Random Late Night Thoughts about Thrive turning TWO!

**Note: I am typically not up this late at night and so there are probably many typos in this blog post. 

Well, tomorrow is a big day.

It’s Thrive’s TWO year anniversary. Gosh, these past two years went by quick! Like, lightening quick! It really seems like yesterday that I was sitting in a coffee shop and writing this blog post. And, here we are almost 3 years later and Thrive is turning TWO.

I’ve learned a ton over the past 2.5 years. Here’s the most overwhelming truth that I’ve learned…

God is faithful! 

It’s been a wild ride. Way, way up and way, way down. Some months have been amazing and some months have produced such amazingly awful pain. But, all in all, I wouldn’t trade any of it.

Thrive Church turns TWO tomorrow and I’m proud of my church. I love my church and I know God has some great plans ahead for Thrive Church.

It started as a few couples sitting around a dining room table and it has grown into a movement of over 500 men, woman, students and children. We have no affirmations of being a big church, we just beg God daily to have a big impact in Central MI for His Kingdom. We ask God for big life change to happen in peoples lives.

We’re not stuck on tradition. We’re not stuck in following a list of rules. We do things a little different. We run after the mess. We work really hard to create an environment and culture where everyone is loved. We’re passionate about people and we desperately want to see people fall head over heals in love with Jesus.

That’s why we do all of this. For Life Change. For people to walk away from what’s holding them back from being formed in the image of God.

People have come and people have gone. Some were just along for a short season and some have been at Thrive since the beginning. Some people come in and get all excited and then fizz out. Some people come in who are hurting and hopefully Thrive is a place for them to heal up. Some people serve so sacrificially, it’s just amazing.

Thrive wouldn’t exist without the help of other Churches. Without them, we would have never gotten off the ground. I am eternally grateful to…

Kensington Church, Venture Church, Heritage Church, Lapeer Community Church, and Thrive Church TX.

When we started we didn’t have a sending church. A Church that sent a group of people to get us going. But, we did have a few of us who have worked for churches and have been around church leadership and that was invaluable to have. We never sent any mass mailers. We just started. We turned to Facebook. We turned to word of mouth.

And, in our short 104 weeks, 112 people have been baptized!


We started with nothing. I didn’t even own a computer. God provided. We didn’t have a copier, God provided. We didn’t have a trailer, God provided. We didn’t a staff, God provided. We didn’t have a prayer, God provided. We didn’t have a worship leader, God provided. We didn’t own any equipment, God provided. We didn’t even have a space to gather on Sundays and God provided. And, we didn’t have an office area or a place for our students to meet and again, God provided.

It’s been amazing to see people who had totally given up on Church and God, find a church home and a relationship with God. It’s been amazing to see marriages healed. It’s been amazing to see our church family live out Acts 2. It’s been amazing to watch kids fall in love with Jesus. It’s been awesome to see our students grow and begin to lead. It’s been awesome to see how God has used our little church to impact our community.

Of course, there have been painful moments. Week in and week out, it’s so hard sometimes to hear all the pain and hurt that people are dealing with. Job loss, debt, sickness, cancer, death, loss of relationships, gossip and pain. There have been times when I had to make decisions that a few people disagreed with and they left Thrive over it. There have been moments when you invest so much energy and time into someone and they simply let you down. There has been a lot of heart break.

But, I love my church. I love the staff that God has lead to Thrive. I love the Church leaders He has brought. I love the family He has brought. I love the kids and students.

I know He has some amazing plans for us. Tomorrow is a big day. Tomorrow we’re actually attempting to take a huge step to expand our REACH.

We have dreams. Dreams to bless even more. Dreams to give away more. Dreams to reach more. Dreams to operate a 24/7 facility that will be open to the community whenever! Dreams to continue being a church for people that aren’t perfect. Dreams to continue pointing people to Jesus.

Thank you for your support and encouragement. Thank you for your prayer! Thank you for your financial support.

I can’t wait to see what God has for us in the next TWO years!

A conversation with my 15 year old that had me tearing up

I love having a 15 year old daughter! I still think it’s crazy that I’m old enough to have a 15 year old, but I love it!

I’ve been praying since before she was born that God would use her to reach thousands and thousands of people for His Kingdom!

Now that she’s 15, it’s so amazingly fun to see her start to use her gifts to lead at Thrive Church! I believe she has the gift of leadership and others have told me that.

So, we’re driving after school this week and she says…’Dad, I had a wild dream last night’. I said, ‘tell me all about it’. She begins to describe this dream of how she was teaching at Camp Timber Lee (a camp I’ve taught at for 10 years and she’s heard me give hundreds of messages there).  She talked about the illustration she used and what she taught about it. She lit up when she was talking about it.

I was wrecked! I teared up and tried to hide it from her! I’ve been praying and dreaming for 15 years that God would give her dreams and visions of how she can be used for His Kingdom!

I can’t wait to see how God uses her!

Help Send Bekah to Ecuador!!

Would you help Bekah Raitz raise $1000 for her to go to Ecuador? Any size gift will be a huge blessing and every gift matters.

Ok, let me back up.IMG_6807

I have the privilege of taking my oldest daughter, Bekah,  with me to Ecuador, November 17-21. We are going to check out Stadia and Compassion’s church planting and child sponsorship efforts! I can’t wait! I was suppose to go on a trip in August 2013, but had to cancel because of my back problems.

But, here we are a few years later and now I get to take my 15 year old! I really believe it will be life changing for both of us!

We will get to meet our families Compassion sponsored child and we couldn’t be more excited! We will also get to see first hand the efforts that are being done to release children from poverty.  We will also get to meet the leaders and people who are establishing new churches and literally bringing waves of life change to communities and neighborhoods!

This is all important because at Thrive Church, we are praying about being able to plant a Church in Ecuador sometime in the next couple of years. And, we have a Compassion Sunday in early November and we are praying for 50 children to be sponsored!

If you want to read more about these incredible endeavors and partnerships, please check out this link. 

Bekah needs to raise $1000 by November 1st to be able to go on this life changing trip. 

So, would you help her?

Would you partner with her and donate funds for her to be able to go? I can’t thank you enough in advance!

If you want to give online, head here.  Just select Ecuador Missions Trip and you can make your online gift there. All gifts are tax deductible.

If you would like to send a check. Just make it out to Thrive Church and put Bekah Raitz in the memo line. Send it to…Thrive Church, PO Box 1408, Mt Pleasant, MI 48804.

Thank you so much for making this life changing trip possible. 

Lastly, check out this video to find out more about Stadia’s efforts with Global Church Planting!




Meet Thrive’s Newest Staff Member…Dave Shephard

I’m so excited to introduce you to Thrive’s newest staff member, Dave Shephard!shephards

Let me back up! Over the course of the last month or so, we’ve been interviewing Dave for a role on the Thrive staff team. The whole process has been an ONLY GOD type thing and last week we finished interviews with our Elders/Financial team and our Staff.

I offered David the position and he accepted!!!! So, Dave is Thrive’s new Creative Director. Dave will work closely with Matt Moore and the Thrive Kidz and One Youth teams to create irresistible environments at Thrive. Dave has offered to raise his salary for his first year or so on staff and we are so thankful for that. Please be praying for his fundraising efforts! If you would like to help, head here.

He and his wife Stephanie have two little boys and a baby girl due in December! They live in Shepherd and are graduates of CMU! Dave is incredibly talented and we’re so excited to have him on the team. Check out his blog here.

Would you please take a moment and welcome Dave to the team? Either via Facebook or email (dave.shephard@thrivechurchmi.cc).

If you’re at Thrive this Sunday, you will meet the whole Shephard family!!

I’ve been thinking…

For whatever reason, I’ve been doing a pretty good amount of thinking and reflecting lately.

Maybe it’s because I turn 40 next month. Maybe it’s because Thrive Church turns TWO on October 4th. Maybe it’s because my kids are becoming teenagers.

For whatever reason, I’ve just been in a pretty reflective state the past couple of weeks.

I’ve been thinking about August. We’re not even done with it yet and for Thrive Church, it’s been one of our best months ever! Not so much when it comes to some of the data that churches track. Our attendance hasn’t been off the charts (except for our baptism Sunday!!) or either has our giving. But, when it comes to impact. Wow! 

  • We kicked off a 31 Day Prayer Walk and it’s been so awesome to see people post photo’s from the their prayer walks online.
  • We kicked off a series called ‘I love my Church‘ and I think it’s been one of our best series yet!
  • We baptized 63 people!
  • Facebook literally blew up for several days and thousands of people looked at the photo’s that were posted online.
  • Our One Youth interns have been posting update videos and their second video ever had more than 700 views!
  • We hosted a night at the HUB where my friend Dr. Tom Rundel from Liminal Leadership taught on the Gospel and it was just stupendous. Plus, he poured into our staff and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room!
  • Today, our Church leaves the building and serves schools all over the place! Yeah, we cancelled our experiences to do this! It’s kind of nuts! The worrier in me wonders if people will come back next week! Hah! But, this is going to be AMAZING!
  • This Wednesday we have our Volunteer kick off or Vollapalooza as we call it and we’re making and making huge steps towards training and encouraging our volunteers.
  • Then, on Saturday, we send out teams of Thrivers to pass out waters to a concert in downtown Mt Pleasant. And at the same time, a group of Thrivers are going to be passing out frisbees and other fun stuff at MainStage, an event that welcomes CMU students.
  • And finally, we finish our ‘I love my Church’ series on August 30th! If that wasn’t enough, we introduce and pray over Thrive’s new Elders! Plus we’ll watch our baptism highlight video! Whew!

What a month! 

Needless to say, in my humble opinion, Thrive’s impact this month has been Off the Charts! We’ve been a little too busy for my liking, but I’m praying like crazy that all of this momentum is setting us up for a truly tremendous fall launch!

I’ve been thinking about turning 40. I looked forward to turning 30 and welcomed it. I don’t have a crazy aversion to turning 40 and my world doesn’t seem to be falling a part. Am I where I want to be? No. Do I get stuck in the rut on ‘what if I would have done things differently’? Sure. But, I’m excited to turn 40. I’m excited to welcome my 40’s and finally make some of the changes that I’ve known for a long time need to happen.

I’ve been thinking about my kids. We have a 10th, 8th, 6th and 2nd grader. I just can’t figure out when that happened. It really does seem like yesterday that they were toddlers and we were filling up strollers and wagons. Don’t get me wrong, I love this age. But, wow, we’ll blink and they will be done with high school.

I’ve been thinking about Jesus. Gosh, I just want to know Him more. I want people to see Him in my life. I want to spend great amount of time with Him. I want to be hungry for the ways of God. I want to be covered in the dust of my rabbi.

I’ve been thinking about the future of Thrive. We’re just turning TWO. We’ve accomplished so much and yet, I believe with ever ounce of my being that the best is yet to come! We have some giant goals this next year for Thrive and I can’t wait to lay them out in September during our REACH series!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately. I’ve been reflecting. I’ve been talking to Jesus about it all. I don’t have many answers. I actually have more questions. But, I’m just trusting. Just reflecting.

The battle I can’t seem to win

I’m a fighter. I think the people who know me best would say that I’m a fighter. Of course, I’m a lover. But, I’m talking about fighting through struggles and the hardships of life.

I believe I’ve always been a fighter. I’ve always tried to walk towards the fight. I’ve tired to not turn tail and run. Yes, are there conflicts I walked away from? Yes. Not proud of that.

But, I hope it’s true that I’m a fighter.

The battle I can’t seem to win

But, there is one area of my life that I just can’t seem to get any traction, get any footing on and I just can’t win. I’ve battled this fight for most of my life.

It’s my health.

Plain and simple, I’m struggling to get healthy. To be healthy. To live in a healthy way. I’m obese. I’m overweight and it affects everything. My well being. My leadership. My self image.

I’ve listened and read everything. I’ve tried and tried. And, I have a new group of people in my life who are holding me accountable. But, wow, this is a battle that is almost to hard to win.

2012 was a pretty horrible year for me personally. That’s kind of an understatement. The year sucked! I left a job sooner than I anticipated and attempted to start a non profit. We had no money. In the stress of leaving and starting, I was stressed, anxious and mad. So, I worked out. I fought through my back pain and in literally no time, I was down 50 pounds. I felt amazing. I felt confident. I felt awake. I felt alive.

Then, the weight slowly came back. 

In the fall of 2013, I made great changes to my life and again, 40 pounds fell off. Again, I felt great.

Then I started a church and I experienced the most amount of stress I’ve ever experienced. As soon as I started the church, my back went from the normal pain I’ve been experiencing for years to a def con 5 kind of pain.

Living with P A I N Sucks. 

Everyday. Most moments of the day. Most movements have caused pain. In Jan. 2014 I had back surgery. I was praying I would rebound quick. I didn’t. I moved slow. The pain was just too much. I fell deep into a hole. In the midst of living with excruciating pain and then not being able to do all the things I love…playing catch with my kids, going on walks…I gained weight like it was a hobby.

At the start of 2015 I was killing it. Eating the way I know I’m suppose too. Working out 4 days a week. I still couldn’t run or do any time of physical movements (jumping jacks, jump rope), but I could use the Elliptical and swim. And, it was going well.

Then, in mid February I made the stupid decision to play racket ball with a few friends. I paid the next 2 months for that.

I’ve gotten use to not bending. I don’t pick up anything that’s on the floor.

But, I have found a great chiropractor and my back is getting stronger and better everyday. I still wake up with great pain every day. But, with a massive amount of stretching and walking, it’s so MUCH better.


Getting out of the hole


Have you ever been so far in the hole that you give up hope that there’s anyway out?

That’s the land I live in with my weight.

I know better, that’s the deal. I have read so many books and articles on health. I know I should eat more salads. I know I should stop drinking pop. I know leaders take care of their bodies. I know I’m an awful example to my kids and to my wife and to my church and to my friends.

I know.

But with the pain and with the stress of starting a church and the stress of our own family stuff, I’ve fallen deeper and deeper into the hole.

It’s half way through 2015. I turn 40 September 22.

That’s enough to give me the kick in the pants I need.

So, here goes. I’m going to fight this! I’m going to give it my all.

Would love your prayers!