The Church I See

This Sunday at the Suncoast we begin a new series called "The Church I See" and basically I am just going to share my heart and vision and passion for our church.

As I have been thinking about this some of these things came to mind:

I see a church so full of life that people crowd the doors each week just waiting for them to open so they can hurry and get a good seat like it is Taylor Swift or Dave Matthews’s concert at the Ford Amphitheater. I see a church where people invest their lives into their friends and neighbors lives and then inviting them week after week until they show up at the Suncoast. I see a church where the people are so passionate about God and others that it cannot be ignored by the community. I see dozens of people in teams serving the community each month and meeting not just spiritual needs but physical needs. I see a church were the music is so rocking that you have to pass out ear plugs for the unprepared. I see a church where the kid’s ministry is better than anything Disney could come up with. I see a church where the student ministry is not just a place to hang out but a place where hundreds of teenagers become a generation passionate for Jesus. I see a church that has seen over a 1,000 people accept Jesus and baptized by its 10th birthday. I see a church that loves and accepts each other and everyone that walks through the doors. I see a church where that love is so contagious people are drawn to it. I see a church where people become lasting friends and do life together. I see a church where people are there for each other when life falls apart. I see a church where hundreds of people serve every Sunday and are a part of making something bigger than themselves happen every week. I see a church where people "get it" that we are the church, and we are here not for ourselves, but for the world. I see a church full of people with a "Whatever it takes attitude" for reaching our community with the love and grace and power of risen Jesus! That is “The church I See.”

I hope you will do everything you can to attend THIS Sunday 3.21 as we talk about what the church could and should be and how you play a part that is bigger than you know.

For more info:

Sign Wars

So when the Suncoast start just under 4 years ago there were not any churches close to us. Every week we would put out our signs along SR 54 and every week we would take them down. In the past year we have had 3 churches pop up within less than a mile of our school we use on Sundays.

First, I have no issue with churches being near each other. We are supposed to be on the same team. AND, it will increase traffic just like Walgreens and CVS being across the street from each other all over Florida. I hope everyone reaches tons of people with the Good News about Jesus.

BUT, what bugs me is the sign wars! This week I had to laugh! A church that you can't even see from our entrance put out a sign right across the street from all our signs. AND, another church just went in the school that shares our parking lot and they have their signs right next to ours. I mean side by side. Again I laugh.

But I wonder what the world sees as they pass by? Competition... typical Christians?

I don't want a single person from their churches to come to ours, really! The reason we do signs is for a lost and hurting community to see there is a church right in their backyard. If someone goes to another church then they are not our target. Our target is the couple who doesn't go to church and their marriage is about to fall apart. The guy who has been out of work for months and is about to give up and sees a sign to try God one last time.

I don't know what the answer is and I am not mad about this... the sign wars just make me wonder how non-church people see us???

The Successful Leader

Yesterday at INC (a local Tampa Bay gathering of church planters and leaders) the issue of size was brought up. Someone brought the idea of the shepherd / pastor where the job of the pastor is to lead his "flock" to the green pasture and the cool waters and protect them from the wolves. For most of his life he said he had been trained to just get more and more people. More people was always better, but he was wrestling through if that was really true. How could he be the shepherd if he had more than 100 or 200 people. He said maybe bigger is not wrong but maybe smaller is better so we should start more smaller churches to advance the Gospel. The conversation went back and forth for about an hour.

Here is my take on that. There is no way you can be the shepherd for everyone. Even with 100 to 200 people you can't do it. So, for a while the larger church pastors have said since I can't do it for everyone then I won't do it at all. I won't go to any kids ball games, I won't do any hospital visits, I won't do any dinners at peoples houses, I won't mentor groups of men. I have to keep my focus on the big picture, that is why you have a staff, and I agree with that...

BUT, just because you can't do it for everyone doesn't mean you can't do it for some. Now, this means you can't be fair. You will go to some people's things but not others and that is not fair and... hey, fairness stopped in the Garden of Eden. God cannot even be fair to everyone (let that sink in). So, my take is you should be someone's shepherd in your church. You can't be every one's because you can't and if you try you will miss the bigger picture stuff, but we can all serve some people. I am reminded of the words of Jesus when He said:

"Anyone wanting to be a leader among you must be your servant... Your attitude must be like my own, for I did not come to be served, but to serve, and give my life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:26 & 28

I think that is what makes you a successful leader / pastor. You do for some what you wish you could do for everyone. And that example becomes contagious.

What do you think? Leave a thought...

Nuts and Bolts

A friend of mine is doing their first church conference called Nuts and Bolts. Mike is a friend from back in the West Palm student ministry days and we both planted churches about the same time. In fact we financially helped them a little bit back in the early days. So check out his conference and learn some practical stuff, no fluff!

What is it? Nuts and Bolts is a one-day conference for church planters, church leaders and their teams. There will be two main sessions and one breakout session (you’ll choose from about six of them)

When is it? Saturday, June 26. We chose to do this on a Saturday so bi-vocational pastors or church planters with day jobs can come and can bring people. It starts at 9am and it will end with an early-edition of our weekend service.

How much does it cost? $10 a person. We wanted to keep the cost extremely low because we’re not trying to make money…we’re trying to equip church planters. And 100% of the registration fee goes to church planting.

Dust It Off

This morning I was reading in Matthew and came across the time when Jesus was sending out his disciples for the first time and basically told them if you go into a town and they welcome you then bless them. BUT, if the people in that town reject you (or maybe today criticize you, blog about you, tweet about you, get angry and leave your church) then dust it off like dirt from your shoes.

Pastor, shake off the criticism or the people leaving like dust from your shoes. Start doing the end of the day thing. Let yourself wrestle with it until the end of that day then never again!

Be encouraged. Jesus knew we would face this from time to time and it tells me you are right in His will for your ministry!

WATCH Unleash Today

Hey you can watch the Unleash conference today right here:

(9:00am & 3:30pm are the main sessions)

*If you missed the live feed check out the sessions here once they are posted:

NEXT (Update)

Recently at the Suncoast we have taken a break from our community/small groups and trying a medium sized gathering called NEXT instead. You can read more about it in the previous posts but Sunday night was NEXT #1 and here is a quick update:
  • We spent about 15 - 20 minutes just hanging out as people showed up. Great to be able to chat with people I don't always get a chance to chat with.
  • We started with a little ice-breaker where I had everyone in the room get up and find the person with the birthday closest to theirs and then share one thing people might be surprised to know about themselves.
  • We studied how to read the Bible for a topic and I created a few page booklet with some info and fill in the blank style notes.
  • Part of each NEXT will be a time for people to "try it" right there so we took about 10 minutes where everyone read the same passage of Scripture and then did a little study on that by asking a few questions of the text. For many it was the first time they had ever studied the Bible.
  • Then we broke up into some "huddle" groups and asked four very simple questions about the nights experience.
  • We also had people sign up for a serving deal where we will feed the homeless of Tampa in the next few weeks before the next NEXT on March 28th.
  • I think everyone had a positive experience and we connected some people who had not been to anything other than a Sunday BUT dang... there just were not the numbers we had thought would show (or even everyone that signed up???). So we will promote the fool out of the next one and see. I like the larger format and allowing community to happen naturally so one down, we learn and do it again. I will keep ya posted as we journey through this.