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I like Lifeway’s new emphasis on research. Hopefully this will help them to provide resources that really connect with churches that are making a difference. Lifeway’s biggest sellers have always been their dated material, the Sunday School curriculums that so many Baptist churches use. However, with so many churches foregoing Sunday School in favor of small groups, they are struggling to catch up. Here are results on a new study they have just completed.

Thanks to Church Communications Pro, BaptistPress News, and Churchrelevance.com for the info.

LifeWay Research and Dr. Thom Rainer were fortunate enough to be able to study 19 of the 22 churches and discovered four common elements.
  1. Pastors Set the Bar: Interviews indicate the churches have taken on the vision, priorities, and values of the senior pastor. Staff and lay leaders find it easy to follow the pastor. There are high levels of trust in these pastors.
  2. Church Atmosphere: These churches are consistently described as “exciting,” “dynamic,” “energetic,” “upbeat,” “friendly,” “welcoming,” “warm,” and “positive.”
  3. Evangelistic Appeal: Pastors indicate they seek to include the gospel in most, if not all, of their sermons. They stress the importance of preaching the gospel and providing opportunities for lost people to respond. More than two-thirds indicate they offer a public invitation at the end of every service. The others invite inquirers to fill out a decision card.
  4. Intentional Outreach: The pastors are focused on reaching people for Christ. Whether it’s through focusing the content of sermons, planning the worship services, or simply the nature of church programming, it is clear that everything is designed with outreach in mind.

Although similar in the above qualities, these churches did use different methods regarding preaching, styles of worship, evangelism training, and small group strategies.

Conferences & Concerts

January 25, 2007 — Leave a comment

I’m planning on attending two conferences in the next few months. First, I am heading down to the Big Easy, New Orleans, for an engineering conference. SolidWorks World 2007 will be Feb 4th-7th. Sitting through 3 days of seminars and training courses with a bunch of engineers sounds like fun, doesn’t it? I like to think that I am an untypical engineer, I usually leave the pocket protector at home. They’ve had the guys from Mythbusters and American Chopper speak at previous events, so I’m hoping they will have another surprise guest this year. Steve Wozniak is the featured speaker, so I’m definitely looking forward to hearing from one of the Mac pioneers. And Jenni is planning on flying down for a couple of days, so we will have a great trip away from home for a few days. I don’t know what to expect with all the reconstruction, but everyone has told me that there is still devastation everywhere.

The other conference has me even more excited. NewSpring Community Church is hosting a one-day church leadership conference in Anderson, SC. Perry Noble and his gang will be sharing what they have learned through the incredible growth of their church. What amazes me about Newspring is that they are in a small town, but they are growing like crazy. If you want to be excited about what God is doing, then check out their story on their website. When we were iced in last Sunday, I was able to watch a couple of their services on video through their website. It was great seeing their worship band open up with service with a cover of Decemberadio Can’t Hide and another service with Daughtry’s It’s Not Over. I was impressed. But what I really resonate with is that Perry is a preacher, he get’s with it and is not ashamed of the Gospel and I love his accent (it sounds normal to me!)

Also, one more thing, be checking back here for some news about Decemberadio,

it looks like we are going to have them lead worship for Cornerstone real soon and maybe even do a concert for the youth. Tentatively, it looks like February 18th, which is coming up soon. I can’t wait. It’s pretty cool having a Grammy-nominated band at church and hanging out with our youth.

A Busy, But Good Weekend

December 18, 2006 — Leave a comment

This past weekend did indeed turn out to be a blur. There were way too many things going on. But it was good. We are always told to slow down and simplify, and I have even preached several messages on that as well. But sometimes, when God gives you opportunities, it is time for action. Looking back on this weekend made me thankful that I had to opportunity to tell others about Christ. Through the sermon on Sunday morning and through a beautiful wedding ceremony, the message of Christ was proclaimed.

I am just blown away sometimes at why God has picked me to tell others about him. I feel unworthy, yet excited at the same time. I feel like I am just holding on for a wild ride following Christ. Jesus never called us to a life on the sidelines, he wants us in the game. Our natural tendencies are to pull back from church activities when we are too busy. Where we spend our time, energy, and money shows where our priorities are. Why is it that when God gives us opportunities to charge, we retreat?

Here’s a quick recap;

Emma’s Ballet: Emma’s ballet production of the Nutcracker was good. AND LONGGGGGGG. But the kids and teens did a great job. Now if the high school would only install padded chairs and air conditioning.

Church Sunday Morning: The computer crashed while playing a video intro for the message. Not good, but the message must go on. I took on the passage of the Magi from Matthew 2:1-12. I really wanted to spend some time talking about the importance of truly looking for what the text actually says, not what we think it says. The message was on the importance of gifts, both giving and receiving. Overall, God really helped me through it. With work being busy this week and the wedding preparation, I just couldn’t put as much time in the message as I wanted, but I think God really took over.

Wedding: The wedding was really fun. You know things are crazy when I had to jump my car off to get to the wedding and then my car wouldn’t start after the wedding. But I truly enjoy being part of such a special time. It was good catching up with some of our former youth. Some were in grad school, one was getting married!, and others were still looking for that special someone. The wedding was short, Christ-centered, and joyful. I’m just glad I didn’t screw up anybody’s name this time. In the first wedding I officiated, during the vows, I called the husband a wife. Good for a laugh, but you really don’t want to mess up too much when they are making videotapes. Unless of course, you are planning on sending it to America’s Funniest Home Videos.

And after all the crazy stuff this weekend, I got back home from the wedding (still in my suit) and discovered … that I now live in a gated community. Our youth group thinks they have a sense of humor. Stay tuned for some pics.

What a Week!

December 14, 2006 — Leave a comment

Sorry for the lack of posting, I’ve been swamped this week.  Here’s what a crazy week looks like for me.  This weekend will be especially brutal.

  • Monday – Work all day, Elders meeting at night
  • Tuesday – Dr. Appointment in the morning, Christmas shopping with Jenni in Winston until the stores closed
  • Wednesday – Work all day, meeting with Virginia Tech Community Design Group at night
  • Thursday – Work all day, Coach Emma’s basketball team after work, then work on sermon and work on wedding
  • Friday – Work like crazy trying to catch up, try to finish up sermon for Sunday
  • Saturday – Rehearsal for wedding I am officiating on Sunday night, try to make it to Emma’s ballet’s production of the Nutcracker by skipping rehearsal dinner.
  • Sunday – Get to church early & setup, then preach in church, then get ready for wedding Sunday night, then go to reception
  • Monday – back to work


This is one of those survival weeks. I’m just glad they don’t happen too often!  But even through this, there have been great times with my wife and kids, and times to slow down and reflect about Christmas.  But it also makes you think about what is truly important and where I need to learn to say no more.  Anyway, that’s why it has been quiet around here.

Great Expectations

December 11, 2006 — Leave a comment

It’s been a busy weekend. I was able to share a message yesterday in church about our expectations of Christmas. This weekend just reaffirmed by huge respect for bi-vocational pastors. Juggling the demands of a full-time job with the responsibilities to prepare messages, minister to those in need, and most importantly, minister and be there for your family is HUGE. I really admire the pastors in smaller churches that are called to carry that load. At Cornerstone, we currently have a group of elders and teachers that share the preaching load. For me, just preaching every few weeks and planning youth meetings & events is really tough when you are busy at work.

My message this week was on Simeon & Anna from Luke chapter 2. I think this is one of those passages that is typically overlooked in our studies. By looking at the Biblical account of Simeon and Anna, we can see how their expectations of a Savior led them to action. As Christians, shouldn’t our expectations of Christmas lead us to Christ? In my studying it really hit me hard that Simeon and Anna were in the temple worshiping and waiting. Especially considering the 400 silent years between the prophecies of the Old Testament and the birth of Christ. I can’t imagine that we would be patient enough to still be looking generation after generation after generation. We forget and lose track if we don’t get an answer in a few days. Patience is definitely not woven into the fabric of the American life. But here were Simeon and Anna, devoted to seeing the Christ Child, devoted to following the leading of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

After looking at a little background from the Jewish ceremonies surrounding childbirth, we looked at four observations about Simeon & Anna and their expectations that also apply to us today.

1. Those who look for Christ will find Him.
2. They were led by the Holy Spirit
3. They knew how to Worship
4. They were ready to die, but more importantly, they were ready to truly LIVE.

So my question for you is this. Will you take the time to look for Christ during this Christmas Season? Or will you let the busyness, the inconvenience, and the distractions pull your focus to all the ‘stuff’ that takes our mind off of Christ? We say the same thing year after year, but it is so important to SIMPLIFY and focus on the Christ of Christmas. What will you expectations be for this Holiday season?

Attitude

December 5, 2006 — Leave a comment

I mentioned in a previous post about Hyman’s Seafood in Charleston. They had a quote by Chuck Swindoll posted up throughout the restaurant. It was in the bathrooms, at the checkout line, on business cards for people to take, on their website, it was everywhere. There was no question what their “mission statement” and “motto” was. And it was not only posted throughout the restaurant, it was embodied by the people who worked there. It is a quote from Chuck Swindoll.

Do the people in our church know what we stand for? Do they know what is important to us? Have they caught a vision, an “attitude”, an excitement, about following Christ? Do those members of our churches “embody” the purpose of the church? Here is the quote for you to think about.


Attitude

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than success, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company … a church … a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we embrace for that day. We cannot change our past … we cannot change the fact that people act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude … I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you … we are in charge of our ATTITUDES.

Family Friendly Services

November 30, 2006 — Leave a comment

While we were at the beach over Thanksgiving, we had the opportunity to visit Seacoast Church down in Mt. Pleasant, right outside of Charleston, South Carolina. It is probably about the 4th or 5th time we have visited while on vacation. They are a growing multi-site and now multi-venue church, and they were also recently labeled as one of the most influential churches in the country. I first learned about them through a feature article in Vision magazine. I have been listening to the sermons through their podcast for close to a year now, so I have kept up with all their new changes with the multiple venues.

Instead of going to their main service, we checked out their new FamilyLife Service which is held in the “Warehouse” which is in the same building as their main sanctuary. They have created a really cool environment for the FamilyLife service and the Unfiltered(young adult) service. It has the feel of a really cool nightclub. The FamilyLife service is really geared toward involving kids in worship, and I think they did a great job of that. The music was fun and our kids really enjoyed it. Right before the sermon, most of the kids leave the service and go to their kids activities. And their childrens areas were absolutely amazing. I have never seen a daycare as nice as the church rooms were. First class all the way. Since we were visiting and our kids knew no one, they decided to stay in the service with us. Looking around, it made us feel comfortable that there were other kids there. I don’t know how many times I have visited churches and feel like I am annoying everyone just because we have small kids. I love to hear kids talking and laughing during church, it’s a sign that the church is family friendly and that families are welcome. Show me a church that doesn’t like kids, and I’ll show you a church that is headed toward closing the doors. The main sermon is then shown via video from the main sanctuary. They had some technical difficulties getting the feed going, and they did a really good job of slipping in the video from the Saturday night service (I noticed because I was sitting near the back) It was really seamless. It’s glad to know other churches have tech problems. That shows the need to plan for the unexpected.

Here’s what I really wanted to talk about though. Although Seacoast is a growing church that I have really enjoyed, we still noticed problems with being welcomed and knowing what to do. The message was good, and we really enjoyed the entire service, but there were a few things that stuck in my mind. As a pastor, it’s nothing that really makes that much difference to me, but it is always important to know how it feels walking into the unknown. We had no problem parking, they even noticed our out-of-state plates and parked us closer. Nice touch. And we were greeted several times on our way in. But from the time we got into the service, not one person talked to us, even during the meet & greet time. And I know I should have been greeting others as well, but I really wanted to see what it was like to just hang back and see how others react. The other thing that was a little awkward was the response time of the service. From listening to their podcast, I knew that at the end of the service they offer communion, or a time to pray, or a time to go to the cross and nail your burdens to it, which I think is a really great way to get people to think about the service and what they have learned. However, this was never announced from the stage. As we were singing the closing songs, people just started getting up all around us and going to the front. We did leave after two songs(Drew was getting fussy), so they might have mentioned it at the very end, but by the time we left everyone was already back to their seats.

It really made me think about how people feel when they visit our church. Do people talk to visitors? Do they know what is going on, or do we just assume that everyone knows the routine? But the experience was good for me. I need to put myself in the shoes of others. And by going there I learned some good ideas about incorporating the kids into the service. Overall, a great learning experience for a small-town country boy.


We just got back from a long Thanksgiving weekend at the beach. We stayed at a beach house near Charleston, South Carolina with some good friends and their children. Overall with our 3 kids and their 4 kids, we had 7 kids under the age of eight running through the house and it was great. The kids had such a fun time playing and enjoying the beach. We were able to go to the South Carolina Aquarium at Charleston on Friday and see Santa in his full Santa suit dive into the big tank and feed the fish. Drew talked about Santa underwater the whole 5 hour drive back from the beach.

The picture above is at the Sullivan’s Island lighthouse on the beach. The kids played on the rocks and had a blast. The weather was definitely warm enough to enjoy the beach.

I can’t leave out the food either. We ate ribs at Sticky Fingers and got seafood down at Hyman’s Seafood in downtown Charleston. I highly recommend both as great places to take kids. The food was great as well. Have you ever been to a restaurant where you feel the staff and owners actually care about you as a customer? That is the feeling we got from Hyman’s. It was more than just serving food, it was about the atmosphere. They created an atmosphere of caring. It wasn’t because of the decorations or the surroundings, it was because of the people who worked there. The owner even came by our table and talked to our kids and gave them a coupon for free ice cream. You can see why they have been featured in Southern Living so many times. I had to ask myself, does our church convey the same feeling when people come. I’m not talking “seeker-sensitive”, I’m talking do we love and care for the people who come through our doors? If a restaurant can convey that feeling when all they have to offer is food, can’t a church do even better?

Overall this was one of our best vacations ever. Just to get away and spend some time with the family was great. We also enjoyed the time with our friends.
Good times, good weather, good food, and great kids.

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