Posted by & filed under Life & Discipleship.

There are certain sins, habits, and issues in my life where I’ve struggled to truly repent. I’ve prayed, promised to do better next time, memorized Scripture … only to fall again. However, there are other sins and sinful patterns that are not issues in my life and others still where repentance is quick and enduring. I’m asking why do some sins tend to linger longer and the struggle to stop them is much harder?

For sure we are prone to some sins and their associated patterns due to our particular personalities and even our family histories. Godly wisdom and training in godliness (I Timothy 4:7) are necessary to put these sins “to death” (Romans 8:13). But I’m specifically thinking of sins where we’ve done all we know to do, all our teachers, pastors, and mentors tell us regarding fighting the flesh … and yet the sin and its power over us seemingly remain undefeated and undeterred. These sins have sometimes been called “besetting sins” because of their relentless and persistent assault on our Christian walk.

Here are three questions that might open us to new grace for greater victory over these relentless sins.

Am I experiencing true grief for my sin?
We can easily make confession of sin a mere ritual that does not affect or come from our heart. For repentance to be real and lasting, it must come from brokenness. Not the brokenness of embarrassment or shame from sin; not the brokenness caused by the consequences of sin; and not the brokenness of failure—as in failing in our performance. God wants us to be broken because we have grieved and hurt Him. Puritan Preacher Thomas Watson called this “holy agony.” Without this, repentance has not occurred, and the besetting sin remains.

You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; you are not pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, God.
Psalm 51:16-17 [CSB]

Do I really hate my sin?
We should hate the sin because of how it affects God and how it affects our capacity to know, sense, and relate to God. Our goal is purity and holiness, not compromise, not doing better, not having a good day and not sinning less often. We remember Jesus’ word that “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8, NASB).
As we progressively come to prize and love Christ more correctly and completely, we will hate our sin. Without hatred of sin, the possibility of negotiating with it remains.
Watson’s words are again helpful: “Sound repentance begins in the love of God and ends in the hatred of sin … Christ never loved till sin is loathed.”

Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices.
Ezekiel 36:31 [NIV]

Have I prayed for God to give me true repentance over my particular sin?
Like everything in following Christ, we must realize that apart from God we can do nothing (John 15:5). Therefore, in prayer, we ask for a heart of repentance, for love for Christ to grow, and for hatred of our besetting sin to increase.
This lesson is important because we can easily drift into the futile cycle of trying to defeat sin through self-effort and trying harder. This is a guaranteed path to frustration and even loss of faith, but we must realize that we are not walking by faith in the first place when we fight sin this way.

Paul said that sin is put to death “by the Spirit” (Romans 8:13) … not by our strength and power. Practically, this means God is likely to give us a promise from the Word His Spirit inspired to trust, search us at deeper levels to uncover pride and woundedness, and perhaps teach us a spiritual discipline to practice as a means of more grace. We must accept and depend on what the Lord gives and apply it strenuously in the fight of faith … victory is ours in Christ!

Posted by & filed under Leadership, RBCC Vision & News.

“It all depends on how you look at it.”

We’ve all heard that statement and lived it out in one way or another in how we view events, circumstances, work, politics, and God. This statement explains why some people respond with pessimism or cynicism and others with hope and optimism. Our reaction to something is a product of our interpretation of it.

This is why we need to study and know biblical doctrine. Doctrine is how we describe God and His work in our midst. When my boys were younger, we memorized the Lord’s Prayer together. Later when they started asking us about why people did evil things or why bad things happened, we reminded them that God’s will is not currently done perfectly or completely as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-13) but that in Christ God was enacting a plan to restore all of creation, including us. As parents, when our boys see or experience evil, we do not want them to see chaos or to react in hopelessness or despair. We want them to see God.

We all need to see God and recognize His ways, His work, and His grace in the world we live. God hardwired all of us to see life through an interpretive grid and then gave us His Word to shape that grid to see Him clearly and make sense out of life. This past weekend at Rock Bridge, we began a series that is heavy on doctrine, specifically, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps we have no greater need than to recognize and respond to the work of the Holy Spirit in the world today.

As we navigate forward together, here are three considerations for embracing and knowing the beautiful doctrines we find in God’s Word.

1) Doctrine is a means to an end.
Unfortunately, many people believe that discipleship is simply a matter of gaining more head knowledge and that a “deep” sermon is one that explores the nuances of Greek or the details of biblical history. Biblical doctrine is for a greater purpose than gaining factual information or giving mental assent to certain principles.
Ultimately, doctrine helps us recognize, know, and respond to God in love and worship. For example, what makes the death of Jesus on the cross different from the hundreds of thousands of other people the Romans crucified? Doctrine. Because Scripture and the eyewitness accounts teach us that Jesus is the Son of God, dying in our place and for our forgiveness (doctrines of the incarnation, penal substitution, and justification).

2) Doctrine explains why we need the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26-27)
There is a move in American Christianity to bounce from church to church, preacher to preacher, and conference to conference without putting down deep roots in the community and life of one local church. Additionally, there is another trend that finds people attending their local church more infrequently. What is at stake in these trends? Doctrine and by implication, the ability to see God clearly, correctly, and consistently.
Let me explain. The elders of any faithful New Testament church are charged with ensuring biblically sound teaching occurs (Titus 1:9). This cannot happen in one-weekend service or even in two, no more than going to the gym once or twice a month can get you in shape. So when faithfulness to one local church is minimized, or attendance is inconsistent, the people of God lose exposure to the whole counsel of God, potentially robbing them of the sight they need in the world they live.

For example, at Rock Bridge we plan our sermons out roughly four to six months in advance, intentionally working to expose people to different sections of Scripture, different topics, and different doctrines understanding that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).
For the person who is a different church every week or simply pursuing what they want to hear, they risk losing the consistent, deliberate and intentional teaching that is found when we place ourselves under the teaching and in the community of one local church.

3) Doctrine gives us content for prayer.
Ultimately, our great need is to see God, behold Him, enjoy Him, and follow Him. This means we have to get our eyes off ourselves and look to Christ. In prayer, we pray that we can see, feel, and enjoy God. Practically, this means we need to see His providence, His goodness; that we need to rest in justification, to enjoy His presence, and to discern His wisdom. Knowing doctrine helps us pray in accordance with God’s Word, pray prayers that get answered, and see those answers when they come.

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what the hope of his calling is, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the mighty working of his strength. [Ephesians 1:5-19, CSB]

Posted by & filed under Live Sent, Love God, RBCC Vision & News.

In Part 5 of our message series, Thrivin',

I shared with you our heart for Rock Bridge to be a thrivin’ church. We desire to be a community of people who passionately pursue those who don’t know Jesus and see them connect to life in Christ. It’s that heart that led us to plant a new church over 15 years ago AND to carry the mission into 5 communities in NW Georgia and the TN Valley. And as I shared in the message, that same passion has led us to set just one church-wide goal for 2018:

To increase our evangelistic culture by seeing 400 people baptized.

In this blog, I want to share the foundations and dynamics of this goal...

God’s Aim for Humankind

First, we understand this goal to be connected to the ambitions God has shared with us in Scripture. God aims for disciples to be made of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20), to receive praise from every ethnic group and language on earth (Revelation 7:9-10), and for His Church to be His vessel for preaching the message of salvation (Romans 10:13-17; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21) and for doing good deeds (Titus 2:14). At Rock Bridge, we have summarized these aims into our mission statement: To glorify God by connecting people from all walks of life to life in Christ.

Therefore, setting a goal of 400 baptisms is a way of saying we are not playing games with our mission statement or God’s aims for humankind. We are serious about seeing life change, helping people walk in obedience to Christ, and sharing the gospel with more people. Additionally, we are being specific and definite in our prayers for God’s power and grace.

The Impact of Goals

Notice how many times in the book of Acts that Luke records a specific number and notes the numerical growth of the church (Acts 1:15, 2:47, 4:4, 5:14, 6:1, 6:7, 9:31, 11:21, 11:24, 14:1, 16:5, 17:4, and 17:12). Why was Luke so intentional about the numbers? Because every number represents a person who matters to God!

When we set a numerical goal, the specificity of the goal can make us uncomfortable, but it also makes it personal. We need to take personal our biblical responsibility to live sent and be Kingdom-seekers. In Romans 9:1-5, we see the personal burden Paul felt for Jews who lived apart from Christ. In Romans 15:20-28, Paul has the personal and specific ambition to preach Christ in Spain. So with a God-sized goal of 400 baptisms, every Rock Bridger can personally ask, “Who will I specifically pray for? Seek to share Christ with? Bring to a church service with me?”

This goal is larger than Rock Bridge and is not merely about our particular church getting bigger. It is ultimately about asking the bigger questions in Hixson, Ringgold, Chatsworth, Dalton, Calhoun and even to the ends of the earth: are people hearing the gospel? Are they escaping the wrath of God? Are they being born again? Are they getting full of the Holy Spirit? Are they following Jesus? Are they experiencing life in Christ?

Why Baptisms?

These questions also help us understand why baptism is so crucial. Baptism is one of the few public and unique acts Christ commanded that represents salvation, is part of discipleship and obedience, involves joining the fellowship of a church, and testifies to others that Christ is a person’s new Lord and leader. Therefore, we believe that 400 people being baptized over the next year will require a move of the Holy Spirit and the corresponding responsiveness of His people striving to keep in step with Him (see Acts 4:29-31).

So we understand that 400 baptisms will necessarily stretch us in our example, in our witness, in our prayers, and in our intentionality. But it will also remind us, that we are personally and collectively called to participate in the glorious and eternally significant plan of God Who “wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Timothy 2:4, CSB).

Let’s Live Sent

Finally, I never want us to stop dreaming big. We serve a God Who does more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21). I want it to be said of our church that we prayed and labored and risked in ways that show we believe God’s audacious promises to open doors for the gospel (Colossians 4:2-4) and to cause His word to run and be honored (2 Thess. 3:1). And He dares His people to ask Him to “make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession” (Psalm 2:8, CSB).

Let’s ask Him, and let’s live sent!

Posted by & filed under Leadership, Live Sent.

Rock Bridge,

I am writing this to you not only as your Lead Pastor, but also as a member of this amazing body of believers that I love so much. My calling and passion to serve as Lead Pastor of Rock Bridge, faithfully preaching God’s Word and providing strategic vision and leadership remains as strong as ever. I am writing today to share with you a decision and direction the Lord has been leading me towards since January. What began as an impression has now become a God-given conviction about a direction I am supposed to take. Since this will become public soon, I want to first share it with you—my church family.

Since the adoption of our boys, the Lord has deepened my compassion for those in poverty, especially children. In 2012, I began to better understand many of the challenges we face in our communities and how the church should mobilize in response. So our church launched a new initiative—H.O.P.E.—to help address several of these challenges, including poverty and its impact on our children.

Increasingly, I have come to realize that a high-quality education is one of the indispensable ingredients for ensuring children—whether in Ethiopia or Haiti or here at home—have the opportunity to achieve their God-given potential. This opportunity should exist regardless of a child’s zip code, their parents’ income, or their skin color.

This realization has been transformed into a conviction from God that I am to pursue a seat on the Dalton Public Schools Board of Education during the 2017 election. This is the system both of my parents retired from; this is the system Beth and I graduated from, and this is the system where our two boys currently attend school.

Since January, I have prayed, fasted, meditated on Scripture, and pursued godly counsel only to experience God’s providence and to receive greater clarity and a stronger conviction about this direction. Yes, I experienced doubt. But every doubt was followed by reassurances from God, including the affirmation of our Elders and Beth’s strong support. Our elders and my accountability partners see this as an extension of who we are at RBCC—people living sent to bless others in a variety of ways and platforms.

In the past, God has made it abundantly clear that I should attend the Naval Academy, marry Beth, start Rock Bridge, and adopt our boys from Africa. While God’s methods of communication have been different regarding this decision, He has been no less clear. I found the pattern of God’s call described in John Ortberg’s book If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat to be helpful:

  1. There is always a call.
  2. There is always fear.
  3. There is always reassurance.
  4. There is always a decision.
  5. There is always a changed life.

During this process of listening and discerning, my dependence on Him has increased, my prayer life has grown richer, and my commitment to Jesus and the cause of His Kingdom has grown deeper. However, I have had to fight against the fear of losing, the fear of experiencing people’s disapproval of me, and the temptation to put my identity in a position or an outcome, rather than in Christ. But God is faithful, and He has been clear. While I don’t know if it’s God’s will for me to be elected, I do know God is leading me to pursue this seat on the board. If elected, I’ll be driven by what is best for all of our kids, seeking the best possible educational outcomes for them.

As we move forward in this direction, the elders will continue to provide strong accountability, guardrails, and support for me. Furthermore, I will not use the pulpit of this church or any other Rock Bridge platform in the pursuit of this seat on the Board.

As my church family, I would greatly appreciate your prayers:

  • for the Lord’s will to be done
  • for me to represent Jesus in the public arena faithfully by displaying civility and compassion while offering wise, visionary, and strategic leadership
  • for God to use me in the places “He appoints, at the time He chooses, and with the provision He is pleased to make” (Sinclair Ferguson)

Live sent, Rock Bridge!

 

Matt

 

“…seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you …”

Jeremiah 29:7 {ESV}

Posted by & filed under Discipleship.

Opening day.

The first day of school.

The wedding.

First day on the job.

Baptism.

We love to celebrate the start. However, a strong start does not translate into a strong finish. The Bible is more into celebrating strong, faithful-to-the-end finishes.

“… the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13, NLT)

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7, HCSB)

“…follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.” (Hebrews 6:12, NLT)

The trouble is we often do not realize the ingredients for a weak or tragic finish are present in our lives. This is why we need to practice the discipline of self-reflection, using principles and insights from Scripture to discern how we are running the “race that lies before us” (Hebrews 12:1, HCSB).

Here are 4 questions to ask yourself to see if your current pace and direction are heading toward a faithful finish.

1) Does “it” help me run?

Notably, the author of Hebrews commands us to get rid of not only sin, but also “every weight” (other translations use ‘encumbrance’). In other words, anything that does not help us run needs to be removed. There is a reason why great athletes follow strict diets and schedules. Yet Christ-followers run for a greater cause and a better reward.

This means we have to put a lot more things on the table of evaluation besides what is sinful. We have to look at how we spend our time, what we watch on TV, what we eat and drink, what we do for entertainment … and a whole lot more. The good can often be the enemy of the best. So what things in your life might need to be removed—not because they are necessarily wrong or bad—but because they are not helping you run?

2) What is consistently grabbing or competing for my attention?

Focus is a key ingredient of a strong finish, yet we face more distractions than ever in the 21st century. When we think of focus, we must realize that we are finite beings capable of expending a finite amount of energy, time, and effort every day. So what stuff seeks to grab your attention or distract you away from the race of faith?

3) Am I growing to believe and trust more in God’s sovereignty and love?

The longer we run, the more we experience adversity and challenges. Only a resolute belief in God’s power and goodness over and through our circumstances will keep us in the race. We can’t succumb to fatalism or victimhood, and we definitely can’t quit. We can look to Jesus and realize God is in control and working out infinitely and eternally good purposes in a broken and fallen world.

Remember: a hard race does not mean the wrong race!

4) What particular joy is driving me right now?

We are all driven by joy. However, not all joys are the same. Some joys are temporary, some are enslaving, and some are deceptive. There is joy in physical pleasure and material gain. There is joy in comfort and joy in relief from pain. However, God designed us for joys of significance, of fruitfulness, and of His unending presence. Therefore, our highest joy is always found in Christ and the race He gives us to run!

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

and other questions I get about tithing…

As Christ-followers we must wrestle honestly with the Bible’s teachings about money, stewardship, and generosity. As we wrestle, we will inevitably experience the tension of how the world views money versus how God views money. These tensions will create some questions, and below are several great questions I’ve asked personally or been asked by others.

Are Christians supposed to tithe since we are no longer under the Law?

The logic here is that Jesus set us free from the Law and since the tithe was part of the Mosaic Law, then Christians are not obligated to tithe anymore. Jesus did, in fact, set us free from the Law as a means of being righteous before God; now we are righteous by faith in Jesus, receiving His righteousness as our own (2 Cor. 5:21).

However, we must wrestle with the fact that Abraham tithed before the Law of Moses was given and that Jesus affirms the tithe in Matthew 23:23. Furthermore, when Jesus taught about the Law, He taught that He came to fulfill it, and then He intensified the Law’s requirements. (See His teachings on what constitutes murder and adultery as examples of this.) Jesus did this because God is after the heart and wants obedience and good works to flow from a heart that is fully devoted to Him. Christ-followers have been given a new heart, or a new value system, that esteems and treasures Jesus above all.

So how does the “heart” show up in giving? Through radical and often sacrificial generosity that testifies to the worth of Jesus and our ambition for His global mission. Understood this way, the tithe is a great place to start in our giving.

Should I give or tithe off the net or gross?

The Old Testament describes tithing as being a “first fruit,” meaning the first of what we make as income. We should give back to God first, before giving or spending anything else.

Should I get out of debt first or start giving first?

I firmly believe the Bible teaches that generous giving should never be neglected for any reason, as long as a person has an income. We see in 2 Corinthians 8:2-3 that the Macedonian churches gave more than they were able to give. This means that being generous was the top priority for how these Christians handled their finances.

Should I give only to my local church?

In the Old Testament, we clearly see that the tithe supported the work of the temple and that other offerings were taken for the poor and for other needs. In the New Testament, the church is the new temple (1 Cor. 3:16) and the central institution for global disciple-making. Therefore, Christ-followers should give first to the church—the only organization Jesus founded while on earth. However, the local church does not need to be the only recipient of generous giving. We should be open to any opportunity to bless others and partner in Kingdom causes as the Holy Spirit guides.

In conclusion, generosity and stewardship are areas we must constantly monitor our lives to guard against greed, materialism, and idolatry. Because God gave Himself to us in life and in death, we must continually die to the master of money and live joyfully under the reign of King Jesus. As we open up our hearts more to Jesus, we’ll find our hands opening up more to give, to bless, and to serve. This is why I encourage us all to stare deep at the love and mercy of God on display in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to meditate on His radical generosity to us, and to reflect on the cost of our forgiveness and new life … then give—not out of guilt, fear, or reluctance—but as response to the indescribable gift of God (2 Cor. 9:15).

Posted by & filed under Discipleship, Uncategorized.

Living by faith, keeping in step with the Spirit, and setting our minds on things above are definitely challenging, but they are also joy-producing, peace-giving, and exhilarating pursuits. However, sometimes we get distracted, deceived, and diverted from our calling to live in the Kingdom of God because let’s face it, life can be overwhelming!

So I have worked on an acronym to help increase my attentiveness to God’s presence in my life and to keep me focused on Him. This tool is only that—it is not a rule, but it is one way to cooperate with the grace of God. The tool merely serves the grand vision of being led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14) and participating in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4). Maybe it will help you, too!

A.I.M.S.

ADMIT helplessness and dependence. Humility is the precondition for experiencing God’s presence, and therefore it is important to continually confess our need for God and His grace. This is a way for us to not “rely on our own understanding,” but rather to forsake self-reliance for trusting wholeheartedly in God in everything (Proverbs 3:5-6).

IN Christ. Paul uses this short prepositional phrase over 150 times in the New Testament, and it forms the key to understanding the accomplishment of the Cross, the position of the believer, and the resources available to us. In Christ, we have an eternal identity as God’s beloved children; in Christ, all God’s promises to us are “yes” (2 Cor. 1:20); in Christ, we have every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3).

MAGNIFY Christ. We declare our intention to allow Christ to live His life through us (Galatians 2:20) and therefore, be magnified in and through us.

SITUATIONS … Prayerfully think through the situations we are facing, with the “A.I.M.” of our heart centered on living in His presence.

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

This weekend we announced that God in His grace to us and sovereignty over us has given us a “perhaps.”

A perhaps is when God places circumstances before us that seem to align with His promises and purposes, asking us to make faith a verb, and trust Him in a bold way for Kingdom victories.

The most famous “perhaps” in Scripture is when Saul’s son Jonathon squares off with some Philistines, and even though he is badly outnumbered, he initiates a fight on a “perhaps” —

Jonathan said to the attendant who carried his weapons, “Come on, let’s cross over to the garrison of these uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will help us. Nothing can keep the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.” [I Samuel 14:6 HCSB]

The result? A significant victory for Israel explainable only by God’s favor… and His servant Jonathan’s willingness to go bold on a “perhaps.”

Our “perhaps” is to build a second Rock Bridge campus DEBT-FREE! Because of delays in building planning, our BOLD fund balance has grown, and we have some extra reserve cash in our “strategic” opportunities fund. Practically, this means if we have enough cash on hand before construction starts in the next 2-3 months that—by God’s grace—we could perhaps build TWO new ministry platforms without debt!

But we have to act on the “perhaps”…

We need all Rock Bridgers who can to seek the Lord on this and see what each of us can willingly, cheerfully, and sacrificially give to the BOLD Initiative between now and the end of May.

As you consider giving something to BOLD, please

  • Ponder God’s gift of His Son to us. Recognize that Christ is the “indescribable gift” (2 Cor. 9:15). We cannot out give God.
  • Cheerful giving comes as a product of embracing God’s grace to us in Christ and making Christ—not money—our greatest Treasure. We cannot out give God.

May the words of Paul guide your prayers and your inform your giving:

Remember this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. [2 Cor. 9:6-8 HCSB]

 

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

BOLD HALFTIME WEEKEND 2017

I believe that 2017 is a wonderful time to follow Jesus and BE the church.

That statement may sound naive given the political unrest and rise of people citing “none” as their religious affiliation. It may sound ignorant considering our racial divisions, the redefinition of marriage by the Supreme Court, and threats of terrorism that exist in our current reality.

Optimism seems in short supply.

But I think these conditions are ripe with possibilities for the church and for us as Christ-followers. Rather than curse the darkness around us, we can truly light a candle of hope and truth that blesses a burdened world. The world is hungry for a vision that inspires hope instead of fear, and it’s longing for a connection to a great cause and a loving community. And this is exactly the news Jesus told His followers to share, saying, “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The Kingdom from heaven has come near!’” (Matthew 10:7)

This weekend we’re going to share the vision of Rock Bridge Community Church and the “why” of our existence.

This weekend we’ll share why it’s a great time to be alive, be the church, and be sent by Jesus into the world.

This weekend we’ll remind ourselves why God started this church 15 years ago and why our boldest moments are our best moments.

This weekend we’ll celebrate the progress of our BOLD Initiative (it’s halftime!) and, in faith, anticipate that the best is yet to come.

That makes this weekend a great time to attend one of our worship services and bring a guest with you. Who do you know … that needs hope? Is looking for a church home? Is longing for a cause to live for? Bring them to Rock Bridge with you this weekend!

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

One of our prayers at Rock Bridge is to connect 10,000 people to life in Christ: 10,000 people in relationships and environments where they are being discipled to Jesus. We realize that while God gives the growth, He does call us to pray, to discern, and to act in cooperation with His grace and power. Or as the Bible says in Proverbs 21:31,

A horse is prepared for the day of battle, but victory comes from the Lord.

We are preparing the horse for the victories we pray God will bring for His Name. This comprehensive preparation is what we have called the BOLD Initiative. It includes several components.

Ministry Space

Most prominently, it’s the addition and renovation of physical space that will increase our seating capacity. Many of us are giving generously and sacrificially to make this a reality. This is preparing the horse and cooperating with the fact that God wants His church to have victory in disciple-making.

New Campuses

Most notably, it was the launch of our Hixson Campus last fall. Preparations are also underway to begin a worship service in Spanish in Dalton. Additionally, we are seeking to start small groups in Rome to seed a potential campus launch. This is preparing the horse, realizing that God desires Gospel-expansion and Gospel-unity to occur geographically, ethnically, and socioeconomically.

Discipleship

Ultimately, our fundamental mission is to make students of Jesus from all walks of life. Over the past year, we have changed our leadership structure for small groups to be more focused and intentional. This includes moving Alfred Turley from the role of Dalton Campus Pastor to be the Discipleship Pastor for all RBCC. This is preparing the horse for battle, and we are already seeing some fruits of God-given victory. We have 250 more people (or a 14% increase) in small group participation from one year ago!

Evangelism & Outreach

Currently, we are discerning ways to equip more of our church to share their faith, tell their story, and bless people intentionally to showcase Jesus. In the future, we hope to see many Rock Bridgers equipped to be disciples who make disciples. This is preparing the horse because for the Gospel to save, it first has to be seen and shared.

Overall Leadership

Consistently in scripture, we see the importance of adding leadership capacity and creating efficient leadership structures to maximize ministry (see Acts 6:1-7 and Exodus 18). This is why we added Ryan Stigile to our team as our Executive Pastor. Additionally, we have increased our number of elders to ensure we have more shepherds for our people and discerners to help guide our church.

New Dalton Campus Pastor: Recently, our Elders have named Tony Helton to be our new Dalton Campus Pastor. Tony has previously been an elder and a small groups pastor, and currently serves as our Dalton Children’s Minister. After a season of prayer and interviews, the Elders strongly affirm Tony’s heart, gifts, and fit for this role. This move is important because it gives a dedicated champion and leader to the Dalton Campus. For the past year, Matt and a team of pastors have been leading this campus in effect by committee but with no one fully championing and owning the overall health and direction of the Dalton Campus.

We pray these leadership moves will ensure the best possible deployment of our staff and leaders based on the spiritual needs of our people, the leadership needs of our teams, and the gifts God has placed within each of us. Like Acts 13:1-3, the Spirit-directed, strategic positioning of leaders is preparing the horse for battle. However, we admit that without God there can be no victory and trust Him to send it as the Gospel is declared and demonstrated so more disciples—perhaps 10,000—are made.