Money isn’t everything

John Wesley had just taken up a “large sum of money” for the Indian schools in America. After collecting the offering he reflected in his journal:

“A large sum of money is now collected; but will money convert Heathens? Find preachers of David Brainerd’s spirit, and nothing can stand before them; but without this, what will gold or silver do? No more than lead or iron. They have indeed sent thousands to hell; but never yet brought a soul to heaven.”

These words still ring true today. You can have all the money in the world, but without the clear presentation of the gospel, there is no hope for eternal life-transformation. At the end of the day, there is a pressing need for men and women who will clearly present God’s plan of rescue (aka “salvation)!

Starting something new…

There’s a high value on transparency these days… or so we say. Often though, transparency is one of two extremes: 1) I suck and here’s a list of things I suck at…” or 2) I’m a roaring success and here’s a list of my wins.”

    In my mind, transparency is genuine when we can talk about our successes without being arrogant, and our hard times without being defeated.

    I often wrestle with whether or not to process this church planting journey out loud. The good times… they’re easy to share! The tough times… they’re not so easy to share. Why? Because common responses to the sharing of hard times include:

    • Pity (You poor soul. You must feel awful… Ohhhhh… let’s hug and cry together.)
    • Discouragement (If he/she can’t do it, then how can I do it?)
    • Walk away (I can’t support this endeavor any more. It’s like investing in the Titanic.)

    Well, today I’m going to take a chance and process out loud. I’m going to be transparent, but I don’t want you to pity me, I don’t want you to get discouraged on your journey, and I don’t want you to check out on mine. I simply want you to realize that the journey (no matter what it is you’re doing) has both good and bad times and I’m just processing through a rough spot in mine. So here we go…

    • It’s not easy to start anything new (e.g. a church) AND keep your priorities straight. Starting something new requires so much energy and so many resources. I want Walls Down Church to “succeed” so bad that I’m giving it a disproportionate amount of emotional energy. Probably the priority taking the biggest hit right now is my family. I don’t like that one bit.
    • Starting a new church looks sexy until you actually begin… then it’s just hard work! When you work your tail off to connect with people and help them find Jesus and they don’t show up… it sucketh. When you are confident that the big bucks are just around the corner and you take that step and the big bucks aren’t there… it sucketh. When you are sure that you’ve got an all-star getting ready to move to the area to be on the team and he/she feels that God hasn’t given them the green light yet… it sucketh.
    • “Money isn’t everything, but it’s right up there with oxygen” Zig Ziglar. Well said Mr. Ziglar. Well said. Over the last two years one of the areas that God has consistently stretched me in is the area of money. I have never desired to be rich, I’ve just wanted to care well for my family. These last two years our income has been a result of people giving because they believe in the dream God has placed on our hearts… a dream of starting a church that will tear down the walls that keep people from the life Jesus promised. Multiple times we have been right on the precipice of broke… multiple times I have thrown my hands in the air and screamed, “I can’t live like this!”… multiple times I have contemplated securing secular employment and making my own way… multiple times God has gently reminded me that He is my Father and has called me to give my life to the church and that HE will do a better job of providing for my family than I could ever… multiple times. I’m still learning to trust Him in the area of finances, but as I journey I’m learning that one of the results of faithful obedience is provision.

    Seth Godin, in his book, The Dip, says, “Never quit something with great long-term potential just because you can’t deal with the stress of the moment.” So what shall we say to these “rough spots”? We’re not quitting! We’ll readjust, re-think, refresh, repent, reframe, and re-he-he until the cows come home but we’re not quitting.

    Now, some of you may wonder about the nature of this post. I’ve already stated what I don’t want for you to do. Now let me tell you what I’d like for you to do. There are a lot of pastors, church planters, entrepreneurs, small business owners, etc. out there who are feeling similar feelings… they just haven’t stated them out loud. Every time I post something like this I get lots of feedback from people saying things like, “I feel this way too! It’s great to know I’m not the only one! Thanks for going public.” So here’s what I want you to do – go encourage someone who’s “doing it” today! Call them, e-mail them, take them out for lunch, send them a note, babysit their kids so they can take their spouse out for the evening, and the list goes on! Just go do something for that person that encourages them to stay in the game… because it’s worth staying in!

    So what are you waiting for? Get outa here and encourage someone! No, seriously… get outa here!

    Honest confessions of a church planter

    Today I am a bit overwhelmed for multiple reasons. Today I want to rest in green pastures beside peaceful streams… but the ground is covered with ice and the grass is brown. A metaphor? Yes, but it is highly indicative of current reality.

    Today I look back at the days when I was senior pastor of a church of over 800 people… in a brand new building… leading an all-star team… teaching regularly… leading, loving, pastoring… doing what I love!

    Today I am lonely. Today I am even a bit scared. Today I am frustrated. Today I am disappointed. Today I am walking through what seems like the “valley of the shadow of death.”

    BUT I’m not done. I’m not quitting. I’m not discouraged beyond repair! “Why’s that?” you ask… here’s why…

    Several years ago I hit a point in ministry where I was ready to quit. I had been verbally and emotionally raped by God’s people and was disappointed, discouraged, and just flat out pissed off.

    I was ready to walk away from ministry with my middle finger in the air. I didn’t. I didn’t quit because I knew two things:

    1. If I quit now, I’ll never be able to teach about perseverance with any sense of integrity.
    2. If I quit now, I’ll have to go through this lesson again so I might as well get it over with now.

    I stuck it out. I stayed in ministry even when the “suck factor” was off the charts. Today I’m glad I did. I’m glad I stayed in when the pressure was unbearable. I’m glad I did because today I’m strong. Today I’m able to endure this stress because I stayed in the game in the past.

    If you’re under pressure, don’t bail. Don’t walk away. Don’t stop. The pressure of today will give you muscle for tomorrow!

    I need to be creative

    Right now I’m reading one of the most exciting, engaging books I’ve read in a long time – A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech. He brilliantly makes creativity exciting and doable! I can hardly put this book down!

    By nature I am not very creative. Normally, I want to get down to work with the facts. I don’t want to screw around with artsy-fartsy creative thinking… well, at least I didn’t until I read this book!

    I’ve been thinking about why I haven’t given much time or energy to the creative process. A few of those reasons include:

    • What I believe. On the surface, creativity appears to be a time-waster. For instance, putting a cereal box on the conference room table and asking, “What can we learn about organizational behavior from this object” seems a lot less productive than analyzing spreadsheets.
    • How I’m perceived. I feel silly making my team brainstorm about organizational behavior as they stare at a cereal box. I’m afraid they’ll think I’ve lost my mind and I’ll lose leadership credibility. They may even call me “Mr. Cereal” and I can’t live with that.
    • My work habits. I usually push things to the last minute and there’s no time left for creativity because it’s time to act!

    von Oech is helping me to break through some mental locks that have shut down the creative juices. So for instance, right now I’m thinking:

    • How can I assemble a crowd of 100 people for $1?
    • What can be learned about organizational behavior from a cereal box?

    To the creative ones among us… may your tribe increase.

    To the uncreative ones among us… buy this book.

    OK, I’m gonna go burn incense and stare at a cereal box…

    How to make a friend

    Yesterday I grabbed a cup of Starbucks and saw this great quote:

    I used to feel so alone in the city. All those gazillions of people and then me, on the outside. Because how do you meet a new person? I was very stumped by this for many years. And then I realized, you just say, “Hi.” They may ignore you. Or you may marry them. And that possibility is worth that one word.

    The bottom line is this – If you want to make a friend… be friendly.

    A few other thoughts on making friends:

    • Learn someone’s name, use it, remember it! (check out this post – call people by name)
    • Smile!
    • Develop a pattern of showing up at the same place and time regularly! If it’s a restaurant… sit in the same spot and get to know the waitress/waiter (and for crying out loud… leave a good tip!)
    • Compliment people on their expertise!
    • Ask a question that highlights their capabilities and makes them look & feel good when they answer!

    Now go and be friendly and make a friend… or twenty!

    And if I should win a Pulitzer Prize for this blog entry, I would first like to thank my dear friend Jeff Harmon for his brilliant insights on this matter, and for consistently modeling how to win friends and influence people.

    My friend Jeff Murphy

    I am so proud of my friend Jeff Murphy.

    Jeff and I went through the church-planting residency at Mountain Lake Church together.

    This past Sunday he and his team started My Church. The defining characteristics of My Church are “Live Big, Love Big, and Give Big.” No one models these values better than Jeff and his awesome bride Christy! These guys are living what they’re calling others to live.

    They had 625 people on their opening day and 30 people made a public commitment to give their lives to Christ!

    Way to go Jeff and the My Church team!

    Check out this video of day one and then go here to read Jeff’s take on the day

    Some Walls Down waddup

    What’s going on? Thanks for asking!

    • The three big issues on my plate right now are: building the team (staff and core); raising funds; and keeping the vision fresh and communicated clearly.
    • Last week we had our first LIFE group in our home. It’s great when you meet people for the first time… in your own house!
    • We are preparing for our second monthly service on Feb. 8th, so we’re lining up musicians and working on the logistics.
    • Building the ministry staff means meeting a lot of new people and building a lot of new relationships. Today I met with another worship leader. I’m currently in conversation with several different potential ministry team leaders. This adventure is exciting!
    • Next week Rindy and I will be attending a local church planter’s training session. Dino Senesi, among others, will be leading this training. In preparation for this we have to read Reggie McNeal’s book, Present Future: Six Tough Questions For the Church. Reggie is asking a lot of the right questions… at least three of them (that’s how far I’ve gotten so far). I’m looking forward to the Sunday night dinner they are hosting for Senior Pastor’s and their wives.
    • We are spending a lot of time building relationships in our community. This is quite a venture and we are being very intentional about how we go about it. Rindy has written a phenomenal blog post about how we’re going about it. Go over to her blog and read it.

    Until later… peace.