The strongest worldly force in the human design, is the need to remain consistent with how you define yourself. In other words, your identity. One of the most powerful statements someone can make, is this; “I am a ____________.” What did you put in that blank? That identity is the very thing that causes you to order your life the way you do. It’s what motivates you, even subconsciously.
When we come to terms with where we realistically and currently are, with no blaming of others, no victimization, no woulda-shoulda-coulda thoughts, realization of the fact that our environment doesn’t define us, but gives us the opportunity to define ourselves, only then can we be free. You may not have liberty, but you most definitely can have freedom. Freedom is the ability to know who/what defines you and that definition can never be taken from you. Others can steal your liberty, but never your freedom. We can only relinquish our freedom, it cannot be taken. With that understanding, our behavior then, is best ordered, and self-controlled. Too many allow their skillset to define them. Education teaches this destructive mentality, and teaches us to be good at a skillset that ends up forcing a defining identity upon us, and that false identity keeps us in ‘their’ box. A box like a coffin. Freedom is attained, and is self-controlled, when we fully understand that our identity must be concreted in the fact that we are God’s masterpiece, His most prized in all creation. So much so, that Jesus sacrificed His life to try to get you back as a personal friend. Anything else that we allow to define us, can be lost instantly. Being God’s masterpiece, His most prized in all creation, lasts for eternity, no matter what circumstances we ever encounter. I pray you will accept this freedom-giving identity before your body becomes a box of bones. Talk about identity…The Great I Am, cherishes you, loves you, and calls you His favorite in all creation!
Imagine the power that is essential to achieve the first rotation with a locomotive that is sitting idle. Intense, dramatic, clanking steel, tons of fuel, teams of people, one goal in focus, plumes of smoke, unseen energy, and sheer grit. Creates movement!
I haven’t updated my experience at Christ’s Church of Fountain Hills(CCFH) in about a year. I’ve recently been asked by many people to share an update. This post is a brief update. (My brief may not be your brief!) 🙂
In February, 2017 I was given the task to take the drive mechanisms of CCFH and move it forward. At that moment the Church was simply at a standstill. Not right or wrong, good or bad, just factually still.
Someday I will write a full detail post of the hard-to-believe experiences I’ve had over the past two years that were necessary to get the rotation and movement going in this complex body of people called the Church. Today is not the blog to post the blood, sweat and tears stories that got us to get our first rotation of movement. Today is a blog to simply say that it is happening! Forward movement. Momentum. Action. Success. Perseverance paid off!
Today is simply a day to encourage you to persevere to momentum. You are facing something that is good and yet it is stuck. Whatever it is, use your head, heart, and gut…surrounded by wise counselors, prayer, and sheer grit to get your thing moving. It’ll test you like nothing else. It’ll make you want to quit…sometimes…every day…every 10 minutes. Depending on what you are facing…you may need to quit. If you need to quit…never quit on a bad day! But in all likelihood, you do not need to quit, you need dig in with grit and persevere with wisdom.
If you are in something stuck…the greatest reasons for the interrupted forward movement, are summed up in 2 C’s. Circumstances, and Critics.
Circumstances. This is usually difficult to mention because it tends to get personal towards the team who led in the past or whoever you are currently in a stuck situation with. But it shouldn’t be personal for the simple fact that times change. What used to be right and worked, doesn’t make it wrong today, it was right, back when it was applied. It’s just the wrong time now and is no longer working and moving. The best way to think about it is this…Nothing fails like success. In other words, when a challenge in life is met by great leadership that is right in their pursuit of accomplishing their goals…they have success! But, as in all things, the challenge changes, it moves to a higher level that the previous methods no longer meet. The old, one successful response no longer works–it fails; thus, nothing fails likes success. Every single one of us would do well to humbly admit this, and welcome the new challenge and new methods to meet those challenges.
When I arrived here at CCFH, I had previously been leading a Church that had more than 3000 people regularly attending our weekend services. I want to humbly and with gratitude inject, in Church world, that is like leading an NFL football team in football world. I came to CCFH and took on the leadership of a Church that had about 300 people regularly attending worship services. The average size Church in America is less than 100, so in sports terms, this new Church I took the lead with, was like leading a High School Football team. An NFL coach, stepping into a local High School Football program…when it comes to football knowledge…is a pretty easy shift. I knew what new things needed to be done to get CCFH moving once again. I also had wise counsel around me, Christ leading me, and the energy to do it. I’m grateful for my track record and experience, however it did not make this momentum shift any easier. Knowledge and getting knowledge done are very different things.
Whatever your circumstances are, depending on your past experience, and the energy level you have today, determines how you move forward. I warn you, DO NOT, try this on your own. You need to humbly allow others to invest in you and your decisions to get your cemented circumstances, free and moving! I’m writing this blog from a 20/20 hindsight perspective. Trust me…there were hundreds of days where I wanted to quit every 10 minutes and so many days where I thought I was going to fail. This feeling of failure was instigated continually by antagonistic critics. This is the second of the two C’s.
Critics. The other C word that will work tirelessly to keep you stuck. I could add yet another C word here… Control. Control is what the critic wants. In Church world, the biggest critic who wants control will do another C word. Cite. They continually cite the past. The “good ol days.”
First of all…There is no such thing as the good ol days. The good ol days simply means that something was working and momentum was happening and everybody except the negative Circumstances and Critics of the time enjoyed it. The good ol days are in the past. Everybody in your life knows that there is no influence that happens with the past. It is a memory to be cherished and that is that. Wisdom can be derived from it, but the past tends to be dangerous to the future. The past used to be right, but rarely is effective for today. (I could share countless examples of this, but I said I’d be brief)
Critics make critical errors when they verbally vomit their desire to control and use the past to cite their opinion. They are more committed to their view, than a you. A critic is right as they cite their past’s success. A critic is not wrong, they are stuck in the past and are perpetuating the stuck-ness of the current circumstances. They are guilty of prioritizing their view more than a you. In Church world, the YOU, must be Jesus and His desire. We all know that Jesus’s greatest desire is to reach the unreached person, and to represent Jesus’s very lifestyle. That is the you that must take priority over every persons view. (By view, I do not mean Biblical integrity…we can never compromise Biblical integrity for a you.) Most critics do not cite Biblical truth as their backbone for being a critic, they tend to cite history and their personal preferences. I personally believe that most critics love their views more than the You named Jesus. They won’t admit that, but their actions prove their priority of who’s views they choose. What do you do with your critics? Listen. Love. Be patient, but do not be pushed around as you stand your ground. Be like Jesus.
If something is stuck, the leadership’s views overrule you’s. If something is stuck, somebody is allowing a view that used to work, stay in place. The reason the leadership allows this, are the influence of the C’s + 1. Circumstances and Critics + low Energy levels = fruitlessness. Critics and downward trending Consequences are giant energy extractors. The longer someone leads and is confronted by the never ending critic and circumstances, the more worn down they become. Add years of this, and an aging leadership’s energy levels are depleted to a point where recovery simply takes too long for the organization to keep moving. Momentum stopped. When momentum stops, the energy that is essential to get that locomotive rolling again is just too great. When the leadership is tired and their views naturally overtake the you’s, the commodity gets stuck. The best solution is to bring in new and freshly energized leadership. If your marriage is stuck, or something smaller than an organization, then the new leadership you bring in, must be in the form of counselors, mentors, and accountability partners or straight up intervention groups.
This critical decision of bringing in the new, takes guts, and I hold all who make it, in high regard. My heart aches for the new person who takes the new roll of leadership of an organization of any kind…especially a Church. The new leadership views that are administered into a momentum-less organization are going to take a beating from the C’s. However, if the new leadership will persevere to momentum, it will succeed. Painfully.
I’m seeing it happen before my eyes. Over the past two years I seriously considered that I had lost my ability to lead well. I seriously thought that I had lost my touch. But, that is just was the C’s were saying. I kept my ears and eyes on the You of all you’s. Jesus. I surrounded myself with teammates who had the energy and expertise and the grit to persevere to momentum. It is working.
I believe with everything in me, that CCFH will someday be a Church that creates such momentum, that more than a 1000 people will call CCFH their home Church every weekend. In this size of town, that would be remarkable. Just last weekend, we experienced 20 brand new people in our Church. We don’t market or advertise…on purpose. These new people were invited. The laughter, joy, new growth, and just sheer fun is making all the C’s worth it. Discipleship is reignited, evangelism is strong, growth is on. Momentum!
The momentum has begun. We are just now in the second and third wheel rotation of the locomotive regaining momentum at CCFH. The fuel reserves are stockpiled, the leadership team is in place, and the momentum is starting to take on its own power. Once a locomotive starts moving… don’t do anything stupid to stop the momentum. Let it keep moving and just guide it from the steering wheel! Here’s what is good news…once momentum starts moving and success is being repeated…the C’s begin to diminish. They never go away…they just lose a ton of power against a locomotive that is moving. Its easy to rob a train when its stopped!
You too can get momentum going in whatever you are facing that is stuck. Check your energy levels. Know you’re circumstances. Know your critics. Surround yourself with wise advisors. Use your grit! It’s worth it. If I can personally assist you with anything, please contact me. I’ll do my best to help you, and if I cannot, I’ll connect you with someone who can.
If you are interested in the CCFH story. Stay tuned. The momentum is just getting started! I can’t wait for the next update. You know the sound of the steam locomotive that is ch-k-ch-k-ch-k-ingalong at a fast pace? If you imagine it, you’ll “hear” it in your head right now. That’s our aim. That’s your aim in every area of life. It doesn’t come easy, but if it is worth doing, it will never ever be easy. Grit on, my friend. You can do it. We got this!
2 Corinthians 5:16…”From now on then, we do not know anyone from a purely human way.”
Do you view people with spiritual eyes? If you view, even your enemy through the eyes of Jesus…it will affect how you treat them…no matter how they treat you. Get your spiritual glasses on and wear them everywhere.
It has been around 365 days since I moved into Fountain Hills AZ, and began my new ministry venture at the Church called Christ’s Church of Fountain Hills.
I am grateful for the large numbers of people that have been watching, praying, and cheering for the Renner family from a distance.
I want to compare my experience to previous ones. I have been in some kind of professional ministry for the past 27 years. The different titles I have been given through those 27 years within the local church have been; Preaching Pastor, Youth Pastor, Associate Pastor, Singles Pastor, First Impressions Pastor, Evangelism Pastor, Church Planter, Merging pastor, Senior Minister, Lead Minister, President of Mission Org, Bible Teacher, and a few titles that I have heard whispered behind closed doors about me. LOL!
All is good. I write this blog to the professional pastor out there and I have one purpose and point in this post. For those who are not a professional pastor, I hope you will read and be challenged to encourage your pastor, who may not always show it in ways you think you need, but he/she loves you and wants to protect you, and prepare you to meet Jesus someday, like nobody else in your life.
Out of all the titles I’ve held over the past 27 years, the current title I hold has been the most challenging and difficult thing I’ve done. The title is best described in its simplest form as Lead Pastor. But that title is not the best description of my title. The real title, in the eyes of those my position has affected the most, is …”Our Next Pastor.”
It is a legitimate title, because I have been called it too many times to count in just the last year. Its not a bad title and in all honesty it really is the most fitting title for the situation. I’m good with the title.
After 26 years of very successful ministry endeavors, this year 27 has had me feeling like I didn’t have a clue in what I was doing. In the past 27 years, I have been more of a church planter type lead pastor than anything else. So when I transitioned into the role of “our next pastor” to replace a retiring founding pastor who had tenure for 33 years, I really had no idea what I was getting into. And I got into it thick! From what I’ve been told or have read about other pastors who have transitioned into the role of “our next pastor”… I’ve had it pretty good. In fact this isn’t my first rodeo with trying to be the “our next pastor.” I tried it once in a church in FL and literally quit 7 weeks into it. It just wouldn’t be right to share the gory details of that hardship my family encountered…but… all that to say, becoming “our next pastor” is not for the faint of heart. It is not fun, but it is good. It literally is the hardest thing I’ve done in professional ministry. So…what’s my main point here? Keep reading…
Many USA resources are stating that around 10,000 baby boomers, people born between 1946-1964, are retiring everyday right here in the good ol USA… and will continue to do so until 2036. Google it, its crazily true. Calculate that and it equals more than 80 million people retiring in the next 19 years.
I believe it is fair for me to guess, then, that there will be a multitude of founding pastors in that mix of retirees. Which means there will be multitudes of “our next pastors” stepping into their shoes, picking up their torches, or taking their batons. For those who are about to step into the shoes of those retiring founding pastors, please heed my words of warning.
There is nothing more leadership intensively difficult, nothing more hazardous to orchestrate, nothing more uncertain in its success, that will leave you feeling isolated and abandoned, than to fill the shoes of a retiring-founding pastor, and be the one who introduces a new era of influence. You, serving as ‘Our Next Pastor’ will have enemies in all those who love the old form, and at best, lukewarm support in all those who will benefit by the new. So, for God’s sake, for the Church’s sake, for the lost’s sake, for a troubled world’s sake, look forward, move forward, dig deep, for the very reason this situation is happening, is because the current status quo isn’t working anymore. Lead on, O’ leader, lead on! You only need the solid rock on which you stand, to be your inspiration…Jesus…to remind you that He can do immeasurably more than you dare to ask or hope for! So persist, press on, endure! Let Jesus be your only audience you desire to please, and He alone must be your faith, your hope, and your love. You are the, ‘our next Pastor’! You got this!
If I can personally visit with you over the phone, email, or at a table, with a hot cup of coffee or Dr. Pepper with a wedge of lime squeezed in it, please just ask. I’ve been taking extremely thorough notes through this adventure. I am seeing success. More time will tell the truth in how I’m doing. It has become vividly clear to me why churches struggle to produce fruit beyond the 100, 200, & 400 growth barriers. I can help you! I know I will pump you up!! 🙂 And even more, I know I would also learn from you. I’d be grateful to swap stories with you, compare scars, celebrate our victories, cry through the heart wrenching experiences our families face as we lead people to experience God, and most of all, I simply want to encourage you, and have you walk away with shining eyes!
This is really, really good work we do. Of course it is hard. It reminds us how alive we really are.