Saturday, March 31, 2012

Who Cancelled the Party?


In my blog posting yesterday I shared two of the three reasons we see in Jesus' parable of the lost sheep and the lost coin in Luke 15 as to why He built bridges to sinners and tax collectors of His day. Those two reasons were:

Sinners are lost and very valuable to God!

God is willing to go through infinite trouble to find lost people!

But I think the third reason we see in these stories is the best one of all. The third reason why Jesus built bridges to sinners and tax collectors is because nothing brings more joy to heaven then when a lost person is found!

In the story of the lost sheep, when the shepherd finds the sheep he rejoices and calls all of his friends to rejoice with him. In the story of the lost coin, when the woman finds the coin she rejoices and calls all of her friends to rejoice with her. So it is in heaven! When a lost person finds Christ, the Triune God rejoices and calls all of heaven to rejoice as well!

Now think about it! Every day all over the world thousands of people put their faith in Jesus Christ! According to Jesus, every time one lost person is found all of heaven rejoices. Now, let's get these facts straight. If every time a sinner finds Christ all of heaven rejoices and thousands of people all over the world every day put their faith in Christ, what does that say about heaven? It says that heaven must be one non-stop gigantic party! With this in mind, I have to ask just this one question:

"WHO CANCELLED THE PARTY IN THE CHURCH?"

I think the old evangelist, Gypsy Smith, may have said it best when he said, "The church doesn't make half enough fuss when one is converted!" Oh, we get excited when everyone at church is dressed up and all the men have their shirts tucked in! And we can get excited when the temperature and lighting in the auditorium is to our satisfaction. And we can get really excited when the music in church is to our liking! And we reach the pinnacle of excitement on those rare times when the volume in church is how we like it!

But when was the last time that we got so excited about a man, a woman, a teenager, a boy or a girl coming to Christ that we just couldn't contain ourselves? That's why Jesus built bridges to sinners and tax collectors! That's why we must daily put the purpose of the church over our own personal preferences. That's why evangelism must be the engine that drives the church!

Come on, Church! Let's celebrate!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lost and Found



In Luke 15 we see that large crowds were following Jesus. Among this crowd was a smaller group of tax collectors and other sinners. They were considered the riff-raff of society, especially by the Jewish religious leaders. This group of tax collectors and sinners were pushing their way through the crowd in an effort to get close to Jesus. Why? Because in Jesus they found the only person they knew who was willing to befriend them. This angered the religious leaders who accused Jesus of being wrong because he was building bridges to such sinners.

As a result of these accusations, Jesus told some stories. He told the story of a lost sheep and he told the story of a lost coin. The story of the sheep connected Jesus with the men in the crowd and the story of the lost coin connected Him with the women in the crowd.

In the first story, a shepherd who has 100 sheep gets to the end of his day and discovers that he is missing one of his sheep. So what does he do? Even though he is tired and hungry he goes back out into the darkness to search for the lost sheep. And when he finds it he rejoices and asks all of his friends to rejoice with him.

In the second story, a woman loses one of 10 coins. So what does she do? She spares no expense seen in lighting a lamp and she spares no effort as she sweeps the whole house until she finds it. Then she rejoices and asks all of her friends to rejoice with her.

From these two stories Jesus shows us three reasons why He built bridges to the tax collectors and sinners. Here are two of the three reasons:

First, Jesus built bridges to sinners and tax collectors because they were lost and very valuable to God. In the first story, the sheep was lost and very valuable to the shepherd. In the second story, the coin was lost and very valuable to the woman. The same is true of sinners. Sinners are lost and very valuable to God. And if sinners are valuable to God, shouldn't they be valuable to us as well?

Second, Jesus built bridges to sinners and tax collectors because God is willing to go through infinite trouble to find lost people. The shepherd was willing to go back out into the dark and dangerous wilderness to find the lost sheep. The woman was willing to spare no expense and to spare no effort to find the lost coin. Jesus was willing to go through the horrible trouble of the cross to reach lost people! No wonder Jesus would build bridges to sinners and tax collectors.

But the third reason is the best one of all! I will share it in my posting tomorrow!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Over-Communicating? Guilty as Charged!


Hi! My name is Scott and I am addicted to communication!

It's true! If the first step is "admitting" then I am taking that step right now. I tend to be the person who over-communicates when it comes to ministry. For example:

Every day I write a new blog entry, usually dealing with something that is ministry related.

Every Tuesday I write a "Sunday Update" that is sent out to all of our ministry leaders and anyone who has any part in our Sunday service. I use this to be sure that everyone knows exactly what is scheduled to happen as part of our upcoming Sunday worship services.

Every Wednesday I send out a "Life Group Leader's Update" to the leaders of our small groups giving them the discussion questions to use in groups that relate to the upcoming Sunday's message.

Every Thursday I send out a "Staff Update" to all of our staff so they are "in the loop" on everything pertaining to the upcoming weekend and the work week ahead that relates to them.

Every Thursday I also send out an "Elder Update" to our Elder Board and Church Chairman. This is done to keep these leaders in our church up to date on all that is happening as well as to make myself accountable to them for my schedule that week as the Lead Pastor.

Every week I also write an article for our Church E-Newsletter that is sent out every Friday. This article usually centers around the theme of the upcoming Sunday morning.

Once a month I send a "Ministry Team Update" to all who are part of any of our Ministry Teams in order to be sure that there is communication about the month ahead that allows are teams to work in synergy together.

And daily I write posts on my personal Facebook page as well as our church Facebook page.

Why do I do all of this communication? I told you, it's because I'm addicted to communicating. OK - maybe I am not quite to that extreme (yet). The truth is that I value communication. I want our staff, elders, ministry leaders, and church family to know what is going on so that they can pray effectively and participate fully. In most of these communications I also include a link to a written article or video that will help to develop them as leaders in our ministry.

So, yes, if the charge is over-communication then I am guilty as charged.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Backbone of our Church


Monday night the Leadership Team and Elders here at Gaylord E-Free Church met with all the leaders of our Ministry Teams. These teams include:

ACTS Team (overseeing connections and first impressions)

Adult CCE (overseeing Bible studies and second hour classes)

Bus Team (overseeing the maintenance and drivers of our 3 buses)

CMAT Team (overseeing counseling and one another ministries)

Deacon Team (overseeing serving and meeting people's needs)

Deaconess team (overseeing serving and meeting people's needs)

Human Resource Team (overseeing the volunteers serving on our ministry teams)

Media and Marketing Team (overseeing consistency in all of our media and marketing)

Outreach Team (overseeing mobilizing our church to reach our community and our world)

Small Groups Team (overseeing our Life Groups)

Stewardship Team (overseeing the finances of our ministry)

Trustee Team (overseeing the maintenance of our facility and property)

Worship Arts Team (overseeing all aspects of our worship and worship services)

Children's Christian Education Team (overseeing all of our children's ministries)

Y2 Team (overseeing our ministry to youth and young adults)

Along with these Ministry Teams we also had at this meeting Monday night leaders from our annual Men's Conference; our Annual Women's Conference; our Building Improvement Committee; and our Vision Task Force. There was a total of 31 people around the table. Of those 31 people, only 2 of us were paid staff! The rest were all volunteers who are totally committed to Jesus Christ and to the Gaylord Evangelical Free Church!

To see their faces and listen as each of them as they shared an update from their areas of ministry was so very energizing to me as the Lead Pastor of our ministry. These wonderful men and women, and the many who serve on their teams and work under their areas of ministry, are without doubt the backbone of our church!

Last night was a visual and verbal reminder to me of the greatest strength of our church - we are blessed with so very many talented and committed people who are willing to sacrifice their time, talent and treasure to see our church effectively meeting as many people as possible right where they are at and helping to move them to where God wants them to be!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

It's Not Hard; It's Not Horrible! It's Easy And It's Fun!


It's not hard!
It's not horrible!
It's easy and it's fun!

It's not hard!
It's not horrible!
It's easy and it's fun!

It's not hard!
It's not horrible!
It's easy and it's fun!

I just want to keep chanting it over and over and over and over and over and over and over again! I'm talking about evangelism. Somewhere along the way evangelism has developed a bad wrap. Most believers shudder and cringe when they hear a message about it. Few Christians actually do it (unless they are effectively guilted into it by a well-meaning preacher). When did evangelism become so hard? When did evangelism become so horrible?

It's not hard!
It's not horrible!
It's easy and it's fun!

This chant is especially seen in the story of Matthew in Luke 5. Matthew, whose given name was Levi, was a dreaded tax collector, hated by Jews and considered unworthy by religious leaders. But Jesus noticed him sitting in his tax booth and called him to follow Him! He did! And after Jesus changed his life he wanted his friends to meet Him. So what did he do? He hadn't gone through any evangelism training classes. He didn't have any clever literature or invite cards to use. So he opted to go with what he knew how to do best. He threw a party!

Matthew's approach to evangelism was to throw a party! Now that's fun! It was a party with a purpose. It was a party designed to allow his unbelieving friends to rub shoulders with the Person who changed his life. I love it! Evangelism doesn't being with a program, it begins with a party!

It's not hard!
It's not horrible!
It's easy and it's fun!

So where do you start? Does this mean you have to meet a bunch of new people? Does this mean you must squeeze extra evangelistic events into your already over-packed calendars? The answer is NO and NO! You start with people you know. Who do you know by name (and they know you by name) that is not a believer or who does not attend church? That's where you start!

What do you do? Easy! Involve that person into areas of your life that you already do! Most people I know eat at least 2 meals a day! Include that person in one of your meals. Do you walk? Invite that person to walk with you? Are you going to watch the big game? Invite that person to watch it with you? Are you going out for a cup of coffee or an ice cream? Invite that person along with you!

So how do we get started in evangelism? Start with people you know! Start with things you already do! And soon you too will be chanting:

It's not hard!
It's not horrible!
It's easy and it's fun!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Some M&M Reading for Spring Break



March has been VISION MONTH here at Gaylord E-Free as we strive to get our whole church family on board and excited about our purpose as a church which is to MEET as many people as possible right where they are at and help MOVE them to where God wants them to be. We call it "MEETING and MOVING" or "M&M" for short. Our desire is to become an M&M church! That is what we have talked about all month long. And even though next Sunday ushers in April (no fooling!) we will use it as a kind of a bridge week to connect the previous Vision Month with the upcoming Easter celebration.

This past month has not been about promoting a program. MEETING and MOVING is not a program. It's a natural outcome. It should be part of our spiritual DNA as a corporate body and as individual followers of Jesus. So to keep the ball of momentum rolling, let me suggest 3 MEETING and MOVING themed books to you! These are the three books that have impacted my life the most when it comes to evangelism.

The first one is co-authored by Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg and is entitled, "Becoming a Contagious Christian." Simply put, though written nearly two decades ago, I still think it is one of the most practical books that can take any follower of Jesus, no matter how timid they might be, and see them become effective in making a maximum impact in reaching lost people. I would love to see every person who is part of the Gaylord E-Free Church grab a copy of this book and dig into it.

Another book that I think hits the bulls-eye in seeing evangelism as more than a mere program is the book "Just Walk Across the Room." This book is also written by Bill Hybels. I love this book because it really helps us to understand that evangelism does not begin with, "Do you know for sure that you are going to heaven?" Evangelism begins in a much simpler way. It begins by leaving your circle of comfort and walking across the room and putting out your hand to meet someone you have never before met. This is another one that I strongly encourage all who are part of Gaylord E-Free to get and read.

As I list the third book I do so realizing it may spark some controversy because the book is written by Ted Haggard. You may recall years ago that Ted was a very popular pastor of a mega church in Colorado Springs and a key leader of the National Association of Evangelicals before he fell into sin which became very public (by the way, his wife, Gayle, later wrote anamazing book on the topic of forgiveness. It is called, "Why I Stayed" and it is one of the best books on forgiveness that I have ever read). In spite of all of this, Ted Haggard's book, "Primary Purpose" was very challenging to me, especially when it comes to how prayer can be such a major force for evangelism. I love the tag line of Haggard's book, "Making it hard for people to go to hell in your city." I am simply saying that this book challenged me when it comes to evangelism.

Of course, there are many other great books out there on evangelism including Mark Cahill's book, "One Thing You Can't Do In Heaven" and Duke Heller's book, "How To Start A Kingdom Conversation." So as we move just days away from Spring Break week here in Gaylord, Michigan, I would like to challenge each person who is part of the E-Free Church to take two things with them as they head south. First, take one of these books with you to read over Spring Break! Second, take a giant bag of M&M's with you to eat while you read and relax. Hopefully it will be a tasty way to remind you of of the importance of MEETING and MOVING!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Evangelism begins with Name Tags and Tulips



I love the story in John 4 of Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. It is a great example of personal evangelism. Why have we made evangelism so difficult? Why have we reduced it to a mere program? From John 4 we see where evangelism begins. It starts with our starting conversations with others. That is the first thing Jesus does. He initiates a conversation.

So how do we do that? How do we start conversations with people? Let me give you a few simple yet practical helps. It's not rocket science. Actually, it is pretty easy. And it's not just for the extroverted. Anyone can do it no matter what your temperament or personality. Here are some helps:

SMILE AND SAY HELLO! Don't underestimate the power of a smile and a greeting. You want to start conversations with people? Then make a commitment right now that you will never pass or encounter anyone without your being the first one to smile and say "hello!"

CALL THEM BY NAME! Every week we have encounters with people who are wearing something very intriguing...a name-tag! Cashiers wear them. Waitresses wear them. Store clerks wear them! And many other people who you do business with wear them as well. Question - why do all these folks wear name-tags? They are not wearing them for their own benefit. They are wearing them so that you will know their name. So use it! When you do business with someone who is wearing a name-tag, call them by name.

NOTICE THE OBVIOUS! When you have an encounter with someone, look for the obvious. Are they wearing a pin of a child athlete? No doubt that is a family member that they are proud of. Ask them about them. Are they wearing a unique piece of jewelry? Ask them about it. Are they wearing the shirt of a professional sports team or a certain college? Ask them about it. Notice the obvious and ask them about it. Just make sure it's really obvious. Don't ask when they are "due" if you are not 100% certain they're really pregnant.

LOOK FOR A COMMON INTEREST! That's what Jesus did in John 4. He used the common interest of water. Tulips work too. Laura and I were out to dinner with a couple from our life group. The conversation of tulips came up as we ate. A gentleman sitting next to us all by himself asked us a question about planting tulips. We talked about tulips for a quite a bit. From there we learned his name, his occupation, the fact that he was divorced, where he lived and more. We ended up exchanging business cards and I was also able to give him an Invite Card to our upcoming Easter service. And how did it start? It all began with the common interest of tulips.

PUT FRIENDLINESS OVER FUNCTION! Let's think of that cashier at the grocery store for a minute. She probably checks out 100 people on her shift. And every conversation is one of simple repeated function:

Cashier: Hi! Did you find everything you needed?

Customer: Yes!

Cashier: Do you have any coupons?

Customer: No!

Cashier: That will be $95.00

Customer hands the cashier money or swipes card.

Cashier: Here is your change. Have a good day.

Customer: Thanks!

For the average cashier, that conversation is repeated dozens and dozens of time every day. It is a matter of function. Don't settle for mere function. Put friendliness over function by using some of the tools we have just discussed. You will stick out to that cashier. She will remember you. And that is very important because the first step of effective evangelism is starting a conversation. Go ahead! You can do it!

Friday, March 23, 2012

At Least I'm Not An NFL Quarterback!




I have been amazed at how the mainstream media has had so much to report lately regarding quarterback's in the National Football League. Quarterback controversies continue in the NFL and currently they are on the front page.

Peyton Manning has been the franchise hero for years in Indianapolis, successfully leading the Colts to a Super Bowl Championship. But injuries and surgeries that resulted in his having to sit out a full year last season also resulted in the Indy management cutting ties with not just their hero, but arguably the hero of the entire city.

I found the move fascinating. How many games did the Colts win last season with Peyton? Not many - that's for sure! Let's see - they win with Peyton, they lose without Peyton, so they trade Peyton. Interesting! I understand that it is questionable as to if Manning will be the same QB he was before the injuries and surgeries, but I for one would take Peyton Manning at 80% of what he was over most current quarterbacks at 100% today.

So Peyton goes to Denver. I am in no way a Broncos fan, but I personally think it was a good move on the part of Elway (that really pains me to say that!). I greatly admire Tim Tebow as a person and as a Christian. He is amazingly genuine with a powerful testimony. And now that he is no longer playing for Denver, I can root for him to do well! But honestly, I just do not see him as a franchise quarterback. If I had to chose Manning or Tebow - I too would go with Manning.

But some ask, "Why trade Tebow?" Couldn't Tebow learn a great deal tutoring under a star like Peyton Manning? Yes, he could. But an NFL head coach needs a quarterback controversy like he needs a whole in the head. What would happen the first game in which Manning threw a couple of interceptions in the Mile High city? The fans would start chanting "Tebow! Tebow!" and the sports radio circuit in Denver would chat non-stop about if it were time to pull the teacher and put in the student. That is not healthy for any football team.

So Tebow goes to the New York Jets. To be honest, I don't get it. The Jets had just extended their QB's contract (Mark Sanchez) to the tune of $40,000,000! Through this trade they lost two very important early round daft picks and what did they get in return? They received a guaranteed quarterback controversy in the big market of New York.

And then aside from the Petyon Manning-Tim Tebow-Mark Sanchez saga, another NFL quarterback is heading into a very rough season come this fall. Drew Breeze is one of the best QB's in the game today playing in New Orleans. But how can he cope with the major distraction of a head coach being suspended for the entire upcoming season because it came out bounties of sorts were being put on opposing players resulting in some form of bonus for the "saint" ballplayer who caused their opponent's injury? How in the world can a quarterback play well in the middle of the year long distraction of that controversy?

So as I wrap my week up and head into the weekend I do so with this thought in my mind, "At least I am not an NFL quarterback!" And as you read this posting your thought is probably, "At least your not a sports writer either!"

Thursday, March 22, 2012

You're Never More Like The Devil Than When You...


Yesterday morning on my live radio show here in Gaylord, Michigan, I talked about gossip. We tend to erroneously categorize sins today. There are those big sins that should always be avoided and then there are those little sins that we probably should avoid but we tend to see as not a real big deal if we go ahead and do them. Unfortunately, gossip often falls into the latter category. That's too bad. Here's why.

In the book of James we learn about the power of the tongue. It can bless but it can also curse. The tongue is described as a "fire" which can set on fire the course of our life. In other words, the tongue can be very destructive. Gossip is one of the ways this happens. And in our modern culture of instant communication, one word of gossip can literally spread like "wild-fire!"

If that is not enough to show you the danger of gossip, consider this. In the book of Titus Paul warns the church about malicious gossip. The word in the original is also used 34 times in the New Testament as a name for Satan. It is also translated "devil" which means slanderer or false accuser. Did you get that? The same word for "gossip" also means "devil." Is it possible that we could say that you are never more like the devil than when you gossip?

Now let me be really controversial. I didn't share this aspect on my radio show yesterday (I was too chicken!) but it is worth looking at. In the Pastoral Epistles, Paul warns against gossip three times. Notice who he is specifically speaking to when he does. In Titus 2:3 he exhorts "older women" to not be "malicious gossips." In 1 Timothy 3:11 he exhorts "women" to not be "malicious gossips." And then in 1 Timothy 5:11-13 he exhorts "younger widows" to not be "gossips and busybodies."

Did you see a common denominator in those verses? Folks, listen, Paul is not "anti-women." He is writing these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God. Certainly Paul is not saying that men never gossip. We do! We shouldn't but we do! But is there something more to the fact that all three of these exhortations are directed toward women? Is it possible that woman struggle with "gossip" more so than men do? I'll stop right there!

Whether you are a man or a woman, let me suggest three questions for you to ask yourself before you ever pass on any negative information about someone else to a third party. Ask yourself these questions first:

Am I 100% confident that the information I am about to share is accurate? If not, don't share it!

Does the person I am about ready to share this information with really need to know? If they don't, don't share it.

Will my sharing this information with this person benefit the person I am talking about? If it won't, don't share it.

Remember, gossip is sin! Remember, gossip is destructive! Remember, gossip is reflective of the very character of Satan!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

If I had not become a pastor!


I love being a pastor! I really do! In spite of the many challenges and discouragements that come with the frequent ups and downs of ministry, I still love being a pastor. But what if I had not become a pastor? What would I be doing today? Here are some possibilities:

I could be the play-by-play radio announcer for Cleveland Indians baseball. This would combine one of my greatest gifts - the ability to verbally communicate - with one of my greatest passions - baseball! To this day if I get to go to a major league baseball game, I have trouble sleeping the night before. In fact, if I am home all by myself and there is a baseball game on television, I will turn the mute button on and I will pretend that I am announcing the game. Imagine having a job where going to work means going to a Major League baseball stadium each and every day? WOW!

I could be a detective. Ever since I was a kid who would never miss an episode of Starsky and Hutch on television, I dreamed of being a detective. To be honest, I still enjoy following major crime stories that take place. At the risk of sounding morbid, I like reading articles and watching television shows about who shot JFK and who killed JonBenet.

I could be a trial lawyer. I think my ability to verbally communicate would have fit well into this occupation and I do enjoy following trials. I rarely missed any of the daily television recaps during the OJ Simpson or the Casey Anthony trials.

I could be a politician. I really enjoy following politics. I love watching all the evening political programs. Actually, I am one of those rare birds that never gets tired of all of the commercials and back and forth that takes place during campaigns, especially the Presidential campaigns. I think I would have very much enjoyed and relished the campaigning and debating that would be involved in such an arena.

But God didn't call me to be a baseball announcer. God didn't call me to be a detective. God didn't call me to be a trial lawyer. God didn't call me to be a politician. God called me to be a pastor.

I remember when that calling was solidified in my life. I was a junior in High School. One of the men who had a great influence on my life back then was a man named Don Bechtel who was my High School Band Director at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy in Stow, Ohio. He was one of the first individuals I told that I was sure that God had called me to be a pastor. I will never forget his response. He firmly but lovingly said to me, "Scott, if there is anything else you would rather do, do it instead!" That was great advice!

As much as I love baseball; as much as I am intrigued by unsolved criminal mysteries; as much as I like to follow big trials on television; and as much as I enjoy following politics, the truth is that there is absolutely nothing I would rather do than be a pastor. And to top it all off, I get to pastor a wonderful group of people at the E-Free Church in Gaylord, Michigan! That's the icing on the pastoral cake!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Top Ten List I Can Really Get Excited About


It is truly exciting all that God is doing in and through Gaylord E-Free Church. Just last week our Food Truck Ministry provided free food to over 700 people in our county. How awesome!

It has been equally exciting over March's Vision Month to see our church embrace the purpose of our church which is to meet as many people as possible right where they are at and help move them to where God wants them to be. We've talked a lot about "Divine Appointments" which is when God orchestrates our lives to get us at the right place at the right time to rub shoulders with the right person. Even our children are catching the vision as seen by this email that I received from a dad in our church:

“Thought you would like this. Took a family walk yesterday around the neighborhood and then stopped at the school nearby to let our daughter play on the gym equipment. A little girl and her grandmother arrived and all 3 of them were on the swings together. After about a half hour we waved to our daughter to let her know it was time to go. As we are walking out of the school parking lot, our daughter says "I met a new friend. She is visiting her grandmother. I invited them to church on Easter." We said "cool, good job, etc..." and all that. Then she said "I guess that was my divine appointment for the day." She loves to take notes during the sermon on the sermon outline. I guess the things you are teaching are sinking in.”


As a Ministry Staff, we sat down together yesterday and put together a TOP TEN list of the upcoming ministry events and activities that we are gearing up for. This is not an exhaustive list as there are many other ministries taking place day in and day out! We took time to pray for this list because we realize that we can sink all of our time and effort into each of them but "unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain!" Here is our TOP TEN list (in chronological order)

Vision Month (runs through April 1)

Florida Youth Trip (over spring break)

Good Friday (noon service on April 6)

Easter (9am and 11am April 8)

Higher Call Men's Conference (April 21)

Baptism (April 22)

Junior High Lock-In (April 27)

CIA (Church In Action) Day (May 5)

Mother's Day with Child Dedication (May 13)

Courageous Men's Weekend (June 16-17)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Woman Named "Storm"



So what kind of woman would you think would be named "Storm?" That was the meaning of the name Rahab who we are introduced to in Joshua 2:1. Her name didn't mean "butterfly" or "gentle breeze." He name meant "Storm!" I imagine her personality fit her name well. This woman was no doubt on the feisty side. She probably wasn't the type of woman you wanted to cross.

Not only that, She was a Canaanite, meaning that she was part of a very wicked group of people that God had promised to judge harshly. As a Canaanite, she would have no doubt grown up as an idol worshipper. And to top it off, she was a harlot - a prostitute. Some will say that she was nothing more than an innkeeper who ran a bed and breakfast. Folks, listen, she was a harlot. The book of Joshua calls her a harlot. The book of Hebrews call her a harlot. The book of James calls her a harlot. She didn't run a bed and breakfast in Jericho, she ran a brothel.

Now based on this description, how many of you would like to see your daughter grow up to be just like Rahab? Not likely, huh? In fact, Rahab would have easily made the list of "least likely people to become a spiritual hero." In fact, most churches today would have wrote Rahab off. I doubt she would have been welcomed in many churches in our culture today.

That's what makes her story one of the best M&M stories (Meeting & Moving stories) in Scripture. Joshua 2-6 tells the amazing story of how God met this woman right where she was at and moved her to where He wanted her to be. It is well worth your taking the time to read these amazing chapters.

But let me jump ahead to the first time Rahab is mentioned in the New Testament. We see her name mentioned in the lineage giving in Matthew 1. In verses 5-6, we find that Rahab marries a Jewish man named Salmon. She becomes the mother of Boaz (who married Ruth). She then becomes the grandma of Obed, She then becomes the great-grandma of Jesse. She then becomes the great-great-grandma of King David. Imagine that! And that puts her in the lineage of Jesus through His earthly father, Joseph. WOW! What a long way that is from her days at the brothel in Jericho.

And if that is not cool enough, we see her again in Hebrews 11:31 where she is an example of what Biblical faith really looks like. In fact, she is only one of two Old Testament women mentioned by name in Hebrews 11, the other being the wife of Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation.

She started out a Canaanite woman who worshipped idols, had a stormy personality and ran a brothel in the walled city of Jericho. She ended up in the line of the Messiah and a Biblical example of faith for all of us to follow. Now that is what I call an M&M story - God MET her right where she was at (a place where most religious people would have rejected her) and MOVED her to where He wanted her to be!

M&M's stories! Nothing tastes better!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Elders that STUDY together STAY together


Our Elder Board here at Gaylord E-Free meets twice a month. The first Monday night of each month is our Business Meeting. The third Wednesday of each month we meet solely for prayer. Realizing that the most critical characteristic of an Elder is their ability to know and handle Scripture, we are taking up to an hour of our Business Meeting each month to discuss a portion of the Bible together that we have all studied personally on our own that previous month.

Currently, we are going through the New Testament book of Titus together. On April 2 we will discuss our findings from Titus 2:1-5. Below are the study questions I sent to our Elders here at Gaylord E-Free to prayerfully work through in advance of our meeting. Feel free to work through them for yourself!

2:1 begins with the word “but” which is a word of contrast. What is being contrasted?

2:2 speaks of “older men.” This word is used in Philemon 9 and in Luke 1:18. In each of these passages, who is being referred to as “older”? In the culture of that day, what age was this word used to describe?

In 2:2, older men in the church are to be “temperate.” What does this mean? Who else is to be “temperate” in 1 Timothy 3:2?

In 2:2, older men in the church are to be “dignified.” What does this mean? Who else is to be “dignified” in 1 Timothy 3:8?

In 2:2, older men in the church are to be “sensible.” What does this mean? Who else is to be “sensible” in Titus 1:8, Titus 2:5, Titus 2:6, and Titus 2:12? Why do you think this description is used so many times?

In 2:2, older men in the church are to be “sound” in three areas. What are these three areas and how are they distinct from each other?

2:3 speaks of “older women.” In the culture of that day, what age was this word used to describe (see also 1 Timothy 5:9)?

In 2:3, older women in the church are to be “reverent in their behavior.” What does this mean?

In 2:3, older women in the church are to refrain from being “malicious gossips.” What does this mean? The term “malicious gossips” comes from the Greek word meaning “slanderer or false accuser.” This same exact word that is used 3 times in the New Testament translated “malicious gossips” is also used 34 times in the New Testament referring to Satan as “the devil” (read also Revelation 12:9-10). What does this say about the sin of gossip? Read also 1 Timothy 3:11 and 1 Timothy 5:11-13? Who is warned against gossip in these passages? Why do you think Paul singles out women in three different passages when speaking of gossip?

In 2:3, older women are to be “teaching what is good.” As you move on into v4, who are they to be teaching? What seven things are they to teach them? Define each of them.

According to the ending of 2:5, why is it so important that older women in the church model these characteristics; that older women in the church teach these characteristics to younger women in the church ; and that younger women in the church live out these characteristics?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Our Partner Church in Nicaragua


Here at Gaylord E-Free Church we have the privilege of partnering with the Verbo Sur Church in Managua, Nicaragua. What a thrill it is to be part of meeting poor children in Nicaragua right where they are at and helping to move them to where God wants them to be. Below is wonderful letter I received just yesterday from the Pastor of our partner church:

Dear Brother Scott,

My name is Heyler Rodriquez and my wife is Lorenzana Cruz de Rodriguez.

We have three children, Raquel, Virginia, and Jairo and 5 grandchildren in total.

Since 2001 we have been pastoring the Verbo Sur Church which is located in a neighborhood called ‘Colinas del Memorial Sandino’ which is in the southern part of the capital city of Managua.

The church is in a very poor community where there is much need and many children and adolescents at high risk. This was the principal reason for us establishing a church in this community.

The church has about 80 adult members and 200 children who arrive both to our feeding program that’s offered Monday through Friday and to Sunday School. We also have 15 children in the Child Development Center (that is financed thanks to donations from Gaylord Church).

Twice a year we offer medical attention to the 200 children and we also help provide the necessary medications.

It is a good group of children and from the parents of these children we are also seeing fruit. During the month of February we were blessed to have 11 adolescents and 3 adults give their lives to Christ. Those 13 have now been baptized.

We have been doing some remodeling of the church with the goal of providing a better location within the church for our 15 children in the CDC.

We thank God for each of you and that our churches have entered into a partnership. We pray that we would be able to spread the kingdom of God to our community in the best way possible.

Blessings,

Pastor Jairo

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What gives us our credibility when we talk about Jesus?


I get the opportunity somewhat regularly to write a "Pastor's Perspective" in one of our local newspapers here in northern Michigan. When this happens, the editor of that section of the paper calls me and gives me a question to answer. He then interviews other people in the community and publishes their perspectives as well. Today's edition was one of those opportunities. The questions was, "What gives us our credibility when we talk about Jesus?" Below is my perspective:

In Act 1:8, followers of Jesus are commanded by the Lord to be His “witnesses.” In other words, we are to talk to others about Jesus. But what gives us the credibility to do so? To answer that question, simply look at who Jesus was talking to when He originally gave this command. He was talking to His disciples and a few other followers right before He ascended back into heaven. What gave them the credibility to do what Jesus said?

It wasn’t their perfection! Not one of them was perfect. Even the most prominent of Jesus’ followers, Peter, had denied His Lord three times just a few weeks earlier. Living perfect lives does not give us credibility to talk to people about Jesus.

It wasn’t their education! They were untrained and ignorant when it came to religion. Many of them were simple fishermen. One of them was even a former tax collector. There wasn’t a theology degree in the bunch. Education does not give us credibility to talk to people about Jesus.

It wasn’t their popularity! Jesus was popular up to a point…but then the people turned on Him and cried out for His crucifixion. These followers of Jesus were not widely known. People weren’t clamoring to become their friend. Our popularity does not give us credibility to talk to people about Jesus!

If it wasn’t their perfection, their education or their popularity that gave them the credibility, then what did? It was the simple fact that their lives had been changed because they had spent time with Jesus. That’s where the credibility comes from. These men and women had gotten to know Jesus and believed the truth of who He was – the Messiah. As a result, they were not the same. They weren’t perfect. They didn’t know it all. They didn’t have a big following, but no one could refute the fact that their lives had been changed after being with Jesus.

You may not be perfect (none of us are!). You may not have a theology degree. The world may not have a clue who you even are. But if your life has been changed because of your faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, you have all the credibility you need to talk about Jesus to others!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Easter: Just Invite


Yesterday we introduced what Easter will look like here at Gaylord E-Free! If you are a part of our church, what is the best way that you can prepare for Easter which is juts three weeks from this Sunday?

1. PRAY! Nothing of eternal importance happens apart from prayer. Pray that God would give us 1500 in attendance; pray for all who will be involved on stage as well as our techs and first impressions teams; pray that all of the technology would work without a hitch; pray for good weather; pray for people who are being invited to attend; pray for lost people to come to know Christ; pray for people who have wandered from God to return to the Lord.

2. SERVE! Because we are having two services on Easter the needs for Nursery and Children’s Workers will double. The good news is that with two services, you can serve one service and attend the other. This way no one has to miss the Easter celebration in the Gospel Center. To volunteer to serve in the nursery or children’s program on Easter please contact the church office.

3. INVITE! Studies show that the #1 reason that people come to church is because someone they know personally invites them. The only way we are going to see 1500 people attend on Easter is if each of us takes seriously our need to invite others to join us here at E-Free. I want to encourage each person in our church to think of at least three people that you personally know that you could invite to Easter. Think through this list:

· What family member could you invite?

· What neighbor could you invite?

· What co-worker could you invite?

· What classmate could you invite?

· What friend could you invite?

· What acquaintance could you invite?

· What person at a local business where you eat or shop could you invite?

If you are part of Gaylord E-Free, you will soon be receiving a letter in the mail regarding Easter which will include two “Eye Chart” style personal invite cards for you to use to invite others you know to one of our Easter services. Please use them! We will have extras that are also available in the church office and in the Connection Area outside the Gospel Center. Don’t say someone’s “no” for them. You just may be surprised which person you invite that actually shows up on Easter morning. It could just change their eternity!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Seeing Easter


“He is not here! He has risen!” Are these not some of the most exciting and victorious words ever spoken? We are now gearing up here at Gaylord E-Free Church for Resurrection Sunday which is April 8 (just three weeks from this Sunday). Below, in a Q&A format, are all the details you need to know about Easter 2012 here at Gaylord E-Free Church!

What time will our worship be on Easter? Instead of our usual two service format (Contemporary and Classic) we will be having two identical services this Easter in the Gospel Center. The first service will be at 9am and the second service at 11am. Each service will last 75 minutes in length.

How many people are we expecting for Easter? We have set a prayer goal of seeing 1500 people between the two services. Please join us in praying that God would allow us to reach that goal for His honor and His glory. What a great opportunity this will be for us as a church to meet as many people as possible right where they are at and help move them to where God wants them to be.

What will the theme be for Easter? Our theme will be “Seeing Easter” as we look at the resurrection account in John’s Gospel, noticing three different times that the word “saw” is used. Each time the word has a different meaning. We will be ending by asking the question, “How do you see Easter?”

Will there be nursery and a children’s program on Easter? Yes! Our full nursery will be available during both worship services. Likewise, there will be a very exciting Children’s program in the gymnasium and chapel during both services. Unlike most Sundays, the children’s program during each service will begin from the very beginning (9am and 11am). Children will not be dismissed during the worship services.

What creative elements will be involved in our Easter worship service? From the moment you drive into the church driveways there will be people outside and inside of the church that will be looking “through” or “at” different items. This will allow us to create curiosity and introduce the theme of “seeing” before the service even starts. The stage will be designed with a very contemporary look that will communicate a celebratory mindset with many lights and colors. We also have other special elements to the service that we are planning. It should be a very exciting morning.

Will there be an Easter breakfast? No! But along with the coffee that we provide in the Connection Area each Sunday we will also have complimentary refreshments available.

Are there any special instructions regarding parking? With two services and 45 minutes in between each service, we should have no problem having enough parking. We would ask, however, that all who are physically able park in the lots closest to the radio station on the west end and the bus barns on the east end so that we save the most prominent spots for the many guests we will have that morning.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Two Sides of Change




Over my first 25 years of pastoral ministry I have always been one to initiate change. Like Arby's restaurants, I believe that often "different is better." And as we would advocate change in our ministry I would always find myself frustrated at those who resisted change. Can't they see that to reach people effectively today we can't do ministry the way we always have? Any time change occurred, there was always a group that was "less then excited." To be honest, I never could really understand that group.

But last week I found myself in that group. My son, who is a student at Liberty University, sent me a video of the demolition of a building on campus called "The Schilling Center." They are tearing down this building to make room for a new state of the art library. As I watched the video I found a "resistance" rising up within me.

25 years ago I graduated from Liberty University after spending 4 wonderful years on that campus. And during those 4 years, the Schilling Center was the main hub of campus activity. Watching the video, all kinds of memories raced through my mind that took place inside that wonderful building.

I remembered listening to Dr Falwell preach in chapel week in and week out!

I remembered sitting through Evangelism class with Dr C Sumner Wemp and Old Testament Survey class with Dr Ed Hindson!

I remembered attending Sunday Night Church services with Dr Ed Dobson preaching through the Beatitudes using his dog, Rosie, as an illustration each week!

I remembered yelling, screaming and throwing rolls of toilet paper on the floor at all of the exciting basketball games, especially against our rivals back then, Longwood College and Mt St Mary!

I remembered being in the assembly one Tuesday evening when Senator Ted Kennedy addressed the student body!

I remembered as a Resident Assistant having to go forward to counsel one night during Spiritual Emphasis Week and getting my foot caught in my girlfriend's (now my wife's) handbag resulting in my unknowingly dragging it all the way up the aisle!

I remembered getting selected as Preacher of the Year my Senior Year and getting to preach in chapel in front of all the students, faculty and staff with Dr Falwell sitting on stage behind me!

I remembered walking across the stage and shaking Dr Falwell's hand and getting my diploma and then being immediately greeted with open arms by my Grandpa Distler who was a preacher for over 50 years before going home to be with the Lord!

As these and many more memories raced through my mind I wanted to yell out, "Don't do it!" Suddenly I was on the other side of change. Suddenly I was part of those who resisted.

But then I took time to look at the architect's drawings of what this new Jerry Falwell Memorial Library was going to look like - it really will be amazing (the third picture above)!! I took time to read comments from students on campus today who are very excited about the change that is coming - they really do need a bigger and better library! I took the time to realize that, though the Schilling Center was very special to me 25 years ago, today it is not the hub of student activity like it was when I was on campus. I had to admit that this change for Liberty is a very good change!

I will miss seeing the Shilling Center when I go down to Liberty for my daughter's graduation from Liberty this May but I understand why the change is happening. I understand that Liberty is a much different place today and college life is a much different life then when I was a student a quarter century ago. I have reminded myself what I have been reminding those resistant to change in my churches for the past 25 years - that often, change really us better.

Yes, I will miss seeing the Shilling Center the next time I return to Liberty but I am now really looking forward to soon being able to walk through the new Jerry Falwell Memorial Library. Who knows, maybe I'll even put my foot through wife's purse and drag it around behind me as I take my first walk through the building...just for old time's sake!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

DON'T BE LATE!!


JUST A REMINDER THAT THIS IS DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME-CHANGE WEEKEND. BE SURE TO SET YOUR CLOCKS AHEAD ONE HOUR BEFORE YOU GO TO BED ON SATURDAY NIGHT SO YOU AREN'T LATE FOR CHURCH ON SUNDAY MORNING!

Friday, March 09, 2012

The Need to MOVE


As we continue through VISION MONTH here at Gaylord E-Free Church, we are learning how to become an M&M Church - A church that is all about MEETING people right where they are at and MOVING people closer to where God wants them to be.

From the story of Jesus' encounter with the woman at the well in John chapter four, we have already seen this month the part of our purpose as a church which is to MEET as many people as possible right where they are at (geographically, spiritually, and culturally). This Sunday we will continue with that story to see the second part of our purpose as a church in seeing how Jesus then MOVED this Samaritan woman to where He wanted her to be.

MOVING people is just as important as MEETING people. All of us are on a spiritual journey and none of us have arrived at its apex as of yet. That won't happen until we get to heaven. Until them we will always have room to grow, to move forward, to advance. That is why Peter ends his second epistle in chapter three and verse eight-teen with these words:

"But grow in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."

To "grow" means to advance. We need to keep MOVING forward. In what way? We are to grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and in His grace. "Knowledge" would be the intellectual aspect. None of us have learned everything we can from Scripture about Jesus. we all have a need to keep advancing, to keep MOVING forward in our knowledge of Jesus. "Grace" would refer to the practical aspect - how we live like Jesus lived and taught. None of us have arrived here either. We all have much further to go in living like Jesus lived. We need to keep MOVING!

What happens when we quit MOVING? There are two results to not MOVING and neither are enjoyable. What happens when you are driving down the expressway and you run into a 6-lane "grind to a halt" traffic jam where no movement takes place for hours? You get frustrated! The same is true in our spiritual journey. When we quit MOVING, we become spiritually frustrated and that is never fun and never enjoyable.

But there is also another consequence to a lack of MOVEMENT spiritually. What happens when water has no movement and is completely still? Over time it becomes stagnant and develops a real stench. So is the case with you and I as Christ followers when we quit advancing; when we quit growing; when we quit MOVING. When a Christian is not growing he or she will ultimately develop a spiritual stench.

Are you MOVING forward? Are you advancing spiritually? Are you growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus? If not, prepare to soon become frustrated if you are not already. And over time, prepare to develop a spiritual stench. That's what happens when we quit MOVING. That is why we need to be an M&M church. That is why we need to be all about MEETING people where they are and MOVING people to where God wants them to be!

Thursday, March 08, 2012

E-Free Notes for the Weekend


Another exciting weekend is coming up for the Gaylord E-Free Church. As we move into this second weekend of March, here is what you should know:

It is not too late to decide to be part of the Marriage Event this weekend with Steve and Annie Chapman that will be held in the Gospel Center Friday night and Saturday morning. There is plenty of room for walk-in registrations so check out the church website for all the information!

Saturday morning the Creative Ideas Group will meet bright and early to finish planning for the "Word War Won" message series through 2 Timothy 3:15-17 that will follow Easter and to begin brainstorming the "Lean On Me" message series on the life of Barnabas that will take place following Mother's Day.

It's time change weekend! Don't forget to set your clocks ahead one hour before you go to bed Saturday night so you aren't late for church on Sunday!

Sunday morning we will continue Vision Month as we talk about becoming an M&M Church as we seek to MEET as many people as possible right where they are at and help MOVE them to where God wants them to be. Last Sunday from the encounter Jesus had with the Samaritan Woman at the Well we saw how Jesus met this woman right where she was at geographically, spiritually and culturally. This Sunday we will continue in this story and see how Jesus then moved this woman to where He wanted her to be.

Our church is partnering with another church in Nicaragua to help care for very poor orphans and teach them about Jesus. Many of these orphans are so poor that they do not even have shoes. As we introduce this ministry Sunday, look for a gift from one of our own barefoot children as you enter the service. Then, in the service prepare to watch a video showing these precious orphans and showing you how you can be part of an upcoming mission trip to meet these children right where they are.

This Sunday we will kick-off our push to encourage everyone at E-Free to invite people they know to our Easter celebration on April 8. Look for a video in the service this Sunday with a very surprise ending to help point you in this direction.

And when the weekend is over and Monday morning rolls around, we are exited to welcome Jill Laurence to our team as our new Assistant Office Manager. Jill and her husband, Frank, attend E-Free and we are looking forward to the exciting role she will play on our church staff.

HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND, EVERYONE!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The Church Whisperer


As a n Elder Board here at Gaylord E-Free, we have been studying the book of Titus together. This is a book that gives great teaching on the importance of Elders in the church and what their role in the church is to be.

We discovered in this book the danger of false teachers and deceivers in the church who sow seeds of destruction, discord and disunity. As you read through these warnings in Titus, along with similar warnings in other books of the New Testament, you tend to see a pattern into how these seeds are sown. They aren't communicated through a bullhorn. They are communicated through a whisper.

In Titus 1:10-11 we read that "rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers" must be silenced because they are "upsetting whole families." The implication is that they were spreading their destruction and discord house to house and family by family.

In 2 Peter 2:1-3, we learn that false prophets and false teachers will "secretly" introduce their destructive heresies. In other words, they will do it "under the radar," spreading their poison person to person.

In Romans 16:17-18, we read about men who use flattering speech to deceive the hearts of the "unsuspecting." Again, the implication is that quietly they use flattery to win individuals over to their cause, individuals who do not suspect that they have ulterior motives.

So often we see it happen or hear of it happening. Churches move into a crisis because seeds of destruction, disunity and/or discord have been planted. And usually this happens through secret meetings and private conversations This activity does not start by taking place out in the open. It starts quietly, subtlety. It takes place through a conversation in a corner over here or during a cup of coffee at a restaurant over there. It happens through a phone call during the day or through an invitation to dinner at night. In other words, it takes place in ways that our "under the radar" until enough people are won over so that it can become a public issue.

Whenever you find yourself in a situation where an individual in your church, even one you really wouldn't suspect of having ulterior motives, is "chewing on your ear" privately and quietly about issues in the church that they are "concerned" about or about teachings that are counter to what is being taught, I would encourage you to BEWARE! It's usually through these means that seeds of destruction, discord and disunity are planted that can send a church into a crisis.

Be careful of the church whisperer.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

M&M's...Good for Your Health and Your Soul


We are in the middle of our M&M series here at Gaylord E-Free Church. If you missed last Sunday due to the snowstorm, be sure to take time to go to our church website (www.gaylordefree.org) and listen to the audio. But did you know that M&M's are good for your health as well as your soul? Check this out:


Yesterday I went to the doctor

For my yearly physical.

My blood pressure was high.

My cholesterol was high.

I'd gained some weight,

and I didn't feel so hot.

My doctor said eating right

doesn't have to be complicated and

it would solve my physical problems.

He said:

Just think in colors.

Fill your plate with bright colors.

Try some greens, oranges, reds,

maybe something yellow, etc.

and eat an entire bowl of

bright colors.

And Sure Enough,

I Felt Better Immediately !!

I never knew eating right could be so easy !!

Now stay healthy,

eat your colors,

and have a nice day!