A Legacy of Discipleship


by jonathan haskell

I received word yesterday that one of my heroes passed away on Sunday. Larry Haag was one of the best kind of heroes. He was a friend and a mentor who enriched my life more than he ever knew. Lori and I met Larry and his wife Sharon in June of 1994 at the ABWE missionary candidate school. Before I got to know Larry, I was really intimidated. We were young and inexperienced. I hadn’t attended seminary and had never held the office of a pastor. We really hadn’t been involved in ministry that long – we just knew that we wanted to be and we felt like God was leading us into cross-cultural ministry.

Larry was everything that I was not. Larry held two doctorates, including one in missiology. His salt-
and-pepper hair and distinguished beard contributed to his scholarly appearance. He and Sharon had once been missionaries in Brazil where they learned the language and raised their family as part of the local culture. They had planted churches and trained leaders. Upon returning to the US, Larry chaired the Missions Department at a large Christian university and taught in the seminary. Now, at the time when many of their peers would be thinking about retiring to a warmer climate, Larry and Sharon were preparing for a third chapter in their ministry lives – helping launch a new ministry team in the former Communist Bloc.

But Larry was the opposite of intimidating. He was a warm, humble, practical “people” person with a great sense of humor. Most importantly, Larry had a passion for Jesus, for God’s Word, and for discipleship. In fact, Larry taught me, in word and deed, the meaning of discipleship.

His role in Central and Eastern Europe was in leadership development. This ministry took place in a variety of ways and in a hundred different settings. He helped national leaders strategize and develop training programs for pastors and church planters. He taught in seminaries and in Bible schools throughout the region. He spoke at camps and at denominational gatherings. He taught in local churches and sometimes even in living rooms. Larry poured himself – his knowledge, his passion and his experience – into anyone who was willing to learn. I was very blessed to have been a part of it.

As it turned out, we settled into the community of Erd, in the western suburbs of Budapest, about two miles from where Larry and Sharon lived. I’m not sure what Larry saw in me, but he took me under his wing from the start. We spent countless hours together in Larry’s office, in their home, in our home, in cafes and coffee shops – talking, studying, praying and strategizing. As I reflect on our time together, there are several things characterized Larry’s discipleship ministry in my life:

• He encouraged me – I would even say he emboldened me. Larry believed in me when I did not believe in myself. His belief in me gave me the courage to step out and attempt things that I might otherwise not have.

• He corrected me when I was wrong. I have always been emotional and tend to take things personally. I deflect tension with sarcasm. If you think it’s bad now, you should have seen me 20 years ago. Larry was a voice of reason and of balance. He spoke up when I needed to back off and he told me when I was out of line – sometimes with just a look. I listened because I respected him and I knew he wanted what was best for me. I really did not want to disappoint him.

• He walked with me. By this I mean that Larry’s ministry to me happened in the course of life. We didn’t go through a book together. There were no assignments or appointments. He was a friend who I knew was there for me. We had coffee together, shared meals, took road trips together. He and Sharon even watched our kids so we could go out on occasion. He introduced me to his contacts and I was thrilled to bring him into my network. We were a great team – I had the benefit of the Hungarian language and the relationships. He had the experience, the wisdom and the insight (and that fantastic grey hair).

• He celebrated with me. Larry couldn’t wait for updates – he wanted to know how the church was doing, how the weekend went, and what came from the meeting. My victories were his victories.

• He pushed me. I felt like Larry was always thinking several steps ahead of me. We would celebrate, but I knew the “now what?” was coming. Most importantly, Larry pushed me to invest in others, to train up leaders and to replace myself with others.

Unfortunately, we kind of lost touch with Larry and Sharon when we resigned from the mission and returned to the US in 2006. I would hear or read of his continuing exploits from time to time, but we never spoke again. I did not realize then how rare “Larrys” are in your life.

In recent months I learned that Larry was battling cancer. Last week I got an email from my dad that Larry was no longer responding to treatment and that his doctors were just trying to make him comfortable. I took the opportunity to do something I wish I’d done sooner – I wrote him an email to let him know how much he meant to me and how thankful I was that he took the time to invest in a young, impulsive, cocky missionary. I don’t know if he was able to read it or not, but I’m sure that by now Jesus has given him a glimpse of the far-reaching impact that his ministry on earth had.

The lingering question I have is this: why are “Larrys” so rare? When Jesus modeled this type of ministry and commanded us to do the same, why are relatively few people taking the time and making the effort to pour themselves into others? Couldn’t we all use a “Larry” in our lives? Could you be a “Larry” to someone else?

Yes, Larry Haag had degrees, but one thing he taught me is that a piece of paper doesn’t define you. And the lack of one doesn’t limit you from having an impact. I committed long ago to live the kind of fearless, selfless life that Larry lived, helping others to reach their potential for the Kingdom. Larry’s legacy will be one of discipleship. Though he is gone, his ministry lives on in the lives of those like me that he poured himself into. What will your legacy be?

John Would Be Proud Ridge Church


What a crazy, sad and sorrowful last few days it’s been.

This week, we laid to rest our friend,our elder, this brother, father, and husband.

The service that took place Monday night in honor of John was a beautiful picture of what one man’s devotion and dedication to the Gospel can do.  John had a natural knack for bringing people together.  And in true John Monday fashion, he brought them together again.  I won’t dare say it’s the last time that he’ll bring people together.  I have a feeling his legacy of being bold about the Gospel and his passion for inviting people to the Ridge will continue on for a very, very long time.

I (Bobby) wanted to let you know Ridge Church, how proud John would be of you right now.  He loved seeing the church be the Church.  He loved seeing huge crowds show up to church because you got the invite out.  He loved seeing people be cared for in times of hurt.  You’ve done all of those things with renewed passion over the last several weeks.

The way you have taken care of Julie, the boys, and all of John’s family would seriously make him a very proud, proud pastor.

You don’t need to be told this, but there are still hard days ahead.  Let’s continue to rally around John’s family and his bride and children, and all those that God puts in our path to shepherd and care for.

Being the Big C Church to our community would make the legacy of John Monday live on and on and on.

And last but not least, in the words of John, “Invite someone to church yo!”

John Monday Week 3 Update


Hey Ridgers and all concerned with John Monday,  I wanted to take a moment and give you a quick update as of today on the Monday family.

John is gradually improving each day and today could be a really big day.  Today they are lowering his PEEP which is a very good sign.  In the coming day or so if all goes well, they hope to see John awake.  At that time they will begin to work on removing his vent gradually from there.  As of now however, there is no time table for these things.

John’s health is slowly improving.  However, there is still a long journey of recovery ahead.  Don’t stop the prayers!  Keep praying for John, Julie and their family as they head into this day and the coming days ahead.  Every prayer is heard and every prayer is kept.  So keep them coming!

Enhancing Advent


Today marks the beginning of Advent for Christians.  Advent is the expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Christ as well as his second coming.  Advent is celebrated from December 1 – December 24th and is a great way to teach your children about all the wonderful things surrounding the birth of Christ and the excitement of his second coming.

To help enhance the Advent season, there are lots of apps and devotionals out there.  Here is a list of apps, devotionals and readings you or you and your family can participate in this Advent season.

Devotionals from YouVersion



A Few Take Aways From My Day in Ridge Kids


Howdy Ridge Church!

This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to spend the second service serving in Ridge Kids, teaching the 4th and 5th grade class for the very first time.

I had a great time interacting with the kids, teaching them and watching how much they enjoyed Ridge Kids.  In my very short time there Sunday, here are a few takeaways I had that I wanted to share with the entire church.

1.  Ridge Kids Volunteers Should Be Highly Valued

Do you have a kid that’s in Ridge Kids?  You should take a moment and write a thank you note, email, text, or FB message to their teacher.  Teachers prepare during the week to be ready for our kids each week with a lesson the reflects the Gospel and points our kids to Jesus.  They’re not showing up to babysit our kids (thank you Jesus!), but instead they are showing up to disciple our kids.  If it’s been awhile since you thanked a Ridge Kids volunteer, would you do me a favor and do that soon?

2.  Ridge Kids Volunteers Have a Lot Going On

Sunday, Denira and I got our kids ready, fed, got ourselves ready, loaded into the car, made a stop at the store, and got to church only having lost a little bit of hair.  And…we both worked over 40 hours the week before.  When a RK volunteer shows up prepared, excited and ready to share Jesus with our kids, it’s nothing short of a miracle.  If you’re an RK volunteer, thank you for working hard during the week and coming on time, prepared and ready share Jesus with my kids.

3.  Our Ridge Kids Directors Work Hard To Create a Gospel Reflecting Ministry

I’ll say it again, Ridge Kids is NOT a babysitting service.  It’s all about reflecting the Gospel on to our kids and your Ridge Kids director hard at organizing to make this happen every week.  Denira (elementary) and Andera Herrell (pre-school) do whatever it takes to make Ridge Kids one of the best hours of the week for our kids.  The rooms are clean, the supplies are already there, it’s organized, it’s safe, and it’s all about Jesus.  These things don’t just happen.  People work hard to make it happen for our kids.  And Denira Williams and Andrea Herrell heads these up along with the other great volunteers.

4.  Kids Ministry is Important

If you no longer have kids in this ministry, it’s easy to forget how important it is in the grand scheme of the church.  And it’s importance has nothing to do with keeping kids quiet in our services.  It has everything to do with our children being raised up to be disciple makers, world changers and boys and girls who love Jesus for all their lives.  That’s immensely important.

If you’re a Ridge Kids volunteer, I appreciate you, love you and believe in you.  What you do is as important as anything that I or the rest of the church does.  Keep being passionate about sharing Jesus with our children, preparing and working hard during the week to be ready for Sunday, and showing up excited about reflecting the Gospel to kids.  You’re all rockstars!


In Loss We Find Faith by Melissa Hill


by melissa hill

{This story was shared in part, during week 1 of the series When All Hell Breaks Loose}

It’s amazing how loss affects your life. For me it started early, I was 7 when my parents divorced and for me it was a loss and a relief. First, I should go back and describe my life before
this so you can understand why it was a relief. My father used a lot of different drugs and drank a lot, I never knew how he would be on any given day. When my sister was 6mths old
she got excema from head to toe, like put medicine on it and wrap her in cut up sheets to keep her from scratching bad. Plus, with it came allergies and asthma, she didn’t sleep through
the night until she was 6. We always had to go to the hospital because she couldn’t breathe, it was a scary time for a then 4 or 5 year old. Now as an adult I could see how it could put a
lot of stress on a marriage, just from the lack of sleep alone. I would get up with her every night and get one of my parents, who would fight on which person’s turn it was to get up, what
they didn’t realize is I got up every night and never complained about it. So, with my sister being sick and with my dads problems and you could say I was a stressed out little kid.

My mom told me that I came to her one day and told her it was time to leave, time to be done with this, with never knowing how he would be, done with hiding at other peoples houses so he
couldn’t find us until he was over being drunk or high. I don’t remember telling her that, but I’m sure I was ready because the divorce never seemed like a bad thing to me. But, it was a
loss because when my dad was fully himself he was awesome. We played hard and he taught us to do all kinds of stuff and to be adventurous. After the divorce we would visit regularly
and he would be great, but it was hard for me to leave him all alone when we left, I felt sorry for him. It’s like I could tell early on that addiction wasn’t always someone’s choice. A couple
years later he moved to Florida, it was a 24hr drive, so we saw him once or twice a year. My poor sister, she was such a daddy’s girl and she took it so hard that he wasn’t around, I think
she was too young to realize what was going on. This feeling of abandonment would never leave her, she never in her life fully believed that anyone loved her, except her son Elijah. I
wish I could have changed that.
Let’s fast forward a few years, we moved from New Jersey to Tennessee to be closer to my dad, plus it was a lot cheaper for my mom to take care of us two kids. So, this is where faith
started creeping in. My family and I never attended church, but it’s not like they didn’t believe in God necessarily, but it just wasn’t really talked about. I was 10 at this time and I had a
bible that I was given when I was younger and for some reason I would sneak off outside and read it, Psalms especially seemed so beautiful to me – it always seemed like songs to me.
So, late in high school I became a Christian after attending church for a long time with some friends. In college I learned even more and realized that without God I was truly nothing.
Sometimes it was hard at home because my mom didn’t quite get it. . . . yet. If I got mad or did something wrong she would tell me, is this how a Christian acts? But, I did start having
more conversations with her about it, and it got easier to share. My first year in college was my first big loss caused by death, not just leaving. My grandmother passed away and we
were close, but not as close as she was to my sister. My grandmother was her refuge. During this time my mom was going through breast cancer for the first time, she was separated
from my step dad and to top it off me and my sister had mono and weren’t allowed near my mom during chemo since her immune system was so low. I missed my grandmother, but it
didn’t hit me as hard as some of my other losses. Maybe because you expect to lose your grandparents, but it made my faith stronger and made me want to share God with everyone.
My sister on the other hand started to get into over the counter drugs and later when we were older she told me she was raped in high school at a party, how could I not have known
this?? I continued to watch her become mean and hateful and use drugs on occasion. But, my focus was my mom, I feared that she would die and I had to let her know about Jesus, it
was so important.
Another few years went by and my mom recovered from cancer, actually she was free from cancer for 12 wonderful years! My sister had a son, Elijah, and she loved him more then
anything, but she still was into drugs some of the time. Also, I should say that when I was 11 I had a brother and from 5 years old and up I took him to church with me almost every week
and this is important info because me and him started to share God with my sister. At first she didn’t want to hear it, but little by little it creeped in. She started doing much better getting
help with drugs and going back to school, but she got pregnant again and she did great through the pregnancy, but after it all fell apart. Her daughter Madison was born 6 weeks early,
but it didn’t seem like a big deal at first because Elijah was 5 weeks early and was completely fine. During labor Madison’s heart rate flat lined and they did an emergency c-section, but
she had gone 10 minutes without oxygen to her brain. Madison Grace, know as Gracie, was immediately taken to Children’s hospital, but my sister was still in a lot of danger and she
would receive three surgeries total over the next few months. Madison would always be a child with special needs and my sister, Kirsten, knew that with all her own health problems she
wouldn’t be able to give her the best care she needed. Kirsten was selfless and gave Madison up for adoption to a couple that were nurses, we still get to see Madison and she will be 7
in July.

In the next two years Kirsten became more addicted to pain killers and her body was so weak from all the medicines she had to take growing up. She tried to get help with the
addiction and even enrolled in school again and moved into a nice town house, but she only lived there two weeks before she accidentally overdosed on a medicine the pain clinic gave
her to get off her previous medication. January 24, 2008 my brother, only 17, found her. One of the worst days ever! Thankfully Elijah was with my mom and step dad. In this loss, I
began to lose faith. What was the purpose of her life? She suffered from a baby until she was 26 years old, with a few bright spots along the way. I felt like Job, in the bible. . . so much
striped away in my lifetime. I could justify it all up until this point. When you know your sister, that never believed she was loved, died alone it’s hard to find a good reason for that to
happen. My step dad was there with my brother and he stayed with police while my brother and I went and told my mother that her baby was dead. Then later I watched my mom tell
Elijah that his mom was dead. Their reactions are something that will never leave my mind. After I decided that my life was looking more and more like Job’s, just kidding, it wasn’t quite
as bad, I didn’t have all my family die or my home taken away or a nasty disease all over my skin. But what I did remember was that the devil wanted to break Job and God said you can
try but you won’t break him. So I decided the devil would never win me either.
Skip ahead two years and a tumor was found in my mom’s stomach. From the size of it and the rate it was growing it looked like it started right after my sister passed away. My mom
held on so tight to all the things that would have made a difference in Kirsten’s life that she put a lot of stress on her body and I believed it started the cancer. With my sister I wasn’t sure
if she believed in God, I found a letter to my mom from her that she wrote a few months before she died and she did mention what God had done for her, so I’m hopeful. But I didn’t want
to wonder with my mom. Although, I thought she had beat cancer once and Kirsten just died, there is no way she is going to die. She lived 13mths from the first diagnoses, with intense
week long chemo treatments for that whole year. She wanted to live for Elijah most of all, she told me she didn’t want him to endure anymore pain. My mom spent 3 weeks in the
hospital before she died and in that time I had to stay with Elijah but I would go see her any chance I got. When the doctors told her there was nothing more they could do and once they
took her off the medicine it would only be a matter of hours. How do you have a conversation with someone about when they want to die? I will tell you this, she looked at me and said,
“It will only take a second until I get to heaven, right?” and I said with more confidence then I’ve ever had, “Yes, of course.” She just then said, “Help me get to the other side.” Bobby
came and saw her and talked to her, and he believed that she was saved and so do I. She lived for 5 days after they shut off the medicine, the doctors couldn’t believe it, they said if her
body could keep up with her will she would still be alive. Of course I thought, she is the strongest women I have ever known. I should also say that my step dad stayed at that hospital for
3 weeks and did everything for her and for the first time in my life I saw a glimpse of actual true love. She passed away on January 22, 2012.
A few months ago, Bobby was preaching a sermon talking about our wants and our needs. I realized then that I wanted my mom to get better and beat cancer, but I needed her to
believe in Jesus. I got what I needed. Though I don’t understand why all this happened, I do realize it can never be completely about what you know as an absolute, there has to be
faith. I just want people to know that sometimes in life there are hard times, things you don’t know how you are going to get through, but you will because you have to, life moves forward.
For me believing in God, believing that Jesus died for me is what I hold on to. Life is but a vapor, have faith.

When My Hell Broke Loose | by Tara Harvey


By Tara Harvey

There is a message coming up at The Ridge Church called “When All Hell Breaks Loose”

We say this in our daily lives sometimes in passing about things that don’t go the way we think they should, or when when something seems out of line with our thinking, but what about when tragedy strikes and it feels like hell just literally broke lose and your world is spinning out of control?

What do you rely on? What keeps you going? I have had tragedy strike my world! As many of you have also. I lost my husband last year to suicide. Some of you know that because I’m very open and transparent with my loss. I believe it brings healing.

Most people think that is when my hell broke loose, the day my husband died, truth is it broke loose several years before that. My very loving, caring, attentive, hard working husband became ill. It didn’t start as a mental illness, it started with a physical illness that landed him in the hospital on a pain pump of morphine for 27 days, three abdominal surgeries and an inability to do his very physically demanding job. To a man, this is life shattering! You can’t lay in a hospital bed with that many narcotics and free time and not come out with some addiction issues and mental illness issues. That’s when my hell broke loose!

I was oblivious to it at first. Delusional to the fact that my husband was abusing prescription pain pills and self medicating with alcohol. After about 2 years of trying to control him and “fix” him I realized this was bigger than me. I had no control and it was making my life and my kids lives miserable. That’s when I started seeking advice and seeking God. It was a miserable existence! I only found peace when I was in God’s presence! I read books, read my bible, had scripture apps that sent me scriptures daily. I listened to the words of worship songs and asked God to help me believe that all the promises I heard in them would come to pass. I turned into a Jesus Freak!! He sustained me, He fulfilled me, He put people in my life at just the right moments and gave me all I needed to make it moment to moment. I’m thankful for those years of trials and hurts because it created a bond with my savior that I had to lean into and cling to at the time when my worst nightmare came to pass, when my husband lost his battle to mental illness and addiction.

If my hell had not have broken loose and I had not learned to rely on my relationship with God I don’t know where I would be today.
I wish no one ever has to go through what I have been through, but I promise to be a tool that God can use to help someone who is going through it. I will be available! I will share how HE is sufficient, His grace is enough and His promises are true when all hell breaks loose.

How To Leverage Halloween For The Gospel


With Halloween a little over a week away, we wanted to give you some ideas on how you could leverage the holiday for the Gospel.  Regardless of whether you dress up and have fun on the holiday or not really doesn’t matter.  The fact is, thousands in Oak Ridge & surrounding area will be and that means you have an opportunity to be missional and share the Gospel with your neighbors.  Don’t miss out on this HUGE opportunity.

Here is one of the BEST articles I’ve read on 12 Simple Ways to Be Missional on Halloween from VERGE.  Take a few minutes to read this and borrow some ideas this Halloween.

A Moment of Healing and Grace


by Apryl Sweet

It was a week after my daughter, Kayla’s 16th Birthday and the two of us were joined by a dear family friend for a celebratory dinner. We settled into the little cafe and shared stories about our various days when Kayla began to tell us about an event that happened at school on her Birthday. Her sweet 16 marked a milestone for the both of us, I had her the day after my 16th Birthday. She was then half my age, and took great pleasure in exploiting that fact. A school acquaintance proceeded to tell Kayla that her Mother must have been a slut and a whore to have given birth to her at such a young age. Immediately 16 years worth of slanderous words and the tumultuous emotions that ravaged my soul as a result flooded my memory. She explained how she stood up to him, put him in his place, her sassy attitude was a telltale sign she was adamant about the subject and I could tell that he had relented his position.

Instead of being proud of my baby girl I felt betrayed by her. She had revealed my secret. The one I had hoped wouldn’t impact her life apart from me. Let’s face it, being a teen mom carries connotations that have been propagated by personal experience and let’s face it, MTV hasn’t done us any favors either. This is the conversation that followed;

“Kayla, why on earth would you tell people that? They don’t need to know that I had you when I was 16,” I said and gave her a cross glance. All the emotions of walking down the halls of my High School with the whispers and full frontal verbal assaults came back toward me in an instant and all the anger I had at every friend who refused to stand up for me as well.

“Because Apryl,” my friend Alicia said before Kayla had a chance to respond, “she’s not ashamed of you. In fact, your daughter is proud that you’re her Mother.”

“I don’t care who knows Mom, because I love you and you’re a wonderful Mother, who cares how old you were?”

There are moments when God uses others to speak to your soul. This was just such a moment. It felt like a pinprick through my heart as I sat humbled by the wisdom and the lack of judgment so unselfishly given by these two young ladies. The years of hiding shattered into the realization that I had been wearing the shame my label “Teen Mom” carried all those years. I realized that I was giving my accuser’s voice weight over any other. That night my Abba Father had shown his love and grace through my own daughter, the child I had bore in my own childhood. It was a moment that came full circle for me, a moment of healing and of grace. A moment I will never forget, it’s the moment I saw myself through the eyes of inexhaustible grace.