Friday, August 30, 2013

Vision Update - Look What God Is Doing!

Last spring we unveiled our 3-year vision plan here at Gaylord E-Free to allow us to meet as many people as possible and help move them to where God wants them to be.  The goal of this vision that we believe that God has given to us is to saturate Otsego County with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and let it bleed over into all of northern Michigan.  We are amazed at how God is already opening doors for our church.  Here is an update on the progress of our vision plan:

·       Having our services on the radio was an aspect of our vision plan for 2104 but God has blessed us and allowed this to become a reality a year early as our 9am Contemporary Service is now live each Sunday on The Eagle (101.5).

·       2014 was also the year we were looking to hire a full-time Director of Children’s Ministry who could focus all of their attention on our nursery through grade 6 ministry.  Again, God has gone ahead of our plans and we should be able to announce the reality of this new position in September of 2013.

·       Our technology team is working hard to finalize the next phase of our technology upgrade which has already been funded by donors.  This will include upgraded lighting and new cameras.  We are still very hopeful that this will be completed yet this year.  This will allow us to begin broadcasting each week’s message down to the Classic Service in the Chapel while also setting us up to be able to live stream our services on the internet, enhance our radio ministry, and even begin to move toward a television ministry.

·       Phase 1 of our technology upgrade will also provide environmental project in both the Contemporary and Classic services allowing us to use the entire front and sides of the auditoriums to enhance our worship and learning experience. 

·       A job description is currently being formed and monies being put into the 2104 budget for a part-time technology director who can help us in seeing our broadcasting, live-streaming, radio and television ministries move forward with excellence in allowing us to saturate Otsego County with the Gospel and then letting it naturally bleed over into all of northern Michigan.

·       A job description has already been put together for a less than part-time (just a few hours each week) Worship Leader for our Classic Service to bring continuity and to enhance our worship.

·       Plans are already being drawn up for an expansion of our nursery and for the addition of a coffee cafĂ© where people can connect before, in between, and after worship services.

·       Much painting and other work has already taken place on the areas of our vision plan that deal with building upkeep.  In the coming weeks we will also be transferring our facility over from propane to natural gas, saving our church thousands of dollars each year.

·       We have accomplished our goal in 2013 of seeing 14.5% of every dollar that comes into our general fund going to outreach and missions.  Next year that amount will increase to 17%.

·       We have exceed our goal in 2013 of seeing 60% of our average Sunday morning adult attendance involved in an Equip-U Class or in a Life  Group.  Next year we move this goal up to 70%.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

That's My Story And I'm Sticking To It

If you have met Jesus and Jesus has changed your life, you have a powerful story that people need to hear.  In John chapter 9, the man born blind tells his story.  “I was blind!  Jesus touched me!  Now I see!”  It’s very simple - His life before Christ; How he found Christ; The change in his life since finding Christ.  The Apostle Paul used the same pattern in Acts 26 - His life before Christ; How he found Christ; The change in his life since finding Christ.  Folks, listen, if the blind man used this pattern to tell his story and Paul used this pattern to tell his story, doesn't it just make sense that we can use this same pattern to tell our story? 

Here's my story.  I grew up in a Christian home.  My grandpa was a pastor and my family was at church every single time the doors were open.  Because my dad was also the custodian, we were also at church even when the doors were closed, so church was a big part of my life.

At the age of 5 I started attending a weekly Good News club taught by my Aunt Ruth.  I went primarily for the punch and cookies.  But every week I heard my aunt tell the same story.  She talked about how God loved me and wanted me to go to heaven but because I was a sinner and had done wrong things I couldn't go.  But she also told me that God loved me enough that He sent his own son, Jesus, to this earth to live a perfect life and then die on the cross to pay the punishment that I deserved for my sin.  He then rose again.  She said He was the only way to heaven and that if I would receive Jesus into my life, He would forgive my sins and give me a home in heaven. 

I heard my Aunt Ruth tell that story every single week but one afternoon at that Good News club as I listened to her tell that story yet again, it hit me.  Even though I knew those facts, I personally had never received Jesus in to my life.  On that day, sitting on the front porch of that house, my aunt led me in a prayer in which I received Jesus Christ into my life, asking Him to forgive my sins and to give me a home in heaven. 

I'd like to tell you that there was a drastic change in my life but I was only 5.  I was a sinner but how much sin does a 5-year-old really get in to?  I remember over the years listening to testimonies of people that were bank robbers, drug dealers and murderers who found Jesus and their life changed and I thought, “My story's kind of boring.”  So I tried to change it.  I would say, “I was a bank robber, murderer and drug dealer, but at the age of five I found Jesus and my life changed!”  That didn't seem to make sense.  That's when I realized that it took just as much of the grace of God to save me as a 5-year-old sinner as it did anyone else. 

And since that day when I was five years old and received Jesus, my life has been one that has grown regularly in wanting to know Jesus, to love Jesus, and to serve Jesus.  The Bible says in John 1:12, “To as many as received Him, to them God gave the power to be children of God even to those who believe in His name.”  Folks, listen, that's my story and I'm sticking to it all the way into eternity!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Breaking the Sound Barrier

We’re trying to make evangelism easy.  Yesterday I talked about putting friendliness over function.  Today I want to talk about breaking the sound barrier.  Here’s what I mean by that.

Once you get to know someone that you're having conversations with it’s now time to drop a spiritual word – to break the sound barrier by going from the physical realm to the spiritual.  Breaking the sound barrier is when you throw a spiritual word into the mix and see what God does with it.  There are many spiritual words you could use - Church, God, Jesus, Lord, Bible, pray, faith, heaven, and a multitude of others. 

I was talking to someone recently who said, “Isn't it a gorgeous day?”  This was a chance for me to break the sound barrier.  My response was, “Oh, yeah, the Lord sure gave us a beautiful day today, didnt He.”  That’s breaking the sound barrier by dropping a spiritual word into the conversation.  There's a couple I have gotten to know and when I was talking to her at a local business I asked where her husband was.  She told me that he was not feeling well that day.  I replied with, “Please tell him that I will be praying for him.”  That’s breaking the sound barrier. 

This will ultimately get you to where you can test the waters.  Folks, listen, one of the keys to sharing your  faith is in discerning, “Is the spirit of God working here or not?”  My preferred way of doing this is to ask them this, “Do you know for sure that you're going to heaven?”  Why do I find that to be a great question?  First, it's not offensive.  I have never had anybody reply to that question by saying, “I can't believe you want me to go to heaven, you cruel man.”  Second, it allows you to know if there’s an opening – if God is working here.  If their answer is, “I don't want to hear anything about that kind of stuff,” no problem.  Then I'm going to back off and I'm going to keep praying for them and wait until there's an opening. 

I have found, however, that a common answer I get is, “I hope so.”  After all, most people want to go to heaven.  That gives me an opportunity because I can then say something like this, “You know, the Bible says that you can know for sure that you're going to heaven.  You don't have to hope.  You can know.  Does that interest you?”  Now I'll be able to discern very quickly if there is an open door or not.  If they say, “Yeah, that really interests me,” then I have a green light.  If they say, “No, I really don't want to hear about that,” again, that's fine. I back off and go back to praying for them and putting friendliness over function with them. 

I love 1 John 5:13.  It says, “These things I've written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”  You don't have to hope.  You don't have to keep your fingers crossed.  You can know. 

Give it whirl.  It’s not hard!  It’s easy and it’s fun.  Start putting friendliness over function.  Be willing to break the sound barrier and see what God does.  Then, don't be afraid to test the waters and see if God is working.  

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Let’s play just one round of a word association game.  I’ll say a word and you tell me the first thing that comes into your mind.  Here’s the word – EVANGELISM.  What did you think of? 

For many Christians, it’s the “dreaded E-word.”  Their thoughts on evangelism immediately turn towards one of two extremes.  For some, they think of a spiritual superstar like Billy Graham.  For others, they think of that obnoxious zealot, that Bible thumper who's always pushing God down your throat.  For those who think of Billy Graham. They conclude that they could never be like him.  For those who think of the obnoxious zealot, they would prefer not to be like him.  The result is that most Christians don’t share their faith. 

The sad truth is that I think we have made sharing our faith far more difficult that it really is.  So let me make it easy.  Let me give you a starting point.  It doesn’t take a theologian, pastor, missionary or evangelist to start here.  This is for everyone.  Sharing your faith starts with putting friendliness over function.  The first step for anybody in sharing their faith is starting a conversation.  Let me give you some real practical helps. 

First, you need to be where lost people are.  You need to be intentional about spending time in your week rubbing shoulders with the unchurched.  I've really tried over the last several months to become more intentional about this myself.  Believe me, it is easy for a pastor to spend all of his week inside the church.    I've tried to take some of my meetings to places like Tim Horton's and McDonald's and God has already blessed that.  I’ve been able to meet people who don’t go to church that I would have never met in my office.    

I had a local manager of restaurant come over and start talking to me and the guy I was having a meeting with in the restaurant where he worked.  We got talking about his job.  He shared that he felt like he had no purpose in his life.  I asked him if I brought him a book that showed him how to have purpose in his life, and gave it to him as a gift, would he read it.  He said, “Yes,” so the very next day I took him the book.

We have to rub shoulders with lost people.  To be intentional about this, I go to the same place for lunch three days a week.  Almost every day I've been able to meet an unchurched person I have never known before.  Let me say it again, you have to rub shoulders with lost people. 

Secondly, smile!  Do you realize smiling is an international language?  Everyone understands it.  For heaven’s sake, smile!  I just don’t get Christian who don’t smile.  Smile!
Third, be a greeter.  I honestly believe that no Christian should ever pass anybody without initiating a greeting.  The sad part is that we don't even do that in church.  How many people did you walk by last Sunday morning in your church that you have no idea who they are, and you didn't even say, “Hello?”  Be a greeter. 

Fourth, notice the obvious.  If they are wearing a unique piece of jewelry, ask them about it.  If they're wearing a shirt that has something written on it, a sports team or school name, ask them about it.  If they have kids with them, ask them about their children.  If they're pregnant, ask them when they're due (just be sure they are really pregnant before you ask that question). 

Finally, ask good questions.  What's a good question?  A good question has two elements. First, it cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no” answer.  If you can answer a question with a “yes” or “no”, then it's not a good question.  Secondly, it needs to be a question about the other person.  People like to talk about themselves. 

Folks, listen, if we're going to get to the point that we're sharing our faith, we have to put friendliness over function.  That’s where it all begins.  

Monday, August 26, 2013

Allow Me To PROVOKE You!

Hebrews 10:24 starts out by saying, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.”  Focus your attention on the main verb, “consider how.”  This is what we are being commanded to do.  It's a word that literally means "to take the initiative."  in other words, we are being commanded to be proactive.  We are being commanded to think ahead.  We are being commanded to be the ones to start something.  It's the idea of careful attentiveness.  So you really could translate the verse this way, “Let us give careful attention as to how we can intentionally stimulate each other to love and good deeds.”  

Notice, this is not something that's accidental.  He's not saying, “If the circumstance allows itself, stimulate one another” or “If an opportunity happens to pop up, stimulate one another.”  We need to, in advance, be giving careful attention as to how we as an individuals can take the initiative to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. 

Now focus on the word “stimulate.”  It is also translated “provoke” or “irritate.”  It's the idea of riding a horse.  How do you make the horse go faster?  It doesn’t happen by saying, “pretty please” to the horse.  To get the horse to go faster you must stimulate it; provoke it; irritate it a little bit.  Then the horse will go faster. 

A good teacher knows how to stimulate, provoke, or irritate her students to greater academic excellence.  A good coach knows how to stimulate, provoke, or irritate his players to greater athletic excellence.  A good pastor knows how to stimulate, provoke, or irritate his congregation to greater spiritual excellence.  Folks, listen, the truth is that if someone doesn't push us out of love, we'll never reach our potential. 

Think of it this way.  Every Sunday when you go to church, you carry with you two buckets.  You may not be able to see them but they're there.  Actually, you carry these buckets everywhere you go.  One of them is filled with water.  The other is filled with gasoline.  Both buckets are good.  In fact, both buckets are needed.  There are times that we need you to pour water on the church.  There are also times that we need you to pour gas on the church.  The key is knowing which bucket to use at what time. 

There are two fires that are always burning inside the church.  One of them is started by the Holy Spirit of God.  It's the fire of spiritual fervor as he gets your spiritual life moving and you're excited.  On those types of fires in our church we need to pour on some gas, some stimulant, so it burns into a huge flame for Jesus Christ.  Unfortunately, many times we tend to pour water on those kinds of fires and discourage people in their faith.

There's a second fire that's always burning within the church.  This fire is put there by the evil one.  He is just as active to start these fires in the church as the Holy Spirit is to start the fire of spiritual zeal and fervor.  These are fires of criticalness, dissension, and disunity.  On these fires you need to pour water.  You need to help put out these fires.  Unfortunately, when many people come across one of these fires in the church, they end up getting sucked right in to it and pouring gas on the fire resulting in the criticalness flaming stronger. 

Every time you speak you're pouring out the contents of one of your two buckets?  Every time you send an e-mail you're pouring out the contents of one of your two buckets.  According to this verse, what we need to do is to prayerfully ask ourselves, “What bucket does this situation call for?”  Is this a situation that I need to pour water on the flame of criticalness and disunity to help extinguish it, or is this a situation where I need to pour gasoline on the flame of spiritual fervor and zeal to enable it to burn brighter?

In a sense, Hebrews 10:24 is saying this, “Give special attention to being intentional about pouring gasoline on the fire of spiritual zeal in the lives of other Christians so that we all together can reach our redemptive potential on earth.”  Folks, listen, isn’t it time that you did a little “spiritual provoking” in your church?

Sunday, August 25, 2013


This morning I did something I have never done before - I preached wearing legitimate suspenders.  What possessed me to do such a thing?  It is all because of a man named Bud.  Bud Belt is a part of our church here at Gaylord E-Free who was recently diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and who started chemotherapy this week.

Our Elder Board went over this past week to pray with and for Bud and his wonderful wife, Rea Jean.  While we were there, Bud shared his story with us of how he started several Southern Baptist churches that he pastored for over 30 years.  This prompted one of our Elders to ask, "Bud, is Pastor Scott's preaching baptist enough for you?"

Bud replied, "Oh, yes.  He gets going and his shirt comes untucked."  He then added as he snapped the suspenders he was wearing, "If only we could get him to wear some suspenders when he preached."

So I went out and got me some suspenders this week and wore them while I preached this morning.  Due to his sickness, I knew Bud would not be here in church to see me wearing them but I also knew that he and his wife would be listening on the radio to our first service which is aired live .  As a result, I told this story before I preached and snapped my suspenders to that Bud could heart it over the radio.  Before I did so, I borrowed the phrase from the old beer commercial and said


Friday, August 23, 2013

What Does JOHN-JOHN Have That SCOTT-SCOTT Doesn't?

Hebrews 4:16 tells us that we can, “Draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  What a promise!  I’m just not sure we really understand its significance.  I think all too often we take these powerful words for granted. 

Perhaps a story from the political world can help us to wrap our minds around this great truth.  It's a story that takes place during the administration of President John F. Kennedy.  As you well likely now, the time of the JFK administration was often called Camelot.  One of the reasons for this was because it was the first time in many years that children ran and played through the halls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. 

The story is told of the day when President Kennedy was in the oval office and in a high level meeting with some of the greatest military minds in the world.  Those were tense and turbulent times for our country.  The Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs had America on what seemed in the minds of many to be the brink of nuclear war.  Meetings such as these were certainly top priority. 

The story goes that as this meeting was taking place, a little boy called “John-John” came racing down the hall of the west wing.  He ran by armed security guards.  He ran by secret service agents.  He ran by administrative hierarchy, and he ran right in to the oval office where he leaped into the lap of President Kennedy.  You would think that little “John-John” was about ready to get into a whole lot of trouble for disturbing this high-level meeting of the President.  However, just the opposite happened.  President Kennedy stopped what he was doing, turned his attention away from the greatest military minds in the world, and focused his attention on little “John-John.”  How amazing. 

I have just one question.  Why was “John-John” able to do that?  How come “Scott-Scott” couldn't do that?  What makes “John-John” so different?  The answer is simple.  “John-John” had something true about him that will never be true of “Scott-Scott.”  “John-John” was the child of the President of the United States.  That's why “John-John” could do this and why “Scott-Scott” better never try such a bold move. 

But guess what?   Through faith in Christ I have become a child of the living God.  John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”  That makes me a child of Almighty God.  That means that any time I want, and as often as I want, I can run down the portals of heaven through prayer.  I can run past angelic honor guard.  I can run past the cherubim and the seraphim, and I can run right in to the throne room of God and I can leap into the lap of Almighty God.  And when I do, the very God of the universe will focus his attention on me.  Not because of anything I've done, but because of everything Jesus did for me on the cross. 

Because of the cross of Jesus, I can leap into my Heavenly Father's lap and talk to him.  Because of the cross of Jesus, I can leap into my Heavenly Father’s lap and sing to him.  Because of the cross of Jesus, I can leap into my Heavenly Father's lap and laugh with him.  Because of the cross of Jesus, I can leap into my Heavenly Father's lap and cry with him.  And because of the cross of Jesus, I can leap into my Heavenly Father's lap and sit there, simply being still and knowing that my Heavenly Father isn’t just the President of the United States – He is God. 

Folks, Listen, that's what Christianity is.  It's not a religion.  It's a relationship that allows us to come boldly into the presence of God.  That's what worship is.  I think sometimes we focus on the wrong things when it comes to our worship.  Worship isn't an hour-long church service.  Worship isn't a worship team.  It's not a song.  It's not an instrument.  It's not even a singer.  Worship is entering boldly into the presence of God through faith in the cross of Jesus Christ and finding His mercy, His grace, and His help in our time of need!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Mickey Mantle and the Blood of Jesus

Hebrews 10:19 teaches us that we now have confidence to enter into the presence of God by the blood of Jesus.  Folks, listen.  Never underestimate the importance of the blood of Jesus Christ.  The blood of Jesus Christ changed everything.  Before the death of Christ, before the shedding of His blood, you could not go into the Holy of Holies which represented the presence of God.  Only the High Priest could do so, and he could only do it on one day each year – the Day of Atonement.  But today, through His blood, we have confidence to enter the presence of God any time we want and as often as we want.

Think for a moment about what it was like before the death of Christ.  You see, in the Old Testament, and even at the time of Jesus, they offered millions of animal sacrifices.  As a Jew living in that day, you didn't just offer a sacrifice once.  You offered those sacrifices over and over and over and over again.  Why was that the case?  This was so because all of those sacrifices were simply pictures of permanent forgiveness that would come when the ultimate sacrifice took place.  Those animal sacrifices did not bring permanent forgiveness.  They were simply pictures of the permanent forgiveness that would come when Jesus would die on the cross.  

Folks, listen, there is a very big difference between the picture and the real thing.  If you lived before the death of Jesus, all you could do is look at the picture.  But after the death of Jesus, we no longer need to offer all those sacrifices.  Have you ever wondered why we don’t’ offer animal sacrifices today when we go to church?  We don’t because back then all they had was a picture.  They didn’t have the real thing.  Today, we can put our full trust and faith in the real thing.  We don't just have a picture.  We have the real thing – the sacrificial death of Jesus. 

Think of it this way.  My dad grew up right down the street from Yankee stadium.  So my dad is a die-hard New York Yankee fan.  I'm hoping he'll still get in to heaven but I'm not sure Yankee fans are allowed.  Anyway, he's a die-hard Yankee fan and I understand why.  You see, he grew up watching the greats play baseball…Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Lou Gehrig - those guys.  As a kid, my dad even had a Mickey Mantle rookie card.  If you know anything about baseball or anything about baseball cards, you know that a Mickey Mantle rookie card is a highly valuable card.  My dad had those kinds of cards.

Now here is where the story takes a real bad turn.  My grandma told him, “Chuck, if you keep leaving your cards lying around the house, one day I'm going to throw them all away.”  My dad didn't believe my grandma.  He should have.  One very dark day when my dad was out playing, after once again leaving his cards lying all around the house, my grandma kept her word and took all of my dad’s baseball cards, including his Mickey Mantle rookie card, and threw them in the trash.  Do you know what my grandma did?  She threw away my inheritance.  That's what she did.  Now, as a result today I don't have a Mickey Mantle rookie card. 

Imagine I was to go on-line and print off a picture of a Mickey Mantle rookie card.  It would just be a picture of the card – not the actual card itself.  What do you think would happen if I took that picture of a Mickey Mantle rookie card down to a vintage card shop and said to the owner of the shop, “I'd like to sell you this picture of a Mickey Mantle Rookie card for exactly what a Mickey Mantle rookie card is worth."  I’m farily certain that I would get kicked out of that card shop before I could blink.  Why would this be the case?  The answer is obvious - because a picture of a Mickey Mantle rookie card is highly different than the real thing. 

Folks, Listen, all those animal sacrifices, they were simply pictures of the real thing that was to come.  Today we don’t have just a picture of forgiveness.  Today, we have the real thing.  And because we have put our faith in the real thing - the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ for our sins, we can draw near into the presence of Almighty God with confidence, any time we ant and as often as we want.  And that, my friends, is far greater in value than a boat full of Mickey Mantle rookie cards!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

We Are All Terminal! Inspiring Quotes From Ones Battling Cancer!

There is a dear couple in our church, Bud and Rea Jean Belt, who my wife and I deeply appreciate.  I mean it sincerely when I say that my wife and I have talked about how when we get old, we want to be just like Bud and Rea Jean (not that they are old or anything – let’s say when we get to their “season of life”).  Everyone knows those old crotchety types (believe it or not – you can even find them in church) that just seem to always be negative and always have a complaint.  My wife and I never want to get like that.  We want to be like Bud and Rea Jean.  They are so very in love with each other.  They are so very in love with Jesus.  They treat each other with such tenderness and grace.  They always have smiles on their faces and they always have a kind and encouraging word to share.  Seriously, when my wife and I get to that “season of life,” we really want to be just like Bud and Rea Jean.

Recently, this dear couple has inspired me even more.  Bud has been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.  The diagnosis is not real good.  He starts chemotherapy this week with the hopes of extending his life for perhaps up to a year.  What sad news.  But yet, even in this situation, Bud and Rea Jean remain tender, loving, gentle, and committed to each other and to the Lord. 

They recently made three statements to me that I cannot get out of my mind.  The first is this.  When I visited Bud and Rea Jean right after they found out about his cancer, Bud’s first words to me were, “Pastor, we’re all terminal!”  WOW!  How true.  James 4:14 tells us that our life is like a vapor – here one minute and gone the next.  The truth is that we are all dying physically.  There is no way to get around that.  Start your day with that thought and it will change your priorities, your perspective and your focus.

A few nights ago several of our Elders from church went over to Bud and Rea Jean’s to pray with them (I took the picture above on this night).  As we sat in their living room talking, we asked Bud what we could pray for specifically.  His immediate answer was, “Pray that I finish well.”  WOW again!  Shouldn’t that be the prayer of each of us – especially realizing we are all terminal?  Paul said, “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the course; I have kept the faith.”  Finishing well – that should be the goal for each of us.

Then Bud made another statement.  I found this one staggering.  He said, “Cancer isn’t a gift but it is a responsibility!”  WOW!  WOW!  WOW!  What a spiritually mature perspective on someone who is looking in all likelihood at the final months of his life due to cancer.  This disease is not a gift.  We wouldn’t wrap up cancer in a decorative box and hand it to someone saying, “Happy Birthday” or “Merry Christmas.”  However, Bud realizes that he has a responsibility to use his cancer to the ultimate and highest glory of God. 

Folks, Listen, bad things come into our lives.  Many times we can’t prevent that.  But not only are we to be good stewards of the time, talent, and treasure that God has entrusted us with, we must also be good stewards of the tough circumstances that the Lord allows to come into each of our lives.  We must see these, not as a curse to be hated and become bitter over, but as an opportunity to shine our light brighter than we have ever shined it before and an opportunity to shine our light in front of people that we would never had met otherwise had it not been for this “bad news” that came into our life. 

Rea Jean also came up with a great quote.  As we as Elders sat around sharing with them before we laid hands on them and prayed for this dear couple, Rea Jean said, “This wouldn’t be so difficult if I didn’t like Bud so much!”  Quadruple WOW!  What a woman!  What a man!  What a couple!  My definition of a spiritual hero is not someone who preachers to multiple thousands, leads huge ministries or writes best-selling books (not putting any of that down).  My definition of a spiritual hero is someone who goes through the fire of adversity but remains faithful to the Lord!  That’s why Bud and Rea Jean are two of my spiritual heroes.  That’s why when my wife and I reach that “season of life,” our prayer is that we would be just like them.

Monday, August 19, 2013


The Samaritan woman told the men of her city, “Come and see,” and the result was that many of them believed in Jesus!  

Andrew told Peter, “Come and see,” and the result was that Peter believed in Jesus!  

Philip told Nathanael, “Come and see,” and the result was that Nathanael believed in Jesus!  


This Sunday is week #3 in our 5-week series here at Gaylord E-Free that we are calling “Finding Your Style.”  Over the last two Sundays we have seen Peter’s STRAIGHT approach and the blind man’s STORY approach when it came to Meeting & Moving!  This week from John 9 we will now see the SEEING approach that was utilized by the Samaritan Woman, by Andrew and by Philip!

This will be a great week for us to emphasize inviting our TARGET THREE to “Back to Church Sunday” which will be September 15.  On this Sunday we want to encourage anyone who went to church any time in the past, but for whatever reason has stopped going, to come check us out on this one Sunday!  Not only will we see another great video promotion for this on Sunday, we will also be passing out to each of you three specially designed invite cards for you to use to say to others, “Come and see!”  To help is connect with this style of Meeting & Moving this Sunday we will also be showing a 2-part monologue in our Contemporary Service called, “What about Bob?”  

I’m also very much looking forward to this Sunday because it is my week to lead the singing in the Classic Service.  The Classic Service will also include a special monologue from the Samaritan Woman at the Well.  

If you weren’t hear last Sunday to write your three names on our TARGET THREE wall, or if you have additional names to add to this wall, please feel free to do so this Sunday either before the service, during the worship portion of our service; or even after the service.  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

TARGET THREE wall - the start of something BIG

Last Sunday as we started our new series, "Finding Your Style." I ended the message by asking you to think of three names (something I like to call a TARGET THREE list) of people you know who don’t know Jesus or don’t go to church that you will commit to:

Pray for daily by name that they will find Jesus and that God would use you in the process!

Build bridges to regularly!

Partner with E-Free to get them under the sound of the Gospel!

This Sunday as we continue this series the message will end with a very special opportunity that I believe will start something very BIG in our church.  At the end of the message during both services we will be giving opportunity for our church family to come forward and write the first names of their TARGET THREE on specially designed boards.  These boards will then be put where it can be seen regularly between now and Easter as a constant reminder to us as to what our church is all about – MEETING people where they are and MOVING people to where God wants them to be.

We did this very thing at one of my previous churches and it resulted in the greatest year of church growth and people coming to faith in Christ that I have experienced in a local church in 26 years of being a pastor.  We actually wrote our TARGET THREE names on the very wall of the auditorium (which was also a gymnasium) where we held our services.  It was amazing to watch what happened.  For example:

People would bring their own markers with them to church for weeks after we initially wrote our names on the wall in order to add more names.  We literally had several thousand names written on the wall of our church.

People would come through the door after services and introduce me to guests they had brought, letting me know that their names were ones written on the wall.

I'll never forget the Sunday morning after one individual whose name was written on the wall had started attending our church and committed his life to Christ.  On that Sunday he followed the Lord in baptism.  Immediately upon getting out of the pool on the stage he and the man who wrote his name on the wall weeks earlier walked together over to the spot on the wall where his name was written and he crossed his name off of the wall.  

One man in our church had a ministry of coming in each Saturday and setting up our portable stage for Sunday's services (remember, we met in a gym).  His dad was not a believer and would not come to church,.  His son had written his name on the wall.  One Saturday his dad actually came with him to help him set up the stage.  He noticed the wall and asked his son if the pastor knew people had written on the wall?  He told his dad that the pastor had actually told them to write on the wall.  When his dad asked why, he took his dad over to a spot on the wall and pointed to where the word "DAD" was written.  He told him that they wrote on the wall the names of people they were praying for daily that they would come to know Jesus.  He then told his dad that he had wrote the name "DAD" on the wall.

As you prepare to come to church this Sunday, be sure to prayerfully consider who your TARGET THREE names will be.  Together we will write these name on these TARGET THREE walls so that we can be reminded regularly between now and Easter what we are all about as a church - MEETING people right where they are and MOVING them to where God wants them to be!  I believe that Sunday will be the start of something BIG!  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Should Church Be "Showy"?

The more a church grows and the more emphasis they put on the logistics of the service, the more the chance exists that some are going to see it as their being "showy" or "performance driven."  Is this bad, good, or does it really not matter?  I am certainly no authority, but here are some thoughts on the subject after 27 years of full-time ministry, all within the local church.

To accuse any church or person of being "showy" is to assume that one knows the motive behind the leadership of that church or service.  Though it may look or seem "showy" to a person does not mean that "being showy" is the factual motive behind the planning and carrying out of the service.  It is always a dangerous step when we presume to know another person's motives when, in fact, only God really does.

What may seem to one person to be "showy" could just be a drive to do things with excellence.  Scripture does tell us to do what we do heartily as to the Lord.  As my High School Band Director use to always tell us at the Christian High School I attended, "Just because it's Christian doesn't mean you settle for mediocrity - shoot for excellence in everything you do."  Or as one of my spiritual heroes, Dr Jerry Falwell, would often say, "If it's Christian, it ought to be better!"  In my mind, shooting for excellence can be a spiritual virtue.

We cannot underestimate the power of the visual.  In fact, we live in a visually stimulated culture.  Today people connect with and remember what they see far easier and quicker than what they hear.  When what they see matches what they hear, the communication increases in effectiveness.  Shouldn't effective communication be one of our goals, especially when it comes to communicating the Word of God?  There seems to me to be great validity in taking time to plan carefully not just what people will hear on Sunday, but also what they will see.

It reminds me of when I was in Bible College taking preaching classes.  We would have to preach one sermon a week in our preaching lab.  The professor didn't just listen to our sermon, he also video taped them.  We then had to go back and watch the video tape to evaluate if our facial expressions and our body language matched what we were communicating with our words.  This was done, not to teach us to be "showy" but rather to teach us that the most effective communication involves more than our words and more than our listeners' ears.  In fact, I have never met a choir director yet at any level that did not coach their choir members to smile and to work on making sure their facial expressions matched the meaning and heart behind what they were singing.

I intentionally make this an important part of my sermon preparation.  I don't just prepare what I am going to say, I also take time to carefully and prayerfully plan out how I am going to say it.  I practice it at least three times before I actually preach it because I want my body language and my facial expressions to match what I am saying.  I strategically think through visual and creative elements that I can use to help communicate the Scriptural principle in a way that will help all who hear me preach connect with and remember the content of my message.

I'm not saying that there aren't preachers, worship leaders and churches that cross the line into being "showy."  I'm sure there are.  I just think we should be careful that we don't use the idea of someone or something being "too showy" as our default reasoning any time that a church or a leader's style is unlike what we are use to or what we are comfortable with.  The truth is we need all kinds of churches and leaders.  We need those who are more laid back and casual when it comes to details and we need those who are more focused on the logistical aspects.  In the same way that it would be out of line to accuse someone more laid back of being "apathetic," it is just as out of line to accuse someone focused on details and visuals as being "showy."

Thursday, August 08, 2013

The Danger of Judging Motives

Can you really know what someone else's motive are?  You can guess.  You can even make what appears to be an educated guess.  But can you really know for sure?  Can you be 100% confident in someone else's motives?  Can you?  Unless you are an omniscient God who knows everything, I doubt that you can.  Yet, unfortunately, we do it in the church all the time.  We judge people's motives and then state our conclusions as facts when we really can't know for sure.  How often do we hear people say the following about a pastor or ministry leader's motives:

"He's just being showy!"
"He's just trying to build his own empire!"
"All he's really interested in is numbers!"

Seriously, how can you be 100% sure that he's trying to be "showy?"  How can you be 100% sure that he's trying to "build his own empire?"  How can you be 100% sure that he's only "interested in numbers?"  Isn't it possible that he's genuinely worshipping the Lord from a pure yet expressive heart and you have wrongly concluded that he's being "showy?"  Isn't possible that his passion really is to see the church reach as many people as possible so they can know Christ and spend eternity in heaven, and you have wrongly concluded that he's only about "trying to build his own empire" or that he "is only interested in numbers?"

I have seen it happen too many times in the church.  Dissension and disunity creep into a growing and vibrant church because people begin to do what they simply cannot do accurately - judge other people's motives.  They then share their conclusions with others as if they are provable facts and the sad result is that lives get ruined, people get hurt, and the church of Jesus Christ suffers.  The Apostle Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 4:5:

"Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God."

There will come a day when God will properly judge, not just our actions, but also our motives.  Until that day, let's not take this role upon ourselves.  Unless there is a clear violation of Scripture involved or a specific teaching that is obviously contrary to the Word of God, let's choose to give each other in the Body of Christ the benefit of the doubt.  As my mentor, Pastor Steve Peters, taught me:

"If we are going to err, let's err on the side of grace!"

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Finding Your Style

This Sunday here at Gaylord E-Free is going to be amazing!  Things will be much more informal in both our Contemporary and Classic Services because it is the Sunday of our Church Picnic.  Remember, the picnic will take place here at the church immediately following the second service.  Please feel free to wear picnic attire to church – that is not a problem at all! 

This Sunday we will be starting a new 5-week series that we are calling “Finding Your Style.”  God created each of us with an individual and unique style of personality and that is the style He wants to use to see each us play a part in MEETING people where they are and MOVING them to where He wants them to be.  When it comes to sharing your faith with others, you do not need to try to be like someone you aren’t.  You can be yourself.  In this series we will look at 5 different people in the Bible who are all unique from each other.  From each of these we will discover 5 different approaches to “MEETING & MOVING.”  Without question, one of these styles fits each person in our church perfectly.  Our goal is to help everyone “Find Their Style” because the best style is the one you actually do.

In our Contemporary Service we will be shaking up the “Welcome” time in a unique and creative way this week.  Again, it is a very informal week due to the picnic so we will actually be singing our welcome this Sunday to a tune you will most likely recognize.  It should be fun. 

We will be introducing the message in our Contemporary Service in a very unique way as well - with a very short “Fashion Show.”  Have you ever seen a fashion show in church?  Why would we do so this Sunday?  Remember, our new series in on “Finding Your Style.”  This fashion show will show you 5 different styles when it comes to clothing (we don’t all dress the same way because we are unique in our personalities).  That will lead right into the message as we introduce these 5 different styles of sharing your faith (we don’t all share our faith the same way for the same way – because we are unique in our personalities).

Our Classic Service will also be unique this Sunday.  In fact, if you come to the Chapel at 9am for our Classic Service you will be “Going Back to Camp” as Steve & Naomi Sponable lead us in singing using many of those great songs you sang around the campfire.  It is really going to be a special time of worship in our Classic Service!

In both of our Contemporary Services (9am and 10:30am) and our Classic Service (9am) we will also be showing the first in a series of 5 Vision Videos as we look at the past, present and future of our church – told by some of the folks who have witnessed God doing so much over the years here at Gaylord E-Free.

Marcus Wegmeyer is scheduled to be the emcee this Sunday in the Classic Service with Rick Beadle and Jay Blackmore serving as the Elders assigned to help greet and assist. 

For those who are attending the Classic Service, please not that when you come down to the back doors of the Gospel Center for the preaching time, there may be a brief delay before you can enter due to a brief period of time when the house lights will be off due to a skit.  We don’t want any accidents so there may be a brief pause before you enter so that you are not trying to find your seats in the dark.

It really 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!

See you Sunday!

Pastor Scott

Sunday, August 04, 2013

The Two Buckets You Carry To Church!

You can't see them but I assure you that every time you come to church you are always carrying two buckets with you.  Like your American Express card, you never leave home without them.  One of these buckets is filled with water.  The other bucket is filled with gasoline.  This is a good thing because both are desperately needed in the church.  That's right - we need you to pour out water in the church every bit as much as the church needs you to pour out some gasoline.

This is important to realize because there are always two types of fire burning inside of every church.  One of these types of fire is very valuable and is started by the Holy Spirit who is continually lighting fires of spiritual passion, zeal and energy in people's hearts and lives.  This type of fire needs a stimulant to cause it to burn bigger and brighter.  According to Hebrews 10:24-25, we are to be giving careful attention as to how we can intentionally stimulate other believers to love and good deeds.

This is needed because you and I will never reach our potential of spiritual excellence in this life if others don't come along side of us and help "fan our spiritual flame" into a blaze.  These are the types of fire that need some "gas" poured out on them.  We need to continually be planning ahead for how we can stimulate this fire of spiritual passion in the lives of others.  Unfortunately, all too often we tend to pour the wrong bucket on these flames as we make the mistake of dousing that flame with the water of discouragement when it really needs the stimulant of spiritual encouragement.

There is, however, a second type of fire that is likewise always being set inside the church.  This one is set by the evil one as he starts the fire of criticalness, disunity and dissension in the hearts and lives of believers.  What this fire needs is to be doused with the water of loving exhortation and correction.  Unfortunately, all too often we make things far worse by pouring gasoline on these fires by adding to the negativity and causing this dangerous fire to burn stronger in the church and cause great damage.

It is important that we take the time to think through every situation and conversation,  Which fire is burning?  Is this a fire of spiritual zeal and passion that needs some gasoline to help it burn brighter and stronger or is this a fire of criticalness and dissension that needs some water to distinguish it before it does damage?  Folks, listen, every conversation you have will pour out contents from one of your two buckets.  Every time you send an email you are either pouring out water or gasoline.  Both are needed but both can be very dangerous if they are not used on the right fires.

Choose carefully and prayerfully how you use your buckets this week.

Thursday, August 01, 2013


The purpose of our church is as follows: "Meeting people WHERE THEY ARE; Moving people to where God wants them to be!"  According to that purpose, it all begins with meeting people WHERE THEY ARE.  This involves meeting them WHERE THEY ARE geographically.  Now that is a tough mission to accomplish as a pastor if all of my work week is spent inside the safe and friendly confines of the church building (which is easy and natural to do).  As a result, I have tried to become much more intentional about spending part of my work week in town.  After all, how can I lead our church in meeting people WHERE THEY ARE if I spend all of my time where they AREN'T?

One of the ways I have done this is to strategically schedule some of my meetings that are not private and personal in nature to local coffee shops and restaurants in town.  I have also made it a point to go to the same place 2-3 times a week for lunch.  I believe God is honoring this intentionality as evidenced in just one morning this past week where I spent a couple of hours in town rather that at church.

While I was having a meeting with a man from our church over a cup of coffee at a local fast-food restaurant, the manager of the establishment came up to us to ask if either of us owned the convertible that was sitting out in the parking lot.  Neither of us did but I immediately recognized this individual as a waiter I had a few weeks earlier at a family style restaurant in town.  Sure enough, it was the same guy.  He shared with me how he works days at the fast food place and evenings at the other restaurant.  

He went on to share with us that he really felt like he was lacking purpose in his life and just wasting his days away.  He then asked what we did for a living.  I told him I was pastor and that I thought I had just the book for him that could help him find a more purposeful existence.  I asked him if I brought a copy of the book down to the restaurant over the next few days and gave it to him as a gift, if he would promise to read it.  He agreed.  As a result, I will be taking him a copy of Rick Warren's book, "The Purpose Driven Life" with my business card and personal cell phone number.  I see this as a Divine Appointment set up by God that most likely never would have happened if I as a pastor did not intentionally spend time during my work week WHERE THE PEOPLE ARE!

From there I went over to another business in town where I met the receptionist.  I came to discover that she and her family had recently started attending our church with her family and loves it (I had not met her previously as our church is growing quite rapidly).  She shared with me her story of how they came to our church!  It was priceless!

I then went to my "lunch dive" where as soon as I walked into the door and said "hello" to someone, a person immediately looked at me and said, "Hey, I heard your show on the radio this morning" (I do a live radio show each Wednesday morning on a local secular station).  It was another great contact and connection that would not have occurred if I spent the entire day inside the church instead of WHERE THE PEOPLE ARE!