Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What Bothers Me About SoHills...

I’m biased.

I love the church at SoHills. And yet, there is something that bothers me.

Let me take you back a few Sundays and see if I can explain. It was Sunday, December 20, and we were at the Civic Center for our Community Christmas Celebration
. The singing was incredible. Phil’s message was powerful. The gift presentation of "Welcome" mats to our Habitat family was touching.

As I walked out of the Civic Center that morning I heard wonderfully encouraging comments and some powerful stories about what God is doing in the lives of our SoHills church family and the lives of our friends.

And then it happened.

As I drove away from the Civic Center on that Sunday so excited about the day, I saw this:

I saw our city... Abilene. And I was reminded of a sobering truth. As excited as I was over what had happened that Sunday, MOST of Abilene had no clue. MOST of Abilene was still no closer to a growing relationship with Jesus than when the day began.

This bothered me. It bothered me so much that I've spent the last couple of weeks with a gnawing feeling in my gut. But as the days progressed and a New Year draws near, I thought,
I shouldn’t keep this quiet. I want this to bother you too.

It bothers me that there are still more unchurched people than ever before living less than a mile from the front door of the SoHills church building. This has bothered me so much that I have spent a lot of time thinking about what to do. And I think I have an idea that might be worth exploring. Granted, it’s not the most original or creative idea, but it actually might be the best one to pursue... at least at first. Okay, here it is:

I want us as a church to begin 2010 with prayer and fasting. Now, before you mutter, click and leave this page... stay with me for a moment.

It’s my experience that, generally speaking, many Christians aren’t investing in unbelievers. If we’re not careful, we will drift into holy huddles of believers and isolate ourselves. Maybe we just don’t know how to bridge the gap and begin a conversation about Jesus. So we immerse ourselves in our daily lives and soon we aren’t spending time with anyone who isn’t already a follower of Jesus. I just don’t want us to drift into that danger zone. After all, one of the reasons SoHills church exists is as a resource for you to use to reach those who are far from God.

The good news is that our church continues to grow. The bad news is that the number of the unchurched in Abilene is growing faster. This bothers me.

But what if that trend could change in 2010? What if each of us prayed and developed a Kingdom of God ache for at least one person in our circles of influence? What if we prayed and fasted, becoming more passionate for our community to know Jesus than ever before? What might happen?

Frankly, I don’t know what would happen. But I do know that I would like to find out.

Okay, that’s all. Thanks for listening. But until our city hears the great news about Jesus, and sees it lived out in us, I will remain bothered.

I hope you will too.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Best-Ever Present...

What was your all-time, favorite, best-ever Christmas present? I'm recalling that for me it was the Christmas I got a new bike. There was quite a bit of snow outside, but I remember that my brother and I put our coats and boots on (over our pajamas) and went riding our new bikes around the neighborhood.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What If Target Operated Like a Church...

I found this recent post by Tony Morgan to be both funny and insightful.

What if Target operated like a church?

- Instead of having men’s and women’s clothing departments, they would be called clever names like Impact and Embrace that are completely meaningless to new shoppers.

- Each department in the store would have its own logo to go with their clever name. And, of course, all those logos would be different than the logo on the front of the store.

- The workers in each department would all have their own t-shirts and flyers to promote what’s available in their departments. The youth clothing department would, of course, have the best flyers.

- You wouldn’t actually be able to buy anything from the website, but each department would have its own page explaining why they are such a great department and the the information would be several months out-of-date.

- If you are in the shoe department and have a question about flashlights, the shoe department employee has no idea how to help you because it doesn’t have anything to do with shoes.

- Shoppers would be able to start their own departments so that they can buy the items that they want to buy. Don’t worry… that means there will certainly be a clothing department for singles.

- Shoppers would also be able to appoint their own store managers and then serve on committees to tell the store managers what to do.

- The store would only be open one day a week between 9:00 a.m. and noon and on the first Wednesday evening of every month.

Hope this makes you laugh. And, maybe it also challenges some preconceived notions. After all, churches are sort of notorious for worshiping methods and traditions whether or not they actually produce results.

What would you add to the list?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hand of God...

I think Michelangelo would be pleased...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Special Party...

Susan and I had two Christmas parties to attend last night. Both parties were delightful, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at each. But we had one more party to attend last night... an 18th birthday party.

The birthday party was for Monique (that's her on the left in the picture above). Susan and I have gotten to know Monique at our local Subway... she makes our sandwiches. We found out a couple of weeks ago that Monique had a birthday coming up soon--her 18th. Monique also let us know, with no display of personal pity, that she hadn't had a birthday party or birthday cake since she was 6 years old. Suffice it to say Monique has had a rough life.

My sweet wife decided then and there that we would have an 18th birthday party, with cake, for Monique. And we did. Last night, just before closing... and with no one else in the store but her kind manager, Stacie, we sung "Happy Birthday!" to Monique and presented her with a cake that had her name written across it in big red frosting letters.

Monique was smiling as we left the store. It was a holy night.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Conwell's Merry Christmas Card...

Here's the 2009 Conwell Christmas card... designed by my most talented eldest daughter, Katie Lea. (I'm the one in the orange Cons.)

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Powerful Prayer...

I recently came across the following prayer by Charles de Foucauld. These words spoke deeply to my heart. I have commited to pray this prayer at least once a week.

Deliver me, Jesus from the desire to be praised,

honored, glorified, preferred, consulted, or approved.

Deliver me, Jesus, from the fear of being humiliated,

criticized, forgotten, ridiculed, maltreated, and

from the fear of what others will think.

O Jesus, give me the grace to desire: that others

would be loved and esteemed ahead of me,

that in the eyes of the world they would increase

while I decrease, and praised while I pass by

unnoticed; that others would be preferred in

all situations; that others would become more

than myself — in order that I would be as holy

as You want me to be. — Charles de Foucauld

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Muppets Cover Queen...

Here's an interesting video in which the Muppets offer up their rendition of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody."

Sometime true greatness is hard to watch.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Your Work Space...

What does your work space in your home, office or studio look like? And how does your work space reflect your personality... and contribute to your creativity?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Church Math...

Tony Morgan's recent post on "church math" got my attention. I'm not a math major, but my experience in church-world validates Tony's equations.

more meetings = less ministry

unclear vision = packed ministry calendar

packed ministry calendar = volunteer burnout

more announcements = less ministry engagement

more ministries = more announcements

fewer people inviting friends = smaller crowds

lack of added value = fewer people inviting friends

fewer constraints = less creativity

same methods = same results

The Right People...

I found Craig Groeschel's recent post to be insightful reading as to the "right people" from whom to gain constructive feedback.

Asking the right questions is helpful to gaining valuable feedback. It's also important to direct the right questions to the right people.

When it comes to feedback, not all people are equal. Two groups that shouldn't always be trusted include:

- Your greatest critics.

- Your greatest fans.

These groups shouldn't be ignored. You can occasionally learn a lot from your critics or your fans. But, generally speaking, your critics will be harder on you without understanding your full context and your fans will overlook ways to help you improve.

If you are a church leader or a leader in another context, you might be more challenged than you realize to find the right people. When I ask for feedback from my staff (or even church members), they might be slightly intimidated and hesitate to tell me the truth.

Developing a trusted group that can be objective is invaluable.

I've searched for constructive feedback from hundreds of people over the years, and have found a group of individuals who understand the importance of truthful and helpful feedback.

These people weren't necessarily born with this gift. We have actually developed a relationship and trust that draws out feedback. They see it as a part of their ministry and I see it as a helpful gift.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


I've spent the past few days wrestling with God over a number of questions that dead-end me at "Why...?"

In the midst of my struggle, I came across this quote: "Mystery i
s not the absence of meaning, but the presence of more meaning than we can comprehend." - Dennis Covington, Salvation On Sand Mountain.