Why I Hit the Delete Button

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Recently the church where I serve as Lead Pastor, CoastLife Church, was embroiled in somewhat of a controversy. What seemed to be a pretty solid marketing approach for our Easter Outreach Campaign became the topic of a local Facebook Page with over 20,000 followers. The controversy was over our Cross Equals Love signs that began to appear all over the city of Venice and the surrounding areas. We printed them and made them available for people to display in their yards or businesses. Those signs went everywhere. I swear that we received a multiplication miracle because I don’t remember having that many printed. When the Facebook Page posted about the signs twice, a few hundred people decided to weigh in. Some comments were very supportive, some were neutral, and some were highly critical. Some comments were direct to our church and were an attempt to outright bully us. The critical comments ranged from legitimate criticism about signs that were placed in prohibited areas to very hateful comments about our church and christians in general. I posted one official comment on behalf of our church and felt that it was informative and professional. As the conversation continued I wanted to post more comments. Comments that would refute insane accusations, comments to defend our church, and comments to defend the message of christianity. I resisted the urge and let the conversation eventually fizzle out. Finally, a brilliant idea hit me. Something that I loved and knew others would love as well. It would have been a popular post with my friends on social media, and it would have rallied our team that has been a vital part of this Easter campaign. With the brilliant post on my screen and ready to be sent to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram I hit the delete button. Why would I delete something that would have been popular and even would have been a morale boost for our team? Because I realized that the result of criticism had caused me to become what I never want to be, an issue oriented christian. When we posted signs, hung door hangers, and passed out Easter invite cards it came from the very pure heart of our church to remind people of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and invite them to celebrate with us at our Easter services. The deleted post, although brilliant even if I do say so myself, was not pure hearted. It wasn’t based on a desire to reach the unchurched or the dechurched. It wasn’t to invite people to a life giving, life changing church. It was to win an argument. It was divisive between christians and non christians, and it was out of my need to be right. So I hit the delete button. Here’s my prayer in response to criticism and my desire to never be an issue oriented christian arguing politics, doctrine, and just arguing for arguments sake.

1. I want to be pure hearted

I don’t mind criticism. If you do anything of significance it will be accompanied with criticism. However, whatever I do in my life and ministry I want it to come from a very pure place. My prayer is that all actions from my life and ministry would be out of a love for Jesus Christ and a love for the people that he died for. Motives matter.

2. I want to be loving and forgiving

If Jesus could love and forgive the very people that nailed him to a cross, surely I can hold my tongue on social media.

3. I don’t want to circle the wagons

When we circle our wagons, we close our doors. It’s tempting as believers to circle our wagons and become very defensive about our beliefs and way of life. It’s almost understandable to do so. However, the problem is that when we circle our wagons we close our doors to the very people who need our message the most. Jesus Christ is the stumbling block and the cross is the offense. If people are offending by the cross or stumble over Jesus being the only way of salvation, it is their decision to do so. My prayer is that I would never cause someone to stumble over me and my arguments before they ever have the chance to wrestle with the decision of whether or not to follow Jesus Christ. Sometimes when we are overly defensive we circle our wagons so tightly over small issues, we don’t allow people the chance to get to the real issue and that is Jesus died on a cross for their sins, and they can either receive or reject that act of mercy and grace.

3 Regrets

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In just a couple of months we will celebrate 4 years as CoastLife Church. I have been tremendously blessed to be  a part of a redemptive miracle that God has done through the relaunch of the church. There has been growth, blessing, and an amazing amount of favor on my life and the church since day one. However, it would be dishonest to only highlight the goodness of God, without also highlighting the grace of God through this process. Even though I believe we have done many things correctly, I have also needed a tremendous amount of grace for the things that I/We (I now have a team that I can blame) have done incorrectly. Maybe you are believing God for something big, a major life decision, a huge step of faith, or just a general pursuit of His will. Here are three regrets that I hope you don’t have after you have witnessed the goodness of God.

1. I regret that I believed for the dream, but I didn’t actually plan for it to come to pass

I truly believed that God was going to bless CoastLife Church with growth. However, I didn’t necessarily live out that belief. To live out the belief would have meant that I would have worried less, planned more effectively, and wouldn’t have made some decisions based on the urgency of a moment and instead made decisions for the long haul. I worry less now, we have a plan now, and I have had to revisit some bad decisions from the early days. Keep worry out of the picture and enjoy the journey a little more. At some point you will look back and wish you did.

2. I wish I would have been more firm on my calling and style of church

In the early days I knew what I wanted to be, and I knew the style of church God was calling me to build. However, to keep peace and try to welcome everyone, I didn’t always live by those principles. As the church has grown, I have become much more bold in not only defending, but also in intentionally building the church around a specific culture and vision. The quicker you can come to terms and be honest about who and what God has called you to be, the better. There have been specific moments that I have dug down deeper into what God has called us to do at CoastLife Church and growth has been the result each time. Sometimes we aren’t honest and extremely clear about our vision or values for fear of losing people who don’t share them. Take my advice. You will lose them eventually. The quicker you become honest and transparent, the sooner God can bless what He has called you to do. Healthy things grow. Honesty, transparency, and clear vision/values creates health and growth.

3. I wish I would have dealt with my insecurities sooner

I had no confidence to deal with people and issues in the early days. With no confidence I was unable to handle conflict in a healthy way, and I completely avoided difficult issues. I began to pray and ask God for authority in my ministry and in teaching/preaching His word. Through prayer I came to the conclusion that insecurity and authority can’t coexist. At some point, you have to believe that God not only called you, He also well equipped you to do what He has called you to do. I’m still in process, but I feel much more comfortable looking conflict in the eye and dealing with difficult issues.

So, hey you, let’s meet in my office and go over your tithing record.

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.

Do I Put God First?

I have a sneaking suspicion that most of us give less than we think and spend more than we realize. When you scrutinize a budget it’s amazing how the numbers sometimes tell a completely different story than you would think.

Compare the money spent at the following places any given month versus how much you give to support the work of Jesus Christ:

Restaurants, Coffee, and Soda – Tithes and Offerings = Whether or not I prioritize eating out over the House of God

Movie Theaters, Netflix, Red Box, Gamefly, DVDs/CDs – Tithes and Offerings = Whether or not I prioritize entertainment over the mission of Jesus Christ

Shoes, Shirts, Jeans, and Accessories – Tithes/Offerings = Whether or not I prioritize how I look over the kingdom of God.

Most of us would proudly quote the scripture about seeking God’s kingdom first, and all of these other things would be added to us, but I wonder if our budget would confirm this. The point of this blog isn’t that all of these “other things” are to be avoided. It’s to ask the question are these things “added” after we have sought the kingdom of God first, or are the “other things” taking priority in our lives?

Now add up the money spent at:

Restaurants, Coffee Shops, Soda’s purchased at Convenience Stores, Movie Theaters, Netflix, Redbox, Gamefly, DVDs/CDs, Shoes, Shirts, Jeans, and Accessories

Compare to:

Tithes and Offerings

Still think you can’t afford to give?

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.