- Jesus- No surprise here as He always takes this number 1 spot on my list, in my heart and in my life. We recently wrapped-up a 6 –week series at Exponential looking at the story of the Prodigal Son. The last 2 weeks of the series as I was talking about the son returning home and the love and grace the father showed him, I couldn’t help but get choked up. It’s been 24+ years now since Jesus welcomed me…a prodigal… home and His amazing grace still wrecks me every time I really stop to think about it. Thank you Jesus for all you’ve done and all you continue to do!
- Lisa- Yet another relationship that I don’t understand it fully but somehow we fall more and more in love as the years go on. She is quite simply the most amazing person I have ever met. Smart, beautiful, talented and funny are just a few of the words to describe her. But even more so she demonstrates the love and serving heart of Jesus to those around her and that starts right here at home with me. Since I get to be a somewhat “public figure” I often get credit for things I really shouldn’t. Fact is, I’m an idiot in so many ways but Lisa is always behind the scenes, loving, praying, encouraging and serving me in every way she knows how. I didn’t deserve Jesus amazing grace and I certainly don’t deserve Lisa’s amazing love but yet she freely gives it any way. I’m thankful for her and love her like you wouldn’t believe!
- Family- Growing up I was surrounded by lots of family. Sunday dinners at the family farm would most weeks be 30+ people. As the years have gone on though distance and death have begun dwindling the numbers, which makes the times we have together now even more sweet and wonderful. There are many parts of me that longs for “the good old days” but yet I recognize that can’t happen so I’ve got to live in the moment and maximize the times we have now. So I’m thankful for my parents, in-laws, both sides of our siblings, their spouses, our nieces and nephews, our aunts and uncles and all my crazy cousins. I’m also thankful for the many wonderful memories of grandparents. Lisa and I were blessed to have 7 of our 8 grandparents still alive while we were in our 30’s. Now in our 40’s only Lisa’s grandmother remains. She is 98 and such a wonderful lady. She’s still physically and mentally very active and I’ve begun to believe she may outlive us all. So thank you to all family both past and present for being so awesome!
- Exponential Church- It’s now been over 7 years since Lisa and I moved to Harrisburg to begin Exponential Church. It has been full of challenges but one thing has remained consistent, the people have been extremely supportive and encouraging. Now the faces have changed through the years but with the exception of 1 time, we have had no real drama as a church family and even then the issue was quickly resolved. This attitude of sacrificial love makes my job as pastor so much easier and is one of the big reasons why I think we continue to be “the little church that could”. While we may be small in numbers it continues to amaze me in the ways we rally together as a church body to love and serve our community and the world. I won’t get into all the examples but I’m so thankful for the unity we show and the love we express in showing the community that You Matter to God and You Matter to Me.
- Bill Butler- Bill is Exponential’s worship pastor and only remaining original staff member. That Bill has put up with me for 7 years means he deserves a medal! But not only does he put up with me, he and his wife Meghan and son Ryan have become incredible friends with Lisa and I. Some people drain you when you spend time with them and others energize you and they are certainly all energizers. In fact, Bill and I went to dinner late last night after the worship team had their practice and talked about a wide range of topics…ministry, hobbies, life, you name it, it was all on the table and the time flew by. I’m so thankful for his passion for Jesus, his heart to lead people into worship, his leadership of the team and his friendship with me. Thanks again Bill for all you do!
- Lifetogether- During my years at Purpose Driven Ministries, I got to meet, work with and become friends with Brett Eastman. Brett had formerly been the Small Groups Pastor at both Willow Creek (Bill Hybels) and Saddleback (Rick Warren). By the time I met Brett he had started his own ministry called Lifetogether which helps churches with custom campaigns, curriculum , church innovations and all the coaching and consulting that is needed for those things. In any case, late last year Brett asked me to join the team as a consultant and so for the past year in my “spare” time I’ve been doing just that. It’s been wonderful getting to work with Brett again along with the other consultants; Rod, Dom, Phil, John, and Alan…and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention both Dave and Christie who have kept us on track. Thanks Brett and team for a great first year and I look forward to continue working with you and all the wonderful churches we get to help.
- Photography- Now it’s funny that I say this because I don’t do photography. However, Lisa has picked it up as a hobby the past few years and it’s done some cool stuff for us. First, is it’s a common hobby she shares with her mom and brother so it’s a way for them to stay connected even with the miles separating them. Second, it has made Lisa more adventurous when it comes to the outdoors. So it’s been a lot of fun doing hike and exploring. I get to be her scout and “go off trail” finding unique things as she takes shots of whatever the previous thing is that she or I found.
- XChange- Last fall through our denomination I was introduced to a pastor from Florida named Steve McCoy. Steve has developed a 1-on-1 discipleship process called XChange which is simply incredible. Now to be honest when I first heard about it my initial thought was, “been there done that”. Every program I had ever done was incredible and the person I discipled got a lot out of it but it was not something then that they could easily take someone else through themselves. In other words, I was the bottle neck…it was always dependent on how much I could do on my own. Also, many of the programs were quite dry…it was a ton of great information but the transformation wasn’t always there. XChange though is completely different. I’m not going to go into all the details here but for the past few months I’ve been separately taking 2 guys from Exponential through it with the hopes of rolling it out to even more people in 2018. So far the results have been great. Both guys are growing tremendously and the process is not only transformative but the whole thing is set-up to be duplicatable so they too will be able to lead someone through it once were done. Steve has now come up to Exponential twice to lead conferences on how to do this and how to implement in a church and I’m so thankful for this new friendship I’ve made and his willingness to take this dream God has given him and get it out to as many churches as possible.
- So many other things- Truth is if I had the time, I could list so many other people and things that I’m thankful for over this past year but as with most years I’m looking at the clock and it’s almost time to leave for family events. Here’s the truth, if you’ve read this far then you’re someone who I must be close with and I’m thankful for you! Thank you for being a part of my life and journey…here’s hoping to many more years!
- Great ending to the Sun Stand Still series.
- God definitely moved in a lot of people’s live throughout and today was no exception.
- Got to sleep in this morning since we had 2 new guys (Justin Good and Bob Geisel) putting out signs.
- Thanks guys!
- Set-up was radically different than normal since we were missing 4 of our normal people including 3 band members.
- However, all things considered it went rather smoothly.
- The exception was I ended up being the one hanging the “sun” props.
- I actually had a dream about it last night where I fell off the ladder…woke up with my heart beating a million miles per hour.
- So I was a bit gun-shy doing it for real today…especially when I got light-headed at one point and nearly fell off for real.
- Aaron did a great job leading worship again today in Bill’s absence (and no they still haven’t had the baby).
- Also great to have Evan Reichley sitting in on drums.
- He brought his own drum stool which really looked cool…sort of Captain America(ish).
- Chad is doing an awesome job in his new role of coordinating all the people serving on Sunday’s which has taken yet another big stress off of me.
- The Experience itself started out weird with one of the lights going on and off.
- Really quickly grabbed another power strip since that appeared to be the issue but now looking at the picture for this post, I’m not sure it didn’t malfunction again.
- Weird only having a 4 man band but they did a great job.
- I think this was the worst of the messages in the series both from a content and presentation perspective but once again many people afterward were talking about how it impacted them.
- Glad God can take my efforts and use it to change lives!
- The lady I gave the $100 to came up afterward and shared her story…really cool.
- Also it was great to hear that others of you stopped her and gave her even more money!
- To hear why I gave her the money you can listen to it here.
- The main theme of the message was what to do when you start chasing your miracle but opposition starts to come.
- Again you can listen to it and all the messages in this series by clicking here.
- Next week we begin a new series called, “Family: Putting the Pieces Back Together”.
- If you’re interested in knowing how to be a better parent or you know someone that needs some help, then don’t miss this series.
- Tomorrow I’ll post a Facebook invite that you can use in addition to the invite cards we passed out today.
- If you need more invite cards, please let me know and we’ll get them to you.
- Don’t forget the difference passing out just 5 cards per week can make!
- Also don’t forget to participate in March MADness this week and bring your bookmark back with your story written out.
- Have a great week…can’t wait to start the new series with you and hear your stories of how you’re making a difference!
- Another great day!
- Saw 8 more people give their lives to Jesus!
- Had a lot of new people doing “First Serves” today.
- So awesome seeing people step up and use their gifts, skills, talents and abilities to serve others.
- Great having church planters, Luke and Sabrina from Raleigh, North Carolina with us this morning observing what was happening and then having lunch with them at the Rock Bass Grill. Holy cow is that some good food.
- Also awesome having Aaron Hoke leading worship for us today.
- Aaron is normally one of our guitarists but with Bill away for a few weeks while he and Meghan welcome a new child into the world, Aaron is stepping up and did great!
- FYI, Meghan was there today along with Bill…she’s now past due by a couple of days…they’re hoping for a Leap Year baby now.
- As I told Bill, “The good thing is you only have to buy birthday presents every 4 years, the bad news is the kid will live with you for 72 years”. 🙂
- Not a lot else to report for the day…pretty smooth.
- I preached part 2 of the Sun Stand Still series on how to turn your pitiful prayers into powerful ones.
- Based on Facebook comments, it apparently was a good and convicting message.
- You can listen to it here as I taught on how to pray using an acrostic for the word ASK.
- Next week we’ll wrap the series up by looking at what to do when opposition comes to your new life of faith. See you then…hopefully with a friend or two.
- Another good day.
- Started out this morning not being able to open my car doors because they were froze shut. Once I did get the rear door open, then I couldn’t get it shut.
- Made for a late start with Mike getting the signs out…and oh wow was it cold.
- Set-up went pretty smoothly…although after last week’s “No Show Sunday” seemed like we had some missing and out of place stuff, but we figured it all out.
- Bill is always really creative and came up with a boxing ring for the set piece today…it was cool how he made it.
- Had a decent size crowd show-up at 9:10 to share in communion with us.
- The theater is such a hard place to pull it off (logistics) and with our large amount of unbelievers that attend, for some theological reasons its difficult as well.
- This will be a good solution to use from time to time to supplement the times we do it other ways.
- After communion we had a lot of new people come in to observe our team meeting and then get a behind the scenes tour of the areas they are interested in serving in.
- If you’re interested in serving, please start the process by choosing the appropriate link and then filling out the form. For set-up, tear down, or any First Impressions role, click here.
- For any Children’s Ministry role, click here.
- As a reminder, to incorporate some new stuff we want to do, we also need those currently serving to fill out the appropriate forms as well.
- As for the Experience itself, it was a small yet fairly enthusiastic crowd today.
- Bill and the team did a great job covering “Ladies and Gentlemen”.
- Andy and Cris did a great job as well creating the tech side of things for it.
- I shot a video but it didn’t come out great but here it is anyway so you can get a sense of what we did.
- That led into Chad’s message which we called, “All Show Sunday”.
- He did a great job sharing why you need to serve with others in the area that you not only have a passion for, but are also gifted to serve in.
- I was able to walk around today and see some of our other ministries in action.
- So thankful for all that God allows us to do!
- Again we’d love to see you begin serving if you’re not already…click the links above to get started.
- One cool up-date…
- I announced at the end that we fell about 500 cans short of our goal to collect 2012 food items for Isaiah 61 Ministries.
- After the Experience was over, a very generous lady said she’s buy the difference!
- Love to see people being radically generous!
- Had about 70 people come out to lunch at Infinito’s with us.
- Always good to be able to spend time with getting to know people better.
- Pretty awesome to see how many people from my couple of blocks are now attending…some that I didn’t even know lived nearby.
- Next week we begin a new series called, “Sun Stand Still”.
- I can’t stress this enough…THIS WILL BE THE MOST IMPORTANT SERIES WE’VE EVER DONE…DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO INVITE PEOPLE TO COME WITH YOU.
- If you need more of the invite cards, please email me and we’ll get them to you.
In Sunday’s message and then again in this week’s “Inside Today’s Experience” I made the announcement that Chelsea Miller will be leaving our staff. If you missed Chelsea’s letter from yesterday, you can read it here.
Any time something like this happens, there are bound to be a lot of questions so I wanted to answer them here for you. Then tomorrow check back into this blog for more info on the plan going forward.
Q. Why is she leaving?
A. Because it is how God is directing her. As I mentioned Sunday, many times God will ask us to do things that aren’t comfortable and require sacrifice. Having worked with Chelsea for the past 18 months I know how much she loves your kids and how much it pains her to be called away but doing what Jesus asks us to do must always be our first priority. Again you can read her thoughts here.
Q. But you said she’s still going to attend ECTV right? Why would she do that?
A. Because she still believes in the vision of ECTV and has made many good friends here. In other words, she’s feeling called away from her staff responsibilities but not the church.
Q. OK Gilbert what did you do to upset her and make her want to quit?
A. Nothing. I may not be the world’s greatest boss but Chelsea and I have a great relationship. Over the months she became not just an employee but a close friend and someone I protect like a little sister. She would tell you that I’m not perfect but that I tried to support and encourage her each and every step of the way.
Q. Ok was she fired then?
A. No Chelsea was doing a great job. Nothing made me happier than seeing kids each week come running out excited about what they had just experienced in the kids theater. When I hire and then evaluate people for job performance, it’s based on 3 things…Character (are they growing to become more like Jesus), Competency (can they do the job) and Chemistry (can they get along with other staff and those they are called to lead and minister to)…by each of these measures Chelsea was doing very well.
Q. You’ve mentioned the tight finances at the church a number of times, was she laid-off for financial reasons?
A. No. While yes, like any church plant, we’re struggling to get a financial base, things are not so bad that Chelsea had to be laid off. In fact, I’ve told the staff that if we were ever to get to that point that I’ll be the first to sacrifice salary before I’d ask them to or have to get rid of one of them.
Q. Will you be hiring someone to take her place then?
A. Short-term the answer is no. Again I’ll be posting tomorrow what the plan looks like going forward.
Q. Seriously this would be so much more fun if there was some big controversy or scandal…are you sure you’re telling the whole story?
A. YES!!! It’s sort of a shame that as a pastor I need to do posts like this in the first place. Unfortunately though because of the mistakes of church staff in other churches over the last couple of decades, it’s almost become a necessity to keep the rumor mill from churning. The most unfortunate part of that is, that as Christians, we’re to always look for the good in others first off but many times we are the meanest, gossipy bunch around. For that, shame on us. Again the truth is, Chelsea was called here by God and now she is being called away. I applaud her for following what God is asking her to do when it would have been very easy to just keep collecting a pay check. My prayer is that all of us would be as obedient.
Q. What specifically can I be praying about?
A. First, be praying for Chelsea. While she was only part-time with us, this is going to put a bit of financial pressure on her. Again though I so admire her faith to do what God wants even at the risk of personal discomfort. So pray that God will provide to make up the difference. Also, be praying for her as she seeks God for what her next step is in her own service to God. Again the plan is she wants to stay with us at ECTV, but who knows what God might have in store so pray that His perfect will be done in and through her.
Second, be praying for the children of ECTV. While all of this might make sense to us, for them this can be a confusing time. Why is she leaving? Did I do something wrong? Does she not like us? etc… I want to encourage you to begin preparing your children now. Over the next few weeks the kids will begin noticing some changes so hopefully we can make the transition as smooth as possible…then on March 18th we’ll have a big going away party for Chelsea where not only will we celebrate but also encourage them to always follow God’s will. One thing that will help is that the kids will still get to see her in the hallways before and after church so were praying that will take away a bit of the sting of losing her in the actual theater.
Third pray for the rest of our staff, especially Chad, as we work to build on the awesome foundation of Children’s Ministry that Chelsea has already laid.
Finally, pray about your part. Again more details will come tomorrow but we need 25 of you to step up in various roles in Children’s Ministry to make sure that it not just survives but thrives. If you’re interested in taking the next step, click here to get more info and begin the application process.
Q. Final question. Should vegetarians eat animal crackers?
A. OK now you’re just being weird, talk to you tomorrow. 🙂