Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Five

1.  I'm back in the saddle this Sunday.  The message is “Your Church, An Extended Family’ Part 2.  It’s sure to strike a chord with a lot of people.  PCC is a place where you can belong.  This would be an excellent day to bring as many guests as possible.

2.  This Sunday afternoon is our FALL FEST and CHILI COOK OFF.  It’s going to be a great event for the kids and a perfect opportunity for fellowship among the adults.  It’s starts at 3:30 PM and will conclude sometime after dark, after we have spent time around the camp fire.

3.  It looks like the WEATHER is going to be PERFECT this Sunday afternoon too.  Temperatures are forecast to be in 60s during the daytime and in the 40s after dark.

4.  POLICIES. They are not the most exciting part of church leadership, but they are needed.  Without the guiding principles of policies you end up with a hap-hazard method of making decisions.  Having said that, it is time for me to publish some new polices.  They are: my WEDDING policy, my HOSPITAL VISITATION policy, and our church’s BABY DEDICATION policy.  I will notify the church when they are finished, and they will be posted on this website soon.

5.  PERSONAL.  I like living in NW Florida.  It’s not perfect, no place is.  I hear people complain about this area all the time, but not me, I like it here.  First there is Blackwater River State Forest – which is 210, 000 acres of public land to enjoy.  Then there is all the water ways we have access to: the beach, the rivers, and bays.  I love the water.  Every time I get outdoors, get on the water, or out the forest, I am thankful.  Every Sunday when I come to church, I am thankful.  When I spend time with my friends who live here, I am thankful.  Yea, I like it here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Power of the Pulpit

Many pastors do not understand the power of the pulpit.  Like a rudder on a ship, it can determine the direction of a church either intentionally or unintentionally.  If a pastor neglects the opportunity to optimize the pulpit, he misses a God-given opportunity to lead, shepherd, and steer.

Pastors should use their pulpits with deliberate intent to address all the aspects of church life in the churches they lead, and they should be unashamed and transparent when they do so.  I mean, where else do you get everyone’s undivided attention on a weekly basis?  The pulpit is not only a place to sermonize or to expound a passage of scripture, it’s also a place to establish church standards, clarify policy, set direction, communicate mission, and embed the vision. Here we teach doctrine, give reproof, administer correction, and offer instruction. 

Whenever I speak to the PCC congregation I look for opportunities to say, “And that’s why the church exists” or “that’s why you need the church.”  If an issue needs to be addressed in our church family, the pulpit is the place where I do it from.  I use the pulpit to communicate PCC’s standards and values.  I use it to tell the whole church what’s expected of those who serve in vital roles.  I also do about 99% of my ‘counseling’ from the pulpit.  Not only that, I repeat myself because nobody gets it the first time.  I will re-tell the same stories, re-cast the vision, and re-teach familiar passages of scripture until it becomes embedded.  Redundancy is the key to retention.

The distinctive values of a church naturally fade with the progress of time.  By using the pulpit deliberately, we restate our important values over and over again.  This counteracts the tendency to drift or forget.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Danger of Comparrision

One of the most self-defeating things a person can do is to become immersed in the “comparison trap.”  Comparing yourself to others can be unhealthy and even toxic.  Some people become envious and bitter.  On the other hand, when we learn to celebrate the successes of others, we increase the chances of our own. 

Here’s why.

The more you obsess over what you don’t have, the longer your mind stays locked into the single goal of tying to play “catch up” with someone else.  You actually forget to live your own life!   The worst thing about living this way is that you do everything out of the wrong motivation.  Yet, the moment you let go of your obsession is the moment you can begin to pursue your own unique journey or calling.


You have a certain calling that is unique to you.  That is why it is so important to run your own race without jumping in the middle of someone else’s.  When you run someone else’s race, you are running a race you were born to lose.

What’s the secret of fulfillment?  Rejoice in the success of others.  Forget about what they have that you do not have.  The truth is you do not need what they have.  You are a success the moment you submitted your gifting and skills to God.  Get out of the comparison trap.  Be pure in your motivations.  Run your own race.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Our First Members and a Thirteen Year Journey

The very first members of PCC were:  Renae Christian, Chuck Bell, DJ Bell, my father (Hoss), my mother (Jewel), Renae’s mother (Carylon), and myself.  There were seven of us.  Humble beginnings.  I am deeply indebted to them and filled with gratitude for believing in the vision of starting a new church.  Of course, it wasn’t about me, but their love for Jesus that caused them to “buy in.”  We spent six weeks in my living room hand-addressing 5000 envelops which contained an open letter to the community inviting irreligious people to our first public service on Easter Sunday, 1998.

Here it is, almost fourteen years later.  In April of next year (just six months from now) PCC will celebrate fourteen years of ministry!  I can hardly believe all that has happened over that time:  planting the church with no financial backing, no people, and no income; being a bi-vocational pastor for almost a decade; growing as a congregation; buying 25 acres of land with very little money  (this purchase was MIRACLE in itself); meeting in a school cafeteria for 8 ½ years; our building program; Hurricane Dennis and the collapse of our building; baptizing hundreds of people; discipling almost as many; our Ten Year Hiccup (which cost me a pound of flesh); having to officiate at my father’s funeral and then preaching two days later in the Sunday service; to eventually becoming a multi-staff church with dozens of ministries led by exceptional leaders. 

Wow.  What a journey.

It feels like a whirlwind, but when I stop to remember the entire journey I am reminded there were plenty of disappointments and successes along the way.

After resigning from the denomination I had belonged to for a number of years, my family and I returned to Santa Rosa County to establish PCC as a church for the unchurched.  We deliberately positioned ourselves differently than the existing churches in the area because we wanted to reach the kinds of people that the existing churches were not reaching.  We prayed and sought God to confirm the calling and then proceeded to have a Bible study in my home for our launch group, consisting of the original seven.

Six weeks later we launched on Easter Sunday, 1998, having our first public service.  Seventy people showed up.  We met for a while, God added a few more people, and our church was off to a decent start.  Looking back, I didn’t totally know what I was doing.  But I had a vision and had enough faith to believe God for the impossible.  I always felt like this was my calling.  Other people were inspired, bought in and supported the work and eventually God’s favor began to manifest itself in fruitfulness.  Somehow in God’s wisdom and sovereignty, we grew.

Of necessity, I was bi-vocational for almost a decade.  I owned an operated a landscaping business, and a pine straw sales business, just to make ends meet.  My two sons were in elementary and middle school, and by the time they entered high school, it was the most expensive period of my life when my income was the lowest.  We lived penny-to-penny and paycheck-to-paycheck.  Yet, we marveled as we watched God provide just in time.  Our faith grew.

We didn’t want to take people from other Christian churches because we felt like there were enough unchurched (or de-churched) people in the area that we could target.  We had a lot of church hoppers, church shoppers, drift in and out of PCC.  We also had a lot of double-dippers show up (i.e., people who attended with us on Sunday morning but attended other churches on Sunday or Wednesday nights) to take advantage of every opportunity offered without giving anything back, so I encouraged them, rather, I insisted, that they choose one church they could commit to and serve in.  Many left us.  I was glad because it was too draining to have these double-dipping consumers bleed us dry. 

In time, new families started to come – some even drove from great distances away to attend with us; as far away as West Pensacola and East Milton.  There were also some real conversions taking place and we started to look like a real church; baptisms, disciples, and personal growth.   In spite of the dirty school cafeteria we met in, we found a niche in our community among the irreligious and those who had given up on traditional churches.  The straight forward teaching we offered appealed to many, especially the unchurched, which was a surprise to me.  The most common compliment I heard was, “I am learning what the Bible actually says” or “you make it plain for me to understand.”  No higher compliment could be paid to a teacher.  Our casual atmosphere, church band, exceptional talent, emphasis upon fellowship, and down-to-earth style was attractive too.  We had no traditions – except the Bible, baptism, and communion – so we were free and flexible to try new methods when the notion struck us.  All of this worked in our favor.  We wanted to attract irreligious people, and we succeeded. Yet this came with it own set of challenges.  Ministering to messy people is messy work.


Both Renae and I sent endless hours with dysfunctional people, working through life issues, sexually deviant behaviors, violent marriage problems, and fragmenting families.  Along the way we also busied ourselves by doing all the church hospitality events (like refreshments wedding showers, baby showers, dinners, fellowship activities, etc), all while struggling with our own home-related pressures of raising kids, paying bills, and coping with family illnesses.

Without a mother church or denomination supporting us, we were more alone than I ever realized we would be.  We were on our own.  We assumed this was what church planting looked like and just kept at it until our joy got depleted.  The stress affected our home life, causing significant strain at times.  But God always came through, and because of our commitment to each other, Renae and I have always seen our way through the difficult seasons.  There have been plenty of times when both of us felt like we were drowning.

We genuinely cared about the people in our church, but realized that many of them didn’t feel the same way about us.  Relationship drama is probably the hardest part of church planting (or pastoring an established church for that matter).  We constantly had of people in our home, trying to serve them, disciple them, minister to them, and embrace them.  People virtually lived with us, others called at all hours of the night, and we poured our lives into the church.  The stress and long hours were exhausting.

I kept praying for God to bring some mature people to help, but that didn’t happen instantly.  We had faithful people like my family members and a handful of friends who did childcare, served on Sunday mornings, stacked chairs, set up the sound system, who served in hospitality, and served unselfishly in a variety of areas on Sunday morning.  We even had band practice in my garage for a number of years.  It was a great picture of people doing what they could to keep the burden off one person.

In the midst of it all, God was doing a deep work within me for His glory and our redemption.  I have never liked confrontation, but now I realize there are times that confrontation is necessary in order to protect the truth and the people we love most… and to grow in Christ.

We had a lot of confrontation along the way.  Almost every week there was some “issue” arising that I needed to address.  I developed thick skin along the way too.  I know how to fight and was willing to do so when necessary.  I had been laying down my life for the sheep of this congregation, and there was no way I would ever allow anyone else tear it apart.  The most significant confrontational period in my life was PCC’s Ten Year Hiccup.  What started out as nothing more than “work place junk” turned into a lot of very sinful behavior.  It was withering.  Yet PCC survived and so did I.


Over the years a lot of non-Christians came to see what was going on at PCC.  It was different than anything they had seen before in churches in our area, and they didn’t feel like an outcast.  As someone who had been exposed to traditionalism and heavy doses of legalism for a number of years, I had to really change what my definition of what a Christian “looked” like.  It was no longer the conservatively dressed, Victorian-laced, proper-mannered, nice person that I had usually seen in church.  Rather, we began to see raw people, with complicated lives, who didn’t wear in suits, or listen to the Lawrence Welk type music that I had usually seen in church.  We saw flip-flop wearing, short-pants wearing, independent-minded people from all walks of life show up at PCC who surrendered their lives to God and had a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ.  We also saw a lot of hurting people find healing in Christ.

I was so excited to see this.  It also convicted me of my judgmental attitude of people that didn’t fit the Christian stereotype.  It’s hard to change your DNA, unless you are wiling to be a “growing” person.  I was ashamed of the way that many churches had excluded such amazing and servant-minded people, and I didn’t want to be part of that rejection.  Jesus is our great example of serving and saving sinners like me.

God kept saving people (in spite of a few self-righteous types who found their way into PCC, and even on our staff), and our church kept growing.  People loved to hear me teach the Bible, bringing it to life.  It was evident that God had given us a humbling opportunity to be part of something bigger than ourselves.  The stories of life change (and salvations) were nothing short of miraculous.  I can recall dozens of married couples recovering form adultery and unfaithfulness; divorced couples getting remarried; married couples celebrating their silver and golden anniversaries; addicts being freed form drugs and alcohol, single moms getting married to godly men, numerous baby dedications; and people simply excited to learn about Jesus!  Additionally, we practice a great deal of church discipline at PCC and I am amazed at how much God blesses us for this.  It’s also a pure joy to see the many people in our church family who humbly submit to it and eventually find their way back to ministry involvement.  It really is amazing.  I think we have a good New Testament church.

Optimistic about the Future

I’m not very emotional, but I am moved when I reflect on all that God has done and how much His people have sacrificed to PCC for His purposes.  God has done the impossible in Pace Florida, saving hundreds of people who were totally lost, totally depraved, and incapable of finding their way to Him except for His sovereignty in drawing them to salvation, and He did so through the ministry of this church.  I might add, He did so “in spite of” us because we are far from perfect.  We don’t always get it right.

The journey of PCC has been the hardest and the best thing that God has used to develop me as a person, as a minister, and as a husband & father.  My family and I love Jesus.  We understand the importance of living a God-honoring life.  We have amazing friends that surround us and we experience community – like an extended family – along with people who are still coming to the faith.

Today, right now, at this very moment, I trust God in ways I never knew I could.  I didn’t do anything to deserve the blessings of PCC.  He is a good God that makes sinners holy, wondering people whole again, and lost people found.  He honors faith, and can even use regular people like me, the original seven, and hundreds of others, to plant a church that brings glory to Him.  My hope is in God, and that He hasn’t finished His work at PCC or in me.  I am very thankful for His forgiveness and patience.  I look forward to many more years of serving and loving His people.  I can’t wait to hear more amazing stories of lives being changed by the power of God.

This never gets old.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday Mind Dump - October 23, 2011

Before I even begin, let me say that there are some people in the PCC family who are dealing with some stuff, real bad stuff.  I’m talking about stuff that would make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.  And so many of these very same people are faithful to their church, they attend consistently, bring tithes, and worship God.  It’s humbling to me.

Compared to that, all the other stuff we deal with seems small.

That being said, today was a good day.  Attendance was off, but the day was solid.

Worship & music were excellent.  Some songs really resonate with me, and today’s selection was a good example.  I love songs that have accurate theology in them.

Gene Tharp filled in for me, teaching todays message, and did a good job.  His talk was about the importance of having faith like a child.  According to Jesus, without it, you can’t even enter the kingdom.

I really like his point of “retreating into the faith-like-a-child CAPSULE” any time someone wants to debate minor points of doctrine.  We adults get too obsessed with things that don’t matter so much.

BTW, Gene preached today carrying a heavy burden.  His father, who is 81 years old, is in the hospital in intensive care in Panama City. 

Not just anyone can do that, you know.  Imagine one of your own parents in ICU.  Could you give a public speech?  Teach God’s Word to hundreds of people?  Would you even show up for church that day if it was you? 

Gene also filled an important need for me personally; I simply needed a break.  I really benefit when I take a Sunday off from my teaching duties (which is not  very often).  First of all, it gives me a chance to mentally rest.  I woke up this morning and my first thought was, “Thank God, all I have to do is ‘attend’ church today, worship God, fellowship with the saints, and sit with my wife in the service.”  That takes a lot of pressure off me.  In fact, somone even commented to DeniseYates that I seemed more relaxed today than normal.  That's probably because I WAS more relaxed.  Of course, I wore a pair of Levi jeans to church today and that helps too.  :) 

Second, it gives me a chance to recharge my creative batteries.  I have deep reservoir of creativity, but there is a bottom to it.  Unless I am able to replenish periodically, sooner or later it runs dry.

Third, sharing the pulpit has also helps me be a better leader.  Like most pastors I have a love/hate relationship with administration.  I love what it accomplishes; I hate doing it.  I didn’t enter the ministry so that I could juggle budgets, supervise a staff, and crank out policy statements or return phone calls.  But that’s part of the package.  If I’m going to do my job well, I have to do those things with excellence and in a timely manner.  Being freed up from teaching from time-to-time gives me the opportunity to address other responsibilities I have.

Preaching is hard work and it takes its toll emotionally.  It’s no small matter to stand up in front of a group of people and presume to speak for God.  Yet for me, the actual task of preaching and preparation of a sermon isn’t the hard part – I love it.  The hardest part is always knowing that I’ve got another one due in a couple of days.  That’s a lot of pressure that keeps me on edge and always pushing.

I would like to build a preaching team.  I will be writing about this soon.

BTW, did I mention that Gene preached this morning carrying a heavy burden?  His father, who is 81 years old, is in the hospital in intensive care in Panama City.  Not just anyone can do that, you know.

Next Sunday morning, I will continue the theme I started last week:  Your Church, An Extended Family.”  The timing is perfect since our Chili Cook-Off is that afternoon.

Next Sunday afternoon is our Fall Fest & Chili Cook-Off.  This is going to be a great fellowship event and a lot of fun for the kids.

Tomorrow’s blog will be posted first thing in the morning.  It’s entitled, “Our First Members and a Thirteen Year Journey.”  You might like to read this.

Take a look at the pictures below.  They give you an idea of why I like our ministry style so much.  We are relaxed, informal, and don't take ourselves too seriously.  The only things we ARE serious about is:  God, His Word, and worship of Him.

I always enjoy reading the Facebook comments after a Sunday service at PCC.  Our people really do love their church. 

I hope you'll read tomorrow's blog.

Friday, October 21, 2011

I Can't Attend Every Event

Although I would like to, I can’t attend every meeting, event, or ministry function that takes place at PCC.  There is simply too much going on.  This isn’t easy for me because I like being around people.  Yet, as our church has grown I’ve had to learn how to let go and allow others to lead in my absence. 

Consider this true story.....

Chuck Swindoll once described the personal pain that he experienced during such a transition in his church.

On one occasion, a long-term Sunday school teacher came to Chuck Swindoll and said, “Pastor, the last two years, when I invited you to our Sunday school Christmas party, you turned me down.  This year I’m not going to take no for an answer.  You have to come.”

Pastor Swindoll said that encounter hit a painful nerve.  Everything inside him wanted to say yes to his friend.  Instead, he replied, “I turned you down the last two years for the same reason I’m going to turn you down today.  We now have twenty adult fellowships, all of which have Christmas parties, and if I attend all those parties, the Swindoll family will not have a Christmas together.  There would be too much going on.  So I’ve decided to decline all invitations, and I hope you can come to terms with that decision.”

The Sunday school teacher walked away in an angry huff.  But Chuck Swindoll knew that overextending himself further would cause more long-term harm than good.  But still it hurt to say no to a member who expected his senior pastor to be available.

HERE’S THE LESSON:  Was the Sunday school class really less cared for because the senior pastor did not attend?  No.  What about the class’s social and fellowship needs?  The very gentleman who demanded Pastor Swindoll’s attendance was doing an excellent job of providing care himself to the group all year long. 

The fact is:  no one suffered because of the pastor’s absence at the party.  The only distress was within the member who expected that his senior pastor would be there, and within the senior pastor who hated to say no but knew he must.

That is the dilemma I have faced:  the more inclined I am towards direct personal involvement for everyone and every event, the greater my struggle is in learning to let go so that certain parts of the ministry can be carried out by others.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Avoid Becoming a Federation of Sub-ministries

Several years ago I visited a large church to meet with some of the leaders.  I wanted to learn from their experiences and pick up ideas.  I learned a lot, but there were a few things that really bothered me:
  • Some of the staff and other key leaders went weeks without seeing others on staff.
  • Most had no idea what was happening in the church outside of their own departments.
  • None of the staff members I talked to had a clear understanding of the vision of the church or how they fit into it.
  • I heard a lot of envious comments about budget allocation, room usages, and staff hires.

In my opinion, this was not a unified church.  It was a federation of sub-ministries.  These were separate ministries coexisting in one location.  Each had its own agenda and goals, and none had anything to do with the overall mission of the church.  To talk with the staff was like hearing a sales pitch six different CEOs of separate companies.  There was no cohesiveness, unity, shared purpose, or common mission.  They were pulling in opposite directions and against each other.  No wonder there was so much tension.

We experienced the very same thing at PCC.  It is what led to our ten year hiccup about four years ago.  In addition to our core ministries we had Celebrate Recovery, about twenty small groups with each one choosing their own curriculum (some of which was contrary to our church’s position), small group leaders who were taking up offerings, prayer groups that turned into gossip groups, and a variety of theologies floating around, just to name a few.  Minsitry leaders were showing signs of resistance and discontent with this church, while at the same time using it as a platform for their own agenda.  We had turned into a coalition of fragmented groups.  Each one believed they were autonomous and operated as an independent ministry silo.   It was horrible.  I fixed it.  It cost me.  It cost me a lot.  But we are better for it now.  And it won’t happen again.

This is not God’s idea of a church.  God’s idea involves community, affinity, and togetherness.  A church is a group of people gathered around a common cause and a shared goal.  For us at PCC, it is to accomplish the Great Commission and the Greatest Commandment.

But it isn’t easy to stay unified.  It takes intentional focus and hard work.  Sometimes you even have to fight for it. One of my main responsibilities at PCC is to be the guardian of our mission.  I do everything I can to prevent mission drift from setting in and trying to keep this church on course.  Here are some tips we use for staying unified:
  • We maintain a common budget according to the purposes of our church, funding only its authorized ministries.
  • We do not allow department fundraising.
  • We schedule events, meetings, or parties to allow the entire staff or leadership group to be together for face time and fun.
  • We constantly tell stories of life change to keep everyone focused.
  • We end ineffective ministries and dismiss ineffective staff or leaders.
  • We schedule room usage according to ministry priority, not on a first come first serve” basis.
  • We hire staff according to ministry priority.
  • We let squeaky wheels squeak.

It is very, very hard to keep a growing church unified and on the same page.  However, it is even harder and more painful to revive a church that has drifted off course into a federation of sub-ministries. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Not Now Doesn't Mean Not Ever

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the Word in the province of Asia (Acts 16:6)

Did you notice it?  The Holy Spirit actually prevented Paul and his companions from preaching the Word of God at a certain place!  That doesn’t seem like something God would do.  I mean the Holy Spirit inspired the Word and has given God’s people the power to preach the Word, yet here He is keeping them from preaching.  What gives?

The key here is that little phrase, “in the province of Asia.” Paul wanted to go to Asia to preach the Word. It was one of his goals. And a few chapters later he did. But not now. Instead the Holy Spirit stopped him and led him to other cities to preach first. And the response was incredible.

HERE’S THE POINT:  Sometimes God will prevent us from doing certain things that don’t coincide with His will.  It’s not that what we are doing is wrong; it’s just that it’s not the right time.  Not now doesn’t mean not ever.

Maybe it’s because we’re not yet equipped for the task.  Maybe it’s because all the pieces haven’t come together yet.  Maybe we’ll never know.  Whatever the reason, God is the One who decides and His timing is always on time.

If you feel like your dreams are stalling or your goals are in a holding pattern, don’t assume you’ve made a mistake and that it’s not going to happen.  Paul eventually went to Asia and preached the Word.  You’ll eventually get there too.  In the meantime, you’ll just have to trust that if God is the One preventing you from getting there (for the time being), it’s because you are exactly where He wants you to be right now.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Two Hours Old...

We now have six Jack Russell Terrier puppies.  I realize her bed looks filthly, but it's brand new.  The trash in the bed is cedar chips from her (Saddie's) dog house outside where she delievered.  I transferred her and the puppies inside after it was safe to do so.

Planned Abandonment

Programs that are terminally ill need to be put out of their misery. Any ministry that has lost its effectiveness needs to eliminated.  This is called PLANNED ABANDONMENT.

Eliminating dead programs has the same positive effect on our future as tilling the soil has for next years crop. It makes the future possible. It sets the stage so that new seeds can grow without the old roots choking them out. Without this commitment and willingness to cease funding and staffing the programs that no longer work well, we will never have enough money and energy to create the future.

The difficulty with axing certain programs is that every program has its champions. Even after rigor mortis has set in, someone will champion the cause. Usually these champions are leaders who invested time and energy into making the program successful in the first place, or a tiny remnant who believe that if it “helps just one person” it’s worth it whatever it costs.

But a senior leadership team cannot allow these people to sway how resources and time are allocated. If we give-in to everyone who pleads for heroic measures to save their favorite ministry, it won’t be long until we’ve become a historical preservation society, so loaded with ‘yesterday’ that we have no energy or resources left for ‘today’ or ‘tomorrow.’

We have only a limited supply of time, energy, workers, and money. That’s why I will ask the question, “Why are we doing this?” If there is no good reason, we will abandon it. I will say, “Show me the results.” If there is not enough measurable data to demonstrate its effectiveness, we will discontinue the activity in favor of a newer initiative.

We need to understand the importance of planned abandonment. We must deliberately ask ourselves, “What ministries or initiatives in PCC are no longer effective?” And once identified, we must let them go. Most people will see it as heartless, but it’s not. It’s about making room for the future.

Sunday Mind Dump - October 16, 2011 - MONDAY EDITION

The first service yesterday was a blast.  There house was packed, the music felt real good, and the message was good for instruction.  Lot’s of fun too.

The second service was just as good, and we concluded it by baptizing four people.

Exceptional day all around.

I noticed a number of second-and-third-time guests who returned.  That’s always a good sign.  It’s one thing to have a first-time guest, but it’s another thing to see them return.  They are expressing a deeper interest in spiritual things and our church.

The message – Your Church, An Extended Family – really struck a chord with a lot of people.  It’s what makes PCC so attractive.  We really are a family.

Recreational church shopping is the antithesis of Christianity.

So proud of all our volunteers.  They continually step up and do a good job.  They even have the ability to perform well when thrown a curve ball.

Very proud of our church staff too.  These people know their job.

IMO, the offering talk I gave yesterday was one of the best I have shared in a long time.  I mean, the apostle Paul put it on the line:  i.e., "If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more?"  (I Cor. 9:7-12).  I should probably teach a Sunday morning message on this passage.  It's THAT powerful.

I think we will have a baby dedication service in November.

I’ve been connecting to a few pastors in the area over the last several weeks.  The stories I am hearing are astonishing.  I can tell you this:  God is doing a work in our area among some people… both in blessings and discipline.  A lot of healing is taking place and restoration is occurring.  Likewise, chastisement is happening too.

After church yesterday, a small group of us went to downtown Pensacola for a bike ride.  We rode through the neighborhoods of East Hill along Bayou Texar.  Gorgeous.

My female Jack Russell is so pregnant that she is about to pop. 

I will be looking to place the puppies in good homes.  Those with Jack Russell experience are preferred.  Intense interview.

We are entering the season where we evaluate all our ministries and ministry leaders in preparation for next year.  Not all make the cut.  Here’s how we do it:  How We Evaluate Programs & Personnel

Dang!  My Jack Russell JUST had puppies.  Gotta go!  Will post pictures later!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ministry Guidelines

Guideline #1:  We never create a ministry and then try to find someone to lead it.  It doesn’t work.  The most critical factor in a new ministry isn’t the idea, but the person who is actually going to be the leader.  Each ministry rises or falls on the leadership.  Without the right leader, a ministry will just stumble along, possibly doing more harm than good.

It is important to never push people into a ministry or allow a ministry to begin without a clear leader.  If we do, we’ll be stuck with a motivation problem for the life of the ministry.  Instead, it is best to trust God’s timing and wait for Him to raise the person best shaped to lead a particular ministry.  Then, let that person start it and run it.

Study the book of Acts and you’ll discover that organizing a ministry always followed what the Holy Spirit was doing.  Not once in Acts do you find people coming up with a ministry idea and then praying, “Now, God, please bless our idea.”  Instead, God would begin moving in people’s hearts, a ministry would spontaneously spring up in a small way, and, as it grew larger, they would add some structure to it.

Guideline #2:  Don’t expect the staff to run your ministry.  People often say things like, “I’ve got a great idea for our church” or “We should do something about…etc.”  I always ask them to clarify what they mean by “we.”  When people say, “The church should…” they usually mean “The pastor or staff should…” 

Guideline #3:  The ministry must be compatible with our church’s beliefs, values, and philosophy of ministry.  If we allow ministries to start that are not headed in the same direction our church is headed, we’re just asking for conflict.  Rather than helping the church, such ministries will actually hinder what we are trying to do and may even harm our church’s testimony.

We are especially cautious with ministries that are cosponsored by organizations outside our local church.  These organizations often have agendas very different than our church’s agenda, which tends to produce divided loyalties.

Guideline #4:  No fund-raising is allowed.  (Read here). If we allow every ministry to do their own fundraising, our church patio will turn into a bazaar.  There will be car washes and cookie sales all over the place.  Competition for dollars will become intense, and our members will resent all the appeal letters and sales gimmicks.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

There are No Pefect Outreach Plans

The enemy of the Great Commission is the perfect plan.  The best way to make a difference in people’s lives is to find a need and set out to meet that need.


Many ministries are hindered by prolonged meetings in the conference room talking about all the things that could wrong, or either over-administrating a new initiative before it’s even started!  I can tell you for certain that a lot of things will go wrong when you do outreach.  Why?  Because we are dealing with hurting people who have needs.  That gets messy.

The better question is:  “What could go right?”  I’ve seen a lot of people get helped and a lot get accomplished for God’s kingdom through efforts that looked like organized chaos.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Altar Calls and Salvation

It is important to note that the practice of altar calls is a modern invention and was never practiced in the Bible or any New Testament church in the Bible. It is not found in the ministry of Jesus, His apostles, or even the church of the post-apostolic period. However, we do see Jesus and the apostles inviting men and women to be saved by believing and repenting, right where they stood or were seated, after they heard the Word - but never by means of the altar call. The method of altar calls came into practice about 300 hundred years ago, in America, which is some eighteen centuries after Christ!

There is nothing wrong with altar calls as long as they are kept in perspective and do not become sacred, or taught as a Biblical mandate. If neither Jesus nor His apostles employed the method and if they never commanded the method to be practiced by the church, then no requirement exists. In fact, a church which does not employ the practice (but instead encourages people to “believe” the gospel) is more in line with scriptural practice than churches which have adopted the use of altar calls.
Altar calls, like any other method, (i.e., signing a card, repeating a prayer, raising your hand, or singing “Just As I Am”), are man-made methods – not Biblical mandates. It is not a question of Biblical necessity but of modern custom and convenience that we use them today. So then, the altar call is not a matter of Biblical command or precedent. Our Lord does not require it of anyone at any time.
Question: But what about those who are saved as a result of an altar call?
Answer: Let’s be clear.  No one is ever saved “as a result” of an altar call. We are saved only as a result of the gospel. When people believe that a sinner must do anything other than believe and repent, it reveals that they have a mistrust, or misunderstanding, of the power of the Holy Spirit and the Preached Word.
God has made it plain that He saves sinners by means of His Word that is preached. Consider the words of the apostle Paul from I Corinthians chapter 1....
“Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel” (v.17)
“For the message of the cross… is the power of God” (v.18)
“…. it pleased God through the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (v.21)
The PREACHED WORD is how God saves people. In other words, Paul was confident (as should any preacher be) that God would save people by means of preaching/teaching the Word. Our problem today is that we don’t really believe that God’s Word ALONE is SUFFICIENT. It is a mistake to assume that the “come forward invitation” is more important than the taught Word of God. In truth, the most important part of the service is when God’s Word is being preached – not before and not after- and there is no need to invent a new means to help God save people; He already does this so well all by Himself. We are obliged, however, to trust Him to save people via the means He has promised to bless – the preached Word.
A Misunderstanding of the Role of the Preacher
The modern invitation system further reveals a misunderstanding of the role of the preacher. The preacher's duty is not to "get decisions.” His duty is to proclaim the good news and exhort men and women to believe in Christ. This is the means that God uses to save. We preach and God Himself uses the preached Word to prompt people to believe. These roles must never be confused.

God has never ordained altar calls as a means for salvation. For the most part, a wounded conscience, like a wounded deer, would rather be alone so that it may bleed in secret. Those under conviction usually prefer a solitary place to repent.

The role of the preacher is to preach the Word and exhort men and women to believe (have faith) in Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins. And that is enough. God is well able to do everything else.
PS - I have written a lengthy brochure on this subject and offer it in Seminar 101, "Discovering the PCC Family" and is available to anyone who asks.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Weakness is a Witness

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  (2 Corinthians 12:19 KJV)

Christian people often portray themselves as an example of perfection in an effort to show people what their faith is all about.  The sobering reality is that more people identify with our weaknesses than our strengths.  They are not looking for the perfect Christian, the perfect pastor, or those with the perfect family; they are looking for someone who understands them and the trouble they are in. 

Masks.  Acting like you’ve got it all together.  People can see through a phony a mile off.

You don’t have to be hitting home runs every time you’re up bat to be a good witness for Christ.  As a perfect God, He is not interested in hearing how perfect we think we are.  God uses anyone anyway He chooses.  Limiting the demonstration of God’s power to those people who think they’ve got it all together is like trying to do God’s job for Him.

Weakness is a witness!  The Body of Christ could change our community if we showed them that we are fallible people who throw ourselves at the feet of Jesus, relying upon His strength in our weaknesses.

The fact is, we don’t impress anyone (except other self-righteous people) with our claims of strength. 

The world is not looking for the perfect church, the perfect pastor, the perfect Christian, or how big a Bible we carry.  They are looking for someone who is authentic and transparent enough to let’s God’s strength shine through.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday Mind Dump - October 9, 2011

Today was one of those Sunday’s that you’ll remember for a long time.

We received Communion.  Or should I say we experienced Communion (with God)?  The entire service was built around that event and it turned out to be very meaningful.

The music and song selection were perfect.  The singers and musicians did an excellent job.  Renee J. sang a moving solo part and a high harmony.  The fourth song was written by Renae C. – a scripture song from the book of Psalms.

At the risk of sounding like I am bragging, I have to say that I think our musical department is exceptional.  This is a result of the level of commitment from all the team members, good talent, and good leadership.

I shared a 10-to-15 minute talk about the ending of Passover and the instituting of the Lords Supper.  The talk was from Luke 22:1-20.  A lot of people told me after the service how enlightening it was.  This really set the mood for receiving Communion.

The Spirit of God was doing some stuff in people's hearts.

When Jesus said, “It is finished” on the cross it meant the end of all the ceremonial and symbolic laws of the Old Testament that had been observed for thousands of years.  It meant no more rituals, no more ceremonies, no more sacrifices, no more shedding of blood, no more altars, no more priesthood of Aaron, no more Holy of Holies, and no more temple.  Christ’s finished work was complete, all sufficient, and final.  Now the invitation is simple:  believe, receive, and come to the table of fellowship.

When I woke up this morning, just before daylight, the first thought that entered my mind was what a privilege I was going to have in sharing and administering the Lord’s Supper to hundreds of God’s people.  This really is a privilege.  It’s a sacred responsibility.  It is a fearful thing too.

I had a moment of clarity last week about the strategy of our church, and I have decided that it is essential that we come back to the basics; to the things that have helped make PCC such a great church in the first place.

I think we have become a little ingrown over the last few  years and I want to reverse that trend.

The amount of new people coming through our front doors is very encouraging.

I am also very encouraged by the healing I have experienced by having fellowship with a pastor from a neighboring church.

A wonderful couple in PCC gave me and Renae a nice gift today for Pastor Appreciation Month.  Thank you very much.

I love Jesus, my family, my church, and the people in it.

This morning I discovered a bruise on the back of my left thigh.  I kid you not, it is literally eight inches wide.  It is black and blue all over.  I have no idea where it came from.  Maybe my wife has been beating me in the night  (:-)