Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pour it on!

"But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God." Acts 20:24

Imagine for a moment that you are running a race that is ten laps long. And let's just say that you are in first place for nine of those ten laps. Not only are you in first, but you are creaming the competition.

So when you come to the tenth lap, you think, "What's the point? I'm obviously the winner here. I'm going home."

Guess what? You don't get first place, second place, or even an honorable mention. You don't get a gold medal, silver medal, or bronze medal. You are disqualified because you didn't finish the race.

In the same way, it isn't enough for you to do well in the first five years or the next 20 years of your Christian life. You have to cross the finish line.

That is why the apostle Paul, when he was leaving the elders of Ephesus, said in his departure speech, "But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24).

That is what we should all be aiming for. The apostle Paul wanted to win the spiritual race. We should want to win it as well. And that is why this is not the time to be easing up. This is the time to pick up the pace. This is the time to pour it on.

I thought this was a good devotional thought from my friend, Greg. Let's pour it on and not quit. Let's finish the race together. Be strong! God is blessing and moving in the Oakwood family. Let's continue to move with Him!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

This time is coming!

Enjoy the day that the Lord has made! And ask yourself, are you living as an orphan or more as a son/daughter of God?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Thursday with Bob

Thursday was our last day with Bob. I left Louisville about 6:10 that evening and flew into Tulsa about 11:30PM. Then I drove to Enid and ended up getting home about 1:45AM Friday.

Thursday began with another great breakfast and then we moved into our last session that morning. Bob shared with us about longevity in ministry and how to protect yourself and make it through the hard times. There were many great things he said. He also gave us many leadership tidbits (as he did the whole retreat). At the end we shared what had most impacted us and then we spent time praying for each other. Bob went around the room and laid his hands on each man as we prayed for each other. It was very special. After that we packed and loaded.

Before the retreat began, Bob had mentioned a "post-retreat" activity for any that could stay for Thursday afternoon. My plane didn't leave till 6:10, so I got to participate before having to go to the airport. We went to Champions Pointe Golf Club and played a round of golf with Bob, Dick Sauer, and most of the guys from the retreat. It was great. We had a good time. Bob is a good golfer and plays a lot. He mentioned that it was a "release" for him throughout his ministry. It's a place to go and blow off some steam and get some perspective. Plus he mentioned that he'd golfed with a lot of men from the church through the years and that many "God appointments" had happened. It was a good time. The course was a Fuzzy Zoeller course and relatively new for south Indiana. It rained that morning but stopped about the time we teed off. It was wet and sloshy, but still a lot of fun.

After that Dick Sauer took me and Dan Holland (one of the other pastors there) to the airport. We were the guys flying out. Dan and I had a cup of coffee and said our goodbyes. It was a great week. I learned a lot and was very refreshed. Most of what I learned is definitely applicable to our context at Oakwood, so I'm glad to be equipped. I also have Bob's number and e-mail and he told us to stay in touch, sharing the good news and the bad with him.

All in all it was the best retreat/conference that I've ever attended. What a blessing from the Lord! In my next blog I hope to give some insights into what I learned and some things that impacted me.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Wednesday with Bob

Wednesday was an exciting day as we got to meet with Southeast Christian Church's elders and staff. We also got to go to Southeast. The church campus was awesome! They had just completed a new Student Center called "The Block" and we got to tour it. Absolutely incredible for youth.

The morning sessions were about preaching, church ministry, and protecting yourself spiritually. Great, great learning for me from the best. There were so many valuable lessons in these sessions that I could probably go on about them for hours. There's so much Godly wisdom there that I just wanted to soak it up.

Then we meet with the elders of Southeast. I was very impressed by the elders that we met. These were men of great faith and showed their strong leadership even through the meeting. They talked a lot about the elder to elder role, the elder to staff role, and the elder to congregation role. They pulled no punches with us as they talked to us about biblical eldership and how that had manifested itself at Southeast over the years. It was great learning. At one point, one of the guys said, "I don't know why they have us come meet with you pastors. We need to meet with your elder. They need to bring them in here." Over lunch that day I spent some time talking to a couple of the elders. They told me that they had just gotten back from visiting a church in Virginia and training and developing the eldership there. They told me that if we would cover their expenses, they would love to come to Enid and meet with our elders. They also said that they would meet with us if we flew to Southeast. I'm hoping to do that in the next year or so. I think it would be most valuable to our elders.

After that we went and toured the campus of Southeast. Absolutely amazing!!! As I've mentioned above, it was excellent. While there we got to meet with Dave Stone for an hour. Dave is the Sr. Pastor of Southeast now. Wonderful man. He really let us see some of the hardships he's been through and expressed how hard it is from his position to balance ministry and family. I think that he said he's got 3 kids at home, 15, 13, & 10 or something like that. It was great to see the humility and authenticity of a man who preaches to 18,000 people every week.

After meeting with him we went bowling at one of the nicest bowling alleys I've ever seen. It kept track of your ball speed and all of these pin ratios by what you hit on what ball. Open frames versus closed frame statistics. It was a lot of fun to cut loose with Bob and our group. Plus, we bowled for cash prizes, which was fun! I won overall with the highest score of the day with a 192. I think that's the highest I've ever bowled in my life. We had a good time and great fellowship.

After the bowling, we went to Bob and Judy Russell's house for dinner. Let me repeat. WE WENT TO BOB & JUDY'S FOR DINNER. Can you believe that? They had the whole group over. We got to see where and how they live (Which is not extravagant as one might think. Totally different lifestyle than the Joel Osteen's, Joyce Meyer's, T.D. Jakes of the world.) I even got to taste and enjoy Judy's homemade brownies with ice cream! Talk about speaking my language. That's my weakness when it comes to sweets! Anyway, we got to go downstairs and see Bob's study, where he has written sermons for the past 30 years or so. It was amazing! I asked him if he'd kept them all through the years, and he said that he had since 1967 or so. He opened some file drawers and showed us the files. That was pretty neat. He also showed us all of his memorabilia and autographs and such. He had lots of stories that he told us, especially some neat ones about John Wooden, the basketball coach from UCLA. I guess that he was a great Christian and Bob got to know him a little bit back in the 70's & 80's. Pretty neat stories there.

We spent about 3 hours at Bob & Judy's. It was a great time of fellowship. We had a lot of personal interaction there. It was really something. I could go on and on with stories, but I've got work to do!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tuesday with Bob

After a wonderful breakfast on Tuesday morning in the retreat center dining room (excellent food!), we went into more sessions with Bob. We always started the sessions with question and some interaction. The questions were always "gray" areas of ministry with "what would you do in these circumstances" type of answers. Very interesting questions and answers every time. Some times it was hard to discern the grace you needed to offer people and the obedience that scripture requires. Working through all of these was fun and thought provoking.

It was Tuesday morning that I learned a lot about myself. About 4 weeks before the retreat, each pastor had taken an online assessment called a "DISC" assessment. This was a behavioral study that took into consideration your personality, work style, values, and helped you understand how God wired you. It was very interesting to learn about yourself and how you work and communicate best. We had a wonderful lady named Elizabeth Jeffries come in and go through the reports with us for the better part of 2 hours. It was absolutely amazing how much you learned and how much you became aware of in yourself during this session. I think this type of learning is so valuable. At the end of the session she offered to do these same types of assessments with the church leadership (elders and staff) and I'm hoping to get that going in the near future.

We went to lunch and then another session about life at Southeast A.B. (Life at Southeast Christian Church After Bob). Bob stepped down officially in June of 2006. We went though this session and learned how you can build a church God's way and position it for growth and ministry beyond your tenure there. This time was invaluable too. I learned a ton. I was constantly reminded throughout this retreat what I already believed in my heart. This is God's church, not the elders, not my church, nor any other staff member or church member. God is holding the keys. When a church does things God's way, God-sized things happen. And amazing things at that.

After that we went to the Louisville Slugger bat factory. We got a tour and they made us some custom bats. That was really neat. Then we got to meet with one of their top execs, a man named Bill Clark. He loves his church and works with many in ministry and gave us a lot of insights about leadership. He had a great illustration that stuck with us about "swimming with the fish". It was great. Louisville Slugger is a great company run with integrity and Christian values and we all learned a ton there.

From the bat factory we ended the evening with a meal at Ruth Chris Steakhouse. It was awesome! The food was exquisite and the service was excellent. We were treated like royalty and enjoyed just sitting there with Bob and listening to him tell stories and answer questions. Tuesday was a great day.

I know that I'm running a day behind, but duty calls in this line of work many times. More posting later. Thanks for your patience.

God is so good. Take a moment and thank Him for all of the wonderful things He's done for you!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Monday with Bob

Monday wasn't too eventful but was very exciting. After the plane landed, I got to go eat a late lunch with a couple from the church names Burch & O'Neal Moberly. They treated me to lunch at a restaurant on the Ohio River and I ate some "Kentucky" food. I had a hot brown and tried a fried green tomato. Really! And I thoroughly enjoyed both. Both are kind of custom to that part of the country and Burch and O'Neal thought I should experience them.

Kentucky is pretty country. As we were driving out to the retreat center I got to see alot of that area. Very hilly and green. Really nice. When I got to the retreat center lodge, it was amazing. The decor was woodsy and the rooms were as nice as a hotel, if not nicer.

They gave a me a notebook with information and outlines for the whole week. I got to sneak a peek at my DISC assessment, but I'll get to that later. Then it was time to go to dinner.

When I walked down to the lobby, I met several of the other ministers at the retreat and then Bob Russell walked in and met each of us. Then, it was like a switch...let the learning begin.

That first night we ate a great dinner at the lodge and got to know each other better. We all shared what was the best and worst thing going on in our churches right now. We also got to talk about our contexts to better understand each other and so Bob could personally help us more.

Our first session that night was entitled "Leadership Lessons I've Learned from Major Mistakes I've Made". One of the things Bob said is that good leaders learn from their mistakes. Great leaders learn from the mistakes of others. He began to share with us some of the mistakes he had made and lessons he had learned over his 40+ years in ministry.

I learned a ton in that first session, but here are just a few things:
1. Confront problems. (No, they won't go away and fix themselves with time.)
2. Acknowledge my weaknesses and delegate accordingly.
3. Be transparent when mistaken.
4. Give priority to my family even when the church needs attention.
5. Be content regardless of the statistics. (No, the grass is not greener at another church. You are just trading these problems for those problems.)
6. Constantly take breaks to strengthen your soul.

I could go WAY in depth to all of these, but you get the point. I'd love to type and tell more, but I've got a job to do and I feel like I'm a week behind on some things. More tomorrow about this wonderful journey for me.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Spent Time with Bob

What a great week it has been. For those that didn't know, this week I got to go spend time with Bob Russell in Louisville, KY. If you don't know who Bob Russell is, then this may be meaningless to you. However, if you do know who he is, then you understand why spending time with this man could be significant.

Bob Russell is the retired minister of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY. Southeast is said to be the "quietest megachurch in the country". This is very true and it probably has to do with the leadership there. They are very humble.

I got the opportunity because of a friend. He told me to sign up and I applied online my first day as Sr. Pastor. (It's for S.P.'s only.) I got the confirmation that I had been accepted 4 months later. So, needless to say, I've been looking forward to it for a long time. Bob's retreats are limited to 8 S.P.'s. So it's literally 7 other guys, you and Bob. They keep the retreats this size so there can be lots of interaction and a more intimate setting. Our group was really cool. Guys from all over and churches of all sizes.

I could blog forever about all that happened, all that I learned, all that I was challenged with. I'll save that for another day. I kind of want to talk about the treatment that we all received while we were there. It was greatness! We stayed at the Country Lake Retreat Center about 20 miles north of Louisville in the woods of southern Indiana. Southeast owns the campgrounds and all of the facilities.

The retreat center lodge was set up like a hotel. This is the nicest "camp" I've ever been to. It was incredible. The rooms were just like hotel rooms and were furnished nicely. The only TVs, which was kind of nice. It was quiet and peaceful in the woods. I slept so well. It was very restful.

The retreat center's food was very good. Every meal was warm, tasted good, served by friendly staff, and plenty of variety to eat. We were in sessions being taught and coached alot, but they mixed it up with some fun and touristy stuff too. A lot of the retreat I felt like I was Donald Trump or something. We met many high up business execs and got to discuss leadership and management with them. We got to tour the Louisville Slugger Bat Factory with the president, Mr. Archer. Then we go to meet with another guy who was a Christian, I can't remember his name right now, but I have his business card at the office. He gave us some great insights and was very encouraging.

I could go on and on at what we got to see and do. The fun stuff culminated with tours of Southeast (awesome!), bowling, and before I left, I got to play golf with Bob. It was amazing. I've learned a ton and really feel like this week was a time of refreshing for my spirit. You could ask my wife, I think she agrees.

I'll blog more about my trip and what hit me this week so stay tuned. Sorry I haven't been blogging in a while, but I intentionally did not take the laptop last week. I'm back and will be blogging more. It's good to be home with my girls. I missed all 4 of them dearly. I'm a really fortunate man to have the support I have from my wife and family. I'll never take that for granted again.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

News Results

Just wanted to let everyone who reads this know about the results of our survey from a few weeks ago. You may remember that I had everyone write down how they got their news. What had prompted this question was that we were looking at how people get their new from the standpoint of advertising. We've had many opportunities to advertise in the local paper, but it's expensive and we didn't know the level of impact. Here's what we found:
42% got news from TV
30% got news from the newspaper
26% got news from the internet
2% got news from the radio

What does that tell us? Because of the cost and the impact, we probably won't be doing much advertising in the paper. We will use our advertising dollars in other ways, probably in more ways like community impact. How a church shows up big in a town is when they become outward focused and begin concentrating on outreach to their community. This is God's desire for His church. That's our mission at Oakwood. Be praying about how God wants you to be involved in outreach.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Dessert Auction

I thoroughly enjoyed the dessert auction on Sunday (other than my wife not being there because of a sick baby). We had a lot of fun as a church family and raised over $7,000 for the youth group to go toward summer camps and conferences. What a generous outpouring from a church that believes in passing on the faith to the next generation. I'm proud of our congregation meeting the need (and having some fun while doing it).

The auction itself was a lot of fun. I didn't understand why everyone was bidding me up, but it was all for a good cause. I actually had a couple of people come to me afterwards and apologize for bidding me up! Too funny. We had a lot of kidding and poking going on there. I was joking with my wife last night that an event like that can be a great test of unity for a church! I just think that it's so great to be able to have fun together as a church.