Making Church Work – The Executive Pastor

The position of an Executive Pastor is often thankless, but when it comes down to it, the XP’s job is simply making church work – the problem-solver, the strategist, so often the bad guy. There seems to be a never-ending list of challenges freshly piled on the plate, but I don’t see a lot of support for the XP role available in the pastoral community. There are a few good resources out there, like David Fletcher’s amazing site Alternately, you can read Leading From the Second Chair, attend Business Administrator meetings, and fumble through it yourself.

I think the XP community itself is one of the best untapped resources. A lot of us come from corporate or business backgrounds, and there is a tremendous potential of real-world experience available to help make the church work. To that end, in the new year I am launching NavXP – a Google+ community with a quarterly collaborative webinar with Executive Pastors from around the country. Each of these webinars will feature pastors answering burning questions that XP’s face on a daily basis. The first NavXP session will be hosted on January 31st at 1pm (CST) on Google Hangouts, with the opportunity for you to interact in real-time as our guest XP’s address the question how to grow ministry with less money.

It’s going to be a fantastic meeting of the minds – and we need your mind to be involved. So save the date! If you don’t have a Google+ account, sign up now. It’s free!

I would love for you to be involved. This is a collaborative effort to provide resources and support to the second chair role. Contact me if you would like to engage with this opportunity.

>> January 31, 2013 at 1pm (CST)

Vince and Jesus Love Strippers and Pimps

>>Vince Antonucci says Vegas is the place Jesus would go if he came to America.

If you’re looking for a great example of how to love people outside the church and what it means to be mission oriented, you need to meet Vince Antonucci, pastor of Verve in Las Vegas. Their tagline is “Stripping Church. Seeking Life.” These guys have an amazingly clear vision of how to love people who hate the church!

bThe title of this blog was almost Vince and Jesus love strippers, pimps, and Nazis because I keep hearing stories about how Verve is overwhelming people with God’s love for them. Not just lost people, but people Christians typically write-off as unreachable or far too intimidating – like say…Nazis.

missional clarity

>>redemption enacted
One story of redemption that impacts me poignantly is the story of Warren. Warren plays an evil, fire-breathing clown – literally. He is someone who hates God and anyone associated with church. Warren came into contact with Verve because he heard about a new church starting up, and was determined to sabotage it. Vince tells the story so powerfully, as he lays out Warren’s plan to disrupt the services by spewing profanity and violence throughout it.

When Warren showed up, though, what he found going on there in the music, the speaking and the ambiance was so surprising, that he was distracted into hearing the message. Verve is living out their core value of Irreverence TO Reverence with clarity so powerful that it captivated Warren immediately. They state the value as We do anything outside of sin to uncross the arms of unbelieving people to lead them to the cross so Jesus can remove their sin. The service reached an end, and Warren snapped out of his amazement thinking, “*$%@!, its over. I didn’t get around to wrecking it!”

Showing up again the next week, he sent Vince an email saying the service was strangely addictive. But he expressed quite clearly that he HATED Vince and everyone at the church. It wasn’t long before he was driving 45 minutes to come to all three services. After one of them Vince saw him and commented that surely Warren had figured out by now that all three services are identical. Warren’s reply shocked me…

“Man, I know…I just can’t get enough of Jesus.”

Wow! What a powerful and convicting statement from someone who had not even given their life to Christ yet. I want to sincerely say that with as much desperation as Warren. A man who was dedicated to hating God and destroying His church is so thirsty for Jesus that he can’t get enough. Vince and Verve are living out the unique identity and mission God has planted in them with such compelling clarity that they showcase the irresistible grace and beauty of Jesus.

>>measures of success
I love how they creatively and succinctly express the essence of how they measure success in their church. Let these sink in a little:

God Stalkers
1. Intimacy with God: How have I passionately pursued meaningful time with God?
2. Identity in Christ: How have I allowed God to love me just the way I am, and how have I allowed Him to show me where He loves me too much to leave me that way?
3. Obedience to the Holy Spirit’s direction: How have I been inviting God into all my decisions?

Grace Wholesalers
1. Intimacy with Others: How have I passionately pursued deeper relationships with those closest to me?
2. Authentic Relationships: Have I allowed God and a few friends to see and deal with my hurts and hang-ups this week?
3. Evangelism: Who have I invited to church this week?

Guerrilla Lovers
1. Influence for God: How have I passionately pursued opportunities to ambush a few people with God’s love?
2. Contribution: How have I allowed God to show me where I can generously invest my time, talent, and treasure into His Kingdom?
3. Multiplication: Who am I inviting to serve with me?

What is going on at Verve is a powerful expression of how God’s clear vision and focus expands influence and effectiveness. I encourage you to check out more of what’s going on, and hear the outrageous stories of God’s impact in people’s lives. You can find Verve on the web here.

You can see more of Warren’s amazing story of transformation on YouTube here

>>what is the unique identity in your church just waiting to be unleashed?

>>how can we turn our intellectual acknowledgment of Jesus’s mission to reach those far from God into an active pursuit [praxis]?

A Telescope to See God Pt2

As we look through the lens of Peter’s 7 qualities, and explore the telescope illustration, I love how to all blends together with another aspect of the metaphor of how we see God.

Interestingly enough, one of the greatest limitations of earth-bound telescopes is that the atmosphere or environment creates disturbances or patches of distortion when gathering light from such a distant source on the outside of our natural world. To get around this limitation, Astronomers use what is called an Aperture Synthesis They take the images from several widely placed telescopes all pointing at the same object and combine the images so that if there’s a bad spot in one image, it may be clear in another, but the bad spot in the second one may be clear in a third or fourth. So they combine all the accurate parts from multiple different perspectives to get a clear, accurate picture.

Isn’t that one thing community does for us? We all have our environmental distortion created by our upbringing, or teaching, or wounds, or fears, and so when we look at God we have these bad patches in the picture where the light is bent by our own personal aberrations. Ahh…the beauty of community, where we come together and the distortion in our personal perspectives can be corrected when placed in the big picture that is formed when we all study, discuss, and interact with God together. Between all of us, we can eliminate a lot of the distortions that have been a part of our personal beliefs and experiences, and come up with a much clearer and accurate picture of who God is and the truth that He has placed in His word.

Community can expose areas of our praxis that are broken – usually areas that we are unaware of. When you’ve been functioning with the same dysfunction all of your life, there is nothing abnormal about it to you. We can not piece together the whole of truth as individuals. We need others around us who care enough to help us see, and encourage us to address our distortions.

A Telescope to See God Pt 1

How to see God – 7 qualities listed in 2 Peter 1:4-11

4For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent)promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.

 8For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.

 10Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

I’m going through a study of II Peter, and I spent a few hours on 1:4-11. While considering some of the thoughts my friends had as we discussed the verses I constructed the following, and thought it worth sharing with you.

7 Qualities from 2Peter

The ever-increasing qualities of perfection in 2Peter 1:4-11

I created this illustration to encapsulate my view of the whole process of these 7 qualities – not going too far into how the individual qualities interact themselves – though I’d love to get around to that later. Each one of the qualities mentioned leads to and enables the next quality, while the exercise of the next one strengthens and makes more perfect the previous ones. These qualities are progressive, consecutive, and concurrent.

I’m not sure if everyone is aware of how a telescope works, but the idea is that the:

>>focal length
<———> (how long the telescope is) determines how wide a view it can see. So if these qualities are yours and are increasing you will be able to see more and more of the whole picture of God. So the more they increase in you (the greater the focal length) the bigger picture you can take in.

>>angular resolution
(the clarity of the picture) is determined by the width of the lens on the far end. So the farther away from the eyepiece, and the wider the lens (love) the clearer the picture of what you’re looking at. It’s like the difference between a blurry polaroid and professional portrait or watching Lord of the Rings on your iPod instead of at the theater. Details come into focus that were invisible before when the Angular resolution is increased. The greater your Angular resolution, the clearer, more accurate, and detail-rich your picture of God.

is the third consideration of a telescope primarily determined by the diameter of the aperture (the opening on the far end). It doesn’t matter what resolution or focal length you have if you can’t gather enough light to see what you’re looking at. It’s not a linear relationship either – a telescope that has an aperture 3 times larger will have 9 times more light-gathering power. So the larger the opening on the end gets, the more it multiplies your ability to gather light.

Even a slightly increased capacity to love multiplies all of the other qualities, and allows more and more of the divine nature to get to you on the narrow end. How beautiful that Paul talks about only seeing things dimly in I Cor 13 as he’s talking about Love. He states that when the perfect love comes we will see things clearly – not dimly or in silhouette. Love is the aperture that allows us to gather in the divine light. It’s almost as if he is talking about a telescope. The more you increase the aperture, the more you can see of God – the more you can experience of the divine nature.

…if you don’t have an eyepiece, a telescope is worthless. That’s why the series of attributes starts with arete (moral excellence). It is that divine energy placed into man that opens us up to the rest of the qualities. Without the same spirit and energy placed within us, the rest is simply words that can never take on substance in our lives. Gnosis (knowledge) defines those concepts as we diligently explore them, but we must master our impatience and fleshly desires to have self-control in working out what our knowledge reveals about arete. Hupomone (perseverance) means we must do this as a continual effort – what Nietzsche would call a long obedience in the same direction. Through this we gain a spiritual maturity, and dare I say, a fear of the Lord and a beginning of wisdom, which brings us to philadelphia (affection) as we recognize our responsibility in relating to our fellow humans, and finally to agape (love), the fulfillment of the law – the greatest expression of divine character, and the foremost effort of the follower of Christ.

How beautiful is His word.


12 Things I’m Thankful for in 2012

This post is more personal in nature, but I love to express how thankful I am. So, I suppose this is the digital equivalent of shouting something from a mountaintop. I’m going to release 12 things in two posts of 6 each, so stay tuned!

>>how God has invited me into serving His kingdom – 1.
I love that God has created, called and equipped me to serve His kingdom by serving The Church. The paradigm of doing that with Auxano is an exponential expansion of what God has planted in me. I am thankful for His trust, His invitation, His grace, and His investment in me as a servant in His kingdom.

>>my hottie wife and awesome boys – 2.
I can’t even express how great it is to have such a loving, supportive, innovative wife partnering in ministry and journeying through this life adventure with me. My two boys are a whole dump-truck full of awesome.

I am thankful not only for the opportunity to love and shepherd them. I am thankful for their influence on me. There’s no doubt that I would be a completely different person if I had more regular sleep, fewer back and groin injuries, and less than 6 hours a day playing peek-a-boo.

>>great parents that I appreciate more every year – 3.
I have such a heart of thanks for my parents. Every year it grows. I think the more I reflect, and the more that I deal with the mind-paralyzing intricacies of parenting myself, the more thankful I am for the way that my parents sacrificed and loved me.  I am also mortified at how crappy my attitude was as a kid at times. I just had no perspective, and I’m glad they were wise enough to take that into consideration and treat me with so much grace.

>>great leaders who invest in me – 4.
I’m thrilled to have such high-capacity thought leaders investing in me and my call to serve church leaders. Will Mancini is a brilliant thinker who is changing the landscape of spiritual culture in America by helping pastors find God’s unique identity and vision for their churches. Chris Willard, who modeled great pastoral and organizational leadership to me, is helping churches develop a culture of true generosity that is changing how people understand what it means to follow Christ. Both of these guys have written tremendous books that are leading their field in how to approach vision and a culture of generosity.

>>full-on freedom – 5.
There are a lot of times that I get irritated and concerned about how the United States is evolving as a culture and a country. I enjoy and really truly appreciate the full degree of freedom that I have the privilege to enjoy. I think that the Millennials are probably the last generation that will be born in a time of such amazing freedom, and I’m thankful for it. I’m also thankful for the men and women (present and past) who paid for me to enjoy it.

>>stunning access to information and technology – 6.
I am blown away at the amount of information that I have access to today, even just compared to my younger days.  Being a technology geek, I have been involved in the development of the technology that makes it possible. It is amazing how accessibility of information is changing our communication, our thought processes, the speed of change itself, and ultimately our culture. It’s frightening in some aspects, but I love it deep down. I can’t wait to get me some Project Glass! The singularity is approaching… 🙂

>>What are you thankful for? Let me know in the comments below!

Is vision what keeps people at your church?

This is the second blog in a series: The Grass is Always Greener Where you Water it. As I write about the churches where I have served, I am using pseudonyms that will give me the opportunity to explore them a little more fully, without offending members or staff with my observations. Looking back now at the trail behind, I recognize that each celebration of a win, and each challenge (or epic fail) was directly related to how clearly the church understood its identity and calling.

I’m going to call the next church in the series, Metro Church. This church sits in the midst of an incredibly hip urban center, with a high value for the arts and style – not quite New York City, but cooler than Atlanta.

I want to talk about my experiences at Metro Church through the framework of what Auxano calls, The 4 P’s. These 4 concepts are the foundational source of attraction and stickiness of a church body when someone initially comes into contact with it. Everyone is looking for a defining, emotional connection to the church. We can not keep people from connecting to one or more of them. The essential question is, are they ever given the opportunity to connect with something more enduring?

>>p is for place
Metro church had a really great place. They were not exactly downtown, but close enough. They had a fantastic cutting-edge facility, great multi-use classroom environments, a top-notch cafe right in the lobby, super children’s areas, and even a skatepark out back. One of the core values of Metro Church was “Compelling Environments”, and they did it well.

When I first came to Metro, I resisted this value as purely attractional. It bothered me that there were so many people who attended because they were in love with the great environments, the musical style, the skinny jeans on the worship team, and the utter hipp-ness of the place. It definitely felt like you had to have a certain cool factor to attend Metro. They leveraged God’s provision of a great campus in every way they could – and to be honest, for a while, I struggled to find anything more meaningful than their focus on a relevant culture. In the sparse communication season of a deeper mission, people were definitely attached to the culture of the place.

>>p is for personality
This P happens when there is a particularly loved or charismatic leader on the staff at a church. People can easily attach the church’s identity and their sense of belonging to a staff member or communicator. Is it difficult to imagine the church being such a compelling place without that particular leader? Because the senior leader and communicator at Metro is so incredibly gifted, the spotlight on the vision had to shine so much brighter to keep it front and center as the identity of the church. If they had failed in that, the church’s identity would have revolved around the personality of a few key leaders. See Will Mancini’s article on Rick Warren’s health issues for a great example.

>>p is for programs
Metro Church did an exceptional job with this one. The culture of the church was one of change. Programs were always accepted as temporary expressions of the church’s mission. There were only a few rare exceptions where people invested their identity and commitment in one of the amazing programs at Metro. There was always very little fallout when a program was cut, or transitioned into another program. The staff really did a great job of making sure that people knew the programs were tools in support of the church’s vision.

>>p is for people
This is the trickiest of the 4, and happens to be the one that was the biggest challenge for Metro Church. When people become the central source of identity (a person’s emotional connection to a church at the deepest level), they experience severe angst when people they are personally attached to leave. We want people to experience true community in our church body. But when the people we are relationally connected to leave, our ties and commitment to the church should not dissolve. The purely sociological phenomenon of comfort and belonging that occurs when 10-20 people know you and miss you should never trump our attachment to God’s vision for the church.

Metro was constantly in a state of leadership flux because the relational attraction of the micro-communities at the church created stronger ties than people’s connection to the church’s vision. As the pastor that led discipleship and spiritual development, I was guilty of unintentionally reinforcing this by using small groups to strengthen these ties without dripping the vision as the motivating purpose behind the small group communities.

The 4 P’s are not bad. They are all good things. They are part of God’s provision to us, as His church. Tragically, it is easy to raise these 4 areas to a place of primacy over the vision without even realizing it. Because we want to leverage God’s provision to make the most of what He gives us, we reinforce people’s love and value of the place God has given us, the quality of our leaders, the excellent programs we use, and the people who help us connect. The problem is that even in the absence of a clear and compelling vision, the 4 P’s have enough power to drawn and retain people, masking the gaping hole in our purpose and mission.

I am thankful for Metro Church’s continual focus on the vital, unique vision that God called them to. I learned so much about the seductive danger of a church that could have continued growing just by been great at the 4 P’s – yet continually called people to refocus on God’s mission for His people in that time and place.

>>Which of the 4 P’s does your church struggle with? How do you keep your missional focus?

How to change the dynamic of an argument

Have you ever been in a disagreement, debate, or argument that just seems to be going around in circles? Are you in one right now with a spouse, co-worker, friend that’s creating tension and division in your relationship? If they could just see things from your perspective, they would understand how much better your solution is. These are a few tools that have served me well in coming to an agreeable solution in work and personal relationships when tension arises.

>>create some space
When opposing positions are not resolving, creating some space can make a lot of difference how things move forward. Suggest a short break away from the issue. Focus on another activity that occupies your mind for a short time. Don’t immediately do something that occupies your body, but leaves your mind able to focus on the issue – otherwise you’re not really creating space away from the issue.

>>write a letter
Sometimes writing a letter can make all the difference in the world. It allows each person to consider and express their thoughts and feelings in a more complete and sequential way. It can get the whole issue on the tabe without the interruption of debating each point as it appears in a dialogue. Be honest but humble. Use “I” statements to express how you feel and think. Do not try to state the other person’s position or make assumptions about them. Focus on expressing only your thoughts and feelings. Make sure there are no “always/never” statements. Stick to ONE main issue. Don’t try to solve everything. Take a short break then read it again to make sure you are clear, honest, and not exaggerating.

>>remove it from the spotlight
It can be helpful to find a point that you agree on. Restart the conversation from that central point of unity, then discover where and why your opinions diverge. Another thing you can do to remove it from the spotlight is to change the subject. Make a decision to focus on something that you like or admire about the other person and turn the conversation to that for a while. This is not to pretend the disagreement doesn’t exist – this is to ensure that the issue does not define the relationship or your whole perception of the other person. Speaking your genuine appreciation for a person without hesitation can change the dynamic of a whole relationship.

>>recognize that it may not be solved
It is possible for people to disagree and still have a healthy, functional relationship. If both positions are well-established and have significant merits, it may take years for an opinion or belief to change – or it might never change. Often opposing positions are not mutually exclusive, and simply changing your thinking from “either/or” to a “both/and” perspective can bring a satisfying compromise resolution.

>>try it on
Really listen. Remove your stake in the conversation to help you hear the other person. With each of these tips, it is important to be prayerful, humble, and have an open heart. Decide what it would look like if the other person is right, before you respond. Sometimes it has taken me a decade to realize that I was wrong. So now, I start any argument considering what it would mean 10 years down the road if they are right. The other person may not be correct, but I still need to hear them clearly and “try it on.”

What is your best tip for changing the dynamic of an argument?

Can You Answer These 5 Questions with Clarity?

This is the first blog in a series: The Grass is Always Greener Where you Water it. As I write about the churches where I have served, I am using pseudonyms that will give me the opportunity to explore them a little more fully, without offending members or staff with my observations. Looking back now at the trail behind, I recognize that each one of the celebrations of a win, and each challenge (or epic fail) was directly related to how clearly the church understood its identity and calling.

When God called me out of the corporate world, into vocational ministry with the church, Big Community Baptist was the place He called me. My wife and I had recently moved from the Atlanta, GA and we landed at Big Community Baptist, which was pastored by an amazing, Godly man and a competent, well-loved staff.

As I write about my experiences there, I want to present it through the lens of clarity, and how they answered (or didn’t) the 5 Irreducible Questions of Clarity:

>>what are we ultimately supposed to be doing?
Big Community Baptist had a lot of things working in its favor. It was well-established, over 8K members strong. It had a skilled staff, and truly represented the big community church in Western culture – in both strengths and weaknesses. Though leadership used different church flavored words, what we were ultimately doing, was creating a wonderful place where good people could become better people. The church’s mission was generic and soft. Our strength was offering something to every felt need that a nominally Christian person could have – and we did it with excellence! I would characterize us as one of the largest Christian buffets on the East Coast.

>>why are we doing it?
I will speak to what I perceived as the top 3 core values, highlighted through the actions and ethos of the church during my time there, as opposed to our stated values that existed in a notebook on every pastor’s shelf:
== Everyone involved all the time – Instead of focusing involvement around no more than 3 strategic time slots in the weekly rhythm, there was an expectation that everyone should be involved every time the church doors open. The church also made provisions for people to be involved all week long (meals at the church, child care for every event). Contrary to expectation, this actually worked fairly well. There was a very high degree of involvement at the participation level all week long.
== Tradition as our guide rails – Big Community Baptist has a high respect for tradition. They utilized the strength of things done the same way for decades. There was an underlying structure of tradition and culture that served as a strong (nearly impassible) filter that determined ministry development, discipleship expectations, and leadership. While this is positive when done intentionally, it can also be stifling if not managed appropriately.
== Let the professionals do it – While there was a high degree of involvement at the participation level, there was a famine at the leadership level. Members, attenders, and staff acted on the expectation that ministry was the “professional’s” job. The staff and paid volunteers were unbelievably competent at feeding the masses and meeting needs, and that was the unspoken metric of success.

>>how are we doing it?
This question and the following are where I was able to explore my developing strengths most fully and bring some missing clarity in my time at this church. The strategy for Big Community Baptist was centered around getting the largest number of people involved in the greatest number of things. Part of my service here, arose from my passion for depth of development and transformation. One of the most valuable things that I learned about ministry from the tremendous leaders in this church, is how to handle people-development in large, complex ministry structures. BCB’s strategy and measures had been all about going wide with the big net. Part of that was the immediacy of having so many people involved with such a low leadership capacity. What that requires is always pitching to the weakest hitter, with no margin for working with players who have Pro potential to develop a larger leadership bench.

After a lot of discussion and debate (and more than a little tension), leadership gave the nod to start an 18 month leadership development process that would dive deep, reproducing radical discipleship in the lives of lay leaders. With many skeptics questioning the effectiveness and time-table it moved forward. After 18 months, the leadership was astounded, having a whole new group of people with the capacity and maturity to run whole ministry areas – and that’s what they did! This concept of slow-cook, life-on-life disciple reproduction challenged and evolved their strategy in significant ways over the next decade, and went on to have a high impact on other local churches as well.

>>when do we win?
Until shortly after Big Community Baptist invited me to reform the discipleship and community process, the picture of a win was based purely on Input Metrics (like number of people involved). There was a underground concept of what a disciple of Jesus looked like. It was rarely given voice, much less evaluated. We developed and articulated a number of characteristics that were measurable and understood to be the result of engaging as a follower of Christ at BCB.

This is by no means a perfect list, but it was revolutionary to write it out and begin to measure success with tangible characteristics in the lives of people growing at the church. Simply put:

  • Worship with Heart, Mind, and Body
    • Corporate service
    • Individual worship time
    • Serving inside and outside
  • Instruction in Truth
    • Seeking mentoring
    • Giving mentoring
    • Small group training
  • Loving God, Unbelievers, and the Church
    • Putting God first
    • Active caring for people far from God
    • Praying for the church daily

>>where is God taking us?
Honestly, there were quite a few answers to this question during my time there. This question should have the flex and flow of a journey into the wilds with God. Part of the intangibility in this case is a lack of clarity with the preceding 4 questions.

Big Community Baptist is a great church, and has changed a lot in the last decade. They have uncovered a lot of the clarity that was missing, and they are even more missionally oriented than they were during my time. It was a blessing to lead and serve there. I learned so much from patient leaders. I am thankful for my calling there, and it was painful for me to pull away and be called by God in to my next place of ministry…coming up!

>> Which of these 5 questions do you find most challenging to answer in your current place of ministry?


5 Things Pastors Should Be Doing…but probably aren’t!

>>Putting clarity first
This is one that I could write pages and pages on. I will spare you that an simply say that unless you have absolute clarity in your mission, far too much of your energy and momentum will be spent in vain. There is no such thing as alignment that is not preceded by clarity. Without absolute clarity of purpose, no organization or individual can function at their God-given potential. Make your first priority an absolutely ruthless pursuit of clearly articulating God’s unique vision for your church or organization. The book Church Unique was an absolute eye-opener for me in this area. You can download the free Visual Summary of the book here.

>>Taking a sabbath
I am amazed at how often pastors and other leaders have trouble with this one. In fact, in this list of 5, I would probably rank this as number 1 in difficulty. Sometimes we forget that God honors obedience over sacrifice. I know many many pastors and leaders that intellectually recognize the importance of a sabbath, but struggle to regularly honor God by taking one day of rest out of every 7. Leaders, this is one of the Big 10! It’s right up there with “Thou shall not commit adultery”. Not only is it a basic command of obedience encapsulated as an aspect of the Greatest Commandment, it’s part of how God protects and blesses us. Without this basic obedience of rest, will he really honor and bless our work for him? Check out Dr Matthew Sleeth’s upcoming book 24/6 for an honest and Biblical challenge for what this looks like in a digital age of 24/7 productivity, or take a look at how Ron Edmondson protects his sabbath.

Modern technology gives us simple tools that allow us to connect on a more personal level with some of the thought leaders of our generation. We have an amazing potential to teach and learn from a broader base than we’ve ever had in history. A generation ago, the best avenue to share the unique experience and perspective that God was building into your life, was through becoming a published author. Blogging is a simple, easy way to disseminate your spiritual journey and life mission in smaller bite-sized chunks to a potentially worldwide audience, as well as invite conversation and collaborative learning to take place. Don’t think blogging will ever replace the personal touch, but it’s also a great way to maintain a more personal connection with a larger group of people than you could possibly manage in more traditional ways. Even if you have to use a ghost writer, this is something you should be doing.

>>Social Media
Don’t underestimate the impact that 140 digital characters can have! Twitter is essentially a global text message. Just like a cell-phone text, you have to clarify your message into 140 letters/spaces or less. A lot can be said in such a small space – and technology allows your tweet or Facebook post to link to a blog, article, picture, video, anything! Use it as a hook to let people know where they can find resources that add value to their lives and ministry. Use Facebook to invite people into conversation or make a first connection. Use Pinterest to show the story that God telling at your church with great pictures that are worth a thousand words. I know that someone on your staff or leadership has been telling you this is something you should be doing. Just take the plunge and mark off one hour a week to plan how your church can connect to the new town hall of the Millennial generation. Ask for help, and give your people an opportunity to serve in an area that they enjoy.

>>Inviting people to tell their story
One of the challenges of being a good communicator with a clear mission is that we can tend to be the one telling the story too often, when God wants to give voice to his glory through the redemption stories of the people in our community. Get in the habit of seeking out the stories of God moving – transforming lives and brokeness into grace, redemption, and a life on mission – and then give those stories voice. Few things reveal the magnificence of God’s work and capture hearts quite like a story. We are called to be witnesses, so let’s give people something to bear witness to!

NEXT UP: >>Dangerous God

The Clarity of a Singularity – is your life unique?

>>Most people don’t know this, but I have a tattoo on my left shoulder blade. It’s not artistic or beautiful. It is three simple letters – ONE. I put it there when I was much younger as a declaration of clarity – what I recognized at the time, as one of the most important articulations of my life philosophy:

>>everything that exists is a singularity
I believe that! There is one truth. One God. One love. One life. One source. One good. One savior. One hope. One me. One you. Everything in life is unique. That’s one of the reasons that I am passionate about Auxano. We are convinced that every church is unique, and has a purpose that is at once, COSMICALLY significant and LOCALLY specific. There is no duplication, no routine, no repeats, no counterfeits. There is only one. With some conscious thought, this concept reveals itself with stunning clarity, however it’s such a struggle to actually LIVE this way. I wrestled with why it’s so difficult, and my conclusion is that it absolutely terrifies my finite, little mind.

>>my enemy, the calendar
Consider how we mark time as a culture. Each unnamed minute repeats 60 times every hour. Each 7 day cycle repeats 52 anonymous times in a year. This system is practically designed to convince us that life is mundane. Nameless minutes and repetitive hours blur into the same cycle of 7 days. It’s just another Monday, same as last Monday and next Monday. It’s almost Friday, and the weekend. Sometimes the monotony is enough to make you want to bite your own face. For pastors, there’s only Sunday. The other days are just lead-in and recovery…the planning time between Sundays. For 9 to 5’ers, Monday through Friday is just another work week. Part of the struggle is that when each hour and each day is labeled the same over and over, it’s tough to recognize – much less embrace their singularity.

The unlikely truth is that every day, every HOUR is a singularity. How much more precious and important would a year be if every day had it’s own unique name? How much more weight and value do we attach to something that has never occurred before in all of history, and never will again?! Our labels serve well to mark to the passage of time, but effectively blind us to the precious and singular nature of existence.

When I begin to consider that every moment is a unique universal occurrence that has never happened before, and will never arise again – when I consider that each day is unique and carries its own once-in-a-lifetime potential, I get butterflies the size of foxes in my stomach. I could hyperventilate! What do my actions and decisions mean in this context? They can only be made, never taken back, and what I do (or don’t) carries forward in time potentially into eternity. The human mind deals with complexity and significance by assigning labels, by reducing things to oversimplified models. Our nature, as well as our culture accepts and even embraces this simplification as the norm. But my tattoo every once in a while rips that covering away from my mind and reminds me that there is a purpose and clarity to every moment of my life.

So what does this mean? That the unique singularity of the gift of each day will pass by with only marginal, haphazard purpose if I don’t know with stunning clarity what my mission in life is. These unique and priceless days do not stop and wait while I lack purpose. They continue to move through the present and into an irretrievable past at a dizzying pace, lost forever. If I don’t move forward in my life-mission on any given day, I can never recover that lost ground.

Don’t get me wrong, I am going to enjoy life. In fact, when I live in the clarity of my mission – I enjoy life more fully in work, in relationships, and in leisure than at any other time. There is something deeply fulfilling about having a mission that enfolds every portion of a healthy life, giving meaning, focus, and clarity to what seems at times a fragmented and mundane repetition.

>>so what?
If we consider our God as infinite in reach, ability, and understanding then I would posit everything that he creates is a singularity. If he truly is that grand and unending, why should we find it hard to imagine that every single particle in the universe is named and unique to him, that it has a place as part of his larger vision and purpose? I certainly consider my life in those terms – and I strive to embrace every thing in my experience as a singularity with purpose. So answer this below in the comments section:

Can you state the mission of your life?


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