40 Days Through the Gospels

As part of our new sermon series, The Gospel, I challenged our church to read through the four gospels over the next 40 days. I wanted to share a few thoughts and tips to guide you in your reading and to encourage you to stay in the game the entire 40 days.

Before I start…how did you like Day 1 starting with a list of names in Matthew 1 that no one can pronounce?! For a GREAT explanation on why those names matter and why they are in the Bible, check out what our Executive Pastor, Ryan Allred, wrote on the NRHC blog.

Here are some thoughts to guide your reading time:

  1. Remember the primary purpose for your reading is not to increase knowledge or to check off a box, but to worship God. Start your time in prayer thanking God for who He is and what He has done for you through the finished work of Jesus. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you.
  2. As you read each section, find a verse or two that really stand out to you. Spend some time meditating on that verse or those verses and write them out in a journal.
  3. Write down your observations from your key verses and/or the entire passage. What do you learn about God? What are the key phrases or words that appear multiple times or are prominent in the entire passage? How do you see the gospel in the verses and/or the entire passage?
  4. Determine how you can apply the truths you’ve read to your own life. Is there a sin you need to repent of? Is there someone you need to forgive? Is there someone you need to serve? Is there something you can share with a friend who does not know Jesus? Is there an encouragement you need to apply to your life? Write down your application points and steps.
  5. Close your time in prayer. Thank God for His Word. Thank Him for speaking into your life. Ask Him to help you apply His truth to your life and to those you interact with.

A few practical tips & ideas…

  • Pick the same time each day to read.
  • Consider taking at least one day per week to reflect on how God spoke to you through the last week
  • If you get behind, don’t get discouraged! Just pick up where you missed and keep going.
  • Consider meeting and reading with 2-3 other people, maybe from your Journey Group or people you serve with. Or, ask 2-3 people at your office or in your neighborhood , get them a reading plan, and ask them to read with you.

If you didn’t get a reading plan or if you’d like to share it with a friend, you can download one here.

I can’t wait to see what God does as we engage Him through His Word!


New Series: The Gospel

The Gospel. Is it religious advice to follow? A prayer to pray? The diving board we launch from or the ocean we swim in?

This foundational series will explore the depths of the Gospel, and find it to be more than just the beginning. It is the power that makes Christianity revolutionary every day.

I am really excited about this series and can’t wait to see what God will do! I am praying for many to trust Jesus as Savior, for many to be freed from the superficiality of religion, and for all of us to be compelled to take this gospel to the nations.

Invite friends and make plans to join us Sunday as we launch “The Gospel.”

Hello, North Rock Hill!

As Lara Beth and I wrestled through God’s call away from Columbia and to Rock Hill, one of my mentors said, “When you surrender to God’s call, there are lots of ‘goodbyes.’ But behind the goodbyes, there are a lot of new ‘hellos.'” That statement served as a great encouragement to us.

This week, we get to officially say, “Hello, North Rock Hill!” We’re excited to get started with this new season and new adventure with our new faith family.

As we get started, I want to ask you to pray with us and for us in these five areas:

1. Pray for our house in Columbia to sell. We’ve had several showings and all have been very positive, but no offers have been made. Pray that it will sell and sell soon!

2. Pray for us to find the right house in Rock Hill. We will likely rent at first so that we can go ahead and move to Rock Hill without having to wait on our Columbia house to sell. If you know of good houses for rent, let us know. Pray for wisdom as we search and decide.

3. Pray for our girls as they prepare to leave their friends, school, and activities in Columbia to embrace new friends, a new school, a new neighborhood, etc. in Rock Hill. Pray they will transition well and feel at home in Rock Hill. In fact, you can pray the same for Lara Beth and me. 🙂

4. Pray for me as I begin leading/working with the staff and Advisory Team. I’ll have my first meetings with Executive Staff, Ministry Staff, and Advisory Team today. Pray for fast friendships and team unity. I am very impressed with the capacity of the NRHC staff and leaders and can’t wait to do life and ministry with them.

5. Pray for me as I begin preaching this Sunday. It’s been 4 weeks since I last preached and I am chomping at the bit to get going again! I’m excited about our first 2 sermon series – pray that God will use them to set the course and pace for what He wants to do NEXT in and through NRHC. The potential in this church is off the charts – I can’t wait to see what God does!

North Rock Hill, we’re thrilled to be with you and excited about what God has ahead of us. Let’s get after it!

Why I’m Excited About Awaken: Strong Leaders

Last night, I had the privilege of meeting with a group of men who are living, breathing answers to prayer. And I couldn’t be more proud of or thankful for them.

While this is my last week serving as Lead Pastor of Awaken Church before I transition to serve as Lead Pastor of North Rock Hill Church, I am excited and confident about her future. Earlier this week, I shared 2 reasons why I feel this way (you can read those posts here and here).

When Awaken launched a little over 2 years ago, God gave us the opportunity to reach many people who were far from Him, many who had been away from church for a long time, and many who had never really been a part of a church. While we were very thankful for what God was doing, it wasn’t long before a major deficiency in our new church was exposed.

We desperately needed leaders. And lots of them! There was just so much to do between running the day to day and week to week operations of the church, handling finances, discipling new believers, following up with guests, training teams and leaders, counseling, etc etc.

For a while, it was euphoric because the dream we had for so long and the prayer we prayed for so long was being answered – God was using our church. But after a few months of the euphoric activity, I added a new prayer…”God raise up leaders! Or send us leaders! Or do both!”

God in His grace did both. Over the last year, God has raised up leaders in our church as those who were once brand new to Christianity, brand new to church, or had been away for a while grew and matured in Christ. And, God has sent us leaders as couples and families have moved to Columbia from other places and have looked for a faith family to be on mission with.

God has multiplied our leadership and that is one of the biggest reasons why I have confidence about Awaken’s future. As I met with our Advisory Team for the final time last night, I looked at men who are the fulfillment of 1 Timothy 3:1-7.

They are men who are above reproach. They are pastoring themselves well. They are pastoring their families well. They are pastoring outsiders well. And, they have already been helping to pastor our church well. As I gave them a charge and prayed over them, I did so in awe of how God had moved to answer our prayer for more leaders.

And the best part is they’re not all the leaders we have. The men I met with last night made a list of others in our church that they feel are ready to take the next step in leadership. Not only did they make a list, but the guys developed a plan to begin meeting with and pouring into the next group of leaders for Awaken. Yes!

I drove home last night an encouraged, thankful, and proud Pastor. Awaken, God has answered our prayer! He has raised up leaders and He has sent us leaders. And they have developed a pipeline to raise up even more leaders!

Get behind these guys…trust them, follow them, and encourage them…they will lead you well!

Why I’m Excited About Awaken: Lives Changed

I’m an addict. I’m addicted to Lara Beth…have been since I met her in the 5th grade. Cheesy I know, but true. I’m addicted to the Gamecocks…have been since 1984, the first football season I remember tracking game for game and play for play. I’m addicted to Starbucks coffee…have been since college when I had my first latte and first cup of dark roasted coffee.

And, I’m addicted to life change…have been since the grace of God radically changed my own life in 1995. My addiction went to hyper-addiction my freshman year in college as I shared the gospel with a friend and watched the same grace of God change his life. As he called on Jesus as Savior and God, my heart exploded with a passion to see God do that again and again. I was hooked!

When we moved to Columbia in 2007 to begin the process of planting Awaken Church, we were broken over the number of people in our city who did not know this life-changing grace of God. Our number one prayer was to plant a church that God would use to reach many people who were far from Him.

In this my last week serving as Lead Pastor at Awaken, it thrills my soul and brings tears to my eyes to see how God has answered that prayer. He’s answered it over and over and over again. As God has used Awaken to share the gospel of His grace, many who were far from God have been transformed by His grace. And now, like me, they’re addicts.

One of our first conversions was Brian. Brian trusted Jesus as Savior in one of our launch team meetings. He was so fired up about God’s grace to him that he was baptized on the spot…in his clothes! Now, Brian is one of Awaken’s most faithful partners and a true giver of his time, talent, and resources. Why? So that others will experience what he has experienced. He’s an addict!

This year, we’ve seen God do the miraculous in several marriages that were on the brink of ending before finding Awaken. Enter God’s grace and God’s people. The grace of God has brought salvation, forgiveness, renewal, and restoration to husbands, wives, and their kids. Now, these couples and families are sharing their stories of restoration and renewal with others who are where they were a few months ago. Why? They’re addicts!

Just recently, a hurting man named Billy showed up at Awaken with his family. He had lots of good reasons to stay away from God and from church. But the grace of God was at work drawing Billy. At the invitation of a friend, Billy and his family came to Awaken, heard the gospel, and were transformed by God’s grace! Now, Billy is leading his family, they are serving, they are in community, and they are passionate about sharing with others. Why? They’re addicts!

I could keep going and going. We’ve seen God do the miraculous as over 110 men, women, students, and children have been changed by the gospel in the 2 years since Awaken’s launch. Because the gospel is so fresh and new life in Christ is so real, these who have been radically transformed have become passionate missionaries of the gospel. They are addicts!

Praise God, Awaken is full of addicts…people addicted to God’s grace and addicted to seeing lives changed by God’s grace! I know these addicts will continue to make bold moves to love, serve, share, give, and go so that others will hear the gospel and be transformed by God’s grace like they have been. And as they do, God will continue to answer the prayer that got this whole thing started four years ago.

That’s an addiction I hope is never broken!

Why I’m Excited About Awaken :: It’s God’s Church

As you may already know, I announced my resignation from Awaken Church on November 13 to accept the call to serve as Lead Pastor of North Rock Hill Church in Rock Hill, SC. You can read my post about that decision here.

It’s a surreal season as we close out our time in Columbia and our time at Awaken. It’s bittersweet…like sending your kid off to college. You’re excited to see what’s going to happen next, but sad you won’t have a front row seat for it.

I believe in Awaken Church and love her dearly. I believe strongly that God has greater things ahead for her. So, I want to use this week, my last as Lead Pastor at Awaken, to share a few of the reasons I am excited about what is ahead for Awaken.

Literary great Charles Dickens penned the words, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” to serve as the opening words of his classic, A Tale of Two Cities. Dickens must have known something about church planting because that’s it in a nutshell – the best and the worst. Sometimes at different times. Sometimes at the same time.

I can honestly say we have never felt the intensity of spiritual warfare, the physical exhaustion, the emotional anguish, or the spiritual depletion we have experienced at times over the last four years. You hear the wisdom of those who have gone before you, but there’s always that, “It won’t be like that for us,” mentality that I guess goes with being crazy enough to plant a church. But then it all does happen. And it happens often. And it hurts…a lot.

But then, I can honestly say we have never felt the joy of serving, the elation over lives changed and prayers answered, the love of God’s people, and the power of the gospel like we have in the last four years. We have seen God do the miraculous in saving souls, restoring families, providing for needs, making disciples, and sending missionaries. We’ve had a front row seat for a miraculous move of God. And, we’ve seen God do amazing things in our own lives to encourage, provide, teach, and strengthen us.

So, how do you press through the roller coaster of hardship and joy? The answer is the same as the answer to the question of how Awaken will continue on. Awaken Church was God’s idea. He is obsessed over that which is lost in Columbia, SC. He is on a mission to seek and save that which is lost.

This is God’s church. And that is the number one reason why I am excited and confident about Awaken’s future. He is the One who sovereignly worked to call us, to sustain us, to provide for us, and to use us. He is also the One who has called us elsewhere. Which means He has another leader for Awaken to take her forward into the future.

We are His vessels and we are grateful to have served as catalysts for what He wants to do in Columbia through Awaken Church. He gave us His heart, passion, and vision, and now that has spread to dozens and dozens. Through it all, God has built a church. And He’s just getting started!

God is working right now to prepare a new Lead Pastor for Awaken. In the meantime, He is going to use this season to strengthen His church and prepare her for what’s next and for her new Lead Pastor. All the while, He will continue to use Awaken to make His name great through lives changed by the gospel.

What God starts, He finishes (Philippians 1:6). What God promises to build, He builds (Matthew 16:18). When God promises abundantly more, He does abundantly more (Ephesians 3:20-21). In the best of times and the worst of times…He is there, He is at work, and He is able!

Awaken Church is God’s Church. It was four years ago when we moved to Columbia. It was two years ago when we launched. It is now. It will be for all eternity.

A Special Announcement

Dear Friends & Family Near & Far,

Four years ago, God called our family back to Columbia, our hometown, to plant a new church. While so much about moving to Columbia did not make sense, one thing was certain – God’s clear call on our lives.

Columbia had grown and changed so much since we graduated high school. The diversity and population growth alone were staggering. But the statistic that impacted us the most was the fact that 80% of the people in Northeast Columbia are not connected to a church and likely do not have a relationship with Jesus.

God called us here to plant a church that would not compete with other churches, but rather partner with other churches to reach that 80%. As we met people who did not know Jesus and Christians who wanted to be missionaries in our city, we began to pray and consider what this church might look like.

We had to press pause on our plans in early 2009 when my Dad’s cancer returned and he passed away. This was an evidence of God’s grace in calling us to Columbia as I was able to spend some special time with my Dad in the closing months of his life. I even had the honor of preaching his funeral.

We re-grouped in summer 2009 and began building our launch team. That small, but deeply committed team, learned, served, planned, and prayed together and on September 13, 2009, Awaken Church finally launched.

In the two years since our launch, we’ve experienced lots of highs and lows together. Through it all, we’ve seen God do some amazing things.

We’ve seen over 100 people trust Jesus as Savior. We’ve celebrated with over 60 people who have been baptized. We’ve served thousands through Movies in the Park, serving projects, community groups, and partnerships. We’ve seen marriages restored, addictions broken, disciples made, leaders developed, prayers answered, families mended, and missionaries sent. God has used and is using Awaken Church to make a difference in our city.

Our mission is being accomplished right before our eyes. God is using Awaken Church to make His name great through lives changed by the gospel!

Which is why it is with mixed emotions that I share with you what God is doing in our family.

In May of this year, I was approached about an opportunity at a new church in a new city. Initially, our answer was, “No.” Even after ensuing conversations, our answer was still, “No.” But as much as we tried to deny it, the door never really closed.

At the end of the summer and beginning of the school year, it was clear that God was stirring and that we needed to be fully open to whatever He wanted. As we continued to pray and fast, it became increasingly clear that God was in fact calling us to a new ministry assignment.

In response to God’s call after weeks of seeking Him through His Word, prayer, and fasting, I am resigning as Lead Pastor of Awaken Church to accept the call to serve as Lead Pastor of North Rock Hill Church in Rock Hill, SC. My last Sunday at Awaken will be December 11, 2011.

I want to assure you that this is not the end of Awaken Church. God’s vision for Awaken Church has not changed and I believe it will go to the next level during this transition season and under a new Lead Pastor’s leadership.

I am even more convinced of this after sharing with our staff weeks ago, meeting with our leaders two Sundays ago, and sharing with the entire church this past Sunday night. The commitment to Awaken’s vision and future is remarkable.

We covet your prayers for Awaken and our family as we make final plans for transition. Please know we have not taken this decision lightly. Just as when God called us to Columbia, our aim has been to please Him. We trust His leadership over Awaken, our lives, and our new ministry assignment in Rock Hill.

In the days ahead, I’ll share more about Awaken’s transition, our family’s transition, and our new ministry assignment at North Rock Hill Church. We are sad to leave Columbia and Awaken, but we are excited and humbled by the opportunity to serve in Rock Hill.

Thank you for your friendship and partnership in the gospel!