Author Archives:

Bryan Koch

Organize or Agonize

January comes around every year, and every year it’s considered a time to reset personal priorities and take time to figure out what we’re going to do in the new year. The same holds true for your church. Coming out of the busy time of the Christmas season, it’s important to take time to get organized for the upcoming year. One of my personal axioms is “Organize or agonize,” and it’s true both personally and in our ministries. Proverbs 21:5 (NLT) says, “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” GT takes that to heart when it comes to planning our services.

 

BIG ROCK

At GT, we have a long-range planning meeting in January and August, that we call “Big Rock.” We invite a wide range of teams to attend this meeting from family ministry to creative arts to the teaching team. Even when GT was a much smaller church, we would do this. If you don’t have staff teams, you could include high-level volunteers and ministry leadership you do have. We look at the upcoming year, brainstorm and plan for the next 6-9 months. This includes looking at what’s happening on the church calendar as well as in the community. We want to make sure that baptism and communion Sundays have a strong tie to the message on those days. We look at when we’re having our First Responders service or our Veterans Day service. We break into small groups and brainstorm sermon series topics without getting bogged down in the details of titles and schedules.

 

BOTTOM LINE

The details get worked out in a meeting that we call “Bottom Line,” which meets most Monday mornings throughout the year. This is still considered a long-range planning meeting since we try to stay a couple of months ahead of the current sermon series. This is where we figure out exact texts, titles, and the one important thing we want people to take away from the message or the “Bottom Line.” This is a smaller group of people who are responsible for communicating the messages. Once a month a larger team gets together for a Service Planning meeting to review service orders, upcoming events, special happenings, and other important info for the upcoming month.

 

SPIRIT LED

After reading about all of these meetings, you may think that our services seem so planned out that there’s no room for the Holy Spirit, but that’s not the case. We come into these meetings seeking the Spirit’s guidance and often have a time of prayer or worship prior to starting the meetings. And although we certainly do plan out how we expect our services to go, we are always open to the moving of the Spirit and have made changes on the fly when we’ve felt that prompting.

 

One of our values at GT is “We give God our best because He gave us His.” Part of giving our best involves planning so that we can make every component of a guest’s experience as excellent as possible, providing a reflection of how great God is. Planning and preparation allows us to be flexible when needed and communicate as effectively as possible.

2 Timothy 2:15 (NLT) says, “Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval.
Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.”

How will you start off 2019? Will you organize or agonize this year?

One Team, One Vision

Imagine a baseball team where the players don’t share a unified vision of winning games. They don’t listen to the coach and each individual thinks he knows best what will win the game. That’s probably not going to be the best strategy. A strong, successful team is a team with one unified vision, and the coach is the one who needs to inspire the players to share that vision. Church leaders often function in a coaching role for the staff and volunteers that they lead by inspiring a shared vision that keeps everyone working together in the same direction. If a clear vision isn’t articulated, you will find that there can be many visions often competing for time, energy and attention.

In order to inspire a shared vision, there are two critical components – inspiration and vision. To inspire means to guide or affect by divine influence, to fill someone with the urge or ability to do or feel something, to breathe into. I pray that as leaders, we are being inspired by the Holy Spirit on a daily basis. We also need to be inspiring others and there are several ways that we can do that:

Through our words: the words of a leader are powerful, whether for good or bad.

Through our stories: getting to know each other.

Through our attitude and enthusiasm: this applies to all
personality types; even quieter people can be inspiring.

Through our actions: people will watch what you do more than listen to what you say.

Vision is the ability to think about or plan the future with wisdom, a mental image of what the future will or could be like. We need to be seeking God’s wisdom and allow Him to direct our plans and thoughts when it comes to the future of our churches. But even if you have the greatest of visions for your church, you won’t get too far if you aren’t clearly casting that vision to those you lead. Casting vision is a lot like fishing. You have to watch that the line doesn’t get tangled when you cast; you have to have clear and straightforward communication when sharing vision with people. You also have to do it over and over again. Vision leaks over time and people need to be reminded of the future they are working towards. Even if you think you’re over-communicating, do it more!

We also need to make sure that the vision we are casting is an inspiring one. What makes an inspiring vision? It should paint an exciting and clear picture of the future, compel and motivate people to get on board, move people to action, engage the heart, tell the story of impact, and be forward looking with a sense of direction. Most importantly, it needs to be based on
the Bible.

Habakkuk 2:2-3 says, “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.” The Lord also used tablets for sharing the Ten Commandments – clear communication that shared the vision He had for His people. To truly be one team, we need to have one vision, clearly communicated and inspiring us to action.

UNITY: Dare to Dream Big Together

What I want to write about to you today is something that God desperately desires for
his people…
UNITY.

There are two things that the enemy fears and works day and night to undo. He wants to fight against our dreams and the dreams we dare to fulfill together!

It is something which Jesus himself prayed for just before He went to the cross. John 17:20-21 says, “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.  I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.”

Unity is the one thing that the Bible says will convince people the church has something the world does not. It is one of the big things that the Holy Spirit is meant to accomplish.

When I speak of unity, let me say it straight that I’m not talking about:

Union: when you are bonded with someone with whom you may not have a common bond.

Uniformity: when everyone looks alike and thinks alike.

Unanimity: where everybody ought to always agree on everything.

I don’t expect either uniformity nor unanimity to exist in our church.
But what I do want, what God desires and what we must have, is unity!
By unity, I mean a oneness of heart, a similarity of purpose, and
an agreement on truth.
This is how I believe the church needs to
“Dare to Dream Big Together!”

The enemy’s strategy to defeat the church is to ‘’divide and conquer,” which is no match for a united church, no matter what size the church
may be.  Satan cannot defeat a united church that Dares to Dream
Big Together
because there is no place where he can attack the body. Every part is covered.

 

A big part of Steve and Marjie’s legacy will be what they have spoken over us, how they have modeled the way for us and reminded us that we are “Better Together,” and we will be… if we continue to Dare to Dream Big…Together!!

TURNAROUND MINISTRIES

When you hear the name Harley Davidson you most likely think of motorcycles. I know I do, since I rode Harley Davidson motorcycles for many years! But something you may not know about the company is that in 1981, it had a U.S. market share of only 15% and reported a loss of $15 million. Competition from Japanese manufacturers, such as Honda, was
creating problems for them and they were struggling.

Then Richard Teerlink was brought on board as the chief financial officer and eventually became CEO in 1989. He decided to refocus the company on some basic principles:

increasing quality

improving customer and dealer services

producing world-class motorcycles

By the time Teerlink stepped down in 1997, Harley Davidson had increased their U.S. market share to 50% and saw annual sales of $1.7 billion.

While serving in ministry is not exactly the same as running a business like Harley Davidson, it can certainly go through similar struggles of plateau or even decline. While there are a number of factors that can bring about struggle for a church, how leaders approach these times will have a great impact on the trajectory of the church moving forward. So, what are some things that leaders can do to help bring about the change they are wanting in their church or ministry?

First, it’s important to stop and take stock of exactly where you are right now. To do that, you need to gather data and look at measurable factors. Once you have that information, evaluate it honestly. What’s working well? Where is there room to improve? Be specific. It can be easy to make sweeping generalizations about what isn’t working and why, but it’s important to look at specific things that can be changed and then reevaluated to see if it worked.

Trying to turn a ministry around can feel like trying to turn a cruise ship on a dime — nearly impossible. To help avoid you or your staff becoming discouraged, take small steps and look for small wins along the way. However, that doesn’t mean that you take your eyes off of your bigger vision for the future. There needs to be a balance. When making a turn on a motorcycle, you don’t want to stay focused on the ground right beneath you. Instead, you want your gaze to look ahead to where you’re going, which will help the turn to be smooth and steady.

No matter what, you need to follow God’s leading and continue to persevere in the face of trials. Hebrews 12:1 tells us to strip off every weight that slows us down and run with endurance the race that God has set before us. After all, God is the one who directs our paths and He is the one who can truly bring about change.

Follow The Leader

We’ve probably all played the game “Follow the Leader,” and while some may consider it just a simple game for children, it really does represent the whole point of leadership. After all, it’s hard to be a leader when no one is following you! So what does it look like to lead so that others can follow? In the last issue of Connexions, I shared about a picture of leadership, which encompassed five tried and true leadership practices.

One of those practices, “Model the Way,” describes how we lead through the four “C’s:” competency, chemistry, character, and calling. We need to know what we’re doing, be able to get along and work with other people, be a person of integrity, and be aware of and obedient to God’s calling on our lives. Psalm 78:72 speaks of David and says that “He cared for them with a true heart and led them with skillful hands.”

Leading with character is extremely important, and attitude plays a big role in that. Your attitude is one thing you can control that will have a big impact on your success as a leader. How do you respond when things go wrong or when you face difficulties? Do you have the same values at home as you do at church? Are you following Jesus personally? You can only lead others as well as you are being led. If you’re not continually pursuing a close relationship with Christ and being led by Him, then where are you leading those who are following you? While changing negative attitudes can be difficult, it can be done with prayer and perseverance.

Another thing to keep in mind when leading so that others can follow is this: if we want the people we lead to follow us and stay on the right path, we need to guide from the front instead of driving from the back. Cattle ranchers drive from the back – they yell and use a whip to get the cattle where they need to be. Shepherds, on the other hand guide from the front. The sheep know the shepherd’s voice and trust it enough to follow. When we have integrity and inspire trust in the people we lead, they will follow us. This is why in the LEAD U training that we do with leaders at GT, the biblical picture for “Model the Way” is the shepherd’s staff to remind us to lead from the front.

There is a story told about an army that was chasing after Alexander the Great. They were expecting to surprise him from behind and overtake him. What they weren’t expecting was being led completely outside the borders of the map they had and feeling completely lost. Sometimes that’s how it is with following Christ. He can lead us to places where we feel completely off the map with no clue where we are going. But if we continue to follow Him, we can be sure that we are going in the right direction along with those who follow us.

A Picture of Leadership

The sixth president of the United States, John Quincy Adams, had this to say about leaders: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” That’s a powerful definition! At GT Church we’ve struggled at times with how to raise up these kinds of leaders. We want to build a strong leadership culture, and we have worked towards that goal by developing a discussion model of training we call Lead U.

We invite current and potential leaders, both staff and volunteer, to go through this training so that we share a unified vision of what a leader does. When they’ve completed the training, our leaders should walk away understanding and applying five core practices/values of leadership which were taken and adapted from The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner.

You’ve heard the phrase “a picture’s worth a thousand words,” and it’s true. Sometimes an image can speak volumes. We have chosen to tie each core practice to an image in order to create a picture of leadership:

Model the Way
David was chosen by God to lead the Israelites, and Psalm 78:72 says that, “He cared for them with a true heart and led them with skillful hands.” Lead with character and competency. Set the example. Model the steps and actions you want people to take. Things need to get done, but if you’re lacking character, then you’re missing the most vital piece of the puzzle.

Inspire a Shared Vision
Moses was a leader with a clear vision from the Lord, and he needed to get the Israelites on board. Leaders should be like a pair of glasses, helping others to have a clear vision of where they are going. Leaders should not only cast vision, but inspire those who are following them and move them toward action.

Challenge the Process
In Daniel 1:8 we see Daniel challenge the process when he requests permission not to eat unacceptable foods given to him by the king. Be willing to ask and be asked questions, even when it causes friction. Just like friction helps gears to turn and create forward motion, challenging the process can help to bring about positive change in your ministry.

Enable Others to Act
In Judges 4:14, Deborah enables Barak to act when she tells him, “Get ready! This is the day the Lord will give you victory over Sisera, for the Lord is marching ahead of you.” Make it practical and possible for someone else to do something. The ripple effect that could create will go far beyond what you could do alone.

Encourage the Heart
1 Samuel 6:7 tells us, “people judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Leaders need to recognize the work of individuals and create a spirit of community within their teams. Don’t forget to encourage your own heart as well – it’s hard to encourage others when your tank is empty!

I love having the opportunity to provide leadership coaching not only to leaders at GT, but to other churches as well. For more information, please visit www.bryankoch.net. We lead Better Together!

 

Steadfast Endurance

Hebrews 12:1-2 says…”Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”

bryanOur life with God on this earth is a marathon, not a sprint. It matters both how we begin and how we finish. If a runner begins with a burst of enthusiasm but then fades at the end, they have failed. We are told in this passage that we must ‘run with endurance the race that God has set before us.’ Not for men’s applause; but with steadfast endurance.

In May, our church supported a triathlon that hundreds of people participated in to raise money for the IM Able Foundation which is an organization that exists to help develop and support active lifestyles for individuals with disabilities.

My physical therapist, Karen Decker of Reading Health Systems, was the captain of our own Got the Nerve Triathlon Team Haba Na Haba. As both an athlete and physical therapist, Karen is very familiar with the importance of having endurance.

She recently shared a quote that I think really puts “endurance” in perspective,

“Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.”

Working with a physical therapist throughout my recovery has taught me that I am not going to sprint toward my goals. But instead–little by little, with endurance— I have been able to achieve key milestones long before I ever dreamed possible.

The Greek word in the New Testament for “endurance” means, “the characteristic of a person who is not swerved from their deliberate purpose and has loyalty to faith even in the greatest trials and sufferings. For some it has meant death.”

What you may be enduring is difficult. But you can endure and here’s why:

1. Others have endured something similar.

The writer of Hebrews refers to a huge crowd of witnesses that surround us. (Read Hebrews 11) contains people like:

  • Noah who spent 120 years preparing for something he knew little about.
  • Sarah who found life in a time when most women were thinking about death.
  • Moses who turned his back on the world in order to serve God.

2. God has purposefully chosen for us what we are facing.

We see in the passage that God has, in detail, laid out the course each of us has to run. The obstacles in our race are not unfortunate mistakes, but divinely appointed opportunities for us to experience the grace of God. We can run with endurance because we can run with His grace that will always keep us strong and surrendered.

3. Christ is our example.

You can my friend – haba na haba—little by little, run this race with “endurance” and you will win!

Hebrews 12:2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. He endured a shameful death on the cross because of the joy He knew would be His afterward. Now He is seated in the place of highest honor beside God’s throne in heaven.

Think about all He endured through sinful people, so don’t become weary and give up.

Christ faithfully ran the race the Father had chosen for Him, and today He is seated in the place of highest honor at His Father’s right hand.

A Message of Hope

IMG_7734June 7th started like any other Sunday. Bryan and Lynn Koch got up and went to church, where Bryan kicked off GT’s newest series with a message honoring first responders. After church, they headed home, had a bite to eat, and then Lynn suggested they go out for a motorcycle ride. The couple headed out later that afternoon to one of their favorite spots… the Pretzel Hut in Lancaster, and chatted about life change and about the new role of grandparent that they’d be assuming later that year.

Shortly after 6pm, Bryan and Lynn turned onto Grange Road, just minutes from home. Moments later, an SUV crossed the center line, hitting them and pinning Bryan and the bike under its front left tire, and killing Lynn. Bryan was taken by helicopter to Reading Hospital, where over the course of the next 51 days, he would undergo 19 surgeries and receive 36 units of blood while he fought for his life. Bryan’s injuries ranged from broken bones to bruising, but the worst was the amputation of his left leg.

Throughout those 51 days, Bryan’s three sons, Ben, Bryce, and Brett, along with the rest of the Koch family and GT, would wait and pray first for Bryan to pull through each procedure, and eventually, to wake up. On August 8th, his 28th wedding anniversary, Bryan finally went home from the hospital, and on Sunday, October 18th, he preached his first sermon back on the GT stage.

Unknown-4Despite doctors’ warning him that he had a long recovery ahead and that he might be ready to be fitted for a prosthetic leg around Christmas of 2016, Bryan miraculously reached his next milestone early and was able to walk out on the stage during this year’s Christmas Eve services.

June 7th was a day that changed my life forever. Before June 7th, my testimony included a story about how I lost sight in one eye while playing minor league baseball. After June 7th, that story changed and began to include how I lost my leg and my wife while doing one of the things I enjoyed most…riding my motorcycle.

When I returned to GT on October 18th, I preached the closing message in our fall series, “EPIC.” The series had been planned long before the accident and it just so happened that the closing message would focus on the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Here they were, the entire nation of Israel, at the foot of the Red Sea with the Egyptian army close behind. They where between a rock and a hard place. And what does God do? He parts the sea, and they walk right through.

Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters—a pathway no one knew was there!
If God brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it. All we need to do is remember what
God did in our past, look for God in our present, and trust God with our future. – Psalm 77:19

Fast forward a bit and you’ll find those same Israelites wandering around in the hot, dry desert, complaining that God hasn’t delivered them into the Promised Land, forgetting God’s past provision. The problem is, they were living in the future instead of seeking God in their present. They couldn’t be patient and wait for God’s plan to unfold, and like the psalmist says in Psalm 106, “but soon they forgot what He had done and did not wait for His plan to unfold. In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wilderness they put God to the test.”

The Israelites learned the power of forgetting and the problem with sameness. When you’re in a difficult season, it’s all too easy to focus on your circumstances and what’s happening right now. Trust me, I know! The past seven months have undoubtedly been some of the hardest I’ve ever been through. Facing the birth of our first grandson without Lynn, and then going through the holidays without her was hard. And it could have been easy to wonder where God is in all of this.

But there’s importance in remembering, when you’re walking in the deepest of valleys, the things that God has done in your past. And there’s hope and joy in seeking out the ways God is working in your present pain. If biblical hope is confident expectation and biblical joy is intentional, incarnational, and eternal, then being hopeful and joyful in hard circumstances is a choice. We wake up each day and have to make the choice to find hope and joy in the ways God is working in the present, because whether we can see it or not, He has already made a way through it.

Haba Na Haba

There’s a Swahili proverb that uses the phrase “Haba Na Haba,” which translates to “little by little” and has become something of a motto for me through these past few months. In times of blinding pain and grief, in times of great difficulty, when we reach those hard places, God brings us through. We might not see the big picture and we might not know the path, but little by little, He guides us.

 

Adventure to East Africa

Good African Food

Good African Food

The term ALL IN can have a few different meanings. It can refer to extending yourself physically to the point that you are exhausted. Or, more commonly, it can refer to someone pushing everything they have to the middle of the table as a last ditch effort to stay in the game.

The PennDel Network has ministers that are ALL IN, ALL OVER the world. They are working hard to share Christ with those who know nothing of Him. These missionaries, rather than pushing all their resources into the middle for themselves, are instead pushing everything to the edge for the unreached people of the nations.

This past January I, once again, had the privilege to get an up close and personal look at our Assemblies of God global teams. I had the opportunity to speak at the annual retreat for the East Africa Indian Ocean Basin world missionaries and their families. We experienced great services with a strong sense of the presence of God as well as times of rich fellowship. It was such a blessing to preach God’s Word among these amazing servants of Christ and to hear the fresh accounts of God’s faithfulness as He works through these leaders and the amazing people they serve.

Bryce with Masi Warriors

Bryce with Masi Warriors

My son, Bryce, and I were ALL IN as well, experiencing on this trip many of the challenges that missionaries often face. We spent many hours on planes and in airports. We both got sick and I had lost ninety percent of my voice by the first day I was to preach. Then, after we had a couple of days of ministry under our belt, we were on our way to dinner with Steve Pennington, his wife, and his son. As we were driving in Nairobi, a Peruvian physicist suffering from jet lag put his turn signal on but didn’t turn his steering wheel and plowed into us at about forty miles an hour. Fortunately no one was hurt! Despite the seemingly difficult time we were having on this trip, what hit me was the fact that this is what our missionaries face daily in their ministries.

Our missionaries deeply appreciate the financial support our churches provide for them, because without it they could never get to the field. However, they also know that without our prayer efforts, they could never stay on the field. Here are just some of the things we can lift in prayer for our missionary leaders. This list was given to me by Steve Pennington who is the Area Director for the EAIOB.

We are praying that we will finish strong in the final year of our commitment to the East Africa region through the PEOPLE LIKE YOU REACHING – PEOPLE LIKE ME vision which involves our prayers, financial support, as well as our personal interest and relationships with our missionary teams. If you have made a pledge we trust that God will help you in fulfilling it. If you haven’t had a chance to make a pledge, yet, we encourage you to do so as your resources will help us to reach the many unreached people groups of East Africa.

Oh, and by the way to wrap up our adventure to East Africa… the place where Bryce and I stayed during our trip caught on fire the day we left. So I guess we are glad that we were ALL OUT!

As printed in the 2015 Network ConneXions

Catalyst – Faith VS Fear

From Jeff Leake…

Being from Pittsburgh, I am a huge Steelers fan. Our head coach, Mike Tomlin, is famous for responding to questions about why he did or didn’t do something. Almost always, you’ll hear him say in interviews, “we choose to not live in our fears.” As much as I love that sentiment, it’s way more difficult to apply than it is to say.

As soon as we decided to step out and plant our first church,
I felt the pull of fear on my soul:
• What if everyone leaves our church and goes with the church planter?
• What if our larger givers leave and I’m left with nothing but bills?
• What will happen if my attendance drops?
• What will my peers think of me if I pastor a smaller church than I did before?

I dealt with those fears by setting some guidelines. Pat Summers (our first church planter) and I sat down and had a meeting. I told Pat, “You can recruit anyone you want from APC on two conditions: First, you must tell me who you’re recruiting before you talk to them, and second, you must stay away from two key leaders I’m depending upon right now.” Pat was thrilled with this arrangement and kept his word to me.

On the final Sunday before the launch of this new church, Pat spoke in our services about his new calling. When he finished, I put it out there to the church, “Whomever feels called by God to go with Pat and help him plant this church is free to go. In fact, why don’t all those who feel called come to the front so that we can pray over you?”
I guess I really didn’t think through what I was doing at the moment, because as soon as the statement left my lips a stream of people left their seats to come to the front. And wouldn’t you know it? Who was in the group but one of the two leaders I had told Pat he was not allowed to recruit! God reserved the right to override my restrictions.

As this “restricted” leader made his way to the front, in about five seconds flat my emotions went from shock to fear and then from fear to anger. God, how could you do this? I didn’t ask for much! I am willing to be generous. All I asked for was two guys. Of all people, did you have to speak to him to go with this church plant? I said all this under my breath as I led this prayer moment.

In a flash, as I protested before God, I felt Him speak to me: I know you are sacrificing and being generous, but if you’re not going to give Me your best, then why are you even doing this?

From that moment on, I have chosen to die to any effort to control my own church. The only way you can become a multiplying leader is to break with fear. Nothing is birthed out of fear, and everything is birthed in an atmosphere of faith. And what is faith but hearing the ‘Word’ and believing it so much that you’re willing to act upon it.

If you live in your fears, you cannot foster an aggressive multiplying church. In fact, the very decision that we make when we decide to plant churches is a decision to break from fear and live in faith. That decision must be made repeatedly because the pull of fear will always be something we have to purposefully overcome.

You can download Jeff’s eBook for free at exponential.org

As printed in the 2015 Network ConneXions

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