Wednesday, December 31, 2008

CLOSING OUT 2008

Well, the year is almost over. I never thought it would end - not that it's been bad, by any means. 2008 gave my wife and I our first child and has allowed us to step into a new dream. But, I am ready for 2009. A lot has gone into preparing for this coming year and it's time to get on with it!

Selina and I decided to spend our last day of 2008 at Rock City with Gannon, taking in the Enchanted Lights. It was cold, but a great little getaway... and yes, I'm wearing a Georgia Bulldogs toboggan in the picture - NOT because I'm a fan, merely because it was a gift from my father-in-law and is my son's monogram... although, I did have some guy at Rock City tell me I would be going to heaven for wearing that hat - an interesting theology.

At any rate, having now returning from Rock City, we are settling in for the night with a hot chocolate and old reruns of the Twilight Zone. To be honest, we may end up sleeping in the new year - parenting will do that to you.

But, tomorrow brings a new day and a new year - and oh, what a year it shall be!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

IF YOU HATE CHURCH: SERIES PREVIEW

The first 5 weeks of The Net Church will be devoted to unpacking some of the issues raised through the survey responses we received at ifyouhatechurch.com. The following is a 2-minute preview of the series. This preview will also be playing at Rave Motion Pictures before each movie for the first two weeks in January.

Monday, December 8, 2008

40 Days

Forty Days is a significant period of time in scripture…

Moses spent 40 Days on Mount Sinai.
When Noah was on the ark, it rained for 40 Days.
It took 40 Days to embalm a body in ancient Egypt.
Caleb explored the Promised Land for 40 Days.
For 40 Days Jesus fasted and was tempted.

In 40 Days The Net Church begins…
and I am believing that this 40 Days will be significant, as well.

Friday, December 5, 2008

JOB

Last night, I thought I was dying. A few days ago, I began noticing what appeared to be bug bites all over my body. They were small and a mere nuisance. Then yesterday, my hands began to swell and itch. But, last night is when it came to a head. My arms were itching while I laid in bed. It finally reached a feverish point, so I jumped out of bed and went to the mirror. That's when I noticed that both arms were covered in hives.

I went to our faithful 24-hour Wal-Mart to retrieve some meds - but, I couldn't apply them fast enough. By the time I returned the hives had spread to my back and legs. I was completely covered. I was a modern day Job and began to wonder if there was a discussion going on between God and Satan over just how faithful of a servant I was. While I wasn't ready to curse God, I gotta admit, I wanted to curse everything else!

Thankfully by morning the hives had subsided. Today my skin has been tender, but nothing like it was. I pray tonight I get a good night's sleep.

If this is a test, rest assured, I'm not going anywhere. In 44 days we launch The Net - and I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Monday, December 1, 2008

7 YEARS

Today the wife and I are in North Georgia - tucked away in a cozy cabin watching the first snow fall. The occasion - 7 years of marriage.

They say something happens at 7 years... you're supposed to get some kind of an itch... wanting more, something different, someone different. Can't say 7 years has had that effect on me. Sorry world.

In fact, to be perfectly honest - every year has gotten better. We are becoming more understanding and more gracious, which goes a long way. My tip for the day.

Now, I must turn off the computer, heat up the jacuzzi, and stoke the fire... my lady awaits.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

ONE WAY OR THE OTHER

Yesterday was an interesting day. As I was relaxing, enjoying my Thanksgiving weekend with family - I received a voice mail. It was from a man in Chattanooga who had taken the ifyouhatechurch.com survey and wanted to let me know that "we are like every other traditional church out there." His message was 5 minutes long... at least. And full of explanation as to why we were no different and the problems with us because of it.

A few short hours later, I received an email. This time from a pastor in the area who wanted to let me know that "after looking at our marketing techniques, websites, and blog it was clear that we are following the emerging church model" (a model that is counter to the traditional church). His email took me more than 5 minutes to read and included explanation of our apparent heresies and doctrinal error.

That was my Saturday. In one day, I was being labeled as too traditional and too emerging. That's like being too fat and too skinny. Or too funny and too serious. Or too democrat and too republican. In truth, we probably fall somewhere in the middle - as most churches do.

I do find it interesting though that others seem to know me better than I know myself... despite having never met me, nor even talking with me. And they seem to think they have a clear understanding of The Net, even though we haven't held a service yet. My suggestion to everyone reading this: Come out on January 18th and draw your own conclusions. My guess is - it'll fall somewhere in the middle.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

TAKING IT ALL IN...

My son usually gets up before me most mornings. This morning was no different. When I strolled out into the sun room, I found him there - catching up on yesterday's news about the church. Man, do I wish he could talk! I'd love to get his thoughts on the article...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

PRESS RELEASE

This past week I was interviewed by the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The reporter had seen our billboard for ifyouhatechurch.com and wanted to cover the story. The article turned out well - although, I think the last line kinda makes me sound like Joel Osteen.

Below is a link to the online version of the article, as well as an audio excerpt of the interview:

Click here to read the article.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

TWO MONTHS AND AN INTERVIEW

Two months.

In two months The Net officially opens its doors to the public. It's been a long time in the making and a wild ride so far. With the launch of the ifyouhatechurch.com website, we've seen great interest in what we are doing. Hopefully, come January 18th, that will translate into "souls in seats" at Rave Motion Pictures!

This should help - Today I did a phone interview with the Chattanooga Times Free Press. They are interested in covering our story and plan to run an article on us this coming Saturday. I'll post the link when it runs.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

IF YOU HATE CHURCH UPDATE

The ifyouhatechurch.com site has been running for a few months now. The data is pouring in. Roughly 300 people have completely the survey. More astounding is the fact that since the survey's inception, our church site hits have grown by 600% and are quickly closing in on 1,000 per week! No idea how this will affect our Grand Opening on January 18th.

In addition, we are currently working on a message series that will be based on the data we are receiving. Today I actually met with a guy who took the survey and will be sitting down with me for a video interview that will be shown during one of the weekends. You do not want to miss this!

ZEKE

Have you ever read the book of Ezekiel? It's the writings of a prophet in the Old Testament - one of the strangest characters in the Bible. He was known for unbelievable visions and the use of odd illustrations to make his point.

Zeke, as I like to call him, is perhaps best known for his vision in Ezekiel, chapter 37 - The Valley of Dry Bones. During his lifetime Israel was not following after God as they should (hence the vision of dry bones), but then God gave Zeke a message of hope - "Oh my people... I will cause you to rise again!"

In the margin of my bible, beside this passage is a date: November 3rd, 2007.

It was on that date, when the vision to start The Net was still a mere concept, that God used these words to encourage me. They gave me hope that in the near future those in Chattanooga who knew him at one time - whether by choice or only at the point of being created by God - would know him again. The bible says that when Ezekiel spoke the words of God the valley of dry bones came to life and stood up on their feet.

These are crazy times... spiritually, people are confused and frustrated; economically, people are afraid and uncertain. But, I believe The Net will be among the many things God uses to bring life and certainty back to the people of Chattanooga. For those of you who have joined us on this journey - thank you. For those who are still considering it - great things are on the horizon and we look forward to having you with us!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

UNDECIDED

I've often wondered how a voter can get all the way to election day before making their decision. And yet, here's my son deep in contemplation. To his credit, he did only get in on the last four months of the campaign!

Monday, November 3, 2008

A PERFECT DAY!

Yesterday it was sunny and in the 70's, the trees were turning every color imaginable, and I was thanking God He called me to Tennessee! To top it all off, The Net launch team gathered at Chickamauga Park for a cook out.

Thanks to Kristina and Judy for lining everything up and to Keith for the use of his boat!

Click on the image for a closer view...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

CHURCH HOPPING 6

After a couple Sunday mornings focused on what our church will look like on the weekend, we are back to Church Hopping! This week: Mountain View Church. We first heard about Mountain View when they sponsored a local "gas buy down" on a Saturday morning near our home. We've also heard they are working to raise money to purchase a vehicle for a single mom... gotta love it!

Looks like another great church in Chattanooga!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

FINISHING STRONG!

A few years ago, at the prompting of my mentor, I read a book entitled: Finishing Strong by Steve Farrar. In it, he makes the claim that only 1 in 10 who start out in full-time service to the Lord at twenty-one are still in by age sixty-five. Fortunately, I've tipped the odds in my favor by getting such a late start, but the statistic is quite startling. 1 in 10.

The advice that comes out of the book can be summarized in its first chapter: "Stay true to Jesus! Make sure that you keep your heart close to Jesus every day. It's a long way from here to where you are going to go, and Satan's in no hurry to get you." To my team, to my spouse, to my son, to my Lord - I make this commitment: I will seek each day to abandon myself to His will, recognizing that I am on a marathon, not a sprint.

I would ask you to do the same. Whether or not we are in "full-time" service via a paycheck, we are all called to His unending purposes which transcend a mere salary. And we choose to finish strong over being among the 9 in 10 who don't by making room for Jesus each day and keeping Him at the center of all we do!

As we begin The Net, may we never become arrogant and believe we are doing anything special outside of His grace. May we never become so confident in our plans that we dismiss our ongoing need of His presence. We are headed into an exciting time - so take a deep breath and allow His spirit to fill your lungs, because the road ahead is long and full of adventure and without Him we will certainly fail!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

THE GOD MACHINE

In 1964, physicist Peter Higgs theorized that an invisible field of bosons (particles that can occupy the same space) existed in a form that allowed it to make planets and people. The problem is, it's only showed its existence once... moments after the Big Bang!

This brings us to today - introducing the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) - an $8 billion partical accelerator. It's purpose: to smash subatomic particles together at speeds of 99.9999991% of the speed of light. While scientists hope to make numerous discoveries from it, one main goal is to find the Higgs boson and simulate the Big Bang!

For creationists, this would be the equivalent of building an $8 billion megaphone and voice modulator to simulate God's command in Genesis 1:3, "Let there be light!" in hopes of actually making it happen.

Higgs said in a recent interview that if his boson is not found he will no longer understand what he thinks he understands. I wonder, if at that time, he'll begin to understand what we all understand - that God created life!

Monday, October 6, 2008

CHATTANOOGA DREAM CENTER

When we were with Seacoast Church in South Carolina, they started a Dream Center - a place to meet the needs of the low-to-no income in the area. Today I came across an article about a couple in Chattanooga with a similar vision for the city. The couple's ministry (Grace in Action) is hoping to purchase a hotel to help house the homeless and become a "one-stop shopping center" for those in need.

In light of my recent post entitled: Homeless Party, I've decided to include a link to the article from the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Click here to read more...

Friday, October 3, 2008

CHURCH HOPPING 5

This weekend we are headed to another theater church in the area: Hamilton Life Church. Their pastor actually sent me an email a few weeks ago, welcoming us to Chattanooga. I'm eager to meet him and visit the church.

For all our launch members - feel free to join us there at 10am. No soliciting, please! :)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

PR

On a tip from one of our launch members, I came across a blog by a guy named Ty. In it, Ty made reference to our billboard: IfYouHateChurch.com

The review was moderately critical - though not too harsh. We've seen and heard worse. And while I do appreciate the free publicity, I wouldn't want someone reading his response without offering a short riposte of my own.

Three notes:

1. Ty references statements from two of the videos on the website that deal with the church being relaxed and refreshing. He rebuts by saying that church isn't about you and I, it's about Jesus. He then goes on to say that at church we are to join in fellowship, exalt God above our struggles, and submit our lives to Him. I agree with all of that - and you know what I feel when I've had that experience in a church... you guessed it! Relaxed and Refreshed!

2. Next he voices concern over a line in one of the videos where a guy is seeking a church that is relevant to today. Ty calls this line of reasoning "a product of the modern Gospel". He defends that the gospel is relevant to all people at all times because we all sin. Again, I agree. However, unless we can explain the gospel to them in a way they understand and in concert with the Holy Spirit, they will not see their sinfulness and need for a Savior. Paul did this while in Athens (see Acts 17). He prayed for it in Ephesians 3:18. And Christ, Himself exemplified this model by using parables "relevant" to the people who listened to his teaching. Relevance is merely the modern day version of apologetics!

3. Ty concludes his blog entry by saying; "I hope that I am wrong. I so do. But this sounds like another attempt at a 'Seeker Sensitive' man-centered Gospel." Ty... if you are reading this, please know... we ARE sensitive to seekers and the only thing man-centered about our gospel is that Jesus Christ became one to save all!

To read Ty's blog, click here.

HOMELESS PARTY

One of the blogs I follow is from a pastor in the Chicago area, Dave Ferguson. He posted an entry this week about a girl in his church who used her birthday as an opportunity to throw a party for the homeless.

I guess I'm posting this because Chattanooga seems to have many homeless individuals and it has been a topic of late at some of our meetings. At any rate, the story is touching.

Click here to read it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

CHURCH HOPPING 4

This week we are headed to Chattanooga Christian Assembly with some friends of ours. To our understanding the church service is in both the English and Indian languages...

Fortunately, I speak both, so I can monitor that everything is being translated properly... seriously, I once ate at an Indian restaurant. It's amazing what you can pick up in a couple of hours.

Also, for those of you who only followed the top few counties during the Olympics, you may be interested to know that India finished the Beijing games with 1 gold and 2 bronze medals. Landing them a 50th place finish, just above Iran. Incidently, the gold medal was won by Abhinav Bindra for Men's 10m Air Rifle. It was the first time that an Indian has won an individual gold since the modern Olympics started in 1896.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

WHAT WE ARE NOT LOOKING FOR!

The Net Church is on the hunt for a worship band for when we launch in January. There's been some discussion concerning what style we are looking for. I wish to begin by saying the following is an example of what we are NOT looking for. Enjoy...

Friday, September 12, 2008

CHURCH HOPPING 3

This week we are headed to Mountain Meadows Church of God. Selina's sister, Kimberly, is singing there this Sunday with Campus Choir from Lee University.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!

This past Sunday afternoon we had our first launch meeting as we head toward our January start date. In the meeting, I shared a bit of the vision of The Net. But, we had a number of people who were unable to attend for various reasons, so...

This week we are going to do something different by pre-producing the teaching segment of the meeting on video, so members who are unable to attend can still be informed on the content - a request that out-of-towners have been making for a while... I'm just know getting around to seeing the value of it. Go figure, I guy with a video background having to be told the importance of video in getting his message out!

Oh, and as for the picture... that's our new camera man! :)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

BOOK PREVIEW

Technically, since I haven't fully read this book I can't call this a review... so this is a book preview.

Yesterday I started my latest read: The Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay. After the first chapter, I love it. I'm trying not to get too excited though... I've had books in the past grab me, only to later disappoint. But, this seems to hold some promise.

The book is written by church planters who are taking their version of church in a completely different direction than the status quo (now you see why I like it). They are less about the weekend and more about the home and community - the whole missional thing, which is very popular these days. I'm not ready to ditch the weekend thing... already crossed that bridge in my mind a year ago. But, I do believe there will be some great insight in this read.

Here's an excerpt:

"When I walk into Starbucks, I don't think about coffee. That's predetermined... tall black Americano. I ponder the lives of everyone I see. I wonder about their spiritual journeys, their highs and lows... and where they look for direction in their search. My initial assumption is that in any room full of people, very few know Christ. I ask myself how I could get into their lives or how a conversation might begin. I don't see them as projects - that wouldn't go very far. I see them as souls the Lord loves who simply haven't seen or heard an accurate message about the Kingdom. I always feel confident that I may one day be talking with them about life and God. Oddly enough, this seems to happen all the time.

I've accepted that God has gifted me this way, and I don't expect that everyone will understand or feel the depth of my passion for the spiritually disoriented, nor that my habits of life and engagment will fit everyone. However, I do believe that since you're reading this, you may share something I rarely say out loud: I can't picture any of these people, or my friends, or your friends, going to church... any church... ever!"

I've been wrestling with a slogan for The Net. I think I like: "The Net - Church for those who don't go!"

Saturday, September 6, 2008

CHURCH HOPPING 2

Week two of our church hopping experience will be taking us to Journey Church in Hixson, TN. Read some of the pastor's blog and it looks to be a pretty happening place. Looking forward to it!

I can't believe I'm posting this stuff... these guys are getting some great free advertisement!

Monday, September 1, 2008

CHATTANOOGA - A GREAT CITY

A recent news story from Channel 12-CBS: Click here to view video.

A PRE-LABOR DAY PICNIC

Yesterday some of the launch team members and friends got together at Riverfront Park. Travis and Kristina organized the event around their youngest son's (Luke) second birthday. They invited us along - for which I am very grateful, because on my own the launch team would still be floundering around on their own wondering if this church they all signed up for was ever going to get together at some point! (That said, we do have our first launch meeting scheduled for next Sunday afternoon).

Our afternoon picnic was great. Good weather, great people, and delicious cake! God has blessed us with many wonderful cooks!!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

BY FAITH WE FINISH STRONG!

I've been reading through the book of Hebrews. This morning I came to the very inspiring Chapter 11 in which the writer explores the faith of many of the Old Testament Heroes. One caught my eye more than the rest: verses 8-9 - "It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him... He went... and when he reached the land... he lived there by faith."

These words spoke to me. I am, like many of you, living them right now. Being called by God to a new place. And when doubt, struggle, or pain come into my life - without faith - my natural inclination is to retreat. But, I try not to live by my natural inclinations... I try to live by faith through the power of God's spirit living in me. And when I live by faith and keep my eyes focused on Jesus, on whom my faith depends, I can finish strong the journey for which He has created me (Hebrews 12:2).

Beginning next Sunday (September 7th), we will officially embark on this journey together. The Net Church will turn the page and begin moving full speed toward its Grand Opening in January 2009. We are blessed to have each one of you by our sides and look forward to the days and months to come! And so...

"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 hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us." (Hebrews 12:1).

God Speed,

Ryan May

Saturday, August 30, 2008

CHURCH HOPPING

What does a pastor, already living in the town he plans to plant in, do on Sunday mornings until the church officially starts? Church hops, of course! Selina and I will be visiting as many churches as we can during the next few months. We want to "broaden our horizons" and take in some denominational services with which we may be unfamiliar.

On previous visits to the city we had attended City Church (Church of God), Rock Point (a strategic partnership church affiliated with North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, GA), and Vineyard Church. All great churches to visit.

This weekend we are headed to Metropolitan Tabernacle. The church is self-proclaimed as "a Spirit-filled, non-denominational church, characterized by dynamic worship, supernatural miracles and relevant ministry for all ages...reaching people from all walks of life." We are looking forward to it! As for next week... who knows! Got any suggestions?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

WE'VE GONE PUBLIC!



If you are in Chattanooga traveling East on I-24, you may notice a billboard in front of Rave Motion Pictures. It's a billboard that is quickly gaining some recognition. People who are logging on to take the IfYouHateChurch.com survey are now telling us that they are hearing about us not only from the billboard, but from friends (i.e. word of mouth - the best advertising you can ask for!). We are also seeing a bump in hits on our church website. Just under 400 hits in the past 5 days!!

As for the survey, we are getting some pretty interesting responses! And I'm happy to report, we are getting responses from Christians and non-Christians alike. Our hope is that in addition to providing people a place to voice their opinions, those who take the survey will check out the church when we launch January 18th, 2009.

If you haven't taken the survey, feel free: www.ifyouhatechurch.com

For more info on the church, please visit: www.netchurch.cc

Friday, July 18, 2008

HOOTER HIDERS

So the other day my wife is invited by another new mommy to join her at a weekly breastfeeding group. It's an event sponsored by Trident Hospital where moms can come for a couple of hours, get a free meal, and nurse their babies. There are even a couple lactation consultants on hand to offer assistance.

Now, my modest wife was a little leery about nursing in the presence of 25 other women, so her friend told her about a nifty little device known as the "Hooter Hider". Its basically an apron that straps around a mommy's neck and allows her to feed in public, while still remaining discrete. My wife was sold on it and rather enjoyed her 2-hour escape from the house.

I got to thinking about my wife's experience... When The Net gets going, it will exist primarily in the form of what we will affectionately call "Net Groups". A Net Group is simply a member-led group (comprised of people inside and outside the church) meeting together around a common interest, study, or service opportunity.

I gotta say, I'm hoping some young mother with a bit of ambition will step up one day to lead a Hooter Hider's group. A place where new mommy's, who feel their little bundle of joy has taken away any hope of a social life, can come together and experience the love of Christ in a fresh and relevant way. Perhaps our ambitious mother could even partner with a local business to provide Hooter Hiders to moms who may not be able to afford their own covering.

Groups like this only scratch the surface of possibility when people are empowered to minister in uniquely God-given ways!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

2,000 MORE SOULS!

News came out today that Chattanooga has landed a deal with Volkswagen to house its first assembly plant in the United States. According to the Times Free Press its a deal that is expected to create 2,000 new jobs. That's good news for Chattanooga and it's good news for The Net... it means our potential "catch" just widened by 2,000 souls for the Kingdom!

Erich Merkle, vice president of forecasting for IRN Inc., said the new plant will also create jobs outside the plant, as suppliers, hotels, and restaurants rally around it. In his words, "It’s like casting a stone in the pond."

Or... in our case, like casting a Net in a pond! A pond that is continuing to grow!!

For Further Study:

Chattanooga Lands VW Plant

Luke 5:5-7; Luke 10:1-2; Revelation 14:14-16

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

WE'VE BEEN SPOTTED!

This morning an email from Geoff Surratt was waiting for me. In it was a link to a blog entitled "Reason for Optimism" from Jerry Gray of Columbia, SC. He heard the message I gave at Seacoast a while back and had some very wonderful and kind words for The Net. You can read it by clicking over to his BLOG.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

YOUNG AND OLD ALIKE

You’ve probably seen this picture. Look at it one way and you see a young lady with her head turned away. Look at it another way and you see the profile of an older lady. Well, it kind of reminds me of the team God is putting around us!

We are now being contacted by families interested in The Net at a rate of one to two per week. And we are becoming a great blend of young and old (or young and “not quite as young, but young just the same” I should say, if I expect to keep them around!). We also have every age in between. This gives us a unique blend of energy and maturity, vision and wisdom.

And apparently, we are a good fit for Chattanooga! In recent articles from the Chattanooga Times Free Press these two diverse age groups found Chattanooga to be a great place to live!

A survey done among 20-40 year olds living in Chattanooga showed an overwhelmingly high satisfaction rate with the city. Many of the respondents said they even recommend Chattanooga to others who do not live in the area.

A separate article revealed that retirees from Chattanooga, who once considered moving to Florida are now rethinking the idea on the premise: “Why in the world would we want to live anywhere else… We think this is a great place…”

The second article also references an MSN Money story naming Chattanooga as one of the top destinations for retirees looking to settle down but not ready for “a sedentary lifestyle of retirement communities and shuffleboard”.

So there you have it! To a city for the young and… “young at heart”, we bring a church for the young and… well, you know. [Disclaimer: If you are on The Net Launch Team and wondering if I am referring to you when I say old… the answer is no. I’m actually referring to someone else on the team. That goes for all of you.]

Links to related articles:


Most Young Professionals Like Chattanooga Life, Study Finds...


Chattanooga Named Top Destination For Retirees...


The New Hot Retirement Spots...

Friday, July 4, 2008

DECLARATION OF DEPENDENCE

Independence is overrated. Is anyone REALLY independent? And even if it is attainable, should that be our highest goal?

Relax. I'm still an All-American Guy. But, the older I get, the more I realize that true strength and true freedom is found in Dependence, not Independence. I used to be a "Free Man" - single and able to do whatever I wanted to do. Then, six-and-a-half years ago, I got married to a beautiful girl. Things changed. Someone else was relying on my ability to make wise choices. A certain dependency was created. Now, last week my son's been born. Talk about dependence! This little guy can hardly do anything without us... I'm reminded of it every time I smell a dirty diaper.

The funny thing is... I like dependence. I'm happier now than I was when I was single. I like the accountablility of it. I like that, when I allow it to, I become more responsible and mature. As a pastor, I've counseled couples who get this and couples who don't. And the ones who embrace dependence survive.

On a spiritual level, God wants this same dependence present in our relationship with Him. Because when we are seeking "spiritual Independence", trying to acquire and obtain our "unalienable rights" away from Him, we fall short. We miss the mark. But, when dependence is present we become more responsible and mature. In essence, we become more like Him.

And so, today on July 4th, our nation's Day of Independence, I ask you to join me in a prayer I pray almost every morning. It was born out of my studies one day in James 4. Verse 10 says, "When you bow down before the Lord and admit your dependence on Him, He will lift you up and give you honor." (NLT)

Today, call out to God and admit your dependence on Him. Let Him know that without Him nothing of consequence gets done in your life. But, with Him all things are possible and freedom from the weights of this world can be reached!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

IT TAKES A VILLAGE...

Don't let the preciousness of this picture fool you... Last night was our third home with our new baby and each night's been like stepping into a cage match.

Round 1 went to Gannon. By morning I felt like a Mack truck had run over me. To be expected after a night of intermittent piercing screams.

Round 2 was closer, but still went to Gannon. Personally, I did better, but he got a best of Selina. Despite the fact that he screamed less, she still couldn't rest well.

Round 3 went to... Ryan and Selina! We got more sleep last night and heard less crying. But, I cannot boast. We owe the success of this round to my wife's mother and two sisters. They gave up their sleep to take the midnight blows for us, allowing us to get some much needed z's.

And so, as the saying goes - It takes a village to raise a child. When our backs were against the wall, the support of loved ones came to our aid. Thank you Dianne, Tina, and Kimberly.

And isn't this the way it's supposed to be? God's design for each one of us is to embrace the support of others and be the support for others. Yet, pride can keep us from the former and selfishness from the latter.

My prayer for all who read this is that you would allow the people God is putting around you to help you walk through life. And that God would open your eyes to the needs of others, so you may be the village on which they can lean.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

GANNON MILES MAY

He is here. Yesterday, Selina and I went in early to have a precautionary ultrasound done before the weekend hit to monitor a low level of amniotic fluid surrounding Gannon. The results led our doctor to suggest a same-day induction. We were caught a bit off-guard and quickly placed calls to our parents so they could get to Charleston ASAP!

After a quick trip home to pack, we were admitted at approximately 10:30am. However, due to an over-abundance of deliveries (turned out to be 7 boys in all) we were forced to wait until 3:15pm to start inducing. From that point it was a slow progression into the evening hours, allowing Selina's parents (Wallace and Dianne) and my mom (Roni) enough time to get to the hospital.

At late evening Selina began dilating quickly. She pushed for approximately 40 minutes and we delivered at 11:03pm. Gannon Miles May: 6 lbs. 12 oz. and 19.75" long. We even managed to make a couple East Cooper Hospital firsts...
  • We were the first to video record a delivery from 2 different camera angles.
  • We were the first to broadcast the delivery via Skype (to Selina's sisters in Atlanta).
Words cannot describe the moment of having my child come into this world. It was A-MAY-ZING! It was quite surreal and I couldn't help but feel like I was looking at myself - starting life all over again. We are looking forward to watching our son grow into the man God has created him to be.

Thank you for your prayers!

Monday, June 23, 2008

If You Hate Church!

One of the marketing strategies we are developing for The Net is the website: ifyouhatechurch.com. We will use it to survey people in the Chattanooga area who do not attend church. The site is still "under construction", so there's no need to visit it yet. However, we have recently produced 3 short videos that will be a part of it when it is complete.

You can view them on youtube.com by clicking HERE.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

EAT UP!

I should have done this a long time ago... In April we attended the ARC All Access Conference in Birmingham, AL. We heard some amazing talks and listened to the ones we missed via podcast. I wanted to give you the link to the audio/video content of the conference sessions. These are the people we are partnering with to start The Net, so download a few and feed your spirit!

http://www.allaccessconference.com/

Thursday, June 5, 2008

THE UNKNOWN

Here's the link to my message at Seacoast this past weekend: CLICK HERE FOR MESSAGE.

My message is from the Say the Word series - Part 3: The Unknown. FYI - Greg Surratt opens the first few minutes of the message... Hope it speaks to you!

If you want more info on the church in Chattanooga we are starting, you can visit our website: www.netchurch.cc

God Bless!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

GROWING, GROWING, GONE!

Soon we will be moving. But, before we do, there is still much to be done:

1. Have a baby - The wife's belly is getting bigger and soon a son will be born unto us!

2. Contact potential members - After speaking at Seacoast this weekend, we have a bunch of cards and emails to follow-up on. It seems the team may be getting a little bigger before we head out. Had lunch yesterday with a couple from Spartanburg, SC. They are tech savy and serious about moving. Also, we held a Q&A at the church last night and had a few interested couples who are continuing to pray about the decision.

3. Raise more money - This weekend we were blessed with an offering from the members of Seacoast. But, there is still more needed to reach our launch budget... we still will be receiving an offering from the other Seacoast campuses next month. That should help!

So, as you can see... everything is growing and growing and soon we'll be gone. Most of the team is already in Tennessee... The Forerunners, if you will! Can't wait to join them!!

PS - As soon as the video of this weekend's message is available, I'll be posting on the blog...

Friday, May 30, 2008

YESTERDAY AND TODAY

Yesterday:

Well, I'm teaching at Seacoast this weekend... but honestly, the hard part is over. Lucky for me a new thing at Seacoast just started: The weekend speaker gets to give his talk to 3-4 other pastors in an otherwise empty auditorium while they stare, fail to laugh at any of the funnies, and take notes during the entire message. It is excruciatingly painful to partake of this new exercise, but well worth the investment. After licking my wounds from 15 minutes of unyielding critiques, I was able to refine my message in ways I would have never thought about on my own. Thanks, Seacoast!

Today:

Selina and I went to the doctor for our weekly baby update. They decided to give us a late-stage ultrasound, so we got another peek at Gannon. I'm not 100% sure, but I think he's part alien... judge for yourself...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

PACKRATS!

Selina and I have too much stuff! We get nauseated just thinking about all the boxes we will have to transport to Tennessee. So, to alleviate the problem, we held a garage sale... 2 of them, actually. One a couple of weeks ago, one today... AND, I am happy to report that we dumped $450 worth of stuff. That's $450 worth of boxes that we will not have to pack, lift, move, and unpack come August.

I think we'll celebrate by going out and buying something we don't need and can sell in a few years in another garage sale for a lot less than what we paid for it!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

ARE WE THERE YET?

We've all said those words growing up, in the car, on vacation... That pretty much sums up my feelings right now. I'm glad we have moved toward starting the church at a manageable pace. I am grateful for this time to flesh out the vision God has given us and be able to build a solid team. But, at this point, I'm like an 8-year-old sitting in front of the tree, two weeks before Christmas, staring at a wrapped box that almost reaches the ceiling with MY name on it!

Some nights I cannot sleep. My mind races about what will be. Daily I find myself furiously scratching out thoughts... often, my hand cramps as it tries to keep up with my brain. I have on more than one occasion called out to God, "Please, no more... I cannot handle one more picture of what you desire to do!" I feel like John on the Isle of Patmos... "When I saw and heard these things I feel down to worship... Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!!"

I hope you are as excited as we are. I hope all of you who will be joining us on this great adventure fully understand the magnitude of what we are doing. I hope you feel as humbled and honored as I do to be used by God in such a magnificent way.

Even today, plans are being made, members are moving in on the city, and soon we will be together - working as one, for one purpose. Until that day, pray... pray hard! Do not lose sight of the vision... and "may the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you all!"

Friday, May 2, 2008

CHURCH PLANTING 101

Monday evening we held our first ever fund-raising dinner. We planned every moment of the night... the worship, the videos, the speakers, the dinner, and the print materials. What we didn't plan for was the torrential thunderstorm that hit right about the time the event was to start.

After hearing a loud clasp of thunder, I looked outside. Then, I looked at my watch - 6:30pm. Then, I looked around the room... 15 people, tops... in a room ready to accommodate 96. My heart sunk into my stomach and I began to swoon. Selina quickly interrupted my near-panic attack: "We should probably go ahead and pray over the meal."

The last thing I wanted to do was stand in front of 15 people and pray over a meal prepared for 6 times that amount! It was the reverse of Jesus miracle of the 5 Loaves and 2 Fish!! But, I went ahead and prayed and everyone began eating... well, everyone except me... I stood there praying for more people to show.

I found out later, it was at about this time that Greg Surratt leaned over to my wife and said, "This is what church planting is all about!" It was time to earn our stripes...

Over the next 30 minutes more people began to stroll in. By the time the event was to start, we had nearly filled the room. God came through and the night went on.

We opened with worship, Greg said some wonderful things about us, and then I got up and pitched my heart out! Between each element we rolled videos of various things I had starred in during my time at Seacoast. It was all very touching. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and we received a generous offering to help start The Net.

At the end of the night, Greg gathered everyone around us to pray over our venture. One of our small group members (Tim McLain) was there that night and later described the scene to me in an email like this:
I was up in the [balcony] with [my daughter] Emily when Greg asked everyone to stand around you and pray for you guys.. I wish you could have been up there with me. What an absolutely awesome sight to look down and see a group of believers with so much faith and love for someone and their mission.
Selina and I sat in bed that evening discussing the way things turned out. She asked if I was pleased... I replied, "More than I ever expected." We are right where we need to be and it never has felt so good.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

24

And the team keeps growing, showing no signs of slowing, and there's no way of knowing if we'll ever start plateauing (didn't see that word coming, did ya?)! I know this much: If God be for us, who can be against us?

Please welcome TJ and Victoria Clayton to The Net Church Launch Team... yes, that makes 24! Selina and I met TJ and Victoria during a Pre-Marital Small Group we led last year. The first day we met them, I wanted them to come to Chattanooga with us! They are an amazing young couple with tons of God-given potential to do great things... a perfect fit with the rest of our team, if I do say so myself!

TJ has been accepted into a Masters program at UTC. They hope to move by mid-August. And that's just in time to join the Launch Team's first "Official" meeting on SEPTEMBER 7th... barring any unforseen circumstances... such as, my wife not delivering our child until month 11! "God forbid," says the pregnant lady!!

Friday, April 18, 2008

22 Members, 5 Tithers, and 2 Overseers

The Net is moving full steam ahead. Selina and I just returned from the ARC Conference in Birmingham, AL. While we were there, we got to visit with Keith and Rhonda Underwood (and their daughter, Abby). The Underwood's are former Seacoasters who are moving to Chattanooga and are now the latest in a continuing line-up of launch team members dedicated to seeing God move in the hearts of those in Southeast Tennessee (I'm now claiming the entire region... funny how a few small moves of God expand our vision!)

In addition, we have started seeing some people already tithing to The Net... including the pastor and his wife - leading by example here, people! :)

And on a final note, we met with Eric and Darlene Partin while at the conference. They pastor a church in Destin, FL that meets at a Rave Theater and have agreed to be an Overseer for The Net... we are officially accountable to someone... well, technically this makes 2 - Greg Surratt already agreed to Oversee us months ago.

Some highlights from our trip:
  • Having Selina's family throw us a baby shower in ATL on our way to Birmingham
  • Getting to visit with fellow church planters in Birmingham
  • Getting to visit with my parents in Birmingham
  • Getting to visit with the Underwoods and their close friends
  • Interviewing an Intern from New Life Church in Colorado Springs (potential worship/tech person)
  • Hearing Greg say that we will always be a part of Seacoast Church
  • Meeting Eric and Darlene Partin and having them say "yes" to being Overseers
  • Listening to an amazing line-up of speakers (I'd share the teachings, but then what material would I have to preach from when the church starts?)
  • Visiting with Russell & Cindy Hall (friends from Selina's former church) in ATL on our way back to ChuckTown
  • Coming back to Charleston, taking a breather, and getting back to work!
We love all of you who are on the launch team, supporting the launch team, or thinking about being on the launch team (WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!!!!?)

FYI - Be praying... a week from Monday we are hosting a fund-raising dinner for the church.

Friday, April 11, 2008

BEFORE SUNRISE...

I hate getting up early. Something's wrong when a person gets up before nature. Yet, as an up-and-coming church planter, occasionally, this is what I must do. Last Thursday morning was one such instance.

I had the privilege of speaking to a morning men's group about the church launch in Chattanooga. 25 men listened as I shared the vision. Then, they asked some questions, made some comments, and prayed over me. Very powerful to have that many spirit-filled men hovering over you in earnest prayer for your future... 8 of the men even asked to be invited to a Fund-Raising Dinner we are holding on April 28th. God is good.

This week, Selina and I are heading to an ARC Conference at Church of the Highlands. We are looking forward to seeing old friends, making new ones, and being refreshed for the season that awaits.

Friday, April 4, 2008

LET THE CHILDREN COME...

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to introduce you to Robbie and Kristy Slocumb and their amazing son, Peyton. These are friends of ours from college who have recently moved from the great state of Texas back into the Chattanooga area. Robbie works for the Boys and Girls Club. Kristy is a former elementary teacher and is currently tutoring students in the Dalton area.

Last week while we were in Tennessee we had dinner with them and shared our desire to have them join our launch team and lead our children's ministry. They prayed about it... as did we: "Please God, let them say yes!" :)

This week they have agreed to come aboard! God is good and continues to grow our group. Selina and I are humbled by the willingness of each one who has stepped up to assist in this vision. Each day brings us closer to Chattanooga and closer to the day we will all minister side-by-side.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

DO YOU RAVE?


Selina and I are in Chattanooga... this has been the best visit, yet. We have been going non-stop since we arrived Monday morning. We are exhausted, but love seeing God at every turn leading us along His path.

Last night we had a meeting at Jack and Lolie's house. Eleven in attendance... 12, if you count our unborn son, Gannon! It was very inspiring, talking about what is to come.

We also met up with the management from the Rave Theater (see pic). Everything looks a go. We had a great time talking with them. Lots to share on this... but, I will save that for face-to-face meetings with those of you who could not make it to the get-together last night. Suffice to say, God's favor is shining down on us in BIG ways!

We ABSOLUTELY CANNOT WAIT to get to Chattanooga and start this work!!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A GOOD TIME HAD BY ALL!

On Leap Day we had our 2nd official launch team meeting for The Net Church. We webcamed the meeting from Charleston to Chattanooga... 19 total in attendance. Here's a video of how it went down:

video

Monday, February 25, 2008

GROWING THE REPERTOIRE...

It's always good to get ahead, isn't it? Put a little in the ol' reserve for a later day. Well, I got to do just that this past weekend when I was given the honor of speaking at Carolina Forest Community Church in Myrtle Beach, SC. This is one less message I'll need to prepare come February of 2009, when the weight of being a lead pastor is FULL ON!

The experience in Myrtle Beach was wonderful. Selina and I got a relaxing getaway, spending Saturday evening on the beach. Then, Sunday morning I spoke at 2 services to 700+ people. Thanks to Charles Fox and the leadership of CFCC for the opportunity. Below is a video of the message. It was done in under 30 minutes, so no excuses for not watching!

video

Thursday, February 14, 2008

IT'S A BOY!!!

This morning, Selina and I found out that we are having a “Mayby” Boy! My poor wife was only able to enjoy the announcement amid continual nausea... first it was morning sickness, then it was a sinus infection, and now the 96-hour bug!

We were only able to record the Ultrasound after the initial exam of the Mayby, so by the time the camera was rolling we knew we had a boy on our hands. But, we did manage to catch on video our little guy putting his feet in his mouth (if he’s anything like his dad, it won’t be the last time!) and chewing, apparently (at 2:20 on the video).

When we got back to the car, I presented Selina with a Congrats! card and a pair of blue booties… yes, I had a pink pair on hand, just in case. She cried… I love when I make that happen (well, these kind of tears, anyway)!

Our son’s name will be Gannon. His middle name is yet to be determined. Feel free to reply to this posting with any suggestions (all names are being considered - except Maria... that's just weird).

Click link to see the Ultrasound: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6883979734276107166

Saturday, January 12, 2008

I MET JESUS!

Last weekend, Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, came to speak at Seacoast Church. I found out about his coming about a month before and requested that I be allowed to open and close the service. My wish was granted...

I went through many rewrites before settling in on my final routine -- in the end, I went with what you see in the video attached to this entry. Here are a few of my favorite moments from the weekend:
  • After the Saturday evening service, Selina and I met Mr. Caviezel and got his autograph. When we walked up, his friend said, "Jim, this is Ryan, he's the guy that did the opening we were all laughing at!" We shook Jim's hand and he said I was hilarious and very natural on the stage... I told him that was the greatest compliment of my entire life!

  • On Sunday, after doing my opening, as I was coming off the stage, Jim gave me a hug. I wasn't expecting it, so I leaned into the hug after he was moving on. I ended up bumping into Shawn Wood, a Seacoast pastor who was walking directly behind him.

  • On Sunday afternoon, I came back to the church for a video shoot and walked into the "bullpen" (a waiting room for the Sunday speakers). When I walked in, Jim Caviezel was sitting in a chair facing away from me. When he turned and saw me he said, while shooing me away, "Hey 50 feet, 50 feet!" referencing a line from my opening.

All in all, a cool experience I won't soon forget... a special thank you to my wife, who coached me repeatedly on my opening!

video