The Gospel in Action – A Reflection on My 2022

Greg Atkinson reflects on his past year

 

It’s the end of 2022, and I was reflecting on my very full and exciting year. Where do I begin?

 

Let’s start with my family. My wife is a hospice nurse who helps many people die with peace and dignity. She has a career of purpose, and I regularly try to encourage her. She recently moved to a triage role where she has a home office and helps people via phone. She works long shifts late into the night, and I try to sit in her office and talk with her when I can to help make the time go by easier. I don’t know if it really helps, but I like keeping her company. She now has a family member who got a terrible diagnosis and will be going into hospice down the road. It breaks my heart for her and her family – my family – and I am trying to support her as she walks down this brutal and painful road. Suffice it to say; I’m very proud of her.

 

Next, let me tell you about my three remarkable children. My youngest finished high school in 2022 and started college close to home in the Fall. She’s studying tele-production and wants to be behind the camera. Like me, she’s an artist. She’s been thriving and found a whole new group of friends whom I see on occasion and take out to eat or host in our home to watch movies. My daughter is an activist with a compassionate heart. She’s been active on Instagram about social justice, LGBTQIA+: matters, and women’s rights. Not only that, she has been to several rallies and protests (like for the women of Iran) in downtown Charlotte and even made the news playing percussion and singing a song at a rally. I’m beyond proud of her.

 

My middle child, my son, is a college sophomore and lives in an apartment with three of his friends. He leads worship at a church college group on Wednesday nights and plays guitar, which I taught him, so to say I’m proud is an understatement. He has a very tough academic load, but he continues to make the President’s List and excel, even in his Russian class. Next Fall, he’ll be overseas taking classes in a Russian-speaking country, so I’m just thankful to have him relatively close, just 3 hours away, and treasure the breaks and holidays when he gets to come home. My son chose to double major in International Studies and Religious Studies. Being that I was a worship major and minored in Religion, and have spent nearly three decades serving the church, I love that he chose to study something so meaningful as Religion, and I feel that his faith will be made stronger through the experience.

 

My oldest daughter is a senior in college and will graduate in the Spring of 2023. She’s a Bio-Chemistry major with a minor in Physics, so you know I don’t understand anything she does. I’m just cheering for her to cure cancer as she has worked in a lab the last two years and will continue to after she graduates, as she’s applying to grad schools to work on her Ph.D. She also makes the President’s List and will graduate with honors. She lives in an apartment with her best friend and has been involved in a small group and now college ministry throughout her four years away from home. She also is a musician and plays flute in the concert band at her university. She has a servant’s heart and volunteers often. She’s volunteered since high school, and I admire her. Where I resonate with her the most is that she’s very driven and ambitious. I’m wired the same way and cheer her on when she stretches herself and strives for excellence.

 

My gospel (good news) is that I text my three kids daily and tell them I love them and am proud of them. If I’m up early, I encourage them to have a great day. I tell them I miss them and can’t wait to see them again. No matter what, they know they are dearly loved, and I’m so proud of them. I remind them of their identity – that they’re a dearly beloved child of God. I also try to encourage my wife and surprise her with gifts to show her I was thinking of her. She’s much better at writing handwritten notes, but I know how to shop. My family is my pride and joy. I’m not perfect, but I love fiercely. I look forward to spending the rest of 2022 with them, as my kids are home on Christmas break.

 

Regarding the family I grew up with, my Dad died in 1997. My Mom remarried years later, and I have a kind and interesting Stepdad. We had lunch recently and shared stories of our year. I look forward to getting together with them again over the holidays and exchanging Christmas gifts. I said some kind words about my Mom in my last book and in my new book coming out next year. I thank God for their prayers for me and my family daily.

 

My sister’s oldest kid, my nephew, graduated high school and went to college this year. He’s the same age as my youngest child. We went to his graduation party and caught up with their family. My nephew is a Quarterback on the football team at his college, which is not too far away from where I live. He had a teammate die this year, and I checked in on him and told him I was praying for him and there for him. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, much less someone so young. Needless to say, I’m so proud of my nephew and my sister and brother-in-law for how they raised such sweet, kind, and smart kids.

 

My brother lives in the same city my son goes to college. Earlier this year, my wife and I visited my son and had dinner with my brother and his wife. We shared stories of growing up and laughed way too much. My brother is experiencing some rough stuff with having long Covid. It broke my heart to hear of some of what he struggles with. I continue to pray for his health and healing.

 

The rest of 2022 has been a blur. I run my own business, which has been very fulfilling this year. I am in the process of starting a new business and a few new initiatives. It’s a very exciting time as an entrepreneur. I also wrote my fifth book on the power of kindness, which will come out in the Spring of 2023. I can’t wait for you to read it.

 

We were able to give financially to some great churches, pastors, missionaries, charities, and special things like LifeBoxes, Water Mission, and St. Jude Hospital. I’ve always said that hospitality and generosity are two sides of the same coin. I was taught to be generous, and I have tried to model that for my kids. I hope they carry it forward.

 

I was able to be a good friend to those close to me. My best friend, for thirty years, went through a tough season being accused of something he didn’t do. I was able to support him, encourage him, remind him who he was, and pray for him. He came through his trial by fire, and I’m so happy for him.

 

My second-best friend is my pastor. He and his wife not only had Covid during the pandemic, but his wife has long Covid and is experiencing something like early dementia. Her brain has shrunk, and she’s not the same as pre-Covid. She had to stop driving and can’t really work anymore. With the pressures of running a church, a non-profit, and the demands of a church plant with many needy people, I try to be a fun friend to my pastor and do life-giving stuff that’s not draining.

 

This year we started doing Taco Tuesday. My wife works on Tuesday nights, so I and my pastor and his wife will go to their favorite Mexican restaurant, where I treat them to dinner. We take our time eating and talking for a couple of hours. Nothing church-related – no pressure or demands, just fun. Often, we will go see a movie after we eat at a nearby theater. He was there for me in a tough season, and I’m trying my best to be there for him in his tough season.

 

Another local friend of mine came to terms with his alcoholism this year and spent thirty days in rehab at Onsite. I’ve been to Onsite, and it’s wonderful. I highly recommend checking it out. I heard about it from Bob Goff, Donald Miller, and Carlos Whitaker. When my friend returned from Onsite, I took him to lunch and listened to his thoughts and reflections. You’ll find I break bread with a lot of people. Most of my meetings involve food. Recently, we had dinner together, and he was telling me about how he goes to AA meetings every morning, and his sponsor has been sober for 38 years. I said that’s incredible! We get together regularly and talk about our families and dream up business ideas together. He’s a great business owner.

 

My pastor and my local business owner friend are both Republicans and voted for Trump. So did most of the family I grew up with – and that’s okay. I’m not a Republican and don’t like Trump. My in-laws are Democrats. I get along with both sides of my family. I will not burn a bridge or ruin a relationship over politics. When I get together with my friends or family, we simply talk about everything and anything besides politics. They know where I stand. I don’t need to bring it up.

 

The part of 2022 that nobody sees is what’s special to me. We love to host and have had several house guests in this season of empty nesting. We had two gay friends stay with us – one for a weekend and one for two months. They are dear friends, and it was a pleasure to host them.

 

We also had a homeless man stay with us for six months. He was the third recovering addict to live with my family for multiple months. Most of his stay was when my youngest daughter was still in high school. It was a challenging season and didn’t end as well as the previous two people to live with my family did, but we know God saw that we sincerely gave the man everything and tried to help him get on his feet. We wish him well as he lives in a different state now.

 

Some other special memories of 2022 were having my transgender nieces stay with us in our home – one for a weekend and one for two weeks. They are beautiful souls who have been in my life for a long time. I love them and love spending time with them and seeing them grow up.

 

Another special memory was when my youngest daughter brought one of her best friends by one day, who is a transgender man. It was his birthday, and I asked him if he was doing anything special with his parents to celebrate. He said, “No, we don’t have any plans.” I said, “We can’t have that. I’m taking you to dinner! Pick any place you want to go.” He asked if he could invite his twin brother to come since it was his birthday, too, and I said, “Sure. The more, the merrier.” I offered to take them to my favorite restaurant in town, but they opted for their favorite restaurant, which I was happy to oblige.

 

After dinner, he and his twin brother returned to our home to talk and share stories. While we were talking in the den, my wife (unbeknownst to them) baked them a birthday cake. She decorated it and put some candles on top. They were blown away. We sang “Happy Birthday” to them, and they blew out the candles and devoured the cake. They were so happy, and it made my heart so happy. They took whatever cake was left over to their home, and I was so glad we gave them the opportunity to celebrate their birthday.

 

Friends, as I reflect on this past year, I guess the biggest takeaway that I’ve said for years is that proximity breeds intimacy. The more you spend time with different people, the more you find you have in common with them, and you learn to love and appreciate them for who they are.

 

Whether it be a homeless man, a person of a different ethnicity, a gay or transgender friend, a person of a different political party, or anything you want to fill in the blank, the thing I know to be true is that they are not an issue to argue over or a subhuman being. They are a child of the Living God, and he loves them dearly. Therefore, I love them dearly as made in the image of God.

 

I’m not perfect in any way. I have my faults and issues and regrets. However, my family knows I love them, and they know I love people – all kinds of people. They know I don’t judge and that the gospel, the good news, is available to all. You see, I believe we need to not only preach the gospel of Jesus but “be” the gospel – the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need. We should be good news to a hurting and broken world. Life is tough. We can display love and kindness and make the world a better place.

 

My 2022 was an incredible year, and I haven’t even scratched the surface of all that God did in my heart and life and how grateful I am for another year. I look forward with anticipation and expectation to the new year and can’t wait to see what it holds. I’m praying that God would do exceedingly more than I can ask or imagine in my and my family’s life, and I pray the same for you, my friend. Thanks for reading.

 

 

*Copyright 2022. Greg Atkinson. Written by Greg, not AI.

A Christmas Reminder: 8 Reasons Why People Aren’t Coming Back

It’s the Christmas season and church teams are working hard to prepare for all the expected guests. As a secret shopper or mystery worshiper of churches around the country, I’ve found there are some reasons that I will tell a church I would not return for a second visit and some may be news to you. Whether I’m working with a church plant of 40 people or a mega-church of over 35,000, some things are universal and should be present regardless of church size. Throughout this post, we’ll look at actions and areas every church needs to address.

The Front Door

Before a guest ever steps foot on your church’s physical campus, he or she has probably already checked out your church website. What every church should have clearly visible on their homepage is a section or button for first-time guests. Once clicked on, this should take you to a page that addresses FAQ’s, service times, directions, parking instructions (Is there a side of the building that is better to park on if one has kids?), what to expect (upbeat music and relevant, practical, Biblical preaching in a come as you are atmosphere, etc.), what to wear (Are jeans okay? Are shorts okay?), and encouragement for them to be sure to stop by Guest Central or your church’s Information Booth to pick up a first-time guest packet.

What Stinks?

It’s important that no church ever underestimates the sense of smell. While sight is the strongest sense for short-term memory, the sense of smell is the strongest and most vivid for long-term memories. If you’ve ever smelled something and had memories you hadn’t thought of in years come flooding back, that’s your sense of smell in action. Every church has the potential for positive or negative smells. Mold is a bad smell. Coffee is a good smell. Bleach is a bad smell. Citrus is a good smell. Many churches have restrooms that are disgusting and smell like urine. This lack of attention to detail can be costly and discourage many from ever returning. As best you can, try to walk into the lobby or entrance of your church with a new nose.

Park Here

One of Tim Stevens’ three growth lids that he thinks every growing church should have someone who is constantly watching is parking. Tim says, “This is why Visitor Parking is so crucial. If it’s difficult for newcomers to go to your church, they won’t go.  Some would argue that guests want to remain anonymous and don’t want special parking. Of course some want to go unnoticed and will choose to park in regular parking (a minority), but for the rest of newcomers, they are appreciative of a close parking space; it’s a kind gesture of an already intimidating and nerve-racking experience of attending a church for the first time, especially a large one with a huge campus.

This Way Parents

One way to assure guests will not return is to have a confusing, long, or hard to find process for getting their kids registered and in the right classroom. Wise churches have signage for first-time guest kids’ check-in and make the process quick and painless. Regular attendees may know to go up to the check-in kiosk and enter their phone number or swipe their card, but guests will be clueless and need a manned station that is clearly marked for guests and have a volunteer walk them through the registration. Then have that person or another helper walk you to your kids’ class explaining what will be going on and how to go about picking their kids back up. If they must have a sticker with corresponding numbers on it to get their kids (and they should), this needs to be explained to them. Signage for the kids’ check-in should start in the entryway of the guest parking. Do not assume people know where to go once they enter the building.

Give It Away

Something subtle, but powerful is a church that has a generous spirit. Chris Hodges at Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, AL is big on this. They have a coffee shop, but they also have a designated area where people can get free coffee and not pay for anything. They also give away their message CDs. Too many churches charge for everything and wonder why no one buys CDs of the message. If you want to bless people and create a generous spirit throughout your church, give away free coffee and message CDs (and other surprises throughout the year). Chris Hodges will have ice cream trucks pull up outside the church doors and give away free ice cream to congregants leaving on a hot, summer day. What gift could you surprise your guests with this Christmas Eve?

Security Counts

One issue that is huge to a secret shopper and visiting families is security. If a parent is worried about their child’s safety, they will not enjoy the service and will likely not return. A children’s classroom must be clean, safe and secure. Security also includes the check-out process. If anyone can walk into a classroom and pick up a kid, you’re asking for trouble and will turn off potential newcomers. It’s important that your kids’ volunteers are trained well and know to ask for the parent’s sticker when picking up their kids. This is vital and goes a long way to ensuring a tragedy doesn’t occur and a parent has peace of mind.

The Visible Pastor

Accessibility of the senior pastor is another subtle and powerful statement of a church. Even pastors of the largest churches in America make an intentional and strategic effort to be seen, greeted and hugged after a service. They may have a bodyguard present for security reasons, but they are available and willing to pray with people that need to speak to their pastor. Some churches have a designated Guest Central, like Steve Stroope did at Lake Pointe in Rockwall, TX or Brady Body at New Life in Colorado Springs. Some have a “Meet and Greet.” Some pastors stand down at the altar and meet and pray with people like Kevin Myers at 12Stone in Atlanta. Some walk around the campus shaking hands as Don Wilson used to at Christ’s Church of the Valley in Phoenix. Erwin McManus at Mosaic LA has an “After Party.”  at which the pastor is present and available to meet with newcomers. This, especially in a large church, goes a long way toward countering the rock star or unavailable pastor stigma that so many guests walk into the church expecting.

Finish Strong

It’s simply not enough for greeters and parking lot attendants to say “Hello” or  “Welcome” when one walks into their church. To go to another level, have your first impressions team stationed at their posts when the service ends to say “Goodbye” or  “Have a nice week.”  This goes a long way to wrapping a bow around the entire morning experience and will send them off with a lasting positive impression.

Do these 8 things and you’ll see a greater return and a higher percentage of second and third-time guests. May you all have a wonderful Christmas and I pray you have many guests to honor and minister to. Love well. Serve well.

 

 

50 Lessons for Young Leaders

My name is Greg Atkinson and today is my 47th birthday. As I get closer to the big 5-0, I started thinking about lessons I’ve learned over my nearly 5 decades on planet Earth.

I was thinking of leaders like you when I wrote this. I pray God will amplify the words that are just for you.

I was the high school intern at my home church in 1992 and ’93. I started on staff at my first church, as a freshman in college, at the ripe old age of 18 (in February of 1994). That was 28 years ago. Wow!

I had to learn a lot of tough and powerful lessons over the past nearly three decades of ministry. I saw a discussion happening on Facebook about things you wish you knew in your 20s. I had too many comments to share in one Facebook post, so I decided to write about it.

Please allow me to share lessons that God has taught me and continues to teach me. These are in no particular order and I’m positive I’m leaving something out.

1) God uses weak people. God uses broken people. God will break you eventually. It seems that brokenness is an ongoing thing. Don’t boast in your strengths, you can do those in the natural. The supernatural kicks in in your weakness, that’s where God’s strength is made perfect.

2) The gospel is about repenting and believing. Constantly repent and believe the good news of the gospel. You are who God says you are. Your identity is a child of God – not a pastor, not an ethnic group, profession, gender, or any other thing – your identity is a child of God. Meditate and daily reflect on justification. This will ground you and free you to be who God is calling you to be. It will also give you a great sense of thankfulness, wonder, peace, love, and joy.

3) God uses us despite ourselves. No one is perfect. All pastors and church leaders sin daily. Repent. Thank God for His amazing grace.

4) Everyone goes through pain in his or her life. I’m living proof that there is a purpose to the pain. As Rick Warren says, God never wastes our pain.

5) Hurt people hurt people. You must live and practice forgiveness.

6) Depression is real. Don’t oversimplify mental illness into not having a quiet time or healthy prayer life. Study the brain and do all the reading you can on mental illness and the church.

7) We all have highs and lows, mountains and valleys. God is near to the brokenhearted. Cry out to Him.

8) Death stings and families grieve, no matter how old the deceased is.

9) God pursues me.

10) Staff, servants, and volunteers are precious.

11) As the Word says, Be ready in season and out.

12) Often people will come to you for help or counsel and you realize you’re more messed up than they are.

13) We all stumble and fall, some harder than others.

14) You can’t have success, wins, breakthroughs, and innovations without risks and failure.

15) Smaller churches and church plants are usually the most creative and innovative. I watch them for inspiration.

16) Weddings, funerals, and new births happen non-stop.

17) I’ve said it before: Sunday comes every week.

18) Baptisms are extremely important and special, never take them for granted.

19) When you arrive, never bash your predecessor. When you leave, never burn a bridge.

20) Sometimes God asks you to stay somewhere when you’re begging to leave.

21) Sometimes God asks you to leave when you want to stay and fight.

22) Never let a denominational affiliation keep you from pursuing friends in ministry. Some of my closest friends in ministry are from different denominations.

23) God can and often does speak through lost people to you. Most pastors don’t know any lost people. I said: Most pastors don’t know any lost people. You have to be intentional to get out beyond the four walls and form relationships with those that are not like you, don’t believe like you and may never enter the doors of your church.

24) Study doctrine and Scripture, but live grace. Jesus was full of grace AND truth. Model compassion, mercy, unconditional love, and unwavering integrity.

25) God’s creation/nature is His gift to you and should not be taken for granted. Let it refresh, refocus, encourage, and inspire you.

26) God changes lives. We simply get to partner with the genius of the Holy Spirit (as Dave Browning says). I’ve come to learn (the hard way) only God saves. Only God heals. Only God restores. And only God can set someone free from whatever they struggle with (pain, pride, addiction, you name it.)

27) Some people will refuse Christ. I have watched people with blinded eyes reject the Gospel and no academic or theological argument or debate could convince them of the truth. God has to draw them to Himself and open their eyes. You can’t debate someone into the Kingdom.

28) When you feel your weakest, God uses you mightily. The Word truly is a lamp unto my feet. Abide in Christ. Cling to Him. Rest in Him.

29) Don’t neglect your health. Prioritize your spiritual, physical, emotional, mental, relational, and financial health. Too many pastors have dried out spiritually. Too many pastors don’t eat well and exercise, thus not having healthy outlets for stress and anxiety. Hire a coach and/or see a professional counselor (both should be someone outside your congregation). Relational health is often over looked. Don’t use people. Be intentional about making friendships and prioritizing relationships with those inside and outside your congregation. Get and stay out of debt. Be an emotionally healthy leader. Constantly practice being self-aware. Go away on a retreat and ask God to reveal your blind spots and weaknesses to you. Ask for help. Get plenty of sleep and weekly rest. Take a vacation. Take a sabbatical. Encourage your staff to take vacations.

30) Always assume the best in others. Most people (not all) have good intentions. Don’t be quick to demonize others. Don’t be quick to rush to judgment. Give others the gift of trust. Until you are proven otherwise, assume the best. Note: Ask your leadership to do the same with you.

31) I’m thankful for my wife, my mom and step-dad, and a ton of precious people that consistently intercede and pray on my behalf. Don’t be afraid, ashamed or too proud to ask for prayer! Prayer warriors are Godsends.

32) Your spouse is along for your wild ride and weathers each storm with you. Sometimes things people say about you hurt them worse than you. Always listen to the counsel of your spouse. Make decisions as a couple and move forward together in-sync.

33) Leaders take bullets (from the Enemy and people). Better have your shield up. You cannot make everyone happy. Someone will not like you. Please try to accept that. Not even Presidents have a 100% approval rating. Leadership is not for the faint of heart. For the tenderhearted, yes, but you must be strong and courageous.

34) Don’t be a bully. Read that again. I don’t care if your DISC Profile says you’re a “High D.” Don’t be a bully. And NEVER shame anyone – not a staff member, not a leader, not a volunteer, not that guy that never serves, that person that never gives, not your congregation that doesn’t share their faith – no one. Never shame. Exhort and encourage. Lead and challenge, but be above shaming people into doing what you want them to do.

35) Your devotional life is key. Go too long without it and eventually you’ll get spiritually dry and crash and burn, or burnout. I’m speaking from personal experience. Allow God’s Living Word to refresh, revive, encourage, and guide you.

36) Real ministry happens in small groups. Corporate worship is wonderful, but I really see God move in home groups and recovery ministries like Celebrate Recovery and Divorce Care, etc. At my church, we say, Life happens best in circles, not rows.

37) When all is said and done, the people, the memories, those you’re closest to, those that are so special and you’re special to them, are because of unplanned, out-of-the-ordinary events, crises, emergencies, tragedies, etc. It’s hardly ever your job or what you get paid to do, or is on your job description that God uses to allow you to grow closer to an individual or group of people.

38) Life is messy. Don’t oversimplify. Spiritual and social issues are complicated and messy. Don’t oversimplify.

39) Please don’t just send people and money overseas if you’re ignoring your own city. Some of the poorest and most lost people in the world are in your community. The U.S. is the 4th largest unreached people group in the world. Christians in Africa send missionaries to us. Read that again.

40) In my experience, it seems every breakthrough or victory by God is followed (and often preceded) by attacks from the enemy. Be alert, full of hope, and don’t let the enemy steal your joy. The joy of the Lord is your strength.”

41) Leaders are readers. Leaders are life-long learners. Leaders are listeners. Never stop growing. Never stop being teachable. Never stop caring.

42) Lost people are not targets and notches on your belt. Be a champion of relationships. Don’t get a twisted philosophy of befriending someone just to convert them. Genuinely care for people whether or not they come to your church, accept Christ, or get baptized. People matter. Life is all about relationships.

43) Pride will sneak up on you. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal areas of pride, arrogance, boastfulness, and self-righteousness to you daily.

44) Have a mentor. I’ve been blessed over the years (and still am) with tremendous men twenty years older than me to pour into me, invest in my personal and professional life, and when needed, speak the truth in love to me.

45) Surround yourself with godly counsel. God will often speak through others to get your attention. There’s usually a grain of truth in every criticism. Dig deeper. Do some soul searching. Listen to feedback. Pay attention, and know when to acknowledge fault. Apologize when you mess up.

46) Pick your battles. Not every hill is worth dying on. Wisdom is knowing when to say, Yes. Let’s wait. or No.”

47) Lead by example. If you don’t build relationships with those in your community, don’t expect your congregation to. If you don’t serve others well (with grace, mercy, and compassion), don’t expect your congregation to.

48) Don’t mail it in. Whether you preach, sing, lead youth or children, create videos and communication pieces – whatever you do – do it as working for the Lord. Give your best effort. Have a value of excellence.

49) Less is more. I can sum up the book Simple Church (which I highly recommend) by saying, “You can accomplish more by doing less.” Most churches are too busy. Stop putting more things on your people’s calendars and encourage them to be involved in the community and an active parent at every ball game, piano recital, band concert, you name it – be present. I’ll add: Lead Pastors, don’t make a staff member choose between a church activity and a family activity. Our first ministry is to our family.

50) All of life – ALL of it – the good, the bad, the ugly, the highs, the lows, the struggles, the pains, the hurt, the sickness, death, and disease, the study of Scripture, prayer, godly counsel, hard lessons, your kids, your parents, your spouse, your friendships, your congregation and all its issues, your neighbors, your calling, your devotional life and spiritual disciplines… ALL of life is to conform you into the image of Christ. God has a purpose and He’s molding you, shaping you, pruning you, refining you, and making you into the image of His Son, as a part of the Body of Christ. Thank God for His work through you. Praise God for His constant work IN you. 

 

BONUS: Never lose sight of the faithfulness of God. Be a worshiper. Plan on finishing well and enjoying the journey. May I, and you, be found faithful.

 

I’ll end with 7 quotes from men I respect:

1) “The world for which we were trained no longer exists.” – Pete Briscoe

2) “We as a church don’t have a mission. The mission has a Church.” – Reggie McNeal

3) “As I look back over fifty years of ministry, I recall innumerable tests, trials and times of crushing pain. But through it all, the Lord has proven faithful, loving, and totally true to all his promises.” – David Wilkerson

4) “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” –  William Carey

5) “Go straight for souls, and go for the worst.” – William Booth

6) “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” – C.S. Lewis

7) “Your greatest ministry will most likely come from your greatest hurt.” – Rick Warren

 

SO… What would you add? What are your life lessons? 

How to Have the Best Trunk-or-Treat Ever

I was having dinner with two pastors that I coach and they both said they were doing a Trunk-or-Treat this year. I told them of how we did some serious evaluation of the one at my old church and wanted to make sure that we had a way of collecting information and being able to follow up with guests (as opposed to just giving out candy).

My friend Chuck Scoggins, who was the Executive Director of the Center for Church Communications (maybe you’ve heard of Church Marketing Sucks) was with me and he decided to write about how to maximize this outreach opportunity. What follows is his guest post. Enjoy!

If you’re going to go through the effort to plan a trunk-n-treat, fall festival, or whatever you call your Halloween-alternative event, make sure you have a plan in place to maximize the event by following up with them afterward. There are a variety of ways to get participants to return to your church, but one of the most effective is through an email campaign.

Below are a few tips for you to consider if you plan on leveraging an email campaign to get your trunk-n-treat families to come back to your church on a Sunday.

Collect Information

There’s no way around it: if your strategy is to use your event to get people to eventually check out your church, you have to collect their info. The key to getting folks to give you their info is to get creative, for example:

  • Give Something Away
    If you give away a compelling gift like an Amazon Echo, Apple Watch or AirPods, etc. people will be quick to hand over their details as they register to win. Set it up where someone doesn’t have to be present to win as a good excuse to get an email address so you can contact the winner.
    Pro Tip: Make sure you state at the bottom of your registration card that by registering to win, people are giving you information to send a follow-up email.
  • Give Away Food
    Cook up some hotdogs and have a cooler of soft drinks (sodas and water for adults, juice boxes for the kiddos) and ask folks to quickly register (name and email address only) to get their ticket or wristband for concessions.
  • Photo Booth
    Family photos can often be a compelling reason to ask folks for their contact info. Set up a backdrop with hay bales and corn stalks where a professional photographer can take a free family photo. Collect an email address so you can send folks their photo.
    Pro Tip: If you take this approach, you might choose to manually send Email 1 from below (instead of using an automatic send) to thank them for attending and attach their photo. It’s a little more work, but the results will be a huge payoff.

Start With What You Know
As you begin thinking about forming your follow-up email campaign, begin with what you know: folks who came to your fall harvest event were most-likely families. (Pro Tip: Keep in mind that families come in all shapes and sizes, so make sure your emails are mindful of that diversity.) They’re also willing to attend community events that provide benefits for their families. We also know that people will not care about your church until they know that your church cares about them.

When done skillfully, we can leverage what we know about the people in our community to send emails that serve them in such a way that we leave them with a desire to check out our church. We can reach them without a hard sell email.

Pro Tip: Consider a mindset shift that your goal shouldn’t be to get people to come to your church, but rather to take your church to them where they’re at and serving the needs they have. Resist the urge to tell folks all about your church in the initial email(s) you send.

Email Sequence
An email sequence, if you’re not familiar with them, is a series of emails that automatically send at regularly-scheduled intervals when you add an email to the list. You can easily set these up in MailChimp and, for following up on your fall event, I recommend sending one email immediately, and then an email once a week following the initial send.

Here is an example of six value-add emails you could send:

Email 1:
Send a very short email simply thanking them for attending. You might want to include one line that tells folks you’re going to send them five more emails that might be helpful to their family.

Let them know they can unsubscribe at any time (by giving them this permission, you’ll show that you’re trying to be helpful and not pushy). Again, resist the urge to talk about your church in this email; make it about them, not you!

Email 2: 

Find another community event that they might enjoy and tell them about it. It there a community fall festival in your area? Or, perhaps you can provide a list of pumpkin farms and corn mazes in your area.

Pro Tip: If you can find a local pumpkin farm to partner with, you might be able to work out a special deal or a free giveaway (i.e. each family gets a free pumpkin) that can be an exclusive gift for your guests.

Email 3:

By the time you send this email, the calendar will be nearing Thanksgiving. Send an email with “Six Ways to Help Your Family Express Thankfulness Around The Thanksgiving Table”. Include tips such as a go around the table and share one thing you’re grateful for, place butcher paper as the tablecloth and encourage everyone to draw what they’re thankful for with crayons. The goal here is to be creative and give creative and fun ideas for your email recipients. You might also include a list of area Thanksgiving Day parades or other activities folks can do on Thanksgiving.

Pro Tip: Resist the urge to make this over-spiritual.

Email 4:
Use this email to continue to provide value to your trunk-or-treat guests. This email could be something simple like a generic “Keeping Your Sanity While Parenting During The Busy Holiday Season” or something similar. Make sure it’s valuable to them and not about you (it’s okay to include a few spiritual tips such as how to find a good church with a good children’s program, but avoid making this list too churchy). Your goal here is to continue to keep yourself top-of-mind for them by giving them something they can use in their everyday lives without talking to them directly about your church.

Pro Tip: Get your children’s ministry staff and volunteers involved in creating this email. They probably have a better grasp of what families struggle with during the fall holiday season than you do.

Email 5:

If you time your emails just right (a week apart, beginning after Halloween), you should be getting close to Christmas. Use this email as a chance to give folks something like “Five Ways to Avoid Christmas Gift Overload.”

Again, make this a practical piece, not a spiritual brow-beating where you help families navigate the pressure to go overboard. Perhaps you introduce them to the “4 Christmas Gift Challenge,” like:

  1. Something they want
  2. Something they need
  3. Something to wear, and
  4. Something to read

Perhaps you introduce them to an alternative Christmas concept like Advent Conspiracy. Or, perhaps you point them to some meaningful local charities where they can use some of their Christmas budgets to serve another family at Christmas.

Pro Tip: The most important thing to do in this email is to help them navigate pressure, not add guilt or give them more stuff to do. Approach this email carefully!

Email 6:
After you’ve provided a TON of value to your fall event guests, you now have permission to start introducing your church. However, avoid simply making this a pitchy piece inviting people to church. Instead, make an introductory statement like, “If you’ve enjoyed these emails, we’d love to introduce you to our children’s ministry. Then, explain the benefits of your children’s programming (talk about how it’s fun, safe, etc.). Introduce your children’s ministry staff (with photos) and let people know what they can expect when they arrive (children’s check-in process, etc.).

If you can get these families to bring their children to check out your children’s ministry, you stand a great chance at getting the adults to attend your worship service and have a great shot at getting guests from your fall event to your church.

Follow-up Emails:

Christmas

If you’ve done this process well, you are probably okay to send people a simple email to invite folks to your Christmas service(s). I would encourage you to send this email 7 to 10 days prior to your Christmas service(s) and think about how to include language that talks about how folks can enjoy the traditions of Christmas while celebrating at your service(s). Help them understand the benefit to them (think: warm and fuzzies, not spiritual transformation) if they go through the hassle of bringing their family to church.

January

Think about some on-ramp events or programs you can invite people to with a seventh email after a few weeks have passed (maybe in January). Financial Peace University or a Family Life Marriage event or something similar is a great option.

Final Pro Tips:

  • Make sure your church’s web address is in the footer of the email in case someone wants to find out more about you on their own. Don’t make it gaudy or overbearing, but don’t neglect the opportunity to provide someone an opportunity to get more info.
  • Speaking of the website, make sure your website is stocked up with everything a newcomer would need to get the information they want. See this post about what to include on your website to help first-time guests.
  • In the final email you send (sixth, seventh, or eighth email), include a single line at the end that says “This is the last Trunk-or-Treat follow-up email we’ll be sending you. If you’ve enjoyed this valuable content and would like to add your name to our main church email list, click here [with a link to join your main list].”
  • Use an email system, such as MailChimp, that helps you follow the CAN-SPAM laws.
  • Please, don’t go cheap on your candy quantity, the quality of your soft drinks (don’t buy cheap discount store off-brand sodas), etc. Nothing is worse than a family taking the risk to bring their children to your event and them going home disappointed that they got less candy than their friends did by going door-to-door.

My prayer is that God would send many, many people to your event and that He would give you wisdom in how to best follow up with folks to eventually grow your church.

*** Want to get more tips like this? Signup for my newsletter here.

7 Simple Things You Can Do to Start the New Year Off Right

VET_7_circle

2022 is coming upon us. Most people make new year resolutions like joining a gym, going on a diet, etc. I’d like to share 7 simple things you can do to get your new year started off right.

  1. Go on some sort of fast – Priorities and focus are more important at the start of a new year than resolutions that quickly fall by the wayside. You need to participate in some sort of fast from something you love to place your focus on God and make Him your priority. I’ve done short fasts, extended fasts, Daniel Fasts, movie and TV fasts, and most recently a technology fast. Since it’s not healthy for me not to eat due to some medicine I take, I recently fasted one month (30 days) from social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat… you name it) and all things technological. I was shocked to see how dependent (in a bad way) that I had become on them. Getting away from technology for a month allowed me to spend more time in Scripture, prayer, and with my family. It also gave me a healthy perspective on social media. I found myself wanting to post the silliest things that had no business being on Facebook. When I returned to social media, I had a new purpose and perspective and started using my social media platforms the right way. For some of you, it may be easier to go 30 days without eating than without social media. If that is the case, you have a problem and an intervention is needed. I’m kidding. Sort of.
  2. Get a watch – While I was on my recent fast from social media and technology, I found one thing happening over and over: My iPhone was constantly in my hand. I was attached to it. I realized that I always had it out, in my hand and would look at it during meetings, mealtime, and other rude and inappropriate times. I jokingly told my wife, “I just need to get a watch. Then I could keep my phone in my pocket.” Sure enough, while out of town speaking at a conference, I stopped in a shopping mall and bought a watch. Now my lunches, dinners, coffees, and meetings are different because I’m not constantly checking my phone and appearing rude to whoever I’m eating or meeting with. Everything is going mobile and we need a healthy boundary and perspective for this technology.
  3. Read a different kind of book – I’ve often said, “Leaders are readers.” To start the new year off right, I want to encourage you to read something completely different and out of your comfort zone. For two decades of ministry, I bragged about only reading non-fiction and said I had no time for fiction. Guess what? God opened my eyes that truth and beauty can be found in fiction. I recently watched “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” again and I found myself saying, “Tolkien was a genius and God had His hand on His writing.” God used that eye-opening movie to open my mind to reading books out of my wheelhouse. Maybe you only read Christian or ministry books and need to read a business book. Maybe you need to read a historical book or biography. Whatever may be your case, branch out this year and read something totally different. You’ll be better for it.
  4. Go on a retreat – At the last church I pastored I would go on two different retreats at the start of each year (in January). One was with our church’s Senior Leadership Team. One was with my campus staff. I would put a lot of time and effort into prepping for my campus staff retreat. I would think of things that my team needed to address, tackle and discuss. I would be sure to include plenty of social and bonding time as well. We also spent a great deal of time dreaming and talking strategy. There’s a lot of ideas and creative juices flowing at the start of a new year, coming off of the Christmas season and heading towards Easter. January or February is the perfect time to get away and pray, dream, create, plan, play, and bond.
  5. Go to a conference – I also try to take key staff to a conference in the early part of the year (pre-Easter). It’s another opportunity to get away, bond, and feed your professional side. I’ve often said I’ve learned far more at conferences over the years than I ever did at school. Going to a conference as a team could be just the boost your team needs. You must stay sharp in the ministry world and the new year is the perfect time to fill up your tanks (spiritually, mentally, creatively) and to just all around be inspired. Definitely plan on attending the 3-day online First Impressions Conference. This is a must-watch for your team and no travel is involved!
  6. Visit another church – This is my secret that I’ve kept for 20 years of ministry. Whenever I can, however I can, I take any opportunity to visit another church. Maybe I’m on vacation. Maybe I’m out of town at a conference. Maybe I go to a Saturday night service or a Sunday night service. For two decades, every chance I got, I visited other churches. Good and bad. I’ve visited almost all of the churches on the largest church list, as well as the fastest-growing list. I’ve learned what to do and what not to do (I’ve visited some bad churches, too). The key is to see something different than what you’ve grown accustomed to. You see the same church week in and week out, 48 to 50 Sundays a year. You have to be intentional and make it a priority to visit somewhere else and learn what you can. I can not stress enough how important this is.
  7. Set goals – I’m extremely driven and goals are essential to the innovation and strategic leader. It was the late great Zig Ziglar that said, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” At the beginning of last year, I asked my staff to turn in goals for the year for their area of ministry. You would have thought I had tortured them. It was like pulling teeth. I scratched my head in disbelief. Every staff member should set goals for his or her ministry area and then share them with the team. This is a concept called Goal Contagion. Scientists have found that you are dramatically more likely to accomplish your goals if you can see other people working on goals. You don’t even have to meet the person, simply reading about what they’re working on gives you a literal boost. As I have blogged about numerous times in the past, we must constantly be recruiting, equipping/training, and growing in our given areas of ministry. If you have 10 volunteers, make a goal to get to 20 volunteers. If you are bad with communication, make it a goal to communicate better this new year. If you’re bad with follow-up and assimilation, make it a goal to send out letters, emails, and make phone calls this new year, each week. Make goals to grow spiritually and professionally. If you lead a staff or team, think of developing personal growth plans for each of your team members and check in with them each week. Don’t wait until the year-end evaluation to tell someone how they’re doing. If someone is doing a poor job, it should not be a surprise to them in a year-end review. Read that again. Communicate and set clear, measurable goals.

* Do these 7 simple, but crucial things, and your new year will be off to a great start.

3 Ways to Still Have a Team After Christmas

So here we are – less than three months away from the biggest church season of the year. I just left a planning meeting with the worship pastor at my home church. We were talking about ways to turn first-time guests into second-time guests. We brainstormed about setting up a tent outside to welcome guests and give them a gift, as well as info about next steps.

The reality is all we planned to do takes a huge amount of volunteer leadership. I coached him on delegating and equipping the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4).

But here’s the real question:
How do we still have a team going forward after such a stressful and busy season as Christmas?

Here are some thoughts:

We live in a digital world. Texting, IMing, Facebook posts, Instagram posts, and daily tweets – truly a whirlwind when it comes to communicating these days. Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve found that a personal touch still goes a long way (yes, even in 2021).

  1. A Handwritten Note

Everybody loves to receive a handwritten note thanking them for their service on your team. We’re coming up on one of the busiest times of the year with Christmas. We all know that Christmas is like the Super Bowl for churches. More people will visit your congregation than any other season of the year.

Your volunteers are going to work countless hours (your staff, too). Take the time to write out ‘Thank You’ notes to each and every one of them. If you have the budget, include a gift card in the note to them. Sometimes I do Chilis gift cards for $25. Sometimes I can only do a $10 Starbucks card. Whatever your budget can do – make it happen.

  1. Phone Calls

Another thing that goes a long way in this digital world is phone calls. It seems we’ve lost the art of picking up the phone and checking on our team and seeing how they’re doing. I used to go through my team’s list of names and give them a call just to see how they were doing and if there was anything I could pray for them about. This went a long way!

  1. Personal Touch

One final thought I’ll mention on a personal touch is to give out hugs. You wouldn’t believe it, but a hug goes a long way. Now I know that some people don’t like to be touched and freak out if you try to hug them. You need to be aware of body language and know if you’re making someone uncomfortable, but by and large, most people like a good ole hug.

On Wednesday nights, I greeted my team members with hugs and asked how they were doing. This is in contrast to barking to get your post or “Did you hear about the changes we made?”

I’ve made it a point to not let something business come out of my mouth first. The person is always more important than the thing we’re trying to accomplish or produce. Check on them first and then update them on the changes. Lastly, greet them with a warm smile. Let your people know you love and care for them.

This is about valuing people over production. People are more important than what they can produce and we shouldn’t prostitute them and their gifts. God has entrusted them to us and our team and we should value them.

How long has it been since you wrote a note? How long since you called a team member? Given any hugs lately?

Let’s surprise our team and volunteers with a personal touch and an attitude of gratitude this holiday season.

 

*** Want help reaching and KEEPING more guests at your local church?

Signup for the November 10-12 (ALL ONLINE) First Impressions Conference here.

PLEASE NOTE: You don’t have to watch it all live. When you signup for the VIP Replay Pass, you can watch all 18 hours of video content at any time later on-demand! (Plus you get some amazing bonus content)

The Interruptions Aren’t Interruptions

It’s 2pm on a Thursday and you are knee-deep in your sermon preparation and coming down the homestretch. The energy, caffeine, and momentum are just right – you feel you’ll finish before 6pm and make it home in time for supper.

Then it happens: You get that knock on your door and look up to see someone standing in your doorway saying, “Do you have a moment?” – They’re not interrupting your work. They ARE your work.

Ministry is about people;  it always has been and always will be.

One thing that bugs me is hanging out with pastors that say (not jokingly), “Ministry would be great if it weren’t for the people.” It pains my heart that pastors and Church leaders don’t get this simple truth. We are the Body of Christ and every member is important and special. We are called to shepherd God’s people and that involves getting our hands dirty and yes, being bothered and interrupted.

IMPORTANT: This isn’t about being an introvert or extrovert. This is about being sensitive to the Holy Spirit, who is always at work around us.

As ministers, we should seek the opportunities to show and express Christ’s love to those we lead and serve.

Speaking of seeking opportunities: You have to be intentional. What does your weekly schedule look like? How many breakfasts, coffees, and lunches do you schedule each week? I fill lots of my calendar with people meetings and have for 27 years.

If you go from administrative meeting to meeting and never schedule any time with your congregation members, volunteers and staff, and people in the community, you’re missing a crucial part of leadership and the opportunity to be God in the flesh to someone in need.

Please note: It is very important to set boundaries. I used to do all sorts of late-night meetings. Now, I make people schedule a meeting during office hours. There is a rare exception/emergency, but that’s to be expected in ministry.

My encouragement and exhortation to you are to leave some margin in your schedule for the unexpected. Have time set aside in your calendar that is empty, so when the interruptions come (and they will), you’ll be able to get back on track.

So where do you go from here? Here’s an action item:

When you notice someone down, frustrated, hurt or just not themselves, you should take the initiative to ask if they need someone to talk to or how you can pray for them. When you’re in the midst of busy/office work and someone calls, texts, emails, IMs, or drops by your office, take the time to listen and serve.

Be the hands and feet of Christ to those you come in contact with, it’s what we’re called to do and you’ll be a better and more trusted, respected, and loved leader because of it.

So, confession time: Have you ever been in the midst of busy/office work and had someone drop by unannounced? How did you handle it? Do you have the presence of mind to be sensitive to the Spirit?

 

 

Introducing the First Impressions Challenge

Who else wants to fix their church’s guest retention problem once and for all?
The average church guest makes up their mind if they’ll come back for a second visit within 7 minutes of driving in the parking lot…
Long before you step into the pulpit and deliver the sermon you’ve been working on all week, people are deciding if they’ll come back for a second visit.
I know what it feels like to be frustrated by this problem because I’ve served for nearly 3 decades as a pastor at small, medium, and large churches that struggled with this exact issue.
In fact, we had so many guests who would show up once or twice then never return that we actually called them “drive-bys!”

That’s why I created the FREE 5-Day First Impressions Challenge.

 

So you can discover how to close the ‘back door’ and get people coming back and plugged into the life of your church.
During this free workshop you’re going to learn:
  • How to collect guests information in the most efficient and effective way possible
  • How companies like Chick-fil-A and Disney WOW their guests
  • This is the same follow-up system I use to train the largest and fastest-growing churches in the world to quickly connect with people and see them return for a second and third visit

Join the free 5-Day First Impressions Challenge today: https://firstimpressionschallenge.com/

Greg Atkinson is The Virtual XP

Greg Atkinson is open (currently) to work with one to two churches as a virtual XP (Executive Pastor). Greg has no plans to move but is available to a church (ideal size is 500 to 1500 average attendance) that is looking to hire expertise and experience without the expense of a full-time staff member with benefits.

Greg has served every size church in his nearly three-decade ministry career, including being on staff at 3 different mega-churches. Greg has also been a consultant to some of the largest and fastest-growing churches in the US, with congregations of 30,000+.

Greg has worked with a number of coaching clients, but this is different and more intense, with more access to Greg, who would be flying in once a month to be onsite at your church. Throughout the week, Greg would be available via text, phone, and Zoom, as agreed to upon the retainer and what the client needs.

Greg can oversee staff and be a great support, friend, encourager, and counsel to the Lead Pastor and Senior Leadership of the church. You can read more about Greg here.

If you’d like to explore this option with Greg, please contact him at greg@gregatkinson.com.

Reflections on Nearly Three Decades of in Ministry

I’ve now been in ministry for 28 years. I started in February of 1994. I started thinking about what I’ve learned over the years, serving churches of various sizes and types and speaking to and meeting with countless Church leaders across the country.

Over these nearly three decades of ministry, I’ve served at church plants, small churches, medium-sized churches, large churches, and on staff at 3 mega-churches. I’ve served in rural, urban, and suburban settings. I’ve served multiethnic and diverse congregations and homogenous congregations. As a consultant, I’ve been blessed and honored to serve over 200 churches in the last 16 years.

The following are some thoughts that I had while reflecting on my ministry career. These are in no particular order and I’m sure I’m leaving something out. I may add more later. Here goes:

  • God uses weak people for His Glory.
  • God uses broken people. God will break you eventually. It seems that brokenness is an ongoing thing.
  • God uses us despite ourselves.
  • Everyone goes through pain in their life.
  • Hurting people hurt people.
  • Depression is real.
  • We all have highs and lows, mountains, and valleys.
  • Death stings and families grieve – no matter how old the deceased is.
  • God pursues me.
  • Servants/volunteers are precious.
  • As the Word says, “Be ready in season and out.”
  • Often people will come to you for help or counsel and you realize you’re more messed up than they are. Hah!
  • We all stumble and fall – some harder than others.
  • You can’t have success, wins, breakthroughs, and innovations without risks and failure.
  • Smaller churches are usually the most creative and innovative. I watch them for inspiration.
  • Weddings, funerals, and new births happen non-stop.
  • I’ve said it before: Sunday comes every week – it’s relentless!
  • Baptisms are extremely important and special – never take them for granted.
  • Some pastors/ministers are just plain mean. I started to say jerks, but that wouldn’t be nice.
  • Sometimes God asks you to stay somewhere when you’re begging to leave.
  • Sometimes God asks you to leave when you want to stay and fight.
  • Never let a denominational affiliation keep you from pursuing friends in ministry. Some of my closest friends/brothers and sisters in ministry are from different denominations.
  • God can and often does speak through lost people to you.
  • Most pastors don’t know any lost people. I said: “Most pastors don’t know any lost people.” You have to be INTENTIONAL to get out beyond the four walls and form relationships with those that are not like you, don’t believe like you, and may NEVER enter the doors of your church.
  • God’s creation/nature is His gift to you and should not be taken for granted. Let it refresh, refocus, encourage, and inspire you.
  • God changes lives. We simply get to partner with His Spirit.
  • Some people will refuse Christ. I have watched people with blinded eyes reject the Gospel and no academic or theological argument or debate could convince them of the truth. God has to draw them to Himself and open their eyes. You can’t debate someone into the Kingdom.
  • When you feel your weakest, God uses you mightily.
  • The Word truly is a lamp unto my feet.
  • Prayer warriors are God-sends.
  • I’m thankful for my mom, my wife, and a few precious people that consistently intercede and pray on my behalf.
  • Your spouse is along for your wild ride and weathers each storm with you. Sometimes things people say about you hurt them worse than you.
  • Leaders take bullets. Better have your shield up.
  • YOU CAN NOT MAKE EVERYONE HAPPY. Someone will not like you. Get over it.
  • Your devotional life is key. Go too long without it and eventually you’ll get spiritually dry and crash and burn or burn out.
  • Real ministry happens in small groups. Corporate worship is wonderful, but I really see God move in home groups and recovery ministries like Celebrate Recovery and Divorce Care, etc.
  • When all is said and done, the people, the memories, those you’re closest to, those that are so special and you’re special to them, are because of unplanned, out-of-the-ordinary events, crises, emergencies, tragedies, etc. It’s hardly ever your “job” or what you get paid to do or is on your job description that God uses to allow you to grow closer to an individual or group of people.
  • Life is messy. Don’t oversimplify.
  • Stop sending people and money overseas if you’re ignoring your own backyard/city. Some of the poorest and most lost people in the world are in your community. The US is the 4th largest unreached people group in the world. Christians in Africa send missionaries to us. Read that again.
  • I’m still young in ministry and there are many, many far much wiser than I.
  • Don’t boast in your strengths – you can do those in the natural. The supernatural kicks in in your weakness that’s where God’s strength is made perfect/evident.
  • The Bible tells us in Romans 12:18, NIV: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Be kind to everyone, but give yourself grace and realize you will always be the villain in someone’s story.

I’ll end with 5 quotes from men I respect:

  1. “The world for which we were trained no longer exists.”- Pete Briscoe
  2. “We as a church don’t have a mission. The mission has a Church.” – Reggie McNeal
  3. “As I look back over fifty years of ministry, I recall innumerable tests, trials, and times of crushing pain. But through it all, the Lord has proven faithful, loving, and totally true to all his promises.” – David Wilkerson
  4. Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” – William Carey
  5. “Go straight for souls, and go for the worst.” – William Booth