The mission of Groundworks Ministries is to elevate the faith of people by leading them to a comprehensive knowledge of the entire Bible through promoting and supporting the "chapter-a-day" reading of God’s Word.
Groundworks Ministries began in early January 2001 at the Cool Springs Starbucks in Franklin, Tennessee. Attendance for our first meeting consisted of just one person, yours truly, one Bible, and the Holy Spirit. Also in attendance was a yellow highlighter and a ballpoint pen. It was discipleship with humble beginnings. I doubt anyone hustling to get their coffee noticed anything monumental was happening over at the corner table that day.
ROCK & SOUL
If you could turn back the clock one week to December 31, 2000, you would have seen a very different me. I was the lead singer for a Christian rock band called “Big Tent Revival”. Our band had been invited by Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, to perform at his church’s New Year’s Eve celebration. Big Tent had become friends with Pastor Greg through our involvement with his Harvest Crusade events around the country. I had even written songs for Greg that were tailor-fit for platform ministry moments, and some of those songs became hits on Christian radio.
Greg invited us out to his New Year’s event for Big Tent's farewell performance. After 7 years, 5 albums, 10 #1 radio singles, and 5 Grammy award nominations, our band was "disbanding"; packing up "the tent", as it were. It involved an eight-month process of selling assets and transports, paying vendors, and playing contracted events. Of course, everyone on payroll had time to find something else to do.
The repetitive question from colleagues and fans became "Why would someone work so hard to build a successful career, which is difficult to do, then walk away from it?" Short answer: I was led by the Lord. Just like He led me into the music business, He led me out. I was married, with two children and baby number three was on the way. I was gone three to four days every week. That is no way to build a marriage and raise a family. When my oldest child entered kindergarten, I could no longer bring the family on tour. Other artists found a way to make that situation work, but I couldn’t envision a winning scenario. So, we closed up shop.
HAPPY NEW YEAR
New Year’s Day, 2001, my wife Misti and I were on a plane ride home from Los Angeles to Nashville. Misti turned to me and asked, “So now what are you going to do for a career?” I said, “I don’t know. I suppose I will just keep trusting the Lord and see where He leads.” Probably not the reassuring answer she was looking for. I maybe should have answered with something more tangible, like “record executive” or “real estate broker”.
The following day, I awoke to my new reality. I was 32 years old, quasi-retired, and had no solid plan for the future. So, I stuffed my Bible into my computer bag and headed out to get a coffee. During the months leading up to my band’s farewell concert, I had a nagging thought: I had never read the Bible, cover-to-cover. Now was the time for me to set out on a fresh journey to read God’s Word. All of it. Since that day, I have never stopped reading it. When I finish the Bible, I start over. And the Lord continues to reveal to me through His Word, more of Who He is, every single day. Why would I ever stop reading it?
CALIFORNIA HERE WE COME
In mid-2005, I was invited by pastor Greg Laurie to join the staff of his church, Harvest Christian Fellowship in Southern California. Greg was interested in launching multi-site campuses, and I was one of the few people in the nation who had experience in that kind of ministry. In August of 2005, my family and I arrived at the land of endless surf and summer.
Over the course of the next few months, I walked the length and breadth of Harvest. I noticed about 2,000 young people attending their Sunday evening youth event. However, there were less than 100 attending their college event. So, I began asking people who were around 18 to 25 years old if they attended the college group. If a person told me they did not attend, I invited them to my home for a series of meetings. The purpose was to ask them one question: Why don’t you attend the college group? Here are a few of their answers. "I don’t like the name of the group. I don’t like the day they meet. I don’t like the time they meet. I don’t like the teaching. I don’t like the music. I don’t like the room. I don’t like the people who go there." They were all "consumer" driven answers.
As we continued to meet, I noticed several consistencies. Not one person could name the Ten Commandments, nor had anyone fully read the New Testament, much less the entire Bible. I had in my living room a group of what I call "high-functioning Biblical illiterates". They were high functioning because they understood church culture and could operate within it. However, they did not know the Bible, so they were in a state of suspended spiritual adolescence with no hope of transitioning from being a "consumer of ministry" to becoming a "contributor to ministry".
Many of these young people expressed that they were about "done" with the church. They were either looking for another church that would better-suit their felt needs, or they were on the verge of quitting church altogether. I told them that not only were they not done with church, but they really had never even started it! Then I shared with them some Scripture that outlines how God wants believers to seek Him in His Word daily and how it's His design for perpetuating a community of Biblical values from generation to generation.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”
Psalm 78:5-8 “For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments; and may not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not set its heart aright, and whose spirit was not faithful to God.”
In addition to reading the Bible together one chapter-a-day, our group developed a strong sense of community by meeting together on a regular basis. I chose Tuesday evenings mainly because no one had anything else to do on that night. We called our Bible study “Living Room Study" because my living room was where it all started. By the time our attendance reached 30 people, the living room in our little 1,500 sq. ft. house was beyond capacity. But people were still knocking on the front door and trying to squeeze in. Those were exciting times, but we needed more room.
At the turn of the century, between the 1800s to the 1900s, Riverside, California, was the wealthiest city, per capita, in the United States because it dominated fruit and citrus production. Thus, the Riverside train station was always busy. When modernization hit the nation in the mid-20th century, a new train station was built and the old one fell into disrepair. Eventually, Florida and Texas got into the citrus hustle, and the Riverside trains lost their steam. The train depot was no longer used and was completely shut down.
In the early 2000s, an entrepreneur decided to turn that old train station into a large coffeehouse. They named the place The Coffee Depot., and the baggage room was converted to a performance space that would seat about 150.
I visited The Coffee Depot and noticed that on Tuesdays from 7 pm to 9 pm the place was virtually empty. Knowing our Bible study needed more space, I negotiated the free use of The Baggage Room, with the promise that I could bring in at least 50 paying customers every week. The Lord was faithful, and within a year, we hit 75 attendees and kept growing to well over 100 regular attendees. A special event could bring in over 150 people. So, we had to open the huge 12-foot side doors in the room to accommodate more people. The age range was mostly 18 to 35. By word of mouth, people heard that God was doing something new among their generation, in their town.
About the time we were running out of space at The Coffee Depot, a friend nudged me one Tuesday evening before Bible Study and said, “We need to get a bigger room!” I had already been considering that dilemma for weeks. But I knew if we got a bigger room, there is no doubt we would become a church. I worked for a church, and churches don’t typically like it when one of their pastors takes their young people and starts another church down the street! But there was a greater issue at play.
I did some research and discovered there are around 50,000 coffeehouses in America. At a chapter-a-day, it takes 3.25 years to read the entire Bible, cover-to-cover. I figured if I could teach the Bible to 10 people in every coffeehouse in America, I could teach half a million people the entire Bible in a little over 3 years...with almost zero overhead costs!
In contrast, if I were to start a church and it became as big as Harvest Christian Fellowship, or even Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church with 20,000+ members just down the highway, what is that compared to half a million?
We didn’t need a bigger room. We needed ANOTHER room. So, that is exactly what we got. We “franchised” by starting another Bible study at Augie’s coffeehouse in Redlands. Then we started one in Orange County at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Fountain Valley. Eventually, I was teaching in Starbucks, Kraemers’s Coffee, the Teen Challenge Castle, and The Daily Brew in Riverside. We also started Bible studies at It’s A Grind in Laguna as well as Border’s Bookstore in LA. In Irvine, I also began leading the members of Shuvah Yisrael Messianic Congregation through the Bible using my chapter-a-day method.
All told, over 2,000 people were getting my daily devotional, reading God’s Word chapter-by-chapter, and meeting together once a week. That’s the size of a "mega-church" with people going deeper in God's Word in 3 years than most churches will take them in a lifetime.
Eventually, the Lord led to form Groundworks Ministries in order to handle the rapid growth of the ministry. With over 6000 Bible Study participants worldwide (and growing) we are FULL STEAM AHEAD!! You are invited to join us TODAY!
For a PDF of our FULL STORY click here.