After a little over a week away from the blog scene I return to you more pumped than I have been in a long time!
This past week (Sunday to Sunday) we hosted a team of 15 from IgniteStudents.net (Carpenter's Community Church). They came as missionaries to help us get word out about our church and to serve our community. What a week it was!
With over 6,000 homes and nearly another 1,200 people individually served (icecream, purchasing food, etc.) we made some noise in our community. I'm convinced that a church like ours is going to have to mount a strong person to person outreach in order to get the type of growth we need to really take off. That critical mass has been elusive. It would be pretty simple if we sold out to the lost and went after church people... but that's not our passion. We want to be a church that grows primarially from conversion growth and that takes time. Time, service and many personal contacts.
We're serving our community like crazy. This week was a solid extension of what we do week in and week out. This week alone our guests:
- Gave away about 135 icecream Sundaes at Friendly's Icecream.
- Held a block party at an apartment complex near our location with over 300 residents in attendance.
- Held an event and gave away nearly $800 in icecream at a local Caravel Icecream.
- Gave away $600 in Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts gift cards.
- Bought over $500 in various meals for unsuspecting patrons at local stores (Fast Food, Dollar Store, etc.)
- Hosted a free movie at the theater we use each Sunday.
- Distributed information about our church to 6,000 homes.
- Saw two people accept Jesus Christ as Savior AS A DIRECT RESULT of their efforts.
One of the people who accepted Christ was a server at one of the icecream shops. God is amazing and he's doing big things among the people of the church.
I'll have more updates this week and stories to share. For now I just want to say 'Hey' to all of my blog friends and let you know I'm back on the scene. Have a great night!
I'm spending the next few days in the
One phone call I overheard (he speaks loudly) was a person asking a simple question about a database. The gentleman at this desk began to explain how columns work and what comes out of subsets of data. He began to go into formulas complete with real world examples. I could tell from his stuttering at points that there was a sense of frustration as he wanted to explain in more detail how the action takes place while the caller simply wanted an answer. The gentleman providing help kept going backwards and around in circles until the conversation had an abrupt ending.
A few minutes later I see this guy go up to the desk and ask about APA-citing of sources. Once again I overheard the history of APA and how they do not want to be sexist in their citings, etc. Obviously details that aren't very important for this guys question of how to cite two specific internet sources. I placed my headphones up to my ears and decided to quickly write this post. As I complete this paragraph the poor guy with the question is still up at the desk.
What did I learn? I learned that we should all read Andy Stanley's "Communicating for a Change". As speakers, we all have a tendency to try to expound too much on a topic. Yes much of the information is interesting and important but if we give people too much information, they won't know what to process so they will dump it all.
What is more important? Us giving out information or the listener receiving it?
I've been sitting here this weekend watching the latest outbreak in the
As an aside: I wonder how much our modern churches know about
We should pray for all involved. I feel terrible for the millions in the region who are in fear right now. My heart breaks for the families of all of he civilians on both sides of the conflict. Both sides of this conflict have people who are dramatically affected by this war. I wish for
Jesus was huge on Unity. War is the antithesis of unity. War is ugly. Unity is beautiful. Jesus come quickly.
Now Reading: Execution
One of the things I think that seperates leaders into catagories such as poor leaders, average leaders, good leaders and great leaders is Execution. The discipline to get results.
I really feel that one of my next growth areas as a leader has to be to better hone my leadership in the area of execution. I need to set the bar for everyone in our organization to be results-driven. We can strategize all day. We can have fantastic creative meetings. We can set up the coolest stage and have the best graphics but if we're not executing well-thought plans at our highest capacity... much of our effort was wasted energy.
I want to grow. So this week I'm reading "Execution: The discipline of Getting Things Done"
One of those moments
The other day my 11 month old son and I were wrestling around. He's got a mean grip and apparently he's a few days over for his regular nail-trim. He loves grabbing my hair and pinching my face as hard as possible. He finds this amusing. I find it damaging.
I already have a receeding hairline but my son seems to think anytime he's near the top of my scalp that it's his job to help the process along by grabbing ahold of my hair like he's in a bull fight. People have asked about my hair recently... How funky it's gotten. People, it's not because I want my hair that way, it's just a preemptive strike against my son who will undoubtably give daddy the 'Messy Look' during our regular throw-downs!
Anyway... The other day Caleb and I were wrestling when he reached out and took a huge swipe at me with his hand. He grabbed a hold of my cheek up to my nose... it was painful. I thought to myself "he's going to draw blood!" Sure enough, once I pry the kid off of me and get to a mirror, the kid left a scratch across my cheek and onto the front part of my nose.
Well I did something stupid today. While working at my computer I casually rubbed my nose (I wasn't picking it, just getting an itch) when I noticed what I perceived to be an imperfection... a blemish if you will. Thinking it was a piece of dry skin or something I scratched it... and wouldn't you know it? Blood comes running out. I had opened up the healing flesh-wound.
Moral of the story? I don't think there is one. Or maybe... keep your wits about you when you're head-long into a project or else you'll cut your face open.
Have a good day.
Random VBS thoughts
I know many of my readers use this program and I'm not trying to knock you... so don't take it personally. I've just never been a fan of VBS.
Today I was driving around town setting up events for our missions team who arrives in a few weeks when I noticed the bazillion "VBS" signs at nearly every church. I noticed also the way that the signs highlighted "Vacation Bible School" and minimized the title of the event. Doesn't that branding automatically attract those who are cool with the bible?
Okay... another thing that bugs me is the wording. Vacation Bible School. Let's play a word game. What do you think of when I say "Vacation"
Now... what do you think of when I say "School"
And finally with those two contrasting pictures in mind... think of what Bible must feel like in the middle.
So there you have it. Vacation, Bible, School. As if Vacation and School EVER go together.
The other thing that gets me is how VBS is typically babysitting for Christians. I have an uncle... let's call him Mark. Uncle Mark has some little kids. I remember last summer Uncle Mark telling me that they were taking their kids to 4 (FOUR) consecutive VBS's. The kids loved them and the parents enjoyed the time alone. Granted, I'm certain that kids do come from the community but in all reality how successful is this?
And another concern...
Have you seen your church people rally around VBS? I have. I've been in churches where VBS and AWANA were the Sacred Cows of kids ministry. You mess with one of those programs only when "God has called" you to another ministry. Otherwise you get a 1 way ticket to the unemployment line.
I'm sure I'm not alone in my open thoughts about VBS... These aren't the most hidden of all conerns. I know that big-bad-churches have used VBS for centuries and it's a program that works for some. I know, I know. My thing is... how about stop calling it VBS. Start calling it solely by the program name. Highlight the fact that kids will have fun and that there are messy games and great prizes. Highlight the fact that you'll teach the kids about loving and serving others... just like Jesus. But I, one small voice, will pray for the day when I don't see so many banners dominated by the phrase... Vacation Bible SCHOOL in the middle of the summer.
"And all God's people said..."
This week we kick off a month-long series dealing with finances. Early on in our ministry I was extremely hesitant about speaking on the issue of finances. A few people in our core team asked me to hold off because "Guest don't like to hear about money from church." I've come to see something completely different.
Guests to your church understand money. They earn it, some save it, everyone spends it and every day they base many decisions on it. People know that life isn't free. People also know that attitudes toward money can ruin families (Exhibit A: Tori and Candy Spelling's recent mud slinging). The point is that financial issues are prevalent in life but they seem to be silent in the church. To me it seems that this and a healthy view of sex are two issues that dominate life and culture but are relatively unheard of within the confines of the church.
Coming out of college I had so many things screwed up about money. I had terrible spending habits and I ran up huge bills on cell phones and parking tickets. I didn't understand what a FICO score was and I couldn't pronounce 's-a-v-e'. I rounded up my check book by the $ .50 mark b/c it was easier and I came pretty close to bouncing a few checks. I had learned the rules of the banks so I could move money around without getting hit with late fees but I didn't have a clue on financial responsibility.
Fast forward a few years and some discipline. I learned how to balance a check book, resist temptation in purchases and actually use the savings side of my bank account. I kept a 1993 Geo Metro from 1996 until this year (10 years) to keep from making payments. This year we also paid off our Jeep and purchased our first home at a good rate. I had spent the last 5 years getting my FICO score up to above average and keeping a budget.
I share these things because they were HUGE experiences in my young adult life. If I hadn't had the desire to learn and the discipline to make life changes, I wouldn't have gotten very far.
God's plans don't happen over night and they don't happen without pain. It's funny to think that most of us get ourselves into tough spots over the course of years but we want to believe we'll get out of those spots in a matter of a few days or weeks. This is one of the reasons that diets don't work. People go on a diet and after a few weeks or a month they say "That didn't work" while they ignore that they didn't gain all of that weight in just 1 month. Also, diets take a change in lifestyle... not just picking up a new habit. (I'm speaking from recent experience here) :)
Financial problems are a lot like weight loss. To lose weight in the long-term a person has to change their caloric-intake. Basically you have to burn off more than you take in. A person can't just eat a Jenny-Craig meal on top of 6 bowls of ice-cream and expect to see progress. As a side note I find it funny when I hear someone order a HUGE order at a fast food joint only to say "And a Super-sized Diet Coke".
Unfortunately that's what we do with God's plan for our finances. We still keep the cable bill, we still keep the car payments, we still keep buying our toys that we 'have to have' and in addition we try to do a few of God's plans. When we do that guess who gets the blame? Yup... God. We get frustrated and ... Stressed... and we think "Gee God... I'm tithing... now what?" We ignore the fact that according to Malachi 3:8 we were robbing God in our old decisions. It's not God's problem that we choose to stop robbing him. It's our problem that we need to re-adjust our bills to fit our income. In these situations tough decisions need to be made. Do we want cable or financial freedom? Do we want a car payment or financial freedom? Do we want to eat out 3 times a week or do we want financial freedom. On and on. For each of us the choices must be made. Some choose to tie their finances up with payments (often for old toys we regret) while others choose to live well below what they are able in order to get things together. It's all about choice. I've seen some families choose to live with less and they love life while I've seen others brag about what they have and at the same time end up in bad financial shape. I truly believe regardless of the rest of our choices... the choice to give God his tenth shouldn't be a difficult one.
An awesome example:
My sister and her husband approached me a few months back about their financial situation. The long and short of it is that they had two nice cars. They're young (21'ish) and they had made decisions that they now regret. The car payments were killing them. I challenged them to make a huge decision. Sell their cars. Sell them at all costs and take the hit. They are making the moves necessary. My brother in law traded in his car at a rate that paid it off... he was upside down in it but by trading it in, that note was paid off. They now have a 2003 Honda Accord that they are attempting to sell at 3k below blue book (if you want to buy it, email me) and once they make the sale he will be driving a cheap car so they don’t have a car payment. Then the plan is to pay down my sisters car enough to do the same thing. The goal will be to get them both out of car payments within this year. If they could do that, their financial future is Brighter than P-Diddy's Bling-Bling.
Most people aren't willing to make these sacrifices. Most people are content to stay financially lazy and get frustrated at everyone and everything around them. Any fitness trainer will tell you that a better diet coupled with regular exercise is what helps you lose weight. No quick fixes.
This post isn't about weight. This post is about financial stewardship. On the front end it will be tough but the reward of financial freedom is amazing and if you work at it... it will be extremely rewarding. Take those tough steps on the front end and live with a little less... I assure you that if you live according to God's plan... your reward will come before you know it. And that is when you will have less stress.
I'll update more throughout this series.
By the way Pastor. If you're not going to talk about money, you're not talking like Jesus. 15% of what he said was about money and possessions. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
What it's about!
This week, as you may know by now, I was not at Focal Point "live". I did however produce the message via video earlier in the week and it was shown this Sunday at Focal Point. This is only the second time we did the message this way but the response has been very positive.
Yesterday I received an email that reminded me of what it's all about. This type of thing is the reason we do what we do. Recently Ben Arment and I were talking about those people and stories that define why you got into church planting in the first place. Honestly... I got into church planting for stories like this one. With Calvin's permission, I'd like you to check out how God used the video-taped message from this past Sunday when I was away. Hopefully it will be an encouragement to you and remind you of your churches own God-stories.
This past Sunday in Tally’s message he talked about acting on needs seen. The way he phrased it was, “A need seen is an assignment given.” Now I don’t think he meant any need seen, but rather to urge us to be sensitive to what God lays on our hearts.
Well, right after the message I got a call from my dentist. I had called because I had an implant that came out and I had to have it re-inserted. Because of the holiday, the earliest she could see me was the day after the 4th of July. I came into the office and while in the waiting room I overheard this elderly person explaining she didn’t have the money for appointment (which was for a younger woman, who appeared to be a daughter or maybe even a granddaughter). Anyway as the explanation went on, the administrator very nicely explained that she needed to pay her co-pay today, and if she cancelled her appointment she would be changed for the appointment anyway. I could tell the administrator really felt for the woman, but she was required to say what she was saying.
As I listened, my heart really went out for the woman and child and I asked God if I should help, and then the phrase went through my head --- “A need seen is an assignment given!” The administrator went to the back room to check the woman’s file, and I quietly went to the back room and asked if I could talk to her for a moment. I asked if I could pay for the procedure the woman was having. The administrator went into the backroom to talk to the dentist, and in a minute they motioned me to come into the back room. When I came into the back room, the administrator said, “I have to hug you.” She was in tears, and so were the other dental assistants and the Dentist. I wrote the check for the woman, and asked that they make up some story to explain the appointment was covered.
After getting my dental work done, I went to pay my bill. The administrator said that I had a credit on my account, and that the dentist had decided not to charge me for the labor and was only charging me for the supplies used --- which just happen to come out to what I owed – and so there was no charge for my appointment. (Seems like a very interesting coincidence!!!!!)
In the final analysis, I ended up paying less than I would have for my own procedure. I continue to find that you can’t out-give God.
Though the woman might never know what God did for her this day, there was an entire office of people moved by our Lord.
“A need seen is an assignment given!” ---- I continue to find that when I ask who the sermon was for --- it always ends up being me!
This weekend my cousin, bro-in-law, a friend and myself were wrapping up our evening out for my cousin's bachelor party. We just finished playing pool at close to 3 a.m. when we made our way to one of the only places open... Denny's.
One thing people who are around me will tell you is that I get to know my wait-staff. If the Fast-food isn't as fast as it could be, I get to know the person handing me the food; if I'm at a resturant, forget about it... I'll know their life story by the end of the meal. I enjoy people. I enjoy taking an interest in people. I like to broaden my life experience by hearing about the experiences of others.
So here we are at 3:30 a.m. in a small town in Pennsylvania eating Denny's. I get to know the waitress a little and we start talking as she delievers each part of our meal and drinks. Ultimately the conversation turns spiritual when she asks me "What is happiness and how do we get it?"
You have to understand. Part of this young woman's story involves being shunned from the church, sleeping in her car and ultimately living with a guy who's girlfriend is considering becoming a lesbian. Our waitress has seen a ton of people approach life in a ton of ways. Ultimately however, she's wondering what happiness is.
So I shared with her my belief that the search for "happiness" is a futile search because "Happiness" depends on "happenings" where as joy depends on an eternal thing... a core thing. I explained to her that anyone can be happy at any moment but that soon will fade. Joy however is the rock that our lives is built on. Joy can only be found in knowing your eternity is secure. Because Christianity provides the best solution and the best evidence about the truthfulness of it's claims. I believe Christianity. And because Christianity is centered on Jesus Christ, the only true joy can be found in Jesus Christ.
We talked about that for a minute or so and she said "Thanks. That actually makes sense." She took our plates and went to get us the check. After the check and between some refills on our coffee she brings me a long (possibly 2 ft long) sheet of register tape and an orange marker. She says "Can you write that down? That stuff you said about joy." I said "Of course." I then handed her one of my church business cards and encouraged her to investigate Christ again. She ackowledged that she would and we paid our bill and left.
Well, just yesterday I got an email from our waitress. The conversation now continues. I honestly pray that she comes to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Through our conversation I'll continue pointing her down that path as well as pointing her to a church in her area. (Mechanicsburg,PA in case any readers know a cool church up there)
I've been challenged lately to continue sharing my faith more often. There aren't many more strange times to share my faith than in a Dennys at 3:30 a.m. at the end of a Bachelor party with the guys. I really believe that God is at work in people's lives and if we make ourselves available... he will use us to draw people to Him.
Ask God to provide you these opportunities. I assure you he will and they will be easier than you realize if you just make yourself available.
Podcasting: The beginning
As of yesterday we are officially 'podcasting' at Focal Point.
I have no doubt that this new method of message delivery will drastically improve my message delivery. There is something about knowing that you're speaking to a potentially global audience.
During my trip to Gettysburg this past weekend I obviously spent some time thinking about Abraham Lincoln. This was a man who chose his words thoughtfully. In 1858 he lost his run for the Senate but it was his Oratory skills which brought him to national prominance and ultimately the Republican candidate for President. He obviously won and went on to lead our nation through the most difficult period of American History to that point. Lincoln chose his words wisely. I want to take a lesson from Lincoln and become a better communicator.
Talking with my friend John, he reminded me of a story where it was said that in one city Lincoln was passing through and was asked for some comments. He apologized and said that the presidency carried so much weight that he didn't want to speak off the cuff. Lincoln realized the power of his words and the position which gave his words so much weight. I think that as Pastors in our sanctuaries, theaters or tent-revivals... we could all use some of that advice.
So, it is with that thought that I offer up to you our podcasts. No doubt I will continue to grow and learn to become an even more effective communicator. I'm looking forward to the journey and would be glad if you so chose to take that journey with me. We all have so much to learn and I believe podcasting will (for me) document the process.
Go to FocalPointChurch.com to download recent messages or click here to subscribe via iTunes.
This post is more of an update as to our recent activity. I'll get back to some church blogging shortly.
This weekend I went to my cousin's wedding. It was located about 6 hours away in Sherman's Dale, PA. The wedding was beautiful and they both said 'I do'.
I was the best man so the groomsman and I did the whole "Who has the ring?" bit and that was nice.
Tim's wife is a twin so her sister and her are pretty tight. What was funny was when Ang. (Kim's sister) took Kim's flowers, she gave Kim a 'pound' which is basically a fist bump. It was so funny.
After the many pictures we jumped into the Limo for the 25 minute ride to the reception. Lots of laughs. Ang and I gave our speeches right at the front end of the reception (which I hadn't heard of but the DJ had). They went over very well.
Ang talked about the fact that she didn't want to lose her sister but if she had to give her away, she's glad it's with Tim.
I started off describing all of the attributes Tim wanted in a partner and then I said "But Tim, I'm already married." That got a nice laugh. I then moved into talking about how Kim possessed every one of them and that her family is blessed to have Tim by Kim's side for the rest of their lives.
Then the eatin' and dancin' got underway.
One hilarious part of the wedding was the cake cutting. Tim and Kim had made a deal not to 'get each other' with the cake. Tim said "Okay... but if you do, no one will be able to eat the cake b/c I'll be forced to get you back big time." So when they cut the cake and Kim (under pressure from friends I'm sure) got Tim messy, Tim reached back into the cake with his hand and took a huge chunk right out of the side. He then grabbed Kim and gave it to her. It was the most cake I had ever seen exchanged at a wedding. Tim then licked some off of Kim's face. Hilarious.
Okay... so that was the wedding.
On July 3 we made our way to Gettysburg, PA which is home to the famous Battle of Gettysburg and the site of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address. What was so cool about this is that the battle of Gettysburg lasted 3 days and was concluded on July 3, 1863. It was awesome to be at the spot where all of this history took place on the exact day some 143 years before. Apparently upwards of 51,000 lives were lost on the fields of Gettysburg during those 3 days of fighting.
We went to a 30 minute light show which explains the battle over the 3 days complete with troop movements and back stories on different troops. If you enjoy history you will love this place. I'm already trying to think about how to get back up there.
On our way back home from PA I found out that some friends from Texas were in D.C. for the 4th of July and their plane had just landed. Among my friends were Billy Clyburn who is the Music Man at 1st Family Church in Corpus Christi, TX. This was the first church I worked at out of college. Billy is a great guy. Traveling with him is Marty Johnson. Marty moved to Corpus just as I moved away but he was an encouragement to me when we started Focal Point. Marty is a retired Doctor who is heavily involved in Politics and Business. He started a HUGE network for Doctors in Portland,OR and just a few years ago started a chapter of the World Affairs Counsel in Corpus Christi, TX.
I called these guys and asked if they were up for a bite to eat as Kristy and I were just 30 minutes north and we had to pass D.C. anyway.
We grabbed some food in Union Station and had a good time connecting. They got to see my son and I got to see Billy's 12 year old "Hank" as well as a former student traveling with them, Cody Baker. Cody is now headed into his Senior year. I knew him when he was practically a 6th grader.
We ended up getting home from our trip close to midnight on the 3rd. We had a good time and enjoyed our little get-away.