Monday, March 31, 2008

This is real ...

I have a friend currently serving on a pastor search committee. He received this by email. This is from a real member of a real church. The person writing the letter below included a web site and I checked it out myself. Since this is going back on the internet, I am editing out the church name. But this is for real! I don't know whether I feel more sorry for the poor pastor or the people playing church headed for an eternity apart from God! Wow! I've been around church all my life and I knew there were people that thought this way, but I would never have believed they would actually put it in writing and try this ...

Over the course of much prayer by a group here at ___________Baptist Church, I have been assigned as the desginated writer for our small group, we are a small SBC church that would like to recommend our pastor to you for a number of positive reasons: PLEASE HEAR US OUT BEFORE JUDGING US. We have a wonderful pastor who has a lot of ideas about how we reach our town or area, the problem is that most of us (the older one's) in the church do not desire to see the changes. We are afraid that our pastor will get frustrated after a while, all we are asking is that you please contact him to see if he might be interested in serving a church that has a desire to change. We have no access to his resume - and he is not currently sending resumes out (that we know about) - however if interested we suggest you contact him directly. We do know a few churches have contacted him -but we do not know if he is considering any of them. We believe the best for him to be where his gifts and talents in preaching and leadership can be used by the Lord, rather than where the heartbeat is faint. Our only desire the best for our pastor and we know he would be much better suited for a church that wants to reach and grow and reach people with the Good News! The church has a web site is

Friends of ______________Baptist Church

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ears to hear?

Often we see Jesus in the Gospels telling a story or teaching a principle, followed by the words, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear". Did you know we honor God (or not) by how we hear His Word? My role in preaching is to teach God's Word Sunday by Sunday. But you (ClearView attenders) also have a role ... to hear in a way that is pleasing to the Lord.

Here are a few principles to practice to help with your listening.

1. Come with a prepared heart. Come to the service ready to hear. Double check to make sure you are ready spiritually to hear what God might say. Sins confessed. Distractions eliminated. Mind and heart open to whatever God may say to you through His Word.

2. Make personal application. I always attempt to make application of the passage we are studying. But there is no way I can know or speak to every personal situation in the group gathered on any given Sunday. But the Holy Spirit can. As you listen you will do so through your own filter of experiences and life situation. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you make application.

3. Take notes. Every study ever done related to communication and retention tells us that taking notes (writing it down) assures greater retention. Jot down the thoughts the Holy Spirit prompts in your mind as you are listening. Write down scripture references if they are not already in your notes. Underline words and phrases emphasized in our study.

4. Review the notes during the week. Any student will tell you if you don't review the notes from class, you will not do well on the test. Well, we are all students of The Word. If we walk away from Sundays but never return to the things God taught us that day, we will not assimilate those lessons into our lives.

5. Teach what you learn to somone else. "And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."
2 Tim 2:2 (HCSB)
You may think, "I'm not a teacher." We are all teachers. There are people in your life for whom you are in the best position to be a teacher. That new believer at work. That lost person open to spiritual conversations. Your child. Your spouse. Your parent in an assisted living facility.

6. Put it into practice. "But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:22 (HCSB)
Warning: this is for serious disciples only! We see commercials on TV that say, "Don't try this at home". Well, my challenge is, "Try this at home!" Today we learned that a life of impact is a life full of the Holy Spirit, wisdom, faith, and power. What will you do with that? Do you have all of the wisdom you want? All the faith you want? All the power? Controlled by the Holy Spirit every moment every day? Me neither. So, what will you do to pursue each of those?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

What translates?

I spent the week of March 15 - 21 speaking through a translator. Always an interesting experience. I am grateful for Jocelyn and Gregorio who shared translation responsibilities during my time in Belize.

I was assigned to do our group's devotion time Tuesday morning of the trip. I went to Belize with it all planned, but during the first few days God changed those plans. I was journaling the things I felt could be learned and taken home by all of us (the things that translate) and the things we could not take home (things that would not translate.

These were my thoughts as I shared with the team:

Things that would NOT translate:
1. The heat. It was hot and humid. We flew back to Nashville where the temperatures were in the mid 40's
2. The language. The villages in which we were working spoke Spanish as their primary language.
3. The pace of life. Belizeans simply do life at a different pace. No watches necessary!
4. The advantage of being American. Belizeans would show up sometimes just because the Americans were going to be there. Kids would run to the van before we would get stopped.
5. The value of the US dollar vs. the Belizean dollar. One US dollar equals two Belizean dollars. BUT the price of gas was $5.00 (US) / gallon even with the exchange.

Things that SHOULD or DO translate:
1. We were surrounded by lost people. Just like we are in the US.
2. Sensitivity to lost people. When on a mission trip, it just seems we are more sensitive to the fact the people are lost. We should translate this into our everyday lives in the US.
3. Boldness to share. We (me included) seem to be more bold about sharing our faith with people we don't know in another country. That just should not be the case.
4. Seemingly everyone has a need. It is easy to see the needs in a place of poverty like Belize. So we feel compelled to help. Fact is, everybody is hurting somewhere in their lives even in the US. The difference is, we can mask our needs because of our financial means. But if we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading, we will see below the surface and find most people around us would also be open to our ministry here.
5. The Mission. Our mission does not change from foreign soil to the house around the corner. We are called to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.

We saw at least 15 come to Christ in a week in Belize. This is by my account of hearing the testimonies of those that made the trip. The number could be higher. I fully believe if we were as sensitive to the Holy Spirit, focused on the mission, and bold in sharing our faith, we could see those kind of numbers every week right where we live. The math is really impressive. Twenty four people focused on the mission for 7 days equals 15 (approx.) coming to Christ. What would happen if the 1300 - 1400 that gather every week at ClearView were just as focused and just as bold? Are you looking for the red apples (see post Evangelism Strategy 2)?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Belize Pictures

I promised pictures of the Belize mission trip. Thanks to Dan Ferrell and Rick Barnett you can view them here and here.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Union University Love Offering

I received a letter from Dr. David Dockery, President of Union University. You may recall this campus was hit by an EF4 tornado February 5, 2008 on their Jackson campus. While the lives of the students were spared, there was devastating damge done to the campus facilities.

As many of you who visit this blog know, this one is a bit personal for me. Brittany, our youngest daughter, is a freshman at Union. We were very blessed not to have lost anything in the storm. But I did visit the campus the morning of February 6. It was a scene that will never be erased from my memory.

However, the letter I received from Dr. Dockery did not come to me as a parent of a student, but as a Pastor of a Tennessee Baptist Church. Dr. Frank Page, current President of the Southern Baptist Convention has issued a call for a love offering for Union. In order to rebuild, Union will need as much as $20 million in addition to what was covered by insurance. The leaders of our national convention, as well as the leaders of the Tennessee Baptist Convention have asked that we receive this money April 6 as well as have a special time of prayer for this University.

Here is an excerpt from Dr. Dockery's letter:

While we need your financial support, the most important thing you can do for us is to pray for us. Our institutional needs after the insurance settlement, including the cost of the extensive rebuilding of the residence life facilities and the need to make up huge revenue losses brought on by the storm, could well reach $20 million. Union University has never faced a financial challenge of this size. We want you to know that if your congregation has not already made a gift, we will be ever grateful for your support for us at this time in response to the appeal from our TBC [Tennessee Baptist Convention] leaders, who have established April 6 as the official day for this special offering. We will be so very grateful for your help.

We will not "pass the plate" twice in the service. If you wish to give to this special offering, please just indicate on your envelope the amount you wish to go to Union. If you give online, please indicate in the appropriate comment area how much you wish to go toward Union. You may also mail your gift to ClearView clearly marked that it is a gift for Union. The address is 537 Franklin Road, Franklin, TN 37069.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Belize Update 2

My last update was that only one person had gotten sick on the trip. Ooops! Actually, before it was all said and done, we had 6 or 7 of our 24 team members that caught some kind of stomach bug. Hard to tell whether it was something being passed around the team or something they ate. All seem to be doing well now. We all flew into Nashville between 11:00 pm and 12:00am last night on two different flights (one from Dallas and one from Miami). Only two pieces of luggage missing that I am aware of ... one for Jim Lackey and one for me.

The final two days went well. We hosted a men's dinner in San Juan Wednesday night with approximately 45 local men attending. That is a great turnout in that part of the world. I spoke from Ephesians (I know some of you are shocked) chapter 5 about the role of men and how they are to behave toward their wives. This is a great need in Belize. (It is also a great need in America come to think of it).

We spent the last night (Thursday night) in San Ignacio in a hotel (don't think Hilton here, but the shower had hot water!! ... something we had not had for a week). We had a final evening together with a great meal and a good night's sleep. The final evening after the meal was a time of sharing. Too much detail to go into here, but hearing each person share their one take-away was a blessing indeed.

I sensed God giving me a vision for ClearView missions' future while on this trip. We will have short term mission trips on all continents in a calendar year, every year. We will have someone from ClearView on short term missions 52 Sundays every year. This vision will be a reality within 5 years. More on this as God fleshes this out in our minds and hearts. We must take the gospel to the nations.

See you tomorrow ... it's Easter!
Pictures still to come ...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Belize Update

If you will look on the map to the right ... follow the east coast line south to Palencia ... look just a little left of Palencia and see Bear Creek ... we are located just a few miles north of Big Creek (also known as Independence).

It is Wednesday morning about 9:30. Eleven of the team are working on the construction site building a place that thousands of future mission teams from the US will be using to feed their teams. It is a 30' x 50' building with a kitchen and cook's quarters on one end and the eating area on the other end. Mark Baird is the man! He is the point man on the construction project. He has several capable helpers ... and then a few like Jim Lackey and myself (the day I worked construction) that just do what we are told (most of the time). A couple of the local pastors and a handful of lay people have also pitched in. I have always been amazed how much mission construction crews can get done in a short period of time. The building is really taking shape.

Thirteen of us are in the village of San Juan several miles from the construction site. Each morning there are 160+ younger childrean that attend school taught by our team. They are reviewing math and english. Sometimes the leaders from ClearView speak english and sometimes they speak through an interpreter. Fun to watch as we try to communicate.

In the afternoons in San Juan another 80+ older children attend the same school. Crazy thing is, this is the first week of a two week break from regular school for these children. They are voluntarily showing up to learn more during a break!! Imagine that in good old USA. Not gonna happen.

Vacation Bible School and worship services are held by the team each evening. Last night was the last night of VBS. I'm not sure how many children were attending, but well over 100 is a good conservative number. We have had probably as high as 30 adults attend worship. The most encouraging thing is that we have seen an increase of men attending each evening. Not something normal here. Through one on one conversations we have seen several locals pray to receive Christ. I don't know the total, but probably about 10 at this point. The school groups will present the gospel to all those attending today.

Yesterday afternoon I had the opportunity to lead a time of training for some local pastors that are a part of the Belize Baptist Association. Many of the wives also attending. We had about 20 or so total attending. We simply looked at God's Word related to the call, character, and competencies of pastors.

Everyone on the team has really done well. As always on these trips, patience and flexibility are at the top of the list of requirements. There are always little surprises (good and challenging). But the "challenging" have really been very few and only minor. Judy Barnett has done a great job of planning and team preparation. We have only had one get a little sick. Melvin Mitchell (Judy's dad) had picked up a little bug or something. He is doing a little better today.

I hope to have some pictures to upload on a link soon. I don't have my camera and will be relying on others to provide the photography. But there are plenty of cameras among the team. So pictures will be forthcoming.

Can't wait to celebrate Easter with those of you at ClearView this coming Sunday!

Thursday, March 13, 2008


This will most likely be my last blog before leaving with a group from ClearView for Belize. We are leaving Saturday morning (March 15) for 6 days on a mission trip. If I can find the right technology, I will be blogging while in Belize. However, if I cannot find my way onto the internet, I will catch you up when I return to Franklin.

In the mean time:
1. Pray for those on this trip. Pray for their safety and health.
2. Pray for the people to whom we will be ministering and sharing the gospel.
3. Pray for Easter services.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


OK, most of the blogs on here have been a bit heavy. So let's try something a little lighter. March Madness, Bracketology, and Final Four are prominent words in our vocabularies these days. This has been a great year for college basketball in the state of Tennessee. OK, so I'm not a raving fan of UT or Vandy or Memphis, but it's been fun to live in Middle TN as a basketball fan.

Actually, Austin Peay was my first love (basketball). But that has been so long ago, I can hardly remember it. For those of you that have been around Middle Tennessee basketball for a long time, it was in the days of "Fly" Williams. I saw him play at the old Austin Peay gym (The Little Red Barn). That place would actually shake when the fans would crank it up! That is where my love for basket ball began. But I digress.
With my Georgia Bulldogs not even sniffing the tournament, that leaves me free to play the field. I suppose I could pull for Western Kentucky since I have a bit of a financial investment with my oldest daughter attending there. Congrats to the Hilltoppers for winning their conference, but I'm afraid the first round will be the end of the line. Yes, I know they haven't set the brackets yet, but I still believe the will make a quick exit.

Or maybe I could pull for Belmont. Geographically, they are located closest of all the teams in teh tournament to the church I pastor and my wife did attend there, but again, it's futile. The Bruins will make a hasty exit as well.

What about Vandy or UT or Memphis? As much as I like Shan Foster,
I don't think Vandy is strong enough defensively to go all the way.
That leaves UT and Memphis. Either of those two certainly stand a chance.
I would give Memphis the edge in any rematch.

So who would I pick? UNC. Sorry, but Roy Williams is just the man! King of the Hill will be the Tar Hills when the tournament ends. There. I made my prediction.
Early? Yes. "But the brackets aren't even set yet." I know.

So what's your prediction?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Evangelism Strategy - Part 2

I sometimes wonder how the early church followers of Christ would have responded to such a term as "evangelism strategy". "What are you talking about? Evangelism (spreading the good news of Christ) is what we do. Do you mean you are going to make this a program of the church? You can't do that. Evangelism is as natural as breathing." It is obvious the early followers of Christ could not help but tell others about Christ.

"for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
Acts 4:20 (HCSB)
That is why I have no doubt, the most biblical approach to evangelism is to put Christ followers who are passionate about their faith and their Savior in contact with people who need to hear, and cut them loose. Again, we are back to each of us being the key to evangelim. Looking for red apples (see Part 1) who are ready to hear the gospel. The amazing thing is, we are surrounded by these folks: people who do not know Christ who have hit a wall in life, looking for someone to help them find hope (which we know is found only in Jesus Christ).

I hear much made of "making the gospel relevant to our culture". How much more relevant can you make it than to have people with the boldness and the passion to make it a part of their every day conversation?
NO, we do not hit people over the head with our king sized King James. We don't have to if we are simply alert to those around us whose life is in a ditch. But with a winsomeness and sensitivity step up to the plate and share what it means to have Christ in your life. As a friend of mine says, cultures don't come to Christ, people do. And there is no better way to bring people to Christ, than through people.

What's our "strategy" for seeing more people come to Christ???? It's more people prayerfully and passionately sharing their faith naturally with hurting people around them on soccer fields, in restaurants, in doctors' offices, at school, in offices, on airplanes, etc.. Oh yeah, where you and I are every day. As we see in the early church, God will bless the bold sharing of His people.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Evangelism Strategy - Part 1

I've had several conversations over the past week or two about the subject of evangelism. As I said recently, evangelism seems to be the one subject Christ followers and people that claim no relationship with Christ both get up tight about. The area I have felt ClearView must strengthen more than any other is seeing more adults (and students) come to Christ. But how?

The typical and traditional response of many Pastors to a paragraph like the one above is seek out the newest "evangelism program" and "implement" it in their church. Been there. Done that. There are benefits to such programs such as: 1) Raised awareness in the church of the need to share our faith; 2) Higher accountability related to our individual responsibility to share our faith; 3) Some experience more of a comfort level as they have a formula to fall back on; 4) etc. Please don't read into this that I think these various programs are bad. Some churches do find these to be helpful. I join many who would say, "Any evangelism program is better than no evangelism strategy." Amen!

But the question I must answer is, "What is our evangelism strategy at ClearView?" Simple. If you are reading this and you are a member of ClearView, you are the key to the strategy. I would rather have hundreds (and soon thousands) of Christians living out their faith every day alert and willing to give a verbal witness in the midst of every day situations, than I would 50 or 100 showing up one night a week to go talk to people whom we have never met to use a method to artificially turn a conversation toward Christ.

So, how do we do it? Every adult (and older student) I have ever seen come to Christ has come the same way. God used a crisis of some kind to provide a wake-up call in their life. A marriage crisis. The death of a loved one. Moving to another state. Loss of a job. The birth of a baby (a postive crisis, but a crisis). A child breaking a heart. An alcoholic parent. A bad health report. Caught doing something illegal.

It is when people hit these crisis points, we must be there. Fact is, we cross the paths of people in crisis almost every day. Our next door neighbors, work associates, fellow students, ride share partners, PTO members, booster club members, etc. will walk through difficult times. We have the hope found only in Jesus Christ they seek and will seek during these times. When that mom begins to share with you how difficult things are in her marriage lately: Open Door! When your neighbor shares with you he just received a pink slip from a company he has been with for 20 years: Open Door! When the family down the street begins to share with you the difficulties they are having raising their 12 year old daughter: Open Door! God has their attention and He has you in their life for such a time as this!!

Rather than try to pick fruit before it is ripe (green apples) and thus bruise it, if we will simply pick the ripe fruit (red apples) right in front of us, we will see God bless with the fruit of more people coming to church. When it becomes second nature, we will see growth defined more by multiplication than by addition.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Moving Toward Easter

Brittany (my youngest daughter) and I were grabbing a quick sandwich this past Saturday at Jersey Mike's in Cool Springs. As we were walking down the line telling the guy behind the counter what we wanted on our sandwiches he complimented the jewelry hanging around Britt's neck. Britt said she gets compliments on it all the time.

It is a special piece of jewelry for Britt for several reasons. 1) It was a high school graduation gift, 2) It was a gift from her grandparents (Nana and Papa), 3) It was handmade combining stones from her greatgrandmother, her grandmother, and her mom 4) it is a cross.

I began to think of the irony of the young man complimenting her cross. How far we have come in history. At one time the cross was seen as the most cruel instrument of death known to mankind. Today, it is a piece of jewelry to be admired. Don't get me wrong. I am certainly not saying we are not to wear them. On the contrary. They make great conversation starters with people who have no idea of its significance.

I can remember as a young teen walking with my Dad in Daytona Beach along the boardwalk in the mid 70's. Seemed everyone was wearing them. My Dad was / is bold about his faith and always looking for a way to share Christ. I can't tell you how many conversations he started with people that did not understand the significance of the cross, yet wore them around the necks or had them tatooed into their skin.

The cross is the single most recognizable and significant symbol of our Christian faith. We are swiftly moving toward that time of year we think more about the cross of our Lord and the events surrounding it than any other time of year.

Each time you see a cross between now and March 23, let it stir your heart to remember the sacrifice paid on our behalf 2000+ years ago. Let it remind you of the depth of God's love for us that would drive Him to send His only Son that whoever would trust in Him for salvation would know eternal life. And if the cross you see is being worn by someone ask them what it means to them. Then invite them to the celebration of a risen Savior for Easter Services.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

ClearView's Iditarod connection

One of ClearView's very own began a race yesterday that has been a lifelong dream. Our own Rodney Whaley is a first time entrant in this one-of-a-kind race. He is a musher in the Iditarod. You can read more about Rodney here.

You can track Rodney's progress in the race here.
I know Rodney would appreciate our prayers for him over the course of this race.
Go Rodney! Or as Rodney says, "Mush on and mush strong!"

Saturday, March 1, 2008

So What's Your Saturday Night Like?

I have had very few "normal" Saturday nights in my adulthood. Actually, I'm not sure what normal is. You see, Sundays are the day. Sundays are the day it is my time to deliver. And it comes every 7 days as they say.

In 1997 I came to LifeWay after pastoring for 12 years. I did not preach for on any regular basis for about 18 months as I settled into my new role and as my family settled in Nashville. But Saturdays just didn't seem "normal" . I had become so accustomed to preaching every Sunday, I got anxious because I wasn't preaching. Weird, I know. But it's just the way it was.

Leigh Ann and I talked about it. She said I wasn't really a good listener on Sundays anyway, so I might as well preach :-). We were certain God wanted me to serve full time at LifeWay at the time, so I began to investigate interim preaching. From late 1998 through late 2005 I missed preaching only a few Sundays while on vacation. It was back to "normal"

I would imagine those of you that are small group leaders or Sunday School teachers you experience something similar. Until about noon on Saturdays my day is probably much like anyone else's (I guess). I usually try to get a workout in these days. But about noon, something strange happens. Leigh Ann says I almost become someone else. I don't really know what it looks like on the outside, but I do get to this place internally where I can't think of anything else other than the message for the next morning. It gets more intense with each passing hour. Until by early evening, I am pretty much zoned out to the rest of the world.

This is "normal" for me. I can't remember a time when I was not in final stages of preparation, or wishing I was in the final stages of preparation on Saturdays. Even when I am away on vacation, Saturdays are still a hard time to relax. I guess my body clock is set for life.

I wonder what normal people do on Saturday nights? Do normal people relax on Saturday nights?

I know I wouldn't have mine any other way. I've tried and it just didn't work well for me.

Oh yeah, if I attend a party or some other function on a Saturday night and you are there, please forgive me if I seem distant. It's because I am experiencing the only "normal" I know.