Thursday, July 12, 2012

Church Systems Check-Up

I've spent the last two days in Orlando, Florida soaking in information review of church systems taught by Church Leader Insights founder and Lead Pastor of Journey Church, Nelson Searcy. Nelson makes the point that our bodies, which God designed with systems, are designed to work together for health. So it is with church systems. Or at least they should be. Nelson teaches that systems are designed to give you what you are getting. If you don't like what you are getting, look at your system. He teaches there are eight systems that should be at work in a healthy church. As a two-time coaching alumni of Nelson's his eight systems teaching are some of the best stuff out there to give church planters and pastors practical guidance on leading a healthy church. This conference was a hit with the participants and fired us all up! For more information on the eight systems of a church, check out

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Front Stage Ministry Must Be Empowered Back Stage

I just finished a great book by Lance Witt entitled, Replenish: Leading From A Health Soul. It was a helpful reminder to me. In ministry it is important to learn leadership skills, how to cast vision, leading teams, etc. These areas are what he calls the front stage public world of ministry. He makes a great point: If I neglect the back stage the front stage will fall apart. What happens when I "order my private world" (thank you Gordon McDonald) empowers what takes place on the front stage. It's all about being! This is a great book and a helpful reminder to those who have been in ministry awhile. You see, after a few years in ministry you can easily fall into autopilot. I don't want to be one of those. How about you? 

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Recently, my son was invited to a classmate's birthday party. It was one of those parties where many of the kids knew each other and yet many of the parents did not. As the kids ran around playing, having fun, etc., I looked around at the scene before me. Several parents were sitting off to themselves engrossed in their phones. One lady was reading from her Kindle. A few were talking to one another. I must admit in social situations where I do not know many or any people, it is easy for me to suddenly become interested in the Weather Channel app on my phone. But, I had an epiphany that day. I need to "be there" no matter where the "there" is. Wherever I may be and whoever I may be with, I need to be fully there.

Jim Rohn said, "Wherever you are, be there." He also said, "When you work, work. When you play, play. Don't mix the two."

I haven't always done that. Never too late to start!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Community Easter Egg Hunt @ Oneal Village

I am excited about our church joining up with the Randolph Group at Oneal Village for a Community Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday, March 31, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. We have done these egg hunts at Lake Robinson (pictured above), Lake Cunningham, and at Mountain View Elementary. We've never done one at Oneal Village. It's going to be a great day of bridging people to the love of Christ!

Pulling off an event this big which will attract hundreds of people means we have some volunteer opportunities available. There is an opportunity to dress up in a bunny costume and sweat profusely for two hours. I know that sounds grueling but you get to meet a lot of people and will pose for many photos. There is an opportunity to bring joy to the faces of kids by laying out eggs in a field, serving them a hot dog, painting their face, giving them a balloon, helping them in a bounce house, and many other ways. If you would like to get in on the fun, please contact me at

The larger question is why do this? It takes planning, time, money, and energy. But, all of it is worth it because this is more than just an egg hunt with some prizes, bounce houses, and free hot dogs we're passing out. We will be disbursing hope to people who come. Our lives have been changed by Jesus Christ. We once lived in darkness but now walk in the light. We are letting that light shine (Matthew 5:16). We will be out in our community Palm Sunday weekend meeting lots of people because we want them to know 2 Corinthians 5:21 states, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." It's amazing when we reach out to people through an event like an egg hunt how God opens doors for us. Doors open that allow us to share that hope that they can become "the righteousness of God" in Him.  

I know where I'll be Saturday, March 31. I'll be passing out hope. My platform is an egg hunt. I invite you to join me and pass out some hope to people in our community who have religion but do not have hope.

Pastor Tommy


Friday, February 17, 2012

Stepping Out Of Your Boat

Thursday night I was coming back from taking Tanya and the boys out for dinner for her birthday (Happy 40 Tanya!). We were heading home when Ethan suddenly had to go to the bathroom. So, the closest one around was the Chic-Fil-A in Greer. As we quickly made our way in I ran into the three ladies you see above. In the middle is Renee Morton. She is the Pastor's administrative assistant at Taylors First Baptist. On the left is Anita Jeter along with her daughter. They are also members of Taylors First. 

 As we talked Anita reminded me of a sermon I shared at Taylors First Baptist over eight years ago entitled, "If you want to walk on water get out of the boat." I based much of that sermon on John Ortberg's book that greatly influenced me. We are all visual creatures and I used a kayak on stage that night to emphasize my point. Anita shared with me that because of that sermon challenge she stepped out of her boat and went on an overseas mission trip for the first time. That was incredibly encouraging for me to hear!

Let me ask you a question. What is your boat? I will tell you that your boat represents safety and security to you apart from God himself. It is what you put your trust in, especially when life gets a bit stormy. It is what keeps you so comfortable that you don't want to give it up, especially if it means joining Jesus on the waves. It is whatever pulls you away from the high adventure of extreme discipleship. You can identify your boat by looking at your fears. Ask yourself, "What is it that produces the most fear in me, especially when I think of leaving it behind and stepping out in faith?" 

Starting a church eight years ago was my step out of the boat. I'd like to share some points on how you can step out of your boat and be used by God mightily. I have personally experienced every one of these principles in my journey.

1. Express to God your willingness to take a step. 
In Matthew 14:28 Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, if it is you...tell me to come to you on the water." Peter was willing to take a step. He had made up his mind that if it was who he thought it was (Jesus), then he was heading that way.
2. When you get the go ahead, Go AHEAD!
Jesus told Peter in verse 29, "Come." Peter didn't need to pray a little more, fast, go to a retreat, memorize some verses, etc. He had a clear command and so he stepped out. In his stepping out, he experienced some things we all must be prepared for as well.

*Expect problems
Verses 29-30 state, "Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind..." Have you ever seen the wind? You were trying to serve God in a new way and you experienced setbacks, obstacles, and opposition. Some people never step out of the boat because they know the problems they will face. Thomas Aquinas wrote, "If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in the port forever." If you step out of the boat you may start to sink, but if you don't step out you will never know the joy of walking on water. Staying in the boat is risky, too.

*Expect fear as the price of growth.
The choice to follow Jesus and to grow is a choice for constantly facing fear. Peter steps out of the boat and becomes afraid when the wind came. There will be other times in Peter's life where he becomes afraid.

 When stepping out in faith, accept the fact that the fear will never go away. Because once you face your fear and tackle it, God will challenge you to take on a new challenge. He will constantly stretch you and that will cause fear in you again. There will always be a battle between risk and comfort. If you are a disciple of Jesus, you will have to renounce comfort and expect fear as the price of growth.

*Master failure management.
Verse 30 states, "But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, 'Lord, save me!'" Peter began to sink in the water and we may rush to quick judgment and point out his failure. It is true he sank. He did fail in a way. But you know what? There were eleven bigger failures sitting in the boat. They failed quietly. Peter was the one who knew public failure. But Peter also knew the thrill of walking on water and being rescued by Jesus in a time of need.

When you step out of the boat there will be people who criticize you and bail on you the moment you start to sink. But you have to live your life for an audience of One. Teddy Roosevelt said, "It's not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena...who, at best, knows in the end the triumph of great achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly so that his place will never be with those cold timid souls who know neither victory or defeat." John Maxwell said, "Failure is not trying something and it not succeeding. Failure is never trying anything at all." Stepping out of the boat means dealing with failure management.

*Wait on the Lord.
In the Matthew 14 story the disciples had to wait until the fourth watch of the night before Jesus showed up. Why didn't Jesus make the wind die down before Peter got out of the boat? Maybe Peter and all the disciples, like us, needed to learn something about waiting. Waiting on the Lord is the hardest part of trusting!

Life is so short. I don't want at the end of my life to view a video Jesus put together for me on his Apple Macbook Pro entitled, "What could have been." So, what about you? Imagine what God could do through you if were willing to trust Him more with your time, your talents, your finances, and your relationships. Imagine what God could have done through you if you had only stepped out of the boat. Guess what? It's never too late as long as you are alive. Today is the present; it is God's present to you. Don't play it safe. Step out of your boat and live it for God's glory!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Jennifer White

Eight years ago January Ridgeview Church officially launched our first
worship service at Mountain View Elementary. All our praying,
dreaming, and planning were coming to fruition as we opened our doors
wide to the Blue Ridge community. I'll never forget the first family
to walk through our door that Sunday morning. It was Jennifer White's
family. They made their way through the foyer down the hallway to
check in their precious girls at the Ridgekidz desk and then entered
the worship service. After the service they expressed how much they
enjoyed their experience and would be back.They actually did come back
again and again and made their way into the life of our very young

I have had the wonderful privilege of seeing Jennifer White grow not
only as a musician but as a woman in Christ. In August of 2004
Jennifer was rebaptized. It was a renewed commitment she made to
Christ. Since that time I have seen her conquer so many odds because
of her faith in Christ. She is the embodiment of "I can do (endure)
all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).

Pastor Rick Warren says that you do not judge a church by the seating
capacity but by the sending capacity. I also believe that we should
judge a church by the disciples it makes. I am so proud that our
church has been used by God to be a bridge of God's love to Jennifer
White. We have seen her grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Now, we
are seeing her go as a disciple to lead worship in a new church in

I couldn't be more proud of Jennifer! This Sunday will be her last
Sunday at Ridgeview and she will be leading us in worship through
music. We will miss her on Sunday mornings but know God will continue
to use her gifts for His glory!

See you Sunday!

Pastor Tommy

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ecclesiastes' Challenge For Us All: Living Above Or Below The Sun?

Today our church had a wonderful opportunity to feed close to 50 high school students breakfast for their Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting. Bill Howell, Ken McCormick, Jack & Linda Lewis, along with Pete Baker were there to help set up, serve, and take down. They were awesome to work with! While we were there I shared briefly with those students the message we've been looking at in Ecclesiastes on Sunday mornings. I shared with them the challenge of Ecclesiastes 1 where the Teacher states many times "Meaningless! Meaningless!...I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind." 

The challenge I laid out to those students is the challenge we all face. If we live our lives "under the sun" with a "this world only" perspective, then yes, life can be meaningless. However, as Christ followers, God has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We are not living our lives for the here and now under the sun. We are living our lives above the sun. It doesn't mean we should withdraw from everything around us and cocoon ourselves. Quite the opposite. We go into our schools, we go into our neighborhoods, we go into the marketplace, we go into government, we go into the prisons, we go into countries to unreached people groups; we go anywhere and everywhere to share the good news of Jesus. 

The challenge I face everyday is to live with an eternal perspective. How about you? I am grateful for the fact God hasn't left me alone in this endeavor. He's given me His Holy Spirit. He's given me brothers and sisters in the church to walk alongside me. As we look at Ecclesiastes 4 this Sunday the Teacher will remind us that "Two are better than one...if one falls down his friend can help him up." 

My challenge for you: live above the sun keeping your eyes on Jesus; and while you do it let's do it together. It's called the Church. Jesus died for His bride the Church. We need one another!

Hope to see you Sunday,

Pastor Tommy

Friday, January 13, 2012

Awakening: 21 Days of Prayer And Fasting Begins This Sunday

This Sunday we will embark on our third prayer and fasting campaign. We will join with thousands of churches across our land and devote ourselves to praying with fasting. The national emphasis is called Awakening and you can find more information on it along with fasting resources at

Oswald Chambers said, "Prayer does not equip us for the work; prayer is the work." Setting aside a time for concentrated prayer and fasting is the work we must do! Jesus assumes His disciples will do this. He says in Matthew 6:16, "When you fast..." He doesn't say, "If you fast." So, I invite you to devote the next twenty one days starting this Sunday for a time of prayer and fasting.

What are the areas that need prayer and fasting?
*Your walk with Jesus. 
*Your family. 
*Our nation. 
*Our church. 

Thursday, January 05, 2012

January Bible Study: Ecclesiastes

Every year Southern Baptists have designated the month of January where they focus on an expositional study of a book in the Bible. High priced ad agencies have been hired for some creative marketing and have come up with the title: January Bible Study. Okay, that's not true. What is true is the book has been chosen and we are going to make our way through it verse by verse, chapter by chapter. That book is Ecclesiastes.

Ironically, as many years as Southern Baptists have been conducting these January Bible studies, the book of Ecclesiastes has never been chosen. If you've read through it at a passing glance you may know why. It seems so depressing. For example, Ecclesiastes 1:2 states, "Meaningless! Meaningless! says the teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless." This book has been labeled the "black sheep of the Bible" along with adjectives like pessimistic and depressing.

I would say those labels ring true if you only give a passing glance at this book. However, we are not going to do that. In fact, you will find that this book is actually inspiring and will call you to action when you discover what it is truly saying. I invite you to join us this Sunday to discover Ecclesiastes. God has a word for you!

In Christ,

Pastor Tommy

P.S. Many thanks to those of you who helped make our eighth annual Christmas Eve service at the Red Barn a success. We saw over $400 given to missions that night and one person placed his faith in Jesus. According to my scorecard, that is success! Thank you for all you do for the Kingdom!