Some Lives changed Sunday. Some didn’t. Time to give up?

•June 13, 2013 • Leave a Comment


We make a fairly regular practice of asking people to express and commit to a “next step” at Suncrest.  Some are more dramatic than others.  Last Sunday, we asked people to lay things on an altar before God and walk away from them.  Literally.  And Figuratively.

I never know how people are going to respond.  I knew lots of people walked up front…but there was almost a social pressure to do so.  Were people really walking away from significant things in their lives that were getting in the way of God’s plan for them?

Then I opened this box of papers and started to leaf through them.  What were people leaving on the altar…walking away from once and for all?  I’ll give you a very small sampling:

-Suicidal Thoughts


-Being Judgmental

-The guilt of my past

-Sex outside of marriage

-Control of my husband

-Vulgarity & Lust

-Compromising values when with friends and online

-Being a Gossiper & Cheater

-Being Thin Skinned and critical of others

-“Letting go of a huge sin.  God knows.  I know.  I’m forgiven.”



-What others think of me


This matters.  And I have had a front row seat to God making days like this defining in the stories of people’s lives.  Can you imagine the impact of a service where people truly released all of these things?  I can.  Some lives changed drastically on Sunday.  No going back.  This week is fundamentally different than last week and this year will be fundamentally different than last year because of what happened Sunday.  Some of you will set a new course for your life that will have impact on many people and even for generations to come.  That’s genuinely amazing.

But some didn’t.  You meant to.  You were sincere Sunday morning.  But then Sunday afternoon happened.  And worse yet…Monday.  Now it’s Thursday and you are pretty sure Sunday was just an quasi-emotional experience that won’t have any lasting impact.  In fact, you wonder if anything will ever REALLY change. 

Do you know how I know this?  Because that’s what I did.  And what I’ve done in other settings over many years.  Then, I feel guilty for not being committed enough and I fight it.  I think self-discipline will be my conquering force.  Which is largely the problem.  I’m still fighting when the whole idea was to RELEASE. 

And then I give up.  That is almost always when the REAL change occurs. When I give up the fight.  When I acknowledge there are places in my life that I can’t seem to change…but are unacceptable to continue.  And then get down on my knees and plead with God to take it.  Once and for all.  In a way only He can.  With power I don’t have. 

And THEN He takes it.  Usually. (But that’s a conversation for another day.) 

Time for you to give up…trying to change this yourself?

A letter worth sharing…

•June 6, 2013 • Leave a Comment

ImageIf you know me, you know I love our elders at Suncrest.  They guide and guard our church with humility, character, and strength under the radar.  Dan Smith has served many years on our elder team, but a new job re-located him to Atlanta recently.  He sent this letter to our elders and I got his permission to share it here.  I think it says a lot of Dan, Suncrest, and our elders as a whole.


Dear Suncrest Elders,

 I am writing to announce my resignation as an Elder at Suncrest Christian Church effective June 1, 2013. It is hard to sum up in a few sentences the gratitude I want to express for the unique opportunity God gave me at Suncrest.  

What a joy it was to have experienced the growth in our church as the new faces appeared each week. More than that, I experienced personal growth as a husband, father, friend and leader. The tall task of serving as a Spiritual Leader brought a continual request for wisdom and humility while serving God and Suncrest and my family. I learned many lessons along the way.

Serving with my brothers in Christ gave me the opportunity to connect with men on a deeper level. As we served the church, we also became our own community group supporting each other thru life’s challenges. I will forever be grateful for this.

Even though my Eldership is over, know that my concern for Suncrest is not. I will continue praying for Suncrest and for each of you. I pray that you will continue to seek God’s direction for Suncrest as you lead his church in St. John, IN.

It truly has been an honor serving with you as an Elder at Suncrest. Serving with my brothers in Christ has been an experience that will continue to bless and encourage me in the future. Thank you for allowing me this unique opportunity. I am grateful.

In His Service,

Dan Smith


I sent Dan a simple reply last night thanking him for his impact on Suncrest and on my life personally.  We already miss him and Susie tremendously!

Liberia. New Churches. Clean Water. Hope.

•May 30, 2013 • 1 Comment


Things are changing in Liberia.  They are grateful.

Joseph Gbezohn is a Liberian Pastor we have invested in to start this new church and bring hope to the community of Sinje.  Our teams did a Medical Clinic and VBS there last year in difficult conditions as they met in whatever space they could find.

As the church and their impact has grown on this community, we have helped them build a simple building (above) and bring a clean water well (below) to the community. He sent us this message:

Greeting to the church (Suncrest) from the congregation of Sinje. Attached are the recent photos of the building being roofed and work is continuing. The wells have been done .We Baptized  three people during the Easter.



My Mom’s Advice to Moms

•May 15, 2013 • 3 Comments

We had a great day at Suncrest celebrating on Mother’s Day…and it was a great day with my own Mom. This is some more wisdom from her that we couldn’t include in the service. I can promise you she lived out these 3 pieces of advice herself!

If it is going to make a real difference for you, spend 90 seconds watching and then 90 minutes resolving to integrate this into life.

Outward: We Plant Churches

•March 8, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Leaders at Suncrest know Our Mission, Our 4 C’s (how we grow in our faith), and 5 DNA Markers (core values). These aren’t cute sayings that are in a brochure somewhere. They define everything. Many years we look for a value that may have slipped to the background and give it emphasis. This year that value is OUTWARD.

We use short sentences to give life to each value so today I’m starting a series of 4 posts to highlight each sentence attached to OUTWARD: Lost People matter uniquely to God. Their separation from Jesus drives us. We regularly sacrifice for those who are not part of our church. We plant churches.

We plant Churches. It would be hard to think of any three words that have had greater impact at Suncrest. Here’s how we think about it:

-Orchard, not tree. As much as God has blessed our own church, the greater blessing is through multiplication of new churches. Think about this: Last Sunday about 1400 people attended Suncrest. But…thousands and thousands of people have been reached by the churches we have started. Even better, we only plant churches that will also plant other churches. This isn’t about me, but personally I want to make the biggest difference I can in this world before I die…and along with raising my own 2 kids I’m pretty sure this is the way it is going to happen. Long after I’m gone, these churches should keep multiplying like bunnies!

-Giver, not taker. From Day ONE (thanks John Wasem!) Suncrest vowed we would set aside the first 10% of every offering we receive and be givers to others work in the kingdom of God. Right now almost 80% of that money (over $120,000 this year) is used for starting new churches around the world. I’m not certain of many things, but I absolutely know God has blessed Suncrest because of this, just as he blesses people who are givers.

Lunch with Joe

-Embedded, not an Extra. When our staff or I travel to help new churches get started we are not doing “outside consulting”, it is part of our job at Suncrest. Between travel, conference calls, and building partnerships, I’m sure I give more than 10% of my time to the movement of starting new churches. It’s not an accent to our ministry, it is part of who we are. Yesterday I had a phone call with Gary Davis (planting in Walkerton). Today I had a phone call with Jared Mehrle (planting in 9 days outside of Atlanta!) and I had lunch our Suncrest team partnering to plant churches in Liberia (pictured with Liberian leaders Joe/Marie Lieway). Last week Bobby Jackson was working with our new church in Providence, RI. Next week David Vineyard will begin work with a new church up around O’hare.

Where are all these new churches? We’ve partnered to start a number of churches in New England and the Chicago area, one in Tampa, another in Jackson, TN. We’ve done it around the world in Portugal, Poland, outside of Mexico City, and many churches in Liberia. We plant churches…it’s central to our church living OUTWARD.

Hang out with me (and all the cool people) Friday night…

•March 1, 2013 • 4 Comments

I hope you will join me Friday night (March 8 – 6:30pm) if you are anywhere close to Northwest Indiana for our Africa Dessert Night.

We do almost no fundraisers at Suncrest (lots of reasons for that…in another blog post), but we do this one almost every year because the CAUSE is compelling, the NIGHT is a blast, and there are some great deals at an AUCTION with no pressure!

god waterThe Cause – My definition of “cool” in my title is people who want to make a difference.   The dessert is going to help 2 ministries working in Liberia that are great partners with Suncrest.  One is “Impact Liberia” which starts new churches there.  The Other is “God Water” which is an incredible organization that has grown out of Suncrest attenders.  Just buying a ticket will help Liberians have clean drinking water.

The Night – It’s great dessert, lots of laughs from the entertainment, and a personal look at the dilemmas and progress of life in Liberia.

The Auction – Some items do get bid up past their actual value (it is for a great cause after all), but with so many items there is also a chance to get a great deal on some things if that is what you are looking for. This is far from a complete list, but I know this year there are items like Restaurant Gift Cards, White Sox Tickets, A behind the scenes fire station tour for a group of kids (or adults!), Music Lessons, Dance Lessons, Golf at Youche Country Club and White Hawk, Jak’s gift card, Beanies, Scarves…4 hours of work from a variety of Suncrest staff members, including yours truly.

(May I suggest you bid on both me and the golf at Youche?  Seems like a win-win if you put them together!)

Get your tickets this Sunday at any Suncrest campus or call the church at 219-365-9000!

Big News for our Walkerton Campus

•February 14, 2013 • Leave a Comment

We have some big (and wonderful) news about our Walkerton Campus.  This blog post could become a full book very quickly.  It could be about vision, God’s hand, hurt, perseverance, renewal, and more.  I’ll do my best to keep it brief.

The original vision:  Suncrest launched the Walkerton Campus as part of our “Jesus Mission”  in 2010.  We launched a campus in Highland, new churches in Liberia, and this campus in Walkerton within weeks of each other.  That was crazy, but we sensed it was of God.

The launch: Walkerton wasn’t in our strategic plan, but came out of relationships God had given us and a sense that we needed to live by faith and “go for it” even when we didn’t have the resources for a typical campus launch.  Very quickly, the campus was reaching almost 100 people and seeing stories of lives changed even though we had a shoestring budget and couldn’t send a launch team from other campuses.

A challenge:  We knew there would be some logistical challenges.  Unlike our other campuses, Walkerton is over an hour away, in a different time zone, in a smaller town outside of the Chicago suburbs and launched with the campus pastor as the only connection to Suncrest.  Even from launch, we made adjustments for this and there were definitely benefits to all the shared resources, but…

One year ago:  Last February the campus was 18 months old when the campus pastor, myself, and our elders all agreed we should set a plan in motion to “release/launch” the Walkerton campus as a church of their own.  It seemed a win-win-win.  The community of Walkerton would have the church they needed; Suncrest would be able to function with greater unity as 3 campuses in the same region; the Walkerton leaders were ready to step out in faith and take full responsibility for their own future.

The Crisis:  I don’t want to avoid the hard part of the story.  We were moving toward a launch/release and had a plan to announce this on September 5.  On September 4, the campus pastor shared a serious failure in his personal life with me and resigned.  (He continues to work through all of this and is experiencing God’s grace.  I’m thankful for that.)

Three challenging months:  The whole plan to launch was dependent on him.  I even wondered about the viability of the campus.  On September 6, two of our elders and I sat with leaders from the campus and we formed a plan to do only the essentials of Sunday mornings, Community Groups, and Serving the Community for the next 3 months.  I can’t tell you how much I respect these leaders.  They had no idea what they were REALLY signing up for, but they had seen lives changed and had their lives changed.  Their community needed this church.

A Re-Newed Vision:  Those leaders held it together for 3 months.  It was hard.  We had a decision to make about the future.  Those leaders rallied and said if Suncrest would help them, they wanted to go forward with the vision of becoming a church plant.  That was an easy one for our elders.  We believe God called us to Walkerton in the first place.  And we plant churches.  Of course we would help.

A New Leader:  Through an unlikely connection and covered with prayer, we were led to a pastor named Gary Davis who lives about 30 minutes from Walkerton and had a sense for sometime that he was to plant a church in his home region.  This could be it’s own blog post some time, but the result is that last Sunday their leaders announced to the whole campus there that Gary was coming to be the pastor to lead them as they launch a church of their own!

The Road Ahead:  On Sunday, March 10, the group in Walkerton will pivot from being a Suncrest campus to becoming a new church.  They will continue to meet weekly for worship with Gary as their pastor and prepare for a public launch as a new church with a new identity this Fall.  What WON’T change is their desire to welcome anyone and everyone just as they are and help them experience faith in a new and powerful way.

The Credits:  This isn’t a movie, but many people have been models of faith, vision, and perseverance over the last 5 months so I want to “scroll the credits here”.  I’m DEEPLY grateful for them.  This amazing story could not and would not have happened without the hand of God…or these people letting God use them.  I’m not trying to draw attention to them as much as I am thanking God for them as I type each name (from both Walkerton and Suncrest):  Eric, Ryan, Melody, Loretta, Jim, Michal, Randy, Bobby, Debby, Cindy, Laurie, and Rod.  It’s been an absolute privilege to walk these 5 months with each of them.

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