Winter

Winter was my favorite season growing up. The first snowfall felt like the joy of the Jays winning the World Series. Snow represented the joy of snowmobiling, sledding, a frozen river, hockey, and snowboarding. It also brings cold, which becomes a bother over time. I will be honest, I do not miss putting gas in the car with arctic wind blaring in my face.

This past week we got to experience joy over the first snowfall of the year. It was a neat and refreshing experience for me. I was thankful for a few inches of snow that stuck for a few days. We went sledding and had a true snow day. School has been out since Tuesday. What makes North Carolina snow days so necessary is that there are not the tools here to get rid of the snow off the roads quickly. There are not huge mounds of sand and salt at the ready for large trucks to sprinkle on every road. The road conditions are treacherous due to the ice hiding here and there and everywhere. We also got some really cold temperature. I have to be careful here as I know some of you have experienced genuine arctic temperatures, but it did get cold enough that our pipes froze over night and we spent a morning with blow dryers trying to resolve the issue. The moment water gushed out of our kitchen facet was glorious indeed.

All that being said, we got to experience the type of winter I am more familiar with this past week. I am thankful to God for it. It certainly put a wrench into some things I had planned, just as it did for 100% of North Carolinians, but I am thankful for a joyous snowfall that made drinking hot chocolate a real and warm experience.

This blog post is important because moving to a new area creates many firsts. This is my first winter here, and after almost a year of living here already, a snowfall that blankets the ground in white is a reminder of the Lord’s faithfulness. God is with us. God is here. God is in control. God is present. God is steady and consistent. God is forgiving and pure and the source of joy.

What ways do you experience God’s faithfulness and presence?

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Getting ready to go sledding!



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Deacon in his warm snowsuit. He loved it out there.

Missionary Mentor

This past week I met with a small group from Christ the King Presbyterian. My mentor’s name is Geoff Bradford, the pastor of Christ the King who moved to Raleigh 3 years ago. Geoff was a church planter in Philadelphia, and back last March when I asked him to mentor me, he probably had no idea what he was getting into. He has been a huge source of encouragement along this journey of church planting thus far. What makes Geoff so inspiring is his missionary heart. What pastor invites his own sheep to prayerfully consider moving to different pastures under the care of a different shepherd?

The small group I met up with is situated south of Raleigh, right near where we are looking to plant. They were wonderful listeners and asked thoughtful questions. We ended the evening in prayer, and it was a cool experience hearing them pray. In their prayers they articulated the vision I just shared with them. The exercise of articulating the vision and direction of this new church was great practice. I continue to meet up with people to articulate the vision, and the good news is that I am not getting tired of talking about this new ministry. I am still very much excited about it, especially now that I see a picture emerging. Having a big enough group to meet for a Bible study starting in March is a huge encouragement to me.

Moments before I wrote this blog, I was listening to the radio and a random song by Jon Bon Jovi popped into my car speakers. With Bon Jovi’s vocal chords stretched to capacity, the lyrics spoke to me in a surprisingly shocking and encouraging way. Yeah, I know, it’s Bon Jovi, but it wouldn’t be the first time I have heard of a Bon Jovi song be used to convey powerful Christian themes. Anyway, the song is entitled
Livin’ on a Prayer, and yes, for you Bon Jovi buffs, I did change some words here and there:

You’ve got to hold on to what you’ve got
'Cause it doesn't make a difference
If you make it or not
You’ve got Me and that's a lot
For Love - you’ll give it a shot

Whoooah, you’re half way there
Livin' in prayer
Take My hand and you’ll make it -
Livin' in prayer


So in a week that has had it’s ups and downs, this song reminds me that I have to be living
in prayer. I got to take His hand and remember that it doesn’t make a difference if I make it or not through this ministry chapter. The point is to rely on Him, His power, and His strength. The Lord knows what he is doing with us, and I daily need to recall that.

Do you need to daily recall these truths as well?

People

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Back in 6th Grade, I wrote a speech entitle
People. I can still recall lines in the introduction: “There’s small people, fat people, and smart people. There’s people who like Cheerios while others like Captain Crunch.” I am a born extrovert, which means I get fuelled by rubbing shoulders with people. Sunday morning worship is always a rush for me. People, people, people! I get all excited in crowds.

I love gathering together, especially for the purpose of worship, and I am fully aware that not everyone has the same sort of love. Not everyone has the same extroverted tendencies, and that’s completely fine. Many of my dearest friends over the years are introverts. Introverts fascinate me. Parts of me wishes I had their ability to think the way they think.

However, no matter if you are an extrovert or introvert, the Bible calls the church to gather together. The Bible says it is good for Christians to be together regularly for worship. The church, by definition, is the
ecclesia. The Church is made up of called out ones to be together. Extroverts and introverts are called out from this world to rub shoulders and to encounter God in a special way in worship.

Right now I am meeting a slew of new people, and moving from ‘Hey, who are you?’ to ‘You want to join a Bible study?’ is a difficult one. There are others whom I am getting to know that put up a pretty thick wall the moment they find out I am a pastor. It is such an interesting and almost humorous thing to experience. Jokes change. Vocabulary is a little more nuanced. Guards are up, which means my relationship with them also changes, which also means I have to work harder at working at that relationship. That, of course, is not so humorous. Building relationships with those with guarded hearts is exactly what I need to be doing, but my heart hurts for them. I want them to experience what it feels like to be part of this ecclesia group
now! Patience is a golden virtue in church planting because relationships take years to develop. What thickens things is that being someone who likes to be accepted, it is a tough pill to swallow to feel rejected, even if that feeling does not match reality. It’s the feeling that makes it feel real, right? It may not be right, but it feels real.

This is all to say that my extroverted side can feel somewhat lonely at times trying to connect with all types of people. Fortunately there is a growing community of Christians I am getting to know, and I am extremely grateful for those relationships and other relationships we had even prior to moving here. Of course, there are the relationships of family and friends further away that keeps us encouraged and fuelled for the journey ahead. Through the new relationships forming, however, I am learning to lean on Jesus and to keep trusting in the work he has called us to here. He accepts me every time with open arms no questions asked, and that is a great source of encouragement and joy.

If you are a Christian, does weekly worship keep you fuelled for the journey ahead? Why or why not?

If you are not a Christian, when do you get lonely and how do you remedy that feeling?


How to Start a Church

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Family fuels my tank, so the holiday season that included a trip from Durham to DC, to Hamilton, to Drayton, to Grand Rapids, to Columbus, to home was a huge boost in energy. However, I encountered a nasty cough and cold earlier this week as I was eager to enter into 2014 strong. So I will keep this blog short. This blog answers a question I get asked often by folks near and far. The question is simple: How do you get a church just started? The answer is a little more complicated, especially because we do not have people gathered together as of yet.

First and foremost, it obviously starts with prayer; by the church planter/entrepreneur, by family and friends, by supporters, and by churches. Prayer has been at the forefront of this mission.

Second, it start with staying connected with God’s Word.

It starts with reading the Bible and praying everyday.

Starting a church takes significant investment on the front end from people believing in the cause.

It takes a church entrepreneur studying church planting and focusing on the model that may fit best within a particular context.

It takes discerning where the Spirit is leading and what context He is sending the sent.

It takes knowing the narrative of that particular context and discovering what God is already doing in that community.

It takes a church planter willing to learn over and over who he is in order to lead effectively.

It takes a wise wife who is able and willing to live with ambiguity and risk.

It takes the wisdom from church entrepreneurs who have been there done that.

It takes building a foundation for what the church will be and look like. This includes building a Spirit-inspired and God-given vision (a description of a preferred destination) and a Biblically rooted mission statement (what the journey to that destination looks like).

It takes a broad community of Christians who can financially support a project like this.

It takes networking with all sorts of people. It takes networking with individuals and institutions and/or individuals who represent institutions. Without people connecting the church entrepreneur with people, a cluster of people gathered together will never happen. It takes friends and family, encouragers, resource people, life-coaches, mentors, and peer-mentors.

It takes technology that compute demographic studies. It takes cell phones, email, software, Facebook, ‘the cloud’, LinkedIn, Google, a website, and stats about the website. For example, last month there were 215 new visitors to
www.reslifenc.org. Fifty-two pages were viewed by people living in Romania. (Hello to our Romania readers! Want to join a church?) One-hundred and fifteen pages were viewed by people living in Israel. Obviously, most hits came from the United States and Canada, but technology can serve as an incredible encouragement knowing that people are visiting the website from all over the world.

I said that I would keep this blog short, so I better end soon as I probably have not honored that statement. But for those who continue to read this blog through the technology of the internet, know that you remain an encouragement to this ministry. You play a role in getting this church started, and for that I am extremely grateful. As we begin 2014, please stick with us as we see Resurrection Life Church sprout and grow!