Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Turning Attenders into Members


Gathering a crowd on Sunday morning is not the same as having dedicated congregation of committed members. By ‘members’ I mean believers who have been placed in the Body of Christ (by an act of the Holy Spirit) and who identify themselves as committed participants in a local congregation (through voluntary commitment). Members have a sense of ownership. They are contributors, not just consumers.

America has a lot of floating Christians. Anywhere else in the world, being a Christian is synonymous with being connected to a local congregation. Many American Christians, however, hop from one church to another without any identity, accountability, or commitment. They do this because they have not been taught that the Christian life involves more than BELIEVING – it also includes BELONGING.

Most people associate the term ‘membership’ with paying dues, meaningless rituals, silly rules & handshakes, business meetings, and having your name on some dusty roll. The New Testament, however, has a very different image of membership; instead of being inducted into a cold institution, membership means becoming a vital part (organ) of a living body (Romans 12:4-5; I Corinthians 6:15; I Corinthians 12:12-27). We need to reclaim this image, because any organ that is detached from its body will not only miss what it was intended to be, it will also shrivel and quickly die. The same is true for Christians who are uncommitted to any specific congregation.

This is why we offer SEMINAR 101 – DISCOVERING THE PCC FAMILY; it helps incorporate believers into a committed relationship with the local church. In this seminar we are able to show the benefits of membership, answer questions about our church, outline what is required of members, and provide opportunities for ministry service. Strong membership classes help build strong churches. This seminar has been one of the most effective tools we have used over the last eleven years.

COMPLETION of the membership seminar is REQUIRED for membership. People who are uninterested or unwilling to learn about our church’s purpose, strategy, and the meaning of membership are FAILING to DEMONSTRATE the kind of commitment that membership implies. If they don’t even care enough to understand the responsibilities of membership, then they cannot be expected to fulfill those responsibilities.
Many churches do not even have a membership process and will simply grant membership with a handshake or transfer of letter. That is meaningless. At PCC we take membership seriously because it is an important step in a persons life and spiritual journey.

At PCC we recognize the need for formal membership: It defines who can be counted on. Every team must have a roster. Every school must have an enrollment. Every business has a payroll. Every army has an enlistment. Even our country takes a census and requires voter registration. Membership identifies our church family.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why We Use Chairs Instead of Pews


People have actually said to me, “You mean your church doesn’t have pews? Everyone knows that a church is supposed to have pews!” Oh really? Where is that written? There is a definite reason why we have chosen to use chairs instead of pews (fixed seating) at PCC. It is the wisest decision we could make. Consider these reasons:

People today have come to expect their own individual seats. Personal space is highly valued in our society. This is why boxed seating is highly prized at stadiums. Even movie theaters provide individual seating. This is what people are used to. If they come to church and are forced to sit on a pew, too close to another person, they get uncomfortable. In fact, about the only place where pews/benches are used in American society today are at funeral homes and the cheap seats at football games.

Having chairs also provides us with more flexibility in seating arrangements. We can take chairs out of the room if attendance is low, and add chairs when attendance is high. It’s encouraging to our congregation when additional chairs must be brought in as people keep arriving. And it is very discouraging to worship in a church service when surrounded by a room full of empty seats; pews are big and bolted to the floor and cannot be removed.

We can also set up chairs in a way – set at an angle - so that each person can see someone else’ face during the church service; which dramatically improves how people respond. There is something very engaging about looking across the room and seeing the smiling faces of others; a much better option than the traditional shotgun arrangement of pews in which everyone is compelled to look at the back of everyone else’s head.

Finally, chairs are more comfortable than pews; especially those hard, wooden ones. Comfortable seating can dramatically improve the mood of any service. The mind can only absorb as much as ones bottom can endure. Uncomfortable seating is a distraction that the devil loves to use.

That’s why we use chairs…

The Byproduct of Obedience


After David killed Goliath, the giant’s sword was put on display in the tabernacle. Years later while running for his life from Saul, David took repossession of that very sword to raise an army (I Samuel 21:9). What’s the lesson here?
The rewards of your past obedience will make an encore appearance in your future assignments.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Which Gospel?


Never put an adjective in front of the Gospel; i.e., social gospel, prosperity gospel, American gospel, etc. There is only ONE Gospel – the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospelwhich is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-7 NIV)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Mind Dump

  • Today was a good day at PCC. Good feel in the house.

  • I have concluded that PCC is a HEALTHY church. Across the board gospel stuff is always happening. In everything we do - the Sunday services, worship, giving, preaching/teaching, weekly attendance, small groups, volunteerism, authentic community, kids, teens, commitments to Christ, evangelism, and discipleship - spiritual PROGRESS is being made. This is the evidence of church HEALTH.

  • I especially enjoy seeing so many people in our church family forging new friendship, hanging out with each other after church, going out to lunch/dinner together, and just doing life together.

  • There was a time when none of this existed. I have a unique before-and-after perspective. I can remember when we were running 35 people and we were seven days from extinction every Sunday. Here it is eleven years later and hundreds of people worship God together each Sunday, and do life together during the week. If not for PCC most of these friendships would have never been forged. From a pastor’s point of view, I find this deeply satisfying.

  • Relationships are the GLUE that HOLDS a church together.

  • The current message series, “In the Heat of the Desert” (through the book of Numbers) has been very productive and beneficial to our church family. We’ve learned good content about the Bible, as well as many principles that can help us in our daily lives.

  • Today’s message was “Complaining & the Serpent on the Pole.”

  • Quote of the day: Being a Christian is more than just getting a free ticket to heaven; it’s about living each day of our lives as God would have us live them. Second best quote: Chronic complaining is a serious handicap to pass along to your children. Best Doctrinal quote: Like the serpent of the pole, Christ became sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21).

  • Don’t forget the “Seven Day Challenge” – go seven days without complaining. Had a lot of fun with that.

  • I love seeing the teenagers on the front row each Sunday. Seeing all those young people there really encourages me along. It’s like saying “sick um” to a bulldog – makes me more aggressive. More importantly, because of their age and desire for God, I can have a small part in influencing the direction of their lives for Christ. The real work, however, is being done by the ministry team of youth workers.

  • It has been a very busy week for me. I am worn out.

  • I’m excited about the month of October – Unite Family Picnic, Communion service, new message series begins (Future Shock), and Seminar 101.

  • There’s a good feeling in our church right now. God is really doing some neat things – many are visible, most are behind-the-scenes. I can honestly say that PCC has never been as healthy, enjoyable, and successful at kingdom stuff as we are right now.

  • Second service is looking better and better every week.

  • Getting up at 6:00 AM tomorrow for a morning run. Hope the weather is cool.

  • He is risen, and He’s coming back!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Thank You


Jeff Ferro's memorial service was conducted this afternoon at PCC. I won't even attempt to mention or name all the people who stepped up, pitched in, and went the extra mile with this effort. It was an amazing display of empathy, servanthood, authentic community, and an example of the 'mutual ministry of the Body to itself.' We simply could not have done it without you..... "Thank you."

Ron

Friday, September 25, 2009

PCC - The "Unbiblical" Church


At PCC we don’t have pews. We don’t have a choir. We don’t use hymn books. I don’t wear a suit, and we don’t have an organ. We don’t observe denominational traditions, and neither do we preach/teach from a lectionary. Some people have labeled us as being unbiblical because we don’t offer these things. Huh? As strange as it seems, the people who criticize us the most are “Christians” who are usually from other churches.

There are a lot of things we don’t do… but here are a few things we do:

1. We teach the Bible. Without the Bible there is no other basis for Christianity. It is the only document in the earth that we have to learn about God and the things He wants us to know. We don’t teach my opinions or man-made traditions here. We teach the Bible.

2. We teach the Bible pretty hard sometimes
. We don’t get to pick-and-choose which parts we believe… so if the Bible addresses a tough topic, we don’t shy away from it. This doesn’t always set well with everyone, but that’s not my problem. God authored the Bible, I didn’t.

3. We talk about real life issues – the same things the Bible talks about. The Bible talks about anger, complaining, divorce, forgiveness, sex, marriage, gossip, suffering, grief, pain, and materialism; so do we. The Bible also teaches doctrine; so do we. We’re also not going to apologize for God’s Word.

4. We are deep. It is a mistake to believe that a growing church is shallow or waters down the message. Where did anyone ever get that idea? Jealously, probably. Whether it is in the Sunday morning service, the teen service, in small groups, leadership meetings, or children’s church, all of our teachers unpack God’s Word in a way that offers amazing insight to the mysteries of God.

5. We place a high value on children and teenagers. We spend an incredible amount of time, effort, and resources on our children and students. As a parent, you want to go to a church that values your children, right? They shouldn’t be treated like second class people, nor should they get the leftovers from our ministry efforts. Instead, they should be the target of our ministry efforts! I don’t think kids should be bored out of their minds when they come to church either. I don’t want to force little kids to sit in “big church.” I don’t want our teenagers thinking church is out of date or useless to their everyday life. We place a high value on their generation – we have a staff and volunteers that focuses on them – and that’s why we have hundreds of kids who call PCC their church home.

No, we don't have choir robes. But we do have lot of redeemed people who were formerly hell-bound without hope.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How to Find Good Volunteers for Your Team


I am totally convinced that asking for volunteers by recruitment drives, announcements in the church bulletin, or appeals from the platform is very risky and unwise. Too often, it puts us in the awkward position of having to say, “Thanks, but no thanks” to people who step forward with the best of intentions but the worst of qualifications. Once we have asked for help this way, there is no kind way to say, “But I didn’t mean you.”

Asking for volunteers through public appeals always brings to the surface a number of folks who love God but do not have the necessary relational skills or ministry skills to be at the helm.

Another problem with asking for volunteers by way of general appeal is that it tends to devalue the role. It sends the message that there is a shortage of workers and conveys the idea that anyone can do this job. Who wants to volunteer for something that is so unimportant that no one else wants to do it?

Instead, the absolute best way to find good volunteers is to personally ask the right person. When a ministry leader uses this method, it sends a very different message. It elevates the role and conveys an image of honor, prestige, and value. Such volunteers bring a lot of good to the team. Besides, three “good” volunteers will perform better and contribute more to your team than a dozen half-hearted volunteers.

There is NO SHORTAGE of qualified people. There is only a shortage of personally asking the right people. So ministry leaders, walk up behind someone, tap them on the shoulder, and, “make the ask.” You’ll be glad you did.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Jeff Ferro


Jeff Ferro went home to heaven yesterday morning. We are going to miss him very much. Jeff & Terri are an amazing couple, and this loss is deeply felt.

The memorial service will be this Saturday, 2:00 PM at the church.

If you would like to read Terri's online journal, go HERE

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Giving God the Final 10% - Sin's Strongholds


2 and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.' Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? 3 Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you." (Judges 2:2-3 NIV)

When the Hebrew people took possession of the Promised Land, God gave them specific instruction: Drive the enemy out of every corner of the land, and destroy any trace of their idol worship. Rather than fully obeying God, Israel compromised and allowed many of the enemy to remain. Those pockets of resistance became strongholds for idol worshippers. From these strongholds the enemy was able to bring a great deal of trouble to the people of God that lasted for generations.

When we become Christians, God declared war on sin’s stronghold in our lives. Sinful behavior and attitudes were firmly entrenched in our character, but God commands that we tear them down. The Holy Spirit has probably pointed out areas of your life that were resistant to God’s will. Have you been tempted to form a truce with these strongholds in your life, rather than tear down your sin? If so, it will rise up against you in a moment of weakness. Is there a stronghold of lust in your life? If so, you will be overpowered when caught off guard. In careless moments, these strongholds will tempt you to continue your past sinful behaviors and will ultimately become a snare to you.

This is why we must give God 100% of our lives. Even if I have given God 90% of myself, it means there is a stronghold somewhere in my life; an area where I'm not letting God in. That final 10% is where the most important battle is fought.

What insights can you offer on this matter of strongholds? Leave me a comment. (Follow the instructions carefully and your comments should get through... once they have been reviewed).

Monday, September 21, 2009

Giving God the Final 10%


When it comes to giving tithes and offerings, I enjoy giving God the first 10% of my income right off the top. From time to time I’ll even give a little more; what you would call a sacrificial offering.

But when it comes to LIVING, I’ve noticed that God seems to bless the final 10% more than the first 90%. Let me explain…

In many areas of my life I tend to give God 90% of my best. Once I’ve done that much it is easy to rationalize that I have done a pretty good job of living for God. I’ve given a solid effort. That should be enough, right?

But giving God 90% of my best still falls short. It means I have shut Him out of a certain area of my life. Even 90% dedication is still 10% short of serving God with “all” my heart.

I think God is best glorified when we give Him the final 10%.

(Thanks CG for the thought)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I Think the Devil is Mad


I don’t normally see a boogie man behind every bush, and I am also reluctant to over-spiritualize every inconvenience in life as being “of the devil. But I’ve got to admit that I think we are under spiritual attack right now in a way that is more intense than normal. In the last 6-8 weeks I have seen more misfortune, pain, trouble, problems, suffering, grief, sicknesses, life-threatening illnesses, tragic events, and just downright tribulation come against a large number of members in our church family that it has left me wondering, “What in the world is going on?” I’ve concluded that it is satanic. The sheer volume, intensity, and timing of all these events converging at once leave me no other choice to think otherwise.

You may recall that I have repeatedly stated in my blogs over the last several weeks something to the effect, “There is a lot of pain in our church family right now, and I feel overwhelmed.” It's been building and building with each passing day. Well, it’s only increasing and the number of people being affected (in many different ways) is on the rise. Let me give you a for-instance: Four of the five staff members at PCC is in a major personal crisis right now! Is that a coincidence? I don’t think so. We find ourselves having to minister to people while we ourselves are in the middle of our own personal battles. That is an enormous load to bear. But it doesn’t begin and end with PCC’s staff. The same is true of many of our key ministry leaders, families, and volunteers. In fact, it’s across the board – from the pew to the pulpit. Is this a coincidence? I don’t think so. All of this is happening at a time when our church attendance is on the rise, worship is more God-honoring, and more people are being discipled than ever before. Is this a coincidence? I don’t think so.

I think PCC is headed for a significant spiritual breakthrough… and I also think the devil is mad.

What do you think? Leave me a comment. (Follow the instructions carefully to ensure your comment gets through).

Sunday Mind Dump

  • Another good day at Pace Community Church! Total attendance was 490, with the second service looking better than ever. I am really enjoying all the new people that seem to be arriving each Sunday, and especially like seeing the teenagers on the front row. Man, I eat that up. It makes an old man like me feel like I still have some ‘relevance’ left in me.

  • About 10 people have signed up for water baptism, and 30 for Seminar 101.

  • I thought the song service was good today. I especially enjoyed the song “Will You Worship?” Chris Peacock did an excellent job leading the solo part on this song too.

  • God was in the place.

  • Today’s message was part six of our series “In the Heat of the Desert.” We looked at the sin Moses committed in his anger and what it cost him. He was virtually on the last lap of a forty-year journey when he was disqualified from going into the Promised Land. That’s serious business. The sin of Moses was NOT that he got angry, but that he disobeyed God in his state of anger.

  • I could tell that God was really doing some ‘heart surgery’ today.

  • We will go about two more weeks in this series. Next week we’ll be looking at the story of the plague of fiery serpents that attacked the congregation of Israel because of their complaining. The week after that we will look at something called the principle of the path, which simply means that the direction you are walking, not your intentions, determines your destination. Oh man, this one will be ‘meat for men.’

  • Next message series: Future Shock – a look at end time events. i.e, the Rapture of the church, the Great Tribulation, the Antichrist, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to the earth, the Battle of Armageddon, etc.

  • The TEENAGERS are beginning a new SURVIVOR SERIES soon. It will be lots of fun for them. Most importantly, they are breaking down into small groups and working on ministry objectives together. That’s what discipleship is all about. There is some serious momentum with the youth department right now – the last two Wednesday nights has seen more than sixty kids show up. Wow!

  • Did you notice the new backdrop on the stage? Gene Tharp designed it. Looked good.

  • THIS TUESDAY NIGHT is an OPEN INVITATION to anyone who would like to sit in on a session of FINANCIAL PEACE UNIVERSITY. The lesson is on DUMPING DEBT and is very high-energy. You’ll need to carve out two hours. Starts at 6:30 PM, and the meeting takes place at the church. Just show up.

Friday, September 18, 2009

ACLU - Please Leave Our Community!


How many lawsuits can one organization file? The ACLU appears to be nothing more than money making machine that constantly ties up the courts and the legal system to further its agenda of anti-American views. How can they possibly justify defending causes and organizations like NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association) which is nothing more than a haven for pedophiles. This same organization fights against nativity scenes during the Christmas season, and often targets the Boy Scouts of America with their perverted agenda. Nothing seems to be off limits for these nuts. They are anti-Christmas, anti-Christ, pro-choice, and pro-pedophile. This defies all logic.

Now that they have lost their landmark case against Frank Lay and Robert Freeman, it is time for the good people of Santa Rosa and Escambia Counties to tell these people that their presence is no longer necessary in our area. Furthermore, we don’t want them here. We have the right to tell them so and it is important that we do so. They should be shunned at every opportunity. If allowed to continue, they will push our community into more meaningless chaos.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Most Dangerous Day of the Week for Pastors


If you are in any kind of ministry, leadership role, or work in a local church setting, Monday is probably the most vulnerable day of the week for you. This is the day you are most susceptible to temptation, pride, irritability, fatigue, and discouragement. If there is one thing I know about Mondays in ministry, it’s simply this; after God uses me on Sunday, Satan and my flesh will come against me on Monday.

Sunday is game day for ministers. It’s more than just going to church and enjoying the services; it’s the high point of the week. Sunday is the day when it all comes together or fails to come together; the lesson, the sermon, the conversations, the meal afterward with a family, the anticipation of what attendance will be, will we make budget, and what the response will be to the gospel. The stress and pressure can literally beat a minister to the ground, but the strange irony is that it can also create within us an excitement that energizes us for the assignment. It is actually the stress and adrenaline that do both; they motivate us to carry through and then they cause us to crash and burn both emotionally and physically. Many ministers have no idea why they feel the way they feel on Monday. They think they’re just tired. It is so much more than that. If Sunday is the high point of the week, then Mondays are the low point of the week.

Physically, your body is wound up all day on Sunday, and if you are preaching more than one service, it’s compounded. The chemicals in your body are raging; adrenaline, endorphins and dopamine give you the boost you need to get it done. Then Sunday night rolls around, the big day is over and now is in the past, and your body is filled with the residue of these chemicals. Some ministers fall right asleep from exhaustion. Others can’t stop rehearsing the day in their minds and are up to the wee hours of the morning. Then when Monday morning comes rolling around (in just a few hours) you have to start preparing for next weekend all over again. We under a seven-day deadline every week of our lives.

Right after God uses you is when you are most vulnerable. Your guard is down and your defenses are weak. It seems counter-intuitive but it’s true. It could be a little pride in you from a successful day, or discouragement because the day fell short. It’s a real emotional roller coaster sometimes.

You can’t run on empty….. that’s why we need a Sabbath Day.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Atheists


The only place in the universe where you find atheists is on earth. God lets people deny Him their entire life, but on Judgment Day He will deny them

But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 10:33)

Advice to Ministers

  • While you are mentoring your core group, remember that you must love everyone else in your Congregation and Community too. This is not optional. Jesus loved everyone, preached to the crowds, fed the 5,000, trained the 70, discipled the 12, and mentored His inner circle of 3. That is the Jesus model for ministry.


  • A preacher's greatest tool is MEMORIZED Scripture. If it's stored in your heart and mind, the Holy Spirit can remind you when you need it.

How to Recover When a Key Leader Goes Rogue


In a church context, rouge can be defined as someone who captures a severe case of mission-drift and is no longer loyal. The first thing to do is determine how far the damage has spread. Then quickly cut your losses. Here’s how:

1. Get the leader out of the line-of-influence as quickly as possible. Rouge leaders will usually want to say a final word to their group. Don’t let it happen. That final word is usually, “Come with me.”

2. Lead, lead, lead. Don’t leave the group without leadership. Provide decisive leadership to the church at large as well. Most groups of people want to stay under the umbrella of authority in their church; they want to be led. But if the pastor (or another trusted leader) is unwilling to step in and provide decisive leadership in this moment of crisis, the people will follow the rogue leader.

3. Get involved. Don’t turn your head, run away, or act like nothing has happened. Wade in as deep as you have to go and deal with it. People will appreciate it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Mind Dump....

  • Another Good Day at Pace Community Church!

  • There seems to be a new buzz in the air about our church right now – people are coming from far and wide to find a church home among us.

  • Our total attendance was 507. It was good to see the first service jammed to capacity, and the second service was way up too. We aren’t doing anything differently than we normally do, so it leaves me wondering where all these people are coming from. It must be a God-thing.

  • Today’s message was “Korah – Rebel Without a Cause.” I wished I had entitled it “The Ruin of Rebellion” instead. Either way it worked. It was a strong word and had a great impact on a large number of people. I love it when I feel the authority of God’s Word bearing down on me. It’s like a yoke that helps keep me on the straight and narrow way.

  • One lady attended the first service, and was so moved by the content of the message that she came back again to attend the second service; but this time she brought her son with her because she said her son needed to hear it too!

  • Another couple met me at the doors (after first service) and told me how blown away they were today. He specifically mentioned the message by saying he never realized how much “background” was involved in Korah’s rebellion. Presenting the context made it all come alive for him.

  • I met nine new people today… about half of them told me how much healing they are experiencing within the PCC family. They also mentioned how encouraged they are; now having hope for impossible situations in their lives. THIS IS WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO!

  • The sign up sheet for Seminar 101 is filling up fast; about 30 people on the list right now. About 7-10 signed up for water baptism today too.

  • Several people today indicated they were committing their lives to Christ. It is amazing to see how God can take His Word (when preached) and use it in so many different ways.

  • I attended a small group last night. Had a lot of fun. We’ve got some great people in PCC right now doing some great things. I love the fellowship and sense of community I experience among them.

  • Right now is a good time to succeed at getting your friends and family members to church. God is moving and there is a certain momentum I’m feeling right now. It’s almost like riding the crest of a wave. DON’T MISS THIS MOMENT.

  • I heard that Florida State lost their game yesterday. Is that true?

  • The Children’s Ministry and Pre-School Ministry have gotten off to a good start under new leadership. Way to go Christy K. and Richelle W.

  • I love seeing the teenagers and young people sitting on the front row – I’m eating it up.

  • Got a TON of work to do this week.

  • UPCOMING EVENTS: Seminar 101… Communion…. Baptism… Baby Dedication… Survivor Series (for the teenager)… Volunteer Appreciation Banquet…

  • NEXT MESSAGE SERIES: “Future Shock” about end-time events.

  • We have a lot of hurting people in our church right now. I hate that for them, but I believe we can be there for them too.

  • I love attending a church where God is moving.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Perspective


Job 26

7He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing.

9He holdeth back the face of his throne, and spreadeth his cloud upon it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Same Words, Different Dictionaries


A lot of people show up at PCC and believe they are ready to step into a ministry role after simply hearing about what we do. They love our philosophy and claim it is what they have always been looking for. Sometimes they even convince me, especially if they come from a strong ministry background and credentials. But they are never ready for us.

It’s not that they are being disingenuous or dishonest. They honestly think they’ve got it; that they understand us completely. Sometimes I do too. But what neither of us understands at the time is that we are using the same words with different dictionaries. Until someone actually experiences our church and what goes on here (over a certain period of time), they can’t help but read their past experiences and definitions into the words I use. It’s the only reference they have.
  • For instance, when I say our church has small groups I mean one thing. But their past experience causes them to define it another way. This is why a newcomer needs to be IN one of our groups before being allowed to lead a group.

  • When someone asks me, “Are you a Spirit filled church?” and I reply yes, they will read their definition into my response and are often disappointed when they discover we don’t meet their expectation.

  • When I use the word elder it means one thing in our context. But to a Presbyterian it means something altogether different. It also means something different in a Charismatic church too. I have learned that when I am asked, “Do you have elders?” and I reply yes, they are asking me do we have elders like the ones in their last church.

  • When I say to a newcomer that we are serious about the Great Commission, they usually respond, “That’s great. This is the kind of church I’ve been looking for.” But after they get here and find out how serious we really are about reaching sinners and discover how messy it is to work with such people, they will often bolt.

On and on it goes. If I use terms like staff led church…. baptism in the Holy Spiritborn againspirit-led worship…. election…. pastoral leadership…. predestination…. seeker…. or God head, it means different things to different people depending on their background. Same words, different dictionaries.

Before we turn people lose in our church there has to be a clarification of terms, and agreement on those terms. That’s why they have to experience us first. It’s important for key people to be on the same page.


Loons Who Write Me Letters


You would be surprised at how often I receive letters from people I don’t even know, who have visited our church only once (or not at all) and feel at total liberty to offer their opinion. Then there are those who claim they “have a Word from the Lord” for me.

In the last 3 months or so there has been a steady stream of such notes. Most of these come from people who have an axe to grind. The things they say are so off-the-wall that half the time I can’t even figure out what it is that they are trying to communicate. I’ve had people criticize our music, the concentric circles contained in our 101 seminar, and the things I say (or fail to say) while preaching. They even criticize our small groups as being wrong. Go figure.

This summer I received an angry letter from a first-time guest because I said, “We are not Wal-Mart” in the morning message. This person went on to tell me what a great organization Wal-Mart is and what a mean person I was for saying such a thing. Huh?

This week I received an e-mail from someone who wanted to argue about the practice of tithes and offerings. He visited PCC one time (two weeks ago) and then sent us an e-mail informing me that our church was involved in “incorrect teaching.” Say what? Who is he to spout off like that? I don’t even know this character. He just wanted to argue. I think this person has a few screws rattling around in his noggin, and his accusation of “incorrect teaching” lit me up like a firecracker. When I wrote him back he got a full appreciation of how offended I was at his comments and I am certain he will never visit PCC again.

I have made some 40 such response over the last few years, and it has helped keep our church free from potential troublemakers who might have otherwise wanted to come back and stir up strife. I am amazed at how free these total strangers feel in offering their unsolicited opinion (and criticism) to us after one visit to our church. Under those circumstances I don’t mind putting it right back on them and offering them a bit of pastoral correction.

To all you letter writers out there who have an axe to grind..… if you want to only hear the things you already agree with, stay home and talk to yourself in the mirror.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

When Ministry is Messy


Ministry has its fair share of successes. But it also has plenty of disappointments. Sometimes it gets messy; very messy. We work with imperfect perfect people; some who get well, and others who never will. Some people grow spiritually and bear good fruit; others remain babies forever. Our idealism for ministry is often crushed by reality. That is the brutal truth.

While there are great disappointments, let downs, betrayals, and failures, there’s another side to the story; there is great value in just DOING ministry, SHARING LIFE, and JUST TRYING. Somewhere in the middle of all that ‘messiness’ the work of God is being carried out and many lives are being impacted in a positive way. Our efforts may not be successful all the time, the product not like polished brass, and the process messy – even so, redemptive things are taking place. Sometimes it’s easy to be left wondering, “Do any of our efforts matter?” But now, more than ever, I realize now that the gospel is most often manifested in the midst of messiness.

Take heart. Don’t be discouraged. Fight the fight. Run the race. Show up. Keep living for God and working out your faith. Keep preaching. Keep loving. Keep on keeping on…

… There is value in what you do.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday Mind Dump

  • UH-MAZING day. Today was one of those days you’ll always remember. At least I will. Attendance was very good – 440. This is especially good in light of it being Labor Day weekend. We would have easily went over five hundred otherwise. The ushers had to bring out additional chairs.

  • Worship was exceptional. We worshipped through song… through God’s Word…. and through giving. The church service felt different (and good) today. I experienced a renewed sense of awe towards God. Several people committed to Christ. The children’s ministry & pre-school returned to a regular schedule today; providing ministry for both services. CDs of the message flew off the shelf.

  • The music just felt good. I especially enjoyed “Days of Elijah” and “Hallelujah” by Robin Mark, who is Scottish.

  • Our church grounds look as good as I have ever seen them. At the risk of sounding like I’m bragging, I think we have the best looking and best maintained church campus in the area. All credit goes to the great team of volunteers who labor tirelessly to make it happen. For instance, last Thursday a group came to mow, (as they do every week). Then on Friday one individual came and trimmed all the hedges (a very large job). Then on Saturday another individual came and mowed the grass again. You people are great.

  • Our volunteer force (across the board) is the best we’ve ever had. I mean across the board.

  • After church today we took a group of teens to Madison’s Restaurant in downtown Pensacola. Renae and the other teen leaders do this about once per quarter for all the teens who maintain perfect attendance. About 20 went today, including myself.

  • Almost every week strangers write notes to me and turn them in. Some of the comments make the back of my neck tingle. I now have security personnel who watch over me and are always nearby.

  • A lot of people told me how much they really enjoyed today’s message, “Another Spirit” based on the life of Caleb. He (1) Had “Another Spirit” (2) Followed God Wholeheartedly, and (3) His Descendents Would Inherit the Land.

  • I think the personal stories I told really resonated with people. Pretty cool story about my father. He was a real character and a neat guy. Miss him. Look forward to seeing him again. The armadillo joke was great. The story about Jonathan and the armadillo was hilarious.

  • The best quote: You are not trapped in your current problem because you are a bad person. You are trapped there because you won’t walk away from bad behavior. Stop making excuses… make good choices.

  • Another good quote: Making the right choices is not difficult. If you will base your life on principles contained in the Bible, then 99% of your decisions have already been made.

  • Alex Buell is an exceptional violinist. His wife Cindy has the gift of encouragement. Both are amazing people.

  • Last week a Calvinist left a comment on my blog. I didn’t publish it. Based on what he said it was easy to see that he has been thoroughly schooled in that line of thought. He parrots well.

  • Upcoming events at PCC: Seminar 101….. Baby Dedication Service…. Communion Service….. Baptism Service….. and Volunteer Appreciation Banquet. I would love to offer our Foundations Classes again but we are out of space and don’t have a good night to use the building because of other events. Next time we might call these classes the “University of PCC.”

  • We could probably benefit by having an additional building.

  • I am praying for a million dollar offering to be given to PCC. Don’t laugh. This poses no problem for God. People laughed at me when I said we were looking for 20 acres of land and we were running 35 people in attendance. Just look at where we are now - the evidence is there. God comes through.

  • Everything changed (for me) today. PCC will never be the same.

  • Our small groups have gotten off to a great start. Man, I’m loving it. Last night I went to the first meeting of a small group hosted by Robert & Ann Lewis. Had a blast. Watched football. Ate food. The fellowship was great. Good job you two.

  • Florida State plays Miami tomorrow. Oh yea, gotta love it.

  • You would be surprised at the number of police officers who attend PCC. Even more surprising is the number of ‘customers’ of those very same police officers. Yet they attend the same church and worship together. Is there any other church in Santa Rosa County that can make that claim? I just love the diversity of PCC. This work really is a God-thing.

  • I still can’t believe that God allows me to do this.

  • It’s overwhelming how many hurting people attend PCC. Personally, I am incapable of ministering to (or being available for) this many people. We absolutely need more ‘pastors’ or ‘care givers.’ The answer WILL be found in our small groups’ ministry.

  • ATTENTION SMALL GROUP LEADERS: You are MORE than the leader who leads a discussion in your group. You should see yourself as an ‘UNDER SHEPHERD’ to the people of your group and should teach the members in your group to minister to “one another.” This is mutual ministry of the body to itself.

  • SERMON SERIES: We will continue our current series until it runs its natural course. Afterwards I am planning on an END TIMES series about the destruction of mankind and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to the earth. It should be informative for a lot of people.

  • FAIR WARNING: I am also planning a message series on FINANCIAL STEWARDSHIP in which we will talk about money, managing finances in a Biblical manner, and honoring God with our giving. Your money and what you do with it is an essential part of your spiritual growth and development (discipleship), so we must be instructed as to what God has to say about it. This message series WILL HAPPEN before the end of the year.

  • We will be conducting a mass mail-out in the next month or so, and plan to penetrate 25,000 homes with an encouraging message of hope from PCC.

  • A neighboring church in the area is going through some serious turmoil right now. It was necessary for the leadership to ‘let some people go’ who had sinned and now the church is polarized over the event. Trust me, when church leaders make these kind of tough decisions it is BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO… and almost no one else understand the reasons behind those decisions. Please pray that goodness will prevail.

  • Can’t wait for next Sunday.

  • DEAR STAFF MEMBERS: Instead of doing everything yourself, empower others to run with the ball into the end zone.

  • Check back every day…. I’ve got some stuff going on that you’ll enjoy reading about.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Worship 101


When I hear people say, "I didn't get any thing out of worship today" my response is, "Sorry, but our worship was not done for you. It was done for God."

29Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. (I Chronicles 16:29 KJV)

The Backslider in Heart


"My people are bent to backsliding from Me"
(Hosea 11:7).

Although the word “backslide” does not appear in the New Testament (found only on the OT), it is a very common occurrence today. People come to church, make a commitment to Christ, appear to be passionate for God, then for some reason or another decide they no longer want anything to do with Christ, His Church, His people, or His teachings. They drop out of church and return to their former life. They backslide.

The New Testament uses words like faint, falling away, fallen from grace, removed from Him, and depart from the faith, etc.

The word ‘backslide’ literally means to ‘turn back’ or to ‘turn away’ from God. Unbelievers cannot backslide because they have nothing (or nowhere) to backslide from. Only the believer can backslide; and all the warnings in scripture about the dangers of backsliding are directed towards the believer!

The backslider doesn’t just wake up one morning and say, “I think I’ll quit living for God today.” No. He gradually goes back in the direction of his former life one step at a time. Spiritual decay is a gradual process. If it came as a splash of cold water in the face, we would be startled into awareness. Instead, as the word implies, we ‘slide backwards’ away from God.

Backsliding is really a condition of the heart. The ‘outward’ reasons are too numerous to elaborate on. Sometimes people blame temptation, the lure of sin, fear, spiritual coolness, hypocrites in the church, or the cares of this life as being the cause of their backsliding. But these are battles that all of us face and overcome (and sometimes even fail at), but are no reason to quit living for God. When a person quits living for God, it boils down to one thing - they choose to do so. They have fallen in love with another lover - the world - and their heart no longer yearns for God. A backslider in heart is the person who withdraws himself from devotion to God.

Sometimes people will say to me, “Have you heard? So-and-so is not attending church anymore. In fact, they don’t go to church anywhere. They told me the reason they quit was this-or-that.” But I always know the real reason - they are bent to backsliding (Hosea 11:7).

Recently someone said to me, “The reason so-and-so quit coming to church was because they got mad.” I replied, “What does getting mad in church have to do with their walk with God? Do you leave your family every time you get mad? Do you quit your job every time you get mad? No. So, why would this couple blame the church for their backsliding?” This very couple didn’t simply change churches – they dropped out of church altogether and stopped living for God! They are now engaged in excessive drinking, cussing, carousing in sin, extreme vulgarity, works of the flesh, are bearing no spiritual fruit, and are on the road to ruin and perdition. Is the church supposed to accept the blame for this behavior? Get real. It won’t work on judgment day… and it doesn’t work now.

At the end of the day if a person wants to find a reason to backslide, they will do so. If they are looking for a reason to quit, the reasons are abundant. On the other hand, if you determine that nothing will deter your walk with God, you will overcome and persevere.

No matter the reason for backsliding, it’s really a personal choice that one makes. Nothing more. It’s not about anyone or anything else. It's about you. Do you want to live for God or not?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Preaching and Worship


Preaching does not come after worship in the order of the service. Preaching IS worship.

THE AUTHORITY OF PREACHING GOD'S WORD….

Without the Bible there is simply no basis for Christianity. If we did not have the Bible we would not know about Jesus Christ, His resurrection, or God’s plan of salvation for mankind. We would not know about sin, the fall of man, or anything else that God has desired to communicate to us. Without the Bible we would simply know nothing. No book, no commentary, no song, no opinion, not even the Pope or the traditions of men can provide us with a basis for Christianity. The Bible stands alone in this regard.

To that end preaching is indispensable to Christianity and worship. God meets with and rules over His people through the authoritative preaching of His Word. The preacher may be the only one speaking at the moment, but both he and the listener rejoice in the Word together. THAT is corporate worship. The preacher worships as he speaks the Word, and the congregation worships just as much in hearing the Word.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

We've Got Idols


58For they provoked him to anger with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their graven images. (Psalms 78:58 KJV)

How would you respond if you showed up to PCC one Sunday morning and the stage lights were not working, the drums were gone, no electric guitar was being played, or no cool graphics were being projected on the big screens. Would you still be able to worship? Technology and creativity are great tools, but if we cannot worship without them they have become idols. We are worshipping God, nothing else.

What about your favorite preacher or speaker? If you skip church because the pastor is out of the pulpit that Sunday and a guest speaker is filling in, that may be a sign that you have ‘preacher religion’ – a euphemism for idols – and are not really as focused on God as you should be.

All churches can have idols – not the golden calf kind – but other man made kinds - they are things like choir robes, hymnals, pulpits, steeples, organs, certain traditions, rituals, favorite theologians, and the like. Some people simply cannot worship without these things.

There's nothing wrong with having any of these elements in our worship services, or even having a personal preference on which ones we like the best. But when good things become god things that’s a bad thing. If we have to have a certain preferential element in the church service before we feel like we can worship, then we’ve got idols.

Small Group Leaders (Part 4)


The single most important quality to look for in any leader is character. If a person has character, everything else is teachable. Here are two qualities (among others) we look for in small group leaders:

We look for Humble People. Such people have a heart for God and are trying their best to draw closer to Him. They may feel unsure of themselves and are certain they cannot lead a group without God’s help. If we start with a person who has a heart for God, regardless of where they are in their maturity level, we never lose. We can give them training, but we cannot give them a heart that longs after God.

We look for Loyal People. Loyalty is one of the things we look for and expect from all our ministry leaders, including small group leaders. Such people must be loyal to Pace Community Church, its mission & vision, and the leadership of this church. We cannot, and will not, allow our vision to get hijacked by others who may have a different agenda. Every small group is an extension of PCC and its mission. Groups within PCC are not allowed to use this church as a platform to advance ‘their’ agenda; rather all groups exist to advance PCC’s agenda. Small groups are not autonomous – they replicate the DNA of our church.

Nothing beats humble, loyal leaders who have a heart for God, no matter how skilled they are. Some of the best leaders I have ever seen were those who started out with very little knowledge of the Bible and were fairly new in their walk with God. They realized early on that they had to rely upon God and others for success. They became great leaders because they loved God and were willing to do anything God asked them to do.

Personality Types to Avoid

Here’s the other side of the coin. There are some people who simply are not good candidates to be small group leaders. Not everyone who wishes to lead should be allowed.

The Bible Scholar. Most of the time when these self-professed Bible scholars want to lead a small group it is because they believe they are intellectually and academically superior to others in the group because they know the scriptures so well. They are intent on teaching the Bible to a group of people who need to know the Bible like they do. They talk often about “going deeper.” I have to laugh when I hear this. Who decides what the standard of depth is? Them? The truth is, Jesus is the standard of depth, not some person who lifts himself to an elevated status. These ‘technicians of the Word’ are not near as smart or spiritual as they think they are and they give off creepy vibes too. Myself, as far as ‘going deep’ is concerned, I’m still trying to measure up to the Greatest Commandment; I don’t think you can get any deeper than that.

The Perfect Life Person. The lack of humility it takes to believe that one is perfect is a recipe for failure. This person sees himself as the completed example of what a true disciple looks like. They believe they have the perfect marriage, perfect children, a perfect understanding of God, and embrace perfect doctrine. As a result, they are often judgmental, opinionated, and have little patience for the rest of us mere mortals. If such a person believes they have ‘already arrived’ they are unfit to lead anyone. To allow this person to lead a group would be a recipe for disaster.

Any small group would be better off with a leader who recognizes they still have a long way to go and are humbly willing to share their successes and failures with others in their groups.

Major Issues


Man, we've got some major issues going on at the church right now. Apparently lightning struck the building last Sunday afternoon. Our phone lines have been down... the internet has been down all week... and the photo sensor for parking lot lights is fried. Hardly any of it is fixed...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Two Days Away - Our Beach Cabin




Hiatus


I've been on a three day hiatus (break) from blogging due to being out of town and not having internet access.

I will post this evening (Wed) or first thing tomorrow morning.