This video has been making the rounds on Facebook in our hometown of Galax. I love how it highlights the community and shows our culture here in the mountains. One of the keys for any church is understanding and connecting to the culture in your city. God has currently placed Cornerstone right in the heart of downtown Galax, so this is our mission field. Watch and enjoy.

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I’ve been a huge fan of using WordPress for church websites. WordPress doesn’t require a web expert, you only need to have someone that is familiar with web hosting and is willing to learn.  When you find a great church WordPress theme, you can have an incredible church website at a fraction of the cost of a larger web design company. I first became familiar with the work of Steven Gliebe when I purchased his Risen WordPress theme to use for our church website.  I found a theme that was top notch and easy to work with. It has been easy to customize and Steven really does a great job with documentation and support. So when he decided to start a new site dedicated to church WordPress themes, I was excited to see the results.

churchthemes.com is already off to a great start. Their first theme called Resurrect has an urban feel to it and I’ve been waiting for a church to ask me to use it for a new website. It really looks easy to work with and customize. They also have a new theme called Exodus coming out soon. It has a flat design style and will work great with wider displays.

One of the reasons I really like churchthemes is their commitment to promote best standards in WordPress coding and design. By moving many of the church specific functions into the Church Theme Content WordPress plugin, they have tried to future proof your WordPress site so that you will not lose your information when you switch to a newer theme. I’m really hoping that other church WordPress theme shops will start using this plugin.

Again, I highly recommend churchthemes.com based on my prior experience with them. Great support and the price is right at $50 upfront and $25 per year for continued support and updates. If the thought of setting up a hosting account, uploading themes, and customizing graphics and backgrounds scares you, then look for a post next week reviewing another great solution for church websites.

I also work with a limited number of churches designing and implementing new websites. If you like the look of churchthemes and would like me to help set it up and host the site, please check out my site FEDesign

Leading on Empty I finished reading through the book Leading on Empty last night. It’s been on my reading list for a while, and I’m glad I finally read through it. Wayne Cordeiro, Pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship in Hawaii, wrote this book based on his personal journey through burnout and depression while leading a growing church. While I’m not to the point Cordeiro reached, I do see warning signs in my life that I need to address.

Our church has been blessed with growth, but that also brings leadership challenges. For our church size, we are understaffed, and that means there is always more to do than time to do it. The last year has been tough for me, both physically and emotionally. Quite simply, the work of a Pastor is never done, and you are never truly off. Cordeiro shares some statistics that are frightening.

In H. B. London Jr.’s great work Pastors at Greater Risk, we find these startling statistics:

  • 80 percent believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively.
  • 33 percent say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
  • 75 percent report they’ve had a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.
  • 50 percent feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
  • 90 percent feel they’re inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands.
  • 25 percent of pastors’ wives see their husband’s work schedule as a source of conflict.
  • Those in ministry are equally likely to have their marriage end in divorce as general church members.
  • The clergy has the second highest divorce rate among all professions.
  • 80 percent of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse.
  • 56 percent of pastors’ wives say that they have no close friends.
  • 45 percent of pastors’ wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual burnout.
  • 52 percent of pastors say they and their spouses believe that being in pastoral ministry is hazardous to their family’s well-being and health.
  • 45.5 percent of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
  • 70 percent do not have someone they consider a close friend.

This book has really reaffirmed my commitment to and my need to honor the Sabbath. I am also planning an extended time of rest later in the year for a sabbatical. I started at Cornerstone almost seven years ago, and it has been non-stop ever since. This book shares several practical principles to help you stay connected to God so that you can lead with a full tank. I plan on implementing a personal retreat day each month to help me stay focused on my calling. This is a book I highly recommend to other pastors and leaders.

Here are a few quotes from the book

  • Congregants expect pastors to preach the finest sermons in town, and when one weekend’s message is completed, it’s time to start work on the next one. One pastor told me it’s like giving birth on Sunday; then on Monday you find out you’re pregnant again!
  • Long-term stress depletes the normal fuel produced biochemically by hormones and secreted into the brain and nervous system. These endorphins and other peptides produce an analgesic effect. Once these serotonins are exhausted, adrenaline has to be produced to take their place. Soon an addiction to adrenaline puts a demand on your body for greater amounts. Adrenaline, also known as epinephrine, is secreted in increasing rates, and your body becomes dependent on this powerful chemical to meet deadlines, get reports ready, and rise to the expectations of others—or your own.
  • It may be a legitimate concern, but it is not our responsibility. Don’t rush past that last sentence. Learning the difference between a concern and a responsibility may save your ministry, your family, and your sanity.
  • What has God called you to do? What will He hold you accountable for at the end of your life?
  • Life is all about choices. When you cut away all of the junk, every situation is going to be a choice. You choose how to react to certain situations. You choose to be thankful, or you choose to be worried. You choose to gain God’s insight, or you choose to be blinded by anger. You choose the life that you will live.
  • The leader who is running on empty has just enough energy to sustain himself for the next step; the emotional reserves are thin. He must know how to keep his stride and not deplete his resources. To do so once is a lesson hard-learned. To repeat it again is just plain dumb.
  • of the greatest lessons I’m learning (and yes, I am still learning it) is that rest is not sin. Taking a break doesn’t mean you’re lazy or that you’re not as valuable. Catching your breath now and then doesn’t mean you’re not carrying your load, or that you are somehow less than committed to your church, your company, or your calling.

 

nehemiah

This past Sunday, we started a new series at Cornerstone on the book of Nehemiah. I have been wanting to preach through Nehemiah for several years, so I am excited to finally start working through the book with our church.

brick_logoWe are using some of the devotional materials from the American Bible Society as we go through this series. They provide a reading plan, a small group guide, and a 40-day devotional entitled Brick by Brick. My hope is that this study will help us as we strive to serve our community and share the Gospel message.

I took the graphics from the Brick by Brick series and made a quick sermon video introduction for Cornerstone using Keynote. I think the story of Nehemiah would make a great movie, so I incorporated a cinematic sound track with the video. Nehemiah is a hero that refuses to give up. Here is the video.

Here are some other books that have been helpful in my preparation for this study

 

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iDisciple is a new app that provides a personalized catalog of resources to help you grow in your faith. Over the past few weeks I have been trying out the app and it looks promising. They provide limited content for free, but offer a full experience with a huge amount of content for $4.99 per month. The app provides you with a customized listing of articles, podcasts, sermons, and resources based on your interests. For me, the monthly cost is a deterrent, but for only the cost of a cup of coffee each month you do receive great content. Much of the content can be found for free online, but the app does a good job of bringing the content together in an easy to use interface.

iDisciple is now available for both iOS and Android, and you can also access the content online through their website.

Have you tried it yet? If so, leave a comment and let me know what you think.

iDisciple makes it easy to receive personalized content based on your preferences and needs. With thousands of sermons, devotionals, eBooks, articles, Bible studies, blogs, podcasts and an in-app Bible – there’s something for everyone.

 

Enjoying A Little Snow

January 15, 2014

Just another beautiful day in the mountains

Over the past few weeks, I have been putting together a tool for our church. We have taken the mission and vision of our church, and combined it with a process to help people develop a Spiritual Growth Plan. Our elder team is passionate about helping people grow in their faith, and this tool is just another way we can help people grow. Here is what we did:

  • First, we created a brochure that shows how our events and activities relate to our mission and vision. This brochure has a section of next steps that people can take to grow in the three main relationship areas of their life. Their relationship with God, their relationship with others, and their relationship with the world.
  • Second, we incorporated this information into our website at www.mycornerstone.org/next.  On our website, people can create a customized Spiritual Growth Plan based on our activities and resources from Cornerstone. The plan is then emailed to them as a report.
  • Finally, we incorporated this same Spiritual Growth Plan into our church mobile app, so that people have yet another way to utilize what we have created.

Our goal is that this tool will be continually updated with new resources and activities at Cornerstone. A Spiritual Growth Plan is a way to be intentional about becoming more like Christ.  Our Sermon Series Next shares more about our plans and vision for Cornerstone. Here is a screenshot from our website. Let me know your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

 

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This year I’m encouraging and challenging you to join me in reading your Bible daily. I shared last night at our First Wednesday service that you need a Bible, a pen, and a plan.

  • A Bible that you will actually read and understand
  • A pen so that you can write down what God is showing you
  • A plan so that you can see the storyline of the Bible through the Creation, Fall, Rescue, and Restoration

The plan I am starting with this year is the Essential 100 Plan. It’s a great plan to use if you are just getting started reading your Bible. Here’s more about the E100 plan.

The Essential 100 Challenge (E100) helps you get an overview of the Bible… without getting bogged down. The Plan guides you through 50 Old Testament passages and 50 New Testament passages — The Essential 100 — so you can see the big picture of God’s Word, and form a daily Bible reading habit in the process. E100 is an achievable way to have a “through the Bible” experience; it’s the Bible reading plan people love to complete.

Will you join me in reading through this plan?  Here is how you can start:

  • At Cornerstone, we have bookmarks available for you. Pick one up and check off your progress each day.
  • On the YouVersion Bible app, you can signup for the E100 plan – Check it out here – You can even listen to it through the YouVersion app if you don’t like to read
  • Download a E100 Planner here from my blog

If churches could do only one thing to help people at all levels of spiritual maturity grow in their relationship with Christ, their choice is clear. They would inspire, encourage, and equip their people to read the Bible — specifically, to reflect on Scripture for meaning in their lives. The numbers say most churches are missing the mark — because only one out of five congregants reflects on Scripture every day.” (Move, p 19)

If you are a follower of christ, don’t you owe it to yourself to read and learn about the God you are following? Join me and let’s read, learn, and discuss together!

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