Pastor B

Generation Church

5 Years and Counting: What I’ve Learned

In honor of our 5 Year Anniversary as a church, I thought I would take a moment to reflect and think back to what God has taught me in the last five years. After being in student ministry for nearly 14 years, my family and I stepped out in faith to plant Generation Church on March 4th, 2012. It was my first time to ever lead as the senior pastor. I was 33 years old and believed God for great things. I envisioned what God would do through a group of people who were passionate about reaching our community and the un-churched. And boy, did God show up! It has been an incredible journey over the last five years.

 

Every journey has its ups and downs. Every journey has learning curves and life lessons. I thought I would share at least five things (believe me, God has taught me much more) that I have learned in the last five years. I pray that it encourages you in your own spiritual journey…

 

Here are the 5 things I have learned in the last 5 years:

 

Church Planting is the Most Difficult and Yet Most Rewarding Thing I’ve Ever Done

 

I can remember reading a few books on church planting and getting so excited thinking of how easy it would be to get people on board and to raise money. I had made a list of fund raising ideas and ministry partners. I had also made a list of about 40 names that I would approach and ask to help us go and start the church.

 

Not one single person on that list came to help us start the church.

 

In fact, the first family we asked to come on board turned us down. (They are now campus pastors for one of our partner churches and doing very well, so they definitely followed the Lord in their leading) It was an entire year of team building, raising money, and raising leaders to get us ready to launch Sunday worship experiences in March of 2012. But it was worth it. Especially after seeing 89 people be baptized at our very first Easter worship experiences.

 

Leading and ministering to people is extremely messy. It’s difficult, even painful at times. It’s been said that pastoring a church would be easy if it wasn’t for the people. But without people, there is no ministry and there is no church. Though it’s difficult and hard work, it is also rewarding. Every time a married couple takes the plunge to be baptized, God reminds me that He is at work. Every time someone comes to faith in Christ, joins a small group for the first time, or begins serving, it’s a reminder of the amazing power of the Holy Spirit. We’ve been through a lot over the last 5 years including having our equipment stolen, switching locations, losing staff, and long weekends of set up and tear down. But it’s all worth it every time someone takes a next step. Every time a first time guest leaves in tears and the hope of the Gospel.

 

It’s Not a People Problem; It’s a System Problem

 

We often blame people for not following through or taking next steps, but it’s never a people problem. It’s always about the system created for the people. Shepherding people requires great systems to be in place. I have always been terrible at systems; and it showed in the first several years of our church. Of course, no one could have been prepared to grow to nearly 500 people in our first year in existence. We quickly outgrew our systems and it’s still something we are recovering from today.

 

When we launched the church, our systems were built and structured to lead a church of about 150 people. We believed that at the end of year one, we would be blessed to be running 150-200 people. So, you can imagine how crazy it was to try and lead a church of 500 without the right systems.

 

The good news is that we are moving forward and building much better systems. As long as we are willing to change each year or with each growth stage, then people will be efficiently cared for in our church. I’m learning to put the right people around me who can help build better systems to care for the people that God has entrusted us with in the church.

 

Grow People and Allow Jesus to Grow the Church

 

It is not my responsibility to grow the church. It is, however, my responsibility to grow people. Early in the church’s development, the pressure to focus on church growth was overwhelming. Becoming a fast growing church has its blessings but also major struggles. Everyone saw the people coming and assumed that was the end goal. But at every level of growth, there is a new level of frustration and opposition. If people aren’t spiritually healthy, they never break through plateaus in their life.

 

In the last year or so, I have focused solely on investing in the people around me, and the leaders of the church. In doing so, they have become healthier to lead others and help them grow in their walk with Christ. I have also focused on creating culture that fits our vision and mission. With laser focus, people are able to move forward in their journey and next steps become clear. Instead of telling people that they should take next steps, people desire to grow because of the culture and atmosphere of the believers in the church.

 

If we do our part in investing in people, God will do His part and add to the church. Healthy things grow…and so do healthy people.

 

Guard My Heart and My Family’s Heart Above All Else

 

One of my greatest weaknesses as a leader is being a people pleaser. I hate for people to be mad at me or for people to be upset. I have always felt pressured to fix every single situation, every conflict, and everyone’s hurt feelings as a leader. One thing is for certain; it never works out. The old saying you can’t please everybody is still true today. I would try and fix all conflict in the church and do so at the sacrifice of my own personal health and the health of my family. I was setting up meetings in the evenings quite often and away from my family to handle situations that I wouldn’t be able to change anyways. If I was unhealthy or hurting, then it took my energy from leading and loving my family. I came home sad and quiet. I came home defeated and lonely.

 

I finally made the choice to guard my own heart and my family’s heart above all else.

 

Everyone cheers on a pastor as long as he’s saying and doing the things they want him to do. People will cheer you to your death. You see stories of pastors’ burned out, having moral failures, and quitting the ministry. At some point they didn’t guard their heart. I may upset some people by not giving them my time. I may hurt some people’s feelings by not coming to visit them or meeting up with them. I may make some people mad because they don’t like a decision that I made at some point. I have learned to be okay with it.

 

My success as a pastor is only as effective as my success at home. If I’m a better husband and father, then I’ll be a better pastor. But those first two had to come first. For several years they didn’t come first. I can honestly say that my health meter has went way up and I lead at a much better place now that my priorities are in the right place. The last two years have been incredible for my personal health as God has taught me this principle.

 

Don’t Seek a Platform; Build a Platform

 

I’ve been around ministry long enough and experienced the narcissism that comes with church planting. (And all church planters are narcissistic to some level or they wouldn’t want to lead their own church) But if you’re not aware of it and give in to it, you become obsessed with wanting your own platform. You want to be in charge. You want to get paid to do ministry. You want to be the one who gets the credit. You want to be a leader and you feel that no one else sees that potential or will let you lead. You really desire a title or a seat at the leadership table. These are all evident in a person’s life that seeks a platform.

 

One of the most valuable things God has taught me is to build a platform. In other words, live your life as a leader giving other people opportunities to lead and serve. It is humbling and yet rewarding. Our influence is never measured by what we build in life, but rather who we’ve built in life. Hollywood is where you want to go if you want to constantly receive rewards and recognition for your accomplishments. If you want to be in ministry, you had better prepare yourself to be thanked much less. But isn’t that what Jesus said that leadership looked like in HIS Kingdom? “The first shall be last and the last shall be first”. The last two years, God has led me to begin mentorships, one on one development, and focus my time and energy on building up other people.

 

At the end of the day, if my platform is all I’ve built, there will be no one still standing when I’m gone.

 

But if I’ve built a platform for others, then it becomes how much farther others can go without me. The church is built upon Jesus, not me. Pouring into others and watching them shine has become my life’s mission. I love watching others fulfill their potential. I pray that I live the rest of my days with that mentality.

 

That’s just a few of the things I’ve learned in the last five years. I am grateful for the blessings, the tough seasons, and for His grace in the midst of my own mistakes as a leader. I believe that God has so much more to teach me in these next five years. And I pray that my family and those that I influence will be better people because of what He teaches me. So, here’s to another five years of blessings and life change. May we never stop loving Jesus and loving people.

 

For He has done a great work IN me that He may do a great work THROUGH me.

 

Pastor B

My Spirituality is Attractive

I can’t stand ugly spirituality. When I say that, I mean that I really can’t stand it. There are few things that really aggravate me to the core than ugly Christians. Ugly Christianity shows it ugly face in many ways. A few of those show up as being self-righteousness, legalistic, rigid, negativity, complaining, lack of gratitude, laziness, hypocrisy, and bitterness…just to name only a few. Nothing will kill a move of God or the culture of a church quicker than ugly spirituality. People can feel it right away, too. A hateful person in the parking lot can destroy someone’s receptiveness of the sermon in the auditorium. That’s why I always tell people that the sermon starts in the parking lot.

 

What we see as insignificant acts of service are actually tone setting moments that lead to life changing opportunities.

 

Why? Because authentic and life giving spirituality is attractive. I absolutely love being around genuine, sincere, Jesus lovers. People who have fallen in love with Jesus, His word, and people are the most energetic, loving, and fun people to be around. That’s the kind of culture we should fight for at Generation Church.

 

There are three things to remember about creating an attractive culture:

 

Love God, Love People, Love LIFE

 

Jesus gave us instructions as to what the greatest of the commandments were in Matthew:

 

“Jesus replied, “‘You must love the lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”—Matthew 22:37-40 (NLT)

 

We sum it up by saying ‘Love God, Love People’. But I also believe we need to learn to love life itself! We can never truly love God and love people if we never develop a passion for life. So many believers are rigid and negative. We need to learn how to have fun, laugh, and bring joy into people’s lives. Would you rather be around someone who is always complaining and negative or someone who is fun, energetic, loving, and funny? Your answer to that question may say a lot about your own current heart’s condition. Learn to love life; it will make your spirituality more attractive.

 

Change My Posture

 

As a personal trainer, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned (the hard way at times) is that injuries, aches, and setbacks in people’s fitness journey had more to do with our posture than anything else. Some people are afraid to do certain lifts or exercises because they say it hurts. But the truth I’ve discovered is that nine times out of ten, they are doing the movement incorrectly or their posture is really bad. I’ve had several back and shoulder injuries due to my poor posture. It’s something I have to think about and be intentional with every single day. The health and progress of my body depends on it.

 

It’s the same with our spirituality. Do you realize that your posture on a Sunday morning could literally either change someone’s entire experience for the positive or the negative? I’ve walked into the lobby on Sunday’s sometimes and thought to myself ‘my goodness, I hope our entire church doesn’t look those people right now’. I’ve seen people sitting alone, arms crossed, with a hateful look on their face. I’ve seen people who desperately need God to move in their situation sit during worship with no response. I’ve seen people who have asked for prayer for big things in their life and yet don’t take a single note or even open their Bibles during the sermon.

 

If being around the people of God, worshipping in the presence of God, doesn’t change or affect you, how will the non-believers ever think it will change them?

 

It’s not always what you say; it’s what you don’t say.

 

My challenge to every single person who calls their self a believer (and especially a leader) is to do several things every Sunday:

  • Come ready and expecting great things
  • Come ready to serve with a smile
  • Fight for the front…passionate people want to be where the action is
  • Take notes and engage in the sermon
  • Actually engage in worship
  • Seek out those you’ve never met before to greet them with a smile

 

I’m telling you, the atmosphere will be so electric, we will never have to announce anything ever again because people will be dying to take a next step just to get a fraction of what you have!

 

Speak Life

 

Sometimes, the greatest thing you can do for anybody is literally to walk away from negativity and back biting. If anyone comes to you with a problem about somebody else, simply walk away. Most people will try to give an ear to someone to help the situation but in return begin to carry the same bitterness towards another person just because they continued to listen to their gossip.

 

Speak words of life into people. My mama always told me that if you don’t have something nice to say about somebody, don’t say anything at all. I literally think that if some people practiced this, they would be mute.

 

If you want your spirituality to be attractive, find ways to encourage people every single day. I promise it will change your life as well as theirs.

 

At the end of the day, people may like our church for what we can offer, but they’ll stay because of who we are.

 

People are drawn to a beautiful culture.

 

And bad culture can destroy good vision. We can have the best processes, the best band, the best kids ministry, and great communicators. But if your spirituality is unattractive, it doesn’t matter. So remember, don’t just create good culture, BE good culture. Live your life with the intention to let your spirituality be something that people are drawn towards, not away from it. If we do that, it would literally flip our city upside down the with love and passion of Jesus.

 

 

Pastor B

This is My Life; Not a Job

I’ll never forget my first invitation into ministry leadership. I was so excited. I had been a volunteer in our church’s student ministry for about seven years. I met my wife while volunteering in that ministry. I had a vision and a dream to reach thousands of people when I was in my early 20’s. I was asked to pray about becoming a student pastor at a small, country church in Kentucky. But I didn’t care about how big or where the church was; I was simply ecstatic to begin leading a ministry.

Over a period of the next 7 years, I would be introduced to the ups and downs of leadership and ministry. One of the traps you can fall into is feeling like leadership and ministry is a job. You come to church, do your tasks, send your emails, and go home to regular life. If you are involved in a church that wants to reach people and has big vision, there’s a lot that goes in to making that happen. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. But what separates churches from having a group of leaders who are doing a task and a group of leaders who are changing their community is their heart’s approach to ministry. Serving God, people, and a vision should never seem like a job. It should be a part of our very being; our life.

Jesus gives an illustrated sermon about the heart of a shepherd. Shepherds love their flock. True shepherds didn’t simply guard the sheep. They cared for the sheep; they laid down their lives for the sheep.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.”John 10:11-13 (NLT)

There are three things I learned from this text:

1. We Are a Family; Not a Staff

A staff is something that Moses used to carry around. I don’t want to simply have a staff. Sometimes, words like staff, board, and team can take on negative connotations. It becomes something else vying for your time and simply another commitment on the calendar. But when you are a part of a family, it becomes living, breathing community that you daily give yourself to and love. Families assume the best out of one another. Families work through tension and conflict in healthy ways. Families don’t expect more from others that they’re not willing to give themselves. Families never give up on one another.

2. Be a Shepherd; Not a Hireling

I want people around me who are willing to give themselves to a mission because it’s their calling. You didn’t simply hire a shepherd. The shepherd was someone who grew up around the sheep and knew them. A hireling is simply a seasonal worker in need of a paycheck. They are just biding their time until a better opportunity comes along. Jesus said that a hireling would even scatter the flock. In other words, they don’t care about unity or even the health of the people. They are selfish and only care about their well-being.

Seasonal workers don’t care for the sheep or the mission as much as those who are called. Hirelings run at the first sign of trouble.

That’s why some people will come and go in leadership or in the church. We don’t need hirelings, we need shepherds who truly care about the people, the mission, and the vision of the church.

You can’t build culture on people who are in it for a job.

If you constantly need recognition, praise, a leadership title, monetary compensation, or a position, then you might be a hireling.

The heart of the shepherd has a heart for the house that he serves in and worships in.

3. Respond to a Call; Not a Task

Tough times will always separate the shepherds from the hirelings; the called from the cowards. When you imagine the picture that Jesus paints with His words; it’s a beautiful picture of His love for His followers. He loves us so much that He’s given us shepherds, ministry leaders, elders, pastors, and group leaders to care for one another.

It’s a calling.

We have some amazing emergency workers in our church. They will work up to at least three days in a row away from their families in order to be prepared to respond to an emergency. When they get the call, they don’t slowly get their stuff together and complain about being inconvenienced. They don’t get upset or frustrated that they’ve been called to an emergency. They’ve been waiting for this opportunity. They’ve anticipated the call. They’ve dedicated their lives, sacrificed themselves for the sake of the call. It’s the opportunity to save someone’s life and serve your community.

It’s not an inconvenience to serve Jesus and His church. It’s a matter of calling. We have the amazing opportunity to lead people in our community to salvation. We get the amazing opportunity to help restore families, bring hope to the hopeless, serve those in need, and simply bring joy in people’s lives. It’s not a task, a job, or a duty.

It’s our life.

Don’t go through your life with a heart of a hireling. Ask God to give you a heart that’s called to serve Him and the people He’s entrusted to us.

Pastor B

I Am a Well of Life

I love water.

The majority of the time, when we go out to eat, I normally enjoy a glass of water with my meal. And I’m cheap in that sense and would rather spend more money on food and not a drink. I try to drink a gallon of water a day. It’s good for you and your body needs water to function properly. But have you noticed that not all water tastes the same? I’m not talking about restaurant water because most of the time that tastes like liquid metal. (I normally add a lemon which will slightly take away the metallic taste). Most bottled water tastes differently. I, for one, do not like Dasani water. I think it tastes strange. And normally, it’s the cheaper bottled water that tastes better than the expensive ones. I do enjoy Fiji bottled water, but most of the time I buy Purity brand bottled water whenever I buy from a convenient store.

My point is, some people think water is water, right? But it’s not all the same. Some have a bitter taste, some a metallic taste, and some are clean tasting (Yes, that is a taste). It’s the same way with believers and their words and actions. You would think that all Christians would talk and act the same, but they don’t. Many times, unfortunately, our words and actions can be bitter for those on the receiving end of them. I love the Proverb that says:

“The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain; the words of the wicked conceal violent intentions”Proverbs 10:11

Our words are supposed to be a LIFE giving fountain. Water is truly life. Have you ever been so thirsty that you were desperate for water? That feeling when you finally are able to drink and fulfill your thirst is the feeling that people should feel whenever they are around us. Our words, our actions, and our behavior should literally bring life to people. They should refresh and sustain people.

As we continue to Work the Soil, we want to focus on another one of culture responsibilities; I Am a Well of Life. When it comes to BEING the culture; this one is super important. There are 3 things to remember when it comes to being that fresh, life giving fountain:

Stay Off the Gossip Train

I love this quote by Christine Cain; “If you didn’t see it with your own eyes, or hear it with your own ears, don’t invent it with your small mind or speak it with your BIG mouth!”

One of the enemy’s greatest weapons of mass destruction is our tongues. Jesus reminded us that what is in our hearts will eventually flow out of our mouths. A gossip is someone whose heart is either full of bitterness or anger. They thrive off of someone else’s negative news in order to conceal insecurity, fear, or bitterness. If you struggle with gossip, ask Jesus to cleanse your heart. Ask Him to show you where you need to forgive others or maybe ask forgiveness yourself.

Make Toxic People Uncomfortable

Are you the person that always seems to hear the latest? If so, toxic people may feel comfortable being around you. You may not be a person that necessarily spreads gossip, but are you the person that people enjoy sharing gossip? You should strive to live your life in such a way that toxic people don’t feel comfortable around you.

I can remember being in the Philippines and being warned not to drink the water. I successfully stayed away from drinking the tap water. But what I didn’t realize is that one day while enjoying a soft drink, I used ice in my glass. I totally blanked on realizing that the ice is the same water, it’s simply frozen. Guess who got sick? You may think it’s only a little thing to allow certain toxic people around you. But I promise that it will affect your fountain! You won’t have to avoid them if you’ll live your life being a life giving well. They will avoid you.

Run Your Own Race

My mama used to say it like this in the south; mind your own business, boy. It’s hard to get off track if you run your race with focus and keep your head down.  We need more believers who are focusing on being the head and not the tail, living above and not beneath. Live above reproach, focus on being an example. Don’t be that person that blames other people for not being who you’re supposed to be. That’s idolatry and hypocrisy.

When you stay focused on who God is called YOU to be, then everything else will take care of itself. People will always make mistakes and fail you at times. You may even fail people at times. But we can’t live in the same cycle of bitterness, grudges, anger, and toxic conversation. It takes believers who are striving to be that well of life.

We can’t give what we don’t have, though. Where are you getting YOUR source of life giving water? The news and media? Your favorite celebrity? Your favorite TV show? If you continue to seek to drink from the wrong sources, you will continue to BE a wrong source for others. Don’t look to the world to find life, after all the great theologian, Woody the Cowboy said it best:

“Somebody poisoned the water hole!” 🙂

Take time and evaluate yourself today. Are you a life giving well? Are your words and actions bringing strength, encouragement, and love to others around you? Or are you a constant source of bitterness, gossip, complaining, and poison? Just because you’re a Christian, doesn’t mean that all wells are the same. Not all water tastes the same. Are you filled with the Living Water that flows into others’ lives? Don’t just be dirty, tap water today. Be that life giving Fiji. You just may refresh someone’s soul today.

Pastor B

 

These Are My People

A few months ago we began the conversation about Being the culture, not just Creating the culture in our church. Within the church, there are two different cultures: one that is intentional and one that is not intentional. But there is always culture being created whether you mean to or not. But it’s not enough to write it down, announce it, and expect others to follow it. We must embrace it, live it, love it, and constantly be reminded of it.

I wanted to take a moment and focus on one of our cultural responsibilities at Generation Church. This culture statement is: These Are My People. In many cultures there is an “Us vs. Them” mentality and culture that develops. Look no further than the culture in our nation right now. The culture is so unhealthy and toxic right now. That same culture can creep into the church if we aren’t careful and intentional about what kind of culture we are trying to become. Within the church, there will always be issues, conflict, and problems arise. Our focus can shift to an attitude of ‘they’ are out to get me; instead of remembering that WE are all a part of THEM. Many times we don’t include ourselves as a part of the problem or the solution.

Put yourself mentally, emotionally, spiritually with THEM. Suddenly, you’ll be a part of the answer!

It has nothing to do with your role and function—it has everything to do with your spirit and your heart. You can either be the person that sees the problem with every little thing you see or be the person trying to bring harmony and solutions to every issue. It’s about remembering that everything we do is for PEOPLE. You can’t wear your I Love My Church shirts and not care about the people that make up the church. People who refuse to talk and love each other through conflict are usually people with deep wounds that they haven’t given over to God. Our ability to establish healthy culture stems from a place of being a healthy follower of Jesus.

I love the letters that Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica. In his first letter he addresses the love he has for them and his heart for them to remain strong in their faith. You see, he and his ministry partner, Silas, helped plant the church. While they were growing and raising up leaders to maintain the responsibilities and mission of the church, Paul and Silas were run out of the city due to persecution. They were a baby church and the leaders who planted the church were abruptly removed from them. Paul was devastated and concerned about their spiritual health because they too had faced severe persecution and were on the brink of facing more. So he sends the young pastor he’s mentoring, Timothy, to go and check on them. Upon hearing back from Timothy, he writes them a letter to encourage them. I challenge you to read both letters (1 and 2 Thessalonians) But take a moment and check out Chapter 2 of 1 Thessalonians:

“You yourselves know, dear brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not a failure. You know how badly we had been treated at Philippi just before we came to you and how much we suffered there. Yet our God gave us the courage to declare his Good News to you boldly, in spite of great opposition. So you can see we were not preaching with any deceit or impure motives or trickery.
For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you well know. And God is our witness that we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money! As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else.
As apostles of Christ we certainly had a right to make some demands of you, but instead we were like children among you. Or we were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children. We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.
Don’t you remember, dear brothers and sisters, how hard we worked among you? Night and day we toiled to earn a living so that we would not be a burden to any of you as we preached God’s Good News to you. You yourselves are our witnesses—and so is God—that we were devout and honest and faultless toward all of you believers. And you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children. We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory.
Therefore, we never stop thanking God that when you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God—which, of course, it is. And this word continues to work in you who believe.
And then, dear brothers and sisters, you suffered persecution from your own countrymen. In this way, you imitated the believers in God’s churches in Judea who, because of their belief in Christ Jesus, suffered from their own people, the Jews. For some of the Jews killed the prophets, and some even killed the Lord Jesus. Now they have persecuted us, too. They fail to please God and work against all humanity as they try to keep us from preaching the Good News of salvation to the Gentiles. By doing this, they continue to pile up their sins. But the anger of God has caught up with them at last.
Dear brothers and sisters, after we were separated from you for a little while (though our hearts never left you), we tried very hard to come back because of our intense longing to see you again. We wanted very much to come to you, and I, Paul, tried again and again, but Satan prevented us. After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you! Yes, you are our pride and joy.”

What a powerful letter of encouragement! You can truly feel the love that Paul had for this group of believers that he only spent a short time with in his journey. There are 3 things I want you to take from this text:

  1. Share Your Lives with One Another; Not Just Your List of Tasks

As leaders, it can become really easy to simply build a team of ‘task masters’. I get it, we are all busy, we all have crazy schedules and lives. But our lives should include the people we serve/lead. Paul wrote:

“As apostles of Christ we certainly had a right to make some demands of you, but instead we were like children among you. Or we were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children. We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.” (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8)

How were the Thessalonians able to endure in their faith even when their leader was absent? Because they knew they were loved, cared for, and prayed for. The time spent with Paul inspired them to live a life that was sold out to Christ. The way you live not only IN FRONT of people; but WITH people will encourage them to love God and people deeply.

2. People Will Receive Your Message When They Have Seen Your Message

I love how Paul puts it:

“Don’t you remember, dear brothers and sisters, how hard we worked among you? Night and day we toiled to earn a living so that we would not be a burden to any of you as we preached God’s Good News to you. You yourselves are our witnesses—and so is God—that we were devout and honest and faultless toward all of you believers. And you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children. We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory.
Therefore, we never stop thanking God that when you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God—which, of course, it is. And this word continues to work in you who believe.”— (1 Thessalonians 2:9-13)

In other words, because of HOW they lived and loved them, they believed their message to be from God! And how did they love them? As a father loves their children. He uses words like encouraged, urged, and treated. These are intentional action words; they don’t simply happen. How are you encouraging those you influence? How are you urging them to live out their faith? Even better, how are you living it out in front of them?

3. People are the End Goal; Period

What do we even have influence? Why are given responsibilities to lead, serve, give, and be a part of THE church? It’s all about the people. That’s one of the greatest reasons why I love Dewayne “The Rock” Johnson (Yes, my man crush is real). He truly loves people. The way he makes time for fans, the way he treats them, and how he kind to everyone. He understands his success is because of his love for people and how his work impacts them. Paul wrote one of the most powerful lines when he said this:

“Dear brothers and sisters, after we were separated from you for a little while (though our hearts never left you), we tried very hard to come back because of our intense longing to see you again. We wanted very much to come to you, and I, Paul, tried again and again, but Satan prevented us. After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you! Yes, you are our pride and joy.”-(1 Thessalonians 2:19-20)

Most people do things for what they can get from it; including ministry. But Paul puts ministry and gospel into a powerful perspective. His reward and crown that he will receive from God is simply…people. Not gold, riches, accolades, or praise. But seeing people who were once dead come to new life. What a powerful and heart checking moment!! When people are the end goal, it changes the way you approach things. You don’t just go through the motions, you literally want people to feel the love and encouragement in everything that you do!

If you want to live out a culture that says “These Are My People”; you need to first believe that God sees every person as HIS people. When you can change the way you see people; it changes the way you behave towards them. Even when people frustrate you, or even hurt you. After all, we’ve all hurt God with your sin and rebellion. And yet, He still sees us as His children. WE are a part of THEM. THEY are one of US. Love differently today. Serve differently today. See people differently today.

I love you, church.

Pastor B

 

 

Creating a Healthy Culture

Growing up in a dysfunctional culture seemed normal to me. I don’t know any of your backgrounds or family history; but mine was quite interesting. One thing I’ve noticed about people who grow up in unhealthy environments is that they are more than likely prone to live out that same unhealthy culture as adults. After all, that’s all they know. If you grow up in poverty, you’ll have a poverty mindset. If you grow up in a culture of divorce or addiction, many seem to repeat those patterns. It doesn’t mean you can’t overcome them, it just means your culture has to drastically change in order to do it.

 

Even in a classroom environment, culture can be the difference between tapping into a young child’s potential or destroy their confidence. Unhealthy learning environments have the potential to develop unhealthy habits and patterns in our lives. Have you ever seen a beautiful flower grow in a closet? It’s impossible due to the fact the environment or culture is absent for growth.

 

This is why we are focusing so hard on creating the right culture in our church. As a fast growing church plant, it can become really easy to simply focus on church growth. The problem is, if the culture is not healthy neither will the church be healthy. If we focus on vision and culture the church, as a result, will grow. This is true because:

 

Healthy things grow.

 

As we focus on our efforts to Work the Soil, it’s imperative that we understand that we are creating a culture either intentionally or unintentionally. Ask yourself a few questions today about culture:

 

What kind of culture am I creating among the people I lead?

 

Do you tend to show favoritism to the people you like? Do you allow sanctioned incompetence? (being late, not showing up, not doing their volunteer work with excellence, passion, and vision) Are YOU late constantly or not showing up? As we continue to dive into intentional culture, we have to remember that it will lead to healthy teams. And healthy teams will lead to a healthy church. A healthy church will grow.

 

 

Do I create a culture of developing people?

 

If we want people to love what they do, love the church, and love people, we have to raise their ceiling. In other words, once people get to a certain point where apathy sets in or they feel like their gifts and talents aren’t being stretched, they will leave for something better. You can’t grow a church with people who don’t want to be there. And if we want people to serve, give, connect, and be empowered then we have to raise their ceiling. Pour and invest in those that God has entrusted to you.

 

Am I empowering people?

 

Not simply giving them tasks to do, but actually allowing them to run with the ministry. The only way to lead at a high level is to let go of things that shouldn’t be your focus. The problem most of us face is that we think no one can do it like us. They may even be true, but someone else will never learn if they aren’t allowed to do it and fail. After all, were you perfect at what you do when you first started doing it? I didn’t think so. We don’t want to create a culture where people are afraid that they will fail. We want to create a culture where people aren’t afraid to learn. Remember, you’re either succeeding or learning. Failure only happens when you give up. Let go of some ministry and allow others the opportunity to increase their capacity.

 

Am I releasing people?

 

We also tend to hang on to high level leaders because we don’t want them to grow past us. The fact is, someone out there will always do what you do better. That’s not a bad thing! The greatest mark of a leader is someone who can develop, empower, and release people to do what they do best. You may have a leader that rocks it out in your ministry. But God may have plans for them somewhere else; whether it’s somewhere else in the church or somewhere else in another church. It’s a part of the great commission to send. Be a leader who sends and enjoys watching people shine. The greatest leaders in the church that we know were mentored or led by people you have probably never heard of in your life. Those people will receive greater crowns than you can imagine!

 

Working the soil is difficult sometimes. But it will bring a harvest. I am praying for each of you as we all go on this journey to work the soil of our hearts, but also develop others around us. May we work tirelessly to create a culture that people want to be around and can thrive in. When we do that, people will jump at the chance to help change the world.

 

Changing your culture is all about changing you. I had to be taught how to not live out a dysfunctional life. I thank God everyday for the men and women He placed in my life that showed me a better way to live. As a young adult, I was a poor steward, in debt, immature in my relationships, and had an addictive personality. It’s the culture that I knew, lived in, and mirrored. But when God planted me in a healthy environment, He began to prune me and shape me. That only happened because I was planted in a healthy culture.

 

How’s your personal culture? How’s your family culture? What about your team’s culture? It’s up to you to make sure it’s healthy. So today, grab a shovel and a rake…start planting healthy things.

 

Pastor B

 

 

Empty Jars and Full Flasks

We have been in a series of teachings entitled; Work the Soil. Our latest lesson comes from 2 Kings 4:1-7:

 

“One day the widow of a member of the group of prophets came to Elisha and cried out, “My husband who served you is dead, and you know how he feared the lord. But now a creditor has come, threatening to take my two sons as slaves.” “What can I do to help you?” Elisha asked. “Tell me, what do you have in the house?”

“Nothing at all, except a flask of olive oil,” she replied. And Elisha said, “Borrow as many empty jars as you can from your friends and neighbors. Then go into your house with your sons and shut the door behind you. Pour olive oil from your flask into the jars, setting each one aside when it is filled.” So she did as she was told. Her sons kept bringing jars to her, and she filled one after another. Soon every container was full to the brim!

“Bring me another jar,” she said to one of her sons. “There aren’t any more!” he told her. And then the olive oil stopped flowing. When she told the man of God what had happened, he said to her, “Now sell the olive oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on what is left over.”

 

So let’s break down verses 1-2:

Elisha asked ‘what do you have in your house?’ In order to have an effective vision for your life, ministry, and family, it starts with an inward reflection and perspective. Elisha could have fixed her problem; but instead he put it back in her hands. The miracle started with what she had.

God won’t give you more of what you don’t have; but He’ll bless what you’re willing to give. So what was her response? “Nothing at all, except…”

She viewed her circumstance as hopeless because she failed to see that the solution was in her house. In the Old Testament, olive oil was a representation of the Holy Spirit and the presence of God. She believed her problem was a lack of resources; but in reality it was a lack of faith and perspective.

What we perceive is a lid on our resources and circumstances is actually a lid on our perspective and willingness to grow. Something to remember when we are faced with a challenge or roadblock in ministry:

 

I am always the lid; God has to change me

 

Here is our perspective sometimes:

I don’t have enough volunteers

But how many people have you personally talked to and recruited, then followed up with?

I can’t find any leaders

But how many people are you personally investing in right now and empowering to lead?

I don’t know enough about the Bible or understand it. I’m not sure how to talk to others or engage them with my faith

But how hungry are you when it comes to reading and learning? You have access to so many resources to help grow your wisdom and faith and we choose not to take advantage of it or actively engage.

 

The jars represent our capacity for growth; whether we are talking about the church or personally. It either represents our systems or our leadership lids. Remember; you (I) are always the lid; you have the Holy Spirit in you! It’s not an oil (presence) issue; it’s a jar (capacity) issue.

 

Let’s break down verses 3-4:

He told her; “borrow as many jars as you can”. In other words:

 

Increase your jars by learning from those who have more capacity than you.

 

We are often prideful or intimidated when it comes to learning from those who are farther along than us in ministry. Swallow your pride and eat the fish, spit out the bone. Learn what to do and what NOT to do from other leaders. Take the good and the bad. There are plenty of churches to learn from; it’s up to you to intentionally want to learn from other leaders. Notice the word; borrow. That usually means you have to give it back. God wants us to realize that as leaders, we grow and learn so that we can give back to others. Don’t take for granted the work God wants to do in your heart and use it to help others grow as well.

 

Let’s look at verses 5-6:

If she had more jars; the oil would have kept flowing. The oil didn’t run out until the jars ran out.

 

The limit is not God’s ability to provide; but our ability to contain.

 

If we (the church and us as leaders) don’t have the capacity to sustain growth, how can the oil keep flowing? Any time you hit a barrier personally, in ministry, or as a church, it’s time to change the systems; add jars. We tend to blame the people—YOU’RE the lid! It’s never a people issue; it’s a system issue. You’re at capacity now to lead exactly how you’re leading. That won’t change until you do. We are perfectly structured as a church to reach the people we are reaching. We won’t reach more until we add more jars; change the structure. Adding jars is all about growing your capacity to lead and raise up more leaders.

 

And finally, let’s look at verse 7:

We see by this verse that:

 

You’re willingness to add jars impacts your future and the future of your family.

 

Everything you’re learning as a leader prepares you to be a better spouse, parent, employee, neighbor, and friend. It’s not about just being a better leader; it’s about growing in your capacity as a follower of Jesus.

 

And now, for the challenge and questions to consider:

 

  1. What jars do I have access to that I need to add? In other words, what do I need to allow God to change about me? (Personally and as a leader)

 

 

  1. What ‘jar conversations’ are you having on a regular basis? In other words, who are you learning from that has more capacity that you do or that is doing it at the next level? (you have access to several of our network churches, the internet, resources, and podcasts. It’s about intentionally making time to do it)

 

 

  1. As a team leader, what issues do you perceive as a people issue but in reality could be a system (jar) issue?

Sometimes it’s our fault because it could be:

> Using the forbidden phrase; “Our people won’t”

> An empowerment issue

> Sanctioned Incompetence (allowing people to drive the culture without accountability)

 

I pray that each of us would realize that God wants to continue to pour out His presence and blessing. It’s up to us to grow our capacity to contain it. Great leaders find ways to add jars. Elisha challenged this widow to do whatever it takes; go borrow from every neighbor and friend you know. Sometimes, we want God to fix our problems and God wants to fix your capacity. The oil is already there; the flask is full. And it won’t run out as long as we keep adding empty jars.

 

Pastor B

 

 

 

 

Easter Recap 2016

This was hands-down, the best Easter at Generation Church since we launched in 2012. I want to start off by thanking every single volunteer that served and worked so hard to make this past weekend a huge success. Without volunteers, there’s no way for me to be able to focus on preaching the gospel to so many people. So many people met Jesus this weekend because of those who are willing to serve. Even in the chaos of Saturday night, please know that it was worth it!

 

As a church, we always want to pray, prepare, and then celebrate. So today, let’s celebrate all that God did over the weekend:

 

1,166 People in Attendance

 

Through 3 worship experiences, we saw our biggest Easter attendance ever (plus volunteers) at Generation Church. I heard so many stories about people that had been invited for years finally came to church. Stories of loved ones, friends, co-workers, and more who finally decided to give church a chance. This happened because of YOUR dedication to getting people to Jesus.

 

373 Kids in Attendance

 

All of the hard work preparing to present the gospel, egg hunts, and gifts for the kids paid off. There were so many stories of kids telling their parents that they loved church and wanted to come back. Once again, this was our largest kids attendance ever! One of our core values states We Invest in the Next Generation. That was never more evident than Easter weekend. Fantastic job, GKids!

 

200 VIP’s

 

This is why we send mailers, personal invites, and blow up social media. Seeing so many new people come through the doors and have an opportunity to experience the love and salvation of Jesus makes all of the work and financial investment worth it. We had 80 kid VIP’s Saturday night alone! What an incredible weekend seeing so many new families.

 

At Least 82 Decisions for Christ

 

This is the number that matters the most! Because of your hard work, prayer, and expectation, nearly 100 people came to Christ!!! This is why we do what we do.

 

143 Volunteers Served Easter Weekend

 

We had over 1,300 people at Generation Church this past weekend counting our volunteers! Those who serve are the heart beat of the weekend worship experience. Without those who serve, Generation Church doesn’t happen. Many of you were willing to give up your seat Saturday night as we completely ran out of chairs. I pray that as you saw those who raised their lights to respond to the gospel, you were reminded of why you serve. May we NEVER grow tired of seeing that!

 

 

We Aren’t Finished

 

Church, we can’t let up. It’s easy to be excited about Easter and feel a sense of accomplishment. But we haven’t accomplished anything yet. There are still so many people who need Jesus in our community. We still have to follow up with all of those who made decisions this weekend. We are taking that next step with BAPTISMS this weekend!!! We have groups to get connected with, more people to connect through Ownership and serve teams.

 

Our mission is not to have a successful Easter; but to accomplish the Great Commission by seeking to: Engage those far from God, Connect them to Jesus and the local church, and Empower them to discover their God given purpose.

 

Let’s bust it to work just as hard for this Sunday as we did for last weekend. We have a lot to do, church. God has entrusted us with so much. By His grace, we have the honor and privilege of being a part of something special. I pray that we won’t take it for granted.

 

I can’t thank you enough again for everyone who helped made Easter special this year. Now that we have celebrated, let’s get back to the grind. Let’s continue to pray for those who made decisions, those who will be baptized, those who will make a decision to get connected, and those we’ve yet to reach.

 

I love you, church…heart and soul.

 

 

Pastor B

Victory Day 2016

Yesterday we passed another milestone as a church. In the past four years that we’ve been reaching our community, we’ve seen God do some amazing things. We’ve seen hundreds come to Christ, hundreds baptized, and countless lives impacted by the gospel. A few weeks ago we began a new journey as a church; our first building campaign. In 2013, just a year and a half after the launch of Generation Church, we were blessed with the opportunity to purchase just over 13 acres of land. We had just paid off our initial debt to start the church a few months before that.

 

Now, just over two and a half years later, we have seen God come through once again. Here is what we celebrated yesterday:

 

GKids Offering

 

Our kids ministry was so excited to give towards the Advance the Dream Campaign. Yesterday, they were able to see the fruit of their generosity. Our kids alone brought in nearly $800 just through their piggy banks! One day they will be worshipping as adults in our new building knowing that they played a part in the vision and mission of their church!

 

Initial Offering

 

We celebrated that just through the initial offering, we took up over $20,000!! Again, I can’t thank you enough for your generosity and giving, church.

 

Advance the Dream Commitments

 

Over the next two years, a portion of the church made commitments totaling over $180,000. I know that many of those people made huge sacrifices in order to make that happen. For those who have committed to this dream, thank you from the bottom of my heart!

 

A Huge Milestone

 

Because of the generosity of a few, we have been able to show great stewardship in what we’ve been given. We are so excited to announce that at the end of next month, we will pay off the remainder of what we owe on the land! We will be debt free and own over $250,000 worth of property!!!! How amazing is it to know we’ve paid off a huge debt in just over 2 years time?

Paying off our land sets us up to really focus on a timeline to break ground. Our next step will be to get our construction drawings completed. Once we complete the drawings and build up our reserves to a healthy number, we will be prepared to take on a building loan. This is an exciting time for us, church!

My challenge to you is to apply yesterday’s message; stay on the wall. Stay committed to giving, serving, and reaching our community. There is no vision or dream that will come to pass without faith, hard work, dedication, and consistency. Continue to pray. Pray that as we reach people who are far from God that they will get connected to Jesus and the local church. Pray that people continue to take their next steps. Pray that our mission never changes but our methods always will.

 

I hope everyone enjoyed Apollo Burger yesterday. It is a small thank you in comparison to what so many of you give, but I do want you to know that I am grateful and that I absolutely love you, church.

Now, let’s get ready for an amazing weekend of life change as Easter is upon us! Remember that we are just getting started…let’s continue to build and defend this dream together.

Pastor B

Easter at Generation Church

Easter is just around the corner! Every year, we strive to make Easter one of the best experiences for every family. We want you to make plans to attend Easter at Generation Church this year. Why do we go big at Easter? Because; it may be someone’s last opportunity to hear the gospel and make the decision to follow Him. We set the date; but God does the rest. We want to create an experience for families that will last a lifetime.

 

Here are the details for Easter 2016:

 

What

 

What are doing to make Easter special this year? We always focus on impacting families. That’s why Easter is always extra special for our kids.

 

– There will be an egg hunt after each worship experience this year. Well over 10,000 eggs will be hunted, with golden egg prizes.

– Our Saturday night worship experience will be a Glow in the Dark Egg Hunt! Your kids do NOT want to miss this!

– Kids will be given a special gift for coming to an Easter worship experience.

– There will be a family area to take Easter pictures.

– Everyone who attends an Easter worship experience walks away with a free gift.

 

When

 

There will be three opportunities to experience Easter at Generation Church: Saturday, March 26th at 7:00pm. (Glow in the Dark Egg Hunt to follow.) On Sunday, March 27th, we will have special worship times at 9:00am and 11:00am. Egg Hunts will follow both services.

 

So, what is your role? I’m asking all of those who attend Generation Church to do 3 things:

 

  1. Invite

 

Start making your invites now. If I asked what person that you knew was not in church or not a Christian; who comes to mind? That person is the one God is putting on your heart to invite. Take invite cards and spread them everywhere. Use your social media platform to spread the word about Easter!

 

  1. Serve

 

Pick one of our worship experiences to serve at this Easter. Our teams put in double time for our big days, so we need all hands on deck to make Easter successful.

 

  1. Pray

 

Pray for every person who will attend Generation Church this Easter. Pray for every kids small group leader and teacher. Pray for the worship band and all of those serving. Pray for me, your pastor, as I prepare a message that will point people to Jesus.

 

Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to read this. Please share it, re-share it, and spread the word. This Easter could change someone’s eternity. And that someone could be the person you invite.

 

Who are you bringing?

Pastor B

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