The Sunday That Was (September 25)

Yesterday at the Suncoast was the chance for a lot of people to step up, which was really cool to see. We had two staff members and a couple key volunteers out of town so some new faces got to step up and lead the Suncoast! We had a new vocalist, a new person leading worship, a new tech person running video, new people doing set up and tear down... good stuff.

I can remember days 4 or 5 years ago when we were just getting this church started that this would have been a Sunday I would have dreaded because we would have had some huge holes that would NOT have been filled OR I would have had to fill them and totally killed myself before I even preached a word!

I am so thankful for our staff, for our volunteers, and for the new people who stepped up and made it happen this week. Virtual HIGH FIVE!

Sunday we also wrapped up a quick little series that packed so much punch called "Catalyst." We continued talking about the things God uses to grow our faith and how we can either intentionally involve ourselves in these things, and put ourselves in environments where this happens, OR at least be aware of how these things work in our lives when we experience them so we can work with God and not against Him. Here are a few of my notes... catch the message here on my blog later today:

  • The reason Jesus was so revolutionary was because He invited us to KNOW God through faith. Not just know about God (religion), but actually KNOW and relate to God as a Father.

  • The first two ways God uses over and over to grow that relationship from last week were Practical Teaching and Providential Relationships.

  • Private Disciplines is the third way He does this. Things like prayer, reflection, reading your Bible, giving, even fasting.

  • In Matthew 6:6 Jesus tells us there is a reward for doing these private things on our own.

  • Pivotal Circumstances is the next thing God uses to grow our faith and usually it is the negative ones!

  • The difference between your faith growing and your faith being devastated in a crisis is who you surround yourself with! THIS is why we want you in a NEXT Group this week!

  • Personal Ministry is the final thing people talk about in their faith journey as something God used as a catalyst for bigger faith. There is something about being put in a stretching situation that forces you to depend on God and your faith grows. This is why we want you to serve!

  • At the end of the day the thing I want Church of the Suncoast to be known for is our big faith. This isn't about building a church it is about building people. And when you have a big church, filled with people of big faith, you can make a big difference! How much fun would that be???

    I said this on Sunday but let's "Go Fish" this week! We are starting a new series on forgiveness THIS Sunday called "F-Bomb" and I know God wants to do some incredible things in our lives over the next couple of weeks through this series. We will be talking about the things you never knew about forgiveness and why it matters so much. I wrote in my journal this morning that God would make ME a bold "fisher" this week. I want my unchurched friends and neighbors to hear this series! I want them to be changed by the power of Jesus forgiveness!

    Cheryl shared this with me on Sunday afternoon as we were chillin' on the couch. If someone gave you free luxury box tickets to the Buc's Monday Night Football game next week how jacked up would you be? You would walk around with a spring in your step, you would be so excited, you would anticipate the day! Well, news flash... we have been given forgiveness in Jesus and the gift of eternal life and NOW we get to share that with other people and we can't even muster a little enthusiasm... ouch!

    I want my neighbors to hear this series and I want yours to hear it, but they won't unless we invite them. Let's get a little jacked up about what we get to do this week Suncoast! Let's tweet it up, post it up, talk it up, share it up, txt it up! Feel free to use our website, twitter feed, any of my stuff to help get the conversation going.

  • A Glimpse Into the Pastors Life (Part 2)

    As promised last Friday in THIS POST I will share some stuff that I have been going through, and learning from the amazing conference Cheryl and I went to in South Carolina recently. If you want her take you can read:

    THIS and THIS from her blog.

    By the way... I know this might not be about our church and your life, but it is about my life and my leadership and that does affect you so I hope you find this interesting. If not then check this out :-)

    My life is not defined by the success of my church.

    I wish I could go into all the in's and out's of how this feels, but maybe those of you who are parents can relate. You dream about giving birth to this baby, you work so hard for the first couple of years, it grows up a little and it is easy to let your life be defined by your "baby". But, it isn't!

    I am still wrestling with how this plays out in week to week life, but I am like most church planters. We live and die by the weekend numbers. If the numbers and offering were good, then we are good. If they sucked then we suck! But, in the end it all kind of feels the same in its affects, it robs you of your joy and even your intimacy with God.

    SO... the size of my church does not define me! What my fellow pastors think of me does not define my worth. What the people that get mad and leave our church think of me does not define me. God and God alone defines my worth and He said I was worth sending Jesus for... wow!

    If I really want to make a difference then I need a selfless passion.

    There are three levels most pastors and church leaders live at. The first level is make a name for yourself, make a living, you are good if the numbers are good and the enemy to all that is EVERYONE. The weather, the football game being a 1pm start, the church down the street that talks bad about you.

    The second level is make a name for OUR church. You shift from ME to WE. We / our church can make a difference. We are good if the numbers are good. And, the enemy is the competition, or other churches, and the critics who take shots at our ministry.

    The third level is the place where God wants me! A selfless passion where GOD is GOOD and the enemy is Satan! My life is worth nothing to me so I keep preaching the Good News about Jesus NO MATTER WHAT!

    I needed to do a gut check!

    I had to stand up with hundreds of other pastors at the conference and confess I was at level one or two depending on the day or the week. Get this, if I take credit for the down times then I will also take credit for the good times instead of giving God the glory! DANG, that still stings!

    God did not call Cheryl and I to start Church of the Suncoast because our area was supposed to explode with growth. So now that it hasn't why would I take my hand off the plow now!

    'Nuf said.

    Focus on friendship with your wife!

    Cheryl and I have been very blessed in the fact that we married our best friend. Before we got romantic we became best friends. The challenge is to stay that way once you are married and the pressures of life and ministry come into play. Thankfully this part of the conference was a reminder and not a wake up call. I am so glad I get to do this life and church thing with my best friend, love you babe!

    When is Jesus not enough?

    When the promises of God about this church and my ministry seem half fulfilled AT BEST... what do you do with that? Hey preacher!!! When is Jesus not enough. God has not promised you success, He promised you Jesus and gave Jesus for you. When is that not enough for you? See "gut check" and repeat.

    Walk towards the messes.

    Oh my gosh!!! This past year has been one ministry mess after another for Cheryl and I. But, guess what Jesus did? He walked towards the messes not away from them. Word!

    These things also apply to your life and my guess is you can relate more than I lead on. But, I hope these two post give you some insight into my life and how you can pray for your pastor.


    God is not done with us yet Suncoast!

    The Sunday That Was (September 18)

    As a church we shined this past Sunday! Literally! It was not just the song we walked out singing. If you miss Sunday here is what I mean. We started a new message series for 2-weeks called Catalyst and as we looked at the graphic and message intro, and thought about the idea for the series... "Why not buy a bunch of glow sticks and glow gear for the band and not just "sing" on Sunday but let our worship and gratitude for Jesus be visible?" So we did!

    We bought a ton of glow sticks and all kinds of glow gear, the service opened with a cool video explaining what was going on, then the band came out with the lights off and we sang, "It's All Because of Jesus" and we showed our gratitude to Jesus by waving and raising our glowing hands. I loved it!

    We are always looking for ways to engage everyone during our songs we sing to God each Sunday, and ways to make a service memorable. This was a simple way to do both. Here is a snapshot I took while they guys were setting up and one of the glow sticks in action. Thank you Rita for making it happen!!!

    Like I said we also started a new series called Catalyst about the things God uses to grow our faith. Life is too messy for us to believe that there's a simple formula for faith. So, then the question is how does our faith grow? How do we get to the point of completely trusting God with every area of our lives?

    As people share their stories you hear some common things over and over again. In fact you hear about five things over and over again. That is what we are looking at and here are my notes from the first two:

    There are only two times Jesus was ever "amazed" in the Bible. Both times had to do with faith. One was some one's big faith, one was a group of people's lack of faith.

    By faith we mean: What would someone who was you do if they were absolutely confident God was with them?

    As a church we realize we can't make your faith grow. All we can do is create relevant environments in which GOD can work. Specifically, around five faith catalysts God uses over and over again.

    #1 Practical Teaching - Having the Bible taught so that you know what you need to know and what you need to do. The "doing" is what makes the difference to your faith though. Unapplied truth is like unapplied paint! The value is in the application. (See James 1:22-24)

    #2 Providential Relationships - God always uses other people to build our faith. And, while we can't create a "providential relationship" for you as a church we can create environments that are conducive for this to happen. This is why we want EVERYONE in a NEXT Group.

    I closed the message by saying this... About 5 out of 6 painful situations I get a front row seat for as a pastor are all self-inflicted wounds. People didn't apply the truth of the practical teaching and they didn't have anyone around them to point them back to Jesus. Just because you punch yourself in the head doesn't make you Job! When you jump into a NEXT Group THIS WEEK you will take two big steps in God doing something big in your faith and heart.

    To find out more about NEXT Groups check out these two links:
    About Groups
    This Week's Groups

    We seriously want YOU in a group this week. AND, I want you back on Sunday for the final part of Catalyst! Bring someone with you and let's pack the house. Love you guys!

    A Glimpse Into the Pastors Life

    Over the past 5 or 6 months God has had me on a journey as a pastor and as a person. Let me set the stage for you:

  • Spring of 2010 the Suncoast is having Sundays with 150 plus or minus people and that Easter we had 237 people, which was our highest attended service to date. This was still not the explosive growth I thought we would have 4 years into church planting, but it was moving in the right direction even if it was slow.

  • Spring to summer of 2010 we start to drop almost weekly until in June we went to one Sunday service. No big issues, no church split, just poof...

  • Summer to fall we bottom out and despite praying, a church wide fast, and working harder than ever we can't get any momentum going back in the right direction. Financially, we almost had to shut the doors because of people who had left, the economy, and many couples who were having major marriage issues one after another.

  • 2011 I begin to ask God if I am missing something, what was I doing wrong and if this is still what He wanted me to be doing with my life. Shared it with the staff, we prayed some more, we worked some more, and at least the financial picture started to turn a corner!

  • Easter of 2011 we saw our first signs of new life, 175 people. The summer was back lower, and then for the big fall launch we worked and prayed for so hard we had 131 which was about 25 more than last year, so some more new life.

    • BUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      I was to a point where I was letting my self-worth and my relationship with God be dictated by how many people were showing up or not showing up AND, what my peers thought of me and our church (our brand you could even say).This wasn't something that happened all of a sudden but over time, with some wrong expectations, some wrong advice, wrong focus, and even some wrong motives I have had to repent of.

      Now, personally Cheryl and I got pregnant and our worlds are about to change forever, I was emotionally spent from church life I think, and I just decided I was by God's grace not going to be one of these guys that flames out of the ministry, or jumps into some immoral stuff that would disqualify me from leading. So, I decided to get some "preventive counseling" as I coined the phrase with my counselor. No, real agenda, and he said this was a first, but just felt I needed to get in a better place before the stress of a baby enters the mix!

      Through this I will share some of the things I am learning, and some of the things that went along with it from the NewSpring Leadership Conference last week, all in some upcoming post... mainly because I have already written too much for one post and it is a really nice day out and I want to go enjoy it. Sorry to leave you hanging, but stay tuned.

      The Sunday That Was (September 11)

      Wow, it has been a busy few days for Cheryl and I. We left last Wednesday morning for a church leadership conference in South Carolina and it was, dare I say, life changing! Cheryl did a great post on her blog here:

      I will be sharing some personal things that happened in my life later this week, but first here are my Monday morning random thoughts from the weekend that was at Church of the Suncoast:

      We started the service with a 9/11 countdown and video that was pretty emotional I think. I didn't want to really make a point so the opening time was more about letting yourself remember those emotions from 10-years ago. The only "point" I made when I came out was what Paul told the Corinthians, faith, hope and love. And, the greatest of these is love. That should be our response. We prayed for those still hurting and for our nation to seek Jesus like they did in the days after 9/11 ten years ago.

      The band helped us get transitioned and then I came out to wrap up our "Life at the Redline" series. We talked about margin in our morals and the notes looked like this:

      Will we let the culture push us to its moral redline, or will we step back from the line and create some moral margin?

      1 Corinthians 6:18 - "Run from sexual sin! All other sins people commit are outside their bodies, but those who sin sexually sin against their own bodies."

      There is a personal significance with sexual sin that is different than anything else.

      For students, you need to pre-decide how far you are going to go sexually. You need some artificial boundaries to cover you in a moment of weakness. For singles, the more things you have experienced, the further from the redline you need to place your self-imposed limits. For married couples, 1) Don't have lengthy online conversations. 2) Don't eat alone with the opposite sex. 3) Don't ride alone with someone of the opposite sex. 4) Don't be alone in your office with the opposite sex. 5) Talk about questionable relationships. 6) Porn and strip clubs are not neutral entertainment. 7) Don't let the opposite sex confide in you.

      The point being we need to take extreme measures to create some moral margin for those times of weakness in our lives because no one PLANS on blowing up their life!

      If you missed any of the series check out the message videos on the player at the upper right of my blog. It is worth your time!!!

      On the announcement front we talked about two things:

      Volunteer Community for all volunteers THIS Saturday night, 7pm at the Warehouse. We will feed you some Carrabbas and celebrate the volunteer of the quarter! Don't miss it, bring the family. Help us plan with a RSVP to

      NEXT Groups start THIS week! Our small groups run for the next 10-weeks and you can get all the info on the news page of our website:

      And... that is the Sunday that was. Can't wait to share some of the personal stuff from the conference later this week, check back for that.

      Love you guys and I love my church!!!

      The Sunday That Was (September 4)

      Happy Labor Day... yes some of us have to work on Labor Day. And, you thought I only worked one day a week! Here are some random thoughts from the Sunday that was:

      • The band TOTALLY slayed AC/DC's "Money Talks" dang!

      • I never knew just how funny Dave Ramsey was.

      • The 5 Steps to Create Financial Margin were: 1) Have a written game plan... AKA a budget 2) Act your wage... live on less than you make 3) Save money 4) Get out of debt 5) Give... the tithe is just the starting point!

      • Even though we had a TON of people out for the holiday weekend we still had a good crowd and we have been up 15% since the fall launch over this time one year a go! Go God!!!

      • Thank you to the volunteers who helped set it up and tear it down, even without all the help you got it done quick!

      • Still seeing lots of new people, win! Keep inviting guys!
      This week Cheryl and I are heading to a church leadership conference in South Carolina. Be praying for us if you think of it. Pray God equips and encourages us. Check my twitter feed for some updates. We will be back on Saturday and ready to go for Life at the Redline Part 4!

      Keep "fishing" Suncoast! With this being 9.11 people may be looking to reconnect with a church on this day as we all remember and reflect on the last 10 years. We have a few things planned to start the service so BE ON TIME and bring some people. Dare I say it... it will be EPIC!