Sun, Feb 23, 2020

Scott Wakefield   -  

Total Reading Time: 16m54s, which is Way… Too… Long. I’m sorry. I’m not good with short. (“Break it up into multiple weeks, freakazoid!” Yeah, but I’m already a week behind on the stuff below, and there will be new stuff later.)

A Few Scott’s Thoughts (ST) Thoughts

  • I am not really trying to write great prose here. I have found myself, over time, writing ST rather informally, as I think through the categorizing of content: with bullet points, informal language, abbreviations without periods or explanation, the occasional hyphenated-because-that’s-how-I-think-word, and one of my favorite informal writing tools… (drum roll…) the oft-abused ellipsis. So deal with it! (I think that is most truly directed at my inner perfectionistic Wakefield. Oh, btw, “ellipsis”, singular, is correct, not the plural “ellipses”, because the antecedent referent that directs Subject-Verb agreement is “one”, not “tools”, which is part of a prepositional phrase.) This first point is made largely so I don’t spend an inordinate amount of time being a perfectionistic freakazoid.
  • Re its purpose, ST is where I regularly communicate, as Lead Pastor, high-level vision and low-level details you won’t find in most of our other info channels and where I can touch on things of import that, regardless of whether they’re getting airtime elsewhere, may need more attention. I think this is the most valuable part of ST. We used to be able to communicate this during special called meetings and on Sunday morning, during “Family Matters” before the sermon, but we’re multisite now and those ways of communicating don’t scale. In that vein, see the “The Places Information is Available” list (second section) that we’ve touched on in multiple previous STs posts. It’s pretty eye-opening to see the lengths to which we need to go to most effectively communicate.
  • ST is a place where I want to occasionally share some devotional or biblical thoughts and answers to questions (see, e.g.) Granted, this purpose has not been regularly well-enough achieved. Sorry, just can’t keep up. I do have a few such tidbits I’m trying to get to.
  • You can always easily get to ST by clicking on “News” on or by going to a curated page of ST posts at

Membership Spiritual Health Survey, Bible Reading

I’ve mentioned this a couple times before, but I wanted to remind you that our recent refocus on more Bible reading, memorization, and “going back” to a verse-by-verse-through-a-book pattern in our sermon series is the result of the new yearly Update and Congregational Health Survey that we instituted last Fall. Of the top 3-4 things our congregation wanted to focus on–namely Scripture, generosity, serving, and community–the overwhelming top choice was a greater focus on time in the Word of God!

A staff member shared this with me a few weeks ago, and it makes crystal clear the practical importance and effect of consistent time in God’s Word! Check this out!

For more info, check out some of the Center for Bible Engagement’s research: (For the nerds, here’s a 21-page summary of the study:

Financial Update

In our new multiple campus world, making sure our folks know well what’s going on financially is more difficult, so I want to keep you updated on where we are, financially.

Here’s the overall scoop on our financial picture.

  • We have no debt and haven’t for approximately 96+ years of our 100 year history. (Veterans, am I right in thinking that the only time we’ve really had debt, apart from only a short time after our first building on Summer St in 1921, was when we built the main Sanctuary and downstairs classroom space at Temple St in the early 1960s, and that was for only a short time? My recollection is that both wings at Temple St, in the 70s and 80s, were built debt-free.)
  • We have been running a surplus–income v expenses–for many years in a row, when it comes to our budget. During 2019, I think we were at about $65,000 in the black, even after some additional unbudgeted funding of about $35,000 that went to Camp in the City, Easter and Christmas Offerings, Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes, and about $35,000 additional outlay that went toward a number of extra needed projects: removing the facade and painting the walls in the Worship Center at Greeneville, installing badly needed sound panels in the Kids space at Greeneville, upgrading and renovating the VHQ at Greeneville, installing lights in the auditorium at Chuckey-Doak High School along with a number of other such infrastructural improvements at Afton intended to add value to the school, as well as helping a number of families and individuals from within emergency funds beyond our budgeted Benevolence money. (We don’t like to publicize that stuff much, but it’s happening pretty regularly. Cool huh?!)
  • We are continuing to make steady progress toward our goal of running a leaner and tighter ship, with time, so we can fund multisite campuses as we go, as debt-free as possible. For example, because of about $250,000 we already had on-hand and an ongoing campaign from late 2018 until now, where we have raised an additional $170,000, we not only launched into this new era of multisite debt-free, but we did ~$100,000 of additional work to retrofit the Greeneville campus, and we’ve still got a little left over! It’s like we have said from the beginning about going multisite, it is a more efficient, cost-effective, and successful way to expand than relocating or major building renovation! This bullet-point is an important goal we have that you need to understand well. This strategy of funding-multisite-as-we-go happens through the partnership of FCC Elders/Staff taking seriously our responsibility to faithfully steward our congregation’s weekly General Fund giving.
  • So, things overall are quite healthy, financially.

But… (You knew that was coming!) … we still need your ongoing faithful pursuit of generosity that extends our mission! We are a growing church who wants, not only to continue working toward launching another campus someday… (The word “someday” was chosen quite intentionally, i.e., there is nothing to announce!) … but we also want to expand and deepen our current reach and this means some new challenges like…

  • … a few expenses related to some behind-the-scenes planning and preparation that helps us determine readiness for a 3rd campus. (Not huge expenses, but a few thousand here and there, related, for example, to things like sending potential Campus Pastors to a weeklong intensive that assesses readiness, traveling to see other multisite churches like ours, having a seasoned multisite leader come on-site to help us, etc.)
  • … needing to increase 2 part-time employees to full-time. When you see ‘em, make sure to congratulate Kendra Hinkle, Guests Director, and Alicia Gourley, Admin Director!
  • … figuring out how to fit a current staff of 13 into an area originally built for a staff of 3-4, let alone when we add more staff for an additional campus. (We currently have 9 people in 4 offices.) This doesn’t mean there are plans for anything in particular, but it’s an example of the kind of new “problem” we are now constantly monitoring and for which we may someday soon need to plan.
  • … coming together to fund a few additional off-budget expenses like…
    • Catalyst Coffee Renovations Happening Now – For the next 2-3 more weeks, we are asking you, the congregation, to help by contributing at least $15,000 to keep Catalyst rolling right along in making profits and reaching out to the community. That $15,000 will get us to the $40,000 needed. Here’s how…
      • $11,500 has already been given by the Catalyst Board. Thanks, y’all!)
      • The FCC Elders have committed a minimum of $10,000 from existing FCC funds… (Thanks, FCCers! The Elders couldn’t have committed these funds had you not already been generous!)… which brings the current total commitment to $21,500, but the Elders have extended an extra-mile challenge of up to an additional $5,000, for a total of $15,000 that can be matched.
      • What this means is that, if the congregation gives $15,000, which, again, will be matched from existing FCC funds (Thanks again, FCCers!), Catalyst will have what it needs to complete all the renovations! So far, as of Feb 17, we have $1,350, (Thanks to those who have given!), so we still need your help!
      • For more info, including history of Catalyst, specifics of renovation, and ongoing giving updates (under “What will it cost?”), see
    • Kenya Mission Trip – Jun 14-26 – This will be our focus for our Easter Offering, and we’ll tell you more about how you can help with this soon. We will likely need around $15,000-20,000 of help, to add to the fundraising and letter-writing that we’re hoping will amount to at least $15,000, to send everyone. (These are currently educated guesstimates. We’ll give you more specifics in coming weeks.)
    • Camp in the City – Jun 29-Jul 3 – Again, we’ll tell you more about this soon. Suffice it to say this is an awesome way for us to reach out to kids in our community. CitC is amazing and it’s a really great outreach that is an opportunity for us to rub shoulders with kids and families in the wider community!

So… for now…

  • Please ask God if He wants you to give and then determine how much, if He says yes. Don’t skip this important step. Scripture tells us, in 2 Cor 9:6-8, that God loves to see His people give bountifully and joyfully for the good work God has for us. 6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
  • Re Catalyst, if you can help get us to $15,000, please do so now.
  • Re Kenya and Camp in the City, don’t worry, we’ll give you more detail soon. (But, if you wanna give to those now, it’s not like we’re gonna stop ya!)
  • Re our Weekly General Fund, if you aren’t yet giving or you have margin for more, please do. For reference, here’s a copy of our 2020 Budget (which now requires $700 more per week than listed there because of some new needs) and here are some changes to the budget from last year that we highlighted in a ST late last year.

We are doing our best, as church leaders, to wisely steward your giving to help us achieve what we believe are God’s goals for us, and we are so grateful for your faithfulness in practicing Habit #5: Pursue generosity. Thank you for helping us extend God’s work #forgreeneville, #forafton, and #forgreene!

Small Tweak to Great Questions We’re Gonna Try

Wanted to letcha know of a small change in strategy for Great Questions (GQ) on Monday nights that we’re going to try for a while. The format we’ve been using of a facilitator (i.e., the question answerer!) simply responding to questions from those in attendance, which is a great theory, seems to work, in practice, increasingly less well, for 4 reasons.

  1. When Mark Liebert, the other “Facilitator”, and I have a pretty decent answer, it works well. But when we are providing less-than-decent answers to “great questions”, it works… less well. So, a format that depends on the Facilitator being an oracle of all knowledge, at-the-ready to wisely answer every possible obscure question someone may have, may be slightly too much to expect!
  2. Craziest thing… Turns out most folks don’t really like feeling singled out as they ask their question in front of everyone else! So, the free-for-all format of participants asking whatever they wanted began to wane after the first couple months and many leave their questions for afterward, during the GQ afterglow, when there’s more informal time to talk.
  3. Also, I began to increasingly notice, after the first couple months, that the first question or two seemed to prompt many of the following questions and would, in effect, set the tone for the night. In other words, the nights began to take on a theme.
  4. There were a number of nights where GQ participants said, in effect, “Scott, just come up with a question to answer and we’ll be happy with whatever it is. We just wanna experience some good Bible teaching.”

So, here’s the new format we’re going to try…

  • First 30ish mins will be teaching on a particular question. Here are a few we’ve recently covered.
    • “What is original sin? Is it biblical? Is it fair? Are babies guilty before committing actual sin?”
    • “What’s going on in Romans 9:13?!”
    • “Who are the 144,000 in Revelation 7 and 14?”
    • “What is the Trinity and is it biblical?”
    • “Is abortion morally right or wrong?”
    • “What is the fear of God and is it a good thing?”
  • I am going to try to begin posting these questions ahead of time, to let folks prepare, if they’d like, and to perhaps drum up more participation.
  • Then, after the teaching time, we will allow for a more informal time of Q&A and ongoing interaction with participants, to piggyback off the night’s question.

I think this new format tweak will do 3 things:

  1. Increase participation by publishing questions beforehand.
  2. Increase participation by allowing for more informal interaction. (The current GQ guidelines are a bit restrictive here.)
  3. It will allow me to write content for GQ that becomes written content for Great Questions Answered ( which I have not been able to keep up with, in part because of the previous freeform format of no-question’s-off-limits, which was a great theory, but I don’t think worked as well as hoped. (Speaking of which, I have about 6 Great Questions Answered posts that are–whaddya know?!–exactly the same as the aforementioned recent questions covered, that are almost ready to be published online.)

So come join us this next Mon, for Great Questions, from 7:30-8:30p, in the Worship Center at our Greeneville campus, where we’ll be answering part 2 about original sin, “Is it fair? Are babies guilty before committing actual sin?”

Why Your Personal and Pastoral Care Come from Habits #2 and #3, Serve on the team. and Connect in a Small Group. and Why This Church is So Amazing

So, we’ll start with me… and my frustrations and frailties… and we’ll get to you toward the end! :o) There’s an interesting relationship that develops between a Pastor and his flock, over time. Used to be I could spend lots of time with lots of people. I… absolutely… loved… it. As a certifiable 100% extrovert, I loved that dynamic of being in and among the flock.

But… going from a church of around 300 attending per Sunday just 5 years ago to 600 at 2 campuses today has made this extrovert struggle with my inability to effectively respond to all the inputs and needs I encounter. Add to the mix that I’m a Type A perfectionist, then you can see why, for me, this dynamic has become painfully unmanageable. I’m 100% serious about this–I am constantly grieved by how unable I am to be the front lines of pastoral care for the overwhelming majority of our people, (many of whom remember when I far more was able to be! Been thinking about this lately. I miss being able to sit and chat at some length with numerous different FCCers at Wednesday dinners, church picnics, before/after service, etc.)

So, after the last few weeks of my consistent failure to effectively meet the needs of so many people who have genuine needs all around me, I feel the need to say again, publicly, that I am constantly struggling to effectively respond, let alone answer, less than half the many inputs. I don’t know how else to say it, but I want to be vulnerable and let you know I am doing my best and yet I constantly feel like I am miserably failing. I am sorry it isn’t better.

It gets worse. Not only is it simply unmanageable and physically impossible for me to be the front lines of very many peoples’ personal and pastoral care… (And one thing I’ve learned is that everyone feels like their situation is the important exception!) … but it is unbiblical and dangerous–for me, my family, and this church–to say yes to as many things as I would like or that people actually need. I have communicated all this to the Elders recently and I feel myself lately getting close to the burnout that eventually wears down (and even takes down) Pastors, which is why I want to say this kind of awkward thing out loud. I desperately need your understanding and your prayers to stand strong despite my consistent failures which tempt me to give into sin, to give up on doing hard things, and to put time into frivolous things to which I know God hasn’t called me. Friends, there’s too much important work for us to do and too many hurting people all around us for me to be the front lines of personal and pastoral care and to constantly work on empty. To do so means I run the risk of giving into temptations I shouldn’t or spending too little time in God’s Word or preparing for sermons and that could endanger the amazing work God wants to continue to do through FCC. Makes me think of Nehemiah when he says, in Nehemiah 6:3, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” In specific terms, more than anything, I would like to ask you to pray for me to have the strength and courage to ignore or say no to the things I know I shouldn’t be doing so I can spend time in God’s Word preparing to preach. Our church’s growth has pressed preaching prep to the margins way more than anything, and it’s the one thing I’m tasked with doing more than anyone else, and it consistently gets the least attention. This is not good.

Here’s the thing… and now we’re getting to you, finally. :o) It works best, for you, and for everyone else, when you buy into our stated vision for your care and you Serve on the Team. and Connect in a Small Group. We say this explicitly in Next Steps, namely that the only possible way to give quality care for as many people as God has been sending us is to continue to teach and allow the body to take care of itself well.

Now I realize not everybody can serve and/or be in a small group. I get it. Life is busy. You work nights. The kids go to bed too early. You tried a group but it didn’t work out. Your illness limits you. All of those types of things can hinder your involvement.

But it’s worth finding a way! There are so many wonderful stories I hear, multiple times per week, of how well a small group leader is shepherding their flock and caring for their needs or how a Team Leader is meeting closely with a Team Member for practical training or spiritual accountability. Just this week I was asked about someone, in particular, who needs good care, and I was able to confidently say, “You know what?! That person is getting really great care!” and I could name a few tangible ways that is the case that go way beyond what I can do!

The amazing thing is that, despite my obvious weaknesses, our strategy is working, the body is growing stronger and stronger, and God is strengthening and raising up more shepherds and leaders who are not only giving great personal and pastoral care, but who are straight up Helping their people find and follow Jesus! This is the wonderful encouragement that constantly spurs me on despite my frailties and failures. I really love this church.