Month: August 2009

Why am I writing a book?

I finally decided to write a book. It is only in rough outline form right now and I do not even have a publisher, but I have started the process. It was only after a lot of prayer that I decided to enter the world of books. First, I wanted to make sure writing was God’s idea for me and not my plan or other’s plans for me. Second, I wanted to make sure my first book really captured the core of my values and my beliefs. Without giving away the title prematurely, I believe it has done just that.

 

I have found myself encouraging the team here at New Life and others around the country to write books. I think books have a place in advancing the Kingdom of God for several reasons.

 

 1.  Books are portable

 

Not everyone can come to a Sunday gathering or is tech savvy enough to download a podcast, but most of us can read or can listen to an audio book. Books make revelation and truth accessible to just about anyone at just about anytime. Books can be read sitting in a waiting room, during a trip on a plane or on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Books can be consumed in one sitting or processed at a slow, easy pace that is best for the reader.

 

2.  Books are perpetual

 

Long after I have left earth for heaven, the truths captured in books written by me will remain. Many of the books that have changed my life were written by men and women who have long since departed this life. Written words can transcend time and generations and continue changing lives for perpetuity. My heritage will be defined by more than just books, but what I write will certainly add to my body of work on the earth.

 

 3.  Books are personal

 

Books allow me into the world of the author. I get insights from amazing leaders, thinkers, and futurists without the benefit of spending personal time with them.  I often feel that I know the author while reading their work. I have met many of my favorite writers in person and most often, I feel an immediate sense of relationship with them. The great writers reveal the core of their being in their books and I am certainly the better for knowing them.

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Is Ministry Fulfilling to You?

Being a pastor is a privilege and I am grateful I get to spend my life serving people in the context of the local church. Growing up, though, I imagined that working at church was a dreadful way to spend your life. I was wrong.  While it is a blessing to be called “pastor”, there are three key elements that must be in place for this calling to be fulfilling to me. Without any one of them, ministry in the local church becomes a burden that can literally overwhelm me.

 

1.       Ministry must be innovative

Innovation makes ministry fun and keeps me coming back to the church office everyday excited about the new thing that God is doing.  Ministering ancient truths with new ideas and methods fends off the boredom and routine that can settle on a church that is resistant to change or in love with the old wine. I am rarely the one that comes up with the new ideas, but I love the tribe of innovators that surround me at New Life and I love the energy from heaven that is released when we simply ask the question – “Is there a better way to do this?”

 

2.       Ministry must be for the Kingdom

This is not about the fame of people or of an institution. Notoriety is an addictive drug and the only cure is humility. We must stay committed to making Jesus famous and not ourselves. This is not about mega book deals, although I love to write books. This is not about getting on the conference speaking circuit, although I love to host and attend conferences.  Most of us came into ministry with pure motives only to be ensnared by narcissism, greed or pride. Ministry must be for the benefit and growth of God’s kingdom on the earth and not for the benefit of our own personal empire.

 

3.       Ministry must be done with friends

I like to work with my friends. I usually hire my friends. I make no apologies. Ministry is too hard without friends around you to help carry the burden. When I came to New Life two years ago, a few friends came with me and literally helped me survive the first 24 months. Now, I am becoming friends with the team I inherited and my ministry has moved from surviving to almost thriving. Friends make a huge difference. Without them, the mountain seems impossible to climb, but with them. you feel like you can slay giants.

 

Are you fulfilled with the calling God gave you? If not, maybe you have stopped being innovative? Maybe it has become too much about you and not enough about God. Maybe, you need to bring some friends around you to help carry the burden.

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We all need coaching

I have some great coaches in my life right now. Jimmy Evans, Tom Lane and Robert Morris have all walked closely with me for many years and give me personal insight and constant coaching. I am certain that without them I would have made some huge messes, especially the past two years as the Senior Pastor of New Life Church. 

God has given me key coaches at key times in my life. I will never forget Pastor Jack Hayford standing by my side the entire afternoon after the shooting. His coaching and advice was priceless. The next day, Larry Stockstill flew to Colorado from Louisiana and encouraged me for several days.  I have been coached and loved by all these men and my life is richer and fuller because of their investment.

 No matter what we do in life, we all need coaching and that is why I agreed to participate in the PCC Coaching Network.  The church in America has a great opportunity to be salt and light right now, but I am convinced that coaching can help all of us for four reasons. 

1.       Coaching allows us to learn from the experiences of others. There are a lot of mistakes we can avoid if we pay attention to the mistakes others have made. A really good coach shares his own hiccups so the rest of us can avoid the same ditch.

2.       Coaching allows us to stop and evaluate what we are doing. All of us are probably busy, but are we really being effective. Coaches make us hit the pause button and evaluate how we are spending our time. Are we really living in our strengths? Are we using our resources the best way? Have we built the right team to support what God wants to do?

3.       Coaching allows us to look at who we are becoming. What we are doing is important, but not as important as our personal transformation and development as Christ followers. Coaches require us to take off our pastor/leader mask and to look honestly at our own hearts.  How are we doing as a spouse or as parents? Are we personally in love with Jesus? Are there any private strongholds that could disqualify us?

4.       Coaching allows us to live in authentic community. Pastors and leaders are often lonely people without any real friends. It is sad but true. Coaches push leaders out of isolation and into tribe.  Coaches require vulnerability and honesty which leads to real friendships.

I know firsthand the power of a good coach and I hope every leader finds someone to walk alongside them. If you are a leader in a church and need coaching, check out http://pcccoachingnetwork.com/ for more information.

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The Inconvenience of Following Jesus

“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23 NASB

I am a time and schedule freak. Anyone who knows me well knows how much of a slave I sometimes am to the clock. I get frustrated when there is no schedule, or when the schedule is not followed. I am getting better, but I even schedule every minute of vacation or my day off.

The problem with my problem is found in the passage in Luke 9. I wish to follow Jesus, so the first part of the passage is not negotiable. The problem for me is in the second half – denying myself, which means allowing Jesus to wreck my schedule. Weddings and baptisms can be planned, but funerals and hospital visits always come at inconvenient times. They come at times when I already had something scheduled. But I am a Jesus follower, so my schedule has to take second place.

Serving is another schedule wrecker. We are called to serve others when the need presents itself even if our plans for the day have to be sacrificed. Serving at Elevate on a Saturday morning is great but what about all the other stuff our family has scheduled already? The needs in our city have to take priority at some point or the needs never get met.

This problem is not unique with just me. We are consumers by nature and we typically say yes to things that satisfy a felt need in our lives. Church has catered to this idea by offering ministry opportunities for all the felt needs of their congregations. I believe in meeting needs and I believe in knowing the condition of the flock so they can receive ministry and care.  I just wonder when the last time we were inconvenienced or when following Jesus actually cost us anything.

Suffering and sacrifice are a part of the deal when you choose to follow Jesus. That is what Jesus said in Luke 9. He said we would not have to go looking for sacrifice or invite suffering upon ourselves. He said it would come to us and that we should not avoid it. He said we would be inconvenienced and that we should count the cost. What has it cost us?

I believe we are saved by grace, justified by faith and made more like Jesus because of the work of the Holy Spirit. I do not believe we should get in suffering contests to see which of us can impress God the most. I am not advocating a religious lifestyle. However, I am advocating a life that is marked by self-denial, sacrifice and choosing to be inconvenienced whenever necessary.

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Why are we changing the service times at New Life?

There are two groups of people. One group loves change and gets bored easily unless something is changed fairly often. The other group hates change and thinks any change is the result of a government conspiracy or the beginning of the New World Order. You guessed correctly if you think I belong to the first group. To be fair to the other group, let me explain why we decided to change the Sunday service times to 9:30, 11:30 and 5:30 starting September 13.

 

 1. Right now, the 11am service is 75% full and with the growth we are expecting this fall, this service will be at capacity. We are hoping that many of you who now attend the 11am service will go to the new 9:30 service to allow room for the new families who are starting to attend New Life.

 

2.  9am is too early for anything to happen on Sunday morning. 9am is when most of us have to be at work Monday-Friday, so we decided on 9:30 so all of us can get a little extra rest on Sunday. Plus, if we are rested at church, we are nicer and not as grumpy.

 

3.  Starting at 9:30 gives the roads an extra 30 minutes to thaw and clear during the winter. Let’s face it, when it snows, most people wait to come to the later service so the road crews can clear the streets. Starting at 9:30 gives us a little more time for safe travel on those snowy Colorado Sunday mornings.

 

4. Since we are starting a new Sunday night service at 5:30, it will be easier to communicate the three service times if all three started on the half hour – 9:30, 11:30, 5:30.

 

For those of you who like change, this is an exciting blog. For those in the second group, please pray before leaving any nasty comments.  See you Sunday.

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20 Years of Memories with Pam

Pam and I will celebrate 20 years of marital bliss on August 12th. I have been thinking about the first 20 years and all the memories we have created together.  There are literally thousands of memories I could share, but these four come to mind today.

 

1.       Sick on our honeymoon

I had just started my first real job at KWKH radio in Shreveport, La.  and my boss only gave me a few days for a honeymoon, so we went to Jackson, Mississippi and spent a few days on the river. On the second day, I came down with an ear infection and fever.  The stress of marriage was already taking its toll. When we got back to Shreveport, I told my boss I needed to stay home. Of course, he did not believe me because he thought I just wanted another day of honeymoon.

 

2.       The bold move out west

After five years of living in Shreveport, I was given an opportunity to work for NFL Broadcasting and help run two struggling radio stations in Amarillo, Texas.   I remember not being able to even find Amarillo on the Texas map because the top portion of the state was on the next page of the atlas.  It seemed like we were moving to the end of the earth, but Pam and I really felt God was leading us to the unknown. Turns out, it was one of the best moves of our marriage. We knew no one and had to really stick close as friends, and while there, we adopted both our children and were introduced to Trinity Fellowship, the healthiest church we had ever attended, led by Jimmy Evans and Tom Lane. Both men are still close friends to this day.

 

3.       The miracle of Abram and Callie

Pam and I prayed for children for ten years and then two miracles happened in 25 months. In 1998, a single mom asked us if we would adopt her baby. She was due in three months. The whirlwind that followed was amazing. Pam and I were actually in the operating room when Abram was born and the doctor handed him to me first after the c-section.  Two years later, another single mom asked us if we would adopt her baby. She was due in three weeks. Again, Pam and I were at the hospital when Callie was born. We experienced two unique miracles that changed us forever.

 

4.       The call to New Life

We had proven to God that we were willing to make bold moves to new places, but the move to Colorado Springs and New Life Church was the greatest test to date. We were really comfortable in the DFW Metroplex and were serving at a great church with lots of close friends. Then, we received a call that changed the course of our life. We had been chosen to lead New Life. Two years later, our marriage is stronger than ever and while the challenges have been the most intense we have ever faced, I am grateful that I walked the difficult path with my best friend, Pam.

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