Don’t you just love the alliteration in that title? (Sorry, it’s doesn’t take much to distract me.)
I asked Mike Mathews to be my mentor for my next series of classes and he called me last week to arrange a time to get together. We had breakfast this morning and it was a great time. He cracks me up. He’s really gotten into this whole thing. He even did some of the assignments that I have done for class just so he could understand the material. It’s so good to have someone who cares enough about me to go to those kinds of lengths. Of course it doesn’t hurt that he has many of the same dreams as I in regards to being involved in a church plant.
Anyway, today we talked about our life stories. He did the exercise and shared much of his story with me. I knew alot of it, but was able to see a larger picture of what all God has done/used to make him the man that he is.
We also talked about church planting. We dreamed about what a church body should look like? And what kind of facility would be appropriate for it? He also shared a lot with me about National Community Church and how they’re doing ministry. He also said that he thought they were associated with the Acts 29 network. Whoa! That stopped me dead in my tracks. I have always thought that some sort of association/support is vital to a church plant and once I discovered Acts 29, I thought they’d be the kind of group I’d like to be connected to. To discover that NCC is connected to them is beautiful news. That means that my gut reactions about Acts 29 are probably right. We have friends who are are part of NCC and we could certainly talk to them about the whole association thing. I also can’t help but wonder if God is up to something else here too? It’s just like Him to pull people together in the most random ways so that He can be lifted up and glorified.
One of the thoughts that came out was in regards to technology in preaching. Throughout the years it’s been important to use technology as an instrument to carry the Gospel message to the world, and today it’s more important than ever ’cause technology is so integrated into our lives that we cannot separate ourselves from it. I was explaining that I really enjoy the interactive things I’ve experienced in school. We don’t sit at desks, but at tables in little communities. We can get on-line and download the same powerpoint presentations that we’re looking at on the screen that the teacher is using. (This allows for specific notes to be recorded on the presentation itself.) I also described to him how MTV does it’s request shows with scrolling comments made on-line at the bottom of the screen and phone calls “interrupting” the videos with people’s comments. (I’m not sure the viewers see it as an interruption – it’s all a part of the program to them.) Our discussion became about imagining a new way to preach. Rather than a completely planned out prepared sermon, why couldn’t the Scriptures be “discussed/preached” by a man who also responded to comments from others? (Why do we consider the sermon so important? Is it the sermon itself or the instruction and understanding it brings to the Word? Within our culture, is the sermon the best way to communicate the importance of the Gospel message?) It would take a very disciplined person, and certainly every comment couldn’t be addressed, but the interaction itself would engage the people in ways that I’ve certainly never experienced in a service. I think the “preacher/teacher/interviewee” would need to be very grounded in his subject matter to pull this off ’cause he could get all kinds of questions thrown at him. He would also need to be disciplined as far as knowing when to get to the point and get back to the Scriptures, and how to get to the real meat of the message too. This particular style might even allow for multiple “preacher/teachers” who could all be prepared for the topic. In some ways this might even end up looking like a talk show if you weren’t careful. I guess, what I’m imagining would be a delicate balance between a talk show and preaching. I wouldn’t want to lose to authority of good preaching, but I’m looking for ways to engage people in the process a bit more. It wouldn’t take a whole lot of work to prepare a venue for this kind of interaction either – just a WiFi connection and a chat room that could be monitored by some trustworthy person who would then relay the appropriate comments/questions to the main screen that the speaker was working from.
Anyway, he challenged me to start experimenting with this sort of thing. I’m not sure we could really pull it off with the youth program, because I don’t think many of our students have laptops, but I’d probably be surprised. I may start asking questions in our group which could lead down this road soon.
What do you guys think?
If you’re one of the youth in my church, tell me what you think? Should we try to do this? Do you have a laptop or access to one that you could bring to U-TURN?
The other night Miranda and I decided to go out to eat in Pearland. Montana, one of the youth, was bored and called us so she ended up going with us. As we drove back towards Lake Jackson, Miranda said that it would be a beautiful night to look at the stars. We were pretty close to the exit for Brazos Bend State Park, which is also where the George Observatory is, so I said, “Why not? We don’t have any other big plans, so let’s go on over there.” We had always talked about checking it out, but never done it. Anyway, we got there and it all ended up being a bit more costly than I had thought, but still, a great experience. There were quite a few amateur astronomers out there with their telescopes pointed to quite a few different things and they all allowed us to look too. It was, in some ways, a pretty cool little community. I wonder how the church church would be different if everyone shared their excitement and passions with others?
Anyway, we got a really close look at the moon, the planet Neptune, a “double-double,” M15, and Holmes’ Comet. The talk of the night was Holmes’ comet. Evidently in the past few days it changed from a very dim comet to a very bright one. It orbits somewhere just inside Jupiter and takes six years to go around the sun one time. It also doesn’t have a tail like I imagined comets to have. Most theories about why it’s gotten brighter have to do with it breaking up and gaining more surface area to be seen. It can be seen with the naked eye right now. The double-double is actually four stars. Two pairs of them have somehow gotten into an orbit around each other. They look like two stars until you look a little closer and realize there are actually four.
M15 was pretty interesting too. It’s a globular cluster of stars that are 3500 light years away. That means that the image I was looking at was 3500 years old. They may not exist at all right now – it just took 3500 years for the light to travel that distance – it’d be another 3500 years before I could look at what it actually looks like today. Weird stuff to think about. This means that as we learn to look deeper and deeper into space we can actually see into history itself. Considering that they say they have seen stars millions of light years away, how does this fit with the whole creation story in Genesis? How old is the earth? Are faith and science at odds? I’ll never know the answers to these questions, but these kinds of experiences make me think.
OK – so if we can see into the past, is it possible to see the future? How can I be the kind of man who can lead others into the future that God desires for them? In order to find certain stars in the sky, the astronomers used other stars as reference points. Over the years I’ve learned to figure out God’s direction by looking into my past and focusing on specific reference points to draw a line into the future. I understand how that works for an individual, but what about doing that for a group? a church? a ministry? How far do you need to look into the past? How do you determine what reference points to focus on? Is this why relationship is so important? – so people will trust you with their past enough for you to discover a future? How do I find the “yellow brick road” for a group of people? Or do I just start walking the road He has for me (like Dorthy) and get others to join me in the journey?
OK God. I’ve got all kinds of questions. I know You’re using this time in my life to expand my understanding and view of You, and I’m so grateful to be growing. Help me to answer these questions and lead me to ask the right questions. I truly want the future that You have for me.
Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to “paint” the future? That’s exactly what Isaac Mendez does. (He’s a character from the TV show “Heroes.”) I believe that’s what a good spiritual leader does too. They imagine (or they are told by God about) a better future and paint/interpret those ideas so that others can see them and get on board to accomplish that goal.
Check this out.
The stages of a painter’s life are: (from The Leadership Challenege, Kouzes & Posner, pg 58-62)
1. Paint the exterior landscapes. (They follow other models.)
2. Paint the interior landscapes. (They seek to know themselves.)
3. Paint themselves. (They express themselves in their own style.)
This just makes me excited, ’cause I see myself in stage 2 of this model. I’m learning more and more about who I am and how God has gifted me. I have been through some leadership and followed other people’s models, but now those models just seem inadequate. Everything seems to be pointing to the idea that I’m right on the edge of what might be the greatest ministry time of my life. It’s my prayer, that God will continue to reveal Himself to me regarding all of this. I’m excited about the future as I travel along by His side.
Lord, keep me humble and walking with to You.I love being with You. AMEN!
Here’s another idea that has me thinking the same way:
Henry and Richard Blackaby (Spiritual Leadership, pg 43-46) write about the stages of leadership development put forth by Robert Clinton in his work, The Making of a Leader. Here’s how it works:
1. Sovereign Foundations – God’s activity during formative years.
2. Inner Life Growth – Development of character and spiritual life.
3. Ministry Maturing – Early attempts at spiritual leadership.
4. Life Maturing – Learning to lead in their strengths. Connect character to leadership.
5. Convergence – Maximum effectiveness where ministry and life experience converge to a specific role. This is what the spiritual leader will be most remembered for – their greatest success.
6. Afterglow or Celebration – Celebrating and building upon work of convergence. Also a time for training up new leaders.
Wow! This stuff makes me really excited ’cause I feel like I can look at my life and say that I’m in step 4 – the Life Maturing stage. (By the way doesn’t that stage sound alot like the “paint the interior landscape” stage 2 in the other model?) That means that I’ve still got Convergence ahead of me. That also means that the dreams I have about the future are going to come around right about the same time that I hit the “maximum effectiveness” stage of development. I could never have orchestrated all of this – it’s only by God’s hand and His intervention. That also means that He is intimately involved in preparing me for a future that will go beyond my imaginations.
I couldn’t imagine a better place to be. I have a genuine hope for my future.
There’s a song on a CD called “Big Times in a Small Town” (it’s on itunes) written by a guy named Chuck Pyle that reminded me of some of the “Vision” stuff we’ve been reading lately. Here are some of the lyrics in the intro to his song:
Did you ever stand on the ledges
on the brink of a great plateau,
and look from her jagged edges
on the country that lay below?
There, where the vision meets no resistance
and there’s nothing to stop the gaze,
’til the mountain peaks in the distance
stand wrapped in a purple haze.
There, where the things you thought were strongest
and the things that you thought were great,
and for which you’d striven for longest
don’t seem to carry very much weight.
When you’re lookin’ on this vision
and your outlook’s so clear and wide,
I think that might be the time and place
to stand there and decide.
‘Cause should you return to the city
and mingle again with the throng,
and your heart grow bitter from pity
or maybe just a strifen wrong.
Others might laugh in derision
or the voice of the past go dim,
Just remember that cool decision
you made that day on the rim.
Anyway, all of this just reminded me of the importance of vision. Without vision, when critics start casting doubt or questioning you, you’ve got nothing to hold on to – you’ll be tempted to just cower down to every whim of every person. Of course with vision, it’s a whole different story – you’ve got something to strive toward and nothing will be able to get in your way. Also with vision – others can get on board with you and they can feel empowered to move forward.
I just wonder – how do I get up there on that plateau? How can I be in tune with God in such a way that I can see like He wants me to?
Our study materials suggested that we find a mentor and so I asked my Father-in-Law, Mike Mathews. He and I were friends long before I even met his daughter (my beautiful bride) and he was influencing/leading me into new places spiritually from the first day I met him. We have traveled all over the world together learning about Jesus and the church. We have been to Israel, Soul Survivor in England, Brooklyn Tabernacle, and Phoenix Church of Joy together. He also sent me to Willow Creek, Saddleback, and Ginghamsburg UMC in Ohio for more training. As much as I learned from each of these places, I have probably learned more from watching him in both the way he lives and in his vocation as Pastor. I’m excited that he has agreed to talk with me and our first meeting was great! He shared much with me about his personal “Deep Change” over this past year.
Thank you God for preparing the way to make this day possible. Thank you for this friendship and for the ways that You have worked in Mike’s life to bring him to this place in life where he is finding His purpose and meaning in You in new and profound ways. Use these times that we meet together to help us encourage one another and be the “body” that You’ve called us to be. Use these times and experiences to speak into our lives and move us to maturity in You. AMEN!
Henri Nouwen says that Christian leadership is "downward mobility ending on a cross." Whoa! I’m not so sure I’m really cut out for that. I’ve always felt that it’s the call of every Christian to be a leader in the sense that they should be the influencers rather than the influenced. I believe that with the Holy Spirit this is something we are all capable of, but Nouwen’s definition is so much more intense than just being an influencer.
Here’s an excerpt from “Traveling Mercies” by Anne Lamott – She seems to have this idea that God’s leadership is pretty difficult to imitate. He can lead with such intricacy that we don’t even recognize that we’ve been led there.
“My coming to faith did not start with a leap but rather a series of staggers from what seemed like one safe place to another. Like lily pads, round and green, these places summoned and then held me up while I grew. Each prepared me for the next leaf on which I would land, and in this way I moved across the swamp of doubt and fear.”
I John 4:18 (NIV) There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
I wonder if leading someone into discipleship could simply be the creation of "lily pads" to direct people across this swamp of doubt? How do these ideas play into the "method" we’ll be learning in class?
How powerful is a journey? That’s what I’m thinkin’ about today. I mean, the disciples were regular guys until they journeyed with Jesus for 3 years. After that, they changed the world. Of course the power in that last sentence isn’t in the journey, but in Jesus.
But still I wonder why Jesus chose to use a journey to teach them? I wonder how things would have been if they had just stayed in one place instead of traveling all over? Would the disciples have gotten the experiences they needed to grow and learn the ways of their rabbi – Jesus?
What if every Christian High School graduate spent 3 years on a journey with a rabbi before going to college? Some people might say that’s what college is, but a rabbi isn’t just a knowledgable teacher. He is a wise spiritual leader. What would that look like? Who could be that rabbi in today’s culture? Are there any rabbis in the world today? What kind of man would I be if I were to follow the rabbi (Jesus) for three years on some kind of journey? Where would He take me? What would He want me to experience? What miracles would I witness? What kind of conversations would I be involved in and with whom?
My Prayer: Lord, I know that my whole life is a journey, but I want to live it following You. Show me how to do that. Give me courage to step out of the boat like Peter (out of my comfort zones) and into the next part of my journey with You. Teach me Lord! Be my rabbi, and I’ll try to be Your “talmidim” (disciple) That means I’ll try to be like You in every way.