Tuesday, October 31, 2006

O is for Oprah and for Outreach

Oprah has given a lot of cash and prizes away to her guest audience before, but yesterday she gave them something quite unusual: a $1000 gift card that had to be "given away." Did I hear that correctly? Give away? Is this simply another confirmation that God is on the move and Acts 2 is becoming a reality?

You can read the entire story here, but I love this quote from the show she claimed is one of her favorites:
"You're going to open your hearts, you're going to be really creative, and you're going to spend it all at once on one stranger or spend a dollar on every person," Winfrey said. "Imagine the love and kindness you can spread with $1,000."
It doesn't end with Oprah. It starts with all of us. It may be money, or physical talent, or even time, but it starts with each of us. What will you "give away" this week?

The Deer Hunter

I've never been a big hunter. As a matter of fact, I have only been hunting one time. A friend took me turkey hunting and here's how that played out: I trekked five mintues into the woods, sat down, looked out into a field, saw a dozen or so turkeys land, raised my gun, shot, grabbed my turkey and headed for breakfast. Total time? Less than thirty minutes. Isn't that the way all hunting trips are supposed to work?

Our small town is hung up on the hunting thing, so not wanting my son to feel "out of place" or to be made fun of at school (such a thoughtful dad, right?), I agreed to let him go hunting with a friend of mine (BIG props out to Jason Wengler for investing some time with my son!!). Little did I know that he would come back with his first deer! He was pumped (I can't say the same for my wife) and ready to eat some deer sticks and jerky.

I'm so glad Seth had this experience. It would have been easy to let my pride get in the way, for me to feign an expertise in hunting, and ultimately Seth would have been the one to suffer. I am so thankful that we have a community of friends who are willing to invest in our teenagers! We are all gifted in different ways, and big or small, we are the only ones who can choose to offer our gifts to others.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Universe Is Spinning

It's been a crazy past three days. I'm not quite sure where it all went, but I do know that much emotion, effort and determination played a key role. Here's a summation of what's been happening:
  • Funeral - the sudden death of one of my former students (and my daughter's classmate - the third from their graduating class!) was a definite shock to our community. A good kid with a big heart. Kevin, we'll miss ya!
  • Carninals Win! - the Cardinals celebrated their World Series Victory in fine fashion on Friday night. I must admit, I liked the Tigers and their scrappy spirit!
  • Youth Hunt - a good friend of ours took my son deer hunting on Saturday morning, and yep, Seth shot his first deer ever. I'll post a pic later.
  • Wedding - another former student of mine asked me to play saxophone in her wedding. It was a beautiful event and I know she will be very happy!
  • Weekend Gatherings - we had some huge crowds this weekend - the box score will reveal the final details, but I would imagine we'll break the 600 mark again this weekend. God is definitely on the move!
  • CLASS Night - we had well over 100 people attend our CLASS night. I will be shocked if we don't break our past attendance record. We also implemented CLASS 401 for the first time and revealed part of our MPACT plan.
There is so much more spinning around in my head right now, but that will have to be processed later. But now, I will be enjoying some time off with my wife and daughter!

Thursday, October 26, 2006


There has been a lot of buzz around the A2 conference at Willow Creek this week. I haven't read a lot commentary from this event, but Perry Noble shares his thoughts from the conference on his blog. I did catch part of the live streamcast on Wednesday, and from the few minutes of Craig Groeschel that I heard, I was blown away by what I was hearing. I can't wait to listen or watch the recordings.

Willow has put up several links to downloads from the event. You can find those here.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Let the Revolution Begin

Perry Noble talks about his staff in a recent post. What's so amazing to me is that God has prepared so many key leaders in advance and has placed them in each of our churches at exactly the right time. Around Meadow Heights we call this having the "right people in the right seat on the right bus at the right time."

I'm sure many of us could share story after story about how the staff we work with are the "best ever." It's another confirmation to me that the Revolution is beginning.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Christ Follower Part 2

Eric Bramlett and his team at CCC have done it again with "I'm A Christ Follower Part 2." You can check out the video here, or go to YouTube and do a quick search. This is hilarious! Thanks Eric!

An Unstoppable Force

To "mega-church" or not to "mega-church," that is the question. Or is it? Alex McManus takes a stab at this question in his recent article. While I don't agree completely with Alex on the current status of church in America, I do agree with the basis of his conclusion: we need to return to the roots of church in the 1st Century.

A friend of mine coined a unique phrase that I think is a great representation of where Meadow Heights Church is today. Here's what he said:
"Meadow Heights is taking first century values (the teachings of Jesus) and applying them to a 21st Century world."
I love how he's phrased that. We've been talking in great length lately about Acts 2:42-47 and how that passage of scripture is not simply a historical story, but it is coming to fruition in our day and age. In fact, it's the vision we feel God has laid out before us and is challenging us to take hold of without apology. We're staking everything we have around building this dream.

Whether our church is "mega" or just a few, the question is not about the size, but are we following the teachings of Jesus? Does mega describe the number of people in our church, or the size of the hearts of our people? Let's not forget to take a look in the mirror occasionally for a "heart check." The passion of reaching people who don't have a relationship with Jesus is only the first step - we have to have a plan of action to carry out the vision.

I know I've posted this before, but there is something incredible about this passage. If today's church catches hold of the power of this passage - not the power of the past, but it's power in the here and now - we will be an unstoppable force for Jesus. May these words be in your prayers this week.

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Top 10 - Blogs I Visit Almost Daily

I thought I would camp out on some Top 10 categories for the next week or so. A quick reminder that Top 10 lists are intended for discussion, mindless fodder, or complete disregard. There's my disclaimer and I'm stickin' to it. If you don't agree with my Top 10 then post a comment, email me or make your own Top 10. It's just my opinion...for whatever that's worth!

Today's Top 10: Blogs I visit almost daily. I love reading blogs. I've try to keep my "blog roll" down to the bare minimum, but it's getting pretty crowded. I know several folks who use RSS feeds to keep up with daily posts. I haven't gone there yet, but I know that day is quickly approaching. But for now, I'll continue to poke around and click on each blog during my "blog hunt o' the day."

So, without further ado, Top 10 Blogs I visit almost daily (in no particular order):
  1. The Howser House. The personal blog of my friend, colleague, and fellow traveler, John describes daily life and all of his experiences in life. Life is good, right?
  2. Tony Morgan. One of the "Simply Strategic Guys" and also a very funny man. His takes on life and how God interacts with us are quite interesting and always entertaining.
  3. Evotional. Mark Batterson of National Community Church in D.C. has one of my favorite blogs. He is incredibly insightful, extremely funny, and down to earth. Plus, he's sending me a free copy of his newest book, "In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day."
  4. Steve Emlund. One of my former students, Steve is studying graphic design at Truman in Kirksville. Steve is one of the most creative guys I know, and while he doesn't update his blog nearly as often as he should, his posts are well worth the read. He also posts samples of his work.
  5. Dave Ferguson. I first met Dave at a multi-site conference his church (Community Christian Church) hosted. Dave is one of those guys who is immediately likeable. I enjoy reading his blog for the practical insights and helpful tips he provides.
  6. Eric's Eddyfications. The blog of Eric Bramlett, the Creative Arts Director at Community Christian. I met Eric at the multi-site conference as well, and his blog has some wonderfully creative ideas. His videos are very...hmmm...entertaining? Bring on the Seuss!
  7. Seth's Blog. Seth Godin is a marketing guru. His concepts for business are many times a perfect fit for the church. This guy is incredibly intelligent - a must for anyone in business or involved at church!
  8. Digg. Man, I love this site!! As a techno-geek, Digg has links to just about every story on the web. Readers "digg" various stories which are tallied to let the reader know how "good" the story might be. It's really like hundreds of personal reporters giving you the "lowdown" before you invest a lot of time on your own. A highly recommended blog.
  9. Perry Noble. I have just started reading Perry's blog the past month or so and I haven't been disappointed. This guy tells it like it is and I love it! Perry's church, NewSpring Church has exploded with growth and changed lives. His blog details his adventure.
  10. Bucketology. I couldn't post without visiting this site daily, right? This blog has been a great way for me to bleed my brain, pour out my emotions, or simply type out some meaningless stuff. For my few readers, thanks for coming along for the ride!
So there you have it. My Top 10 Blogs I visit almost daily. There are many others who are worthy of consideration, but many of you guys don't update consistently - you know who you are! I would love to know some other blogs that you guys visit almost daily. Please add to this list in the comment section as you see fit!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I Promise

I'm back in town from three wonderful days at the "I Promise" marriage conference. Our full-time ministry staff and our wives traveled to Branson with many laughs, tired backsides, and sessions filled with incredible insights and stories. It was a great reminder to me about the importance of my marriage (and ALL marriages) and some great thoughts on how to focus on building into my wife and my marriage.

There were some great speakers including Dr. Gary Smalley, Dr. Gary Chapman, Ed and Lisa Young, and John and Nancy Ortberg. With 9 sessions in two and a half days and no computer access, I won't even try to recap all the sessions. Some big takeaways?
  • No one can control how you react to any given situation or circumstance except yourself.
  • Just because you haven't taken a "big exit" in your marriage doesn't mean you can overlook the "little exits."
  • It's hard to worship when you are constantly "scrutinizing" the programming and execution of the music (or lack thereof)
  • I love food and I'm full of it (the food that is)
  • Ed and Lisa were very dynamic; John and Nancy...well...they're not
  • Gary Smalley is funny...very funny and has some great stories
  • "Hiding God's Word In My Heart" has taken on a totally new meaning for me
  • Our hotel was stunning - Chateau on the Lake is a great place to stay (and they have phenomenal soap!)
  • Mac is still funny with five women in a van
  • Out of the five couples, Melissa and I have been married the longest (man...that is scary!)
I could go on, but it's getting late and there is much to do to get ready for the weekend. The conference was great, and three days with my wife is a huge blessing for us since we don't get that opportunity very often. Now let's see if we can put what we have learned into practice!

Monday, October 16, 2006

I've Got Some Change In My Pocket...

Another phenomenal weekend at Meadow Heights Church. We're in a series called "NEXT," and can I say a huge thanks to our lead pastor Bryan for having enough fortitude to say the things he is saying? (Props also to Bryan for "boss's day" - God, you can have some props too...:) NEXT is one of those series that our church family will look back in a few months with amazement at how God transformed so many lives.

We showed our "year in review" baptism video as well (always one of my favorites) with the Leeland song "Tears of the Saints" that I mentioned in a previous post. Forty-four changed lives last year...what an unbelievable movement of God! Bryan also shared our multi-site vision for the first time on a weekend. Everyone was so supportive and I sensed great anticipation for what the future holds.

I read a quote this week that made a lot of sense to me: people aren't afraid of change...they're afraid of being changed. Fear is simply a deception that Satan uses to keep us from experiencing what God has planned. Somehow Jesus turns all of that fear into an incredible passion. We've experienced so much change over the past five years as a church, and none of it without incredible prayer and listening to what God had to say. As a result, we continue to see life after life impacted by the love of Jesus.

This weekend: connectNEXT - building connections to our Life Groups. I'll leave you with the question that has quickly become our "theme" for this series:

What's NEXT? And will I do it?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Midnight Madness - Let the Games Begin!

It's an exciting day. No, not because it's Friday the 13th - it's the first "official" day that NCAA basketball teams may begin practice. Dubbed "midnight madness" more than 30 years ago, this day marks the official start towards March Madness! I can't wait to see how the Rock Chawk Jayhawks trounce the competition!

Unleash the LION

Mark Batterson pretty well sums it up:
Grab life by the mane.

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-ordained passions. Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution. Stop criticizing and start creating. Stop playing it safe and start taking risks. Expand your horizons. Accumulate experiences. Consider the lilies. Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can. Don't let what's wrong with you keep you from worshipping what's right with God. Burn sinful bridges. Laugh at yourself. Keep making mistakes. Worry less about what people think and more about what God thinks. Don't try to be who you're not. Be yourself. Quit holding out. Quit holding back. Quit running away. And remember: if God is for us who can be against us?

Unleash the lion chaser within!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sling and a Prayer

Well, I spent last night in the emergency room with my son. He had taken a nasty fall directly on his elbow, and from all appearances, it looked to be broken. We promptly drove to the emergency room for some x-rays, and after two and a half hours, headed home with a simple sling. The results? No break! He had broken the same arm (the wrist, actually) two years before, and experienced similar pain, but after all was said and done, he's in the clear.

At one point in my life I had thought about becoming a doctor. Each time I visit the emergency room the little urge from somewhere deep within me screams out. Why is it when you should experience some of the best care ever, your grand expectations are met with a whimper? Our nurse was very kind, but the doctor had less than average english skills, no "bed-side manners," and didn't return to read a simple x-ray for over an hour and a half! WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT TO PROVIDE CUSTOMER SERVICE in a hospital?

Maybe it's just our hospital. I had a similar experience in a nearby hospital as well. I've always had the mindset that first impressions and customer service were critical. At Meadow Heights Church, this is one of our core values - doing everything with a high level of excellence. We get comment cards all the time that talk about how friendly our folks are, and the level of excellence with which we approach things. The old addage "God deserves our very best" should not be taken lightly. Mark Batterson calls this "an eye for excellence." Small things really do make a BIG difference.

So for now, I'll squelch my long-lost dream of becoming a doctor and focus on how God continues to do the healing. And my advice? Stay out of the emergency room!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Had Enough?

It's no secret that people fight a lot over two things: religion and politics. While I'm not one to banter endlessly about politics, the latest "slogan" I've seen thrown about the television, internet and other venues is just about ridiculous. The Democrats have rallied around a common theme..."Had Enough?" What in the world is that supposed to mean? How about, here's what's gone wrong, and here's how we're going to fix it. Let's face it - anyone can exclaim they've had enough. It takes real leadership to identify the problem, have honest conversations and find solutions. Shouldn't they follow the mantra "Solutions are for winners - excuses are for losers?" "Had enough" certainly fits the latter.

Don't get the wrong idea, I'm quickly losing faith in the current leadership of our country. There have been some bad decisions (or sometimes lack of decisions) in the past few years, and there's nothing I dislike more than a "fence rider" who can't seem to find a true leadership direction. But I also understand that we are human and will never be perfect in our decisions. Every President of our great country has made a decision they have looked back on with some regret. Wouldn't you say the same is true of your own life? It's also important to remember that every decision does have consequences - good or bad.

As a young college student, I used to claim the "party line" when voting, but I have come to the distinct conclusion that while many people argue about politics and religion, they are not all that different. Let me explain. Religious people = Religion. The Pharisees claimed to have the ONLY true way to worship God. They created a false world full of rules and strict guidelines. If you didn't follow their way, then it couldn't be the "right way." Politicians = Politics. Policiticians claim to have the ONLY answers to political strife. They created a false world full of rules and guidelines to fit their agenda. Do you see the irony?

Let me suggest something quite daring - what if we viewed the world the way Jesus asked us? Instead of religion and politics, what if we looked at the person? Instead of "which crowd do I fit in with (which "rules" do I want to follow)," what if it became "who's the person with strong morals and an ethical compass (lives the truth)?" What a radical way to approach a candidacy! Would the world accept someone like that? They certainly didn't accept Jesus, but that didn't stop him from moving forward.

None of us are perfect, but I'm afraid we've put on our blinders and have narrowed our view of the world, the people around us, and even ourselves. Am I ready for "a change?" Most definitely. But not by blindly misleading others to abandon seeking truth for themselves. "Had Enough?" is a cover up, and quite frankly, it's one of the oldest tricks in the books.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

I Called, You Answered

We had a great weekend at Meadow Heights Church - a great message we all needed to hear, a great crowd, a baptism and some great music. One of the songs we sang is quickly becoming a favorite. I have to admit, I wasn't a huge fan at first, but when the lyrics finally take hold of your heart, they just won't let go.

I called
You answered
And You came to my rescue
And I want to be where You are

In my life
Be lifted high
In our world
Be lifted high
In our love
Be lifted high

I read a quote on Mark Batterson's blog tonight from C.T. Studd. I'd never heard of him before, but I found out he was a great missionary and had some some incredible thoughts about Jesus. When I read this quote, it was clear that God was putting the exclamation point on the day. I pray that this is only the beginning.

Some wish to live within the sound
Of Church or Chapel Bell.
I want to run a rescue shop
within a yard of Hell.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Tears of the Saints

If you haven't checked out the Leeland cd, you've got to take a listen. This 17 year old songwriter and worship leader from Texas has some of the best lyrics I have heard in a long time. My personal favorite? Tears of the Saints. My favorite lyrics?
This is an emergency!
There are tears from the saints
For the lost and unsaved

We’re crying for them come back home
He goes on to say:
There are schools full of hatred
Even churches have forsaken
Love and mercy
May we see this generation
In it’s state of desperation
For Your glory
For the unrealized dreams that are in the minds of so many people, God has given us an opportunity to live out His dream: to see people reconnected with Him. It is an emergency. An emergency dictates immediate action, and we find ourselves in the right place, at the right time, with the best source of hope ever...the love of Jesus. It's time to come back home. Jesus lead the way. Our tears are falling for those who don't know you.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Best Friends

Tony Morgan posted recently about serving in the Middle School ministry and asking the kids the question, "Who is my best friend?" His response? Not his pastor, not one of his colleagues, not a long-time friend, but his wife. I love that response.

Ever since I have known my wife Melissa, we have always enjoyed spending time together. Over the course of our marriage (nearing 20 years!!), we have purposely found employment together - from the grocery business, to our own business, to school business, and now (at times) church business. We came to the realization a long time ago that we really enjoy working together.

I have heard many others talk about how they would not enjoy (is hate too strong of a word here?) working with their spouse. The common thoughts? "How would we handle conflict? Could he/she handle 'taking orders' from me? What if I get the sudden urge to plant a big fat wet one on my spouse and someone walks in on us?" So many questions!

You know what I have figured out? None of that really matters when you really love someone. The old addage "where there's a will there's a way" is put into practice. While there may be times when I am too demanding or my approach is a bit too brash, a gentle reminder and honest communication quickly puts things back into perspective. One thing is for certain - we will always walk away knowing how much we love one another. Sometimes our love grows even more.

So I close this post reminded about how much God loves me, how much I have been blessed with a great wife, a great family, great friends, a great church, a great job and a great life. Even when life gets a bit challenging, my glass will remain eternally "half full!"

Granger Film Festival

Granger Community Church hosted their first ever Film Festival as part of the Innovative Church Conference. As an avid videographer and film connoiseur, I am always interested in veiwing others' work.

Granger has posted their favorite entries from the festival. You can watch those here. Which ones are your favorites? Any "unusual" entries? As we continue to emphasize video at Meadow Heights and as I continue to quench my video desires, I pray that someday God will unleash my vision for a short film. I have felt for some time that I would like to write, direct, shoot and edit a short feature film, but I haven't had peace about what or how that would or should look like.

I would welcome any thoughts or ideas for plot lines, character identities, or the like. Feel free to email me any comments or suggestions.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I Need A Hero

Well, it's upon us again...the Fall television season. I've noticed that I am watching far less television this fall than ever before. Could it be the busyness of my life? Possibly. Could it be that I only have local channels? More likely.

Of course, I still won't miss my favorites: Prison Break, House, Survivor. I am having a bit of withdrawal syndrome as well after missing every episode of The Amazing Race so far. And then I happen to be at a friend's house catching a Monday Night Football game (which, by the way, I can't watch at home for the first time in my lifetime because I only get local channels!!), when he flips over to the "High Def" side of his massive 50 inch or so tv while pausing it at times on his high-def DVR. Man!! Am I ever technologically jealous!! I'm still watching regular ole' tv on my 27 incher that my family has watched for the past 10 years!

I have been pleasantly surprised by NBC's new show called "Heroes." I wasn't terribly impressed the first week, but week 2 held some creative story lines, very solid acting, and some crazy action scenes. It definitely held my attention! They are doing a great job weaving the plot between 5 or so story lines.

Still on the top of my list has to be Prison Break and House. If you haven't caught these two Fox shows...well never mind. There might not be hope for you. :)

Until the next time, I'm off to watch my incredibly lo-def, low tech 27" local channels only machinery!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Kingdom Revolution

I have been sensing God at work lately, especially at Meadow Heights, but NewSpring Church had a phenomenal weekend - they baptized 402 people!! Perry Noble is definitely a "no-bones-about-it" type of guy, but very creative, speaks his mind, and of course, God-driven.

I love how Perry describes what God is doing at NewSpring because I think it applies to Meadow Heights as well:
I told our church this tonight…and I will say it here…I believe this is only the beginning! If you study the Great Awakenings in church history–they started in unknown places among unknown people…they started at a place where only God could get the glory for what was going on…and that is exactly what is happening here.
We are poised for a Kingdom Revolution the likes of which we haven't seen in our lifetimes. The story is unfolding, the dreams are materializing, and Acts 2 IS BECOMING REALITY!