Only 4%

Numbers matter! It seems in church world that some would like to debate that, but in short they do. Numbers matter when I am looking at my checking account or when taking the family on a trip! (Ever see “Home Alone” — count your family members before leaving!). Numbers matter when I am looking at a scale or a heart monitor or a blood pressure machine! Numbers matter!

One number that has become a particular concern to me is the number 4%! That is the number of churches in the US that are reproducing churches. In other words only 4% of all churches in the US reproduce or plant another congregation. (Stetzer, NAMB, March 24, 2011) With the population of the US continuing to climb, the number of new churches still fall way behind the number of new people. Imagine if only 4% of US couples were reproducing. It wouldn’t take long before our country would be extinct.

Besides it being a Biblical mandate (another blog), it is a practical mandate. If we are going to fulfill Jesus’ mission of carrying the gospel to every tribe, tongue, and nation, we must plant new churches in the US and around the world.

So, what can you do? First, some of you are called to plant a church. It is a new day in the way of training and leading church plants. If there is any movement in you about this, let’s visit. Secondly, you can pray! All the training and all the strategies developed for planting churches doesn’t replace the need or necessity for prayer. Planting churches to reach people is about partnering with God in his work. Prayer is essential in seeing, hearing, and joining with God.  Thirdly, you can go! You can serve church planters through a variety of mission trips. Fourthly, you can give! Resources are always in short supply in establishing new works. God is faithful to bless and provide through his servants. If you have been blessed (and you have), maybe your involvement in church planting is to invest in one! Finally, you can move! Church planters live for community. Maybe you are called to make a move to join with a church planter. In fact, if you are just finishing of up college and looking to get into that first job…consider applying for jobs in one of the places where  new church plant is being established. (Let me know if you need some suggestions.) Your support and presence in that fledgling new plant will go along way to establishing a healthy, vibrant, life-giving church.

Let’s change some numbers. Look for your way to be a part of a church planting movement — you will not only change a number but change lives!

Posted in Uncategorized

What if…!

Last Sunday, February 24, was the culmination of a two year emphasis called Outlive Your Life at the church I serve, Pinelake Church. It was a great day of celebration as we heard story after story of people who took the challenge to Grow, Go, and Give like never before! At one point in our services, there was a video presentation flashback capturing people’s thoughts two years ago and then what happened since then. It was inspiring to see not only the faithfulness of God, but His power and Glory as well in the lives of some many different people.

At one point in that video presentation a question came on the screen that was a part of the initial challenge two years ago. It asked, “What If?” What if we truly trusted God and committed ourselves to growing, going, and giving like never before? What could God do?

From time to time, I will catch myself asking a similar question! What if…what if I had done this…what if I had gone there…what if I had chosen that instead of this? Those are not questions of regret as much as they are of wonder. I wonder how life would be different? That question, “What if…?” is also a part of many of my conversations with young adults who are seeking to discern the will of the Father for their lives. It always evokes a lot of discussion of dreaming and discovery?

I am in the midst of a season in which I am asking that question to a lot of college and seminary students. In my poascendsition at Pinelake, I have privilege of overseeing the ASCEND intern program. This program is a leadership development program started at Pinelake in 2010. It is a phenomenal experience of learning and development for those who have discerned a “calling” on their life to vocational ministry. In other words, it is designed to help young ministers understand, grow, and carry out God’s will as they serve in ministry. If you have never really checked out the program, visit www.pinelake.org/ascend.

Currently, I am in the process of recruiting for the next class of interns. Below is a list to highlight a few aspects of ASCEND:

  • The internship runs from August to June, 11 months.
  • Each year up to 8 interns can be selected to serve.
  • Each intern will be assigned a mentor and serve in one of the following areas: worship, missions, children, student, discipleship, college, congregational care, and communications.
  • Each intern is considered full time and will receive financial compensation. Single adult interns are also provided housing and housing expenses.
  • The primary requirements to be considered for an internship are to have finished an under-graduate degree (or equivalent) and to have discerned a calling to full time vocational ministry.
  • Applications are posted on the website, www.pinelake.org/ascend.
  • Applications for the next group are due by March 21 and interviews will follow in April.

In my pondering the question, “what if…”, I have often thought, “what if when I was 20-something if I would have had the opportunity to be a part of an internship like ASCEND?” My life would be different from many aspects but the primary change would be that I would, no doubt, be a much stronger and more effective leader and minister. Who knows the difference that would have been made for the Kingdom? ASCEND was not an option for me, but it is for young adults today.

In this season of recruiting, I have no doubt that the Father will lead us to just the right ones to make up the next group of Ascend-ers. Maybe you are one of those “right ones!” What if you were to discover a whole new direction in life…it could happen simply by filling out the application! Or, what if you could be a part of changing the direction of someone’s life simply by passing this blog along…what if?

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Be a hero!

I think I have always liked the idea of making a difference! As a kid, I wanted to be a lot of things when I grew up. Like a lot of boys, I remember that I wanted to be Superman. Super powers were cool, but honestly what I remember thinking is how awesome it would be to fly in and rescue people on the brink of whatever! Saving people was way more cool than simply being faster than a locomotive!  As I got older…like 8-9…I wanted to be Elvis! Yeah…”thank you, thank you very much” (said in that lip curl tone). I am sure that I liked the idea of being famous, but all I remember thinking is how he gave his mom a Cadillac and a house. I wanted to be able to do that as well.

I believe within each of us (especially Christ followers) is the desire to do something nice for others or to help others. To “spiritualize” it a bit, I think everyone would like to somehow bless others, rescue others, or do something that changes others lives. If that is true (and I believe that it is) it doesn’t take being superman or giving your mom a Cadillac. You can actually change the life of someone simply by your words.  Proverbs 25:11 says, “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.” In other words…your words makes a difference! It is so valuable to others for you to speak words of grace, of encouragement, of support, of belief, or of love, to them…especially if they are experiencing a challenge or going through a rough patch. Your words can blow up the strongest hold that their circumstance has on them, and they become a priceless treasure.

Today, be a hero. Look across the room, the desk, the car, the bed, the office, the court, or wherever you are and throw a golden apple to someone. Your words will have the same affect as Superman catching someone falling from a building or Elvis throwing someone the keys of a brand new car. Go be a hero…

Posted in People

Really…!

I have been giving a lot of thought to the word “authenticity” lately. The textbook definition is the “the quality of being authentic.” Some of my focus on that word stems from the study I have been doing for my long overdue dissertation. Some of it is due from some personal study in scripture. However, much of it is due to my observation and study of people. Sadly, I just see a lot of people not being authentic. Even more sad to me, there are plenty of times that I am inauthentic as well.

Lots of words are associated with that one word…consistency, realness, integrity, accuracy, genuineness, and on I could go. The quality of being authentic simply means that you are consistently accurate in the representation of the facts in your life. The key word is consistently. To put it another way…you are true in who you are at all times in all places and with all people.

Have you ever been one way with one set of people but another way with another set of people? Is there anything or any attitude that you hide from “certain” people? I know that many times we would say those people are hypocrites. To me, it’s more of an issue of authenticity. I think too many people just don’t know who they are…so they end up being someone they are not. That’s being inauthentic. Do you know who you really are?

As long as we live here on this earth, we live in the flesh…we are human. However, Romans 6 also makes it very clear that anyone who has been regenerated through faith in Jesus, they are no longer slaves to sin. The Bible make it’s clear that I am dead to sin…the “old man” has passed away and I am alive in Christ. When I choose to sin…when I do those things or have those attitudes that are not right or honoring or acceptable…when I do things that I want to hide from certain others…I am then being most inauthentic. Those things are not me…those things are from the old man, those things are dead. I am not living out of who I am but instead choosing to live as someone I am not. Crazy isn’t it. When I choose to sin…when I choose to have those attitudes or do those things that are not right…I am choosing to be inauthentic because that’s not really me…the new me is dead to sin and alive to Christ. I will have to take responsibility for “my” actions…but my point is that my choosing to sin is not “really” me. I must simply learn what it means to be who I really am in Christ. I must learn what it means to be authentic!

So who are you? If you are a Christ follower…you are a forgiven, treasured, precious, and loved child of the Most High God. You are alive in Christ and dead to sin. Anything you are doing that you are hiding from others; anything you are doing that that is not God honoring, right, and good; any attitude you are holding on to that is displeasing to the Father…well, that is not who you are!

No one likes a fake…you don’t even like them! If you are a Christ follower, then quit being fake by doing those things you know are not honoring, right, and good. When the old self wants to rear it’s head and pretend to be you, just say, “that’s not me” and let Jesus bury that old man again. There’s a classic line from a movie…”I see dead people” and to be honest, they are all around us. People who have “died to sin” but they let that dead person back out and run their lives.

When Jesus said to a woman caught in sin, “I don’t accuse you either…go, and sin no more”…he really meant it. If you are doing things you know you don’t want too…you don’t have to keep doing them! Christ in you is bigger than that attitude, habit, or action…you just need to know that truth. (Romans 12:1-2)

Authenticity really is so freeing and life giving…may we all embrace it! Imagine what our lives…our homes, schools, neighborhoods, and even our churches would be like if we were all more authentic…living our lives out of who we really are in Christ! It would be amazing…really!

Posted in Perspectives

A New Adventure Begins…

Two years ago next month our family drove away from our house in Wichita Falls, TX making our way to an apartment in Franklin, TN. We left a church, a home, and friends that we loved to go to a place we had never actually seen before except online. Our move was prompted by a stirring I felt from the Holy Spirit to walk along side of some guys who were planting new churches while I finished a doctorate that focused on team leadership with church planters. It was a move that was based upon faith, obedience, and convictions…no job, no church, no security, but no doubts. Although I can’t say that I have accomplished all that I had hoped…it has been an incredible adventure filled with great times of growth and learning.

Before we left TX, we had a family meeting with the girls to talk through the move. There were a lot of thoughts and emotions that night as we had that conversation but I communicated two things that were very clear to me. One, our moving to TN was an adventure that we were all going to go on. Our whole family had a purpose for our move…it was not simply about me. And two, I shared that we may only be in TN for a year or two…a time to serve, learn, grow, and work on my dissertation. We would then see where the Lord would lead us again but it may not be to stay in TN. I shared those two things that night and there have been many changes and surprises along the way. However, one thing that has not changed is the belief that God would be faithful as we walked in obedience. True to His character, God has been faithful and now almost exactly two years later, He has provided an opportunity for me to serve the Kingdom utilizing my gifts, strengths, past experiences, and passion.

Although we love living in the Nashville area, God has opened a door for me to serve at Pinelake Church in Brandon, MS. www.pinelake.org. I will be serving as a pastor in charge of the church planting efforts and the leadership development of their ministry interns. Pinelake will lead out in producing a new generation of church planters and network with other church planting churches to help recruit, equip, coach and lead church planting-focused disciples with a vision for kingdom multiplication nationally and internationally. (For those so inclined, I copied the job description below.)

It will be a new role for me and for Pinelake. This position will call for major adjustments from me and the family as we make the move to a new location so your prayers are appreciated. Brandon is located just outside of Jackson, MS in a beautiful, growing community. Pinelake has been well led by their Senior Pastor, Chip Henderson, for the last 12 years and has grown to some 7500 in attendance in their weekend services. Church planting and leadership development is taking a front seat in their overall mission and I have the incredible privilege of being on the ground floor of developing this emphasis.

I accepted their invitation last week and will begin serving in March. Understandably the girls have mixed emotions but actually they are doing well and see some great things ahead for our family. At this point, I will be doing some commuting back and forth as the girls and Melody finish out the school year in TN and then we will make the final move in May. Thanks for your continued support, love, and friendship. Please keep us in your prayers as we start writing a new chapter…it is one that is filled with great anticipation of amazing things to come.

Partial list of responsibilities:

  • Create, develop and manage Pinelake’s Church Planting Residency Program.
    • Annually discover and recruit church planters from various colleges, seminaries, or churches to participate in the Pinelake Church Planting Residency program.
    • Lead the equipping and coaching of the church planting residency members in 11 months of training preparing them to plant new life giving churches nationally and internationally.
  • Oversee the ASCEND internship programs (www.ascendatpinelake.org) for kingdom multiplication.
    • Annually discover and recruit 8-10 college/seminary graduates who are preparing for full time vocational ministry to participate in 11 months ministry intern program.
    • Oversee the ministry interns, providing on-the-job training and experiences to next generation church leaders.
  • Direct the development, oversight, and execution of Pinelake national church planting strategies and partnerships.
    • Serve as a working link with the LAUNCH Network (www.launchstrong.com) and all associated church planting hubs. Facilitate church planting equipping and networking in coordination with LAUNCH Network strategies, opportunities, and needs.
    • Support “Hub South” of LAUNCH equipping and networking roles: to help train and coach planters with an ability to start, grow, and lead strong, to mature a vision of multiplication, and to facilitate dialogue between church planting minded churches.
    • Network with other like-minded church planting networks (NAMB, IMB, etc.), churches, or planters to facilitate best practices for multiplication and kingdom advance in accordance with Pinelake vision and strategies.
    • Maintain partnership and connection to select Pinelake sent or supported national church planters through networking, follow-on coaching, and needed long or short-term mission team augmentation.
  • Communicate to the Pinelake body the role and impact of church planting churches for God’s kingdom advance.
    • Develop servant leaders/disciples with a vision and passion for multiplication and church planting.
    • Provide opportunities for the Pinelake body to support and interact with the work of partnering church plants and planters.
Posted in Beginnings, Faithfulness

Words Matter

It’s been a few days but my heart is still heavy.

She started out somewhat calm but the more she talked, the more it became obvious that she was in pain. It was about an hour and half that this young lady spent sobbing and pouring out her heart to Melody and me. Sometimes we can forget just how real the feelings of teenagers are. Everyone faces tough days and teenagers are no exception. I know from my own daughters that there will always be the usual teenage issues of “this person being mad” or “that person giving a dirty look.” It’s easy for me to dismiss those days as trivial because I know in time those things will not even be remembered. However, what this young lady shared with us struck a cord deep in my heart.

I don’t walk the halls of Jr. or Sr. high schools anymore so I can forget what it is like. However, one thing I have not forgotten, regardless of age, is that words matter! It is big deal when people say things to you or about you that just aren’t true. It’s huge when you have people that you once considered a friend who are now talking “trash” about you. It hurts when “friends” say degrading, cutting remarks as you pass by and then smile at you with “I’m just kidding.” It affects you when you are verbally harassed and bullied by those that you have to see every day. Words matter…especially words said to and about teenage girls.

What do you do? You can’t go tell someone to make them stop…that will only make them talk more about you; you can’t really ignore them…you have to be around them each day; you can’t “beat them up”…you know that you would be the one who would be hurt most and it wouldn’t help anyway; you certainly can’t get your parents to intervene…that would be the death sentence. It seems to be a “no win” situation…it’s tough! We have all been there but it doesn’t make it any easier on someone who is there right now. Sure we survived and that may bring some hope at the moment, but tomorrow morning she is the one who will have to return to school again and be the object of comments, judgments, and slanderous words.

I feel for her and the countless other teenagers who are dealing with the assault of verbal grenades. She is a nice young lady but with an extra sensitive heart to what people say and think about her. The continued barrage of careless words from immature, insensitive, and idiotic people have affected her deeply. Words matter! Words have power and they affect us even to the point where they can destroy our very soul. Many of us have tape recordings in our heart and head of words that were said to us. Years later some are still damaged from the shrapnel of those words. Some of us know stories of destructive acts done in response to the words of others. The old saying of “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” just isn’t true!

So what is the defense against such a powerful offense! There are obvious ways to combat the words that are thrown at us: distance yourself from the “attackers,” confide in trusted, mature friends for support, learn of your identity in Christ, prayer, read the Bible, and memorize scripture. If you are under attack, I pray that you hear the words of truth about you…you are precious, valued, wanted, beautiful, and loved. You are not alone and may you find comfort in Him, His Word, and people who have His heart. However, something each of us can do each day is to simply speak good words, life giving words, words of blessing to those around you. Words can hurt but words also have the power to build up, to heal, and to empower. I have said it for a number of years but if there is one thing we can never get enough of, it is encouragement!

Today, may we look for people that we can give life too! We don’t know what people have just faced or will face! We don’t know what words have been thrown at them or what words are being replayed in the depths of their soul. Regardless we can add life and value to them by simply sharing a “good word” with them. Parents, teachers, grandparents, bosses, employees, relatives, strangers, friends, and even teenagers…change a life today by encouraging someone. Say something nice to someone today because they matter…and your words matter too.

Ephesians 4:29…Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.



Posted in People

I am not a Pageant Dad

I have been saying that as I share with people about the pageant that my two oldest daughters have been involved with for the past few months. Our journey culminated last week in a national pageant but before I share a bit about it, I need to rewind.

Back in September, Madison and Michaelah competed in the National American Miss pageant for Tennessee. NAM (www.namiss.com) is a wonderful pageant system that is providing a great avenue for young girls to grow in confidence, achieve personal dreams, and develop leadership without compromising character or convictions. Michaelah is 13 but her May birthday put her in the Pre-Teen division (ages 10-12). Madison was in the Jr. Teen division (ages 13-15). It was a great weekend with girls from across the state competing in both the pageant as well as separate optional contests in Talent, Casual Wear Modeling, Spokesmodel, and Acting. The pageant is a scholarship pageant that is judged by a highly qualified panel of judges who base their scores on poise, communication, influence, and service. I have been impressed with many of the young ladies in the pageant from their outward beauty as well as their character, maturity, intelligence, and spirit.

Michaelah finished as the 4th Runner Up but also took home 1st place in the Talent Competition and 2nd Runner Up in the Casual Wear Competition. She was also the 1st Runner Up for the Miss Personality award; the award voted on by the contestants for the girl who is warm, encouraging, friendly, genuine, and fun. We were so proud of her and loved seeing her grow through this experience.

Madison had a wonderful weekend. She was blessed to be crowned as the National American Miss Tennessee Jr. Teen. She also won the Actress Competition, was 3rd Runner Up in the Spokesmodel, and was given the Miss Personality Award for her division. We were humbled, surprised, and a little in shock from all that she was awarded that weekend.

As the state queen, Madison was to compete in the National Pageant in Anaheim, CA over the Thanksgiving week. Because Michaelah finished 4th Runner Up and won the Talent, she could compete in the National All American Miss Pageant held at the same time.

So last week I spent 7 days with Melody, Madison, and Michaelah in the Anaheim/Los Angeles area. Madison was competing in the National American Miss Jr. Teen Pageant as a state queen and Michaelah was competing in the National All American Miss Pre-Teen Pageant. What an incredible week! There were outstanding young ladies from across the nation competing for the coveted crown. It was week filled with laughter, stress, activity, joy, challenge, fulfillment, and a host of other emotions.

Overall, it was a wonderful time of seeing some of the sharpest, brightest, and most lovely young ladies from around the country challenging themselves and encouraging others to achieve their dreams. The week had moments where we could sense the presence and pleasure of God as some of the girls truly honored Him by their character, words, and actions. The week also had moments where the “whispers” from the Evil One was evident as he sought divide friends, destroy self-esteem, and steal joy. During the course of the week, there were many teachable moments for me and all of us associated with the pageant.

The pageant mirrors life in that there will be ups, downs, disappointments, surprises, blessings, challenges, highs and lows. How we respond to those different experiences is a reflection of our faith. In our humanity, we sometimes respond in the “flesh”…but as children of the Heavenly Father, our goal is to respond to all of life’s experiences with grace, faith, and love.

I am thankful for a Heavenly Father who loves me enough to forgive me when I respond to life in the “flesh”. I am also thankful for a Heavenly Father who is faithful, and graces me with strength and power for those times where life doesn’t go as I desire. In His sovereignty, I know that He allows me to experience a plethora of situations so that He can teach me about His love and grow me into the image of His son. Last week was wonderful time for me, and for our family, as we learned more about faith, love, and God.

Family NAMMadison made it into the top 10 and was 1st Runner Up for Miss Personality. What an incredible accomplishment!

Michaelah also had a great accomplishment…she was blessed to be crowned the National All American Pre-Teen Queen.

In the end, I think I learned that the pageant has a purpose more than an earthly crown or a title; it is about life, and the Father’s purpose to prepare all of us for a heavenly crown that will last for eternity. Who knows, maybe I am a pageant dad after all…!

Posted in Family