Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick or Treat

I'll be writing the second post on building character tomorrow. This afternoon I have to finish up some other stuff and get home to prepare for trick or treating with my girls. It's always a big deal in our neighborhood. It's a great way to catch up with our neighbors. The main thing I have to do when I get home is carve our pumpkin. It can't be done early or else the squirrels around our house will rip it apart. Those things can really make a mess on your porch when they eat through a pumpkin. I'll let you know what type of face we carve tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Building character: part 1

"The building of character is a community thing."

That is a quote from a great new book called Deadly Viper - Character Assassins. Anyone can read it, but it is really written for men from a male perspective. Check it out here. One of the authors of that book Jud Wilhite often says, "character is the key to sustained individual significance." I believe both of those statements to be true. I believe the best example of character building being a community thing is the family. As parents, Sherry and I want to do all we can to build the character of Emily and Grace. It wouldn't make a lot of sense for us to leave that up to them. Character building is done in community and the natural community for that to happen in when you are a kid is the family.

What happens when you grow-up, get a job and move out? (I have often been accused of not really growing up) Where do you find a community that helps build your character? Sunday morning worship services are not where this will happen. Those events can't be personal enough for that. If character building is really going to happen in your life, you have to find some guys (if you're a guy) to meet with regularly and work on it. The key is that you are doing it together.

This is my first post that I have included a "part 1" in the title. I guess that means I have to write a "part 2" tomorrow. See you then.

By the way, when I ran the spell-check on this post I found out that I don't know how to spell "believe". That whole "i" before "e" thing has always confused me.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Halloween Hoopla

I need to go ahead and write about this before I get too bogged down in the business (or is it busyness?) of a new week. Halloween Hoopla on Saturday went way beyond my expectations! The police officers that worked the event for us estimated that there were over 3,000 people on Trade Street during the busiest time period. I was praying that there would be a ton of people present for us to show love to, and God brought them in. All of our volunteers did a fantastic job as usual of serving with a smile and going beyond the normal call of duty. Donny and his team (Shelly, Jeanne Brown, and Crystal Schulte) had everything organized, so when the volunteers arrived it was easy to just plug people in the right spot and let them go to work.

The amazing thing to me about this whole event is the fact that the Chamber of Commerce asked us to do it. This was truly a God thing. We never would have been able to get permission to shut down four streets in downtown on a Saturday unless it was God's idea for this to happen.
Now that the event itself is over, let's spend lots of time praying that the seeds that were planted will grow into changed lives. Keep bringing your friends to worship on Sunday mornings, and keep living lives of true freedom every day of the week!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Hoopla time

It's almost here. We are one day away from Halloween Hoopla! Donny has put together a great planning team, and as far as we can tell everything is ready for tomorrow. There are over 100 volunteers who already have their assignments and will be working at the event to make it special for the kids and families in our community. Here's a couple of things to remember for tomorrow:

- We are representing Jesus. As you are helping tomorrow, be sure and go the extra mile to be helpful. We will be dealing with kids from all backgrounds, some of which don't normally get praise and encouragement in their homes. It will be a blessing to them when they receive smiles, encouraging words, and pats on the back from us.

- Have fun! This will be a great opportunity for you to get more familiar with the people you are volunteering with as well as the people you are serving. Take time to laugh and get to know one another.

- Your service is much appreciated. It takes lots of people working in the same direction to pull off a big event like this. Thanks for working hard to make it happen.

- Pray. All of the preparation and hard work will amount to nothing if God's power is not present. Pray and ask God to give you an opportunity to show His love to the people who come. Pray that the un-churched who come will follow up on this event by coming to a worship service. Pray that God will be honored by our efforts.

I'll see you tomorrow in downtown Greer. It's going to be great!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Self awareness: Exercise

I have been working hard over the last couple of years to become more self-aware. (If that word isn't supposed to be hyphenated please let me know.) I think it's good for all of us to be aware of why we act, think, and feel the way we do. As I have been doing this, I've become aware of lots of things about myself that were probably obvious to people around me a long time ago. Things like: I tend to talk too much, I like to be liked, and I am emotional (in a very manly way of course).
Here's a new one I have discovered: I need to exercise. I know that is extremely obvious, but I'm not just talking from a physical standpoint. Ultimately the main reason I should exercise is for my physical health, but I am discovering that exercising regularly is just as important for my spiritual and mental health as well.

Yesterday I came home very drained due to dealing with the struggles of different people, and due to the fact that I didn't accomplish all I needed to at the office. Instead of making time to exercise, I came straight home. My beautiful and wise wife, (who knows me better than I know me) suggested I should go exercise before I went back last night for a budget planning meeting. I did, and as I was walking on the treadmill I could feel my mind getting clearer and my spirit begin to lift. God was using that physical activity to renew me.

I spent years neglecting my physical health because I said I was too busy. I am slowly learning that exercise is one thing I need to make time for, and I believe that God is pleased with that.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Monday Afternoon Quarterback

Here's some quick highlights from this weekend along with some other thoughts on this rainy Monday afternoon.

- Yesterday was big-time stressful! For really the first time in the short history of Freedom we had a good bit of technical difficulties. Our technical team as well as our band did a great job of pushing through and making the best of less than ideal circumstances. God has blessed us with great hard-working people!

- On Saturday the Gamecocks laid a big egg, and I was there to witness it. Despite the pathetic play of the team I had a great time, and the reason why was sitting beside me. Having Emily at the game with me made the outcome of the game unimportant. Anytime I get to spend with either of my girls is never wasted.

- I had a great conversation with a group of people last week that really opened my eyes. Most times as the pastor of Freedom I think I am communicating the vision and dream of what Freedom can be very clearly, but I discovered last week that I wasn't communicating as well as I thought. That was great information to discover! Now the goal is to be more clear and concise.

- I love it when God moves new families to Greer just so they can be at Freedom. I believe that there are some new families attending Freedom now that God specifically sent to help impact this community.

- While Emily and I were in Columbia on Saturday, Sherry and Grace made a delicious red velvet cake. I have got to be sure and work out every day this week, because I am going to eat lots of that cake!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

LIFE Group, Haloween Hoopla, and football

Since I started reading blogs about 6 months ago I've noticed that some bloggers really like bullet point posts and others make fun of them. Because of my undiagnosed adult ADD I think bullet point posts are awesome. They are much easier to write as well. With that in mind, here are some bullet points about what's going on right now.

- We had a great time with our LIFE Group last night. There was lots of very honest discussion about the greatness of God's love for us and how understanding His love should lead us to love the unlovable. If we're honest with ourselves, I think we'd all admit that we can be unlovable at times.

- I'm reading a good book right now by Craig Groeschel called "Confessions of a Pastor". I picked it up at the Catalyst conference after we heard him speak. Blake was thrilled when he left a comment on Groeschel's blog and then Groeschel commented back that Blake had great insight.

- I'm really looking forward to Saturday. I will be taking Emily to her first Gamecock football game. This will be a big moment for me that hopefully will be even more special due to a Gamecock victory. I'm sure it will be better than when I took Sherry to her first Gamecock game back in 1989. It turned out to be a 59-0 beat down at the hands of Florida State. That was not fun.

- Halloween Hoopla is happening next weekend! This will be a great chance to show love to our community. I am thrilled that we have been given the chance to do a community-wide event in the downtown area! More on this later...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Independence: not as good as you think

I have been reading through the book of Proverbs for the last couple of weeks and I came across a verse today that really got my attention.

"A man's steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?"
Proverbs 20:24

One thing that I tend to place to high a value on is self-sufficiency. In fact, I think very highly of those people who made their own way through life with little or no help from anyone. I'm always impressed by their stories. Self-sufficiency might be o.k. for some things, but that type of attitude can be damaging to my relationship with Jesus. In fact, Jesus wants to be the opposite of independent. His desire is for me to be dependent on Him. The words in Proverbs 20:24 ring so true for me, because I can think of many times in my life where things did not seem to make sense. Those almost always were times when I was caught up in trying to make my "own way" in whatever it was I was involved in. As a follower of Christ, my steps should be directed by Him, therefor I should expect to be dazed and confused when I try to be self-sufficient and do things my own way.

Last night, we had a budget planning meeting and it was great! That last sentence is not a typo! I have spent many hours in budget planning meetings where I would have much rather been somewhere else, but last night our team spent time talking about how much money we are going to give away next year and it was exciting. We will give money to help new churches get started and also to some other cool projects like paying for wells in Rwanda (that's in Africa) for villages to have clean water (something we take for granted).

We also spent a lot of time talking about God's plans for Freedom. You will hear more about that in this blog and on Sunday mornings soon. Here's a sneak preview: We're not content to stay where we are, and we're not finished with the task God has for us!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Monday Afternoon Quarterback

A couple of Monday's ago I did a post on Monday morning that I called Monday Morning Quarterback, a title I blatantly stole from Mike & Mike. I did a run down of cool things that happened over the weekend. Well here's another one of those, but I'm writing it on Monday afternoon ergo (that's another word for you Emily) the name change to Monday Afternoon Quarterback.

- Friday at the State Fair was great. I didn't eat too much. It was more than I would eat on a normal Friday, but significantly less than I have eaten at the Fair in past years. The Fiske Fries with vinegar on them are still my favorite. What was better than the food was getting to spend all day with Sherry and the girls. On the way home that night Grace must have said "I had fun today" ten times.

- On Saturday we all helped out at the Community Health Fair at SSI. The weather was great, and we got to meet lots of new people and talk to many we already knew. The highlight was seeing James, a long time patient at SSI, walk unassisted for the first time in 15 years! James had said that when he walked again he would get his hair cut and donate it to Locks of Love. So, after he walked we got to watch James get his first haircut in years as well.

- Saturday night, after the Gamecocks scared me in the second half against North Carolina, I went down to Horizon Records in Greenville to catch the last set of a band called Colonel Bruce Hampton and the Quark Alliance. The reason I wanted to see them was because a friend of mine, Jeff Caldwell, that I haven't seen since we graduated high school (20 years ago, it's hard for me to believe) is their guitarist. After they finished their set we got to talk and catch up for a little while. He couldn't believe I'm a pastor, sometimes I can't believe it either! He lives in Atlanta when he's not traveling and I'm hoping he can come down and visit on a Sunday morning sometime.

- Then on Sunday morning Sherry fooled me with something, and it was awesome. She told me this past Thursday that we had a guy coming in to play drums that had never played with our band before, and she hoped he would be good. She claimed it was some dude that Andrea found. Well, on Sunday while we are getting set up she calls me out to to the atrium of the high school to meet this new drummer, and there stands Jamie Parler (his nickname from high school that I call him is Pauley) my oldest friend in the world! I had no clue he was coming to play drums with our band on Sunday! I found out later that both Emily and Grace knew, Blake knew, Robin Wellmon knew, everyone knew but me. I have surrounded myself with people who know how to keep a secret.

- After all the fun and excitement from that weekend I crashed hard in my chair last night and watched the Patriots beat the Cowboys. I've always been a Cowboy hater, but I like Tony Romo. I was actually pulling for them last night.

This post is already long, but I had lunch with Gary O'Sullivan today and he told me that this friend of his is now reading my blog. Now we can say that Elvis has entered the building!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Time to eat

I'm looking forward to tomorrow. We will be heading to Columbia in the morning for the South Carolina State Fair. It will be the first time we've been in the last couple of years, so my girls are looking forward to it. They're also looking forward to seeing their cousins.

I love the whole experience from the rides to the livestock to the games where they try to rip you off. All that stuff is fun, but nothing beats the food! I can feel my cholesterol rising now as I think about it. Some of my favorites are the Fisk fries (with lots of vinegar), the mini-doughnuts, and the deep fried mushrooms. I probably shouldn't eat any of that stuff, but I believe I'm going to have to have a little bit (or maybe a lot). I'll let you know how I bad feel after it's all over.

Donny and I spent most of today thinking through several areas that can be elevated to help us reach more un-churched folks. It was a very productive time, but my brain is fried! It doesn't take much for my brain to get in that condition. I think some time on the treadmill will be just the thing to get me back on track.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Catalyst - Craig Groeschel

I promised on Monday that I would write some about the Catalyst conference later this week. I think the best way to do this is just to tell you what I thought were some of the highlights from the speakers.

One guy we got to hear that really challenged me was Craig Groeschel. Craig is the pastor of in Oklahoma. His church was named by Outreach magazine as one of the most innovative churches in the country last year. Craig spoke about practical atheism. A practical atheist is anyone who believes God exists but does life as if He does not exist. He talked about how often times we as pastors say we believe God exists but then we do ministry as if He doesn't. According to Craig these are three we ways we can test if we are a practical atheist or not:

1. We start to believe that our effort is better than God's power.
Too often I believe that if I just work harder Freedom will reach more people.

2. We believe that our private life doesn't effect our public ministry.
When I hear this, I automatically think of "big sins" like adultery or stealing money, but Craig emphasized how things we think are small (negative attitudes, prejudices, etc.) also affect what you do in public.

3. We believe we must please people more than we please God.
That's a big one for me. I just want to be liked is that so wrong? It is when being liked by people keeps you from doing what God has clearly said you should do.

Craig challenged us to be sure we weren't becoming full-time ministers and part-time followers of Christ. God wants to do a work in my life, I need to be sure and let Him.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Yesterday's service: WOW!

The Catalyst conference last week was really, really challenging and inspiring, but I will write more about that tomorrow. I hope you were at Freedom yesterday. We had a Lord's Supper service that was amazing! It was so cool to see Dads and Moms leading their kids in the receiving of the bread and the cup. I couldn't help but think that this will be the kind of service that these kids will remember for a long time. When we were planning this service, one of the things we wanted to accomplish was for parents (specifically Dads) to lead their families in this important tradition. Too often parents (again specifically Dads) think that the spiritual development of their kids is the church's responsibility. Nothing could be further from the truth. If yesterday was the first time you led your family in prayer or read scripture to them, don't let it be the last. Begin a new tradition in your home where Dad (or Mom if Dad is no longer around) leads the family in a closer walk with Jesus. Thirty years from now, you'll be glad that you did.

It was also cool yesterday to see teenagers whose parents weren't there taking the Lord's Supper together, as well as three generations of Greene's (Tom, Scott, and Stephen) at the table together, and a grown brother and sister celebrating the Lord's Supper. I could go on and on about how powerful it was to witness.

Every week at Freedom, lots of hard work goes into making the service a reality, but this week there were some extra things that had to be done. Let me take this space to thank a few folks:

- Jake Ticknor: Jake built the crosses that were used down front. I told Jake that I wanted them to be sturdy because the last thing we wanted was for one of them to fall on someone. They were sturdy, and they looked awesome.

- Ted, Chad, Mark and the rest of the set-up team: There were lots of changes to the normal set-up yesterday, and Ted's crew handled it all smoothly and with a great attitude.

- Band: They do a great job every week of being prepared and working hard to lead us to see Jesus, but yesterday was something special. I thought I was going to explode when they led us in "Mighty to Save", I was so jacked up! By the way, they looked and sounded great up on the stage didn't they?

- Debbie Bateman, Lisa Wilson: These two ladies always make sure we have enough bread and juice, and that they are presented in a way that looks good.

- Donny and Blake: I had the idea of doing the Lord's Supper in a different way, and as I talked the idea out with these two guys they did a great job of helping figure out ways to do it smoothly and with meaning. There are so many things about yesterday's service that would have been done differently without their input, and the result would not have been good.

This post is too long already, but let me share one more cool thing about yesterday. After the service we went to Rock's for lunch with a family who are fairly new at Freedom. It was great to talk with them about what kind of church we want Freedom to become, and to find out how their first impressions have been. It was also cool to see so many tables there filled with other families from Freedom all eating together and just generally having a great time.

Don't be afraid to leave a comment about how yesterday's service affected you and your family.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


Yesterday and today have been hectic! We (me, Donny, Blake) are heading out first thing in the morning (5:00 a.m. no lie!) to the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta. I am really looking forward to it. This will be the first year I get to go. Catalyst is a conference designed for young leaders, so Donny and I figured we better start going because pretty soon we won't fit into that category anymore. Of course Blake has many more Catalyst conferences in his future. Anyway, trying to get everything done to go out of town is always stressful for me. Not as stressful as it has been for Donny though. Just about an hour ago I looked across my desk into his office and said something to the effect of, "You got everything covered so we can head out in the morning?" To which he responded by saying something along the lines of, "We don't leave until Friday." In the busyness of Donny's week he had lost an entire day! Have you ever been there? I know I have.

One thing we've been working on so we can leave for Atlanta knowing everything is covered is this Sunday's service. Be sure you are there this week and invite your friends to join you! We are going to be celebrating the Lord's Supper and I'm really excited about how it will be done. Don't miss it.

By the way, speaking of Blake, he is doing a great job so far with our teenagers. Pray for him and Laura Beth as they build this very important ministry. He also taught me how to create lincs to other websites on this blog the right way. From now on when you see a word highlighted like this you will be able to click on it to go visit another site. Thanks Blake. What did we ever do without you?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The perks of service

Sunday evening was really cool. I say it all the time, but it's true: baptism is my favorite thing that we do at Freedom! Thanks to Lance and Amanda for allowing us to use SSI for our baptism party once again. If you couldn't be there, be sure not to miss the next one.

I had a couple of different conversations this weekend that reminded me of something that I wanted to share with you. I talked to a friend who has been going through some pretty difficult times recently. He volunteers tons of his time in many ministries, one is specifically dedicated to helping young men grow into leaders. He told me about how he spent an extended period of time serving in that capacity recently and how blessed he was by God in doing that. Think about that, he put in a lot of time and hard work to serve these young men, yet he was the one who received a much needed blessing. That conversation along with a couple of others reminded me of this fact: when we take time to serve God by serving others we get to be a blessing to those people, but we also receive a double blessing! It's one of those things about God that doesn't seem like it makes sense, but it always works out that way.

There's another benefit to serving especially in regards to your connection with Freedom. One of things we have learned since beginning Freedom is that serving along side someone is a great way to develop relationships. When people tell me that they need to develop more friendships at Freedom I always encourage them to find a place to serve. Through that type of action you have a chance to get to know a whole new group of people.