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.