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Where I Hope The Church In America Is Headed

  Recently, while working with a personal coach to grow as a leader, I was reminded of something I wrote in 2015 when my wife and I started out on our journey to plant a new life-giving and hope-sharing church in Eastern Virginia. At that time, we had no clue that God would lead us to an established church that would end up partnering with us to revitalize from a death-trending church to a new life-giving and growing church.

In 2015 I was seeking out God’s will for the vision of the church we were going to plant.  As an exercise to help with this, I decided to write down and finish the statement “I see a future with…..”

Over a period of several weeks, I captured the thoughts that I had. At that time, even though I continued to write the word “revitalized”, I kept defending our decision to plant a church over partnering with an established church. I had zero desire to help turn a church around.  I didn’t think I had the leadership qualities that revitalization would require, namely patience.  I echoed what I had heard so many church planting mentors say; “it’s easier to give birth than to raise the dead.”  I now know that’s only true if the dead want to stay dead because they can’t admit that they are dead.  But a dying church still has great hope. Now, two years after writing these statements, I see that several of them are starting to live themselves out in the church plant that God lead us to do.  A church plant that happened because a faithful group of believers voted to change everything about their church and merge with us. It’s only been five months since we launched, and we are just getting started. In fact, here is a recent graphic we shared with the church to show them what God has done through us in only five months.

You need to know, there are problems with these statements.  They are not word-smithed to be easy to read for people who don’t know church lingo.  They aren’t designed to be memorable or poetic.   

These are just statements that came across my mind as I was reflecting.  Some of them could cause people to say “but what about…..” or “that’s just a reaction to….”  Again, these aren’t to be theological statements, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone getting a tattoo of any of them.  They are merely thoughts I had as I worked on putting into a simple statement the totality of the vision we now have. 

Future Church Manifesto:

I see a future with new and revitalized churches full of people surrendered to Jesus and in alignment with their spiritual gifts, passion, and personality working with urgency to reach people far from God.

I see a future with new and revitalized churches working to make Jesus famous over the name of the church or the personality of the pastor.

I see a future with new and revitalized churches with the best of the best growth-minded communicators, musicians, artists, storytellers, dreamers, builders, designers, leaders, administrators, change agents, and creatives all fully committed to Jesus to do whatever it takes, short of sin, to reach people far from God.

I see a future with new and revitalized churches that are debt free, that take action only when resources and opportunity are present, aligned to God’s will and prayerfully and fully surrendered to God. 

I see a future with new and revitalized churches caring and providing for the needy, the orphans and the disadvantaged by connecting them to the hope of Jesus, equipping them with skills and walking the journey with them to self sufficiency where the only one they rely on is God through the Holy Spirit because of who Jesus is.

I see a future with new and revitalized churches teaching a complete Biblical message full of Grace and Truth where people, through the love-filled life-giving convection of the Holy Spirit find their identity in Christ and not the world.   

I see a future where people turn to new and revitalized churches for instruction in studying scripture so people can learn Gods design for healthy finances, marriages, parenting, conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, and everything else we need to know to live an abundant life fully surrendered to Jesus Christ.

I see a future with new and revitalized churches alive with enthusiasm for change for the sake of reaching those far from God.

I see a future with new and revitalized churches where the staff equip the members to do the ministry and staff clear the path.

I see a future with new and revitalized churches radical about connecting people in genuine small group communities where safety, accountability, spiritual growth, new friendships, and fun are experienced by all.

I see a future with new and revitalized churches where people are more excited to move to welcome someone new than stay in a routine of comfort.

I see a future of new and revitalized churches where teens are so highly engaged and experiencing life-giving change in a multi-generational service that they can’t imagine being anywhere else but in the local church at least once a week for corporate Worship and once a week in a small group for the rest of their life.

I see a future with new and revitalized churches that lead a community to such a higher standard of living that property values increase.

I see a future with new and revitalized churches that count people in services to make better operational decisions and count people far from God to make better ministry decisions.

I see a future where people turn to new and revitalized churches from the arenas of; the arts and entertainment, business, education, the family, government, and media for moral direction, best practices, productivity, effectiveness, ethics, and social justice leadership based on doing what Jesus asks of us. 

I see a future with new and revitalized churches that are connecting people to their personal God-ordained purpose that is more appealing to participate in than any attraction of sin on their life.

I see a future with new and revitalized churches that are not afraid to speak the truth in love and embrace every word of the Bible, even the uncomfortable ones.

I see a future with new and revitalized churches that are bursting with the love, mercy, grace, happiness, joy and peace of Jesus Christ and moved into action from a broken heart for people still far from God.

How Church Planting Is Like A Rollercoaster

Rollercoaster Church Planting.001Have you ever been on a rollercoaster? If you have, you either hated it or loved it. Psychologists say that regardless if you desire to go on more or stay far clear of the loops and jarring twist and turns, these two very different reactions are in response to the same thing. And that is the feeling of just letting go and being at the sheer mercy of the ride.

For some of us, we love that. For others….not so much. Luckily, I’m one who loves it. Why luckily? Because I’m starting to realize how much church planting is like being on a roller coaster.

1. At Any Moment, This Ride Is Going To Come Apart

I don’t know who first said it, and I’m pretty sure it was an airplane they were talking about. But, every time I’m on a coaster (or a plane) I remember hearing; “you know, the lowest bidder got to build this thing.” Well for me, in regards to church planting….I’m on a ride that has been constructed by the creator of the Universe. In fact, a guy named Matthew recorded Jesus saying; “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” – Matthew 16:18 ESV

I’m not building me a church, I’m not building a legacy to pass on to my children. I’m working to honor God by leveraging the gifts he gave me to do what I’m created to do.

2. Act Like This Anywhere Else And Be Thrown In Jail

I’m writing this article while sitting in a Starbucks. (Here is a picture of my view) I bet, even in a Starbucks, that if I threw my hands above my head and started screaming as loud as I could that I would get the privilege of meeting some of Virginia Beach’s finest men and women in blue. (Actually….I think their uniforms are black, but you knew I meant the police.) But for me, as a church planter….I’ll follow the words of advice of David. Who, after being scolded for dancing for joy for God’s sake replied: “I’ll become even more undignified than this.”

To many of us fear what others will say. I’m sure there are folks who think Marissa and I are mad. Giving up everything we had, going all in with our money, time, talents and all of our possessions to build a church to care for people we’ve never met would, to some, seem crazy. But we do this to honor God. And I’m not even close to being done yet with what I’m willing to do for God. Short of sin….I’ll do whatever it takes.

3. Bumpy

A rollercoaster has the ability to knock you around a bit. I’ve been on some coasters that actually hurt me some. What can I say, I have a sensitive system. Well, church planting isn’t a smooth ride. In fact, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

There are so many decisions to make, so much money to raise, so much work to do, so many relationships to build, so many leaders to recruit and equip…the list goes on and on. But, like rollercoaster pain, it will be over before I know it. Sure, once the church launches January 22, 2017, the ride will change and be just (if not more) challenging. But then, in time…that ride will change.

I love different. God has gifted me with the ability to dream big. In fact, just yesterday I had an amazing conversation about the future with a couple I’ve met, Bob and Debbie. They have an amazing ministry to the homeless in Virginia Beach. And, I plan to give them as much support as Coastal City Church can….even before we launch. Anyway, Bob was sharing with me his vision for a transitional house they would like to own and run to help homeless people move from the street to self-sufficient living. I shared with him my vision for the future in regards to a church facility.

I don’t want to ever build a church. I want to see us engage the community around the “church” with a life enrichment center. I told him, I want a church that has on its street front a sandwich shop. A place where we hire those that need someone to take a chance on them. For example, what if we hired homeless people and in addition to their hours of work, we paid them an additional 2 to 5 hours per week to take life enrichment classes.

Who knows, maybe one day Coastal City Church will provide the employment and Homeland Disciples will provide the housing.

I may change rollercoasters from time to time, but I’ll never leave this “park” of church planting until God lifts the burden from my soul to reach people far from Him with the hope of the Gospel truth.

Want to join us? Check out our support page.

Consumed By The Call,

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10 Things I’ve Never Told My Wife (Updated)

Me and My WifeUpdated 12/18/2015.  I first wrote this in 2013, today I update the numbers but not the content.

I want to focus my mind and heart today.

I want to focus them on my wife.

In fact, I like to think about her every day.

But today, today is special.

  • Not because of any specific date on the calendar.
  • Not because it’s an anniversary of anything.
  • Not because society says it’s special.

Today is special like yesterday, because today…I’m married to my best friend.

I want to think about and write down some things I love about her…things I’ve never told her.

  • I like to say silly things to make her raise her eyes to the sky and smile just so…I love her smile.
  • I love the way she rushes out of bed at the first sound of one of our kids. She’s been doing this for 5 years. She wants me to sleep so I can wake up at 5 AM and chase our dreams. I love that she sacrifices her sleep for our family.
  • I love watching her talk to others about our kids and parenting. She doesn’t know this, but she can’t do it without smiling. Have I mentioned that I love her smile?
  • I love when she puts her feet on my lap while we are watching TV and asks me to rub them.
  • I love how she talks about Jesus to our kids.
  • I love when she whispers at night just as we climb into bed, “Will you pray?”
  • I love how she sits at the kitchen table with her Bible and journal and studies God’s words.
  • I love how she experiments with recipes and tries new things for us to eat.
  • I love that her dreams are bigger than mine. I love that we chase them together.
  • I love how she cares and talks about our friends everyday.

 

Marissa, I love you.

 

Action Steps

  1. Start a list like I did above of things you love about your spouse.  Next time you are angry with them; get the list out and start reading through all the reasons you love them.  You’ll be amazed at how this will help you.
  2. Brag about your spouse today to someone.
  3. Leave a new note everyday in the same place telling your spouse one thing you love about them or the two of you together.
  4. Plan a “tell all” date. Take your spouse out on a date and tell him/her all the things you haven’t yet.
  5. Write a letter, email, note, text message, blog post, Facebook post, Tweet…whatever…but just write something right now to your spouse. SERIOUSLY, STOP READING AND WRITE SOMETHING RIGHT NOW. Come on, write just one sentence. WHY ARE YOU STILL READING?
  6. Call your spouse right now and tell them you love them.

 

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An Open Letter About Being Fired

To you, our friends and family,An Open Letter About Being Fired

Most of you by now have heard that Tuesday December 8th, I received unexpected news that I was fired.

So many people have reached out to us, and for that we are humbled and grateful.

In this post, I’d like to answer a few of the more common questions being asked.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Well, first off, it wasn’t a moral failure.  It wasn’t an ethical failure.  And no, I didn’t see it coming.   I do however, know why I was fired.

I failed to be humble and I tried to impress a small group of people instead of love and lead them as Christ asks us.  You see, I inherited a group of people passionate about the church.  They walked hand in hand with the former pastor launching the campus.  And I, being the new guy, I wanted to impress them.  I didn’t take the time to become their pastor. I didn’t ask them enough questions. I didn’t lead them through the change and relationship lose of the former pastor moving on.  Instead, I focused on presenting them with results.  I was told; “Eric, you failed to connect with these folks, and they stopped following you.”

Now that wasn’t news to me.

After I realized it was to late to reconcile with these guys, I decided to build my own core team of leaders.  In doing so I failed to honor the sacrifice the original guys made…and their sacrifices were many and deep.  They gave their time, treasure and even lost friendships over the launch of a new campus.  So to these people, I’m sorry.

HOW ARE WE?

Honestly…we are doing great.

And thanks to Dave Ramsey, we are not in a financial crises.  If you haven’t taking Financial Peace University, you should.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED?

First, I appreciate having mentors and coaches in my life that asks these questions.

Two mornings after being fired I was sitting at our dining room table at about 4:30 am praying, journalling and reading scriptures that came to mind.  I had this thought; “God, what’s wrong with me?  I’ve heard others that have experienced this say the situation drove them to you?  How come I don’t feel that happening?”  And then I realized; you can’t be driven someplace you already are.

Now, that sounds like I might think I’m “super-Christian” or something….I don’t think that, and I’m not that.  It might sound as if I think I’m a better Christian than others who have experienced this.  I don’t.  I’ve reached this point by former experiences.

But, I have discovered a great and exciting truth about myself.

I don’t have faith in faith.  My faith is in God and the promises found in His word.

Family Core Values

The Dingler Family Core Values

I’m grateful for the work Marissa and I put into crafting our family core values.  And, I’m proud that we lived these boldly in front of our kids.  I sat there last week reading these again and thanking God for leading us to write them.  They have guided us along the way and have played a major role in my personal growth this past year.

If I had not started spending so much time in Scripture over the last year, I would have been devastated.  But, my identity and job title never mixed.  I didn’t see myself as a campus pastor at a church I admired for years.  I see myself for who I am in Christ.  I’m a saint, and sometimes I sin and fall short of loving people the way Christ wants me to.  And God is always there, he guides me to repent and covers me with grace.

A man named Bill taught a class I took on Bible Study Methods.  The methods he taught gave me the tools I needed, but the passion he spoke with about God and the Bible inspired me to spend time in scripture in new ways.  Thank you Bill, you have had the greatest significant impact on me in this past year.

I have learned a great deal more.

IS THIS WHY GOD SAID NO TO A HOUSE?

So we tried several times to buy a house.  Most people’s first response is “thank God you didn’t buy a house.”  I get it, that was one of my first responses as well.

However, upon thinking on it, there are a few reasons God could have said no to a house.

First, let’s agree…he saw this coming.

So, he could have said no because he knew we would be leaving soon.

Or, he could have said no because, if we stay in Coshocton, it’s because we are being obedient to Him not because we are obligated to a house.  It’s the same reason he put the tree of knowledge in the garden at creation.  Our obedience is something we get to decide to give everyday.

WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO NEXT?

Well….technically It’s 11:58 am as I write this…so next I’m going to eat lunch.

But in the big picture, I’m not 100% sure.  I mean, I know what I’m going to do, I just don’t know where and how.

  1. I’m going to help people far from God move close to God.
  2. I’m going to help people have meaningful marriages.
  3. I’m going to help parents raise great kids that love Jesus.
  4. I’m going to help people put faith into action and not simply store up faith for the next crises.

I’m also going to keep saying yes more when my kids ask if I can play….I happen to have the time.

I’m going to study spiritual gifts like a mad man.  I believe helping people discover and work in their gifts is the best way to help people have fun at being the person God uniquely has positioned them to be.  Plus, I want to work out of a better understanding of what I’m gifted to do, and find others to partner with in the areas I’m not gifted but they are.

I’m going to hit the treadmill everyday and work on my physical health with focused energy and effort.

I’m going to spend time every day working on my teaching.  For example, for the next month, I’m going to write three different ways to transition between the body of the exact same message and the closing comments.

I’m going to spend time enjoying being in the presence of God with nothing on my calendar to pull me away.

I’m going to ask my wife everyday, “what can I do for you today?”

I’m going to seek for the next place where God wants us to be.

WHAT CAN WE PRAY ABOUT FOR YOU?

I appreciate this question most.

Please pray….

  1.  That God would make it clear what our next place is.
  2. That he would help us leverage this time to build new healthy habits as a family in regards to how we spend time together.
  3. That I would leverage this time to build new eating and exercise habits to make a healthier me.

If, like us, you are curious as to what God is doing in all this, sign up to my email list and I’ll send you updates every time I post on my blog.

To all of our friends….thank you for your kindness, your support, your appreciation, your love. and your prayers.

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One Change To Help Your Kids Self-Esteem (BONUS: It Works With Adults Too)

ID-100207241Our two and half year old has developed a habit of saying “I can’t” when attempting almost anything new.  I never thought much of it until last week when I heard something else with the words.

I heard fear.

Here’s what happened…

Our four year old daughter had just jumped a very short distance off something.  Ever imitating his sister, our son walked to the same spot, looked down, prepared himself to jump and then froze.  He began crying and said “I can’t.  I can’t.”  But it was the fear in his voice that I heard that caught my attention.

After thinking it over and talking with my wife about it, I decided to help my son change his language.

Now, we are correcting him when he say’s “I can’t” to say “I won’t”.

“I can’t” is a victim of circumstance term.

“I won’t” is a choice I make for myself.

Now, there are things my son can’t do.  He currently can’t swim and he can’t ride a bike.  These are “I can’t, yet” issues.

He’s in the 95% for height and weight, most likely he can’t be a horse jockey in the Kentucky Derby, he’ll be too big.  There will be other things he can’t do in life, and I’m okay with that.

I want to help my boy grow up and realize that he is less of a victim of circumstance and more in control than he thinks.

I don’t believe in teaching kids; “you can do anything you sit your mind to.”  That’s simply false.

Instead, I want to discover along with my kids what God has gifted them uniquely to do for Him and for others.

 

What about you?  Do you use “I can’t” when really you should use “I won’t”?

Work/Life Balance Is a Myth

Work Life Balance is a myth. Steps to get your life and calendar under control.

Image courtesy of arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I think it’s a mistake and a waste of time to put energy into finding a balance of “work” and “life.” I recently read a great article about the myth of work/life balance on the Relevant Magazine website. I like what the author, Tyler Ward, wrote about the flow and seasons of creation and about all other natural rhythms.

So what should people do when they feel overwhelmed? What should exhausted people do to get what they want, which is really control and peace. They often think that if they strike the right balance in their schedule, all their problems will go away.

Tips and Suggestions

 

  • Master the Word No  I’m a recovering people pleaser. Actually, that’s a myth also. I’m a recovering “I’ll say yes so you’ll think I’m awesome, feel validated as a person, and be my friend” person. I used to refuse to believe that time was a limiting factor on me, but it is—for all of us. Now, when I’m asked to do something new or to help someone, I say no. I’ll say something like this:
    • Thank you for asking me. I’m honored you think this highly of me. Possibly one day I’ll be able to say yes, but today I need to say no. My calendar is full for the foreseeable future.
    • Can I help you think of someone else you might ask? I simply can’t yes at this time.
    • Would you ask me again in one year? I can’t say yes right now.
    • I appreciate you asking me. I know when I ask someone to help me with something like this, I’m afraid they will get annoyed. Me—I’m not annoyed at all; in fact, I’m honored. I wish I could say yes. How can I help you find someone to take this on?
    • Notice, I never say “but” or “however.” I let my no be no. I used to give long, drawn-out explanations. I don’t anymore. And if someone doesn’t respect me or my no, they probably wouldn’t have genuinely appreciated my help in the first place.

 

  • Get a Task-Management System  Whatever system you will actually utilize is the system you should use. If a calendar system with everything on it works, use it. I work with a lady who still carries a large planner. It’s full of notes, business cards, her calendar, and who-else-but-her knows. But it works for her. I experimented with all sorts of systems. For the longest time I used Siri and multiple different lists in my Reminders app on my iPhone. But then I read Getting Things Done by David Allen. I combined his methodology with Evernote and Nozbe.  This combinations has been the system that has saved my bacon and brought order to the chaos of my tasks and schedule.

 

  • Delegate Decision Making  I first wrote about this here. A young leader once told me she is great at delegating tasks but terrible at delegating decisions. I identified with that, because it’s true for me as well.  I don’t need to be the gatekeeper whom all decisions must pass through. I still sweat the small stuff and have the pulse, blood pressure, temperature, CBC count, and all the other vitals of our organization in check, but I simply don’t make a majority of the day-to-day decisions.  Instead, I use a lesson I learned from Dave Ramsey in EntreLeadership. When I have new team members, I have them come to me with three solutions to every problem. After they present the problem and solutions, I let them know which solution I would like and why (even if it’s one of my own). Over time, they begin to anticipate what I’ll decide. After several weeks, I’m comfortable saying, “From now on, just decide this stuff on your own. Keep deciding like you are, but you don’t have to come to me anymore. I trust you.”

 

  • Set Clear Boundaries  I don’t travel away from my family for more than three nights in any 12-month period. I use Skype and attend online conferences like Social Media Summit 2014, webinars, and more. I actually get more continuing education and professional development now then when I’d travel to conferences and events more often. I network with my mastermind group every other week for a couple of hours via Google Hangout. I attend networking lunches and meet with peers for breakfast. I still get the job done, I just make sure I’m at home to get the most important job done—giving my wife and my kids a healthy dose of quality and quantity time together.  My team has been instructed that my wife is put through to my phone whenever she calls, regardless of what I’m doing. She is never told I’m not available.

 

  • Get Your Free Time and Family Time on Your Calendar First  Every few months, I have a calendar meeting with my wife. I try to get every family event on my calendar before I start getting work meetings, speaking engagements, etc added to my calendar.
    • I make sure I schedule time to exercise.
    • I have three recurring appointments to eat three meals a day with plenty of time at each meal to relax.
    • I have a block of time marked as “Family Time” in the evenings so I can play with my kids.
    • I have a block of time scheduled to read.
    • I have blocks of time scheduled to work. I used to try to schedule my work as specific tasks, but I need the flexibility to work on the projects I’m in the mood to work on. This is where Nozbe and the Getting Things Done methodology come into play.
    • I have a lunch or breakfast appointment once a week with one of my kids.
    • We schedule date nights for us.

 

  • Hire Help.  I use oDesk to hire virtual assistants to work for me for only a few hours a week. I wrote a complete post about the benefits here. There is no reason you can’t hire someone to help you, even two to four hours per week, not to free up time to work on something else but to buy you time to be with your family.  Plus, I hire other independent contractors for editing and other work.  I use Fiverr.com in addition to oDesk.

Action Steps

  • Update Your Calendar
  • Read Getting Things Done
  • Check Out Nozbe

What About You

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