Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Worship With Abandon

It's been a crazy week already. Everyone is out of the office for vacation or student life camp, so the office has been quiet on the staff front, but quite busy with day to day operations. I am enjoying the change of pace. We also had our Life Group BBQ on Sunday, I played golf (for only the second time this year!) on Monday, went to the Cardinal game on Monday night (they were hammered by the Indians), had a birthday on Tuesday, went to dinner Tuesday evening, and of course today, I was back at it bright and early. I have eaten out more in the past few days then I have all month.

Life is anything but a routine. I was challenged by Mark Batterson and his take on life as a routine.
Have you been doing something so long that it becomes a routine for you? If we’re not careful our jobs becomes routine, our kids become routine, our marriages become routine. We keep living in the past instead of creating and dreaming our future. This has huge implications for our walk with God as well.

Here's what Mark Batterson, Lead Pastor of National Community Church, suggests when God becomes a routine:

  • Try fasting something you've never fasted before.
  • Try reading another version of the Bible like The Message or The New Living Translation.
  • Try meditating on a passage of Scripture for a week.
  • Keep a prayer journal.
  • Take a personal retreat.
  • Try worshiping God in a new way or a new place.
  • Try a prayer experiment where you pray for someone or something for a month.

At Meadow Heights we believe that worship is a lifestyle – an opportunity to discover God on a daily basis. Throughout the “Consumed” series God has reminded so many of us that He longs for our hearts. All we have to do is worship Him.

We are geting ready for the Consumed Concert this weekend, and I challenged our music teams to worship God with abandon. I'll throw out the same challenge here. Even if you have memorized the words to your favorite song, recall them with a fresh perspective and sing out your praises to a living God who loves to hear your voice every single time.

"It's who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.” John 4:23-24 (msg)

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Why People Blog

Mark Batterson, lead pastor of National Community Church, has some great insights on his blog. I am constantly intrigued about his perspectives on life, church, religion, Jesus, and so much more.

In one of his latest posts, he shares his top 10 reasons why he blogs. I thought I would share those here:

#10 Blogging is a form of digital discipleship. Neo-scrolls.
#9 Blogging is the way I share what is happening in my head and my heart.
#8 Blogging is cathartic. It helps me process what I'm thinking and feeling.
#7 Blogging is the way I leave a trail. My kids and grandkids can read it someday.
#6 Blogging is a sermon supplement. Actually, sermons might be a blogging supplment.
#5 Blogging is a way to carry on a conversation with lots of people at the same time.
#4 Blogging is a form of auto-biography.
#3 Blogging is one way of capturing the things God is revealing to me.
#2 Blogging helps me remember what God doesn't want me to forget.
#1 Blogging is a stewardship issue. It's one way I share what God is teaching me.

For those of you who blog, how many apply to you? Of course many of these are slanted towards a "church" perspective, but you get the idea. I love his final thoughts:

I don't think blogging is for everybody. It has to fit your personality and the rhythm of your life. But I think it is one way of redeeming technology and using it to serve God's purpsoes. It is the printing press of the 21st century.

You can read more about this post and many others here.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Piggy Principle

We were in the middle of staff meeting yesterday, and one of my colleagues made a great comment about how our teams worked so well together. He was giving them praise for operating on the "we" principle rather than focused on themselves. He went on about how it was "we" this, "we that," etc.

All of this got me thinking about how well we work together at Meadow Heights Church. It really is a team effort. I think we have applied what I'll call the "Piggy Principle." The Piggy Principle is founded on the belief that it is "we, we, we" all the way. We're bringing the team concept home.

5 Things I've Noticed About the Piggy Principle:

(1) While it is a team effort, the leader sets the pace for team. This might be from our Lead Pastor to the staff, or from a ministry leader to their team, but the leader always sets the pace.
(2) Teams will never rise any further than the leader is willing to lead. I've seen many teams that were held back by a weak leader. Ministry rises and falls on the backs of the leader.
(3) Leaders are learners. When we stop breathing in the Bible, stop listening to others wiser than ourselves, and stop reading, we fail to learn. When you stop learning, you'll stop leading effectively.
(4) Leadership is about building relationships. The reason our teams work so well together is that ultimately they have trust for the leaders. This respect has been built on a foundation of relationship. You have to build into your teams and spend time relationally with them.
(5) When change is needed or conflict occurs, the leader has to make a decision. That means the team has to realize that we're all in this together. There are no victims on a healthy team.

None of this operates without the guiding principles of Jesus Himself. All of what we try to do and accomplish at Meadow Heights is based upon God's Word. And of course none of this would be possible without the ultimate leadership of God.

Monday, June 19, 2006

And I Thought I Was Just Weird

I don't know about you, but I do some of my best brainstorming when I'm in the shower. I know that sounds plain weird, but some time alone away from the family in a relaxed environment does something to increase my creative flow.

I was reading an article on "50 Ways to Become a Better Designer" and it mentioned taking a shower to increase the output of your ideas. And I thought I was the only weird one! From what I can understand, your brain normally operates in "Beta" mode while you're awake and working, but when you engage in automated activities such as a shower, your brain drops two levels into the "Theta" stage, or what experts describe as this:

"A state where tasks become so automatic that you can mentally disengage from them. The ideation that can take place during the theta state is often free flow and occurs without censorship or guilt. It is typically a very positive mental state."

So the next time you find yourself in a meeting that is stagnating creatively, you might suggest that it's time to "hit the showers."

Amazing Grace

ESPN has a great feature article on Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy. Tony and his family suffered an unbelievable tragedy last December with the death of their 18-year old son, James. Dungy, an outspoken follower of Jesus, summed it up best when he said this:

"The Lord has a plan. We always think the plans are A, B, C and D, and everything is going to be perfect for us and it may not be that way, but it's still his plan. A lot of tremendous things are going to happen, it just may not be the way you see them."

Tony Dungy is the real deal. He's not afraid to talk about, show it to others, and live it out in his daily life. To read the entire story, click here.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Glory Road

I love movies. The only problem is finding the time to watch them. Sometimes my brain needs a chance to unwind...a perfect opportunity for a bowl of popcorn and a good flick.

My family was getting ready to watch "Glory Road," and being a rabid sports fan, I decided to park my body for a few hours and check it out. While the movie itself had so many cliche moments, I couldn't help but to get caught up in the plot and likeable characters. If you like sports movies with "feel good" moments, then this one's for you. I liken it to a "Remember the Titans" for the basketball crowd.

One quote near the end of the movie stood out to me (I may be paraphrasing memory isn't what it used to be!). "No one can take your integrity away from you. It's always inside of you." I love that quote. How we choose to live our daily lives stands as a testament to our integrity. It doesn't guarantee that we won't make mistakes, but as I always told my students during my career as a teacher, "It's not how many mistakes you make, but how you choose to deal with them that matters." Integrity is about owning your mistakes. While I'm still working on that concept, I'm so thankful that God has given us all enough grace...especially when we stray from the "glory road" that He has provided!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

From the Depths to the Dump Truck

I didn't have a chance to talk about my "Day from Hell" last week. If someone asked me to describe a day that could only come from the depths below, I'm not sure I could have described a day worse than my experiences last week.

First of all, we decided to have a "staff clean up day," which inherently sounds great, but if you knew how much "stuff" was hanging out in our storage areas (can anybody relate here?), you'd think twice. Needless to say, we cleaned out approximately two dump trucks full of old, used, broken-down, and no-longer-useful stuff from the basement area. TWO DUMP TRUCKS FULL! I have no idea how that much stuff fit into such a small area to begin with, but by the end of the day, we were all worn out, dirt-stained and ready to crash somewhere.

BUT...that's where my fun began.

Have you ever come home to find your wife digging in all areas of the house, and when you ask what she's doing, she let's you know about the "garage sale" you'll be having. Oh yeah...the garage sale. So upon arriving home after the day at church, I was politely asked to help set up tables, bring out miscellaneous items and finally, help price them. WOW! How could I be so lucky to be able to participate in two outstanding events in one day?

I have to admit, when things were all said and done, the end results were awesome. God really spoke to me about the value of organization and most importantly, to be able to get rid of stuff I've been holding on to for years. I'm a pack-rat by nature (can anybody relate HERE?), but during this whole process, I felt great about letting things go. I'm not there yet, but I certainly hope that this is a small "mustard seed" step forward.

So, does anybody know of a good "pack rat" recovery group?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Multi-Site Practicum - Day 2

Another solid day for the Multi-Site Revolution!! As was the case yesterday, we had lots of "good" information, but by far the most important parts of the day were the team building times. By the end of the day we had accomplished a major feat: our multi-site plan ON PAPER!! There is something inherently exciting about actually writing your goals down. It brings unity with all involved, it brings "concreteness" to visions and dreams, and finally it provides direction for the future (or the infamous "monkey on the back").

The staff at CCC were phenomenal and extremely helpful. Afterwards we took a quick tour of their facility fondly known as the "yellow box." This building is basically a huge box with a gymatorium in the middle where they hold worship gatherings. It also boasts a very fine coffee shop and accompanying atmosphere as well as room for children's ministry and their School of Arts (very cool by the way!).

Finally, we had opportunity to peek into their offices, which I must say, was quite a shock to me. All their main support staff are all in one long rectangular room with half on one side of the room and half on the other divided by a receptionist's area. The lead pastor, Dave Ferguson, is right there with everyone else, crammed into a tiny area. Very strange, but also a cool environment. Down the hall was the graphics and media department as well as a conference area. These guys are definitely focused on their mission and not worried about the "internal" factors that often trip others.

At the end, we were asked to talk about one thing we will take with us and one thing we will leave. For most of us, the concensus was that we will take away an unwavering faith that we are on the right path. We may not know all the answers (the practicum plan will help), but we are unified in a vision to reach our community, the parkland, and dare I say even beyond that? I think we'll all leave behind any fears and doubts about the multi-site strategy in general. Most of all we'll take away some incredible team time, a LOT of laughs, and the boldness to move forward. As the movie Braveheart states so well:

Aye, fight and you may die, run, and you'll live... at least for a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM!

May we be boldly used by God to spread this Freedom and the liberating message of Jesus to all that will hear. Let us fight with courage and overcome our Enemy as we proclaim that the Kingdom of God is at hand!!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Multi-Site Practicum Day 1

A beautiful day in Chicago!! And of course, we were inside all day. Today was the first day of the multi-site practicum at Community Christian Church in Naperville. We started the day learning about the 7 "moves" to multi-site. It was very interesting information and presented very well, but there wasn't a plethora of new or "light bulb popping" stuff. The information did propel us into some great discussions in our breakout sessions.

I think our team would agree that we are past the "affirmation" stage of multi-site. God has lined up too many things for this idea to be a coincidence. The best parts of the day were the brainstorming/strategy sessions. We laid some great foundational groundwork to some issues that have been "swimming" out there in the minds of many of us. It was neat to see it unfold on paper and for all of us to be on the page (literally!) together. The next step will be to flesh out our top 5 (or six in our case) most important or critical objectives.

One thing is for sure...we have a lot of work to do to get ready for a launch. The next 6-9 months will probably be one of those defining moments in the life of a church when you look back on some monumental decisions. The Gospel no longer functions simply as a mouth to ear transaction but is now focused on an experiential movement from God that encompasses all senses. AND, for the first time in decades (dare I say centuries?), we'll find opportunities to take the Gospel TO the people, but in new and exciting ways.

The business world has long taken biblical principles to help sell their products, but we have had this aversion to using marketing principles to help propel Jesus into the spotlight. I know there will be many people that disagree with me on this issue and it is probably left to a better explanation at a later time, but I don't understand why it has taken the church so long to adopt simple business practices of marketing. If Starbucks can create an "experience" with coffee, then why can't we talk about Jesus in a creative and compelling manner?

Day 2 tomorrow!

Super Heroes!

We had a great weekend honoring our volunteers. Our theme this year centered around "Superheroes" and our new ministry opportunities guide looked like a comic book. Joe did a phenomenal (there! I said it!) job of design work, and we tied it all together with "Super Hero" shirts, red and blue "super hero fabric," and some great looking red "fabrigo" chairs from Ikea!

It was great to hear some stories from our different ministry areas, and a chance to raise the value of serving. It was also a great reminder for me - we have hundreds (and I do mean hundreds!) of volunteers that serve on a weekly basis, most of them behind the scenes. And what I love the most about our volunteers is that we are all on the same page, the same mission, the same vision. I would bet that you won't find many churches who would say that everyone is moving in the same direction in terms of mission and vision. I'm so thankful that we're all on board to serve God through our ministry at MH!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The God Pod

I was reading an article today about digital access and whether or not increased technology would make the world a better place. It seems like the computer has been around forever, but for most of us, the "modern day" computer and especially the internet has really only been around since the late 80's.

I remember my first computer, the Atari 800, came with a "basic" cartridge and a tape drive. Just enough for a 13-year old hacker to write a few programs. And then in my first few years of college, dialing in to the "bulletin boards" to play my favorite text game - that is if the line wasn't busy. Things have certainly changed in the past 15 years!

Did you know that as of 2004 only 12.4 percent of the world had access to a PC? AMD CEO Hector Ruiz recently unveiled the company's "50 x 15" program, which aims to put half of the world online by 2015 - quite an ambitious endeavor. Other companies are working on PIC's (personal internet communicators) that can be sold for as little as $100 to give access to as many people, especially students, as possible.

All of this made me think about the effort we're putting into technology. Do we even put a fraction of that effort into talking about God? What about the Bible? Do we have a goal to put the Bible into half of the world by 2015? Would they call us nuts? I can't help but to remember the words of Jesus when He commanded us to "go and tell." It seems we have chosen to stay and remain silent, hoping people will discover Him on their own.

The article finished with a bold statement that the countries with decent education systems, good infrastructure and free markets were the places that technology has taken off and as a result, it has helped those societies. That sounds pretty elitist now doesn't it? Does that sound familiar?

Remember the Pharisees who had the "infrastructure," the "education" and so much more? They held God so close and would not dare to share Him with anyone outside of their own. And then Jesus came along and said that His yoke was light; His yoke was easy. And most importantly, His yoke was free to everyone.

What happened to embracing that truth? Instead we act more like the Pharisees and hold God so close to us that no one can even catch a glimpse of Him. God is only for us and no one else. Share? Hardly. Control is the key. And besides, it's much safer, right? God in a box, an iPod if you will. We can listen when we want. We can download what we want. We can even put on our headphones so that no one else can hear.

I think it's time for the "music" of God to resonate with full volume. Technology was created not to bottle up the truth, but to help us communicate with the world. It's time to go and tell what others have been keeping to themselves for such a long time. If companies like AMD and Dell can bring technology to the world by 2015, surely we can share the simple truth of Jesus in a compelling way.

Technology may continue to rapidly change in the future, but one thing we can count on is the foundational, never-changing truth of Jesus. Let's get back to the "free market" system of religion - a relationship that is life-changing and free to anyone and everyone.

J is for June

A quick update since I haven't posted for awhile;
*It's June already...I can hardly believe it!!
*A great weekend at Meadow Heights - the essence of Christianity in a message about the always amazing Jesus and another afternoon/evening of great discussion in CLASS
*A quick trip to the city on Monday - lots of food, a bit of shopping, more food, and finally, a stop at the best custard place in this part of Missouri - Lix
*Preparing to help my wife this week - it's the big garage sale weekend!
*Also preparing for Volunteer Celebration this weekend
*Packing for a quick trip to Chicago, leaving this Sunday afternoon

Always much to do, so little time to do it in, and never enough accomplished. On the bright side, I am making progress on my office (after nearly two years!!) and it should start coming together by the week's end if everything arrives. I'll shoot out some pics soon.

I'll put out a challenge as I have with some of my teams over the weekend - take a moment and build into someone this week. It might be a quick conversation, an email, or even a phone call, but find someone that is making a difference and let them know what they're doing is important. Sometimes we forget that a simple affirmation can make all the difference in the world. I think you'll find that you'll be the recipient just as much as the person you're talking with. Until next time!