To Cross Or Not To Cross

Most of you know that I had the honor of starting a new church last September.  We’ve experienced some really great things, God is moving in our congregation, and our baby church is growing up fast.  It’s been really cool and most of us have the strong feeling that we’ve stumbled on something really special!

When we first moved into the building, we all had to roll up our sleeves and get the place ready.  You see, it had been a bar for almost 100 years before we moved in.  We painted, put in new carpeting, did some deep cleaning, and of course tore out the bar.

The only thing we didn’t do was hang up any crosses.  Come to think of it, there’s not a shred of religious symbolism anywhere.  It’s not that we’re opposed to those things.  It just never came to mind.  In the midst of planning, reaching out to the neighborhood, praying for the sick, and worshiping Jesus, it hadn’t dawned on us that we should have a cross up somewhere.

An older gentleman asked me shortly after we launched why there were no crosses and I just scratched my head and said, “Uh…I dunno…”

My question is… should we have a cross somewhere on our church?  Can God use us to bless our city and expand His Kingdom if we don’t have religious symbols?  Please let me know what you think and why.

To cross or not to cross?  Leave your answer below…

Reaching the Lost Costs a Lot of Money!

You may have already heard that God has called my family and me to plant a new church, in the Quad Cities, called Mercy Vineyard ChurchWe believe that the greatest form of evangelism today is church planting and we’re excited to partner with God in bringing in a harvest in Northwest Moline/Northeast Rock Island.  There, we will be reaching out to the working poor of our community to meet their spiritual and physical needs.  We have a long way to go and a short time to get there and we are asking you to partner with us financially and through your prayers.

Our vision is to see a large, multicultural, multigenerational, multiplying church reaching, teaching, and releasing to make God famous and expand His Kingdom on the Illinois side of the Quad Cities. Our first Sunday morning service will be held on September 18th.  Our goal is 300 in attendance and our launch team has been working hard to invite friends, coworkers, relatives, and neighbors.  We believe many will come to know Jesus and we’ll do whatever it takes to introduce seekers to Him.

We have been blessed and sent out by The Vineyard Church of Davenport with their full support.  The majority of our launch team is from there and we carry with us many of their values and their philosophy of ministry.  It’s a wonderful culture of being the hands and feet of Jesus to our community.

To make this happen, we need to raise $72,000 as quickly as possible; $15, 650 for marketing, signage, and print materials, $12,000 for sound, lighting, and video equipment, $15,000 for facilities, and $30,000 for administration.  We have so far raised $20,000 but still have $52,000 to go to make this happen in a way that speaks excellence, caring, and commitment to the community we are reaching out to.  Would you please commit to a large, one time financial gift or a monthly gift to Mercy Vineyard Church for 18 months?

Giving can be done by mailing a check to Mercy Vineyard Church P.O. Box 1654 Moline, IL 61266 or online at  Financial supporters will receive monthly newsletters to keep them up to date with what God is doing through our brand new church and inform them of urgent prayer needs.

If you wish to speak to me personally about the Mercy Vineyard Church and how you can be a part, please email me at and I would be honored to share, in greater detail, the strategy for launching this new work.

Running Hard After God,

Lee Bezotte

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The Biggest Announcement Ever!!

It’s been a year and a half since we began considering our next step.  We’ve prayed, thought, been to conferences, taken assessments, sought wise advice, and waited patiently (and sometimes not-so-patiently) for God to speak to us.  We’re so excited to finally go public with it!  We’re planting a church!

A little history
In August of 2009 the ministry I was working for had to release half of its staff for financial reasons.  I loved my job there and continued to travel, speak, and lead prayer events even after I left the prayer center.

When I was faced with the task of deciding what to do next with my life, I thought I’d tackle the process from a different angle.  Instead of going into panic mode and getting another church or ministry staff job, I chose to waitI started a business so that I could have a measure of flexibility and still pay the bills.  I also did something I’d never done before when making a major life decision.  I sat down with my wife and children and told them that we were all going to pray and make this decision together; that we would let God lead all of us instead of simply moving ahead with my own big ideas and expecting the family to go with it.

I knew it was going to take time and I knew It would be difficult, but I chose to wait until we all heard from God (including my 7 year old).

A Ridiculous Idea
Shortly after our family meeting, I got together with my pastor to ask for prayer for our situation.  During our conversation, he asked me how I felt about church planting.  I laughed and said something about that being the LAST thing I wanted to do.

I had already been down that road in Ireland and in the U.S..  It was grueling, frustrating, and unfruitful.  I didn’t know at the time that there is some really good church planting resources out there and organizations that offer terrific support.

My pastor asked me to pray about it and he sent my wife and me to a conference for those just thinking about church planting (I didn’t know there were conferences like that).

After months of praying, people began making comments to me like, “I sure wish someone would plant a Vineyard Church in our community.” and “I would so be there if a Vineyard started here.”  A friend of mine, who had no idea that church planting was even an option for me, had a vision of me starting a church.

Believe it or not, I was still resisting the idea until…

A Powerful Confirmation
My wife came to me and said, “I think we’re suppose to plant that church.”

“I’m not so sure of that.”, I’d say.

This went on for months!  Then one day, I was working in my office.  It was a small room right off of the play room.  I could hear my three boys talking enthusiastically about something and I listened in.  They were talking about starting a church!  They took turns talking about what kind of childrens’ ministry it would have and what the youth group would be like.  They were totally on board and I was following close behind them.

Just a few days later, my wife and I attended another church planters conference.  This time, the national church planting director approached us out of the blue and invited us to dinner.  He spoke a powerful word into our lives and I was sold.  I knew it was what we were supposed to do!

A Bright Future
So here we are!  We went public with the plant during Sunday service this week.  We have a great pastor who is amazingly supportive (I love the fact that we have a mother church).  We’re assembling a launch team and we’ll have our first church service in the fall.

We don’t have  a location yet, but we know we’ll be on the west side of Moline or the East side of Rock Island.

We have a long way to go, but we have this AMAZING God who called us to it and is faithful to do His part in this lofty venture!

Please consider partnering with us with your prayers.  We need people who will lift us before God’s throne regularly.  The task is great, but He is greater still!

Thanks so much!

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Happy Festivus!

Well today is Festivus!  Since it’s a time for the airing of grievances, I thought I’d share this with you.  I wrote this one a while back on one of my “Christians ruin everything” days.  I hope you like it…

Well, Christmas is almost here.  Kinda…

Recently, some close relatives of mine decided they weren’t going to be celebrating Christmas any more.  Many of the traditions we observe around this holiday were actually borrowed from pagan celebration rituals, such as the tree, the garland, yule log, and so forth.  The Mesopotamians worshiped their god Marduk.  The Persians had Sacaea.  And the Romans celebrated Saturnalia.  A few hundred years after the time of Christ, Christians hijacked this time of year to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Quite a strategic move, in my opinion.  Everyone’s whooping it up and having a great time.  Why not make a major, worldwide cultural shift?  Not an easy task and definitely one for the win column if you ask me.  Just think, if we didn’t have Christmas, human sacrifices might still be made to Marduk!

It’s unfortunate that, out of something I can only describe as theological exclusivism, so many believers seek to destroy excellent things by trying to dig up what was before.  “Celebrating the birth of our Savior and the hope of mankind?  PAGAN!  Don’t you know that the Romans worshiped Saturn?!!”  In the 1600s, the Puritans actually had Christmas banned for a few years.  Apparently people were partying too hard and it was time to put the kibosh on all that tomfoolery.  One person I spoke to actually used the Puritan ban as a reason for not celebrating this year.  What I want to know is, what does this constant probing and criticizing do for a person? Does it make them feel like they’ve one-upped the rest of the Body of Christ?  Does it make them feel closer to God?  I was listening to one woman rant about how she can’t stand to listen to modern worship music because the words “I” and “me” were used too often and it wasn’t “God-centered” enough.  I thought to myself, “Hmmmm…Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me I once was lost, but now I’m found.  Was blind, but now I see.”  You’re right lady.  The older songs don’t use “I and me” at all…  Let’s just say, I find it hard to see the life abundantly Jesus spoke about in a brand of Christianity that spends so much energy on “exposing the wrong” in everyone elses faith practices.

Maybe I just tend to cling too tightly to Philippians 4:8, “…Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right.  Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”  Aren’t those things true of Christmas?  Families come together, we bless each other with gifts, we feast together, we reflect on the birth of Christ and how he’s changed our lives.  Those sound like some pretty lovely and excellent things to me!  After all, it was God who invented holidays.  He even made it mandatory for the children of Israel to take time out to feast and celebrate to help them always remember what He had done for them.  Isn’t that what Christmas is about?  Always remembering the awesome gift that is Jesus?

I wasn’t there in the 300’s when the Pope established December 25th as the day to remember Christ’s birth.  I’ve never been to a Winter Solstice, and I’ve never yelled “Jo, Saturnalia”.  All that I’ve ever known is the Jesus’ birthday Christmas.  It doesn’t matter to me whether he was born in December, March, or February for that matter.  All that I know is that a great appreciation swells up in me, this time of year, for the one who shed his deity, laid down his rights, and came to earth as a baby.  Luke chapter 2 still moves me to tears, and I love to see the look in my sons eyes as I read it to them on Christmas morning.

As for me, I choose to celebrate.  If your special insight and elevated ability to decode the history of this holiday keeps you from being with family members, exchanging gifts, and singing songs of celebration, then…happy Festivus.  Enjoy the airing of grievances.

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

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One Thing (Part 3)

Wow!  What started as a simple question that I decided to ask (check it out here) has turned into a mini-series of questions.  I’ve really enjoyed all of your comments and insights on what you believe the church should do really well and what, if they tanked at, would cause you to leave.

My last question (well, hopefully my last) is for the many people who have shared that they’ve already left the church.  I know a surprising number of people who have decided to stop attending for one reason or another.  Many of them have really good reasons for doing so.

My question today is this: what would it take to get you back to church? More solid teaching?  Meaningful friendships?  Better worship?  An apology from your pastor?

What would it take?

OK go.

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