Friday, October 31, 2008

Kinda Weird...

Is it just me, or is there something substantially unnervingly eerie about this little girl's look in regard to her proximity to the house that's on fire?!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Church Clothes...

I believe one of the great challenges we face as church is "compartmentalization." We have church friends. We have church books. We even have church clothes.

Roll these questions around in your brain: What distinguishes church clothes from our everyday clothes? Do we have some special clothes that bring us favor with God? Does God want us to dress our best on Sundays... and does He then let us dress however we want the rest of the week?

I have a tee-shirt that has the following printed across its front: "These are my church clothes." I consider that tee-shirt to be not only theologically correct... but fashionable.

I grew up in church-world, so I've heard about church clothes for most of my life. When my mom wanted to signal me how to dress for a fancy occasion, she'd say, "Wear your church clothes."

And I knew just what she meant... khaki pants, white shirt, dark blue tie, and black shoes.

And as I think back on those formative experiences, I realize that I was subconsciously learning how to compartmentalize my life. It went something like this:

Church clothes = Sundays.
Regular clothes = Mondays through Saturdays.
God's Vann = Sundays.
Regular Vann = Mondays through Saturdays.

One of the many lessons God is graciously teaching me at this point in my life is to strive for continuity in my relationship with Him. He's tutoring me to strive for consistent beliefs and actions no matter what life situation I'm in.

Another way I look at it is simply: God is calling you and me to live lives of integrity.

So... what are the challenges you face in living a non-compartmentalized life?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Family's Life-Long Commitment...

I've not had the pleasure of officially meeting the University of Georgia's football coach, Mark Richt, or his wife, Katharyn, (however, Susan and I did encounter them in a coffee shop in Hartwell, Georgia, this summer). But these two people, along with the rest of their family, bring an example not often associated with big-time college sports. Watch this video and be prepared to be inspired.

It's encouraging to see a family blessed with fame and resources using both in such God-honoring ways.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cardboard Testimonies...

At SoHills' Refresh worship gathering on October 26, God was moving in a might way. Through the use of "cardboard testimonies," we celebrated our Father's redemptive power and His overwhelming grace. Here's a sample of the powerful way in which God's ability to heal wounded lives was proclaimed.

Special thanks to the talented team of Mitchell McLean and Stephen Corbett for their work in shooting and editing this clip.

Evangelism & the Bubble...

It seems to me that many of us today who call ourselves Christ-followers are living in what's been described as the Christian "bubble." We go to the church building on Sunday, Bible study on Tuesday morning, back at the church building on Wednesday, and Friday fellowship night. Most of our friends are from church, and all of them are Christians.

If that's true of many Christians, what about those who work in church world? For most of us our life, passion and calling is church. It's very easy for those of us who work at churches, Christian schools, para-church organizations to live our lives in the bubble... rarely stepping out. Trust me... this is an occupational hazard for vocational minister-types like me.

How does evangelism fit into this picture? If we're all in the Christian bubble, who's out there sharing with the rest of America?

Okay... just between you and me, how and where do you evangelize?

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Oddness of Pews...

Yesterday at SoHills' Refresh worship gathering, our talented worship leader, Sam Souder, had what I thought was an inspired idea. As we were concluding Refresh, Sam asked those of us in the front half of the auditorium to stand and face those in the back half of the room... and we sang "How Great Is Our God." At the end of what had been a morning where God had moved in a mighty way during Refresh, it was a cool way to conclude.

And it got me to thinking... about how encouraging it was to see each others' faces as we sang praise to our God. It also got me thinking about that piece of furniture that keeps us looking at the back of each others' heads: pews.
So I decided to do some research on where pews came from.

Those who study such things tell us the church did not use pews for over 1,000 years. The first-century church met in homes, so the feeling was family—a community looking at one another and interacting with one another. The first formal church building was built in the post-300 AD time period and modeled after the Roman Basilica, and in these buildings people stood the whole time. There were no seats at all. So standing allowed interacting and the freedom to walk around. In the 13th century there were backless benches made of stone placed against walls. They were arranged in a semi-circle around the meeting room, and then eventually fixed to the floor.

In the 14th century pews, as we know them, were introduced... but pews did not become popular until the 15th century. Remember, in this time period the Reformation was happening and the pulpit was introduced as the focal point of church architecture. So pews became the place where people took their seat to focus on the pulpit and the sermon. People didn't have Bibles of their own... they didn't read for the most part... so church buildings had rows of seats for people to sit and listen to someone talk.

How we sit when we gather reflects what we believe is important in worship. The early church met in homes, it was communal... looking at each other in small rooms, discussing and teaching Scripture, praying for one another and eating a meal together. You could walk around, engage in dialogue.

Then the church moved into buildings where the communion table was the focal point, and we stood, moved around the room, interacted. Later we moved into buildings where the pews caused people to sit in stationary positions, not looking at each other, but looking at the pulpit and all facing the same direction. This drastically changed the culture and climate of how people view the church and worship. It became more of a sit/watch/listen meeting, rather than an interactive, community gathering.

It seems like an odd thing to invite someone into our church family, only to bring them into a room and have them sit for over an hour on benches looking at the back of heads staring at the front of the room. I wouldn't invite you into my home and seat you this way. I'm having a hard time trying to imagine Jesus and his disciples sharing the Last Supper meal while sitting in rows of pews.

Well, there you have it--a glimpse into my brain as I ponder the oddness of pews.

So... where do you stand, or sit, on the subject of pews?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Kung Fu Fighting...

This clip combines all of the elements of a classic martial arts film in one great scene.

- Action
- Tight editing
- German language
- Ninja guy in a wheelchair

Okay... now was that incredible, or what?!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Preachers Gone Wild...

Here's a great example of why ministers shouldn't ride motorcycles inside church buildings.

Disclaimer: No preachers were hurt in the making of this video.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

People Pleasing...

Okay, deep breath, here goes: I confess to a life-long struggle with people pleasing.

Yep... there I've said it.

Do you still like me?

Dr. Harriet Braiker called people pleasing "The Disease to Please." She described people pleasing as a form of addiction. Just as drug addicts crave drugs, people pleasers crave approval.

People pleasing can become a form of idolatry.

These verses capture the heart of the problem: "But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God." John 12:42-43

Most of us (even though we don’t want to admit it) love praise from people. Unconsciously we can start to put people’s opinions ahead of God’s opinion.

I want to ask, "What will God think?" more often than I ask, "What will they think?"

The best antidote for the fear of people is the fear of God.
I want my life to reflect 1 Thessalonians 2:4, 6, "… We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts… We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Power of Words...

Words are powerful. Words, as we all know, have the ability to tear down, or build up. They can be used to discourage, or encourage.

Our words can be used by God in the lives of others. We can look someone in the eyes and tell them:

“I believe in you.” They may never have heard that from anyone else. Give them the gift of your faith.

“You are making a difference.” Many wonderful people serve Jesus and his church for years without ever hearing those special words.

“God used you in my life.”
Occasionally someone will encourage me when I’m down and not even know it. I love to give them a return gift by telling them what God did through them for me.

I’d encourage all of us to become more generous with your words. I like what God said in Deuteronomy 3:28, “But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.”

- Commission others to ministry with your words.

- Strengthen others with your words.

- Encourage others as long as it is called today.

How will you allow God to use your words today?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Communication Is Challenging...

A couple of days ago, I was driving down South 1st and looking for a way to get around a slow moving vehicle. The driver beside me seemed to read my mind and backed off his speed, allowing me to move in front of him to pass.

I was grateful, so I lifted my right hand to wave "Thank you!" But I'm not sure I communicated my intent. You see, I was holding my cell phone in my hand... so in an effort to not drop it as I waved, I maintained a firm grip on my phone. In a split second, I realized that every finger stayed on my cell... except my middle finger.

"No! That's not what I meant! I'm not flipping you off!" I thought. I scrambled to get another finger in the air and realized I was now gesturing the "peace" sign. Again, not exactly what I intended, but better.

Communication is challenging. It requires focus. Intentionality.

And like it or not, many of our conversations are on the fly. They're in a hallway in the church building. They're a quick email. They're an off-the-cuff response.

Focus. Think about what we want the other person to hear. Think about whether we're building up or tearing down. And empty your hands if you're gesturing signals of gratitude to the driver of another vehicle.

Trust me... it will help.

Monday, October 20, 2008

"I Don't Do Church"...

My ministry partner, Stephen Corbett, and I were renting a car recently after flying into Chicago. The likable young man who was handling our rental engaged us in conversation. He inquired as to what brought Stephen and me to the area, and we indicated we were on the ministry staff at SoHills and were attending a conference at a Chicago area church.

By the time we reached this stage of our conversation, we were standing in the agency's parking lot inspecting our rental. Upon hearing that we were ministers the young man smiled and said, "That's great for you guys... but I don't do church. I don't need any church telling me how I'm supposed to know God."

I've got a strong sense that this young man's sentiment is representative of a broad section of our culture, especially those in their 20's. They love God, they love Jesus, they have a significant disdain for church... most likely because of bad experiences with church.

I'm unwilling to categorize people who feel this way as spiritually immature, or possessing a bad attitude. I'm thinking that church has to come to terms with the fact that we've got to develop a response to those who see church as irrelevant.

I don't have the answer... or I'd be letting all of you in on it. I'm just struggling with the question: "What are we willing to do to reach out to those people that no church is currently reaching?"

Friday, October 17, 2008

On Reading Books...

I love to read. Always have.

My grandmother worked for many years at Cokesbury... and her Christmas and birthday gifts to me were almost always books. I faithfully participated in the summer reading program at our local library for years (and I have the certificates to prove it).

Books are like friends to me.

Here's an interesting take on reading. I've heard that the average author takes about two years to write a book. So each book we read is like getting two years of life experience. So when I read 150 books in a year, I'm gaining 300 years of life experience!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pithy quotes...

These words by Seth Godin challenged me and my thinking:

Everyone isn’t going to be a leader. But everyone isn’t going to be successful, either.

Success is now the domain of people who lead. That doesn’t mean they’re in charge, it doesn’t mean they are the CEO... it merely means that for a group, even a small group, they show the way... they spread ideas, they make change. Those people are the only successful people we’ve got.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I think this is an incredibly clever video parable! I appreciate the talent that Stephen Corbett and Rob Marcelain invested in this project.

We will be showing is clip at SoHills' Refresh worship gathering on Sunday.

Are you OBCD (Occupied By Christ Daily)?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Two Alarms To Wake-Up By...

One of the things God reminded me of during last week's Catalyst Conference was that I need to start my day with praise. Many of us start our Sundays with praise. Why not Wednesday? Or Saturday? Verily, even Monday?

So here is what I'm doing. I'm creating another playlist on my iPod. And I'm going to surround myself with some songs that wake up my spirit each day. For what it's worth, I think we need two wake up calls every day. Whenever I have an early trip or important meeting, I try to set two alarms. That ensures that I'll wake up.

We need two alarms each day. A physical alarm and a spiritual alarm. We need to wake up our bodies. And we need to wake up our spirits. Too many of us let our spirits sleep Monday through Saturday.

So here's the idea: Create a praise playlist for your commute to work, or work out at the gym, or early morning office routine. We need those songs to saturate our spirits with praise to our gracious and good Father.

For what it's worth, my favorite Catalyst song was Let God Arise by Chris Tomlin. In fact, I'm listening to that very song as I'm typing these words!

(Mark Batterson got me thinking about this subject in one of his recent posts... and I've borrowed many of the thoughts in this post from him.)

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Enemies of Unity...

One of the Catalyst '08 presenters was Dave Ramsey... national radio personality and author of such books as Financial Peace and More Than Enough. Interestingly, Dave's presentation at Catalyst did not deal with personal finances, but rather leadership lessons he'd learned in the trenches of his organization.

Dave titled his message "The Enemies of Unity"... and his points are filled with insight for churches and organizations. Dave indicated that few churches or organizations experience real unity. Here are Dave's "Enemies of Unity," along with comments he shared as he unpacked these ideas:

The 5 Main Enemies of Unity:
1) Poor communication
2) Gossip
3) Unresolved disagreements
4) Lack of shared purpose
5) Sanctioned incompetence

- Poor communication can take many forms, but when the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing, strife sets in.

- Gossip is degrading and will destroy a church or organization. If you're talking to someone about a problem, and that person isn't in a position to fix the problem you're talking to them about... that's gossip.

- By definition, gossip is when a negative is discussed with anyone who can't help solve the problem.

- A successful leader develops and maintains a culture in which negatives are handed up and positives are handed down.

- Unresolved disagreements happen when a leader doesn't know the exist, or when the leader avoids confrontation.

- A little confrontation cleanses the wound, and allows both parties to go forward in a spirit of unity.

- When you are aware of hurt feelings and/or disagreements, act quickly and decisively.

- Lack of shared purpose is caused when a leader doesn't restate the goal, the vision and mission early enough and often enough.

- Sanctioned incompetence demoralizes.

- Team members will eventually become demotivated when someone else on the team can't or won't do their job, and a leader will not take action.

- For the sake of unity in the entire group, the leader must go to battle early and often with an of these enemies of unity.

- When unity is valued in a church or organization, a team will support its leaders in keeping these enemies of unity from the gate.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Catalyst Day 2...

Andy Stanley closed out day 2 of Catalyst by talking about several of the leadership quotes he keeps in his office. Here are the five quotes Andy shared, along with the comments he used to unpack them:

1) "To reach people no one else is reaching, we have to do things no one else is doing." (Craig Groeschel)

We have 175,000 people within 10 miles of North Point church, and we aren't reaching them. We aren't going to reach them by building another church building. We have to do something no one else is doing.

Become preoccupied with those you haven't reached as opposed to those you are trying to keep.

2) "The next generation product almost never comes from the previous generation." (Al Reis, Focus)

If you are over 45 years old, your job is to recognize good ideas... and to champion the ideas of the next generation.

Don't do to the next generation what the previous generation did to you. Be a student, not a critic.

3) "I'm looking for what can't be done in church, but if it could be done would fundamentally change the church." (Andy's paraphrase of Joel Barker, Future Edge)

It always used to drive me crazy that the communicator and the leader had to be the same thing. Multi-sites solved this. Now the great leader doesn't have to be the communicator.

Like that, you may be the one to crack the code on something no one else has figured out that will fundamentally change our "business."

Pay attention to people who are breaking the rules. It's the rule-breakers who are oftentimes the problem solvers.

4) "If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new guy, what would they do? Let's walk out the door and walk back in, and make those changes ourselves." (Andy's paraphrase of Andy Grove, Only The Paranoid Survive)

The problem with ministry is that we've fallen in love with the way we've done ministry.

It's not "no pain, no gain" -- it's "no pain, no change." Without pain, there typically isn't any change.

Ask: "Where are we manufacturing energy?" The things we aren't very excited about, it takes energy to get it done, but the results aren't stellar.

Acknowledge what's not working. Own up to it. And own up to why you aren't willing to do anything about it. What is it you fear? You need to deal with that. It is a leadership lid for you.

5) "When your memories exceed your dreams, the end is near." (Michael Hammer)

You look back with smiles and lots to celebrate, but you don't have a lot to work forward to.

Are you willing to be involved in the future more than the present?

Don't let success overshadow your vision.

Success breeds complacency, and complacency breeds failure.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Catalyst Day 1...

Matt B and I are having a great time at Catalyst. Day 1 was full of outstanding speakers... Andy Stanley, Jim Collins and Seth Godin were among the presenters that challenged the socks off me with what they had to share. I was blown away by Steven Furtick, the 28 year-old lead pastor at Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina... wowsers, this guy can preach the Word!

However, one of my biggest takeaways was from a conversation Matt and I had with former SoHills' intern, Jennifer Cooke, who's now on the staff at North Point Community Church in Atlanta. In referring to the staff culture at North Point, Jennifer indicated that a foundational aspect of their staff relationship, which flowed into the life of the church, was a default to an attitude of trust rather than one of suspicion. Jennifer said that the practice of this simple principle had made all the difference to their staff... and their church.

I'll close out with the words from Steven Furtick: "Be faithful. Be faithful Be faithful."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Fire In The Mouth...

My daughter, Caroline, and I were headed to Sam’s Warehouse recently. When we get there, we’re both kind of hungry... and so we decide to hit the samples.

First, a little history on how we have chosen to approach Sam’s samples. On almost every aisle in this huge store there is some kind person offering free samples of food. We figure the sooner each person’s samples are eaten, the sooner they get to take a break. So we consider it a good deed to eat as many samples as we can.

Okay, now that you understand my approach to the art of samples… picture me walking up to this kind person in Sam’s who’s offering a free slice of “Tasty Breaded Microwave Hors De'oeuvres”.

This delicious looking sample is just out of the microwave. I pop it in my mouth… and discover it to be crunchy on the outside… lava-like cheese and molten mushroom on the inside!

There’s no water anyplace!

There’s no place to spit it out!

My mouth feels like I have placed a flaming torch into it!

Later, as I sat soaking my mouth in ice cubes, I came across these words of God in Jeremiah 5:14. “Because the people have spoken these words, I will make my words in your mouth a fire and these people the wood it consumes.”

These people have lied about God. They have presented Him as some sort of heavenly wimp. They basically said, "We can do anything we want... God isn’t going to bother us."

God says to Jeremiah... and to us... you need to address these lies. And He gives us the words to do just that. And those words are like a fire in our mouth. Which means we’ve GOT TO SPEAK THEM! BECAUSE THERE’S NO OTHER PLACE TO SPIT THEM OUT! NOTHING ELSE WILL QUENCH THE FIRE!

Do you have a fire in your mouth?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Matt B and I boarded a flight this a.m. at ABI Regional on our way to Atlanta and Catalyst 2008. This will be my third Catalyst... and I've found it to be one of the best conferences I attend each year. Catalyst brings together worship, learning and creativity in a very cool way... or as some have described it: "pure leadership adrenaline."

This year's Catalyst line-up of speakers is impressive, including such people as:

Andy Stanley

North Point Community Church

Jim Collins

Author, Good to Great

Seth Godin

Author, The Dip and Purple Cow

Craig Groeschel

William Paul Young

Author, The Shack

I'm looking forward to a great time at Catalyst. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

When You Stand For Something...

The post below comes from Seth Godin's blog. Seth didn't address this post to churches, or church leaders, but I'm sure seeing some powerful implications for churches and their leaders in these words.

People and brands and organizations that stand for something benefit as a result. Standing for something helps you build trust, makes it easier to manage expectations and aids in daily decision making. Standing for something also makes it more fun to do your gig, because you're on a mission, doing something that matters. Of course, there's a cost. You can't get something for nothing.

It's frustrating to watch marketers, politicians and individuals fall into the obvious trap of trying to stand for something at the same time they try to please everyone or do everything.

You can't be the low-price, high-value, wide-selection, convenient, green, all-in-one corner market. Sorry. You also can't be the high-ethics CEO who just this one time lets an accounting fraud slide. "Because it's urgent."

You can't be the big-government-fighting, low-taxes-for-everyone, high-services-for-everyone, safety-net, pro-science, faith-based, anti-deficit candidate either. You can't be the work-smart, life-in-balance, available-at-all-hours, high-output, do-what-you're-told employee.

To really stand for something, you must make difficult decisions, mostly about what you don't do. We don't ship products like that, we don't stand for employees like that ("you're fired"), we don't fix problems like that.

It's so hard to stand up, to not compromise, to give up an account or lose a vote or not tell a journalist what they want to hear.

But those are the only moments where standing for something actually counts, the only times that people will actually come to believe that you in fact actually stand for something.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Pehaps The Lord Will Act In Our Behalf...

I like the way Mark Batterson thinks and writes. He lives as a man of faith. Here's a recent post from Mark's blog that spoke to my heart.

Here's one of my favorite phrases in Scripture. In 1 Samuel 14:6, Jonathan says to his armor-bearer, "Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf." I love that modus operandi. But I honestly think many, if not most, Christians take the opposite approach. Perhaps the Lord WON'T act in our behalf. We let fear dictate our decisions. We have a better-safe-than-sorry mentality. We live as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death.

Maybe it's time for a paradigm shift. When did we start believing that God wants to take us to safe places to do easy things? Here's a thought: the will of God is not an insurance plan. It's a daring plan.

I think we've made a false assumption that the will of God gets easier as we grow spiritually. Some dimensions do get easier with the consistent practice of spiritual disciplines. But I also think God will give us more difficult, dangerous, and daring things to do!

I love this phrase. It's so hopeful. It's so optimistic. And it's the key to living with holy anticipation. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. May God give us the spirit of Jonathan!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Got Me Thinking...

Mother Teresa said that she couldn't imagine doing her work for more than 30 minutes without prayer.

What should that say about my work?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Carrollton Aid...

My ministry partner, Stephen Corbett, and I traveled to New Orleans recently to shoot video footage for use in support of a soon-to-be-announced fund raising effort on behalf of the Carrollton Avenue Church of Christ. It may sound trite, but I'm going to say it anyway because it's true... Stephen and I gained so much more than we gave during our time alongside the folks who make up Carrollton Avenue church. Carrollton Avenue is clearly committed to living and being the people of God to the city of New Orleans.

Carrollton Avenue also needs money... $300,000 to be somewhat exact... in order to complete much needed, and too long delayed, post-Katrina repairs to their building. It will take you just over 4 minutes to watch this clip which portrays both the need, and the heart of the Carrollton Avenue church.

I'll be posting additional information about the fund raising campaign, Carrollton Aid, in the near future. But for now I'd ask that you pray for this effort... and consider posting the Carrollton Aid clip on your blog.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Church: A Field, Or A Force...

I'd encourage you to take four minutes to watch this video clip. In the clip, Mark Beeson, the senior pastor at Granger Community Church, shares two perspectives on the purpose of the church. One perspective presents the church's purpose as a field. The second perspective represents the church's purpose as a force.

So which purpose most reflects your sense of what Jesus calls his church is to be? The church as a field... or the church as a force?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Interesting Times In Which We Find Ourselves...

I opened up my wallet this morning... and found this expression on a dollar.

Seriously though... in times like these, read Psalm 63:1-8.