Well, blog plans for the week came to a screeching halt at 1:45am on Monday morning.

We're doing great, but are juggling a sick 2-year-old, normal 2-day-old, and some classes in Dallas that I can't miss, it would be comical to try to write anything of substance. Then again, why start now?

Lord willing, I'll be back on Monday, August 2.

Sick Singers and Saturday Sermons

Those of you who know me know that a big part of my life has involved music, specifically singing. I did a lot of musical theater in a previous life, and spent some time as a worship leader. When you work primarily with vocal musicians, you notice something really quickly: You will never meet a physically healthy singer.

Try it next time you're around one. Next time you're at church on a Sunday morning and see the person who will be singing special music, tell them you're looking forward to hearing them sing. Ten bucks says they'll say, "Well, thanks... I've been struggling with a cold so be praying for me. I'm not in very good voice today."

Why are singers always sick? So that they have something to blame if they bomb. Singing is such an intensely personal gift that if you stink it up, you feel like it reflects poorly on you as a person.

I heard a fascinating study presented last week that said a staggering number of pastors don't write their sermons until Saturday night. I think it's probably for the same reason. Preaching is a terribly personal art. In order to protect their egos, pastors wait until Saturday to prepare. That way if the sermon bombs, they can justify it to themselves.

My suspicion is that the tendency isn't limited to only pastors and singers. I know businessmen who procrastinate business deals, salesmen who slow-play customers, and teachers who wait to prepare lesson plans.

All of us are insecure. The earlier we recognize it and make the decision to find our sufficiency in Christ, the earlier we're able to actually be used in His hands.

Wednesday Rundown on Thursday

- "The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise to the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think and act anew. " - Abraham Lincoln.

- Sometimes improving skills in spiritual communication actually gets in the way of improving the spiritual life because people get more enamored by communication than transformation.

- Hire Staff who create their own momentum.

- Don't just delegate responsibility - delegate authority. There are a lot of people in the senior pastor role that don't need to be senior pastors. They're there because it's the only place on the org chart where someone would finally give them the responsibility and authority to do what God called them to do.

- Leaders who refuse to listen will eventually be surrounded by people with nothing important to say.

- As yourself: Is what you're experiencing on staff worth exporting to your community?

- If there's a proper teaching about the church gathered/scattered, the term "missional church" is redundant.

Tuesday Run-Down on Wednesday

- It's time to stop thinking and strategizing about the Church. It's not about the Church; it's about Jesus.

- If your strategy for fulfilling the Great Commission is limited to pastors and missionaries, the last two hundred years have shown that you're doomed to failure. Are we about sending missionaries or about fulfilling the great commission? The distinction is crucial. If we're just about sending missionaries, all we'll do is build the institution so we can send a select few. There's nothing wrong with sending missionaries; it's just insufficient.

- In the Bill of Rights, the founders set up a system in America where the minority will always have a voice. That, coupled with a society in which financial affluence and education is available, and we have the greatest opportunity in history to have a worldwide impact without ever leaving the country, simply by developing Christ-centered relationships. We shouldn't be scared of the Muslims building a mosque in the heart of our cities; we should be grateful for the opportunity.

- Acts 1:8 was not intended to be sequential; it was intended to be comprehensive.

- This is an amazing time in the history of United States where if you are a man who has held your marriage and family together you have enormous credibility to speak into the lives of others.

- Serve not to convert, but because you've been converted. God's responsibility is to do the converting. Our responsibility is to be an ambassador in every aspect of our life. The end goal of our service as ambassadors is that God would be glorified. It should be our desire that every person we meet would trust Christ; but in the end, we should serve them even if they don't ever trust Christ.


I'm in classes every day for the next 2 weeks at DTS. I fully intended to have blog entries queued up and ready to go for the week, but didn't get them done. So, I decided that I'd post a couple of gleanings/learnings/questions from my classes every night in random form. (I may interact with them and may just post them as they are to let you interact). We'll see how it goes.

Today, most of the day was an introduction to the class. But one statement caught my attention.

This statement was made today: "If you have more than 10 people on a committee, you ensure that major decisions will always be made outside the committee."

The statement in its context applied to boards, sub-committees, staff teams, and any other place committees are found.

On its face, I'm inclined to agree with the statement. I've been a part of several elder boards and committees in my life. When they get bigger than 10ish, the real decisions usually get made either (1) during the pre-meeting in which the agenda is established, or (2) during the meeting after the meeting that takes place in the parking lot where alliances are formed.

Some pastors opt for really big elder/deacon boards for this very reason: they give the pastor more power. The bigger the team, the more the confusion. The more confusion, the more freedom the pastor has to simply get things done.

There's at least one down side though: when the group is small, every person wields quite a bit of power. One "bad apple" can stall progress, lead the group astray, or distract the group from something that is really important. The smaller the group, the more emphasis has to be placed on selecting and training the right people.

So, what do you think? Do you agree with the original statement? If so, or if not, what's the optimum size of a decision-making group?

Ministry Idolatry and Fruit Bearing

Tim Keel wrote a book called "Intuitive Leadership, Embracing a Paradigm of Narrative, Metaphor, and Chaos." I'm not able to recommend the book for the same reason I'm not able to recommend much from the guys who call themselves "Emergent Village." I feel like they're asking the right questions, but are willing to abandon Truth in search of the answers.

Even still, because they're asking a lot of the right questions, sections of their books are extremely helpful. An example is this quote from "Intuitive Leadership" talking about the tendency for churches to fall into patterns of Ministry Idolatry:

"I believe the most acceptable and common form of idolatry in churches today is ministry. I believe many leaders and many churches worship ministry - that is, what we are trying to do for God... We often do not pursue God but instead pursue the fruitfulness that we are told accompanies God's presence in a person or community's life. Let me rephrase that statement: we rarely pursue God directly but instead pursue external expressions called "ministry" as a sign of God. But when we make ministry our pursuit, we make it impossible to realize the very thing we seek. Ministry is always the by-product of something else. What? The pursuit of God."

Keel goes on to point out John 15:4-5 and remind us that the command in John 15 is to "Abide," not to "bear fruit." Fruit-bearing comes from abiding. It isn't contrived, it isn't commanded, it isn't compelled. It's the natural product of a branch that abides. Rather than trying to talk our people into bearing fruit, we ought to teach them how to abide and let the fruit take care of itself.

Novelty and Sentimentality

Last Sunday I preached from 2 Kings 18-19 talking about the first part of Hezekiah's legacy as a king of Judah. It's a great story about a young king who started extremely well.

Early in his leadership, 2 Kings 18 says Hezekiah removed all the high places, stone altars, and Asherah poles that had been built in the 150 years or so since David. As the generations since David tried to find new ways to worship they drifted into full-fledged idolatry, opting to worship like the rest of the world rather than to stand apart.

But newfangled worship wasn't the only form of idolatry Hezekiah took on. He also broke up the bronze snake left over from Moses' ministry in Numbers 21. In the years since Moses, the snake had gone from being an object that pointed toward God to a sentimental reminder of old times, to an object of worship itself. I can only imagine the ire of the "churchladies" as Hezekiah smashed their tradition.

It strikes me that the idol of novelty and the idol of sentimentality are both ever-present in our own worship and are both equally dangerous. When we allow something designed to point our focus toward God to become the focus, whether for the sake of being cutting edge or hanging on to the past, we are in dangerous territory.

If a style of music, translation of Scripture, children's program, ministry philosophy, or any other thing gets to the point that we are unable to worship without it, it's probably time to learn a lesson from Hezekiah and start chopping down poles or breaking up snakes.

We have to move forward and we have to look backward, but never at the expense of looking upward.

Managing Distractions

One of the really helpful sections to me in "Making Ideas Happen," the book I revealed on Monday, is a section about managing distractions. I tend to be about as easily distracted as my two-year-old when it comes to getting stuff done at work.

Here's what Belsky says:

"When it comes to staying focused, you must be your own personal Madison Avenue advertising agency. The same techniques that draw your attention to billboards on the highway or commercials on television can help you become more (or less) engaged by a project. When you have a project that is tracked by a beautiful chart or an elegant sketchbook, you are more likely to focus on it. Use your workspace to induce attention where you need it most. You ultimately want to make yourself feel compelled to take action on the tasks pending, just as a marketer makes you feel compelled to buy something."

Environment really can be everything when it comes to being focused. I've learned to limit the things that are in the sight-line of my workspace. If I keep Post-it notes or unread books where I see them while I'm trying to work; or if I keep multiple windows open on my desktop, I'm guaranteed to accomplish nothing.

Belsky is right: focus has to be won. If I'm not intentional about my environment, the project is doomed before it begins.

Making Jesus Look Good

As a person with strong convictions and a penchant for sarcasm, it's hard for me to restrain myself sometimes. It's hard for me to avoid a good "discussion" (okay, argument), particularly when it comes to theology or people from other belief systems.

I think it's important to have strong convictions, and important to stand up for truth. But I constantly have to remember that my manner is always heard more loudly than my message.

We don't have to make other people or other ideas look bad to make Jesus look good. Just talk about Jesus; He can look good on His own.

Making Ideas Happen - Review

I've followed Behance for a while now. I experimented with their Action Method, and replaced my moleskine with an "Action Journal" several months ago. When I found out their founder and CEO was putting out a book about helping creative types get things done, I put it at the top of my stack.

If you're the kind of person who struggles because you have lots of great ideas but never seem to accomplish any of them, Making Ideas Happen is a book you need to read. Don't read it if you're expecting a massive paradigm shift; it won't provide that. However, Belsky's book is loaded with practical ideas that help creative people capture and act on good ideas.

The book starts slow. The first few chapters read like a commercial for Behance's "Action Method." Belsky almost assumes you've heard of the "Action Method" and doesn't spend a lot of time unpacking it although the reader will have a firm grasp of it by the time the book ends. That's a good trait of the book. If you haven't heard of "The Action Method," a working knowledge isn't a prerequisite to getting quite a bit out of this book. It's fairly intuitive, and after you read more about it you'll wonder what the big deal is.

Belsky begins his book by helping you see ideas as projects. Some ideas are projects that need attention immediately, and some are projects that will not be tackled for long periods of time. Either way, from the inception of an idea it needs to be put into a pipeline with any other idea. Much of the first section of the book is designated to helping you understand an idea from inception to completion. He has great ideas on staying focused and managing your priorities. If you struggle with Idea ADD, pages 58-104 are must-read pages.

The second section of the book involves working with a team. Since very few genuinely good ideas can be accomplished alone, working with a team is an important dynamic. Unfortunately, it's a dynamic most creatives are awful at. Belsky's advice will help.

The final section of "Making Ideas Happen" speak specifically to the person leading a creative team. He talks about how to handle naysayers, and how to keep creative teams from running with bone-headed ideas. He ends by talking about self-leadership and the self-perception of leaders of creative teams.

Rarely am I as excited about a book when I finish it as I was when I started it. Fifty pages into "Making Ideas Happen" I was worried I was headed for a letdown. But by the end of the book I was wishing for more to read.

If you are a creative "idea" person, or if you (like me) are a wannabe creative person who leads creative people, this book is a good one to put toward the top of your stack.

Seasons and Ruts

I talk a lot about "seasons." We all have seasons of busyness, seasons of rest, seasons of excitement, seasons of exhaustion, seasons of discouragement, and seasons of rejoicing. It's a fairly biblical concept (Ecclesiastes 3). However, if you find yourself in an abnormal stage of life, it's important to distinguish between seasons and ruts.

Seasons come and go. We can endure them and lean into them because we know they're fleeting. Ruts aren't so friendly.

If you "lean-in" to a rut, you'll only go deeper. They aren't self-correcting.

You can't get out of a rut on your own. Someone has to pull you out.

You're never stuck in a season; you're always stuck in a rut.

Is God an Actor?

For the last couple of weeks I've been teaching our women's ministry in a series called "Hope Floats."

One of the things we've been talking about is how so many of us compartmentalize our lives. We do "spiritual things" at "spiritual times;" "regular things" at "regular times" because somewhere along the line we believed a lie that says "religion" shouldn't mix with anything else.

The lie is a lie because it treats our lives as if God is simply an actor in our story rather than the writer, producer, director and starring actor. God's sovereignty demands a de-compartmentalization of our lives. He isn't just a character who plays in different scenes. His fingerprints are all over the whole thing.

Missional Moratorium?

Fad terms have a way of losing their meaning rather quickly. When a term gets to the point that virtually everyone claims it, the term is no longer useful and should be retired.

I think we're about to that point with the word "missional." So many people are throwing around the term that doesn't mean anything anymore.

The original intent of the word was to refer to churches and organizations that were more concerned with taking a message to a world than in attracting the world to the message. It doesn't mean that anymore. These days, it has come to be diluted to mean "our organization has a mission."

I want to be a part of a church whose mission is Jesus Christ and Him crucified: not social action; not intellectual arrogance; not institutionalism. The Gospel.

Anyone got language for that?

Patriotism and Worship

My struggle with Worship and Patriotic Holidays began several years ago when I attended a church service in which I was completely unable to tell the difference between worship and patriotism. The worship team on stage sang "America The Beautiful" and "Shout to the Lord" with the equal gusto and posture: eyes closed, hands raised.

Another year, at a different church, I stood behind an Asian foreign exchange student who struggled awkwardly through the words of "God Bless America" during our Sunday worship service.

The tension with how the church should handle patriotic holidays is extremely difficult for me because I am a deeply patriotic person. I love the country God has allowed me to grow up in. And it seems that the church is virtually the only place where patriotic sentiment and music are preserved.

However, the tendency to sing patriotic songs without a strong distinction from worship music teeters far too close to idolatry for me. In fact, it is precisely the kind of idolatry we herald Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego for avoiding (Daniel 3). Furthermore, shouldn't the Church be the one place where people from every nation feels at home?

At the church where I serve, we try to hold the tension delicately. We try to sing the stanzas of patriotic songs that explicitly worship the God of the Bible with gratitude for the freedom we enjoy to worship Him. We recognize veterans and thank them for their service; recognizing that on any given Sunday morning, millions of people are able to focus completely on worshiping freely and publicly rather than in fear and hiding. We pray for those who are in harm's way, as well as their families and the families of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice.

But, we almost never display enough patriotism to satisfy everyone. The fact that we don't devote an entire worship service to our country/veterans/soldiers is perceived as a slap in their face to some people. After every patriotic holiday, we receive emails and cards - some borderline hateful, which express the disappointment of some people who don't think we've honored our country enough.

Those cards and emails always really bother me, because they make it clear that the person writing them thinks we are not patriotic, not thankful for our veterans, and not grateful for the freedoms we enjoy. That could not be further from the truth. However, if we are forced to err on the side of either dishonoring our country or dishonoring our God, the choice is not difficult. Worship services are for worship, and worship is for God alone.

No Excuses

I have lots of excuses as to why my blogging has been sporadic. But, I won't publish any of them for you. The month of July will probably continue to be sporadic, and then I'll try to get into a rhythm again.

I've finally finished my required reading for my summer class, and can get back to the books I want to read. Here are some of the books in my queue that I am most looking forward to reading.