Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Baptism

Here is a picture of a portable baptism pool we are considering. The price is pretty steep - $4000.

If we had a better option for conducting baptisms than our current pool, such as this portable pool, we would have baptisms every month!

We're still looking for something with a better price.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mission, Vision, Position & Transition

The last eighteen months have been filled with change at PCC. We have grown - new people, new faces, new talent, new leaders, and new ministries. We’ve had to adapt and adjust ourselves to change. There are new policies, new procedures, and new protocols. We’ve lost people, gained new people, maintained most people. Indeed, it has been a time of transition.

Transition also means that roles change, personnel are reassigned, staff members are given new responsibilities, and volunteers are moved into positions they are better suited for. That even includes the role of the pastor. There are some things I have had to let go of allowing others to carry out those tasks.

Transitions are never easy and I’d be less than truthful if I said the changes have been easy for me, because they haven’t been. I understand that PCC is not about me and I have made some major adjustments in my role to allow our church to continue to fulfill our mission and vision and reach more people for Christ.

We are already seeing the fruit of these changes. The stories of life-change are incredible - and the numbers do not lie.

I have made some observations during this transitional period – and boy, has it ever been an eye-opener for me! How well a person can handle change really boils down to WHAT THEY LOVE THE MOST – their POSITION “in” the church or the MISSION “of” the church. There is a huge difference between the two.

Those who LOVE THE POSITION they hold at PCC don’t make it through seasons of change. When a person loves their position more than the mission, he/she loses sight of the BIG PICTURE and can’t see how the church (as a whole) is improved by the changes being made. All you can see is YOUR desires, YOUR ideas, YOUR expectations, and what YOU want. All you can see is YOUR ministry, YOUR corner of the church, and YOUR department. You CAN’T SEE how the church might actually be better off doing it another way or by making these changes. You can’t see that someone else might do the job better than you. When you love the position more than the mission YOU TAKE IT PERSONALLY WHEN ASKED TO CHANGE. Instead of seeing the big picture, you feel like you are being punished or marginalized.

On the other hand, when you LOVE THE VISION more than the position you can adapt to change for the betterment of the whole. When you understand that the MISSION OF THE CHURCH (i.e., The Great Commission, Matthew 28:19-20) is GREATER THAN YOU, you could care less about being reassigned or asked to do things differently. When you love the mission/vision of a church all you really care about is seeing the lost come to Christ and maturing in the knowledge of God. Whether that means being a door greeter, parking lot attendant, having to share the building with other groups, or bending in the direction of the senior leadership, you are willing to follow because you know it’s not about you but ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE and SERVING GOD in a Christ-exalting manner.

We have people at PCC right now who are very flexible and adapt easily to change. They have served in multiple capacities and several different ministries. They have been reassigned. Their role has been changed. They adapt because they just want to be part of the big picture – whatever that role is.

We have also had people who want to be in the “cool” positions, close to the pastor, and love being “in charge.” Give them every thing they want every time they ask for it and they’re happy. But when asked to change JUST ONCE, they pout and head for the horizon.

A church cannot be healthy if it is full of people who love position over mission. I have watched over the last eighteen months and observed these changes and the people affected by them. The journey got to some. But for those humble servants who cheerfully serve at PCC – they are maturing and becoming more Christ-like every day. I COULD NOT BE PROUDER of the people of PCC as I am right now.

For every person who has loved their position most, fifty others have loved the mission most.

That’s why PCC is so spiritually healthy right now.

And that’s also why GOD IS MOVING at PCC.

Still Sick. Ugggh!

It has been ten days.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Some of My Favorite Encouragements

Living a public life is no fun – it’s like living in a fish bowl or under a microscope. Trust me; no one looks good under a microscope. But there are certain people who have made it all bearable. They are “encouragers.”

I believe God sends certain people into a pastor’s life who have the gift and ministry of encouragement. These people do more for a pastor’s emotional well-being than words can describe. They are gifts from God.

Let me share a few things that some people in the PCC family have done to encourage me:
  • When someone honors Renae (my wife), it impresses me deeply. From time-to-time certain individuals will drop a note to her expressing their appreciation for her friendship, or to say “well done” for the good job she does in music/worship. These gestures do not go unnoticed.

  • Someone has been paying for my haircuts. I use a particular barber in Pace and some wonderful person in our church family keeps picking up the tab. Yes, I can afford my own haircut and I still generously tip my barber – but the impact of this gift speaks volumes to me.

  • Someone bought me a gift card to Starbucks! Yea!

  • I received an e-mail from a lady who really seemed to understand the demanding pressures of the ministry. She not only offered to help, but actually did something to assist me. Amazing.

  • About seven months ago a group of people got together and gave Renae and I a gift card to Crabs Restaurant on Pensacola Beach – it also included a free overnight stay in the Hilton Garden Inn. This meant the world to us.

  • I receive handwritten notes on a regular basis from people in our church family offering me encouragement. On hard days, I pull these out, read them again, regain my bearings, and get back to doing what God has called me to do.
The lesson I have learned? A well-time “thank you” from someone can lift me for days.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Saturday Night Fever

Still got this nasty cold.... It's a Saturday Night Fever.

After I recover I will be very active on my blogging - got some things to say that are burning hot! Check back Sunday evening or Monday morning.

See you in church tomorrow.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Quick Hits

I'VE BEEN SICK! In fact, Renae and I both are sick. We have come down with a very nasty cold this week. Caught it Sunday. Now it's Thursday and we have not experienced much improvement. Hope to be better by Sunday.

I understand that several others in our church family have got something similar.

It's a bummer to have a cold - especially when it's SPRING and the weather is gorgeous.

The COST ESTIMATE for our NEW CHURCH SIGN has Arrived. This Sunday we will show a picture of the sign and reveal the cost. The following Sunday we will be receiving a special offering from our church family to cover this expense. It's going to be a very beautiful sign and will represent a signficant upgrade from our current sign. Please pray about this and consider what you might like to contribute towards this project.

I THINK I NEED SOME R & R.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

An Open Letter from the Pastor....

Dear Pace Community Church,

God has not called us to play-it-safe. He has called us to take chances, take risks, and dare to believe for the impossible. Our biggest accomplishments are NOT when we have experienced a 15% increase in the budget or a 20% increase in attendance. God is glorified when we say, “God, whatever You want, whatever You say, no matter how humanly impossible it seems, we are willing to follow Your lead.”

I feel like God is going to have us take some risks in 2008; that He is going to lead us to some new places and to a new level of ministry that we’ve never tried before. I am both intimidated and yet excited about the possibilities of this.

Along those lines, let me say something about church growth and its connection to the Great Commission: The most overlooked principle for reaching people is to simply LOVE PEOPLE THE WAY JESUS DID. It’s really that simple. You can cut through all the hype of church growth and the pious platitudes of being deep in God and distill it down to this one principle – LOVE PEOPLE THE WAY JESUS DID.

That has been a philosophy of ministry at PCC since day-one. By loving the unlovable we have been criticized, burned, misunderstood, and ridiculed by others. But most of all, we have been BLESSED! And we still are.

God is doing great things through the ministry of PCC. In spite of every challenge we have faced, God continues to do His work among us.

Some churches like to brag about how small they are by suggesting the reason they are small is because they haven’t “watered-down” the gospel while growing churches have. Whatever. Maybe the real reason they don’t have a crowd is because they DON’T WANT a crowd. Jesus attracted large crowds and no one would ever accuse Him of watering down the gospel or not “being deep.” He was able to attract large crowds because He LOVED PEOPLE.

We will continue to follow this simple pattern of ministry demonstrated by the Founder of the Church HIMSELF – the Lord Jesus Christ. It works. Always has. Always will.

This week, love someone the way Jesus did.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I Believe

There are some things that are deep-seated beliefs of mine. I thought I’d share a few of them with you today. I don’t post these for debate – they are simply CONVICTIONS of mine.

I BELIEVE that JESUS CHRIST is the CENTRAL message of the church. Not “going green,”…. not global warming, not politics, not recycling, not home-schooling, not even man-made doctrines or denominations. Jesus Christ is the central message of the church. Colossians 1:18 states, “HE is the Head of the Church….that in all things HE might have the PREEMINENCE.”

I BELIEVE
that GOD EXPECTS us to GIVE HIM OUR BEST in all we do; our time, effort, service, lifestyle, and in our giving. Leftovers dishonor God rather than honor Him (See Malachi 1:6-14). These people offered God their leftovers, their crippled and blind sheep – less than their best – and He was OFFENDED!

I BELIEVE
the church is called to BREAK THE HUDDLE and RUN THE PLAY of EVANGELISM that God has given us. It is crazy to sit around in little groups and have lengthy theological discussions on terms like “missional” or “attractional” evangelism. Blah, blah, blah. Just do it for Pete’s sake! I think those people who spend their time TALKING ABOUT reaching others for Christ AREN’T actually making an effort at it. At some point you have to SNAP THE BALL.

I BELIEVE
that GIVING GOD THE TITHE (yes, that’s a tenth, 10%) SHOULD NOT BE such a big of a deal for some people. He gave everything to us. “For God so loved the world that HE GAVE…..”

I BELIEVE
that Pace Community Church is going to EXPERIENCE its BEST YEAR EVER in 2008.

Taking Root

“The sower soweth the Word…And these are they which are sown on good ground” (Mark 4:14,20).

It is SO exciting to see people at PCC receiving the Word each Sunday. We are in a NEW SEASON at our church and you can LITERALLY FEEL what God is doing in our midst. The Holy Spirit is preparing the soil, and planting the Word in receptive hearts.

I see people sitting on the edge of their seats soaking it up. You are taking notes, flipping through the pages of your Bible, cross-referencing, and laying hold of God.

This is encouraging to me because God’s Word is TAKING ROOT in your lives. Your heart is “good ground.” You are going to be fruitful; some of you “thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.”

Philippians Series Nears End

Our message series from the book of Philippians in nearing an end. We have gone verses-by-verse through this book for nine Sunday’s, and it has been an amazing journey.

Below is a list of the message titles we have covered.

1. How to Get Over Being Miserable
2. The Benefits of a Christ-Controlled Life
3. The Submitted Mind & Diffusing Conflict
4. Working it Out and Poured Out (Drink Offering)
5. How Friends Make Life More Enjoyable
6. Misplaced Confidence
7. Pressing Forward
8. Heaven – the Hope that Keeps us Moving
9. Worry Free Living

There will be two more messages in this series (April 27 and May 4). After that, Mother’s Day will be upon us (May 11), which is sure to be a HIGH ATTENDANCE DAY for us.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

7000 Hits

Wow!

Friday, April 18, 2008

We Teach People How to Treat Us

If you ever wonder why people treat you the way they do it is because YOU have TAUGHT them to do so. They do what they do because you have taught them which behavior gives them a payoff and which ones don’t. If they get what they want, they will continue the same pattern of treatment towards you. If they do not get what they want, they drop the behavior and adopt a new behavior.

You may complain or cry, but if they are being rewarded by your response (or lack of response), then that person decides, “Hey, this works. I know how to get what I want.”

If people are treating you in an undesirable way, you have to ASK YOURSELF, “What am I doing to reinforce or encourage that behavior?” OWN, rather than complain about how people treat you. In our relationships, we are responsible for establishing the rules that define the boundaries of that relationship.


We don't always get what we deserve from our relationships. We get what we negotiate for. How much mistreatment you are willing to take is up to you. How much good treatment you receive is up to you.

Own it.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

How We Evaluate Programs & Personnel

Some of you may like to know IF or HOW we evaluate our ministries, programs, and personnel around here. Yes, this IS something we do. It's not always easy. Sometimes we have to make a hard decision. The following is an excerpt from our in-house evaluation policy:

A. HOW we EVALUATE:

1. Review - We review all programs, ministries, groups, and leaders to determine their effectiveness and contribution to the overall mission and health of PCC.

2. Refine & Reaffirm - Programs, ministries and leaders that are found to be effective and make a significant contribution to the overall mission of PCC will be refined (improved) through structural changes and personnel changes. They will be reaffirmed by being allowed to continue for another specified period of time.

3. Replace or Remove – Programs and ministries found to be ineffective, costly, or producing limited results will be shut down and replaced (if necessary) with a newer idea. Ineffective leaders will be removed.

B.
We Look for MEASURABLE RESULTS – Not Mere Activity:

It’s easy to fall into a rhythm of mere activity and just staying busy in the ministry. Being fully dedicated to a specific ministry, working more hours, and engaging in more activity does not mean more results. Being in the ministry is about being fruitful and producing results; results that can be measured.

The reason for evaluating ministry programs and personnel is to ensure the best possible quality of the services we provide, to practice good stewardship of limited resources, and to ascertain which ministries the Holy Spirit is leading us to continue.
==========
In closing...

There you have it. That's what we do. Always have.

I am ruthless in this procedure - and sometimes it makes me the "mean guy." But I do it anyway. Know why? Because I believe that every person who contributes their finances to PCC, does so with the EXPECTATION that the leaders of this church are good stewards, will hold staff and ministry leaders accountable, and that we always strive for a standard of excellence in all we do. And that is EXACTLY what we do around here.

Furthermore, it is what GOD expects from us.

Teen Ministry Update

Wow! Check out STUDENT MINISTRIES on Wednesday Nights!

In ONE WEEK the attendance at Youth Group DOUBLED. Why? Because something GREAT is happening and word is getting out!

Do whatever it takes to get your 7th-12th Grade Student there – it WILL make a difference in their lives . . . IF you will get them there. 6:00-8:00 p.m. EVERY WEDNESDAY.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Bible Class Survey Results

Last Sunday we took a survey on the Bible Classes we will offer this summer. We listed ten subjects or topics, and asked you to choose three that you might be most interested in.

Here are the results

1. The Second Coming.................(72 responses)
2. The Afterlife................................(52 responses)
3. The Bible....................................(48 responses)
4. Good & Evil................................(44 responses)
5. The Holy Spirit...........................(40 responses)

6. Sanctification.............................(30 responses)
7. Jesus..........................................(24 responses)
8. God.............................................(22 responses)
9. Creation......................................(22 responses)
10.The Church................................(06 responses)

It looks like we will be offering classes from the top five this summer.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why I Use a Message Guide for the Sermon

Have you ever wondered why I provide a message guide hand-out for the sermon each Sunday? We’ve done this since our very first service. Now we even project the sermon outline with the scriptures on the screen. Ever wonder why? Are we just trying to be cool and cute, or is there a strategic reason why?

We do it for a reason. It helps produce better converts, better disciples, and better retention of God’s Word.

Here’s TEN REASONS why I use them:

1. The unchurched or nominal attenders usually do not bring a Bible.

When unsaved people show up to church they usually do not bring a Bible with them because they don’t even own one. Even if they did bring a Bible, they can’t find their way around in it. By providing a message guide with the scriptures already printed, it allows them to keep up and most importantly, the message guide GETS THE WORD into their hands.

2. It relieves embarrassment in finding a text.

Okay, in any given church people are at different levels of familiarization with their Bibles. Some people can turn to a text anywhere in the Bible within a matter of seconds. Others can’t – they have to use the table of contents. By providing a message guide with the scriptures already printed, it relieves embarrassment for those who haven’t learned to keep up yet.

3. It removes the tension between the “IN” crowd and the “OUT” crowd.

4. They can be used for Small Group Discussion.

5. I can cover more material in less time.

With the scriptures already provided I don’t lose any time having to wait for everyone to turn to the different passages that we will cover on any given Sunday. This enables me to cover more material and more ground, and everyone is keeping up at the same pace.

6. It increases participation from the congregation.

I can say, “circle that word” or “underline that phrase.” This increases congregational participation which also leads to better retention of key points.

7. The message guide (and overhead screen) provides visual reinforcement.

Let’s face it. Most people are visual learners; we learn best by the things we see. Just the physical act of looking at the key points in the message guide or on the screen increases learning and "imprinting."

8. Without it, people forget 90% of what they hear within 72 hours.

The United States Air Force conducted a study and discovered that the average person forgets 90% of what they hear within 72 hours (3 days)! That is very discouraging. That means that most church attenders will forget what the pastor’s sermon was about by Wednesday. No matter how good it was, or how deep the truths are, they’ll forget. They will forget what Bible passages he read from and where he taught from.

Enter the message guide. We use a fill-in-the-blank message guide. By writing down the main points, and taking notes, the participant better remembers the content, which ultimately leads to better life-change.

9. The message guides can be kept for future reference.

10. They change lives.

God’s Word changes lives. It doesn’t matter if people are hearing it, reading it from their Bible, or reading it from a message guide – the Word is the Word in any form of delivery.

I am interested in getting God’s Word into people any way I can.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Four Lessons I've Learned at the Ten-Year Mark - Part 4

Today's post is the last part in this four-part series. Being a ten-year church I have learned some vital lessons along the way. I thought you would find these insightful, giving you an insider's look into the world of ministry leadership. You will find the three previous entries (with dates) listed below if you would like to read them again.

Lesson 1 - Maintaining Our Focus on Reaching the Unchurched is still a High Priority. (Posted March 27, 2008)

Lesson 2 - Those Who Started With Us Don’t Always Stay (Posted April 1, 2008)

Lesson 3 – I’m Having to Learn a New Set of Skills (April 7, 2008)

LESSON FOUR – LOYALTY IS ESSENTIAL FOR CHURCH HEALTH

The fourth lesson I have learned at the ten-year mark is that LOYALTY IS ESSENTIAL – and it is just as essential today as it was in year one, if not more so. I’m talking about loyalty to our vision, and our mission; loyalty to the DNA of our church, to the pastor, the leadership, the staff, and to each other.

One of the things you will notice about the people who serve in ministry at PCC – we are loyal to each other. We have a high opinion of each other, and we are very committed to encouraging one another, believing in each other, and protecting one another. We are committed to the vision and purpose of our church and help each other and work together to see it come to fruition.

Beginning with our staff, we have zero-tolerance for gossip, back-biting, negative talk, or bad attitudes. WHEN YOUR HEART IS RIGHT, YOU TALK RIGHT. When your heart is right with others, you talk to (and about) others in a God-honoring way.

This same standard trickles down to our ministry teams. Each staff member or ministry leader holds his/her team members to the same standard. i.e., We are absolutely loyal to each other and have zero tolerance for gossip.

Disloyalty cannot be tolerated, and it isn’t. Disunity is a sin and there is no place for disunity in a New Testament Church. If discovered in our church, swift action is taken and we will do what is necessary to deal with the matter.

I serve with some of the finest people I know. We are in agreement with the vision, mission, direction, and doctrine of our church. We have a common goal and work together in harmony. There is chemistry – we enjoy each others company and like working together. These people are happy, enthusiastic, mission-minded, full of joy, and have no hidden agenda. We look forward to coming to church on Sunday. We eagerly lead or attend our small groups. We serve with gladness. You can find us at our post-of-duty on Sunday morning as being always faithful. We hang out together, eat together, play together, work together, and go into each others homes.

That is what loyalty looks like.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

I Don't Deserve This....

Have you ever had one of those days when everything seems to be perfect? Today was one of those days for me.

Church was great. The band was excellent. Spontaneous worship was taking place throughout the congregation. God’s presence was moving. And people thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Attendance was good. Many visiting families

After church Renae and I went to a horticulture plant-sale at PJC Milton Campus. The weather was simply perfect – cool, clear, and sunny. Bumped into a couple of families from our church who were out doing the same thing. Very nice seeing them and having a brief visit in the outdoors.

After Renae and I got home we planted flowers and vegetables, and enjoyed the outdoors some more. She and I spent the day together.

Now I’m sitting in my easy chair watching a Clint Eastwood western, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”

Does it get any better than this?

I meet a lot of people who are unhappy with they way things are going in their life. They dislike their job. Their ministry is unfulfilling. Life stinks. I hate that for them. My own life is far from perfect, but things are good for me. I love God, my wife, my family, the church I pastor and all the people in it. I love my work! On top of that Jesus Christ radically changed my life and called me into the ministry.

I don’t deserve any of this…. that's why I am very thankful.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Resting in Christ....

The Jews of first-century Israel labored under a man-made burden of religosity, an endless list of rules that goverened virtually every aspect of life - and all of them based upon laws handed down by God, but twisted and inflated to serve the desire of one group of people to dominate another.

Jesus said, "Take MY yoke upon you and learn of ME."

Think I'll rest in Christ...

It's Cancer....

Soon after learning that cancer returned to his body, former White House Press Secretary and Fox News Anchor Tony Snow wrote an article for Christianity Today titled “Cancer’s Unexpected Blessings.” In that marvelous piece of print, he wrote,

"Picture yourself in a hospital bed. The fog of anesthesia has begun to wear away. A doctor stands at your feet; a loved one holds your hand at the side. 'It’s cancer,' the healer says."

"The natural reaction is to turn to God and ask Him to serve as a cosmic Santa. 'Dear God,
make it all go away. Make everything simpler.' But another voice whispers: 'You have been called.' Your quandary has drawn you closer to God, closer to those you love, closer to the issues that matter – and has dragged into insignificance the banal concerns that occupy our 'normal time.' "

"There’s another kind of response, although usually shorter lived – an inexplicable shudder of
excitement, as if a clarifying moment of calamity has swept away everything trivial and tiny, and placed before us the challenge of important questions."

When I read this I couldn't help but think that God cares very deeply about our suffering….

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Shut Up, Stop Whining, and Get a Life!

I’ve always wanted to say that but didn’t think I could get away with saying it in a sermon, so I’ll have to be content saying here on my blog.

Actually this is the title to one of the books I am reading. I bought the book about two years ago and I’m re-reading it again. I like the book because it’s got some major attitude and a certain edge.

Since the author, Larry Winget, is not a follower of Christ (as we might define one) he uses some blunt language in this book to make his point. The sub-title of the book is “A Kick-Butt Approach to a Better Life.” Man, this book has got attitude!

I certainly don't agree with all he says, particularly his opinions on moral issues. But let me say it again - this book has got attitude! It's a refreshing, humorous read.

Basically the book is saying you are responsible for whatever is going on in your life, so deal with it. Stop blaming others. Stop whining. Get over it. Get a life. Move on. Get a vision for yourself. Leave others alone. If you are unhappy, unsuccessful, fat, overweight, lazy, uneducated, or not accomplishing enough, then do something about it. But please don’t blame others. You are the cause. You are WHERE you are at right now because of the decisions YOU have made or failed to make.

There’s a large does of reality here. i.e., You can sit around with a group of pessimists and have gripe sessions about how cruel the world is, express despair over the high cost of living, complain about the democrats, criticize other churches, and blame others for your own lack of success. Or you can take responsibility for your station in life; change your attitude, start hanging out with smart people, and move on.


As some point we have to take ownership.

I leave you with this quote from page 28…

“We are all self-made. But only the successful will admit it.”

- Anonymous

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

6000 Hits!

SIX THOUSAND

Cities of Refuge....

In the Old Testament God designated six cities to be Cities of Refuge. These cities guaranteed legal protection for any person who accidentally killed another. They could flee here and be safe from an avenger (Deuteronomy 19:4-6; Numbers 35:11-12).

The OT Law of “an eye for an eye” and a “tooth for a tooth” permitted a person to legally kill or avenge a person who was guilty of murder. But the institution of blood revenge was so deeply ingrained in Jewish society that it was useless to tell people not to seek revenge, even in an accidental killing. For this reason God established these six Cities of Refuge.

  • The roads leading to the cities were always open
  • There were signs clearly pointing the way
  • The cities were available to ALL – Jew, Gentile, native, and foreigner
  • Once inside the city a person was safe
  • It was dangerous to leave

This is a wonderful word-picture of our position in Christ

  • The way leading to Christ is always open
  • There are signs that point us to Christ
  • The invitation to Christ is open to everyone and “whosoever will” (St. John 3:16)
  • Once in Christ we are safe
  • It is very dangerous to “not abide” in Christ (St. John 15:6)

Christ is our Refuge

Hebrews 6:18-20 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have FLED FOR A REFUGE to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, EVEN JESUS, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

Never write anybody off as being beyond the grace of God. Never forget this one fact - the first person to walk into heaven after Jesus was crucified was a criminal! (i.e., the theif on the cross).

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Q & A with the Pastor....


1. HOW DO I HANDLE CRITICISIM? My answer, “The same way I handle praise. I don’t give either one any undue regard.”


2. WHO'S BLOGS DO I READ?
I mostly read the blogs of other pastors, especially church-planting pastors. I like to see how other new church plants are doing – often I am able to pick up new ideas from them. I also read the blogs of pastors who lead large churches because I know I can learn from them too.

By the way (BTW), there are some blogs that I don’t read, and never will!


3. WHY IS PACE COMMUNITY CHURCH GROWING?

First, and most importantly, we are growing because God has blessed the ministry of PCC and continues to do so. God is “building the house” (Psalms 127:1) and Jesus is “building His church” (Matt. 16:18).

Secondly, we do a pretty good job of balancing the five purposes of the church (evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, worship, and service). But there is still plenty of room for improvement in some of these areas. Nevertheless, when you do ministry God’s way and according to God’s purposes, you will always have God’s blessings.

Thirdly, we really do target people for the gospel. We don’t just talk about it in Bible studies or in small groups. We actually do it!

Fourthly, I think another reason PCC continues to grow is because our church services are attractive and we keep it simple. Someone should have told me that it’s not supposed to be this fun, life-changing, and understandable. Oh yea, they did – but then I ignored them.

BTW - Did you know that is aerodynamically impossible for a bumble bee to fly? Too bad no one told the bumble bee. Or if they did, he ignored them too. He flies anyway.


4. Why IS PCC AN INTER-DENOMINATIONAL CHURCH? WHY NOT BELONG TO A DENOMINATION FOR "NAME RECOGNITION?"


Been there. Done that. It’s not necessary for salvation, God’s approval, or ministry success. In fact, in today’s climate it might actually be a hindrance – especially with irreligious people or pre-Christians. Denominational loyalty is not nearly as important as it was 50 years ago. People today will drive down the road and attend brand “X” church if that church is preaching the Word and is offering programs that meet their needs.

Did you know that there are 33,000 protestant denominations in America? Is God really that confused? Which one do I have to belong to so I can go to heaven or be a better believer?

I believe in & follow Jesus. Is it really that simple? Yes it is.


5. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF "CONTENT ONLY" PREACHING?


My take on the matter is that any preaching that does not have life-application is boring, and out-of-touch with the real world! Some sermons are nothing more than “words in search of a purpose.” Let’s say someone explains who the Jebusites are - my question is SO WHAT? Without application what does it mean? Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was 90% life-application. He taught the deep eternal truths of God and tied them in with daily living so that His listeners could become “doers” of the Word and not hearers only.

If someone wants to lead or attend an in-depth Bible study on the goat in the book of Leviticus, that’s fine with me. But there are more pressing issues for me to deal with.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Part 3 - Four Lessons I've Learned at the Ten-Year Mark

Lesson One - Posted March 27, 2008
Lesson Two - Posted April 1, 2008
LESSON THREE – I’m Having to Learn a New Set of Skills

At the ten-year mark it has become evident to me that I have to change. One of the most frustrating things of being a pastor of a growing church is that the last set of skills I had to learn to get us to where we are now will not take us where we still need to go. i.e., What I was doing at one level will not work at the next level. In fact, the very skills that I have relied upon up to this point will be the very thing that will hinder us from growing even more. Therefore, I have to grow.

As painful as it is for me, I realize now that I can no longer be connected to everyone. There are more people who attend PCC that I do NOT know by name than those I do know. This is very hard for me to cope with, given that I am a people-person and a gatherer. At this point it is important that our staff become responsible for personally knowing the people in their ministry area – in essence becoming their pastor.

I will have to establish more group relationships rather than individual relationships.

I will have to focus most of my time on our staff and our leaders of leaders.

I must think of the “big picture” at all times and work on results. I no longer have the luxury of being at every event or visiting everyone’s home. Now I have to remove myself from the micro issues of the church, leaving the details to others, and focusing on vision and direction.

I will “deal with the issues” in my sermons. For many people in our church, the sermon will be the only form of pastoral care they ever receive. Therefore, I will deal with the messy issues they face in my messages. There are simply too many people for me to personally counsel. Furthermore, God hasn’t called me to do so. So I need to pastor people from the pulpit. This will mean dealing with the messy issues right out in the open. Buckle your seat belt.

New systems must be put in place to close the back door and encourage bonding.

I will spend more time developing my prayer life. As our church continues to grow numerically & spiritually, I too must grow spiritually. I will not be able to give what I do not have.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Personal..... Factoids about Me

I love snow skiing in Colorado – have skied at Winter Park & Wolf Creek Pass. Been to Breckenridge, but haven’t skied there.

I’ve been to Washington DC two times, but would love to go back for an extended stay to take it all in. I think every American (citizen or not) should go there. It is the seat of American Democracy. The buildings are amazing. I would like to see the cherry trees in the spring.

When I was 19 years old I went to Germany to participate in NATO war games – something called “Reforger.” Don’t ask me what that stands for, I have forgotten. While on a midnight parachute jump, I was injured.

My most memorable experience while in Germany was meeting and training along side German soldiers. They were exceptional.

The most stupid thing I have ever done….. (ain’t gonna go there).

I’m not going to endorse anyone’s political candidate for the presidential elections this year. I won’t do if from this blog, neither from the pulpit. As a pastor my message is to advance the kingdom of God – not the Red party nor the Blue party. I’ll vote my conscience.

In October this year, I plan to teach a two-part series on the believer’s responsibility to government.

In ten years at PCC Renae and I have never missed a Sunday – except once, and even then I was preaching in another church. Both of us need some time off… and away.

I will probably take a Sabbatical this year – a long one.

I am a ravenous reader. In any given week I am reading three or four books at the same time.

If I told you how much I read the Bible you wouldn’t believe me.

I believe character matters. Who I am when no one is looking should be pretty close to who I am when everyone is looking. I never forget that God is always looking. According to Ecclesiastes 12:14 God will one day reveal every secret thing in my life. I am always mindful of this - and it helps me behave.

I love the beach in the spring before it gets too hot. I wish somebody would get on the ball and finish the road to Ft. Pickens and the road from Pensacola Beach to Navarre. It’s been long enough already!

Renae and I have been married for 27 years. It has been simply amazing the entire time!

God is really stretching me right now. The scriptures are more alive than they have been in a while, and the closer I get to Him the more I realize how small my dreams are. I’m now asking Him to enlarge my vision – to help me see His will. I’m praying for the “mind of Christ.”

To me the Bible is the most awesome book ever held in the hands of mere men.

Renae and I have a five acre parcel of land and want to build a new home there. It’s a beautiful place. We dream about it often. Anyone want to buy our current house?

Last factoid - I never eat spicy food on Saturday night.


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Some are CALLED - Some are SENT - Some just Packed up and WENT!

Allow me to vent! When I first felt a call into the ministry, the church where I was attending at the time had eight other young men who also felt called into the ministry. Today, only I am left.

Why the high drop-out rate?
  • It was more difficult than they realized
  • You have to literally trust God – not man - to make it
  • You have to be highly motivated, self-motivated, and resilient to endure
  • It didn’t pay well enough for them
  • No one gave them a church, a pulpit, or a stage for free
  • It requires a great deal of faith – really it does

Every church I have ever attended or led, including PCC, has had the same type of folks show up. They are like comets; they appear suddenly, flash bright across the sky and burn-out quickly.

Most people who say they are called into the ministry simply are not prepared for the hard and brutal work ahead. They just want to be given a pulpit, preach sermons, and enjoy accolades from audiences.

But real ministry is ugly, messy, and scary. Often, we pastors feel inadequate. The job is enormous. The responsibilities are great. The demands are too numerous to mention. The complaints are many. Criticisms are ever present. People love us, and betray us. We get wounded. We get healed. We fail. We recover. We preach. We move forward. We build. We overcome. Most people have no idea of how challenging it really is. That’s why most do not last. Or they dart from church-to-church looking for an easy place to land.

Santa Rosa County didn’t need another church when we planted PCC ten years ago. It didn’t need another group of preacher wanna-be's who were looking for easy street. But what this community did need and still needs is God-called, God-fearing, men and women who have endurance, and who will fight the good fight of faith. Santa Rosa county needs more churches, more preachers, and more God-honoring Christ-followers who are willing to love the unlovable, reach the irreligious, and expand the kingdom one life at a time. This area needs people who are driven with passion for the lost – not those looking for accolades, easy street, and a position in the church.

Those who are genuinely called feel as if this is the only thing they can do with their lives. It is right for a man or woman to give themselves completely to the work.

If you can do anything else with your life, do that instead.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Never Start Something New Based Upon Your Dislike of the Old One

Any new ministry ought to come into existence because of what it stands for, not what it’s against. Never build a vision based upon what you are against. Build a vision for something new.

Jesus always defined Himself by what He stood for. While He did have sharp words for the Pharisees at times, He didn’t base His life and ministry on all the ways the Pharisees were wrong. He based it on the will of God for His life.

If you start a new church, a new ministry, a new business, or even a new relationship based upon what you despise or are against, you are building on a faulty foundation. It will struggle.

It’s very common for new churches or new ministries to be launched based upon what they are against or their dislike of the old. This leads to spiritual deadness and a dull atmosphere when the congregation meets or the group gathers. i.e., People know something is amiss.

There's a better way.

Find out what God wants you to do. Begin there, and you're sure to succeed.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Breaking Free from the Generational Sins of Your Past

The decisions we make today often affect (not only us) but our children and their children. The Bible talks about how the sins of the father (or parents) can be passed down for 3 or 4 generations. This means things like bad habits, addictions, negativity, pessimistic attitudes, a critical nature, and sinful lifestyles. Your children will very often take on the very same behaviors that you have lived in front of them, just as you picked some of them up from your own parents. This is a generational cycle that must be broken.

If you are struggling with these types of behaviors, it doesn’t always mean you are a bad person – it does mean you are doing bad things though. You are responsible for your actions, will reap what you sow, and will be called into account for your life. This is a reality none of us can ignore!

If you want to break free from the negative & sinful behaviors in your life, there are some things you must do:

1. Recognize what you are dealing with. Don’t ignore it. Don’t sweep it under the rug. Don’t make excuses for it. Don’t blame someone else. Identify it. Recognize it. Admit it. Deal with it. Say, ”I’m doing some things that have to stop.” The Bible says, “Confess your faults one to another that ye may be healed” (James 5:16). Confess them… out in the open to other people… and you will begin the journey to healing.

2. Take responsibility for your actions. God has given you a free will. You can choose to change. You can choose to stay the same. The choice is yours – no one else’s. Set a new standard for yourself. Every time you make the right choice you overturn the wrong patterns in your family’s lineage. Every time you resist a temptation, you are one step closer to victory. You may have a negative history, but you don’t have to perpetuate it another day. You can’t change your past, but you can determine your future by making right choices today.

3. Trust God supremely. The Bible tells us that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of darkness. Things take place in the spiritual realm that often manifest themselves in the physical realm. God will give you power to do what you need to do.

This is the life God has given you, and with dependence upon Him, it’s up to you to make the most of it.

Discipleship at PCC

The aim of PCC is to produce disciples who do stuff, not disciples who only know stuff.

Four Lessons I've Learned at the Ten-Year Mark (Part 2)

This is part 2 of a four-part series. PCC is now ten years old, and boy have I learned some things along the way.

LESSON ONE: (Posted March 27th 2008)

LESSON TWO: Those Who Started With Us Don’t Always Stay

In every church plant there are two kinds of people – many who are there just for a season, and a few who stay there long term. This was a vital lesson for me to learn because it is easy to get caught up in nurturing temporary people while overlooking those who are long-term people.

Most often these temporary people are already believers when they arrive (at a new church plant) and usually they come from another small church. While attending, these people provide an invaluable service to the church plant; often they give of their finances, and even serve. But caution is the word here - they are temporary.

My own experience has been these people have unrealistic expectations about what our church was going to be like for them, what I would be like, and what my relationship with them would be like. But when they ran into the full force of our vision and the decisions necessary to accomplish it, they decided it was not their vision. They said “yes” to the vision when they first arrived, but deep down they didn’t mean it. i.e., The journey got to them. There was too much change, too many challenges, too much vision, too much something.

What’s the answer? I focus on who stays. It is unfair for those who stay to keep focusing on those who leave. Just writing this point today makes me so thankful for all those people who have been with us over the long haul. They’ve endured change, transition, vision, new people, new policies, and even some bone-headed mistakes made by me. Yet, they’ve hung in there. They caught the vision and stuck with it. You guys are awesome!

To be a part of an ever-changing, growing church requires growing members who expand their vision and their capabilities as the church expands. People who can do this will stay. The others don’t.

People who get the vision, are the ones who will stay with us forever (if they can). Maybe they are people that we won to Christ, or perhaps they found Christ among us, or maybe they were already believers that God genuinely called to our church. Whatever the case, if they get the vision they will stay. They buy in, serve, give, pray, sweep the floors, invite their friends, follow their church leaders, and take care of the babies when no one else will. They have our DNA.

To everyone who has helped us out along the way – I say thank you.

To all our members as well as our former members – I say thank you.