Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Week In The Life Of Ridgeview Church

(That I know about)

*New Message Series on Elijah. Looked at the life of Elijah in 1 Kings 17 and how God takes us through the valley to do a work in us in order to do a work through us.
*Ridgekidz- Great time of teaching using our 252 Basics curriculum.
*Sunday night Growth Group- met at home of Don & Beverley Brown. Aaron Williams facilitated. Great to see disciples being raised up to make more disciples.
*Ridgestudents- CJ Cauble & our students met at Rock's Country Store. They are using the same Bible stories our adult Growth Groups are using. CJ has challenged the students to share that Bible story this week with someone at school. I love it!

*Staff meeting at Moe's restaurant. Great food and great time to pray over the Connection Cards turned in from Sunday; yes, right in the middle of the restaurant!

*Tuesday Growth Group met led by Paul & Paula Eill. Hearing great things from that group!

*Wednesday Growth Group met led by Lane & Renee Stovall. This is new group that branched from the summer semester. This is a win for us as a church; making disciples who give birth to new Growth Groups who in turn make more disciples!
*Ridgekidz Summit Group met at our home. Amy Eldridge taught the older group "How to read God's Word." Tanya Hargrove led the younger group as they learned more about David and how "man looks at the outward appearance, God looks at the heart."
*Ridgeview provided refreshments for the Mountain View Elementary for their faculty meeting. Sharing the love of Jesus in a practical way. Great bridges built!

*Thursday night Growth Group to meet led by Rex & Carolyn Culbertson. I am attending this one tonight with my family. Love being a part of it!

*Friday morning men's Growth Group to meet at 6:45 a.m. at Peggy's diner. Excited that Max Culbertson is going to share the Bible story this Friday. More disciple-making! Excited one or two more men will be joining us!

These are just a few things I know about this week in the life of Ridgeview Church. The exciting thing is there are other ministry related acts going on in Growth Groups that I know nothing about. I can't control it, and that's a good thing. I love to hear about how God's people are responding in ways the Holy Spirit is leading them to go. I believe our structure is in place at Ridgeview to continue seeing that happen. I just try to stay out of the way and let God lead!

See you Sunday!

Pastor Tommy

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Loving People When They Don't Love Me Back

I was reading my Bible this morning. Good thing to do, right? I'm using Wayne Cordeiro's Bible reading plan of reading through the OT once and the NT twice in one year. Anyway, came into Matthew 5 today as Jesus taught His listeners in verse 45, "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45) that you may be sons of your Father in heaven..." This verse was a great reminder for what I continually need to practice.

Over the last couple of years since I started a church, I've had a number of people in the church hurt me. Not physically of course. Sometimes I wish it was physical rather than emotional. Physical scars heal. The other kind take much longer. As a Pastor, I love the people God has entrusted me to shepherd and disciple. Sometimes, I've had some sheep bite me. Then, they go find another pen to graze in. It hurts; really hurts! But, Jesus calls me to love and pray for those who for one reason or another just don't like me or the way I go about ministry anymore. Now I could pray God would strike them with leprosy, but I guess that would negate the whole love thing. Seriously, I have a list of people in my prayer journal I pray for that have hurt me in some way. God does an amazing thing when I do that. He changes my heart toward them. It also shows the Lord that when I actually obey this command He is truly Lord of my life.

I'm not always perfect in this arena but God is doing a work in me so that He can do a work through me. I want to be all that I can be in Christ living to glorify God in all that I do. That means loving people when they don't love me back.

Monday, September 26, 2011

I sat in last night on the Sunday night Growth Group from Ridgeview Church. Aaron Williams facilitated last night (his shoe & Bible are shown at the bottom left corner). The encouraging thing to me is to see disciples being made and disciples being raised up to disciple more people. Aaron is one of those people. He has made himself available and is well on his way to leading a Growth Group on his own in the very near future!

Our goal for our small groups is to make disciples who are making disciples. We want to reproduce! Judging from what I'm seeing, we are definitely heading in the right direction!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What is the "win" for Ridgeview Church?

This past Monday and Tuesday I served as a co-facilitator at a conference called Immersion 1. It is sponsored in part by the South Carolina Baptist Convention. It is held quarterly at Trinity Point Church in Easley under the direction of Pastor Michael Mohler. It is the same conference our leadership went through last Spring as we began our new direction in Growth Groups. We thought it was so important that we brought Pastor Mohler to lead our church retreat at Lookup Lodge this past May to teach these principles. I had a great time meeting and sharing with a great church from Missouri and the fine folks from Sans Souci Baptist in Greenville. People from all over the country attended (Florida, Alaska, Missouri, Oklahoma) and many denominations were represented. As we all gathered in our separate break out sessions, we talked about alignment. In developing a winning team, there must be alignment on what the goal or the win entails. Sadly, churches are filled with well meaning people who have different scorecards on what is  the win.

Since Ridgeview began, I have been confronted with different ways of what the win looks like. So, what is the win anyway? Jesus laid it out in Matthew 28, "Go and make disciples." The win is making disciples who in turn go and make disciples. From our earliest days one of things I believe we got right was focusing on small groups as our best vehicle to accomplish discipleship. After almost eight years at Ridgeview, I still see our small groups and the relationship environment they provide as being the most effective means of making disciples. We will never waver from that! Our Sunday morning worship gatherings are important and we work hard on that element, but we are seeing disciples made most effectively in our Growth Groups as we open God's Word and share the Bible stories each week. 

As we initiate our Fall semester this week, we have gone from three groups to five groups. We have a Growth Group meeting almost everyday of the week! We already have a Growth Group reaching out this week meeting a huge need a family in our community has. The core, the lifeblood, the heart of Ridgeview Church is in our small groups! As we come together each week sharing the Bible story, rebuilding that story, and applying what God is saying to us from His story, hearts are being changed! It is exciting to see God's people being mobilized to do what He's called us to do. 

Let me say for those who read this article who actively attend Ridgeview: if you are not involved in a Growth Group you are missing out on God's plan for your life. Jesus invested His entire ministry into twelve people, a small group. Before Jesus even went to the cross He said in John 17:4, "I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do." He made disciples who in turn would make more disciples.

Don't tarry, don't waste your life! Sign up for a Growth Group and make it a priority. Discipleship for a Christian is not optional and God expects us to do it with other believers. There is no discipleship outside of relationships. Hope to see you in a Growth Group this semester!

Pastor Tommy

P.S. My friends Brian Parker and Chad Hall from Trinity Point Church in Easley wanted to say hello to you and provide another encouragement to join a Growth Group today...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Black Bear Spotted In My Neighborhood Yesterday

Last night after dinner, my boys wanted to go to our neighborhood pool. I agreed to take them. My wife decided while I hung out with the boys at the pool, she would go walking in the neighborhood. She would meet back with us at the pool after her walk. All went as planned; the boys were having a blast jumping in and out of the pool when I got an email on my phone. I decided to check it. It was from the neighborhood Facebook page. A neighbor wrote a blanket email that she just saw a black bear run behind her house into the woods. Those same woods where my wife would be walking by. I immediately yelled to my boys to get out of the pool and that we needed to hurry up and go. They saw the urgency in my eyes. I grabbed my phone and called Tanya. She answered and I told her the news. The boys and myself jumped in the car and headed quickly down the road to pick her up. She got in the car and we headed back to the house safe and sound. We didn't see any bear and I just may have permanently scared my boys out of ever going in those woods down the road.

I got to thinking about how this relates to evangelism. Several thoughts came to mind:

1) In receiving the email, I quickly realized a real danger to my wife- a black bear that could rip her to shreds.
When it comes to evangelism, do I really believe there is a real and present danger to people in this world without Christ? I believe in a literal hell, a place where Jesus says those will go who reject Him (Matthew 13:49-50). That leads to my second thought.

2) I immediately left lounging at the pool with a sense of urgency to go pick up my wife walking unprotected by the woods. I didn't say to my boys, "five more minutes" or to myself, "she'll be alright." I didn't stay at the pool and pray, "God, would you protect my wife from the black bear while I continue lounging at the pool doing nothing about it."
When it comes to evangelism, it can be real easy for me to fall into the trap of saying "five more minutes" or just hoping someone else comes along to share the gospel with others while I do nothing.

3) While driving back to the house with my family in the car, I saw a neighbor walking with his small dog on a leash. That dog would be an appetizer; that man would be the entree to a black bear. I stopped to tell him a bear had been spotted. He thanked me for the info.
When it comes to evangelism, I interact with people in my world all the time who do not have the information that I have. They need to know it!

One of the battles I must continually fight against when it comes to evangelism is complacency. I know there is a real and present danger for sinners who die in their sins without Christ. I must fight everyday against evangelism procrastination all the while enjoying any kind of lounge by the pool type Christianity.

Not trying to be morbid, but if I had not gone to pick up my wife and she was attacked by a bear, I would be negligent to say the least. The same is true for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with people all around me. God's prophet Ezekiel received a word from the Lord in Ezekiel 3. God told him, "17) Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 18) When I say to a wicked man, 'You will surely die, and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. 19) But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself."

When it comes to evangelism, I want to live my life with "no blood on my hands." The loving, responsible, natural thing to do when I heard my wife was in the vicinity of danger was to warn her and get her to safety. As a Christian, the loving, responsible, hopefully natural thing to do is warn the sinner and lead him or her to the Savior, Jesus Christ. Knowing it in my head is one thing. I must continually fight the battle of "ought to" with action everyday.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Itching Their Ears?

I've had some fun with the message series the last two weeks called FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). I got much of the ideas from for this series and have added some of my own stuff to it as well. Each week I've shared that as we address these frequently asked questions, when the Bible speaks directly to them, we will let the Bible speak for itself. Where the Bible doesn't speak directly to the question, we will incorporate biblical principles. Also, if I offered an opinion, I would let everyone know it was simply my opinion.

This format has been unlike any series I've ever done at Ridgeview. Never covered so much so quickly ranging from homosexuality, tattoos, cremation, suicide, the coming judgments, living together outside of marriage, gambling, interracial marriage, pets/animals in heaven, and Sunday's 9/11 question of why bad things happen to "good" people. It has certainly kept people interested!

As I've gone through this series addressing these questions, I know some in my church are dealing with some issues that are very clear sins. The Bible speaks very clearly to that. As I dealt with an issue in the message, part of me quivered a bit with the thought, "What if this person is offended and leaves the church?" Granted, I'm just sharing what the Bible says. But, what if? I certainly have had it happen before (i.e. tithing message).

Hopefully, as a person of integrity, I will not shy away from preaching truth to the church I pastor because of fear it may anger and cause people to leave. I don't want to be the preacher Paul refers to in 2 Timothy 4:3, "...they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." I'm not going to cast stones at any preacher that may do that or play the martyr card either. I'm simply reminded that John 1:14 states, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." I want to be the Christ follower who shares His truth to people far from God. But in sharing that truth, I do it with grace. Both must be at work. All grace and no truth; that will take one down a road of liberal, believe anything theology. No grace and all truth; well, that's just not being like Jesus! A balanced approach is what I try to take. Hopefully, I honor God in it all.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

In My Seat

Three years ago on a cold, overcast day in February, I took this picture of ground zero at the World Trade Center sight. All of us remember where we were on September 11, 2001. It rattled our nation to the core. For many people, at least for a while, it caused a time of reflection on what is most important in life. All of us wanted to hug our loved ones and hold them close. We realized life wasn't about more money to be made but about relationships that God gave. For us as Christians, it reminded us all that evil is real, sin is serious, and there is no hope in this world without Jesus. 

As we approach the ten year anniversary of 9/11, this video of American Airlines pilot Steve Sheibner who was supposed to fly flight 11 dramatically shares the power of the gospel. First Peter 3:18 states, "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit." After watching the video, I thanked the Lord Jesus again for being "in my seat." Paul said it best in First Corinthians 15:56-57, "The sting of death is sin, and power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."