Thursday, October 27, 2011

LOVE Tulsa Weekend!

I hope you're ready for one of the best weekends ever! So much cool stuff happening, I just wanted to touch base with you and give you the overview and remind you that you can be part of it all.

  • Saturday, October 30 – Fall Fest @ Jefferson Elementary - We have another opportunity LOVE Tulsa and partner with one of our community schools to serve those families and students. We will be running “Fall Fest” at Jefferson Elementary on Saturday, October 29 4-6pm. Can you volunteer to serve by running games, handing out candy or just loving on the kids? If so, just show up at Jefferson Elementary (8418 S. 107th E. Ave, Tulsa 74133) @ 3pm. Will also accept donations if you wish to help underwrite the costs of this outreach event.

  • Sunday, October 30 – Friends Day @ Freedom Valley - Be sure to bring your friends who don't go to church with you this Sunday. We will have a special 10:30am breakfast together, so please bring some good breakfast food to share along with your friends and family. You really can help change someone's life!

  • Sunday, October 30 – Child Dedication Sunday - If you have a child (any age – not just babies) that you want to be dedicated to the Lord, we will say a prayer of dedication over our kids on Sunday. There will be a short break for you to go and get your children from their class after the worship music is over. You can then release them back to their teachers after the dedication prayer is over with. We'll hold a short reception following the service for your friends and family that everyone is welcome to stay for too.

Please let me know if you have any questions about how you can be involved. Looking forward to seeing you this weekend!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

HUGE change in perspective . . . makes all the difference

It's a great week to be alive and living out the calling God's placed on your life!  Some stuff I want to celebrate, first:
  • Last Saturday we held the first (of many, I hope) wedding at our church - love to be able to bless people like that
  • This weekend we get to hold "Fall Fest" at Jefferson Elementary, a Friends Day at church and dedicate children to the Lord  - all in the same weekend.  I'm very excited about what God is working on.  And I'm glad He's letting us help with it.
  • Your prayers (and personal communication from some of you) have really given me a breakthrough in my own spirit.  Circumstances that really had me worried and down have not changed much, but God has blessed me with a very new perspective.  I'm really learning and experiencing gratefulness, faith and satisfaction on a level I've never touched before.  
Where my prayers are focused this weekend:
  • Fall Fest - Saturday is Fall Fest at Jefferson Elementary and we should be able to love and serve hundreds of kids and their families.  I'm praying for good weather, a great turnout, and Holy Spirit driven connections with people who need Jesus in their lives.
  • Friends Day - I can feel the excitement in our church.  This Sunday is the first Friends Day we've held in a while.  I'm praying for  a record turnout, hearts to be prepared as people invite friends this week, and that many of those people who come as guests will find a relationship with Jesus and His church that will never fade away.
  • Month End - Thank God October has five Sundays, because this has been our church's poorest income month ever - so far.  But, it's not over yet.  At this moment, we are way short of making budget.  But like Is said, I'm not worried.  I'm actually excited to see what God is going to do to meet and exceed our needs.  Wow, what a difference approaching something like this from a faith perspective instead of desperation. 
I believe that our prayers are powerful this week.  I can't wait to tell you how God came through in all these areas really soon!  Thank you again. I love all of you so much!

Friday, October 21, 2011

New churches can help newer churches

A couple weeks ago at our staff vision day,  we were talking about how well our church reflects our values.  One of the biggest values we carry is the desire to plant more life-giving churches - especially in Oklahoma and Texas.  Then we asked ourselves, "What are we doing right now to reflect that value?"  The sad answer was "Not much."  Granted, we do give away a large amount of money to future church planting efforts, but that is given to organizations and is much harder to measure progress, especially in individual lives.  So, it feels like we're not doing a lot to tangibly help local church planters.

Our church is just over a year old and we're still struggling to establish who we are and how we're going to go about expressing our unique calling by God. As we are struggling through these early stages, I can see how easy it is to get our eyes off any future vision.

When I think of planting churches, I think of personally discipling church planters, having them work on our staff for a couple years, building big vision inside our church and then sending them out with a bunch of people and a bunch of money to start their new church just as strong as they can.  Well, we can't do all that right this minute.  But, as we talked at Vision Day, we all realized that we can do something.  We can share our experiences with future church planters, we can give away equipment to them that we may not be using any longer, we can ask our church to rally around them in prayer, we can introduce them to key people who can help them in ways we can't yet.

Bottom line for us and other young churches.  You can't do everything, but you can do something.  This week, I was able to give some equipment away to a local church planter who's launching in January in Owasso.  It wasn't earth-shaking, but it helped him.   I also got to spend some time with another planter launching in Broken Arrow and pointed him to a great graphic artist to do his logo design.  The artist gave him such a nice discount that we told the church planter we would pay the bill for his new logo.

Feels good to be on the giving end.  If you're in a similar spot to us (new church, struggling yourself), don't get tunnel vision and don't underestimate how much you can help new churches. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I do not think that word means what you think it means

I'm reading John 10 this morning in my Bible reading plan.  John 10:10 says, "The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy."  The "thief" is satan, right?  (insert awkward pause here)

I don't think so.  Read the whole chapter.  Read Chapter 9 before it.  None of it is talking about satan.  Jesus is comparing himself to other leaders - probably Pharisees - (thieves) who were not shepherds of the people.  I could be wrong and you can let me know if you think I am.  In fact, set me straight if I'm going off track here.

But, man, it looks obvious to me this morning.  I've heard whole sermons on how the thief is satan and his 3-part job description is to steal, kill and destroy.  I've even taught it to people before.  I feel ashamed and humbled.  I also feel grateful to have access to God's Word and for the fact that I'm still learning it.

What is God teaching you as you read His Word lately?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It's time to LOVE TULSA

As part of our LOVE TULSA outreach initiative, we will be holding Fall Fest at Jefferson Elementary on Saturday, October 29 from 4-6pm.  I want to ask every person reading this to help.

You can help 3 easy ways.

  1. Volunteer - We are expecting hundreds of kids and families and could use your help to set up, run games, clean up or just hang out and love on kids.  If you can volunteer, please email me back and give you more details.
  2. Donate Candy - The store shelves are stocked with Halloween Candy. Can you pick up an extra bag or two and drop it off at the church?  We can drop it off Wednesday evening between 6:30-9pm and Sunday morning between 10am - 1pm.  If you want to drop it off another time, just reply back and I'll set up a time to meet you.  See the home page our our website for directions.
  3. Donate Cash - We are estimating this event to cost us somewhere between $600 and $1000.  If you would like to help underwrite that cost to reach out to our community, you can give online easily and securely right here.
Hope your week is going great and I cannot wait to work with you at Fall Fest on October 29! Hope to see you Wednesday or Sunday at church too!

Don't Borrow Pain From the Future

Yesterday I was fretting to my pastor, mentor and friend Gerry Stotlzfoos (yeah, he's all that to me :) about how tough things are for me and different stuff I'm worried about.  You been there before?  You there now?  I hope his wise and Spirit-led words give you as much hope and peace as they have given me.  He said:

"For you to project out another month or two is simply borrowing pain from the future. Jesus said "don't worry about tomorrow. Wise planning is great, but when the time comes that you have done everything in your power, then you simply stand and see the power of God. You will see it, and you will win."

Make today a great day.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Praying for Momentum

This is an odd day for me today.  I guess I should say that I'm coming off a very odd day at church yesterday.  On one hand, it was one of the best days we've ever had.  We had a good # of first time-guests (six, I think), one person started a new relationship with Jesus and five people were baptized in water.  That was all wonderful.  

The part that is troubling is that despite the guests and all the great things happening, we are in a very scary 5-week trend of declining attendance and declining giving.  While that's never good, this was the exact time I was anticipating both of those to be going upward.  We had a better-than-expected summer a pretty strong grand opening day on Sep 12, but things have declined some since then and, frankly, I'm kind of baffled by it all.  

I love our church and get great feedback from most people about it.  I know that a lot of people have come to know Jesus and have restarted a relationship with church in general in the last year.   I also feel like we're just on the tip of doing some much greater things in our community and reaching many more people with the freedom Jesus offers.  There are so many positives.  But the reality is, our church does not have the size, history or bank account to endure this trend forever.  We really do need a God-kind of breakthrough. 

The good news in all of this is that God is bigger than any setbacks or temporary negative trends we're seeing.  I'm asking Him to move in a big way - to increase our momentum in people and finances.  If you would pray that prayer with me this week, I would be so grateful. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

We're putting in a pool in our auditorium!

Baptism is simple, but it's so deep. A lot of the deepest things in our life are simple. Jesus commanded His disciples before He left the earth in Matthew 28:18-20, after He told them that all authority in heaven and earth had been given to Him, "I'm the one you follow." He said, "I want you to make disciples of all the nations, and I want you to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I've commanded you. I am with you always, even to the very end of the age."

So Jesus says, "After you place your faith in Me, I want you to let the world know you belong to Me by being baptized."

There are a lot of people reading this today today who have decided to follow Jesus – either for the first time or again after a time of not following Him, but here's the question…How can you claim to be a follower of Christ if you're not willing to take the first step He has called you to take through baptism?

That's where this Sunday comes in. Immediately after our service concludes, we are going to be giving you the opportunity to take that next step following Jesus by being baptized in water. Yeah, we're filling up a pool in our auditorium right as you read this!

This could be just the opportunity you've been looking for. Don't miss it. If you've decided to start new with Jesus (even if you're doing it right now as you read this), this Sunday can be the day you make it public . . . and when you make it public, often times it becomes so much more real to you.

Bring some shorts, T-shirt and a towel. We'll give you time to get changed. Looking forward to baptizing many of you this Sunday at Freedom Valley! Let me know if you have questions. I would love to talk to you about this personally.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

setbacks are part of the journey

I was just thinking this morning how much better my back and neck have been over the last month since I've started treatment with a new chiropractor.  By the way, if you're looking for one, I'd recommend Impact Clinic.  The staff and the treatment are awesome.  Anyway, as I was stretching to do some exercises this morning, I felt something move in my upper back and neck.  Wouldn't you know it . . . a setback.  

But it's not really that big a deal, is it?  We have setbacks physically, we have setbacks relationally with those we love, we have setbacks in our jobs and careers.  I just want to remind you today that the goal is not to get to the place where setbacks no longer occur.  The goal is to keep moving forward, even when they do!

You decide what today will be like.  My day is beginning with some killer pain in my back, but I'm going to see my chiropractor and then working the rest of the day.  It's not a big deal.  I'm going to make it a great day.  You can do the same.  Now, do it!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Progress as promised

We finished up our "Home Improvement" initiative at Freedom Valley last week and changes are happening this week.  The biggest project happening right now is the doors going on our auditorium.  Besides the doors, we bought a new TV and wall mount for our office, ordered a new exterior sign for the church, bought a new phone system and are about to have the exterior door stenciled with our name and logo.  If you gave to this initiative, I want to say thank you!  You are making a difference!

Looking forward to giving you more updates as they come.

Monday, October 10, 2011

My house is falling apart! No, I'm serious :)

It's pretty exciting that I'm writing this at 10:30 am from my office, not 4:30 am from my living room or from the break room at St. Francis Hospital.  Friday was my last day working there, so I'm back to focusing my first and best thoughts on this wonderful church God has asked me to lead.  Here are some challenges I'm praying about this week:
  • My house - I've asked for prayer before about the foundation of my house.  Well, lately, it's gotten worse.  The cracks on the outside of the house are bigger, the cracks on the inside are bigger and more numerous.  We've had a couple exterior doors on our garage that have shifted and are not usable, but for the first time, this week, an interior door frame has begun to move out of shape.  I'm trying not to worry, but we just feel like our house is falling apart.  And I'll just be honest, it's really frustrating to me that we would have easily had the money saved in an emergency fund to pay for this repair (long ago - even before it got worse) had I not given up so much pay this year.  I'm trying not to be worried or frustrated, so those would be great prayers, but more than anything, I'm asking God to make a way to get this thing fixed.
  • My church - The last four weeks of church attendance have been on the low side.  I'm just believing that God is going to bring a big return on all the people who I know our people has been inviting to come with them on Sundays.  I'm also asking God to show me anything we may need to change to help get out of the way of some growth in our church.
  • My priorities - I begin a new chapter of full-time pastoring today.  The last time I did this, I think I made a pretty big mistake.  I spent a lot of time on stuff that was good stuff, but not directly related to the church God has called me to lead.  I think the day will come for all that other stuff, but for now, I'm asking God to help me prioritize my time better than I ever have.  I want to do the very best leading this church that I possibly can.
Thanks so much for your prayers.  How can I pray for you this week?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Connection Groups start this week!

Just a quick reminder that connection groups begin this week @ Freedom Valley!  Our sign up period closed up yesterday, but you can still get involved.  Even if you didn't get signed up yet, you can still show up to any group you'd like this week - even Financial Peace.  That particular one does require registration, but you can still register during the first week of the group.  I hope you can find a group that fits your schedule.  The relationships and the growth you'll find will benefit you immensely.  A full listing of the groups are below.  If you have questions or need a location for the off campus groups, please email Josh Ploch at

Off Campus Groups:

Maximized Manhood – Leader: Derek Engle / Tuesdays 7pm

For Ladies Only – Leader: Kate Hylla / Tuesdays 8pm

On Campus Groups: (Wednesdays @ 6:30pm at the church)

Financial Peace University (DVD driven) – Leader: Jason Fitch / the road map to personal control, financial security, a new family dynamic, and lifetime peace.

Starting Point – Leader: Josh Ploch / an in-depth study of the core values of Freedom Valley, and how you can apply biblical principles in your everyday life.

Blueprint – Leader: David Cordle / students 6th grade and up meet to share your love for God with others and learn more about how the Bible applies to our lives.

Kids Game Night! – Leader: Sara Fitch / This high energy night of fun is for kids in K-5th grade! It’s a great opportunity for your kids to build relationships with peers, work on teams, and gain confidence in who God made them to be. Please make sure to send your child in tennis shoes.

*childcare for kids birth – 5yrs old is also provided on Wed nights*

my prayers this week . . .

There are a few things that I'm celebrating this morning.  One, I'm about to begin my final week as a St. Francis Hospital employee!  Two, we finished our Home Improvement initiative at church yesterday and we came together and raised over $3000 for some much-needed improvements to our ministry space!  Three, we begin a new semester of connection groups this week.  I'm very excited for how these three facts will affect the life of our church and my family life.  Here are some of the things I'm praying about this week:
  • To be grateful - I've know it for a while, but God really showed me this issue last week in some of my devotional time.  I'm really not as grateful to Him for His blessings as I should be.  I often recognize times and situations when I have been very blessed and should be very grateful, yet I'm not.  I see this as a pretty big character flaw and I'm trying to be very conscious of it and change it, but I'm also praying that God would change me from the inside.
  • To be patient - A few months back, I made a very conscious decision to be more patient with my kids.  It really did work for a while, but the last couple weeks, I have been back to feeling very frustrated with my boys and my patience has been very short.  I HATE being this person.  I HATE going to bed knowing I was short and sometimes even unkind to my own sons.  I feel sick about it this morning and I'm spending some time fasting & praying over my lunch break today about it.  Please pray with me if you think of it.
  • To be wise - Next week, I go back to being self-employed.  My only job will be pastoring our church.  Last time I did that, I can recognize that I was somewhat unwise in how I spent my time.  I am determined to be much more wise with the time God has blessed me with this time around.
  • To be disciplined - If God gives me the wisdom to know what to do and not do, I'm also praying that He gives me the discipline to follow through.  Sometimes the most important things that should be done are not the most fun.  I also struggle with a huge lack of discipline in my eating habits, so I would very much appreciate your prayers to be disciplined in my time management and in my eating habits.
  • Our house - I mentioned a while back how the foundation on our house has settled and caused some pretty significant damage.  We got an estimate to get it fixed and it's $4000.  Sara and I just don't have that.  We've mostly depleted our emergency fund just living with the pay cut I've taken this year.  But we are both praying that God fixes the foundation and the cracks in the house.  I know that sounds ridiculous, but God is very able to do that.  So, could you pray that prayer with us?  
Thank you so much for your prayers.  I am at a point in my life and in my ministry where I'm asking God to do the things that only He can do.  I'm going to keep on working hard and doing all I know to do, but for the vision He has placed inside of me to come to pass, He has to do it. It's because of that, that your prayers feel more important and more powerful than ever.  Thank you.