'...til death do us part.'
This week we began what I expect to be a terrific series on love and marriage. Many positive comments this week. This is one of those times where you hit such a groove because everything seems to flow and come so clearly that you know it's God's word and not your own.
I've determined in ministry to teach from overflow and abundance of my relationship with Christ as opposed to teaching from a file or pre-fabricated message. This series will be one of the great ones.
This evening our Connecting Point got together. We're in the process of building relationships at Focal Point. Not the kind of relationships where you are around people but don't know them... but the kind that eventually you get to know people enough that you'd talk to them about life issues and transparency becomes the norm.
We had a great time at dinner and then out at a local coffee shop.
I treasure evenings like this. As I talked to some people from another group meeting tonight, they had a great evening as well. This is the genuine article-type 'o church. I love it.
I'll be speaking at Point Harbor Community Church on Tuesday, February 1st for a Missions Conference. The Pastoral staff at Point Harbor is doing a fantastic job promoting the need for mission support locally, in the USA and Internationally.
It will be great to speak about what God has been doing in our midst over the last year. I'm a huge fan of church planting. I believe we could use more talented planters and more supporting churches to share God's love all over our land. Whether it's video venues or a church planting movement it doesn't matter to me as long as people are able to come to Christ.
If you're local and you'd like to join me, please let me know.
Click here for directions. Dinner is at 6pm and the service begins at 7pm.
C3 Conference Pics
Last week I attended the C3 Conference at Fellowship Church. Terry Storch posted some great pictures on his blog. These pictures give a little of the feel but Fellowship really makes a visit to their place an experience. If you're into the conference/church thing, take a look...
This post should really be titled: Social Security, Future Shock, Ethanol, Globalization, and the future of church.
The West Wing stimulates my thinking. It was TIVO'd for me so I watched it last night. I enjoy TIVO. Anyway, the 'King Corn' episode centered around the candidates for president and their ability to tackle an obscure but all important issue... Ethanol. Ethanol is supposed to be a cure to our problems with dependence on foreign energy. It's made from corn so it's also supposed to burn more cleanly. In 15 years you and I may be making pop-corn as we drive down the road and the whole town could smell like corn flakes... Who knows.
Lately I've been reading 'Future Shock' and considering the future of church. I really think we all should be looking forward in addition to looking around. Sadly the local church has been behind the times and trying to play catch-up for a long time. Its important that we Pastors read outside of the Christian authors on our bookshelves and begin thinking ahead for ourselves. We are the earthly leaders and the voicebox to the moves of God. God is constantly moving. It's important that his men and women get their cues from Him through passionate relationships with Him and open eyes.
Here are some things to think about.
How will you handle a more transient culture?
How will your church handle growth if property becomes scarce?
You have other questions to add to the mix. It's not that the average Pastor can't think about these things... it's that the average Pastor doesn't.
Like getting a tooth pulled
... That's how I felt this morning as I sat in a dentist chair. Yes I did get a tooth pulled. I had a nagging wisdom tooth in the top left-hand side of my mouth. It was fully grown and wasn't too much of a problem but it was useless so my dentist wanted to yank it.
At the office I got to speak to my dentist and I asked him about his faith and what he thought of the local church. I asked him and I ask you... Where could the church improve?
In the church we are answering the questions that people aren't asking.
Andy Stanley said "People aren't interested in "The Truth" but they are interested in what works. He believes we should start with what works in life and lead them to the Truth. Christians should not be afraid of life's questions or alternative answers. We should, however, provide the answer of "Here's what works in ____ area of your life" and then show them the author of the solution. It's a tough world and relationships hang in the balance. We have to focus each day on how we're imacting our culture with the truth of Christ.
My dentist said he'd ponder the question of how the church could help him and get back to me. It wasn't an easy question for him. He did talk with me about some encouraging speakers he'd recently seen and he even gave me a DVD with one of the motivational speaker's messages on it. I'll check it out soon and get back to him.
I hope for all of us that it doesn't take us getting teeth pulled for us to discuss faith with those around us. Be open in your everyday life to ask questions and get to know people.
It's about Relationships. Discussing your faith is NOT like getting your tooth pulled.
Click the title for a great post on relationships.
The word of the day is Loyalty.
Remember Mr. Rogers? With his blue jacket and shoes he always took off? Remember? BTW, did he ever put his shoes back on in the evening when he went out of the house? I recall him taking his shoes off and putting slippers on but did he ever switch them back?
The world of Mr. Rogers was wonderful wasn't it? Everyone had a position. Everyone was consistent. The milk man and mail man did their own jobs and didn't interfere with one another. There was security in consistency in Mr. Rogers neighborhood. There were boundaries, there was flow and roles were defined.
The church is nothing like Mr. Rogers neighborhood. The "church" is more like V: The Final Battle mini series that ran in the early 80's. The plot to "V" was rather simple. Earth was invaded by these reptile-looking creatures. Like the problem the U.S. had in Vietnam, the "good guys" lived and worked with the reptilian creatures that had the skin of humans and looked exactly like them. It was difficult to distinguish who was on your side and who was not being transparent. The plot is biblical (to a degree) as Jesus discussed basically the same thing using wheat and tares and also the sheep and goats illustrations.
So many people live with false motives (inside the church and out) that it's difficult to sort through enough people to find the ones who are truly loyal. In ministry it's vital to have those people on your team once you find them. At the C3 Conference much was made about loyalty (although not discussed in depth using this term). I've spent much time evaluating loyalty in my own life and in the life of our new church plant. I've come to the conclusion that I must demand that my inner circle only be made of loyal people. To do so, I've decided to take even a more solid stand with people in and outside of the ministry who want to be close. It's loyalty or bust.
We must all seek loyalty. Once we find those who are loyal we must nurture them, encourage them and develop them. God's vision for the local church is not usually shared in the vision of the 'sheep' who need the shepherding. The reality is that people can be great and influential business leaders, doctors, moms and dads or civic group coordinators but that does not mean they understand -- or have the passion for-- the local church and God's vision for it.
We shepherds need to be shepherds. One of the things that Ed Young said was "If someone asks you who you are accountable to, write them off." Yes you must be accountable to someone but usually the people who ask you this in your church are saying "I want to control you and we'll call it 'accountability'." Another reinforcement he gave was that professional church members like to have control without responsibility. True spiritual leaders want control with responsibility and accountability.
So this week, this day look for those who demonstrate complete loyalty. Look for those men and women who demonstrate a trust in you and the vision God has given to your ministry.
Loyalty: Embrace it, Give it
Ask, Seek, Knock
This week has been a great visit to Dallas and Fellowship Church. Last night John and I went to the Mav's game and aftewards grabbed some food. Today we went to the Gaylord Hotel, P.F. Changs, and the Blue Fish. What I've noticed by these and other experiences here in Dallas is that the environment here is full of great ideas for ministry aesthetics. Everywhere you look you see some creative, innovative presentation idea. The people of this area truly demand the quality and professionalism that the Fellowship Church staff deliver week after week. It is no accident that Fellowship is one of the leading churches of innovative and creative presentation of the gospel. Much of what I've observed (Inside FC and out) can even be done by churches like ours with extremely limited resources and staff. We have no excuses.
Mitch Corn, a friend from college works on staff with the Children's ministry here. We spent some time the last two days talking and hanging out. Mitch has had nothing but terrific things to say about the workings of this ministry behind closed doors. I don't believe Mitch is the exception on this staff nor do I believe he's putting on a face. I think this team is completely solid and the level with which they are able to push Christianity forward with regard to our presentation and professionalism is truly a unique and humbling place to be in God's plan.
We all must get out more. Now, I will say that here in Grapevine, Southlake, Plano, etc. There are tons of places to go for inspiration. The consumer here is used to a top of the line experience. But that's no excuse for the rest of us. You and I may have to look a little harder or spend some money to go to some nicer resturants or malls and depending where you are you may even have to go to a nearby city that's larger and has more shopping attractions. Is your ministry worth looking around? The Gospel itself offends those who aren't ready to recieve it but we do not have to wrap it with terrible presentation.
There are people who would complain about even the notion that pastors look to "the world" for creative elements to wrap the gospel. To those people, I say grab a blender. Blender? Yes. Take your next meal and put it all in a blender. Drink that combination down and you tell me if presentation and order do not have anything to do with your experience of eating your meal. Afterall, the purpose of food is simply to keep us alive... Right?
Here's the deal. We have no excuses. No matter where you are in the country you need inspiration and you owe it to your people to think like they think. Go out and eat. Go to a basketball game. Get out of your office and I dunno, walk your neighborhoods? Find out which types of stores in your area are most frequented by your target crowd and go observe. Incorporate elements from those places into your church. We must Ask questions, Seek out inspiration and Knock down the barriers that keep the unchurched from falling in love with the bride of Christ, the local church.
The West Wing last night was great.
If you Tivo'd it, don't read any further....
Okay, for the rest of you... Basically the jist of the show came down to this: The Bartlett administration is beginning their last year in office. Staff have been splitting away and looking to the future... the agenda has been controlled by whatever happens to take them off task.
The purpose of the show was to say this... 365. That's how many days the administration has left in their tenure. Louie wanted to let everyone know that it's vital they keep focus on leaving a legacy and effecting change for the dreams and goals of this President.
Within ministry we must play this episode on the back of our eyelids on a daily basis. We have the most incredible message in the world for all of humanity. The President has the advantage of knowing the number of his days. We in the Christian world know that God is the only one who knows the number of ours. If the immediacy of knowing your days are numbered makes you work all the harder, what should the thought of not knowing how many days you have left do for the man or woman of faith?
Great Service in an Unlikely Place
John and I took some time away from working to go to downtown Dallas this afternoon and grab lunch. When we got down there we realized we were extremely close to the JFK memorial area. We decided to take some time and look for the grassy knoll. After we parked we went over to a giant lego structure which is actually a memorial for JFK. As we read about the various sites to see we were approached by a man who began by pointing out all of the areas we'd want to see. He started by describing quickly the route of the motorcade and telling us where J. Harvy Oswald was killed and where the 'Grassy Knoll' was located.
He then make a quick joke about the monument (his comment was about it looking like the lego structure I referenced earlier). He then pulled out a newspaper wrapped in plastic and said "Gentleman, I sell these papers which will give you all you need to know about JFK and his trip to Dallas. This is my job. This is how I put food on the table. Would you be willing to buy one of these papers from me for $5?"
I grew up in Baltimore City. I've seen scams. I know the paper likely costs 50 cents somewhere (I don't know where). I know I could have gone to a local store and bought something similar.
I also didn't care about any of that....
John and I pitched in and bought the paper. We didn't care about the paper per-se. We bought the experience, we bought the dialogue, we bought his presentation. He deserved our sale. In reality he gave us more information (for free) than we would have gotten by reading monuments.
We quickly were able to get on our way and see what we came to town to see.
We all need these type of people in our ministries, our businesses and in our cities. This guy gave me an experience and I am a satisfied customer.
Will post for food....
I know some of you wonderful Dallas folks have picked up on the blog... I am honored...
I request your assistance...
I'll be in town as of tomorrow morning for the C3 conference (I know I'm early). A friend and I are making it a planning trip so I'll have a few days around town.
Here's where you come in. Give me your favorite food spots I need to hit up while I'm in your back yard. I appreciate it...
BTW, I'd love to meet some home grown people... I'm also interested in stopping by the Plano campus and see how you've transformed that place. Terry has some great pics on his site.
Alright... Ready, set, food -->
(postscript note: Check out http://toddstorch.typepad.com/business/ for a great customer service series this week) I found it after I posted this message...
If you are in any position of customer service, please think through what your systems will do to customers.
Because I'm headed to Dallas this week (to attend Fellowship Church and their C3 Conference), I needed to get a new battery charger for my phone from Sprint. I went to their store locally and became part of the madness known as a solution to cell phone store overcrowding.
As I walked through the door I was met with a guy at a desk with a clipboard who gave me the look... You know... The look that says "excuse me, I'm the guy with the clipboard.... Give me your name!" I walked over to him and said "I'd like to buy a charger." He said "Okay, what is your name?" Without worry I politely gave my name and went to the wall holding my charger expecting that I'd soon be on my way. This wasn't the case. You see... The guy with the clipboard holds all power to the Sprint PCS store. Clipboard guy is actually the bridge guard from Monty pythons Search for the Holy Grail. "Red, ...I mean Blue...aaahhhhhh!"
Anyway, I ask Mr. Clipboard if I can buy the charger. He says... You're 3rd in line. I said "You don't have anyone who can ring me up?" "No" he said "You're third in line... It'll just be a few minutes." (Have you ever seen the Avis commercial?)
Anyway, as I stood against the wall observing the array of conversations between customers and customers, customers and employees and yes, employees and employees I thought to myself....
This system was set up for a great cause I'm sure. Anyone who has been to a cell phone store can tell you how chaotic it can be. I've seen everything from complete chaos, to deli-style numbering systems and yes the great clipboard all employed in an effort to fix the problem. The system with the clipboard is a great system for people who need individual attention and discussion while selecting the right phone, the right plan or even to discuss a problem with their phone. However, it's horrible for a person wanting an accessory. The other thing that I noticed was that the clipboard guy becomes sort of a bouncer to protect the employees from having to stay busy. Instead of the employee being busy nonstop, it is the customers who line the wall as if they were picked up by the police department for a mugshot lineup.
I also noticed that employees would talk with one another knowing that they were safe thanks to the clipboard. So I get to hear how an employee enjoyed their weekend and who's dating who... But what I don't get is quick service.
I learned in college about the triangle of customer service. The idea that customers want speed, quality and low cost. For a great experience, a customer only needs two of the three. I got one. I got quality product (hopefully). The problem is that I could have gotten two of three if only the system allowed for it.
Here's my suggestion... Put the clipboard guy next to a register. Placing a register next to the sign-in area allows for small items to be dealt with right away. This will lead to less wait for everyone and more space in the already crowded store.
So, if you are in a position to think about systems... Think customer experience. Do your best to think about the anomaly. Not everyone will be in the "solution" percentage. We actually sometimes create a "problem" section of people. Fix that, and you have a great solution.
Atlanta Falcons vs. St. Louis Rams football playoff game. The Falcons are doing well right now leading 21-7.
I can't help but to notice the class I've seen from the Falcons. I've been impressed with the fact that after each score the Falcon players have given the ball to a fan and then gone back to their sideline. I don't see showboating, dancing, acting, taunting or even pulling down pants... I see players who act professionally and get their job done.
We live in a meistic culture where we've been program to celebrate ourselves for no-one will celebrate us. In our business world we must so eagerly self-promote that we forget what it's like to have class and do the right things.
The commentators on the game mentioned NOTHING about these guys and their great respect for the game, fans, and themselves by their actions but last week and all week I've heard all about Randy Moss symbolically showing his crack to the Packers fans.
I hope we all can take a lesson from the Warrick Dunn's of the world and even business books like the One Minute Manager.... give praise to people who do a good job but don't ask for it. If you're the one doing the job... do it unto the Lord and move on.... when I was younger playing sports I had wiser men say to me "Act like you've been there (endzone) before."
We should all aim to do that well and act like we've been there. Success in our lives should be a byproduct, not a surprise.
A Novel Idea
I propose that mainstream Christianity focus on educating the average Christian. Here's the deal... if a Christian doesn't want to understand the issues... fine... but don't ruin it for everyone else by opening your mouth (especially when there is a reporter around).
Last night I Tivo'd a story on Nightline about a school system in Dover, Pennsylvania that is in a big fight over evolution and intelligent design. Apparently some people are pretty "religious" about honoring Darwin by not allowing other scientific evidence into the public square that does not support evolution.
Today I look up and see an article on the President's inaugural address and how Michael Newdow is trying to get prayer banned from that celebration. Nevermind that 40 million dollars (nearly all of the cost) of this event was raised privately. A prayer will offend Mr. Newdow. He's claiming that at that time he will feel left out b/c of his atheistic beliefs. (I'm left out of a lot of things but my goal in life isn't for the world to conform to me... I could go on but I digress)
My thoughts don't rest solely with each of these cases. My thoughts have to do with the average Christian in our society. For the most part we have to admit that the church has set itself up as the enemy to science (read: Galileo). We started this mess of making scientific discovery an enemy to our faith... Now we have to deal with the monster of division which we created. (Step 1 to recovery... admitting that you have a problem.) (Step 2: Understanding you only have yourself to blame.)
What do we do? We educate.
Let me begin by saying that not everyone who's a Christian should be a scientist and not every Christian has to have an undergrad degree, however, if you are a believer you are called to give the reason for the hope that you have. (I Peter 3:15-16)
The problem kicks in when people who have reasons for their faith cannot articulate them.
Scripture tells us in Romans 1:20 "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." As a follower of Christ, that makes me want to learn. If God's eternal power and divine nature can be seen from creation, I'd like to learn more about those things...
There is a show called Extreme Makeover: Home Edition which is a pretty cool show (not your average trading spaces stuff). Recently they started to do 'behind the scenes' stuff on a show called "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition... How'd they do that?" The show basically is about the how's behind the what's. This in the most laming language is how I view science. Science is the "How'd He Do That?" show for me. I'm not concerned that Science will discover something that shreds my faith to pieces... In reality does my faith rest on science, no. My faith rests on a personal relationship with Christ and the apologetical evidences I've since learned. I'm not concerned that the Human Genome Project would ever lead to a "discovery" that makes God any less God. We may discover tendencies in genes that explain more of human behavior but that never takes away from God's sovereignty. There is so much to understand.
What Christians should learn:
1. Think. Then Speak. (repeat it with me: "Think. Then speak." good!)
Last year during the fight about Alabama chief Justice Roy Moore's desire to keep the 10 Commandments monument on court property I saw a video clip of some Christian protestor screaming "Don't take away my god!"... WHAT? Do you realize how dumb that sounds to someone who has no faith in Christ? The same someone who you're supposed to be influencing for Christ? That statue is not your God. The last time I checked, you can file that one under idolatry. Let's listen to the words going through our brains before we spit them out of our mouths. (repeat it with me: "Think. Then speak. Think...")
2. Have a stronger faith.
Proverbs 24:10 reminds us... If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength.
If all it takes is someone explaining how things work to freak you out, you're faith is pretty small. If you believe that God created it all and he's a logical God... Why would it bother you to hear that genes make up people's tendencies or that a large percentage of our DNA is shared by animals? He's the same creator right? It makes sense to believe that he'd use similar design patterns... after all they are pretty good designs huh?... They are God's.
3. Recognize that Logic and Science aren't your enemies.
We have to get a grip and remember that we have an enemy much bigger than an educated mind. Our enemy will do anything to make us look stupid to the rest of the world. If we believe in the God who created it all and we believe we've been made in his image... We should also believe that we can get to know God through his creation (see Rom 1:20). All throughout scripture we're told this whole deal is about KNOWING GOD. Get to know Him. Get to know him holistically. Learn. Understand. Discuss. Make friends with educated people of differing views.
Last time I checked, God is pretty secure with the human brain trying to decode him. He's not pressing the panic button of heaven saying "wow... How'd I do that?" Toughen up... We serve a highly intelligent God. We need to act like it.
"Win" with the West Wing
I just finished watching "The West Wing" which I Tivo'd earlier this evening.
In case you don't follow... The show is preparing for the inevitable change and is therefore beginning an election cycle in which the new president will be chosen to succeed POTUS Bartlett. A congressman from Texas is running at the request of new campaign manager Josh. Realizing that the wheels may be coming off just after pulling off of the car lot, the guys decide to talk...
Santos: "I'm not trying to make this a test case. (his run for President) C'mon! We're lucky if we have two months with this! I don't want to waste it shaking hands!"
Josh: "Two months? I gave up everything for this. You're not even in it to win?"
Santos: "Maybe we have a different definition of winning Josh. Maybe that's what we should have talked about in Houston."
What exactly does "win" mean?
I'm not talking about the definition of the word. I'm talking about defining when you have "won". In your business, in your ministry, in your family. When can you say that you've won? This is beyond charting goals for yourself. It's about conflict, disappointment, frustration, a defeated mind-set. The problems I have observed in organizations have come not because the leader didn't have a "win" in mind but because that "win" was different than everyone else's "win". Playing sports, I always knew the score, the time remaining and at any time whether or not "WE" were "Winning".
Unfortunately this simple concept stays filed away with the rest of our memories in our High School scrapbooks. How many organizations or families have you seen spiral into chaos because there was no defined "win"? The scoreboard of life so often times is fading in and out (at best) and usually is unplugged. It should be downright demanded that you are clear with every team you lead and every leader you follow that it is understood what "win" means.
Discouragement is the result of failed expectations.
Once an expectation is failed we have to check to be sure that the expectation was right to begin with. When we get angry its because we feel that someone/something is unjust. But is that really the case? Is someone being 'unfair' or 'unreasonable' or did I sign up to play for a team who plays a game without a scoreboard?
As we take this thought into the Christian life we find exactly the same is true. Churches are supposed to be sanctuaries from the madness of life's drama right? Wrong. Unfortunately churches don't have scoreboards. What's worse is that because the church does not offer a board to follow, everyone carries their own scoreboard. We [in the church] talk in terms of "soul-winning" and "proper stewardship" as well as "accountability" and "polity" while ignoring the question of "What does a win look like?" "What is it all for?" "Why do 'church' in the first place?"
Paul talks in terms of purpose. Paul clarifies for us the concept that we're each marked with a course to run in life. Obedience becomes our goal. Obedience to Christ in his passion for reaching the entirety of humanity with the gospel. In your ministry, what does a win look like? Are you clarifying that for your people? Are you surrounded by the right people to win?
"Run in such a way as to get the prize" (I Corinthians 9:24)
"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14).
"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18
Today's 'My Utmost' can shake us up and knock us off of our proverbial pedestals. Alone with God... How many people actually think about that? I know what I'm saying is nothing new and I'm okay with it... b/c I need reminded of this on a near-daily basis.
We talk about 'church' and 'marketing' and 'leadership' and all of these important things that come from our 'desire to see people know God' but how often do we seriously ponder God and ourselves?
Over the last several years I've been asked about 'discipleship' and 'assimilation' and 'growing our people'. My answer has consistently been that when you can focus on showing a person who God is and then turn the lens around to show them who they are, humility is immenent. Most people don't need to know much more about themselves. They tend to be ready to admit that they've blown it a few times but people do need to know who God is. People do need to ponder knowledge itself as an attribute of God's glory. We all need a good dose of 'whoa' or awe. We shouldn't wait for a retreat, camp, or conference to somehow "remind us" of our Heavenly Father and his attributes. Spiritual Crack-addicts we are not.
I encourage you today... ponder God. Do the very thing that feels unnatural and downright scary... think about eternity. Don't allow your mind to turn to mush talking about policies, procedures and protocol... Allow it to be transformed by the renewing the Holy Spirit brings to us when we meditate on things of God.
I'm finding more and more that this is the case in every part of society. With our rapidly changing world we are forced to lead, follow or get left behind. I've chosen to lead. To lead, I must not only adapt when necessary but I must also attempt to stay ahead of the needed changes. This year (2005) will have many changes in my life. Our church will complete our first year, we'll likely add staff, my wife and I are having a child, my sister and my wife's sister are getting married [to different people], on and on we go...(I'm sparing you the details)