Wednesday, August 31, 2016

When You're Having Problems

Are you having problems?  Then be happy, because it means you are alive.  The only folks in town with no problems are those buried six feet under in Gastonia City Cemetery.

 Any time you attempt something worthwhile, you're going to run into troubles.  They come with the territory of progress.  Forward movement always brings a bit of friction and resistance.  I think problems are in our lives to test our resolve and resilience.

 Here are a few principles to help you face problems when they arise:

 1.  Big problems are reserved for big people.  
 The person who desires to go forward with life and aim high will have bigger problems than the one who just sits around doing nothing and watching the world go by.

 2.  Big plans bring big problems.  
 God gives us the vision of what He can accomplish through us.  Sometimes, His vision is accompanies by big plans and big problems.  One guarantee:  If God supplies the vision, He will put a PRO in front of it and supply the provision.  He will give us all the power we need to overcome the obstacles.

 3.  Problems are often detours rather than stop signs. 
 If your first idea unravels, don't give up.  There must be a better way.  There's almost always more than one possible solution.  

 When faced with a big challenge, I often sit down and write 10 possible solutions.  I don't settle for three or seven -- I work until I get ten.  Then I look over the list and pray, asking God to show me which of the ten is best one to try first.

 If the first one doesn't work, I still have nine options to go!  

 Don't be blocked by a problem.  There's always a way around it.

 4.  "God is bigger than any problem I have."  
 My father had a sign in his office with this quote on it.  I believe it with all my heart.  My problem may be big, but my God is bigger!

 There is no problem so great that God cannot solve it.
 There is no problem so heavy that God cannot carry it.
 There is no hurt so deep that God cannot heal it.
 There is no grief so dark, that God cannot comfort it.

 "My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory." Phil. 4:19

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Who holds the keys?

You may have heard the sky is falling.

Churches are closing their doors. Young people are walking away from faith.

So how bad is the bad news, really? It’s a question we have recently pondered at the Fuller Youth Institute. With the aim of translating research into practical resources, we are hopeful about how research can empower leaders in the midst of some discouraging news about the church.

Churches Are Shrinking

Most churches in America are not growing.

According to an extensive survey by the Pew Research Center, the share of adults in the U.S. who identify as Christians fell from 78 to 71 percent between 2007 and 2014. The increase in those who identify as “religiously unaffiliated” (meaning atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular”) jumped by almost seven points, from just over 16 percent to 23 percent.

This well publicized “rise of the nones” varies by denomination. Mainline Protestantism has experienced the greatest dip in numbers. From 2007 to 2014, mainline Protestant adults declined by about 5 million. Roman Catholic adults dropped nearly 3 million. Adults in evangelical denominations, as well as adults in nondenominational churches with evangelical leanings, actually grew from 60 million to 62 million. 

However, while the total number of evangelicals has increased, the percentage of Americans who identify as evangelicals has actually decreased almost 1 percent from just over 26 percent to just over 25 percent.

In short, while some denominations are growing globally, no major Christian tradition is growing in the U.S. today. A few denominations are managing to hold steady, but that’s as good as it gets.

Churches Are Aging

Most churches in America are also aging.

While young adults aged 18 to 29 make up 22 percent of the U.S. adult population, they represent less than 10 percent of churchgoers. In a recent 10-year study of congregations, people over age 60 increased by 5 percent and people under age 35 decreased by 5 percent.

Many churches see the average age of their attendees increase year by year and wonder what the graying heads mean for the future of the church. Perhaps you can relate.

Young People Do Walk Away

Alongside this shrinking and aging, churches are watching young people walk away.
A major turning point for young people’s faith in America tends to be high school graduation. Multiple studies highlight that about half of youth group seniors drift from God and the faith community after they graduate from high school. We’ve spent the past decade studying how to reverse this trend through our Sticky Faith project.

Some—perhaps more than half—of those who drift from the church end up rejoining the faith community, generally when they get married and have children. But even those who return have made significant life decisions about worldview, relationships and vocation—all during an era when their faith was shoved aside. The consequences of those lasting decisions are often tough to erase.

“But Wait, my Church Is Growing!”

Perhaps your congregation is growing, and bursting with young people. But in the midst of that growth, you may wonder if young people are merely consuming what you offer. You want more than that; you want them to be unleashed to join—and help lead—God’s redemptive work in the world.

Regardless of your church’s trajectory, your congregation needs young people, and they need your church. One without the other is incomplete. Our research reveals that growing young can energize your entire congregation. As you navigate the waters of growing young, your other priorities (like effective evangelism, dynamic worship services, powerful service and missions, and authentic community) will gain momentum. If your overall hope is to have a vibrant congregation, there are arguably few better starting points than tapping into the contagious passion of teenagers and young adults.

How Strategic Churches Are Growing Young

The data is clear that shrinking and aging are the default for most American congregations today. But that’s not the way it has to be.

And it’s not happening in every church. Perhaps most importantly, it doesn’t have to be true for your church.

Our research team at the Fuller Youth Institute spent the last four years studying more than 250 congregations of diverse sizes, ethnicities and geographic regions that are unlocking the potential of teenagers and young adults. These churches are bucking the national trends and seeing not only young people—but their entire congregation—thrive. They are bright lights in the midst of the all-too-often gloomy narratives and research.

These churches joined us for one of the most comprehensive and collaborative studies on churches engaging young people, involving more than 1,500 research participants, 10,000 hours of staff research time, over 20 denominations, nearly 40 states and both new church plants and those with more than 100 years of history. Half of the congregations were predominantly white, while one-third were multiracial (see for more details and resources).

All that work was focused on learning more about what’s going right in the church.
The primary goal of our last three years of research has been to understand how and why exemplary churches are effectively engaging 15- to 29-year-olds. Put more simply, we studied churches that are growing, and growing young. To ensure both the quality and practical applicability of the research, we enlisted a world-class team of advisors to guide the process, including Andy Crouch, Brad Lomenick, Brenda Salter McNeil, Carey Nieuwhof, David Kinnaman, Efrem Smith, Eugene Cho, John Ortberg, Sergio De La Mora and others.

One critical way these churches are thriving is in their approach to leadership and mentoring—especially with young people. Both leadership in general, as well as specific leaders, were mentioned in every stage of our research as one of the principal contributors to churches that grow young. When pastoral leaders were asked to describe what accounted for their success with young people, the highest response—named by half of pastors—was church leadership

Church leadership ranked ahead of worship style, emphasis on social justice and use of the latest technology. Congregation members were even more likely to attribute their church’s effectiveness to leadership, at more than 77 percent. That held true in interviews and site visits, from The District Church in Washington, D.C., to Flood Church in San Diego, California.

So how does leadership look different in a church that is growing young? It all comes down to who holds the keys.

One “Key” Strategy to Help Your Church Grow Young Today

Remember your first set of keys?

Stephen—who goes by “Stretch”—received his first set of keys when he was 16. His town handed him a driver’s license and his parents handed him the keys to the family car. Heart pounding with excitement, he climbed behind the wheel and pulled out of his driveway for the first time on his own. Stretch couldn’t believe the newfound freedom and responsibility he had been given. He was taking a step away from childhood and a step closer to adulthood.

Stretch pulled onto the street and decided to drive to his church. As he pulled into the parking lot, the church’s childcare was wrapping up for the day. One of the leaders who knew Stretch noticed him driving. Given a recent shortage of childcare workers, she asked if he was interested in helping after school.

She was only halfway through the question before Stretch knew his answer. He would get to hang out at the church, spend time with kids and on top of it all … he would get paid. This day couldn’t get any better!

Until a few minutes later, when she returned from the church office and handed him a key to the church. “If you’re going to help us, there will be times when we need you to lock up,” she explained. Stretch was staring so intently at the key that he barely heard her words. The pastor had this key. His Sunday school teacher had this key. Other adults who were mature—who had power—had this key. But him? It was like he had been waiting on the sidelines during the big game and was now being called onto the playing field.

A week later, while Stretch was working in the childcare center, the youth pastor dropped by. “You know, Stretch,” he said, “if you have your license and are already at the church, would you be willing to stock the soda machine for me? The job comes with all the Mountain Dew you can drink.”

Key to the car. Check.
Key to the church. Check.
Key to the soda machine. Check.

What’s more, later that night, standing alone in the empty church, Stretch sensed a clear call from God to ministry. What other key could he possibly need?

A lot happened for Stretch that week. Leaders he deeply respected had entrusted him with access and authority by giving him keys, both literally and figuratively. In the decades that followed, others continued to entrust him with the keys of leadership, and he shared with our team that it’s the reason he’s now been in ministry—and empowering young people—for over 20 years.

Churches that grow young are brimming with staff, volunteers and parents who demonstrate what we describe as keychain leadership. Whoever holds the keys has the power to let people in or to keep people out. Keys provide access not only to rooms, but also to strategic meetings, significant decisions and central roles. The more power you have, the more keys you tend to possess.

By keychain leaders, we mean pastoral and congregational leaders who are:

1. Acutely aware of the keys on their keychain, and
2. Intentional about entrusting and empowering all generations, including teenagers and emerging adults, with their own set of keys.

Practicing Keychain Leadership

Beyond simply launching a student leadership team in your church’s youth ministry, keychain leadership is a spirit and commitment that permeates every area of the church.

The great news is that you are probably already closer than you think to keychain leadership. With just a few intentional decisions, you can increase your ability to pass off keys to others.
Based on our research, we’ve identified four types of key leadership ranging from key-less leaders to keychain leaders. Take a moment to place yourself and others on your staff or volunteer team on this continuum. There are four types of key leadership in churches:

1. Key-less leaders: Often young and inexperienced, without much authority or access, their time is spent proving they’re worthy to possess keys. This could be a high school student ready to volunteer in the children’s ministry—full of potential and passion as he begins his leadership journey. It may also represent an older congregant who feels as though she lost access to keys—and her voice in the church—a decade or two ago.

2. Key-hoarding leaders: Always holding the keys and refusing to give others access, they run the show. This might include an outgoing, extroverted ministry leader who draws a crowd through sheer personality and ends up driving away others who offer to help (we won’t ask you to name any names, but would wager you could name a few leaders in this category pretty quickly).

3. Key-loaning leaders: Often taking keys off the keychain and letting others borrow them temporarily, they make sure the keys are returned quickly. One example might be a pastor of a fast-growing church plant who knows the contribution of others is important—but also believes others won’t do as good of a job as he or she will.
4. Keychain leaders: Very aware of the keys they hold, they are constantly opening doors for some while training and entrusting others who are ready for their own set of keys. This could be a longstanding senior leader, associate pastor or trusted volunteer who young people, staff and congregation members turn to for advice or to be sharpened in their ministry skills. Everyone seems to get better when this leader is involved, and a long list of people can point to this leader as the reason they serve in the church today.

The keychain leaders we observed understood that they shouldn’t immediately throw young people keys from a distance and expect them to learn to use the keys on their own. But they also knew young people shouldn’t be forced to sit in the back seat of the car (with the senior leader driving) for too long. Instead, keychain leaders discipline themselves to pay attention to young people who are ready for their own set of keys and then train those young people in the skills they need to succeed.

In fact, when young people in our study were asked what made their church effective, 43 percent pointed to the relational nature of their leaders. Being relational doesn’t mean leaders jettison their boundaries and try to be a “best friend” to everyone in their congregation. But it does mean that leaders are approachable and genuinely care and connect.

At Metro Community Church, a 10-year-old multiethnic church in New Jersey, keychain leadership is made possible by a lead pastor who recognizes he doesn’t have all the leadership answers. A 22-year-old college student described to our team, “The main draw is how transparent our senior pastor is. It’s the only church I’ve ever been part of where the pastor shares how he feels and even shares his mistakes.”

Rich and Robyn Wilkerson of the 5,000-member Trinity Church in Miami, Florida, recognize that keychain leadership is possible in both large and small congregations. During our visit, nearly everyone mentioned the empowering leadership culture in the church and attributed this to the pastors. When we asked Rich and Robyn how they set this tone, they explained that they strategically invest in leaders who will replicate this influence throughout the church. Every Monday, nearly 100 core volunteers and staff gather for a chapel service that includes worship, testimonies and prayer for the congregation.

Rather than try to connect with thousands at this level of depth, these keychain leaders strategically infuse this smaller group with a leadership culture that spreads to the rest of the congregation.

Evaluate Your Own Keychain Leadership

Taking into account all of the bad news about young people and the church, as well as the great potential for your church to grow young, we urge you to take the risk of empowering young leaders. The first step is to work either on your own or with your team to make two lists. The first list should include all of the keys of leadership you currently hold in your church. The second should include all of the young people in your church who have been given (or could be given) significant keys of leadership. Then reflect on the two lists and identify some steps you could take—a conversation, sharing a task or developing a promising leader—that would offer more keys to more young people.

Someone probably offered keys to you years ago and that’s the reason you’re leading your congregation today. Stretch and a whole generation of young people in your community are tired of sitting on the sidelines. Let’s invite them to join us on the field.

Kara Powell, executive director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), is the author of several books including Growing Young and Sticky Faith, and a regular speaker at national leadership and ministry conferences. Jake Mulder, director of strategic initiatives at the FYI, is a co-author of Growing Young, and has served ministries in the U.S. and globally. Brad Griffin, associate director of the FYI, is a speaker, blogger, youth pastor and a co-author of Growing Young and several Sticky Faith books.

Portions of this article were adapted with permission from Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin,Growing Young: Six Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church, available this fall from Baker Books.

Monday, August 29, 2016

I am Second - Colt McCoy

Ready for another powerful testimony?

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Blessed are those who mourn - for they shall be comforted

Today at Gastonia First Wesleyan Church I continued in the current teaching series:

When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down,   His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”        Matthew 5: 1-4 NASB

“Blessed is the man who is moved to bitter sorrow at the realization of his own sin. The way to God is the way of the broken heart. Penitence is the first act of the Christian life, and penitence is sorrow” (William Barclay).

“To mourn is something that follows of necessity from being ‘poor in spirit’. It is quite inevitable. As I confront God and His holiness, and contemplate the life that I am meant to live, I see myself, my utter helplessness and hopelessness. I discover my quality of spirit and immediately that makes me mourn. I must mourn about the fact that I am like that (Martyn Llyod-Jones, Sermon on the Mount, P.58).

What did the message say to you today at Gastonia First Wesleyan? 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Preparing for Worship

Tomorrow at Gastonia First Wesleyan Church is going to be an awesome worship experience.

We plan to begin the worship with a time of preparation with a 5 minute countdown and then the worship team leads us in a great song to focus upon the Lord:

We will also be featuring Rock of Ages and It is well with my soul - traditional versions.

I am psyched about the message God has placed on my heart for this Sunday.

I encourage you to invite a friend and plan to join us.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Tonight - Tissue Alert at Gastonia 1st!

Tonight at 6:00pm the doors open for the last movie for the In Door Drive In event at First Wesleyan Church in Gastonia, NC.  The past two weeks we have seen great recent movies and tonight is no exception.  Plan now to join us for this FREE event.  The doors open at 6:00pm and the Concession Stand opens at 6:15. The movie begins at 6:30.  Tonight is an awesome movie:

Catch this interview:

Thursday, August 25, 2016

There Are No Shortcuts to Spiritual Maturity

By Pastor Rick Warren
It takes years for us to grow to adulthood, and it takes a full season for fruit to mature and ripen. The same is true for the fruit of the Spirit. The development of Christ-like character cannot be rushed. Spiritual growth, like physical growth, takes time.
Before Christ invades our lives at conversion, he sometimes has to “soften us up” by allowing problems we can’t handle. While some open their lives to Christ the first time he knocks on the door, most of us are resistant and defensive. Our pre-conversion experience is Jesus saying, “Behold! I stand at the door and Knock!”
The moment you open yourself to Christ, God gets a “foothold” in your life. You may think you have surrendered all your life to him, but the truth is, there’s a lot to your life that you aren’t even aware of. You can only give God as much of you as you understand at that moment. That’s okay.
Once Christ is given a foothold, he begins the campaign to take over more and more territory until all of your life is completely his. There will be struggles and battles, but the outcome will never be in doubt. God has promised that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6 NIV)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

John Wesley's Prayer

A great prayer.Not for the faint of heart-or weak!

All out for God's use-plain and simple.

Tonight we gather for prayer at 7:00pm at Gastonia First Wesleyan Church.

What will be your prayer this evening?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

I am second

He’s been an NFL head coach for 20 seasons, leading teams to the playoffs and a Super Bowl. But despite wild success, Jeff Fisher of the St. Louis Rams knew something was missing. “And in my world, there’s never time to figure out what is, in fact, missing,” he says.

That was until a moment in 2010 when he stopped his car on a bridge and pulled over. There, a friend asked him a question he couldn’t answer. A question that would change his desire for first place, and lead him to be second.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Purpose Driven Life

Pastor, philanthropist and author Rick Warren reflects on how the success of his book The Purpose-Driven Life triggered his own crisis of purpose. What should he do with this unanticipated wealth and attention? Warren uses his own story to explain the central tenet of his teaching: that the antidote to spiritual emptiness is recognizing what we have been given -- wealth, creativity, talent -- and using those gifts to make the world a better place.  This is one of my favorite TED moments from 2008.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Poor in Spirit

“‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’ means: ‘Blessed is the man who has realized his own utter helplessness, and who has put his whole trust in God.’ If a man has realized his own utter helplessness, and has put his whole trust in God, there will enter into his life two things which are opposite sides of the same thing. He will become completely detached from things, for he will know that things have not got it in them to bring happiness or security; and he will become completely attached to God, for he will know that God alone can bring him help, and hope, and strength. The man who is poor in spirit is the man who has realized that things mean nothing, and that God means everything.”
                                                                                                  - William Barclay
Just a thought about this thing called GRACE:

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Preparing for a new teaching series at Gastonia 1st!

Tomorrow at Gastonia First Wesleyan Church I plan to launch a new teaching series entitled:
The Beatitudes: The Great Contradiction.

I have never preached the messages in this series but have been working on this series for over a year. I look forward to what God is planning to say through me as He works in me.

 Success in the world is often defined by popularity, wealth and power. But Jesus broke the standard measure of success with the Beatitudes, teaching that God doesn’t reward the rich and powerful just because they’re rich and powerful. Instead, he rewards the meek, the persecuted, the gentle — he rewards those who seek Him. 

Beatitudes: The Great Contradiction is a nine-week message series that breaks down the atypical characteristics of a Christ-follower. The first four guide us in our relationship with God, the second four in our relationships with other people, and as we grow in each of these areas so does our influence. There can be tension between the way Christ calls us to live and the way the world wants us to live.

I hope you will plan to be in attendance if Gastonia First Wesleyan is your church - and that you will also plan to bring someone for this series. Exciting things are going to happen in our midst during the next few months. 

Friday, August 19, 2016


I am really looking forward to our 2nd Indoor Drive In Movie at Gastonia First Wesleyan Church.

I hope you will join us and invite a friend for this movie this evening.  The doors open at 6:00pm and the movie begins at 6:30pm.

Here is an interview with Jim Caviezel that gives a unique view of what the message of this film is all about.

Jim Caviezel: Standing Tall in Hollywood

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Join us tomorrow night for our Indoor Drive In

All are invited to our Indoor Drive In event at Gastonia First Wesleyan Church this coming Friday!  doors open at 6:00 and the movie starts at 6:30.  Bring your friends and prepare for football season to begin with a great feature: When the Game Stands Tall.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Changed life - An Olympic Story

Michael Phelps on how reading “Purpose Driven Life” saved him from suicide

The power of sharing with others - the answer you have found -the hope that lays within you.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The true Olympic Spirit

Abbey D'Agostino of the United States collided with Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand in a women's 5000m qualifying race. In true Olympic spirit, they helped each other out, and despite being banged up, they both ran another mile to finish the race.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Mountain Moving Faith

A small congregation in the foothills of the Great Smokies built a new sanctuary on a piece of land willed to them by a church member. Ten days before the new church was to open, the local building inspector informed the pastor that the parking lot was inadequate for
the size of the building. Until the church doubled the size of the parking lot, they would not be able to use the new sanctuary. Unfortunately, the church with its undersized parking lot had used every inch of their land except for the mountain against which it had been built. In order to build more parking spaces, they would have to move the mountain out of the back yard.


Undaunted, the pastor announced the next Sunday morning that he would meet that evening with all members who had "mountain moving faith." They would hold a prayer session asking God to remove the mountain from the back yard and to somehow provide enough money to have it paved and painted before the scheduled opening dedication service the
following week. 

At the appointed time, 24 of the congregation's 300 members assembled for prayer. They prayed for nearly three hours. At ten o'clock the pastor said the final "Amen." "We'll open next Sunday as scheduled," he assured everyone. "God has never let us down before, and I believe He will be faithful this time too."

The next morning, as he was working in his study, there came a loud knock at the pastor's door. When he called, "Come in," a rough looking construction foreman appeared, removing his hard hat as he entered.

"Excuse me, Reverend. I'm from Acme Construction Company over
in the next county. We're building a huge new shopping mall over
there and we need some fill dirt. Would you be willing to sell us a
chunk of that mountain behind the church? We'll pay you for the
dirt we remove and pave all the exposed area free of charge, if we
can have it right away. We can't do anything else until we get the
dirt in and allow it to settle properly."

The little church was dedicated the next Sunday as originally planned and there were far more members with "mountain moving faith" on opening Sunday than there had been the previous week!

From a fellow Wesleyan Pastor:

Paul Wallace

Dixonville Wesleyan Church

Sunday, August 14, 2016

My Pastoral Prayer this morning at Gastonia First Wesleyan

As I stood before the congregation at First Wesleyan Church this morning I felt the moving of the Holy Spirit upon me. As we prepared for the time of prayer - God gave me these words to speak:

As I stand before you today as your pastor I feel the leading of Lord to share a few moments from my heart. I have just completed my first 30 days of ministry at Gastonia First Wesleyan Church. The first days of transition have been filled with grace as you have allowed me to mispronounce your name or not even know it.  I have prayed for you with an unending passion as I commuted from Monroe NC to Gastonia. I want to express my appreciation to all those who gave sacrificially with their time and support to refresh the parsonage and I am so happy to report that all of our personal belongings have been delivered and we are finally establishing our home in Gastonia.  My drive to church today was over an hour shorter than last week!

I have tried to establish my ministry at Gastonia First be one based upon the preaching of the Word of God. I have strived to remind you the God loves you and created you for a purpose. This morning I would like to pray from Psalm 139 over our church:

Oh Lord, you have searched us here at Gastonia First Wesleyan and you know us.  As we come and go, you perceive our individual thoughts and our collective perspective. When we leave this building and go to our homes you are still familiar with our ways as the church that you joined together.  Before any of us speaks a word to one another – you know what we’re going to say, oh Lord, you know about every conversation we have and every song we will lift up together to you.

You have hemmed in our church behind and before. Although sometimes we feel insecure, we know that we are safe because of your care, and that knowledge is too wonderful for us, it is too amazing for us to understand.

Where could any of us go from your Spirit? Where could we flee from your presence? If we went up to heaven you are there; if we made our bed in the depths you are there? You were with us on May 20, 1900 when 45 people met after a tent revival to establish this church.  You were with us under the pastoral leadership of E.W. Black from 1915-1917 when the Tither’s League was established and the church grew to add four new Sunday School classes. You are with us when J.A, Wood came to pastor our church in 1931 – 1944 when the monthly end balance in the church account was 32¢. 
You have been with us throughout the years as this church has grown and developed ministries that have touched the lives of others around the world. You will be with us wherever we are. Your hand will always be guiding us and your right hand will hold us fast.

Lord, you knit us together as the exact congregation you wanted us to be today, and you designed us from our very beginnings. We praise you because this exact collection of individuals and families has been fearfully and wonderfully gathered together by you. The work you are doing in us and through us is wonderful. We know that full well. Our specific and diverse composition was part of your plan when you called us to remain on the corner of Franklin Blvd and Church St in 1970.  You proved yourself faithful oh God, when a two story building was added in 1986 to house First Wesleyan Christian School.  And, when we were woven together all those years ago your eyes saw our church as it would be on this day in 2016. All the days and the ministry that you ordained for our church were written in your book before one of those days came to be.  

How precious are your thoughts about us, oh God. How vast are the sum of them. If we were to try and count the thoughts you have for Gastonia First Wesleyan, they would outnumber the grains of sand.  When we wake up in our individual homes all over this city, you still see of us as your precious church.
Lord, would you slay those who would try to stop your work through us? Would you send them away from us? Some speak with evil intent and misuse your name. Help us to hate the sin that causes people to rise up against you. Lord, might your enemies become our enemies.

Nevertheless Lord, we want you to search deep into the heart of our church. Cross examine us and test us and show us our anxious thoughts. Show us the things we do which are offensive to you or which might cause us to hurt one another. Then Lord, will you lead us instead to the ways that cause unity among us and bring others to eternal life with you.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Preparing for worship for August 14 2016

Today we prepare for an awesome day of worship tomorrow at Gastonia First Wesleyan Church!

This is a big day for us as we settle our home from the recent delivery and unloading of the PODS Units loaded on Memorial Weekend.  Sharron and I have spend our first night in our new home.

We are so excited to finally arrive in Gastonia.

Join us tomorrow for the closing message in the series: A Place for Everyone.

I am planning a big surprise during the worship tomorrow as a reflect upon my first 30 days as the Lead Pastor. Trust me, you will NOT want to miss this.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Join us for the Indoor Drive In Movie NIght

Plan NOW to join us this evening at Gastonia First Wesleyan Church at 6:30 for the FREE showing of God's Not Dead 2.  This is a fun event featuring a youth sponsored concession stand.

FREE Face painting for all the children.

Bring your lawn chairs - blankets and comfy clothes to view this great film.

Here is the trailer to get you ready for a great time this evening.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Ten things Pastors Would Love to Hear From Church Members

By Thom Rainer 

It is a simple question.

What do you hear from your church members that gives you the greatest encouragement?

The responses from the pastors were amazingly similar. In fact, I was able to focus on ten specific areas. Here are summary statements of those areas.

1.   “I pray for you every day.” This statement was the most frequent. Read it carefully. It’s not just prayer; it’s daily prayer. The pastor understands ministry is spiritual warfare. The pastor understands prayer is one of the greatest weapons in the warfare.

2.   “I want to help your family any way I can.” Most pastors are stressed and stretched. So are their families. When a church member offers to support and help the family, the pastor feels like shouting for joy.

3.   “I want you to know specifically how God spoke to me through your sermon.” The key word here is “specifically.” It’s not a lot of encouragement if a church member says perfunctorily “good sermon.” Let the pastor know the specific meaning and application to you from the sermon.

4.   “I am ready and willing to take on that ministry task.” Pastors take great joy when a church member understands that ministry is to be done by the members, that the pastor is not the hired hand to do it all.

5.   “I see my role as an encourager.” Pastors need numbers of people who will take on the Barnabas role. The critics will always be there.

6.   “I see my role as one who will confront the bullies and the perpetual critics in the church.” I have heard from countless pastors that it’s not the critics who bother them as much as the “friends” who will not speak up and to the critics and church bullies.

7.   “I will make certain your family has an adequate income.” One of the great stressors on pastors is financial worry. It is such a relief and joy when a church member takes the role of financial advocate for the pastor.

8.   “I am available to babysit your kids.” Pastors with young kids relish a husband-wife date night. Many of them are unable to go out because they can’t find or afford babysitters.

9.   “I will be in church with no excuses unless providentially hindered.” Pastors hear plenty of excuses. It is a refreshing change for them to hear from a no-excuse church member.
          10.               “I will never compare you to a previous pastor.” Yep, pastors                          cringe when they hear, “Pastor Bill used to do it this way.” Let your                    pastors know they have their own identity, and that previous                             pastors are not a scorecard against which they are measured.

      I would love to hear from church members, church staff, and pastors how           they could add to this list.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Knot Prayer

Tonight at 7:00pm, we gather for Corporate Prayer at Gastonia First Wesleyan Church!

Here is a short primer for our time together:

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

12 Principles for More Effective Ministry Team Meetings – In Any Size Church

This article came to me in an very important time.  Over the last 2 Sundays, we have collected Ministry Intrest Surveys asking people to let us know where they have a passion or experience to serve in the church.  We have an All Church Training Day scheduled for Sunday August 28th. 

I don't like meetings...... Planning meetings, board meetings, staff meetings, committee meetings…
If I could jettison one aspect of pastoring, that’s what I would get rid of.
So why do I have them? Because, when done well, ministry team meetings are an essential tool for communication, team-building, problem-solving, vision-casting and more.
So I make sure the staff and volunteer meetings are as few and as effective as possible by requiring that they meet these 12 criteria:

Meetings must be:

1. Consistent

They might be weekly, monthly or quarterly, depending on the task or project. But once their frequency has been determined, their appearance on the calendar should be something every team member can rely on.

2. Convenient

If you pastor a small church, one of the hardest aspects of planning meetings is something most lists like this take for granted – namely, how to get everyone in the room. When they’re paid staff, it’s easy. When they’re all volunteers (often including the pastor), getting everyone together can be the hardest task of all.
At our small church, we set team meetings around their schedules, not mine. Often, we’ll catch up following our Sunday services, since team members are already at the church. Or during their lunch hour. Or on the night of our children’s program, so parents don’t need a sitter. Or in a member’s home.

3. Task-Oriented

Teams do things. Committees talk about things.
Some committees may be necessary for your church’s polity, or for legal reasons. But, other than those, I recommend meeting with task-oriented teams, not committees.

4. About Solutions, Not Blame

Never let meetings descend into gripe sessions. The best way to avoid that is to make every meeting about finding solutions, not assigning blame. All the energy should be aimed towards answers, not problems.
Make every meeting about finding solutions, not assigning blame.
I also highly recommend dropping the “don’t raise a problem unless you have a solution” rule. This is why a lot of issues never get raised – or solved.
Instead, the rule should be “raise a problem so we can all get focused on finding a solution together.”

5. Short

Unless you’re in the final crunch time for a big event or project, most well-planned meetings should last an hour or less. The people you most want on your team won’t sit for long meetings, and the people who love long meetings aren’t the ones you want on your team.

6. Planned

If you’re wondering how to keep meetings short, this is Rule Number One. Have an agenda and stick with it.
All major subjects must be on the agenda in advance.
Sure, there will be last-minute issues, including those that arise as a result of the meeting. But proper planning will keep them to a minimum and allow for greater effectiveness in the meeting.

7. Scheduled and Confirmed

Never leave one meeting without confirming or setting the date for the next meeting. It’s so much easier to do this when everyone is already in the room than to try to corral everyone later through endless phone calls and emails.
Then set up a system (like email, text, or a planning app) to remind everyone about the meeting two to three days in advance.

8. Effective

If they stop working, stop having them.
The value and effectiveness of every ministry team should be assessed at least annually, with an eye to determining their value and, if they continue, making them more effective.

9. Collaborative

Very few things will kill the team spirit of a church like territorialism. When ministries start fighting over limited budgets, calendar time, volunteers and facilities, it’s a sure sign that they’ve forgotten that everyone is a vital part of a whole body.
This is why the next point is so essential.

10. Mission-Focused

Every church needs to know why they exist. Then stay laser-focused on that.
Every team meeting should always have a big-picture aspect to it. How is what we’re doing helping us all reach our common goal?

11. Celebrative

At our church’s weekly staff meeting we have a regular agenda item calledMinistry Stories. It’s a time when we pause to ask “so, what’s going on in your ministry that we can celebrate with you?”
Every leadership team needs to be intentional about celebrating victories, not just solving problems.
Every leadership team needs to be intentional about celebrating victories, not just solving problems.

12. Next-Step Oriented

Everyone should leave every meeting with a better picture of what they’re supposed to do next. And some helpful ideas about how it’s going to get done.
On project-oriented teams, I will often close the meeting by asking each member to summarize what they’re going to do between this meeting and the next meeting. This quick exercise keeps the team focused, disciplined and accountable.

Make Meetings Matter

This list didn’t happen easily or quickly. I learned each principle the hard way. But using them has made our ministry teams more effective, cooperative and even joyful. I hope they can do the same for you, your church and your ministry teams.

Copyright © 2016 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.
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