Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Recovering from Intellectual Flabbiness

Church planting is a lot of fun, but also a lot of hard work.  It is very easy to get wrapped up in doing things 'for' God and forfeit quality time for knowing God.  

It has been almost 2.5 years since I graduated from seminary, and for a season after that I needed a break from academic rigor, beyond sermon prep and devotions (QTs).  However, I've recently been convicted that I have allowed myself to become 'intellectually flabby' to an extent.

This is something that I take full responsibility for.  I have no one to blame but myself.  Sure, I could blame it on church planting, working several jobs, etc., but the reality is, I have allowed myself to be content with some time in the Word and that's about it.  While I know that I am not loved by God because of what I do, but because of what Christ has done, I still realize it is important for me to press in to know Him more.

Also, as some of you may know, I have a strong passion to reach men with the Gospel and to train them up to be "lion-hearted and lamb-like."  I started reflecting on what type of man I want our ministry to produce and then had to ask the hard question, "Am I becoming that man?"  Of course, we want to produce men who are like Jesus, that goes without saying.  However, I don't want to set the standard as being nice guys who are a mile-wide and an inch deep.

Last week I was privileged to sit in a small group with Tom Nelson, pastor of Denton Bible Church.  He had come down to speak to the Houston Church Planting Network and took time beforehand to meet with some pastors.  Tom has a strong track record of discipling men through his program called 'Young Guns' and really has a passion to make disciples.  He shared how important it is to continually cultivate ones heart as a pastor and as a disciple-maker.  Also, he talked about how he reads through the Bible each year by reading a chapter-a-day starting in Genesis, Psalms, and Matthew.  He reads in it, marks it up, and has given a lot of them away.

One of the main things that stood out to me was his focus on the Word, Systematic Theology, and Church History.  I was convicted that I had let myself become intellectually flabby and resolved to do something about this.  Here's what I am striving to do, at least during the week:

My ultimate goal is, starting in January, to get a few guys and meet with them Tuesday - Thursday each week from 6:00 am to 7:00 am going through the Word, Systematic Theology, and Church History.  I thought that I might want to 'get back in shape' before I started leading other men through this process.  I'm not sure if any men will sign up for this, but I figured that if that is ultimately qualities I want men to have (discipline, biblical fidelity, strong theology, and awareness of where we (the Church) have come from) then I might want to start living it as to not be a hypocrite.  Beyond that, I realized that while I was still faithful in reading my Bible, etc., I was not near as sharp as I had been.

I covet your prayers as I strive to develop these new habits.

What steps have you taken to keep your soul fed, your mind sharp, and your pursuit of Christ consistent?  Leave a comment and share.

Friday, September 23, 2011

29 Coffee Interview with CP4US.org

My good friend Dustin Neeley from cp4us.org interviewed me about 29 Coffee while we were at the Acts 29 Pastor's Retreat in Vail last June.  Check it out!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Rethinking Corporate Worship

Over the last several years, I have been thinking a lot about the modern 'worship movement' that is taking place in the Church today and the emphasis on personal worship. There is such a huge emphasis on worship style, methods, songs, etc. that we can quickly miss the One whom deserves our worship.

Furthermore, what has come of the corporate worship experience? If you think about it for a minute, you'd quickly realize that we bring a lot of people together to worship individually. Now, I know that people are encouraged to sing the same song, facing the same direction, and all, but is it just me or is there an increasing emphasis made on the experience of the individual rather than the glorification of Jesus? Plus, aren't we called to worship God as a people, not just as a person?

Shouldn't individual worship be defined as our whole life and not just an emotion (see Romans 12:1-2)? I'm not trying to be just another negative voice in the worship discussion. However, I am convicted that I have not been viewing the call to corporate worship appropriately. We need a little more of 'us and God' and a little less of 'me and God'. I think we've gotten pretty good at 'me and God'.

This trend also emphasizes the lack of community in the Church today. In my experience, there appears to be more authentic community being had at coffee shops and bars, than in the church. Why is that? Perhaps there is a connection between our view of worship and our view of community? The idea of community in the world is a group of people with common interests that derive benefit from one another. However, isn't there something more that Christ calls us to? For instance, aren't we to care for widows and orphans? What if that even means more than paying their light bills and feeding them? What if it means that we do life with them with the aim of encouraging one another to love and good deeds (see Hebrews 10)?  I'm not great at this, so this is just as much about me as anyone else.

The more I consider these things, the more I realize that we must return to a higher view of corporate worship. If you want to close your eyes and raise your hands, that is great, but don't do it at the expense of the community as a whole. I wonder how pleased God is when we are pouring everything we are into OUR worship, but ignore those in our midst who are suffering, hurting, or just weak in faith? That must be connected to loving our neighbors as ourselves in some way...

What are your thoughts about worship?

"Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord as commanded the blessing, life forevermore." - Psalm 133 (ESV)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

29 Coffee: Drink Coffee. Plant Churches.

Church planting is one of the greatest ways to evangelize an area, and by God’s grace we are seeing many new churches planted each year in the US. However, one of the common barriers to planting new churches is the lack of monetary support. Enter in 29 Coffee which was created to serve Acts 29 Church plants throughout the US by selling quality coffee and giving the net proceeds to church plants.
As an Acts 29 pastor myself, I know first hand how difficult it can be to raise the necessary support needed to plant a new church. I became aware of 29 Coffee in the fall of 2010 after searching for different avenues of fundraising available. The first time I visited the site, I thought it was a brilliant idea. After all, how many people do we know who drink coffee? How many churches do we know who serve coffee on a weekly basis? What would it look like if those in the Kingdom would be missional even through the coffee they buy?
If you stop for just a moment and think about the potential that this could have on church planting as a whole we all could make a difference just by purchasing our coffee from 29 Coffee. You see, for every $10 you spend on a bag of coffee, $5 goes towards church planting! For ever 5 lb bulk bag you buy, $10 goes to church planting. While those numbers might initially seem minimal, there is huge potential of what we could accomplish together.
We need your help! There are several ways that you, your family, and your church can get involved. First, you can connect with us on Twitter and Facebook. You can spread the words to your friends, family, churches, and online. You can purchase coffee at www.29coffee.com or even setup a monthly subscription. On average, a family. Goes through 2-3 bags of coffee per month, so our subscriptions are very convenient. You can begin brewing 29 Coffee at your church or organization. We would love to have your partnership as we work together go plant more churches for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
NOTE: I now serve as the National Director for 29 Coffee.  This article was originally written as a guest post for this blog.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Scan Directly to Evernote Without a Compatible Scanner

I know this post will be way out of order for my Evernote series, but I am way too excited to not share!

There is a way to utilize a 'non-supported' scanner to scan directly into Evernote on a Mac. I have a Neat Portable Scanner, and before today, I had to scan into the NeatWorks software, export as a PDF, and then add to Evernote. However, I found this on the Evernote blog and have tried it out.  It works!

The setup is quite simple1:

  1. Start ‘Image Capture’ – it is a free application that comes with OS X (/Applications/Image Capture)
  2. If your scanner is supported (and turned on) you will see a window similar to the one in the screenshot above
  3. Set the quality of the scan to either B/W or Color Photo (depending on what you are scanning)
  4. Give your scan a title
  5. Choose PNG, JPEG as the format. If you would rather scan to PDF, keep in mind that images in PDFs will not be recognized by our image recognition
  6. Select ‘Evernote’ as the Automatic Task – this is the key step in this process (NOTE: My 'Image Capture' did not have an option for 'Automatic Task', so I just selected Evernote as the 'Scan to'.)
  7. And click ‘Scan’ – that’s all

1 Here is the link to their blog post that I took this info from: CLICK HERE

If you are just getting started with Evernote, then I highly recommend you purchase Evernote Essentials to save you days of learning.  Buy it now, thank me later.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Evernote: Best App 2011

Until recently, I would have never thought that one application (app) could change how I do things so profoundly on my computer, iPhone, etc.  However, Evernote has proved to be, in many ways, the missing link to my quest for increased productivity.

For those that know me well, you know that I'm not naturally the most organized person.  However, in the last year or two, my life has demanded that I pull things together and learn to be more organized.  Having a desire to lead well, write well, and most importantly, pastor well, I have become dependent on technology to help me accomplish my goals.

So, I'm going to take the next several blog posts to share with you the various aspects of using Evernote to maximize my time, efforts, and ministry.

I'll start with this great tip.  Here's a fantastic eBook by Brett Kelly called Evernote Essentials that you need to get, read, and implement immediately.  Read now, thank me later.  Click here to purchase your copy.

I'm looking forward to sharing what I've learned!

What Apps have helped you become more productive?

Friday, May 13, 2011

I Want to MARRY Hyperbolic Statements

Jesus utilized hyperboles to emphasize a point.  I love hyperbole.

Dictionary.com defines Hyperbole as:
  1. obvious and intentional exaggeration;
  2. an extravagant statement or figure of speech not intended to be taken literally
Last night, I went to the local store (think large, massive, discounted, and from Arkansas) to get a few things for my lovely wife.  She wanted me to get one of those hard covered ice pack things to put into a lunch bag.  I figured it would be in all of the kitchen stuff.  After wondering around, dressed like a person of the store, I could not find one anywhere.  I texted my wife stating, "I'm going to burn this place down!"  She told me to ask someone, but the only people I could find were stock people pushing large amounts of discounted goods down the aisles.  Finally I found a lady, she looked at me like I was an idiot (maybe because of how I was dressed),  and she told me that the ice packs were in Sporting Goods.  Duh!...?

So, as you can see, I was not literally going to be an arsonist, but was using one of our favorite hyperbolic phrases.  

What hyperbolic phrases do you use ALL of the time?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mission Possible: Bible Reading

I'm a pastor, so that means I'm paid to read the Bible, right?  Well, sort of, but more importantly, I'm a follower of Jesus, so I need to read the Bible in order to know Him more.  I know and believe this, but to be honest, there are seasons where my Bible reading isn't as consistent as I'd like.  I know.  Pray for me.

Followers of Jesus have the privilege of knowing God (John 17:3).  God gives us His Spirit to illuminate His Word.  We know this, but why don't we ever act on this knowledge?  Laziness? Apathy?  Fatigue?

Whatever the reason, it is important that we realize our need for God and for His Word and we cultivate a daily rhythm that allows us time to hear from Him through prayer and through His Word.

One of the ways I was encouraged to get into the Word was to read through the New Testament in a month.  This plan is a great way to get the big picture of the New Testament in the span of one month.  Several months ago I began the suggested bible reading plan in Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney.  It's quite simple really.  I read 2 chapters from the Pentateuch, History, Poetry, Prophets, and NT.  It's been a great way to get the full picture of the story of Scripture.

What Bible reading plans have you found to be helpful?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Broken Systems

A few weeks ago I walked into the school where our church meets and things were slightly chaotic.  This is to be expected in a church plant, for sure.  However, things had been going so well, that I thought that after three weeks we were in the clear.  Wrong.

In leadership, the breakdown is almost always at the top, and this was true in this instance.  I had not taken into consideration the importance of creating systems for various aspects of setting up and tearing down a mobile church.

I'm not much of a technical/systems guy, but it quickly became apparent that I had to learn.  I sent an email to my good friend, Glenn Smith, who quickly referred me to the book System Busters by Phillip Paul Beyer.  This book is an easy read and has already helped me tremendously to begin the process of putting together systems that will help our church to function smoother.  We have a long way to go, but it will definitely be worth it!

I encourage all leaders to take the time to invest in working on your organization and not just in it.

What one area of 'chaos' is currently plaguing your church, organization, business, or family?

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Tri-Vocational Pastor

Church planting is a risky endeavor that requires a lot of faith, tough skin, and perseverance.  Unless you are independently wealthy, the issue of providing for your family is always at the forefront of living out this calling.  Since we began the process of planting C3Magnolia (@c3magnolia), I've had several discussions with other planters, supporters, and friends about how I plan on providing for my family.

Please note that what I have been doing and what will be shared here is not intended to be prescriptive, but descriptive of how we've been 'making it' so far.

When we began this adventure, I was serving as an elder at Christ Church in Brenham, TX, building websites through my media company, publishing books through my publishing company, and traveling and speaking.  By God's grace, even in the midst of the recession, we were able to make ends meet, but there was very little margin of time to work on planting the new church.

In May 2010, I was assessed by a group of peers for the Acts 29 Network to be a member of this great church planting organization.  During my assessment, I was confronted by the pastors about being so busy.  This was hard to hear, especially since I felt that the multiple projects I was involved in were necessary for the survival of my family.  However, one of the conditions following my assessment was to work towards getting out of day-to-day operations of all of my interests so that I can focus primarily on planting a new church.  This was hard to hear, but it really was the best recommendation.

Since that time, I have been working diligently on planting the church, and working on my other companies to transition myself out of the daily operations.  One of the best decisions I have made was to bring on a partner in my media company and publishing company.  Together, he and I have hired an administrative assistant who has done a phenomenal job, and my partner, Brad, has assumed the reigns of the daily management of the companies.

The church has been growing steadily, and I am almost making as much as a first-year teacher (in 1996), so I am still working some outside of the church.  Most of my outside time is spent traveling and speaking, helping behind the scenes at the publishing company, and doing some very select consulting with a handful of clients.

Our hope and prayer is that by September I will be able to be full-time at the church.  I'm already serving full-time, but not compensated as such.  Until then, I will be focusing primarily on the church, speaking at 3 summer camps, and doing some side projects.  It is my responsibility to love, lead, and provide for my family, and by God's grace I have been able to do so.

What questions can I answer for you?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mission: Suburbs

I originally wrote this blog post for one of our sponsoring churches, New Life Baptist Church in College Station, TX.

The Great Com­mis­sion that Jesus gave to His dis­ci­ples is often quoted when dis­cussing world mis­sions. Jesus sends His dis­ci­ples out to make more disciples,

All author­ity in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go there­fore and make dis­ci­ples of all nations, bap­tiz­ing them in the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, teach­ing them to observe all that I have com­manded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age. – Matthew 28:18–20 (ESV)

I remember sitting in a seminary class and the professor began talking to us about the Greek and the idea that the word ‘Go’ in the Great Commission could really be read, “As you go,” or “While you are going.” This opened my eyes to an understanding that Jesus command doesn’t only apply to world missions, but to living our lives as missionaries. As we go, we make disciples.

This is an eye opening truth that brings some meaning and purpose to those of us who reside in the security of suburbia. This is not written as an opinionated diatribe towards those who live in the suburbs. I live in and minister to people of the suburbs. It’s a reminder that all peoples matter to God, and that you don’t have to go to obscure lands to make disciples. To be honest, if you are not an effective missionary where you are, as you go, then what makes you think you have any authority serving as a missionary elsewhere?

To serve as a missionary in a suburban context has several inherent complications. People in suburbia enjoy their individuality and privacy. They are busy and often living beyond their means. We need to realize that we have a mission at hand, not in a far off land, but down our street, in our schools, in the stores and restaurants we patronize. There are people all around us who are separated from God and need to know and love Jesus.

I often receive questions on how to be a missionary in a suburban context. Here are a few things to keep in mind as we consider our calling to make disciples as we go:

1. People Matter to God: This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s good to remember that God has sent us into the world as His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:18-20) to bring the message of reconciliation. We are not sent to only reach those like us, but to minister to all whom we come in contact with.

2. Places of Impact: We are creatures of habit. We all have places that we frequently go to eat, shop, and play. Remember, the people who work in these places are often dismissed, but this is a great place to start building intentional relationships. Not only is it important to minister to them, but also they can connect us with other regulars.

3. Go Out in Pairs: The mission we are on is a communal mission and an individual one. We are not just inviting people to ‘church’, but calling people out of darkness into light, from death to life, from isolation to biblical community. Jesus sent His disciples 2-by-2, so we should be intentional about being on mission together. Examples of this include BBQ’s, play dates, library activities with kids, work out spots, etc.

4. The Golden Rule: Remember what it was like to be lost? If not, then you should begin there. Isolation from God may give the appearance of freedom, but ultimately leads to death. We need to do for others what we would hope they would do for us, especially when it comes to sharing spiritual truths.

5. People are NOT Projects: One of the most arrogant things we can do is to treat people as projects. People do not need to be ‘worked on’; they need to be loved on. What are ways that you can serve them, speak to them, and treat them that in a way that communicates your love for Jesus and your love for them?

6. It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint: We never know when God is going to regenerate a person. That’s not our business. What we are to be about is making disciples as we go. Befriending people, serving people, and pointing people to Jesus with our lives and our words. This could take years in some instances. Perhaps it is just as much about your sanctification as it is about their salvation.

7. Jesus Saves People / You Are the Mid-Wife: I’m often stunned how bad theology leads to ineffective evangelistic lifestyles. People get paralyzed when they believe that they are the one’s to save people. What I mean is, when people believe that it’s up to them to lead a person to the Lord, they get stuck with fear, or prideful with their ‘success.’ Keeping in mind that God is the sovereign King who is able to save even the hardest of people, should give us rest in His provision. Our calling is to be faithful to the Gospel, to share the faith, and to serve as midwives to those who are born again.

While these points are valid regardless of your context, it is important to note that while we are in a unique context living in suburbia, we are not relieved from the commission at hand. We must be faithful to present Jesus in our lives, words, families, and deeds. We live in a fallen world that is in great need of redemption and restoration. The question is whether you will make disicples as you go, or will you wait for other, more professional people, to do it for you? Let’s not fall into the suburban stereotype of outsourcing local missions, rather, let us invest into our communities, connect with our neighbors, and continually strive to be intentional about seeing lives transformed by Jesus.

Monday, March 14, 2011

On the Cusp of a New Season

This upcoming Sunday we will have our 3rd and final Preview Service for Christ Community Church.  Not only will this be our final preview service, but it will also serve as a soft-launch since we will begin meeting weekly from this week forward on Sunday mornings.

As I reflect over this past year of meeting people, gathering people, losing people, gathering more people, and seeing lives transformed by the Gospel, I am overwhelmed by gratitude to God, to Steph, to Braelyn, and to those who have supported us through thick in thin.  Thank you, all!

We are so grateful to God for this opportunity to serve Him in this capacity and we look forward to this new season!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Suffer Well or Grumble

Cheesy Picture Intentional
I thought my fever was gone and I was on the mend.  I know better than that, but what's wrong with being hopeful?  As I laid in bed, wearing pajama pants, socks, t-shirt, and a fleece, while underneath a sheet, blanket, and comforter shivering, I was reminded that I have a choice, even when I suffer of who or what I will worship.

This point was even more poignant because my little girl, B, has a low fever as well, so we were sitting in the 'sick bed' together.  Not to be so self-centered as to think that it's all up to me for my daughter to fall in love with Jesus, but I can set an example for her in all aspects of my life, including suffering.

The 'self-centered' caveat may not even be necessary, but I do have a fever and I don't want to miscommunicate.

Rumor has it, men are wussies when they are sick (True).  Also, as I mentioned in my previous blog, we have our next preview service for our church plant this Sunday.  I have a choice to either shake my fist at the Heavens (misplaced angst) or rest in the sovereignty and goodness of God.  After all, I preach of a big God who is in control, so it would be prudent to live in view of that, would it not?

To be honest, I have been tempted a few times to grumble about being sick, and may have once or twice (or 12 times), but I am aware that God is in control and I can rest in Him.

Here are a few things I have learned:

  1. God is the One who will build His church.  There is only so much that I can do to gather people, but at the end of the day, it is His.
  2. My wife and daughter, whom I have the great privilege and responsibility to lead, get to see up close whether or not I live what I say what I believe and what I teach others. (Thank God they are super gracious!)
  3. "God uses all things for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose." - Romans 8:28 -  While I may not see it at this moment, I am very hopeful.
Thanks for all of the prayers and encouragement.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

No me gusta la gripe... (FLU)...

I woke up in the middle of the night with chills.  Thinking that it was just because another cold front was heading in, I didn't put much concern into it.  However, when I woke up in the morning, I felt sick.  I took my temperature and it came back at 101˚!

Immediately flashbacks started flooding into my head of all the people coughing in the airplane this weekend.  I remember one lady was covering her mouth in such a way that it seemed like she was trying to project her cough for the world to share.  I'm sure it's just my imagination... Right?

I went to one of those clinics in the grocery store, had them stick this thing up my nose, and almost immediately they let me know I had the flu.  Bummer.  They told me that I was lucky that I had caught it early and that with some meds I should be feeling better in a few days.  This is good news since Christ Community Church of Magnolia has our second preview service this upcoming Sunday!

I'm seriously considering wearing a SARs mask (like the one above, gotta be stylish, no?) and carrying cans of Lysol with me.  Or, maybe I should just plan on getting a flu shot.  Either way, no me gusta la gripe...

Monday, February 07, 2011

There and Back

This past weekend I had the privilege of preaching at Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, FL. I have always enjoyed my time with the leaders and students from this church and was greatly looking forward to being with them again. However, on Friday morning, I wasn't sure that I was going to make it there.

At the end of last week, Houston experienced a serious(?) ice storm. Now, Houstonians have a rough enough time driving in rain, so you can imagine their struggle when ice forms. My flight was scheduled to leave Friday at 12:05 pm from Houston's Hobby Airport (HOU), so I left extra early in order to make sure I had adequate time to get there.

My wife, Steph, was a bit worried about me driving through the ice, but I told her that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was compelling me to at least try and make my flight. I assured her that I would take my time and be extra careful.

On my way there, I was shocked by how many accidents I saw.  It seems that the 'ol boys down here in H-Town got a bit impatient and decided to slam on their brakes when things got slick.  Whoops...

After taking the scenic route through South Houston and over the ship channel, I finally made it to the airport and was overwhelmed by how long the lines were.  By the time I made it to the counter my flight was scheduled to have already left.  So, they took my suitcase and put a 'Transfer' tag on it.

I then proceeded to enter into the 45 minute+ security line and slowly made my way through the maze.  Security was a breeze once I got there and I got through without a hitch.

As I was going to the desk to find a later flight, I noticed the door was still open for the gate I was supposed to leave from almost an hour earlier!  I went up to the guy and said, "Is the flight to Tampa still here?"  He answered that it was and I replied, "I want to go to there." (or something like that).  As I was going over to the desk to get my original boarding pass printed up, I was allowed to cut in front of a huge line (made tons of fans) and got my boarding pass.

Once on the plane, I felt like I was re-enacting the school bus scene in Forest Gump with all of the boys and girls having middle seats open shifting their weight in such a way that let me know that they were not going to let me sit without a fight.

Finally, I made it to the back of the plane, and had no other choice but to sit between two, although I'm sure nice, but large folks.  I'm no lightweight myself, so as I was getting in, I assured them that I could make myself super narrow.  Apparently they liked the idea and took me up on the offer.  After getting settled (squished) in, they got on the intercom to inform us that our pilot was running late due to traffic (later than I was!?) and that we would be leaving in a few moments.  Phew!

I landed in Tampa, picked up my rental car, and then headed to the hotel.  I didn't have a change of clothes, but fortunately, they had an event T-shirt that I could wear.  So, I donned the new shirt, went on stage, and preached.  Afterwards I was informed by my friend that when she went to the airport that they still had not located my luggage...  Grr...

So, I did what anyone would do, and went to Target™ and bought a new shirt, socks, under-roos, etc.   Later that night I received a phone call from the airline that my bag had arrived and that they would be delivering it overnight.

Overall, it wasn't that horrible, but definitely a bit inconvenient.  The ministry event, however, went very well and I pray that as the seeds are watered, that the students and leaders will bear much fruit and that God will bring the harvest.