Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ready to Plant

Tomatoes, peppers, squash, and cucumber.  Most of these are ready to plant, but I'm waiting to get past the last frost date (which, for this area averages between March 11-20.  We're in zone 8b). 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What Kind of Pastor is Best: A Shepherd or an Overseer?

Recognizing this is an over-simplification, there are two basic kinds of pastors:  Shepherds with high mercy gifts and Overseers who watch over and direct the work of others.

Shepherds with strong mercy gifts are oriented towards being the primary care-giver to their congregations; almost like a Chaplain.  They are the ones doing all the teaching, all the funerals, all the weddings, all the visitation, all the discipling, and late-night phone calls.  They lead all the prayer groups, Bible studies, pot-lucks, and gatherings of any kind.  They know everyone by name, including the kids – sometimes even the pets.  They go to graduations, attend recitals, and remember birthdays.  In some instances there is a certain mystique that surrounds them, being perceived as the holy man who is the only one experienced enough to do such things.  However, there is a limit to how many people one man can personally care for.  Consequently, the church can never grow beyond that limit.

Overseers, on the other hand, are oriented towards ensuring their sheep are properly cared for by a group of shepherds, or under-shepherds, who are able to provide such ministry to a broader range of people.  Overseers are leaders of leaders.  They are willing to share the ministry with others.  They do some of the shepherding themselves (possessing a pastors heart) but give up most of it to others so more ministry can take place.  It’s really quite simple: more shepherds translates into more ministry, which equals more needs being met, which equals more kingdom impact and a broader ministry.

Let’s make a case for the Overseer for a moment:

In the OT, God clearly put Moses into such a role.  When Moses tried to do everything himself, arbitrating each and every situation as a solo Shepherd, he was unable to keep up with the demands.  He eventually reached a place of fatigue and burnout.  Furthermore, a lot of people were neglected because of his limitations as a one-man leader.  And, the people suffered for it.

It took the wisdom of his father-in-law, Jethro, employing the skills of an Overseer, to organize captains of fives, captains of tens, and captains of fifties to care for the people.

In the NT, the Holy Spirit birthed the Church by dropping 3,000 new converts into the laps of eleven very overwhelmed men.  It was a mega church mess if there ever was one.  It wasn’t long before the apostles realized they needed to pursue the role of Overseers while setting apart deacons for most of the shepherding tasks, (taking care of widows and running the food-distribution program).

The point is:  both Shepherds and Overseers are needed in churches

A hard working Shepherd can care for around seventy-to-eighty people.  If that pastor doesn’t bring in other Shepherds or under-shepherds and become a leader of leaders, he will become a bottleneck for ministry and growth.

Coincidentally, the average size of a typical church is around seventy-to-eighty people.  Hmmmm…

At Pace Community Church, we had 75 people at our first service.  That means the church outgrew me day one.  I had two choices:  I could operate as a Shepherd-pastor to the congregation (and probably remain at that size or lower); or I could learn a new set of skills and become an Overseer, ensuring that everyone was cared for – not only by me, but by others too – spreading the ministry around – and thereby positioning our church for more ministry and greater kingdom impact.

I decided to devote myself to becoming an Overseer.  And we grew.

It wasn’t easy.  Most who enter the ministry are, by nature, Shepherds with a shepherd’s heart and prefer to operate solo. 

And being a Shepherd (Chaplain to everyone) is appealing.  You get to be at the center of almost everything that’s going on.  You are the one at the hospital, at the wedding, drying the tears, holding the hand, and leading them to Christ.  You are the one doing all the baptizing, baby dedications, and administering communion.  You are the one who chairs every meeting and leads the charge to take every hill.  You are the “man of God”, the theological expert, and the reservoir of all wisdom.  And the accolades you receive from being solo are intoxicating.

Not so much for the Overseer.  You have to be willing to let go… to let others get the credit, see others take the hill, let others be praised.  You are not at the center of every life-event in the lives of those you love.  Instead, you hear stories of people praising a counselor, a Bible class teacher, another ministry leader, their small group leader, or a staff member.  Others get to make decisions, lead teams, do ministry, and share some of the light.

That was my journey. 

Yet, I'm the better for it... and so is PCC.

So why give up Shepherding in favor of Overseeing?  Simple.  Based on Romans 12:8, if you have the gift of leadership, you are called to lead.  And that’s what an Overseer does:  he is a leader of leaders.  Following Paul's advice to Timothy, a pastor has to train, select, and appoint others to carry out the volume of work.

In Scripture, both Shepherds and Overseers are needed.  The goal is not less care, but assured care.  Multiple ministers can do more than one minister.  It's as simple as that.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday Mind Dump - Feb 24, 2013

Hands down, it was one of my favorite services.

Things were just clicking, and that is always a good thing.

Attendance was way up, there was strong energy in the service, the call to worship was well-done, and the music was exceptional.  Everything was very uplifting.

I just love seeing all the young couples and families attending PCC.  It seems like there are more than ever before right now.

This is very, very exciting for me.

I met two new couples this morning – the men are flight students – both in the Marines.  Great people.

This morning’s message was about how to treat elderly men… younger men… older women… younger women… and widows in the church.  Really enjoyed it.

We have been very blessed with some very talented musicians and singers at PCC.

The weather this afternoon was splendid.  This is why we live in NW Florida.

Do you ever look around at the people in your life and realize that you are surrounded by some great people?  If you can do that, you are fortunate beyond measure.

Hosted our 201 seminar tonight.  We had a very good turnout.  Everyone really seemed to enjoy the event.  Also had a great team of people who prepared the meal.  All around a great day.

Forgot to take pictures. 

Tomorrow is day 21 of my intermittent fasting.  My body is beginning to adapt and it’s getting easier.  Almost feels like a new normal.  Weight drop has finally started – it took a couple of weeks to see movement on the scale.

It’s 10:20 p.m.  I’ve been at it all day long.  Time to call it a wrap.   

Sunday Update....

Holy cow! Were you at Pace Community Church this morning?

Sunday Mind Dump will be posted later this evening - I am returning to the church to teach Seminar 201 at 4:00 p.m.

We have 30 people signed up for 201 (besides the workers). If you'd like to join us (by attending or serving), just show up. We'll serve you a good meal at the halfway point; BBQ Pork and Rotisserie Chicken are the Entrée menu. Plus there is a youth workers meeting taking place. The building is going to be packed. Aside from that, it's going to be a lot of fun and great fellowship hanging out together. I'll post pictures on my blog.

Friday, February 22, 2013

This Sunday - Family Matters

The message title is “Family Matters” coming from I Timothy 5. 

In it we will discover what the Bible says about our treatment of elderly men…. younger men older women younger women…. and taking care of widows in the church.  

You’re really going to enjoy this message.  It's going to be very uplifting.  Some of your notions might even be challenged too.  We will be edified and provoked to good works.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

This Sunday - Seminar 201

You’re invited to join us this Sunday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. for Seminar 201 – Essentials for Spiritual Growth.

In this seminar we look at the four basic habits every believer must develop in order to grow towards maturity.  The topics covered are:  Four Myths About Spiritual Growth… The Four Habits of a Disciple… How to Start and Maintain Good Habits… and PCC’s Maturity Vision

The seminar lasts about 2 ½ - 3 hours with plenty of breaks.  A good meal is served at the halfway point.  A student syllabus is also provided for everyone.  Child care is provided too.

Currently there are twenty-five people taking the seminar, with more registrations coming in this week.  If you’d like to join, please sign up quickly.  We’d love to have you in this meeting.

You can call the church offices at 994-4310, sign up by PCC's Facebook page (PCC), or contact me via Facebook (Ron), or sign up in the atrium this Sunday.  You have four options to choose from.  How easy is that?

This seminar is a lot of fun and it’s a great way to meet new people.  More importantly, the people who take this seminar demonstrate the kind of commitment that spiritual growth implies and often experience a renewed interest in spiritual matters.  In many ways, the graduates of this seminar represent the real core of Pace Community Church.

Even if you have taken the seminar previously, you can join us again for a refresher.  We’d love to have you too.  This would be a great way to stir up the gift within you, so to speak, and refocus your priorities of drawing nearer to God.

It's going be a great evening at PCC this Sunday afternoon!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Hazards of Minsitry

1. Because you are constantly doing “spiritual things” it’s easy confuse those things with actually being spiritual. For example, you are studying the Bible and reading good books in order to prepare a talk, and you believe it’s the same as personal devotions. It’s not. You are praying in church services, during meetings, at potlucks, and it’s easy to think you are leading a life of personal, private prayer. You’re not. You are planning worship, leading worship, or attending worship, and it’s easy to believe are actually worshipping. Chances are, you’re not. Worship is an exercise of presenting yourself to the Lord as a living sacrifice on a daily basis... not just at church.

When you are in the ministry, it’s easy to confuse doing things for God with drawing near to God; to confuse activity with intimacy; to mistake trappings of spirituality for being spiritual.

It’s an easy deception.

2. You are constantly being put on a spiritual pedestal by people and you begin to believe it. The truth is, people have no idea whether or not you have actually spent any time alone with God in reflection, prayer, and repentance over the last six weeks; they don’t know what you are looking at online; and they don’t’ know how you really treat your spouse at home.

They just afford you a high level of spirituality.

Here’s where it really gets toxic: you begin to bask in this spiritual adulation and start to believe your own press. Soon the estimation of others about your spiritual life becomes your own.

This is why most train-wrecks in the ministry are not as sudden and “out of the blue” as they seem. Most leaders who end up in some kind of ditch were veering off the road for some time beforehand. Their empty spiritual life simply became manifest, or caught up with them, or took its toll.

You can only run on empty for so long...

I had a defining moment on this subject when I was in my mid-thirties. A well-known minister fell, a leader who had been a role model for my life. I was bummed. But more than that, I was scared. If it could happen to him, then I was a pushover.

It didn’t help my anxieties that I was in a spiritual state exactly has I have described above: confusing doing things for God with drawing near to God; accepting other’s estimation of my spiritual life instead of an honest self assessment; too ambitious; too busy; and burning the candle at both ends. I was like a cut flower that looked good in a vase, but would, in time, wilt.

I remember so vividly thinking that I could actually fall too; that no one would ever own my spiritual life but me; and I needed to understand that the public side of my life was meaningless if my private life was empty.  This thought was not flowing out of a position of strength; it was flowing from a deep awareness of weakness.

So I did something about it.

I began to rise early in the morning to read the Bible. I began to put a lot of margin in my schedule to keep from drowning in busyness. I developed a good habit of getting alone – in the woods – in Blackwater State Forest – anywhere away from people – in order to read, experience solitude, and to journal. And I deliberately entered into a mentoring relationship with another pastor who was more years my senior in terms of age, marriage, and ministry. He was a long-term survivor as a pastor, and I knew I could learn from him.

There was more, but you get the idea: I was going to be privately devoted to God so that my public devotion was not a sham; I was going to be a diligent student of the Word for my own soul so that my public ministry was an overflow; and I was going to going to stand before an audience of One before I stood before an audience of people.

I hope you hear my heart. Thi is not a boast, it’s to confess. I have to embrace these spiritual disciplines to survive. Maybe you do, too. This wasn’t something anyone had warned me about, told me about, or pulled me aside and counseled me about. I was scared into them.

Here’s a spiritual truth you should never forget: no one will ever own your spiritual life but you.  And that ownership better run deep.

Sunday Mind Dump (Monday Edition) & Other 411

Yesterday was a solid day at PCC.  Attendance was a little off.  The service was good.

I spoke from I Timothy 5.  This chapter covered a variety of topics such as: false teachers, seducing spirits, legalism, forbidding to marry, abstaining from certain foods, wives tales, godless myths, being a good minister, authoritatively prescribing truth to a congregation, the importance of public reading of Holy Scriptures, and expounding its truths through preaching and teaching.

Wow.  That was a lot.

One family spoke to me afterwards telling the story of their bondage to legalism and how they broke free.

Jesus plainly said what goes in to a man’s mouth does not make him unclean.  It’s what comes out of the mouth that makes him unclean (Matthew 15:11).

In Mark 7 Jesus said that what enters the mouth cannot spiritually defile us because it never enters the heart; it merely passes through the body.  (Mark 7:14-23). 

This was a liberating truth for a lot of people to learn.

We will be a couple of more weeks in the current series on Timothy.  After that and I will be team-teaching (with other men) the next sermon series on the book of James.

Gas prices have spiked about 42 cents in the last month.  There’s no end in site.  The news channel is predicting prices could continue to rise another 40 cents this spring.

At $3.65 - $3.75 a gallon right now, it’s not hard to imagine gas over $4.00 in the near future.

Recently I’ve been practicing an eating plan called Intermittent Fasting.  The idea is to drastically cut calories.  This is pattern of eating that alternates between periods of fasting and non-fasting.  There are a variety of plans.  The plan I have been on is to go all day without eating, and then only eat during a window of time.  For me that widow is between 4:00 – 8:00 p.m.  That means I go 20 hours each day without eating.

I’ve been on it for 14 days.  The first two days were easy because I was highly motivated.  The next seven days were a challenge because I felt very hungry and was having headaches.  However, the last five days were a lot easier.  I think my body has begun adapting to the new pattern; I’m not so hungry now, my headaches have abated, and the new routine is feeling more normal.

Yesterday I had lunch with a group of people after church, so I simply adjusted the window of eating for that day.  Easy enough to do.

The continuous drip of food into our bodies all day long, every day, over a life time, is not healthy. 

Aside from removing cravings for sugar and snack foods, melting the pounds away, and making it far easier to maintain a healthy body weight, there are many other scientific reasons to fast a day or two each week, or to intermittently fast several hours each day.

There’s a lot of information on the internet if you’re interested in the concept.  Just read up on the subject and form a plan that works for you.

When you begin experiencing discomfort, (like splitting headaches and a gnawing stomach), remember you are not dying.  You are only hungry.  You’ll get over it eventually.

Tomorrow’s blog: Ministry Is Spiritually Hazardous

Saturday, February 16, 2013

100 Pounds of Potatoes in the Ground

This is what I did today on this very windy and cold Feburary Saturday.  I planted 100 pounds of red potatoes (Caolina Reds), and anticipate harvesting about 600-700 pounds in late May.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A New Trend In Youth Ministry

Youth ministry sometimes gets labeled as a mile wide and an inch deep; all flash and no substance.  But there is a movement among churches and, thankfully, youth leaders, who want to change that perception.  There is a new, theologically deep paradigm emerging in the world of student ministry. 

I really appreciate the fact that PCC has always had this emphasis too.

Below is a link written by a seasoned youth pastor that explains this trend.

The best quote of the article for me was:  Effective youth ministry boils down to pursuing relationships, teaching scripture, proclaiming the Gospel, worshiping, and praying fervently.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Parents Are A Child's Best Chance

A child’s best chance of growing into a fully devoted follower of Christ is when parents are actively involved in their spiritual instruction.  The scriptural mandate for a child’s spiritual development clearly centers upon the home.  God has left no misunderstanding here.

Many teenagers are walking away from the faith once they graduate High School and/or leave home.  For many congregations, the significant investment of resources into age-level ministries is providing little return (when it’s not combined with parental involvement).  Although these students are active in church while living at home as minors, as many as 70-88% of them leave church after High School.

This is not due to a lack of effort on the part of the church to provide good programming and mentors; rather, it’s more of a lack of parental involvement.  Too many parents passively expect the church to do all the work associated with their child’s spiritual upbringing.  Parents’ general attitude and involvement usually consists only of dropping their kids off at the best children’s/youth ministry in town and allowing trained professionals or other volunteers to handle the job for them.  Parents have been eased into complacency.

God never intended for organized religion or the church calendar to replace the family.  Your child’s spiritual training should not be solely dependent upon church activities; rather, it should be centered on family life.  The world is a challenging place for a child to become a disciple of Jesus Christ.  The solution is not an hour on Sunday.  The solution is not the hippest youth minister in town, the most alluring programs, or the hot-spot where all the cool kids hang out.  The solution for your children is you - 24/7.

The average child will spend more than 3000 hours in the home each year, but they will spend less than 50 hours at church.  Compared to the potential of parents, the church has limited potential to impact the heart of a child.  What happens at home (in many ways) is more important than what happens at church. 

Yes, the church has a vital role in your child’s spiritual upbringing, but as parents we must stop idly expecting someone else to do what God has commanded us to do.  When an additional voice teaches your children about the Bible, it should serve as reinforcement and not as an introduction. Don’t drop your kids off at church.  Bring them home to it.

Wear Long Pants

Is it just me, or do people nowadays seem to be too casual when they go out in the evening to nice restaurants?  I’m talking about shorts, crocs, sandals and flip-flops being worn in nice restaurants.

I know, we live in Florida and it gets hot as Hades around here with the humidity level over 90%, but does than mean everyone is always supposed to dressed like they’re Jimmy Buffet?  I’m not against comfortable dress, but if the only criteria is comfort then why not wear a muumuu?  You know, like the people in Wal-Mart do.

I like shorts.  I like flip-flops.  I wear them a lot…. like when I’m at the beach, zipping around town, at a ball game, or any place where it’s appropriate.  One place where it’s almost never appropriate is after dark in a nice restaurant.  I’m not talking about KFC.

Here are some rules for when to wear long plants:
  • If the place you are dining has cloth napkins, you need to wear long pants.
  • If there are two forks on the table, you need to wear long pants.
  • If your wife or date is wearing heels, you need to wear long pants.
  • If you are wearing socks, you need to wear long pants.
  • If your shorts ride up high between your thighs, you need to wear long pants.
  • If your entrée costs more than $10, you need to wear long pants.
  • If it is dark outside, you need to wear long pants.
  • If they escort you to your table, you need to wear long pants.
  • If your bill comes in a folder, you need to wear long pants.
  • If no one else is wearing shorts, you need to wear long pants.
  • If the invitation says, “no shorts” you need to wear long pants.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Back in Business...

Got my laptop out of the shop today.  Now I'm back in business.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sunday Mind Dump

I am still without a home computer, so I thought I’d post a quick Mind Dump before I left the office.

Service today was as good as ever.  Very glad that PCC is firing on eight cylinders right now.

Things just feel different nowadays… in a good way.

I taught from I Timothy 3 – A Checklist for Church Leaders – and it was SO NEEDED for our congregation.  I have always wanted to go through that chapter verses-by-verse.  Today we did it.  Feel good about the result.  We raised the bar.

The chapter addresses overseers and decons.

More than anything, our congregation needed these instructions so that they would know the standards for leadership… the qualifications for leadership… and the role of leadership… so that they will have confidence in leadership.  Several people talked to me after service saying how much it meant to them.

One of my favorite quotes:  A rising tide raises all the boats in the harbor.

Another great quote I shared came from the conference tapes, “Communicating to Change Lives.”  The speaker said, “The content of your message should have enough substance that you don’t need theatrics.  When Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount – possibly the greatest sermon ever preached – the Bible says He sat down and taught them.  He didn’t run around like a cat with His tail caught on fire.”

v.2 says that overseers should be... able to teach.

A pastor has to decide whether or not he wants to impress people, or influence them.

Right now, I’m in my office, and there is a planning meeting taking place in the other end of the building for our children’s ministry workers.  This is a great group of people who are doing great things.  They have a real heart for children.  I’m glad they serve at PCC.

Since this post is brief, I thought I’d leave you with a few pictures.  Below are pictures of today’s service… my garden… and last Wed. night’s youth group meeting.

Good things are happening at PCC.  Thank you for attending, serving, and supporting.

Next Sunday's message is from I Timothy 4 - "The Spirit of the Age & Falling Away from the Faith."  We'll talk about seducing spirits, pretenders in the church, having a seared conscience, and the dos-and-don'ts of a healthy ministry.

Today's Service with the Completed Stage Design

Really happy with the new stage design.  A special thanks to everyone who made it possible.  Some contributed financially to the project, and others did the work.  Gary B. and John Wise spearheaded the project.

Ready for Potatoes

Yesterday I worked in my garden all day getting it ready for early planting.  Here are three furrows that are ready for potatoes.  I hope to plant them Monday, if I don't get rained out.

Garlic and Onion

I planted these rows of garlic and onion at the beginning of January.  They're coming along just fine and I hope to harvest them about May or June.

Last Wednesday's Teen Group

This is Gary W. - who has served in the pastoral ministry prior to becoming a member at PCC.  He spoke to the teens last Wed night and did an exceptional job.  We are very happy that he and his wife, Marcia, and family attend PCC.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Without a Home Computer

My laptop is in the shop after being infected with a virus, so my blogging has been slow this week (i.e., I do most of my blogging from home, not the office).  I hope to have my computer today or tomorrow, and will resume writing.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Stage Design

In process...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sunday Mind Dump - Feb. 3, 2013

Holy Mackerel!

Service lasted 1 ½ hours.  Prayer-time at the end was powerful.  The Holy Spirit was moving in a special way too.

Today’s message was from I Timothy 2 – “Instructions for Worship.”

We talked about:  (1) Prayer (2) Praying for the lost and national leaders (3) Personal Purity (4) Lifting Holy Hands (5) Proper Adornment, and (5)  The role of women (i.e, their subjugation or liberation – depending on your perspective).

Next week we will be talking about elders and deacons.

Philip Polk nailed it with the closing prayer.  I could feel myself being pulled in to the moment as we were praying our community, neighboring churches, the lost, for one another, and yes, even for our president.  It felt so right to do that.

It felt good to do that as a church.

I was also glad to see hundreds of people standing on their feet, with raised hands, and faces towards heaven during that time.

It was a very powerful way to close the service.

I think a lot of people will have more liberty to raise their hands in service (during worship and prayer time) now that we better understand what uplifted hands means.

Really enjoyed the music.

Also enjoyed the men’s quartet for the offertory.    I even heard some harmony parts.

Looking over the commitment cards, I noticed that more people committed to Christ (or believed unto salvation).  There’s been a steady of this for the past several weeks.

God is really up to something.

I even met a young lady today who is originally from Brazil.  I love the fact that our congregation is so diverse. 

My prayer, my hope, is that 2013 is going to be the best year ever for the Church… as well as for Pace Community Church.