Friday, January 30, 2009

Pitfalls with Building Part 4

4. Don't build without expert help. I've never led a building program before but I was fortunate enough to get some experts around me who walked me through the process. From the outset, my desire was to build a team of experts that would work together to complete this God-given dream. Below are the experts I would recommend that you speak with IN THIS ORDER of the building process.

Dream it phase. In this phase you get your church leadership together and begin to dream about what your new facility would look like. You put proposal requests together from each ministry team and start writing down the vision/plan. I would highly recommend speaking with Greg Marquart of Capstone Management. Greg will not only walk you through the facility planning, but also the budgeting process and financial proposal to request funding, as well. Having Greg come in and help us was one of the best decisions we made in the whole process. His expertise as an executive pastor and former bank president was invaluable. In fact, Greg will walk you through each of the phases below until completion.

Draw it phase. This is when you hire an architect to help draw the dream. Don't hire the architect first. As a church, you stay in the driver seat and tell the architect what you want. Architects are notorious for telling others what to build and they tend to spare no expense. When it comes to building you get to choose one of three options - cost, quality and square footage. You can choose two, but not three. Most churches go with cost and square footage. We say, "it has to be "X" square footage and we can only afford "X" amount of dollars. Most architects are all about quality. That's why most work on a percentage of the total cost of the project. The average architect costs 7% of the total project cost. The more expensive the building, the higher fee they charge. They also want to design something that looks good on the front cover of a trade magazine. Stay in the driver seat and remind the architect that "this is what we want". We were fortunate enough to work with Michael Campbell . Michael is a phenomenal architect who understands both traditional and contemporary church facilities and design. He's been a gem to work with.

Fund it phase. Once you know what the dream is and what it's going to look like, then you hire a resource development firm to help you raise the faith and finances to fund the project. I made a mistake by hiring a fund raiser too early. But hey, we all live and learn. Typically, most fund raisers have no idea what you need to build, how the building needs to function, etc. They just know how to raise money to underwrite the God-given dream. We worked with Jack Strom of Strom Ministry Concepts. Jack has become a trusted friend and I would highly recommend him to all who need someone to come alongside them and help them fund a God-given vision.

Build it phase. This is the last phase of the process which requires perhaps the most critical decision of all - the firm that's going to oversee the construction of the new facility. We researched dozens of local construction firms and narrowed our interview process to the top three candidates. Greg Marquart helped us choose our local contractor, Spread Eagle Realty. Spread Eagle has been great to work with and they are giving us a quality built building.

Always remember, when it comes to building a building, it will always cost more than you think and take longer than you imagined. Word to the wise.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Pitfalls Part 3

3. Don't build without flexibility. Another unwise decision is to build each space in the building for only one purpose. One-dimensional space designs kills flexibility and functionality. Our goal was that each space in the new building could have 3 or 4 different uses.

For example, our lobby and hallway can be used Sunday mornings to get people from one place in the building to the next; on Sunday afternoons it can be used for membership classes that hold up to 150 people; and it can also be used as a place for volunteers during the week to complete administrative tasks and finally, we can hold community functions/dinners as outreaches. When designing your spaces, always think functionality and flexibility.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pitfalls Part 2

2. Don't build too big. The first step that most churches take when they begin to outgrow their present facilities is to go to multiple services. That's a wise choice from a stewardship perspective (making the most out of what you have) and it gives people in the community more options when deciding on whether or not to attend your church.

However, when it comes to building a building, it's a huge mistake to build so big that you can house everyone in one service and at one time. You will unintentionally remove the flexibility you have for multiple service options and you also run the risk of overextending the budget with a larger mortgage. So, build smaller with the intent for multiple services and maximize ministry dollars with a lower mortgage.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pitfalls To Avoid When Moving

This week we are moving our offices to the new facility. Please pray that we will obtain the necessary certificate of occupancy permits today. We are up to our eyeballs in boxes here in the office. I love moving because it requires everyone to change. Change is good - especially when handled correctly.

I recently read Bob Whitesel's book, "Growth By Accident, Death By Planning." It's a basic guide on how not to kill a growing congregation. Bob spends an entire chapter on pitfalls to avoid when moving into a new facility. I thought I would share them with you this week and then give my own comments.

1. Don't build too soon.
Most portable churches grow weary of the grueling setup/tear down routine and therefore look to buy land/build a building/renovate an exisitng building within the first couple of years of getting the church off the ground. We know all about this at PCC. We've been at this portable church thing for over 6 years. We made a decision to take our time and keep our focus on people, not buildings or programs. Yeah the portable system requires a lot of blood, sweat and tear equity. But in the long run it has helped us develop ministry, volunteers and a sense of community.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Happy B-Day Kate!

Yesterday my little girl turned 6 years old. Unbelievable. I'm so proud of her and who she is becoming as a young girl with a heart for God and people.

We had a little daughter/daddy date on Saturday morning where we went to breakfast together at Perkins. She is so full of life and love.

Tonight she is going to see her new favorite movie, Hotel for Dogs, and then staying over at a friend's house.

Happy Birthday Kate!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bad Weather Lessons - Part 3

As you know, the past two months we have had to cancel 8 different services at PCC due to the bad weather. While many of our families have been faithful to send in their tithe via the mail or our online giving, unfortunately we have significantly fallen behind in our giving.

Of course, this comes at the most challenging financial time in our church history as we are now paying nearly the full mortgage on our new facility as well as the fees on our rented facilities.

I'm reminded that God can help us overcome any challenge if we are faithful to put our trust and hope in him. I owe it to you as your pastor to let you know the reality of our financial situation, as well as encourage you (and myself) to continue to put our trust in God. He is the One that will supply all our needs.

This weekend I feel God has led me to do something for many in our church that are hurting financially. You don't want to miss this weekend. As I am submitting to God's leading, I know He will use this weekend to bring breakthrough for many of those in our church.

PS - the latest weather report for this weekend is clear skies and sunshine!!!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Continuing Education Class

Just wanted to give all the pastors who read this blog a heads up on a course that I will be teaching called Missional Ministry: Growing Healthy Churches in the 21st Century

This is a practical class that will provide insight on how to build a healthy and effective church in today's contemporary culture. For more information, check out the course syllabus here

The class will be held at Valley Forge Christian College this February 23-27. You can sign up for the class through the AGTS Continuing Ed office here

This will be a great time to spend the week together and "talk shop" and have a lot of fun in the meantime. Hope you can make it and that you will also tell your friends. 

Bad Lessons Weather - Part 3

3. Bad weather slows momentum, but doesn't kill it. 

Momentum is a leaders best friend. You can do just about anything once you have momentum. Why? Because momentum creates excitement and excitement creates anticipation. Momentum plus excitement plus anticipation equals growth. 

However, when you have to cancel multiple services like we have had to do recently, it certainly slows momentum for your church. You would be surprised how quickly people get out of the habit of going to church when you cancel services. Plus, the average regular church attender in America only goes to church twice a month. So, if you cancel services multiple times within a matter of weeks it's easy for people to be out of church for two months without blinking an eye. This all adds up to a momentum slower, but not a momentum killer.

The ultimate momentum killer is a sin. When you have "sin in the camp" it will literally destroy the stability and unity of your church family regardless of whether you have snow or sunshine. 

I thank God for the unity we have at PCC and know that it will bring us through a challenging time as a church family. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Rick Warren's Inaugural Prayer

Almighty God, our Father:

Everything we see, and everything we can’t see, exists because of you alone.

It all comes from you, it all belongs to you, it all exists for your glory.

History is your story.

The Scripture tells us, "Hear, O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD is one." And you are the compassionate and merciful one. And you are loving to everyone you have made.

Now today we rejoice not only in America’s peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time, we celebrate a hinge point of history with the inauguration of our first African American president of the United States.

We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequaled possibility, where a son of an African immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership. And we know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in heaven.

Give to our new president, Barack Obama,

the wisdom to lead us with humility,
the courage to lead us with integrity,

the compassion to lead us with generosity.

Bless and protect him, his family, Vice President Biden, the Cabinet, and every one of our freely elected leaders.
Help us, O God, to remember that we are Americans--united not by race or religion or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all.

When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you--forgive us.

When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone--forgive us.

When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve--forgive us.

And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes—even when we differ.

Help us to share, to serve, and to seek the common good of all.

May all people of good will today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy, and a more prosperous nation and a peaceful planet.

And may we never forget that one day, all nations--and all people--will stand accountable before you.

We now commit our new president and his wife, Michelle, and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, into your loving care.

I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life—Yeshua, 'Isa, Jesus [Spanish pronunciation], Jesus—who taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,

for Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.


Bad Weather Lessons - Part 2

2. Bad weather shows you who is really committed to your church. 

This past Sunday we had people that made it to church from NJ and Allentown. It took some people an hour and half through snow covered roads. That's commitment. 

Now, I know some people with young children or the elderly simply are not able to make it out on bad days like today. That's not who I am addressing. 

But there are many people, I'm sure, who roll out of bed and see a skiff of snow on the ground and decide not to take the extra effort to go to church. But I'm sure many of those same people would have moved heaven and earth to make it to an NFL playoff game today or some other incredibly important event. 

I'm not trying to be confrontation, but what's more important than church - it's the family of God which involves eternity. It's the only thing that's going to last. We should treat it as such. I'm just saying...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Bad Weather Lessons

We have had snow and ice storms 8 out of the last 9 Saturday nights into Sunday mornings here in the Poconos. 

As a result, we have had to cancel two weekend services. On three other Sunday's we were only able to have one service. What's more, 3 other Sundays we could have cancelled services like many other churches in our community.

As a pastor, I can't tell you how frustrating it is to fight the weather. Well, instead of "fighting" the bad weather, I will tell you what I've learned from it.

Some Lessons Bad Weather has Taught Me About My LIfe/Church

1. Much of life is out of our control

At PCC, we put a ton of work and energy into planning, preparing and praying for our weekend services. We do our best to create God-honoring worship environments that help people encounter the presence of God. 

There are a lot of things that we can control - the sermon content, the worship song selection, the stage decor, training and equipping volunteers, etc. But when it comes to the weather - that is completely out of our control. Life is like that. There is no telling what tomorrow may bring. 

So, instead of trying to be a control-freak, I've resigned myself to the fact that I can't control everything, especially the weather. I've discovered that there is something far greater than trying to control everything - and that is simply doing my best and then letting God take care of the rest. Do my best. Let God do the rest. Overtime, God will honor our best efforts and he will work all things for the good - even bad weather. 

More tomorrow...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Praise & Worship - Part 2

I'm excited to share some thoughts today about Worship. Worship is an expression of our love to God - who He is, what He's done, and for what He's doing. It is a physical expression of our spiritual relationship with our Father in heaven. Notice I said expression. For some reason we often think that worship can only occur when there's music. We can worship / express our love and devotion to God in many ways. Music is definitely one way, but Jesus showed us many other ways to worship - through obedience, teaching, reading & quoting scripture, prayer, fasting, and giving.

Another component to worship is that it is a response to the love that God has shown to us. An expressive response. I can express my love and devotion through not only my words and actions but also through art forms such as painting, dancing, music, drama, or through simple obedience. But you see, my worship is the result of the intimate relationship I have with my heavenly Father. The more I understand and experience His love, the deeper my worship becomes, and the more my life actions are expressions to Him. My Praise/thanksgiving gets me into His courts / presence so that I can bow before Him and worship. Its sad that sometimes we limit our worship to just Sundays or prayer meetings. God desires us to worship Him continually. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."

One last thing to ponder......your worship on a Sunday (corporate worship) is the result of your worship individually. All I'm saying is please don't rely on Sundays as the only time you praise & worship. Find those times to 'hang out with God' in the quiet places and express your love and devotion to the creator of all things. As you 'respond' to His greatness and love, through worship, it provides an opportunity to know Him more intimately. During those times I can assure you He will show you more than you could ever imagine!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Praise & Worship

Praise & Worship. We here these words interchanged or combined all the time. I love that Praise & Worship has become more prevalent today, but both terms are lumped together so much it makes it seem like they are one in the same. Actually, praise and worship are two different things. One of the only things they have in common is that they both require some level of relati0nship.

Here's a few thoughts about Praise.

Praise is defined as being the act of expressing approval or admiration. I might also add that it can be giving honor to someone, or a group of people, to someone else. It could even be stating thanks to someone for what they have done. We do this in everyday life...telling someone how great a singer is, praising an athlete for their accomplishments, or telling our wife how great she cooks dinner (hint, hint). To praise someone does not require that you know them in depth, but it does require you to have some type of knowledge about them. I may praise the recordings of The Beetles to some friends as we talk about music. I praise them because I have a knowledge of their music, yet I don't have an intimate relationship or know them on a personal basis.
But as I learn more about them my praise and admiration of them deepens and it leads me to want to know more and more.....which increases my praise....and on and on it goes....

When we talk about offering Praise to God, we're talking about a powerful thing. Paul & Silas knew the power of Praise. Check out Acts 16:23-26 if you want to see what I mean. Praise is powerful and God honors it. It is a vehicle by which we can enter the presence of God (Ps. 100:4 - Enter His gate with Thanksgiving; and His courts with Praise...). Praise helps us get in the presence of God so that we can worship him. I believe we can Praise anywhere, not just within the walls of the church. I can show love, adoration, and thanksgiving to God each day in my car, at work, or at home. When we come together our Praise becomes corporate, perhaps even energetic and loud. I'll let you in on a can even be fun.

David provides a great example of praise in Psalm 145. If you have a chance take a moment or two and read this psalm. Really read the words of David and even try reading them aloud directly to God. One last thought.......Praise can be a lifestyle, an ongoing act from you to God...

We'll look at Worship next blessed!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Unnoticed Worship

I'm privileged to be able to post this week in Pastor Dave's absence. I am excited to join this leadership team and this incredible church family. As Pastor Dave mentioned on Sunday I will be overseeing the Creative Arts & Worship ministries at PCC. I would like to spend the next few days sharing some thoughts with you on worship and hopefully together we can grow our passion for worship.

David lived a life of worship and God considered him "...a man after mine own heart" - Acts 13:22. I want to focus on one of the characteristics David displayed as a worshiper. David was unnoticed as a worshiper. Sometimes we are only interested in others seeing us worship. We've all been there, myself included, in church and making sure we are making a good impression with our worship. David embraced the hidden place where he would 'hang out' with God. It was in that place, a place of isolation / unnoticed, that he sought out the heart of God. David found times to be alone with the creator of the universe and focus on Him in a time of worship.

Matt Redman, a worship leader, defines an unnoticed worshiper as this: "one who is willing, even when things are going well, to step back and check in with God. They realize the key to worship is not what goes on amongst the crowds, but what occurs before the King....God." One of the keys to becoming an unnoticed worshiper is taking ourselves out of the equation and focusing solely on God.

A goal in my life is to make time for those moments when I wholeheartedly worship God in a quiet place, unnoticed and away from the crowds and distractions. I pray that we all find those quiet places and become a people seeking the heart of God.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Guest Contributor Week

Ronnie Jordan is the newest team member on staff at Pocono Community Church. Ronnie will serve in the capacity of the Creative Arts Worship Pastor. I've known Ronnie for the past 13 years after meeting him in seminary. 

Ronnie will oversee all the service programming, music, light/sound/video production, as well as all the church marketing and advertising. Our current worship leader and band director, Nadeen and Derek Edwards will continue to alongside Ronnie.

I've asked Ronnie to post on the blog for me this week while I'm away. He's not only an incredibly gifted musician and producer, he's a great friend and terrific leader. I hope you get to know him in the days ahead and please pray for him and his family during this time of transition. 

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Friday, January 09, 2009

Fasting Pt.4

What are the different types of fasting?

absolute fast: no food or water for a period of time (Exodus 34:28; Esther 4:16)

normal fast: only water, but no food or other drink (Nehemiah 1:4)

partial fast: usually only water, juices, and sometimes fruit (Daniel 1:12)

Lent fast: giving up something specific for the duration of Lent

other things to fast from: people, media, telephone, certain activities/habits, etc.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Fasting Pt. 3

If all you do when you fast is abstain from food without spending time with God - we call that a diet. Fasting is not dieting. It's really feasting on the Word of God and investing the time and energy you would normally spend feeding your body and instead feeding your soul.

Here are some things I'm praying about today during our corporate fast:

1. Thanking God for his goodness and mercy in my life and ministry.

2. For God to give me an increased desire and hunger to grow closer to Him and spend time in His presence. I need a personal revival.

3. For my families health and protection.

4. For our church - for unity, clarity of vision, finishing construction on the facility, transition into the new building, for the staff and Elders and leadership team and volunteers, and for a spirit of generosity and giving among our church family.

5. For the lost in the Pocono Mountains to come to know Christ. For a renewed vision of how to engage those far from God in our community.

6. For those in our church family that are in ill health, especially Michael Castle (kidney failure) and Baby Christopher O'Connor (in the NIC unit).

7. For families and marriages that are struggling. This is one of the most difficult times of the year and a lot of homes are hurting.

8. For the grand opening events of our new church. There is a ton of planning and preparation happening right now. I feel completely overwhelmed but excited at the same time (just like when we planted the church 6 years ago.)

9. For the poor, widows and those that are hurting today.

10. For our missionary family around the US and world.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Fasting Pt. 2

What is the purpose of fasting?

The primary purpose of fasting is to focus our attention on God. Ultimately, this brings glory God (Zechariah 7:5).

The discipline of denying ourselves the creature comforts such as food, creates opportunity to focus on our true source of strength - God. Jesus said, "Man does not live on bread alone, but on the Word of God." Outer fasting is to lead to inner prayer, worship, and devotion. We “fast on food so we can feast on God.”

Fasting is not for personal glory or any other selfish motives (Matthew 6:16-18).

Secondary purposes of fasting: fasting can reveal non-essential things that control us and take precedence in our lives (1 Corinthians 6:12); fasting can increase the effectiveness of prayer (2 Samuel 12:16); fasting can bring guidance from God in decisions (Acts 14:23); fasting can bring revelations (Acts 13:2); fasting can help our physical wellbeing (Daniel 1:12); fasting can aid in concentration; fasting can help bring deliverance for those who are in bondage.

¨ But these benefits come only when fasting is our attempt to diligently seek God.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Pray Like Jesus

Yesterday we kicked off the first sermon series of 2009, Pray Like Jesus. If you want to listen to the message, click here.

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm asking the PCC family to participate in a corporate fast every Wednesday for the month of January. This week I want to spend some time talking about the significance of this spiritual discipline.

What is fasting? Fasting is when I abstain from something (usually food) for spiritual purposes.

Biblical Examples:
Moses (Exodus 34:28; Deut. 9:9,18), David (2 Samuel 12:16), Elijah (1 Kings 19:8), Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:4); Esther (Esther 4:16), Daniel (Daniel 1:12), Anna (Luke 2:37), Paul (Acts 14:23), Jesus (Matthew 4:1-2), the early church (13:2).

Perhaps you could spend some time today reviewing these scripture verses and make a commitment to fast this Wednesday.

Tomorrow I'll talk some about the purposes and benefits of fasting.