Finished 2021 with a Bang!

For the last quarter of 2021 it seemed like all energy was focused on the Living Nativity at Westside Baptist Church. I could (and should) do an entire post about the differences between the first year and the second year of this event. In short, God exceeded our wildest dreams two years in a row. Everyone believed that God was going to do something amazing this year and that provided all the momentum we needed to do the work. In four days, we saw 11,474 people drive through our Living Nativity event. It was by far the most successful event that I have ever been a part of, and what a privilege it was to lead it. So thankful for the opportunity.

Thankfully after both 40ft storage containers were packed to the brim, it was time to go on a family vacation. We left on Sunday afternoon, after church and drove to Maryland where we spent two days skiing with the family at Wisp Ski Resort. We had the time of our lives! Ok, maybe it was just me, but I loved skiing! Our last day of skiing I literally went skiing from 9am to 9pm. I sat on the ski lift for 5 hours that day! We had a wonderful time and then got on the road to spend Christmas with Nana and Papa in Rhode Island. We had a wonderful visit.

Christmas Eve was the most magical winter experience I can ever remember. We woke up to snow everywhere. Went outside and played in the falling snow. made angels, snow men, played with the sled and had a HUGE Christmas Eve Bon Fire! It was Epic in every way!

Christmas Day was perfect. Watched the snow outside and stayed inside playing with the kids all day long.

The day after Christmas I had a surprise planned for Katie. I packed a bag for her, told her I was taking her out to dinner and then I took her to the hotel that we stayed in the night we got married. It was the Westin Providence, and now it is called the Omni. We had such a wonderful date night. We went to one restaurant for dinner, and another for dessert. Walked around and saw all the special sights that we saw 15 years ago. It was a beautiful date.

We left Rhode Island the next day and headed home with a plan to take our time. We stopped in NYC to visit some very special friends. They spontaneously invited us to spend the night with them, and then they took us downtown to Bryant Park, Rockefeller Center, Time Square and everything in between. It was a wonderful night.

We left the next morning and drove to Alexandria, VA where we stayed for the night. We enjoyed the beauty of the city and had a few fun Uber rides.

The next day we drove to Smithfield, NC where we stayed the night, watched a movie and made our very own Ci-Ci’s Buffet in our hotel room! That was a great memory.

Finally, we made it home on Thursday just in time for the last day of the year on Friday. It was a wonderful trip and I am so thankful that the Lord blessed our family with such a special time together. So what is the takeaway?

WORK HARD / PLAY HARD

Our time of relaxing was so much more appreciated because of the hard work that was put into the season leading up to Christmas.

What are you reading? Who are you meeting?

In one year you will be the same person you are today, apart from the books you read and the people you meet.

This is a lesson that I was taught many years ago, and I consistently try to implement systems in my life that allow me to learn and grow from books, podcasts, and people. Here are some of the books, podcasts, and people that I am learning from right now.

Books:

The 5AM Club – My friend Shane Salmon recommended this book to me. It is a very interesting narrative that encourages its readers: “Own your morning, Elevate your Life.” I am giving this a try. Last night, I got off all electronics by 8pm, and went to sleep at 10pm. Then I woke up this morning at 5am… and then went back to sleep. 🙂 So I am not proficient at it yet, but I am very interested. Here is the plan: Wake up at 5am, spend 20 minutes exercising, 20 minutes reflecting, and 20 minutes on personal growth. This morning I slept in until 5:45 and then I accomplished all of these things, a little bit later. Hopefully I can stay on schedule tomorrow. I am going to give it a try and see how it impacts my life.

Unstuff your Life – Great read so far. The key lesson for me is this: Everything… EVERYTHING has a home. Everything is better when it is in its home. Look around right now, what do you see that is not where it is supposed to be. If everything is always in its home, you will have a life without clutter, and you will always know where to find your keys.

Winning the Inner War – Craig Groeschel was told he would never be a good pastor, and the man was turned down by his Ordination Committee. Wow! This book reminded me that everything I put in my mind will influence the way that I think. I must protect what goes in my mind, to protect what I think about, which will directly influence what I do. Be transformed by renewing your mind in the Word. So many great truths in this book.

Worship Essentials – Mike Harland is fantastic in this book. It is a book that every Worship Leader should read. So much great content on worship discipleship, worship segregation, and true biblical worship.

Podcasts:

The Briefing with Albert Mohler: I listen to this podcast every single morning. It is basically the morning news, explained from a Biblical Worldview. Al Mohler addresses some of the most important news headlines and explains how Christians should think about these things according to the Bible. It is often very deep and intellectual, but I try to stick with it and learn as much as I can.

Dream Big with Bob Goff and Friends: Bob Goff is the happiest guy I have ever known. The man literally puts his cell phone number in his books and encourages his readers to call him. He cannot even finish an interview without cheerfully taking a call from a random stranger. The content is pretty good, but his joy and love are the mains reason why I enjoy listening.

Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast: This guy is a legend. I have read his blogs for years, and I am so thankful that Lifeway Leadership Podcast Network picked him up for this podcast. It is great, brief, and filled with practical leadership advice.

Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast: Come on, this guy is consistent and so intentional in his leadership instruction.

Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast: One of the best! Carey consistently asks great questions! Great interviews!

H3 Leadership with Brad Lomenick: Ok, full disclosure, most of the time this guy kind of annoys me. Sorry. However, he provides SO MUCH solid content from the best books, to podcast, websites, resources, people, ideas, that I must listen anyway. Brad is a curator for lots of really good stuff! Check it out!

The Call To Mastery by Jordan Raynor: This is my newest podcast addition. I am enjoying it. Loved his interview with Candace Cameron Bure. Check it out!

People:

Over the last month, I have been blessed to have lunch with these great leaders! Each one has encouraged me and challenged me greatly! I am so thankful for their friendship and influence in my life.

  • Jody Phillips, Clerk of Court, Sunday School Teacher
  • Scott Connell, Minister of Music, FBCJAX
  • Todd Hickox, Campus Pastor Eleven22
  • Mitch Palmquist, Faithful Friend, Spiritual Giant
  • Several Worship Pastors around Jacksonville.

Here are a few people I would love to meet and spend time with soon:

  • Tommy Carr, Hammond Campus Pastor, Trinity Baptist Church
  • Ray Jones, Worship Leader, Founder of Radiance Ministries
  • David Matthews, Entrepreneur, Actor, Awesome Guy
  • A Flight Instructor

Thanks for reading! What books are you reading? What people are you meeting?

Challenge 2025 Conference

Challenge 2025

It seems like it has been forever since I have been blessed with the opportunity to gather with other spiritual leaders at a Pastors Conference. I can remember different seasons of ministry where these kinds of meetings were a monthly occurrence, but with the changing of ministries and the busyness of life, it has been more than two years since I have been to a pastoral leadership conference. Yesterday ended that streak, and I am thankful.

The Florida Southern Baptist Convention hosted a conference for pastors all over our state for the purpose of sharing a vision for Evangelism over the next five years, and for the purpose of recognizing and celebrating our unity among the Southern Baptist Churches of Florida.

The conference was at First Baptist Orlando, and it was a fantastic day of spiritual encouragement and accountability. I was blessed by the preaching in two different general sessions that reminded us to be faithful in ministry and not to forsake the mission of God to share the gospel to all nations. I loved the emphasis on global missions, especially in a season when we have all been so localized due to COVID.

The preaching was great, but the sessions were even greater.

I went to a session on missions that blew my mind. From the very beginning of this breakout, the Missions and Evangelism Pastor at Hillcrest Baptist Church, Dr. Brian Barlow, shared how he and his church promote missions from newborns to senior adults. Get this: An emphasis on missions begins when a baby is dedicated to the Lord. The church gives each family a $25 dollar check to start their Childs first missions trip fund. They encourage the parents to raise their children with a focus on global missions and they ask the parents to add $3 per week to their Childs missions fund. By the time a student is 15 years old, they have over $2,000 saved up for their first missions trip. In addition, the church is so passionate about missions that they make the entire staff eligible for a fully funded missions trip every three years. These are just two examples of countless things that this church does to keep missions among its highest priorities. I was telling our staff on the way home, that someone could literally take the packet of resources that Pastor Brian gave the attendees and they could become a missions pastor, that is how incredibly valuable the packet of information is that he provided.

In addition to the great preaching and the great breakout sessions, I was blessed the most by the great fellowship. I was listening to a podcast last week that explained that 70% of the guest who attend Catalyst Leadership conference each year say that the conference is amazing, but the greatest benefit of the conference is the drive to and from the venue where the church staff has the opportunity to discuss how they can apply the things they have heard and seen. This is true of most great conferences.

It is less about hearing great content, and more about how you are going to use what you have learned.

We had some very encouraging conversations on the way to and from the conference with some of our pastors. I was blessed by and thankful for the engaging conversation.

Finally, I was blessed to see some old friends at this conference. After the first session, an old college friend walked up and said, is that Lee Tomlin. I turned and was so excited to see Kim Wells. Kim and I were great friends in Bible College and we were able to catch up on life, our families, our ministries, our friends, and what God has done in our lives over the last 16 years. It was a tremendous blessing.

When I got home, I spoke to Katie about why it was so special to see Kim and she said something profound. Katie said: It is so special to see an old friend and reminisce about the old days, because in many ways, that part of your life is gone forever, and it is nice to know that someone else knows about it, can relate to it, and remember some of the details with you.

I could not have said it better myself. Kim and I were able to reminisce about the care-free days of college. It was so much fun to sit there and remember details about family, friends, Gods faithfulness, and a lot of funny stories. It was a huge blessing, and I am so thankful for that opportunity. It was a great conference. I left full. Full of passion for missions, encouragement in ministry, and thankfulness for old friends.

Missed Opportunities…

I have had this thought on my mind over and over for the past few months. It all goes back to one person named Bob Kendall. In Bible College my favorite professor was Dr. Bob Kendall. He was an incredible teacher. He taught in such a transparent, easy to understand, practical application way that captured the attention of every student. When I asked Katie to marry me, I knew there was one man who I wanted to do our marriage counseling. The way that he taught his students about his own life lessons, his own marriage and family experiences, I knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps. He taught me many things during our marriage counseling sessions that I have remembered for years. In fact, I have shared several of those principles and saying to every couple that I have led through marriage counseling over the years. He made such a great impact on my heart, life, marriage and ministry. I have been so blessed by Bob Kendall.

Four years ago God led Bob and his wonderful wife to Westside Baptist Church. Within his first few weeks, I went up and told him what a blessing that he was to my wife and I. I told him how his teaching and counseling has impacted my life and ministry and I told him that I would love to spend more time with him now that he is a member of Westside. I will never forget his response. Bob said to me: “I have nothing but time.”

I have nothing but time…

On Friday, July 17th this great man left this old world and went to be with Jesus.

His funeral was the sweetest memorial service that I have ever been to in my entire life. His children got up and spoke so eloquently about this legend of a man. They each shared about the faithfulness of their father and his love for Jesus. I was blessed to get up and lead a few songs to sing, and I was able to briefly share about his impact on my life.

It was bittersweet in many ways. I was so thankful that he was no longer struggling with his health. He had been struggling for years. I was thankful that he finished his race so well. I was thankful to witness a memorial service for this faithful saint. But I also had such an overwhelming feeling of regret. Other than a few minutes before or after worship services, here and there, I never took the opportunity to meet Bob for breakfast or lunch. It was such a missed opportunity for me. Such a missed opportunity.

He was willing to meet me and pour into me at anytime, and he had plenty of time for me, and I missed it. While I will never know the lessons that I missed that he would have taught me, I can at least learn this lesson. Do not miss opportunities.

What opportunities are available to you right now, that if they were no longer available tomorrow, you would regret not taking advantage of? Who do you need to contact, that may not be available tomorrow? What trip do you need to take before it is no longer available? What race should you run before you no longer have the ability to run?

Pray and ask the Lord to show you what opportunities are in front of you. Ask the Lord to give you clarity about who and what you need to do, and then DO IT! Don’t wait. Don’t put it off. Don’t miss this opportunity.

P.S. There have been hundreds of blog posts ideas that I have had over the last year. I think to myself: This is such an important thing for me to write about. I want to record my thoughts so that I can help others and remind myself later, and guess what… I missed those opportunities as well. I forgot many of those lessons and may never remember them again. But, if the Lord brings them to my mind, then I will not miss the opportunity again. I will record those thoughts and I will share them with you.

Thanks for reading!

God Bless you my friends!

Lee