30 December 2007

12 Ways to Look for God in 2008

As promised, here are all 12 ways that I would have loved to had the time to address in worship this morning.

Grace&Peace

1. Read the Bible like a Novel
Bible has all the necessary pieces of great literature: plot, character development, drama, song, love, violence, a savior, redemption, etc. Read the Bible as ONE story this year – not as a bunch of stories put together into one volume. See the thread of God’s love woven throughout the whole narrative

2. Hit up Blockbuster
Pay attention to themes like forgiveness, redemption, atonement, the search for love, the call for justice, or the protection of the innocent. Biblical themes are present in movies even if the writers did not intend to put them there. So go ahead and look a the movies you watch through God’s lens and see if you see something new in an old favorite.

3. Tune in…
Turn your radio dials away from KLTY and you’ll be surprised at what you find. Surprised in a good way! There are plenty of artists in the mainstream arena who are using their music to express their longing for the Divine.

God can be found in all kinds of music we listen to. Listen for themes of God’s grace, for an artist’s searching questions of faith.

4. Say, “Cheers!”
Cheers was a show that brought together people from various backgrounds in a place that we call a “third space” – not a home and not a workplace, but a third place where life happens.

This year, take the time to get to know someone whose lifestyle, values or beliefs are different than yours. That is, be intentional about building a relationship with someone you’d likely never be drawn to naturally. Look for God in their story and be surprised by the potential crossing of your story lines.

5. Listen to Your Wife
How many times have you been in the middle of a conversation with your spouse and tuned out because they said something that you didn’t agree with? What if what they just said was exactly what you needed to hear, and you missed it because you were too proud to hear them out? This year, take the time to dial in for the whole conversation. What they have to say to you may be the very thing God has for you to learn in that moment about whatever is bothering you.

The next time you’re tempted to become defensive as you listen to your spouse, a friend, a peer, a child or your boss… stop. Ask: is God speaking to me through this person?

6. Meet Joe, the Mechanic
How many strangers do we encounter on a daily basis? How many of them have a story that they would love to tell, if we would take the time to listen and get to know them? Probably all of them. This year, be intentional about getting to know the people with whom you come in contact with on a regular basis – the barista at Starbucks, the auto mechanic whom you trust to take care of your vehicle, or the grocery store checker who rings up your groceries.

There are people we encounter every day who seem to be fine people, but are they really merely a means to get through our day? We have an agenda – they help us or they frustrate us. But what if we paused long enough to take genuine interest in them – even for a moment? Jesus says when we do, it’s the same as honoring him.

7. Make a Run for Borders
Read the Bible for sure – start there, but don’t end there. Look for God’s truth in everything you read. Read the stories of others’ search for God, read their encounters with God. Read their discoveries, their findings, their questions. Discover where your life can benefit from what they have learned. Find out where their learnings can impact your life and faith. Ask some of the same questions and see what answers you come up with.

8. Break out!
Take some time this year to see the possibilities of taking new routes in life – perhaps they will provide the catalyst for the change you have been longing for in your life. What if you stopped seeing the same scenery each day and started seeing the subtle signs of God’s work and presence in your life? Try a new road to work. Try shopping at a new store. Try a new drink at Starbucks. Try listening to a new radio station. Just do something new to break out of your routine. And see where God is along the way!

9. Find a Catch 22
This year, find a question in life that does not have an easy answer (or any answer at all) and really wrestle with it. Mull it over. Think it through. Take it to its different logical conclusions and see how each one affects your faith, theology, and/or life.

Live in the tension of not knowing an answer. Live in the tension of not being able to put all your questions into neat and tidy little boxes that fit on the shelves in your closet. Grapple with the messiness of life. Struggle with the inconsistencies of humanity. And learn to trust God more along the way, because he’s the only one with the answers. Allow the questions to lead you past the answer to God himself.

10. Forget the Umbrella
The next time you have to make a choice between playing it safe and walking in the danger zone…forget the umbrella. Take a risk. Chance it. Step out. Stand in a fountain, sing on the street, order something different next time you eat out. Start that new business. Volunteer for the first time.

You never know what might happen when you are willing to risk it all. You never know what God will bless in your life until you are willing to give up control over it and hand it to him. He has your life in the palm of his hand and he wants you to experience a life that is full, not flat.

Follow Jesus into the wild. He was the king of the rebels. He never did anything that people expected. He was always breaking the rules and seeing how little the people around him were willing to risk for God’s kingdom.

11. Carpe Diem
Every day we are on this earth is a blessing from God. Take the time this year to seize each of those blessings. There are things that God has uniquely gifted you to do on this earth and every moment wasted is an opportunity lost. Embrace every opportunity.

Look for God in every person, every circumstance, every scene. Look for God in the people you know well. Look for God in the stranger. Look for God when a new situation arises. Look for God when the familiarities of life overtake you. Look for God everywhere. Seize the day. Every day.

12. Radical Hospitality
Practice reaching out to every new face you see at church. If they are an unfamiliar face to you it doesn’t matter how long they have been here – one day or ten years – they deserve to enjoy worship and perhaps make a new friend or two.

Greet guests and members with the same friendliness and warmth. When the people who come through our doors know that everyone gets treated the same, no matter where they are on their faith journey, then they will tell their friends.

Park at Marcus. A guest will need the extra time that a close parking spot affords them.

Stop pointing. If someone asks you for directions to a particular location within the church, don’t just point and say “walk down that hall, go around the corner, look for the fish wall, and turn right.” That is not helpful! At all!! Take them where they need to go. Talk with the person along the way. Get to know them a little. They will thank you for the attention and they will get to where they are going much faster than if they were to go it alone.

Look for God in our “guest experience” and find ways to show that people matter to us and to God.

27 December 2007

EDIT: For 200th Post

I was reading an article in Fast Company about thinking inside the box (as opposed to outside the box) when trying to be creative and I wondered if my earlier post was too outside the box without the necessary limits. So I am going to offer some limits to what I will post about in the famous Post #200.

Here are your choices:
  1. Body Piercing/Tattoos
  2. Secular Music in Worship
  3. Church Leadership in the 21st Century
  4. Radical Hospitality

Just vote for the one you would like me to blog about...if you're good I might do a multi-part series on that topic.

25 December 2007

Tuesday Night Reflections

Yesterday was just an amazing time of worship and celebration! Of our 4 services, I attended two (4 and 9pm) and preached one (11pm). I must say that our worship team went out of their way to make sure that everything went off without a hitch. Although we had a few hiccups along the way, I do believe that all 3700+ people who attended were presented with the gospel.


Dina did a great job with the Children's service. There was the steady hum of children throughout the whole service, but things moved quickly and Madilyn and Grant did a great job with the drama.

At 9pm, the choir, orchestra, bells, and Shiloh Quartet performed magnificently. Joe preached a great message. (FYI - I thought he stole my notes because some of the things he said sounded eerily familiar to what I was going to say at 11pm.)

The Rockin' Christmas Eve service lived up to its name because the band was HOT and the preacher didn't do half bad either. I thought that the all the flipping elements we put into the service carried the theme well. I must say that watching and listening to Reign play "Christmas Eve Sarajevo" just took my breath away. My feet were pounding to the rhythm and the whole group was spot on the whole time. And to watch people pull out their cell phones at the end as we sang the last verse of Silent Night was AWESOME! (We recorded this part and we hope to post it to YouTube soon...I'll add the link when it becomes available.)

Overall, kudos to the whole worship team for making Trietsch's celebration of Jesus' birthday one for the record books.

Grace&Peace

Merry Christmas 2007

Many times throughout 2007 I have fallen into the trap of being married to the office rather than my wife. And since I work in a church it makes that even worse in my mind...because I should know better, right?

Therefore, I wrote this letter to Deb and gave it to her as her "big present" for Christmas this year. I really wanted to make sure that she understood that I want to be a husband and father that makes her proud. That I want to be the man that God has called me to be. That I don't want to squander the gift of her presence in my life. She is the mother of our sweet Caitlyn and I don't want to lose either one of them to my own thoughtlessness.

Merry Christmas! Enjoy this time with your family and friends and let them know how much you care about them because you never know how much time you have with them. Right Perry?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Debbie,
I thought long and hard about what to get you for Christmas this year. I wanted to get you something that would best express my devotion and love for you. As I wandered the malls and gazed at the glittering window displays, I realized that the best gift that I could give you would not be found at the mall. I realized that I couldn’t buy it anywhere. The best gift that I could give you has no monetary value attached to it, but it is costly.

This Christmas, I want to give you priority in my life. I want you to be first person to have dibs on my calendar. I want you and Caitlyn to never wonder where my heart longs to be. This year, I want to give you my time.

I want to do this in very specific and tangible ways. You are a planner. You like to look ahead and to see what is coming around the corner before it’s so close the only thing we can do is emotionally react to the oncoming event. I want to honor that wonderful part about you by giving you the opportunity to plan 12 Saturdays for us in 2008 that will be unbreakable commitments. No church stuff. No last minute plan changes. Just you, me and Caitlyn spending time together as a family. If you wish to use one of these Saturdays to have some alone time or some mother/daughter bonding time, then that is great. Again, these Saturdays are unbreakable commitments on my part – nothing will come up to ruin them.

I would also like to give you 4 weekends (Friday through Sunday) during 2008 that will be unbreakable commitments to you and Caitlyn as well. These weekends can be used for trips to San Antonio as a family, a visit to the Arboretum, or whatever else you may want to do. As with the Saturdays above, you may use these weekends to get away with your girlfriends or your Mom – they are totally of your choosing and unbreakable commitments on my end.

Just so you know, these Saturdays and weekends through out 2008 are on top of any vacation(s) we may take during the year. These are special times where you have the right to set the agenda as far in advance as needed and I will say ‘no’ to any conflicting appointments.

As I said before, this gift is about time. It’s about priority. It’s about putting my family first in everything that happens in my life, because you and Caitlyn really are my life. This gift did not cost me a dime, but I have a feeling that seeing this gift brought to fruition will be the best investment I could ever make in you, in Caitlyn, and in our family.

With all my love,
Dean
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Grace&Peace

24 December 2007

Blogging Suggestions

I am only a few posts away from post #200 and I wanted to see what my reader(s) wanted that milestone post to be about. If you have suggestions, go ahead and post a comment here and I'll see what I can do to accommodate your thoughts.

Grace&Peace

Rehearsal Reflections

Rehearsal for worship tonight went pretty well last night. There were a few hiccups, but nothing that we couldn't overcome with a few moments of strategic thought. I am ready to preach the gospel, the band is ready to rock the house, and the dramatic pieces of the service will greatly enhance the meaning of the message. I am very glad we had rehearsal yesterday and I hope that it is a practice that we can add to our weekly routine once John comes on board in January.

As I was running through the transitions in my message so that the band would know when to come in with the songs we have planned, I found myself not wanting to give away pieces of the message for fear that they would lose impact tonight...I didn't want to spoil it for them...we'll see if that comes true or not.

See you tonight at 11pm!

Grace&Peace

23 December 2007

Tomorrow's the "Big Day"

It's hard to believe that Christmas Eve is only a few hours away...it's even harder to believe that the calendar will turn from 2007 to 2008 in less than 8 days.

I am really pumped about preaching at 11pm tomorrow and I hope that you can come out to see us flip Christmas on its head. I was able to get passed my mind block and finish my sermon, so now all that's left is to work on memorizing it so that I don't have any notes to worry about.

See you on the "Big Day"!

Grace&Peace

21 December 2007

Mind Block

I never thought it would be so hard to come up with a sermon to preach on Christmas Eve, but the combined factors of "everyone knows the story" and "there are people who are only here twice a year" seems to be jamming my creativity.

I know what I want to say and I know how I am going to illustrate it, but getting that out of my head and on to the paper is proving much more challenging than I had originally anticipated. Your prayers are appreciated!

I will get this message finished and ready to preach, so if you are available, come out to Trietsch for the 11:00pm "Rockin' Christmas Eve" service on Monday!

Grace&Peace

20 December 2007

Top Quotes of 2007

"Don't Tase Me, Bro!" was voted the most memorable quote of 2007. I don't even remember hearing this quote when it first happened, but since then it has come up in numerous conversations and radio broadcasts...pretty funny!

Here is the article from Yahoo! News about the whole list (including that incredibly lucid response from Miss Teen S. Carolina). Enjoy!

Grace&Peace

19 December 2007

Funny Imprints

If I ever wanted proof that kids are sponges, then Caitlyn's most recent "acquisition" seals the deal...

She has begun to lick her fingers before turning the pages in her books or before getting a new flash card or even before moving to a different page in her coloring books! It is hilarious...and the best part is that Deb and I don't even do that! She learned it from the teachers at her daycare! She is watching them close enough to see them turn pages in books or sort through the daily report sheets that they complete for each of the kids in her class.

I'll try to get a picture of it and post it here because it will make you smile (and possibly laugh out loud). It is so funny to watch her slather her finger with spit just to turn the page in a board book. She did it again this morning with her flash cards and Deb and I about fell over laughing.

Gotta love kids!

Grace&Peace

Quick (8 Minute) History Lesson

Once again, Betty sent me a great link on YouTube. I wanted to share it here because I saw Wintley Phipps at Catalyst in October and he did a great job enlightening 11,000 Christian leaders about the origins of one of the greatest spiritual songs in the world. Watch and be blessed!

Let's hope that a better understanding of where we came from will help us not to make the same mistakes our forefathers (and mothers) made!

Grace&Peace

12 December 2007

Experiment Over

After 3 nights of falling out of the bed, getting out of her room, and generally not getting much sleep because there ended up being a 2 year old in between us, I put the front crib rail back on Caitlyn's bed last night. She still ended up spending a couple hours with us last night, but at least it wasn't because she fell out of her bed and woke up screaming...she just woke up from a bad dream.

I think we are headed to BabiesRUs to look at toddler beds this weekend. Pray for us!

Grace&Peace

09 December 2007

Experimentation

An experiment took place in our house last night...and it didn't go very well. Now that Caitlyn is 2, we decided to go ahead and take the front panel of her crib off so that it can function as a pseudo-daybed (aka "big girl bed"). She spent the majority of her usual wind-down time hopping around her room, on and off the bed, and singing whatever song came to her. It was funny, but not very relaxing.

Once she fell asleep, I placed her in the bed and prayed that she would stay there the rest of the night. Thirty minutes later, she rolled out of bed and began an attempt to open her door - she was crying.

Debbie went into Caitlyn's room to calm her down and put her back to sleep. I started some work on the computer. When I finished what I was doing I went to check on them, but they were not in Caitlyn's room, they were in our room sound asleep. I took Caitlyn to her room and again lifted a prayer that she would stay in bed the rest of the night. At 4am I woke up to the sound of our bedroom door opening and Caitlyn strolling in - this time she was laughing and smiling, very proud of what she just accomplished.

Bottom line: This experiment failed. We'll see what tonight holds for us!

Grace&Peace

07 December 2007

Merry Truckin' Christmas

Last night when I was driving home from Bible study, I saw this truck that was all decked out for Christmas! He had colored lights outlining the bed of the truck with light-up candy canes sticking out of the bed. There was even a net of lights across the back window of the cab! It was hilarious...I only wish that I could have snapped a picture of it to post here. Oh well!

Merry Christmas!

Grace&Peace

Talking with the New Pastor

This afternoon I met with John Allen, the newly appointed Sr. Pastor here at Trietsch, and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. He asked about what I was currently doing, what I would be doing if I could write my ultimate job description, and even gave me a bit of homework to complete.

As we sat in McAlister's Deli eating muffaletas and drinking iced tea, we talked about the current state of adult education at Trietsch. I explained to him about all the different kinds of groups that exist at Trietsch and who held responsibility for them. We talked about how the church could move ahead in starting/developing new small groups with some increased intentional efforts. Overall, I had a great time getting to know him a little bit better, and spending that time with him put to rest some of the reservations that had been in the back of my head recently.

Thanks for your time John!

Grace&Peace

28 November 2007

"Being Five"

I recently found this hilarious comic strip on the net and thought I would share this particularly funny one about Thanksgiving! Enjoy!

Grace&Peace

23 November 2007

Turkey Day Bonus

As if a plethora of turkey wasn't enough for one weekend, for two years in a row I have received the best Thanksgiving present an Aggie can get! I am not sure how I feel about Mike Sherman (mostly because I don't know who he is) so maybe I'll comment on that later. Either way, I am excited about the victory and look forward to seeing what Coach Sherman can do with the Ags.

Grace&Peace

Texas Showdown

I don't want to get ahead of myself here, but the Ags are leading at halftime and I would love to see us take 2 in a row from t.u.

Keeping my fingers crossed and two eyes on the game!

Grace&Peace

22 November 2007

Groggy Afternoon

Just an FYI -

I just woke up from my tryptophan induced coma to watch the Cowboys dismantle the Jets! Good times!

Grace&Peace

Thanksgiving

Deb, Caitlyn, and I are spending the weekend here in Lake Jackson with my folks and my sister, my brother-in-law, and our niece (Torrance). We just finished our tasty turkey lunch and I am sure that the turkey enzymes will kick in soon.

I pray that you and your family enjoy a blessed and joyful Thanksgiving. Here is a picture from today's festivities.

Grace&Peace

Here's Caitlyn ROTFLOL at Grampy
 

16 November 2007

Going All the Way: Chapter 2

“Finding the One”
I have read several other books from Craig (this one and this one) and he always seems to be the master of “the turn of a phrase” and this chapter is no exception.

I can remember dating to find “the one” and feeling empty when it didn’t work out. I can remember meeting my “two” and being amazed when we clicked and she actually agreed to marry me (will wonders never cease!). It seems that people are continually seeking for “the one” to complete them (dang you Jerry McGuire!!) when we should really be seeking “the One” who claims us as his own and makes us ready to love our “two”.

The insights about making Jesus our first priority are nothing new to a seasoned Christ-follower like me, but putting that in conjunction with preparing for marriage is new to this not-so-seasoned pre-marital counselor. I believe I will begin using this imagery as I lead couples thru the pre-marital process (I have two weddings next summer).

Quotables:
I’m not saying you’re perfect. Neither would you. You’ve experienced your share of failures. You have your own little quirks that get on some people’s nerves. You certainly won’t hit the mark every time. But your standards are different. Your target is higher. And you hit it more often than not. You’re not perfect, but you are being perfected. (19)

That’s the road to marriage intimacy and fulfillment. It starts with putting God unalterable first, and it ends with two people giving each other 100 percent. (21)

Loving the One is critically important to finding happiness with your Two. And loving your Two is one of the best ways to love the One. (22)

Sin is like a good sneeze. It feels good coming out. Then you get snot everywhere. (23)
Grace&Peace

More Thoughts for Sunday

I was working on my sermon for Sunday at Faith Church and I have decided to expand my scriptural support to include a passage where Jesus shows the power of God by having compassion on someone whom the religious authorities set up to entrap Jesus. I am using it in conjunction with Isaiah 54.2-5 (expanded from previous thoughts) to talk about the bias God has toward restoration (the Isaian passage refers to Zion's restoration and the Marcan passage refers to the restoration of a man with a withered hand).

Both passages show God's love for the people who need to experience healing and wholeness in their lives. Zion is returning from Babylonian exile and God promises to be her husband and challenges her to "enlarge the place of your tents" in order to fully experience the restoration that will come as they return to Israel. The man with the withered hand experiences restoration of his hand even though he was placed front and center by the Pharisees to try to trick Jesus into breaking the Sabbath command.

Oftentimes, it seems like churches need to experience the restoration that comes with a renewed relationship with God. A renewing that comes when they fully understand that God has created and purposed them for a unique calling that only they can fulfill. A calling to grow to the fullest extent of their mission - growth that can only happen when they remain fully surrendered and fully in tune with God's plan for the church.

I am going to share a story of my missed opportunity to play football in Jr. High and relate it to the fact that the regret I feel for not seizing that moment in time could be played out in hundreds of small membership churches if they fail to remember (or identify) what God has called them to do.

I will talk about different kinds of church growth, not just numerical because a proper understanding of what it means to grow a church and what actually constitutes a church (see Andrew's comment on previous post) is key to following God's plan for the church. I am going to ask some hard questions of Faith Church and I pray that they will rise to the challenge.

Please pray for me as I continue to refine this message for the people of Faith UMC and be sure to pray for me on Sunday morning when I get up to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Pray that their hearts are open and receptive to what the Spirit will say thru me. Pray that the worship time is truly about preparing their hearts to hear this message. Pray that I don't screw this up because I am just a sinner who needs to hear this message as much as they do.

Grace&Peace

15 November 2007

Book Review Posts Coming

I am reading Craig Groeschel's new book, Going All the Way and I will be blogging my thoughts about each chapter because I agreed (quite enthusiastically) to do so in order to receive a complementary copy of the book. I'll post my thoughts as I finish each chapter, so keep watching for new posts during the next few weeks.

Grace&Peace

14 November 2007

Processing Thoughts for Sunday

This weekend I am preaching on the theme of "does God want me to get bigger?" at Faith UMC and I am wondering if you had some thoughts on growth.

There is often resistance to church growth as a whole because the thought that when a church grows to a certain size then the members of that church get uncomfortable with the size that their church has become and then begin to work against further growth. Do you find that to be true? Have you seen this in your church?

There seems to be great need for true spiritual growth in our churches today - i.e. we need to grow spiritually "bigger" as a result of our Christian walk. I think some Christians use this growing bigger as an excuse/reason for looking down on other Christians (and others who may not even yet profess faith in Christ) in order to make themselves feel better. I don't think that is helpful, healthy, or Christian in any way, shape or form.

I believe that God created humans with the capacity for growth and that capacity transfers into his church so that the church that is made up of humans is called to grow bigger each and every day. I believe we are under a mandate from heaven to grow each and every church to the fullest extent of its potential. Church leaders must understand that growing larger is not to be done for self-promotion or self-aggrandizement, but must be done for the glory of God and for furthering the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.

Thoughts?

Grace&Peace

13 November 2007

Tuesday Afternoon Insights

This weekend in Celina was great! I enjoyed preaching in a sanctuary built in the 1920s that still had ceiling fans to help circulate the air (even though they have retrofitted with A/C). This was my first Commitment Sunday sermon and I am proud to say that I was able to talk about giving to the church without preaching on a text that directly deals with finances...b/c we all know that giving only includes finances [he says sarcastically]!


No really, the idea that Jesus calls us to give what is in our hand and allow him to do the work of multiplying it makes giving truly a spiritual experience. If we trust only in ourselves to provide for the ministry of the church, then what do we need God for? If it's all about what we give, then why in the world would God show up? I believe that if we don't have enough faith the dream dreams bigger than our pocketbooks can bear, then we are not yet dreaming God-sized dreams! And if we are not willing to dream God-sized dreams, then we are not truly trusting in God to grow our churches to what he has called them to be.



Up next...preaching on "does God want me to grow?" at Faith UMC in Denton/Corinth using Isaiah 54:2-3 as the text.


Grace&Peace

09 November 2007

Weekend on Commitment

This weekend I am preaching at FUMC Celina on the last week of their annual stewardship campaign (a.k.a. Commitment Sunday) and I am trying to figure out how to inspire the people at First Church to respond faithfully to God's call to give of their financial resources.

I am thinking about using Mark's account of the feeding of the 5000 to talk about how God uses what we have in our hands to bless those around us in ways that we cannot fully comprehend in the moment that we give it. This passage shows how the disciples wanted to send the people away (who had gathered to hear Jesus) in order for them to find food, but Jesus challenged the disciples to gather up what food they had on hand and bring it to Jesus. Jesus then takes those five loaves and two fish and feeds 5000 men (and probably at least that many women and children as well). Jesus takes a sack lunch and turns it into a banquet that 15,000 people went away stuffed from - that is awesome!

The coolest thing about that story is that we can have that too...when we are faithful to give when God calls us to give (no matter what is in our hands), then miracles can happen that will blow us away.

Has God blown your mind lately? When? How?

Grace&Peace

20 October 2007

Reflections of the SGC

I must admit that I was not really looking forward to coming to the Smart Growth Conference down here in The Woodlands this weekend, but the team at TWUMC impressed me with their professionalism, hospitality, and servanthood.

The opening session for Mike Slaughter was challenging, thought-provoking, and set up the rest of the weekend for success. He talked about "unlearning church" (which I think he wrote a book about) and how the church needs to reclaim a "Jesus hermeneutic" in order to remain relevant for the 21st century. He argued that we must return to Jesus' understanding that God wants to be in relationship with us, not hold a contract or legal obligation over our heads. We need to focus on God's covenant (unfailing love - hesed) with us, not the commandments (rules/laws) that so often plague our Christian thinking. Slaughter challenged us to recommit to three life practices: simplicity, strategic discipleship, and sacrificial mission.

The second plenary session brought Len Sweet to the stage and he blew just about everybody out of the water with his talk. He practically called all the Chairs of BOMs throughout Methodism "idiots" for weeding out the people with imaginations from the ministry. [Side note: the chair of the NTC BOM was sitting about 3 feet away from me during Sweet's talk...she cringed alot during this section. Just thought you should know.] Len talked about the characteristics of an E.P.I.C. church and the difference between an A.P.C. operating system and an M.R.I. operating system. All great information and all great challenges to the mainline church in America because if we don't "de-frag and reboot" then we will crash and burn and no one will attempt to pick up the pieces.

The plenary session this morning featured TWUMC Senior Pastor Ed Robb talking about what he doesn't know about growing a church. Each of his "ignorances" highlighted the unique position the Christian Church is in regarding the "business of God". He told us that he didn't know how to grow a church without:
1) God's help
2) passion
3) hard work
4) casting a vision
5) building a team
6) incurring pain
7) developing effective outreach programs
8) taking risks
9) perseverance

Each one of those "ignorances" hit home with my own fears, pride, and immaturities about what it takes to grow and sustain a new ministry/church for the long haul. He closed by challenging us to serve, pray, and love the people where you are now like you are going to serve them for the rest of your ministry career - sink deep roots and take ownership of all that you have been called by God to do where he has you right now.

Overall, the conference exceeded my expectations and I am glad that I came. I look forward to connecting more with Andy Nixon over at The Loft as Alan and I push forward on the new worship service, because The Loft is reaching the people we are trying to reach - with tremendous success.

Grace&Peace

Fun Times with the Staff

Can I just say that I love spending time with our staff in non-church settings?! We just finished about three hours of Taboo and Catch Phrase downstairs in the hotel lobby. We were laughing, talking loudly, and enjoying each other's company tremendously. I am not sure if it was the wine/wine coolers that made the conversations flow so well, but it seemed like that our tongues got looser and freer as the evening wore on. No one got hammered, but we were laughing at some crazy things that came out of ALL of our mouths as we tried to get our teams to guess the word on the card. It was hilarious!

I think that if non-Christians could see us having fun, making jokes, and laughing with one another on a regular basis, maybe they wouldn't think that Christians are uptight and boring - because tonight was anything but boring or uptight. It seems to me that as long as Christians continue to be known for what they are against (and not what they are for), we will lose ground to other alternatives on Sunday morning (warm bed, football game pre-show, breakfast at Denny's, whatever). As long as outsiders continue to think we are irrelevant and disconnected from the realities and struggles of daily living, they will not darken our doorsteps to hear the message of Jesus - because they don't want to be fuddy-duddies who don't know how to have a good time and laugh at the ridiculous things that people say under the pressure of trying to make 6 of your friends say a word printed on the card in front of you.

I am glad that I work with a team that knows how to laugh at life, laugh at themselves, and laugh at me. I wouldn't have it any other way!

Grace&Peace

05 October 2007

More Short Reflections on a Long Day

What a phenomenal day! Catalyst has been a great time away from the office to experience passionate worship, encouraging teaching, and powerful equipping.

This morning opened up with a powerful talk from Craig Groeschel on practical atheism (and how to overcome that tendency). The second session included a brief talk from John Maxwell (aka "JMax") on how to add value to people and a powerful talk on the dangerousness of money from Dave Ramsey. Erwin McManus told us to create the future rather than try to change the past. The closing talk from Andy Stanley moved me to want to create an entirely new system of operation so that we can attract leaders by ensuring an environment that allows leaders to lead.

Alan and I have already grabbed 5 tickets for next year...interested in joining us?

Grace&Peace

04 October 2007

Short Reflections on a Long Day

Catalyst has been a great experience so far and I can't wait to see what Day 2 has in store for us. Today we were challenged to understand the implications of being the most powerful person in the room, to help those we lead to find fulfillment in their work, [skipped Session 3, but heard them at the Evening Lab Session last night], to say whatever it is God has laid on our hearts (in love), and expend ourselves on those whom the world has long ignored.

What a day!

Grace&Peace

Blogging on the Road

This will be quick...I am blogging from the Connection Cafe (sponsored by Apple) at the Catalyst Conference. Pretty cool!

Grace&Peace

02 October 2007

In Town for Catalyst

Alan and I arrived in Atlanta this afternoon for the Catalyst Conference at the Gwinnett Center on Wednesday-Friday. We are looking forward to connecting with Abe (from Christ UMC), and Elizabeth and Dave (from Highland Park UMC and Cornerstone) tomorrow as the Lab Sessions kick off tomorrow and the Conference as a whole gets underway on Thursday.

Personally, I am looking forward to hearing from Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel and John Maxwell this weekend during Catalyst.

I'll post more about the different sessions as they unfold.

Grace&Peace

Car Update

Well, my car spent a few hours at the dealership yesterday, but it is still broken. It turns out that the fix can be done quickly, but it does require that the part is in stock. Therefore, my car will not be fully functional until next Monday - when I get back from the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta. Ugh!

Grace&Peace

01 October 2007

Smoking Pot

I just found a great article on smoking pot...take a hit and how enlightened you become.

Grace&Peace

Couple Things...

This morning I am working wirelessly at McDavid Plano Lincoln Mercury...the dealership who is trying to figure out what is wrong with my car. We (Deb and I) are hoping that it is a quick, inexpensive fix and that we will no longer have to get up in the middle of the night to turn off my stupid car alarm! I'm keeping my fingers crossed and my head bowed in prayer.

In other news, Deb and I are going to put in an application for a house that she found yesterday. Deb saw it yesterday morning after church and called me immediately and told me I needed to take a look. We scheduled another showing for 5:30 and I was also very impressed with the layout, the feel, and the neighborhood. It will be a long drive for me to get to work, but I am willing to do that for my girls to stay where they are. I think we will move for me when I get a new appointment...whenever that may be...

Grace&Peace

28 September 2007

Las Vegas Learnings (Part 4)

Learning #4: Make your advertising visually compelling
Everywhere you look in Vegas there is something clamoring for your attention – a place to gamble, a hot spot to eat, a golf course to play, or things too seedy for this blog. They are all there, 24/7 without fail – and they are all well done…at least photographically. They are eye-catching and compelling. They encourage you to look more, explore deeper, and eventually spend your hard-earned cash on them.

Each casino featured some big headlining entertainer – from Louie Anderson to Cirque de Soleil to Chris Angel (aka ‘Mind Freak’). Each casino went out of its way to make sure that their advertisement was the biggest, brightest, or catchiest. They used bright colors, intriguing graphics, and/or scantily clad women to get you to look at them…and re-look at them…and look at them some more…and then spend your money to see that show or entertainer.

This reality became clear to me as soon as we arrived at the Las Vegas Airport, because as I stood outside the women’s restroom waiting for Deb, my eyes glanced toward the baggage claim area to see the sheer volume of advertisements ‘plastered’ on the walls, suspended from the ceiling, or posted on a rotating kiosk display. They were everywhere (literally!) and I could not help but look at them and wonder how much it cost to see Carrot Top at the Luxor or Celine Dion at Caesar’s.

We did not see any of the shows advertised on those giant screens/posters/billboards, but we knew who was performing where and if we wanted to, we could get to a box office and purchase tickets with ease (part 3).

So what can the church learn from this? I think the issue comes back to the question of visual intentionality. Is the Church (and your church in particular) visually compelling in a positive way? What steps are you taking to make sure that when guests enter your building or browse your website they see something that would make them want to look again or visit again? I believe that many churches have lost the ability to see themselves from an outsider’s perspective and they then begin to allow clutter to pile up, posters to go out of date, and images in the church to become stale.

I am by no means an expert in this area, but I do know that in the 21st century, our “customers” have far too many choices in what to do on Sunday mornings to allow our churches to be relics, obsolete, or dated in any way. We must impress upon our church leadership to take the lead in being innovative, risk-taking, and compelling in every way possible. Without a compelling reason for people to spend their leisure time at our events/worship services/Bible studies, then they will sleep in, work a little more at the office, or go to a baseball game instead.

Grace&Peace
Read the other posts in this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

27 September 2007

Las Vegas Learnings (Part 3)

Here I go again...

Learning #3: Meet asked and unasked needs every time.
The casinos in Las Vegas work hard to get you in the door and they want you to have an enjoyable experience...so that you will come back...and so that you will tell your friends about it. In order to do that, they work hard to meet the asked and unasked needs of their customers.

When a casino patron wants something to drink, there is usually a waitress within eyesight ready to take their order. If the customer wants something to eat, there is most likely two, three, or even four different restaurants within the casino walls that would love to meet their every food wish - often this happens at the buffet! If a patron wants to gamble or spend the night in the hotel...their desires can be met within mere moments.

Outside the casino, vendors work hard to attract and satisfy customers with video screens, billboards, posters, live acts, etc. all within view of any Strip sidewalk that advertise anything from the next casino down the Strip to the newest entertainer coming to town to where to golf tomorrow. I believe that most of these attempts to meet needs fall in the "unasked" category because most of the people walking up and down the Strip are not necessarily looking for a show to go to that evening, but when the opportunity presents itself, they consider the possibility (for however long or short that consideration may be) of meeting a need that they had not yet expressed.

One day on our trip to Vegas, Deb and I were walking between casinos across one of the many pedestrian walkways that take you over the street rather than having to fight with traffic on the street level. Debbie casually remarked to me that she sure could use a drink of water after walking what seemed like at least half a mile. And wouldn't you know it, an industrious salesperson crossed our path not 15 seconds later selling "ice cold bottled water" for $1. So we bought one and shared it...and so did about 6 other people. It was amazing how this vendor had positioned himself just at the right place to maximize his efforts at selling water to thirsty travelers on a hot August day. That was meeting an unasked need!

So what can the church learn from this? It seems to me that it is vitally important for the church to pay attention to what their "customers" are asking for and then meeting those needs to the highest level possible. If our customers crave community, perhaps we need to increase our efforts on creating opportunities for people to gather in small groups. If our customers need additional worship opportunities, perhaps we need to investigate the possibility of expanding our current worship offerings. If our customers want new opportunities to reach out to the least, last and lost, then maybe we need to seek out new mission opportunities to serve the marginalized and exploited in our world.

I know that we cannot be all things to all people, but if all churches utilized their strengths to do what they do best, then we could refer people to different churches/agencies/etc. that were doing what they want to do. And perhaps our people would learn the value of serving in the local church in a role that aligns with their skill set and passion.

Thoughts?

Grace&Peace
Read other posts in this series: Part 1, Part 2

Priesthood of All Believers

Another musing from Walk #31...

God calls all believers into ministry in the Christian church. God - thru our baptism - equips us to carry out the mission of the church along with all other believers. God callas all to serve in the body of Christ. In addition, God places a special call on some believers to be set apart for service leading the church as pastors, but all have a calling to love and serve the body.

"Priesthood" is not a special occupation reserved only for a select few...it is a calling to be Christ to anyone and everyone you meet. The "priesthood" is for everyone. We have been gifted uniquely to serve the kingdom in ways that no one else can - so the Church needs you! Each of us needs to serve Christ in the ways we have been equipped and not leave the work of the church to the paid professionals. If all churches operated under that [paid people do all the work] model, there would be far fewer churches, far more burnt out pastors, and far less impact in the world.

The simple fact is that preachers/pastors/priests can not do everything - they must train their congregations to serve, take on leadership, and give of themselves. The church must do their best to focus on Christ and be the body of Christ in the world.

How are you expressing your priesthood right now? Who sees Christ in your life? How are you living our your calling?

Grace&Peace

Priorities


This past weekend I had the privilege to serve on the clergy team for Denton Area Emmaus Walk #31. Each Walk has the same structure and format, but each one is unique due to the personalities of each team and the pilgrims who attend.

The weekend kicked off with a talk from my friend Ted on "Priorities" and I was moved by what he shared and how he spoke from the heart about the need to constantly align ourselves with God. I wrote these thoughts in response to his talk.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The things that capture our time are the things that are our priorities in our life. It can be good or it can be destructive. It can be positive or it can be negative. Either way it shapes us and makes us who we are.

We can set our own priorities or they can be set for us - by external circumstances. When we call the shots we control who we spend time with, what we spend our time doing, or where we spend our time. When we allow others to set our priorities we are pushed, pulled, stretched, and shoved in directions that others would have us go.

In the Christian life, our priority must be God. It can't be spouse or job or kids or money. Those are good priorities in and of themselves, but contextually, they must be placed behind God in order for our lives to be fully what God has called our lives to be.

I love my wife and daughter. I love my ministry. I love myself. I love what I do on a daily basis because I know God has called me to where I am. However, I must love God and prioritize him over all those things/people to fully realize my calling - because I can do no less than that and stand shameless before my Creator in the fullness of time.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What are your priorities? What do you spend your time doing? Where and on what do you spend your money? What or who has your attention? Spend some time reflecting on where your priorities are so that you can prioritize God to the first place in your life.

Grace&Peace

14 September 2007

Las Vegas Learnings (Part 2)

Here is another post in my series on what I learned while on vacation in Vegas.

Learning #2: Make it difficult for people to leave
This is a corollary to Part 1 because the casinos work very hard to get you in the door, so they don’t want you walking right back out the door without spending some time (and money). As I noted in Part 1, there are people movers to get gamblers into the doors at most of the newer casinos, but there are no "people movers" to get people out of the casinos. This is definitely a strategic thing – they don’t want to make it easy for people to leave – it has to be a conscious, effort-filled decision. The simple fact is that if a gambler wants to leave a casino, they must stop what they are doing, walk to the cashier, walk to find the door (not always clearly marked), walk out the door, and then walk all the way to the street. It is a physically intensive (and sometimes exhaustive) process.

How often do churches complain about people leaving thru the proverbial “back door” without so much as one person noticing they are gone? Perhaps we have made it too easy for those who are loosely related to the church to walk out anonymously. Perhaps we have not yet figured out how to connect those people more deeply within the body of Christ so that if they go missing – someone notices! Perhaps we have misplaced the "people movers" in our churches. Sometimes we plant mechanisms that take out the physicality of leaving – in other words, we do it for them instead of forcing them to make the conscious decision to leave – they simply drift away unnoticed.

I am convinced that we can close the back door in our churches! I am convinced that unless we, as church leaders, give intentional thought and effort to methods of assimilation and connection, we will continue to watch the revolving door swing ‘round and ‘round. Encourage your church members to talk to people they don’t know on Sunday mornings before, during, and after worship services. Model that behavior yourself. Keep reminding your congregation that they are the best advertisement for the church – and that people are watching…closely!

Grace&Peace
Read the other post in this series: Part 1

11 September 2007

LifeStraws

I was reading the new issue of RELEVANT earlier today and I saw the Slice on the LifeStraw and had to post about it. It is an invention that filters bacteria and germs - like the ones that cause typhoid, cholera, dysentery and diarrhea - from the water in third world countries who don't always (or possibly never) have access to clean drinking water.

Check out the website to find out more about this nine inch straw that can purify up to 185 gallons of water for only $3! Wow!

Grace&Peace

Las Vegas Learnings (Part 1)

I want to post a series of thoughts on what I learned about how Vegas casinos attract and keep players coming back and how that can be translated to the church. So here goes...

Learning #1: Make it easy for people to get in the door and find what they are looking for.
Gamblers in Vegas are looking for one thing when they go to a casino...a place to spend their money in order to have a shot at making more money. Most gamblers look for a certain type of game - be it video poker, nickel slots, or the tables - and they don't want to have to look hard to find their game.

Casinos know this, so they make it very easy for gamblers to get inside and spend their money as quickly as possible. One example, Deb and I were walking down the Strip toward The Bellagio in order to take a look inside and see what all the hype was about. As we approached the block that the Bellagio sits on, we saw that we needed to go up an escalator in order to get to the same level that the main entrance doors were on. Once we ascended that escalator we noticed how far away from the door we really were from the casino doors. This was not a problem because the entire walkway from the street to the door of the casino was a "people mover" ala George Jetson. It took virtually no effort on our part to get from the street to the door of the casino - none! We both commented that this fact made getting into the doors to spend our money so easy.

Churches need to make it easier for people to get in our doors. Not so that they can give their hard-earned money to us, but so that they can get connected to Jesus. Not so that they can be impressed with our technology in worship, but so that they can see that the church is a place that welcomes them and actually wants them to spend some time there. We need to make the hurdles of attending church the lowest ones possible (if we even have hurdles at all). The time, place, or feel of our churches should be the smallest impediment to people walking thru our doors.

What kind of "people movers" does the church need to employ? How can we make the process of finding a place to get plugged in should be the easiest thing that guests can do at our churches. Guests should be able to walk into our clearly marked front doors (hopefully opened by waiting, attentive greeters) and find exactly what they are looking for. (Side note: There are no "people movers" taking people away from the doors of the casino...you have to want to walk out...and do it under your own power. More on this later.)

Are we doing all that we can to break down obstacles for people to find God in our churches? Are we losing their business before they even hear the music or sermon? Are they having to clear hurdles just to experience all the things we love about our worshiping community?

Grace&Peace

10 September 2007

Ministry Forum, Day 1

I'm at the Ministry Forum today and tomorrow and I must say that being with my clergy colleagues is always fun. We are scarred from the same Systematic Theology classes, bleary-eyed from late nights trying to write sermons, and loved by the same God who calls us into ministry. It is a good feeling to be among those who are giving their heart and soul to advance the kingdom of God here in North Texas.

I promised last week that I would blog about what I learned in Vegas...and I will. Tonight I will put my thoughts on here to share with those of you who care to stop by and read them. I am excited about what we (the Church) can learn from the city of broken dreams (I don't know if that is a nickname for Las Vegas, but it sounds good!).

That's all for now...I'm off to read the new issue of RELEVANT.

Grace&Peace

04 September 2007

Email Forwards Can Surprise You

I usually don't look much past the subject line when a forward comes into my inbox, but this one sounded worth a second look. It was!

It’s a skit that was done at Winterfest this year [06-07] set to “Everything” by the band Lifehouse. The cheers from the audience in the last half of the video are rightfully earned - what a great presentation of the gospel...using a "secular" song! Take a look and tell me what you think.



Grace&Peace

Hat Tip: KSBJ and Betty

03 September 2007

Back from Vacation

This past week Deb and I were on vacation in LV and SA. I have to say that I learned quite a bit from Sin City that I think Christian churches can use to attract and retain guests (more on this later in the week).

For now, eventho no one offered any suggestions for my previous query, the sermon went just fine on Sunday...and I only had one person come out of the sanctuary just looking to pick a fight about what I said. The truth hurts I guess!

Grace&Peace

22 August 2007

Women in Ministry

I am preaching on Labor Day weekend about “women in ministry” and I wanted to get some real world thoughts about the issue. Here’s my question:

1) Do you believe it is biblically sound for only men to be in positions of pastoral authority? Why or why not? What scriptures shed light on your view?
2) Do you believe God created males and females with different, complementary gifts so that there are certain things that men do and certain things that women do? Why or why not? What scriptures shed light on your view?
3) Do you believe that leadership roles in the church and in the home should be determined based on giftedness, not gender? Why or why not? What scriptures shed light on your view?
4) Would you (as either a male or female) feel comfortable under the direction of a female senior pastor at your church? Why or why not? What scriptures shed light on your view?

Post your comments and let’s engage in some dialogue.

Grace&Peace

09 August 2007

Leadership Summit: Session 4

Marcus Buckingham: Go Put Your Strengths to Work
Marcus Buckingham is one of the funniest and most energetic business speakers that I have ever heard. Even though he chastised himself for using “British humor” during his talk, he engaged the audience and kept my attention the whole time (a hard task after such a long day). He had plenty to share and I pray that I read the book of his that I purchased almost a year ago very soon.

Here are some of the notes that I took during his session:

• “Build on my strengths and manage around my weaknesses”
• Gallup asked: Which do you think will help you be more successful?
o US (2000) 41% build on strengths; 59% fix weaknesses
o US (2006) 37% build on strengths; 63% fix weaknesses
o US (2007) 41% build on strengths; 59% fix weaknesses
• Many times we try to learn about good by studying bad, but the inverse of bad is “not bad” which is different than good.
• Three Myths & Three Truths
o Myth: As you grow, your personality changes
o Truth: As you grow, you become more of who you already are

o Myth: You grow the most in your areas where you are weakest
o Truth: You grow the most in your areas where you are strongest

o Myth: A great team member puts his own strengths aside and does whatever it takes to help the team
o Truth: A team member volunteers his strengths to the team most of the time
• Three Skills to Learn
o Identify what your strengths are
 SIGNs of a strength in your life
Success
Instinct
Growth
Needs
o Change something
 Make the best of your job the most of your job
o Talk about your strengths without bragging and your weaknesses without whining
• “Let tomorrow be a slightly stronger day than today”

Grace&Peace

Leadership Summit: Session 3

Floyd Flake: The Heat of Responsibility
The Rev. Dr. Floyd H. Flake pastors the Greater Allen AME Cathedral of New York in Queens and he had plenty to say to the Summit participants. It almost seemed like he had two hours worth of material that he had to condense into 45 minutes. Did anyone else think that he never seemed to breathe? His thoughts on different models in leadership came fast and furious, so I didn’t catch everything (nor do I think he had time to say everything), but I caught what I could.

Here are some of the notes that I took during his session:

• Model 1: Transitional Leadership - Often set in motion the plans for change, but may not see that change thru to the end (ex. John the Baptist)
o Must begin with the end in mind because if you begin a process without knowing where you are going then it is difficult to get others to follow
o In the transitional stage you begin to get a glimpse of what can happen
•Model 2: Transactional Leadership
o Get buy-in and then decide when to take action
• Model 3: Transparency in Leadership
o Make sure your financial house is in order
o Choose competent and qualified partners
 People you trust
 People trusted by others
o Trust God enough to be honest
• Model 4: Transcendent Leadership (I don’t think he actually talked about this, I think they just put up the slide as he moved right past it)
• Model 5: Transformational Leadership
o Many of our plans fail because we lack the vision to build for future generations – need to have a “transcendency plan” – have to have something that future generations can take up when we are gone
• “Be the best leader you can be so that those who come behind you can be even greater”

Grace&Peace

Leadership Summit: Session 2

Interview with Carly Fiorina: Tough Choices
This session was an interview with Carly Fiorina, CEO of HP until her untimely firing in 2005. She wrote a book called Tough Choices (which I am really enjoying reading) after her dismissal and spoke at length with Bill about the defining moments in our leadership that make us who we are. Her thoughts on the complexities of being a woman in leadership were great!

Here are some of the notes I took during the session:

• Carly didn’t feel gifted as a child, but learned lessons from her parents that character, integrity, and authenticity were of highest priority
• Logic – the power of asking the right question
• “Nothing worthwhile happens with one person alone”
• Everybody’s afraid of something
o Many people are afraid of people who are different
o “Don’t let other people’s smaller ideas about you become reality in your life”
• Leadership is about seeing something in people that they don’t yet see in themselves…unlock their potential!
• Leadership is about “passion” and “dispassion”
o Passion – not only can motivate, but also blind
o Dispassion – ability to see the truth
• “the HP way” – begins to mean whatever people want it to mean; becomes a roadblock to change/innovation

Grace&Peace

Leadership Summit: Session 1

Bill Hybels: Vision to Die For
The opening session by Bill Hybels was packed with content, passion, and application for my ministry at Trietsch. I am always grateful for what Bill has to say about being a leader in the church, so I was looking forward to this session with much anticipation. And once again, he “brought it.”

I took so many notes on this session that I have distilled them down to a few quick points. You can see my whole set of notes here.

•We have the opportunity to write the next chapter in the history of the church
•Developing a “prayer mantra” for ministry events can go a long way to focus our efforts on what God wants rather than what we want
•God can speak thru academics, politicians, government officials, pastors so that we can grow as a leader – and I need to listen to them

•A vision that is handled by only one person (or unilaterally) will most likely fail to be owned on a deep level by those who need to buy into it most - Unless a vision is owned deeply it will most likely not be fully realized
•John 10 shows us that hired hands (who have no stake in a vision) run off when wolves appear and owners (who do have a stake in vision) protect the sheep because they know them; ownership matters – in the sheep protection business and in the vision business
Do I own the vision enough to walk against the opposition to the vision?
• How do we cast a vision that people are willing to die for? PROCESS (this scares me just a little!!) - To cast a vision without process devalues those who must own it/make it happen

Vision Formation
Sinai Approach (Exodus 3ff) – Moses gets the vision from God on Mount Sinai and brings it back to the people – how cool is this way to those who are not the leader? (answer: not very)
Team Approach
Ask: What does God want for our church to look like 5 years from now?
o This makes people search scripture
o This makes people want to talk
o This increases likelihood of ownership greatly
o This builds community and demonstrates value
o This is incredibly slow
Which approach are you going to choose?

Vision Refinement
First Draft – one that crystallizes around the table after team discussion
Subsequent Drafts – take 1st draft to small groups for “shopping” so that new insights can come and ownership increases when the vision is cast publicly
Ask: What excites, scares, needs changing in this vision?

Vision Declaration
Not best as a solo activity
Subjecting vision to team activity can create a better vision and increased ownership

Vision Leaks!
• People have real lives, jobs and vision leaks out because of those things
• Use whatever way possible to remind/recast the vision in order to refill the “vision bucket”
• Celebrate progress
• Share stories whenever you can

Would you be willing to die for the vision that God has given you to carry out in this world? Are you a hireling or an owner?

Acts 21 – Paul’s willingness to die for God’s vision
Are we, as leaders, willing to die for God’s vision? Single-most determining factor -> people will follow to the level of our ownership (they can sense when we do or do not own it) -> we must lead the way in vision ownership

Leader’s Path diagram (I will see if I can scan mine in) – where are you?

What a great way to launch Summit '07! Bill is such a powerful speaker and an excellent visionary - I could listen to him all day...but there are other sessions to hear, so I will pay attention to them too.

Grace&Peace

27 July 2007

Recent Reads

I can't say enough good things about RELEVANT Magazine because each time I pick up the latest issue or check out the website, I learn something new or I am challenged in my walk with God. In the past week or so, I have read some great articles that I wanted to share with you.

I preached on July 15 here at Trietsch and I used this article on the movie Transformers to talk about how Optimus Prime was the "messianic figure" in the movie.

I also read an article on engaging our secular culture from outside the Christian "bubble." In addition, an article called Shattering Paradigms (Part 1 and Part 2) challenged me to look at my spiritual life in new ways.

One more article to check out...this one challenges our "traditional" model of church membership as "validity of your Christianity" instead of focusing on our relationship with God and drawing upon our personal interactions with the holy One.

Grace&Peace

26 July 2007

Trietsch is Now Podcasting

I am excited to inform you that Trietsch has begun podcasting our weekend sermons on our website and via iTunes. You can check out my sermon from July 15 here or you can subscribe to our podcast here.

Take a listen and enjoy!

Grace&Peace

20 July 2007

Lessons from the Inbox

This morning at Starbucks I did not have to write a sermon for this weekend, so I decided to knock out a task that has been plaguing me for quite a while - cleaning out a cluttered inbox. I spent the better part of 3 hours sorting, filing, and deleting emails that dated back to May 2006. Now that the task is complete I feel a great sense of relief, like a burden has been lifted off my back - perhaps I can walk a little taller this afternoon because of this.

As I looked back thru 12+ months of emails, I was able to pray for some people who have touched my life and who have been touched by the ministry that I am part of. Some of the emails were strange, some were pointless, but most were meaningful in their appropriate context. So what did I learn from cleaning out my inbox...

Put things in their proper place...
My life is not always the most organized thing in the world (come see my office and you'll agree) so having a system that helps put the things I need to function in a place where I can find them quickly is essential. Also, organization is not something you can do once and forget about, you must continue to work at organization. I know that I need to spend a few minutes each day (and perhaps an hour or so a week) organizing, so that I can stay organized.

Take time to remember and reflect...
Often life flies by so fast that we can hardly take a breath as we finish one project and move to another. Taking time to remember what is important and who is important in your life will continue to give your life meaning and purpose - and it will probably keep you sane. Remember those who have touched your life recently and not so recently - tell them thanks and that you are a better person because of their contributions to their life.

When things get overwhelming, stop and pray...
It took me a year (and then some) to take the time to clean out my inbox and things were at the point where I had more messages that needed to be deleted than kept. My email was at an overwhelming point and I had to stop whatever else I was doing and focus completely on that, just to get it done. Sometimes in life we just get so caught up in keeping up with our pace of life that we run constantly. Take some time to push pause and talk with God. Talk about everything and anything that's swamping you because our God can handle our problems with ease. Prayer is our release valve when the steam of life builds pressure under the lid. If you don't open the valve and let off some steam, there's gonna be an explosion and it isn't gonna be pretty.

Anyone feeling like cleaning out their email?

Grace&Peace

19 July 2007

The 2nd Blog-iversary Arrives

Well it looks like I have been at this blogging thing for another year and I am not quite sure what to say about the past 12 months. Lots of things have changed. Lots of things are the same. And lots of changes are on the way.

Here's a snapshot of the past 12 months:
# of posts: 69 (-1 from 1st year)
# of comments: 24 (-62 from 1st year)
# of profile views: 128 (-12 from last year)
avg # of posts per month: 5.75 (-0.08 from last year)
avg # of comments per post: 0.35 (-0.88 from last year)
avg # of comments per month: 2.0 (-5.17 from last year)

I am down in all categories this year, what's up with that? It appears that my blog became less popular during its second year. Maybe I need to do some market research to figure out how to get more traffic/participation to my blog...maybe I just need to post more pics of Caitlyn and post about controversial issues...maybe.

Thanks for another year!
Grace&Peace

Offering Apologies

I know I said that I would post about our visit to The Village, but I haven't had a chance to get my thoughts on paper yet, so they are not here either. I hope that since I don't have a sermon to write for this weekend, I can get around to processing thru that church visit.

Grace&Peace

Hebrews 11:41

That verse does not actually exist in scripture, but today in Bible study we took the time to write ourselves into the "faith hall of fame" in Hebrews 11. This is what I came up with in three minutes:

"By faith Dean, responded to God's call on his life in order to love and serve the church on a daily basis. He chooses to live a life of service to the gospel in order that God would be glorified in all the earth."

What would your Hebrews 11:41 be?

Grace&Peace

09 July 2007

One out of four isn't bad...right?

I only made it to one of the four worship services that I was trying to visit this weekend. The one we went to was the 9 a.m. service at the Village. It was good, but since Matt was off for the weekend, it was not the usual experience that has brought so many people to that church in the last three years. I'll fill out the report and let my co-workers know about my visit, so once I do that I'll post here about my feelings and thoughts. I did get a few good ideas and one thing I will say is that I am glad that there are churches in our area that are using secular songs for redemptive purposes.

Grace&Peace

06 July 2007

Church Visits

I am thinking about making a few visits to other contemporary churches this weekend in order to get some broader experience in what goes on in other contemporary worship services. My weekend could look like this:

Saturday, 5:30pm - St. Andrew UMC (Saturday Night Alive)
Sunday, 9:00am - The Village Church
Sunday, 11:00am - St. Andrew UMC (The Gathering)
Sunday, 5:00pm - Bent Tree Bible Fellowship

I don't know if I will make all of these, but it would certainly be a full day of worship (and work) to accomplish it. I'll let you know what happens.

Grace&Peace

05 July 2007

Sin is Messy

Have you ever felt helplessly trapped by the weight of your own sins? Have you ever been on your knees in despair because of the realization that you cannot overcome the magnitude of your rebellion on your own? Was there ever a time when you knew that your actions were against God and you didn't have faith at all?

Sin is a tricky thing...it makes us think we are better than we are or not as bad as we really are. But the truth is that sin is an offense against God and we must deal with that with God. If we continue in our lives like we only make guilt-free mistakes instead of guilt-full sins, then we will never acknowledge our need for someone (us or someone else) to pay the penalty for those sins. And if we don't acknowledge the fact that we cannot pay the price our sins require, then we will never reach out to Jesus - the one who has paid the price for our sins.

I think Christians often go thru life thinking that the faith of their families is enough, but they never make the realization that owning our sins and dealing with them thru the blood of Jesus is the only way to make the faith of our family personal. As George Whitefield said, "We must be convinced of the weight of our original sin, our actual sins, our sin of self-righteousness, and the sin of unbelief before we can speak peace to our souls."

I hope this made sense because I am sort of combining my reflections on several sermons I have heard recently - as well as things going on in my own life. If you have not yet been fully convinced of the weight of your sins and your inability to free yourself from them, I would love to talk with you more.

Grace&Peace

04 July 2007

The US is another year older today. I wonder if the forefathers are proud of what we have done with the country they fought so hard to free from the tyranny of England? I wonder if the ideals set forth in our country's foundational documents have gone by the wayside or if we are continuing to work toward them? I wonder if we as human beings have really made all that much progress in the quest for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

Not sure about America, but I still hold out hope for humanity because we were created by a God that loves us enough to reach out into the mess of our lives and bring us back into relationship with him. Our life pursuits are changed from wealth, status, and possessions to full connection with creation, restored relationship with our Creator, and loving like our Savior.

On this 231st anniversary of the formation of the United States, let us reflect on our true freedom in Christ and how we can bring that freedom to all who need it - spiritually, emotionally, physically, or economically.

Grace&Peace

29 June 2007

VBS Reflections

Last year I ranted and ranted about the curriculum that our VBS Team picked for our church, but this year I must say that the obvious "baptist-slant" in the curriculum is missing. I credit that to selecting a curriculum produced by a publisher that is not directly affiliated with one particular denomination and to the fact that our VBS Leaders go out of their way to tailor the materials to fit our church.

On that note, I continue to wonder what the VBS Team would need to do in order to produce its own curriculum for our church (and others) to use? If they invest as much time in re-writing the materials as they would in writing their own, we could have a unique curriculum, rather than the same one that almost every other church in the area is using. Just a thought.

Grace&Peace

22 June 2007

They say it's my birthday...

Nah nah nah nah nah nah nah....
Gonna have a good time...
Nah nah nah nah nah nah nah....
They say it's my birthday...
Nah nah nah nah nah nah nah....
Well it's my birthday too yeah!
Nah nah nah nah nah nah nah....

Ok, enough of that. I am 29 today.

Grace&Peace

05 June 2007

Wireless ROCKS!

I just want to say that wireless internet access on my new laptop is REALLY COOL! I can now go to Starbucks and work on email and documents that were previously only available on my desktop in my office. I like the fact that I can work on sermons, blog, or AIM from almost anywhere. Fun stuff!

Grace&Peace

Annual Conference - Day 3

My friend Doug Fox just gave his address to the body of the Annual Conference because he is being ordained this evening. He told us, "As an engineer he guided people to the stars, but as a pastor he guides people to the creator of the stars." He told us, "As an engineer he learned to blast rockets into the heavens, but as a pastor he blasts people into heaven."

I thank God for Doug's ministry and I am glad to call him a friend.

Grace&Peace

03 June 2007

Annunal Conference - Day 1

Sunday, June 3, 2007: Clergy Session and Opening Worship
On Sunday afternoon I attended the Clergy Session for this year's Annual Conference where several friends of mine were elected to probationary membership in our conference and one other was elected to full membership and ordination in our conference.

I went to dinner with a few colleauges and had a great conversation about the future of ministry in the UMC - with a special emphasis on attracting younger clergy to Methodism. The guys who I ate dinner with shared several different strategies on how to move forward in this area, but we are still struggling on how to move such a large body of people in new directions when we only meet as a whole body once every four years.

At opening worship there were 95 PT interns commissioned for this summer's program. They then helped to serve communion to the almost 2500 people in attendance. It was very cool to see all those college students who are giving their summer to serve the underserved here in Dallas. I pray that Trietsch can lift up a few interns next summer to serve with PT in 2008.

Grace&Peace

31 May 2007

Last Day of May

On this final day of the month I thought I would let you all know that I have not fallen off the face of the planet, nor have I been hiding in a hole all month. This month has been particularly busy for me and June is not looking very slow either.

Coming up...
Next week, June 3-6, is the North Texas Annual Conference in Plano, so I will be out of the office until Thursday of next week. Call my cell phone if you need to get in touch with me. Hopefully I will have my laptop up and running for the option of blogging/emails during the parts of Conference that drag...or when something exciting is happening on the floor.

Also, I found out a few weeks ago that because I am not a full member of the AC, I don't get to vote on clergy delegates for General Conference. Bummer! Oh well, I will still try and see who is running and get to know them a bit better.

My birthday is coming up in a few weeks and my parents will be here to celebrate Father's Day and my 29th at once.

In other news, I will be preaching here at Trietsch during the 9:30 contemporary service during the whole month of June. Jim and I are collaborating on a series of messages dealing with the issues of conflict, criticism, and complaining using Paul's letter to the Ephesians as our biblical basis.

Preaching last weekend went GREAT and I can't wait to do it again during June and July (when Jim is on vacation).

OK, now I can successfully say that I posted this month.

Grace&Peace

30 April 2007

Kids at Night

Deb and I just put Caitlyn down for the night and eventho we didn't talk about it prior to her going down, we both commented on how much we like watching her falling asleep.

It is quite interesting that her sleep resonates out from her core. As she falls asleep the first thing that stops moving is her legs, then her feet, and then her toes. On the upper half the first thing to stop moving is her arms, then her hands, and then her fingers. When all of those are quiet, she closes her eyes, sucks her fingers, and then her breathing gets deeper and deeper as she drifts off to dreamland.

Kids are awesome! Even when the go "jekyll and hyde" on you as you try to get them in and out of the bath and in to their PJs. I highly recommend having a few kids in your life, but be sure to wait until the time is right.

Grace&Peace
Tony posted this a while ago, but I just read it this afternoon. I must say that it felt like he was writing that just for me.

Grace&Peace

Undignified Worship

2 Samuel 6.22a says:
I will become even more undignified than this, I will be humiliated in my own eyes. (TNIV)

David was dancing for joy as he brought the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem. David was so passionate about God's presence returning to his hometown, that he was willing to humiliate himself - and he didn't care! He was willing to praise God without a thought to self-consciousness. He love to praise, sing, and dance so much that he not only didn't care what he looked like, he didn't care who saw him or what they thought of his dancing. David was willing to be 'even more undignified' in order to praise God with all his heart.

How often to we as Christians reign in our enthusiasm for Jesus? How often are we afraid to speak, sing, or scream for Jesus? Why do we cower to the 'standard of decent behavior' in order to fit in or not stand out? When we have such a great message to proclaim, why do we keep our mouths shut and our praise 'dignified'?

I want to be like David. I want to be so unashamed of what God has done for me that I am willing to embarrass myself for the sake of the gospel!

Jesus, you lived a life that changed so many people. Help me to express the depth of change in my life with worship that honors you and humiliates me. Amen.

Thank you God, for bringing this passage before me in light of the conversation that Kris, Alan, and I had yesterday!

Grace&Peace

29 April 2007

Sunday Reflections

Update: After some very exciting proposals from Jim, this rant is no longer necessary. Isn't it cool how God makes things fall into place? More on that later.

Grace&Peace

The Notebook

I may have to reclaim my title of "token woman" (don't ask) after writing this, but I just have to say that Deb and I watched "The Notebook" for the first time last night and it was a good movie. I was drawn into the story and I wanted the main characters to work out in the end. I know, I know...it's a chick flick, but it was a good story and I am always up for a good story.

Ok, I think I will post about the NFL draft or something like that tomorrow...

Grace&Peace

27 April 2007

Perry's Passion

I just read this post from Perry Noble and I felt that I must share it with you. His passion for those who don't know Jesus is so obvious.

God, I pray that you continue to stoke the passion your Spirit has lit inside Perry. I pray that you continue to work thru him as he reaches out to the people of Anderson, SC. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Grace&Peace

25 April 2007

Lunches That Make You Go Wow

Today I had lunch with a member of our church and I was reminded of the amazing way that God brings people into our lives in order to make his plans work.

I went to the restaurant thinking that I was meeting a woman, but it turned out that Kerry is a dual-gender name (I should have known that, but it didn't click for some reason). So I had lunch with Kerry and found out that he used to be a pastor in the Baptist church, but through a series of events, left the pastorate, left the Baptist church, and joined our UM church (interesting story).

So we were talking about him becoming part of our Missions Committee and what he could bring to the table. About halfway through his story, it became clear to me that he had at least three undeniable things to offer our Team:

1) Love for the Church
2) Passion for those outside the Church
3) Leadership thinking (another 30,000-ft thinker!)

Our conversation went great and he is going to pray about joining our efforts. I walked away from the meeting reflecting on one thing: he had called his wife before meeting with me and told her that he was going to have lunch with me just to get to know me better, but he wasn't all that interested in being on the Team, but he told me that by the end of our lunch he was very excited about the possibility of serving on the Team to set direction and leadership for the Missions here at Trietsch. Praise God!

Grace&Peace

24 April 2007

Recon Work Today

I was invited to go down and visit with the worship staffs of Highland Park UMC today and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting with them and touring the facility. Paul Rasmussen (a buddy of mine) leads their Cornerstone service and I can only say that he has done a phenomenal job of growing that community into a vibrant body of Christ followers.

I pray that I can have the opportunity to preach in a contemporary setting where, as the pastor for that worshipping community, I get free reign to make it whatever the community wants it to be.

Thanks HP for raising the bar on excellence in worship!

Grace&Peace

23 April 2007

Quick Commentary on some UM Polity

As part of the structure of the United Methodist system, every four years Methodists from across the globe elect delegates (both lay and clergy) to attend General Conference. The next GC will be in Ft. Worth, TX in May 2008. During the year prior to GC, candidates who wish to be elected to GC "campaign" for their election, speak to various groups on different issues, and do some general "shakin' hands and kissin' babies" in an attempt to garner support.

In that light, I read two articles this morning about proposals for changing the way delegates are elected to GC. One of them (scroll to page 4) was written by a pastor that I used to work for and the other was written by I guy I have never met. I ask you to read both of them before continuing on with my comments as my thoughts will probably only make sense in light of what the authors said.

Gary (my former boss) acknowledges the politicizing of the elections, but is "convinced that the political process is the best way for those of us who are sinful creatures to order our collective life." He offers six suggestions for 'new ways' of approaching the elections held each quadrennium. His suggestions (posed as questions) made me stop and think about what I will be participating in (as a voting member of the Annual Conference) this June. I especially appreciate ways #1, 2, and 6 because they lead each voter to ask critical questions that supercede personal agendas, seek to dialogue with those who hold opposing view points (for growth and deeper understanding, not conflict), and personal responsibility for each vote we cast. He closes with this thought:
If, when all is said and done, we actually are willing to do things in a new way, I think we will be delighted at the outstanding leaders of different ages, theological perspectives, genders and places of ministry who emerge. Even more importantly, we will be amazed at the difference it makes in the United Methodist Church as we live out our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ.


Eric (never met him) believes that the whole electoral system is in desperate need of repair. He says, "The present system of electing delegates to our General Conferences has degenerated to the point that little distinguishes it from the political processes in secular society." He further believes that some candidates are saying whatever they need to say to curry favor with whatever audience with which they are speaking. His proposal for reform includes asking each voter to consider two questions: 1)"What is my stake in this election?" and 2)"What would God call our denomination to do, and what leadership skills will it take to achieve it?" He further proposes that any candidate for GC have a proven track record of leadership ability in their local church. He closes his article by saying, "By achieving unity in doing, maybe we can find a renewed unity and purpose in being the Body of Christ."

Here are some of my thoughts...
I tend to agree that the political nature of our electoral system can lead to manipulation and lower-functioning as a whole denomination. From what I have heard about the electoral process, it is more about who has the most friends (or who is most charismatic or appealing) that gets elected, rather than the person who is going to speak for the whole church on important issues in our denomination.

I am going to do whatever it takes to inform myself about each candidate for GC because I feel that that is the only way that I can vote responsibly and in a God-honoring way. I know that it will be hard, but I am willing to have difficult conversations with people who differ from me theological, socially, racially, and ethnically in order to understand them better. I really feel that I must honor my calling to ministry by conducting myself in that manner.

I hope that others will follow suit, but if not, at least I will have done my best. I look forward to blogging about the whole process in June...perhaps even while it is going on (if the laptop is up and running).

What are your thoughts?

Grace&Peace