Thursday, March 31, 2011

What to do During Church

When you walk into a church service, remember the eternal significance of what you are joining yourself to. You are gathering with the people of God to worship God and to be instructed by the Word of God. As always, He is present by His Holy Spirit.

Remember you are not here to be entertained. You’re not simply a part of the audience – you’re part of the congregation. You and others have congregated together to stand before an Audience of One – God.

It doesn’t whether you have a good voice, or whether you like the song or the style of music being played. It doesn’t even matter how you feel. Worship is not about you. It’s about God. Always has been. Always will be. So don’t live by your feelings in this moment. Instead, focus your thoughts on the truth of what you sing and the and the Person to whom you are singing to – God. He is observing and receiving your worship, so give Him your best.

Be careful how you hear. The message from God’s Word is the most important part of the Sunday meeting. And believe me, I’m not saying that because I’m a preacher who’s looking for a little appreciation. The importance of the sermon has nothing to do with the person who is preaching or teaching. Rather, it has everything to do with the authority and power of the Word of God. Jesus said heaven and earth would pass away, but My Words will never pass away (Matt. 24:35).  God's Word is eternal and is the standard that we will be judged by;  that's how important it is.

When God’s Word is preached or taught, in a very real sense God is speaking. You are not merely receiving information about God, God Himself is addressing you through His Word.

And this is why it is so important that we listen carefully. We shouldn’t be passive observers. How we listen and apply what we hear either honors or dishonors God. You never honor God more than when you reverently listen to His Word with a full purpose of praising and obeying Him. Have you ever considered that reverently listening to God’s Word is a form of worship? It is.

Because God is speaking, we should realize our responsibility as we listen. Hearing the truth obligates us to respond. Jesus said, “Take heed how you hear” (Luke 8:18).

To be brutally frank and honest with you, a lot of people need to get around to this way of thinking. Many people tend to assume that if the preacher isn’t funny or doesn’t tell good stories, then they are under no obligation to be engaged. This assumption is both convenient and wrong. The real burden of responsibility is not on the preacher to perform, but on the congregation to listen and apply. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not justifying sloppy preparation or boring sermons. Pastors should work hard on the content, as well as the delivery, of their sermons to engage the attention of their listeners. But ultimately, it is still the responsibility of the people hearing a sermon to listen carefully and apply the truth they hear.

You will be held accountable for what you have heard regardless of whether it moved you emotionally or not. (Read that sentence again). It’s true for all of us. God’s truth is truth. It doesn’t matter if it was delivered by your favorite preacher or not, with or without pizzazz, or a tearjerker illustration. If I have heard God’s truth, then I am called to respond to it and obey. Period.

This Sunday, I encourage you to sing your heart out to God – the Audience of One. During offering time, give as much as you can – sacrificially. Bring your Bible and during the sermon, let God speak to your heart from the text. Take notes. Note taking can take many forms. Underline key passages that stand out to you. Jot down key ideas or quotable quotes. Write down your impressions. Think of your notes as being memory joggers to help you leave church with big concepts firmly in mind.

That's what you do in church.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Preparing Yourself for Sundays

Getting ready for Sunday is more than combing your hair and making a quick run past the mirror. We should get our hearts ready.

It makes sense, really, to do so. We should not expect a rich spiritual experience on Sunday if we’re not willing to prepare our hearts and minds. Think about the other parts of life that we prepare for. Before we play sports, we warm up. Before we give a presentation at work, we review our notes. Before we take a major test, we study. Why then should we assume that we can just simply show up on Sunday with no spiritual preparation?

Preparing for Sunday involves making both spiritual and practical decisions. On the practical side, a great Sunday starts Saturday night. It begins with carefully deciding what you do and don’t do the night before. One of the best decisions you can make is to get to bed on time so that you’re rested and ready the next morning. Personally speaking, I almost never go out on Saturday nights, and when I do, I never stay out late.

Besides getting plenty of sleep, ask yourself what activities will put you in a God-focused state of mind for the next morning. When you stay up too late on Saturday night watching movies or surfing the Internet, it has a way of diluting your spiritual senses. Your heart will feel dull the next morning, and it’s quite likely you’ll walk into church thinking about some silly action scene from the night before. Then God’s Word falls by the wayside in your life.

On the spiritual side, prepare your heart by carving out some time Saturday night to pray and read your Bible. This will give you a chance to search your heart for any unconfessed sins against God or others.

This is not too much to ask really. Consider what Psalms 24:3-5 has to say about gathering with God’s people for worship:

Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Savior.

Instead of becoming spiritually lazy, these truths should motivate us to acknowledge any known sin and ask God to forgive us.

Reflecting on our need for the gospel and God’s mercy is a wonderful way to prepare ourselves for Sunday worship. It gets our minds off our daily preoccupations and prepares our hearts to be spiritually receptive.

Splitting Adam

So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took on of the man's ribs and then closed up the place with flesh.  The the LORD God made woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man (Genesis 2:21-22 NIV)

There are some things that simply aren’t a priority for most men: attending PTA meetings, making up the bed in the morning, and asking for directions.  If we have a place to eat and sleep, most men are okay.  As long as there are some hot dogs and chips nearby, we’re happy with our meal plan.  Who needs to go to a PTA meeting?  We’d rather stick out finger in a light socket than go to one.  Why make up the bed?  We’re just going to get back in.  And there is absolutely no way under the sun you’ll ever get us to trot into a gas station and admit to another man that we don’t know where we’re going.

The universal truth about men is that this is how we are made.  Women, on the other hand, generally have that magical ability to be tuned in to the needs of others and to detect that something is wrong the moment there is a problem.  You seem to absorb everything – to take it in, and make sound decisions for everyone involved.

Us guys?  We have the unique ability to block out and ignore what we consider to be inconsequential.  Think about it:  Your child gets hurt and he goes to the father for comfort.  What does the father offer?  A fix-it solution: “Go over there and sit down until it stops hurting,” he will say.  That same kid goes to his mother and she’s going to hug him, nurture him, clean his wound, and kiss his boo-boo.

Totally different.  Yet, somehow in the plan of God, these two design differences work together.

Problems with Blog

The reason my blogging activity has been slow is because of a glitch from the server - Blogger. Hopefully they will have it fixed in a day or two.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Watch it all the way through.

It's almost 6 minutes long, but worth the watch if you want a better grasp of the impact of this tsunami. The water must rise 30 feet during this time. Very frightening. The entire town disappears. Enlarge your screen (by clicking in the lower right corner) for a better view. I think it's only a matter of time before the west coast of the United States experiences something similar.


Latest Video of Tsunami in Japan

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lessons Learned from a Fallen pastor

Today, I am saddened to hear of another pastor who has fallen morally. I knew M.L. casually, but have felt closely connected to him because he is a church planter who blogs. I have read his blog daily for the last three years, and have had a few conversations with him over that time. Although much younger than me, he has become quite a leader in recent years and very successful.

It all ended today.

According to his confession he has been having an affair for the last 28 months! This was not a one-time slip-and-fall. This was on-going. He has been living a double life for a long time. Right on the heels of my recent message about Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, let me offer a few points of advice about interaction with members of the opposite sex:

1. Get Real. Most people don’t plan to have an affair. Most people think it could never happen to them. Be smarter than this. It can happen to you.

2. Ask for accountability. By accountability, I don’t mean people who have you elevated on a pedestal and will tell you only what you want to hear. Surround yourself with godly men & women who will speak truth to you… in your face truth.

3. Establish and Write Out Integrity Convictions. A few of mine are: Never be alone with members of the opposite sex, especially behind closed doors. Never travel alone with members of the opposite sex. Don’t confide in members of the opposite sex. Guard your eyes. I have lived by these self-imposed rules all of my married life – for almost 30 years – and it’s been good for me. This may sound rigid to most people, (especially the world), but Integrity Convictions will protect you.

4. Keep short accounts with God and with other people. If you have unconfessed sin in your life, you are vulnerable to bigger sins. Deal with it. Small things grow into big things. Little foxes spoil the vine. (Song of Solomon 2:15).

5. Think of the consequences before hand. It’s easy to get intoxicated on the “idea” of being with the wrong person, but the fear of what “could” happen to your life, if you follow through, is a sobering tonic.

For this is the will of God: your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality… (I Thessalonians 4:3).


Friday, March 25, 2011

Bill Hybels

For years I heard how evil Willow Creek Community Church, and its pastor Bill Hybels, were. The talk was vicious. So about seven years ago I flew to Chicago IL and attended a conference at this church to see for myself. While there I watched this man weep over people who are far from God – something I have never seen his critics do.

Fast forward.

Yesterday I was listening to Bill Hybels and two others on a CD from the Defining Moments leadership series. Towards the end of the discussion his voice cracked and I heard him weep again as he told the story of a friend of his, someone who was far from God, who finally showed up to church one Sunday. It was moving.

Some people really do have a sincere concern for the lost. Most of the internet police do not.

Some of the Best Leaders....

  • Have yet to be recruited for your team
  • Will have to be asked
  • Are willinging and anxious to serve
  • Need this in their life as much as you need them
  • And they may not even know it

It's your move. Go get 'em.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

How to Bless Your Church

Has Pace Community Church been a blessing to you? Has this church family served you well in times of crisis? In times of prosperity? Served your family? Your children? Been there at funerals, baptisms, hospital stays, weddings, and other significant events in your life? Have we offered up prayers in your behalf? Have our services, ministries, and programs ministered to you and your family? Have you made friends at PCC? What about just “doing life together” with you over the years in a consistent, reliable manner during those normal beanie-weenie days; a church family you could always count on through thick and thin? What about the pastor, the staff, your friends, and other volunteers – have they sacrificially served you?

It’s time for you to change your mindset and return the blessing. This is not a one-way relationship, you know.

If you’re interested, here’s a few practical tips:

1. Volunteer to Serve at Your Church. If you’re not sure exactly what ministry to try, just pick one and start serving. As you start serving and get a better understanding of what you really enjoy, you can transition out of one role to another if you want. But until you actually start serving somewhere, you’re not likely to discover other opportunities. I see this all the time. People will volunteer to serve in one ministry, but then another ministry starts to interest them more. So they start serving there and suddenly realize that this is what they are gifted for.

2. Be willing to serve where you are needed, not only the areas that excite you. You might be needed most behind the scenes, rather than in the more visible roles like leadership or discipleship development. But if the goal is to simply serve your church and be a blessing to it and your pastor, the means is to fill the need first by learning to serve the church, not your own ambitions.

3. Embrace the vision of your church. By expressing your trust and helping us to accomplish the same task, it verifies the vision and encourages us to pursue it even more. It brings your pastor joy when people support the vision. The vision and mission actually start getting accomplished. A house divided against itself cannot stand, but when people unite around a vision things get done.

4. Open your home for ministry. Look, all ministry doesn’t have to take place at the church campus or in the church building. It can happen in your home too. Christianity has always been more organic than organizational, and nothing is more organic than your home. Besides, home is where we spend most of our time.

Treat your home as a mini-church. Live out your Christianity in front of your family. Invite friends from church over to your home for food, fellowship, and community. Invite a group of teenagers over for a cookout or bonfire.

Why wait until Sunday before you have face-time with other believers? Everyone eats dinner, so why not invite someone over for dinner? The dinner table can become a place of meaningful conversation, sharing a passage of scripture, or going over the joys and sorrows of life together.

5. Toss out the Cookie Cutter. Don’t expect your church or your pastor to do everything the same way it was done in your last church. Trust God to use your spiritual leader to bring about relevant and effective ministry to the present need... and don’t stereotype him either with the strengths or short-comings of other spiritual leaders you’ve known. Let your pastor be himself.

Still don’t know what to do? How about starting with this partial list of “one another” commands found in the New Testament:

• Be devoted to one another (Rom 12:10)
• Care for one another (1Cor 12:25)
• Serve one another (Gal 5:13)
• Carry one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2)

• Forgive one another (Eph 4:32)
• Submit to one another (Eph 5:21)
• Teach, admonish each other (Col 3:16)
• Encourage one another (1Thess 5:11)
• Minister gifts to one another (1Pe 4:10)

There are more than fifty such “one another” commands like this found in the New Testament. Here’s the point: God expects you to be a blessing to the body of Christ. We serve God best when we are serving others.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Just Say No

Is the word “No” difficult for you? The ability to say “no” to YOURSELF is a sign of spiritual maturity, self discipline, and emotional health. If you struggle with saying no, you will hinder the work of transformation that God desires to bring about in you. Saying no to yourself means standing up to the world when in conflict with His Word. “No, I will not watch that movie. No I will not view pornography. No, I will not date a non-Christian. No, I cannot afford that. No, I will not spend this money if it means I can’t tithe. No, I cannot go on Facebook because I have not completed my work. No, I cannot drink it or smoke it because it is bad for my health. No, I cannot be friends with that person because they are dragging me down.”

Sometimes we have to say no to GOOD THINGS in order to say yes to what’s BEST. “No, I cannot accept that promotion at work because it will take too much away from my family. No, I cannot work overtime because it will take me out of church. No, I cannot fix you because every need does not have my name on it. No, our church cannot implement this idea because it does not line up with our mission.”

I have a large capacity for people, but I also have my limits. I need time to read, pray, be alone, reflect, and keep myself healthy. I am always doing a self-evaluation about how I am spending my time and money, what my health and eating habits are, and what spiritual disciplines I need to adopt. I then consider where I need to make adjustments in my life. Most of the time this requires that I say “no” to some things. Usually I have to say no to myself as much as I have to say no to others. This is the very thing that keeps me sane and healthy. It also keeps me from being yanked around by the tyranny of the urgent.


What about you? Have you made any difficult decisions lately that required you to say no? Are you struggling with a decision right now? What have you learned about saying no to the demands in your life?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Closing the Back Door so Fewer will Leave

Why do people leave a church? There are many reasons. Some of them are:

• Move away
• Experience a major change such as divorce, death, or other trauma
• Lose faith
• Become conflicted with the pastor, church leaders, or other members
• Grow cold spiritually

Surveys show that church leaders believe that members leave primarily because they are angry or unhappy with something or someone in the church. On the other hand, most people say they leave a church because they have experienced a major change in their life. This "disconnect" between the two parites is a major source of misunderstanding and is a loose-loose situation for everyone involved.

This also means, of course, that exiting members offer a major opportunity for congregations to reach out and provide ministry. Sadly, most do not. Even sadder, most congregations don’t really know when people are leaving. They usually find out too late, such as six months later. This means it is important to have ways of noticing when people leave and an adequate follow up plan.

Some churches have leaders who will call all the members regularly to check in and talk informally. Obviously, the larger a church, the more systematic this process needs to be. Perhaps the best back door monitoring device is smaller congregations within the main congregation, relational connections, and friendships. It's very possible for people to withdraw from a large church and be gone for several months before being missed. Yet when a person misses their community group, that person is immediately missed.

No sermon series on Christian caring, no membership drive, no every-member canvass, can ever take the place of actually caring for people and making contact.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dysfunctional Churches

Every church has difficult people and messy people. That’s just the way it is; it's part of the human condition. This also means, however, that every church has to work at staying healthy in spite of them. In healthy churches, problematic people raise the tension level, but it is not allowed to control the emotional life of the church. A healthy church body will have immune systems in place that act to protect the body from its unhealthy members.

There are two particular types of people who have most negative impact upon the life of a congregation. They are “turf holders” and “emotional manipulators.”

A turf-holder is a person who has taken control of some aspect of a church’s life. This could literally be the kitchen, a certain room, the supply closet, or a piece of equipment. It could also be an area such as the finances, or a particular ministry.

An emotional manipulator is the person who tries to control the life of a congregation by acting out emotionally or threatening to act out emotionally. Often times this is with anger. “Don’t do this or Dick will get angry.” Or sometimes the manipulation is with sadness or tears. “If you change the service times, Nancy will get upset and leave the church.”

I want to be very clear that it is not a problem that a church has such people. It's just part of the human condition. Such people become a problem only when they are allowed to control the life of a congregation or any of its ministries. When such persons are elected or appointed to positions or office that gives them power, the situation becomes even worse! When this happens, everyone is aware of the problem person; but what is often not understood is that the church is actually enabling this behavior. Put simply, the immune system of the church is not functioning properly.

When a turf-holder or emotional manipulator is in a position of authority or controlling the life of a church, it is almost always a sign of a dysfunctional system. There are some people you simply cannot fix, but what you can fix are systems & structures that put them in postions of influence.

Healthy systems are what keep a church healthy; they serve the same purpose as your immune system does for your body.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Mind Dump - March 20, 2011

Good strong day.

Attendance was up from last Sunday.

Still missed a couple of families, though.

The current worship team is doing a good job; their voices are blending very well together. After a few months of working as a team, they are now coming into their own.

Someone left me a Pop Tart in my mailbox by my office door after the sermon today :)

A couple of people have offered to sponsor a teenager for teen camp this summer.

Good things are happening at PCC right now; organizationally, structurally, and spiritually. Our ministries are getting much more effective, broken systems are being fixed, and God continues to do marvelous things in people’s lives. Right now is really a good time to press in closer.

In contrast, I really hate to see it when people grow spiritually cold and drift away.

It’s never a good time to grow cold, but right now more than ever. i.e., The world is in complete chaos, global events are occurring with increased frequency and intensity, plus our church is fixing to bust out like never before.

Renae and I spent some time on Blackwater River yesterday. Really enjoyed ourselves.

Had a big family dinner at my sisters’ house after church today. We gathered for my mother’s birthday.

Human suffering never stops, and in a church of our size there is always something like this going on. Always. If you are looking for God’s will and an opportunity to make a difference, just get involved in other people’s lives.

Have a funeral home visit this evening.

Going to Mobile in the morning, then coming back to Milton for a funeral.

Gotta go

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Five

1. This Sunday’s message is entitled, “When Life is Unfair.” It is part 3 of the current series based on the life of Joseph, son of Jacob. The injustices against him continue to mount, yet he overcomes each one by remaining faithful to God. There are good lessons and deep truths to be learned here.

2. Since Spring Break is over, I hopeful all our vacationing travelers will be back in service with us.

3. New service times take affect on April 3, just about three weeks from now. The new times will be 9:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

4. After work today I’m going to spend some time working on my boat (mounting an on-board battery charger, bowline cleat, and some other stuff) to get it ready for the water. Springtime is here.

5. Men, bring a friend to church this Sunday. See below….

Getting Men to Church

Not all churches are successful at attracting men to their services; I mean manly men. Many churches and denominations are so influenced by genteel Victorian era Christianity (flowers, lace, pastel colors, hugging & kissing) that masculine men often stay away.

Here are the characteristics of the kinds of churches that can attract manly men:

1. Larger congregations. As a congregation grows, its gender gap shrinks. Churches that draw hundreds (or more) on a weekend are the most likely to approach gender balance. Meanwhile, smaller churches are most likely to experience a shortage of men.

Larger churches have many advantages. Probably foremost is quality. Most are led by gifted pastors. The music is well done. The facilities and grounds are well-kept and impressive. Programs are well run. A certain standard of excellence fills the place. Men can invite their friends without fear of embarrassment, confident that the service will proceed with professionalism and good taste.

2. Non-denominational. For decades, non-denominational churches have grown while name-brand churches have shrunk—both liberal and conservative. No one is sure why this is happening, but there’s little doubt about who’s leading the exodus from theses churches - men! In contrast, non-denominational churches have seen an increase in men in their attendance.

3. Bible Believing and Strict Adherence to Scripture. Men have a natural, instinctive, built-in BS detector. They are natural skeptics and detect a phony a mile off. When some preacher is up there behind the pulpit spouting lofty and pious platitudes, he is turned off instantly. And when it comes to scripture, they not only want to know WHAT to believe, but WHY to believe it. For men, the bottom line is the Bible – not that touchy feely stuff.

4. The church is new. Newer churches tend to do a better job at attracting men. New churches are aggressive in their efforts at reaching the lost, so boldness and strategic planning are part of their methodology. This aggressive “conquer the next hill” philosophy is attractive to men, especially younger men.

5. Energized Men in the congregation. When you walk into a church, look around at the guys. Do they look like they want to be there? Or are they just fulfilling an obligation? If the men seem like they have been dragged to church by wives and girlfriends, forget it. Find another church. Enthusiastic men bring vigor to the worship experience. Plus you get a snowball effect: guys start inviting their friends, who show up to see what the excitement is about. They get engaged and transmit their fervor to the next group of men.

6. A Masculine Environment & Culture. When you walk into the church building does it look masculine or feminine? At PCC we understand that women feel perfectly comfortable in a masculine environment while men are uncomfortable in a feminine environment. That’s why our building d├ęcor has tiled floors, black chairs, dark carpet and leather chairs in the atrium; it appeals to men, while at the same time is perfectly fine for women too. Turn that around – paint the walls in pastel colors, put lilacs on the altar, velvet on the chairs, and lace in the men’s restroom – and men will leave! It’s a turn off.

7. A Pastor Who Is Authoritative. At the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, eyewitnesses said this of Christ: “The people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matt. 7:28–29). If you want a pastor who is in touch with men, find one who believes in the authority of scripture and leads the church accordingly.

As a man, I love being astonished in church. I light up when a message challenges me to think—or better yet, to take action. Please don’t talk to me about hugging and kissing, and all that touch-feely stuff. It makes me gag. An authoritative teacher is one who is resolute and consistent in his beliefs. He tells it like it is, even if someone is offended. Nothing disappoints me more than a wimpy sermon that fails to challenge.

8. Informal Dress. For years, getting dressed up has been foundational (and challenging for men) to the churchgoing experience. When I was a child, no one would dream of going to church unless clothed in his Sunday best… a suit. Fortunately, this philosophy has changed and PCC (beginning thirteen years ago) was on the cutting edge of this trend in our area. Yet, it doesn’t even feel like a trend, it feels normal to me. Most men don’t like getting dressed up the way that women do, so many churches encourage their members to dress informally. Jesus wore sandals to church…. and I can guarantee that I have more pairs of Levis than the average pastor.

9. Fun. Men enjoy fun. A church service does not need to be overly pious, nor frivolous. But a little fun and humor really helps men drop their guard. In fact, a slightly irreverent climate actually helps men connect with church, and ultimately God. Men especially appreciate self-deprecating humor (that is, the preacher makes himself the butt of the joke, rather than how perfect and pious he and his family are).

10. Having a clear, unique mission. Men love churches that make the mission clear. They focus on the basics; i.e, "This is what our church is about. This is our mission. Here’s how you can become a part of it. And if you don't agree with it, fine, but don't stand in our way." But this is rare. Few churches have a unique mission. Most are focused on dozens of different goals and tangents. Believe it or not, fewer than 10 percent of pastors in the US can articulate the vision of their church to the congregation! Is it any wonder that so many churches flounder in mediocrity? But when a church’s vision is clear, men invest themselves wholeheartedly - they put their money and their manpower behind the effort. Men need purpose, and a church that clearly articulates a mission will be a magnet to men.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

More Springtime

These are flowers in my front yard. The bright red lily was given to us by Sharon P.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


This is a flowering crab apple tree in my back yard.
Took the picture this morning. Gotta love this time of year.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How Long will you Hesitate Between Two Opinions?

Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him… (I Kings 18:21)

At a critical time in Israel’s history, the prophet Elijah challenged the people to serve only God. Much of the nation was involved in open idolatry. Yet even more of the people had grown lukewarm about spiritual matters and were thinking only half-heartedly about the God of heaven. Worse still, they were indecisive, unwilling to make a decision.

So Elijah confronts them with this truth: “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him…” In effect he was telling them: “You can’t have it both ways. If God is God, follow Him. If Baal is God, follow him. Get on one side or the other. It’s decision time.”

The people didn’t say a word. They remained silent and unmoved. The easiest thing to do at the hour of decision is to remain uncommitted. Just linger in the neutral zone. And that’s exactly what they did.

One thing that really gets me is hearing someone say they will “TRY” to come to church. What does that mean anyway? Do you “try” to go to work? Do you “try” to go to the beach? Do you “try” to go to the baseball game? No. You actually do the things you want to do. So instead of saying that you will “try” to come to church, go ahead and admit it, you don't want to come to church.

Then there is the Christian who is indecisive about serving in a ministry somewhere. Whether it is a ministy in the church or outside the church, the most common refrain heard from them is, “I’m just waiting on the Lord.” Fine. But how long do you have to wait? It might be that God is waiting on you. There are some things you don’t have wait on and some things you don’t even have to pray about. You just do them. For instance, you DO the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). You GO into the highways and hedges and compel people to come (Luke 14:23). You SERVE one another in the gifts you have received (I Peter 4:10). You USE your talents rather than bury them or will lose them (Mattnew 25:14-30). You VISIT widows and orphans (James 1:27), which btw, is something the Bible calls “pure religion." The New Testament if full of things like this. We all have a ministry and must find a place to serve. Sure, there's a time to wait. But there's also a time to get off your waiting.

What are you waiting on anyway? It’s not like you are being asked to fight terrorists or contend with a 30-foot tidal wave.

Divided allegiance is just as wrong as open idolatry because in both instances the heart is far from God. "How long will you waver between two opinions?" Elijah asks them. They worst thing you can do is remain in that medicore state of noncommitment.

The strongest words of Jesus Christ Himself that were given to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation, chapters 2 and 3, were given to the church at Laodicea. And the reason is clear: They were in neutral and uncommitted. They were neither hot nor cold. Jesus said, "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would rather that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:15-16). Jesus, your Lord, said that.

Get off the fence of indecision. According to Elijah, you are either for God or against Him, and if you are for Him, then serve Him. And according to Jesus, He would rather have you hot or cold, rather than lukewarm.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Sifting of Satan

In the Christian journey we often see people we admire. Perhaps it is a pastor, a ministry leader, a seasoned Christian, or some other person. This is normal and natural. In fact, the Bible speaks of church leaders and mature believers as being examples to the flock, etc.

But our perception of these people is often based upon what we see in them outwardly only, not understanding what it took for them to arrive to the place they are at. There are hardships, sacrifices, and discouragements. There have been a lot of battles too; some won, some lost.

If you see someone who is anointed of God and successful, I assure you, they have been sifted like wheat to get there.

For instance, it is easy for someone to walk into a church service at PCC on Sunday morning seeing me on stage and assume that I simply stepped into that role; like it was simply given to me. What they don’t see is the fifteen years my wife and I spent in little churches and very tough assignments that very few others were willing to go to. It was there that the formative training of my ministry were being established. They don’t see me leaving a secure career and entering the ministry with two babies to take care. They don’t see the additional ten years of labor behind the scenes at PCC such as financial sacrifice, being bi-vocational, and the lack of security for my family. They don’t see the criticisms I’ve endured; the betrayals, lies, malice, intent to do me harm, and downright persecutions. They don't know how many times I have been abandoned by people who simply walked away. They know nothing of the sleepless nights, long hours of grinding work, and the fear I have faced. They don't see the twenty-five (25) years it took to get there. They only see the end result and assume it has all been easy street. But the sifting has been very real to me.

Simon Peter is a perfect example of being sifted. Consistently he had to endure tests, trials, challenges, and even his own personal blunders. He left his vocation and source of livelihood to follow Jesus. He sacrificed personal ambition and was sifted by Satan.

Consider these words spoken by Jesus….. Luke 22:31-32 (KJV) And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.

Sifting is a process in which grain is violently shaken or agitated to remove its impurities. Satan’s goal in sifting Peter was to shake him to the core, to expose and exploit any weakness he had, and cause him to fail. Satan desired Peter for this sifting because he was the leader among the apostles. In fact, Satan’s plan was partially successful, causing Peter to deny the Lord three times that night.

Though Jesus spoke these words to Peter, but they are spoken to all of us prophetically. To be placed in the hands of Satan for a sifting process is uncomfortable; it's absolutely painful. But often it is necessary for the work that God is trying to accomplish in you. God has the unique ability to take circumstances in life and use them to birth within us a deeper anointing and stronger faith for greater service. When we go through seasons of sifting, we must understand that God is trying to tap into the potential that is inside us.

Jesus also said, “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not…” There’s great assurance in knowing that Jesus Himself is interceding for us. Although Peter failed, he found his way back. If you are in a sifting process, you WILL make it through. It may take days, weeks, or even years; but you will make it. Your faith will not fail. God is birthing a deep work within you.

The sifting that God is allowing to take place in you is intended to separate the good from the bad. It will cause some things to surface from within you that God wants you to repent of and to put away. Then He will take what’s left and use it for His purposes. You will do exploits.

This is the call of God on your life. Just don’t allow the process to discourage you. If God has allowed you this experience, it is designed to teach you something that can be used as a testimony for Christ.

The ministry is not easy. You don't just step into it. You are sifted into it.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday Mind Dump

Attendance was about 60 people lower today than last Sunday due to spring break and time change. All in all, it was a good day.

Alot of things are clicking real good right now.

The message today was on a tense subject – resisting temptation. Specifically, sexual temptation.

One of the challenges of going through a book of the Bible, or doing a character study, is that you don’t get to pick and choose your topics. The Bible text decides for you… something I really like.

You don’t get a lot of “amen’s” when teaching on sexual temptation. Yet, if it’s in the Bible it’s something God wants His people to know.

This story from the Bible was absolutely alive for me today. I felt like I was right there seeing it happen.

I don’t’ like safe preaching. I like it to be a little edgy, accurate to the text, and with present day application. The goal of ALL preaching is life-change and lifestyle adjustment, NOT just mere informaiton. See James 1:22

The best part of today: We did the best we could do to glorify God and lift up Jesus.

The way we are doing the offering right now is working very good! I’m especially enjoying the hymn-style songs.

I’m very glad that time change has happened. It means the days will be longer.

I’ve got spring fever.

The bike trail is in my near future.

Fishing is in my near future too.

After church today me and Reane, along with my mother, drove into the country to have dinner with some of Renae’s family. It was country cooking at its finest. It was like Thanksgiving. Lot's of fun.

That's what Sunday's are for: going to church, worshipping God, being taught the Word, fellowship with one another, and then having dinner with family or friends after church. The simple things in life are what make life real.

The verdict is still out on whether my female puppy is pregnant. Still too early.

Got to get my taxes done soon. Ugh.

Japan’s nuclear crisis is intensifying. This could get real bad for a lot of people.

I’m going to re-sod my “entire” yard within the next couple of weeks – front and back. Then we’re putting down new carpet throughout the interior. After that, the house goes up for sale. After that, I’m rebuilding.

The dogs in the picture above are my three Jack Russel Terrier's. From left to right: Sadie, ToJo (with the blind right eye), and Patch.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The World is in Birth Pangs

And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; (Luke 21:25 KJV)

For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows(Matthew 24:7-8)

For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. (Romans 8:22 KJV)

In the last several weeks there has been revolution in the Middle East as general uprisings have occurred by the citizens of theses countries to overthrow their dictatorship governments. Like dominos it has spread from nation to nation, almost in a cascading effect.

Three weeks ago there was an earthquake in New Zealand. Today there was another in Japan that was 8000 times stronger, and was the strongest worldwide in the last century. Tsunamis have spread across the Pacific. In 2004 the same thing happened in the South Pacific.

Then there were the attacks on 9-11 in 2001. As a result, we have been at war with Islamic extremists for the last decade.

Read the above scriptures and draw your own conclusion. Myself, I think something is happening and it's got my attention.

Friday Five

1. Set your clocks FORWARD one hour Saturday night.

2. This Sunday’s message is “Resisting Temptation.” While it’s applicable to all sorts of temptation, we will be specifically looking at sexual temptation. In a creative moment I thought about giving it the title, “You Can’t Have Your Kate, and Edith Too” but decided against it.

3. New Service Times begin in four weeks – April 3. The new times will be 9:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

4. The largest earthquake in Japan’s history hit today. It is 10 times more powerful than the one that hit New Zealand three weeks ago. The film coverage of the tsunamis is incredible. Some of the film was recorded live, and I think we were watching people die in their cars as they were swept away. Horrifying.

5. OMG. Did I miss the Rapture? John Piper will be at Saddleback Church with Rick Warren for the Desiring God Conference, April 29-30. God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Christian Labels

One of our favorite Christian pastimes today is trying to peg pastors, other Christians, and churches into categories. It makes them easier to hate or criticize. Personally, I refuse to choose a category to identify myself with and resist the notion of being labeled by others.

For instance, what do these words or phrases have in common: Charismatic, Neocharismatic, Continuationist, Cessationist, Restorationist, Calvinism, Arminianism, Missional, Attractional, Reformed, Reformissionary, Monothesim, Polythesim, God-centered theology, Man-centered theology, denomination, denominationalism, non-denominational, Egalitarian, Complentarian, and Hierarchical?

NONE of them are IN THE BIBLE?

Of course, there are hundreds of other labels not included in the list above that are used to categorize Christians today. Christians are more known for which camp they belong to, either by choice or by being labeled by others, rather than their simple identification with Christ! No wonder there is so much division; everyone is polarized!

I figured it out about fifteen years ago; I don’t have to belong to any of those groups. All I really need is the Bible for guidance... and all I have to be is a Christian.

Pretty simple, isn’t it?

As I have grown in maturity I have come to like and appreciate the many different styles of ministry within Christianity. I like Baptist preachers such as Charles Stanley and David Jeremiah, as well as many local Baptist preachers. I also like the fire of Charismatic and Pentecostal preachers; they offer some of the most inspirational preaching available today. I like listening to black preachers too. I have lots of books written by Reformed preachers, many of whom I thoroughly enjoy. I like Matt Chandler, who is Reformed in theology, is a great teacher, and is leading a great church in Texas. Then there are the non-denominational guys like Bill Hybles and Andy Stanley who are leadership geniuses and prolific communicators.

Myself, I have preached in Pentecostal Churches, Assembly of God Churches, Baptist Churches, a Catholic Church, an African American church, and even in ecumenical meetings. I was an ordained minister with the A/G and attended a Baptist seminary.

Can you say mixed breed?

I’m glad that I have been exposed to this level of diversity in the Body of Christ because it has helped me to fly at the 20,000 foot level, far above the pettiness of theological minutia. My view of Christianity is inclusive and embraces diversity. I’m not as opinionated as I used to be about those who are different than me, and God has blessed me and this ministry for it.

I hope that when you read my blog you are thoroughly confused as to what theological camp I belong to. I also hope that my transparent emphasis upon the scriptures alone (Sola scriptura) is what bleeds through my ministry more than anything else. I teach the Bible itself, not what Dr. so-and-so says.

Since people have a hard time figuring me out and what camp I belong to, I have been an easy target and have been called a lot of things; seeker sensitive, felt-needs oriented, shallow, middle of the road, Continuationist, Cessationist, Arminian, Egalitarian, man-centered, too liberal, too strict, too mean, watered down, too literal, too Bible-oriented, and a bunch of other stuff, that makes it very easy for some people to demonize me and PCC. It’s just childish name calling under the guise of spiritual superiority.

But let me ask you. Do you really think that “contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3) really means that God wants us to draw a line in the sand and wage war over an issue like methods of ministry? Or the timing of the Rapture? Or women in the ministry? Or a musical style? I think not.

Although my view of Christianity embraces diversity, I do have certain boundaries that I feel very strongly about. For instance, if you mess around with the doctrine of the cross (or some other essential doctrine) I’ll argue with you all night long, and I’ll win. I’m good that way. If you start telling students in this church that certain parts of the Bible are myths, I’ll do my best to expose you as a heretic because you have jacked with Scripture. You don’t get to do that, and we are not on the same team if you discredit the Bible. And one more thing. If you try to undermine the leadership of PCC that makes you my enemy, and I’ll ask you to leave the church. You are free to have a difference of opinion and believe differently than me, but you are not free to hurt this church or mislead the flock that God has charged me to protect. There are some things worth fighting for.

In the end, I’m just thankful that God’s kingdom is wide enough to accommodate all sorts of people with all sorts of styles, methods, and interpretations of non-essential matters. I think part of the reason that PCC is so healthy and such a fun place to be is because we have thrown off the man-made labels as best we can. We are simply “Christians” whose mantra is “This is what the Bible says." I hope it shows up in our services, in our church government, in my preaching, in our worship, and in our doctrine.

I hope we keep you guessing.
I hope our style is what you are looking for. We are a family, not a fratenity.
And I hope we never trade it in for man-made labels.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Our Policy for Benevolence and Financial Assistance

(1) Requests for financial assistance are forwarded to and handled by Gene Tharp, our church Administrator.

(2) Those requesting financial assistance must schedule an appointment to be interviewed.

(3) Decisions will not be made on Sunday.

(4) Our ability to provide financial assistance depends upon available funds. If we do not have the resources then we simply cannot provide them.

(5) IRS Regulations state that as a non-profit organization we can only offer help to individuals or families for food, clothing, medical help, and shelter (which includes essential utilities). Any needs that do not fall into these four categories, we are unable to meet.

(6) We consider each case individually and reserve the right to refuse or agree for any reason.

(7) If someone needs help with a utility bill, and we agree to pay it, we will do so only one time. Even then, the bill will have to be brought in to the church offices where the church administrator will then make the check out directly to the utility company.

(8) In no instances do we give cash or make checks payable to individuals.

(9) Financial assistance will not be provided to transients or panhandlers.

(10) Special consideration. We reserve the right to forgo the rules governing financial assistance in situations deemed to be a tragic event. A tragic event would be determined the by senior staff of PCC.

Why We Have a Policy for Financial Assistance

It’s Friday afternoon, and a person walks into the church offices claiming to be from out-of-town and needing gas, food and lodging because “someone stole my wallet.” Or, in the middle of the week you get a call from someone whose electricity is turned off. Maybe a member of your church is experiencing a financial crisis due to illness, injury, marital problems, or loss of employment.

These are common occurrences for those of us involved in church work, and needless to say it puts us on the spot each time it happens. That’s why it is important that we handle these situations with tact and sensitivity, with wisdom and discernment, and an eye open for safety and security.

We have a written policy for benevolence or requests for financial assistance. Here are a few reasons why:

(1) A written policy eliminates many inappropriate requests and a ton of personal pressure. Our church will develop a reputation as an “easy mark” for professional panhandlers if we do not exercise due diligence. Plus, it is very difficult to make a decision “on the spot.” A written policy gives us something to refer to, guidelines to follow, and makes the decision for us.

(2) Problems with the IRS. A written benevolence policy avoids problems with the IRS who can always challenge a church’s tax-exempt status due to questionable or undocumented receipt or distributing of funds.

(3) Confidence. A written policy establishes confidence within the church that benevolence funds are being distributed fairly and in good order.

(4) Tact and Sensitivity. It’s important for us to remember that every person’s problem is a crisis to him or her. Whether the situation is worthy or not, people asking for money should be treated with kindness and respect. This can be difficult if the person is demanding or unwilling to cooperate. However, when we are backed up with written procedures, we are free to say, “I’m sorry. We are not permitted to give you money or put you up in a hotel; but I can direct you to the local mission which can provide lodging.

While we must treat people with tact and sensitivity, we must ALSO REMEMBER that their problems are not our fault or our responsibility to solve. The church is a church, not a social agency or a government agency.

(5) Wisdom and Discernment. Not every secretary, ministry assistant, or pastor is gifted to deal with benevolence issues. For instance, a person who oozes mercy never says no and may give away too much. Conversely, a person with the gift of prophecy may take a colder “live-or-let-die” approach. A written policy helps us strive for balance by employing wisdom, discernment, and good administration. With these kinds of checks and balances built in, the decision is never an emotional one or a knee jerk reaction.

(6) Safety and Security. Total strangers sometimes walk in off the street asking for money. Sometimes the offices are down to one or two people. This is extremely dangerous, especially for the women. So we exercise caution and plan for the unexpected. We never allow anyone to be alone with a “walk in.” We never allow strangers to move around freely in the offices or church building. We never permit anyone to be alone with a member of the opposite sex. We lock the doors when female staff are in the building alone. This helps prevent a purse snatching, church property stolen, or an assault.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What is Out of Control in Your Life?

Show me the area of your life that is out of control and you will have shown me the area of your life that God does not control. It’s just that simple.

When I first surrendered my life to God in 1980 I continued to struggle in a few areas; one of them being anger. In time I was able to overcome these stumbling blocks of mine. I did so only by full surrender to God and letting Him take control of my “hold out” spots. It was then that my sanctification increased and I began living a victorious Christian life.

Are your finances out of control? Your thought life? Relationships? Home life? Drinking? Compulsive behaviors and or addictions? Emotions? Jealously? What about sex, lust, and things like that? The only reason they are out of control is because you have not allowed God to take control of them.

Surrender your your hold out spots to Him. The Bible calls them strongholds. They are fortified places that you don't allow God to gain entrance into, so the devil is able to use them to keep you defeated.

Your deliverance and victory is found in total surrender to God.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Our Social Media Policy

About eighteen months ago we began implementing a social media policy for all church staff. The purpose of this policy was to give our staff some guidelines of behavior and best practices in their personal use of social media during their employment at PCC.

Recently we began expanding the implementation this policy to other ministry teams and key workers. Because of their high visibility, we now include members of the worship band. We have also included workers in our teen ministry and children's ministry because of the sensitive nature of their enviroment; teens & children are very observant to adults and impressionable to their example. We are likely to expand even more. While this is an evolving document, here’s an excerpt from the policy as it stands now…


Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and even e-mail are popular and powerful tools. They can be helpful if used correctly or dangerous if used inappropriately.

The bottom line is that you are responsible for what you write. The Internet is a public forum, and writing something is the same as speaking it from a stage. Even if you delete a blog post, RSS feeds will still contain your post. Once something is published, it’s impossible to take it back, so think before you update, and be responsible for your words.

Representation. As one who serves in ministry at Pace Community Church, you are seen by our members and others in the community as a representative of our church. Therefore, as in all areas of daily life, your conduct online should be of the highest integrity. Y
our character, integerity, morality, or life style should never be called into question by unwise posts.

Be nice and be positive. Like it or not, people will equate you and what you say with the church you represent; so even though you may be making a personal statement, people may not make the distinction between you and our church. Criticism, personal attacks, and online arguments are unwise.

Keep your cool and contain your anger.

Vulgar talk and questionable pictures are out of the question.

Loyalty. Always be loyal to PCC, its values and unique branding. Be loyal to one another.

Protect confidential information and conversations. Don’t discuss confidential church business online because the internet is a very public forum. It’s perfectly okay to talk about work and church related stuff, but don’t talk about sensitive things such as private conversations, finances, other church members, health concerns, counseling sessions, etc.

Don’t set up social media accounts using your PCC email address.

Press Inquiries. Your postings may generating media coverage. If a member of the media contacts you about your posting on a personal blog or other social network, contact your supervisor.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sunday Mind Dump - March 6, 2011


We were firing on all cylinders today at PCC! Our hard work and due diligence is beginning to pay off. Everything in today’s service worked beautifully. For the first time in a very long time I felt like the pieces are finally falling into place. If this any indication of what is to come, our church has a very bright future ahead of us.

The song service was good, and the song selection was a good call.

I really liked the last song, “In Christ Alone.” It has good theology and thunderous praise. It’s the kind of song that appeals to everyone, young and old, men and women.

My favorite line: “From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny. No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His Hand."

I also like: “Scorned by the ones He came to save, ‘til on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.”

This song brings conviction to me. It is also very uplifting for me.

If you’d like to hear a you-tube version, click here.

The offertory was exceptional. The kids knocked it out of the ball park.

The level of giving was very good too.

Attendance was 441 (I think).

New room assignments took effect for the children’s ministry area today. Both the teachers and kids were very excited to have new rooms. This new arrangement is going to be very effective for us. I am confident that our age-level ministries are going to grow.

I started a new message series today based upon Joseph, son of Jacob. It was a shocker. We talked about deceit, betrayal, jealously, family violence, incest, parental favoritism shown to children, family dysfunction, passive parents, and a lot of other sensitive stuff.

Yes, we even talked about circumcision. One lady liked to have fell out of her chair when I was taking about it. (Some people just can't handle the Bible and what it actually says; they have been pre-conditioned to a sanitized, Victorian version of Christianity - chasity belts and all).

Everyone seemed to be riveted.

The quote of the day: “You are either IN a pit, have just COME OUT OF a pit, or are about to ENTER a pit, because pit happens.”

All the CDs are gone. Not a single one is left.

Yesterday, Saturday, we held a half-day orientation meeting for the age-level ministries workers. We now “Think Orange.” The picture at the right is of those who were able to attend. We also served breakfast, which was cooked by the two young ladies (Gabby and Amber). These two teenagers proved to be exceptional workers. They cooked omelets, sausage, and prepared a fruit salad for all the workers; about 35 people. Plus they cleaned the kitchen. Very impressive.

Click the pictures for an enlarged view. Then backspace to return here.

Gene Tharp and Denise Yates conducted the meeting. They have been working very well together have put together an excellent program for the future of our church. They are nailing it.

The age-level ministry workers and volunteers are exceptional people too. They are fully dedicated and sacrifice so much.

I count it an honor to pastor PCC and such a great group of people.

Very soon we will be changing the stage design.

I’m really excited about the changes we have made thus far, and those that are about to come. It’s going to make PCC run so much smoother.

I think our church is capable of reaching 600-700 people in attendance. Do you believe that?

The great thing about making changes at PCC is that we have some of the most flexible people I know.

Our church has NEVER been in a better position for going to the next level than what we are right now.

It’s exciting to me that people keep hearing about PCC and visit every week. We do ZERO advertising or marketing (with the exception of a web site) and yet we are growing with new people coming in all the time.

Many of these new people will be added to the team and will make PCC’s future happen!

We are going to be getting a new web site soon. It’s going to a serious upgrade.

Just when you think it is springtime in Florida, winter sets in again.

One of the greatest things about being a pastor is how God proves Himself over and over again to provide. This quickens my faith.

Another great thing about pastoring (especially the kind of church that PCC is) is watching people who haven’t been in church for years to suddenly “get it.” I love watching people get under conviction, admit their need for Christ, experiencing forgiveness, and grow in spiritual maturity. This never gets old.

God is good all the time.

God is up to something at PCC.

I know that there are a lot of people who read this blog who do not attend PCC. What I would like to say to you is this: If you don’t have a church home, consider coming to PCC. We have a great church full of great people.

If you don’t attend church, give PCC a try. We just might be exactly what you have been looking for.

My wife is out of town until Tuesday. She and a group of people from our church headed to Atlanta after church today for a Hillsong concert.

Guess I’ll be eating beanie-weenies for the next two days.

Next Sunday’s message is going to be a killer. It’s going to be about sex; sex in the workplace, sexual harassment, older women seducing younger men, overcoming sexual temptation, and being falsely accused.

You’ll want to hear this one for sure. It will be especially applicable for teenagers and young adults.

Friday, March 4, 2011

This Sunday - New Message Series Begins

This Sunday is part one of the new message series, “Overcoming Life’s Hardships Through Faithfulness” and is based on the life of Jospeh, son of Jacob. The message title is, “Surviving a Dysfunctional Family.”

Come. Be helped. Bring a friend. God can redeem any situation.

Three Posts You Want to Read

I wrote these three blogs in the last day or two, so all you have to do is scroll down to find them. Or you may use these convenient links. If you want to be in on the information loop, then take the time to read them.

Why We Are Changing Our Service Times

What We Have Been Doing in our Strategic Planning (This post is a little longer than normal, but well worth the read if you want to know what we’ve been doing).

For Now – No New Ministries

Why we are Changing the Service Times

We have been talking about changing our service times since last summer, and finally the time has come to pull the trigger and make it happen. We have a number of reasons for doing this, many of them critical, that we feel is compelling us to make this change.

The new service times will be 9:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. This means both services are being moved up thirty minutes earlier. Thirty minutes does not represent a big change, although it does affect everyone. We do believe however, that the new times will bring about a very positive impact for us in a number of ways.

Here are few reasons why we are changing our service times:

1. Logistics. There are a number or organizational factors that occur behind the scenes that give us a pure headache. Our current service times make it almost impossible to remedy them. The new service times might.

2. To Create Two identical services and a Better Balance in Attendance Numbers. Clearly we have an “A” service and a “B” service on Sunday mornings. Our first service is better attended, has more energy, and is the one that newcomers visit most. The second service has less attendance, energy, etc. We have been unintentionally communicating the signal that the first service is “where the action is.” This hurts us in every way possible; i.e., the age-level ministries, the adult service, etc.

The second service simply lacks the critical mass that is needs to grow, while the first service cannot grow any more. If PCC is ever to grow to 600 or 700 (or more), then both services must be full – running about 300-350 each.

By moving both services up thirty minutes earlier, we hope that just enough people will transition to the second service, providing us with a better balance in the attendance numbers (in both the adult service and the children’s ministry environments). This would also give us enough critical mass in the second service to grow.

3. We are too large to ever go back to one service. So this is not even an option.

4. Everyone is released BEFORE NOON! One of the challenges we’ve had in getting people to attend or volunteer for the second service is that they get out so late on Sunday afternoons, especailly the workers. This has hurt us tremendously and has hindered our effectiveness in the second service. But with the new times everyone will be released well before noon no matter which service they attend.

5. It will make our philosophy of “Attend One - Serve One” much easier to implement. Key people & workers will be more inclined to commit to both services knowing they will be released well before noon. Plus, if we are a able to get more people to “attend one and serve one” then we will experience EXPONENTIAL GROWTH!

In conclusion

I hope that you’ll cooperate with us in this effort. We have only the best interest of our church and its effectiveness in mind. We already have full buy-in from our staff, ministry leaders, and other key players and are confident that this is the right move to make. If the new times don’t work like we hope, I’ll be the first to recognize it and acknowledge its failure. We’ll then go back to the drawing board and reevaluate.

Having said that, you should know that we are very excited about the future of PCC. We are highly motivated and good to go!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What We Have Been Doing in our Strategic Planning

For the last year or so we have been ruthlessly evaluating the ministries of PCC and their effectiveness. Last summer we started pulling the trigger on fixing a few things around here. We experimented a lot and found out some of our ideas didn’t work too well. So we went back to the drawing board and tried again. It is still a work in process.

To make a long story short, we have been methodically working our way through a list of ministries according to a deliberate plan. We’ve made some significant improvements, but there is still much more to do. To give you’re an idea, this is the list we are working our way through:

--The Weekend Services
--Growth Tract (Seminar system, 101 & 201)
--Groups (small groups, ministry teams, classes, etc.)

Up to this point most of our attention has been dedicated to improving and upgrading the weekend services, the first item on the list. We've had countless meetings and discussions. We have made visible changes & improvements in the worship band, as well as the tech booth (sound and projection), the way we receive the offering, as well as several other areas directly related to the weekend service. This has been very, very challenging for us.

Some pretty big changes have taken place in the teen ministry too; including changes in leadership, a paradigm shift in the way we do teen ministry, a few new ideas and initiatives, as well as restructuring the program.

Along the way I have rewritten Seminar 101 which was much needed, long overdue, and the end result was a great improvement. Seminar 201 needs to be rewritten too, so it is on the anvil right now with a new content being hammered out. I'm really looking forward to the revised version, because it will be much stronger in its content.

The biggest project we are currently working on is the age-level ministries. The entire program is being restructured (from top to bottom) and the changes are so significant that it represents a paradigm shift for PCC. We haven’t pulled the trigger on this new initiative yet, but will be doing so soon. Once the new program is off and running we are confident that it was bring a new freshness to our church and really invigorate things around here.

Regarding outreach, we are going to renew our efforts for this most critical ministry. It’s at the very core of our DNA here at Pace Community Church. We are still very deliberate about reaching those who are far from God and turning them into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. In our thirteen year history we have never had an organized visitation program or sent out visitations teams. Know why? We simply do not need to. Our members have always done such a good job of inviting their friends to church with them, that we’ve never needed to make outreach a “program” of the church. It happens organically. I believe a renewed emphasis on this matter will result in seeing hundreds of new people coming to PCC and to the faith.

Our smalls groups ministry will be last on the list of our strategic plan to address and is still a few months out. It’s quite likely we will see a complete paradigm shift in this ministry area too. In fact, I know that's exactly what is needed. Instead of focusing on “small groups” as a program, pe se, we are probably going to change the emphasis to “Connection Ministires” (by having multiple connection options for people to choose from) with home-based small groups being one aspect of a much broader ministry. I’ll write more about this later.

We have not made many changes thus far, only a few, but each and everyone was a difficult one to make requiring a lot of planning, emotional energy, and grace by everyone affected.

Although the changes have been few so far, they have resulted in noticeable improvements at PCC. For instance:

  • We are already experiencing a slight increase in attendance on Sunday mornings
  • We have better consistency in the attendance numbers with fewer swings in the numbers
  • Giving has improved and remains consistently strong each week
  • Last Sunday we had a record breaking membership class
  • Morale and enthusiasm is at an all-time high with our key players and ministry workers because they believe this strategic plan is working! They are highly motivated.
  • All of this adds up to improved church health

Here’s the point: If we are experiencing these results from the few changes we’ve already made, then it means the best is yet to come. This information confirms that we are headed in the right direction. It's God's way of telling us to keep moving forward.

For Now - No New Ministries

1.) If a ministry does not fit into our current strategic plan (which is the weekend services, children, teens, outreach, the seminar system, and groups) we have to say no to the launching of any new ministries. We have identified these six areas as the most essential ministries to the health of Pace Community Church and will dedicate ourselves to them rather than diffuse our energy on a multiplicity of others.

2.) If a ministry does not fit into our current economic reality we have to say no. Money is tight and our emphasis is to cut expenses and cut the budget, not add to the expenses. Ministries cost money and using the building costs money, so we will say no to the addtion of any new ministires that require either. The only areas we will spend money on or incur expenses for are the six identified areas in our strategic plan. We have to be very frugal as wise stewards.

Look. We can’t do everything. We can’t implement every idea. We can’t authorize every kind of ministry that everyone is passionate about. It’s just that simple. To do so diffuses energy, siphons limited resources, and gets the church running off in too many directions at once. To combat this trend we will keep ourselves decidedly simple at PCC, limiting our ministries to about five or six areas only.

I have written about this at length before. Follow these links if you’d like to read more.

We Do Six Things at PCC

Does PCC Offer a (BLANK) Ministry?

Behind Every No is a More Important Yes

A Bloated Calendar Diffuses Energy

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

An Honest Evaluation

Additionally, we are repairing and trying to upgrade the six identified areas in our current strategic plan. We are being ruthless in this process. We want to ensure maximum effectiveness and optimal church health, so if we discover that a program is terminally we will put it out of its misery.

You can read about it here: Let Dying Programs Die.