Saturday, November 30, 2013

450,000 Pageviews

I wish I had the time to blog more regularly as I really enjoy doing so.  Right now, however, priorities and time restrictions keep me from giving more of my time to writing.  It was exciting, however, to see my "Folks Listen" blog recently surpass 450,000 pageviews.  Thanks to all those who drop by my blog.  Lord willing, I will be able to get back to regular blogging in 2014!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Bountiful Harvest and Divine Appointments

Few nights of the year can even come close to matching the excitement of the Monday night before Thanksgiving in Gaylord, Michigan.  That is Bountiful Harvest delivery night.  Bountiful Harvest is a lay led ministry that brings 8 area churches together to make a difference and deliver the love and Gospel of Jesus to hundreds of people in our county.  Tonight over 100 vehicles hand delivered full Thanksgiving meals to 670 homes.  Each of these homes represents a family that is struggling financially.  Along with the full Thanksgiving meal, each family also received the book, "The Purpose of Christmas," written by Rick Warren.

Our family always looks forward to participating in making these deliveries.  As we take the meals into the homes we are assigned, we have the opportunity to meet these precious families and learn a little bit about them.  We then ask if we can pray for them.  If the are open to that (as was all of the families we delivered to tonight) we ask them if there is anything specific we can pray about for them.  Sometimes they have specific things for us to pray about and sometimes they don't.  Either way, we are able to stand in their homes and pray for God to reveal His love for them and to bless them.  For many, this is most likely the first time that anyone has ever prayed for them in their home.

Each Bountiful Harvest I believe that God sets up a Divine Appointment.  Tonight was no different.  At one of the stops we delivered a meal to a mother who was home by herself.  When I asked her how she was doing she hesitantly said, "fine."  I responded by saying, "That answer didn't seem real confident."  This mother said that they were going through a hard time.  She then broke down crying and told our family that her 13-year old daughter had just attempted suicide 2 days ago.  We were able to stand with this mother in her kitchen and pray for her teenage daughter and for her as a mom.  I was then able to give her one of my cards and tell here that if I as a pastor could help in anyway that she could call me any time.

We also had another home that was a "cold call."  All of the homes that are delivered to get a call in advance to let them know to expect the food delivery.  This was a home that they could organizers could not get a hold of.  We were so glad we still went to the home.  We met a single mom there of 3 beautiful children who were eager to show us their play tattoos they had just put on their arms.  The mom then shared with us that she really desires to get her kids into a church that has an active and fun children's program.  What a thrill it was to tell her all about our children's ministry at E-Free and invite her and her precious children to join us!

Those are just 2 stories from 670 deliveries made tonight.  How wonderful it is to be part of a church that truly believes in meeting people right where they are and help mover them where God wants them to be!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Ingathering Sunday at E-Free

This Sunday is without question one of the greatest Sundays of the year here at E-Free.  It is the Sunday before Thanksgiving which makes it Ingathering Sunday!  Below is a partial list of all that you can look forward to this Sunday:

·        We will have our regular schedule of services.  Our Classic Service will begin at 9:00 in the Chapel and our Contemporary Services will begin at 9:00 and 10:30 in the Gospel Center.

·        There will be vibrant and genuine worship in all of our services.  I will have the privilege of leading the worship in the Classic Service this Sunday.

·        There will be baptisms taking place in both of our Contemporary Services.

·        There will be a humorous original skit written by Melody Kemp in both Contemporary Services illustrating that only God has the power to create human life.

·        I will be continuing our series through Psalm 139 called, “How Great is Our God.”  This Sunday we will be looking at the omnipotence of God seen in the formation of our bodies inside our mother’s wombs.

·        Lord willing, we will be dedicating 500 shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child that will be going to children all over the world this Christmas.

·        This is the one Sunday each year that we pass the plates twice.  The first offering is our regular offering to pay our weekly ministry bills.  At the end of the service we will then take our special Ingathering Offering that this year is going toward our much needed nursery expansion project.  Please remember that $150,000 in matching monies has been made available resulting in the fact that for every $2 you give or pledge toward this project, another $1 is added.  In other words, your gift increases in value by 50% up to $150,000.  If we receive $300,000 in gifts and pledges by December 31, 2013 (with pledges being fulfilled by April 1, 2014), we will receive all of the $150,000 in matching monies and will be able to break ground this spring.

·        After our second service we will all move down to the gymnasium and youth room to enjoy a full Thanksgiving Dinner together as a church family!

And this is just a partial list!  As you can see, it is going to be a great Sunday at E-Free this week!  If you can't be with us in person, you can listen in northern Michigan to our 9am Contemporary Service live on The Eagle 101.5 FM.  The Eagle will also be live streaming their radio broadcast at 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Montana Cup for First Time Guests at E-Free!

Gaylord E-Free Church here in Gaylord, MI, is an exciting place to worship the Lord and grow in your faith which is evidenced by the many first-time guests that walk in our doors each Sunday here in northern Michigan.  And while the worship, preaching and connecting with people who make up the E-Free family are the substance of each Sunday morning, there is also something for first-time guests that you could call the proverbial "icing on the cake."

Each family that visits our church for the first time receives a beautiful hand-made cup (pictured above) featuring our church's name and logo on the front of it.  Each cup is made individually by hand and are absolutely beautiful.  This gift allows us to make a great first impression to our guests while at the same time communicating that we value their being at E-Free whether they live locally or are from out-of-town.

What most people in our church may not realize is where these cups are made.  These beautiful stonewear cups come from the Mountain Arts Pottery in the beautiful Gallatin Valley of Montana which was founded in 1981 by Dave and Jennie Lockie (pictured below).  Dave’s first pottery studio consisted of a homemade kiln in a chicken coop in the Lockie’s backyard, which he built himself using information from pottery books.  Jennie purchased Dave pottery lessons in order to help take his mind off his troubles, which stemmed from the decline of his excavation business.  The Lockies and their four children used their 15-passenger van to travel to art shows and sell pottery for the first several years.  Mountain Arts Pottery is now located in a log cabin, circa 1932, that Dave and Jennifer extensively renovated themselves.

The Lockies believe their Christian faith and their highest priorities,  After his excavation business collapsed, Dave became deeply depressed and seriously considered suicide.  But God and the Bible offered Dave and his family the strength to continue in the face of terrible adversity.

Dave’s first large order was from a church group who saw some of the pots he had made in class.  Dave is frequently quoted as saying, "It was the Lord, not the glaze, who helped him make that first sale."  It is a joy and a blessing for us here at Gaylord E-Free Church to partner with Dave and Jennie in helping us connect in a special way with those who walk into our church on a Sunday for the very first time.

If you would like more information on Mountain Arts Pottery you can do so at

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Nursery Expansion Matching Gift Opportunity

Dear Church Family,

God is at work in a mighty way here at E-Free in ways that can only be explained as a movement of God. After we announced the Ingathering Offering Project for our Nursery Expansion, I was approached by some donors whose hearts were really stirred and who wanted to encourage us to raise the entire $450,000 cost of the project at once rather than spreading it out as we had planned.  These donors felt led by the Lord to make available a $150,000.00 matching gift opportunity to help us accomplish this goal.  Here is how it works.  

Between now and the end of the year (December 31, 2013), any gift given or pledged toward this nursery expansion project will be matched 2 to 1 up to $150,000.00.  That means that for every $2 that is given or pledged by the end of the year, $1 will be added to that from this matching gift fund.  Think of it this way:

·        A $10.00 gift/pledge becomes $15.00!
·        A $20.00 gift/pledge becomes $30.00!
·        A $50.00 gift/pledge becomes $75.00!
·        A $100.00 gift/pledge becomes $150.00!
·        A $250.00 gift/pledge becomes $375.00!
·        A $500.00 gift/pledge becomes $750.00!
·        A $1,000.00 gift/pledge becomes $1,500.00!
·        A $2,500.00 gift/pledge becomes $3,750.00!
·        A $5,000.00 gift/pledge becomes $7,500.00!
·        A $10,000.00 gift/pledge becomes $15,000.00!

To receive these matching monies all gifts/pledges to this project must be made by December 31, 2013 and all pledges must be fulfilled by April 1, 2014.  Please also keep in mind that this $150,000.00 matching gift is only guaranteed up to the amount that is raised in gifts/pledges.  To secure the entire $150,000.00 we would need to raise $300,000.00 in cash/pledges by December 31 (with pledges being fulfilled by April 1, 2014). 

I am so very thankful for what God is doing and how He is using these donors who have made this matching gift opportunity possible to further “stimulate us as a church to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:25).  Through their generosity, it allows each of us to be able to play an even bigger part because our gift, no matter how small or how large, is multiplied by 50%. 

If you would like to make a gift or pledge toward this project you can do so in our special Ingathering offering which will happen on November 24 or any other time between now and the end of the year.  Again, please keep in mind that gifts and/or pledges must be received by December 31, 2013 and pledges must be fulfilled by April 1, 2014.  Thank you for taking the time to fervently pray about the part that God would have you play as together we strive to meet as many people as possible where they are and move them to where He wants them to be!

Believing God for Great Things!
Pastor Scott

Ephesians 3:20

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Baby Moe - Coming Soon to Gaylord E-Free

Each winter we do a character study here at Gaylord E-Free.  Two years ago we studied the life of Noah (seen above).  Last winter we walked through the life of Joseph (seen below).

Winter 2014 will take us on a new 10-week journey through the life of Moses from his birth to the time of the exodus from Egypt.  Our Creative Ideas Group met last Saturday morning to begin our brainstorming and planning for the first 4-weeks of this upcoming series.  We have some wonderful things in the works including:

An amazingly funny video to open the series in which we find Moses sitting around the table with many other characters from Scripture trying to brainstorm ways of how to make the Bible more exciting.

A reading of the story of Moses in Dr Seuss fashion.

A series of clips from an actual modern day person who is learning the same lessons today that Moses learned so many years ago.

Live actors on stage during the sermons which allows me to literally enter the story as I preach each week

A skit done by children that tells more of the story of Moses

A set on the stage along with our new environmental projection system that will make you feel like you are in Egypt on one week; sitting by the Nile River the next week; watching sheep in the wilderness of Midian the next week; and standing at the burning bush the very next week.

And that's just the first 4-weeks of the series!  It is going to be an amazing study!  Watch for our promotional video coming in December!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

This Sunday - How Great Is Our God!

This Sunday we will begin a new 4-week series through Psalm 139 that we are calling, “How Great Is Our God.”  Through this series we will see 4 very important attributes of God and how they affect us in our daily living.  These include His omniscience (the fact that He is all knowing); His omnipresence (the fact that he is present everywhere); His omnipotence (the fact that He is all-powerful) and His holiness.  We begin this Sunday with His omniscience as we study verses 1-6 and answer the question, “How well does God know me?” 

During our worship in the Contemporary Service on Sunday you will also be introduced to our environmental projection which is part of our technology upgrade that has been installed and is ready for usage.  Trust me, you will be amazed at what it looks like and how it will enhance our worship of God and study of His Word. 

Being that it is the first Sunday of the month, it is also communion Sunday here at E-Free.  This week we will be celebrating communion earlier in the service, before the sermon.  As a result, the Classic Service will be having their own time of communion in the Chapel this Sunday led by Pastor Jim.

Please also take special note that this Sunday night at 6:30pm will be a very special Concert of Worship in the Gospel Center as we look to tie in last Sunday’s message about “remembering the saints who have gone before us” with our new series on “the greatness of God” that we will begin this Sunday.  Along with great times of worship through singing and prayer, we will also be showing an extended Skit Guys video on Psalm 139 that is very funny (after all, we can worship God through laughter) and challenging.  We will also be doing more with our environmental projection in our evening concert of worship as well.  I strongly encourage you to make this Sunday evening a priority.  You’ll be glad you did!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween through Thanksgiving at E-Free

Happy Halloween!  Halloween is the first of 3 major holidays to take us through the rest of 2013.  Right around the corner comes Thanksgiving and then, of course, Christmas.  Here at Gaylord E-Free we have a very busy schedule in between Halloween and Thanksgiving.  Along with our regular ministries that happen on-going, here are some special ministry events during that time period:

Oct 31 = HARVEST FESTIVAL:  Last year on Halloween night over 1600 people packed our church gymnasium for a night of free food, games, fun and candy.  There is great power when our community rubs shoulders with we who Jesus has called the "light of the world" and the "salt of the earth."  This year we are expanding the event through our building and are excited to connect with hundreds and hundreds of people as we meet them where they are and help to move them to where God wants them to be!

Nov 1 - HONOR FLIGHT:  This is a special free showing of the award winning and inspiring movie in the Gospel Center which honors all veterans by the example of our surviving World War II soldiers.  We are using this to launch our new Solider Care ministry here at E-Free!

Nov 2 = BENEFIT DINNER FOR RILEY WESTERHUIS:  Riley is an 11 year old 5th grader battling numerous forms of cancer.  She recently had tumors removed from her brain and has suffered two mini strokes.  She is currently undergoing rehabilitation in Grand Rapids.

Nov 3 = HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD:  On this Sunday we start a new message series here at Gaylord E-Free that we care calling "How Great Is Our God" as we walk verse by verse through Psalm 139.

Nov 3 = CONCERT OF WORSHIP:  On this evening we will have a special Concert of Worship.  Along with amazing times of worship through singing and prayer, we will also be watching an extended video on Psalm 139 produced by the Skit Guys which is very funny but also very challenging.

Nov 6 and 13 =  GET ACQUAINTED CLASS:  On these two Wednesday Nights I will be teaching a class for those who are new to our church and who would like to learn more about our church and its ministries.

Nov 8-9 = CHOSEN YOUTH CONFERENCE:  Around 1,000 teenagers will pack our church Gospel Center this weekend for the annual Chosen Youth Conference.

Nov 10 = HONORING VETERANS SUNDAY:  On this Sunday we will have two services that are very different form each other.  Our 9am service will be our regular worship and preaching service and will be the only service I will be preaching in that morning.  Our 10:30 service will then be a special service to recognize and honor all veterans.

Nov 10 = ANNUAL BUSINESS MEETING:  This evening we will be voting as a congregation regarding the church 2014 budget; election of elders; and approving changes to our constitution

Nov 12 = GRIEVING THE HOLIDAY:  This is a special program to offer support going into the holidays for those who have lost a loved one this year.

Nov 24 = INGATHERING SUNDAY:  As part of our morning worship on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, we will be having a special church-wide Thanksgiving Dinner after our morning services.  Along with many people getting baptized, we will also be taking a special Inagthering offering that morning with the goal of receiving $100,000 to be used as seed money toward our much needed Nursery Renovation and Expansion.

Nov 25 = BOUNTIFUL HARVEST:  On this evening Gaylord E-Free partners with other area churches to deliver full Thanksgiving meals to hundreds and hundreds of families in our community who are struggling financially.  Along with each dinner, these families also receive the Gospel and an invitation to be part of one of our area churches.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Back Home Again in Indiana

Last weekend I had the opportunity to go back to Osceola, Indiana - which is a very special place for me.  It was there at the age of 30 that I had my first Senior Pastorate as I was able to lead the Osceola Grace Brethren Church for 9 years.  Few things are as special to a pastor as the first church he is able to lead as a Senior Pastor and for me, this was the first time I had the opportunity to return to this special church.  What a thrill it was for Laura and Joy and I to see so many dear friends that we loved (and still love) so much and to get so very many hugs!

This is also the place where my children spent their "growing up" years.  In fact, while we were there Joy found in a classroom one of my son's most favorite toys from when he was little - a huge dinosaur. Along with other toys, we donated it to the church before we left Indiana. Amazing, isn't it, how a toy can bring back so many smiles, laughter and wonderful memories? 

We actually lived in two homes over those 9 years in Indiana.  The first was on Eleventh Street in Mishawaka, Indiana (pictured first below).  The second home was on County Road 22 in Elkhart (pictured second below).  As we drove by both houses last weekend (literally taking a drive down 'memory lane') and I took these pictures of how these houses look today, I smiled as I thought about neighbors at each of these houses that God gave us the privilege of seeing come to know Jesus while we lived next door to them!

We've actually done a lot of moving since we've been married.  We lived in an apartment and then three different houses while I was a youth and associate pastor in West Milton, OH.  We lived in the two houses seen above when I was the Senior Pastor in Osceola, IN.  We then lived in another house where I pastored in Lititz, PA.  And now we live in yet another house here in Gaylord, MI.  Let's see- that's 8 houses in 26 years of marriage (that's an average of a move about every 3.25 years).  

It was nice to be back in Indiana - but I think I'm about done with this moving thing (unless, however, it is into a house on a lake - that we are up for!)!

Monday, October 28, 2013

My Favorite Church Member

This past weekend I had the privilege of being part of the funeral for my most favorite church member of any church I have been able to pastor.  I know that pastors aren't supposed to have favorites - but I did!  It's kind of a "bad news/good news" scenario for those in my present church here at E-Free in Gaylord, Michigan.  The bad news is that you were not my favorite!  Sorry about that!  The good news is that there is now an opening for a new favorite and you can send me an application if you would like to be considered.

Seriously - Agnes Bracker (or "Grandma Backer" as we called her) was a pure delight.  I honestly don't think that God makes them any better than her.  She was a widow at the first church I was Senior Pastor of in Osceola, IN.  Her late husband was also a pastor and had actually been one of the previous pastors of the same church.  As a result, Agnes knew the challenges of being a pastor, and more importantly, she knew the challenges that came with being a pastor's wife.  As a result, she became very special to my both me and my wife.

She was also special to my children.  We would bring her to their sporting events and she would cheer for them on the sidelines as if they were her own grandchildren.  She was always part of our kid's birthdays and from that started a tradition.  When the gifts were all unwrapped a "wrapping paper fight" quickly ensued.  And it was Grandma Bracker who always threw the first wad of paper.  In fact, when my daughter heard of Grandma Bracker's death, she told the students in her classroom that she teaches about Grandma Bracker and gave them each a piece of paper so her class could have a paper fight in honor of Grandma Bracker.

At her funeral, I shared the following three thing I will always remember and cherish about Agnes.

First, Agnes encouraged bountifully!  In the 9 years I was at this church, every Sunday Agnes would tell me what a great sermon it was.  I'm sure if you are reading this and you were part of that church over those 9 years, she was definitely showing me grace.  Over the 28 years I have been a pastor, I have kept every single note, email and card of encouragement I have ever received.  I have them in notebooks and periodically, when this 'pastoring thing' gets tough (and it does), I pull out those notebooks and I read those correspondences.  And as I do so, I realize that no one has ever sent me more encouragement cards than Agnes.

Second, she prayed fervently.  If she knew you - she prayed for you!  That was a ministry that she began with her late husband and which she continued until the day she went home to be with her Lord last Wednesday.  I believe I can safely say that in the 28 years I have been a pastor, no church member has ever prayed for me more than Agnes did.

Third, she aged gracefully.  Agnes was 99 when she passed away.  She desperately desired to make it to that century mark but came up a little bit short (yet, I'm sure she is in no way disappointed).  But this is what amazed me about Agnes.  Over 28 years of ministry, what I have found is that the older people get in the church, the general pattern seems to be that they serve LESS and they criticize MORE.  Not Agnes.  She never stopped serving and her words were always filled with grace.

Agnes was my most favorite church member.  I readily admit that.  And when I get old (many, many decades from now), I want to be just like Grandma Bracker.  I want to always be the one who encourages bountifully; who prays fervently; and who ages gracefully!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

NOW through the END

As we enter the month of November we have 3 major themes for Sunday mornings.  Beginning Sunday, November 3, we will start a new message series called "How Great Is Our God" which will be a verse by verse study through Psalm 139.  We will be answering the questions, "How well does God know me?"; "How close is God to me?"; "How carefully has God made me?"; and "How much does God protect me?"  This will be a 4-week series covering November 3, 17, 24 and December 1.

On November 10, being that it is Veteran's Day weekend, we will take a one week break from our "How Great Is Our God" series for a special "Honoring of Veterans Sunday."  On this Sunday, instead of having two identical worship services as usual, we will have two completely different service (but at the same times as usual - 9am and 10:30am).  The 9am service will be our regular worship and preaching service.  This will be the only service I will be preaching in on that morning with a special Veteran's Day themed message as we look at some of "David's Mighty Men."  The 10:30am service will be a special honoring of all veterans.  Both services that morning will be special so attend either of them - or better yet - attend them both!

On Sunday, December 8, we will begin our Christmas message series that we are calling, "Let Your Light Shine."  On Sundays from December 8 through December 29 we will be walking through all of the teachings and stories in Scripture in which we see Jesus claiming to be "the Light" and how He taught us that as believers today, we are to be "His light."  This corresponds with our encouragement to everyone in our church to not only put up outdoor Christmas lights this year, but to leave them up and on through Easter in order to be a bright reminder to our community that to really understand Christmas, you have to connect it to Easter!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Spiritual Merit in Halloween

God continues to do a great work in our church here at Gaylord E-Free each and every Sunday.  Our October average this year is up nearly 40% from October just a year ago and this does not include the many, many people who are listening to our live broadcast at 9am on The Eagle 101.5 FM.  Literally, a day does not go by that I do not talk to someone who is listening via radio or who knows someone who is listening via radio!  Praise the Lord for what He is doing!

This Sunday will conclude our current series, “Mythbusters: Are Ghosts Real?”  We will be using this Sunday, which is the last Sunday before Halloween, to talk about this holiday in our culture.  Christians are divided today over participating in the cultural aspects of Halloween.  It is much like the issue of buying and eating meat offered to idols in the New Testament.  Some Christians thought it was wrong to buy and eat meat that had been offered to idols.  Other Christians had no problem with doing this.  

I have no plans this Sunday to answer the question of if Christians should participate in Halloween because, frankly, I don’t think there is one cut and dry answer for every follower of Jesus when it comes to this.  What I do plan to show this Sunday is how each of us who are followers of Jesus, no matter what our view is about participating in Halloween, can still allow October 31 to be a spiritually uplifting and motivating day.  After all, October 31 is still a day that the Lord has made and we need to rejoice and be glad in it.

The sermon will be quite unique this Sunday as I share some personal stories along with a couple of videos that are related.  At one point in the middle of the sermon I have asked Joshua to play and sing a song from my past that will also fit into the direction I will be going this Sunday in my message that I have entitled, “The Spiritual Merit on Halloween!”

This Sunday night will be the final week of our Parallel Points class that I am teaching from 6-7pm in the Chapel.  The first two Sundays were very exciting as the Chapel was literally filled with people. We wrap it up this Sunday by working through the Armor of God in Ephesians 6.  Even if you missed the first two Sunday nights you will still benefit from this final session.

It is going to a great Sunday here at E-Free.  Please be praying for God to use our services here and over the radio to meet as many people as possible right where they are at and help move them to where He wants them to be!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Announcing our Ingathering Project - Stepping out into the water!

On Friday of this week we will be mailing out a letter to our entire church family introducing our giving project for this year’s Ingathering Offering which will take place on Sunday, November 24.  On that Sunday we will be having our annual Ingathering Dinner as a church family.  As is our tradition here at E-Free, we will also be taking a second offering that morning for a special project as we do each year.  

Last year we raised many thousands of dollars toward our technology upgrade that is being installed this month and which will become operational in the very near future.  This year the project that the Elder Board has approved is raising seed money for our needed nursery expansion which is part of our three year vision plan. 

For those of you who read my blog, let me give you a "sneak peek" of what the letter will detail.  Below is a Q&A regarding this project and this special offering in which we have set a goal to see $100,000 given on that one day.

Why do we need to expand our nurseries?

We are seeing amazing growth on Sunday.  October this year is on pace to be a 40% increase from October just one year ago.  Much of this growth is in the area of young families with young children.  Our nursery expansion will accomplish several things:

·        First, it will ensure that we have enough room to care for and minister to the growing population of our church which has children ages 3 and under.

·        Second, it will allow us to put our nursery ministry all in one location.  Currently our nursery is in two locations of our church which makes it very difficult on parents who are bringing multiple small children to church.

·        Third, it will allow us to provide a nursery area in which we can secure all the rooms which are used to minister to the youngest and most vulnerable of our church family.  As you know, security of children must be a priority in the world we live in today.

·        Fourth, this will better equip us to be able to meet as many people as possible right where they are so that we can help move them to where God wants them to be!

How large will this expansion of the nursery be?

We will be literally doubling our current nursery capacity by adding 2400 square feet to our present nursery area.

Will this expansion provide any other rooms besides nursery space?

Yes!  Because our current nursery area is directly over a section of our downstairs classrooms, we are also looking to expand this space downward.  Along with the 2400 square feet of nursery expansion upstairs we will also be able to add an additional 2400 square feet multi-purpose room on our lower level which will become our biggest room downstairs.

Do we have any conceptual drawings to show this expansion?

Yes!  The Vision Team that was established by the Elder Board and by our Leadership Team to implement our vision put together a building sub-committee to begin work on this expansion plan.  This sub-committee is headed by Ed Hunt and also includes Chris Olds and Brad Butcher.  They presented preliminary drawings to our church leadership earlier this week.  These drawings will be available for you to see out in the foyer beginning Sunday, November 3.  Please keep in mind that these are just conceptual drawings.  These are not final plans. 

How much will this expansion cost?

The estimated cost of this expansion and renovation of our nurseries (including the additional lower lever) is under $450,000.  If that figure seems staggering to you think of it this way.  If you were going to build a house today it would cost you well over $150.00 a square foot.  The building sub-committee has worked hard to ensure the best quality expansion for the best possible price.  This total cost divides out to just $88.00 a square foot (about half of what you would spend if you were to look to build a new house today).  That is not only an amazing figure – it is outstanding stewardship of our money. 

How does our annual Ingathering offering fit into this?

The Elder Board has unanimously voted to use 100% of this year’s Ingathering offering as seed money for our nursery expansion.  Our goal is to see the largest Ingathering offering in the history of our church take place with the result being $100,000 given on that one day, November 24, as seed money toward this much needed expansion.  If $100,000 seems a bit high to you for a one day offering, please remember that if we want to see God work in a big way, we need to first step out on faith.  That’s why we have set this BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal.  As D.L. Moody once said, “If God is your partner, make your plans large.”

As a result, we will be asking our church family to earnestly pray about the role God might have each person/family play to see us reach this goal in our Ingathering Offering on Sunday, November 24.  Think of it this way.  The total cost of this renovation/expansion is around $88.00 per square foot.  We are asking each person to consider how many square feet they or their family can provide on November 24.  It would break down this way:

$88.00          =          1 square foot
$176.00        =          2 square feet
$264.00        =          3 square feet
$440.00        =          5 square feet
$880.00        =          10 square feet
$1,056.00    =          12 square feet
$2,200.00    =          25 square feet
$4,400.00    =          50 square feet
$8,800.00    =          100 square feet
$22,000.00  =          250 square feet
$44,000.00 =          500 square feet
$88,000.00  =          1000 square feet

How can we talk about a building expansion when we aren’t meeting our annual budget?

There is a pattern seen clearly in Scripture which is that if we want to see God work in and through us, we must first take steps of faith.  Remember when the Children of Israel got to the edge of the swollen and flooded Jordan River in Joshua chapter 3?  God could have simply said, “Stand back and watch,” and then parted the water.  But that is not what He did.  Instead, He commanded that the priests carrying the heavy Ark of the Covenant first step into that swollen and fierce river.  Once the soles of their sandals hit the water, God went into action and the river parted.  What’s the lesson?  If we simply sit back and wait – little will happen; but if we take steps of faith – we will see God work in extraordinary ways!  That is His pattern.

Hebrews 11 teaches us that, “Without faith it is impossible to please God!”  For example, we stepped out on faith with this Vision Plan and God opened the door far earlier than we had planned to a radio ministry on The Eagle (101.5) that is now having an amazing impact each and every week.  He has now also opened the door for us to expand our radio ministry in the very near future with The Promise FM (90.5).  That’s God’s pattern! 

With that in mind, we are again ready to step out on faith and put our feet in the water, fully believing that God will respond.  We are confident that if we are off track, God will close the door, but if we are on the right track, and we truly believe we are, we are confident that God will continue to open the doors wide for us.

Please also keep in in mind that our Elder Board and Leadership Team view our annual budget very much as a “Faith Budget.”  In other words, we believe our budget should include all that we believe God wants us to do in the coming year and then trust Him for the resources.  Some people confuse stewardship with budgets.  We believe that budgets are based on faith while spending is based on stewardship.  As a result, we will always look to increase our budget (that’s faith) but we will never spend more than what comes in (that’s stewardship).  As a result, we have safety nets in place to ensure stewardship in our spending including a Purchase Order System in which all spending over $199.00 has to be pre-approved, as well as an emergency fund that we have established and set aside in case of something unforeseen taking place.  Because of this, we believe that vision should always drive the budget.  We never want to make the mistake of allowing budget to dictate the vision.

Won’t our asking for money toward a major project like this take away from other giving?

I honestly believe that just the opposite will happen.  The money is there.  All we need to do is to provide the vision and the opportunity for people to give generously.  What I have found is that when people give generously to one project, they become much more likely to give more generously in all other areas as well.  Obviously, we would ask that no one take away from their regular giving in order to give to this project.  I think that what we will find is that promoting giving to this project will actually effect our other giving positively as well. 

What are we asking of you as someone who is part of our church ministry?

That is a one word answer - PRAY!  Nothing of eternal importance happens apart from prayer.  Will you join us in praying that God will allow us to meet and even surpass this goal?  I believe in specific prayer.  Will you join me in praying that God will allow us to see $100,000 given in our Ingathering Offering on Sunday, November 24?

I would also encourage you to take the special Ingathering Offering envelope that you will soon be receiving in the mail with the letter being sent and put it some place where you will see it every day so that you can pray daily about what God would lay on your heart to give above and beyond your regular giving on Sunday, November 24.  What step of faith will you take?  How generous will God lead you to be? 

God is doing amazing things in our church!  Thank you for your partnership in ministry here at E-Free as we strive to meet as many people as possible right where they are so that we can move them to where God wants them to be.

Pastor Scott

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tim Hortons: A Lesson in Good Coffee and Forgiveness

One of my personal weaknesses is coffee.  I really do believe that there is going to be a KEURIG machine in every mansion in heaven!  I drink coffee all day (mostly decaf - I'm usually wired enough).  As a result, I get around to all the coffee places in town quite regularly.  I especially enjoy McDonalds and Biggby Coffee.  But I have to say that my favorite coffee in town is at Tim Horton's (and with my Gaylord High School Band Booster Card I get a free doughnut with every coffee purchase - NICE!)!

To be perfectly honest, however, when I first came to town I resisted pulling in to Tim Horton's.  In fact, my stomach usually knotted up just driving by the establishment.  The problem wasn't Tim Horton's.  The problem was me.  You see, Tim Horton's reminded me of a wound from my past.  Earlier in my life I was deeply hurt by a person who was loosely connected to Tim Horton's restaurants.  The wound really had nothing at all to do with Tim Horton's, but the mental connection in my head between that person and this restaurant went directly to my heart.  I have to admit that this spiritual battle lasted for months.

Many times as I would drive by the local Tim Horton's and cringe at the memory, the Spirit of God would prompt me that it was time to pull in for a cup of coffee and let go of the bitterness that was still brewing in my spirit.  Sadly, for months I quenched the Spirit's leading in this area.  In fact, I would find myself taking the back roads whenever I had to go to the other end of town just so I would not have to pass by the Tim Horton's restaurant.

Forgiveness is a strange thing.  Sometimes you convince yourself that you have mastered it only to discover by your inability or unwillingness to pull in for a a coffee that you still have a ways to go.  I'll never forget the morning about a year ago that I finally said to myself, "ENOUGH!"  It was time to take that step of faith and go beyond my fleshly desire to hang on to my bitterness and to forgive.  After all, by my not being able or willing to enter the local Tim Horton's establishment I was not in any way hurting the individual who wounded me.  I was only hurting myself and allowing that seed of bitterness in my life to grow and grow and grow.

So that morning I drove to the local Tim Horton's and, with sweaty palms and a racing pulse, I ordered a cup of hot Tim Horton's coffee (black - no sugar or creamer because I'm a real man!) and I sat down in a booth and I drank every last drop of it.  I can't say as if that cup of coffee took away all my bitterness but I can say that it was one giant step of faith for me in the right direction.

That ended up being the best cup of coffee I have ever drank!

Monday, October 21, 2013


What a special night tonight has been.  It started with catching a quick dinner with my lovely wife.  That alone is reason to love any evening.  But this one became even more special when our waitress recognized that I was the pastor at the E-Free Church.  After we finished our dinner she knelt down by our table and asked if she could "burden" us with something for us to pray about for her.  She told us about her mother who is dying with cancer.  She told us how her husband had left her earlier this year.  She told us how she had lost her main job recently and now only had her part-time waitress salary to make ends meet.  We were able to encourage her, assure her of our prayers, and invite her to be part of our church.

When it came time to leave the tip I reached into my pocket where I remembered I had put some money that I had found earlier that day and was unable to locate its owner.  I suddenly knew why God had allowed me to find that money that very day.  He had indeed set up a Divine Appointment for us.  In fact, the restaurant we were at was not our first choice that evening.  We actually had first gone to a different restaurant but they were out of soup and that is what we were craving so we went to this restaurant instead where we had this specific lady as a waitress.  What a thrill it was for me to leave her a 200% tip that I believe God had orchestrated for her to have.

From there we went back to the church where we had a meeting with our church leadership to present the concepts for an upcoming facility expansion as we look to more than double our current nursery area.  Our church is literally exploding in growth (this October we are up 40% from last October) and the majority of that growth is young families.  Along with adding 2400 square feet to our nursery, this expansion will also allow us to add 2400 square feet to our lower level as well, giving us our largest classroom in our facility. Our goal is to raise $100,000 in seed money for this expansions in our annual Ingathering Offering this coming November 24.  A letter along with a special giving envelope will be going out to our church family next week explaining all of this.

When we were finished with the meeting tonight there was a real buzz in the room.  Our leadership is excited about taking steps of faith and watching what God does!  I love meetings like this.  I love being part of a church that is moving forward in meeting as many people as possible right where they are and helping to move them to where God wants them to be.

And if all of that wasn't exciting enough, I was able to drive home in the snow!  I love winter in northern Michigan.  There are few things I love more than watching it snow.  It was the "white" icing on the cake for a perfect evening!

No Spiritual Streaking Permitted!

Ephesians 6:10-20
New American Standard Bible (NASB)

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 
 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 

When it comes to our spiritual battles, standing in victory begins with having a proper perspective.  We must first and foremost have an attitude of dependence.  This is tougher that you might think because we live in a culture that is all about being self-sufficient. Instead of being confident in our own power, position, degrees or knowledge, we must be dependent on the power of God.  We are to be strong “in the Lord” and we are to be strong “in the power of His might.”  Here is the point - our strength is never sufficient to oppose Satan but the Lord’s strength is always more than sufficient for our spiritual battle. 

Remember, it’s not the amount of strength that we have that counts but rather the source of that strength.  In Revelation 3:8 Jesus tells the church at Philadelphia that though they have “little power,” that He will open a door of opportunity for them that no man can shut.  Paul understood this as well in Philippians 4:13 where he says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  Through His cross and resurrection Jesus has already defeated Satan and his power over sin and death (Romans 5:18-21; 1 Corinthians 15:56-57; Hebrews 2:14).  We now can depend on His power.

This also involves depending on God’s protection.  Verse 11 tells us that to take advantage of the strength of God, believers must put on the whole armor of God that He supplies.  Paul writes this letter to the church at Ephesus while in prison in Rome.  He was probably chained to a Roman guard when he wrote these words and was inspired by the Holy Spirit as he looked at the guard’s armor. 

There is a big difference, however.  When a Roman guard went back to his barracks at the end of the day, he would most-likely take his armor off for the night.  He would then put it on again when it was time to go back on duty.  That is not the case with this spiritual armor Paul is speaking about.  The word “put on” is written in a tense that speaks of putting it on once and for all.  It isn’t a uniform that we only wear to work or only wear on game day.  We are to put on our armor and leave it on.  We are to live in our armor!  Why is this the case?  This is crucial because we live on the battlefield.  We never come off the battlefield. 

When you sit in church – you are on the battlefield!
When you go home – you are on the battlefield!
When you watch TV – you are on the battlefield!
When you sleep – you are on the battlefield!
When you go to work – you are on the battlefield!
When you go out to eat – you are on the battlefield!
When you shop – you are on the battlefield!
When you play – you are on the battlefield!

It is so important that we understand our spiritual armor and wear every piece of it 24/7.  With it on, we can “stand firm against the schemes of the devil.”  The word “stand firm” is a military word that describes holding a critical position while under attack.  Jesus told the church at Thyatira the same thing in Revelation 2:25 when He said to “stand firm till He comes!”  We do this – we stand firm against Satan’s attacks – by depending on the protection of God which is evident when we live in our armor.

According to 1 Peter 5:8, Satan is like a "roaring lion" stalking his prey.  That is right!  The forces of evil are stalking us.  That is why Paul said earlier in Ephesians that we are "not to give the devil any opportunity" (Ephesians 4:24).  According to Paul in chapter six, when we wear our armor we are protected against the schemes of the devil.  The word “schemes” is where we get our word “methods.”  Satan has a playbook!  He is crafty, cunning and deceiving.  He knows just how to attack us and he is stalking us, waiting for that moment when we take a piece of our armor off. 

As a Christ-follower we must understand that there is no spiritual streaking permitted!  We must live in our armor 24/7 because we live on the battlefield 24/7!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Sundays Upcoming

There is no question about it - Sunday is the very best day of the week, especially here at Gaylord E-Free Church.  Here is what is upcoming in regards to our message series in Sundays upcoming:

This Sunday - October 20:  We will complete our 2-week look at the story of Saul and the Witch of Endor in 1 Samuel 28 as part of our series, "Mythbusters: Are Ghosts Real?"  Last Sunday we saw the historical and even the geographical background of this rather bizarre story in Scripture.  Saul is desperate, so what does he do?  He goes to a witch - a medium - and asks her to conjure up the spirit of the dead prophet, Samuel.  Now something happens that is so out of the ordinary that the witch screams.  What was it?  Was it Samuel?  Was it a demon?  That's what we will talk about this Sunday.

Next Sunday - October 27:  This will be the final Sunday of our series, "Mythbusters: Are Ghosts Real?"  It is also the Sunday before Halloween.  What a controversial day Halloween has become in the church.  But should it be that controversial?  Why is it that most Christians simply want to curl up inside and wait the day out - almost skipping it on the calendar?  Isn't October 31 a day that the Lord has made?  Shouldn't we rejoice and be glad in it?  This week the sermon is going to be very different but I am going to show you how this Halloween can be a spiritually uplifting day for you no matter what your convictions are when it comes to participating in the many cultural aspects of it.

As we move into November we will look to have a 4-week series called "How Great Is Our God" as we study verse by verse through Psalm 139.  That series will be interrupted on November 10 for a special Veteran's Weekend.  On that Sunday, our 9am service will be our regular preaching service and I will be sharing a message related to Veteran's Day.  Then, our 10:30am service will be a special honoring of Veterans which is being put together by Jack Dutton, our Director of Counseling ministries here at Gaylord E-Free, along with his Soldier Ministry Planning Team.  Please note that there will be no preaching aspect to our 10:30 service - that will take place during our 9am service.  So you can chose to attend either service or both services as they will be completely different from each other.

We will then take the Christmas month of December to focus on the idea of LIGHT.  Our theme for the month will be "Let Your Light Shine" as we connect all of the Christmas lights from this time of the year to the many instances of Jesus referring to Himself as "The Light" and telling us as His followers that we are "The Light of the World."

We then typically use the winter months to do a character study in the Bible.  So starting in January and running through the first 2 Sundays in March, we will be studying the life of Moses from his birth through his leading Israel out of Egyptian bondage.

Join us every Sunday here at Gaylord E-Free:

9am - Classic Service
9am - Contemporary Service
9am - Live Radio Broadcast on The Eagle (101.5 FM)
10:30am - Contemporary Service

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hooked on Radio!

It happened again as it does most every day.  Someone from our church stopped me this week and with great excitement told me that one of their neighbors is now attending church with them and guess what their first contact with us was?  Your guessed right!  It was listening to our 9am Contemporary Worship service live on the radio.  That story is playing out over and over and over again.  It is nearly impossible to go a full day or to go anywhere in our community and not meet someone or hear of someone that we are reaching through our radio ministry.

I have to admit it - I'M HOOKED!  I have bought in "hook, line and sinker" to the value of radio (and all other technologies) to reach as many people as possible with the truths of the Word of God.  It reminds me of what Dr Jerry Falwell called "saturation evangelism." which he defined as "reaching every available person through every available method with the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

Currently our radio ministry has two branches.  Every Wednesday morning at about 8:20, I have a 10-15 minute live show on The Eagle 101.5 FM.  The Eagle is the hometown radio station here in Gaylord, Michigan that reaches into over 20 counties in northern Michigan.  It isn't a Christian station.  It is quite secular.  It's style is "classic hits at random" but its draw is it's community flavor.  Each Wednesday morning I take in with me a topic about life and Mike (the morning "radio guy" who is exceptional in connecting with people over the airwaves) and I talk about it.  He asks questions and I answer them from a Biblical point of view.  I have been doing this weekly show for the entire 2.5 years I have lived here in Gaylord and have been amazed at the listenership there is in town.  It is not uncommon at all for someone to stop me in the community and say, "Hey, I recognize your voice - your the preacher on the radio, aren't you?"

Beginning over the summer we were able to expand our radio ministry on The Eagle when one of the Sunday morning slots opened up to air our service live.  The growth we have seen in our church since we started airing one of our Sunday morning services live on Th Eagle has been dramatic and much of that is due to people who first heard our service on the radio and are now checking out our services live and in person.  The best part is that these are not people that we are drawing away from other churches.  For the most part, the people who are listening to The Eagle at 9am on Sunday morning are those who currently do not go to church.

What an impact this is having.  We desire to leverage this as much as possible so we had 3,000 round invite cards made to invite people to listen to our 9am broadcast.  People in our church are passing these out to friends.  We also are currently in conversation with a local restaurant to use these as "coasters" for glasses on their tables.  We want to get the word out because we have found that radio ministry works here in northern Michigan.

As God continues to open doors we are hoping to see this expand even more.  The Promise FM (90.5) is part of Northern Christian Radio whose station is located right next door to our church.  We are currently working on finalizing plans and production to broadcast a weekly show of the sermons I preach here at Gaylord E-Free in a show we are going to call, "Folks, Listen!"  The Promise FM has a powerful signal which covers large areas here in northern Michigan and even up into Canada.  Over 500,000 people live in the listening area of The Promise FM.  The opportunities to impact thousands more for Jesus via radio is staggering.

In order to help The Promise FM and to begin to gain exposure for our new radio show that starts next month, I am participating as one of the "on-air" personalities for their fall share-a-thon in which they are looking to raise $120,000 in pledges.  I spent 2 hours on air Tuesday, 3 hours on Wednesday and I will do 3 more hours "on-air" on Thursday.

This is all amazing but radio is just the beginning of how we believe God is leading us to use technology to saturate our county with the Gospel and then let it bleed over into all of northern Michigan.  Live streaming on the internet; broadcasting to other parts of our facility; satellite campuses in other areas of northern Michigan and even a TV ministry is part of our prayerful vision.

Please pray with us that God will allow us to utilize technology to meet as many people as possible right where they are here in northern Michigan so that we can help to move them to where God wants them to be!