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5 Reflections From 5 Years


On October 10, 2010 (10/10/10) I sat in the small cafe we had created in what used to be the kitchen for the fellowship hall and waited to see if the church would vote for me to be Lead Pastor at Open Door. Though I had been on staff for almost three years at that point, there was a nervous anticipation because my future was in the hands of the people. The church constitution required at least 80% approval for me to become the Lead Pastor. The elders led about 180 people through the process of voting and after counting all of the ballots, Open Door had chosen me to become their pastor. It was a very emotional moment for me and my family and a joyous beginning for both the church and our family.

This weekend we passed the five year mark of that date. Certain markers bring about a certain amount of reflection in my life and the five year anniversary of becoming the Lead Pastor at Open Door is one of those times. I could fill pages with the wonderful memories we have created, but here are five reflections of the past five years that are at the front of my mind.

Grace is Amazing
We sing the song and know the lyrics, but sometimes we fail to think about the amazing grace moments in our lives. The night Open Door voted for me to become the Lead Pastor was one of those amazing grace moments in my life. Though the church had already shown me an enormous amount of grace over the previous five years while we attended and then came on staff, the fact that they would trust me to lead the congregation was truly an amazing moment. There had been moments of time when I wondered if I would ever have that opportunity again. Not only was I given that opportunity, I was given the opportunity with the best group of people on the planet. I am still amazed today at the grace shown to me.

Growth is work
That is an understatement. Growth does not happen by accident. Growth requires preparation, includes growing pains, and sometimes requires loss. Adding more services on Sunday requires everyone to work harder. Construction of new buildings requires committed givers. New staff requires dedication to selecting the right person. New campuses require all of those resources and more. I am thankful for the growth we have experienced in each of these areas, but none of it has been easy. Healthy growth requires work.

Change is difficult
It is impossible to grow without change and change can be difficult. When a young couple adds a tiny baby to their family, great change takes place with this little addition. When hundreds of new people come into our church, it brings change that can be difficult. It is change you want because you want new people, but it doesn’t remove the challenges of the change. Sometimes it is style or atmosphere while other times it may require new buildings or service times. The most difficult changes involve people. Sometimes it is a staff member leaving or someone who is a part of the church who moves or chooses to no longer attend. The people change is often heartbreaking and offer the greatest struggles. Though I am aware it is impossible to keep everyone, the reality of it is still difficult.

The right people improve everything
In the discussion of the right people, I must start with the fine people who make up Open Door. I believe Open Door is made up of the best people on the planet. I could not have asked for a group of people to be more accepting and loving than what we have experienced from the wonderful family we have gained at Open Door. On top of the people that call Open Door home, there are ten staff members that I get to work with each week. The right people make me much more successful at my job and improve the quality of my life. Every single person helps me become a better leader, person and most importantly a better disciple of Christ.

The best days are ahead
At times I am in awe at what God has allowed us to accomplish in the last five years. However I am convinced of one thing: our best days are ahead of us. I do not believe we have crested the hill or that the good old days are our reward. I truly believe what lies ahead will be some of the greatest victories and accomplishments for the Kingdom. For these to be our best days, we will need to continue to show amazing grace to people who walk through our doors. We will have to work for growth and deal with the difficulty of change. It will require us to continue to grow ourselves so we are the right people for the job. When those things happen, great will always be in our future.

I am thankful for the past five years. I am excited about what the next five years will bring. This is not the end, but just the beginning. There is work for us to do!

3 Questions Every Leader Should Ask

Being identified as a leader signifies that someone is following or that we have influence over others. One of the struggles that we have at times is that we do not seem to correlate the behavior of those that we lead with our own behavior, unless it is good. When they have attitudes or issues, we often question why they are thinking or behaving in such a manner. Though I already understood this principle, recently while reading my Bible a particular verse reinforced that understanding. It said, “And what the priests do, the people also do.’ So now I will punish both priests and people for their wicked deeds.” (Hosea‬ ‭4:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

As I read this, there were several things that I began to think about as it related to leaders, followers and the results of our actions. So I have been asking these three questions to determine if what I am doing needs to change so that those that are following can have positive behaviors. The three questions are:

What am I doing?

This verse starts out with a statement “what the priests do”. I am a pastor so that specifically resonates with me, but this question does not just apply to pastors or priests. This question applies to any leader. Whether you are leading in an organization, church, business or family, it is good to examine what we are actually doing. What gets our attention? What habits do we have? What things occupy the majority of our time? What do I do?

The thing that most leaders struggle with is the fact that it is easier to overlook our own flaws or weaknesses or to offer grace to ourselves because we know our intentions than it is to offer that same type of understanding to others. Our intentions are rarely what gets followed; it is our actions that are imitated. I have heard people say, “Do as I say, not as I do”, which is an admission that we do not want others mimicking our actions. However, what you do is what people see and they are impacted to do the same. We should examine our actions and determine if what we are doing is a reflection of our intentions. What are you doing?

What are the people doing?

The writer here follows the remark about what the priests do by stating “the people also do.” Leaders must understand that followers implies that those we lead will end up at the same destination we will. Often the actions we do not like that we see in those we lead mirror our own actions as leaders. We may see this most clearly in a parent-child relationship where they exhibit learned behaviors from parents that we wish they did not have. Many of those behaviors are learned directly from their parents. The same is true of every leader relationship, “the people also do”. We cannot exempt ourselves from the correct behavior. We must be the models.

One of the best ways to examine your own leadership is to see what the people are doing. If you are truly a leader, people are following you. The are going in your direction, following your pattern, mimicking your behaviors. What are the people doing?

What are the consequences?

No action or behavior is neutral. Each action brings with it positive or negative consequences. The end of this verse states, “So now I will punish both priests and people for their wicked deeds.” Their actions brought punishment. The reality is that all actions bring some type of consequence. It may be punishment or reward, but it is not neutral. What the leader and the people are doing are creating some type of end result. Though we may say it is not our desired result, it is still the result of our choices and actions.

This is a great question to ask prior to taking action. If we can better determine what the outcome is going to be, it may change our actions. Though you may not always know the exact outcome, wise counsel and deliberate thought can often help you understand the outcome of each scenario. What are the consequences?

There is a children’s song entitled “O Be Careful Little Eyes” and the first line is “O be careful little eyes what you see”. What people see is what will get imitated. This applies to our family, church, business or any place that we lead. I encourage you to apply these three questions your own leadership situation. Each of us can lead better as we have a better understanding of the results we are getting.

3 Reasons We Resist Change

This week Barbara and I were scheduled to travel to Istanbul, Turkey to teach in a leadership conference and speak in a local church. We have made a three year commitment to go to Turkey twice a year and teach leadership. As a part of that, we will visit one of the churches of Revelation on each trip. Our airline tickets were purchased, we had scheduled the time away and we were excited about traveling to Turkey for the first time. A couple of days prior to leaving, the country coordinator for the leadership organization called and said they needed to postpone the conference due to some unrest in Turkey. As you would expect, we were disappointed, even though we preferred not to be involved in any political turmoil that may be taking place in another country.

As I thought about how I felt about the trip changing, I took notice of some things that I was considering that are involved in every change. Change is something that many people struggle with in a variety of areas. It is not limited to one particular area of your life. Here are three reasons why most people resist change, including myself.

We have an investment

One of the very first things I thought about when my trip was cancelled was the investment I had made in airline tickets. The tickets were non-refundable. Though we could get partial credit to use later, we were still going to lose a substantial amount of money. The cost to cancel and use the tickets later was $330.00 per ticket. We had made a substantial investment in travel costs and planning and it was difficult to lose a significant part of that investment.

When we face change in other areas of our lives, it is usually something in which we already have a significant investment. It may be changing jobs, buying a new home, moving to a new city or replacing clothes. It could be a program or method that we have been using in our organization for a period of time. Whatever it is, we have made a significant investment of our time, energy and talents. When changes comes, we feel like we are losing our investment. We look at it as a cost. However, the cost of not changing could be much higher. In our case, we could have found ourselves in a situation where our lives may have been in danger had we not been willing to change. That is a much higher cost. Changing does not make your previous investment worthless, it just means that what you are changing to should be worth more.

We have made plans

There are certain obligations I have that require my presence. I am a pastor so each week I prepare and present a sermon to our congregations. There are several hundred people who expect me to be present each week. We schedule several weekends for me to be away each year so that our campus pastors can preach live to their congregations. This is done several months in advance and it coordinates with our church calendar so everyone knows what to expect. We had scheduled a series and our campus pastors had prepared to speak on that Sunday. I had prepared the lessons for the leadership conference. We had made some adjustments at my business so things would continue to run smoothly. A lot of preparation had taken place for this trip. With one phone call, most of it was set aside. There was nothing life shattering about it, but it was disheartening that things you had spent time and energy planning were not going to work out. Not to mention we were left to plan something different for these seven days which in itself has been a challenge.

The same is true in other areas of change. We spend time working to make our job better, house nicer, program or event operate smoothly. We may have things in such order that our recurring annual events run seamlessly because we have prepared so well in advance. Then a program changes or a business reorganizes and what we had been planning for is suddenly thrown by the wayside. This will often cause us to resist change because we have invested our time into planning what was previously scheduled. Our level of frustration often goes up because we feel our time has been wasted or because there is something new we are going to have to learn or plan. Change will often wreck your plans. Don’t allow it to wreck your attitude.

We have expectations

This was going to be our first trip to Turkey. We had done some research on things to see and items to purchase while there. I was excited to begin visiting the seven churches. I looked forward to eating new food, learning about a new culture and meeting new people. There was actually a lot of excitement for Barbara and I as we expected this to be another growing and learning experience as we also helped others grow. Nothing we expected will happen this week. As they say, the air was let out of our balloon. Our expectations for that trip would have to wait and our expectations for this week would need to change.

One of the most difficult parts of change has to do with expectations. When things are planned, there are certain things that we expect to happen. We enter marriage or our first job with a set of expectations. We are looking for certain things to happen. Then what actually happens is different from our expectations and we are disappointed. One of the best things we can learn to do is to change our expectations. We often expect changed programs, jobs, homes or marriages to produce a result they were not intended to produce. When our expectations are not met, we struggle with disappointment. My change this week allowed me to write this post. This Sunday I will get to preach live at our Bertie campus, which I have not been able to do yet this year. Two of our grandchildren had a sleepover with us last night. None of these things were what I expected when the week started, but it did not stop me from being excited about new things because I changed my expectations.

What things do you struggle with where change is concerned? How might you implement a different approach based on these three thoughts? I would love to hear your feedback. Change happens!


Sunday my grandson Vandin came in the house after church and proclaimed to me that he learned about “conviction”. Seeing as he recently turned 4 years old, that is a pretty big word for him to be throwing around. Remembering the word was quite an accomplishment, but I still attempted to coax from him what he understood about conviction. He struggled some to give the definition he had learned at church. To be truthful, my experience with Vandin was not that different from my experience with many people when talking about conviction and what it means from the perspective of a follower of Christ. Usually when people speak of conviction, they think in terms of a criminal court where most dictionaries would define it as “the act of convicting someone, as in a court of law; a declaration that a person is guilty of an offense.” This definition is usually not what we are speaking of in church.
The second most common definition would be: “a fixed or firm belief.” This definition would be applied in church, but it is much broader than that. It is bigger than just a belief. Your convictions include your values, commitments and motivations. The great Bible teacher Howard Hendricks said: “A belief is something you will argue about. A conviction is something you will die for!” The actual definition that the children in church are working from is “standing for what is right, even when others don’t.” Our convictions determine our conduct. If you are concerned about your conduct, it could be time to examine your convictions.
Often when we speak of conviction in the world of Christianity, our definition would more reflect this one from the CARM Dictionary of Theology: Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit where a person is able to see himself as God sees him: guilty, defiled, and totally unable to save himself (John 16:8).  Conviction functions differently for the Christian and non-Christian. For the non-Christian, conviction reveals sinfulness, guilt, and brings fear of God’s righteous judgement. Whereas, conviction in the believer brings an awareness of sin and results in repentance, confession and cleansing. Theologically, conviction is produced by the Holy Spirit (John 16:8), the Gospel (Acts 2:37), conscience (Rom. 2:15), and the Law (James 2:9). Conviction of sin brings man to the cross and shows the need for forgiveness.
As a Christian, I experience this type of conviction regularly as God seeks to mold my life more in the image of Christ. At times I am stumped as to how I should respond when I feel convicted. Prayer and repentance is an obvious choice, but sometimes it is more involved. Recently I felt convicted for simply talking too much in a social setting. Nothing sinful, off color or offensive was said, I just felt convicted for saying too many words. There were probably several reasons for this. One, much of what was said was trivial; some of it was probably downright silly. Two, I can help people more if I listen and make an intentional effort to understand than I can if I am constantly talking. I will know better how to respond when I do speak if I have listened more carefully. Last, I am not sure I increased my influence to speak later into these people’s live about significant things. What I struggled with was how to respond to this conviction. Was the Holy Spirit working in me to improve me for the next time? Was I supposed to go back to the people I was with and share with tem how the Holy Spirit was working in me (which I am still contemplating)? Should I just pray and change? Conviction should bring change. Understanding and acting upon that change can be difficult.
I try not to view conviction as a bad thing. The encouragement for me with conviction is that it reminds me that I do have a relationship with God and He still has a desire to see my life improve so that I can be a better representative of Him. Without fail, I also know that I look more like Christ when I listen and change.
What does conviction look like in your own life? Which definition do you apply most often when you think of this word? Is it your belief system? How is the Holy Spirit working in you right now to change you? What actions do you need to take as a part of that to become more like Christ? As I pressed Vandin to get him to explain what conviction meant, the one word that he would finally share was “right”. Our convictions should be right then our conduct will more represent who we are to be. Even though Vandin is only 4 and he may have a difficult time attaching the word conviction to his own feelings, at his age he still has moments where he is aware that his actions are not representative of who is supposed to be or wants to be. He has convictions and experiences conviction as a child. We all do. The choice is whether we will listen and change.

I Would Never Miss

I often hear people use the expression, “I would never miss __________ with my children.” The words that fill in the blank are varied, but every time this is said, it speaks volumes about your priorities as a parent. If you had to fill in that blank now, not on what you wish was best, but what you actually do, what would fill that blank? What would you never miss with your children? Would one of these fill that blank?

  • School play or field trip
  • Church
  • Athletic event
  • Dance recital
  • Daily devotions
  • Opportunity to hang out
  • Teaching moment
  • Birthday
  • Buying them what they want
  • Helping them with their homework

I am sure this list could be endless. Though we may not realize the impact we are having, our actions in following through on that statement make an impact on our children that will shape their views for life. Most of our children have a desire for us to be proud of them. They will seek to do the things that they perceive impress you as a parent. If you reward them with your time and attention for specific things, they will come to understand that those are the things most important to you. As parents, we may say that other things are a priority, but our time is the reward of significance, and if we are not rewarding what we say is a priority with our time, then it is not the priority that we say that it is.

I have heard it said “What gets rewarded gets repeated”. As a parent, what are you rewarding with your time? When it comes to the things that you say are a priority, does your time commitment match your words? Are you rewarding that priority with time? Many of us want to believe that certain things are important to us and we are teaching those values to our children, but the reality is often they are just ideals and not the reality of the behavior that we are modeling. If we say that education is important and good grades are critical, but we consistently brush off our children when they seek our assistance with their schoolwork, our actions are setting a different priority. If we never miss one of their athletic events, dance recitals or school plays yet we tout that spiritual formation is a priority while any disruption or event hinders family devotions or church attendance, our spoken priorities are losing to our actual priorities. If we are always too busy to hang out with them or too frustrated to use a daily situation as a teaching moment, our priorities may not be what we think they are.

This is a challenge in almost every area of our lives, but I have found it to be extremely critical in parenting. Dedicated time and attention are critical in the formation of values for our children. We all have ideals; things that we really want our lives, our families and our children to look like. Then we have our actions. Our lifestyle that speaks much louder to our children than our words do. What you are rewarding with your time and attention will get repeated. In your long term vision for your family, the ideal that you have in your mind, what needs more of your time and attention? What needs less? Let’s strive to make our actual priorities match our ideals.

Transition: Everything Changes…Like It it Not

The Bible introduces us to a young boy named David as a brave shepherd boy that had killed a lion and a bear to protect his sheep. He proceeds to kill a giant named Goliath and reaches great levels of fame prior to becoming king. He was recognized as a great warrior and even the people of Israel would sing a song that said “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands!” He was never afraid to go into battle.

As time passes, we see David’s role begin to change. His influence was more important than his performance. I wonder if this was difficult for David to accept because he had always been on the front lines of the battle. We read in 2 Samuel 21:17 “Then David’s men declared, “You are not going out to battle with us again! Why risk snuffing out the light of Israel?”” They would rather David be a light than to fight.

Transition from one phase of life to another can be difficult. But the truth is, that everything changes, whether we like it or not. We get older and our roles change at home, on our job and just about every place where we participate. I was reminded of this myself recently on our annual family vacation.

All of our children are adults and we have two grandchildren now. When our children were younger we found activities that we could all do together. I am an experiencer and love the thrill of an adventure so I love to try new things or ride the newest ride at the theme park. As the kids got older, there were very few limits to the things we could do together. We could all do the same thing or we could go our separate ways and meet up later. Our immediate responsibility with the children evolved over time.

While away on vacation this year in Orlando we visited several theme parks. Vandin has just turned 4 and Rowan is not quite yet 2, so they were limited in the things they could do or even the things that interested them. It put some limits on what everyone could do. Either we all had to hang out with the small grandchildren or someone had to take them so the others could experience other things. What Barbara and I experienced was a change in our roles. We were no longer leading the charge to find new and exciting things to do. We were taking care of the grandkids so the other adult kids could experience new things. For me, this was a big change. I love the fast, exhilarating rides. Though I did get to ride a few of those, much of my time was spent making sure the small kids were being care for. I was no longer leading the charge into battle. My light was more important than my fight.

I recently heard someone say that every person has had multiple marriages even if they stayed with the same person. They were referring to the fact that our marriages evolve as we as people evolve. Our thoughts change. Our attitudes change. Our experiences change us. Therefore, the person we married originally is not the same person we are married to now. Thus, we have a brand new marriage. How we approach that and our attitude about it will have a great deal to do with whether or not it survives.

On Graduate Sunday this year I preached a sermon on transition and a gentleman approached me and said that the toughest transition he had ever experienced in his life was getting old. He was experiencing different frustrations of no longer being able to do some of the things he once was able to do. Certain ailments were frustrating him and taking his strength. The truth is, the change was coming whether he wanted it or not. Change happens to all of us. We become different people. We take on different roles. Our lives evolve. Everything changes and we have to choose how we are going to handle it.

What changes are you experiencing right now? Your life is changing whether you like it or not. How you approach it will determine your success or failure. Maybe your light is more important than your fight right now.

Charleston Requires Me To Lead

I have wrestled with how to personally express my feelings about the tragedy of Charleston. I am not sure I have anything to add other than my own expression and condolences.

My faith tells me that eternity gained 9 good people. I was genuinely moved watching the news last night as I learned a little about the good people that were murdered. Because we have this hope in Christ, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. I believe that they are better off today than me.

My flesh tells me that earth lost nine good people and kept one overcome with evil. It tells me that wives, husbands, children, granchildren, mothers, fathers and friends are grieving and broken. Even with the hope of our faith, our flesh still acknowledges the loss and empty space left by those who are gone. Even Jesus, as He declared He was the resurrection and life, wept in His flesh at the tomb of His friend Lazarus. Faith does not mean we are never broken.

I admit I am perplexed at the state of our nation. Because of where and how I was raised, racism seemed so insignificant in my own personal life. I have never been threatened by someone’s color. I will admit that I have felt threatened a few times by other cultures, but usually out of my own ignorance. Color has never been a problem in my life. The expansion of our connectedness with social media, 24 news outlets and internet, what may once have been hidden, no longer can be. Something must change. This racial divide must be addressed and healed.

I am a leader, therefore I have responsibility. First as a father I have a responsibility to make sure my family understands and respects others. Those who are like them and those who are not. Second as a pastor, I am obligated to address prejudices that exist among the people I lead and encourage them to model Christ. I want to believe both of those places are already above average, but I cannot settle for that.

It is in these times that I feel so incapable. But I have a promise that when I am weak, He is strong. These are difficult times to lead. But I was never promised things would not be difficult. I was given the assurance of His presence as I followed His call on my life. Today I pray for our nation. Today, I pray for myself that I will have the courage to stand in the gap and be a bridge.

Leaving and Cleaving – Losing and Gaining

In Matthew 19 Jesus quotes a passage from Genesis about marriage, 5 And he said, “‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’[b] 6 Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.””

There are two parts of this passage. One seems to indicate loss and the other seems to indicate gain. The word leave lends itself to absence or removal. The word joined (or cleave if you like the KJV) indicates addition. They seem opposed to one another. Almost like pain and gain. There are many emotions shared in a wedding. Every person involved comes with a different perspective and varying emotions.

Tomorrow we get to see our oldest child, and only daughter, leave and cleave. As a pastor and a father, I get to be a part of the wedding from two perspectives: I will walk her down the aisle as her father then I will get to complete the ceremony as her pastor. I have already experienced many emotions over the last few weeks and months, and they have been intensified the last couple of days. So I thought I would share a few random thoughts with you that have been running through my head.

Have I prepared her?

As a parent, this is one of my greatest concerns. She has seen all of the parents in her life struggle through issues of their own. Have I given her the tools she needs to succeed? As she seen enough good in my marriage that she has a good pattern? Did I miss something? If you are a parent of a young child, never think it is too early to prepare them for this day. Some of the best preparation they can have is a good example. They may not need many lectures, but they probably will repeat what they have seen. Work to make your marriage strong and solid so they have a pattern.

What am I losing?

I have heard people talk about losing a child when they get married. Even the “leaving” part in the Bible indicates there is a change. But we cannot view it as loss. We should view it almost as a graduation. They have gone as far as they can go in this family unit and now a new family is created. Further, parents cannot complete their children. Completion, or oneness, occurs in the context of a healthy marriage. Sometimes we feel like we lose control or influence. We probably never had as much control as we had thought and influence is something that is earned. Leadership is influence. You just have to learn to influence (not manipulate) better, which usually means growing ourselves.

On the losing side, for us personally in this situation, maybe the most difficult loss to get our heads around are the two grandchildren. We know we are not losing them, but it will be a change for us. For one-and-a-half years they have both lived with us. Though we have never attempted to be their parents, we have certainly become attached to them 24/7. We understand that ultimately it is best for them to have a strong family unit with their mother and father, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it was heart wrenching at times.

What am I gaining?

Most obvious we are adding a family member. We will have a son-in-law tomorrow. We are also gaining a whole family unit. In our situation, Lauren and Cody have two children together, now they are creating a home and life together. In my worldview, that is what we desire, a complete, wholesome family unit. I also gain an opportunity to influence this unit to be productive and valuable members of our community and world. In this situation, I feel I have a greater responsibility. Cody has very little experience with a family unit. Not only do I have to influence his family, but there is also some responsibility to lead as a father. My responsibility doesn’t end when my children get married, it just changes.

So as I wrestle the next couple of days with emotions and questions, I realize that leaving is not losing and joining really is gaining. The writer of Hebrews tells us “Give honor to marriage”. So that is what I do today. I am reminded of the need to honor mine for it is an example. I am reminded to honor Cody and Lauren’s, for they will become one. Marriage should never be loss, but always gain.

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About Me

I currently serve as Lead Pastor at Open Door Church and I am a certified trainer & coach with the John Maxwell Team. I am also an Associate Trainer with EQUIP training leaders around the world. I currently own two businesses related to the foodservice equipment industry. I am a certified speaker, teacher and coach with the John Maxwell Team. I can offer you workshops, seminars, keynote speaking, and coaching, aiding your personal and professional growth through study and practical application of John’s proven leadership methods. Working together, I will move you and/or your team or organization in the desired direction to reach your goals.