At the turn of the year, I was able to help develop a website for LAUNCH, a new church-planting and leadership development network. Check out my earlier post here. Tony Morgan is part of the leadership team for LAUNCH and Pastor of Ministries at West Ridge Church (out of which LAUNCH was birthed). But you may know him best as a consultant and guru of all things practical in church-world. If you follow Tony Morgan Live, you know that this week he released another free eBook (short, practical, biblical resource). You can preview it right here, or jump over to issuu to download Big Churches Getting Bigger along with his other eBooks (The New Traditional Church, and Developing a Theology of Leadership) and a virtually endless world of eBooks, eMags, etc. If you want to share resources, publications, or information, issuu is an unparallelled tool/community. So if you’re not familiar with issuu.com, drop what you’re doing and explore it now. (I, for one, am in love with the possibilities…)
There are so many great free resources up for grabs right now that I thought I’d share a few…
First, this is seriously good (and gets better with each track – the last two being flat-out incredible). Birmingham’s own Matt Jackson is giving away downloads of his new EP (and you can pre-order the vinyl). Further evidence that great things are happening in the world of Christian songwriting. Think Indie-Rock meets Southern-Gospel (complete with horn section as the killer album art suggests). Not only is this quality songwriting, it was mixed by Grammy-winner Darrell Thorp (If you’ve heard the last several albums from Paul McCartney, Beck, Radiohead, or Thom Yorke, then you’re familiar with his work… yeah, he’s the real deal.) Musically, this album sounds nothing like any of those (that would be impossible), but the quality is that caliber. So go get Matt Jackson’s new EP and spread the word at iammattjackson.com
Also, Catalyst is giving away tons of free stuff just for signing up for info about Catalyst in Atlanta (October 5-7), including ebooks (Veneer, Gracenomics, more), music (Thad Cokrell, Seryn, Gungor, John Mark McMillan, Aaron Ivey, Aaron Keys, Lecrae, Sleeping at Last… more), and their “best of” from past speakers (Andy Stanley, Bill Hybels, Don Miller, John Maxwell, more)… too much to name, but some stuff worth checking out… seriously it’s a ton of stuff. And if you’ve never been to a Catalyst leadership event… it’s quite an experience. Think about it.
Wow. What a Sunday. Ever wonder if what people hear is in no way what you’re saying? I’ve wondered this a lot lately as I’ve read various blogs and forums of people “hearing/reading” all kinds of different things from the same writer/pastor (including my own). How do some people hear the opposite of what someone else hears? This is critical question to ask as communicators, leaders, disciple-makers… Though we are not responsible for what people do with our message, we are stewards of that message – how we deliver it is important. So, we need to keep our finger on the pulse of what is heard, not just what we’re saying. It’s easy to get defensive or dismissive. But our goal is to communicate, not just write/speak.
Here are a few funny examples of gross misunderstandings from my family afternoon (Me, my wife, and our three crazy daughters):
Us: “What did you learn today in your class?”
Ella (3): “Jesus did not die on the cross.”
Ella: “The teacher was wrong. He said ‘Let my people go’ but the bad man said ‘no, no, no!'”
* I’m guessing one teacher said something along the lines of “today we’ll probably talk about how Jesus died on the cross…” But another teacher said “No, today’s Bible story is Exodus.” OR maybe even an attempt to explain that Jesus did not stay dead after the cross – He rose again on Easter. (???)
(Thanks Orthodox, Bible-Believing Church)
Later, Adalyn (5): “Dinosaurs lived a long time before people.”
Us: That’s right, what else do you know about dinosaurs?”
Adalyn: “I think God killed them.”
Adalyn: “Or maybe they just died.”
(Thanks Christian Preschool)
Ella: “Yeah, like Curious George had blood in his eyes and mouth and people were dancing on his body.”
Amanda: “Oh gosh. Yeah, you mean on PBS when they showed the cartoon about how your bodies work when George was sick and they imagined that they went inside his body to see everything and were dancing around with good blood cells and bad germs?”
(Thanks Educational Programming)
Closing example. While we were at Dairy Queen, eating our kiddie cones, I noticed this sign. Again, two completely opposite meanings could be conveyed from this overly simple graphic. Is this a kid running TO Friendly McHugger or FROM Scary McGrabber? Either way I understand that this is a safe place, but what is on that disturbing sign?
So is what you mean to say clear?
This is worth spending our lives on. This goal. This God.
David’s second book is about to release:
Radical Together: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God
For anyone who has misunderstood or worried that others might misunderstand where David / Radical is “coming from,” (you can read my own confession and watch the video for the first book here) watch this video from Taylor Robinson @ SixFootFive Productions. I think this should not only clear up any confusion, but hopefully stir up your passion to see disciples made of all nations. (And speaking of, be on the look out for some great stuff from DMI/disciple-making international… more on that soon.)
Over Christmas break, I had the honor of being a very small part of a bigger movement of church planting – something I’m deeply passionate about. If you know me, you know that for a couple of years we prayed earnestly about if and where God may be leading our family and some close friends (the Mitchell family) to plant a church… or more specifically, hopefully spark a network of multiplying house churches. After trips to a couple of cities and much prayer, fasting, and research, God made it clear that at the very least, it was not the right time. (For now, God has called me to write and to assist other churches and ministries in that capacity, so that is what I did here – help create the content for a website designed for churches, church planters, and ministry leaders.) But the desire to see churches reproduce is a deep part of me now.
That past experience opened my eyes to the harsh realities of church planting, even in a culture that is not hostile as many countries or even regions often are to the gospel. It is a tremendous sacrifice and step of faith, one for which a man and his family should be as thoroughly equipped as possible. The sad fact is that many, if not most, church plants flounder or fail within a few years. As a staff member of a young church plant myself for several years, I saw firsthand how practical leadership issues can be a struggle when wanting to focus on the urgent needs of ministry in the “real world” instead of on paper (the models and diagrams and vision statements we’ve created).
Not that solid theology, Spirit-lead faith, biblical teaching, and meeting people’s needs should not be the foundations for any church, certainly those are a given. But how do you continue to do that with integrity – how can you be faithful and seek longevity, enduring to the end, finishing the race, walking in a manner worthy of the gospel? God entrusts churches with the gospel of Christ and with the souls of His children. So why are so many ministers and church planters ill-prepared in the practical aspects of leadership if that is what they wholeheartedly believe God has called them to do? The wheels can fall off without integrity in leadership. It’s a shame and an offense to God, I believe.
Now you may or may not agree on the importance of leadership, but even so, there can be no denying this other harsh reality to which my eyes were opened: The vast majority of churches are not reproducing new churches. Biblicaly speaking, the church is a body (1 Cor. 12, Eph. 4) and bodies naturally reproduce (Gen 1:28). Everything in nature reproduces. In overly-simplified terms, if not maturing toward reproduction, an organism has gone over the curve and is now on the descent toward death. You just don’t see any biblical precedent for churches or Christ-followers not being about the business of making-disciples and spreading the gospel. You don’t see a “come be one of us” mentality in the New Testament. You see in Acts 6 the first church delegate leadership responsibility in practical matters so that the Word of God would not be neglected and as a result the gospel advanced, spreading throughout Jerusalem. Those leaders then took the gospel, beginning in Acts 8, and were preaching and reproducing churches beyond Jerusalem after being scattered from persecution. This was the initial stages of fulfilling Christ’s command to reproduce, making disciples throughout the world (Matt. 28:19-20). But this command has not yet been fulfilled. It is still our task.
So, why are most churches (85%) not reproducing? Why are we hoarding our resources in finances, in church leadership experience, in biblical wisdom, and most importantly in the gospel of Jesus Christ? Why not multiply and reproduce, scattering rather than gathering unto ourselves? This is what Mac Lake, Brian Bloye, and Tony Morgan from West Ridge Church (Atlanta, Georgia) have been asking…. and doing. Their relatively young church has planted 50 churches in the last 6 years and has now stepped up their commitment to church planting by partnering with others through LAUNCH – a new network designed to build relationships among church-planting churches and new planters. The strategy is to mentor young men and provide ongoing training and accountability in a holistic approach to church leadership, recognizing both the spiritual and practical dynamics of ministry demands).
I just wanted to get the word out in a very small way (not that anybody reads this blog) and also ask the question to anyone who may actually find this post: Are you reproducing the gospel in the lives of people around you? Is your church reproducing? What will you do to advance the gospel personally and with your own church body?
I’m not Mr. Baseball. I love a good game as much as the next guy, but I don’t keep stats or fantasy teams. Most of my friends are those guys. So I’ll leave the sentimental sports talk to them.
Moving to Atlanta in 1990 meant that I arrived right as Bobby Cox was turning the Braves into an unprecedented powerhouse. A dynasty of excellence. 14 consecutive division titles. A friend of mine posted this link today, reminiscing the incredible career and legacy or Bobby Cox. You don’t have to be a big sports fan to be stirred up by the passion of athletes or coaches. Besides his sheer longevity, one thing really struck me.
What I have been realizing over the past couple of years about my hope for ministry and management – a great rule of thumb – is summed up in Bobby’s leadership philosophy:
“You try to let the players play the game themselves instead of you being responsible.”
(4:25 in the video) Watch MLB’s Salute to Bobby Cox here
Surround yourself with great people. People you respect. People you believe in. Then trust them. Trust the people you live with, work with, manage, serve, or pastor. They are gifted with unique abilities. Let them do what they do best. Your role may simply be to know who to call on and when. Empower them to have fun and work hard and everyone wins.
So, recently I’ve realized that it’s OK to admit that I don’t know what people are talking about and ask “stupid” questions. It’s been a major break though for me. I know, it should be obvious, but for me, this has been a big deal.
My recent exchange with Home Depot’s salesman in the door isle opened my eyes to a couple of things. 1 – it helped me laugh at my own hesitation to ask questions. 2 – it sparked a spiritual reflection (big shocker, right?)
ME: “So to install this entry door, I just pop the old one out and slide this one in?”
HD: “Yeah, you just slide it in, shim it, put the molding around it…”
ME: “SHIM IT?”
HD: “Yeah, real simple, just shim it.”
ME: “I’m sorry – what does it mean to shim something?”
HD: “You center it with a shim.”
ME: (laughing) “So… I still don’t know what a shim is whether you use it as a noun or as a verb…”
HD: “It’s a wooden wedge. A piece used to fill the gaps.”
ME: “Got it. Thanks.”
How many times do we as Christ-followers, ministers, leaders, or as organizations, churches, and ministries have “shimmy” communication? Are we using language that is meaningless to our audience – even in one-on-one conversation? We think we’re explaining simple truths (and we may be) but we’re using a vocabulary that has no context in their daily life.
I’m not suggesting that we dumb anything down, but we should be aware of what we’re assuming is common knowledge. This is the key – NOTHING IS COMMON KNOWLEDGE. At least not in terms of discipleship.
Don’t let people feel dumb and walk away intimidated, never intending to pursue this “Jesus thing” any further simply because you spoke to them in a way that made them feel inferior or at least like an outsider. Obviously the Holy spirit is ultimately the One opening people’s hearts and minds to the truth of the gospel, but as Christ-followers, we should be making disciples everywhere we go. (Matt 28:19-20) This means explaining and modeling truth in a way that helps people each step along the way.
The term church branding may seem like a jarring blend of two worlds which don’t ever need to meet. “That’s what’s wrong with church culture today – commercialization,” you may think. True, selling out and bowing to the business idols of numerical and financial success is a major problem with the American church model, BUT branding can actually be part of the remedy. Too many churches and ministries suffer from a lack of clear identity, purpose, and voice… (aka branding). Without a clear brand, leaders and members alike are left wavering between what seems meaningful or appropriate in the moment. Measures of impact are unclear and therefore default to tangibles like statistics rather than intangibles like life-change. I’ve seen over and over that good intentions are simply not enough.
Your brand is everything associated with your image – everything communicated, intentionally or not. It is perception – understanding or misunderstanding of who you are and what you stand for. It’s not only what you say you believe, but more significantly, it is what people say and believe about you. If your brand is one of little or no value, pertinence, or credibility, then what you believe is irrelevant to the very people you’re trying to reach. So, what is being communicated? How aware are you of your own image? Are you shaping your own brand?
I wanted to share a blog post from my friends at DC (Details Communication). This is one of the projects I’ve been working on lately for a church in Houston, TX – Copperfield Church’s new website. Brian’s entry is a great explanation and illustration of how a church’s “brand” is more than mere marketing to attract newbies or relay info to members.
This has been an exciting new venture for me in helping a church cast vision and rally their community with purpose – namely missional living.
Click the link below for the DC blog post on the philosophy and strategy behind church branding (Copperfield Church’s in particular) and one of the best church websites I’ve ever seen (DC’s creative director, Graham Yelton is a rock star). Check it out here: THE BEFORE AND AFTER OF A REJUVENATED BRAND
Here’s a sneak peak of Copperfield’s new look – Check out their new site next month (launching September 2010) at coppefieldchurch.org
As I’m getting into this blog now for multiple reasons, primarily to provide an outlet and exercise that keeps writing fun and to keep my mind focused on the various messages swirling around us, I realize that there are certain principles to keep in mind, particularly for business/ministry (and if writing is my business/ministry, then I need to pay attention to these ideas).
Also, I’ve begun working with churches and ministries who are trying to figure out this social media thing, so here are some great tips below. Enjoy.
Via: The Steel Method
This week’s free video on iTunes is The Avett Brothers’ Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise. (Download it here) But just like the title, the song’s video is a bit conflicted – an artistic juxtaposition…
First, let me say that The Avett Brothers put on one of the absolute BEST live shows around. My wife and I caught them this past New Year’s at The Fabulous Fox Theater in Atlanta with my good friend in life and ministry, Andy Blanks and his wife Brendt. All four of us were blown away. (I won’t detour into our people-watching adventures, but concertgoers can be ridiculous with their go-to dance moves, incoherent outbursts, and enthusiastic gestures…. head-bobbers, leg-slappers, fist-pumpers, whoopers and whistlers… and the token “i love you” guy.)
Second, I loved this video (obviously) and wanted to share it. I’m not sure if the art was done by Scott Avett or not; the painting seems to be very similar to his style (view Scott’s gallery). I can’t imagine how much time went into the production of this video. It’s over four minutes of stop-motion style animation with a painting, probably done digitally (like that iPad artist using the brushes app), and it looks awesome.
BUT, with the countless thoughts running through my head as my imagination was lead along this painted journey, I was left impressed by two things:
1. I love the Book of Ecclesiastes, and this video reminded me of the futility of man’s great achievements and the natural cycle of this world. There is nothing new under the sun. There are seasons, highs and lows. Ultimately, everything man does will be stripped away, returning to dust, only for the next guy to come along with the same great “new” idea. So there has to be a greater purpose than living for the so-called success and progress depicted in this video. We can’t depend on the things of this world, especially material things, to find meaning and satisfaction. (Which is their point, I believe.)
2. I was distracted by the video to the point of missing many of the lyrics (which as a writer, is one of my favorite things about The Avett Brothers). Ironically, the other theme seemed to be intentionally inserted in the middle of the video. At one point the sign is surrounded by the noise of competing signs. I say this is ironic because it seemed to unintentionally speak to the video as a whole, the noise of the medium drowning out the message. This made me wonder about life, leadership, ministry, writing, teaching, and communication in general… how often does the message get lost in the delivery? Does the creative presentation draw too much attention onto itself? Do the two work together or do they compete? Even if the creativity, production quality, and message are all incredible, is it cohesive? Is there synergy?
If there is a greater purpose and meaning in life (which I believe there is) then I want to be able to clearly communicate that in everything I do. Sometimes that means knowing when to reel a great idea in to better suit the content.
I was sitting in Starbucks this morning, reading Isaiah, and couldn’t help but overhear the conversation across from me. A suburban mom was meeting with her young personal trainer or some sort (super-cool young kid, with his Vibram 5-finger shoes… you know the ones with the toes in them… and tight t-shirt to properly display “the gun show” as Ron Burgandy would say).
With great enthusiasm he worked formulas, explaining grams and kilograms of what to eat and when as well as what amount of activity should be implemented at what intervals… blah blah blah… He never held her full attention during the conversation – she was texting and repeatedly getting up for napkins, etc. BUT then the barista gave away some free cupcakes which had tipped over, smashing the icing on top. The trainer instinctively snatched up the freebie without a second thought, much to my amusement. (No young guy passes up free food, even if he is a health nut.) He then proceeded to walk through calorie counts and whatnot while dangling his goodie bag as he spoke, literally. He held it in the air, with his elbow propped up on his knee between his notebook and the woman’s line of sight. Her eyes were hopelessly transfixed on the imperfect treat she had reluctantly declined from the trendy Starbucks employee… poor lady could have swam laps in the pool accumulating around her ankles as her mouth watered. She never blinked. If staring contests were an Olympic sport she’d have broken the world record this morning.
The scene obviously made me laugh, pondering the discrepancy between what this young man was “preaching” and what he was “practicing”… Who’s going to listen to the fitness guru telling you to count your calories as he munches on a cupcake?
On further reflection, I wondered how I was just like this hypocritical trainer – knowing all the information, speaking passionately about it, even looking the part, but unwittingly flaunting a temptation. Or how am I even like the half-hearted woman – committing to do the right things, going through the routines because it’s the right thing to do, but I sure don’t really care about it? I’d prefer to have my cake and eat it too, but i’ll practice self-control much to my own dismay.
In light of Isaiah 1:11-18, I wondered: What is MY cupcake?
What sin am I completely blind to? Am I flaunting it? Am I obsessed with it? Is it a distraction in my own life or do I even know that I’m holding onto this temptation, distracting others instead and ruining my own credibility?
Am I the hypocritical trainer? Am I the half-hearted trainee?
What in my life doesn’t lineup with the faith I claim? Has my worship and righteousness become a matter of empty-religious routine which God (and the world) wants nothing to do with, because it rings hollow of true conviction?
it would be super-cliche’ to conclude with : “food for thought” but…
As sort of a test post to get this blog started, I think I’ll pay tribute to February 11, 1970.
40 years ago today was one of the greatest gatherings in American musical history… At the legendary Fillmore East, Duane Allman made a surprise appearance late in the Grateful Dead’s second set during Dark Star. Jerry hadn’t even told the band that Duane would be joining them. The result was a once-in-a-lifetime experience of spontaneous interplay between two of the most unique minds to ever play a guitar… (I still remember exactly where I was the first time I heard a tape of this night… yeah, remember cassettes…)
I won’t hype it up because if you don’t care, you won’t care no matter what I say (ask my wife) and if you do care, it also doesn’t matter what I say… you just want to hear it for yourself. So I’ve embedded a free streaming mp3 of the historical moment where Duane Allman joins the Grateful Dead, brilliantly complementing Jerry Garcia’s style on Dark Star. They wander into Spanish Jam during which Gregg Allman jumps into the mix. From behind the organ, he and Pigpen swap vocals back and forth during Lovelight and Phil Lesh finally passes the bass duties to Berry Oakley so he can just step back and soak it all in… so if you care to do the same, here it is… enjoy. (I am.)
mp3 :: Dark Star > Spanish Jam > Lovelight :: Duane Allman + the Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead + The Allman Brothers :: Live at Fillmore East 2-11-70
Now, from what I understand, a worthwhile blog has a focus or a point… I won’t pretend to be someone who can blog about writing, music, culture, leadership, ministry, or humor regularly. BUT I do see the world through a lens in which everything speaks on a spiritual level. There is a metaphor, spiritual truth, or lesson in everything… So instead of just talk about what I like or think, if something interests me, I’ll try to show how everything in life “teaches” us something. Everything speaks if we’ll listen.
So from the late greats Duane and Jerry here, I think we can learn three simple lessons:
1. Always be open to what the moment may bring. It may not be what you are used to, what you had planned on and anticipated. It may be different. It may not even be better, but if we are always open to the leading of what God may want to do in the moment, we will experience some incredible moments of once-in-a-lifetime, spontaneous displays of His mind-blowing power, creativity, and wonder.
2. Be open to new people. Most of us, and if we’re honest most churches, youth groups, small groups, etc are tight little circles in which it is often hard for others to break into. As Christ-followers we should always be welcoming others to join the experience, inviting them to a life of shared community. You never know who may be there on any given moment and what unique dimension they may add to God’s work and to the enjoyment of your own experience.
3. Be open to letting other people take the lead. No matter who you are or how “good” you may be at something, let other people have turns leading. The collective ownership will strengthen the experience for everyone. There is a time and place for leading and a time for playing a supporting role. Sometimes you may just need to step back and be in awe of what is happening and how others are being used in new ways.