Sun, Sep 29, 2019
Note: Sorry, this week’s absurd length does not represent a change in policy. We will work toward concision, over time, someday, maybe. I’ve apparently got a lot to say this week… mostly because I am so in love with this church and our amazing people. I am (more) proud (than I should be) to be your Lead Pastor. (Cue the jokesters to mispronounce “Lead”.)
New “GO!” Series and Campaign to Create More Space at Greeneville and More Momentum at Afton!
Our memory verse for this series is Matthew 28:19-20a, which says, 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
This famous passage is called “The Great Commission”, because, right before He ascended to the Father till He returns a second time, He commissioned His followers to carry on His mission.
“GO!” is our 4-week series during October and it is about how God has called us to go beyond being a disciple who consumes to a becoming disciple who produces. Going is the difference between being a Genesis 11 settler for self and accepting Jesus’ call to become a Matthew 28 missionary to your community. And while we’re using this series to ask 50 people from our Greeneville campus to serve at our Afton campus, to create more space at Greeneville and more momentum at Afton, we’re ultimately asking everyone to “GO!” beyond the settled life of being a disciple who consumes to the going life of being a disciple who produces for the sake of experiencing the joy of being the means of God communicating His goodness and glory to a dying world all around us! What a cool personal vision that is, eh?! And it doesn’t require you to even “GO!” to Afton! (But, we still want at least 50 Greeneville campus peeps to do so nonetheless.) ;o)
A few thoughts to help clarify the Why behind the campaign to ask 50 to move to Afton.
- Greeneville Campus > We’re still experiencing the same growth we’ve experienced for the last 6-7 years at our Greeneville campus, but it’s ramped up a bit since “going multi” in February 2019 (fccgreene.org/multifaqs). In fact, we’ve seen upwards of 50 brand new people in our seats since then! So, we’re beginning to occasionally hit up against the well-established 75-80% capacity rule where people begin to feel uncomfortably cramped. Well done Greeneville peeps! Keep up the good work! (Seriously… Not whistling dixie… I see little wins here and there, every Sunday, of our vision moving forward and more people buying in. Keep up the good work of serving and connecting people to Jesus.)
- Afton Campus > After a leveling off period, we’ve settled at around 225 a Sunday, with room for a good 225 more per service! That’s the gist of the reason we’re asking Greeneville folks to “GO!”, to create space at Greeneville and momentum at Afton, meaning we’ve got plenty of room to relieve ongoing issues of people capacity. Now, before you get discouraged, as if “things aren’t working at Afton” and this “GO!” campaign is just about “fixing problems at Afton”, here are a few really important things to keep top of mind…
- (1) This portable-church-in-a-high-school thing is brand new to us and requires some time to get used to, and we’ve done much better than it may seem on the surface. Every multisite church leader and campus planter we talked to told us that it would be a good sign if, 6 months into it, our numbers weren’t significantly less than the numbers of our launch team. (I.e., there is usually an early bump of well-wishers and curious-onlookers, the vast majority of whom don’t stick around, as well as some who, for a number of different reasons, don’t really come along for the ride as planned.) Well, we launched with 225 who were committed to Afton and we’re at 225 6 months later… in a building we don’t own… while doing portable setup-cleanup… which requires extra volunteer muscle and heart… in a rural setting… where a model like this hasn’t exactly been tried… and where it’s not exactly like people are moving to Greene County in droves… and where we’ve got room for easily 1,000 people a Sunday so it feels, um, less-than-full! In other words, despite some real physical and emotional obstacles, Afton’s absolutely killing it! (That’s a good thing, for those of you not as current on culturally cool lingo as I. And yes, that previous should end with “I” and this one should not begin with “and”.) We could stop there with our picture of the state of things at Afton, but there’s more…
- (2) Our core people at Afton are serving so faithfully and are already achieving many of our goals for multisite. They make it happen with excellence and heart Sunday after Sunday after Sunday! The percentage of people serving, the connections being made, people being baptized and becoming members, new folks joining us for Next Steps, the brand-new Life Groups recently created that are primarily filled with brand-new-to-FCC folks, the success of replicating a culture of teams where people walk into a clean building having been warmly welcomed, etc., are the signs that it’s already working! (3) This is a really important sign, I think… This is an “edumacated guesstimate”, but of the 225 at Afton, a good 75 or so are brand new to FCC and/or haven’t recently been well connected in the local church! And these new-to-FCC folks are inviting their friends and family and we’ve already begun to see brand new connections being made! That’s huge because it’s a foundation for continued growth! (4) Our faithfulness to open-handedly serve at Chuckey-Doak High School, as led by Campus Pastor Tommy Staggs, has already become a solid witness to the students, faculty, and administrators in ways that would really surprise you! I don’t want to go into details here, but we’ve had story after story after story of people in the community speaking with gratitude for how faithfully and open-handedly our Afton campus has served. (And, btw, this is happening increasingly well through our Greeneville campus efforts as well. Tyson’s been doing a great job. This aspect of our multisite vision has begun to make some really cool inroads!)
- Go therefore, Greeneville FCCers… > So… we need more space at Greeneville and we’ve got it at Afton, where, in light of the 5 points made above, this new FCC vision of multisite campus outreach has laid a fantastic foundation on which to build! It feels to me like God’s the One guiding us and we’re just trying to be faithful to step into the places He’s directing! So… “GO!” with us to Afton!
- All-FCC > While in practical terms one of our main goals is to send 50 folks to create space at Greeneville and momentum at Afton, the message of this series applies to everyone as an opportunity to listen closely to God’s heart to reach out to those around us who need a forever relationship with Jesus. If you’re not being called to go to Afton, which applies to those staying behind at Greeneville and those already at Afton, to whom is God calling you to “GO!”?
Special Thanks are in Order
God has given me the privilege, as a function of my rare and weird position as Lead Pastor of this wonderful church, of being someone who sees it from many different angles. As we’ve continued to learn together how to do church in this fairly new and different way we’re doing it, chiefly, as two campuses whose vision is to send 7-Habits-trained disciple-makers to plant other campuses, it has meant a lot of change, flexibility, showing up earlier than normal, jumping in with not-enough-direction, learning to work with other fallible people (not a meaningless lesson, y’all!), having to get used to keeping updated with the Pulse video/email, Scott’s Thoughts, social media, etc., etc., etc. This list of ways we’ve asked you to change and learn along with us is as long as the number of people who are meaningfully part of our church family.
So, there are many hundreds of names to which this general word of thanks is directed and many thousands of hours of work and prayer from whence this gratitude comes. Please know that, from my vantage point, not only is God using you, regardless of your position, role, length of service, etc., to help us learn how to adapt ourselves to this vision of becoming and sending 7-Habits-trained missionaries to campuses across Greene County, but I want you to hear me say, “Thank You!” for your faithfulness which does not go unnoticed.
Updated Next Steps Curriculum
Starting Sun, Oct 6, we hope (#prayinghands) to launch a new set of updated videos and books for Next Steps that includes a few tweaks to existing ministries, a couple new ministries, an updated description of our multisite campus-launching strategy, and that is adapted to our new 1-hr-long service format. If you haven’t yet done Next Steps, now would be a good time to join us! It’s sign-up or show-up, (but we prefer sign-up, so go to fccgreene.org/nextsteps to do so… Like, right now… Do it, lazy bones. … “Honey, I just signed us up for Next Steps for next Sunday.” … “Okay…” See, it’s that easy.)
New Serve Wall
If you’ve ever wondered where you could be most helpful in serving or where we have the most need, (but don’t lose sight of the idea that need needs to be balanced with gifting)… Starting today Sun, Sep 29, you can find our Top 5 most needed/wanted/helpful serving positions on the Serve Wall in The Hub! Each card has a brief description of what’s involved and a place on back to let us know you’re interested in taking a test drive. For example, right now at Greeneville we need someone to help in Guest Services at the 10:20a service, and that involves “high fives, handshakes, and hospitality”. Or, at Afton, we need someone to help with Clean-up Crew, involving “Pipe & Drape, Community, and Hustle & Bustle”. … So grab a card, think/pray about it (30 secs should be plenty!) ;o) … take it to a Guest Connector at The Hub, and we’ll follow up with you for a test drive! Here’s a cool wrinkle… Since each Serve Wall is campus-specific, not only can it help you see where our most critical needs are, but the Top 5 will change as needs change, allowing us to more accurately direct people where they’re… needed. Efficient, eh?!
Great Questions Update
Wanted to give you a quick report on the kinds of questions we’ve been answering on Monday nights at Great Questions, at our Greeneville campus, from 6:30-8:30p.
- How does the “lex talionis” Old Testament God become “peace loving” New Testament Jesus?
- How old is the earth?
- How do I know Jesus knows me?
- Is it ok for a Christian to be entertained by horror flicks?
- What happens when we die? Do we go straight to be with Jesus or… ?
- How were the OId Testament people (and anyone who came before Jesus) judged?
- Why do we not “keep Sabbath” as the Old Testament commanded?
- Can a Christian lose his or her salvation?
- What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?
- Can I put wise men in my nativity scene at Christmas since they weren’t actually at Jesus’ birth?
- Do predestination or (unconditional) election preclude or eliminate our responsibility to respond or choose in faith?
- Does God change His mind?
- Does prayer change God or me?
- Can God use decisions we make that are outside of His will?
- Does Hebrews 6:4-6 refer to believers or unbelievers?
- How would FCC deal with a leader coming out as same-sex-attracted and/or as involved in homosexual practice/behavior?
- What is forgiveness and how does it work out practically?
Wow! It’s gotten me excited just thinking about how much fun we’ve had delving into such important (and difficult) questions! You got any questions you wanna work through, whether you’re a skeptic or a struggler? Come join us on Monday nights, 6:30-8:30p, at FCC Greeneville. See fccgreene.org/gq for more info… Btw, high school students are welcome!
Catalyst Coffee Company
Some of you new FCCers may not be aware that we launched Catalyst in early 2015 as a nonprofit marketplace ministry that not only makes money to give away to already-existing ministries, but that also maintains a good place for those in our community to create relationships and have meetings over good food and coffee. We’ll soon be telling you more about Catalyst in a couple upcoming Pulse videos, Scott’s Thoughts, and on our social media, but I’m including this small blurb now, as a teaser, to let ya know we’ve got some cool things to report about how it’s going and what the future looks like, and how you can be involved.
Great Questions Answered: “What must a person do to be saved?” – Part 2: How to Receive God’s Grace
Sorry, didn’t get to finishing this week’s “Great Questions Answered”… for the second straight week. #loser (See below, I s’pose, for an apology.) Will get back to it ASAP.
Friendly reminder that you can get to Great Questions Answered by going to the shortlink fccgreene.org/gqa. (See, I’ve done some GQAs…)
Quick Personal Note of Explanation and Apology
While this is one of those things I should likely vet before the Elders, (sorry, guys), they’ve already put in way too much time the last couple weeks with many other such decisions (and, frankly, questions/issues from me!), so, despite the fact that this is perhaps slightly weird to put in print (online, no less!), I’m just gonna put this out there because I have felt the need to address this for many years.
Long story short, years ago, soon after I became what was then called “Senior Pastor” and we were running 225 in attendance, I began to experience what has now become a constant and insurmountable weight and overwhelming tension of my personal inability to effectively keep life’s many plates spinning, minister to people personally, give people the attention they deserve, manage relationships well, yada, yada, yada… This may sound dumb to some of you who somehow deal with life’s pressures well(er than me; please, what is your secret sauce?!), but it is a constant struggle for me and my family that has tempted me, more times than I can count, to quit church ministry altogether. So I felt the need to address this openly and honestly, to provide, as best I’m able, an apology to so many of you who are affected.
This tension plays out in many ways, but here’s a prime example: There are currently hundreds of emails, messages, voicemails, written/verbal requests, passing conversations ending in tentative meetings/meals/coffee, etc., that I cannot and will not ever get to. (Believe me, as a certifiable Type A perfectionist who got into ministry in the first place to care for people, each one of those failures to respond or follow-up hurts!) The reality is that every one of those has a person with needs on the other side, waiting and wondering if I care enough to respond. I’m sorry if you have been or are one of those people. I do care, and I hate that you might feel uncared for or forgotten by me. I love you, I love this church, and I love our amazing people, and I want nothing more than for us to minister to one another effectively, in person, face-to-face, and in ways that provide great personal pastoral care to everyone! But, not only is it not practical in any church larger than 50 for me to try to make that personal care happen, I have learned it is dangerous for me to lose myself in work and ministry. I have to do better with the personal boundaries of taking care of myself and spending time with my family. I’ve not done right by them, and that needs to change, because I’ve been too burnout more than once, I feel myself getting there again lately, and I want to be around to minister alongside FCC for decades to come.
So, I’m sorry if you have felt ignored by me. I promise it’s not intentional. It’s just plain survival and trying to stay afloat. (Btw, many of our staff, just like many of you, feel this same overwhelm with our inability to keep the plates spinning, relationally. The manic pace and ease-of-commmunication-and-access in modern life makes maintaining healthy boundaries incredibly difficult, but no less important. Please pray for me, for our leaders, and for one another, that we do not become people marked by the unhealthy lack of boundaries that I’ve lived and, unfortunately, modeled.)
Now… Often when I am apologizing to people and communicating my inability to care and follow-up well, keep the plates spinning, etc., they often ask about delegation (which I do like crazy), the role of other staff (who are already picking up my slack and have versions of their own overwhelm), and ways to help. I super appreciate that. So here’s the basic answer… (1) Give in to the idea, that we have begun to communicate frequently, that the front lines of personal and pastoral care at FCC happen as you Serve on the team (i.e., from/with Team Leaders) and Connect in a small group (i.e., from/with Small Group/Life Group Leaders). We are purposely structured so that the body takes care of itself well, in keeping with the “one anothers” in the New Testament. (And, btw, our Care Team, Serving Team Leaders, and Small Group/Life Group Leaders are absolutely Rocking it! when it comes to looking after those under their care! I hear stories all… the… time… of how well those who are serving and in a small group get really amazing care.) (2) Live the 7 Habits and pray for God to use your faithfulness to Help Greene County find and follow Jesus! Frankly, the more of us who serve Jesus well and live as if His glory is worth giving our lives to, the more the joy of seeing our church grow to make Jesus famous will sustain us all amid our daily struggle and failures.
I love you all and I love that God has us together on this amazing journey of proclaiming the gospel to Greene County! Thanks for listening… and for being patient with my frequent failures.