Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Healthy Church = A Healthy Leadership Culture

Dave Ferguson talks about his interview with Catalyst (how cool is that?) in his recent post. Catalyst is one of my favorite conferences (AND it's a cool name) and their creativity is "off the hook!"

So Dave talks about the climate at Community Christian Church and about the leadership culture they have created. What's amazing to me are the similarities between CCC and Meadow Heights Church. Community, Cause and Culture are three mantras that we live and breathe every single day. We love working together, hangin' together, sharing life together. We're all on this ride together to see lives changed. AND...all of us have come from business or education where we made a lot more money . Here' s how Dave sums it up:
But they chose to be here because there is just something attractive about being a team of high capacity leaders who love each other and love the mission.
I thank God for allowing me to be part of the "great experiment," and I thank my friends for joining me in the adventure. May our "otters" be forever untamed and the "warriors" within be fueled with an unending passion as we worship Him with abandon.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Follow Up?

Seth Godin recently posted about the difficulties of follow up. He suggests that it must be hard because not many people do it. It's hard because people approach it the wrong way:
Follow up. Not follow up to sell something, just to know. Just to ask. Just to set things right if they were wrong.
This has huge implications for the church. So many people are turned off by church because "religious" people call with an agenda. What happened to the relationship? Jesus sought after true relationships everyday. People over projects. I love how Seth closes out his post:
If you really want to generate those referrals, don't ask for a referral, ask if everything was great. Offer to help. Do it in a gentle way, with no strings, no additional addons, no sales pitch. If you really and truly care, why not ask? Not a form, not a survey. Just one caring person, asking. Not that hard, actually.
The church could learn a lesson from the corporate world. One caring person investing in the life of another. No hidden agendas. No "religion" up the sleeve. Authentic living. Now that's relationship!

Monday, November 27, 2006

No Vacancy

Three movies - watched all of them without falling asleep. Well, to be honest, I had to finish one movie the next day. All three very entertaining. One hit much harder than all the others.

My first attempt on Saturday night. I fell asleep about an hour in, but managed to finish it the next day. What can I say? Some of the best graphics I have seen in an animated movie, and with three kids, I have seen my fair share of animation. Cars was extremely enjoyable, had a great story, and an ending to bolster a great value - sometimes winning means losing. The whole family enjoyed this one.

Ice Age 2
WOW! This movie is HILARIOUS! There are SO many one-liners, it was often times hard to keep up. One disclaimer - there are a few spots in this movie that 3 year olds probably shouldn't hear. Most of the questionable content went right over my 3 year old's head, but fair warning to parents of young children. Otherwise, this movie is highly recommended for some great laughs, and the story line is decent as well (if you're in to the whole global warming thing).

A great movie. One that hit me right in the gut. I was expecting a funny comedy from Adam Sandler, and he doesn't disappoint. But what I wasn't really expecting was the impacting ending of this movie. If you haven't seen this movie yet, skip to the end of this post. I'm not a big emotional type of guy. Very few movies make me cry, but this one hit me hard for some reason. By the end I was bawlin' away. It definitely hit too close to home for me. I could write an entire post on how we "fast forward" through life, but let me hit one concept here.

I had an opportunity to visit with my grandparents over Thanksgiving. They live in Kansas, so I don't get the opportunity to see them very often. It was very apparent during my visit that they are both nearing the end of their lives. Most of us go through life thinking our grandparents (and even our parents) are indestructible - they'll always be there for us. When I saw the feebleness of my grandparents showing in a tangible way, I was reminded about the frailty of life. I OFTEN TAKE LIFE FOR GRANTED.

We sat for about an hour reminiscing about the past and telling lots of stories. God really spoke to me on my drive home that night. Here's what He asked me: Are you making memories or vacancies? It doesn't really matter what people SAY about you when you're gone - it's the memories of HOW you lived they will remember. Are you impacting lives or simply content to fill your own life with memories? Am I filling my kids with memories or leaving them with vacancies?

That's why Click hit me so hard. It was another reminder from God to invest in people and build memories. The BEST memories. The brain is a funny thing. It can recall specific memories based on a certain color, smell, or even a particular place. I would bet you are recalling things from your past right now. YOU have memories. But God says that we can't stop there. It's not enough to build our own memories - we have to share those with others as well. So the question is what memories will you create? Or maybe you've been creating more vacancies instead?

Take time this week to watch Click. You won't be disappointed, and I hope you'll really be challenged. I'll close this post with a few words from the classic hit "The Way We Were." I think they're worth considering:

Like the corners of my mind
Misty watercolor memories
Of the way we were
Scattered pictures
Of the smiles we left behind
Smiles we gave to one another
For the way we were

Pay It Forward I never thought I would post anything about Oprah. Especially not TWICE. My wife was watching Oprah today (I swear it was her!) and they had a recap show about the "Pay It Forward" moments they have had since giving each member in the audience $1000 to spend on someone else. Talk about incredible stories!!

It was amazing to me that lives were impacted in such an incredible way - not because people took the initiative themselves, but because Oprah initiated it for them. Would those same people have made the effort on their own? Probably not. It doesn't mean their hearts were any less compassionate, but it does mean that sometimes we need an "external" motivator. The fact that Oprah gave everyone the $1000 certainly helped as well, but random acts of kindness don't have to revolve around money exclusively.

I'm sure there will be updates on this show - it was truly phenomenal. Lives can and will be changed if we will only seize the opportunities. Don't wait for someone else to be the catalyst.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Now We're Talkin' Turkey!

I'm starting to feel a bit guilty for not having posted in several days...

I just checked out several of my favorite blogs. I feel better. They haven't updated either.

Like most of you, my Thanksgiving was great - lots of family, food, and fun. Mine also involved close to 850 miles of driving - yikes! I must say it was well worth the trip - more on that later.

I have a lot rolling around in my brain again. That can't be good! I actually watched a movie today - not just one, not two, but THREE total. I'll write some thoughts on all three tomorrow.

I have also finished several books in the past few weeks, including In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day. I'll write a review of that book in the next few days as well. Quick props to Mark Batterson for sending me a free copy of the book!

I hope all of you had a great weekend and are looking forward to the start of another week!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

One Word - "PHENOMENAL!"

This past weekend will probably rank as the top weekend I have ever experienced during my short tenure at Meadow Heights Church. God was at work in so many ways, I'm not sure how to express the vibe from the weekend. Let me start by giving a recap:
  • 680 people in attendance (up 41% from the same weekend last year)
  • Nearly 40 guests, most of whom were first timers
  • 17 Baptisms - 4 of which were totally spontaneous, including the salvation of an agnostic man
  • Our new "portable" baptistery - the first "multi-site" purchase IN ACTION!
  • 9 Videos - 8 baptism videos and the MPACT Day Highlight Video
Then we turned around and headed over to the banquet at the high school gymnasium - WOW! What a great event!! We sold out this year's event (500 tickets!) and had some incredible food, a jazz combo from MAC, 3 "fun" videos, and one video/song package (complete with highlights from all the baptisms the weekend) that totally rocked (and directed by God!). We closed out the evening with "Came to My Rescue" led by Jeremiah. This song speaks volumes - to ALL of us, and was truly a perfect cap to the weekend.

All in all it was a PHENOMENAL weekend. What's NEXT? I don't know, but what I do know is that the answer is YES!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

There's A Party Goin' On Round Here...

A quick update...we are busily preparing for our annual "Celebration Weekend," and the annual banquet as well. Things are shaping up for a PHENOMENAL weekend - a recap of our NEXT series (started 6 weeks ago) including MPACT Day highlight video, baptism videos, 12-15 baptisms, and a WHOLE LOT MORE! We're praying that God will do much more than we could ask or imagine in our wildest dreams, and it looks like He is preparing the way!

Sunday evening, we'll head over to the high school gym for our "imagineNEXT" banquet. Total capacity is 500 people, and we nearly sold out when tickets went on sale. The place is gonna be rockin'! Plank Road Inn is catering our dinner and we'll also have several videos, live entertainment from Dr. Kevin White and his combo, some vision casting, music, and whatever else God has in store.

So...if I fail to post for a few days, I hope that I am still alive, but more than likely God is preparing us for our NEXT steps! In those infamous words, "Catch you on the flip side!"

Monday, November 13, 2006

Here We "Grow" Again

I don't think it's any coincidence that two of my favorite bloggers recently posted about church growth. One talks about their values that facilitated growth and the other shares seven principles on how to handle growth.

Perry Noble on facilitating growth (you can read the entire post here):
  • We talk about Jesus - a LOT!!
  • Speaking of the Bible - we teach straight from scripture
  • We are creative
  • We care about reaching kids
Mark Batterson on "Seven Leadership Principles" (you can read the entire post here):
  • The bigger we get, the more grounded we have to stay
  • The bigger we get, the more above reproach we need to be
  • The bigger we get, the harder it is to maintain unity
  • The bigger we get, the more complicated things get
  • The bigger we get, the more we have to guard our hearts
  • The bigger we get, the better stewards we need to be
  • The bigger we get, the more we have to remind ourselves of why we're doing what we're doing and who we're doing it for
BOTH are extremely valuable reminders. BOTH are incredibly applicable to Meadow Heights Church as we experience God's blessings during our own "growing season."

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Power To Shape The Future

I spent some time talking with a close friend last night. He has had a rough week, including the death of a former student. It seems neither one of us can escape the emotional past of our teaching careers. As any teacher will tell you, building relationships with your students is one of the most rewarding elements of education. As all relationships go, this can be both good and bad, pleasant and messy, authentic or not, and temporary or long-lasting. But it's all worth it. When a student writes or calls you years later to thank you for making a difference in their lives...well, it's one of the most rewarding and humbling experiences.

Each and every one of us has the power to make a difference in someone's life. The relationships we build, the conversations we have, the words we use...all of those have influence. We can all recall times in the past when someone shared some kind words with us, or built into us. We can equally remember the not so good times when we were criticized, verbally abused or shunned. Both have the power to shape lives. There are probably thoughts from your past running through your mind right now.

So I'll close with a reminder that what we say today can have a lasting impact on tomorrow. Choose your words carefully. Just as you have arrived today with words from the past, so will those you come into contact with today relive in the future. The power of the positive. The glass half full. Build and restore.
"Whoever accepts this child as if the child were me, accepts me," he said. "And whoever accepts me, accepts the One who sent me. You become great by accepting, not asserting. Your spirit, not your size, makes the difference." Luke 9:48 (MsgB)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Give Me A "W"

I held up for Wal Mart a few posts back, but this latest news story has me questioning which side of the fence they play. After using only the word "Holiday" in their television and print ads over the past few years, here's what one representative had to say:
"We learned a lesson from that. Merry Christmas is now part of the vocabulary here at Wal-Mart," said Linda Blakley, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman.
I can only assume that as more attention is given to the fact that "spirituality" in our nation is on the rise, Wal Mart will "adjust" its marketing strategy to accommodate. While it's true that marketing is a key ingredient for success, Wal Mart was founded upon a core ideology of the common man. Christmas was celebrated because of Jesus, not to accomplish a marketing plan. Flopping back and forth as the wind blows has become the norm as convenience triumphs over values.

So for now, I guess Wal Mart has once again put the Merry back in Christmas.

If Tomorrow Never Comes

Well it's been a busy week as usual. It's been more, more, more in less time. Rob Wegner talked about this concept in a message from Granger Community Church a few weeks ago. If you struggle with "busyness" then stop whatever you are doing and download his message. It's only $4.00 and you won't regret it. If you can't afford the four bucks, email me and I'll check on sharing a copy with you.

A few takeaways:
  • We keep trying to do more, more, more in less time. What if we turned that upside down and did less in more time. Not sure how to do that? Read what Jesus has to say.
  • We are a society full of experiences but we are missing out on the relationships.
  • Some of us are no longer human "beings" but are now human "doings."
Seth Godin talked a few weeks ago about marketing and branding. His point was whether or not people will remember you when your gone. He gave reference to Tower Records who shut their doors last week. Will anyone remember Tower Records in a few years? Probably not.

Would anyone miss you if you were gone tomorrow? Is the "more, more, more" that you are accomplishing today going to make a difference tomorrow? What will people say about you when your gone?

Maybe the more important question is what people are saying about you today. Today is a perfect day to start making a difference. As the classic hit song suggests, "If tomorrow never comes..." Don't wait.

Monday, November 06, 2006

MPACT Day 2006

MPACT Day 2006 - what an amazing day!! Hundreds of volunteers from Meadow Heights Church partnered with area schools this past Saturday morning to complete projects ranging from painting to clean up to repairs. In total, 7 schools (Fredericktown, Marquand, Patton, Ironton, Piedmont, Farmington and MO Baptist University) were "mpacted" in a positive way.

I was at the Fredericktown school, and WOW! Watching over a hundred people working together to make our schools a better place was simply a phenomenal experience. Why did we do this? Was it to promote an agenda? To "expect" something in return? I think the scripture I quoted a few days ago says it all:
"Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other." John 13:34-35 (MsgB)
Love. Showing love to others in a practical way. Serving others the way Jesus asks us to serve - by following His example. And that's exactly what hundreds of people did at 7 different schools.

I hope this is just our first step in loving our community and MPACTing others. We will do what only we can do, and we'll let God take care of what only He can do. A HUGE thanks to all those who dedicated their time, energy and talent to make MPACT day a success. THANK YOU!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Be Our Guest!

We had a great visit after our Saturday evening gathering with 20 folks from Trinity United Methodist Church in Piedmont, Missouri. This growing church had some great questions for us about the lessons we have learned in the past and how they might gain some insight from our experiences.

First of all, we realize that we certainly don't have all the answers, just the ones that have worked for us. We were also very humbled by the fact that other churches would ask us for advice. Secondly, we are excited by the opportunity that God is giving us to impact other local churches. We have been helped by so many other churches on our own journey and we want to pass along as much information and help as we possibly can.

It was awesome to be able to answer their questions, but I was stuck by the fact that we were answering questions we had already worked through and answered many months or even years ago. That made me wonder about when we travel to other churches or conferences and ask questions - do they have that same feeling as well?

Thanks again to Michael and his church for spending Saturday evening with us!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Even Wal Mart Loves Sinners

I've been thinking about how to shape my comments for this particular post. That's not normally my mode of thinking, but I'm not sure how to phrase what I'm about to say any other way. Religion sucks. I am blown away at the comments of people who claim to "represent" those of us who follow Jesus.

Take this week for example. Our beloved Missouri Baptist Convention met for their yearly shindig, and I'm sure the normal course of conversation filled the air. "How are you doing?" "I'm just fine. How are you doing?" (feign an interested voice here) "Well how is your church doing?" "Just great. We blah blah blah this year. How about you?" "Well, not so good. You won't believe what our pastor is doing blah blah blah."

And then they convene.

"Hear ye! Hear ye! Let this meeting come to order. I've got an idea. How about we vote to oust the gay population from our earth?"

Don't believe this happened? Read this story.

The MO Baptist Convention adopted a formal resolution pledging to "ban" consumer support of all Wal Mart stores. Or in more "politically correct" language, to "exercise moral stewardship regarding the businesses they patronize." Some delegates (messengers to be exact) demanded harsher words be used in the resolution. Why the ban? Simply because Wal Mart has agreed to provide an equal opportunity working environment free from discrimination.

Now please don't misunderstand me. I am not in favor of gay rights, gay lifestyle, or any other "choice" that someone may make. I believe that God has set up an order of marriage that includes a man and a woman in one of the most sacred relationship. That part is biblically very clear.

The part I don't read about in the Bible is where we condemn those who may have a different sin than us. Let's face it. All sin is sin. If we are going to ban Wal Mart for allowing gays to work there, shouldn't we ban other businesses who have employees who are having sex out of marriage, or maybe an employee that beats their spouse, or someone who doesn't spend any time with their kids? Or better yet, let's not shop any place where there are sinners at all. Won't that fix the problem?

Jesus doesn't tell us to love only those who agree with our same beliefs. He says to love one another as He loves us:
"Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other." John 13:34-35 (MsgB)
Many people are confused on this issue. WE DON'T GET TO CHOOSE. Will you be a radical follower and disciple of Jesus, or will you simply be content to live a life full of religion?

We will never fix life's problems. Never. We will always fall short of the perfectness God originally designed. Ignoring the problem or "voting it away" like it never happened is similar to the colloquial expression "calling the kettle black." When you clean up the pot, it's still black.

Let me suggest something radical. Something so radical that Jesus thought of it (and was certainly accused of it) 2000 years ago. What if we simply develop relationships with those who have never experienced the love God? No condemning, no judging. Authentic relationships built on authentic conversations.

Let's do our part and let God take care of the rest.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Have you been "flogged" lately?

Blogging or Flogging? That's the question posed by Jon Ferguson in his new blog. Here's the summation:

1) You know you're "flogging" when your blog becomes a backhanded way to confront somebody or deal with something in public that should have been handled in private.

2) You know you're "flogging" when you communicate stuff through your blog that the people you work with should hear from you firsthand before the rest of the world.

3) You know you're "flogging" when your writing more than 50% of your blog posts after midnight.

4) You know you're "flogging" when your wife (spouse) reads your blog to find out what you're really thinking.

5) You know you're "flogging" and not "blogging" when most of your posts include numbered lists like this one.

Well, except for the first one, I think I'm guilty as charged!

My Little Tinkerbell

Do you remember trick-or-treating when you were young? I can remember my mom dropping me off in town and a friend and I would literally run block to block trying to shove as much candy into a sack as possible. We would usually be all sweaty and worn out by the time the evening was over, but man! Did we ever have candy!

Today's Halloween climate is a bit different. Neighborhoods are not quite as safe as they used to be, some folks give out "healthier" version of candy (or candy alternatives - geez...give me a break!), and the costumes are less "homemade" and more made-over.

With that being said, I still enjoy taking my little one trick-or-treating and this year was no exception. My "Tinkerbell" was a trooper (battling an ear-ache) and enjoyed gathering candy throughout the evening. Now sure would be a good time to teach tithing!