Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Q & A

What’s the hardest part about pastoring?  At this stage the hardest thing I have to do is manage my time properly.  I am under a deadline every single week.  I have to spend time with people.  I have to spend time taking care of issues.  Phone calls.  Walk-ins.  Visitations.  Hospitals.  Funerals.  Weddings.  Emergencies.  Complaining church members.  Appointments.  It all adds up.  It goes with the job.  What happens on Sunday is only the tip of the iceberg.  What people see is a one-hour event, but behind the one-hour event are hours & days of study and preparation linked with deep involvement in people’s lives.

How many books do you read?  About 8-to-12 a year.

How do you prepare messages?  How long does it take you to prepare one sermon?  First of all I am acquainted with the Bible.  That’s the most important thing.  The Bible speaks to me even when I’m not reading it because my mind filled up with it.  As I mediate on the scriptures I get my sense of direction about what to teach the congregation of PCC.

I like preaching through a book of the Bible or large portions of scripture best.  It benefits both me and the congregation of PCC in many ways.  I also try to balance my teaching equally from both the Old Testament and the New Testament.  I go back and forth between the two.

I usually plan message series a few weeks in advance and start reading ahead.  I will buy a couple of books related to the topic and consult a few commentaries on the text as well.  This offers me additional insights and helps me from getting stale.  When I first entered the ministry an older, wise preacher told me, "Sit at the feet of the masters and learn from them."  I took his advice and still do it to this very day.

What is church discipline and do you believe in practicing it?  Church discipline is when church leaders respond to some perceived wrongdoing – either in behavior or doctrine – by members in the local body.  The response is intended to bring correction.  Should the matter not be resolved, the member may be asked to leave.  Some examples that may require church discipline would be troublemakers (gossip, division, sowing discord, etc), open defiant sin (committed by believers who know better), or by teaching doctrines contrary to the scripture or the church’s position.  Yes, I believe in practicing it and we practice it at PCC.  It is essential if you want to protect the flock and maintain the health of a church. 

Marriage, Family Life, and Church Life

There is a reason why the Scriptures use marriage and family life as an analogy for the church.  Let me explain.

When a couple first gets married it’s like heaven on earth.  There is the honeymoon.  Then they set up house and begin their life together.  It's a lot of fun and the wonder of discovery is thrilling.  But after a a few years they begin to settle down into a daily grind of going to work and paying the bills.  All of a sudden the honeymoon has turned into responsibility.  Wonder turns into a daily routine.  It's right here that you face challenges, irritability, and you get on each other nerves. 

What do you do in times like this?  Do you call it quits and look for a new spouse and start all over, just so you can live in the honeymoon stage again?  How silly.  What you do is WORK YOUR WAY THROUGH THE TOUGH ISSUES, “for better, for worse.”  This is the place where you see your commitments through! 

Everyone knows that the best marriages, and yes, long-term marriages, are those in which the couple has toughed it out, and smoothed out the rough spots along the way.  You have cried together, laughed together, hurt each other, and forgiven each other… and your marriage lasts. Long-term relationships and a stable family is one of the ways that God meets some of our deepest needs.

That’s what church life is like… for those who stick it out.  You benefit from long-term relationships, friends who stay with you through thick-and-thin, spiritual family members who support you in the difficult seaons of life, and the long-term care of a shepherd who knows you and your family by name.  This is another way that God meets some of our deepest needs.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Pray for PCC

People often ask how they can pray for PCC, so I thought I’d give you some specific needs:

  • Pray that our church will always remain effective in fulfilling the Great Commission.  This is God’s will for the church, and this is PCC’s number one reason for existence.  We never want to lose sight of the fact that our community is full of people who are far from God and need salvation, and once converted should be moved towards spiritual maturity.
  • Pray for God’s favor.
  • Pray for our volunteers.  We are a volunteer intensive church.  In other words, we completely depend on our volunteers to get about 80% of the ministry work done.  Yet our volunteers work full-time jobs, have families to take care of, are dealing with the pressures of life, and still give their time to PCC.  These people need our prayers.  Without them, PCC would not be here.
  • Pray about our finances as well as your own level of giving.  Yes, I know, God always provides.  But the place where the rubber meets the road is when God’s people give.  People just assume that this aspect of our church magically takes care of itself.  It doesn’t. Our trend line is much better than it was at the beginning of the year, but still it should be better.
  • Pray for me; my physical health, my spiritual health, my emotional state, and my spiritual maturity.  God is not through with my yet, so I want to be a vessel that He can use.  I want my walk with God to be where it should be at all time.
  • Pray for your church's staff members.  You may not believe this, but working in a church is one of the hardest and most challenge places in the world to work.  There is so much stress and junk to deal with that quitting often looks good.  In fact, most people who become church staff simply can’t cope with it long term.  It takes a call from God to last in the ministry; and even with a call, not everyone lasts.  While it brings them great joy to serve the Lord vocationally full-time, they carry a large cross which is sometimes a burden to bear.
  • Pray for our age-level ministires (Nursery through High School).  We are specificlaly targeting children & teens for evangelims and discipleship.  I believe God wants to bring us a harvest of souls and young people need God just as much as anyone.  Also pray that God will send us passionate workers/volunteers/ministers/chaperons who "get it."
  • Pray for our growth.  Our church has been plateaued at its current attendance level for some time now.  Our average weekly attendance for 2011 is 424 each Sunday.  Sometimes it’s higher, but that’s our average.  We have had more challenge breaking through the 500 attendance barrier than almost any other previous attendance plateau.  We will slowly climb our way to 500 and then it drops back off.  I am at my wits end.  I’m praying for wisdom, insight, and for a move of God to make it happen. 

Will you join me in praying?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday Mind Dump - May 29, 2011

  • Good church today.  We had an excellent Communion Service.  It was very well done and very meaningful.  The text was penetrating and the Communion experience was uplifting.  I was edified.
  • I guess no one told the congregation of PCC that Memorial Day weekend is the time you’re supposed to skip church because attendance was exceptional for a holiday weekend. 
  • We had a number of guests too.  I met one particular couple after the second service and had a very nice chat with them.  Hope to see them again.
  • Let me say for the record that today’s service could not have happened without the help of so many dedicated people who SACRIFICIALLY SERVE at PCC.  In fact, if not for these people no Sunday at PCC would be possible.
  • During the music today I was standing in the back looking across the room.  I thought to myself, “Look at all these people.  They are here to receive Communion on a holiday weekend!  What would I do if I didn’t have the help of so many volunteer ministers who faithfully serve week after week?”
  • If you want to know what SACRIFICIAL SERVICE looks like, just look around our church.  There are people who lay down their lives and exemplify what servant-hood and commitment looks like!  And I mean across the board; from the top to the bottom and everything in-between!
  • They are some of the finest people I have ever known.
  • The other side of the coin is the CONSUMERS in the church.  PCC has their fair share of them too.  They have a deep sense of entitlement and believe that the church exists to merely cater to them and their needs.  It is a MISTAKE for church leaders to bend in that direction.  The church that caters to such a fickle people is forced to create dozens and dozens of different programs to meet those ever changing consumer demands.  This is blight on the church because it develops shallow, self-centered Christians, and is a drain on a church’s limited resources.
  • I don’t mind saying that a few people have given me a severe case of heartburn this week too.  They are absolutely self-centered.  We try to do so much for some folk and the first time we can’t meet an expectation they are ready to jump ship and shop around for another church.  Consumers, that’s what they are. 
  • Instead of stepping up to the plate and offering to help their church navigate its way through periods of transition, they bolt at their first sign of not getting their way.  Instead of staying put and helping their church to become a better church (like they wish it was), they change churches like changing socks.
  • Look.  The church is a “family” and God’s people are “family members.”  Family members stick together through thick and thin - they plow their way through the tough seasons of family life.  That’s what good Christian’s do too.
  • I believe it is part of my pastoral duty confront people on this matter.  I have to call it for what it is.  If it’s a spade, you call it a spade.  If is selfish and self-centered, you call people out on it. 
  • If you are looking for a pastor who is like "Mister Rogers" in "Mister Rogers Neighborhood," you won't find him at PCC.  I don't wear cardigan sweaters either.
  • The Bible teaches that Christians are servants and should live sacrificially for the cause of Christ and for one another.  That means instead of expecting the church to meet all your needs, you sacrificially lay down your life to meet the needs of others.  A heart of humility does not say, “I demand more.”  Instead, it says,  “I am here to serve.”
  • Comparing the two types of people, I know who to put my trust in:  It’s those people who have BEEN WITH ME through thick and thin, that’s who!
  • I will make my deepest investments in such people too.
  • Renae and I went fishing yesterday.  We caught four fish; two Redfish and two bass.  We love being on the water.
  • After church today we went to the Navy Boat Docks on Blackwater River to attend a retirement party for Brad U.  He has just retired from the United States Coast Guard after 20-something years.  We were honored to be invited and had a lot of fun on the river.
  • BTW, Brad serves on our audio tech team.  His wife, Kim, used to be our Nursery Director.  Other family members of his serve in a variety of critical roles at PCC too.  Brad has already landed a civilian job at Eglin Air Force Base with Lockheed Aircraft Corporation.  We are very happy for them.
  • “Rejoice with them that rejoice” (Romans 12:15a).
  • We are also very glad that they do not have to move away.  Brad said, “We have stakes here.”  Yea, I like hearing that kind of thing.
  • Living around here and taking advantage of the local recreational features (especially the water and Blackwater State Forest) is like living on vacation.  There’s no need to go anywhere; just take advantage of what NW Florida has to offer.
  • Someone left an anonymous envelope on my desk today.  I opened it up and there were two gift cards inside to Bass Pro Shop.  One was for shopping in the store and the other was for their exceptional restaurant.  THANK YOU!  THANK YOU!  THANK YOU!  Yes, we will enjoy using the cards you provided, and I know it was a financial sacrifice for you to make this purchase, but let me say (to whoever you are) that your thoughtfulness speaks volumes to me and Renae. 
  • I suspect that we have recently done something for you in our Christian service and you decided to reciprocate in like manner.   Whatever you motive, thank you.  We had a difficult week and your envelope made a big difference in my emotional state.  That's what I'm talking about.
  • Usually when I get an anonymous envelope from someon it is full of junk, so it was a good to receive something nice for a change.
  • Mike C. was on drums today and he nailed it.  Jonathan C. and Matt L. were on guitar and they did an exceptional job too.  Cameron G. was on bass and he was rocking!  Cameron has really evolved as a good bass player.  All the singers sounded good and I think this team is really coming into their own; they are jelling as a team and their chemistry is good.  Renae did a good job on the song selection for Communion too; she is very experienced and skilled in this regard.  I was so impressed with everyone that I had to walk up to them (while still on stage) and tell them “good job.”
  • The song “Jesus Messiah” was HUGE today.  It is perfect for Communion.  I loved the spontaneous standing, uplifted hands, audible worship, and obvious repentance sweeping the room.
  • New guitarists will be on stage next week.
  • And a special shout out to our grounds-keeping team, hospitality, greeters, ushers, audio & projection, welcome desk, age-level ministries, house-keeping, and EVERYONE ELSE who makes PCC happen.
  • We’ve had some staffing changes at PCC recently.  I’ll be writing about this soon.
  • Blessed does not begin to describe my life right now.  With all the challenges I face, I am blessed.  Things are good at church, in my family, and in my walk with God
  • I’m looking forward to some Cuban cooking soon :-)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Agree to Agree

Recently I read about a church that needed to fill a position on its leadership board.  Rather than finding someone who was fully committed to the agreed-upon mission, vision, and values, some in the church thought it might be a good idea to include someone with differing opinions.  In a sense they were hoping to create a system of checks and balances so that the leadership team wasn’t tied up with one ministry strategy.

Can you see trouble coming?

That type of thinking may be appropriate in the political world, but it’s not Biblical and certainly doesn’t help in developing healthy leadership and ministry teams within the church.  The church mentioned above actually created an adversarial system in which differences were magnified instead of being downplayed.  When the structure is such that contrary people are deliberately added to the team and are free to speak their mind, then you have created an opportunity for disagreeable people to take control.  Many churches are governed by people who have overbearing personalities and intimidate others.  Further still, the smaller a church is the more power a negative person has.

Some people wonder why there is no harmony in their church.  It’s because the church is divided over issues that should not even be an issue at all!

I Corinthians 1:10 says, “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.”

God is clear that harmony and unity are a top priority for the church.  And since we are supposed to follow after things that promote unity and peace, then our mission, leadership structure, and practices should promote that purpose.  Furthermore, disunity is a sin and has no place in a New Testament church or the Christian life.

In light of the passage above, as well as many others in the Bible, we have decided to follow this pattern at PCC.  When looking for prospective leaders, we look for those who are fully aligned with our current vision and leadership team rather than those who might offer dissenting viewpoints.  The wisdom of doing this becomes evident as our team operates together on a regular basis; a contrary person would fill the team with regular conflict.  Sure, it’s okay for our team members to challenge current thinking and suggest new approaches.  We do this often.  In fact, our meetings get very antimated sometimes as people speak passionatley about an issue.   But at the end of the day we agree to agree, have each other's back, and put the health and misison of the church ahead of any personal agenda.  We have been doing this for thirteen years at PCC and it's been an important factor in our church's growth and spiritual health.

Creating an open environment like this that allows members to confront one another on tough topics is actually a sign of heath.  It’s not acceptable, however, for unresolved disagreements to remain.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Everyone is Replaceable

But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” (Numbers 20:12 NIV)

Everyone is replaceable.

A lot of times we believe that no one else can fill a role except the one who is currently filling it.  Maybe we think that of ourselves or some valuable team member.  It sounds something like this, “If I don’t do it, no one else can” or “I have nobody to take so-and-so’s place” or “If he/she steps down, it’s all going to fall apart.”  It’s very motivating to hear this kind of talk because it adds merit to the individual and value to the work they do.  It sounds so good.

But it simply isn’t true.

The Hebrews probably thought that there was no one except Moses who could lead them into the Promised Land.  After all, he was the one who led them out of Egyptian slavery and shepherded them for forty years in the wilderness.  Heck, Moses himself may have even believed no one else could do it.  But it was not to be.  When Moses dishonored God before the people, the responsibility was handed over to someone else.  Moses' removal was permanent too.  When he prayed asking God to reconsider, God responded by saying, "Do not speak to Me about this matter again" (Deuteronomy 1:26). 

That is a sobering truth we must all accept.  Like Moses, you and I are replaceable.  God can replace me tomorrow if He chooses to.  Nothing in God's kingdom, or at PCC, is so dependent on me or you that God's work will fail without us.

God is not hamstrung by our disobedience or so dependent on our personal talents that He is willing to allow anyone of us to continue in a ministry role if we are willfully sinning and taking His name in vain by our lifestyle.  In God’s economy, His purposes are higher than any personality.  If you won’t do what God is calling you to do, He will simply find someone else to do it.

Don’t get me wrong.  God doesn’t toss us to the wind on a whim or at the first sign of reluctance on our part.  He chases us and pursues us.  He is more patient with us than we can possibly imagine.

On the other hand, God’s purposes are greater than any single person.  His will is greater than your will.  You are part of the plan.  But you are not the plan.  You are special and valuable to God, but you are not irreplaceable either.

Whether you know it or not, there are countless people in this world who would do anything to take your place and my place.  God is constantly raising up other vessels to serve and He already has our replacements waiting in the background.  It’s His kingdom, not ours. 

In fact, our time of service eventually comes to an end for all of us anyway.  And when that day comes we must be able to recognize that our time is up and graciously step aside by passing the baton to another.

Just don’t end it prematurely by willful sin or a false sense of self importance like Moses did. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Problem Solvers

I was in a leadership meeting about nine years ago.  One individual began to rail about this and rant against that.  Actually he was making a mountain out of a mole hill.  Waving his arms like a windmill in the wind, he waxed eloquent as he objected and complained.  When he got about halfway through his harangue, I interrupted him by asking, “What positive alternative do you offer?”  He stopped and stared at me in silence.  He looked confused.  Finally he asked, “What do you mean?”  I repeated myself, “What positive alternative do you offer as a solution?  You’ve sat there all this time pointing out all that you think is wrong around here, but you have not offered as much as a single idea on how to remedy the situation to your liking.  This apparently bothers you, even though it doesn’t bother anyone else, so what is your plan of remedy?”  Well, that took him back a bit because now he was being expected to do something other than fuss. 

Good leaders do more than complain; they offer solutions and fix things.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sudnay Mind Dump - May 22, 2011

  • Another great day at PCC
  • Total attendance was very good
  • Second service set a new attendance record today for a regular Sunday
  • Today was “Youth Servant Sunday.” We let the teenagers have a very active and visible role in the service. They served as patio greeters, door greeters, as ushers, in the band, as signers during the singing, and in hospitality. They served in virtually every area today except preaching. Wow!
  • A special shout out to Denise and Brian Yates who are doing a remarkable job with the teens of PCC
  • I’m blown away by all God is doing
  • We finished the Joseph series today. As usual, I got a lot of positive feedback
  •  There is one thing I have learned through this series: Everybody has a painful family story to tell. The things people have told me about their family experiences, identifying with Joseph, are hair tingling. Most incredible is how open and receptive people have been to God’s leading to attempt reconciliation. One man told me today, “My bother did something to me years ago and I swore to myself that I would never forgive him. But God spoke to me today about my bitterness, so I am going to go home and give my brother a call.”
  • What a marvelous God we serve.
  • What a great church we belong to
  • To God be the glory
  • Soli Deo gloria (Glory to God alone)
  •  I would write more, but Renae are I are headed to the woods for some down time

Friday, May 20, 2011

Hijacked by American Democracy & Robert's Rules of Order

What ever happened to the guidance of the Holy Spirit when it comes to making decisions in the church? Why do so many churches believe that voting on something is the way to go?  Shouldn’t we be trying to discern God’s will rather than the will of the congregation? Are academic credentials really more important than Spirit filled leadership?

Modern church structures and govement are so far removed from what is seen in the Bible that one wonders how we could have strayed so far from the path.  Here are my suggestions:
  • Throw Robert’s Rule of Order out the door and never allow it back in
  • Place more emphasis on determining God’s will rather than the will of the congregation
  • Be more organic in nature where spontaneous response to what God is really up to is possible, rather than voting on what the majority wants to do
  • Establish flexible structures and job descriptions that are fluid enough to allow the Holy Spirit to redirect our actions, like it did with Stephen when it shifted his job from waiting tables to preaching the Gospel.
  • Those in leadership would only be those who were demonstrating serious servant hood, are Biblically qualified, and lead by example, rather than issuing decrees from on high (i.e., the board room).
  • Rather than being a democracy, oversight and authority would be invested in a few godly people because they were trusted by the congregation based upon how they lived.
  • Prayer would be a form of collective listening by the leadership team
  • Ripened and disciplined leaders who have loving relationships with the congregation would replace academically trained leaders.

Reputation & Character (Part 3)


The health of a church is directly related to the quality of its leaders.  That’s why the Bible has strict standards for those who serve as elders or in other highly critical roles.  The paramount issue is ones CHARACTER; not talent, skill, or abilities, but character.  A man is qualified because of what he IS, not because of what he does or the skill he possesses. 

I Timothy 3 outlines a detailed list of criteria for elders and church leaders.  In that list are two requirments about ones reputation being a primary consideration.  Keep in mind, these two items are non-negotiable because they are God’s Word:

1. He Must be “Blameless” and "Above Reproach (I Timothy 3:2) 

"Now the overseer must be above reproach" (KJV says blameless)

Blameless?  Above reproach?  Yes.  The overarching qualification for an elder or church leader is that he is “blameless” or “above reproach.”  That is, he must be a leader who cannot be accused of anything sinful.  Sin or vice must not mar a church leader’s life – be it an attitude, habit, or incident.  Of course, that’s not to say that one must be perfect, but he must not have any obvious character defects either.  He must be a model of godliness.

Spiritual leaders must be without reproach because they set an example for congregations to follow.  This is a high standard, but it is not a double standard.  Since believers are responsible to follow the example of their godly leaders, God requires blamelessness of them as well. 

The Biblical standards for leadership are non-negotiable.  God sets the standard very high.  Why?  Because whatever the leaders are, the people become.  Hosea said, “Like people, like priest” (Hosea 4:9).  Jesus said, “…everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher (Luke 6:40 NIV). 

Additionally, malicious people are always looking for ways to discredit the reputation of Christ and His church, and a sinful leader plays right into their hands.  This is why “blameless” is the initial qualification for spiritual leadership. 

2.  He Has a Good Reputation with Those Outside the Church (I Timothy 3:7)

"He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap."

Elders and church leaders must have good reputations, not only inside the church, but with those outside the church.  That doesn’t mean that everyone will agree with his theology, but it does mean that people in the community know him as a man of integrity and character.  That’s an important qualification because an elder can’t have a godly influence on his community if it has no respect for him.

Incidentally, this qualification isn’t limited to sins committed while in office or while actively serving in leadership.  It also includes any sins in the past that are so notorious that they have given him a bad reputation.  Although he may be forgiven by God, the reputation is attached and it’s what people remember, rendering his or her leadership ineffective and impotent.  The church must therefore consider a person's ongoing reputation in the community before it places him or her into a place of spiritual leadership.

Every Christian has to deal with some level of visibility.  And people need to see a blameless life.  They may not agree with your beliefs, but they must see your godly character and good disposition.  Paul wanted the Philippians to be blameless and innocent children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” (Philippians 2:15).

That’s a high calling and a sacred responsibility.  In Colossians 4:5-6 Paul says, “Conduct yourselves with wisdom towards outsiders…. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. A good reputation includes wise words as well as godly deeds.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Reputation & Character (Part 2)

"Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour” (Ecclesiastes 10:1 KJV)

It’s easy to lose your reputation.  One moment of indiscretion can undo years of building a good reputation.  Consider the proverb above.  Dead flies will ruin a container of expensive perfume by putrefying it with a foul odor.  Likewise, a little foolishness or indiscretion can ruin a person who has an established reputation for wisdom and integrity.

Nothing will ruin the reputation of a Christian faster or more permanently than a deliberate breech of ethical integrity or moral conduct.  People will overlook almost any offense – but moral & ethical violations carry a stigma that is almost impossible to rise above.

One stain on a beautiful painting is all that you see.

It’s nearly impossible to do something or say something without a significant number of people knowing about it, hearing about it, and having an opinion about it before the sun goes down.  Whether you like it or not people are watching your life and judge you by your actions.  This is reality.  You only get one reputation.  You’d better guard it well.

Your sins affect others too.  Unless you live on an island by yourself in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, your sins have consequences upon other people.  Think of your family, friends, and fellow church members who you have contact with.  Whatever sins your commit spills over into their lives.  “No man is an island” and no man sins unto himself either.  That means those around you can be hurt by the choices and actions you make.

If your folly and sin is committed in darkness, it will eventually be brought into the light.  The Bible warns us… Be sure your sins will find you out (Numbers 32:23).  Think Arnold Schwarzenegger.  He is a contemporary example of this truth.  Exposure may come sooner or it may come later, but it comes.  Jesus said, “There is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed and brought out into the open” (Luke 8:17).  Can you honestly say that there is no one that would be affected by your secret sins if they should become known?

This doesn’t mean that we have to live our lives only for the approval of others, because you could be easily manipulated that way.  However, as Christians it does mean that we are supposed to seek the approval of God by living godly lives and maintaining a good testimony.  And by default, such a lifestyle will win the approval of others.

The standards of behavior for God’s people are supposed to surpass even the highest principles of normal human ethics.  This was one of the main points of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

It is essential that we maintain our Christian testimony:
  • Proverbs 25:26… Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked.
  • Philippians 1:27… Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
There is a difference between your reputation and your testimony.  Your reputation reflects what others say about you.  Your testimony is what your lifestyle says about God.  In other words, if someone calls himself a Christian but does not live godly, he is in fact taking God’s name in vain. 

Prioritize the importance of a good reputation.  You only get one.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Reputation & Character (Part 1)

You only get one reputation so you better guard it well.  The Bible repeatedly emphasizes the enduring value of a good name.
  • Ecclesiastes 7:1 says, “A good name is better than fine perfume….”
  • Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.”
A good reputation is necessary to have success in life, even in ministry.  A good name is priceless.  A good name is earned in life by living godly and showing good character in all situations, especially those that are difficult.

A bad reputation is hard to live down and difficult to repair.  It attaches.  Your reputation can be a product of what you do, or what your friends do.  So live wisely, and choose to live with friends that pull you forward, upward, not downward.  The Bible warns, “Do not be misled:  Bad company corrupts good character” (I Corinthians 15:33).  Don’t compromise your name and reputation for anyone, even a friend.

It is much easier to destroy a good reputation than to build it.  Building a good reputation requires effort, patience, and takes time.  Destroying a good reputation only requires a single moment’s misstep.

Some people think that their reputation doesn’t really matter that much; that we should only focus on doing our best and that’s enough.  Or that the forgiveness of God cancels everything and makes everyone equal.  Not true.  This is not a matter of forgiveness.  It’s a matter of reputation, and on that basis all are not equal.  To ignore the practical importance of a good reputation is to ignore the consequences of a bad reputation.  God’s forgiveness is never in question.  Our reputation is. 

For instance, when considering a potential spouse do you want someone who is known for their faithfulness and virtue or someone who is known to be lewd and licentious?  See the difference? 

While it is true that God looks on the heart while man looks on the outward appearance, the fact remains that a person’s reputation attaches itself to the individual and others are left to judge a book by its cover.  This is why a good reputation is so essential; a bad one can hurt for years to come.

The fact is many people ruin their chances for success in life because of a bad reputation. Open doors slam shut, job opportunities are missed, and bad job references are given.  They are never invited to a seat at the table.  They become marginalized. 

Guard your reputation and guard it well.  A good name is better than great riches.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Pastors face a unique situation in churches today.  For the first time in the history of the church, we have five generations present in most congregations.  It used to be that pastors led worship and delivered a sermon to two generations, parents and their children.  The task was simple: the pastor met the needs of the parents and provided a program of Christian Education for their children.

Today the world is different.  A pastor now must address a much more complex situation.  Think of it this way.  When selecting music or a musical style the oldest members in the congregation believe that nineteenth century hymn in four-part harmony are the true religious music.  Meanwhile, another generation believes that amplified music is more meaningful.  At the same time a younger generation, who has never even seen a vinyl record or heard of Fleetwood Mac, is listening to music from their MP3 player that is the size of a pack of gum!

Or consider this.  The pastor has to preach to a generation born in the Depression era for whom loyalty to an organization is a high value.  Meanwhile, the pastor also speaks to boomers who tend to distrust leaders and institutions and believe in non-traditional values.  At the same time, there are younger people present for whom the Space Challenger disaster was the formative event of their lives and Bill Clinton is the president they can remember most.  Further still is an even younger generation that has grown up on MTV, social networks, and Smart Phones.

The challenge before us?  Each one of these generations wants their voice to be heard in the church.

Just another part of our job.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunday Mind Dump - May 15, 2011

After seven hours Renae and I finally made it home from church. 

Sunday is a workday for us and our church staff.  Although it is the high point of our week and we love to worship with all our church family and friends, it is still a workday for us.  It begins very early in the morning before service begins and continues long into the afternoon after services are over.

Today was a great day at PCC
The worship was great.  I think some of simpler songs are more engaging than complex ones, and the more vertically focused the lyrics are the more we get caught up in the Spirit.

The band was in the zone today, and Matt Lewis did an good job on electric guitar.

Several people told me how much they appreciated the stories I told about my father who died seven years ago and the family reunion I attended yesterday with Renae, my mother, and sister.

We had a blast at this family gathering.

Today’s message title was “Family Reunion” and centered on Joseph being reunited with his father who he had not seen in 25 years.  It was very insightful.

I especially liked the part where Jacob, Joseph’s father, built an altar and sacrificed offerings to God, seeking God’s will on moving his family to Egypt.  What an example for us to learn from!  Before we move our family from one place to another or even from one church to another, we should always seek God’s will.

HERE’S WHY:  Uprooting your family from one place and trying to establish roots in another place is disruptive and can take years to overcome.

After half a lifetime of being unplugged spiritually, being a passive parent and a failure as a father, Jacob matured into a wise and seasoned elderly gentleman.  We see him worshipping again.

Regarding PCC.  Things don’t always run smoothly.  I’m glad we were able to get a couple of things fixed today.  Hats off to the people who made it happen.

Like I said, Sunday is actually a workday for some of us.

Just so you know, I am ALL IN at PCC.  I have made a lifetime commitment to Pace Community Church and the PCC family.  I want my roots to run deep here

Some pastors change churches like changing socks.  I will not do that.

Just so you know, all the senior staff of PCC as well as so many others in the leadership team have made the same level of commitment.  They’re not going anywhere.

I’m also glad to say that a large segment of our membership is just as committed as the leadership team.  They are ALL IN.

One year ago I wrote this blog:  WHEN THE GAME PLAN CHANGES.   The game plan has changed at PCC and we are still not through with the transition.  PLEASE READ IT AGAIN, it is still applicable.

PCC has some of the most amazing Christians, disciples, servants, members, and volunteers I have ever seen.  There is no one I would rather do life with.  I really mean that.  WIthout them, PCC would not be possible.

And like any other church, PCC also has marginal types. 

I’m at a place in my life where I don’t have anything left to prove or anyone that I am worried about tying to keep happy, so I am now just enjoying the ride.

I realize that people are going to do what they are going to do, and there’s very little I can do about it, so I’m going to let them do it without me stressing out over it.  As the Bible says, A Ethiopian cannot change the color of his skin and a leopard cannot change its spots, neither can people do good who are accustomed to doing evil (Jeremiah 13:23).

Read my blog about this I wrote in 2008:  TRUE COLORS

I'm going to invest my life and time mostly in those who can be influenced by godliness.  It's a waste of time trying to change those who never will. 

Renae and I are really benefiting from some of the friendships and relationships that God has put into our lives right now.

I think I have finally reached the place where I will not do any more personal or private counseling.  Almost every time I agree to meet with someone for a private counseling session they end up telling me things that are too private for me to know, which usually results in their leaving the church because of embarrassment.  Plus it puts me in compromising position; either I cannot talk on that subject again, or if I do they think I am talking directly about them.

I will write about this soon, and it will become my practicing policy.

In fact, very soon I will also be posting about my Marriage Policy and Hospital Visitation Policy

If you would like to know our policy for Financial Assistance, Social Media, and Fundraising at PCC, then simply click the “Policy” option in the left column under the Index of Categories.

I’ve been watching a couple of episodes of Swamp People, those alligator hunters from Louisiana.  I think I am ready to try some nighttime alligator hunting myself.....

You’ve got to watch the video below entitled “Gossip.”  It is excellent.

I’m growing a lot of fruit this year; ten blueberry bushes, two fig trees, three scuppernong vines, eight blackberry bushes, and one lime tree.  I just might establish a vineyard.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


This is the best thing I have ever heard on gossip.  The illustration and metaphor is compelling.  It's a film clip from the movie "Doubt."  It's less than three minutes long, but worth watching.  You'll never forget it. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Things I Just Don't Understand

People that show up to church only a few times a year and expect the pastor to drop everything  to give them his undivided attention

People that put nothing in the offering but expect the church to always be there for them so that they can continue to consume use benefit from it for free

People who make no investment in their church yet and always except expect it to be there for them in their time of need, as if the church is magically funded by the tooth fairy

People who have not learned the concept of sacrificial servanthood as a disciple of Jesus Christ

Parents who put their teens on restriction from the church or youth group, the very thing that could help them with their behavior, not to mention their eternity

People that expect the pastor to tolerate their political views, but leave the church because of his

Care vrs. Limited Resources

From time to time we will receive requests for our church to donate to certain causes, to support other non-profit organizations and their efforts, to pay for someone’s power bill, to support a foreign missionary, to fund a new ministry, or to take up a special offering for a community drive.  The only problem with so many requests is that PCC has a limited amount of resources (both financial and manpower) to offer.  Therefore our own mission receives first priority.  In other words, we fund our own initiatives first and the ministries that we have deemed essential to our mission.

You just don’t care” some might object. 


It’s not that we don’t care.  It’s just that there is a limit to how many times we can say yes.  We take our financial commitments very seriously.  Your request is not greater than anyone else’s and we make no “spur of the moment” decisions, no matter how compelling they are.  Nor do we allow an emotional response to drive our funding decisions.  Every need is legitimate, but there are not enough resources for every need.

That’s why we will always ensure that PCC is able to support itself before we support another non-profit organization.  We will pay our own utility bill before we pay someone else’s.  We will not siphon money away from our essential ministries to fund another project.  And we will spend money on local missions before foreign ones. 

This Blog Has Been Down for Two Days

My blog server (Blogger) has been preforming maintenance on their system, which has prevented me from making any posts.  Additonally, they have deleted or lost my last three entries.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Lake Talquin, Near Tallahassee FL

Renae took this photo of Robert & Joyce Hughes who were in front of us in the middle of Lake Talquin.  It was about 7:30 PM and we were headed to the other side for some last minute fishing.  My sister said she needs some time away at a place like this just to detangle her mind.  I think everyone needs a moment like this.