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?