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.