Saturday, May 30, 2009

When You Don't Get What You Want


But grow in grace…. 2 Peter 3:18

Losing is a part of life. We don’t always get what we want. These losses provide us with an opportunity for the development of our character. How do you handle disappointment when the promotion you applied for, goes to someone else? How do we react when our idea, proposal, or invitation gets rejected.

To live is to lose. But to lose badly, without grace, can be lethal. For instance…
  • The president of a company has an agenda for change that is dead in the water. No one wants it. But he’s stubborn and won’t take no for an answer, so he gets forced compliance instead. People in his company don’t resist him openly, but they sabotage his agenda. He loses their respect and loyalty. He was not willing to lose gracefully on his agenda, so instead he (and his company) lose in matters of far greater importance.

The apostle Peter, who was known for being bull-headed, had grown wiser and more mature, so he writes, “Grow in grace.” When you don’t get what you want – be gracious!

Sun tan anyone?




Friday, May 29, 2009

Sanctified People....


I could never be content with a church that was made up of believers only. God longs for the “lost to be found.” Not only should the lost be found, the found should be discipled. Success, to me, is not just more people but fully devoted people who are different, sanctified, set apart, holy.

While PCC is not a 1000 member church, our current attendance puts us larger than 85% of the churches in America. Okay. That’s good. But I’ve also seen people in our church family who had been with us for years, and in spite of our record attendance, falling into major sins such as immorality, uncleanness, gossip, slander, idolatry, false doctrine, envy & jealously, and others. It’s one thing to get people to church, but it’s a another thing to get people into Christ.

I’m asking God to take our church family into a deeper place of knowledge and commitment to Christ. I am weary of lazy, apathetic, carnally-minded Christians who are unfruitful and unproductive. These backsliders in heart usually don’t last, and most of them are gone. The Word of God, like a winnowing fork, separates the wheat from the chaff. Of those who are with us today, most are very sincere in their devotion to Christ and anxious to grow.

I think we are on the verge of a major spiritual breakthrough at PCC...

Oh God, make it so.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Downside of Small Groups


The verdict is in. People don’t attend Sunday School classes or small groups for the content. They attend to meet people. They don't attend for the presentation either. They attend for the relational connection.

I’ve been active in small groups for the last eleven years. Counting Sunday School participation before that, it has been twenty five years. I’m a firm believer in small groups of any kind (classes, ministry teams, informal, etc). If I didn’t believe in them and enjoy them, then I would not be active in them.

But there’s another side to small groups not talked about too often. I dislike the hypocrites who sit in judgment of anyone who outside of “their” group. I dislike the groups who end up getting a sense of pride and arrogance because they feel like they are more spiritually in tune with God than the rest of the church is….. and then they begin to question the leadership and direction of the church. These kinds of small groups become little pockets of divisive, controlling people.

I also dislike the forced intimacy and fake connections. Churches want to foster friendships, community, and spiritual growth in their congregations. This is a good thing. But you cannot MANUFACTURE community and fellowship. Churches are good at this; we find something that works organically and then package it as a new program and compel people to become involved.

I love the friendships, camaraderie, and beneath-the-surface fellowship that take place when I’m doing life with a few close friends in any kind of small group context. I am not afraid of being open and transparent with others. What I DON’T like is when someone tries to force me into a relationship through some institutionalized program of the church. This is uncomfortable and unfair. My best relationships (friendships, etc) have been those that were birthed spontaneously, organically, and on their own.

Small pockets of community within the larger congregation are important to have. But we will not FORCE it. We must simply ALLOW it to take place in a natural way. I want friendships and spiritual growth to happen organically, not organizationally.

Part of my job as a pastor is to help create as warm an environment as possible in our church family that helps people to get to know one another in a better way. As we do that, there is a better likelihood that friendships will develop in our congregation that will last a lifetime. In turn, they will take care of each other and be there for one another throughout every season of life. It is not the job of the senior staff to make everyone like each other…. but it IS our responsibility to encourage our people to care for one another and build friendships within the body of Christ.... and to do so in their own time and in their own way.

I guess that makes me an environmentalist… Not the tree-hugging kind, but someone who helps create the kind of environment where friendships and Biblical community naturally occur.

Loyalty & Unity


The unseen factor in PCC’s growth and health is something that most people don’t notice around here – loyalty and unity. We are a unified church. We are united in thought and purpose. We get along. There are no hidden agendas.

God blesses a unified church. Many churches have tremendous potential, but they never achieve what God desires because the members spend too much time fighting with each other. All their energy is focused inward.

Church is better when there is unity.

Christianity is better when there is unity.

When a church is in unity, there is a fragrance of incense in the house.

God has blessed this church family.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Handling Disloyalty in the Church


Lucifer demonstrated the FIRST ACT of disloyalty, and his actions led to his EXCOMMUNICATION from heaven.

12How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou
cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 13For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. (Isaiah 14:12-14 KJV).

Lucifer’s example shows us that any organization born of strife can only produce strife. What is born of God will remain, and what is born of Satan’s work of strife will be destroyed.

In light of this Bible truth and precedent, faultfinders and usurpers of authority should never believe they can take over a ministry or church from its rightful leaders and then start anything else with a pure motive and expect God’s blessings. A ministry born of strife breeds strife. On the other hand, a ministry born of loyalty breeds loyalty, and such a ministry will produce good fruit in its community.

When strife and disloyalty is found, it is critical that it be handled properly – swiftly and with the authority of scripture. Dismissal, expulsion from the church, and excommunication is the proper response. It is never easy to do this, especially if the person is a friend. It is even more difficult if the person in question has been in a high profile role.

Disloyalty in a church, or on a leadership team, comes as a shock. No one likes to believe it can happen to them – but it does. No one is exempt. Even God experienced disloyalty when Lucifer rebelled. Jesus experienced disloyalty from Judas. I’m sure King David was completely taken by surprise when Absalom, his son, Ahithophel, his friend, and his very own people took up arms and marched on his city.

How to Properly Dismiss a Disloyal Leader

1. Deal with the situation in private.

2. Document the person’s inappropriate behaviors and keep records of all meetings, phone calls, and e-mails.

3. Depending on the circumstances, explain it to the church after everything has been resolved. This will prevent the guilty party from later sowing more seeds of dissent.

In a best case scenario, the disloyal person will have a change of heart and expresses genuine remorse. In this case the person could be restored to fellowship. It is best to let the individual seek repentance on his own, after self-examination. Therefore, I do not advise chasing after the person, but rather letting the person return.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ft. Pickens Pier



For Memorial Day Renae and I drove to Ft Pickens. After several years of being closed, the road was finally re-opened to auto traffic. It was a splendid day. But I must say, the damage to the trees on the west in the the island is still very apparent. It will take decades for the pine tree forest to grow back and fully recover. It's all dead.

The best shot of the day was of the people fishing on the pier.

Click the photo for an enlarged view... it's beautiful.

The Wedding


Jonathan & Jamie - married!

The wedding was Saturday... had about 300 people in attendance. It was a great day.

For the full story you can read Renae's blog here

I'll post better quality pictures in a couple of days.

The Danger Signs of Disloyalty


Disloyalty is a state of mind. Because we have the ability to decide what goes into our minds, we can reject the feelings of disloyalty. It simply requires that we continually purify our thoughts, our motives, and our attitudes by the Word of God.

Left unchecked, however, a spirit of disloyalty will take root in our hearts. As this root grows, it reveals itself through a number of obvious signs that can alert us to possibilities of future conflict.

STEALING HEARTS
One danger sign is that disloyal leaders will try to steal the hearts of the people. In 2 Samuel 15:2, Absalom stood in a convenient place to turn the hearts of the people against his father, the king. Absalom used his position of authority (and trust) to begin spreading seeds of disloyalty and speaking out publicly against David (v.4). He created a power base to support his future plans.

PROMOTING SELF
Another danger sign of disloyalty is self-promotion. It’s interesting to note that in order to ruin David’s reputation, Absalom was fixing the spotlight firmly on himself.

Driven by their own idea of justice, or retaliation, disloyal people intentionally defame people of importance who might stand in their way. They become wrapped up in their own sense of self-importance and enter into a self-promotion phase of disloyalty. Consumed by their own ambitions, they cannot see that is it GOD who promotes.

PRIDE
Another dangers sign of disloyalty is pride. Over and over again the Bible warns us of the dangers of pride, yet this is the very sin that will be the downfall of a disloyal person. Because of pride, an angel was turned into a devil (i.e., Lucifer became known as Satan) and it led to his ruin. Pride will cause a disloyal person to pursue personal ambitions regardless of the mission or vision of the church or the authority structure of the leadership team. It will cause a person to focus on one’s own plans – and ministry to the body will come in second.

EASILY THREATENED or OFFENDED
Disloyal people think highly of themselves and are easily threatened or offended when their ideas are not used. When Absalom’s demand for justice was not carried out the way he thought it should have been, he believed he could govern the nation better than his father could. Because he was offended that his ideas were not used, he began to believe in his own abilities over the king, and it turned him into a rebel and a traitor.

HAVING AN INDEPENDENT SPIRIT
God calls people to work together as a team. He calls churches to be unified in thought and purpose. Disunity is a sin and has no place in a New Testament church. Yet, disloyal people will operate independently. It the church goes this way, they will go that way. They operate outside the protocols. They will be detached and hover in the corners. They don’t want fellowship, will miss essential meetings, and separate themselves from the main life of the church body.

Always Be Watchful….

The danger signs of disloyalty are important to know and recognize – in yourself and in your leadership team. It’s important to watch for them and deal with them as soon as they are noticed. Left to grow, the spirit of disloyalty will only consume and destroy.


Monday, May 25, 2009

The Disloyalty of a Friend - Ahithophel

Not everyone has experienced the betrayal of a close friend. Sure, some have lost employees, associates, and subordinates, but very few have felt the merciless sting of betrayal and conspiracy at the hands of a close and familiar friend.

Imagine the feeling of witnessing a familiar friend change his heart towards you. Even worse would be for that friend to help your detractors usurp your authority and attempt to destroy everything you have worked for.

King David found himself in such a situation when his friend Ahithophel, his counselor, someone David considered to be his “equal,” and his “guide,” joined Absalom’s conspiracy against him.

  • 30 But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot. All the people with him covered their heads too and were weeping as they went up. 31 Now David had been told, "Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom." So David prayed, "O LORD, turn Ahithophel's counsel into foolishness" (2 Samuel 15:30-31).

David thought highly of Ahithophel. They must have spent many hours together discussing the Law of God and governance of the kingdom. They were likely close enough to share their hearts – their weaknesses, joys, and sorrows, - with one another.

Listen to David’s heart as he shares the bitter sorrow of his friends betrayal:

  • “For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him; but it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and my acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company” (Psalm 55:12-14).

You can sense David’s brokenness. He has been betrayed, let down, and deceived. It’s easy to detect his absolute devastation, abject sorrow, and utmost disbelief and astonishment as he pours out his heart onto the page. They were friends, shared sweet counsel, and went to church together. It was almost too much for David to bear. He could not believe it.

I can imagine how he felt.

David goes on to express his pain…

  • “….he has broken his covenant. The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords” (Psalms 55:20-21).

David is sharing exactly what is in his heart. His heart has been broken by the disloyalty of his friend. We see the tragedy of the moment. David was shattered by the fact that Ahithophel had broken friendship with him .

But David understood that God was his ultimate source of help. In the next verse he says,

  • Cast your burden on the Lord (i.e., releasing the full weight of it) and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be moved” (v.22).

David also vents a little, and believed that that God would give these disloyal betrayers (Absalom & Ahithophel) their just reward.

  • “But you, God, will throw the others into a muddy bog, cut the lifespan of assassins and traitors in half. And I trust in You” (v.23).

I can identify with the pleasure David must have felt when he made that last statement. Right or wrong, that’s how he felt. He may have even been (secretly) hoping God would deal with them. We've all been there, haven't we? When we have been wronged we want some payback! But we are not allowed to take those kinds of matters into our own hands... we have to turn it over to God and allow Him to do what He will. That's the hard part. But it's necessary for our healing.

Because David eventually let go of the offense of Ahithophel’s disloyalty, his heart was healed. However, 2 Samuel 17:23 show us Ahithophel’s tragic end. After he went over to Absalom’s side and realized that his counsel was not going to be followed, he went home, set his house on fire and promptly hanged himself! This scene reminds us of David’s trust that God would throw the others into a muddy bog and cut the lifespan of assassins and traitors in half.

What a heartbreaking end for a man who had experienced the delight and pleasure of genuine friendship… and who's counsel WAS regarded when he was loyal to David.

LESSON: Never put aside years of friendship over a misunderstanding. That is stupid. Life is too short and genuine friendships are too few. It is easy to talk yourself into an offense. But the major characteristic of a person walking in faith is to walk in love – agape love – the love of God.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday Mind Dump

  • The past several days have been very busy – wedding plans… wedding decorations… rehearsal… the ceremony…. the reception… and clean-up! Then there was the Sunday morning services, along with two additional meetings with baptismal candidates. I’m beat.

  • Michele Harte, the lady I mentioned in service this morning that suffered a stroke, has experienced a second stroke. After church today I visited with her in ICU and she is doing as well as can be expected at this point. We prayed together and God’s Spirit seemed to be present in the room. Robert, her husband, is hopeful and optimistic… with a dose of reality. Continue to pray for this couple. And remember, she just had a baby twelve days ago.

  • Today’s services were very good, especially given it was Memorial Day weekend. While we didn’t plan a church service around an Armed Services theme, we did pay a brief tribute to our men & women in uniform (thanks Paul Thornton for the exceptional video). Beyond that, we heard a good Word, the music was good, and worship was heart-felt. Attendance was very good too.

  • I’m excited about our baptism service next Sunday. About 38-40 people on the list. Join us as we celebrate the public confession of these new followers of Christ.

  • Student Life Camp (for teens) is just around the corner. The week after that is Vacation Bible School. It’s almost time for our SUMMER SIZZLER SEASON to begin!

  • Next Sunday we will have a new stage design.

  • Had a new drummer on percussion today (i.e., the drum station behind the keyboard), and the young lady did an outstanding job. In fact, we are getting a lot more versatile in our musicians – Greg Gill is another new drummer (at the main drum station) and is also doing a excellent job. He even “breaks out” every now and then, adding a nice element to the music.

  • Our church grounds look as nice as they ever have. This would not be possible if it were not for the fine group of people who have taken ownership of this project. They make it happen.

  • The wedding yesterday was packed. It looked like a Sunday morning service. Thank you to everyone who came… it honored my family as well as the Lewis family.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Ain't it Awful Out There...


You've heard it before. It's what you might call "ain't it awful" preaching. It just complains about society, about churches, and makes judgements about people in general. Yea. It's long on diagnosis and short on remedy. This kind of mindset makes Christians feel superior, but it rarely changes anything.

Instead of lighting a candle, it just curses the darkness.

The kind of preaching needed in churches (and in the mission field of our community) is the kind that changes lives! It's not enough to point out what's wrong - we must show the answer. What people need are fewer diatribes of what they "ought-to" do, and more instruction on "how-to" do it! Denunciation is easy... especially from the sidelines.

Great leaders initiate plans of action, while calamity howlers point out the defects in the plan of others. It's better to bless, than to rail.

Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing (I Peter 3:9)

Choosing Nobodies


26For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29That no flesh should glory in his presence. (I Cor. 1:26-29 KJV).

Not many WISE. Not many MIGHTY. Not many NOBLE. God has chosen the FOOLISH. God has chosen the WEAK. God has chosen the BASE. And God has chosen the things that are DESPISED.

Why does God do this? To shame the wise and to nullify their reliance upon their own attributes. The advancement of the gospel is taken away from the world’s SOMEBODIES and given to the world’s NOBODIES, so that in the end no one can claim the credit (v.29).

Consider Jesus’ twelve apostles. Not one of them was important. They were ordinary. Not one priest among them. Not one rabbi, not one scribe, not one Pharisee, not one Sadducee – not one anything! Not even a synagogue ruler! About half of them were fisherman; the rest worked with their hands; one was even a insurrectionist who went around with a knife trying to spear Romans (Simon the Zealot); then there was Judas, the loser of all losers. What was the Lord doing when He chose this motley crew?

He picked people with absolutely no influence. And He is still doing it.

Consider John the Baptist. He had no formal education, no training in a trade or profession, no money, no military rank, no political position, no social pedigree, and no impressive appearance. Yet Jesus said that no one was greater than John the Baptist (Matt.11:11).

The person we least suspect to be used as an instrument of God, many times, is the very one whom God uses. God chooses the underdog, or the least esteemed among us, as vessels for His purposes.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Discovery, Responsibility, and Balance


When I gave my life to Christ at age 23, my relationship with Him was very real. I felt alive! Reading the Bible with new spiritual eyes was like coming out of a coma. Each day more fog lifted. As I read through the New Testament I could hardly wait to see what was coming next, and each page was a new discovery. It was such an adventure!

Twenty eight years later I know more about the Bible than I have ever known. Having devoted half a lifetime to its study I can discuss almost any topic or theological issue in an informed manner. And God has given me the privilege of being the lead pastor of the greatest church I’ve ever been a part of. What a journey it has been.

But sometimes I miss the simplicity of being a “babe” in Christ. It was a simple life; very little responsibility and a lot of discovery. Don’t get me wrong. Christ is still very personal to me. His Word is still contains undiscovered treasures, because no one can fully plumb its fathomless depths, even over a lifetime. For the most part, as I have grown, my relationship with Christ has deepened to become deeper, richer, and fuller than ever before. But now, along with my personal walk with Christ comes leadership responsibility. And I embrace it.

But it also complicates things...

I am responsible (in some measure) for hundreds of people who call PCC their church family, and by extension, their families too. We have people on payroll whose families could be affected by the success or failure or our church. That is a heavy weight to bear. There are State and Federal laws we have to comply with. There are ministries to lead, staff to supervise, volunteers to recruit, polices to write, budgets to fund and manage, people to take care of, and buildings to maintain. Add infitim. And every week I’ve got Sunday staring me in the face like the barrel of a gun, and when I show up to church I’ve got to have something to say! Bible study isn’t so relaxing anymore.

It’s important that spiritual leaders continually strive for balance. As we grow in Christ our responsibilities increase, yes, but it’s also important that we never lose the wonder of it all. We have to carve out time to be alone with Christ and with our Bible; to renew our first love; to hear Him speak; to come out of our self-induced coma. No matter where you are in your spiritual journey, (year one, or year twenty five), take time for rest and spiritual refreshment.

Christ is still the hidden treasure buried in a field, just waiting to be discovered all over again.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Quotable Quotes...

I got some notes from a recent pastors conference. Here are a few quotes worth sharing:

  • What is it that God wants to do in our church? Not, what is it that the deacons or the bloggers want? But what does GOD want?

  • God used unschooled, ordinary men to change the world.

  • Most churches stick their kids in the basement with a woman that knew Moses.

  • Did you know that some people don’t want the church to grow?

  • The church in Acts grew because it was willing to change.

  • We can prepare for a move of God, but we can’t plan it.

  • We yell at lost people for acting like lost people.

  • Unconfessed sin impacts the power of God in our churches.

  • Secret sins are secret only for a short time.

  • God has a plan to bring secret sins out into the open.

Why Consensus Usually Doesn't Work


Consensus – agreement in collective opinion…

I’m growing more and more convinced that the worst thing leaders can do is to always strive for a consensus about decisions that must be made. Think government. Think church committee meetings. Think declining big business. Think declining churches.

On the surface, reaching a consensus seems like a positive thing because it means a group of people have agreed to move in the same direction. That’s a good thing, isn’t it? Most of the time it is. But if the organizational structure requires (or unsure leaders need) consensus before a decision can be made, then it becomes a lethargic slow-moving system in which very little is accomplished.

For example, here are five
reasons why consensus can be counterproductive:

1. It embraces the status quo. Change, whether positive or not, is not human nature. We would prefer for things to remain the way they are today. So, when people get together to discuss the possibility of doing something a little different in the future, it’s normal for the majority to avoid making changes.

2. It gives the malcontents an equal voice in your decision. Reaching consensus gives everyone a voice at the table. When that happens, even the negative, bitter folks who don’t really embrace the vision have the opportunity to pull the rest of the group away from what could really be the most desirable outcome.

3. It short circuits the radical ideas that lead to the biggest breakthroughs. The big, bold ideas won’t see the light of day. Yet those are the ideas that could potentially lead to the best innovations. Consensus brings people back to the middle where the majority approves but mediocrity reigns.

4. It leaves unresolved conflict on the table. At the opposite ends of a decision are distinct opinions which, if left unresolved, could potentially lead to division. Consensus prevents tough conversations from happening. It gives people the freedom to jump to compromise without engaging a healthy debate.

5. It discourages people from dreaming big dreams. Do you want to quash the creative-thinkers and visionaries in your church? Force them to reach consensus with the rest of the crowd. These are the people that think outside the box, making "inside the box" people uncomfortable. Yet they may be the very ones who are creative enough to see something with fresh eyes. Quash them and they will simply go someplace else.

Consensus cannot always be arrived at. The opinions are often too diverse. With that kind of decision-making machinery in place, one “no” can outweigh a dozen “yeses.” One nay can delay. Unanimous consent is good. It is desirable. And it would work IF church committees were populated by cherubim.

“Consensus negates leadership.” - Margaret Thatcher

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

50,000!


50,000 hits! Wow! Thanks for visiting.

On the other hand, that means a whole lot of people have lost five minutes of their lives forever!

A Letter I Received....


Living a public life is not so much fun – it’s like living in a fish bowl, or always being in somebody’s headlights. Trust me, not easy.

But there are certain people in the body of Christ who make it all bearable. They are “encouragers.” In fact, they might even have the gift of encouragement. Aside from ministering their gift to the body, they often direct it towards their pastor. These people can do more for a pastor’s emotional well-being than a professionally trained therapist. They are gifts from God.

I received a letter last Sunday that was a great encouragement.

A well-timed “thank you” from someone can lift me for days.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Spiritual Receptivity

Italic

Jesus said….

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:44 NIV)

Read that verse carefully. In it we see the operation of God in drawing men to Christ. This is important to realize because without the supernatural element of the Holy Spirit in the salvation process, men cannot be saved.

There is kind of a “fast food” mentality in Christianity today in which people believe (or are led to believe) that they can simply “sign up” for salvation. It’s been reduced down to a formula, i.e., raise your hand, say this prayer, sign a card and poof! – you’re in the club! Those acts, by themselves, do not bring salvation. In fact, you can jump through all the hoops that churches compel men to, or do any tribal dance that religion expects, and it does not bring salvation unless the Holy Spirit is actually drawing men to Christ.

The Parable of the Sower (Matt.13:3-23) illustrates this truth. A farmer planted seed (the Word) on four different types of soil, and only one patch of ground was fertile and became fruitful. In this parable Jesus explained that some people have HARD hearts, SHALLOW hearts, DISTRACTED hearts, and RECEPTIVE hearts. Some people are open to the gospel, and others are closed. Salvation formulas (propagated by churches) will NOT help the closed heart.

Spiritual receptivity comes and goes in people’s lives like an ocean tide. People are more open to spiritual truths at certain times than at other times. Clearly, the Holy Spirit is ALWAYS at work in the earth in drawing all men to Christ (John 12:32), but the individual is not always open to the dealings of God.

The most receptive people are those who are in TRANSISTION (major change like a new baby, new marriage, new home, new school) and are needing stability in their lives. Another group of people who are spiritually receptive are those under TENSION (such as emotional pain, divorce, death of the loved one, unemployment, financial problems, family trouble, loneliness, resentment, guilt, and other stresses) and are looking for something greater than themselves to ease the pain and fill the void they feel. Some people simply have an AWAKENING and hunger for spiritual truths.

A great benefit of focusing on receptive people is that you don’t have to pressure them to receive Christ. IF THE FRUIT IF RIPE, YOU DON’T HAVE TO YANK IT!

Paul said...

I have planted, Appolos water; but God gave the increase (I Corinthians 3:6)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Call of God (Part 4) - Is God Calling You?


All Christians are called to full time service; that is, we live our faith and serve God everyday of our lives. But there is also a call into the ministry as a life-long vocation.

1. The ministry is fulfilling. The ministry is a wonderful way to spend your life, if God allows you. While few ministers get famous and fewer get wealthy, there are far greater rewards than money and fame. It is almost impossible to find an older minister who does not think his or her life was a life filled with meaning and impact. Ask any older minister if they regret being in the ministry and if their life was well invested. Almost all of them will say, “I would do it again.” It’s true, investing your life in the ministry provides the greatest of all satisfactions. If God calls you to this, you will love the ministry as a vocation.

2. The ministry is hard work, but worth it. Don't get the idea that the ministry is a cushy job without trial or difficulty. It isn't. Ministry today might be one of the toughest fields of work you could consider. As a minister, you will be called to lead a congregation of people who have widely differing opinions and preferences. They will want church to be like a fast food restaurant where they can order exactly what they want and receive it within sixty seconds! And people, being what they are, can sometimes get downright nasty. Often, it's the minister who bears the brunt of their displeasure.

Then there is the competition. There will be dozens of other churches down the street from you who will offer better programs, bigger screens, and more exciting and relevant music. Sometimes people leave one church and move to another. It's hard to not take rejection personally.

Then there is the devil. The minute you accept a call into the ministry, you will have a bulls-eye painted in your chest…. or back. For instance, if you started a business you would face stiff competition from other businesses in town, but the devil is not likely to spend too much energy trying to run you out of the hardware trade. Instead he focuses his diabolical schemes on the church and its ministers - he'll try to drive your church out of business and you out of the ministry.

Nevertheless, the ministry is more fulfilling than it is easy. It's hard work, but it's worth it. Ministers get lots of ministry highs, but even on the days when it doesn't feel particularly good to be a minister, they keep going because they believe ministry is a worthwhile and eternal pursuit. When you cross the minister's finish line, you'll know that it was worth it! If you are called to the ministry, you aren't promised an easy life, but you are promised a life that's worthwhile.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Call of God (Part 4) - What Does it Mean to be Ordained?


Ordain – to officially invest one with ministerial or priestly authority, by appointment, decree, or by the laying on of hands.

“Lay hands suddenly on no man…” ( I Timothy 5:22)

Ordination is an authorizing act of the church that recognizes and confirms God’s call to ministerial leadership upon those who will be stewards of both the gospel and the church of Jesus Christ. It is important to realize that God calls but the church ordains. The church does not claim the right to call people to the ministry. That is the work of God through the Holy Spirit Himself.

By means of ordination the church officially acknowledges & approves you as a minister (pastor, overseer, etc). This act may be bestowed in an ordination service with the laying on of hands, or some other type of public recognition, in which the candidate is publicly proclaimed as a true man or woman of God, divinely called, endowed with certain gifts for spiritual leadership and graces for public ministry, who possesses a thirst for knowledge, especially the Word of God, and can clearly communicate the sound doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This act of ordination comes only after such persons have been observed, trained, proven, and evaluated. “Lay hands suddenly on no man…” is the guiding principle here. To hasten this process (by ordaining novices, the unqualified, or the unproven) is disastrous.

Ordination is a spiritual and theological act of the church. It is more than receiving a certificate to minister. It is more than being hired. It is more than passing qualifying exams. It is the church’s acknowledgement that God has called and gifted certain men and women for ministerial leadership in the church. Because scripture teaches that in Christ there is neither slave nor free, Jew nor Greek, male nor female, but all are one in Christ, Pace Community Church recognizes and will ordain persons regardless of their economic status, their nationality or race, or their gender. The issue in ordination is the testimony of a call from God, having been proven by evidence of fruitfulness in ministry.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Call of God (Part 3) - What Does it Mean to be Called?


In scriptures the term “call” of God is used several ways. There is the call to SALVATION (Romans 8:30, I Corinthians 1:9; I Thessalonians 2:12). In fact, it is more than a calling, it is a COMMAND (Acts 17:30).

After salvation, God calls believers to FELLOWSHIP with Christ (I Cor.1:9), to HOLINESS (I Thess.4:7) to LIBERTY (Galatians 5:13) to PEACE (I Cor. 7:15) to VIRTUE (2 Peter 1:3) and to WALK WORTHY of the calling they have received (Ephesians 4:1).

Beyond this, there is a call to SPECIFIC MINISTRY service. The Lord has been calling individuals for specific ministries for millennia. He called Abram out of Ur; Moses out of Egypt; and Aaron from among the Levites (Heb.5:4).

The Lord also called many others in the Bible for certain ministries. From Isaiah (Isa.6:9) to the twelve disciples, to Paul (I Tim. 1:11), the Lord has been calling men and women into service.

Many people today are recognizing God’s call to minister in a variety of different capacities. One type of minister directs works of compassion and relief for people suffering from hunger, homelessness, sickness, addiction, economic hardship, and disaster. Other ministers serve as chaplains in the armed services, in hospitals, prisons and retirement centers, and with police officers and firefighters.

God may be calling you as a staff pastor to a specific age group of the church like children, or youth, and their families, or senior adults. You may have special talents in outreach evangelism, church administration, or music that God will use to build his church.

Some men and women are called to bi-vocational ministry. These ministers hold significant employment outside the church, to maintain community contacts and provide financial support for their families while they also serve as congregational leaders.

A call from God into a ministry is a high and heavenly calling (Phil. 3:14) which unfortunately is taken lightly by some today.

HOW WILL I KNOW IF I'M CALLED TO PREACH?
The traditional and most common view of a calling from God is the call to preach, especially in pastoral ministry, and in a full-time capacity. It also includes missionaries, evangelists, or church planters.

THERE WILL BE AN INWARD WITNESS
Inwardly, there will be an irrepressible desire to engage in the work of the ministry. The evidence of this inward compulsion is found in I Timothy 3:1, "This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work." This inward compulsion begins to take place with the individual long before other people recognize the person as a candidate for ministry. Some people may become aware of a call to ministry through their reading of the Holy Scriptures. Others may sense this summons through a deep love of things spiritual, and a changing of the heart. Regardless of the means that God uses to awaken you to His call, your encounters with the scriptures will nourish and affirm this call.

In my own experience, I vividly remember going through this process for at least two or three years before I let the idea “leak out” to those around me; specifically my family. But it was an irresistible call for me… without choosing to think about it, I thought about it all the time. The more I tried to ignore it, the more preoccupied I became with it. I felt drawn to preach God’s Word… to honor God… for the conversion of souls… and the building up of His people. What’s more, I wanted to do it. My heart was in it. I was frightened to death about the prospect, but I craved the idea nonetheless.

THERE WILL BE A CHARACTER WITNESS

In ones character, there will be evidence of growing in Christ and Christ-like behavior. Such a person will be maturing in life, character, and conduct. Those who are called to preach will become models of personal piety and devotion to Christ. Without this no one can be an example to the flock of God (I Peter 5:3).

Additionally, such a person will meet the ministerial qualifications found in I Timothy 3:11-7 and Titus 1:6-9. While no one is perfect and perfectly qualified, any glaring violations of these standards would mean disqualification.

Then there is the matter of gifts and talents of those whom God calls. One essential for pastoral ministry is the ability to teach (I Timothy 3:2). When God calls people into a preaching or teaching capacity He gives them the ability to communicate His Word effectively, understandably, and with power. Ministerial training is important, and good training will develop gifts. But training will not furnish what God has not given.

THERE WILL BE AN OUTWARD VERIFICATION
Another and necessary aspect of God’s call to the preaching ministry is confirmation by others. As your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ observe your life and service, and compare what they see with the qualifications for ministry, the Holy Spirit will bear witness to them that God has called you…. and they will tell you so.

Not everyone will affirm you. In fact, many will try to discourage you. Therefore your inward witness must be stronger than outward opposition. But the people whose opinions do matter will be your pastor, perhaps other ministers you know, as well as spiritually mature believers in your church family. Eventually the church body as a whole will come to recognize and validate your call.

THERE WILL BE EVIDENCE OF FRUITFULNESS
A question often asked by those who are wondering if they have a call into the ministry is, “How can I know if I am called?” The answer is simple. You will know in the same way that you know if you have certain natural gifts. A watchful parent carefully looks over their children to discover what natural bent they display which may indicate a future career choice. So it is in the spiritual – a Spirit-gifted child of God who has been called into some definite office of ministry will QUICKLY DISPLAY WELL-MARKED CAPABILITIES along a certain line.

These will be further proved as coming from the Lord by the simple fact that BLESSINGS WILL QUICKLY RESULT and ones “talent” will soon begin to MULTIPLY making “OTHER TALENTS.” Moreover, the local church will BEAR WITNESS that such a person has a definite ministry entrusted to him/her from the Lord.

The proof is in the pudding… in results… in fruitfulness… in multiplication.

WHAT SHOULD I DO?
If you believe God is calling you into a preaching or pastoral ministry, your first step (once you are ready and have the matter resolved internally) is to tell your pastor. Tell him that you are conscious of a call. He can give you wise counsel from years of experience, and inform you of any formal process to follow in your church.

After that, you should begin or continue your personal preparation. Develop your spiritual disciplines, especially those of the Word, prayer, and personal character. Devote yourself to your local church. Find a place to teach there. Study the Bible and theology as much as you can.

If you can do anything else and be happy doing it, then do that. But if you can say like the apostle Paul, “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel” (I Cor. 9:16), then you are probably called of God and will never be happy doing anything else.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Call of God (Part 2) - A Divine Call


And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints… (Ephesians 4:11-12a)

Notice the words “HE GAVE.” These ministers come fresh from God Himself. They are His own provision to the church for the continuance of ministry. The One who died, rose again, and ascended into heaven is the One who CALLS men & women into the ministry and then GIVES them to the Church. He is the giver of such ministers.

A great truth is implied here; something that is contrary to modern notions about “entering the ministry” and being “ordained.” If “He gave,” then there can be no question that there is NO DIVINE APPOINTMENT into the ministry unless Christ Himself has called such a person. A person may be appointed, elected, or selected by a committee or congregational vote, but if the Giver of Gifts Himself has not called and given this person to the church, then their ministry is merely human effort or ambition. If a person’s desire is to simply achieve a position and be given a title, then it is sheer vanity, and even worse.

It must be pointed out; the emphasis in Scripture is upon DIVINE BESTOWAL, not upon an act of human consecration. Where consecration is urged it is in regard to the gifts ALREADY GIVEN. If the gift and calling are not present, no amount of consecration can bring about divine bestowal.

If you can avoid entering the ministry, then do so! On the other hand, if you are truly called you will feel as if the ministry is the only thing you can do.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Call of God (Part 1) - The Call to Preach


Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. BUT HIS WORD WAS IN MINE HEART AS A BURNING FIRE SHUT UP IN MY BONES, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay. Jeremiah 20:9

We believe that God calls all believers into ministry service. But there is also a distinct call to preach, or to be placed into one of the five offices of apostolic ministry (as found in Ephesians 4:11-12). As such God actually “puts” men & women into the ministry and "sets them apart" for special service.

The call to preach, for instance, comes in many different ways to different people, but the one common denominator for them all is THE LORD is the One DOING THE CALLING.

Not having an unshakable conviction and sense of divine call is one of the main reasons why so few who begin preaching actually stay devoted to it for a lifetime. But preachers like Jeremiah (above) are sure of the fire of God’s call in their bones, and cannot do anything but preach.

Sometimes mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, friends, and church members decide for a young person he should be a preacher, or at least would make a good preacher. But this is not God’s way. The call to preach comes from God.

For some, ministry today is defined as a “profession” which one simply decides to enter. After fulfilling a certain course of study of academics (some of it might actually include the Bible), a man or woman then enters “the ministry” just as one would enter any other field of employment. The problem with this approach is that it is contrary to revealed scripture.

You can no more send yourself into the pulpit than you can send yourself overseas as an official ambassador of the United States. This is not something one looks at and says "Oh I think I’d like to try that." There is a mystery to this calling; something not-of-this-world.

This calling cannot be escaped either, as Jeremiah testified. Paul said the same thing, "For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for NECESSITY IS LAID UPON ME; yea, WOE IS UNTO ME, if I PREACH NOT the gospel!”(1 Cor 9:16). If a man can live without preaching then he does not have this calling that Paul speaks about. GOD lays this burden upon whom HE will and no man can silence that nor overturn it.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

We Are Experiencing a Move of God

  • God’s Spirit is moving everywhere. He is ceaseless in accomplishing His divine work in the lives of people. Along those lines, I think that we are beginning to experience a fresh move of God at Pace Community Church. I mean something different, new, and unusual. I have been feeling an anticipation deep in my spirit for many, many months and now I’m beginning to see the signs. I’m not talking about mere numbers and organizational statistics that graph well on the end-of-year report. I’m talking about a sovereign move of God. A divine wind. Fresh fire. An outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Personal renewal. Drawing near to God.

  • One of the main things we are concerned about at PCC is making hell less crowded. That’s Luke 15 kind of stuff… angels in heaven rejoice in the presence of God when one sinners repents.

  • I believe that hundreds of people in our city are going to be swept into the kingdom of God by a divine move of God’s Spirit. I also believe that He has strategically positioned PCC here for such a time as this.

  • Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.

  • Will you help me pray to that end?

  • Pray for yourself… Draw near to God and He will draw near to you… Develop a deep hunger and craving for the things of God…. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.

  • Pray for me… That I will drawn near to God too…. That I will develop a deeper hunger for the things of God…. That I am filled to overflowing…. That I can lead well, preach well, and always be sensitive to the Holy Spirit.

  • I believe that it is going to be noised abroad that a fresh move of God is taking placed at PCC. People will come from miles around to be saved…. filled… healed… helped…. set free… and radically changed by the power of God.

  • Experiencing God. That’s what I want. I want people to experience God… and to do so with a steadfast reliance on solid Bible teaching. In the scripture we find life.

  • Before church today I was speaking with a lady in the atrium. She was going on and on about how pleased she is about our church; how open, inviting, and accepting PCC is. We have all sorts of diversity, yet everyone is welcome and FEELS welcome. To put it in a nutshell, I would say we are like a warm incubator perfectly suitable for newborns in Christ. Showing that kind of love and kindness is EXACTLY WHY God is going to use PCC for greater things. Thank you S.W. for saying such kind words.

  • Somebody turned in a tan card today, anonymously, and on the back these simple words appeared, “Bless you.”

  • Between services today I stepped into my office to sit down and take a break before second service began. I found a note on my desk. This is what it said, “Pastor, This is BY FAR the MOST powerful sermon I have ever heard from you. All I can say is, if you were preparing this – Satan must have tried to stop you. Thank you for enduring any attacks that came. I’m sure many lives were changed today! Certainly, God was glorified through your obedience.” Thank you D.K. for your uplifting words of encouragement.

  • We have almost 40 people signed up to be baptized. Wow!

  • Just beneath the surface of what you can see each Sunday, God is DOING DEEP THINGS in the hearts of people. Only the discerning can see this. It is rising, and rising and almost at the point where it is going to burst forth for all to see.

  • In the last days, God says, I will POUR OUT MY SPIRIT ON ALL PEOPLE. Your SONS and DAUGHTERS will prophesy, your YOUNG MEN will see visions, your OLD MEN will dream dreams. Even on my servants, BOTH MEN and WOMEN, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. (Acts 2:17-18 NIV)

  • The momentum at PCC right now is unlike anything I’ve seen in a long time. Every week I show up EXPECTING God to do great things.

  • One day the name Pace Community Church will fade away…. But the Name of JESUS will ENDURE FOREVER.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Expectations in the Ministry


He arrived at PCC at a critical time. Very quickly we became friends and co-laborers in the work of the ministry. There were things that we simply could not have accomplished without his help. I thought this person would eventually be on full time staff with us. It was exciting.

In the ministry, we have expectations. We dream about new believers, spiritual growth, numerical growth, new ministries, dynamic ministries, acceptance, appreciation, spiritual gifts, growing budgets, exceptional staff members, missions, kingdom advancement, and experiencing fulfillment.

Having been in the ministry about twenty years by the time he showed up at PCC gave me ample opportunity to meet and encounter a large cross section of church people. This particular man, we’ll call him Vince, seemed like an answer to prayer for me. In many respects he was; we worked together, shared meals together, traveled together, and even spent time in each others homes. I was investing in him, preparing him for a greater role at our church. I felt a friendship being forged that I thought would last a lifetime. He often said, “I’ve got your back. I’ll be there until the end. When we are both old, I’ll roll you in to the services at PCC in a wheel chair.” I believed it.

Expectations.

Then it began to happen. This good natured co-laborer who possessed such a good sense of humor began to sour. Maybe it was due to the changes associated with moving into our new building; the new policies, the new work environment, and the needed realignment of our internal systems. Maybe it had something to do with our church’s growth and all the new people that were coming in. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I was stretched thin and just didn’t have as much time for everyone as I did before. Maybe he was overworked; working a full time secular job and trying to keep pace with (an almost full time) ministry work load. Maybe it had something to do with his ministry area that was not living up to his expectations. I don’t know. All I do know is things only deteriorated.

Then it came time for our annual evaluations. Each year, all our ministries, ministry leaders, and staff are evaluated on performance, effectiveness, and fruitfulness. This helps us determine what changes or improvements need to be made, and how much funding a ministry will receive for the following year. Since this man had become the head of a ministry department (after moving into our building) and had been leading it for 14 months, it was time for his evaluation. I specifically remember sitting in a staff meeting reminding everyone that evaluation time had arrived, and saying, “Vince, this will be your first time to be evaluated. As you know, everyone else in this room goes through this process each year, and since you helped write this performance evaluation policy yourself, you shouldn’t have any problems with it. Right?” Well, he acted ugly and really showed himself. It became apparent to everyone in the room that he had some real issues and was very unhappy. I steadied myself, (and friendship or not), said, “You wrote this policy and you are subject to it just like everyone else.”

About two weeks later I attended one of his ministry meetings (to make observations and begin the evaluation process) and to my utter astonishment this program was barely hanging on by a thread! It had started with a public launch, pastoral support, a three-week sermon series to get it going, a 5k budget, and about 50 people. I threw my full weight behind this effort. Yet, this ministry was now down to six people! Six people! Not only that, most of the budget had been used up and additional expenses were being incurred that the church had to bear (which was draining resources from other areas). To make matters worse, he wanted to go on a very large end-of-year spending spree (for advertisement) that would hopefully salvage this ministry that he had single handedly driven into the ground. That’s when I knew that I needed to step in and put the brakes on.

We were in a dilemma; this ministry had become a funnel for money and was an enormous drain on our church's limited resources - plus it was not living up to anyone's expectations. Not a good combination. We were bleeding at the seams and needed to stop the hemorrhaging. My recommendation to our leadership team (in previous weeks) was this - since the program has already shrunk down to a handful of people it should be restructured accordingly. There was simply no justification for a ministry that was on the brink of failure to receive that kind of funding for the following year, in an attempt to "relaunch" it and try agian. I also recommended that this program be “right sized” to fit within our small groups system, making it a better organizational fit for our church. That way it would no longer be a competing system, competing with other ministries in our church (that were more fruitful) for resources, funding, building usage, and utilities. Under this new structure the program would be allowed to continue and still be a blessing to its group members. For Vince, it would mean that he would not have to carry such a large work load any longer (on top of his full time secular employment), probably making him more effective as a ministry leader. After showing up at the ministry meeting that night, it was apparent (and confirmed) that he did not have the gifting or talent to make this ministry become as large as he dreamed it would become (no matter how much funding he had). I knew this was going to be a tough evaluation.

I never got the chance.

The next morning when I came into work (at the church offices) I discovered Vince had left our church. When I walked into the administrative area, there on the desk was the entire ministry curriculum (that PCC had purchased) for this program, as well as his church key. There was no note, no phone call, no explanation. No nothing. He was just gone. He walked away before he could be formally evaluated. I simply showed up at one of his meetings and it was too much for him. He quit.

When it came to evaluations, he was not willing to submit to the very thing the rest of us are subject to. The irony of it all? He helped write the evaluation policy himself! An even greater irony is that he is in middle management at his place of employment and is well accustomed to performance reviews.

His real problem? He expected to be exempt. He expected preferential treatment from me… from our church… and from our church’s budget. He expected us to ignore his failure. He wanted more funding - funding that could not help his program anyway - funding that could be better used elsewhere. He was hoping for an “A” grade in his evaluation, but instead was going to get something much lower. He knew it, and he ran from it. It was hard for him to accept, that, although we were friends and co-laborers in the ministry, as a pastor my oversight of the church is not for sale. He had expectations of me that I could not live up to.

I’ve told this story to say this – before you quit your church (over decisions that are sometimes made by overseers) stop long enough to consider the fact that your church leaders may actually know what is best for the church as a whole, and they make those decisions accordingly. You probably have tunnel vision and limited vision, being concerned primarily about your ministry area only and how those decisions might affect you personally. But church leaders have to look at the big picture, are privy to information that you do not possess, and must balance their decisions in light the interests of other people, and what’s best for the body as a whole. If you quit your church because of discontent, it will follow you wherever you go. No matter what church you transfer to, your internal (and unresolved) discontent will eat you alive. It is best to stay put and work your way through the tough issues.

If this man had stayed with us and submitted to godly counsel, he would still be leading that ministry here. People would be blessed, it would be very fruitful by now and he and I would still be friends. The program simply needed to be “right sized” to be effective. If he had allowed us to do that, it would be a flourishing vine by now. Pace Community Church is a fertile vineyard, currently experiencing a move of God, and if he had remained “planted” here his ministry would be very successful today.

Instead, it had to be his way or the highway. He found another church that allowed him to set up the program there and he ran it the same way he ran it here…. into the ground. The last I heard, there were two people in the group. Two people! i.e., Himself and one other! After 29 months and backing from two churches, it has withered on the vine and the fruit has fallen to the ground. None of this had to be. Maybe a hard look in the mirror is in order here.

Sometimes it best to listen to and follow the wisdom of others. Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety (Proverbs 11:14).

Note: Next week I am beginning a series on “The Call of God” in which we will look at these topics: How to Know if You Are Called…. Evidences of a Calling… Do Pastors Need Seminary Training?... Qualifications for Pastors… etc. Today’s posting is the introduction to that series.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

What We Believe About Children's Ministry


#1. It matters to us who is on our team.

We are looking for people who love to laugh, who have energy, who have a story of how Jesus changed their life and have a passion to tell that story to kids. We are looking for people who can teach a lesson to kids without boring them to death. We are not simply looking for warm bodies to plug in – we are looking for people who love children. We will not beg you to volunteer in the children’s ministry, nor will we attempt to coerce you to volunteer. Coerced volunteers do not genuinely care about kids and don’t last. We want people who care.

#2. It matters to us what we do (quality).

Great looking spaces are important to have. We strive to create a “kids environment” that is just for kids. We decorate the rooms with bright colors and Biblical themes, and put images on the wall at (their) eye level. More importantly, we strive to have a quality life-changing program for kids. It’s great to look good, but when it comes to children, God EXPECTS us to BE good. Children matter to God, and therefore they matter to us. Our children are too important for workers to show up UNPREPARED and just “winging it.” We will let you go for that. It’s inexcusable. We get an hour on Sunday, (one hour a week, that’s all), to present the gospel to children, and that hour deserves our best.

Quality matters.
Children are intelligent and discerning, and they know what they like. It is an insult to them, God, and our church, if we fail to do our very best.

#3. It matters what parents think.

The first question that parents usually ask their children at dismissal time is, “Did you have fun today?” The second question is, “What did you learn today?” The answer to these questions carries more weight with parents than many church leaders and workers realize. For the record, Cathy Denny and I realize this weight.

We need parents on our side. They are the number one spiritual influencers in their children’s lives. It is our job to partner with them, gain their confidence, and arm them with the tools to lead their children into a lasting relationship with Christ. Furthermore, by gaining the confidence of parents, we have a potential pool of future workers.

BTW, each week Cathy Denny (our children’s ministry director and children’s pastor) posts on her blog an entry entitled, “What Your Child Learned in Church Today.” This is a “for-the-record” report of what goes on each week. You may access her blog by using the link on the left side of my home page.

Let’s get started.

Working with children is not punishment. It is fun, strategic, important, and fulfilling. In fact, it is essential. Our current team of staff and workers finds fulfillment and joy from serving in this vital ministry. This ministry team represents some of the finest servants we have in our church. They realize they are changing lives for eternity.

If you want to be part of high quality ministry team that is involved in vital work, just contact Cathy Denny at pcckidzministry@aol.com

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

We Do Children's Ministry - not Child Care


At PCC we invest a significant amount of time, effort, personnel, talent, and resources into creating meaningful worship and teaching experiences for our children. Even in the nursery, (where the babies only sleep, eat, soil, and cry), these children and their parents are prayed for and cared for by committed staff and volunteers.

We do not simply provide “child care” where you can just drop off your children without giving any thought or commitment to the program yourself. This is not a baby-sitting service for you, and our workers are not there to carry the entire load for you. We do ministry here. Ministry is important. It requires our BEST effort. This also means that, as a parent who enjoys the benefit of these ministries, YOU are expected to get involved too. You don’t get a free ride on this indefinitely. You don’t get to “eat for free” forever. At some point you have to pitch in, get involved, and get under the heavy end of the log. We EXPECT you to.

When you sign your kids up for soccer, cheerleaders, baseball, boy scouts, or girl scouts, those organizations REQUIRE participation from the parents…. and you give it! So it’s not a matter of whether or not you have the time, it’s a matter of what you are making time for, and have committed yourself to.

If the truth be known, you need to serve in our age-level ministries for YOUR OWN PERSONAL GROWTH and development more than the children’s ministry needs just another warm body to plug in somewhere. As you serve, you grow. This is a fact of scripture. Most of our spiritual growth comes when we give of ourselves sacrificially to others.

If you believe that our children’s MINISTRY is important, then pitch in, volunteer, financially support the church, give your tithe (10%) every single week, sign up for the rotation and then show up. But whatever you do, don’t believe it is babysitting service for you – because it’s not – and we’ll call you out on it.

Pastor of Connections & Discipleship


Our current greatest need in pastoral staff is a position we might call “Pastor of Connections & Discipleship. The role of this person would be to move people from VISITOR to BELONGING. A brief sketch of this position would look like:

Connecting people through STARTING POINT -
Helping newcomers get connected; Sunday follow up, Newcomers Coffee, Seminar 101, Membership, Baptism, first-serve opportunities.

Connecting people through SMALL GROUPS & DISCIPLESHIP – Identify and train leaders, provide support to leaders, implement eligibility process for leaders, evaluation and approval of study materials, developing and multiplying small groups.

Connecting people through SERVICE – Director of volunteers, developing leaders, Seminar 201, helping people find a place of service.

You are ineligible:
  • If you are NOT a Christian
  • If you have NOT bothered to take and successfully complete seminars 101 and 201
  • If you do NOT currently volunteer at PCC in some capacity
  • If you are NOT completely sold out to the mission of PCC
  • If you do NOT tithe faithfully and consistently
  • If you believe the angels sing amazing grace every time you walk into church
  • If you tell racial jokes, have a porn habit, have anger issues or lapses in integrity
  • If you have been involved in a church fight elsewhere and the matter is still unresolved over there
  • If you have a track record of changing churches often

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Another E-mail We Received


About six months ago this military couple left our church and moved to California. They were such an asset to PCC while here, and we have missed them very much. We received an e-mail from Paige (her) last week. While in California they have visited a number of churches, even the nationally known ones. Here is an excerpt from her e-mail about their search for a new church home….

Oh, Renae, how I do miss you!!! I gotta say I'm frustrated trying to find a new church home. I knew PCC would be a tough act to follow, but we're running in to some major issues (in our opinions at least) that are still leaving us looking. We have been to 9 different churches since December. Several were one-Sunday visits that we instantly knew we'd never try again for whatever reason.

I know there is no such thing as the perfect church--Ronnie talked enough about that fact--I just hope I'm not asking for too much. All I want is a church that teaches the Word of God as it is written and intended (no sugar coating); one that is growing in numbers as well as maturity, not stagnant; one that has energy, is ALIVE and is excited to be doing the work of the Lord; one that expects involvement from it's members; and one that carries out the Great Commission. In almost 6 months of being here, we haven't found that place just yet.

So many times Daniel and I have talked about what a blessing PCC has been to us. We have grown leaps and bounds spiritually being connected to you guys. There are literally no words to tell you, Ronnie, or the rest of the church what an impact having a church home makes in a life. My life has been RADICALLY changed from membership of PCC and I am so grateful for it! However, it has made finding a new place harder because in our eyes no church compares to Pace and the leadership we had under Ronnie--not even nationally/world renowned Rick Warren. Not even close. We have been so blessed to have been exposed to God's Word through Ronnie for the two years or so we shared our life with you guys. Through PCC we have seen what church can be and what church should be. We will find a place over here in California, just pray for us when you think about us. We now have a hole in our hearts that can only be filled by the fellowship God's family provides (a hole we never knew existed before), and we are feeling the void oh so tangibly. You guys have got it right. Keep it up.

Our love and prayers from California!!!!

Paige, Daniel, and Armando

I Peter Sermon Series


Together, we have covered this much ground in the book of I Peter...

Part 1 - Too Blessed to be Depressed……......(1:1-12)
Part 2 - Kiss Your Old Life Goodbye.................(1:13-21)
Part 3 - Changed!...............................................(1:22-2:3)
Part 4 - We're In This Together..........................(2:4-10)
Part 5 - Our Responsibility to Authority………....(2:11-17)
Part 6 - Take This Job & Love It!........................(2:18-25)
Part 7 – Breaking the Deadlock on Wedlock…. (3:1-7)
Part 8 – Living the (true) Good Life……………..(3:8-12)
Part 9 – Walk the Walk & Talk the Talk…………(3:13-17)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Thinking Back....

Last Wednesday night I was at the UNITE picnic on the PCC campus grounds in Connors Park. I was sitting there musing; looking around at all the people who were having such a good time and my mind began to drift back…

I began thinking about a youth event & family picnic we held back in our first year or so. We took a group of people to Munson Lake one Sunday afternoon after church. There were about 15 people there that day and they represented about half of our congregation. I specifically remember having a “God moment.” Even though it happened ten years ago it is still so fresh in my mind that it seems like yesterday. I was looking at this very small group of people who were playing have having so much fun when a feeling of gratitude came over me as I thought, “This isn’t much to show for a one or two years of work. It’s so small. But we ARE a church family and I am honored to be their pastor. Thank You God, for selecting me for this work.”

So I’m Connors Park last Wednesday night looking at all the people who were there, thinking about that day at Munson Lake ten years ago, and as I’m looking at the 125+ people who are there, I thought, “We have come a long way. There was a time when PCC did not even exist. Now look at it. Thank You God for letting me do this.”

Honestly I did not know how this “experiment” would actually work out when we started. But God has proven Himself faithful. Pace Community Church is eleven years old. But in our first year....

  • We averaged 30 people in Sunday attendance
  • We had one person on part-time paid staff (me) and I was supported entirely from OUTSIDE the church. (I operated a landscape business).
  • In our second year we had three part-time staff, (myself and two others), and I personally paid them from earnings generated in my landscape business.
  • We had two small groups.
  • We had no paid administrative help for the church.
  • We owned no property, no buildings, and had no assests.
  • We met at Pace High School.
  • We had no office. My bedroom served as my study and admin office.
  • Everything our church owned we could fit in a 5x8 trailer.
  • Our weekly offerings were about $330.00.

Eleven years later:

  • We have more children in our children’s ministry than we had in our entire congregation back then
  • We have more teens in our student ministry than we had in our entire church back then
  • We now have four paid staff, and at least four unpaid staff
  • Our weekly attendance averages about 450, and sometimes we go over 500.
  • And we will baptize more people this month (May 31) than we had volunteers back then

Would you agree with me that God has enlarged our borders?

I could have never imagined all that God was going to do. I could have never imagined all the changed lives through the ministry of this church. I could have never imagined how God would change me!

If the last eleven years are any indication of what our future holds… then greater things are still to come.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sunday Mind Dump

  • Very exciting today. Let me explain….

  • My energy level was at an all-time low. Before service I was in my office trying to figure out if I was even capable of preaching today. I’m glad that there was more energy in the house than I possessed within myself. It actually inspired me. In the first service people broke out into spontaneous applause about three times. The place erupted in laughter a couple of times. It was contagious and did a lot to lift ME. Thanks, PCC.

  • God’s Word was solid…. We are continuing our journey through I Peter.

  • There was a visiting pastor in service today. He is from Tennessee.

  • Our band did a good job. The song selection was good and full of energy. The second set helped open our hearts for God’s Word.

  • So many good things are happening at PCC right now. There is a genuine move of God taking place…. I don’t mean simply in the church services, but in people’s lives. Unchurched people are getting saved, others are being delivered from drugs/alcohol and marriages are being restored. Still others are growing in discipleship, small groups, and Bible studies. Furthermore, scores of people are honoring God with a servant’s heart by serving in a myriad of ways. I mean God is doing some stuff.

  • I really like how flexible our workers & volunteers are. They work with a “can do” attitude.

  • I’m blown away by how many people are literally hanging out after church each week too. Most pleasing to me is how I see so many friendships being formed.

  • We have some amazing small group leaders in our church.

  • I feel fortunate with our current staff.

  • As I was teaching today, about 10 minutes into my message , I saw a couple in service who I know has the weight of the world on their shoulders right now… I mean, big time. I was so happy to see them in church, rather than giving in to the burden they bear. Most amazing to me was I actually saw them laughing and enjoying themselves. For a brief moment it looked as if their load was a little lighter. As the Bible says, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones" (Proverbs 17:22). They appeared to be living it. And I want to say to the both of you, if you are reading this blog, you were more inspiring to me than I could ever be for you.

  • With the swine flu going around, I was wondering if we should do the “fist bump” instead of shaking hands during the meet & greet time.

  • After church I came home and my house was filled with people who had come over for lunch. I didn’t even know anything about it until I got here! Had a great time. BTW, I was last in line… in my own house. Go figure.

  • Someone asked me if we are doing anything special for Mother’s Day next Sunday. I said, “Yea, we’re having church.”

  • Check back in daily. I am going to have an active week writing and posting on this blog.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Country Fest






Jonathan & Nathan played at Country Fest today at Five Flags Speedway.

Click pictures to enlarge.

Friday, May 1, 2009

An Email I Received Today


Here is a copy of an e-mail we received today through our church website. I've dropped the last names to maintain privacy. Otherwise, this letter is exactly how I received it.

Please direct to Pastor Ron before Sunday: On April 26th my daughter and I visited your church with my brother, Leif, and our friend, Chris. I was excited to attend your service as Leif told me how much he has enjoyed attending and how it wonderfully renewed his relationship with God.

To be frank I'm usually a bit skeptical going somewhere new due to some previous negative experiences. Therefore I was delighted to feel so welcomed by your church and the congregation. The music moved me to silent tears and your words startled my heart. An email cannot convey how much I needed that. It is a sublime sensation when we realize we're exactly where we need to be at that exact moment which is what I experienced sitting there with Chris, my daughter and Leif. They are so dear to me and for them to invite us to church meant so much.

We live in Hurricane WV and I hope to find a similar church family in our area. This coming Sunday will be Leif's last regular attendance since he has finished flight school and is heading to San Diego on Wednesday. I know he is anxious to find a similar church family there.

God Bless and all our love, Molly.

PS: on a side note I really enjoyed the CD in our gift bag as I drove home for 12 hours it helped feed the flame ignited in my heart. I laughed out loud when I realized how much it applied to me. It was from November and discussed 'Playing it Safe versus Taking a Risk.'

Pace Community Church... you are awesome! Working together, we are making a difference in the lives of people. God is honored by your labor of love.

Molly, thanks for the nice letter and encouragement!