May 292008

Church at the Grove could not have begun without sponsoring churches and generous organizations.  We had a primary sponsoring church, a few other partnering churches, a grant from the New Work Foundation, financial support from local associations and ONE family that generously donated money, all to make Church at the Grove a reality. 

This year we (CATGrove) have begun to see much of our financial support from outside organizations come to an end.  This means that our baby Church needs to mature and walk on its own.  We must be self-supporting! 

IRS Economic Stimulus Payments

As a part of a plan to stimulate a stagnant economy, the U.S. Government is sending checks to all adults and couples that have paid Federal Taxes last year and filed a tax return for last year.  The amount is $600 for individual filers, $1200 for couples filing jointly, and an additional $300 for each child in the family. 

What do we do with that money?  Are we obligated to spend it to simply help to stimulate the struggling economy. 

What if we prayerfully asked God how this money could best serve His Kingdom and His Mission?  Here are some thoughts:

  1. Consider giving a tithe (10%) of your stimulus check and/or making a special gift offering to CATG according to the request made at our CONCLAVE meeting this past month. 
  2. Pay off debt!  Rather than spending the check on things you may not need, you would do yourself better to use it to pay off accumulated debt. 
  3. If at all possible, put some into your emergency savings.  After you have made a gift offering and paid down some debt, if there is any left over, go ahead and put it into savings. 

If you have any questions, I will be glad to put you in touch with someone qualified to offer financial counseling. 

 Posted by at 11:23 pm
May 272008

Darrin Patrick, pastor of Journey Church in St. Louis, Missouri was the 4th speaker of the day.  Darrin is somewhat soft-spoken and “professor-like” in his teaching but you can’t mistake the intensity of his content. 

He read from Romans 1:18 and his big idea was “man is ruled by what he worships”.  He did a brief Old Testament survey regarding mankind’s rebellion against God’s statutes.

An Idol is anything other than God that I put in place of God.  Our emotional security or personal significance is either from God or something else.  “Idolatry is the sin between the sin!” 

Power, comfort, approval, and control are the 4 basic motivations that lead to Idols. 

We must admit that we are completely sinful, REPENT and embrace that we are fully accepted by a Holy God.  We must identify our idols and fully turn away from our idols and walk with God. 

The fifth speaker of the day was Pastor Dr. Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C.  His Big Idea is “Something Far more important is going on that what we see on the surface.”  “God has put Himself on display through the local Church.” 

Ephesians 3 — God speaks — God’s Word builds His Church.

“Church is not an event to be produced, but a community to be cultivated.”  WOW!

The sixth speaker was John Burke, pastor of Gateway Community Church in Austin, TX.  His Big Idea was in the form of a question from God, “Am I Enough?”  Burke admitted that he had an addiction to self. 

His main text was John 15:1-5  We are to stay connected to the vine!  Apart from God we can do nothing!

John Burke shared extensively regarding the “60-60” experiment he led his church through to lead them to a “moment by moment surrender to God.”  Check it out for more info at their website. 

The seventh speaker was one of my personal favorites, Perry Nobel, Senior Pastor of NewSpring Church in Anderson, S.C.  He taught out of Mark 3:13-19.  His Big Idea is “He called to Him those He wanted.” 

1. We are called.  “He chose Me.”  I would be stupid to volunteer for this!

2.  We must understand our priorities.  v14

  • We are called to be with Him.
  • We are called to preach.
  • We are called to have authority.

3.  We must understand the temptation. 

He appointed twelve.  Judas didn’t finish because he fell into temptation.   

The final speaker of the day was Dr. Ed Stetzer.  Ed is the Lifeway Resources missiologist and Research specialist.  His Big Idea centered around “going through doubt to Faith”.  He spoke from the passage in John 14 and specifically on Thomas who doubted. 

God can handle our questions and even in the midst of our questions God promises peace that surpasses all understanding.  Ed reminded us that it is not about our happiness!

We must press through from Doubt to Faith!

 Posted by at 10:39 pm
May 262008

I had breakfast with a good friend Shannon Ramsey Saturday morning at Waffle House.  You know its bad when you walk in Waffle House and they yell your name like “Norm!” from Cheers.  “RUSS!”  Shannon is scheduled to leave for Bangladesh with his family as soon as his house sells.  He will travel their with his wife and two kids to do work with University Students in a large city.  He is asking for prayer for his ministry and for his house to sell. 

Sunday was incredible: 

  • Craig did an incredible job teaching on the story of David’s taking of the census.  This was the third in our “NO REGRETS” series on snapshots of David’s life.  Craig’s Big Idea centered around how the spirit of God assaults our heart when we willfully disobey his commands and direction.  When we sin, do we simply say “sorry” in order to move on with life or do we genuinely allow the spirit to assault our heart in a way that we repent and redirect in a way to obey.
  • Ric and the band again.  I love how Ric is following the leading of the Holy Spirit in how he leads.  WOW!
  • Attendance was noticeably down but it was a great week! 
  • It was nice to NOT have to completely break down.  It will be nice to leave things up mostly this summer.
  • I am planning to revamp most of our strategic service teams during the summer for the fall.
  • We have a lot to do to prepare for the fall.
  • We have some great ministry planned for the students this summer.
  • School is out and it changes our routines for the summer but it will be a great time to work on our systems for the fall!
 Posted by at 10:14 pm
May 242008

A good friend of mine and a fellow church planter (Steve Whipple) invited me to travel with him to a one day leadership conference called The Whiteboard Sessions.  We left late Wednesday night and returned late Thursday night and it was a great day.  The format was for 8 of today’s influential leaders to have 30 minutes each on “their big idea” for leading in the church.  Here is a synopsis. 

Mark Batterson spoke first on the Big Idea “Our dreams are way too small!” 

  • He defined God’s favor as God’s ability/willingness to do something for you/through you that you can’t do yourself.  Read Isaiah 55:8-9.
  • My best thought on my best day is so far short of God’s goodness, bigness, and His love and mercy!
  • We tend to underestimate God by 13.2 Billion light years.  (Had to be there). 
  • My dreams are too small!!  I underestimate God!!  At some point, memory overtakes imagination–We must facilitate dreams and visions and imagination.
  • The Great Commission is THE GREAT DREAM!

The next speaker was Vince Antonucci, pastor of Forefront Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia.  His Big Idea was “Reach the Lost” 

  • How is it possible that He lived for twenty years in the U.S. and never heard about Jesus?  The total number of people in church is 8 million less than 20 years ago!  How is that possible?
  • We must be about the mission of Jesus and seek and save the lost.  Luke 19.10
  • Vince told a great parable about shark fishing.  Would you be considered a great “shark” fisherman if you went out and caught 120 fish but only 2 of them were sharks?  What if you only caught 25 total fish but 20 of them were sharks?  It is less total fish, but the majority of them were the specific kind of fish you were targeting.  Many of us are simply catching people that are already saved and “churched”.  This is while the number of people far from God continues to grow.  Jesus says “anyone who is THIRSTY come to me” 
  • What breaks your heart?  Jeremiah 4.19-22, check out what breaks God’s heart.
  • Are we going to places lost and disconnected people go to?  Are we counting fish, or are we counting sharks?
  • If you are not drawn to people far from God, you are probably not as close to God as you think you are!

3rd Speaker was Tim Stevens, Executive Pastor at Granger Community Church and author of Pop Goes the Church.  His big idea was “We must leverage the culture or risk losing our impact.” 

  • Reality 1 – Most churches aren’t impacting their communities. 
  • UnChristian, a book written by Gabe Lyons and Dave Kinnamon, helps us understand that the public image of Christians according to research done with 16yr-29yr olds is that we are basically, 1. Hypocrites 2. Too focused on making converts.  3. homophobic  4. Sheltered  5. Too political  6. Judgmental 
  • If you looked at the people in our communities in one of three categories, 1. Churched  2. Unchurched  3. DeChurched.  We are growing through primarily reaching people already churched.  RUSS opinion: Churched (people that have grown up in churches or come from established and traditional church backgrounds) people cause the most problems.  We are not doing a good job of connecting with the unchurched and dechurched.
  • Reality 2 – Spiritual interest is growing in our culture.
  • Read John 1:14 (Msg)
  • Paul shared Jesus in Acts 17 utilizing elements within the culture of the Athenians.  Tim Stevens did an outstanding job of exegeting this passage and applying it to our current setting.
  • Conclusion:  Paul leveraged his culture to tell people about Jesus!
 Posted by at 4:13 pm