December 31, 2009

Biggest Moments of the Decade

Isn't it crazy that we're about to begin a new decade when it seems like only yesterday that we were freaking out about all the Y2K problems? As we start a new decade, I think it's good to look back over the last 10 years & reflect on the moments that were milestones for us. Here's my list:

10) Boston Comes Back To Beat The Yankees & Win The World Series
-OK, so I'll admit this one is a little trivial, but if you're a lifelong Red Sox fan, you know why this made the list. It's not just winning the World Series; it's not just beating the Yankees. It's how the Red Sox did what had never been done & did it against the Yankees, & they had to do it at Yankee Stadium.

9) Hanging Out With Students
-This encompasses everything from roadtrips to Gainesville with Clayton, Andrew, Ben, & Larry to watch the Gators to hanging out at Starbucks or Chick-fil-a with Tyler & Ellie. Over the years, I've got to hang out & build relationships with some great teenagers, relationships that have lasted over the course of this decade.

8) Swimming In The Arctic
-A couple of years ago, I got the opportunity to help lead a mission trip to Kotzebue, Alaska. We worked our tails off while we were there, but one afternoon we had a chance to goof off a little, & a few of us decided that we would take advantage of this once in a lifetime chance. So we went swimming in the Arctic waters. It was July & a warm day by Arctic standards, but for a guy from west Tennessee, it was still cold.

7) Buying Our First House
-We were one of the few who actually bought a house we could afford. I just hope when the time comes, that we'll actually be able to sell it! This was a bigger deal than I thought it would be. We've lived in this house almost 2 years, & it's packed with memories simply b/c when 1 child has lived their entire life here & the other has spent most of their life here, a lot of 1sts tend to take place.

6) Serving At Summerville
-In the nearly 4 years that we spent at SBC, God taught me & stretched me so much as a leader. He surrounded me with some great students & church members. There are some moments that I'll remember forever: taking our students up to Global for a leadership retreat & building an altar to remember it, talking late into the night about life w/ Brooks while we were at camp, spending over a week on a roof with Don in Alaska, & watching the radical transformation that is still happening in the lives of students like Ellie, Erica, T.J., Stephanie, Cora, & Tyler.

5) Leaving Summerville
-Not all the big moments have to be positive ones. Difficult times & times of adversity can be major mile markers on our journey just like all the happy moments. In almost 4 years, we put a lot into the ministry there. Not everything was positive, but it never is. However, I can look back & know that I followed God's guidance & that He used our time together to change lives that will go on to impact their world.

4) Serving At FBC Jackson
-This place was pivotal in my life. It's where I met Valerie. It's where my relationship with my mentor, Roger Glidewell, was able to go to another level, & it's where I learned a lot of the valuable lessons about ministry that have served me well in the years since. On top of that, I was able to develop life-long friendships with some great people at FBC.

3) September 11, 2001
-9/11 is the kind of moment that sort of transcends our personal experiences. 9/11 happened to all of us. I think it was Mayor Guiliani that said, "on that day we were all New Yorkers". That day wasn't just a pivotal moment for my generation; it was a turning point in the history of our nation & our world. We're still feeling the effects of it; people are still processing it, & we don't know what the future still holds as a direct result of that day.

2) My Marriage To Valerie
-June 7, 2003 (I think that's the right date) was a day my life officially changed. Until then, Valerie & I both could have gotten out; now we're stuck together! It's unpredictable; it's sometimes frustrating, sometimes exhilarating, but always worth it.

1) The Births of Julia & Audrey
-Getting married is great, but I think even my wife would agree that there's nothing like seeing a new life come into the world. These two little girls look a whole lot alike but they are so different, even going all the way back to the pregnancies. It will be so cool to see them grow up & to see what God does through them.

December 30, 2009

2009 Reading List

Yesterday I posted my Top Ten books that I read this year. Today I wanted to share my entire list with you guys. I would recommend pretty much every one of these books to others, even books I had to read for my seminary courses. So here we go:

I Am Not But I Know I AM by Louie Giglio
Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs by Bill Hybels
Visioneering by Andy Stanley
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
Louder Than Words by Andy Stanley
The Dip by Seth Godin
Creating Community by Andy Stanley & Bill Willits
The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis
The Principle of the Path by Andy Stanley
21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell
Killing Cockroaches by Tony Morgan
How Good Is Good Enough by Andy Stanley
21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader by John Maxwell
Peterman Rides Again by John Peterman
It by Craig Groeschel
The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
Primal by Mark Batterson
Mad Church Disease by Anne Jackson
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Tribes by Seth Godin

Seminary Reading
Old Testament Survey by LaSor, Hubbard, & Bush
Cracking Old Testament Codes by Sandy & Giese
Exegetical Fallacies by D.A. Carson
Creative Bible Teaching by Richards & Bredfeldt
Created To Learn by William R. Yount
Communicating For A Change by Stanley & Jones
Introduction To The New Testament by Carson & Moo
The New Testament: Its Background & Message by Lea & Black
I Maccabees
II Maccabees

Focused Bible Study
I Timothy
II Timothy

December 29, 2009

Favorite Books of 2009

In the last few years, I've really redeveloped the discipline of reading. When I was a kid, I was a voracious reader (reading builds vocabulary). I read everything from astronomy, to biographies, to the classics. As I got a little older, I became the classic teenager who thought reading was boring & who didn't have time to read. However, as I got even older I began to understand I couldn't afford not to read. I could go on & on about how much I believe one's leadership is directly connected to one's discipline of reading, but I'll save that for another day. Today I want to share a handful of my favorite books from my 2009 reading list. I'll also include some of the books that are already on my 2010 list that I think would be worth your time. Tomorrow I'll put my entire 2009 reading list up for you to give you more ideas of some good titles to read this next year.

1) Axiom: Powerful Leadership Proverbs by Bill Hybels
-Great insights from one of the great long term ministry leaders in America.

2) Killing Cockroaches by Tony Morgan
-Awesome, humorous insights from one of the most refreshing voices in ministry leadership.

3) The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
-Every year I try to read not only new books, but some classics. Tozer's is by far the best I've read this year. Both poetic & profound.

4) Primal by Mark Batterson
-I was fortunate to get an advance copy from the publisher, & this is an amazing book. Put it at the top of your list for 2010.

5) Visioneering by Andy Stanley
-I read this book every year; it's that good.

6) The Book of Judges
-This was the most profound Scripture that I studied all year.

7) Peterman Rides Again by J. Peterman
-Yes, it's that J. Peterman, the one from Seinfeld. Actually, it's the real guy that the character was based on. I received this book years ago & had never read it. I decided to pick it up, & it turned out to be one of the more interesting & unique books that I read this year.

8) 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell
-I'm sort of embarrassed to put this on the list because until this year I hadn't read this classic leadership book. I can't say anything about it that hasn't already been said. It's great!

9) 1st & 2nd Maccabees from the Apocrypha
-These books chronicle some of the historical events that take place in the 400 year gap between the Old Testament & the New Testament. There's some really great historical stuff going on during that period, & if you've ever wondered where Hanukkah came from, go read these two books.

10) Tribes by Seth Godin
-Just finished this one Sunday evening, & it was great. Seth Godin is a leadership/business/marketing guru who is a wealth of insights both in his books & his blog. Anyone in any area of leadership should pick this one up.

Going into 2010, here are a few books I'm looking at reading in addition to my seminary texts: The Art of War by Sun-Tzu, Animal Farm by George Orwell, The Daily Sacrifice by H.A. Ironside, & God's Pursuit of Man by A.W. Tozer.

What books did you read & love this year? Which one's actually surprised you?

December 22, 2009

What If There Were No Christmas?

Originally posted: 12/13/06
Tonight I'm wrapping up my two part lesson series that focuses on that question. Last week our group talked about Jesus being the light of the world. I brought up to them that the Christmas lights that so many of us love to look at & to decorate our houses with would be gone without Christmas because Jesus was the light. At that first Christmas, light came into the world. It exposed the darkness that humanity was living in. Our spiritual eyes had adjusted to the darkness around us to the point that we thought it was normal. Jesus' life revealed to us just how far we had missed the mark.

Tonight we'll look focus on probably the most identifiable part of Christmas: Christmas gifts. We all look forward to making those lists & then hoping to get what we asked for. Admit it, we all get a little childish about presents at Christmas. However, without that first Christmas we would have no occasion to exchange gifts. The Magi who came offering their gifts to the Christ child set the precedent for us. They came to honor Him. We give gifts to honor & show our love to our friends & family. I guess the question we need to answer is "how are we honoring Christ in our lives?" These men traveled a great distance to get to Jesus. The brought costly gifts & even risked their lives in dealing with the ruthless King Herod. They did all of that to come & pay homage to a baby. How are we honoring Christ in our lives? Are we willing to honor Him no matter the risk or cost?

Remember to truly celebrate Christmas this year. Christmas isn't just about a big meal or gathering with your family or even presents. The word "holiday" actually means "holy day" which means that day should be set apart for something special, a celebration of God's love for us that was shown in the birth of Jesus Christ all those years ago in Bethlehem. Let's all pause in the busyness of this season & truly remember to celebrate this holy day.

December 21, 2009

What If There Were No Christmas?

Originally posted: 12/6/06
Tonight I'm starting a two part lesson series with my students that asks this question.

We take Christmas for granted. Even in our secular culture, Christmas is printed up on calendars & everybody gets a day off work. Even if you don't observe Christmas, you get that day off, & nobody, no matter how anti-Christian they are, is going to argue with a day or two away from their job! In the C.S. Lewis classic, "The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe", it is said that in Narnia that it is "always winter, but never Christmas". How depressing is that? Many times Christmas is the bright light wedged in the middle of a cold, dreary time of year. It's a time of hope & of celebration. Without the true gift of Christmas, Jesus Christ, December 25th would be just another day for us. We'd go to work & go through our normal mundane routines. However, that gift gives us cause to gather with our friends & families to celebrate the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. He is the light of the world just as Christmas is the bright spot in an otherwise cold, dark winter. Truly think about what it would be like if there were no Christmas.

December 16, 2009

Primal Quotes

Here are some quotes from Mark Batterson's new book Primal. For more info you can either click Mark's name or the book title for a couple of links that will give you more info about Mark & about the book. You can even download & read an excerpt from the book. These quotes center on our approach to Scripture.

"Many of us doubt Scripture because we haven't done it."

"Reading (the Bible) without meditating is like eating without digesting"

"We are far to analytical in our reading of scripture. We dissect Scripture instead of letting Scripture dissect us."

I'll share a few more quotes later, but for now, I encourage you to jump over to one of the links above to learn more about Primal. I've read a lot of books this year, & this one is definitely at or near the top of my list as the best one of the year.

December 15, 2009

Primal: The 1st Book of 2010

In one week, "Primal" by Mark Batterson will become available at your local bookstore. I want to join Mark in encouraging you to be a part of the primal movement. Without a doubt, Primal should be the first book you read in 2010, & if you need a last minute Christmas gift, try to pick it up next week before Christmas.

In Primal, Mark invites believers to journey with him down the "2000 stairs" back to Christianity in its most raw, primal form: the Great Commandment. Believers are encouraged to become "great at the Great Commandment". Mark uses his unique style that blends his love for history, neurology, astrophysics, & theology to rethink what it means to love God with all of one's heart, soul, mind, & strength.

Mark's other works, "In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day" and "Wild Goose Chase", have set Mark apart as one of the great young leaders in the church. In "Primal", Mark challenges God's people to be a part of the "next reformation", to rediscover that ancient command that sets believers apart in this world: love the Lord your God with all your heart & with all your soul & with all your mind & with all your strength.

I'm excited to see how God uses Mark's words to challenge this generation to embrace Christianity in its most primal form & to see how this generation will be a part of sparking a New Reformation. I'll be sharing more from Primal as the week goes on, so check back to learn more.

December 11, 2009

Primal Anticipation

In less than two weeks, Primal by Mark Batterson will be available at your local bookstore. Mark's previous works In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day and Wild Goose Chase are bestsellers, & Mark has become a leading voice among young leaders.

Fortunately, I was able to get my hands on an advance copy of Primal, & next week I'll be making a couple of posts giving you a sneak peek at the book. Having read both In a Pit & Wild Goose Chase, I've been anticipating this book for several months. I just started reading it a couple of days ago, & it's already blown me away & challenged me on some things. I look forward to getting through the entire book & sharing some of it with you hopefully to motivate you to go pick up the book for yourself or as a last minute Christmas gift for someone else. Also, if you'd like to catch a glimpse of what Primal is all about, click the link above or go to Mark's blog where he has been sharing small excerpts for the last several days.

December 10, 2009

Evaluation Ideas

Even though evaluating teaching and learning in the church is difficult, we have to be willing to do the hard work of honestly learning where we are so that we can determine where we need to go. Here are a few ideas of how we can begin to tackle this task:

1) Seek Outside Help
Sometimes it is very true that we are too close to our own situation to evaluate it objectively. By enlisting someone from outside your organization or ministry, you're bringing in a person who can be more objective & unbiased. You can go one of two routes on this: pay some kind of consultant to work with you or partner with another local ministry, denominational leadership, or another organization to come in & give you some feedback & guidance. In my denomination, there are great people who work at the denominational level who can come in for a period of time & provide valuable feedback for little or no cost. Another idea would be to enlist another local ministry that you respect to help you out. This will require courage & a humble willingness to learn from others. After all, local churches are often characterized as competitive rather than cooperative, but Imagine the testimony it would be to others to know that your ministry & another are partnering together to be more effective agents of God's Kingdom.

2) Get Creative
In some groups within the church, evaluation is not only possible, it can also be fun. When it comes to children and teenagers, you can "test" them; just don't let them know they're being tested. Use activities, games, & short term competition to reinforce and evaluate exactly how well you're teaching & your students are learning. I know, it sounds like it would never work, but trust me, I used to think the same thing, but one of my mentors, Roger Glidewell showed me that it does work. So get creative in how your review, reinforce, & evaluate the teaching & learning that's happening in your children & student ministries.

3) Get Away & Decide Where You Want To Go
In addition to anything else you do to begin the evaluation process, you must get away with your team, both staff & some volunteers, & determine your objectives & the steps necessary to reach those objectives. This will likely require more time than you think it does. If a multi-day retreat is not possible in your context, then set a series of times aside so that you can continuously work on the issue. Enlisting outside help is great, partnering with other ministries is also beneficial, but if you are the leader of your ministry or organization, you can't continuously outsource this responsibility. Utilize other people's feedback, but you have to lead.

Honest evaluation is difficult, and it can be downright scary, but it's vital. As the church, we're not just about teaching people facts & information. We're communicating a message that has the potential to revolutionize & transform lives. We can't take our responsibility in teaching that message lightly, & we cannot ignore our responsibility to evaluate how effectively we are teaching, learning, & leading.

What steps can you take in your context to begin having an honest evaluation of your small group, children's ministry, youth ministry, or preaching? Who do you need to get away with in order to identify your ministry or organization's objectives & plan of action?

December 9, 2009

Why Evaluating Is Hard-Part 2

This week I've been looking at the problem of evaluating teaching & learning in our ministries and trying to identify some key reasons why it's so tough. Yesterday I mentioned how our foundational purpose for teaching in the church is just different from other educational arenas, & because of that most leaders are poorly equipped to evaluate which leads to a lack of benchmarks or milemarkers that people need in order to gauge growth. Today, I want to point out some other factors that are at work beneath the surface.

3) The Urgency of Now
Whether you are a pastor, a small group leader, or a small group member, you feel this pressure. In ministry, Sunday is always right around the corner, & as soon as you finish one lesson or sermon, another one is waiting for you. That sense of urgency tends to overwhelm people to the point that it is all they worry about. And as Tony Morgan would say, we end up killing cockroaches. In other words, we're so consumed by what's urgent now that we lose sight of what is urgent long-term. Leaders have to find a way to manage that urgency in order to build in a process of evaluating exactly where their ministry or organization is. However, there is another, uglier, thing lurking beneath the surface that keeps us from taking a good look at where we are.

4) We're Not Honest With Ourselves
I think this is tied to the sins of laziness and pride. Deep down we know things aren't right, but we can't stand the thought of admitting it. After all, if we admitted it, people would know we're not perfect. Guess what? They already knew! We have to kill that pride that keeps us from being honest about our teaching or the learning of the people in our ministries. Laziness is a factor because not only do we not want to admit something's wrong, we don't want to have to work to fix it. Plus, if the people we serve don't know something is wrong & aren't complaining about it, why should we create a problem that we have to work on? That is lazy and self centered leadership. You're not creating a problem; you're enabling a problem to grow and fester. Eventually that problem will grow to the point that you can't ignore it, & it will probably be beyond your ability to deal with.

What distracts you? What seems so urgent now that you can't look at the big picture? Have any traces of pride or laziness crept into your leadership and caused you to be less than honest about exactly where you are as a teacher and how well the people in our ministry are learning about becoming more like Christ?

Do the tough work. Ask hard questions that demand honest answers, not church answers. Build time into the rhythm of your leadership to evaluate. Don't be distracted by the urgency of now. Keep your eye on the ball.

December 8, 2009

Why Evaluating Is Hard

Yesterday I began thinking about how we do evaluation in church ministry, especially in the arena of learning & teaching. Today and tomorrow I want to look at 4 reasons (not all of them, just 4 I quickly wrote down) why evaluating is difficult in the church's educational ministries. The first 2 are more theoretical; the second 2 are brutally practical, whether you're the teacher or a member of a small group. Today's 2 issues are primarily leadership issues:

1) Our Goal Is Different
There is no getting around this one. As the church our goal in "education" isn't the same as our local schools or universities. In those settings, the primary goal is Information Transfer; in the church our goal should be Life Transformation. And let's face it; that's a lot more difficult to measure. In school, they hand you a test or give you a pop quiz every once in a while to measure your learning. That just doesn't work in the church. How do I know? Because our problem isn't knowledge; it's application. If we were to give tests at church, most of our people would be straight A students, but they would be failing the real test. Since our goal is different we have to figure out how to measure our teaching & our learning in a way that is different as well. This is where the second problem comes in.

2) We Don't Establish Any Benchmarks
Sadly, most church leaders haven't been trained on how to evaluate teaching & learning. How do I know that? I'm a seminary student, & in one of our text books, the section on evaluation was all about tests & how to write better test questions. That's great if I'm planning to become a professor, not so much if I'm in youth ministry or education ministry. Because leaders aren't properly equipped to evaluate, they often assume that as long as nothing is going wrong, everything must be going right. Our problem is that we haven't identified for the people in our ministry what the next step in their growth looks like. Remember, it's not about our acquiring more knowledge; it's about practicing what we have learned in order to become more like Christ. If we're not leading people to the next step, we can't expect them to find it on their own. Some will find it because they're motivated; others will stumble upon it accidently, but most people will simply spend most of their lives frozen in spiritual time. It is vital that we as leaders, both paid & volunteer, identify the next step(s) for the people we serve. Once we've done that evaluating where we really are is a lot easier.

For those of you in leadership, how do we get everyone to understand that information isn't our goal; instead it's transformation? How have you identified the next steps for your people? Have you seen a change in the quality of ministry since you established those expectations?

December 7, 2009

Evaluating In The Church

Recently I had to do some reading & writing for my Master's work in the area of evaluating learning in the church. While some of the questions posed were a little silly (should written tests be used in church?-sure, try making an adult small group take a test on Romans!), the overall concept is important. How do we as ministry leaders evaluate the learning of the people in our ministries? Do we even think about this? After all, if people are failing to learn, it could be that we are failing to teach.

Written tests with true/false & multiple choice questions are obviously out the window, especially with adults, but shouldn't we figure out how to gauge our effectiveness as learners & teachers? With kids it's a bit easier. It's possible to "test" them without their knowing they're being tested, but what about adults? And here is the bigger problem: our system of evaluation has to be fundamentally different simply because our goal in teaching is fundamentally different from the greater educational system.

This week, I want to talk about how we can begin to have honest dialogue & evaluation in our churches. Week after week, teachers & preachers stand before a group & pour themselves out, but most of the time we stop there without evaluating whether our teaching is sticking.

What do your ministries do to effectively evaluate the learning of the people & the teaching of the leaders?

December 3, 2009

Cry Baby Christians

Today I was doing some studying in Paul's writings to the church in Corinth. Toward the end of II Corinthians, Paul is dealing with some people who are bragging about their accomplishments as believers. He decides to show them what all he had done. His point isn't to impress people with all that God has done through him, but really to show them how useless it is to brag. In fact, he says that for him to engage in this kind of boasting was foolish.

Yet as you read you find that Paul endured some stuff that we cannot imagine. Beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, you name it, Paul had pretty much done it. However, he didn't think it worth mentioning. He thought it was kind of stupid to bring it up. That got me to thinking...

How often do we brag about what we've done or what we've endured? Better yet, how often do we whine about what we have "endured". I do it too, so it's OK for you to admit it. We like to spiritualize our so-called sufferings when chances are good that our sufferings are simply the results of our poor decisions.

The things we brag or whine about really end up looking stupid when we take a look at the life of Paul. I'm kind of glad that Paul acted "foolish" for a few moments in order to put people in their place. We like to complain, yet Paul probably would have never brought this stuff up if he hadn't been trying to make a point to the church in Corinth.

Next time we're tempted to brag or whine, we probably need to do a couple of things: remember that Paul said it was foolish & then we need to remind ourselves of all the things Paul could have bragged or whined about but didn't.

December 1, 2009

You Can Go Home...Sometimes

I spent the last week in my hometown of Jackson, TN. It's OK if you've never heard of it, but most of you have a connection to Jackson. If you've ever eaten Pringles, that potato crisp (they're not chips) was made in my hometown, possibly by my dad's team. He's worked there for over 30 years. Going back to Jackson is always a different experience. Part of going back home is cool. You remember fun times & crazy stuff you did when you were a kid. Other parts aren't quite as fun. Sometimes you feel like you're being squeezed back into a mold that you may have outgrown 10 years ago. I guess that's why you say you can't go back home, but one part of my trip home was really cool.

I got to speak at my old high school, Jackson Christian School. JCS is affiliated with a particular Christian denomination, & while I was a student at JCS, the school was pretty much segregated from other denominations. It affected everything from employment, chapel speakers, & Bible class curriculum. The last two years I've had the privilege of going back & speaking in chapel, even though I'm not a part of the denomination. I'm sure being an alumnus helps, but it's really encouraging to see the growth & expanding vision that the leadership for JCS has. Here are a few examples:

1) Teaching Students To Own Their Faith-While I was there, the Bible was usually taught as just another textbook. It was academic. That approach is beneficial but only to a point.
2) Casting A Global Vision To Students-I don't remember ever doing ministry in my time at JCS, but now the school has embarked on being a part of Christ's movement in the world. During Spring Break 2010, JCS will have 3 teams of students, parents, & faculty on 3 different continents. Not bad for their first year of this.
3) Integrating With The Rest Of The Body-JCS still has a long way to go in this area, but baby steps are being taken. The fact that I've been allowed to speak in chapel the last two years is bigger than you know. When I was a student, someone like me wouldn't have had a chance to speak in chapel, but things are changing. I applaud the leadership for moving in this direction, & I pray that it continues.

When God's people work together, in spite of their differences of opinion, the world takes notice. Wouldn't it be great if that was our reputation rather than as a group of people who supposedly believe the same basic stuff but can't find a way to get along?

November 19, 2009

Observations On Education

People who know me well know that the decision to go begin seminary was done more out of necessity than out of my deep, longing desire to be enriched by the seminary experience. Don't get me wrong, I don't think seminary or furthering your learning is bad. I'm all for continuous learning, but I agree with what Albert Einstein said, "The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education." Deep huh? What else would you expect from the theory of relativity guy?

Now I've only been in seminary 1 semester, but I have to say that some of my suspicions have been totally confirmed. One of my concerns with seminary was that I would be instructed in arenas that have little to no bearing on my ministry. So far the two classes that should have tremendous impact on my ministry, Old Testament & New Testament, have spent more than half of the course time focusing on issues like textual criticism, form criticism, etc. While those are valuable pursuits, they are not exactly relevant issues in my ministry experience. I've been serving in church ministry for years & have never once had to fall back on my vast knowledge of scholars like Bultmann, Wrede, & Dodd. I'm not saying these topics should be abandoned; I'm simply saying that they shouldn't consume half of the course. Perhaps actually exploring the scriptures & working on our ability to understand & teach them should be of a little more concern.

Another one of my concerns with seminary & with education in general is that there isn't that much education actually occurring. Our education systems are very good at teaching people what to think, but they are not teaching people how to think. I know; it's easier to simply transfer facts & information, but that doesn't do much to actually develop students. When teachers & professors are more concerned with regurgitated facts than they are with a student who dares to display critical thinking skills, we have a serious problem. Fortunately in my experience with Liberty University this has yet to be the case. I experienced it in college on more than one occasion. If we our schools & universities simply teach students facts rather than teaching students how to learn, then they aren't doing their jobs.

I know there are no simple solutions to the problem with institutional education, but for me the best solution is for people to seek out new learning opportunities on their own. You don't have to pay tuition to learn. You don't have to have diplomas & degrees on your wall to be brilliant. My dad has a saying from his years working around engineers who can't even do basic geometry: "Some people are educated beyond their intelligence." I've learned that this is all too true.

I have lots of friends & family who are in the education world, so I'm sure they'll love this, but I stand by my own observations & experiences. As I've said there are no simple solutions. The best solution is for us to take back our own responsibility to learn & stop relying on a school or a teacher to do it for us. If you want to learn, take it upon yourself. Kids, put down your video games, turn off the laptop & read a book! Parents, invest in the education of your kids. Don't rely on the school, public or private. Real learning & understanding doesn't come simply from acquiring information. It comes from learning how to use it & apply it to a broader context.

November 18, 2009

Going Home

Well, I'm about to hit the road for awhile. We'll be living out of a suitcase while we head up to Knoxville for Ellen's wedding this weekend & for the Thanksgiving holidays. Along the way we'll be stopping in Chattanooga to hang out for a little bit with Valerie's best friend from high school, Jennifer, who is expecting her first child pretty soon. That will be some good catch up time for both of them.

Then we'll head across the state for the Thanksgiving festivities, & anyone who knows me, knows that the holidays aren't always my favorite time of year because there are too many people who want to see us. However, we'll be in town for awhile, so it won't be our fault if someone doesn't get a piece of our time!

For me a cool time will be getting to speak at my high school Alma Mater, Jackson Christian School. This is the second year in a row that I've had the privilege to speak in chapel there. It's cool to go back there & invest in the place that did so much for me, & since I'm not in the position to invest financially, I'll make this contribution. Hopefully, it will go further than any check I could write to the school. I still haven't zeroed in on what I'll be speaking about. I just wrote a fresh lesson for it, but I have another one ready to go too. One is about wisdom, kind of an expansion of my previous two posts. The other is about relationships. Both are topics teenagers need to get. So if you have an opinion on which talk you think I should give, let it be known.

Now that I've mentioned that we'll be out of town, Valerie will surely be afraid that we'll be robbed while we're gone, so could somebody drive by every once in awhile to make sure the house is still locked down! Just kidding.

November 17, 2009

...Bad Things Happen

Yesterday I pointed to the example of Bill Belichick's decision on Sunday night to go for it on 4th & 2 to illustrate this very simple principle: When Arrogance Trumps Wisdom, Bad Things Happen. This isn't just a football or coaching principle. This is a principle that cuts across every arena of life.

Arrogance is often to narrowly defined. Normally, we only use it in reference to someone who is pompous & proud. However, the real definition of the word reveals that arrogance is practically universal. Here's the definition: making claims or pretensions to superior importance or rights; overbearingly assuming. That's a much more broad definition. You & I are often arrogant in how we go about life. We assume that the rules & principles of life don't apply to us. That's what happened Sunday night. The odds for a Patriot win were much higher if Belichick had punted. Instead, he decided to go against the wisdom he's obviously gained over his years of coaching & assumed they would get the 1st down. "After all, I'm Bill Belichick; my quarterback is Tom Brady, & we're the Patriots! Surely we can get 2 little yards." Don't misunderstand me; I'm not blasting Belichick & calling him an idiot. He's simply human. No other coach would have done what he did, but because he is Belichick, he thought he could pull it off. He had to learn the hard way that the rules still apply to him.

You and I do this pretty much everyday. We think we can do what we want with no fallout. Some of us think we can spend our money however we want & the basic rules of economics will somehow overlook us. Others think they can treat the people in their lives like products to be consumed without the basic rules of relationships leaving them alone & unknown. At some point all of us are guilty of allowing our arrogance to overcome our wisdom. We wouldn't advise anyone to do some of the stuff we do, yet we can't recognize the same flawed behavior & thinking when we see it in the mirror!

How has your arrogance trumped your wisdom? Where did it lead you? How can you still take risks in life without being arrogant?

November 16, 2009

When Arrogance Trumps Wisdom...

Last night I did what I normally don't do; I watched Sunday night football. I only watched because the best two franchises with the best two quarterbacks were playing. Brady vs. Manning is as compelling as the NFL gets. When you throw in 1st year head coach Jim Caldwell vs. legendary coach Bill Belichick, the drama & storyline thickens. I even heard analysts Sunday morning say that the game would likely come down to a coaching decision, & of course, they gave the edge to Belichick. Who wouldn't? The guy is a legend; some say he's the best ever.

And guess what? They were right. The game came down to a coaching decision, & the great Bill Belichick very likely coached himself out of a win. On a 4th and 2 play from his own 28 yard line, Coach Belichick decided to go for it rather than punt & force Manning & the Colts to drive 65 to 70 yards to win the game. If you watched or if you've even remotely paid attention to a sports report today you know they didn't get it. Then Peyton Manning took the field & marched right down & threw a great TD pass to win the game.

Why did this happen? I'm sure analysts have all kinds of theories. In fact, I heard one guy who is really sharp talking about how Manning's greatness & the respect he demands influenced Belichick's decision making even though Manning wasn't on the field. That's a valid insight, but I think there's something more at play, & I'll talk about it more this week. I think this is a classic case of arrogance trumping wisdom, & when arrogance trumps wisdom, bad things happen. It can be a football game or it can be life, but it's a principle that never changes: When Arrogance Trumps Wisdom, Bad Things Happen.

November 13, 2009

Starvation Leads To Death

Recently I started reading the A.W. Tozer classic "The Pursuit of God". In chapter 3 Tozer writes something that is so profound that it just blew me away. He writes, "The world is perishing for the lack of the knowledge of God, & the Church is famishing for want of His Presence." Those words are just as piercing & convicting today as they were over 60 years ago when they were written.

I think there is a connection here. Tozer points out that the world is dying around us because it does not know God. However, even the Church is starving because it is not in the presence of God. I think the starvation of the church not only kills individual congregations, but it also contributes to the death of the world around us. If God uses the church to reach the world & the church is starving, how effective can it be? A church that isn't experiencing the presence of God cannot share that experience with a lost & dying world. The world goes on dying from it's lack of knowledge, but the church is now no longer capable of penetrating the world through the power that comes with experiencing the presence of God.

These are just some random thoughts I had as I was reading. What can we as believers, especially those of us in leadership, do to pursue that kind of experience? How can we lead others to experience the presence of God in their lives so that the world around us can see the reality of God by the transformation that's taking place in us?

November 10, 2009

A Request For Prayer

If you follow my blog or know me personally, you know that right now my family & I are in a season of transition. God definitely was leading us to follow Him into the uncertainty that faith requires, but it's still uncertain & at times a scary place to walk.

In recent days, I've been contacted by multiple ministries who are interested in partnering with me. So I'm asking that all my friends & family that read this take some time to pray for us & for guidance for us & for the ministries that I've been talking with. Ask that God bless us with wisdom & discernment as to what the best move is to make. Obviously, none of the ministries are a sure thing, but I'm feeling better about these opportunities than any of the others that I've run across.

Some of these opportunities are exciting in the sense that they're growing, vibrant ministries in areas that are growing & have some appeal to our family. Then there are the other ministries that are exciting because they're beginning a new chapter after facing difficulty, & there's the possibility of being a part of God doing a great work out of the shadows of difficulty. We simply want to be in the place where God wants us, so we're asking you to join us in praying for His direction. Thanks.

November 6, 2009

Which Church Do You Want To Grow?

This thought came to me yesterday in the only room in my house where a person can really think: the bathroom. So many church leaders & church members talk about church growth, but I wonder which church they are really talking about. Are they talking about THE church (Big C, the Kingdom, etc.), or are they talking about their church (you know, Fill in the Blank Baptist Church, Methodist Church, or Community Church). Experience has shown me that most people are talking about #2. They want their church to grow. In fact I've watched people get mad when other churches are growing which leads them to criticize the other church saying that the church is shallow or only trying to entertain people. The problem is that I think we're all missing the boat if all we are talking about is our church growing & even if we're being very spiritual & talking about the Kingdom of God growing. I've decided I don't want the church (institutional or global) to grow. I want the church (remember? the people, the real church) to grow.

I know what you're saying, "Why can't we have both?" Yes, we can, but most of the time we as leaders plan & program to grow our church (institution) without really evaluating whether or not we're growing the church (people). If leaders focus on growing the real church (the people), then the institution will grow, & it will grow properly. It will grow because God's people are being transformed, & they are living that transformation out in front of a world that is searching for change. Jesus didn't die for an institution. He died for people. We must seek to redefine church growth as growing people. Out of that kind of church growth flows all of the other stuff that many of us have become preoccupied with.

What do you think? Which church have been trying to grow? Have you been guilty of putting the institution ahead of the people?

November 5, 2009

Old School Resources-Books

You remember books right? Books are those things with real paper pages with words printed on them. People used to put them up on shelves (by the way, a good library looks way cooler than your Kindle, I'm just sayin). Needless to say I'm a book guy; call me old fashioned, but I love books. Here are a few that you must read. They're not all leadership, & most of the ones that are have practical, real life application too.

The Principle of the Path by Andy Stanley
This is Andy's latest book & it's really great. In fact it's so practical that you don't even have to believe in the Bible to appreciate the wisdom of it. Definitely worth picking up.

Visioneering by Andy Stanley
Yeah, Andy again. If you look at my own personal library, you'll find his name a lot. Visioneering is an amazing book for leaders (business, ministry, or family). You don't have to be a pastor or business leader to be able to take the principles & put them into practice. I read this book at least once a year.

Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley
I promise this is the last time I'll highlight on of Andy's books, but this one is great too. It profiles a handful of qualities that leaders must pursue in order to maximize their leadership ability. It's also set up in such a way that a small group or staff could work through it together. I've taken students through the material in this book, & they loved it.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
I believe every Christian should have at least two books: The Bible & Mere Christianity. This work by Lewis is still one of the best explanations of Christian faith, & you can find it in pretty much any book store. It is universally considered to be a classic.

21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell
You can't recommend some books on leadership without at least one John Maxwell book. This one is still a must read. You can't go wrong with any of John's books, but I'd recommend this one because so much of his teaching is built on these leadership principles.

Chazown by Craig Groeschel
This book might not be as well known as the others, but it's really good. Craig breaks down the necessity for having a vision for you life. Then he zeroes in on some specific areas of your life in which you need to apply that vision. It also has on of the coolest cover/packaging designs that I've ever seen.

The Bible
Here are some things I've been reading through a lot this year. Many of these I've gone back & read multiple times because these books & passages have been so powerful to me right now.
Judges-Most Christians skip right over this book, yet it's one of the most action packed & scandalous books in the Bible. It's a picture of what happens when people decide to do what is right in their own eyes.
The Sermon on the Mount-So often these days people claim they want to go "deep" in the Word. What most of those people mean is they want more information, but the truth is that it doesn't get much deeper than Jesus' words found in the Sermon on the Mount. Read honestly, it will convict & challenge you.
Proverbs-Seriously, you'd be a fool to ignore this book. Read one a day for the next month. You'll be shocked at how practical it is.
Acts-Specifically the first few chapters. Watch how the church came to be. Watch how they prepared for a movement of God & how they responded to what God did & how they dealt with some of their first issues.

I could go on & on, but I won't. If you've got some books you'd like to recommend, leave a comment. Or if you want to know of other books I'd recommend, just let me know.

November 4, 2009

More Resources-Blogs

Today I wanted to share with you a list of blogs that I read pretty much everyday. The writers of these blogs not only share great leadership insights, but their insights almost always apply to everyday life as well. The first group I'll share are all guys who lead great ministries that are impacting their communities in amazing ways. Batterson is the Lead Pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. His blog is a good mix of his personal life, ministry, & leadership insights. Mark is a gifted writer. He's had a couple of books published as well that I'll be sharing later in the week. is the blog of Craig Groeschel, Senior Pastor of, & Bobby Gruenewald, Pastor & Innovation Leader at Lifechurch. Craig shares some great insights on growing as a believer & as a leader. Bobby often shares about technical innovations or creativity in ministry. Another cool aspect to the blog is that they often utilize guest bloggers from inside Lifechurch to give you an even broader perspective on leadership & ministry. is the Senior Pastor of Newspring Church in Anderson, SC. That's right Anderson, SC! Perry's raw & unfiltered style has won him some big time followers & more than his fair share of critics as well, but as you read Perry's posts & listen to him speak, you'll understand that he has a love for God & God's people that compels him to speak the truth no matter how uncomfortable it may be. Perry's blog is probably my favorite blog on the Internet. Steven leads Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC. He's a gifted young leader who is leading an explosive ministry but who refuses to be satisfied. He continually challenges Elevation to continue to reach Charlotte & the world. His blog utilizes audio & video posts pretty often which is a cool feature. Just last week, he posted excerpts from the IMPART Conference that Elevation hosted.

One final blog for today...

Seth Godin-OK, so Seth isn't a ministry leader, but he is a marketing & business guru. Some of his insights are amazingly profound. He has a great communication style & a great ability to make his point clearly & concisely. Ministry leaders & business leaders would greatly benefit from his blog. The great thing is that some of these insights are purely about organizations; many of them can be applied to life in general. I think that's what has made Seth such a compelling writer & leader.

Tomorrow I'll share some books that I think are well worth the cash you'll have to lay down in order to get your hands on them.

What are some of your favorite blogs? There's so many out there; how did you stumble upon the ones that you read regularly?

November 3, 2009

Resource Week

This week I'm going to pass on some of the resources I've found really helpful for me in my growth as a believer & as a leader. The great news about a lot of this is that it's totally free because it's online. I will recommend some books that you should definitely go out & buy. They'll be worth so much more than the price on the cover.

The first area I'll hit are some websites & blogs that I use simply for reading & also for study helps in studying the Bible & preparing lessons.

The Blue Letter Bible-This is a site I've found recently that allows you to easily access the original languages of the Bible in an online way. You just enter the passage you're reading & it brings up lots of good resources like the original languages, other uses of the word, etc. It's not hard to use; just play around a bit & you should get the hang of it. This isn't going to be for everybody, but it could be useful if you're interested in digging into something a little deeper than just a brief devotional. It's a good online tool for lesson prep. site is one of the best out there in the arena of leadership, especially Christian leadership. Not only does this site offer great online articles, but you can also subscribe to their digital magazine Catalyst Leadership or the monthly Catalyst Monthly which synthesizes the best stuff from the site for the entire month. Excellent stuff here! Open-This site is an amazing asset for those of us who have to regularly teach & preach. has put their resources available for FREE to pastors & teachers. For me, the best part is their creative elements. Rarely do I use the actual lessons, but there have been many times that I had a lesson or a series that I wanted some cool creative pieces before & this was the place to go.

Here are a few blogs that I read often:

The Bowman Family-This is my wife's blog, & I don't think she realizes that she's a pretty good writer. It's also got some great pics of my little girls, Julia & Audrey. If you have any desire to know more about my personal life, you'll find it here. is the director of Catalyst. He's got some amazing insights that he brings on life & leadership. Besides the fact that he's an Oklahoma Sooner fan, he's a pretty sharp guy that you should check out. is the blog of Anne Jackson. Anne has also served on the staff of Cross Point Church in the Nashville area. She's now focusing on speaking & writing. Her blog is many times raw & always thought provoking. Anne is one of the giants in the blogosphere, & she would hate that I wrote that about her.

Tomorrow I'll share some other blogs that I read pretty much everyday. I promise these are people that you need to be reading because they are great thinkers & great men of God, plus they're usually pretty entertaining to read too, & that always helps.

November 2, 2009

Religion or Revolution?

This is a copy of my guest blog post at from last Friday. It's a little longer than my normal posts, but when you might only have one shot you need to leave it all out there.

I've been in church most of my life. I grew up in a church where our pastor screamed & yelled to the point that we all feared he would have a heart attack. I've been to camp, sung the songs, raised my hands, & done all of that stuff. As a pastor, I've even led those camps. Yet a few years ago, I asked myself, "Is this really what Christianity is?" Is Christianity nothing more than going to worship every week, & if you're really holy, going to your small group every week? Or is there something more? Could it be that we've been called to a life that is bigger than worship services, Sunday School, & potluck dinners? I found the answer in an unlikely place: the words of Jesus!

In the book of Acts, Jesus blows away all of His disciples' ideas about what it meant to be associated Him. They were thinking about marching on Jerusalem & throwing the Romans out. Actually, they were thinking about Jesus doing that; they would just be there to share in the spoils of victory! They were expecting a revolution that would set them free from the Roman oppression over Israel. Jesus had something very different in mind.

Jesus envisioned a revolution too, but it was a revolution of faith not politics. And Jesus wasn't going to be the one to take it forward. It was going to left in the hands of this rag-tag bunch of disciples who had a loud mouthed fisherman named Peter as their leader. Not only were they going to be the ones to take this thing to the next level, Jesus said they would take it global. Think about that: global? Most people in the first century weren't going to travel more than a few days from home, & these guys from the backwoods of Israel were going to take a story about a Jewish carpenter into places like Rome & Athens? Yet these guys believed it. Not only that, they actually did it! Within a few decades of Jesus' words, His followers had managed to take the gospel to every corner of the known world. These guys believed in the revolution. They believed that Jesus really wanted to change the world through them. Now years later, I wonder how many of us actually take Jesus seriously here. Do we really believe what Jesus says?

Do we really believe we are the agents of this revolution? Or are we content with simply "doing church"? Jesus says that by the power of the Holy Spirit we are going to be a part of a revolution that is global in scope & eternal in significance, yet so many of us live lives that are consumed with me, myself, & I & the here & now. Do we think Jesus was just giving us a pep talk before He went back to heaven?

If we want to be a part of something more than just a religion, if we want to be a part of a movement, a revolution of faith, then we have to embrace the words of Jesus. We have to let go of the excuses. The excuses have to melt away in the shadow of the power of His Spirit. We have to be consumed by the call that challenges us to leave an impact on the entire world, beginning right where we are now. If you find yourself doing religion & not participating in a revolution. throw off all of your preconceptions about what Jesus can do or wants to do in you & simply start being the agent of Christ in this world.

What excuses do you need to abandon? Where do you need to be that agent of Christ? How can you be a part of Christ's global, eternal revolution?

October 29, 2009

Failure & Success

The one thing that prevents individuals & organizations from experiencing growth & success is a fear of failure. While fear can be a healthy thing from time to time, when it is our modus operandi, it cripples us in life & ministry.

I think you need to write this next statement down: "A willingness to fail in the short term is the only thing that can position you to succeed in the long run." Many people may be one more failure away from the breakout moment they've been looking for. Most ministries are simply one more failed idea away from the explosive innovation & growth they've so desperately prayed for. However, the fear of that failure keeps us from moving forward. It keeps us firmly planted in what is known, familiar, & comfortable. In short, it keeps us in what has worked. The only problem is that very rarely, if ever, is that the thing that you or your ministry needs to do to continue working.

Jesus is a prime example of the willingness to fail now for the sake of long term success. By anyone else's standards, Jesus' ministry would have been a failure. He was a breakout superstar who was all alone in the end. His closest disciples abandoned Him, people mocked Him, the government & the religious establishment silenced Him forever, so they thought. Jesus' willingness to "fail" is what has made the last 2000 years of redemption & restoration possible. While it may have looked like Jesus & His little movement had been stamped out, the reality was that Jesus' death unlocked victory & opened the flood gates of grace.

What do you need to do as an individual to grow? What uncomfortable place do you need to go to in order to become more & more the person God desires you to be? What decision do you need to make as a leader that will position you to succeed long term? What decision scares you the most? What change do you know you need to make, but you are too afraid... of the change, of the people, of failing? It is very possible that it is that very decision, it is that uncomfortable place that you must embrace in order to really go where God would have you go.

October 23, 2009

Enjoying The Journey?

One of my daily rituals is to go over to to check out Mark Batterson's blog. Mark has one of the best blogs out there. It is a great combination of his real life & his ministry & leadership. Today he wrote a post entitled "Enjoy the Journey" . In the post, Mark poses the question, "Could it be that one of your greatest spiritual responsibilities is to enjoy this moment in your life as much as you possibly can?" It's a very John Piper, Christian hedonist question, but it's extremely poignant at this time for me & for Mark as well.

Right now Mark's church, National Community Church in D.C. is in a state of transition. A couple of weeks ago they found out that they would no longer be able to meet in the movie theater that had been their home for several years, effective immediately. Mark & the leadership of NCC have been thrown into an uncomfortable & most likely an unwanted position, yet the way Mark is leading & the insights he's sharing are powerful.

Do we really enjoy the journey that God is taking us on? What about when that journey hits some really rough patches? What about when we seem to be stuck or spinning our wheels? Do you still enjoy the journey & enjoy God even when He seems to be so very quiet in your life?

These are deeply probing questions for me personally as I go through the time that I'm in. I'm discovering that I, like many ministers, depend too much on what we do as leaders rather than simply enjoying where we are & enjoying the God who has called us to serve Him.

How can you & I still enjoy God & the journey that we are on, even when the journey is uncomfortable or even painful? These are deep questions that we have to wrestle with continually in our journey through life.

October 9, 2009

Rest & Leadership-
Part 2-Business/Ministry

Yesterday I looked at how you can start to build biblical rest like that found in Psalm 62 into your leadership, specifically into your leadership with your family. Today I want to turn & look at the areas of our businesses/ministries

2. In Your Business or Ministry, Take Time Away.

I think one of the biggest sins in ministry is that of pride. Most ministers think that things just won't work without their being there to make it work. I've been guilty of it from time to time too. However, this is the sin that actually cripples your ministry. If your vision for ministry requires your omnipresence, then your vision for ministry is too small, & I would even go so far as to say your vision for ministry isn't from God. Ironically, it's the ministers who often put a lid on the ministry. That's why so many "successful" ministries grind to a halt shortly after the leader is no longer in the picture. That's why it's important for the leader to intentionally take time away. If you're the primary teacher/preacher, take a month away from the stage, giving another leader an opportunity to teach. Use that time to refresh yourself, to look ahead at what God wants to say through you, or if you're in the business world, look forward to the next 6 months, year, 2 years for your organization. Write down where you want to see your business or ministry in that time. Identify what that really looks like. Develop a strategy for getting there, & prepare to share that with those you work & serve with. If you take time away, you model to those serving with you that it's necessary to get away from the work from time to time to work on the work. Then you have to be willing to let some of your other leaders do the same thing in their area of leadership. Which leads us to #3.

3. In Your Business or Ministry, Develop More Leaders

You will never be able to achieve #2 until you have embraced this principle: Leaders develop more leaders. Again, you are only putting a lid on your ministry or business if you are the one who makes everything happen or if you have to know every detail of what's happening in your organization. Open your eyes, look around, & identify the people who have the potential to do what you are currently doing. Then train them to do what you do, allow them to do what you're doing; then give it to them. This frees you up to lead more effectively for the long term. If you allow every detail & decision to consume you, you will never have time to get away & dream about the future of your organization or ministry. If you've always wanted to be able to step away from your regular routine in order to focus on the future but always feel you don't have the time to do it, chances are good that you feel that way because you are doing too much in your business or ministry, & that business or ministry will only "go" as long as you are there to make it go. The minute you step away, it falls apart because you haven't developed other leaders to share the leadership with you.

While my perspective is obviously in the arena of ministry, the principles I've laid out here will translate immediately into any organization. Business leaders like pastors often make the mistake of thinking that they are literally indispensable to their organization. In turn they risk actually slowing down the momentum of their organization.

Whether in business or ministry, we have to develop other leaders & release them to do what we do in order to give our work longevity. How can you begin developing other leaders? What tasks are you doing that you could train someone else to do? Who are those people that need to be developed? What do you need to simply stop doing in order to give those people the time they need to grow as leaders?

October 8, 2009

Rest & Leadership-Part 1-Family

If embracing biblical rest is essential to our growth in Christ, then we have to embed that attitude into our leadership as well, whether our leadership arena is our family, business, or ministry. We have to begin to develop a culture of rest into the areas of life where we have we influence Here's how:

1. In Your Family, Stop Relying On Yourself For Every Need Your Family Has.

Let's face it; deep down you know you can't really meet every need anyway. No matter how hard you work, there's always something else, at least it feels that way. Why not try a new approach? Why not do all you can to provide for & lead your family & entrust the rest to the one who wants to lead you as you lead your family? Why not rest in his provision for you & your family? Model that "rest" to your family. Pray over them, in front of them. That will demonstrate to your family, especially to your children, that you & the family ultimately rest in God not on what you can do. And honestly this is hard. This is still something I'm working on, but it's something that we have to do in the leadership of our families.

Our family is the primary leadership arena for most of us. To borrow a line from Steve Martin, "If I screw up raising my kids, nothing else really matters much." To those of you who are in ministry, if you screw up your family, you've in essence disqualified yourself from leadership in ministry. The way you lead in your family will either contribute to or take away from your credibility to lead in other arenas of life.

Are you willing to lead your family to rest in God, starting with you? What are some things you need to start doing to exercise this kind of leadership in your home?

October 7, 2009

Rest-Part 2

Sticking with the idea of rest that I've been studying in Psalm 62, I want to bring out one other idea from the first two verses of the psalm. The writer says, "My soul finds rest in God alone...He alone is my rock...". How does the writer know that rest can only be found in God? How does he know that God alone is the rock of salvation?

Now I'm reading between the lines a bit here, but I think the psalmist learned this by experience. This especially makes sense if it the writer of this psalm is David as many believe it is. Think about David. Great stories of his bravery & faithfulness are found throughout scripture, but sprinkled in there as well are enough stories about his failures to make us realize that he was a lot like us. He too jumped in & tried to fix things. He sometimes got caught up in what he could do, all the while neglecting what God might want to do. The event that serves as a turning point for David in the Bible is just such an event. David screws up & sleeps with another man's wife. When she realizes she's pregnant, David concocts an elaborate scheme that ultimately leads to her husband's death. Great job Mr. Fix-it! David compounded his problem by trying to fix it himself. If David is like us, there are a lot of other situations where he "rested" in his own ability & wound up in deeper trouble than he started out in. Experience taught him a tough but priceless lesson.

Now here's the tension: Are we learning from our experiences? Even better, are we learning from the experiences of other people, like David? After all, wouldn't you rather someone else pay the price for your learning? I would rather learn from the experiences of others rather than have to walk through those dark times myself, wouldn't you?

Life is teaching us; the question is "Are we teachable?"

October 5, 2009

Rest-Part 1

Since I'm taking an Old Testament class right now for my Master's Degree, I'm reading a lot from the Old Testament. Recently Psalm 62 has really hit me, & in light of where my family & I are right now, it was a perfectly timed revelation for me. It's all about rest but not merely physical rest.

In Psalm 62, we have a psalm of David that many believe was written in a time when David feared that he was going to be dethroned. He describes himself as a "leaning wall" & a "tottering fence". Needless to say he felt vulnerable & fragile, but it's verses 1 & 2 of this psalm that jump off the page.

David says his soul is at rest in God alone. That word rest is so much bigger than simple physical rest. While it's often translated as "waited" or "waited quietly" the most literal translation is one of "the quietness of the soul" or "the silent expectation of divine aid". The rest that David has found in God is one that mirrors the "peace that passes understanding" in the New Testament.

One of the first things that jumps out to me is this: Rest is as much about attitude as it is about activity. David had to embrace the idea of releasing everything to the God who had been so faithful to him. If you're like me, that's hard. I like to fix things. I like working to solve a problem, yet life tends to throw us situations that we can't really fix on our own. Embracing God's concept of rest means we have to stop trusting ourselves for the solution & trust in the God we claim to follow. That doesn't mean that things always go smoothly. Don't forget there was an attempt to overthrow David that came so close to succeeding. David even had to flee Jerusalem & live again as an outlaw of sorts. Yet in the end, he was restored to his rightful place as king.

Where are you resting? Do you try to rest on what you can do, accomplish, or fix? If so, you're probably pretty worn down. What thing(s) do you need to let go of & entrust to the one you call your Lord & Savior?

September 26, 2009

Two Things I'm Learning About Church-Part 2

A pastor going to church on the other side of the equation is one of the best teaching tools out there. I would encourage church leaders to attend a few other churches every year to learn from them both good & bad. The bad is easier to learn because it's the easier thing to spot.

#2-If you tell a guest about something, it better be right

This is the one that can kill you. I met with a local pastor just to hang out & learn about what was going on in his church. He informed me that they would be extending their children's worship ministry into their early worship service on a given date. That was great because it worked perfectly for our family. Sure the church was a longer drive than we would like, but I felt like this church had some potential. We show up on that Sunday morning & yes you guessed it; they didn't have that kids program going. They had decided not to start the program because they were still waiting for more families to attend that particular service. Three things happened in that moment: 1) My wife was totally turned off. We were made to feel like we were in a way imposing ourselves on this church. 2) I'm thinking, "Well, that's not what your pastor told me" 3) I go into pastor/leader mode & immediately begin critiquing the decision & the rationale behind the whole situation. Whether those were the right responses or not is another discussion, but the fact remains that those were the responses, & those are the kind of responses we risk when those of us in leadership lead people, especially guests, to have one set of expectations & reality gives them something totally different.

These situations are going to happens from time to time, but first, we can't let it happen with newcomers or guests. Secondly, we have to minimize these occurrences in general. If you tell someone that the church is going to provide something, then you have to be able to deliver. Again you might expect that this happened in some little country church that just "gets by", but you'd be wrong. This is a church plant that is connected to one of the most successful churches in America, yet it still screwed up big time. Churches, no matter the size or success, have to watch out for these two big things that I've noticed as I've visited in a few churches during my transition.