Saturday, May 30, 2009

Evaluating Second Statement of Change

"Is our current structure the best structure to respond to the external and internal stimuli we are currently experiencing?"
Since taking over as the Executive Pastor of Grace Church, this is a statement I grapple with on almost a daily basis. I believe one of the reasons I am forever asking this question of our ministry is because of the external and internal stimuli we face regularly.
Some of the external stimuli we face relates to our need to function as a legal organization within this wonderful community called Lititz. As laws and procedures change within our country, so to does the way we need to manage our employees, monies, facility etc... Seeking to stay ahead of the eight ball in these areas is a challenge and is why it has been imperative over the past few months to put into place a management team for Grace Ministries. Our need to have qualified and skilled people with a passion for our ministry taking the lead on many of these changes is crucial as it will impact our internal structures for many years to come. This will be a challenge as many of our structures have been ones that have been the "norm" for many years, but the norm doesn't cut it in a rapidly changing world where flex and fluidity need to be words we are comfortable with.
Some of the internal stimuli we face relates to our organizational structure needing to keep pace with the tremendous spiritual and numerical growth we are experiencing as a church. Numerical growth in and of itself forces us to grapple with decisions and choices that many smaller ministries will never face or have to discuss. This can lead to tension at times for the majority of us who either work or attend Grace are not used to the challenges a growing & changing church bring. But, we are also finding that spiritual growth impacts our internal structures as well. Our need to continue building upon the discipleship process for all Christ followers within our ministry grows ever challenging as we grow and see more and more people striving to be Christ followers. Thankfully, technology and the empowering and releasing of God's people to do God's work will help us navigate and move forward with great success for years to come.
As I reflect upon the above mentioned statement of change, I cannot help but think that it is one of the most helpful statements to ever keep before me as I give leadership here at Grace. Because it is our desire as a team to always be riding the wave God has us on, I refuse to let a structure stand in the way. If the structure needs to be evaluated, revised or even torn down to make room for new structures, I and the rest of the team must be willing to do so as God leads.
The bottom line is this... I don't want to get to heaven someday and hear God say; "Good job, but you could have done so much more if you had been willing to flex and change your man made structures that got in the way."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Evaluating First Statement of Change

"Change is often unpleasant because it means surrendering what is familiar and leaving behind what we once valued."
I would suggest that this statement is more true than we like to admit. There is something very comfortable with the familiar (even if it's bad) as we have a tendency as humans to place value upon the things we find safety and predictability in. I'm not saying that the things we value are bad, but I'm convinced that this is true for us as humans because there is something within all of us that cries out for independence and self sufficiency. It may well be that change is unpleasant for us because it demands we surrender ourselves fully to Christ and His direction for our lives. Is it possible that change is unpleasant because we value what we can create and control more than the sufficiency of Christ in all aspects of our lives even amongst times of considerable change?
How many times have I missed what God is trying to do in my life because of my desire to hold on to what what I value (what I'm knowledgeable and comfy with) rather than press on into something bold and new because I'm fully surrendered to Christ?
How many times have churches grown stagnant and impotent because we hang out in the things we value (methodology we are knowledgeable and comfy with) rather than press on into something bold and new because we are fully surrendered to Christ?
Please note that as I write this, I do so with the full awareness that change can create quite a bit of discomfort as it leaves little time to fall into the trap of growing comfy and complacent in the things I know and control. But that's where I must commit to being a Christ follower and leader that values Christ's opinion and purposes for my life and His church more than that which has become familiar and comfortable to me (us).
The statement of change resonates deep within me as I have always been one who likes to be in control and change can really shake that up. But, may I (we) never become those who place such value upon the comfortable and familiar that we find ourselves surrendered to methods (concepts) of predictability that we miss out on what it means to be a fully surrendered Christ follower.
I'm convinced that God wants to do incredible things through the Body of Christ at Grace Church, but we must be a people willing to value Christ's call to us instead of outdated methods that we find comfort in. May we also resist being critical of change because we have placed value on methodologies we are comfortable with rather than being open to God's leading into change! That's why being fully surrendered unto Christ is essential for the Body of Christ followers at Grace. Familiar is good but change will lead us into greatness!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Evaluating Statements of Change

I recently had the privilege of reading a letter by the president of Lancaster Bible College relating to some of the changes that the college is facing. As I read through his letter, there were a number of questions/statements that jumped off the page at me as I processed them through the lens of my position as the Executive Pastor of Grace Church.

Here are the three statements I would like to evaluate over my next three blog posts in light of all the changes Grace Church is looking to navigate through in the coming months.

"Change is often unpleasant because it means surrendering what is familiar and leaving behind what we once valued."

"Is our current structure the best structure to respond to the external and internal stimuli we are currently experiencing?"

"I pray that we will guard against the mindset of preserving a model versus fulfilling a mandate!"

These statements are well worth evaluating because the one constant we will all face in the coming months is change!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Proud Moment & Words to my Son

The other night LCS had their annual middle school sports banquet. I was looking forward to it in that my son had played numerous sports throughout the year and had a lot of fun doing it. But what I ended up experiencing that night was more than I ever anticipated.

As the night got rolling, I quickly came to realize that each and every sport would be acknowledged and that each and every student would receive a certificate in the sports they played. I must confess that I did think this might get a little old, but it didn't and here is why. As each coach stood before the parents, they began to talk about the privilege of coaching our children and I came to realize that for each of these coaches it was more than just winning some games. These coaches were committed to pouring into the life of my son on so many levels which means the world to me as a parent. Thanks coaches!!!

But, the best was yet to come! (Warning: I'm about to brag on my son so feel free to stop reading if you want) Part of the evening was also handing out various awards for each sport on a number of fronts. I must confess that I know my son loves sports and that he gives it his all and I was hoping he would at least get one award that evening. I'm not convinced its the best of attitudes, but I really wanted him to win something.

As the night went on, he ended receiving an award for each of the three sports he played. He won Rookie of the Year Award for soccer. He won the Total Release Award for basketball (this is given to the player who gives 110% every game). He won Rookie of the Year for track and field. I must confess that I was a proud pop and began to think about what I would say to him. So here it goes...

"Son I'm really proud of you. I'm proud that you poured yourself into these sports and learned about team, discipline and playing fairly while still having a passion to win and do your best. But, I'm even more proud about the young man you are becoming. As I watched you stand up front to receive those awards, I realized you weren't a little boy anymore. You are growing up and I can't wait to see how God uses all the potential in you. So keep trusting God, live life to the fullest and enjoy the years God is giving you at LCS with you friends and teammates."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My Confession and the Result (Part Two)

In my previous blog post I confessed that I have workaholic tendencies. Please know that I didn't do this lightly because my relationship with God, my wife and my children must take priority in my life and that was slipping away.

So in reckless abandon, we took off for Baltimore for the day as a family last Saturday and this is where I want to pick the story up...

As we drove into the heart of the city and I was listening to the GPS guide me to a parking garage, my son asked me a question... "Dad, what's the ESPN Zone?" As I looked up I noticed that there right beside the aquarium was the ESPN Zone restaurant and bar. Now I had the privilege of going to the one in Washington DC with a few guys and it is a really cool place. It didn't take long for me to realize that this day would be anything but a success if I didn't take my son to experience the Zone!

After our sightseeing adventures (noted in yesterday's blog) we headed over to see what type of wait we would have to experience at the Zone. As we got there, we were asked if we wanted the restaurant or the bar area where there are enough sports playing on large screen TVs to blow away even the greatest of sports enthusiasts. Now I'm not one who likes to wait at restaurants, but it was a no brainer to wait for a table in the TV room. With buzzer in hand we headed off to play some games (yes they have those too...) until our table was ready.

As our buzzer went off and we approached the host, he proceeded to tell Susan and I that they didn't have a table available yet, but they did have four recliners down front we could eat from. (Side Note: For those of you who have never been to an ESPN Zone, they have recliners you can eat from down in front of the big wall of TV screens - it's awesome!!!) With huge smiles' on my kids faces we decided to go for it.

Now here's a few of the things God reminded me of in the ESPN Zone while sitting in a recliner (If only all of God's reminders could come this way...) Because we were spread apart in large recliners, the opportunity to dialogue with my kids wasn't easy, so I just sat and observed them for a bit. I sat and looked at their beaming faces and thanked God for the opportunity to be their dad and gain great pleasure from a simple smile. I sat and observed them order their meals politely and with confidence and recognized just how much they were growing up. There they sat reclined with feet up sipping their soda's watching college lacrosse and taking in the full experience. I couldn't help but reminisce just how quickly they were growing up and reminded myself to take advantage of every experience I can enjoy with them. I sat there looking at them thankful for the day we just spent together with the realization that I can't spend every Saturday with them, but I need to spend as much time as possible living and experiencing life with them while there is time.

God has entrusted these kids to me for a short time in light of all eternity and God wants them to have a dad that is fully engaged in their lives. I know there were emails waiting for me at the office and that there is always something else to be worked on... but I'm sure glad for a day at the ESPN Zone where amongst all the TVs, drinking, noise, games and people I saw two smiles that will sit nicely in the picture frame of my mind for many years to come.

Monday, May 18, 2009

My Confession and the Result! (Part 1)

I was a bad blogger last week in that I haven't posted anything since last Tuesday, but I got wrapped up in the following...

In an attempt towards transparency and in my desire to make my blog posts something my kids can reflect upon years from now, I have a confession to make. I have workaholic tendencies! I don't think that I've ever totally fit the definition nor will I ever completely confess to it, but I've had some people recently who are observing me from the outside and really care for me and my family speak some truth into my life on this issue. With that in mind, I determined this past weekend to take two entire days and devote them entirely to my family without checking email (not that I didn't try - but the remote access was down on Saturday) or thinking much about Grace Church (easier said then done). But, I was committed to getting some important and simple things done that poured into my family. So here we go...

Friday - I spent the day with my lovely wife. We enjoyed our Friday morning breakfast out together and spent some time working through our summer plans which will include three weeks of vacation visiting family, a former ministry and some good friends. Our travels will take us to Niagara Falls, Kincardine, Ottawa, Thousand Island region and Dallas. It was something that I had been putting off for a while in that gearing up for a few weeks away is hard for me.

Saturday - We decided to get into the van and drive to Baltimore for the day and enjoy the Inner Harbor. This would be a new experience for all of us. Here are some of the highlights of the day;

Slept in until 7:00 AM! That was a treat.

Enjoyed a good breakfast at the Cracker Barrel that was found by my trusty GPS that the entire family loves to play with and make fun of as she talks.

Had a few moments of panic as I realized the Preakness was being run just outside of Baltimore which had the potential of bad traffic. PTL we never had a problem.

Spent a wonderful five hours at the National Aquarium. That place was really cool!!! I loved watching my daughter snap pictures all day long of the big sea turtle. I enjoyed hanging out with my son who likes some of the creatures of the deep that the girls don't. We enjoyed the dolphin show and the kids and I enjoyed making fun of mom who hates (I mean hates) the reptile sections of places like that. All in all it was a great time together as a family as we admired the creativity and power of God through these creatures.

Enjoyed a tour of a WWII sub. We were actually able to climb down below deck and walk through it. The kids were fascinated at how brave men lived in service for their country in such tight, smelly and dismal quarters. It was a good lesson and reminder for all of us.

The day only got better as it went on and I reveal the ultimate lesson God taught me at a Sports Bar...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's been a good day...

I know that every day as a Christ follower is a good day, but some days the circumstances of life just seem to make this journey on earth a little bit easier. Today was one of those days for me and here is why;

I started off my day with a good friend and had a wonderful cup of House Blend Coffee (a.k.a. Kick Ass coffee - I'm not kidding, that's the real name) at Spill the Beans.

I had a great meeting with my HR manager as we wrapped up the details for next fiscal year's health care plans. It's a good plan and I'm pleased with the direction our overall ministry is moving.

After this meeting, spent a moment thanking an individual from Grace Church who is volunteering a number hours a week within our ministry as an IT specialist. A big shout out and thanks to Mike Newman for taking this on. It is so cool to see God's people using their talents and abilities for this church and God's glory. That alone made my day!

I enjoyed a few laughs with our maintenance guys in my next meeting of the morning. I'd explain, but it wouldn't make sense. It's always good to laugh together.

In between meetings I spent a few moments with our new Finance Manager (Dennis Jordan) who spent his first day with us. It's wonderful to have his level of expertise on our staff and I can't wait to get him going full time on June 1.

I had a phenomenal meeting with Scott (Sr. Pastor) and Megan (Office Manager) and FaithHighway which is the company creating and designing our new website that we are looking to launch this Fall. It was an awesome hour long conversation and I can't wait for the next one on Thursday.

After this meeting I enjoyed a great lunch out with my wife. I was gone at 6:30 this AM and won't be home until around 10:00 tonight, so taking time out to spend with her is always a joy on a busy day like today.

Had a 1/2 hour to myself which was nice!

Enjoyed a 2 hour meeting with Scott and we had some wonderful discussions about the future of Grace Ministries. We are pumped at what God is doing and the staff He continues to bring around the table as we venture forward with great excitement and expectation.

Spent a few hours in my office, chatted with my wife, found out my home is completely repaired apart from the front door going on Friday and enjoyed a great laugh with our Sr. Administrator and Elementary Principal.

Just finished up with our employee health care meeting and I'm still excited and thankful regarding the health care we can provide our employees here within Grace Ministries.

I'm now getting ready to head into my final meeting of the night which is the Worship Design Team (WDT) meeting. This is always a fun, energetic and exciting one as we talk about past, present and future Sunday's here at Grace. I never tire of hearing how God is using His word and the many creative elements we utilize to meet and move people.

From there... I'm going home. It's been a good day of ministry and I continue to count myself blessed to be serving here at Grace!!!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

You're Still the One!

I wanted to take a moment to wish my beautiful wife a Happy Mother's Day! She continues to do a fantastic job when it comes to keeping our home and family stable and cared for. There is no doubt that the love and kindness which flows through our home is a direct result of her!

This mother's day I got her one of those singing cards with the song "You're Still the One" by the Orleans. They may not be the most Biblical lyrics, but it's a fun song that communicates the truth that she is still and always will be the one for me!!!

You're still the one I want to talk to in bed
Still the one that turns my head
We're still having fun, and you're still the one

You're still the one that makes me laugh
Still the one that's my better half
We're still having fun, and you're still the one

You're still the one that makes me strong
Still the one I want to take along
We're still having fun, and you're still the one

You're still the one that I love to touch
Still the one and I can't get enough
We're still having fun, and you're still the one

You're still the one who can scratch my itch
Still the one and I wouldn't switch
We're still having fun, and you're still the one

You are still the one that makes me shout
Still the one that I dream about
We're still having fun, and you're still the one...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Who Stole MY Church

For anyone who is a part of the Grace Church family, you know that the leadership of Grace and many others within our walls are reading the book "Who Stole my Church." To be honest with you, it is a book that I have found interesting and beneficial for our church, but it hasn't rocked my world as I'm very comfortable with how we "do" church here at Grace.

BUT... I read a post recently on Tony Morgan's blog and it got me really thinking about how comfortable I am with change within the church as it will no doubt impact me greatly in year's to come. Here is a snippet of what he wrote: "Remember the days when the only worship music was hymns? We were stuck there because that was clearly the “sacred” style of worship music. Then the 80s hit and Willow Creek made it possible for us to use current music styles in worship services to connect with the unchurched. Only it’s as if we got stuck in the 80s. While the church still leans on a mix of rock and pop music as the preferred worship genre, our culture has shifted once again. Now, according to iTunes, 1 in 3 of the top 100 songs in the country is either hip-hop/rap or R&B/soul. My guess, though, is that you can’t name a church in the country that’s using these genres of music for worship. Why is that? Now, before you let your “it’s-not-our-culture” bias set in, consider this. Most of the hip-hop and R&B music has been recorded by black artists. 14% of the U.S. population is black. But, remember, nearly one-third of the music purchased on iTunes is one of these two genres. You do the math. White people like hip-hop."

Now I am in no way saying that hip-hop and R&B are coming to Grace anytime soon, but maybe it should if we are truly desirous to meet and move as many people as possible. Discussions like this will most definitely impact our talks when it comes to launching our campuses in years to come.

I guess the bottom line still stays the same no matter what and that is IT ISN'T MY CHURCH OR YOUR CHURCH TO HAVE STOLEN FROM US! It belongs to Christ and Him alone and it is our job to work under His leading to meet and move as many people as possible without my (our) preferences getting in the way.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

And now for the rest of the story...

This past weekend I wrapped up my sermon by sharing my families personal story of needing to firmly place our feet upon a never changing Jesus and I left everyone hanging with the results of this story. So here is the remainder of our story...

As noted on Sunday, my father-in-law was found to have a terrible brain bleed (non-technical term) with need for a surgery that could potentially lead to either his survival or death. I shared how we as a family leaned completely on our never changing Jesus especially when the time had passed when the surgery was to be over which the doctor had warned us would most likely be bad news. And that's where I left it hanging...

And now for the rest of the story... My father-in-law did survive the surgery and entered a rehab facility for many months as the brain bleed did leave him permanently disabled in some areas. My families need to continue resting and relying in a never changing Jesus was very real for the many years since his surgery.

To this day, my in-laws are both doing well and Christ has proven Himself so faithful to our family. As every Christ follower knows, this life is anything but easy, but that's why we are challenged from the Bible to place our faith and confidence in the only One who does not change in an ever changing world. To be completely honest, this truth about Jesus and our need to fully depend on Him is true whether my father-in-law would have lived or died that day. The rest of the story did not change the truth of the point. We all need to keep leaning on Jesus no matter what a day holds whether good or bad!

One final thought... I was really moved by the many, many people who approached both Susan and I with a genuine concern for our family after I shared this story. Your love for us was evident and we appreciated your thoughts for us as we all do this thing called life together while resting in a never changing Jesus.

Love serving and living life with the Grace Church family!