Wednesday, August 27, 2008


We are putting the finishing touches on the start of our next sermon series - Breakaway.

I don't know any one who sets out to be like everybody else, but it happens. We all start swimming in the same direction in a little fish bowl called life. Then one day we wake up feeling trapped. Unfortunately many people think the answer is to run away, but they end up making the same bad decisions over and over again. How do you break the cycle and jump out of that fish bowl of life? The point of this next series is to renovate your thinking by exposing you to core beliefs that have the power to change the trajectory of your life.

If you have a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, or a family member who has been making a series of bad decisions, who is breaking hearts, who is leaving a path of destruction behind them, then invite them to come to Charter Oak Church with you during the month of September.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


With the unexpected death of Don Lash, I am reminded once again of how fragile life really is. Earlier this year I asked the people of Charter Oak Church how they would live if they knew they had 30 days to live. In moments like we are going through now, I realize that most of the time we won't know that we have 30 days to live. Therefore we must choose today to live completely and totally for the glory of God.

When I approach life with this mindset then the things I think are so important fade into the background. Instead, my heart beats faster for my family. My pulse quickens for the 33,000 people within a 5 mile radius of Charter Oak Church who do not have a church home. My drive is stronger to equip people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus. I want to go after life and after all that God has created me to be and to do. If my attitude is one of expecting to live a very long life, my tendency is to take people for granted and to be slow to engage people outside of our church. You and I must live today to the fullest.

We are all going to die, but it is in the way that we live that matters.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Passing of a Pastoral Giant

The Reverend Don Lash died on Saturday evening. Don's wife, Betty plays the organ for our traditional worship services. The following is his obituary...

The Rev. H. Donald Lash, 79, of Greensburg, passed away Saturday, Aug. 23, 2008, in UPMC Presbyterian, Oakland. He was born March 29, 1929, in Madison. A gifted preacher, he served seven churches for the United Methodist Church in Western Pennsylvania, from 1957 until his retirement in 1994. He also served as the district superintendent of the Kane District from 1989 to 1994, and sat on dozens of boards for the conference and district offices. Surviving are his wife, Betty M. Lash; his sons, Chris Lash and wife, Karen, of Palm Coast, Fla., and Dan Lash and wife, Jennifer, of Pittsburgh; his only grandson, Corey Lash, of Punxsutawney; and two brothers, Lowell Lash and wife, Sally, of West Newton, and Nelson Lash and wife, Mary Anne, of Arona. He was preceded in death by his parents, Clarence and Edith Lash; and his daughter, Karen Coleman. He was a graduate of Clarion University and Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He most recently served as the Minister of Visitation for the First Presbyterian Church of Greensburg from 1998 until the time of his death. Family and friends will be received from 1 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the KEPPLE-GRAFT FUNERAL HOME INC., 524 N. Main St., Greensburg. Additional visitation will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, with services following at 11 a.m., in Charter Oak United Methodist Church, 449 Frye Farm Road, Greensburg, with the Revs. David Eversdyke, Martin Ankrum and Chris Whitehead co-officiating. (Everyone please go directly to the church on Wednesday.) In lieu of flowers, the family wishes memorial donations to the building fund at Charter Oak United Methodist Church. Terence L. Graft, funeral director, entrusted with the arrangements. For online condolences and information, go to

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Book #17 - The Next Level

One of our staff members gave me a book earlier this week and said that I should read it and it would only take about an hour to read. It was David Gregory's new book The Next Level: A Parable of Finding Your Place in Life.

There seems to be a new movement among authors to write about business principles within a parable. Most write the parable and then explain the principles and how to put them into action. This book didn't do that. It is just the parable and the expectation is that you can decipher the principles and how to apply them.

In this case, I got the principles, in spite of the parable. I'm sure it's just me, because I have read some good reviews of this book, but I thought the parable was forced and sometimes became more about the story instead of the principles. The book is fine, but just not at the level of a Patrick Lencioni parable telling book.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I just read the following post from one of the worship leaders at North Point Community Church. Click here to read the whole post, but if you want to read what grabbed my attention read on...

And let me be clear - participation, at least as I define it, is not necessarily “hands up, eyes closed”, but rather someone’s own, unique way of connecting with their Heavenly Father. That can mean a ton of things, because it really is different for everyone. Your level of spiritual maturity and growth is not based on how loud you sing or how high you can raise your hands. But for many, many people, there comes a point in corporate or private worship when you choose to focus on God, and subsequently your soul connects with the Holy Spirit, and it moves you to an outward display of submission and adoration for your Savior. But all the while, the real connection takes place on the inside of you - in your spirit as you submit your will to God.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Book #16 - Wide Awake

The other book I read on vacation was Erwin McManus' Wide Awake: The Future Is Waiting within You. There were parts of this book that I really enjoyed and was challenged by, but there were other parts that just seemed like he was re-hashing things he has written before. If you haven't ready anything by McManus, then I would highly recommend this book to you. But if you have read most of his other books, this is a take it or leave it book for me.
I love his challenge to be creative and to make the leap to go big with God. Here's a great line for me..."We become dogmatic as a result of fear, not faith. Faith keeps you flexible and postured for change. Faith ignites courage, not conformity. Fear seeks to control; faith seeks to create. This doesn't mean you don't have convictions but that you understand what your nonnegotiables are. Some things are your core; everything else can change."
I know he is writing about our relationship with God, but I have found that the same is true with people. When I have faith in someone then I am not dogmatic, I don't seek to control. Integrity is huge for me, when I lose trust in someone because they have choosen a set of actions or words, it's not good for my relationship with them, they lose my faith.

Book #15 - The Shack

I forgot to share with you the two books I read while on vacation. My wife handed me The Shack by William P Young right before we left. I have read so many blog posts about this book so I thought I should read it to see what all of the fanfare was about.

This was a really good book. It creatively looks at the relationship we have with the Trinity, in each of the three parts. It is fiction, so Young doesn't have to get it exactly right from a theological education that I received from Duke, but I think it does get it right from a heart and intention perspective. For that I am glad I read the book.

What would happen in your life if you decided to gather on a weekly basis with a group of people to pull in the same direction - that direction being the way of Jesus? We have just started sign-ups for 24 small groups, with more to come. We have men and women's small groups. We have support groups. We have Bible studies. We have book studies. We have them just about every day of the week and at different times during the week.
We believe that the environment that creates the best context for spiritual growth is a small group. I hope that you will join a group of people pulling together to become more like Jesus in every aspect of your life, down to the last detail.

For the Heart of Your King

Pastor Mark began his first series at Charter Oak Church this past weekend. He is talking about living in such a way that we no longer "sit and discuss" but that we "go and make." What would happen if we moved from the seated position to faith in action? What is your first step to make this change?

At the end of the worship service people came forward to write their "cardboard testimonies." The life they used to live and the redemption they are now living in through Jesus.

That's what we are about at Charter Oak Church - lives changed for eternity. We want to equip people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus. About 20 people we able to stand before family and friends and declare what God has done for them and in them. Great weekend!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What We Do Matters

What you do says a lot about what you believe. I guess I have inherently known this for a very long time, but from time to time it really becomes obvious.

When I take a day off in the middle of a busy week to spend with my family, it says that I value my family over work.

When I am a little late for a meeting, it says that I don't value the other person's time.

When I return a phone call or an email within 24 hours, it says that I respect that person's need.

When I am eating ice cream right before bed, it says that I don't believe my body is the temple of the Lord.

When I tithe, it says I am thankful for what God has given me.

When I don't take care of the stewardship of leading Charter Oak Church, it says I don't respect the Bride of Christ.

I could go on and on and on about my actions and what they are saying about what I believe. Half of the ones I listed above are on the negative side, I think it is important to also list the positive things I do and what it is that I am saying as I do those as well.

What about you, what are your actions saying about what you believe? What are you doing with your family? your finances (at work & at home)? your self-care? your leadership? your busyness? I can usually tell what some one believes about a particular area by the decisions he or she makes in that area. What are you saying?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Leadership Summit 2008

Last week I attended the Leadership Summit with a good friend and partner in ministry. Together we grew in our ability to lead well. Here is just a few things that I wrote down that were very important to me. Out of all of the Leadership Summits that I have attended this ranks very close to the top, if not at the top. Here are some notes...
Session #1 - Bill Hybels: The High Drama of Decision Making
How to make a decision...
1. Does the Bible say anything on this?
2. What would smart advisers say?
3. Look at pain of past decisions, gain of good decisions, & experience of past
4. Is the Holy Spirit prompting me?
Session #2 - Gary Haugen: Just Courage - Charging the Darkness
How are people to believe that God is good? The church is God's plan to make God's goodness evident to the world.
If you want your leadership to matter then lead in areas that are important to God.
Session #3: Bill George: Finding Your True North
We have been in a leadership crisis for the last 10 years.
What are you doing to lead and to develop your gifts?
21st century leaders...
Align people around the mission and vision of the organization
Empower people to lead
Serve others
Collaboration of people and organization
Session #4: Wendy Kopp: Stand Up and Lead
All great leaders have something that burns within them
Why are pastors afraid to ask big time? to sacrifice? to set the bar high?
Session #5: John Burke: Leading in New Cultural Realities
Broken relationships between God and each other prevents community
Tend the soil God gives you
Session #6: Efrem Smith: Leading in New Cultural Realities
God wants to love the world thru us, if you can't love across race you can't lead today
Race labels are not where we are
Session #7: Craig Groeschel: IT: How Leaders Can Get IT and Keep IT
4 Qualities
1. Laser focus
2. See opportunities when others see obstacles
3. Willing to fail
4. You need to have IT for your ministry to get IT
Session #8: Chuck Colson: Defending the Faith
We have transferred our allegiance from truth to therapy
We must contend for the faith
Lead, don't pander
Session #9: Catherine Rohr: Risk Taking, Barrier Breaking, Bold Leadership
Prayer - "Bring it on God, bring it on!"
Execute in obedience to God
Session #10: Brad Anderson: An Uncompromising Focus on People
It take a leader who really cares to bring employment engagement
Session #11: Bill Hybels: Relentless
God searches for those who are fully committed to Him.
If you were God, would you go after you to lead the church?
I want more of God than a bigger church.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Good Is the Enemy of Great

I haven't posted for a while, there's been a ton of stuff going on in my life and my leadership. One of those things has been an opportunity to coach the Latrobe varsity soccer team. The coach quit while I was on vacation. I was immediately interested - the same opportunity was presented to me at the end of last season after the long time coach quit because his wife was having their first baby.

As I looked at this opportunity I saw it as a good way to build relationships with people outside of Charter Oak Church. It was a good way for me to add value into teenage boys - to teach them integrity and character from someone who seeks to live into it from the Jesus way. I came up with a ton of good reasons to coach. I almost had myself convinced that I was supposed to do it. But all the reasons were only good reasons. As Jim Collins writes - good is the enemy of great.

After a more wrestling about a decision than I have ever done I came to realize that if I were to coach soccer then my family and my leadership at Charter Oak Church would be lessened for the season. So I decided not to coach. Below is the letter that I wrote to the athletic director explaining my decision.


I wanted to get back to you as soon as I could about the opportunity to coach the boys' varsity soccer team at Latrobe. As I shared with you I needed to talk to my board, staff, and family about this before I made a decision. I have never wrestled about a decision like I have about this one. I would love to coach for Latrobe, and I know I could do it. However, I have a greater responsibility to my family and my church, so I will not be able to apply for the coaching position. I know my family would not get the fullness of my heart for the next 10 plus weeks. There is no one more important to me than my wife and kids.

Since I have a new job, I really don't know the full scope of leading this place well. The fall is the busiest time of the year for us and I just don't know what affect coaching would have on my ability to lead with integrity. I am not ruling out coaching in the future, my heart is in soccer. Right now I know I will not be able to love my family, lead my church, and coach the boys' soccer team at the highest level. I would dishonor all three if I did. It pains me incredibly to say no to you.

I am still willing to help run practices next week if you still need me to do so. If you don't want me there, I will understand. Let me know what capacity, if any, you would like me to have next week with practices.

Chris Whitehead

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Home from the Beach

I'm back from the beach. It was a great time of relaxing. Kelli told me she hasn't seen me sleep so soundly in years. We spent almost all of our time on the beach or in the pool. This was the least amount of reading I have ever done on vacation - I was too busy playing with my kids or taking a walk on the beach with Kelli. I can officially say that I created margin in my life. It's good to be home.