My Favorite Unsung Heroes

I have the privilege of being part of a ministry team where the work we do is behind the scenes. We have an amazing team of folks who love being under the radar and out of the spotlight. They’re great people who remind me of my favorite unsung heroes.

Walt Disney was the ultimate visionary. His name went on every project that his company release, and it still does today to a large extent. For his creative vision and unique way of inspiring his staff and the public, his name deserves to be associated with quality entertainment for the whole family. But the truth is, he had teams of immensely creative people to help him make his visions reality…from films to televison to theme parks.

One particular division of Disney staffers are the Imagineers. They’re responsible for the creative decision-making and hard work to make the parks as incredible as they are. They don’t get much credit for the work they do, though I’m sure they get paid well. They’re the behind the scenes geniuses at Disney.

During the glory days of NASA, the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, the astronauts were the face of the agency. But it took more than three men to get to the moon. A dedicated staff at the launch complex at Cape Canaveral and at Mission Control in Houston took care of the missions and made the greatest human accomplishment possible. These men toiled in near obscurity…most of them remained totally out of the spotlight…but without their efforts, our space program wouldn’t have been what it was.

The way I feel about these unsung heroes is the same way I feel about the tech team at Eastridge. These men and women take the vision the pastors lay out and help make them happen on Sunday mornings. I can’t be more proud of the team for all the hard work they do, and I appreciate them completely.

Who are your favorite unsung heroes?

Celebrate Recovery’s 10th Anniversary In Newton County

Here’s the expanded version of what was published in today’s Covington News:

The goal of any ministry is changed lives. From churches that seek to evangelize the lost to organizations that provide food and shelter to groups who counsel couples whose marriages are on the rocks, every ministry wants to change lives for the better. This month, one ministry with an international outreach is celebrating ten years and countless changed lives in Newton County. Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered recovery program for “hurts, habits, and hang-ups,” is marking its tenth anniversary at Eastridge Community Church on January 13 at 7:00 p.m.

Celebrate Recovery began 20 years ago at Saddleback Church in Southern California, when John Baker, himself a recovering alcoholic, shared with Pastor Rick Warren about the need for a Christ-centered recovery program. Warren and Baker started Celebrate Recovery, and it is now in 19,000 churches worldwide with materials translated into 19 languages. Baker is now heads the ministry on an international level.

The ministry began in Newton County when pastors at Eastridge Community Church picked up a startup kit for the ministry at a conference at Saddleback. Brad and Renee Rutledge came to Eastridge in 1999. Renee shared her testimony at a women’s event, which led to three of the pastors’ wives telling their husbands about her story. Brad was overheard talking with another man about starting a small group for recovering addicts, which led to his being approached by the pastor about heading the ministry. The Rutledge’s helped launch the ministry, and they have since become full-time staff at the church. Brad now serves as Pastor of Celebrate Recovery and as Celebrate Recovery’s Southeast Regional Director, while Renee directs the ministry at Eastridge. Continue reading Celebrate Recovery’s 10th Anniversary In Newton County

I Love My Ministry Team…

I wasn’t planning on writing tonight, but after tonight’s Christmas Eve services at Eastridge, I couldn’t help but do so. I’m constantly mindful of our incredible Worship Arts volunteers at ECC, and I’m always impressed at how our volunteers work hard and have fun at the same time. Tonight was no exception; in fact, I had as much fun tonight preparing for and putting on two services as I’ve ever had, if not more.

Between pizza…toffee…white chocolate dipped pretzels…discussions about 8-tracks and video discs…”she’s not on Twitter”…”two half pizzas”…races to post on Twitter and Facebook…and everything else in between, I had a blast. So to tonight’s team(Trey Bailey, Scott Martin, Nikki Adams, Tiffani Hodges, Jeremy Blackmon, Brian Jones, Jay Smith, Cheryl Turner, Paul Turner, Kris Hodges, Julia DeFoor, Jennifer Hilland, and Scott Moore), thanks.

To all our Eastridge Community Church Worship Arts volunteers, thanks for serving, using your talents, and for all the joy that we bring to each other. I love working with such a hard-working and FUN bunch of folks.

Merry Christmas!

The Shoutout, Part 3: For Anyone Who Serves Christ

So I decided to do another shoutout because who doesn’t love trilogies? Except for fans of the Godfather movies…The Godfather Part III was terrible! OK, now on to the real reason…

I received an encouraging email this week from a dear friend, and it came at literally the exact moment I needed it. I keep items like this in a drawer in my desk at home; the drawer contains thank you notes (nobody really sends those anymore, and that’s a shame), letters of encouragement, surprise cards that made my day, little well-wishes that came when I needed a lift…things like that. As I put this new email in the pile, I decided to read through just a few of them, and I would up reading about five years worth of notes, cards, and printed emails. It’s easy to kill time reading the sweet, lovely things that people can say.

Variations on a particular sentence kept popping up in quite a few of these notes (and I’m so hesitant to type it for fear of sounding arrogant, so forgive me if it does sound that way): something along the lines of “I know you don’t get the credit you deserve, but…” (There…I wrote it, and I promise I’m not trying to draw attention to myself; hopefully I’ll make a salient point here.)

Every week, on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, dozens of men, women, students, and children give up their time to serve on the campus of Eastridge and at our various missions throughout the community. Many others serve on their own or in projects with varying affiliation to Eastridge. And similar things are happening in countless other churches throughout this country and across the globe.

This past Wednesday, my friend Jason Laffan, who is a missionary to Juarez and Acuña, Mexico through the amazing organization Casas por Cristo, spoke at our Missions Night. He brought up Jesus’ words in Mark 10: “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”  (verses 43-45, NIV).

Far too many of you who serve don’t get the credit you deserve here on earth, but you will when it really counts. Let me say thank you to the amazing servants of Eastridge and to everyone on this planet with a servant’s heart. I’m in awe of everyone who allows God to use what He has given them for His glory. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, even if I don’t know you, for your willingness to serve.

Why Revolution?

I know that God is moving at Eastridge Community Church. Because He’s moving, we know that we can’t “do church” the way it’s been done for far too long. Around Eastridge, and particularly among the staff, we’ve been using the word revoluton to describe what’s taking place.

A revolution is a dramatic shift in the way things are done…a revolution sends inevitable shockwaves in all directions around it…a revolution can be messy…a revolution is undeniable.

I don’t want to sit on the sidelines while God performs His amazing acts of transformation everywhere I look. I don’t want to miss out on the excitement. I want to be a part of His story…His neverending, earth shattering revolution.

Care to join me?

Lunch

I had lunch today with Brandon & Kris; we had a good time. We went to Mandarin Palace, and even though the food was no great shakes, the conversation and fellowship were priceless. I mention something as simple as lunch with friends because I’ve known both of these guys since they were little and watched them grow up into young men of integrity and passionate commitment to Christ. Even thought they’re considerably younger than I am, they have become friends that I admire and respect as brothers in Christ and partners in the ministries of Eastridge. They may never read this blog entry, but I felt like sharing my thoughts with the world.

…Serving Others

Scott, Gary, Monty, and I just got back from taking over 100 bags of food (we lost count) from our food drive here at Eastridge to the Solid Rock Food Pantry on Brown Bridge Road. It was an amazing thing to see what our people have accomplished. When we first opened the huge, cavernous trailer that we’re storing the food in, it didn’t look like a lot of food. But once we started to bring it out and load it up, we filled the bed of Gary’s truck easily, and we filled up the bed of Michelle’s truck with the rest.

Driving over there, Scott said, “I can’t think of anything better to do today than this.” It did all of our hearts good to go over there, see the gratefulness in Jack, the director or the Food Bank, and load up all this food that will benefit so many needy people in our community. We took a tour of the facility and learned about the way the Food Bank operates; it was interesting to see how they do what they do.

I am humbled by what the people of Eastridge are doing in these tough times. Our people have stepped up and shared God’s blessings with those who need to be blessed the most. The heart of our church is simply astounding.

Shine! (coming August 3)

Summer’s almost over…not the season of summer, but the attitude and the slow, easy, laid-back vibe of summer. Kids go back to school in two days, 863 starts back up next week, and we’re gearing up for a new ministry year.

It’s an exciting time right now for the staff. Amy and Stephanie were decorating the new and improved Adventureland hallway this afternoon, the Student Ministry staff are re-branding and renaming practically everything they do, Gary is working on new plans for our adult ministries, and new Bible studies kick off in the next few weeks.

But the thing we’re most excited about is a very special Sunday coming up this week. We’re calling it “Shine!” Scott will lay out the vision for the church; we know what it is…”Love God, Love People, Serve Others”…but Scott is going to lay down some challenges and goals for the next year; they will tie into the vision that is already established at Eastridge, but we’re hoping and praying that people see this vision in a renewed and refreshed light. We also have a unique element in the service that will make the day one that our people will never forget.

I’m praying along with the rest of the staff and many others througout our congregation for Sunday. Scott sent an email to our staff and volunteers that said it best:

Pray that people will come. Pray that hearts will be open to hearing from God.
Pray that each individual will hear from God about his/her role. Pray that the
church will embrace its role in the world we live in.

I’m excited about Sunday. I really feel a certain momentum, that people are receptive to and expectant about what God is doing at Eastridge, and I am confident that God will continue to do amazing work within this community.

A Little More About Go Orange

I’m still suffering from a bit of Go Orange fatigue, so I don’t feel like writing much. Besides, Jacob’s video says way more than I could. I will say that Tuesday night’s Bible drama was possibly the funniest thing I’ve ever seen! Wish I could see a video of it again…

Oh well, maybe I’ll write more later…

In the interest of giving credit where credit is due, I have to say thanks to Chris Thomas, Cole Rogers, and Tyler Warren for their immeasureable help and efforts to keep me sane. Couldn’t have done it without y’all!