Sunday, November 23, 2014

One Year Ago

One year ago, the community of Washington, IL was changed forever. On November 17th, a monstrous tornado cut a swath of destruction through heart of the town. Around a third of the population was left homeless. No one came out unchanged.

Washington came together in a mighty way. In the aftermath, local churches were the center of recovery efforts. Denominational labels no longer mattered as the Body of Christ worked to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the homeless. The church was to busy being the church to worry about the arguments that keeps us separate. It was an incredible experience.

Freedom Church was changed. In the aftermath, our plans were altered. The original vision for Freedom Church was to start in one of the blue collar neighborhoods in Peoria. Roughly a week after the storm, the Lord starting to speak to us about moving to Washington, specifically Sunnyland. It was hard to miss His clear voice. I was privileged to serve in very small capacities meeting needs and praying with people who crossed my path. Although we weren't even close to starting, I was welcomed as a part of the Washington ministers as if I had always been there.

When I shared this change with some of them, I think they restrained themselves from saying something to the effect of, "What took you so long to figure it out?" I'm pretty sure they figured this out long before I did. A hard head does have it's disadvantages.

I have to admit, at first, Washington didn't make a lot of sense for the vision we've been given for Freedom Church. There are already several strong ministries. It was only after looking around Sunnyland with fresh eyes that I saw the huge need. I knew the area well already but had never looked at it through the eyes of the Lord. I saw the very people the Lord had been speaking to us about everywhere I looked. I could feel the palpable need for the Gospel, the chains of sin needing to be broken, and the emptiness of the people's hearts to be filled by Jesus.

This past year has been one to remember. Washington is slowly but surely being rebuilt. Homes are going up all through the devastation area and people are returning. Although things are far from normal, the healing and restoration are well underway. The community will always be different than it was one year ago with a new normal taking over, one closer knit than before. There's a greater appreciation for one's neighbors, friends, and families. A sense of closeness and belonging permeates the town as a whole. Washington has become a truly extraordinary community where a good town once stood.

It's a great honor to be called to serve this area. As we build, we feel fortunate to be welcomed as a friend and brother in Christ by the established congregations and ministries.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Conference

As we posted last week, we are planning seminar to launch the church to the public. After a lot of prayer and research, we believe the Lord has called us to launch an unusual church in an unusual way. If we're going to pull this off, we need help.

One of the most important needs is a host church. Yes, it's a lot to ask but we want to partner other ministries to fulfill the mission God has given us and help them fulfill theirs. The launch of Freedom Church is built on a cornerstone of unity in the Gospel. If all goes well, the host will have the opportunity to share their vision with people who they may never have come into contact with outside of the seminar.

We really aren't asking much of the host. We need the facility, a few tables for the foyer, sound system, and at least one liaison so we can find what we need to clean up when we're done. We can provide a sound tech but would be more than happy to have the church use their own. Our volunteers will handle the rest. We would like the host to have a table with information about the church and their ministries with someone to share their vision with visitors. We would welcome more participation from the host.

We need more help than just a host. We need some funding to cover the initial expenses we're going to encounter. Unfortunately, even to build a fundraiser we need some resources to properly promote it and to produce materials for the attendees. We recently updated our GoFundMe campaign to target it specifically to the money we need for the seminar. The new video is also aimed at this goal.

In detail, this is what we need.

1. Final legal filings for incorporation as a religious corp. We have some of the funds for this but need the rest. This is the smallest part of the need.
2. Promotional expenses. In addition to press releases, we are going to produce radio spots to run on both Christian and secular radio stations. We can produce the spots in-house using Deep Mystery Studio, the facility used to record Jesus' Outsider. The cost will be to air the spots.
3. Mailers to churches with information about the conference and fliers that can they can post.
4. Participant hand-outs
5. Speaker fees for outside speakers
6. Fees for the host church or facility.

Admittedly, this doesn't sound like a lot of money for a seminar on this level. We are keeping a lot of expenses down by doing most of the work in house using talents we already possess.

Please prayerfully consider helping us get this off the ground. If you cannot help us financially, please share this with someone who might. We can't fulfill the mission the Lord has given us without help.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Stalling and Restarts

If you're wondering, yes we've stalled out at Freedom Church. Any momentum we've had has been lost over the last several weeks. Unfortunately, all of my personal time has been spent trying to make enough money to pay the bills and purchase groceries. In addition to FC, I'm working three jobs, two for other people plus Deep Mystery Studio. As you can imagine, that leaves nothing for FC. There are videos to produce, people to meet with, and a huge list of other tasks that aren't happening right now. If you're reading this and I owe you a coffee meeting, I truly apologize. I am trying to stabilize things so I can make those happen.

Some things are going to hold off until some decisions are made and actions taken. Until I have more control of my time, the small group/Bible study will have to wait. It needs to happen, but as long as I work most weekends at one job or another and can't predict what time I get home at night, we can't schedule it. At the moment, I don't feel like I have the room to breathe much less get anything important done.

However, if we are to meet a goal, something has to happen. We are planning to hold a seminar as both a fundraiser and introduction to the larger church. There are areas of knowledge that many people in the church are lacking that are putting our kids and ourselves are risk. Essentially, it's about what the world is throwing at us in the realm of sexuality and how to remain pure in the midst of it. We'll be teaching about social media, especially apps that parents aren't familiar with that are used for all sorts of activities that we don't want anyone to engage in. The changing face of porn is also an essential topic. We need to know where it's coming from and how it's getting into our homes. It will be more than just a presentation of facts, we'll talk about how lives are destroyed on multiple levels, including the lifestyle romanticized by Fifty Shades of Grey by someone who lived it.

The plan is to hold the event the first Saturday in February, just before the Fifty Shades movie hits theaters. All we need is a host church, preferably in Washington or East Peoria. We will provide snacks and all materials, handle ticket sales, and everything else involved. Whoever hosts is encouraged to participate and to have a table of their own. The purpose of the seminar is to help people in the Body of Christ understand what we are up against and how to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to bear to bring freedom to those who need that bound in the world's chains. Yes, funds above the costs of the event go to starting FC, but our aim is to equip the Body to protect itself and serve the hurting.

We would also like other related ministries and organizations to be represented. Any ministry is welcome, but we would especially like to have Christian counselling services on hand. Youth ministries are encouraged to set up as well. We want as many resources as possible for the attendees to be able to make use of the information and stories they'll hear. We're praying about whether or not to charge for tables or ask for a voluntary donation.

Until then, we need to raise $1000 for some expenses we have yet to cover including finishing the incorporation and other needs we have to get started. There's a PayPal link on this page and our homepage. If you prefer, we have a GoFundMe campaign that you can use to make a contribution.

Freedom Church has slowed, but we are not out. The Lord is still in this work and we need your support and prayers to accomplish His mission.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Moving Forward - What's Next for Freedom Church?

The meeting we held was very educational for us. It's often been said that we learn more from failure than from success. The informational meeting stands as proof of that. For those who are curious, no one came, not even a couple of people who had offered to help do some of the work at the meeting. Not one person joined us. To say the least, we were disappointed and a little hurt. However, from such beginnings and missteps, we learn to go forward. That is precisely what we are doing. So, first what did we learn?

In truth, we weren't ready to hold a meeting yet. We hadn't generated enough interest in helping nor had we shared the vision with enough people. In order for anyone to want to help with a ministry, they need to hear the vision. Our initial hope was that by holding a meeting to share the vision, we would connect with people of like mind but that was not the case. Of course, it didn't help that we were foolish enough to hold it on one of the most traveled weekends of the year. When the date was set, it was simply because it coincided with a vacation that was already scheduled not even thinking about Labor Day being Monday. Oops.

Second, we didn't promote it well. The thinking was that if we did the first with people we knew, it would be a friendly audience for the first one. Call it a test run. We did try some promotion using Facebook which was an utter failure. Let's just say that the expectation set by the ad manager and the reality were something entirely different. We will still use it but not to promote an event. Since trying it, I've checked for results with people who did the same thing and the results were always less than stellar.

This is hard. We knew there would be stumbles and missteps. We expected opposition from several directions. On neither count have we been wrong. That doesn't alter our resolve to see the Glory of God in what He called us to do. It does mean that we need to check our methodology and make certain we're doing this the way He told us to do it. Some changes are being made but the vision and direction are not.

Going forward, we are not going to hold informational meetings like the one we just attempted, at least not until the Lord tells us otherwise. We are looking for other opportunities to share the vision with congregations to raise funds and support for the mission. Local churches may hesitate to let us in as perhaps they see us as a competitor for people and tithes, but that isn't our heart. What we have been called to do is so unique that most of the people in any given congregation may support our efforts and encourage us but are not likely to join us. That was the experience we had when we were serving in the inner city of Peoria and there is no reason to expect a different reaction now. We need the help and the finances that they can provide either in one-time offerings or a monthly support as a mission organization.

In the short term, we will be starting some of the ministries that Freedom Church will be offering to allow us to connect with people better. One of the first will be the small group ministry. Soon, we'll be starting at least one group with more to be added as leaders and hosts become available. Not only will this provide the opportunity for people to come and join in Biblical teaching and discussion, but also a chance for someone who doesn't know Jesus to be introduced to Him in a safe and less intimidating environment than a traditional church service. We'll be announcing other ministries as they come on line.

As often as time allows, we'll also be posting short video messages. These will be more than just updates on our progress or vision casting. The message of Freedom Church is more than a vision. It's the law of liberty, the freedom brought by the shed blood of Jesus. That's what we'll share. Simple Gospel messages and short teachings. There will be updates and vision videos periodically, but the Gospel is the heart of our mission so that's what we'll share.

As  a true launch, we are planning something very special. No details quite yet, but it will be all about finding freedom in Jesus and provide the church at large with some real teaching and resources. When we are ready, we'll share more details here and all over the place. When we say it's something the church in this area needs and is right up Freedom Church's alley, we aren't kidding. Even if someone has no interest in joining us, they will want to come to this.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Success for Freedom Church

We're getting close to our first informational meeting so we decided to share with all of you how we will measure success. That's the subject of our new video.

If you are interested in joining us or contributing to our mission, please visit our home page.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Events and Snags

We're here at last! Our first informational meeting has been set for August 30th at 2PM. We'll be holding at 2020 Cole Street in East Peoria. There are more details on the Facebook Event Page. Please come out and hear first hand what it means to be "In Christ but Out of The Box!" We also have downloadable fliers on the church's temporary webpage or, if you can help, contact us and we'll make arrangements to get some fliers to you. (A HUGE special thanks to Pete Hutchinson and Kid Crusader Ministries/Team Extreme for letting us use their facility!)

After the exciting news, now the snag. We are still in the process of pulling together the funds to finish the incorporation as a religious corporation. Of itself, that's not a big deal. We have a great attorney and only need a relatively small amount of money to finish (approximately $650). The problem occurred when we tried to set up a temporary bank account in the church's name to receive donations and link the PayPal account to now that the old NFP account is no longer open. Due to the new and much greater regulations governing banks, we cannot open a church account until we incorporate. Perhaps you see the circular problem here. We can't fund the rest of the incorporation ourselves to open the account but we can't set up an account to receive donations to fund the incorporation. It's a catch-22. Our banker, who is a friend of mine, was hopping mad. I've never seen him angry like this.

As I'm sure most of you know, raising funds to start a new church is one of the most challenging parts of the enterprise. We need the account to link the crowd-funding site we found to a bank account as well as the existing PayPal account to receive any money donated online. We need some divine intervention here to pull this key step together. Kim and I have been providing most of the money spent to this point but it's getting to be more than we can afford. In fact, it past that point a long time ago. That's why it was so important to get this account set up.

We really need prayer on this one. Of the difficulties we've faced, this is easily one of the most daunting. We're trusting the Lord for a resolution. Freedom Church is being established for His glory and to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We're trusting Him that He will continue to break through these challenges. Please join your faith to ours and lift us up in prayer.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Freedom Church's First Video

The first informational meeting has been scheduled and will be announced once the location is fully confirmed. The closer we get to launch, the more we have needs. This video is our first attempt to share our needs. Please watch it and pray about how the Lord may be speaking to you through it.

We are also looking for opportunities to share the vision with congregations, mission boards, and any other ministry group interested in hearing how we are spreading the Gospel. If you or your ministry are interested, please email us.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Next Steps

We are getting closer to our first informational meeting. Currently, we are planning to hold it the last weekend in August. That assumes we will find a place to hold the meeting. It will give use a chance to share the vision for Freedom Church in person with the curious, musicians, and anyone interested in preaching the Gospel with us. When we have a location, we'll be blitzing social media, putting up fliers, and sending press releases.

There are still a number of things we need to actually launch. Of course, we need people. No church can call itself that without people. Granted, that's part of the point of the meeting but we need help to get there. Frankly, we need all the help we can get.

There is a war being waged to prevent this ministry from launching. One of the biggest needs we have is for prayer partners to come along side us and stand against the wiles of the enemy. He is hitting us very hard as we get close. We have some very specific needs both for the church and for us that we desperately need to move forward. This is a matter of great concern and can only come about with the fervent prayer of faithful and faith-filled brethren who are willing to stand in the gap for us. If interested in being a prayer partner for us, even if you are not called to be a part of the launch team, please email us and we'll fill you in on specific needs and attacks.

One of the biggest needs we have is financial. Thus far, all of the resources and equipment purchased has come out of our pockets. We've tried to do ministry that way before and it was an epic failure. Freedom Church exceeds that effort in both scale and scope more than tenfold with an even greater financial need. To launch fully, we need at least $20,000 in initial cash with an additional $20-30,000 to operate for the first year. That assumes an all-volunteer staff and leadership team for the first 12-18 months. A final budget estimate will follow once we know where our regular meeting place.

In truth, I hate asking for money. In my years following Jesus, I've seen the worst guilt-trip tactics or promises of some special blessing spoken by prosperity preachers and those experiences have soured me a little as I'm sure they have many of you. That doesn't change the simple fact that we need the help. I won't make you any special promises of tenfold blessings or perfect health. I won't offer some kind of signed prayer cloth with healing abilities. I won't browbeat you with guilt trips. The bottom line, all any of us can truly ask is that you prayerfully consider helping us to spread the Gospel. It's been said that ministry runs on two things, faith and money. Faith we have but, to quote Peter, gold and silver have we none. We can't move forward without the financial means to do so.

As part of the drive to find people and resources, I am looking for opportunities to share the vision for Freedom Church with ministry groups, mission committees, and congregations. The main focus is, of course, the fiances we need. To reach the people we are called to reach, we need the support. If you're reading this and are a leader/pastor, please pray about whether or not we can come and speak to your group, congregation, or board.

Very soon, within a week or so, we will have set up a crowd-sourcing type site with a short video. We'll post about our progress on that page and on this blog. In the meantime, there is a "Donate" button on the right side of the screen. Any contribution will help.

We are getting close. These last few hurdles are all that remain.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Getting Close

We are getting closer to the first major step towards launching. We are planning an informational meeting for early August. We'll be inviting anyone interested in hearing the vision for the church first hand.

We're asking anyone who wants to come and we'll be posting extensively about it once a date is set. Fliers will be going up all over the place including coffee shops, music stores, and anywhere else we can think of to put them. Social media will, of course, be heavily saturated with the announcements. Promotional and fundraising videos are also in the works.

The only real obstacle is we need a place to hold it that won't set us back an arm and a leg. We're looking for someplace preferably in the Sunnyland area. If there isn't a place there, we would prefer to stay in Washington or perhaps East Peoria. If you know of a facility that we can use, please contact us.

We're getting close. There are a few holes yet to fill and some dollars to raise. We'll keep you posted.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


The last couple of months have been very challenging. While all may have appeared quiet on the FC front, that has not been the case. A few events and some very strong urgings from the Lord have combined to slow things down but for the better.

Planting Freedom Church has proven to be the greatest labor I've ever undertaken. It has proven to me even more difficult than I could ever have expected (which I knew it would be greatly difficult) and has more than once forced me to slow down and enter a wilderness period for reflection and further prayer. I have been in one of those periods for the last couple of months. I even halted broadcasts of Jesus' Outsider to focus on prayer and finding some answers.

In truth, I still have more questions than answers and more have been added. Some of what I have gained in perspective includes a shift in strategy. The overall vision hasn't changed but the bias for action needs to be communicated stronger. I mean real action, not just programs with the appearance of effectiveness.

Men especially like to do things. We like to use the skills and gifts we have to full effect, no matter what nature they may have. There are more ways to spread the Gospel than just to preach and teach. In fact, there are as many ways to share Jesus as there are skills that can be learned. A car or damaged home repaired in the name of Jesus can have a huge impact on a person's life.

That said, my lovely bride asked a very salient question, "If men want to do something, why don't more people show up to help someone move?" This is a problem. For every move that has plenty of help, there are ten more with only a small portion of the people necessary to get the job done. The answer isn't really that complicated. Although men do like to be active, the message has been sent loud and clear to them is that a strong back is all their good for, unless they preach or are part of the leadership. After being asked to move over and over again without being asked to do much else, they stop showing up. That needs to change. That's what I mean when I say a bias towards action.

As I said, there's a lot of questions that need to be answered. What that means is that how we are going to make all this work still isn't clear. I'm scheduling meetings with advisers and with some who may have some insight that may be able to help.

There are other changes in approach we need to be making. Some of this has already been revealed to us but isn't quite ready to be shared yet. My lovely bride has been far from idle and is working on some pretty amazing stuff that we'll be posting in due time.

The season for concentrated prayer and seeking counsel isn't over yet. Activity will still be limited for a while longer. Jesus' Outsider broadcasts will resume in a few days, Lord willing. Other details and updates will be coming soon.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Questions, So Many Questions

We're getting a lot of questions about the launch. What's the time table? What do you need to start? Have you found all the people you're looking for? That means it's time for a good, old fashioned update post.

1. Time Table

At the moment, this is in flux. It is unlikely that we will achieve our original target date of July for our first once-a-month service. Some of this is due to the challenges of trying to complete a mountain of tasks while maintaining a demanding occupation. I understand the need to be bivocational at this juncture but it makes it no less frustrating.

That's not the only source of delay. Some of it is the fact that planting a new church is just plain hard. No matter how much I prepared, studied, and sought council, there's more to do than I could ever have foreseen. No book on church planting, no article, can ever actually prepare anyone for the enormity of the task. Even with the help that's been beginning to come in, there's still far more to do that just a few can do in the time allotted for a July launch.

That said, there are some important things that need to be tackled prior to our first service.

2. People

Yes, we are still looking for everyone we need for a start-up crew. We have some people, many of them leadership caliber. However, we have yet to reach critical mass or, simply put, that threshold necessary for a first service. Currently, I'd say we're at about fifty percent.

After a lot of prayer and some good council, most of the leadership roles will be filled as the people come to fill them. The only positions that have to be ready prior to launch are the elders and the worship pastor/leader. The elders are necessary to hold me accountable and help steer the church in the proper direction. Good, Godly leadership is essential to the mission set before Freedom Church.

Other positions will be filled more organically. Ministries will start as leaders with the passion, desire, and character rise up. The elders will prayerfully aid those leaders into their God-directed ministries. It's better to leave a role unfilled than to have the wrong person in it. I've spent too much time in ministries with that problem and committees built by assigning people to them in nominating committees simply because there were slots to be filled. That type of nonsense will never happen at FC as long as I have anything to say about it.

The worship pastor is absolutely necessary before we can go any further with services. Quite frankly, you don't want me leading worship unless you intend to have only one service that would be empty before the end of the first song. For more, here's the earlier post on the music and what kind of leader we need. We have some help seeking the right person but it's very difficult.

3. Financial and Material

Everything I read preparing for this launch said that fundraising would be the greatest challenge. They weren't kidding. While we were serving at Peoria Outreach Center/City Church, Bill Lee had a saying, "Ministries run on two things, faith and money."

We need to raise more money than we have thus far if we are to begin. We need to finish the legal filings for a religious corporation, purchase promotional materials, and a lot of equipment. All told, we need about $8-10,000 to start. If you need a breakdown, please contact us.

We are going to try an approach similar to the one often used for tech startups and artists seeking finance for their creative endeavors, Kickstarter. Of course, that site is only for specific types of project funding and can't be used for a church. The technique, however, is sound. Crowdfunding, as it is called, is being used successfully all over the county effectively. We start a campaign using video and social media not only with the followers on FC's Twitter but with the much larger following for Jesus' Outsider. It will still be a lot of work and will require help from people not only contributing but sharing the site to their own friends and followers. We will set up a special page just for the effort. Once the video is produced and the page created, we'll saturate social media with the links. We'll still need to use other methods of funding my I have hope for this approach.

There's the update. We can feel the Lord's presence in our work and still waiting on His timing. Please stay tuned for more and keep praying. We'll take all the prayer cover we can get.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Intentional Hospitality (From The Stainless Steel Soapbox, 3/18/2013)

One of the essential ministries of any church is hospitality. Making people feel welcome, whether they've been there for years or are first time visitors, needs to be a focus of every congregation. If people are not feeling as though we want them to be there when they come in, they are much less likely to see Jesus when they come in our doors.

As we prepare for the church to start, a decision to be intentional in our hospitality and creating a warm, inviting atmosphere so that anyone who comes through the door will immediately find something of the love of Jesus to hold on to before the service begins. Some of what we feel lead to do should be obvious to anyone who cares about the mission of the church but not all of it. Our hospitality takes a long term approach to not only welcome visitors but help them build relationships that will help them grow in Christ and remain with us.

Relationships, more than anything else, keeps people attending church or drives them from it. One of the most common complaints I hear from people coming through our doors is that they've been in a church for weeks/months/years and don't feel like they have any friends or relationship connection to the congregation. While some may take the responsibility on themselves to integrate themselves into a congregation, most people do not have the personality or networking skills to do that effectively. It's not comfortable for the majority of people to come into a new social situation and make themselves part of a group. It's our job to recognize that and take deliberate steps to help them make the transition and find relationships.

Hospitality starts the minute people pull into the lot. If parking lot attendants are in use, they need to be the most upbeat, positive people available for the job. A smiling face directing traffic is important. Also, they are the first line of greeters anyone will see on a Sunday morning. Cheerful "Good Mornings" as people walk from their cars to the building can start to break down the walls visitors may have erected before arriving.

In the doors, carefully picked greeters are the front line in the "love offensive" we are going to undertake. Mature Christians who ooze the love of Christ are the best choices. Most churches start new people on the door, but this can be a mistake. Willingness is fantastic, but usher and other behind the scenes ministries are better opportunities for new converts and new members. Greeting is too essential a ministry and needs to be considered a position of honor. Elders, deacons, pastors, and ministry leaders are actually great people to fill these roles. People will feel important if the leaders of the church are the ones to welcome them when they walk in. It also keeps the leaders humble and helps connect them to the congregation they lead.

Of course, everyone is greeted exactly the same no matter what. Appearance, clothing style, and even foul language cannot shock or offend the greeters. Love is the rule of the day every service, every time. People in suits need to be treated with the same respect as someone with piercings, tattoos, and outlandish clothes. Avoiding favoritism toward any group is a Scriptural mandate. God is no respecter of persons. Everyone, and that means everyone, is a unique creation of God that He longs to bring into a relationship with His only Son, Christ Jesus. Talk to people on their level, but treat them all with respect and love. Let the Holy Spirit do the changing if you disapprove of their lifestyle. It might be you who He changes.

One important statement that cannot be expressed strongly enough. There will be NO hand sanitizer at the doors. PERIOD. Germiphobes do not need to be at the door. Old fashioned, common sense like washing hands before and after greeting people is enough for anyone. We lived for centuries without trying to kill every germ we might encounter as soon as it might have hit our hands.

The reason that it's banned is very simple: it will offend people if you shake their hands and immediately reach for the sanitizer. It sends a clear message that "I'm telling that we're happy to have you here as long as I don't have to touch you." We might as well be shouting "UNCLEAN!" every time we hit that pump. I get offended when someone does it to me and I'm willing to bet that I'm not alone. It really is offensive and anything that might create a barrier between someone and coming to Jesus needs to be removed. Let's not give the enemy a foothold right at the beginning. If you're a hand sanitizer devotee, remember, Jesus and the early church touched lepers and lived. They didn't even have an antibiotic wipe. Love and common sense trump all. However, if they pull out the sanitizer, we can't be offended. We're there to serve and love them, not the other way around.

I also like the idea of a free coffee bar. Coffee, tea, hot cocoa, and other similar beverages along with lemonade, water, and other cold drinks available when people come in is a great way to help them feel welcome. It is essential that most of what's available is free. There are churches out there that have Starbucks or a similar coffee chain in their foyers or their own in-house version that charge for their drinks. I understand the thinking behind it, but I don't share it. Everyone deserves the opportunity to have a drink whether they can afford it or not. A lot of people, especially as the economy continues to turn south, simply do not have the money for a cup of coffee. There is also something to be said for the smell of fresh brewed coffee in creating an open, welcome atmosphere. Only baking cookies or bacon are better.

Our intent goes beyond that just the welcome at the door.  Building relationships is absolutely essential for the ministry. The book of Acts is full of examples of thriving communities of believers. They were marked by their love for one another and their generosity towards their brethren. The fact that they were able to help those in need meant that they knew who was in need. That meant relationship.

Small group leaders are the best people to accomplish intentional relationships. However, inviting people to a small group is not the first step. For some, that would be a fairly intimidating situation. If the visitors do not know anyone, the leader can invite them to sit with them or, if there are no openings, introduce them to someone they can sit with. Even a brief conversation on the first couple of visits can make someone feel a connection to the congregation. Again, love is the rule of the day.

After service is over, that leader touches base with them again. Don't trap them, but have a conversation. Offer them a phone number. Being willing to share contact information even if they never call shows a level of trust not common in this modern age. Put that first contact in their hands. If they continue to come, the leaders can begin to introduce them to other people and start a relationship with them.

Getting to know new people and visitors and helping them know us is so basic that we should do it automatically. But, just as it can be difficult for a visitor to open up and meet people on their own, it isn't really natural for us to reach out in the ways I intend to do. Most people either pounce and scare visitors off or offer an awkward handshake or head nod. Prayer for wisdom and for the ability to love people not only with the depth of Christ but with His wonderful ability to talk to anyone. The Holy Spirit is there for us if we allow Him to be.

In all of it, love trumps all. We need to remember that Jesus delights in us even when we are in out sin and His delight only grows as He cleanses us from all unrighteousness. When someone enters Hell, He weeps. Hospitality in our churches will help open hearts to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and pave the way for eternal life. It's a seed that we can plant and water. If we are privileged to harvest, then the Lord has once again provided the increase. It's His church and kingdom and He will build it. We just get to be a part of what He is doing.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Great Challenge (From The Stainless Steel Soapbox)

This was originally posted on The Stainless Steel Soapbox on 9/18/13 as the work for Freedom Church was getting in to full swing. It speaks to the challenges we're still facing and are a matter for prayer at the upcoming gathering.

I knew this wasn't going to be easy. In fact, I expected an enormous amount of work and difficulty starting a unique church like Freedom Church. The vision the Lord gave is very different from the norm of the mainstream church. Opposition and criticism are to be expected. Finding people who understand and are mature to help was expected to be difficult. I didn't know just how difficult it would be. It is turning out to be the biggest challenge of starting up.

I freely admit, we need help. Between my wife and I, we have a lot of gifts and experience we bring to the table for a variety of ministry roles. However, there are a lot of things we just can't do. Trust me when I say this, you really don't want to hear me lead worship. The experience would be horrifying enough to inspire a Roger Corman film or Stephen King novel. We wouldn't even make it to the end of the first song of the first service. Not a good way to start.

We've had more than our share of setbacks. Those are to be expected. We've had a number of people we'd hoped would help that have backed away or felt lead to engage in other ministry activities. Some of them have expressed that they would be on board for months and even years that have backed off. Granted, a few of them are not right for the changes to the vision the Lord has given but some could adapt. However, The Lord's will must be supreme, not mine.

Finding leaders is extremely hard anyway. One of the challenges is dealing the accusation of "stealing sheep." I have heard that accusation leveled against several prominent pastors and larger churches and, ironically, used by many of those same pastors. I have to admit, the statement has never entirely made sense but I understand the sting of it. It hits at the need for acceptance and approval from authority figures that almost all of us deal with to one degree or another. The problem is that no one can actually "steal" anyone (unless of course there's kidnapping involved). Asking someone to help with a church or ministry puts the ball in their court. If the Lord leads that the question be asked, it is up the Lord and the person asked to make the call. People have free will and it's the Lord's will that matters most.

It's hard to build and keep a congregation together. Any departure can affect a pastor, some more deeply than others.It's especially true when that person or people are in key positions or actively serving. I believe it is this sense of loss along with an out-of-balance approach to leaving a church (see Leaving a Church in the Jesus' Outsider Archives) that contributes to the accusation. Again, I understand it but fulfilling a vision from the Lord and obedience to His word outweigh injured feelings or fear of loss.

The greater problem is born out of love. As I look at the people and pray about who to ask, they are all serving in a variety of capacities in churches and ministries I have great love and affection for and do not want to see them short-handed. Loyalty to beloved congregations and their leadership is a far greater hindrance that I could have ever anticipated. While I do not fear the sheep stealing accusation, I do struggle with feelings that I am raiding churches for their best, their mature, and talent. It has kept me from approaching a number of people over the last several months that I should have.

Most of those whom I've talked to about leadership are ones who've been cast-offs from other churches. Wounded leaders shut down by circumstance, politics, or, in some cases, their own shortcomings they have yet to see. My reasoning was that since the Lovely Bride and I are outcasts in many regards, that's where we should look. The results have been something less than spectacular. It's left us at essentially ground zero with leadership.

The ones who have come to us are not in any capacity ready to lead. Most are seeking a position for the sake of the position, have serious doctrinal issues, or are not yet in a place in their walk to lead. The latter category we can work with and help them mature, but the others are ones whom we cannot risk taking on at the beginning. For leaders, we need mature disciples of Christ ready to hit the ground running.

Shaking this handicap off is very difficult. Only recently have I approached someone who is actively serving. The Lord led them elsewhere, but I was able to overcome my hesitation and make the ask. I don't want to leave any church hurting for leadership, helpers, or musicians. The latter is particularly difficult because there is a small pool of musicians and vocalists able to pull off the type of music we'll be doing at FC and all of them are playing worship in one church or another. Love is getting in the way of the ask.

I am praying about taking a different approach. Thus far, we have kept the vision in house and only made it available to advisers and those we have asked to help. The Lovely Bride is feeling led to just put it out there for all to see. Her belief is that as we make it more public, we will inflame the passions of the right people and they will find us. There will still have to be a vetting process but it does seem like wisdom especially since I'm not sure who to approach at this point.

So, very soon, I will be putting the whole framework online. I don't know where I'm going to post it yet, but I will get make it available as soon as time allows. In the meantime, I have begun converting the Christ's Embassy Facebook page to Freedom Church. Over the next couple of days, I should get most of that process finished. To stay on top of things, please "like" the page. I will post there as often as possible.

Your prayers are appreciated and, if I may, solicited. God is leading and He is taking us on a path apart from all the well-laid plans. I'm nervous and a little scared, but I have to trust that He knows better than I ever could.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Music

When it comes to music, substance matters but so does style. Not that there is a genre of music that is more acceptable to the Lord than any other, rather the type of music must fit the people that are to be reached. I do not intend to open a debate on music in the church but rather to state plainly the leading of the Lord for the direction of Freedom Church as to how we are called to worship and reach the lost. The call of God is unique and our path does not diminish in any way that upon which you walk.

For the people we are to reach, we are going to be playing a rock music worship. Imagine the common contemporary worship ramped up several notches. There is a burning desire in my heart to see musicians able to fully worship God with all their skill on their instruments. For those we seek, that means finding musicians and a worship pastor that rock (and maybe a little blues once and a while for good measure) is their preferred style who may feel constrained by what they consider tame music. Not long ago, in a worship service at Rock Church, I had tears come to my eyes when the lead guitarist threw all of his skill into worshiping God on his electric guitar. In the midst of my tears, one thought came to mind, "This is how Freedom Church is to honor God with music."

For many, contemporary worship styles or hymns are a full expression of their worship. This doesn't mean they're lesser musicians but that they are called to a different style. A difference of genre and call are never to be considered a lack of skill or earnest in a desire to bring glory to the name of Jesus. Those we seek are only cut from a different cloth. We're not looking for the disgruntled but for people who desire to honor the Lord through a unique worship experience.

The conclusion that has been reached is after a lot of prayer and observation. I have spent a lot of time with the types of people Freedom Church is being planted to reach. I pay attention to what they listen to on the job and at home. Rock is the dominant style I hear with country coming in a close second and that with more of a rock flair. I hear both classic and newer styles being listened to in nearly equal measures. After much prayer and wise counsel from trusted men and women of God, this is the direction we feel the Lord is calling us to go.

To that end, we need the right people to lead the music ministry and work to build it. Within the guidelines we have to work with, albeit loose ones, the worship pastor will have a great deal of freedom to design and build the program from the ground up and recruit musicians, singers, and the sound techs. As more money is raised, better resources will become available. Ultimately, what we need is someone who can lead people into worship in a with music that reaches the people we need to reach.

The music we feel called to is a blend of old and new rock styles. Old school stuff like I grew up on will draw in some while music from bands like Skillet, Day of Fire, and Red will connect with the rest. My own heart has been touched often my these and several other modern Christian rockers. I've also experienced the great joy of lifting up Jesus with more familiar songs arranged with a harder edge to the music.

The power of music to move hearts and minds and draw them closer to Christ cannot be minimized. For the unchurched and dechurched, communicating the Gospel and worshiping in a style of music they're already comfortable with helps to break down the barriers life and the enemy have put into their hearts. It worked for me. It was the music that morning so many years ago that the Holy Spirit used to first grab my heart. It was familiar in style and genre but the words and the intent of the musicians was different. Jesus was in their hearts and minds as they played combined with a genuine desire to lead the crowd into the throne room of God.

This is going to be a great challenge. Honoring Christ through music is central to the ministry. In everything, it must compliment prayer, the teaching of the Word, and building community. There are going to be difficulties and even some resistance. For the sake of the lost, it will be worth it for each soul snatched from the fires of hell.

If you're a musician reading this, please prayerfully consider whether this call is for you or for one you know. We are seeking the right people with all of our efforts. Before we can proceed, this is the one position that must be filled. We're seeking referrals if you are not led to join us. A great and challenging adventure lies before us. The Glory of God and His Word will go forth!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Meaning of It All

Now the the vision document has been posted, what does it all mean? What is Freedom Church really all about?

The answer is simple. We are all about reaching people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, loving the unlovable, and connecting with those uncomfortable in traditional or even most contemporary churches. Looking around our community, the need is obvious, at least to those whom the Holy Spirit inspires to look for it.

The ones we are called to reach are considered to be some of the most challenging to reach. Most have experience with the church (direct or indirect) and don't hold that experience as positive. Some of those experiences have been perceived through the devices of the enemy but not all of them.

In the vision, we talk about the unchurched and the dechurched. The unchurch is obvious. They are people who have not been a part of the church at any time in their lives. This doesn't mean that they don't have any experience or contact only that they've never been a part of a congregation.

The dechurched, on the other hand, we part of a congregation at one time and, for one reason or another, have left. Many never accepted Jesus as savior and felt no real connection to the Body of Christ. Others left because they felt like an outcast. Many of the rest saw everything around them as fake, just another show. They saw the sins in the camp and damaged relationships but, for any number of reasons, they couldn't see the redemption, the grace, or the love that Jesus offered and often brought to the situations. The enemy works double it seems on anyone who leaves to keep them from ever returning and finding Jesus as the real and living savior.

The  challenge of the dechurched is nothing new. An entire program was created to teach people how to listen to those who had recently left the church. It's a forty hour course called "Calling and Caring" and has been around since the early 90's. While I'm glad that my wife and I went through the program in '98, my thought is the same now as it was then; Why not listen before they leave? But I digress.

Regardless of why they're not connected to Jesus and His church, they are all in need of the freedom He offers. Hence, the name Freedom Church. We believe fully in the message of the Gospel as the power to set people free from the sins that bind them, whether their own or the pain and bitterness caused by those who hurt them. The liberty is there for any who would seek it no matter what they seek freedom from or its effects on their lives.

The bottom line is that Freedom Church will be centered on evangelism. Preach the Gospel in season and out of season and teach people to obey all that Jesus taught. Yes, we're called to reach challenging cultures within our community but that's what Jesus did. It's going to be difficult. However, with the Lord's guidance and help and as many of you reading this who feel lead to come along on this adventure, the power of Jesus' Gospel will set the captives free.

It's all for the sake of the lost that they find the love and Christ and be set free.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Vision, Conclusion

This is the fourth and final part of our vision document. It deals with outreach and relationships with other churches and ministries. As such, it contains some of the most important aspects of how we're going to build a church for people who don't know how to do church.


Under the deacons, there will be several benevolence ministries to assist both the people within the congregation and to be used as outreach programs. Food pantries, clothing distribution, and other basics will be brought online as funds and volunteers become available. Practical help ministries such as vehicle or home repair, lawn care, or other physical needs should also be built.

Outreach Programs

Although conventional, invitation-based outreach ministries will be included, they will not be the primary focus. Individual witnessing, concerts, comedy, and especially off-campus initiatives will be a greater focus than special services.

An eye towards practical outreach programs, like Adopt-A-Mom, Fishing Lessons (Job Training), and multichurch effort is essential to the success of the Gospel in the coming difficult times.

Possible outreach programs will be explained in a separate document and can be started based upon the availability of leaders, funding, and facilities. Participation in outreach programs will be open to members of any congregation who wish to use their talents, skills, and gifts.

Relationship to Other Ministries

The unity of Body is paramount to the mission of the church to build the Kingdom. To   that end, relationships will be developed with both like-minded ministries and those who take different approaches. We will be an example of brotherhood, reconciliation, and love between the diverse members of the Body of Christ.

Media Ministries

Multiple approaches to media are essential to the communication of the Gospel and to the growth of a ministry in this modern era. To that end, the church will create and/or support multiple media ministries aimed at underserved communities. These may include:

Ø  Internet Radio: Due to the success of Holy Fire Radio to draw listeners, we will re-launch the station under a new name with a new team. The music will be Christian hard rock, metal, and punk to include independent, local, and regional bands of sufficient quality. DJ's will be recruited and trained as will a station manager to oversee the operations. Syndicated programs will be sought including Full Armor of God program (Bro Scotland Kuba) and others of similar style. We will encourage like minded ministries to be involved in the station as an outreach. This cannot be a single congregation effort but needs to be an example of unity for the rest of the church.
Ø  Podcasts: Jesus' Outsider will continue to broadcast and may increase to 5 days a week based upon availability of host. Other leaders and gifted people in the church will also be encouraged to do them with training if required.
Ø  Video: In addition to the services of the church, we will produce promotional videos for internet distribution as a means to draw people to Jesus and to the ministry. This may include a web-based television program produced internally.
Ø  Outside media ministries: we will offer financial assistance, encouragement, and our expertise to other ministries using the same channels to reach their mission field.

Media ministries are under the supervision of the elders and will be a combined effort of the Worship/Creative Arts and Outreach ministries.

In addition to the main targets of our outreach efforts, we will be a home for the artistic, talented, and media savvy to give them a positive outlet for their gifts. They will be encouraged to strive for excellence in their craft. The church as a whole needs their gifts as much as the more "conventional" gifts usually recognized.

Concert Ministry

The church will host and whenever possible host Christian concerts and other events that are in line with the overall vision of the ministry. To that end, we will work with local and national promoters to bring in acts that will enhance the outreach ministries of the church. We will also partner with other local ministries for joint sponsorship of events.

Besides concerts, other programs and conferences will be considered based upon the needs of the congregation, local community, and the neighborhood in which the Lord plants the church. The can include but will not be limited to men’s or women’s conferences, youth events, comedians, and dramatic performances or films. Each event will be considered by the elders after review by the outreach ministry department.


Overall, the church will be a character and nature that will set it apart from most mainstream congregations. Creativity, transparency, and openness will be encouraged. The Gospel message will not be compromised nor will we turn a blind eye to sin, but we will not judge someone because of the nature of their sin and indiscretion.

Leaders will be built and encouraged to develop their gifts. Opportunities will be found for those with a call on their lives to find mentoring, training, and to use those gifts.

The atmosphere will be open, warm, and welcoming. There will be no dress code other than to encourage modesty but style will never be an issue. Leaders will dress casually in their own personal style for all services unless special occasions dictate otherwise.

The full intent of this new church is to honor Jesus and follow His example of reaching out to sinners often ignored by the mainstream church and communicate His Gospel in a language and manner that they will understand and accept. This church will exist to preach the Good News of Jesus to the unchurched in some of the most overlooked and difficult to reach groups of people.