Conference Response 3

I'm not sure I have spent enough time ruminating on Andy Stanley's statements. And I have been following him on twitter hoping he would tweet out some more profound, life-changing, 140 character eternal truths. I don't want to say that Andy has let me down or anything... but ummmm. I guess Twitter might not be the place to look for that stuff huh?

The next thing that is really alive to me from the conference is what Francis Chan said. He said (in a nutshell of course, and in my own paraphrase - so don't call Francis and accuse of anything I notate here) that "if the Holy Spirit doesn't do something, it won't get done, even if we can make it look like it is getting done."

Salvation, spirituality, personal worship, discipleship, Christian service, integrity, character, mission... None of them can be created by our efforts. We cannot manufacture them. No matter how much I want them for myself or for my children, or for the friends I serve in my church, I can not cause them to happen.

I wish that were some kind of relief to me. I wish that somehow that took some kind of weight from my shoulders. I wish that I felt like my job description somehow just shrunk. What I feel is discouraged. (I typed in the word 'forlorn' but decided that it sounded pompous and out of date.) I fee discouraged not because I doubt the power of the HS to deliver on his job description, or because I have a small picture of God and His power. I'm discouraged because I'm not sure I trust people to respond to the Holy Spirit as He does his job. I'm discouraged by MY unresponsiveness to the HS.

I respond to my desires, my comfort, my 'happiness' (to confess to the dilemma of my most recent sermon) much more readily than I respond to the Holy Spirit. I WANT TO ONLY CHOOSE GOD.

I MUST PRAY. I have taught many times that prayer is the most effective thing a Christ-follower can ever do. I MUST PRAY MORE. I must pray that the HS do in me, and in my family, and in my congregation all that He desires of us AND that we respond to Him above all else.

Dear Lord Jesus,
Have your way in me. Teach me to love like you love, to live like you lived, to give with your generosity, to serve with your humility, to think with your wisdom, to see others through your grace, to live out your mission with the determination that compelled you to hang on my cross. And move mightily in me and through me to act according to your perfect will.


What's Your Anthem?

OK, I read this in another blog and you may have too. But I thought it could be very meaningful to those of us who occasion this blog as a part of the epic community or as part of my life.

Post a comment describing your anthem. What is the song that is the sound track of your life or that you turn to for strength and faith in your current circumstance? A song, a poem, a scripture that seems to carry or express the situation of your life right now.

Here's one of mine. I was recently reintroduced to the song, and it has been playing in my head behind all that I've been doing and constantly challenging me to examine if I live like the redeemed of God... Challenging me to see if I'm shining or not.

"We Shine," by Steve Fee. Here's a portion of the lyrics.
Yeah, yeah, we shine, we shine, with the light of God
And when we speak, we speak with words of love
And when we dance, we may get a little wild
Cause we're the people of God, yeah, the people of God

When we sing, we sing, the angel's song
The ones they're singing around the throne
Yeah, yeah, we worship the King with everything that we are
Cause we're the people of God, yeah, the people of God

And now is the time for the poeple to rise
Lift up a shout, everybody cry out
Raise your voice, shout out a noise
And dance a dance of joy

We are the redeemed
We are the ones who are free
And we belong to Jesus
We are now alive
And in this world we will shine
Cause we belong to Jesus

How 'bout you? What's your anthem right right now?

Conference Reponse 2

OK, still reflecting on something that Andy Stanley said and I don't want to forget. "There is a difference between certainty and clarity."

The implication is that just because circumstances are uncertain doesn't mean our purpose is unclear. When people challenge or question what we're doing and why, when additional options seem better or more convenient, when the things we are doing don't work, when the things we face are harder than we thought... we can feel uncertain about the results, the process, the participants, and even ourselves. BUT we can still be clear if we will return to the one thing that we started with: the thing that God called us to.

For epic there is one thing we are called to: equipping each other to become FULLY DEVOTED CHRIST-FOLLOWERS. That purpose is clear whether our methods work or not, whether our team stays the same or changes, whether today is a 'success' day or a 'failure' day, whether I feel like a hero or heel. I'm gonna press on toward that one clear thing.

I don't know if we're gonna make the budget or not. I don't know whose gonna do this, that, or the other. I don't know if... WELL, I don't know a lot of things. But I know we are going to keep doing whatever is put before us that helps us help each other live like Jesus calls us to live. We're gonna do it. THAT IS CLEAR!

Thanks Andy. This above nearly anything else I heard helps me today. Clarity and uncertainty can co-exist in a church and in a pastor: in me.


Conference Response 1

OK, Catalyst is over. Its a Christian Leadership Conference. All the best speakers to focus and fine tune Christians who lead. Even Guy Kawasaki - not a pastor, a former CEO at Apple/Mac. I've been to one of these conferences 2 times before, and each time I gain more momentum for fulfilling my mission. It's amazing.

One of the things I like about the conference is that it is not a bookish conference where you sit down and fill out pages of notes, stand up and take a 15 minute break and sit down to take notes again. Its an experience with meaningful worship, incredible speakers, and some outrageous let-your-guard-down fun in between.

Peter, if you are reading... I wish you could have been here. Even though it was assumed that the audience was dealing with a more classic congregational model, I thought of your situation and things you shared often and how meaningful much of this could have been for you.

So, I'm going to unpack some of the things that God stuck to my heart through this experience. I'm gonna do it over several posts, so as not to bore you by entering one long post (which this one seems to be quickly becoming), and to help me work things out over time instead of walking away from the experience too quickly.

For today I'm going back to the first speaker and I'm gonna unpack what what stuck to me from just him. Andy Stanley said (in a nut shell) "Uncertainty is more than OK in a ministry organization. It is more than normal. It is necessary." Wow. I mean the reality that God is in charge and I am not, and that things are not going to be certain to me because I see through the glass dimly is not new. But applying that to the fact that as the pastor I don't have to have all of the answers all the time is new to my spirit. At least I have forgotten it if I ever knew it in this context.

I mean as a pastor I have always tried to achieve certainty: a plan that I know will work just like I plan it, a circumstance that is so stable that it is predictably certain, an organization that doesn't run into bumps along the way.

Those situations are human situations. Andy said that those situations in Churches only happen when the church is JUST MAINTAINING WHAT IT ALREADY HAS. A church moving forward is always uncertain because God is Spirit and following Him by faith is believing with out seeing... uncertain.

Just a quick epic application (and I have more Andy Stanley to share in another post). Jordan and Sarah Bentley have made a significant niche for themselves at epic since they joined us about 9 months ago. In worship and in student ministry, and Jordan has become in some sense an overall partner in the epic vision (someone who never failed anything I asked him to fulfill for epic's ministry - and I asked more than worship and more than students often). Well in their faith journey, God is taking them to Spain for a couple of years. Sarah landed a dream job working with students abroad as a kind of Resident Director for students studying there through her alma mater (Azusa Pacific - a sub-par pretender to Vanguard University). For newly weds, both recently out of college and Sarah prepared to teach Spanish this is an unusually GREAT opportunity. and God obviously planned it for them overcoming several obvious obstacles.

Their soon departure (August) will leave some uncertainty in more than one area of epic's ministry. THAT IS NOT A CHALLENGE TO GOD'S PLAN FOR EPIC. IT IS A REVELATION OF GOD'S PLAN FOR EPIC. In this unforeseen change in my plan, I am learning more of God's plan. As a leader I should not be resisting these uncertainties, or trying to prevent them (which if I had enough budget to offer them a job at epic with a salary beg enough to dissuade them from going to Spain - I WOULD), I should embrace them. Uncertainty is my leadership job. It's why I am here. To embrace the uncertainty and find God's revelation through it.

OK, the post go long even though I told you I was going to try to avoid that. Sorry. I have another Andy Stanly thought for the next post.


I'm Back

Welcome back to me. I've been away from my blog for some time now. Since finishing my season of prayer and reflection it seems that life has become increasingly hectic. Family, home, epic, sickness, preparation for my African mission trip, and I don't know... my brain have just been spinning. So, basically I have been too busy living life to write about it here.

Well, I have a thought to share.

I'm at a conference for the next couple of days. I'm pretty excited about the conference. And in a different way than I usually get excited about conferences. Usually as I prepare for a conference, I research the speakers, the topics, the theme of the event, the worship leaders, and all of that. And as a result I usually just fixate on all of those details. This time, life did not afford me that possibility. In fact, I have not had time to think about this conference much at all. And my anticipation is so different. I still have anticipation, but it is somehow more raw. No information. Just expectation. Expectation for God to meet me here. Expectation that God planned this event for me long before I did. I don't know what He will show me. I don't know how He will inspire me. I do not know what he will reveal to me or where He will guide me. I just know. I hope. I wait.

I'm very excited.

I also get to experience this with Rhonda and a few friends... including Jeer Me. Rhonda and I have not had conference time together often and not since kids.

Well, I just had to share my excitement. I'll try to update you all each evening. I need to share about my African trip too... NEXT WEEK.

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