BIG change for Team Peterson!

(Artwork by Larry Selman, titled “They Were Always There”)

Yesterday at Church180, Sherri and I shared some big news (no, we’re not having another baby).

The best way to share it here is to share a letter with you that we sent to the church:

To my friends and “family” at Church180,

This will be the most difficult letter I have ever written to you.

After having served as your pastor for nine years, Sherri and I have determined that God is calling us to a new venture. To that end, my family and I will be leaving Church180 later this fall.

We have clarity and peace in this decision, as well as a good bit of sadness. I want to be clear with you… I love Jesus, I love Church180, and I love and will remain happily married to Mrs. Peterson. Nothing immoral or unethical has transpired to cause this change. God has simply called us to a different kind of venture and we would be neither obedient nor fulfilled if we did not follow His leadership.

Before I tell you what the next steps are for the Petersons, I would like to tell you why I think this is good for Church180, and what is going to happen next.

Church180 was started with the intention of reaching out to unbelievers, skeptics, and rookie Christians who are trying church again. We have seen some success in this endeavor. We have over 1200 names in our database of people who have come through the doors of our church. Some have been visiting. Some have stayed for a while and left. And YOU are still here… thank you! This is great, but the work of the church includes more than just having people walk through the door.

My wonderful friends, after having been a senior pastor for twenty-one years I have come to conclude something about myself and what I believe are necessary and important components for a local church – God has given me two primary gifts: evangelism and teaching. I do those well… but the local church requires so much more than just these two gifts.

I know that Church180 needs leadership that is gifted, skilled, and passionate about additional components; things like systems, finance, facilities and leadership development.

I have watched pastors stay too long and destroy churches. I will not do that to Church180. Church180 is entering a chapter in her story that requires leadership and passion for areas outside of my gifting and passion. This is part of why I have determined to step aside.

What happens next at Church180?

Our Superintendents are working with me and our Advisory Team on a transition timeline that is healthy for Church180.

Our superintendents will be working directly with our Advisory Team to identify a new pastor who will love and lead Church180 into the next chapter of this story.

While there are still some details to be worked out regarding exact dates, we will keep you informed as this process unfolds.

And this leads me to the next part of this story…

Where are the Petersons headed?

After lots of prayer, and hours of conversation with Sherri and various mentors, I have determined that the next step in my life is to become an active-duty Army Chaplain. In this environment, I will be able to maximize the gifts that God has given me and live out His calling on my life to its fullest potential… it is “my place” … it is “my thing.”

Part of the process of becoming an Army Chaplain is to write a letter to the Army Colonel who approves these transitions explaining why I want to be an Army Chaplain. Here is my letter:

Why I want to be an Army Chaplain

My earliest recollections are of playing with “army men.” Growing up, that love and desire for the military never diminished. At seventeen years of age I secured my GED through the National Guard and realized, “this is what I want to do with my life!” The feel of the uniform, the weight of responsibility, the sense of adventure and purpose… they surpassed what I had anticipated. Then I was in a car accident, broke my knee, and was medically discharged… all before shipping to boot camp.

That was one of the darkest points in my life. My spiritual awakening came about a year after that incident. I did not know what I wanted to do, but I knew I needed a new location to begin my search… so I chose a Bible college. It was there that I sensed the call of God to enter ministry. I responded affirmatively but have never lost the love or desire for the military. While working on my second master’s degree, I was in a cohort with a Marine major. He mentioned that I should be a chaplain.

I immediately shut that down. In my mind, if I was going to be a soldier, I was going to be kicking down doors and taking down bad guys. Almost twelve years later, at a men’s retreat, the special speaker was an Army chaplain who had previously served in the Special Forces. I approached him, and we discussed my lingering longing for military. He suggested that I check out the chaplain’s program. Again, I shot it down… but he didn’t accept my answer. He redefined what “chaplain” means. That was almost one year ago.                          

I have served as a senior pastor for over twenty years. I love ministry, but for the last decade I have been unsatisfied… searching. In the last few weeks a series of conversations and events have confirmed that it is time for me to investigate this sense. I reached out to mentors and talked with Army recruiters. The more I prayed, thought, talked, and researched, the more obvious it became that it is possible to spend the second half of my life engaged in the two things I love dearly… ministry and military. If I am granted the honor to serve as a chaplain, I will happily dedicate my life to serving God and country with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

After several months of prayer, long walks, and deep reflection, and LOTS of meetings, God has made it clear that we are to make this move. I have been accepted in the military as a chaplain with the rank of Captain, and I will spend the next years of my life “bringing God to soldiers and soldiers to God.”

Church180, As I write this letter to you, there are still some details that need to be completed and questions that remain to be answered:

When will we go? That is not certain yet.

Where will we go? That is not certain yet.

We have debated when and how to share this information with you since there are still some uncertainties. It is beginning to feel like we are being disingenuous in our conversations with you regarding the future, etc., so because of that we determined to tell you what we know.

As we begin this transition, I ask you to do four things:

  1. Please pray for Church180 as these changes take place.
  2. Please pray for my family as we navigate these changes.
  3. Please “find your place and do your thing” at Church180 so that she will become a place that is “healthy, growing, and full of love” (Ephesians 4:16).
  4. Please take time to deeply evaluate your own gifts and passions and make sure you are living out the calling of God on your life.

I have loved serving as your pastor. I love the story and the values of Church180. I am excited about what will happen next in the chapter of Church180, and you!

Thank you for being a part of Church180, and my family’s life.

We love you!

The best is yet to come! Seriously!

Paul, Sherri, and “The Ladies.”

What’s worse than having sex with your step-mom?

WHOA!!

Crazy question huh?

Well, this morning I was reading St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. I know what’s in this letter… I’ve read it dozens of times. I know that Paul is going to rebuke the church for being proud of one of their members who was having sex with his step-mom.

Do you remember that? Here’s what he says:

I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you—something that even pagans don’t do. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother. You are so proud of yourselves, but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame. And you should remove this man from your fellowship.

Even though I am not with you in person, I am with you in the Spirit. And as though I were there, I have already passed judgment on this man in the name of the Lord Jesus. You must call a meeting of the church. I will be present with you in spirit, and so will the power of our Lord Jesus. Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns. (1 Corinthians 5:1-5 NLT)

Now there’s a lot to catch there, but I want to direct your attention to this one thing – did you see “chapter” in which this rebuke is located? It’s about a third of the way into his letter to this young church!

Yea… it’s pretty messed up that a guy is having sex with his step-mom. It’s even worse that his church is proud of it! You’d think something like that might get addressed FIRST in Paul’s letter! But it didn’t!

Do you know what Paul tackled first?

After a nice, friendly greeting, which is instructive for pastors and church leaders – be gracious and kind… even to people who are really jacked up, Paul tackles FIRST the matter of divisions and rivalries in church caused by spiritual immaturity! 

Check this out:

Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world? When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world? (1 Corinthians 3:1-4 NLT)

WHOA! BEFORE he addressed the crazy sex thing… he rebuked the church for being spiritually immature and divided! He rebuked them for being jealous and acting like middle-schoolers bragging about what brand of shoe they wear!

There’s something important here for all of us who call ourselves Christians…

If you are arguing and divisive… the greatest problem in your church probably isn’t the dude who is sexually weird.

If St. Paul were to write a letter to your church, my guess is he’d start by talking to you!

He’d get around to dealing with the sexual craziness, but because that’s not the worst problem, he wouldn’t start there!

Listen, if you are a Christian, please focus on building one another up; focus on creating a place where there is love and unity, encouragement and grace.

CHRISTIANS ARE NOT CURMUDGEONS!

Christians don’t do cliques.

Christians don’t do rivalry with one another!

There certainly is a place and a time for confrontation and difficult conversation, but this is all part of teamwork with the end goal of encouraging and building one another up!

So here’s the thing I’m thinking about…

If St. Paul came to my church… what is the first thing he would address? I hope it would not be cranky, divisive Christians!

Peace!

Why I stepped away from personal training

Last week I made the most difficult decision of my life thus far. I decided to step away from being a personal trainer.

For the last five years I have been a personal trainer at a place that literally transformed my life… Brutal Iron Gym.

When I first walked into that building, back in 2009, I was in a dark place spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. Through friendships, hard work, increased levels of self-control, and renewed courage and confidence I rediscovered myself.

When Rob Polenik (the owner of Brutal Iron Gym) asked me to be a trainer, and then asked me to consider competing in a bodybuilding show (in the physique division)… I didn’t know then, but he was saving my life.

When I walked into the gym I was close to walking out of ministry. I was burned out; disheartened; weak; and unhealthy.

Over the last five years I have worked with wonderful people, made incredible friendships, and rediscovered God and myself in the most unlikely of environments… surrounded by sweaty people, screaming music, and the nonstop clanking of iron.

I needed what Brutal Iron Gym gave me… strength. I needed to learn how to put a plan together and work the plan. I needed to learn how to persevere when I felt miserable. I needed to learn how to bounce back from failure. I needed to learn how to work on my weaknesses so that my strength would increase. I needed all of this… and found it at Brutal Iron Gym.

I walked in unhealthy and weak. I walk out healthy and strong. Thank you Rob. Thank you Brutal Iron Gym. Thank you to all of my friends and clients. I am different… better because of you.

This has been the hardest decision of my life. Seriously.

For the last 6-12 months I have had an “inkling” that this would happen. I ignored it… because I hated the idea.

Over the last two months I began to say it out loud – “Someday I may need to say goodbye to this chapter in my life.”

Last week God put His finger in my chest, and I knew with undeniable clarity that it was time to do what I had been slowly acknowledging. So I am doing it. After meeting with Rob and all of my clients, I determined that the end of this month (March) will close this chapter in my life. (EXCEPTION CLAUSE: I am working with two clients who are prepping for shows and I will complete my commitment to them.)

So why? Why am I leaving?

I’m not sure what you believe about God, but I believe that He creates and calls us to a purpose… a life mission. I know that my life purpose/mission is to pastor and lead in the church. In my case it is Church180.

It has taken me about ten years to fully recover from my “ministry miscarriage” (a church plant that failed to materialize). During these last years I have rediscovered strength, hope, vision, and energy, and now it’s time to engage all of those in the primary calling of my life… leading and loving the church.

I will continue to nurture friendships developed at the gym, and I will continue to work out… in other words, I’ll not be a fat pastor with no atheist friends!!! 😉

I have cried over this decision… and found deep peace in making it.

I am sad and excited! I am a little scared and a lot fired-up!

I have learned a lot from my time as a trainer… and now I’m ready to fully dive into the primary calling of my life.

To all of my friends at Brutal Iron Gym… I love you and am grateful for your input into my life. I’m better and stronger, and I know a lot more “bad songs” because of you! I love you!

To all of my friends at Church180… I love you and am excited about what God is going to do in us and through us as we line up behind Him and get to work lifting heavy things!

 

What do you mean?

This morning I was listening to the Bible on my way to the gym (thanks to The Bible app).

A phrase jumped out at me that I can’t quit thinking about:

“It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words.” (Matthew 12:34 MSG)

Here in the south we joke about one of our common phrases…

blessyourheart

Taken literally, these words (“bless your heart”) sound nice… but the heart of the speaker is something completely different.

Another example…

A few years ago I was talking with the leader of a Bible college and referred to his “minions.” I didn’t mean it harshly. I meant to refer to the people who were in his theological camp and would count him as a leader.

He took it differently! In his mind, my use of the word “minion” was a pejorative and unkind reference to his friends.

We talked about it and cleared it up… but only after he rebuked me and I blushingly looked up the meaning of the word!

In both of these instances we have words that take their shape from the meaning intended in the heart; one sounds nice but is meant to be mean, the other sounded mean but was meant to be nice.

Jesus had a caution for those who speak (that’s all of us):

“Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.” (Matthew 12:36-37 MSG)

As I reflect on these words from Jesus, I am praying that God will fill my heart with love for people, and my mouth with words that give life to everyone with whom I come in contact.

Today I am reflecting on these words from Jesus, and this sentence from Solomon:

“The tongue has the power of life and death.” (Proverbs 18:21 NIV).

What will you do with your words today? Destroy or give birth to hope and life?

Thinking about “Urgency”

I’ve been thinking a lot about urgency lately.

Here are a few unedited and non-finalized thoughts about this subject:

  • When I am urgent about something I am laser-focused on it.
  • It is almost impossible to be urgent about multiple things simultaneously.
  • Urgency in one area generally means neglect of other areas.
  • How do I live with urgency while maintaining the other areas of my life?
  • It is impossible to work with urgency and multi-task at the same time.
  • Complacency is the opposite of urgency.

I know there is more to say and think about this… and I’m going to be doing that. In the meantime, what say you about this matter of “urgency”?

Do you feel a sense of urgency in any area of your life?

Have you been able to multi-task when you feel urgent?

What other questions should I be thinking about as I process this idea?

The genesis of this line of thinking came from Craig Groeschel’s podcast called “Institutionalizing Urgency.” Check it out in the links below:

 

 

How to spend time with your kids

double-date-copy-2I am a busy guy. I’d bet a dollar you’re busy too.

I’m a husband to one lady and a dad to six ladies!

I am a full time pastor and a part-time personal trainer.

There are always things to do, and I make a valiant effort to get them done.

What I have learned though is that things will wait, but people won’t.

The project I’m working on will be there tomorrow… my ladies may not. If I am not available to them, they will go to places and people that are. I have a responsibility to invest into their lives… and they’re not going to wait, so I need to invest time into them now! And the same is true for you and your kids.

Because we’re so busy, how do we systematically make time to invest into our kids?

I have written about this before, but it’s worth mentioning again…

I date my daughters. Every one. Every week. (the picture I shared is of a rare double date… it was just too cute not to share!)

Right now I am not able to spend as much time on dates as I used to, but every week each girl gets a 30 minute date. Here’s how that looks:

  • Monday: 3-3:30 Ashton; 4-4:30 Lexington.
  • Tuesday: no dates
  • Wednesday: 3-3:30 Karis; 4-4:30 Reagan
  • Thursday: 3-3:30 – Riley; 4-4:30 Dallas
  • Friday night – Family night
  • Saturday – 6:30 – 9ish a.m. – The First Lady (The lovely and talented Mrs. Peterson)

These dates are not expensive; for the girls we budget $1 per date (Sherri and I spend $12 on our date). In fact, the last year or so the girls and I rarely even spend our $1! We purchased a key chain from Wendy’s that is worth one Junior Frosty every time you present it! So, for a one time purchase of $1, I get six Frosty’s a week.

What can you do with $1 and 30 minutes? Check this out:

  • Eat a Frosty and play Memory
  • Eat a Frosty and play Truth or Dare
  • Eat a Frosty and ride through the country singing songs as loud as you can
  • Eat a Frosty and tell stories
  • Skip the Frosty and go to Family Dollar to spend the $1 that is budgeted
  • Eat a Frosty and play basketball in the driveway (no one else is allowed to play with us when we are on a date)
  • Eat a Frosty and read a book together
  • Completely blow the budget and go to Wal-Mart to buy Shopkins. (Frosty is optional on this one)

I really don’t buy the excuse that says “I don’t have time/money to date my kids”. I call “baloney” on that. You can do it. Will you?

There’s another way too…

I call it “Filling in the cracks.”

My mornings start early (4 a.m.), and I usually train clients at the gym from 5-7 p.m. So both morning and evenings are full. Because I start so early, I try to be in bed by 9 p.m. There is not a lot of time for extras right now so I’ve been taking advantage of two “cracks” of time I have with “the ladies”

  • 7:30- 8 a.m. I play basketball with the middle school girls (or get a makeup tutorial from one of them) while Sherri takes the elementary school girls to school. When they leave for school I head up to my office and get to work.
  • 3:30-4 p.m. I play with the elementary school girls while Sherri is picking up the middle school girls from school. When they get home I go on my second date of the day and then head out to the gym for my evening clients.

The point is that there are “cracks” in your day when you have access to your kids! Fill those cracks! Play a game. Listen to their stories. Enter their world for a few minutes. You’ll be surprised at the treasure you will find in those cracks!

So there’s two ways to find more time with your kids:

  • Schedule a weekly date
  • Fill in the cracks

I know we’re all busy… but someday we won’t be, and when that day comes I do not want to look back with regret because I didn’t spend time with my kids.

How about you? What are some ways that you make time to spend with your kiddos?

Making space

chaotic_craftroom(DISCLAIMER: this is not a room in my house. Mrs. Peterson would skewer me if I ever posted a picture like this of a room in our house… if such a room existed. 🙂 )

We just started  a new teaching series at church called “Making Space.”

As I’ve been thinking about this series and in preparation for it, Sherri and I have been working on something for the last few months… a little project that literally makes space in our home.

We’ve been getting rid of stuff! Trip after trip to Goodwill… we’re making space!

We started doing this after we started reading some books (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, etc.)

We realized that all the stuff we had took space in our home, our minds, our calendar, our budget, and our lives… so we’ve started downsizing!

I never knew how freeing it was to get rid of stuff! Stuff like the clothes we never wore, the books we never read, the toys we never played with, the games we never utilized, and on and on and on…

All around us is stuff we never use that just takes up space.

Now that we’re getting rid of it, we spend less time organizing stuff we never use and cleaning clutter we rarely pay attention to… and it is freeing us to spend time on the things and with the people we love!

I’m no home-cleaning guru but I’m telling you what, making space in our closets, garage, and rooms is doing more than cleaning out physical spaces… it’s also cleaning up spiritual and mental space!

Have you ever stopped to wonder how much energy (spiritual, emotional, etc.) is consumed by the “stuff” you have in your space? Based on my experience, and the wisdom gleaned from the experiences of others, it’s a lot more than you might realize!

If you’re thinking about making space in your life, I would encourage you to start with the physical and see what flows out of that!

Maybe it’s time for a trip to Goodwill!