Sunday, March 27, 2011

Game Day Thoughts: March 27, 2011

I'm an old football player, and Sunday is like Game Day.  As a Pastor, it's the day the church convenes for worship.  It's the day many of our staff plan for all week.  It's the day our teams at Grace are on high alert and in full-service mode.  It's game day. Here are a few of my highlights from today:

1.  It was the last day for our Grace Harbor Creek core team to officially worship at Grace McKean. It's amazing to me that this day has arrived.  Next Sunday this team will be worshiping at Harbor Creek High School for some preview services leading up to our official launch on Easter Sunday. We spent some time gathering around, laying hands, and praying for this team.  I was reminded of this passage of scripture in Acts 13:2-3 and the rich history that is before us as we embark on this new endeavor.  While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.  After the services today, teams moved all of our supplies into storage rooms in Harborcreek and practiced their first setup in the High School.  Next weekend a new adventure begins.  God help us!

2.  Bryan Auton - I always love to see how God brings people to our church.  I'm a firm believer that God knows how to make churches. He brings people at the right time with the right gifts right on time.  Bryan is from Atlanta and he and his family moved to Erie last year.  Bryan led worship this morning and did a great job.  He and his family are headed to Grace Harbor Creek and I'm excited to see what God will do through them.  Bryan and Kaley are an example of a family who came in and sought the Lord and got involved.  I was really proud to serve alongside Bryan and the team this morning as they led the church in worship.

3.  "Step Up.  It really had nothing to do with my sermon this morning but I felt so impressed by God to challenge the church to step up today at the beginning and the end of my sermon.  This is a huge month for us.  We're headed into uncharted waters.  We are going to be sending out up to 100 people to Harbor Creek and we're going to feel a bit of a void when that team leaves.  It's time for the people of Grace to step up. We need to pray bold prayers, make bold invitations to our friends and neighbors, have deep conversations.  Some who have been sitting on the sidelines need to step up and serve, some need to step up and go to Harbor Creek, some need to step up in their preparation and participation in corporate worship, some need to step up and grow in their faith and stop accepting their tendency to coast.  It's time.  And I'm convinced we're ready.

This week we also launched a new website.  Our communications director Danielle did a phenomenal job with this project and re-thinking our web presence while being one church in multiple locations.  

We are heading into Romans 10 for the next two weeks if you'd like to read ahead.  It's going to be a great journey as a church as we head toward Easter.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Some biblical principles about money

Money is a huge issue on the news, in our country, in churches, and in families. Just a big issue. It plays a negative role in greed and pride and comparisons and power and self-worth and well... you get the picture.  It can also have a huge positive impact as it is shared and used for good. The Bible has a ton to say about money and our use of it. There's a cool post over at the Stirred Up Leadership Blog about some principles of the wise and biblical use of money.  I picked my three favorites and you can read the other 7 over there if you'd like. 

  1. The ultimate goal of frugality is generosity. It’s wise to save and we’re called to live a lifestyle of moderation and contentment. But it’s not just so we can amass more money. It’s not just to accumulate and consume, accumulate and consume.  It’s so we have more to give to those in need and to give to causes that advance the work of God in the world.
  2. Our culture lies – very persuasively! The big 3 lies are: 1) Things bring happiness, 2) debt is expected and unavoidable, and 3) a little more money will solve all my problems. We shouldn’t be surprised by the lies and temptations – they are part of the epic struggle between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world. Be conscious of the need to refute them – the means to do it is all around us if we look for it.
  3. We really are not owners of anything, just caretakers… and all we have is a gift from God. In earthly terms, yes, we own things. We have deeds and titles. But in eternal terms the earth and the fullness thereof belong to the Lord. And the means by which we acquire possessions (our minds, healthy bodies, talents) have come from God. Further, one way or another, we will lose all those earthly treasures, either while we’re here or when we die. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

3 Stages in every great work of God

From the great missionary Hudson Taylor...every great work of God goes through 3 stages:
  1. It's impossible
  2. It's difficult
  3. It's done
What great work is God preparing you for that looks impossible right now?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Why is Grace Launching a Second Campus? Part 5

I have been posting some thoughts on why Grace is launching a second campus in Harborcreek this spring.  Today's post is for you ministry strategy geeks.  It's an inside look at some of the structural grids we have used to think through how our two campuses will operate and how they will remain unified despite their differences.

1. IPOD's
This was a concept that we borrowed from a book that our team read together called A Multi Site Church Road Trip.  It is a grid that helped us to think through what programming we would offer at our Harbor Creek Campus and in what order of priority. The acronym stands for:
  • I - Initial (programs that we will offer in full at launch)
  • P - Priority (programs that we will offer within the first 12 months)
  • O - Optional (programs that we will offer as we are able)
  • D - Discouraged (programs that we never intend to offer)
Then we listed out all of our ministry areas and passed them through this grid.  So, we looked at  Worship, Tech, Staff, Guests, Groups, Kids, Students, College/Young Adults, Community/Missions, Facility, Budget, Preaching, Communications, Volunteers, Adult Education, etc. and decided what we needed at launch, what we needed within the first year, what we would offer as we were able and what we would never do.  This construct was very helpful in thinking through the scope of our programming.

2. Alignment vs. Contextualization
This is a grid that we learned from my buddy Dan Nold at Calvary Baptist Church in State College.  It's basically an acknowledgement that when you launch a new multi site campus some energy comes from alignment with the launching church and some energy comes from the freedom in contextualizing ministry for the particular community that you're in.  Some multi site approaches like LifeChurch and Newspring tend to lean toward alignment while others lean toward contextualization (almost to the point of a church plant). We want to walk this balance.  To seek alignment where it makes sense so our campuses don't have to re-invent the wheel in different areas.  But also, to seek contextualization where it makes sense - so that they can use strategies to reach the Harbor Creek area that are different than the strategies we are using to reach McKean/Millcreek.

Alignment and contextualization are two wheels on the same axel.  If you only have one you’ll be going around in circles. Some things that bring alignment are vision, mission, values, whole-church events, and words/names that are used to describe programs and ministries. Some things that bring contextualization are methodologies, community-specific events, worship service elements, etc.

3. The 5 C's of Clarity
This final construct speaks to how decisions are made between campuses. We are very clear that for the ministry staff at Grace Harbor Creek authority flows vertically through the Campus Pastor (Mike Watson), and influence flows horizontally through ministry counterparts at Grace McKean.  But how do ministry decisions get made on a day to day, week to week basis?  We've come up with the 5 C's of Clarity.
  • COLLABORATION - the first stop is just to collaborate with ministry counterparts at Grace McKean.  Most decisions will be made at this level.  Children's team leaders from Grace Harbor Creek will meet regularly with Children's team leaders at Grace McKean and most of the week to week decision making will happen at this level.
  • CONSTANTS - if there is not clarity on a particular decision from simple collaboration - teams will consult our campus constants.  Each ministry has a list of 3-5 constants which are ministry values that will carry through to all campuses. This constants contain the basic ministry philosophy for each department and should clear up most decisions.
  • CHURCHES - we are developing a list of mentoring churches - one for each ministry area - who are also doing multi site church.  If there is still cloudiness about a decision that needs to be made in, say, our guest services ministry department, they will have a mentoring church contact that they can email and ask what that church does in this particular instance.  There is no reason for us to re-invent the wheel when so many other churches are doing multi site ministry successfully.
  • CAMPUS PASTOR - there are some decisions that will need to come to the Campus Pastor to make a call on.  He will have a finger on the pulse of both the church and the community and should be able to be a final tie-breaker in any decision that is having trouble coming to resolution.
  • CENTRAL STAFF - finally some of our staff will be acting in a central role. That is - they will not have duties associated to only one specific campus but will have responsibilities to all campuses equally.  This small team will serve as a leadership team over the whole multi site movement at Grace. The Campus Pastor will be able to come to this team at any time for counsel or advice on specific ministry decisions that will affect the whole church. There will be times when this team has to weigh in on decisions because they will have church-wide implications.
Feel free to post any thoughts or questions and I'll be happy to interact with you.  And if you're a church leader who is considering going multi site let me know.  We've learned a lot through this process and have gathered tons of information and are very willing to share!

On Easter Sunday 2011, Grace Church will launch a second campus in Harborcreek, PA.  We will meet at the Harborcreek High School at 11:00 AM each Sunday.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

More than wearing green and getting drunk

Modern day St. Patrick's Day festivities are a reminder to me that our tendency is to take things that are deep and sacred and make them trivial and silly.  The fact that we memorialize an unbelievable Christian saint by pinching each other and getting hammered is just plain stupid.  In an attempt to reclaim St. Paddy's Day I want to suggest a few things that we could learn from St. Patrick.  These are the kinds of things that March 17 should remind us to celebrate and imitate.  I read a book last summer that I would highly recommend called Movements that Change the World.  It includes a chapter on Patrick that is very enlightening.  Addison paints a picture of St. Patrick that is so compelling it made me want to be like him when I grow up! Here is a little background and then three lessons we can learn from Patrick through excerpts from this book by Steve Addison.

Some Background
Patrick lived a privileged life growing up in Britain.  He was born into the Aristocracy and his father was a Roman Magistrate. This meant that one day Patrick would rule a part of Roman nobility in Britain.  When he was 16 though - his village was invaded by raiders and he was kidnapped and taken back to the pagan land of Ireland where he was sold into slavery.   He lived the lonely and difficult life of a slave for the next 6 years. Before his abduction Patrick did not believe in the living God - but as a slave Patrick came to see the hand of God at work all around him.  His land of captivity had become a land of freedom in God.  He would stay out late into the night in the forests and mountains to pray.  He would rise before dawn to pray in the icy coldness of the Irish winters.  This was his delight because the Spirit of God was burning in him.  The rest of his story will be told through 3 lessons I think we can learn from Patrick.

1.  God speaks through whispers if we will listen.  
One night during his captivity in Ireland, God spoke to him in a dream and revealed that there was a ship waiting to take him home to Britain.  There was one small problem - 200 miles of dangerous territory lay between him and his escape. But he made the journey and returned home as a runaway slave. He resumed the life that he once knew with his family.  But again, God had different plans. Patrick awoke one night to the voices of people he had known in Ireland crying out, "we beg you to come and walk with us again!"  Their cries pierced his heart, God was calling him to return to Ireland and he did.  Over time he was ordained as a priest and then as a bishop despite his limited education and experience. God took the initiative to transform a teenager into an apostle compelled by the Spirit to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.  The slave boy had become a slave of Christ and an apostle to Ireland.

2. The work of God can't be contained by religious institutions
Patrick's lack of formal training contributed to his openness to trying new methods that were not approved by the church at the time.  His heart longed to reach the "barbarians" beyond the borders of civilization.  By contrast - the church of the Roman Empire was not interested in taking the gospel beyond their own borders. He traveled throughout Ireland to remote and dangerous places to preach, baptize converts, and raise up clergy for new churches.  Thousands of Irish people turned from their pagan idols to serve the living God. Many of these converts joined Patrick's missionary band. He gave the Irish the gift of non-Roman Christianity.  He liberated Ireland without the backing of the Imperial power. Despite his role in the conversion of much of Ireland, Patrick's worst critics were the bishops in Britain.  Patrick's approach was to de-centralize the church and remove the power from the bishops in large urban centers and give it to the rural and tribal people. The Roman leaders did not approve. Rome had the resources but Patrick's followers had the zeal - and they could not be stopped. 

3. Christianity is a missionary movement and every Christian is a missionary
In the Celtic church life revolved around the monastery. Most monasteries were in remote places and their inhabitants withdrew from the world. Patrick would transform this concept. Under Patrick's influence, wave after wave of Irish youth flooded into monastic life.  Patrick re-imagined the concept of the monasteries and organized them as sending centers. The Irish church took on the character of a missionary movement.  Each outpost made decisions in adapting to local needs and opportunities in their immediate region.  Celtic monasticism was highly flexible, adaptable and transplantable.  Ireland had no major cities, but the monasteries grew rapidly and became the first population centers - they were hubs of unprecedented prosperity, art, and learning.  They were led by young men who once would have given their lives in feuds between clans, but now gave their lives to plant the gospel wherever Christ led them.  For centuries, Ireland became a base from which Christianity spread throughout the British Isles and to much of western and northern Europe as these young monks followed the call of Christ on their lives. 

How this rich history ever turned into shamrock shakes, leprechauns, and getting wasted, I'll never know!  I pray that this day will remind us of these lessons, of the life of this great man of God, and how we might follow Christ more fiercely.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Why is Grace Launching a Second Campus? Part 4

I will be posting some thoughts throughout the next week on why Grace is launching a second campus in Harborcreek this spring.  Today I want to very simply put forward a few statistics that as a Pastor in America - I'm having a hard time swallowing without doing something about it.  These stats come from a class that I took last summer at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago called "Church Planting Boot camp."  


  1. During the past 30 years on average 4,000 churches close their doors each year while only 1,500 new churches start.  This is called 'losing ground'
  2. The 3rd Largest Mission Field in the world is the U.S. (next to India and China) with 200,000,000 un-churched people.
  3. If we continue to follow current trends, by 2050 there will be half the number of professing Christians in the United States as there are right now.
Not on our watch...

On Easter Sunday 2011, Grace Church will launch a second campus in Harborcreek, PA.  We will meet at the Harborcreek High School at 11:00 AM each Sunday.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Why is Grace Launching a Second Campus? Part 3

I will be posting some thoughts throughout the next week on why Grace is launching a second campus in Harborcreek this spring.  Today I answer the question, "Why did we choose Harborcreek?"  


1. We believe God is calling us there
Again, not to over-spiritualize, but from the first moment that we began to discuss a second campus, it was as if God was burdening our heart for the Harborcreek area.  So we started the ball rolling.  But any exploration of demographics, community studies, etc. came after we had already decided to go there.  The decision to launch in Harborcreek has been confirmed every step of the way - most recently in meeting with a number of pastors from the Harborcreek area.  The reception from them has been great and the possibility of partnering with some of those churches is strong.  There are a number of good and healthy churches already in Harborcreek, but still loads of people to reach (see #3 below).

2. There are lots of current Grace families who come from there.
Our best estimate is that we have 162 families from the Harborcreek area who call Grace their church home. Currently these families are driving 15-20 miles each way to come to church. Instead we're going to bring church to them!  We're not assuming that all of those people will attend Grace Harborcreek, however many of them will. And it's much easier to fully enter in to the life of a church if you don't have to drive across town to get there!  These families give us a good starting place - and they're also an indicator of the kind of people we might reach out to in Harborcreek.

3. There are too many people in Harborcreek without a church home.
Our studies indicate that there are approximately 25,000 people within a 10 mile radius from the center of town in Harborcreek who don't have a church home.  We're hoping to put a dent in that number...

On Easter Sunday 2011, Grace Church will launch a second campus in Harborcreek, PA.  We will meet at the Harborcreek High School at 11:00 AM each Sunday. 

Game Day Thoughts: March 6, 2011

Sunday is Game Day.  As a Pastor, it's the day the church convenes for worship.  It's the day our staff plans for all week.  It's the day our teams at Grace are on high alert and in full-service mode.  It's game day. Here are a few of my highlights from today:
  1. Grace Harborcreek worship launch in the commons - Today nearly 60 people gathered for worship in the Commons at Grace to do church.  This is the team that will launch a campus in Harborcreek starting next month.  They're using this month to continue to build community and camaraderie among the team, practice setting things up and working together, and discover the roles that they will fill in making church happen in Harborcreek.  They had a great launch - the spirit in the room was great - and God is building His church.
  2. Stories - today I spoke on the text in Mark 4 where Jesus calms the storm.  You can catch up with the sermon and resources here (will be posted Monday 3/7 sometime due to my coughing fit at 9:15). I got to tell the story of my friend Kristin and her journey through the storm of losing her husband far too soon.  As I preached today, I became aware of deep heart-work going on in the room. Despite the fact that I was really sick, coughing up a lung, and sounded like I had the voice of an ax-murderer - the Word of God did its thing with the help of the Holy Spirit. I found out after the service as people came forward that there are stories in the works through some of the people of Grace that are incredible. People spoke to me about getting clarity on storms that they are navigating, new levels of courage that they are achieving in walking with others through storms, new heights of faith in Christ, and one particular person who recently went through the unspeakable pain of a spouse who committed suicide - approached me to let me know that they are willing to tell their story to the church. So they might help others who are going through difficulties. God is at work in a big way in the lives of people at Grace.  I was also moved by Heiden's introduction to the Lord's Supper today. This college student/athlete is going to have a huge kingdom impact. 
  3. Mid-Course Correction - This may seem minor to some but I've been around Pastors enough who have dysfunctional teams to appreciate this little moment. In between services a few of our staff had about a 3 minute conversation about a video element that we did at the 9:15 service that seemed abrupt and disrupted the flow of the service.  We instantly pulled it from 11:00 with no questions asked. No drama, no egos, no agendas, no bickering, just action.  Tomorrow morning the decision will be reviewed to see if it was the right one, but for now I'm just loving the unity and single-mindedness of our team. That kind of stuff makes me very happy ... and grateful.
There was also an amazing thing that happened tonight at GraceYouth. I won't spill the beans here because there is a letter going out to the church tomorrow with all the details.  Let's put it this way - the future of that ministry is a little clearer these days... stay tuned. 

I will post a recap of the sermon and some other stuff later this week.  If you were at Grace this weekend - what were some of your highlights?

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Why is Grace Launching a Second Campus? Part 2

I will be posting some thoughts throughout the next week on why Grace is launching a second campus in Harborcreek this spring.  Today I answer the question, "Why would we launch a new campus instead of, say, starting an additional worship service or even planting a church?"  


1. A multi-site approach to starting new campuses leverages our strength. 
We can build on the strengths of an existing healthy church at Grace McKean.  So we will utilize central leadership (Elders), centralized budgeting, centralized preaching and teaching, centralized communications (website, printing, etc.), centralized systems and processes, centralized administrative support (phone, supplies, publications, etc.) while at the same time allowing for freedom in innovation to specifically reach the Harborcreek community. For the new campus, some energy comes from alignment and some energy comes from contextualization.  So where it makes sense, we'll align and where it makes sense we'll contextualize to specifically reach Harborcreek.  Multi-site campuses have a much more healthy success rate (nearly 90% survivability) than church plants. 

2. Starting new campuses is the most effective way to reach new people 
There is a direct link between the age of the church and the effectiveness of reaching out to un-churched people.  

  • 3:1 - In churches 3 years and younger it takes three people to reach one un-churched person on average.  
  • 7:1 - In churches between 3-10 years old it takes seven people to reach one.
  • 89:1 - In churches ten years or older it takes 89 people to reach one un-churched person.  

On average for established churches (older than 10 years) it takes $100,000, 100 people, and 1 year to reach 1 person for Jesus. They gain the vast majority of new members by transfer growth from other congregations.  By contrast, the average new campus (younger than 3 years) gains most of its new members (60-80%) from the ranks of people who are not attending any other church.  

3. Launching a new campus forces us to develop new leaders
One of the traps a church can fall into - even a growing and thriving church - is to keep asking the same people to do all the work.  The same names keep emerging on every list to lead ministries.  Starting Grace Harborcreek is forcing us to develop leaders.  New leaders will run ministries in Harborcreek and new leaders will need to replace the nearly 100 people who will be leaving Grace McKean in April.  We're throwing ourselves into this new initiative and new leaders must step up and we must equip them for ministry.  Every church labors to develop and disciple new leaders, but new congregations do it faster.  They have to. 

On Easter Sunday 2011, Grace Church will launch a second campus in Harborcreek, PA.  We will meet at the Harborcreek High School at 11:00 AM each Sunday.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Why is Grace Launching a Second Campus? Part 1

I will be posting some thoughts throughout the next week on why Grace is launching a second campus in Harborcreek this spring.  Today I answer the question, "Why?"  


1.  God is leading us to do it.  
The leaders of Grace believe that this is what God is calling us to do at this time.  This may sound overly spiritualized - but it is absolutely the leading reason.  Our staff and Elders have been in a season of waiting prayer for over 2 years now - and we are in 100% agreement that the time is right to take this step.  This move is fully in line with our mission, 'to make and to be fully devoted followers of Christ.' We believe that at this point in time the best way to reach people who don’t yet know Christ is to start new campuses. God has confirmed this decision dozens of times and in amazing ways during the past 6 months.  The time is right. 

2. Grace is ready to do it.
Grace Church is ready – we are resourced to accomplish a new campus on many levels.  The giftings and the spirit of our people are evident.  We have risk takers, many potential new leaders, an abundance of talent, and a church at Grace McKean with solid staff leadership who can resource the ministry staff at a Grace Harborcreek.  Our church stepped up during a fundraising effort this December and raised $100,000 to get this new campus off the ground. Pastor Mike Watson - who will serve as the Campus Pastor at Grace Harborcreek - has been on our staff for nearly 15 years and is so ready to do this!  He will carry the Grace DNA and is ready to lead the charge.

3. We are rejecting the temptation to coast.
Grace moved in to our new facility just over 3 years ago.  It was such a monumental effort and was such a relief when we finally arrived. We took a big risk.  The tendency in churches is to not take another big risk for a while. Just relax, enjoy the fruits of your labors, soak it in for a while and coast. We refuse to coast.  Grace has a long history of playing offense and not defense and we want to carry on that tradition.  We want to keep pressing forward, keep taking risks, keep making sacrifices to reach more people.  The gospel is worth it. 

On Easter Sunday 2011, Grace Church will launch a second campus in Harborcreek, PA.  We will meet at the Harborcreek High School at 11:00 AM each Sunday.