Healthy Church

Better Together

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Family Devotional 8-6-17 AdultsFamily Devotional 8-6-17 Kids

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Adult & Teen Discussion Guide

1. Bible Verse

“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12, NLT) 

2. Application

We are better together!

The scriptures teach that we are not intended to go through life by ourselves, but rather God intends that we would be a part of a community of faith.

One of the primary purposes of this community of faith is DISCIPLESHIP!

Discipleship is the passing on of biblical truths from one generation of believers to another.


3. Discussion

How is discipleship accomplished?

“You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.” (2 Timothy 2:2, NLT) 

Discuss with your family or friends how important friendship based 

relationships are to the advancement of the Kingdom of God.

Q. How strategic are you about using your relationships for encouraging others in the things of the Lord?

4. Prayer Focus

Lord, reveal to me how I can be a part of friendship/interest based groups and through the relationships built, move people closer to you.

Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

1. Power Verse

“Forgiving Others”

Matthew 6:14  “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.” 

Forgiving someone for stepping on your toe may be easy, but what about someone who really hurts your feelings?  Jesus taught us that we must forgive EVERYONE in order to be forgiven.  This is an important lesson for our children to learn as they begin to face people who may be difficult to forgive.

2. The Word


Read:  Matthew 18:21-35

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’  The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’  “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.  “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.  “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”


3. Discussion 

Q. How many times did Jesus say we should forgive someone?  What lesson do we learn from the servant in this story Jesus told? 

Q. What was Jesus’ final statement in verse 35?

Q. Do you think it is fair that you should have to forgive people who have hurt you?

Jesus was teaching his disciples and others that we must forgive others, not once but over and over again.  Forgiveness is not an option.  If we want Jesus to forgive us, we have to forgive others who have hurt us. 

4. Prayer Focus

Sometimes, forgiving people who have hurt us isn’t easy.  Jesus isn’t saying forget what they have done to you, but He is saying forgive them.  Forgiveness is possible because Jesus has forgiveness us.  He can help us to forgive others who have hurt us.  Ask if anyone in your family has someone they need to forgive.   Pray together that God will help you forgive others.

We are One

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Unity isn’t a destination- it’s a constant effort, pushing back against the divisive forces in the world around us. 

If you are having trouble reading it, here is the family-devotional-11-20-16 pdf download.

We want to invite you to join this home discipleship program designed to facilitate Bible reading, discussion, and prayer.

There are two pages in the Family Discipleship Guide.  One page is for teen & adult discussion and the other is for kids.

  1. Choose the discipleship outline that works for you and/or your family.
  2. Sit down and read through the scriptures and questions each week and then take some time to discuss your thoughts.
  3. Later in the week we ask that you take time to pray for each other and for specific needs.
  4. Text DISCIPLE to 24587 after each prayer and discussion time or comment below so that we can celebrate with you, who are deepening your knowledge.

As always, please feel free to ask questions.

Who’s Report Will You Believe?

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I’m not sure how many of you frequent Facebook but I would guess that many of you do.  One of the things that most often frustrates me about the postings there are the ones that sound something like…. “Ten reasons why youth are leaving your church”, or “Why everybody hates church music,” or “64 reasons American Churches are Dying.”  I just don’t get it!  First, what makes the people who write these things experts on the church in America, and how were they able to sample a sufficient number of churches to make such all-inclusive remarks?  No one has ever visited our church to assess its health and I’ve never gotten a call asking me about how our youth or music ministry is going.

In truth, this feels more like an attempt to shape the narrative in our country in regard to the church.  Surely we’ve learned by now that one of the ploys of those opposed to a thing is to simply begin reporting on it’s demise and before long people believe it’s dead and actual death soon follows.  My personal experience today is that the truth is far from these reports.

I’ve got many pastor friends that are reporting great advancement of their churches.  Here at Abundant Life we are experiencing growth and advancement across the board and we are expecting more and more.  Walls that have kept people apart for generations are being torn down and in almost every area of ministry we are experiencing an abundance of life!  You can feel that what historically has been called revival is coming to the river bend and young and old alike are drawing closer and closer to God.  We’re coming off of one of our greatest financial years in the history of the church and we are touching not only our region but all over the world!

In short… Who’s report will you believe?  Those who would report the church’s demise are simply not telling the truth or any semblance of the truth.  God is growing his church and just as always… Nothing will prevail against it!



Tending Sheep

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We’ll today we come to the last chapter of John  and the last day of our prayer and fasting.  By the time you read this, I and the team will be in Panama.  I’ll continue to blog from there but there will be some gaps because we will be in areas where I won’t be able to get anything out.  Here in chapter twenty one is a section of scripture that the Lord used several years ago to teach me a powerful truth about the church.

Let me set the stage.  In the church world today there are those who are doing a style of church designed to target a specific age group.  When asked about what they are doing and why, I have heard them say many times that their church, “isn’t for everyone” or that they are only going after the young.

Can I be so bold as to say that I don’t agree with this thinking?  I honestly don’t believe that this is the sort of thing that Jesus intended in the scriptures, because of something in this chapter.  Notice with me, verses fifteen through seventeen.

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”  “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”  16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”  17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

What I want you to notice is the fact that Jesus changes something each of the three times he questions Peter.  The first time Jesus mentions “feeding” his lambs.  The second time he mentions “taking care” of his sheep.  The third time Jesus tells Peter to “feed his sheep”.  What do I think is significant here?  The church is made up of both lambs and sheep, young and old; and we ministers are to both care for and feed those people.

My firm conviction is that every local congregation can only be healthy if it has the whole range of both physical and spiritual ages.  There is great strength when you combine the wisdom of age with the energy of youth.  We are often called the “body” of Christ.  We are literally his hands and feet in this world. As such we need the variety and diversity that is lost if we become any single group.  Like a family, I believe that we were intended by God to exist together with young and old loving and blessing each other.

I don’t mind bragging on the church that I pastor. Abundant Life Community Church in Alton and Wood River are the best example of this that I have ever found. It’s a place where lambs and sheep worship, serve, grow, and live together.  We don’t struggle over styles of decor or music.  Rather, there is a culture of missions and purpose and a divine sense of God’s calling upon us to reach the world.  It’s an incredible place to serve!  Why?  Because it’s a great flock of sheep!


Zero Growth

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zero growth

Did you know that there is a movement dedicated to “zero growth” here on planet earth?  Those involved in this movement are concerned about slowing the population growth so as to ease the increasing demand upon our earth’s resources.

There are also those who are concerned about a “zero growth” state existing in our nations economy by the year 2050. There are several websites dedicated to examining the extreme impact on our nation should we remain in a zero economic growth state for a prolonged period of time.

There are many other areas in which “zero growth” is of great concern to people, and yet within the body of Christ we seem to have adjusted pretty quickly to zero growth. We’ve adjusted both personally as well as corporately. In fact we’ve adjusted so well that those who are vocal advocates for mandated growth can seem a little out of sync with the mainstream.

Have you ever wondered what the Lord thinks the normative state of the church should be in reference to growth?

I don’t think you have to look very far into the scriptures to have an absolute understanding of what he expects of the church.  There are dozens and dozens or perhaps even hundreds of examples of the Lord’s expectation that the church corporately as well as individually will be growing constantly.

Consider the parable of the talents in Matthew 25 where the master expects an increase in his investment or John 15:5 where we are to bear “much fruit”.  Over and over in sections of scripture we see that we both individually and corporately are to be growing.  The scriptures are full of stories using planting, pruning, tilling, cultivating, and reaping all of which infer moving forward in growth and an ever -increasing harvest.  When did we become all right with zero growth?

I’ve heard people celebrate a lack of decline and the maintaining of their church’s relative size from year to year.  When did just keeping people become our goal?  That sounds remarkably like the servant who took the masters talent, buried it in the ground, then returned it to him just as he received it from him.  That is not who we are called to be!  We are called to grow, change, and become more for the Kingdom.  We pray, fast, preach, work, give, sacrifice, forgive, and serve so that there will be an increase for the Kingdom!  Our normative state is growth!  Our master expects growth!  As leaders we find spiritual, creative, and wise ways to remove the obstacles of growth and then we lead growth.  Nobody has to lead decline or death, those happen all by themselves.

We are expected to grow!

I have asked the Lord to break my heart in any area personally or professionally where I am comfortable with zero growth.  I want him to stretch my physically, spiritually, financially, and emotionally so that I am growing in every area.  I believe as I incorporate these into my own life they will affect the world around me.

I’m committed to grow!  How about you?

Renovations… Coming Soon!

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Check out all of the Plans here!

Awesome!  Wonderful!  Amazing!  Wow!

These are the kinds of words that come to mind when I reflect on the growth of ALCC over these past 32 months.  In fact we have doubled our Sunday Morning Worship!  While these are wonderful things, they do come with their own set of challenges.  Even with the addition of another Sunday morning worship service we are still out of room in some very critical areas.  Most pressing is our need for additional children’s space as well as bathrooms and common areas.

With this in mind we are beginning our fundraising for an expansion of our children’s areas, our bathrooms, as well as creating overflow room for our sanctuary.

The initial estimate from our architect was 2.3 million dollars but through much prayer, brainstorming, and commitments from many of you to volunteer labor, skills, and time we have cut that figure all the way down to $600,000!  On top of all of that, we have committed to doing everything we can to maintain the church’s debt-free position and we believe that we will raise the entirety of the $600,000!  Wow, all of that is exciting!

Over the next few months there will be many, many messes, long days and short nights for many of us, but together we are about to accomplish something truly remarkable.  Having been in this position on several occasions before, I can tell you that nothing brings a group of people closer than a common vision and working together to make that vision reality.  While my body is not looking forward to the next few months, my spirit is!

Please consider being a part of this work.  There will be something for everyone.  We will need people to demolish existing structure, cook, clean, set up, and tear down.  We will need carpenters, electricians, plumbers, painters, drivers, laborers, and a host of other jobs.  There’s something for you!  If you want to meet people and get involved here’s your chance.

When we are done our momentum will increase even more.  Our growth will not only continue but the rate will increase!  More new faces will appear weekly and people will be saved every week!  I’m believing for all of that and you can make it happen.

I know I can count on you!


Making Life Better

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I wanted to take a few moments this morning to encourage all of you in reference to the growth of our church.  Two and a half years ago we were averaging somewhere around 300 people on a Sunday morning.  This past Sunday we had 510 and we are regularly at that number and above!  To what do we credit that growth?  Well certainly the Lord is blessing us but let me tell you what I know is causing us to grow.

It’s YOU!

Your involvement, support and attitude is making ALCC an infectious place that people want to be a part of.  ALCC is unlike any church I have ever been associated with.  When you walk in you can feel the excitement, joy, and love.

On a regular basis I speak with those who are new to our church and I routinely ask them what it is that made them become a part.  It is almost, without exception, that one of the things at the top of their list is the atmosphere that you create.  People love the warmth, friendship, and joy that they see on your faces and that coupled with God’s presence is an unbeatable combination.

Psalm 133 speaks of this sort of atmosphere when it says…

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

When people dwell together in unity there is a life-giving anointing that results.  Working together literally has an anointing on it that pours life into people!  That’s what’s going on at ALCC.  People who are tired, broken, and hurting walk onto this property and perhaps unknown to them, they come in contact with God’s life-giving anointing that they were made to be recharged by.  As a result, they leave here happier, stronger, and better prepared to face life.  We literally “Made Life Better”.  You do that every time you put a smile on your face, extend a hand of friendship, forgive someone, support the church financially, and speak well of the ministries and people of ALCC.  Unity produces LIFE!

It is a great blessing to be the pastor at Abundant Life Community Church and I face every day excited about what God is doing through the ministries of our church.  It is my sincere prayer that the remaining years of our ministry will be spent here with you.

Keep up the great work!