Friday, April 27, 2007

Church planting is hard!

Planting a church might be the hardest thing a pastor could ever do. I'm glad this is my first church and I don't know the difference.

Check out this blog entry from a church planter in Las Vegas.

I can relate to his admission of feeling " some extreme highs on the “good” days and some deep lows on the bad days." It's up and down like that all the time.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I caught my wife cheating!

Man, I just can't compete with the power and grace of the King of the Jungle.

I went to the "K" on Saturday, Mike and Sarah Lowenberg had free seats and they were only about 20 rows up. Parking pass, too. (I love going to games for free). Erin talked me into buying some food or we could've been in and out without spending a dollar.

The Metrodome is such a crappy place to watch a baseball game that there are always a lot of Twins fans in Kaufman when they come to KC. Erin kept me from getting into a fight with a loudmouthed Twins fan, though.

I also ran into my District Superintendent at the game, he had 2nd row seats!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I know where he's coming from

Check out this blog entry from a pastor in North Carolina, A lot of the time we're scared. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one that feels that way sometimes. Failure is scary, but there's something else that scares me even more, status quo!

The fear of status quo is part of what lead me to plant a church. I could've taken an established church right out of seminary, had a set and steady (although likely very small) salary and not had a lot of big worries. I could've comfortably pastored a church that would maintain.
But that thought terrified me!

A church plant has no room for status quo, it's sink or swim, grow or die. And that excited me. As much as I don't want to fail, I'd rather try something great and fail than live at status quo. I'm more scared of status quo than I am of failure.

A couple months before graduating seminary, I talked with the pastor of a pretty big church about a staff position. I was flattered that the pastor had considered me and during the conversation, I was dreaming of working in a big established church and a comfortable salary. As soon as I hung up the phone, I heard God say, "Donnie, I hope you enjoyed that conversation, hope it stroked your ego. You're moving to Gardner where you have no people and no money and you're going to like it!"

God was exactly right!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I really do work out!

I called up Jason Beal this afternoon and asked if he was ready to for me to show him up in the weightroom like I usually do. He took me up on the offer and here are some pictures.
As you can probably tell, I'm not showing up Jason too often.
Jason has better equipment in his basement than any gym in Gardner!

Worship as Evangelism

Great quote from Ed Stetzer in his book Planting Missional Churches.

"Instead of focusing on a seeker-driven worship service, I believe it's better to ask why the church exists - and then to ask questions about the content of the worship service. Churches should exalt God, edify believers, and evangelize the world. Worship services, first and foremost, should exalt God. This statement underscores the imperative of God-centered worship. Believers should also be built up in the faith. Finally, authentic worship can evangelize unbelievers.

Believers who assert that the church is intended only for Christians assume continued preaching to believers will mature them to the point where they will evangelize the unchurched. I have yet to see this happen. Churches that are not intentionally evangelistic do not become evangelistic through quality Bible teaching alone. If knowledge led to evangelism, we would have reached North America years ago.

When the church exists for feeding believers only, those believers become spiritual sponges who absorb more and more knowledge. If those sponges do nothing but soak in a pool of their own learning, they eventually sour. An unchurched person can hardly feel welcome in such a setting."

Wow! That really convicts me. It's so easy to be focused on ourselves, it takes intentionality and discipline to remain focused on the disconnected.

Who are you investing in? Who are you inviting to TFC?

Pastor Donnie visits the elementary class!

I had Sunday off from preaching. Although I enjoyed
the week off from preparation, I missed preaching to the congregation. I love doing that every Sunday!

But since I wasn't preaching, it was my turn to serve in the kids area. If we're going to continue to facilitate the best possible kids' ministry program, it takes a huge amount of volunteers. So, Sunday it was my turn!

It was fun. I didn't really need to do much. Jeremy told me he leads a class 3 times this size every day, but it was still good to be there.

The service went a little long on Sunday and I checked in on Travis and Rachelle Theel in the Jr. Church class and they were trying to think of some games to play until the service ended. Here's a game of duck-duck-goose.

Super Servant - Jeremy Pride!

When I walked into the elementary room to assist Jeremy, I saw him down on his knees talking with the kids. I then listend as he taught some of the beautitudes to the class. Jeremy teaches all week long in the Olathe School District and then spends some Sunday's teaching again. I know he does it out of his love for kids and love for Jesus.

This edition of a TFC Super Servant!

Wanted: Resiliency

I've heard the most important characteristic for a church planter is resiliency, the ability to take a shot and get back up. Well, we took two shots over the weekend.

1 - Our Neighborhood Group I spent months praying about a way to serve our neighborhood and was convinced this Love and Logic discussion group was the way to go. I printed flyers, knocked on all 235 doors in our neighborhood, had lots of people say it was a great idea, had a few families RSVP. No One showed up! No one at all!
Erin and I were even prepared to give hundreds of dollars toward this group. The class cost $400 and we were only charging people $20 a family and that was just so they'd take it more seriously. If only one family showed up, we were ready to pay the difference of $380.
Did I not really hear from God? Was it really God's direction but no one responded? I don't know, but I do know that it was painful to not have anyone show up.

2 - Children's Pastor We've been searching for a year and have been talking with an incredible candidate the past two months. We pooled every resource possible to help bring her here, but after several weeks of prayer, she turned us down. Man, that sucks! Where is God guiding us? What's God's direction and timing? I don't really know.

Resiliency - This is what it looks like for me. I spent several hours yesterday contacting all the Nazarene schools, posting info about our opening. I talked with the district children's pastor and began pursuing the leads she gave me. I'm back on the trail for a children's pastor.

TFC is hosting a Love and Logic weekend April 28th and 29th. I'm working on ways to advertise it and to get info to the Gardner and Wellsville school district. I seriously believe that equipping parents is a way God is leading us to serve our community. I can only be obedience, I have to trust him for the results.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

20 Hour Journey

A whole lot of families from TF went on a 20 hour journey of prayer during Lent. I want to give the opportunity for people to reflect upon their prayer journey; what did you learn, was it hard to do, what were some things God was showing you, any particular answers to prayer?

To read some of my reflections, check out this entry.

Post away!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A great story from Easter

We had a huge "win" on Sunday! A lady who teaches at Madison Elementary came with her husband on Sunday, their first time at TF. Erin and I are friends with them because she was Erin's student teacher two years ago. She and Erin had had several conversations about church and we'd even invited her a few times, but they had never accepted the invitation. She's Tait Theel's teacher and Rachelle had invited her a few times, too.

Last Thursday I went over to Madison to invited her again and we ended up having a great conversation. She told me she has a lot of questions about God; seemed very eager to talk more.

Well, they came on Easter and loved our church! The husband went on and on about the music and the media we used. He was so impressed by the service. They promised to me they'd be back. I'm leaving out a lot of great details, but that's the story in a nutshell.

3 Observations

1) Relationships matter She was open to our invitation because of the relationship she and Erin (and myself to a lesser degree) had built. It's about building relationships, loving people, encouraging them to take steps toward God and if they come to church - great - that's icing on the cake. But the top priority is loving and serving people.
We must build relationships with people! In whom are you investing?
But after we've been investing, we must take the risk and invite. People can't respond unless we extend the invitation.

2) Our service is connecting with the disconnected The husband went on and on about how much he liked the music. Our music, media and even the preaching is connecting with the type of people for whom we've designed our worship - young and unchurched! For more on this, read here.

3) It takes time and persistence Erin and I had invited them to church several times over the past year but Sunday was the first time they responded. I know many of you invited neighbors and coworkers to Easter, but don't give up! Keep investing in them and when the time is right, invite again! It takes time and persistence. Stats show that it can take up to 13 invitations before a person responds.

The "Love and Logic" Sunday with Laura Murphy on April 29th is another GREAT time to invite someone to TF.

Thanks for making this a church that connects with the disconnected!

Pictures from Easter

We pulled out all the stops on Sunday; hitting worshippers with as many images as possible, all designed to point people toward the truth of Jesus as Savior of the world.

My wife spent hours putting together the images that were on the TV. We ALMOST didn't get to use them, though. My laptop wasn't working right and we were still trying to get it to work at 10:28. We were able to get the images on one TV, so we pulled away the other two and had at least one tv projecting the images.

Chris Billings - you rock, you're so cool under pressure! I was freaking out over the laptop not working, Chris was leading the last minute band practice while fixing the laptop. Wow.

Thank you to Dawn Forrester, Alicia Brush, Andy Phelps and Sarah Lowenberg for bringing artwork to display. We hope to have some of it back up during the rest of the Easter season (which lasts until Pentecost).

The hospitality team went into overdrive on Sunday, which was awesome! Lots of food and lots of greeters. Chris Billings, Brian Roberts and Mike Lowenberg deserve big props for arriving at 7:30 to begin setting everything up. And a lot of you stayed to help with tear down, which got us out of the school earlier than normal.

Thanks to those of you who served in the kids area on Sunday: Jeremy Pride, Joe Kumor, Melissa Billings, Ashley Vance, Dawn Strahan and more. To give props everyone else who served in the kids area during Easter worship, you can post their names in the comments section. Thank you for sacrificing worship with the adults on Easter to serve our kids! I really can't thank you enough for your ministry!

I'll post some of the pictures, but to view more from Easter, click here.

The 'Resurrection Sunday' Offering

I'll be honest, I thought maybe the $1,000 goal was too high for just one day. Joe Kumor had been telling me it was too low, but I wasn't convinced. When the offering counters asked, "did you hear the offering total?" I thought, "great, we came up way short."

Yes, lots of faith.

But here's the amount of the check we'll be writing to the Gardner Multiservices Center - $2307.41!

Wow, that's awesome! That's incredible generosity. That's being others centered! That's being the type of church that God has called us to be!

I'm so very proud of all of you.

Dead Sea Scrolls

Erin and I had the privelege of going to the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at Union Station. It was a very worshipful experience. Two different times I was so overwhelmed with awe that tears came to my eyes. The first time was while looking at a scroll that contained Joshua 3:5 "Then Joshua told the people, 'Purify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do great wonders among you.'" I had been reading and meditating upon that verse and to see it on a scroll from the 4th century BC was amazing. I was struck by how ancient and powerful scripture really is.

The other moment of awe was in looking at a passage from the Psalms. Although the scrolls are impossible to read (even if I did know Hebrew) I was able to make out the letters the scribes used to substitute for the name of God (Yahweh). Out of respect and admiration, Jewish scribes refused to write "Yahweh" as if writing or saying the word would diminish the glory of God. So they substitued the title "Adonia." That act that seems almost trivial to us demonstrated their deep love and respect for God. It was a worshipful experience.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Knocking on doors - finished!

I finally finished knocking on every door in Double Gate neighborhood, 235 houses.
We're experiencing record lows this week, so the cold wind got old really fast, but I'm finally done.

Now we'll sit back and watch how many people respond. I was obedient; let's see what God does.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Knocking on doors - night 3

Last night was the coldest night so far, but at least it wasn't windy.

I met a lady named Justina who has two kids, they live on Madison street. She was wearing a Hawkeye shirt, so we hit it right off. She's like me, Hawkeye fan because she grew up in Iowa but she didn't attend the U of I.

I also met the president of our homeowner's association. The association basically fell a part when he was deployed to Irag and when he got back everyone quit on him. He was glad to see that we're starting this group, he said that this type of thing is what the neighborhood association (in theory) is supposed to be doing.

Seeing so many people smile when I tell them my idea reminds me of the deep need for community and relationships that so many people have. We're so isolated behind our garage door openers and perfectly cut lawns.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Resurrection Sunday!

It's almost here; under 4 days and counting. RESURRECTION SUNDAY

As followers of Jesus, this day is what it's all about. We know Jesus is worthy of our entire life because he's conquered sin and death. Giving up ou lives for Jesus assures us of a life greater than we could've ever imagined.

To be a follower of Jesus means we're to give our lives away to others. We have 2 great opportunities to do exactly that this Sunday.

1 - Invite: Surveys show that an overwhelming majority of unchurched people are willing to give church a shot but they're just waiting for someone to invite them. So let's end the wait! And on top of normal receptivity to an invitation; unchurched people are more open to invitations at Easter than any other time of the year. I've invited several families for Sunday and still have another invitation to give out.

2 - Give: You may have heard, we're raising $1,000 to help the more than 1,000 people in Gardner living under the poverty line. We're giving this money to the Multiservices center in Gardner; the office that handles all the efforts to help the poor in Gardner. Erin and I are giving $100 in Sunday's offering.

Folks, this is RESURRECTION SUNDAY. The greatest day of the year.

If Jesus can conquer death, you'd better believe he can empower you to invite an unchurched friend to TF and to generously give away some of your resources.

It's about living the message. We are the Jesus' body in this world. This weekend is our best opportunity all year to live out the gospel.

Can I get an AMEN?

By the way, for a sneak preview into Sunday's message, check out this video.

This is going to be a powerful Sunday - DO NOT come alone!!!!!!

100 hours of prayer - halfway point

Several months ago, I was listening to a church planter give an amazing testimony of what God had done through their church and how God had lead him to pray 100 hours for his church. While hearing that story, I felt lead to do the exact same thing. To spend 100 hours asking God what he has for Trinity Family, how he wants me to lead and anything else he'd reveal to me.

Amazingly enough, God has been speaking. In fact, these past several months have been one of the most refreshing spiritual seasons of my life. God has strengthened, motivated, inspired, rebuked, comforted, challnged and loved me during these 50 hours of prayer.

I sit in a recliner in our spare bedroom, notebook open and just start praying. Looking back through my journal, here are some of the highlights of my prayer time:
  • Early on in this journey, I read Joshua 3:5, "Then Joshua told the people, 'Purify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do great wonders among you.'"
  • When God calls a new church into existence, he's calling a leader. The work of starting a new church is going to do as much, if not more, in the life of the leader than anyone else.
    4 ways God is growing me as a leader:
    1) Humility - As much as my identity is wrapped up in this church, Trinity Family is not about me, it's about JESUS.
    2) Courage - I'm a people pleaser, I want everyone to like me. But my role is not to be everyone's friend, but to be the leader of this local community of believers. My focus must be on God's approval, even if this brings the disapproval of others.
    3) Persistence - Most (although there are supernatural occurences) church plants don't explode with growth overnight. Ministries are built with sweat and effort and over a long period of time. Even though things aren't always easy, I'm in this for the long haul and am trusting God to use TF to build his Kingdom in the Gardner area.
    4) Patience - Similar to the above. In my mind, we should've reached 1,000 new people for Jesus last week. We're going to keep giving it our all, trusting in God's long term plan for growth and effectiveness.
  • Children's Pastor; I've spent hours praying about our Children's Pastor postion. God has really been pushing me into an area of faith (read more). We've offered the position to an incredible candidate and are trusting God to lead her to the right place and us to the right person (I wouldn't mind if those two were one and the same).
  • I've begun praying about when and where we'd either start a new church or a launch a new worship site/ campus.
  • There are so many people in our church with hurts and needs, I've prayed for many of you.
  • Resurrection Sunday - I've spent hours praying for Easter and I'm not done yet!
  • Neighborhood Group - I've been asking God how Erin and I can serve our neighborhood and after a couple months, God gave me an answer (read more)!
  • Future of TF - I've been asking God how he wants this church to develop and how we can better serve our community

    There's a lot more I could write about, but those are some of the highligts.

Sunday's Baptism

Sunday's baptism was great! God has been doing awesome things in Amy's life. Two years ago Amy was completely unchurched; Sunday she was baptized. Awesome!

That's why we started Trinity Family - to reach people like Amy. Let's do it again! Easter is a great opportunity to make it happen.

If you missed Sunday's message and want to hear Amy's story, you can listen on the church's website

Knocking on doors in my neighborhood - night 2

Last night I knocked on some more doors, inviting families to our neighborhood discussion group on parenting. It was cold and windy again, but I'm tough.

People were very receptive again when I explain the idea. I had one guy go off about the neighborhood association, how they never plan anything. Most people are just amazed that someone is taking the initiative to bring the neighborhood together.

I had my first rude resonse, though. After about 10 seconds of explaining myself, the lady said "we're not interested" and shut the door in my face. The best part of it all was that she was wearing a MidAmerica Nazarene sweatshirt. Way to represent our denomination!

I went for it last night...

and didn't quite make it. I had been increasing my max squat by 5 lbs a week, but last night I was feeling good and decided to up my last rep by 15 lbs, up to 340.

First attempt I didn't even get close. I went down and lost it. Good thing Jason is such a big guy because he did most of the work helping me back up.

I waited a few minutes and tried again, focusing on powering back up when I hit parallel. I made it farther than the first attempt, but lost momentum right at the toughest point of the lift. Jason gave me a little help and I was able to finish but I didn't do it all on my own.

But trying for 340 and just missing is better than easily doing 330.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

I got invited to church tonight!

When I was knocking on doors tonight (see post below), one of the guys I was talking to invited me to his church, New Life Church. Two nights ago, Erin struck up a conversation with a guy at Price Chopper and he invited her to New Life. Both guys gracefully accepted our decline when we explained we're pastors.

But what a great church! Those two guys really get what it's all about - invitations!

Knocked on doors in my neighborhood tonight

I'm halfway through my journey of praying 100 hours for Trinity Family and myself as her leader. I'll write more about this later, but God has been shaping me and speaking to me. Amazing how God speaks when we listen, huh?

Anyway, one of the many things I've been praying about is how Erin and I can serve our neighborhood. Not so we can get more people to come to TF (not that we're against that) but simply as a way to follow Jesus' example of service.

This blog entry from another pastor got me thinking along the lines of a neighborhood discussion group. I spent a lot of time asking God, "do you want me to do this?" and "what type of discussion group should this be?"

One morning an idea hit me like a ton of bricks - a discussion group on PARENTING! Gardner has more kids per capita than any other town in Kansas. The average ages is 30, we're young and full of kids. Even though Erin and I don't have kids yet, we knew this would be the way to connect with our neighborhood.

So, we're paying to bring in an instructor with "Parenting with Love and Logic." We're hosting the class for 6 Sunday nights.

I started knocking on doors tonight, handing people flyers and explaining what we're doing. I'm not real big on knocking on doors, but tonight was a lot of fun (despite the cold and wind). It was fun to watch people's face change from being skeptical of this guy in front of their door with a flyer to lighting up after I explain the idea. I got a lot of "that's really neat" and "cool, thanks!" I'm really excited about this.

During my prayer time this morning, God confirmed that this is how he's asking me to serve my neighborhood. Seeing parents' faces light up was further confirmation that this is an idea straight from Him!

Our first night is Sunday, April 15th. Be praying!

Monday, April 2, 2007

Opening Day

"And now, here's the Voice of the Royals; MLB Hall of Fame announcer, Denny Mathews."

It happens every year on Opening Day; the national anthem and presentation of the colors brings tears to my eyes. I stop for a moment and am thankful to be an American.

The other thing I love about Opening Day is that it's one day a year in which it's guaranteed the Royals won't begin the day in last place. That's a pretty rare day in baseball.

And for tonights game, good to see Florida and Ohio State get a taste of success. Gotta' be happy for two schools with a such a small recruiting base, tiny athletic budget and no success in other sports. Good for the little guys...