Christ, Cause, and Community

There’s a lot of good, thought-provoking stuff in Dave Gibbons’s book, The Monkey and the Fish (Liquid Leadership for a Third-Culture Church). Here’s an example:

For a long time now, churches have approached ministry and spiritual development as a linear progression. You accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and then you proceed down a well-defined path into the deeper truths of the faith....But we have to understand that this Western, sequential, how-to approach has not resonated in much of the world. And it’s not going to....It also doesn’t find a receptive audience with most people in post-Boomer generations....

Many people today....enter a relationship with Jesus through involvement in a cause or doing a good deed. They have no interest in “accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior,” but they want to be engaged in a worthwhile endeavor. That’s likely to be their most effective introduction to Jesus and the gospel. So in today’s culture, a person’s religious conversion is better viewed as a dynamic, organic, messy journey--complete with detours and dead ends and back alleys and U-turns---than as a moment that triggers a series of key decisions.

The simple model of ministry that enfolds these principles is what we’re calling the rhythms model. In this model, you organize ministry around three intersecting spheres---Christ, cause, and community.

Christ, cause, and community. At Cobblestone, we’ve adopted a strategy, an emphasis we call “Seek, Share, Serve,” defining the three things we do as Christ-followers: seek God in worship, share our lives in Journey Groups, and serve God and the church in some servant role. These could just as easily be defined as Christ, cause, and community.

So it’s amazing to me how the Holy Spirit, whose guidance we have actively been seeking, seems to know what he’s doing. With us. And with others. Eh?

Yesterday's Man

Read this R.T. Kendall quote on Mark Batterson’s blog yesterday:

"If I do not experience a fresh anointing every day, it is only a matter of time before I will become yesterday’s man."

This is akin to the question I asked last week at our leadership team retreat. I asked us all to consider whether we are planning and moving by memory...or by God’s Spirit.

As Batterson says:

The good news is that you don't have to become yesterday's man! Seek a fresh anointing. Be filled with His Spirit. Be filled with His Word. And watch Him do things in your life that are way beyond your human ability!

iPhones Make Better Pastors

My iPhone has made me a better pastor. Yea, verily.

Besides the fact that I love it (it’s so pretty), it has made a difference in my life and ministry in multiple ways. Let me count the ways:

1.It syncs my calendar with my desktop and MacBook, via the mobileme network. I add an appointment to one of my calendars, and the others soon sync up. I also tell the calendar to alert me on the phone, sometimes more than once. It has saved me from dropping the ball on multiple occasions.
2.It gets me to the church on time. On the opening Sunday in our new facility, The Loft, I was still out in the atrium chatting when I was supposed to be onstage welcoming people. The next Sunday, I set an alarm notification in my iPhone for five minutes before the start of the celebration, so I don’t make that mistake again.
3.It gets me out of church on time. We don’t have a clock in our auditorium and I don’t wear a watch, so I will sometimes use the free “Nighttime” application, which makes the iPhone function like a digital alarm clock, with bright red letters. It helps me gauge the time I have left in each worship celebration.
4.It gives me a Bible to take everywhere I go. I downloaded a free Bible application ( that allows me to read from and search numerous versions.
5.I read books with it. Numerous applications (Amazon Kindle, Stanza, and Classics) allow me to download and read all kinds of books. Like In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, by Mark Batterson.
6.I pray with it. By downloading The Divine Hours Pocket Version to the Amazon Kindle application, I keep the divine office with me at all times (on a recent retreat, I used it instead of packing the hardcover version I use at home). I also subscribe to a daily prayer podcast that feeds my soul, and use a couple playlists in iPod for worship and meditation.
7.It takes great pictures. I often use my iPhone to take pictures at church or in membership classes, a huge convenience.
8.It gets me places. On multiple occasions I have set out for someone’s home or business, thinking I knew where I was going. I didn’t. The iPhone’s allowed me to find my way. I open the email or contact file and click on the address, and it opens the map app. Easy peasy.
9.It keeps me in touch. With the email, text, and Facebook applications on the iPhone, I am able to stay in touch and often can get a question or answer in a fraction of the time it would have taken me previously.
10. It pastors me. Via several churches’ and pastors’ podcasts, I get regular preaching, teaching and leadership training.
11. It keeps track of my to-do list. Just like my calendar, the “ToodleDo” application gives me an iPhone to-do list that syncs (via the web) with my desktop and MacBook.
12. I record voice reminders to myself. With a few quick taps, I can record an audio reminder for playback later. Or I can use the free Jott application to record a reminder that is then sent automatically to my email.
13. It keeps me from spending too much of my pastor’s salary. If I’m in a bookstore and find a book I think I want to buy, a free application helps me compare the price with online prices. If I need gas, I use the free Gasbag app to find the best price in the area.
14. I even sometimes use it as a phone. I have even conferenced our whole church staff via the iPhone “call merge” feature.
15. With the free “Broadcast” application, I can send a pre-recorded phone message to our staff, volunteers, or members (or any list I create). It’s been handy during winter weather to notify people about cancellations, etc.

I’m sure that’s not all. But those are many of the ways the iPhone has been a worthwhile investment for this pastor. And if you have discovered other uses or features particularly applicable to the life of a pastor, feel free to add your own in the comments.

Facebook Makes Better Pastors

Facebook has made me a better pastor. I joined the social networking site a while ago, but never used it for some time. Then, just a few months ago, I became an avid user (my friend Jae Hess claims I need an intervention, but so far I’ve managed to avoid anything so extreme). Since then, I’m becoming more and more aware of the benefits of Facebook to me as a pastor:

1.Facebook helps me connect with more people in the church. Last Sunday, I was able to greet someone with a followup to a statement they had made on Facebook! We enjoyed a short conversation and a laugh that might not have gone beyond “good morning” otherwise. And it allows me to make connections with people at their convenience, without intruding into a busy schedule or hectic home.
2.I send daily birthday greetings to members of my flock who are on Facebook. It only takes a few seconds, but it’s such a blessing to have that brief connection. I can’t help but believe it means something to send those greetings.
3.I’m in the loop. Through Facebook, I’ve been much better informed about the lives of my brothers and sisters: who’s on vacation, who’s having surgery, who’s having a bad day, and so on.
4.I pray via Facebook. I have had multiple opportunities to include a short prayer for a member of the church, and I’ve linked my daily prayer blog to my profile page, so my church family can gain a sense of what I’m praying each day.
5.It makes me “normal.” As normal as a pastor can be, that is. People can see on Facebook if I share an interest of theirs, or keep up with the semi-normal pursuits of my daily life.
6.It extends my example when I mention that I’m on a date night with my wife, or “sabbathing,” or “complining before bedtiming,” for example.
7.It helps me learn names. I have actually studied photos of people in the church whom I’ve “friended” on Facebook to try to improve my recollection when I see them at church. And just yesterday we got a program tab with a newcomer’s contact info on it, and I wasn’t sure of the last name...until that person asked me to “friend” her on Facebook!
8.It has increased my photo library of church things. Last week, after a child dedication on Sunday, a friend posted photos of her child’s dedication and “tagged” me in the picture. I copied those photos to my own files.
9.Facebook gets the word out. A few months ago, my church got a donation of brand new white boards. We installed those we needed and had one left over. I saw a ministry friend’s update on Facebook saying he was shopping for a white board. I sent him a message and a few days later he had a brand new board at no cost.
10. It encourages me and invites prayer for me. A while back, I was having a really crummy day, and said so in my update. Within minutes, a bunch of friends assured me they loved me and were praying for me. For a guy whose tendency is to suffer alone, that’s a huge benefit.
11. It makes me laugh. With all the stresses that come with public ministry, having an occasional friend poke fun at me---or me at them---makes the load a little lighter.
12. It makes me look cooler than I really am. At least, cooler than pastors who aren’t on Facebook, right?

I’m sure I’m forgetting or overlooking a few more ministry advantages to Facebook. Feel free to add your own in the comments. And, by the way, it’s not as time-consuming as most people think. I keep my Facebook page open in the background and check it a few times a day, max. Honestly. Seriously. No, really. No kidding. I’m being straight with you. Oops, just got a message on Facebook. Gotta go.

Jesus Defines Love

Neat little insight (for me, anyway) in my journey group last night. We were reading from Luke 6:

"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

As we read this portion aloud, it dawned on me that Jesus seems to be employing the Hebrew device of parallelism. In other words, with the commands that follow “Love your enemies,” he is not adding to the command but restating it. Thus,
love your enemies = do good to those who hate you
love your enemies = bless those who curse you
love your enemies = pray for those who mistreat you

Or, to put it another way, just as “your enemies” = “those who hate you,” “those who curse you,” and “those who mistreat you”:
love = do good
love = bless
love = pray
love = turn the cheek
love = give
love = lend to others
love = be kind
love = be merciful

This is how Jesus defined love. In terms of actions. Not feelings. To love, in Jesus’ lexicon, is to do good and bless and pray and give...and so on.


Here are eleven quotes worth remembering from Leonard Sweet’s book, 11 Indispensable Relationships You Can’t Be Without:

Jewish households needed their “shot of Goy” for strict Sabbath observance....We need people of other cultures and faiths in our lives, not just to “witness” to them but also to keep us honest and faithful in our own rituals and beliefs and to purify our own understanding of the faith.

Just as bruised apples make the best pies, bruised and broken people make the best blessers and blessings.

My New Zealand friend Alan Jamieson puts it like this in his book that comes as close to a theology of journey as anything yet written: “Like Abram, the question that we, too, must consider is whether we will have descendants: not children in our own line but descendants in faith and life. Will we love and care for others in such a way that they become descendants?”

A healthy sycamore tree is a tree with heirs...”Always look for a tree’s successors,” she would say over and over again, “before you judge its health and vitality.”

For at least ten years now, I have been arguing against the desk dominion of the “Pastor’s Office” in favor of the apprentice environment of the “studio” model. Instead of private, personal “office” space, what if we reconfigured our space to allow for open areas with large tables and other architectural elements that could encourage collaboration, discourage possessiveness, and allow for osmosis to take place.

In the twentieth century, a Timothy’s key assets were a right arm and a left brain. The future belongs to the right brained and the left armed. The era of left-brain dominance is over. In fact, most left-brained items---rational, logical, linear functions---will be outsourced to computers.

In the future, who you studied with will be more important than where you studied....Billy Graham, Bill Hybels, Jim Cymbala, Brian McLaren, etc., are not qualified to teach in a seminary even though they are some of the most successful practitioners of that for which seminaries profess to educate.

There are many invitations that God presents to us that are not commands. We are free to accept or decline.

If Jesus is to be believed, and followed, there is no “other.” There is only “oneanother.”

A copycat Christianity filled with quivering knee-jerk, butt-kissing, sound-the-same look-alikes is the exact opposite of authentic discipleship.

It is time for Christians to “Get out more,” to try alfresco forms of faith and community.


I read a lot. At least that’s what people tell me. I don’t read nearly as much as I want to, and it seems I’m always pushing to get a little bit of reading time in.

A hefty chunk of my reading these days is blogs. I subscribe to more than thirty blogs and read roughly twenty a day. Mostly pastors or other leadership-oriented blogs. But from time to time I find myself deleting a blog from my RSS feed. It’s not because I disagree with the blogger; I intentionally read people I sometimes disagree with. And it’s not because the blogger has offended me; I don’t offend so easily. And it’s not because the blogger doesn’t have good things to say.

it’s almost always because he or she blogs like an “expert.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m always looking for expert insights and information. I crave it. I depend on it. BUT there’s a difference between being an expert...and sounding like one. There are many people who have the education and experience to speak as an expert.

But “experts” turn me off. One blogger in particular, a spectacularly successful pastor, is a prime example. I admire him. I respect him. I praise God for him and the work he and his church are doing. But I deleted him from my feed, because he writes like an expert. He speaks with the authority of someone who has arrived. A know-it-all. That not only turns me off; it bores me.

Which, come to think of it, is the gripe a lot of folks have about churches and Christians--and especially pastors--in general. We don’t listen, we talk. We have all the answers (or act like we do). We know it all.


May I say again: Yuck. If I am turned off--and bored--by such attitudes, why should I be surprised that others are? God help me to resign from the ranks of the “experts.” God help me not to act like someone who has arrived. God help me to be way too curious and way too humble and way too vulnerable to sound like an expert on anything....except maybe God’s incredible sense of humor in extending grace to me!

The Beauty of Broken Things

Anyone who knows me (or reads this blog) knows that last year was a very difficult year of ministry for me. It felt at times like I couldn’t possibly get more discouraged and broken....only to find out I could.

But God never deserted me, though I must often have gotten on his last nerve. I am asking and believing that he has brought me through that dark valley...but not without scars. I’m working on recovering the ability to trust again...and recapturing energy and enthusiasm and joy in his service...and more.

One thing I think he has taught me through it all, though I would have told you I knew it before, is the beauty of broken things. I think I’ve always been in touch with my own brokenness, and would probably always have talked freely about the value of being broken.

But I know it in new ways now. I have been broken. I am still broken. And I know my coworkers in the Gospel have been broken, too. But there is a beauty in that. There is a definite beauty in things that are not quite symmetrical, not even, not perfect, not all “put together” and “buttoned down.”

I met some folks recently that seemed a stark contrast to me and my ministry. They seemed to have it “all together.” But there seemed also to be something missing. And I think part of it at least was this beauty of brokenness. They--like me--will be better as they are broken and melted and poured out in the Master’s hands, to be used in such a way that all the glory goes to God (2 Corinthians 4:7).

So it is and so it will be with me. It is a mystery. But there is a beauty in broken things and, God helping me, I will trust God to break me...and use me, according to his will. I wish the breaking could be all done, but I suspect not.

My all is in the master’s hands
For him to bless and break;
Beyond the brook his winepress stands
And thence my way I take,
Resolved the whole of love's demands
To give, for his dear sake (General Albert Orsborn)