Wednesday, March 31, 2010

PCC's Secret Recipe

What is the secret recipe that has helped PCC grow into such a healthy church? What is the key ingredient? Obviously, Jesus.

Beyond that, I would say it’s the humility of the people who serve on our ministry teams. Here’s what I mean: They submit their pride and personal preferences for the betterment of the whole church. No hidden agendas. No hostile takeovers. No "my way or it's the highway" attitudes. Just simple cooperation with one another.

Here’s what it looks like in real time at PCC:
  • Our creative team scratches a finished product, that took hours to create, because it wasn’t the best thing for the worship experience

  • Our band members practice and perform songs they do not personally like, but cooperate with good attitudes because it best supports the message

  • Our volunteer teams have accepted hard correction about the way to lead their teams and do their jobs, make the adjustments, and come back next week even though they are not paid to

  • In our administrative area, we have volunteers who pound away with data entry, preparing the Sunday bulletins, process prayer requests, and visitor follow-up. Most people have no idea about the hard, tedious work they do.

  • Then there are the people who clean the sanctuary, atrium, windows, bathrooms, kitchen, and maintain the campus grounds – and do so cheerfully without pay.

I could go on and on and mention our ushers, hospitality team, children’s teachers, teen teachers, small group leaders, care team, and every other team. But you get the idea. All of these people are masters at being true servants who are clothed in humility.

PCC Team Members, thank you for serving up the good stuff each week with a heavy dose of humility. You are the key ingredient in our recipe that God uses to make our church so special.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Lot Going On.....

It’s very busy for us today, and will be all week long. Easter weekend is the biggest event on our annual calendar, so the week before is always a flurry of activity. We are fully engaged in weekend preparations, selecting and learning new music, band rehearsal, sermon preparation, changing the stage design, completing the beautification of our campus grounds, working out the final details for all age-level ministries, running extra copies of everything, and generally ramping up the whole program.

In addition, we are having to give attention to six families that are experiencing health-related emergencies right now; there was a death in our church family Sunday night; one elderly man has been hospitalized with a mild heart attack; another woman had very critical surgery yesterday; two other families from our church are right now at the bedside of loved ones who are near death; and another elderly gentleman has just been rushed to the hospital with congestive heart failure.

Needless to say, we are spread pretty thin.

I took this picture in my yard this morning before I came in to work. It’s a flowering crabapple tree. A bright spot in my day.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Praying for all pastors and churches in the area as they plan for Easter services.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Mind Dump - March 28, 2010

  • Another fantabulous day at PCC!

  • Attendance was off. It was evident that Spring Break in the local schools starts this week. But hey, that's okay. I don't expect peak-attendance 52 Sunday's out of the year... just 51 of them. Besides, Jesus was there.

  • No youth group this Wednesday night due to Spring Break.

  • We concluded the Jonah series today. Like so many others, I have thoroughly enjoyed this series. Jonah was a man who made repeated mistakes, yet he was also a man of God. We also see ourselves in Jonah. Most importantly, we see God who never gave up on Jonah.

  • In the story of Jonah, God saved everyone who repented; the sailors in the boat; Jonah from the belly of the whale; the people of Nineveh; and the children of Nineveh. What an awesome God we serve!

  • One of the greatest compliments I ever receive as a teaching pastor is when people tell me that they can understand what I am saying when I preach, and that they learn from me.

  • Every pastor has to answer this critical question: Do I want to IMPRESS people or do I want to INFLUENCE them? It’s easy to impress people with a big vocabulary, but it’s much more effective to influence people by speaking to them in ways they understand.

  • Went over to my sisters house today after church for dinner with her family, mine, and our mother. We had a very nice time.

  • My sister’s home has a big front porch on it. It’s 8ft wide and stretches across the entire from of her house. We always sit out there and visit. It doesn’t get any better than that.

  • Renae and I made a hospital visit this afternoon. Had a pleasant visit there too. We are praying for the gentleman to recover soon.

  • Okay. How about that extended drum solo and extended drum roll at the end of the second song today? Greg did a good job. Give that guy and hand of applause.

  • Seminar 201 – Discovering Spiritual Maturity – in three weeks. We currently have 35 people signed up. In this seminar we teach the five basic habits of a disciple. It is a very effective tool we use at PCC.

  • We’re going to need additional help for hospitality and food service for this seminar. If you are willing to pitch in and help out, let us know.

  • Seminar 101 – Discovering the PCC Family – is in seven weeks. This is an introductory class to our church in which we talk about our Salvation (What God has Done for Us); our Statements (What We Believe); our Strategy (How We Fulfill our Mission) and our Structure (What our Church Government is).

  • It’s near time to have another Baptism Service.

  • We are having a small storage shed/shop built behind the church building. The concrete foundation was poured Friday. The structure should be finished in two weeks. It’ going to be used to store lawn and maintenance equipment.

  • We are going to be purchasing an X-Mark mower for our church. It is a zero-turn-radius type of machinery. I mentioned this in the morning service. The cost is $8,500 – a good deal considering I was able to talk the dealer down from $10,700. This price is a no-brainer for us. We will be receiving a special offering for this project the Sunday after Easter for those who would love to participate in this purchase. In fact, someone even gave today. Keep in mind, this is an investment in your church and our ability to keep our campus maintained in a God-honoring manner.

  • Easter Sunday is next week. BRING someone to church with you. Invite? Yes. But take the extra step and bring them.

  • About 15 children from PCC Kidz will be singing in service that day. They are going to be a big hit. I promise you.

  • I am privileged to serve at PCC.

  • My life has been greatly enriched by deep friendships and meaningful relationships I have formed within our church family.

  • One lady sent word to us that she realizes now that she has to “come home” to PCC. For all her searching ‘out there’ she has not found a new home. Her exact words - “there is no community in the church I currently attend.”

  • I get it. We have always placed a high value on this concept. It’s called "fellowship" in the Bible. In Greek the word is “koinonia”… which means communion… which means commune… which is where we get the word ‘community’ from…. And that’s why our church is called Pace COMMUNITY Church.

  • Pace KOINONIA Church

  • Get it?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Spirituality is Not the Same for Everyone (Part 5)


Like most pastors, I have a lot of people coming to me for advice. Church members often want help with a personal issue – a troubled marriage, a wayward child, a financial mess, or health related matter. Whatever the problem, my response is always the same. I listen, try to discern the unique circumstances about their situation, then apply my best wisdom to whatever they are going through.

But some cases are so complex there’s no easy answer – sometimes no answer at all. When that happens I am usually quick to admit that I have nothing to offer but a listening ear. There’s no need for me to fake it or pretend I know more than I know.

Other situations are so obvious that I know exactly how to solve them. In those cases, I’m not the least bit shy pointing out to them a prescribed course of action. There’s no need for me to hold back or beat around the bush. They’ve got a sticky problem, so let’s fix it.

But then there are the really tough cases. These are those people who come to me asking for advice but don’t really want it. It’s more common than you think. Lots of people who ask for advice really want confirmation or validation instead. They are easy to spot, because they always follow the same pattern. No matter what I suggest they do, they have ten reasons why it won’t work. And no matter how bad the situation, after meeting with me they go out and continue doing exactly what got them into the mess in the first place.

What’s more, they tend to come back to me again and again, each time asking for more advice – though once they get it, they blow it off as being unreasonable or unworkable.

For several years each time this happened, I did not know how to respond. I wanted to be kind and gracious, so when they’d call and ask for another meeting, I’d go ahead and schedule it. They’d come in and we’d go through the same drill as before. They’d ask what to do; I’d tell them; then they’d go back out and do whatever they wanted to do or had been doing all along.

One young man stands out in particular. His struggle with moral purity chalked up countless hours of my time. Each time we met I’d tell him the same thing, “Flee youthful lusts. Run from this situation.” But instead of running, he continued to hang around the temptation, in this case a young woman with whom he had regular, casual sex with. It wasn't even a romance; it was a friendship with side benefits.

He claimed he wanted to stop - and seemed very sincere. But instead of following my advice, he kept trying to overcome the temptation with new bursts of self-discipline, prayer, or extra Bible study. He didn’t think the Biblical admonitions to flee sexual temptations actually applied to him. He felt like he could overcome this situation by his own rules because he was somehow different.

But, in the end, he wasn’t.

After many frustrating encounters like this over the years I finally adopted some rules that now govern my counseling sessions. It goes like this: Ask me anything, and I’ll give you the best advice I can give. Ask me a second time, and I’ll do the same, even if you ignored me the first time. Ask a third time, and I’ll still give it my best shot. But after that, it’s strike three, and “you’re out!” When someone crosses the threshold of ignoring my advice for three times, I’m done. It makes no sense giving advice that I know will not be followed. And it makes no sense to keep trying.

God is Not Our Cosmic Consultant

When it comes to our relationship with God, we often do the very same thing as these hard-headed counselees do, but with one major difference. When God gives guidance, it’s not coming from a fallible pastor; it’s the counsel of God Himself! And when God speaks, it makes no sense to push back and give Him ten reasons why it won’t work. That's an argument that none of us can win.

Every time we push back from God's Word, because we believe His counsel doesn't apply in our situation, He STOPS BEING GOD and becomes our COMSIC CONSULTANT.

A consultant is someone whose wisdom we highly value and listen to, but at the end of the day, WE make the final decision. That’s why they are called consultants.

Here’s the problem: God DOESN’T DO CONSULTING. Never has. Never will. He does GOD. When we treat Him as a consultant, He simply stops showing up to the meetings. We may think He’s there. But He’s not.

HERE'S THE POINT: When it comes to being a spiritual person, the AMOUNT of light and knowledge we possess is not nearly as important as what we are DOING with that light

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Spirituality is Not the Same for Everyone (Part 4)

Is Being Average a Sin?

Is God-pleasing spiritual growth supposed to morph us into some sort of super saint?

As a new Christian I would have answered, “Of course.” All my faith heroes were mountain-moving, charge-the-hill warriors for God. Somehow, somewhere, I picked up the idea that we are all called to do great things for God; that the more devout we become, the more we will be transformed into spiritual Bravehearts, serving God and rallying all others to do the same. It sounds good. And it’s motivational, as long as you are the kind of person who dreams big and has lofty ideals.

But what if you are more of a private person? What if you’ve never dreamed of turning your world upside down? What if your idea of a great life is a quiet life? Does it mean that something is seriously wrong with your spirituality? Or could it be that that is how God made you, and the rest of us will just have to learn to deal with it?

I would say that there are a lot of overly pious people who think something is spiritual wrong with low-drive Christians. That’s because people with zeal tend to project “their passion” onto everyone else. Since they have heard their own call so clearly, they assume anyone who does not share the same passion and vision must not know God very well – and often will appoint themselves to fix you.

That’s how I used to feel until God brought some remarkable people into my life. They weren’t remarkable for what they accomplished; they were remarkable for who they were. They were as godly in character as anyone I’ve ever met, and not a single one of them was a leader, missionary, or Bible teacher. What’s more, when it came time to charge the hill, they opted to serve in the supply line. When challenged to sign up for new programs, work their way up the system, and join us in bold steps of faith, they smiled and politely declined.

On one hand they failed to match up to my image of what a sold-out-for-Jesus, on-fire-for-God Christian should look like. Not a lot of drive, not many accomplishments. On the other hand, when it came to character, relationships, and integrity, they were some of the most Christ-like people I’d ever met.

That caused me to start wondering if my definition of a good Christian was flawed. I began to wonder if there room in God’s kingdom for regular people? Could someone be average and still please God?

I had always assumed that Timothy, Titus, and Silas represented the standard fruit of Paul’s ministry. But I missed the obvious. Timothy and Titus were rare, and represented the next generation of leaders, not the standard for everyone. The vast majority of people that Paul led to Christ, and the majority of people in the churches he planted, never became leaders or joined Paul on a missionary journey. They were farmers and merchants, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters who quietly lived out their lives as regular Christians. These Christian converts of Paul never planted a church, spent hours in study or solitude, or courageously preached on a street corner. Even though they didn’t do great things for God, they DID cross the finish line after having run the race well.

Let’s be honest. In many churches today, average Christians are criticized as being “nominal” believers. What kind of pious talk is that? You’ve heard it before. You have been hammered by being told you are not doing enough, not reading enough, not praying enough, or living holy enough. You have been force-fed a diet of spiritual disciplines and Biblical knowledge all designed to make you into the one thing you’ve never wanted to be: a super saint.

You have probably been bombarded with drive-by guilt trips heaped on you by over-zealous, narrow-mined teachers who constantly remind you of your failures to measure up to Christ’s commands. These zealots are hard-charging and possess strong opinions of themselves and everyone else. No wonder so many of us simply give up. We’ve never seen a model of spirituality that works for us.

Think of the countless numbers of regular Christians who sit in churches on Sunday worshipping the God they love. They will never read their way through the Bible. Most will never teach a Bible class, go on a mission trip, house the homeless, talk to strangers about Jesus, or do anything spectacular. All they will ever do is simply live a life of obedience with grace and dignity. All they will ever accomplish is raising their children well, be good citizens, faithful employees, and walk with Jesus daily. Yes, they will love and know God… model a quiet life without hypocrisy… and bear the fruit to prove it.

In my mind, such people are not only spiritual, they are spiritual giants... and I love shepherding them.

11 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. (I Thessalonians 4:11-12)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spirituality is Not the Same for Everyone (Part 3)

Family Differences

Let’s admit it. Most of us think that if other people only knew what we knew and lived the way we lived, they’d be better people – like us. This belief is based on the assumption that there is only one logical response to facing life. And of course, OUR response is the only logical response.

Just look at the way we critique and try to change people who view life through a different set of lenses than we do. We attack their logic and criticize their behavior, confident that the only explanation for their problems is because they are not more like “ME.”

You see this in families. A dad loves to go camping. He gives his wife and kids fifteen reasons why outdoor living is good for them, plus a story about how much he used to hate it until he gave it a try. So they give it a try.
They still prefer Disneyland.

When it comes to spirituality, we do the same thing. We have a hard time accepting expressions of Christianity that are different than our own. Depending on your theological beliefs or personality type, it's very easy to label the other guys as being too sheltered or too worldly, too strict or too liberal, too rigid or too casual, sold out or compromised, too hard or watered down, too zealous or just a nominal Christian.

But the truth is everyone of us are wired differently, uniquely created by God Himself to be that way. And the differences between personality types and how each one expresses their spirituality – even within the same congregation – should be celebrated for its diversity, not condemned.

Consider the differences between Jesus and John the Baptist. They were from the same family (they were cousins, and they were both in God's family), yet two people could not have been more different from one another than these two. John lived in isolation waiting for people to come to him; Jesus traveled from town to town seeking out sinners. John followed a strict religious diet and fulfilled the rigors of a Nazarite vow; Jesus attended parties, lots of parties, and was known for turning water into wine!

The religious establishment condemned them both. They rejected John as a kook, a crazy man who didn't understand their spiritually privileged position as descendants of Abraham. They also blew off Jesus as a rouge rabbi and friend of sinners.

Finally Jesus had enough. He told the Pharisees that they were like a bunch of spoiled children calling out to one another in the market place, never satisfied with anyone or anything. When someone played the flute, the instrument of celebration, they wouldn't dance. When someone sang a funeral song, they wouldn't cry. No matter what, they couldn't be pleased.

The Pharisees responded to John's ministry of self-denial and isolation by claiming he had a demon. And they responded to Jesus' accessibility and openness by branding Him a party animal - a glutton, drunkard, winebibber, and too close a friend of sinners.

Jesus told them they had it all wrong. Both He and John the Baptist were pleasing to the Father, despite the radical differences in their approach to ministry and lifestyle. And the wisdom of each of their paths was proven to be right by the fruit of their ministry.

Let's be clear. The most important thing in pleasing God is NOT a particular approach to spirituality or style of ministry; it's the FRUIT of ones life that MATTERS. And on that account, both John and Jesus passed with flying colors. The Father was pleased with both of them.

That should put to bed, once and for all, our attempts to create a one-size-fits-all approach to spirituality.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Sin to Avoid as a Pastor

A big sin to avoid in the early years of pastoring is prideful, self-righteousness in your theological positions. Just learn to love people instead; it's much more effective for a successful ministry.

An easy error to fall victim to is presuming the Bible teaches only what my tradition says it means, fits my system, or what I personally want it to say.

Spirituality is Not the Same for Everyone (Part 2)

Have you ever been to a marriage enrichment conference? Renae and I have been to three. I always thought we had a good marriage until I started reading books and going to conferences designed to tell us how to have a great one. We have always gotten along very well, love hanging out together, and enjoy each others company. Taking into consideration the normal ebbs and flows of marriage life, we have always felt very connected to each other. But the books and conferences informed us we were not eating enough meals together, the TV was on too much, our date nights were far too rare, we didn’t have enough family time together, and our prayer time as a couple was sorely lacking. Huh?

The message was clear: The fact that we had a strong marriage didn’t matter; how we got there was what mattered most. And apparently we had gotten there the wrong way. On their scale, we didn’t measure up.

When the Mold Doesn't Fit

When it comes to having a relationship with God, the same thing often happens. Books on the inner life end up presenting a cookie-cutter approach to spirituality that focuses more on the steps we take than the actual quality of our walk with God. Churches do the same thing too – they use a canned approach. It’s a one-sized-fits-all approach to spirituality: “Follow our rules, fulfill our rituals, and God will be pleased.”

Does God play favorites? Apparently some people think so because the conventional path to pleasing God seems heavily tilted in the direction of certain personality types. For instance, almost all the books on spirituality, the inner life, and getting deep in God are written by introverts – smart ones at that. If you read enough of those books you will soon get the distinct impression that God is more partial to reflective type personalities with high IQs, impressive vocabularies, and lots of self-discipline. Well, that leaves a lot of us regular folk on the outside looking in.

Do good readers make better Christians? Often we are told that if you want to know God, you must read your Bible regularly. No argument here. And if you want to go REALLY DEEP, you must also read the time-honored classics written by the saints of old; most of whom have been dead for hundreds of years. But if mining the depths of ancient scholars is the key to knowing God and being truly spiritual, I wonder how regular folks got there before Gutenberg invented the printing press? Even more to the point, if reading skills are so vital to spirituality, then how does a dyslexic person ever hope to know God?

But didn’t Jesus say something about the kingdom of heaven belonging to those whose faith is like that of little children? Yes, He did (Matthew 18:3; 19:14; Luke 18:16). If He really meant it, how does our insistence on understanding deep theology as being essential to pleasing God fit in with a child’s theological naiveté?

Anyone who has ever been around a children’s Sunday School class knows that kids have some pretty messed-up theology. They haven’t got a clue about propitiation, the Trinity, sanctification, or any of the other important doctrines of Scripture. But as Jesus pointed out, many of them can and do have a great relationship with God – and often, a relationship that is worth imitating.

The fact is, the mold simply does not fit all of us. Each of us are wired differently and respond to different tools better than others. For instance, have you ever wondered why so many godly people feel like failures? No matter how good a Christian they are, they still feel like they have fallen short. In most cases, these people feel like spiritual failures not because they are far from God, but because they are unable to live up to standards of conventional wisdom that we measure spirituality by.

They stalled out in the book of Leviticus each time they tried to read their Bible through. Or they found extended prayer meetings unfulfilling and torturous. Or they were extroverts who bought one of those fancy leather journals, but never got around to writing anything in it. Mostly, they were regular folk, common people, who for whatever reason didn’t fit the mold very well.

There’s nothing wrong with conventional wisdom when it’s right. And most of the time it is. But when it’s not, someone has to speak up and tell people it's okay to break the mold.

It’s the end result that matters, not the path we take to get there. God wants a relationship with all of us, but it can’t be found in a one-size-fits-all approach. If something produces a great walk with God for you, it’s a good path to take. If not, it’s probably a waste of time, even if lots of other folks insist you do it that way.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spirituality is Not the Same for Everyone (Part 1)

“the common people heard Him (Jesus) gladly” (Mark 12:37)

Common People

It is no accident that Jesus was raised in a backwater town and used simple illustrations to teach profound truths. It is no accident that He used the common street language of His day, Aramaic, to teach God’s Word rather than classical Greek – which was far more eloquent but way beyond the grasp of the common man.

When Jesus burst onto the scene, He confronted a religious system that saw God as being inaccessible for the common man. Spirituality was reserved for the elite – the chosen – those with pedigree, education, and a commitment to rigid self-discipline.

Instead, He offered a different path to spirituality, one that farmers, fishermen, carpenters, tax collectors, prostitutes, even little children and common sinners could follow.

He raised the bar of righteousness, but lowered the bar of entry.

Today, in our zeal to honor and know God we have re-raised the bar of spirituality with definitions beyond the reach of common men and women – and more importantly, beyond the heights set by God Himself.

One of my biggest regrets as a Christian was being too hard on myself in the early days of my spiritual journey. I once thought that true spirituality at its highest level was out of reach for most, so I worked all the harder to attain it. I formed rigid ideas about what a disciple is supposed to look like. Suddenly, “I” became the standard by which all others were measured. This caused me to preach stricter, meaner, and harder.

I’m glad I outgrew it.

If you don’t fit the mold of religion; if you’re tired of adjusting to other people’s definitions of spirituality; if traditional spiritual disciplines just are not working for you; but your desire is to know God more, you are not alone.

I invite you to come back to this blog each day and discover what spirituality for the common person looks like.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Mind Dump - March 21, 2019

  • Very good day at PCC worship services. Attendance was up in the second service – something I’m thankful for.

  • I met about five our six people who are new to our church, all of whom have been attending for a few weeks. I just love meeting new people; they are always so nice and friendly. Plus, it is very encouraging to me to know that God is always active in His work of drawing people to Himself, and many of those people He sends to us.

  • God is untiring in this regard. He never slumber or sleeps. Psalms 121:3-4

  • Preached on Jonah chapter 3 – “Failure is Not Final.” This message was very encouraging to me and many others.

  • A quote from today: The victorious Christian life is a series of new beginnings.

  • Another quote: God loves to give people second chances.

  • The best part of chapter 3 to me is v.1-2. where it says the Word of the Lord came to Jonah a “second time” and God said “Go to Nineveh.” In other words, God said to Jonah this second time the SAME THING He said to Jonah the FIRST TIME. God doesn’t change His mind about His Word.

  • We also talked the “gifts and calling of God” being “without repentance.” God doesn’t change His mind about that either.

  • I’m still enjoying the series immensely. Apparently others are too - I’ve gotten more feedback from this series than I have from any other in recent memory. I think everyone can see a little bit of themselves in the life of Jonah.

  • Next Sunday will be part four (on chapter four), and will conclude the series.

  • Last Friday night a group of us gathered at a coffee house on Woodbine Road. My oldest son and another guy were playing acoustic guitar there, which added to the ambiance and mood. It was real nice. (My son is on the left in the picture above, and the other guy helps leads worship at a church in Pensacola). I think they both got embarrassed when I shouted out a request, "Play some Olivia Newton John!" You should have been there.

  • PCC CHILDREN’S MINISTRY has a FACEBOOK page. Check it out. I think we have one of the best age-level ministries in the area!

  • After service today (after both services in fact), I stood in the atrium and was very impressed after noticing how long people stay after church visiting with one another. It’s really is a sight to see. The conversation was SO LOUD and lively. You would think these people hadn’t seen each other in years.

  • The people in our church eat out together, visit in one another’s homes, go on boat rides together after church on Sunday, take motorcycle rides together, and some even vacation together. It’s amazing.

  • And to think, none of this existed twelve years ago.

  • I had a very deep time of reflection this afternoon about our church. I was thinking about how happy, healthy, and successful PCC is and it dawned on me how faithful God has been to bring this about. LET ME EXPLAIN. About 27 months ago our church experienced (what we now call) a ten-year hiccup. A small group of people left our church family which was a sad and painful time for us. But the miracle of it all was how quickly God sent other people to our church family to take their place. I mean almost as quickly as they left, others came in. These new people quickly proved themselves as “God sends” that were a great encouragement to us – not to mention an asset to the ministry. They were friendly, easy to get along with, willing to pitch in wherever needed, and have turned into great friends. In fact, even to this day they continue to labor at PCC simply because they love their church. They have all become personal friends of mine too.

  • What I’m trying to say is that in the hour of our greatest need, God sent the right people at the right time… and we never missed a beat. I marvel at God’s faithfulness.

  • This gives me great assurance because I absolutely know that God has His Hand on this church and a vested interest in seeing it prevail. It’s not about me. It’s not about you. This church does not rise and fall on me, or anyone else’s agenda. It’s all about God and we have seen a demonstration of His handiwork.

  • ANOTHER LESSON I LEARNED: A church grows as much through subtraction as much as it does through addition.

  • I received a testimony from Karen Smith this week. Here is an EXCERPT from HER LETTER:

    I just want to say Thank You!!! In the beginning of me becoming a Christian 3 years ago, during one of your teachings, you made the statement that a major part of new Christians will not last more than a year; that they start out strong and on fire, but within a year they will give up and go back to their old lifestyle. This statement really resonated with me.

    As time went by and I would be going through struggles, I have to admit I would get to a point where I would think 'this is too hard. I can't do this.' I would start to weaken and want to give up, but then your words would echo over and over in my mind. Those words (your statement) would be the motivation that made me determined not to be one of those statistics. I would then dig my heels in and push harder to find a way to draw closer to God in any and every way I could, feeling I was holding on for dear life. Needless to say, because of this, my life has changed dramatically.

    Now three years later, I realize how blessed I am to have become a part of the PCC family. I have learned so much and continue to learn daily. For the first time in my life, I have learned what it means to have a true relationship with Christ. It's not perfect by any means, but my life is more than I could have ever imagined it could be. And more than ever, I want others to know and even more so, experience how life changing accepting Jesus into your life is. I know God gets all the glory and I am truly thankful. But also, THANK YOU for staying strong and preaching the truth. Karen

  • This is why we do what we do… and it never gets old.

  • After church today I made a pot of red beans and rice for the family. It was the perfect meal for a cold, windy, March day. I’m a good cook…. Ask my wife if you don’t believe me.

  • We had my mother over for dinner after church today. It’s her birthday tomorrow. She’s still 53. I’m glad Renae thought to invite her. I’m too boneheaded to think of stuff like that. I should be tied to a whipping post and beaten.

  • This WEDNESDAY NIGHT – Unite Family Picnic and Egg Hunt for the kids. Grills hot by 6:00 PM. Bring your own meat. Good hang time and fellowship.

  • Some good things are happening in our small groups right now.

  • We don’t have as many groups this semester as we normally do, but this is a good thing. We now have an opportunity to restructure and reorganize this ministry. We are raising the bar for any future leaders.

  • Here’s a blog I read about protecting your pastor. Pretty good stuff.

  • I’m starting a new blog series tomorrow. I might call it "Lighten Up" based upon Jesus' invitation "Come unto Me... for My yoke is easy and MY BURDEN IS LIGHT." This series will be designed to CHALLENGE many of our modern-day, widely-accepted, and deeply entrenched IDEAS about what it means to know God and what it is that PRODUCES TRUE SPIRITUALITY. Quite frankly, in our zeal to know God better, we have raised the bar with definitions that are beyond the reach of the common person - and more importantly, beyond the heights set by God Himself. Don’t miss it.

  • BTW, I will continue my "Confessions of a Church Planter" series as it comes to me. But I think this new series will be a good teaching moment and very helpful for the people of PCC.

  • Peace. I'm out. Time to go eat some more red beans and rice.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Manly Men for Ministry

"...endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (2 Timothy 2:3)

Manly men. You don’t see enough of them in churches.

It may just be me, but I think a lot of the worship dudes that are popular today are not very manly. They seem to be very much in touch with their feelings, and their singing sounds like prom songs to Jesus rather than robust masculinity and good theology. I guess I was cut from a different cloth than this crowd who drinks herbal tea, wears pastel colors, and loves to sing Kumbaya My Lord around a campfire.

Give me a macho guy who sings macho songs and I’ll listen to what he’s got to say. Most men prefer singing that is proclamational and thunderous in nature over emotional love songs. Myself, I best relate to men who carry over-sized pocket knives, drive gas-guzzling automobiles that get single-digit miles to the gallon, like to get outdoors, canoe in rivers, and talk about what they ‘think’ more than how they feel.

Sadly, the same is true for a lot of preachers. The weakest of men are often drawn into the ministry simply because it is an indoor job that does not require heavy lifting. But the ministry requires men who are tough. This fact is often overlooked. When Paul said a pastor must fight like a soldier, train like an athlete, preach like an ox, and work hard like a farmer (I Timothy 5:17-18; 2 Timothy 2:3-4; 2:5; 2:6), he had in mind the manliest of men being in leadership.

The church needs men. Real men. Not boys – men. Men who want to see lives transformed for generations to come and are willing to do the hard work. We need men who love their wives, pastor their children, submit to Scripture, bleed the gospel when cut, have steel in their spine, love in their heart, and lost people in their sights.

Many of the men who sit the in pews on a Sunday do not have the calling, courage, conviction, compulsion, or character to qualify. We are too influenced by weak-hearted spirituality. Ministry and toughness go together. My desire for PCC is to become a community of grace that is so ruled by Jesus Christ that our men will work their jobs, eat meat, romance their wives, study their Bibles, and raise their kids to obey authority.

God is still looking for a few good men.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Confessions of a Church Planter (Part 11)

Change & Conflict

In my own mind, Pace Community Church is not a large church. But according to national statistics 95% of the churches in America run less than 300 in attendance on Sunday, which means PCC is in the upper 5% of more than 400,000 churches. For this I am humbly thankful, even though I believe we can do better. One thing I have learned, however, is that as a church grows, it changes, and change causes conflict.

Every married couple knows that there is conflict in any loving relationship. The question is not will we ever have conflict, but rather how to deal with it. Having been successfully married to Renae for 29 years, (I’m still amazed that she keeps me), I can attest to the fact that learning to work through our conflict has allowed us to not fear conflict, but rather to use it as an occasion to build a stronger relationship. The same has been true for the PCC family for the last twelve years.

Church growth is good and to be desired. It means more people are being saved, discipled, and are worshipping God. Jesus Himself said, “I will build My church.” But the price of growth is conflict. I think many churches are afraid to grow, and even build theological justifications for not growing, simply because they are afraid of change and its resulting conflict; which means that rather than obeying Christ they are worshipping comfort.

1. Change resulting from growth means that some people in the church will lose authority or power when responsibilities are divided among others. Conflict arises up when people are given a change of title that they have been clinging to as a source for power. When told they do not meet the requirements to become an elder or deacon, for example, or are placed under the leadership of someone they perceive to be less qualified than they, such people can become insulted, even resentful. They forget that Jesus Himself took the title of “servant” as our model of humility, and they are not to act like the power-hunger, authority-grabbing heathens He warned us about. Power illicitly motivates some people, and when they lose power they fight to retain it.

2. Change also means that new people coming into the church will have access to certain information, and other people will feel left out of the information loop. This is because as a church grows, the lines of communication increase exponentially and become more complex. There is no way that everyone can know everything that is going on, so you begin operating on a “need to know” basis. Some people will bristle at this. While it is important to make every effort to keep people appropriately informed, those who are motivated by information will fight to be “in the know” and will incite conflict over who is allowed to know what in the church.

I’ll never forget the day in 2002 when one man in our church, who was a leader at the time, went ballistic because he was not informed about a certain activity that had taken place. One of our ministry teams took an overnight trip together, locally - kind of like a mini retreat - for the purpose of team-building, planning for the next quarter, and sharpening their ministry skills together. It was an amazing success. But when this man found out about it, he was infuriated. The very idea that people in the church were doing things without his knowledge or consent was too much for him to cope with, and it showed. We were in a leadership meeting and he actually began hitting the edge of the table with his hand, in a karate-chop fashion, saying, “I didn’t know a thing about this! Why wasn’t I informed?”

Oh man. I knew the fertilizer was about to hit the fan… and it did. This man had a repeated pattern of voicing objections and clearly had some 'control' issues. On more than one occasion he tried to exercise jurisdiction in the affairs of other ministries that were clearly outside his scope of responsibility or involvement; with his own role being clearly defined by our bylaws and church structure.

My response to him was as humble, yet as strong as, I could muster. I called him by name and said, “You have no right making this kind of demand on other people. That ministry team is under the direction of its own leader, not you, so you have no say-so in anything they do. The only area that you are allowed to concern yourself with is the ministry team that you serve on.”

Over the years, that very issue has been one of the biggest challenges I have faced among personnel in our church – church controllers who like to concern themselves with what others are doing. They will speak opinions into other departments or minsitry areas that are of no concern of theirs. Or one small group will start sticking their nose in some other small groups business. That kind of thing. But I am glad to say that we have overcome these conflicts by pressing forward and not allowing “controllers” hold everything back.

3. As a church grows another change occurs - new people become visible, while others who used to be visible become less so. Some people love to be seen and known in the church, and those motivated by visibility will cause conflict if their visibility is reduced. In some churches, this means that the guy who used to fill the pulpit when the pastor was away, the person who used to make the Sunday morning announcements, and the lady who played organ in the band, no longer do because the church now has more capable people to do those jobs. Sadly, by causing conflict over their loss of visibility, such people forget that Jesus is still watching their behavior and is quite disappointed by it.

4. Another change resulting from growth is that more physical, emotional, and spiritual energy is required than in previous seasons of ministry from leaders and church workers. Practically speaking, as the pace picks up, some church leaders can no longer keep up and are overtaken by stronger, more energetic leaders who can maintain the pace and take the church to its next level of fruitfulness. Some who gain their sense of identity and well-being from being a leader in the church, or some who feel that because they served well in a previous season have the right to retain their leadership position, cause conflict over the pace of growth. Such people might even go as far as to sabotage the ministry in an effort to slow things down rather than humbly accept their limits and find a place to serve that best suits their energy levels.

5. Growth also means changes have to be made in the decision making processes. In a growing church decisions have to be made quickly so that the church can mature and grow. These decisions cannot wait until next months board meeting. This means that committee meetings and slow-moving bureaucratic systems must be eliminated in favor of empowered individuals who can make critical decisions during normal business hours of the work week. Some people value their ability to control the decision-making processes, and it is the method they use to control and rule the church and will resist such changes.

While it is true churches can make decisions too hastily, what I am speaking about here are those people who obstruct decision making and delay change by pulling the emergency brake all the time. Such people tend to be in the minority and often cause a great deal of conflict by resisting anything and everything. Their tactics include various kinds of stalling, postponing votes, missing meetings, demanding unreasonable amounts of information, nitpicking over fine details that are truly unimportant, and even sharing confidential information with others in the church in an effort to gain enough of a following to slow down change.

At its best, a church is like a river that can be channeled to bring its life-giving flow to a dry and parched community who are in search of living waters. However, every attempt to prevent growth kills the church from maximizing its potential, or either kills the controller with stress-related illness. Therefore, churches must accept the fact that growth is messy and change brings conflict.

Because we want more people to worship Jesus, we must be willing to accept the inevitable. Such change can be perceived by some as a loss of power, or it can be viewed as an opportunity to share the gospel with many others.

“And this I do for the gospel’s sake” (1 Corinthians 9: 22-23).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Legalism Divides Churches

Legalists love to act like God by making the rules for everyone else. Legalists love rules about rules. Legalists love rules about who gets to make the rules about the rules. Legalists love rules about who gets to enforce the rules made by the people who the rules were appointed to make the rules about the rules.

Legalists love rules about who gets to interpret the rules that rule. Legalists get perfectly euphoric when they get to enact the rules punishing people who break the rules as interpreted by those appointed by the rules. In the end, legalists want to rule through rules and wield their rules like weapons to divide the church body into bloodied parts.

Pride Divides Churches

Another threat to church unity is pride, the same sin found in Lucifer that led to his rebellion against God. Pride is the sin that turned an angel into a devil.

The Bible mentions a man named Diotrephes only once, tragically, as the man who always wanted to be first (3 John v.9). Proud people think they are very important and delight in airing their opinions, expected to be consulted regarding their opinions, and get very angry when they are not obeyed.

Proud people love church because in it they are prone to find nice polite people who are easy to take advantage of and push around. Proud people act like leaders when they are not. Proud people like to say such things as “God told me,” as if they are a mediator between God and others. Proud people only think of themselves and their family and conveniently overlook the fact that planet earth has other people in it, some of whom even have different last names than theirs. Lastly, proud people love to tell others what to do, but when confronted for their own sin of pride, will reject correction.

Pride is an ugly sin that we are guilty of to varying degrees. Pride always leads to division. The only way a church can get on Jesus’ mission and stay there is by practicing Jesus’ humility. Proud people who want to be first and are unwilling to do whatever is best for the whole church – because they are interested in their own glory more than God’s – are sinners who need to be called out to repentance, not coddled to ruinous division in the church.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Heretics Divide Churches

Sadly, the word heretic gets thrown around too little or too much, and the result is that most people are not sure what or who a heretic is. Heresy is false doctrine, and heretics do exist. The church is to fight against heresy and heretics, and not give them any voice in church matters in the name of being polite.

The Bible refers to itself as a sword for good reason: we need this offensive weapon to fight against false-teaching heretics. Since the garden Eden, the serpent, who Jesus called the father of all lies, has been continually at work propagating his falsehoods. Joining him is a legion of false apostles, and false teachers inspired by demons and taken captive by Satan to serve his cause, who promote false teaching that includes a false gospel about a false Jesus.

Paul warned that false teachers would RISE UP from AMONG THE FLOCK OF GOD, right out of your own congregation - people you know - and when they do they must be stopped:

28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. (Acts 20:28-31).

False teachers are like savage wolves, and church leaders being like shepherds entrusted to care for the flock of God for which Jesus died, must stand against heretics.

Paul instructed Timothy to stand against false teachers in his church, some of whom had probably even become teaching elders. He told Timothy to not only quell this uprising, but to replace it with “sound doctrine” (I Timothy 1:10).

Elsewhere, Paul tells Timothy he must preach and teach the Bible with the strength of an ox, fight like a tough soldier, train and compete like a skilled athlete, and sweat at his labor like a farmer (I Timothy 5:17-18; 2 Timothy 2:3-4; 2:5; 2:6). When done right, ministry is hard work. It includes not only teaching what is true but also refuting what is false. Many Christians today respond in horror when church leaders rebuke people who teach false doctrine and drive them from the church, declaring, “That is not very Christ-like, and not very nice.” Maybe they should take another look at the ministry of Jesus to find out what He was really like. Paul was adamant in his declaration, “We DEMOLISH arguments and every pretense that sets itself up against the knowledge of God…” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

The New Testament calls heretics dogs and evildoers, empty and deceitful, puffed up without reason, given to mystical speculation and vanity without understanding, products of shipwrecked faith, demonic liars with a seared conscience, peddlers of silly myths, arrogant fools with depraved minds, the spiritual equivalent of gangrene, foolish, chatty deceivers, destructive blasphemers, ignorantly unstable, and antichrists (Phil 3:2; Col 2:8; I Tim 1:3-7; 19; 4:1-2; 6:3-5; 2 Tim 2:14-18; 23; Titus 1:10-14; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 3:16; I John 2:18). So much for being polite. The stakes are too high to be nice when it comes to heresy.

The problem with some churches and their leaders is that they won’t fight, and the problem with others is that they won’t stop fighting. They key is to fight for what is most essential to the gospel of Jesus Christ and His work in the earth, and to do it with the humble courage that God requires

Church Unity

Have you ever given a great deal of thought to last supper? Sitting with Jesus among the disciples is Judas Iscariot. Judas spent three years being trained personally by Jesus. Furthermore, Judas got to sit and eat regularly with Jesus as a friend. While the disciples were a unified team, Judas was never unified with them because his heart was far from them; he was a thief and had been plotting against them for a long time. Yet, at the last supper Judas is among them appearing to be a friend. Along with the other eleven disciples, Judas had worked on various ministry projects, ate, and traveled together for three years. To everyone who saw them, the perception had to be one of unity. Nevertheless, Judas was on his own mission with his own agenda. In spite of appearances, disunity was bubbling beneath the surface.

Having thought about it for a long time, I now realize that Judas not only betrayed Jesus but the REST OF THE TEAM as well. Imagine how much it must have grieved and angered each of the disciples to discover that Judas was never really one of them, even thought he pretended to be. For all the time they had spent together, Judas had a secret agenda in his heart. Did they feel betrayed? Did they feel lied to? Did they feel used? Did they feel foolish for trusting a friend who turned out to be an enemy? Did the subtle signs of divisiveness start to make sense in retrospect as they looked back over the previous three years? Did people bombard them with questions about Judas until they were simply tired of talking about it? Did gossiping people who liked Judas spread vicious rumors and lies about the other disciples, trying to make them responsible for Judas’ ruin?

From a Biblical standpoint, unity is to be pursued by churches for several reasons. (1) Jesus prayed for it often. (2) Without unity spiritual health and growth cannot be maintained. (3) Unity is fragile because it is gained slowly and lost quickly. (4) Paul repeatedly commands unity in churches (I Cor. 1:10; 2 Cor. 13:11; Eph. 4:3; Phil. 1:27).

Practically, unity is something that requires much skill to achieve and maintain. Since unity is so important to New Testament churches, it must be carefully defined and pursued in these critical areas:

There must be THEOLOGICAL UNITY in the church. This means that leaders and members agree on what they will and will not fight over. At PCC there are certain non-negotiables that we will go to the mat over. These include our doctrinal beliefs that are closely connected to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and are outlined in Seminar 101. On the other hand, there are less essential issues that we don’t feel the need to fight over, and therefore live with an open hand, and agree to disagree in an agreeable way.

Two of the biggest threats to theological unity are legalism (adding rules and doctrines to the Bible) and libertinism (removing moral limits from the Bible). These two issues are great threats to the truth of Jesus Christ and the church needs to defend against both. Jesus Himself faced legalism and libertinism against the Pharisees and Sadducees in His own day.

An example of legalism is found in the church of Galatia (i.e., the book of Galatians), and an example of libertinism is found in the church at Corinth (i.e, the book of I Corinthians).

There must also be RELATIONAL UNITY in a church. This does not mean that everyone has to wear matching T-shirts and go out together every Friday night. Neither does it mean that everyone has to like everyone else. But it does mean that people love one another and demonstrate it by being respectful, friendly, and kind in their interactions with each other, especially in areas where they differ.

There must be PHILOSOPHICAL UNITY. This means agreement on methods and style. Two people may love Jesus the same, but if one person wants a church to use liturgy complete with a robe-wearing pastor accompanied by a hand bell choir, and the other wants to worship with an acoustic guitar and a three-chord song to sing to Jesus for one hour, then somebody is going to get a knuckle sandwich.

In addition to Bible rules, the church family, like any family, also has house rules about how they do things. So a church must define itself and say, “This is how we do things” and seek to attract those who find it comfortable to be in that environment. Without common agreement on style, a church can quickly divide in factions that criticize one another and unify themselves only in the common cause of killing the church or each other.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday Mind Dump - March 14, 2010

  • Good services today. Attendance was down about 30-35 people due to time-change, a couple of families were traveling out of town, and still a few others were out because of sickness.

  • The people who were in service today seemed to really enjoy themselves. I really love seeing people hang back after the services are over talking to each other, visiting and catching up. It’s like a family reunion.

  • It means something that church people enjoy each others company and fellowship. A lot of churches cannot say that.

  • I’m enjoying the message series through Jonah. Every one of us can see something of ourselves in the story.

  • They beauty of God’s Word is that it never sugar-coats the sins of His people. It always tells the truth because it is the truth.

  • A quote from today: God has an antidote to bad behavior. PAIN. Seeing the light is wonderful, but feeling the pain is motivational.

  • Enjoyed telling the story about the liberal preacher who tried to discredit the book of Jonah. I’ve told it a couple of times before, and it always works because you don’t see the punch line coming.

  • I’m getting a lot of positive feedback from this series. It is really prompting some in-depth conversations among the members in our church family too.

  • There were some nice comments on Facebook today:

  • Christa said: I thought church was awesome today!!! I sooooo relate to the story of Jonah!!! I have run from God and felt like I was in the belly of a beast, only to be spit out and RESTORED, by the power of the Holy Spirit!!!!! Woo Hoo!!!

  • Carole said: Great music and worship today. I was sitting out in the atrium today after finishing in the kitchen waiting on Shelby. I finally got it about Jonah, God put Jonah in the whale to get his attention so he could talk to him. Then when God was through talking to him, God let Jonah out of the whale. Hope God doesn't need to put me in a whale to talk to me. Thanks Ronnie you preach so we can understand God’s Word.

  • Rose said: I agree with you Carole - I'm hoping I don't need something that major for God to get my attention! And also thanks Ronnie...I've learned sooooo much since coming to PCC - you are an awesome leader and teacher!

  • I think the main reason people learn is because THEY WANT TO and their heart is OPEN to the Word.

  • I heard a good tithing testimony today. One man told Gene (our admin pastor) that after hearing the Malachi series he decided to take God up on the “test Me” challenge. He is self-employed and ran out of work, becoming unemployed. So he started tithing off anything that came into his hands and within a couple of weeks his business rebounded, work started coming in, and he’s making full-time wages again.

  • God is true to His Word.

  • Yesterday (Saturday) was a good day for me. Got up at 5:30 am after nine hours sleep. Drank some coffee and did a little reading. Then took a morning run – I ran for one hour straight – which is monumental for me. When I started running back in October I couldn’t run 2-3 minutes. Did a lot of yard work too; planted some tomato plants, and enlarged the front patio for some outdoor living spaces.

  • When you're being crucified, do what Jesus did on the Cross: Talk to the Father and quote scripture

  • I heard that the new Matt Damon movie, Green Zone, is good. Might go watch it.

  • My oldest son and daughter in-law are buying their first home. They are supposed to close March 31. It’s a brand new home and very nice.

  • I read about 12-15 blogs each day. Some are real good. Other are real quacks. There are some mean people out there.

  • Unite Family Picnic & Easter Egg Hunt on the last Wednesday of the month.

  • I think PCC is a good church and enjoy belonging to it.

  • It didn’t get dark today until almost 7:00 PM. I love long days.

  • Going to get up tomorrow morning very early and take a long run.

  • Our church is going to be building a storage shed out back pretty soon and purchasing a large commercial mower to maintain the campus ground with.

  • I think that 2010 is going to be a bust-out year for us. A lot of good things are happening at PCC.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Five

1. Saturday is TIME CHANGE. Set your clocks FORWARD one hour before you go to bed. That way you won’t be late for church.

2. This Sunday’s message is from Jonah chapter 2 – “When You Hit Bottom, Look Up” and is bound to be very encouraging. Bring a friend. I’m really enjoying this series! BTW, do you think the fish in this picutre could swallow a man?

3. On a personal note, as you know I have been on a sugar fast for about 7 weeks now. This has resulted in an unexpected, but positive, side-effect – my craving for all other food has diminished as well. Apparently my blood-sugar levels are in balance which means I am not craving food all the time. My appetite is under control. I am eating less (but plenty enough) and feel satisfied after eating good foods. I’m not craving sugars, fats, or junk. My waistline is getting smaller too. What's not to like about that?

4. THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: In heaven, it will not be those who knew the most, but those who loved the most that will receive reward (I Corinthians 13:2).

5. ANOTHER THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Any church that has become content with not growing is saying to a lost community, “You can die lost.” Let’s never become that kind of church. Church growth requires unselfish members who are willing to sacrifice convenience for the sake of others.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Identifying Pastor-Elders

I must confess my frustration when looking to identify potential pastor-elders from within our church body. No matter how much I may like certain people, or how gifted they may be in certain areas, some things are deal breakers for these individuals:

• One man is known to be a good Bible teacher, but he is not willing to financially support this church. I guess he doesn't teach that part of the Bible because he's not living it.

• A couple of others have expressed a desire to preach on Sunday mornings. Yet they are not willing to teach anywhere else in the church first, and don't. They don't teach any classes at any level, lead Bible studies, nor lead a small group. If God's Word was really burning in their heart they would teach anywhere they got a chance. Plus it would be an opportunity to prove themselves before others and hone their skills.. But they want to preach on Sunday? It doesn't work like that.

• Still yet another man has demonstrated his skill at being a good Bible teacher, but he won’t make a commitment to the PCC family or our vision.

• And how many other men do I look at – who have such potential – yet they lack a real hunger for the Word of God. They never bring a Bible. They don’t read their Bibles. They don’t talk Bible stuff... and they give little evidence of Bible content stored up in their heart.

You can’t be a pastor-elder at this church under those conditions… even if we are friends. This is Jesus’ church, not mine, and our friendship does not trump God's requirments for you. He’s already prescribed the criteria for leadership in the church and it's His standards, not mine, that have to be met. Exceptions cannot be made. Authority in the church is given only to those who demonstrate that they are ‘under’ the authority of God. And the Sunday morning pulpit is not a place for thrill seekers or spare-time hobbyists. The pulpit is a place where heaven and earth come together so that God’s Word may be communicated, sound doctrine is taught, the church is guided, and God’s people are fed. This position is reserved for those who understand the nature of the calling.

Elders must "FIRST be proved; THEN let them use the office" (I Timothy 3:10).

As Jesus did when selecting His disciples, I think the best place to start when looking for leaders to serve in our church is by prayerfully asking God the Father which men and women He wants chosen. Prayer should always be first. Next we should search out those who are already functioning as pastors in the church, and meet the Biblical criteria. Then we need to look up their financial giving to the church because Jesus teaches us that our money follows our heart, and it’s important to know if people are on board with our mission to take the gospel to our city. Plus they must have a hunger for, and be skilled in, the Word of God.

The people who meet these requirements are easy to identify. Fortunately for PCC, there are plenty to choose from.

Questionnaires Don’t Qualify Pastor-Elders

In an effort to quickly fill a leadership gap, some churches will sometimes require candidates to complete a rigorous written questionnaire as well as an interviews process. I have learned that this method may help us to discover a candidates’ level of basic doctrine but lacks the precision to test his motives and ambitions. These inner qualities are learned only be observing the candidate in the crucible of church life.

A candidate for church leadership may be articulate, bright, possess a reasonable grasp of Bible doctrine, and easily pass an interview process. Yet, many of these very same people do not have the commitment level to the local church that is necessary to walk through adversities and threatening times without bailing out. How many times have I seen (so called) leaders at PCC jump ship simply because they lacked heart-felt commitment to this local body?

What have I learned? First of all, to be a God-called pastor-elder requires more than the ability to fill out an questionnaire or successfully complete a seminary class. Second, I am suspicious of people who crave high visibility. Third, future elders should be cultivated through interaction in a variety of settings; such as discipleship groups, prayer, meals together, reading/discussion forums, and in the natural flow of church life. Listen to the way they interact with others. Determine what kind of fruit they bear. That way I have time to observe their passions and ambitions before they are set apart as elders. Fourth, as I pray for discernment, I am conscious of the Holy Spirit setting off ‘alarms’ concerning their character and conduct.

Quarrelsome People Not Qualifed as Pastor-Elders

There is a real danger in selecting people for church leadership who have a history of repeated and/or unresolved conflict. On more than one occasion I have overlooked conflict in a person’s life, reasoning that it was either justified or forced upon him as the innocent party.

The fact is, even when circumstances or theology justify their side of the conflict, a man or woman can still be a quarrelsome person. This usually demonstrates itself in a lack of gentleness, a tendency to take rigid positions when none are required, an inability to lose graciously, or simply an over-love of debate. Whatever form it takes, quarrelsomeness is a disqualifier for one to serve as an elder (I Timothy 3:3).

Yet, if we are to care for the flock after the pattern of Jesus, then pastor-elders must be men of toughness as well as meekness. This means conflict might be called for at times to protect the flock, but always in a measured response. A wishy-washy elder who is a compromiser and easily swayed is a danger to the health of a church congregation as much as a quarrlemsone person is. So weakness is not the answer either. Meekness does not mean weakness. Moses and Jesus were both described as meek (Numbers 12:3; Matt. 11:28), yet we also see them involved in conflict when called for.

There is a difference between a quarrelsome person and one who contends for the faith.

How to Choose the Right People as Pastor-Elders

There is a good reason why Paul said, “Lay hands suddenly on no man” (1 Timothy 5:22). Selecting a pastor-elder is serious business and putting someone into a leadership position too quickly is risky. The Biblical qualifications for church leaders – in regards to godliness and giftedness - must be proven over time. A man may instinctively know how to make a good first impression. He may superficially appear to be knowledgeable and skilled at teaching. But he could actually have serious character flaws that would disqualify him from leadership, and these flaws sometimes become plainly evident only through long-term observation. It is vital therefore that candidates for leadership “FIRST be proved; THEN let them use the office” (I Timothy 3:10).

If I have learned anything “the hard way” over the years, it is that the best way to identify potential pastor-elders (or any other leaders for that matter) is in the normal flow of church life. They are evident by their response to what is being taught; by their willingness to serve; by the abundance of spiritual fruit in their lives; and by the many ways their giftedness is manifested in the church BEFORE they are ever singled out for leadership.

In other words, a man is proven in the context of church life – not a classroom - because when they are in the crucible they will demonstrate what they are made of.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Three Reasons Christians Are Not Being Fed

If you attend a church that is not centered on Jesus Christ, or does not accurately proclaim God’s Word, it would be obvious why you are not receiving spiritual nourishment. In such a case, it would be a good idea to find a church that does. However, if God’s Word is being taught in your church but you come to feel like you are not being spiritually fed, YOU might be the problem. In other words, maybe you need to pick up your own “knife and fork.”

Here are three common reasons why people feel unfed in a church:

1. They are too lazy to take responsibility for their spiritual development. Some people actually expect others in the church to prepare the meal, prepare the table, lay out the silverware, and THEN cut up the meat, grind it down, and stick it in their mouth for them – like a helpless baby. When a baby is fed, everything is done for him. A bottle is put into his mouth and all he has to do is suck. He’s spoon-fed with baby food, already ground and strained. He doesn’t even have to chew. Just swallow.

Feeding an adult is different. The cooked meat is served on a platter with a knife and fork. But the adult has to take responsibility to cut up his own meat. He has the responsibility to stick it in his mouth for himself. And he has to chew it himself. No one else can do that for you.

2. They fail to serve others because of self-centeredness. Jesus clearly communicated that we are fed when we serve others. “My meat is to do the will of Him who sent Me…” (John 4:32,34). The meat you need is to get busy serving others. Hebrews says, “At a time when you OUGHT TO BE TEACHERS… you still have need that one give you milk” (Hebrews 5:12).

3. Their personal relationship with Christ is not healthy. Jesus Himself is all we need. It doesn’t matter the environment we are in – a good church, a bad church, or even a prison cell – Christ promises to be our source of nourishment.
  • And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. (John 6:35).
  • In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3)
Here Jesus promises to be all that we ever need in regards to our spiritual hunger being satisfied. So if Jesus is not doing this for you then you should probably be looking in the mirror and asking yourself why, instead of blaming your church. You cannot blame others for the emptiness you feel.

Knowing this, nobody can ever say “I’m not being fed” with any integrity ever again.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Hold the Phone.... Murphy is Calling

Last Thursday we got some really bad news (personal in nature).

Last Friday just before we knocked off work we got some more really bad news (work related).

Saturday we held our breath all day long. Nothing bad happened.

Sunday we did church. But then Sunday night we got more bad news (personal and work related combined).

So Monday morning (yesterday) Renae and I decide to take a day off work for a day trip out of town to escape for a day and enjoy a change of scenery. Take some pictures. Stuff like that. On our way home from Tallahassee we get a phone call (blasted cell phones) with more bad news. I mean, extremely bad news. This begins to ruin our day. Then about that time her car breaks down. We coast to the edge of the road. Now we are stranded on the side of the interstate somewhere between Chipley and Mariana. We sit there for two hours waiting for a tow truck to arrive. It gets dark. It’s dangerous. Finally the tow truck arrives and loads up her vehicle on the flatbed. We get in the truck with the driver for a two hour drive back to Pace. Renae sits in the middle between me and Bubba. Brave girl. Four hundred dollars later we got home last night about 8:30 PM. Guess I’ll call the auto mechanic this morning to see how much the car repair is going to cost.

If you planning a trip to the Casino any time soon, don’t invite me along. I’m on a losing streak.

Just call me Pastor D. Zastor

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Every notice how people get restless? Some people are so restless that they are perpetually unhappy, change jobs frequently, leave marriages, and change churches with as much ease as one might change socks.

I counsel with married couples sometimes and they complain of being restless. The fire has worn off and now they have to settle down into a life of real-world living. They are restless because the seven-year itch has settled in. But the marriage vow says “for better for worse.”

Seasons of restlessness come over everyone of us. Whether it is our job, our friendships, marriages, or the church we attend, it comes. It comes to us all. But here is the big question:

Is restlessness the thing that should move us?

The main problem with people who allow restlessness to move them from place to place is they never develop roots. They end up with a rootless life and an unfruitful ministry. Too many people mistake their feelings of wanderlust with the leading of God. Granted, sometimes God moves His people where He decides, but my observation as a pastor is that most people are just easily discontented.

Consider church. PCC is now twelve years old. Over that time we have seen a lot of people come and go for a variety of reasons. Many just got restless and moved on. A spirit of wanderlust drives them. Yet, during that same twelve-year period many of our people have stayed the course at PCC. Sure, they felt restless at times, but decided that it would be best for them to just weather the season and be a blessing to others and support the work. It has been hard for them to see friends move on, but they stayed planted in the place God wanted them to be.

Interestingly enough, in recent months some of the old friends have come back. More importantly, after a long dormant season our church has begun to re-blossom as new families, new couples, young and old alike, and a fresh influx of teenagers are joining themselves with the PCC family. And the people who have stayed with us during the changes are glad that they did, because they are now recognized as true elders in our fellowship, pillars that have seen it all, yet stayed as support beams providing stability for us when everything seemed unstable

It's going to be easy to identify our next season of leaders. They've already identified themselves by proving themselves.

Sunday Mind Dump - March 7, 2010

  • Good day all around. Attendance was 460. A lot of new faces. Even seen some familiar faces back in church today; it was great to see them.

  • I love seeing so many teenagers sitting on the front row.

  • There was a lot of energy in both services today.

  • I am stoked to see God moving in our church family. People are open to His Word like never before and receptive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Very refreshing to see.

  • We are working on some changes in the band regarding personnel.

  • I want to get a 5x10 ft banner made to put out front by the highway inviting people to our Easter services.

  • If someone is looking for a church filled with people who think they have it all together, then they won't be comfortable at PCC. But if someone is looking for a church that is filled with imperfect people who know it and accept others who are imperfect, then they will be right at home

  • Weather was awesome today. Felt like springtime.

  • We are considering buying a commercial grade lawnmower to maintain our campus grounds with this spring and summer. If we make this purchase, we will also need to build a storage shed/shop out back. These two items together will cost a lot of money, but will also be an enormous upgrade for our grounds keeping capabilities. It’s amazing that we have gone this long without our own church-owned equipment, nor have we had to employ landscaping services. But it’s time to make a change.

  • We have some of the most amazing volunteers at PCC.

  • I’m very excited at the things that are happening in church right now – it feels like the first stirrings of a breakthrough that will impact our city for Christ.

  • Had two sets of brand new parents stand up in the first service today to show us their brand new babies. It was a good moment…

  • Sunday’s at PCC is always fun. It’s like a family reunion each week.

  • BTW, I am a pretty good cook. Just ask my wife.

  • I really enjoyed the message today – part 1 of the Jonah series – You Can Run, but You Cannot Hide. A lot of people said a lot of good things about it. Even read some nice comments on facebook.

  • Going through a book of the Bible verse-by-verse is a great way to learn the scriptures. Plus, a narrative story line like the book of Jonah is very interesting. We often see ourselves in such stories. I teach this way about 60-70% of the time and go back-and-forth between the NT and OT to maintain balance.

  • Each week we provide a “Questions for Discussion” study guide of the sermon for group study. Today they were all picked up – every last one of them. This is a very good sign that people was hungry, curious, learning, and going deeper into the Word.

  • I had a lot of fun telling the story of being in the airliner and seeing that lady make a crucifix over her chest.

  • Next week’s message is: When You Hit the Bottom, Look Up

  • Be encouraged. Be blessed. Honor God with your life this week, and always remember… God is for you, not against you.