Thursday, December 23, 2010

2011 With No Regrets

I'm working on a message I'm going to be sharing at Crossbridge Church on January 2nd. My question is "How do we live with no regrets?"

Most people make some kind of New Year's Resolutions, but over 95% are them are never kept. This often leads to guilt or regrets. It's also not uncommon to look back over the year and wonder, "Did I accomplish all that I could have? Did I nurture and strengthen my important relationships as I would have liked to? Did I serve God's Kingdom purposes as He desired? Did I develop and use my talents/resources as well as I could have?"

Now guilt is rarely (if ever) productive, so don't let yourself go there right now! I'm just thinking about how to make 2011 a year of no regrets.

Three things come to my mind: Clarify your Priorities, Focus, and then Follow-Through.

I just wrote a blog for entrepreneurs on these 3 skills if you would like to read it. Now I'm wrestling with the question, "How Biblical is this advice?" What passages or characters from Scripture help us see this from God's perspective. I believe it is Biblical, but I would definitely like to know what you think. Please, give me a comment or some feedback. Thanks.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Gospel is Neither Religion Nor Irreligion

I'm enjoying The Gospel in Life by Tim Keller. Here's what I'm learning today.

The Gospel is neither religion nor irreligion. It is something else altogether. Religion makes law and moral obedience a means of salvation, while irreligion makes the individual a law to him- or herself. The gospel, however, is that Jesus takes the law of God so seriously that he paid the penalty of disobedience, so we can be saved by sheer grace.

Because of this I can appreciate God's law much more! Since Jesus has paid the penalty for me being a law-breaker, I am freed from the moral law as a system of salvation. I'm secure in my relationship with God because Jesus has paid the penalty and given me his righteousness.

I also appreciate the law because it reveals to me the nature and heart of God. It shows me what is important to God, the things he loves and hates, the things that are good and evil.

The Gospel is not religion - I don't have to do anything to earn anything. And it is not irreligion. I love God, therefore I love and respect his law!

This makes Psalm 119 even more meaningful to me. "Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law." (Ps 119:18)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

How to Build a High-Performance Team

Great video today by John Spence on "How to Create a High-Performance Team." I also recommend his latest book entitled Awesomely Simple. Leaders need to watch this video and read his book!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I'm in Trouble; Help!

In one of my devotional times this past week I was meditating on Psalm 80. The psalmist prays, "Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine that we may be saved."

He goes on to to point out to God that it was Him who "brought a vine out of Egypt" and it was Him who "drove out the nations" for this "vine."

As I reflected on this psalm 3 lessons regarding prayer came to my mind. I should pray according to:
  1. The Purpose of God - What do I know for sure about God's heart and His purposes?
  2. The Past Behavior of God - What has He done in, through, and for us in the past?
  3. The Present Calling of God - What is God doing today? Even if the present looks grim, I can trust that God will continue His work in and through me (Ph. 1:6).
Would love to hear from church planters, pastors, or any Christ-follower who would like to give me some feedback. Thanks!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Doesn't Deserve to be Called a Religion

Imagine early Christians talking to their neighbors in the Roman Empire. "Ah," the neighbor says, "I hear you are religious! Great! Religion is a good thing. Where is your temple or holy place?" "We don't have a temple," replies the Christian. "Jesus is our temple."

"No temple? But where do your priests work and do their rituals?" "We don't have priests to mediate the presence of God," replies the Christian. "Jesus is our priest."

"No priests? But where do you offer your sacrifices to acquire the favor of your God?" "We don't need a sacrifice," replies the Christian. "Jesus is our sacrifice."

"What kind of religion IS this?" sputters the pagan neighbor. And the answer is, this Christian faith is so utterly different than how every other religion works that it doesn't really deserve to be called a "religion." [from Gospel in Life by Tim Keller]

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Just a Ride on the Subway

This is one day that I wished I had been on the NY Subway! This is too cool!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Gospel Centered Life

The leaders I am working with are captured by the vision of "every man, woman, and child having repeated opportunities to hear and respond to the gospel." I share that vision. However, this past year I've been thinking more deeply about what the gospel is. I fear that my generation of baby boomers has tended to reduce the gospel to a verbal commitment or a prayer, missing the deep and rich implications of it. I have come to believe that we are not only saved by the gospel but we are sanctified by it as well.

A resource that has helped me is "The Gospel Centered Life" curriculum published by World Harvest Mission. I have also enjoyed working the larger study they published entitled "Gospel Transformation." One more resource that has blessed me this year is Milton Vincent's devotional book "A Gospel Primer for Christians."

For any united city reaching effort to take root, I think we must be in agreement about the gospel. As we understand and apply the gospel more deeply we are truly able to become "partners in the gospel" as Paul writes about in Philippians 1:3.

Living and working with the great ministry leaders in Houston over the past 16 years has been an enriching educational experience for me. What brings transformation to a city? We have studied the work of George Otis and followed transformation stories from around the world. I have been deeply impacted by Tim Keller and the work that Redeemer Presbyterian Church is catalyzing in New York City. I'm very encouraged by what I see in cities like Austin, TX and Columbia, SC.

But what will it take for us to move to a new level? How can Christian leaders become more effective at engaging and impacting a city for Christ? I think it begins with a deep and passionate understanding of and appreciation for the gospel. That's the good news. That's the power of God released through us (Romans 1:16).

I close for now with this verse: "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now." (Philippians 1:3)

What would it look like for us to embrace the gospel more deeply and more fully become partners in the gospel?

Coming Back

I have taken a break from my blog for a few months to think and reflect about where God is moving and what He wants my part in that to be. My heart and mind is being captured by the idea that the church can and should have much more of a transformational impact in the community, city, and world. That's really nothing new, but I'm burdened by the ongoing conversations and activities that are suppose to lead to more transformation with seemingly minimal impact.

I want to start a conversation to hopefully take this to a deeper level. I do not want to criticize the church, the Bride of Christ. I want to uplift and encourage the church. I want to bless the church, and I want to empower the Body of Christ to dramatically increase their missional impact in the world. I hope you will follow and give me comments and feedback.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Church Planting in America

Every church planter I talk to tells me a similar story, "We're going to do something different." I say "OK," and then when they get going this is what I see.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

The Missional Church: Driven By Program-Development or People-Development?

I have recently been re-reading Reggie McNeal's book Missional Renaissance. What a great book. What I like most about it is Reggie addresses the issue of the "scorecard."

Most churches have only 1 or 2 real scorecards. Those are typically attendance and giving. Some churches will add "baptisms." But the truth is that most church leaders are lulled into thinking everything is great if the attendance and giving is growing.

If we are truly going to plant and lead missional churches, then we have to honestly re-evaluate our scorecard. What do we call success? What causes us concern or heavy hearts? What gives us joy as church leaders?

One of the key shifts that the Western church has to make to be missional is the shift in focus from "program-development" to "people-development."

There is not a problem with having programs, but for many churches success is defined by how many programs you have and how many people attend these programs. You can be very successful in a "program-development" environment and make very little progress toward making disciples.

Could it be that the rise of the program-driven church is directly correlated with the rise of the service economy in post-World War II America? Is that where the Western church really began to take on the role of being a "vendor of religious services and goods?" What would it look like for our churches to be more focused on people-development than program-development? Church planters, let me know what you think!

Monday, May 03, 2010

Prioritization: The Key to Success and Life Balance

There are two things that are most difficult to get people to do: To think & to get people to do things in order of importance. - John Maxwell

More than ever before in history people are over-loaded with information, to-do's, opportunities to consider, problems to solve, and relationships to manage (just to name a few.) In order to succeed we must develop 3 critical skills.

  1. We must learn to set daily and weekly priorities. Every day is a challenge, so we need to start our day with clarity on what's most important for that day. The same is true for every week. However, this must not be decided in a vacuum. Each day and week we should review the bigger picture (e.g. your 90-day strategic plan and your 1-3 year vision.) With the bigger picture and longer perspective in mind, we can set daily & weekly priorities that will move us toward the life, business, and goals that we truly desire.
  2. We must learn to delegate everything possible. I hear my clients say "Nobody can do it right" or "My staff is just too busy." Let me be blunt: These are terrible excuses for not delegating! If someone can do something 80% as well as you can, delegate it! They'll most likely improve if given the opportunity. If you do not have team members who can do the things you do at least 80% as well, your priority needs to be either training or replacing staff! "But they already have too much to do" you might say. The truth is, our time will always fill up with stuff. Chances are they will never have time. So delegate things that are important to you, and help them to prioritize. If you don't, they will be constantly busy doing things that are not the priority!
  3. Say "No" to the obvious low-value, low priority stuff. I call this "clutter." You and I are attacked by clutter daily. If you don't have the ability to evaluate the obvious clutter quickly, and then say "No", you will not accomplish the most important things. If the clutter is not obvious to you, take a few minutes every week and make a list of the low-value, low-priority activities you engaged in the previous week. Consciously start saying "No" to those things. Also, start setting your priorities and watch what does NOT get done by the end of the day. These are clues to the clutter as well. If you prioritize and you get to the end of the day, you've eliminated the clutter, and there are still mission critical priorities on your list that aren't getting done, most likely then you have a delegation problem. Go back to step 2.
One final thought, many people tell me "Everything is a priority." That's just not true! If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority. That's just an excuse for not having the skill or will to set priorities.

This may be one of the most difficult challenges you face on a daily basis. Train yourself and discipline yourself to prioritize. If you need help, get a coach or an accountability partner. But DO IT! Prioritization is the key to your success and joy in ministry!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

What is a Missional Church?

Great video! This gives a powerful yet simple explaination of the missional church. Enjoy.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Understand Your Host Culture

Buck Birch is a friend and church planter in Russia. He offers a very encouraging blog post on "Enjoying our Host Culture." Every church planter should be thinking about their "host culture" even if they are living and planting in the U.S. Our mission is to take the gospel into a "host" culture in a relevant and meaningful way.

We must love the culture in which God has placed us (see Buck's post). However, we must remember the words of Jesus in John 15:17 - we are to be in the culture but not of the culture. We must love the culture and appreciate the beauty of the culture (a reflection of the image of God) without becoming "inculturated" and assimilated into the culture.

We must always remember that we are pilgrims (aliens) in this world. We're only passing through. Our true home is yet to come. But in the meantime, God has given us all things richly to enjoy. Enjoy the culture, but be an agent of grace and transformation in YOUR host culture. Our aim as church planters and church planting leaders is to create biblically faithful, culturally relevant, counter-cultural communities of faith. Check out what Buck has to say!

Friday, April 02, 2010

Baptism and New Churches

Almost all church planters have to educate their new congregations on Baptism. In this message at Crossbridge Church last week I offer some helpful information on the subject "What is Baptism All About." I hope this will be useful to you as you listen to this audio.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Leverage Facebook for Outreach

I'm very excited about what Ben Hays and his team at Church in the Center are doing. I've seen about 10 attempts to start a new church in the Texas Medical Center are over the past 15 years. Church in the Center is the only one that I have seen survive and thrive. One key is their ability to use social media, particularly Facebook. If you are a church planter or serve on a church planting team, check this out. If you need more help with leveraging social media, contact us here at NCI. Watch this:

Friday, March 19, 2010

First and Never

Ministry (and life) today is full of "firsts" and "nevers." Seth Godin captured this well in his blog post today. As ministry leaders we need to keep this in mind not only for ourselves, but for the people whom we lead. Seth says:

...We keep discovering firsts, the biggest viral video ever, the most twitter followers ever, the fastest bestseller ever... And we constantly discover nevers as well. There's never going to be a mass market TV show that rivals the ones that came before. There's never going to be a worldwide brand built by advertising ever again either. And Michael Jackson's record deal is the last one of its kind...

Read Seth's blog post and think about how this applies to church and ministry life. What are the "firsts" and "nevers" that you have experienced? What are the "firsts" and "nevers" the people in your congregation are experiencing? These are powerful thoughts!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Missional Church

My good friend Will Mancini has some excellent blog posts on "Missional Church." Check them out!

Will's Blog Posts on Missional Church

Monday, March 01, 2010

Are You Fighting the Good Fight?

This past weekend I went on a retreat with 40 other men from our church. We had a lot of fun - shot guns, played Texas Holdem, etc. But we also read through 2 Timothy and talked about what it meant to "fight the good fight of faith."

We must teach our men to be fighters! It probably should be natural right? It's not. To read my reflections on "fighting" see my blog post for business professionals at God Is My Coach.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Cure for Distrust

I want to highly recommend that you read A Gospel Primer for Christians by Milton Vincent. Every Christ-follower should be preaching the gospel to themself. This is a powerful resource. Let me share one excerpt:

Every time I deliberately disobey a command of God, it is because I am in that moment doubtful as to God's true intentions in giving me that command. Does He really have my best interests at heart? Or is He withholding something from me that I would be better off having? Such questions, whether consciously asked or not, lie underneath every act of disobedience.

However, the gospel changes my view of God's commandments, in that it helps me to see the heart of the Person from whom those commandments come. When I begin my train of thought with the gospel, I realize that if God loved me enough to sacrifice His Son's life for me, then He must be guided by that same love when He speaks His commandments to me. Viewing God's commands and prohibitions in this light, I can see them for what they really are: friendly signposts from a heavenly Father who is seeking to love me through each directive, so that I might experience His very fullness forever.

When controlling my thoughts as described above, the gospel cures me of my suspicion of God, thereby disposing me to walk more trustingly on the path of obedience to His commands.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Gospel Gives Us Boldness Before God

I've been thinking a lot these days about what it means to live a gospel-centerd life. The essence of the gospel is that God does not give me what I deserve (which is His wrath), but instead overwhelms me with His love and grace.

The truth is that I do not always believe that He is so generous. I don't fully appreciate His kindness and grace.

There are moments when I seem to get it (at least a little.) In those moments I pray with more boldness. I trust God for bigger things. I am not hesitant to ask Him for something significant. I don't deserve any of this. But the gospel is the good news that says I can approach my Heavenly Father with boldness and confidence (Heb 4:16).

Milton Vincent says it this way:

With greater boldness in prayer comes an increased enjoyment of God and the bounty that He gives, due simply to the fact that I was daring enough to ask for what was needed. Preaching the gospel to myself each day nourishes within me a holy brazenness to believe what God says, enjoy what He offers, and do what He commands.

Though I've been a Christ-follower for many years, I still long to live in the Gospel more each day. I have yet a long way to go.