Monday, July 30, 2012

Trash Can Baptism

Each year a group of West Side Christians, joined by others from area churches, assemble at Butler Springs Christian Camp in Hillsboro, Ohio to lead a week of camp for fourth and fifth graders. The week usually ends with a trip to the camps pool to baptize those who had come forward during the week. However, this year the week ended just a little differently.

This year’s week of camp was packed full of Bible lessons on the Armor of God, trips down the zip line, afternoons splashing in the pool, hiking to Fort Hill, worship around the Vespers fire, and so many other thrilling activities. While some things went as planned, others things did not. One afternoon we lost swim time, because of severe thunderstorms moving through camp, so instead we played dodge ball in the gym and watched a movie. Two evenings we found ourselves inside for vespers because of more severe storms. Flexibility became the theme of the week.

Through all the much needed rain, through the thunderstorms, God was still working in the hearts and minds of the campers. On Wednesday and Thursday night we had nine kids come forward expressing the desire to give their lives to Christ and be baptized. On Friday afternoon two more shared with us that they wanted to be baptized. It looked like we were going to baptize eight kids at camp with three planning to go to their home church. Everyone was gearing up for a big celebration on Friday night at the close of camp surrounding the pool.

And then, just as we were finishing up, another thunderstorm rolled in knocking out power. Needless to say baptisms in the pool were not going to take place. Fortunately Butler Springs is prepared for this ... in the event of thunderstorms, baptism take place in the cafeteria in a fifty-five gallon trash can. I have to admit I thought their plan sounded a little strange.

Before we started doing baptisms, three decided this was not the way they wanted to baptized, and to be honest, I couldn’t blame them. But then my mind completely changed. Gus, one of the full time camp staff members spoke about the origins of the trash can baptisms. In his explanation he said something that I hadn’t thought of. In an attempt to paraphrase him he said … “Just as a trash can holds and helps remove the unwanted tossed aside everyday household items, the imagery of baptism as a grave holds and removes the sins God is forgiving. What a fitting place to have your sins washed away and removed than in a trash can.” That statement made a profound impact on my attitude toward trash can baptisms.

My attitude was altered again when I got to watch four children be baptized and then completely changed when I got the privilege to baptize our own Tyler Land this way. What an awesome symbol of what happens to us in baptism. In the process of forgiving us our sin, God washed us clean, burying our sins in the watery graves of baptism. While my first inclination will always be a baptistery, swimming pool, or creek, if none of these exists then I will have no issue reaching for the nearest fifty-five gallon trash can.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sunday @ West Side

I am absolutely in love with what is going on in our church right now. Sunday at West Side was truly a great blessing. The introduction to moving to two service went incredibly smooth (Maybe too smooth leaving Marty asking what kind of monkey wrench will soon creep up). We still have have issues that need to be worked out, but all in all everything flowed very well. I want to send out a thank you to all who made it possible. It was because of you that this was a huge success. I am thrilled to see what will take place next week.

By going to two service we are now able to really push the idea that all West Side Christians are asked to worship an hour, study an hour, and serve and hour at the very least each and every week. Now on Sunday morning you can serve during one of the services and still worship at the other service. If you are not serving now, please begin praying about ways you can serve in the near future!

We also kicked off our new sermon series … “Taking Truth Next Door” … answering the question “how do I love and lead my neighbors to Christ?” On Sunday we learned how to inherit eternal life, the response was loving God and loving people. In doing so we also learned from Jesus that our neighbors are not just the people next door. Our neighbors cross every cultural, ethnic, racial, economic, and gender boundary that may exist. Our neighbors are anyone we encounter. Taking Truth Next Door Graphic Cropped

I am excited about the future of West Side. Please continue to pray that this congregation continues to live out our mission of loving and leading people to a life changing relationship with Jesus Christ. God has many great things in store for us if we continue to follow his lead.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lessons From a Church Builder

Do you ever feel overwhelmed? Do you ever feel like you are inadequate as a minister, leader, parent, spouse? To say I wasn’t feeling that way right now would be a total lie. We are in the process of adding a second service here at West Side and there is a lot needing to be discussed to make that happen. With all that has to be done, I feel like I am in over my head and no where near prepared for this. And then in one of my email thread there is a personal comment at the end.
During a time of change like this you never know what a personal comment might entail. I recently received one that was an attack on me. Those are never fun to read. But today’s wasn’t that way. Today’s was encouraging, uplifting, and really needed. The comment basically said we are very blessed to have you, what you are doing is great, please know I am there to talk, and we are excited about watching you grow. If I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed that might go straight to my head. But in the middle of what we are experiencing that was exactly what I needed to hear.
It is amazing how God sends messages right when you need it. Yesterday I had a discussion that left me asking … “Why am I doing this?” The note I received a few weeks ago did the same things. An email I received almost a year ago really beat me down. It took me weeks to even share it with my wife. But every time God sends someone to me right when I need it. He did this for me in my first ministry so many times. There were times where I just wanted to give up. There were times when I wanted to walk away. There were times when I wanted to leave school and just mow grass. But God would send people with just the right words. I am so thankful for that. If it wasn’t for those words, I don’t know if I would continue to do this.
God sent someone several months ago. During a ministers meeting we invited a minister whose church had went from overly traditional to completely contemporary. He shared in his talk about how horrible the first six or eight years were. But he stuck through it. He had broad shoulders. He took the beatings. And now, God is richly blessing his ministry and their church. Oddly enough, those were words of encouragement.
In the email I received today, the last line really struck me. The more I have read it the more talking points I see in it. I will only share one today, and possibly others in the future. She said … “God has given West Side the awesome responsibility of seeing you grow and mature into the amazing minister you will be.” I am young. I could take that multiple ways. But I acknowledge and hope I always do and that I haven’t arrived yet. That I do have a lot of growing and maturing left in me. It is my prayer that I am always teachable. It is my prayer that I am always growing. It is my prayer that I am open to God’s guiding and leading in my life. If not, then I need to walk away, hang it up, and not bear the broad shoulders needed for this job.
Photo Courtesy of andres.thor's

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Weekend at West Side

West Side experienced a wonderful resurrection weekend. On Saturday morning we hosted a Easter Egg hunt for toddlers through 6th graders. We had a really wonderful turnout and all 1,300 eggs put out seemed to be found.

Easter Egg Hunt Panarama

Yesterday was Easter Sunday. We had a wonderful service with 170 people filling our sanctuary and a total attendance of 211. Church growth experts say that a growing church can take their Easter attendance and project what they will be averaging in three years. This give us a real good target to push for and move towards.

Things have been really busy around West Side. We are gearing up for some big changes in the next couple of weeks. I am really excited for the launch of two services as well as the kick off of our new sermon series “Taking Truth Next Door.” This is an exciting time in the history of West Side and something you do not want to miss.Taking Truth Next Door Graphic 2 with date

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Year in the Life of Organization

In 2012 I am on a mission to organize my life more completely. I am using the Friday section of this blog to announce tools I plan to use and chronicle the changes I am making. Here is one…

This year I am on a mission to better organize my life. I realized that to be successful in my ministry it had to be done. One of the things that desperately needed to change was my weight. I was constantly tired. I never felt good. I knew that I needed to get the pounds down both for my health and my productivity.

When I begin 2012 I was somewhere over 315 lbs. I don’t know where I really was because when I started our scale only went to 299 lbs., and then it stopped. After working on weight loss for a week or more I decided I needed to know so I bought a scale. I began at 315.? something lbs. As of this writing (March 6) I have lost 26 lbs.

When I began this process I did not want it to be a diet. Dieting in my mind leads you to loose weight for a period of time. I wanted this to be a lifestyle change. I wanted to change my eating patterns and my lack of exercise. I knew I would have fail days, but I wanted them to rare and not the norm. I began with some goals. I wanted to get to 290 lbs. by March. I was able to accomplish that goal. With that I wanted to begin walking and then running. I haven’t yet done that, but plan to soon. I am trying to figure out when the best time in my day will be for that.

I feel I have done pretty well at my lifestyle change and am excited with the changes. One thing I can FatSecretattribute is something called FatSecret. I was looking for an app that would help me manage my weight loss. I downloaded the first one I found and soon fell in love. I also found the internet version of FatSecret and fell even more in love. FatSecret is an amazing tool. Between the app and the website I am able to track and record my food intake, my exercise, my weight loss, create recipes, journal and connect in community.

The best part of FatSecret is the ability to keep track of my food intake. I can do this multiple ways. I am able to use the website and search for or enter the food I have eaten for the day. I can enter it by searching their amazing database by food types, brands, restaurants, and many more. I can also enter it by using my phone in similar ways as well as using the barcode scanner on my phone and then selecting the number of servings I am consuming. This is truly a neat way to use the tool. One the website and my phone I am able to see something like this ~image

On the day of this writing this is the food that I had already consumed for the day. This has become amazingly helpful through this process.

There is so much you can use FatSecret for. I plan to share more throughout the year about all you can do with FatSecret. I hope this serves as an introduction to an amazing free tool you can use online at your continence.


The Photo used above belongs to Jonathan D. Blundell’s Photostream

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Year in the Life of Organization

Don’t fret, while I have not been submitting things to the blog, I have not failed at my organizational goals. I started out the year with many goals at hand. Probably too many. Below is the list of what I can think of:

  • More blogging with structure
  • Loosing weight with a goal of 90 lbs. total and then seeing where that leaves me
  • Spending more time in personal Bible study outside of my reading for lessons, sermons, devotionals, etc..
  • How I spend my time with Crystal and Alivia – (My job requires hours in the evening, I have to find out how to best love, enjoy, invest, and share myself with them and my ministry. This is about proper balance)
  • Spending more time reading and less with the TV
    • Reading marriage books
    • Reading church growth books
    • Reading Christian living books
    • Reading and organizing how I read blogs
  • Structuring the transition process here at church
  • Organizing my week around the things I know need to be done.
  • Cleaning and keeping my office clean

As you can see I had a lot of aspirations as I began this year. All of them are valid, and all must be accomplished at some point. However, I may have tried to tackle too many at one time. This year in the life of organization is about learning what works for me, my family, and my ministry to make me a better man and leader of Christ’s church here in Lebanon. What this process has taught is what I need to organize first before moving on to the next thing. I have begun to organize them this way;

  1. Spending more time in personal Bible study
  2. Organizing how I spend my time with Crystal and Alivia
  3. Loosing weight
  4. Structuring the transition process at West Side
  5. Spending more time reading
  6. Organizing my work week
  7. More blogging
  8. Cleaning my office

So far I have done very well on a few, and getting better on others.

I have missed just a few days this year in my daily Bible reading. Part of that was due to sever back pain I experienced. During that I couldn’t focus to remember what I was reading. I was however able to catch up and am still on track to complete this plan on December 30th.

I have also done really well loosing weight. To date I have lost a total of 26 lbs. I have had my good days and bad days. I have learned what a good portion size is and even traveled to Georgia with out gaining any weight while eating out. I have reached a plateau, but that has only reinforced in my mind that I have to be strict at this and make this a lifestyle change, and realize it won’t happen in just a couple of months.

I am struggling with the time commitment between church and family. I am praying that it is only the season we are going through. At West Side we are in major transition. We recently introduced a new ministry system, are planning and implementing a two worship service approach, starting a worship band, launching and teaching about our vision and mission, as well as many other subtle changes. All this requires an immense amount of time and commitment. Balancing this out is part of my learning curve. I have done great some weeks and horrible other weeks.

Those are the three that I am working on the most, the rest will come in time. This has been a fun and revealing process for me. Next week I plan to share the tool I am using to help me loose weight.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Happening in Christianity

When I blog, I have a weekly format that I like to follow. While I don’t do it a ton, I have a schedule for the days of the week so that topics are somewhat organized. I haven’t done so lately because the creative juices have been drained with all the transitions we are experiencing here at West Side.
On Tuesday’s I like to share any concerns or problems I have that are going on in the Christian community. However, Today is not one of those days. This is the opposite of a concern, this is a celebration of what is going on one of Christ’s Churches.
Verve Church exist in Las Vegas with the purposes of stripping church and seeking life seeking to reach people for Jesus who live and work on the strip in Vegas. Verve seeks to go where other churches haven’t and to reach people who never dreamed of following Christ. Verve just celebrated their second birthday this past weekend. In doing so, they showed this video at their services. Please follow this link and read the story and watch the video.
If you want to find out more information about the ministry of Verve and what is taking place in the life of the church I encourage you to follow their Pastor Vince Antonucci’s blog.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Year in the Life of Organization

In 2012 I am on a mission to organize my life more completely. I am using the Friday section of this blog to announce tools I plan to use and chronicle the changes I am making. Here is one…

Ever sense I have had a smart phone I have always wanted a note taking program that would automatically sync with my computers without having to use a cable to do so. Even when using the syncing cable, which was a lot more work than it was worth, there were always problems with what was being synched. But last year I was turned onto an amazing program that did exactly what I had been dreaming of. I am so thankful that Evernote came into my life.

Evernote is a note taking software that you can access multiple ways. You are able to access Evernote simply by going to their website and logging in, or you can download their software right onto your computer, and finally download it to your smartphone or tablet. The beauty of it all is you are able to sync Evernote across all the platforms. This has been truly revolutionized the way I take notes. While I use it primarily as a note taking software, there is much more you can do with Evernote, and I have only taped the basic possibilities of all it offers. Below is just a glimpse of what Evernote in action looks like.

I have used Evernote in a plethora of ways. Whether it is for creating grocery list, to writing down blog ideas, or even sermon notes while listening to a preacher, it has revolutionized my notes. They are now organized, all in one place, with no pieces of paper to loose. It has truly been great.

As I move forward in 2012 and really try to hunker down on organization, one area I am working on is in my daily Bible study. I have been reading the Bible using a reading plan through YouVersion, and I have begun doing something truly cool with Evernote. I have known for a long time that many of the people groups the Israelites fight against as they come into the land were far distant relatives. So as I have been reading this year, I am going through and charting the genealogies of these families. Evernote has been an amazing tool for this process. Look below at the chart I have created.


With Evernote and YouVersion I have been able to do something I have longed to do for a long time. I will now have a chart that I can  go back to and look at in the future to see where these people groups have come. I encourage you to give Evernote a try, you will be thankful when you do.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lesson’s From a Church Builder

This photo belongs to  
“Do you know what ministry involves?” “Do you know the sacrifice it takes?” “Is this really what you want for your life?” These were the questions asked of me when I sat and talked with my parents about going to Bible college and going into ministry. Its not that they didn’t want me to become a preacher. I think they were ok with the idea of it. Its not like I was wanting to be a missionary and move over seas, so that wasn’t their concern. But they wanted me to be aware of what I was getting myself into. They knew that it wasn’t always going to be the beautiful dream that I had floating around in my mind.

At that time I thought of ministry as preaching, as doing weddings and funerals, as leading missions trips, and going on youth outings. When I answered their questions confident of my decision, these were the thoughts filling my mind. While all these things are part of the ministry of a preacher, there are so many other parts. This was not a lesson I would learn until I entered my first ministry. 

It was in my first ministry that I learned how the life of the church really becomes part of who you are. How the church is doing, whether good times are rolling, or you are suffering through the fires, it is something that is constantly on your mind. I can’t take a vacation, visit my family or Crystals, or just hang out at home without thinking about what we have going on here at church. This was something new for me. In high school when I worked for Yard Works, David’s Catering, or the movie theater, when I was done with day, I was done with work, and for the most part was done thinking about it. But from the time I have entered ministry, my mind has been consumed with the life of the church.

How can we lead people to a life changing relationship with Jesus? How can we get people involved in small groups? How can we get our giving up so that we don’t just barely meet payroll and bills but can afford to do ministry? How can reach out to the community? How can we change the culture of our church to answer these questions? These are the thoughts that consume my mind constantly. These are thoughts I lie awake at night going over. These are thoughts I try to remove from my mind when I watch TV in the evenings. These are thoughts I try to not bring up when eating dinner with my family.

So if the questions were going to be asked of me again by my parents, my answer wouldn’t be much different. I would still be excited, but my excitement would be completely different. I would understand that the struggles of ministry, the demands on my time and my family, the role I serve, is all worth it because it points people to the cross, and it is through the work on the Cross that Christ was able to offer us salvation. For no better calling could I preach. And so, I will go on learning this year what it means to grow a church, maybe not always numerically, but to grow the lives of the people who comprise the church. I am excited to be a part of helping love and lead people to a life changing relationship with Jesus Christ. To that end I will continue learning.

Join me this year as I continue learning and sharing about it on Thursdays.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Year in the Life of Organization

In 2012 I am on a mission to organize my life more completely. I am using the Friday section of this blog to announce tools I plan to use and chronicle the changes I am making. Here is one…

As I continue the beginning stages of my journey through organization something became very apparent to me this past week. I always knew this, but sermon writing is very time consuming. In the past I have been very unstructured in my approach to it, and because of that, I am finally putting pen to paper late Thursday and finishing up on Saturday morning. I think this is due to me changing my preaching style. I also have been working harder to study better for my sermon’s and grow in my theological understanding. This is leading to longer preparation time.

This week I made a concentrated effort to get an early start on my sermon. By doing so I was able to finish my sermon Friday morning instead of Saturday, so that is a big win for me. But in my effort to do so, I let several other things go. So while my sermon is finished, many other things are not, and that in itself is not good. So I continue to work out my weekly system, because very soon I will be writing sermons weekly with all of the others stuff still going on. So glad to be learning this all now.

On another note, I have really concentrated my effort to loose weight this year. This being 315 lbs. can no longer be the norm. So along with everything else I am doing, I am working on loosing weight. This had to happen. I haven’t felt well, I am always tired, and I have poor productivity. I knew that if I got this part of my life in order some of these other organizational things will work themselves out.

On this front I have done really well this week. I am up to eight pounds that I know I have lost. This is only the beginning, but I am having a lot of fun using an app for my phone along with its website to control my caloric intake. I have even been getting really creative this past week with the meals I am planning and the way I am eating. So far so good, however I am only two weeks in.

This has also been a good spiritual week for me. I am making a really concentrated effort to spend time in the word and in prayer. It has been very beneficial to me. I am also thinking about bringing back the daily blog post about what I am reading. I haven’t made a decision on it yet, but we will see in the near future. I think it will be very positive if I do and many may benefit from it.

I am excited to see the real changes that are taking place in my life through this endeavor. With God’s help I know I will be able to overcome and succeed in this mission.


Friday, January 6, 2012

A Year in the Life of Organization

In 2012 I am on a mission to organize my life more completely. I am using the Friday section of this blog to announce tools I plan to use and chronicle the changes I am making. Here is one…

One of the areas I have struggled to gain control over is with my relationship with God. I have never struggled with my belief. I have never had a situation that has caused me to be angry at God. I have never felt he has left me alone all by my self. He has always been a part of my life, but sometimes …  actually more often … he has been distant. I don’t blame him for not being there. I know he is not at fault. The fault lies completely on me.

Over the years our relationship has been like a tapestry, we weave back and forth with moments of strength and times of utter failure. That’s not my desire for my relationship with God. I desire a relationship where we are growing closer each and every day. Life lived together were I spend time hearing from him in his word, where I spend time sharing with him through prayer, and time where I spend in worship. There has been moments of this throughout my life, but those moments tend to last for a few days, and then I get distracted and move back to where I was.

I have written about this before. This isn’t a new thought on this blog. If you have read me in the past you have seen very similar words. While these are similar words I really want this to happen. Its not that I didn’t before, I really did, but I have had a new realization. The reasons these times failed before was because I was completely unorganized in life. I wasn’t ready or able to follow through on my desire because so much else was taking precedent. It is my desire that my Year in the Life of Organization will help me to also grow deeper in my relationship with Christ.

I am fully convinced that organizing many areas of my life will help to draw me deeper where I want to be spiritually, physically, socially, in my ministry and with my family. I am also fully convinced that living deeper with Christ will also radically change all those areas as well.

I love what Jesus says in Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.” Now Jesus isn’t asking us to really hate our family members. He is simply asking us to love him so much, to need him so much, to follow him so much, to serve him so much that it makes our love for our family look like hate. But here is the beautiful part, as our love for God grows, as we follow Christ closer, our relationships change. When we love like Christ loved, when we have compassion like Christ had, when we face anger like Christ did our relationship with our family is enhanced.

That is why I am convinced that getting my spiritual life in order is paramount to me being successful this year. So how do I plan to do that? Well I plan to use a couple of tools. The first is YouVersion. YouVersion is an online Bible. It is an amazing tool that allows the user to see and use multiple translations at one time. It also has several Bible reading plans that users can choose from. Most if not all will provide you a reading plan that will take you through the Bible in one year. I am currently doing the Chronological plan that uses what scholars believe is the order the books of the bible fall into historically. The best part of YouVersion is it has app downloads for Androids, iPhones, iPads, iTouch, and many other smartphones and tablets. This allows the user to sync their Bible reading plan across devices. This has really organized my Bible reading. Try out YouVersion and explore its many features.

For me my Bible reading is just the beginning. I am also carving out a time each day to spend in worship and prayer. How I am doing that I will share in a future date. This is beginning to become an amazing adventure in my life.