Wednesday, November 29, 2006

What Will You Give This Year?

Last year I challenged our congregation to think differently about giving gifts to those people in their circle of influence. This past week I lifted up the incredible power of influence - that others have over us and that we have in other people's lives. So you have a group of people that you have influence in their lives. What would it look like for you to influence them to think differently about giving this Christmas?

Here is the link for World Vision. This is the site where you can purchase a goat, a wheel chair, a well to drink fresh water, and a whole host of other opportunities to bless people you will never know this side of heaven.

When you give someone in your circle of influence a gift from World Vision you are opening up the pipeline line to a spiritual conversation as to why you would do something so counter-cultural. It's a great opportunity to share what God has done in your life through your relationship with Jesus.

Here's to providing people in a distant land with much needed resources and to providing the opportunity to help someone who doesn't know Jesus another step closer to a changed eternity.

2007 Book Purchases

I was asked by my lovely wife if there are any books on my "wish list" for Christmas. I always have a list going of what I want to purchase next on my book list. So I thought I would share with you my top 12 books I am going to purchase and read in 2007. They are listed in alphabetical order by author.

Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith
by Rob Bell

First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently
by Marcus Buckingham

Now, Discover Your Strengths
by Marcus Buckingham

The Big Idea: Focus the Message - Multiply the Impact
by Dave Ferguson

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It
by Michael E. Gerber

Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking
by Malcolm Gladwell

Chasing Daylight: Seize the Power of Every Moment
by Erwin Raphael McManus

A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shares Spiritual Leaders
by Reggie McNeal

Creating Community: Five Keys to Building a Small Group Culture
by Andy Stanley

Momentum for Life: Sustaining Personal Health, Integrity, and Strategic Focus as a Leader
by Michael Slaughter

The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus' Essential Teaching on Discipleship
by Dallas Willard

Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
by N.T. Wright

I am sure that as new books are released next year that this list will grow. I also have a list of books I am planning on reading next year that I already own. I will try to put together a list of the books I already own and will read next year. That will be a long list, but it may be worth while to post. I'll try to remember to do it by the end of next week.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Deal or No Deal - Last Night

As we are in the middle of this series called Deal or No Deal: Making Decisions that Honor God, I watched the lastest episode of the game show last night. I laughed so hard. The guy that was on it was one of the best I have ever seen. He was doing so well at the beginning, but as the show went on, he started to spiral downward quickly. He left the show with $10. The highest amount offered to "buy him out" was over $200,000. Wow!

This weekend I will be finishing the series with a look at Income - Making Decisions that Honor God. I have been praying and wrestling about how to present this year's message of asking people to pledge for next year's ministry.

At first I thought about just laying it all on the line and do a very deep, spiritually mature message. Then I began to realize that we have grown so much over the last year. There are a ton of new Christians here. There are people who are coming in our doors for the very first time. How do I balance this? I know there are people who are ready to be challenged to give beyond ten percent. I also know there are people who don't give anything.

If you have a few moments would you please pray for me? Ask God to give me the discernment and the wisdom that I will need to hear from Him. I want to speak His truth in love in such an authentic way when it comes to our income. I don't want to be a hurdle in people's lives as they seek to be more like Jesus.

Our God Reigns

I was reminded again this past weekend that our God reigns supreme. It was one of those weekends that can only be explained by the hand of God. First of all, I thought that since we would just be coming through Thanksgiving that we would have a very low attendance. We didn't; we just keep increasing every week. I can't explain it other than to say it is a God thing.

Second, I thought the Saturday night service was just plain strange. I can't put my finger on what it was that stood out for me, but I never was able to get into the flow of the Holy Spirit. Because of how things went on Saturday night, I thought the whole weekend would be a disaster.

Then on Sunday morning something began to happen, at least in me. I could feel the momentum of God's presence building in me and it seemed in the people who were coming in our doors. I felt a spirit of joy and thanksgiving in people. It was just awesome to see and hear people coming to our church ready to worship God.

I know I will never fully understand God. This weekend was a prime example of me trying to but failing. I am so thankful that our God reigns. I don't want to do this without Him. I know I will fail. I don't want to fail. The stakes are way too high. People's lives hang in the balance. I don't want to stay where I am, I want to move with God faithfully and obediently.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Soccer Coaching Clinic

This past weekend I spent 18 hours with about 30 men and women learning to be a better soccer coach from PA West Soccer. In the middle of preaching all weekend I also was running around Pitt @ Greensburg learning and developing as a soccer coach.

I have to tell you, this was one of the best learning environments I have ever been a part of. Part of the time was in a classroom as the facilitator walked us through techniques of coaching - what to do and what not to do. The other part of the time was actually spent on the field with hands-on learning of how to be a better coach. It was totally awesome.

I have been playing or coaching soccer for most of my life. I learned that I am "a stupid American coach." All of the facilitators were foreigners. Pretty much everything I have learned about how to coach soccer was blown out of the water. It was a humbling and an exciting experience. It was humbling because I thought I knew so much about soccer and how to bring the best out of the guys I have been coaching. It was exciting because if the teams I have coached have had success with me doing everything wrong, that means that we should be phenomenal using what I learned this past weekend!

During the on-field sessions the facilitator would explain to us what he expected of us, then he would let us try to implement it. As he would see "coaching" moments he would stop, give us a praise for what he saw us doing well, then he would correct what he saw wrong, then he would show us the correct way to do it, then he would allow us to try the activity again coaching us as needed for us to get it right, and then finally he would release us back to the activity at full speed. It was great stuff. When the session was over, he would take the time to review what he expected and what we should have learned, then he would ask us for any questions that we might have that we needed clarification on.

This week I have been thinking about how I can apply that to my leadership at Charter Oak Church and how we all as leaders can apply this model of coaching in our homes, work places, or wherever we are in a leadership position. Good, good stuff!

Six Steps and Five Quotes

Yesterday I received an email asking me why I wasn't blogging. My initial reaction was, it hasn't been that long since I posted anything, had it? Well, it has been too long. Sorry about that.

This past spring, Leadership Journal shared the following six steps and five quotes by volunteer management expert Don Simmons on equipping volunteers:

  • Training. “If it is important enough to do, it’s important enough to train volunteers in how to do it!”
  • Affirmation. “We often forget that people need to know that they matter more than what they do.”
  • Feedback. “Authentic, love-based feedback does much to develop servants into strong leaders.”
  • Evaluation.
  • Recognition. “Recognition acknowledges people for what they do.”
  • Reflection. “What did you learn about yourself? People decide in the reflection whether they will do this again and if they will let it change their lives.”

I think this list is great. What strikes me is that there wasn't a comment about evaluation. I would say that evaluating volunteers is probably the most difficult aspect of leading. I would also say that it is one of the most valuable because it helps those who are volunteering to know exactly what we want and what we don't want. Evaluation is part of the feedback and recognition process.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Little Reading

While I was away I was able to get a little reading done. The first book I read was Monday Morning Leadership by David Contrell. This was a great little book that didn't take very long to read but it had plenty of pearls of wisdom. One of the first things I wrote down was from the first chapter - "When it comes to leading people, there is no problem that is unique to you. So don’t feel sorry for yourself. That’s a waste of time. Just make plans to make things better. If you want to be extraordinary, the first thing you have to do is stop being ordinary."

The second book I read was Just Walk Across the Room:Simple Steps Pointing People to Faith by Bill Hybels. This was a very inspiring book. It challenged me and how I develop relationships with people. If you attend Charter Oak Church, I can promise you that you will be hearing more information from what I read. "I'm asking you to give up everything you have and everything you are for the sake of people's souls. Come with me, and you'll see what real living is all about!"


One of the spiritual disciplines that I teach about is solitude. It is a discipline of abstinence. That means I intentionally refrain from doing something, in this case, being around people. I will be completely honest with you, I did not like being in solitude. The first night, when I would have normally been tucking my kids into bed, I was alone. I started to pace and I started to just long for the company or the voice of someone else.

So instead of giving in to the urge to call Kelli, I began to worship God. For over an hour I just poured out my heart to God in worship. It was a good thing there were no other people staying in the cabins around me. I turned up the music and I sang out loud with all that I am. Instead of relying on other people for my energy (which is the definition of an extrovert) I found my strength and comfort in my relationship with God.

I truly believe that I would not have had that level of intense worship if I was not practicing the spiritual discipline of solitude. If I would have just tried to do this time with God at home, it would not have been anything like what I experienced in those woods. I didn't bring an agenda that night for God to fulfill. I didn't ask God to show me anything or to say anything to me. I just came as a sinner. I knelt before the throne of God and proclaimed that my Heavenly Father is God and I am not.

I slept amazingly well that first night.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Alone with God

Last week I took some vacation time to go away to a small cabin in the woods to spend alone with God. I am hoping that throughout this week I will spend some time sharing my alone time.

I couldn't have picked a better week to go away. The weather was perfect. I was able to take long walks in the woods and around the nearby lake every day, some days more than once. The sun was brilliant through the falling leaves. The Son was brilliantly revealed in my heart and soul as I sought to sit at the feet of my heavenly Father.

The two words that I will be writing about and will continue to pray about are FAITHFUL and OBEDIENT. Every day, every walk, every prayer time, every down time these two words continued to invade me and consume me. I cannot fully express in words what God was doing in me as I wrestled with the true living out of FAITHFUL and OBEDIENT.

The questions that I kept asking was...what does it mean for me as a disciple of Jesus to be FAITHFUL and OBEDIENT? What does it mean for our staff to live out FAITHFUL and OBEDIENT? What does it mean for our congregation to live out FAITHFUL and OBEDIENT?

More about my time is coming later...

Friday, November 3, 2006

Compel Them

I asked what does it mean to you to compel people to come to Jesus. I have been thinking about that a great deal lately. We have seen incredible growth around here lately, to the point that I am wondering when we need to start the process for the next building phase because we are already maxed out in a variety of places. We are using over flow parking already. The children's Sunday school area is five times bigger than our old building and yet, we will soon be struggling with overflow of kids. We are ramping up for 1,000 in worship. These are all awesome things!

So if this kind of growth is happening why in the world would I be writing about compelling people to come to Jesus? Well, for me, it's not about how many people we have coming now, it is the people who are not in a relationship with Jesus that matter the most. Jesus said he came for the lost and the sick, not the healthy. Over sixty percent of this region is unchurched! That should set us on fire.

I believe God has positioned Charter Oak Church to be a place where people feel welcome and loved. I believe God is raising up a mother load of people who genuinely love Jesus and want to share that love with people who do not know him.

I believe that to compel people to come to Jesus we are going to have to build relationships with people in our circle of influence so that they can discover that we care about them and we love them. Then we can invite them to Charter Oak Church so they can learn why we love and care the way that we do. And when they get here, we must have a building full of people who are totally sold out to Jesus and his character.

Compel is an action verb. We can't just expect people to come to Jesus because we have a really cool building. We are going to have to get involved in people's lives, not to bring them to church, but to point the way to Jesus.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Compel Them to Come in

As I was doing my morning time with God, I came across Luke 14:23, "Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full."

I know I have read this passage so many times, but I was reading in a different version this morning (TNIV). God wants us to compel people to come into His Kingdom. Wow!

This may just become one of my rallying passages for my life and ministry. Compel them to come in...compel them to come in...compel them to come in.

In a day when the Church is moving farther and farther away from being relevant and the society around us is moving farther and farther away from God, I read this very simple but profound passage - compel them to come in.

What does the word compel mean to you?

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Worship and Sunday school Stats

I just published the worship and Sunday school statistics for the month of October. We are having God size growth. Last weekend we broke a new record for Sunday school attendance - 320!! That's awesome! We had 669 in worship! The phenomenal thing about that is I saw so many people I didn't know. People are checking God out.

What about you, are you stepping up and inviting people to check God out at Charter Oak Church? Are you finding ways that you can insert yourself into people's lives who do not have a church home? I know you know some one who needs Jesus. 65-70% of this region doesn't attend church. Let's make a dent in that!

Keep up the good work, keep inviting, keep praying for your unchurched friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members. Keep looking for those God moments that we have every day to live the character of Jesus. It is so awesome to join God where he is at work!

October Worship at a Glance

Sept 30/Oct 1 - I preached
591 in worship (56.8% increase from 2005)
255 in Sunday school (5.4% increase from 2005)

October 7/8 - I preached
555 in worship (13.5% increase from 2005)
270 in Sunday school (16.4% increase from 2005)

October 14/15 - Dave preached
615 in worship (37.3% increase from 2005)
250 in Sunday school (40.5% increase from 2005)

October 21/22 - Dave preached
577 in worship (72.3% increase from 2005)
231 in Sunday school (2.2% increase from 2005)

October 28/29 - Dave preached
669 in worship (45.1% increase from 2005)
320 in Sunday school (34.5% increase from 2005)