Thanks for the great evening C3!

Dino It’s great having ministry friends!

And Pastor Matt Fry, lead pastor at Cleveland Community Church (C3), is one of our friends. Last night he and his wife Martha, invited me and a small groups of lead pastors to a private dinner with the main speaker, Pastor Dino Rizzo, before their annual C3 Leadership Conference.

Pastor Dino is the lead pastor at Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His church was recently recognized by President Bush for its work among the hurricane Katrina victims. They have a great ministry built on serving others in their community. They have a huge ministry, but listening to Pastor Dino talk, they sound a lot like WCC in many ways.

Thanks Matt and C3 for the dinner and the great leadership conference! And thanks Dino for the great teaching!

Link to C3 Church

Link to Healing Place Church

I’ve always wanted to take Robin to Hawaii…

… But it always seemed too expensive on a church planter’s salary.

But guess what? Robin and I are going to Hawaii in September!!! Oahu102

God really takes care of us when we put Him first. Sometimes, He even provides the dreams that we don’t consider all that important when we just stay focused on doing His work first. I think that’s what happened this time.

This blessing really started a little over two years ago when I was nominated to be part of a program for senior pastors called SPE – Sustaining Pastoral Excellence. This is a three year program funded by a Lilly endowment grant to the Lake Hickory Learning Communities that is designed to take senior pastors who have demonstated excellence in ministry to higher levels of excellence. As a part of this opportunity I received a mini-grant that could be used for personal learning. I’ve used this grant to attend several great learning experiences.  And this September I’m using the last of the mini-grant to attend a Leadership Practicum with Pastor Wayne Cordeiro.

Wayne_cordeiroDr. Wayne Cordeiro is Senior Pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship O’ahu, a Foursquare church in Honolulu, Hawaii. New Hope began on September 10, 1995 and is one of the fastest growing churches in the nation. Over the last 12 years there have been 31,000 who have received Christ for the first time and the church has grown to over 12,000 weekend attendees. Eighty-three churches have been pioneered under New Hope’s church-planting ministry outreach.

Outreach magazine has listed New Hope O’ahu as one of the top most 25 influential churches in America and one of the top ten most innovative.

I’ve been accepted to attend Pastor Wayne’s week long leadership practicum on Team Building. This is a unique opportunity because Pastor Wayne only invites a few senior pastors each year and he uses a “shadowing” approach to teaching, where the conference attendees follow him on all of his regular duties.Canoe1_3

Apparently, this includes being on the beach every morning at 6:00 A.M. for exercise and team  building activities. I even had to sign a health waiver and verify that I was a good swimmer before  being accepted. Pastor Wayne likes to use paddling outrigger canoes to develop team spirit.

Can you hear the “Hawaii Five 0” music playing in the background?

Link to SPE

Link to Pastor Wayne’s Church

On Tent Making and Puppies?

6a00d83524c19a69e200e54f3891c48834-800wiI’m not exactly sure how we got into being hobby breeders of collies (OK, I sort of know, but it’s a really long story). We were just trying to do what the apostle Paul did as a church planter. You know, he was a tent maker, so he made tents to keep the resources flowing while he worked on the main thing– planting churches.

This summer Robin and I have been doing just that. We’ve been tent makers. Robin has been the real champ. Robwsoph She took the summer off from being our church office administrator and took a full time job at a local veterinary hospital. She’s been working from 7 AM to 7 PM at the vet most days. Plus, she took a passion she has for animals, specifically collies, and turned it into a business. We did this to free up the church from paying her this summer because the giving has been tight of late.

I have also done a lot of side work this summer. I have done this because the church has not been able to pay me for nearly 22 weeks. But we do all of these things so that we can do the thing we feel passionately called to.

I pray that God honors us in this. Our real passion is for leading a Great Commission church that impacts our city and our world for Jesus.

You know what? I’m not worried. Our church is growing in attendance. People are coming to Christ. Young families are finding help and purpose. We are supporting and sending missionaries to foreign lands.

Our people will learn/are learning to live lives of hilarious generosity. Our needs will be met through the riches we have in Christ Jesus.

In the meantime, know anyone who needs a puppy?

Link to combscollies.com

Vacation at Smith Mountain Lake… Combs Style!

6a00d83524c19a69e200e54f387f3a8834-800wiEver feel like you need to take a break after you get back from vacation? That’s pretty much true for any Combs family vacation. We seem to have a real problem dialing it down a notch.

But I guess that’s just our nature. We love adventure, excitement and risk. So, if we take a vacation together, you can bet that it’ll be crammed full of all three!

This year we took the whole family (which is getting bigger every year) to Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia. We used to live there over 20 years ago. We like going back there because it’s one of the premier lakes in the South. It has over 526 miles of shoreline, unbelievable Blue Ridge Mountain vistas, and tons of opportunities for boating, waterskiing, tubing, knee boarding, cliff diving, hiking, and anything else you can think of (and we can think of a lot).

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Of course, when we go tubing it’s not exciting enough by itself. We had to invent… Battle Tubing!!

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Even the Combs girls (Caroline and Nicole) caught the bug! But they didn’t want to take it too far. Notice the smiles. You can’t really be serious about battle tubing and smile at the same time!

 

 

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Cliff

jumping

was

fun!

 

 

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The day never ended for some… card games continued into the night (Abbott gets inducted into the non-stop activity of the Combs Clan).

 

 

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Everything was a blast, but one of my favorites was just standing on an island with Robin and looking across the lake under a full moon.

Now, that was a great vacation!

Hey! I’ve been published.

ChurchbusinessCheck it out! An article I submitted to Church Business Magazine was published in their June 2007 edition.

They recently asked me to serve on their advisory board because of my background in church work as well as business. They were asking for ideas on future articles from the board, so I submitted a couple. They liked my ideas so much that they asked me to write a proposal.

This is really cool because although I’ve written several articles for the Wilson Daily Times, this is the first time I’ve been published professionally.  I had to sign a contract and everything. It’s a small article, but it has been one of my goals to expand my writing efforts. I’m really thankful for this opportunity. Of course, I’m always happier having written than I am in the actual writing.

If you’d like to read my article, just send me an email requesting it. I’ll send you a link that will allow you access. It’s on page 34. It’s entitled: The “Dos” & “Don’ts” of Good Email Communication.

On Becoming a Father

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NIV).

A crazy kind of math has been at work in me.

I am becoming a man who is less and less what he was and perhaps, more and more what he will be. The subtractions of life have hopefully allowed for the additions of the Spirit.

The most profound loss of my life was when my father died of cancer when I was eight years old. He was only 39. This loss resulted in an increased awareness of God as my Father. How often I cried out to Him as a child saying, “Father, I’m hurting. I’m lonely. Help me!”

I don’t want to sound too mystical, but I’ve had some real experiences with God. I remember some nights in the months and years following my father’s death where I felt God’s fatherly touch. I don’t know what else to call it. I’d be laying there on my pillow, crying out to Him and He would come to me and comfort me.

Believe what you want. I have felt God’s fatherly embrace.

But when the sun would come up I would still hunger for a father. And God made provision for me there too.

I remember praying that God would let Mr. Black be my fifth grade teacher. The school I attended had three teachers for each grade. During summer break you would receive your teacher assignment in the mail. All the other teachers were women. In fact, Mr. Black was the only male teacher in the first five grades at High Point Elementary School.

That summer I opened the teacher assignment letter with trembling hands, “Yeah!” I screamed. “I’m in Mr. Black’s class!”

Mr. Black was cool. He drove a Corvette. He played quarterback for both teams at recess. He threw the ball so hard it hurt to catch it. He clunked all the boys on the head with his class ring when he walked past you in the hall (This was an honor).

He called you by your last name, unless you were a girl. “Hey Combs! You and Church get up here!” he’d yell. Me and David Church (remember alphabetical seating?) used to have trouble being quiet in class.

I loved being in Mr. Black’s fifth grade class.

God gave me many father figures. He gave me “Papa,” my mother’s father, who taught me to work hard and laugh loud at the same time. He gave me Uncle Basil who taught me to shoot a gun, cast a line, and drive a straight. He gave me a coach in little league named, “Tony” who taught me not to close my eyes when they hit you a grounder. He gave me a boss in the corporate world named “Mike” who challenged me to be a leader and didn’t cut me any slack. All of these men made fatherly marks on me.

As I grew older the father hunger started changing. It started becoming a passion for being a father. More and more, I saw myself as a father. And I love it. I love being a father!

This father identity seems to be the life-thread that runs from my past and pulls me into my future. As I think about my future story, I find myself organizing my future around my primary identity as a father figure and the relationships that emerge out of that identity.

These seven relationships are as follows: 1) Jesus, 2) Self, 3) Family, 4) Small Group, 5) My Local Church,  6) The City Church, and 7) The Global Church .

Years from now I dream of being a man who …

… has grown in the love and knowledge of Jesus Christ. I want to practice the presence of Jesus in my life so fully that I notice when Christ gently nudges me or when He is not satisfied with my ways. I want to know what it means to walk in the Spirit without giving in to the flesh. I would like to overhear my older self talking to Jesus with such intimacy and joy that I would know that he is being led by the Father.

… has grown in self knowledge and discipline. I want to practice the spiritual disciplines so that I yield the Spirit’s fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This older self is quick to receive forgiveness so that he doesn’t wallow in self-defeat. He doesn’t compare himself to others. He strives to be the very tool that God has shaped. He is satisfied to be who God has called him to be.

… has become a wonderful, godly grandfather. If I could see my older self with my family, I see a house in the country near a lake with a grandfather taking his grandchildren out boating or one riding between his legs on the riding mower. This older father would be a mentor and encourager to his children and their spouses. He would intentionally spend time with each grandchild to instill his love and faith into each one. I can see him now, camping under the stars, teaching his grandchildren about God and nature.

… meets weekly with a small group of believers in a home. This older man will not have grown lax in his commitment to live out the call to meet from “house to house” and in the “temple courts.” He will express his spiritual gifts in a setting that becomes the real church for him. People will love to be with him in a small group because of the way he loves and encourages them. He will mentor others to lead small groups of the same caliber that devote themselves to the apostle’s teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.

… has firmly planted a world-class local church called Wilson Community Church and continues to pastor it with godly wisdom, passionate zeal, and spiritual power. This future self will have built a firm foundation on Christ and on the apostle’s teaching so that a body of believers will exist that grow to maturity in Christ. This older man will be near his peak now. He will lead a diverse staff and lay team of great and gifted leaders who have been with him for many years. He will speak and write with experience and authority on what God has taught him in the process of planting a church. He will continue to burn for fathering/planting new churches.

… has led the city of Wilson, North Carolina into spiritual renewal by uniting local churches into a “city church” vision. This older self will walk the streets of downtown Wilson or of the local mall and stop for conversation with people from every church and walk of life. He will be known as a city pastor. Not everyone will attend his church, but everyone will know that he loves them and he loves the city. He will help other churches to grow, he will lead prayer summits and prayer walks with other churches. He will cooperate with the city government and serve them. He will write in the local news paper and mentor other local pastors.

… has become an elder pastor, mentor, and coach to church planters and missionaries in North Carolina, the U.S. and the world. This older self would grow in his involvement with groups like the Innovative Church Community where he would be a coach and mentor to many church pastors and leaders. He would often travel to speak or encourage people on the field who are planting churches or working in missions. He would have a global vision for reaching the world. He would see people from Wilson Community Church answer the call to plant churches and start missions around the world. He would stay in contact with them as a mentor and friend.

I see my future story extending like a thread from my earliest hunger for a father to my greatest fulfillment as a father. A father leads. A father protects. A father creates– plants new things. A father loves. A father mentors. A father coaches. A father releases. A father lays down his life for others. I want to comfort others with the comfort I’ve received from the Father of all comfort.

A father is what I’m becoming.

On Being Human

Psalm 8:4 (NIV) What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?

This past week my cell phone kept ringing with the caller ID “Name Unknown 777-777-7777.”

I didn’t answer it the first few times. All of those sevens were kind of disconcerting. At first I thought it might be a telemarketer, but laughed to myself thinking that in that case a phone number with all sixes would have been more appropriate. Finally, my curiosity got the best of me. Besides, a caller with an all sevens number might be somehow… heavenly.

It wasn’t. It was my brother, Donnie, calling from Iraq. And according to him, it’s as hot there as… well, not heaven.

Donnie is in Iraq as a police trainer. He is perfect for the job. He has always had a quick judgment, a fearless demeanor, and a compassionate heart. I remember when he first started as a rookie officer in Virginia, where he was assigned to an area known as “the projects.” I rode a shift with him there. I noticed that he knew everyone’s name and waved at most of them as we drove by. His words were quick and staccato as he gave a running commentary on nearly everyone we passed.

“That guy is trouble.” He’d say. “I’ve had to put him away a few times.” He’d continue as he smiled, waved, and called out the guy’s name. Strangely, most everyone waved back.

“So, why do you seem like friends?” I asked.

“Oh, they know me. They know I mean business, but they also know I’m fair. I’m as much a part of their lives as anyone here. I mean, I’m out here everyday either on foot, pedaling a bike, or cruising in the squad car. I’ve locked half of them up and the other half I’ve been there to help them through a domestic squabble or some other trouble. I’m part of their neighborhood.”

Now, over fifteen years later, my brother is calling from a different neighborhood. According to him, that’s the best way to understand it. By “it” I mean what’s going on in Iraq.

“The problem neighborhoods here are not that different than what we have in America.” He explained. “It’s a matter of perspective. When we have an organized element working against the law and trying to build its own power base in America we call them “gang members.” When we encounter an organized group trying to take over a neighborhood here we call them “insurgents.”

“So, what do we do?” I asked.

“Well, I’m no politician, but I think we need to get the Iraqi police up and running in full mode over here. I don’t think this is a military problem anymore. What we need is some good, old-fashioned, neighborhood policemen walking their beats. But it’s going to be hard, real hard.”

“Why’s that? Is it because the Iraqi people are not open to democracy? Are they so different from us that they can’t be citizens of a free society?”

“I don’t know about all that. I was thinking it would be hard because of their past. Because Saddam used the police to carry out his evil agenda, the people don’t trust them. And because the police have been corrupted by this past, they are often only looking to use their power for themselves.” “Do you mean you can’t trust the police?” I asked. “Not a lot of the older ones. Just the other day I came upon some Iraqi police that were stealing from a home. They were brazenly carrying out someone else’s possessions. When I asked them what they were doing, they just starred at me. I told them to put it back because we’re supposed to be the good guys. I really preached them a sermon. ‘It’s no wonder these people don’t trust you!’ I yelled. ‘You act like Ali Baba!’” (As in “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves)

“Plus, the police here have not been trained to be proactive, just reactive. Every time we roll up to a police station we find a hundred officers just sitting around waiting. The only time you see them out in the streets is after something bad has already happened. They need to get out among the people. They need to be a visible deterrent. They need to be out there making friends with the good guys in the neighborhoods.”

“Is there any hope Bro? I mean, are you training any guys that are going to make good police officers?”

“Yeah, there’s this one guy. He’s twenty-two years old and he’s gonna be good, real good. He and I often walk the streets together. He’s learning to look and listen. He often offers me commentary on the people in his broken English. “‘That good guy.’ He says, indicating a shopkeeper. ‘That guy’ he says, pointing his finger, ‘Ali Baba.’”

“You’re liking this young recruit aren’t you?” I asked.

“He’s a good kid. He’s the one who helped me communicate with a little boy I saw on the streets the other day. I saw this little fellow about the size of my youngest son, so I waved and offered him a Kit Kat chocolate bar. I could tell he wanted it, but he was afraid of me. It broke my heart. You know how homesick I am for my two boys. My young trainee understood. He went and got the little boy and put him in my arms. I gave him the whole package of chocolate.”

“It breaks my heart to see so many kids on the streets, already learning to be street savvy, already learning to be part of the problem. It’s gonna be hard to change things over here. Real hard.”

After I talked to Donnie on my cell, I sat in my office and thought about the people of Iraq. I thought about the corrupt police and the sharp trainee that shows potential. I thought about the good shop owner and the little boy that walked away with Donnie’s whole package of chocolate. I thought about Donnie’s assessment of how hard it will be to change things.

It’s easy to hate insurgents and terrorists, but it’s hard to hate a little boy who loves chocolate. Hearing Donnie’s stories has put a human face on a very inhuman situation for me.

The Psalmist wondered how God could be “mindful” of man. How could God possibly “care?” From God’s perspective we must seem like insurgents and terrorists, constantly trying to overthrow His Kingdom. We’re like gang bangers, defacing His creation with our graffiti.

Humanity was created to bear God’s image. But mankind has lost its humanity. Why should God even leave his office to trouble Himself in our neighborhood? Why not just let us destroy ourselves and come in later to clean up the mess?

Instead He who made us, became human Himself. He walked the dusty streets of our human neighborhood. He took our brokenness, our sin, our death upon Himself. He did this to restore us. He did this to mend us and make us His image bearers in the world.

When we consider Jesus, we see what true humanity was meant to be. When we follow Jesus, we find our hearts changed from stone to flesh. Only Jesus can change human hearts.

And that’s the only thing that will change any of our neighborhoods.

Why God Wants Our Worship

For the truth about God is known to them instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. … Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. The result was that their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they became utter fools instead. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols … (Romans 1:19-23 NLT)

“Wow! Thank you Lord.” My friend Jamie kept saying, as we sat outside under a full moon looking at the sky and listening to the thundering waves of the ocean.

We took a couple of days off this past week and stayed at Virginia Beach with the Winships. Robin and I have been friends with Jamie and Donna since our college days. It’s great to get away and refresh friendships and recharge our batteries. There’s something special about being at the beach and enjoying time with old friends. Through the years, getting our families together at the beach has become a kind of Combs/Winship tradition.

But it’s easy to get so caught up in the enjoyment of creation and the pleasure of human friendship that we forget to worship the Creator from whom these gifts come. That’s why it was good to sit with a friend and proclaim together our thanks for the God of creation.

All too often I have lowered my eyes and my affection from the Creator to his creation. I go to the beach and I enjoy it so much that I want a house there. I drive to a lake in the mountains and I dream of owning a cabin there. I grasp for and try to keep those beautiful, awe-filled moments in my hands to assure my future enjoyment of them. I don’t want to let go of the beauty of those moments.

Perhaps that’s what motivated the apostle Peter to want to build a temple on the mountain when he saw the glorified Christ transfigured. It’s the human response. We want to keep what we just experienced. We want to build a monument, a temple to it. Then, we think to ourselves, we can visit it anytime we like and experience that same feeling again. In a way, Peter was saying, “Let’s just build houses up here and live on this mountain.”

But God doesn’t want us worshiping the mountains, or the beach or the stars… He wants us to worship him.

Is it because he is jealous of our worship? Yes. He is jealous because it belongs to him like the love of a wife belongs exclusively to her husband.

But I don’t think that’s the only reason he wants our total and exclusive worship. I think he wants us to worship him because he knows that’s how he made us. We were made to worship him. When we put something else in the place where God is supposed to be, it’s like trying to run a car on water. Sure, it’s a liquid and it fills the space, but it doesn’t make the engine run. And make no mistake, we were made to run on our worship of him.

The apostle Paul explains our need for worshiping the true Creator in his letter to the Romans. He says that when we lower our worship from the Creator to his creation, it results in our minds being “dark and confused.” He goes on to describe a state of mind that causes us to go about putting everything we can find into that place, but finding nothing to fill it. So, we settle for idols — mere man-made images of God. The result is that we become fallen creatures that no longer glorify God in this world by being the Imago Dei, the image of God, that he made us to be.

I think it was the French philosopher Pascal who said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the soul of every man that can only be filled by the person of Jesus Christ.”

When we put anything, no matter how good, in the “God-shaped” space within us our worship is fallen and so are we. It keeps us from living out the God designed purpose of our lives. It keeps us from living out the “full and abundant life” that Christ came to give. Having the awareness that only God fulfills, pulls our worship off the creation and onto him and causes us to be what he wants – one who reflects the image of his Son.

“Yes, thanks Lord!” I agreed with Jamie as I sat back and drank another sip of warm coffee.

Dried Up and Empty?

Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.” (1 Kings 17:7-9 NIV)

Ever feel like the “brook dried up?”

Even worse, have you ever had the brook dry up and be told to go get help from someone that looks like they probably need help more than you do? Why does God do that? Why does God send some of us to receive from people who don’t have it to give? Why does God send people to us for help and command us to give to them when our own wallets are empty?

Our church is growing in most ways that people would notice: More people attending, more people deepening their commitment to God, more people seeing life change. But something’s up with the “brook.” Our finances have gone down at nearly the same rate that attendance has gone up. As the number of needs and people grow our wallets and resources have been depleted.

For a while I’ve been sitting by the brook wondering why it seems to be drying up. I’ve been asking God to get it going again. I’ve been wondering why God would send us here to deliver His Word and then not provide for us. I’ve been wondering why he would send needy souls to us for help and then not give us the resources to help them. It seems… cruel.

“We want to serve You. We want to help others. God give us the resources we need to do it!” I’ve cried out in prayer.

But the brook just keeps trickling by.

“Perhaps it’s us?” I wonder. “Perhaps, we’ve done something wrong or we’re not working hard enough?” I question.

I’ve sensed no reply until recently. But lately I’ve sensed that God may want to use another brook or another source to provide for us. I’ve been sitting by the brook not wanting to change, but God seems to be leading us to move out of what is comfortable and yet still be obedient as servants of His gospel.

Here are a few things I’m feeling led to do:

I’ve asked Robin to find other work. She’s been the church secretary for eight years, but the finances to pay her aren’t coming in right now. She has already found another job and will start working at a local veterinarian in June. She has loved working for the church, but we really need the income she makes and perhaps working somewhere else will open other doors we haven’t yet foreseen.

I’ve given Stephen the freedom to consider working somewhere else too. The money to pay him hasn’t been coming in of late either. Both he and I have been working without pay for several weeks. Stephen is putting out his resume as a percussion instructor and also looking for other work that wouldn’t prevent him from continuing to live out his passion for leading worship. I’m really proud of him. He is willing to sacrifice and work side jobs in order to have the resources to keep serving at WCC.

I’ve taken some side work too. As many of you already know, I have been working with the Innovative Church Community to help develop learning communities in North Carolina for pastors and ministry leaders. I’ve been under a short term contract with them for several months. This small income stream has been a real blessing. I’ve also been certified as a Christian life coach. I’m currently coaching several church planters that pay me an hourly fee. Plus, I’ve been trying to write more. I recently sold an article to Church Solutions Magazine.

Finally, I’ve decided to stop being too proud to ask for bread from the “widow.” It must have been hard for Elijah to take food from her. She didn’t have enough even for herself and her son. But Elijah believed God. He believed God enough to ask the widow to believe too. He told her to make a little cake for him first and then there would be enough for her and her son too. He told her that if she would give the first portion of whatever she had to God, that God would always meet her and her family’s needs.

Do you know what happened? God used a widow’s empty jar to feed the man of God and the widow’s family.

I’m going to change my view of our church as being made up of people who don’t have anything to give. I’m going to ask people to stop looking at their empty jars and start asking them to believe God. We shouldn’t even be looking to jars or brooks anyway. We should be looking to God.

So, we’re moving away from dependence on one little brook. God’s not the brook anyway. He is the water. He is the life. He is what we need. And He can use any brook or widow’s jar He chooses.

Besides, He loves making dried up things flow with life and empty things full.

We Have A Great Church!

Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips. (Proverbs 27:2 KJV)

“Sounds like you have a great church!” My new friend Larry said, as we sat in a booth at a local Mexican restaurant getting acquainted.

Larry is a missionary and the father of Susanna, one of the Barton college students that recently joined WCC. She arranged for me to meet her father when he came to pick up her up from school this week.

As we got to know each other, I began to tell him about how our church was 15 years old and that we had become experts at seeing people come to Christ, get baptized, get discipled, and then sending them away.

“Of course…” I said, “The sending part hasn’t always been intentional. We have sent some of our best to the mission field and to plant churches, but many have left for other local churches. It seems we have become experts at growing a church up to around 300 and then growing it back down to 100 again.”

“So, what’s wrong with that?” Larry asked.

“Well, for one thing, it’s getting harder to lead because we keep sending those whom we’ve invested in most. It’s like a joke around here that no one wants to be on the WCC staff because within a year or so you’ll find yourself shipped to the Middle East or starting some ministry in another area. Our last associate pastor got shipped to Baghdad and now serves in Jordan. Of our last three youth pastors, one is now in Cairo, Egypt, another is preparing for ministry in Czech, and the third is planting a church in Greensboro.”

“I’m still listening for the problem.” Larry said, a smile tugging at his mouth. “OK, it’s not just former staff. Just being a deacon, a women’s ministry leader, or a children’s ministry leader can get you shipped out of here. We have former deacons out there who left us to go to seminary and become church planters and pastors. We have a former women’s leader who got her Ph.D. in Women’s Studies and teaches on the subject in New Orleans. We have a former children’s ministry director who moved from here and now helps another church plant with their children’s ministry.” I muttered.

“But…” Larry interrupted.

“I’m not finished.” I continued. “It seems like the minute we get people saved and baptized… the minute we get the husband to stop drinking… the wife to start loving her husband and children… the minute they start learning to serve God with their time, talent, and treasure… they leave. There. I said it. They leave right when they could be some help to us in building the church!”

“Wow. Now I know you have a really great church! Larry exclaimed. “I think your church is an equipping and sending church. I love the fact that you send people and that you still rent a building. I think you have a really, really great church!”

Having lunch with my new friend Larry has got me thinking. We are building a great church—Christ’s church! And His church is bigger than WCC.

So, what does that mean for us? Well, for one thing, after falling back last year to around 130 or so, we are now growing like crazy again. Based on current trends we’ll grow past 300 this year. People are getting saved. Joining the church. Getting their lives right.

But with this growth, we are having some very familiar growing pains. With more people coming we need more people serving. We need people serving with their time, talent, and treasure. Who among you is ready to step up and increase your commitment by giving back to God? Will you give your time by working with our children? Will you give your talent by helping serve on one of our ministry teams? Will you give a significant and sacrificial portion of your income to God as an investment in His Kingdom and an expression of your love and obedience?

I know some of you will say “Yes” to God. Of course, the danger is that some of you will grow up and be called to go out from us. And I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to that part.

But hearing the “praise of another” certainly helped my perspective.