Introducing My New Ministry Assignment

It’s official. My new assignment is Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. The church voted to call me as their senior pastor yesterday. Cheryl and I are excited.

Immanuel launched as a church on February 1, 1909 with 33 people. Today the church sits on a 22-acre campus located in the heart of Lexington, Kentucky and in close proximity to the University of Kentucky campus. It’s building has 217,000 square feet of usable space. The recreation center houses two full-size basketball courts, an indoor-walking track, aerobics room, cardiovascular workout room and a full- service café known as the Solid Rock Café. They have soccer and baseball fields.

Immanuel has a strong staff who seem eager for leadership and are already functioning as a healthy team. More than that, Immanuel’s people have a heart for missions and service and they truly want to reach Lexington for Christ. Immanuel has a great mix of seniors and youth, and I look forward to learning how to bridge the multi-generational gap for more effective ministry.

Although Immanuel is considerably smaller than my current church, I have never seen a church with more potential!

You may be wondering, what about my current church…and…have I abandoned church planting?

A couple weeks ago, I shared with the church I planted, Grace Community Church, that I was resigning. (You can watch that video HERE.) Leaving Grace is one of the hardest decisions Cheryl and I have ever made and it will always hold a piece of my heart. Grace started with 11 core families and a staff of 3 in our living room about 7 years ago. We’ve seen God do extraordinary things, now averaging over 2,500 in our worship experiences each week.

Grace is in good shape for the future. I don’t believe I would sense God releasing me otherwise. In the providence of God, I recruited a partner in this, my second, church plant. Chad Rowland is fully equipped to lead without me. The staff, who are some of our best friends in ministry, is strong and the team dynamics are extremely healthy. The best days are ahead for Grace.

As for church planting…yes…I love it and always will, but what about church revitalization? To me it’s the same heart. My heart is to see people come to know, love and be like Jesus. I love how that is happening in church plants around the world. As long as I’m breathing I’ll be encouraging church planters and assisting new church plants.

But, what about the older, established church? Who is going to help them thrive again? My heart breaks for church histories, church buildings, and bodies of believers who are mostly being underutilized in their Kingdom potential. I want to play a part in helping an older church see new life. I will begin knowing it will be harder work at times, but confident God is able to work His will in Immanuel through my leadership.

God has been at work at Immanuel for over 100 years. I feel unworthy, humbled and honored to join them in their history, look forward to their future, and celebrate with them what I believe could be their best years still to come.

Prayers appreciated. We will start officially at Immanuel in mid June, but first we want to finish well at Grace, sell a condo quickly and buy a place to live in Lexington. Will you say a prayer (or two) for us in this transition?

Do you have any examples to share of older, established churches that have been revitalized?

What’s It Going to Take To Solve the “Men Problem?”

This is a guest post by Patrick Morley and his team at Man in the Mirror Ministry. I fully support the work they have done and are doing to reach men for Christ. The book by Patrick Morley had a profound impact on my life and I encourage you to consider this new opportunity.

Here are some thoughts from Patrick Morley from Man in the Mirror:

See if you agree with this…

• Can you see any way of ever getting society right unless we get the church right?
• If that’s true, can you see any way of ever getting the church right unless we get families right?
• If you’re still with me, can you see any way of ever getting families right unless we get marriages right?
• And, can you see any way of ever getting marriages right unless we get men right?

Sure, every now and then you hear about a woman who rips her family apart, but even then it’s usually after years of emotional neglect. It really is about the men.

How can we help get men right? To become a disciple of Jesus is the highest honor to which a man can aspire. To be born again and not become a disciple is like joining the Army and getting a rifle that you never learn how to clean and shoot.

The good news is that thousands of leaders and churches are learning how to disciple men so they can walk with God in our kooky culture. How do they do it?

For my PhD dissertation I studied the question, “Why do some churches succeed at men’s discipleship while others languish or fail?” I wanted to know from a management perspective, “What are the factors that lead to success or failure when implementing a men’s discipleship program?” And I wanted to discover, “What are successful pastors doing differently than the pastors of ineffective or failed ministries to men?”

To get at the answers, I employed multiple-case-study research to compare and contrast churches with effective men’s discipleship programs to churches with ineffective or failed programs.

The factors that differentiated the highly effective churches were….
1. A senior pastor with the vision to disciple every man in the church,
2. The determination to succeed no matter what, and
3. A sustainable strategy to make disciples.

I’m so tired of watching men go to events, get all amped up, charge out determined to do better, soar briefly, then glide (or crash) back to earth. In my experience these men are deeply frustrated that they can’t sustain the change. It doesn’t have to be that way. Thousands of churches have figured it out. But how do we get the word to those churches that are still in the dark?

At Man in the Mirror, the ministry I founded 25+ years ago, we’ve launched an initiative to hire 330 full-time Area Directors located throughout the United States to help churches more effectively disciple their men. Each Area Director will have a territory of 1,000 churches, which will put “boots on the ground” close to churches and men. We have a lot of early momentum, and the first 30 Area Directors have been appointed.

Now we need to surface scores of new candidates. We’re praying for men who are passionate about Christ, men’s discipleship, and who love the church. You can find out everything you need to know HERE. Join us in our fight to save our society and build the Kingdom.

Go HERE now to join this effort.

Editor’s Note: For 25 years Pat and his organization, Man in the Mirror, have focused on men’s discipleship. They’ve trained thousands of church leaders. In 2009 they reached the milestone of impacting 10,000,000 men for Christ. Their new goal is to see “10,000,000 new men leading powerful transformed lives in Christ by 2020.” Their new Area Director strategy is putting “boots on the ground” close to churches and men.

Saturday Night Prayer Chain, Part 4

It’s been a few months since I did a Saturday night prayer chain. I posted the following statement on Twitter and Facebook and instantly heard from some who need prayer.

God is at work in ways you cannot imagine. God is doing things you can’t conceive. #TrustHim

God is at work. Are the circumstances of your life saying otherwise today. Perhaps you need to share your burdens with others. Let us pray for one another.

Do you need prayer?

Here’s how this works:

You comment and leave a prayer request.

My readers and I pray.

It’s that simple.

Do you need prayer?

4 Reminders in Times of Betrayal

I was talking with a pastor recently who has been betrayed by someone in his church. He told him a secret in confidence and soon learned the friend had shared it with another…who shared it with another…who shared it with another…and you know the rest of this story.

I was empathetic, but thought to myself, “Welcome to the world of Christian leadership”.

If you’ve been in leadership very long, you know what it feels like to be betrayed. It can come at the hand of one you barely know or someone you trusted.

I love that God provides us real life examples from the Bible of men and women who faced the same struggles we face today. Consider these thoughts from the life of David.

Consider Psalm 41:7, “All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me.”

David, the man after God’s own heart, had men who talked behind his back. They spread rumors about him. They maligned his reputation and character. He was the subject of gossip. People said things about him that weren’t true; probably some that were partially true, but stretched out of proportion to reality.

Have you ever been there?

Then consider what David says in verse 9, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.”

David had been betrayed by someone he trusted completely.

Most likely you have also. Chances are good, if we are honest, we have been the the betrayer and the betrayed. It might have been a misunderstanding or an intentional act of betrayal, but either way, it still hurt. You were tempted to get even, perhaps you held a grudge; maybe you quit speaking to the person.

How should you respond in betrayal?

Here are 4 reminders for times of betrayal:

Be confident in who you are, who you are not – You are not a super human. You are a man or woman. You have real feelings. You have emotions. You can be hurt. Don’t be surprised by your emotional response to betrayal. You will have to trust again, but you may be hurt again. That’s part of living among sinners like you.

Be confident who others are and who others are not – Don’t hold others to a standard they can’t live up to, but don’t allow them to control your reactions either. Others will let you down. If you open yourself to betrayal by trusting others, which you will often have to do in leadership, life and love, you will be hurt at times. Just at you are not perfect, others are not either. Part of relationships is the vulnerability, which allows betrayal. They only way to avoid it completely is to avoid relationships.

Be confident in who God is and who He isn’t - God is able to protect you. He doesn’t always protect you from betrayal. Sometimes He even allows those closest to you to be the betrayer. He will, however, always use it for an ultimate good. We shouldn’t expect God to do as He hasn’t promised to do. We can expect God to never leave us nor forsake us and to be our strength when we are weak and to lift us up in due time when we humble ourselves before Him.

Be confident in what God has called you to do and what He hasn’t – God has not called you to please everyone. He has called you to be obedient to your call; regardless of the sacrifice. Even in the midst of betrayal, we are called to love mercy, act justly, and walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8) He has also called you to forgive. He has not called you to enable bad behavior.

You can’t control the world from betraying you, but you can control your reaction to betrayal. That begins by living out of the confidence God has given you through your relationship with Him.

Have you ever been betrayed? How did you handle it?

Five Minute Challenge: Persecuted Church

This week I’m at Moody Founder’s Week. It’s a Bible conference put on by Moody Bible Institute that I’ve come to for several years, especially since my son Nate is a student here. One of the underlying themes this year has the persecution of Christians around the world. I’ve read recently that Christians are under more persecution today than any time in church history.

Then, my friend Tami Heim tweeted that she was praying for the Christians of Uzbekistan. I’ll be honest, I don’t know that I ever prayed for anyone in Uzbekistan. Then I followed the link she provided and realized it’s part of an initiative called the Five Minute Challenge. I signed up. You can too. In fact, I think you should.

HERE is a list of the 50 most-watched countries for church persecution.

Watch this video and then go HERE.

Do you ever pray for persecuted Christians?

5 Questions to Discern God’s Will

I am often asked how to know if the plans we make are God’s will for our life. This is a common concern. Most of us want to do God’s will, but God seems to give us a tremendous amount of freedom. If you’re like me, you’re fully capable of making a mistake. I’ve made many.

Here are 5 Questions I often ask myself to help discern God’s will:

Does what I’m doing (or planning to do) conflict with Scripture?
God’s will never will. God is always true to Himself and His Word is the best place to start. We may differ in interpretation of a passage, but if it’s clearly spelled out in Scripture, then we clearly know His will.

Does what I am doing conflict with the counsel of others?
God uses others to confirm His will. I am thankful for the people in my life, including my wife and sons, who have helped shaped the path of my life. Often they see things I can see or believe in me when I can’t believe in myself. God sends the body of Christ to encourage, challenge and strengthen the body. (Don’t be confused, however, with times God calls us to go against the grain of life and walk by faith when everyone is saying we are crazy. See Noah about that one.)

Does what I am doing conflict with the spirit within me?
God sent the Holy Spirit as a helper. He guides us with an inner peace or a holy unrest. If Christ is in you, He will not leave you to make a decision completely alone. Often God provides a peace or a lack thereof when He is trying to confirm His will.

Does what I am doing conflict with my life experience?
God uses our experiences in life to teach and mold us to His will. Often it isn’t as unusual of a path when we look back over our life experiences. Again, don’t be confused, because He usually stretches us out of our comfort zone also.

Does what I am doing conflict with my passion for life?
God tends to work with the things that fuel our fire. He loves when we are energized for the tasks He calls us to. When I look at Bible characters like Joseph, David, the disciples, Abraham or Paul it appears their calling matched their wiring. Paul was zealous for whatever he did. God used that passion for good. What’s your passion? God may work within it to confirm His will.

Try those 5 questions together and see how they line up to help discern God’s will as it relates with your plans.

Here’s some good news.

I fully believe God works all things for good even when we miss His will in individual decisions. You can make a bad decision, but God retains the right to finish your story His way. Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”

Do you ever struggle as to whether your plans are God’s will? Tell me your current situation and I’ll pray with you.

You may want to read 7 Ways to Distinguish God’s Voice from the Circumstances of Life

Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life

We launched a new series at Grace Community Church this week called “All In“. This year, we want to give God access to every part of our life. In this message, I addressed the issue of our minds.

Are you worried about many things?

How can you stop worrying?

Maybe Paul has an answer for us.

Think About These Things from Gcomchurch Sermons on Vimeo.

One Measure of Effective Friendship

How effective are the friendships in your life?

One measure of an effective friendship, in my opinion, is that the people in your life are becoming more like Jesus, partly because of their friendship with you.

“Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 Do you have friendships that sharpen your relationship with Christ?

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Follow me, as I follow the example of Christ“. Could you say that to your friends? Could they say that to you?

Here’s one measure of an effective friendship: At the end of a year together as friends, could either of you say your life is more like Christ than before the year began, because of that friendship?

I know. Hard question, right? The encouragement in this post is to:

  • Consider your friendships closely
  • Examine the purpose of those friendships
  • Bring some intentionality into your friendships
  • Together, encourage each other to be more like Christ

Let’s make better friendships.

  • You could do a Bible study together
  • You could change the focus of your conversations
  • You could hold each other accountable
  • You could pray for and with one another

Do you have friendships in your life that help you in your walk with Christ?