Saturday, December 18, 2010

Top 3 Signs You May Be Missing the Christmas Spirit

#3: You begin a Facebook status post with the phrase, "Come on People..." or "Hey People..." when wanting to make a point.  It has the same ring as when the Prodigal's brother said to his dad, "this son of yours."  It makes the relationships of life seem so distant and finger pointing.

#2: You get all bent out of shape when someone writes "X-Mas" instead of Christmas.  While I too am an advocate for keeping Christ in Christmas, the fact remains that the original term X-Mas was created with just as much spiritual significance than the original phrase Merry Christmas.  In fact, do a study on the letter X in Greek to find out how silly you've been making war out of a non-war issue.  By the way if it was an issue worth getting upset about, then shouldn't we be all excited and "victorious" when we drive down the road and see a yellow sign with the words "PED X-ING?"  Don't we interpret that as "Pedestrian Crossing?"  Hey! The word "cross" in a secular sign!!!

#1:  You can't stand to hear someone say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."  There are a lot of ways to say, "hello", "I love you" and "no thank you."  Same goes for wishing someone joy during this season. I've never heard someone use the term Happy Holidays to blatantly slam someones faith in Christ or to shun that person. (not that it doesn't happen) It's just we live in a society where 83% don't go to a church and/or don't have a Christian background.  So to most, saying Happy Holiday is as natural as saying Happy Birthday. I'm reminded of the words, "they will know we are Christians by our love."  There are Biblical convictions and personal values.  Don't die on the mountain of personal values and lose the opportunity to one day talk about Biblical convictions to someone.

P.S  There is another, it's called "You write me several paragraphs on explaining why you do any of the above mentioned and why I'm wrong."  Which in term just proves my point.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Appetite for More

Ever want more?  Sure, we all do, that's the nature of appetites.  No matter how much you have if you have an appetite for food, success, power, love, want more.

In my travels, one of the most common things I hear people say is they want more meaningful relationships.
More relationships?  No, more "meaningful" relationships!

In a day where pretty much everyone is at your finger tips by way of cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, txt messages, email  and dozens of other social networks there is still a longing for more, but not just more, more meaningful relationships.
So how do we get there?  There's a lot of things we can do, but for a moment let me share a thought from Philippians 3:10-11  "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead."

While Paul is encouraging the Church of Philippi to "press towards the goal" of living for Christ.  I see also in this scripture one of the keys to developing more meaningful relationships.  Many times our friendships hang out at the "knowledge of His resurrection."  We fellowship with other believers and build connections based on the fact we're Christians.  That's a good things, it's a starting point.  But to stay there is not only shallow, but encourages our appetite for more.
"Fellowship of His sufferings,"  this is real rubber meets the road when it comes to going deeper.  Who have you suffered with?  Who are the friends that you have cried together, have gone through the pain of life with?  Who knows your struggles, temptations and shortcomings?
"Being conformed to His death."  Death stinks!  Let's face it, not to many dead people walking around these days.  Dead to agendas, dead to selfishness gain. Dead to excuses.   You know what I mean.  I'm guilty.  I've often used social media to promote me.  Getting to a place where everyone in the relationship is giving of themselves till it hurts is a hard place to get.   It's living a life where your house, your phone bill, your food, your clothes, your children, your job, your gas is not yours anymore.  It's His and theirs.
But the truth be told, when you get there you find out it doesn't hurt at all because you cant hurt a dead person.
Going deeper is a process, hopefully you got some ideas for your next step in having more meaningful relationships.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Layers of One

1 Corinthians 12:12 "For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ."

Hopefully we are all aware of the beautiful illustration we become as we, being different, come together as a body of believers to make up the Body of Christ; it's truly a wonderful thing to witness.

While pondering and thinking on the subject of commitment to the Body I'd like to share a thought in regards to how to make those connections stronger, more meaningful.  The goal is to go deep in our connections to each other and cause a tighter bond to the rest of the body.

I'll relate it to the natural
Our body's biggest organ is the skin, and it's comprised of three layers:  The Epidermis, which is the top layer that is comprised of dead cells and it's brushed off. The Dermis, you can't see because it's hidden under your epidermis. The dermis contains nerve endings, blood vessels, oil glands, and sweat glands. It also contains collagen and elastin, which are tough and stretchy.  Then The Subcutaneous Layer is made mostly of fat and helps your body stay warm and absorb shocks, like if you bang into something or fall down. The subcutaneous layer also helps hold your skin to all the tissues underneath it.  This layer is also where the start of growth happen.

With that said, there are three layers of connection to the body we need to move people through.
 The shallowest, but still important like our epidermis, is called acceptance.
Acceptance is fleeting and arbitrary and often external or a felt craving.  The need to feel accepted is very important and it's the easiest to address because it's often the easiest "seen" need to meet.
Next is the dermis, if you will, called belonging.
Belonging is grounded in something more permanent.  This is where we move people from just simply feeling like they are a part of something into the knowledge that they are intrinsically connected to a place, or people, beyond themselves.
If people don't know why the should belong to something, or how they bring unity to that something to some degree, there is little reason for them to stick around.* (*quote from the book: The Slow Fade)
The third level is, committed, much like the Subcutaneous Layer .  When people feel accepted and know they belong they will make the commitment.  Sounds simple and no doubt many would say they are committed, but the truth is many just linger around accepted.
Committed people look for ways to volunteer, instead of being asked to volunteer.
Committed people don't leave over offense, instead they look to bring healing over offense.
Committed people don't have to be asked to give, they have to be asked to stop giving.
Committed people are committed to change and help make it happen, rather than notice a change has taken place.
Committed people honor the past experiences but are ultimately focused on changing the status quo and influencing tomorrow.

Committed people live as one.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Enemies of Unity

As I was going through old notes on some subjects concerning leadership.  I ran across a message that Dave Ramsey gave back in 07' on the subject of unity at Catalyst conference.
The five points are his, the sub points are from collective sources I've gathered over the years that I believe go hand it hand to his 5 points regarding the subject. I found them incredibility meaningful to any group or organization who is wanting unity in their group.  Hope you enjoy some good sound wisdom from, Dave, a man who knows his stuff.

The Enemies of Unity

1. Poor Communication
 When speaking to a group, team or staff it's important to repeat often.  No one gets in one time what you've spent months dreaming, planning, making strategies and articulating to present vision for them.  We have all heard the phrase, "we need clear lines of communication."  But what does that mean to your group?
2 People or programs = 2 Lines of Communication
3 People or programs = 6 Lines of Communication
4 People or programs = 12 Lines of Communication
5 People or programs = 20 Lines of Communication
6 People or programs = 30 Lines of Communication
 As the group grows, so do the need to find multiple ways to communicate well.

2.  Gossip
Gossip is simply when a negative is discussed with anyone who can't help solve the problem.

3. Unresolved Disagreements
Unresolved disagreements happen when a leader doesn't know they exist or when that leader avoids confrontation.  The truth is a little confrontation cleanses the wounds of confusion and allows the individuals to move forward in a spirit of unity.  It's also important not to confuse "challenging the process" to be misread as "challenging authority."  These two are completely different.  And a team who is under the authority should have a welcome mat at the door of challenge the process.

4. Lack of Shared Purpose
It's been best said, "anything with two heads is a freak of nature and either needs to be killed or put under glass in a circus."  Because that's what your organization will resemble when players on the team don't share the same purpose, it'll die or look like a circus.

5. Sanctioned Incompetence
"Team members will eventually become demotivated when someone else on the team can't or won't do their job and a leader will not take action."--Dave Ramsey
I believe this is one of the biggest obstacles when dealing with building unity; especially in the faith culture, we want to give grace (as we should) but most the time we're not giving grace, we are simply being enablers.
Grace looks at someone who can't and gives the tools, teaching, mentoring so that person can.
Grace looks at someone who won't and honors them on their way out, either of the group or that area on the team.

When unity is valued in the group culture, the team will also act to keep these enemies at the gate.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fresh Eyes

Being in ministry, I think I can be like most, that is; to develop a system for doing things and give little attention to changing.  After all, change is hard.

But what if we, as leaders, were able to walk in our churches or departments with a fresh set of eyes to give  information from a totally different perspective?  What if we were purposefully strategic in wanting feedback about what we are so comfortable in doing?

I used to manage a restaurant and while we lived by the policy, "the customer is always right" and did our best to make it so, there was another tool that really helped us gain an honest perspective.
The Mystery Shopper!!!! 
Without notice we'd receive a data sheet that graded us on everything from cleanliness of the store to the hospitality of the employees.  Food temp, order accuracy, restroom spotlessness, staff conduct and more.
We didn't know who it was or when they came, all we knew is they did! And when they did, we knew the results of their visit.  They yearly outcomes of these visits caused our district managers to come to our stores and hand out bonuses or give out pink slip warnings.

No matter how good we thought we were, or happy we felt about our customers experience, it all boiled down to the mystery shoppers report.

As I travel, I many times find myself acting like a mystery shopper.
"Why are those doors open?  Where do children check in?  Where do I find an usher?  Did someone greet me?  How friendly are the people?  Was the parking easy?  Where are the restrooms, can I get there from here?  Does service start on time?  Who is the staff?  etc........I can't help it---I love the local church and want to see Her presenting Christ in every program with excellence and power.

So here is the thought.  Ever think of asking someone off the street to come to your church and "mystery shop?"   Done right, it could not only prove to be a valuable tool to tighten up what God has entrusted you with, but also be an avenue to expose new people to your church.
If you'd like to hear more thoughts on this idea, contact me at


"The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 9I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings."  Luke 16:8-9

Monday, September 13, 2010

Small Groups --Part 3

7)  Don't confuse natural by-product as the purpose.
Oil is one of those natural resources that would be almost impossible to live without.  Not only does it lubricate our gears and provide gas but it also makes a total slew of other things.  Plastic bottles, diapers, fishing line, nylon, cosmetics, pills, candles, the list goes on and on.
Here's my point.  You never hear an oil worker say, "Time to go drill for some golf balls" or any other "by-product" made from oil.  The purpose for drilling is oil, so that's what they drill for.

I believe the same can be applied for small groups.  When I ask, "what is the purpose of the small group" I get the same answers; fellowship, accountability, care, community, friendships, bible study, etc.
Let me interject and say, there is nothing wrong with any of those answers; here me, what I am saying is that those things should be a natural by-product of Christians meeting together.  Right?
Sure you should promote those things and live out those things, but they shouldn't be the purpose.  (at least in my opinion. My vote for small group purpose is Kingdom; which means making disciples and multiplying)

It's kind of like when a company or church makes a list of "core values" and hang them on the wall.  You've seen them; "We are a company that values, Integrity, Honesty, Character, Teamwork, etc"

The problem is not the values, it's just their kind of......well....they're......just there.
Typically those values are gathered by looking around at the group and saying, "yes that's who we are."
I love how Patrick Lencioni put it in his book, "The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family."  He states, "The key about core values is not to have too many of them.  Organizations tend to compile a list of things they think sound nice....because they want to cover all their bases.  Many times those things are simply a permission to play value, not the core"

He's right!  What company or church wants a dishonest employee or church member?  How about lacks character?  Doesn't play well with others?  See, those are givens or like he says, "permission to play.'

Here are 6 questions that will help as you develop and launch or even relaunch your small group ministry.

1.) What is the ultimate reason you have small groups?  (core purpose)
2.) What are the essential characteristics that your small group must never violate?  (core values)
3.) What are the fruits you want to see displayed in the small group?  (by-products)
4.) When your group meets, what is it's biggest priority and what needs to be done to achieve it?  (goals)
5.) What steps are in place to help you achieve your core purpose as a group?  (strategy)
6.) Who has to do what to achieve your goals?  (roles and responsibilities)

I hope you enjoyed these last three posts on Small Groups.  Be blessed and be fruitful and multiply!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Small Group --Part 2

4) Define who you want in small groups.
I know, I know, your first response is like mine and many others when they hear that statement; "everyone we say!"
While, sure, we want everyone to be in a small group; we have to come to grips with the reality that not everyone will be in a small group.  It's just a fact.  100% attendance is an impossible goal.
I think deep down we all know that but we continue to say "everyone" because if we don't then we sound like we are excluding some people.  Which is not true. We have to define the small group and allow others to decide for themselves if will they join.
I believe Larry Osborne has the best explanation when it comes to defining small groups.  In his book "Sticky Church"  he gives the below diagram.
While I do believe there are some variables, I agree this is a good picture of how we can understand the defining groups in our churches.  As this shows, the amount of "leaders" in our churches are not the same number of those "interested" in Christ.  It's a simple diagram to show the more intense the commitment the fewer people involved. This simply gives us a wake up call to reality; if we decide to target people who are committed to "growing" in their Faith, then we need to structure our groups as a "moderate bible study" and in doing so we should be able to reach about 60% to 70% of our church attenders.  Again, it's not to say it could be more (or less) but it helps us to know when we roll out small groups and we have a number less than "everyone" then we can know a "better" why.

5) Make room for different types of small groups.
As mentioned above, these two factors will flow together.   Again, it's not to say one is right or wrong, it's a sober reminder of what to expect.
Now there are many different types of small groups, everything from the free market/ interest based to age based, location based, gender, G-12, Cell,... and the list goes on and on.  The key is to (here's point #2 again) clarify the "win" for your church.  Now I believe when it comes to churches that are older and more established that a "hybrid" of styles will exist and can exist successfully if everyone rallies to the same win, whatever that is for your church.
For example most younger age groups will function differently than groups made of of older individuals.  To put a blanket definition of how a group should act, function and outreach is a little short sided.  Teenage groups will look different than senior groups and so on.  As they should.  Different needs for different stages of the journey.
This is why (for me personally)  I don't get hung up if the group just meets for fellowship or for intense Bible study; the style should not be focus as much as the goal.  If "interest based" groups are creating transformation in peoples live and that group is growing, great!  If "gender based or age based" groups are creating transformation in people and is growing, again great!  My point is not to get hung up on style as much as knowing how to recognize when the end result is being accomplished.

6)  Know when to have a funeral for a small group.
When you know what a win is, then it's easy to recognize when your not winning as much.
There are seasons for everything.  Many times I've seen churches implement a small group strategy only to revamp it or re-launch the program in a couple of years.  Why?  I'm sure there are lots of reasons, but the one I've noticed from watching and even leading is due to the reason found in number 2 on the previous post.
The bible says it best, "where there is no clear revelation, people go in circles and die."
We start well, everyone hears the vision, people get excited, attendance is up, then life happens.
So we go back to the drawing board, or adjust the group to fit "everybody" or even attend a new Small Group conference to see the latest "how to" methods.

Nothing wrong with those steps IF that's what's needed.  But too often our small groups suffer from the "drifting eye syndrome."
This is what's happened with YMCA.  They just put out a statement explaining they are now going to go by the name, "The Y"  because that is what everyone calls them anyway.  (wow, I just went on their website to double check my facts and their logo is a "Y' with ymca in the corner)
When they started their mission was young man transformation through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, thus the name Young Man Christian Association. Over the years they've drifted from their vision to becoming no more than a community gym.  I find it interesting that there new name, "The Y" is fitting; it begs for the answer of their existence....."why?"

When our small group fails to know the meaning to why, it's time to prop a daisy next to it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Small Groups--Part 1

I love talking, attending, creating, teaching, starting small groups.  Below are some thoughts that I've picked up from those doing successful small group ministry and thoughts I've developed over the years in leading various small groups in multiple locations.
I pray these will be some helpful ideas as you gear up, start up or vamp up your small group ministry.

1.)  Decide what type of small group church you are.
There are basically three types of churches with small groups:  A church "with" small groups, a church "of" small groups and the church "is" small groups.
Let me interject that none of these are a "right" or "wrong" way to do small groups, however knowing what type of small group church you are will decide the amount of involvement you are able to sustain. 

2.) Clarify what is a "win" for your small group.
Many times you will hear this in the vision statement of the small group or even the mission statement of the church. If not there then you'll probably hear it whenever the pastor is promoting small groups in the church.  My point is if you don't spend time every Sunday morning and in every small group gathering reminding or "clarifying" what a win is for at least five years for your small group ministry, then frustration will follow.
I'll give you the most common that I know of with two different churches experiencing right now.
One churches small group leader, who is also an Elder in the church, is leading a small group of 25-30  (which is not a small group) and is having trouble getting anyone to break away to create two groups from that one.  Everyone loves their group, everyone enjoys the fellowship and atmosphere.  Hey, that's good! Nothing wrong, other than the fact the group has a bottle neck and is not producing anymore small groups.
Another church is dealing with the same issue, in fact they are desperately trying to train new leaders in hopes of being able to take a few out of each group to relieve groups that more than 20 in them.
So what's the problem?
Many times no one knows what a win is or they have the wrong win in mind.
For example, when I ask "what are the goals for your small group?"  I'll get answers like, "to disciple, fellowship, accountability, assimilate into the church, prayer, bible study, etc."  Those are all great answers but many times we only think about the goals and we never set a win.  Can I be so honest to say, that the above list of things in a small group, at least healthy ones, are doing those already!  You typically don't have to remind people to fellowship at a home fellowship.  Or really pray during prayer time.  My point is, where do we go?  What's the end result?  If having large small groups is the goal, then the above examples are not really issues.  If it's developing more small groups, then there seems to be a "connect the dot to the win" problem.

I know what you're thinking, "but our people don't want to divide" or "why ask them to break up the very much needed fellowship we've asked them to join?"
Those are understandable examples but not the standard.  From day one of starting a small group ministry in your church if you promoted, "Our goal as a small group is to make more small groups" then it defines what a win is.  When a group multiplies into two, then people have a reason to celebrate.  It's not a "have to" issue it's a want to step.  But if it's not clarified in the small group it will create confusion and even frustration with the attenders because when you start breaking groups up, they will react.

3) Determine group size before it becomes a size issue.
If you clarify the win then knowing a group size becomes easy to determine.
Let me say this regarding the above; notice I never said, "when it comes time to divide a small group..."  Lingo is very important, it's why I speak "multiply."  It fits with a grow more groups vision.  Personally I've found that once a small group reaches around 3-4 couples it's time to start thinking and training another leader.  It's key that when more members start joining the group that they connect with the leaders in training and not the current small group leaders.  When group and when the group reaches 8-9 couples, time to launch that new group and celebrate the win.
It's a rule, the bigger the group the fewer people talk.  I was in a small group where there were about 8 people in the group and almost everyone spoke up and contributed in the discussion topic.  I was in another small group where there was 25 or more and only about 5 people engaged.
That group of 25 can easily become two groups of 12 and no one would be upset due to being "torn away from relationships" because not everyone knows everyone on that deep of a level.  Now for both of those groups to grow and then become 4 groups of 8, will take some work.  But can be done with a clear focus of what type of church they are and what a win is.

More later.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Daily Spiritual Act

I love Romans 12:1-2!  One of the things I notice about this verse is the fact it contains in it all three elements that make us human.  Look what the verse says. I'll bold the three parts so you can see it too.  Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

We are three in one; body, soul and spirit.  In the verse it says "mind" and that is one of the aspects that make up our soul. Our soul encompasses our minds, will and emotions.

With that in mind let me ask you a question.  "What is our most powerful daily spiritual act?"

As you go down the list of things it could be: prayer, reading the Bible, worship, listening to the Holy Spirit, etc.  Let me say this, "you'd be correct with any one of those."  BUT let me hone in on the one word in this question that we skip over that we need to look at to get a better answer.


I'm human.  I don't worship daily.  Sorry if that offends you. But lets be real.  Of the many Christians you know, including yourself, do they do everything they should?
Pray daily?
Read the Bible daily?
Hear God daily?
Walk in the fullness of Grace daily?
Live in the fruit of the Spirit daily?

I'm like you, I'm working towards it but I don't do it daily.  I have good moments and not so good moments. Like you I'm working on shortening the distance between the good and bad ones.

Here is what I believe when I look at scripture and see the revelation of the fullness of who we are as humans following Christ.
"Our most powerful spiritual act is the daily ability to make choices."

With that in mind, that's why I can say the list you and I named about prayer and reading the bible and all those from above-- it's that important to do them.  Because it renews our minds.  With renewed minds our spirit and life is transformed.

Here's the issue.  What you believe determines your choices which leads to a desired outcome.
How many times have you seen (or even been) someone who doesn't like a certain outcome; with a job, a date, a mate, a church?  So what do they do?  Different choice: change jobs, change churches, change spouse.  A little time goes by and "oops! don't like this, time to make a different choice."

The problem will always continue on a "marry-go-round" lifestyle as long as the issue of "beliefs" is never dealt with.
What do you believe about your job? Spouse? Church? Family? Parents? Money? God?

Until those beliefs line up with what God says (and not what you or I think) we are confronted to live in the outcomes that are less than what God intended for us; because of our choices. And the sad truth is we many times we have to live in the consequences of someone else's choice.
Choices contain in them a level of spiritual responsibility.
My faith can affect your faith.  Either for good or bad.
I'm the man today because of great Godly men and women faith.  How many people have lost faith because of the fall of another?

Our choices matter.  Everyday you and I have this awesome power to put our free will to the test and say, "am I going to do this my way or God's way?  Am I going to trust in His methods or mans wisdom?  Am I going to do what is right or what is Kingdom?

"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.'"  Deut. 30:18-20

Saturday, August 21, 2010

United Stage Design

My good friend, Donald Sims, is the pastor of City of Hope Church in Manchester, KY.  He is doing an unbelievable job and their town is truly seeing "city transformation" in the area. 
I had the honor to join in their celebration service as another church in the area merged with them.  Below is the video I did to show the "how to" for the stage design as well as just a glimps of the energy as these two churches partner together as one.

United Stage Design from Vince Farrell on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My Convictions about Youth Ministry --Part 3

Value #7: Everything must flow to the bigger picture.  This value of mine transcends every aspect of ministry, but it is so important when it comes to youth ministry as well.  I've had the honor to connect and speak at many different churches and one thing I've noticed over my years is the "transition model" of ministry.  Every church starts out as a "family" model; this is the stage where everyone knows everyone, the pastor is like the dad or grandpa of the group, etc.  The second stage is the "corporate" model.  Now don't get offended by the name because it's a very much needed stage.  This is where structure is introduced into the church and policies are issued to help things grow and run smoothly; the pastor is started to be viewed more than just one of the guys; he is now the leader and visionary of the church.  The final stage is Kingdom.  The pastor is usually operating much like an apostle with all the previous characteristic visible.  The church is committed to the great commission and community transformation; it's not to say they were not before, but now it's evident in everything they do.  This principle is all through out the Bible.
Youth ministry should be the same.  If ever a youth group starts to operate and function like a separate identity from the rest of the church, then it is not flowing to the bigger picture.  In fact, as a youth pastor, I've discovered that you have to make every effort to insure everything you do promotes and keeps the "vision of the house" as it's center of focus, because if you don't then by default you're creating a "church mutiny" without even knowing it.    May I suggest taking a look at the Relevant article here to go deeper in this topic.

Value #8: The Journey of faith takes time, and students can minister now.  Ever notice the gap between Moses killing the Egyptian and the burning bush experience?  Or how about Samson sleeping with Delilah then the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him?  These are just a few of many verses that mess me up.  (in a good way)   These stories are not in the Bible to conflict with the process of righteousness, they are in there to remind us that discipleship is not an A then B then C Sunday school process.  We have to disciple right where people are at.  I'm not advocating that you take the teenage guy sleeping with his girlfriend and put him in your youth band, but I am saying to be aware of ways to bring teens into a closer relationship of Grace and Righteousness through disciplining where they are currently at.  I take great comfort in seeing Jesus do this with his disciples and many times at the end of the day they still did not get it.  It's a process.

I hope you enjoy them and would love any feedback.
Yours for His Kingdom,

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Convictions about Youth Ministry --Part 2

Value #3: Small works better than big. I've had the opportunity to be a part of and lead "big" youth ministries. One of the common misconceptions is to focus on the "bigness" of ministry and lead with a big mindset.
Now let me interject, this is not a ploy to discredit big ministry or to criticize youth groups that get big. After all, "healthy things grow." In fact, it's quite the opposite, your ministry SHOULD get big; the time it takes is up to you.
I'm simply stating that the bigger something gets, the more important it becomes to break it down into smaller groups, activities, etc. The bigger a group gets the less involvment from individuals you'll have. Not everyone enjoys concerts or camping or video games or football; for example, have you ever seen the way a group interacts when there are only 6 in it, compared to the way a group 25 interact? In the smaller group everyone participates, speaks up, gets involved. In the larger; just a handful will.
The larger your group gets, the more you will work at finding ways to make it personal and connected. May I suggest thinking small.

Value #4: Knowing God is more important than knowing about God. I will be the first to admit this is takes a lot of work to make a reality. Maybe it's just me, because I enjoy "teaching" aspect of ministry. But the truth of it is, we have a great canyon between knowing and experiencing God. Here are a couple of thoughts: Everything we do should point to God, even our lingo about Jesus. I've seen far too often we put such a heavy focus on Christ that we neglect to finish the journey. Hear me, I'm not saying do away with Jesus! Absolutely not!!! I'm saying we must not fail to connect the dots, that the reason why Jesus came was to restore us unto our Heavenly Father, God. We must continue to teach about God, but also put a high focus on sensing the presence of God; linking what we do to why we do it.

Value #5: Humor greatly enhances ministry. There is no hiding the fact that I personally like to have fun. But this value goes far beyond my personal preference. I believe humor should be a vital part of youth ministry; and not just reserved for a video or drama in the service. Humor is more than a funny drama or telling jokes in your message. It's the overall atmosphere of joy that is echoed in everything you do. There is something disarming and attractive to a ministry that can successfully infuse humor into ever service. Let me add one thought to this value; it should show up in every service, not just the special ones you plan for. A key damper in the service is to be asked several times the phrase, "are you having a good time?" or "are you glad you showed up?" They will let you know with their feet over the next few weeks. The only "person" we are trying to convince when we ask, "are you having a good time" over and over is ourselves.

Again, I hope you enjoy these and that they maybe even help. I'll post more tomorrow.
Yours for His Kingdom,

Missed Part One? Click here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Convictions about Youth Ministry --Part 1

As a "former" youth pastor who now travels full time. I'm often introduced as the guy "with a list of past achievements."
Growing a youth group from 30 to 300.
Transforming a youth group.
Leading through change in a youth group.
Developing small groups.
Bla bla bla.....

Honestly, I'd like to be known for what I'm "about" to do, rather than what I "have" done because the future is where it's at. Life, ministry, churches, youth groups change so fast. I want to be one of those guys who's pushing the envelope to reach and minister where teens are at now as well as where they are going.

With that in mind, I'd like to submit to you some of my core convictions and values about youth ministry. These are not a 10 step "how to process" or even the top "methods" to grow your group. I'd be a fool to suggest such a thing, because like I said before, "ministry is always changing" and methods for that matter.
You may read these next few post and hear nothing more than an old guy who has done more things wrong than right, and you'd be correct.
But hopefully some of these core values I have concerning youth ministry will be an equipping tool for your ministry too. Enjoy

Value #1: God is in control, we are not. Sounds like a "no responsibility" free card, but it's not. In fact, it puts so much more responsibility on the leader. One of the mistakes that I've made before (that many youth pastors make) is we either don't plan far enough in advance OR we plan too much and THEN ask God to bless it. It's far more important to seek Him first and jump on what He is already blessing than to invite Him along for the ride. With this value it's important to add that tucked away in the spaces of this truth is another key principle that Jesus teaching regarding "being faithful with little, will be made ruler over much." I wholehearted believe that when we are faithful (responsible) for those he has given us, then He will add an increase.
Be honest, you and me and the rest of the world was put out with "OctoMom" because she wasn't taking care of the children she already had and now she adds eight more to the mix. How much more is our Heavenly Father wanting us to take care of who we have before He adds more to us?
We should be strategic and plan, but never at the expense of getting a clear word of direction from the One who is in control.

Value #2: Doing the right thing is more important than doing things right.
Thank goodness that we've had a wave of "excellence" pass in the church. I mean really, we are starting to see some quality and well done ministry in our churches. Of course there is the random "cheesy church marque" that still pokes it's head up, but overall I see churches doing things right. As they should.
However it's not the most important thing. Somehow we've lost the urgency to do the right thing.
Youth pastors quit over a disagreement with the pastor.
Programs become more important than people.
Upholding policies take precedence over situational needs.
Gray areas become easily justified when personally wronged.
One of the many things I've learned since being out of "full time" youth ministry is this; "teens don't remember what you say as much as they remember what you did." If you haven't put guard rails and people in your life to question your motives and ask you the tough questions about why you do what you do, (and I mean lots of different people, not just a few "yes" friends) then the sad truth is your character is already slipping and you're not even aware of it.

Value #3: It takes adults to make your youth ministry survive, it takes ministers to make it thrive.
Any youth ministry that does not have an abundance of adult workers will not go the distance. I don't think there is a magic ratio of how many to have, but I'd say, "the more the better!" You may think teens hate being around adults (or even vice-versa) but the truth is, having loving, committed adults in your youth ministry is what will cause it to continue to grow for the long haul.
It takes ministers to thrive simply means, "don't fall into the buddy system." It's easy for youth pastors and adult workers to want to be everyone's "buddy" but when it comes time to speak into a teen's life, they need to hear it from someone they respect and value; who they know has their spiritual welfare as their concern. It's not to say we are Bible scholars or have been to seminary or have the proper paperwork, it simply means we need to act and hold ourselves in a manner that in honorable to the Gospel. We are all called as ministers of the gospel first, leaders next, and then friend. Many young guys in ministry operate with a "Norm" mindset and want everybody to know their name; while this might work for a while, in the long run it will devastate your impact.

Hope you enjoyed these three convictions of mine concerning youth ministry, I'll post the next three tomorrow.

Yours for His Kingdom,

Thursday, August 12, 2010


When it comes to leadership books, there is one theme that you will find in almost every one of them and that's the ability to take risks.

To lead with courage does not mean you have all the answers or even know how this thing is going to turn out. It simply means taking a risk to do the thing you believe needs to be done.

Let me throw this thought towards you, "If the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over but expect different results, then crazy is to do things differently around those who expect things to remain the same."

When I was in the restaurant business, the president of the company I worked for gave us managers some sound advice, he said, "when things get tough don't hunker down and comply with the winds of change, instead be a risk taker and fine tune what you do and excel."

There is a group I know of who's summer ministry numbers have been dwindling over the years, compounded with the recession they've decided to compensate to meet budget by raising enrollment by 20%.
This is the opposite of what the CEO was talking about, in a time where things must be done to improve, they raise the price, instead of taking risks to stretch and focus on growth. By doing some things differently they could attract new people to participate and thus meeting the budget to continue their ministry.

Leaders take risks.
There may be place in your family, job, church, school that is needing you to take a deep breath and yell "charge!!!"

Monday, August 2, 2010

Beans and Cornbread

Meal time at our house growing up was probably like most people; mom was a good cook, dad was a man of simple taste.
Most of our meals consisted of steak and potatoes, green beans, spinach, beans and cornbread; you know good solid meals.
But every once in a while dad would come home and bring something from Sonic or announce we're going out for pizza.
Those were the nights we loved; we didn't have to load the dishwasher, or gather the trash or clean off the table or consume more beans and cornbread!
Those meals out were special. They didn't happen often, but when they did they were great.

You know, I've come to believe church services are the same way.
No matter what side of the pulpit you're on, we all want to experience an awesome worship service. We can tell when a service wasn't quite up to par, or when "God really showed up."

Clearly there is the supernatural element that contributes to our church services that are desperately needed; AND with that I'd like to encourage you that it's your faithfulness in the daily "taking out the trash", "washing the dishes" or better yet said, ---its the weekly beans and cornbread services that makes those special times that much more important.

Galations 6:9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

So don't despise the normal, average services; it takes them to make the really great services that much valued and pleasing.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Comes Down to This

"Integrity has high influence value."

We must be aggressive in making sure our integrity stays at a high level. I love how my father-n-law says it, "Integrity is the things I tell you before you find out the hard way." So true. Because of the age we live in we have the awesome ability to connect with people from all over the place.
The last couple of months I've been talking to a lot of friends long distances about some issues concerning where they live, and throughout the converstions it boils down to "lack of integrity."

Has nothing to do about salvation, perspectives, viewpoints, or even theology. That's important to recognize; because one can say all the right things but actions will always speak louder.

I believe it's easy to sit back and say, "well, I have integrity so this is pointless." True. We all have some level of integrity, the key is to look for way to grow it. Yep! Have more!

Too often we can appear to lose or even completely have lost our integrity. We see it in the news of people we once respected and now no longer do because of some action that violated our trust towards them.
That's why we must "tell before it comes out the hard way." It may be hard to do, but not near as hard as building from lost integrity. In these times, high integrity is attractive and worth following. I think of many of the men and women of God in my life that I have surrounded myself by and although we may not agree with methods, viewpoints or even theologies, I respect them in the highest regard because they live with the uttermost integrity.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Sleeping Policeman

Picture a guy driving in his car, the radio on and even possibly drinking a soda when all of the sudden, "wham!" The care bumps in the air, his head hits the ceiling, and some of his drink spills out. He immediately brings the car to a stop and gets out to discover he went over a speed bump.
He starts kicking it!
Can you imagine?
The man starts pointing his finger at it, yelling; "You dumb speed bump! Didn't you know I was driving just fine by myself?! Couldn't you see where I was going? You're trying to stop me from getting where I want to go! Oh, look at you just lying there, so smug, who gave you the right to be there?!"
I'm pretty sure if we saw that scene we'd probably be making a call to the "loony bin" for that guy.

No, we don't see that usually play out. In fact, most people see a speed bump in plenty of time to slow down and take it easy. No one want's to purposely cause damage to their vehicle or throw their tires out of balance or cause a mess inside their car; or worse yet cause some other accident to someone else.
These piles of concrete or asphalt, or "sleeping policemen" they call them in some countries are simply reminders to slow down a bit and use some caution before proceeding.

You know, just as the above situation sounds quite silly; as if it would ever happen, it goes to be said that it's a situation often seen in the area of personal lives.
Someone gives you advice or thoughts about a direction and out come excuses and even in some case backlash towards that person. Even in extreme cases there may be even accusations towards that person of being judgmental or "high and mighty."
I'm sure there are dozens of reasons. But possibly the most common is because you're not accountable.
There is a great difference between knowing what accountability is and being accountable.
I often explain that accountability is like a two sided coin; on one side it's the "You ask and I tell" aspect. And it works great. The other side is "I tell before you ask" and it works even better.
So how about it? Do you have some "sleeping policemen" in your life that are there to give you a little bump or nudge as you journey through life?
If not, I'd encourage you to find some that will speak into your life; no matter how uncomfortable they may be at times
Sleeping policemen may cause a little bump, but better is it to slow down and take a bump than speed through and cause a mess.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Change This or That

"What you believe dictates your actions, and actions lead to the desired outcome." Many people who are frustrated or unhappy with their current outcome in life think the best thing to do is make a different choice.
New job.
Better church.
Different spouse.

Something different because the current situation is not what we thought it would be. Now sure there are times when making a switch can be a very good thing, (especially when it doesn't go against God's guidelines) but many times after the "newness" has lost it's sparkle, we start looking again for something different.

Possibly because it's easy to address actions or choices. Example, if I asked you "how" you spend your money, you could easily show me your debit card statement or check book or even credit card bill. The "outcome" of those items reflect what choices you made. But if I was to ask you, "what do you believe about money?" That may take some work in articulating properly. That's why it's especially important to address our "beliefs" and what we truly believe.

When it comes to changing your outcome, it's been well said; "wherever you go, there you are." The one factor that remains the same in every situation is "us."
Philippians 4:13 is the famous verse where Paul says, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." And when you look at it in the verses leading up to it you find that it's the strength in Christ that gives contentment in every situation.

Inevitably, our thinking leads to feelings. So the only effective way to move toward growth and fulfillment when we're feeling dissatisfied or inexplicably stagnant is to dig deeply into God's Word to find real answers that change our thinking and develop a Godly belief system.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

13 Churches (Part 4 of 4)

This is the last installment of 13 different types of churches that are listed in Ed Stetzer's book, "Comeback Churches." Below are the last three. Again, these descriptions come directly from Ed's book, and I'd encourage you to buy a copy and read it.

I'd like to echo what Ed says; "The wrong question is whether your church is "traditional" or "contemporary" and which is better. The real issue is whether your church is biblically faithful, acting as the presence of Christ in the community at large, able to relate Christ to people in culture, and is on mission to reach the lost." I couldn't agree more! There are so many structures and formulas for doing church, traditional, contemporary, pragmatic, transformissional, etc; that we can get so consumed with the "style" that we lose focus on the "purpose."
My hope in posting these from his book is simply to inspire the reading of the book and a healthy self examination of your church. That's the starting point to any healthy change---to confront the reality and lead accordingly by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

If you haven't read the previous post, you can catch up by clicking the below links.

13 Churches Part 1
13 Churches Part 2
13 Churches Part 3
and now here is the final installment. Enjoy!

Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen

"Chaplaincy" Church. The church hired it's minister (and even staff) and expects the "chaplain" to be busy about meeting the needs and making the church grow. It's not uncommon to hear a statement like, "Preacher, you need to visit Mrs. Gray. She hasn't been feeling well." The members identify the needs and the prospects and expect their pastor to respond. After all, they haven't been to seminary, and that's what he's being paid to do. Despite the fact that the church's ministry impact is limited to the staff's time and abilities, the church body remains committed to an employer/employee model. They want a hired "chaplain," not a leader.

The "Company" Church. This church is more focused on what is handed down from the denomination that how to reach it's community. One after another, the denominational calendar and programs come and the local church seeks to apply them (not realizing that most denominational departments crank out programs like a Ford in the 1970's---too many and not well thought out). So, while denominational departments produce competing materials without communicating with other, the "Company Church" faithfully seeks to staff every one--while pretty much ignoring it's community.

"Play It Safe" Church. Here, there's little faith that God will provide. Rather than enabling ministry and evangelism, it hinders them. The church want's to protect what it has. As much money as possible is placed in a certificate of deposit. But no plan is made to use it to reach others for Christ. It's a safety net that's guarded carefully. Members have little incentive to give. This leads the treasurer and finance committee to conclude that they were wise to protect the "nest egg."

You could probably think of many more, but they all have in common one thing. They have lost the passion for making disciples and the focus of God's glory in His church. Yet, identification is easy. Change is hard.
There are many factors that can contribute to a church decline and even death. One thing we must not forget is the very real and very spiritual nature of church growth.

One reason a church may experience decline is because Jesus is displeased with the way the church has handled past challenges. Another is that the church may have been disobedient at a crucial point. If we believe we are to be "Spirit led" and our churches should be too, then we can't ignore key principles like, "reap what you sow" and "faithful with the small." Repentance may be a spiritual issue, but in many cases it's also a pressing need.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

13 Churches (Part 3 of 4)

We're taking a look at 13 different types of churches that are listed in Ed Stetzer's book, "Comeback Churches." Below are three more types, if you didn't get to see the first three, click here. Again, these descriptions come directly from the Ed's book, and I'd encourage you to buy a copy and read it

I've broken the list of 13 "Dirty Churches" into four different post; as not to make one extra long post. To catch up on the past 7 check out the links below.

13 Churches Part 1
13 Churches Part 2
and now here is the next installment.

Eight, Nine and Ten

"Time-Warp" Church. Somehow these folks have preserved, not just the tenets of the faith, but the positions, practices, and appearance of years gone by. They may still have an "Intermediate" or "Junior" department. They expect others to adapt and accept what they've grown comfortable with doing, and they give no thought at all to change. The church doesn't seem to attract people like it did before, but "If it's good enough for me and my family, it should be good enough for them." This church was probably once very effective , but the community has experienced a major transition, leaving the church perplexed, wondering what it should do.

"Tidy" Church. The members take pride in their church. They've worked hard to get it and keep it in it's present condition. The buildings, furnishings, and equipment are well kept. The materials are meticulously organized. Everything operates smoothly until noisy youth or messy children begin to come. As outreach efforts continue to draw more exuberant kids and their families, a greater sense of unrest develops. The new growth is suddenly viewed as a threat, leading to efforts to contain it and to prevent further disruptions or damage.

"My Way or the Highway" Church. A number of the members in this church know how things ought to be, and are vocal--maybe even vociferous---in expressing it. They like a certain kind of music. Maybe guitars are out; anthems are in. Or, choir robes are more appropriate than "street clothes" for worship. Comments such as the following abound: "I don't like to stand when we sing." "It's always too hot (or too cold) in here." "I like it better when we had announcements in the middle of the service." " The attendance board has always been on that wall." "This is our room and we're not about to move." No matter the issue, these people wont' be satisfied unless it's done their way.
This is stereotypical church wherein the senior adults are given the new van to use on their apple orchard trips while the student ministry is asked to drive the old van because "those teenagers are messy." Young families get the message that their children are unwelcome.

Check in tomorrow for the last three.

Hopefully by now you've read all the post concerning this subject and I don't have to go into great detail to why I'm posting these types of churches.
But to make sure you hear my heart, I want the church to not only survive but to excel! Since 3,500 to 4,000 churches close each year, it's obvious that most churches won't make the turnaround. This is probably due to several reasons, a couple are; first, most churches will not admit how bad it is. Second, most churches will not make the needed changes.
My prayer is that you as a leader, pastor, elder, board member read and see that quite possibly you are heading down the road to being one of these types or churches, or you already are one, that you would aggressively seek God for answers and strategy to turn you church around and be one of the many "comeback churches" in America.

Monday, June 21, 2010

13 Churches (Part 2 of 4)

We're taking a look at 13 different types of churches that are listed in Ed Stetzer's book, "Comeback Churches." Below are four more types, if you didn't get to see the first three, click here. Again, these descriptions come directly from the Ed's book, and I'd encourage you to buy a copy and read it.

Four Through Seven

Voluntary Association Church. The Voluntary Association church has unwittingly modeled it's organization after a democratic government rather than New Testament principles. It is a church of the people, by the people, and most importantly for the people. It's purpose is to make sure it retains as many people as possible and keeps any new people in their place. In order for this to become a reality, the board of the church is a balanced set of people who represent opposing factions in the church. Whenever one group seeks to make a positive change in the church in one direction, the opposing factions begin to whine, complain, and gossip. It's a perfect democracy modeled after our government--which most would say does not always work so well. The board then meets in emergency session, and the point is raised that three of four people might leave if the positive changes become a reality. Then compromises are made and deals are cut to maintain the "status quo." Of course, someone has explained the "status quo" is simply Latin for "the mess we're in." Due to an overwhelming need to keep everyone happy, the Volunteer Association Church ends up bound, at the mercy of a vocal minority, and ineffective. This type of church will not change until they change their value system.

"We Can't Compete" Church. Many "stuck" churches have simply given up. Like a family-owned business next to a new Wal-Mart, they have given up on making a difference. They have decided that they cannot "compete," and they stop trying. Unfortunately, they have bought into the idea that the unchurched are only interested in program-rich megachurches. But the truth churches of all sizes can turn around and reach the unchurched.

"Decently and in Order" Church. These churches have a high regard for processes but lack passion. They run everything by the book; unfortunately, it's not the Bible. As long as matters great and small meet the approval of various committees and are discussed in minute detail at business meetings, all is well. Unfortunately, they've forgotten---if they ever knew--that the business of the church was given by our Lord in the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

"Square Peg in a Round Hole" Church. In this congregation, people are enlisted for leadership and service, not by their gifts or passions, but by other criteria. You might hear, "We've got to fill this position. Who can you think of that we've not already talked to? Someone else might suggest, "He's here all the time. Let's make him an elder." Bankers automatically go on the finance committee, though they have the gift of evangelism or mercy. People are all in their place, but it might not be the right place to help their church reach those around them. The organization stifles the church's impact.

Check in tomorrow for the next three.

Again my passion is to see the Church become healthy. I believe if you can see what type of church culture you're in, then it will give you the right perspective in how to pray and seek God on how to turn your church around.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

13 Churches (Part 1 of 4)

I've had the chance to devour a few books here in the last couple of weeks. One that I've really enjoyed is called "Comeback Churches" by Ed Stetzer. I got to hear Ed at a church planting conference in Orlando, FL a while back and really loved his thoughts and heart concerning growing healthy churches.

I thought I would share what he calls the "Dirty 13" when it comes to looking at what types of churches need a "comeback." I won't go into huge detail in these post because I think any Pastor or minister would greatly benefit from adding this book to their library. So if you're out and about, I encourage you to pick up a copy.

Your leadership is absolutely essential in guiding your church to be a comeback church. I didn't put under the direction of the Holy Spirit because that is a given and shouldn't have to be explained but alas here I am explaining it because there will always be someone who questions that statement and declare, "you're leaving out being let by the Spirit!" Which is the furthest thing from the truth.
Barna is correct when he writes, "After fifteen years of diligent digging into the world around me, I have reached several conclusions about the future of the Christian church in America. The central conclusion is that the American Church is dying due to lack of strong spiritual leadership. In this time of unprecedented opportunity and plentiful resources, the church is actually losing influence. The primary reason is lack of spiritual leadership. Nothing is more important than leadership."

The first 3 of 13 Churches

Institutionalized Church. Many churches have regressed into a state of merely functioning as an institution. An institutionalized church focuses on and is more committed to the forms and programs of ministry. It no longer sees the purpose for which the church was created, nor what the church is striving to produce. In an institutionalized church, the good has become the enemy of the best, and activity has chocked out productivity. Please take note that an institutionalized church is not necessarily small. Some of the larger churches in America are perfectly plateaued for this very reason.

Unintentional Church. Many churches mean well, they have good intentions, but do not act on those intentions to reach their community. They may even be willing, but ultimately, they never "do" what they "hope." Unintentional churches do not embrace an intentional process for making disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19) The churches naively believe that as long as they included the ingredients for making disciples---worship, nurture, teaching, outreach----disciples will be produced.

"Us Four and No More" Church. Some churches have adopted an "us four and no more" mentality. They have determined that if they get any larger, they will lose their sweet fellowship. They do not intentionally reject "new" people, but their present relationships are so intimate that any new attendee of the church cannot break into the group. They want a family feel, which means a group small enough to relate like a family. Like residents in the suburbs, they don't want anymore people to crowd in once they are there.

Check in tomorrow for the next four.

Please note, that when I read these descriptions; I get motivated. Motivated because it helps me know the potential that is in every person to want to withdraw to one of these systems. If given enough time and poor leadership; any church can do so. It helps me as a leader to understand and to know how to lead accordingly under the direction of the Holy Spirit. I really believe it's in the honest journey of being under poor (or even ungodly) leadership that churches find themselves in these situations. Let's be honest, if I asked the question, "who wants a stagnant church? The answer will be "Nobody!" Yet according to Leadership Journal, 340,000 churches are in need of church revitalization. Because of that, I want to be the type of leader that is lovingly and gracefully helping turn the tide in the Church. Jesus said, "He would build His Church" and he has given us a part in the process. Some of us carry the wood, some hammer the nails, some clear the site. The important part is to know what part He has called you to play.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Learning from a Master

Sports legend John Wooden died at age 99 this week.

To be honest, he was more than just a sports legend, he was really a life legend.
Enthusiasm, just to name a few.

"John Wooden was a very religious man and in some ways he treated the game religiously."--William Nack

Of all the wonderful things that have been said about this great man, there was one thing in particular that stood out to me that I think we all in life, especially those of in ministry, can glean and learn from.

In an article, one of Coach Wooden's former assistant coaches made this statement, "Coach Wooden never talked about winning. Instead he told us (coaching staff) "we must master three things: 1. Get them in shape 2. Teach them the basics 3. Teach them to play together."

I find this amazing, especially when so much strife in the church world has to do with "winning."

Get them in shape.
Teach the basics.
Teach how to play well together.

So many of life's issues, both good and bad, have to do with faith. Can we trust God to get us through? What if He doesn't? Why do bad things happen to good people? Or for that matter, why do good things happen to bad people? You can tell if a person is in spiritual shape not by how much they worship or attend church, but how they handle life when things don't work out the way they thought they should.
Is your faith in shape?

As I watched game two in the Laker's VS Celtics NBA Playoffs I witnessed a classic rebound and point conversion because of knowing the basics. It was so inspiring that the announcers kept going back to it during breaks in the game.

If Jesus was a basketball coach I'm pretty sure He would teach the basics over and over. He would be saying to the team, "take care of the basics and you'll achieve the national championship." Or in KJV, "take care of the small things and you'll be ruler over much".
In youth ministry we tried to teach our teens the simple HABITS: Hang time with God, Accountability, Bible memorization, Involvement in church, Tithe, and Service.
The basics are what keep you healthy and produce unwavering hope.
Is your hope grounded?

Teach them how to play well together. Wow! Need I say more?
I will say this: I, like many others, have experienced a "church breakup" (to use polite terms). And one of the biggest questions that arises in that time of healing is, "did I miss God?" After all I pretty sure every minister--including myself--believes the same thing when they go on staff or start attending a church. And that is "God called me here". I won't dispute that.
So what do you do when man calls you away from there?
My vote: leave. I know that sounds harsh and ungodly, but hear me out. Because if you argue from the standpoint of "God called me to this area and we're staying" then what you might as well be saying is, "God thinks the greatest way to reproduce churches is by the way of dysfunction and church splitting."

It would be as if God is up in heaven saying, "you know we could use more churches in that area, I'm going to send Vince to that church because one day they will kick him out and he'll church plant in that same area and then we'll have more churches there!" God then leans over and gives Jesus a high five.

Here is what I've found out during my short time on planet Earth. God gave us all brains to be able to figure some things out on our own. Some things are just highly probable. It's highly probable that a church split is going to do more lasting damage for many years than it will start to do good. If there is a chance that you two can't play well together, go to a different sandbox. Jesus said "if at all possible live peaceable with everyone." Which tells me for some that just won't be possible.

Now I know that sounds really rough and I've probably offended some, if I haven't offended you, just wait your turn I'll get to you; I'm an equally opportunity offender. *wink and smile*

I in no way am questioning what God did or did not tell you, but I've been around the block enough to know sometimes it can be good and people can play well together and sometimes it's just us wanting our way and using whatever scripture and justification to get it. Because the two are sometimes hard to tell apart, that is where accountability comes into play. Because if you submit to someone and they tell you "no" when you feel God told you "yes" then you are not held accountable, they are. Honestly there are too many scripture references to put in this one because the Bible says it from start to finish.
It's a basic in life that will help you love others and play well.

Oh, and how do you know if you're accountable and doing what you should? A timeless key is, "How do you respond when those over you tell you something you don't want to hear? Defensive or offended or quick to respond with a list of why they are wrong? Or do you do what they say with humility and with honor towards them?
How's your love level?

When I hear Coach Wooden say, "Get them in shape, teach them the basics and train them to play well together", I hear the Apostle Paul echo the heartbeat of God by saying, "Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Only Steps Away

I love talking about relationships!
In my travels I've enjoyed being able to share with teens and adults some of the Biblical principles that God gives us to ensure we can have the greatest dating and married relationships possible.

From his book, Love For a Lifetime, Dr. James Dobson inserts the findings from doctors Joy and Morris about the steps to relational bonding and how sexual abstinence is so important to marriage and how it relates to the process of bonding.

I'll give you what they call, The Twelve Steps of Bonding, in it's short form. When I talked about these steps to my youth ministry; I had a couple of senior girls who went to college and would say, "Step Eight!!" as their accountability mantra during their dating years.

I'd ask you to consider if these steps are something you enjoy reading and sharing with your group to consider having me come and do a "Guard Your Heart" retreat for your youth ministry. The info and time spent on such an important subject that teens want to hear is well worth it's weight in gold.
Contact me at Enjoy!

12 Steps of Bonding
1. Eye to Body: A glance reveals much about a person.
2. Eye to Eye: When the man and woman who are strangers to each other exchange glances, this is the first step to determine if the relationship moves forward.
3. Voice to Voice: During this long stage the two people learn much about the other. If they're compatible, they become friends.
4. Hand to Hand: The first instance of physical contact between the couple is usually a non-romantic occasion. However, if continued, the hand-to-hand contact will eventually become an evidence of the couple's romantic attachment to each other.
5. Hand to Shoulder: The hand-to-shoulder contact reveals a relationship that is more than close friendship, but probably not real love.

(Again let me interject that I am just giving you the highlights to these steps and not the full description)

6. Hand to Waist: Because this is something that two people of the same sex would not ordinarily do, it is romantic.
7. Face to Face: This level of contact involves gazing into one another's eyes, hugging and kissing.
8. Hand to Head: This is an extension of the previous stage; kissing while stroking each other's head. Rarely do individuals in our culture touch the head of another person unless they are either romantically involved. It is a designation of emotional closeness.

9-12 The Final Steps: The last four levels on involvement are distinctly sexual and intensely private; and because this is on a blog and not something I'm sharing in the confines of a group discussion, I'll leave the last four steps off, you can contact me if you'd like to know. I will however point out that it's step 12 that is the final act of intercourse; with that said I point out to those listening, in our culture we skip the steps and are usually all over the place when in comes to meaningful bonding. No wonder so many marriages in in divorce after only 3 to 7 years.
God has the perfect design for your relationship, one that is to be entered into slowly.

As my college girls would say, "Step Eight! You're going too fast!"

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Faithfulness Equals What?

I have the privilege to run along side a church in Van Buren, AR this week by speaking on a subject the Pastor is focusing on called, "God's Extreme Makeover." My subject to cover, faithfulness.

Here are a few thoughts I'm planning on sharing.

We typically get our definition of faithfulness by looking at what "we" don't do.

I don't cheat on my wife----so I'm a faithful husband.
I don't run out on my family----so I'm a faithful father.
I don't skip out at church----so I'm a faithful church goer.
I don't steal from my boss---so I'm a faithful employee.

While I certainly agree, I believe faithfulness goes far beyond what you and I don't do. Faithfulness has another side to it, it's reflected by the things we do, as well. Faithfulness is proactive.

Looking from a Biblical point of view--- faithfulness involves stewardship; stewardship is always about responsibility and requires accountability. (Matthew 25:14)
To put it in shorter terms, faithfulness is about responsibility.
Responsibility is not individual, it's communal, it's corporate, it's family.

Most of the references in the Bible concerning faithfulness point towards God. He is faithful!
We are charged to be faithful, and when we live by the Spirit, faithfulness is a fruit the Spirit produces in our lives.
We are most happiest when we are responsible, we were created to be responsible. (Genesis 3)

This week or month, I encourage you to look at every aspect of your life from the lenses of responsibility and ask yourself the question, "how faithful am I, really?" Because faithfulness is responsibility and the hidden truth about irresponsibility states, when we are irresponsible we are asking someone else to pick up our slack and be responsible for us."

Christ did this on the cross for us

As Christians we can't be irresponsible (unfaithful) because ultimately we're not just accountable to our spouse or our boss; ultimately we are accountable to our Heavenly Father.

Be faithful by actively pursuing ways to be responsible in your family, your marriage, your job, your church.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

No Blood, No Foul

"Effective leaders do not fear passion. They welcome it. But from time to time passionate discussion digress into personal attacks, and real people get really hurt. In my view leaders must head that off before it happens." -Bill Hybels

I attended my first staff meeting in over four years.

I was asked by a Pastor whom, I love and respect, to sit in on their staff meeting and give some input and feedback as an "outsider." (can I say I respect him more!)

As I listened and engaged in discussion it was so apparent that this Pastor is a great leader and has great leaders around him. The scriptures tell us, "iron sharpens iron" we know that and like to quote it. But have you ever thought about iron?
It's heavy.
It's rough.
It's hard.
And we need that. We need opturnities to be able to disagree or voice our view; no matter how harsh or heavy it may sound, because we all have the understanding, "we can disagree without drawing blood."

I witnessed two strong personalities "hash out" their strong beliefs about an issue and discovered they were both saying the same thing from two different angles. Allowing this type of dialog actually causes value to be built for both parties involved. It's only if it goes to drawing blood that it devalues everyone involved.

So here's to passion and living passionately in the healthy context of doing life together means we will get dirty, but not bloody.

Friday, February 26, 2010

As Always!

So I've been working on a video for a contest for a group called AMD Alliance International.
It's been more of a difficult endeavor than I imagined; due to several factors.
It's a serious video---I thrive on slapstick and humor.
The time frame---I've only had 6 days to write, shoot, edit and promote.
The missing pieces.

I needed/wanted a doctor interview concerning AMD and I spent hours on the phone talking to people I knew in the vision field that I thought would help. That was a no.
Then I found out my mother in law had an eye exam scheduled and I would follow her and get the shots I needed, that was a no. Even after I explained there would be no shots that would risk their image, the official word was "it is highly unlikely that we will let you film in our building."

Okay, Plan B.
If I could get my hands on a doctor's white coat, I'll just stage the "interview." Let me just say, finding a Doctor willing to part with a jacket for a few hours is like asking a "rocker" to only play "classical" music. They could, but just don't want to deep down.

Grrrr...Plan C.
So I'm on my way to film the last of two shots, one of which is the "mock doctor with no coat or lab setting."
As I'm driving I had decided to stop by a doctor's office who I had called and left messages with several times; I figured I'd just drop in, ask and see. I prayed, "Lord, give me favor in this and let that Doctor say yes so I can have a lab coat to film with."
Almost there, I see an eye care center and a little voice inside said, "pull in."
I did, the lot was empty so I sat in my truck for a few moments and thought, "ok? I'm going to walk in this strangers office and ask to film them???"

As I walk in and explain my need to the receptionist the Doctor walks up and says, "I'd be happy to help."

I was looking for a lab coat to film a mock doctor interview.
I got a real doctor talking in there lab, doing the interview.
God delivers bigger than our expectations, as always, but why does it come as a surprise? I don't know. But I do know if my God can give this kid a pleasant surprise right when it's needed, then He can and will do the same for you

The finished product will be loaded later today, but I just had to give testimony to God's goodness and faithfulness.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ask and you shall receive

Matthew 21:1-3 ...Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away."

At first glance this looks as if Jesus' lordship overrides the need to show respect by asking for the permission to use something.
But deeper study and looking into the actual verse revels to us that Jesus had a relationship with the owner of the donkey. Jesus gives great detail to what to look for and where to find it; he clearly had been there before.

I imagine there was a time when Jesus visited the man and during a conversation the man said something to the fact of, "Jesus, if ever I can do anything for you, let me know."
The time came for a need, and Jesus was able to call on this friend for that favor.

I remember long ago, my brother was just 4 or 5 years old I was just 10 or 11 and taking him to children's church. He saw the Children's Pastor and asked him for money for the soda machine. Right then and there! I stared to correct him and tell him how rude it was to ask such a thing. But before I could get the words out of my mouth the minister smiled and handed him 50 cents then patted me on the head and said, "you have not because you ask not."
I've carried that lesson with me for over 20 years.

My spiritual father told me once that humans, by nature, are not giving; giving comes the Holy Spirit probing us to do so. So when someone says "if I can do something for you let me know" they are being sensitive and open to God to work through them.

I had a friend offer his help and I had a need. Long story short I was able to simply sit in his office and ask if he was able to meet that need. He was and he did.

As I write this I am still in awe of God's goodness and this man's kindness towards me and my family. Because of him I am now the owner of a wonderful video camera that will be well used for ministry trips, filming jobs and video contest.

Be mindful of people's ability to meet a need. Ask and you shall receive.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Covenant Communities

Creating community in a church is a much greater challenge than running programs, and most of the problems we face in the church are the result of broken relationships and lack of community.

As we see a new type of church leader emerging; authentic community will become one of the primary standards by which church health will be measured, rather than church size or the number of quality of specific ministry programs.
So the question quickly comes up, "what is authentic community?"
Someone best described it as "real people, in real relationships being real, all the time."
I simply call it, entering into covenant.

Rick Warren has said there are four levels of relationships that people engage into.
The first and most shallowest is Studying together, then
Sharing together, then
Serving together and finally
Suffering together.

This type of community is difficult, messy and sometimes impossible. But it starts with a willingness to engage in time frames that don't fall into the normal "meeting time."

Those that are living at a deeper level of community constantly find themselves with each other in homes, coffee shops or anywhere on almost a daily basis; it's deeper than a "Tweet" or "Facebook" wall post.

Are you engaging into authentic relationships and creating covenant communities?

Am I?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

In The Trenches

I've been asked more than one time, "what's it been like for you to not be on a staff at a church for the last two years?"

One word. Enlightening.

I'm currently reading a book called, "Transformissional Coaching" by Steve Ogne and Tim Roehl.
I would love to put some of my highlighted notes on here for you to enjoy, but the truth is, I'd probably get sued for plagiarism; it's got so much in it that there are literally some pages that only a couple of sentences are NOT highlighted.

For me, the book is valadating why I feel and think the way I do. I've often felt like a rebel or felt hindered in sharing my views for feeling they were "too out there."

As a real quick point of reference and to explain the word transformissional, here is a little breakdown.
Keep this in mind while I share; Times are changing! My kids (4 & 6 years old) will most likely never know what an audio tape was. Much like I never experienced the 8 track. Likewise, young people today view churches like: Willow Creek and Saddleback as "traditional!" That's mind blowing!
It begins with the three major paradigms.

The Traditional Church (1900-1980)
  • Modern with a rational worldview.
  • They are pastor-and program-centered.
  • Worship style is traditional.
  • Spirituality is determined by attendance, adherence to rules, and position in the church.
  • Most visible religious figure is Billy Graham.
  • Missions was always viewed as an "over seas" endeavor. Some would go, others would pay and more would pray.
The Pragmatic Church (1980-2000)
  • Includes the church-growth and seeker-church movements.
  • Huge use of media, technology, and innovation.
  • Worship style is contemporary and performance oriented.
  • They tend to be ahistorical and minimize religious symbols and architecture.
  • Market driven and success oriented.
  • Evangelism focused mostly on reaching the "seeker" and "getting back" the once churched. And they did, thousands returned because now church was relevant for them and their children.
  • The most visible religious figures are Bill Hybles and Rick Warren.
The Transformissional Leaders (2000 to present)
  • They are prone to deconstruct and reconstruct ministry.
  • Have an aversion to performance and programs in the church.
  • Prefer to emphasize the development of authentic Christian community.
  • Love to blend the ancient with the contemporary in their worship and environments, such as presenting stained glass on video screens.
  • Church is viewed as a small part of something larger that God is doing, not as the center of spiritual activity.
  • They hold to an entirely different view of evangelism. Recognizing that most people with a postmodern worldview have had no experience with a church.
  • We seek to engage the culture by caring and relating to individuals on their own turf.
(and that was the abbreviate version!)

I agree when they write that neither seminary nor seminar will prepare us to do ministry in the postmodern future.
Equipping will be just in time to keep pace with the rapid changes in culture and ministry
Equipping will be on the job; skill formation and spiritual formation will take place in the midst of ministry.
Equipping in Bible and theology will take place on the Internet, where knowledge is easily and immediately accessible.
For economic and other practical reason the church will regain it's place as the center of ministry training rather than the seminary.
Most training, however, will take place in the trenches of culture. Culture and cocommunities won't be transformed unless a new approach for equipping leaders emerges.

I personally believe it's going to have to be relational. We will continue to need coaches, mentors, teachers, and pastors; we will also need to see an increase in spiritual fathers.

As I travel the globe and see a wide spectrum of churches, one thing remains the same; young transformissional leaders who want and desire spiritual fathers.

Malachi 4:6

Thursday, January 7, 2010

What Do You Do With The Baby?

In order to fully understand the thoughts in this blog, I suggest reading my post called "Family Matters" where I talk about what I have formulated as the three types of ways to start a church.
If you haven't read it go to it now, then come back.
Go ahead, I'll wait.

The Parent.
The Step Parent.
The Illegitimate Child.

I want to clarify and make sure you understand; that when I say illegitimate child, I am in no way referring to the actual child of how we think in the natural. I don't believe there is a such thing as an illegitimate child, God has a purpose and a destiny for every person. It's been best said, "there are no such things as illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents."--Rick Warren.

When I use term illegitimate child--I'm referring to whatever reason starting a church without the blessings of the Pastor or leadership where you attended or served volunteer, staff at ANY capacity before starting your "new work."
For the rest of this post, I'll refer to the "illegitimate child" as "unauthorized church plant" for clarity sake.

Over the the last year or so as I've surveyed new church plants, a majority of them (not all of them) would fall into the category of unauthorized church plant. One or or two would fall under a church split acknowledgment, those that say they did not come out of a church split would also say they started without the open blessings of their previous pastor, regardless-----unauthorized church plant.

While surveying these unauthorized church plants, I've ran across a few (not all of them) that no doubt are doing great things for the Kingdom of God. It's clear they are impacting their city, winning souls and making disciples for Christ. Lives are being changed and I rejoice with them and cheer them on.

So my question is.....
Whether it's a messy church split that has had years to recover, leaving a church without that pastors blessings and starting a church or simply leaving the church you've attended for years and going across the street and starting a new work......does the end justify the means?

Or to put it in the context of a father/son, parent, step-parent mentality......what do you do with the baby?

Acts 18:4-11 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles." Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized. One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: "Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city." So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

A mentor of mine gave me that verse to ponder, and I have been. He was not advocating for starting a church next door to the church.
I guess the real answer has to come from the pastors and leadership that caused the unauthorized church plant to begin with, right?

I'd also like to point out that I do recognize two other major issues that are key in these verses that play an important role to a satisfying answer to the specific issue in those verses, you can tell me if you see them too. ;)

"What do you do with the baby?"
I'm all ears, give me some wisdom to think about how this plays out.


Yours for His Kingdom!