In-vite to Re-vite!


Invitation. Revitalization.

Those two words have the same root: vite. It’s Latin for life (think: vital, vitality, vitamins, etc.)

When you invite someone to something you’re asking them either to enter into the 'life’ of something or to allow ‘life’ to enter something. When you revitalize something you’re basically re-life-ing it—that is, putting life back into it.

Let’s face it, the numbers aren’t encouraging. Somewhere north of 85% of all churches are either plateaued or declining. In an American context we also know that a good number of the 15% of churches that are growing are doing so off of the losses of the 80+%, not because they’re necessarily reaching lost people.

Churches need help. My church needs help!

One of the great benefits of Southern Baptist partnership is the availability of outside eyes. What I mean is that within an associational and state convention structure, we can invite like-minded/like-hearted lovers of the Church of Jesus Christ to come help us look at our church—to see it in ways we haven’t seen it in a while, to notice things we no longer notice, both inside and outside of the church. No matter how well-staffed or structured, every church at times needs the blessing of an outsider’s perspective.

One of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio’s main objectives is to help in the area of church revitalization. Essentially, the SCBO is extending an invite to revite! And I am so grateful that our state staff have structured this process to begin with a renewed emphasis on prayer. Unless churches are committed to seeking the Lord’s will through united, consecrated prayer, any changes that are made will amount to very little in terms of spiritual awakening and regained missional momentum. Do we really think a church’s gospel effectiveness boils down to a new coat of paint, or do we want to get under the hood and get at the real issues?

It’s a humbling thing to admit as your associational leader that the church I shepherd is in need of revitalization. But on the other hand, I consider it a gift from God and an opportunity for Bridge Church and me as a pastor to face hard questions and tough answers about where we are, how we got here, and what we need to change in order to exhibit once again a life-giving balance of upward desperation for God, inward care for one another, and outward focus on the unreached going forward. Perhaps the Lord will use us/me as an example and encouragement to others across our network in need of the same?

This past Sunday at Bridge we began to answer the invitation to revitalization by utilizing the “Praying with Jesus: 40-Days Toward Revitalization Prayer Guide” provided by the SCBO for FREE as well as the companion 8-week sermon series. Simply click on the title in the preceding sentence to order your copies today! Even though I know it won’t be entirely painless for me or our church, and even though I don’t know what the end result will be, I am hopeful and excited for this journey.

Would you consider leading your church onto the road to revitalization? Prayer guides in any number will be sent to you FREE of charge for your congregation. Your SCBO team stands ready to engage with you in prayer and serious conversations about your church. I am also eager to come alongside you as a local coach and encourager, and I’m happy to share with you what God is doing in my own church/ministry setting as well as other churches across greater Cleveland.

Grace Upon Grace

"As he was passing by, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”


“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” Jesus answered. “This came about so that God’s works might be displayed in him."

Have you been in a place of prolonged discomfort or discouragement? Sometimes there are things we can do to improve the situation; sometimes (as in the case of the blind man) there aren't. For religious people, it's natural to assume like the disciples did that every instance of suffering is owing to some particular sin. In one sense, that's true. Suffering is part of God's curse upon all mankind for Adam and Eve's rebellion in the Garden of Eden. But there isn't always a 1-to-1 correlation between specific suffering and a specific sin in an individual's life. As Christians, we must always return to the fact that to even be permitted to live in a world where suffering is present is a grace of God we don't deserve. If we got what we deserved, we would be infinitely worse off than than even the most grievous earthly suffering imaginable.

The point is that there's a point! There's a point to your suffering, your discomfort, your discouragement as a Christian. The point is that suffering is an occasion for the works of God to be displayed. As a Christian, to want a trouble free life is to want a life that's also void of the mighty working of God, who delights to demonstrate His grace's sufficiency in our weakness, in our weariness, in our woundedness.

The blind man received his sight, but that wasn't the end of his suffering. The controversy of his healing by Jesus opened up all new areas of discouragement and distress--perhaps even worse than when he was blind--as his faith in Jesus made him a a target of ridicule and Pharisaic intimidation and even estranged him from his parents.

May God in His mighty working demonstrate his grace to us in easing our present discomforts and discouragements. But, as the process of sanctification unfolds, John's words in John 1:16 remind us that the grace we receive for today's troubles will need to be replaced (and surpassed) by new grace for tomorrow's.

"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. 9:8 CSB)


I recall lots of August days like these when dad and I would head to the creek to fish. One of my favorite parts of those trips was getting the bait. I'm not talking about stopping at a gas station for a styrofoam cup of worms (though we did that sometimes); I'm talking about minnows. The times we bought minnows at bait shops they weren't much good; coming from a darkened, overcrowded tank many of them would be floating upside down in the bucket well before we were in the boat and ready to put one on a hook.


Typically we got our minnows from the very creek we were going to fish. But you couldn't catch them by hand; they were way too fast for that. We used a net called a seine (pronounced "sane"), stretched between two poles and dragged upright across a shallow part of the creek where little fish like to gather. I say "we" because it took both of us. If we ever ran out of minnows, we could always pull the canoe over and refill our buckets using the seine and a little teamwork.

Those times and memories bring to mind the way Jesus' disciples caught fish. There are lots of reasons Jesus came into the world precisely when He did. I'm convinced one of those reasons was so He could maximize the method (and metaphor) of net fishing to illustrate the work of His disciples going forward into every generation. "Fishers of men" in Jesus' mind (and to His disciples) would not have been a picture of a lone bait caster standing on a bass boat or fly fishermen wading a Montana stream but of teams of sweaty, straining laborers working together to secure a catch—in a net.

In the economy of Galilee, there was no doubt some level of competition for fish. But a large enough catch simply couldn’t be managed by one boat or crew. Others had to join in if the boat was to be kept from capsizing, the fishermen from being pulled overboard, the net from being shredded, and the catch from being lost.

That's how I want to see Cleveland Hope churches reach our city and region for Christ. Let us pray for the Spirit of Christ to so prepare a catch of souls for the kingdom that we cannot even fathom it, much less manage it on our own as lone pastors or as individual churches. In your efforts you may feel the fatigue and disappointment of what appears to be fruitless toil. The first disciples knew that. What a prelude to the harvest of Pentecost was that miraculous morning catch a few weeks earlier when the resurrected Jesus showed up and told the weary workers to try again on the other side of the boat!

Laboring together as a net-worked body of disciples and churches cooperating (and not competing) in the same effort, sweating, assisting, aiding, celebrating, and going back for more… That’s the kind of association I envision. Not just dollars, but tangible deeds of partnership!

Pray with me for hearts willing to heed the Master’s call to go back and try again, especially when we’re frustrated. Pray with me for hands ready to grab the net and pull alongside each other as partners in the gospel.


Select one nearby Cleveland Hope church and pastor, and then pray for them in your worship service this Sunday. Consider having your members sign a greeting card letting that church and pastor know you prayed for them. Put it in the mail Monday morning and remind your folks to pray for that church & pastor all week long.

A Passerby Compelled


The brief account of Simon of Cyrene has always fascinated me. If a gospel writer like Mark were simply recounting for future audiences the events of Jesus’ death, a brief note about Jesus’ stumbling and struggling under the weight of the cross and the Romans forcing a random man from the crowd to help Him would suffice. But the man has a name! And, what’s more, he has two sons who are named!

Who knows what transpired in those moments between Jesus and Simon besides the very practical, grueling matter of getting the cross up Calvary’s hill so Jesus could at last be nailed to it and die. We don’t know all the specifics, but apparently something more happened for Simon than just another bullied inconvenience by the Romans. Did Jesus speak to Simon? Did He invite the visiting Cyrenian to personally trust in what He was about to do?

Whether they were there watching and had to follow along as their dad helped the struggling Galilean or only heard about it that night at supper, Rufus and Alexander appear to have been changed as well. You see it’s them, not their father, whom Mark holds up as the eyewitnesses—whom the evangelist sites as reliable, trustworthy sources for the facts of Jesus’ death. All indications are that by the time Mark wrote his Gospel, Simon of Cyrene was no longer living but both of his sons were.

Simon may at first have been supremely annoyed at the imposition of carrying a condemned man’s cross, of being publicly identified with another’s guilt; he may have been irritated at the Roman bullies for threatening him if he didn’t comply with their order; or he may have been sympathetic and somewhat willing to lend a hand to yet another Jew being mistreated and made a spectacle of by the brutal imperialists. Whatever his attitude toward the encounter at first, he raised two sons who eventually are named as trusted testifiers to Jesus. One of them, Rufus, was very likely the one to whom Paul sends greetings in Romans 16:13, along with greetings to his mother (likely Simon’s widow). Paul says to “salute” them!

May we be like Simon! May it be that our momentary help in advancing the cross of Christ in this world—though a bloody, burdensome business—will have a generational impact. May it be that we each in identifying with the shame and the brutal beauty of our Savior’s death, in our words and way of life, leave in our wake still more trusted witnesses, those whom all the saints will one day salute for their faithful testimonies!

Take Heart


"Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid."

-Matthew 14:27

It's hard to imagine a more vulnerable, compromised position than being stuck in a small watercraft on Lake Erie a few miles from shore in the middle of a storm. Well, that's where the disciples were (not on Lake Erie of course, but on Lake Galilee). All around the disciples was a surging sea; all within the disciples was dread of certain death; and all that was beneath them was a creaking fishing boat. But then a vision, followed by a voice…

Lest the disciples (most of whom were familiar with boats and windstorms) be overconfident in their instincts and seafaring abilities, Jesus granted them the grace of desperation. He still grants His disciples this grace today—though not always with the exact same circumstances! He doesn’t need a fishing boat and a cyclonic storm to make us desperate. He can use sickness, staff tensions at church, sin and strife within our congregations, or problems on the home front, money concerns, marital crisis, parenting burdens.

What fearful “storm” is destabilizing your feet and your spirit today? What is making you desperate? Look. Not with the eyes of the head but with the eyes of the heart see your Savior coming to your aid with the crashing sea of your circumstances under His feet. Listen. Not with distracted ears of flesh but with Spirit-tuned ears hear His voice calling out: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

Don’t let your heart be troubled or bitter because Jesus isn’t in the boat with you. Let your heart be comforted that He has already overcome that which is currently rocking your world. Desperation isn’t a bad thing. Things that make us desperate may be bad things, but desperation itself is good. The question is what we’ll do with it. To whom will we look and listen when every other anchor gives way, the sails of life are ripped from the mast, and the oars are busted and floating away?