I have cut back on the number of posts here on the blog over the past year. It has been an intentional decision based on the time I have available after pastoring a church and spending time with my family. God has been teaching me about the importance and power of relationships in our lives. I think we are at an important crossroads in our culture today. We can hide behind our mobile devices and forget we have been blessed to truly live life to the fullest.
We must find a balance between virtual and real life. Let’s put down our devices and look up. Let’s make time to strengthen and build relationships. And let’s not forget that God has placed us here to live in community with others, encouraging each other as we worship and learn together. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
We just finished our latest sermon series called Foundations at Cornerstone. Our goal was to focus on basic foundational truths that every believer should know and understand. Sometimes, it’s good to just focus on the basics. I have been surprised throughout the series at the positive response from our mature believers. I think pastors tend to forget that many people struggle with doubt and confusion about what they believe.
We focused this series on questions that people have about their faith.
Can I trust the Bible?
Who is Jesus?
Why is the resurrection important? (Easter Message)
What is our responsibility?
I created the graphics for this series using simple stock graphics and iMovie. It was quick, but I hope it shows what you can do with simple tools and a limited budget. Here is the opening video for the series.
I love hearing stories of growth and life change, and God moved throughout this series.
One person shared how much our church has helped him overcome his addiction. His comment was that he has never experienced people who truly care about him
One person shared how they were fearful of messing up and losing their salvation. When they understood what it truly means to have faith in Christ, they were set free from worry and fear of messing up
Multiple people trusted Christ for salvation
Two people who had a previous conflict reconciled and asked forgiveness
Each week I hear stories like these. It never gets old seeing God work miracles in our church!
At our First Wednesday Service last week, our focus was on family worship and discipleship. I shared several resources to help you lead your family. Here are just a few of the resources we recommend.
Rightnow Media is a great website that gives Cornerstone attenders access to over 3500 video Bible studies and children’s videos. To signup, please go to www.mycornerstone.org/rightnow to request your login information (if you do not attend Cornerstone, please contact your church about signing up for this great service). Once you are registered with the site, you can access it here. Not only do they have great videos for your children to watch, they also offer great Bible studies on topics like parenting and marriage.
It Starts at Home Bible Study
This is one of the video Bible Studies available through Rightnow Media. Here is the description for the study
Who is shaping what your kids believe?
In these busy, hectic days we take our kids to sports practices, games, music lessons, school tutoring and other activities to give our children the best opportunities for success. But what if we’re missing the chance to teach them what matters most?
Our children can grow up smart, athletic, popular and polite but lack a vibrant relationship with Christ. The few hours they spend in church each week can be helpful, but it cannot nurture a faith in our kids that will withstand the trials that are on the horizon. Church alone cannot teach them, we must start at home. But many parents feel ill equipped to develop the faith of their children.
In these six sessions, we will explore biblical and tangible ways that parents—couples, single parents, blended families and grandparents—can build a legacy of faith for their children. Each session includes interviews with everyday parents talking about their own doubts, fears and desires. Gary Thomas, Matt Chandler, and Kurt and Olivia Bruner provide powerful teaching that will help you give your kids what they need to build a solid framework for lifelong faith.
The same Bible app that is available for adults is also available for children. Check out www.bible.com/kids to find out more information about this interactive mobile app for children.
New City Catechism
The New City Catechism is a way to teach faith and doctrine to children and adults through the use of questions and answers. There are 52 question and answers that are taught through videos, commentaries, and even songs. This is a great way to spend time together as a family going deeper in your faith. You can access it online or through an iPad app.
Today many churches and Christian organizations publish “statements of faith” that outline their beliefs. But in the past it was expected that documents of this nature would be so biblically rich and carefully crafted that they would be memorized and used for Christian growth and training. They were written in the form of questions and answers, and were called catechisms (from the Greek katechein which means “to teach orally or to instruct by word of mouth”). The Heidelberg Catechism of 1563 and Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms of 1648 are among the best known, and they serve as the doctrinal standards of many churches in the world today.
Next Steps to Grow in Your Faith
Finally, our church has a detailed plan to help you grow in your faith. We encourage you to work through this as a family. Click here to read more and complete a personal Spiritual Growth Plan for both you and your family
I finished reading a pre-release copy of Perry Noble’s new book Overwhelmed a few weeks ago. I’ve always enjoyed listening to Noble preach, and I have been able to visit NewSpring on several occasions for conferences. This book really caught my interest because of where I’m at in ministry and life. I really liked that Perry is open and honest with his personal struggles. He shares about his battle with depression and anxiety. He shares from numerous Bible stories, like the story of Daniel. From Daniel he shares the theme of the book about our focus in life.
This theme runs through the entire book: what gets our attention will ultimately determine our direction. If we are obsessed with stressful circumstances, we will constantly be overwhelmed. But if we are obsessed with Christ, we will overcome.
In Christ we can overcome any situation, no matter how out of control things seem or how overwhelmed we may feel. Typically, we try to find a way out of stressful situations, instead of trying to find Jesus in the midst of our situation. As Christians, I think we know this, but we tend to be distracted by our problems. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by life. Noble has the unique gift of challenging you in your faith while being humorous at the same time.
For me personally, this was a timely book. As a pastor, I am in a season of life where our church is growing. However, our staffing and leadership is still developing and growing to handle the increase. The expectations and demands of leadership do feel overwhelming at times, and I am growing physically and mentally tired. This book, in addition to several more I have recently read, have led me on a journey to simplify and to recharge. Our society rewards busyness and action, yet the Bible commands us to slow down and rest.
I highly recommend this book to people who are struggling with the circumstances of life. Noble continually points us back to Jesus as our hope and strength. Read through the following highlights to get a better understanding of the book.
Are you willing to settle for being overwhelmed by circumstances forever, or do you want to step up and overcome what is robbing you of joy and life?
Change begins with a decision: overwhelmed or overcome?
As crazy as it may seem, the best way to conquer feeling overwhelmed is to take our eyes off what’s consuming us and get a bigger picture of what’s really important.
God is bigger than any difficult circumstances we face, any struggles we experience, any mistakes that threaten to define us. We embrace our true identity when we stop identifying ourselves by our slavery and start identifying ourselves with our Savior.
When we’re feeling overwhelmed – whether as a result of our own sin or simply from living in a fallen world, church is exactly the place we need to go for healing, not the place to hide out in camouflage, pretend we’re perfect, or leave because we don’t feel we measure up to the people around us.
Church shouldn’t be the place we run from when we’re feeling overwhelmed; it should be the place we run to. After all, church is the place where Jesus meets us and changes us into who we need to be.
My prayer for you is that no matter what you’re going through, you will experience hope. God can and will walk with you through this, but you must have the courage to admit you have a problem, accept help, and then ask God to reveal what’s broken inside of you.
The devil doesn’t want to make you bad; he wants to make you busy. Because if he can make you busy, then eventually he can make you bad. Busyness always keeps us from recognizing Jesus.
Most anxiety and stress in our lives can be traced back to a point where we decided we were going to take control rather than believe that God is in control.
The weight that is pressing down on you doesn’t have to define you, because no matter what you’re facing right now … Jesus is greater than your biggest doubt. Jesus is greater than your deepest regret. Jesus is greater than your impossible situation. Jesus is greater than your most overwhelming circumstances.
Disclosure: I received a free digital pre-release copy to review. See my full disclosure policy here
Since the beginning of Cornerstone, we have been blessed with talented youth who have served in our worship ministry. I love the fact that youth have a place to serve and get involved and develop their talents and gifts. Four of our Cornerstone youth, including my son Luke, participated in a music competition today called Voices of the New River. They won the competition and now get the opportunity to spend time in the recording studio working on a CD.
It’s exciting to see teens find purpose and grow in their faith. And seeing my own son, who just turned 14, develop into a great musician is very humbling. I’m excited about the future of our youth ministry. Here are a few videos showing their talents. Hannah has an incredible voice, and Luke, Philip and David are awesome. But I’m most proud of their strong faith in Christ.
Here is a recent Church Service where our youth team led worship at Cornerstone
In any organization, keeping everyone on the same page is a challenge. Some people like email, some like twitter, some like text messaging, and then some just like to talk on the phone. I’ve been checking out the HipChat service and thinking how it can be used for ministry. This seems like it would be a perfect fit for ministry teams that aren’t afraid of technology.
It’s free for up to 5 users, but after you add the 6th user, the service starts charging $2 per user per month. I especially like the possibility of using this for volunteer ministry teams. It’s tough getting everyone together at the same time, so private group chats are a great way to share information and still keep everyone informed. Each user can jump in at their convenience, and add comments and see a history of the group conversation.
HipChat is also available on multiple platforms. They have Mac, Windows, Linus, Android, iOS, and website apps. Here are just a few of the key features.
For two more days, you can take advantage of a great deal on youth ministry resources. Only144.com is a website that shares great deals for ministry resources for only 144 hours. The current deal is winding down, but it’s a great bargain.
Here are the deal details
-This deal ends at NOON (eastern) on Thursday, March 13, 2014 and only lasts 144 hours.
-This deal includes $1,246+ worth of Youth Ministry Curriculum, more than a year’s worth, from Wayfarer. We’ve listed each series that’s included below. Each 4-week series’ is biblically based, relevant, creatively fresh, and designed to engage the heads, hearts, and hands of your students. These are perfect for any youth-ministry setting. Sweeeet!
-Instant download (no shipping required)
We love Wayfarer, which is part of the 3DM organization. Last year, we even took our youth group to the Wayfarer Camp at Myrtle Beach. They have a huge focus on missional discipleship, and I feel they do an incredible job of connecting with students. Their videos and graphics are a little quirky and have a steampunk feel, but they are a lot of fun.
This deal is for 14 different youth series that are each four weeks long! That’s over a year’s worth of curriculum. Each series includes
Series Intro Video
Check out Only144.com for this great deal, but do it before March 13 at noon.
I finished this book a few weeks ago and wanted to share my thoughts. This is the type of book I really enjoy. I love learning from other experienced pastors, and this book is full of practical wisdom and advice. I was especially interested in this book since I recently finished up my seminary degree. The author, James Emery White, is both a successful pastor and a former seminary president, so he knows what he is talking about. I fully agree with his reasoning behind the book.
We need seminary. But in fairness to a seminary education, there are certain things it will never be able to impart, even if it tries. God bless professors, but most of them have never been the pastor of a church. They may have been interim pastors or had a short-term pastorate while in seminary, but they are, in truth, academics. They are not practitioners.
I saw this first hand in several of my classes. There was a disconnect between the academic world and real-life ministry. Seminary really doesn’t prepare you at an emotional level to lead a church. It is not always easy helping people in crisis situations or resolving conflict within teams and ministries of your church. This book shares principles that will help any pastor lead their church. The author shares about church structure, leadership, boundaries in ministry, parenting, conflict resolution, preaching, team-building, vision-casting, and much more. Again, I really enjoyed this book. It’s the perfect blend of practical instruction and Biblical wisdom.
Here are a few passages I highlighted from the book
First, the bad news: there’s not a quick fix. Ministry is just flat-out tough and often emotionally draining. You won’t ever escape the hits and the hurts. They come with the territory. Now, the good news: you can develop a way of life that protects, strengthens, and replenishes you emotionally. You can cultivate a set of activities and choices that allow God to restore your soul.
There is a myth that churches are successful because they do certain things; in truth, churches are successful because they know why they do certain things. In other words, they have a clear missional target on the wall.
Leaders must look deeper than the latest model or program, conference or style, and realize that the process inherent within a thriving church has not changed in two thousand years: you must evangelize the lost, then assimilate those evangelized, then disciple those assimilated, and then unleash those discipled for ministry.
Do ministry not from memory or mimicry but from imagination. This means you are the originator, the creator, the one who is fashioning new solutions and opening new vistas.
What are the consequences of my decision in ten minutes, in ten months, and in ten years?
I made a vow: we will not die of old age! If the natural flow of the church is to skew older, then that means the leadership of the church has to invest a disproportionate amount of energy and intentionality in order to maintain a vibrant population of young adults.
Committee: The unwilling picked from the unfit to do the unnecessary.
Church structure may be the single most underrated dynamic of effective church ministry. I’ve even called it our biggest “secret” to success. Why? Because church structure either releases the gift of leadership or stymies it. And churches rise and fall on leadership.
For example, committees keep the people who are doing the ministry from making the decisions about the ministry. Authority and responsibility become separate from one another. An effective structure lets the individuals who are the most intimately involved in a particular ministry, and the best qualified, make the day-in, day-out decisions regarding that ministry.
Do only what only you can do. Delegate everything else.
I am a former design engineer who now pastors Cornerstone Community Church in Galax, Virginia. I'm passionate about following Jesus and I love technology. I've been married to Jennifer for 19 years, and we have three awesome kids, Emma, Luke, and Drew.