A few weeks ago I had a setback with my health.  At the time I made a few veiled comments to the church with a promise for more detailed information later.  My hope was that I would have complete information before posting today – however there has been quite a few questions, comments and rumors going around Impact! Church. So much so I felt the need to at least update what Denise and I know so far.

Several weeks ago – as I was mowing my lawn – I began to experience shortness of breath and a severe sharp pain where the aneurysm is located.  Before I could get inside my house to sit down I passed out.  When I came to I was unable to really walk or clear my head.  I managed to crawl under a tree – call Denise at work and call an ambulance (thank goodness for Siri).  Once at the hospital multiple tests were run – both my primary care doctor and cardiologist came in to see me. They released me later that night with instructions for more tests to follow.

From the test results over the past weeks it has been determined that the aneurysm has grown a little more and that the leaking of the aorta valve has greatly increased.  This combined with further lung issues and the Epstein-Barr created the “perfect storm” where my oxygen levels dropped extremely low.  They also discovered a calcium build up in my arteries which further complicates the problem.  It was again determined – because of the close proximity of the aneurysm to the aorta valve – that surgery is not an option.

Over the past few weeks there have been quite a few conversations with my doctors.  Some of the conversations have been disturbing and tense.  They have centered around the fact that my lifestyle must dramatically change.  Some of that is with diet and light exercise. I’ve been working hard to eat right and walk – losing over 15 pounds in three weeks.  However, much of the conversation centered around my work life – in specific my involvement with Impact! Church.  It has been no secret that the church has struggled numerically and financially in the past year.  As a result I have had to go back to substitute teaching full-time to make ends meet.  All the while I have maintained my normal workload as Senior Pastor of Impact! Church.  It has taken a tremendous toll on my health – and I cannot continue on this path.

The doctors expect my health to continue to decline and the prognosis is not very promising.  Any surgical scenarios come with extreme risks – none of which are available to me at this point.  I know that lowering my stress and increasing my rest is essential for maintaining my health.  With this in mind, Denise and I know that my involvement with Impact! Church will have to greatly change.  We are talking through – and praying through – possible changes in my role at the church. None of us know what this looks like or even if it is possible. Our greatest desire is to work out a plan where I can continue to preach, develop leaders and cast vision at Impact! Church while still following what the doctors have asked me to do.

Please continue to pray for Denise and I.  Also pray for the leadership at Impact! Church. I know that God is still on the throne, that He is the God of miracles and that greater things are still to come.

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” – Luke 15:1-2

Pastors, have we stopped being friends to sinners?  Many of us are friends with our staff.  Friends with the leaders of our church.  Friends with denominational leaders. Friends with other pastors.  Friends with the folks that attend our church.  Friends with our planting networks.  Friends with our leadership coaches.  Friends with Christians.  But are we friends with sinners?

“My job is to lead those that lead our church,” the pastor of a growing church recently said to me.  He had been complaining about the fact that most of the church’s growth had been transfer – and not conversion.  I began to ask him questions about his leadership style and what kind of relationships he had.  It became obvious that his whole world was Christians.  He was leading those that lead the church, but he wasn’t actively pursuing relationships with people far from God.  He was hanging out with those in church, but had no relationship with people that weren’t.  Therein lies the problem.

Study after study shows that while churches may be growing, the Church is not.  For every new church we plant in America, less and less people are attending church.  In almost every denomination the number of salvation decisions and baptisms are down. The majority of church growth in America is transfer and not conversion.  Churches are just handing off the saints instead of seeking the sinners.  I am beginning to wonder if this is because pastors – by and large – have stopped being friends with sinners?

The “I am a leader of leaders” may sound right in today’s society, but is it Scriptural? The mentality comes from the business world – and makes sense there.  As pastors – and Christians – Christ should be our example.  We should not be taking marching orders from the business world of “dog eat dog” and “success at all costs”.  While Christ was a leader of leaders He was also a friend to sinners.  He actively built relationships with sinners – as well as His relationship with His disciples.

Things can get pretty busy when leading a church.  There is always something – or someone – competing for our time.  It becomes easy to say, “My job is to teach and equip the saints to reach people for Christ” or “my job is to lead our leaders to lead our people to lead others to Christ.” This may be easy – and acceptable in today’s idea of pastoral leadership – but it is not Biblical. If Christ was friend to sinners, then pastors – we should be also.  It should be intentional.  We should make time for it.  We should pattern it in our lives.  It should be the example that we set for our churches.  Maybe the stats would change?  Maybe the Kingdom of God would grow – if pastors spent more time becoming friends with sinners?

 

Thank You Lifepoint Church

October 9, 2014

A few weeks ago several pastors and myself were served by – and blessed by  – the wonderful staff and congregation of Lifepoint Church in Wilmington, NC. They provided an AMAZING place for us to stay, incredible meals and treated us to the Relate One-Day Conference – all at no cost.

I cannot begin to describe how much I needed a week like that and how much it ministered to me. It came at a time when I desperately needed to get away, get spiritually fed, be challenged as a church leader and experience renewal.  I was blown away by Lifepoint Church’s generosity and heart for serving others.  It is a culture that cannot be described in words – it just has to be experienced.  To say that I came home refreshed and ready to get back into the spiritual fight of leading a “church in the hood” would be an understatement.

So – on this “Thank You Thursday” – I would like to say thank you to Lifepoint Church for investing in other pastors and churches.  Heaven will be more crowded because of your efforts and generosity!!!