Today, September 22nd, I turn 40 years old, and this past year God has been wrecking me and leading me to what Henry Blackaby calls a “crisis of belief.” One of Blackaby’s “Seven Realities” in Experiencing God is:

“God’s invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.”

For the past year, I’ve been listening to and sitting under the teaching of my pastor and friend Derwin Gray. One of Pastor Derwin’s key themes that he weaves into most of his teaching is justification. Justification is the action of declaring or making righteous in the sight of God. Because of what Christ has done, we are justified, we are forgiven, we are free, we are as righteous as Jesus Himself.

This may not be news to you, but over the last year, this has taken its toll on me. God has used this message to open my eyes to pride in my life and the sin of self-righteousness. If you’ve ever heard Derwin preach, you may see him cry or get emotional. Once, when traveling with him, I asked him, “What do you do to keep your heart so tender?” He replied, “I think of what Jesus has done for me.”

Again, this may not seem like much to you, but it was revelational to me. You see, I grew up in a strong Christian family (which I’ve taken for granted) and I thought because I became a follower of Christ at a young age (before I had gotten into too much trouble) that I didn’t have a good testimony. This, too, is self-righteousness and pride – and it is a sin.

Hear me: EVERY salvation is a miracle.

This past Sunday, Pastor Derwin preached what I believe is the most powerful sermon I’ve ever heard. You can view or listen to it HERE. There was a strong call to repent in this sermon and I found myself repenting all throughout it. Repenting for pride, repenting for self-righteousness, repenting for thinking I didn’t have a testimony.

At one point in the sermon, Derwin said something about not understanding Christ-followers that don’t wake up every day in awe and amazement of what God has done in their life. THIS, my friends, is my midlife crisis. This is what has to change in my life going forward for the second-half of my life.

May I never take for granted again what Jesus has done for me. May I daily reflect on His love, His grace, His mercy, His sacrifice, His forgiveness, His justification. May I go forward from this day in awe and wonder of Christ and all that He’s done in my life. The truth is, friends, I DO have a testimony! I have experienced amazing grace. I just need to remember it and let it lead me to worship.

So, on my 40th birthday, I proclaim my love for Christ and my gratefulness that He would rescue a sinner like me. I pray God would lead you to a place of repentance and thankfulness, too. Be blessed today, friends.

STUCK Book Graphic

Today’s blog post is a guest post from my friend and fellow Rainer Publishing author: Mark Riggins. Check this out:

I’m embarrassed every time I admit this but I’m a pastor who carried a grudge for three years.

My best friend (and fellow pastor) and I had ended our friendship over a significant disagreement. I needed to move on. I needed to forgive. But I couldn’t.

Being a pastor who can’t forgive is a little tricky.

A Christian who doesn’t forgive is a like a gifted violinist who refuses to play. Musicians play. Christians forgive.

As a Christian pastor who couldn’t forgive, I felt like a conductor who suddenly couldn’t read music. I was standing in front of the orchestra waving my arms hoping no one would notice I was off the beat.

I desperately wanted to lay it down at Jesus’ feet. I knew that would honor Jesus, His Kingdom, and would free me too. But I couldn’t let it go.

Eventually, I got honest. I got desperate.

I no longer wanted to be right, repaid, or vindicated. I just wanted to let it go.

I approached God with naked surrender. I had nothing left and was desperate.

That’s when God spoke. Slowly, he revealed steps for me to take. That’s when I began to experience refreshing relief. Over time, I discovered the freedom of total forgiveness.

Nothing feels better than a heart freed from a gigantic grudge!

I felt called to write a short book outlining the steps that freed me. If you want to forgive but don’t know how, this book is for you.

Pick up a copy of STUCK When You Want to Forgive but Don’t Know How on Amazon. Click HERE to learn how you can receive a bunch of additional FREE resources to help you completely forgive.


*** Mark Riggins is the Community Life Pastor at ENCOUNTER | Bible Fellowship Church in Ventura, CA. His new book STUCK When You Want to Forgive but Don’t Know How is available now on Amazon. Sign-up HERE for a FREE 30-Day Online Forgiveness Devotional. You can follow Mark on his blog: www.markriggins.org.



Sunday, I watched and pulled for my beloved Dallas Cowboys. Maybe you’ve heard of the way the game ended. If you missed it, let me catch you up to speed. The Dallas Cowboys played the Green Bay Packers (in Green Bay) for a chance to go to the NFC Championship. It was a tough and close game all the way to the very end.

Near the end of the fourth quarter, with Dallas needing a touchdown to take the lead and win the game, the Cowboys did something unthinkable. It was 4th Down and 2 yards to go, and instead of running the ball or throwing a quick pass to get the short 2 yards, the Cowboys instead opted to throw a deep ball down the sideline from Tony Romo to Dez Bryant for a game-winning touchdown. Now keep in mind, they only needed 2 yards and then they could have continued to drive down the field.

Here’s where risk comes into play and as I state in my book Strange Leadership, risk is an essential part of innovation. The Cowboys did something unpredictable and unprecedented. They weren’t just going for the first down as everyone expected. They were going for the kill – the nail in the coffin you might say. Did Dez make the catch? Some say yes. Some say no. It was ruled an incomplete pass though it was a tremendous effort on the part of Romo and Bryant. The Cowboys turned the ball over on downs and ended up losing the game.

However, had the catch been ruled a catch (as it was originally called on the field), the Cowboys would have probably won the game and would be headed to Seattle to play in the NFC Championship. Am I upset with my Cowboys? Absolutely not! They made a gutsy call and played to win. I couldn’t be more proud.

That’s life and that’s part of innovation and leadership. In my book, I have a chapter on Exploration and Experimentation. Sometimes you have to try and try again. You fail and get back up. I have a whole chapter titled Progression that covers that concept. The key is to keep playing to win, keep pressing the boundaries and never, EVER give up.

So as you lead, serve, invest, plan and pray, don’t be afraid to risk it all when God prompts you to. And when you fail in life and leadership (because you will), get back up, brush yourself off and get ready for the next thing God calls you to. The Cowboys will be back next year. I pray that you will keep pressing on, too.

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I PRESS ON toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)

When was the last time you took a huge risk? What was the result? When was the last time you failed and how did you respond?


“I have not failed. I’ve just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.” – Steve Jobs

“Success is getting up one more time than you fall down.” – Rev. Darrell W. Boswell

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Nelson Mandela

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” – William Shedd

“I would rather fail in an attempt at something new and uncharted than safely succeed in a repeat of something I have done.” – A. E. Hotchner


First Sunday in Rock Hill

This past weekend, I officially started on staff at Transformation Church in South Carolina. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am and how God has orchestrated this entire move and my calling to this church. I am blessed to sit under the weekly teaching now of Derwin Gray, who is speaking hope, grace, love, truth and lots of JESUS into my life. I’m grateful to God for this opportunity to serve and be a part of a God-movement. More to come soon!


This is the week! The movers come today and pack us up. We move back to my home state of South Carolina this week and will be in our new home this Friday. I’m looking forward to joining the staff of Transformation Church on November 15. Please pray that we have a smooth move and safe travel. I’ll post again after the craziness. God bless.

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 1.35.50 PM

I’m taking a break today to finish writing my next book. Today’s blog post is a guest post from Tom Harper. Tom is president of Networld Media Group, a publisher of online trade journals and events for the banking, retail, restaurant and church leadership markets (including the blog www.ChurchCentral.com). He is the author of Leading from the Lions’ Den: Leadership Principles from Every Book of the Bible (B&H). Here’s his post:

“‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Doesn’t it seem like nothing to you? Even so, be strong…’” – Haggai 2:15

It turns out there is an association dedicated to saving companies from the edge of death: the Turnaround Management Association.

TMA’s Web site describes their purpose: “Executives who run into corporate troubles often go through the same processes that dying people do: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and then finally acceptance. The last stage is when corporations hire turnaround professionals….”

The prophet Haggai faced his own turnaround challenge. The temple’s foundation had been built with great fanfare sixteen years earlier, yet the excitement had fizzled and construction had waned.

To get things moving again, Haggai cleared off the temple’s original foundation and admonished the people for living in “paneled houses while God’s house remains unfinished” (Hag. 1:4). Disgusted at their luxurious living, he commanded them to rebuild. The glorious temple would only stand once again if they shook off their lethargy and grabbed their tools.

In one of TMA’s case studies, Oldfields, a £25 million London-based chilled foods manufacturer, suffered a sudden downturn in 2003. Its largest customer, representing 55% of its revenue, threatened to terminate its contract.

The turnaround hero, Joe Considine, quickly diagnosed the owner’s dictatorial style and lack of vision and relieved him. Then Considine did the following:

  • He generated cash through slower bill payment and speedier collections
  • He cut most of the company’s products, unprofitable customers, and salespeople
  • He remained only in markets in which the company could beat the competition
  • He communicated his plans openly and honestly with stakeholders
  • He installed a new CEO and CFO
  • He clearly identified each employee’s role and responsibilities

Oldfields went from losing £1.9 million in 2004 to a profit of £1.5million in 2006. It was soon acquired for £12.7 million. Perhaps Considine and his team’s greatest achievement was the preservation of 480 jobs.

Most of TMA’s success stories are similar, and they reflect Haggai’s own wisdom when faced with a massively lethargic entity. The overarching lesson is simple: People are reignited when a determined leader motivates them to clear away the rubble and rebuild from the foundation up.

— This post is from Leading from the Lions’ Den: Leadership Principles from Every Book of the Bible (B&H)


Stadium Lights

Sunday night I, like many of you, watched Peyton Manning (Quarterback of the Denver Broncos) set an all-time record for most touchdowns in NFL history. As I celebrated his achievement and performance, I reflected on what makes Peyton so special and what we, as pastors, can learn from him.

    1. Passion: Peyton Manning’s passion for the game of football is evident. He loves to play and though he may look serious (with his game face on), he’s having a blast on the field. We, as leaders in the Church, should have passion as well.
      Danger: When being a pastor becomes your identity and you are, as Craig Groeschel once said, “A full-time pastor and a part-time disciple.”
    2. Commitment: Who knows the countless hours Peyton Manning has spent studying film, practicing with his offensive line and receivers, working out and strengthening his arm and body? Peyton is committed to the game of football. He doesn’t do anything halfway. He’s all-in. If you pastor a congregation, you should be committed to that church and to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
      Danger: When you don’t have a life outside the church. You need to be an engaged and committed husband and father. You need to have hobbies. You need to learn to laugh. Don’t take yourself too seriously (read this).
    3. Driven: Any fan of the game can see that Peyton is a driven athlete. He’s extremely competitive and can’t stand to lose. For Peyton, his goal every year is a Super Bowl championship. It’s Super Bowl champs or bust. We, as pastors, need to be driven by the mission of the Church, specifically the Great Commission. We should always be looking to reach more people with the gospel.
      Danger: When we make attendance, budgets and baptism numbers the end all, be all. We have to see people as precious in God’s sight and not targets. Build relationships with people. Don’t use them to increase your metrics. Also be on the alert of becoming or enabling a work-a-holic atmosphere. Keep manageable office hours and don’t neglect your family.
    4. Excellence: Peyton Manning is the poster-child for excellence in the NFL. He holds too many records to list. He excels at everything he does. As leaders, we need to lead with excellence (that’s what my next book is about). We need to show we care about our calling, our career and our churches. Lead courageously. Lead well.
      Danger: When we confuse excellence with perfection. There is no such thing as a perfect church.
    5. Didn’t quit: Peyton injured his neck and could have retired from the game and would have been a first ballot Hall of Famer. He didn’t need to ever play again and he could have gone on to other things, but instead he had multiple neck surgeries, went through extensive physical therapy and rehab and worked hard to get back to the game he so desperately loves. He didn’t give up when most would have, like when his team, the Indianapolis Colts, released him and doubted his ability to play at an elite level post-surgery. Too many pastors quit right before a major breakthrough in their ministry. As I have stated in both of my books, I’m a big believer in longterm ministry. I think you need to plant roots in a community and give your life to something significant.
      Danger: When you don’t know when to step down. Too many pastors don’t have a plan for a successful succession. Dr. Gene Getz modeled this for me years ago and has been a hero of mine for a long time. I also encourage you to check out my friend William Vanderbloemen’s new book Next: Pastoral Succession That Works.
    6. High Standards: Peyton expects greatness from himself and his team. For two decades of ministry leadership, I have expected a lot from myself and from others (my staff and volunteers). I don’t think it’s wrong to ask for commitment and excellence from your team.
      Danger: We must be people of grace. We must have grace for ourselves when we fail. We must have grace for others when they let us down.
    7. Character: Peyton Manning is known for being a class-act. He’s a good person on the field and off. He’s not involved in scandals, suspensions or problems with the law (like many other athletes.) As leaders, we need to be men and women of character.
      Danger: When the public self and the private self don’t line up. If you’re an amazing preacher at church, but a horrible husband and father and/or addict at home – you need to repent and seek help. Go to counseling and confide in another pastor that you trust. Pastors need friends they can be real with.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord… – Colossians 3:23 (NIV)

What lessons do you think you can learn from an athlete like Peyton Manning?



Imagine book

I’m taking a break to write my next book this month. Today’s blog post is a guest post from Tom Harper. Tom is president of Networld Media Group, a publisher of online trade journals and events for the banking, retail, restaurant and church leadership markets (including the mega-blog www.ChurchCentral.com). He is the author of Leading from the Lions’ Den: Leadership Principles from Every Book of the Bible (B&H). Here’s his post:

How do people like Bob Dylan cultivate their creative genius? They do it in part through dry spells.

“The act of being stumped is an essential part of the creative process,” says Lehrer, author of Imagine: How Creativity Works. “Before we can find the answer—before we probably even know the question—we must be immersed in disappointment, convinced that a solution is beyond our reach.”

After ascending to the pinnacle of his music career, Dylan withdrew to a remote cabin to escape the pressures of writing and performing. An emotional block had descended into his brain, and he decided to quit altogether.

But sitting in that cabin, he found breakthrough.

“Before Bob Dylan could reinvent himself, writing the best music of his career, he needed to believe that he had nothing left to say.” While Lehrer’s conclusion certainly doesn’t inspire creativity in itself, there are much easier ways we can stimulate our own breakthroughs.

Relax to Awaken Insight

The rest of us non-rock stars can’t rely on hopelessness to produce our work. That’s why I love Lehrer’s advice on how to buzz our brains with positive, creative waves.

Researchers have discovered that alpha waves in the brain result from a relaxed state. (Maybe this better explains Dylan’s breakthrough.) When our minds are at ease, we’re more likely to direct our attention inward, connecting with the brain’s right hemisphere, which churns out new associations between unrelated ideas.

But when we focus on a problem by analyzing its details and force ourselves to reason our way to a solution in left-brain fashion, we actually prevent the right-brained alpha-powered connections that lead to insights.

Ever had a great idea in the shower? The relaxed feeling stimulates alpha waves, even when we’re tired. Many people feel creative in a coffee shop because the relaxed ambience makes waves in their right hemispheres.

Go Blue to Awaken Insight

Another way to alpha-charge the brain is with color.

According to researchers, people associate red with danger, which makes them more alert and aware. If you’ve got a red environment, you’ll be better at activities that require accuracy and attention to detail, because the brain will be more alert.

Blue, on the other hand, generates much more creative output. The color automatically triggers associations with the sky and ocean.  “We think about expansive horizons and diffuse light, sandy beaches and lazy summers days; alpha waves instantly increase,” says Lehrer.

So when you daydream, pay attention to your insights, and let your imagination roam. You just might be able to convince your boss you’re working while you’re staring out the window.

Go to the Kitchen to Awaken Insight

When Steve Jobs ran Pixar, he forced people to have random conversations.

He did this by locating the kitchen and bathrooms in the middle of the building, creating chance encounters in the hallway and around the coffee pot.

“Office conversations are so powerful that simply increasing their quantity can dramatically increase creative production,” says Lehrer. “People have more new ideas when they talk with more people.”

Pixar’s producers would mingle with its animators, and what started as small talk often blossomed into an exchange of ideas and breakthroughs that ultimately led Pixar to its award-winning Toy Story franchise.

Got a problem that needs a creative solution? Forget brainstorming with a group. Take in the sky, go to the kitchen, linger in the shower.

And let the waves flow over you.



I’ve been a Campus Pastor before and I’m preparing to be a Campus Pastor again. You may think I’m thinking, “I’ve got this.” Nope. I pray and think all the time about the learning curve that I’m about to embark upon. I have a brand new church’s DNA to learn, embrace and share. I have a new vision and values to learn, embrace and champion.

I’ve always said that multisite churches come in all shapes and sizes. One size doesn’t fit all. I heard someone describe multisite to someone the other day as “You watch a teaching pastor on a video screen.” Yes, that’s true for half of all multisite churches. The other half have live teaching.

Some multisite churches take a cookie-cutter approach. You can’t tell one campus from another. They are modeled after the original campus and all look and feel alike. Some multisite churches have freedom at their campuses to have a different feel and vibe. Some campuses have totally different names (like North Point, Browns Bridge, Buckhead Church, etc.).

Some churches take a regional approach. Some churches plant in urban settings. Some churches launch in rural settings. Some churches are in multiple states, some just cover one large region. Again, multisite comes in all shapes and sizes. 

Sometimes the Campus Pastor is very visible on a Sunday and during the service (I was on stage 3 times a week at my last church: Welcome, Response, Closing/Benediction). At Transformation Church, the Campus Pastor does the Closing or Benediction at the end and is seen just once. So how do you lead a campus and cast vision and implement change with just being seen one time a week on stage (that’s a discussion for another blog post)?

When I was last a Campus Pastor, I wrote about what I did each week. You can read about it HERE. I expect most, if not all, of those things to be the same with my new position. It’s mainly the system, vision, DNA, values and culture that is the biggest challenge to learn and embody. So, pray for me as start this new role in a month.

How do you see multisite churches as different from others? What has your experience been?


Where to begin? For the past year, I’ve been speaking, writing, consulting and serving as the Editor of Christian Media Magazine. But as many of you know, my heart is in the local church. In a way that can only be described as a God-thing, God brought me and Pastor Derwin Gray together to talk. I found out they had been praying for a Campus Pastor for their Rock Hill campus and you know I had previously served as a Campus Pastor at a multisite church. I, too, had been praying for a Campus Pastor position. God got us connected and the rest is history.

What you may not know is that Transformation Church is located in my home state of South Carolina, where I grew up and spent the first 24 years of my life. The church is located near the South Carolina/North Carolina line and is considered a suburb of Charlotte, NC. If you looked at a map of where my family and I are moving to, you would see it’s right in the middle of both my wife’s and my families. My wife has sisters in North Carolina. My entire family is in South Carolina and my wife’s parents live in Georgia. This is truly a homecoming and we praise God!

Now let me tell you about why I’m pumped to be a part of the team at Transformation Church. You may not know it, but I’m very picky and waited on God to lead us to the right fit. Here’s the scoop on TC from their website:

Derwin L. Gray is the founding and lead Pastor of Transformation Church, a multi-ethnic, multi-generational, mission-shaped community with two campuses in South Carolina (Indian Land and Rock Hill), both just south of Charlotte, North Carolina. Transformation Church (TC) was recognized as the 2nd fastest-growing church by percentage in America for 2010 by Outreach magazine. In 2011 and 2012, TC was again recognized again as one of the top 100 fastest-growing churches in America.


You may be thinking, “I’ve heard of Derwin Gray.” Maybe you’ve seen the Evangelism Linebacker video? Derwin played in the NFL, where he met Christ. Derwin is also a best-selling author, speaker and champion for diversity and multi-ethnic ministry (which is what his next book is about). If you want to hear some more of his heart and story, listen to THIS message he preached a month ago for Rick Warren at Saddleback.

Greg and Thomas


Why am I passionate about this opportunity? Because it’s a chance to be a part of a God-movement and serve a multi-ethnic church that values diversity. My best friend (Thomas Rose – seen above) for 21 years is black and we have done a lot over the years to try to break down racial walls. When I worshiped at Transformation Church recently, I was moved to tears at both campuses to see the mix of people and races worshiping together. It truly was something to see and I praise God that I will see this regularly soon. I also pray I will never take it for granted as this is not the norm. 90% of churches in America are segregated on Sunday morning. Let’s do something about that! I wrote about this years ago HERE.

To see what the music is like at Transformation Church, watch THIS. To see an amazing day of baptisms and see what God is up to, watch THIS.

What’s next? First, I praise God for how He orchestrated this whole thing. It truly was a God-thing and a story that I’ll share in the future. Also pray for my family and me as we move, sell our house, find a new home, my kids change schools and I start my new role as Campus Pastor at the TC Rock Hill Campus. Pray that God would have His hand on my ministry and we would see many changed lives and much fruit. Pray for my kids as they move and make new friends. Now that you heard what God is doing in the Carolinas through Transformation Church, please pray for Pastor Derwin and the amazing staff that I will be joining. Pray we make much of Jesus. It’s all for His glory and His renown.

I’ll be blogging more in the future about my beginning a new role and settling in. God bless you guys and gals. I thank God!