Three Things I Have Learned From The Last Few Championship Games

The Warriors were up 3-1, but the Cavs won the NBA finals.

The Indians were up 3-1, but the Cubs won the World Series.

Alabama was up 24-14 on Clemson at the end of the third quarter in the CFP Championship Game, but Clemson won the game.

The Falcons were up 28-9 and lost the Super Bowl.

What can I learn, as a church leader, from these championship games? 

Playing with the lead is hard.

Once a team gets the lead, the fear of failure is magnified. This affects play calling, aggressiveness, and urgency. Church leaders must remember the victory is secured by Christ and there is no need to fear failure. We must not stop strategizing, being aggressive, and living with a sense of urgency because these symptoms indicate we’ve lost sense of the mission. We must not rest until EVERY PERSON has the opportunity to respond to the Gospel. We must faithfully execute the game plan given to us in Matthew 28 and not loose our edge of advancing the mission of God.

Momentum is extremely important.

In each of these games, you could sense the winning team loosening their grip on the trophy as the game(s) continued. After sprinting to the lead, you realized that they were standing on thin ice and about to lose it. You sensed a change of momentum.

Most people understand momentum in the context of a sporting event, but momentum is extremely important in church life. I’m amazed at how many church leaders do not have a clear sense of how to build and sustain momentum in ministry. Craig Groeschel wrote a helpful book called, IT: How Church Leaders Can Get It and Keep It.  We’ll all serve our churches better when we begin to understand how momentum works in ministry.

The opponent will fight until the end.

There is no tomorrow in a championship game or series. The season is over no matter what. The team trailing on the scoreboard is desperate and throwing everything in the playbook at the opposing team. A team doesn’t make it to the championship with a desire to come in second.

Church leaders must remember that our Enemy, is defeated but will fight until the very last moment. He will continue to tear down and destroy. He will continue to attack individuals, families and churches. He will use moral failure, division, and lies to destroy every life that he can.

BUT HE IS STILL DEFEATED.

Because of Christ, there will be no collapse in the victory march of the Christ-follower. There will be a day of celebration for those who are found in Christ. There will be a day of ultimate victory, but until that day, we must stay locked in, not lose momentum and recognize the fight with our enemy.

3 Reasons Why Young Pastors Need To Work Together

A few weeks ago, Matt Capps and I met for lunch and began to talk about the difficulty of young pastors to connect with other young pastors around the state. Matt and I have developed a friendship because we’ve intentionally pursued getting together, laughing, talking about church, praying for and encouraging one another. We decided that day to create a network of young pastors, like ourselves, who are Great Commission minded and desire to connect with other pastors, learn from each other, and partner together in order to best steward our future ministries.

I’m extremely excited about the opportunity this provides young pastors across the state of North Carolina. Our first gathering will be at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. We will gather at 4:15pm on Tuesday, November 15 in the Meadowbrook room at the Koury Convention Center.

I see great value in this gathering because:

  1. It will facilitate relationships pastor to pastor.

We pastor in a contentious world, and pastoring is not always easy. Rewarding, but not easy. We’ve seen too many pastors tense, on edge, and waiting to pounce on one another for any reason. When pastors have relationships with one another, they more often give the benefit of the doubt or have personal conversations instead of lashing out publicly. We’ve witnessed the divisive nature of pastor attacking pastor from pulpits, conference platforms and social media.

We may have different ministry philosophies, but hopefully we all have the same end goal in mind. If we’re going to truly impact lostness in the state of North Carolina, we’re going to have to come together as a team. The best sports teams always talk about chemistry. They know each other. They respect each other. They believe in each other. They work together towards the same end goal.

This gathering gives us an opportunity to kick off relationships that will go with us throughout our entire ministry.

  1. We can learn from each other.

We want to be a band of brothers advancing the gospel in our state. To do this we will create an environment where we can learn from each other and share our best practices. We’re going to sit at round tables and discuss different topics related to our church and ministries. Although this is not a revolutionary idea, it does underline the importance of learning from others and standing shoulder to shoulder with others who are walking the same path.

We’ll discuss questions like:

  1. Where do you go for resources, tips, and training?
  2. How are you developing leaders in your church?
  3. How do you keep yourself fresh to do ministry with a full tank?
  4. How are you engaging your community with the Gospel?
  5. How are you leading culture change in your church?
  6. What is the best way for us to cooperate to strengthen our future?

If everyone comes ready to share and ready to learn and challenge one another, this gathering will have significant impact in all of our ministries.

  1. We can prepare for the future.

The theme of our gathering is “Stewarding our Future Together.” When we steward our future, we make the most of it. Too many pastors become disheartened and burned out in ministry, and something must be done. While there is no silver bullet, we want to develop a group of great commission minded guys who will minister shoulder to shoulder for the next 30+ years. We hope to see each other as partners in ministry who together reach many people for Christ.

We want to resource each other as well! To get started, B&H Publishing and Crossway are providing free books (a $55 value) for each attendee.

I’m looking forward to Tuesday, November 15. I hope you’ll join us.

To sign up for the meeting, click on the link below.

Sign Up For The Young Pastors Network Gathering

Helpful Articles For Leaders

I sat in a freezing cold conference room (why are all conference rooms so cold?) as a 10th grade high school student when for the first time I heard the simple statement, “leaders are readers.” That simple statement made an impact on my life. Since that day, I’ve worked to develop a discipline of reading. Each day, I read the Bible, a chapter or section of a theological book and a chapter, section or article on leadership.

(I know, I know. I should broaden what I read to include fiction, biography, etc. One day it will happen.)

Along the way, I run into many helpful articles for church leadership and personal leadership. Check these links. I do not think you will be disappointed.

7 Ways to Draw Millennials to Your Church

Four Primary Tasks of a Senior Leader

Read or Get Out of the Ministry

The Pastor and His Culture

The Problem with the Harvest is Not the Harvest

Great Leaders Live By Strong Convictions

An Autopsy of a Deceased Church

 

Happy reading!

Reflections on my first three months as a Lead Pastor

Aside

Wow. It is hard to believe my family moved to Apex three months ago.  We’ve been blessed by all of the parties, dinners, cards, and gifts that have come our way.  Apex Baptist Church is a wonderful church which God has used since 1873 as a lighthouse of hope on the corner of downtown Apex, NC. I have the privilege of standing on the shoulders of faithful men who have led this church through the years.

Recently, I took a few moments to reflect on the last three months, here are five things that stuck out to me:

1. PRAY PRAY PRAY
I am more convinced now than ever before of the power of prayer. A pastor is to be a prayer warrior. I have realized how much of a priority prayer must be in my life. Before becoming a lead pastor, I thought I understood the necessity of prayer.  Wow. I have a whole new understanding of the purpose and priority of prayer. I’ve been taught that the more you pray, the more anointing of the Holy Spirit you will experience. I am beginning to feel like I could spend all day in prayer and not get all the way through the matters I want to bring to God in prayer. Prayer is imperative for a Lead Pastor

2. Mentors are priceless!
I had the opportunity to be mentored by a wonderful pastor, Bruce Frank. My second week on the job, I called to apologize for all the times I interrupted his sermon preparation. I am not sure I can place an appropriate value on the wisdom that he poured into me. I have been in multiple meetings and had statements that he made to me race through my mind… It is kind of creepy! There is no way I would be prepared for many of the challenges these first few months have brought without the wisdom that he shared with me. He is also is available to me today… priceless.

3. Sundays come FAST!
There is a new pressure in my life. I get to preach every seven days. It is fun, but it requires a lot of preparation. I am learning the value of proper time management and allowing my ministry assistant to help me leverage my time so that I can be adequately prepared on Sunday. I’m committed to expository preaching. This takes time to prepare and honestly has matured me substantially in my own personal walk with Christ.

4. Spiritual Warfare is HOT
I am not someone who sees a demon under every rock, but I do believe we are in a spiritual battle. Spiritual warfare is real. We all love to think about how God has a wonderful plan for our lives, but the reality is that the enemy has a plan as well. His plan is one to destroy our lives. We’ve had to step up our personal prayer lives and learned how to be better prepared for spiritual attacks. Because of this, I have learned the importance of praying for other pastors as they lead and minister.

5. This is a privilege
I cannot believe God allows me to do this. It is the most challenging and rewarding task I have ever experienced. Each Sunday, as I walk to the pulpit, I am overwhelmed with the responsibility and the privilege it is to preach the Gospel of of Jesus Christ.

Reflections on a HUGE Sunday

Wow. God was good to Apex Baptist on Sunday. We took some huge risks and invested time, energy and resources to reach out to our community. Sunday was the fall kickoff for our church. All the activities that had stopped for the summer are gearing back up and ready for a great fall semester. We, also, started a new teaching series called, Replenish: Rescue for the Tired Soul. For the last couple weeks, we encouraged our church members to reach out to their friends and neighbors and invite them to be with us on Sunday. We used buzz cards (small invitation cards) to explain all that was going on. Our life group leaders reached out to everyone on their roll and invited them back to church. We mailed a postcard to as many people as we could afford inviting them to church.

Last week, our church prayed and fasted for God to use us in our community. On Wednesday night, we prayed over every room in our church and prayer-walked our campus. I was blown away by the response of people coming out to pray. You could sense God was moving all week long.

When people arrived for worship, we had new signs out directing people where to park. Our church van was utilized to shuttle people from parking lots down the street. Volunteers greeted people in the parking lot and directed traffic. Our guests had reserved parking and were greeted as they arrived to church. The sermon truly started in the parking lot. It was amazing to watch God use so many church members as they served others.

Our preschool ministry workers were hustling all day long. We have so many wonderful families who jumped in a classroom at a moments notice to open a new classroom or offer additional help in overcrowded rooms. I believe the spirit with which our church operated glorified God!

It was fun to watch the worship center fill up. I am glad we had the extra chairs to offer latecomers a place to sit. Most importantly the Spirit of God was moving! We celebrate today, with all of heaven, those who trusted Christ as their Savior. In both services, the alters were full of people crying out to God in repentance. At the end of the day, we added five families into our fellowship.

I’m so thankful to be a part of a church that is serious about making a difference in their community. I hope and pray that this is just the beginning of a wonderful season of reaching out to others who need to find rescue for their tired soul.

Five Heroes

Many people lately have asked me about my mentors and who has had the greatest impact on my life.  Obviously, the answer to this question is ultimately, Jesus. He has made the greatest difference in my life. He has been there when I have celebrated accomplishments and been there when I walked through the deepest valleys of my life. I am so thankful for Christ in my life. He is my hero.

Next to Jesus, the following people have made a significant impact in my life. These are my earthly heroes.

1. My Wife – Yep. She’s incredible! We’ll celebrate 10 years of marriage in January.  The best decision, next to trusting Christ, of my life was asking Brigitte to marry me. She is a constant encouragement, prayer warrior, wonderful mother and my best friend. There is no way that I would be a pastor of a church without the love and encouragement that Brigitte has given me.  We’ve experienced a lot of wonderful blessings from God together and I cannot wait to see what is next!

2. My Parents – Mark and Debbie Harrison are the best parents anyone could ask for. They always kept their relationship with Christ first and modeled putting their family above their work consistently.  My parents were involved in my life when I wanted them to be there and when they needed to be there. I watched them battle disease, endure hardship and stand for Christ. I am thankful for my mom’s prayer life. I am thankful for my dad’s passion for Christ. They both love Jesus. I am blessed to be their son.

3. Dr. Steve Gaines – Bro. Steve is my childhood pastor. My family moved to First Baptist Church, Gardendale, AL, the summer before my 8th grade school year. Bro. Steve boldly preached the Scriptures in a way that challenged the intellectual, but also engaged young and developing minds.  I am very thankful for the church I grew up in. Bro. Steve led the church to worship and expect God to do incredible things. I grew like crazy under the discipleship of my parents and Bro. Steve. As a young adult, he encouraged me in ministry and helped me learn how to serve on a church staff. He was patient with me and graciously began to mold me into the minister I am today.

4. Dr. Bruce Frank – Pastor Bruce has invested countless hours into my development as a pastor over the last 3 years. Monthly, we met for lunch and he allowed me to ask any question I had about pastoral ministry.  He taught me how to think strategically and how to lead a church with vision.  I remember having so many “ah ha” moments when meeting with Pastor Bruce. It was an honor to serve the Lord Jesus under Pastor Bruce’s leadership at Biltmore Baptist Church. I do not know how to say thank you enough for his investment in me.

5. Last, but not least, I look up to a retired football coach in the Gardendale area, Bill Hawkins. He actually coached at the rival high school to Gardendale. He retired from coaching and taught drivers education for the school board. He wore out his brake trying to teach me to drive. Coach has always been a source of encouragement to me. I always look forward to hearing “How we doing there good buddy!” every time I go home.  He has modeled true love as he has stood by his ailing wife for many years. I remember spending some time at his house in the summer as a high school student and he did his best to influence me to the most important parts of life. I listened Coach. Thanks.

These are very important heroes in my life.  In the Scriptures, we meet two men named Paul and Timothy.  The Apostle Paul is well known for many reasons, but one being that he was developing younger men to carry on the faith and be the pastors of the churches he planted.  I am so thankful to be a Timothy to these listed above.  I am also thankful for the growing opportunity to be a Paul to young ministers who are just getting started.

When You Leave a Church Staff…

I recently resigned my position as East Campus Pastor at Biltmore Baptist Church to become the Lead Pastor at Apex Baptist Church.  This decision was not made lightly because we really enjoyed the leadership God had us under and the ministry that he had entrusted to us.

So when it became obvious that God was calling my family to Apex, I desperately wanted to figure out how to leave from the church staff at Biltmore well.  I am not saying I got it all right, but I wanted to offer a couple tips that I learned along the way.

First, Know your Leader. When you work with someone day in and day out, you should learn how he responds to different situations.  You should know if you leader can handle walking through the process with you or if he will take it personally and cut you out of the loop as you walk the process. When you are considering bringing your leader in on the process, realize that timing is everything.  If he is having a rough day, rushing out the door to an important meeting, or just ready to go home, it is better to wait. I went to talk to Pastor Bruce three different times before I brought it up. It took about a week of trying to talk with him about it to find the right time.  When I did it was a good conversation.  Pastor was very gracious and kind. I realize that I was lucky enough to work for a very secure leader.  This was very important to the situation. He wanted to see me succeed.  He is a mentor to me and I was able to bring him in on the process early.  God used Pastor Bruce tremendously in my life as I walked this journey.

Second, Keep it Confidential. You will be tempted to tell your closest friends and co-workers, but it is unnecessary.  No one except your leader needs to know.  Keep him in the loop and let him decide when to bring other people into the conversation. He’s the leader. He will still be serving the church after you leave. Let him release the information in the manner and timing that he desires.  Recognition for your work will come if it comes. Its not about you leaving, but its about the ministry of the church continuing and the gospel advancing.

Third, Work Hard. You will be tempted to coast.  You will be tempted to pack it in and wait for the time to pass.  That is the last thing you should do.  It is not wise to make plans for the ministry you lead after you are gone, but you can still develop people.  Literally, work yourself out of a job. Cover every thing you do. Work to make the ministry function without you until a new leader can come replace you.  As you come down the home stretch to announcing your resignation, make sure people see others where they normally see you. It is not that you are not there, but other staff members are there with you. The hard work when leaving a ministry position is making certain you develop others around you so that your are not missed.  Don’t pack your office before your last day or during office hours. WORK HARD UNTIL THE END.

Fourth, Be a Unifier.  Focus on unity. This is not your opportunity to tell your leader everything that is done wrong at the church.  This is an opportunity to encourage and empower others who must continue to carry the baton long after your leave.  This goes for staff and lay people.  It is easy to get caught up with all the things that are not perfect at the church… Well, there is no perfect church. Keep your mouth shut and work to strengthen the unity of the body as you leave.

Again, I am certain I did not get it all right, but these are some priorities that I maintained as I stepped aside at Biltmore. Hopefully they are helpful to you…