If you would have asked me a year ago what I dreaded the most in ministry I might have told you weddings, funerals, and hospital visits. Honestly, I had never done a wedding or a funeral and had minimal experience with hospital visits. While I still don't have much experience in these, I have found that these three things are possibly the most meaningful part of my ministry. To be able to celebrate with families in the most joyous occasions and to be present in the mourning and celebration of a life can be so incredibly meaningful. To journey through with a family while a loved on is in the hospital is never easy, but to be invited to be a part of that journey through life has begun to mean so much to me. This weekend I will have the opportunity to marry my sister-in-law, Kelly, and her fiance, Josh. What an honor it is to be asked to be a part of such a special moment in their lives. I look forward so much to this aspect of ministry in the years to come.
This past semester at Rockbridge Seminary we read Dan Kimball's book: They Like Jesus but Not the Church. While I disagree with many of Kimball's beliefs, I respect his ministry greatly. Kimball's message is challenging for Christians to read and how much some of our actions that came from good intentions have so misrepresented Jesus Christ to this world. Incredibly thought provoking book that I believe all Christians should read whether you agree or disagree with the Emergent movement.
I was just reading a post from almost a year ago where Katie first blogged about the news that she was pregnant. This past year has been an incredible journey and I can't express enough how blessed I feel. As I'm getting to spend the day celebrating my precious Emery's 4 month birthday I'm overwhelmed at the blessing of her life. Katie and I were talking last week about the things that were important to us a year ago and what is important to us today. Over the past 5 years of marriage we have been on incredible vacations, lived in some of the sweetest places, eaten out way too much at some nice restaurants, and bought some cool toys; but our favorite moment thus far was the week we spent in the hospital when Emery was born. I didn't need my Mac, flat screen tv, home, or car; we just enjoyed those special moments together in that tiny hospitall room sleeping on a chair they say turns into a "bed". I'm so blessed to have an incredible wife who loves the Lord with all of her heart and loves me even though I often make it very difficult for her to. She is an incredible friend, teacher, mom, and wife. I am truly a blessed man!
Several years ago my sister began telling me about a musician named Zach Hendricks that she new from High School that I really should look to bring in sometime for one of our Youth events. A year or so later in a group of Youth Pastors I heard someone say: "Have you heard Zach Hendricks? I think he's going to be the next Chris Tomlin." After hearing this and from what my sister said I quickly looked him up and invited him to come lead worship at one of our youth events in Houston. His talent quickly caught my attention, his authenticity in worship engaged our students like never before, and his personality wins everyone over. I've been able to partner with him in various ministry events since and experience him leading worship or playing a concert in many different venues and have been blown away every time. If you aren't already familiar with his music you will be soon. Check out his MySpace or Twitter to connect more with Zach, his music, and his ministry.
I've been fascinated for many years by the future of ministry and what that looks like on the internet. It hasn't been until the last year that it has really begun to consume me though. The possibilities are endless and the opportunities through the World Wide Web to take the gospel to the ends of the earth are now opening up in a new way like never before. I love constantly experimenting though podcasts, live video feeds, facebook, twitter, MySpace (it's this old Social Media website people used to use), and now blogging. Look for many blogs coming soon about how I've been experimenting and some of the trends that I see coming in the future. I would love to hear your thoughts and how you are using the internet and more specifically social media in your business or ministry.
About 3 weeks ago on a Wednesday afternoon, a 17 year old high school student walked onto our church campus with a lot of questions. He had just moved here from LA because his parents recently divorced and they are living with his Mom's new boyfriend down the street from the church here in San Antonio. He sayed he had not been to a church since he was 5 and didn't know why he was there but he was curious. It was an incredible moment for me in ministry as I watch our High School students embrace him, teach him how to play basketball, and share the gospel with him. In the past 3 weeks it's been an incredible journey watching him slowly begin to understand God, Jesus, salvation, and community. I actually got to hear him say his first prayer to God just last night. Just yesterday after our Wednesday night Bible Study he asked Diego and I if he could talk to us and that he needed to share something with us. He said: "My Dad's a Satanist and he's very mad that I'm coming to church." He followed that by saying: "I now believe in God and Jesus but I feel that accepting His grace by making Him my Lord would be turning my back on my Dad. I just don't know what to do." What do you say to that? We encouraged him, we prayed for him, and we'll continue to embrace him into our community of faith. I would love to hear what you would say and how you would respond.
So I plan to use this blog to focus on ministry and share life, so in sharing life I have to highlight some businesses as well. I will do my best to highlight good businesses and not rip bad ones (except maybe Gene Brown Transmissions, but that's another blog) I love two things when interacting with businesses: 1)good deals (that's why I have too much junk) and 2)good business practices. With the addition of Emery it was time for the Green Machine to go, so Katie and I just bought a 2006 Jeep Commander from Red McCombs. We loved the process and the sales guy there and went home very happy. About a month later I took the Jeep to get an oil change and they let me know that the brake pads were totally worn down and transmission was leaking fluid. I immediately called Red McCombs and they told me to just bring it in and they would take a look. When I got there they treated my with class, immediately took the Jeep in and set me up with a loaner car until they were confident that the issues were taken care of. They ended up totally replacing brake pads and rotors and doing about $600 worth of work and didn't charge me a penny or use the warranty. When you buy a used car, as I understand it, when you drive off the lot, you are buying it as is. I hear nightmare stories about car dealerships and salesmen, but my experience with Red McCombs has been outstanding. I love good business!
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to talk on the phone to talk to Andrew Statezy, who oversees OPEN and NETWORK for LifeChurch.tv. It's unbelievable to me that they provide so many resources to so many ministries for FREE! Over the past year I have used LifeChurch.tv youth ministry videos, downloaded many Craig Groeschel pod casts, worshiped online, downloaded and use many times every day the YouVersion iPhone Bible, and watched read the SWERVE blog regularly. They're also providing all of their children's resources for FREE as well at http://open.lifechurch.tv/kids for families to use at home. If you aren't familiar with the ministries of LifeChurch.tv, I encourage you to check them out now. For those of us in ministry I believe I speak for many in saying Thank You. Thank you for your bold and cutting edge ministry and sharing with us everything along the way!
So my step-mother, Robin, just got a new Kindle for her birthday and I'm fascinated by it. I'm fascinated by how it works, how easy it is to read, and how much it can hold. Honestly, I really like it and I want one... now. I read about a book a month and wish I read more and in my mind buying a Kindle would help allow me to read more somehow. I can also justify it in that the majority of my seminary books are offered on the Kindle. My biggest problem though is knowing that it like most technology will continue to improve while likely dropping in price. Should I wait or should I buy? Would love your thoughts please!
About a year ago a friend of mine handed me a DVD of the documentary: Lord Save Us From Your Followers and said watch this when you have a chance. I rarely watch movies (I have a hard time sitting still for 2 hours) but the title caught my attention and I found some free time at home one night when Katie was out of town at a Dance Competition. While I wouldn't say that the movie changed my life, I will say that it dramatically changed my thinking. It made me question so many of my actions and interactions as a follower of Christ. So quickly after becoming a Christian, I submerged myself into the Christian subculture and forgot what it meant to be a seeker or nonbeliever. I essentially made a complete change in going from judging Christians to judging non-Christians. How does this happen so quickly and so dramatically? I've developed a mindset that Christians are good and non-Christians are bad. Let's be honest though, we all know some pretty "bad" people that call themselves Christians and know some incredibly "good" people that are non-Christians. A few months ago I had the opportunity to meet Dan Merchant, the Producer of the film: Lord Save Us From Your Followers, and hear his heart for the film and how the movie has impacted those who have seen it. His stories are powerful of how this movie is impacting culture. You can watch a clip of Dan Merchant from the Today Show here. If you have not seen this film I can't encourage you enough to find a copy (preferably buy one to support the film), watch it, and share it with a film. It probably won't change your life, but I guarantee that it will at least challenge your thinking if not change your thinking all together.
While I don't agree with everything written in this book and definitely not everything that Mark Driscoll says and does, this is a great read about Mark's journey in ministry and launching of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Mark very openly talks about the struggles and mistakes that he made as well as many of the highlights along with journey. Even if you don't feel like you have time to read the entire book, it's worth it just for the Appendix additions of: 1) The Junk Drawer: Answers to Common Questions, and 2) Distinctives of Larger Churches. Go here to check out the book on Amazon.
Fall Retreat 2009 was an incredible weekend! We had 3 canoes tip and were told that no group in the last 3 months have tipped a canoe. I rode a horse which I will not do for a long long time (there's a twitpic if you follow my twitter). We had incredible times of worship and teaching along with some times of real, genuine community. Jeff Mangum taught about Lordship and that it is in our obedience that we reflect Christ to the world around us. I was able to follow his message in challenging students to really think about who they reflect individually, but also who we reflect as a community of believers. Jeff and I both emphasized the importance of community and how desperately we need each other when we seek to be obedient to the calling of God in our lives. As you think about your life, who/what would the world around you say that you reflect? Are you surrounded in community with those who challenge and encourage you in your obedience to Christ?
We're packing up all the gear in the Student Center and getting excited about leaving for Fall Retreat this afternoon! One of the many reasons I'm excited about this weekend is that this is Emery's first of many Fall Retreats to come! Weekends like this are by far the best part of ministry and being able to do it with family makes it that much sweeter! Katie and I have always been partners in ministry and it's so exciting to add Emery as a part of our ministries. This weekend, we're heading off the YMCA Camp Flaming Arrow and expecting God to do great things! David Gregory is leading worship and myself and Jeff Mangum are co-teaching on Obedience. Did I mention that there's horseback riding? I hope there's not a weight limit! Pray for us this weekend as we're expecting God to move in a powerful way in our Student Ministry! By the way Chris Tripputi designed this graphic for us if you're looking for a graphic designer he is the best. Will be back for updates on the retreat on Sunday... or maybe Monday.
To be honest, I'm addicted to all things Andy Stanley. I love his books, his preaching, his resources, but my favorite of everything he puts out there is his Leadership Podcast. It comes out at the beginning of every month and it's similar to another episode of The Office for me, the moment I finish an episode I'm eagerly waiting for the next. The podcast is broken up with a 10 minute or so clip from one of his leadership messages and then has about 15 minutes of Q & A with Andy about the topic. If you're a leader in any ministry area or organization, you need to be listening to this podcast monthly! Here's a link to iTunes so you can download and listen.
This past week at Segue and at our Sunday Morning Pulse worship time we were led by David Gamboa and Blake Quimby on their 1000 Stories Tour. Their tour was completely free and sole purpose was to raise awareness for the Minor Foundation. If you click the link for the tour you can find out all about their story. Anyways, I met David about 6 months ago after hearing quite a bit about his music around San Antonio. He played the Accoustic Stage at Segue Late Night a few times and then this past week led us in worship. While his style is more folk/accoustic than I'm normally drawn to, his music is engaging and lyrics have great depth. I have no doubt that he'll be back many times as he's quickly become a favorite in our ministry. I encourage you to check out his music on MySpace and think about purchasing on iTunes. Well worth adding to your regular playlist on the iPod.
Did the title of this blog post catch your attention? It caught mine as well as I watched Scott Williams message during "The Nines" conference. I'm honestly very hesitant to post the title "Church Diversity Sucks" knowing that I will probably have a few people get upset about my title, but I also know that the title will attract some that might not have read this blog post or watch this video to take the time. As I watched his message, I think it shook my thinking more than any of the other messages I heard that day. If you haven't already taken the time to watch this video, I hope you will take 9 minutes and listen to his message. Scott makes a statement that is so true that I honestly had never thought about until hearing his message: "On Sundays when we stand to sing and worship God that we're standing in the most segregated hour of the most segregated day of the week." His challenge is for us as ministry leaders to truly embrace diversity and not just tolerate it. Church Diversity sucks but it doesn't have to! How do you think we begin to embrace diversity? Thoughts?
First, I mostly wanted to show off a picture that David and I took with Francis Chan. This was the reward we got for skipping out on the Fee concert early when we ran into Francis (we're on a first name basis now) in the parking lot. When I think about the communicators from Conclave I sum it up by saying that Gregg Matte encouraged, Matt Chander challenged, and Francis Chan inspired. Francis shared a story about a former gang member that accepted Christ and was baptized in their church. He said that he ran into that gang member in a grocery store a few months later and asked how things were going. The former gang member told him that he had stopped going to church. He still believed in God, but church just wasn't what he expected. He thought that when he was baptized it would be like when he was jumped into the gang. He thought that he would from that point on be surrounded in the community but what he had experienced that even more than before the community became even less connected when he was baptized. He was desperate for community and seemed to find more community in his gang than he did in the church. Do gangs understand how to do community than we as the church do? I don't know about you, but this story challenges me as I know that it is true of the churches that I have been a part of and ministries that I lead. Jeff Mangum regularly challenges our Segue community to fight for community. I want to challenge you as Francis Chan did to read Numbers 20 and consider the community that you are a part of and what role you need to play in deepening and widening that community.
Chris and David shared this video with me about a week ago and it's challenged me so much in so many different ways. When Tom Brady says, "Why do I have 3 Superbowl rings and still think there's something greater out there for me." This coming from a man that has lived the dream for so many of us. As a Christian I'm challenged in many ways. When I think about sharing my faith I often only think about it with people who are in great need. Tom Brady would not be one of those people, but his words remind me of all of our desperation and need for Christ. I'm also greatly convicted as I know what fulfills me yet I continue to chase nicer things, a nicer home, car, tvs, ministry "success", and things that while they might not be wrong I base way to much of my worth in. May you find the fulfillment in this life that can only be found in Christ and may you share that joy with ALL that you come in contact with.
After over 20 years in Youth Ministry Doug Fields recently resigned as the Youth Pastor at Saddleback Church. While I've only met Doug Fields once in person, he has shaped my Youth Ministry leadership probably more than any other person. My first month in Youth Ministry I read Doug's book, Purpose Driven Youth Ministry, which has shaped my understanding of Youth Ministry since. I also read his books: Your First 2 Years in Youth MInistry and What Matters Most on top of teaching pretty much every Super Series he has released. I don't know what I would do if it weren't for the resources provided on www.simplyyouthministry.com. I'm eager to see what comes next for Doug Fields in ministry but have to celebrate his past 20+ years and thank him for leading by example for so many other Youth Pastors. Thank you Doug Fields!
I watched a clip online this morning from CNN discussing online church and an interview with Pastor Craig Groechel from LifeChurch.tv. For the past year I have become fascinated by the idea of church online and asking the question: Is it really church? I'm fascinated when I think about the possibilities of a global congregation! I'm inspired when I think about worshipping at the same time in the same place (kind of) as someone on the other side of the world. I've actually begun experimenting by broadcasting our college ministry, Segue, live through LiveStream.com. We've had up to 50 people join us on a Monday night at one time from New York, Brazil, China, and even here in San Antonio. I've had people tell me that they checked us out online before making the decision to actually come on a Monday night. As I continue to consider the idea of this new form of church, I continue to be intrigued. LifeChurch.tv has one of the most incredible online worship experiences that I've begun participating in regularly. I would even go as far as to say that while I might not be as engaged to the presentation, I am more engaged with the congregation than I am in an in person worship experience. Have you ever tried church online? What do you think, is it really church? Why? Why not?
The next break out that I went to was Sexual Revolution. Allen Jackson who is the founder and director of the Youth Ministry Institute at New Orleans Baptist Theological Institute. He basically shared for about 45 minutes statistics that even if you think you know the stats will shock you. There was no time for notes, but he said he would post his slides on his website soon. I will share as soon as he posts them. Sex in teenage culture has radically changed since even 10 years ago with the changes in technology. He shared a lot about sexting, interaction on Facebook and other social media websites. The majority of teenage relationships begins by being asked out through texting and even more end in a break up through texting. He showed a video that you can watch from Bluefish TV that sums up a great deal of relationship world that teens today live in. Click here to link to the video. Finally he closed with a great reminder for those of us who are ministering to students who are living in this new world of dating, sex, and relationships: "When Jesus encountered the woman at the well He accepted her with compassion without excusing the sin." We can often so quickly become so judgmental responding with little compassion but we cannot too quickly excuse the sin either. Thoughts?
I went to to break out session called Balancing Family and Ministry led by Billy Beacham who is the founder of Student Discipleship Ministries. Here are my notes from that session:
- Always invest in relationships - Always be surrounded by accountability - For people in ministry the hardest place is often at home... FIGHT for your marriage! - Take time to pause and evaluate your private life - Help in saying no: 1) offer an alternative, 2) put family on calendar - Have fun, enjoy life, find things you can do that don't cost a lot of money (ex. camping) - Work to be in good physical shape. Get a scale and weigh yourself every day - Make your own spiritual health a priority - "Your life is shaped by the end you live for." -Thomas Merton 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
As I think about the the speakers from Conclave, I think Pastor Gregg shared the most practical wisdom that I took home and have wrestled with. I must admit that I'm a little biased of Pastor Gregg as he has been a hero of mine for many years and has also been my sister's pastor at FBC Houston for the past several years. Here are the notes from his message:
1) Let God do the work. His will always has His power. (Colossians 1:29) 2) It takes time to find your voice. (Hebrews) 3) Opposition will come, let it be for the right things (1 Corinthians 16:9) "Sheep bites hurt worse than wolf bites" ... does this ring true for anyone else? If this was all I heard at the conference it would have been enough for me! 4) Keep the main thing the main thing... the goal is Jesus The goal is not leadership, creativity, etc. We often seek leadership because we fear theology Does this convict anyone else?
I wanted to introduce you all to a blog that has inspired me to begin blogging more. John Saddington, who is the new Internet Campus Pastor at Northpoint is the Senior Editor for Church Crunch and teaches me so much about maximizing technology in ministry. Lots of great info on blogging, social media, internet campuses, etc. Take a minute and check out Church Crunch by going to www.ChurchCrunch.com.
About a week ago I went with the Student Ministry staff at Trinity Baptist to the BGCT Conclave Youth Ministry Conference in Arlington. This was probably my 5th time at the conference but by far the most meaningful experience. I heard messages from some of my heroes in Gregg Matte, Francis Chan, and Matt Chander. Worship was led by Kristian Stanfill and Fee. I'll be honest, I was a huge fan of Kristian Stanfill before and not much of a Fee fan. My opinion changed when experiencing them both live. In the next few days I will be sharing some of the things I learned from these guys and from some of the other breakout sessions. There were two breakout leaders in Billy Beacham and Mike Satterfield that really shook my thinking and ministry. Look for updates coming soon! You can go to www.BGCT.org/conclave to find out more about the conference.
Death is something that we all have to face and deal with in our life. It often comes at times that are unexpected and we are rarely at a place where we are ready for it. I think about the families in this terrible tragedy at Fort Hood and what they are having to deal with. How do they make sense of this situation? I was named after my uncle, Steven, who died in a car accident as a teenager. How do you deal with that as a family? I shared with a room full of Mom's in the Alamo Heights Community who are dealing with the death of a Mom in their community. She left behind 3 children. How do they deal with this? I shared three suggestions with these Mom's that I hope are helpful to you: 1) Jesus wept. Jesus needed to weep when dealing with the death of Lazarus and so do we when we lose those that we love. We get so good at acting like we have it together when we just need to cry, weep, sob, and just let our emotions out. 2) God is ever present. At times of death we often push God away in our pain, but it is often the time that we need Him the most. God is a loving God who comforts those who are hurting and need His comforting touch. 3) We need each other. We often push others away as we mourn or avoid comforting those around us because we are uncomfortable. It is at these times more than ever that we need the community of those around us.
As you deal with death or are helping others deal with death may you feel free to weep, may you know that God is ever present, and may you experience community in a way that you never had before.
Please join me in praying for a friend of mine from High School. Here's what happened: On October 28, 2009, a T-34C Turbomentor plane carrying Lt. John Joseph Houston and Lt. Bret Travis Miller went missing not far from the Naval Air Station of Corpus Christi, Tx. On Friday evening, the body of Bret Miller was discovered 11 miles northeast of Port Aransas, Tx. Lt. Houston has not been found, nor the plane itself. We all continue to pray for Joe; his fiance, Jenn; and his entire family during this time as they continue to search. For updates on the search and for prayer requests please go to www.findjoehouston.blogspot.com.
I don't know how many times I've challenged students to have a quiet time every day. As passionately as the challenge might have been, it never happened... until now. I lead a small group of 5 Junior and Senior guys who are passionate Christ followers but like so many of us, struggled to have a daily quiet time. When I laid out the challenge again, my co-leader of the small group, Diego, suggested that we text each other every day what scripture we studied each day. As a form of accountability we would all text anyone else in the group that night if we hadn't received their scripture for the day. I threw in a little extra incentive of buying the guys a steak dinner if they all held true to this challenge for 30 straight days. Over 60 days later, not one of those guys has missed a quiet time. I can't tell you how challenged, encouraged, and inspired I am every day as I receive those 5 text messages every day. A few weeks ago, I bought them the steak dinner. It was one of the best steaks I've ever had with some of the best company I've ever been with! A month after the challenge was over with no incentive of a steak, these same men of God continue to dive into God's Word daily. I love when technology and ministry collide! This is a form of encouragement and accountability that I will use for years to come!