Like Jesus, Like Tally
Okay... this isn't actually as spiritual of a post as you might assume from the title.
(relatively long personal saga... read only if you have some time to kill)
The joys of home ownership have already kicked in! Yippie! Kristy and I have our first major problem in our home! Whoooowoowwooo! Aren't you excited!
So yesterday Kristy asked me to come into the downstairs bathroom and she starts stepping on the floor in different places. I don't usually see my wife cuttin' the rug in our bathroom (she used to go to a Mennonite church and they don't do that) so I figured there must be something up. She could tell that I wasn't too quick on the uptake with this one so she said... "no.. listen." I listened a little closer only to hear a squishy sound mixed with a suction cup sound. (Put water in your hands and then cup your hands together with your right palm across your left hand and pull apart and you will get the idea)
Sure enough we were Walkin on Water! Peter didn't have the faith we had!
Okay... Water damage! Wonderful. As I'm sure you guessed we were really excited to have a major damage on our hands. Now the task was to find the culprit. Could it be a busted pipe? Maybe a bad seal in our son's bathtub? We searched high and low and found NOTHING!
Resigned to fight another day (and to call our Insurance company in the morning) we could do no more so we did what any great Pastor and his wife would do in the same situation. We went to bed. Well, I went to bed. My wife laid there thinking about the water damage. As I tried to count sheep I was fielding questions about moisture and potential problems that could have caused this to happen. (Been there guys?)
After asking my wife if I could go to sleep I drifted off into La-La land.
Well, this morning I went to our 6am bible study at Starbucks only to return to my wife who was again with that look of concern on her face. As soon as I walk through the door at 7:20a.m. she motions me over to the washer and dryer (which shares a back wall with that bathroom) and she says "Did you put anything wet in the Laundry?" My mind began to recap my days actions of yesterday when I said "Nope" Kristy then showed me the pile of laundry we had laying at the foot of the washer. She said "The bottom of this pile is soaking wet. We have to get someone in here to fix this."
So, I waited around until 8 a.m. and I called my Realtor at exactly 8 this morning. I asked her about the home owners insurance policy she recommended we get instead of a traditional inspection. I had visions of our conversation when she said "Tally, if you have an inspection and something goes wrong the week after you're in the house... it's on you. However if you buy a policy and something happens a week in, they will cover it. My advice... go with the INSURANCE!" We did. I'm very glad we did.
Our Realtor gives us our policy numbers (I could have looked them up but someone else has to join me in my concern and since we just gave her a several thousand dollar pay-day two weeks ago, I figure she should be willing. She was.)
So this morning at 8:20 a.m. I filed a claim via the computer voice whom I normally hate talking to (but this time wasn't so bad b/c they didn't repeat every number) and I was told who would be coming out including their phone number--pretty cool. Well, about an hour ago a guy showed up at my door as promised and began his investigation. After showing him the extent of my water damage he said "wow... this is bad." I thought "Thanks! Now fix it!"
We looked around a bit and I leaned over the wash machine to reassure him that the problem couldn't possibly be my washer... he said "Do you mind if I look back here?" I said "No.. that's why you're here you idiot!" JUST KIDDING. I said "sure" and he began to look. Within about 10 seconds he said "Here is your problem. Your hose on the washer are leaking." Ohh my goodness!!!!
So he shows me the leak and sure enough... my multiple-thousand dollar problem is coming from faulty seals on the hose (I can't say for sure if it's the seals or Kristy's dad who sealed them but I'm not asking questions at this point) and he begins to tighten them. Ultimately he finds out that one of the hoses is missing a washer and he fixes that.
Now I ask the obvious question. "Will the Insurance cover the damage?" He says "Nope. They would probably cover it if it was in the wall or if your washer itself was broken but since it is a hose that you put on they will probably not cover it."
This is the time when I about lost my Christian manners. (not really)
So he calls in the third-party insurance company and begins to tell them the problem. When he tells them that it was the hoses I hear the repair man say "Huh? You cover them? Well, I dont' know what they cost. Let me call you back." He calls his boss who tells him that the hoses cost about $20 and instructs him to go get them.
So here I sit. I'm under the belief (and will continue to pray) that the logic is in my favor. IF the Insurance company covers the problem... they surely will cover the damage caused by the problem! It's only logical that if they fix my leak that they will repair any damage cause by my leak. Unfortunately for them (or me) the damage is likely to require wood floors and tile floors to be replaced in two rooms of my house.
This story is too be continued but man... THANK GOD FOR GOOD ADVICE AND A GOOD INSURANCE COMPANY. Hopefully when this is all fleshed out in the end we will be more like Jesus in some ways but not because we walk on water in our bathroom!
Well, the first layer of insurance didn't cover it. They call the water damage "Secondary Damage". The primary damage was my water hose going bad. They cover that. The secondary damage is the ensuing flood. They said that my homeowners policy covers that stuff. So, I called my friends at Allstate and the gentleman who handles my policy and now knows me by name (I've had to switch my policy from renters to owners in the last two weeks) says that I CAN file a claim but he'd recommend I start getting work done up and until I pass my deductable limit. His reasoning is that if the damage doesn't meet the deductable, then I would have filed a claim that costs me more than the actual repair.
I had already found a water damage company and they were in my home when I talked to Mr. Allstate so I was one step ahead of him on the whole 'call and get the damage taken care of' part.
Anyway... the water damage guy says that he's seen worse damage that didn't require hardwood floors to be replaced. He thinks I should be fine once he's done his job. He used a pretty cool suction device that looks a lot like a medal detector to suck the water out from between the wood panels. He also used it on the tile in the bathroom. What joy!
That's the scoop for now. Ohh... the water guy is also a carpet steamer/cleaner guy... so on Friday when he comes back (he left industrial fans to air dry the rest of the water) he said he's going to clean my downstairs carpets for free. He's smart... now I'll recommend him to others.
Most churches teach men to have Shalom by sitting in a corner and being quiet. Stay out of harms way and be 'a good boy'.
Over the next 3 weeks I'll be tackling biblical manhood at Focal Point. This will definately be a powerful series.
For a little insight as to the direction... check out this post by Anthony Bradley. I love it!
Shalom is peace. God brings peace.
In order to have peace at times we need men to provide a counter-weight to the evil one and his schemes. We need men and women who will fight for justice and love and intergrity. We need to quit training boys and young men to be passive and quiet and start teaching them how to express themselves and be true men. If the men of the church were allowed to be men we would see a more close representation of Shalom.
Hero Series Conclusion
Today we finished up our series called "Hero". It was a 3 week series covering Mother's Day and ending today with a Memorial Day message.
Today's message wasn't my normal delivery style but I wanted to keep the delivery calm because of the subject matter.
I decided to post our MP3. We're working on Podcasting and I'm looking forward to that being up in a week or so. For now, here's our final message on Hero. The main body of scripture is from Romans 5: 6-11
Here ya go: Hero Week 3
This is completly useless to anyone reading my blog for insight but it's my blog and I'll post if I want to, post if I want to, post if I want to... you would post to if this happened to you...
(that was corny and I will try not to do that again in the future)
My boy Jon had a busy weekend. After getting married on Saturday he went to get his wig clipped.
Jon hasn't had a real haircut in 4 years and had the longest of hair. Now that the wedding is over he decided to donate his hair to Locks of Love.
Jon's a good guy with a great future ahead. Via the pictures below... check out how it all went down.
Saturday night our lead singer slept with our drummer and it didn't cause a church split.
Jon and Grace were married this weekend and it was easily the funniest wedding I've been to. Jon quoted musicians in his vows and said "yeah that WAS good wasn't it?" when the crowd said "aww" during his promises to Grace. It was so funny.
At first Jon's humor was strange to me but as I listened to the commitment he was expressing to Grace through his humor in front of us, his guests, it was actually some of the most touching set of promises I've ever heard. Grace was elegant the whole evening and she picked out the greatest bridesmaid gowns Kristy or I had ever seen. Their colors were silver and a wine-purple. Beautiful.
Their wedding and reception were held at the Virginia Beach Convention Center which is a great facility and everything went off wonderfully.
I'm glad to know Jon and Grace. They are one young couple that will change their world for Christ should they continue down the path their on.
Jon even showed up today at 8am and setup and played drums. Grace did what every new bride should do the day-after... sleep!
Jon and Grace, you're a great couple and I'm honored to be your Pastor.
Bouncing around my mind
We must become more than the anti-established church-Church.
"They could be a great people Calell, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you... MY ONLY SON."
Yeah... That is the line from the upcoming "Superman Returns" as seen here in this trailer.
In Theaters June 30, 2006.
Jesus said these words on the cross when his mission was complete.
God is pretty powerful and has something called foreknowledge. Therefore if God gives man a vision for the future ... it is a vision of something that is completed already IF we partner with him as we move forward. God definately has the right to alter and adjust. Paul while traveling was altered a few times along the way and ultimately we saw why God did what he did but the fact is that when God sets something on our hearts... we can have the confidence to know that it's already done in the future.
If our hearts are right and we are really hearing from Him... AND we're following him each step of the way... the fruit that will come will be equal to or (in most cases) more abundant than anything we could see.
I pray that as we all work today on His Kingdom in our respective towns that we can stop to appreciate the small square that God is asking us to sew in his amazing tapestry we call history.
Another verse that stuck out to me was Galatians 1:10
"Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ."
Ed Young hit a little of this when he spoke at the Buzz Conference. He encouraged us not to let our vision go Horizontal.
I've done this by default but I've been so surpised at how many people live with a horizontal mind-set. As a Pastor I have had to make some tough decisions. I could have pacified whiners in the crowd but it would have harmed our long-term vision. I'm positive that in the future we will have more of these discussions. When we go horizontal and either start catering to (or shying away from) the complainers we almost will always kill whatever vision God put in our hearts at the beginning of the journey.
Paul found himself in an uncomfortable place. He was having to justify himself to these people whom he had invested so much in. People who obviously weren't leading the church the way he would have and ultimately people who were leading people away from the true Gospel. Paul either had to follow man or follow God. It's safe to say that he made the right choice.
Are your motives today Horizontal or Vertical?
This morning at our 6am bible study we read from Galatians. It was pretty cool. One thing that stuck out to me today was a verse I've heard preached out of context so many times.
17"If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. 19For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"
I can't tell you how many times I've heard this verse as being a verse to get people to stop 'living like the world'. I get frustrated when the church is more about behavior modification and less about the Gospel. Paul's entire letter (especially the first two chapters) talks about the power of the TRUE GOSPEL. We have allowed the Gospel in some cirlces to be nothing more than group therapy and behavior modification.
Paul wasn't writing this verse as an argument for staying away from 'sinners'. He was arguing about dying to the law. The law doesn't have power to save. He refers to living under the law as 'being cursed'. Paul's point with being crucified with Christ was to say that we are no longer captive to the feeling of inadequicy under the law. The law showed us our faults and the law needed a sacrifice. Jesus is the living sacrifice and the lamb that was slain for us to be made right with our 'Abba, Father'. He goes on to talk about how we no longer look at God as merely a 'master' but as a 'Abba' Father. This is powerful stuff.
When we allow teaching about this verse to be used as behavior modification we miss the point. We in fact strip away the redemptive power found here. We hold Paul's argument for Grace as nothing more than a new version of the 'curse' of the law.
As much of this surfaced today I couldn't help but to be frustrated and think back to the teachers I've heard use this verse out of context to justify something 'good' (positive behavior). I desire however to be a Pastor who doesn't use God's word to 'modify' people... I don't want to personally use God's word for anything. I want to be faithful in sharing his word and allowing the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to take over our church.
Comments on blogs can be funny. For many people commenting is a way to get noticed. They troll around the blog world on sites that seem to be linked everywhere and they comment just to get their name out. There is NOTHING wrong with that in my opinion. I've recently been frustrated however when the commenters try so hard to come off as 'pithy' and intelligent that they actually sound like the opposite.
I figured I'd take a second to paint with a broad stroke some of my thoughts on commenters. Maybe this will be added to my post about Blog Maturity and help us all navigate a little easier.
Before you post, ask yourself...
1. Am I a drive-by commenter?
A drive-by commenter is a person who comments but never comes back to take part in the conversation. Typically these are people who just like to hear themselves talk. They aren't interested in the dialogue... they are interested in using the blogs of other people to spout their opinions. Drive by commenters are boring because they just take pot-shots to sound smart and then they bounce without sticking around to talk. It's kinda like someone starting an argument, saying something that isn't true and then walking out of the room slamming the door. I recently found a new tool to help me avoid the drive-by mentality for myself. It's called coComment. This tool allows you to track all comments so that as others post, you can go back to take part if you are addressed.
2. Am I going to come across angry?
When you are typing a comment... be sure to stay aware of the word choice. Sarcasm doesn't come across well so you have to be sure to select the right words.
3. Why don't I REGISTER?
Anonymous isn't a name. Get a name so that you can be identified. There is nothing worse than an anonymous comment that has a negative slant. Be a man or woman and attach your name to your words.
4. Why am I commenting?
Are you commenting to encourage or to irritate? The blog world is a lot like Ebay. Over time you will be known as a person with great insight or just an ignorant person who talks too much. Be sure that you are commenting for the right reasons because people will take what you say seriously. Comment out of edification to others. Comment to push the conversation forward... not to try and get everyone to tell you that you're smart. If you need that, get a mirror and tell yourself or get a goldfish. Other blogs aren't there to edify your low self esteem. Comment to help, not hurt or be arrogant.
5. Did I read everything correctly?
This issue has been the most irritating as of late. People (who again want to sound pithy) will make a smart comment just to sound intelligent. It's so frustrating to have someone take up your time with a lazy comment. I moderate my comments and I'll delete comments that show that the commenter didn't take time to actually understand what I wrote. It's important that a commenter has their facts straight before tossing out thoughts. Just think about a conversation in person... how dumb would you look if you constantly made comments that didn't make sense? You'd look foolish. Well, that's how you look online if you do the same thing. Be sure you are reading something correctly first. Ready, Aim, Fire, not Fire, Ready, Aim!
In most traditional churches this weekend people exchanged their 'Hello' and 'How are you?' The typical answers given were "Hello, I'm doing well (or fine, or good) LIES!!!!
Yes many times we are doing fine. But most people never have an experience of Christianity where you can be raw with others and not feel rejected.
This weekend I was reminded why church planting is so much more fun than anything else in ministry.
During setup I was walking around and headed out into the hallway where I bumped into Chris. Chris just finished his Navy commitment and will be headed back home to the Orlando,FL area in a few months. Chris has been attending Focal Point for around two months on and off. I wish he were staying in the area b/c I think he's a good guy and I'd love to get to work with him some.
Anyway... Chris came down the hall from one end as he headed for Theater 4 where we do our service and I was headed the other way to check on something when we passed each other.
I said "Hey Chris... Good to see ya bro... How are ya?"
Chris said "I'm hungover."
I said "Cool. I'm glad you're here."
Chris said "Yeah man." and then he went to sit down.
I thought this was the coolest thing for a few reasons.
1. We are ministering to guys like Chris who comes to Focal Point at times without even messing with his hair. There have been days when Chris rolled out of bed just in time to get to the service.
2. Chris felt comfortable enough with me to just be real. He wasn't making a show of it or anything he was just answering my question honestly. I wonder if Chris would have said the same thing to most Pastors. By pressure he would have been forced to lie and say what most Christians say "I'm good" or "I'm fine." Christians LIE every Sunday because life isn't always great.
We have another woman in our church who started coming because of our Easter Egg Hunt and party we threw the week before Easter. She has several kids and is a single mom. I remember the first day she came to Focal Point one of our First Impressions guys asked how she was that day.
Her reply? "I wrestled with 4 kids trying to get them all up, washed, in the car to drag them to church... How do YOU think I'm doing today?"
That was one of the funniest stories coming from our First Impressions teams yet.
Update on both:
At the end of service Sunday I asked Chris for permission to blog about this and he said "Sure." He went on to say "You want to write about it? I thought you'd be mad at me and wouldn't want me around so that's why I went and sat at the back of the room during setup..." Me and a few other guys laughed out loud. I said "Chris, of course I want you around..." Chris knows that being drunk isn't right and he knows God isn't cool with it and he knows I don't encourage people to go get wasted. At the same time I am glad that Chris has a church home where he can be real and hear God's word in just as raw of a form so that he can learn and grow in his life.
As for the single mom... that day after the service the same person asked her "So what did you think?" She said (with a smile on her face)... "I loved it and my kids had a great time... we'll definately be back next week!" Since then she has invited someone new with her nearly every week! It's been fantastic.
To me, these are some of the things I'm most excited about. These are people who may not be accepted by any other church. The Holy Spirit is able to be active in their lives because these people have a church that is real and honest. There is no 'dog and pony show' here.
Praise God for any church that reaches it's culture on THE CULTURE'S terms and not ours.
My boy Chris mentioned on another post that he could have made it up onto the stage... this is what he was talking about.
This weekend I was dragging in a big way. Sunday comes every week however so it was on!
This week I wore jeans and flip-flops. There's not much strange about that except for how it affected me this past week.
At the last song of the music set I really felt that we needed to extend the worship by challenging people to truly mean what the lyrics were saying. In an effort to quickly get up on the stage before the band packed up and before our people started to get ready for the message, I figured I'd jump up onto the platform and make the quick announcement.
I made my approach and took the leap. Our staging is only 2 feet high but it might as well have been 10 feet high... I jumped with all that was in my tired bones and apparently my foot had clearance but my sandal slipped forward and caught the edge of the stage. I fell face first onto the stage. Fortunately I caught myself with my hands and knees so I quickly popped back up but it was one of the most embarrising things that has EVER happened to me in ministry.
Normally I would have made fun of myself but I didn't want to distract from the moment so I just mentioned that it hurt a little and then I went into the meaning of why I jumped up there.
Has anyone else done something to make you want to hide your face on a Sunday morning?
These last few days have been pretty crazy. With moving, painting, family visiting, message prep, etc.... it's been a whirlwind. Here are a few highlights.
1. I put a hole in my wall at the new house while trying to fit a sofa up the stairs and into the loft.
2. Ended up getting a total of 3 hours of sleep in a period of about 50 hours. (painting all night)
3. During our move I found my face trapped between the side of the U-haul and a couch as one of my friends tripped over the wheel well and dropped the couch on my head. I immediately began to think of my usefulness each weekend if my jaw was wired shut.
4. Jon Capp and I went to Wal-Mart at 1:30 a.m. and a lady said to us "You guys are too happy this late at night." Jon said "Yeah... we've been painting all day because we're moving. Well, not US... but HIM and his WIFE. He's Married. He's a Pastor. We're moving HIM and HIS WIFE... It's not HE and I... because that would be just weird!" All of this was said in a defensive "I'm not gay" voice.
5. Did you know that at 2 a.m. McDonalds only has a "night" menu? It has like 4 things you can order. We chose the chicken McNuggets.
6. Bear paint doesn't have as bad of a fume smell as other paints and it was rated as the best paint by Consumer Reports. Apparently Ace Paint was 2nd.
7. We used a Uhaul for 1 trip and a total of 20 miles. When we were at a stop sign I put it in what I thought was first gear and hit the gas but the truck jumped backwards! The Reverse and 1st gear were backwards in this thing compared to my car. It was scary! Fortunately no one was behind us or else they would have been as flat as a pancake. The Uhaul was probably built before I was born.
8. We had some friends over for small group last night. I opted to do dinner instead of a study because I was totally fried! I had about 5 different people say to me on Sunday morning "Man Tally... you look exhausted!"
9. What I learned from said small group was that when there are kids over we have to put sheets of plexi-glass on the walls, a sub pump in the bathroom and a huge tarp under the dinning room table. We really enjoyed sharing our first meal in the house with friends from our small group. That's what it's about.
10. When I'm tired I should really make sure to use the stairs to get on the stage. I'll post about that in a seperate post.
11. My new neighbor has a wireless router. I won't tell you how I know that. I also won't tell you that my cable internet hasn't been hooked up yet and I'm still typing this post. (insert evil laugh here)
12. Lyle knows more 90's rap than any white-boy I know.
13. Our painter we hired for the living room did a fantastic job. Jon, myself and my wife Kristy's dad took care of the master bedroom, bath and landing. It also looks good if I do say so myself.
14. Twinkies at 2 a.m. make for a great snack. I hear that the shelf-life on those things is 99 years.
15. When God wants to speak to people on a Sunday he can even use a guy who's had 9 hours of sleep in 3 days! God rocked yesterday.
Does anyone else find themselves preparing WAY TOO MUCH for each message. I don't mean total time spent... I mean gathering so much scripture that you find yourself trimming the message by the end of the week? That's where I am today.
Each week I prepare so many references to points I make during the message that I have to go back and eliminate passages or write "SUM IT UP" in my notes to keep me moving. The hard part is when you're preparing a message and realize that you could do an entire series out of each of your points. That's frustrating.
We only have 26 hours a YEAR with the MOST FAITHFUL of church attendees. If you include vacations and sick days that number on average is more like 20 hours of teaching from you a year.
Let's assume a person goes to a small group and gets another 20/yr.
These are our most faithful attendees and yet they get only 40 hours of teaching from someone 'at the church'.
Knowing this, I sometimes find myself cramming too much during my message prep.
When I was a kid I did the same thing with my lawnmower. I'd find a neighbors yard that was completely overgrown and I'd go up and ask them to cut it for like $10 (I didn't have a good price point) and then I'd attack the yard. I figured... "I'll just back up a few feet and run into the high grass with my amazing mower..." Whenever I did this I would get too much grass in the mower and it choked the life out of the mower. The mower would stop and I'd spend the next 10 minutes cleaning it out and pulling the chord to start it again. After a summer of blisters and frustration I think I learned not to do that.
I still need that reminder from time to time. I've had to become realistic in the fact that I only have 20 hours to communicate the entirety of scripture to most of our regular attendees. I have to teach them how to study the word on their own and encourage them to do so. In my talks on Sunday I have to clearly communicate aspects of the word in hopes that it helps them in their walk that week.
I try to remind our people that my messages (no matter how amazing) are only the cliff-notes version of God's word each week. They need to dig in for themselves.
I have to remind myself from time to time that I need to aim to cook a good steak, not a 20lb hamburger.
My .02 on the Code
Okay... This is one of those obligatory posts that you do because you are tired of hearing everyone else yap about something without tossing in your brain power. First let me say that I haven't had to read much about this from most of the blogs I read so for that I thank you.
I have however found a surprising amount of uproar in the mainstream media as well as the printed media from around the globe.
The issue at hand of course is the DaVinci code. So here are my thoughts.
1. Christians can be very stupid and near-sighted at times.
I read this article and again wanted to put a brown bag over my head and pretend I was Peter outside waiting on word of how Jesus was doing. Christians are infamous for acting emotionally and not using the most amazing piece of flab God ever created... Their brain! Throwing a fit only ups the hype factor of a movie. That sells tickets and books which puts money into the pockets of everyone who had a hand in the film or book. All of this pleases those at the top of the entertainment food chain so like a baby with no vocabulary they pound their fist and cry for more. This starts the cycle all over with another movie that stirs up those 'religious right wing freaks'.
Christians have got to collectively get a little more PR savvy and we should use our back-networks to tell our people to zip it over the trivial stuff. If it doesn't make cash it will fall by the wayside. But no... we cry and complain with every orifice and draw attention to ourselves all the while giving the movie promoters golden air time.
2. Protests and boycotts are so 90's Disney world.
I wouldn't even recommend a mass exodus from the theaters. I'd recommend we just let people pick movies they like to watch. Then ultimately the movies that make the most money will be well-produced epics that hold the audience for 90 to 120 minutes at a time, not movies that use 'offending Christians' as their main marketing strategy. Lets face it... the movie wasn't made and staring Tom Hanks because the book only sold 10 copies. The story is good, it's filed under fiction but the kicker was that Christians (i.e. Passion fans) would get ticked off. If your movie is in the news, you can sell tickets at a great R.O.I. . Get the Christians hacked off and you've got a winner. In the meantime a movie like "Because of Winn Dixie" goes to video in 2 hours because it doesn't tick Christians off and it actually falls right into their 'desired' category.
3. I don't know that God cares about this movie.
Care may not be the right word but maybe I mean to say that I don't think God is concerned abut this movie. In all of his sovereignty I don't worship a God who is shaking in his boots right now. Remember... Peter in his zeal and love for God cut off a dude's right ear. He was LITERALLY protecting Jesus and Jesus rebuked him for trying to change what scripture clearly revealed as well as what Jesus himself said would happen. (Sound familiar?)
Fast forward to today. How many people in Jesus-wear are walking around trying so hard to prevent Jesus from being the Hollywood homeboy? How many protests and picket signs can one Savior take? In many ways I think God is looking down at this saying "Hey... you guys are missing the point. I told you people would ridicule me. I told you that the world is at odds with me. Why are you so shocked? Why are you spending so much time walking around in circles with picket signs wearing those ugly 'den-of-thieves' Christian T-shirts? Why aren't you being more proactive and less defensive when it comes to things about me?
Honestly... God isn't panicked in Heaven. He's not getting off his throne and walking over to the "break glass for emergency" box. I can't see him picking up the red Bat phone or hitting the red emergency button under the proverbial cash register. God is confident. He's secure in who he is and no movie about him shacking up with Mary is going to make him less God.
In fact this movie provides a great segway for us to talk about the real Jesus... not the Hollywood Hippie version.
4. I say check the movie out.
I expect to see the movie myself and I hope to discuss it later at Starbucks with my neighbors. This is why I love Mark Batterson's lingo of "redeeming" aspects of culture. I told a friend on the phone today "The world is about as deep as spit spiritually... I can't see why Christians are freaking out. If they listen to one question that someone has about the movie they should be able to answer that question and take the rest of the conversation over to the real Gospel." This TO ME is what 1 Peter 3:15 is all about. Always being ready to talk about the hope that we have. Truthfully I don't know a true believer in Christ who couldn't do that. If someones life has been completely and utterly changed by the presence of God and the power of the Holy Spirit they should be able to take a question about Jesus and turn it into a show and tell time.
Instead of using our platforms and saying "Ignore the world and cover your eyes" we should be saying "Engage the world and open your heart and mouth."
A Site with something to say
The internet tends to be like any other communication medium. It is amoral and a-stupid. It doesn't discriminate.
The brightest of the bright can use it to communicate but so can those who are 1 fry short of a happy meal.
I get tickled inside when I come across a blog, newsfeed or site that enhances my life. You know... the kind that makes you feel like that last click was worth what little effort you put into it.
On the other hand, there is nothing like a site that makes you praise God for your 'back' button. Unfortunately there are more of those than sites like the one I'm about to share with you.
The other day Kent from ChurchRelevance.com got ahold of me and I followed the bread crumbs back to his site where I was delightfully surprised to find a high-quality site filled with nuggets of insight. Kent and his people are holdin' down a site that combines several of my favorite slices of the world... business, bible and common sense.
The site has the flavor of being a type of Relevant magazine for Pastors (just picked up a new subscription). They seem to be focused on that stuff that's smashed between where 'the rubber' meets 'the road' when it comes to cultural exegesis. Tips range from what's up in the culture to today's topic of how to send large files using open source software... it's all good stuff and all worth your 30 seconds of reading via bloglines. Swing over and say hi to my boy Kent and "Tell 'em Tally sent ya!" By the way... it' s free!
(I was not paid for this recommendation. I'm not a sellout!)
[But that could change for the right price] SMILE! Have a great week!
My wife and I signed our life away this morning as we closed on our new home. It was a big step for us but it helps us set our roots deeper into our community. With the prices going the way they have been we felt that the cap for something we were willing to live in was about to pass us by so we went ahead and got into the market. We know the market is slowing a little but it won't go backwards in our area due to the Naval base and continued growth in our city.
I went over today and did a some praying along with praising and thanking God for how much he's blessed us over the years. I hear horror stories of how some Pastors have been abused by their churches and denoms and it makes me sick. God's been so great to us to have a church that loves us and a denomination that wants to see us succeed. Those early days of getting paid zip have made way to days like today. It leaves me with nothing to say but 'Thanks Abba'. It's all His anyway.
I've heard that having a home gives a little more of a sense of perminacy. What I do know is that it gives me new neighbors to love and encourage.
This Mother's Day morning we had the honor of dedicating several children to the Lord. Three other families plus my own came forward to dedicate our children to the Lord. Each family vowed before God to bring their children up in a healthy Christian home. In addition, our church vowed to be a church that nurtures these children up to become Godly men. I as their Pastor also dedicated myself to leading their families to the best of my ability so that each family will know and love God as their children grow up to be great young men.
It was a cool morning.
For years in Youth Ministry I wondered if anything I was doing was worth it. You get cycles of kids who come through, change on a retreat only to go back to their old ways once they get back home.
Last night however I had a sense of pride swell up as I saw probably the two greatest people I had the opportunity to guide through their teenage years come and take pictures in my lawn as they headed for prom.
The story isn't that simple. You see, this young woman and this young man are from two separate ministries. Mikael is from Corpus Christi, TX and was a part of my youth ministry there while Ashley is a product of my ministry here in Virginia. They met almost 2 years ago when I invited the Texas group up to minister with our Focal Point Church youth department. Seeing the two groups come together that week was something special but to see what I saw last night is simply amazing.
Mikael and Ashley had kept in touch via phone and email for the year following the two groups meeting. Then last summer Mikael decided to come and intern with me at Focal Point. He and Ashley started dating and the rest is history in progress. Mikael is one year older than Ashley and Mikael has made his way to Liberty university (he knows what's up) and Ashley is graduating in a few weeks. She's also headed to LU next year so it looks like these two sweethearts will be continue their relationship into their college years and possibly beyond.
When Kristy and I arrived here 4 years ago and met Ashley we recall saying to one another (she would be perfect for Mikael). Little did we know.
Congratulations on your graduation Ashley! I hope every Youth Pastor gets to see this type of payoff. It's worth it.
This week we'll be combining Mother's Day with the Dedication of some of our babies. Focal Point has had a handful of babies born this year and we're going to take time to pray for them this week and dedicate them to the Lord.
We'll challenge the church, myself and the parents to all work together to provide each child with a healthy and biblical community where they have the best opportunity to become God-honoring men and women.
I've married people and buried people but I don't believe I've done a baby dedication yet. It should be fun. One of the babies we're dedicating is my own Caleb.
Mothers Day seemed like an appropriate time to dedicate these children to the Lord. Mothers are the vessels God uses most to nurture and care for the children. No matter how close I am to my son, my wife will always have the bond that existed for those 9 months she carried him around.
My prayer is that our church family will take to heart the dedication of these children and work hard to protect their church and make it a great place for these kids to grow and learn to love the Lord.
In addition to the Baby Dedication our band will do a touching song to honor moms and we'll have a beautiful gift for each mom that comes through. It should be a great day.
Dad, Son and Dragons
I believe everything on this planet is here to reveal to us part of God's glory and power. Caleb reveals so much to me about God as Father.
I'm reading Donald Miller's book "To Own a Dragon" and in many cases it's hitting home. He refers to the concept of a dad as a 'Dragon'. The concept of a Dragon is often talked about but we never seem to experience one for ourselves. Miller uses that concept as a way to help the outside world understand what it feels like for many of us who grow up without fathers. Yes you hear that you should have something different in life but you don't really know what you're missing. Just as none of us know what it feels like to see a dragon live and in person.
Because I didn't have my father around growing up I had to learn so many lessons from other places and people. Unfortunately in my life I had to sift through many men who weren't interested in being men of God. They were interested in being children in adult bodies. As long as God allows me, I have committed to Caleb (though he doesn't know it) to be the man he can look to to learn about being a Godly man.
I'm not the only one doing the teaching. God is using Caleb to reveal to me many of God's own Fatherly qualities that we can only see when we begin to love a child as our own. Every time I look at Caleb I learn something new about life. I love him!
By the way, if you grew up in a father-less home or if your dad was living in but checked-out... you have to get this book.
I cannot believe that Chris got booted from Idol! That ticks me off! I'm not a huge fan or anything but I thought I knew what talent was.
Who in the world is voting? I can't see Taylor or Elliot as an American Idol.
Katherine is the only one left I can see as being a legit #1 but she was supposedly the next lowest in the voting. The show has become garbage. The top 12 this year was one of the worst and now the top 3 have GOT to be the worst ever.
Maye this just gives him a few more weeks to prepare for his own album.
Okay, I'm done.
Refuse to simplify the mysterious and mystify the simple.
Get your attention? Good.
Where I lived in Baltimore City there used to be this Billboard sponsored by the Public Health Department that had in big red letters the word "Virgin" and the caption "Teach your kids that it's not a dirty word."
Don't know why I told you that other than it came to mind when I thought of this title.
I'm taking steps to get our messages podcasted (purchased the right equipment). I also want to add some features to our site and do some internal pieces with this new equipment. Now I need someone who has ridden in a podcasting rodeo to show me how it's done. I'm looking for your best practices and lessons learned. If you have a good 'podcasting for dummies' type of site... I'm game for that also. Thanks!
Getting into my groove
Tonight I'm going to meet with Calvin. The goal of our get together is to get me into my groove.
No we won't be watching pulp fiction while stomping around my living room pointing to the ceiling and back to the floor with smushed up faces like we just ate lemons.... we'll be answering the question "What can Tally do that no one else can do?" Then we'll proceede to figure out the things I'm doing that ohers can do. The reality is that there are some things I'm doing that others could do better.
(getting his groove on)
I'll just give you one example about this for now...
The culture for this must be created in the church.
Is your church a Cafeteria-Christian-filled church?
You know... the type of church that has a bunch of spiritual gluttons who expect the Pastor to do all of the work while they sit back and just eat.
As if he is the only one "godly enough" to unload the trailer or set up lighting.
We, as Pastors, have to create a culture of can-do people. A culture that expects the Pastor to be the one equipping the saints for the work of the ministry (Eph 4). This takes a little time and commitment from the top down.
At Focal Point, we're at the point now where I help because I enjoy it... not because I have to. It downright sucks to be Pastoring a church of people who expect you to do it all. You start to resent people for not helping out. We've gone through some transition and did the whole NSync "Bye,Bye,Bye" to some folks... so our collective church attitude is much different.
I asked Gary Lamb last week "Gary... how do you get people there at 5a.m. to set up your theater for church?" He said "That's how long it takes."
That's the type of approach we have to have if we're going to get it done. It's got to be one of simplicity and truthfulness. As people see the payoff each week (new guests, a great set design, happy kids, salvations, baptisms, etc.) they will be glad to come back and do it all again.
We now have a pretty good culture in our church.
Most weeks our people arrive at 8a.m. Last week we had many show up much later. All it took was a reminder and this past Sunday our team was back at it. By me having a team of people who are committed to making Focal Point look right week in and week out, I can come in focused on how to make everyone's day better. I can actually be their Pastor.
I remember some days when I used to be the only one setting up for nearly an hour. I can't tell you how frustrated I was by the time service started. To see people who had been Christ-followers for 14 years come in and socialize while I was still rushing to connect a microphone cable... it was rediculous. I remember days early on when just before our start time I was fixing a problem with the projector or trying to straighten chairs.
What do you think I felt like by the time I attempted to share God's word?
Fortunately those days are behind us for the most part. Being a smaller church for now means that will from time to time have to fill in but that's all it is...filling in. We have a unified team of people committed to making Focal Point the best it can be. Lives are being changed and guests are being welcomed as our people buy into God's plan for us.
So tonight I will hone in more closely to "What is my groove? Why don't you sit down with someone in your ministry and ask "What am I doing right now that someone else should be doing? Get into your groove!
As you know by now I attended two conferences in two weeks.
I had a friend ask on the phone yesterday if I had compared and contrasted the two.
I figured I might as well do that here today.
The two conferences were different in their targets but to me they didn't have to be. I don't know if there were many others who attended both so maybe this perspective will be helpful to both sets of organizers. Both conferences were brand new and took place about a week apart so the comparrisons are inevitable.
National New Church Conference- As the name implies I thought it was going to be mainly a gathering of freshly planted churches. I think the organizers went for a target of mainly people who were just getting ready to plant. It was good for that target so in that sense they nailed it. Conference attendance: Approximately 850
Buzz Conference- Buzz had a theme of "Compel them to come in"- Luke 14:23 Basically this conference was about creativity in church planning and executing in such a way as to compell those outside your church to want to come inside your church. A cool added component was some of the inside communication that was focused on as well.
Conference attendance: Approximately 350
I'll divide my thoughts among several catagories: 1. Registration Experience 2. Bang for Buck 3. Worship 4. Speakers and Content 5. Do I plan to attend again?
1. Registration Experience
Registration for both conferences were pretty much the same. They were both done online without much problem. The difference for me came when I arrived at the conference.
For the Buzz Conference I arrived for the Theater forum before the main conference kicked off. I walked into the coffee house, grabbed a seat and off I went. In between morning and the main sessions we grabbed lunch in Union Station. When it was time for the main conference, a few friends and I just walked up to the alphabetically arranged lines and got our passes.
For the National New Church conference the online experience was solid as well. They had one up on Buzz for a while. They sent out an email offering some type of speed pass. If you replied to the email you could register for a fast lane entrance. This was supposed to be a line seperate from the other lines. Well, when I arrived my expectations were through the roof because I thought it was the greatest thing. I get there and there IS NO SPEED PASS LANE. Ben (who didn't sign up for the speed pass) got his registration completed faster than I did.
"Under promise and Over deliver." If you do this, you'll make people happy. Do the opposite and well...
2. Bang for Buck
The Bang for Buck is where I try and describe how I felt about how the conference dollars were used. This is an extremely subjective catagory but I assure you that every attendee at every conference is asking themselves this one. I paid all of my fees out of pocket this year so I was even more aware of this one.
National New Church Conference didn't make me feel like I got very much bang for my buck. On one hand they had a lot of breakout sessions. That was cool and it gave the participant the impression that there was a lot to do (and there was) but it also gave the participant the feeling that they couldn't come close to soaking up nearly as much as they may want. In addition, the breakouts hurt the quality of the main conference. I'll talk about that in the speakers session.
In addition the NNCC didn't provide the attendee with anything to take notes. No book, no magazine, nothing. I used my Tree-O and legal pad but I had nothing in my bag I got at the door.
In addition, I felt like I was at an Amway convention with all of the space taken up by booths. The entire foyer was wall to wall with trade show displays as well as an entire tent out back. Not a small tent... a circus-sized tent filled with people wanting me to buy their stuff. Between my conference fee and the fee every vender should have paid, I should have at least gotten a few sheets of paper stapled together with the word "notes" at the top.
What NNCC did well was give-aways. They had some pretty solid packages to be given to new church planters (which I thought was a great idea). Us old guys weren't in the running but I was completely cool with that. New guys need the love.
What I did get in my bag was more brochures of companies. Some of them weren't companies but rather church planting organizations. I understand. They are trying to help everyone get along so anyone and everyone had the opportunity to advertise to the participants. It just came off overwhelming to me. And ultimately it hurt my feeling of Bang for the buck.
Buzz on the other hand was better. For about the same conference cost I felt like I got so much more out of the conference. For starters, the quality of the lanyard was exponentially better. We each got a honeycomb shaped disk with the conference logo on the front and the conference meeting times on the back. If you forgot where you should be, it was easy to look at. I noticed several of us looking at it during breaks to see when to go back. It was a great idea and it looked better than the clear plastic name tags we got at National New Church Conference.
Buzz also handed out very nice books. They didn't have notes in them but they were basically spiral books with the buzz logo imprinted (not ink but more like machine pressed) on the front. The books came with an elastic loop on the right side that holds your pen. They looked great.
Buzz was a display of "less is more". They didn't have as much going on on stage but what they did have looked great. Here's a quick difference between the two also. The NNCC conference was held in an established church building of a church that is a little over 10 years old (I'm guessing). That was a conference for new churches. Buzz on the other hand was held in the middle of Union Station. Everything they had to do each day was exactly what we have to do as church planters. I'm surprised that Buzz actually came off better (more raw possibly?) than NNCC. The NNCC came off like it was a conference trying to be like the Big Boys. Buzz came off like it was a first-ever church conference at Union Station BUT EXCEEDED any expectations one could have had for them to pull that off.
Both conferences had good worship. Buzz was a little more raw but both were good. NNCC ended up having an older audience than Buzz. Seems odd. I would have thought that the church planting conference would have been more 20somethings. It wasn't. It appeared to be more 35-45 range. The band was more in the range of 30-40. I honestly don't know if that was the house band for the church we were in. It very well could have been. I just don't know.
4. Speakers and Content
I won't beat this horse too much. I really liked the lineup going into the NNCC (Gene Appel / Ed Stetzer / Dave Ferguson / Mark Driscoll / Bob Roberts, Jr. / Ron Sylvia / Neil Cole / John Burke / Larry Osborne / Bob Logan / Steve Andrews / Dave Nelson) It's like a who's who list of cross-denominational church planting and growth.
The Buzz Conference had three main speakers: Ed and Mark and Brad.
Ed is Ed Young from Fellowship Church
Mark is THE Mark Batterson from NCC
Brad is Brad Abare from Church Marketing Sucks
The survey says: Buzz.
Was it that Mark, Ed and Brad told us only things we've never heard? no.
Was it that Mark, Ed and Brad flew down the aisle like superman on wires? no. they didn't
Was it that Mark, Ed and Brad hypnotized everyone with their commanding voices? nope.
What was it that makes me think Buzz did a better job here?
Simple. They let the speakers speak from their core.
Ed Young gave his Creativity talk. Most who read his stuff (I recently finished his Leadership book) will see common themes. The key with him though is that he's GREAT at communicating those truths.
Mark talked through his 10 Buzz Commandments. Again, he's revealed most of them on his blog (evotional.com) but he packs them with so many core convictions that it 'compells' you to get something out of it.
Brad gave everyone a spankin and reminded us not to suck. Not really... but he did have a pretty good talk on not sucking and also had a pretty funny Beer ad to show us. "This is a big ad... a really big add" It was cool. Apparently from South Africa.
So what's the point? How can NNCC learn for next year (which by the way, I know they are aware that I'm not the only one who felt this way and I assure you that they will quickly fix it)?
The trick is to have fewer speakers doing only things they are passionate about. NNCC had 12 speakers and some forced Q&A time. The speakers mostly talked about their experiences. I felt like I was reading their bios for the most part. The only two that really stood out for me were Mark Driscoll and Gene Appel. I could have listened to them the whole time. In fact, they both have their own conferences so they may have known something that others didn't. Driscoll just came off raw and forceful. I would LOVE to have been in Seattle this week for his conference. I'm going to have to plan to attend next year.
Ultimately I think Buzz was much better with speakers but I do think that NNCC will learn and have a better conference next year.
5. Do I plan to attend again?
Buzz ~yes. June 28-29 of 2007
Word on the street is that Tony Morgan and Tim Stevens from Simply Strategic fame will speak at Buzz next year. I got to talk with Tony for a little while at the bloggers breakfast. He's a great guy. I love his blog/books/podcasts but in person he just came off an even better man.
1. Keep lighting in-house or make them come in for testing a day early. Mark even noted this on his blog so it's not a big deal. I'm positive it will be fixed (and it was fixed between day 1 and 2.)
2. Don't split the conference among video venues if you can help it but if you do, give us a chance to sign up with friends so our groups can stay somewhat together. Big Stuff camp (Lanny Donahoe) does color-coded wristbands for seating arrangements. If you split the conference to video venues, do something like this so everyone gets to rotate to live at some point with their group of friends.
3. Bloggers and Theater church portions could use more time. I LOVE the fact that you guys went after these groups. Next year would be great to have a little longer in both sessions with some discussion between the participants. Maybe a day-long pre-conference on the front end with Theater people and then use this year's theater time for a half-day with bloggers. Brian and Terry (Fellowship Church) will have their book out early next year so they would be cool to have in.
NNCC ~maybe. April 2007
(I may attend if I feel like they get enough feedback and change it up for next year. I mean c'mon... it's Orlando!)
1. Under promise and over deliver: I'm sure that the fast registration thing was a fluke.
2. Give the attendees stuff to take home: A book for taking notes would be cool.
3. Lighten up with the trade show booths or at least spread them out at a larger facility
4. Fewer speakers with longer times. Make sure they are passionate about their topic also.
5. Expand your target to church plants that are 3 years old or less (Gary agrees).
This way you'll a. have more potential participants and b. give new churches some help. Don't just have a conference to get people out the door... have one that can help them take their next steps during those first few years.
For the record, both conferences are doing post-event surveys so I think they will both improve next year. Also for the record... The group who put most of the NNCC conference together is a SOLID group who I've only known to do great work in the past. I think their conference was good but could have been better and I have full confidence that they will have an even bigger and better conference next year. No doubt.
TomAto or TOMaTO?
A few weeks ago I became the proud new owner of a Tre`o phone!
(not my actual phone)
I was able to get a good deal by changing up my plan.
At first I was hesitant about the usefulness. I wanted to be sure I'd actually use the features to justify it's existance. I'd hate for my phone to live a life with all the excitement of the Maytag repair man.
I also was concerned with my fingers being too fat to use the keyboard (blackberrys seem to have a bigger type pad). I remember a Simpsons show where Homer was in control of the Nuke plant and as he was trying to enter a code to shut down a disaster... the computer said "We're Sorry... but your fingers are too fat!" I didn't want my new phone to start off by making fun of me.
Well... ultimately I caved and got the thing. My plan comes with Sprint Vision so I can use the web and get email in a breeze. I LOVE IT!
Most of the day I don't check my email at my computer anymore. Because my phone has documents to go, I can even store, transport and email files from my phone. It's great.
I've already used the web enough to justify owning the thing. Several times I've used it to get directions and last week I jumped online while at the store to see if I was getting a good deal on something I was purchasing. I wasn't. So the phone saved me some cash.
All of these are good things. However... there is ONE QUESTION that I've been pondering... and my wife and I have been discussing periodically...
Does the word "Treo" sound more like Tray-O or Tree-O?
So what is it blog world? Tray-O or Tree-O? Let 'ME-Know'.
No... not that one...
I must admit publicly (it's part of my recovery) that I purchased two albums by a band with the name "Hillsong" in the title (eeeeeek!, I know!) Yes. I broke down and purchased Hillsong UNITED's last two CD's. They come with DVD's as well. After listening and watching... I must admit... I'm down wit 'em!
Prior to my recent conversion, I had some backlash toward anything related to Hillsong for a while. I'm sorry but I've never been a big Darlene Zschech fan. Nice woman I'm sure... Great vocalist... but I've not been into her music much. Obviously millions of people are but I just haven't connected with their music. It seemed more suited for the Saddleback crowd. Their UNITED group however... now that's a different story.
I had secretly been fond of the United camp. I haven't listened to them too much but the times I had heard them... I liked it. My pride wouldn't allow me to admit that I liked the Aussies... but BUZZ changed my mind.
They are either:
b. too reserved
c. too polished
d. confused about their age
The NCC band sounded much more like a 'band' and less like a church band. We sat up close and it was good but when I came down the aisle a few times to find my seat after prolonged conversation in the hallway with bloggers... I found myself impressed with the sound about halfway up the theater. I suppose that's where the mix hit about right.
Anyway... my man Matt Morgan told me that some of their songs were from H..hhh...Hil....Hillsong's UNITED band.
I was left with two options. Deny myself because of my pride or break down and buy their CDs. I'm glad I bought both of the United CDs. For the last two days I've been singing "Tell the world" "Salvation is here" and a host of other songs by that group from down under.
So if you are where I was... I encourage you (also a part of my recovery) to go ahead and taste and see that UNITED is good.
Does anyone want to give me a heads up as to which United songs are the most popular for worship?
Georgia on my mind
From Gary's blog:
"I think we are going to host a very informal theatre church gathering in October and try and get about 20 dudes in theatres to come and hang out and share ideas. T-Mac is going to help me with it."
Looks like I'll be making a trip to God's country (as they call it) sometime in October. Gary's going to show me what it means to hang around red necks for a few days while we wax on about Theater Churches.
I don't know man... I'm not really fond of taking a leak on the White House lawn like Tadd or hitting on former SBC prez James Merrit's wife. Hopefully I won't catch what's in the water. I am however looking forward to a day with some cool dudes who are doin' it in the trenches. If I know Gary enough... I'm certain he's only going to have guys who have something to say. It should be a worthwhile experience. Besides... Gary is a trip. I'll go down there just for the comedic factor.
Another guy down in GA who made a big impression on me this week is Tony Mccollum. Tony was great to talk to this weekend. I slipped away from the godly end of the table and ventured down to the other side to talk with Tony and Gary a little. Tony was very encouraging and supportive. I liked kicking the can a little and hearing some of his P.O.V. on things. He's an experienced guy who's been there and done that. He's also funny and very generous. He picked up the tab for all of us at lunch. Talk about AM-A-ZING. Thanks dude. In addition he about got me addicted to some Dark Chocolate drink at Godiva. They cost like $65 per cup but Tony hooked it up yet again.
Finally, I can't say enough about my man Tadd. Tadd and I have some overlap with TRBC and Liberty. We didn't know each other very well back then but this last year of connecting has been great. Tadd is going to blow the doors off for the Kingdom. His family is rich in ministry experience and wisdom. His dad has one of the greatest Pastor's hearts I have observed. His dad is thriving in a system that suffocates most people and his brother is makin' it happen over at West Ridge. Tadd and I share a ton of the same perspective and have become pretty supportive of one another over this past year. I'm lookin' for big things from Mr. Grandstaff. Greensboro may not be big enough. Watch out Elon... Grandstaff is about to make some noise.
Man it felt good to be back. It was about 14 days between messages. That was amazingly refreshing and crazily nervewracking at the same time. I loved the time off and the conferences I went to but man it was great to be back with my peeps.
The music today was on and the message was one of my better ones. Give me 14 days between talks and I come back fired up. Today's message was a mixed bag of thoughts that have been in my mind for most of this last two weeks. The point was that we have to know the Jesus we follow or else we aren't following Jesus (I don't care if that's the name you use... if you follow something that isn't biblical but call it Jesus, you're out to lunch.)
Our stage layout was 10 times better (and it wasn't bad before). Earlier this week I met with our sound/drummer/lead setup guy... Jon Capparelli and we mapped out a new way of doing our stage (before Ed Young talked about that same thing at Buzz) and when I walked in today I was pumped. It looks great. We also added curtains to the left side of the stage so everyone can enter and exit without being seen. The band and any on-stage people can go out the back hallway instead of coming back into the crowd directly. I LOVED it. We also brought one of our staging platforms forward into the seating area and shot our lights a little differently (better angles). This got rid of shadows and glare on the theater screen behind me. Made a huge improvement. It also put me out a little closer to the audience with less equipment and wires around me. Did I mention that I loved it? Thanks Jon, Calvin, Josh and friends.
In addition to the great setup, I felt great about the delivery of the message today. I got a TON of positive feedback and I walked off of the stage feeling like I hit a home run. I even had some emails this afternoon... so I know it all connected... Josh (our in-house Ultimate Fighting Navy dude) asked me at lunch "So, do you always drink Starbucks before you speak?" I'll take that as a positive!
Man it was a good day.
Some thoughts from the past two weeks that found their way into the message:
- Mark Driscoll's image of Jesus from Rev 19. (well, God's image but Driscoll pointed it out to me through his books and message last week)
- Bob Franquiz made it in twice (not by name) when I referenced a conversation we had as well as my story of almost getting killed. (Mark Rodriguez gets some of the blame/credit there as well)
- Ed Young's interpretation of NSync's Bye-Bye-Bye made it in somehow (complete with dance moves, don't ask)
- Gary, I have a navy guy who fights in the UFC style mixed martial arts... He's fighting on June 3rd and we're going to see him. Anyway... he loved hearing about you and your redneck boys about to rumble with the movie patrons as well as your reference from the theater church forum.
- Our church is primed for a run. Today we were on. Attendance was up and everyone was clicking. I like where we are right now. Good things are on the way.
- I had the honor to sit in on one of our small groups that got kicked off tonight. This is a big deal for us as we've been without a significant group presence for a while now. Finally we're back to some stability there. I've already gotten positive feedback from two different people who attended tonight. One emailed and one called. People are pumped. I can't wait to start my group in a few weeks. Because of my move next week, ours will start on the 21st.
Okay... my quick brain-dump is over. Thanks for checking me out.
I've noticed the traffic spike from Buzz... so if you're a new reader, give me a shout... I'd love to "meet" ya.
My passion is to grow a church that impacts Hampton Roads. With a population of approximately 1.6 million people, it will take a large church to do make a dent. Truth is... we could have a church of 20,000 (a la Fellowship or Lakewood) and the city will still need more of God than we will likely see in our lifetime.
When I was 13 years old and accepted Christ as my Savior (not yet Lord), I observed a church that was kind and encouraging but dull and empty. I observed Deacons who on a men's retreat actually talked about whether we should add a steeple to the building and who turned down the option of giving our building to an African American congregation. The older folks had seen this church's neighborhood change from a Caucasian one to an African American one. Nearly all of the congregation had long ago moved out of the city (or at least into white neighborhoods) and were commuting into the church building each week.
I appreciated Mr. Don for reaching out to me and I appreciated the church for lasting as long as it had (over 200 years). Heck, I even appreciate that the first Sunday School is said to have been started by one of it's former Pastors. These are nice things but they weren't impactful things.
Going into college I didn't believe in the power of a local church. I didn't want to be involved with local church leadership. It wasn't until college that I started to even learn about what a local church could do. I felt like I should be in the ministry despite my reservations so my freshman year I took ministry related classes. By the end of the first semester I wanted out. All I could see was "If I stick with Youth Ministry as a degree, I will end up HAVING to be a Pastor and I definitely don't want that!"
I ended up with a Pre-Law degree.
During that season of my life I was also involved HEAVILY at Thomas Road Baptist Church. A mega-church started and Pastored by Dr. Falwell. Regardless of what you think of him... God has used him to completely change his city. That city wouldn't be on a map without him. With a University, megachurch and about 45 other ministries all stemming from TRBC...not to mention about 40 churches within 30 miles started by TRBC people.... God has used that church to change a city.
So here is where I am. I'm wondering what the magic number is. I beat myself up constantly about growing. I will not be satisfied with a church like the one I was saved within. A church that has no impact. On the other hand... I wonder why we as Pastors get all excited about numbers. I'm guilty of it. I will likely be that way. Numbers show that there is growth. But let me share a little of the other side.
In my first ministry experience I was a part of a church plant that went from 0 to 320 in under a year. My youth department started with 3 kids around a table and went to a full house with a band, cafe' etc. But we had a ton of collateral damage. Our Pastor at the time got a big head. He started to get pretty arrogant about "his success". People started to take notice. I have a magazine in my room with a 3 page spread about our church and a picture of the staff to boot. Other Pastors wanted to talk to us about the secret. In staff meeting many times we'd just look around and say 'cool'.
And then it happened. We hit a period of flatline. The attendance stayed still for a few weeks and panic took over. The Senior Pastor truthfully was very insecure. He had bought his degree off of a website pumping out Christian degrees for $500. He always felt the pressure to succeed so when things started to not turn out how he liked he panicked. All of a sudden his pressure became our pressure. I remember one staff meeting when I was told that MY MINISTRY ALONE was responsible for 70% of the attendance. When the youth was good, we had more kids and kids brought parents I was told. I became a target. At the time I was 22 years old, fresh out of school and freshly married. I had a TON of change in my life and I lived 1500 miles away from any resemblance of "home" I had known.
One day I'll write a book but lets just say that God had his hand in it all. I ended up sitting in a McDonalds one day with my best friend (who had been brought on as an Associate Pastor in the middle of our booming growth) and said "What do you do when you don't respect the man in charge enough to call him your Pastor?"
I honestly wrestled for a month or more with this question. My integrity didn't want to leave the church because we WERE (after all) being "effective for the kingdom". I didn't want to hurt the people who looked to me. On the other hand I couldn't put my wife and myself under the leadership of a man I had lost confidence in. At one time I thought he was doing it for the Kingdom but he got off track and started doing it for HIS Kingdom.
Well, that July I resigned and moved away. My leaving helped speed up the process of his departure as people began to talk to one another. They realized that they had the same question. I to this day have NEVER shared my thoughts with the members of this church (most of those members are now gone). But in spite of me playing the role and reading a positive and kind resignation letter. In spite of me keeping my mouth shut when people were angry with me for "bailing out" on them. In spite of seeing most of my youth department whom I had built up in those 2 years walk away from our last meeting with anger and tears... God still dealt with the man I was willing to protect. You see, he had got his focus all screwed up and became a man God was unable to bless any longer. He fell into major sin and God removed him. To this day I believe there are less than 10 people aware of a majority of the problems but God knows and God did the removing.
So, what is my heart as I write this? My heart is to remind us all (ME INCLUDED) that it is GOD who provides the increase as we're faithful. It is HIS church that HE will build. The Universal church that is... the one that matters most. The kingdom of Heaven. Because it is HIS we need to make our motive one of Glory to Him and not status among each other.
We need to be willing to be humble in our pursuit of growth for the KINGDOM. We cannot afford to turn our relationships with the rest of the Pastors on the planet one of a Church-sized game of Dodgeball. We already know who the King of the Hill is.... now it's time to serve him humbly.
Being at NCC was a powerful testimony to my heart. For so many years it was Mark's passion and vision that kept him focused in spite of the numbers not being where he wished they would be. I don't know all of the statistics but I believe they were only 1-200 after 4 years. It's only been the last several years that things have picked up so much. What if Mark Batterson would have thought "Well, I must suck b/c I'm not at 500 yet."? I wonder how many God stories have been cut short because of guys who got discouraged and quit. I wonder how many figured their worth was tied to the church size.
So while all my life I'll continue to build a church that can change one city at a time, I also have to remain humble and keep reminding myself that God is at work and he gives grace to the humble but stiff-arms the proud. I will honor God by remembering how far he's brought me and I'll continue to remain faithful to Him in attempting to work with Him to grow His church.
Theater Church Q&A
Elevation : Laten, Ut
“There is nothing worse than being excited around un-excited people.”
“When things are going poorly, it’s just an opportunity for complainers to come out.”
Launched Oct 2005
- Bought Radio time
- 16k door hangers
- Rented adds in the theater before movies
- Rented Billboards
- 158 people showed on first Sunday
75% of their people are in house churches
They bought the theater managers video i-pods to thank them.
They do pod-casting and video-casting of their services.
By far the funniest guy.
Started 18 months ago
They had 250 at 1 yr anniversary : 450 now
They use 7 theaters
“Our people love to have sex and make babies.”
Church has had 43 babies born in 20 months
There are only 2 theaters in their entire county.
They hang two huge banners 24/7 inside the theater.
Building a 40’ by 40’ storage shed behind the theater
Highly recommended KidMo for theater churches
For the next few days I'm sure to be posting much more info from Buzz as well as my observations.
Pastor Mark and StaffBelow are random notes taken during the Buzz Conference’s Theater Church Forum. This forum could have been a day-long event in my opinion but it was good enough to get some solid thoughts. Note: Just because I wrote it down doesn’t mean I wasn’t aware of the truth. It’s just good to hear some things again.
“I don’t think it’s possible to have too many signs.”
On Redeeming places for God’s purposes: “We built a place where people will come ”
**“We are Theatonians by conviction, not convenience.”
Hospitality- “Meet one, greet all”
Mark reads books on color theory.
“Every two years we have a church planter in residence and then we send them out to plant.”
Staff Q and A:
Five years ago the nursery was Pastor Mark’s kids on a sheet. Now in two locations with multiple classes.
On a semester system. We operate with the rythem of the city. We provide entry and exit points. Out of the two weeks they serve a month, they will teach one and assist one.
Semesters for Small Groups:
Spring: 1st week of Feb to April.
Summer: June and July
Winter: Labor Day to Christmas
Two weeks before small group semesters they make a big push.
The preaching, magazine and videos all push for small groups.
Heather’s comment: “ I know if we did a good job if people are reading the magazine during Pastor Mark’s message.”