Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Evangelistic Greatness...

I attended an "E-coaching" retreat on Monday and Tuesday hosted by the Colorado Baptist General Convention and the North American Mission Board. E-coaching is a simple idea of creating personal evangelism support groups. The ideas is for four or five pastors to voluntarily hold each other accountable for personal evangelism goals. The support groups will meet every couple of months and check-in through email on a weekly basis. Our retreat was held at the beautiful Glen Eyrie Retreat Center in Colorado Springs.

The highlight of the retreat was Dr. John Avant, a NAMB Vice President and former pastor of Coggin Avenue Baptist Church in Brownwood, Texas, where a powerful move of God occurred some years ago. Dr. Avant spoke with great conviction and was a refreshing and optimistic representative of NAMB leadership. He spoke in two different sessions, sharing first on "Leading Your Church to Evangelistic Greatness". Dr. Avant's presentation leaned considerably upon Thom Rainer's new book, Breakout Churches, which is required reading for participation in E-coaching.

Dr. Avant shared ten keys to Evangelistic Greatness:

  1. The pastor is the key. He shared that studies show that only 41% of pastors are open to change while 89% of churches are unhealthy.

  2. Most "good" churches only minister to those already there (see page 23 of BC).

  3. It is important to see and know what great evangelistic churches are not (Two important must reads: Ed Stetzer--Breaking the Missional Code, and Ed Stetzer--Comeback Churches)

  4. What is your level of leadership now and what can it be (See BC)?

  5. Have you and your church faced the ABC moment (see BC)?

  6. You must develop allies with in your church who will take this journey with you.

  7. Discover your VIP factor (see BC, p114).

  8. Effective Evangelism is the key change agent in your church, which is why our journey together is so important (BC, p177).

  9. Do you want to make a difference in your life (p189, BC)?

  10. Commit to lead a breakout church to evangelistic greatness.

Friday, January 26, 2007

"Called to Be God's People"

I sing a hymn each morning as a part of my relationship-building time alone with God. Today's hymn seemed appropriate to share with you in light of the division that so often can storm into our churches and denominations.

"We Are Called to Be God's People"

We are called to be God's people. showing by our lives His grace,
One in heart and one in spirit, sign of hope for all the race.
Let us show how He has changed us, and remade us as His own,
Let us share our life together as we shall around His throne.

We are called to be God's servants, working in His world today;
Taking His own task upon us, all His sacred words obey.
Let us rise, then, to His summons, dedicate to Him our all,
That we may be faithful servants, quick to answer now His call.

We are called to be God's prophets, speaking for the truth and right;
Standing firm for godly justice, bringing evil into light.
Let us seek the courage needed, our high calling to fulfill,
That we all may know the blessing of the doing of God's will.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Snow Pictures...

I thought I would share a few pictures of our winter wonderland here in Colorado. These pictures were taken around Christmas time. Some of this snow is still on the ground. This first picture is me and my youngest son clearing the driveway. The second picture is of our house from the street before we began digging the driveway out.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Discipleship Purpose

Cornerstone exists . . . to Empower Christ-like Living! We want to create an environment that fosters spiritual growth. Sermons, Bible Studies, Support Groups, Mentoring, Counseling, Seminars, and anything else that we can come up with are all used to encourage growth towards spiritual maturity. Jesus' Great Commission includes the mandate that we teach disciples, "all things that He has commanded us".
The Messages at Cornerstone are verse by verse expositions of entire books of the Bible. We are currently working through Amos during our Sunday worship services in a series entitled, "How to Survive Prosperity". You can listen online to Cornerstone messages here.
We are currently offering four adult classes on Sunday mornings at 9:30 that take place at the same time as the second worship service. Adult classes are not age-graded and take place over a period of thirteen weeks with new classes being offered every quarter. The four classes that are currently being taught on Sunday morning are "How to Have a Life of Influence", Irrepressible Hope", "Growing Beyond the Basics", and "The Book of Acts". In addition there are age-graded classes offered for children and youth.
Three adult classes are currently being taught on Tuesday nights: "Experiencing God", "Daniel", and a Bible book study for men.
We have a huge AWANA program that meets on Wednesday nights which is also when the Youth Group meets.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Amos 6:1-7

"Woe to those who are at ease in Zion and to those who feel secure in the mountain of Samaria" (v1).

The prophet Amos declares a warning to the nation of Israel that in his day has become "at ease" and "secure". He is concerned not with their comfort but rather with the deeper issue of whom they are trusting. Amos reveals four areas in which Israel has misplaced her trust. Let me suggest that today's church struggles with the same four areas.

#1 Position (v1). We tend to think that we are the best of the best and that everyone wants to be just like us. We have the mistaken belief that we are somehow God's favorites and that God owes us his blessing. We are seriously overplaying our position!

#2 Perception (v2-3). Our comparisons with those around us who may be struggling has led us to the mistaken belief that we are somehow better than they are. Rather than humbly giving thanks to God--we believe that we have earned the blessing.

#3 Prosperity (v4). God's blessing has led us to the mistaken conclusion that we are safe and secure and need not fear His hand of judgment. We are like spoiled children who refuse to obey the very parent who has blessed with every good thing.

#4 Passion (v5-6). We have mistakenly taken our selfish passions to somehow be spiritual exercises. We have denied ourselves nothing and have become oblivious to the real state of things.

The result of our misplaced comfort and security will be exile--the loss of position and the loss of prosperity! (v7).

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Seven Biggest Challenges...

This past Sunday, I outlined, what I believe to be "The Seven Biggest Challenges" facing Cornerstone in this New Year. This is important because churchs--not unlike American Idol contestants--tend to think that they are better than they really are. Thom Rainer, in Breakout Churches, describes denial as being one of the big barriers to growth. If we don't see our problems, then we will never overcome them. So...what are the biggest problems at Cornerstone?

We need:

Increased Space - We have to discover God's plan to grow our limited facilities!
Members as Owners - We must each take personal responsibility throughout our church!
Personal Excellence - We must each do everything excellently as unto the Lord!
Relationships with our Guests - We must each build relationships with those God sends!
Overcoming Prayer - We must each learn how to pray effectively!
Victorious Evangelism - We must each bring someone to Christ this year!
Every Home a Church - We must each pastor our neighborhood!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Fellowship Purpose...

Cornerstone exists...to Unite Believers. This is the fellowship purpose. Cornerstone had been deeply divided six years ago when I arrived. It was obvious that one of the most pressing needs that the church was experiencing was the need for unity. There are a mulititude of scriptures that indicate the importance of unity within the Body of Christ. Jesus in prayed in his High Priestly prayer that the church would be unified even as the Father and the Son were unified. I believe that a church must come together in unity to truly see the Holy Spirit work in and through the church.

The primary caregivers of church unity at Cornerstone are the Deacons. After all, it was the Deacons who were called to serve when the dispute arose between the Hellenistic Widows and the Jewish widows in the early church. Deacons at Cornerstone are true servants. They are not an administrative board and they are not elders--they are servants. Each Spring the Deacons and I head off for a mountain retreat where among other things the Deacons choose the families for which they will provide care throughout the coming year. I ask our Deacons to serve as pastors for their families--providing the same care they might expect from myself. Their care does not replace mine but rather builds upon the care that I provide as well. Deacon care is defined in the following four ways:

Chaplains - providing pastoral care
Accountability - being our brothers' keeper
Resources - meeting needs wherever they may exist
Encouragement - cheering each other on to victory

In addition, our Deacons periodically will get together with their chosen families for times of food and fellowship. The idea is for our church members to assume responsibility for each other under a Deacon's leadership. It is not unusual for a "Deacon CARE Group" to pitch in several hundred dollars to meet a financial need, or to provide meals for a family who has a family member in the hospital. Unity grows when we meet each others needs in practical and caring ways.

Our Deacons, though ordained for life, serve a three-year term before taking a year off from active service. A typical Deacon meeting occurs early Saturday morning and is almost entirely spent discussing the state of our families and any care that is needed.


Bart Barber has an excellent post on the "Biblical Basis for Congregationalism" that I want to refer you to. Read it here.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Worship Purpose

Cornerstone Baptist Church exists "...to Experience God's Greatness!". This is our first purpose and the purpose that we will continue to accomplish throughout eternity--the worship of the Most High God. In coming to Cornerstone six years ago, our worship service received the most immediate attention, simply because it is what everyone sees and experiences. Many times people judge a church simply by observing worship. The heart of the congregation is revealed in worship. I encourage our people to worship passionately with an eye towards God's pleasure. Nothing in the worship service is about us--it's all for God.
I do not believe that style should be the focus of worship but rather the focus of worship should be connecting people to the presence of God. The most important thing that should ever happen in worship is for people to humbly come into the presence of a holy and gracious God where His Holy Spirit can work life-change. With that said, I would characterize our services as mildly contemporary. My wife, Tina, leads from the piano with a praise team made up of 3-5 vocalists, electronic drums, keyboard, acoustic guitar, bass (sometimes), and other percussion. My wife has an amazing gift of leading us into worship and her selection of songs includes mostly contemporary with one or two hymns sung in a light contemporary style. It is not unusual to sing songs that Tina has written in her personal times of worship. These are my favorites!
We want to leave room for the Holy Spirit to change our direction in worship and so we do not list a strict order of worship in the worship folder. A typical service will include, along with the music, testimonies from the congregation, an extended time of guided prayer, video clips, the offering (received as worship), and an altar call (also considered as worship). The message is usually heavy on application coming from a verse-by-verse exposition of the Scriptures. We are currently working through Amos in a series that I've entitled, "How to Survive Prosperity". It is not unusual for our worship to include laughter as we rejoice in God's miraculous work or when I just happen to hit a funny streak (I love to get our people laughing).
We have a broad mix of worshippers representing a multitude of denominational backgrounds. A typical service will have a sprinkling of hands raised, a host of wet eyes, and (hopefully) a crowded altar at decison time. We are casual enough to allow the consumption of coffee, tea, hot chocolate, soda, etc. during the worship services. We have children's church offered in all three Sunday morning services with the kids being released right before the sermon. I will often have the Deacons at the front to receive responders during the altar call or sometimes just myself.
There is much more that I could share but this post is long enough. Feel free to post a question and I will be more than happy to further elaborate.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

We're Purpose-Driven...

I was greatly influenced by Rick Warren a few years before he wrote The Purpose-Driven Church when I read an article about him in one of the denominational magazines. The article briefly outlined the five purposes and how Rick had applied them to his new church plant. I still have the notes that I jotted down from that article. Cornerstone is organized around the five purposes that Rick Warren identified. I believe that these purposes are clearly revealed in the Scriptures and serve as a very practical outline of how to do church. I would agree with Rick Warren that the mission of the church is "The Great Commission" which is revealed in Matthew 28:18-20. Through the authority of Christ, we go and make disciples. We baptize those disciples and teach them to do everything that Jesus commanded. That's why Cornerstone exists!

Our Purpose Statement reveals our take on the five purposes of the church: Cornerstone exists...#1 to Experience God's Greatness (Worship)....#2 to Unite Believers (Fellowship)...#3 to Empower Christ-like Liviing (Discipleship)...#4 to Bring People to Christ (Evangelism)...#5 to Call-out Ministers (Service).

From this point on you're going to discover that Cornerstone differs greatly from many of the philosophies that represent many purpose-driven churches. Our structure and organization is unique unto our church and many of the philosophies that undergird our church are not seen anywhere else. I'll explain those in detail as we move forward and examine each of the five purposes and what they look like at Cornerstone.

--To be continued--

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Great State Convention...

I am truly thankful to be serving a Southern Baptist Church in Colorado. On Monday and Tuesday of this week I attended the CBGC Executive Board Meeting in Denver. As usual, I walked away with a sense of pride in who we are and what we are trying to accomplish as Colorado Baptists. We did not have a whole lot of significant business to accomplish, in my opinion, just some necessary administrative adjustments. We did make one major change in the way that we operate. Our EB has five committees that our board members are assigned to: Mission, Finance, Agencies, Program, and Communications. The Program and Communications committees have struggled to find a practical function--they have mainly served in oversight. Yesterday, we did away with both of these committees and created two new purposeful committees: Church Health Committee and Prayer and Evangelism Committee. There were many positive reports that were shared throughout the meetings and we remain unified in our task of penetrating lostness in Colorado. Dr. Bob Bender was elected as Vice Chairman of the EB and I was re-elected as Chairman.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

My Influences...

In order to understand what makes our church tick...you will need to understand a little something about what makes me tick.

My dad surrendered to the ministry in his thirty's and he and my mom spent most of their ministry starting churches on Indian Reservations in the Western United States. At times, my dad pastored as many as three Native American churches at a time driving a bus from community to community in order to pick up the neighborhood kids. Like many PK's who go on to pastor, I learned a great deal by simply watching my dad. My dad was a gifted pastor. He loved to love people and always made it a habit to be in the homes of his church members as often as he could.

I attended a Christian boarding school during my High School days and was influenced by many teachers and staff but the most influential would have to Ken Casey. Ken and his family had served the Foreign Mission Board in Grenada and had a real "layed-back" approach to life. I remember like it was yesterday the final night that I spent in the dorm on the campus of HCBA. Ken came in to my room and without turning on the light shared some wisdom for me to carry with me. I don't remember what he said...but his tears touched me as I came to realize how much this man believed in me.

Well, I can see already that I've just hit another series...there is no way that I can discuss my personal influences in one post. Let me just move on then, for now, by saying that the following books and authors have greatly influenced me: Rick Warren--The Purpose Driven Church, Henry Blackaby--Experiencing God, Richard Foster--Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home, several books by John Maxwell, Rees Howell--Intercessor, The Autobiography of George Mueller, The Autobiography of Oswald Chambers, Hannah Hurnard--Hinds Feet on High Places, John Rice--The Power of Pentecost, Thom Rainer--Eating the Elephant, and most likely some others.

Friday, January 05, 2007

A Great Church...

I took my first staff position with a church in 1984--the summer before my Senior year at Union University. Since then, I have been involved in quite a few different churches having served on staff at six different churches and being very involved in several others. I grew up in the church--my dad was a pastor. I attended a Baptist High School, a Baptist College, and a Baptist Seminary. My whole life has revolved around the church. It's with a lifetime of church-related experience, then, that I make the following statement. The church that I now pastor is the greatest church that I have ever been associated with.

I'm thinking that it might be of use to someone out there to hear some detail about how Cornerstone functions and the philosophies that support her. I know that what works for us might not translate into another community but...it might. I want to get into some detail so this is most likely going to be an ongoing project. I would eagerly receive any questions that might help to clarify my descriptions or help to create discussion.

I came to Cornerstone in the Summer of 2000 with a clear and resounding call by both God and the church. I had served for the previous six years at FBC, Lipan, Texas while attending Southwestern Seminary. My experience in Lipan was bitter-sweet. FBC had been a seminary church for many years with a mulititude of pastors coming and going. In the church's 120 year history they had seen more than 40 different pastors. My six years with them gives me the distinction of having the fourth longest tenure of any pastor in their history. I can summarize my time at Lipan as follows: 1994-96--honeymoon, 1997-99--conflict, 1999-2000--reconciliation. I feel like my time at Lipan was a great period of development for both my character and my leadership abilities. God blessed us a great deal in Lipan and yet I was often frustrated by my inability to lead the church forward.

It was with this ambitious yearning to lead under the Holy Spirit's direction and a burning desire to see what God could truly accomplish through His people that I came to Cornerstone.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Answered Prayer!

It shouldn't surprise me when God answers prayer and yet it still does. Let me tell you about the amazing answer to prayer that our church as seen in the last few months.

Cornerstone faced an extreme financial shortfall during the months of August and September. Our expenses exceeded our income by a little more than $10,000 during these two months. The little amount that we had in reserve was quickly used up and we would not be able to endure another month in the red. We had adopted a new "bigger and better" budget that we began operating under in September that only made matters look worse.

Our Trustees met early in October with a desperate need to do something to correct our negative cash flow. The usual suspect was named as the scapegoat to remedy our problem--"let's cut missions giving!" Thankfully, the remedy that was chosen was to seek the God of Heaven for relief. I asked the Trustees to pray...I asked the leadership to pray...I asked the church to pray!

Here is the result of our prayer. Budget income for the final quarter of 2006 was simply amazing! We saw a 35% increase over the previous quarter and a 38% increase over the same quarter one year ago. Our new larger budget for the months of September through December calls for $105,080 in income! Get this—budget giving for the same period of time totals $104,348.86! But it gets even better…in addition to record budget income we have also received an enormous amount of designated gifts. In the past three months we have received $5,781.00 for the building, $8,864.50 for missions, $5,735.24 in various love offerings, $1,134.00 for AWANA, and $1,500 for computer improvements. This has been an amazing three months financially for our church!

God has certainly opened the windows of heaven for us and has poured out an overflowing blessing (Malachi 3:10). May God alone be praised!

Monday, January 01, 2007

How to Prosper in 2007!

The Word of God is the key to a purpose-filled life. The message of Scripture reveals the essentials for being all that we can be as we fulfill God's perfect and gracious plan for our lives. The first three verses of Psalm 1, for example, gives a clear recipe for gaining the maximum effectiveness from your life this year.

"Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with scoffers" (Psalm 1:1). There is a progression from listening to advice, to standing around with, and to finally joining in with those who contradict God's ways. It is very easy for us to progress from being an observing bystander to an active participant. Be careful this year about what you listen to and watch. Be careful that you do not head down the trail of observing what's wrong and eventually becoming what's wrong. Joy is promised to those who resist the einticement of the world.

"But they delight in doing everything the Lord wants; day and night they think about his law," (Psalm 1:2). In order to delight in what the Lord wants--we must first know what the Lord wants. Make it a priority in 2007 to spend time "thinking about His law". I use The New Living Translation of the "One Year Bible" for my daily Bible reading and have it found it to be an easy way to immerse myself in the Word of God. As you read the text for the day--ask yourself what the text is saying to you personally. Is there a command to obey? Is there a revelation about who God is?

"They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season without fail. Their leaves never wither, and in all they do, they prosper" (Psalm 1:3). What is the result of being a person who spends time in the Word of God? You will be fruitful! You will prosper!