Thursday, February 26, 2009


A few weeks ago I went to a meeting with mega-church leaders and micro-church leaders. There were about 50 key leaders in attendance; some were from the largest churches in America (all over 5000 in attendance), and some from the smallest churches in America – house churches, small groups and cells. And then there was me. As a network, CTK is small and large at the same time. The meeting lasted two days, talking about how big churches can support little churches, and vice-versa. But the conversation was largely superficial, until the very last hour, when something really significant happened.

One of the micro church pastors turned to one of the mega-church pastors and asked, “What do you need from us? What do you want from the house church?” Without skipping a beat, this mega church pastor said, “Grace....We need grace. Quit throwing stones at the mega church. Quit launching grenades. We need grace. We love people and want to see them become followers of Christ. We just do it in a different way than you. We need grace.” Up until that point there was an elephant in the room. We were talking about how to work together, but we did’t much like each other.

Let’s be clear: before we can get the work done with our hands, we need to get the work done in our hearts. We are here to experience and express the grace of God. There is no question that we have experienced grace. The question is, "Will we express it?" As I was thinking about what happened in that room between those two pastors the word that came into my mind – maybe a synonym for grace - was validation. It is incumbent upon members of the body to validate other members of the body. What that large church pastor was saying, in essence, was, "I need you to validate my ministry." And if the shoe would have been put on the different foot it would have fit. Small church pastors are longing to be validated by large church pastors.

We sometimes try to do city-wide events with other churches, some in hopes that the world will see that we are united. But the world does not see us as divided because we don't do events together. The world sees us as divided because we talk smack about each other. There’s a need for us to look at what others are doing and say, “Isn’t that great!” As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:21: The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" God works in different ways at different times and places. In fact it's not way, it's ways. All the time we spend trying to figure out which one "way" God is at work is dissipated waste. God is the head of the body. He is at work in various ways in people’s lives.

One of the long-standing challenges with Christianity is that however God is at work in our story, we imagine that that is the only way God could be at work in another story. We need to fall in love with the master and the mission, not the model or the method. Let me suggest 3 steps we can take to validate those whose ministry is different than yours:

1. your heart about what God is doing throughout the world. His work is much bigger than us.

2. Recognize...what God is doing throughout the world. Validate the thing that is different than you, maybe opposite of you. For those of us in a church like CTK that is not programmatic, or institutional or traditional, it might mean expressing thanks to the ministries that are programmatic, or institutional or traditional. When was the last time you said, "Thanks."

3. Report...give a good report to others about ministries of other styles in other places. Spread some good gossip. As Ben Franklin said, "Speak ill of no man, but speak all the good you know about everybody."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


A pastor was telling me about a new group that was forming in his Worship Center. The group was going to be led by Chris (not his real name), who is a former pot-smoker. Some of those coming to the group are going to be people from his old pot circle. The pastor said to me, "There's a part of me that wants to be at these group meetings." He was concerned that he these young adults might slip into their old behaviors if he wasn't present. I told him that I understood his concern but that he should not give into the temptation to baby sit.

Carefully consider the implications to your long-term ministry if you "need to be there" to keep bad things from happening:

First, if you need to be there, you are not displaying a very high level of trust in God's spirit. Before Jesus left earth he told us that he would send his spirit "to be with us forever" and "to guide us into all truth." We need to take God up on his promise. There needs to only be one Holy Spirit. You are not it.

Second, if you need to be there, you are not displaying a very high level of trust in your people. You are saying, "I can't trust you to be outside my sight." Do you want them to lead from inner integrity, or outward compulsion?

Third, if you need to be there, after awhile your volunteer leader will realize that he doesn't need to be there. This is the same challenge foreign missionaries face. When the chips are down, the natives all look at the "white face" in the room. As a pastor your authority and influence will eclipse that of the volunteer. Get out of his way so he can execute his ministry.

Fourth, if you need to be there, you are limiting the scope of your ministry to the places where and times when you can be there. Do you really want to do that? I didn't think so. Most churches in America or less than 75 people, and one of the reasons is that is the number of people that a person can pastor directly. Greater effectiveness is found when a pastor spends more time working on the ministry than in the ministry.

This does not mean that this pastor should not spend time with Chris, mentoring him and supporting him in his ministry. In fact, I would say that there is not a more important meeting on that pastor's calendar. Equipping Chris to do the work of the ministry is precisely what God has called that pastor to do. Just be careful to not cross the line into co-dependency. As a father in the faith you have to let your children go. You have to trust God to keep them from falling.

When you think about it, what was really impressive about the serial-planting ministries of the Apostle Paul or John Wesley is not how may places they went, but how many places they left.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


This from Seth Godin (I like how this guy's mind works!):

The best way to overcome your fear of creativity, brainstorming, intelligent risk taking or navigating a tricky situation might be to sprint.

When we sprint, all the internal dialogue falls away and we just go as fast as we possibly can. When you're sprinting you don't feel that sore knee and you don't worry that the ground isn't perfectly level. You just run.

You can't sprint forever. That's what makes it sprinting. The brevity of the event is a key part of why it works.

"Quick, you have thirty minutes to come up with ten business ideas."

"Hurry, we need to write a new script for our commercial... we have fifteen minutes."

My first huge project was launching a major brand of science-fiction computer adventure games (Ray Bradbury, Michael Crichton, etc.). I stopped going to business school classes in order to do the launch.

One day, right after a red eye flight, the president of the company told me that the company had canceled the project. They didn't have enough resources to launch all the products we had, our progress was too slow and the packaging wasn't ready yet.

I went to my office spent the next 20 hours rewriting every word of text, redesigning every package, rebuilding every schedule and inventing a new promotional strategy. It was probably 6 weeks of work for a motivated committee, and I did it in one swoop. Like lifting a car off an infant, it was impossible, and I have no recollection at all of the project now.

The board reconsidered and the project was back on again. I didn't get scared untilafter the sprint. You can't sprint every day but it's probably a good idea to sprint regularly.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


We all want people who are not currently involved to become involved. There are some sophisticated words, like assimilation, to describe the process. But it basically comes down to getting "outsiders" to become "insiders." There are some very particular things you need to do to help people transition from outside to inside:

1. Roster. If you do not have a roster, there is no way to know who is "part" of your program to begin with, so it will be impossible to have someone who is not part of it become part of it. A roster is elementary, but necessary. Who is a part of your ministry, or your small group? Put the names on a list. Distribute the list to the participants so that they know they are "officially" participating. Post the list so that others can see who is already involved. This now creates the possibility that you can add more names to the list and move them from outside to inside.

2. Meetings. Meetings are critical to assimilation as a point of reinforcement for those involved, and a point of entry for those who are not. Everyone should know when the next meeting is going to happen, so if they encounter someone who would like to "join" they can invite them to the next meeting. By attending the meeting the newbie gets put on the list, and becomes an insider.

3. Introductions. A key leadership role is the role of introducing new participants to existing participants. "Tie" people together by giving both sides some basic information. You may want to subjugate your agenda and just let everyone share their story when you have a new person in attendance. This will fast-track the relationships and make people feel that they are being known by others and knowing others, which is the essence of community.

4. Acknowledgment. Participants need to be acknowledged. If someone is a part of your ministry, but is never highlighted for what they are doing, they can start to feel invisible and wonder, "Am I really a part of something, or am I just imagining that I am." Send out congratulations for a job well done. Post a hall of fame. Give away awards. Even newcomers should be celebrated in some way. Acknowlegment can't help but create tighter connections.

5. Communication. Between meetings there needs to be regular correspondence. It could be a newsletter. It could be an email. It could be a blog. But people want to know that you care about them, and not just for what they can do for you or the group. Build the relationships offline.

6. Prayer. At every gathering pray for others to join your group. In a small group setting we sometimes call this "praying over the empty chair." The empty chair represents someone that we want to love in Jesus' name. Praying for newcomers accomplishes a couple things: a) It keeps the priority of outreach foremost in participants minds, and helps them to hold the ministry loosely, b) it helps newcomers to know that they are loved and wanted, and not unwelcome intruders.