Johnnys Blog
  • My Heart During Change

    I’ve met with so many of our GCC families who serve in multiple areas within our church, and it’s been an encouragement to me in getting to know the people who commit themselves to the giving of their time and talents. As I have met with people, they have shared stories of dear friends who have left Generations. I, too, know of many families that I met and walked with when I first came to the church, who are no longer here. Listening to our weekend host recently tell the story of good things happening at GCC, I couldn’t help but wonder if some people thought disinformation was given in order to create a better-than-actual narrative.  

    I think it is important for you to understand the posture of my heart on these matters.

    • Many of the people who have left GCC are fun, loving, serving, and kind brothers/sisters in Christ.  
      • Jesus says that unbelievers will always be in the church and He alone will separate them out upon His return (Matthew 25). I am speaking in generalities, because I don’t know every person who has left, but I think it is crucial that you know my heart on the matter. I do not believe that we have lost bad people; rather I think we have lost fellow royal priests (1 Peter 2:9).
    • People matter, so how we let go matters also.  
      • We don’t own anyone, as they are not our people. They are His people. He may be specifically calling them to something He needs them to do. Because of this, it is my desire to let go with grace and peace. It matters how obediently each of us walks through the doors God opens in our lives. Romans 12:18 should set the posture of our hearts, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”  I am willing to reach out, listen, and/or meet with anyone who has concerns or hurts. It would be regrettable for anyone to ever leave a church and for that person or family to not be contacted in some way. We are all called to make sure that we let people go with a blessing and Christian love.

    Like many of God’s people, we don’t get to choose to whom we preach the Gospel. Peter was set against the Gospel being for the gentile and Jonah was not enthusiastic about those he was called to preach God’s message. Our job is obedience to God’s calling in our lives.I am astounded at how quickly our community is growing and changing. So many new homes and these new families will be coming to our campus for Trunk or Treat during our fall festival in a few weeks. These families may choose to attend Gen in 5 or Connect Class and that will change the trajectory of their family forever. Our continued focus needs to be on lost people. This reality sets the tone for the decisions that are being made in our church. How are we making decisions?

    • Prayerfully
      • It’s one thing to assume that Christian leaders pray. I am praying consistently for the wisdom and guiding of the Holy Spirit as we make decisions for our church. I would ask you to join me in praying for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the work at GCC.
    • Through the lens of priorities
      • It is possible to edify the body of believers with our services and position ourselves as attractive to unbelievers at the same time. What you win people with, you keep them with. Our power is in the reality that our God is alive and working in the lives of His people. Decisions are made primarily in a specific order, that which is best for the people of our church. This ranks over what is best or easiest for staff every time. This ranks over what is best for me personally or politically. The mission of our church is to connect people to Christ. That has not changed. Our strategies all line up to achieve that objective.  

    What is our current vision?
    We all learn in different ways. This point has been discussed during our staff meetings, on a regular basis. There is a different significance, however; when things are communicated in written form. Hopefully, this will help to bring clarity to all of us as we work diligently in our areas of focus.

    Excellence
    We are unashamed of programs used as a strategy to allow us to be around people. I am also theologically unashamed of attractional worship. There is no limit to what level of extravagance that God expected from Israel in building the temple and expressing their love for our Heavenly Father. There are some appropriate guidelines to follow no doubt; is it about Him and for Him and not actually for us? Does it creatively draw others to see Jesus high and lifted up and does our offering clearly represent the Gospel in a way that edifies the body? This is not an exhaustive list, but it is important for all of us to know our stance on excellence in all areas. The things we do all have value and targeted returns on the kingdom investment. The posture of our hearts in matters of excellence is found in Colossians 3:23, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

    Discipleship
    Getting people connected to programs is a step toward the ultimate goal: finding or deepening a life with Jesus. Jesus met people where they were. He healed them before He instructed them. He fed them before He preached to them. In one instance, He even helped them catch fish before putting them to other work. The design of many of our programs is to serve a felt need so that we can earn the right to serve the underlying need we all have. Jesus clearly calls us to make disciples. The commandment to make disciples points to a process. We are dedicated to moving our entire church towards that mission. This begins with the eldership and staff. We are all called to model discipleship to our body. We seek people to mentor us as we mentor others.

  • This article is for all of us.

    I am reluctant to put a title on this article concerning what it’s about. The reason I don’t want to do that is it would be terrible for many of us to see the title and say, “that has nothing to do with me or my life or anyone I know”.

    What if I were to tell you something grew by 72%...seems like a lot of growth to me? What if I were to tell you that the thing that grew by 72% in the past 10 years was something that is very bad and devastates everyone in contact with it. I would find that alarming.

    You know the look that a person gives you when they are truly in total shock? Sam’s brother was looking at his youth pastor with THAT look. “Something has happened to my brother”, the young man said to his pastor. The regular Wednesday night youth service was about to begin in five minutes. Both Sam and his brother would normally be hanging out with the other kids as they gathered like every other normal week, but not this week. Something would shift everything this week.

    The look that this young man gave his pastor must have conveyed more than words ever could. The pastor handed out duties for others to carry on the weekly event and left to drive to Sam’s house. Little did he know that the next 24 hours would be the hardest day of his life. This would be a Wednesday night that would change the lives of an entire community. The tragic news finally became clear.

    A father found his sophomore son hanging in the basement.

    He was hanging from the beams on the ceiling. All alone, the father got his son down on the floor and administered CPR until a pulse returned. The paramedics arrived with the youth pastor and again the pulse was gone; the paramedics got the pulse back on the way to the hospital. After another ambulance ride to a larger hospital and hours of no sleep, the family finally dealt with the reality that their 16-year-old son had committed suicide. Dad was mowing the grass. Mom was at the grocery store. They were going to watch a movie later that night they had already picked out. There was no final conversation that gave them a tip or raised concerns.

    The family would gather around their son with a community and ultimately hear the news that their son, brother, friend was brain dead. A shocked church and devastated high school would spend the next days under a dark cloud.

    The most difficult thing about this story is that though I have changed the names of the people represented here to protect privacy; this story is everywhere; these people are everywhere. It seems no one is untouched. I personally have encountered this tragic tale time and again this year alone through many pastor friends across our nation. It has brought us to our knees.

    We are all interconnected. When one person hurts in a community, ultimately, the rest of the community feels it. The ramifications of one person, who is in a place of confusion or loneliness, can make ripples that extend to every corner of our society.

    The family knew that their child had been struggling with some common depression; they had even been dealing with the signs and taking steps they thought were appropriate. How did it escalate this quickly without anyone realizing it? This young man was very much like many people you and I see every day.

    Mental illness can be debilitating and it can be aggressive.

    September is the National Suicide Awareness Month. Not all cases of mental illness end tragically, but if one does, it is one to many. So what can we do? The best place to start is to know the signs of suicide:

     What are the signs?

    Are your loved ones talking about: 

    • Unbearable pain
    • Feeling trapped
    • Having no reason to live
    • Being a burden to others

    Do your loved ones have these behaviors?

    • Withdrawing from activities
    • Acting recklessly
    • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
    • Increased use of drugs or alcohol
    • Isolating from friends or family
    • Aggression
    • Giving away possessions
    • Researching suicide methods

     Does their mood display any of these signs?

    • Depression
    • Rage
    • Irritability
    • Lack of interest
    • Humiliation

    Land on hope.

    Hope is central to who God made us to be. God is even known as the one who is “of hope”. Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” When we loose hope, we loose our footing in the battle against mental illness.

    Stand with others.

    One way to get hope is to stand with others who can lend a hand up. You are not the only person struggling like this. Others have gone before you and found victory and you can too. Here are some resources for you if you are struggling or if you alone:

    • Crisis Text Line offers free, 24/7 crisis support to those in need. To get connected with a free crisis counselor, text TWLOHA to 741741.
    • The Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free, and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. All you have to do is call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
    • The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24. The organization also has a free crisis lifeline, online chat, and text option. If you need help, call 1-866-488-7386.
    • The Veterans Crisis Line connects veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Support for deaf and hard of hearing individuals is available.

    Hope begins to take deep root when we all say that the problem is OURS. If we all take ownership of the solution, we start to find real hope for the growing casualties of mental illness. When we all become aware of the warning signs, we can all help. When no one stands alone any longer, true hope can take deep root.

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