Blood, Sweat & Tears

17 Oct


I’ve recently gone through a lot of changes in my life. I had been at a ministry for 26 years. My wife Lisa was a part of that as well. She was administrator of our Christian School for 25 years. We poured a lot of BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS into that place. You can only imagine how life has changed. But that’s not the change I’m referring. My perspective has changed.

I so desire to see transformation happen in the lives of people. Transformation in someone’s life can be the most rewarding experience. It has only been in the past year where I realized where that change occurs.

“Life change happens best in the context of relationships.”

In September of this year I attended a conference. I went to a session on small groups. I really didn’t want to be there, but I knew I needed to be open for change. He talked about how his church was growing. It took a 1-2 years for it to really take off. The leader asked a question that changed my perspective. Where in your life did YOU (me, Russ) see the most transformation in yourself personally? He really didn’t give us time to answer. He said his guess would be through a relationship. He was right. He then went onto say that is why small groups are so important in a church. Oh my! I’ve never liked small groups.

I’ve been in ministry over 30 years and I’ve never seen them work. There were some pastors I served under who emphasized small groups. They would flourish for a season, but then they would fizzle out.

Here are some quotes from one of Perry Noble’s session at the Double Conference.

  • Growing Churches Change. Growing Leaders Change
  • In most churches, the change going on in the church is in direct proportion with the change going on in the leader.
  • What are you learning as a leader? Who are you learning from? We learn from people who actually haven’t done anything. If they haven’t done it, I don’t care.
  • Groups are essential for churches that are growing.

We started what we call Freedom Groups. We began our first 10 week session this fall. We had over 15 groups: Waffle House Group, Men’s Golf Group, Marriage Group, Young Adult Group, Women’s Groups, Crash the Chatter Box Group, Pinterest Group (just to name a few)

We’ve had 75% of our church family participate in these groups. I’ve heard so many stories of the transformation that is beginning to occur in the lives of our Freedom Family and others who have been invited to participate.  It’s exciting and fun to hear the stories that it makes me “So VERY happy!”

BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS had a song called “You Make Me So Very Happy.”  The words to that song can be sung to whoever, but in my case I’m singing it to my Jesus!  Signing off…and having fun!

I chose You for the one
Now we’re having so much fun
You treated me so kind
I’m about to lose my mind
You made me so very happy
I’m so glad You came into my life


Leadership, Clemson Football and the Bible Part 2

27 Aug


One of our goals as leaders should be to create a consistent philosophy and personality through our organization.  One of the keys to that is continuity in your staff.

Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris said about the Clemson football staff

Continuity in a staff is critical to maintaining consistency on the field.

Continuity on the staff should produce consistency on the field.

When your players are on the field of play you want your  players calling audibles, but having the same philosophy.  

My wife was an Administrator of a Christian  School.  We were talking one day about creating culture in the school. She was listening to a conversation one of her teachers had with a parent.  The advice she would have given the parent was in line with the philosophy of the school. The teacher had called an incredible audible.

Coach Morris put it best,

Standards and schemes can be passed down internally without any major shifts to philosophy and personality. 

Any time we have a player or coach with a different philosophy you will have an undercurrent.  Believe me, none of us  are immune to having a different philosophy. 

How do we know we are getting through to our team? Listen to the audibles called on the field of play or listen to the philosophy you communicate.  Are you communicating that philosophy consistently?

A team from our church recently went to Church of the Highlands for Grow Intensive. It was amazing how the philosophy of the leader was intertwined through each person speaking.  You would hear “catch phrases”  and “talking points” (I don’t like to use that catch phrase – talking points). Here are some of them.

  • Life giving ministry starts from the ground up not the top down.
  • We don’t want something from you we want something for you.
  • You are called to make and eternal difference with a group of people making a difference.
  • You were made for this.

So, if your players aren’t calling the right audibles it could be that they have their own philosophy which creates an undercurrent or it could be that we aren’t communicating ours properly.  These are keys to experiencing life giving ministry.

Carpe Diem- Robin Williams

13 Aug

Carpe Diem!  Seize the day, boys!  Make your life extraordinary!  That’s just what happened with the four lepers.

The Syrians came in and occupied Samaria which was going through a famine. The famine was so bad the Israelites had resorted to cannibalism.  Elisha the prophet proclaimed that the famine would end the next day.

The four lepers  lived outside the gates. They were not allowed in the city so they were dependent upon the generosity of others for their sustenance. They spent their life waiting for others to supply their needs until one day one of them said “Why do we stay here until we die.”  They could stay outside the gates and die from starvation or take the risk of going into Samaria and being killed. Either way they die.

The Lord caused the Syrians to hear the sound of chariots and horses so they fled the city.  Seeing the camp had been abandoned the lepers began to go from tent to tent eating and drinking.  They carried off clothing, gold and silver and hid it. Can you imagine the fun?  They were indulging themselves.

I don’t know what kind of famine you’re experiencing: your job, your finances, your marriage?

Are we sitting at the city gates waiting on God to move?  Are we waiting on our spouse to meet our needs?

We can have self pity in feast or famine.  Self Pity is compassion turned inward.  The lepers operated in both: while they sat at the city gates waiting and while they indulged themselves after entering the city.

What they did next changed the entire economy.  What they did next allowed the miraculous to occur. What they did next made life extraordinary.

“This is not right! This is the day of good news and we aren’t sharing it.”

We have good news to share too!  As we begin to seize each day we will begin to experience the extraordinary life as well!

Carpe Diem!




Leadership, Clemson Football and the Bible!

6 Aug


For all those Gamecock Fans you may think I have crossed a line, but hear me out first!

Dabo Swinney welcomes back all nine of his assistants this year including his highly sought after offensive coordinator Chad Morris.  There are several leadership lessons that I could expand on in a recent article I read, but there is one that has stood out to me for years.

Robbie Caldwell the offensive line coach knows the hazard about rushing to the throne. In July of 2010 he was named Head Coach of Vanderbilt University after Bobby Johnson abruptly resigned. Caldwell instantly discovered his increased responsibility in many areas, but one being the most important! These words are powerful.

Until you sit in that seat and I wasn’t there, but for four months – it’s different.   Your most difficult task is assembling a loyal staff.  That’s a word that many people don’t know anymore.

David in many ways could have rushed to the throne.  He had a leader who was insecure and literally tried to take David’s life.  Morally he had every right! He could have easily rationalized speaking out against his leader or even step in and show everyone who is the real leader.  He even had the followers to follow him.

I honestly don’t know how David was able to continue.  He still served the King.  He still won battles for him.

Someone once told me “Russ, God hasn’t put you at this church for the pastor to be behind your vision, but for you to be behind his vision.”

Coach Caldwell said it like this.

They want you to be loyal to them, but they ain’t loyal to you. So  the big challenge today is assembling a loyal staff.

So for those who are support staff do your best to serve where God has called you.  Win battles for your leader.

For those of you who are leaders trying to hire a loyal staff I encourage you to check out this leadership class I’m in the process of completing with Dr. Mark Rutland at


Assembling a loyal staff is the biggest challenge you will ever face!

Like a Good Neighbor!

2 Aug

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My dad is a very social person.  He will talk to anybody.  He recently came and spent a few days with us.  We walked into a local seafood restaurant.  As the hostess sat me down I notice my dad had not followed me.  He stopped to speak to an older gentleman in the lobby.  My dad was full of information when he finally made his way to the booth.  The man was 90 years old and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

I’ve never had much to say to people in public: the waitress at a restaurant, the check out clerk at Walmart.  Over the years I’ve been more like my mom (sadly she passed away recently).  She was more the quiet, stay at home type. 

As I’ve shared with our Freedom Family last Sunday I’m not a State Farm type of neighbor.  You know!  LIKE A GOOD NEIGHBOR…

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Like a Good Neighbor!

30 Jul


My dad is a very social person.  He will talk to anybody.  He recently came and spent a few days with us.  We walked into a local seafood restaurant.  As the hostess sat me down I notice my dad had not followed me.  He stopped to speak to an older gentleman in the lobby.  My dad was full of information when he finally made his way to the booth.  The man was 90 years old and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

I’ve never had much to say to people in public: the waitress at a restaurant, the check out clerk at Walmart.  Over the years I’ve been more like my mom (sadly she passed away recently).  She was more the quiet, stay at home type. 

As I’ve shared with our Freedom Family last Sunday I’m not a State Farm type of neighbor.  You know!  LIKE A GOOD NEIGHBOR STATE FARM IS THERE! I’ve been more the type of keep my head down (you’ll understand that statement later) and not carry on a conversation with anyone.  In fact, when my dad visits he finds out all about my neighbors in one day than the 25 years I’ve lived there.

Over the past four years God has done a work in my heart.  What he has done is a blog post for another day.  

Anyway, I’ve stepped out and started having conversations with people.  To be honest I actually enjoy it.  People like to talk about their favorite subject – themselves.  I’ve come to enjoy hearing their stories.  Like the young man at the Apple Store.  He and his mom moved to Greenwood from up north after the divorce of his parents.  He recently moved to Greenville to work with Apple, but made sure that he told me his goal was to move to California.  He felt like this area of the country was stuck in rut.  I got all that information in five minutes. 

I’ve recently started walking in my neighborhood.  I love to walk and pray.  The other day I stopped to talk to someone down the street who was with his grandson.  Since I was walking he invited me to join a hiking club.  They would get together and hike on Monday, Wednesday and SUNDAY!  How easy was that? Shouldn’t it be just as easy to invite others into our world?

I believe that God is looking for people to quit walking around with their head down.  He wants us to train our eyes to look for opportunities.  He wants us to be willing witnesses.

I recently heard someone share something that reminded me of my journey.  I’d like to share it with you and hope you will take time to listen to it.  Just maybe we will have more Christians walking around with their heads up and grow to be STATE FARM type of neighbor!




RORY- Peace and Tranquility

21 Jul


Going into the final round of the 2011 Master’s Tournament, Rory Mcilroy had a four shot lead.  On the last day he made this statement, “I came out and was trying to be this player that I’m not.” He shot a final round 80 and lost.

Two months later he wins the U.S. Open by 8 strokes with 16 under par.

In the past 18 months, he changed management for the second time, leading to lawsuits that are still to be decided. And after getting engaged to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki on New Year’s Eve, he abruptly broke off the engagement in May with a telephone call.

Going into the final round of today’s British Open his lead, as imposing as seven strokes in the early stages of the fourth round, was down to two with five holes to play.  

He also faced  a distraction at the 16th: After hitting his tee shot, Mcilroy turned and pointed with his club toward a heckler in the gallery, who was eventually escorted away.  Mcilroy said the man had been heckling him all day and “deliberately coughed on my downswing” at the 16th tee.

 Would he collapse just like he did in the final round of the 2011 Masters?

How do you keep focus when hell lands and distractions are all around? 

Rory said that all day long he had a peace and tranquility.  He had two trigger words that kept him focused: process and spot.  With each swing he would think about the process and not the results.  With his putting he would think about picking the spot and hitting the ball.

1 Samuel 30 says David and his men returned to Ziklag and found all the women and children taken away the men  cried until they could cry no more.  Then the men spoke of stoning David.  Now that sounds like hell has landed!

His focus? The bible says David encouraged himself in the Lord.

It was what they focused on in the midst of difficulty that helped David and a golfer to experience victory.

Whatever you focus on gains power in your life.

Rory focused on what he called trigger words: process and spot.

David focused on God and he encouraged himself.

The same holds true with you and me.

We can focus on our failure.  We can focus on our guilt.  We can focus on our insecurity.  We can focus on what is not fair. When we focus on these things then failure, guilt and injustice gains power in our life.

OR we can focus on how big our God is and how much we are His favored children.  Focusing on these things gains power in our lives.  When we do we experience peace and tranquility.

Victory is ours!

Today Rory Mcilroy won the British Open by simply focusing on the right things. He led from start to finish which has not been done in an Open tournament since 2005.

David gained victory by focusing on the right things. Some how he convince 400 of the 600 soldiers who were getting ready to stone him to go after the Amalekites.  David recovered ALL that the Amalekites had carried away simply by focusing on how big God is instead of how big his problems were, 

Are we experiencing peace and tranquility when hell lands?  Are we gaining victory over the distractions in life?  If not, it could be that we are focused on the wrong things. Victory is ours!