Monday Morning Insight pointed me to a recent entry from Seth Godin's blog. Seth is a pretty sharp thinker. He especially talks to entrepreneurs and marketing people. This nugget on his blog is worth a ton. After explaining why you should ignore perpetual critics he then gives:
...a surprising thought... You should ignore your fans as well.
Your fans don't want you to change, your fans want you to maintain the essence of what you bring them but add a laundry list of features. You fans want lower prices and more contributions, bigger portions and more frequent deliveries.
So, who should you listen to?
You should listen to the people who tell the most people about you. Listen to the people who thrive on sharing your good works with others. If you delight these people, you grow.
I love that word "sneezers". We've always called them "bringers" at New Life over the years. And "bringers"--people who are being changed and want others to encounter the same thing--are the people who should be heeded because they get what people are looking for.
And the idea of ignoring your fans--that is counter-intuitive and at the same time it rings strongly true. Fans want things to stay the same--the way they've grown to like it--and can actually stand in the way of the right kind of change.
My wife is the toughest gentle person I know. She's got what I call "quiet strength". She won't be domineering but if she's right, she'll outlast you. And she's often right. (Case in point: Wednesday morning we ran together. By late afternoon I was feeling dog-tired and sore and attributed it to our run. "Your sick," she said.
"No I'm not--I'm just sore from the run."
"Nope, you're getting sick."
Guess what--I was sick.
I've learned if she's willing to fight for it, she's right and my best option is to listen to her and reevaluate what I think. You can safely call her an agent of humility in my life. Truth is, I like being right. Gil helps me remember that I'm often not. And then gently helps me see my way to what is right.
And the funny thing about this her sheriff-like ability to stick with it when she's right is somewhat hereditary. She comes from law enforcement stock. Gil's maiden name is Erspamer--a not common name. And she's one of the Erspamers of Northern Wisconsin. Turns out an old relative of her's, Frank Erspamer, was once a law enforcement agent in hot pursuit of none other John Dillinger. So many questions now answered;-)...
(Click images to enlarge.)
Last night my son had one of his school-buddies stay overnight (no school today.) Tyce doesn't have a brother so I love to watch him interact and play when he has another boy around. From the moment they walked in the door after school till they went to bed it was Nerf gun fights, Legos, "getting the bad guys", slinking around the house like agents, and building forts. While we were at our man class "man-luck" for dinner they ran around the room, explored and played some sort of tag.
I just love the energy and passion of boys when they play together. Feel a little bad that Tyce doesn't have a brother but glad that he can bring his buddies over and go a little crazy now and then. It supplements "rasslin with dad" time and helps my bear cub have fun being who he is.
Last night Tyce, who loves to cross the days off of his personal calendar every night, comes breathlessly up to Gil and I last night in his PJ's and asks, "Dad, what's anos... anun... an... I'm not sure how to say it but tomorrow its this Day."
"No. I think it was something else."
"Go check, buddy and come back." Patter, patter, patter...
Breathlessly back: "Yeah--Annunciation Day."
"I'm not positive buddy but I think its the celebration of the angel's announcement to Mary that she would have Jesus in her belly. Its 9 months before Christmas."
And in fact, that is what Annunciation Day is all about. It celebrates the announcement by Gabriel and occurrence of the most radical, incredible miracle God has ever performed--the Incarnation. God becoming man. 100% God, 100% man, in a single zygote developing in the womb of a poor, engaged, teenage Jewish girl from Northern Palestine 20 centuries ago.
What an incredible and overlooked historic Church Holy day. I'm all about Annunciation Day today. Its the Incarnation, baby! Thanking God that he was, "like us in every way yet without sin." Mmmmmm. That's something to spend a long time pondering.
What has given Christianity its strength as a religion, and as a way of life, and as an intellectual tradition is that it has always been confident of what it knows and has insisted from the very beginning... to cite Origen, that the "gospel has a proof which is peculiar to itself"... The existence of a serious dialogue between Christians and Greek and Roman philosophers, conducted at the highest intellectual level for over three centuries (the mid-second century to the mid-fifth), is evidence that Christian thinkers did not supplant reason by faith and authority. The assertion that the gospel had a "proof peculiar of itself" was not a confession of an unreasoning faith but an argument that commended itself to thoughtful men and women.
In January, Mike Hansen (our outreach director) and I had lunch. Over lunch we came up with a simple idea for alerting people to serving opportunities in our community. It was a classic "on a napkin" idea that never even get it on the napkin because I had to wipe off the hot sauce mess from my tacos.
Playing off of an idea we had seen Erin at Lakeview Pantry use, we decided Mike would begin sending out a monthly email in the first week of the month telling people about an opportunity to serve the following (second) week of the month. Feeling a burst of creative energy, we decided to call this revolutionary thingy 2nd Week Serve. (Mike and I are a creative force when properly filled with frijoles and hot sauce.)
Mike then went about setting up an email listserve and having his brother design a logo--nice touch! Then we put some info in the weekly bulletins and connection cards at Lakeview and Lincoln Park and mentioned it occassionally on Sundays.
The first month we had 50 people signed up and 25 people show up to the first serving opportunity bagging and delivering groceries with Lakeview Pantry. (If I had known just how powerful hot sauce was, we would have started drinking it much sooner.)
Two months later, there are now over 80 people on the list and in April there are 3 different 2nd Week Serve opportunities. At this point Mike is trying to figure out how to expand the opportunities because the desire is for more serving chances.
I share this because I think its important to demystify how God-ideas can go from a conversation over lunch to a valuable mobilization tool that has simple technology tools, limited promotion and no budget. Sometimes the only thing standing between you and a powerful ministry opportunity is a little implemented ingenuity and creativity. Who knows what God could do with the ideas He's put in you if you'd just step out and experiment.
And here's the other thing--with an approach like this, if the idea doesn't work out, you can fold your tent and try another idea. Sometimes its the hot sauce talking and sometimes its the Holy Spirit. Time will help you discern the difference. Everything is an experiment--try it and flow with it if it seems God is blowing winding in the sail.
After our evening worship gathering at Lincoln Park last night I had a great chat with a bunch of guys about Twitter, Facebook, blogs, emails and the role of technology in fostering community life. These men were all 20 something and had been somewhat shaped by technology in their formative years. All of them were open to and appreciative of technology as a tool to connect.
Here's my conviction--the faster technology moves, the more important it is for spiritual leaders to harness it as a tool to slow down and feed relationships for interconnectedness. Mark Batterson calls this "digital discipleship" and that's how I view my participation in tweeting, blogging, Facebooking and texting.
Some naysayers say, "status updates, instant messaging, tweets and blogs are indulgent--nobody cares about the minutae of your life." I disagree. In fact, the minutae of life forms the mortar of close relationships. Some of my most treasured pieces of knowledge about my wife are the little bits about her that are mundane but precious to me.
Connecting with the minutae of other peoples' lives makes me feel like I'm in a small town in the midst of a big city. Urban life takes away many of our capillary-level relationship connections but technology gives them back. Good tissue--living tissue--needs capillaries to feed it and make it fully healthy. When I Tweet, I form a capillary between me and others.
Caught the link to this Wall Street Journal article on www.edstetzer.com.
Love to see national coverage on life-giving movements of church-planting. Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
Thanks to my man Jimmy S's recommendation, I saw this video. If you've got 3 minutes (and you must because your already wasting time on my blog), watch this video. You won't sing this song the same way again (i.e. minus a broken heart.)
What is a biblical worldview? Barna defines it as believing that:
Surveying Americans on their adherence to these basic, core, Christian doctrines and beliefs is a valuable tool in discovering where the real core of the American Church. I think it trumps church attendance stats and religious affiliation stats because it actually probes a person's owned convictions and faith outlook.
So what did Barna discover when using the biblical worldview standard in their most recent surveys?
To me this is like a seismic reading on culture and life. It tells us an aspect of how the next wave of culture will be shaped. The fact that less than .5% of young adults hold a biblical worldview ought to be like a ice-bath wake up call. The church is NOT reaching this generation or stated alternatively, this generation is NOT responding to the Gospel of Jesus.
Now I want to have a more hopeful outlook but hope is birthed in part out of realistically appraising the present. Without accepting the reality of the present, hope is replaced with wishful thinking. This generation is in ICU-critical-condition need of real, living, authentic followers of Jesus who have a reasoned faith, a life that agrees with that faith and loving compassion for people who don't share their faith.
Simply put, this generation needs followers of Jesus who flow in faith, hope and love.
Last year I was in the Moody commons when I bumped into my old across-the-street neighbor, Kevin DeYoung. Kevin was at Moody finalizing a book deal with Moody Press. I was at Moody eating lunch. (Pretty much the same thing.)
Back in the day (when I was in high school), I would occasionally play basketball with Kevin and his older brother Peter. Peter was also in my section in marching band--the infamous trombones. Both boys were younger than me so we didn't "hang out" much beside basketball and band but being neighbors for about 7 years we got along well and enjoyed each others' company.
While playing basketball, Kevin and I often had interesting chats about politics and the news. Kevin was one of the most precocious and brilliant guys I knew. 4 or 5 years younger than me, he would rattle off insight and commentary about the news and politics that blew me away. He also had a very sharp and sarcastic wit and could roast anyone with little effort--fun-loving Peter being his usual target.
Now, 20 years later, both are husbands and fathers and Peter is a medical doctor while Kevin is a pastor and author with several books on the market. Kevin has a blog that I only recently discovered. It is full of razor-sharp and clear-thinking commentary on Scripture, Christianity and life. Definitely worth stopping by to read.
Funny side story: Kevin ran track in high school with the redhead. The redhead and I were dating at the time. At the end of one season--pretty sure it was her senior year--he and a friend invented an award for Gil and had a special t-shirt made as her prize. The award? The first annual Jenison High School "Tough Gal Award Winner". That's my woman.
President Obama is on Leno tonight--its like someone took the defibulator to Leno and he woke up. He was actually kind of funny and energetic. The President was asked a question about the contractural obligations involved in the AIG bonus payouts that have received so much media attention. In answering the question he claimed that while "their [AIG's] legal judgment was not necessarily wrong but there is a moral and ethical aspect to this as well..."
I would like to appropriate President Obama's moral-trumps-legal argument and apply it to a greater outrage--how about the immorality, despite the legality, of abortion. Can we get some outrage and righteous anger over the lives of babies instead of our 401k's? Just thinking out loud. Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
With Gil in Texas, I am a single dad for the next few days. I thought it would be fun (or scary) to have my kids share what they think will be different this weekend with dad in charge and mom gone. Here are their "insights":
Away we go! (Looking forward to that redhead coming home soon.)
Leonard Sweet, one of my favorite Dr. Strangelove church voices, posts an engaging set of principles about postmodern church buildings. In his usual fashion, he quotes obscure items and makes them current while saying profound things in profound ways, all the while pulling it off without ever sounding arrogant. That's a rare man.
Here's my condensation and commentary on his "10 Commandments of Architecture for the Postmodern Church":
Today ends our church-wide 21 day season of prayer and fasting. For those who've been on prolonged fasts, you're probably counting the hours (minutes?) to when you can eat again. But before you plan to have the most frenzied and massive meal of your life, let me give you some good words of guidance inspired by the late Bill Bright--ending your fast slowly and progressively will extend the value of your fast and keep you from some physical problems.
Begin eating gradually. Do not eat solid foods immediately after your fast. Suddenly reintroducing solid food to your stomach and digestive tract will likely have negative, even dangerous, consequences. Try several smaller meals or snacks each day. If you end your fast gradually, the beneficial physical and spiritual effects will result in continued good health.
Here are some suggestions to help you end your fast properly:
I spent the morning with our concept team as we wrestled out our preaching calendar through the rest of the year. Because of the creative work involved and because I like hanging out with the guys on our team, this is one of my favorite occasional meetings.
Afterward, as I was driving down Lake Shore Drive in 70 degree whether with the sunroof open on my way back to the North side, a thought hit me--okay really it was more of a question: how did Jesus preach? And my initial reaction was, "he preached topically".
Usually Jesus was teaching concepts and topics that were grand and sweeping in importance, rooted in particular Scriptures, and powerfully practical while at the same time deeply spiritual. I can't think of an occasion where Jesus taught "exegetically"--straight through a section of Scripture. I also can't think of a time where Jesus' words weren't grounded in some Scriptural fragment or another.
"So what?" you say. Well, I think it just strikes a note of freedom. I think its good to teach exegetically--to tackle a book or section of Scripture and go right through. But there is also important value in attacking life issues with a kingdom-mindset, grounding the life issues in relevant Scriptures and then giving wisdom-for-life application. Its a legitimate form of preaching.
Anywho, just thinking out loud.
Brian Zahnd, one of my key long-distance pastoral mentors, has a post that has tremendous weight and word-for-the-moment power. Its a must read. And it is followed by a great video on preaching. The post is adapted from Walter Brueggemann's 19 Theses. Don't miss this post. And as a bonus listen to his podcast on Sanctifying Time. I'm telling you, few pastors are speaking more valuably into the leadership needs of this moment in the Western Church.
I love the Albany Park neighborhood. I first started driving up through Albany Park in 1996 when I picked up one of the young men I was working with through Inner City Impact. My favorite Chicago restaurant is in Albany Park (no its not Arun's). And since September my kids have been going to Neptune swim class at NEIU so I've been driving through the neighborhood every week.
Last night the entire family was along for the swim class drive and we were stopped at Kimball and Lawrence. As we sat at the red light, about 12 people crossed the road. Asian, Latino, African-American, Caucasian and Mediterranean heritage was reflected in those 12 people.
I commented on it to Gil--it just was so striking. And in my heart was a stir that this community needs life-giving communities of faith interacting with its incredible diversity. I'm praying and asking God for an increase in the burden if this is from Him.
Check out this amazing photo collage of Albany Park Signs:
Great to pray right away in the morning with a bunch of people and to see people arriving as I was leaving to take their shift in prayer. Tonight we bring the candle to Humboldt Park for the night shift (8pm to 8am) and then tomorrow it comes to New Life Lakeview.
Be sure to drop in and pray. The format is a prayer "open house" with prayer stations, guides and worship music to help you pray for one hour. Trust me, you'll wonder where the time went. Look forward to bumping into some of you as we pray together.
One of my break-up-the-routine tools for taking in Scripture is listening to an audio bible. Can't afford to buy the bible on cd or mp3? No problem--www.biblegateway.com has the entire bible on audio. Just go to the chapter you want and click on the little 'volume' icon.
Here's a nugget from my time in Hebrews today:
This text is so pregnant, its shocking. Let me try to scratch the surface...
First it gives a scriptural answer to the question, "why hasn't God rooted out all evil yet--why do people suffer and God doesn't fix it?" Because everything that will be under Jesus authoritative control is not yet under His authoritative control. In other words, it is not time yet to root out all evil.
The follow up question is, "well doesn't God care about the evil suffered by people in the world?" Yes! is the unequivocal answer of the text. Jesus expressed God's depth of concern for suffering and death by... suffering and dying! In doing so he tasted death for everyone. That word taste is important--it means Jesus ingested the suffering and pain of all of humanity in a personal and experiential way. So when suffering happens in any human life, Jesus does not merely understand and care--He experientially feels the pain in His person because He has already tasted that person's pain and suffering.
Isn't that profound to consider? It places a totally different face on Jesus' view of suffering. His waiting is not from the callous distance offered by an aloof, hard-hearted deity but His waiting is filled with the pain of sin and the offered Grace of Jesus toward sin's pain and suffering.
I stumbled upon Kary Oberbrunner via Evotional.com, Mark Batterson's blog. Kary wrote a new book called The Fine Line. I've got it on my "want to read list" on Facebook. Kary draws a distinction between 3 historic approaches to following Christ: the Separatist, the Conformist and the Transformist.
One of the most striking findings? The category entitled "Nones"--those who claim no religious affiliation--has grown from 8% in 1990 (when the first survey was completed) to 15% in 2008. For those of you not good with math, that means the dechurched category has almost doubled in less than 20 years.
At the same time, non-Catholic Christians have declined by a significant margin.
The article offers provocative quotes from dechurched people along with good insight on the trends from the last 18 years.
I said it this past Sunday--"you cannot coach yourself"--and yesterday was a living example in my own life of what I meant. I suppose you could call it an "integrity checkpoint" on my preaching. I received both pastoral care and coaching in the same day. Pretty cool.
In the morning I met with my financial coach--he's helping me develop better systems for our household financial management. The meeting was really valuable. The concepts and tools aren't revolutionary but having them applied personally by a skilled outside voice makes appropriating the changes seem more doable. I left feeling really encouraged.
Then in the evening Gil and I met with Peter and Mariette Stott, a couple who are providing periodic pastoral care for our entire pastoral team at New Life. We told our kids, "we're meeting with the Stotts tonight--they're going to pastor us." They weren't quite sure what to do with their pastor dad being pastored which gave us a laugh. But we felt it was important to know that we have people who can speak into our lives from the wisdom of years.
Our meeting with the Stotts was deep (I guess they knew we were in the series.) As a couple in their 60's who've spent most of their life in pastoral ministry and who've raised both children and churches and who also have an uncanny spiritual ability to see and speak into root issues of people's lives, they were able to bring profound spiritual insight to us both. Peter and Mariette made some observations about me and about us that will stick with me for the rest of my life.
It just reminds me again about how impossible it is to grow without the right kind of relationships. We need strong peers who understand us and share our journey of following Jesus. We need mentees--people who need our affirmation, input and guidance so they can grow in Jesus. And we need mentors--people who are further along, know the heart of Jesus and can minister back to us with what we cannot see in our own lives.
That's what church is. A place to find and grow through the right kind of relationships. And if you stay in one place long enough with faith and engagement, I've learned that you'll find those relationships.
I did a brief post letting people know about the upcoming Gospel Coalition National Conference on my Examiner page. If you are available and have the $$, this conference will be worth your time. A few of our pastoral team members and several of my other pastor friends here in Chicago are going.
Only Americans could actually "shop for a church". Phrases like this make me wonder if I should be agreeing with Dennis Leary when he writes "Why We Suck". Applying shopping to church seems about as appropriate as parents "shopping for a kid to adopt".
We're trying several kids out, seeing which ones we like the best, and narrowing it down to the ones that best suit our family. We're really hopeful that we get a good one. What's the return policy, again?
Gil and the kids and I have been doing grocery delivery with Lakeview Pantry a couple Saturdays a month since last summer. Its a fun way for our family to serve people in a tangible way and it also partners us with a local community agency where most of the workers are not Christians. We've gotten to know some of the great staff at the pantry and we've enjoyed interacting with people receiving groceries. Its also opened my eyes to the pockets of poverty and neglected elderly people on the north side.
This morning I walked into the Lakeview auditorium about 20 minutes before worship started and Mike M., a man who's been attending with his girlfriend for about 7 months, asked if he could introduce me to someone. Two weeks ago when he did grocery delivery with a team from New Life Lakeview & Lincoln Park, a woman asked him if he and Suzanne would pray for her. "A few months ago a family prayed for me when they came," she had said. After praying for her and then chatting with her they discovered that she wanted to go to church but just didn't have a ride.
This morning they brought her to New Life and re-introduced me to Jean--the woman prayed for by two different New Life groups over a period of months as they were bringing groceries arranged by a secular food pantry. She lit up when we all put two and two together realizing that the family who prayed for her the last time was our family. It was a cool moment.
Honestly, we weren't doing grocery delivery thinking it would ever yield a church visitor. We just felt it was a good way to serve people in a tangible way as a family. I'm encouraged to see unlooked-for fruit from the Lord of the Harvest. He is good.