I often tease my pastor friends that we have the “greatest job security in the world”, because people will always need a pastor, just like sheep need a shepherd.
But during this Pastor Appreciation Month, I thought it appropriate to honor the men that God has used in my life to shepherd me, from my earliest memories:
- George L. Glass, Sr.
- Marvin Rutledge
- Jimmy Greer (who baptized me)
- Roy L. Jones
- F.R. Reed (who was like a father to me and under whose ministry I began preaching)
- William Sciscoe (who was there for me after I lost Pastor Reed)
- Bishop Joseph Garlington
and a special thanks to the men who have walked alongside Chris and me at CLC, as our Apostolic Overseers:
- John Nordstrom
- Eddie Cupples
- Dale Van Steenis
- Gordon Banks
- Dennis Cramer
and finally, my fellow-laborers at CLC through the years:
- Stephen & Shae Wasmundt
- Brian & Natalie Page
- Dan & Pat Johnson
- Eric & Kristen Stone
- Doug & Shanna Neal
- Benjamin & Nili Stewart
- Tony & Angie Gilmore
- Brent & Sol McQuay
- Sam & Taylor Hamstra, Jr.
- Jon & Rachel Jones
- Micah & Jen Remington
- Moy & Eva Mendez
- Ken & Patricia Earley
- Dan & Torey Goodson
and my one and only Chris, whose dedication to God & His people never cease to amaze-
this is for you, with my love:
I just received this card in the mail today:
If it needs explanation, the card is handwritten by Mrs. Dodie Osteen (Joel’s mother, and the matriarch of Lakewood Church). She’s 85 years old and I’m sure she has better things to do than send a thank you note to me for participating on stage at the recent “Night of Hope” at the United Center.
But I’ve learned in my years of ministry that classy people do classy things. (Maybe I should rephrase that to say, “real leaders show appreciation to people”.
I hope I’m still practicing that at age 85.
With all the good reports around CLC yesterday, I left out one bit of news that is certainly bittersweet. As you may know, Linell Muse has been a part of our CLC family for over 10 years, with the last 4 of them spent as our Worship Director at CLC-Hammond.
Earlier this year he proposed to Amanda Edwards who was a featured vocalist on our Tinley Park praise team and a finance clerk in our office. They plan to be married this December.
However, just this weekend they accepted a tremendous opportunity to serve a church in Osage Beach, MO (in the heart of the Ozark mountains), starting in September. So we’re rejoicing with them for a larger opportunity (and the possibility of a job in Amanda’s field of study, journalism), but we’re sad to see them go at the same time.
They’ll be around only for two more weeks, so show them some love here or here. We certainly appreciate all their service, both in Tinley Park and in Hammond, and we pray God’s favor and blessing as they take this next big step in ministry!
Our nationwide search led by the Vanderbloemen Search Group ended last Sunday night (Father’s Day), when Dan & Torey Goodson agreed to join our CLC pastoral team!
Dan has a wealth of ministry experience: COO of Joyce Meyer Ministries, Executive Staff with several well-known megachurches, including one that has 9 campuses in 4 states (so he understands the whole multi-site approach to ministry), and more!
They have already signed a purchase contract on a house in Flossmoor and plan to move here the first week of August, but I thought you might enjoy getting acquainted here in the meantime. They’ve also assured me that they like to connect on Facebook, so feel free to send them a friend request.
Here’s the introductory video that convinced us to bring them to Tinley Park for an onsite interview – enjoy!
It’s that time of year again, and I’m excited! In case you’re not aware, the reason we do God@the Movies is simple: we’re trying to reach people who might otherwise come to church to hear God’s Word, but they do enjoy movies!
Just like Jesus taught using object lessons and current event illustrations, and just like the Apostle Paul quoted pagan Greek poets of his day (see Acts 17:27-29), we use this series to bring Biblical truths that are often hard-hitting and perhaps even more compelling than other Sunday messages, with illustrations from Hollywood on the big screen.
We DON’T do this series just to entertain the saints; we do it to reach the lost! And here’s one way you can help with that: as a general rule, churches are the last to get on board with new technology. Believe me, I know. I was part of a church that preached against using radio (initially) and television (later) as opportunities to spread the gospel.
But I noticed something a few years ago that got me thinking. One of our CLCers posted on Facebook about the “God@the Movies” series and at least two or three of her friends responded – some who are local may visit, and one even watched online from North Carolina that Sunday!
Here’s my thought: perhaps social media can remove some of the fear from witnessing and make it easier for us to invite our friends & family to CLC. And I wonder, if one CLCer posting a simple invitation results in at least a couple of new people being introduced in person or online, what would happen if hundreds of CLCers would post on Facebook or Twitter?
Let’s try it & see what God will do this weekend with “Hidden Figures” at our Tinley Park campus, or “Moana” in Hammond or “Captain America” in Blue Island.
That’s my report – but I’d love to hear from YOU – what was your favorite moment of the evening?
I know it’s a holiday weekend, but I invite you to join us Sunday as we explore the ‘power gifts’ (faith, working of miracles & healing) – ‘Do What Jesus Did!’, and of course, the final activation night with Robby Dawkins on May 31 at 7pm!
We’re well in week 3 of this 5-week series about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, but I’m sure some people are still wondering, “what’s the big deal?” and “why an ‘activation’ night”?
The big deal in a nutshell is what Jesus promised in John 14:12; namely, that you and I would do the same works that He did, because of the Holy Spirit He would send to us!
This is not just a cute title for some sermons. This is a promise of Jesus: that we will be able to speak like He spoke, know like He knew, and even do what He did!
In my observation these past 48 years of ministry, the ONLY reason that we aren’t doing all of that is fear of embarrassment – the fear of looking stupid if we try something and fail. And that’s where these ‘activation nights’ come in.
As you saw last Wednesday (if you attended), an activation is simply a safe way for us to try to use the gifts Jesus promised us, without the fear of embarrassment.
Did you learn to talk as a baby without first trying to make some sounds?
Did you learn to walk as a child without first trying to take some steps, even though you were clumsy in the beginning?
Did you learn to ride a bike with some ‘training wheels’ attached initially, to give you more confidence until you could ride without fear?
Tonight you’ll have a chance to ‘activate’ the gifts of the word of knowledge, word of wisdom and discerning of spirits with the guidance of a man who uses those gifts effectively to serve others – Dr. Matthew Stevenson.
See you at 7pm at the Tinley Park campus.
P.S. Apostle Stevenson invited his church to join us, so I suggest you arrive early to get a seat!
I learned a valuable lesson (well, actually re-learned it again) last week after we were SO overwhelmed with almost 800 people coming to our first “Activation night” during our GIFTED series.
In any prophetic message, there are always three components:
- The revelation – what God actually says to you
- The interpretation – how you understand what He said
- The application – what you do with what you heard
Earlier this year, I really, really sensed the Lord speak to me that this series on the gifts of the Spirit was NOT to just be a sermon series, but that we should include “activations” to help our people put the teaching into practice by stepping out in the gifts. I even sensed three men immediately that I wanted to lead those activations, and as soon as I contacted them, each one quickly accepted the invitation for the only possible dates that would work for us!
I knew God had spoken to me and I knew He was at work in arranging this for us. I also has sensed that this was NOT just to be for our Tinley Park campus, but it was for ALL of CLC – that each campus was to be impacted by these activations.
When I sat down with our pastors to apply what I had heard from the Lord, I thought the best way to accomplish it was to move the application nights around so that each campus could experience one in their building, even while challenging the other two campuses to support the activation nights as though it was their own. Sounds logical, right?
But my application was obviously off, when almost 800 folks came to experience the ‘speaking gifts” with Apostle John Eckhardt last Wednesday and by Thursday morning when I met with our pastors, we knew we had no choice but to host the remaining two activations in our largest facility, the Tinley Park campus.
As each of us continues to step out and “make the SUPERnatural natural at CLC”, let it be a valuable lesson that we must humbly seek Him for the application to what He reveals to us by His Spirit.
Can’t wait to see what He will do in us this Wednesday at 7pm with Dr. Matthew Stevenson in the house!
I’m still floating after the move of the Spirit we enjoyed this past Sunday at CLC-Tinley Park (and from the reports I heard, at our other campuses as well).
But when I saw the picture above and noticed the all-out praise from everyone on stage, it reminded me of an important principle: we set the atmosphere for others to receive!
For instance, our First Touch Team (parking lot, ushers, greeters, info desk) plays such an important role of welcoming people to CLC. The atmosphere they set by their smiles, warmth, handshakes, and all-around welcoming attitude does cause even anxious newcomers to feel accepted and even wanted at CLC.
Just last night I received a text about a woman who attended Sunday for just the second time ever, and her 2-year old cried so much she had to leave the auditorium during the message and stay with him in our nursery. But the point of the text is that our Nursery team showed so much LOVE to the little boy that she still had a good experience, even though she didn’t get to be in the service! (Kudos to CLC KidsLife Jr. workers!!!)
My point is this: each of us can help to set an atmosphere, not only to welcome people or help them feel loved, but also to welcome the Presence of our Great God into the room, so that everyone in the House can receive from Him! (Thank God for a great Worship team at CLC who set the example for us each Sunday, but it’s not just about those on stage – it’s up to each of us to set that atmosphere through our worship!)
I’m convinced that we’re going to a new place in the Spirit at CLC, but setting the atmosphere makes it possible!
…..our CLC Apostolic Overseers are in town!
“In the multitude of counselors there is safety” – So says the wisest man who ever lived, in Proverbs 11:14.
Honestly, I’ve never understood why anyone wouldn’t want good counsel from others. As a pastor, I know that I’m in over my head, and I need the wisdom that can be found from other godly men who love me and who love CLC. That’s why we created a board of Overseers back in 1993, knowing that I would soon be walking away from the only faith family I had ever known, and that I needed godly counsel.
They have served us SO well through these last 24 years, and they have become my closest friends in the process. I thank God for Pastors Joseph Garlington, Gordon Banks, and Eddie Cupples, as well as Prophet Dennis Cramer and Dale Van Steenis!
All five of these men are in town (well, Bishop is arriving this morning) and they’ll spend all day with us as we look at CLC’s future. I look forward to our time of prayer, conversation, laughter and counsel!
Together, they make CLC a safe place for you and me.
Today has been a very FULL day of meetings and deliberations for CAPRO. I’m still not sure how I got here, but I’m humbled at the responsibility we carry for 700 missionaries in 35 different nations, most of them located within the 10/40 window of the most unreached peoples on earth.
What CAPRO has been able to do in the past 42 years of missions ministry is nothing short of a miracle of God’s grace, especially considering their limited resources. Even more astonishing is that 80% of their financial support comes from within Nigeria! (Humbling for this American to realize that God uses people outside of the USA to accomplish His work!)
We finished our deliberations here about noon on Friday, Chicago time, and after a hair-raising, two-and-a-half-hour drive to the Lagos airport in rush hour traffic and an even crazier check-in experience at the airport, I’ll be boarding my return flight soon. See you Sunday!
Since this was my FIRST visit to Bethel after hearing of the ministry for several years, I came away with several observations that I’ll share at the close of this post-
My reflections, in no particular order of importance:
1. I’m impressed with Pastor Bill Johnson’s ability to gather and keep a team of ministry “stars“. Bethel is definitely not built on one man’s ministry (truth be told, no church ever is!) It seemed throughout the conference that every pastor on his team has a unique and outstanding ministry of their own. It takes a humble and secure leader to attract and keep such a team intact – and Pastor Bill does it well, allowing each team member to fulfill their calling.
2. I am particularly impressed with their children’s ministry. Children’s Pastor Seth Dahl shared a story this morning that may have been the highlight of the conference (and after last night’s testimonies from ex-inmates-who-are-now-ministers, that’s quite a statement!) He told how a woman from another state had visited Bethel recently. She had brain cancer and came to Bethel specifically to receive a healing prayer – but the Sunday she visited, their ‘healing rooms’ ministry was closed because of other meetings that occupied their space. So a friend of hers texted Seth to see if he could arrange for someone to pray for her. He brought her to the 1st & 2nd grade classroom and asked the children to pray for her. Those first and second grade children zealously prayed and prophesied over her and finally one little boy spoke over the microphone, “Lord, just flick that cancer off her like a bug!” Seth was so touched by that faith-filled prayer that he had ALL the kids do a prophetic act, by flicking their finger and repeating the boy’s prayer. The woman returned to her home and after her next doctor’s exam, the MRI showed NO Cancer in her body! Would to God all our children learned to operate in faith like that!!!
3. I’m definitely impressed with their prophetic teams from the School of Supernatural Ministry. The last thing that I experienced before leaving Bethel’s campus was my appointment to receive a prophetic word. The teams of three that ministered to our pastors included students from six different countries (two each on a team) and a child each from Bethel’s Children’s Ministry, and each of our pastors received ‘words’ that were accurate and affirming, even from the children. That doesn’t happen without practical training in the supernatural, and I love it.
Of course, there’s more I could say, but those are my big observations. I’m returning home tomorrow with a heart of expectation that what God is doing in Bethel and Redding, CA, He is able to do in CLC and Chicagoland!
So this conference and my trip is about half-over, and I still have high expectations for the remaining sessions, including an appointment for each of us with one of their prophetic teams tomorrow.
I must say the highlight thus far has been the opportunity for extended conversations with Pastors Sam & Taylor and Brent….guess we had to get out of the office to truly connect 😉
It’s amazing what a friend will do. Pastor Ed Marroquin drove to Chicago yesterday to hang with us at the office, then spent the night at our house last night because we had to be up at 2:30 this morning to catch a ridiculously-early flight to Houston.
He and I will attend a pastor’s gathering at Lakewood Church with Joel Osteen and his Champion’s Network all day before catching our flight home tonight.
The lack of sleep (and coffee) has made for a lot of laughter already, so it should be a fun day.
See you Wednesday for Family Night at CLC (Iron Men, H2H, Consumed & KidsLife – there’s something for everyone!)
It’s hard to believe that we’re just barely over a week away from our favorite meeting of the year at CLC – our First Love Conference this January 13-15!
Several facts make this Conference truly UNIQUE:
1. We’ve changed the schedule by opening on Friday night instead of Saturday morning (you don’t want to miss the opening!)
2. More importantly, each of our guest speakers is a CLC Overseer, with a heart for our church and a history of ministering to us in love! These men are not “hired guns”, just coming to preach a sermon – they have prayed for us, helped us solve problems and challenges in the ministry over the years, and demonstrated true friendship in our times of need! They are family!
3. Finally, this gathering is unique because on Martin Luther King, Jr. day (January 16) we’re moving to our Hammond, Indiana campus for a special morning designed for pastors, ministers and leaders who want to learn from Bishop Garlington and special guest Dr. David Ireland!
Of course, we’re preparing our hearts for all of this with a 3-day “juice fast” and a special Worship Night at each campus next week. I can’t wait!
I woke up this morning as shocked as everyone else about the results of our Presidential election.
I also know that many people in our country are hurt and fearful of what the future holds.
Let me point out some things that have NOT changed after this election:
- Before the election, America desperately needed the mercy and grace of God. After the election, we still do.
- Before the election, our nation was deeply divided: racially, politically, spiritually. After the election, we still are.
- Before the election, our only hope for the future was in Jesus Christ, not a politician. After the election, HE still reigns.
As my friend, Pastor Jason Bentley, wrote, “No matter the election results, my job remains the same: Love God, love people, preach Jesus, spread hope, build His church, advance His Kingdom.”
That’s why a dozen CLC pastors/ministry directors from all our campuses are headed to Dallas before dawn this morning to attend the Gateway Conference in Southlake, TX. Gateway is led by Robert Morris, who I think is the finest Bible teacher in America, and they’re on the cutting-edge of what God is doing today.
I’m looking forward to two full days and nights of worship, preaching and Presence in a room with a few thousand other pastors and leaders – and I’m praying that God shakes my world in the process!
If you know me at all, you know that I have never endorsed any candidate for President in my 40+ years of pastoring.
(Relax, I’m not about to start now.)
Here’s my position on any important election: I want what God wants! Isaiah 40 and 1Samuel 2:7-10 and especially Romans 13:1 let me know that ultimately God puts in office who HE wants. I’ve learned that His ways are not always my ways; sometimes God may put someone in office that I would never have chosen, because God is seeking to humble us as a nation, to move us to repentance.
I think this is particularly appropriate in this election when most Christians would agree that neither candidate is following the teachings of Scripture, personally or in their policies – which is probably why I’ve never know Christians to be so divided in their view as to who our next President should be – and all the more reason why I know I’m not smart enough to know what God is doing or wants to do in this particular election.
Over the past several weeks I’ve been asked by several national ministries to engage in various prayer plans for this election – some wanting us to pray for 30 days; some wanting prayer each day in October; some calling for us to pray in the Spirit for one hour this Sunday. Here’s what I’m asking CLC’ers (and anyone else reading this) to do: would you pray daily between now and the election for God’s will to be done?
I don’t mean a “k sera, sera; whatever will be, will be” kind of prayer. I’m also not prescribing what time of day you should pray or for how long you should pray each day. I’m simply asking you to join me each day between now and November 8 in earnestly praying that the God who knows what’s best for our nation will intervene in this election and put into office the person that HE wills for President of these United States.
If we start now, we have just over 40 days before the election, and I don’t have to tell you how many significant events in Scripture happened in 40 days. Together, let’s believe for his will to be done on earth (in the USA) as it is in heaven!
At least CLC pastors do, because we want to get better at what we do in serving God’s people!
That’s why Pastors Ben, Sam, Brent and I are leaving this morning for Kalamazoo, MI and the 2016 Pastor’s School with Jimmy Evans. I attended one in 2014 and came back from Dallas telling our team it was THE best seminar or conference I had ever attended in 40 years of ministry, so when I saw that it was coming this close to Chicago, I immediately signed up our campus pastor team to attend. (The bonus is I get to attend free as an alumni)
In fact, as much as I look forward to the sessions each day, I’m especially looking forward to our evenings together (and the 5 hours of windshield time going and coming) for some extended discussions with our pastors that we don’t often get to have at home during the average work week. I’m confident we’ll return home Wednesday afternoon better equipped to lead CLC!
As a pastor, I never bring politics into the pulpit (or to this blog, normally). The church that I serve has both Republicans and Democrats and Independents, and the last thing we need is division over political issues.
However, after watching bits & pieces of the Republican convention in Cleveland last week, and likewise a few snatches of the Democrats convention in Philadelphia this week, followed by my Bible reading this morning, I felt I had to share:
First, I read Jeremiah 17:5-6. That’s pretty strong, isn’t it. GOD says, if we put our trust in mere human beings, we’re headed for misery. So for those of you who are tired of the last eight years with a Democrat in the White House and who think Donald Trump is the answer to “make America great again”, and to those of you who feel Hillary will continue the progress you’ve seen under President Obama, I challenge you to set your sights higher, as in Jeremiah 17:7-8. Our only hope for a fruitful life is in trusting GOD, not any politician!
Then, in the Bible reading plan I’m using this year, my next reading was Psalm 146:3, which seems even stronger than Jeremiah 17: no human being can save us!
Finally, I read Psalm 146:5-10. Notice the contrast when we depend on the Lord instead of human leaders:
- HE always keeps His promises. (need I say more about this year’s candidates?)
- HE truly helps the oppressed and those in poverty.
- HE restores people, no matter their past.
- HE protects immigrants and helps those who are disadvantaged.
- HE enforces justice for the wicked.
- HE doesn’t put us through another campaign season; HE is king forever!
That’s my position on the 2016 elections, and I don’t expect it to ever change. My trust is in the Lord, and may God bless America.
My Bible talked to me again. This time it was from Jeremiah 1:7, when God anticipated Jeremiah’s excuse before he even had a chance to use it!
Actually, I didn’t just hear God from reading that verse. I also heard Him when I read a quote recently that said, “If you want something badly enough, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”
I think that’s a ‘Word’ for all of us.
What excuses have you used lately?
Is it possible you could be ‘excusing’ yourself from something God is calling you to do?
- Maybe it’s going back to get that degree. Don’t say, “I’m too old; I don’t have the money; I don’t have the time”.
- Perhaps it’s to have that difficult conversation with your spouse. Don’t say, “He/she might get angry and make things worse.
- It could be God is calling you to host a Family Matters group. Don’t say, “I don’t know anyone who would come to my group”; “I don’t know how to facilitate a discussion”; “What if they ask a question I can’t answer?”
If you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way.
If you know God is calling you, and you step out in obedience, He’ll make a way!
What are you hearing God say today?
For over a decade CLC has been host to a worship gathering now known as the Selah Worship Conference. Here’s why:
- I believe in Alan & Terrilyn Franklin! It was their heart to help local churches that first attracted me to get involved with Selah, and that hasn’t changed. These folks are not egotistical or driven to make a name for themselves; they’re sincerely driven to help musicians and singers and local churches excel in the ministry of worship!
- I believe the key to almost everything is the Presence of God! Surely you know by now that all our clever programs to reach unsaved people are not the answer. The lost are not looking for great oratory in a sermon; they don’t need a beautiful sanctuary in which to spend their Sunday morning; but what our world craves is the reality of the Supernatural – and that’s what’s available in the Presence of God!
- I believe excellence in worship can bring the Presence to our churches! Don’t get me wrong: musicianship and trained voices, as important as they are, is not the same thing as anointing. However, the anointing is not hindered by good musicianship and talented singers, either. (Why do we tend to make everything “either/or” instead of “both/and”?) We need skilled musicians and gifted voices who are also humbly walking with God and who carry an anointing to lead others into the Presence of God!
So, if you’re a pastor, I urge you to send your worship leaders (maybe help sponsor their registration cost?). If you’re a musician or psalmist, I urge you to register now. And if you’re like me and just enjoy being in the Presence of God, join us for three great worship nights next week at Selah 2016! (details below)
My Bible talked to me this morning.
Actually, it started last night, when one of my preaching class students shared a message about King Saul and referenced 1Samuel 15:17, when the Lord reminded Saul that in the beginning, he was little in his own eyes, but God exalted him to be king over all Israel.
This morning my Bible reading plan included 1Samuel 15, and verse 12 jumped off the page at me! How do you go from being so humble that you hid from those who wanted to make you king, to the point that now you are building monuments to yourself???
Then when Samuel confronted him for his disobedience, Saul finally admitted his wrongdoing, but was still more concerned about his image than about obeying God – so in verse 30, he pleaded with Samuel just to honor him in front of the people!
Worst of all, I read verse 35 where the Lord said He was sorry He had ever made Saul king – that’s a big step DOWN from being a man who stood head & shoulders above all Israel.
It reminded me this morning of a story I heard a long time ago of a young minister who went into the pulpit one Sunday all cocky and full of himself as the ‘anointed mand of God’ but things didn’t go well. He got his tongue tangled up; he forgot Scriptures that he intended to quote; he stuttered and stammered his way through the sermon and finally left the pulpit with his head down, knowing that he had really dropped the ball. One of the church ‘mothers’ stopped him before he got out of the auditorium and simply said, “son, if you had come in like you went out, you could have gone out like you went in”.
May God help us all walk in humility before Him.
As part of our commitment to raise up leaders and potential campus pastors for the future expansion of CLC, last night I completed an 8-week class about preaching, in which I tried to share everything I’ve learned in the last 47 years on that subject.
To close the class, I shared a lesson from my friend, Dr. David Shibley, founder of Global Advance, and I think it’s worth repeating here for the benefit of my readers. He called it, “What To Do in the Waiting Room” – in other words, while you’re waiting for your opportunity to preach regularly or to lead a church or campus of your own, what should you be doing now?
1. Develop your devotional life. This is the perfect time for you to grow deep in your daily time with the Lord, reading the Word, praying and listening to Him. Do you realize that everything you will do in ministry begins there? Whether it’s a new program or ministry idea, or the seed for a sermon series, or even wisdom for making ministry decisions – ALL of it is dependent on you hearing from God in your devotional times! So build your devotional muscles now, to prepare you for a life of ministry.
2. Be faithful in the little things. That should be self-explanatory. Be consistent in church attendance, in tithing, in serving, in returning phone calls or emails – in all the ‘little things’ of life. Take dominion over the floorboard of your car. (If you can’t keep it clean, how are you going to lead a church?) And don’t forget that Jesus said, “faithful in little; faithful in much“.
3. Deal with anger and forcibly repel bitterness. You will be tempted much to get frustrated or even angry and bitter about how long it’s taking for you to get pulpit opportunities. You will be tempted to resent your leaders when they pass you over and give promotion to one of your peers. Deal with it. Nothing will hinder or even prevent your future ministry like allowing seeds of bitterness to grow now.
4. Further your training. There are tons of opportunities today to get ministry training – from online classes to webinars to local church trainings to seminars and conferences by various ministries. Don’t miss the opportunity to grow and learn from others.
5. “Know thyself”. That proverb may not be in Scripture (it’s from Plato in ancient Greece), but it’s still true. Pay no attention to the opinion of the multitude and don’t boast of gifts or skills that you don’t have – know who God has called you to be.
Dr. Shibley shared five more, but I’ll save those for another day.
Did any of these resonate with you? If you’re in ministry, or aspire to be, join the conversation by leaving your comments below-
I was up before dawn on Monday to catch a flight to Atlanta – for a quick trip where Chris & I were to be honored along with other men and women of God. But the trip actually made me think of how my life and ministry has been shaped by several men of God who have mentored me, either in person or from afar:
- my pastors, the late F.R. Reed, and my beloved Bishop, Joseph Garlington-
- Rick Warren, who taught me how to preach more effectively-
- Jack Hayford, who is the greatest example of integrity I’ve ever know-
- Willie George, who helped me dream of reaching children & youth-
- John C. Maxwell, who changed my life by teaching me how to be a leader
20 years ago, John founded the ministry of EQUIP, which has now trained more than 6 million leaders in all 196 recognized nations on earth, and it has been a privilege for Chris and me to participate in Turkey (with Iranian house church leaders); in Mindanao, Philippines; in Perm, Russia; and in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
So today I say ‘thanks’ to Dr. John C. Maxwell, whose teachings have changed our lives and ministry. We love you!
P.S. WHO do you need to honor for the impact they’ve had in your life? Why not take a moment to thank them today?
One of the principles of Scripture that pastors & churches fail to talk much about is the importance of being under authority – as in Luke 7:7-9.
That principle is why we established an external board of apostolic overseers in the early days of CLC. This board provides safety and protection for our church family and for Chris and me, and we gladly and willingly submit to their authority over us.
Each of these men have proven, successful ministries in their own area of service: One of those men has served on our Board from the beginning – Pastor Eddie Cupples. Another began serving very shortly after that – Pastor Gordon Banks. One, Dale Van Steenis, was introduced to us in Eastern Europe on a missions trip. Of course, Bishop Joseph Garlington, is OUR pastor, whom we love deeply. And Prophet Dennis Cramer is the newest member, having joined us two years ago.
All of them will be in town today to meet with Chris and me, as well as some of the members of our pastoral team, to review the health of our finances and our campuses, and speak into our lives, both for the present and to help us look into the future of CLC.
Would you pray for us today, for Godly wisdom to be released through these men and for us to have ears to hear?
Today we kicked off a new series at CLC, “Is That Really You, God?” and each Sunday in April we’re looking at how we can hear the voice of God for ourselves. In today’s message about hearing God’s voice through the Bible, we simply didn’t have time to address an underlying question that many people have asked: “How can I know the Bible is reliable?”
So, as promised, here are some links to help answer that question, and give you confidence that the Bible truly is God’s Word (1Thess. 2:13):
- How do we know the Bible is true?
- Top 10 Reasons the Bible is true
- Isn’t the Bible just a bunch of fables?
- (video) Is the Bible reliable as a historical document?
- an interesting article on how the media misrepresents the Bible
If apologetics is a study that piques your interest, let me know – there are definitely some great Christian scholars who do a superb job of defending the faith.
And for those of you who would like to have some study helps, here are a few our pastoral staff recommends:
Join the conversation: what other online sites have you found helpful in reading & understanding Scripture?
P.S. For those who have asked, you can register for the day sessions of the National Prayer Summit led by Bishop Tudor Bismark here.
If you’ve been around CLC for the last several weeks, you’ve heard a LOT about Easter weekend – it’s been our #1 focus in each service, and rightfully so.
However, because we’ve put all our, ahem, eggs in one basket (forgive the pun, please), we have failed to mention or promote some other VERY IMPORTANT EVENTS that are ALMOST HERE:
1. Annual H2H Retreat – April 21-23. The deadline for our women’s retreat is actually Easter Sunday, so ladies, you’ll want to respond electronically to this one. The cost is just $250, and that includes 2 nights lodging at the beautiful Olympia resort in Wisconsin, meals from Thursday dinner through Saturday lunch, all sessions, special activities & swag! Don’t delay – register TODAY!
2. National Prayer Summit with Tudor Bismark ministries – April 6-8. Bishop Tudor has been a CLC favorite for years, and he has chosen CLC to host his National Conference. Registration is required to attend the Thursday & Friday day sessions, but the evening services are open to the public all 3 nights!
3. Alpha and Cleansing Stream – two of the finest ministries we offer at CLC will begin the week after Easter. Alpha is specially designed to lead seekers to explore the Christian faith, and is ideal for your unchurched friends (whether they accepted your invitation for Easter or not). Cleansing Stream is the most effective ministry we’ve found to help people deal with the baggage of their past – getting free of bitterness, habits, addictions and more. You can sign up for either of these ministries at the Life Group table in the lobby of CLC-Tinley Park.
I still don’t have words for last night’s FLE with Joe Sangl…
I’m convinced that it has the potential for more changed lives than anything we’ve ever done at CLC – more than First Love Conferences, more than any guest speaker, prophet, evangelist, or any of my sermon series! Period.
However, the key word is potential, because unless we ACT on what we learned, nothing happens!
IF you signed-up for the 6-week Life Group study of “I was broke. Now I’m not.”, you’ll hear from us soon with the times and locations of those group meetings.
If you didn’t start to work on your budget yet, here’s the link where you can get it done. That step alone can change your life, and put you on the road to financial freedom.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear your comments and reflections on what this weekend with Joe meant to you – please join the conversation below:
A pastor that I highly respect and admire reminded me recently of the prayer of Jabez, and I’m praying it regularly these days. I encourage you to join me in praying for 4 things:
1. BLESSING. I want God to bless CLC. I need God to bless CLC. We need more than we need – so we can be a blessing to others. I need more than I need for myself, so I can be a blessing to others around me. “Bless me, indeed!”
2. INFLUENCE. That’s what enlarged territory is all about. I’m not asking for ego sake. I believe CLC is to be an influence in Chicagoland, and in the Nations. I also believe God wants to give YOU greater influence in your career, with your family, and with your friends. All of us have complained about the state of our nation and the decline in morality and the senseless violence, etc. – but what we really need is for godly people to rise up in positions of influence in our society – so let’s pray “God, enlarge our territory by giving us greater influence for Your Kingdom”
3. PRESENCE. That’s what it means to have His Hand on us. I don’t have words to describe how much I need that, and want that. All of our programs and plans and sermons and songs won’t accomplish anything without His Presence anointing all of it! “Lord, let Your Presence saturate everything we do at CLC!”
4. PROTECTION. We need Him to keep us from evil. We don’t need any more scandals in the body of Christ. We don’t need any more ministers to fall into sin. Please keep our staff and our leaders at CLC walking in true holiness, to be examples to our congregation. Satan would like to destroy us, so we NEED Your protection, Lord! Put Your Hand on us!
Want to pray that with me? Let’s ask for God’s blessing, influence, presence & protection!
If that resonates with you, join the conversation by leaving your comments below-
Our last day in Romania was the ‘icing on the cake’:
We’re now back in Bucharest Airport and while Croatia is a neighboring country, there are no direct flights, so we’ll fly to Munich, Germany early this evening and catch another flight to Zagreb, Croatia, which is scheduled to arrive late tonight – it’ll probably be midnight by the time we reach our hotel. We’ll minister for long-time friend, Pastor Sicko Alic at the Word of Life Church in Zagreb (largest Spirit-filled church in the country) from Sunday thru Wednesday before heading home. Thanks for your prayers!
Today was a great day with the pastors retreat here in Romania – so many of them told us afterward how relevant the teaching was for them, which is always our biggest concern on any international assignment. Enjoy the pics:
We arrived in Romania without a hitch (no flight delays & our bags were first ones off the conveyor belt in Bucharest!), quickly met our long-time friends, Pastors Mihai & Neli Dumitrascu, and made the 2+ hour drive to the retreat location, Panicel Complex.
Woke up this morning to the view above, as we are situated near the Bucegi Mountains in southeast Romania. Other than that, we’ve now had 3 meals with a few of the pastors who arrived early for a leader’s meeting, with all the rest of the pastors and their families arriving before our opening session tonight. Last night and today has been more ‘free time’ than we know how to handle, so we are both anxious to get started with the retreat teaching this evening.
I’ll try to post some pics and news as we go, so stay tuned-
Yesterday Pastor Ben Stewart and I spent a day “Inside Lakewood” with other pastors from around the country. It was my first time to be inside the largest church auditorium in America and my first time to meet Pastor Joel Osteen.
There were definitely some inspirational as well as practical moments in the time we spent there, but my favorite of all (considering our “Harvest” series at CLC, which wraps up this coming Sunday) was to hear Joel say that he believes the Lord spoke to him that 2016 was a year of acceleration, and he quoted Amos 9:13-14.
Are you ready for “your head to swim” as how quickly God does it? Even while we wait, I’m expecting blessings everywhere we look!
(This was from the 2015 Gathering, but it gives you a little idea of what we enjoyed yesterday)
If you attended CLC yesterday, you probably heard this announcement already:
I was stirred during our First Love Conference by the altar response to Pastor Chris Durso’s ministry when I sensed personally that many CLC’ers were hearing God’s call to ‘step up’ into positions of leadership to which they were called. Soon after that Prophet Dennis Cramer gave us a strong word that CLC was not to back off or slow down, but to be even more aggressive in planting churches in this region.
If you are one of those who feels a call to help launch new CLC campuses, perhaps as a Campus Pastor, a Worship Director, or a leader in ministry to children, we want to help you by possibly putting you on a ‘Fast Track’ development plan.
(Who knows, you may be the next CLC campus pastor!)
If interested, please reply to this post and give me your contact information and the area of ministry to which you feel called (pastoring, worship, KidsLife, etc.)
2016 is the Year of Harvest for CLC!
For any growing church, two of the most important areas are leadership development and leading your staff. We are SO blessed at CLC to have the ‘best’ I’ve seen at those two areas of ministry in our Executive Pastor (and my friend), Ben Stewart!
I’m not only posting my gratitude for his assistance (after all, it is Pastor Appreciation month), but I’m also sharing the blessing he is to us with this article he recently wrote for Worship Facilities magazine.
Pastor, read it and glean from the wisdom we enjoy at CLC all year long.
Kudos, Pastor Ben!
Those who know me know how we are careful about titles at CLC. I’ve so often said, “I rather do the stuff without the title as to have the title and not do the stuff”.
But last night was long overdue, as our Pastor at CLC-Davao campus, Herley Montes, has been functioning as a Bishop for a long time, both for the G12 churches of the Philippines (where he is one of only 12 leaders for the nation) & in the growing number of churches in our CLC network throughout the island of Mindanao. Enjoy a pictorial recap of the event:
Chris and I are probably somewhere over the Pacific as you read this, enroute to the Philippines for an assignment there Saturday thru Tuesday, but today I’m thankful for a team of pastors at CLC who make it possible for us to do what we’re called to do and yet know that the church is in good hands. It’s especially true this trip, because our Crash the Chatterbox series has built such momentum and so many people are being helped that in many ways I hated to leave, even though we accepted this assignment months ago.
But I not only have peace, I also have a holy expectation as to what God will do these next two Sundays as Pastors Brent & Sol and Sam conclude the series by showing us how to crash that chatterbox of shame/condemnation and discouragement!
And while I’m truly thankful for each member of our team, I can’t help but give a special shout out to our Executive Pastor, Ben Stewart, for the amazing variety of roles he fills for us here. He’s not only an amazing developer of leaders, but he’s talented/knowledgeable in so many areas, I’m jealous! Thanks, PB, for ALL you do in serving CLC – we love you!
We love you, Pastor Ben!
(Maybe you’d like to join me in expressing your appreciation for a great team – send an email to any one of them by using their email@example.com)
How do you explain yesterday with Bishop Tudor Bismark?
I’d say it was like the three-days of our First Love Conferences all packed into one day, and then some!
The morning session was strong meat as he described the effects of bad leadership and then showed us what an ‘Apostolic Hub’ is like. You must hear that teaching! Lord, please make CLC an Apostolic Hub!
Last night was an amazing look at the history of revival, including some personal stories from Bishop of the greatest moves of God he has ever witnessed – and it left us all HUNGRY for God to do it again – in Chicago, Lord!
If you missed ANY of this, it’s not too late – get the messages this weekend (in person at CLC-Tinley Park OR download online:
We’ve been blessed for many years by Bishop Tudor’s annual visits to CLC, and we’re looking forward to Monday & Tuesday, September 14-15 when he will minister at 7pm both nights.
However, one of our elders asked Saturday, “could we do a morning session for leaders with Bishop Tudor?”. I wasn’t sure, but I figured ‘you have not because you ask not’, so I asked yesterday.
And Bishop said ‘yes, we can do this with pleasure’!
So in addition to the Monday & Tuesday evening services, Bishop Tudor will be teaching at 10am on Tuesday, September 15. This will be strong meat for pastors & leaders, and you’re welcome to join us!
That’s just 2 weeks from today, and I can’t wait!
Part of our vision at CLC is “to impact children & young families…”. It’s really a no-brainer in my book, because unless we reach the next generation, the church will soon be extinct!
Yesterday was a demonstration of walking out our vision:
- But the icing on the cake was last night at “KidsLife FX” (Family eXperience)-
- FX is our quarterly production for kids AND their parents/grandparents/guardians & it’s the best-kept secret at CLC.
- For example, last night’s theme was wisdom and the principle that was repeated throughout the games, skits & fun was “wisdom: finding out what you should do and doing it”! Isn’t that a truth that you want YOUR children/grandchildren to know & apply to their daily lives?
- Of course, we also walk out our vision for children EVERY Sunday at CLC through the ministry of KidsLife (elementary ages) and KidsLife Jr. (preschoolers) and the results speak for themselves, as we regularly hear from parents whose children insist that they bring them to CLC each Sunday!
- If you’d like more information about volunteering to help us fulfill our vision for reaching children, email us today!
One of the blessings at CLC is that we are “one church in multiple locations”.
One of the challenges at CLC is that we are “one church in multiple locations”.
While the multi-site approach to ministry enables us to reach more people in more areas that we could ever reach from one place, it also creates a real challenge for us to maintain the ‘DNA’ of the church; i.e., the same vision and values and mission of CLC.
That’s one of the reasons I’m SO excited about our ALL-Church campaign which starts August 30 and continues through the month of September. During this campaign, I’m asking that every CLC’er at each campus join me by:
- reading the NY Times best-seller, “Crash the Chatterbox“ by Steven Furtick (available this Sunday in the lobby of each CLC campus for $10, or in Kindle from Amazon at $7.99)
- listening to messages each Sunday about how to overpower the lies of insecurity, fear, condemnation & discouragement with the promises of God!
- participating in a Life Group each week to dig deeper into these principles and encouraging fellow believers in crashing their chatterbox!
Can you imagine the UNITY when every CLC’er does this for 6 weeks?
How can you get started? (I’m so glad you asked)
1. Get the book this week, so you’ll be ready to start with us on Aug. 30.
2. Choose your Life Group (every CLC Life Group will be doing this series) – you can register online or in the lobby of each campus on August 16 or August 23.
3. Take the plunge to LEAD a Life Group book discussion in your home! We know that we’ll need additional leaders in order to accommodate 100% participation from our church family. Here’s the thing: if you can press ‘play’ on your DVD player, you can lead a group. If you like snacks and good friends, even better! Please let us know now of your interest, or stop by the Life Group display in any CLC campus this weekend.
I can’t wait to Crash the Chatterbox with you!
- I don’t recall ever being treated with more love, kindness and hospitality.
- I certainly don’t recall ever being at a conference where the speakers were so transparent, vulnerable, and authentic.
- For that matter, I’ve never been at a pastor’s conference with such high-powered speakers: Jim Cobrae, Bayless Conley, Diego Mesa and Jim Reeve may not be household names, but the smallest congregation of the four averages over 10,000 people in attendance each weekend.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the conference is that, instead of the usual ‘how-to-grow-your-church-as-big-as-ours’ type sessions, each speaker instead talked about their struggles, their failures, their hurts and their disappointments – but constantly pointed us back to the faithfulness of God!
I wasn’t discouraged when I came here, but I’m glad I came.
I’m definitely coming home encouraged.
God is good!
That’s probably not news to you, but it is a reality of life that we all must deal with.
Yesterday, I flew from Chicago to LA and had an enjoyable lunch with my eldest son, whom I only get to see once or twice a year.
Then I learned electronically that one of our staff members was having emergency surgery.
Next, I drove to the pastor’s gathering that was the purpose of my trip. The opening session was SO refreshing and SO good that I knew I was in for a great two-and-a-half days with fellow pastors, including a dear friend from Seattle who met me here.
During the conference I got a call that someone had messed-up big-time, and that my wife and another member were NOT going to be able to travel with the team to the Philippines for the missions trip. I spent what seemed like hours on the phone/texts with my tearful wife, the incredulous travel agent who did nothing wrong , and United Airlines before finally getting that issue resolved by mid-morning today.
And each time I focused on the speakers in San Bernardino instead of the travel fiasco in Chicago, the stuff they were sharing was as good as anything I’ve ever received at any conference, anywhere. I mean, these men are all experienced pastors, leading churches that range in size from 10,000 to 18,000 in weekly attendance, and they’ve got something to say!
I said all of that to say, that’s how life is. You may not like it (none of us do), but you will experience heartache, challenges, tears and stress…..and moments of revelation, joy and blessing…..and maybe even on the same day!
Deal with it!
And don’t ever forget that God is good, all the time!
If you’ve attended our Membership Class, you know that CLC is a non-denominational, pastor-led church, but that Chris & I are submitted to a Board of Directors comprised of five Apostolic Overseers who are elected by our membership annually.
These wonderful men of God, who have over well over 200 years of combined ministry experience, offer their wisdom to us every year when we come together for a day of discussion and sharing of hearts. This year that day is tomorrow, April 14.
That means most of them will be arriving today, so I’m asking that you join me in praying for favor and blessing in our meeting tomorrow – that Chris & I would hear from God through their collective counsel.
If it helps to have a face for your prayers, here they are:
I’m typing this from O’Hare airport where Chris & I are waiting to board the first of 2 flights that will get us to Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Tuesday night (about 11am Tuesday in Chicago).
I’ll try to keep you posted daily of our activities there before we fly to Vietnam on Sunday night for pastors conferences sponsored by Dave Roever’s ministry in Saigon (now called Ho Chi Minh City) and Hanoi, before returning home in time for our 25th Anniversary Celebration at the Tinley Park Convention Center! It’s going to be a fun whirlwind of ministry!
I think my favorite verse from yesterday’s message at CLC was Ephesians 4:16.
After the service, I saw this post from our Media Team’s, Hudson Rhodes:
and it illustrated the principle of Eph. 4:16 – that EACH of us have gifts that we use to do OUR special work:
Today, I’m thankful for every CLC’er at each campus who uses their gifts to do their special work!
If you haven’t discovered your gift, join us for Step 3 on March 15 OR talk to your Campus Pastor this week, and then volunteer to do YOUR special work for God – it’ll help our whole body grow!
I’ve got some good news today for CLC’ers who were saddened last month to say goodbye to our Tinley Park campus Worship Director, Terrell Wilson:
When Terrell first broke the news to me that he had decided to take a position with the church where his wife serves as a Worship Leader, I asked him, “do you know anyone personally that you would recommend we hire as your replacement?” Later I asked that same question of our Worship Pastor, Jon Jones.
Both Terrell and Jon answered without any hesitation, “Harmony LaBeff”. Since neither Pastor Ben nor I knew him, we immediately began a series of interviews and discussions with Harmony and his wife Amaryah, to see if they were a ‘fit’ for CLC. At the same time, we began to pray and seek the Lord for HIS sense of direction. I must say we sensed a ‘yes’ in our spirit almost instantly and it became a matter of working out the details.
You might say that Harmony has “music in his blood”, as his father and grandfather both enjoyed careers in the music industry and he and Amaryah are both accomplished musicians who play multiple instruments. Both are songwriters. Both have been involved in recording projects for other Christian artists. And for the past several years, they have served as the Worship Directors for LaGrange Assembly, a Spirit-filled congregation in the Chicago suburbs about 45 minutes north of us.
I believe they will be a wonderful addition to our CLC team and continue to lead us into His Presence every week by lifting up Jesus in worship! They will begin serving here on Sunday, March 1, in time to help us celebrate our 25th Anniversary. I know you’ll join me in welcoming them to our CLC family!
Earlier this week I read an article by Pastor Mike Bickle, founder of the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City, MO. In it, he said, “if you schedule time for prayer and make a prayer list, you will pray 10 times more than you do now.”
I have never used a daily prayer list. That may shock some of you, but I’m just being honest. I suppose as a pastor, I didn’t feel the need for it. And for sure, no one ever challenged me to do so, until the article in Charisma.
So after reading that from Pastor Mike, I decided to try it.
Admittedly, I’m only 3 days into my ‘experiment’, but I must tell you, I’m loving it so far. My list is rather simple – it’s just my scribblings of people and issues that I want to pray for, but if I’m really honest, often neglected or forgot to include consistently when I just prayed without a list. And, I’ve found my prayer times growing these last few days, not to mention a stronger sense of Presence and that my prayers are more effective.
So I’m curious: do you use a prayer list? If so, what has been your experience? Please leave your comments below-
And iff not, and my encouragement today entices you to try, please let me know that, too. Let’s fulfill Hebrews 10:24 with some encouraging words below-
I watched the movie, Selma, last week.
While I don’t understand why anyone felt the need to distort the historical record of LBJ’s involvement as has been documented (since it doesn’t change the facts of Dr. King’s legacy), I enjoyed the movie.
For me personally, the biggest takeaway until today was Dr. King’s courage. I was just an elementary-aged child during the events of Selma, so I was completely unaware of what was happening just a couple of states removed from my home in Arkansas. But watching the movie and seeing the kind of opposition that he faced gave me such an appreciation for his courage to step out and step up as a leader, to change the world as we knew it.
As I said, that was my biggest takeaway until today, because this morning I read this excellent post from Michael Hyatt, and learned that Dr. King accomplished all that he did for civil rights and justice in our country in just 10 years! As you can read yourself in the post, he was only 25 years old when he first got involved, and he was 35 when he received the Nobel Peace Prize, the youngest person ever to be so honored!
Can you imagine? All of those courageous, world-changing accomplishments in just 10 short years of time? It makes me want to ask, on this day we set aside to honor this great American, what are you doing with your life?
Thank you, Dr. King, for showing us that we can make a difference.
But in the past few days I’ve seen two posts on Facebook that really made me think again. The first was an excerpt from last Sunday’s message by my pastor, Bishop Joseph Garlington. I encourage you to take the 7 minutes to watch the video – it’s definitely worth your time.
Later I read a comment from Pastor Bryan Loritts at the Kainos Conference this week, “The multi-ethnic church needs to become the norm. What if Darren Wilson and Michael Brown had belonged to the same church?”
I couldn’t agree more.
The issues being fanned into flames by the mainstream media, as well as the protests and the marches and the focus on #BlackLivesMatter are band-aids at best and misguided at worst. The real issue is the sin of racism, and the resulting fear that causes white cops to overreact and blacks to distrust authority.
What I’d like to help people see is that NONE of this is new; racism was the reality of the world into which Jesus came almost 2,000 years ago – and it was one focus of His death on the Cross, to make one NEW race – HIS Church!
When we are truly born-again, our primary identity is no longer the color of our skin, but the Lord of our life, and HE came to make us One! (see Eph. 2:14-16)
I agree with Pastor Bryan Loritts: we need more multi-ethnic churches! But I also know that just because you attend a church that has people of different races and cultures doesn’t solve the problem by itself – it’s time for us to truly come together as one. Maybe the Christmas holiday would be a good time to put it into practice: when did you last invite someone of a different culture into your home for a meal? When was the last time you truly got to know someone who didn’t look like you? As we get to know each other, our fear leaves and we learn compassion and appreciation and love. As someone else said recently, “proximity encourages empathy”.
Yes, #BlackLivesMatter. So do red and yellow and white – for we are all precious in His sight. We need more multi-ethnic churches to spread this message.
I don’t know what happened between Michael Brown and Darren Wilson on August 9.
Neither do you.
All either of us think we know is based on what we’ve seen or heard or read in the media (which in my humble opinion, seems to want to stir division & enflame passion so they have something to cover 24/7 – in the words of one of my African-American pastor friends, “they tend to create the news more than cover it” – but I digress)
Because I don’t know what happened, I can’t know if last night’s decision by the Grand Jury was a travesty of justice or an example of the rule of law this nation was founded on.
But I know this: we are a racially-divided nation. Regardless of whatever progress we may have seen since the 1960’s and Martin Luther King, Jr., every time there’s an OJ, or a Trayvon, or a Michael Brown, it becomes glaringly obvious that we are divided by race.
I know that as a white pastor of a multi-cultural-but-majority-black congregation, where many of our members have been pulled over and detained by white police officers for no reason other than that they were caught “driving while black”.
I know that because my honor-roll-son was stopped and hassled by a white police officer while driving in a predominantly white suburb for no reason other than the fact that two of his best friends who happened to be black were in the car with him.
But I also know in my heart that (as someone else pointed out today) while anger over all of this is understandable, still yet anger is not a plan for life. Instead it is an absolute plan that’s guaranteed to bring even MORE pain!
And I especially know that Jesus died to reconcile ALL men, regardless of race or anything else that divides us, and that HE has called His Church to be agents of reconciliation. (read slowly through Ephesians 2:11-18 and 2Corinthians 5:14-20)
I know we’ve got a long way to go to heal the racial wounds of generations in this country.
But I also know it starts with each one of us as believers doing our part for reconciliation instead of adding to the racial divide with careless comments and actions.
Part of my Bible reading this morning seemed particularly appropriate as a way to close: 1Peter 3:8-12, which says:
8 Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing. 10 For the Scriptures say,
“If you want to enjoy life
and see many happy days,
keep your tongue from speaking evil
and your lips from telling lies.
11 Turn away from evil and do good.
Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
12 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right,
and his ears are open to their prayers.
But the Lord turns his face
against those who do evil.”
I had a conversation last week with a pastor friend who mentioned his longing for the songs & choruses of ‘our day’ (he and I both get the senior discount these days). Seems the new songs just weren’t bringing him into the Presence of the Lord.
That conversation made yesterday’s National Institute of Christian Leadership session with Dr. Mark Rutland even more interesting, as we spent all afternoon exploring ‘What Makes Music Christian?’ It was a fascinating lecture as Dr. Rutland took us all the way back to the earliest known expressions of music alongside the Christian expressions of the same era. I must admit, I was shocked at how much Christian worship songs have always reflected the contemporary, popular music of the day.
Don’t misunderstand; neither Dr. Rutland nor I am being critical of today’s worship music. To the contrary, I found it quite interesting that worship thru the ages has deliberately appealed to even unsaved audiences by incorporating the musical styles that people listened to. Ludwig van Beethoven, Charles Wesley and the others didn’t set out to write “classical” music; they were the rock stars of their day!
Lest this post become an all-day lecture let me cut to the chase: regardless of your personal preference in music, the important thing is that our hearts are engaged so that the music brings us into the Presence of God!
O, for a thousand tongues to sing my Great Redeemer’s praise!
After a red-eye flight from Seattle last night and hopefully a nap at my daughter’s apartment, I’ll head into the final module of my one year participation in the National Institute of Christian Leadership with Dr. Mark Rutland this afternoon.
Dr. Rutland is one of the most brilliant men I’ve ever had the privilege of listening to, and I’ve picked up as much from his sometimes-hilarious-but-always-interesting-and-insightful stories from his colorful past as from his exposition of leadership principles.
For the next 3 days he will wax eloquent about “Preaching & Worship: Excellence in Expression“, and, honestly, this is the module that I was most interested in when Chris & I enrolled in the Institute back in January. So, sleep or no sleep, I intend to my wide-awake this afternoon to gain every insightful nugget to help us improve our skills and become more effective at ministering to today’s generation. Say a prayer for us to receive now so we can give later!
If you know me at all, you know that I don’t bring politics into CLC’s pulpit. Personally, I’m of the opinion that NO politician, Democrat, Republican or Independent, is the answer for what our country needs.
But I do see a couple of great lessons for ALL of us in the responses from both Governor Quinn and apparent Governor-Elect Rauner to last night’s election.
As has been reported, despite the fact that several news agencies have ‘called’ the race for Rauner, Governor Quinn still refuses to concede defeat and says he believes that every vote deserves to be counted. As a Christian, I like that – because in our battle against the enemy, no matter how the circumstances look, I want to maintain an attitude that says, “it’s not over until it’s over!” As believers, we are NOT defeated, no matter what the enemy says or does!
And, I also like Mr. Rauner’s response, as several news reports indicate that he simply ignored his opponent’s refusal to concede, and instead proceeded to thank his followers AND reach out to Democratic leaders in the state in an attitude of cooperation and unity to get things done, rather than an arrogant stance that it would be “his way or the highway”.
So, let’s learn a lesson from both men today – don’t give up no matter what, and move forward with what you know must be done, instead of paying attention to the enemy.
I’d say those are both good lessons in our current series of “Break Every Chain”. If you’ve missed any of these teachings, I encourage you to listen here, and don’t miss this Sunday when we look at “The First Open Door”.
This trip we finally get to do what attracted us to this opportunity in the first place, as the Ministry of Education, Youth & Sports is bringing officials from every province of Cambodia, along with about 200 top university students to attend our Leadership Seminar in Phnom Penh! This is such an amazing God-opportunity, and we sincerely need your prayers!
We’ll also be ministering for our friends at New Life Fellowship and teaching a separate Leadership Seminar for Christian leaders and business people later in the week. In fact, our entire itinerary is attached below so you can pray specifically with insight. (All times given are Central Daylight Time so you don’t have to do any time conversions.)
I hate to miss this Sunday in our “Break Every Chain” series, but I know that our pastors at each Chicagoland campus are well-prepared to deliver one of the most important teachings of the series. Chris & I will be back next Sunday to teach what I believe is the biggest spirit that attacks The Church and even our nation.
Thanks in advance for your prayers! I’ll try to post each day from Cambodia if we have internet access-
No, I’m not using the word ‘mature’ as it’s used above “for mature audiences only”. (Always puzzled by that one, since the subject matter that follows seems to me to be for little boys who never became men, but I digress.)
The real reason I’m asking is because of what I read in Philippians 3:15 as part of my devotions recently. Paul says if we’re mature, we should have ‘this mind’. What mind?
To answer that, you must go back to read verse 13, where he describes the one thing he did as “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching for those things which are ahead.” That mindset, according to the greatest Apostle who ever lived, shows maturity!
Did you watch the US Little League World Series a few weeks ago? If you did, you must have noticed that when the Jackie Robinson boys (who made all Chicagoland SO proud!) rallied to take the lead from Las Vegas, a team that had dominated the series until then, the boys from Nevada acted like boys; i.e., they were so unnerved by the previous batter, that they couldn’t get their heads back into the game for the next batter. Their emotions got the best of them and they lost, in large part, because they couldn’t forget those things which are behind.
That’s ok when you’re 12 years old. It’s to be expected at that age. But when a person is mature, one key mark of that maturity is the ability to let go of the past so it doesn’t affect your future!
Is there something from your past that’s still interfering with you in the present? I pray that you’ll be mature today, and realize that the past cannot have control of you unless you allow it to be so. Don’t be childish any longer; forget those things which are behind! Selah.
My wife and I have been enjoying the National Institute of Christian Leadership with Dr. Mark Rutland this year (“leaders are learners”, and we have only one module left to go in November.
To prepare for it, we have an assignment, part of which is to get your answer to these two questions:
1. What does CLC believe about worship?
2. What do they want me to do in worship?
Please answer those questions in your own words – you can remain anonymous if you want – it’s the information we need. Just leave your comments below.
A long-time dream came true yesterday with the opening of CLC’s 3Sixty School of Ministry! And while I’m not sure any of them are old enough to get the reference, I’m calling this year’s inaugural class the “Fab Five”.
These 5 students have answered the call of God on their lives and now we have the awesome responsibility of helping train and prepare them for that calling. Kudos to our 3Sixty Directors, Brent & Sol McQuay, and our Executive Pastor Ben Stewart, who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes for months to prepare for this!
I’m sure our CLC family will embrace the Kenyan twins, Marilla & Priscilla Hatley (whose parents David & Jennifer are missionaries with whom CLC has partnered for 16 of the 30 years they’ve served in Kenya). And I’m more than a little proud of the rest of the Fab 5 and our multicultural vision, with Andy Esparza from our NWI Campus and Eric & Meaghan Condon from our Tinley Park campus completing the student body for this year.
Expecting GREAT things ahead!
If you were at any Chicagoland CLC campus this past Sunday morning, you heard me talk about Chicago’s crime problems & the fact that we lead the nation in murders and gang activity. You may also know that the he majority of this crime happens in the South and West side neighborhoods and is mostly plaguing African-American communities. We’ve discovered the most vulnerable of victims are the children and teens. Many struggle with broken homes, poverty and neglect.
My friend, church planter Todd Powers decided to do something about it, instead of just moaning about what is, ‘cursing the darkness’ around us. He helped organize an outreach to take place this Saturday, August 23 in the most violent neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago called Englewood.
They’re providing food, games, entertainment, pony rides, prizes, medical check-ups and lots of fun for the entire community. They’re even going to have Christian rappers, bucket boys and dance competitions! Perhaps best of all, a team of guys from that area (former gang members now on fire for Jesus) are coordinating the whole outreach!
Pastor Todd told me that through the favor of God he was able to purchase backpacks and fill them with school supplies for just $8 per backpack, and asked if CLC would be willing to help. So we presented the need on Sunday morning and CLC’ers responded!
I’m excited to tell you that because of your generosity we are providing more than 400 backpacks of the 750 needed for Saturday’s outreach!
Reminds me of Judges 5:2!
Don’t you just love this church?
That may sound strange considering we just took a redeye flight from Seattle back to Chicago, with none of us getting more than an hour & a half of sleep last night, but other than some physical weariness, I feel refreshed!
The Team Church 2014 conference at Champions Centre in Tacoma was wonderful from start to finish, but last night’s closing service with Pastor Jentezen Franklin was over-the-top FUN! And then after he had preached the house down, and we had finished a wonderful time of ‘stirring up the supernatural’ prayer, Champions Centre brought out the big surprise by having the “Blue Thunder” march down the aisle & play a raucous number to close out the conference. (It was SO good it almost made me wanna be a Hawks fan…..but I recovered quickly and I’m still solidly in da Bears camp!)
So, a little over 72 hours after we left, I’m back home, basking in the afterglow of great worship, amazing preaching, some great lab sessions and sweet fellowship with pastor friends, old and new – REFRESHED!
Can’t wait for THIS Sunday with Mark Batterson!
That’s literally true of last night’s opening of Team Church 14! Early in the worship set, led by the excellent team of musicians & singers from Champions Centre, all the speakers went out! I mean, ALL. Dead silence. Can’t hear anything from the stage. On the opening night of their biggest annual conference, with hundreds of guests from all over the country. After months & months of planning & preparing for the Big Event!
I mean, as a pastor, I asked myself, what would I do if this happened at CLC?
I’ll tell you what Champions Centre did. (the name is appropriate, by the way). They got a bullhorn to the worship leader and kept on worshipping passionately!
Not only did the blown speakers give us an experience we’ll never forget, I really hope it’s a lesson I’ll never forget, either. When things are out of my control, when my worst nightmare is being played out in living color, when life just isn’t going the way I planned, there’s no need to panic….if I’ll keep trusting & keep praising, Romans 8:28 is still true!
Feels like I’m talking to someone today who’s tempted to panic about stuff that’s out of your control….so let me encourage you to keep praising & trusting instead.
Does that resonate with anyone?
I was up well before dawn today to meet 5 of our pastors (Ben, Tony, William, Sam & Brent) for an early morning flight to Seattle where we’ll attend the 2014 Team Church Conference at Champion Centre.
This is one of the premier pastor’s conferences in the country, and last year when Ben & I attended, we gained so many ideas & inspiration that we felt we should bring our pastors this year. It’s 3 days of us being poured into by some of the finest men of God in America, and I’m looking forward to every moment!
It’ll also be a chance to hang with a few pastor friends that I don’t get to see often, including Jason Bentley from High Point Church and Micah Pelkey of Citi Church, and maybe even long-time friend & CLC Overseer, Gordon Banks.
How about at least a bedroom?
If you haven’t already heard, CLC is opening a School of Ministry at the end of next month. It’s a 2-year school that combines the advantages of a Bible College education from an accredited university with the practical internship that provides hands-on experience in virtually every area of local church ministry. We’re excited!
We’re especially excited that somewhere between 3-5 international students from some of our missions partners in Africa and Russia are planning to attend. That’s where we need your help: (hear all about it here)
we’re looking for “Home Sponsors” who are able & willing to provide a bedroom to house one or more of those students. We’ll provide a stipend to help cover any additional expense you might incur by having a student in your home, but honestly, we believe YOU will be well-rewarded by having these future ministers in your home during this stage of their preparation for ministry.
If you’re interested in volunteering, or need more information, please contact us.
For the second week in a row, there were NO questions submitted. So I’m going to take this opportunity to answer one of my own: how does someone get trained for ministry?
It seems more & more that seminary is NOT for everyone. And, while only God can call someone into ministry, it’s also true that everyone He calls must be trained.
I also believe that part of the calling God has placed on CLC is to be an apostolic church; i.e., a model for others, to help train and prepare God’s people for Kingdom work.
That’s why I’m so excited about the opening of our 3Sixty School of Ministry.
[DISCLAIMER: yes, I am on the program. Still, this is not a shameless promotion.]
For the past 10 years, our CLC-Blue Island Worship Director, Alan Franklin, and his ministry/business, Muzicnet, have been blessing musicians, singers, and worshippers every summer with the Selah Worship Conference (formerly known as “Musicians Boot Camp), and CLC has been privileged to host the conference most of those years.
I believe in the ministry of worship. CLC is built on the foundation of Presence, and that only happens through worship. I also know that iron sharpens iron, and being in a gathering like this will make you a better worshipper! So if you are presently a worship leader, musician, or praise singer, OR if you aspire to be, I sincerely URGE you to register for the conference and enjoy 3-days of training, inspiration, refreshing and encouragement to take your ministry higher.
If you love Jesus, but can’t attend the day sessions, I would still encourage you to join us for the evening worship nights on Wednesday and Thursday, and especially to purchase your ticket for the Worship Concert on Friday, July 18, featuring William McDowell, BJ Putnam and our very own, Dee Wilson!
What are you waiting for? Register now!
Just got back to our hotel in Davao and WiFi again, after a terrific Marriage Retreat with 94 pastors & church leaders at Eden Nature Park Resort. To be honest, we’re both so tired we’re headed to bed by 8pm here, but I just wanted to quickly report that this was one of the most gratifying ministry experiences we’ve EVER had.
It was obvious that these precious Filipino pastors had rarely been able to get away with their spouse and receive teaching from Scripture about the priority of their marriage relationship. They soaked up every moment of our teaching….laughed at every joke and embarrassing moment (talking about sex isn’t easy in Filipino culture)….took every discussion assignment my wife had prepared in advance and basically just ‘owned’ this retreat. Here are just a few pics since I’m fading too fast to elaborate further:
Sunday night was a special time for our church family as we set in place one new elder couple, licensed three couples for ministry, and ordained one couple as pastors. Enjoy the memories through the lens of our talented CLC’er, Heather Van Sant:
You’d have to be living in a cave not to have heard about Donald Sterling this week. His blatantly racist comments to his mistress/girlfriend were recorded by TMZ and released to the public, which led to the NBA banning him for life and fining him $2.5M, and everybody is talking about it.
Which means that, once again, racism in America is a front-burner topic, about which everyone seems to have an opinion. Mine is that despite civil rights legislation and years of sensitivity training and more, racism is still a significant problem in this country. I further suggest that is true because racism originates in the heart, and no amount of legislation, peer pressure, or anything else can solve that, because what is necessary is a heart-change.
I grew up in Arkansas in the 1960’s. I know what segregation looks like. I heard the N-word regularly until I left the South in 1972.
I now am privileged to pastor a majority-black, multi-cultural congregation. And the purpose of this post is really an appeal to our CLC family more than anything else, because this week’s media firestorm has reminded me all over again that just because you attend a multi-cultural church does not make you a ‘multi-cultural person’ (if there is such a term).
By that I mean it’s entirely possible to attend a church like CLC, and still have your old prejudices in place, whether you’re black, white, Hispanic or Asian. It’s possible to worship with people of all colors on Sunday, but never spend time or fellowship with anyone who doesn’t look like you.
I believe CLC is not only called to be multi-cultural; I believe we’re supposed to be an Apostolic model of race relations in the Christian community. For that to happen, we must get to know each other. That happens only by spending time with each other. That time together includes the opportunity to ask honest questions…to seek to understand more than to be understood. It can happen as we pray together, worship together, break bread together, learn to appreciate each other’s differences, and love each other, regardless of the color of our skin.
Today is the National Day of Prayer. Could we pray for this ugly division to be healed?
I hope you’ll join me on a journey to show America how it can be.
Today is THE day!
Once a year for the past 22 years, Chris & I have sat down with a group of men for whom we have the greatest respect and appreciation. We chose to submit ourselves to this group way back then, and more than once they have disagreed with our plans, brought correction to us, and spoken into our lives for good. We’ve also seen the wisdom of their input time and again.
We call them our “Board of Directors”; others refer to them as “Apostolic Overseers”. The bottom-line, as I said yesterday, is that we seek this kind of godly input into our lives and leadership of this ministry, ala Proverbs 15:31-32. Between them, these men have almost 200 years of ministerial experience; they’ve pastored churches larger than CLC; they’ve been used of God in great revivals and in more countries of the world than I’ve even visited; and they’ve been faithful to the call of God on their own lives. I’m happy to submit to them. And I think CLC is a safer, healthier church because of it.
If you read this early enough on Monday, say a prayer for us today as we wrestle with some decisions for CLC’s future, examine potential ordination candidates, and that Chris & I will have ears to hear what the Spirit would say to us through these men.
After all, the Bible says so.
I know some don’t believe in miracles, and still others wouldn’t include this story as one, but I certainly see God’s hand all over our Blue Island building acquisition.
Yesterday I told how devastated I was when our intended purchase fell through and how quickly that scenario turned around with the purchase of the 135th Street property. Here’s the back story:
The building we’ll occupy was owned by one of the largest Security companies in America, but when the owner died a couple of years ago, in his will he donated the property to a Blue Island charity that works with handicapped individuals. Since the building is a tri-level, the charity wasn’t able to use the building for their work, so they merely leased it back to the Security company for a year, until they could figure out where to move their operation following the owner’s death.
When the security company moved out at the end of 2013, the charity was left with an empty building that would cost them almost $60,000 a year in property taxes! So they listed the property for sale in January of this year, at a price we couldn’t have afforded. Had we approached them when we first began looking for a building in Blue Island, I’m sure they would never have accepted such a low offer from us.
But because we “lost” all the time negotiating on the Division St. property, during the time that the charity was growing more and more desperate to get the property sold so they wouldn’t have to pay the taxes, the price was slashed to less than half their original listing (and over $100,000 less than it’s appraised value).
By the time we came along and decided the property would meet our needs, we were able to negotiate a cash sale for less than one-third of the appraised value of the property!
AND, we learned after the fact that the area behind the building where we had hoped to acquire additional parking is actually part of our property and is included in the sale at no extra cost!
Can you say, “FAVOR”?
- Romans 8:28 is true!
- Delays are not defeats!
- When you don’t get what you want, God has a better plan!
- As John Osteen asked Joel years ago, “What’s the sense of having favor if you’re not going to use it?”
- God wants us to be debt-free!
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this-
You probably heard the announcement on Sunday, but here’s the ‘rest of the story’ behind our purchase of a building for our Blue Island campus.
We had a verbal agreement to buy a different building about 2 months ago, but the owner kept dragging his feet on finalizing the contract until we received word last Tuesday that he was taking the property off the market until he could decide what he wanted to do.
I was devastated. Even though I should know better by now, I got so depressed, thinking that I had led folks into the wilderness and now had no place to go. It was not pretty.
By Wednesday I scrambled to look for other commercial properties online, saw this ad, and scheduled an appointment to see it on Thursday with 2 of our other pastors.
Friday afternoon we returned with some elders and trustees who have experience in construction and real estate, and made a verbal offer. Saturday that offer was presented in writing, and after some brief negotiating, we settled on a cash price that means the Blue Island campus will be debt-free from day one!
In other words, in less than 4 days a situation that looked hopeless turned into a situation that caused all of CLC to rejoice! Just because you don’t get what you want is no reason to despair, especially when you know a God who went from the Cross to the Resurrection in 3 days!
I sure hope I remember this the next time something doesn’t go as I want.
I hope you remember this the next time you don’t get what you want.
More specifically, we had a prophetic word almost 17 years ago that CLC would operate a school for “advanced training for ministry”, and other prophecies 10 years later that we would send out more people for preaching and teaching “to this nation and other nations“. Well, it’s been a long time in coming, but that day of fulfillment is almost here!
If you or someone you love is between the ages of 18-25 (that’s our target; other ages can apply) and have a desire to not only learn the Bible, but also to receive practical, hands-on training in a variety of ministries, we’d love to hear from you. Check out our website for all the details and if you still have questions, just let us know.
Not 20/20 vision – I haven’t had that without prescription lenses in the last 50 years or so.
I’m talking about our vision for CLC by the year 2020 (which, believe it or not, is less than six years from now!). It will also mark our 30th Anniversary as a church, and since this is our 24th Anniversary week, I thought it was appropriate to share my heart.
I don’t know how many more years of ministry the Lord will grant me, but if I’m still around in 2020, these are my main goals for CLC:
1. I want to see at least 12 ‘spokes’ as has been prophesied to us, meaning at least 12 campuses worldwide.
2. I want to see us graduate 200 leaders from our 3SIXTY School of Ministry (which will open this Fall – here’s a preview of our website)
3. I want our broadcast campus (currently, Tinley Park, but wherever in 2020 we broadcast the message to our other campuses) to be debt-free!
4. I want CLC to average 5,000 people in worship each week!
“When there’s no vision, the people get out of control, but whoever obeys instruction is happy.” Proverbs 29:18 CEB
That’s the vision I believe God has given me for CLC. Who’s with me?
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the first module of the National Institute of Christian Leadership these past couple of days. Not only is Dr. Mark Rutland a brilliant leader, but his experiences in ministry and in turning around three institutions that were in grave danger when he arrived have given him some wonderful ‘war stories’ that (in his words), “make th elephant dance”.
Here’s a few quotes from the opening session:
- “Legalism is the reduction of your theology to a set of “if/then” propositions”
- “For Management-bent folks (legalists), moving toward Leadership-bent (grace) feels like compromise.”
- “Life and leadership will change you more than you think!”
- “Everything you do, you’re doing that thing, but you’re also being prepared for the next thing in life.”
- “If you can’t negotiate the changes, you will always only have the business you used to have”
“Try as much as possible to turn every staff confrontation into a teaching moment!”
- “If you can’t think of 50 people to thank, it’s because your life just revolves around you”
- “Quality is meeting expectations” – (Philip Crosby) “The responsibility for meeting expectations is on senior management!” (Dr. Mark Rutland)
- “A brand is not a logo; it’s a promise!”
Can’t wait to hear what he’ll have to say this morning, and I really can’t wait to get out of this 30-degree weather in Dallas to get back to God’s country in Chi-beria!
Doctors do it. So do schoolteachers. In fact, professionals from many different fields often go back for a ‘refresher course’ or attend seminars, to hone their skills and stay current with new learnings, in order to do their jobs well. After all, leaders are learners and as someone else has said, “when you’re too old to learn, you’re too dumb to live!”
That’s why I’m in Dallas today (Chris was scheduled to come before she got sick) for the National Institute of Christian Leadership. Dr. Mark Rutland is as qualified as anyone on the planet to lead the Institute, given his track record of turning around troubled churches and universities and leading them to greater days.
We believe the greatest days of CLC are ahead of us, and since everything rises or falls on leadership, it’s vital that Chris and I continue to learn and grow. So pray that I’ll get every drop of wisdom this week as I participate in the NICL. I’ll be back Wednesday night, raring to go!
This afternoon, after the last of our three services in Tinley Park, my wife & I invited all our pastors & their families to join us for a holiday get-together. While a couple of our pastors were not able to join us because of previous commitments, it was still a terrific afternoon with over 30 folks here (our pastors have a LOT of kids!)
I’ve heard some of the ‘experts’ say that pastors should only hire people on their staff that they would enjoy hanging out with outside of the job – and if that’s a true criteria, let me just say that I’d hire every one of them again in a heartbeat. I love this team!
Enjoy a few pics:
I’m writing this from Atlanta, where I’m attending EQUIP meetings with John Maxwell and over 100 of the most missions-minded pastors in America. He talked to us last night about transforming entire nations, and Chris & I feel very privileged to partner with EQUIP for the nation of Cambodia.
But as I listened to the inspirational message about transforming nations, I couldn’t help but think that it really all comes down to transforming one person at a time. That’s how it always is. That’s how God works.
And I remembered Dave Ogren’s message this past Sunday, especially the part about how Jesus spent time and shared meals with lost people, compared to how we so enjoy fellowship with other believers.
Could I challenge you again to prayerfully consider WHO you could invite to our Christmas production, “A CLC Christmas: The Center”?
I would encourage you to pray as to who you should reach out to, then buy them tickets to the production and invite them to enjoy a burger with you before or after the show. It just might be the beginning of transformation in their life!
Will you do it?
After that wonderful early-morning prayer meeting, the rest of today was a much-needed ‘free-day’, with nothing scheduled until 6pm.
Chris & I took advantage of the opportunity to rest, study, read, pray – and even shop for some Christmas gifts, which really helped recharge our batteries.
Result? We were ‘charged’ for tonight’s opening service of our first-ever “CLC Conference”, where all of the pastors & leaders who are connected to CLC in the Philippines came together. It was an incredible night of ministry, as Chris received prophetic words to many of the pastors. In fact, if you’re reading this on Monday, please pray for her strength, as the prophetic anointing was on her throughout the night, giving her ‘words’ for leaders we’ll minister to today, and she got almost no sleep as a result. (I slept just fine!). Enjoy the pics:
Something jumped off the page this morning when I read Luke 5:16-17 during my devotions. Actually I was first struck with verse 16, that Jesus (who was God in human form – who didn’t share my need, but was always my example) repeatedly left the crowds in order to steal away to pray in private.
I like the crowds. Especially when the crowds like me. My ego likes the feeling of popularity; the sense that I have their approval. My flesh likes to be visible.
But Jesus preferred spending time in secret…in the wilderness….out of sight, where He could fellowship with His Father.
Then I read the first sentence of verse 17, and it all made sense.
This brings that. It’s called cause and effect. Someone smarter than me said “there are no coincidences in the Kingdom of God”
Always has; always will.
What will you do about it?
Someone smarter than me designated October as Pastor Appreciation Month, so I want to take these last few days of the month to express MY appreciation to some of the greatest pastors on the planet: our CLC team!
Today in particular I want to honor our Worship Pastors, Jon & Rachel Jones, as well as the newest addition to our team, Communications Director Josh & Heather Moran.
While they work together closely so we can enjoy a great worship experience on Sundays, Jon is the one out front that everyone sees, while Josh is almost always invisible to the congregation, but what he does behind-the-scenes makes all of us on the platform look better! Their combined ministry is what draws many people to CLC.
Jon & Rachel have been serving the worship ministry at CLC since even before their marriage six years ago, and were promoted to Worship Pastors in 2011. As I’ve stated publicly so many times, what I appreciate most about Jon and his team is that they are not just talented musically (although they are obviously gifted to play & to sing), but they are also anointed, which enables them to lead all of us into The Presence each week! That means more to me personally than award-winning performers, and I’m so thankful for their leadership in that regard. Of course, Jon also oversees our entire worship ministry at CLC, with three other campus directors serving under his care.
Josh & Heather joined our team this month, after having served in ministry in CA and TX before launching his own Media company and serving as a Marketing Executive in the Dallas area. In just the first four weeks on the job, he has already distinguished himself with his abilities in all things digital, and we’re confident that all of our online ministries, social media presence and marketing efforts will improve under Josh’s leadership. He also gives direct oversight to two other staff members, and while he doesn’t yet have the title of ‘pastor’, I think that’s just a matter of time.
Jon & Rachel and Josh & Heather: on this final day of Pastor Appreciation Month, Chris & I want you to know that we love serving with you; we thank God for you; and on behalf of our whole CLC family, we appreciate the work you do as our pastors!
Someone smarter than me designated October as Pastor Appreciation Month, so I want to take these last few days of the month to express MY appreciation to some of the greatest pastors on the planet: our CLC team!
Today in particular I want to honor our Campus Pastors here in the USA: Doug & Shanna Neal at our South Bend, IN campus; William & Melek Arevalo at our Hispanic campus, and Sam & Taylor Hamstra from our NWI campus.
Doug & Shanna have the longest history here, as they joined our staff over 10 years ago, serving for several years at our Tinley Park campus before assuming responsibility for our South Bend campus in early 2009. The Neal’s have huge hearts for God’s people, especially for those who have been wounded in life or in ministry, and that’s evident by the outpouring of love from our South Bend congregation for them.
William & Melek are such unique servants with quite a history: William was born in Guatemala, and eventually served as the Worship Pastor for a 30,000-member-church in Guatemala City, where he first met Melek, who was visiting from Turkey, where she lived with her Turkish father and her Swiss mother. (Melek speaks about 4 or 5 languages). After leading worship for a season with my friends, Mark & Michelle Moore in Kusadasi, Turkey (near ancient Ephesus), they were persuaded to move to Chicago by longtime CLC pastor, Jaime Flores. After serving Pastor Jaime as worship leaders for a few years, they became the pastors at Centro da Vida Cristiana when Jaime was led to devote himself full-time to missions.
And of course, our newest Campus Pastors, Sam & Taylor, served as CLC’s Youth Pastors for about 5 years prior to accepting the challenge to lead the charge for our newest campus launch in the Northwest Indiana suburb of Munster. In less than two months, they’ve already trained & mobilized an excellent team of volunteers that is already ministering to about 200 people each week, and we are expecting great things there in the days ahead. Sam has also won the hearts of CLCers as a member of our Sunday teaching team.
Doug & Shanna, William & Melek and Sam & Taylor: please know that Chris & I love you like our own children; we thank God for bringing you to our team; and along with CLC’ers in your campus and elsewhere, we appreciate the work you do as our pastors!
Someone smarter than me designated October as Pastor Appreciation Month, so I want to take these last few days of the month to express MY appreciation to some of the greatest pastors on the planet: our CLC team!
Today in particular I want to honor our Family Ministries team, Pastors Tony & Angie and Brent & Sol. It’s quite possible that you don’t realize that both of these pastoral couples were added to our team by Pastor Ben Stewart shortly after he began serving as our Executive Pastor.
Ben had befriended Tony during his days as a youth pastor and invited him to join our team shortly after coming here, and the first hiring decision he made after arriving at CLC was to move Brent & Sol into Children’s Ministry. While today I’m thankful for both decisions, in each case, it was Ben who saw the fit before I did.
Tony & Angie came to us from Joyce Meyer Ministries at the St. Louis Dream Center, and they now oversee all ministry at CLC from birth through young adults. In addition, he serves frequently as a service host and member of our Sunday teaching team. If you can’t love Tony & Angie, better check your ‘lov-er’, because something’s broken!
Brent & Sol have given themselves to our Children’s Ministry, implementing & overseeing several major changes in curriculum, personnel and even a major makeover of the KidsLife facilities, and I think every CLC parent can appreciate the differences. Their team now ministers to almost 300 children each Sunday morning, and they do so with excellence. Just call me a proud dad!
I’m convinced the future of CLC is in good hands because of the dedicated ministry efforts of these two couples. Tony & Angie and Brent & Sol: my wife & I want you to know publicly that we love you & value you as team members, we thank God for bringing you here to serve with us, and on behalf of our entire CLC family, we appreciate the work you do as our pastors!
Today in particular I want to honor our Executive Pastor, Ben Stewart. For those of you who don’t know, I first met Ben & Nili about 12 or 13 years ago when they came to visit his parents, who were CLC members at the time. We had a God-connection instantly, and I tried to get him to join our CLC staff three times over that next 10 years before he finally agreed to come in the Fall of 2011.
As our Executive Pastor, Ben is the guy who ‘silences the noise in my head’, which means he makes it his personal responsibility to handle any & all issues that I’m concerned about. I can’t tell you how much that means to me personally, since stress in the ministry is a major ‘killer’ of pastors.
He also oversees and manages our entire staff, which is one of my biggest weaknesses (I’m not good at it & don’t enjoy doing it), and the result was immediately noticeable, as every person on our team seemed to ‘step up’ their game after Ben came here, probably because he’s so good at loving on people, keeping them feeling valued and motivated.
He also seems to know something about everything, which has been invaluable to us from areas as diverse as media & technical arts to HR issues to youth ministry & worship – well, you name it, he’s helped us improve it at CLC.
He and his precious wife Nili have also helped us grow in attendance, by adding 6 more Stewart’s to our ministry – and we love every one of them!
As simply as I can say it, I don’t know how we ministered all those years here without Pastor Ben, and I don’t want to find out. Pastors Ben & Nili: Chris & I love you; we thank God for bringing you here to serve with us; and on behalf of all of CLC, we appreciate the work you do as our pastors!
My wife is often the voice of the Holy Spirit to me, and last night was the latest example of that. We were having one of those deep discussions that husbands and wives sometimes share, when she pointed out to me that sometimes we miss a message God has for us because we don’t like the messenger or the way he delivers the message to us.
The lady is profound.
I was still thinking about that this morning, so I looked up a verse that I’ve read many times before (but with fresh eyes today) – 1 Thess. 2:13.
Do you see it?
When we receive the message as being from God and not from man, then-and-only-then it becomes God Himself at work in us!
I want God to work in me.
I’m NOT gonna miss the message.
Chris & I head to Pittsburgh this afternoon for the annual ‘PRESENCE’ conference at Covenant Church – but the real reason we’re going this year is to honor our pastors, Bishop Joseph & Pastor Barbara Garlington.
This week is their 60/40 celebration – 60 years of ministry, and 40 years as pastor of the same church! I can’t even imagine how many lives he has touched for the Kingdom of God through those years, but I know he’s made a difference in mine, so I’m looking forward to telling him so (again) and just being in the same room with him for a couple of days. After all, it’s not the length of days that matters, but the use we make of them that counts.
We’ll be back in time for Wednesday’s H2H & Iron Men, but first things first – and this man deserves every honor he’ll receive this week.
Ok, this time (unlike yesterday) I am writing about the government shutdown.
Last night I came home from church & watched about an hour of the news networks. I alternated between CNN and Fox, figuring the truth was somewhere in between the two. After that hour or so, I was sure so frustrated & disgusted with both parties and for that matter, our entire government that I just went to bed. This is not a proud moment in American history, folks!
This much I know: in life, in missions, in marriage, in ministry, in parenting, and yes, even in government, the ONLY way to succeed over the long haul is to be willing to listen.
No one is right 100% of the time (except Jesus, and they crucified Him!)
So today I’m praying for both houses of Congress and for Democrats, Republicans and Independents to truly listen to each other instead of only being interested in their own party line. And while I’m praying that for them, I think I’ll try to practice it myself.
I’m still thinking about yesterday at CLC (as Pastor’s are prone to do on Monday mornings) and the more I’ve thought about it, the more I think yesterday was a great life lesson for all of us. (If you haven’t read my recap of yesterday, I suggest you read this before you go on)
As I see it today, the fact that yesterday was such a mixed-bag of positives & negatives is really true of life for each one of us. Probably every day of your life you will experience frustrations, setbacks, mishaps and negative news that could potentially ruin your day. And, on most days at least, you’ll have moments that go better than what you deserve, moments when God or people in your life show you favor, speak good things to you, and give you reasons to celebrate.
The LESSON that each of us need to learn is focus. Because as I’ve learned the hard way through the years, it really doesn’t matter how many blessings or good things come my way, if I focus on the negatives or the stuff that didn’t go the way I wanted it to, before long I’m down in the mulligrubs, discouraged & depressed & feeling like I should just go eat worms.
On the other hand, if I choose to focus on the positives in my life, no matter how many setbacks or obstacles come my way, I can keep whistling while I work, feeling good about the blessings of the Lord!
There’s no better example of this in Scripture than Numbers 13. In life, just like in Canaan so many years ago, there is both luscious fruit AND giants living in walled cities – you can see whatever you’re looking for.
It’s your choice.
Those who know us well know that one of our favorite pastimes on a day off is movie-watching. However, we prefer action flicks & family comedies or an occasional Sci-fi (to please my wife, who’s a Trekkie from back in the day), but never dramas. (As pastors, we see plenty of drama in the lives of people we serve & it’s never entertaining!)
But with Chris still in Dallas visiting our daughter, on Labor Day afternoon I went to a local theater to watch the box-office blockbuster, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”. As a white pastor of a majority-Black congregation, I had already heard rave reviews that piqued my interest.
And I saw why. The acting was superb, with Forrest Whitaker in the lead role, Cuba Gooding, Jr. as a fellow White House bulter (my personal favorite in the film) and even Oprah, who was surprisingly good in her role as Whitaker’s alcoholic wife. (She repeatedly got the loudest response from the theater audience where I watched.)
All in all, it was a painful personal story about a White House butler who served under eight US Presidents through some of the most turbulent years of our civil rights history.
But I left the theater quite disappointed with Hollywood, because so much of the story was fictitious. For reasons known only to the producers, they completely re-wrote the the life story of Eugene Allen, the real butler who worked in the White House for 34 years. For instance, In the first 2 or 3 minutes there are references to 2 lynchings, a rape (of the butler’s mother) and a racist murder (of his father). None of these things happened to the actual butler, who also didn’t have an activist son or another son who died in the Vietnam War. (He had only one son, who served honorably in the Viet Nam war.)
There were numerous other mis-facts in the film, but my purpose is not to correct the story. My mind & heart simply wonders why Hollywood (or anyone else) needs to concoct stories to fuel racial division, when there’s enough sad facts in our nation’s past to go around.
At CLC, we are striving to build a church that values all people, regardless of skin color, age, gender, or class. Instead of finding more reasons to divide & separate us from each other, I want to lead a group of people who would rather light a candle than curse the darkness, and that begins with building genuine relationships with people who look different than us.
I left the theater disturbed Monday afternoon. Disturbed anew by the images of white Americans treating black Americans as no person should ever be treated. But I was also disturbed by Hollywood’s attempt to sensationalize and inflame racial hatred by unnecessary lies.
You don’t have to agree with my review. But I want to ask those of you who saw the movie: did it make you more determined to build relationships with other races, or did it reinforce negative feelings you may have had toward another race? I’d love to hear your comments below.
Thanks for reading – I needed to unburden my heart, because racial reconciliation is God’s heart for our world & it’s one of the foundations that CLC has built on for almost 24 years!
I hope you’ll join us for our new series, ‘CORE’, beginning this Sunday, September 8!
Last night we did something that was long-overdue.
We had a special gathering “by-invitation-only” for any person who serves in any volunteer capacity at CLC, for the sole purpose of loving on them and expressing our sincere appreciation for ALL that they do all year long.
After a brief talk, we treated them to an evening of fun entertainment & munchies (plus some scrumptious desserts!) while our paid staff served them and, well, just loved on people.
In case you weren’t here, my talk is attached here: volunteer appreciation
I really do.
I LOVE our pastoral team at CLC!
I went into today’s sermon-planning meeting with my outline for this coming Sunday all prepared. I had worked on it for several hours over the last couple of weeks. I thought it was pretty good, although it had 6 points (instead of my usual 3), and my favorite point had absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the message.
So I knew I needed some help, but I wasn’t sure what to do.
After meeting with our team, listening to them share, hearing their perspectives, it took on a different shape. And when the quietest member of our team finally spoke, I about fell off my chair. Now, I can’t wait to preach!
So as Bishop Jakes would say, “get ready, get ready, get ready, get ready, get ready!”
This Sunday of “God@the Movies” may be the least-known of the five films we’re using in this series, but I think it’s going to have a BIG impact. Invite a friend to join you!
(and thanks, team!)
No, that’s not the snap count for the new Marc Trestman-led Chicago Bears.
Today is July 11. 7/11. (And, no, I’m not talking about the winning roll while shooting craps!)
I’m saying as of today, there’s ONLY 6 days until the SELAH Worship Conf. at CLC:
- world-class instruction for singers & musicians, from beginners to pros-
- a ‘Word’ from yours truly (excited about bringing the opening message!)
- a night of ministry with Pastor Choco de Jesus, who was recently named by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world!
- a worship night with Israel & New Breed! (as the nearby Tinley Park Convention Center) Get your tickets here! Just 6 days: what are you waiting on?
In fact, the Labs have already begun to get the launch team trained and ready for more changed lives! (Which is WHY we’re launching this campus – to see more people experience the life-change that Jesus brings!)
You can sign up to join the team here, OR, simply text “launch” to 44622 in order to receive our weekly updates on the progress toward launch on September 8, 2013!
(We hope to have a special announcement about location THIS Sunday – so invite a friend to join you for “God@the Movies” this Sunday!)
Time’s a-wasting – better make your move today!
Chris & I landed here this morning and for the first time ever, we left the Moscow airport!
On each of our previous visits to Russia, we’ve just changed planes here and gone on to Perm, where all of our ministry assignments have taken place. But on our last trip there Bishop Edward said that even though our assignment with EQUIP was completed, he still wanted us to return to minister for his churches.
At the time I didn’t know if it was just ‘preacher talk’ (you know, just being nice and saying what’s ‘expected’, but not likely to happen) – but to our delight, he followed up a few months ago with plans for us to minister not only at his church in Perm, but also at one of his churches here in Moscow and another church in St. Petersburg next week, as well as doing a Pastor’s Retreat this Thursday/Friday for all his pastors in the Perm region.
Needless to say, we’re excited about seeing some new sights (maybe the Kremlin? – pic at top of this post) and meeting some new brothers & sisters in the churches here.
I’ll keep you updated whenever we have internet access – please pray for fruitful ministry here in each place!
We’re not just living in the last days; today is THE day!
NOT that day, silly – since no one knows the day or the hour that Jesus is coming back (Mark 13:32)
But I do know that you’ll want to be a part of the Selah Worship Conference by MuzicNet and CLC, and I know that TODAY is the last day to get a discount on registration for the Conference AND for tickets to the Israel Houghton & New Breed worship night at the Tinley Park Convention Center on July 18.
One of my greatest thrills in ministry is seeing the dreams of others come to pass, especially when those dreams include serving people and blessing the Kingdom of God.
My suspenders almost pop because my chest swells with pride when I think about CLCers like Alan & Terrilyn Franklin and their ministry with Selah Worship Conference (that I wrote about here last week), and others like our new Consumed Student Ministry Directors, Robert & Evisha Sills.
Last Sunday Rob & Evisha celebrated the Open House of their new venture, the iCan Dream Center in Hazel Crest. The Center specializes in working with students with intellectual disabilities, communication disorders, and various learning difficulties.
In recent years, probably everyone reading this blog has known a “special needs child”, perhaps in your own extended family. I know my heart has been touched so many times at CLC hearing from our parents who are daily dealing with the challenges of autism, learning disabilities, and other special needs of their children – and I only see them on Sunday, while those challenges continue 24/7 for the parents of those children.
That’s why I’m SO thankful that Dr. Evisha Sills not only has the educational training and experience to operate the iCan Dream Center, but she and Robert have the heart to serve this overlooked area of our society as well. I know that their work at the iCan Dream Center is going to be a cup of cold water to many, many parents throughout the South Suburbs, and their reward will be abundant!
Love it when my Bible talks to me, even when I’m on vacation!
As I was doing my devotional reading, I noticed 2Sam. 19:22, especially the last sentence in the verse: Don’t I know that today I am the king of Israel?
David was addressing some of his leaders who wanted him to take revenge on Shimei, who had cursed the king in his lowest moment (see 2Sam 16:5-14) when his son had rebelled against him, threatening his very kingdom, and forced David to flee in shame.
But instead of relishing easy revenge on Shimei, David addressed a core leadership issue of insecurity by simply saying, in essence, “Don’t I know who I am? I don’t need to ‘prove’ my leadership or satisfy my ego or ‘make a statement’ that is self-centered at best and arrogant at worst by taking an unnecessary action against someone who wronged me.
Insecurity will make leaders do a lot of things we really shouldn’t do.
David was a great example to me and every leader reading this post because he knew who he was & he had nothing to prove.
But I noticed more in the verse, because he didn’t say, “Don’t I know that I am king?”; he said, “Don’t I know that today I am king of Israel?”
See, it’s good to be secure in your calling. It’s good to know who you are. But it’s also important to know that your position is not given to you perpetually.
There will be a day when you step aside for the next leader. There will be a time when God has something else for you.
So don’t take your position for granted.
Be secure in who you are for now. Maximize the moment. Lead with confidence. But recognize that your position is a privilege!
In case you weren’t in service yesterday, we introduced our newly-appointed Directors of Student Ministry for CLC, Robert & Evisha Sills. Here’s the 411 about them:
- Rob & Evisha have been members of CLC since 2010 and 2003, respectively.
- Not long after being married in December 2011 they began volunteering with Consumed Student Ministries.
- This wasn’t the first time the youth stirred their passion… They are both educators by profession and spend their days serving high school students.
- Robert is a secondary educator and Football Coach. He has coached football for more than a decade and believes that his most important role as a coach is to encourage young men in Christ. He is laid-back, patient, and enjoys engaging in athletic activities.
- Evisha is a licensed clinical social worker who began her career counseling inner-city homeless teens. She has a special place in her heart for vulnerable youth. She is fun-loving, compassionate, and a self-proclaimed adventure junky!
- Rob & Evisha recognize the challenges faced by youth and the vital role of mentorship, teaching, and discipleship in overcoming obstacles to faith. They are both humbled by the opportunity to shepherd young people into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.
- In addition to all of this, they are the founders/owners of a new business in the South Surburbs, ministering to the special needs of autistic children and their families – the iCan Dream Center. Hope you’ll check out their video here.
We feel very blessed to have them joining our CLC ministry team to serve your students! As Pastor Sam would say, “the future is bright for Consumed Nation!
Anytime you make a BIG announcement like we did last Sunday morning (especially given the time constraints of Sunday mornings!), you probably leave more unsaid than what is said. I’ve already heard from a few concerned CLC’ers who want more information about our next Campus launch & the future of Consumed Student Ministries. This post is for you!
- Sam & Taylor are not leaving CLC; we are ONE Church that meets in multiple locations. In fact, Sam will continue to serve as our Student Ministry ‘Champion’, which means he will be involved in the oversight of all our campus youth ministries. In addition, he will continue to serve on our Speaking Team at CLC, so you will be hearing him bring the Word in Tinley Park several times a year.
- Speaking of the Word, for those of you who may be considering the launch team, our NW Indiana campus and all future CLC campuses will receive the SAME teaching that you receive each Sunday, delivered in real-time via video. This will help ensure that we remain ‘one church in multiple locations’ and will enable each campus to enjoy not only my teaching along with the rest of our teaching pastors, but also the special guests that come to minister in Tinley Park each year!
- As to the future of Consumed, one of the reasons we have delayed this launch is because we waited for the right leadership to follow Sam & Taylor – and we are very confident that the couple they have recommended to us (we’ll introduce them THIS Sunday) will be able to pick up where the Hamstra’s left off, and lead our students forward! Parents: I think you will be pleased to know that the new Student Ministries Directors are both educators who have worked with high school students for years, and they have a heart for your teens! Also, Family Ministries Pastor, Tony Gilmore, will continue to provide coaching & oversight to Consumed, just as he has since joining our team in 2012. Finally, our vision of reaching children & youth remains unchanged, so our entire pastoral team is committed to the success of our ministry to students. We believe the future of Consumed remains brighter than ever!
Now, as to the new Campus in Northwest Indiana:
- we do not yet know the exact location, but we’re exploring all possibilities from Munster to St. John and all points in between. If you know of a space available in a heavily-trafficked area, let us know!
- We DO know that it takes a lot of people to make a church work! Sam & Taylor will need ushers, greeters, KidsLife ministers, Consumed leaders, musicians, singers, offering counters, coffee bar servers, First Touch folks, altar ministers – you-name-it, we NEED help! If the Holy Spirit is nudging you to serve, please let us know!
- The launch team will begin meeting in June and will be busy this summer with training and preparation in order to be ready for the opening services in September, so don’t delay – if you are interested in being on the ground floor of this new venture, helping to build people by planting a CLC campus, we WANT you! If you feel a special ‘connection’ with Sam & Taylor, and feel the Lord is joining you to their leadership, we WANT you! If you live nearer to NW Indiana than to Tinley Park, we WANT you! If you want more info about the launch, text “launch” to 44622.