Neighborhood Easter Egg Hunts

For the past few months our church has been thinking through our responsibility to be "good neighbors." It's been a part of our church DNA for the last 50 years (McKinney was "missional" before "missional" was cool), but is something we have been re-emphasizing recently.

One of the outflows of that conversation was an opportunity our Children's Ministry Team initiated for families to host Neighborhood Easter egg hunts. We offered kits with invitations, instructions, and some supplies to anyone from our church who was interested in hosting a neighborhood Easter egg hunt. Over the past weekend, we had neighborhood Easter egg hunts in 25 different neighborhoods across Fort Worth.

Several things I love about the idea Nita and her team came up with:

  1. It gave people a chance to begin relationships with their neighbors with a low-risk, easy first step.
  2. It wasn't a bait-and-switch. We didn't fill eggs with tracts or church propaganda in lieu of candy, or force people to sit through a Bible study before they could hunt eggs. 
  3. There was enough flexibility for neighborhoods to adopt the idea to fit their context. The Children's Ministry team gave enough instructions to be helpful, but not so many that the hosts were handcuffed. 
  4. It provided the context for relationship with a neighbor, which was our initial goal. Our ultimate goal is to see neighbors who don't know Jesus introduced to Jesus through an intentional relationship with neighbors who love them. 
  5. It wasn't about McKinney Church. We weren't trying to find a roundabout way to invite people to McKinney Church. We were inviting them to an Easter Egg hunt and then into relationship with their neighbors. Our desire is that that will lead to an invitation to know Jesus. The invitation to McKinney Church will be the natural outcome of that process at various places in the process. But we didn't want to confuse the invitation. If people respond to an invitation to trust Christ and decide to connect with the church down the street, we're okay with that and wanted to make sure our invitations didn't confuse that. 
Stories have already begun pouring in. Now we're looking for something similar to do this Summer. I'd like to see our people engaged in 100 neighborhoods by next Easter. 


From time to time (or maybe every week), new people darken the doors of your church. Some of them haven't ever been in a church before; some of them haven't ever been in the church you attend before. Either way, the way you refer to them matters. Language is important.

"Visitors" are just passing through. You never expect visitors to stay long; they're only visiting. You "visit" a place, and then leave. Sometimes you come back, but even then it's only usually as a visitor. Visitors are nameless, faceless people; clients, customers.

"Guests" hold an honored place. They may be strangers, but they're welcome because they're invited. We invite guests in order to deepen our relationship with them - it's why we have guests in our home or guests in our business - we want to strengthen our relationship. It's what we expect from their visit.

Before we talk about "visitors," we would do well to ask ourselves if that's really all we want them to be.

Passing By

Last Sunday Manny Fernandez, one of McKinney's mission partners, spoke during our main service. He talked about the two storms Jesus' followers faced with Jesus and pointed out something I hadn't ever seen before.

In the familiar story about Jesus walking on the water in Mark 6, where the guys have just witnessed Jesus feeding more than 5000 people. It's obvious from their constant arguing about bread (Mark 6:30-44; Mark 8:1-13; Mark 8:14-21) that they don't really understand who Jesus is. They understand he's a miracle worker, but they don't "get it" that He's the God of the Universe.

He forces them to get in the boat and runs the crowd off, and then goes to pray. He sees (Mark 6:48) the disciples straining - in their own power, with their own strength, and their own effort - to row the boat against the current. But they're about to be overpowered by the wind.

In fact, there was an old sailor's tale that the Phantom of the Deep would appear to sailors right before they "swam with the fishes." When Jesus comes walking on the water, the seasoned fishermen think He's the Phantom of the Deep, and they're about to die. They're straining against a sinking ship.

And Mark says, "Jesus was going to pass by" (Mark 10:48). Doesn't that seem awfully insensitive of Jesus, like He's taunting the disciples as he passes by them and waves?

Here's what Manny pointed out. Think about a couple of other times when God-followers worked hard in their strength and were ready to give up and hit "reset" on the whole thing. Moses got there in Exodus 33, worn out from leading the people by himself and desperate for someone to help him. Elijah got there too in 1 Kings 19, worn out from running from Jezebel and defeating the prophets of Baal.

In both those cases, these leaders, worn out from straining, begged God to reveal Himself. And in both cases, God "passed by them." He revealed Himself in such a way that there was no mistaking, no wondering, no denying that they had been graced by the presence of the Lord God.

Is it possible that Jesus was about to provide something to these disciples? Is it possible he was "passing by" them in the sense that he was about to reveal Himself in a way that far exceeded their temporary circumstance? Possible that they were about to get a revelation of Jesus that compared to the revelation received by Moses and Elijah?

If so, Mark 8 is a great reminder for people who follow Christ - even more important than seeking temporary relief from life's greatest storms, we ought to be on the lookout for God to pass by. God tends to reveal His character most clearly in times when we are primed to see it. In those cases, in the middle of the storm, the best thing Jesus could do is pass right by.

Thoughts and Buffets

Puritan theologian John Ryland wrote:

"Next to the regulation of the appetites and passions, the most important branch of self-government is the command of our thoughts: which without a strict guard will be as apt to ramble, as the other to rebel."

People who know me well know that I can't be trusted at a pizza buffet. Unless I've been really disciplined in my exercise regimen or am not planning to eat for 3 weeks, pizza buffets exhaust me because they take all the self-control I can muster. It's hard to regulate appetites and passions.

It's also tough to regulate our thoughts. Most of us know that and work hard to keep our thought life from rebelling. Men in particular, unless they're fools, take special precaution to guard their thoughts from rebellion.

But how many of us go to equal lengths to keep our thoughts from rambling? We seem to think it's a lesser sin to waste our thoughts than it is to abuse them by thinking about the wrong things. According to Ryle, either end of the spectrum is poor stewardship.

We should discipline ourselves, not only to not think about the wrong things; we should discipline ourselves to dwell and focus on the right things.

Stories and Relativism

Someone recently introduced me to Daniel Taylor, a professor of literature and writing at Bethel University in Minnesota, and expert on "stories." He spoke at the Desiring God conference for John Piper in 2008.

I just started his book "Tell Me a Story: The Life-Shaping Power of Our Stories," and watched his lecture above. So far, it's great stuff.

One of Taylor's stellar points right off the bat in "Tell Me a Story" is with regard to stories and relativism. Postmodern/relativistic  thought often argues that "My story is my story; my truth is my truth; your truth is your truth and shouldn't judge my story."

I love what Taylor says about relativism: "Such an attitude encourages us to be spectators rather than characters. It cuts the link between my story and your story. Story rejects that severance. It recognizes that our stories are interwoven. We cannot live our story alone because we are characters in each other's stories. What you do is part of my story; what I do is part of yours. Such an awareness encourages shared understandings and shared commitments that are central to a meaningful contented life."

Encore Anxiety

Psychologists who study high-achievers across fields have a dysfunction they call "encore anxiety." Most high-achieving artists and professionals suffer from it.

In fields where a person is rewarded (either tangibly or intangibly) by their performance, high-performers quickly and easily begin to attach their identity to their performance. Why shouldn't they? Everyone else attaches their identity to their performance.

The result that these high-performing individuals feel like every "performance" has to be as good or better than the last.

This quarter has to show higher earnings than last quarter. The applause at the end of this performance should go as long or longer. Sales numbers should top last month's  numbers. The reviews in the paper should believe my last performance was my best performance. And yes, my sermon this Sunday must be more profound, creative, deep, life-transforming than last week's.

(Come to think of it, maybe that's why the altar calls were so dadgum long in the church where I grew up. The poor pastor was paralyzed by encore anxiety and couldn't cut off the 14th stanza of "Just as I Am" until he topped last week).

It's a trap. We know it's a trap. But we go for the bait. And we find ourselves anxious for the encore. Performing for the crowd. As if our identity depends on an encore.

Maybe that's why Paul uses the phrase "in Christ" or something similar 9 different times in Ephesians 1:1-14; to remind those of us prone to encore anxiety that our identity is found in our position "in Christ," not in our performance in a task.

Martha and The Good Samaritan

This past week I finished preaching a series in Luke 10:25-42 called "Mission: Next Door."

The story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42) doesn't normally get connected to the story about the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), which I think is a shame. If the story of Mary and Martha isn't connected to the Good Samaritan, it's a weird story to have sandwiched in between accounts of Jesus teaching His disciples what it looks like to follow Him.

But when you look at the two stories closely, I think you find that they are connected. Luke tells the story about Martha and Mary to illustrate the flip-side of what he illustrates in the story of the Good Samaritan.

The section starts with an expert in the Law and his description of the Great Commandment (to love the Lord God with all you are and to love your neighbor as yourself). But he's obviously a guy who isn't keeping the Great Commandment. He thinks he's loving the Lord His God, but knows there's a problem with loving his neighbor as himself. So, he asks Jesus to clarify; to narrow the focus of "neighbor" so the man can be sure to comply.

In response, Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan in which he specifically highlights two of the Jewish Elite who busily walked by a wounded man on their way to or from the Temple in Jerusalem. They puffed their chests out, no doubt thinking they were loving the Lord their God with all their heart. In reality, they were too holy to get messy and Jesus showed that their unwillingness to love their neighbor demonstrated they weren't really loving the Lord their God either. The Good Samaritan story illustrates for Jesus-followers what happens when we separated the command to love God from the command to love our neighbor.

The Martha and Mary story illustrates the flip side. Martha has sacrificed her entire day to prepare a meal for Jesus (and probably for the 84+ friends who were traveling with Him). She's so convinced she is loving her neighbor that she silently seethes at her sister who is wasting her time sitting at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:39). She is "pulled away by much serving." As Jesus responds to her (Luke 10:41-42) He reveals that she's worried about a lot of things, but isn't concerned with the one most important thing. Her service didn't flow from a pure love for God so when she was the only one loving her neighbor she decided the Lord must not even care (Luke 10:40b).

The Good Samaritan illustrates what happens when loving your God gets disconnected from loving your neighbor. The Martha and Mary story illustrates what happens when loving your neighbor gets disconnected from loving the Lord our God.

We have to have both, and both flow into one another. Love for God must propel us to love others, which must flow back into a love for God. Luke 10:25-42 reveals that if one is absent from the cycle, they're both absent from the cycle.

Less is More?

I've read Tim Stevens' blog for some time. I don't always agree with him (I don't always agree with myself), but find he often provides blogs that are thought provoking. He's gifted in an area I'm not (administration/executive pastoring), so I enjoy looking inside his brain.

Last week he had a post about a change in blogging philosophy that he's experimenting with. The post is worth reading, but in short, Tim is planning to post much longer posts with much less frequency. Rather than relying on RSS or Feedburner to drive people to his blog, he is using twitter to tweet topics when he posts in hopes that he'll drive interested readers to his blog. He's trying to post blog entries with the length of chapters in a book, in hopes that quality will trump quantity and increase his readership.

That may be how most of the world is reading blogs, but it certainly isn't how I read them. I much prefer a quick two or three paragraph blog to one that is going to take me a length of time to read. I like to expose myself to a lot of thinking, so I "follow" several blogs. I'd rather have a brief digest of what is on someone's radar than something of publishable quality. I prefer something more than a quippy tweet, but less than what I would expect to read in a book.

For me, the best blogs are the ones that make me think or challenge my thinking, but which can be read in a short amount of time. I don't like to invest a bunch of time on any one person's blog - to me the benefit of blogs is that you can get a quick glimpse into the thinking of an array of people without the same investment it would take me to read a chapter in all their books.

But, I may be the minority. What do the rest of you think?


Had a great conversation with one of our Elders the other day about a principle that drove his career in the marketplace that I think translates to leading a ministry as well. 

He said, for everything you do as an organization that is really, truly important, you need someone who wakes up in the morning only thinking of that one thing. 

It can be a staff member; it can be a volunteer; but if it's truly important, someone on your team needs to wake up in the morning thinking about that one thing and only that one thing. 

If theology is important, someone on your team needs to wake up in the morning thinking about theology and only theology. 

If external focus is important, someone on your team needs to wake up in the morning thinking about external focus and only external focus. 

If connecting people to ministry opportunities is truly important, someone needs to wake up in the morning thinking about how to connect people to ministry and nothing else. 

It works for small groups too. If you want your small group to be about spiritual growth, someone in your small group needs to wake up in the morning thinking about how to help your small group grow spiritually. 

You need champions for the important things. Otherwise, they'll get lost and distracted in the busyness and the process, and you'll never get around to what is really important. 

Lead Free

I had lunch last week with a guy who gave me some great advice he received from his dad.

"Lead Free."

Keep short accounts with people. Keep your integrity intact. Worship before you work so you can worship while you work. That way, you can lead free.

So much of what we do is a reaction to something else. When you eliminate the negative motivations for responding the wrong way, you free yourself to lead well. You're not encumbered by the things that constrain leaders and kill their leadership. You can lead free.

Good advice.