Thursday, April 30, 2009

Danger, Grace Staff, Danger! (arrogance)

Danger #1 – ARROGANCE

What does Scripture say in the book of Proverbs? Pride comes before the what? Pride comes before the fall. If there ever was something that could bring our ministry to a grinding halt it is arrogance among our staff. I see two sources of arrogance.

One source of arrogance is knowledge. Paul wrote that “knowledge puffs up”. I see that frequently, especially in the ranks of seminary students and bloggers. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying seminaries and the blogging world is of the devil. I graduated from seminary and I have written over 1100 blog postings. But one thing I have noticed is that the more we learn about theology the more we tend to develop this, “I am always right and everyone else is always wrong” mind-set. Suddenly, we become self-imposed experts who believe God has called us to publicly point out everyone else’s errors and seek to get everyone to cross all of their spiritual “t’s” and dot all of their spiritual “i’s” just like we do. We often make the mistake of equating theological knowledge with theological superiority. That is a form of arrogance.

But as much as knowledge can lead to pride and arrogance, so can success. Can I remind all of us on staff here at Grace Church of a very big principle? At the risk of hurting your feelings, let me just say it. Our church is not growing because of you!! Okay, let me repeat it. Our church is not growing because of you!! In case you don’t get it, let me be more specific:

Our church is not growing because of Whitie Willard!
Our church is not growing because of Tim Auld!
Our church is not growing because of Steve Burghart!
Our church is not growing because of Matt McElravy!
Our church is not growing because of Doug Kegarise!
Our church is not growing because of Susan Auld!
Our church is not growing because of Rick Bernhardt!
Our church is not growing because of any one part-time ministry staff member!
Our church is not growing because of any on support staff member!
Our church is not growing because of any educational staff member!

And let me make this very clear…our church is not growing because of me!! Let me say that again. Our church is not growing because Scott Distler is the Senior Pastor.

If any of us thinks Grace Church is growing because of us we are looking through a huge cloud of smoke and cannot see clearly. It is Jesus that builds the church! Why? Because it is His church! We’ve had a lot of success here at Grace and as a result it would be easy to begin to think we are something and have the corner on the market when it comes to church ministry. But we don’t. It isn’t our success…It’s His! Let’s never forget that. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Danger, Grace Staff, Danger! (introduction)

Over the next several days on my blog I am writing directly to our staff here at Grace Ministries. Please keep that in mind as you read. The following posts are not directed to the entire Grace Church family, onr is it directed to the world of Christendom. This is me as the Senior Pastor writing my heart to my staff. I have asked them to make it a point to read each of these upcoming blog posts.

Why am I using this venue? Because I simply want to give you the opportunity to be the proverbial “fly on the wall.” Haven’t you ever desired to do that? To be the “fly on the wall” for morning security briefings in the Oval Office? To be the “fly on the wall” in the locker room at halftime when the team is getting smoked on the field? To be the “fly on the wall” for some secret, controversial, behind-closed-doors meeting? Well, it’s not real glamorous, but here is your chance to be the “fly on the wall” for the ‘semi-private’ talk I would have with our staff.

I am not a sci-fi lover in any way, shape or form, but back when I was a kid one of my favorite televisions shows was called “Lost In Space.” It was kind of like Gilligan’s Island but on another planet rather than a deserted island and without the controversy of who was better looking, Ginger or Mary Ann (by the way, if you don’t know the answer to that controversy, it was Mary Ann…that’s a “no-brainer”).

The show involved the Robinson family and a spooky guy named Doctor Smith who was lost somewhere in outer space. There was a kid among the group who was lost in outer space whose name was Will Robinson. There was also a robot with slinky type arms. Whenever something harmful was on the horizon, the robot would wave his arms up and down and repeat the words, “Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!”

In a lot of ways, Grace Church seems like it is in another dimension. God is blessing our socks off and we are seeing amazing growth, new people flooding in, and lives being radically changed. God is allowing us to seriously meet many, many people right where they are and help move them to where He wants them to be. God has put a 5-year vision in our hearts and spirit and is even causing the implementation of this plan to be sped up beyond what our timeframe was. That’s exciting but, honestly, it is also pretty scary. Things are moving so rapidly and our church is changing so quickly that sometimes it can seem to us in the office day in and day out like we are “Lost in Ministry”.

When the Robinson family and Doctor Smith were Lost in Space, there were dangers surrounding them. Good thing for them “The Robot” was there to give them some warning in advance. As our church takes off, I want to play the part of “The Robot” and swing my “non-slinky” arms up and down and yell, “Danger, Grace Church Staff, Danger!” There are some very real dangers that are all around us and over the next few posts I want to alert us as staff to these dangers so that we will not give the evil one a foothold into our lives or in our ministries. So here we go - “Danger, Grace Staff, Danger!” Be sure to read the next 5 blogs.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

May's Highlights

This week we finish up the month of April and what a great month it was with well over 7,000 people contacted and impacted when you combine our Easter Egg-Stravaganza; Good Friday; and our four Easter services here at Grace. WOW! God is so good. We also saw the biggest “post-Easter” bump in attendance we have ever seen as a church.

Our Celebrate Jesus Decade by Decade series has really connected with people as we have gone down nostalgia lane to drive home the point that while everything seems to change decade by decade, the truth about Jesus remains the same. It’s been fun to listen to the music from the different decades, watch video clips from the different decades and even to dress like the different decades (I think my “Don Johnson – Miami Vice” look for the 80’s week that is pictured above was the best – what do you think?) And how wonderful it was to see dozens of people cross that line of faith and trust Jesus last Sunday in all three of our worship services. We will finish that series this Sunday with the current decade as we see that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever!

So as May shows up later this week, here are some of the ministry and personal highlights that I am looking forward to as we go through this wonderful Spring month together meeting people right where they are and helping to move them to where God wants them to be:

Weddings: Beginning this weekend through the first weekend of June, I will be officiating 5 weddings in 6 weeks. WOW! Love is in the air here at Grace! What is the deal with that? One of these weddings will be at the shore…that’s cool! I’m a little nervous about the one that is in a barn, complete with possible line dancing. I better not get any “cow-pie” on my dress shoes! Seriously, I love being part of these special days in the lives of people who are part of Grace!

Fenway Park: I love baseball and I love the Cleveland Indians. I am pumped that early in the month of May I get to go with a friend from Grace to historic Fenway Park (I’ve never been there and can’t wait to get a look at the green monster) to watch my Indians clobber the Red Sox (please, God, let them clobber the Red Sox)! In mid-May I get to go to Citizens Bank Park to watch the Phillies battle the Dodgers.

Chick Flicks: Mother’s Day will start a brand new 5-week series we are calling “Chick Flicks of the Bible.” Honestly, I hate “chick flick” type movies, but these stories are really cool. The first one is about a prostitute and includes a whole lot of espionage (007 has nothing on the Bible); the second one is an amazing story of romance that even men will enjoy; the final story is about a very wise woman who is unnamed in Scripture but who literally cuts off a guy’s head and throws it over the city wall to save the people of the city from destruction. If you like action, you’ll love this third story!

Other special days in May include:

May 8 – Our daughter, Joy, comes homes from college
May 22 – My son, Jonathan, and his band will be playing in “The Battle of the Bands”
May 23 – Laura and I will celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary

Monday, April 27, 2009

Beginning May 10 - Sundays at Grace Goes Live on the Web

We are very pumped about what God is doing through our weekend services here at Grace Church. Don’t you wish people you know who don’t live anywhere near us could experience worship at Grace? Don’t you hate it when you personally have to miss a Sunday due to sickness or being out of town? Through our “Decade by Decade” series I have enjoyed telling people that Grace Church is so exciting that when you miss a week it’s like missing 10 years.

As a result, we wanted to be able to expand the scope of our impact to those who can’t be here on Sunday mornings but wish they could be. We already put the tape of our previoius services on-line so our messages can be watched and many people all over the country and all over the world take advantage of this. But now, beginning on Mother’s Day, May 10th, we will be putting our 10am service on the web via a live stream. That’s right…from anywhere in the world you can watch our 10am service via a live webcast on the internet.

I am so thankful to our Worship Arts techs who have worked so hard to make this opportunity possible. This has especially involved the work of Tim Reedy, our Media Producer, and Nancy Martin, our Audio Producer. Both of them do a remarkable job. So here is how you can use this new ministry opportunity to help us fulfill our purpose of meeting as many people as possible right where they are at and helping to move them to where God wants then to be:

Do you know people around the country and even around the world who are home on Sunday mornings at 10am PA time? Then make sure to pass on to them the news that beginning May 10th, they can watch our full worship service live on the internet!

If you have to miss church on Sunday because of sickness, you don’t have to miss the service. Turn on your computer at 10am and watch our service live!

If you are out of town due to work or vacation, you can still be part of Grace Church by turning on your computer at 10am PA time and watching our worship service live!

And even our missionaries that we support around the country and around the world, who have access to the internet on Sunday mornings at 10am, can still feel connected to Grace Church as they watch our live webcast.

This extension of our ministry begins on May 10th which is Mother’s Day. So, if your mom can’t come to church with you at Grace this Mother’s Day….do the next best thing. Be sure to tell mom that she can watch our 10am service live from Grace Church on the web. The link for our Sunday morning service live webcast is below. Remember, starting May 10th, our 10am service can now be watched live through a video web cast. Tell everyone!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Celebrate Jesus...Jesus is the only way to heaven!

This Sunday in our Celebrate Jesus Decade by Decade message series we will move into the 1990’s as we focus on the fact that Jesus is the only way to heaven from John 14:1-6 in which we discover that it is all about four things.

First, it’s all about a peace. Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” This word literally described the stirring of waters (John 5:7). Figuratively, it spoke of spiritual or mental irritation or anguish. When Jesus spoke these words He was talking to His disciples who were troubled. Jesus had just told them that one of them would betray Him (13:21); that Peter would deny Him (13:38); and that He would soon be leaving them (13:33). Jesus commands them that in the same way that they believe in God, they should also believe in Him. This is written in the present tense showing ongoing belief…“keep on believing in Me!”

Second, it’s all about a place. Jesus went on to say that “In My Father’s house (a reference to heaven) are many dwelling places (showing the vastness of heaven).” A more specific description of this place is given in Revelation 21:9-27.

Third, it’s all about a promise. Just as sure as Jesus was going to be soon returning to the Father, He also promised that He would again return for His own. “I will come again” is a reference to the rapture of the church (1 Thessalonians 4).

Finally, it’s all about a person. Jesus alone is the way to God! “Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep...I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved.’” (John 10:7-9). Acts 4:12 says “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

Jesus alone is the truth about God! “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:14, 17). John 18:37 says, “Therefore Pilate said to Him, ‘So You are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’”

Jesus posses the life of God! “In Him was life and the life was the Light of men.” (John 1:4). In John 11:25-26 we read, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?’”

The Bible teaches that God may be approached exclusively through His only-begotten Son, Jesus. “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all.” (1 Timothy 2:5)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Name Says It ALL

Have you ever done a Google Image Search on your last name?
For some reason, I did recently and came across the three pictures above.
Now I have a question that is perplexing me?
Am I named after

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


As I shared in my blog yesterday, Laura and I are considering our third tip to the Holy Land October 17-30, 2010. Yesterday I shared what our tentative itinerary would be for the first 6 days. Now, here comes the unbelievable itinerary for days 7-14:

Day 7 – We will visit the Valley of Elah where David killed Goliath, pass by Rachel’s tomb on the outskirts of Bethlehem, visit the Church of the Nativity and the Shepherd’s Fields. We will go to Mt Zion and visit the Upper Room where Jesus had the last supper with His disciples. We will visit the house of Caiaphas where Jesus was tried and where Peter denied the Lord. We will go to the Israel Museum including a 1:50 scale model of Jerusalem at the time of Herod the Great and visit the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls are displayed.

Day 8 – We will enter Jerusalem, walk to the holiest site in the whole Jewish world…The Western (Wailing) Wall; We will see the 35 acre temple area purchased by King David on which today stands the Dome of the Rock (the 3rd holiest shrine in all of Islam); We will go to St Stephen’s Gate; Sister of Zion Convent (the pavement where Jesus stood while on trial before Pilate); Follow the Via Dolorosa where Jesus carried His cross; and visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre over the sight of Jesus’ death and tomb.

Day 9 – We will take a cable car up to Masada, the fortress built by King Herod; visit Ein Gedi, the oasis where David hid from King Saul; visit Qumran, the settlement of the Essenes who authored the Dead Sea Scrolls; visit Jericho, the city of Palms that is the oldest existing city on earth; see the Mount of Temptation where Jesus was tempted by Satan; and see Wadi Qelt, the Biblical Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Day 10 – We will visit the Mt of Olives; The Church of the Ascension; and the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed in agony. We will celebrate communion at the garden tomb and then visit St Peter’s gate and the Pool of Bethesda.

Day 11 – We will offer special options that you can choose to be part of or just enjoy the city of Jerusalem on your own. Some of the options will include Hezekiah’s Tunnel; the southern wall of the Temple Mount excavations and the Holocaust Museum.

Day 12 – We will cross back over into Jordan where we will go to Bethany beyond the Jordan where you will have opportunity to be baptized in the Jordan River. We will then drive to our spa hotel where you can enjoy time soaking in the mineral rich Dead Sea.

Day 13 – We will drive to Petra, the “red rose city half as old as time” where many believe the Jewish people will hide from the Anti-Christ during the tribulation.

Day 14 – We will depart for the Amman airport after breakfast for our flight home and the close of an unforgettable tour.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

OCTOBER 2010 - BACK TO ISRAEL (part 1)

Back in 2006, Laura and I made our very first trip to the Holy Land. We went again in 2008. I can’t even begin to tell you what a life-changing trip this was as we were able to walk where Jesus walked, where Moses walked; where David walked, where Peter walked, where Paul walked, where Elijah walked, and where John the Baptist walked.

Imagine yourself taking a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus calmed the storm; being baptized in the Jordan River where John the Baptist baptized our Savior; spending the night at a Dead Sea Spa; walking the Via Dolorosa where Jesus carried his cross to Calvary; visiting the museum where the Dead Sea Scrolls are displayed; or taking communion at one of the traditional sites of the empty tomb.

I am pleased to announce that Laura and I are seriously looking to return to the Holy Land a third time October 17-30, 2010. If we indeed go, we would love to take another good sized group from Grace Church along with us. It is without question a trip of a lifetime. Below is the possible itinerary for this trip:

Day 1 – Depart from Grace Church for a bus ride to New York where we will depart on a Royal Jordanian wide body jet for Amman, Jordan.

Day 2 – Arrive in Amman, Jordan and go to our hotel for dinner and overnight.

Day 3 – We drive to Madaba and the sight of a mosaic map of Jerusalem from the Byzantine era and then onto Mt Nebo to stand where Moses stood to view the Promised Land. We will the drive to Jerash which is one of the Decapolis, a group of ten Hellenized cities during the time of Christ. We will then cross Jordan into Israel.

Day 4 – You will have the opportunity to watch the sunrise on the Sea of Galilee before we visit many Biblical sites including Caesarea Philippi (where Peter made his claim, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God), Mt Hermon, Banias, Tel Dan, the Lebanon border, and Hazor (a Canaanite city destroyed by Joshua).

Day 5 – We will visit Capernaum where Jesus did many of His miracles, the Mt of Beatitudes, Tabgha (the location of the feeding of the 5,000), the Church of Peter’s Primacy (where Jesus asked Peter three times, ‘Do you love me?’), The Jesus Boat exhibition, and take a sunset boat ride across the Sea of Galilee when we will have St Peter’s fish for dinner.

Day 6 – We will visit Nazareth, Mt of Precipice (where the crowds wanted to throw Jesus off to His death), Mt Carmel (where Elijah called down fire from God), Megiddo (where the battle of Armageddon will one day be fought) and Caesarea Maritima.

I’ll share about days 7-14 tomorrow.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Grace Continues to Touch Orphans in Africa

One of the most exciting and fulfilling elements of our ministry that we have here at Grace is the amazing impact we are being able to have on hundreds of orphans in the Central African Republic. As you know, Grace Church and Lititz Christian School currently fully sponsor four Christian Schools in the C.A.R. in partnership with some of our Grace Brethren Churches in the C.A.R. But this opportunity has so touched the hearts of our people that thousands of dollars come into our Birthday Gift for Jesus Project each December above and beyond what is needed to support these schools. This gives us the wonderful opportunity to supply so much more for these precious children.

You have heard in the past how we have supplied the funds for the dedication ceremony of the Orphan Welcome Center, which was a very big deal in the African culture. We also provided the funds for razor wire for the top of the wall around the center to provide security due to break-ins that were occurring. We also provided the funds for the purchase of a van to bring these orphans to school and to the welcome center from the villages. After much red tape, that van has finally arrived and is pictured above. Barb Wooler, the Grace Brethren Missionary who is our main contact for this ministry, had this to say about the van in an e-mail to Mike McCracken, our mission team chairman:

“Isn't this awesome? Mike, I can't tell you how happy this makes me. Thank you thank you thank you! It looks like Madame Alexandrine is making protective coverings for the inside before they start using it. I'm so glad to hear that she is being careful with the vehicle. I think it should last a long time between her being watchful over it and our chauffeur, Isa, who is obsessive about keeping his van clean. The old van purchased for us used still looks a lot the same as it did when we bought it in 2006! Too bad it doesn't work as well, but it's not for lack of being properly maintained. My guess is that it'll take about a week to get the inside kid-ready. I just know that we were desperate to get the new van because the other one is leaking oil like a sieve and costing beaucoup bucks to keep on the road.”

Now we are being able to purchase property in Bercail for an additional orphan center. Barb went on in her e-mail to Mike to describe the progress of this purchase. You can see from her e-mail that we are making sure that every penny of the money you give goes directly toward meeting the needs of orphans in the Central African Republic;

“As for the purchase of Bercail, earlier this week I gave Madame Alexandrine the all clear to pursue it for purchase. I am 100% confident that this is God's way for us. I'm excited to get it set up to serve our kids on that side of the city. This center will allow us to strengthen our connection to each of our children on that side of the city, and in one full swoop, resolves some issues that were developing on that side of the city. I can't imagine a project that could better meet the criterion that Pastor Scott delineated. The Bercail Center purchase is a 100% dead-center-in-the-bull's-eye strike on your target objective. Thank you to your missions team, your Pastor and the whole Lititz family.”

Friday, April 17, 2009

Celebrate Jesus...Jesus is God (part 2)

Who is Jesus? Jesus is God. How do we know? We saw yesterday that Jesus claimed to be God. We also saw that He was called God. But here are a few more proofs:

Jesus possesses attributes that prove He is God!

Jesus is Omnipresent (present everywhere at the same time) – “And lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20)

Jesus is Omniscient (all knowing) – “But Jesus was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” (John 2:24-25)

Jesus is Omnipotent (all powerful) – “I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8)

Jesus has abilities that prove He is God!

Jesus healed the sick (Mark 1:41-42 – “Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched our His hand and touched Him, and said to Him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.”)

Jesus had power over nature - He turned water into wine (John 2:1-11); He fed thousands with one little boy’s lunch (John 6:1-15); He walked on water (John 6:16-21)

Jesus had power over death - He raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44); He Himself rose from the dead (John 20:1-31).

Jesus created all things (John 1:3 – “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being”)

Jesus controls all things (Colossians 1:17 – “He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.”)

Jesus forgives sins (John 2:5 – “And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’”)

Jesus gives eternal life (1 John 5:11-12 – “And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.”

Jesus was worshipped as God by angels (Hebrews 1:6 – “And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, ‘And let all the angels of God worship Him.’”)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Celebrate Jesus...Jesus is God (part 1)

We are currently in the middle of a message series here at Grace Church that we are calling Celebrate Jesus Decade by Decade. We started on Palm Sunday with a 1960’s feel to the morning service as we saw that Jesus died for our sins. On Easter we revisited the 1970’s as we focused on the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. This Sunday will be the decade of my High School and College years…the 1980’s! And this Sunday we will study the fact that Jesus is God.

Who is Jesus? Some say He was just a man. Some say He was a teacher. Others say He was some type of prophet or spiritual guru. But none of these do Jesus justice. In simple terms, Jesus is God. How do we know?

Jesus claimed to be God!

John 5:17-18 – “But He answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.’ For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He was not only breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Him equal with God.”

John 8:58-59 – “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I Am.’ Therefore, they picked up stones to throw at Him

John 10:30-31 – “’I and the Father are One.’ The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him.”

There is no doubting that Jesus made the claim to be God. That means that just one of three options can be true.

Jesus’ claim to be God was false and He knew it, making Him a LIAR!

Jesus’ claim to be God was false and He did not know it, making Him a LUNATIC!

Jesus’ claim to be God was true, making Him exactly who He claimed to be…the LORD!

Not only did Jesus claim to be God, He is called God!

John 1:1 – “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus) and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”

John 20:28 – “Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and My God!’”

Titus 2:13 – “Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How to Offer Constructive Criticism

There is no question that complaining is not Biblical. However, constructive criticism offered from a sincere heart, motivated by ministry rather than by personal preferences, and communicated in love is very valuable. But what I have discovered is that often constructive criticism is ignored, not because its content is bad, but because of how it is communicated. So whenever you feel led by the Lord to offer constructive criticism to one of our staff members here at Grace Church, think through the following principles first.

Check your motive. Is what you are about to communicate stemming from what is best for the overall ministry and purpose of Grace Church or is it selfishly rooted in your own personal preferences, likes and dislikes?

Check your words. Think through your communication before actually communicating. Be sure to avoid statements that come across as sarcastic, rude, extreme, or attacking.

Check your timing. The very worst time to stop a staff member to verbally dump on them is right before a service, in between services, or right after a service.

Check your method. Face-to-face will always be the best way to communicate any kind of constructive criticism. Remember, only 8% of communication is our words. That means that to write your constructive criticism in a letter, in an e-mail, or God-forbid, on a Sunday Connection Card, is the absolute worst way to communicate. When you do, we can’t hear your tone or see your heart through your non-verbal actions. At best, all we can do is guess, and more times than not, it will skew your intended message. Communicating criticism over the phone isn’t much better either. 55% of communication is non-verbal. Our staff can’t see your non-verbal over the phone. Again, we are left to guessing, which is always dangerous. Instead, call the church and set up an appointment with the staff member you would like to communicate with. Take the time to come in and talk face to face so that communication can happen at its optimum level.

Check your source. What is it that is driving you to share what is on your heart? Is it God or is it your own flesh or the result of a conversation with someone else? In other words, take time to pray first and be sure you are being led by the Spirit of God.

Check your facts. Speak truth in love but don’t exaggerate. Comments like, “Everyone is unhappy” is not factual. Don’t speak for others. Let them speak for themselves.

Check your content. If there is a specific issue that God has laid on your heart to communicate properly, please do. But don’t use the opportunity to “dump” on the staff member by sharing three dozen other things that you wish were different.

Check your attitude. People that come across as “know it alls” or “self-pronounced experts” are rarely heard by anyone. Humility and grace are essential.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


As I reflect on the recent Easter ministry we have had here at Grace Church, my heart is overflowing with gratitude for how God used our ministry to meet literally thousands of people right where they are and help move them a step closer to where He wants them to be. Below are the attendance figures from our Holiday ministry:

5,000 – Egg-Stravaganza

265 – Good Friday night of Worship

2,372 – Four Easter Services

Easter 2009 was the largest service in the history of our church. Not only that, it was 27% higher than the previous record high which was Easter one year ago. I am so thankful for the team we have here at Grace Church. They all did such an amazing job of putting together these events. But I am even more excited about our church as a whole who have taken seriously our mission to “MEET and MOVE as MANY as POSSIBLE.”

Below are some of the many comments we have received.

Regarding our Saturday Night Easter Service:

"You guys really rocked last night! Happy Easter"

"SEE! I told you that you needed to start the Saturday Night Services SOONER!"

Regarding our Sunday Morning Easter Services:

"That was beyond awesome!"

"I thank God for the entire ministry team that God has raised up here at Grace Church. I don't see how any attendant this Easter Morning could walk away without awareness that Jesus is our RISEN LORD who deserves our love and adoration."

"Thanks for helping my Easter JOY to grow more today."

Regarding the Celebrating Jesus Decade by Decade series:

"Really enjoying the services through the decades HOWEVER, the very best era was the '50s -- just the best!! Sorry, Just had to let you know this -- there are a few older people in the church, too!! See, we were all mature by the time the 70s, 80s, and 90s came around!! haha!"

Monday, April 13, 2009


Below is a play by play to my Easter Weekend as Senior Pastor here at Grace Church as we celebrated the truth that Jesus rose from the dead!

5:45am – Wake-up
6:15 - Quiet time in Office
9am – Family time at the mall
12pm – Lunch at the mall with the family
2pm – A little exercise
2:30pm - Get ready for church
2:30pm – In the office for final sermon preparation
4:15pm – Pre-Service meeting
5:45pm – Greet people as they arrive
6pm – Easter Service #1 begins
6:25pm – Preach Sermon #1
7:05 – Greet people as they leave
7:30pm – Wrap things up at church
8pm – Head home
8:30pm – Grab something to eat; watch some baseball
10:30pm – Lights out


6am – Wake-up
6:30am – Leave for church; Stop for coffee
7:00am – Pre-Service meeting
7:15am – Final sermon preparations
8:15am – Greet people as they arrive
8:30am – Easter Service #2 begins
8:55am – Preach Sermon #2
9:35am – Greet people as they leave
9:45am – Greet people as they arrive
10am – Easter Service #3 begins
10:25am – Preach Sermon #3
11:05am – Greet people as they leave
11:15am – Greet people as they arrive
11:30am – Easter Service #4 begins
11:55am – Preach Sermon #4
12:35am – Greet people as they leave
1pm – Wrap things up at church
1:30pm – Head home to change
2:30pm – Easter picnic and putt-putt with the family
7:30pm – CRASH

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Initial Sunday Recap

It's 12:50pm. We just finished up our 4th Easter service and 5th service of the weekend (including Good Friday). All of the services were amazing. All I can say right now is that we had well over 2,000 total in the auditorium and this does not count any nursery through 4th graders in the children's progrma during all 4 services. I'll give a complete wrap-up later this week. Right now I need to devote the rest of the day to my family!


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter on Saturday Night

It is 7:40pm and everyone has just now cleared out from our Saturday evening service and first of 4 Easter celebrations here at Grace. All I can say is...WOW! We had no idea what to expect in offering a Saturday night Easter service. In all honesty, I was praying for 150 people and I felt that was a prayer of faith. But God is able to do super abundantly beyond what we ask. We had 612 in the auditorium tonight and when you add the nursery and kid's program in, we were well over 700...ON SATURDAY NIGHT!!!

The service was as energetic as I have ever experienced. The graphics, videos and lighting set a great atmosphere. The 70's fashion look on stage had people buzzing. All of our musicians just nailed their songs. The people sang and clapped. I felt like folks were hanging on every word of the message. Listen, folks, something is happening in this place! God is doing something and we get to do it all again tomorrow morning...3 MORE TIMES!!!!

By the way, I met two individuals tonight who both trusted Christ as their Savior last night at our Good Friday service! AMEN!

Well, I better head home. The good news is I'm hungry and ready for dinner (after I get out of this disco outfit and get the grease out of my hair). The bad news is that my adrenaline is so high right now, and I am so anticipating tomorrow, that I doubt I will sleep much tonight!! but that's OK...when I'm week, He is strong.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday at Grace

It is 8:10pm. The Good Friday service at Grace is in its closing stages. This was a very special evening. Pastor Tim and Lisa McCoy handled the service so that Matt McElravy and I could focus exclusively on Easter. I can barley find the words to express my heart right now. This was without question the most moving Good Friday service I have ever been a part of.

At one point Pastor Tim read from Isaish 53 and explained the passage that says "And by His stripes we are healed." He reminded us of how forgiveness of sin only comes through the blood of Jesus. After Lisa sang a very powerful song along those lines, we sang together a series of songs about the cross. In the back of the auditorium was a white cross and at the bottom of the cross were paint-brushes and bowls of red paint. We were encoruaged as we sang corporately to go back to the cross and to paint a stripe on the white cross as a vivid reminder that "by His stripes we are healed."

I was stranding up in the mazzanine and could not control my tears as I watched our people line up to paint a stripe on the cross. I saw people weeping as they knelt in prayer and then painted a stripe on the cross. I watched as parents explained to their small children what this all meant and then helped them paint a stripe on the cross. I watched my teenage son paint a stripe on the cross. O thank you, Lord that he knows Jesus and the power of the cross.

I watched as people hugged, cried, painted and worshipped. As their pastor I know many of the stories that were represented at the cross. I know many of the specific sins that individuals have experienced. As I watched, I saw the power of Christ's forgiveness. When everyone finished I went down and painted my stripe on the cross as well.

Following that, we sang several more songs of worship and this time people were encouraged to go to one of three tables where the bread and the cup was available. I never get tired of watching that. Couples pryaing together and then taking the bread and the cup. Immediate families praying together and then taking the bread and the cup. Extended families praying together and then taking the bread and the cup. Friends praying together and then taking the bread and the cup. A group of teenage boys praying together and then taking the bread and the cup. And individuals standing alone, praying by themsleves and then taking the bread and the cup.

By the time everyone had finished and returned to their seats, you could sense genuine worship taking place in spirit and in truth in a powerful way. People lifting up their voices. People lifting up their hands. People lifting up their hearts. And why? Because...

There is a Redeemer
Jesus God's own Son
Blessed Lamb of God
Holy One

Thank You O my Father
For giving us Your Son
And leaving Your Spirit till
The work on earth is done!

Celebrate Jesus...He Arose From The Dead

This Sunday we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. In John 20:1-8, we discover that it was Mary Magdalene who was the first to discover that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb of Jesus. She was with Mary (the mother of Jesus), Salome and Joanna (Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10) and appears to have left the other women to go tell the disciples. Mary’s initial thought was not that Jesus was alive. Her conclusion to the disciples was that someone had stolen the body of Jesus. The word “known” in verse 2 is plural showing that the other women had come to the same conclusion.

Peter and John (who calls himself “the other disciple”) ran toward the tomb. John, who was younger, was the first to arrive at the tomb. But though quicker than Peter, John was a bit more timid and stood at the entrance of the tomb upon his arrival. Peter went right inside immediately upon arriving. What is amazing in this passage is the different usages of the word “saw.” Upon arriving at the tomb, John “saw.” This is a word meaning “a quick glance.” From the entrance of the tomb where John stopped, he quickly glanced inside and all he could see were the linen wrappings. These were the burial cloths used to wrap the dead body of Jesus. Jews were not embalmed but wrapped with linen cloths in a cocoon fashion resulting in being mummified up to the head. These cloths were anointed with a sweet gum-like ointment of spices. At a quick glance, that is what John saw.

In verse 6 a different word translated “saw” is used to describe what Peter saw when he arrived at the tomb. This word means “to examine” something and was used of spectators watching a parade or a sporting event. Peter entered the tomb and examined up close the linen wrappings and the face cloth. This was a towel put over the head of the body. Peter found it rolled up and set apart from the grave clothes. There appeared to be no haste or confusion in removing the body. This evidence did not support Mary’s conclusion that the body had been stolen but Peter was not quite ready to classify this as a resurrection.

But in verse 8 we see a third word translated “saw.” This one is used to describe John after he follows Peter into the tomb. This is a word that means "to see with understanding." John sees the same evidence. The difference between John and Peter is that John understands what had really happened…Jesus had risen. Peter left wondering if it could be true (Luke 24:12). John left believing it was a miracle! That became the very purpose of John's writing…so that his readers would believe that Jesus was the Christ and that by believing they would have life through Him (John 20:31).

So which best describes your reaction to the empty tomb? Like Mary’s initial reaction, do you tend to explain Easter away by saying that something other than a resurrection took place? Like John when he first arrived at the tomb, have you only taken a quick glance at what Easter is all about without giving it much consideration? Like Peter have you taken a look at the evidence and found yourself wondering if maybe, just maybe, it was true? Or have you, like John after he entered the tomb behind Peter, examined the evidence resulting in a clear understanding of faith that Jesus truly rose from the dead?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

My Son the Pirate

I'm not the only one in my family who is comfortable on stage and dressing the part. The above picture shows my son, Jonathan, in the Lititz Christian School musical two weekends ago. Laura and I went to all four shows. Each one was amazing. It was without question the best High School musical I have ever seen in all my life. Needless to say, mom amd dad were extremely impressed with and proud of our very talented son.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A Letter from the Central African Republic - Part 2

This posting is the continuation of a letter from the central African Republic that I started in my post yesterday. Be sure to read yesterday’s post to get the full context of the letter.

Thanks to you, these 98 orphans have lunch at school each day before returning to their place of residence. Because of you the 2 teachers receive a monthly food stipend, which is very appreciated in this post-war period. Due to your help some orphans understand that life can go on and that they can succeed like other kids. Thanks to your help certain war widows and members of the AFEB who were hopeless and discouraged are growing in courage and hope.

From the orphans of Bossangoa, Thank you so much! Thank you so much! Thank you so much!

Please share these prayer requests and pray for us:

The church of Bossangoa finds itself in a post-war context in which the church members have lost everything. The most difficult situations are those of rape victims and widows. Pray for committed American or European women to come and provide biblical training and consolation for the women of our church, and to help them organize enterprises that will enable them to be self sustaining. (Some examples: sewing, indigo dye, knitting, fruit juices, oil making, soap making, basic computer skills, primary health care, etc.)

In our post-war context our youth are anxious for change: pray for committed young Americans or Europeans to come and provide Bible training and life-change teaching. Our young people need to gain courage and take a stand for Jesus Christ and for the Church. Our youth need a new vision as well as encouragement toward development initiatives. (Some examples might be animal husbandry, carpentry, cabinet-making, etc.)

The post–war context in which our Bossangoa church finds itself means our members are impoverished to the point that they cannot pay for medicines and medical care. Church members are dying even from non-life-threatening illness, and the number of orphans increases every day. Pray that God will raise up new interest in American and European churches for missionary work alongside our Central African churches in general and in Bossangoa in particular.

Written in Bossangoa the 10th of February 2009

Signed: Reverend Pastor George Gonire (pictured)Sembe-Gan Church

Signed: Pastor Thomas Elvis Guenekean (pictured) AFEB Council

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Letter from the Central African Republic - Part 1

Below is a letter from our Grace Brethren Pastors in Bossangoa, Central African Republic. Through these men and their churches, Grace Church has a partnership that provides two Christian Schools for orphans. The letter is long enough that its conclusion will be posted tomorrow:

Very dear Brother Pastor of the Lititz Church, Very dear Brother in Christ Mike McCracken and the strong delegation from Pennsylvania, The entire Lititz Church,

We can’t contain ourselves concerning the love you have manifested and continue to manifest for us in general and for the orphans of Bossangoa, CAR in particular. When we hear that your church in Pennsylvania never stops praying for us, and see that you came all the way to Bossangoa to visit us and to take news of our situation back to the Church in Lititz, we know that the heart of your church has been touched by the words of James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Only people touched by this verse have this kind of commitment to orphans and widows. This kind of commitment also brings us the opportunity to speak of Pastor Thomas Elvis Guenekean, his wife Clarisse, and her friends, to whom God gave the vision to start The Association of Evangelical Women of Bossangoa (AFEB).

To thank you for your commitment we would like to underline the results of the generous acts that you have done among us following the recent war here. Thanks to you, Jean Guidibe (pictured) was trained as a literacy teacher for the 2007-2008 Level 1 reading class for our orphans. Because of you we were able to open a literacy class for 50 orphans in 2007-2008. Due to your help these 50 orphans had lunch every day of the school year. Thanks to you, 27 of the 50 orphans in the 2007-2008 program went on to level 2 (23 repeated level 1). Because of your help, Jean Gudibe completed training to teach Level 2 for the 2008-2009 school year. Thanks to your help we trained Sophie Nam-Ozoui (pictured) to teach Level 1. To give you some background, Sophie was the wife of our Deacon Thomas Nam-Ozoui, a dedicated deacon who died 5 years ago. Sophie is as dedicated to the church as her husband was, and following his example, she became a deaconess in March. She is in charge of the orphans in Level 1.

Your help enabled us to welcome 183 orphans into our Orphan Center at Bossangoa this year. That brings our total to 223. We had so many children that we had to turn some of the youngest ones away. We placed 46 in Level 1 and 52 in Level 2, totaling 98 orphans. Many orphans want to be in our classes, but we have to limit the number. We registered the 85 orphans that we turned away in public school, and we verify their attendance.

Be sure to read my blog posting tomorrow for the conclusion of this letter that shows how Grace is meeting people where they are at (even all the way around the world) and helping to move them to where God wants them to be!

Monday, April 06, 2009


Monday, April 6th, is another first for Grace Church. Tonight beginning at 7:30pm, we will be conducting a first ever live webcast from Grace that you can watch free of charge on line.

Pastor Tim will be interviewing me with questions you submit regarding our 5-Year Vision Plan that we unveiled all last month. To submit a question, e-mail it to Pastor Tim no later than this afternoon (
). Pastor Tim will pick from the questions submitted and use as many of them as we have time to answer.

In order to watch this live webcast, simply go to our church website (
) and follow the Live Webcast link. Be part of this Grace Church “first” tonight.

Don’t worry…we will be done in plenty of time to watch what happens to Jack Bauer on 24! So after dinner, grab a beverage of your choice, pop some popcorn, and gather the family around the computer for this special Live Webcast from Grace Church.

Don’t forget that in order to view this live broadcast, you will need to have the free Apple/QuickTime media player installed on your personal computer. Go to to download and install the free quicktime video player. When you arrive at the page, enter your email address, click the download button and then follow the instructions on your screen to install the player.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Meeting and Moving...Egg-Stravaganza Style

Saturday was absolutely awesome! We were able to make contact with over 5,000 people from our community that were on our campus! Special thanks to all those who put this event together and to our amazing base of volunteers that worked so hard. Yesterday we were able to meet thousands of people right where they are! Now let's pray that God will use that positive first step to allow us to have yet another part in seeing them moved to where God wants them to be! Pray specifically that many of them will join us come Easter weekend here at Grace!
Watch the 2-minute highlights video at

Friday, April 03, 2009

Celebrate Jesus...He Died For Our Sins

In John 19:16 we see one phrase…“So then he handed Him over to them to be crucified.” To the Jewish people living in Jerusalem during Jesus’ day, that statement produced far more emotion that it does to us living in Lancaster County today. Throughout the centuries, mankind has devised hundreds of ways to kill a man, but none of them rivaled crucifixion. The ancient orator, Cicero, described crucifixion as “the worst extremes of tortures inflicted upon slaves.” Tacticus called it a “despicable death.”

The Persians invented the practice after experimenting with other forms of slow death (stoning, drowning, burning, boiling in oil, strangulation; flaying). They began by executing people by impaling them on stakes. Crucifixion became a tool of Alexander the Great and finally of the Carthaginians where the Romans learned it. The Greeks and early Romans reserved crucifixion for rebels, runaway slaves, deserting soldiers, and the worst form of criminals…people they considered lesser creatures. They abhorred the thought of crucifying a civilized person. Cicero wrote, “To bind a Roman citizen is a crime, to flog him is an abomination, to slay him is almost an act of murder, but to crucify him? There is not fitting word that can describe so horrible a dead.” Crucifixion brought together four qualities the Romans prized in an execution…unrelenting agony; prolonged death; public spectacle; and utter humiliation.

Isaiah wrote of Christ’s death saying. “I gave My back to those who strike Me, and My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover my face from humiliation and spitting” (Isaiah 50:5). The death of the Messiah would involve physical humiliation such as scourging and smiting, as well as personal humiliation like shame and spitting. Isaiah went on to say, “Just as many were astonished at you, so His appearance was marred more than any man and His form more than the sons of men” (Isaiah 52:14). The viciousness of the crucifixion of the Messiah is evidenced in that the people witnessing it were astonished…a strong word meaning “awestruck” or “appalled.” When looking at Christ on the cross, the onlookers could not recognize who or what He was. Harold Wilmington wrote, “If taken at face value, this verse means that Christ suffered more on the cross than any other human being ever suffered anywhere, anytime.”

Isaiah also described the death of the Messiah by saying, “But he was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). “Pierced through” describes the process of crucifixion while “crushed” is an agricultural word describing the stomping of grapes into wine. These are the strongest two terms in the Hebrew language that can be used to describe a violent and agonizing death. But what is even more amazing is the fact that the death of Jesus was substitutionary. He died as our substitute. Isaiah taught this through the many usages of the words “our,” “we” and “us” in Isaiah 53:4-6. Paul wrote it this way…“But God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Paul went on to write, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:2-3).

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Dressing the Part

This Sunday we begin our new series here at Grace Church that we are calling Celebrate Jesus Decade by Decade. Each week we will re-live a different decade as we see a truth about Jesus, ending with the fact that though everything else changes decade by decade, Jesus never changes.

It all kicks off this Sunday as we go back to the 1960's and then on to Easter Sunday and the 1970's. The above pictures show the outfits I may be wearing these two weeks (if they fit and minus the wig).

Each week we will start our service with a pop culture song from that decade. This Sunday, Lisa McCoy will take us back to the 60's with Beattles song, With A little Help From My Friends, recorded in 1967 on the album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. This song was written by John Lennon about and for drummer, Ringo Starr, to sing. It is ranked #304 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.

For the decade of the 1970's, all four of our Easter Cleebration services will start with Amy Hoffman singing Gloria Gaynor's song, I Will Survive, which was released in October of 1978 and became one of the most famous disco songs of all time, listed as #97 on Billboard's list of Greatest Songs of All Time.

Each service will also inlcude a great video montage from that decade and each week we will teach a truth about Jesus beginning April 5 with the fact that Jesus died for our sins and continuing on April 12 with the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. From there, it will be on to the 80's, 90's and our current decade!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The 1960's - Do You Remember?

This Sunday we start out Celebrate Jesus Decade by Decade series here at Grace Church. Since I was not born until 1965, I have had to do some research on the 1960’s. Even if you lived in the 60’s, chances are you may not remember much about them (depending on what drugs you were smoking at the time). Below are some trivia questions about the 60’s.

1. What scary movie was the first film to show a toilet flushing?

2. What were the names of the two male leads in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.?

3. What #1 one Elvis Presley hit from 1960 was written in 1920?

4. Marilyn was considered the ugly member of what family?

5. Why was Ozzy Osbourne banned from San Antonio?

6. What album was first to reach #1 in 34 countries?

7. Who was Audrey Hepburn’s male co-star in Breakfast at Tiffanys?

8. What group was created for TV and became a real group?

9. On the TV show Batman, The Batmobile was a modified what?

10. What TV show involved Billie Jo, Bobbie Jo and Betty Jo?

11. What TV show was all about Ann Marie and her adventures in the big city?

12. In the TV show Get Smart, 86 and 99 worked for what agency?

13. Who wrote “Mr Tambourine Man”?

14. Which Monkee’s mother invented “White-Out”?

15. What 60’s hit was written in 1911 by an English comedian?

16. Who’s first recording was, “Ringo, I Love You”?

17. What TV show featured the words, “Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!”

18. Dean Torrence of Jan and Dean sang lead on what Beach Boy’s hit from 1966?

19. Chuck Barris, Gong Show host, wrote what big 1962 hit for Freddie Cannon?