The Biggest Failure of My Life

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In 2010, ¬†with a group of less than 20 people, my wife Heidi and myself relaunched CoastLife Church. We had a big dream, a large vision, a huge passion for the local church and not much else. I was still learning who I was and discovering how God wanted me to personally do ministry. The very small team of people that were doing ministry at our first service were predominately teens or young adults and were completely inexperienced. We had no money, in fact it was difficult to keep the electric bill paid. The term “resources” was something I had heard of, but like the tooth fairy, nice to think about just not likely. To recap, we had a Pastor who was on a spiritual journey of discovering his ministry, we had a team of youth with no experience, and very little financial backing. It wasn’t exactly a recipe for success. With all of that going for us, I decided in 2010 that we would set the goal of reaching 1,000 people through CoastLife Church by Easter of 2014. If you talk to most people they would tell you not to set a numerical goal for growth for your church. As a side note, you should probably listen to them. Most people set goals only to get frustrated and decide to quit after not being able to attain them. However, we were determined that we would reach people, see God grow our church, and build a life giving, life changing, multi service, multi site church in Southwest Florida.

So, Easter of 2014 has now come and gone. I have to confess that we failed. We did not reach 1000 people this weekend. Here’s what happened instead: 530 people came to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ at CoastLife Church. Because of limited seating it took 4 services to be able to accommodate this many people. Of those 530 people, 15 people made decisions to follow Jesus Christ and 10 people made commitments to be baptized. In addition, a team of over 50 people served flawlessly pulling off 4 incredible services that glorified the name of Jesus Christ. We failed to reach 1000 people. Instead, we have relaunched a dying church, reached literally hundreds of people, baptized, equipped and trained people for ministry, and have built a life giving, life changing church. That is one huge, incredible, amazing, and overwhelming failure. Would I set a numerical goal again? Yes, I’m already praying about my next “failure.” Again, this may not be for everyone, but here’s why I like setting big goals:

1. I never want my faith to limit my God. (I’m convinced that God wants to do exceedingly and abundantly above what we ask or think. That almost sounds biblical.)

2. I want to consistently have a dream that is bigger than my circumstances. (I believe that if we had not had a dream bigger than our circumstances, our circumstances would have defined us as a small, pitiful, broke church that was not reaching its community. Instead, our dream began to define us and not our circumstances. In spite of the very pitiful circumstances, we truly believed that we were called to do something significant in our community)

3. I want to leave room for the impossible in my life.¬†(Old Testament Reference Alert, I don’t want to find out that I should I have struck the ground with arrows 5 or 6 times, when I only struck it 3. Go look it up, it will bless you.)

I heard Pastor Greg Surratt teach recently to, “set big goals, but don’t be afraid to adjust your expectations.” Go ahead and set a big goal and verbalize a big dream, but don’t define your life by the exact outcome. Trust me, I’m overjoyed with what God has done at CoastLife Church. Did we fail? Technically yes, but it’s the biggest and best failure of my life.

Excellence Matters

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I saw this sign while I was driving down the road the other day and it reminded me of an important leadership principle. It’s important to note that I wholeheartedly believe the message that is written on this sign. I believe with all of my heart that Jesus is God. I believe with all of my heart that everyone should confess their sins and repent to Jesus Christ. Also, I believe everyone should love Jesus Christ with their heart, mind, and soul. In fact, I have dedicated and given my life to preaching this exact message. So why would I shudder and be filled with dread when my life’s message is being displayed for thousands of people to see as they drive along a busy highway? Because excellence matters. Scriptures clearly teach that we are God’s ambassadors here on earth. In other words, we are his representation to the world. How we go about proclaiming our message and doing ministry is setting people’s perception of God’s eternal kingdom. The materials we use, the methodology we use, and the attitude we exhibit are all conveying a message. I never want a poorly conveyed message to cause people to miss the majesty of our Lord and King. I used to teach a leadership lesson called Brown Bag Christianity. Sometimes we are guilty of taking the most priceless and precious gift imaginable, and presenting it to people in something as unappealing as a brown bag. Or perhaps a plywood sign and some spray paint.

Here are three filter questions when considering conveying the message of Jesus Christ through a tangible material:

1. Would you use it in your own home? If you wouldn’t use it in your house, why would you use it in God’s house or any where else? I have been guilty of this, going cheap using the excuse “we are a church.” I’m all for being thrifty, and we will continue to do so, but keep in mind the overall message and not just the cost of the material.

2. Is it current? I don’t preach from a scroll anymore, but I preach the same message that was recorded on them 2000 years ago and beyond. It’s a simple concept, yesterday’s materials won’t reach today’s generation.

3. Does the material/method hinder or obscure the message? Let’s face it. Sometimes we are guilty of falling in love with our methods and making them primary over our message. Pastor John Siebeling once talked about changing his preaching style. He actually loved to preach and loved the way he preached, but it wasn’t effective. He changed his preaching style and saw many more people come to Christ through his ministry. He said, “I had to give up something I loved for something I loved more.”

Excellence Matters.

I’m Insecure about My Insecurities (This title probably isn’t any good)

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I’m so insecure, I am insecure about writing a blog about insecurity. Over the years I’ve learned to mask my insecurity with humor. At my church, CoastLife Church, I even have developed a humorous persona of being overly confident in my speaking abilities. It usually generates a lot of laughs when I refer to what an incredible preacher I am. I often mention my rugged sex appeal for good measure.

I’m not for sure what generated the insecurities in my life. I had a great childhood and a wonderful family. My family never talked down to me or attempted to make me feel inferior. However, I was extremely shy as a kid and I am by nature an introvert. The shyness and the introverted nature grew to almost paralyzing insecurity. It’s cost me in my life. People that I could have built relationships with, but the insecurity said don’t call them they don’t want to hear from you. Other opportunities get passed by because of the negativity and doubt that cause you not to take action.

It has always been a personal and private battle for me. It was only personal until the point that my church began to grow. The growth of my dreams and vision were quickly met by the saboteur of my own insecurities. Those same paralyzing insecurities began to arise to cause me not to trust people, not to trust myself, and began plaguing me with negativity and doubt. Causing me to feel like I was in over my head, that I was in way above my ability, and that everything I had worked hard for would suddenly be swept out from under me. At that point I decided that it would no longer be personal and private. There is to much at stake for me to allow my own insecurities to be the limiting factor of the growth of a church of Jesus Christ. I am a good enough preacher and sexy enough to know that unchecked insecurity will limit what God can do in me and through me.

Insecurity in its simplest form is the enemy of faith and trust. God cannot work in our lives while we are filled with “insecurity,” which is really translated as doubt, worry, and distrust of the goodness of God. Here are 3 things that I have been doing to help overcome insecurity and be what God has called me to be:

1. Do Battle: Challenge every thought no matter how small. Spiritual warfare isn’t as much about weird people in prayer rooms as it is about mind renewal. Paul said spiritual warfare was taking every thought captive and submitting obedient to Christ. Do battle, take every negative thought captive and renew it with the Word of God.

2. Isolate Your Insecurity: I have found the more I hang around insecure people the more I become insecure. Insecurity breeds insecurity. When I hang around secure and confident people I feed off of their confidence. We tend to gravitate toward people who are like us. This doesn’t work if you are battling insecurity. Being drawn to insecure people will only feed the beast of your insecurities. Be intentional about surrounding yourself, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel at first, with people who can encourage you to grow in confidence.

3. Grow in Faith: Insecurity happens when I put more trust in myself than I do in God. If my faith is in myself then I have a good reason to be insecure. I know me and I don’t inspire a lot of trust in myself. However, when I place my faith in God, He is faithful and trustworthy. If I can grow in my understanding of the goodness of God, His love for me, and His plans for me it begins to build my faith. I personally have been listening to more preaching than I ever have in my 36 years. I constantly need to be challenged by the Word of God in order to grow in my faith and be all that God has called me to be.

I’m Glad You Left the Religious Organization, but…

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For several years now there has been a trend in christianity of breaking free from religious bondage. Christian’s are leaving stuffy, traditional, and highly religious churches for more dynamic and grace filled churches. Pastors and church leaders are leaving traditional denominations and organizations to break free and build modern, life giving churches. One of the best decisions I have made in recent years was to leave an organization. It was obvious the organization that I was licensed with and the direction God was leading me were at opposite ends of the spectrum. I broke free from the organization that was bound with rules, restrictions, and lifeless traditions in order to build a life giving, life changing church. Perhaps that’s your story as well. You are a christian who has left a lifeless and religiously bound church, or you are a Pastor who has broken free from a denomination or organization. I’m glad your free.

However, I’ve noticed another trend. It’s a trend to not connect, not belong, and keep my options open. Some christians have multiple churches without being committed to one. Some Pastors play the field of ministerial fellowships, church networks, and other groups. Young Pastors and Church Planters are the en vogue group right now. In the church world they are the prettiest girls at the dance and have multiple groups who are courting them for a chance to give them a spin around the floor. I’m glad your free, but I also believe the keys to healthy Christians and healthy Churches are things like commitment, loyalty, and faithfulness. When I disconnected from the organization it took a little while to figure out where God was leading me and who I should connect with. I get it. You need some time to figure out who you are now and what’s next for you, but at some point you are going to need to connect and commit. For me, I connected with Destiny Ministerial Network and the Association of Related Churches known as ARC. When people ask I describe it this way, Destiny is my family and ARC is my business. Destiny is where I go to know and be known. ARC is where I go to learn how to implement structure and strategy to improve our greeters, ushers, and parking team. I learn things from the resources that ARC provides and then I bring it home to discuss it with my Destiny family. Generally I give around 4% of our churches total revenue to Destiny. They helped us start and I want to support them and be faithful in giving to them. We give to ARC as well. I have friends in many other networks and fellowships and I love them all, but I can only be committed, loyal, and faithful to a few things. I chose to connect to those two things. What about you? I’m glad you broke free from a lifeless church, but what church do you call home now? Pastor or Church Leader, I’m glad your out of the organization and you feel like the prettiest girl at the dance, but who have you connected to. I’m glad your free, but healthy Christians and healthy Churches understand that God blesses loyalty, faithfulness, and commitment. You will need to choose a church. You will need to choose a spiritual covering. You will need to be submitted to spiritual leadership. As Pastors are we preaching loyalty, faithfulness, and commitment to others and not practicing it ourselves? I’m glad your free, but loyalty, faithfulness, and commitment are still keys to the kingdom.

Here are 3 questions to ask yourself about faithfulness?

1. Who am I tithing to? Every church and every christian should be faithful in tithing to their spiritual leadership. If every christian and every church tithed, there would be no lack in the church today.

2. Who am I open to? Who has the ability to speak into my life? Every believer and every church should have godly and trustworthy leadership and be submitted to it. God has spiritual government and submission is the key to power in the kingdom.

3. Who am I doing life with? Who am I committed to stay connected with through the highs and lows of life? It’s about relationships. Be in committed relationships and you will see them grow and bless you. Find a church, find a network, find a fellowship and stay connected in the good times and bad.