Thursday, September 27, 2007

Over 3 million people

If any of us need to be reminded of the need for Jesus in our community and our state, I just ran across some numbers in the last couple of weeks that should get us motivated. Ron Barker sent me an e-mail with these stats, and then my friend Jonathan Everette, who is a church planter in Spartanburg, mentioned them on his blog. (I've added Jonathan's blog to the list of lincs)

Here are the numbers: On an average Sunday morning 77% of the people of South Carolina are not in church. In 2004, the population of South Carolina was listed at 4,198,068, that means that on an average Sunday there are 3,463,406 people who need to be reached! Let that sink in for a moment. Almost 3 and a half million people that either don't know Jesus or are not worshipping with other followers of Christ the way the bible instructs us to. When I hear those numbers a few thoughts pop into my head.

- We need more churches! It's proven that new churches reach new people. We've seen that here at Freedom and the same is true all over this state. The over 3,000,000 plus that need to be in church won't all be reached by existing churches. That's why we need to be active in helping more churches that teach the good news of Jesus get started.

-Churches need to quit worrying about losing their members to other churches. Remember, the church exists for those who don't know Jesus, and there are plenty to go around! If all of God's churches would begin to do all they could to reach the 3,000,000 then we wouldn't have time to worry about another church stealing our people.

- We can't let up. There is much work to do to reach our community, and until all of them know Jesus there will always be work to do. Invite your friends to worship with you at Freedom. Pray for them to understand the love of Jesus. Demonstrate the true freedom that comes from Christ in every encounter you have with them.

Here's an idea for all of us, write the number 3,463,406 on a post-it note and put it somewhere you will see it everyday. Allow that note to remind you to pray that we would reach each and every one of those people. Start today by inviting someone to join you at Freedom this Sunday. They will hear the good news of Jesus.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Staff meeting?!?

Here's a new development in the life of our church: staff meetings. I know that some of you cringe when you hear that word, and if you have been involved in some of the staff meetings I've been in you would really cringe, or run fast in the other direction. All that being said, Donny and I realized when Blake came on board, that we should probably be a little more intentional about getting together to talk about things instead of just popping our heads in and out of each other's offices, hence (I used that term for you Emily) staff meetings on Tuesday mornings. So far we have had two and they have been great. We have gone to Panera, sat outside and only dealt with important issues. It feels weird saying this but, I have actually enjoyed our staff meetings. I hope that doesn't mean I'm just getting old.

Here's the linc for the Covenant Eyes software download I mentioned in yesterday's blog:
If you use the code on the brochure we gave out Sunday, you can try it out for one month free of charge. We still have plent of the brochures, so you can pick one up this Sunday if you missed it.

Also, to follow-up on Sunday's message, Donny wanted me to let ya'll know that there is a great book written about sex from a christian perspective entitled Sheet Music. Clever title huh? Here is the linc to the page where you can order this book:

Monday, September 24, 2007

Back from the beach

We're back! Sorry I didn't blog last week, I was at the beach with the girls. I did take the computer with the intention of getting at least one blog done, but there was too much time needed to be spent at the pool, in the sand, riding in the golf-cart, and going out to eat, and playing putt-putt to get anything else done. Here are some thoughts about last week's trip, yesterday at Freedom, and other stuff.

- We stayed at Ocean Lakes while at the beach. I have stayed there twice now, both times in September, and had an awesome time. I can't imagine what that place would be like during 4th of July week. There are a lot of houses packed in there.

- We ate at one of our favorite seafood restaurants, The Conch Cafe in Garden City. The older I get the more I love fried oysters.

- We had some rainy weather last week, but I realized again that I love being at the beach no matter what the weather's like.

- The girls loved riding in the golf-cart. We probably had as much fun doing that as we did everything else.

- Being back for Sunday morning was awesome. I got to continue the series on The Best Question Ever, and this week we dealt with making wise moral choices. I got to spend a lot of time talking about a subject everyone is interested in: sex. If you weren't there, you missed what I was thought was a very funny moment when we had everyone say, "sex" out loud just to get over the fact that we were actually going to talk about it in church. It was kind of like a weird responsive reading.

- I am amazed how every week we have new people join us for worship. Keep that in mind when we start to talk about the need to change our Sunday morning environment in the next couple of months. (ideas I am still sorting through that I will talk about later)

- Dan Ploof did a great job yesterday singing From the Inside Out. He also did all the behind the scenes work to arrange a relationship with the people at Covenant Eyes so anyone at Freedom can access their internet accountability software for one month free. I will put the linc to their website on the blog tomorrow. Thanks Dan for your hard work, and for having a passion to see all followers of Christ live sexually pure lives.

- Brett Farve tied Dan Marino's career touchdown passes record yesterday. (sorry Mark) There is no football player I'd rather watch than Farve. The thing about his game that has not diminished as he has gotten older is his passion. (he also still has a rocket arm) I'll be sorry when he retires.

- The Gamecocks took it on the chin Saturday in Baton Rogue. Obviously, I would have loved a win, but at least we looked respectable.

That's all for now. I've got so many more things I'm thinking about but I'll try and save them for another day.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A dinner to remember

At our new Life Group this week we did some get to know you style questions. One that I enjoy asking people is, "If you could have dinner with anyone in the world who would it be?" The only limits are: the individual has to still be alive, and it has to be someone you don't already know. I can think of lots of people I would love to sit down with over a juicy steak and learn from. Here's a list of a few of them:

- Bruce Springsteen: my favorite musician, writer of the greatest rock song ever, Born to Run

- Andy Stanley: The list of things I would ask would take way longer than one meal

- Tiger Woods: How does he stay so disciplined and committed to excellence?

- Bill Cosby: I would just sit back and laugh at his stories

- Johnny Depp: I have nothing to talk to him about, but maybe over dinner some of his coolness would rub off on me.

- Oprah: Again, nothing to say to her, just hoping she would make a large financial contribution to Freedom, or to the Marshall Fund (my checking account)

Who's on your list? I'd love to read it. Just leave a comment.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The challenge that lies ahead

Have you ever gotten so much great information in a short period of time that you feel a little overwhelmed? I've heard someone say before that it's like trying to get a drink of water from a fire hydrant. One of the things I have been very aware of this summer is that we need to make some changes to the way we do things at Freedom, or we will lose our effectiveness. Having 300 plus people come to worship each week is exciting, but if we still have only 300 plus people coming a year from now we have missed an amzing opportunity. Remember, there are thousands of unchurched people in Greer. In fact, I heard a statistic recently that 60% of Greenville county is unchurched! I am constantly looking ahead to find what we need to do to reach as many of these people as possible.

Two things recently have given me so much to think about in this area. One is the book, Go Big that I have quoted on some earlier blogs. The second one happened yesterday. I was able to have lunch with Tony Morgan and Michael Brown from New Spring church in Anderson. For any of you who are'nt familiar with New Spring, it is a church that is 7 years old that averages somewhere around 8,000 people a week in worship. That's an amazing number, but the next number is what really gets me excited. Last Saturday, New Spring held a baptism service where they baptized 562 people! That is more people than all 42 churches in the Greer Baptist Association baptized last year combined. Anyway, Tony and Michael took 90 minutes with me to help me see some things from a different perspective. The things they talked about and encouraged me to think about are all rolling around in my head today. I'm not going to share those things with you now, because I need to process all of these things God is trying to get me to see before I can share them clearly.

So why do I tell you this? If you don't already do it, pray for Freedom and pray for me as the pastor. If you do already pray for that, keep it up! I believe God can do even more amzing things here in Greer than He is doing in Anderson, and I want our church to be right in the middle of it. For that to happen we are going to have to make some changes, try the impossible, fail a few times, and not be satisfied with business as usual. Let's do it together.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Matter of Trust

When I was in high school Billy Joel released a new song and video that I thought was cool. It was different because he was playing the guitar in the video instead of the piano. The song was called, "A Matter of Trust". (yes, I have it on my ipod) That song title popped in my head yesterday as I was working on this Sunday's message. I will be teaching on asking the best question ever in regards to our money. It's amazing how much stuff there is in scripture about money. The Old Testament and New Testament both are filled with verses about money and how we should use it. So what does this have to do with Billy Joel? It seems to me, as I read the scripture that the issue we struggle with most about money is a matter of trust. Do we really trust Jesus when He said that God will provide for our needs? Do we really trust the bible to be true when it says in Malachi 3:10 that if we give to God He will give us more than we can find storage space for?
From my personal experience, God can be trusted, even in the area of money. I don't know how it works (I was never good at math) but the more I give the less I have to worry about where the money to provide for my family will come from. Giving to Him even when we don't think we can afford to is not spreadsheet, bottom line, make the numbers add up issue. It's a trust issue, or as Billy Joel sang, "it's always been a matter of trust"

Monday, September 10, 2007

Monday Morning Quarterback

During the NFL (that's the National Football League in case you were wondering) season, ESPN does a rundown of the weekend games on Monday's that they call "Monday Morning Quarterback". I guess this will be like a "Monday Morning Quarterback" update on how things went this weekend.

The weekend got off to a great start on Friday when Sherry and I had a date at our favorite Mexican restaurant, El Mariachi. Being married to your best friend is out of this world!

Saturday was very relaxing, especially compared to all that had happened last Saturday. I was able to get some work done on the bonus room we are finishing, cut the grass, play Battleship with Grace, and settle down in my chair (every man should have a chair like mine to watch football in) and watch the Gamecocks shut down the Georgia Bulldogs. I don't claim to be able to predict the future, but I did write in Friday's blog that I had a good feeling going into that game!

Sunday was exciting. We did baby/child dedication, so there were lots of visiting grand-parents in the house. The band did their usual outstanding job, and I continued teaching about the Best Question Ever. We focused on asking the best question ever in regards to our time. After the service a man came and told me how he had been jogging by the school that morning, had seen the crowd, and stopped to ask someone what was going on. He talked to one of our teenagers who invited him to come inside. When I started to talk in the message about investing small, consistent amounts of time over a long period of time, that was just thing he needed to hear. It was an encouragement to him to continue developing his relationship with his step-daughter. It was cool reminder to me that while we are working to prepare the service week after week, God is also at work! When we get tired and take a break, God is still at work!

Then last night we ended the weekend by spending time with our worship team at the O'Sullivan's house. Barrie prepared a great meal of burritos with all the fixings, and we talked some about the importance of worshipping together and what it means to lead others in worship. Then we just hung-out, talked, and laughed.

Remember to pray this week for the people God will send to us this Sunday, and ask Him to show you who you can invite to be there. He is at work drawing people to Himself and we need to be part of the process!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Random thoughts

I haven't blogged since Monday. That doesn't mean I have nothing to say, it just means it has been a busy week. Here are some thoughts going through my scattered brain today.

- I am really enjoying preparing this series of messages based on The Best Question Ever by Andy Stanley. I think he does the best job of anyone I've read or heard at taking spiritual truth and creating practical, do-able steps to help you implement that truth into your real life.

- I love my ipod. Having all of my music available in one small package is probably the coolest thing ever invented! (I know the light bulb is more important, but you can't dance to a light bulb) Well, my ipod just got even more awesome this week. I was able to download the new Bruce Springsteen song of off itunes for free. It is from the album that won't be released until October, and the only place you can get it is on itunes. Very cool.

- I can't wait for the Gamecocks to play Georgia this Saturday. I have been wrong before, but I have a good feeling going into this one. Of course the way I feel has no effect whatsoever on the game, so I hope the players are as excited and confident as I am!

- I went home to eat lunch today, and I was so thankful for Sherry home-schooling our girls. There's lots of great reasons but the one I liked best today was that I got to love on my girls in the middle of the day. If they weren't at home I would have missed out on that.

Monday, September 3, 2007

An up and down weekend

What a wild weekend! Yesterday we experienced an awesome worship experience, but it almost didn't happen. We have been having public worship at Freedom for about two and a half years. During that time there has been the occasional glitch, but nothing to hard too deal with. Well this weekend we got tested with having several things mess up at once. Without going into all of the details, we had serious keyboard and computer issues that never got completely fixed until Sunday morning. I was just a little bit stressed out by all of it, (o.k. maybe a lot stressed out), but the cool thing was how our team all pitched in to get things right. I am so thankful that God has given each of us different abilities and passions, and that everyone is eager to use them. Ted Roberts and Mark King saved me on Saturday night when I was ready to throw the laptop we use for worship out the window of my truck. Mark Wilson and Jake Ticknor were willing to start Sunday morning very early in order to remedy our keyboard problem. The entire band worked through abnormal circumstances to lead us in worship through music that was great.

Once everything was settled we kicked off a new series of messages based on, The Best Question Ever by Andy Stanley. Here's a quick review for those of you who were at the beach this weekend. The best question ever is: What is the wise thing to do? It's based on
Ephesians 5:15-17. Before making important decisions ask yourself these three questions:

-In light of my past experience, what is the wise thing to do?

-In light of my current circumstances, what is the wise thing to do?

-In light of my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do?

As I said yesterday, life is really a series of decisions and then living with the consequences of those decisions. I believe if you will truly ask yourself, what is the wise thing to do, your decision making will be revolutionized.

By the way, our weekend wasn't totally stressful. Sherry and I went with Tracy and Paige Burkhalter to Atlanta to see the Braves game on Friday night, and even though the Braves lost we had a ball. Then last night after supper I took the girls to Sonic for treats (I got a yummy peanut butter milkshake), and then came home and sat on the porch with my beautiful wife. We called it our "Mayberry" time, just relaxing, talking, and rocking as the sun goes down. You ought to try it sometime.