Aloha to Hawaii

It’s hard to leave a place so beautiful and new friendships so meaningful, but we have to say “Aloha” to Hawaii.

Robin and I have had a wonderful experience and we’re returning supercharged for ministry in Wilson, NC! We are looking forward to see what beautiful things God does through us as we put into practice the learnings we’ve gained in Oahu.

Kevin, Julie, Robin, & Me



Perhaps the most meaningful things have been to make friends, . . .



The winning beach volleyball team – “The Five-Os” with Wayne. Can you hear the theme music!




. . . build teams,





. . . and enjoy rainbows.

God paints a beautiful rainbow!

Worship at New Hope Oahu

Worship_at_new_hopeRobin and I attended two of the five services at New Hope over the weekend. Their “Levites” come in on Friday night and set up the whole high school campus for the two Saturday night and three Sunday morning services.

The stage set is so beautiful that it’s hard to believe that they set up and tear down every weekend. They have made themselves indispensible to the public high school. They have installed stage lights, sound, and air conditioning. They have increased the electrical capacity of the building to handle the additional load. They painted and carpeted the auditorium. They have spent hundreds of thousands on a school that they rent.

Why? Because property on Oahu is much too expensive. One 15 acre property they looked at went for Wayne over 60 million. Pastor Wayne says that he would rather use that kind of money to send missionaries and plant more churches.

I agree.

People finding peace in the Pacific

HawbaptSunday was an amazing day! Pastor Wayne Cordeiro invited the visiting pastors to his church conference in Hawaii to join him in baptizing new believers. So, we joined together with the New Hope church family at Ala Moana Park near Waikiki Beach on the island of Oahu as they baptized over 150 candidates.

Their church is so much like WCC (except instead of blue grass and barbeque, they have hula and poo poo). They are 12 years old and meet in rented facilities. They rent office space during the week and a high school for their weekend services. When they do a baptism, they do it in public and afterwards they have a covered dish meal together.

Hawaiibaptism They have five weekend services. Two on Saturday night and three on Sunday morning. Their volunteers come in on Friday night and start setting up for the weekend. Over 10,000 people attend every weekend. It takes 1500 volunteers every weekend to set-up, serve, and tear-down.

Certainly the highlight for me was getting to baptize an Asian family. They found the peace of Christ as they followed Him in obedience.

Peace in the Pacific.

If you’re jet lagged, Hawaii is the place to get over it!

Garywakiki We’re here! Our flight was delayed, but we finally arrived in Honolulu at 3:30 P.M. Hawaii time (which is 9:30 Eastern, we are severly jet-lagged). After a good nights sleep we awoke and had breakfast at a restaurant on Wakiki Beach with Diamond Head in the background. I’m glad we came in a day early so I could get somewhat acclimated before the conference begins tonight.

Robin and I can’t believe we’re here. God is so good. Now, the challenge is to not only get over the jet lag, it’s to choose to relax and live in the present. Not trying to do everything, see everything. Just enjoy the moment as God brings each new day.

Hey, that might be a good way to live anywhere.

Warm drink and an even warmer conversation

Fb0_mugondeskThey said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts feel strangely warm as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32 (NLT)

“How can I hear God speak? When I read the Bible it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.” Said my new friend as we sat sipping our lattes under a starry sky last night.

Leaning forward, I answered, “When you go home tonight, before you open your Bible, say this to God: ‘God will you help me understand what I’m about to read in Your Word.’ Then, read until you feel Him stir your heart.”

“Stir my heart?” My friend interrupted.

“Yes, I can’t describe it better than that. Keep reading until you feel you have been affected by an insight or understanding. Sometimes you only have to read a couple of verses. Sometimes more. But don’t read like you’re studying. Read asking God to illuminate your understanding. Then, when you feel moved, stop reading and say: ‘God, thanks for helping me to understand Your Word. Now, help me to incorporate this understanding into my life.'”

“So, it’s that simple?” He asked.

“It’s that simple. And it’s that hard because you’re going to have to humble yourself to ask God for help.  The Bible is a spiritual book and it requires spiritual insight to understand it.” I answered.

After nearly three hours of warm conversation, our lattes and our evening had run out. But my new friend was still full of questions.

“I feel like I have more questions now than when we first started talking.” He sighed as we both got up to leave.

“Good.” I replied. “I didn’t come here to give you answers. I’m sure I don’t know all the answers to your questions. But I do know how to ask God. That’s what I’m praying for you tonight. That God will speak to you.”

This morning I received an email from my new Starbucks friend. He wrote, “You won’t believe this, I tried what you said last night and started reading the book of Matthew and God spoke to me. I mean, I actually felt a deeper understanding. I can’t wait to get together and talk with you about it!”

I can’t wait either.

Some problems are good

Barton "We’ve got a problem." Said my daughter-in-law, Nicole, as we sat down at the dinner table.

"Yeah? What is it?" I asked.

"Well, you know how we gave out free water and helped students move in at Barton?" She said.

"Yeah?" I wondered while gesturing her to continue.

"And you know how we had a special event on campus to attract new students and how we included information about our Bible studies for them at registration?" She continued.

"Okay. I know about all that. But I thought we felt all our work was a success." I answered.

"It was a success. But now we don’t know what to do. We had over 60 girls and 15 guys sign up to be in small groups this semester. And we don’t know how we’re going to find leaders and groups for all of them!" Nicole finally blurted out with a big-eyed look on her face.

"Oh, that is a problem." I said. "But, it’s a great problem isn’t it?"

I’m glad that WCC is helping Campus Crusade for Christ do ministry at the Barton College campus. We’re in our second year of helping them. We have three of our own working diligently to offer small groups and a weekly Wednesday night meeting for the students at Barton. Caroline Combs works at Barton and she is the faculty sponsor for CCC. Jonathan and Nicole Combs are working with the students to form a student-led leadership team and reach their campus for Christ. We see many of these wonderful students at our WCC services every Sunday.

Would you join me in praying for CCC at Barton. They have some good problems. 

Loving one another a test of spiritual paternity

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. (1 John 5:1 NLT)

Hpim2316 How can we know we belong to God? How can we know He is our Father?

Simple. Take a spiritual paternity test. The apostle John offers one in his first epistle. He says that one of the tests for paternity is about your passion– who do you love? He says we must love God. But then he continues with the real test (because we all say that we love God), he says that the proof that we love God is that we love His children.

Do you love the people of God? Do love being with them in fellowship? John says that a real test of having God as Father is that you like being with His family.

Hpim2317 That’s why I’m really excited about this coming week. This Sunday we’re having our church picnic. I love this event because I get to play, eat, and just sit and talk with you– my church family. I’m really stoked about this, so you better be there. Because if you don’t come, well, you’ll miss out and the rest of us will sorely miss you!

Also, next Wednesday night we’re having MidWeek at CCS. We’re planning a great evening of worship and teaching. I think you’ll love it.

That’s right. I think you’ll love it because you belong to the Father. And like me, you love one another.

Jonathan starts at Southeastern

100_2781 It’s hard to believe, but my son, Jonathan has started his first semester at Southeastern, the seminary I graduated from only 13 years ago.

This past week I drove over to Wake Forest to attend chapel with Jonathan. He had let me know that a former classmate of mine, Dr. Stephen Rummage, was the guest speaker. So, I went. It was good to see Stephen again, but I was there for Jonathan. As we sat together in Binkley Chapel on the beautiful campus of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary I reflected on how amazing it was to be there with my son.

Only a few years ago I was a student at SEBTS, dreaming about and preparing for planting a church. Jonathan was only seven years old at the time. I never thought I’d be sitting there beside him, with him as the student and me just his dad.

Sebts We walked around the campus after chapel and I told him story after story of how my experience there had shaped my life. Before we left I saw my old preaching professor, Dr. Wayne McDill, walking by. So, I stopped him and introduced him to Jonathan. Stephen Rummage was standing there with us.

I said, “Dr. McDill, don’t you think Stephen did a great job in chapel this morning?”

Dr. McDill replied with a raised eyebrow, “He did okay.”

Stephen offered a nervous laugh.

Dr. McDill continued, “Of course, since he’s one of mine I have very high expectations.”

As Jonathan and I walked away, it was a rare moment… both father and son intimidated by an older man’s opinion. I told Jonathan that it would be wonderful if he could take preaching from Dr. McDill. It’s good for a man to be sharpened by an older man who doesn’t mind being a sharpener.

I said, “Dr. McDill is tough, but I’d love for you to be trained by one of the best exegetical expositors and teachers I ever had.”

“Besides,” I continued, “You’re one of mine and I have very high expectations.

The future is so bright I have to wear…

Garyshades …shades!

It’s September 1st and we just had the coolest evening that Wilson has seen in a while. We even had dinner outside on the deck. And except for the occasional mosquito bite (life’s never perfect) it was a great evening. After a very hot summer (105 degrees!!!) it looks like things are finally cooling down.

That’s the thing about seasons. They always have a beginning and an ending. I think our church (and my family) has been through a challenging season. But I sense it ending and a new season arriving.

I believe a new breeze is blowing. I don’t see its effects yet, but there’s a subtle change in the spiritual climate at WCC. I think people are about to start really committing their lives to following Christ. I think they’re going to stop holding back and really start giving their very best to Him.

So, we’re gearing up for a new season of exciting growth and change at WCC. Robin is cutting back her work at the vet to two days a week, so that she can help us organize some ministry teams to help with things such as: entering computer data, follow-up on Connection Cards, helping with mailouts of birthday and anniversary cards, folding and stuffing the bulletin and many more important administrative tasks.

I’ve asked Sonny Allen to help build a new F.I.T. (First Impressions Team) team. We’re writing a new training manual and plan to have a training in a couple of Sundays. We really need to sharpen our look for the new guests that will be arriving this Fall.

Stephen is putting away his life guard’s whistle and returning to full time focus. He has already built a new leadership team for the WCC Student Ministry and has great plans for expanding our WCC worship ministry. He is also teaching percussion lessons at Pro Music in downtown Wilson, which I think gives him a great opportunity to invest in our community.

Evelyn Jenkins has been working on new ideas for the Great Adventure. We’ve submitted her requests for more space to the CCS administrator and await his reply. We’re so blessed to have someone like Evelyn who really wants our children’s ministry to excel.

We’re looking for small group facilitators to help lead some new Community Groups in the Fall. We’re going to offer a training in September, so if you know someone who has a passion here, let us know.

We’ve just had our second CLASS 101 this summer. Usually churches go backwards in the summer, but ours is growing. I’ll be introducing our new members at our next Sunday service.

We’re bringing back MidWeek this September 12th. We’re going to try one in September and one the second week of October. We really want to emphasize worship, prayer, and teaching at these events. We’re committing to monthly for now until we see how well it meets needs. We don’t want to do things just because they’ve always been done. We want what we do to really count.

I see a bright future. New things. New people. A new season.

Do you see it? Here, try my shades. Do you see what I see?

Preaching the Real Jesus

The_seven_signs_bulletin_2 Wow! I’ve really enjoyed preparing and speaking about the seven miraculous signs of Jesus that the apostle John recorded in his gospel. Our Sunday school image of Jesus always gets challenged by a fresh reading and study of Him in the gospels. He always seems so much more dangerous and controversial when we just read the text without watering it down as a “Bible story.”

Something else I’ve noticed these past seven Sundays is how much more effective the gospel is at penetrating human hearts when we don’t try to oversimplify it or explain away the difficult parts. One attender indicated that it was the understanding from the sign where Jesus walked on the water that really moved him.

The attender wrote, “That Jesus would send his disciples into a storm and then wait until the 4th watch to go out to them really spoke to me. I think this is a better explanation of reality than the stuff of Christianity lite usually being preached. This kind of faith isn’t so self serving and syrupy. It requires more of me and I think now I must respond.”

Several people have come to faith in Jesus during this series. Some of them self admitted atheists and agnostics. Others have found their faith challenged.

That’s what the real Jesus does. He challenges our view of reality. He makes us choose.

I’m thankful that many chose to follow Him in these last seven weeks!