Saturday, December 29, 2007

Top Blogs of 2007

The top 3 Blogs I read this year.

3. StevenFurtick.com
This post is about the results of the Dominate Campaign. The church is less than 2 years old, the campaign is only for 2 years, and they had no specific project they were raising money for. The results? $6.4 million. Only God could do that.
-Read the full post here.

2. VinceAntonucci.com
They have a church service that meets in an open bar on Tuesday nights. Open Bar. People drinking at the bar listening to a preacher talk about Jesus. I think Jesus would do this. This post is about a guy in the bar service so moved by the church service that he asked if he could hire them to come have a service in his backyard so he could invite all his friends.
-Read the full post here.

1. PerryNoble.com
Guest Blogger and Worship Pastor Lee gives some insight into his respect for his pastor. I hope someone can say this about me one day. I have a long way to go.
Perry won’t broadcast this, but ever since i have known him, he gets up at 5am or earlier, spends an hour or two with God, and then spends hour or two in the gym. And then he hits the office. So, when i go into a meeting and he tells me something i don’t really agree with, i keep my mouth shut and i listen before i say anything in response; i know he walks with God and i have tremendous respect for that. It’s much easier to follow a leader who is more disciplined than you.
-Read the full post here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Vince Antonucci and Forefront Church

This past weekend I went up to Virginia Beach to hang out with Vince Antonucci and check out Forefront Church. It was great to get to know Vince. He is the real deal. He's an incredibly popular guy, but someone forgot to tell him. His creativity is amazing and he uses it for his passion to reach those far from God.

Vince has been the tool to push me closer to the edge for the great commission. Forefront is an amazing church. They do a fantastic job of getting the lost into their services and getting them to unfold their arms and listen to a life changing message. They write all their own worship music and they have some hilarious videos out their on you tube. And finally, I think they may be the only church in America who has a church service in and open bar.

Vince is the one on the left.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Life Dreams (3/3)

Finally, their is a third group or way of determining if our life dream come from God. This is a group has a noble dream and experiences the supernatural blessing of God as they pursue that dream. God turns a chance meeting into a great ministry. He makes a check mysteriously appear in the mail the exact moment it is needed. He sometimes literally speaks to these people in dreams or audibly.

We see it in the Bible in main Bible character. Many Christians simply don't believe that these kinds of things still happen today. The cessationists. Then there are still others like me who would love to experience God in that way. In seminary, I read the George Mueller biography and saw for the first time a modern Christian experiencing supernatural answer to pray like in the Bible. It was Jim Cymbala's book Fresh Wind Fresh Fire that had the most influence on my passion for church planting. I saw the way that prayer permeated his life and church and God answered supernaturally over and over again. I wanted that.

The one sure way to know if your life dream is from God is for Him to tell you audibly or continue to supernaturally lead you in this dream. The problem with the first 2 groups is that while there is no clear supernatural confirmation of God's hand, God may still be leading in their apparent success or failure. He may be leading a person who experiences many failures to an ultimate future plan for greatness (eg. Job) or suffering (eg. martyrs) for His glory. He may be leading some by blessing everything they do.

So how do you know if your dream is really from God? I can't answer that. I am still in the middle of mine. Waiting. I think that is why God put the book of Job in the Bible. So that we would know that 'it could be worse' and that staying focused on God ultimately leads to our best life. What I know is this, "His ways are higher than our ways." We should not too easily attribute our success or failure to God. While it within His power to heal and to hurt, it is not within his character to build up the proud or destroy the humble. So stay humble and grow deeper in your relationship with Him. As with any relationship it only gets deeper when you spend more time together.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Life Dreams (2/3)

There is a second scenario for interpreting whether our dreams come from God. That is when everything we touch turns to gold. We have noble dreams and everything we do succeeds. When we are in this situation it is easy to attribute all of the successes to God's blessing.

This a great way to live. It is cause and effect from the creator. It allows us to get into a routine that is very fulfilling. Over time it can teach us how to discern God's voice. When God's blessings seems obvious to people around us they tend to flock to us creating opportunities for us to speak into their lives and sometimes impact the lost for Christ.

But like the scenario we talked about yesterday success in our life dream can still be problematic. Even in the noblest of dreams success does not always equal blessing. It won't take you long to think of a successful business man who treats people bad or even a pastor who after many years of successful ministry is found to have gross sin in his life. Even people experiencing success without gross sin in their life could still be on the wrong tract. One of the most exciting secular jobs in my life was like this. I had great pay and a jet set life which I loved. The problem was that I was losing my heart for ministry. It wasn't bad and I wasn't in any abnormal sin but it was a distraction from something else God wanted to do in my life.

So how do you know when the successes in your life dream are from God? Again, I don't really know. His was are higher than our ways. Once again, the best we can hope for is that the nearer we get to him the clearer he gets to us. I might add to that, are we impacting other people's lives for Christ in the long term?

Tomorrow we will talk about yet a third scenario for interpreting whether our dreams are from God.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Life Dreams (1/3)

Many of us have passionate dreams for personal or social accomplishment. Some of the those dreams are selfish. Some of them are noble.

For Christ followers, we want to take those noble dreams for purposes of fulfilling the Great Commission or taking care of the poor and oppressed and believe that they are from God. God's plan or leading or call on our life. The problem for the Christ follower is that nobility and Scriptural alignment is no guaranty that our dream is actually from God. We can chase after the dream and never experience God's supernatural support or confirmation. I say supernatural because that is the only kind that can be rightly attributed to Him.

What does all that mean? Well, it means that many Believers will experience a tremendous sense of personal failure, feeling that they are following God while falling flat on their face. Eventually, they come to the conclusion that for some reason they aren't worthy and that God has yanked His plan out from under them. Some never get over this. In the end they think they are either failures or maybe quitters because they didn't hold out long enough.

But, if that dream is from God we have to hang on. God's timing is not our timing and He may have reasons for the delay that we don't understand at the time. Only by staying committed to the dream God has given us will you be able to experience all that He has for us.

So how do you know when it is from God? Good question. I don't really have the answer. I think the answer is subjective but somehow depends on our relationship with Jesus.

I'll leave it at this: the nearer I get to Him the clearer He gets to me.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Aggies Beat Texas . . . Again

My alma mater wins 2 in a row against texas.

Aggies 38
T-sips 30

I LOVE beating texas.

Enough said!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Starting Christmas Early

Our Christmas tree ritual usually looks something like this.

About a week after thanksgiving we notice that the trees at the local Food Lion look pretty picked over. We wonder when they are going to get a new shipment. We ask some teenage manager at the Food Lion if they will be getting another shipment. They usually tell us they don't know.

We decide we can't wait until it is too late and we get the kids together and go to the Food Lion. We chase kids and fuss at them to stay out of the parking lot while we are looking. We pick the least crooked, least dry tree, load it on top of our car and head home to put it in our living room. We are happy and the kids always think the tree is just perfect.

The problem is mommy messed it all up this year! Friday she went out to get her hair cut and have some quite time with no children in tow. When she came how she had a Christmas tree. I said What? You can't do that. You destroyed our Food Lion Christmas tree tradition. She said that she just couldn't help it and she did get it at Food Lion. They were unloading the first load of trees and she wanted to get a good one that was not dry yet and not wait too long to get our tree. Well this year our tree us up early. We are not going to let the neighbors get all the Christmas decorations up first this year.

Praise God for my wife and her good thinking. We are ahead of the game and our kids love it and now we can spend more time pick a night to put on the ornaments as a family rather than picking a tree in the rain at Food Lion with the kids one night about bed time.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Messy Ministry

In ministry we often try to get organized to function like a well oiled machine. There are a lot of churches out there who do it . . . and some even experience genuine conversion growth. But there is something about the Gospels (I just finished them in my reading though the Bible in a year plan) that points to the messy ministry of Jesus. Somehow his ministry did not receive consistent rapid growth. It was up and down. But Jesus willingness to step away from the sanitized life of the religious leaders and get his hands dirty left a mark on a generation who changed the world.

How can we get our hands dirty today in a way that will change the world?

Check out this story from Vince Antonucci and ForeFront Church.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Faith Problem (2/2)

Ok. Here are some more thoughts on this topic.

Why is it easier to "do evangelism" with strangers? Is it because the people we know see right through us? Is is because we are not smoking what we are selling? I guess there are 2 reasons that so few strangers accept "tract evangelism." First, they don't know you and don't trust you. Second, they know that you don't know them and so there must be an ulterior motive to your concern for their eternity. I guess there really is a third reason. Most people think that people who do tract evangelism are weirdos. If they accepted your message they would have to become a weirdo too.

Another thought here is why are we more concerned about cleaning people up than we are with connecting them to God. Do we think that God only wants cleaned up people? Open one of the first 4 books of the New Testament (begins on page 813 in my Bible) and you will quickly see that Jesus spent most of his ministry helping messed up people.

The other reason that we tend to want to clean people up before introducing them to God, quite honestly is a lack of faith. Subconsciously, we really don't think that a messed up person will repent of their sins without our help. We don't really think that we can start a messed up person on a journey of faith and expect them to turn from major sin through their own interaction with the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, we just don't believe that God will do it. It is easier to believe that someone will become a Christian be confessing some doctrinal creed that tells who God is and how people should live. If they believe it then they will be Good Christians, right?

Don't take all of this as just a rant against the traditional church. I think most Christians would never say these things, but our actions reveal that it's buried within our subconscious somewhere. I have done and thought and do all of the things that I have mentioned. I just know that it's wrong. If I don't believe that God will change people without me, then why do I try to sell this supernatural miracle working God.

We have got to start smoking what we are selling.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Faith Problem (1/2)

The Problem -

So often the churches attempt at evangelism looks like this: Go to a stranger's house on visitation night and give them a gospel presentation with a tract. If they accept (which is very rare), we invite them to church and tell them baptism is the next step. If they don't then we check that address off of our city map and move on.

Here is another option: We visit someone on visitation night who visited our church last week. We go through the tract with them. Since they visited our church they may already be Christians. If they are aren't and they pray to accept Christ we invite them to church and tell them baptism is the next step (again, very rare). If they don't accept, they either never come back to our church because they now think that we are one of "those" churches or they avoid us like a plague at church because they now think we have an agenda.

Here is another option: If it is someone that we actually know, we usually start with justifying how their sin separates them from God (don't know why we have to justify this but we do). Then we go though the tract. If they don't accept (they never do because they know us and they don't want what to be like us), we then begin to talk more about their sin and how destructive it is and how their life would be better if they would change.

Ok, I have kind of presented the problem here. Add your thoughts if you like and we will talk more about it tomorrow.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Elite Runners

Gina and I had a great weekend hanging with the elite athletes at the OBX Marathon and half-marathon. Come to think of it, I guess that we were only there because Gina was invited as an elite athlete herself. They put us up in an awesome house on the beach with a great view (see the pics on the left) and gave us the VIP treatment. It was a cool inside look at the world of elite running. We really enjoyed getting to know these people and hope to see them again.

Gina was amazing, as usual. She had been struggling with some weird arthritis stuff over the last few weeks and was unable to do much training. She didn't know how she would do. What she did was win the OBX Half Marathon Overall Masters Female, the NC USA Track and Field half-marathon Masters Championship, and set the OBX Half Marathon Masters track record. She didn't run quite what she would like to have run if she had been healthier. Now she wants to run another one and see what she can do. I am so proud of her.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Outer Banks Weekend Without the Kids

Gina and I have not had a date night in a long time. In fact the last time that I can recall where we were alone more than 24 hours in a row was last fall in London and Paris on a ministry trip. When you have a large and young family you have less time to get alone and more need to do it. But, it also costs a fortune. Just dinner will cost $20-30 and when you get home you have to pay about that much to the babysitter. So we have to be creative and it doesn't happen as often.

Well we are very blessed this weekend. Gina has been invited as an elite runner to the Outer Banks half marathon. That means they are providing the hotel at a resort area. We were able to get Grandma to watch 2 of our kids and some friends to watch the other 2. Thank Broadwells.

So Gina and I leave around lunch time for the Outer Banks. How Cool. She also runs on Sunday morning. She has won or place in the top 3 (Overall or Masters) in every race this year. She has struggles recently with some pain and her training has been off, but she has felt better the last couple of days. If she can pull another win they will even be giving away babysitting money.

I'm looking forward to an awesome weekend.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

New Churches with Old Missions Agencies

I have noticed is that the vast majority of churches who have seen any significant grow in the last 15 years are churches that were started in the last 15 years. There are lots of big older churches around but few of these have actaully grow significantly in the last 15 years. Most of these older large churches experienced their growth in 30 to 50 years ago and have been declining or plateaued ever since.

The world of missions seems to be experiencing a similar trend. Most missions agencies are more than 15 years old. Most missions agencies are not seeing significant growth on most of their fields, even though they may have experienced significant growth in previous years.

So how are the new churches investing in missions? It seems that most of these churches continue to support the old missions agencies, but there also seems to be a trend toward sending out individuals from their own churches.

I have a thought on this. I believe for the church to regain its missions effectiveness in the world, we will need to see a growth of new missions organizations. I think that they will be more specialized and smaller micro missions agencies that can more effectively reach specific regions. And they will be made up and led by young people.

For some reason it appears that the church has skipped generations of leadership and has today's churches being led with a 1950's mentality. I'm not saying that there is anything inherently wrong with this group or their methods, but they don't seem to motivate the young people in the church and they don't seem to interest the young people outside of the church.

With Catalyst Europe we are seeking to be one of those new micro missions, but we came early to the dance. Hopefully what we are doing now will one day be seen as pioneering. We are looking for young people who want to be a part of a young missions organization targeting young Europeans. We want young people to dream with us and pioneer with us.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Junkie Car Club

My car with 270K miles is terminally ill. The transmission died yesterday and it is probably not worth a $2000 rebuild on a Dodge with that many miles.

I still qualify for the Junky Car Club, though, with my other car, a 1994 Plymouth Grand Voyager with 179K miles. Best of all the headliner is beginning to come down.

By the way, 2 weeks ago, my wife's sister and brother-in-law and our pastor gave us their old 1999 Honda Oddessy. It is like a Cadillac to us, even with 157K miles. It has all the bells and whistles and probably runs smoother today than my Dodge and Plymouth Minivans did new. Praise God. He had the timing all worked out.

I also gave my old 1990 Bronco II to a teenager who had just wrecked his car. It needs a head replaced and as a bonus he now qualifies for the Junkie Car Club.

Church Ownership

As we are getting Catalyst Europe Inc. off of the ground I have been working as an electrician to help make ends meet. I have noticed something over the past few weeks. When someone else designs a job, I end up spending time trying to figure out what they were thinking. I do a lot of jobs that require some creative engineering. Without, detailed instructions, I often have to try to figure out what the job designer intended in a particular situation. Sometimes I just have to call to get clarification. It can be really frustrating because I don't feel like I can be as efficient that way. If I had been the one who designed the job and the one implementing it, I could be much more efficient.

The church often faces a similar situation when they have strong central leadership and low participation by members. Often those who are implementing the vision are several levels removed from the vision caster. What you find are members who are just going through the motions when they serve because they don't internalize the importance of their role. Think about cleaning the bathroom. It is the difference between a quick mop and spray of Lysol and adding some kleenex and mints near the sink and burning a scented candle when the cleaning is done.

The Bible says that we are one body. I think the ultimate conclusion of that is ownership. I think that Jesus wanted us to serve the body as owners. When we take ownership of our area of the church body we are thinking in the area of our expertise, in the area God called us to. We are more responsible and will be more efficient if we are implementing something that we own. As God gives us a vision for our part in the vision of our local church, we can see it . . .visualize it. When we implement it, it is a win for everybody.

This is not easy to do . . . for leaders or for volunteers. But it must be done by both for the church body to function in a healthy way.

How can you "own it" today?

The First Sin

I was just reading yesterday and and something jumped out at me for the first time. In Genesis 3:3 Eve says to the serpent, "you must not eat from the tree in the middle of the garden and must not touch it or your will die." Of course God never said that you should not touch it, at least he didn't say it in my Bible.

I have always known that Eve made this statement that seems to exaggerate what God really said. It just never occurred to me that this, and not the eating of the fruit, could have been the first sin. Or maybe God did say it but it was not written down.

Just thinking out loud this morning. What do you think.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Hook'ed on P'honiks

I have called my oldest son Hawkeye for years. Since he was 2 he would see something on a business or sign or car that I never noticed. He has an uncanny ability to see small details that everyone else misses.

Recently he has been playing an educational game on the internet called Super WHY! on the PBS Kids website. Whenever he completes a spelling game it lets him create a cartoon character and name it. Then he prints it out and puts it on the wall. The site has some kinda weird names so I didn't think anything about it when he started naming his pictures HOCI. He has been using that name for a while.

Recently, Gina said, "guess what? I found out that the HOCI name Levi has been putting on his pictures was his attempt to spell Hawkeye."

There are 2 lessons here. 1. Nicknames can mean a lot to a child. 2. Bee kairful win teechin foniks tu yur kids.

I love you Hawkeye. You are so special to me.

Blogging but not Seeing

Though seeing, they do not see (Matt. 13:13)

About 6am this morning I was trying to read ingredients on some medicine bottles to know the right one to give to my son whose coughing was keeping me awake (he went to the doctor this morning, for his cough not a medicine overdose). I tried really hard to get my eyes to adjust but simply could not make out the small print.

It hit me right there at the medicine cabinet. I'm getting old. Ok, 39 is not that old, but I never thought that I would get to the point where I couldn't read something. I have had reading glasses for years but rarely wear them and have never come across something that I could not read if I tried hard enough. I have not lost any hair and have not had any gray . . . until recently (and very few).

I had always felt immune to the effects of aging. But, I will not go down without a fight! Though I may wear my glasses more.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Effective Church Leaders (3/3)

On Thursday I said that the only indicator of future performance is past performance, not training. I said that Only is a strong word, but for now I am not convinced that there is any other indicator of future performance. In fact, past performance is not always an indicator of future performance but the longer the history of performance the more accurate it is as a predictor of the future.

I would go further to say that selecting leaders based on any criteria other than past performance is a gamble, a huge risk.

But . . .

You probably know that, in the business world, huge risk is the best way to get huge returns. It is also the best way to lose your shirt and maybe your pants. Imagine investing $10,000 in the Microsoft initial public offering in 1986. At that time most people thought of computers as big main frames, not essential tools in every home. But, if you took that $10,000 risk in 1986, your investment would have been worth $6,353,172 on the 1st of January 2005 (latest data I could find, it's more now).

As God's tools to reach a lost world, today's church leaders are called to take huge risks, especially in people. Jesus, set the example when he picked a bunch of unlikelies to spread his message when He left this world. Instead of pious church leaders, he selected fishermen, tax collectors and the like. As you know, they didn't all make it. One of them stabbed him in the back.

If you want to see God do great things you will have to take huge risks. Invest in people who have great dreams and a burning passion for Jesus. Give them an opportunity to demonstrate effectiveness. Some of them will stab you in the back like they did to Jesus, but others will accomplish more than you will for the Great Commission. Jesus said that we would do greater things than He did. We should expect the same from those we invest in.

To wrap it up.
  • Great churches should be the breeding place for great church leaders.
  • Great church leadership is "caught not taught."
  • Past effectiveness is the greatest, and maybe the only, predictor of future effectiveness.
  • Take a chance on unlikely people and give them a chance to demonstrate effectiveness.
  • If you are afraid the student may become greater than the teacher you will not raise up great church leaders.

Go ahead and throw the dice!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Effective Church Leaders (2/3)

Yesterday I said that the only indicator of future performance is past performance, not training. Only is a strong word, but for now I am not convinced that there is any other indicator of future performance.

Our plans for Catalyst Europe focus heavily on internships and apprenticeships. And frankly, the best place to find candidates for these programs are from within like minded churches.

Raising up effective church leaders requires key 2 ingredients. First, effective church leadership comes from effective churches. Second, effective church leadership is "caught not taught."

Thoughts on Effective Church Leaders:
  • The best church leaders rarely come from ineffective churches (do the math).
  • The best church leaders rarely come from short training events, even at effective churches.
  • The best church leaders come from spending time in effective churches working with effective leaders in an effective environment.
  • Leaders that come from effective churches know what it looks like and feels like to be effective. You can't train this. It's intangible.

Don't get me wrong, training events and books are useful. In fact they were instrumental in converting me from a very traditional seminary grad type of leadership guy into a bit of a leadership empiricist (big seminary word for focus on experience).

More next time on how to handle those without a record of past performance.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Effective Church Leaders (1/3)

Have you ever noticed that the churches that seem to be doing the best job of reaching the lost and integrating them into a community of faith hire from within? I went to seminary to get trained, credentialed, and employed through the placement center (where churches go to look for staff, right?).

Wrong!

In today's world (call it postmodern if you dare), it's becoming increasingly obvious that the most effective leaders have diverse backgrounds. So diverse that the only indicator of future performance is past performance, not training. I'm not saying that training is not important, I'm just saying that it is not an indicator of future performance.

More tomorrow . . .

The Future of the Church

I haven't been blogging lately because life has been crazy and I am tired. Not tired like depressed or getting old (ok maybe a little is getting old), I have been working a job where I leave the house at about 6:30am and get home around 5pm. Then I play with my 4 kiddos, eat with the family, and help with the bedtime routine. After that, around 9:30pm, I can do anything I want like blog, read blogs, talk to my wife, or sleep. You do the math.

Hopefully, I will get the hang of this new schedule soon so that I can get back to writing and the blogosphere. There is a lot going on right now with Catalyst Europe/France. There are lots of things in the works and we continue to have people contacting us from Europe to see how we can work together. I hope to be able to share more soon. Keep praying for us. I know that God wants to do something in Europe through Catalyst Europe that is much bigger than us.

For now take a look at some thoughts about the future church from Craig Groeschel:

The future church will be made up of believers who:

  • Are sick of living in material comfort while millions starve to death.
  • Make money to give more than to consume.
  • Believe in the power of prayer and fasting.
  • Are willing to suffer for the cause of Christ.
  • Will be engaged in missions both locally and internationally.
  • See it as their role to lead people to Christ.
  • See it as their role to help people in need.
Read more here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Would he have come to your church?

You have to read this post about a guy who went to church in a bar (with an open bar) and wanted to hire the church to come do a service in his back yard so he could invite all his frineds and surprise them with the church service.

Would he have come to your church?

How about another round for my friends at Forefront Church.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Wife is Smokin!

We left the house early morning to drive an hour and a half to watch Gina run in an all women's race. It was a huge race. A little too much pink for me but we were there to cheer on Gina. This race had lots of prize money and invited runners so there were some really fast times. But Gina was able to get third place overall in the masters division. It is ironic that her times were much faster than most of the younger age divisions. Anyway, Gina won some birthday money for our oldest child's birthday next week.

So far this year Gina has run 4 races and :
Won overall female in her first 5k.
Won overall masters female in the 1 mile (and broke the state USTAF record by 20 secs).
Won second masters female in her second 5k.
Won third masters female today in her third 5k.

We have about 4 more 5ks, an 8k and a half marathon to go this season.

It's really exciting for our family to cheer her on as she continues to compete.

Your still my hero, baby.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Catalyst Conference Notes - Tim Stevens

I hate that I didn't get to attend the Catalyst Conference this year, but Tim Stevens has some great notes on his blog if you are interested. I am usually a conference blogger and Tim gave me a shout out for my notes at Buzz. Glad he is taking notes this time.

Pharisee Bashing

Ok, that title might bring in a few folks who are sick of pharisee bashing.

Once when I was in seminary, I was setting around with a group of students complaining about some of the professors and their attack against contemporary churches. Well, a guy whom I really respected came over to the group while I was ranting and he made a comment about pharisee bashing and left. Ouch! It made me mad at first. Then after some time, I felt convicted. Now I am not so sure.

I know that I can always use more tact. (I've grown some in this area, but my wife has found a part time job elbowing my side, kicking me under the table, and standing behind the person I am talking to giving me the horizontal "finger across the throat sign" indicating that I might want to stop before I dig an even deeper hole.) But, I was reminded a couple of days ago that Jesus was the original pharisee basher. In my "reading through the Bible in year" I found myself in the book of Matthew chapters 21-23 a few days ago. When I finished reading I just said wow!

I few things I underlined:
  • My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of thieves.
  • The parable of the two sons. Jesus points our that he would rather have a changed bad attitude than someone who says what he wants to hear but doesn't live it.
  • The stone that the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this. Most religious leaders want a good reputation, not someone who has been rejected because they went against the status quo.
  • "You hypocrites, why are your trying to trap me?
  • The greatest commandment; "Love the Lord your God with all your heart ... soul ... mind ... and ... love your neighbor as yourself." Why do we always fail at one of these while trying to fulfill the other?
  • Speaking of the pharisees . . . "don't do what they do, they don't practice what they preach."
  • Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
  • Woe to you teachers of the law and pharisee, you hypocrites.
  • ... hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are. Ouch! (It really says that).
  • ... hypocrites!
  • you give a tenth ... but you have neglected the more important matters ... justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former.
  • ... hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self indulgence. First clean the inside of the cup and then the outside will be clean.

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

If you are there, get over yourself. If you are not, watch out. If you are pointing it out, you might be a hypocrite. I have a little of all of these. What I am doing and my advice to others is to find someone who is not naive to the problems but always takes the high road, someone who loves God with all of their being and loves and serves people too. Watch them, learn from them, give them permission to speak into your life, and then listen.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Christian Problem

We often think if we could just get people to understand what Jesus is offering us (forgiveness, salvation, get out of hell free card) they would want to become Christians. Unfortunately, this just isn't the case. If you ask people why they don't go to church or aren't a Christian, they will probably point to what they think about the church or Christians they know or know of. You might hear things like they are all hypocrites, church is boring, I still want to have fun.

The bottom line is that lost people have a problem understanding sin and grace, but they also have an image problem. They don't what to become their image of a Christian. Ghandi is even reported to have said "I like your Christ, but I don't like your Christians, they are not like your Christ."

Are you helping with the image problem? Do you ever focus on salvation as it relates to today rather than what happens when you die? Do you think that your average non-Christian wants what you got? Sometimes I am not so sure that others want what I've got. But I am continually working on it. I want people to look at me and think that guy is cool. He would give you the shirt off of his back. He doesn't condemn people for not being like him. He enjoys life. I want some of what he's got.

What are you doing today that would make a lost person want what you've got?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Fishing for Sharks in Swimming Pools

I am back baby . . . from my blogging (and other stuff like food) fast. It was a great spiritual renewal for me and I feel like God may be leading me in some ways that I was not at all expecting. If I am right, you will hear more on that later.

Vince Antonucci has become my new favorite blogger. I love how this guy thinks. He really thinks like a modern day Great Commission apostle.

Here is a quote from a great post he put up yesterday.

If you wanted to fish for sharks, where should you fish? You can go to the place where fish are, and hope some sharks are in the area. Another option is to hang out in your swimming pool and send postcards to the sharks inviting them to come for a visit. But I’m guessing the most effective place to fish for sharks is where the sharks are. (more)

He also points out that movie theaters are better church planting venues for churches than schools. People are more comfortable going to a place they wouldn't normally go if it is meeting in a place that they would normally go. I agree. That's why our vision for Europe is meeting in theaters and similar cultural venues.

Friday, September 28, 2007

40 Day Fast - Spiritual Renewal

Well last night I had a fantastic 7 cheese lasagna for dinner. What made it more special was that it was the first food I have eaten since August 18th (I did take in nutriens though water, juice, broth and fruit concoctions made in the blender). I didn't share that part of my 40 day spiritual renewal earlier on because sometimes things like this are easier to talk about after you are done. You get less distracted from your spiritual focus when you don't have to talk about your fast all the time.

Anyway, it was a great time. I haven't felt this close to God since . . . well, since the last time I did a 40 Day Fast with Bill Bright back in 1998. The primary focus of this fast was to recenter my life with God. I think of the time Paul spent in Arabia after his Damascus road experience but before he began his missionary journeys. This fast had a similar purpose. I have almost stopped blogging. I canceled plans to attend 3 conferences including a trip to Europe that I was planning during this time. I just felt like I needed an extended period of time to reconnect to God and evaluate my life.

We have also been praying specifically for a few things like selling our home and a rental property to get out of debt and getting to France to begin the church planting vision that God has put on our hearts. It is interesting that I felt that God was mostly silent on these issues until this last week and really the last day or two. We feel like God began to move in some areas in a big way especially in the last 2 days. We don't have it all figured out yet but are excited to post more about some new directions in our life soon.

Please pray for us and God's direction in our lives right now. We are so committed to him and his service. We will go anywhere and do anything to be right in the middle of his plan and we believe that plan right now includes the vision he has given us for Catalyst France and ultimately for Europe which will be online in the near future as Catalyst Europe Now. God is shaking things up a bit right now and we are excited to be able to share more of this journey as things unfold.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Church Learn from Microsoft?

Either no one was brave enough to comment on my last post or I have lost all my readers during my 40 day Spiritual Renewal. It has been strange that I have gone from blogging everyday to only 11 times in 37 days. I have probably looked at my stats even less than that. I believe that I will get back to more consistent posting when the 40 days is over but I really believe that God has removed blogging from my mind during this time so that I will focus more on listening to Him.

The 40 day period will be over Thursday night. Maybe I will be able to share some about what I have learned or experienced after that.

Anyway, about the church learning from Microsoft blog.

I have heard lots of people say that they hate to hear the church taking anything from the business world. I am sure that sentiment becomes even stronger when we look at really large powerful companies. After all, business is all about profit. When the church becomes about profit, we have sold out, right? Of course. Material profit should never be the motive of the church.

We can still make some comparisons though. If Microsoft is getting new customers and keeping them, we can compare that to the church reaching new people with the gospel message and incorporating them into the ministry of the church. The problem for most people is that since the business is focused on profit that the have different motives that lead to their success.

It seems to me that God created the natural world and that all truth is God's truth. Most would not argue that sin brings pleasure for a while but in the end leads to destruction. The same would probably be true of business. There are businesses that operate illegally or immorally and succeed for a while, but just look at companies like Enron and you can see that even in the business world you cannot continue to succeed outside of God's natural law. Babylon was a great world power for a long time but they fell. Egypt and Rome were great world powers but they fell. Many businesses have come and gone from unethical practices.

I don't believe that the church should try to be like the business world, but there are things that we can learn from some business practices. Unfortunately, we tend to do much of what we do based on tradition. Businesses can't do that or they will die. They have to find ways to interact with modern culture to continue to reach new generations of people. Paul had the same problem. His tradition meant following the Jewish ceremonial laws. When God sent him to the pagan world to preach the gospel he had to find ways to preach that gospel message in a way that non-Jews could understand. The church today faces the same problem.

When we in the church find practices in the business world that seem to be effective at reaching new customers or developing leaders we should take note. It's not that churches need to be more like businesses, but some businesses are better at some of God's principals than some churches. (ouch. that hurt!)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Church Could Learn From Microsoft

I saw a post on the MMI blog Monday about how the church could learn from Microsoft (full post). I've reposted the points below without commentary. I'll add the commentary tomorrow. I'd love to here your comments.

1). Hire the Best People—(how many churches hire poorly and then really pay for it? Hire the best people the first time by doing your homework and searching high and low for your next staff member)

2). Bet the Company’s (church’s) Future On Big Opportunities —(that’s called ‘risk’… something many churches NEVER do!)

3). Expect People To fail & Learn from Their Mistakes—(many times, we don’t allow people to make mistakes; many times we don’t allow people enough authority and ownership to make mistakes. I think it has something to do with #2 (our aversion to risk))

4). Insure that Managers Can Do the Work of the People That Report To Them—(this goes to ‘competence’… again, hire well; hire competence… ministry should be a team effort; not a ‘that’s his area and I know nothing about it’ thing)

5). Evaluate People Only On Their Recent Performance— (boy, I see this often… when a staff person fails (see #3), he/she is doomed. Forgive and give another chance. Restore and encourage. Allow for growth and encouragement. You may be surprised what people can pull off!)

6). Spend Money Frugally—(Many churches are frugal because they have to be. Others spend money like it’s going out of style. Make sure your spending match’s your vision and purpose… otherwise you might as well throw it out into the street)

7). Manage A Large Company (church) Like A Collection of Small, Independent Companies (churches) —(I think we’re starting to see this happen more these days)

8). Know What Is Actually Going On In the Company—(again, ministry is a team thing… be sure you know what’s happening in other areas, not just your own.)

9). Establish an “esprit de cour” (a spirit of cooperation) to motivate People To Superior Performance—(isn’t this biblical?)

10). Never Make Your Employees Put Up with Stupid Rules—(ok… be honest… does your church have any stupid rules? Why?)

11). Create an Office Atmosphere That’s Like a Home Away from Home— (people always work best when they’re comfortable)

12). (a rule specific to Microsoft’s environment): Focus On Total World Domination—(OK… ‘world domination’ sounds a little strong; but in our ‘business’ it would be a great thing, wouldn’t it? To see the church and Christ’s impact on the world increase would be awesome.)

Monday, September 17, 2007

My Wife - Real Life Superhero


Last weekend we went to the first 5k off the season in the Raleigh area. Gina started of the season right, by winning overall female. She beat all the women, not just the masters.


Yesterday, Gina ran the Magnificent Mile in Raleigh. It also served as the USATF North Carolina 1 mile Championship. Gina won the female masters division. Infact, she broke the the state USATF record. I think "smashed the record" was the terminology they used. I am a proud husband. How many 39 year old men are married to a woman who can run a 5:26 mile? She was even invited by a race director to run the USATF NC 5k & Half Marathon Championship races ... expenses paid. Did I mention that the Half Marathon is at the beach?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sacrifice to Reach the Lost

I met Vince Antonucci at the Exponential Conference in Orlando earlier this year. He recently planted a church in Virginia Beach called Forefront Church. He really means it when he says they focus on reaching people far from God. He wrote a great blog yesterday about sacrificing in order to reach the lost. It is powerful. I've reposted the whole thing here.


So how do we improve at reaching lost people? First, we need to understand God’s heart for lost people. Probably we even need to have God’s heart for lost people. Without that, I don’t think it will help to learn how to do a worship service that connects with the lost, or a new effective way to share the gospel with the lost, or creative marketing ideas that will get lost people to show up.

Why won’t it help?

Because it will always be easier to not reach the lost. It will always be easier to reach the saved and seek to keep them happy. And so even if we know how to reach lost people eventually we will stop trying because it’s just too difficult.

This is why every church wants to reach lost people, but so few do.

I read a story about Jeff Van Gundy, who used to be the basketball coach of the New York Knicks. Later he was hired to coach the Houston Rockets. The day he was hired he left the press conference and went straight to the airport. He took a plane to the hometown of Steve Francis. Steve Francis was the Rockets’ point guard, and one of the better players in the NBA. But Steve Francis had led the Rockets in shots and in scoring every year of his career. That is not the role of a point guard. Point guards distribute the ball. They get everyone else involved and should rarely take shots. So Jeff Van Gundy flies to Steve Francis’ hometown, drove to his house, knocked on his door, walks in, sits across a table from him, looks him in the eye, and says, “Steve, everyone wants to be on a winning team. The question is: Are you willing to sacrifice to be on a winning team?”

And every church wants to reach lost people, the question is: Are you willing to sacrifice to reach lost people?

Because there are sacrifices if you want to reach lost people. There are costs you will pay.

  • There’s the reality that if you reach out to truly lost people, you’re gonna have people curse in yor sanctuary. We had someone curse in a baptistery!
  • There is a lot of extra work, many hours, that goes into having facilities that look great, rather than settling for good enough.
  • There is the messiness of the lives of people you will reach – and you will get drug into their messes.
  • There’s the burden of having to fire people on your staff who don’t live up to the standards that you’re striving for rather than taking the easy way out of just keeping them around so that you don’t make waves.
  • There’s the cost that you will be criticized by other churches for the methods you’re using. I’ve had someone call me and say, “You hand-clapping gospel puke!” and hang up on me
  • You’ll have thumb-sucking Christians whining to you all the time about how they’re “not getting fed.”
  • You will lose people in your church who don’t understand why you do things the way you do and why you focus so much on unchurched people. Those people you lose may be tithers. We have lost the biggest giving family in our church in the last year … twice! They left, came back, and now they’ve left again. And they’ve taken their money with them. That’s a real cost!
  • And if you seek to reach people who are truly unchurched rather than those who go to other churches, well non-Christian, unchurched people don’t tithe. And so there will be less income for your church, and therefore less salary for you.
    You will have people who dress wrong, people with Mohawks, people who smoke on the church patio, people sitting in the middle of your sanctuary who smell like beer.

Everyone wants to be part of a church that reaches lost people, the question is: Are you willing to sacrifice to be part of a church that reaches lost people? Most aren’t. And if you’re not, well, who will?

The truth is that we’ll never be willing to make those sacrifices until we understand and have God’s heart for lost people.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Out of Control

I have felt closer to God during this time of spiritual renewal than I have in a long time. That's kind of the point, I know. It is interesting how he has taken many normal desires away from me (like blogging and reading blogs), at least temporarily, to allow me to focus more on him.

Anyway, I did read a blog by Craig Groeschel this morning that I thought was really good. Here's a most of it:

I’ve experienced innumerable benefits and deep satisfaction leading a growing ministry. But with each step up in influence and effectiveness, I’ve had to give up something that was hard to surrender. This week I’ll talk about five things you might have to “give up to go up.”

Give Up Control

One of the first things you must give up to go up is control. Most of us like to control the things around us—especially in ministry.

Some thoughts on control:

  • The smaller your ministry is, the easier it is to control.
  • The more you try to control your ministry, the more you’ll limit it.
  • People who fight to stay in control might attract followers, but they rarely attract leaders.
  • Growing leaders learn to delegate authority, not just responsibility.
  • Growing ministries are always out of control.
  • If we try to control everything, we’re squeezing God out of our ministries.

What are you trying to control that you need to surrender?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I'll Make You Famous

For the last 35 days I have been praying for the children in Africa with Children's Cup. They set up a special time of 40 days of prayer each year where you can learn about many of their Care Point ministries there and pray for them specifically. I encourage you to go to their site and join us in prayer even though you may pray beyond the 40 days.

As I have been reading about the children with Children's Cup and contemplating getting involved in the youth program at my church, God has been speaking to me. I worked in youth ministry for several years throughout my time in seminary. At one point I became a little frustrated because I couldn't seem to get some of the kids to be respectful. I think it made me mad that they would disrespect God and the people he called to serve them. It was at this point where I decided I was not cut out for youth ministry.

This morning I sensed God speaking to me and saying, "you need to see them the way I see them; as the future." I think that I have always known that the youth are the future, but I never looked at each one as if he or she were the future. If you work with youth you will likely never be famous, but you can make an investment in making someone else famous. And that investment in young people will make God famous.

Most of our churches have huge generational gaps in them because we are not investing in succeeding generations. If we don't connect with these generations in our churches, we will never connect to those generations outside our churches. We need to quit thinking of youth ministry as a another ministry in the church that will need some funding and begin thinking of youth ministry as our church's future. We not only need to train them up, but we need their help to train us to reach their generation.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Be Secure in Your Calling

I was doing some missions recruiting this last spring at Columbia International University. I had been reading the blog of a pastor named Gary Lamb for about 6 months prior to my trip. He pastors a church in Canton, GA called Revolution Church. I decided while I was in the neighborhood(?) I would take an extra 9 hours to drop in an visit Gary in the Atlanta area.

I really liked Gary. He can be a little over the top for Christians to take but he is very real and just naive enough to reach those people who most pastors would never reach. He started his outreach in bars because he understood that culture from his own life before Christ. He reminds me of the disciples. When God changed him he went to reach those from his own culture and community rather than join the ranks of the church elite. He is the real deal and is turning the city of Canton upside down for Jesus with his raw faith.

Check out this awesome post he wrote on Being Secure in your Calling.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Peppermint-Filled Pinatas

I thought I would share some things I am reading during my time of spiritual renewal.

Reading through the Bible - Currently in Ezekiel
Andrew Murray on Prayer - Best author on prayer I have read (late 1800s to early 1900s).
Uprising by Erwin McManus - Focus on Character
Peppermint Filled Pinatas by Eric Bryant. - Awesome book about living a New Testament kind of faith in the world today.

I have to say I didn't expect much from Pinatas because it was from a staff pastor. What great book was ever written by someone other than the senior pastor? Forgive me Eric. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. If you want to be challenged to live out your faith in front of people who need Jesus, then this book is a must read. Eric shows real world examples of how you can have influence in the lives of lost people that will lead to life change; yours and theirs.

Here's a quote I like:
The majority of Jesus' most important moments in his ministry involved places away from the temple. . . For Jesus serving the Father meant getting involved in the lives of others.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Be Still

Some of you may be wondering where I have been. I have not been on vacation. I have not been sick. I have not even taken a blogging sabbatical. I have been right here.

In my last post I mentioned that I had recently begun a 40 day spiritual renewal. It's not a program or a church led thing. It's just something I decided to do to deepen my relationship with God. I want to fill my heart with the the Holy Spirit in a very real way. I'm not really sure what that means, but I know that out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks, and it is usually Me that comes out of my mouth.

I love to blog and read blogs. I typically blog everyday. For some reason since I started this time of spiritual renewal, I have not had a desire to blog. I really haven't even thought about it. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that blogging is a bad thing. I just think that God wants me to be still. I love the passage in Psalm 46:10 where it says, Be still, and know that I am God. We usually stop there. But the passage goes on and I think the rest of the verse explains why God wants us to be still. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. For someone who leads God's people, this must be what our lives are about. I will expand on this more later.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Spiritual Renewal

I have learned so much from great church, great pastors, great books and great conferences. There is something different about the approach to ministry of these leaders. Everything is Great Commission focused or missional. But with all of the great visions and approaches that have been refocused to more effectively do missional ministry, it still comes down to the God's man.

If we expect to be effective in ministry, we must have a spiritual life to back it up. I have met a few pastors that I just sensed God's spirit in them when I spoke to them. I can't explain it. But it is there. The sense of the spirit just oozes out of Them. I want that.

Historically, the great world changers were deep men of faith and prayer. Martin Luther would say that he had so much to do that he would have to spend more time in prayer to be able to get it all done. I want that.

I want my ministry to have global impact. I know that I can't do that. But God can do that through any man. I want to be one of those men.

Last weekend I began a 40 day time of spiritual renewal. I want to grow closer to the heart of God. I want to know faith that comes from a living, personal, 2 way communication with God. I want to get over my insecurities by knowing the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. I want to slay giants. I want to be the greatest dad. I want to be the greatest husband. I want to become humble before I am humiliated. I want to learn to pray bigger and love deeper.

This is a much needed spiritual renewal. God is already at work. I hope I can share some of this journey with you along the way.

Monday, August 20, 2007

VBS Still Rules


A friend showed this to me in a state denominational paper.

I have attended VBS, my kids have attended VBS and, as a youth pastor, I have led VBS. It has been a great program to provide unchurched parents with a sort of free day camp for 1 week out of the summer as an incentive to get children to hear the gospel. I know that in many places it is still a very effective evangelism tool.

But is it the most effective evangelistic event whether your church is in the suburbs or the inner city? What about teenagers? What about singles?

What are your thoughts?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

C3 Leadership Conference

Our church, C3 Church, had a leadership conference Friday and Saturday. Dino Rizzo from Healing Place Church was the guest speaker and was great as always. Dino is a master story teller and God has used him to create lots of stories to tell. Our own pastor Matt Fry led the last session to close the conference on Saturday.

Some thoughts from pastor Dino:
How to you keep moving forward? Habak 2:2; 2 Tim 4:6-7; Josh 5:11-12
  • It has to always be about Jesus.
  • Keep moving; keep it fresh.
  • Align what you say with what God is saying.
Non-negotiables for Life-giving People
  • It has to all be about Jesus
  • The church is the hope of the world and it is being built to last
  • Love people because people matter to God.
  • We are on a mission; we don't do missions.
  • All things are possible. - No matter how good or creative you are, it is all about raw faith. At the end of the day He is our source.
Some thoughts from pastor Matt:
Characteristics of Life-giving leaders
  • Passion
  • Risk Taking - You have to have faith (Phil 3:13-14). People will rise to the level of your expectations.
  • It has to all be about the cause.
  • Ownership
  • Purpose

Friday, August 17, 2007

Reproducing Church Experience - Dave Ferguson

After the sessions, we had a desert time with CCC Lead Pastor Dave Ferguson. He gave a short overview of how they started Christian Community Church.

He also mention a couple of things that stood out:

Regarding small groups he said, "treat them like they are Christians until the realize they are not." Three Things that will Happen with a Reproducing Ethos:
  1. You will seek the lost more than the found.
  2. You will love the risk of the edge more than the safety of the center.
  3. You will prefer the going more than the staying.

Reproducing Church Experience - Perry Martin

Perry Martin is the campus pastor at the Yorkville campus. He had an amazing story. He wrapped his story around Jeremiah. He said that Jeremiah's whole life was wrapped up in his prophecy to the king. When he went to the king, the king destroyed the scroll he had worked so hard to write. God told Jeremiah to get another scroll and write it again. Perry talked about many times when his dreams for God were destroyed but he had to get back to those dreams and start again.

He also said at age 24 his dad told him, "if you are waiting to get perfect before you start ministry you will never get started."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Reproducing Church Experience - Carter Moss

Infusing a Reproducing Culture

  • Live it out! - You have to have the behavior to support the values or they will not be carried out. Your unspoken rules may limit this.
  • Shout it out! - Through large group gatherings, coaching, conversations, casual lunches. You intrinsically communicate values through stories, rewards, and battles.
  • Spell it out! - Define what it means to have a reproducing culture. Putting it in writing does not create culture but it records it and holds us accountable.

Reproducing Church Experience - Jon Ferguson

Jon opened the conference with:

7 Moves to Reproducing:
  1. God Things - God things happen before vision. Could be disruptive moment or a challenge or it could be an opportunity.
  2. Vision - Problem, solution, urgency. Develops out of God things.
  3. Leader -
    1. Visioning capacity
    2. Intrinsically motivated
    3. Creates ministry ownership
    4. Relates to unchurched
    5. Spousal cooperation.
  4. Team - After the leader is established, you must develop a team.
  5. Finances -
    1. make sure there are clear expectations regarding finances
    2. you can do a lot with a little
    3. follow-up, follow-up, follow-up
  6. Alignment - direction must line up with your dream, internally and externally
  7. Unstoppable -
    1. humility and others centered
    2. unwavering resolve to do what must be done

Do Cats go to Heaven? Farewell to Oreo.

It was a long night. We drove all the way home from Chicago to Raleigh last night. Our cat was waiting for us when we arrived. She was so stir crazy that we let her out. It was about 3:30 am when we crawled into bed.

Gina woke me an hour or 2 later because of a noise. Our neighbors were ringing the doorbell. They said a dog had attacked our cat on their porch. We went to check on our cat and picked him up. He appeared to be pretty beat up and a couple hours later Gina wanted to get him checked out by a vet. The vet said it appeared to have broken rids and a punctured lung. We went ahead and got x-rays to be sure. In the end we had to put him to sleep. This is really hard on Gina because she really loved that cat. I know the kids are really sad as well.

I'm not a cat lover. Quite the opposite. But I have to admit that our cat Oreo was the best cat that I have ever seen. He was great to the kids. He took a lot of abuse from our boys but always slept on their beds and showed sympathy when one of them was hurt. I was truly amazed that the cat was a pleasant part of the family, unless he tried to climb up on my side of the bed, of course.

Levi, insisted that we bury Oreo in the backyard so funeral services will commence in about 30 minutes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Reproducing Church Experience - Dave Dummitt

Dave Dummitt planted a New Thing Network church in the Detroit area called 242 Community Church. They have around 1000 in attendance in about a year and a half. Dave is doing an awesome work and has a great story about how he got there.

He did a session on Establishing a Reproducing Church from the Beginning.
  • Cast the vision from day one.
  • Reproduce when you can not when you have to.
  • Develop a permission giving culture.
  • Measure internally.
  • Celebrate publicly.
  • Develop clear expectations and a common language for your leadership pipeline.
  • Model it yourself.

Reproducing Church Experience - Eric Metcalf

I really enjoyed meeting Eric Metcalf. He is CCC's small groups guy as well as a campus pastor. He taught a sessions on building reproducing teams. He said it is working when we have reproduce someone who reproduces themselves.

He said that they don't move an apprentice to into a leadership based on need, but based on readiness.

He said that everyone leader should have an apprentice.

One of the things that struck me the most about CCC and New Thing Network is that they reproduce leaders, while most churches who use the same language really stay don't accomplish it.

Reproducing Church Experience - Brian Zeher

A few thoughts from Brian Zehr's session:

3 Layers of Culture:
  • Values
  • Behavior
  • Language
We usually begin with values and use language to talk a lot about them, but, we don't focus on what people are really looking for; Behavior.

Cultural congruence must be in place in the leader before it can exist in the organization.


How a Spiritual Leader Thinks:
  • Spiritual entrepreneur.
  • It is not about me.
  • Flex is King.
  • Multiplication is not an option.
  • Risk is the coolest.

Monday, August 13, 2007

I love Chicago

There is something about the big city that I just love. I have lived in Houston, Dallas and Raleigh is just not a big city (yet). Maybe this is one of the reasons that I love Paris and the major cities of Europe. When I am in the City I get the sense that culture is developed here and picked up in the smaller towns.

Yesterday we did some campus hopping to see 2 more of the CCC campuses. It was great to get to see at least 3 of their 8 campuses live over the weekend. The Reproducing Church Experience Conference begins at 1 pm today. I may do some live blogging if I can get my battery on my relatively new macbook pro to work.

Last night Bill and Rachel and Gina and I went down to Navy Pier and had a great dinner at Bubba Gumps.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

On the Road - Cinci & Chicago

It has been crazy lately. We hit the road early Thursday morning for Chicago by way of Cincinnati. We will spend some time with Bill & Rachel Carroll. Bill is the Arts Champion at Community Christian Church, a multi-site church in the Chicago area. He and Rachel have a heart to plant churches in France, so we are going spend some time getting to know them so we can both consider weather they might join our team in Paris.

Additionally, I will be at the New Thing Network's Reproducing Church Experience to get to know more about the how the NTN operates and utilizes the Big Idea to create reproducing churches.

We stopped by last night to see Jim and Amy Kearns in Cincinnati. They are friends of ours from seminary and a previous church. They have been working on planting a church in Cinci against tremendous odds. It was a great time visiting with them and hearing about what they are doing. I may talk more about their church planting situation later.

I'm actually sitting in the cafe in the Yellow Box in Naperville taking my first opportunity to blog in a couple days. For now, we're going to get settled in and I will blog throughout our time this week.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Baby Isaac Leino Feb 25, 2007 - Aug 25, 2007

I have blogged in the past about our worship pastor and his wife, Jordan and Patience Leino. They had a baby almost 6 months ago and they knew even before he was born that he would required at least 3 heart surgeries in his first year of life. When he was born they found out he had many more problems than they had realized. Only a few short weeks later he was fighting for his life. At least 3 times they weren't sure if he would make it through the night. But each time he proved to be the miracle baby. Patience and Jordan exhibited so much strength and faith throughout all this. They kept up a blog for baby Isaac that became an amazing testimony around the world.

In about his 4th month he was able to go home but a few weeks later they found some problems that left him little chance to survive. This past Sunday evening Isaac Jordan Leino left this life and all his tubes and medical problems behind to be with Jesus. We attended his funeral today and continue to be amazed at the testimony that Jordan, Patience and little Isaac created by living a life of strength and faith in the midst of the most difficult circumstances.

Patience and Jordan, we love you, and baby Isaac we will miss you.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Elder Brothers and Cyber Distribution Channels

After returning from vacation, Mark Batterson had 2 great posts today.

In his post about the Elder Brother he recount a message someone shared about the parable of the prodigal son.

If the younger brother had run into his elder brother first he would have never made it inside the house! Unfortunately, our churches are filled with the elder brother spirit. And sometimes it is the religiosity of elder brothers that can actually keep prodigals from reuniting with their Heavenly Father!


In his post about Distribution Channels, he talks about utilizing emerging technologies as new distribution channels for the Gospel like Sears and Montgomery Wards used the new free rural mail delivery as a distribution channel for their catalog products over 100 years ago.

Here are a few distribution channels he mentions:
  • Podcasting is circuit riding at the speed of light.
  • Blogging is digital discipleship.
  • Video technology turns screens into postmodern stained glass.
  • Websites are virtual front doors.
  • Email is word of mouse.

Good stuff Mark!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Persecution - the Turning Point

I have talked many times about the difference between the Acts 2 church and the Acts 17 church. It's profound (the difference, not my writing).

  • Acts 2 is the example of mass conversion among a group who already believed the basic tenets of the of the faith. Yet, this group did not continue to grow for long.
  • Acts 17 is a cultural conversation with pagans that leads to very few immediate conversions but continues to grow and is becomes the starting point for western evangelization.

But what was the turning point from the first to the second church? What led to the change? The pivotal story is in Acts 8. A great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria (v. 1).

Several thoughts have been bouncing around in my head since I read this yesterday:
  • The church thrives under persecution. It appears to have taken persecution to force them to leave their comfort zone, jobs and homes. Even today the Chinese church continues to be the fasted growing church movement and it takes place underground. The western church talks way too much about legislating morality and too little about impacting culture.
  • Persecution may be required to get you to go were God is leading. We don't see ministry taking place outside of Jerusalem until people were forced to leave. Don't blame all of life's disruptions on Satan. God may want the credit for getting you off your tail
  • Persecution often begins with friendly fire. In Acts the persecution toward the church came from the Jews. It began with two groups who follow the same God. One called the other a heretic. You might be more effective talking to lost people about Jesus than fighting over doctrine.
  • People who "get it" will accomplish more than leaders who "talk about it." Pastors will not build the church alone. They must develop passionate Christ-followers who connect with people and travel light. Don't wait for the pastors do connect with the community God has called you to.
  • People who take initiative will lead leaders. When the apostles in Jerusalem heard about the ministry in Samaria they sent 2 representatives to check it out. Don't let a lack of support by leadership prevent you from doing what God is calling you to.
How does this relate to today? How does this relate to you?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Mommy's Coming Home Today

Mommy is coming home today, and I am so ready for it. All moms are underappreciated to some degree but the dynamics in our family make Gina a superhero. We had our 4th child 4 months before our oldest child turned 5. We have 3 boys and a girl (3rd in order). And our oldest has Sensory Integration Dysfunction which appears like a bad case of ADD. The hardest part of this type of family is the difficulty of giving them time alone with mommy or daddy. If you have a large family very close in age I would love to hear how you do it.

Having said all that we are excited for Gina to get back. Today is also here birthday. What do you put on her welcome home banner? Welcome home mommy; 2000m Steeplechase Masters Champion; Happy Birthday?

Friday, August 03, 2007

Gina Wins . . . I hear.

I am kinda bummed. I could not get the live video feed of Gina's race. It sounds like others did get it. If that is the case, my blog post giving people the live video link appears to have put too many people on the feed for me to get it. I guess won't tell anybody about it next time. My feed came on after Gina's race.

Anyway, Gina did great. She ran 7:41 which is a bit slower than her 15 year old national record of 6:57. But she really has not been training. She has struggled with lots of injuries and her training has been hit and miss since last fall. Today, she said she felt good. She was 4th overall and 1st in the 35-39 age group. She will come home with Gold.

I'm proud of you baby!

US Masters Track & Field Championships

Gina will be running the 2000m Steeplechase at 12pm noon today at the US Masters Track & Field Championships.

She would hate for me to tell you this but she won the USATF 2000m Steeplchase championship in 1992 and 1994 and was on the US Goodwill games team in 1994. But that was 13 years ago. Her times should not even be close to what she ran so long ago, but she is amazing. Who knows? If you are interested you can watch her run online. Go to this site and select Live Webcast.

Uncover a Desire for God

I read a great post by guest blogger Brian Kruckenberg over at the swerve blog this morning. He talks about how scripture says that we are all created in God's image; even the people who show no apparent signs of a God like image anywhere inside of them. He said that the key to evangelism is helping people uncover a desire for God that is hidden inside of them, underneath the sin and hurt and the junk of life. God put it there in each of us.

This is so good. We often want to present a doctrinal view of salvation to people who can't see God past the junk in their lives. Maybe we can begin by helping people get past the junk and funk.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Few Days Off - Sort of

Today, I take my superstar, runner wife to the airport. She will be flying up to Maine for the US Track & Field Masters Championships. She will run the 2000m Steeplechase at 12pm est. on Friday, July 3rd. This is the event in which she won 2 national championships in 1992 and 1994. The 1992 championship was actually at the Olympic trials. Unfortuantely, the Steeplechase was only a men's even in the 1992 Olympic Games, so even though she won the trials, she had no event to run in the Olympics. It will be added for the women for the first time in the 2008 Games. She did compete for the US Team in the Goodwill Games in 1994 in Russia. She's pretty fast.

So . . . I will be a single dad of 4 for the next 3 days. Which means I won't be doing much work, but it's not exactly time off. We will probably spend lots of time at the YMCA pool.

Pray for Gina to run well and for me to have some temporary "mommy genes" for a few days.

Hearts far from God

I was reading in Isaiah this morning and came across this:
These people come near to me with their mouth.
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is made up only of the rules of men.
Isaiah 29:13
Wow. What an indictment of the church today. We talk about him, at least on Sunday or during the week to the people who go to our church. We have a lot of moral rules, but do we live out the 2 greatest commandments? If someone were to ask God if you or I really loved him, what would He say? If someone were to ask God if you or I really loved people - obnoxious people, poor people, needy people, people of a different color, people out of gas on the side of the road on our way to church - what would He say?

-Just thinking out loud.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Devil is in the Details

Tonight, I feel like I just finished a major exam. I feel like I worked my tail off for a month and then pulled an all-nighter. I just finished the exam and feel a tremendous sense of relief, because no matter how I did, it's over. All I can do now is study for the next one.

Why do I feel this way? I just finished getting our inaugural newsletter out for Catalyst France. So much has happened in the last 2 months to get Catalyst France off the ground. I am a visionary at heart but when you are starting a new organization from the ground up, you have to get your hands dirty and keep them that way. I think deatils are Satan's tool to stop people from dreaming big dreams for God. Praise God he has given us the encouragement along the way to help us see the future.

I spent quite a bit of time designing a brochure for Catalyst France. I am not a designer but it actually looks really good. I have had lots of comments from designers. I guess God gives us what need for the task. I planned to use it as a primary piece for our mailing this month with a brief letter. In the last week though, I found out that we could not handle the printing ourselves and would have to have it professionally printed. I then had to move quickly to write a stand alone newsletter to replace it. At 5:30PM today I dropped 350 newsletters in the mail. I am tired but relieved. I am excited for everyone to understand who we are at Catalyst France, to catch the vision, and to dream with us about reaching France and Europe for Christ.

If you do not get our newsletter but would like to, email me at info@catalystfrance.org.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Unchurched - They don't all Look Alike

I read a great post this morning from Ben Arment entitled Deep Sea Fishers of Men. We usually talk about 2 different groups of people who don't attend church: the un-churched and the de-churched. But, as Ben points out, not all unchurhced people look alike:

There are differences between the unchurched. Some of them haven't attended anywhere, but had praying grandmothers or grew up in places where Christianity was part of the fabric of the community, so they at least took their hat off during prayer before high school football games. But then there are unchurched folks who have had no connection with anything Christian, let alone evangelical. They hang crystals and spirit catchers in their front windows, drive cars with "coexist" written on their bumper stickers, and think church-goers are like militia members. "The Unchurched" cannot possibly be a universal term.
Great distinction!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Contagious - Giving or Taking

Seth Godin posted here last week about so many things being contagious. He said that the most important thing you can do is choose who you're hanging out with. He also said that we must put dynamics in place that reinforce the ideas that we would like to see spread.

The church knows how contagious our lives can be. My entire Christian life I have heard church leaders say that we need to be careful who we hang out with because will very likely become like them. The problem is that Jesus never hung out with people he wanted to be like or even wanted to be associated with. He hung out with people that he wanted to become like Himself.

As Christians, are we giving or taking. Are we spending time with people we want to be like or are we spending time with people who we want to see meet Jesus?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Caught a Foul Ball

Tonight, the in-laws invited us to bring the kids to a Carolina Mudcats game. We showed up in time for all the kids to get free t-shirts (it didn't hurt that it was overcast and thundering). The kids got their shirts and caps and gloves all signed by Muddy and Mini Muddy . . . again.

At one point I wasn't paying attention and a foul ball was hit our way. The guy behind us caught it and gave it to one of my boys. A few minutes later they hit another one my way and I got it. It is the first foul ball I have ever caught. Only problem is that in spite of the fact that I now have 2 balls, I have 4 kids.

It was also a great last inning come from behind win. Now, I am ready for bed.

Friday, July 27, 2007

What our Kids Learn

I am driving home from the store today with my son Austin. We have this conversation:
Dad: Austin, what do you want to be when you grow up?
Austin: I want to be a policeman.
Dad: What to policemen do?
Austin: They arrest people.
Dad: What do they arrest people for?
Austin: For not wearing their seatbelt.
I wonder where he got that from?

Vision For Catalyst France (pt 5)

. . . to plant churches where French people have an opportunity to see the Gospel lived out in the lives of transformed believers, hear the message of Christ clearly communicated in an exciting and relevant way, and experience lasting life-change through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Experiencing It

This part of the vision is why we do what we do. It is how we Define Our Win; how we know we are accomplishing the Great Commission. Seeing and hearing life-change through Jesus Christ is not enough if the unchurched never experience it.

Jesus said, "I came that you might have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10) Jesus did not die so that we could become better rule followers. He died so that we might live. If we teach the people all there is to know about the Bible and morality but fail to lead them to experience new life in Christ we have not fulfilled our vision.

Paul said, "if any man is in Christ he is a new creation" (2 Cor 5:17). While new life is the goal, it is also a means. When asked why people don't go to church, the top reasons they give is that they believe it is boring or irrelevant. I think that one of the biggest reasons people go to church on the invitation of a friend is because they see something in that friend's life that is different. I think that many people who don't believe in Jesus after their first visit to a church come back because they see something different in the people at that church.

It's really a circular thing. If we can point the way (or get out the way) for people to experience a life changing relationship with Jesus Christ, they will become the best reason for others to find that same life changing relationship.

How about your church? What would an unchurched person see? What would they hear? Would they get it? Would they come back even if they didn't get it? Is life change obvious to your guests?

Love to hear your thoughts. . .

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ken the Tool Man

Today was a domestic day. I don't like to cook much, but I like to make desserts and I cook a mean pot of pinto beans. Tonight we had beans and cornbread. My pinto beans rocked! The will rock and roll later I am sure.

I also have been wanting to use some scrap wood to make my former 2 time National Champion Steeplechase bride a steeple barrier to practice on. I am a little late since she runs in the US Masters Championships in Maine next Friday. But I built her a steeple barrier to train on today. We both think it actually turned out pretty good.

While I was at it I build my 6 and 4 year old boys their first bike ramp. I am so glad that they are finally getting to this fun age. No blood yet. You can see my handi-work in the pics (except for the beans, maybe I will save that for the podcast).