Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Health of Your Pastor

Just this past week I received (via email) an annual survey about my spiritual health as it pertains to being a pastor. The organization collecting this information is, Converge Worldwide (http://www.scene3.org/). And so I took a moment to complete this brief survey and thought - why don't I just open myself up to you all. What's there to hide, right? In doing so, you'll get a pretty good idea what makes me tick and sick. Let me just give you the first two questions out of the eight that I completed.

1. What are your biggest challenges in leading?

Feelings of inadequacy. I wonder sometimes if I'm the right messenger to move the crowd forward. I see so many other leaders doing such a great job with a host of volunteers. From time to time I will struggle like Moses did, questioning God's playbook.

Personal growth. I once read that a leader will never take his or her followers higher than where he or she is at in their own spiritual climb. How true this is. I struggle each week to grow on a personal level. I've learned to be very intentional about this. This past year I have done so much better in this area - and I can truly feel the difference. Today, I always have a book going, always reading - something to keep my mind sharp on leadership and personal growth.

Keeping my family first. What does it profit the whole church if I lose my family? Nothing. This can be difficult lesson to learn when everyone from church wants your time and you start feeling important. I've learned to build some valuable margins into my life. The benefits of this are amazing. In fact, much of this past year has been rededicating myself to this Biblical mission of protecting our family.

2. What are a few things that really annoy you in ministry?

Lack of commitment. I cannot lie. When I see Christians (Christ followers) not attending church (sleeping in), not volunteering, in and out, tossed by waves of indecision, it drives me bonkers. I once read that the greatest gift you can give those who attend church is your own presence. Why? It encourages people. But unfortunately some Christians are pretty selfish and don't really see how their absence is actually hurting someone's walk with Christ. Anywhoo...it really pushes my "annoyance button."

Plastic people. I crave authenticity. So many people are hiding, not being truthful about their circumstances, pretending like nothing is wrong. I see people who settle for good in their marriage when they can have great! I know Christians who duck and hide from being in a small group because they know that eventually they must get real. And yet, I've seen the amazing power of God through a person's brokeness.

Christians who conceal their talents. I believe our church, like most churches, have exceptional talent. We have so many men and women who have been given extraordinary gifts by God - so it, of course, drives me nuts when they are not put into use. I hear a number of Christians say something like, "Well, I'm not sure if I want to be a part of this right now, but maybe later." And yet, when they do use their gifts, I see it bless the socks off people. It makes me think, "Why do we not see them knocking down our doors to share their talents?" Much of what the church needs to be about is helping or assisting people in finding their talents and helping each person activate them.

Monday, March 30, 2009

I've Got YOU Covered

Years ago a friend of mine invited me to first row seats (on the floor) of a Timberwolves game. This, of course, is when K-G was still playing for our Timber-puppies. When we arrived at the Target Center we went through a special side door and into a small room in which a distinguished man placed a special tag around our necks. These tags permitted us to be on main floor with the professional players. Are you kidding me? Feeling extremely happy (and guilty) I turned to my friend and said, "How much do I owe you for this?" And he simply looked at me and said, "Don't worry. I've got you covered!" Those were four amazing words.

Not to get too preachy, but Easter is all about this. The word "atonement" simply means, "to cover." This is what Jesus did for us on the cross by paying for the penalty of our sins. We are now covered. The price has been paid. We have front row seats to His kingdom.

So, I'm spending some time this week reflecting on this whole concept of atonement. It is truly beginning to grow on me. And it's my hope that it will invade your heart as well. It's a GREAT TICKET!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Life can change in .6 seconds

Real simple. Never give up.

I think I watched this ten times in a row. I would be crushed if I played for the yellow team. I hope that a number of Youth Pastors were on hand and available for counseling. Ouch!


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How Could You Miss It?

Special thanks to, Pete Wilson, for getting this amazing clip to us.

Have you guys seen this?

It’s a clip of an experiment The Washington Post did with Joshua Bell, the world’s best violin player. They put him in a Washington DC Metro stop to work his musical magic. Would people stop and listen to the world’s best violin player who’s playing one of the world’s best violins (his violin was made in 1730 and cost $3.5 million)? To just get a ticket for a live performance would cost the average person over 500 dollars. And now, he's just playing in the Metro.

1,097 people walking past him and only a handful stop to listen. They are completely ignoring a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear this guy.

Why didn’t they stop to listen?

They were busy.They were distracted.They had something important to go to…probably a t.v. show to watch, a text message to read, a newspaper to browse. You know something ‘urgent’… something ‘important.’

They had the opportunity to pause and hear one of the world’s most amazing musicians and they opted to drown it out with the noise of their life.
This video was so convicting to me. Each and every day the God of the universe wants me to listen to Him, tune into Him, walk with Him and yet I often choose to drown Him out with the noise of the world. I’m missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime.

How about you? Do you struggle with this?

Monday, March 23, 2009

People in our church like to KISS

Okay...so now that I've got you here - let me explain.

As some of you know, I get the awesome privilege each week of leading a very exciting and dynamic church. Creativity is like a drug for me. The more creative - the higher I fly. And yet one of the many errors that I made early on in my ministry was to think that if our church was to be successful in growth, we must be cute and clever to bring in the masses. Now, let me add that there is nothing wrong with luring in a crowd by creative outreach methods. In fact, I think one of the biggest sins or traps that a church often falls into is the sin of boring your audience. Come on - we have the most exciting message on the planet! How can that be boring? However, what I have learned most from those that are attending each week, and what keeps them coming back, is the simplicity of the service. In other words - Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS). In the past, I would strive to pack as many creative elements into one service as possible. It was the La-la-palooza of all services! But time and time again, our best feedback from our attenders has been - "less is more." People in our church like to KISS.

I guess a person can learn a lot from a KISS.

That will preach....

Agree? Disagree?

Make it happen at home first...

Okay...time for a test for us pastors and church entrepreneurs.

If you were to ask your church board, "How would you measure my success in ministry?," what number would they place next to your name? I think we could make a case that it would be close to a 10 - maybe 8 or 9. Let's face it. We're on fire. We're turning out some awesome stuff. We're impressing the crowds with some new themes and future ideas. We have a pretty nice external glaze going for us.

Alright...time for a test for us pastors and church entrepreneurs.

If you were to ask your family, "How would you measure my success in our family?," what number would your spouse or kids place next to your name? My deepest prayer is that this number would succeed the number from your church board. In reality, if it is lower, you have missed the mark of what your calling is to be about. This is not to say that we cannot have impact in our culture while our family suffers at home. Certainly, good things can and will happen by our giftedness in ministry. However, we can no longer excuse ourselves from our Biblical and moral obligation to our home (family) by overriding it with church success. I believe it is a silent killer for many pastors today. As rightly noted by Casting Crowns, "It's a slow fade..." Eventually, it will catch up with you.

So - are you ready to take the test? More importantly, are you ready for the answer?

Friday, March 20, 2009

"How beautiful you are, now that you love me!"

Had to smile when I read that on a greeting card the other day. Isn't it so true? We have no problem loving those that love us. In fact, there is something beautiful about the person who demonstrates their love for us. It's a bit attractive. However, this argument quickly breaks down as it pertains to God and His relationship with us. The Bible records that while we were still "sinning" God died for us (Romans 5 & 6). God was not attracted to us because we went out of our way to love Him. On the contrary, we were in an all out war with God - and the Bible defines our relationship with Him as an enemy. Think of that. How many enemies are you in love with today? Zilch, comes to my mind.

Okay...so here's what I believe God is challenging me to do: start praying and loving those that tend to be unloveable to me. I would go as far as to say that to the extent that we love our enemy is to the extent that we can fully know and love our Savior. But I say to you, "Love your enemies and pray for those that perscute you..." (Matthew 5:44)

Agree? Disagree?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Quit Praying & Respond...

There are times in life in which you simply need to respond. I've noted a couple pictures to help get my point across.

I believe that God opens up tremendous doors of opportunity each day. And although the Bible clearly shares that we are to never stop praying, we still must be responsible to respond. Do we really need to think more about it? What is God asking from you today? Grip it and rip it!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gearing up for Washington D.C.

My wife and I will soon be leaving together for a destination that we have yet to visit, Washington D.C. I would be lying to you if I told you that I wasn't looking forward to it. While in D.C. we will be exploring the many exhibits and museums that our Nation's Capital offer. Pinch me! In addition, we will be visiting Ebenezers Coffee House led by a great leader, author, and Pastor, Mark Batterson. I can't wait to get caught up with him. But what I'm most excited about is getting five days alone to hang out with my bride. In the past year Terri and I have made some enormous strides in our marriage by protecting our date nights and honoring one another's passions in life. This vacation will only go to enhance our relationship with each other and with our Lord. As you could imagine - we will soak it all up!

So if you're married, take time to make time - plan time - and GO!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Purity is the new Sexy

Okay...so now that I got your attention. There's just something about that word, "purity," isn't there? Oh wait. Could it be that "other" word that grabbed your attention? Please.

Oddly enough, last month I found myself (alone) in a mall walking through Victoria's Secret to pick up a little Valentine's gift for my bride. Without getting into a lot of details, our marriage has really improved over the past two years. Okay - end of that. You know where I am going...

After several minutes of searching and looking at the ceiling, a young female worker from the store approached me to see if she could help me make a decision on what to purchase. For some reason I felt the need to share with this young worker "that I don't do this much." Within a few more seconds I spilled the beans that I'm a pastor and that I was sent into this god-forsaken-store by my wife's order. She smiled.

And what this lady said next to me truly grabbed my attention. She said, "You know, purity is the new sexy." She went on to describe how Victoria Secret has really scaled back this past year and are now selling a much more modest line of clothing (or lack of clothing) based on consumer demand.

Well, I won't share exactly what I bought that day for my wife (don't hold your breath for a Twitter Pic), but I must say that I totally agree with this woman that purity has always been God's sexy. When I see men and women show a lack of discretion with their clothing and reveal just a bit too much of themselves, it is less than sexy and unfortunately promotes a real lack of discernment. And in many ways - may point to other self-esteem issues.

I JOHN 2:16-17: “For all that is in the world -- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life -- is not of the Father but of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

So what do you think? Is purity the new sexy?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Why I love My Church

Once again I wake up this morning feeling so overwhelmed by what God is doing through His church - which I'm amazed to be leading. I get the privilege of serving alongside of some of the greatest women and men on the planet earth. Oh yes - I know that there are those challenging moments in a leader's life in which you feel like you are out in the open sea with just a undersized 9.9 Johnson motor, fighting against the crashing waves and doing your best to navigate. And of course, we all have the scars to prove it. But those scars only serve to remind me about the greatest mission on this earth and the joy set before us - the cross and His glory!

So let me tell you why I love my church.

1. When there's a need, people respond. I believe that we have a very generous church! I wish I could share with you the many emails that I receive each week from those that have had their life touched by the generosity of an individual, family, or small group. Shock and awe.

2. We have our mission right. Although every vision statement (core values as well) must be repeated over and over to keep us on task, our people get it. We are seeing more and more unchurched people getting connected each week - and I'm hearing more and more "God stories" from those rubbing shoulders with the unchurched. I'm lovin' it.

3. Commitment. It is the glue that holds. We started Willowbrook nearly nine years ago with seven staff members. After nine years, we still have the original 5 out of 7 with us. Of course, we have added others, but it speaks volumes about one's calling and to remain in the trenches through all of the ups and downs and crazy transistions. We believe in the vision and we believe in each other. In fact, I would say that our staff is tighter today than nine years ago. In a very scary way, we are starting to look like each other. Help.

4. And finally, and I know this probably doesn't sound too theological, but we just know how to laugh and have fun together! I always feel strange writing stuff like this because it tends to sound a bit cliche - ish or artificial in nature. In addition, it can also come out sounding like our church lacks depth. But that's not the case. In fact, I would argue that because the "anchor goes deep and holds," it allow us to "party" on the boat a whole lot more!

So let's keep this cruise ship going and let's set sail for the open seas, people. I love this church!