Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Yeah, it would've been good for me to know these things, too

Here's a good post from Perry Noble, the founding pastor of the fastest growing church in the country. You can check out his blog here.

And here's the post in its entirety:

15 Things I Wished I Would Have Known
Someone recently asked me on Twitter about what I wish I would have known BEFORE starting NewSpring…so, here are a few things…
#1 - Don’t say “we will never do BLANK.” BECAUSE…you probably will!
#2 - The more your church grows the bigger the target gets on your back. People who don’t even know you will form opinions of you based on something that they heard you said…and bloggers and such will make it their daily habit to read what you say/listen to you preach just so they can tear you down.#3 - There is not a formula for growing a church.
#4 - God love HIS church WAY more than I do.
#5 - I should spend way less time focusing on being “right” and way more time on being faithful.
#6 - Comparing NewSpring to other churches will either lead to pride or feeling like a failure…I need to desperately seek Jesus consistently to see who HE has called us to be.
#7 - I should learn from everyone…despite theological differences.
#8 - Don’t yell at the entire church just because 10 or less people are mad at you.
#9 - Those who you think will always be with you won’t always be with you.
#10 - I don’t always have the best ideas.
#11 - Excellence can never be compromised just because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.
#12 - Only a pastor can really understand a pastor. (I blogged about that in an article entitled, “The Pastor’s Pain!)
#13 - People will always misunderstand you…don’t waste a lot of time trying to explain yourself.
#14 - Leadership is as easy as listening to God.
#15 - One day the “traditional ideas” that I do not like will be the ones I actually developed…and that is when my motivations as a leader will be tested.
BONUS = The fights, the sleepless nights, the critics, the spiritual warfare, the long meetings, the frustration…IT’S ALL WORTH IT! When lives get changed…it’s worth it. When hell becomes less crowded…it’s worth it. When repentance takes place…it’s worth it! When marriages are restored…it’s worth it. IT IS SO WORTH everything we go through!!! SO…don’t EVER give up–EVER!!!
Those are some of the things I wished I would have known.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My Study Leave

My 3 week study leave has officially ended this morning. I can honestly say this has been one of the best periods of my pastoral life. I've grow in ways and learned things that will impact my ministry years from now.

I've typed out pages and pages of thoughts about what I've learned but I want to share just two main ideas I wrestled with during these 3 weeks.

1) Communication
I spent some time talking with Dr. Todd Frye about how to better communicate with people who both think and act differently than myself. Another pastor friend told me that we unintentionally hurt people when we assume they communicate in the same way we do. During one meeting, Todd drew this picture for me:

The emotions listed at the top, Joy, Sadness, hurt, fear and shame are what's known as "primary emotions." We act out of those few primary emotions. What often happens though, is we move so quickly through those emotions into a secondary emotion such as anger, that we fail to realize the primary emotion. For example, if someone says something to you that hurts, you may speed right through the hurt feeling and go right into anger, which then leads to dysfuntional communication and behaviors.
The key to effective communication is to slow way down and recognize the primary emotion. You then act out of that primary emotion. If you're being hurt, you need a person to comfort you (or you comfort the other person, if you're causing the hurt) and so on. You can see the arrow that goes from the top, through the point of primary emotion down to the healthy responses. Todd said that relationships grow through primary emotions and their appropriate responses.
If you trust the person you're communicating with, you can share your emotion. If you don't trust them (they could turn that honesty against you), you can still act out of the recognition of that primary emotion.
I've already reaped the benefits of this knowledge. Wish I'd known it earlier...

2) Assimilation
I've been talking with pastors who have effectively grown their churches and connected new people into the life of their church. All 3 pastors are talented, smart and leading growing churches. And all 3 have different approaches to how the connect people. I'm going to give a very brief summary of what I learned from all 3 pastors.

Dale Schaeffer: Intentionality, intentionality, intentionality. Nothing just happens at Bridgeway, everything is done for a purpose. Dale and his small groups pastor have set up a system that effectively brings people into the life of their church, develops new leaders and allows for systems feedback. My brain almost exploded during this conversation...
Dale's church is growing like weeds and he shared several stories of people that he personally brought into the life of his church. Of my close pastor-friends, I don't know anyone else who leads with the type of intentionality, discipline and constant evaluation as does Dale. They are literally taking over their county.

Shane Ash: Shane is the pastor of Lee's Summit New Beginnings. He kept pounding into my thick skull, that "new people must know the next step after showing up for worship." Shane is very big on conversation and wants to blow up the traditional model of church life (Sunday AM worship, small groups) for a structure that facilitates conversation. I'm sworn to secrecy however, so I can't share some of his way out-there ideas, but I track with his way of thinking.
Shane's an innovative thinker and is seeing some amazing Kingdom stuff happen in his church.

But I'm only impressed with good thinkers if they back it up with actions. Before dropping me back off at the church office, Shane stopped by the low-income apartment complex right next to their church building. He told me that when he first moved into New Beginnings, he knocked on every single door of that apartment complex, introducing himself as the new pastor and apologizing that he didn't know their names. He got some pretty interesting responses.
As we sat outside that complex in his van, we started getting swarmed by people, "Pastor Shane, Pastor Shane." And Shane preceded to tell me story after story of people in that complex that have given their lives to Christ over the past few months. I saw a few of them in worship that next Sunday morning. I saw some beautiful pictures of the Kingdom while hanging out with Shane.

Steve Southards: Adult Discipleship pastor at Indian Creek Community Church in Olathe. He shared with me his church's newly developed Community Groups plan. His main idea was that everything in the life of the church flows through groups. If people have a passion for starting and leading some new ministry, they start a new Community Group to make it happen. Their structure is pretty open, just asking a few simple things of their leaders.
Just like my meeting with Dale, the scope of their plan overwhelmed me. So, I asked Steve what two things he'd focus on if all the other levels and steps were eliminated. 1) Leadership development through their Leadership 101 class and 2) Continual leadership training and encouragment through Leadership Community (a small group for small group leaders).

This Sunday, our Point Team is having a work day to develop our own process for assimilation and discipleship. As I think through what I've learned, I'm pulling principles from each of those 3 churches and thinking through how we work those out in our unique context. As I met with each pastor, I realized just how unique TFC is and how grateful I am to be pastoring this church!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Love Still Wins!

I don't have much time to write because I'm about to walk out the door and head to Illinois to spend the next couple of days with a good friend, Dale Schaeffer who is the founding pastor of fast-growing church in central Illinois, Bridgeway.

But I had to get this post up so everyone could know a bit of what happened today and see the picture. For the second time since last spring, we had the privelege of again working alongside some employees from Bonita Flats at My Father's House in Paola. To be honest, I didn't lift a finger to work but I did a lot of talking! I had planned on leaving earlier but when Erin and Elizabeth were passing out the bags last night at Bonita's, a few people said they were looking forward to talking with me today, so I changed my plans so I could be there.

Just like last time, I had a good talk with Guido, the owner/ manager of Bonita's. Guido, again, affirmed me and TFC, saying I'm different than most pastors he knows and TFC is different than a lot of churches he knows. He thinks of us as so loving and trustworthy that when a co-worker kept asking him questions about God Guido told him, "I know just the person you need to talk to and just the church you should check out." Well, that guys' been to church a couple times and we're getting together soon for dinner.

Guido teaches me a lot about God's love and knowing that he trusts me and TFC to talk with a friend about God just might be the highest compliment I've ever received.

The simple truth is that Love Wins!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Let's hear a big "AMEN!"

One of the most amazing things I've ever heard. The Old Testament preachers, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and all the rest would've been proud. It made me cry; but don't worry, it was just one small tear.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dr. Glenn Fell's trip to Africa

Glenn hasn't been around TFC for too long, so you might now know him yet, but I still wanted to share what he's going to be doing the next couple of months. I'm posting an email from Glenn detailing his upcoming trip to Africa

Hey all.... Did not want to say anything til I was sure but it is now set... I am adding a ten day trip to Kenya after my month long trip to Malawi.
A Kenyan friend, Sherry Otumwa, contacted me last week about making a side trip to her village in western Kenya. I met Sherry last year when working at the Heifer International farm in Mass. I was able to make the arrangements and I am going to make this visit. I will be teaching in two different ag schools while there and staying right in the village. I am excited about this side trip. It will set the stage for more work in Kenya next winter.

Here's a link to Glenn's organization he's starting, Jubilee Native.
Please pray for Glenn as he's on his trip. I'm excited to hear about his report when he comes back.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Some thoughts on giving and reaching the world

I just finished "Don't Waste Your Life" by John Piper (see sidebar for link). He shared some interesting thoughts related to giving and reaching the world with the message of Jesus.

Piper talked a lot about giving, which is of course something I'm passionate about. Here's a good quote from a Scottish Pastor, from 1843.
"I am concerned for the poor but more for you. I know not what Christ will say to you in the great day... I fear there are many hearing me who may know well that they are not Christians, because they do not love to give. To give largely and liberally, not grudging at all, requires a new heart; an old heart would rather part with its life-blood than its money. Oh my friends! Enjoy your money; make the most of it; give none away; enjoy it quickly for I can tell you, you will be beggars throughout eternity."


And here's another qoute from the book:

"In 1916, Protestants were giving 2.9% of their incomes to their churches. In 1933, the depth of the Great Depression, it was 3.2%. In 1955, just after affluence began spreading through our culture, it was still 3.2%. By 2000, when Americans were over 450% richer, after taxes and inflation, than in the Great Depression, Protestants were giving 2.6% of their incomes to their churches. If members of historically Christian churches in the US were giving an average of 10% in 2000, there would have been an additional $139 billion a year going through church channels."

It's not about the percentage but the sacrifice. The percentage however, does give an accurate picture of the sacrifice. It's as clear as anything in scripture - followers of Jesus give; they give a LOT, they give until it HURTS. It's true that someone can be a generous giver while not necessarily being a Christ-follower. Jesus is very clear however, if a person isn't a giver, they aren't citizens of his Kingdom. If we're following Jesus, we'll allow him to rearragne our priorities so we become givers.

The need to support overseas work is part of what I love about being in the Church of the Nazarene. Our collection of churches, called a denomination is very effective in our overseas mission work. We're among, if not the best of all Protestant denominations.

If you support the financial element of our Growing Up Campaign, you'll be supporting the mission work of some good friends of mine, Scott and Emily Armstrong.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Gift of Adoption

I just finished the book, Open Adoption: My story of love and laughter. Interesting and inspiring read (see sidebar for link). There are a couple of paragraphs I wanted to get out there for everyone to read.

Often I am surprised when I hear people say, about an adopted child, "that poor girl, no wonder she had such a hard time, her mother rejected her." Or hear an adopted child say, "I will always wonder why my mother rejected me. It's ruined my whole life." People need to know, adopted children need to be taught, that for most birth mothers, giving up a baby is not an act of rejection, it is the most selfless, courageous, brave deed they can do. It is laying aside their own desires and longings, to bestow on that baby something greater and better than they can provide. For almost all birth mothers, a piece of themselves dies in that surrender, they understand that life is hard to deal with. That without both a father and a mother, financial security, a stable loving relationship, opportunities for education and culture, things that might otherwise never be within the child's reach, the child might not be able to become all God intended him to be. Never yet have I met a birth mother who thoughtlessly gave her baby away.

I am convinced that most birth mothers never "reject" their children. The birth mother does something more noble than many of us would be capable of - she sacrifices her own natural affection for her child, her own ambitions and love for her baby, hoping to give the child much more than she could give it, especially the gift of a complete family.

Will and I stood there, Taylor in my arms. We looked at Liz. How does one say "thank you"? How does one possibly grasp the magnitude of such a gift? With a mist in his eyes and passion in his voice, Will said, "Liz, we can never, ever thank you enough. We love you."
I was a mother, receiving a gift. She was a mother, bestowing it. The power of that moment and the love it held for us all will live forever, to be recalled almost daily. Never to be forgotten.
We went out into the bright, crisp spring day. Cloudless sky. Radiant sun. Flags on poles. Balloons flying through the air.
The little nursery had been waiting a long time for this one, chosen, beautiful, sacred gift.

A frustrated Roman Emperor

Roman Emperor Julian (332-363) was wanting to lead Romans back to their traditional religions and away from the growing movement of Christianity, but he kept getting frustrated in his attempts. The life and message of these early Christians was so powerful, so persuasive that the old religions couldn't compete. Julian wrote this about the Christian "atheists" (atheists because they only believed in one God):

"Atheism has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers, and through their care for the burial of the dead. It is a scandal there is not a single Jew who is a beggar and that the godless Galileans care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them."

The Kingdom of God stands in stark contrast to the Kingdom of the World. The pastor of the congregation I worshipped with this morning boldly told us all, "if you're not seeing something different, if you're not changing, if rather than being made new you're holding onto old patterns, you need to ask whether or not you've actually given your life to Jesus."

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Journey of 2009

Building upon the previous post, I'm going to share my personal/ professional direction for 2009. My journey for 2009 is going to be a lot different than 2008's. I'm very much a list person. No matter what it may cost me, I can do a list. I made a list of things disciplines that I knew would grow me in 2008, I did them and I saw the results in both my own life and the lives of people around me.

The downside of lists though, is that they get checked off. Yes, I spent a half hour every day in personal prayer and Bible reading. Yes, God spoke to me in those times. But what about the other 23 1/2 hours of the day? Yes, I prayed a half hour every day for TFC. Yes, I saw God bring some amazing answers. But what about bringing other people along on the journey of prayer? That's leadership, isn't it?

I realize I'm about to make a list but it's a different type of list. I'm going to start some journeys this year. It will be messy, ambiguous, not as measurable and more open-ended than my goals of 2008, but I've been sensing for months that God wants to lead me to a place I've never been before. A place that is deeper than simple disciplines I can check off my list. Being less about what I do and more about who I am.

1) The journey of Fatherhood. This baby is probably going to come early, so I'm possibly less than a month from being a dad. My pastor friends tell me I'll learn a lot about my Heavenly Father by being a father myself. I'm excited about that. I also know, however, that I'm going to experience a different type of fatherhood than most of my friends and colleagues. I'm going to be the father of a adopted child. This will give me a unique perspective into God's love for us, since we read many times in Scripture that God has chosen to adopt us into his family. I am eagerly anticipating what my son and I will learn about God as we go through this journey of adoption.

2) The journey of practicing the presence of God. In listening to the podcasts of Gateway Community Church in Austin and Woodland Hills Church in Minneapolis, I've heard many messages about this discipline. Both pastors talked about the tendency we have to live with a "functional atheism;" God is one part of our lives rather than permeating all of our lives. Both pastors recommended the book, Practicing His Presence (see the sidebar for a link) by Frank Laubauch.
This will be a journey of stopping every hour to center upon God. I still need to get something that can beep every hour to remind me, my cell phone can't, but the plan is to stop every hour and center myself upon God. The end-result of this journey is that I'd walk in communion with God every moment of every day.
I'm very resistant to this discipline. I wanted to stop listening to the pod casts on this topic. But over a period of a few months, God finally wore me down and I told him, "okay, if this is the next step you want me to take, I'll trust you and do it."
I know it's going to be hard. John Burke of Gateway says it took him 6 months to stop hating "the beep" and a full year before he began living into this discipline. It's going to be a long, difficult journey. It's a journey, however that God is asking me to take.

3) The journey of fasting This one is kind of a checklist, but it's more than that. I fasted 24 hour periods every week (but one) in 2008. I started sensing toward the end of the year that God was going to take me deeper in this discipline. I was resistant to that, too because I HATE fasting! I LIKE to eat! I fasted for the first full day last Monday, though. As far as I know, this is the right thing to do. If I decide otherwise, I'll let everyone know. Hopefully I can distinguish whether it's God or my stomach telling me "stop."
What will make this more of a journey than a checklist is the journaling I'll be doing during the fast. I don't want to just not eat, I want to follow Richard Foster's teaching on feasting upon Jesus. I've got a notebook for journaling but I don't know how much I'll blog about it. I need to be doing this for my walk with God, not to create interesting blog posts.

4) The journey of multiplication Again, this is messy and not a 'check-list.' But my 'check-list' mentality has gotten me into a rut. I do a lot of things effectively but because I'm the only one doing them, the overall Kingdom effectiveness of TFC is limited. Prayer is a wonderful example. I prayed 3 hours a week last year for TFC but I didn't bring anyone along with me in that journey. This morning, I prayed with 2 other people. My wife and Joe Kumor. That's what I'm wanting to do. Take the passions and strengths I have and lead TFC into those same Kingdom practices. We had 12 people commit to our prayer gatherings with their Growing Up commitments.
Erin and I have personally lead to Christ and/or discipled most of the new Christians in TFC. How can I multiply that spiritual growth? If it's just us and we stay here 30 years, hundreds of people will come to know Jesus. But if I learn how to multiply myself (establish structures that multiply my own efforts, delegate some responsibilities so I can work more in my strengths) we could reach hundreds of people in the next few years!

These are the journeys I'll be embarking upon in 2009. They're more messy and ambigious than check lists but they'll also leader to a new depth and maturity in my life as Christ-follower and people-leader.

Monday, January 5, 2009

2008 - A Year in Review

Now that we're into 2009, it's time for me to review the commitments I made on January 1st of 2008:

I'm going to copy that blog entry here and then comment on each goal.

Jog 12 miles per week, although I need to fix my treadmill first
I don't know what my total mileage was but in July I started training for the KC 1/2 marathon, doing about 20 miles a week. I've kept jogging since then but not at the same pace.
Do my ab workout on the running off days I might have done two ab workout - FAIL!
Finally get to 3 plates on my bench press and 4 plates on my box squat D
Frustratingly, I didn't this goal. I'm still suck at benching 315, can't hit the 320 I want to make. My squat is still about 50 pounds away from my goal, too. Running the half marathon hurt me in this goal and although losing weight through running was nice (I've put most of it back on) I still wish I could've hit those goals.
Spend 3 hours per week in personal Bible study
I hit this goal - right on. With the exception of vacation days, I spent half an hour each day in personal prayer and Bible reading. It was a total of 149.5 hours.
Begin studying French I audited a French class at MNU. It was a TON of work, though I learned a lot. But I also know I barely scratched the surface of the language in just those 3 1/2 months. It was fun, I'd like to learn more in the future. I thought about writing a paragraph in French to impress everyone, but I'm too lazy.
Attend some sort of coaching training event Completed this in January but I didn't get to coach this fall.
Read the Bible with my wife before going to bed Did this fairly regularly, more regular than any other time period in our lives.
Fast every week from Monday noon to Tuesday noon Didn't always do this on these days, but I did fast a 24 hour period every week but the week of Christmas.

I've decided it's time to stop worry about things that are out of my control and to actually let God be in control of His church. This means that I'm going to entrust God with growing TF numerically so I can focus on growing people. There are two groups of people in which I'll be investing most of my time: our Advisory Council and the unchurched people God has entrusted us with. With that in mind, here are my specific goals.
Redesign the structure of our Advisory Council so we have leaders over each of the 5. Finish this by spring We've got 4 of the 5 leaders, with the 5th waiting in the wings.
Personally invest in the new people who were previously unchurched (I have a list on my desk)
This hasn't happened as systematically as I would've hoped, but I have discipled a handful of previously unchurched people this year.
Spend 3 hours per week in prayer for TF. Yep, did that. Enjoyed the "coincidences" that happen when we pray.
Find more ways to emphasize the 5 during Sunday morning worship Sort of did that, we're still taking as a Point Team about how to give periodic updates to the church.
Read 1 chapter a day of a ministry related book. I didn't do this every day, but I read a lot of books. See the book list on the right of my blog.
Equip the church for personal Bible study (coming this Sunday) or as the pastor from whom I heard of this plan called it, "develop a self-feeding program." We did this but I don't know how successful we were. It was our SOAP readings. I know some people read them periodically but how consistently and what was the result, I'm not sure. How do we measure that?
Focus on our Fave Five (coming soon) We did that for awhile, then it lost momentum and I didn't know how to get the momentum going again. I do know that my fave-five list had to change as some on the list gave their lives to Christ. One of the families I discipled this year was on someone else's Fave Five list.

That's the review for 08. I've got a few goals for 09 but they're of a different nature than the above goals. I'm still working through them and will post on it soon.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A College Football Holiday

January 1st is the best sports day of the year, big-time College Football ALL DAY LONG! I'm just getting ready for bed after 12 hours of football.
Of course, New Year's Day is best when the Hawks are playing, as they did today against the South Carolina Gamecocks. I had the sense that South Carolina was over matched in this game but I also watched in horror this fall as the Hawkeyes gave away games through turnovers to 4 lesser opponents, so I knew there was always the possibility of chocking it away.

But the team that blew all those dumb games early in the year has been replaced by the hottest team in the Big Ten and a Sophomore QB who is playing with a new found confidence and intensity. Iowa dominated the line of scrimmage the entire game and since Kirk Ferentz is too classy to run up the score, we only won by 21 but the game wasn't as close as the score.

Erin and I watched the game with two fellow Hawkeyes, Chad and Michelle Holland at KC's version of Kinnick Stadium, the Other Place in Olathe. Chad and I are much happier in this picture than in the one Erin took of us after the 2003 Orange Bowl. While eating the OP's amazing pizza and watching the game, we started making plans for our trip Happy Valley for the Iowa-Penn State game the last weekend of September. We'll drop our kids off with our parents (Chad and Michelle grew up close to me) and then spend the weekend in the Appalachian Mountains. I've already got a guest speaker for that Sunday, Matt Schoenfield of Abundant Living.

If you want to watch the 45 second highlight video today's game, you can do so at ESPN.
ESPN Highlights

For the longer version, complete with interviews, check out the Big Ten Network.