Tuesday, March 31, 2009

It belongs here!

We used to run our church food pantry out of an adjacent building here at SGC. It seemed like the thing to do at the time. For a number of reasons we decided to move it to our main building...that's right the church building. I remember back in the day when everyone freaked out about "coffee in the sanctuary" because we you don't such things in God's house. That all seems so nonsensical now. Not the idea of taking care of what you have, but this notion that the church building is the holy of holies all by itself. We should have had our food pantry here from the beginning so people can make the connection that a church is more than a prayer palace, but a distribution center for life's basic needs as well. The food pantry belongs here! It makes me happy when I meet someone right outside my office who is benefitting from the generosity of God's people and a church with open arms.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Still the One!

My Mom and Dad's 54th wedding anniversary was yesterday, March 25th. The only problem is my dad has been gone since October of 1987. That's when he passed away. But my mom still holds anniversary day every bit as strong as she held my dad during their 32 years of marriage. She still dreams about him 22 years later then wakes up alone...day after day. There's a part of me that wishes she would quit holding him during her dreams so she wouldn't be so lonely when she awakes, but just yesterday it dawned on me. Maybe the dreams are a gift. Maybe she is better off with the memory of a faithful man than to take the chance on a 'live' one. Maybe the bond of marriage is stronger than we all thought. Maybe there's a depth of intimacy that only happens under these conditions. I know she would rather have my dad in the flesh than in her dreams only, but at least he lives on. At least she still 'makes contact' even if she can't really be awake with him. Yeah, I'm pretty sure the dreams are a gift and not some cruel joke. Keep dreaming, Mom.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tweets with Benefits

I just got an invitation from the author, Kary Oberbrunner, of a new book called The Fine Line to receive the free audio version. I was able to download the entire audio book which is great for a change of pace in the car or even at the gym. This type of viral marketing is sweeping every industry it seems, and it is a terrific way to "get stuff" if you have a quick trigger. I just tried to click on the offer a few hours after I took the steps to get the freebie and it is already gone. there must be a whole bunch of cheap pastors and church leaders out there like me. How did I find out, you ask? Twitter! You can follow the daily life updates of interesting people like Kary and others there. Check it out and get in on the benefits like me.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

What's on your mind these days?

Bill Howell is the primary leader of NLI (Next Level International) and splits time between his office in England, the rest of Eastern Europe and his home in South Bend. Bill Pastored SGC (then Calvary Temple) from '89-'04. He and Linda are about to be grandparents and are still roaming the planet. Recently I asked Bill what the focal point of his thoughts and plans are currently.

His response....Environmental Engineering, that is creating an atmosphere and opportunity for others to use the gifts and express the passion of God in their lives. I used to think it was my responsibility to (try to) be an expert in every field. As I am moving forward I have realized that I'm surrounded by some amazing people, a great team. They are full of creativity, insight and wisdom. As a culture where they can flourish grows, we all win.

I am engaged with a great team of people working to see significant cultural transformation in Europe. Our method is to train leaders, help plant relevant churches and mobilize teams of people into missions. Since January 2008 I have been functioning as the primary leader. I stay in a constant need to grow, learn and depend upon the Lord.

Bill and I get coffee from time to time and I can say it is exciting to see him in his element impacting leaders in remote places where the gospel message has been repressed for many years. Bill and Linda will be around SGC in May. She will be leading the Emerge Women's Conference, and he will be our guest speaker on Sunday May 3rd.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Every organization has them. Every church has them. Every family has pioneers...simply, the ones who went before us and cleared out the proverbial terrain. Bill Howell was the pastor of SGC (then Calvary Temple) from July 1989 until March 2004 along with his wife, Linda. That's a long haul. I served with Bill for 14 of those years as the youth pastor. Good times. I remember we were very aware of the 'pioneering' nature of the work we were doing back then. I recently asked Bill some questions about his tenure.
Q. What were some of the highlights for you during your pastorate here?
When we began the journey into the issues and opportunities surrounding racial reconciliation, I felt we were expressing the best of the people and ministry of Calvary Temple. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the early 1900's broke down the barriers between people, economic, gender and color. As the people of God when we choose against division, we embrace the best of the working of the Spirit.
Q. What makes this church unique?
Passion for broken people, whether locally or globally. Scripture says that "from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." I have always seen this church as generous with itself and its resources toward others.

More to come from Bill Howell...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Covenant with My Mouth

Whenever I fixate or focus on something, I begin to buffer most everything through that idea. Since we've been on this series about the power of words I have been much more aware of my attitudes in communication and my tendency to use words for not-so-noble purposes. I mean even when I am alone in the car, I have caught myself thinking about the 'little stuff' that no one will ever hear. "You knucklehead!"...to the lady cutting across the Meijer parking lot. Harmless? Maybe not 'serious,' but not harmless. Negative words affect my attitude and my outlook, so the more frustration wins the moment the more it wins my day, I find. I am really trying to check my tendencies to needlessly criticize and gossip about people. It's tougher than I thought. I am more outta-control than I thought. Humbling. So here is a little covenant I came up with that we will be using as we celebrate communion tomorrow at SGC.

Concerning Praise: I will bless the Lord at all times! His praise will continually be in my mouth!
Concerning Foundation: I will build my life on the Rock who is Jesus and on his word. His word is a lamp unto my feet and light unto my way.
Concerning Mission: Therefore I will carry that light into the world as I demonstrate his word in my life and relationships.
Concerning my Words: I will use my words to build up my earthly family and my spiritual family. I will make it my business to encourage the people in my world.
Concerning Unity: I will not tear down that which God is committed to build. I will make every effort to stay united in the Holy Spirit, binding myself with others in peace.
Concerning Maturity: I will allow myself to be corrected by the Holy Spirit and by those He uses in my life. I understand that I can disagree with my friend and still be unified.
Concerning Discipline: I will show restraint with my mouth when necessary and bless others generously with my words and actions. I accept the responsibility of being the gatekeeper of my mouth and my ears knowing you will help me, Lord.
Concerning Alignment: I will increasingly embrace and activate the mind of Christ in my speech and actions. I will speak with sincerity and kindness.
Concerning Division: I will be certain to abstain from listening to harsh talk and gossip about others…even if what is said may be true. News about others is like cheap candy that I refuse to eat. Therefore I will be careful to protect the unity of faith in my verbal and non-verbal communication.
Concerning Grace: I will give grace to those who are learning wisdom and restraint with their words, and allow You, Lord to deal with their hearts.
Concerning Stumbling: I acknowledge the temptation to speak about others is strong, but I hereby refuse to gossip; even though I may feel as If I have the right and the strange responsibility to do so. I choose to be a building block and not a stumbling block in this family of faith.

May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14 (NLT)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Batting Stances: Orioles

Hey baseball fans, this guy is amazing! Go to his website to see if he's representing your team or favorite player. Here's a peak at the best of my Baltimore Orioles past and present.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Fancy Sign

When we changed our church name to Southgate Church, we bought a much-needed sign. It's quite cool (especially when you compare it to our building), but what do you communicate on it day after day? We have a cool motto: Love God. Love People. Love Life. That is up there. We have a pretty snazzy website address that is also up there, but, seriously what do you say that every other church isn't saying already. Frankly I detest the typical, berating, condescending, cheezy messages that are way too frequently used. So, I tweeted a message and asked some friends on Facebook what they thought the sign should say. If you're my friend on Facebook you will be able to see these responses which are too many to list here. I finally settled on a suggestion from my friend Sam Barrington, who pastors Living Stones Church right around the corner from SGC. He suggested we use our snazzy, new sign to promote his church (tongue-in-cheek, of course), so we did. If you click here you can see what it says right now, Wednesday March 11, 2009. I thought to myself, what a great idea, Sam! When most churches are discreetly and, sometimes, shamefully competing for attenders, why not make it plain that we are not all like that? I totally believe in the ministry Living Stones is doing in our city and in our south side neighborhood. Let's take a few days off of self promotion and tell about some other great churches in our extended community of faith. I have a few ideas of some other churches we can brag on....then we can get back to "God answers Knee Mail!"....eeuw, I just threw up in my mouth.

This Week @ SGC


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Atheist Comedian

What do you think about this story from an atheist comedian?

So, What is Pastor Lebsack doing now?

Since I retired from senior pastoring in January of 2006 I began a new ministry coaching pastors. I have always enjoyed mentoring the ministers on my staff and felt I could continue helping pastors through coaching. It has been a very rewarding experience seeing these men grow and develop and use the gifts God has given them to grow His Kingdom. I meet with a pastor personally, by phone and by email. I also enjoy doing Staff Retreats and Leadership Seminars on relevant topics. My website is www.coachingpastor.com

Lee Lebsack served as the senior pastor at Calvary Temple (now SGC) from 1977-1989.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Leaders we Loved!

Actually, we still love them. Meet Lee Lebsack (with wife Sharon in this recent photo) SGC has a rich 80-year history with great leaders at the wheel. Lee is one of those leaders that served this church family, and was my first pastor. He was a very directed, focused man with a passion for building the church. I recently asked him a few questions about his time in South Bend. In the next few days I will share some more of what he said.

Q: In your mind, what is unique about SGC? (formerly Calvary Temple)
The uniqueness to this day is generations that have stayed in the church . It is not unusual for 4 generations to be attending church together. During my 12 years (as senior pastor), we were in a time of charismatic renewal, which had touched the Catholic Church and Community. One of our elders, Ray Bullard, was very influential in the Notre Dame, Catholic Charismatic renewal. We started seeing Catholic men and women coming to the alter with their rosaries. Soon they learned to pray to God through Jesus.

Q: What highlights do you recall?
My vision along with the leadership, was to develop this congregation into a family church. When we first came we had 250 in worship service. Within a few years, we saw results in children, youth & adult ministry. We had to remodel the balcony to have room for the adults in the worship service.

Pastor Lebsack served in South Bend from 1977 to 1989.