- 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!
Don’t do as much blogging as I used to but every year since 2007, I have done this list of things I’m thankful for so not stopping now!
1. Jesus– Surprise, Surprise…the now 9 time champion! What else can I say but that He is everything to me and I’m continually amazed that not only has He forgiven me but He uses me to accomplish His will here on the earth sometimes in the most unusual ways. I don’t deserve anything from Him yet He keeps blessing me. I know some of you reading this think that Christianity is restrictive, but it’s actually the opposite…the freedom to know you’re exactly where God wants you to be is such an awesome feeling and it’s something only Jesus can provide. I liken it to traffic laws…they aren’t there to restrict you but to keep you safe. Because of them you have more freedom not less because there is order to things. God and His Word are the same way. The more you get to know Him the more you realize He always has your best intentions at heart whenever He says to do something or not to do it.
2. Lisa– This year we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary and I know it sounds like a cliche but our marriage just keeps getting better and better! Words can’t even begin to describe how awesome she is and everyday I thank God that I won the wife lottery because I definitely don’t deserve her. Can’t wait to see what the next 20 years brings!
3. My Health– As many of you know I contracted some sort of bacteria/virus this summer while in Costa Rica which had me basically lying in bed extremely sick for a month. So I’m thankful I have my health back but I’m even more appreciative of those that have chronic illness, etc. I only had a month of illness and the mental side was as bad as the physical side. So for those of you who suffer all the time, I can somewhat empathize and want you to know I’m praying for you. Everyday now even with my minor aches and pains of getting older, I realize what a gift my somewhat normal health is.
4. New Building– Last year at Thanksgiving we thought it was just a matter of time until we closed on our new church building. Little did we know that it would take an entire year to finally close…which we did 17 days ago! The Church is people not a building but a building will definitely help. Can’t wait to see how God is going to use this new tool on our tool belt.
5. The People of ExponentialChurch.tv– Our church celebrated it’s 5th birthday this year and through those years literally hundreds of people have walked through the doors and been a part. Some were there just a week, some months, others for years. Each and everyone is loved and appreciated but I’m especially thankful for those we have right now. They have stuck through the good and the bad times and are currently a part of God being on the move in our midst. Their generosity of time and money is inspiring and I can’t wait to see what the next 5 years will bring as we continue to communicate through our words and actions that You Matter to God and You Matter to me.
6. My Mom and Dad– They are a part of #5 above…which is kind of funny. When I pastored a church 20 minutes from their home, they would show up 1-2 times per year. The when I pastored a church 30 minutes from their home, they started showing up 3-4 times per year. Now that I’m an hour plus away, they show up every week! What an honor to be able to be your parent’s pastor. But even more so, what dedication on their part to come up not just on Sunday’s but sometimes multiple times during the week to serve the people of Harrisburg in various ways. I’m so thankful that we get to work side by side in the most important task in the world…showing other people the love of Jesus.
7. Family on Both Sides– Lisa and I are fortunate to have relatives that we actually really like. I can’t think of a single relative that we ever dread having to be around. While we don’t get to see everyone as much as what we’d always like, things like Facebook help to keep tabs on everyone and stay invested in some way in their lives. I love the times we are able to get together and the fun we have!
8. DrewPeacoq8– In the real world better known as John Gonzalez. 3+ years ago John was the first of my 3 poker coaches that I hired. Immediately we hit it off and as the years have progressed he has gone from coach to friend to as of a few weeks ago a brother in Christ. Almost daily, whether it be phone, text, chat, email etc we are in communication with one another and increasingly it’s less and less about the game we both love and about life and living life to it’s fullest. He truly has become one of my best friends…in fact, Lisa and I are leaving tonight after family stuff to head to North Carolina to spend a few days with John and Brandy. Can’t wait to hang!
9. Poker in General– It’s amazing all the ways a card game has impacted my life. First, I still find it extremely relaxing as a way to unwind after a day of church stuff. Second, it has allowed me to expand my ministry reach. Whether it’s helping local players through various personal issues or the opportunities I’m getting nationally and globally to share the good news of Jesus, it’s so cool to be able to make an impact for the Kingdom of God in an area that so desperately needs it but yet many Christians would steer clear of. Third is from a financial stand point. This year especially I have been crushing tournaments which has allowed us to not have to depend on Lisa for any income, which in turn is allowing her to pursue some of her own dreams and goals. Last, it is an avenue to keep my naturally competitive juices flowing. Not only from tourney to tourney, but also each week when the new global rankings come out it’s fun to see how I stack up. As of this week, I’m the #1 online player in PA, #16 in the United States and #1110 in the world.
10. You– If you’ve read all the way through this then chances are you’re someone close to me and I just want to say thank you for your love, encouragement, friendship and support. No matter what area of life I know you from, my life is better because you’re in it…here’s to many more years of doing life together! Happy Thanksgiving!
- Haven’t been motivated to write this past week so this is easy to do a Whatever Wednesday post since I can just bullet point stuff.
- I’m still wrestling through the emotional stuff from the shooting.
- I don’t think about it immediately when I wake up now but I have started dreaming about it…although that has morphed into some weird things.
- The other night it was of Lisa getting shot. That’s even worse than me so I don’t like those thoughts at all.
- I have an appointment with a counselor tomorrow so hopefully he will be able to help keep me on the right track.
- Ok enough of that…what else is going on?
- Was disappointed with the Super Bowl…not necessarily the outcome but just the game itself…really thought it would be a close, exciting game.
- The commercials were a bit lame as well this year.
- I’m taking my own advice from this past Sunday’s message and I’ve done a good job this week not complaining about the snow, ice, cold, shoveling, etc.
- It’s been nice this past week with all the bad weather having Lisa home more.
- After not using it hardly at all our first few winters here in Harrisburg, we are firing up the gas fireplace quite a bit this winter.
- Not so much for the heat but just because it’s relaxing.
- It was a bad night for my sports teams last night…both the Caps and Terps suffered disappointing losses.
- Oh well, at least the Wizards are above .500 for the first time in 4 years!
- I’m excited about our new series that starts this week at Exponential. It’s called “Crazy Love” and is based off the book of the same name by Francis Chan.
- The entire premise I’m going off of for this series is, “You won’t do what God wants you to do until you fully appreciate who He is!”
- Now you can do stuff for God but if you’re doing it because you HAVE to instead of you WANT to, all of the sudden your faith will seem like a burden and will be no fun.
- This is why many Christians struggle with their faith and have no joy.
- This is also why a lot of people reject Christianity…they think it’s just a bunch of rules and rituals…but who wants that? No one…so they end up missing out on the most life-changing and awe inspiring relationship a person could ever want.
- So for 6 weeks I want to help people fall in love with who God IS not what He can do for you or wants from you.
- OK guess that’s all for now…I have a busy day tomorrow but if I have time I think my Theological Thursday post will be my thoughts from last night’s Evolution vs. Creationism debate.
This is a “Whatever Wednesday” so I thought I’d just get some random thoughts out that are rattling through my mind….
- Had a good time away Monday and Tuesday with some other pastors dreaming about what a collaborative church plant might look like.
- My role is to do some demographics research. This is actually something I really enjoy doing so it should be quite easy.
- We went on Monday night and played Laser Tag together. It was a ton of fun but we were all drenched with sweat by the time we were done 4 games.
- It was only afterward that we noticed the sign, “No Running”.
- See just goes to show you even pastors need grace in following the rules. 🙂
- I was the high scorer of the night!!!
- See just goes to show you even pastors battle with pride.
- On a more serious note I was thankful for hour long conversations that I had with both George Spangler and Steve Dunn.
- Both listened well and then helped to advise and counsel. Thanks guys!!!
- Tonight I’m meeting with a great friend, Doug Coldsmith, who is visiting from out of town…can’t wait!
- Last night I had a meeting about a potential new meeting location for ECTV. Please be praying that all goes well.
- Tonight is the start of another season of American Idol. Can’t wait to see the chemistry between the new judges. I think it will go well.
- I’m really frustrated with the Orioles right now. After the excitement of making the play-offs 2 years ago it seems like they are losing steam. PLEASE sign someone already!
- Lisa has been sick for over a week now…she finally went back to work yesterday but she’s still hacking pretty good.
- To help her rest well (not hear my snoring) and for me to not catch it (hazardous to my job), I’ve been sleeping on the sofa for the past week…My back hurts.
- We had 2 different cold weather issues effect our water system at the house.
- Anyone know a good plumber?
- I’ve enjoyed getting back to blogging…if you have ideas or questions you’d like me to address, please let me know. Again the days are by categories. Ministry Monday’s (anything related to ECTV or churches in general). Topical Tuesday’s (my comments on things in the news)
Whatever Wednesday (self-explanatory)
Theological Thursday’s (answering your theological questions…which by the way has been the most popular days so far)
Funny Friday’s (stuff that makes me laugh)
- Again would really appreciate you letting me know what topics, questions, thoughts you might have so the blog is truly something we enjoy together.
I just got an e-mail this morning saying that our domain name, www.ExponentialChurch.tv had automatically renewed as per my contract with the hosting company. What this simply means is that it’s been 2 years to the day since I officially decided on what the church name was going to be.
It was in October of 2009 that God gave me the vision for Exponential. The next few months consisted of making sure this was God’s will for our lives and not just a bad reaction to the pepperoni pizza I had eaten the night before. A part of this process took Lisa and I out to San Diego for a week-long church planter’s assessment. It was a grueling week of assessments, psychological testing, team exercises, quizzes, presentations and constantly having 25+ people evaluate your every move.
Although we had previously discussed names for the potential church, God didn’t confirm any until Lisa and I were back in our hotel room after yet another intense day of evaluation. That was two years ago today and of course the name chosen was Exponential Church.
The reason for this was quite simple. During my years working for Purpose Driven Ministries, part of the teaching I did for pastors was about Exponential Faith Thinking. Essentially this means that you must have a vision, goals and dreams SO BIG that if God doesn’t show up and do something miraculous, those dreams and goals will never come true.
By thinking this big, it does two things for you. First, it will drive you to your knees in prayer begging God to do something great on your behalf. Since you know you can’t do it without Him, this big vision will force you to be utterly and totally dependent on Him. Second, when your dreams and goals are fulfilled, you won’t possibly be able to receive the credit for it…all the praise will go to how great God is, not how smart you are.
This whole line of thinking fit perfectly with the vision God had given me. What I was experiencing in San Diego was only confirming that. It’s a huge vision that I’m not nearly smart enough to accomplish without God doing something great in and on my behalf. The name Exponential also described the type of impact I know God is calling us to have. Yes, we are starting in Harrisburg and that is our primary place God has called us to reach, but I truly believe that we’re going to do things that will make an eternal difference in our state, nation and world.
Now you might be saying, “That’s awesome but what about the .tv part?” Glad you asked. So 2 years ago today as God confirmed the name, I immediately decided to go ahead and buy the domain name. One problem… .com, .org, .net, .info and many of the other common extensions are owned by others. Immediately God reminded me of that a couple of churches that I greatly admire have the .tv extension…in fact some of them even made it a part of their name since it’s still uncommon here in the US. A quick search and sure enough www.ExponentialChurch.tv was available. A month later when we filled out all of our legal paperwork, I included the .tv in the name so people won’t have to guess how to find us on the web.
So now you know. Two challenges for you: First, are you thinking Exponentially in your own life and ministry? Life is too short to waste it on small dreams. Second, if you’re a part of ExponentialChurch.tv are you serving in some way? The vision is too big and the stakes too high for you to simply sit on the sidelines as a spectator. Discover what it is that God is calling you to do to help make this Exponential vision a reality!