The History of the Suncoast Part 4

So now we get to the stuff that led up to our first preview service. In January I had our launch team of 11 people meet in my living room four times I think to talk about who was doing what and how we were going to pull this thing off. We also did some attempts at servant evangelism (which is basically going out and giving something away with an invite card or doing something nice and leaving an invite card. We gave out water by the side of the road and did a FREE car wash with the help of my old student ministry guys small group). January also consisted of doing several work nights where we built "Kirby" our portable sound booth and built our staging out of 18 inch scaffolding and plywood.

In December of 2005 we landed our first meeting facility which was a Discovery Point Day Care at SR 54 & the Suncoast Parkway. Today you can't even see the place because they built a Target and Petco and McDonalds and Starbucks and... in front of it. We were literally meeting in the only space bigger than a living room in this new community. There were not even any schools yet! We later landed the first school which we moved into later in 2006. But to get the Suncoast off the ground we used the Discovery Point's little cafeteria and of course their children's rooms which were actually good deals.

We hand stamped our first three mailings of 1,500 people right around the day care and hung 1,000 door hangers the week before the first Preview Service. (Preview services happen once or twice a month with a week or two off in the middle to re-tool and build a sense of anticipation). My wife and I also invited all our neighbors and family!

We arrived at the Discovery Point the Saturday night before to literally unpack all the light, sound, video and other equipment along with the "adult" chairs (70 white plastic lawn chairs) and hook it all up for the first time. It took us 6 1/2 hours!!! And it still did not all get done. I went home that night dead tired and did not sleep at all. I got up about 5:00am that Sunday and headed over to help finish up the final touches... hanging black curtains, getting the coffee going, putting out all the welcome gifts, checking the sound for the band...

(Speaking of band here is what we did. There was a drummer, one electric, one acoustic, and me actually singing!!! This was basically the core of my old student ministry band. For other weeks during the previews we had guests worship leaders until our current worship leader came once we moved into the school in the fall of 06. Those were the good old days... or at least the old days)

Finally the time rolls around for our first service (since the room was so small we started with two services at 9am & 10:30am) The little day care filled not once but twice and when the dust settled we had 110 guests, family members, team members, and well wishers. Then we tore it down, put it in a 16ft trailer, put that in a storage unit, and spent the next two weeks getting ready to do it all over again. We also had a "Come Back" event at my house where we cooked out and just got to know each other... it went... so so.

During the four previews we did we had crowds all right around 100 and then we finally launched the Sunday before Easter with 67 actual people (gone were the family and well wishers and borrowed volunteers - a great idea to get the key people you need). That first Easter we had 95 and a couple salvations and baptized the first person in our churches history!

Next time I will talk about people moving, growing the church to 30, and making the big move!

The History of the Suncoast Part 3

Moving from the stuff that got me to start a church with my wife Cheryl and the dream stage of the last two posts here is where the rubber started to hit the road. How did we get the cash to start this thing AND how did we actually do it.

In the book I mentioned last time (a must read for all planters) the "Art of the Start" there are a couple chapters about raising money and one on bootstrapping (which is basically how to start something without all the money you think you need). Guy talks about raising money from friends, family and fools.

So Cheryl and I set out to find as many of each as we could find. Between the two of us we had some of each in four areas of the state. Titusville, West Palm, Orlando, and Tampa. We compiled a list of everyone we knew and I mean everyone. We had about 150 names by the end of the list. Then we sent out a series of letters first asking them if they would be a prayer partner and if so fill out a card we enclosed. Then we asked them to gather in each of those areas for a vision meeting where we would lay out what we hoped to do...

The first vision meeting was in my home town and you know that Scripture about a prophet is without honor in his own country? Wow, is that ever true. We secured a spot at my home church where my parents had gone to since 1969! I was baptized there! Cheryl and I were joined by two of my students from my student ministry in Tampa and all of us were eagerly waiting for the people to come. We had a video presentation, snacks, drinks... we had nice background music playing and we waited, we waited, and we waited some more. NO ONE CAME! Really! It was just the four of us and my parents. I was crushed to say the least. In my first fund raising trip I was at negative $100 for the gas and food.

But, at the next few gatherings in West Palm, Orlando, and Tampa we scored just under $20,000 to start the Suncoast (I think my family put in at least 5,000 of that). That might or might not sound like a lot to you. But, when you consider we had to buy everything, do promotion, pay the rent at a meeting facility, and I was leaving my job and we would only be on Cheryl's salary... $20,000 went really fast!!!

At the final gathering in Tampa we had four families and two students (11 people) express an interest in helping us get this thing off the ground. Now this is the tricky part. We were asking people to come help us for 6-months and then they could return to the old church. I don't think you should try to go behind the back of another churches leadership and steal people. I asked if we could ask people for a few months and it was OK'd. We kept this out in the open and as of today only one of the families is still with us as is one of the students who's family didn't go to that church to begin with. Some lasted 6-months, some a year... But those were the scaffolding people God used to get the Suncoast off the ground and once we got the walls up they left. I wish I could say it was a totally smooth transition but the bottom line is people are sometimes at your church for a season to help you for that season and then they move on. I have tried to not hold onto people too tightly even though it is tough because there is always emotions in play. I am grateful for everyone God has used to help build this church from a handful of 11 people to over 120 in weekly attendance in our first two years.

Next time it is lights, camera, action for the preview services.

The History of the Suncoast Part 2

Last post I talked about the stuff that kind of got me to the place where I wanted/felt called to start a church and left off with a coaching network that I got plugged into.

The network I got plugged into was the ground level of what became the NEXT networks and conferences led by Ron Sylvia in Ocala. Hal Mayer was the coach for my network and I got to ride up with him once a month. The trips up and back from Ocala were almost as valuable as the coaching. I got to ask questions. I got to find out what Hal was going through in his first year of planting. It was great.

At the time of the network I had just told my pastor I was leaving at the end of the year to start a church so this would have put us 6-months out from our first service. The timing of the coaching network could not have been better. I changed our purpose statement during that time after reading a book by Guy Kawasaki called "The Art of the Start". If you are thinking about starting a church this book is a must read. It has nothing to do with starting a church but everything to do with starting something from nothing. During the coaching network I also learned just how I was going to start a church from nothing. Sure I had some ideas. Even some good ideas amazingly. BUT, nothing prepares you for starting a church like coaching. It forces you to put feet to your vision and flesh out the practicalities of starting a church.

So the fall of 2005 was spent still 100% committed to growing the student ministry I started and then handing it off, PLUS making trips to Ocala with Hal, PLUS working on the biggest unknown for me and my wife... How the heck were we going to pay for all this? How do you raise money to start a church???

That is what we will cover next time :-) You can't wait can you :-)

The Story of the Suncoast Part 1

For the next few weeks I wanted to go back in time a little bit and share the story of Church of the Suncoast with everyone. We always see new people on the weekends and hopefully this will give you a little insight into how this got started a couple of years ago. I also hope it helps us reconnect a little with the vision of the Suncoast by going back to our roots.

The story of the Suncoast really starts in my journey through student ministry. I was working at a church over in Tarpon Springs doing student ministry and from the start we built that ministry for kids that didn't go to church. Over the 3 1/2 years my wife and I were there we went from a little group of 9 kids to a ministry that had 75 students showing up for our Sunday night program. During that time I got to try things and work out what it meant to do church for the unchurched. I had a passion to see students find out about Jesus in a real and relevant way. It was a huge learning time and when my wife and I moved out to Land O' Lakes and started to get to know the community something happened in me and I just knew we could take what we were doing with students and make it work for the thousands of new people that were filling the once empty fields with new houses.

I wish I had recorded my thought process better into why I wanted to make this move and start a church. I look back now and it almost scares the heck out of me. But, something happened and I started going to school on how do you plant a church. I met with a former pastor I worked for in West Palm Beach, Stan Coleman at South Palm Community Church. I met with Chan Kilgore who started CrossPointe Church in Orlando. I met with Erick Brookins who started Coastal Community Church in Port St. John. And then someone told me about a guy starting a church in Westchase named Hal Mayer. So I sent him and e-mail and he agreed to do lunch with me. I honestly have no idea what he thought the first time we sat down and ate pizza. I have some ideas but he was gracious to me at the ripe old age of 26 and told me what to look at and then invited me to get in a coaching network that met at Church of the Springs in Ocala.

This whole time God was doing something in my heart. He was giving me courage, vision, and a calling to start something that would not be like church as usual. We don't need anymore churches. What we need are places that get that the church is not here for the already convinced, but here for the community of people that don't know God's amazing love.

More on the coaching network next time...

Why I am JACKED UP!!!

This past Sunday at Church of the Suncoast we had:

14 first time guests
Baptized two Grandparents of the
1 child we dedicated

That is a go God day! Church of the Suncoast you guys rock my world with your inviting, passion, and sacrifice. You had a part in all of that. Thank you for helping to create a church environment that gets me excited.

So You're Dead... Now What?

This Sunday we kicked off a brand new series called "So You're Dead... Now What?" and I think it is safe to say this might be one of the most uncomfortable series we have ever done. AND, we have done sex series and did a series on why Christians are annoying that got tons of hate mail. Not any hate mail on this one, but like I said very uncomfortable. So take a listen and you be the judge:


- OR -


Are You Reading "IT"

Wow, just picked up a copy of "IT" by Craig Groeschel and if you are not reading "IT" then you don't get "IT".

Great book. A must read for every person that leads a church or helps lead a church. Our staff will be going through it soon as a team. WARNING this book will mess you up and might frustrate you enough to make some real changes to your / my church. If you have read "IT" I would love to hear what you think... so leave a comment.

Blanks from Sunday's Message Map

Here is the PODCAST for "What to do when... your finances are upside down"

And, here are the notes:


1. You begin living on CREDIT instead of CASH

2. Paying the MINIMUM due

3. You’re unable to GIVE or SAVE

4. You’re unable to pay TAXES

5. EXTRAVAGANT spending

6. Always looking for GET-RICH-QUICK ideas


1. Commit to becoming DEBT FREE

2. You start paying God and yourself FIRST

3. List all you OWN and list all you OWE

4. Have a SALE

5. Get on a BUDGET

6. Pay off your DEBT from smallest to the largest

7. Add no NEW debt

8. Share my plan with my CREDITORS

Halloweenie Handout II

Great idea for church planters!!!

Great E-mail to Volunteers

One of our staff just sent this out to her volunteers for Sunday. Take a look at this. It is a great example of servant leadership!


Good Morning, Here is my question to you: "What can I do to help you in your area of service?" For example....this last weekend Jill came in early to learn set-up. She suggested that I take pictures of the tables and different areas. WOW....great idea! So much eaiser than me trying to explain it and if I am not here so much eaiser for the person filling in. Thanks Jill.

Also, I care about you guys. So if you ever need prayer during the week e-mail or call me. I will keep it confidential if you want or I can send it to the rest of the team so you have a large group praying for you. I know that last year when Bill lost his job it was so important to me knowing I had a group of friends that were surrounding us in prayer. it is....the "list" for Sunday.

Nicole, Carmen, Speers, Allenbaughs, Victoria, Sandra

AJ, SJ, DJ, Robert and Tracie, Keith and Maggie


Cheryl, Linda

As always....e-mail or call me if there is a problem...

What They REALLY Mean… by Perry Noble

What They REALLY Mean… by Perry Noble

(Great post, a must read for all planters / church leaders)

One of the lessons I’ve learned while being in the ministry for the past 17 years is sometimes what people say isn’t exactly true…things such as… (WARNING…you will probably only like this post if you are a pastor or a staff member of a church!)

What They Say: “I’m looking for a church that preaches the Word!”

What They Mean: “I’m looking for a church that preaches MY view of the Word. I think the BLANK translation should be used…I think BLANK should be talked about a lot while BLANK should be ignored. And if you ever stop preaching my view of the Word I will leave and tell others that you don’t preach the Word!”

What They Say: “Lot’s of people have been coming to me and saying they don’t like is…”

What They Mean: “I basically only have three friends…and all of them think exactly like me. The other night we were enjoying a time of self righteousness because, after all, we are right about everything…and were also slandering you (in the form of prayer requests) and thought it would be wise to approach you with our pet peeve. We’ve actually talked to no one else about this but said “lots” because we wanted to validate our dysfunction.”

What They Say: “I’m leaving the church.”

What They Mean: “Beg me to stay. If you will just ask me I will share with you several ways you can compromise God’s vision that He’s given you, thus becoming nothing more than a people pleasing pastor who is more interested in popularity than obedience. If you don’t bow to my demands I will remind you that I tithe and that the church needs my money, reducing you to a mere preaching whore…one who is paid for a service for the pleasure of another person.”

What They Say: “I want a church that is more focused on discipleship.”

What They Mean: “I want a church where everyone knows me and how important I am! I don’t want to reach people who are different from me, be it economic class or race or even musical preference. I already know WAY more than you do…but I somehow equate spirituality with knowledge rather than application and I rather enjoy feeling intellectually superior to those who don’t know as much as me.”

What They Say: “Don’t take this personally…but…”

What They Mean: “I am about to lower the BOOM on you…but you can’t get angry because I told you not to take it personally. Even though you have dedicated your life to this and pretty much invest every ounce of energy you have to this cause…and I think about it once or twice a week…you need to receive my attacks, even when they are personal…and you cannot retaliate because, remember, it’s not personal.”

OKAY, that was fun! I typed it all with a smile. Trust me…I’m not mad or frustrated with anyone…I just thought a pastor or two MIGHT get a smile out of this. :-)

Sunday Night Stuff

It is Sunday night so I am exhausted... good day at Church of the Suncoast though! Here are some random thoughts...

Attendance bounced back some from the past two weeks. No records but something to build on. We had a great summer then the fall hit and it was like what happened.

Cheryl and I are both really tired. We both have been dealing with some "people" stuff and that is never fun. You should never be allow to have two of those at one time in a marriage.

I am starting to get over my cold.

The band did a great job today: "No One Like You" - DCB "Song of the Redeemed" - Hall "Mighty to Save" - ??? "Not to Us" - Tomlin

Did a really emotional video that told a story about a really tough trip I took as a high school student with my church. Look for the video later this week. Be warned it is emotional. Saw a few guys with a tear...

Set up and tear down went crazy good. Hour & 1/2 for set up and hour-15 for tear down. You guys rock! Great to see some new peeps on the teams.

Our team for one of our children's environments had something come up so our Children's Dir. & her husband had to jump in. They do that a lot. Wish that didn't happen. We need more volunteers!!!

Had some college kids back on break so that was cool. Good to see them.

Came home and watched the race at Dega... Dale Jr got wrecked... SUCK!

Hope you had a great Sunday and hope the kingdom was expanded in your area because of you and your church!

What to do when... Part 3 PODCAST

What to do when... Someone keeps making poor choices.

Tough topic, give it a listen here:


Tell me what you think. Leave a comment.

Hell Boy Goes to Church

One of the videos we used to set up the topic last Sunday in our What to do when... series.

The One That Jesus Loved...

The other day I heard this and thought I would pass it along... too many hours of nothing on TV while I was sick so as usual I am drawn to really bad TV preaching. I'm strange... it is like butt crack. You don't want to look but have to.

John is often called the disciple that Jesus loved. Or the beloved disciple... BUT, did you know that the only Gospel that says any of this is in John's own Gospel?

So here is my thought. It is OK to tell people God loves you and that you guys are tight. Why don't you practice that today!