Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Hitting Singles

Most people in the sports' world have been following Barry Bonds and his quest to break Babe Ruth's home run record and move into second place in all time home runs. He has now accomplished it.

With all the fascination with home runs it has made me think about my own desire to always hit home runs. I want to hit a home run every time I preach. I want to hit a home run every time we have a staff meeting. I want to hit a home run every time that I have a meeting with someone about faith issues.

But is it necessary or even important to hit so many home runs? Most people who hit a great number of home runs in baseball also strike out a lot. I certainly don't want to do that in ministry. I make enough mistakes as it is.

In Jim Collin's book Good to Great, he writes about the flywheel. In order to get the flywheel to turn, you have to make push after push after push. You start small and you are just trying to turn the flywheel a little bit. With every push it moves a little bit more.

I consider those little pushes in the right direction - singles. There is no way you can get the flywheel turning at a high rate of speed with a single push (home run). It is in the discipline of consistent small pushes in the right direction that gets the flywheel turning.

I am becoming more and more convinced that is true in leadership as well. We don't have to worry about the home runs. It is more important that we are disciplined in consistently building positive momentum in the direction that God is leading us.

It seems we are hitting our singles in a pretty consistent pattern around here lately. I can feel the positive momentum building. I can't fully explain it, but I know it's happening. We aren't hitting any real home runs (except maybe Pastor Dave with this Family Channel series). But I don't think that is important. God is looking for us to be faithful in the small things so he can bless us in the big ones.

It's all in the discipline of hitting singles and building positive momentum. Let God hit the home runs.

Monday Morning QB 04/29/06

Here's the Monday Morning QB for this week:

Message: The Challenge of a Great Marriage

Scripture: Selected Passages

Service Highlights: Pastor Dave got very personal as he spoke about having a God honoring message. He set the bar very high for all couples to work on their marriage for a life time. Dan did a great job of doing a Bill Cosby monologue. We baptized another student who made her confession of faith in Jesus.

Stats: 512 in worship + 165 in Sunday school

Final Notes: I think this is one of the best Memorial Day weekend attendance percentages I have ever seen at a church. Most of the time the attendance drops way off. We only had a small drop off. In comparison we only had 357 in worship last year!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Summer Sermon Series

Here's the graphic we are using this summer to promote our series. The ocean is refreshing; it is deep. The beach is fun and invigorating. These adjectives all describe God's word. I am pumped up about the various topics we will be diving into this summer!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Random Quotes

Mark Batterson:
I cited a study that found that 58% of college grads who grew up going to church stop attending church for one reason or another. I've actually seen studies that peg the number as high as 86%.These are church kids. And we're losing at least six out of ten. That attrition rate is going to kill us. It's like we're losing a generation. It's Judges 2:10: "After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel."I felt such holy conviction when I was speaking yesterday. I said, "I'm not in the camp that says what's wrong with them. The real question is: what's wrong with us."If the church was doing it's job--incarnating the gospel in relevant ways--I honestly don't think we'd see so many twenty-somethings leaving the church. They long for community and authenticity and meaning as much as any generation. There is a spiritual hunger. But evidently they aren't finding what they're looking for in the churches they grew up in.

Andy Stanley:
"Preaching is a performance. Preachers are performers. But unlike the comedian, we are expected to more than entertain. We are expected to be educational, inspirational, theological, and engaging all at the same time. So there we stand. All alone. All eyes on us. Waiting. Expecting. Hoping. And did I mention that we have to talk to the same audience week after week? Did I mention that all week long they have been driving around in their cars listening to my dad, Chuck Swindoll, Ed Young, and Sean Hannity. Whose idea was this?"

First Time Visitor this weekend:
I came today because someone invited me because they thought I might be interested in the topic. Boy, were they right! I am getting divorced and the man that I now have a relationship with has three kids and I have three kids. This was good stuff today. I will be back next week.

Andy Stanley:
"Simply put, you have to manufacture interest. On the average Sunday morning, or whenever you communicate, your first responsibility is to pose a question your audience wants answered, create a tension they need resolved, or point to a mystery they have been unable to solve. And if you launch into your message before you do one of those things, chances are, you will leave them standing at the station."

Matthew 14:23, "And the master said to the slave, 'Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled.’”

Note sent home from Abby’s teacher:
The school year is not over. Summer vacation has not begun. We still have work to do. Some of the students have stopped doing their homework assignments. We will continue to work and learn throughout the school year.

The work we have been called to do as a staff of Charter Oak Church is of critical importance. People’s lives hang in the balance. The expectations are very high. Summer officially begins this weekend. We are at T-minus 17 weeks from taking over occupancy of the new building. Over the next three months we are going to have to lean into the power of the Holy Spirit more and more. There is a reason why God has called us to this work. He believes in us. He has entrusted a huge responsibility upon our shoulders because he believes we can do it. But we will only be able to do it through him.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Monday Morning QB 04/22/06

Here's the Monday Morning QB for this week:

Message: The Challenge of the Blended Family (Dave preached)

Scripture: Selected Passages

Service Highlights: Pastor Dave used the Brady Bunch as a platform to talk about blended families. He gave some startling statistics about how many second, third, and fourth marriages fail. One of the highlights was bringing in a couple from our church who have a blended family. Dave interviewed them in the middle of his message. Their real life words made what Dave was saying all the more real for the rest of us.

Stats: 585 in worship + 210 in Sunday school

Friday, May 19, 2006

I Guess It's Over

I guess you could say my study leave is over. I have a ton of things to get done today that would constitute "work" and not "leave." I will admit that this was one of the most helpful study leaves I have taken. I read two books and re-read another. I was able to spend some extended time in prayer and Bible study. I was able to catch up on a bunch of other reading that I have been putting off - journal articles, on-line articles, and blogs. I planned out my sermons for the summer and I have started processing the sermon series for the launch of our new facility in September.

One of the best parts of this week was to have some real, dedicated time to just think - to listen to God and discern where he is at work and how I need to be joining him in that work. I would highly recommend this week away to everyone, especially pastors. If your church community truly wants to see the best brought out in you, ask them for a week or two of study study leave that doesn't count as vacation. It is a wonderful gift from the people of Charter Oak Church to me.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


All this rain has caused me to have some concern over the work being done on our new building. You can't put on roof in the rain. And it has been raining a lot. It seems as though there has been one hurdle after another throughout this building process. God is answering my prayer when we first began. My prayer was "God let this community know you are God through this building process." There have been hurdles and God has removed them - in His time and in His way. It has been a total God-thing. I am amazed at how well God has fulfilled my prayer request. It certainly has built my faith.

So these hurdles created a curiosity in me. When in scripture has there been a time like we are going through? So my reading this morning was the book of Ezra - talk about living in the same time!

The exiles return from Babylon. The first thing they want to do is rebuild the Temple. They are coming back with nothing and yet they give so much to get the Temple started. It reminded me of our Big Event last May when we kicked off our building project. The amount of money people pledge to give that day was incredible.

As the Israelites are rebuilding the foundation of the Temple there is excitement growing. But there is also another voice rising up - dissention (Ezra 3:12). Then there is disgust in the surrounding community over the re-building of the Temple and they send letters to the king to get the work stopped. This reminded me of the work of some people in our area that tried to get our building project stopped because of a storm water issue.

Nothing was going to stop the re-building of the Temple - it is what God wanted. I believe that nothing will stop the building of our new facility, it is what God wants.

Here's the kicker for me - the end of Ezra. God has made it very clear the Temple will be re-built. There is a great time of celebration and everything seems to be going great. Then Ezra comes along and says to all the men is Israel that they have been unfaithful to God by inter-marrying with foreign women. They are convicted and they send their foreign wives and children away. Everyone agrees except three men (10:15). Ezra concludes by naming names - it gives a list of every man who had intermarried! Wow!

Here's what I learned...God is more interested in our character than in a building. Our faithfulness and devotion to God is the most important thing. Nothing else matters.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Future Messages

One of the things I am working on while on study leave is my sermon messages for the future. I will give you some early insight. Here are the titles and scripture that I am going to be using this summer:
  • June 17/18 - "My Hero" Psalm 121
  • June 24/25 - "Summer Vacation" Psalm 100
  • July 1/2 - "Public Restrooms Scare Me" Psalm 84
  • July 8/9 - "Who Is God?" Psalm 50
  • August 19/20 - "Who Needs Walls?" Psalm 40
  • August 26/27 - "Put Your Seats in the Upright Position" Psalm 33
  • September 2/3 - "First Impressions Matter" Psalm 22:30-31

You are the first ones to see this. Tell your friends, Chris is going to talk about public restrooms. Those of you who know me, know I will use pictures!

Laying It on the Line

This morning I read 1 & 2 Timothy in light of making hard decisions. Paul teaches Timothy some hard truths about leading - not everyone is going to be on board with what God wants to do. That hurts. As I read Paul's words I could feel his pain. I feel the same pain. Not everyone gets on board with where God wants to lead us. People leave. People start rumors. We are all sinners. But what's important is being faithful to God - all the time.

Here's one of my favorite parts of these two letters: "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that all God's people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

What I hear Paul saying to Timothy is - "don't give up, God's word is sufficient."

Making Hard Decisions

We have a relatively new organizational structure at Charter Oak Church. We adopted it late last year and began using it January 1 of this year. Part of the new structure is the day to day activities of our church are led by the senior management team. This is a group of eight staff people who have the incredible responsibility of leading our church each day.

Even though I am on study leave, I went to our weekly senior management team meeting yesterday. I knew we were going to have some hard decisions to make. One in particular has the potential to get kick-back from people. One thing I have learned about leadership is, it takes true leaders to make tough decisions, especially when people aren't always going to agree with you.

The senior management team is relatively new. We are learning and growing as we go. But each week I see God moving in our meetings in an ever increasing way. I truly believe God is working through us. And I am convinced that God is growing our church because of some of the tough decisions we have made (like the one yesterday) are being faithful to the vision God has called Charter Oak Church to fulfill.

I pray daily for each of the people on the senior management team. I hope you will too. I love these people. Dave, Cindy, Bill, Maxine, Mark, Andi, and Betsy - you guys rock!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Monday Morning QB 05/15/06

Here's the Monday Morning QB for this week:

Message: The Challenge of Communication (Dave preached)

Scripture: Selected passages

Service Highlights: Pastor Dave kicked off a new sermon series called The Family Channel. It is a five week series that will use television families to describe different challenges that every family faces. This week the challenge was communication and we used clips from Leave It to Beaver. It was a great kick off. If you missed it, I highly recommend ordering the CD, it was a fantastic message!

Stats: 632 in worship + 227 in Sunday school

Ephesians - Your Life Matters to God

Yesterday I read 2 Chronicles. This morning I felt led to read Ephesians. The essence of what Paul writes is - your life matters to God. Before you and I knew Jesus we lived far from God. The choices we made were not based on our relationship with God, but on our relationship with this world. Jesus came to change that relationship. He died to bridge the gap between God and us. Paul writes that maturity is what God desires from our lives. We should seek to be like Jesus in every aspect of our lives down to the last detail - everything we say and everything we do.

The last part of Paul's letter to the Ephesians is particularly important to me right now. He asks for prayer for himself. His request is that he may have the boldness to speak the truth. "Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."

That is my prayer.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Gaining Clarity

I have had a problem in the past trying to explain to people my drive within the church to make changes that I know are for the best for the Kingdom of God. Since going into ministry I have had this burning desire to help transform the church.

In seminary I was taught to think theologically. Duke burned that into my brain. When I graduated, I was cocky enough to believe that they had done that. So I could teach, preach, and serve as a pastor. What they didn't teach me was how to take a dying church and a dying denomination and make it great, not just good. I thought for a while, who am I that I think I can do this? Then I began to study the people God used in the Bible to do great things. They were everyday, ordinary people that God chose to use. God does great things through people.

So I can think theologically, I can preach, and I can serve. But so can the vast majority of other pastors in my denomination and in the churches that I have pastored. So the question that has haunted me is, why aren't those churches great? Why isn't my denomination great?

The answer that kept coming to my mind wasn't theological. It was leadership. So I started reading everything I could on leadership. The only problem was that the only sector writing on leadership was the business world. I was so convinced that the difference was a leadership void in the church that I didn't care where I was getting the information, just as long as I was learning what it meant to be great.

Today, I read a monograph to accompany Jim Collins' book Good to Great - Good to Great and the Social Sectors. Collins writes about why business thinking is not the answer for non-profit organizations like the church.

"In my work with nonprofits, I find that they're in desperate need of greater discipline - disciplined planning, disciplined people, disciplined governance, disciplined allocation of resources."

"'What makes you think that's a business concept?' I replied. 'Most businesses also have a desperate need for great discipline. Mediocre companies rarely display the relentless culture of discipline - disciplined people who engage in disciplined thought and who take disciplined action - that we find in truly great companies. A culture of discipline is not a principle of business; it is a principle of greatness.'"

There it is. The thing I have been in search of is not business practices, but principles of greatness. I have been in search of this because inherently I believe that if anything on earth is going to be great it should be the church of Jesus Christ!

Thinking for a Change

What does it mean to think strategically about what to preach about for the next series, six months, year, and even three years out? What does God want us to hear? Where do we need to grow in our relationship with Him?

I was reading an article written by John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard movement. Much of the music we hear today in the contemporary Christian genre has its roots from the influence of Vineyard. It is a charismatic denomination. Wimber wrote about thinking strategically about sermon preparation. He relayed some push back that he received from many people on this kind of thinking as a charismatic. He wrote, "The Spirit of God does lead us. But once the Lord sets the direction, we organize the parade. We put the process together after God tells us what he wants done, where he wants to go. We are to get on with planning, organizing, and structuring so that we can get something done. I think that's the nature of this relationship. I think we have a collegiate responsibility with God that he has called us into."

Getting Started

I have begun my study leave. This morning I began at 6am with a work out on the tread mill. Then I spent some time in prayer. With so much to think about and so much work ahead of me, I wanted to spend some time in God's Word. I just finished reading 2 Chronicles. I wanted to read that book because it gives such a good overview of the leadership of Israel and Judah.

It kicks off with Solomon asking for wisdom and discernment to lead God's people. What a great prayer! Then we cycle through king after king after king. Some were good, some were bad. Some were faithful to God and many were not.

As went the faithfulness of the leader, so went the faithfulness of the people. It continues to be true today. As leaders of Charter Oak Church, your faithfulness and my faithfulness to God will influence the rest of our congregation. What does that mean for you? What does that mean for me?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Going on Study Leave

It's Sunday night. Survivor is taking the final vote to get the final two. I haven't watched this season. I'm not really into it. I'm listening to it while Kelli watches...goodbye Terry.

Tomorrow morning at 6am I start my study leave. I am taking a week away from the office to listen to God. I have some things that I want to work on, but I am going to try to be led by God. I want to totally schedule out this time, but I'm not.

There are so many things that I want to work on - Summer sermons, the launch of the new building, leadership development, strategic planning, etc, etc, etc. I am going to do my best to be open to what God wants to do with the next week.

I will use this space to share what God is saying, where he is leading, and how well or poorly I am listening. What an adventure!

Thursday, May 11, 2006


I want to share with you some things that have been happening around here as we fulfill our mission to make fully devoted followers of Jesus. Today I want to share with you some numbers. Not because numbers matter in of themselves but because people matter. What I have to share will prove that numbers do matter to God because people matter to God. Here they are...

77 youth have accepted Jesus since mid February.
25 new members have joined Charter Oak Church this year, over 75% by confession of faith.
23 confirmands made their public confession of faith.
10 confessions of faith in grades 1-4 this past Sunday.
Average worship attendance is up 11%.
Average Sunday school attendance is up 14%.

These are real people who have said that they want to become more like Jesus in every aspect of their lives down to the last detail. And they want to be a part of this community of faith to partner with them in the journey.

The picture is Pastor Mark and I baptizing four youth in a make shift pool. God is at work here. I am so blessed to be here!

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Monday Morning QB 05/08/06

Here's the Monday Morning QB for this week:

Message: 4D-Forgiveness (I preached)

Scripture: John 20:22-23

Service Highlights: This was the conclusion of our series on forgiveness. This is one of the most in your face sermon series I have done in a while. I told the congregation that the things we were learning were not Christianity 101, but this was much closer to PhD work. I have had so many people tell me stories of reconciliation, seeking forgiveness, and giving forgiveness. God did some great things in people's lives.

Stats: 616 in worship + 279 in Sunday school

Final Notes: Pastor Dave begins a five week series on the family. We have been heavily promoting it in the community through a variety of advertising opportunities. I am looking forward to seeing a lot of new faces.

Sunday, May 7, 2006


Thank you to those of you who read my request for prayer for Kelli's dad. His surgery went well and he is home now. They told him he would go home on Sunday and by golly he went home on Sunday. It didn't really seem to matter if he was ready to go home or not, he went.

Thanks for the prayers.

Thursday, May 4, 2006

The Latest Revelant Package

I received the latest Relevant package today. Check out what I received:

The Revolution: A Field Manual for Changing Your World
Life Beneath the Surface: Thoughts on a Deeper Spiritual Life

United We Stand Hillsong United
Phil Wickham
Reach Warren Barfield
A Greater Song Paul Baloche
Merchant Band
To Those Who Cry 1000 Generations

If you would like to borrow any of these items, let me know.

Personal Request

I would ask a personal request of anyone who reads this. Please pray for Kelli's dad. He is having surgery tomorrow.


Naked Conversations

Did I get your attention with that title? There is a new book out called Naked Conversations: How Blogs Are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel. Here's an interesting quote from the book:

“Companies need to offer something so unique, valuable, or compelling that people will want to tell others about it… The single best way to accomplish word-of-mouth publicity is not with a clever web site or tell-a-friend software or cash rewards. The best way to do this is to make something worth talking about.”

I think that applies all the more to Charter Oak Church.

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Monday Morning QB 05/02/06

Here's the Monday Morning QB for this week:

Message: Forgive for Good (I preached)

Scripture: Colossians 3:13

Service Highlights: We looked at the benefits of unleashing unforgiveness. There are physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual benefits when we bring the characteristic of forgiveness into our lives. God wants us to live a free and wonderful life. When we are unleashed from unforgiveness we begin to live in that freedom.

Stats: 480 in worship + 232 in Sunday school

Monday, May 1, 2006


I think we did a first last night at Powered Up - our student ministry. I think it was a first for the history of Charter Oak Church. We baptized four youth by immersion in the sanctuary. It was a really great night.

The students approached me about being baptized and asked if it could be done in a local river and I immediately got shivers down my back thinking about how cold that would be. Then we were going to try a family's heated pool. Finally I approached Pastor Mark and suggested that he get involved since he will be such an important person in these youth's spiritual formation.

Pastor Mark purchased an inflatable pool, laid plastic all over the sanctuary and we dunked our four students with a ton of youth watching and cheering these new brothers and sisters in the faith. I was so blessed to be a part of it. You could see the excitement in these students' eyes - those being baptized and those who were watching. God is certainly moving!