Learnings from ARC – Pt 3

The most profound session I attended at ARC 2016 in Birmingham was on Tuesday April 19th.  Pastor Chris Hodges unveiled some things in scripture that I have never seen before and it was mind blowing.

Pastor Daniel, prior to entering the new year, asked the staff to pray and ask God what one word would be our theme for 2016.  Pastor’s word was ‘Increase.’  There were all sorts of words.  ‘Confidence,’ ‘Freedom,’ ‘Leadership.’  I prayed for a couple of weeks and the word I couldn’t shake from my mind was ‘Fruitfulness.’  I had my word but admittedly had know idea what that meant.  Will my finances be fruitful?  Will my ministry be fruitful?  Will my spiritual life be fruitful?  Will our family be fruitful!?!?!?!?!?!?!?  Who knows!  But I knew I couldn’t do the same things in 2016 that I did in 2015 and experience this new reality.  Things needed to change.  Patterns needed to shift.  Thoughts needed to be wrestled to the ground and washed with God’s truth.  I knew the word, but had no idea how to achieve the word… until Tuesday night.

Pastor Chris Hodges spoke on fruitfulness.  Isn’t that like God?!?  But he came at it from an angle I wouldn’t have imagined.  “God requires intimacy in order for things to multiply,” he said.  “Satan’s goal is to get between  you and others to stop intimacy.”

There was much more to his message, but that was the crux.  And there I had what I thought was the key to unlocking God’s word for me in 2016.  I needed to develop true intimacy with fellow believers – transparency in safe groups of people.  It is only in exposing ourselves to those who care about us and allowing the same in return, that we are able to grow, develop, and become all that God wants us to be.

I think sometimes we feel that we should be adult enough to figure things out on our own.  I think I should be self-sufficient, only needing my relationship with God to make it through the world.  It sounds like a good principle.  “Jesus is all I need.”  But that really isn’t true.  If that was the case, then we does the Holy Spirit give Spiritual Gifts in order to EDIFY (build up) the church.  Why would God see fit to specifically name a Spiritual Gift of EXHORTATION (to speak to, encourage).  Why would God identify everything he created in Genesis 1 as ‘GOOD’ but say that man being alone in Genesis 2 was ‘NOT GOOD.’  Creation was in a ‘NOT GOOD'(Gen 2:18) state until woman came along (COME ON WOMEN!)  It is because God has created us to have relationships.  We need each other.  NEED.  It is how God has created us.  “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24,25.

Before ARC I had an imbalanced equation.  ? + ? = Fruitfulness.  I didn’t realize it at the time.  But after ARC I now see the full picture  RELATIONSHIPS + INTIMACY = FRUITFULNESS.  I have relationships.  Now I know I need to put more of myself into them.  Prior, my posture was to simply relate, holding back the real me, the real struggles, the real self.  But that is what is keeping me from true fruitfulness.  Maybe that is the same for you.  Do you have a safe place where you can be you, ask questions, allow others to speak into your life, and you do the same in return?  We were never meant to live this life alone.  NEVER.

Learnings from ARC – Pt 2

If you missed what ARC is, take a few moments and read this post.

Many times when you listen to a message you end up walking away with only one point.  And many times that one point isn’t necessarily the crux of the message the speaker wanted you to grasp.  However, I think that is the role of the Holy Spirit – to make things pop out at you.

On Tuesday, we got to hear from Pastor Rick Bezet, Senior Pastor of New Life Church, a multi-site church in Arkansas.  He spoke on some key principles in doing ministry well.

  1. Don’t forget about the hurting world.
  2. Keep the Lord first.
  3. Be very wise with your pace.
  4. Be quick to forgive.
  5. Be not afraid.

Great points all.  But the one quote that has stuck with me since was some advice from his mentor, Pastor Larry Stockstill, Senior Pastor of Bethany Church in Louisiana.

“Pray in the morning until joy hits your heart.  Never tackle the duties of the church until you have met with the Lord.”  I’m not sure why (maybe because it is convicting), but that has stuck with me ever since I heard it.  And it speaks to an overall narrative I’ve been working through for the past several months – I WANT MORE OF GOD.  Pastor Daniel asks us, “When people spend time with you, who do they get?”  Who do people get when they get me?  I’m not entirely sure.  But I do know I want them to get God.  I want there to be such a presence of Jesus in my life that it’s blinding.  And the only way to do that is that “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

One of the ways I want to accomplish this is that first time in the morning with God.  I love that imagery.  “Pray until…”  It is much like Jacob who “wrestled until…”  It is the posture that God has something good to give us, namely Himself, and we won’t relent until we have received it.  That is what I want.

Learnings from ARC

Last week several of our staff had the privilege of attending the ARC Conference at Church of the Highlands in Birgmingham, AL.  ARC stands for the Association of Related Churches.  Its primary goal is to plant healthy, life-giving churches.  They are one of the best, if not the best, organizations that equips, trains, funds, and launches new churches across America and even the globe.  That is why Lifepoint loves contributing to this amazing organization!  They say that the ARC Conference is the largest family reunion in the country.  It does feel like that.  I wanted to take a few posts that exceed 140 characters and let you in on what I learned during my 3 days.

During the day we had the opportunity to attend breakouts, smaller gatherings of people digging into a specific topic we face in the church.  It could be how to find a healthy rhythm as a Pastor.  How to plan a service.  How to better identify and develop leaders.  There were dozens to choose from.

My first breakout (APP sessions they were called) was “5 Weekly Habits to Build the Family You Want.”  I don’t know about you, but I want a healthy family.  I was ‘husband’ before I was an Executive Pastor.  I’ll be a dad after I retire.  So having a healthy family is super important to me.  One thing I learned was Healthy habits lead to legacy lives.  Kirby Anderson (http://kirbyandersen.com/) led the session with his wife Gail.  They have 5 children, one of which is going to ARC training to plant a church.  Not a bad legacy!

The things he said were simple.  Stupid simple as a matter of fact.  “I know this” kind of habits.  But why don’t we do them?  Why do we allow life to create complexity in our lives.  One thing we try to do as a church as we grow larger is stay simple.  We believe this leads to a more focused and healthier church.  Why not that for our families?  What would happen if we implemented SIMPLY habits each week – Habits like, talk with your spouse, eat together as a family, date your spouse.  It is a reminder that the most important things in our lives our not the glowing orbs in our hands – it is the relationships around us (Wow did I learn some amazing things about relationships I’ll share on a later post – MIND BLOWING).

Several of the habits we do well with.  A majority of the time we eat a meal together once a day.  We do fun stuff together as a family.  But some of the things I need to shore up.  I need to spend more one-on-one time with the boys.  If you have 6 kids just rotate once a week.  It is doable!  I need to spend more uninterrupted time with Jennifer.  I need to put the phone down more (don’t we all).  Overall it was a great reminder to focus on the simple things and create simple habits within our daily lives that create a routine of interaction.  I only have once chance to raise these boys and I want to get it right!

Leading Through Adversity

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The word adversity tends to create a sense of panic and stress within us.  As we look ahead to the mountain in front of us, our mind dreams up the worst case scenario, which in turn creates more anxiety, which in turn creates a more sever scenario, more anxiety…. you get the picture.

The issue with adversity is that it is always worse in our heads that it is in real life, with exceptions of course.

We should, instead, look at leading people through adversity as weight training.  We get to lead people to do things they didn’t originally think possible.  We lead people to become stronger.  When we lead people successfully through difficult situations, we, they, the organization is stronger as a whole.

Andy Stanley says that as leaders one of the greatest gifts we can give an organization is imbalance.  Before you think that makes no sense, let me ask you this?  What is the role of a leader?  To lead.  To make the organization better.

If I want to become stronger as an individual, I begin weight training.  I put my body through routines that force it into imbalance, so that muscles long forgotten, begin twitching, and griping, and stretching, and put into use.  Believe you me the next day those muscles I never knew are in protest (people can be that way as well).  The day after?  More protest!  But the third and fourth day the pain subsides and I have a stronger muscle.

We put ourselves through years of difficult schooling.  We study.  We take tests.  We gripe and complain about school-work.  Then graduation comes and we are better for it.

It is the same concept from James 1:2-4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Adversity is difficult.  Lifting a dumbbell or doing star crawls is difficult as well.  In leading through adversity we face resistance and soreness.  But on the other end of it we should have a stronger organization just as we have a stronger body.

Who Does What?

There is a story I heard several years ago in a leadership round table about the famed Peter Drucker.  Peter Drucker is described as “the founder of modern management.”  And I would dare say much of what we learn today about leadership and read in various books form various authors stems from many of his ideas.  The story goes that in his old age, Mr. Drucker was before a crowd of young leaders eager to absorb any morsel of knowledge that dripped from the old codgers mouth.

One studious young man stood up and asked this simple question, “Mr. Drucker, what is the most important decision a leader can make?”

The old man, slouched over in old age, thought for a moment.  And as if it took every morsel of his energy, breathed in a deep breath (as if it were his last), sat straight, and exhaled, “who….. does….. what.”  With that burst of wisdom, he slouched back over and continued taking questions.

What a simple truth but so profound.  I got to see this in action this past week in Israel.  Bethany Ufema, Lifepoint’s Creative Director did an amazing job leading the filming of our 2015 Easter project.  And in part, she did such an amazing job because she got the right people around the table… er… behind the cameras.  We joked with her that she formed a dream team.  One has his own production company (You da man John).  One has worked on audio in major motion pictures (Jonah has golden ears).  One understands the culture of Lifepoint so well he knows what Bethany is going to ask before she asks it (Wes is a beast).  One has such a heart of serving and caring that it made a grueling trip so much easier (Paul is my long lost brother).

Bethany UfemaWouldn’t leadership be so much easier if we had the right people around the table.  Who.  Only when we have the right ‘Who’ can we determine ‘What.’  We too often slide into the mistake of answering that question in reverse.  ‘What’ motivates us because it gets things done. ‘What’ keeps us awake at night, because, let’s face it, if ‘what’ doesn’t get done, we’re toast.  But that is such shallow thinking.  If we focus on the ‘Who’ first, we’ll see such better results.  And besides, isn’t the ‘Who’ the most fun anyway?  ‘What’ is boring.  ‘Who’ is what life is built of – relationships.  Focusing on the ‘Who’ makes the fruit of ‘What’ so much easier.

John Carl

Jesus knew that.  He got the correct group of ‘Who.’  They may not have looked like it at first.  But He knew what He was trying to accomplish and hand-picked a group of misfits that changed the world.

“Who does what.”  Allow that to sink in.  God has the right ‘Who’s’ in mind.  Get your head out of the weeds long enough to see them.

DreamTeam

Leaders Do Before They Call

In reading about Capernaum I noticed an interesting thing about Jesus – he began his ministry without any followers. The message of the gospel was primary. He began to share it first before calling the disciples. In Matthew it says:

When He heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee. He left Nazareth behind and went to live in Capernaum by the sea… From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near! ” As He was walking along the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea, since they were fishermen. “Follow Me,” He told them, “and I will make you fish for people! ” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. (‭Matthew‬ ‭4‬:‭12-13, 17-20‬ HCSB)



I think sometimes we hesitate to move because we don’t have a team, support, or help. Make no mistake, Jesus knew he was going to call the disciples to give everything up to follow him. But he didn’t hold his primary message back until that point. He was in the business of accomplishing his mission when he called the disciples. He didn’t wait. He was doing as he asked them join him in what he was doing. 



As leaders the important lesson here is that people want to join you in what you are a part of; they want to join you in what you are doing. As you build teams you give ministry away. But the idea is that you have ministry TO give away. The joke with people who can’t get a job is that they are holding out for a management position. When in actuality they are stalling. Instead they should do and work their way up. Same in leadership. Don’t hold out. Start. Then lead. 

Ordinary People, Ordinary Places

IMG_4284 The thing that encourages me the most from traveling to Israel is the extraordinary in the ordinary.  Israel is a small country.  It’s beautiful, but so is California.  The Jewish people, well lets face it, they messed up a lot.  The sea of Galilee is a small area in a small country.  The disciples were a motley crew.  They were mostly fishermen plus a tax-collector.  An unimpressive collection of hot-heads, thieves, rednecks, self-promoters, religious radicals, and barely believers. IMG_4308 And in this small region, in this small country, with a shaky cast, Jesus changed the world and forever changed our destinies.  The extraordinary out of the ordinary.  And it gives me hope, as it should you.  No matter how meaningless you think your life is, no matter how small your town may be, no matter how tucked away your cubicle might seem, God sees you, just as Jesus saw Nathanael under the fig tree, Zaccheus in the tree, and Matthew at the tax booth.  He sees you and He wants to use you and He can use you.  What we see from each of those 12 men were a willingness.  Oswald Chambers calls it a “reckless abandon.” IMG_4257 The story of God’s historical tapestry is not woven with fine golden thread and silk.  Rather, it is entwined with those of us made of ordinary cotton, burlap, and wool.  But in God’s hands, those ordinary ingredients can form something so beautiful, so powerful, it can change thousands of years and millions of people. IMG_4301