Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday Soundbites

  • I guess no one told our congregation that is was a holiday weekend (Labor Day) – we had high attendance today. Higher than the last three weeks. Second service was up too!

  • Thank you to all who moved to second service. It opened up additional seats in the first service, plus adds synergy to the second.

  • Altar call today! Awesome to see all the young people kneeling, crying, and praying through.

  • How about all those young people in service today. Must have been 30 or more. Took up about four rows. The ushers brought out extra chairs for them so they could all sit as a group. Their hearts were crushed, and receptive to the gospel.

  • The morning message was impromptu. If you were there you know what happened. We talked about being conscious of eternity.

  • The campus grounds look great having been mowed this week. Thanks to PW, RC, and SM for making it happen.

  • The small groups displays looked good today. Generated a lot of interest. BTW, all of our small group leaders are simply awesome people – real champions, team players, and have full buy-in.

  • How about that first song? Renee J. did an amazing job again this Sunday just like last week. I like that song so much that I was thinking we could have sang it four times and that could have been our song service.

  • I love our church. Honestly, there is no other place I would rather be. It’s sad that most pastors cannot say that.

  • I love it when our motorcycle groups show up and our parking lot is filled with “choppers.”

  • I love that PCC is full of imperfect people.

  • I love that PCC attracts young people, teenagers, old people, blue collar types, black, white, Latinos, Orientals, mixed marriages, and professionals.

  • Really, it’s not us. God is the One sending these people to us. Why? He knows people will be healed, helped, and hear the truth.

  • I met a school principle, a lawyer, and a medical doctor today.

  • Our bereavement team went by D & PB’s home after church today. Love those people. They do such a good job.

  • That’s another reason why PCC is such a great church – “the people are the ministers.”

Hurricane Gustav - Updated Image #5

We are so FORTUNATE!

As you can see it's just off the coast of LA. The eye is visible at the center.

(Click picture to enlarage)

Keep checking back. I will keep posting current images of the storm as they become available. Plus I will provide you with any necessary church announcements related to the storm and ministry activities at PCC this week.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

How to Make Tough Decisions

Making decisions is a part of life – it’s something all of us do. Sometimes decisions are easy to make; others require a great deal of thought. Some call for courage.

Those in leadership face decision-making responsibilities on regular basis that will affect the organization either positively or negatively. These decisions cannot be put off or not made. Someone has to decide and take responsibility for the outcomes. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. But until such people have shouldered the responsibility of senior-level leadership, they have the luxury of being shielded from the consequences of their opinions.

Here’s a couple of insights I’d like to offer:

1. The Right Decision is Not Always the Easiest.
Of course everyone knows this, but the rubber meets the road when you make the call. Do you go with what’s easy, or right? Making decisions to pacify a few complainers or control freaks is easy. Making a decision for what’s best for a church is the right thing – but it’s tough because of all the fall-out. Fear of unhappy complainants causes decision-paralysis. Waiting for perfect conditions results in getting nothing done. Anyone can coast downhill; it requires no strength of character to go with the current. Sometimes you just have to step up and step out and make the call.

2. Some People Will Hate You for Your Decision.
You can’t make everyone happy. And really, you don’t want to. If that is your goal all you would have is a hodge-podge of constituents pulling you in a thousand different directions all at once! But when you step up and make tough decisions some people will simply hate your guts for it.

Look at the life of Jesus. He was constantly ticking someone off. It wasn’t because He was intentionally trying to be a jerk – it was because He was sticking to His call and mission and would not allow anyone to get Him off-course. So they hated Him and killed Him.

When you make tough decisions in a church (in a business, or in your family) people will call you uncaring, selfish, or a dictator. They will try to make life miserable for you. But don’t sweat it. There’s more important things for you to be concerned with. Besides, if you are called and anointed of God, then you are also appointed by God.

3. Don’t Allow Others to Cause You to Doubt Yourself.
This is when you get into the arena of “what ifs?” and that is not a healthy place to live. I suppose we are often our own worst critics. It’s okay to evaluate yourself, and resolve to do better next time. But NEVER allow critics to cause you to doubt yourself and your leadership. If you do, they win. On the other hand, if a trusted friend or accountability-partner suggests to you another view, then listen. Don’t be arrogant, listen. Just don’t listen to whiners and complainers - they almost always have a self-serving agenda and want to use you to fulfill it.

4. Stick With Your Decision.
If your decision was the right one to make (see point #1), then see it through. Regardless of the pain, discomfort, or temptation to quit, just hang in there. Be tough, and have more resolve than your detractors.

5. In the End, People Will Understand.
In time people will see the wisdom of your decision. Some of them may never tell you, but in their heart of hearts they will appreciate the fact that you did the right thing and didn’t waver from your convictions - even in the face of opposition. They will appreciate that you stood up and stepped out. They will gather around you and give their support. No one really appreciates a politician - even the preacher kind, (they use politicians). But they love leaders.

Now go do the right thing.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sign Up Begins

Fifteen new small groups are slated to begin for our fall semester (September 7). Beginning this Sunday, you may look at the displays in the sancturary, talk to the group leaders, and sign up.

Or just go to our church web site. Click the small groups tab, then select a category at the bottom of the small groups page.

What You Should Know About Pastors

We don’t always get our way in the church.

I really get a kick out of people who say, “It’s his way or the highway.” Do they really believe that? Trust me, I don’t always get my way. If I did, all the ministries in our church would operate efficiently, volunteers would show up – and on time – people would get along, money would never be an issue, power-brokers would not jockey for position, and gossip would be non-existent. And one more thing - other people would accept the fact that "THEY" will not always get their way either!

We often hear too much about people.
Sometimes people tell me more about themselves than I need to know. It’s just not healthy for me to know too much. I understand now why the apostle Paul said, “I determined to not know anything among you, except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (I Cor. 2:2). Knowing too much about people often ties my hands when I preach.

We work more than one day a week.
When I hear people say, "preachers work only one day a week" I am always amazed at how ignorant such a statement (person?) is. Believe me, a church does not run itself Monday through Sunday all by itself. There are ministries to plan, staff to supervise, volunteers to recruit, policies to write, budgets to fund, leaders to develop, money to raise, people to take care of, services to prepare for, weddings, funerals, and buildings
to maintain.

And the last time I checked we were still a 501 (c) 1 non-profit organization chartered with the Division of Corporations with the State of Florida. This means we have state and federal laws to comply with, meetings to conduct, minutes to take, books of account to monitor, and bills to pay. We have corporate officers, incur liabilities, employ personnel and allocate resources. Add infitim.

In the midst of this maddening schedule we plan and prepare for the hundreds of people who will show up on Sunday. Then on Sunday we have to engage ourselves in the most frightening thing on earth – public speaking.

We hate it when people leave the church.
That’s right, we do. We want to be liked and it hurts when people leave. Myself, I always wonder if there was something else I could have done differently to keep them from departing. But people leave, and sometimes they need to, so I’ve learned to deal with it.

Ministry is hard. Not everyone can do “hard.” That’s why I stay with it; I can do hard. Bill Hybles said once, “You can cry over the people who are leaving or you can cry over the new people coming to Christ, but you won’t have enough tears for both." I don’t have too much time to cry over losses; - my energy is devoted to “plucking another firebrand from the burning” (Amos 4:11; Jude 23).

Most pastors really do love God, the church, and people.
When God calls a man or woman into the ministry something takes place in his/her heart that cannot be fully explained. i.e., There is certain awareness that of all the people in the world, God has “chosen” and “set us apart” for a “special work.” This “calling from God” causes a love to grow within us for the church that is very similar to the love that Christ had for the church.

I know it’s easy to assume the worst about (all) preachers. But trust me, and take it from someone who lives in the world of ministers – most pastors (all across church land) really do love God, the church, and people. They are sincere, godly, and full of integrity. And yes, they are human.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pastors Perks

Most people know that being a pastor is very hard work; involving long hours, multiple challenges, with few breaks. But there are also some perks associated with the vocation. Here are a few:

1. A Front Seat to the Spiritual Action.
As a pastor I get to see people come to faith and then watch them develop in their relationship to God. I have a front-row seat at these life-transformations, and I get to see how faith works in times of crisis too.

2. A Lot of Friends.
My life is filled with more friends than I can possibly keep up with. It has been that way for twenty years. In fact, I have friends up-and-down the state of Florida, and some across the country. Almost everyone loves their pastor – this is universal. During times when Renae and I have moved our family from one church to another, there was already a group of people waiting to welcome us the day we arrived.

3. Confidence.
With a few exceptions, church congregations stand ready to believe in their minister from the very first Sunday. Acceptance such as this would take months or years to develop in most other occupations.

4. My Work has Value.
Eternal destinies are at stake. Jesus died to save sinners, not the spotted owl. To this work I have been called. Christ’s purpose in the earth is to call out a people to Himself and build His Church. I am honored to be a channel through which grace, love, and the Holy Spirit may flow and be made real to others.

5. Affirmation.
This is hard to define, but easy to describe. It's the five people who promise to pray for me and my family. It’s the invitation to come over to grill. It’s the apple pie left on my front porch. It’s the hug from a six-year-old child who says, “I love you pastor.” And it’s the encouragement that comes from someone saying, “Your message really helped me this morning” or “I appreciate you taking time with me this week.”

Leading a Church is More Difficult Than Leading a Business

When leading a business you have the option of offering perks to attract quality employees. For instance, you can say, “Here’s our company mission and this is your part in it. Here’s your salary, your perks, company car, cell phone, computer, your office, pay-package, and vacation plan. If you work hard, in eight-to-ten years we’ll make you a partner or invite you into the profit-sharing plan. Down the road you are going to make big money. Are you interested?”

Who wouldn’t be interested in an offer like that?

But as church leaders, what do we tell our prospective church members? It goes something like this: “You are a lost sinner who is headed for big trouble with God unless you make things right.” (And that’s the good news we call the gospel).

Then we say, "We're going to ask you to commit five or six hours a week to service and two or three additional hours for training and discipleship. We're going to ask you to get in a small group where your character flaws are going to get exposed and chiseled at. We're going to ask you to come under the authority of the pastors of the church and challenge you to give a minimum of 10 percent of your money. Oh, yeah, you get no parking place, no reserved seats, no special privileges, no preferential treatment, no vacation or retirement program. You serve till you die. But trust us: God is going to make it right in eternity."

CONCLUSION: What kind of person would be interested in an offer like that? Only those who are motivated internally. To mobilize an utterly volunteer organization (like a church) requires the highest kind of leadership – the ability to inspire and gather. We cannot compel people or bribe them; we must call them.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Ten-Year Hiccup

Fellow Pastors,

I once heard Bill Hybles say that most churches will experience a “hiccup” about every ten years or so. That is, something difficult happens about once a decade that becomes a defining moment in the church’s history. It might be a crisis over direction, the moral failure of a staff member, a power struggle, or simply a transitional period as the church moves from one phase to the next. How the senior pastor and leadership team leads the church during this time is crucial. If led right, the outcome for the church will almost always be positive and beneficial.

Let me tell you about our ten-year hiccup.

When PCC first began we were very happy. Full of hope, dreams, and great enthusiasm, we launched our church in faith. Over time we gathered a loving congregation. Everyone knew everyone else. We had incredible fellowship. In many ways it was the ideal church. We were a tight-knit community of believers who ate meals together, visited in one another’s homes, and enjoyed corporate worship together.

Over the years we began to grow, just as we had always envisioned. New people were joining our family and assimilating in very nicely. This was easy enough. But as our church continued to grow even more, it became apparent that our old ways of operating would not work any longer. At one time in our church’s history everyone could get together and have meaningful discussions about the church’s direction. Spare-time thinkers and part-time participants were enough to make it happen.

But once we started approaching five hundred in attendance and moved into permanent facilities, it became impossible to operate that way. Our systems became overtaxed. More was happening than we could keep up with. Issues needed immediate attention. Legal matters needed to be addressed. Key people, who we had relied upon to get things done, could no longer devote the amount of time to church business that was now being required – and our church began to suffer for it. Church officers were missing scheduled meetings on a regular basis. Meetings were constantly being postponed and rescheduled until all parties could “get some spare time.” Decisions that should have taken only a few minutes to make were stretching out for days at a time, sometimes even weeks! In short, the work of the church was NOT getting done. On top of that, mission-drift was setting in. Groups operated independently of our church. Ministry leaders and staff were pulling their departments in their own direction, draining limited church resources. Ministry teams had their own agenda and operated accordingly. These "independent operators" no longer supported the mission of PCC, rather their own. We had become a federation of sub-ministries with each one doing its own little song-and-dance. Turfism was setting in. We were wobbling out-of-balance.

Something had to be done, and quickly. Otherwise, we were headed for a major train wreck. And quite frankly, not everyone was spiritually gifted to be steering the ship at this level. Our happy little church of potluck dinners had grown to a whole new level. We had reached the place where everyone no longer knew everyone else, nor could everyone know all that was going on. The church’s business had become very complex and needed immediate, full-time attention with improved systems.

At this stage every person in our church family (including me) had one of two choices: (1) adapt and rise to meet the new challenges, or, (2) resist.

Some people did not adjust well to the challenges. Our new reality was too much for them. Yet we could not stop the growth of our church (and emphasis upon the Great Commission) just because a few people were not adjusting. Besides, we had already spelled it out from day-one (in seminar 101) what our mission was, our vision, our strategy, how our church was structured, and how it was to be led. And now it was actually happening. These events should have come as no surprise to anyone.

Those people who found these new realities difficult to cope with expected us to go back to what we used to be. One man even suggested we “go back to the days of Freedom Hall.” A couple of others even attempted a coup d’├ętat (overthrow). I discovered that the “small church mentality” was still alive and well at PCC. It was the “big fish in a small pond” syndrome. We had reached critical mass and it crunch time for us.

What did we do? We pressed forward meeting the challenge before us. The pond got bigger. I held fast to our statements, strategy, and structure. We corrected the misison drift and got this ship back on course. We improved our internal systems, implemented new policies, and expanded our church’s structure. We included new people in the process, adjusted the organizational flow-chart, assigned new job descriptions, and established additional tiers of leadership.

We lost a few people over this. A couple of them went out loudly; even sinfully. On the other hand, supportive, godly people in our church family covered me with their prayers. Reliable church members stepped up and filled the gaps. Loyal staff members and other key leaders “stayed the course.” We even witnessed new leaders emerge who had been hidden in our ranks all along. All of these people proved to be real champions to me.

The end result? Our ministry today is more fruitful than it was in the past. God is truly “building the house.” Our church has continued to grow. Nearly every Sunday we see people commit their lives to Christ. We have baptized over 100 people in last twelve months, (here on-campus, as well as at off-campus sites). Lives are being changed in very dramatic ways. Small groups flourish. Teenagers are on-fire for God. Worship is authentic. Unity and harmony exist. New discipleship classes have been launched being staffed with new teachers. Our departments are staffed with happy volunteers. Giving is strong as our people give sacrificially – even in today’s bad economy!

We are still a very happy church. Why? Because our long-range vision is finally becoming a reality. What we have dreamed about for so many years is finally happening! And we now have the right people in place to help make it happen. They have expressed full “buy in” to what we are doing. And for the record, these people are (1) charter and long-term members who adapted, and, (2) new members. They have the “can do” attitude necessary to get ‘er done.

We still have incredible fellowship in our church family too. Strong friendships have been forged on the anvil of adversity. There are multiple congregations within our congregation, making for a tight-knit community of believers who still eat together, visit one another’s homes, and who share life together. In many ways things are still the same as it was at the beginning – only larger, and better.

Myself, I serve with a great deal of gladness. I am happy and fulfilled. I have made a lot of new (and close) friends. I am thankful to be just a small part of what God is doing in PCC. I don’t deserve this, but I am enjoying the ride.

Now, none of this could have been accomplished if we had “gone back.” If we had caved-in our church would be only a shell of what we are today. PCC was led well during a time of transition, and we are the better for it!

That’s what happened. It was a “normal event” in the life cycle of any growing church.

The best part of all?
  • Most of the people in our congregation never knew any of this happened
  • And all the new people who are now coming to PCC could care less about it

It was only a hiccup.

So take heart and lead well.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunday After Church

  • We are bursting at the seams in our first service. Would some of you move and commit to the second service?

  • Second service is here to stay! The attendance is strong enough that it has taken on a life all its own. Indeed, there is really a second congregation at PCC now. I would like to see the attendance in both services a little more balanced.

  • The last song in the song service today was awesome! It was “God With Us” by Mercy Me. If that song didn’t set your heart on fire, your wood is wet. Renee J. knocked it out of the park.

  • The buzz at PCC is astonishing. I don’t know what God is up to, but I think something big is about to happen.

  • Got a new small group forming for college-aged adults. About 12-13 signed up on the first day of registration. Not sure of the exact number,- about ½ of the sign up sheet had names. Wow!

  • Thirty people are (currently) signed up for Seminar 101. There is bound to be even more by the time we offer it in 3 weeks.

  • A lot of new people attend PCC.

  • I met a lot of newcomers today too.

  • We got a “pass” on Tropical Storm Fay. Instead of 15 inches of rain, we only got 2-3 inches. Not enough to rain us out.

  • Attendance was about 8% lower than average. Still had a full house.

  • I’m going to log about 50 miles on my bike this week.

  • The sermon today was powerful. Part 2 of the “Prodigal Son” series – “The Goodness of the Father.” CDs flew off the shelf.

  • Next week we will be looking at the SIN of ELDER BROTHER. I’m really looking forward to that one. It’s about the legalistic mind-set of the Pharisees. And I thought that I would WARN YOU – the descendants of the Pharisees are still alive and well in the church today! Fasten your seat belts for this one.

  • We have a lot of hurting people in our community. My prayer is that God will SEND as MANY of them to PCC that WE CAN possibly HANDLE!

  • Renae, Gene, and I are going to a pastors/ministers forum Tuesday at Pace Assembly of God. Should be interesting.

  • The grass at PCC needs to be CUT in a major way.

  • I am always in someone’s headlights. When I go into town I bump into people all the time who know me, but I don’t know them. Freaky. I’m trying to get used to that. People are always nice.

  • I will not endorse your political candidate for the presidential election. Government can't save you anyway.

  • I’m amazed at the number of young couples God is sending into our church. It is a new season at PCC. The number of 20-something year-old couples with small children who are walking in our doors each week is very exciting.

  • Between now and Christmas is going to be insane.

  • This Wednesday night is a youth, family picnic. Grills are hot at 6:00 PM.

  • Renae and I are fixing to hit the bike trail in Milton.

  • Be sure to check in this week. I've got a creative writing spurt going on right now. Tomorrow mornings post (or Tuesday) will be entitled:


  • That's all for now. Time to go bust a gut.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Tropical Storm Fay - Update

Perhaps the worst of the storm will be just north of us.

This image is 4:50 p.m.

Click picture to enlarge

Tropical Storm Fay

The storm is coming to our area, bringing rain. It doesn't look like we are going to see 15 inches like has been reported - rather 2-3 inches.

Services ARE scheduled for tomorrow morning.

For now, I'm going to go outside and ride my bike!

Unless the roads are completely flooded tomorrow, I'll see you in church.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday's 411

We will be in part two of the series, “Prodigal Son” and will be taking a look at the “Goodness of the Father.” This part of the story is filled with so many nuggets of wealth that you are bound to leave with fresh insights into God’s grace. Most importantly, people WILL connect with God this Sunday and Christ will be glorified.

Yes, it is supposed to arrive in our area beginning tomorrow. It is likely to be raining very heavily Sunday. Services ARE scheduled – no cancellations.

Our fall semester is about to launch, beginning the week of September 8th. This is a good way to get connected, make new friends, experience accountability, and grow in your spiritual journey. Next Sunday we will have a full display of groups to choose from located in the sanctuary and atrium.

We at PCC are not alone in this belief. In fact, reliance upon cell groups meeting in homes dates back to the earliest days of the Christian church, when Christians who had actually walked with Jesus Christ gathered together to support each other and grow in their faith. For 2,000 years, this tradition has strengthened and nourished believers, as it still does today at our church.

  • Swatting at Gnats
  • Thoughts on Leadership
  • Three Secrets of Super-Achievers
  • Playing it Safe or Taking a Risk
  • Ten Reasons to Attend PCC
  • and MORE!


  • One “No” is All It Takes
  • A Meeting I Had (still trying to decide if I’m going to post this one or not)
  • Elderitis
  • Things You Should Know About Your Pastor
  • Our Ten-Year Hiccup

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Jealous? You Must Pay Your Own Way

You must work hard and invest yourself in the things that are important to you if you want success. Whether that is a ministry, business, or relationship, you must sacrifice and pay your own way. Your hard work helps you appreciate the blessing when it arrives. You will not easily jeopardize something you have sacrificed for.

The zeal, effort, and dedication it takes to accomplish something are what move you up the steps of life. As you journey upward, others will find you offensive. They are offended at what God has done for you. They are jealous of your success and the your fruitfulness of your ministry. They are “Cain’s children.” Cain’s children, like their father Cain, will murder you because you have God’s favor.

Watch out for them.

Even though Cain had the same opportunity has his brother Abel, he became jealous of God’s favor on Abel – as if it was Abel’s fault! Abel sacrificed appropriately and was therefore accepted of God. Cain, through self-effort, thought he should ascend to the top. He was rejected by God.

They will not rejoice with you. They cannot be glad for you because they feel like your success came at their expense. Like Cain, they foolishly believe you have their blessing. No diplomacy can calm a jealous heart.


Yes, they are Cain's children. A spirit of jealously has taken control of their lives.

Sometimes relationships will be lost as you travel upward. As long as you are in the day of small beginnings, you are accepted. As you accelerate into new dimensions, cynicism eats away at their heart and it finds its way into their conversations. Jealously eats them alive.

Cain’s children will invite you into their field to destroy you. Don't take the bait.

Jesus said, “And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household” (Matthew 10:36).

Some people will never be happy for your success. Be blessed anyway.

Promotion comes from God (Psalms 75:6-7 KJV).

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Inside a Leadership Meeting

Last night we held a leaders meeting, including all staff, department heads, or ministry leaders. To say things are busy around PCC right now would be an understatement.

We are gearing up for our normal fall-roundup, launching small groups, and making long-term strategic plans. On top of all that, we are still doing our normal, weekly duties.

All of our church leaders are doing an excellent job within their respective areas – always striving for a standard of excellence (which honors God and inspires people), and each one executes with effectiveness.

I mentioned to the group last night that we will not be slowing down any time soon; and really I wouldn’t have it any other way. Between now and Christmas will be busier than this summer. God has not called PCC to be a sleeply little church on the corner; He has called us to march right into Pharoah's court and demand, "Let My people go!"

When we planted PCC, we envisioned a church that would have an impact on our community with the gospel of JC. The only way that can be accomplished is by having a team of people who are completely sold out to God and the mission He gave the Church.

I serve with such a team.

The greatest joy I have at PCC is the people I serve with – and I told them so. They are faithful, effective, first-class performers, supportive, loyal, honest, speak their mind, serve with gladness, have no hidden agendas, and are fun to hang out with.

By extension, if you are part of PCC in any capacity, you are amazing too! Thank you to everyone who helps make it happen. We are living in one of the most opportune times in Church history, and God has placed PCC here for such a time as this. We are partners in the gospel.

Here’s what you can do to partner with your church:

PRAY. This is where it all starts. The enemy of our soul would love nothing more than to derail this church. He walks about “as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8). Please know that there are forces at work all the time, even right now, who are intent on our ruin. So pray for your church, your pastor, the church staff, department heads, team leaders, and all the volunteers of PCC. Pray for unchurched people in our community, that God would open their hearts and cause them to be receptive to the gospel.

SERVE. God is doing amazing things in our church, and through our church, to change lives. These stories move me deeply. Every person who serves has a part in each one of these stories of life-change. Jesus said if you give a prophet a cup of water, you will share in a prophet’s reward. Whow! Even the smallest act of service counts for something. Get plugged in. It’s one of the greatest things you can do with your life.

GIVE SACRIFICIALLY. Yes, I know the economy is bad right now and money is tight. But the work of God cannot falter. God is greater than the economy and He has chosen to underwrite His work in the earth through the cheerful giving of His own people. We don’t sell chicken dinners and we don’t do fund-raisers at PCC. We call you to worship and honor God with your tithes and offerings, according to Malachi 3. Thank you so much for your giving, it is the very thing that enables us to carry out the work.

INVEST & INVITE. I borrowed this phrase from Andy Stanley, of North Point Community Church in Atlanta. It simply means, invest your life in someone else, and then invite them to church with you. Bring your friends and family members to church with you. You are witnesses for Christ, and changed lives are the best advertisement a church could ever have.

PCC, get ready to move your tent pegs. We're about to enlarge our borders.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Saddleback Church

This is the sidewalk path leading to/from the sancturary. Notice the the cross in background - that's the main worship center.

That's me walking back to the car. (PS - This picture was taken two years ago. I am thinner now... just so you know).

And you thought you had a long walk at PCC each Sunday morning.

People wait in line, (in their cars), for 30-40 minutes each Sunday at Saddleback, waiting for the first service to get over so they can find a parking place to attend the second service. Then there is a 1/8 mile (or more) walk to the front door!

When people are truly hungry for God, they will endure great inconveniences to get inside.

25 And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.
Matthew 4:25 (KJV)

Clinging to Truth With the Wrong Attitude

So this guy writes me a letter…… More about that later in this blog.

The sovereignty of God. What an awesome concept. Knowing that God is in charge and in control gives me great peace in an uncertain world.

Unfortunately, clinging to that truth with the wrong attitude can be counter-productive to the mission of the church. It is so easy to just “let go and let God” and do nothing, be nothing, accomplish nothing, and simply hope for the best, because, after all, “all things work together for good.” We can embrace the sovereignty of God to the point we rationalize our own un-involvement by blaming (glorifying?) God for the outcome. I mean, if God has already determined the outcome, why bother?

That’s fatalism and it’s not found in the scripture.

I must give God my best every day – in bodily sacrifice, in morality, in leadership, in service, in giving, in witnessing, AND in working to fulfill the Great Commission.

Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Why would He weep over a city of people who were far from God, if it didn’t matter?

It matters.

To lean on the knowledge of God’s sovereignty to the point of inaction is to discredit the very One we claim to follow. I’m afraid this attitude prevails in a great many people today – a reflection that they love INFORMATION about Jesus more than Jesus Himself, or the mission He gave the Church.

A couple of years ago this man wrote me a letter (and even included a pamphlet) to tell me how that our church places too much emphasis on the Great Commission, and that building relationships to unchurched people was unnecessary because of the sovereignty of God.

So I wrote him back and offered some Biblical correction. This is what I said:

1. “The church still has an operating mandate to fulfill the Great Commission to GO and make disciples.”

2. “Most Christians have a siege mentality or an isolationist mentality and therefore must be challenged to have contact with unbelievers.”

3. “The gospel is spread primarily through relationships – even a casual reading of the NT demonstrates that.”

4. “And finally, believers DO HAVE a ROLE in the conversion of unbelievers….. Romans 10:13-15 spells it out:

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And HOW SHALL THEY BELIEVE IN HIM of whom they HAVE NOT HEARD? And how shall they hear WITHOUT A PREACHER? And how shall they preach, EXCEPT THEY BE SENT?”

My letter to him continued:

“While regeneration is clearly a work of the Holy Spirit, believers do have some responsibility in building bridges to unbelievers. We have to be SENT OUT of our comfort zone (inside the church) and MUST SHARE the good news with them. Otherwise, a great deal of the Bible is irrelevant.”

“I believe there will be more people in heaven because of churches like ours who hold to this type philosophy than there will be if we simply left it to chance or did nothing because we believed God has already predetermined the outcome.”

He quit.

There are some important lessons I have learned over the years:

  • I’ve learned that the stakes are too high for me to allow someone’s feelings to be the basis of my decisions

  • I’ve learned that the stakes are too high for me to compromise the mission of the church by shrinking back from having tough conversations

  • I’ve learned that the stakes are too high to place, (or leave), someone in a ministry role (staff or volunteer) that cannot execute with effectiveness

  • I’ve learned that the stakes are too high to entertain every suggestion that we turn this ship in another direction.

Church leaders will give account to God for how effective they were as leaders over God’s flock, (Hebrews 13:17b).

That’s more important to me than what people think.

Monday, August 18, 2008

My New Bike

This is my new bike. It's way too sexy for me.

Trek 7100

Sunday, August 17, 2008

New Converts

Six people commited their lives to Jesus Christ today, asking for forgiveness and expressing the desire to grow. New sheep in the flock - new borns in the family - new converts.

This happens almost every single week at PCC.

No, this never gets old.

Saddleback Church, Lake Forest CA

This is Saddleback Church where Rick Warren is pastor, and where the Presidential Q & A was held last night.

I was there for a pastors conference in May, 06.

Click the picture on the right to enlarge.

Nelson Searcy

I met a guy at Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forest CA, (where Rick Warren is pastor), back in 2005. His name is Nelson Searcy. We had a pleasant conversation and exchanged some great ideas. He gave me a set of sermon CDs he preached entitled, "Roomates, Bad Dates, and Great Mates."

He was one of the conference speakers and is one of the leading authorities in church systems today.

Here's a link to his blog and a couple of excellent articles on SMALL GROUPS. Scroll all the way down to the bottom of his blog page, (questions 4 and 3). Better yet, just click the "small groups" tab in the categores section found on the right sidebar.

Church Leader Insights Blog with Nelson Searcy

Sunday Quick-Hits

Church was excellent today! The band was on-target. The song selection was on-target too. Good worship.

A lot... and I mean a lot of visitors showed up. Most of them were first-time. This blows my mind. It is so exciting to see this many people coming in to our services each week, right off the street. Apparently word of PCC is really making the rounds.

There is a certain "buzz" in the house right now... and I think there is a "buzz" in the community about PCC. It feels like something big is about to happen.

Today's message on the Prodigal Son (Freedom From My Father's House) was a strong word. It seemed to resonate with a lot of people. We learned that there is no such thing as absolute freedom; we're all inter-connected.

I ate Alaskan King Crab legs Friday night at Crabs restaurant on the beach. They were fine.

My Bible reading right now is in the book of Luke. I think this inspired me to start this current series on the Prodigal Son. I'm glad Jesus told-off those religious snobs when they criticized Him for His ministry to irreligious people.

I was about 27 years old when I felt called into the ministry.

Two books I'm reading right now are:
  • STEALING SHEEP, the Church's Hidden Problem of Transfer Growth, by William Chadwick

You should notice a common theme between those two titles, and there is. I want PCC to always be a church that is NOT DEPENDENT on shuffling the sheep to maintain our existence; and I want to always stay close to God so that we are allowing Him to build it up His way.

God is doing so much at PCC that I feel like I'm way in over my head.

I really sense something deep inside me that seems to indicate we are in for a major breakthrough.

Renae went riding with the Motorcycle Group today. She went to Navarre Beach on the back of a Harley! Say What? Motorcycle Momma!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

My Journey at PCC

The ministry.....

It’s much easier to do church with the already-saved; it’s safe & neatly packaged. Christian people already read their Bibles, laugh at the same jokes we laugh at, and share the same values as we have. But those far from God? Now that’s a different story. It’s ugly, scary, messy, and very time consuming, with no guarantee of success.

On any given Sunday at PCC we have people who walk though our doors who have such complications going on in their lives that it freaks me out. I often feel like I am in way over my head. Family problems, marital problems, legal problems, financial problems, addictions, pills, dope, booze, unforgiveness, bitterness, and resentment, just to name a few. All of this adds up to one thing: these people are far from God and their greatest need is a spiritual one.

Santa Rosa County did not need another church when we planted PCC in 1998. However, SR County DID NEED a place that was willing to LOVE the UNLOVABLE. And by God’s grace we’ve done that, (and we have failed along the way too).

It would have been easier if we had started this church and built it up only with the already-saved. It would have been easier on me, my family, and my finances to do it the safe way. Plus, our results would have been quicker too. It graphs well on those end-of-years reports.

This journey has been hard. It has almost killed me at times. We put everything on the line when we started this church. But the reward has been well worth it. I have grown as a person, as a believer, as a husband & father, and as a pastor. I am much wiser than when we started. Our church has witnessed hundreds and hundreds of lives changed by the power of Christ. I have personally baptized about four hundreds people over the years (and most of those were first-time baptisms); and of all those people, most are still living for God. I have personally witnessed people who started out as “far from God,” give their lives to Jesus Christ, grow and develop in the faith, and are now involved in ministry, leadership, small groups, and are solidly grounded in the Word of God. What that does to the heart of the pastor, only a pastor can know.

And I would put everything on the line again just to continue to do what we do here. In fact, I do so every day.

It’s worth it.

New Links - Guys on My Radar

I have added several new links to the left sidebar of this blog. They are church-planting pastors, like myself, who understand the challenges of church planting and sacrificial living.

A few of these guys stretch me. A couple others test me and make me bristle from time-to-time. I enjoy what they have to say most of the time, and sometimes I'm not so sure. But they are tried-and-true church-planting pastors who have earned the right to be heard.

One thing I share with them is affinity. They actually have something to say about the real-world of pastoring and ministry. They've learned it in the trenches - not just something they learned in a book and parrot.

There are about ten others that I'm conisder adding.

It's a big world out there.... a big church world.... a big kingdom of God... and God is doing a lot more than just what you see in our community (or even in our own church for that matter). We truly are a part of something much bigger than we are.

Log on and check them out. Once you get to their sites, they have links to pages that will take you to others, or to their own churches. Beyond that, I'm not responsible for what you read.

A few of these guys are my on-line buddies.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Factoids

Today is our anniversary. Renae and I have been married twenty-seven years. Glad she has kept me around that long.

We’re going to leave work early today and spend the night away.

Jonathan, my oldest son, is now engaged. Happened last week. Wedding is planned for next May.

Yesterday was an anniversary for my mother too – twelve years as a cancer survivor.

I’m looking for a new bicycle.

The offices and building are filled with volunteers right now. They are folding and stuffing bulletins, cleaning, helping with administrative stuff. Really neat people. I like Friday’s at the office because of that.

My blog has almost 18,000 hits in just seven months. It will go over 20,000 soon. That blows my mind!

Some things I have learned about church systems:

  • A church building speaks. What is ours saying?
  • If church leaders don’t hold people accountable to their commitments, God will hold church leaders accountable.
  • I can’t pastor PCC using the same skills from five years ago.
  • Pastoral ministry is about “investing” – investing in people and the church investing in me.
  • Long-term relational-investments in people’s lives produce a stable and deep relationship between the pastor and congregation

Who reads my blog?

  • The good people of PCC
  • People in our community
  • Friends who live in central Florida
  • About 14-16 pastors (most from out-of-town)
  • A few critics who are fixated on me and can’t let go

Please view the Cardboard Testimony below. It is amazing.

For now, I’m outa here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Cardboard Testimonies

This is one of the neatest (and most moving) church services I have ever seen. It's called "Cardboard Testimonies" in which people tell their stories of "Before and After Conversion."

I plan to have a similar service at PCC before Christmas.

TURN ON YOUR SPEAKERS and VIEW this video. If you think you would be interested in participating in a church service like this, let me know.

Get out the hankie and enjoy.

This Sunday - The Prodigal Son

This Sunday I will begin a two (or three) part message series on the parable of the Prodigal Son.

You will not want to miss this. It is going to be solid, substantial, and riveting.

EVERY PARENT of a TEENAGER should be there. Every parent of a wayward child should be there. Every person who has a loved one running from God should there.

Work the phones. Call your friends. Invite your children. And BRING them with you. I feel good about this, and believe that God is going to do an important work changing lives.

This story is not only about parents and wayward children. In it we see ourselves and our standing before God.

This Sunday - "Freedom From My Father's House"

Show up prayed up.

A Day at the Beach

Oh boy.

Where are the porty potties? Or are there any?

Thanks to PW for the pic

Seeking the Saved

There are some critics out there who have a lot to say about church growth. Let me say that I am pretty tired of the antichurch-growth arguments. Frankly, most of the criticisms have been raised by THOSE who have NOT even EARNED THE RIGHT TO BE HEARD.

Hard working pastors and church planters who sacrificially labor to lead the lost to Christ rarely find any merit in the criticisms leveled against them from the ivory towers of theological academia. I know I don’t. Rebukes from those who can’t make it work in their own churches (or ministries) ring hollow.

Even worse, some of the very people who have criticized PCC for its growth seem to have no problem benefiting from our growth – they build their own ministry by pilfering ours. Instead of following the mandate of Jesus, who came to “seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10), these very same people will label PCC as a “seeker sensitive” church to be avoided; yet in turn, will “SEEK THE SAVED” right out of our congregation to join their own. How hypocritical is that? They will pilfer the very church they are critical of just to prop up their own failing efforts.
  • Transfer growth, by definition, creates no new converts, no baptisms, no increase of the knowledge of God in the earth, and no salvation fruit. It simply gathers the already-saved and relocates them. It is a reshuffling of the deck.

  • Transfer growth – growth that steals from others and avoids the messy business of evangelism and the discipleship of those new converts – is fast and efficient; it graphs well and looks good on the church’s end-of-year report.

  • Transfer growth is weak, only requiring weak leaders and weak pastors to make it happen.

  • Transfer growth is very uncommitted growth. It’s very dangerous to build a house on shifting members.

PCC will never lose its emphasis upon seeking the lost. We will not reduce the Great Commission down to shifting the sheep and reshuffling the deck.

It is profoundly arrogant of these ministry leaders to assume that they have been selected (by God) to be on some sort of spiritual fast tract, giving them permission to consume at another’s expense. Instead of seeking the saved, how about seeking the lost.

Until then, you haven’t earned the right to be heard.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I'm Too Sexy For My Bike

I've been riding my bike for a few years now. Great exercise. I think it's time to buy a new bicycle. My current one is almost wore out. Going to buy one soon.

Thinking about spandex too. The next time you see me on a bicycle it's going to be “spokes & spandex.”

Yes, I'm too sexy for my bike...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

How to Find a Good Church

Sometimes people do need to change churches. Maybe they attend a church where salvation is not articulated. There may be heresy, or abuse, or it may just be dead. Sometimes people move to a new community and search for a new church.

This can be done in a God-honoring, Christ-exalting way that is healthy; both for the individual and the church.

Here's how to do it:

1. Look for a church prayerfully. As is the case with all others decisions we make as Christian’s, you should begin your search for a church by seeking the Lord’s direction. The Bible promises, "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths" (Prov. 3:6).

2. Keep in mind that you’re looking for a fellowship of believers. A church is not a building, nor is it merely a ministry, it is the body of Christ and the family of God. So seek people who love the Lord and who love each other -- people that will love you and people to whom you can give your love.

3. Look for the church that preaches and teaches the Word of God. -- Seek the fellowship that has sound doctrine, proclaims the Word, and sincerely lifts up the Lord Jesus Christ in worship and in all they do. Much of this can be discovered by observation, but most fellowships have a printed statement of their doctrines they will provide to you upon request. For clarity, you can speak with the pastor or leadership about their beliefs or practices.

4. Look for a church that will help draw you closer to Christ. It might be nice to find a church where the music is flawless, where the seats are padded and the minister dismisses promptly at noon. But more importantly, you need a church that cares about you and that will inspire you to grow in Christ, and will motivate you towards godliness. You need a church whose preaching and teaching will not merely appease or entertain you, but will boldly challenge you to advance beyond your comfort zones to live toward God’s high ideals.

5. Look for a church where you can become committed. In many ways, your relationship with the church is similar to a marriage -- you can’t get any more out of it than what you put into it. The only church in which you will ever grow and mature spiritually is the fellowship where you will commit yourself and get involved -- where the people submit themselves to God and to each other -- where they will both encourage you and hold you accountable.

6. Look for a church that is actively reaching lost souls and those far from God
. This is essential to the Great Commission. Such a church understands its purpose and is serious about reaching the lost. They don't just talk about it, you can actually see their efforts and results - conversions.

7. Look for a church that is balanced its purposes. Churches have a tendency to emphasize one aspect of the Christian life over others, resulting in an out-of-balance church and members. Look for equal emphasis on the five purposes God has given the Church:

  • Evangelism
  • Worship
  • Fellowship
  • Discipleship
  • Service

8. Look for a church where you can contribute. Find a church family where you can get involved, where you can roll up your sleeves and help them to minister to others. Don’t look for a church that will only "serve you," but look for a church in which you can "serve." Always remember, a church is the combination of what its people are. So if you want your church to be the best it can be, you must be the best you can be. A church can never rise above what it’s individual members are.

9. Accept the unique individuality of a church. People often look for a church like the one in which they got saved, or like one they see on TV, or one like their childhood memories, or like the one they read about it a book. But this is futile, because every church is distinct and different in its personality, just like people are. Always use the Bible as the standard to measure a church -- not other churches.

10. Look for a church with reasonable expectations. Don’t bother looking for a perfect church, because there aren’t any. In every church you will find people who are wonderful and some who aren’t. Jesus taught that it was common for weeds to be found growing together with the crops (Matt. 13:24-30).

Also, in every church, you’ll find some things done well, and others that are not.

Don’t worry about finding a perfect pastor, either. Trust me, we’re all human and will make mistakes. But look for a pastor who is sincere, who is trying his best to live a godly, moral life, and who is proclaiming the uncompromised Word of God. In short, be content with the church that is doing the best they can.

There are many good churches in your community. Trust the Lord to guide you to the fellowship where he wants you, and become faithful there.

Don’t be a church hopper -- bouncing around to one church after another each week. God wants you to be submitted to the accountability of spiritual leaders who will help you and even correct you when necessary (Heb. 13:17), and this isn’t possible unless you are rooted somewhere.

Don’t have an neglectful attitude, going to church only when you feel like it. Attend faithfully and show up on time. Serve your church at least as diligently as you would your employer.

Remember, the Lord views your attitude toward His church as your attitude toward Him (Matt. 25:40).

Monday, August 11, 2008

"Shopping" for a Church

Okay, I’m coming out swinging today. Brace yourself.

Over the years I’ve heard people say “I’m shopping for a church,” and it kills me every time. I hate hearing it. Christian people who say they are “shopping” for a church might use a better approach, and choice of words.

The church is a FAMILY. Would you “shop” for a family? Would you shop for a father, a brother, or a sister? Would you shop for children? The church is a place where relationships are forged in the journey of life and where you worship together. We are not McDonald's.

Had someone show up yesterday at PCC and he said, “We are shopping for a church.” Are you kidding me? Have you ever considered “praying about” which church God wants you in? Why did you leave your last church? Did you abandon them? Why? What unresolved issue are you running away from?

I’ve had people actually say to me, “We have visited almost every church in the area, and still haven’t found what we are looking for.” All I can think is “uh, oh…..”

I don’t have much tolerance for these church shopping southerners. It’s a cultural way of life for some people down here in the South. It must make God sick. Please do not use the phrase “church shopping." Jesus PURCHASED the church with HIS BLOOD and you are treating other members of God's family like merchandise. Jesus did not die on the cross so you could sample churches like a party platter. The Church is the body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, and the family of God - NOT Walmart. Grow up.

When people tell me they are “shopping” for a church they often say so in such a way that (appears to me) they want me to be happy about the possibility of catching this big fish, and I should enthusiastically attempt to convince them to join us. Not interested.

First of all, I’m more concerned about reaching lost people than I am church people.

Second, we do not want some mossy-back church-legalist who has been involved in half a dozen church fights in previous churches, to cause trouble in our church.

Third, when people communicate their long list of expectations we have to meet in order to gain their approval, I know this is a person who cannot be satisfied and will not remain content for very long. If they were easy to please and easy to get along with, they probably would not have left their previous church. If their pre
vious pastor could not keep them happy, I can’t either. I am not superman.

Fourth, if and when believers decide to join us I want it to be because GOD has LED them to our family.

I am tired of the consumer Christian who can never be satisfied. They take up your time, your focus, drain your resources, and in the end do what they did at their last church – leave.

I have always had my greatest problems from “church people” – those who came from another church because they got unhappy about something over there. It is just a matter of time before they get unhappy with us:

  • The music is too loud
  • The music is not loud enough
  • The services are too long
  • The services are not long enough
  • There is too much prayer
  • There is not enough prayer
  • The dress code is too formal
  • The dress code is too casual
  • There is too much emphasis on the Holy Spirit
  • There is not enough emphasis on the Holy Spirit
  • The preaching is too hard
  • There preaching is not hard enough
  • The teaching is too shallow
  • Too much emphasis on reaching lost people
  • I want to be an elder
  • I want to be on the church board
  • This is not the way we did it in my last church
  • Blah! Blah! Blah!

Recreational church shoppers, who flit from church to church, usually gain entrance into the pastor’s heart by generating large amounts of enthusiasm and goodwill. “This church is so wonderful; it’s everything I have been looking for” they gush. Sometimes they will jump into a ministry, get the pastor and church resources committed to the program, and then suddenly disappear, (like a deadbeat dad), leaving the core of the church to pick up the pieces.

Furthermore, any pastor who caters to those kinds of people is actually reinforcing the consumer mentality among these "shopping sheep" by enabling them with escapism from their previous church. Consumer sheep are in it only for themselves. These folk need to be challenged to grow up and dig in to a local church somewhere and work their way through their wanderlust. They might even need to be challenged to go back to their previous church and work through the issues they are RUNNING from!

Please, if you have included PCC on your “shopping list” keep moving on. Leave the seats (you would occupy) open for those people who are far from God or for those who are really interested in helping us fulfill the Great Commission.

If you are currently looking for a church home, that’s okay. There is a legitimate difference between looking for a church home and “church shopping.” This is an important decision that takes time. Instead of looking for a church that will protect your pet doctrine or sing your favorite song, how about ADJUSTING YOUR ATTITUDE for selecting a church BASED UPON the WILL OF GOD for you and your family.

If God sends you to PCC, roll up your sleeves, get under the heavy end of the log, plug in as a volunteer, give financially, and help us impact our city for Christ.

Otherwise, we need your seat.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Had a good day at church today. Attendance was a little lower than normal, due to summer travel I think – but still level and very strong - a good solid day all the way around. The band did well, worship was good, all volunteers were at their post of duty, had a couple of new people sign up for volunteerism, and a lot of sermon CDs were picked up. Had a ton of visitors – as always.

Small Groups. We are working on the Fall Semester for our small groups right now. We are currently working our way through the call-list of all small group leaders trying to determine how many will be leading a group this semester. This will determine how many groups we will have, and when we launch. I’m pretty confident that we will have a start-date posted by next Sunday.

Foundations Classes. The last class will be this Tuesday night, 6:00 PM. This course has filled a great need in our church family this summer. Thanks to the three teachers (Gene T., Scott D, & Rick H.) who made it happen.

Financial Peace University coming soon. This is a 13-week course on managing your finances in a Biblical way, with a goal of debt-free living. This elective was offered in our winter semester of small groups, and will be offered again this fall. If you, or someone you know, could benefit from a course on managing ones finances, FPU would be an exceptional choice to consider and is highly recommended.

Discovery Seminar 101 - Discovering the PCC Family. To be offered September 14th. This is a 3 ½ hour seminar which provides you with an “insiders look” to Pace Community Church. Not only that, it is an excellent opportunity to get acquainted with me, some of our staff, and other key persons in our church family. It is informal, relaxed, and lots of fun.

Leadership Training. I’m thinking about teaching a series of leadership lessons during the fall semester of small groups. If I do this, it will be in the form of a “Pastors Auditorium Bible Class” for all those who are interested in church leadership (in any form), and would like to learn what the Bible has to say about this sensitive subject. I’m still thinking about it, prayerfully. If you would be interested, offer me your feedback. It would be welcome.

Coming Articles on this blog. I’m working on some topics right now that I want to make you aware of. In the near future, perhaps beginning this week, I will be posting on these subjects:
  • Evangelism & Church Growth vrs. Sheep Stealing & Transfer Growth
  • Reformed Theology
  • Qualifications for Leadership
  • Personal stuff about me
  • In-house news about PCC
  • A “Meeting” I Had
  • Criticism – When a Response is Necessary & Why
  • My personal journey – what I am going & growing through right now
  • And a lot more


Saturday, August 9, 2008


Went to the beach today.

Renae and I took a long bike ride. Somewhere along the route we found our way out to the waters edge, where she snapped this picture.
The weather was beautiful and water was as good as it gets.

Both looked a lot better than I do.


Hung out with a small group of teens for a couple of hours on Friday. We went to Madisons to have lunch in downtown Pensacola. After that, got icecream together. Then went bowling - Renae beat everyone.

Pretty cool day.

Click the picture to enlarge.

Friday, August 8, 2008

True Colors

Jeremiah 13:23 (NIV) 23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.

All species of life have a unique “print” on their exterior. This print is unchangeable. Citing two examples, the verse above points out that an Ethiopian cannot change the color of his skin and a leopard cannot change his spots. This is true of me, you, and all of us – our exterior print is “fixed.”

This word-picture illustrates a spiritual truth for us – Some people can get so accustomed to doing evil that they lose their ability to change. Their attitudes can become so “fixed” that they lose the desire to change and no longer fear the consequences.

There are people like this sitting in churches too.

When people are challenged and called to the spiritual disciplines of forgiveness, holiness, commitment, submission to spiritual authority, conflict resolution, getting along, and learning how to worship together in unity, carnal people will rebel.

Under the guise of being spiritual, theses pretenders will eventually show their true colors by blowing up. They will often leave a church in search another church that is “less demanding,” that has “more of the Spirit” or “better worship” or “deeper teaching,” or where “I can get my way.” Rather than digging down and working their way through these tough discipleship issues related to the Christian life, and thereby experiencing true spiritual growth, they will take off in search of their elusive quarry somewhere else – forever remaining carnal.

When people walk away from relationships because of unresolved pain, or because they didn’t get their way, they are mocking agape love. This is very, very shallow – and reflects how carnal they really are.

You can take a leopard out of the jungle, but you can't take the jungel out of him.

When under pressure, ones true colors will always show.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Anonymous Letters

Over the years I have received plenty of anonymous letters from people who wanted to criticize me or something in the church they disliked. These letters usually contain petty complaints about such things as musical style, worship style, dress codes, why I should get a haircut, and whether or not I believe in a pre-tribulation rapture. This goes with the job of being a pastor. Most of these letters are comical.

However, in the last six months I have received more of these kinds of letters than usual. They are different - not childish, but evil. Most recently someone has even set up a fictitious e-mail account enabling the originator to send secret letters to me without being discovered.

The content of these letters has crossed a certain line - they are savage and contain an obvious intent to harm. Never have I seen this degree of malice coming from professed followers of Christ – and from people I know - but who do not attend PCC.

Anonymous letters reveal how weak such a person really is and makes them very, very small. It also demonstrates why such a person could never be a serious candidate for church leadership, or if in a position of leadership, should be disqualified and removed. If this is how they handle their problems, they are unfit to manage God’s house. Period. If they will do this to me, they would do it to you; not sparing the flock of God.

Would you want to attend church with those kinds of people? Would you want people like that influencing you and your family? Not me. If that is the caliber of person you are getting your spiritual cues from, you are dumb.

Of course, I can never prevent someone from sending anonymous and cowardly letters to me. But I can prevent them from ever reaching me; which is what I do. They are all intercepted (by trusted people) and simply thrown out. My e-mails are moderated, deleted, or end up in my spam folder.

At any rate, I saw this quote from Charles Spurgeon, and thought he said it much better than I ever could:

“Never write what you dare not sign. An anonymous letter-writer is a sort of assassin, who wears a mask, and stabs in the dark. Such a man is a fiend with a pen. If discovered, the wretch will be steeped in the blackest infamy.”

I wish I had said that.