#721 - SUNDAY. OCTOBER 6. 2019

In the life of a pastor/preacher, Sundays are big days.

Services are held. Sermons are preached. People are ministered to. Connections are made. The Kingdom of God is advanced.

In an effort to celebrate, process, and remember what I am privileged to experience on any given Sunday, I am starting a new segment on this blog simply entitled, “Sundays.”

  • Preached at Creekside Community Church on the topic The Enduring Motivation.

  • “Preached” at THEMOVEMENT.CHURCH from Revelation 2:1-7. (I actually recorded the message on Friday night, knowing I was going to be out Sunday, and they played the video in service on Sunday. This was the first Sunday we have ever showed a video message in 6 years of ministry. Got good feedback, but it’s probably not anything we’re going to do again anytime soon.)

  • I’m so thankful for how God is giving me opportunities both in our church and in other churches to preach about the worthiness of God. I’m so thankful for how the Holy Spirit is opening up people’s eyes to the necessity of His worthiness being the underlying motivation for obedience in every area of our life.

  • I’m so honored that other pastors of other churches would trust me in their pulpit.

  • Enjoyed lunch with a married couple in our church who are recovering from an infidelity within their marriage. (Only God!)

  • Enjoyed a dinner/membership interview with a married couple who is new to our church within the last 6 months. They are sharp. I am amazed by the great people that God continues to send to join our church family.

ONE MAJOR REFLECTION

As much as Sundays are about preaching, equally important are the relationships I develop and maintain with the people I am privileged to preach to.

#720 - FAVOR > COST

The New Home of the Golden State Warriors!

The New Home of the Golden State Warriors!

I had absolutely no intentions of going to this game.

It was the very first NBA basketball game to be played in the new Chase Center in San Francisco, and though it was a preseason game, tickets were still crazy expensive. I was fully prepared to enjoy the game on TNT.

Then, less than two hours before tip-off, I get a call from an old friend who is a VP for CLARK Construction. This friend of mine played a major role in facilitating the deal between the Golden State Warriors and CLARK Construction to work together to build the arena. Not only did he help facilitate the deal, but over the two years that the arena was being built, he also oversaw the project in a major way as well.

He tells me that the people he had invited to go to the game bailed, and he asked if I was interested in going. I said, without hesitation, ABSOLUTELY!

Then, I found out he had theater box seats! FREE full buffet. FREE cocktails. FREE tickets.

Favor also means feasting!

Favor also means feasting!

The game was great. The arena was beautiful. The opportunity to catch up with an old friend was priceless.

But tonight, I was reminded of a truth that God has revealed to me time and time again (and hopefully it’s a truth that you can be encouraged by as well!):

Cost can price you out, but the favor of God can get you in!

You can take that to the bank!

#719 - REFLECTIONS ON PREACHING THROUGH REVELATION

Revelation

Though I have many weeks to go before I have preached through the book of Revelation in its entirety, I just finished writing my third sermon from the book, and I wanted to share some reflections on what I’ve experienced in my study and sermons thus far.

  1. Because I am clear on why I’m preaching through the book, what I choose to preach from the book is much clearer to me. (This is probably true for any book of the Bible you choose to preach through, but I’ve found this particularly helpful for the monstrosity that is the book of Revelation!) Side note, my stated purpose for preaching through the book is: “Instead of being focused primarily on explaining when God is returning or how God is returning, we will study Revelation to gain a deeper understanding of the God WHO is returning.”

  2. Physically re-writing what I see happening in every sentence in the text has been a great aid in preparing me for my understanding and interpretation of the text. (Once again, this would probably be helpful in preparing me to interpret any book of the Bible I preach from.) Another side note: The ESV Scripture Journal from Crossway has been extremely helpful towards this end.

  3. It’s been in my study where the Spirit shows me what to say. (Again, this isn’t unique to the book of Revelation. God shows up in this way when I’m studying to preach from any book!) But, because preaching through Revelation is such a challenge and step of faith for me, I am amazed at (and thankful for) how God meets me during my study and preparation and guides me towards what he desires for me to say. I absolutely could not do this work if I did not encounter God in my study. This process is truly a miracle!

  4. The congregation is hungry for the Word! Whether it’s the book (Revelation is intriguing!) or the season of life that our people are in (or a combination of the two), I have never sensed such a strong hunger and desire at THEMOVEMENT.CHURCH for the teaching of God’s Word. Preaching is so much more fun when there are eager listeners! I am so thankful.

The bottom line is this: preaching through Revelation is turning our much better than I ever thought it would! (And I’m only 3 weeks in!)

I will most definitely write more reflections on preaching through the book of Revelation as the weeks go along, but in light of the things I’ve shared above, I am so thankful for what God is doing through this teaching series. Though it hasn’t been easy, God has been faithful, and I am thankful!

#718 - HOW THE WISDOM OF DALLAS WILLARD IS WRECKING ME

City to City Bay Area Faculty

City to City Bay Area Faculty

Over the last 24 hours, I had the privilege of meeting with the City to City Bay Area Faculty to discuss/evaluate the current church-planter incubator we are facilitating and to dream about and plan for the next group of participants. I am humbled to be a part of a group of such wise, Kingdom-minded leaders.

As we were discussing values/strategies, Nancy Ortberg shared the following exchange that her husband John and Dallas Willard had at a conference in February of 2013.

John Ortberg: I don’t know how we can leave this without getting to a much more painful reality. Most of us here are a part of churches. I work at a church. I love the church, yet there are times when I think about the church and the smallness and pettiness and mean-spiritedness and competitiveness and superficiality. Really, it starts with me, but it is so mind-numbingly painful. And there’s such a gap between it and the picture Jesus talked about. Why is it that way? Why is it so hard? What do we do with that?

Dallas Willard: Well. I’ve thought and prayed and worried a lot about this myself. Once you back up and look at it, it’s obvious that the separation between the churches in our communities is one of the hardest things to get past to begin to appreciate what Christ is doing in the world. I have tried to approach this by saying to ministers that…

…the most important part of your ministry is that to other ministers. Come to know them and begin to get over the idea of separation and competition.

When Nancy shared this thought in our meeting today, I was absolutely arrested by the thought.

Over the last year in particular, because of the opportunities I have had to serve the “Big C” Church through my affiliations with the SEND Network, Acts 29, and City to City Bay Area, ministering to ministers (especially to those in the city that my church is in—Oakland) has increasingly become a greater passion and priority. I absolutely love encouraging church planters and pastors in whatever way I can.

But, this increasing passion has concerned me at times because I feel like because there is so much work to be done in my local church, I really shouldn’t be investing in other ministers as often as I do.

In many ways, this blog also is an extension of my desire to minister to other ministers. And most times, when I sit down to write, I am conflicted over whether or not this is a proper investment of my time.

I praise God for the wisdom of Dallas Willard shared above. In many ways not only does it give me a freedom to continue doing what I’m doing, but it gives me an affirmation that my instinct to serve other pastors with my time, effort, and energy is a godly one. And…it challenges me very strongly to lean into the instinct (even though it feels like I may not have the time) even more!

In closing, I want to list just a few of the “benefits” I’ve experienced as a result of prioritizing ministering to other ministers:

  1. It eliminates the deception that God only works mightily through my “style,” philosophy of ministry, theological affiliation, or “tribe.”

  2. It broadens my understanding of the myriad of ways God is expanding His kingdom beyond what I can see him doing through my local congregation. (Because He’s doing SO MUCH MORE!)

  3. It encourages my heart to know that my struggles, hardships, and obstacles in ministry aren’t unique to me.

  4. It raises my awareness of less/more effective ways of doing ministry.

  5. It helps my congregation develop the much-needed humility to recognize that what God is doing through our church is only a tiny sliver of what He is doing in the world at large.

  6. It expands my fruit-bearing beyond my own “orchard.” (Undeservedly and miraculously so.)

In short, ministering to other ministers makes me less self-absorbed and more God-aware.

I praise God for this gift because a prideful guy life myself sure needs it!

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN.

If you are a minister who has ministered to other ministers, what benefits have you seen from doing so? I’d love to learn from you. Please drop a comment below!

#717 - WHY CHRISTOPHER WILL BECOME ONE HELLUVA' CHURCH PLANTER

Edward & Christopher

Nearly 4 years ago, during a time when I was having a hard time recovering from a difficult ministry season, God blessed myself and our church with an incredible gift—Christopher and Brittany Stites.

In addition to bringing a much-needed reinforcement to our leadership team, God also used them to remind me that, even though I had just experienced a ministry “failure,” he was not finished working in and through THEMOVEMENT.CHURCH. I am forever grateful.

For the last four years I have had the privilege of serving alongside Christopher, and I have had a front row seat to God’s activity through and God’s favor on his life. It has been incredible to watch, and I know the best is ahead. In less than 8 months, we are going to be sending Pastor Christopher, Brittany, and some of our church members out to plant another church in the city of Oakland! Our church plant is going to plant a church!

In an effort to honor Christopher for what he has meant to me and to encourage him (and all those who follow him) for the journey that is ahead, I want to publicly affirm why I am confident Christopher is going to make one helluva’ church planter!

#1 - CHRISTOPHER WORKS HARD.

He rises early. He stays up late. And he does this, day in and day out, to do whatever it takes to provide for his family, serve the church, and be there for those around him. He works hard to be a good husband. He works hard to be a good father. He works hard to build his coffee company. He works hard to preach good sermons. He works hard to lead and love people. He doesn't make excuses about the hard work. He doesn’t complain about the hard work. He doesn’t try to avoid the hard work. He just works hard. Christopher is going to become one helluva’ church-planter because church-planting requires hard work, and Christopher works hard.

#2 - CHRISTOPHER PREACHES STRONG.

Whether he’s given one month to prepare or one day, Christopher, every time out, preaches the Word of God accurately, boldly, and inspiringly. He preaches with a confidence and a force that comes from knowing he is called, the Bible is true, Jesus is worthy, and the gospel is powerful! Every time I sit under Christopher’s teaching, I am impacted by its strength. He preaches strongly because he has, first, been impacted deeply. He preaches strongly because the Spirit of God is in him truly. He preaches strongly because he is gifted immensely! Christopher is going to become one helluva’ church-planter because church-planting requires strong preaching, and Christopher preaches strong.

#3 - CHRISTOPHER LEARNS ALWAYS.

Christopher is a student. He is a student of people. He is a student of ministry. He is a student of the Word. He is a student of people. (I can’t make this up. While I was writing this paragraph, Christopher literally texted me a picture of a paragraph from a book he’s reading! RIDICULOUS!) His passion for learning is motivated by a humility and sober judgement of himself. He knows he doesn’t know it all, but he doesn’t learn to become a know-it-all. He takes learning seriously because he takes becoming a better version of himself seriously. He takes becoming a better Christian, husband, father, pastor, and business owner seriously. Christopher is going to become one helluva’ church-planter because church-planting requires always learning, and Christopher learns always.

#4 - CHRISTOPHER LOVES JESUS.

More than he loves his wife. More than he loves his kids. More than he loves his business. More than he loves his ministry. Even more than he loves his coffee! Christopher loves Jesus. Christopher is enamored by Jesus. Christopher is mindful of Jesus. Christopher is committed to Jesus. He loves Jesus because he is so in tune with how deeply Jesus loves him. Christopher worships Jesus through song. Christopher worships Jesus through prayer. Christopher worships Jesus through obedience. Christopher is going to become one helluva’ church-planter because church-planting requires a constant declaration of the simple phrase, “Jesus loves,” and Christopher loves Jesus.

Though it is going to be difficult to send Christopher and Brittany and their team out of our church to plant another church, I can’t wait to see how God glorifies himself through Christopher’s leadership. I can’t wait to hear the testimonies of lives being changed by Jesus as a result of Christopher allowing Jesus to continually change him. The best is truly yet to come! (Follow their church-planting journey on Instagram - @tmc.life!)

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN!

If you know Christopher or have been impacted by his ministry from afar, drop a comment below and let him know why you think he is going to make one helluva’ church-planter!

DESIGNING YOUR BEST MONTH EVER - OCTOBER 2019

Air Jordan x Union I’s

Air Jordan x Union I’s

AIr Jordan XII “Playoffs”

AIr Jordan XII “Playoffs”

5 MEMORABLE MOMENTS (SEPTEMBER 2019)

  1. Celebrated my 15-year wedding anniversary with Rebekah in Rome, Italy.

  2. Witnessed my nephew get baptized and my brother-in-law get married.

  3. Enjoyed delicious dinner at Liholiho Yacht Club and John Mayer concert at Chase Center with my wife and the Huang’s.

  4. Ministered at a Men’s Retreat, Middle/High School Camp, and a wedding.

  5. Received a warm welcome back from my church family during our six-year anniversary service.

  6. Bonus: Added the Air Jordan x Union I’s (both pairs!) and the Air Jordan XII “Playoffs” (these were stolen from out of my locker in high school so this was a particularly special pick-up) to my collection.

4 GOALS (OCTOBER 2019)

  1. Preach four solid, God-revealing, practical/useful messages from the book of Revelation.

  2. Host one prayer gathering for Oakland Church Planters.

  3. Ask/take Rebekah on 4 intentional, pre-planned dates.

  4. Build Only God email list to 200 subscribers.

3 HABITS

  1. Read/reflect on a “Valley of Vision” prayer daily. (31x)

  2. Post to edwardpaz.com daily. (31x)

  3. Run 5x week. (23x)

2 SACRIFICES

  1. No clothes/shoes shopping.

  2. Drink water only.

1 COMMITMENT

  1. By October 31, 2019, I ask/take Rebekah on 4 intentional, pre-planned dates.

#716 - ARE YOU A GOOD COACH?

Send Bay Area Coaches!

Send Bay Area Coaches!

Over the last 24 hours, I had the privilege of attending the Send Network Coaching Map— a training for developing effective coaches for church planters.

Here are some of the most valuable ideas I came across for effective coaching. Prayerfully they serve you well.

  • Coaching is not Counseling. Coaching is not Advising. Coaching is not Teaching. Coaching is not Mentoring. Coaching is something entirely different.

  • Two skills of an effective coach: Asking Questions & Listening.

  • “Becoming a great coach requires developing an extraordinary ability to listen.”

  • “Listen longer than you think is necessary.”

  • “Listening is a spiritual discipline.”

  • “A good coach asks questions that no one else has permission to ask.”

  • Coaches use the “asking voice” not the “pouring in” voice.

  • Coaches “still” the other voices.

  • As you coach, you’re helping someone incline their ear to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

  • Coach the person not the goal. Coach the Church Planter not the Church Plant.

  • “Coaches much reach beyond their human wisdom to the secret places of God’s heart through intercessory prayer.”

  • “Rich is the person who has a praying friend.”

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN

I’d love to learn from you. In your experience, what characteristics or skills do great coaches possess? Drop a comment below!

#715 - HOW I CAST VISION

Ministry Leaders at THEMOVEMENT.CHURCH

Ministry Leaders at THEMOVEMENT.CHURCH

Over the past 3 days, I’ve had one-on-one meetings with 6 of the key leaders of our church. In addition to catching up relationally and checking in on them spiritually, I also found myself casting vision and inviting them into a deeper level of commitment to the ministries in which they lead.

Much has been written about how to cast vision publicly and in large group settings, but, in my experience, casting vision effectively one-on-one is equally (if not more) important.

Here are a few questions I keep in mind when going into meetings with key leaders. When I check my motives and approach by asking myself these questions, it sets me up to cast vision most effectively.

CHECK MOTIVATIONS & INTENTIONS FIRST.

  1. What will I prioritize in this meeting—trying to serve them or trying to get them to serve me?

  2. What is my greater concern—the condition of their soul or the quality of their service?

  3. What am I more in tune with—the story God is writing through their lives or the story I want to be written that best serves the story God is writing through our church?

  4. What will I convey most obviously—my love for them or my need for them?

After I’ve checked my motives with these questions and invested time in the meeting building relational equity, here are a few critical components in casting vision effectively:

STEP #1 - REMIND THEM OF THE PAST

  • Here is what God has done through this church.

  • Here is what God has done in you.

  • Here is what God has done through you and your leadership to this point.

STEP #2 - SHOW THEM THE PRESENT

  • Here is what God is currently doing in this church.

  • Here is what God is currently doing in you.

  • Here is what God is currently doing through you and your leadership.

STEP #3 - PAINT A PICTURE OF A POTENTIAL FUTURE

  • Here is what God could do in this church.

  • Here is what God could do in you.

  • Here is what God could do through you and your leadership.

  • Here is a pathway to get there.

Vision has been cast effectively when a person can see, for themselves, that in light of what God has been doing in their lives, what they are being invited into next…just makes sense.

Though it will be hard.
Though it will require sacrifice.
Though it will require growth.

Time and time again, I have seen people step up to do the difficult things God is requiring of them when they see how it “fits in” with his previous activity in their lives.

Remind them of what God has done. Show them what God can do. Invite them to step into opportunity. Wait on God to convict them to move forward. Definitely not the only way, probably not the best way, but it’s what’s worked for me!

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN.

How have you casted vision effectively (or ineffectively)? I’d love to learn from you in the comments below!

#714 - A VERY IMPORTANT OPEN LETTER TO MY CHURCH FAMILY

1st Annual All-Church Retreat!

1st Annual All-Church Retreat!

Since coming back to work, over the last two weeks, I have felt an overwhelming sense of love and appreciation from you towards me. It has been incredible! Thank you.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the privilege it is to be one of your pastors. Being back with you has reminded me of so many of the things I love about you, and, through the writing of this letter, I want to be sure you know why shepherding you brings me great joy and God great glory.

#1 - YOU’RE HUNGRY.

For Bible teaching. For righteousness. For more of what God has for your life. For more of what God has for the city of Oakland. Thank you for being a church family who isn’t satisfied with the status quo. God is glorified through your hunger!

#2 - YOU’RE HUMBLE.

In the way that you receive correction. In the way that you respond to praise. In the way that you request direction. In the way that you cry out to God in prayer. Thank you for being a church family who understands that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. God is glorified through your humility!

#3 - YOU’RE HONEST.

About your struggles. About your sins. About your shortcomings. About your doubts. About your disappointments. About your dreams. About the issues you see in the church. About the problems you see with church leadership. About the concerns you have with the way things are being done. Thank you for being a church family that prioritizes truth-telling over image-protecting. God is glorified through your honesty!

#4 - YOU’RE SACRIFICIAL.

With your time. With your financial resources. With your physical and spiritual gifts. With your homes. With your cars. With your comfort. With your sleep! With whatever you have that can be leveraged for the good of someone inside and outside of the church who has a need. Thank you for being a church family who consistently “picks up your cross” to follow Jesus. God is glorified through your sacrifice!

#5 - YOU’RE SENSITIVE.

To the needs of others. To the pain of others. To the skepticism of others. To the experience of a first-time guest. To those who find themselves on the “fringes” of our church family. To the cares and concerns of my wife. To the leadings/promptings of the Holy Spirit. To the moment. Thank you for being a church family who isn’t tone deaf to the Holy Spirit of God in you and to people that are around you. God is glorified through your sensitivity!

#6 - YOU’RE SUBMITTED.

To the Word of God. To the pastors of the church. To the leader of your ministry. To each other. Thank you for being a church family who understands that how we submit to each other is a reflection of how submitted we are to God. God is glorified through your submission!

#7 - YOU’RE COMMITTED.

To God. To our mission to overwhelm Oakland with love. To the ministries in which you serve. To the small group in which you participate. To becoming a praying church. Thank you for being a church family who does what you say you’re going to do. God is glorified through your commitment!

#8 - YOU’RE COURAGEOUS.

Through your steps of obedience. Through your willingness to have tough conversations. Through your interactions with those who don’t yet follow Christ. Through your faith to follow God wherever he may lead you. Thank you for being a church family is willing to leave your comfort zones for the sake of the gospel. God is glorified through your courage!

#9 - YOU’RE COLLABORATIVE.

In the way that you approach ministry. In the way that you solve problems. In the way that you overcome obstacles. In the way that you meet the needs of our city Thank you for being a church family who truly functions as a body—each member interdependent upon the other. God is glorified through your willingness to work together!

THANK YOU.

Thank you for being a church family that daily glorifies God though how you love God, love others, and love me! There is no other church family who I would rather serve alongside.

As long as we stay humble and reliant upon the power of God within us, there is no telling how God will glorify himself through us next! Buckle up. THE BEST IS YET TO COME!

#713 - 7 DAYS BACK. 9 SERMONS PREACHED!

North Hills Middle/High School Fall Retreat

North Hills Middle/High School Fall Retreat

Living Stones Men's Retreat

Living Stones Men's Retreat

It probably isn’t ideal to come back from a sabbatical and be as busy as I have been, but is it what it is, and I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on a few thoughts I’ve had after being thrust back into preaching in this way.

#1 - GOD SUPPLIES.

God has supplied the strength equal to the task. He hasn’t supplied more. He hasn’t supplied less. He has supplied exactly what I’ve needed to minister to the people who he has called me to minister to. God has supplied the right Scripture. God has supplied the timely discernment. God has supplied the necessary courage. God has supplied the way to even physically get to the places he’s called me to preach. To preach, you need supply. I praise God that he is my Supplier!

#2 - JESUS SAVES.

Every time I extended an opportunity to those who were listening to my preaching to place their faith in the good news of Jesus Christ, people did not accept the invitation. But, one time, five students did! Jesus still saves. Jesus still reaches down, by his sovereignty, and opens up blind eyes to his love. Jesus is still drawing people to himself. My job is to preach the good news and invite people to place their faith in Jesus. It’s Jesus’ job to save. And I’m so glad he still does!

#3 - THE HOLY SPIRIT CONVICTS.

Even though I am preaching one message to scores of different people with different backgrounds, it blows my mind how the Holy Spirit can bring the message to bear on every heart in a unique way. The Holy Spirit takes the words that I use and causes them to impact hearts and minds in a supernatural way. There is no way that I can know every need of every listener present, let alone address every one of those needs in one message. But some way, somehow, the Holy Spirit does know every need, and he makes a way for those needs to be met. I’ll never understand how this works, but I am so glad I do not preach apart from the person of the Holy Spirit who convicts the hearts of my hearers.

#4 - THE GOSPEL REFRESHES.

The good news that Jesus absorbed our wrath. The good news that Jesus cleanses us of our sin. The good news that Jesus credits us with his righteousness. The good news that Jesus makes a way for us to be adopted into the family of God. This good news when received by faith is refreshing to the soul! No matter how many times someone has heard it, the gospel of Jesus Christ is always like an oasis in a desert for a weary traveler. The gospel always brings hope. The gospel always brings peace. The gospel always brings joy. The gospel always brings grace. How privileged I am that this is the news that I have been called to deliver!

There’s no doubt. I. am. exhausted. But I am also…overjoyed. God supplies. Jesus saves. The Holy Spirit convicts. The Gospel refreshes. And I get a front row seat to see it all go down!

If you are a preacher, be encouraged! This work that we’ve been called to is not in vain!

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:10-11

#712 - 6 YEARS PLANTED. 6 TOUGH LESSONS LEARNED--THE HARD WAY.

SIX!

3 years I ago, on the day before we celebrated our 3-year anniversary as a church, I wrote this.

3 years later, two days after we celebrated our 6-year anniversary of our church, I thought it would be wise to write about what I’ve learned since.

LESSON #1: There will be people who leave and hate you deeply, BUT there will also be people who stay and love you dearly.

Before leaving for my sabbatical and upon my return, I experienced the deep love, respect, and appreciation that many people in the congregation have for my wife and I. It felt so good!

As hard is it is to deal with people who leave and don’t have very many positive feelings for you as they go, focus on the people who love you. Appreciate the people who love you. Continue to invest in the people who love you. Investing in haters is a waste of energy.

Key note: Some people who stay will actually hate you (why they stay I’ll never understand), but some people who leave will actually love you. I guess the bottom line is…you’ll always have to deal with BOTH!

LESSON #2: Your spouse will pay a price, BUT your spouse won’t regret the price they pay. 

They will get less of your attention. They will get less of your emotional energy. They will get less of your time. They will constantly feel like they are “sharing” you with the church.

But, if you do your best to never sacrifice your spouse on the altar of ministry, set boundaries, and are sensitive to your spouse’s needs, there will be days when your spouse says to you, “I know that this has been hard, but I’m glad we did it.” The church plant will reveal to your spouse who God is in ways that nothing else ever could. And there will be days when they recognize that truth. Those days are the best.

LESSON #3: Most of what you want to happen won’t, BUT everything God wants to happen will

The amount of people. The amount of money. The amount of salvations. The amount of baptisms. The amount of impact—you’re very likely always going to want more than what is. More than what God has given you.

But what I’ve come to find out after six years of leading a church plant is this: the amount of people, money, salvations, baptisms, and impact that God does give you, is exactly the amount you’re supposed to have!

LESSON #4: Money will always be an issue, BUT you can impact how big of an issue it will be. 

Specifically in regards to money, you’ll always feel like you need more. But, the level of anxiety, worry, frustration and fear that your church/team has around the issue of money will be a direct reflection of your attitude towards your financial situation. 

The more faith, hope, and confidence you have that God will financially provide for the church’s needs, the more faith, hope, and confidence your church will have that God will provide. 

The choice is yours. You can either be a “thermostat” that constantly sets the “temperature” to faith and expectancy or you will be a “thermometer” that merely reads the “temperature” of fear and worry that enters the room every time finances get tight. Be a thermostat.

LESSON #5: Volunteers will constantly be quitting, BUT volunteers are who God will consistently keep sending.

They’re “burnt out.” Their “season” of serving is over. They’re too busy. They move away. You will very rarely have a month where a volunteer doesn’t quit.

But, as you pray to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers, He will send laborers. He will send exactly who you need, at exactly the right time, every single time! If you don’t have the volunteer you want now, you very likely don’t need them now. Wait on the Lord.  

LESSON #6: Leading people to pray corporately is hard, BUT neglecting to pray corporately will always make ministry harder.

Getting a church community to remain committed to praying together is one of the hardest things you will ever attempt to do. Week after week, month after month, getting people to see the importance of gathering to pray together will feel like pushing a 200-pound boulder up a steep incline. Leading a community of faith in consistent corporate prayer is hard work. 

But, here’s why I don’t give up. Doing ministry void of an emphasis on corporate prayer is like standing on the bottom of a steep incline trying to stop a 200-pound boulder, that is coming right at you, before it runs you over—it is IMPOSSIBLE. 

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN.

If you are a church planter, part of a church planting team, or an attender of a church-planting church, what lessons have you learned about church-planting? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below! I’d like to learn from you. For real.

#711 - 4 COMPELLING REASONS LEAD PASTORS ABSOLUTELY NEED TO TAKE EXTENDED SABBATICALS

Joy

I definitely will have more reasons to write about when I talk to the leaders and members of our church community about the impact my sabbatical had on our organization, but in the meantime, here are the most compelling reasons, I have come to understand through going on my sabbatical, why I believe every lead pastor should take an extended sabbatical (at least 3 months) away from ministry every 5-7 years.

1. A SABBATICAL WILL FORCE YOU TO BECOME AN EMPOWERING LEADER.

One of the reasons you may be hesitant (or refuse) to take an extended sabbatical is that because you know the organization couldn’t function without your efforts present. If this is the case, as a leader, this is not something to be proud of. The goal of leadership in general and church leadership in particular is to get things done through other people.

With that in mind, one of the beauties of committing to a future extended sabbatical is that it will force you to start getting more things done through other people. An extended sabbatical will force you to prepare the organization to exist without you. An extended sabbatical will make you a better trainer, teacher, mentor, and developer of people. A sabbatical will loosen your grip on something that was never meant to be held so tightly—who does things and the way they are done.

The funny thing is, you should be doing this anyway because there will be a day when the organization will exist without you! (Unless you want it to die when you do.) So why not start preparing now?

2. A SABBATICAL WILL SUFFOCATE YOUR PRIDE.

The truth is, for many pastors, we think we are more important to the Kingdom of God than we actually are. We think our preaching matters that much. We think our leadership matters that much. We think our ideas and our strategies matter that much. We think our way of doing things is the best. We think if we’re gone, the church will lack something. I know this about you because this is what I thought about me!

Here’s what my sabbatical showed me in the clearest of ways: I truly, truly, truly am not necessary for the church of Jesus Christ to advance. Jesus promised he would build his church long before I was alive, and Jesus will continue to fulfill that promise long after I’m gone. Though I am thankful and overwhelmed that God would actually partner with me to build his Church, I am convinced like never before that HE is the one doing ALL of the heavy lifting.

In my absence, giving increased. In my absence, leaders thrived. In my absence, the gospel was proclaimed. In my absence volunteers were recruited. In my absence, disciples were made. One of the greatest cures for an unhealthy view of how integral you think you are to the advancement of the Kingdom of God, is an extended time away. A sabbatical is the sweetest tasting humble pie you will ever indulge in!

3. A SABBATICAL WILL BLESS YOUR SPOUSE AND CHILDREN LIKE NOTHING ELSE CAN.

If you have been in full-time ministry., as a lead pastor, for over five years, you may be able to keep working at the pace you currently are, but your spouse and children, very likely, want you to take a break. (If you don’t believe me, I dare you to ask them!)

During a sabbatical you can give your spouse and children a gift (that they absolutely crave) that is very difficult to give during the day in day out grind of pastoral leadership—your emotional energy. Emotional energy to be present. Emotional energy to listen. Emotional energy to thoughtfully respond. Emotional energy to serve. Emotional energy to hear from the Lord how you can love your family better. Emotional energy be bothered!

Though you don’t need a sabbatical to give this type of emotional energy to your family in smaller doses, if you desire to love your family with your presence in a way that is extraordinary, an extended sabbatical is necessary. My wife articulated it this way:

One of the best parts of your sabbatical was being able to have “the whole you.”

In the end, when you decide to take an extended sabbatical, you declare and more importantly show to your spouse and children, with crystal-clear clarity—you matter more. And unfortunately, the opposite is also true. If you don’t commit to extended seasons of rest you communicate maybe more subtly—you matter less.

4. A SABBATICAL WILL SHOW YOU THAT JESUS IS MORE GLORIOUS THAN A SABBATICAL.

Only when you get to thoroughly experience what you believe is best, will you discover that Jesus is better!

Getting 3 months away from work, paid. Going on a 25-day vacation to Italy. Eating the finest foods in the world. Playing video games for as long as I want. Purchasing our first home. These are the blessings I experienced during my sabbatical. Many would consider these things, if they were to experience them, “the best.” And don't get me wrong, they were wonderful.

BUT, and I’m not just saying this because I’m a pastor, during my sabbatical, my moments praising God and contemplating and resting in his love for me were infinitely more satisfying than the “stuff.” His love. His grace. His patience. His character. His worthiness. His power. His presence. These were all things I came to realize were way more precious to me than “the best” that a sabbatical could offer.

“Better is one day in your courts, than a thousand elsewhere.” My sabbatical showed me in this clearest of ways how deeply true King David’s words actually are. Jesus. Is. BETTER.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN.

If you are a lead pastor, or anyone else who has ever taken an extended sabbatical away from work, why would you say a sabbatical is absolutely necessary? Please share in the comments below!

#710 - THE 5 THINGS I MISSED MOST ABOUT WORK WHILE NOT WORKING

Monday Night Prayer Crew!

Monday Night Prayer Crew!

1. PRAYING AND WORSHIPPING GOD WITH MY CHURCH FAMILY.

I missed hearing the grateful prayers of thanksgiving and praise. I missed hearing the humble prayers of confession and repentance. I missed hearing the faith-filled prayers of petition and supplication. I missed hearing all of our voices joined together singing to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. There is absolutely no substitution for gathering with the body of Christ to pray and worship him together. I can’t wait till this Sunday to do it again!

2. PREACHING THE BIBLE.

Though I am thankful for the break, I missed preaching God’s Word. I missed the preparation. I missed the insights that the Holy Spirit reveals. I missed putting together my Keynote presentations! I missed being led to say things while preaching that only the Holy Spirit of God could’ve led me to say because I had no intention of saying them. I missed calling people to respond to the preached word of God. I am absolutely humbled by God’s call on my life to proclaim his Word, and I can’t wait till this weekend when I get to do it again!

3. LEADING OUR LEADERSHIP TEAMS.

I missed leading us to praise God for his blessings. I missed leading us to trust God. I missed leading us to confront and confess sin. I missed leading us to have tough conversations. I missed leading us to come up with creative solutions to problems. I missed leading us to grow in our love for each other. I missed leading us to take bold steps of faith. I missed leading us to create awesome Sunday worship services. I missed casting vision. I missed leading the humble servants of Christ who I am privileged to serve alongside. I can’t wait till two Sundays from now when our pastoral team/wives will get together, and I get to lead them again!

4. DISCIPLING MEN.

I missed the one-on-one discipleship relationships that I’m privileged to be a part of. I missed the meals together. I missed reading the word together. I missed praying together. I missed asking the tough questions. I missed encouraging and celebrating steps of obedience. I missed applying grace and truth to sin. I missed the joy that comes from investing life into life, and I can’t wait till I return to engage in these discipleship relationships again!

5. DESIGNING GRAPHICS/MARKETING/BRANDING MATERIAL!

Though someone else should probably be doing it, I missed it! I missed finding new fonts. I missed finding just the right image and mixing it with just the right typeface to communicate just the right feeling and emotion. I missed using my creativity to serve the body of Christ! (I just finished designing the branding for our six-year anniversary, and though it’s not anything spectacular, putting it together was something I thoroughly enjoyed!)

six-year anniversary branding

The truth is, though I enjoyed every bit of my sabbatical, I am anxious and excited to get back to doing the things I was uniquely wired to do day in and day out! I am so blessed to have a job that requires the use of my passions and my skills. God is worthy of my praise for his kindness in calling me to and positioning me in this type of work at THEMOVEMENT.CHURCH.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN.

Whether you have your “dream job” or not, take a moment to thank and praise God for the parts of your job that you are thankful for. Thank him for the opportunities you do have to use your unique gifts. Feel free to share them in the comments below. I’d love to know!

#709 - 71 REASONS I'M DEEPLY GRATEFUL FOR MY SABBATICAL

We LOVE the Huang’s!

We LOVE the Huang’s!

Hate the Dodgers. Absolute LOVE our brother-in-law Donovan!

Hate the Dodgers. Absolute LOVE our brother-in-law Donovan!

BANG. BANG.

BANG. BANG.

  1. Being given the opportunity by my church to take a 3-month sabbatical.

  2. Being gifted additional financial resources from my church to enjoy during the sabbatical.

  3. Resisting the temptation to be pulled back into certain ministry situations which I became aware of.

  4. Watching the Pastoral Team lead the church well (especially in the adversity) in my absence.

  5. Receiving encouraging emails/texts from the pastors and leaders of the church.

  6. Being free (for the most part) of the emotional weight and responsibility of shepherding people’s souls.

  7. Being free of the responsibility of/for the “results” and “success” of the church.

  8. Having six different preachers fill our pulpit in my absence—four from our church and two church planters in Oakland.

  9. Seeing giving increase in my absence!

  10. Seeing Jesus build His church without me!

  11. Seeing our next church plant Core Team gain momentum.

  12. Receiving several future preaching invitations.

  13. Enjoying many moments of feeling the tangible presence of God during private praise and worship unto him.

  14. Realizing early on into the sabbatical that even a sabbatical is not “the answer.”

  15. Letting go of the guilt that comes along with being blessed with a sabbatical of this nature.

  16. Vegging out on multiple movies/series/documentaries on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

  17. Being available to assist as an assessor for the Acts 29 US West Network.

  18. Finishing the final draft of Only God.

  19. Receiving endorsements for Only God from leaders I respect and admire.

  20. Making tremendous progress towards the publishing of Only God.

  21. Hearing that Only God will be available for pre-order in January 2020 and will be officially released in February!

  22. Thinking of, creating, and designing several ebooks to be given as free pre-order bonuses for Only God.

  23. Having the time to invest in working on my creative ideas, especially for the book launch.

  24. Being able to sleep in…often.

  25. Enjoying nice, quiet, long walks with my wife and Merritt.

  26. Receiving a Playstation 4 from JR so I could play video games.

  27. Playing video games for hours and hours and hours without any condemnation from my wife!

  28. Enjoying many uninterrupted hours of reading multiple fiction and non-fiction books.

  29. Building our friendship with the Huang’s through our trip to Disneyland.

  30. Watching and investing time with the Huang kids so Chris and Cori could go on a getaway.

  31. Eating Brazilian BBQ with my entire immediate family.

  32. Enjoying Xiao Long Bao with the Yim’s.

  33. Enjoying Korean BBQ with the Kim’s.

  34. Enjoying Peruvian with the Stites.

  35. Catching up with the Hung’s over Chicken and Waffles in their new home.

  36. Making shoe deals at Sole Supremacy with JR and enjoying a Japanese lunch together.

  37. Purchasing and selling several Air Jordans.

  38. Getting approval to sell shoes on the GOAT app.

  39. Enjoying yet another Warriors run in the NBA Finals.

  40. Going to a Giants game with Spencer and Peyton.

  41. Going to my first Giants/Dodgers game at Dodger Stadium with my siblings.

  42. Re-connecting with Chris Jensen—a great leadership coach with the Table Group.

  43. Rest, Relaxation, and Refreshment at the Acts 29 Global Gathering.

  44. Worshipping God with 1000+ church planters from around the world.

  45. Watching my wife thrive in her work for Acts 29 US West and Acts 29 Global.

  46. Hearing from God, very clearly, about emphasizing His worthiness as an enduring motivation for living righteously during my next season of ministry.

  47. Having Christopher and Brittany advocate for Rebekah and I to extend our trip in Italy through our wedding anniversary.

  48. Attending/supporting a church service at Inspire Church.

  49. Attending/supporting a church service at Bay City Church.

  50. Buying our first house!

  51. Receiving miraculous financial provision from God to go towards the down payment.

  52. Being financially supported by friends and family members to help make the purchase of our home possible.

  53. Working together with my wife to move out of our home in Oakland.

  54. Receiving our full deposit back from our landlords and maintaining a relationship with them beyond the move.

  55. Getting our July rent back, not having to pay rent or our mortgage in August or September!

  56. Working together with my wife to move into our home in San Leandro.

  57. Working together with my wife to paint the rooms in our new home.

  58. Enjoying the Patty Melt at Whataburger in Texas.

  59. Having a great experience at the shooting range with Rebekah’s family in Texas!

  60. Traveling to several cities and making great memories in Italy with Rebekah over the course of 25 days!

  61. Going on runs in 3 different cities in Italy.

  62. PIZZA IN NAPLES.

  63. And the many other great eating experiences we had while in Italy.

  64. Enjoying many reflective conversations with my wife about our life and marriage.

  65. Enjoying times of reading the Scripture and praying together with my wife.

  66. Celebrating our birthdays and 15-year wedding anniversary in Italy.

  67. Having the financial resources to purchase Louis Vuitton Italian leather dress shoes for myself and a purse for my wife.

  68. Finding the perfect gifts in Italy to bring back to some of the important people in our lives.

  69. Being in town to see my nephew get baptized.

  70. Being in town to see my brother-in-law get married.

  71. Seeing my wife deeply grateful for these 3 months that we’ve been able to spend together in this way.

Praise be to God for His grace and kindness in my life. “I’m so unworthy, but still you love me. Forever my heart will sing of how great you are!” To Him be all the glory, honor, and praise!

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN.

You don’t need to have been on a sabbatical to create a list like this. What are the experiences, moments, blessings, difficulties, and relationships from God that you are thankful for from the Summer of 2019? I encourage you to invest at least 30 minutes thinking though and writing them down. Come up with at least 25. Or, feel free to share a few of God’s blessings towards you in the comments below. I’d love to celebrate with you.

God is worthy of the gratitude and praise that will be stirred up within you as a result of your remembering!

Please, don’t neglect doing this. God is worthy!

#708 - THE NEXT 3 DAYS

My Air BnB in Houston with Amazing Architectural Design!

My Air BnB in Houston with Amazing Architectural Design!

Today is Saturday, September 7.

On Wednesday, September 11, my wife, pup, and I will board a plane in Houston, Texas for Oakland, California. When we arrive, it will mark the end of my 3-month sabbatical, and the beginning of a fresh season of ministry.

With that in mind, over the next three days, I have the privilege of being in an Air BnB all by myself, with no distractions, to start strategizing and preparing for my return.

Here are the things I absolutely need to get done in the next 3 days:

By the end of Sunday:

  • Write a list of things I am grateful for from my first extended sabbatical experience.

  • Complete my outline for the 4 sermons I will give at the Living Stones Men’s Retreat next weekend.

  • Complete my outline for the 5 sermons I will give at the North Hills Middle/High School Retreat next week. Send discussion questions to Pastor James.

By the end of Monday:

  • Think/pray through sermons series ideas through the end of 2019.

  • Write outline for my first message back.

By the end of Tuesday:

  • Set work/personal goals for Fall 2019.

  • Set work/personal daily rhythms for Fall 2019.


#707 - LAST DAY IN ITALY

GOODBYE!

GOODBYE!

Time to Return Home!

Time to Return Home!

  • Woke up at 6am.

  • Got all of our stuff together and called an UBER.

  • At the airport, we first made sure to get our 12.5% cash back from the shopping we did in Italy. Great perk.

  • Checked in our bags.

  • Purchased one last gift in the terminal for Rebekah’s mom.

  • Boarded our plane.

  • Long flight from Rome to New Jersey. Watched an Aretha Franklin documentary. Slept. Finished reading The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis. Only one more book to go in his Chronicles of Narnia series.

  • I also started working on an ebook entitled Religion vs. The Gospel that I’m excited about making available soon!

  • Arrived in New Jersey. Had to go through customs. Get baggage. Then, re-check baggage back in, and go back through security. Hectic.

  • Made our flight. Continued working on the ebook. Got a bit nauseous on the flight.

  • Finally landed in Houston at 7pm. What a trip it has been. Glad to be home.

#706 - ROME DAY 6

Another Shot of the Sistine

Another Shot of the Sistine

This is Art on a Huge Rug! Jesus Revealing Who He is After Walking the Road to Emmaus.

This is Art on a Huge Rug! Jesus Revealing Who He is After Walking the Road to Emmaus.

The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum

  • These are all pictures from yesterday.

  • Today was our last full day in Rome, and after a hectic day yesterday I took it easy. Rebekah did a little bit more shopping. (She couldn’t resist!)

  • I did step out for lunch with Rebekah and we both had delicious bacon cheeseburgers at a restaurant down the street from our place.

  • Before dinner, we got some souvenirs and gifts for family and friends.

  • Ate one final Italian dinner. It was actually one of our best! Caprese salad. Lasagna. Pasta Carbonara. Margherita Pizza with sausage. All very delicious!

  • Came back home and packed. Praise God we got everything to fit!

  • Tomorrow we say goodbye!

#709 - ROME DAY 5

Snuck a Selfie in the Sistine!

Snuck a Selfie in the Sistine!

No Caption Needed!

No Caption Needed!

Altar of the Fatherland

Altar of the Fatherland

  • Today was our 15-Year Wedding Anniversary! And, it was one of the more exciting, full days of our trip!

  • Woke up early. Caught an UBER to the Vatican Museum for our 9:30a entry time.

  • Incredible experience. So much history. So much craftsmanship. So much stuff!

  • The crown jewel of the museum—the Sistine Chapel—was amazing. Absolutely breathtaking room to be in. There were no pictures allowed, but Rebekah is a rebel and took a few!

  • Found some gifts, at the Vatican Museum, for some very special people back home, that I can’t wait to give them.

  • We spent about 2 hours in the museum. After learning more about Michelangelo, I found out that he sculpted a statue of Jesus Christ that is also located in Rome. So, we decided to walk over to that church.

  • On the way, we stumbled across a burger/steak joint that looked pretty good. Stopped there for lunch. I had a ribeye. Rebekah had some sliders. Tasty.

  • Arrived at the church. It was closed. Bummer.

  • Decided to walk over to the Roman Forum and Colosseum.

  • On the way, we stumbled across a Thai Massage spot. We couldn’t resist. Doing our best to end our time in Italy right! We both got a 90-minute full body massage. 30 minutes specifically on the feet. GLORIOUS.

  • Feeling refreshed, we then walked over to The Forum and The Colosseum. INCREDIBLE. So much historical significance. Crazy to see these things in person. Larger than life.

  • Passed several other historical landmarks as well. Glad we came back to Rome. So much to see.

  • Headed home to rest up before our anniversary dinner.

  • Went to a place Anthony Bourdain recommended. Pepper pasta was out of this world! Rebekah and I both had this signature dish and it was definitely one of the top 3 dishes of the entire trip. Had a great dinner celebrating and reflecting upon our marriage. God is so faithful. We are so blessed.

  • Walked back home. Walked a total of 23,000 steps! Climbed 29 flights of stairs. For a total of 10.2 miles!

  • Such a memorable anniversary. Tomorrow is our final day in Rome, and the day before we fly back home to the States.

  • A bit saddened that my sabbatical is coming to an end, but more so anxious and excited to get back to work and get back to my church family! The best is ahead!

#708 - ROME DAY 4

Goodbye Naples!

Goodbye Naples!

Hello McDonald’s!

Hello McDonald’s!

Beautiful Streets of Rome at Sunset

Beautiful Streets of Rome at Sunset

  • Checkout out of our place in Naples at 11a.

  • Boarded the metro for the Naples Central Station where we boarded a train for Rome.

  • Arrived in Rome at about 2:30p.

  • Checked into our place. First non Air BnB. Used a service called Sonder. Pretty clutch.

  • Headed out for some…you guessed it…shopping!

  • But first…Went to McDonald’s for a snack. The FiRST McDonald’s in Rome. HISTORIC. Rebekah and I both had the extra large McChicken. So rare. So good! Bahaha!

  • While we were shopping, I may have picked up a black pair of dress shoes made in Italy— brand name rhymes with…Dewey Crouton! They. Are. FLY. (Unnecessary disclaimer that is going to make it seem like I feel more guilty for buying these shoes than I actually do: the current pair of black dress shoes that I own (Gordon Rush), I’ve had since 2003!)

  • Definitely felt nervous walking all the way back to our place with the very obvious “Imperial Saffron” colored shopping bag. Didn’t get jumped. To God be the glory.

  • Went to a restaurant a few doors down from our place for dinner. I had Spaghetti. Rebekah had a seafood pasta.

  • Watched the Tony Robbins documentary on Netflix before going to sleep. That guy is something else!

#707 - NAPLES DAY 3

The Other Classic Pizza of Naples — Marinara

The Other Classic Pizza of Naples — Marinara

Napolitan Street Art

Napolitan Street Art

A Real Deal Castle! — Castel Nuovo

A Real Deal Castle! — Castel Nuovo

  • Started our day by eating at another very popular pizza spot in Naples—L’Antica Pizzeria.

  • Opened at 11:30a. We got there at 11:40. Place was packed. We missed the first seating, but were number one in line. Before we sat down there were 30+ others that were given numbers.

  • Once again, the pizza was otherworldly! Rebekah got the Margherita. I got the Marinara. They only serve those two pizzas! The dough is unlike anything else! So good. We left so stuffed.

  • Walked lunch off by doing some window shopping around Naples. Also walked down to the water. Put in some major steps!

  • Came home. Rested.

  • Hit up the taco spot again for a late dinner. Nachos were off the hook. Bek had a sausage taco. I had a philly cheesesteak!