27 December 2008

Christmas Break

Just wanted all of you to know that I will be not be blogging during the next two weeks (12/25/08-1/5/09) since Deb, Caitlyn and I will be traveling to see our families for the holidays. I'll post some notes about our trips when I return. "See" you in January!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

05 December 2008

Have you ever had the feeling that you haven't had an original thought in months? That you have just been riding the wave of someone else's creativity and passion? That you just don't know where your next good idea is going to come from?

I'm getting close to being there and I don't like it. Am I getting MCD?

04 December 2008

Looking Forward to "Lasting"

I got my copy of Lasting Impressions yesterday and I can't wait to dive in! Thanks Mark!

03 December 2008

When Money Isn't the Most Important Thing

After Charge Conference last night I needed the morning off - so I took it. When I got back to the office and began to sort through a stack of mail and file through a bunch of emails, one email in particular caught my attention.

It was from my Music Director and it was a link to this story about personal accounting and asking the question: "Who's in charge of my future: my God or my money?"

The author, Shannon Vowell, made some very thought-provoking statements and I wanted to share my thoughts on some of them here.

Are we depending on our money to give us our sense of safety or are we keeping our eyes on Christ? In today’s financial climate, do we instinctively hold so tightly to whatever assets we’ve got left that we assure we cannot take hold of the outstretched hands of Jesus?

In light of the conversations around money last night I wonder if this is a question that more people need to wrestle to the ground before speaking about how much they trust God. If we depend on our money to be our security for the future, then I believe we have missed the point of faith altogether. If we fail to trust God with our future in the midst of economic uncertainties, when will we trust God? If we hold tight to that which we can see and bypass that which we cannot, are we not then idolizing money and ignoring God? Indeed, there is no room for Jesus' hands when we are tightly grasping our net worth instead of our Great Provider.

Jesus’ words to the rich young ruler [in Luke 18:22-25] suggest that for Christians, the real issue isn’t money even when it’s money that we’re talking about. The real issue is faith and focus.

When the church budget is tabulated, the members of the Finance Committee are responsible for making sure there is a way to fund that budget - either through tithes and offerings, rentals and fees, or non-donor sources - so the tendency is to begin to think about dollars and cents instead of ministry and mission. When it comes down to the bottom line, there needs to be money to fund ministries in the church, but the money is not really the crucial issue. I believe that when the God-appointed leaders of a church search God's wisdom for the direction of the church and compellingly cast that vision to the whole congregation, then the resources will follow. I believe that when God's people get on board with what God is doing in a local church, the blessings are endless and the money shows up in buckets.


Just a Recap of the Day

Today was a good day! I enjoyed a morning off (after Charge Conference last night) and got to head over to the Wichita Falls Public Library for storytime. This is the first time that I have been able to go with Deb and Caitlyn (who go every week) to the downtown "hot spot" for a few stories and a puppet show.

After storytime, we went to lunch over at McDonald's where I was very pleased to discover that the McRib is back! I am continually amazed at how social Caitlyn is - mostly because I have to know someone for a while before I start opening up to them. She has a number of friends whom she's met just by attending storytime on Wednesday mornings or by having lunch at McDonald's. I watched her play with another girl in PlayPlace until we had to leave. Caitlyn would call out this girl's name and invite her to stay with her in the little tube climber - it was just amazing. She has not worked up enough courage to climb all the way to the top of PlayPlace (where the slide resides), but I know she will get there soon.

After lunch Deb dropped me off at the office and I have been here ever since. Nothing terribly insightful in this post, but I must say that a morning away from the office helped heal my parched soul.

Love you girls!

I'm Back!

Now that my ordination paperwork and Charge Conference are behind me, I can get back to a regular blogging schedule. I am also looking forward to catching up on some blogs that have started to pile up posts in Bloglines - especially this one, this one, and this one.

Thanks for being patient!

23 November 2008

Quick Apology

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. I am swamped with ordination paperwork, Charge Conference paperwork, and bringing on two new staff members. I promise to begin regular posts again on December 3rd.

05 November 2008

Are You Afraid of Being Amazing?

When I pre-ordered Mad Church Disease I had no idea that it would send shivers down my spine three months before Amazon.com shipped it to my office.

I downloaded a free chapter from MCD last month, but I didn't read it right away. In fact, I didn't read it until Tuesday morning at about 1:30am. The chapter, as a whole, is amazing and it really got me pumped for February when I can read the whole book!

As I was reading about "Processing Through Pain," Anne quoted Penelope Trunk as saying, "People are afraid of being amazing." (173) This statement leapt off the page at me, hit me square in the jaw, and then came back around and punched me in the nose!

I can't tell you how many times I have been afraid to be amazing. I don't even want to think about the missed opportunities in my life because I didn't want to "shine too much" or "stand out from the crowd." It makes me sick just thinking about it.

Penelope's statement brought up two questions:
1) Why are we so afraid of being amazing?
2) What would happen if we all unleashed the amazing-ness we have inside?

I believe that I have been afraid to be amazing because I have not wanted other people to feel bad about themselves in areas of ministry or life that I naturally excelled in. Even deeper, I think that I have also been reluctant to invest extra effort in some areas of ministry because I knew that the extra effort would move me beyond ordinary to extraordinary. Kinda self-defeating, huh?

If we truly unleashed the amazing-ness we have hard-wired into us from our Creator, we would tear down the walls of injustice, rid the world of life-threatening diseases, and bring "up there, down here" (as Mark Beeson likes to say). It would be awesome!

Are you afraid of being amazing? Why?

04 November 2008

Delivering on a Promise - Part 2

Continuing from earlier...

Key Learning #2: Sometimes we may need to create additional ministry opportunities when we are running short on volunteers.
  • As counter-intuitive as this may sound at first read, think about this. Is the role we are trying to fill too complex or time-intensive? Is the role we are trying to fill able to be taken on by someone with a full-time job, family, and possibly other community involvement? If yes, then try "chunking it" into smaller pieces.
  • By breaking up a ministry job description into two or even three smaller pieces, you may find that you have more than enough volunteers to fill those smaller roles when you could not find anyone willing to take on the whole enchilada.
  • Therefore, if you currently have 20 volunteer slots to fill and 15 people have already accepted the invitation to serve with you, but you just can't seem to get the last five filled. Perhaps you need to break the last five opportunities into 10 or 12 opportunities in order to make the ministry opportunities more manageable for people who could not commit to your previous job descriptions.
  • BTW, a great by-product of this method of "chunking" is more people serving in the church! And isn't that what ministry leaders should be doing anyway?

Ok, those are my top learnings! I know that KarlaR has some thoughts she would like to share, so maybe she will agree to guest blog later this week!

Delivering on a Promise - Part 1

I promised to post about my two key learnings from our Road Trip to Garland to sit at the feet of the Granger crew, so here I go!

Key Learning #1: Deleting certain words from our vocabulary will have profound effects on our ability to bring new people into ministry at University.
  • We must stop using the word "recruit" and start using the word "invite" when looking for new volunteers for ministry opportunities. The Armed Forces recruits, the Church invites. We are not looking for a bunch of people to sign up to give their lives away in exchange for a steady job and a paycheck. No, we are looking for a bunch of people to give their lives away in service to the kingdom of God in addition to their steady job and paycheck.
  • There are people in our church whom you already know that you could "tap" into service with a simple personal invitation. This practice of "shoulder-tapping" could double our current volunteer base within a year if everyone invited one new person into a ministry opportunity at our church.
  • We must stop using the word "help" - as in "We need help in the 3rd grade Sunday School room or there will be 8-year-olds running around the building recklessly!" These kinds of pleas for help result in minimal volunteer turnout, because (let's face it!) no one wants to jump on board a sinking ship. Using "help" to try and bring new people into your ministry often motivates people to serve for the wrong reasons - i.e. guilt, duty, obligation, etc.
  • As an alternative to "help," try to paint a picture of the opportunities available for people to serve using their God-given spiritual gifts. Using this approach generally begins to get people to think about what they can offer to the church with what they already possess - be that a love for children, a passion for the arts, or financial savvy.

More later!

23 October 2008

Road Trip!

I am taking a team to this event today. I am so excited that there are SIX of us going - 2 staff and 4 church members!!

It should be a great day of learning and fun. We should be full of energy and ideas when we get back this evening.

Watch out University!

20 October 2008

Great Resources on the Cheap

I just found out that the book mentioned here is available for $.95 on iTunes - that's 95 cents! I am downloading it right now and I can't wait to listen to it. (Thanks Ben and Chris!)

Also, I just pre-ordered this book from Amazon - can't wait!

Sunday Reflections

Yesterday I preached my first stewardship sermon at University UMC. I was up late on Saturday night trying to get it just right because I wanted to make sure that I said the right things so that the people who heard it would be inspired to give.

When I went to bed that night I tossed and turned for quite a while - until I realized that I was not going to get any sleep until I prayed for God to show up in my preaching the following morning. Once I did that I was able to rest.

My morning routine led me to my office to make final preparations for worship where I ended up praying for the people of University UMC instead of myself that morning. I wanted them to hear God's call to be generous with their lives - their whole lives, including their finances.

You can hear what happened here.

Earlier today I was out running an errand for the church and I got back to the church just as a member was getting into her car to leave. I stopped her to ask about something completely unrelated to Sunday morning, but she mentioned that because of what was said on Sunday, she and her husband were going to double what they were planning to give to the church for 2009. Double!

Now I know better than to think that I had anything to do with their response to God's call, but I also know that if I had tried to "soft-sell" stewardship this year, they would not have stepped out in faith like that.

I am truly humbled every time God chooses to use a broken vessel like me to move the kingdom ball down the field just a little more.

God is good!

15 October 2008

That's a Leader of a Different Color!

Craig Groeschel has discovered that there are different kinds of leaders leading organizations. Each of them have skills that make them successful, but each of them have gifts that tend to fall into one of four categories (defined by Craig here).

The first category is relational leaders.
The second category is visionary leaders.
The third category is administrative leaders.
The fourth category is innovative leaders.

Each of these leaders have their strengths and weaknesses (detailed above) that they (and their organizations) must deal with.

What kind of leader is needed in the church?
What kind of leader does University have?
What strengths and weaknesses does that create?

14 October 2008

Check These Out

If you're looking for some surf-worthy blogs, check out these posts:

Ben Arment has the right attitude: I want to lead a church not fearing mistakes, but boldly pushing into the future with audacity!

Tim Stevens breaks down Seth Godin's Catalyst talk: I wonder if University is a tribe? I wonder if we are more like a crowd or a tribe?

Mark Batterson adds three more to the list of Bible translations: Which one do you use? How are you going to make that translation a reality?

What the Church Can Learn From Carpet

In this month’s issue of Fast Company, one of the articles looks at the increased attention that designers are placing on following patterns found in nature – the term for this design process is biomimicry. Biomimicry is “about taking the genius of the natural world and learning something from it,” says Janine Benyus, who coined the term in 1997.

The article (“Truly Intelligent Design” by Kate Rockwood) features a series of photographs of natural elements (flowers, woodpeckers, and butterflies) paired with the products that were designed after them (centrifugal pump, ice axe, and a bicycle helmet, respectively). One of the photographs and the caption accompanying it caught my attention for its genius in design and for its application for the church.

Entropy Carpet by Interface designed their floor coverings based on the natural variances found in a wheat field. The product’s designer, David Oakley, states, “It’s only in our synthetic world that we want perfection – one shade, no blemishes. If we can’t match a carpet’s color exactly we call it a defect. Nature doesn’t work that way.” Rockwood goes on to say, “Like fallen leaves, riverbed stones, or a field of wildflowers, each Entropy carpet tile is distinct and varied, yet when laid together, they blend into a cohesive pattern. Because Entropy can use multiple dye lots and be set in any direction, there’s less waste during the production and installation process.”

When I read that caption I immediately thought of the church, specifically our church. We are not perfect. We are not all exactly alike. But that does not mean that we are called “defective” or “worthless.” Indeed, “nature doesn’t work that way.” Much like fields of wheat or fall leaves or the stones surrounding a waterfall, each of us are unique in our giftedness and our abilities. Each of us has something to contribute to the whole of what makes up the people of University UMC. And without each of our individual contributions, the whole is somehow less than it could be (or should be).

Entropy carpet tiles were designed to fit together in multiple ways. They were designed to give freedom to the end user. They were also designed to reflect the beauty of their natural inspiration. The people in the church were designed to fit together in multiple ways. We were designed to produce freedom and creativity as we use God’s gifts. We were also designed to reflect the beauty of our Creator.

Therefore, I pray that we can all see how each one of us brings something special to the church and how each one of us reflects the graciousness of our Creator. As you continue to consider the question, “What percentage of my income is God calling me to give?” I pray that you see how vital we all are to the continued work of Christ in this world. May you see how the variations and nuances of personality and giftedness create a beautiful tapestry that works together as God intended.(photograph by Jonathan Kantor)

04 October 2008

Catalyst Backstage

I sure wish I could go to Catalyst this year, but I am choosing to be a responsible dad and husband - so I will be here in WF for Caitlyn's 3rd birthday party that weekend.

Since I can't go, I will be following the happenings on Catalyst backstage (see widget in right-hand sidebar) and seeing how my new friend Anne Jackson is getting along during the highly anticipated 3 day event.

If you want to follow the Catalyst adventure, just click the link and join the fun!

01 October 2008

Asking the Wrong Question

Over the past few weeks I have really been struggling with being content at the rate of change happening around University. I have beat myself up over the fact that attendance is up, positive energy is up, attitudes are up, but giving is still lagging behind.

Over the course of these past weeks I have had several conversations where I bounced my frustration and/or confusion off of colleagues. Each time a helpful image rose up from that conversation. The first was the image of a crock pot. The second was the image of an aircraft carrier. Those images helped me to see that change - whether cooked food or turning several thousand tons of steel - takes a long time. I think I will reflect more on both of those images in some later posts.

Then today I was reading Brian McLaren's book, A New Kind of Christian, and he had this to say in the introduction:
When you're on a really long voyage, you have to get beyond asking, "Are we there yet?" and instead start asking, "Are we making progress?" ... The fact is, whatever a new kind of Christian will be, no one is one yet. At this point, we're more like caterpillars cocooning than butterflies in flight. But every transformation has to start somewhere. The sooner we start, the better. (xviii, emphasis mine)
Needless to say, I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized that I have been asking the wrong question of my congregation. I have been making them answer, "Are we there yet?" when I should have been helping them answer, "Are we making progress?" I literally sat stunned for a few moments before reading on.

When I came to I realized that in order for me to maintain my sanity in leading this church revitalization effort, I need to start asking the right questions - questions that will help the church move the ball down the field, questions that will keep the congregation motivated when things move slowly, questions that will help us mark the progress we are making instead of wallowing in the fact that we aren't "there" yet.

Are we making progress?

16 September 2008

Church Revitalization Effort - Part 2

Sorry for my absence from this line of dialogue recently. I hope to get out the rest of my thoughts on this subject over the next two weeks - so bear with me!

I talked about the weekend worship service as the first priority in a church revitalization effort before, so now I want to move on to the second piece of the puzzle - adult small groups.

There is no doubt in my mind that the weekend provides the largest "funnel" for people to get introduced to the church, but if there is nothing that the church is offering past that first "funnel," then guests and visitors who are here to check out the church will quickly exit out the door they entered because there is nothing keeping them there.

That is where adult small groups come into play. These groups of 10-12 people should be designed around several different approaches to formation. However, each approach must be intentional in nature for them to succeed.

The first approach is affinity. Find people within the worshiping community that have similar interests - like camping or quilting or reading. Gather those people together under the direction of a trained small group leader and let them use their affinity to draw them into deeper relationships with one another and with Christ.

The second approach is location. Group people together who live within the same neighborhood or on the same side of town. Gather these folks together - again, under the leadership of a trained small group facilitator - and have them begin to live life deeply with one another.

A third approach involves service. I truly believe that an usher team can function as a small group if given appropriate directions. I also believe this can work with Sunday School teachers, money counters, and communion set-up folks. If an element of study and prayer is added to their weekly routine and responsibility, then any service group within the church can function as a small group without too much hassle.

A final approach involves study. I know that many Bible studies are touted to be "short-term" commitments, but even a study that only meets for 4-6 weeks can still function as a small group during that time. This is true because when a group of people make a decision to meet together, study a particular topic or biblical book, and pray for one another, you have the makings for a great small group experience. This even holds true for longer studies like Disciple Bible Study - which asks for a 9 month commitment. I believe that this also holds true for Sunday School classes because what should those long-term learning environments do for your soul, but grow it in the context of deep and meaningful relationships.

Using these approaches - and any other successful methods out there - can begin to turn the culture of the church from a church with small groups to a church of small groups. And that is the key to long-term sustainability. If the leadership of the church (and thus the rest of the congregation) sees small groups as "one more thing the church does" then the church will never truly reach its redemptive potential for the kingdom of God.

How can University UMC begin to implement adult small groups into the life of the church? Who is ready to champion the efforts to do so?

15 September 2008

Thinking About My First Time (at Rotary)

Recently I attended my first Rotary lunch with my buddy AndyK. As I sat in the meeting eating lunch at a familiar restaurant, I began to notice that my experience in that particular moment was eerily similar to a non-Christians' first experience in a church. So I jotted a few of them down and thought I would share them with you.
  1. I went with an old (no reflection on his age), trusted friend - AndyK
  2. We sang a familiar song
  3. I was not sure when to sit or stand
  4. I was introduced to new acquaintances - Mike and Ron
  5. I listened to a speaker who talked about a topic that was relevant to the daily lives of the listeners (and me too!)
  6. I found out what the membership requirements are

Attending that Rotary lunch helped me to have a greater understanding for what unchurched people go thru when they come to church for the first time. The feelings of uneasiness, nervousness, asking questions of relevance, etc.

I have a better feel for what new people feel when they venture onto our campus - and now may be better equipped to give them what they need and meet them where they are.

This experience was greatly helpful because I grew up in the church. I know nothing else other than church. So for me to have an uncomfortable experience similar to someone who might come into my church is a great asset for me to have. Thanks AndyK!

03 September 2008

Caitlyn Starts Preschool

Caitlyn started preschool yesterday, so Deb and I took some pictures to commemorate the event. She looked so small with her new backpack on, but she also looked so grown up. She has come a long way since her entry into the world.

I am now going to find place to cry. Excuse me please.

My Ruining

I am ruined for church as usual.

I can not stand Christians who just want to repeat the past instead of creating the future.

I am ruined.

I want no part of comfortable, complacent church.

I want no part of stoic, musty, stale church where comfort is king and eyes are fixed on the past.

I am ruined.

What ruins you?

25 August 2008

Reflections on a "Well-Oiled Machine"

Scores of people receiving much needed hydration…hundreds of tired faces beaming with excitement at the prospect of a chocolate-chip cookie…exhausted bodies flopping onto pop-up cots to rest in the breeze of giant fans. Scenes from last weekend’s Hotter’N Hell 100 or a picture of the church functioning as Christ has called us?

As I watched the 60+ volunteers at Rest Stop #9 move with the precision of a single purpose I wondered how big the smile on God’s face would be if the Church could embrace that philosophy of ministry – do whatever it takes to bring people who are far from God into a relationship with him.

On Sunday I mentioned that Rest Stop #9 received two separate “Let’s hear it for the volunteers!” from the riders during our busiest time of the day, with one being followed up by a round of applause from the weary travelers! We were not out there to receive thanks or praise for giving of our time – we were there to help those riders meet the goal they set out to accomplish. We were there to help them along in their journey. We only wanted to give them what they needed so that they could get back on their bike and pedal for another 18 miles.

How does the Church help people finish their race? How can the Church be better supplied for the points in between the beginning and the end of the race? Do we have the supplies necessary to get people from mile 82 to the finish line?

What can we learn from this phenomenal community-wide event? How can we apply the principles employed to keep bikers hydrated and ready to race to moving people across the line of faith and then on to be fully devoted followers of Christ?

Thoughts? Comments?

23 August 2008

What a Day!

I had a great time today working at Rest Stop #9 during the Hotter'N Hell 100. I think I learned a few things about being a more effective church by taking a step back and watching what was really going on today. More on that this week!

Thanks to Kyle, Sam, Heather, Jan, Katherine, Henry, Peggy, Bryle, JoAnn, Warren, Pam, Leslie, and Stephanie!!

21 August 2008

My Bible Journey

For the past few years I have been using a Bible-reading system to help me read thru the Bible each year. Sometimes I have been more sporadic than consistent, but as I enter into the next season of ministry here at University, I know I need to lead with my heart and soul buried deep in scripture.

This morning I was reading and reflecting on several passages and I wanted to share a few that just leaped off the page for me.

Jeremiah 21.2, perhaps God will work wonders here too!
Jeremiah 21.8-9, make a choice
Jeremiah 24.7, I want a heart like this
Jeremiah 27.11, seems counter-intuitive, but who am I to question God

Psalm 118.6, AMEN!
Psalm 118.22-23, Jesus is very much a part of the Old Testament
Psalm 118.28, Yes, Lord!

1 John 2.2, Jesus is our atoning sacrifice and our advocate
1 John 2.3-6, words to memorize and live by
1 John 2.9-11, are you mad at someone right now?
1 John 2.17, The world passes away, but those who do God's will live forever - I want to be part of that!

Needed This Today

This gives me energy to move on toward Sunday!

20 August 2008

Crazy Ones

Gotta love this simple yet profound message. I want to be a "crazy one" for Jesus and his church!

Thanks Tim!

19 August 2008

Church Revitalization Effort - Part 1

I am of the opinion that the first push of intentional effort for any church in a revitalization situation must be toward the weekend worship experience.

Sunday morning (or Saturday night or Sunday night) is the time where the most guests, visitors, and/or church shoppers will show up on our campus - so we must be prepared and ready for their arrival.

No exceptions.

Not even holidays.

Not even rainy days.

If any local church wants to revitalize its ministry, the first place to start is taking a hard look at what happens when the body of Christ gathers together in one place. This is essential to finding the right path to take for the future of the church.

Unfortunately, this is where many "sacred cows" lay in waiting for some new preacher (or worship leader or lay leader with good intentions) so that they can thwart any attempts to do something new [read: different]. The weekend service is often steeped in "traditions" (whether an organ plays each weekend or not) to the point that any efforts to bring in new styles of worship or genres of music are snuffed out rather quickly.

It happens. I've seen it.

It's ugly.

Every time.

Really ugly.


University currently has a "blended service" on Sunday morning that utilizes the organ, piano, and a choir pretty much every week. We also sing praise choruses occasionally during the service, but generally the music falls under the [inadequate] description of "traditional."

I have had a number of conversations about utilizing new styles of music and/or instrumentations for our worship service. Each time those conversations were positive and I believe we will begin to integrate some new [read: not "what we've always done"] music styles/genres into our morning worship service.

So, do we need to begin a new worship service that is totally "contemporary" (again, an inadequate descriptor)?


Do we need to change what we offer now into a "contemporary" service?


Do we need to take a penetrating look at what we currently offer in order to maximize our effectiveness?


Thoughts? Comments? Questions?

16 August 2008

The It List

OK, I'm sure you are all just dying to find out what my answer to Craig's question is. I must admit that I had to come up with two sets of answers - one for church planting and one for church revitalization.

So here goes:

For a Church Plant:
1) weekend worship experience
2) children's ministry
3) student ministry
4) small groups
5) missions

For a Church Revitalization effort:
1) weekend worship experience
2) small groups
3) children's ministry
4) student ministry
5) missions (with emphasis on local community involvement)

I know, I know. The lists are almost identical - in fact, the "church plant" list matches exactly with what Craig said. There is good reason for that - I think Craig is on to something. Let me explain...

To start a new church or to revitalize an existing one, there must be intentionality in everything. There must be focus. And there must be alignment.

The whole church (or group of people looking to start a church) must be gathered around a single unifying vision in order for the group to continue to move forward. It seems to me that churches who fail to rally around a central focal point/vision/mission fail to have the ability to move in the same direction over a long period of time.

I am in the midst of what I would call a church revitalization effort (i.e. I would use the second list) and I know that my work is cut out for me in every area that I listed.

For now, I will leave the church plant list behind. Next week I will share my thoughts about what University may need to do in response to the second list.

15 August 2008

Still Thinking About It

I'm still thinking about Craig's question. Unfortunately, not many answers yet.

If you were going to start a church from the ground up, what would your top five essentials be? What would be the five things that you would want to have your church focus on? What five ministries would be "make or break" for you?

Craig answers with: weekend worship experience, children's ministry, student ministry, small groups, and missions.

I'll share my answers tomorrow.

What do you think?

13 August 2008

Can't Get This Outta My Head

I have been thinking quite a bit over the past few days about Craig's thoughts on his new book, It. There is one in particular that I cannot seem to get out of my head.

What are you doing that you need to stop doing?

I have spent several hours over the past two days thinking about that question. I have wondered if the church I lead is doing the right things. I have wondered if my life consists of the right things. I just keep wondering...

I am now listening to the "Going Deeper" interview CD with Craig to further fuel these internal discussions. I am grateful to spend the time thinking and reflecting on these issues (as the leader, this is my job), but I am not yet able to pinpoint a solution.

I need to go pray and read my Bible some more...

11 August 2008

Leadership Summit 08 Thoughts

This past Thursday and Friday I attended the Leadership Summit, hosted by Willow Creek Community Church (Chicago area) and broadcast via satellite to over 140 cities across North America. I spent those two days soaking up leadership insights from great church, non-profit, and business leaders. I look forward to this event every year (as this was my fourth time to go) and I can’t wait to share the experience with the rest of the staff next August!

I took a ton of notes and brought back a stack of resources, but I wanted to share just a few quick insights from the two-day event with you.

Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek, on “The High Drama of Decision Making”
• Leadership’s highest usage is to advance the kingdom of God
• Get the right people around the table

Gary Haugen, President and CEO of International Justice Mission, on “Just Courage: Charging the Darkness”
• If you want your leadership to matter then lead in the things that matter to God

Wendy Kopp, CEO and Founder of Teach for America, on “Stand Up and Lead”
• Be willing to take risks to follow your passions

John Burke, Lead Pastor of Gateway Community Church (Austin, TX), on “Leading in New Cultural Realities”
• Are we truly doing the work of Christ if we are not getting messy with the lives of those who are messy?

Craig Groeschel, Senior Pastor of Lifechurch.tv (OKC), on “IT: How Leaders Can Get IT and Keep IT”
• Ask yourself (or your church):
o What are you doing that you need to stop doing?
o What is God trying to show you through your greatest limitation?
o What has God called you to do that you are afraid to do?

Catherine Rohr, Founder and CEO of Prison Entrepreneurship Program, on “Risk Taking, Barrier Breaking, Bold Leadership”
• Pray, “God, bring it on!”

Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek, on “Relentless”
• If you were God for a day, would you pick you for more influence in the kingdom?
• Do we believe in a God that taps on the shoulders of regular people and asks them to step up?

If you went to the Summit, what are your thoughts? What was your favorite talk/interview?

10 August 2008

Michael Phelps and Co. Win Gold

In case you missed it live, the US Men's 4x100m Freestyle relay team won the GOLD medal by .08 seconds over France - giving Michael Phelps his 2nd GOLD medal in Beijing (and his 8th overall).

The race was phenomenal, and the last 50 meters was the most intense length of the pool I have ever watched. Jason Lezak chased down France's Alain Bernard to take the top spot. Ironically enough, Bernard had touted France's dominance earlier in the evening by saying that they would crush the Americans in this event, but the tables were turned as Lezak turned on the afterburners in the last 25 meters to close the gap, win the race, and shatter the previous World Record by four seconds!

It was a great race to watch - NBC posted the video here. Here is the story's write up on nbcolympics.com

Sunday Night Reflections

I just wanted to fire off some quick thoughts about today that I need to get out of my head before I head off to sleep.
  • Preaching on the older son this morning really challenged me to think more carefully about my attitude toward Christians who came to faith later in life - even at the end of their life.
  • The LOST series was a great time of reflection on the whole concept of grace - I think I understand more about what God is doing in my life now that I have preached these messages
  • I am crazy excited that we are podcasting our sermons - I talked with at least five people today who were pumped about being able to hit up the website to hear the sermons - praise God!
  • I am truly excited about this fall - we are going to launch something in September that has never been done before at University and I can't wait to see it take off!
  • I talked about Christmas Eve worship this morning and this afternoon (mostly about how I want to see the Sanctuary full that night), but I know it will be an evening that God moves dramatically in our church - start praying now about who you can bring that night
  • Next weekend I will be talking about Jesus living in our neighborhood (John 1) and the music will be provided by the Gathering Storm praise band - I am pumped about hearing them for the first time
  • I have been listening and reading stuff from Perry again, and I think I need to start working on my weight again, please pray that I can take the small steps needed to start living healthier
  • I love Deb - she is so passionate about making our new house truly ours and I just hope that I can keep up with her plans for redecorating / remodeling!
  • I love Caitlyn - she is so full of life and energy - it's a wonder she sleeps at all! (I will definitely record her praying "Dear God, help them at daddy's church..." and post it here soon!)
  • I love Jesus - he is the one who has brought me this far and I know that none of what I am doing now would be possible without his grace

I will post some thoughts from the Leadership Summit tomorrow, I'm tired - time for bed.

23 June 2008

The Big 3-0!

I have officially entered my fourth decade of existence! I celebrated the ending of my 20s and the beginning of my 30s yesterday with a delicious steak from Texas Roadhouse and a piece of four-layer chocolate/chocolate cake from Margie's.

Thank you to all of you who sent cards and/or gifts. I thank you for not stocking our cupboards with Geritol or Fibercon as well.

I pray that my 30s bring me closer to my family, closer to my Lord, and further along in my ministry in the name of Jesus Christ.


Prayer Request

Please pray for Custer Road UMC in Plano. There was a terrible car accident on Sunday involving a family that was greatly connected to the ministry of that church.

Please pray for the clergy and staff as they handle many calls, visits, and questions about processing the grief that the congregation will undoubtedly express over the next few weeks - and even months.

Please pray for Rev. Ron Henderson, senior pastor at CRUMC, as he leads the congregation through this time of trial.

Please pray for my friend, Rev. Leslie Herrscher, associate pastor at CRUMC, as the day of this accident was her first Sunday at Custer Road.

Please pray for the friends and family of the Hart family.

Please pray for the driver of the car who hit the Hart family and survived the wreck.

Please pray.

06 June 2008

Good Stuff From a "Noble" Man

I think I just found inspiration for my first few staff meetings here and here. Read them both - you won't regret it! And be sure to read the scripture he references too!

Thanks Perry!

05 June 2008

Three Simple Rules, Part 3

And the last General Rule is "stay in love with God" or as Wesley originally put it, "attend upon all the ordinances of God..."

This is the rule that holds everything together. This is the rule that needs to be maintained most diligently if rule one and rule two are to have any chance of making a difference in your life. This is the rule that challenges us to use spiritual disciplines on a daily, weekly, monthly, AND yearly basis.

Wesley taught that the "ordinances of God" were: public worship of God, the Lord's Supper, private and family prayer, searching the Scriptures, Bible study, and fasting. The list doesn't seem that long or difficult, but how many times have you intentionally fasted in the past year? I know I can only think of one time that I have fasted in the past 12 months.

Public worship of God - I'll admit that this in my lifeblood. I love to worship. I love being in worship. I love singing. I love preaching. I love watching God move in the congregation. And I am sad when churches have worship services that are listless and boring, because I want God to be honored by his children, not bored.

Lord's Supper (Communion) - At Trietsch I had the opportunity to take Communion once a week during the early service and once a month at the other services. I also gained new insight into this sacrament after teaching the Communion Class that Trietsch put together.

Private and Family Prayer - This is a staple in our house. We pray before every meal and snack and before Caitlyn goes to bed. I pray for Debbie each day and she returns the favor. Our prayer times are special and sacred moments for us as a family.

Searching the Scriptures - My morning routine usually includes readings from both the Old and New Testaments, with a Psalm or Proverb mixed in. I use a reading program that will guide me twice thru the NT and once thru the OT every year.

Bible Study - I love to teach Bible studies, so this is something I am very passionate about. I wish I could spend more time teaching the Bible, but now that I am a Senior Pastor, I will need to allow others that high privilege.

Fasting - I am not very good at fasting (I think it has something to do with my love for food, but who knows!). It takes intentional effort on my part to fast. I need to incorporate this discipline into my yearly routine on a larger scale.

I hope you have enjoyed this quick journey through Three Simple Rules!

What spiritual disciplines give you the most energy? What disciplines take the most effort for you to keep?

04 June 2008

Three Simple Rules, Part 2

Yesterday I talked about the first General Rule of the United Methodist Church, so today I want to reflect on the second - "do good."

More completely, the second General Rule says, "...by doing good; by being in every kind merciful after their power; as they have opportunity; doing good of every possible sort, and, as far as possible, to all...." (Book of Discipline, para. 103)

It seems to me that this second rule would be even harder to keep than the first. It is one thing to consciously avoid harming someone, it is quite another to continuously be on the lookout for ways to do good for others.

For me, the most surprising thing about this second rule is that the "good" that Wesley is talking about doing is not necessarily a good thing for me individually. Luke 6:27-28 comes to mind when I think about pursuing what is good for others above what may be good for me. How many times (a day) are we told by the world that we have to look out for ourselves? How many times (a day) do we take that advice to the detriment of the ones we love? or the ones we'll never meet?

The words of Jesus and of Wesley suggest that doing good is a universal command.
This is, doing good is not limited to those like me or those who like me. Doing
good is directed at everyone, even those who do not fit my category of "worthy"
to receive any good that I or others can direct their way. This command is also
universal in that no one is exempt from it. (37)

Again, Job calls doing good "proactive living" in the face of a reactive culture and world. Doing good is more than responding to the cries of the world - it is actively seeking out opportunities to be in service to the world.

What about self? What about doing good for yourself? Job calls it "healthy self-denial," but I'll let you read the book to find out more about that! Tomorrow: the third General Rule!

03 June 2008

Three Simple Rules

Today I will finish Three Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living by Ruben P. Job and I have to highly recommend this book to anyone who is of the "Wesleyan persuasion" in their thinking or theology.

Job does a great job of unpacking each of Wesley's General Rules (Book of Discipline para. 103) and helping a new audience understand the impact that living to 1) do no harm, 2) do good, and 3) stay in love with God, can have on the world.

The first General Rule says, "...by doing no harm, by avoiding evil of every kind, especially that which is most generally practiced." What would our world look like if we all took the time to consider the possible harmful impact our actions might have on others before we acted? How much pain, misery and suffering might we avoid by choosing to think of others before ourselves? How much more like Christ would we be?

"Doing no harm" does not just involve intentional harm that we inflict on each other, but the unintentional harm as well - the careless word choice, the unprovoked outburst, or the thoughtless non-verbal dismissal.
What would it mean if we took this first simple rule seriously? First of all, it would mean an examination of the way we live and practice our faith....To do no harm is a proactive response to all that is evil - all that is damaging and destructive to humankind and God's good creation, and therefore, ultimately destructive to us. (30)

Obviously there are tons of applications wrapped up in these three words - "do no harm," but if we sought to live under this rule, would it truly draw us closer to Christ? What implications are put on our life if we choose to embrace this rule?

02 June 2008

Saying Goodbye

Today the full-time pastoral and program staff headed to Lake Texoma for Day One of the Staff Retreat. And I didn't go with them. I have cleared out my office, said my goodbyes, and set my eyes upon the ministry of University UMC in Wichita Falls.

I am sad not to be with my friends on the Trietsch staff, but I knew this day was coming. Still, that doesn't make it any easier to not be with my friends right now.

As I reflect on my time as a member of the Trietsch family, I am brought to tears thinking about all the great things the church is doing in the name of Christ. I can hardly wait to read about the VBS team welcoming 1,000 kids to this year's sessions or the 7,000+ meals that will be distributed this summer by Kids Eat Free. I am proud to have my name associated with such a great church and I will truly miss worshiping, serving, and being part of the action there.

Godspeed to all of you! I will be praying for you!

20 May 2008

Little Red Riding Hood

A colleague of mine sent me this picture of Caitlyn today (it's from our Trunk or Treat back in October) because she just got it off her camera. Caitlyn's classic pose is still my favorite!

19 May 2008

Saying Thank You

Yesterday was an emotional day. I preached my final sermon at Trietsch on Colossians 1:3-12 as a way of expressing my thanks for their support and encouragement over the last three years. It was a great day for Debbie and I - we truly felt loved.

After each service there was a cake and punch reception where I shook hands with a whole bunch of people. I must say that there were plenty of people I didn't recognize, but there were plenty that I shared ministry with over the past few years. Only a few people came through the line with teary eyes, but I pretty much knew that they would do that beforehand. (They know who they are...they don't need to be named here.) Surprisingly, there were a few people who came up to me that I didn't remember having a ministry connection with, but they told me how I had ministered to them in some way (usually a small and automatic (for me) way) - that was truly affirming of my time at Trietsch.

Heading into the day, I thought that the more I watched the video for my sermon, the more I would be numb to the emotion inherent in the story. HAH! That was the most naive thing I have thought in quite a while. The exact opposite was true! I got more emotional each time I watched the video because I knew that I would have to turn around and speak to the body of Christ who has loved me and my family about how much I loved them.

If you were there to hear my sermon live, I appreciate your support. If you were not able to hear the sermon live, click here to listen. If you are looking forward to hearing me here, don't worry...I'll be there in just 4 short weeks!

07 May 2008

Touching Them All

I read about this story on Saturday afternoon and it brought me to tears. When people do the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do, I truly believe that brings a smile to God's face. When we commit ourselves to living for the things of God, we are truly able to live.

HT: Tony Morgan

02 May 2008

Off to SA

Debbie, Caitlyn and I are off to San Antonio for a few days, so I won't be posting over the weekend. I'll put up some pictures of our adventures at Sea World when I return.

Praise God that General Conference was successful once again!

30 April 2008

Ugh, we talked with our agent last night and it looks like the sellers can't move out until 5 weeks after we need to be moved in, so we are trying to figure out if we want to counter or walk away. Please pray!

29 April 2008

Message From an Addict

Each time I read Flowerdust.net I am inspired to be a better person and a better leader. Today was no exception...even if she didn't write the post! If you like what Pete has to say, check out more of his thoughts here.

What are you addicted to? What's keeping you trapped in that addiction?

28 April 2008

Speaking of closings...Deb and I just submitted an offer on a house in Wichita Falls! Let's all pray that the sellers are willing to accept our offer.

Just Finished PGTC

I finished Pop Goes the Church this morning and I can't wait to share the insights from the book with my new church. I pray that we can work together to leverage pop culture in order to bring more people into a relationship with Christ thru UUMC.

I know that the transition and integration may be difficult, but I truly feel that the move toward a more culturally relevant approach to ministry will pay off dividends long into the future. I have seen this approach to ministry work very well at Trietsch and I can only imagine what life transformations could be on the horizons for University as we move forward in this endeavor.

Thanks Tim, for your book, your love for people who are loved by God, and your passion for sharing the successes of GCC! May we all have the opportunity to help everyone in our community to know that they matter to God and they matter to us.

25 April 2008

Closings & Openings

Sorry for my absence over the past two weeks. Things are getting crazy at work. Between closing up shop at Trietsch and setting up shop at University, I am trying to minister to two congregations at the same time because both of them need me to be present for them over the next six weeks or so.

As I reflect on my three years at Trietsch, I can see that they have done the hard work it takes to be culturally relevant in a day and age when most churches major in navel-gazing. I am grateful that the church takes its role in raising up leaders for the next generation seriously - because I would not be moving on to my new position without the benefit of serving at Trietsch.

As I dream about the future at University, I can see that they are ready to do new things and become a force for God in the Wichita Falls community. I am thankful that they are willing to take direction from an up-and-comer like me, but I also know that we have plenty of hard work and long nights ahead of us.

And in the midst of all of that reflecting and dreaming, Deb and I are looking to buy a house, so we now have that additional stress added into our lives. It has been fun to look online at the homes, but we both know that those pictures only go so far and we need to see the homes in person. If only it didn't require a two hour drive to get to those homes. Oh well, such is life!

BTW - General Conference 2008 is underway. You can check out the daily happenings here. I'll try to comment on the events a few days at a time over the next two weeks. To hold you over, check out Matt Lockett's section of the Young Peoples Address to the whole assembly.

Are we willing to wait for the future of the church or are we compelled to do something now to make the future of the church even better?

12 April 2008

Blogging Pastors = Good!

I found some compelling reasons to make sure that I continue to blog. Not only for my own sanity, but for the good of my church.

UPDATE: Read the first comment here to validate this article.

11 April 2008

Plowing Ahead

This morning I worked for about 3 hours at Starbucks so that I would not have to worry about ringing phones or hallway conversations distracting me from some much needed thinking. This is my usual Friday morning routine, but some weeks I am more faithful to it than others. This morning was one of the faithful weeks.

I was able to:
Looking at that list I feel pretty productive...I guess I should get to some emails now!

10 April 2008

Talking with 2 Year Olds

Yesterday one of my fellow staffers here at Trietsch shared with me an experience that she had on Sunday with my daughter, Caitlyn. She told me that Caitlyn was hanging out around the door of her Sunday School classroom in order to see what was happening in the hallway outside her room. Chris went over to Caitlyn and asked her about her dress. Chris told me that Caitlyn began to go on and on about her "polka dots" (read: polka dotted pink dress) and how much she loved them.

Chris was so amazed that she could have a conversation with Caitlyn. I guess I am somewhat less amazed by it because I talk to Caitlyn everyday. I wonder how Caitlyn feels about that? How many times do we underestimate how much we (as adults) are able to talk with / hold a conversation with children under the age of 5? How many times do we underestimate how much we (as younger adults) are able to talk with / hold a conversation with adults over the age of 65?

I talk with Caitlyn everyday, so I am not surprised when she responds to what I am saying to her. I talk with God everyday, yet I am sometimes surprised when God responds to what I am saying to him. Why is that?

What makes us think that we are unworthy of a response from our Creator?
Why are we surprised when God shows up?


07 April 2008


In the past few months I have begun working with the Senior Adult population here at Trietsch and I must say that they are a fun bunch of folks. They are very energetic and they love to get together for trips to the theater, lunches as a large group, and overnight trips to some famous Texas locales.

I enjoy putting together the monthly luncheons that we have in the Ministry Center, but I am really looking forward to tomorrow's lunch. Tomorrow we are hosting Rabbi Geoff Dennis from Congregation Kol Ami. He will be sharing with us about the Jewish festival of Passover - the history, significance, and the traditions associated with this high holy day. It is one of the most festive days on the Jewish calendar!

I know that Rabbi Dennis is an engaging speaker and a brilliant thinker. He does tons of interfaith work in the Flower Mound community and he will bring insight and wisdom to our group of folks gathered for lunch tomorrow.

Email me if you want to come to his presentation and catch a cheap lunch!

04 April 2008

June Sermon Series Ideas

I am putting together my first sermon series for University right now and I am really looking forward to preaching it the last three weeks in June. I need some help though.

I am preaching on "Hope in the Midst of Change" and I would love to share some stories from the real world...not just my stories, but your stories as well. I will spend the first week talking about Jesus as the "hope of your life". I will talk about leadership as the "hope of the church" during week 2. And I will finish by declaring the local church...when it is working right as the "hope of the world (HT: Brad Powell).

What stories do you have about:
1) Christ giving you hope to your life?
2) Leadership infusing hope into your church?
3) The local church working right to inspire hope in the world?

28 March 2008

Caitlyn Update

Caitlyn came thru the surgery just fine this morning. She was tired most of today and she has boughts of irritability between longer periods of happiness. Thank you for your prayers! We should be in church on Sunday and no one will probably know she was in the hospital - at least visually.

27 March 2008

Prayers for Caitlyn

Tomorrow morning (around 9:15am) Caitlyn will be undergoing surgery at Children's Medical Center in order to replace her tubes and remove her adenoids. Please be in prayer for her and her parents.

Here she is enjoying the chips at On The Border for Easter lunch.

21 March 2008

Kay the Brave

Before I preached last night I had the honor of spending some time in the home of a member of one of my previous churches. She has terminal cancer and the doctors are giving her a generous six months to live. She had made the decision to donate her body to science so that doctors and medical researchers can find out more about her cancer ... and perhaps help the next person who receives the same diagnosis she did. Even in death she is thinking of other people.

As I sat on her couch, listening to stories of trips she had taken and memories of times with her family, I knew that she has lived her life well and she is ready to meet Jesus on the other side of life. She is not coming to the end of her life with regret. She is coming to the end of her life knowing that she loved Jesus more and more everyday ... she loved her family more and more everyday ... and she is not afraid.

I listened as her husband and one of her daughters shared story after story about her life and to see the life in a woman riddled with disease was just amazing. In spite of the terrible diagnosis and her short time left to be with her family, she was laughing, remembering, and enjoying every moment.

Kay, if you ever read this, I want you to know that it was a privilege to sit with you and your family yesterday. It is clear how much you love God and love the people around you and how much they love you. I know that you will be missed when you are gone, but I believe that your memory will live on for a long time - even in the heart of this young preacher kid! I pray for your comfort as you treasure each moment with Michael and the kids. You are truly a special person! God bless.

Maundy Thursday Reflections

I enjoyed preaching about John 13 last night at our Maundy Thursday service, but what really got me going was washing feet at one of our experiential stations. I probably washed 12-15 people's feet last night, but when my mom came and sat down in the chair I looked up and saw that she was misty-eyed and I had to quickly look away before I lost it.

It was humbling and gratifying to kneel down and wash the feet of various members of Trietsch. It was truly an experience I will never forget. To look into the eyes of a child and challenge them to live as Christ has called them to live was incredible. I would do it again in a heartbeat!

19 March 2008

DV Giveaway

The guys over at Deadly Viper are giving away the audiobook of Deadly Viper Character Assassins for FREE! Get your copy here before they come to their senses and pull the file!

New Visitors to CTM

I started tracking the stats on my site at the end of February (mostly because I didn't know how before) thanks to Google Analytics. Since then I have noticed that I am fairly popular in North Texas (big surprise!), but I have also had visitors from as far away as Malaysia and South Africa.

Also, my first Canadian visitor (since I started tracking) came by on Sunday! Woo hoo, eh!

18 March 2008

Important News

OK, now that it is official news, I can blog about it...

I have received a new appointment effective June 2008. I will be the new Pastor at University UMC in Wichita Falls, TX. Debbie and I are very excited about this opportunity (as is the church) and I hope to lead this congregation to new and vital ministry within the WF community.

Please pray for Debbie and I as we begin the moving process. Please pray specifically for:
  • Dean - seeking the heart of God to cast vision for a new congregation
  • Dean - avoiding "unplugging" from Trietsch between now and June 1
  • Dean - preparing my heart and schedule for weekly preaching
  • Debbie - decisions about future employment (continue working or stay home)
  • Debbie - planning/organizing the move
  • Debbie & Dean - possibly maintaining two households over the summer
  • Debbie & Dean - possibilities for daycare/MDO for Caitlyn in WF
  • Debbie & Dean - communication about all things related to this new appointment
  • Debbie & Dean - seeking the heart of God for our shared ministry at University

I will post more about this over the next few weeks, but for now, your prayers are the most precious things for us.

11 March 2008

Snow Business

Last week was a crazy weather week here in north Texas, but we survived no worse for the wear. One of those days (Monday) our house had about 3 inches of snow covering the ground so we decided to spend a few minutes playing before bathtime. Caitlyn really enjoyed it...I tried not to teach her how to eat snow, but it just happened...

Yes, those are Target bags on her feet...don't ask!

07 March 2008

Friday Brain Dump - 3/7

Again, lots of things on my mind that don't have much to do with each other, but I need to vent them anyway.

  • Snow...and lots of it! Texas has some of the craziest weather I have ever experienced. I am just waiting for the day when we can decide what season we want to be in for more that 36 hours. It snowed Monday night, was 70+ on Wednesday and now we have more snow on the ground. Yikes!
  • Mark Beeson's thoughts on waiting were very inspiring...perhaps I won't feel so bad next time I am on time for a meeting and others make me wait.
  • Seth Godin's comments on focus in business (church leaders read: the church) challenged me to think long and hard about what "extras" we offer at Trietsch
  • This is just FUNNY!!

Here's to a good weekend!

Polar Opposite Thoughts

I saw this video yesterday and it reminded me why I got out of youth ministry. I think you will agree that I made the right decision.

I just read this article on leading discussion in Bible studies and it reminded me that I need to be a student of the Word just as much (if not more) as I need to be a student of world. Plus, his one-liner to stop a conversation-hogger is kinda funny.

06 March 2008

A bishop that reads the Bible??

I am always inspired when a UMC Bishop is willing to share about his/her spiritual journey. Bishop Max Whitfield is one of those bishops. He shared his thoughts in his conference newspaper and Everyday Theology reprinted here for consideration in the blogosphere. Take a look and see what you think.

HT: sheyduck

05 March 2008

Missionaries We Love

Debbie and I have actively supported Benjamin and Amanda for a number of years, but they have just recently been able to complete their fundraising and make the journey across the ocean to begin their ministry in France.

Please take a moment to read about them on their blog and pray about financially supporting them as they serve Jesus outside of Paris. (Email me and I'll let you know the secret to getting into their site.)

Prayers Please

Please pray for me this afternoon. I am not sure when you will read this post, but I am going to a very important meeting this evening and I need mucho prayers for discernment and wisdom.

04 March 2008

Death to Musicians (sort of)

On Saturday the girls and I went to have lunch at Potbelly Sandwiches. While we were enjoying the delicious eats, a young carrot-topped guitar player stepped up to the microphone and started jamming on his axe. I wouldn't have paid much attention to the guy, but Caitlyn wanted to watch him play his guitar (complete with her making guitar strumming motions). For the first song, she had Deb hold her as she stared at him making music for the crowd eating their weekend lunch. For the second and third song, she wanted me to hold her as she made "goo-goo eyes" at the red-haired musician.

I must say that this dad had some bad thoughts about his daughter running away from home with some guitar-toting, dirt-poor musician breaking the heart of her father and crushing his dreams for his daughter...

I didn't cry, but I made sure that we exited the restaurant quickly...bad thoughts abounded as I placed Caitlyn in her car seat...I had to apologize to her later...

29 February 2008

Friday Brain Dump - 2/29

Here are some random things running thru my head or across my computer screen that don't really fit neatly into categories. Or, they are just things I need to get out of my head so they don't cramp my style all weekend. Six of one, half-dozen of another....
  • Mark Batterson's thoughts about meetings
  • WIRED Magazine's list of Best Sidekicks - all I have to say is "Where's Al Borland?"
  • I am really bummed that I have to miss Bible study next week for a mandatory seminar on anti-racism...I mean, come on...I'm not a racist, nor do I plan on becoming one...so why do I have to go to a two-night seminar on it?
  • Dear Lord, I pray that someone wants to send me to this workshop. Amen.
  • This magazine continues to make me think about how much overlap there is between the world and the church...especially when I read this.
  • I am so confused about how the process works...mostly because getting my hopes up equals getting my family's hopes up...and if the process breaks down, then my family suffers. And I don't like that at all!
  • I am excited about preaching on Maundy Thursday, but I wish I had some more time to prepare...I guess I'll talk about the Last Supper since time is running short.
  • It's Leap Day...happy birthday to all you "Leap Babies" out there! Enjoy your special day - it only comes once every four years!

That's enough for today!

28 February 2008

The Hard Work of Thinking Theologically

I went to LIFE Journal Bible Study this afternoon for the first time in quite a while and I was immediately reminded about why I need to make the time to be with that group of people every week.

I knew going in that I had not done any of the readings for this week, but they gladly accepted me back and welcomed my presence in the group. I was encouraged to write down my prayer requests for the week and have one of the other members of the group pick my card at random to pray for me this week. My comments about the texts were welcomed and my theological training as a pastor was tested during one portion of the discussion.

At one point the group began talking about Jesus' baptism in Mark 1 and the question of Jesus' need for baptism arose from the group. I must admit that this puzzles me too sometimes, but I didn't say much at the beginning of the discussion - I wanted to see where they would go with it. When the asked about the specific UMC teachings on baptism in general, I chimed in then.

As the discussion was winding down, someone made a comment that this passage can give rise to thoughts of not wanting to spend time thinking hard about the God and the Bible because there was not always resolution to the problem being addressed. I asked, "If we did fully understand, what would that say about God?"

That question has been rolling around in my head for a while and I wanted to see what you think about it...

If we did fully understand, what would that say about God?

Extra Quotable for today: "Holiness is giving God your full attention." -Sherry Trojanowski (I'm so proud of my admin!)

26 February 2008

Stewardship is a "God Thing"

I recently finished reading Andy Stanley's book, Fields of Gold in preparation for the capital campaign that Trietsch is about to embark upon. I wanted to share some of my thoughts about the book here and see what your thoughts about financial stewardship might be.

Throughout the book, Andy uses the "harvest" metaphor to help people imagine the possibilities surrounding generous giving. I found this incredibly helpful in picturing how a small amount of seed (read: money) can turn into a huge harvest (read: blessing from God) when we are faithful to put that seed out into the ground and let God take care of it.

Andy dealt with the fears that many people have associated with giving and highlighted that many of those fears are irrational. How often are we swayed into irrationality because of our fears? How often are our fears themselves irrational?

The Four P's of Giving:

  • Priority - give to God first when income shows up in your household; this avoids giving God the "leftovers" when you finish paying bills
  • Percentage - pick one (10% is a good starting point) and keep that target in mind
  • Progressive - adjust your giving higher throughout your lifetime as an exercise of faith
  • Prompted - "random" giving in response to unique needs; these are not part of your regular planned giving

Fields of Gold largely deals in theory with points of application, but made tons of sense and jived with what other programs/authors have said and written.

The lack of "plan specificity" makes this book applicable across many situation (capital campaign, yearly stewardship, small group learning) and focuses on our response to God's involvement in our finances.

19 February 2008

HD DVDs are History

Not that I own an HDTV or anything, but I thought that this news was interesting. I guess HD DVDs are this generations Betamax! I think I'll go do some research on Blu-Ray.


17 February 2008

Leadership Journal - Winter 2008

I haven't finished reading the latest issue of Leadership Journal, but I have pulled out some interesting quotes for your consideration. Take a read and let me know what you think.

Tim Keel (scroll down to Tim's picture), pastor of Jacob's Well in Kansas City, MO
"Has our articulation, and more importantly, or embodiment of the gospel invited people to be come a part of an alternative reality, a community of salvation for this world and the world that is to come?" (21)

"I began to realize that every articulation of the gospel I had heard focused exclusively on Jesus Christ and his role as redeemer. It is obviously true and good news that Jesus and his life and work function redemptively. But when we reduce Jesus to redeemer only, we miss another essential element of our faith: that Jesus is also creator." (22)

"A reduced version of the gospel will have little to say to such questions [about creation]. No wonder so many have determined that the church and 'the gospel' have very little to contribute to the world." (22)

Leighton Ford
"The gospel is the core, with an invitational edge. So we preach the gospel never knowing what listeners have been drawn by the Holy Spirit. We also preach knowing that those who are already Christ-followers need to be constantly re-evangelized, reminded that our faith journeys continue as they began, by grace." (27, emphasis mine)

"In our postmodern world, many see the gospel as neither good nor news. Perhaps this is because we have simplified it and 'codified' it too carelessly. 'Accept Jesus and you'll go to heaven. Don't and you won't.' True, but not meant to be a truism." (27)

Tullian Tchividjian, pastor of and grandson of Billy Graham
"[P]reachers need to be careful that people leave a sermon not so much with grand impressions of human personality, but with grand impressions of divine personality." (33, responding to the question: What part does the preacher's personality play?)
This is one I struggle with because I want to come off as polished and professional but I also want to leave the people with a profound sense of the divine. My personality is important because it is part of who I am, but I must re-present Christ in sermons - I must incarnate my sermons, they need to reflect me and Jesus.

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback and author of The Purpose Driven Life
"I don't doubt the Word of God, but I have doubted my ability to live it and convey it." (35, responding to the question: Is there any room for doubt or uncertainty in the preacher?)
Doubt is honesty. Everybody doubts and we preachers need to be honest with ourselves and our congregations to let them know hat we don't have everything figured out just yet.

John Ortberg, pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church
"Some 65 million copies of the Bible are bought or distributed in the US every year - nothing is a close second. The average house has at least 3. People cheer the Bible, buy the Bible, give the Bible, own the Bible - they just don't actually read the Bible." (38)
This is just funny...and true!

"Congregations shaped by the Scriptures have preachers shaped by the Scriptures." (38)
I wonder if this corollary is true: "Congregations shaped by pop psychology have preachers shaped by pop psychology."?


Youth Ask Good Questions

I wrote this on Valentine's Day, but have had a chance to post it until now...

Last night [2/13] the youth asked me to talk about what the UMC says/believes about homosexuality as part of their journey thru the Good Sex curriculum this semester.

I prepared my Discipline research and my own heart for talking about this subject, but I never really felt ready to teach the lesson. The Holy Spirit helped me to understand that all I needed to to was present te truth and then let them wrestle with their questions.

They asked thoughtful questions about the UMC stance (there are other places where the BOD references homosexuality - this is just one of them) and their confusion about the seemingly contradictory nature of our stance. I told them it confused me at times too. We talked thru their concerns and they appreciated my willingness to address the issue head-on.

After the study ended, three of them came up to me to ask deeper questions that related to someone they know who is gay. I realized once again that theoretical issues might be able to be resolved on paper, but putting flesh and a face on those issues raises the stakes. Raises the importance of handling our feelings with care. Raises the necessity for admitting our shortfalls and realizing our need for grace.

Where have you offered a simple answer to a complex question? What was the outcome?