Category Archives: Ministry

Take a Breather

Mark 6:30–32 NIV
The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.

Have you ever had one of these days? You know, the days when, with every great intention, you set out to make a dent in your world or at least your inbox. You lay down a vision for your day and wake up ready to kick some tasks and take some notes but before you even sit down at your desk the phone rings…

and then someone walks in your office with a crisis that needs your input…

then something in your workspace or building breaks…

then your kid gets sick at school and you have to pick them up and take them to the doc and then to the pharmacy…

then… and then… and then…

We’ve all been there, right?

This is where Jesus’ ministry staff finds themselves on this particular day. The apostles were right in the thick of this kind of ministry whirlwind. They came to Jesus for a staff meeting to share with him all that they have been doing and to get a little encouragment and development. The problem is that ministry doesn’t stop. Not for staff meetings. Not for office hours. Not when you’re on vacation. Not in the minutes leading up to the beginning of the Sunday servoce. Not. Ever.

Mark reports that people and problems kept interupting this personnel meeting and was so consuming that the apostles looked around a few hours later and realized that they worked right through lunch.

That’s when Jesus says, “Let’s go. Get in the boat. We are taking a break.”

Jesus sensed what they needed was some space, some breathing room. In fact, Jesus himself was probably stretched thin and, no doubt, was still greiving over the execustion of his cousin, John the Baptist earlier in this chapter. In the midst of ministry still left to do, Jesus hit the pause button and had everyone head to the lake.

So Jesus and the staff climb into the boat, cast off, and for a moment… there is quiet. There is stillness. There is no one and no situation vying for their attention. For a moment.

Mark 6:33–37 NIV
But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”

The people needing to see Jesus and needing a word or needing healing realized what was happening and ran around the Sea of Galilee to meet them on the other side.

When I visited this region we took a boat across the Sea of Galilee and it took us roughly 45 minutes to an hour.

I’m not sure how long it took Jesus and the apostles to make the trip but I know this: They only had a short break before they were thrown right back into the thick of ministry activity.

Maybe I’m looking to deeply into this story but it resonates with my heart. On the far side of the lake, the apostles were fading fast. They were hungry, bombarded, and seemingly overwhelmed. They get into the boat, receive a short repreive from their work, and then they are seemingly ready for the next wave of pastoral care. On top of that, Jesus doesn’t let them off the hook when it comes to continuing to meet the increased needs of the people they are serving.

“You give them something to eat.”

I hear Jesus saying, “I gave you a chance to rest. It was enough. I am enough. Let’s show them what The Father is capable of.”

Today marks the beginning of the season of Lent. Culturally this is a season where you might hear Jesus-people talking about how they are giving up ice cream or posting on Facebook about how they aren’t going to be posting on Facebook for a few weeks. The season runs for approximately 40 days leading up to Easter. In the grand scheme of the year and certainity for the totality of your life 40 days isn’t a very long time. I mean, by comparison, the MLB season is 182 days.

What if you looked at the next 40 days as a time of respite and preparation for what is coming next?

For most of us in ministry, Easter Sunday is… a pretty big deal. I know that ministry cannot and will not stop completely for this season but how can you push pause and get in the boat with Jesus for a brief RnR? Maybe you make room in your heart through refraining from an activity or giving up sweets or deactivating your social media platforms or… what ever that looks like for you. Let God breath into you for the next few weeks.

Not because it’s trendy or a tradition or tantalizing but because you need it.

You need to rest because on the other side of the lake, there are more poeple to serve.

On the other side of these 40 days, Jesus needs you to feed his people.

Base Hits

Some of the best advice I’ve received lately has been this:

Never underestmate the importance of just getting on base.

In my line of work, the temptation is to get up to the pulpit every single Sunday and knock it out of the park with a homerun sermon that will reverberate through the ages, leave people weeping, and secure a 7 book deal with a major Christian publisher… and then do it again the following week.

That is all kinds of stupid.

Homeruns are great. There is nothing like hitting one and I welcome them when they happen but, no one should expect to hit them week in and week out.

What wins baseball games is the same thing that leads to a long and fruitful career preaching God’s Word week in and week out – getting on base.

Getting on base is playing the long game. It’s sustainable. It’s productive. It’s faithful.

For me, getting on base looks like helping people…
CONNECT with God’s Word in a meaningful and imporatnt way.
CONNECT what God is doing in their life with the mission of God.
CONNECT with their brothers and sisters in the pews.
CONNECT where they are now with where God wants them to be.
CONNECT them with the HOPE of God, Jesus Christ.

Sometimes, when we CONNECT the ball goes sailing up, up, and away and every one of these things happens and more. Those are good Sundays.

However, if I can make a CONNECTION with any one of these each week, that will make for a great legacy.

Don’t overestimate your ability to hit all the homeruns while at the same time underestimating the power of CONSISTENTLY CONNECTING and regularly getting on base.

Exit Question:

What does consistently hitting singles and regularly getting on base look like for you?

Praying… Together

Prayer can sometimes seem like a lone act where it’s just you and God. Sometimes though, we need to experience prayer in community as we join together with others to share and carry one another’s burdens.

In Exodus 17, the Israelites are attacked by the Amalekites. Moses tells Joshua to gather his fighting men to engage the enemy in battle while he went up to the top of the hill. Joshua obeyed Moses’ commands and went into battle. Moses, Aaron, and some guy named Hur went to the top of the hill and Moses raised his hands in prayer to God.

Exodus 17:11–13
As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

Here’s what I believe this story is telling us about praying together with and for one another:

1) The outcome of the battle was directly linked to prayer.

God tells us in His Word that raising hands is a common prayer position (Psalm 63:4; 1Tim 2:8). While it may be common, it isn’t very comfortable. (In fact, while you read the rest of this post, try doing so with your hands raised over your head. Bonus points if you are in a public place.)

When Moses became tired and his hands began to lower, the Israelites started to lose the battle. The experience and skills of Joshua’s warriors didn’t matter. The number of Amalekites were inconsequential. The power of God is what mattered here and it is what matters today.

Too often we fail to bring our battles to the Lord or we fail to continue in prayer as the battle rages on around us. Don’t give up!

2) The battle belongs to the Lord.

You may be facing a variety of battles today. Don’t let the Enemy make you believe that you have to fight in your own strength or that the battle depends on you. Understand and believe that God is in control. He knows the outcome. He hears your cries. He knows what you need. He cares for you more than you could ever imagine.

3) We get to carry each other.

Jesus said, “When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.” (Matthew 18:19–20 MESSAGE)

When we share with one prayers of supplication and petition (praying for our own needs) and when we pray for one another with prayers of intercession (praying for other’s needs) we grow in fellowship and increase in love for one another… right alongside with Jesus. Imagine that! Who is helping you keep your hands raised to God in prayer? Your brothers and sisters in Christ and Jesus himself!!!

There are many times, seasons, and reasons that you might need your brothers and sisters to join and help you persevere in prayer:

– seasons of intense spiritual conflict
– in the midst of a reoccurring struggle
– while we wait on God’s response
– when we are spiritually exhausted

Moses experienced physical and spiritual fatigue when he lifted his hands to the Lord as he prayed over his people. Aaron and Hur were there beside him to help him when his own strength was not enough.

Just like these men, when we experience times where we feel tired and weak, exhausted emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually, we can lean on one another to help us continue in prayer until the battle is won.

What prayer burdens are weighing you down today? Who can you partner with to pray for so that you can help to carry one another’s burdens?


Catalyst Dallas Highlights

I had a full weekend.

I had the opportunity to attend both The Catalyst Conference in Dallas with some of my team and than a Men’s Conference with some great dudes from our church. I am exhausted, inspired, spent, fired up, sleepy, and wide-awake. Many of you in ministry and leadership know exactly the kind of tension I am feeling right now. These events are often like trying drink from a firehose. With so much information and inspiration coming at you you grab what you can, take some notes, sing loud and proud, and then find some time over the next few days to ruminate on and incorporate what you’ve learned into your real world.

The theme of Catalyst this year was A Community of Change Makers. I attend the Atlanta event back in October and was excited to take a handful of our ministry leaders to the event at Gateway Church here in the metroplex. The major emphasis from every speaker was that to truly lead others effectively, a leader must lead him or herself first.

Here is a fundamental truth that is so important for us to learn and live out:

Who we are as leaders is more important that what we do.

For today, I just want to share a few of my favorite quotes from the weekend – with a couple of Don Miller & Bob Goff quotes from the Men’s Conference. I hope that these thoughts give you some motivation for your week ahead. Be sure to comment on the exit question at the bottom.

Whatever you have to do today, Love. Everybody. Always.

Andy Stanley

  • 2 questions every leader must ask: 1) Who am I? 2) What breaks my heart?
  • Great leaders make things better for their people.
  • You have no idea what hangs in the balance of your decision to embrace the burden God has put in your heart.
  • Many years from now, what would you like people to line up to thank you for?

Lisa TerKeurst

  • External Change requires Internal Shifts.
  • The 1st Five – give the first five minutes of your day to the Lord.
  • God is good and God is good at being God.

Dr Caroline Leaf

  • Your brain is nothing compared to your mind.
  • Change you mind and you can change your brain.
  • You can listen to God or Google and Gossip. (Non-toxic thoughts vs. Toxic Thoughts)

Eugene Cho

  • God doesn’t want to change the world. He wants to change us.
  • Act upon the thing that God puts on your hearts.
  • Don’t be more in love with the IDEA of change. Actually Change.
  • Don’t quit. Persevere. (Note: Apparently Cho had been ill and traveled from Seattle to Dallas. He had to stop part way through to take a breath and recover.)

Robert Morris

  • We may be born selfish but we are re-born generous.
  • Do not GIVE in order to GET. Wrong motivation.
  • Mammon promises us things only God can give. Life. Peace. Joy.
  • People don’t need money. They need God.
  • Abel gave of his first fruits. Cain gave what he wanted, when he wanted, in the way he wanted.
  • We are the most like God when we GIVE.

Robert Madu

  • When you encounter Jesus you always walk away with more than you expected.
  • Fatherhood is the best ‘hood.
  • There is a vast difference between knowing Church and knowing Jesus.
  • Jesus wasn’t just a good man but a God-Man.
  • When someone is lowered through the roof… you should probably shut that sermon down.
  • When your EXPERIENCE doesn’t line up with your EXPECTATIONS God is probably giving you a REVELATION. Pay attention to what he is telling you.

Danielle Strickland (The Highlight of Catalyst for me)

  • Everyone wants to change the world. Not everyone is willing to get up (early) to do it.
  • You know which surfer catches the wave? The one in the water.
  • Posture yourself/Posture your life in such a way that when the wave comes, you can catch it.

Rich Wilkenson Jr

  • God hasn’t called us to hard things. God has called us to do IMPOSSIBLE things.
  • Don’t let your past failures or your fear of future failures keep you from following where Jesus is calling you.
  • Don’t take a fragment of failure with you to the next place.
  • Criticism can get on you but don’t let it get IN YOU.

Bob Goff

  • You are not defined by your worst day or your greatest success. You are defined by LOVE.
  • When we live under the banner of Christ it doesn’t just change some things, it changes EVERYTHING.
  • I’m just trying to be the next humblest version of myself.
  • Love. Everybody. Always.
  • People turn into who others say they are.
  • You get the green lights you get.
  • God wants us to live right on the edge of YIKES.
  • It’s not about MANNING UP. It’s about SHOWING UP!

Don Miller

  • Tie your dreams with the dreams of others. Good stories involve other people.
  • Think of Joker’s face and Vader’s limbs. They didn’t do the hard work needed to bring about real healing.
  • We are in the middle of Act II. It’s difficult. There is no resolution. In the midst of conflict.
  • Look at the people God calls into LEADERSHIP. You have not done worse than them.
  • Heroes are in it for the sake of others.

Exit Question:

What is the most important leadership lesson you are currently try to live out in your leadership context?

The Fifteenth Year

15 years ago I had just returned from a semester overseas studying abroad in Athens, Greece. My small Christian college seemed even smaller after exploring the world but I was ready to get back to classes and earn my degree in Youth and Family Ministry.

That’s when I got the call.

A graduate student had recommended me to a small church just outside of Little Rock to serve as their part-time youth minister. He told me about the church and all that the job entailed. I would teach classes on Sunday, Sunday Night, and Wednesday night. I would also occasionally lead singing and participate in the life of the church.

He said that the job was mine if I wanted it.

I said, “Yes!”

With that invitation and with my agreement to work and serve that little church, I officially began as a full-time minister following God’s calling in my life.

So much has happened over the last 15 years. 

We have moved from AR to AL and back to TX. I have taught hundreds of classes, led thousands of songs, read countless commentaries, and attended numerous conferences. I’ve held new born babies, prayed over men and women going into surgery, spent late nights in the ER, and stood by those who have lost loved ones. I’ve welcomed new families in the church and said goodbye to others. I’ve been to the mountain top and I’ve trudged through the dark valleys. I have seen God work wonders and I have seen Him transform myself and those around me.

My focus for this year is Fitness.

I want to be Spiritually Fit.

I want to be Physically Fit.

I want to be Emotionally Fit.

I want to be Intellectually Fit.

As I think about what it means to be fit in ministry and in life I remember the challenge Paul shares with the church on Corinth:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24–27)

Over the last few weeks I have been praying over and planning some pretty ambitious goals for this year. I feel God is calling me to abandon the average life and ministry in order to go deeper into His Story and His Kingdom. No one stumbles into fitness. No one wanders around the track and crosses the finish line. To run the race and finish well takes training, focus, passion, and faith in the One who provides the strength needed to endure.

I live a great life.

I get to live out my calling doing the thing that I love with people that I love for a Savior that I love.

As I begin my 15th year in full-time ministry I have never been more excited about what God may have in store. I’m ready to dig deeper, reach higher, abandon average, and run the race full out.

Here’s to the start of another 15 years in ministry.


Do You Have A Theological Vision?

This Fall I have spent a great deal of time reading and thinking through Tim Keller‘s excellent book, Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City. Keller is the Pastor at Redeemer in the heart of NYC and is one of my favorite authors/thinkers. Rather than a “cut and paste, this is how we do ministry-this is how you should do ministry” book, Center Church focuses on developing a Theological Vision that is consistent with what a particular congregation believes and that drives the way ministry happens. Too often the ministry expressions of a church are divorced from or even at odds with their beliefs as well as unconnected from the very people they are trying to reach. This causes frustration within the congregation and confusion from those outside looking in.

Keller defines Theological Vision as an underlying vision that brings your theological understanding (doctrine, beliefs) to bear upon your ministry expressions (practices, programs). It is in essence, a faithful understanding of the Gospel “with rich implications for life, ministry, and mission in a type of culture at a specific moment in history.” Developing a robust Theological Vision is important because it forces the people of God to think long and hard about the character and implications of the Gospel, what the Gospel has to say within your particular culture, and what it means to do ministry in your time and place.

With a Theological Vision in place, leaders and churches can make better choices about ministry expression that are faithful to the Gospel while at the same time are meaningful to their ministry context. That means a greater impact in Worship, Discipleship, Evangelism, Service, and Cultural Engagement.

A Theological Vision helps you determine what you are going to do with what you believe within your cultural setting.

Keller sums up the importance of this vision when he says, “A Theological Visions allows (us) to see (our) culture in a way that is different than (we) have ever been able to see before… Those who are empowered by the theological vision do not simply stand against the mainstream impulses of the culture but take the initiative both to understand and speak to that culture from the framework of the Scriptures… The modern theological vision must seek to bring the entire counsel of God into the world of its time in order that its time might be transformed.

In order to develop a Theological Vision Keller says that you must spend time in “deep reflection” on Scripture and the particular culture that you minister in. In order to think deeply and reflect on these things, Keller offers 8 questions to help in the development of a robust and significant Theological Vision.

They are:
1) What is the gospel, and how do we bring it to bear on the hearts of people today?
2) What is this culture like, and how can we both connect to it and challenge it in our communication?
3) Where are we located — city, suburb, town, rural area — and how does this affect our ministry?
4) To what degree and how should Christians be involved in civic life and cultural production?
5) How do the various ministries in a church — word and deed, community and instruction — relate to one another?
6) How innovative will our church be and how traditional?
7) How will our church relate to other churches in our city and region?
8) How will we make our case to the culture about the truth of Christianity?

Keller warns that the development of this type of vision is hard but it is essential. The quality of your Theological Vision will determine your effectiveness as you find ways to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ clearly to your particular place in history.

Over the coming weeks, I am planning on meeting with a group of leaders to think through these 8 questions as a group in order to gain a better understanding of our mission to those within our church body and our surrounding community. The Starbucks near us recently built a new location complete with a variety of warm and inviting meeting areas so we are going to wrestle with these questions in the heart of the local agora just like Paul did in Athens. Of course Paul, as far as we know, didn’t get to sit in plush leather chairs sipping a peppermint mocha from a red cup.

If you have not read Keller’s Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City, I want encourage you to pick it up and wrestle with these questions within your own ministry context. I’ll be posting my thoughts and feelings as we go along so you are welcome to join in the conversation here in the comments or on Facebook and Twitter.

So what do you think of all this? Is a Theological Vision important? In what ways have you gained a greater understanding of the Gospel? In what ways have you worked to gain a better understanding of your particular culture?

Get Back 5- Life-Long Learning

I have a passion for learning. One of my core values is that Leaders are Learners and so I make sure that my daily actions are in line with this belief. Learning is a discipline and is strengthened through daily exercise.

We live in an day and age where each day offers you a new opportunity to grow in your calling. You can read a book, attend a conference, Skype with a mentor, or listen to a podcast. The possibilities are endless. All you have to do is make the choice to develop yourself, create a plan and stick with it.

My go-to form of development is Reading. Some may look at reading as merely a hobby. However, the truth is that while I love reading it is much more than a hobby for me. It is a necessity.

If I want to learn… I read.
If I need inspiration… I read.
If I need to understand the complexities of life… I read.
If I am hungry… I eat. (As amazing as reading is it can’t do everything.)

This year, I will read somewhere around 50 books.

I’m not chasing a number. I’m chasing wisdom.
I’m not after a trophy. I’m after knowledge.

Reading is essential for growth, development, inspiration, and focus. It is true in my life and it should be true in yours. As I’ve said before, you may believe that you do not have the time to read but the truth is you don’t time NOT to read. It is that important to your development as a leader. Growing organizations are led by growing leaders. If you aren’t growing… you’re dying.

I have had friends ask me how I read so much. Today’s post will give you a little insight into how I make the most of life-long learning through my reading.

I want share with you 3 simple ways to help you make reading an essential part of your life…

1) Choose the RIGHT BOOKS to read
There will be over 1 million new books published this year. You can’t possibly begin to try and read everything so the first step in making reading a essential part of your life is to read only the books that will have a direct impact on your leadership. I look for books in 3 categories:

a) Theology
As a pastor, I read books on theology in order to help me better understand God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Primarily this understanding comes directly through the Bible, God’s Word. I also read theologians like NT Wright, Walter Brueggemann, Miroslav Wolf, and Timothy Keller. Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “A mind once stretched by a new idea never regains its original dimension.” I want my mind stretched by the things of God so that I will be forever changed.

b) Philosophy
I read theology so that I can understand God. I read philosophy so I can understand man. I may read a book on Psychology and then read a biography/autobiography. I might read up on a particular time in history and then I might follow that up with reading a work of literature. Reading philosophy isn’t about reading Freud or Socrates. The whole point of reading books in this category is to understand how others think and what they believe about life and how it should be lived. Reading about competing world views and philosophies doesn’t make them all equal and valid. Understanding them though will aid in helping to connect them to Jesus Christ and his will for their lives.

c) Best Practices
Best Practices are the types of books that will help me in a practical areas of life and ministry. Books on leadership, small groups, marriage, and administration help me gain insight and develop skills that I need to succeed. I am currently in a season where I am devouring everything I can on communication so that I can develop my teaching and speaking skills.

Exit Question: What are the categories of books you need to read in order to grow and develop your area of leadership? Choose 3 categories right now.

2) Take NOTES on what you read
If you want to get the most from your reading you must take notes on what you are learning. I have two ways that I take notes on what I’m reading. First, I never go anywhere without my Rickshaw Moleskine Folio. When I’m reading I try and distill any thoughts or ideas down to one sentance. I also write out any quotes that strike me as important. I primarily use my moleskin to take notes if I am reading from my Kindle. If I have a physical copy of the book I write my notes inside the front cover and the quotes on the inside of the back cover. Find a way to take notes that matches your personality and learning style.

(This a picture of my Rickshaw Moleskine Folio. I actually own more than one of these. The folio allows me to carry my notes, pens, and anything else I might need when I’m reading and writing. You can see the reflection of my Starbucks Gold Card there in the front. I love this product.)

3) TELL someone what you are reading
Telling someone about what you are reading will do 2 things for you. First, you will begin to understand and clarify for yourself what you’re learning. Teaching others is a great way to learn. Second, you will find that as you share with others your excitement and confidence will grow. You will begin to feel and see the fruit of all your hard work. This will in turn encourage you to keep reading. You will see, feel, and know that your learning is having a tangible impact on you and those around you!

When leaders stop learning they ultimately stop leading. Don’t let this be true of your life. Right now commit to growing in your leadership through reading. Over the weekend, choose a book that will help you in your calling, decide on a method for keeping track on what you’re learning, and tell a close friend about the book you’ve chosen. Then…

Get reading so you can get leading!

What’s Your Rhythm?

In 2012, I made it a goal to communicate with my leadership team more consistently each week. One way that I have tried to accomplish this is through a weekly leadership email that I send out to the ministry staff, deacons, and shepherds. This month’s theme has been focused on Rhythm. It is my hope that this short message will be meaningful to you and your situation and that you may be encouraged. Enjoy.

The rhythms in our lives can strengthen us personally, professionally and spiritually.

The problem is that we struggle to balance the different rhythms that we are moving in. We must learn to live and work at a rhythm that is sustainable and life-giving. You don’t just stumble into this type of rhythm. Living life at the right pace takes intentional action and relentless focus. It is tough work but the pay off is incredible.

No doubt, two things happened this week that impacted your normal rhythm or routine- Daylight Savings Time and Spring Break.

With DST, the upside is that the sun is still out after dinner giving you and your family a few extra hours to bond, play, and spend time together. No complaining there! The downside, for me at least, is that I have really struggled to get going each morning because it is still dark at 7am.

While I am not a morning person, I have found that one of my rhythms is that I am more productive in the hours leading up to lunch time. I do my best administrative work and my best studying before noon. If I don’t get cracking first thing in the morning, I feel like my back gets put up against a wall. Struggling through the first two hours of the day this week has thrown me off my game a bit. Since I know that my sweet spot to be at my most productive is before lunch than I must fight to keep this rhythm going. That means choosing to go to bed a little earlier, laying out the night before everything I need for the next day, and dedicating those first few hours to getting things done. It has definitely not been easy this week to keep my rhythm going.

For some of you, your routine has been impacted this week because of the rhythm of the school year. That’s not always a bad thing. Weeks like Spring Break can provide an opportunity for us to unplug from our normal routine and reevaluate where our time is being spent, where we need a more sustainable rhythm, and can give us the energy to make the changes needed to start a brand new rhythm.

Next week, we will look at the elements that will make up a life-giving and sustainable life rhythm. Until then, here are some things to think through this week:

1) What does your normal day look like? Try and sketch out an hour by hour look at your day.

2) How much of you time is spent and work and at home? Do you have time built in for reflecting on your day? Do you have time set aside where you can plan the next day?

3) Is there any non-essential thing you are doing right now, that if you STOPPED doing it, would give you more time to accomplish the things you really need to do? How can you begin to move that task to your TO (NOT) DO list?

The Dreamers and Me

Can you imagine how boring life would be without dreams? Without a vision for the future? Without innovation? Without next steps?

As a very young kid I realized that I had a very active imagination. When I caught a glimpse of something fantastic in my mind’s eye I was convinced that it would become a reality. I wasn’t allowed to sit by the windows in school because my imagination would take me out that window and into places much better suited for me than dingy old classrooms.

My heart resonates with dreamers. The people who can see the potential of a situation or who can take the ordinary into the extraordinary gather high marks in my book.

A dreamer isn’t someone who has their head in the clouds. Make no mistake: A dreamer is deeply entrenched in the here and now. They are fully aware of their surroundings. They are just unable to survive in the status quo. They are willing to break out of the box to seek a better way.

Take Walt Disney for example. I once read about Walt’s dreaming exercises. On day one of a new project he would set aside everything and allow himself the freedom to come up with the most audacious, fantastic plans. He was in dreamer mode. Nothing was off limits. Anything could and would be considered.

On day two he would become the realist. He would look at the plans and bring them into reality. There were some things that from a production standpoint just could not be rendered. He would table those ideas and seek out what was truly within grasp.

On day three he would play the critic. What would and would work? What was too fantastic? What would be a home run? What would foul out? What ever survived day three Walt would then make his singular focus.

Most people skip over a day one. Why waste time on things that might not ever come to fruition? “I don’t pay the bills with dreams,” some might say.

Yes you do.

Walt’s dreams paid off. Dreams pay off because they lead people to new places.

Another dreamer on my iBoard is Kermit the Frog. Whenever I’m asked which 5 people I would have to a fantasy dinner Kermit is always there.

In the Muppet Movie, Kermit embodies everything that I admire in dreamers.

He strikes out for a better life and on the way brings others along with him.

That is what dreamers do. They give hope and cast a vision to others often at a great expense to themselves.

Leaders are in the dreaming business whether they know it or not. It is our job to connect the longing of people’s hearts with the Ultimate Dreamer. It is our job to constantly put before our people the vision of a new life. A life marked by grace. A life of hope not despair. Love not hate. Ministry is about more than teaching about sin management. It is about living in the glory of God. It is about motivating people to experience the hope that one has in Christ.

“You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

“Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:9-11; 27-31)


Present at Catalyst 2011

I just returned from my 9th Catalyst Conference in Atlanta. Hands down, this is always my favorite weekend of the year. It is an opportunity to hear new voices, reflect on my calling, and cast vision for the future. This year was no different except…

Now I’m no longer the youth minister but now I’m the team leader. I’m the senior person on staff. I’m responsible for other leaders and volunteers now. The game changed since last October. It’s a freeing, scary, awesome, terrifying place to be. I am loving it.

What I love about Catalyst is that I don’t return with a series of new plans or programs that I’m ready to implement this Wednesday. Catalyst isn’t the kind of conference where you change everything about your ministry and programs 10 minutes after stepping off the plane back home.

Catalyst is a slow burn. The thoughts, concepts, challenges, and exhortations go to work in your own heart and mind first. Then, over time the things I have heard in October will begin to guide and change my approach or thinking. The change has to start within me as the leader.

Here are a few of the thoughts or concepts that are currently marinating in my soul from this weekend. I don’t know what they all mean for my context right now but I’m trusting that God will use them to make a big change in me so I can lead where I am more effectively.

  • Don’t be fair, be engaged. – Andy Stanley
  • Go deep rather than wide. Go long-term rather than short-term. Go time, not just money. – Andy Stanley
  • Life is people. – Jim Collins
  • 3 Behaviors that allow leaders to thrive: 1) Fanatical Discipline, 2) Empirical Creativity, 3) Productive Paranoia – Jim Collins
  • The Signature of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change, innovate, or grow; it’s chronic inconsistency. – Jim Collins
  • Fire Bullets, then Cannonballs. – Jim Collins
  • What is my “20 Mile March“?
  • Learn to marry creativity with discipline so that disciple amplifies creativity. – Jim Collins
  • We live in a world that is holding on for dear life to straws. – Joel Houston
  • An incredible team in a culture of excellence matters. – Dave Ramsey
  • Bring it everyday. – Dave Ramsey
  • Readdress your calling everyday. – Dave Ramsey
  • “If I could get a transcript of your prayers over the last month, what would be the one thing you kept praying for?” – Francis Chan
  • We make the things we are afraid of functional gods that we worship. – Mark Driscoll
  • Fear makes us false prophets. We predict a future that will never happen and cause ourselves fear, stress, and anxiety over these things that will never happen.- Mark Driscoll
  • Fear is vision without hope. – Mark Driscoll
  • FEAR NOT! Fear not, your Daddy is with you. – Mark Driscoll
  • Hatred of injustice is not the same thing as a love for everyday people. – Cornel West
  • Love is about going on the offensive. – Cornel West
  • We are who we are because somebody loved us. – Cornel West
  • Messiahs are crucified; prophets are assassinated. – Cornel West
  • Be intentional about pouring into those leaders that are coming behind you. It’s not about filling their cup. It is about emptying yours. – Andy Stanley
  • MEDs– Model, Explain, Demonstrate – Andy Stanley
  • Success is ultimately measured by whether or not you leave your responsibilities in capable hands. – Andy Stanley
  • Let’s hand the church better off than it was handed to us… to those who can do it better than us. – Andy Stanley

These are just a few examples of the leadership challenges and questions that are currently running laps around my head and heart. I walked away from Catalyst 2011 just like every other year thinking:

I am so blessed and honored to have experienced what I just experienced. Thank you Father for the Catalyst Team and for all that they do.

It is my prayer that God will give me the wisdom I need to do something with what I heard and experienced.

See you in Dallas, Catalyst Team!