Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ministry Flows Out of Relationships

A great book on leadership is Reviewing Leadership: A Chirstian evaluation of current approaches by Robert Banks and Bernice M. Ledbetter. This is from the excellent "Engaging Culture" series from Baker Academic.

I like this quote from the authors:

"Emerging leaders like people because they thrive on relationships. The presence of people energizes rather than drains them . . . Fellowship and minstry flows from relationships . . . Consequently, leaders must embody the values they would encourage in others."

Ministry flows from relationships. I so much believe in this, which is why I try to spend time with both Christians and non-Christians in relational type settings. Church leaders often spend far too much time in meetings, rather than being out amongst people. How many many meetings do we find in Scripture? Not many. But we do see Jesus eating with people, spending time with them, and sharing life with them.

Link to Amazon for this book:

Do you feel that you know your leader or the people whom you are seeking to lead?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Reaching Out is a Walk in the Park

I didn't really have much of a day off today, despite efforts otherwise. However, I did break away for a couple of hours with Becki and Emily to a park nearby the house. While there I met a young family named Matt and Courtney who have a son that is 15 months old. He is a music producer who also tours with a band. Anyway, when he asked what I did and found out that I was a minister, he started asking about High Pointe. He was interested in a non-denominational church, which we are, and in short term mission trips. I told him that on Sunday we are sending off a short term mission group with Let's Start Talking to St. Petersburg, as well as praying for the Hispanic church plant that officially launches that day. Now what are the odds that this would happen? God is amazing.

When I explained where the church building is, the Courtney asked, Are you the church that has the consignment shop? (Yes.) I know right where that is! I was just in there two weeks ago. I explained that we had partnered with a consignment shop seller who wanted to give any unsold items to a church that would give it away to needy people in the community. I explained that this is exactly what we are doing, giving away food and clothing to those who are in need.

My friends, we are called by God to be a church that is a light to the world, that feeds the hungry and clothes the naked. That goes into all the world. That sacrifices time and money to further the good news of Jesus Christ. When we do this, people take note. They want to be a part.

In order to reach out to people, we must go to where they are. Parks are a great place for families to meet other families. I talked today with one of our visitors, Art, who works at Raytheon and holds a Bible study at his workplace. Coffee shops, bars, work out centers, community centers--these are all places where people are. This is where the church must go, and serve those around us and share the good news with everyone. And along the way, we will find more and more people like Matt and Courtney who want to join us in this mission of God.

Want to reach out? Take a walk in the park. Remember, God has already gone before you, preparing the way.

What kind of encounters have you had with people that seem to be "G0d-incidences," not mere coincidences?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Why Christianity Needs to Be More Like Seinfeld

The motto of Boomers (when they were younger) was "never trust anyone over 30." For my generation, it might be "never trust anyone who isn't a Seinfeld fan."

There is a reason why this sitcom has been voted the best of all time. The casting was great, the comedic timing was perfect, and the writing was creative and original. But the reason it so resonated with people was that, despite its characteristic New York flavor, it was about real life. Hardly a day passes that I do not find myself in a "Seinfeld moment." The fans of the show know what I mean.

The churches, preachers, shepherds, and Christian books which are resonating with people today are a lot like Seinfeld--they illuminate real life and daily Christian living. I'll spare you the contrast between modernism and postmodernism. But most people don't have the time or the interest in high brow theories. That is not to say that "theories" are not important to learn, but simply that the interest level and need for daily Christian living is great. People need to know how to sense God's presence Monday-Saturday, how to be a Christian at work, how to make love to their wives (read Song of Solomon! and note the success of Rob Bell's book, Sex God), and a whole lot of other things.

I love theology and concepts. Our theology must drive our ministry. However, most people do not live there. So my suggestion to churches and church leaders as I give missional church seminars is to give members practical ways to be missional. How to bless people's lives. Some weekly spiritual practices. People are desperate for this, and they will often respond enthusiasticly.

Did you like Seinfeld--why or why not? Does Christianity need to become more practical?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Our Little Emily

Becki took some great pictures of Emily. Here is one of them. Little Emily has had a bit of a tough time adjusting to the move. But her normal self is just bubbly--she is a little Becki.

Today Emily drew a picture which she said was of me and mama (Becki). But I noticed that there was only one person drawn on the paper. So I asked here where I was. She giggled and said, "There wasn't enough room." Then she drew in a picture of me as a little baby.

We are truly blessed to have two beautiful daughters!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sunday Reflections--Giving Food to the Hungry

On Sunday, I spoke on how we transform the world. Rather than depending upon laws, Christians are called to reach the world by being salt and light. That is, we are called to do good deeds, actively serving people, so that the world may praise the Father in heaven. This is something we are to do together as a church, as well as in our personal lives.

As I spoke on blessing people in our daily lives, I knew that there were stories out there of people in our congregation who blessed people this week. Several people shared how they had blessed someone, and it was if a "light" came on. You mean this is ministry? Absolutely.

After the sermon, there was a woman who came back to the offices who wanted financial help. Hmm . . . I had just spoke on being this kind of church . . . So we prayed, I took her to Wal-Mart to buy her some food, and then paid for a night of her hotel. These situations pose a dilemma for me. This was someone whom I had been warned had regularly come for help in the past, and might not be interested in changing her situation. Plus she was a bit pushy, saying over and over again that God had told her that she was being used to test churches. And maybe she is.

I know the gospels, and remember that Jesus said to give to those who ask for something from you. Then Paul says that those who do not work will not eat. We don't want to enable, and yet we don't want to neglect or fail to show God's love.

Should we help people, no questions asked? Or should we be careful not to enable or perpetuate a non-productive lifestyle?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Eating Together Builds Relationships--and can be missional

This week, I have had a breakfast, lunch, or dinner appointment every day, some twice a day. On Friday, I am booked for three meals. Someone suggested to me today that I might need to start watching my waistline.

Why so many meals? Because that is how you build relationships--through food. Food draws people together, and it generates conversation. You want to encourage fellowship? Bring on the potato salad! You want to kill fellowship? Drop the food and drink from any event or gathering. Sine I am trying to get to know different members and build relationships, this means that I am eating a lot.

Sharing meals with others (eating together) is a common pasttime of preachers. It was also a common pasttime of Jesus. In his book, Come to the Table, John Mark Hicks highlights the many meals that Jesus shared with others. He points out that food was a major part of Jesus' ministry. Note the passages that he lists from the book of Luke in which Jesus shares a meal with others, along with the purpose that he assigns to each meal.

5:27-32 Banquet at Levi's house - Evangelism
7:36-50 Dinner at Simon the Pharisee's house - Reconciliation
9:10-17 Breaking bread at Bethsaida - Mission/service
10:38-42 Hospitality at the home of Martha - Discipleship
11:37-54 Noon meal at a Pharisee's house - Inner life
14:1-24 Sabbath dinner at a Pharisee's house - Invitation to all
19:1-10 Hospitality at the house of Zacchaeus - Salvation for all
22:7-38 Last Supper--a Passover meal - Thanksgiving
24:13-35 Breaking bread at Emmaus - The Living One
24:36-53 Supper with the disciples - The missionary community

When we share meals with non-Christians, these meals become a missional activity. One of the missional practices that I seek to have (but do not always succeed at) is to share 3 meals a week with others--1 a Christian, 1 a non-Christian, and 1 can be either. Imagine if a whole church were doing this! When we share meals with non-Christians, we tell them that we care about them and that we take them where they are. These meals open up conversations about real life, God, and our faith. Then when the church does have an event, the church can invite friends whom we have eaten with, not total strangers.

How often do you share meals with other Christians? How about non-Christians? What would happen if we all ate with both of these groups each week?

Monday, April 14, 2008

You get what you pay for--should churches charge for events?

I read an interesting article today on the psychology of price. One of the points of the article is that people often instinctively believe that higher priced items are better in quality. They also often will ignore or undervalue things that are free. See
On the second page of the article he indicates that churches would be better to "charge" for outreach events, even some nominal fee. Otherwise, people will ignore the event because it will be perceived to not be of much worth. On many church related things, this has been my experience as well. People are more likely to come to a marriage seminar or financial peace seminar if they have to pay a registration fee than if they do not. People value the Strengths Finder assessment when they have to pay for the book, even if at a reduced cost. Churches will value an outreach seminar more if they have to pay for it. We have a "free concert" for a Russian singing group on Sunday night at High Pointe. In retrospect, we probably would have more people come from the community if we had charged some kind of small admission fee.
This is a delicate balance for churches to walk. If a church overcharges, they will be viewed as being after people's money. But if they charge something reasonable, ironically, more people will usually come and more people will be reached.
Why do we place a higher value on expense things?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

generational differences - why blogging has typos and emails can be in lower case

since we have a lot of people who are new to blogs who have joined us lately (some really hip older people) i thought that i would explain the nature of blogging

you see in blogging, it is important to blog nearly every day

this leads the blogger to write at unexpected times, in short snatches of time wherever they may be found

because of this blogging is meant to be a bit raw not an essay

so you will often find in blogs ttypos and spelling mstakes and runon thoughts

for those of you who get my blog by email, you get it raw and the first draft. but i will often go back and correct some mistakes that are glaring because i was a senior in college when al gore invented the internet. if i had grown up later though i not care i suppose

you can also find a lot of email today without capitalization. i remember first noting this in one of brian mclaren's books in which he printed in his book actual email correspondence with young adults, and they were lower case and had some typos i thought, what is this? this movement has only increased with the advent of texting

okay if this style of writing has bugged you then you are probably not a millenial you are a gen xer like me or above

after this i will probably continue to write with capitalization though if i start submitting my blog articles through my blackberry then i don't know putting in those caps on those messages is rather annoying

what do you think of the new styles of writing? is it more important to communicate quickly and on the fly and therefore have more communication, or is it better to have less and have it checked and edited before it is sent out?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Spiritual Gifts Assessments Beginning at High Pointe

Last night Becki and I went to a dinner party with two young couples and their families, Chris and Christy, and Kevin and Meriann. We had a great time. Our kids played together, we shared some good laughs, and we talked about the church. There used to be a Wednesday night meal at High Pointe, which really helped young families come on Wed. Going on Wed., after a long commute and with young children, is really difficult. Plus, they liked being able to sit down and fellowship with people of different generations and people they would not normally eat with, like elders; however, apparently there was no who could take up this ministry once those who began it were ready to pass it on.

My ears picked up at this for lots of reasons. First, there is a real need for intergenerational ministry at High Pointe. Currently, everything is segmented by age groups (Bible classes, small groups), and somewhere in the church life there needs to be a mixing of ages. Second, High Pointe needs a church-wide evangelistic/follow-up ministry such as Monday Night for the Master (MNFTM). MNFTM has a central meal, and then the church goes out and visits people, writes cards to seekers and those who are hurting, prays for the lost, etc. The meal is essential to this success, and it sounds like there would be support for something like this again. Third, since no one could be found to continue the meal ministry, it was again made clear that there is a great need for Strenngths and Spiritual gifts discovery at High Pointe.

Aftering talking, our new friends indicated that they were excited about the Spiritual gifts ministry. They want to serve, and want and need some help in discovering how they can best serve. All four said that they wanted to go through the Strengths and Spiritual gifts assessment. The people here are hungry for this discovery. At a women's retreat, one of the women from the search team talked about the need for Christians to discover their gifts. I am excited about starting these assessments with members, staff, and ministers. This will help me know how to better know people and put together ministry teams, as well as hopefully help members serve and reach out. I am excited about beginning this, and so apparently are others.

As I go through these assessments, I will have to be looking for other equippers--people who can quickly catch on and begin assessing others. For some research on how Spiritual gifts discovery and use helps people serve, reach out, and discover God, see

Do you think that most people know their strengths and Spiritual gifts or need help in discovering this?

Our New Web Site is Reaching a Lot of People

I know that most of this online community has probably seen the website of the new church that I'm at, the High Pointe Church of Christ. But just in case you had not, here is our web address:

We are getting about 80 unique visitors a day, which translates to about 2400 unique visitors a month. And we are just now starting to show up in the search engines on Google. Without personal contact, technology is limited in value. But as a point of first contact, the power of the Internet is tremendous. As the site is established, takes on more great content, and is promoted by our members, we will see this traffic increase even more.

No one under age 40, when looking for a church home, goes to the yellow pages. They all do web searches. And if the site is bad, many will rule out this church automatically. Why? Because a church without a good web site--such a vital part of today's culture--shows that it does not care about nor understand the world in which we now live, particularly in regards to young people. And this is increasingly applying towards older people too, as they become more familiar with this technology. A great number of our registered users on our website are older, which is great.

Today I met Laura, a woman who has a consignment sale at the church and then donates the remaining clothes to our church's clothes closet. She said that she looked at the site, and loved all of its "bells and whistles." She said that if she didn't live in Denton, she would go hear. Of course, she says this not just because of the site, but because of the wonderful people here. She just bragged about them, to which I heartily agreed! So technology alone will not reach anyone, but it can be a powerful tool to help introduce people to a loving church and the people of God.

What features do you think most people who are looking for a church are drawn to and help them want to visit? What would you look for in a site if moving into an area or searching?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The great need for equipping, especially in ministers

The longer I am in ministry, the more I am convinced of the absolute necessity of equipping Christians for ministry. I just came from giving a missional church seminar in the town of Odessa, Missouri. It was clear that the church was made up of great hearts, and they really want to reach out. They simply haven't really fully known how to do this. The same is true at High Pointe. The people here have great hearts--they simply need equipping, training, and encouragment.

This equipping and training is the role of church leaders. Paul says that God gives"gifts" to the church such as evangelists, shepherds, and teachers to equip people for service (Eph. 4:11). While this is important in smaller congregations, it is probably even more essential in a large congregation. For example, I bemoan the fact that in a congregation the size of High Pointe, I cannot greet every visitor that comes through the doors. While I can reach a greater number of people through preaching and teaching, proportionally, on a relational level, I am spread three times as thin as I was at Liberty because the church here is nearly three times larger.

During my trip to KC, I got to see Matt and Kevin, two good friends from Liberty. When I was a minister there, I spent time with these guys--going to eat, going to civic clubs together, working on various projects. They are both on the outreach team now at Liberty, and are continuing much of the work there. They both came out to the missional church seminar, and we crammed in a bit more personal training as well. Equipping involves both strengths and Spiritual gifts assessments, as well as personal time with future leaders.

All Christian leaders need to be involved in equipping. In regards to paid ministers, I once had a professor descibe it this way. There are three tiers of people that you can hire.
  • 1st Tier - You can hire someone to do a job. So you pay someone to run a ministry, like youth. This position is then limited by what one person can do.
  • 2nd Tier - You can hire someone to do a job and equip others to do this job as well. So you hire someone to do youth ministry, who also can build up other youth-type leaders.
  • 3rd Tier - You can hire somone to do a job and to equip people who can equip others (equip the equippers). In this case, there is a tremendous multipying affect.

In a large church especially, it is essential to hire the third tier kind of person.

Have you ever had a church seek to equip you on a personal level?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Sunday and Monday Reflections

On Sunday, I spoke about how we must not be a worldly church; instead, we must be a Christ-shaped church. The worldly church judges success in worldly terms--size, budgets, and facilities. The Christ shaped church judges success in terms of lost people who are reached, transformation of people's lives, and service to the community. The temptation that Jesus faced from Satan was to use his power and resources to serve himself. This is the same temptation that the church faces--to serve itself, to devote its resources to itself, rather than the lost.

What I want to head off is the problem that many large churches have in fast-growing areas--being satisfied with transfer and demographic growth, rather than evangelistic growth. Being satisfied with being the biggest church, rather than the most servant-oriented church. This is dangerous waters in Texas, where size is the measure of greatness! However, I was so glad to have this message well received from a wide range of ages. In speaking of how the church is called to be selfless and reach out, one member said, "If this represents what this church is about, then I am on board." In preaching a counter-cultural sermon such as this, it is good to not have this message affirmed and see that people want to be a part of a servant-oriented church.

After Sunday morning, my new friend Travis took me to the airport (a big step in a male relationship, as Seinfeld fans know). I flew to Kansas City to speak at an area-wide church unity gathering called Heartland. The message was about seeking and saving the lost. There was a blending of black and white churches, which was wonderful. (And encouraging for a preacher, as you get a lot of hearty amens!) A large group from the Liberty church came out, and I got to see many of our dear friends. I really got a wonderful sense of God's blessing, knowing that we have great friends all across the US.

Monday night I gave the first half of the missional church seminar at the Odessa Church of Christ. Odessa is a town of 5000 just outside of the KC metroplex ring. Most churches that I have given this seminar for have been suburban. I was glad to see so many turn out. I was touched by the hearts of the people there and their receptivity. Many of these concepts are challenging requiring a rethinking of the central place of mission in the church and new ways of reaching out. And yet, so many older people also affirmed these thoughts. This was just great to see.

Well, I have too many things to get done during my short time here. So I must run.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

My Upcoming Speaking Engagement and Seminar

On Sunday after morning worship, I'll be headed to the airport to fly back to Kansas City. Tonight I'll be speaking at an area-wide assembly called "Heartland." Then I'll be giving a Missional Church seminar at the Odessa Church of Christ. See for the seminar sessions. I'll try to keep up the blog during the trip and keep you posted, but it may get busy.

I really love helping churches reach out, so these seminars are very fulfilling. The only thing that I have to watch is being away from my family. Check with you guys soon!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

How Selfish Are We?

I came across a good article this week on being selfish/selfless. Check out As the author makes clear, it really is hard to have selfless motives.

Why are we so easily self-centered?

Friday, April 04, 2008

People are very friendly in Texas

I've always know it, but it has been some time since I've lived here--people are friendly in Texas. I am amazed at how polite people are about letting others in a lane while driving. Three lanes of traffic will leave open a wide gap when stopped at a light to allow anyone who might want to cross get through to a store or exit. It really is rare compared to the rest of the world.

What makes Texans--and people in the South--so friendly?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The word is getting out about High Pointe

I just spoke with our real estate agent here, Barb. She is a great agent who is a lot of fun. Anyway, she said that she had a conversation with a young couple who was looking to sell their home. It had has a big game room and might be close to the type of floor plan we are looking for. Well, she told them that it was a house that she would like to look at because she had a client who was a preacher who was looking for that type of home. When she mentioned that it was the High Pointe Church of Christ with a new preacher, they said, "We were planning on visiting that church this weekend and checking it out."

God is at work! Thank you to all who have talked with their friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers. May be show those who come our way love, kindness, and a church that seeks to serve the community.

What do you think of this story?

Rethinking everything to emphasize our mission

In a recent speech, presidential John McCain spoke of the need to rethink how the US responds to the world.

"We must rethink, renew and rebuild the structure and mission of our military; the capabilities of our intelligence and law enforcement agencies; the purposes of our alliances, the reach and scope of our diplomacy" against the threat, he says.

Any time I hear the word "mission," I of course think about the church. So what if we took McCain's statement, and changed it to apply to the church. It would read something like this:

"We must rethink, renew and rebuild the structure and mission of [the church]; the capabilities of our [leaders]; the purposes of our [relationships], the reach and scope of our [love and care]."

The church's mission must be what gets first priority. It must be constantly emphasized in sermons, classes, bulletins, announcements, small groups, personal conversations, print media, and the web. The church's structure must emphasize the mission, which leads to critical questions. How does the church spend its time? Do the church's weekly meetings and monthly calendar place a priority on mission--or are we just a worship and Bible study club that talks about mission but never finds time for it?

What about our leaders? Are they simply care-takers and managers? Or are they moving the church towards mission? Are they equipping people to serve God and others in their daily lives?

What about our relationships? Are our lives consumed with work, or are we building friendships with churched and non-churched people? To whom are we showing love and care--just our church friends, or the world? Jesus says even pagans love those who love them. We are called to be like Christ and love the world.

If we are serious about our mission, we must rethink everything.

What aspects of church and personal life do we need to re-think in order to prioritize our mission to reach the world? What is the toughest thing to change?