Falling On Our Knees

At CrossWay on Sunday we talked about dying to our sin-riddled selves and being given new life in Christ.  We read the really strange story in Acts 20:7-12 and then walked through Romans 6:1-14.

The highlight of the day for me came at the end of the second service.  When we reached our prayer time after the sermon, I grabbed a chair and used it for an altar, and encouraged others to do the same if they felt led to.  As I got down and bowed my head with my eyes closed, I heard a lot of rustling.  A lot of rustling.  When I finished praying, I started to stand up and saw that everyone was on their knees in prayer!  It was awesome.  I was so moved that I couldn’t say anything, so I just walked up to the drums for the closing song. (Turns out that the prayer gave such a sense of closure to the service that people started to get up to leave, not realizing we had a closing song!)

It was especially cool because our Worship Planning Team met last week and talked about how we can lead people into worshiping through physically humbling ourselves before God.  God definitely responded.

Published in: on May 19, 2010 at 10:20 am  Comments (1)  

Coaching…But At What Cost?

The apostle Paul was imprisoned in a dungeon a short time before he was to be executed.  He sat down to write one last letter.  He’d written many letters to many churches and individuals over his long ministry.  This final letter was written to Timothy, a younger man that Paul had coached as Timothy began his own journey in gospel ministry.

In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul instructed his protégé: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”  In other words: Just as I have invested in you and trained you, so you must invest in others and train them–let’s keep this thing going.

How disappointing, then, to see the greedy and carnal route that so many pastor-coaches are taking.  Instead of discipling younger pastors as a ministry, the new trend is for pastors of large churches to mentor younger pastors as a business.  They charge a hefty fee for their services: One website I saw today charges $4,500 for six coaching sessions!  No wonder the church is struggling the way it is today, when pastors are becoming parasites leeching onto other pastors.  It makes me sick.

I’d love to see some of these pastor-customers take what they’ve learned through these mentoring businesses and turn around and coach others for free–in other words, as a ministry.  Now that would be a biblical movement!

If one pastor is going to charge another for coaching him, the price should be a promise that the student will then become the teacher and take someone else under his wing to pass along what he has learned.  Then we can be faithful to the instruction in 2 Timothy 2:2–found in many other places in Scripture, as well–instead of taking advantage of younger pastors of smaller churches.  Then the gospel will spread and God will be glorified… even if no one makes a big buck from it.

Just had to get that off my chest.

Published in: on September 10, 2009 at 12:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Principles & Principals

This afternoon I was part of a pretty exciting meeting.  Several pastors and church leaders from our community met with the top education administrators in north Worcester County.  It started out great because lunch was provided, but then it got even better.  The churches’ agenda was simple: we wanted to find out how we can help and support our local public schools.

After Pastor Daryl McCready from SonRise Church and Pastor Gary Baer from Buckingham Presbyterian Church opened the meeting, one of the principals who was there observed that kids who are in church tend to be more successful in school than those who are not involved in a church.  So he said the best thing we can do is work to connect unchurched families to our churches–which, of course, is already foundational to our mission!

Several of the pastors commented afterward that they were surprised by the meeting.  The school administrators, rather than coming prepared with a long list of unfunded projects, had one simple request: Mentors.  One heartbreaking story after another was shared about kids who don’t have a caring adult in their lives.  I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room!  Rarely have I been to a meeting with so much passion, drive, and commitment to action.

I admire the way they were so focused on the one need which can have the greatest impact; and which, incidentally, the Church is most equipped to meet.

So now the church leaders will meet again to discuss practical ways we can plug our congregants and ourselves into the mentoring programs that the schools already have in place.  I’m so excited about the potential!  I’ve already talked with the principal of one of the elementary schools in our community, and we’ll be meeting soon to discuss how CrossWay can begin serving and partnering with them.

God is as much at work as He’s ever been!

Published in: on February 11, 2009 at 3:58 pm  Comments (4)  

On the Obama Victory

Sometimes you just gotta give the spotlight to people who can say things better than you.  So on this first morning with our new President-elect, I’m turning the mic over to Darren Plummer, a church planter friend in the D.C. area.

Click here to read his thoughtful and well-expressed reaction to the Obama victory.

Published in: on November 5, 2008 at 9:43 am  Leave a Comment  

And My Vote For President Goes To…

… Merv Stoltzfus! 

I believe Merv is the man who can reach across the aisle and bring this country back together.  As we look ahead to the future, President Stoltzfus can lead this nation through our current troubles with his wise and discerning leadership.

Plus, he’s a good friend and our Conference Minister.

Here’s a picture of my vote for Merv on the screen of the voting machine.  It’s a little blurry, but what can you expect with a cell phone camera snapping a shot of a computer screen?

Here I am campaigning for the candidate.  If the sign looks a little cheap and poorly made, that’s because the campaign budget was only 53 cents.

May the best man win!

Published in: on November 4, 2008 at 5:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Third Way

With the big national election tomorrow, we talked yesterday at CrossWay about the political scene and how we should respond.

Conclusion: rather than placing our faith in McCain and the Republicans or Obama and the Democrats, we should choose a Leader who really is the answer for the messes we’ve created.  His name is Jesus, and He offers a third way.

Government is important, of course, and it’s our civic duty to vote.  But our primary allegiance must be to Jesus Christ, and He has entrusted us–not the government–with the responsibility of changing the world.

The podcast of “A Third Way” is now available in iTunes or at this site.

Published in: on November 3, 2008 at 9:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

My Pastors

With tomorrow being the last day of Pastor Appreciation Month, this post is about 30 days overdue.  Lately I’ve been thinking about how grateful I am for the many people who pastor me, and those who have pastored me in previous seasons of my life.

So here is my tribute to some of those people that God has currently placed in my life to be my pastors (this list is not comprehensive and the names are not in any particular order):

  • Berry McCready.  Whenever I hear the word “pastor,” Pastor McCready is always the first person who comes to mind.  He is one of the truly great men this world has known.  It was under his ministry that I became a follower of Jesus Christ and heard the call to vocational ministry.  He’s the one who performed our wedding.  Even in his retirement, he’s my pastor.
  • Daryl McCready.  In this case, the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree!  When Carolyn and I got married, Daryl was my best man.  He has been a true friend, mentor, encourager, and pastor for the past decade.  Except for my wife and my parents, he has probably influenced me more than anyone else.
  • John Coleman.  Like Daryl, John is part of the group of pastors I meet with weekly.  (Bryan Pugner and Kyle McDaniel are also in the group and are also men who I consider my pastors, but I haven’t known them as long and hey–I had to draw the line somewhere!)  Anyway, John is one of the first people I go to whenever I need someone to hear me out and offer some feedback.  He’s been a great encourager.  Other than my wife, I don’t think I have as much fun or laugh as hard as I do when I’m with John and Daryl.
  • Josh & Christi Engle.  I don’t even know where to begin with these two.  Amazing servants of God, completely committed to His church, faithful friends, gifted leaders, role model parents, excellent encouragers….  God has repeatedly used these two to keep me going.  Whenever I’m plagued by doubt or discouragement, they’re still holding to God’s vision for our church.  If every church member was like the Engles, everybody would want to be a pastor.
  • Steve & Linda Doherty.  My in-laws and two of my closest friends.  They’ve been cheering me on for nearly 10 years now.  Steve & Linda have supported and encouraged Carolyn and me in so many ways it’s just unbelievable.  They share their lives with us so generously, and even feed us every week!  And for some reason Steve seems to have an inside connection to God when it comes to praying for me.  To find out what God is going to do in my life, all I need to do is find out how Steve’s been praying for me.  Our little baby who will arrive in about seven months is going to be very blessed to have Steve & Linda, as well as my parents, for grandparents.
  • Merv Stoltzfus.  Good ol’ Merv.  He’s one of those people I can just talk with all day.  And we’ve nearly done that several times!  Merv is a great listener and is one of those honest people who will tell me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear.  Like the others on this list, he has been a great encourager.  Even though I haven’t known Merv for even two years, whenever I’m with him I always feel like we go way back.
  • James Wenger.  James is an absolute treasure.  Our church conference assigned him to me as a mentor, and what a blessing it’s been!  He has so much wisdom and experience that he applies to the situations I’m going through.  His life has been so adventurous they could make a Harrison Ford movie series out of it!  Yet he’s so modest that it’s a long process to unearth all the incredible experiences he’s had.  On numerous occasions, James has driven from Baltimore to Ocean City just to meet with me, then turned around and driven back.  He’s so committed to Christ and His church that he’s only gotten more active in ministry since his retirement!
  • Carolyn Hyde.  Like I said, this list is not in any order.  If it was, my bride of over four years would be at the top.  I would’ve given up long ago if not for her.  She believes in me so much that it makes me uncomfortable!  As encouraging as everyone on this list is, she’s definitely my number-one encourager.  Even as I get to watch God at work in her, she encourages me to let God work in me.  I can never doubt God’s grace, because He has given me so much better than I could ever deserve by letting me be married to Carolyn.  And in about seven months she will become the best mom that ever lived.  I’m so grateful that I get to share my journey through this life with this magnificent, Christlike, loving, faithful, funny, sweet, beautiful woman!

To all of those who God has so generously placed in my life to pastor me: THANK YOU!  I appreciate you with all my heart!!!!

Published in: on October 30, 2008 at 5:52 am  Comments (2)  

Catalyst: Steven Furtick

Of all the speakers at Catalyst, the one who was the biggest hit had to be Steven Furtick, the founding pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.  His presentation and passion can’t be captured in notes, unfortunately, but here are some of the highlights:

  • Between God’s promise and its payoff is a process–a painful process.
  • Keep your vision in sight even when there is nothing to see.
  • Even when we don’t see results, God is actively at work.
  • Hang on to what I hear from God.
  • “Be faithful in the process.”
  • “God is preparing you for what He’s prepared you for.”
  • Hang on to the promise!
  • We’ve got to see the glory of God released in our generation.
  • Take what you’ve got and work it!
Published in: on October 28, 2008 at 10:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Catalyst: Brenda Salter McNeil

Some notes from Catalyst speaker Brenda Salter McNeil:

  • “Nobody wants to change the world more than God.”
  • When we really look at God, we can’t stay the same.
  • We can’t afford to just stay where we are in our comfort zones.  There has to be movement outward.
  • We all have a “Samaria” (see Acts 1:8), a place completely alien to us, another culture we don’t identify with.  It’s a place where the gospel really gets tested “for real for real.”
  • We often don’t actually do what Jesus said to do because it’s scary.
  • When we go to our Samaria, we’re forced to rely on God instead of on ourselves, on God’s power instead of our own.
  • “From the inception of the church it was intended to be a multi-ethnic movement.  It was always meant to be global.”
  • Believe that Jesus is who He says He is and will do what He said He would do.
  • Let God shake things up in my world and ministry and life.
Published in: on October 23, 2008 at 5:23 am  Comments (1)  

Catalyst: Jim Collins

Another excellent speaker at Catalyst was Jim Collins, author of Built to Last and Good to Great.  Some of his insights:

  • “Good is the enemy of great.”
  • “Greatness is not a function of the cards we’re dealt,” but of conscious choice and discipline.
  • “You will find a culture of discipline in every great enterprise.”  But you will not find it in average ones.
  • We must have the right people in the right places.
  • “You have to prepare for what you cannot possibly predict.”
  • Humility is the signature trait that separates great from good.
  • Humility brings a driving passion for the cause–not for personal gain.
  • “If it’s about you, you will not build something great.”
  • Do not build around a powerful personality.  To do so is irresponsible.  Instead, build an organization that endures.
  • Don’t just have a “to do” list.  Equally important is a “stop doing” list.
  • Ask yourself: What gets in the way?  What doesn’t produce results?  Your answers should be on a “stop doing” list.  The lack of a “stop doing” list is a lack of discipline.
  • Do not confuse values and practices.  Our values should not change; our practices must change.
  • Every generation needs to develop its own practices to express unchanging values.
  • Build a personal board of directors.
  • Build a council and use it as a mechanism of disciplined thought.
  • Ask the right questions.  What is your questions-to-answers ratio?  How can you double it?
  • Spend more time being interested and less time trying to be interesting.
  • Schedule days to turn off all the gadgets and do nothing but think.
  • Greatness is a function of the choices you make that no one else can see.
  • We pay our mentors back by mentoring others.
  • Everyone on your leadership team should be able to articulate their responsibilities without referring to their title.
  • “If you have more than three priorities, you have no priorities.”
  • We cannot focus on individuals to the neglect of the mission and vision of the organization.
Published in: on October 22, 2008 at 5:22 am  Comments (1)