What is the Greatest Thing You Have Ever Done?

August 24, 2015 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

In the series we started at The Grove Church yesterday, we are looking at the Great Commandments and the Great Commission.  These are two foundational passages that should define what  a church is and what it means to be a follow of Jesus.

In Matthew 22:36, Jesus is asked this question:

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

As I was preparing this message, before I could even get to the answer, I found myself dwelling a lot on the question.  What is the GREATEST command?  Said another way, “What is the greatest thing that you can do?”  This led me to the more personal question, “What would I say is the greatest thing that I have ever done?”

There are so many ways to answer that question. My mind always goes to the time I hit a half-court shot in overtime to send our high school basketball team to the playoffs in the last game of the year.  (If only the internet had existed in 1990, I would so be linking to that article right now) Why is that great?  It’s incredibly difficult for one and incredibly rare.  It had significant consequences for the team.  However we all know how this falls short.  It was great but it’s impact was short-lived and small comparable to other great things someone can do.

Maybe the greatest thing that I have ever done is to adopt a daughter from foster care. It is definitely near the top of things that have made me the happiest.  It also has had significant impact in all of the lives of our family. It reflects God’s deep heart and love for the orphan which is reflected all throughout Scripture.

Maybe that’s too narrow though, maybe if I were to broaden it out.  Perhaps the greatest thing that I have ever done is to be a great husband and dad, or to be a pastor, or helping lead people to Christ.  All of those things have and will have great and deep impact in the lives of people and definitely feel great to me.

What all of these candidates for “greatest” have in common are they are things that I did or do to serve other people (half-court shot included, I suppose).  Jesus, on the other hand, had a completely different answer.  He didn’t give a do/don’t do command.  The command didn’t involve serving other people.  His answer was this:

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

When asked what the greatest thing that we could do, he gave a relational command.  We need to love God with everything that we are.  The greatest thing that we can do is love God.  That is so counter-intuitive to what we believe makes someone or something great.  However, God is the greatest, so connecting to him is great.  Also, it was what we created to do.  We were created for him and by him.

Even last night, after preaching on this 3 times, I was still thinking about this and this illustration came to me.   What is the greatest part of your house? Some might say the kitchen/dining room.  Wherever it is that you and connect with each other for dinner is the greatest place.  Perhaps it is the living room where the best family memories or made.  If you have small children, it might be the private solace that comes from the bathroom.  (Just me? Ok. Never mind)  It may be the bedroom (Uh.  Again, never mind)

The greatest part of the house is the foundation.  Without it, nothing else in the house can function properly.  It is the piece of the home, by which all other pieces are made possible and better and functional.  We take the foundation of our house for granted, and that’s ok.  Your foundation doesn’t care.  However, we cannot take for granted the foundational relationship by which every other part of our lives rests.  That is our greatest relationship and loving him is the greatest thing that we can do.

Why do you believe that loving God is the greatest commandment?

What’s Next Recap

September 17, 2012 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership, Teaching

It was a great day at the Grove Church on Sunday.  I was pretty tired when I got home Sunday night, but it was totally worth it. For the first time in our history there were over 700 people at church. As we continue to solidify the vision that God has given us as a church, it is very exciting to see more and more people come and want to be a part.  God is moving at our church as we see more people finding Christ, getting connected and being sent all over the world.

We believe that God has even greater things ahead for us, and this last Sunday we spent some time talking about what was next for us as we pursue the vision that he has given us:

Reaching people to become fully-devoted, world-changing followers of Christ.

Here are the three things that are next for us. (You can watch sermon online here)

1) We need to learn to talk to and hear from God–This is more than just prayer. Too often prayer can become an exercise that we do without heart and passion. We need to be people that pour our hearts out to a loving father. We then also need to listen to what God has to say back to us in return. The Bible makes it clear that the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of us and gives us power. Are we aware of that power? Are we walking in that power?  Are we experiencing God in our daily lives or do we just believe true things about him and do good things for him?

2) We need to be in community with small groups of people–We need to have friends and relationship where we feel connected, where we are protecting each other (from sin, from difficult times, etc.) and where we are growing.  Too many people have buddies to hang out with and do stuff with, but how many of us have friends that will be there with us and for us no matter what?  We need friends who take initiative with us and friends that because of our relationships with them, we become better, more like Christ.  This is not a new church program, but it is a goal that each one of us needs to have.

3) We need to move–We now have four services with 3 of them being full this weekend.  We have kids classrooms that are full. We have no space to connect with each other. We have people parking 2 blocks away and visitors coming and deciding to leave because it is too crowded.  Now is the time for us to make a move.  This is going to be a financial challenge for us.  It is going to take all of us working together and believing that God is calling us to do this together.

Much more could be said about all three of these and much more will be over the next few months.  The first two will be covered throughout the fall as we start our series in the book of Acts.  The need to raise money and the challenge of moving will be talked about more as we progress in our search for a new space.

What should we do now as we wait to pursue the next building?

1) Make the move to e-Give.  This is our online giving resource.  This helps you with the discipline of regular planned giving.  You can find that here.  Sometimes what we lack is the discipline.  If we plan ahead to give on a regular basis and set it up, it happens.

2) Make your giving connected to your income not attendance.  Don’t just give something when you come, give a portion of what you make.

3) Go to the next level.  Non-givers become givers. Givers become planned givers. Planned givers give percentages of income. Then become a tither.

4) Save now for the big ask.  You may not have $1000, $5000 or more to give to the new building. But if you planned, could you in 6 months?

5) Invite a friend to come be a part of the Grove. The more people involved, the better.

6) Pray. Pray for wisdom for the leadership. Pray for finances. Ask God for what he wants you to do. Dream big with God. Then pray for God to help you do what he’s calling you to do. We are believing there are going to be some great stories over the next year in how God provides. Be a part of one of those stories.

We are excited about what’s next and hope you are to.  Any questions? Feel free to shoot me a note at charlie@thegrovechurch.org

Vision 2012-Reach

August 27, 2012 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership, Teaching

For the last 9+ months we have had an amazing, precious, beautiful baby in our home.  Our world turned upside-down but in the best possible way.  In another month and a half or so, we will have the awesome privilege of being able to adopt her and make legal what has always been true in our hearts.  She will become a part of our family.

During this time, we have had what I will call a “baby-focused” home.  The focus for the other four of us has been the baby. She has far and away gotten the most attention, the most praise and the most care.  We have all adapted our schedule and priorities to fit hers.

A couple of further insights:

1) Do we do this because we love her more? I do not believe that any of the four of the rest of us would say that we love her more or even that we feel that other family members love her more than they love us.  It is not a question of love, but of priority.  She gets the most attention, because she is the most vulnerable. Part of me wants to explain that further. Another part of me doesn’t want to insult you. She is more vulnerable because she is a baby. She can’t do for herself.

2) At no point during our time of baby-focus did Heidi or I ever forget our other daughters’ names.  They never missed a meal and they knew that they were loved and cared for. That may sound ridiculous, but it’s important to the point (Yes, a point is coming). While we were giving focus to the baby, we made sure that our older girls were loved and well taken care of.  Certainly they didn’t get as much attention as they used to get or could possibly get, but they never once were neglected, but instead were deeply loved and cared for.

3) In addition, they never complained that their parents had diverted much of their attention to the baby.  Why is that? Because we were united in our baby-focus. We believed together that this is what God had called us to. We were too busy loving on the baby to be self-focused.  We were too busy following God’s new plan for our family to really notice or complain about the changes.  Also, the trade-off was worth it, because the baby is amazing.

We at The Grove Church strive to have an outward-focus. We want to focus our attention on people who are far from God.

Why?  (See point 1 above) They are the most vulnerable. What is at stake for them is much more serious than those who are walking closely with God.

Does this mean we do not want the believers in our church to be loved and cared for and to grow? No (Point 2), we still must and will care for each other. We will just do so with much of our focus on those outside.

Hopefully, we will then be a church (Point 3) that is so united in our desire to see people locally and around the world find faith in God, it would never cross our minds to wonder if something could be “better for us.”  Too often churches get into a battle over whether or not church is “for believers” or “for lost people.”  As I seem to say a lot about issues Christians fight about, that’s a false choice.  The church is a group of believers commissioned (Matt. 28:18-20) by God to reach the lost.

Of course, God is calling us to help each other grow (see next week). There are many great reasons why we need to and why the church must make sure that happens. As with many things, it is a question of balance. Ask yourself this question, “Am I balanced in the attention I give toward meeting my own needs versus others’ needs? My needs versus people who are from God?” I would imagine that most of us would admit that we give plenty of attention to ourselves.  The same is true for churches. I believe that we have to talk even more about reaching people because our natural tendency is toward an inward focus.

Our mission is described by 4 words–worship, reach, grow and send.  All are important, but we need to be absolutely clear on the commission that God has given us to reach people who are far from him.

Vision 2012–Worship

August 20, 2012 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership, Teaching

You hear the word “worship” and you automatically think about music.  “What’s worship like in your church?” is the same question as “What is the music like in your church?”

Now, I don’t want to be “that guy.” You know the guy that lambasts you for using one definition of a word instead of his preferred definition of the word.  Example, “Only God is awesome.  Because only he is totally worthy of our awe and extreme admiration.” Well, awesome also can mean something that’s cool.  “Cool means low in temperature.”  Enough already.

Worship can mean music, but it also has other definitions.  When we get to “Grow” in our vision series, we will see the same thing.  “We want the church to grow,” has multiple meanings.  It can mean you want more people or you want the people to be more.

What do we mean by worship? Well, let’s go to the dictionary. Worship–to be devoted to and full of admiration for.  When we talk about worship, this is what we mean.  We need to be express our devotion and admiration for God.  We can and should do this through singing praise songs to God.  However, it is only worship if we mean what we say.  Otherwise it is just singing.

However, worship is much deeper than singing. Singing is but one expression of worship.  Worship is demonstrating with our lives our full devotion to God.  Paul uses worship in this way in Romans 12:1-2

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Offering your bodies (lives) to God is your true and proper worship.  So as we evaluate how we are doing individually and as a church in worship, it is important to ask if we are properly pouring out our hearts with sincerity when we sing.  However, it is even more important for us to ask if our lives are fully devoted to him.

There are 3 particular areas in which God has laid on my heart for us to grow in our worship.

1. Finances–It is far and away the hardest area for many if not all people. It also causes us the most anxiety when we don’t surrender it to God. We start in our hearts by making a commitment that we will do with our money whatever God asks and a recognition that everything we have is His in the first place.

There are a couple of ways that we need to practice good stewardship of our finances (obviously there are more, but 2 that I believe are good starting points for us).  First is to be generous givers.  God calls us to take the first and best of what we have and give it to him. How much? Ask God.  The historical standard has been 10%, which is what tithe means.  That case can be made from Scripture.  A case can be made for more. It would be hard to make one for less.  Again, ask God and see what he says. That’s a great place to start if the point of this is to surrender this to him in worship.

Second, spend less than what you bring in.  No need to elaborate on that much, so how about an algebra equation?  If you bring in X, spend at most X-1.

2.Character–Too often we justify our sin.  We also minimize the effects that our sin has on us and on other people.  What is one area of sin where you most need to change?  You probably know immediately when asked.  If not, ask God. If not, ask a friend or spouse.  I assure you, they know.  Then begin to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to change your heart and give you victory.  What you will discover is more consistent victory and this area and freedom.

3. Direction–Finally, would you consider asking the question, “God what do you want me to do?” I don’t mean this in a “should I have chicken or steak for dinner” kind of way, but in a “is my life going in the right direction” kind of way.  Are you open to God leading you in a different direction, to get involved in a new ministry, to reach out to people around you?  What if God asked you move to the other side of the world? What if he asked you give sacrificially so someone else could? What if he told you to add to your family through adoption? What if…? What if…? Would you listen? Will you take the risk and ask and wait?

What would happen if we all made a decision this year to increase our giving, allow God to change our character and all followed God wherever he led?  It gets me excited just to think about it.  God would use us in ways that we can hardly imagine.  He would change the world through us.  People in NWA and all around the world would find life in Christ.  We would be living life the way God intends for us to live, with freedom, peace and hope.  We would be the church God is calling us to be.

Well, Now What?

September 20, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

That is perhaps the most important question that should follow any sermon.  If what we have just heard and talked about doesn’t make any difference in our lives 5 minutes later, then we have wasted time. The hearing of God’s word should propel us to be different people, more like Jesus in what we do and in who we are.

We have spent the past four weeks talking about who God is calling us to be as a church.  We’ve summarized this into four words–Worship, Reach, Grow and Send.

God has called us to:

Worship him with our lives.

Reach people who are far from God.

Grow deep in our relationships with Him.

Send people into the world with the gospel.

Each week, we took a moment and talked about the “Now what?” Hopefully, there were a few different moments when you heard God nudge you:  “You need to do more than sing on Sunday. You need to worship me with your whole heart.”  “That person at work who is hurting, walk over to them and talk to them.”  “Spend more time in the Bible, hearing what God has to say to you.”  “Step out of your comfort zone and serve the needy in your community.”

Now that the series is over, I’d like to give you 3 more “Now whats.”  Three things that we as a church need to be committed to if we are going to see God move in a powerful way in our lives, our church, our community and our world.

1) Pray.  None of the incredible things that have happened at The Grove Church happened because of great planning.  In fact, much of it happened in spite of mediocre planning.  God has been moving.  We want to continue to see him move in our church.  We need The Grove body to pray.  Pray that God will reach the lost, grow us closer to him and send us out into the world.  This will take us all working together, but without God moving among us, it won’t matter.

2) Serve.  Find a place where God can you use your gifts, talents and passions.  You have a role to play.  God has placed you here, you specifically.  Don’t for one second believe that the mission that God has called us to will be achieved by the staff and a select few leaders.  It will happen when each one of us finds a place to serve.  So find a place on the Dream Team.  Serve in local ministries.  Take the gospel to an unreached people.  When we all “do the good works which He has prepared for us,” we will see God do something amazing. (Eph. 2:10)

3) Give.  I truly believe that the mission that God has given us as His church and His followers is worth giving your life to.  When God uses you to make a difference in the lives of other people, you will experience a closeness and fulfillment that maybe you never have before.  It is going to take each one of us, not only serving, but giving financially as well.  As God continues to reach more people through us, draws more families and students, the needs in the church will continue to grow.  The more people God sends out into the world, the more opportunities we will have as a church to support them.  That takes money.  Prayerfully consider what you are giving and join together with us to watch God change the world through us.

It is a privilege to serve alongside you.  These last 14 months have been incredible.  The next 14 years will be even more so.

Swimming in the Deep End

September 12, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

Lauren was just a little over a year and a half (turned 11 today) when her mom took her and her 4 year old sister to the neighborhood pool in Twin Chimneys where we had just moved.  She set Lauren down to get Maylee’s floaties set on her when she heard the big splash.  She turned around and Lauren had run and jumped in.  Now with her arms and legs flailing as fast as they could go, she is “swimming.”  Heidi quickly jumps in after her and pulls her out.  As she is pulling her out, Lauren is excitedly (Let’s not get confused here.  She was neither scared nor nervous this entire time.  Mom was.  Lauren was not.) repeating, “I swim. I swim. I swim.”

And so it was with Lauren Loften her entire life to date.  She always wanted to be able to swim, by herself, no life jacket, no floaties, nothing (Ultimately, Heidi had to make the decision to put the lifejacket on Lauren at the house, before we even got into the van to drive to the pool.  No chances.  She would have done it again.).  She also wanted to swim in the deep end.  She didn’t understand that rope and why other people got to swim on the other side of it and she didn’t.  Her goal, as with a lot of kids, was to swim in the deep end.

And why not?  It’s where everything is just a little bit better.  You can do more stuff.  You can dive, you can swim down to the bottom, it’s just better.

(Sudden shift) But what if everyone who was capable of  swimming in the deep end, exclusively swam in the deep end?  No one ever left and went to the shallow end.  What would happen?  No one new would ever learn to swim.  Experts could get better, but no one else would learn.  Who teaches new people to swim?  People who already know how.  (Wow, that is deep.  Is this going somewhere?  Yes.)

In part 3 of our vision series, we talked about how God wants us to grow.  He wants us to become more like his son, Jesus.  We want God to change what we believe and our character.  Ultimately, he wants to do this so that, like Jesus, we can lay our lives down for other people.  We are “blessed to be a blessing.”  We grow to help others grow.  We learn so we can teach.

I believe that God does want us to enjoy the “deep end.”  He wants us to have and enjoy all the benefits of being close to him.  He wants us to be strong swimmers so we can navigate the waves of life.  But in addition to all of that, he very much wants us to give our lives away to those who need help–physical, spiritual, emotional help.

There is something inherently selfish in the hearts of those of us who believe that we grow and draw close to God simply for our own benefit. He wants to GROW you so he can SEND (next week) you into the world, because he wants to change the world through you.

Philippians 2

Imitating Christ’s Humility

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Worship–What It Is(n’t)

August 29, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership, Teaching

We started our (most likely to be) annual series on the vision and mission of the Grove.  (Ok, we need to decide this.  Is it the Grove? The Grove? the Grove Church? The Grove Church?  Does it matter?)

We want our church to be centered around four words:

Worship, Reach, Grow and Send

We worship God with our lives.  We reach people who are lost.  We grow deep in our relationship with God. We send people into the community and world with the love of God.

The foundation of those four words/ideas is the first one–worship.  Religious activity and doing the right thing can be empty gestures.  We want to make sure that the foundation of all that we do is our love and devotion to God.  That’s what worship is, the expression of our love and devotion to that one person or thing that we value above all else.

The question that we need to ask ourselves is what do we worship?  No, no, no.  I’m not asking what you’re supposed to say.  What do you really worship?  “But I sing to God every week at church.”

Worship isn’t singing.  Worship can involve singing if our hearts and minds are engaged with what we are singing.  My guess is that a lot of us sing along with songs in the car, but we don’t mean what we say (Think singing along to 80’s songs.  “Can’t stand the thought of you with somebody else, gotta have your tenderness, all to myself.”).

Worship on Sunday happens when we believe and feel what we are declaring to God with our songs.

Worship the rest of the week happens when we demonstrate with our lives that God is first.  How do we spend our time? What consumes our mind? Where and how do we spend our money?  Who or what is most important?

We can all agree, I’m supposing since you clicked the link to come here, that the answer should be God.  We need to take the necessary steps to make what we think should be true, actually be true.  How do I need to differently prioritize my time?  Do I need to be surrendering my finances to God?  Do I need to change what I think about during the day?

God is calling us to be used in the lives of people, but first and foremost we need to be fully devoted worshippers of God.  This is who God is calling tHe GrOvE ChurCh to be.

Grove Town Hall Part 2

December 2, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

Hmm, didn’t you say part 2 would come “tomorrow” which would have been “two days ago” which would have been “Tuesday?”  Yes, yes, but I have a busy life.  It’s tough only working one day a week.  That’s how pastor’s are right?

Anywho, on with more from the Town Hall:

The elders got away for an overnight retreat.  We spent a good portion of our time talking about our mission statement.  What is it that God has called the Grove to be and do?  What are our values?  What makes the Grove, the Grove?  (That’s a sentence that makes more sense when you say it with the right inflection.  What makes the Grove, THE GROVE?  Written, it looks ridiculous).

As we began to think about what God has called us to, there are two passages that we believe God was bringing to the front of our discussions.  The first is the Great Commandment:

Matthew 22

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The second is the Great Commission:

Matthew 28

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

From these two passages we understand that the most important things that we can do as believers, and ultimately as a church as well, is to love God with all that we are and love others the way we love ourselves.

God has called us first and foremost to people who worship.  By this, we don’t mean simply singing worship songs, but in addition to that we need to live lives that show our love, gratitude and devotion to God.

The best way that we can show our love for others is by serving them and helping them have and develop a deep relationship with God.  We need to reach people who are separated from God.  Apart from a relationship with Jesus, people are lost and in desperate need of God.  He is calling us to be a church that is building relationships with non-Christians and sharing and showing our faith to them so that they can come to know him.

We also need to help people grow in their relationship with God.  We can go deeper with God, understand and know him better, love him more.  Being a Christian is not about “getting saved” and then living life in anticipation of eternal life after we die.  It is living that life now (John 10:10).

Grow to what end though?  Sometimes we feel like we grow just to grow.  God, however, is calling us take what we have and give it to others.  We need to be a church that sends people into the world to love and serve them.  God has uniquely gifted and impassioned each of us.  He wants us to use those gifts and passions to help reach the world for Jesus Christ.  We need to help people find those gifts and passions and then help them figure out the best place and way to use them.

Putting those four words (Worship, Reach, Grow, Send) together is the beginning of a mission statement.  We have not crafted it together into an incredibly pithy and memorable and awe-inspiring statement yet, but when we do, look out!  It will be centered around those 2 passages and those 4 words.  We believe that this is what God has called us to at the Grove Church.

Talk to you again tomorrow (wink, wink)

Grove Town Hall Part 1

November 29, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

Well, I was gone from just about everything for a week.  When I got back, I discovered that the audio from the Town Hall meeting was no good.  Like Kip (would his last name be Dynamite as well?), I do love technology.  But sometimes it is problematic.  So, we shall remedy this by using other technology to get it to you.  The more I think about it though, this is probably better for you.  I would rather read a series of blog posts than listen to me talk for an hour.  That’s because I think my voice is annoying.  I’m sure you do as well.  Thanks for your patience.

Anywho, I will take some time this week and put different themes we talked about here on the old blog.  This way, if you weren’t there, you can catch up.  First, of course, you need to see this video–Have you been to the Grove? We opened the Town Hall with that.  Now that I have lowered your expectations, here is the first part of what we talked about:

More than anything, I really want to thank everyone for how kind everyone has been in our transition.  It’s not easy making a move like this, especially with 12 and 9 (now 10 and almost 13) year old girls.  You have loved us well and we have loved getting to know you guys.  With the exception of our house not selling, this transition has gone about as well as it could.  Everyone in our family has very quickly felt a part of the Grove Church.

I have also enjoyed building relationships with the elders and staff.  I have always believed that one of the foundational pieces to a healthy church is the relationship among the staff and elders.  Thankfully this has not been hard work.  It has been easy and a lot of fun to be able to get to know these great men and women, and I believe fairly quickly we have been able to become good friends.

The last four months (That’s right, it has only been 4 months.  Actually, it won’t be 4 months until Wednesday, but who’s counting?) have been an exciting time for the church as well.  We have seen an attendance growth of about 70% from the same time last year.  I know that it has been a hard year for the Grove and that is was a difficult transition.  I hope that it feels good to have some good momentum in the church.

We also have relaunched a youth (I know you are supposed to call it student ministry, but I get that confused with college students, so for now, youth it is) ministry.  We have started small, because that is what we are right now.  We have a guys small group and a girls small group.  Big thanks to Ty Carlson and Leah Burry for getting those kicked off.  They are both huge answers to prayer.

We have also seen a tremendous growth in the number of college students coming to the Grove.  Several people have asked me what we have done to see so many college students this fall.  The assumption has been that there must have been some kind of intentional strategy or recruitment campaign.  There hasn’t been.  I invited a handful of students that came from Fellowship Bible in Little Rock and that’s it.  What has happened has been an example of the power of enthusiasm and word of mouth.  Students have been bringing students.  I believe we have created an worship environment with quality music, friendly people and a relational teaching style that has been very attractive to college students.  BTW, this style is also very attractive to families and singles.  It’s just that word of mouth and enthusiasm moves much quicker among students.  As of now, we do not have a formal college ministry.  We have a few small groups and we are planning perhaps quarterly events (we have had a lunch so far).  We want to start slowly.

This is a ministry principle that we are using everywhere.  Let’s do one thing well before trying to do two things well.  We don’t want to try to do every ministry possible.  Also, let’s not try and do everything imaginable within ministries, like children’s, youth, etc.  Let’s do the core well first and then do the next thing well.

Well, part one has been mostly update.  Later to come, we will talk about our facility challenges, our financial situation, getting to the next level in the Greenhouse/kids ministry and most importantly the process we are in crafting a new mission statement.  Talk to you tomorrow.