You can run again

We just got back from a great conference in Atlanta, Velocity 2011, hosted by Churchplanters.com.

Last year after coming back from this conference I didn’t feel so good about it, or me.

If you don’t know, last year was our first year at the Mecca of churchplanters conferences following our “crash and burn” experience with a church plant. I watched as everyone (it seemed like it anyhow) was happy and sharing their success stories. I listened as they all talked about how God was blessing their ministry all the while wondering why God was ignoring me… okay scratch that. It actually felt like He threw me under the bus.

A journal entry from 2/24/10:

I’m reeling. Churchplanters.com conference hurt… again. I don’t know why but I can hardly keep my head above water. I can’t get on track. I hurt deeply. Disappointed. Shaken. Tired. Mad. These are negative words that describe how I feel.

Just left the house and left my phone at the house so Sherri can’t even call me.

Don’t even know how to pray.

“The chords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The chords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.” (Psalm 18:4-5)

… I want to hide away.

OK, how’s that for pain. Have you ever felt like that? Probably.

This year I actually enjoyed myself, had a good time, laughed with friends, learned a lot and didn’t even hide when we got home!

So what made the difference? Two things:

Trust.

God knows what He is doing. Pain is part of the process of growth. If you want to grow you must endure pain. Some pain is the result of stupidity, but all pain, if endured and learned from, will result in growth.

The key here is to trust. When you hurt because you’ve listened to your personal trainer… you trust that he knows what he’s doing so you keep on doing what he says. The same is true with God. When you hurt, even though you don’t understand, you don’t stop trusting… you make sure you’re hearing clearly and then keep on obeying His instruction.

In time healing and growth will come. And then you’ll need to hurt again to grow again.

Growth is always preceded by pain so we trust our God as we go through pain, knowing that every time we hurt the trainer is getting us in better shape and making us healthier!

Time.

The failure, the pain, the hurt… it’s not the end of the road. In fact, it’s not the end of the road until you’re dead.

When you fail, you get up and start staggering, then limping, then walking… and in time you’ll be running again.

The day after the fall it seems like you’ll never breathe again… much less run, but you will. Maybe you’ll run in a different arena, but you will run again.

The only crash that can stop you is the one that kills you. A crash can kill you physically. From this death you cannot recover… because you are dead. A crash can also “kill” you mentally, emotionally and/or spiritually and from these deaths you can recover.

You can recover as you begin to trust again. Trust in God (your personal trainer). Trust in yourself. Trust in your friend. Trust in someone and start staggering your way towards healing. The more you stagger forward the stronger you’ll get… and in time you’ll be running.

I don’t think I’m running yet, but I’ll tell you this, I’m limping with purpose! God is healing me! I have new purpose, fresh vision, and a strong desire to be running fast… and that’ll happen soon enough!

If you’ve crashed, I am praying for you today that you will trust God enough to get up and start staggering again! God will help you and you can do this!

 

What’s happened in one year

So much has happened over the course of one year here at Church180. These are exciting and humbling days.

Let me give you some context.

On 7/12/09 I wrote this blog post after church. That day we had 24 total people in our church. Six of that number were children, four of which are mine.

At the end of that blog post I wrote these words,

Church, I want you to know this, we are called to help other people find God. We are going to do that. We will hear our halls ring with the sounds of children’s laughter. We are going to hear stories of marriages that have been reconciled, addicts that have been liberated, emotionally wounded people who have found hope again, angry people who have discovered peace, and on and on and on… We will watch in amazement as people acknowledge Jesus as their leader and are baptized as a public acknowledgement of their faith. We will worship as we see God working powerfully in our lives and in the lives of our family, friends, neighbors, and people around the world. We are a part of a great story that God is writing. We have what it takes and when we align our energy and resources with our mission… we’ll fall on our face and worship our great God as we see the things He brings to pass!

Now fast forward one year.

  • For two Sundays in a row we have ministered to over 120 people.
  • Last weekend, in our 11:00 service alone we had more children than we had total attendance one year ago.
  • Last Sunday at Group Start we had more people sign up to be in LIFE groups than we had in total attendance one year ago.
  • Last Sunday I had a lady tell me, “Every time I tell someone where I go to church, they say, “I’ve heard of that church.'” One year ago no one had heard about us.

These are exciting days and our hope and expectation is that these are warm up days for what is to come.

Thanks to each one of you who are praying, working, giving, and participating at Church180! I love being your pastor and am excited about moving into the future together!

Systems and churches

Ed Stetzer asked Darrin Patrick a great question recently, “Why do most churches stay small?”

Patrick answered, “Largely because most pastors don’t know how to build systems, structures, and processes that are not contingent upon them. Most pastors can care for people, but don’t build systems of care. Most pastors can develop leaders individually, but lack the skill to implement a process of leadership development. When a pastor can’t build systems and structures that support ministry, the only people who are cared for or empowered to lead are those who are “near” the pastor or those very close to the pastor. This limits the size of the church to the size of the pastor.”

I agree with Darrin.

I’ve known pastors who are prayer warriors yet lead small churches.

I’ve known pastors who are great preachers yet lead small churches.

I’ve know pastors who care deeply for people yet lead small churches.

I remember pastoring a church in New Castle, PA. The church was about 30 or so in size when we went there. Six years later we were running close to 150.

During our last year there I said to Sherri multiple times, “This church has grown because of us, but it’s not going to grow any more because of us.”

People had come to the church because they liked Sherri and me. That’s great, but the problem with that is I have a maximum number of people with whom I can be close. I realized that my maximum number is about 150. Beyond that people begin to “fall through the cracks” and end up leaving.

I told Sherri, “I need to change my leadership style, but I don’t know how.”

Then we were moved to another church; a church of 600 people. My leadership style was forced to change. I was leading/pastoring people that I did not know. In two years the church grew from 600 to 800+. The reason? I was not the solo catalyst for growth or retention! There were systems in place that were not dependent upon me which helped people plug in and engage in the life of the church.

I recall during those days wondering what it would be like to pastor a small church again. Today I am pastoring a small church.

I’m doing things a bit differently now. I expect that we will soon pass the point at which I am able to effectively pastor all the people, so we are working to set up systems that will enable our church to connect with more people than I alone can pastor.

Some examples:

  • Even though we are a small church we have multiple pastors who lead out in their respective areas of ministry.
  • We emphasize the importance of everyone being connected to a LIFE group and developing relationships outside of the weekend service.
  • I am not the only one who teaches on the weekend (though I do carry the bulk of the teaching responsibilities).
  • I am not at every church function.
  • I participate in family events as a daddy and not as a pastor (e.g. at FAMJAM I was in the play and never spoke as “the pastor.” No one who was new would have known that I was the pastor.)

It is critical, especially at this phase of church life that we establish systems and processes that allow us to maximize the people and gifts that God has given us so that we can most effectively expand the influence of Jesus in our community and beyond!

(Click here to read the rest of the interview with Darrin Patrick)

After church thoughts (9/12/10)

Today was another of several “firsts” for Church180.

Today we started a second service.

To make our community aware of this service and the teaching series and to invite them to join us, we sent out mailers to every family within a ten mile radius in our community (12,187 families). We didn’t get the expected return on those mailers (typically it is thought that you can expect a 1% return), but we did connect with several new families and the feedback was positive. In both services people were engaged in and moved by the sermon, and there also appeared to be a good connection with the C180 team before and after church. Way to go you friendly people! Keep it up!

Next week we will have another round of mailers landing in the same mailboxes, so it will be interesting to see what happens over the course of the next several week in terms of the number of people that respond.

In thirteen years of ministry and seven years of parenting I have never preached a series on parenting. This is the first. I’m excited about this teaching series and believe it will be a life changer for a lot of people.

A few cool things:

  • We made “Experience Guides” for families. These are books with a reading and a question or two for every weekday. We are calling our church to think deeply about parenting for the next five weeks and to help them do that we are putting this resource in their hands. Considering that they were almost all gone, I have to conclude it went over well.
  • Several people said that they have been struggling with “parenting issues” and then this mailer landed in their mailbox! One lady said, “It was an answer to prayer!”
  • I am excited about the racial diversity that is beginning to occur in our church. I want Sunday at Church180 to look like Monday in the workplace. I’m grateful to a few families who have made a decision to plug in. You open the door and make it easier for others to connect too. Thank you.
  • In October we are launching a student ministry and it looks like it is coming at the right time. More and more people are asking about this for their kids (grades 6-12).
  • Though I used to preach four services every weekend, it’s been a while and today, after two, I came home and crashed! Not even football could keep me awake! I’ll get used to it again soon though!
  • We are going to be posting our sermons online soon! Today was recorded and we’ll have it up soon!
  • Thanks to each of our volunteers who stepped up and made for a good day.

OK! It’s time to wrap it up!

Have a great night and I’ll see you next Sunday!

Swing that bat!

Have you ever swung the bat so hard you fell down? Oh, and you missed the ball too! Ahhh… that’s terrible! Getting up is awkward. Settling in to swing again is accompanied by haunting memories of your last swing and fall. Your confidence is shaken, your ego is wounded, and your knee is wrenched too (or something like that)!

Coming off an experience like this (you need to read this to understand where this post comes from) is much like getting up to swing again.

STOP! If you haven’t clicked on and read the link above you shouldn’t read on any further… or your computer will dissolve into a small pile of apple dust (or PC dust).

So what’s a guy (or a girl) do after falling down? You get up. You get up and start swinging again. The first few swings may be timid, marked by a lack of confidence, but the more you swing the better you will get. You swing that bat!

I’m swinging the bat.

Honestly, I’m still a little timid with my swing. My knee still hurts a little bit and the recollections of falling still linger every time I make a leadership decision… and yet I must swing the bat. I must play in the game to which I’ve been called. I cannot stop swinging… and neither can you!

Re-launching a church

Recently I told a friend of mine that we were re-launching our church. He responded to my e-mail with a few questions:

relaunch? what all does that entail for the church?
changes in programming? ministry? vision etc?

I started to respond to his e-mail and then I thought, “This is good stuff. I think I’ll just blog it and send him a link!”

So here we go…

Hey friend!

It entails a LOT! It is virtually a complete makeover! Thus far we have:

  • Hired staff in preparation for our re-launch
  • Adopted a new set of bylaws that lets the pastor provide leadership to the church
  • Identified and partnered with two community partners (Ebinport Elementary and Pilgrims Inn, a shelter for homeless women and children) This is our organizational way of loving our neighbor like we love ourselves.
  • Rallied around a vision of helping people discover the life Jesus promised and planting churches that will do the same thing
  • Defined what a follower of Jesus looks like:
    • Loving God and others and being loved by God and others (everyone is connected to someone so that no one is lonely)
    • Investing themselves in something bigger than themselves (everyone is giving and serving to expand the influence of Jesus)
    • Focusing on biblical priorities (we’re focused on what matters and moving beyond what doesn’t)
    • Expanding the influence of Jesus (we’re engaged in our community and in the world)
  • Re-writing the budget to reflect the vision

And there are some other goodies coming soon (can’t say what they are just yet).

Really it’s not that complex. It’s just a matter of loving God and loving people, and as my friend Shaun King says, “Proving it.”

We’re simply lining up to expand the influence of Jesus in our community and then plant other churches who will do the same thing!

So that’s what re-launching means.

Are you ready to move here and join us? 😉

I love older men

Oh boy… I can’t wait to see who lands on this blog post because they googled “I love older men”. 😉

OK, seriously, one of the highpoints of my week is our weekly pastor’s meeting. We are a small church. In fact, I rarely call us a church. I most often refer to us as a team getting ready to launch a church. In preparation for our re-launch we have identified key, strategic leaders:

  • Dick Snyder – Pastor of Spiritual Development
  • Virgil Dey – Pastor of Pastoral Care
  • Alex Miranda – Pastor of Family Ministries
  • Chaz Maldonado – Director of Pilgrims Inn ministry
  • Jason Hebert – Worship leader

Every Tuesday morning we have breakfast together. Our ages range from early 70’s to late 20’s. The intermingling of passion, energy and wisdom is absolutely invigorating!

Our older men are wise. They give permission to the younger men’s passion. They don’t squelch dreams. They inspire and guide the dream. They show us how. They reflect and dream with us. They help us. They are a part of the team that is preparing to re-launch our church. They are one of our most valuable assets.

Recently a friend shared a quote with me (I think it came from Harry Potter). This quote reminds me of what happens every Tuesday morning: “Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels, but old men are foolish if they forget what it is to be young.” Our older men have not forgotten what it is to be young. They still dream and because they do they have influence in our lives.

I love our older men.