Do Ministry Even If You Can Do Something Else

Praying Hands With BibleOne of the most frequent “encouragements” I have heard from pastors to those that are sensing a call to full-time vocational ministry is:

Don’t do ministry if you can do anything else…

I have made it a practice never to give that advice to people seeking my counsel. That cliché sounds good, but I am not sure it is practical, helpful, or even completely true.

For years, I resisted a call to ministry, partly because of this advice. The simple fact was that I could do some things besides ministry. I had some success in business. In fact, at one point I was extremely successful in my field. In my own strength, I found I could do many things.

What I could never seem to do on my own was find contentment. Resisting God’s call on my life for vocational ministry took me down numerous career changes looking for that one thing I was “supposed” to do. It wasn’t until I surrendered to full-time vocational ministry that I discovered what I was “designed” to do. I never knew contentment in my work life until God was my employer.

My advice if you are truly called to ministry is to do ministry, even if you can do something else. Nothing provides peace and contentment in life like obedience to God’s call on your life. For more thoughts on the call to ministry, click HERE.

Are you running from a call upon your life? Are you resisting something God is calling you to do?

The contentment you are looking for in life may not be found until you obey.

Just saying…

Operation Serve 2009 Video

Operation Serve! What an experience! I am so thankful to be a part of Grace Community Church and for all that serve! Let’s not allow this to be a once a year experience. Find ways to continue to take Christ’s love to the streets of our community!

Enjoy this video from the 2009 Operation Serve.

Lord, Save Us From Your Followers Movie

As a church planter concerned about spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but consistently meeting people who have no interest in what they believe Christianity to be, this appears to be an important movie. My friend Michael Hyatt was the first to recommend this movie, which would be enough to encourage me to watch it. After watching the trailer, there is no question I will put this movie on my “must see” list.

Have you seen this movie? What do you think after watching the trailer?

Why Another Church Plant? (Happy Birthday Grace Community Church!)

theGbwGrace Community Church was four years old yesterday (September 11).   Happy Birthday!  We will celebrate it tomorrow by asking our people to sacrifice more and serve the city of Clarksville by adding to our morning schedule with a third service.  If you do not have a church home join us at 8:30, 10:00 or 11:30 AM at Rossview High School.  You can find directions HERE.

There is often a huge misunderstanding about church planting that needs to be understood.  For four years I have heard phrases and questions from churched people, offered in a well-meaning desire to know or put a meaning behind why a new church was needed in Clarksville, even after hundreds have come to know Christ as their personal Savior who had never given church a chance.  The real truth is that I was not upset with any church.  In fact, I actually love tradition and I ran from pursuing this vision for years because I didn’t want to leave my church or start another one.  My family and many friends still attend the church I grew up in. I love that church even today and I am most thankful for the impact the church had on my life and still has in our city today.  This was the story of most every churched person who chose to attend our church plant.

The misunderstanding people often have about church planting is this:

Most of the time church planting is NOT about what people are running from, but about what people are running to.

That is certainly my story.  Our heart was then and is today to reach people no one else is reaching by creating environments no one else is creating.  Our church is unique.  We tell the same story of God’s love and  Christ’s redemption in a different way.  Is it for everyone?  Absolutely not!   Is it for some…absolutely!  God has amazed us with how many!

Happy Birthday Grace and may your best days be still to come!

Quit Taking Credit For A God Thing!

A few weeks ago, in preparing a message for Grace Community Church in which I celebrated the victories we have seen in the last year at Grace, God convicted me for my line of thinking.  I was preparing to remind people of the strategy of the church, as we do at the beginning of each new fall season, to encourage them to continue giving their time and resources to further the vision.  I believe God gently reminded me that apart from Him, we would have no vision and we would certainly have no success.

Clearly what has happened at our church in the last four years is bigger than any vision, strategy, staff or volunteers could produce.  If we duplicated everything we are doing today elsewhere, we would have no guarantees of success without God’s intervention.  No doubt about it, what we are experiencing at Grace Community Church is a God-thing!  I also know that we are just a small part of all God is doing in many places around the world.

It was a needed reminder and one I wonder if other leaders, especially some of the big name leaders, need to hear.  The greater the success a person has and the more accolades a leader receives, the easier it becomes to begin to take credit for that success.  So, in simple terms, let me encourage you, if the shoe fits, to…

Quit taking credit for a God thing!

We can share wisdom and strategy from what we have learned.  We can write blogs and books to encourage others.  We can be invited to speak around the world about our successes.  People can look to us as “experts” in our field, but let’s be honest as leaders.  Most of us who are experiencing tremendous growths in our churches are…

  • Not better leaders
  • Not better speakers
  • Don’t have a better strategy

Than some who are doing the same things we are doing, but not experiencing similar results.

I will continue to share my experiences.  Frankly I think I have been called to, but honestly, when you look at what is happening in our church, what looks like a God-thing, quite possibly is…actually, there is no question in my mind that it is.

Have you ever been guilty of taking credit, if only in your own mind, for something that truly God has done?

This Fall At Grace Community Church

This week in a message called “Hot Seat” we unveiled some of the vision for Grace Community Church this fall. In this message we introduce new staff members and new assignments. Keep up with what Grace is doing next here… You can watch the first 10 minutes without logging in and then Truthcasting forces you to log in. I hope you will take the effort to watch an interview about what God is doing at Grace.

Master’s In Organizational Leadership (WHY?)

81logoI have been asked consistently for the past year why I would subject myself to the discipline of obtaining a second master’s degree.  I have a seminary master’s in counseling, but last year I began work on a master’s in organizational leadership from Eastern University in Philadelphia.  I should finish this degree in early 2010.

The answer is fairly simple.  I am an idiot who loves to torture myself.

Actually, the truth is that I felt the need for more education in a field that I practice most.  As a pastor and church planter I need seminary training.  Honestly though, I went to seminary later in life also and much of what I learned about the Bible I had studied previously as a layperson.  I have been a student of the Bible since I was in my early twenties.  What I have found the need for most in my leadership role in the church is insight on leading an organization.  The more we have grown the more I have sensed the need to grow personally.

So far in my studies we have looked at organizational leadership, strategic planning, organizational efficiency, human resources, strategic thinking and change management and financial management.  All of these are vital to what I do at Grace Community Church and the training has been directly transferable to my work.

There are a few other reasons I am pursuing this degree.

  • Our church has grown faster than my ability to keep up with it at times.  I recently wrote about leadership capacity and, as with many posts, this one had personal implications.
  • I want to make the organization of the church better.  One of the reasons I blog is to help others grow in their leadership with principles I have learned in business, church and through my education.
  • I am a Kingdom-builder. When God called me into ministry, He called me for who I am.  I am not a sit still, detailed, or single-minded person.  I think big!
  • I never want to stop learning.  Ever!

It has been a fun, but stretching and expensive venture for Cheryl and me, but I am thankful God has given me the opportunity.  I am also thankful to Cheryl for allowing me the time and to spend our money to do this.  As an added benefit, I have learned to love Philly cheesesteak.  I even have a favorite.

How are you learning and keeping up these days?

One Sentence That Impacted My Life Greatly

Cheryl and I were invited to dinner at a woman’s house that attends our church.  She had previously attended The Gathering in Nashville, but the drive was wearing on her each week, so she was excited to find a similar church closer to home.  She wanted us to meet her former pastor and his wife, David and Paula Foster.  I cannot accept every invitation, simply because there are too many in a church our size to accommodate them all, but I am glad I accepted this one.  David is a great leader and church planter.  I had met David several times, but never spent any time getting to know him.

David Foster made a huge investment in my life Friday night.  I had previously written a post about this need.  (Read that post HERE.)  God must read my blog…or my heart.  ☺

It was really simple.  David is a great listener so he heard my story of planting the church.  I shared with him the struggles, the heartaches, the sadness in losing friends, and of course, the joys of seeing God do amazing things in people’s lives.  I do not talk about the struggles much, but David understood firsthand the difficulties in church planting and he encouraged the conversation.  David said he considers himself a renegade.  In fact he wrote a book about it.  See an excerpt HERE.  I am sure he has faced controversy, but his words to me were invaluable.

David said one line to me and it rocked my world! He said, “Ron, you know this already (I am not sure I did.)

Find your affirmation in the people to whom God has called you to minister…in whose lives God is changing through your work.”

Wow!  Such a simple thought, but honestly, I am not sure I had really stopped long enough to see things through that paradigm.  I had probably spent more time seeking affirmation from other pastors or comparing our ministry to other churches. Sometimes I compare myself to them competitively.  I may get discouraged if I am not as successful as them. Frankly some pastors seem to resent or question the reasons behind our success.  There may be struggles if we have different methodologies.  I can wish the church world was less competitive, but even though its leader is perfect (Christ) it is an organization run by imperfect people.

When I apply David’s principle of finding affirmation I am overwhelmed at what God is doing.  He is molding, shaping, changing, growing, spurring, releasing, capturing, and saving countless lives through the work of Grace Community Church.  I have never been so encouraged to continue the work God has called me to do!  In addition, my greatest calling is to my family and they are flourishing in Christ!  (I am writing a separate post about this in recent days.)

Thank you David for investing in my life! You have no idea the impact your few words had.

Have you ever had a few words impact you in a powerful way?  Who is investing in you right now with words of wisdom or encouragement?  In whose life are you investing?

One Secret To Our Success At Grace Community Church

theGbwI had a great conversation with one of our original core members this morning as he stopped in to say hello.  We were reminiscing about the first four years at Grace Community Church.  Our anniversary is in September.  God has continued to amaze us with His presence.  Last Sunday we had a 43% increase in attendance over the same day in July last year.  Wow!

I think my friend nailed one of the reasons for our growth.  He told me he had a bad experience in his last church and because of that was anxious to begin a new work where drama, tradition, committees, and anything that hindered reaching people for Christ was kept to a minimum.   He also told me that before he started he had told his wife, “Honey, we got to make this church work, because if it doesn’t, we don’t have anywhere else to go.”

After a good laugh-out-loud moment, we concluded that he was onto something.  Everyone in our original core knew what it was like to feel like an outsider, to wonder if there was something more to the church experience, or to have struggles in life that seemed unbearable.  We knew how it felt to hurt and we were ready to build a church for other hurting people or people who wanted more from their church experience; people with whom we could easily identify. We still attract similar people today…and we love them when they come!  (When we were planting I called it a “holy discontent”, but then Bill Hybels wrote a book by that same name.  Good book too.)

Thank you God for life’s struggles that can be used to make us better and help us reach others that struggle with life.

Ugly Clothing Marketing Works Great For Churches

UglyTie-33053I love shirts that do not have to be ironed. I travel a lot and right now the nylon, breathable shirt appears popular, at least among my age, and so I can be “in style”, comfortable and basically wrinkle-free with little effort. I have to confess to something, however. My style is usually determined by what other people do not want. I choose to dress primarily in rejected clothing! You see I am hugely price conscious. I love new clothes, but the thoughts of spending more than $10 for a shirt bothers me, so if it’s on sale for $6, I tend to like it even more. I have often wished there were a store for folks like me that sold only the clothes others didn’t want…the rejects…at dirt cheap prices.

I realize this would not be the best marketing approach for the clothing industry. Imagine the ads going after customers no one else wants. What kind of commercial would you make from the clearance rack?

It may not be the best approach in retail marketing, but guess what? The system I use in clothing myself is a great marketing approach for churches. If you want your church to grow, go after people no one else wants. Go after the ones who feel unwanted. Attempt to reach the people the world has rejected.

It worked well for Jesus. It has worked well for Grace Community Church. Perhaps it will for your church as well.