Monday, April 30, 2007

Book #9 - In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day

At the beginning of this year I challenged the people of Charter Oak Church to get out into the open water where God does His best work. It is the place where we are most uncomfortable. It is the place where we have the least amount of strength and ability. It's when God has to take over or we will fail. I forgot about that vision for a little while. In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson reminded me of where God really wants me.

I have been comfortable for too long. I have not done anything that for it to happen it would only be by the grace of God. If you are in need of a red-hot shot of faith pumping adrenaline, then read this book. If you worship and serve a comfortable, safe god then forget it.

She's Back

After a four day absence, Kelli is safely back home. All is right at the Whitehead household again. I tell you, single parents are the most incredible people that walk this earth! I knew that Kelli was coming home. I knew I only had to hold it together for four days. Single parents do this every day! If you are a single parent, let me just say this - "you are awesome!" I'm sure your kids under appreciate you. I'm sure your co-workers have no clue what it takes to do what you do at work and at home. I caught a little glimpse. You guys rock!

Friday, April 27, 2007

A New Appreciation

I haven't posted anything for the last two weeks because I was in North Carolina with 40 guys playing golf all last week. It was totally awesome. We played 36 holes each day. I have never played that much golf in one week in my entire life. I think I played more golf last week than I did all of last year.
So I returned this week and I have been trying to "catch up" after being gone all of the week before.
I am experiencing something that is very different for me this weekend. I am usually the one in my family that travels, whether it is for business or pleasure. My wife, Kelli, rarely goes any where for an extended period of time. However, she is on holiday with her college roommates at Lake Placid, New York for four days. Yikes!
She has been gone for 24 hours and I already have a new appreciation for what she does to make our family what it is. Let me just say, she rocks!
Here's something else that I have a new appreciation for - seekers. In the last 24 hours there has been a void in my life and in the lives of my two kids. There is obviously someone missing from our lives. I can feel it very clearly, and I know my kids can as well.
This has created in me a realization of how people who don't have a relationship with Jesus walk around every day of their lives. There is someone obviously missing. The way I have compensated for this person missing in our lives is to fill our time with busyness. We have a very full weekend planned. I think the same is true for people who don't know Jesus or who have, for whatever reason, walked away from a relationship with Jesus. They fill their time with so much busyness and so much other stuff that they don't have the time or the energy to realize that void in them is because Jesus isn't there.
When I sat down this morning with my kids before school to pray for the day and for Kelli, we had the time to think about the void in our lives because she isn't here. All three of us began to cry. It hurts to have that void. If we hurt because of the void left because Kelli isn't here, then the pain in people's lives because the void they have is because Jesus isn't there is huge.
There are 31,000 unchurched people around Charter Oak Church. 31,000 people who are going through their ordinary, everyday life with a void. We need to let people in this region know that they matter to God and can have a relationship with Jesus that will fill the void that they have right now.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Influence Lived Out

I have always read that leadership is about influence. When a leader is able to gain buy-in to the vision, to be sold out to the mission, and to live out the values, then that leader has influence.

Later today I am going to be a part of the funeral service of someone from our congregation that I have been close to for most of my life. I looked at her as my second mom. This is not going to be easy for me.

As I have been preparing, I have received emails from all over the world. Emails from Japan, Australia, Switzerland, Germany, South Africa, Israel, and Estonia. All of these emails talk about the influence this woman and her hasband had on their lives. Hundreds of people will be here for the service. All paying tribute for this precious life that touched so many people.

I don't know if anyone would have pointed out that Teddie was an leader in the sense that books and journals are written. However, if those same books and journals are correct that leadership is influence, then Teddie definitely was a leader in her own right.

I give thanks to God today because of the way Teddie influenced me. I hope that I can have a portion of the influence that she and her husband Dave have had on people around the world.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Within the Christian blogging world there is a great deal being written about "Buzz." Churches want to create a buzz about what is going on there. I am one of those people who wants people in our region to know about Charter Oak Church and the God size things that are happening here. I want people to know about it, because I want them to become infected with the love of Jesus. I don't want buzz just for the sake of calling attention to our church. That happened when we were on the news twice in the last year. First, when we were still in the construction phase and we had some things stolen from the site. Second, when the pipe froze and broke, dumping hundreds of gallons of water in our chapel and in the classrooms below it. I can certainly do without that kind of buzz in the community.

The kind of buzz I want to see created around Charter Oak Church isn't actually about us. It's about what God is doing here - in and through our people. As I was doing my morning Bible study today I read this quote from Romans 1:8, "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world."

Now that is buzz. What would it look like for our faith to be spoken of throughout this region? What would it look like for our faith to be spoken of throughout Western PA? What would it look like for our faith to be spoken of throughout the world?

Here's the thing...if the point of our existence is to be spoken of, then it's pointless. It's never about the buzz. It's never about getting noticed. It's all about obedience to God. Let's keep it real. Let's keep the main thing, the main thing.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Easter Celebration

Yesterday was a glorious day for God! It has to please God to see so many join heart and voice together in praise and worship of the risen Savior. The Super Bowl has nothing on Easter!

It was a great day at Charter Oak Church. Yesterday was the first time I haven't preached on Easter Sunday since I started into the ministry 13 years ago. I didn't need to preach. It was awesome to be here and watch God at work. Here are some of my observations:
  • Pastor Dave's message had something in it for everyone. It didn't matter if you have been a faithful follower of Jesus everyday of your life, if you are an occasional attendee, if you are a Christmas and Easter attendee, or if yesterday was your first time inside of a church - there was a message of truth, of love, and of salvation offered. Great job Dave!
  • Emails are coming in from people who prayed one of the prayers of re-dedication or of salvation and I know will continue to come in this week.
  • Our leadership rocks in so many ways.
  • I asked our leadership to park off campus yesterday. I was hoping to free up 50 more parking places for our guests. Because of a late day Friday issue with the off campus parking lot we were going to use, I had to ask our leaders to park even further away. Our leaders responded beyond anything I expected!
  • On Easter Sunday we had more people serving in the First Impression ministry than I have ever seen. They were here earlier and they stayed later than usual.
  • Our Sunday school teachers hit it out of the park with the large group experience and then in the small group setting. Those kids won't forget Easter 2007.
  • The band, the choir, the soloists - all of the music was stellar!
  • There were people who gave up going to worship so that they could be in the nursery - two rooms full of our smallest guests!

I have never been a part of a church that lives beyond themselves like the people of Charter Oak Church. Right now as I type this, there are a dozen people pulling food off of a truck, at our back door, in order to distribute later this week to families in Westmoreland County. The church is officially "closed" but we never really close.

Here's what I believe we said this weekend to the people of this region.

  1. You matter to God!
  2. The way to spend eternity with God is a relationship with Jesus.
  3. We will do whatever we can to make these first two as obvious as possible.

My wife had a conversation with a family after Sunday school that was a perfect representation of what we tried to do this weekend. They commented that there were parking places available and they couldn't believe it. Kelli shared with them that we asked the leadership to park off campus and they did so others could have a place to park. They were stunned.

Oh, by the way, the chair team set up every worship chair that we own so that everyone would have a seat.

Here's what we said to our guests, there is room here for you. There is a parking place, there is a seat, there are classrooms for your children, and caregivers for your babies. Our restrooms are very clean and smell great. There is absolutely no reason you shouldn't come back. We want to partner with you to help you find your way back to God and have a great relationship with him through Jesus. Over 1,100 people heard and saw that this weekend.

All praise and glory to God on high! He is risen, indeed!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Book #8 - [Re]Understanding Prayer

As I am preparing for a series I am doing on prayer this summer, I picked up Kyle Lake's book [Re]Understanding Prayer: A Fresh Approach to Conversation with God. I wasn't looking for a "how to" book or a "7 easy steps to prayer" kind of book. I wanted something that authentically speaks into what people are seeking to do as they pray. This book definitely fulfilled that search. The honesty Kyle brings to this book on his own prayer life made it easier for me to admit that my own prayer life isn't always what I know it should be. But at the same time, Kyle makes it very clear that prayer isn't everything that so many people want to put on it.

I really enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to anyone who isn't a Pharisee.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

March Worship at a Glance

March 3/4 - I preached
675 in worship (29.1% increase from 2006)
283 in Sunday school (8.4% increase from 2006)

March 10/11 - I preached
622 in worship (11.3% increase from 2006)
258 in Sunday school (0% increase from 2006)

March 17/18 - I preached
696 in worship (17.8% increase from 2006)
273 in Sunday school (15.7% increase from 2006)

March 24/25 - Pastor Dave preached & Youth Musical
997 in worship (70.7% increase from 2006)
275 in Sunday school (11.3% increase from 2006)

Monday, April 2, 2007

Incredible Quote

This weekend I started reading Kyle Lake's book [Re]Understanding Prayer. I just have to share with you what I just read...

Why would God make Himself known to us on a personal level? Would it not be to speak truthfully to us about ourselves and the world in which we live - for our good and the good of the world? That is, there is a transformative dimension to conversation with God and a missional one as well. A transformative dimension to prayer in which God affects change in us, and a missional dimension to prayer in which God affects change through us. No doubt, at times transformative prayer takes the shape of simple wordless enjoyment of the Divine, yet we still leave changed.

Two Perspectives

This weekend I heard two totally different perspectives about Charter Oak Church. One was from a relatively new member and one was from a pastor in our community.

One of our members was talking to me about the need for courageous leadership in the Church and in our denomination today. Because of some things that are happening in our annual conference right now, he is very distressed with the direction some of our leaders at the conference level appear to be taking us. He said that he wished that those leaders would have the courage to speak the truth of the gospel as it is spoken from the platform on weekends at Charter Oak Church. I was thankful that he recognized our desire to obediently teach the truth, whether it is popular or not.

Then later in the weekend I had a conversation that revealed that there is a pastor in our community that is telling people that anyone who attends Charter Oak Church is going to hell because we don't teach the Good News of Jesus Christ. This pastor has never been in our church. This pastor doesn't know Dave, Mark, or me. He just made a blanket statement about where we are theologically.

I am struck at the difference of these two perspectives. One from someone who is from within Charter Oak Church and one that is from outside. We had nearly 800 people in worship this past weekend who heard in a very clear and concise manner the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I also know what Pastor Dave is going to teach on Easter Sunday - it will be a clear presentation of the Gospel.

One person I talked to this weekend was praising God for His work at Charter Oak Church and another person is trashing the work of God at Charter Oak Church. Why can't we all work together for the building up of the Kingdom of God?