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Raising Kids To Know Jesus Is Tough

     Posted on Thu ,17/01/2013 by Chip

Do you ever feel like a failure as a parent? I know I do. So many times I find myself retracing my attitude, actions and tone voice thinking that I could have done such a better job in my responses. As a parent I am a work in progress, and sometimes I am work that digresses. One of the areas that Sarah Beth and I are constantly evaluating and trying to improve is raising our children to know Jesus. Not just know about Jesus – but to truly know Christ. While we are constantly learning – I thought I would pass on some lessons learned from our successes and mistakes (so far):

1) Each child is different and will learn in different ways. My nine-year old boy relates to Christ entirely differently that my 6 year old girl. One is intellectual, rationale and loves to know the context of Scripture. The other is sensitive, creative and loves to worship. Learning this about our children has helped us in how we communicate Christ to them.

2) Not having all the answers is ok – as long as you are honest. Children deserve honesty – and when we’re honest about our shortcomings, fears, and ignorance, they can relate to that.

3) Pray into and over your children. They need to hear and see you pray. Prayer isn’t just for bedtime and dinner, but for devotion and worship. The best way to teach your kids to pray is to model it for them. We must also be intentional about praying over and into our kids. Pray for them to be safe, to be sexually pure before marriage, for their spouse, for their homework, for everything.

4) Doing devotions is hard. It’s hard to schedule, its hard to be consistent, and it is definitely hard for them to pay attention. Keep working at it and don’t quit. This is a tough discipline for our family, but we keep trying.

5) Children who are centered around the gospel typically have parents that are centered around the gospel. Let your life be a light to them – and let it shine.

6) This last point is tough – but an important one to remember: my job as a parent is the toughest, most important job I’ll ever have (along with being a husband); therefore it is my job to make sure that my kids are raised to know Jesus – and no one else. The children’s ministry, church, small group, or even Veggie Tales are great and important things to implement in your child’s spiritual journey – but it is ultimately our job as parents to show them Jesus.

Praying BIG things for you and your kids. Remember – you will make mistakes, God is in control, and never ever quit. Blessings!

Setting Strategic God-Glorifying Goals In 2013

     Posted on Mon ,31/12/2012 by Chip

Each December I sit down and write out several goals (or resolutions) that I intend to accomplish in the coming year. These goals (I prefer goals to resolutions) are things that I’ve been thinking about and praying through for a long period of time; the New Year is just an opportunity to fire a starting gun under my intentions. I believe that goals should be an important part of every Christian’s life. The old adage, “If you aim at nothing you’ll hit it every time”  is particularly applicable to the Christian walk. The problem is that most of us start out our New Year with great intentions, but fall incredibly short. What I’ve come to realize is that goals must be three things: measurable, attainable, and strategic. So as we approach 2013, let me give you a couple of tips on setting goals and working toward accomplishing them.

First of all, understand that God’s providence and power is an underlying factor for all of your plans. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” That is why it is important to apply verse three of same passage “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Set goals that honor God and Christo-centric in nature, with the intention of giving Him glory.

Second, don’t set too many goals. I remember the first year I laid out goals for a New Year – I wrote down over 10 goals. How many do you think I accomplished? ZERO. Why? Because those are too many goals. I suggest not setting more than five goals and set them categorically. This is the strategic part of goal setting. As you write down your goals for the New Year, think of them as categories rather than lists. Ask yourself questions like:

– What do I want to accomplish spiritually in 2013? (ex. Reading the Bible through, spending time in the Word each day)

– What do I want to accomplish physically in 2013? (ex. Lose 15 lbs, run a marathon)

– What do I want to accomplish in my family/relationships in 2013? (ex. pray together once a week, take a mission trip together)

– What do I want to accomplish financially in 2013? (ex. participate in Financial Peace University, save $1000)

– What do I want to accomplish in my career or education in 2013? (ex. read 10 books, enroll in night school, increase sells by 10%)

The idea is that when you think categorically you have a more holistic view of your goals. We tend to focus on health related goals – but God created you for more than just killer abs. Also, its important to be very specific. Don’t say “I want to pray with my family,” but rather “I want pray every Sunday night with my family.” Being strategic makes your goal measurable, but it also makes it attainable. If you’ve never prayed with your family, make sure that you can experience success immediately by setting yourself up for success. You may want to pray with them everyday, but start off with a win by doing it once a week, and then doing it twice the next week and so forth.

Finally, celebrate BIG and celebrate often. I like to think of goals as mileposts toward a destination. If I plan to lose 20 lbs, then I need to celebrate every 5 lbs. If you wait to celebrate at the end of the journey, you’ll never read the destination. Give yourself permission to celebrate along the way. A great way to do this is by recruiting someone to hold you accountable and pray for you as you seek to reach your goals. When you accomplish a milepost – tell them and celebrate.

Goals are so important, and my hope is that 2013 be a banner year for you as you pursue God’s best for you life.

Reflecting and Refocusing

     Posted on Thu ,27/12/2012 by Chip

Each year in late November and early December I sit down and pray through goals that I believe that God is leading River Hills Church to pursue in the New Year. During 2012, we attempted to do three things at River Hills – here is an update on what has happened:

1) Develop A Culture Of Prayer – we have five consistent prayer teams. These folks represent the front lines of ministry at River Hills Church. If you’re interested in being on one of these teams, please email me at chip@churchatriverhills.com.

2) Grow Our Small Groups – we’ve doubled the number of small groups available. We have some great leaders who are passionate about seeing spiritual growth in the lives of their friends. If you’re not in a small group – let me know and we’ll get you in one.

3) Obtain Property – we announced Christmas Eve our intention to lease/purchase the Homeport property on Highway 53.

These goals represent the heartbeat of our church – to “Bring Truth and People Together” – and 2013 will be no different. Here are our goals for 2013 – and my hope is that you would come along side me to make sure these happen.

1) To Give Away 10% of our budget to missions. This is a gigantic step of faith for us, because as we move into a new facility and reach more people – more money is required. The heartbeat of our church is to serve others with no strings attached. In order to plant new churches, reach more people and do more missions we have to give away more. To do this we must, as a church, be consistent and obedient in our generosity.

2) Baptize 100 people. We want to reach more and more people. The reason we’re moving into a new facility is to reach more people. Let this be the objective of our church – to “Bring Truth and People Together.” So the question is simple: Who will you pray for and invite?

3) To equip all ages with the tools necessary to study the Bible. Children, students, and adults need to know how to study the Bible. In order to make life long habits, we must invest our time in developing disciples who can “feed” themselves.

Begin to pray now that God would empower and enable us to reach these objectives. Not only that, partner with me to “Bring Truth and People Together.”

Our Church Is Moving!!!

     Posted on Wed ,26/12/2012 by Chip

Christmas has been an absolute joy for me and my family. My hope has been that you too have experienced the grace of God during this season and the bliss that comes from being with those you love. While there have been many highlights for me during this time, I feel like I need to reiterate, or celebrate again, the announcement made during our annual Christmas Eve service.

On Monday night we revealed that our leadership has approved to move forward in negotiating a lease/purchase and renovation of the Homeport facility located on Hwy. 53. There are certainly a lot of questions that can accompany such an announcement, as well as incredible excitement, so I thought I would address some of the common thoughts/questions. What I do believe, is that while this is a huge step of faith, River Hills Church is standing at the water’s edge of seeing God do something profound. So let’s try to clarify what is going to happen in the near future:

First of all everything is contingent upon successful negotiations between the owner and our church. While I am confident this will be a positive experience, we must take this step first. Terry England, our state representative, owns the facility and he has been both gracious and godly. Pray for all those involved in this process.

Next, we will have to secure a loan for renovation cost. This includes furniture, HVAC, dry wall – you name it. Someone may point out that we have enough skilled people in our church to complete this job on the cheap – and we should go that route. That is true, we are blessed with many talented people, but due to fire codes and timelines – it is more prudent to contract this out.

After this has been completed we will start the build out. There are several phases to the reconstruction. Our fist phase will focus on three things: the worship center, community gathering spots (i.e. cafe, coffee shop, etc.) and kid’s ministry (this does include offices, food ministry and bathrooms). The main objective in this construction is to create the most welcoming space possible, with the intention of building out more space in the future. Currently there is 25,000 square feet available, but we will not be renovating all of it at once. The space is meant to be versatile, so our students will also have a place.

Finally, this means that for the first time in the history of our church, we will have a significant part of our budget focused on a building. While the news to move into our own space is exciting, there is a cost. This means that we as a church must do two things: 1) Give Consistently, 2) Invite everyone we know to church. The reason for this move is not simply to make it easier on us when it comes to set-up and tear down, but to reach more and more and more and more people. One of the goals that I’ve laid out for our church is that during 2013 we want to baptize 100 people. I believe that by taking this step of faith, God will bless our efforts to glorify Him.

One more thing: there will be a lot of questions as to “when will all this happen.” If you know me I have very optimistic timelines – sometimes too optimistic – so my answer will be this for now: in the near future :).

If you have any questions about this project please feel free to email me at chip@churchatriverhills.com or call 770-867-0909. Have a great New Year and I hope to see you Sunday! Merry Christmas.

A Grieving Pastor’s Perspective On The Connecticut Shooting

     Posted on Mon ,17/12/2012 by Chip

I’m still trying to put my head around what happened Friday in Connecticut. As a father of a kindergartner and third grader my inclination to empathize with those families is very real and authentic – yet I have no idea how they truly feel. Every morning when we drive our kids to school we pray together (either me or my wife). We always pray for them to make wise choices, for their teachers, and for safety – but this morning praying for a hedge of protection around them was painfully sincere. Yesterday, my plan was to preach part 1 of our Christmas series at River Hills Church, but while the text (from Scripture) didn’t change – the focus inevitably did. I guess what I’m trying to express in these few sentences is that tragedy – no matter how far away – changes us. So my question for myself this morning is how does God leverage this for His glory – for good?

The first thing that comes to mind is that God has always leveraged evil for good. Romans 8:28, one of my favorite verses in Scripture, affirms that “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” Think about it, even the horrific death of Christ on the cross, works for our good because Jesus took the punishment for our sin – and through him we have eternal life. He has done this countless times in the lives of people for generations, and there are evidences of it in Scripture as well. Why couldn’t He use this?

The second thing that enters my mind are “what if” thoughts. What if this happens to my kids? What if this is an epidemic? What if….you fill in the blank. Again I have to go back to Scripture “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7). While I can’t control everything that happens, I do know who does. The greatest thing a believer can do to glorify God is to trust Him. Long before my children were born I gave them to Him – and I have to trust Him with them. God will be glorified through our trust in Him.

Finally, I am convinced that the reason for this shooting has nothing to do with prayer in schools, liberalism or cultural drift from Judea-Christian values. This tragedy has everything to do with sin. Could have God stopped this from happening? That is a question that shouldn’t be asked in these moments. The question that should be asked is simple: Can I be strong enough to cast my anxiety or grief on Him? Explaining why something happens from a philosophical or theological perspective is only a portion of the battle within the mind. The real fight is when we have the courage to confess our grief, anxiety, fear, and confusion – and still say “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away – blessed be the name of the Lord.”

My hope is that through the misty eyes of grief we will find the holy confidence of grace found in the gospel. That in some way we can experience the comfort of a holy God who is in control, who does grieve with us, who can be glorified, and who will use this. There is a secure Biblical foundation for asking why, while grief-stricken and still trusting in the power of the Lord. Give yourself permission to grieve, to cry, to question and to trust.

My Wife Won’t Go To Church – What Do I Do?

     Posted on Mon ,10/12/2012 by Chip

Last week I discussed how to encourage your husband to go to church, but what if the roles were reversed? Honestly this happens a lot in our church. We’ve tried to design an environment that men can relate to, and many times we see men stepping up their spiritual game and their wives refuse to follow. Not only that, because of the age of our congregation, many young Moms have declared “Me Time” because their kids are now in school and during the hard years of child rearing their husbands were not present (either emotionally or physically). This depletes the spiritual fervency of the home and gives credibility to the old adage “if mama ain’t happy – no one is happy.”

From my observation, our culture is shifting from a male driven perspective to a dominant uber-feminine mentality, and when men try to lead there is much resistance. Whether this is right or wrong, from a Biblical point view men are called to be servant leaders and when women don’t cling to the same faith or zeal for Christ – it presents a great deal of grief and frustration. So what can a guy do?

1) Be hopeful. Psychologist, counselors and the Bible agree that “as the husband goes, so does the family.” Over 80% of the time if a husband is involved in church – the wife and family will eventually follow that leadership. That is why it is so vital for a church to be “male focused” in its outreach and methodological strategies (compare that stat to 18% of families get involved when women take the lead spiritually).

2) Pray, pray and pray some more. Get other men and women to pray with you for her.

3)  Love her unconditionally. She needs to experience the love of Christ at home, not the condemnation of a Pharisee. It is so easy for a man to steam role their wife spiritually, but this is where the husband must take on the loving-kindness of Christ.

4) Be the pastor of your family. This is a truth that should be applied to men whose wives attend church and don’t attend church. Minister to her, pray over her, treat her with respect and love, serve her without condition, and season your words with the fragrance of grace. Fend off the wolves and be an encouragement to her spiritually.

5) Don’t be shy about asking her to attend – she will say yes (eventually). Those who produce movies always target young men – why? Because they know that their girlfriends and wives will go with them without complaint to watch the newest Spider man or war flick. Why do you think that the Discovery and History Channel are so popular? Be willing to ask them to go – they will respect you for it.

6) Demonstrate Godly masculinity. I truly believe that wives want their men to be manly, but in that manhood – be godly. Don’t trade her in for a bass boat or deer stand.

There is hope for your wife, but never allow her lack of spirituality to dictate the fervency of yours. God created you to be the servant leader – which means becoming like Christ – even to the point of sacrificing yourself for those who need Him.

My Husband Won’t Go To Church – What do I do?

     Posted on Tue ,04/12/2012 by Chip

Almost every week I receive a phone call, email, Facebook message, tweet, smoke signal…you get the picture, from a wife who desperately wants their husband to attend church. Many times they ask me to pray, but at some point I always get the question “Would you mind talking to them?” While I’m always open to having a conversation, I think the best encouragement for any “unchurched” husband should come from their Christ-following wife. So that poses the question “My husband won’t go to church – what do it do?”

First of all it’s important to understand what the Bible says. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:12-14 –

“…If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife…”

This doesn’t mean that your spouse will automatically go to heaven because you follow Christ, but it does mean that the opportunity to hear about Christ and receive the blessings of a God-believing household are a greater reality for the family.

It is also important to point out that while many women desire that their men lead them spiritually, most men don’t have a clue how to do that. Believe it or not, your manly-man of a husband probably deals with self-esteem issues related to his spirituality. He has no idea what it means to be real man and follower of Christ, and chances are he has had no model of spiritual leadership. So what may seem like apathy, may be paralysis.

With that in mind, here are a few things the wife can do to encourage her husband spiritually:

1) Pray, pray, and pray some more. I truly believe that there is power in a praying wife. Gather others to fervently and faithfully pray for your husband. Understand that prayers aren’t always answered in a week or month – but decades. A few months ago I attended the funeral of a man who’s wife had been visiting our church. With tears in her eyes she began to tell me how she (and others) had prayed for over twenty years for his conversion. A few weeks before his death – he came to know Jesus. The wife, although she had dealt with his shortcomings and apathy for decades, was ecstatic and joyful for his homecoming and looked forward to the day they could worship together in heaven. The point: pray like crazy.

2) Don’t nag him. The Bible says in Proverbs that a nagging wife is like a dripping faucet. You aren’t perfect – and he sees that, but you can’t “nag” him to Jesus.

3) Ask forgiveness and confess your shortcomings to your husband. He doesn’t need to see a “perfect” Christian, but instead a person who has experienced grace.

4) Attend a “man-friendly” church. Men want to go to churches where their masculinity isn’t threatened, but instead it is celebrated. So many times we ask men to go to place that is decorated with flowers, sings love songs to guy (Jesus), and asks them dress up. While the idea of singing love songs changes upon conversion, the reality is that if a church focuses on men – your man will feel more at home. Find a church and pastor that your husband will like – and go there.

5) Even if he doesn’t want to go to church – don’t let that hold you back. You are a daughter of the King and you need to be poured into spiritually. Be hopeful that he will come, but don’t let his continued “no” discourage you from attending yourself.

6) Love him unconditionally. Show him the love of Christ, by loving him like Christ loves you. He knows you’re disappointed, but he also will be blown away that in the midst of disappointment – you continue to be vulnerable and loving toward him. It is also important to remember that even though he is not living out Biblical manhood, this doesn’t give you an excuse not to live out Biblical womanhood.

Women who walk with Jesus without the encouragement of their husbands face a tough task, but not a hopeless one. Memorize Exodus 14:15 and begin to walk redemptively with and without your husband.

What I Loved About Today

     Posted on Mon ,12/11/2012 by Chip

Just spend the last hour hanging out with my son, eating some chicken noodle soup and left over Mexican food, and watching Mythbusters. As the day comes to an end – I felt inclined to list a couple of things that I loved about today:

1) Seeing the husband of our children’s minister baptize his oldest daughter.

2) Talking through what it means to be saved with a 16 year old at church and him asking to be baptized.

3) Mexican food with great friends and family after worship.

4) A long quiet nap with NFL football playing in the background.

5) Being able to hug my wife good morning – as she dug into the Word.

6) Having my daughter kiss me on the cheek good night and listening to her sing herself to sleep.

7) Laughing with my son as the Mythbusters blow something up – again.

8) Having the opportunity to pastor the greatest people on the planet at River Hills Church.

Looking forward to an incredible week!

My Prayer For Georgia Baptists

     Posted on Sat ,10/11/2012 by Chip

This week I have the honor of praying at the annual Georgia Baptist Convention. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this organization, it is a network of over 1000 churches in Georgia who affirm the same doctrinal and missional message. I find my roots in this group, and I was appreciative for the opportunity to represent church planters by praying for God to do something BIG in our state.

Over the years Baptists as a whole have been a lighting rod of controversy for young leaders and have experienced the same financial hardships as all churches and non-profits. For many this has been a source of pessimism and discouragement, but as I observe what is happening I see it as an opportunity to redefine and refocus energies on reaching an ever increasing disconnected culture (from church).

So as I step onto the podium on Monday, I’m praying for several things:

1) That God would unite churches in a passionate pursuit to see people experience Jesus. Understanding that a rural congregation and a church planted in an urban context will seem like polar opposites – in reality the message of Christ is being preached, while the methods are very different.

2) That petty differences will be put aside for the common good. So many times the enemy works to divide people on the least important issues, while distracting us from the bigger message of the Gospel. From what I’ve noticed, the things that have divided us in the recent past have not been doctrinal issues, but identity issues. Like a Dad who can’t understand why their teenage son dresses the way he does – both must come to realize that they are of the same family.

3) That God would raise up young and energetic leadership. We’ve been blessed for years with  incredible trail blazers, but now is the time for my generation to step up and point out the path for future practitioners.

4) Finally, that we would drown in the vision of preaching Christ crucified and resurrected. That we would be drunk on the aroma of the good news and the glory of God. That Jesus would be our all in all and that His message be the basis for any methodological strategy.

Looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new people. Thankful for all that God is doing.

Five Things I’m Fired Up About

     Posted on Mon ,17/09/2012 by Chip

Last week we celebrated five years of ministry at River Hills Church. This journey has been an incredible ride and I’m more excited than ever before. Here are five things that I’m fired up about at River Hills:

1) Small Groups – we started several new small groups on Sunday morning. This has allowed us to provide childcare and a more convenient time to gather in groups. I love small groups and my hope is that you take a chance to be involved.

2) Student Ministry – Parker Watson started as our student minister on September 1. He is the right man for the job and in the last two weeks we’ve seen an increase in excitement and attendance. Currently our student ministry meets at 9:45 on Sunday mornings and monthly for large group gatherings. We will be working toward mid-week ministries at the beginning of 2013.

3) Kid’s Ministry – we also hired a new Children’s Minister, Carrie Nye, to lead out in this vital area. She is currently creating a more inviting children’s environment and organizing monthly Family Fun Nights.

4) Worship – Travis Bottorff is our new Worship Coordinator. He is doing an outstanding job (all of our musicians are) in leading us each week. If you haven’t been in worship the last two weeks – they have really taken it up a notch.

5) Finally, I’m excited about new possibilities. I announced in August that I’m praying and working toward reaching 1000 people in the next 18 months. We’re only going to accomplish through creative and intentional outreach. Please partner with me in inviting, sharing and giving to the cause of “Bringing Truth and People Together.”

Thanks for being the church – See You Sunday!