Friday, September 14, 2007

Whew! Fall is in the air.

It's just starting to cool off a bit from the summer heat. There's a smell to early fall. Maybe it's some weed or something that blooms giving off a scent that always triggers a flashback for me. I think of 13 straight years of my life when I played football. There's a feeling I get. Excitement. Hope. Enjoyment. BUSYNESS. Fall is undoubtedly my favorite season—and I promise it is not because of football season. Sure, I love football. But it's the whole season that I love. From the heat of early September to Thanksgiving, fall is quite nostalgic for me. And it's always busy. Always.

I went dove hunting on September 1st and haven't had a chance to go since—but I find myself noticing doves safely resting on telephone wires as I drive from one meeting to the next. This fall has been especially busy it seems—with good stuff.

New Church Plant
Our church voted on a vision for 2007 with three objectives. One of them was to begin a process to intentionally plant churches. Since we adopted this vision, a group of people from Kingston approached me who were exploring the possibility of start a church. Long story short, they sensed God leading them to become members of Providence in order to gain our DNA until they launched a church with our guidance and support. Of course, a vital part of a successful new church plant is a planting pastor. Another long story short, since the vision was adopted, I have gotten to know a guy from Mississippi named Kevin who began sensing God leading him to plant a church that reaches the culture with the word. This whole process has been both incredibly complicated and exhilarating. It's one of those amazing set of circumstances that really makes me say, "Wow. God is wonderful." We will know soon (after the church votes and Kevin senses God's call) if it really is of God, but no matter what I can't wait to see what happens. [UPDATE: KEVIN DID NOT SENSE GOD'S CALL, BUT GOD MOVED IN A GUY NAMED MELVIN SWAFFORD, WHO I HAVE BEEN TALKING WITH FOR YEARS ABOUT PLANTING A CHURCH--IT LOOKS LIKE IT WILL HAPPEN--GOD WILLING, OF COURSE!]

In a hundred years (should Christ not come first), I think thousands of people will have been reached because of the church that is being born through this effort.

Mission Trip to Brazil
Darla and I have sensed God's leadership to take our whole family to Brazil on a mission trip this fall (October 22–29). This is something we have been hoping to do for years. Why? We want to instill in our kids an understanding of God's call to take the Good News to the nations. We have been saving as a family, have decided to not take a vacation this year, and are actively trying to raise money together so that Drew, Duncan, and Dara can appreciate the sacrifice for, and priority of this trip. Needless to say, they are ecstatic about being used by God in Brazil.
Secondly, we will be accomplishing important Kingdom work. The purposes of the trip are threefold:
1) We will be helping a church (that our church started three years ago) to secure land and plan the building of a facility in which to worship. This strategically placed Bible-believing church is in a fast-growing area of Rio de Janeiro, one of the largest cities in the world. They are successfully reaching hundreds for Christ. They currently meet in a small rented facility, which is a hindrance. We are taking three contractors from our church to help them in this effort. 2) We will be helping the same church begin a ministry to families that focuses on making disciples of kids, not unlike Kidstuf, which God has used to bring many families to Christ and deliberately equips parents as the primary disciple-makers of their kids. God used Darla to bring this ministry to Providence and all of our kids have taken part in it as well. They are so excited to help our Brazilian friends get this life-changing ministry started there. 3) We will be doing ministry in a poverty-stricken area in Rio. Even though the church we planted is in a middle- and upper-income area, they have a heart for missions and ministry to the many poor in their own city. We will assist them in their work and experience with our own eyes how those in extreme poverty live. There are other kingdom tasks we hope to accomplish as well.
Obviously, the trip won't be cheap. It'll cost about $7000 for our whole family to make the trip. We've budgeted and saved but are still trusting God to help us find this large amount. It makes it a little more challenging that I am the teaching pastor of Providence. I have thought it wise not to ask individuals in our church for donations. Please pray that we'll trust God to help us find the rest of the amount we need to go. There have been a gazillion complications. Airlines seem to be in chaos and so are the passport office and visa process. But other than coming up with the money, it looks like God has allowed everything to fall in place.

New People
Fall is always the best time for church growth. People get settled back into a regular schedule. For whatever reason, we have seen more new faces in the last few weeks than at any other time I can remember. This is great! However I find myself stressing over details: is the facility clean and inviting? Do we have greeters? Are we helping people take the next step (receiving Christ, membership, Life Group, etc.)? Am I communicating the word accurately and effectively?

New Elders
We're at the end of a long process of examining men for eldership. This is VITALLY important. We can't afford to make a mistake here. There has been much prayer and discussion involved in this process. [UPDATE: GOD CALLED KENNY SMITH, TIM TUCKER, AND DAVID ZELEM TO BE ELDERS!]

Kids Activities
Before I am a pastor, I am a dad and husband. Drew is in seventh grade, playing soccer (scored two goals in the last game!), is really involved in Technology Students Association (he competed in the state and nationals last year), is a ballboy for Carson-Newman football, has lots of homework, and at church he is volunteering in Preschool, Kidstuf, and is in the middle school ministry! Duncan's in sixth grade (experiencing a new level of homework), is playing softball (their team won the league championship last season), and at church she is volunteering in preschool, dancing in Kidstuf, is in middle school ministry and is an active part of her small group. Dara is in third grade now and is a big soccer player. She's also involved in church (getting baptized next week after recently receiving Christ!). Her birthday is coming this month and is a big deal! She's been watching too much "Extreme Home Makeover" and has asked us to give her an "extreme ROOM makeover" while she is at school. That's Dara. Going for it all.

Normal Schedule
Other than all of the aforementioned activities, I really don't have to do anything except lead our church through a study of tongues and spiritual gifts as we tackle 1 Corinthians 14, counsel people, meet with many pastors, continue efforts for area-wide transformation, work with and mentor leaders in our church, plan future sermon series, and read and study and pray.

Whew! Smell that scent in the air? It's fall. It's exciting. It's BUSY. I don't think I'll be doing much more hunting this year.

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