ marriage and ordination. Annual conferences that did not certify would be encouraged to form an “autonomous, affiliated” denomination that would work together with the UMC but no longer be a part of it. As of 2021, annual conferences that did not certify could no longer use the United Methodist name and logo, and they could no longer receive any funds from The United Methodist Church. I encourage you to be in prayer for the delegates and the sensitive, complex matters they will legislate during General Conference. Either way they vote, these issues will affect real people in our churches across the world, and in the pews next to you at St. Paul’s. Our Bishop, Rev. Ken Carter, has encouraged all people in Florida to pray, in the morning or the afternoon, from 2:23-2:26, symbolizing the dates of General Conference. I hope you’ll join me in this prayer vigil over the coming months. In addition to prayer, I encourage you to read, watch, and listen to primary-source material on this upcoming General Conference and the Commission on a Way Forward’s work. Each of these plans have their supporters and detractors, and it is important that everyone reads the Way Forward report on the three plans before forming opinions. Our Florida Conference website (www.flumc.org) has an in-depth section devoted to Way Forward resources at www.flumc.org/wayforward. On this site you can read the Commission’s entire report, watch “listening sessions” with Bishop Carter around the conference, read about the history of the UMC and human sexuality, and keep up to date with future developments. In closing, let me assure you that the church of Jesus Christ has weathered these storms before, and will weather them again. On Sunday, March 3, you will come back to worship. The good news is; you will notice that we will still be worshipping our Lord Jesus Christ and ministry will continue here, regardless of how our General Conference votes. In the middle of our culture full of polarization, war, and anxiety, it is important that the church be a place of unity, peace, and assurance that God is bigger than the issues we think divide us. My hope is that this article provides understanding and clarity during this confusing time. I am here if anyone would like to discuss these issues further, and as always, I am honored to serve as your pastor during these important times for our UMC and our witness as disciples of Christ. ~Robert  

Elements of Advent

Each year, as the calendar rolls toward December, we reach the beginning of the Christian Year as the season of Advent starts four Sundays before Christmas. During Advent, we prepare for and anticipate the coming of Christ. We remember the longing of Jews for a Messiah and our own longing for and need of forgiveness, salvation, and a new beginning. Even as we look back and celebrate the birth of Jesus in a humble manger in Bethlehem, we also look forward anticipating the second coming of Christ as the fulfillment of all that was promised by his first coming. Advent contains a lot of symbolic elements as we point to the coming of Christ. As you saw during Hanging of the Greens, everything has a meaning; from the colors of the altar paraments, the symbols used on the Chrismon tree, the Advent Wreath and its five candles. There are also other elements to Advent, and they are more about our own mindset. These elements of readiness, joy, love, and peace, go together with the visual symbols to help us focus on the true meaning of this special season and its powerful, world-changing testimony. As we celebrate Advent at St. Paul’s this year, I invite you to dive in to our opportunities for spiritual growth so you can be ready for the coming of Christ. Our sermon and worship series during this season will be Elements of Advent, and we will study the important symbols of this time of year during worship as well as participate in Advent activities and devotionals from the Elements of Advent devotional, written by Ron Glusenkamp with the music of Peter Mayer. Each day in this booklet explores a different element of Advent which connects us to Christmas and bonds us to Christ. There is a short devotional and activity each day to help you stay on target and should also help you have a little Advent fun! Our worship at the end of Advent will focus on Christmas Eve with a Service of the Nativity at 5:30 pm. This worship experience will focus us on each of the elements in the manger scene, reminding us of their meaning to the story of Christ’s birth. Our second Christmas Eve Service will be Carols and Candlelight, a Communion Service in the sanctuary at 8:00 pm full of the carols and scripture of this special time of year. Come and celebrate with us as we welcome the newborn king into our world!  

This Act of Grace…

Way back on Pentecost Sunday, we entered the season of the church known as “Sundays after Pentecost,” and known by some of you who are more liturgically sensitive as “ordinary time.” You may have noticed headings in your bulletin that told you just how far away we were from Pentecost—twenty Sundays, twenty-one, twenty-two… It can seem like we’re getting farther and farther from that exciting season of candlelight, resurrection, Christmas carols and memories. In the church calendar, it can seem like we’re getting farther away from the source of our light, and the long-named Sundays can seem almost depressing because they remind us how long it’s been since we sang “Go, Tell it On the Mountain” or “Up from the Grave He Arose.” However, there is another way to see things: the “ordinary time” isn’t boring, but rather a time to put into practice the growth we’ve experienced during the first half of the Christian year: Advent through Pentecost Sunday. As the Sundays after Pentecost come to a close here in the secular month of November, we’ve got a lot of celebration and ministry to work toward in the name of Jesus. Each Sunday in November we’ll be preparing for Thanksgiving Sunday by participating in a “progressive” food drive for Interfaith. Each Sunday, we invite you to bring a certain item to worship, where we will add it to our overall collection we give to Interfaith on Thanksgiving Sunday, Nov. 18. On November 4, bring canned veggies and fruit to worship. On November 11, we ask that you bring boxed Potato and Rice mixes. On November 18, as we end our item drive, we ask that you bring canned proteins. During worship on that Sunday, you’ll be invited to go out shopping with our youth as they bring in the harvest to add to the collection. We’ll have a hymn-sing service for those who do not wish to go shopping, and we’ll celebrate as our shoppers come back at the end of worship with their harvest! Interfaith is still experiencing a critical shortage of food, so let’s do our best to help those in need! May God bless you as you bless others this November! ~Robert  

It’s the WHY of Supporting St. Paul’s Ministries

When we take the vows to join St. Paul’s, we promise to support this congregation with our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.  Being good stewards of God’s church means that we participate in the mission of the whole church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  The mission of St. Paul’s UMC to affirm God’s love by transforming lives, connecting generations, impacting our community and world as well as making disciples for Jesus Christ is a compliment to the larger church’s mission.  However, these are simply rules to follow, and you need the why of those promises.  Why do we do all this?  Why do we study this every year as we prepare for next year’s ministry impact?  Knowing the why makes a huge difference!
The why is because of God’s grace toward us.  Grace is defined as the “undeserved, unmerited, and loving action of God in human existence through the ever-present Holy Spirit,” and when we realize just how amazing this grace is, we will act upon it with transformative love toward God and the world around us.  Everything we do will then be an Act of Grace – what an amazing way to live!  As the late evangelist Billy Graham said, “When you accept Christ, the holy spirit must live in you and express himself through you.”  That’s acting under the influence of grace! As we approach next year’s grace-fueled mission, volunteers on the Stewardship Team have set some goals for our ministry next year.  Adopt these as your own personal goals as you pray about how you and your family will support St. Paul’s with your prayer, presence, gifts, service, and witness.  Each of these goals is equally important, covering each area of our membership covenant:
  • Prayers: each member of the congregation will commit to praying once a day.
  • Presence: each member will worship in some Christian form of community (church being the primary one) once a week.

o   You’re encouraged to be creative as you worship in community with other Christians.

o   Do all you can to come to St. Paul’s, but if that is not possible, find a community to worship wherever you are: whether it’s in the car as you travel, in another location where you currently are, or whatever creative solution you can find. 

  • Gifts: each member will work toward tithing if they are not already tithing.

o   While the Finance Committee is still gathering figures for the 2019 Budget, it appears that the budget will increase over last year due to continued investments in ministry and growth.

  • Service: every member of the congregation will commit to be involved in some form of regular service.
  • Witness: every member of the congregation will focus on finding their heartburst for ministry

o   A heartburst is a sudden, powerful, divine, urgent and compelling desire to help that particular stranger (or group of strangers) experience the grace that they need most. ~Thomas G. Bandy

o   What is your “why?” for ministry?

o   If you’ve found it, keep going

o   If you haven’t- keep intentionally listening to God’s voice

Join us for a four-part worship series on stewardship called This Act of Grace. Each week we will hear stories of God’s abundant grace toward us, focusing on the different ways in which we respond to his grace. The themes for each week are “By His Grace” (based on Romans 3:24), “God’s Varied Grace” (1 Peter 4:10), “My Grace is Sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9), “This Act of Grace” (2 Corinthians 8:9) and “Responsible Grace” (Psalm 145), which will be our Commitment Sunday when we consecrate our 2019 Commitments on altar and pray over our common mission together.  Grace us with your presence, as God will grace us with his.

Stewardship Series Coming Up!

‘twas grace that taught my heart to fear

and grace my fears relieved

how precious did that grace appear

the hour I first believed


This beloved and well-known hymn, “Amazing Grace, points out the powerful effects of grace upon the life of a Christian. Rev. John Newton, who wrote this hymn, begins with the acknowledgement that God’s grace has saved someone—a wretch—like him. This grace teaches our hearts to fear the right things (God) and relieve the fears we have that are insubstantial and keep us from connecting with God. This kind of re-orientation of our hearts that happens when we first believe is precious and priceless, and forms the foundation of our faith. God’s grace forgives us and shows us God’s great love for us; and this empowers us to live a life that is, in the words of another hymn, “forgiven, loved, and free.

Starting in September, join us for a five-part worship series on stewardship called This Act of Grace. Each week we will hear stories of God’s abundant grace toward us, focusing on the different ways in which we respond to His grace. The themes for each week are “By His Grace” (based on Romans 3:24), “God’s Varied Grace” (1 Peter 4:10), “My Grace is Sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9), “This Act of Grace” (2 Corinthians 8:9), and “Responsible Grace” (Psalm 145). Grace us with your presence, as God will grace us with His!

During worship this month, we’ve got a lot of grace-fueled ministries to celebrate such as the Backpacks for Kids ministry at Interfaith Emergency Services and Peace by Piece; so come be a part of grace in action!


~ Robert


It’s Back to School Time!!!!

The turn of the calendar is a signal to us that things are changing, and soon we’ll be talking with our friends, family, and church about the upcoming holidays. Some of us grieve over summer, and I can certainly understand why, but the Bible tells us that “for everything there is a season, and a time for every activity under heaven” in Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT).  These patterns of the year are more than drudgery or lost opportunities; they are future opportunities for us, individually and collectively, to Be Jesus in our workplaces, our schools, our “watering holes,” or wherever else we happen to be.

I was speaking to someone the other day who was telling me about a missionary that visited her church to give a talk about his mission work in a foreign country.  When asked about how he and his family spread Christianity, he said they start with something God has already gifted him for: fixing cars.  Like the Apostle Paul, he plies his trade and prayerfully builds relationships with local auto mechanics and neighbors, teaching them what he knows, which turns into “get to know you” type conversation, then to conversation about faith in Jesus.  He’ll end up doing prayer and Bible Study with local mechanics that might turn into a worship service as it grows.  Through simply getting to know the people in town, he begins to build a church!

With the declining trust and influence of Christianity in our society today, we all need to become missionaries wherever God has placed us.  The times have changed, as Ecclesiastes tells us they will; and many people will simply never consider going to a church because they’ve never been to one before.  This change requires missionaries instead of showy religious spectacles.

So how can you become a missionary?  You don’t need to preach to a stadium, nor do you need any supernatural gifts or to memorize any sort of formula.  All you need is to prayerfully get to know your neighbors and pray for God to open doors for the Gospel.  As you have more of these conversations, you might want to start praying for each other and/or reading the Bible together.  As you head into the new calendar of the school year, be a missionary by getting to know your neighbors and see how God uses it!

May God bless this season!  ~Robert

Lent Devotional Week 4: Christ the Healer

Lenten Devotional: Week 4- Christ the Healer
Our Lenten Challenge
God calls all of us to set aside the 40 days before Easter, the season of Lent, to be a time of preparation. We honor this call knowing that on Easter morning our efforts will be rewarded with a renewed sense of hope and awe as we celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
Each week of Lent will include a weekly devotional. Try to answer one question a day, reading the scripture and meditating on its meaning in your life. If you’re having trouble, talk to God or a trusted friend about it. Keep reading the scripture, ask others and involve them in this process. You may be surprised at the results! But whatever you do, do not give up. Lent is about strengthening faith, and like any good muscle, strength in faith requires exercise!
Bring your devotionals back to church each Sunday, and put them in the basket on the altar. Let the time you spend studying and reflecting be part of your offering to God during Lent this year.
This week’s Scripture Reading:
Matthew 8:14-17
14 Jesus went home with Peter and saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her. Then she got up and served them. 16 That evening people brought to Jesus many who were demon-possessed. He threw the spirits out with just a word. He healed everyone who was sick. 17 This happened so that what Isaiah the prophet said would be fulfilled: “He is the one who took our illnesses and carried away our diseases.”
Acts of healing, along with Jesus’ teaching about money, are one of the more common themes in the Gospels. They almost seem supernatural and exaggerated as we look at them through our modern eyes. Today, we have doctors and other health professionals who do the healing, and many are convinced that these Gospel healings were just fanciful “fairy tales.”
As Matthew tells us his story of the life of Christ, however, we can’t ignore that healing was a large part of Jesus’ ministry. So, in belief or unbelief, why did Matthew and the other Gospel writers include so many healing stories? What is God, through these Gospel writers, trying to teach us about the Christ? What are these Bible stories trying to teach us about ourselves? Can we still be healed by God?

Warm-up for Worship!

You’re invited to worship on Sunday at St. Paul’s! Lent is a season of looking inward as we prepare ourselves to celebrate Easter. Our theme this year is centered on Jesus’s question to his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” This week we look at Christ as “The Great High Priest” from Matthew 6:5-15 and Hebrews 9:23-28. A priest, whatever title they may have, mediates between God and the people of God, and in ancient Judaism that took the role of offering animal sacrifices on the altar as a sin offering to God.
Jesus, as our Great High Priest, however, offers himself on the altar as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, ending the sacrificial system of bloodshed and allowing us to have a direct relationship with God. He is our mediator and offers us a share of God’s infinite forgiveness if we share in the sacrifice. In seeing Jesus this way, how can we grow to be more faithful and forgiving Christians? Let’s open our hearts, our minds and our Bibles as we worship God and see Christ as the great high priest. 
See you at 10:30!