#686 - PAYING DIVIDENDS

For the last two and a half years, I have worked (and prayed!) really hard for two things to become embedded into the culture of THEMOVEMENT.CHURCH:

  1. 1-1 Discipleship

  2. Corporate Prayer

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to see the fruit of my labor (and the labor of the team I serve alongside), in a very striking way.

I preached at a College/Career Winter Camp for a church in Vallejo. Over the course of 4 sessions, I was blessed to be able to share about 4 characteristics of the early church.

  1. Reproducible Discipleship

  2. Corporate Prayer

  3. Repentant Confession

  4. Irrational Generosity

Though, all of the sessions were helpful (at least that’s what I was told!), I was most proud of how the sessions on 1-1 discipleship and corporate prayer landed on the group’s heart.

After my message on reproducible discipleship, I was able to do a workshop on how we do 1-1 discipleship at our church. My wife and three others were able to share testimonies of how being in 1-1 discipleship relationships have positively impacted their relationship with Christ.

After we were finished, many of the campers approached their leaders about discipling them after the camp was concluded. Many of the leaders also approached campers about discipling them as well.

I am so thankful that two and a half years of work was able to result in me being able to pass on a way to 1-1 discipleship that is simple and reproducible. I’m so thankful that my time invested in the camp can go beyond my sermons and continue on in the form of discipleship relationships!

But that wasn’t all. My second session was on corporate prayer. After I concluded, we circled up to practice corporate prayer. In just a few minutes the students were able to experience for themselves how “doable” and impactful corporate prayer could be.

I received a lot of feedback on how the group wanted to take corporate prayer back to their church when the camp was over! Praise God.

Then, to cap off the three-day weekend, I returned home to attend our corporate prayer gathering on Monday night.

It was incredible.

The level of faith, desperation, hope, trust, humility, unity, and intimacy that was present in the room was other worldly! There was a palpable sense of the presence of God. There was a palpable sense of the pleasure of God for what we were doing.

Though our church is currently in a corporate fast, I’m convinced many (if not all) of us left our corporate prayer gathering full.

The work is paying off. The prayer is paying off. God is honoring how we are attempting to honor Him. God is using the healthy things in our church to be an inspiration to other churches. God is growing our commitment to and understanding of corporate prayer.

A revival is happening in our hearts. A revival is happening in our church.

I am so thankful.

To God be the glory.

#681 - THINK AT LEAST 10 YEARS OUT

So much has been said about seizing the moment. Living in the present. Taking it one day at a time. And I'm all about it! (Who needs to carry the burden of what's going to happen in the future when the present can already be so overwhelming.)

ON THE OTHER HAND...

When it comes to influence and impact, we've heard this said before as well,

We overestimate what God can do in 1 year and we underestimate what God can do in 10.

As I look at the type of influence I want to have in people's lives, the type of influence of I want our church to have in the city, the type of disciple-making movement I'd like to see multiply...

I NEED TO THINK FARTHER OUT.

Deep impact doesn't happen over night. Systemic change doesn't take place in an instant. Trust isn't built over the course of days. Life transformation can't be rushed. 

THE MOVEMENT CHURCH has been going for almost 5 years, and I feel like we're just starting to see what is possible if we keep at this thing!

So as much as what you do today is of extreme importance, the timeline you are giving yourself to experience the results you desire is equally important.

Pick an arena where you desire to have deep, real, long-lasting impact. Then, commit yourself to that work for 10 years.

Don't be perplexed by the amount of time it is going to require to build something deeply influential. Just accept it. Great things don't grow overnight.

#680 - FALLEN HEROES

I am grieved by how their sin stains.
I am frustrated by how their flesh won.
I am sickened by how their victims suffer.
I am devastated by how their family aches. 
I am saddened by how their church struggles.
I am overwhelmed by how their actions impact.

I AM SOBERED BY HOW THEIR STORY COULD BE MINE.

BUT...

I am thankful because God's love heals.
I am hopeful because God's grace restores.
I am joyful because God's purpose remains.
I am grateful because God's justice exposes.
I am prayerful because God's power overcomes.
I am cheerful because God's Church perseveres.

I AM MINDFUL BECAUSE GOD'S WARNING IS THIS:

"Take heed lest you fall." 

#677 - ABOUT THE CORPORATE PRAYER MEETING

  • It's not easy.
  • It's not attractive.
  • It's not entertaining.
  • It's easy to start, but difficult to continue.
  • Initial interest lasts 2 months...max.
  • Leadership must believe it's necessary.
  • Leadership must persevere.
  • Leadership must teach people how to pray.
  • God does show up.
  • God does answer prayers. 
  • God does honor the humility of those who attend.
  • Sometimes, you leave the gathering feeling incredible.
  • Many times, you don't. 
  • Answers aren't always found there.
  • God always is.

#665 - A SIMPLE BUT PROFOUND LEADERSHIP SHIFT

Developing Leaders > Recruiting Volunteers

Recruiting Volunteers is an event.
Developing Leaders is a process.

Recruiting Volunteers requires management.
Developing Leaders requires leadership.

Recruiting Volunteers takes care of the present.
Developing Leaders prepares you for the future.

Recruiting Volunteers is more about the organization's need.
Developing Leaders is more about a person's potential.

Recruiting Volunteers is much needed.
Developing Leaders is more necessary.

#664 - THE PASTORAL LEGACY I LONG FOR

"He walked with me."

When I was skeptical...He walked with me. When I was ready to make Jesus the Lord of my life...He walked with me. When I was hesitant about being baptized...He walked with me. When I had trouble understand the Bible...He walked with me. When I grew weary of believing...He walked with me. When I committed one of the most shameful sins of my life...He walked with me. When I was ready to repent...He walked with me. When I sinned again...He walked with me. When I didn't want to repent...He walked with me. When I repented again...He walked with me. When I began to enjoy some of best days as a follower of Christ...He walked with me. When I began serving in ministry...He walked with me. When I contemplated marriage...He walked with me. When I started a family...He walked with me. When I struggled in my marriage...He walked with me. When I got a life-threatening illness....He walked with me. As I found myself on my deathbed...He walked with me.

May my pastoral legacy be, walking with others, in the same way, Jesus Christ - the Good Shepherd, walks with me.    

#663 - THE BENEFITS OF NOT PREACHING

Due to someone else preaching this Sunday, a cancelled service next Sunday, and the week after that me being out of town to officiate a wedding, I am not going to be preaching for the next 3 weeks. 

Though I absolutely love to preach, four days into the week, I'm already starting to see the benefits of getting a preaching break. Here are a few:

  1. I can focus my thinking and work on other aspects of pastoral ministry. During any given week my thoughts and energies are on my upcoming message for at least 30 hours. I am so grateful that this week I am going to be able to spend many of those 30 hours thinking through and working on our leadership development process - another very key element of growing a healthy church! If I didn't take a preaching break, where would I have found the time to put this much intentional thought into such a critical piece of the pastoral leadership pie!
  2. I can give others who are gifted and called to preach the opportunity to do so. Though it may seem obvious, it must be stated: If I don't ever take a break, when will others get the opportunity to take a turn?! I love that taking a preaching break doesn't only give me rest, but it also frees up the platform for others to step up and into what God has called them to do!
  3. I can experience a Sunday from the vantage point of someone who attends. This Sunday I look forward to sitting in our service to experience and enjoy it without the thought of preaching on my mind. I look forward to singing without worrying about preaching. I look forward to interacting with the others who attend. I look forward to receiving from the preaching. It's gonna' be great!

I praise God for the blessing of serving alongside other gifted communicators of God's Word! Not every pastor has the luxury of feeling comfortable with other people in their church preaching on a Sunday, but that's not me! I. AM. BLESSED!

#657 - FLEE

Pastor, leader, husband...this is for you. This is for me. This is for us.

When certain temptations come your way (you know what it is for you), you shouldn't "hang around." You shouldn't "wait and see." You shouldn't "stay just 10 more minutes." You shouldn't "be nice." You shouldn't "try not to be rude." 

YOU SHOULD FLEE. IMMEDIATELY. 

Get in your car and leave. Ask for a ride home. Leave. Run. Get out of there.

Staying, could cost you everything. 

#656 - GRACE AND GRIT

Ministry requires so much grace.

Grace to forgive. Grace to love. Grace to lead. Grace to discern. Grace to preach. Grace to confront. Grace to ignore. Grace to promote. Grace to decrease.  

But it also requires a helluva lot of grit. 

Grit to persevere. Grit to push-through. Grit to overcome. Grit to endure. Grit to last. Grit to show up even when you don't feel like showing up. Grit to engage even when you don't have the emotional energy to engage. Grit to lead even when you don't know where you should be leading!

For me to do a 30 year run (which is my goal) as the Lead Pastor of theMOVEMENT Church in Oakland, I am convinced...

GOD'S GRACE MUST BE PRESENT, AND MY GRIT CAN'T BE ABSENT.

But as daunting and exhausting as that may seem, I am also thankful of this:

Even my grit is a gift bestowed upon me because of His grace!

So in the end, it's ALL grace.

#650 - WHY I PRAY

In addition to preaching and developing a team of preachers, my secondary responsibility, as the Lead Pastor at theMOVEMENT Church, is to develop a culture of corporate prayer. 

It was about a year ago when I added this to my list of roles and responsibilities on my job description and it hasn't been easy. Though the "prayer temperature" at our church has definitely gone up a notch, maintaining momentum in the area of corporate prayer has been difficult. 

Very often, I feel like if I don't continue to make corporate prayer a priority, nobody else would see it as both beneficial and necessary. Prayer meeting attendance has been down. Energy around praying our corporate prayers has been low. And I have been discouraged.

With that in mind, prior to attending the corporate prayer meeting this past Monday (only 2 other people showed up), I had to re-visit why prayer (and corporate prayer more specifically) is a priority for me and why it should remain a priority for our church. Because motivations matter, I had to re-visit my "why." I came up with two compelling reasons.

GOD IS WORTHY.

God is worthy of our prayers. God is worthy of our praise. God is worthy of our adoration. God is worthy of our thanksgiving. God is worthy of us investing the time to, every time we gather, call out to Him to praise Him for who He is and to petition Him for what He has yet to do.

God is worthy of the time, effort, and energy that it takes to pray. God is worthy. 

I AM WEAK.

I am unable to move the mountains in my life apart from the powerful hand of God. I am unable to be the husband, be the son, be the pastor, be the preacher, be the leader, and be the man God has called me to be apart from God's strength bestowed upon me.

Apart from the mighty hand of God, I am unable to accomplish anything of eternal significance for the glory of God. I am weak.  

One final thought. I am compelled to continue to lead myself and others towards a lifestyle of dependance on God, evidenced by a strong prayer life, because of what it communicates to a watching world if prayer is absent...

ARROGANCE.

Arrogance that believes I am responsible for my blessings. Arrogance that has bought into the lie that I am entitled to what I see God doing in and through me. Arrogance that has forgotten that every good gift comes from above. Arrogance that assumes that apart from God's hand I can actually bring God's Kingdom to earth. 

Arrogance will not be the prevailing characteristic of my life or my church. Humility will. 

But, for this to be true, I must not grow weary in leading us to pray. I must keep believing. I must keep leading by example. I must keep the following thought in the front of my mind and in the front of the church's collective conscience:

GOD IS WORTHY AND WE ARE WEAK. THEREFORE, LET. US. PRAY.

#622 - WHAT DO PASTOR'S TALK ABOUT?

The other day, I wrote about what pastor's do. Today, because I have a pastoral team meeting with the group of pastors I am privileged to serve with at theMOVEMENT, I want to share a little bit of insight in regards to what pastor's talk about.

The following is the agenda for tonight's bi-monthly pastoral team meeting. All leadership team meetings at theMOVEMENT (including pastoral team meetings) are outlined using the five values of the church as a guide.  

RESOLUTE GRATITUDE (Thanksgiving > Entitlement)

  • How do you see God moving powerfully in your life?
  • Where do you see God moving in a personal weakness or struggle?
  • How do you see God moving in specific people in the church who you are pastoring?
  • What else do we see God doing at theMOVEMENT that we are grateful for?
  • Financial Update. 

SELFLESS TRANSPARENCY (Truth-Telling > Image-Protecting)

  • My emotional and spiritual health
  • My marriage
  • Sexology Series Debrief

LIFELONG LEARNING (Growth > Complacency)

  • Baptism & Membership Discussion

EMPOWERING LEADERSHIP (Development > Excellence)

  • Pastoral Candidate Process Conversation
  • Current/Future Pastoral Candidates
  • Summer Pastoral Team Retreat 
  • Music Ministry Leadership Team Update
  • Vote on New Member Candidates

AUDACIOUS FAITH (Courage > Comfort)

  • Where the teaching is headed
  • Creating a Culture of Invitation Evaluation
  • Our next Thematic Goal
  • Enlarge Territory Corporate Prayer

#617 - SAD BUT TRUE

There are going to be some Sundays as a pastor where you're not going to be feeling it. Though you know God loves you. Though you know you should love others. Though you know you are called. Though you know your task is to serve. Though you know you are to work unto the Lord and not for man...

WHAT YOU KNOW AND HOW YOU FEEL WILL BE AT ODDS WITH EACH OTHER.

And no matter how much you pray. No matter how much you attempt to get yourself out of the funk. No matter how much you claim and proclaim every Scripture you know over your life and your ministry. No matter how much you cry out to God to change your heart...you still will not feel any better. 

So what do you do then?

Serve anyway. Love anyway. Preach anyway. Do your best and give your best anyway.

The sad but true reality is this,

WHO A PASTOR SHOULD BE ISN'T ALWAYS WHO HE IS, YET HE MUST SERVE ANYWAYS.

Now I'm not saying you should make a habit of this. I'm not saying this is healthy if this is a regular occurrence. But I do know this...

Today, this was me

#593 - WHAT TOYS R' US AND THE CHURCH CAN'T HAVE IN COMMON

Toys aren't irrelevant. It's how Toys R' Us sells toys that is causing them to be irrelevant. Music isn't irrelevant. It's how iHeartRadio and Cumulus plays music that is causing them to be irrelevant. Movies aren't irrelevant. It's how Blockbuster rented movies that caused them to be irrelevant. Pictures aren't irrelevant. It's how Kodak developed pictures that caused them to be irrelevant. Books aren't irrelevant. It's how Borders sold books that caused them to be irrelevant. 

Great products aren't irrelevant. Distribution methods, on the other hand, can be. 

I'm sure that before shutting down or having to declare bankruptcy that Toys R' Us, iHeartRadio, Blockbuster, Kodak and Borders all felt the warning signs of their distribution methods becoming outdated and ineffective. But, very likely, these were warning signs that they were either too blind to see or too prideful to acknowledge

With that in mind, as a local pastor and church leader I must always remember:

THE GOSPEL WILL NEVER BE IRRELEVANT.
THE CHURCH WILL NEVER BE IRRELEVANT.
PREACHING WILL NEVER BE IRRELEVANT.

BUT, THERE MAY BE WAYS OF DISTRIBUTING THE GOSPEL THAT WILL BE. 

What are these potentially irrelevant "ways?" What are these potentially irrelevant "methods?" What are these potentially irrelevant "approaches?"

I don't have the answers to these questions, but I do know this:

We can't afford to be too blind or too prideful to acknowledge our answers. 

Feel free to share your comments or thoughts below. I'd love to hear what you think!

#591 - THE PASTOR'S WORK

Serve.
Be present.
Ask questions.
Listen intently.
Be interested.
Ask questions.
Listen some more.
Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit.
Be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Speak truthfully.
Extend grace.
Be patient.
Die to yourself.
Encourage.
Admonish.
Correct.
Discipline.
Pray for.
Love.

This is the way of the cross.
This is the way of the pastor.
Each person. Each family. Each sinner. Each saint.
Each day. Each week. Each month. Each year.
Until a lifetime of loving people well is your legacy. 

#575 - A PASTOR'S WORSE NIGHTMARE

In almost 5 years of ministry in the city of Oakland, this has NEVER happened before. With 15 minutes to go before service started, we've been afraid that it might happen, but it never actually has. It always gets fixed just in time. It always works right when we need it to. The problem is always solved.

But, not today.

OUR PROJECTOR DIDN'T WORK.

You're probably saying to yourself, what's the big deal?

Well, because we are a church that wants to be sensitive to first-time guests, especially those who are new to church, we utilize the projector to help our guests follow along with the different aspects of our service.

We provide lyrics to our songs.
We provide visual aids to our messages.
We provide scripture for our time of corporate prayer.

No projector. No bueno.

And if that wasn't bad enough, 

OUR HEATER WAS BROKEN TOO.

And it was cold. Like 50 degrees cold. And for us Bay Area folks, that's cold.

Now, I know there are many of you reading this who do and have done ministry in way worse conditions. Now before you judge me (because I know you are!), I hope you can empathize with the fact that anytime you can't do ministry in the way you are used to doing ministry it can be very frustrating. Frustrating and distracting.

But, I believe God used our hiccups and hangups in today's service to remind me of a lesson that I hope to not forget anytime soon...

IF GOD IS WORKING, IT DOESN'T MATTER IF EVERYTHING ELSE ISN'T.

And on the flip side of that truth...

IF GOD ISN'T WORKING, IT DOESN'T MATTER IF EVERYTHING ELSE IS!

And the truth of the matter is, today, God worked. Today, God moved. Today, God used our broken circumstances to reveal His perfect strength. Today, God glorified Himself through the singing of songs, through the corporate prayer of His saints, through the preaching of His word, and through the power of multiple testimonies! None of these things needed a projector! None of these things needed heat. It would've been nice, but it wasn't necessary

Just when I think I know what we need to do ministry effectively, God reminds me in only the way that He can that He is not limited by anything.

GOD IS NOT LIMITED BY ANYTHING.

God is not limited by our technology.
God is not limited by our meeting space.
God is not limited by our staff size.
God is not limited by our budget.
God is not limited by our education.
God is not limited by our abilities.
God is not limited by our band.
God is not limited by our resources.
God is not limited by our volunteers.
God is not limited by whatever excuse you have for why you can't do ministry effectively in your context.

GOD IS NOT LIMITED BY ANYTHING.

Now, let's all do ministry from this point forward with the peace and confidence that comes from believing that is the truth!

#565 - WHEN PEOPLE LEAVE YOUR CHURCH

Over the last 5 years of pastoring in Oakland, many people have walked through the doors of theMOVEMENT Church and many people have walked out. Many people who I extended ministry to and did ministry with are no longer here. 

Some people have left for great and godly reasons while others have left for not so great or godly reasons (at least in my opinion). But regardless of the reasons for departure, they all are painful. 

I’ve actually come to realize that it’s one of the hardest things about pastoral ministry. After having loved people deeply, invested in them generously, and seen God move in them mightily, it is hard to watch them walk away from your community of faith and pursue what God has for them next.   

But with every person whose season ends at our church, I have a choice.

I have a choice in how I will respond to the news. I have a choice in how I will love them for the remainder of the time that they are here. I have a choice in how I will talk about them when they are gone. 

Unfortunately, I have not gotten this right as often as I would like to, but, in an effort to improve my ability to love people well as they leave, here are a few practical lessons I’ve learned:

DON’T TAKE IT PERSONAL

Though sometimes people will leave because of you, many times it will be for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with you! Many times, God really does have something better for them elsewhere. Remember, it is Jesus, ultimately, who we want people to trust in and be tethered to, not us. Be sure that how you handle someone’s departure doesn’t become an obstacle to their future relationship with Christ and the Church. 

PASTOR THEM THROUGH THEIR DEPARTURE

If allowed the opportunity, pastor the person leaving on how they can honor God as they go. Pastor them in how they can honor the church as they go. Pastor them by affirming their gifts and contribution while they were with you. Pastor them by lovingly pointing out the ways in which you hope they grow in their next community of faith. Don’t be lazy in your leadership just because they are leaving. Finish well. You will be held accountable. 

HONOR THEM PUBLICLY AND PRIVATELY

If the situation permits and if the honor is warranted, publicly honor them for their commitment and service to your community. Honor them before the group of people who was most impacted by their presence. God is honored by honor. But, don’t only speak favorably of them in front of others, speak favorably of them behind closed doors as well. God is dishonored by dishonor. People are watching. From how you handle the situation, you want people to see that your church is not only a safe place to come to, but it is also a safe place to leave from.  

MOVE ON

Too many times I've made the mistake of putting so much emotional energy into those who have left that I've robbed those who have stayed of healthy leadership. You must press forward. Being emotionally present with the people who aren’t a part of your community will cause you to be spiritually absent from the people who are, and that is a huge disservice to them. God has not called you to people who are no longer called to you. Discern the difference, and love and lead accordingly.   

FIND YOUR JOY IN CHRIST

No man, woman, or family should determine how confident you are in carrying out your calling. For too long, my self-worth and level of fulfillment was wrapped up in who was and who was not following me. What I’ve come to realize is that looking to someone in your church to provide for you what only Christ can provide is idolatry of the worst kind.  Christ alone. He is our joy. He is our reward. Don’t settle for the crumbs of man’s approval when God’s love is a banquet that you can feast from daily!

#563 - BEACUSE I'M SCARED

On my "leadership horizon" are some decisions I must make that will require tremendous amounts of courage. Courage that, frankly, I don't feel like I have. 

But, I can't shrink back. I must lead boldly.

Here are some thoughts about courage that I am writing to encourage myself. Prayerfully, you can benefit from them as well...

Courage is taking actions that are uncomfortable. Courage is believing ideals that are unpopular. Courage is loving people that are unthankful.  

Courage is taking a stand that will expose you to criticism. Courage is the willingness to face the consequences for standing up for what you believe. Courage is putting yourself in a position where the possibility of losing is present. 

Sometime courage is speaking up. Sometimes courage is being silent. Sometimes courage is leaving. Sometimes courage is staying. Sometimes courage is starting. Sometimes courage is waiting.

Courage is obeying God and leaving the consequences of your obedience up to Him. 

Courage is faith in the midst of fear. Courage is hope in the midst of uncertainty. Courage is boldness in the midst of timidity. 

Courage is leaving your comfort zone for the benefit of others and the glory of God. 

Courage is a necessary requirement for leadership and a character trait that, if not developed over time, will cause people to second guess whether or not they should follow you. 

BE COURAGEOUS. 

The world needs your bravery. 

#546 - MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT SIMPLE COMMUNICATION

Simple is not shallow. Simple is not lazy. Simple is not uneducated.

Simple doesn't mean you can't say more, simple means you choose not to say more. Simple doesn't mean you don't know more, simple means you choose not to share everything you know. Simple doesn't mean you can't talk longer, simple means you choose not to talk longer because you understand that longer doesn't always mean better!

When it comes to communication, simple is helpful. Simple is understandable. Simple is palatable. 

Simplicity serves your listeners. Complexity doesn't. 

Simple shows you care. Simple shows you're willing to work hard to prepare so your listener doesn't have to work hard to understand. Simple reveals you're more interested in what the audience understands than in how you're perceived.  

Keep your communication simple.

The strength in your communication is not in what is said, but in what is understood.

#544 - RUNNING OUT OF GAS

Though God is moving mightily. Though lives are changing dramatically. Though the staff is working together healthily. Though doors are being opened surprisingly. Though favor is being experienced abundantly. Though 99% of the work I am privileged to do, I do joyfully. 

I AM EXHAUSTED. 

I write this not to whine, complain, or gain sympathy, but just to provide an honest assessment of my current physical and emotional state. Involving myself in an extended fast while leading our church community to do the same is taxing not only on the body, but on the spirit as well. 

Contrary to what people may believe, fasting is not easier for me because I am a pastor. Confrontational conversations are not easier for me because I am a pastor. Loss is not easier because I am a pastor. Actually, nothing is really easier because I am a pastor! What is hard for most people, is hard for me too!   

BUT GOD IS FAITHFUL.

I trust Him to give me exactly what I need when I need it. I trust Him to be for me exactly who I need Him to be for me when I need it. I trust Him to be in complete control while simultaneously being completely aware of my needs. 

WHAT GOD HAS CALLED ME TO, HE IS WITH ME THROUGH. 

And, that, is all the hope I need.