10 People/Resources Shaping My Life Online


I am attempting to lead a church. As a consummate seeker of wisdom, I have dozens of blogs on my Google Reader list, and I could have listed so many more here, but these are the ones I never miss the opportunity to read. I read mostly for purpose. I love fun posts, but because time is precious, I am purposeful in what I read frequently, hoping it will help me in the work I do. Each of these sources is different, but all help shape my current thought process.

Michael Hyatt Michael is one of the best leaders I know and he is so accessible.  I may be stretching here, but think I can even call him a friend.

Catalyst Space Blog Catalyst pulls some of the best of church leadership together for this blog.

Mac Lake Mac is a really nice guy, but he’s hitting home runs in his posts about leadership.

Collide Magazine Collide is a cutting edge Christian publication.  You can frequently bump into the Collide people at conferences too!

Tim Stevens Tim is a great leader and shares candid truth at his blog.  (I hear a new design is coming soon too!)

Stuff Christians Like The writer here is Jon Acuff, but he truly tries to make this less about him and more about his heart for the Kingdom.  He’s also one of the most honest, sincere and humble guys I’ve ever met.

Church Relevance It amazes me the influence Kent Shaffer has.  Everywhere I go people talk about this blog. I know why.

Keven Eikenberry I haven’t been reading this blog long, but it has quickly become a must read for me.  Great content.

Steve Roesler Steve has tremendous leadership insight.  Though written for more secular audiences, I always find practical content for what I do.

Jenni Catron Jenni is one of the sharpest young leaders in the church today.  I continue to hear about the influence she has at Crosspoint and the difference she is making.  I love reading her frankness about struggles to balance work and play.

This is my list for today.  I have others that I also follow closely and may do another list later, but for now, what do you think?

Who is missing from my list?

For some of my thoughts on leadership, click HERE.

My Personal History of Leadership Development

iStock_000008266083XSmallI was honored this week when Jesse Phillips with CatalystSpace blog called me a “seasoned leader”. I feel I still have more to learn than I have learned, but it did cause me to reflect on some of the experiences I have had and people that have influenced me in my leadership ability.

Here are a few of those experiences and people that quickly come to my mind:

When I was in high school I served as student body president of a large, new school. My principal gave me freedom to do things most students never get to do. We wrote the student government constitution, organized clubs, hosted assemblies, and had a load of fun doing so. (I saw my principal recently and thanked him again for his influence. He taught me to release responsibility to people early and be willing to take a risk on others.)

I worked full-time all the way through college. As a sophomore, I became a retail department manager of a large store. Most days I was in over my head, but one of my colleagues was an older, mature, retired businessman. Although he technically “worked” for me, he taught me more about leading people than I could learn in college. (I learned to listen to those with more wisdom than me.)

I remained in retail after college, completed a management-training program for Belk Stores Services, and then served in several positions over a few year period. When my family began to grow, I decided to look for better working hours and so I became an independent insurance agent for Farmers Insurance Group. I was extremely successful in this venture and learned the principles of building something from nothing, marketing, and managing cash flow. (Funny how much those skills are needed in church planting!)

An opportunity to buy a small manufacturing company came available, and I convinced my wife to join me. We closed out successful careers to chase a dream. If it could go wrong, it did, and we sold within 5 years to the first serious buyer to come along. Through that negative experience, however, I learned huge principles of taking risks, leading under pressure, managing stress, to not run when things are difficult, and ways to overcome obstacles.  (Failure sometimes teaches us our biggest lessons.)

When God called me into ministry, He had me begin with nothing, then quickly sent me to an old, historic church seeking to rebuild. That rebuilding experience led to my first church planting type environment and it was there God instilled in me a passion for church growth and ultimately the desire for church planting.  I left this church to become involved  my first church plant and, a few years later, God called me to plant the church where I am today. Today God is still allowing the experiences and people in my life to shape my leadership abilities.

Where did you learn leadership? Who are the people and what are the experiences that have shaped the leader you are today?

For some of my leadership principles, click HERE.

False Assumptions About Our Church

grace-logo-gIn the four years Grace Community Church has been a church we have received much praise from people that love what we do.  Hundreds of lost, hurting people have chosen to unite with us.  We have had some previously churched people join us who felt we were a better fit for them or their family, but mostly we have reached people who previously did not attend church.  Most exciting to us is that we have baptized more adults than children in our four years, indicating to us that we are truly evangelizing and not just helping people swap churches.  It has been a wild, exciting, thrilling time watching God shape us over these first few years.

Along with the praise, however, there have also been many false assumptions and even criticisms made about who we are as a church and who we are not, mostly from people who do church in a different way from us. It seems I hear a new wave of those each time we have a growth spurt, which we are currently in this fall. The fact is that we are not the church for everyone, but that has been hard for some people to understand.

Here are a few false assumptions that come to my mind about who we are or are not as a church:

  • We get many offers to host an evangelist or hold a revival, but if you advertise your speaking ministry in a 3-piece suit, you are probably not a good fit for our church.  For some churches that would work fine, but for our church it’s just not a good fit.  Please don’t be offended by that.
  • We frequently get request from other family or friends of people asking, “Can you send someone to visit _______?” We don’t knock on doors or do home visitation.  It’s not that we don’t care, but it is simply not our method of recruitment.  Again, for some churches this works great, but we are trying a different approach.
  • We get many requests to book groups for special music venues, but if you sing Southern Gospel music exclusively, you are probably not a good fit for our church… I even love some Southern Gospel music, but it’s not the style we have chosen for our church.
  • Yes, it’s true we don’t currently advertise unless it is to support a cause we believe it, but not for the purposes of increasing church attendance. We think that should happen as our people invite their friends and family…
  • Yes, it’s true we allow people to serve in most volunteer positions without first passing a litmus test.  We believe (and have seen) that serving can often help change a person’s life.
  • We don’t have Sunday school, but we do teach the Bible.  We do small group meetings in the homes…
  • If the Bible makes an issue clear, we land on that clarity.  If it is simply a matter of tradition, me may dismiss it if it gets in the way of our vision to reach people for Christ.
  • With the previous said, we do have some traditions.  We meet at the same time and place each week, for example, but everything traditional is subject to change.  We actually like change if it helps us better complete our vision.
  • We haven’t watered down the Gospel…
  • We haven’t tried to alter the way to salvation… (It’s all Jesus for us too!)
  • We aren’t trying to offend you…but if you are offended by how we do church, we are probably not the church for you….
  • We don’t believe we are the only church in town where people can find truth…
  • We are not the church for everyone, but we are a church…
  • We aren’t like every other church.  That in itself doesn’t make us better or worse…

…We just do church differently.  Please do not be offended just because we are different.  It takes all of us working together, even though we look different on Sunday mornings, to do the Kingdom work.  Look at our people, see if they are becoming more like Christ, loving God and loving people more, and make assumptions based on those results.

The great news is that we are a church for many people.  If you are not currently attending a church and maybe have had some false notions about church yourself, come give us a visit soon.  You may be surprised how much fun we have!   And, by the way, everything you hear about how friendly our church is, how much we love our community, and how welcoming we are to others….ALL TRUE!

Are there any false assumptions made about your church?

New Property For Grace Community Church

Grace Comm Site Plan 11.1.09

As we announced Sunday, Grace Community Church has purchased 58 acres of land on Dunlop Lane, just a couple miles from our current meeting location and down the road from our community’s new hospital. We are excited about the future. To answer some of the questions we did not have time to share Sunday, I wanted to share some details about this process.

Grace was only six months old when a member in our church heard about an incredible deal on 79 acres of land one day and called me on the phone immediately. (Interestingly, a member of another church in town called him about the land.) Within a few short days, after meeting and praying with numerous leaders in our church, we had purchased the property. That seemed at the time to be a wise investment. I still completely agree that it was.

In the next couple years several things happened that helped shape our plans for a future building location.

  • The growth focus of our community shifted to another side of town.
  • Our church outgrew the rented facility where we launched.
  • Renting a school became an option. It had previously not been.
  • We moved to the center of the largest growth area of our community.
  • We began to reach people from a broader area of our county than previously targeted.
  • We sold 20 unbuildable acres of our 79 acres.
  • We paid off our existing property.

With those dynamics in place, the leadership of the church began to pray about what God would have us do in regards to property. Sensing we needed to explore other options near our current meeting location, we asked a small team of people in our church to search for available properties. When we discovered land available to us at an incredible price, considering the cost of land in the high-growth area, we decided it was too good of an opportunity to pass up and we initiated the purchase of a new 58-acre track of land. We also entertained offers on the remainder of our existing property and it appears we will sell it within a matter of weeks.

With this new purchase, several things need to be understood:

  • The vision of the church has never changed. We want to produce “growing followers of Jesus Christ.”
  • The passion for our community is even greater than when we started.
  • The future is brighter than we could have imagined.
  • We love and are investing in our community even more than ever before.
  • Our focus remains on blessing the community as much as our church with our property and any building we ever build.

It is exciting to watch what God has planned for us. We continue to seek His will, knowing that we can only act upon what we know today. His plans for us continue to be bigger than we might have dreamed.

Has Grace Community Church made a difference in your life?

Do you marvel at the way God does things at times? Have you watched His plans be bigger than yours?

For other posts about Grace Community Church click HERE.

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…

The Real People Behind The Online Presence

I enjoyed meeting some of the people that I admire online this week at Cultivate Conference in Chicago. Names that appear bigger than life to me, because I enjoy their blogs and work so much, were up close and personal. I shook the hands of people like, Jon Acuff, Kem Meyer, Scott McClellan, Kent Shaffer, Tony Steward and Rhett Smith.

I think the humbling thing for me was the reminder that these are real people. I heard a couple of their stories. They have real stories too.

Sometimes I think we tend to forget that behind the bigger than life appearance a strong web presence gives someone are real people with real stories…and real problems and challenges to life.

That’s true for all of us…

That’s true for me….

The fact is that I blog a lot. (Some would say too much.) There may be the tendency to believe I know what I’m talking about sometimes….

…Sometimes I actually do…

…Many times its because I learned a lesson the hard way…

But with everyone that has an online presence, including in my case, it’s important to remember that the online presence may not be a complete picture of reality. We can seem to have it all together through our blogs…but behind the computer sits real people with real stories…and real problems and real challenges to life.

What’s your current problem or challenge?  Do you clean it up well online?

Thoughts on the Local Church, by Nate Edmondson

nate+closeupI love that Nate is finally blogging again (I hope this is the start of a trend).  He’s my son, so I am biased, but I really believe he’s got a lot of great thoughts to share.  He’s always been a thinker.  He is beginning to experience what I have experienced as a church planter, planting a church that does things differently than the traditional church.  Since both my boys have lived ministry with me through two church plants, they have adopted the principles of church planting as their paradigm for church structure.  Unfortunately, change doesn’t come easily for most church leaders, and so just as I have experienced opposition, Nate is now experiencing some of that at his Christian college.  It’s a great learning and faith testing process for him.

Here’s some of his thoughts on the local church:

One question I’ve been wrestling with since I’ve been at Moody is what the local church in America should look like. Since being here I’ve received some opposition towards the way Grace does church in Clarksville. I’ve gotten lots of questions like: Do small groups provide accurate means for discipleship? Is the governmental structure too corporate, and as a result too secular? Do topical messages truly teach the Bible? Should the environments be tailored for believers or non-believers?

Honestly this has made me question a lot of the ministry principles I’ve learned the last few years.

To read the rest, go to this blog post click  HERE.

What do you think about Nate’s thoughts?

Preaching to the Preacher (I Was Encouraged Today)

DSCF8439Sometimes I need to get away from the usual crowds, take over my pastor hat, and sit in the audience and glean. Today was one of those days and I am thankful for the blessing.

Cheryl and I are on vacation in the Southwest. First stop was Albuquerque, NM for the annual balloon festival. We spent Saturday looking at hundreds of beautiful hot air balloons and returned this morning for another look. We left in time to catch the middle service of a great church, Sagebrush Community Church. Pastor Todd Cook was ending a series called “Heart” and shared a message that encouraged us to be encouragers. It was exactly what I needed to hear.

I have to be honest. When I first sat and looked at the program for the day and saw that the speaker was going to talk about encouragement, I wasn’t too excited. I’m a strategy guy, not a touchy feely guy. I like purpose, drive, and conviction. I wouldn’t be the first person one would think of when it came to the topic of encouragement. (In my family that would be Cheryl or Jeremy.)

As I sat and listened to Todd, who is a gifted speaker and storyteller, I was personally convicted. You see, I’ve been so busy with my strategy and purpose-driven, stress-filled life lately, that I am afraid I have often forgotten my first calling. I am a pastor. I am to help people move from death to life, from heartache and despair to trust and obedience. That process often doesn’t begin with a strategy. It begins when one person befriends another person, invests in them, and ENCOURAGES him or her to walk in a new way. Lately I am not sure that has been as much of my focus as leading and managing a church. I received “encouragement” today to take a fresh look at how I approach my days.

I am not saying I am giving up my strategy. I am not wired that way and frankly God uses me in that setting. I will never be a Barnabas. I will never be as considerate and caring as my wife. She balances me that way, but I do need to slow down more. I do need to take more time with the smallest needs. I need to be more people-centered. After all, that is the ultimate purpose of my calling.

Thanks Todd for encouraging me today to be a better encourager. God used you greatly in this season of my life.

(By the way, I met Todd after the service, and even though he is pastor of a large church and preaches 5 services each weekend, he treated me so warmly. He certainly did not make me feel I was an interruption. In this too, he gave me a wonderful reminder and encouragement.  You can here his message from today HERE.)

Grace Community Church Staff Blog Love

theGbwIn four years God has assembled an incredible team of staff people at Grace Community Church.  I am privileged to work with people I truly enjoy being around (most days)!  I love these people.  Some of them have some great blogs and I thought I would share them with you.

Click on the name to take you to their blog:  (I listed them I alphabetical order as they appear on the Grace website.)

Michael Bayne

Christy Crosby

Karen Grizzard

Rog Hill

Ben Reed

Brandon Reed

Chad Rowland

Katrina Watts

I am hoping this post will put some pressure on those who don’t currently blog…)

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.