Does the Environment at Church Matter?

IMG_1351

I’ve been thinking lately about the power of an environment. A little while ago I was able to go on a trip with my wife Lisa to the Dominican Republic. We stayed in a resort where we could literally walk onto the beach. One morning we woke up before the sun and so we ventured out to watch the sunrise. I can’t remember the last time I did that and I never had done it on a beach on an island. Before I go any further, I should tell you I grew up around a lot of amazing technology, watched movies where they could do amazing things and populate my desktop background images with the most amazing pictures you could imagine. And yet as I stood there waiting, watching the horizon, it happened, the same thing that happens everyday whether I’m there to see it or not – the sun rose. It sounds so cheap to write that, because the sun didn’t just rise, it exploded in the most majestic, dare I say holy array of colors. Immediately I wondered, who am I that God would think of me? I mean look at what He can do and look at what He does with barely a thought, everyday whether someone is there to admire it or not. What that environment did to me was nothing short of miraculous. My mind rushed with awe, love, admiration, worship and humility. I was impacted by what God did and continues to do. And I realized something, God creates environments and it’s in environments that God does some incredible work. And what was also fascinating is how hundreds, thousands of people can experience the same environment I did and not be changed by it, drawn to Jesus and transformed, but that’s probably for another blog post.

read more

#FuelGrace

Title 2

As I read the Scriptures, particularly the book of Acts we see people on the move, a church on mission and it’s exciting. It’s not without significant challenges to overcome, fears to fight through and people to love and sometimes lovingly confront. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be one of those early pastors. And in light of our theme of #FuelGrace I noticed some other interesting things about that early church. They were fueled regularly. There were people and resources that were provided in order to see the mission go forward. In some cases it was merely the encouragement of people they met. In other cases it was some physical resource or money that allowed an aspect of the mission to go forward. In still other cases there were people who jumped on board and said, “count me in”. Each one of those actions fueled the work of God. But here’s where it got a little interesting for me: who was really “fueled” in those cases?

read more

Guest Post: The Heart of Worship – A Journey to Intimacy – Nic Payne

519050_7f3bcbc79c9d43d2aa730fd20a5efa2d~mv2

-What’s ahead and Why?
-The Case for Worship
-Extrinsic Action Creates Intrinsic Emotion (The 7 words for worship)
-Style is not part of the equation, but intimacy is
-In Spirit and in Truth

What’s ahead and Why?

We have a unique opportunity ahead of us as a church family. Friday, February 3rd will be our first church-wide worship night at Grace. And as excited as we all are in planning it, I started asking myself why? We’ve been talking about a worship night for years. So, why now? Is it necessary?

read more

Part of My Story at Grace – part 6: conclusion

IMG_0231

I am so encouraged by all of you who’ve let me know you’ve been reading this series. Thanks for taking the time to consider these important subjects with me. So far we’ve seen the frustration of leaders who are called to make a difference and for some reason seem hindered or sense the need for a breakthrough or a change. We saw the value in asking for help and coming alongside of others in the church. God used some fellow Christians and experienced church leaders (Intentional Churches) to help us see what we couldn’t seem to see on our own. We then got busy identifying 3 key areas that are important right now: Small groups, Game Day and Facility. (By the way, we are likely to identify more areas after we see resolution to our current 3 as we want to continue to strive to be the most effective as possible for God’s glory and His mission). So in today’s post, I want to conclude the facility section and invite you to be a part of our future together. (And also conclude some “teases” I’ve made throughout the series – so buckle up!)

read more

Part of My Story at Grace Part 5

IMG_0184

We come to the second to last post in the blog series. In our next post I’m going to share the thing that I didn’t expect to see lately and the thing that truly pushes this over the edge.
But first, we need to cover the final “WIN” team. As you recall, we developed 3 areas that need to be addressed now (WIN = What’s Important Now). So far we’ve looked at our “Small Group Model Rebuild”; our “Weekend Experience Renewal:Game Day”. And now the final area: “Facility Expansion/ Enhancement”.

read more

Part of My Story at Grace Church Part 4

A photo by Abigail  Keenan. unsplash.com/photos/5Xs09ljJhlw

So grateful to those of you reading this extended blog series. This is such important stuff to the future of our church and I don’t have a lot of places I can share this and none that I can share in this amount of detail. Thank you for reading and being such a key part of our church! I pray you’ll be able to share this with others and help us all catch God’s vision for where we’re headed. Needless to say, please make sure you read the previous parts before diving into today’s.

read more

Part of My Grace Church Story part 3

sunset-865310_1920

Ok so far we’ve looked at the struggle of a pastor wanting to make a difference, loving people and out of answers. In God’s perfect timing, He connected us to a group of pastors who want to serve other churches and help them be effective in the Great Commission. What came out of our process was not what we thought would come out of that process.

I’m not sure I mentioned this in an earlier post, but you should know that for several years now, many of our ministry staff kept serving faithfully yet wondering secretly if we were missing something. We were committed to being innovative and tried all kinds of things. In fact, besides one thing I didn’t want to even talk about, we tried everything else we could think about. (That one thing, by the way, is likely where this blog series will end after a few more installments, sorry to tease you, but I need to bring you along in the process so you can see what I saw (that I didn’t want to see!)).

read more

Part of my Story at Grace Church part 2

IMG_7440

If you haven’t yet read part 1, please do so, as the journey is important to the conclusions.

So last summer I had a phone call with Doug Parks. Actually, I should go back a little ways. I typically watch, read, listen to whatever I can get my hands on re:best practices— churches or ministries who are effective in God’s mission etc. I am always looking to learn, adapt and integrate. One webinar I watched was from the Leadership Network and on it the lead pastor mentioned a “dashboard” that they use to determine how they are doing as a church. This “dashboard” found a way to measure things that were previously unmeasurable (or so I thought) and was a tool that could be used by God to help us go forward. In fact churches who were using this had experienced major breakthroughs! I quickly shot an email to the presenter and asked about this. He said, “you really should talk to my executive pastor, Dave Smith as he’s the expert on that stuff.” So I connected with Dave and after a short conversation I was put in touch with Doug Parks. Doug is the cofounder of a ministry called “Intentional Churches”. They come alongside of churches and help them. I was skeptical, as believe it or not, there are a ton of people out there trying to sell you something or give you the latest “quick fix” to your church challenges”. (Remember, I was feeling like we needed a break through, as nothing seemed to be having the intended impact. However I wasn’t about to fall for some gimmick.) I was very skeptical throughout the few phone calls we had. There were however two things that caught my attention. One was their track record – they told me about specific churches who had seen double or triple the impact in just 3-4 years! (And they put me in touch with the pastors of those churches!) And secondly, they weren’t selling a product, there was no quick fix, no video program, no book to read. What they specialized in was a process. A process where our leaders, our pastors, our staff could gather in a room for 2-3 days and be lead through a discovery process. We (not some consultant) would discover what is holding us back, we would creatively dream about next steps and we would develop teams and initiatives to put in motion. Then after the “process” they would provide us with a coach who would travel with us for 12 months helping us along the way to follow through on what we said we’d do and navigating through the road blocks.

read more

Part of My Story at Grace Church pt.1

IMG_0250
So I’m not sure where to really discuss this topic, so I figured I’ll start here. So those of you who make your way to the blog will get some insider/ behind the scenes Grace Church info in the next few posts. So where do I begin?

Well ya know it’s been almost 10 full years that I’ve been the lead pastor at Grace. I was brought here by the search team/elders/congregation and told to “help us reach people who aren’t here yet.” This resonated with my heart and I got to work day one. I made my share of mistakes, moved too quickly at times, moved to slowly at others, acted with courage and boldness at times and fear and timidness at other times. But in all of what we did, we never deviated from a mission to help people take one step closer to loving Jesus and loving others. This meant we needed (and continue to need) to strengthen the faith and action of believers in Jesus. It also meant (and means) we need to be intelligible and relevant to those who are either not yet believers or people coming “back” to church after a long hiatus. This has caused us to adjust our music, our sermons and pretty much everything from top to bottom. I’ve never believed what I was told, “either you need to be a church that is effective for new people OR you can be a church to help believers grow, but you can’t do both!” I just don’t buy it. The early church successfully did both and I think it comes down to never watering down the Truth, but communicating hard truths in a way that people can understand them and respond to them (and a little humor never hurt :)). To be honest, I find a lot in common with those who don’t know Jesus and those who do — we are both seeking life, meaning and purpose and so we can speak to that longing which is really what it means to be human, am I right?

read more