The launch of the Velvet Steel series was awesome all around. But it was an especially significant weekend for our Billings campus. At 3 months old it is our newest, and it was thrilling to see growth, momentum and salvation. Aaron Gillespie, a great friend of our ministry, came in from Florida to lead worship for the launch. He is a phenomenally gifted musician, but what I love most about him is his heart. He burns so brightly for God that you can’t get near him without being ignited into flames yourself. Partnering with him over the years at O2 experiences and Skull Church events has been a thrill. The team at fresh life Billings is amazing. They are passionate and focused like a laser on reaching their city. Fresh life radio was there broadcasting live and that is always fun. But what really made it an off-the-charts great weekend was that 7 young men responded to the invitation, giving their lives to Christ! In the immortal words of the hokie-pokey–that’s what it’s all about.
We are launching a brand new series this weekend at all fresh life locations and broadcasts. At fresh life Billings we will be joined for the series premiere by Aaron Gillespie! I hope you will bring a friend and join us. You can also send out invites here.
Today it has been five years since fresh life began! If there is one word that encapsulated that day it would be the number 14. It was Sunday, January 14th, the temperature was 14 degrees outside and there were 14 people that came to our first service. It is very special now to look back on the small beginnings of the great things we have seen God do. We have put together a very special film to preserve our history called, The Fresh Life Story. (If you haven’t seen the trailer check out this post!)
It will be played this weekend at all fresh life campuses and online experiences so make sure to catch one of them if you can. I can’t think of any project that has been more difficult and exciting than trying to encapsulate what we have seen God do in these 5 years in Montana in this documentary. I pray God uses it in big ways! If you can’t make it to a fresh life campus or webcast this weekend we will be making it available for purchase in the coming days so stay tuned.
As a fresh life birthday celebration warmup, I thought I’d prime the party with a little video I shot for my blog, with my phone, explaining how and where I made the decision to move to Montana. In case any of you are reading this post during a layover or are killing time with nothing to do…let me just tell you this, God can move in a life and in this world cataclysmically through an hour in an airport. I marvel now when I think back to how much God has accomplished as a result of this hugely pivotal moment that seemed arbitrary at the time.
Paul McCartney was once asked when he knew the writing was on the wall for the Beatles, as a band. He pointed to the summer of 1965 and specifically their sold-out performance at Shea Stadium. Because the screaming of the crowd was was so loud, and there wasn’t such a thing as in-ear monitors to block out noise back then; they could not hear themselves play their set. Paul said that he knew in his gut that it was the beginning of the end when they could no longer hear the music but they kept performing anyway.
I think that is a haunting lesson for anyone who is passionately pursuing any dream. Failure, as trying as it can be, is not the worst thing that can happen to you. Success can actually be worse. This is true in ministry and in business. You can get so big and so successful that as an organization you are no longer lit by the same fire you once had. You have to fight to retain the original passion you had when you were starting out.
There are two things that we have been intentional about doing at fresh life, as we have grown, to keep us on mission and fight the forces of entropy. One is being careful to remember our history. This is vital. New hires and those who join later on need to understand what they are a part of or they will take the sacrifices paid early on for granted. The second is to make sure that the core values that lead to the success in the first place are instilled afresh, again and again, so that they are not forsaken.
A while back a friend of mine, Pastor Steven Furtick from Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, gave me a book that really opened my eyes to seeing the need for these things to be specifically nailed down and not allowed to remain nebulous. The book is called The Orange Code: How ING Direct Succeeded by Being a Rebel with a Cause (you can buy it here). That and the book Onward by Howard Schultz (link) are two phenomenal resources for any leader looking to create clarity in their organizational culture.
One things for sure, it’s a war you must wage if you want to continue to hear the music. It doesn’t happen on accident.
Check out this video where I explain what’s unique about the culture at fresh life to our church.
It’s hard to believe it, but this weekend we will be celebrating five years of fresh life. These sixty months in Big Sky Country have been an incredible journey. We have seen God move in power. And we have been working hard to record our story so we never forget what we have seen and heard.
In the Bible you see a big emphasis on this kind of thing; God’s people being intentional about not forgetting God’s faithfulness. The Israelites were often instructed to set up reminders, usually piles of stones, so that their kids and their grandkids would bump into them and unleash memories of epic things the Lord had done. That is why we have put this film together, so we can tell of His mighty works to another generation. (Psalm 145:4) That’s what this project is to us, it’s sort of our digital pile of rocks.
Simply put, since God has done big things we are making a big deal about them. And I’d love to have you join us as we paint the town red–fresh life red!
This weekend in the Clutch series we looked at the life of Peter. If being clutch is having the ability to perform well under pressure, Peter’s story started out with him being anything but clutch. It seems that every time he came to a crucial crossroads he choked. Whether trying to talk Jesus out of going to the cross, falling asleep during Jesus’ greatest moment of need or literally denying Christ 3x on the same night he swore he would die to defend Him; he proved himself to be a serial choke artist.
In the book of Acts, though, we see a completely different Peter than we witness in the gospels. He is bold instead of just brash, humble, more of a team player and most impressively he learned to keep a cool head when things heated up. Where before he pulled his sword out and chopped off an ear, later on he fearlessly unsheathed the sword of the spirit and 3,000 were saved. Early on he could be unnerved by the smallest servant girl but he went to the grave as fearless as a lion. He had become clutch.
It was a remarkable contrast and a testimony to the reality of the resurrection and the raw power of the Holy Spirit. I think that when these two things are neglected, perhaps more than any thing else, will drain us of the strength, energy and ability that are ours for the taking. If we are not daily emboldened by the wonder of Christ’s power over death and infused with His Spirit we will be sickly and anemic, and our performance will be pitiful.
As I covered Peter 1.0, the Peter we see perpetually stuck in struggle mode, and chronicled his list of failures I intentionally omitted something others might have included. I’m talking about the night where Jesus came to the disciples walking on the sea of Galilee and Peter got out of the boat and then after only a few steps he sank. I’ve heard people make a big deal about his failure to keep his eyes on Jesus and how he could had kept going had he not gotten distracted by the wind and the waves. That’s all true and a worthwhile thing to think about. But I personally don’t classify that episode as a fail. I think it belongs on his highlight reel not his blooper reel.
Yes he might have sunk, but let’s remember, he walked on water! None of the other disciples came close to drowning, but none of them had the guts to get out of the boat either. Ok, so he got in over his head and Jesus had to intervene, but back to my first point, HE WALKED ON WATER. It’s easy to criticize people who try big things because there will always be some amount failure when you are willing to get out of the boat. But a fail is not a fail when you fail taking steps of faith. It’s just par for the course and part of the experience.
Jesus said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” (Luke 5:4)
I love this verse. Jesus tells Peter to go fishing but first he has to push off from the shore. The nets they used wouldn’t work unless the water was deep. You couldn’t use them in shallow waters. The problem with deep water is that it’s unpredictable. Dangerous. Risky. Plus, you could potentially leave the safety of the shore and still come back empty handed. There’s no guarantee. Except this, if you don’t try you are guaranteed to not catch anything new.
That’s how it is in ministry. The shallow end of life is comfortable. It’s warm and cozy. Maintaining the status quo and enjoying the success you have already experienced is intoxicating. But you can’t let your nets down for another catch in the shallow end, you have to launch out into deeper waters. It would be nice if you could know in advance whether it will be fruitful. But it doesn’t work that way. You can either play it safe or potentially catch new fish. You can’t have both. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
These are the sorts of thoughts that flicker across my mind when my head hits the pillow at night. I am addicted to deeper waters. Tormented by tranquility. The thought of life passing by and freshlife having shifted into cruise control and playing it safe while there is a whole world out there to reach causes me to sit up in a cold sweat and panic.
I am so grateful that I get to serve God with a team that is as averse to the shallow end of life as I am. And this weekend it was a joy to watch months and months of intense prayer and effort come to fruition as we launched out into the deep once again and planted freshlife Billings. Believe me when I tell you that opening a campus 8 hours away, (Billings is the same driving distance from us as Seattle is) in a city you have never preached in before, came with more than just a few complications. I’ve never seen our staff or volunteers work harder as they have pursuing this dream of making Jesus famous in Billings.
In addition to the Billings team, the MOB and the support crew from the Whitefish, and the Kalispell campuses that were on hand to help, thirty-seven people attended the opening weekend. That’s more than twice as many as we had when we opened the doors to fresh life for the first time! We also saw someone come to Christ before Sunday morning. The MOB team was out inviting people and as they struck up a conversation with one individual they ended up giving their life to Christ on the spot. Amazing.
As I reflect on the excitement of the launch, the beautiful thing is that this wasn’t a one-off event. We get to do it again next week, and I believe the best is yet to come! There are seats to fill at the Billings West high school and there are people in that city that need Christ. It’s time to let the nets down…
This weekend we are beginning a brand new series at freshlife. It’s called Clutch and I am really excited about it. Join us at one of our locations or online. You can also invite someone to come here
We are following the Lord’s leading and taking steps of faith towards opening the doors of another campus where we can make Jesus famous in Yellowstone County and beyond. Onward!
Today we finally went live with version 3.0 of the freshlife website! It has been in the works for a LONG time. Pretty much since the last version was rolled out. It was a team effort and as always they did a great job. Way to go freshlife creative! It is an honor to partner with you in the gospel.
It is, in my opinion, a major improvement over the old site, but the biggest change you will notice is the teaching archive portal. When you pick a series it loads up the first message in the HD player window and you can see all the different messages below. There is also a brand new feature that will tell you which messages are the most popular based on other people’s clicks. (unfortunately, it’s not retroactive so it is which is the most popular from here on out.) Once people start viewing messages it will be interesting to see what gets watched the most.
I also love the way they have made it super easy to tweet or post a status update about a whole series, or any message you are watching and it will preload your status update with the album artwork as well as the link. The online store is pretty epic too, there is some never-before-sold-online merch available now. (hint–awesome skull church stuff)
Anyhow, check it out. We are praying that God will continue to reach many who are stranded in sin with the life and liberty in Christ through our site. We see people come to Christ online all the time and it is a thrill to fish in such a big pond as the web. Even though we have been bug checking for a long time, feel free to post a comment if you find a glitch. You can also leave a comment on this post and tell the creative team how awesome they are. It’ll make their day.