What to do when you don’t know what to do…

So…it’s been several months since I posted any blogs. the last 6 months have been pretty crazy in a lot of ways and blogging kinda took a back seat. Well, I’m once again trying to return to somewhat regular blogging. So for the few of you that read this…here we go.

Have you ever found yourself in a place in life where you just didn’t know what to do? Whether it is in ministry or family or career or school or relationships or even politics. We all can find ourselves at a place where we are at a loss as to what to do. Many of us are right now at a loss of what to do with our nation, the economy, the political landscape. Others are at a loss of what to do in their personal life, their marriage, their job (or lack of one). So, what do we do?

In recent weeks and months, I found myself in that place. I’ll admit that much of this journey of planting a church these last 7 years I have been at a loss of what to do. Most of the time, actually. However, I think that is a good place to be because it makes me realize my utter dependence on God. I should be leaning on Him, but while I know that, I still “lean on my own understanding” many times. When I get to a place where I can’t come up with what to do on my own…and even after asking God…what do I do then? Finding oneself in this place can lead to dispair, depression, slavery to fear, even falling into sin. We’ll turn to that secret sin or pleasure, we can get bitter, anxious. We might even turn to our favorite ice cream to help! So what do we do?

When I found myself in this place recently, God showed me something from His word that I had never really seen before in an Old Testament story. I was prompted to turn there when I saw a verse posted on facebook by my good friend Aidan McKenzie. The verse was 2 Chronicles 20:12b…

“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

Wow! That is what I needed to hear. So, I backed up and read the context of the story of King Jehoshaphat…which is what one should always do in studying the Bible. (“Context is king”, as Kay Arthur always says.) STOP NOW and read it for yourself HERE before going on. No really, you need to take the time to read 2 Chronicles 18-20…its a good story and the message is strong.

Did you read it? If not, the rest of this post won’t mean much. READ IT before going on. You did it? Good!

Jehoshaphat was King of Judah at the time that Israel was a divided kingdom. He had made an unwise alliance with King Ahab of Israel and went to war alongside him…this almost cost him his life too. God was not pleased because of the wickedness of King Ahab. Yet God knew Jehoshaphat’s heart was to seek Him. After this, Jehoshaphat brought reforms to Judah and brought the nation back to God. Then, enemies from within turned against Jehoshaphat. In Chapter 20 we see where the Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites, who had been allowed to live in peace among the children of Israel when they conqured the Promised Land, came against Jehoshaphat in battle (20:1). When Jehoshaphat was told, he did not know what to do. He was about to be overcome by a great horde. What did he do?

What we read in 2 Chronicles 20:1-30 gives us the answer and also gives us a prescription on what to do when we don’t know what to do. If you haven’t read it, go there now and read it. (You get the idea I want you to read this?) What did Jehoshaphat do when he didn’t know what to do? (all scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version)

  • v. 3 – Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.
    When we don’t know what to do we are afraid…but when we are afraid we should determine to seek the Lord…with intensity. The proclaiming of a fast was to seek God with greater intensity. Fast and pray.
  • v. 5-6 – And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, and said, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.
    Cry out to God…Pray. Jehoshaphat cried out to God in front of the whole assembly. We should not be afraid to cry out to God with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Have them cry out on your behalf.
  • v. 12 – “O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
    We need to admit our poverty and in humility understand our powerlessness and utter dependence upon God. Then turn to and KEEP our eyes on the LORD alone. He alone is worthy and He alone is able to win the victory. We can’t, but He can! Sounds trite and cliche-ish but it’s true. Jehoshaphat realized this. His own wisdom had gotten him in a mess and nearly killed him. That leads to the next step…
  • v. 15-17 And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. 16 Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. 17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.”
    Recognize whose battle it is...and quit trying to fight it ourself! Interestingly, v. 17 is the middle verse of the Old Testament. It’s no coincidence that this verse somewhat sums up what God had to continually remind the children of Israel…”see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf..the Lord will be with you.”
  • v. 18-19 18 Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshiping the Lord. 19 And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.
    WORSHIP! Sing praise to God…even in the midst of your circumstance! For HE IS WORTHY! Jehoshaphat worshiped in humility. When you don’t know what to do…DON’T PULL AWAY FRRM THE CHURCH! I see this all too often. Don’t stop gathering with the Body of Christ for WORSHIP. Jehoshaphat worshiped before the battle…while surrounded by enemies.
  • v. 20 – And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.” (emphasis added)
    Be OBEDIENT. They stepped out IN FAITH. Continue to walk in obedience. Whatever you KNOW God commands…continue to do. Whatever the last thing He told you to do…continue to do, even while you wait on Him. Step out in obedience. Oh…and by the way…STOP the things you know are in DISOBEDIENCE. Notice that they didn’t come up with a plan, Jehoshaphat simply told the people to do what God had instructed. “They went out“. God calls you and I to obedience…because He loves us and we love Him. When your finances are in trouble, don’t stop tithing. That’s “robbing God” (Malachi 3:8). When your marriage is struggling…don’t give up and break the covenant you made before God and pursue another relationship or lifestyle. When you have sinned against your spouse…don’t continue in it. STOP and repent and return to walking with God in obedience.  When you don’t know what to do…step out in faith…each day. DO the things you already KNOW to do…and DON’T do the things you know you are not to do.
  • v. 21 – And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise himin holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
    Give THANKS in advance. The people thanked God ahead of the battle. Thank Him before you know the outcome. A heart of gratitude will keep everything in perspective. The Bible reiterates this over and over. (see James 1:2-3)
  • v. 22 – And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed.
    Sing and praise God for the victory. WHEN they began to sing and praise the Lord…HE ACTED! When they stepped out in faith and obedience…THEN God acted.
  • v. 29-30 – And the fear of God came on all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard that the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around.
    God’s glory was evident to ALL! His glory will be manifested (made vividly clear) in your life and church to everyone around…even enemies. In the previous verses (23-28) we also see the provision and blessing that God gives Jehoshaphat and the people as a result of HIS victory and their FAITH. More evidence of the glory of God.

So what do we do when we don’t know what to do? I don’t know what enemies you are facing right now…what “horde” is surrounding and advancing upon you, but your eyes need to be on the Lord. That is our only hope. Our eyes don’t need to be on government, elections, people, economics, leaders, pastors or anything else in this world. We should simply fololw this pattern Jehoshaphat did:

  • seek God intensly
  • pray…cry out to God
  • in humility turn our eyes to the Lord
  • trust Him to fight the battle
  • worship and praise Him
  • step out in faith and walk in obedience…daily
  • give thanks in advance
  • watch God work!
  • repeat continually… 🙂

Are we as leaders really hearing from God?

I was reading in my quiet time this week from Jeremiah 23. It is a very sobering passage for pastors and leaders in the church. I heard Richard Blackaby speak on this passage about a year ago at a Pastor Leadership event. God really spoke hard to me. The message of this prophet was relevant to Israel when he spoke it and, sadly and frighteningly, it is relevant for us today. Jeremiah begins this passage with this statement:

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. 2Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them.  Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:1-2 ESV)

If you read that, you see how serious God is about those of us who claim to lead His people. The standard is incredibly high. The consequences are eternal. How many times are we, as leaders really hearing from God? Are we drawing His people TO God and His Word or are we in actuality, maybe uniwittingly, scattering them from Him? It is sobering. It is challenging. If you read the entire chapter, it will cause you to question some things in your heart…it has me. It’s easy to point to the TV evangelists and the “prosperity gospel” hawkers out there or the super mega church guys who seem to be getting rich off the church and others and say, “Yeah, that’s about them.” But is it only? Is it about us…the average pastor or Bible study leader in the average church, the church planter who is just getting started, the missionary, the para-church  leader, the pastor of the highly successful church that is new and growing rapidly…too?

Read this section of Jeremiah 23 starting with verse 16. I’ve quoted it in the New Living Translation because it reads pretty clear. Then ask yourself, “Am I hearing from God? Do I as a church planter have a vision from Him? Am I just taking words from others and saying they are form God? Am I just trying to gather a crowd and tell them that everything is gonna be ok, because God loves you no matter what?”  We need to hear from God. Then we need to faithfully teach and proclaim it.

 16 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says to his people:

   “Do not listen to these prophets when they prophesy to you,
      filling you with futile hopes.
   They are making up everything they say.
      They do not speak for the Lord!
 17 They keep saying to those who despise my word,
      ‘Don’t worry! The Lord says you will have peace!’
   And to those who stubbornly follow their own desires,
      they say, ‘No harm will come your way!’

 18 “Have any of these prophets been in the Lord’s presence
      to hear what he is really saying?
      Has even one of them cared enough to listen?
 19 Look! The Lord’s anger bursts out like a storm,
      a whirlwind that swirls down on the heads of the wicked.
 20 The anger of the Lord will not diminish
      until it has finished all he has planned.
   In the days to come
      you will understand all this very clearly.

 21 “I have not sent these prophets,
      yet they run around claiming to speak for me.
   I have given them no message,
      yet they go on prophesying.
 22 If they had stood before me and listened to me,
      they would have spoken my words,
   and they would have turned my people
      from their evil ways and deeds.
 23 Am I a God who is only close at hand?” says the Lord.
      “No, I am far away at the same time.
 24 Can anyone hide from me in a secret place?
      Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?”
      says the Lord.

 25 “I have heard these prophets say, ‘Listen to the dream I had from God last night.’ And then they proceed to tell lies in my name. 26 How long will this go on? If they are prophets, they are prophets of deceit, inventing everything they say. 27 By telling these false dreams, they are trying to get my people to forget me, just as their ancestors did by worshiping the idols of Baal.

 28 “Let these false prophets tell their dreams,
      but let my true messengers faithfully proclaim my every word.
      There is a difference between straw and grain!
 29 Does not my word burn like fire?”
      says the Lord.
   “Is it not like a mighty hammer
      that smashes a rock to pieces?

 30 “Therefore,” says the Lord, “I am against these prophets who steal messages from each other and claim they are from me. 31 I am against these smooth-tongued prophets who say, ‘This prophecy is from the Lord!’ 32 I am against these false prophets. Their imaginary dreams are flagrant lies that lead my people into sin. I did not send or appoint them, and they have no message at all for my people. I, the Lord have spoken!

Communication…a little funny for all those who are snowed in

Todd Rhoades at Monday Morning Insight blog had this to say about communication in the church…and a pretty funny video to illustrate:

In many churches, communication sucks.

Many times, we thing we’re communicating very well as leaders, but the truth is, most people don’t get what we’re saying.  So… we go about our day and week and then are shocked when people aren’t on board with our plans, our direction, and our future.

It seems that we’re all speaking a different language sometimes.

It’s almost like the encounter Bill Cosby had with this lady:

…very few of us are as good at communicating as we think we are.Actually, the problem is probably two-fold.  We don’t communicate as well as we think we do; and we’re not as good of listeners as we need to be.

Perhaps you’ve also played the role of the woman in the video.  You find yourself in a situation where you just don’t have a clue (even though you should).

The lesson here for the church leader… communicate early and communicate often.  Ask questions to make sure people are following you… don’t just take it for granted.

Assume nothing.

HT:  Teamwork and Leadership Bloggings with Mike Rogers

What are some things that you do to improve communications?  What’s the biggest miscommunication/misunderstanding you’ve had in your leadership recently?

Feel free to share.

Todd

So how is your communication at home, school, work, church? What are you using to communicate with the people in your life. I thought about this recently, just because I use certain ways of communicating, doesn’t mean others use the same ones (i.e. facebook, email, text). That’s why I try to use multiple methods to communicate…but I’m still not the  best at it. I need to do better. What do you do?

a voice from the past, relevant for today’s church leaders…

E.M Bounds was a lawyer, pastor, prisoner of war, Civil War Chaplain, preacher, and writer. He has been called an American prophet on prayer. His books have been called the greatest collection of writings on prayer. He said and wrote many things about prayer and the church, but I recently read this quote that I believe could have been written yesterday, but it was written over a hundred years ago. Amazing how little has changed. Church leaders, church planters, church members read it slowly and let it sink in…

“We are continually striving to create new methods, plans and organizations to advance the church. We are ever working to provide and stimulate growth and efficiency for the gospel. This trend of the day has a tendancy to lose sight of the man. Or else he is lost in the workings of the plan or organization. God’s plan to is to make much of the man, far more of him than of anything else. Men are God’s method. The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men…What the church needs today is not more or better machinery, not new organizations or more novel methods. She needs men whom the Holy Spirit can use – men of prayer, men mighty in payer. The Holy Spirit does not flow theough methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men – men of prayer!”

This brings to my mind this verse from 2 Chronicles 16:9…

For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.

What would happen in our church if this was true of us? What would happen in our community…nation…the world?! Are we asking God to anoint our PLANS and ORGANIZATIONS or are we asking Him to anoint US and His Bride? If you are planting a church, how will you pray?

2010 in review

2010 has been an interesting year. We have seen God do some exciting things as well as allow some challenges to come before us. There have been opportunities for which we sought God’s wisdom and some yes and no answers from Him. All in all, 2010 has been a good year, because it is another year of serving God and being a part of His mission.

It is amazing how fast these years have gone by since God called us to start The Church @ The Ridge. I can’t believe that it has been 5 years since that first core group meeting in my house. God has used many of you in many ways over these years and it has been a blessing to have you partnering with us in the vision to reach this community and the nations with the Gospel.

I  feel that in many ways 2010 has been a “But God…” year. My good friend Aidan McKenzie taught me many years ago that any time you see the words “But God…” in Scripture, it means that God is about to step in…things are about to change…He’s about to do something only He can do. That is an exciting place to be. However, to get there usually involves us having to go through some tough times. Well, in many ways this past year has been challenging…as it has been for many churches in our nation…especially on a financial level. While it has been tough, God has remained faithful and has kept us afloat by His grace. Sometimes it has felt like just our nose was above water, “But God…” has always come through. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 has been a verse I have kept in the front of my mind this year: 

“He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”

  I must always remember that it is HE who called us and HE is faithful and HE will build HIS church and the gates of Hell (or recession, or anything else) will not prevail against it!  (Matthew 16:18) Thankfully, I don’t have to do it!   

This year God has refocused our attention on revival, and spiritual awakening. I felt the Him leading us to study Experiencing God together in the spring. All of our small groups went through this great study and it had a huge impact on the church. God has begun to reveal Himself in many ways to people and inviting them to join Him in His work in their lives. Exciting to see!

The summer included our annual IMPACT Week, which is a sports camp for kids in the community. This year we had nearly 90 kids involved!

This summer also gave us two community outreach opportunities:

  • Our outreach at the county fireworks show. We handed out hundreds of bottles of water & glo-sticks to hundreds of families.
  • We also participated with over 70 churches in our county for the third year in the Community Makeover. We took the last weekend in July and did ministry projects all over the area. It was awesome to participate with thousands of fellow believers in sharing the love of Christ with our own community in practical ways.

In the previous three summers we have always done a Family Camp. However, this year our school system changed the school calendar in the spring which made us have to cancel our camp. However, God gave us an opportunity to do a Family Conference event instead. We hosted 25 families at the school we rent for a week of worship, fun, teaching for the entire family. Stephen Kendrick, co-writer and producer of the movies Fireproof and Facing The Giants, joined us along with his family and challenged us from God’s word. It was a great week!

This fall we held a Fall Festival in the parking lot of Kroger. It was part of our Pumpkin Patch (see sidebar next page) and over 1000 people came through. We were able to follow up with each one through email, letter, and phone calls. Great outreach & a great community builder for the church too!     

The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths. – Psalm 135:6

In April, a local bank contacted us and asked if we would be interested in a piece of land they had which had been foreclosed on. While it wasn’t in the exact location we would have chosen, it wasn’t bad. We decided to pray and seek God for wisdom. We prayed about it and did some due diligence on the land through the summer seeking some expert help and  felt the green light to proceed to the next step. After getting a price from
the bank, which was a very good price, we made a formal proposal at their asking price. The
bank then went silent on us for about five weeks. Then they came back and said they couldn’t
sell it to us for that price (which was their price). Our prayer had been that if it would please the Lord to give us some land, we’d like to have a permanent home. This seemed to be  something that came from Him, but in the end, He closed that door. We learned a lot in the process, though. I would as that you pray with us about this. That God would give us a piece of property…if it would please Him!

 This summer a couple in our church was led by God to talk to me and our staff about doing a Pumpkin Patch to raise money for missions in Africa. We had never done this before and weren’t sure how it would go. But… After praying about it, we felt like it was a low risk opportunity to raise a little money for missions.  We had no idea what God was gonna do. One challenge was to get volunteers to staff a Pumpkin Patch for all of October. Well, our people really stepped up and volunteered. It actually became the place to hang out! Sales started off good and before we knew it, we were ordering another shipment! Clean water is the greatest need in Burkina (and all over Africa). Thousands of kids die every day from water borne diseases. All the proceeds from the Patch were to go to dig wells in Burkina Faso. But would it really make much of a difference?

 To our surprise, we sold over $12,000 worth of pumpkins! That gave us a net profit of over $4500! This is enough to drill a well that will provide clean water for over 2000 for 10 years! This well will be dug & a church built next to it, enabling the pastors there to share Living Water with those who are thirsty too. Did pumpkins save lives? You be the judge. Praise God for the vision He gave to one couple and their obedience to listen to Him!

What does 2011 hold? I don’t know…”But God…”      

REMEMBER…
Your year-end, tax deductable gift to God’s vision and work at The Church @ The Ridge would be greatly needed and appreciated. As you consider where you want to invest at the end of this year, please pray and seek God as to His will and consider supporting God’s work here. You can give online HERE. If you do so by midnight December 31, 2010, your contribusion can be deducted on your 2010 taxes.

we love the Vols @ The Ridge

In the War of 1812, Governor Blount of Tennessee made an appeal for volunteers to join General Andrew Jackson in fighting the British.

Gen. Andrew Jackson and the "Tennessee Volunteers" in the Battle of New Orleans 1814

 A record number of citizens volunteered to serve and became the largest volunteer army from any state. They served valiantly under Gen. Jackson in the famous Battle of New Orleans in 1814-15, whuch ended the War of 1812. Again during the Mexican War, a record number of Tennesseans is said to have volunteered to serve this country. Thus Tennesse came to be known as the Volunteer state. In subsequent wars, Tennesseans have always volunteered in large numbers. While I wasn’t born in Tennessee, I grew up there. I have lived in four different places in the state (if you include where I went to college) for a total of 16 years. I have always considered this area “home”. I am proud to come from the Volunteer state. I am also proud to call Paulding County, GA my home and in particular to be a part of God’s Church @ The Ridge…which is a lot like Tennessee. How?

Well, when I say we love the Vols @ The Church @ The Ridge, I’m not talking about the University of Tennessee or the state itself. I’m talking about the same selfless attitude that is shown by so many of our people…our VOLUNTEERS. The heart and lifeblood of any church…and especially a young church like CATR…is its volunteer force. An army of Volunteers that God is using in the war for the souls of people in Paulding County and around the world!

Without our volunteers, there would be no one to carry out the majority of ministry that takes place @ The Ridge! There would be no music on Sundays…no RidgeKidz…no one to set up all of the things we need to do church in a portable setting…no one to greet people and make them feel welcome…no one to reach out to people in the community who need Jesus…no one to show hospitality to guests by serving a cup of coffee…no one to minister to students…no one to lead and teach in our small groups…no one to care for the needs of fellow Ridgers…no one to set up and greet people in the parking lot…no one to help make videos, graphics, run technical stuff in our worship gathering so that the Gospel is communicated better…no one to carry out all the work that it takes to do events that reach and minister to people in our area…no one to touch this community aith the love of Christ!

Volunteers give of their time, resources, talents, gifts, energy and even money to accomplish the mission that is given us by God…to “Impact Another Generation By Changing People’s Perspective.” SO, to all of you who are Vols @ The Ridge (no matter what school or sports team you support 🙂 ) …as your pastor, I want to say THANK YOU!!! You all are amazing and I love you all and appreciate you all…more than you can ever know! I am blessed to be a part of a group of people who understand that they are investing in something eternal. Please don’t ever lose site of that fact. God is using you and you are making a difference in people’s lives.

THIS SUNDAY WE WANT TO SAY A SPECIAL THANK YOU TO ALL OF OUR VOLS @ THE RIDGE! We’ll be having our Volunteer Appreciation Progressive Christmas Party Sunday evening from 5:30-8:30 pm. Each of your pastors will be hosting you in their homes over the course of the evening. It is just a small way that we can invite all of you into our homes and let you know how much you are loved and appreciated. SO if you have been a Volunteer @ The Ridge at anytime in 2010…whether it be an ongoing ministrty team or a short-term project or event…you are invited!  Here is the schedule for the evening. You can come at anytime between the indicated hours:

  • Pastor Jerry & Cheryl Davison’s will host the APPETIZERS between 5:30 and 6:30 PM.
    416 Clonts Rd, Douglasville, GA (off Sweetwater Church Rd)  Then the party will move to…
  •  Pastor Wendell & Emily Brewton’s for the MAIN COURSE  between 6:30 and 7:30 PM .
    263 Chandler Ridge Dr, Douglasville, GA (off Ridge Rd just East of Kroger)  Finally, the party will wind up at…
  • Pastor Steve & Kim Whipple’s house for DESSERT between 7:30 and 8:30 PM
    68 Brooke Ridge Trail, Douglasville, GA (in Ridge Brooke subdivision west of Austin MS) at 7:30 PM for dessert.

*Due to limited space in the homes, we cannot offer childcare. If you have teenage children who serve they are welcome to attend. Please RSVP on our website HERE. It also might be a good idea for some of you to meet together at Kroger and carpool so that we don’t overwhelm our neighborhoods with cars. 🙂

I can’t wait to hang out with you all Sunday evening and celebrate the Christmas Advent season…and also to celebrate all that God has done and is doing through you! We also have a special gift for each family…and some insider information that we want to tell you all FIRST about some exciting things that are coming in 2011! But you’ll only hear it first, if you come Sunday night!

We love the “Vols @ The Ridge”! Thanks to all of you and Merry Christmas! Keep on Re:Gifting what He’s given you!

you ever want to just quit?

I’m sure that all of us at one time or another just want to quit. Maybe its a job, maybe its a relationship, maybe its school, maybe its a project or a game. In ministry, that temptation can come often. My dad used to always say, “In ministry, never quit on Mondays.” It is usually in those times when we are tired, beat down, that the enemy comes with discouragement. The key thing to remember is that God is not a God of discouragement. Realize the source of that discouragement and know that you have a real enemy that wants nothing more than to render you ineffective for God’s Kingdom.

I have been in several seasons where I just wanted to quit and do something else. But no one ever said that ministry would be easy. Or for that matter, no one ever said that your marriage, job, parenting, school, life, would be easy. Sure it would be nice if there was always enough money, if everything went my way, if there was smooth sailing all the time. It would be a blast. But what is that old saying? “Smooth waters do not a skillful sailor make.

Right now I can think of many churches that are struggling. Finances are tough. People are not committed. Those who claim Christ are not following Him in faithful obedience. The enemy seems to be winning. Well, he may be if we allow discouragement to sideline us.

Last week the high school football team that my son plays for and for whom I am the chaplain, gave me some perspective on this. They were playing a team that was beating them pretty soundly at halftime. They could have come out the second half and given up and just gone through the motions til the clock ran out. But they didn’t. Down 34-7, these guys came out and drove the ball and scored. Then their next possession, they drove down inside the 10 and while they failed to score, they kept fighting. Throughout the remainder of the game, even when they had adversity…turnovers or penalties that brought back touchdowns…they didn’t quit. They could’ve…some individuals may have mentally done so, but overall, I was proud of these guys for playing hard til the last buzzer. They didn’t quit, even when it seemed like they should. No, they didn’t come back and win, but these guys showed me something. Winning in life and eternity isn’t about the score…its about the heart. Galatians 6:9 says…

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

So do you want to quit today? I’ll be honest, I’ve had those days…even recently. Yet I want to give all I have to the Lord…not my effort, not my works…but my heart. That’s what He desires most. If I give Him all my heart, then all my effort, works, desires, ministry, relationships, money, talents will become His as a grateful outflow of the Holy Spirit filling my heart first. HE will be producing all those things in me.

Church leader, Christian, mom, dad, husband, wife, college student, lay person, youth, give Him your heart first…all of it. Along with it will go all our our desires and self and pride.  If the final score on the scoreboard isn’t what you or the world deems a victory, so what? If you gave Him what He wants…YOU…then at the end of the day, you’ll hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Don’t quit. Humbly lay your heart before Him and press on! Know that you will reap a great harvest one day!

 12Not that I have alread obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:12-14

Part 2: things God has taught me in 5 years of church planting

The one scripture passage that God has used in my life the most during the last 5 years is 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 …

27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him.

I have said many times that I definitely fall into the “foolish & weak” categories. For some reason God has called me to lead this church. Since I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know much about what I’m doing, I’ll boast in Him for what He has done here these last 5 years. He has saved many people and done some amazing works in families, marriages and individual lives. We’ve seen Him draw people to Himself in ways that only He can do. If God can use me, He can use anyone!

I’ve learned that all the marketing, great ideas, cool series, awesome events, fantastic music, different styles, don’t really matter unless God is working in our midst. I have watched God do things that I didn’t understand…some of which I may never understand. I’ve seen Him move people on from here…and I didn’t really like it. Yet He is in charge, so we’ll trust Him. I have seen God take some very unlikely people and mold them into leaders. HE is the one working. If I’ll just join HIM in HIS work, then everything else will fall into place.

I’ve also learned that the old cliche “where God guides, God provides” is definitely true. Jehovah-Jireh has always provided for my and my family’s needs. This has always been an attribute of God that I have rested in. However, I have seen Him provide for this church, not in huge ways, but in small ways that are no less miraculous than the “big” ways that some planters  testify about. Most of our provision has been in small, faithful gifts of a few. We have not ever received those $50,000 or $100,000 checks in the mail. Yet God has provided from day one, with the “widow’s mite” type of support. Literally, I have had widows supporting us with $20 monthly gifts and at times much larger gifts. God has also provided through some unlikely heroes. I’ve had a former student in my student ministry who serves in the military send tithe checks to The Ridge. Amazing! Even in times of economic uncertainty, when the budget has had to be cut as much as 40%, God has provided…week to week…and funded the ministry of His church. Just like the Israelites in the wilderness, God has provided “manna” week to week and day to day. I praise Him for His faithfulness and provision! I am glad that we haven’t had the big bankroll of some church plants, because God has taught us total dependance on Him. That has definitely stretched my faith and prayer life.

5 years ago God planted a church…Lessons God has taught me part 1

The last Sunday in August of 2005, my wife and I met with a group of people who were interested in helping start a new church in South Paulding County in the Ridge Road community. There were several families there at that initial meeting. We shared vision and talked about what God had been doing in our lives to prepare us for this step of faith. One month later, we officially began. This Sunday marks the 5th anniversary of that initial Core Group gathering of The Church @ The Ridge. At that time, we simply had a name, some vision, and a few people, but God would do something significant.

There were 7 families, besides my own, and 3 single adults at that initial meeting. Of those, 3 families still remain @ The Ridge and are serving God faithfully here. Two of those singles got married to each other and went on to move to Savannah 2 years ago to help start our first daughter church. All in all not a bad percentage of them have stayed with us. Statistically 80% of people who help start a church are not there after three years. Well, we’ve done a little better than that, thanks to God. 🙂 Some of those who moved on, had said from the start that God had called them to help get this thing off the ground…which they did faithfully. I am thankful to those who sacrificed, gave, served, and worked so hard in those early days.

One thing I’ve learned is that if you count on people, even the best of them will eventually disappoint you. Heck I have even disappointed myself many times!  But if you trust God, no matter what people do, HE will build his church. This church planting thing is HIS. I have learned that I cannot build anything that will last. If I build the church, I am simply building an organization…one that will not stand. If Jesus builds it, nothing can stand against it. I simply need to be about lifting up the name of Jesus and letting HIM draw men to Himself.

I also learned that when Jesus said in Matthew 16:18,

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

…that city gates were made for defensive purposes. So when the gates of hell won’t prevail against the church, it stands to reason that the church is to be on offense. I’ve learned that we don’t need to be reactive, but proactive as the church. Boy, it is easy to fall into that reactive mode, though! Especially during these tough economic times we’ve experienced. We have gone through phases recently where it felt like it was all we could do to tread water. But God…is going to build HIS church. Jesus is the Head and we are HIS body. I’ve learned that on my best day, my best ideas are extremely anemic, weak, and pitiful compared with what Jesus, the Head, has in mind.

Since ancient times no one has heard,
       no ear has perceived,
       no eye has seen any God besides you,
       who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. (Isaiah 64:4)

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, (Ephesians 3:20)

What are we afraid of? What do we really believe about God? He says that His church will stand. I’ve learned to not be afraid and to stay on offense…seeking His wisdom, being a wise steward, equipping the church through the Word, but moving forward. Pressing on.

So I’ve learned in this church planting venture to lift up Jesus and trust in Him and seek His wisdom more than I ever have before. Trust in God and not in people. What is interesting is that the middle verse in the entire Bible is found in Psalm 118:8 which says,

It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.

Maybe that’s the way we should all be living all along.

Weekend Recap 8-1-10

A little behind this week on our weekend recap…Monday and Tuesday our staff took a prayer/planning retreat, so I’m just now getting around to a Recap post.

Sunday was an excellent day @ The Ridge…the last Sunday before school starts back. Hard to believe! We took time to pray over students and teachers…public, private, and home.

Continuing our Dot2Dot series, we focused on connecting dots in the community. We celebrated a little of what God did last week through Community Makeover. Then we talked about the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and the Great Commandment along with the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

Why do we do things like community outreach events? Because of these commands. Jesus tells us to “go and do likewise” for our neighbor. So who is your neighbor?

Gravitational Pull:  The attraction that one object has for another object due to the invisible force of gravity. The mass of an object affects its gravitational pull.

 The gravitational pull of any organization is INWARD. It takes the path of  LEAST RESISTANCE. By definition, the larger the church, the greater the inward pull.

 When we are working out, we are fighting gravity, but that is what makes us stronger. When we stop pushing against that gravitational pull, we get fat, soft, atrophy.

What does that look like in the church? We stop looking outward and begin to focus inward. We become about ourselves. We are concerned with what the church can do FOR us rather than what God wants to do in and through for His Kingdom.

Some people need to SEE the Gospel before they will HEAR it.

Loving your neighbor…It’s about an eternal objective. It’s about making an eternal difference…connecting eternal dots to expand the Kingdom…make the big picture bigger if you will. What does that look like here…in real-life? Why is it so important? Check out this awesome Dot2Dot story from this past Sunday…

Jesus said in Mark 9:41

I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.

So when Jesus says “go and do likewise” have you and I been obedient?  God wants to use you to connect dots in the community for His glory and to expand His kingdom. Your dot may seem insignificant now, but God is putting together a BIG picture.

We have to have an eternal perspective, because that’s God’s perspective…eternity! Eternity hangs in the balance every week…every day. Do I take that seriously? Do you? I’m sorry to say that many times I don’t. I’m so about me that I miss the dots in the community that God wants me to connect for His glory. Even if they never respond, Jesus still commands us to do so… 

Go HERE to read more Dot2Dot stories or to share your own. How does God want to use you to connect the dots?