About Ian Dunaway

I have the privilege of serving as the Associate Life Formation Pastor at SouthCrest Church in Newnan, GA. As a child, the common phrase in my home was, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling..." I was taught from an early age that God made us to work out what we believe about Him and why. I began working out my salvation as a Middle School student at youth camp, and have never been the same since. God has given me the incredible opportunity to sit underneath and be discipled by phenomenal men and woman who taught me that God's Word was made to apply to our everyday lives and not simply a once a week discussion. My greatest joy and passion is to watch people find their salvation and purpose in Christ and grow deeper in love with Him.

Is ANY Job Too Small?!

As our Creative Arts Pastor, Matt McFadden, was talking with us the other day, we discussed how critically important our volunteers are! Without you there is no way we could impact the world around us for Jesus. No matter what church you come from, it is a body of volunteers who are serving their savior.  Matt wrote this post about one of the volunteers in his ministry and we wanted to share it with you!

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“It’s such an incredible thought to me that God involves people like you and me in His kingdom work. He has commissioned you and what’s amazing is that YOU ARE qualified for the job! Not because of what you’ve done but because of what HE has done for you!

The other day I began to think about a friend of mine named Eric. Eric moved to GA from Florida, He told me that he needed a change of scenery and a fresh start. When I met Eric he didn’t have a relationship with Christ but told me that he had questions and that he knew that following Christ was what he needed to do. So many conversations with different people and many weeks later he trusted Christ for his salvation!

His story got me thinking about all the ‘touch points’ that got Eric to his decision about Christ. Think about this…Eric pulled into SouthCrest Church for a ‘first time.’  Someone had to wake up early, before the sun is up early, put out traffic cones and parking signs. Another person had to wear a not-so-fashionable orange vest and carry a green flashing light sometimes in the cold and sometimes in the rain. With a smile someone else directed Eric to a parking spot. Then another person opened a church door and greeted him with a warm ‘good morning’. Another group of people served Eric at the Café, then someone else greeted him at the worship center doors and handed him a connect card. Once in the worship center, someone directed him to a seat where a lighting guy has already set the perfect lighting scene for the beginning of the service. A sound tech has the pre-service music running and two people in the production room had ‘The Weekly’ video on the screens so everyone can know what’s going on at SouthCrest that week. Service begins and our backstage directors cue the musicians to take the stage. This band consists of at least two guitar players, singers, a bass player, drummer, and keyboard player. Then, at the right moment, Pastor Jeff preaches a message. After the  message connect cards are gathered, information is entered, prayer requests prayed over, and a staff member connects.

As you can see, it takes a big team to create this environment at SouthCrest. This doesn’t even include all of our volunteers in the children’s areas that are creating an awesome place for our kids or all the LifeGroup leaders, High school and middle school leaders,  Lay counselors…so on and so on.  Each one of these volunteer positions are very important and they each play a part in creating a runway to Jesus. I believe that even the parking team plays a part in getting someone to Jesus. We are many members and one body. There is overwhelming joy when we serve Jesus with the thought that “What I’m doing is creating an environment where people feel welcome and can meet with Jesus!!” So what am I saying? I’m saying that you should get involved in serving the church!! Lets get people to Jesus!! Share a small part in the stories of changed lives by Jesus!

1 Corinthians 3:5-9 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Thank You Matt! We love and respect you! I pray that as leaders in God’s Kingdom you urge your groups and spheres of influence to serve God so that more people like Eric can meet Christ!

Why We Don’t Stop Meeting in the Summer

Jonah and I were talking about LIfeGroups today and how important it is that we meet year round and not simply during certain seasons. While talking, this post slowly developed, and we decided to share it with you! These are just some of the many reasons we meet during the Summer in LifeGroups.
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1. Life Goes On. Ministry Goes On. – We don’t take a break from our relationships with God, so why would we take a break from growing inChrist with others? Life doesn’t stop, and neither does our great need to continually be connected with others in Christ. To press on and finish the race that we are in, we must continually realize that we cannot function without the Body of Christ – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

2.  Summer Should Equal Rest or Balance. – Even though Summer is a time of rest for kids and hopefully less stress for parents, it shouldn’t be a time that we take off from chasing after Jesus! More rest and free time doesn’t simply mean that we enjoy less stress, but it allows us to come to LifeGroups relaxed and ready to talk. It is easier for us to engage with others and grow together, when we are not stressed about everything else going on in life. The great key to Life in Christ is balance. – 1 Peter 3:17-18
3. Modeling For The Next Generation. –  This really falls in line with #2. The next generation looks at what we are doing now and often overdoes it later. When we model that sports, multiple vacations, and school schedules dictate our commitment to growing in Christ with our Church family, we are teaching those after us to treat Christ as a PART of our schedule and not THE FILTER for it.
– Proverbs 22:6
4. Time to Grow as Families in LifeGroup – LifeGroups should give us the opportunity to grow as entire families, not just as adults. The summer gives us the perfect time for groups to meet not just one day a week, but to have family fun. Grilling out, movie nights, lake days, picnics, ultimate frisbee; friends spend time together because they enjoy each other’s company. It shouldn’t be a scheduling nightmare, simply call a few families in your LifeGroup and spend time getting to know them. 
Those were 5 of our reasons that LifeGroups meet during the Summer and why you need to be a part of them. What are some of your reasons for meeting throughout the Summer in your LifeGroup? 

The Business of LifeGroups

I grew up watching my father be a salesman, and got the chance to ride with him on sales calls from about 8 years old until high school.He knew how to attract new costumers and take care of existing ones. During that time, I never realized how much of an impact watching my dad would have on me. It wasn’t long until I began selling products for him in College. Everything from counterfeit detectors to office furniture. It seemed that if a business needed a product, my dad sold it. After college I found a position at a lumber yard where my primary job was to sell supplies for do it yourselfers and small contractors.
     It may sound crazy, but I learned some incredibly valuable lessons that every Small Group leader needs to know:
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1. Cold Calls are Warmer Than the Saying Implies.
     I remember being so nervous while calling potential costumers that I would often get to the last digit of the phone number and hang up because I was so nervous that I would mess the call up. After months of this, I finally realized that ‘cold calls’ really aren’t that cold. My job wasn’t to sell an office full of furniture in one call. In fact, the only reason a salesman cold calls is to get an audience with a potential customer. This completely changed my perspective!
Remember Leaders: You don’t have to convince every person you call for the first time about their need for community. They’ll make that decision on their own over time. Your goal is to simply get an audience with that person. Whether you go out for coffee to meet them or simply get them to visit your LifeGroup, let people see the great value of community based on what they see in front of them.
2. Satisfied Customers Bring More Business than Charismatic Salespeople.
     Sure, I could hook all the customers I wanted at first, but their business was short lived if they weren’t satisfied. I realized that cold calling may always be a necessity of building new business, but you grow faster when your customers tell others how happy they are with you! Everyone expects a salesman to push his own product, but people raise impressed eyebrows when costumers push your product without you knowing.
 Remember Leaders: You are not the only person who can reach out to newcomers! You should not, and cannot, be responsible for every call to reach out! Divide calls to group members so that potential LifeGroup visitors get to hear from someone other than the ‘recruiter’ that they expect to be excited. If your group is growing community with one another, then people will naturally take the time to talk about it.
3. Continual Care Means Repeat Business
     The first special order I sold at the lumber yard was a nightmare! What was supposed to take a week, 6 weeks! I remember being sick to my stomach every time I had to call my first customer and tell him that I was trying to get his cedar decking in, but it would be another week. At the very end of the whole ordeal I remember that Mr. Frye asked me to speak to my manager. I found out later that it wasn’t to complain. He simply wanted to thank us for what we had done to help him throughout the process to take care of him. Mr. Frye became a regular Do it yourself customer for us!
Remember Leaders: Following up and taking care of those in your group (even the tough ones) is what makes people realize that this isn’t a duty, it’s a real passion. Community fosters loving care for one another no matter the circumstances, and even when it looks like trials will never end, our impact is often far greater than we realize at first.

4. Relationships Build Lasting Business
     As a grade school boy, I remember my dad selling a large order to a regular customer at cost. I said, “Why would you do that?! You’re not making any money!” My dad looked down and said, “Sometimes you need to help take care of people, it’s not just about the money. We’re friends.” Wow, what a lesson. That man still does business with my dad 15 years later because relationships build lasting business. Friends will stick out the hard times and realize there is more than the bottom line holding them together.
Remember Leaders: It’s easy to get so caught up in trying to “grow your group” in size, that you forget to actually “grow your group” in friendships. Groups may come and go, schedules may change, and people may have special needs in certain seasons, but we are in this to build lasting friendships that mirror Christ. Groups that exist to build relationships grow in time, but groups that exist to simply grow numbers fail quickly because they have no foundation!

Picked Last

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David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. 2 All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him. – 1 Samuel 22:2
By the time I graduated college I had been teaching small groups for 4 years. I had taught mainly high school and middle school at that point, and as I found myself bold new world of adulthood one reality became increasingly clear: I couldn’t live life by myself, and the more I tried, the more I began to sink in my own walk with Christ. At every other point in my life, I had always been surrounded by people who loved and encouraged me to follow Christ, but I had reached a place where love, encouragement, and Christ followers were an increasingly rare commodity. I still had a great small group of high school students, but no one that could genuinely identify with my day to day struggles, or even have the same sense of humor and fun that I did. For a while I tried to convince myself that I was fine and that the strong were made to stand alone, and even though I was anchored to Christ, I knew that I was simply treading water while slowly trending downward.
Finally, after about a year, I joined a young singles small group at my church that met in the house of a pastor that I had grown up with. I struggled to even go because of the old church stigma that single’s groups were the places that high expectations came to die. The imaginary slogan running through my mind was “Can’t find a spouse? Neither can they! Join our group!” But I still went. Apprehensive, a little judgmental, but at the point that I wanted to share life with people who could simply identify with me. I had never been in an adult small group until that point. The leader was my age and married, not an old sage-like teacher, and the people that attended were really nothing like me. Some were older, some in totally different walks of life, others with careers in full swing, some had yet to find a career, and I was simply working a job to get me through grad school. It was nothing like what I expected and thank God it wasn’t. I began to realize as the weeks moved on that these people were more like me than my slogan allowed, and even their differences simply allowed me to see things from a perspective that God used to shape my life and vision to be more like Him. I even began to feel comfort in the fact that my leader was someone who could simply identify with me and walk alongside me. We may have been in slightly different stages, but we both struggled, and could walk alongside one another. I learned that leaders aren’t people who have it all figured out, they are simply chasing toward the answers faster than everyone else and encouraging them to come along.
I can’t help but think that David and his men felt the same way about each other as my I felt about my first adult small group. David was a great military commander, but at this point a fugitive from the king, and his band of men had one thing in common: they were all equally as alienated from society in one way or another. This isn’t the group I would have chosen if I were David, nor the commander I would have picked first if I was one of those 400 men, and it defiantly isn’t the situation anyone would want to be in. Yet it is amazing that these 400 distressed, indebted, discontented men became the bulk of David’s mighty men of great renown. They accomplished God sized tasks and reigned with David in the golden age of Israel. God took an unlikely crew and accomplished unprecedented tasks.
As a leader we often spend time thinking about what should be and what we want, but God has placed us in specific places, with specific people, with great purpose in mind. When you look at the group that God has given you to lead, the people he has opened up the doors to pursue, and yourself as a leader, the first inclination is to simply point out the flaws and resort to the what if’s that would improve your circumstances instead of realizing that God has gifted us with each of these things for a great and powerful purpose. So as you lead those God has entrusted to you, remember what this passage teaches us:
1. David was an anointed and wrongly accused felon, but still a felon on the run. We aren’t perfect and can’t be, but thankfully God doesn’t ask us to be. Our situations do not define us. Christ defines us so lead from that fact. Leaders who accomplish great things are often the last ones you would expect.
2. David identified with his men in, his own, brokenness and vulnerability, not in power and invulnerability. Followers know that leaders are not perfect and good leaders embrace that fact. When we are able to admit that we have struggles too, we allow others to find comfort that they are not inadequate, simply running with you.
3. The men that David had been given were a far cry from the armies he had previously led into battle. They were men on the fringes of society who struggled just like David, but God brought them together to do great things. Great leaders see the potential of what God has entrusted to them, and seek to develop it instead of simply looking for better stock to fit their mold.
Remember, you and your group were built to do things that you could scarcely imagine. The gates of Hell quake in fear when the purposes God has given us are realized! Don’t short sell what God picked specifically for you!

Does One Size Really Fit All?

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19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

 – 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

This seems like such a contradictory passage. Why would Paul, who was saved from legalism, murder, and sin, say that he would be as someone under the law, apart from the law, or weak? What does it mean to “…become all things to all people…”? We normally read this passage and try and understand exactly what Paul did to become all of these things. How does He manage to be so brilliant and reach so many people from completely different worlds? We spend time trying to be “better teachers” and find new ways to communicate because that is what we believe that Paul did. The problem is that we focus on the wrong object within this passage. Paul could spend time with Jews and live within their system because he knew that his identity did not lie within that system. He could reach those who lived out from under the Jewish law, because simply stated, neither was he. Paul could become as those who were weak because he knew that no one is strong by themselves. The truth is that Paul was who he was because the Gospel is what it is. Instead of focusing on what Paul was, it is a better idea to focus on the fact that the Gospel made him who he was. The beautiful thing about the Gospel is that it can work and function inside of any system. Paul could live like a Jew because Christ had fulfilled the need to keep the law so Paul was not bound by it. He lived within the law for the opportunity to show them how it had been fulfilled. Paul could live with and minster to gentiles because Jesus had provided a way for all the nations to be blessed by grace and salvation. Provision was now given to all men and was not contingent on works. Paul made himself weak because the Gospel is the great leveler of all men, and reminds us that no man is strong except for the one who paid the price owed by humanity. Though Paul’s theological and educational credentials put him at the top of the list, they could not complete the list that he just gave to the Corinthians. Paul lived among and reached these people because the Gospel was given to reach ALL men and empowered him to do so. The Gospel reaches those under the law by crying that it has been fulfilled; it reaches those out from under the law by showing the new covenant of grace; and it reaches the weak by meeting them with Christ’s strength. The Gospel will reach all people, because it applies to all people.
All of this began to filter into my mind after a small group leader asked me a question. He asked about the possibility of teaching a group of people who were unchurched or had been away for a long time. He expressed concern at the possibility of people like this feeling uncomfortable in a group of “church people.” As I thought about his question, my mind recalled another comment that I had heard just a couple of weeks prior, from a girl who attended a single’s group. She made it abundantly clear that she did not want to attend a group for a few weeks because the topic centered around relationships. She wanted a “Gospel centered” study and not one that focused on issues like relationships. My first response was simply say that, “If the Bible’s open you will always learn something.” And though I agree with that statement, scripture deepens it this statement. How can someone say that a relationships study isn’t a “Gospel centered” study? Why would a group of “Church” people make those where unchurched or de-churched uncomfortable? The answer is simple. Just like we focus on Paul and put the Gospel in the background, we often focus on the lesson we teach and not the Gospel we have been saved by. The safest place for those far from God should be in a group of people who know and love Him, and a study on relationships should be nothing more than study on how the Gospel changes and prepares us to be in them. This principle applies to every facet of our teaching. Why do we assume that a lesson on marriage cannot be taught to singles? Are they not husbands and wives who are just waiting to meet their spouse? They should benefit and listen to the beautiful picture God has painted into marriage to reflect His Son and the deep love He has for His children. Why should the unchurched feel uncomfortable in a group of seasoned Christians? Aren’t they in the perfect place to be brand new partakers of the grace that others in the group are seasoned partakers of? Somewhere along the way we must begin to realize that every lesson from God’s Word applies to anyone who is listening. This is where the teacher is empowered by God’s Word, and this empowerment is due to our focus. We have to ask ourselves these questions: What does this passage say about God and His character, and how does that change those within my group? Relationships are pictures of Christ restoring our relationship with Him and new believers are refreshing pictures and opportunities to walk in God’s continual grace. What season is your group in and how does the Gospel apply to it?