Sat, Sep 26, 2020

Scott Wakefield   -  

Total Reading Time: ~10 mins (Sorry so long. There’s too much to cover.)

Misc Points of Interest and Import, Briefly Stated

Friendly reminder of a number of things we’ve covered the last few weeks that are still worth your attention. (I.e., turns out we don’t have 100% of our people reading or watching everything we write or publish!? Weird. Scott’s Thoughts, circulation of… dozens.) So, given that many miss many important things, (because, see first sentence and last paragraph here), I’m providing just a few brief friendly reminders from the last few weeks.

Scott’s Thoughts (ST) Vision Tweak and Posting Schedule & Placement – Not that many care about this, but it’s helpful for me to write down vision thoughts. (FCC Staff Culture Principle: “You haven’t thought it through till you’ve written it down.”) Plus, I use Written ST to help keep staff on the same page. (Nathan, take note…)

  • Vision Tweak: Distinction Between Written & Video Updates – Nothing earth shattering, but I’m gonna confine the Written ST to church-related details, happenings, vision, etc. and stick with using the 3-mins(ish) Video to communicate a helpful devotional thought from Scripture, that will likely relate to our congregational needs but that could also be helpful for non-FCCers. (Am gonna try to ensure the video is shareable by our FCCers, to help Tell the story, encourage others, introduce them to us as a church, etc.)
  • Posting Schedule – I’ve been trying to keep to a Fri(ish) morning schedule of posting both a 3(ish)-mins Video Update and a more detailed Written Update… (Note the “ish”es. Trying… and failing… including this week… again. Another data point among many in the ongoing lesson that leadership often entails failing people at a rate they can tolerate. Yay.) … but I need to go with an as-needed-and-able with video and/or written schedule, to keep myself sane. So… (again, not that hardly anyone on the planet cares) … but how ’bout I just write and/or record what I can get done, as-needed-and-able, and we just post it whenever I’m done, k, dummy?! #smh (<— Just to be clear, I’m the dummy here. Hey, that rhymes.)
  • Placement – Video are posted on Facebook, YouTube, and the app (under “Watch”). Written Updates are on the website and app.

Congregational Vote on Elders – This Sunday is your last chance to vote on Elders. You can knock out the Annual Membership Update, Health Survey, and Elders Vote right now at This is important as we take our membership rolls down to zero every year. Go here to read more detail in a previous ST. Here are a couple bios of the 2 new Elders:

  • John Hamilton – John and his wife, Michelle, have three grown children. He has been a practicing chiropractor in Greeneville since 1997. John has previously served in both teaching and leadership roles in previous churches prior to attending FCC. Since joining FCC in 2012 he has served as an elder, youth leader, and LifeGroup leader. The Hamiltons attend the Greeneville campus.
  • Carl DelSorbo – Carl, and his wife Christa, have been attending FCC since 2017. They have two grown sons, Jarod and Carter. Carl has worked at Artazn in Greeneville for 23 yrs and is currently the Senior VP of Operations. Carl and Christa attend the Afton campus where he serves as a Guest Service Leader and she is active on both the Worship and Care teams. They serve together as Life Group Coaches for Afton and as Coaches for Merge, the premarital part of the Marriage Ministry at FCC.

Some Additional Commentary and Context for Last Elders LetterGo here if you haven’t yet read that part from last week’s Written ST–it may be helpful for some clarity.

Joshua 22 on Needing to Ensure Our Lack of Personal Information Doesn’t Become Unnecessary Suspicion and Distrust – Start at 3 mins in, online here, or on the app (under “Watch”).

Heads up for Returning to In-Person – Something important to think through as you’re returning to in-person was mentioned in last week’s ST.

(A Few More) Lessons Learned (Particularly from Leading Through Covid)

I’m repeating last week’s important disclaimer before you read these… (In future weeks, I’ll just link to it.) See here for last week’s list. I’m only including 7 items a week. 10 last week was too many. (We’ll shoot for 5 next week.)

As we’ve said many times, as a disclaimer in churchwide communications from the very beginning of the Covid crisis, (“If you’re immunocompromised, etc.”), we understand some of our people are unable to return because of extra precautions due to vocational or family responsibilities, being immunocompromised, health issues, etc. No sweat. Everyone’s gotta make their own decisions based on their own context. So, straight up, the following are not directed toward any particular person and certainly not “those FCCers who haven’t yet made it back to church.” The last thing I wanna do is unnecessarily shame or guilt people. We Christians rest in God’s grace achieved for us, in Christ, to free us from the guilt and shame of our sin. These are simply some things that I have noticed during the Covid Crazy, each one with numerous anecdotal and/or scientific data points because, as a 100% extrovert ADHD infohound (who is constantly holding back and who is in a calling where feedback is constant), I am constantly engaging with people and information every moment I can. (And no, I will not footnote everything, sorry. Ain’t got time.) It’s not exhaustive–there’s much more to say–so I’ll parcel out a few at a time over numerous weeks, but here you go, in no particular order of… anything. Some are pointed; some are a mix of rambling and rant. If the particular shoe fits, wear it. If it doesn’t, don’t. (Ok, enough with the disclaimers.) Whatever the case, I hope they make us all think about our own need for growth in Christlikeness.

  • Way more than anyone realizes, our posture of being both “open” and online requires much more behind-the-scenes work from our paid staff. I love working with people who are sold out to serving the body in whatever way needed. (<— Really. I mean this, not only that I love our Staff, but that they are so clearly personally all-in for our mission that they will do whatever is needed to serve and equip the body. Love it.)
  • The material luxuries that Americans enjoy that deceive us into functioning as if we alone control our own lives, (i.e., not speaking of good ideas like responsibility, but rather idea that ‘I am sovereign, God is not’), means that most live from a form of “standpoint epistemology” (or “viewpoint epistemology”) that reduces reality to personal experience and feelings, end of story. (For the nerds who may be interested, here’s a good primer on standpoint epistemology, especially as it relates to modern notions of social justice,
  • Do your homework. Find out enough so that, at the least, you can have a sense that you know enough before you wantonly emote, react, spazz out, and make definitive declarations that you’re seeing things accurately. (Preaching to myself, y’all.) If the Triune God Himself is literally the only being in the entire universe that can see any one situation with full accuracy, what on earth makes you and me believe we do?! A little humility to search out more information, about ideas or people, could go a long way to help reduce our anxieties. (Note to self: Principles undergirding Matt 18 as antidote to contemporary anxiety à la The Social Dilemma.)
  • Stop babying your kids. Stop acting like shielding them from hurt and pain is always the correct option. Stop allowing them to let their emotions lead them without helping them process through the struggle. Stop letting them quit when it’s hard. Stop acting like the world is supposed to bend to their desires. Stop giving glib answers that have more to do with the world’s Godless ideologies than the Word of God. That is the opposite of preparing them for the world. (Note to self: Screens as drug dealers for standpoint epistemology, monetizing kids by training them in autonomy, to pay attention to self only… or something like that.)
  • Many parents have functionally given up parenting. I get it. It’s hard. You’re tired. You were yelled at today at work, again. You’ve been stuck at home, perhaps for months. You’ve got financial pressures that are worsening. Your extended family is demanding. Your loved one is dying. Your spouse is last on the list of your attention. You’re failing everywhere in life. Believe me, I get it. But parents, if you’re feeling yourself give in, rededicate yourselves to a few things… Stop letting your circumstances lead, fight for the self-discipline of a daily relationship with God in prayer and Word that sustains when everything can’t, and gain some Godly vision for stewarding your kids’ lives for the sake of the Kingdom of God that brings true joy instead of some pathetic this-worldly vision of sociocultural success. The hearts of your kids hang in the balance. Many a kid’s trip to judgment apart from Jesus has been paved by parental busyness, apathy, and lack of vision that allow the world to lead. So parents, do not give up! Do not give into the circumstances that overwhelm. If you give up, you have agreed to let the world to shape your kids instead of the gospel. Those are the stakes here! It’s too important to give up.
  • When a church isn’t gathering, in-person, the very important dynamic of face-to-face interaction that undergirds Matthew 18, which is typically functioning at a low level from week to week, is largely missing among many of our congregants, and it makes for a whole lot of painful miscommunication and noncommunication… and believe me, we church leaders are feeling that, just as I know many of you are. It’s the worst, eh?! Pray for one another, y’all. There are many such intangibles that are unintended consequences of lockdown that are… hard(er with time.) See today’s ST Video for more on this Matt 18 face-to-face interaction. (<– And no, “face-to-face interaction” is not some sorta politically charged anti-mask statement, weirdo!)
  • The church is a fundamentally different thing than even most Christians think… and it plays a far more important role in helping communities thrive and keeping people intact than most choose to see. Worship is essential. Meeting with other believers is essential. Praying for one another in Life Groups is essential. People are suffering without the guardrails and ongoing encouragement of the gathered body. They are more frustrated than they’ve ever been. They’re asking for counselors, re:gen, financial help, emotional support, and the like far more than usual. In July, CDC Director Robert Redfield commented that we are seeing far greater death in our young adults from suicide and drug overdose than we are Covid-related death. Health professionals and church leaders all over the country are seeing such troubling side effects of the lockdown. Please know we are praying for you and doing our best amid less-than-normal circumstances to fight for you by staying focused on our mission of Helping people find and follow Jesus, to help you stay strong when it’s hard and frustrating.

Newly Redesigned Next Steps 2.0

While there’s much more detail to tell you about this soon, and we’re still not quite ready for prime time, I want to give you a heads up about the gist of this major change. Next Steps (NS) has been 4 sessions, on Sunday mornings, and primarily directed toward helping new guests get connected, with follow-up largely happening then, on Sundays. But now, we are redesigning the experience so it is:

  • shorter and more flexible, with a video-based curriculum that can be completed by yourself in one 30-minute session on the app
  • easier to complete, with one in-person follow-up session on Monday nights (this can be adapted for some extenuating circumstances, but we’re purposely not advertising this and starting out by directing people to Mon nights because personal follow-up is better/easier in a centralized setting, plus directing people to Mon nights also helps them experience what NS 2.0 is meant to be as well as helps to create synergy and movement for further engagement with Mon nights, see “growth night” and re:gen and Re|engage points below)
  • better with follow-up, with an entire Next Steps Team focused on helping mentor participants
  • a more tailored approach to connecting people to FCC
  • an ongoing growth and learning environment that will help both brand-new and veteran FCCers integrate the 7 Habits into their lives
  • ongoing ministry training (by videoing each night’s training, to use for ministry teams, on-demand training, repository of answers to peoples’ FAQs, etc.) that is brief and doesn’t ask much for existing FCCers other than 30ish mins on a night that touches on their area of service/ministry
  • a centralized environment for training leaders and residents (and where they can cut their teeth on training and teaching others)
  • available on the app for any of our FCCers to use to show anyone, at any time, how the 7 Habits work, i.e., NS 2.0 on the app becomes a disciplemaking tool for any and all FCCers, decentralizing and open-sourcing the training process beyond just church “leaders” (Note to self: Make this a Mon night “8th H” session where we demonstrate how NS on the app works, as a demo, perhaps for week #1/2?!)
  • part of a strategy of experimenting with turning Mon nights into a sort of personal spiritual growth night, which we think will also create some synergy with and movement toward re:gen and Re|engage

There’s much more to tell, but in basic terms, NS will be a series of shorter 7-Habit-specific videos, with an electronic NS Guide (like our current Sermon Guide on our app.) Those 7H videos and the NS Guide will be one the app, able to done alone, on-demand. (There will be an introduction to the process on our new website, (which we are finally beginning work on this week,) but it will simply be a quick promo video asking the person to download our app and begin the process there, if they really want to. The website will be for those just checking us out, for potential guests, and the app is directed at FCCer engagement.) After completing the curriculum, the participant makes a personal connection with a NS Leader on Monday night. (And yes, we have non-digital and alternative-to-Mondays accommodations available for the entire NS experience, but we aren’t advertising all that, for now, because the synergy and experience of the in-person connections and the chance to ask questions informally is better than the alternative.)

What does Next Steps look like on Monday Nights? We’re integrating it into existing Monday night programs at our Greeneville location. Here’s the basic flow:

  • 6:30p – Worship with re:gen and Re|engage – We start off each Mon night with 3 songs led by a small acoustic band. It’s a great way to kick off the night.
  • 6:45p – Transition to VHQ (Volunteer Headquarters, Upper West Wing)
  • 6:50p – Welcome & Intro to Flow/Purpose of Night – We will break-up into (as) small groups (as possible), to ask the following 2 diagnostic questions:
    • “What brought you to FCC?”
    • “What is your next step (as you see it)?”
  • 7p – 7 Habits-Based Teaching/Training – We will be doing a different 7H-specific teaching each night, going through a cycle of H1 to H7, and each will last no more than 15 minutes. We plan to advertise these ahead of time to elicit interest. They might be things like… 
    • H1: “The Biblical Case for Worship as Warfare” or “How you can Serve on the Music Team” or “Reading Music 101”
    • H2: “Ways you can Serve on the Next Steps Team” or “How To Integrate the Team Code into Your Ministry Team Huddle” or “How We Integrate the Leadership Pipeline into our Serving Teams”
    • H3: “How to Have Killer Good Life Group Meetings” or “Why Every Adult Christian Should go Through Re:gen, Even if ‘you don’t need it!’” or “Overview of our Marriage Ministry”
    • H4: “How to Pray When You Don’t Feel Like Praying” or “Bible Reading Plan Strategies” or “5 Important Basics of Biblical Hermeneutics & Interpretation”
    • H5: “How we Help People Gain Financial Freedom” or “5 Steps for Pursuing Generosity” or “Planned Giving, Wills, Estates, Oh My!”
    • H6: “Help! My Kid Wants to Get Baptized but I don’t Know What to Say” or “Becoming a Member at FCC” or “Christ-Centered Identity for Daily Life”
    • H7: “Writing Your Tell the Story Testimony” or “Sharing Your Story of Faith when You’re a Wimp Like me” or “How I Got out of a Cult”
    • And generic other nights like… “Our Vision for Next Gen”, “… Kids”, “… Students”, etc., or “How Catalyst Coffee Ministers to our Community”, or “FCC’s Multisite Strategy: What’s Next?”, etc. … You get the gist.
    • If you can’t tell, we want these to be helpful to anyone and everyone, as practical ways to integrate the 7H into one’s life.
    • Not only will these be helpful and interesting for those in attendance, as small TED-Talk-like 15-min trainings, but, (#geniusmove), we will be recording these sessions, to build a repository of future training for our Ministry Teams, and we will also be asking Staff, Team Leaders, emerging leaders, Residents, etc., to lead these 15-min 7H Trainings, as a place for them to cut their teeth, develop their skills, etc.
  • 7:15p – Q&A re Content & Connections – We will be allowing time for questions…
    • related to the night’s 7H Content, like, “Hey, I’m still not clear on why Abraham setting up altars in a foreign land constitutes worship as warfare. Could you explain that again?”
    • related to personal Connections questions, like, “Could you tell me more about what you do for Students when it comes to helping them serve?” or “What is the church’s stance on…?” or “Why is Scott’s Thoughts so long?!
  • 7:30p – Dismissal & Afterglow – Anyone there for just the 7-7:30p content can leave, while we’ll have NS Leaders stick around to continue discussing connections and details re follow-up, answering questions, etc.

Why the change? Frankly, Covid is changing everything, so it means… 

  • People just aren’t going to come to multiple service times as much on Sunday mornings.
  • We are trying to adjust as much as we can to a post-Covid digital-and-physical world that will require more flexibility in our strategies.
  • We have a good 3-4 dozen brand new folks who need to be well integrated and trained on who we are, how it all works, etc.

Aside from reasons already mentioned, these three speak to the importance of the change happening now.

Does this new format, with a shorter video curriculum and 1 in-person session, qualify for membership? Yes. It used to be 4 sessions, and now can be done by working through the video-based curriculum (on the app) by yourself and then connecting with a NS Leader for follow-up (ideally through showing up for at least one Monday night session.)

What is happening to the Sunday morning Next Steps? It is being replaced by the Monday evening environment. So it is a centralized strategy and not campus-specific, for now. (Though, if you’re paying close attention, you can understand that much of this new strategy may someday work well in a way that scales to multiple campuses.)

When does this new redesigned Next Steps launch? The first night will be Mon, Oct 5. We’ll give you some more info in the next week or so, but we plan to use the first night or two to present what this new Next Steps looks like and show how it works, in practical terms, on the app, allow for Q & A, etc.

I love you, I love this church, and am praying that we all stay strong and focused on the mission of Helping people find and follow Jesus… even during pandemics!