Friday, June 29, 2012

Don't Die Until You Dead

There is no way around it.  We are all aging.  It happens daily.  It happens naturally.  In fact, it happens quickly.  The Bible says in James 4:14 that our life is lie a vapor that is here one minute and gone the next.

Some of the best quotes I have heard about aging have come from people who are aged.  These quotes give great perspective on life as we age.  I am reminded of what motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, would say - "Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it!"  So how should we respond to the process of aging?  Here are three perspectives from people who have been there:

One dear elderly lady that was part of the church that I pastored in Indiana, and who today is pushing "triple digits" said this to me one day - "Growing old isn't for sissies!"  How's that for a fact?  It's true.  Growing old is tough.  It's tough physically.  It's often tough financially.  It can certainly be tough emotionally and mentally. This precious woman hit the nail on the head - "Growing old isn't for sissies!"

I think of another quote from a man I knew.  He was one of the past presidents of a Bible College near where I pastored in Pennsylvania.  This man forgot more about the Bible than I will ever learn.  But even in his old age - and though legally blind - he still lived life to the fullest.  His mantra was this - "Don't die until your dead!"  Now that is a golden nugget.  Even as the toughness of aging becomes reality, don't just curl up in a ball and waste the rest of your life away.  Choose to still see each day as precious and as a gift from God.  Don;t quit living.  "Don't die until your dead!"

I read an account of another lady who was 113 years old.  I have to be honest and tell you that I am not real sure I want to live to be 113 years old.  Anyway, someone asked her one day what the secret was to her longevity of live.  He answer was unique.  She said. "When it rains, I let it!"  In other words, she doesn't get all bent out of shape over things she can't control.  She can't control if it rains.  So when it does rain, instead of cursing the rain and being in a gloomy mood as a result of it, she chooses to simply "let it rain!"  Or as I would say it, "Control what you can control and leave what you can't control to God."  That will reduce a lot of stress in your life, and who knows, you might just live to be 113!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Preparing for an Additional Worship Service

Today is my final blog posting giving more information on our adding an additional Contemporary Worship Service beginning September 9 to the current Classic and Contemporary services that we already have here at Gaylord E-Free.  Today let me give you some thoughts on how each of us can prepare for this exciting adventure as a church.


Nothing of eternal importance happens apart from prayer!  Please join us in praying daily that God will give us the grace to pull all of the logistics together and that He will use this decision and this direction to allow us to more effectively meet as many people as possible right where they are so that we can help to move them to where God wants them to be.


Obviously, there is a lot of communication that needs to take place to ensure that everyone is aware of how our new service format will work starting September 9.  Each Sunday over the summer we will be taking some time in the service to talk about what it means for our church to add an additional Contemporary Service.  This will allow us to all be on the same page and to all be “in the loop” on why we are making this decision and how it will affect each of us on Sundays.  We are still working out all of the details so we ask you to be patient in the process.


It is our hope and prayer that adding this additional service will make it easier for each of us in our church family to invite others to come to E-Free.  Remember, the number one reason people visit a church is because they were personally invited.  We encourage you to use this change as an opportunity to invite people you know to join us for worship here at E-Free.


We understand that not everyone will agree with all of the logistical decisions that will be made to add the second Contemporary service to our ministry.  It is our prayer, however, that each person who is part of the E-Free family will look beyond any differences in preference to the purpose that is driving our decision.  Our purpose is to meet and move as many people as possible.  That is a purpose that we can all rally around.  While change can be difficult and can at times cause division, it is our prayer that we will be careful to protect the unity of our church by getting behind the purpose behind this decision even if it differs from some areas of personal preference.


To be able to accomplish this change and do it well, we are going to need many new workers.  We need everyone who calls E-Free their church home to do more than simply attend.  We need them to serve.  We encourage you to be praying now about where you can be involved in serving here at E-Free on Sunday morning.  There is a place for everyone.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Adding an Additional Worship Service - The Logistics

In each of my blog postings this week I am giving information about the announcement we made this past Sunday here at Gaylord E-Free to add an additional Contemporary Service on Sunday beginning September 9 to the Classic and Contemporary services that we already have.  Today let me share some of the logistics as to how this will be implemented.

Flip-Flop Method

Instead of doing the traditional “bookend” method of multiple services where you have an early service followed by your Sunday School hour and then a late worship service, we will be using a flip-flop method of services.  This is different than the way two services were conducted previously here at E-Free.  Below is how it would work

9:00am-10:10am – First Contemporary Worship Service
10:10am-10:30am – Break
10:30am-11:40am – Second Contemporary Worship Service

Classic Service

The Classic Service will continue to meet during the first worship service beginning at 9:00am in the Chapel.  Until such time as we are able to finish the project that will allow us to broadcast the sermon to the Chapel, those attending the Classic Service in the Chapel will continue to walk down to the Gospel Center in time for the message and the conclusion of the Contemporary Service.

Adult Classes

Instead of all of our Adult Classes happening during the same hour, we will be splitting the Adult Classes into two groups.  Some of our adult classes will meet during the 9:00am service (those attending these classes will then attend the 10:30am worship service) and the remainder of our adult classes will meet during the 10:30am service (participants in these classes will have already attended the 9:00am worship service).  This allows us to double our classroom space by being able to use each room twice on Sunday morning.

Children’s Ministry

Our Children’s Ministry will remain very similar in format – Kid’s Sunday School taking place during one hour and Kid’s Church taking place during the other hour.  In other words, during the 9:00am service there will be our Kid’s Sunday School program.  During the 10:30am service there will be our Kid’s Church programs.  As is the case now, our full nursery will also be taking place during both services.  The big difference is that the children will no longer start in the Gospel Center and be dismissed from there.  Beginning September 9, the children will begin each hour in our children’s program.  By being able to use all of our rooms twice, we will now be able to offer our Children’s Ministry locations in our facility that are more conducive to kid’s ministry and which are located in the same wing of our facility.


Even though we are dividing our Second Hour adult classes into two sections, we will be sure that all of the 5th through 12th grade classes are being held at the same time.  This will allow families to be able to worship together and still attend one of our classes.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Obstacles to Adding an Additional Service

Sunday we announced here at Gaylord E-Free that beginning September 9 we will be adding a second Contemporary service to our current Classic and Contemporary services that already take place.  In my blog posting yesterday I gave you three reasons why we are making this decision.  But obviously, every decision and direction has some downsides to it as well.  So what are the obstacles we face in adding this addition worship service?

We Won’t Know Everybody

As the church grows and as additional services are added, people may fear that this will spoil the close-knit feeling they have been used to in the past.  Often people will resist additional services because they believe it will prevent them from getting to know everybody.  The truth is that even now, with just one Contemporary Service, it is impossible to truly get to know everybody.  Church growth experts will tell you that you can really only get to know 70-90 people at a time.  Adding an additional service will not help nor hinder that.  

On the positive side, having additional services will bring in additional people providing a greater pool of resources, both human and financial. New people bring more energy, creativity, and excitement.  The nature of the community may change with its size, but the sense of community can still remain.

It Will Take More Effort and Involvement

There is no question that adding an additional service means more effort being extended by many people.  The pastor who is preaching will have to preach twice.  The Worship Team and Performing Arts Team will sing, play and perform twice.  There will be a need for sound, video and lighting technicians for two services rather than one service.  It will take more ushers and more greeters each Sunday.  There will also be a need for more help in every aspect of our Children’s Ministry.  

But while this is true, it is also worth it.  In the parable of the lost coin that Jesus told in Luke 15, the woman who lost the coin was willing to spare no effort to find it.  She lit her lamp and swept her house.  The shepherd who lost one of his sheep was willing to go back out after dark into a dangerous wilderness to find the lost sheep.  Jesus Himself was willing to endure the inconvenience of leaving heaven, being born in a manger, and dying on a cross in order to seek and to save lost people.  Yes, adding a second service will take more effort and more involvement, but all the extra energy we expend and any inconvenience we endure will be worth it.  Why?  Because lost people are valuable to God!

On the other side of the coin, it should become much easier to get new volunteers for these areas, especially in our children’s ministry.  Here’s why.  Currently, if you work in the nursery or help with our kids during the worship service, you do not get to participate in the worship service.  With two services this will no longer be the case.  If you serve in our children’s ministry during one service you can still attend the other worship service.  People will no longer have to miss the worship service in order to serve in our children’s ministry.

We Will Lose Energy In Our Service

This is a “catch 22” that we have considered.  On one hand, though our Gospel Center is not completely full at this time, if we do not add an additional worship service in the near future we will soon begin to plateau and ultimately decline in attendance due to overcrowding in our parking lot and ultimately in the Gospel Center itself.  However, by splitting into two services we will begin with just half as many people in the Gospel Service for worship.  In an auditorium our size this will be a noticeable difference.  But because multiple services leads to new growth and to more consistent attendance we believe that we will, in short order, grow into our auditorium at both services.   

Monday, June 25, 2012

Why Add an Additional Worship Service?

Yesterday we announced that beginning September 9 we are adding an additional Contemporary Service to our Sunday morning ministry here at Gaylord E-Free.  Why did we make this decision?  There are three main reasons:

To Relieve Overcrowding

One of the things that can quickly stifle our growth as a church is overcrowding.  Studies show us that when attendance reaches 70 to 80 percent of seating capacity in the auditorium, a church often experiences a plateau in attendance which then leads to decline. Newcomers wonder if space even exists for them.  When they do stay, others may leave, creating a revolving door phenomenon. 

Here at E-Free we are currently pushing that 70% mark in the Gospel Center on Sunday morning.  Though we still have room, we do not want to wait until we hit that 80% mark and begin to plateau before making a change.  Our desire is to make that change in advance of that mark so that our growth rate is not stifled. 

The same principle regarding overcrowding is true when other parts of our facility become overcrowded. When people can’t find a parking place, they may keep on driving until they find a congregation with more parking spaces.  We are regularly hitting and often even surpassing the 90% mark in our parking lot on Sunday mornings.  While the formula for building codes appears to allow enough parking for our seating capacity, the truth is that many families drive multiple cars to church which causes us to quickly surpass that formula.  In the winter months this becomes even more vital as we often lose parking spaces due to snow amounts.  Adding additional parking is very expensive.  By adding an additional Contemporary Service we can alleviate the overcrowding in our parking lot with very little financial cost involved.

We have also reached capacity when it comes to our Second Hour classes.  Currently every room in our building is being used.  As a result, it has become impossible to add additional opportunities for growth through Christian Education on Sunday mornings.  Adding on to our facility is very expensive.  By adding an additional Contemporary Service using the method outlined in this document we can literally double our room usage with little financial cost involved.  

To Encourage Growth

Church growth experts agree that adding additional services promotes growth in a church.  When you only offer one service at one time, people only have one choice.  When you offer multiple service times, people have more than one choice.  This makes it easier for new people to visit.  It also makes it easier for current attendees to not miss.  Where there are more options for growth, more growth takes place.

Church Growth Expert, Charles Arn, in his book, “Multiple Worship Services and Church Growth” says this, "Approximately half of the 355,000 Protestant churches in the U.S. and Canada should consider adding a new worship service to their weekly schedule of activities, regardless of the number of services they presently have."  Arn's comments come as a result of a five year study conducted by Church Growth, Inc., out of Monrovia, Calif. The study examined hundreds of churches that added a new service with the result that most were able to reach new, unchurched people for Christ.  

To Fulfill our Mission

Our mission as a church is to MEET as many people as possible right where they are at and to help MOVE them to where God wants them to be.  Every decision that we make as a church is rooted in fulfilling this purpose.  Our Staff, Leadership Team and our Elder Board here at E-Free are all convinced that adding an additional Contemporary Worship Service will help us to “MEET & MOVE” as many people as possible.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Gaylord E-Free Adding Additional Worship Service

It is no secret that God has been blessing our church here at Gaylord E-Free with both numerical and spiritual growth and we fully expect that growth to continue.  We give God all the praise and glory for this.  But as exciting as growth is, it also comes with some growing pains which we are currently experiencing.  These include three main areas:

ATTENDANCE:  We are now pushing 70% seating capacity in the Gospel Center on most Sunday mornings.  If you were to come into the church a few minutes late while everyone is standing and singing it looks like even more, giving the perception that the auditorium is full.

PARKING:  For the past several months one of our Leadership Team members has counted the number of cars in our parking lot during the worship service.  We have learned that our parking lot is now running over 90% capacity on most Sundays.

CLASSROOMS:  We have a strong Second Hour ministry on Sunday mornings offering classes for both children, teens and adults.  This has resulted in every room in our facility being used.

The Leadership Team, in discussion with our Ministry Staff and Elder Board has spent a lot of time discussing and praying through what we should do as a result of these growing pains.  We desire to be proactive in implementing a solution so that our growth continues.  As a result, the Leadership Team has made a recommendation that beginning September 9, that along with our current Classic and Contemporary Services, that we also add a second Contemporary Service to our Sunday morning ministry here at E-Free.  This recommendation was agreed upon by our pastoral and ministry staff and was unanimously approved by the Elder Board.

In my upcoming blog postings I will give more information regarding why we have made this decision as well as a little bit about the logistics that we will put into place.  We are excited to see how God will use this to continue to allow us as a church to MEET as many people as possible right where they are at and help MOVE them to where He wants them to be!

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Tomorrow (Sunday morning) we continue our 6-week Courageous Event at Gaylord E-Free Church here in Gaylord, Michigan.  As part of this 6-week emphasis we are studying some of the "Unsung Men of Courage" in the Bible.  This involves men that many believers have never heard of and those who have probably do not know much about their story.  We continue this Sunday by looking at the story of OBED-EDOM.

We will also be highlighting another one of our own "Unsung Men of Courage" here at E-Free.  This Sunday we will learn a little more about our very own EMIL FRANK (pictured above), a delightful Senior Saint in our church who himself served many years as a pastor.

The service will also include a big announcement about the future of our church.  It is going to be a great morning at Gaylord E-Free beginning at 9:30am this Sunday morning!  

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Service with ICING on Top!

Last Sunday was absolutely one of the most inspiring and moving church services I have ever been part of with dozens of men publicly making a resolution to live their lives as spiritual men of courage.  This Sunday will again be special at Gaylord E-Free as we continue our Unsung Men of Courage series by looking at the Old Testament story of Obed-edom.  Here are some aspects that will be involved in this Sunday's service:

-Samantha Dunn will be leading worship in the Contemporary service while I will be leading the worship through singing in the Classic service.

-The Book children will be doing special music in the Classic service.

-We will be showing another “Unsung Man of Courage” video highlighting a man from E-Free in both services.  This week we are highlighting Emil Frank.

-The sermon this Sunday will include a personal interview with Obed-edom himself.  In fact, Obed-edom will also be making a personal appearance in the Classic service.


Look at this coming Sunday morning at E-Free like a dessert.  Everything I just mentioned above is the cake.  But this Sunday we are going to add some icing to that cake as at the end of the message as I will be making a big announcement regarding the future of our church that you will want to hear.

If you have to miss a Sunday in June, whatever you do, don’t miss this Sunday at E-Free.  If you just can't be there, look for information about this announcement on Facebook and here on my blog!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mr Obed

Do me a favor.  In your mind quickly think of your 3 most favorite characters from the Old Testament.  Go ahead!  What names did you come up with?


Seriously now - did any of you pick Obed-edom?  Probably not.  In fact, I doubt that many of you know much about this great man of courage found in Scripture.  For example, can you answer the following questions about Obed-edom?

What book of the Old Testament is he found in?

What does his name mean?

What nationality was he?

What city was he from?

What other famous person was from the same city?

What famous piece of furniture was in his home?

How long was this piece of furniture in his home?

How did this piece of furniture come about being in his home?

What did a parade have to do with this piece of furniture being in his home? 

What tragedy happened that was associated with this piece of furniture?

What happened to Obed-edom because this piece of furniture was in his home?

What can we learn from his story that applies to our lives today?

Don't know the answer to any of these questions?  Than you have two options.  First, you can do some research on your own and find these answers for yourself.  Or second, you can be sure to be at Gaylord E-Free Church this Sunday at 9:30am as we continue our "Unsung Men of Courage" series by looking at the life of Obed-edom.  In fact, if you come Sunday you might just get to meet Mr Obed live and in person!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Here is a checklist I really need you to do:

-Item #1 - Mark July 15 on your calendar and save that date!

-Item #2 - If you already have plans to be out of town that day, you may want to seriously consider changing your plans!

-Item # 3 - Make a list of every family member, relative, co-worker, and neighbor that you have!

-Item # 4 - Make a list of everyone you know who has served in the past or is currently serving in the military, in law enforcement, as a fire-fighter or as any other type of first responder.

Here is why!  On Sunday, July 15 Gaylord E-Free will be ending their 6-week Courageous emphasis with a Heroes Day celebration.  On this Sunday we will be moving our morning service down to the Fairgrounds for one big combined outdoor service with a 10am start time.  The service will include the following:

A Color Guard with our National Anthem!

Some great worship and patriotic music!

A repeat performance of the song "A Few Good Men" by the same 8 men who sang it on Resolution Sunday!

Honoring all who have ever served or are currently serving in any branch of our Armed Forces!

Honoring all who have served or are currently serving as law enforcement officers, fire-fighters, or any other type of first responder!

A moving monologue regarding the Pledge of Allegiance

A short message from the Bible!

A free cook-out at the fairgrounds following the service!

This will be a family event so there will be no nursery or children’s programs and no Second Hour classes.  We want you to invite everyone you know, especially those who have in the past or are currently part of the military, law enforcement, fire-fighters or other first responders.  In fact, if you have or are serving in any of the above mentioned areas, please feel free to wear your uniform!  You don’t need to bring anything with you except all of your friends, relatives, co-workers, and neighbors (and maybe your lawn chairs if you wish)!

Monday, June 18, 2012

How to Have Confidence in God's Faithfulness Today!

At the age of 110, Joshua called all of Israel together for a final challenge to them before his death.  It was during this time that he utters those words that we often declare even today, "Choose you this day who you will serve but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord."  Below is a brief video clip of a portion of my remarks about this very passage given last Sunday morning here at Gaylord E-Free as part of our Resolution Sunday in which dozens of men publicly made a resolution to live as men of spiritual courage.

But before the aged Joshua gets to that call for courageous commitment, he first begins by taking Israel on a tour of their national history.  He goes all the way back to Abraham and them moves them to Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses.  Each step of the journey he reminds them of the faithfulness of God toward them all along the way.  Why does he do this?  I think there is a very important principle at the heart of his words.

If you want to have confidence in the faithfulness of God for your present, take time to remember the faithfulness of God in your past!

That principle stayed with me Monday afternoon in the office.  As a result, I did something I have not done in  about a year and a half.  I pulled up on my computer the document of the journal that I kept back in 2010 when I went through the most difficult time of hurt I have ever experienced.  During that time I kept a pretty detailed journal of exactly what was happening and what God was teaching me through it.  

Honestly, I have not opened that file since 2010 came to an end, but today I felt compelled to revisit it.  I spent a considerable portion of time reading the first 100 pages of this journal.  As I did, I wasn't sure it would be a good thing for me to do or not.  Would it rip open the scabs that have done considerable healing?  To my relief, it was a very good and profitable exercise.  I found myself on several occasions through this reading smiling and saying aloud, "WOW!  God I had forgotten what You did for me right there!"  Reading this journal reminded me of a very difficult time in my life, but the result was a greater confidence that I can trust God in my life today.  

If you want to have confidence in the faithfulness of God for your present, take time to remember the faithfulness of God in your past! 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Reflections from Father's Day

Father's Day 2012 was a great day.  It started Sunday morning with our Resolution Sunday as we witnessed over 50 men here at Gaylord E-Free Church make a public resolution to be a man of spiritual courage.  What a moving service it was - one that will go down as one of the best church services that I have ever been part of and one that I believe has the potential to change our church forever.

It was also a day that I could to spend the afternoon with my family (wife, daughter and son) - just the four of us.  We are at the stage of life where I realize that this may be the last time that we spend Father's Day - just the four of us.  Here is what our day included:

A stop on the way out of town for lunch at KFC (paid for by my wife...Yeah!)!

Strolling downtown Traverse City and a good cup of coffee!

A drive up to Mission Point Lighthouse!  

A cookout on the beach at Grand Traverse Bay!

A new pair of tennis shoes and a couple of shirts as Father's Day gifts!

Miniature Gold (also paid for by my wife...YEAH!  But lost to my daughter...BOO!)!

A Dairy Queen Blizzard (paid for by my son...YEAH!)!

But as I reflect on Father's Day I have to reflect on my kids.  I could not be any more proud of my kids.  Joy has now graduated from the Liberty with her Elementary Education degree and has now attained her first job in teaching.  And best of all - that position is right here in Gaylord, Michigan.  When we moved to Northern Michigan a little over a year ago we realized that there was a very real possibility that our kids would end up living far from us.  We understand that.  For the 25 years we have been married we have never lived within 1,000 miles of either set of parents.  But we had no problem revealing to God the desire of our hearts for her to be close geographically as we prayed for Joy and her future.  And in the goodness of God, Joy will be living up here in beautiful rural northern Michigan (at least for now).

Jonathan will be heading back to Liberty University this August to start his Junior year as a Worship Arts Major.  His heart and desire continues to grow daily to be able to led people in connecting with God through worship.  I love watching my son lead worship.  All summer long we will be able to hear his guitar filling our house.  I am also amazed at the depth of the songs he writes.  I know that as his father I am a bit biased - but I really think each of them are pretty amazing.

So Father's Day may be about "DAD's" but the truth is that it is really about KIDS.  I mean, what's a dad without kids?  And having the kids I do makes Father's Day pretty perfect!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Resolution Sunday at E-Free

This Sunday is not just Father's Day here at E-Free, it is also "Resolution Sunday."  This is just one aspect of a 6-week Courageous Event that started last Sunday here at Gaylord E-Free Church and runs through July 15th.  If you are not sure what "Resolution Sunday is all about, you can read about it in my blog posting from yesterday!

Along with our Resolution Ceremony this morning, we will also be highlighting another of our own "Unsung Men of Courage" here at E-Free.  This Sunday we will learn a little more about our very own MATT BOOK (pictured above with his children) who also serves as one of our Elders here at E-Free.

The service will be one that you will not soon forget and one I believe that will change our church forever!  Don't miss it.  It is going to be a great morning at Gaylord E-Free beginning at 9:30am this Sunday morning!  

Friday, June 15, 2012

Resolution Weekend

This weekend is Father’s Day.  Let’s be honest.  Father’s Day just doesn’t seem to get as much press as Mother’s Day does.  Pastor Jim (former Lead Pastor here at Gaylord E-Free) jokingly told me that Father’s Day simply marks the day that all the bills from Mother’s Day get paid off.  Although the phone company does acknowledge that there are actually more phone calls on Father’s Day than Mother’s Day – they just all happen to be “collect” calls.

But this weekend at E-Free will be a Father’s Day to remember.  It is “Resolution Weekend.”  On Saturday we will be showing the wonderful movie, “Courageous.”  We showed this movie back on New Year’s Eve and over 600 people came out to watch it.  This is a movie that will have you on the edge of your seat.  This movie will make you cry, laugh, and think.

If you have never seen this movie, you must see it this Saturday!  If you have already seen it, then you need to see it again this Saturday!  And by all means, you need to invite everyone you know to come and see it as well here at E-Free this Saturday.  We will be showing the movie twice on Saturday (2pm & 6pm).  Both showings will be in the Gospel Center with free admission and will include free popcorn and cotton candy.

Then, on Sunday, dozens of men in our church will be publicly making the same resolution together in our Sunday morning worship service here at Gaylord E-Free as is seen in the movie, “Courageous.”  These are men who have carefully considered and prayed about it and have signed up in advance.  If you as a man would like to be part of this Resolution Ceremony on Sunday, we welcome your participation.  You can sign the resolution at one of the two showings of the “Courageous” movie this Saturday here at E-Free and then be part of the public ceremony on Father's Day.

This weekend is Father’s Day.  Here at E-Free it will most definitely be a weekend to remember!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Resolution

This coming Sunday is RESOLUTION Sunday here at the Gaylord E-Free Church in Gaylord, Michigan with dozens of men who will be part of a Father's Day ceremony as they publicly resolve to be a man of courage by making the below RESOLUTION:

I DO solemnly resolve before God to take full responsibility for myself, my wife, and my children.

I WILL love them, protect them, serve them, and teach them the Word of God as the spiritual leader of my home.

I WILL be faithful to my wife, to love and honor her, and be willing to lay down my life for her as Jesus Christ did for me.

I WILL bless my children and teach them to love God with all of their hearts, all of their minds, and all of their strength.

I WILL train them to honor authority and live responsibly.

I WILL confront evil, pursue justice, and love mercy.

I WILL pray for others and treat them with kindness, respect, and compassion.

I WILL work diligently to provide for the needs of my family.

I WILL forgive those who have wronged me and reconcile with those I have wronged.

I WILL learn from my mistakes, repent of my sins, and walk with integrity as a man answerable to God.

I WILL seek to honor God, be faithful to His church, obey His Word, and do His will.

I WILL courageously work with the strength God provides to fulfill this resolution for the rest of my life and for His glory.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. 
Joshua 24:15

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My Dad In Me

For most of us, there is a lot of our fathers in us.  That is certainly true for me.  If you were to see my dad (pictured above with my mom and my daughter at Joy's college graduation last month) you would not have to guess twice who his son is.  We look a lot alike.  But there is a lot of my dad in me in other ways as well.  Three of the greatest loves of my life (outside of God and my family) our loves I got from my dad.  Here they are:

BASEBALL!  I love baseball.  It is a passion of mine.  When I get to go to a Major League baseball game I am like a kid on Christmas morning.  I love to watch it and I love to follow it.  My dream is to retire (at the age of 48) and spend an entire summer travelling so that I can watch a baseball game in every Major League stadium all in the same season.  I got that from my dad.  He too loves baseball.  Now there is a major difference.  My dad is a New York Yankee fan.  I personally always root against the Yankees.  But setting that one small element aside, I got my love for baseball from my dad.

POLITICS!  I love politics.  It is a passion of mine.  I love to watch politics.  I love to read about politics.  I love to follow politics.  To me, the greatest nights of the year are elections nights - especially when it is the presidential year.  I got that from my dad.

CHURCH!  I love the local church.  That is a large reason why I became a pastor.  I got this love from my dad as well.  I grew up in church - literally.  My dad was not a pastor but he was on just about every board and committee the church had.  Our family lived by the motto, "If the church doors are open, the Distler family will be there."  And because my parents were also the church custodians, we were at church even when the doors were closed.  I never became tired of being at church.  In fact, as I grew older, I would often borrow my dad's church keys and go up to the church to do my homework or practice my trumpet.  I loved being in the church - I still do!  I get that from my dad.

Dad lives in Central Florida now and is retired.  He has been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease but is doing well.  Because I live 1400 miles away in Northern Michigan we don't get to see each other much and frankly, neither of us our big phone talkers.  But when we do talk you can bank on the fact that after updates on the family our conversation will turn to three things we both love:




Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fatherhood and Archie Bunker

This Sunday is Father’s Day.  It made me think a little bit about the Fathers that are portrayed on TV.  Remember that old show “All in the Family” where Carroll O’Conner played the role of Archie Bunker?  You probably at least remember the theme song, right (Boy the way Glen Miller played…Songs that made the hit parade…Guys like us we had it made…Those were the days…).

It really was a popular and very funny show.  I still enjoy the reruns when they are aired.  I read recently that the actor that played Archie Bunker said that wherever he went people would stop him and say, “Archie reminds me so much of my father!”  That may be true, but is it good?  As I recall, Archie Bunker may have been funny but I’m not sure his character was a model for effective fatherhood.

Below are some quotes from some famous people about fathers.  Which one do you like best?

Fatherhood is pretending the present you love most is soap-on-a-rope. (Bill Cosby)

A father carries pictures where his money used to be. (Author Unknown)

I don't care how poor a man is; if he has family, he's rich. (M*A*S*H, Colonel Potter)

I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection. (Sigmond Freud)

When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years. (Mark Twain)

And here is one of my favorites:

The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother. (Henry Ward Beecher)

Proverbs 10:1 says, “A wise son makes a father glad.”  I think the reverse is also true – A wise father makes a son glad.  The truth is that most of us have a lot of our father in us.  I will share in my blog post tomorrow some of the greatest loves of my life that I got from my dad.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Useful - Useless - Useful

The story of Onesimus is found in the book of Philemon which is the shortest of all the writings of the Apostle Paul found in the New Testament.  At its root, it is a story about forgiveness.  Philemon had been led to Christ by Paul.  Onesimus was a slave of Philemon who apparently stole some money from his master and ran away to Rome in hopes to blend into the crowd.  While in Rome, Onesimus runs into Paul.  Now remember that Paul was in prison at the time so I don't think it much of a stretch to imagine that once in Rome, Onesimus resorts to stealing once again and lands in jail.

I like to call these types of encounters "Divine Appointments."  A Divine Appointment is when God orchestrates your life in such a way that you end up at the right place at the right time to rub shoulders with the right person.  For Onesimus that place was a Roman jail and that person was the Apostle Paul.  As a result, Paul shares Christ with Onesimus and he becomes a follower of Jesus and he also becomes a very profitable part of Paul's jail ministry.

But when the time comes that Onesimus can leave or is released, Paul knows that he must go back and make things right with Philemon.  He sends Onesimus back with a letter which is the book of Philemon in our Bibles' today.  In verse 11 of this one chapter book, Paul uses a "play on words."  To understand this literary "word play" you must first realize that the name Onesimus means "useful."  Speaking of Onesimus in verse 11, Paul says (NASB),

"who formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me."

Here is what Paul was saying,

"USEFUL" (Onesimus) was USELESS to you but he is once again USEFUL!"

I love that.  It screams "repentance!"  It screams, "redemption!"  It screams "forgiveness!"  Failure does not have to be final.  Your past does not have to determine your future.  Maybe you have failed as a husband and now you seem like a useless husband.  Maybe you have failed as a father and now you seem like a useless father.  Maybe you have failed as a man of God and now you seem like a useless man of God.  Onesimus (useful) became useless but then returned to being useful once again.  So can you through the power of Christ.

For Onesimus it all happened as a result of a Divine Appointment.  That is my prayer for you today as well if you feel useless.  My prayer is that God would set up a Divine Appointment for you.  My prayer is that He would orchestrate your life in such a way that you would end up at the right place at the right time in order to rub shoulders with the right person.  In fact, if you see yourself as useless, maybe the first step in your Divine Appointment was coming across this blog posting!


Saturday, June 09, 2012

ONESIMUS and BILL ELY - Unsung Men of Courage!

Tomorrow (Sunday morning) starts a 6-week Courageous Event at Gaylord E-Free Church here in Gaylord, Michigan.  As part of this 6-week emphasis we will be studying some of the "Unsung Men of Courage" in the Bible.  This involves men that many believers have never heard of and those who have probably do not know much about their story.  We start this Sunday by looking at the story of ONESIMUS.  

We will also be highlighting one of our own "Unsung Men of Courage" here at E-Free.  This Sunday we will learn a little more about our very own BILL ELY (pictured above) who serves as our head custodian.  

The service will also include four people going public with their faith through water baptism.  It is going to be a great morning at Gaylord E-Free beginning at 9:30am this Sunday morning!   

Friday, June 08, 2012

Recruiting Church Volunteers Effectively

Every church I know seems to have a need for more volunteers.  How do you do that?  If you are leading a particular ministry and need more volunteers to serve, how do you recruit them?  Let me offer a few insights from 25 years of full-time church ministry.

The first and perhaps most important step in recruiting more volunteers for your area of ministry in the church is to know what does not work effectively today.  If you are depending primarily on bulletin inserts, having a sign-up table in the church lobby and having an announcement made from the stage during the worship service, chances are that you will not find much success in recruiting volunteers.  These avenues may have worked in days gone by but they simply do not work effectively in the church today.

The second thing you need to know in order to successfully recruit workers and volunteers is that appeals based on guilt and manipulation are a bad idea.  When you use guilt and manipulation to recruit volunteers, you recruit the wrong people.  They aren't responding because they have a passion for your area or because they feel the leading of the Spirit.  They are responding because they were made to feel guilty or because they had their proverbial arm twisted.  That volunteer will not be very effective nor will they last long in your ministry.

Along with that, using any kind of threats to recruit volunteers will not only be unsuccessful in recruiting workers, it will hurt your ministry overall by painting a very poor picture of the validity of your ministry.  When you communicate that "unless you get more volunteers you will have to cancel your ministry" you are actually discouraging people from helping.  When people in your church hear that threat they immediately surmise that your area of ministry must not be very exciting or worthwhile if nobody wants to help.

So what do you do to successfully recruit workers?  You need to have all of the following as a package.  You cant just have one or two of the following.  When you do all of the following, you will find far more success than anything listed previously.

You need an exciting PROGRAM.  This deals with the CONTENT of your ministry.  The more exciting your program is the easier it is to recruit workers.  People are drawn to excitement.  If your ministry is stale and lacks excitement it will be much more difficult yo recruit workers.

You need PASSIONATE attitudes.  This deals with being CONTAGIOUS.  Passion produces passion.  When you as the leader are passionate about your area of ministry and that shows outwardly, people will be drawn to your area.  Your passion will become contagious.  If you are lacking passion about your area or only have negative things to say about your area, chances are that very few people will respond by saying, "WOW! I really want to be part of that!"

You need captivating PROMOTION.  This deals with CREATIVITY.  Bulletin inserts, sign-up tables and announcements from the stage do no in any way draw people to your area.  In order to recruit workers you must come up with creative ideas to promote your area of ministry and your need for more workers.  It is creativity that will draw people to you and your area.

You need PERSONAL communication.  This deals with CONTACT.  The only effective what to recruit more volunteers and workers is for their to be one-on-one conversations with people about it.  That is what people respond to.  And some of your best recruiters are your current workers.  If they are currently serving in your area chances are real good that they have a passion for your area.  The more they talk directly to people the more volunteers you will get.

So if you are in need of recruiting more workers for your area of ministry, think through these questions:

How exciting is your area of ministry?

How passionate are you as the leader about your area of ministry?

What creative way have you promoted your area of ministry and your need for more workers?

How many personal one-on-one contacts have been made talking to people about working in your area of ministry?

Remember, doing just one or two of these concepts won't have much effect.  But when you put an exciting program with passionate attitudes with captivating promotion with personal communication, you have a formula for a lot more success.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Going into Enemy Territory

Today I go into enemy territory!!!

As an Ohio State fan and a Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Brown's fan, living in Michigan can be, well let's say, "interesting" at times.  But never more interesting than it will be today.  Today I load up the church bus with over 40 other people from northern Michigan to make the trek to Detroit for this afternoon's Cleveland Indians vs. Detroit Tigers baseball game at Comerica Park.

On one hand, I will have something very important in similar with this group I will be travelling with that will make the trip down to Detroit a true delight.  We are all followers of Jesus from the Gaylord E-Free Church.

But on the other hand, outside of my own family that will be attending as well, I will have something diametrically opposed to every one else on the trip that will make the trip back a little less delightful for someone.  They are all Tiger's fans!

So I will be wearing my Cleveland Indians jersey and ball cap and I will be rooting my heart out for the Tribe this afternoon (I'm usually pretty loud at a baseball game)!  If my team wins, it is going to be a wonderful 4-hour trip back north to Gaylord - kind of like heaven on earth!  But God forbid, if we come up short, it just might be the longest 4 hours of my life that may juts cause me to rethink If I just might actually believe in the doctrine of purgatory.

So today I go into enemy territory - boldly going where no man has gone before (OK, that's a bit much!).





Then again, as inconsistent as both teams are playing, it won't surprise me if they end up playing to a 28-inning draw!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

M&M's - Summer's Best Candy

When you think of "M&M's" what comes to your mind?  If you are part of the E-Free Church in Gaylord you immediately think of the words "MEETING & MOVING."  That is the purpose of our church.  We exist to MEET as many people as possible right where they are and help MOVE them to where God wants them to be.  This summer there will be a lot of "MEETING & MOVING" taking place in and through our church.

This weekend our K-8th Grade Director, Matt Jenkins, will be taking a group of Junior Highers on a Ministry Trip to inner city Grand Rapids where they will be MEETING people right where they are at as they serve as part of many different ministries that touch hurting people directly.

This Sunday begins our 6-week Courageous Event.  This emphasis will have many different angles to it.  There will be a message series on "Unsung Men of Courage" that will highlight men from the Bible who showed great courage but who most Christians know little or nothing about.  At the same time we will also be highlighting some "Unsung Men of Courage" from our Church.

Our Courageous Event will also include a double showing on Saturday, June 16, of the movie, "Courageous."  One showing will be at 2pm and the the at 6pm.  The whole event will be free and include and several give-aways.  We will then use Father's Day as an opportunity to allow men to publicly make the same resolution here at E-Free that is seen in this wonderful movie.  The week following, June 24, an 8-week class for couples will also begin during the second hour entitled, "Honor Begins At Home."

Our Courageous Event will end on July 15 with a special "Hero's Day" as we take time to recognize and appreciate past and present military personnel, law enforcement, fire-fighters and first responders in our community.  In order to MEET as many people as possible right where they are at, we are moving our entire morning service this day down to the fairgrounds and will include a cook-out and picnic afterwards.

There will also be many "MEETING & MOVING" opportunities for kids this summer as well with a 3-week blow-out starting with "Fun in the Sun" from July 23-27 for 7th and 8th graders; followed by our annual Vacation Bible School from July 30-August 3; and then ending with a second "Fun in the Sun" from August 6-10 for 5th and 6th graders.

There will also be several "MEETING & MOVING" opportunities involving service.  This will include our 2nd Church In Action Day (CIA Day) as hundreds of people from E-Free go out into our community to serve.  But before that, on July 23, a work team from E-Free will be heading down to Joplin, MO to help with the rebuilding after the devastating tornadoes that occurred one year ago.

And if you like good music, set aside August 25 for a great "MEETING & MOVING" night as E-Free partners with Promise FM for a Bebo Norman Concert.

So break out the M&M's!  They are most definitely summer's best candy!

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Whose Wallet Are You Holding?

This past Sunday at Gaylord E-Free we finished our three week series on Barnabas by seeing that Barnabas was "High on Giving" (seen in Acts 4) and "Low on Greed" (seen in Acts 11).  The two are tied together.  If you are "High on Giving" you are most likely "Low on Greed."  But if you are "Low on Giving" you are most likely "High Greed."

To show this last Sunday I used an interactive illustration that we like to call "Forced Fun" here at Gaylord E-Free.  "Forced Fun" means that everyone must participate or they don't get to go to heaven.

I asked every man in our church to pull out their wallet and stand up holding their wallet in their hand.

I then had them exchange their wallets with someone else who was not part of their family.

I then had them hold that wallet high into the air.

I then called for the ushers to come forward to take the offering and encouraged the men of our church to give like they have never given before using the wallet they were holding.

OK - we didn't really take the offering at that point but there was a point to this act of "forced fun."  You see, it would be very easy to give generously when we were using someone else's wallet.  It's when we are holding our own wallets that giving becomes hard.  Today we tend to want to keep as much as we can keep rather than give as much as we can give, especially when we are opening our own wallet.  Today we are "Low on Giving" and "High on Greed," even in the church.  But my interactive illustration wasn't yet done.

I then had the men get their own wallet back and remain standing holding their own wallet.  I then reminded them that though they were holding their own wallet, what they were holding still wasn't there own money.  It actually belongs to God.  Everything we have comes from God.  It's really His even though it's our wallet.

Maybe we would become more like Barnabas - "High on Giving" and "Low on Greed" - if we would remember that it all comes from God and it all belongs to God.  We are simply stewards who have been entrusted with everything we have in order to use what we have been given to bring the most glory to God as possible.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

The E-Free Water Boys


Those years represent the 75 year history of the Gaylord Evangelical Free Church.  While most churches that have been in existence for 75 years are in decline, the Gaylord E-Free Church is still being blessed by and used of God in a powerful way here in Gaylord, Michigan.

This past Sunday we had a "75th Anniversary Moment" at E-Free as we invited back Pastor Chuck Warren and his wonderful wife, Gerri.  They joined Pastor Jim Mathis and his wife, Joan, along with myself and my wife, Laura.  Pastor Warren (pictured far right above) was the Sr Pastor of our church from 1975-1987.  Following his ministry came Pastor Jim Mathis (pictured far left above) who led our ministry from 1987-2011.  I (pictured in the middle above which I guess makes me the proverbial "rose between two thorns") have now been the Lead Pastor of the Gaylord E-Free Church for just the past 14 months.  Between the 3 of us we represent the past 37 years of pastoral leadership here at Gaylord E-Free.

What a thrill and a privilege it was for me to share the stage with these two wonderful men on Sunday and to spend lunch together as couples afterwards (couples pictured below).  I am excited about what God is doing in and through Gaylord E-Free today, 75 years after its beginning.  And I am even more excited about what the future looks like for our church.  I believe the best is yet to come for our ministry.  I really do.  But I never want us to forget our history and our legacy.  Nor do I ever want us to forget the wonderful men of God and their wives who poured into this ministry in a pastoral role.

As I thought about being with Pastor Warren and Pastor Jim this past Sunday, I was reminded that the only title that really characterizes the three of us perfectly is the title, "WATER BOYS!"  When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth he stated that some men plant the seed and other men water the seed but that only God causes the growth.  So for the past 37 years what did the three lead pastors at E-Free do?  They did nothing more that serve as "water boys."  Over the past 37 years the three of us continued to plant new seed while watering the seed that men before us had already planted.  And any and all growth that has taken place isn't because of any of us or any of the men who came before us - only God causes the growth!  Only God gets the credit!  Only He deserves the glory.

Thank you Pastor Warren and Gerri!

Thank you Pastor Jim and Joan!

But most of all...Thank you, God!

Friday, June 01, 2012

Welcome Back Pastor Warren

This Sunday here at Gaylord E-Free we will conclude our “Lean On Me” message series on the life of Barnabas in which we are learning how to become more effective encouragers.  We have already seen the GOODNESS of an Encourager; the GRACE of an Encourager; the GOAL of an Encourager; and the GLORY of an Encourager.  This Sunday we will end the series by seeing the GIVING of an Encourager; and the GUTS of an Encourager.

This Sunday is literally jammed pack.  Along with the worship and message elements, the service will also include the following:

We will be having a special “75th Anniversary Moment” on Sunday.  Maybe you don;t realize it but this year is our 75th anniversary as a church.  As a result this Sunday I have invited back to E-Free Pastor Chuck Warren who was the Sr Pastor of our church prior to Pastor Jim’s ministry with us.  I will be bringing Pastor Warren and Pastor Jim (and their wives) up on stage as part of our service to recognize them and to honor our legacy as a church.  .

We will be celebrating communion on Sunday.  I will be asking Pastor Warren to lead us in the prayer for the bread and Pastor Jim to lead us in the prayer for the cup.

We will also be giving out “LEAN ON ME TAG" cards this Sunday.  Through these cards we will be encouraging everyone to prayerfully look for a way in the coming week in which they can encourage someone through a random act of kindness, leaving this card behind or giving it to the person involved, encouraging them to then encourage someone else.

After the message, there will be a special song which will include an interpretive dance that will lead into Pastor Newell ending our service by honoring our graduates and praying.  Joshua will be talking to Newell about having the graduates seated down front so they are all together for this time.

Don't miss this Sunday at Gaylord E-Free!