The People You Admire Most Were Failures


Fear-of-failureThere are some heroic characters in the Bible.

  • Moses, the guy who parted the Red Sea and got Charlton Heston to play him in a movie.
  • Peter, the man who has the most famous church in the world named after him
  • David, the man after God’s own heart.

But most of the people you admire in the Bible were miserable failures.

  • Moses, the guy who murdered an Egyptian and tried to cover it up.
  • Peter, the guy who cussed out a teenage girl in order to forcefully deny he knew Jesus.
  • David, the adulterer and murderer.

The same people were both failures and heroes. And they didn’t become heroes until they were first failures.

It is an act-one story of misery followed by an act-two story of redemption.

Woven throughout the pages of Scripture is this story of grace.  A God who doest just forgive, but forgives and restores.  He isn’t just a God of second chances, but third, fourth and fifth chances.

This is part of the reason you admire these people so much. You know they did great things, but what’s inspiring is they did great things after doing awful things.  The riches are more impressive when you consider the rags.

Why do we love these comeback stories so much?

Because deep down, we want to hope.

We love the redemption stories, because there’s a good chance we’ll be in one.  Maybe we’ve already been featured in one.

By all means, admire and emulate the heroes in the Bible.  But never forget that most of them were sinners before they were saints – murderers before they were missionaries, and miserable failures before they got chapters in the Bible.

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  • Organize Your Life in 21 Days.  This free email course that will help you organize life.  You will get lots of advice on handling email, creating a good workflow, installing personal systems and using helpful tools.  It’s 21 emails delivered over a couple of months so you have time to implement without being overwhelmed.
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Ten Things Pastors and Preachers Can Do During the Summer

Pastors, what are your summer plans?  Here are ten suggestions for how you can maximize those summer months.
  1. Take some time off.  Summer is a great time for a family trip or a vacation (yes, those are different).
  2.  Invite some people over to your home.  Maybe some volunteers, or key leaders or a group of donors.  A summer cookout or a little low country boil is fun.
  3. Let other people preach.  You don’t have to give the youth pastor the Sunday after Thanksgiving – be an overachiever and give him two weeks in a row.  Bring in a guest speaker while you’re at it.
  4. Plan for the fall.  With the free time you’ll have from not preaching every week, look ahead to the fall.
  5. Have fun with your family.  You don’t have to spend a bunch of money to have a fun day in your town.
  6. Talk about automated, recurring giving.  Even though people might be out of town, they can still give.  You just have to show them how and ask them to do it.  This will help.
  7. Go visit another church.  Sneak out for a Sunday and go visit another church in town.  Or go hear your favorite preacher in person.
  8. Read something you wouldn’t normally read.  Maybe something from history or the latest non-history history from Dan Brown.
  9. Do something fun with your staff.  Your staff needs some relaxation, too.  How about a staff and spouse trip to the baseball park.  Or a corn hole tournament in your front yard.
  10. Have some intentional conversations.  Go meet another pastor for coffee.  Hire a leadership coach.  Meet up with some key leaders in the church just to talk about life.

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Why Organizing Your Church is Important

I heard Andy Stanley once say that sermons without systems won’t lead to life change.  Sure, sermons are important, but without a systematic plan to move people into community, sermons will just become information over time.  Like pipes in a wall, systems and structure is the vehicle that takes passion and translates it into life change.

That’s why I’m such a believer in organizing the church.  The mission of the church matters, so the church should be structured in a way that makes sense.

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Here’s a little more if you’d rather watch than read.

I Was Broken

On the surface, everything looked great.  I had planted a successful church and we were reading 750 people after one year.  I a picture perfect church and a picture perfect family.  I had twitter followers and conference speaking gigs were starting to come in.

But under the hood, things weren’t right.

I allowed our 12-year marriage to become all about our kids.  They didn’t run the schedule, but I eased into the role of father and subliminally pushed the role of husband down the list.  I began to see Jennie as the mother of my kids rather than my wife.  We moved to Cartersville with a three week old and began a church planting journey.  When we launched the church, our third child was one month away. I went to work while Jennie stayed home with the kids.  There’s nothing wrong with that arrangement in general, but there was for us.

We also stopped having fun together.  Not having hobbies was a fun twitter admission, and the ensuing discussion turned into a nice sermon illustration, but not having any hobbies was a serious issue.  I’m more convinced than ever that reading leadership books and leading a church cannot be all a person does.  I needed fun things to do, and I needed to be able to do them with Jennie.

These two things put a strain on my marriage, and the pressures of planting and then leading a successful church didn’t help.  People have affairs when they perceive something else to be better than the life they are currently living.  It wasn’t just the excitement of the unknown; it was the dissatisfaction with my current state.

We didn’t need a marriage conference; we needed a babysitter so we could go out and have fun.  We didn’t need cards on pastor appreciation day, we needed friends to invite us to things.  I didn’t need another leadership conference, I needed to be honest with a group of friends who could not fire me.

Maybe it was the desire the keep up appearances, fear of letting people down, or the embarrassment of needing counseling, but I didn’t talk about these problems.  I chose to avoid them.  A friend and member of my advisory team once encouraged me to go talk to someone, but I blew him off and kept doing my own thing.

My marriage was broken because I was broken and didn’t seek help.  Church planting didn’t kill my marriage.  It wasn’t ministry that was the problem.  The problem was me.

In the last six or seven months, I’ve learned a lot of those things and I’m going to write about a few of them in the coming weeks.  I’m not going to write about everything, and I’m not done learning, but here we go.


I am Not Planing a Church

I don’t know why exactly I feel the need to clarify this, but here goes…

A couple of months ago, me and my family moved to Atlanta.  We’ve got our kids in a new school and we’re really enjoying city living.

But I did NOT move here to start a church, and I don’t have any plans to start another church.  I’m not working on anything, raising money, or networking.  Right now, I’m focusing on my faith and my family, and we’re attending church.

I recently started working with Giving Rocket, and I’m fired up about this opportunity.  I don’t know exactly what I do – it ranges from writing to organizing to producing – but I enjoy it.  I’m grateful to Casey and his family – He’s become a good friend to me over the past few years, and especially over the last few months.  While I have no desire to be on a stage or get credit for anything, I care about the local church and want to help behind the scenes.

I believe in what Giving Rocket is doing to help churches fully fund their mission, and I’m excited about helping launch some new things in the coming year.

RIP Oak Leaf Church

I have intentionally disconnected from church planting in general and Oak Leaf in particular.  I’m working on myself and my family.  But I’m not living under a rock and am aware that Oak Leaf Church has changed it’s name.

I’m not going to lie…knowing that the red leaf has been erased, the colors have changed, and the book is closed is very hard for me. My wife compared it to the scene from Harry Potter when Hermione erased the memories of her parents in order to protect them from Voldemort. It was for their own good, but it was still sad. We’re both happy and sad when we look back on our six years in Cartersville. I’m a sentimental person – I remember the first song ever sung (Salvation is Here) and giving out an iconic leafy award to a volunteer probably meant more to me than it did to the recipient. I’m proud of the fact that Oak Leaf Church was a real church for real people. Ironically, I turned out to be the kind of person the church was started to reach.

As a lead pastor, I loved navigating an organization through change, planning, strategizing and communicating necessary changes. On the other side, I realize just how hard it is. More than any other time in my life, I see just how hard change can be.  This change is hard.

As I look back on the journey of starting Oak Leaf Church, I’m proud of all that God did, despite my sin and shortcomings. I am reminded how God anointed and used Saul, despite the fact that he consulted witches (see I Samuel 28). And Saul’s successor David was a grievous sinner, yet was still known as “a man after God’s own heart.” As I read the BIble, I see that Jesus intentionally surrounded himself with sinners and set them on the road to recovery. While “friend of sinners” was a nickname given by the Pharisees to take a dig at his associations, Jesus was never afraid to associate with people who didn’t have it all together. I did many things wrong in Cartersville, yet God still saw fit to build a church focused on reaching messed up people. I will never understand the sovereignty of God, but I trust beauty will rise from ashes, both in Cartersville and in my own family.

Not that West Ridge needed my permission, but I agree with the decision to change the name. Just like we needed to move from Cartersville in pursuit of a fresh start, the people of Oak Leaf Church needed a fresh start. I am sad, but I still understand. I have not and will not point the finger of blame at anyone for my actions.  It’s better for alignment, branding, and most of all, a heart-felt desire to “do over.”

I am grateful for several friends who texted me the morning the name change was announced to say thanks and affirm the blessings of God in the past. I am grateful for the people I know and care about in Cartersville who believe that the mission is still important. And I am grateful for the leadership of Brian Bloye and the entire West Ridge team. They have been gracious and wise.

Should anyone from the Cartersville campus stumble across this, please know that I trust Brian and West Ridge completely. While some things deeper than the name will certainly change, the heart to reach people for Jesus will remain the same. While the leaf may be gone, the heart for the people of Cartersville is not.

A few people from Cartersville have emailed to ask where they should go to church now.  My answer is “West Ridge Cartersville.”

Personal Update

A lot has happened over the last few months, and I wanted to take a few minutes to update my friends and family. I know a lot of people are praying for me and my family and we really do feel the effects of your prayers.  I have intentionally kept quiet on the Internet about my personal life, because I’m working on restoring what’s closest to me first, before branching out.  That means working on my relationship with God, my relationship with Jennie, and my family…in that order.

I wanted to start with those close to me and then expand the circle outward – that’s the reason for much of my silence on the issue.  I have written a lot of thoughts that I will share sometime, but only after I’ve had all the face-to-face conversations that I need to have.

With that said, here is a bit of what’s been going on.

  • With the help of my pastor, my church, and the ministry of City of Refuge, I’m working on being a Christian, husband and father.
  • I’m learning a lot about forgiveness, love, repentance friendship and trust.
  • I have had conversations with some people, but there are still many people that I want to talk to face to face.
  • We have moved from Cartersville, but are still living in the Atlanta area.
  • I’m doing some freelance writing and small business consulting.  I’m thankful for the work, and the knowledge that my family is okay during this time.
  • We have been working with a great counselor. Not only do I have a new respect for professional counselors, it’s really been a huge help.  My counselor has helped me be honest about a lot of things – with God, with myself, and with Jennie.  I really wish I had gone to counseling much earlier in life and marriage.
  • Through City of Refuge, I’m a part of a small group of guys and my wife is a part of a small group of ladies.
  • I have intentionally disconnected from Oak Leaf Church, for the good of the church and the health of everyone involved.  But that doesn’t mean that I’m not proud of all that happened and don’t pray for the amazing people there.  I will always love Oak Leaf Church and I’m thankful to God for allowing us to be a part of launching the church.  I’m also grateful for the leadership that West Ridge has provided.
  • A lot of people have asked about future church plans or ministry endeavors. God is a God of grace and I believe in restoration, but now isn’t the time for those things.  I’m waiting on God to write the next chapter.  If you know me, you know that waiting is hard.  But it’s the right thing to do right now.
  • I am intentionally working on developing healthy friendships.  Most of the time this means being a friend expecting nothing in return.
  • God has taught me a lot of stuff, but again…I need to understand more  them before writing or talking about them.