Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Got to Give a Shout Out!

In addition to the normal weekly efforts of ALL our volunteers who do such an amazing job at PCC, some of them have recently taken it up a notch in our building and campus improvements. Without attempting to mention all the names, because I would surely leave someone out, I would like to give a shout out to…..
  • All those who have been mowing our grounds making them look so beautiful. It is inspiring to see people who take pride in their church and campus grounds. This brings honor to God when His people work so hard to make the place look so good. I really appreciate the attention to detail too.

  • Those who have improved Connors Park (our picnic area) over the winter by building the new picnic tables, a serving table, hauling away the old debris, and making the benches around the fire-pit. We will get plenty of good ministry use from this area because of your efforts and commitment to a standard of excellence in your craftsmanship.

  • The man who built and installed a new broom closet in our building. This was desperately needed, and it too was done to a standard of excellence.

  • The two teenage girls who repainted the walls in room 3, giving it a much needed facelift. They did this while on their spring break…. amazing.

  • Those who installed the acoustic panels and new stage lights in the sanctuary. It was a definite improvement and upgrade.

  • Those who come every single week to clean our santurary, clean all the chairs, the atrium, bathrooms, and kitchen, so that we can worship in a clean environment on the Lord’s Day.

  • The lady who personally orders and purchases the beautiful customized pens that are placed in the card holders.

All of you, as well as everyone else who labors tirelessly at PCC, exemplify what I was talking about in last Sunday’s message…. bringing honor to God by the way we do our jobs. You labor because of your conscience towards God, not for the praises of men. Your efforts are a major contribution to PCC and are noticed.

Let me leave you with that quote from Martin Luther I mentioned last Sunday...

“The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays; not because she might sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps, but because God loves clean floors. The shoe cobbler does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes because God is interested in good craftsmanship.” Martin Luther, 1546 AD

A Friend Has Been Lost

A friend of mine, Bobby Lepinay, fellow pastor and church planter in Pensacola, lost a staff member this week. Will Pufall died suddenly and unexpectedly over the weekend. This is a very tragic loss. He was a beloved friend and servant of their church. Will has been with Bobby since the founding of Harvest Church, and served on staff as their worship pastor, as well as a variety of other responsibilities.

You can read Bobby’s blog here.

Monday, March 30, 2009

I'm in the Mood for Some Jack.....

.... Jack Bauer that is. The weekly program "24" is about to come on. I'm sitting in my easy chair just waiting for Jack to save the US goverment once again!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Mind Dump

Good day. Attendance was back up (from last Sunday which began spring break).

I started losing my voice in second service. Apparently I am not totally back from my cold/flu.

Today’s message was “Take This Job & Love It” based upon 1 Peter 2:18-25. We learned how our lives can glorify God if we are good employees, do a good job, and even suffer for doing good… following the example of Christ.

No fewer than one dozen people spoke to me after service expressing how the message spoke to them in some special way. This really surprised me because “talking about work” isn’t such an exciting subject. Plus I was very weak physically, and I don’t think my delivery was that good. But it underscores the point that God honors His Word and it accomplishes what He intends it to do…even in our weaknesses.

A couple was visiting from Tampa FL. They spoke to me after second service and asked, “Is there any church like this in Tampa you could recommend to us? We want to rededicate our lives to God, and have been trying a few churches, but they are so stiff! We just don’t fit. But we have never experienced anything like this! It is so refreshing. Plus, the message was about real life… which is what we need.”

Hearing things like this never gets old.

The motorcycle riders group met at church today for an afternoon ride. I think they even had some guests in service with them. It was pretty impressive to see all those choppers in the parking lot, and exciting to hear them all crank up at the same time. I hope they had a good day together….

Our security measures are improving. We taking some serious steps in regard to security, inside and outside.

Consider this: Think about the power of a life COMPLETELY SURRENDERED to GOD. What would God do with such a person?

BTW, God’s Word is not a suggestion or recommendation, but instructions and commands for His people to obey. The KEY to living in freedom is HEARING God’s voice (from His Word) and then DOING what it says.
If God is not FIRST PLACE in every area of our lives, then He is not first place.

Easter is only two Sundays away:
  • In two weeks our parking lot will have more cars in it than you’ve ever seen
  • In two weeks our building will be packed to capacity
  • In two weeks our children’s ministry will see scores of kids who will respond in faith to Jesus Christ
  • In two weeks dozens of people will commit to Jesus Christ as they hear the gospel and they will begin their spiritual journey of transformation
  • In two weeks the people you have been praying for, and who face a Christless eternity, will meet and experience the love of God
  • In two weeks…. your prayers will be answered
  • In two weeks we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

I’m asking every PCCer to GO ALL OUT in getting your friends and family members to Church with you on Easter Sunday. We are going to have an excellent song selection, a video presentation, and a solid Bible message on the resurrection. Right now the working plan is this:

  • Service Theme – This is the Life He Offers
  • Video Theme – Say What You Need to Say

Loved the music today.

The new acoustic panels seemed to help with sound control.

Next Sunday we’re having communion and special prayer. I’m anticipating a breakthrough.

Friday, March 27, 2009

What a Week! & Some Additional 411

This week has been one of the most difficult weeks in recent memory! I have caught some kind of cold or flu that was like getting an old fashioned spanking! It really packed a wallop. Aside from being sick, I have been barely able to talk and have been very weak. I’ve been pacing myself hoping that my voice will hold out long enough to make it through this weekend. On top of this I’ve worked longer work hours than normal due to two/three projects that Pastor Gene and I were working on in the sanctuary (hanging acoustic panels and additional stage lights). We also had a video project to complete. Then there were two deaths connected to our church family and one funeral to attend. To top it all off, I also heard this week (from a new and recent attender in our church) that a certain individual is still spreading malicious lies about PCC in the community to anyone who will listen. (To this family's credit, they did not allow themselves to be affected by this nonsense, choosing instead to "consider the source." They are happy with PCC. But it got me to wondering how much of this is still going on, perhaps affecting others). To say this inflames my indignation would be an understatement. I know who this person is, and I am certain there is going to be a very painful encounter in my future. Enough is enough already! Should the providence of God not allow this to happen, I will simply rest in the knowledge that “if God be for us, then who can be against us” (Romans 8:31).

All that junk aside, I must say that I am feeling a lot better today. My strength has returned and my mind is clear…… and I’m ready to ROCK!

  • This Sunday’s sermon is “TAKE THIS JOB & LOVE IT!” Oh yea, we’re going to have fun with this one! It might get pretty heavy at times too.

  • I just might use a hand-held microphone this Sunday and pace back-and-forth across the stage like a caged lion…. or a Pentecostal preacher! (I used to preach like that, you know).

  • You may not realize this, (or even believe it), because it’s easy to get used to people (and become too “familiar” with them) – but our church really does have one of the best music ministries to be found far-and-wide. I know of dozens of churches who run double our attendance, double our staff, and have double our finances, who would LOVE TO HAVE our musicians and singers in THEIR church. And if they ever try to steal any of them away from us… I will be giving somebody an uppercut to the chin!

  • PCC, what God is doing at PCC right now is amazing. Miracles of life change are occurring all the time. The hundreds of stories that are taking place simply boggle the mind.

  • Our staff, volunteers, and ministry leaders are simply the best. The ministry TEAMS we have working with us right now are the best WE HAVE EVER HAD. If it took a pruning (like occurred 14 months ago) to get us to this place, I would gladly go through it again. It has been worth it.

  • BTW, Satan is really ticked off at PCC right now!

  • Let’s just say the last couple of weeks have been some of the most crazy, intense, and stressful times in the history of PCC. Any time we go to a whole-nutha-level, it also means we face whole-nutha-level-of DEVILS!

  • BTW, I’ve never met a devil yet that wasn’t wearing somebody’s shoes.

  • As much as I hate dealing with things I’ve had to deal with, I also love it! I’m glad that Satan is ticked off at PCC. I am LOCKED and LOADED and READY for the CRAZY RIDE that God is taking us on in 2009.

  • So far this year I have experienced some of the most rewarding times ever at PCC. When God is moving look for Satan to do anything he can do to disrupt things.

  • I am JACKED UP about this next season at PCC.

  • Ever feel it in your bones? That’s what I’m experiencing right now. I woke up this morning and I’ve got this feeling that God is about to do something VERY BIG. It’s not about me, it’s not about PCC – it’s about HIM. It might not even be this Sunday… but I’ve go this feeling that God is going to SHOW HIMSELF MIGHTY in our behalf. I am eleven years into this work, and I can show you over and over again that when things start getting crazy, spiritual warfare begins taking place in high places… and you just know GOD IS ABOUT TO DO SOMETHNG BIG! Fasten your seat-belts.

  • Here’s the crazy thing – it actually EXCITES me! It pumps me up because I know God is about to do something big. I can just feel it. God is about to SHAKE THINGS UP. I love the fact that we are DOING what others said COULD NOT be done. I love it that the critics are out there in full force trying to discredit us. I love it when people, who are bound for hell, meet the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

  • I’m getting JACKED UP about EASTER. It is going to be a DAY OF LIFE-CHANGE for someone you know.

  • I’ve been thinking about some of the people who have left PCC in the past. I (kind of) feel sorry for them because they made an investment in this church…. and now they are missing a move of God. They are missing out on the very thing we all dreamed would happen. It’s sad. But maybe they didn’t share the vision after all.

Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight" (Matt. 11:25-26).

Many of you have asked how you can pray for us. Here’s how:

  • Pray that we stay focused on the vision that God has given us by not allowing mission drift to set in.

  • Pray for our staff and key ministry leaders. I believe we have the greatest team that a church could have. You will never know the amount of work they put in to make PCC what it is today. And that includes ALL our volunteers as well. Pray for them, their families, and their relationship with God.

  • Pray that our people will have courage and strength to invite their friends and family members to church with them. You are the best EVANGELISTS we have. It’s better than any marketing or advertising we could ever purchase.

  • Pray that PCC is effective in penetrating and reaching our community. That is exactly why we exist. I could care less about the people in other churches who do not like the way we do things. They’ve got a problem. I don’t. Besides, we're not trying to reach them anyway. Nor are we trying to win their approval. We are trying to reach people who are far from God and then turn them into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

How you can pray for me:

  • Pray that I stay close to God – on a personal level, and as a shepherd. I’ve grown a lot over the last ten years, and I’ve also made some boneheaded mistakes. But God has protected me, and us. As I continue to mature in faith, I want to stay close to Him.

  • Pray for my family. They are my FIRST ministry. Pastors and their families live in a fish bowl, and we can’t go anywhere that we’re not in somebody’s headlights… being critiqued for how we look, dress, or appear in public. We can’t always remember everyone’s names when we bump into you at Wal-Mart. We can’t always live up to your expectations either. So cut us a little slack. We are a regular family and don’t walk on water.

  • Pray that I say focused and hear from God often. It’s easy for me to get distracted by the pinhead critics out there who are deliberately trying to ruin PCC out of jealous motives (or because of demon possession). When I spend too much time focusing on those things, Satan wins. Sometimes a response is called for… but preoccupation with these mental-midgets pulls me away from my main responsibility.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Personal Update...

Man, am I ever sick! I've caught some kind of cold and it has got me beat. I was losing my voice last Sunday, but it has gotten worse this week. I'm just hoping I can hold on long enough and make it through this Sunday.

We are swamped in work right now and the long hours I've been putting in have caught up with me....

On top of that we have experienced two deaths in our church in the last 24 hours - one in Renae's family and the other with Laura Harman. Laura's husband, Kenny, died of a sudden heart attack yesterday.


An Audience of One

Studies show that one of the greatest fears people have is that of public speaking. It is universal. For me, there is nothing more exciting, humbling, enjoyable, and sometimes frightening, than standing up in a room full of people to teach from the Bible. I get to do this every weekend in the best church in the world.

When I am teaching from God’s Word each Sunday I have at least three audiences:

1. Outsiders. Every Sunday is someone’s first Sunday. In that crowd of hundreds of people there are unbelievers, the irreligious, and those who have not yet embraced Christ. To them the Bible is a closed book – and not part of their world. But they are in the service, meaning their heart must be beginning to open up to the things of God. And I have the amazing privilege of preaching the gospel to people who may be hearing this stuff for the very first time… it’s like planting seed in fertile ground. The thrill factor for me is off the chart when I see this happening.

2. Insiders. Then there are the regular PCCers in the audience. These are people who have embraced Christ, and keep coming back week after week because they love their church. As growing believers, they are looking for something to help them know God deeper, follower God better, and hear from God clearer. They need strong meat to grow.

3. God. God is most important listener in audience. As such I have to always be sure that I am handling God’s Word skillfully, and not misrepresenting Him in any way. James chapter 1 says that people should not rush to be preachers/teachers of God’s Word because we will be judged more harshly than others – something I have always been mindful of my entire ministry. That’s a warning for anyone who teaches God’s Word. My most important critic is not the Monday morning blogger, but God Himself. At the end of the day, above and beyond everyone else, He is the One I have to please. In that sense, I’m talking to an audience of One.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pastors, the Church, & God's Work

And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" (Romans 10:15)

Godly pastors are perhaps the most strategic change-agents in the world to help heal many of the problems society faces. Consider:

  • On any given Sunday morning across America, more Americans will attend church services than will attend all major sporting events for an entire year combined. No, that’s not a typo. I wrote it correctly. It is a statistical fact. That means more people will be in churches listening to a pastor teach God’s Word than all major sporting events (for an entire year) combined.

  • The pastors of all these churches influence a myriad of believers, who are living healthy lives because of their godly example. Often their work is not even acknowledged. Yet this world would be much worse off without them.

William Bennett (a Cabinet member of a former president) wrote: “The most serious problems afflicting our society today are manifestly moral, behavioral, and spiritual, and therefore are remarkably RESISTANT TO GOVERNMENT CURES.”

Doesn’t it seem ironic that at a time when politicians are recognizing we need a SPIRITUAL CURE many Christian people are acting like government is the cure?

It is a great privilege and fearful responsibility to be a servant in a local church. If I didn’t believe this role gave me the best chance of making a difference in people’s lives, I’d be doing something else.

The Church of Jesus Christ is the most noble and effective concept ever created; founded by God Himself. Despite all her faults (due to our sinfulness) it is God’s chosen instrument of blessing for the last two thousand years. The Church has survived persecution, widespread abuse, has built more schools, hospitals, and orphanages, and has done more to relieve human suffering than any other institution or organization in the earth!

Serving in the work of God (in any capacity) is worth giving our lives for.

Friday, March 20, 2009

It's the Stories.... (Part 2)

Earlier this week I wrote about the importance of “stories” in a church family, and how they paint a true picture of the operation of God. Last Sunday evening we hosted Seminar 101. Each time we offer this seminar we hand out a questionnaire asking people two questions:

1. What brought you to Pace Community Church?
2. Why did you come back?

Here are just a few of the responses:

What brought you to PCC?
  • Your evangelism.
  • I was invited.
  • Mom invited me to come.
  • My parents told us about PCC, so we tried it and loved it.
  • Because of your church's emphasis of reaching out into the community.
  • My cousin suggested PCC.
  • A friend invited me.
  • My aunt invited me.
  • I came with a friend.
  • The need to be closer to God.

Why did you come back?

  • We have enjoyed the messages, the music, and the overall friendly atmosphere. The small group we are in is an absolute blessing. We just feel like this church could be our church home and give us a chance to serve God.
  • My favorite part is how the scriptures are explained… not just read. I welcome the chance to understand the Word!
  • This church is just what we were looking for.
  • After we came for the first time, we just knew it was for us.
  • I think God kept telling me to keep going back to PCC.
  • I enjoy the friendship and fellowship of the members at PCC.
  • I found openness where I could worship freely.
  • The great kids program!
  • I enjoyed pastor Ron’s sermons… plus he’s an Army Ranger.
  • The people are friendly.
  • I heard the Word.
  • God led me here.

It should be pointed out that the #1 reason people come to PCC for the first time is because they are invited by someone who already attends. Not marketing, not advertising - but word-of-mouth. That speaks well of our church (i.e., our members love their church and can't wait to get their friends there), and it speaks well of our members (i.e., they are actively involved in the evangelism/outreach process). Wow!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Reflections of Starting PCC....

Almost eleven years ago Pace Community was born. Beginning in my living room we outlined the vision for our church to a group of seven people. Six weeks later we launched and held our first public service at Pace High School on Easter Sunday, 1998. Here are some highlights from those early days:
  • I can remember hauling everything we owned in a small 4x8 trailer back and forth to the school
  • I remember Renae providing music on a tiny, plastic keyboard. I played bass guitar. It was a two-instrument band
  • I remember our church not being able to afford an overheard projector, so each Friday Renae would go to the school library and check one out so it would be available for us on Sunday
  • I remember the blue, stackable, cafeteria chairs, of which every single one of them wobbled
  • I remember my first sermon that first Sunday, “God’s Power to Change Your Life.” I also remember that nobody had a Bible
  • The good news is 70 people showed up for that first service
  • I remember my father passing out candy to the little kids

Here it is eleven years later. We are strong, healthy, and still growing. We’ve had a good run.

To every PCCer out there – past, present, and future – thanks for being a part of the journey. God be glorified, because He has done great things.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It's the Stories...

Statistics and numbers are good to know in any church. We use them at PCC and make no apology for it. We often talk about the numbers of souls saved, marriages put back together, baptisms, and new adult members, etc. They provide us with critical information about PCC and help us to plan, improve our systems, and upgrade our ministries. But it is the stories that paint the true picture of PCC. I’m talking about stories of real people, with real issues, who have experienced real life-change. These stories open a window into a person’s life and reveal the operation of God.

At PCC I hear wonderful stories all the time of what God is doing or has done in someone’s family. There are hundreds of these stories. Each one is a miracle. I wish you could hear them all. In fact, I don’t even hear them all – there are so many. They occur everywhere; in our small groups’ ministry… in our children’s ministry… in our teen ministry… in the Sunday morning services…. in your homes… everywhere. Many are dramatic and leave me stunned. Others are less earth shaking. But all of them are amazing. More importantly, they are occurring all the time in a myriad of ways. This is simply God doing what He does – delivering His people and all those who will place their trust in Him.

During December of last year we filmed some testimonies of people in our church family who had stories to tell and used them in the Sunday services. Then there was the cardboard testimony service. Another eye-opener. These stories were deeply moving. Yet they barely scratched the surface of how wide-spread the operation of God is in our church family.

You have a story to tell too.

One man said to me, “This church has saved my life.” Now, I know what he meant when he said it. I realize this statement was not “theologically correct.” It was actually “God” that saved his life. Right? But this was a wonderful insight into his life – a relatively new believer who is bursting with gratitude because of a total turnaround in his life and his family. If you knew his story, your chin would hit the floor…. and you would understand why he said it the way he did. It’s just another example of God’s amazing grace.

There are so many other stories yet to be told…. and others are being written right now. Pace Community Church is a living miracle. Know why? Because so many miracles are taking place in our church family.

It’s the stories that count…

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Membership & Church Discipline

PCC’s membership class, the membership covenant, and the accountability to it are the reasons we are a vibrant church. It is why our members (partners) are so willing to sacrifice so much in service to others. Imagine a church that went 8 ½ years without a permanent building of their own, setting up and tearing down every Sunday week-after-week, regardless of the weather. The level of commitment that people live up to is an indication of a church’s health.

The fact is, for eleven years now, from the first day of our church, we have diligently practiced church discipline, using the historic practice of covenants (we have multiple), have a required membership (partners) class, offer small groups, and last summer even taught an introductory level systematic theology class called “Foundations.” All of this has resulted in a high level of dedication to Christ, commitment to the local church, and personal spiritual growth. I would be willing to match any 200 members from PCC to any 200 members of any other church in terms of spiritual maturity, godliness, scripture memorization, serving in ministry, and being engaged in actual missions.

We take membership, and participation in a local church family, very seriously at PCC – and people who do not abide by the covenant are disciplined and removed. It is Biblical to do this, and we don’t have a problem carrying it out. We have done so for eleven years, and the end result for us is a healthy, vibrant church. There is no such thing as an “inactive” member at PCC – which is a contradiction of terms.

Never believe second-hand information about PCC from our critics – it comes from people who have never attended with us (and what they say is always wrong), or, from former members who were disciplined (who now have an agenda). Most of these people have ZERO idea of what PCC is really like.

What many people are not fully aware of is that over the last decade, at a time when most churches were plateaued or declining, PCC has continued to grow in attendance, new adult members, baptisms, small group participation, commitment to spiritual maturity, and conversions to Christ. I don’t believe there is another church in the area with a more mature membership than PCC – all because of our emphasis upon the Bible itself and the covenants we hold people to.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday - Holy Hangover

  • Okay. I am beat. Two services today – in storming, raining weather – and four more hours on stage teaching the 101 Seminar has got me worn out. I’m experiencing a holy hangover right now.

  • Attendance was good today, in spite of the miserable weather. About 480 in attendance – not too bad for a day when the weather was like Noah’s flood.

  • The morning message – We're in This Together – was timely and solidly Biblical. We talked about being “living stones” who “build up a spiritual house” and being called members in a “holy priesthood” unto God.

  • The CHURCH (that’s you, God’s people) is God’s PLAN for spreading the gospel in the earth. Jesus didn’t say He would build His 501 (c)3 non-profit organization, or build His man-made denominations. He said He would build His CHURCH. If you are a believer and you are not a participating member of a local church family, you are missing God’s will for your life.

  • Some forty people showed up for Seminar 101. There was a lot of excitement and buy-in tonight. After eleven years, I am still totally amazed how God brings people to PCC, and after sharing the vision/mission/strategy with them, they “get it.” Totally amazing.

  • I’ve got to say that our hospitality servants stepped up and took it to a whole-nutha-level tonight. I was impressed, as were our new members. You guys did an awesome job…. and I can’t tell you how humbled I am to serve with such great people. I am also very proud of you. I don't think anyone could do it better than you did tonight…. you raised the bar tonight. I appreciate your selfless sacrifice.

  • It was an UH-MAZING day today.

  • I’m glad PCC is made up of a lot of people who understand the difference between SERVICE and SERVE US.

  • Hundreds of names have been turned in for prayer – and we are praying for every one of them.

  • As I preached today I think I was bringing the heat!

  • Somebody turned in a card today saying they came to church because they met a couple in Wal-Mart (who attend PCC) and invited them. Wow! What’s not to like about that? Hey, when members of PCC are inviting people to church who they happened to meet in a Wal-Mart, then you know good things are happening!

  • What a day today.

  • Easter is just around the corner. Before Easter we will be receiving communion, having a church workday, and praying hard for the lost to find Christ.

  • I’ve been so busy the last couple of weeks that I feel like I am drowning.

  • I’m loving daylight savings time.

  • We are stepping up our security measures in church right now. Once it is formalized and finalized, I will share with the congregation the measures we are taking.

  • In the seminar tonight a lady approached me and said, “I’m so thankful that my husband is now attending PCC. I prayed for him for years to come, and finally he came and has committed to Christ. Now he is here in this membership class.” I’ve got to say, this never gets old to me.

  • The Bible does not change your life if it you approach it academically. It is the APPLICATION of the Bible that changes your life. In other words, being a DOER of the Word.

  • This year we will be upgrading our weekend services. A lot of changes will be taking place. We plan to change the graphics on the wall behind the stage with a new theme monthly, or bi-monthly. More use of in-house video. We are also constructing sound-dampening panels to be mounted on the side and rear walls of the sanctuary to help create a better (studio) sound in the services. These panels will be decorative and come in two colors.

  • I’ve got my eyes open for a pastor of discipleship.

  • A GOOD THOUGHT FOR LEADERSHIP: A leading cause of self-doubt and stress is caused when I try to win the approval of people who don’t like me

  • It doesn’t matter how many people who DON'T buy into the vision. What does matter is how many that DO! Those are the people I work with.

  • Everyone is Someone who will spend eternity Somewhere.

  • THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: You can rise through the ranks by sheer force of ability and personality…. regardless of what your education is, or regardless of what the organizational flow chart says. Just become a “get it done” kind of person, and you’ll get your promotion.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Uncommitted Church Hoppers

Once again it has become very apparent to me (in the last several weeks) how temperamental some professional church hoppers really are.

For instance: (And BTW, this happens all the time in the ministry)

Some people will show up to PCC and begin attending with us. They will attend PCC for a period of months without ever really committing. And each time I talk with them they will insinuate or imply that I/we still have not measured up to their approval yet. “I’m still trying to decide.” they will say. Or, “We’re still searching for a church.” Or, “this church doesn’t have this flavor, or that flavor.” Or, “Your church doesn’t do this or do that… or whatever.”

During this period of time that they are “still trying to decide” if we meet their approval or not, they are enjoying the benefits of this ministry – essentially eating at the table for free and taking the best we have to offer. And they expect me to just stand there and just take it with a straight face and loving smile as they regurgitate that attitude of superiority on me (because that’s what pastors are supposed to do, I guess). They usually don't like my response. It's like they believe they can say anything they want... critique, criticize, evaluate, imply disapproval, and expect me to ingratiate myself to them. But the moment I express my view on the matter, well, the fertilizer hits the fan. They instantly disfellowship me, stop speaking to me, write ugly letters, or stick their nose up. It’s like they expect those conversations to be one-side - they’re allowed to say anything they want but I shouldn’t speak back into that very same situation (that they raised). I don't play that game. And I don't mind telling them what they need (but don't want) to hear!

People like that are burdensome. It is very draining to keep making investments into shallow church hoppers who never commit.

Still trying to decide? I can help you.

Read below….

An Open Letter to Church Shoppers

Dear Career Church Shopper:

You’ve been attending PCC for several months now.

It’s too bad that for all these months now you haven’t been able to find a church that meets your approval, including us. The music is too loud at this one, the preacher is too long-winded at that one, there’s not enough meat in the sermons at the other one, or they don’t “flow in the gifts” here or there.

May I offer some suggestions you might consider in your search?

1. Christ did not bleed for the Church so you could treat all these local churches, that you have been evaluating, like an episode of Star Search by deciding who to VOTE OFF your list this week.

2. The local church was not commissioned to only meet your NEEDS. As a believer YOU are part of the Church and therefore bear some responsibility to meets the needs of others. Quit thinking about yourself so much.

3. Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her (Eph. 5:25).
Quit treating His bride like a Jesus-buffet where you can pick and choose what you like, hedging your bets against the pain and sacrifice of making a commitment.

4. Since the scriptures instruct you to use your gifts in service to the Body of Christ – and it never instructs you to search for a church that scratches you where you itch – you might consider what the church needs from you rather than the other way around.

5. If you only want to hear me say things you already know and agree with, perhaps you should stay home and talk to yourself in the bathroom mirror.

The Preacher

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Conflict Resolution Helps Us Grow

This is meat for men. Don’t read it if you can’t hack it.

How important is conflict resolution for the believer? It is essential, and God takes it very serious. It is necessary for personal growth, health, and proving the authenticity of ones Christianity. Notice I didn’t ask about conflict escalation, but resolution. The willingness and ability to resolve conflict is essential to your maturity.

As much as we dislike it, conflict will happen in the Christian life. I dislike conflict. I hope to never see another day of conflict in my life. But I know I will. God’s will for us is to deal with it Biblically when it happens, and process it in such a way that the situation is resolved in a mature manner.

Unfortunately, the EASY OUT for many Christians (when faced with conflict) is CHURCH TRANSFER. Once there they can safely ESCALATE the matter (to sympathetic ears), or simply AVOID the face-to-face meeting with the other involved person that the Bible calls for. I recognize that sometimes changing churches is necessary – but not as often as it occurs. Relationship conflict is not supposed to be addressed through escape – it only perpetuates the problem and keeps it alive. God would have us to deal with it... not run from it.

The Biblical writers in both the OT and NT were not afraid of conflict; in fact they demonstrated an acute awareness of the tensions that sometimes exist in the body of Christ.

The apostle Paul teaches us that a person can harbor hurt and anger for only a few hours before it becomes a seed for satanic influence:

26Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27and give no opportunity to the devil (Ephesians 4:26-27).

Once wounded, if we do not process the pain in a Biblical manner, it becomes internalized. These internal wounds are often fatal to our spiritual walk. Not addressing conflict creates a victim, and a victim’s mentality. This is the most common type of church-transferee: someone who has been offended and chooses to flee rather than face. This escapism demonstrates immaturity and is not without negative consequences.

To use escape as a way of resolving problems is to draw a permanent line in your spirit where your spiritual growth will be stunted. You will travel no further in God, and will gain no higher ground. This line defines the end of your spiritual leash. It is your sticking point, and until you get it resolved with your brother, (or make an attempt at resolving the matter), God will always have a controversy with you (Matt. 5:23-24).

Avoidance of conflict has created a generation of Christians who are addicted to therapeutic ministries too. Healing sells hot. Instead of viewing conflict resolution as a tool for growth, these marsh mellow softies would rather remain emotional cripples and sign up for therapy or change churches where they can find palavering sympathy.

Escapism allows us to call ourselves Christians without testing our resolve. Instead of practicing core Biblical principles such as confrontation, forgiveness, reconciliation, humility, patience, perseverance, and love in the Body of Christ, these runaways simply hop to another church. This creates cheap grace; an easy believism of avoidance and shallow commitment.

Enabled and reinforced by church hopping, these escape artists embrace an effortless, sugar-coated, have-it-your-way kind of faith. This cheap grace fosters a hollow form of Christianity which gives no regard to the Holy Spirit’s regenerating power. It tries to cling to salvation while condemning others, and judges others while it asks to not be judged.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

PCC is now eleven years old. It has been interesting to see the many changes that have taken place in this ministry. Yet, at the same time, the most important things remain the same.

One of the reasons God has blessed PCC is because we have simply stayed consistent in our efforts and refused to give up. We’ve never looked for a magic key or some lightening in a bottle to bring about growth and church health. We’ve always kept the main thing the main thing. Now that we have been at it for eleven years, we have a forward momentum that is almost self-perpetuating.

Did you know that most new church plants do not make it past the 3 year mark?

Sticking with it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take risks, start new initiatives, step out in faith, set goals, develop strategies, or even make changes. But it does mean that we make sure God is leading us and directing those decisions.

PCC has remained consistent with our MISSION. Our mission is based upon the Great Commission that Jesus gave the church. This is a Biblical mandate, and as such can never change. Our church has always been deliberate about reaching those who are far from God and turning them into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

PCC has remained consistent in our MINISTRIES. We don’t try to do everything. That burns people out and gets the church running off into too many different directions as once. If you are looking for a church that has a full menu of options - (some 92 different ministries) – there are other churches that might be a better fit. We only do five things at PCC: the Weekend Services…. Children… Teens… Small Groups… and Outreach (and anything else that can support these ministries and provide congregational care). This gives us laser focus and makes us more effective. It also prevents mission drift.

Most churches have way too many activities, programs, and events on the schedule. That can be a huge drain on the family, and additionally, it creates excessive competition within the church for limited resources.

To ensure that the most important and productive ministries thrive, it is necessary for us to periodically prune the programs and ministries that are least effective or most draining upon people’s time and limited church resources. In other words, we find ways to cut competing systems from the church docket.

At PCC we have made some tough decisions in the past about certain programs and ministries because they were a drain; decisions that were very unpopular at the time. We have had to say no to a great many ideas that would have broadened our ministry but blunted our impact. For instance, from the beginning we decided not to provide Sunday night worship services, Easter cantatas, Christmas specials, and a host of other good but potentially competitive programs. There is nothing wrong with any of these programs or ministries. But for us, they compete with other areas we deem to be more important.

Monday, March 9, 2009


"I've got three advanced degrees. I went to two different seminaries and a Bible school. How did I miss the 2,000 verses in the Bible where it talks about the poor?"

Rick Warren

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sunday Night Mind Dump

  • I felt the effects the time change today. After the 18 mile bike ride Saturday, losing an hour of sleep left me feeling tired at church. In fact, after church I took a long nap. My internal body clock is not adjusted.

  • Good services today. Attendance was about 30 lower than the previous Sunday. I attribute it to time change. Bunch of sissies!

  • The message today was solid, very practical and to-the-point. Learning how God changes us and what our part is in the change process was enlightening. But it's always more important to be a DOER of the Word.

  • Life change is God’s will for every one of His children. Not only is it a matter of obedience, but it is also EVIDENCE of authentic salvation.

  • Salvation is more than being a card carrying member of the Jesus club – it’s a matter of growing up in the new birth.

  • I was honest today when I talked about how hard it is for me to like some Christian people. God doesn’t give me a pass on this – I’m fully capable of doing better. This ability is contained in the power of the new birth. No excuses. Just do it.

  • Did you hear about the pastor who was SHOT AND KILLED IN HIS CHURCH TODAY? Happened in Illinois. You can read it here.

  • This is happening on a regular basis now in our country. I understand why many churches have armed security during their services. We have had discussions about security weaknesses at PCC, and I think it is time for us to take action.

  • You would be surprised at the number of Bible-toting psychotics out there who call themselves Christians.

  • There are some people in this community who hate me… for nothing other than being a pastor who didn’t cater to their every beck and call. The stories I could tell you would make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

  • I know God is in control, but He also calls us to use wisdom and protect ourselves. Too much hangs in the balance to leave this undone, and it only takes one idiot to hurt a lot of people

  • Pray for First Baptist Church Maryville as they deal with the lost of their pastor. I can’t imagine the sorrow they are feeling. Especially pray for the wife and two daughters who have been left behind… because of one sicko lunatic.

  • I loved the springlike weather we’ve had for the last couple of days. And the time change today gave extra daylight hours. Nice.

  • Troy & Debbie P. are moving away tomorrow. They are relocating to North GA. They have been with us ten years… almost since the beginning… and we will miss there very much. They have been a major asset to PCC.

  • This is important: In order for us to reach the kinds of people that other churches are not reaching, we have to do things that other churches are not doing. PCC has a unique DNA and we have positioned ourselves accordingly. Make no mistake about it – I love what God is doing in other churches – and a good work is being accomplished in many of them. But God has not called us to be like the other churches. Because of that, we will always be creative, will experiment, and be willing to think outside of the box.

  • Here’s a suggestion: Let’s quit listening to the negative news so much that is telling us how bad the economy is, and insult God by believing FOX or CNN more than we believe Him and His promises to provide. No one at PCC is any danger of starving to death!

  • We’re taking our eyes off Jesus and putting them on the economy.

  • I have never seen (in half a lifetime) one person go under who applied Biblical principles to their finances. Not one. Not one. Not one!

  • The two biggest problems in America today are consumer debt and obesity. It’s not that we don’t have enough… we just don’t manage it well.

  • The Geico eyeball commercials are so stupid. They need to bring the caveman back.

  • Fixing to eat some guacamole dip… the best in SR County. Made it myself.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

18 Miles

The connecting road between Pensacola Beach and Navarre was opened yesterday. Renae and I took advantage of it and loaded the bikes today.

We rode 18 miles. I'm smoked!

You can see the paved bike path is behind me... it makes for a very nice and scenic ride.


Your life is the sum total of the choices you have made towards God. Once God makes Himself known to you, what you do next is up to you. Your reaction reflects what you believe about Him.

The rich, young ruler lived a moral life. He was well versed in the Scriptures and the Law of God. But his response to Jesus’ invitation revealed that, although he possessed a head knowledge of the teachings of God, he did not know God in a personal, experiential way that could be demonstrated by a response of faith (Matt. 19:16-22).

Whenever God speaks to you, it requires an adjustment on your part. Every time you pray you must be aware that if God answers and reveals His will to you, it will immediately require that you reorient your life. Each time you read the Bible, you must be prepared to obey what God tells you. God reveals truth to us – not to make us intellectual – but to see if we will respond in faith and obedience, making us true servants.

Why did God use Peter, James, and John to turn the world upside down? And why were others, like the rich, young ruler, never heard from again? Choices. The disciples chose to believe, and their belief was proven by their obedience. The rich, young ruler could not bring himself to obey (even though he knew a lot about God), and the scriptures say “he went away sorrowful.”

You are faced with the same choice every time God brings truth to you. What you do next is up to you.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Time Change Saturday Night

Don't forget to set your clock forward one hour Saturday night.

The Call of God & the Crisis of Belief

When God invites you to be involved with Him in His work, He wants to reveal Himself to you and to a watching world. Therefore, He will call you to a God-sized assignment. When you are confronted with such an assignment, you will face a crisis of belief. You have to decide what you really believe about this God you serve:
  • Will I go to this person and witness to them?
  • Will I lead the public prayer?
  • Will I lead this ministry or not?
  • Will I quit my job and enter full-time vocational ministry?
  • Will I just play it safe from the side lines for the rest of my life?

Actions speak louder than words. When called, or invited, what you do next reveals what you really believe about God. Following God will require faith and action on your part. In fact, faith without action is not faith at all. Obedience is what reveals faith.

When I felt God was calling me into full time ministry, the day came when I had to make a decision – remain at Westinghouse or leave. I stepped out of the boat.

When I accepted that God wanted me to be a church planter, I had to make a decision; I could machine gun my résumé to hundreds of churches hoping one would respond and just give me a job, or I could just risk everything and start from scratch.

God is interested in the world knowing Him. The only way that people will know what God is like is when they see Him at work in YOUR LIFE. This is why God calls us and sets us apart – so that we can be a demonstration of His provision, His kindness, and His faithfulness to come through.

This is why God chooses to work through you. People know you. They know what you can do. But when they see things happen that can only be explained by God’s involvement, they will come to know Him.

God is calling you to a God-sized assignment. Whatever it is, it is beyond where you are right now. Your assignment is to be a demonstration of His handiwork in the process of carrying out that assignment.

But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Praying for One Thing & Getting Another

Have you ever prayed for something and gotten something else? I have. We all have. But we usually don’t recognize it as the operation of God. We think God said no, or is not responding. Some people might lead you to believe that those are seasons in which God is trying to get you to persist. Maybe. Maybe not.

In Mark 2:1-5 is a remarkable story to illustrate this point. Four men brought their crippled friend to Jesus to be healed. Because of the crowd they had to climb the roof, open a hole there, and let the man down on ropes in front of Jesus. Jesus said to the man, Son your sins are forgiven” (v.5).

These four friends were asking Jesus to heal the mans physical infirmity, but Jesus forgave the mans sins. They asked for one thing, and Jesus gave another! Why? Jesus knew the mans greatest need - he needed forgivness more than he needed healing. Jesus wanted to give the man eternal life so he could inherit everything! The man was later healed, but only after the highest priority was first addressed.

We pray asking God for one thing and He sometimes delivers another. His perspective is bigger than ours, and He knows what we really have need of - even when we think we know best. He may want to accomplish another thing in you first before He answers what you are currently asking for.

Our problem is that we pray about something but never relate anything that happens as being connected to our prayers. We get discouraged believing it's not going to work out. Here's what you should do - after you pray about something turn on your spiritual concentration and anticipate the activity of God in response to your prayers. It may or may not be what you were asking for, but put up your spiritual antenna and listen. Look for God-activity. When you pray, God responds.

Expect God to answer your prayers. But stick around for the answer. His timing and response is always right and best.

What Happens When You Pray?

If I am praying asking God for one thing and something different happens, I find it is best (for myself) to respond to what IS happening. Perhaps God sees something I don’t see (of course He does), or perhaps He has another plan in mind, or maybe He wants to do a special work in me.

For instance, when I moved back here to Santa Rosa County to plant PCC, I always believed that I would reach dozens of my old friends from High School. I even prayed to that end. I asked God to bless those efforts and He has. Many people from my past attend PCC and my heart is overfilled with joy because of it. But God also began to send other sorts of people to PCC that I wasn't specifically asking for – strangers, different ethnicities, people from other countries, and hundreds from out of state. When this began to happen I had these options:
  • I could “keep on praying” about what I wanted
  • I could get frustrated (angry) and quit
  • I could open my eyes to what WAS HAPPENING as a result of my prayers and begin responding to it.

I chose option three. I adjusted my ambitions and expectations to God’s will. I adjusted my life to what God was doing around me. We began embracing the people God was sending us. I shudder to think of the opportunity I would have missed if I had been too hard headed or stubborn to follow God’s leading.

This principle has guided me my entire Christian life – everything from job searches, where to live, when to move, who to see, how to react, etc. It has served me well.

Maybe you are praying for a situation. The good news is God is concerned about your plight and the need you have. Keep praying about it. Who knows, He might answer it just the way you are asking for. He usually does. But if something different begins happening, adjust yourself to what God is doing. His perspective is bigger than yours and you’ll be in a much better place if you do.

He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20 NIV)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Stir Up the Gift of God

Stir Up the Gift of God which is in thee 2 Timothy 1:5

Timothy, a young preacher, must have been timid. Paul kept prodding him to not be hesitant because of his youth. He was a good young man and said good things… but he needed to be set on fire.

The gift of God that had been given to him for ministry had been reduced down to coals and it was up to Timothy himself to rekindle it into a blaze. And we see what follows… For God has not given us the spirit of fear (2 Tim.1:7).

Throughout the entire Bible God calls us to a holy boldness and promises to make us as bold. “The wicked flee when no man pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1).

The size of the prize often determines the severity of the fight. The enemy knows your weaknesses and will push you to the limit. When that happens, remember, “Blessed is the man who endures… for he shall receive the crown of life” (James 1:12).

Sometimes the safest place to be in “in the battle” for it is there that God’s protects you. King David did not get into trouble with Bathsheba until he left the battle field. So hang in there, fight the good fight of faith, and endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

Remember as a child how secure you felt in a fight knowing your big brother or sister (or friend) was behind you. Well, God is backing you up.

So stir up the gift of God that is within you.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Forty thousand visits to this blog. The ironic thing about it? I received an anonymous e-mail a while back from someone who told me to give it up because no one else cares!

I guess 39,999 others don’t share his opinion.

Some Christians Bother Me

I love Christ. It is some of His followers who turn me off! The truth is, I have a hard time loving some believers – even though I know I am supposed to.

I wished I liked all Christians, but I don’t. They are so judgmental. They are mean. They will argue and fight – and even disfellowship you - over the silliest things. Then there is the Angry Street Preacher who is yelling at the top of his lungs. What is he so mad about? And some Christians are just plain weird. Let’s not forget Christian television either – some of these people make my job almost impossible. Ever see those women with Pepto-Bismol-colored hair? See what I mean? And we’re supposed to be on the same team!

Enough with ranting. Let me get a little closer to home and a bit more specific. These are the things that really rub me the wrong way about some Christian people:

1. They seem angry and bitter about a lot of stuff. Why do so many believers have such bad attitudes? I thought we were supposed to have joy and peace.

2. Some have a greater allegiance to their theology more than to Jesus Himself. I mean some people will even go to blows over their belief system. If you cross them they will make it their mission in life to prove themselves right. I know a lot of people who love their doctrine more than they love Christ.

3. They are more concerned with the BMW next door than the lost person who drives it. Some Christians (or should I say church people) seem to hate anyone who has more money than they do. They will gladly fellowship with others who are in the same financial bracket as they're in, and are quite satisfied to let rich people go to hell.

4. They get morbid pleasure in seeing another believer or another church fail. You’ve seen it. There is this secret gloating when they see another fail. Some are brazen enough to just come right out in the open and say it, “He had it coming.” Maybe it’s our base nature, I don’t know, but there’s something within all of us that likes to see the high and mighty fall. That’s why gossip magazines are big business. But Christian people should never be like this… and yet many are – towards their brothers in Christ!

5. They use prayer (or God’s sovereignty) as an excuse for inaction. They are waiting for God to do His thing, but they won’t do their thing.

So much for the things I don’t like about some Christians. Let me close by telling you a few things about believers I DO like:

I love my weekly small group meetings. The guys who attend are imperfect, real, and often transparent. I love it when God fills our church with Christian people who are reliable, steady, and always there through thick and thin. You can count on them. I love the people who send me thank you notes that help brighten my day. I love the people who donate sacrificially to Pace Community Church to help us do quality ministry in a God-honoring way. I love it when God’s people pray… and when He answers. I love it when people use their spiritual gifts – not for themselves – but for ministry and to edify the Body of Christ. I love it when people “get it” – they start understanding grace, and they bubble over with it. I love it when imperfect people have a collision with a perfect God…. and God wins!

Monday, March 2, 2009

What Kind of "Belief" Do You Have?

There is a big difference between believing IN God and BELIEVING God. James pointed out the difference when he wrote, “You believe there is one God… even the demons do that much” (James 2:19). Demons believe IN God but obviously don’t serve Him. See the difference?

Many people are casual believers IN God. They will pray a polite prayer at the Thanksgiving meal, and attend church services on Christmas and Easter. But God doesn’t affect their lives or their spending habits. He doesn’t curb their morality, keep them from cursing on the job, gossiping, or telling a lie to get ahead. They believe IN God but still do pretty much what they want.

Another kind of belief is the convenient believer. This is the person who waves the Christian flag whenever it involves personal benefit. Such a person is quick to talk God-talk if it helps seal a business deal, or score a date, or land a promotion. This person uses their belief IN God to leverage circumstances for personal benefit.

The third kind of belief is the committed believer. This is what Jesus calls us to.... and represents what a true Christ-follower looks like. The road to commitment is paved with personal abandonment and self-denial. Life ceases to be (less) about us, and begins to be more about God. The committed believer doesn’t waver because of adverse circumstances. He is not moved by other’s opinions. He is a Christ-follower all the time. Obedience and faithfulness are his goals. 90% commitment to Christ is not enough for this person.