Movers and Shakers?

This year in our Young Adults Ministry at McKinney, all of our young adults are reading and studying through the New Testament together. We're jumping around a little bit, so a couple of weeks ago we were reading through Matthew, and something in the Sermon on the Mount caught my eye.

In 4:23, Matthew describes how "Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. Large crowds followed Him..."

Jesus changed the world by spending his time with 11 uneducated blue-collar workers, and a teeming throng of needy people.

If I was going to start a worldwide movement, I'd find the movers and the shakers. I'd find the people with influence, power, resources, and talent. There were very few of those men involved in Jesus' early ministry, and one of them was a man named Judas Iscariot.

It's amazing Jesus got anything done. He spent His whole ministry with the "straw people" - the people who suck everything out of you. But notice who it is that regularly bring their friends to Jesus. It's the destitute people. The rich, powerful, influential guys are the ones who come by night.

I spend a good majority of my ministry time with those I think are the "movers and shakers." But I wonder if a lot more moving and shaking would take place if I took the time to invest in the people who need it most.

Seeking and Hiring - Part Deaux

Almost exactly a year ago, I posted something about seeking and hiring church positions, the good, bad, and ugly. I wanted to follow-up on that post because it still gets a lot of views on Google, and because it's fresh on my mind.

Recently, we've started looking for a Young Adult Intern who can help with some leadership development - specifically in the area of our Eikon (Young Singles) Ministry. We're looking for someone who can help us take our IMAGE groups to the next level, and can help me continue to think through some other ways to best help young singles in Fort Worth have great ministry.

Last week, no lie, I got a cover letter for the position that said:


i saw ur post about a intern on the swbts website. if u are still looking for someone id like that job.

see ya,"

The same week, I got a cover letter that said:


"I am interested in the opening at your church for the internship at your church. God has given me a great amount of passion for Junior High ministry, and I would love to be a part of what God is doing there. Please see my resume attached to this email..."

I emailed the guy back and said, something to the affect of, "I think you accidentally sent your information to the wrong place. We're looking for an intern, but it is in the young adults area of ministry." I figured the guy had me mixed up with someone else, and wanted to make sure his resume got to the right place.

I got the following reply:


My bad. I sent out a bunch of resumes today and must have messed up. I would like the internship you're looking to hire. Please change everything in my cover letter that says "Junior High" to "Young Adults." I hope to hear from you soon."

I've received about 25 resumes for this position so far. Somewhere around 20 of them were unpresentable. Two or three were outstanding. If you're out there looking for a ministry job, and feel like God may have gifted you for ministry in a large-church context, pay close attention to the impression your resume gives. It will automatically catapult you into the top 5 or 10 percent of resumes those churches receive, and may earn you a phone call even if you're not the most qualified candidate.

Pastor's Devotions

From time to time I hear pastors advise other people against doing their personal devotionals in a book/passage they're preparing to teach. Their advice is primarily for pastors, but applies to anyone who is teaching the Bible for one reason or another. Frankly, I think it's really bad advice.

The rationale behind the thinking - especially for pastors - is that they want to protect themselves from seeing their devotional time as a part of their daily job. So, if their job includes studying and preaching from Malachi, they would want to do their personal devotional/quiet time in another book so their personal devotional isn't just an extension of their sermon/lesson preparation.

To me, this introduces an unhealthy dichotomy (division) between personal devotion and public responsibilities. Honestly, I'm worried about sermons that aren't prepared as an outgrowth of the pastor's devotional time. The Adult Bible Fellowship teacher, seminary professor, or pastor's responsibility as a herald of Scripture should be grounded in his/her own private devotion, not divorced from it.

When we see our role responsibilities as distinct from our relationship with God, we're destined to give God less than He deserves.

Family Friday

Kari and I don't have a ton of "together" hobbies like some of my friends. Some of my friends love to cook together. Others like to work out together. Some of my friends like to communicate. Some of my friends like to play tennis together. But neither of us likes to cook. Neither of us likes to work out. Communication can lead to miscommunication, and I'm a sore loser at tennis.

One thing Kari and I do love to do is watch TV together. I can turn off my brain after a long day, and she gets to cuddle on the couch. So, it works out pretty well. Here are a few of the shows we're watching right now:

October Road: This is probably our favorite show to watch together. It's a little more drama than I usually go for, but I really like the characters and the way the show is shot. I'm not usually one to care about that stuff, but for some reason it matters to me on this show. October Road is off for right now, and the next episode hasn't been scheduled yet. But we're hoping it makes a return.

The Office: The first couple of episodes this season have been pretty slow, but usually the office is one of my favorite shows. I think the writers had too much time to think during the strike, and have begun developing meaningless characters rather than being funny. Hopefully they get back on track soon.

Lost: We were latecomers to Lost, and benefited a great deal from the catch-up episode a year or so ago. But we're hooked right now. This morning at Bible Study, my friend Erick was saying he'd prefer to just wait until they condense the whole mess into a 2 1/2 hour movie. That's probably smart. The writers are raising so many questions I'm not sure they could answer them in 10 years worth of episodes, but they say they're going to try so I'm going to watch.

Big Bang Theory: This one is new to our DVR. I heard about it from some fellow Office lovers who swore this show was funnier than the Office. It's funnier than the first two episodes of the Office this season, but isn't even close on a broad scale. It is funny though. Two genius physicists with no relational skills live next door to a beautiful blonde with everything they lack. The writing for this show is exceptional. Good, clean, smart humor.

Grey's Anatomy: Kari's favorite show. I watch it with her so she will let me watch shows that are actually good. What can I say? Our marriage is about sacrifice. Grey's is a primetime soap opera that throws in a good episode every fifth show or so to keep things interesting.

That's about it. Television has been pretty slim picking for the past year or so since 24 jumped the shark and then cancelled the season, 6 Degrees was cancelled, and the Bachelor turned out to be a womanizing Brit with skanky taste. So, our television taste is pretty mainstream these days. If you aren't watching some of these shows (especially October Road), you need to start so they don't cancel it. Otherwise, let us know if you've got any other recommendations.

Closet Catholics

Something for discussion: I don't want this to sound over-the-top, but I'm becoming more and more convinced that many of my evangelical preacher friends are closet Catholic priests. Not theologically, but certainly functionally.

If you remember, one of the hallmarks of the Catholic church was that only priests were allowed to read and interpret the Bible. The assumption was that they were closer to God and had a more special gift, so only they could be trusted to interpret the Bible correctly. Peons in the pew couldn't be trusted to study and apply God's Word in their lives, so a priest would interpret and apply God's Word for the peons, and then tell them how to behave.

In a lot of evangelical churches today, preaching takes a similar bent. The pastor spends the week interpreting Scripture to figure out how the people are supposed to behave, and then gives a message that is virtually a motivational speech on how the Scripture should be applied based on the priest's... ahem... pastor's interpretation.

Their messages are not non-Biblical, but the distinct feeling that philosophy can portray is that the authority comes from the pastor's study and creativity. He's just a middle man between the Scripture and the congregation. That sounds awfully Catholic to me.

So, for you pastors who read, here's a question: When people walk out of your church and into their life, do they make decisions based on what you said on Sunday, or what the Bible said? There's a strong difference between the two - the difference between giving a man fish, and giving a man a rod and reel.

Walking with Giants

Ken (our senior pastor) takes a group of guys through a theology class about every two years. The main book he uses is a book by Charles Ryrie called "Basic Theology." At the end of the two-year cycle, Ken brings in Dr. Ryrie to answer questions about theology for the men who were a part of that study.

Last night, just prior to the Q&A session, I got the "holy cow" honor of getting to have dinner with Dr. Ryrie (Yes, the Ryrie Study Bible Ryrie) and a couple of other guys.

I hadn't ever met Dr. Ryrie before, and wasn't sure what to expect. For some reason, I expected someone who was bigger-than-life. In reality, Dr. Ryrie was gentle, unassuming, quiet, and humble.

I know several of you who read this blog come over from the Pyromaniacs blog, and am well aware that there's some bad blood between Ryrie and MacArthurites going back a couple of decades. And I hate that, because in different areas, both men have contributed a mammoth amount to evangelicalism, and I respect both men a great deal.

Dr. Ryrie was born in 1925, and if I remember right, trusted Christ when he was 7 years old. That means he has been walking with Christ for around 76 years. And he's finishing well. He just returned from a trip to Turkey and Greece where he was teaching from Paul's epistles in the cities where they were written. When I'm 83 or 84 years old, I'd be happy to travel to the bathroom without assistance - Dr. Ryrie is still serving God around the world.

There are two or three pages of notes from the time we had together last night that I'll probably use pieces of as blog prompts for the next few weeks. But here are a couple of things I thought were especially profound. Have a great day.

"There are thousands of preachers out there today [competing for jobs], but there is very little competition for those who thoroughly know the Word of God."

"If you want to be successful in ministry, at every point of your life you have to be willing to go anywhere, at any time, to do any thing. As you age, your body will limit you; your willingness never should."

"The best thing you can do for any person in any situation is to help them understand the Bible."


Had a good breakfast this morning with my buddy Brandon. Brandon and I go way back to our college days. In fact, last week I credited JB as being the one who first identified me as someone who had potential in ministry. That's only partially true. Brandon worked as an intern for JB at that point, and was the one responsible for convincing JB that I wasn't just a ministry leech who had no promise whatsoever.

Brandon is the only true-to-life hermit I've ever known. He had a cabin out by a lake where he lived on virtually nothing, and spent nearly every waking hour studying the Bible. Although he would tell you today that he had some weird introverted habits back then, that time and study has paid off - God's using him to do some pretty cool stuff today.

Several years ago he got an idea to do a Bible training program that was easily translatable and transferrable to other cultures and countries throughout the world. His desire is to do something that's low-cost, but high-impact so pastors who are unable to go to formal training because of persecution or lack of funding are able to receive a strong foundation in biblical principles, in their language, with illustrations and concepts that are true to their culture. As a result, iAlethia was born.

Brandon didn't ask me to do this, but I absolutely believe in what he's doing. So go check out his website and consider praying or giving financially to support what God is doing over there. The world is a pretty small, flat place, and ministries like iAlethia have the potential of making a significant impact in places other ministries aren't able to touch.

Where do I aim?

This past weekend I taught as a part of a teacher training seminar for some of the guys who are teaching our Adult Bible Fellowships and wanted some extra sharpening. It was a fun time to be with extremely sharp guys who are doing some great things. After my portion of the seminar, one of them pulled me aside and asked me a really great question that I don't feel like I answered very well. Now that I've had a couple of days to think about it, I think I can do better.

Here was his question: "When you preach, there are 1500 to 2000 people in the auditorium at any given time. Some are seminary profs, some just walked in off the street. With such a broad audience, where do you aim?"

It's true in an auditorium of 1500 people, and it's true in an Adult Bible Fellowship/Sunday School class of twenty people. People are all over the map of maturity, knowledge, and experience. Where do you aim when you know you can't speak to everyone?

Here's the easiest way I know how to say it: Aim High, but Communicate Low.

I want to communicate Truth such that the most spiritually mature person in the auditorium is encouraged and challenged, but I want to communicate that Truth in such a way that the guy off the street can understand it. If I speak over the head of the guy one the lower end of the knowledge spectrum, it's motivating. If I speak under the spiritual guy's head it's demotivating. But if I speak in such a way that the spiritual guy is motivated by the Truth, and the un-spiritual guy is motivated by the simplicity, I've hit a home run.

You can talk about propitiation without ever using the word. You can talk about the hypostatic union, or infralapsarianism without using words people don't know. You can talk about the meaning of words in the original language without parsing Greek verbs on stage. There's no need to talk in language your audience doesn't understand... even if it's precise. But it is an equally great error for your audience to leave a lesson exactly the way they came in.

Aim high, communicate low. I'm not always the best at it, but it's always my goal.

Family Friday

Not much time to post today. I just rolled in from the Young Life golf tournament this morning, and am doing a teacher training thing at the church tonight, so I need to finish getting that together. By the way, our team is currently the leader in the clubhouse with a -11. I had a hard time carrying the other three guys on my back, but that's what servant-leadership is all about.

On Family Friday, I try to post some updates on my family, or tell those of you who read and don't know Kari and me a little more about us.

One of the things you ought to know about Kari and I is that we're completely, 100-percent incompatible. But we're also completely, 100-percent in love.

This is one of our favorite things to tell young engaged couples who think they've found the "perfect" person for them. There is no such thing as compatibility. There is such thing as humanity. And unfortunately, no matter how "alike" it seems like you are when you're dating, you're not compatible.

One of you will be a morning person (Kari) and one of you will be a not morning person (Chris). One of you will be cheap (Kari) and one of you will be generous (Chris). (Don't you love how I carefully chose the word describing me?!) One of you will like to splurge on food and skimp on clothes (Chris), and one of you will like to splurge on clothes and skimp on food (Kari). Maybe you won't be vastly different on all these things, but you'll be vastly different in some things, no matter who you are.

I didn't marry Kari because we're compatible... we're not. I married Kari because she was the person I wanted to commit the rest of my life to. Sometimes our incompatibilities serve as checks on each other or balance each other out; sometimes they just drive us nuts for no apparent reason. But we've learned (and are learning) how to embrace those differences and lean into each other despite our differences.

We're not compatible; at least not in everything. We're okay with not being compatible, because no matter what, we're completely committed.


I'm playing in the Young Life golf tournament tomorrow morning here in Fort Worth (barring rain). I love playing golf on my days off, and really love playing golf when it benefits a great organization.

Our church enjoys a partnership with several parachurch ministries in Fort Worth, and I think it's one of the better things we do.

We're not able to reach everyone, and we know that. We're a church that sits inside the loop, and are surrounded by homes that range in price from $400,000 to more than $1,000,000. As a result, we're probably not going to have a lot of opportunities to directly touch the lives of Fort Worth's homeless population. We're probably not going to be able to have a direct influence in the lives of teenagers who live on the North side of Fort Worth, though we certainly have a heart for teenagers all over the metroplex.

We could spin our wheels trying to figure out a way to bus all the homeless people here, or we could figure out a way to invest in the people who are already there. We've chosen the second option. They know that culture better than us. They can have a laser focus better than us, and can drill down into the lives of the people they serve on an everyday basis better than we'll ever be able to do.

McKinney strives to be a church where everyone feels welcome, whether a person is a homeless person or a gazillionaire. But when it comes to the focus of our ministry we focus primarily on the people in our neighborhood, and invest a significant portion of our resources in ministries who serve elsewhere.

And the investment is paying off. McKinney had an influence in the lives of almost 5000 girls last year in crisis pregnancies. We fed somewhere around 50,000 meals to homeless people. We ensured that almost 100 inner-city boys have something to go home to other than gangs and violence. We reached out to thousands of college students and high school students through the ministries of Campus Crusade and Young Life.

They don't steal our people... they're an extension of our people. As we invest our time, talents, and treasure in what God is doing in our city and around the world, we're serving alongside what's happening in those ministries. And we're more interested in building the Church with a big "C" than we are building our church with a little "c."


This past Sunday we talked about passing the baton, as Paul handed his baton to the Ephesian Elders before heading toward Jerusalem and ultimately Rome. Thought it would be appropriate to mention a few of the pastors who handed their ministry baton to me.

JB Bond - JB was the one who identified me as someone with potential in ministry. He was my pastor during college, and took an interest in me. I made copies for him, and he poured his life into me (a pretty good trade, if you ask me). JB gave me a desire to teach the Bible, and a passion for proclaiming the gospel clearly.

Rodney Cripps - Rodney was the youth pastor at the church I attended during college. He became a close friend, and was a great resource for bouncing ideas off of. He's a top-notch administrator, and has an ability to bring quick clarity to every issue. Rodney taught me to pay attention to the little things.

Drew Leaver - Drew was my boss at Fellowship North for the majority of the time I was there. He loves to think through issues and problems, and gave me a glimpse of what humble, servant leadership of another staff person could look like. Aside from the fact that his family and ours were extremely close, Drew was a great boss.

Glen Brechner - Glen hired a burned out, desperate, and disillusioned pastor to serve under him, and worked hard to make sure I was serving in an area that fit my gifts and talents. His leadership is one of the primary reasons I'm still in ministry today. Beyond that, Glen has an ability to think through processes and systems about as well as anyone I know.

These are guys who reached out to me, ran together with me, and released me for a lifetime of ministry. I'm adding to the heroes list these days, but it's only because of the investment these men made in my life.

I'm wondering who is involved in your life, and will call you a hero someday? Have you identified someone to begin passing your baton to?

Joshua Fit De Battle...

This year, Kari and I are reading through one of those One-Year-Bibles together where you read through the Bible in a year. Actually, we're really not reading it "together," but we're reading through it individually, together.

The other day, the reading was from Joshua 6, where Joshua and the Israelites marched around Jericho for a week, and then yelled at the top of their lungs, after which the "walls came-a tumblin' down." It's a cool story of God's care for the nation of Israel, and about how He helped them conquer a city without having to raise a finger. But it's also a cool story about a young leader who led well, to the point that the people absolutely believed that "God [would] do amazing things among [them]" (Joshua 3:5).

The Jericho thing is a good example of that. It almost makes you laugh out loud when you think about what that scene must have looked like as this young leader steps up in the shadow of Moses and convinces the people that they can conquer a city by making tracks around it and screaming at the top of their lungs.

Can you imagine the scene?

Joshua: "Hey guys, we're going to conquer this city this week."
Israel: "Sounds great. We'll grab our swords."
Joshua: "Hold off on the swords, but get your tennis shoes."
Israel: "Our whats?"
Joshua: "Your tennis shoes. We're going to take this city by marching around it."
Israel: "That's the goofiest thing I've ever heard."
Joshua: "Oh yeah, and priests - your trumpets too. Grab those."
Israel: "So we're going to destroy this city by being a marching band?"
Joshua: Yep. Once a day for six days, and seven times on the last day. We're going to pound the ground, and then scream as loud as we can, and watch what God does.

If I had been a part of that group, I think I probably would have commissioned a study on the long-term effects of manna consumption. But they marched. They got in line and marched. And then they blew their trumpets and yelled.

You don't have any record of them doubting Joshua here, or calling this young leader's plan goofy. You don't see any hesitation - if Joshua says march, we march. If he says yell, we yell. If the kid says we're going to destroy this city by blowing our trumpet, we're going to trust the kid. Because he's proven himself to be a man who follows God, and who leads us in the direction God blesses.

As a young leader, Joshua had so proven himself to be a godly leader that people didn't make a peep when he told them to form a conquering marching band.

I wonder if the people who are following you and I would follow us into battle with tennis shoes and a trumpet if we were confident God was leading us that way? What kind of young leaders have we proven ourselves to be?

Low to High

One of the challenges of every ministry is moving people from low levels of commitment to high levels of commitment. Every once in a while we meet people who dive in and are ready to change the world alongside you, but they are the exception - not the rule.

It takes quite a bit of intentionality on the part of the leaders to find people who might be on the verge of taking steps in the right direction, but the intentionality almost always pays off.

The first step is to inform people about the opportunities that are out there. This is the hardest step because it's kind of nebulous. But if you give people a broad glimpse of what God is doing in various ministries, before long something is going to jump out at them.

After they're informed, we try to encourage the people we know who we see might be good fits in a particular area.

Once someone is informed and interested, we keep them at a low level of commitment, but begin to equip them by giving them small but meaningful opportunities to serve. We don't want to overwhelm them, but we also don't want them underwhelmed. All we're trying to do is light their fire.

After they're informed, encouraged, and equipped, we encourage them again. People need feedback here - especially if you see potential in them. I'm always amazed at how much we assume people know about how valuable they are.

The next step is to engage them in higher levels of commitment, again making sure they're meaningful opportunities that fit the gifts, talents, and abilities of the people we're trying to connect.

Finally, we encourage them again. Especially when people are engaged at higher levels of commitment, they need a reminder that what they're doing is significant. It's easiest to burn out when you're serving at a high level of commitment, but lose sight of the bigger picture.

Everyone doesn't make it through this "process" at the same rate; everyone doesn't make it through this process. But a small step is better than no step. And I'd rather have a group of people who are informed and equipped, but not ready to engage, than a group of people who aren't even close to higher levels of commitment.

Family Friday

Lots of my pastor friends talk regularly about how to balance family and ministry as if the two are in conflict. I think that's a mistake, and Kari and I try to not think that way.

My ministry is an extension of my family life, and my family life is an extension of my ministry. They're all a part of the stewardship of life that God has given me. And if God has given me responsibility for all of it, when they're done well they shouldn't be competing.

What I find is that guys who are struggling with competing marriage and ministry are usually not doing one of the two very well. Either their family life is a mess, and they're compensating for it at work, or their work is a mess and they're overcompensating for that somewhere.

Sure, there are times that ministry calls me away from home, and times when home prevents me from doing other ministry. But there doesn't have to be a dichotomy there. Both my job and my family life are a part of my stewardship from God. It's my focus, so the various parts of it don't compete.

360 Review

Every year I do a 360 degree review where I ask a good number of the people I work with to help me sharpen my skills and check me for blind spots. The way it works is this: I take a list of all the people who are regularly involved in the ministries I serve, and send a copy of a review to all those who serve in a leadership capacity. Then, I have someone else randomly choose the same number of people from that list as I have leaders to send a review to (if there are five leaders, they choose five random other people). That prevents me from choosing only my cronies, or the people who I know will say only nice things. Finally, I send a copy to anyone who works for me as an employee.

My boss does his own review of me every year which is independent of the 360, so the people who complete this review don't have to worry about negatively impacting my family or finances by giving me a negative review. That way, they can feel the freedom to be completely honest.

After each person receives the review, I don't have any more contact with them about it. They print off their responses and anonymously drop them in my administrative assistant's box. Then, she averages the scores and collects the responses before giving the review back to me. The average of scores keeps me from getting discouraged by a particularly low score, or arrogant by a particularly high score. I just get an average. It's also one more step in securing the reviewers' anonymity. Some people choose not to do the review, which is okay... it's why I try to start with a pretty high sample size.

I look at this process like a yearly doctor's visit: Nobody ever looks forward to it, but it gives you a sense of confidence that everything is okay. And if something comes back not okay, the chances are good that you caught it early enough to do something about it.

I've also found that the process is pretty helpful when it comes to dealing with either discouragement or harsh criticism throughout the year. If I've done my job in asking the right questions, and my reviewers think I'm doing a good job, I don't have any reason to be too down on myself throughout the year. Or, when someone accuses me of "not taking the Bible seriously," I can rest assured that theirs is not a majority opinion, and I can search for the truth in their accusation without being completely devastated by it.

All of us have blind spots and struggles. And all of us need a check-up every once in a while. My goal is to be the very best pastor I can be, and these 360 evaluations help me make regular progress.

Right Turn

One of the things I love most about being a pastor is the chance to be involved with people at the most pivotal moments of their life. I get to do premarital counseling with couples who are at the front porch of their life together as a family. I get to do their weddings, and pray for their children just hours after they're born. I get to baptize those same children, and visit the parents when they're in the hospital. I get to counsel people during the difficult times of marriage, and celebrate with them during the exciting times. And then I'm often present shortly after people step from this life to the next.

Often being a pastor is extremely difficult, because you're helping people navigate through turbulent water and there isn't much room for error. There's a high stress level, but also a high excitement level because I'm getting to work on the front lines - right where God is working.

Most of the time, pastors are tasked with walking people through these times individually. But every once in a while you have to walk with the entire church through a difficult time. Sometimes it is a result of a national event (September 11th comes to mind), but sometimes it is something that is unique to each pastor's individual church.

Last night, one of the heroes of McKinney Church - our retired Executive Pastor Bill Kilgore - suddenly and unexpectedly stepped from this life to the next. Since it was so sudden, it will be difficult to get word out prior to Sunday. Yet his life touched the lives of thousands of people at McKinney Church and around Fort Worth. Guess who's preaching on Sunday morning?!

Bill was a significant and beloved enough leader here at McKinney that to fail to say anything about his death on Sunday would be completely irresponsible. But, it would also be irresponsible to turn the service on Sunday morning into a memorial service (Add this to my list of things they never taught us how to do in seminary).

I'm fortunate this week because the passage I'm preaching from lends itself to a mention of Bill's life. We're talking about Acts 20:13-38 where Paul says goodbye to the Ephesian Elders, and passes his legacy on to them. The parallels are hard to miss. It could have been more difficult - I have a friend who was scheduled to preach on Hell the Sunday after September 11th.

I know several of you who read this blog are pastors. Has this kind of thing ever happened to you? How did you make the decision of whether or not to take a right turn with your sermon?

Manuscript Beating

This Sunday, I'm preaching on Acts 20:13-38, which means that yesterday and today are devoted mostly to preparing a manuscript for my sermon. For some people like my friend Drew, this is their favorite part of sermon preparation. They love working out the transitions, figuring out the best way to communicate a point, and working out their sermon from concept to manuscript. That's not me; manuscripting wears me slick.

I love studying for sermons, and I love delivering sermons, but the manuscript part is pretty tedious for me. I think it's because I'm not a detail-oriented guy at heart. I get excited about the big picture, and love to communicate the details/pieces of the big picture, but get whipped to death with the minutia of trying to figure out exactly which word to use where and when.

However, I manuscript every sermon because I think it's important. I'm enough of a wordsmith that I need the manuscript to ensure I've thought through the exact language and images I'm going to use. It also makes sure I'm not going to say something stupid about "puffed up crackers." Finally, it serves as a source of accountability for me to make sure I've thought through every piece of the sermon, rather than just throwing together a quick outline and winging it. I'm a good enough communicator that I could do that, but the risk isn't worth it.

Although I always manuscript my sermons word-for-word, I never take a manuscript with me to the stage. I carry up an outline with a couple of key points and transitions color-coded for easy reference. Just as I feel like God (and the congregation) deserves a sermon that is well thought through, I feel like it's cheating to stand up and read a sermon to them. If it's important enough for people to listen to for 35 minutes, it's important enough for me to internalize.

Notice, I didn't say "memorize." If I simply memorize my sermon, it comes across as a wooden, cold, unemotional speech. I don't want that. I want to be familiar enough with my sermon that I know exactly where I'm going and exactly how I want to get there, but only to the point that I'm free to communicate those things normally.

Nobody is ever going to accuse me of being the world's best preacher, and that's okay. But I see it as my responsibility to try to be the world's most prepared preacher, and to be the most diligent steward of my gifts and the congregation's time that I can be.

When the Cat is Away...

Our senior pastor left yesterday morning for Europe. He'll be gone for almost 3 weeks teaching at a seminary in Spain, and one in Slovakia.

I think it's a pretty cool thing to serve with a pastor who bleeds what he talks about on Sunday morning. Most pastors have a hard time giving up "their pulpit" for one Sunday, much less three in a row. But Ken feels as though he can preach a better sermon by living it out in Europe than he could just talking about it here every week.

We talk a lot as a church about being externally focused. We talk about our belief that our goal as a church is not to get everyone out there in here, but to get everyone in here out there. What better way to reinforce that than by the senior pastor spending a good chunk of time out there?

It's not just Ken. Every pastor at McKinney is expected/encouraged to go on a short-term mission every year. There is budget money set aside to help pastors get out there. To me, that is one of the strongest things McKinney does. Sure, our pastors are gone from time to time, but I think it makes us stronger. It helps us remain a church that is externally focused, and constantly resets our perspective to remind us there's something going on that is bigger than us.

Family Friday

We're retreating this weekend with the newly-married class at McKinney. We love being connected with this class, not only because God is doing some really cool things in and through them, but also because it gives us a much-needed connection with people who are at a similar stage in life.

The connection with people who smell what you're steppin' in is more important to my wife than to I, but it's important to me too. We haven't always had that ability, so we're really thankful to have it now.

Not only is it good from the standpoint of having friendships, but it's good for our marriage. Each of those couples serve as mirrors for Kari and I to look into. Sometimes they give us verbal feedback on things they notice in our lives, but most of the time we learn from them by osmosis. At some points we'll see something in one of those marriages that encourages Kari and I to love each other in a different way. Sometimes we'll see something in one of those marriages that reminds us how gracious God has been to us. And sometimes we see something in one of those marriages that convicts us to fix something we're doing wrong.

We love getting to serve the young-married ministry at McKinney, in part because they do a good job of serving us; most of the time without even knowing it. Our marriage is stronger because we spend time hanging out with people who are working to make their marriage stronger. Hopefully, we'll do some of that this weekend.

Drive-By Opportunities

Our church building is located right next door to two of the biggest Jewish synagogues in Dallas/Fort Worth. We are less than a mile from a fairly large Muslim Mosque. Across the street to the North are homes that range in value from around $800,000 to 2 million dollars. Just South of us are apartments that are inhabited by low-income families.

After church on Sunday, our people drive by all kinds of opportunity on the way to do ministry.

Most of us do that in our neighborhoods too. Kari and I have neighbors on one side who are believers, but on the other side we have a lady who we've only seen a couple of times. Across the street are a neat couple who are a long way from Christ, and next door to them is a family that created their own religion.

And every morning I get up and drive past their homes in order to do ministry.

Sometimes I hate being a pastor because it keeps me from developing genuine relationships with people who don't know Jesus; they either shut-down or start confessing when they find out I'm a pastor. Other times, I realize that I've got all kinds of opportunities to share the gospel... I just drive past those opportunities on my way to do ministry.

High Caliber Leaders

Several years ago I had a ministry where I was the only person who officed at the church. There were a lot of things wrong with that arrangement, but I was able to accomplish a lot of work in that environment. I found I could accomplish most of the things I needed to accomplish in the day between the hours of 8am and noon. That left me four or five hours in the afternoon where I was able to invest in my own personal growth.

That was a point pretty early in my ministry, and I was at a stage in leadership where I realized the best thing I could do to invest in ministry was to learn as much as I could learn about leading well. So I read almost anything I could get my hands on about leadership. I studied the lives of leaders; the things that made them tick, the way they spent their time, the habits they generated that served them well in their area of leadership.

One of the things I noticed that was true about almost every high-caliber leader I read about was other high-caliber leaders. Virtually nobody who was a successful leader - in the realm of the church or the realm of business - got there (a) by accident, or (b) alone.

So, I started trying to find the highest caliber leaders I could find, and scheduled time with them. I found that most of them - even some leaders who are pretty high-profile and busy - would take time to meet with a young guy if they felt like it was a good investment. So I got to visit with all kinds of people across the spectrum of leadership who had some really great input for me as I continue to develop.

Today, I'm still in the early stages of leadership and ministry; but I feel as though the time I took to allow high-caliber leaders to invest in me is one of the greatest leadership decisions I've made.

A couple of things are important in that process. The first is staying humble. There's a temptation when you're surrounding yourself with high-caliber leaders to become a name-dropper, and everyone hates those guys. I tried to stay completely humble, and rarely told anyone I knew about the meetings I had. If you're a name-dropper, and it gets back to the leader you've surrounded yourself with, they'll feel used and dishonored and will hesitate to ever invest in you again.

The second thing that's important in the process is asking the right questions. The more specific and direct you can be, the more valuable your time together will be. If he/she wrote a book, read it and take notes prior to getting together. If he/she spoke at a conference, or made a significant decision, or did something else significant, know as many details as you can. Those things will give you a glimpse into the leader's passions and areas of expertise; sometimes they'll give you a window into the leader's weaknesses too. When you're able to be direct and give a high-caliber leader a chance to speak about his passions, you won't have to ask many questions. And the person you're meeting with will realize that you care enough about spending time with them to use the time wisely. There's nothing worse than wasting a high-caliber leader's time.

So, make a call today. Find the person you respect most and get on his schedule. The worst he/she can tell you is "no." Surround yourself with high-caliber people, and you can't help but amp up your own leadership.

Can you fix our good problem?

I know there are several different types of people who read this blog from time to time, and this morning I want to solicit some help from those of you who are pastors.

About 4 years ago, the church where I'm a pastor built a beautiful new building. One of the things the church was most excited about in the new building was having a large foyer where people could connect before and after the service. The previous building allowed for virtually no connection, because people had to be moved out quickly to make room for the next service.

The new building has a huge foyer that is perfect for people to stand and visit before and after the service, and people are taking advantage of it. Meanwhile, we've fallen victim to the law of unintended consequences. People are using the connection space so well we have a hard time getting them to the service on time.

Currently, our 2000 seat auditorium is around 20 percent full when the service begins, and around 80 percent full when the service ends. Most of the additional people aren't late to church - they're just visiting with people in the connection space.

It's hard to gripe about people connecting with each other, but it's a significant challenge when you view the situation from the eye of a guest who shows up early (often, guests are easy to spot because they're the only people who show up to your church early). Their first impression is of a crowded foyer and an empty service - which is not what we want to portray.

We've tried everything we can think of to move people in early. We've tried countdown clocks, dimming the lights in the foyer, moving important parts of the service to the beginning to celebrate those who are on time, and asking/inviting people to make being on time a priority. So far, it's not working.

So, I know some of you have faced similar situations in the past. Some of you haven't, but have a good idea nonetheless. How would you handle this situation? It's a good problem to have people connecting too much with each other, but we need to fix it. Any ideas?