Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday Mind Dump - July 31, 2011

Today was one of our best days in a long time.

The music was good, worship was spontaneous, and God’s Word penetrated very deep.

Greg Gill nailed on the drums today, especially during the song “I See the Lord.” 

Esther M. was on stage as a new singer today, filling in for Renee J. who is out for a few weeks.  Esther fit in perfectly, has a great voice, and comes from a strong Christian family.  It was great to have her on board.  BTW, her father is the man who plays acoustic guitar.

Everyone – all the singers and all the musicians – nailed it.  I was sitting towards the back and was blown away.

Attendance has increased every Sunday for the month of July, with today being the highest.

Giving has climbed all month too.  The month of July has been one of our best months ever in thirteen years… and it has been the best July on record.

After church we held the Newcomers Luncheon which turned out to be a great event.  There were two dozen people in the room I didn’t know, which means we hit our target audience perfectly.  The best part of all was watching the way these newcomers began connecting with other newcomers.  Gotta love it.

This event would not have happened if not for Ann Lewis and the team of people she pulled together for this effort.  I won’t attempt to mention everyone by name because I am sure to miss someone, but I will say that your labor of love was noticed, is appreciated, and was very effective for PCC.  The table displays, food, and set up were first class too.

After the days events I ended up having a lengthy visit with Gene, Brian, and Denise in her office.  We had a great talking and didn’t leave until 3:00 p.m.

Lot’s of victory at PCC right now.  Things haven’t bee this good in a long, long time.

When I got to church this morning I found a package and a nice note at my office door.  It was a picture of a waterfall, taken by this person, who then enlarged it and framed it.  The card contained words of encouragement that were as refreshing to me as if were standing at the base of the waterfall myself.  Thank you DK.

Living a public life is not so much fun – it’s like living in a fish bowl, or always being in somebody’s headlights. Trust me, not easy.  But there are certain people in the body of Christ who make it all bearable. They are “encouragers.” In fact, they might even have the gift of encouragement. Aside from ministering their gift to the body, they often direct it towards their pastor. These people can do more for a pastor’s emotional well-being than a professionally trained therapist. They are gifts from God.  A well-timed “thank you” from someone can lift me for days.

My wife has been in Gainesville FL for a solid week with her father who is hospitalized at Shands Hospital.  She got home last night about 6:00 p.m., so she could be in service with us this morning, then left shortly after church this afternoon to return to Gainesville.  She will be there a least a couple of more days.  She is tired.  Her father is ill.  We covet your prayers.

So glad the AC’s were working good today.  It was cold.

Have you noticed the children’s hallway recently?  Have you noticed the rooms?  These people have it going on!  The whole wing is a children’s “environment.”  It is truly a kids “zone.”

Teen camp starts tomorrow.  I have been invited to speak at one of the breakaway sessions on Wednesday.  Looking forward to it.

Yes, I said, “Ronnie’s Vineyard and Winery” in the second service.  Yes, I’m glad that people know when to take me seriously and when not to.

PCC University starts in September. 

I love what God is doing at PCC.

God is good.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Emotional Survival

I was having breakfast with a couple of fellow pastors who needed more than a cup of caffeine to pick themselves up.  Summer attendance was down.  Key people were leaving their churches because of disagreements.  And money was very, very tight.

One of the guys said, “I knew seasons like this would come.  I just didn’t know how stressful they would be.”

To this day, after twenty-five years in ministry, these kinds of disappointments still blindside me.  Nothing prepares you for how ministry can drain you emotionally, leaving you in pain, even worse, feeling numb or in despair or seething in anger.  This is why so many good men and women in ministry have careened into moral ditches and many more just soldier on with plastic smiles and burned-out souls.

About two years ago Renae and I had dinner with a neighboring pastor and his wife at Bonefish Grill in Pensacola on a Friday night.  We were going through similar experiences in our respective churches, coincidentally at the same time, so we spent the evening sharing our painful stories with each other.  We talked about the hits and hurts that came our way in ministry as occupational hazards and how they tear away at our souls, sapping our enthusiasm, and our ministry stamina.  Before I realized it, four hours had elapsed!  This left me dreaming of finding myself on a beach with an umbrella in my drink – permanently.

What makes ministry so hazardous?  That’s easy.  It all starts with overbuilt expectations.  When you enter the ministry (or plant a church), you can’t help but dream.  Many of us dream big.  That’s one of the marks of a leader – a compelling vision for the future.  But for almost everyone, it’s not long before the dream collides with reality.

When I planted PCC in the spring of 1998, I just knew (though I would not have said so out loud) that we were going to be a church in the hundreds in a matter of weeks.

The reality was having 70 people in our first service, and by the third Sunday looking out at 45 people sitting in plastic chairs in a school cafeteria.  Yes, we did eventually increase in numbers, and even today we are a mid-sized church, but I don’t care what kind of growth you have – if you are a pastor you usually hope for more.

Then there are the day-in, day-out realities of serving in a church that is very real, very flawed, and very challenging.  No matter how well it goes, you have problems, issues, hassles, struggles, defections, betrayals, setbacks, barriers, and defeats.  You also have to live with a level of quality that is about ten miles below what ignited your dream.  Coupled with this work – hard work – you realize that it could take years for even a glimpse of your dream to become a reality.

And those are just the emotional hits from your expectations.  Then there are the hits that come from the very people that you are working so hard to serve.  This is the heart of emotional drain. We are shepherds, and sheep are messy.  People can hurt you – more than you ever imagined – in particular through the relational defections of those you trusted.

You’ll understand if I change a few details in what follows.  It was a Friday afternoon in July a few years ago and it was raining hard that day.  I was caught up with all my work and was hoping to knock off soon when one of my key leaders unexpectedly showed up at the church asking to speak with me.  For him to show up in the middle of the day asking for a special meeting was not a good sign.

“Ron,” he said, “Do you have a few minutes?  I’d like to bend your ear concerning a couple of things.”

“Sure” was all I could manage to say.

We met in an office and he began to unload.  He had more than just a few things he wanted to talk about.  I could not believe the things he said to me.  I was deeply hurt and offended.

So much for knocking off early that day.

This meeting, it turned out, was the trigger that set in motion a series of events that eventually resulted in our Ten Year Hiccup at PCC.  To say that I never seen it coming would be an understatement. 

It rocked our church.  And me.  The ripple effects were overwhelming.

On a purely organization level, it created quite a hit for PCC.  A number of people sided with this person and left our church taking their talents and financial contributions with them.   Suddenly we found ourselves trying to make up the gaps created by these departures.

But that was nothing compared to the emotional hit I took.  There was the pain of close friends, and even relatives, who left abruptly leaving me feeling utterly betrayed and abandoned.  Then there was the pain I felt as a pastor.  When something like this happens, you feel violated, sick on the inside.  I grieved deeply as I watched the very church I had laid my life down for to suddenly be ripped at the seams.  And somehow I was supposed to sew things back together.  With God’s help we did.

But the biggest emotional hit is how quickly I became the enemy, the bad guy, in they eyes of so many people.  In these situations and others like them, no matter how you handle the people involved, their allies will get upset.  Some will think I went too far on the side of grace, while others will think I went too far on the side of discipline.  Change the story, change the people, and it’s still the same; pastors get caught up in the cross fire of these emotionally charge situations and often become the scapegoat.  It’s kind of like the first person to rush to the side of a dog that has been hit by a car; in the midst of the dog’s pain and frenzy, he bites the very person who is trying to help.

I didn't ask for this and I didn't start it.  But it landed on my desk and as the senior pastor of PCC  I was the one who had to deal with it.  Our church got through that situation as best we could and with as much grace and transparency as possible.  But still, a number of people left PCC very upset with me, refusing to even talk or meet with me, preferring the gossip instead.

I felt like I had been kicked by a horse.

Then of course, there are so many other emotional hits in the ministry:  the stress of finances (both personal and in the church); the unexpected departure of staff; the pain of letters that criticize; the pressure of people who want to redefine the vision and mission of PCC; the relentless torture of expectations; and the agony of making mistakes.   And then there is this little thing called marriage and family.

So how do I manage my emotional survival?

First, the bad news:  there is no quick fix.  Ministry is just flat-out tough and often emotionally draining.  You won’t ever escape the hits and hurts.

Now, the good news:  I have learned to develop a way of life that protects, strengthens, and replenishes me emotionally.  Here’s how:  I simply cultivate those activities and choices that allow God to restore me inwardly.  Some things are obvious, like regular days off or engaging myself in hobbies.  And I’ve also learned to get a lot savvier with people and how to deal with them.

But for now, here are two choices I wish I had made earlier in life.  They are key to my emotional survival and have kept me in the ministry for the long haul.

I Work Well Within My Boundaries of Giftedness

First of all, ministry is tough enough on its own.  But if I serve too long outside of my primary areas of giftedness, I won’t last very long under the stress and strain that comes with the territory.  There is something about spending large amounts of time serving against the grain of my natural gifting that saps my emotional strength and spiritual energy.  I have grown up enough to recognize this.

For instance, I do not rank very high with the spiritual gift of “mercy,” not to mention the way it plays out in, say, extended pastoral counseling sessions.  I don’t the have patience for it and I’m not good at it.  So if I had to spend extended amounts of time with people in this kind of setting listening to them cry, it would simply wipe me out.

Even in our church, where spiritual gifts are taught and celebrated, and people are encouraged to deploy their own gifts for the benefit of the body, I, as the pastor, am still expected to have them all – and to operate in them all.  It’s impossible.  The danger (temptation) I face is that I will allow myself to try, and soon I will be wiped out with little or no reserves for the daily toil.

So I need to guard how I serve by working within the boundaries of my giftedness most of the time.

Emotionally Replenishing Experiences

Second, I intentionally pursue emotionally replenishing experiences.  When I hurt, if I don’t do something God-honoring to fill my tank with, I am tempted to find something that isn’t God-honoring.  Or at the very least, I am vulnerable to something that isn’t.  I am convinced this is why so many pastors struggle with secret vices – they offer a quick emotional or pleasurable hit.

To prevent that, I deliberately do things that channel deep emotional joy into my life.  For some folks it might be boating, or golf, or the beach.  For me it’s being away from the noise of daily grind, long drives in the country, reading, time alone with Renae, gardening, and enjoying anything outdoors – particularly in the forest.  There’s something about being in the woods away from people, listening to the wind in the top of pine trees that invigorates me.

About twelve years ago I was in Charlotte NC attending a meeting for pastors, when a certain mentor asked me, “What do you like to do more than anything else that is not work related?  What is it that puts emotional reserves back in your tank?”

I didn’t have to think long or hard about it.  I knew the answer:  “I would go to the forest and be alone.”  For as long as I can remember, being alone in the woods has held a significance for my state of mind that I cannot explain.  Even as a boy, I spent a great deal of my time alone in the woods walking on narrow trails, sitting on creek banks, exploring, climbing, canoeing, and sitting in solicitude just listening to the quiet.  And to this day, being in the woods is particularly rich for me.

“Good” he said, “You should do it once a month.”

I thought, “You’ve got to be kidding.  Once a month?  I don’t have the time.  My life is too busy and too full to put something like that in my schedule.”

Then he said something I will never forget.  “If you don’t, you will end up in a ditch.  You will burn out, lose your ministry, perhaps your family, and become a causality of the cause.”

I knew he was right.  I was already seeing the edges of my life fraying and knew how easily my world could unravel.

I went to Blackwater State Forest.

My first trip there found me driving for hours along the dirt fire lanes and discovering new places.  I remember it to this day.  It was like water on a dry desert.  I felt energy flowing back into me.  I came home walking on air.  My wife thought I had been drinking.  I had – from the well of living water which God intends for all of us to draw.

Now I escape regularly, usually with Renae.  We may spend a day or two in a budget hotel in some little out of the way place, or on the river in a canoe away from the crowds.  Or we may simply take a day trip driving along country roads and stopping at roadside vegetable stands.  We’ve been to Calloway Gardens a few times, another very nice place which has proven to be an excellent retreat for us.  We’ve spent time at Wakulla Springs near Tallahassee; a state park with a turn-of-the-century hotel that has no T.V. or inter-net.  It’s like stepping back in time.  It’s particularly refreshing to go to these places in the fall when the air is cool and the skies are clear because I feel the weight of the world fall off my shoulders.  When I inhale the cool air it goes all the way down to my toes.  I feast off it for weeks.

On the front end, I would have told you that it was impossible to put this into my life.  Looking back, I will tell you that it is unthinkable not to have it.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Open Doors & Adversaries

…..for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries (I Corinthians 16:9)

Open doors are opportunities for ministry, but they may also let in adversaries.  Paul had plenty of both.  He prayed for open doors, but he also encountered those who vigorously opposed him.  The two go together.

As you respond to God’s invitations, don’t be caught by surprise when adversaries try to derail your efforts.  If you concentrate too much on your opponents, you will be sidetracked from God’s activity.  Don’t base your decisions on what people are doing or saying.  Always remember, they cannot prevent you from carrying out God’s will (see Romans 8:31). 

My experience has been that the most rewarding spiritual work is done in the crucible of persecution and opposition.  This principle is found in Paul’s ministry.  While Paul was in Ephesus, a riot broke out in reaction to his ministry, led by a man named Demetrius.  The city theater filled with an angry mob who shouted for two hours in support of their god and against Paul. (Acts 19:23-41).  Despite this fierce rejection of the gospel, the city of Ephesus became one of the chief cities from which the gospel was spread throughout Asia, and the book of Ephesians in the New Testament is one of the greatest books in the Bible.

It takes spiritual discernment to see beyond human activity (opposition) to God’s will.  As you seek places of service, look beyond what people are saying to find out what God is doing.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Oriented by the Scriptures

There are times when, in the darkest moments of your life, the only comfort you can find is a word from God.  When Jesus was abandoned by His closest friends and even betrayed, He found comfort in the Scriptures.  God’s Word kept everything in perspective for the Savior, holding Him steadfast in the knowledge that everything He was experiencing was according to the Father’s plan.  Jesus was able to move forward, in spite of His fears, because the Scriptures assured Him that the Father was in control.

The Word of God will guide you in the same way.  There will be times when events around you will confuse you.  Those in whom you’ve placed your trust will fail you.  Others will abandon you.  You will be misunderstood and criticized.  In these times of distress, when your devotion and obedience are put to the test, you must let the Scriptures guide and comfort you.  Never let the faithlessness (or the lack of faith) of others determine what you do.  Turn to the Scriptures and allow them to reorient you to God and His activity.

Even as a young man in my early twenties I learned the value of being well acquainted with the Scriptures.  Now in my fifties, it has been my constant companion for most all my life.  Through every trial and hardship I have ever faced, God’s Word has always been a bedrock of hope for me.  Without it, I am certain I would have ended up in a straight jacket.

If you will immerse yourself in the Word of God you will not be caught off guard when crises come.  Your focus will already be on God, and He will safely guide you through your difficult moments.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Wheat and Tares - A Mingled Harvest

See Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43. 

The meaning of this parable is not at all complicated.  Jesus is the One who plants His children in the world.  The enemy – Satan – has ruined the purity of the crop by mingling his children among those who belong to God, and sometimes you can’t tell the difference between the two. But on that final day, God will send forth His angles to separate the wheat from the tares, and He will separate Christians from non-Christians, because God knows those who are His.  Until that day arrives, we are not allowed up uproot the tares lest we uproot the wheat too.

The emphasis of this parable is not that Christians sometimes seem to be ungodly but rather that the ungodly often appear to be righteous.  It’s about pretenders… imposters… people who appear to be Christians when they are not…. and the fact that we are mingled together.

So how do you tell the difference?  According to Jesus, most of the time we can’t tell the difference.  Eventually however, you can tell the difference and here’s how:  one will bear fruit the fruit of salvation and the other will not.  Tares may look like wheat, but they cannot produce wheat grain.  And so it is in God’s kingdom…. The children of the evil one can imitate Christians but they cannot produce the fruit of salvation because they are not saved.

Clearly, it is the inherent nature within a person and the fruit they produce that separates the wheat from the tares.  One’s nature is determined by who they belong to… either they are a child of the kingdom or a child of the evil one.

Jesus said, “You shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:17-20)

In the end, Christians are identified by the fruit they produce… not the claims they make.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Pastoral Authority

In 26 years of ministry I have witnessed the extremes of pastoral authority.

On one end of the spectrum is the pastor who has no authority.  This pastor functions as “hired help,” some sort of “organ grinders monkey” installed by a board that micromanages his messages and methods, leaving him feeling weak and unable to pursue his calling with passion.

The other extreme is the pastor whose authority goes too far.  This kind of pastor controls every detail of his congregant’s lives, even the kind of clothes they wear, the hairstyles they choose, or the movies they watch.  His control goes beyond what is Biblical.

Proper pastoral authority is Biblical and balanced.  This type of authority enables the pastor to accomplish what God has called him to do and nothing more.  Pastors are not supposed to have a vision for the life, career, and relationships of every person in his congregation; the people are supposed to have that for themselves.  What pastors should have is a vision for the work of God and enough authority to protect that work from derailment.

I have been challenged on occasion by those who, if given the chance, would have derailed what PCC has accomplished.  When necessary I have been very forceful with those seeking to damage what God has entrusted to me.

Pastors are beloved and well liked as long as we do what people want us to do.  The moment we don’t, our authority may be challenged.  But remember, we are not politicians elected to do the will of the people.  We are called to do the will and work of God.

We certainly don’t need dictator-types leading God’s people, but I believe God’s people are comforted by a shepherds rod and staff.  We protect the sheep from wolves that would destroy the flock.  We sometimes must wield the rod when it is necessary to chasten a disruptive troublemaker, or confront a gossiping church member.

Our model is Jesus Christ, who knew when to be a lion and when to be the lamb.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday Mind Dump - July 24, 2011

Simply a good day.

Our musicians shifted around, out of their normal positions, to fill the gaps.  They never missed a beat.

Attendance has steadily risen for the last three weeks straight.

There were a lot of young families coming through the doors today too.  Really glad to see this. 

Giving has been steadily improving all year.  Furthermore, the month of July is now shaping up to be one of our best months ever.  It’s a real momentum builder for us going into the fall.

The message this morning (The Wheat & Tares) was different and very challenging. 

I think this current series “The Stories of Jesus” is top-of-the-shelf stuff.  Before the series ends, we’ll be looking at more parables, stories, and metaphors Jesus told to communicate the mysteries of God’s kingdom.  You really don’t want to miss any of these.

There were some real nice comments on Facebook about today’s service too.

A lot of exciting things are coming up at PCC over the next couple of months.  i.e., Newcomers Lunch, Student Camp, Vacation Bible School, PCC University (elective classes), Seminars 101 & 201, and (I think) Financial Peace University is going to launch again.  And this is not all!  We’ll keep you informed on the details as they develop. 

Sorry the Mind Dump is so brief tonight, I’ve had a real busy afternoon and still have more to do.

I'll be posting almost every day this week, so check back.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Grow or Go

For someone who has ever been part of a stagnant church, attending a healthy, aggressive church can be very challenging.  In stagnant churches people are not properly challenged towards spiritual growth and maturity.  They also have tendency to attend programs, events, and activities for reasons that often smack of minimum duty rather than earnest desire or interest.

In contrast, people who belong to healthy, aggressive churches view their attendance at events, programs, and activities as compelling.  They freely commit their time because they believe they will emerge as better people.  Such churches do not have to beg their people to turn out for upcoming events.  People come because they believe they will miss something valuable if they do not attend.  When filling out their personal calendars, these people tend to schedule church activities first, and then fill in the gaps with other, outside interests. 

The strategies for personal growth (found in aggressive, healthy churches) make some adults uncomfortable.  Some even choose to leave the church when confronted with the expectation of consistent personal growth.  And that’s fine.  There’s plenty of churches where people can attend as spectators, hide in the pew without contributing, and ignore personal spiritual disciplines.

At Pace Community Church, Christianity is not a spectator sport.  It’s an active life-style.  Stand still and you lose ground.  Remain stagnant and you get left behind.  Fail to grow and you’ll wither at the root.

There's No Substitute for a Real Leader

Consider the contrasting leadership styles of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Regan.  Carter entered the White House with a social agenda and sought to enforce that vision for the nation.  Unfortunately, his leadership style was such that he was involved in all levels of decision-making and became overwhelmed in the operational minutia of the government.  Consequently, his administration brought about very little change during his one term in office, and he holds the ignominious distinction of being one of the most ineffective presidents in American history.

Regan, on the other hand, left the details to his lieutenants.  He focused on the larger goals and strategies associated with his agenda.  The tactical operations were turned over to his associates.  He saw his job as focusing on the big picture, and making sure that capable people were in place to cover the details.

Both men had their successes and failure in office.  But history has shown that more positive changes were accomplished during the Reagan administration, largely because he was willing to have others address the details, freeing him for more pressing concerns.

Likewise, an effective pastor is more a leader of people than a line worker.  He has a grasp of the big picture and a clear sense of God’s vision for the church.  This person is in tune with the details of what’s going on in the church, but is not bogged down with them.  He understands how important it is for someone to address the minute decisions that must occur.  However, he is not likely to be the person who will plunge himself into every program and activity undertaken by the church.

In contrast, some pastors reject the idea of delegation largely because they fear it may diminish their own significance in the church, or believe that others simply can't do it as good as he can.  In either case the result is a stunted ministry, and a stunted church, in which the pastor continues to bear the brunt of responsibility for everything.  Often, he crumbles under the weight of it all.

Another attribute of an effective pastor is that he is visible.  While he does not seek the spotlight, he tends to be at the right place at the right time.  This ability to remain IN focus without being THE focus means he maintains his finger on the pulse of the church without every activity having to depend on him.  He will show up at certain events even if he is not directly involved in them, because he recognizes that his presence adds a certain sense of credibility to the ministry event, and it communicates to people that he is in touch with what is happening in the church.  Although this is somewhat a symbolic role, the strong pastor feels no guilt or embarrassment in making appearances.  At this level, the success of the church depends on the success of others.

While an effective pastor is usually authoritative, he ultimately is a team player.  It is the team orientation that enables him to disperse authority and responsibility to others, and move forward.  This is similar to the model used by Moses in Israel’s history.  No biblical figure is a stronger individualist than Moses.  This is the man who was authoritative enough to make his people drink water laced with gold dust in punishment for making and worshipping the golden calf.  Yet Moses was not threatened by shared leadership.  When overwhelmed, he learned to delegate the responsibilities of ruling the people to his chosen deputies (Exodus 18).  In other words, he did not need to inject his presence into every decision.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mentoring and Being Anointed

Mentoring has nearly become a lost art.  Mentoring is the time-proven method for transmitting wisdom and knowledge through one-on-one or one-to-a-small-group relationship.  This is how Jesus led His disciples, and it is how discipleship is best achieved.

The fashionable “how to” conferences and books available today simply do not help most people.  Not that they are not good – they are – but they have a common weakness; namely, the book or conference shares with you a method which may be very good, but all you actually receive is the knowledge of the method.  You do NOT receive the ANOINTING of the person who has discovered this great method.  For instance, a pastor develops a great way to grow a church.  You attend his conference and he explains the method, and you buy his book.  You go back to your church and follow the instructions to the letter “T.”  To your disillusionment, your success does not even compare to his.  What went wrong?  You don’t have his anointing!

You cannot learn anointing by attending a meeting, a conference, a concert, or by reading a book; it is only bestowed by God.  And a method without the anointing is like a kiss over the phone: you hear it, but you don’t have it.

Mentoring, on the other hand, provides one-on-one, hands-on impartation that ensures not only the transferring of information, but also the anointing that is essential to bearing fruitfulness.  It also provides a close relationship to ensure counsel in the areas of your life that need grooming, such as family relationships, financial stewardship, ethics, and morality.

Mentoring is the age-old system of a father passing on to his son the secrets of the family business.  In a mentoring relationship, time is taken to guide you into fruitfulness, and that experience and wisdom are passed from one generation to the next.

It has been to my advantage over the years to have sought out and found certain men, fathers in the faith, who mentored me.  I learned more than the information they passed along to me; I caught their spirit.  It equipped me for ministry and life, and has served me well for many years.  Somewhere in that process God has given me my own anointing for service.

I still maintain a few relationships as these.  We never really outgrow our need for them.  Do we?  Yet I am now at a place in my journey that I think the best thing for me to be doing is to find a ministry son or daughter (or a small group of them) and mentor them closely.  There is a fresh anointing for such people.

Travel Light

Buy one-third as much, three times as good.

Pay for quality and buy less.  Buy and wear good clothes.  You’ll look better, feel better, and have an easier time picking out your wardrobe in the morning.  This doesn’t just apply to clothes, but to everything in your life.

When in doubt, throw it out.  Get rid of junk.  Cut your closet, your office files, and your personal baggage by two-thirds.  Travel light through life, not burdened like a turtle.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunday Mind Dump - July 17, 2011

What a week!  What a day!

A special shout out to the volunteers of PCC.  These are the people who make our church happen!

Last week our care team really stepped up to help a family in need after a death occurred.  I was blown away by their response.

Today was no different.  The patio ushers were providing valet parking because of the rain.  Plus, they were escorting people to and from the building under umbrellas.  They got sopping wet serving others.  That’s what I’m talking about!  It’s about “serving others” and stepping up the call of duty.

Jewel C. said this on Facebook:  My sincere thanks to Bobby Burkett & Robert Hughes for helping me get in & out of church this a.m. It was pouring rain when I parked & before I knew it Bobby was right there besides me with an umbrella. I had put my purse & Bible in a plastic bag. Bobby carried it up to the church for me & it was heavy. (:-) Robert Hughes walked me out under his umbrella to my car after church.

Renae C. said this on Facebook:  Can I just say ... that we had a GREAT worship service at PCC this morning ... and Team PCC hit it OUT OF THE BALLPARK TODAY! God bless EVERY member who drove through this monsoon to be at church, and God bless ALL our volunteers who arrived early & served at their stations of duty today with such JOY. And USHERS .... you guys ROCKED with the parking assistance you offered ... WAY TO GO GUYS!!!!!!

Smantha W said, Just wanted to say thank you to the PCC Ushers who helped Elliejay and I into church this morning and even parked my car for me so that I wouldn't have to get wet. What a loving and serving body of believers I am honored to call my church family!

You can't pay people to do this.  Either they have a servants heart or either they don't.  Great people.

BTW, servanthood is what discipleship is.  So what if you can quote Dr. so-and-so and talk deep theolgoy.  Real discipleship is putting your theology into action.

Christa C. says, Church was fantastic this morning!!

Cathy D. says,  Lovely baptism service today. My heart was touched...tears came to my eyes when I saw certain young men and women get baptized that I've known (and taught in children's ministry) since they were little. God is just awesome!

Brittany D. says,  Congrats to everyone that was baptized today.

I liked to have fell out when I seen the number of people in service today!  Both services were well attended.  Even though it was like a monsoon outside and the roads (leading to our church) were closed due to road construction, people kept pouring in!  Dang!  We even had a bunch of visitors.

The principle from Tate High School visited today.

The music was good too.

Twenty two people were baptized  – 14 in the first service and 8 in the second service.  Young and old alike followed the Lord in this ordinance.  Each person had a unique story, and I know most of those stories.  It fills my heart with gratitude to have a small part in their spiritual formation.

Some of the teenagers who were baptized today have attended PCC for a number of years, beginning as children.  Their spiritual formation is due entirely to the children’s workers (past and present) as well as the teen workers (past and present) who have discipled these people along the way.

We’ve got some great people at PCC.

After the first service, a certain lady, who has been attending with us for four weeks said to me, “I have never seen this many people baptized at once.  I’m impressed, because this is what it’s about.”

I understood where she was coming from.  There is such an ABSENCE of baptisms taking place in most churches that it’s a rare thing to see 14 people baptized at once (much less the 45 we baptized last time).  In fact, did you know that some churches go for YEARS without baptizing a SINGLE PERSON?  Years!  Not one!  That’s because they don’t target unchurched people and rely upon church transferees to keep their doors open… which is nothing more than reshuffling the deck.

I think a church that does God’s work God’s way will never lack for God’s blessings.

Giving was real good too.  In fact, we are now on track for July to be a good month.

In the last few months we have lost about four couples for differing reasons.  Departures always sadden me.  But I am also AMAZED at how QUICKLY God FILLS THE GAP.  New people with fresh eyes and great talent always step up and make the ministry more fruitful than it was before!  Even the financial gap gets filled.  This is not a slight against anyone, but it IS one of the ways that God CONFIRMS His approval upon this ministry;  He continually sends in the people with the right talent at the right time to take us to the next level.

I wrote something about this recently:  Growth Through Subtraction CLICK TO READ

It is very exciting to see God prove Himself again and again.

Online giving is beginning to pick up.  THANK YOU to everyone who uses this option… especially when you cannot be physically present in service.

The ushers nailed it today in the sanctuary.  They were flexible, responded to changing circumstances, and helped create a seamless church service that was anything except normal.  As someone who used to worry and stress over all these kind of details, it is so reassuring to know that great people, under great leadership, have got this area COVERED!

If that were not enough, as soon as church was over today a group of men broke down the components of the baptism pool, vacuumed the water from the carpet, put throw rugs in the atrium, and set up a floor fan to dry the carpet.  I turned around and it was DONE!

Great people.  Great church.  And a great God.

It was great to see new volunteers today (who signed up in June) serving as ushers, in hospitality, at the Welcome Center, and in age-level ministry areas.  LOVE OUR CHURCH. 

I am proud of our church.  I’m not saying we are better than anyone else, because we aren’t.  We are just being the best we can be.  Besides, I really like the people who attend PCC.

Newcomers Luncheon in two weeks (July 31).

Next Month, in August, is TEEN SUMMER CAMP and VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL.  I’m going to teen camp this year and plan on stirring up some serious trouble.

In September we are launching PCC UNIVERSITY.  Details to come.

Today I wore jeans to church - the second time in thirteen years.  Since nobody had a meltdown, I might wear them again.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Some 411

DETOUR:  AN INTERSECTION NEAR OUR CHURCH IS CLOSED.  The intersection of West Spencer Field Rd. and North Spencer Field Rd. is closed due to construction.  This is the intersection near Benny Russell Park that has the three-way stop sign.  To get to church this Sunday, simply follow the detour signs.  BTW, ignore any "Road Closed" signs on North Spencer Field Rd.... that road is still open, just drive through them to PCC.

THIS SUNDAY’S MESSAGE:  The Wheat & the Tares.  You don’t want to miss this one for sure.  In studying this passage and dwelling upon it all week, I have gained a new perspective on “pretenders” in the church.  Don’t forget, all messages can be heard online at for free.

BAPTISM THIS SUNDAY – After the message, I will baptize about 8 people in the first service and 8 people in the second service.  The song service will be 20 minutes long, and my message will last about 20 minutes, leaving plenty of time for baptism.  Come celebrate with us!

ONLINE GIVING PAGE IS NOW OPERATIONAL – The new online giving page is up and running.  It is much easier to use and offers you more options.  Go to and click the “Giving” tab.  This is a great way to keep your church financially strong during the summer.  Check it out.

REGISTRATION FOR VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL BEGINS THIS SUNDAY And this year VBS is not just for kids.  Parents and adult classes are being taught by Captain Mary Sumner.  We are deliberately including parents so that we might partner together in the spiritual formation of their children.