4 things I’m asking every CCA’er to embrace THIS WEEK!

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We are just days away from, what is typically, our greatest opportunity all year for people that are far from God to have the Gospel of Jesus Christ shared with them.

CCA has made it it’s mission to help the hopeless find hope and the lost to find peace through Christ. God promised to bless those efforts and He is. We have already seen 65 people experience new life in Christ already this year and over 20 people are going public with their faith through baptism on Easter Sunday. We are humbled by all God is doing and to him be all the glory.

I’m asking every CCA’er to live out and embrace 4 things with me this week as we approach Easter Sunday

1. Lost people matter to Jesus, and because they matter to Jesus, they matter to us 

It’s impossible to have a true relationship with someone and not care about the things that they care about. May we never forget what it was like to be lost ourselves. That remembrance creates the passion and love we need to do all we can to share this joy we have with others.

2. Every single one of us can make a real difference

God has strategically placed you and given you a specific circle of influence so that you can leverage that influence to help introduce people to a God who is absolutely crazy about them. You may not consider yourself to be a leader, but YOU ARE! Leadership is simply influence and there are people with whom you have particular influence. We have the chance to LEAD them to something ETERNAL!!!

3. Our love, passion and excitement attracts others to “Come and See”

In John 4, it was a woman with a sketchy past and a terrible reputation who convinced an entire city to come and see Jesus. Her passion that resulted from her personal encounter with Jesus, attracted others to check it out for themselves. This is still how it works. When we are passionate about our personal encounter with Christ and excited about what God is doing in and through CCA, it creates a desire in others to “come and see” for themselves.

4. If we will DARE, God will DELIVER

This is the week to overcome your fear, seize the moment and make the ask. Trust me, they are waiting for someone to invite them. They aren’t sure where to go but they are thinking about it right now. The first person who is willing to step up and extend the invitation will generally be the one who gets the “yes.”

With the grand opening and public launch of our University campus, as well as all that God is currently doing at CCA, we are expecting our largest Easter ever. Let’s believe together for many lives to be changed.

Thank you CCA, you make leading a joy and I am so honored to be on this journey with you.

All for Christ!

 

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Why does attending a church even matter?

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Not long ago a great friend of mine, who is also a pastor, was going through a frustrating season. Not anything too heavy but just some of the typical stuff that leaders go through on a pretty consistent basis.

At one point in our conversation he summed up his frustration pretty clearly. He said “It’s  a tough gig to pour everything you have into a priority that everyone else treats as an option” 

He clarified in one phrase what every pastor in this world has felt at one time or another.

Thom Rainer, noted author and President of Lifeway christian resources, has written many posts on the incredible rise in infrequency of church attendance in the last 20 years. This infrequency is magnified if your church happens to be regional in nature and drawing from drives of over 25 minutes away. 

So it got me thinking about this question. “Why does being committed to a local church matter and why is consistent attendance something that we should make a priority?”

There are tons of answers but I want to suggest 4 simple and practical reasons that are worth some consideration. 

1. We were created to be a part of a cause that will last

Deep down we long for our lives to matter. We want to believe..no, we NEED to believe that our presence on this planet makes a difference. It doesn’t take long to discover that living life only for ourselves is a hollow and empty endeavor that leaves us completely unfulfilled.

The local church is God’s way of connecting everyday, ordinary people to an extraordinary and eternal cause.

Plumbers, painters, bank presidents, custodians, nurses, warehouse workers and every other human occupation imaginable, get the weekly opportunity to be a part of something that doesn’t just add great value to hurting people’s immediate needs, but to their ETERNAL ONE AS WELL.

This is bigger than anything we could possibly fathom and it’s available to us every 7 days.

 2. We’re sitting ducks without consistent community

Nearly every collapse that has happened to families, marriages and individuals that I’ve witnessed through these years of ministry began the same way. They missed church one week, then next month, 2 Sundays and before long, it’s been 6 months and they have fallen completely off the grid.

There consistent connection to a faith filled environment and loving church family has evaporated and before long they are entertaining thoughts and behaviors that before would have been huge red flags to their heart before.

The enemy knows how to kill, he’s been doing it forever and has mastered his techniques well.

He has learned that ISOLATED prey, is EASY prey. 

Being consistent in church isn’t about getting gold stars from God, it’s about staying connected to a spiritual safehouse of loving support and accountability.

 3. We all don’t have time to research and study God’s word in an in-depth manner, but we have consistent access to those who do.

We all know we need more of God’s word in our lives but finding time between a demanding job, making time for our mates, raising our children and trying to balance in some down time, doesn’t always leave us with many opportunities for significant study.

Fortunately, for over 20 years, people who love the Lord and give faithfully to his church, have allowed me the opportunity to invest thousands of hours doing this very thing.

It is our charge, our duty, and our call as pastors, to prepare and be ready to reveal God’s word to his people every single week. We are not asked by God to be the greatest communicators in the world, but we are commanded in 2 Timothy 2:16 to “Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won’t be ashamed of, laying out God’s truth plain and simple.”

I take this charge very serious as does every other God honoring pastor. It’s not that people should not read God’s word as often as they can, but most will never have 9 hours every single Wednesday as I do to pour through God’s word, mining it’s wisdom and riches.

 4. When we honor God’s house, God honors ours

Putting God first in deed and not just in word, yields a supernatural response like no other. There is nothing in any of our lives that a closer, more intimate relationship with Christ won’t solve.

Going to church consistently was never meant to be viewed as a duty to be performed, but rather a delight to be preferred. There’s just something about being in God’s house, with God’s people that settles our restlessness and releases his power in our lives. 

To clarify, it’s not the act of just physically going to a structure with other people every week that changes anything. It’s the spirit of WHY we go and the posture of our heart that invites and attracts God’s favor into our lives and families. 

I don’t go to church because I’m a pastor or because I have to. I go to church because I love my Father, love my brothers and sisters and need them in my life every chance I get. 

 

When audiences turn into armies

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I know the typical statistics. In fact, I have led in environments where those typical statistics were in full effect. The Pareto principle is very real. It is also known by several different names, “The law of the vital few” and “The principle of factor sparsity” just to name a couple. You probably know it best though as “The 80-20 rule.”

It simply states that 80% of effectiveness comes from 20% of the people. Again, it’s a very real phenomena.

It’s also why, when people hear that CCA has a 64% volunteer rate in our church, they are compelled to ask “How are so many people getting involved in weekly serving at  CCA?”

It’s a great question and one that we have thought about quite a bit. It’s really important to note that it hasn’t always been this way. We were also victims of the 80-20 rule for a long time but we eventually saw some real shifts that began to change everything.

The following are just my simple observations and attempt to answer why this is happening at CCA.

1. Big challenges make us lean hard on each other

We are a portable church with soon to be, 2 locations. In the last 5 years our Alachua campus has moved 4 times. One of those moves was to an elementary school cafeteria that required a complete 2 hour set up and tear down. To this day, when I think about it, I cannot help but be amazed at how God sustained us during that time.

But that experience drew us closer together. We needed each other desperately and still do. Many times in life we long for easier and more comfortable moments but often it’s the very fire of difficulty that forges our togetherness and turns mere audiences into true armies.

2. Big emphasis on biblical living leads to a culture of service

We teach and preach that to follow Jesus completely is to realize the power of the towel. Jesus didn’t raise the dead, feed five thousand or walk on water and then look at his disciples and say “This is what being like me looks like”

When he taught that lesson, he did it in a room of 12 men with nasty feet.

The actions of Jesus that night sent a clear message. There is a time to SIT AT THE TABLE AND BE SERVED and then there is a time to GET UP FROM THE TABLE AND SERVE OTHERS.

Our church has committed to following our Master in this way.

3. Big vision ignites hearts

Deep down, we all desire to be a part of something that will last beyond us.

We all want to know that our lives are making a difference.

We are a church on a mission. We are committed to reaching people who need the hope of Christ with every available method and resource available to us. We understand that we are a small part of a HUGE MOVEMENT.

We have been called to continue His legacy to our part of the world and that means attempting big things, dreaming huge dreams and stretching our faith to bring the love of Christ to as many as we can.

This vision ignites our hearts to serve Him and others.

4. Big celebrations happen when our service has made a difference

We know that every smile, hug, handshake, welcoming heart and engaging environment we serve to create sets the stage for miracles to happen, and when they do, WE CELEBRATE IT BIG TIME!!

With every story that is shared of someone’s life being changed, it rekindles our hearts to serve even more. We know that what we are doing matters and is making a difference.

We are honored to be a part of this amazing moment in time where God is working through us to make huge dents in our part of the universe.

Here is an example of what we call “Serving Fuel” Watch THIS

Setting the stage for Souls

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We are only 8 weeks into 2014 and still 8 weeks away from Easter and already we have seen 43 people receive Christ at CCA in our Sunday services. It’s beyond amazing and we are blown away by God’s faithfulness and all that He is doing in our church.

I recently had a conversation with another Pastor who asked a really good question. “How are so many people coming to Christ at CCA every week?”

After my honest and initial response of “I’m not sure” he continued to press. What he really wanted to know was this, “Are there certain contributing factors that set the environment for God to do His work in people’s lives?”

The answer is “Yes” and here’s my simple stab at describing those environments.

 1. We’ve determined to be faithful with Jesus whether people come to him every week or not.

I think it starts right here. We are in a season of harvest right now and we know it. It doesn’t always happen like this. Generally, there are long, difficult seasons of planting and plowing before harvest ever happens. 

Trust me, we have done our share and are ready to do more.

We are excited and thankful for this season but we determined a long time ago that we will remain faithful with the gospel even when we aren’t seeing lots of fruit.

2. We teach our church to prepare for the lost

We have invested enormous amounts of energy helping our people understand that if we pray, invite and create relationally intentional environments for those who do not know Christ, that THEY WILL COME…and they do.

When they do, we must be ready. The people of CCA understand that every first time guest we meet is A MIRACLE DISGUISED AS A NEED. We treat them that way and the walls start coming down.

3. We preach like they are there

I used to be so religious. Please know that I’ve dropped my rocks a long time ago, so I’m not judging any other church or group of people, this is only my personal observation. I was raised in a denomination that produced awesome preachers. The problem was, much of that preaching was designed to engage and ignite other preachers and people already familiar with deep theological understanding.

People who were really lost, unchurched and broken found very little to be excited about  and had difficulty grasping what the true message was.

Some people from my past think I’m not as good of a preacher as I used to be, but God has changed my heart and approach and because of it, I’ve seen four times as many souls come to Christ.

It’s a no brainer trade for me.

 4. We ALWAYS give people an opportunity to meet Jesus

 I don’t care what happens, we give them a chance.

Three weeks ago we had vision Sunday where I spent 50 minutes detailing our plans to launch a second campus in the heart of Gainesville. It was a strategic unveiling with lots of details. I think I quoted 2 verses of scripture in all 50 minutes.

I still gave an opportunity and 10 people ran to Jesus.

I couldn’t help but laugh. It was almost like God said “Yeah, I love you but I don’t need you…just get out of the way and watch me work.”

People will never come to a savior they don’t know is ready to receive them.

5. We completely depend on the Holy Spirit

Ultimately, it’s never been powerful preaching, amazing music, talented musicians or an over the top stage presentation that has ever drawn a broken soul or convicted a stone cold heart. That work is reserved and produced by the Holy Spirit. He and He alone convicts and reveals a hopeless hearts need for Jesus.

I have no idea what will happen the rest of this year or even this next Sunday for that matter but what I do know is this. Christ will be preached, love will be shared and opportunities will be given….the rest is up to the Holy Spirit.

 

Can you care about the lost TOO MUCH?

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About three years ago I had a gentleman pay me one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever been given. He didn’t mean it as a compliment, however. He said “All you care about are the unsaved.” (pause)  His intention was to suggest that as a church we weren’t providing enough specific ministry for those who already believe.

I heard his heart and we talked through, what turned out to be, a very specific issue that he had that really wasn’t about the ministry we were providing at all.

But still, the statement stuck with me for weeks and reminded me of the scripture where the religious were criticizing Jesus and labeled him “A friend of sinners.” Honestly, no leader enjoys any level of criticism but I have to say that this one served as a moment of confirmation that as a fellowship we were on the right path and truly following the heart of Christ himself.

Can anyone care TOO MUCH about those who don’t know Christ?

Not a chance and here’s why.

1. At some point, we were ALL lost

There is a real danger that’s present the longer we walk with Christ. The farther away we get from the point of our initial encounter with Him, the easier it is to forget what it was like to be hopeless, hurting and lost.

The cure for spiritual apathy is to rehearse often the moments that led up to the freedom we found in Christ. To remember the pain and restlessness associated with a life void of him. Every time I remember it, I am immediately filled with gratitude for the people who were thinking about me then. Without their compassion and willingness to give, serve and focus on the lost, I would have never been found.

We must pay it forward.

2. The scriptures themselves have a single focus and theme

The late Adrian Rogers summarized it well when he said “The bible addresses one issue, sin. It has one villain, the devil. It has one hero, Jesus. It has one purpose, the glory of God to save.”

The cross is a brutal and bloody reminder that there is nothing that God wasn’t willing to do to rescue the perishing.

We must continue this legacy of love.

3. When you make the lost your focus, God makes you His focus

A couple of years ago I went to a coaching network at Newspring and shared a few moments with Perry Noble over coffee. I asked him several questions during our time but this one got a significant reaction. “With all the massive risks that Newspring consistently takes, how much fear do you deal with that things may not work?”

He raised his eye brows and the tone of his voice changed. “I know that at times leaders may miss it, but I have never, ever, ever doubted that God will always bless the church that focuses on the lost…HE GAVE HIS SON FOR THIS SINGLE REASON. TO NOT BLESS THOSE WHO HAVE COMMITTED THEMSELVES TO THIS, WOULD BE TO GO AGAINST HIS OWN SACRIFICE!”

It got my attention and he’s right.

CCA will thrive, but not because of any great leader or leaders. It will thrive as long as it stays focused on the very purpose for which Jesus was sent into this world.

Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to find and restore those who are lost”

5 things I want to share with CCA

1. CCA is growing at a strong and HEALTHY pace

I am always amazed at God’s incredible patience and leadership in our lives. The older I get, the more I celebrate the fact that God doesn’t always give us what we want, but what we need. The dangers of explosive growth are very real and God is allowing us to grow as a fellowship at a pace that is truly sustainable and healthy.

We had 379 people in service yesterday and have seen 30 people in 5 weeks come to Christ at CCA…THAT’S AMAZING!!!

2. Vision Sunday was incredible

As I shared the vision of how God is leading us to launch our 2nd campus near the University, the Holy Spirit was connecting hearts to the mission and reminding us of why we exist as a church… to love God, love people and serve others.

That means doing everything we can to reach people far from Him and helping them discover what it means to have a growing relationship with Christ.

The church doesn’t have a mission… the mission has a church!

3. Don’t forget to make plans to be at the information meeting on Feb. 16

Right after service we are going to be sharing many more details of our strategic plan and how we are organizing this amazing reach into Alachua county. It’s exciting to be a part of something that we could never do by ourselves. This is why when the body of Christ really comes together it stands as a testament to the world and they take notice of the reality of God moving in and through people’s lives.

You can sign up online for the meeting here.

4. You just can’t OUT GIVE God

Don’t forget to sincerely pray over these next 2 weeks about what the Lord would have you to give in our special seed offering on February 16 that we are planting towards the University campus. I shared that there are 2 reasons that we don’t want to miss out on this incredible opportunity.

  • We become a miracle FOR OTHERS

We pay forward the amazing generosity that others first gave for us to be able to know Christ and experience his indescribable love.

  • We become candidates for miracles OURSELVES

(read Luke 6:38) I shared a testimony of how God showed up in mine and Tina’s life when we stepped out on faith, trusted God’s word and planted a significant seed in another church’s building campaign.

Assign your seed.

Determine something you need God to do in your life and then plant a seed toward it and watch what God will do… it’s the Bible and he will honor it.

5. I love serving our community and being on mission WITH YOU!

It is a true honor to be your pastor and one that I do not take lightly. I can’t imagine how much I would have missed out on had we not said yes to God nearly 6 years ago.

Tina and I, as well as all our staff, love you more than we could ever express and are beyond grateful for our church family.

Thank you for your faithful serving, giving, prayer and love. TOGETHER we are making a difference and truly, THE BEST IS YET TO COME!!

#ILOVEMYCHURCH

Made for More

It is clear in scripture that God desires more for His people. Over and over the bible indicates not only how much God loves us but also how incredibly committed He is to helping us reach and fulfill our maximum potential in Him. 

So while the possibility of God granting us more is extremely appealing to everyone, I think we have to address a major hiccup in the system…our definition of “more.”

We live in a world governed by a system and philosophy that defines ‘more’ in an extremely opulent and self indulgent way. This creates difficulty at times in our journey with God because we are constantly expecting Him to produce this type of ‘more’ in our lives when the truth is He doesn’t define His movement by the worlds system and tells us over and over not to either.

Let me offer 3 simple examples of how God”s definition of ‘more’ contrasts with that of our current system and why it’s better.

1. WE THINK MORE MONEY IS BETTER….GOD SAYS MORE CONTENTMENT IS BETTER.

Take some time today to read Ecclesiastes 5:10-12 NLT. Now while there isn’t anything wrong with pursuing financial stability and working hard for goals and dreams, the issue that God often addresses is this issue of source, trust and dependency. God knows it is easy for us to become a slave to our stuff, and ultimately money is a wonderful servant but horrible master. 

Paul said in his letter to the Philippians that he had found the secret to life. Thats a pretty compelling statement and here’s what he said it was….Contentment through and in Christ. (Philippians 4:11)

Again, there isn’t anything wrong with money but according to scripture we were made for more than money.

2. WE THINK MORE ACCOMPLISHMENT IS BETTER…..GOD SAYS MORE CHARACTER IS BETTER.

God has always made a point to indicate to us in scripture that WHO YOU ARE is so much bigger than WHAT YOU DO.

We are taught as children to admire great deeds and accomplishments and that this is the pinnacle of actually being great. As a result we make celebrities and heroes of people who can run fast but treat women like garbage. We elevate people who can win elections but have the morals of an alley cat, we make people objects of admiration who can climb ladders to top CEO positions but who steal, cheat and lie to anyone and everyone they need to to get ahead. 

God says we were made for more than this. Character counts with God and counts big. When He calls us salt and light in scripture He clearly says the hope we bring to the world will be the result of the Godly values that guide our hearts and lives and not simply the great accomplishments that line our walls.

3. WE THINK MORE COMFORT AND CONVENIENCE IS BETTER…..GOD SAYS MORE STRUGGLE AND DIFFICULTY IS BETTER.

It is a natural tendency to believe that if we simply had less struggle in life that everything would be so much better but we must remember that man first fell in a perfect and pain free environment.

Read James 1:2-4 and you will see that there is a purpose behind our pain and that God allows it in our lives not because He doesn’t love us but rather because He loves us so much.

Here are three important things struggles produce:

a. it creates true reliance on God-

When things are plentiful and easy God is an AFTERTHOUGHT…but things get dark and desperate He becomes our ONLY thought. Desperate times make us desperate for God.

You will never really know that God is all you need until He is all you got.

b. it raises our gratitude quotient- 

We can never fully appreciate anything until we know what it’s like to not have it. A thankful life is a blessed life. And many times the only way we renew our deepest gratitude is to periodically know what it’s like to do without…this is a good thing.

c. resistance builds resilience-

In personal fitness, it’s really pretty simple. The more demand that is placed upon the body, the more developed the body becomes. So it is with our spirits.

God knows that when it comes to us living out His purposes and will, flabby faith will not cut it.

It will require firm, tone and well developed faith. So in His infinite wisdom and love He allows resistance. I am so thankful for this now in my life, it has shaped and molded my leadership and my character. 

I hope this helped you and I pray as you reflect on His will for your life that you would truly celebrate the fact that you were indeed….MADE FOR MORE.