Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Why precisely are we here?

To create an authentic Christian community?  Yes.

To effectively reach out to unchurched people?  For sure.

To express love, acceptance and forgiveness?  Of course.

To draw people into the joy of salvation and a purposeful life of discipleship.  Obviously.

But those are just reasons with a small “r”.  There is a much greater Reason we are here.  To bring glory to God.  His glory is the reason behind all reasons.

Probably no text in the Bible reveals the passion of God for his own glory more clearly and bluntly as Isaiah 48:9-11 where God says,

For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath;
 for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you,
 so as not to destroy you completely.  See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
 I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.  For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.
  How can I let myself be defamed?
  I will not yield my glory to another.

These words come like six hammer blows to a man-centered way of looking at the world, or ministry:

·      For my own name’s sake!

·      For the sake of my praise!

·      For my own sake!

·      For my own sake!

·      How should my name be profaned!

·      I will not yield my glory to another!

What this text hammers home to us is the centrality of God in everything.  The most passionate heart for the glorification of God is God’s heart.  Throughout scripture there is no mistaking…it is ALL ABOUT God’s glory.

1.    God chose his people for his glory: Ephesians 1:4-6

2.    God created us for his glory:  Isaiah 43:6-7

3.    God called Israel for his glory:  Jeremiah 13:11

4.    God rescued Israel from Egypt for his glory: Psalm 106:7-8

5.    God raised Pharaoh up to show his power and glorify his name:  Romans 9:17

6.    God defeated Pharaoh at the Red Sea to show his glory:  Exodus 14:4,18

7.    God spared Israel in the wilderness for the glory of his name:  Ezekiel 20:14

8.    God gave Israel victory in Canaan for the glory of his name:  2 Samuel 7:23

9.    God did not cast away his people for the glory of his name:  1 Samuel 12:20,22

10. God saved Jerusalem from attack for the glory of his name:  2 Kings 19:34

11. God restored Israel from exile for the glory of his name:  Ezekiel 36:22-23

12. Jesus sought the glory of his Father in all he did:  John 7:18

13. Jesus told us to do good works so that God gets glory:  Matthew 5:16

14. Jesus warned that not seeking God’s glory makes faith impossible:  John 5:44

15. Jesus said that he answers prayer that God would be glorified:  John 14:13

16. Jesus endured his final hours of suffering for God’s glory:  John 12:27-28

17. God gave his Son to vindicate the glory of his righteousness:  Romans 3:25-26

18. God forgives our sins for his own sake:  Isaiah 43:25; Psalm 25:11

19. Jesus receives us into his fellowship for the glory of God:  Romans 15:7

20. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to glorify the Son of God:  John 16:14

21. God instructs us to do everything for his glory:  1 Corinthians 10:31

22. God tells us to serve in a way that will glorify him:  1 Peter 4:11

23. Jesus will fill us with fruits of righteousness for God’s glory:  Philippians 1:9,11

24. All are under judgment for dishonoring God’s glory:  Romans 1:22,23; 3:23

25. Herod is struck dead because he did not give glory to God:  Acts 12:23

26. Jesus is coming again for the glory of God:  2 Thessalonians 1:9-10

27. Jesus’ ultimate aim for us is that we see and enjoy his glory:  John 17:24

28. Even in wrath God’s aim is to make known the wealth of his glory:  Romans 9:22-23

29. God’s plan is to fill the earth with the knowledge of his glory:  Habakkuk 2:14

30. Everything that happens will result in God’s glory:  Romans 11:36

31. The New Jerusalem will be lit by the glory of God:  Revelation 21:23

Wednesday, December 04, 2013


Lead singer Jon Foreman was asked if Switchfoot is a “Christian” band.  His response is worth pondering.  

“To be honest, this question grieves me because I feel that it represents a much bigger issue than simply a couple SF tunes. In true Socratic form, let me ask you a few questions: Does Lewis or Tolkien mention Christ in any of their fictional series? Are Bach’s sonata’s Christian? What is more Christ-like, feeding the poor, making furniture, cleaning bathrooms, or painting a sunset? There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds.

The view that a pastor is more ‘Christian’ than a girls volleyball coach is flawed and heretical. The stance that a worship leader is more spiritual than a janitor is condescending and flawed. These different callings and purposes further demonstrate God’s sovereignty. 

Many songs are worthy of being written. Switchfoot will write some, Keith Green, Bach, and perhaps yourself have written others. Some of these songs are about redemption, others about the sunrise, others about nothing in particular: written for the simple joy of music. 

None of these songs has been born again, and to that end there is no such thing as Christian music. No. Christ didn’t come and die for my songs, he came for me. Yes. My songs are a part of my life. But judging from scripture I can only conclude that our God is much more interested in how I treat the poor and the broken and the hungry than the personal pronouns I use when I sing. I am a believer. Many of these songs talk about this belief. An obligation to say this or do that does not sound like the glorious freedom that Christ died to afford me.

I do have an obligation, however, a debt that cannot be settled by my lyrical decisions. My life will be judged by my obedience, not my ability to confine my lyrics to this box or that. 

We all have a different calling; Switchfoot is trying to be obedient to who we are called to be. We’re not trying to be Audio A or U2 or POD or Bach: we’re trying to be Switchfoot. You see, a song that has the words: ‘Jesus Christ’ is no more or less ‘Christian’ than an instrumental piece. (I’ve heard lots of people say Jesus Christ and they weren’t talking about their redeemer.) You see, Jesus didn’t die for any of my tunes. So there is no hierarchy of life or songs or occupation only obedience. We have a call to take up our cross and follow. We can be sure that these roads will be different for all of us. Just as you have one body and every part has a different function, so    in Christ we who are many form one body and each of us belongs to all the others. Please be slow to judge ‘brothers’ who have a different calling.”

Foreman mentions the Christian "box" that many people want to stay in, and put others in.  I agree with Foreman that this box is particularly limiting when it comes to art.  So go out and create something - something beautiful, something wonderful - and do it to the glory of God.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Legendary college basketball coach, John Wooden, used to advise:  "Look in the microscope and the telescope."  His point was that we need an appropriate balance between seeing the long-range bigger picture, and keeping an eye on the details.  I have found this to be an important truth, both in the work we do, and the emotional equilibrium we must maintain.  

I have met leaders who are constantly thinking huge, visionary thoughts, and tending very little to the details which matter so much, to so many.  People around them are asking, "When are we going to solve problems around here...When are we going to actually make progress?"  I have met other leaders who micro manage, but get disoriented in a sea of minutia.  People around them are asking, "Where's this all going...What are we doing here?"  The ratio may be different depending on how God has wired you, but there needs to be a mix in a leader's profile between the the 30,000 foot view, and where the rubber meets the road.  You may have to "lean against the prevailing wind" as you chart your course; alternating between sweeping questions that start with "Why", and more pragmatic queries that start with "How."  

The macro/micro balance also has helped me emotionally through the years.  There are times when the "smaller picture" is discouraging.  The specifics of the ministry are not going very well.  I feel that I am bogging down in the details.  It is at those times that I need to expand my vision to see the much, much bigger picture.  Where is this story heading overall?  What is God doing in the meta-narrative (sorry, had to throw some jargon in there for the emergent, resurgent types)?  But there are times where I have literally had to read the book of Revelation again to remind myself that God actually wins in the end.

At other times, the bigger picture doesn't make any sense.  For instance, there have been many times where I have had no idea where we're going.  I don’t feel real comfortable at those moments, but they happen, more often than a leader might like to admit.  It's at those times that I will take a more microscopic view of the body for encouragement.  I'll take joy in the person who has recently been save and baptized, or the marriage that is being reconciled.  When the bigger picture is fuzzy, I look at the smaller picture.  When the smaller picture is fuzzy, I look at the bigger picture.  When a marriage blows up, for instance, I look to the heavens and remind myself that God is still on the throne.

Do you tend to get more joy out of looking through the telescope or microscope?
What ratios do you normally express between large and small scope?
What ratios do you need to express between large and small scope?

Wednesday, October 09, 2013


The timelines that we like to work in - weeks, months - are often not the ones that He likes to work in - years, decades.  This can create a lot of angst for us as we try to "speed Him up."  But what I've found is this:  We are not going to speed Him up, so we need to allow Him to slow us down, by praying more and planning less, listening more and talking less, trusting more and worrying less.

You may have heard the old saying, "Rome was not built in a day."  Having had the opportunity to visit Rome this summer, this saying made more sense.  When you see the magnitude of, say, the Coliseum (which seated over 60,000 people) you realize that building it was a major undertaking that took a lot of persistency and consistency.  May I suggest that you, as a Christian leader, are involved in that sort of an enterprise.  Building up people is painstaking work, that doesn't get accomplished overnight.

Having pastored in the CTK International story for 14 years now, I've had the joy to see quite a few people mature in Christ.  But some of them have just recently begun to bloom.  The years of planting and watering eventually bring a harvest.  But we have to be patient.  Not for years.  For decades. 

Tuesday, September 03, 2013


As an experienced church planter I've come to realize that special care needs to be shown when a group is in the incubation stage.  During this stage the new group is especially susceptible to hijack by unhealthy extremists.  In fact, many churches that start with great promise are taken off course almost immediately by radicals.  For one, when a group is just starting out it doesn't yet have a history to set precedent (which, while sometimes limiting in a bad way, can also be limiting in a good way).  But also, when a group is small it is easier for a single individual/family to push it around or dominate it.  One person in a living room exerts much more influence than one person in a group of a thousand.  This may actually explain why some people are "church start-up junkies."  They love having such inordinate influence, and when that begins to wane (i.e. the church begins to grow) they become dissatisfied, sense that "the Spirit is moving" somewhere else, and move on to the next place where they are "needed."

Being part of a network such as CTK can help.  You can borrow some history and mass for protection.  When I first came to Skagit County in 1999, our group was new, but the move of God had roots going back more than a decade.  So when people came into our fledgling story with alternate agendas, I was able to point them in the direction God was leading us, and had been, for years.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


With the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I have a dream speech," many have been reflecting on one of the greatest pieces of leadership oratory, ever.  I've been reflecting on not just what was said that day, but how it came to be.  You see, the speech he gave was not precisely the speech he had planned.  Dr. King was asked to give a very brief series of remarks, which he had scripted, and dutifully delivered.  But when he came to the end of what he had planned, he felt that "the Spirit moved" him to continue on, and it was then that he got into the stirring "I have a dream" and "Let freedom ring" riffs.  How was it possible for him to deliver such a lucid, compelling speech impromptu?  Answer:  He had spoken those words many times before, in various contexts.  He was well-versed in the cadence of these lines.  He had repeated them often. When the big moment came, the words fervently rolled off his tongue, and into the psyche of America.

It is difficult to come up with world-changing oratory in a single attempt.  (I know that every pastor, given seven shorts days to prepare a sermon, is saying "Amen.")  But I think it is an important leadership principle to identify repeated themes in which one will become well-versed.  Jesus certainly did this.  In the gospels we get to see His variations on themes (the golden rule, loving your neighbor, the light of the world, etc.).  In Paul's writings we see a fair amount of repetition, as well (grace, etc.).  Does your ministry have a theme?  Have you been honing lines and phrases?  Could you give a spontaneous sermon?  Probably the most famous pastor of the 20th Century showed us the way, not just to racial equality, but to leaving a legacy with words.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


CTK is an inherently leader-dependent proposition.  Yet, our mission statement says nothing about leaders...or does it?  Our mission is:  "To create an authentic Christian community that effectively reaches out to unchurched people with love, acceptance and forgiveness, so that they may experience the joy of salvation and a purposeful life of discipleship."  While leadership is not a stated activity, it is an implied one, and right off the bat.  The statement begins "To create..."
We don't get two words into the statement without someone incurring responsibility to create.  And the responsibility is human, not just divine.  Obviously, we could have written this statement in a more spiritual-sounding way (not more spiritual, mind you, just more spiritual sounding), and said, "To watch God create."  And truly, unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain.  But we do labor with Him (not in vain).  We are co-laborers with Christ.  We are engaged in a great co-mission.  He has given us direct orders to go and make disciples.  It is by His authority that we are indeed sent.

So someone is going to have to take responsibility to create an authentic Christian community, and that someone is what I would call a leader.  And the reason I know for sure that it's a leader who will fulfill this "creating" is because of what is being created: an authentic Christian community.  As Erwin McManus opines in Defining Leadership:  "After three decades of stumbling through this leadership journey there is one theme that prevails: leaders create human communities."  I agree.  This is what they do.  Leaders create communities.  They always do.  What makes leadership in the CTK story different is just in the type of community that is being created.  We are challenged to create an authentic, Christian one.

So what makes you an ideal candidate to lead the CTK story?

• You resonate with the call to create community.  You want to see a community created that is authentically Christian, and that reaches out.

• You have the tools to create community.  Th
ere are various tools that one can use to create community (communication skills, relational skills, administrative skills, etc.) and there are tools available to you to get the job done.

• You are willing to make creating community your life's work.  There may be other ways that you pay the bills, but there is nothing more important than the work you are doing to create an authentic Christian community that effectively reaches out to unchurched people with love, acceptance and forgiveness, so that they may experience the joy of salvation and a purposeful life of discipleship.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


Adam Grant is a young, but notable, Professor at Wharton School of Business.  He has written a book entitled Give and Take, in which he divides the world into three groups:  Givers, Takers and Exchangers.  You can see an entertaining explanation of the three at http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=1baNQmnRCVw

Which group proves to be most successful?  The answer, according to Grant, is the Givers.  Givers go out to make a difference in the world, to make things better for others, to share what they have, and to be a blessing (sounds like what Jesus had in mind, right?).  But in the process, they gain many friends and associates who prove loyal and important.  They usually get back more than they put in.  Nice guys finish first.  Takers, on the other hand, may succeed in the short run, but over the long haul end up losing more than they win, particularly relationally.  Associates weary of them.  Exchangers, who do some of both giving and taking, end up predictably in the middle.  

Grant then teases his students with a trick question:  Which group ends up at the bottom?  The answer is a surprise.  You might think it is the Takers, but it is the Givers.  The Givers actually split, with some ending up on top and some ending up on bottom - the Exchangers and Takers in between.  How can Givers end up both on top and bottom?  Grant answers that there is a certain percentage of givers who end up bamboozled by the Takers, and thus end up on bottom, wiped out.  

As I have reflected on his research, I've been thinking of pastors that I know.  I have seen some of the most caring pastors eaten alive by Takers.  They are as Giving as any pastor out there, maybe more so.  But they don't know how to manage the incredible drain of Takers, and thus end up with nothing more to give.  I believe that pastors must take care, if they want to be able to Give for the long haul.

I wonder if this discretion was what Jesus showed us when he went away from the crowds, instead of toward them.  For instance, at the end of John 2 we read: "Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name.  But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people.  He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person."  Jesus was not willing to cast his pearls before swine.  As you grow in your ministry, you too will want to grow in your discernment so you can give wisely.  You can even give to the Takers, but stop short of letting them take you down with them.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


There are four 4 words to be spoken at CTK:  "Yes, Sure, You Bet."  God has good works that He has prepared in advance for people to do.  We want to get out of the way, so those good works can happen.  This has been a consistent theme for CTK over the years...

From Always a Place for You (CTK Orientation)…

At CTK we have a can-do spirit.  We say, “Yes, Sure, You Bet” instead of “No, Sorry, We Can’t.” 

From Deliberate Simplicity…

At Christ the King we don’t like the word “control.”  We like the word “empower.”  Authoritarian cultures spawn passivity and create codependency.  To combat that tendency we train our organization to be ready and able to say “Yes, sure, you bet.”  Often, those are words that cannot be spoken in church.  Typical of a bureaucracy, church leaders tend to have the power to say “no” but seldom have the power to say “yes.”  We want “yes” to be a valid answer again in the church.  God is at work in people’s lives.  We want to unleash the church. 

From Opportunistic Leadership…

Christ the King Community Church (lovingly referred to as CTK), in a dozen years, went from one location in the Pacific Northwest to over four hundred locations around the world.  How did we/God do that?  We got the board out and waxed it.  God sent the waves and we rode them, partly by learning to speak four words that are seldom heard in church:  “Yes, Sure, You Bet.” 

About a year after we began holding services in Mount Vernon, Washington, I came off the platform after one of the services to be greeted by an older couple who said, “I sure wish there was a CTK in Oak Harbor.”  Oak Harbor is an island community about forty-five minutes southwest of Mount Vernon.  The response I gave shocked them.  I said, “Let’s do it.”  They asked, “Do what?”  I replied, “Start CTK in Oak Harbor.  You want to do it, and I want to do it, so let’s do it.”  Shortly thereafter I began to drive to Oak Harbor on Saturday nights and began holding meeting with this couple and some of their friends in a local coffee shop.  Within a year the group had grown to over a hundred people, outgrowing the coffee shop.  At the same time we began holding Saturday evening services in nearby Anacortes.   Within three years we were convening in ten towns in four counties.  Now we are meeting in more than four hundred locations.  But it all began with three words:  “Let’s do it.”  As Greek statesmen Demosthenes opined:  “Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.”  Surfing begins with a “Let’s do it” spirit, that becomes a ride, that ultimately eventuates in a culture.

From Intrepid Faith…

Faith-inspired guts is not only required on a personal level, but also on a corporate one. Faith or fear appear to be the options, for you individually and for the church as a whole.  One of the greater decisions a church can make is deciding which side of the line they want to be on.  Will we be on the faith side as it relates to God and people? 

You know when you are on the fear side of the line when you keep hearing words like accountability, process and authority.  Fear-based congregations habitually say, “No, sorry, you can’t.”  You know you are on the faith side of the line when you keep hearing words like support, story and empowerment.  Faith-based congregations habitually say, “Yes, sure, you bet!”

From Our Values (Staff Training)…

Key words in the CTK vocabulary are “Yes, Sure, You Bet.”  Often, those are words that cannot be spoken in church.  Typical of a bureaucracy, church leaders have the power to say “no” but seldom have the power to say “yes.”  We want “yes” to be a valid answer again in the church.  God is at work in people’s lives, and we want to fan into flames the gifts and passions that are resident in the body.  We want to unleash the church. 

This is not to say that we have no structure or accountability.  We have freedom, with handrails.  But what structure we have serves mainly as a supportive handrail, not as a restrictive barricade.

In our context the role of the pastors and staff is to create and sustain an environment where the people of the church (the ministers) can carry out their ministries with minimum obstacles and maximum fulfillment.

From Wild (dMail)…

A church, it seems to me, should provide generous fairways on which people can play the game.  I have used the phrase “freedom with handrails” to describe the organizational philosophy of CTK.  The handrails are our beliefs (doctrinal statement) and our brand (mission, vision, values).  As Chesterton noted, there has to be “rule and order.”  But the chief aim of boundaries is “to give room for good things to run wild.”

How do we as leaders give room for good things to run wild?  One of the key ways is to repeat four words: “Yes, Sure, You Bet” to people and their “wild” ideas.  Caution is acceptable, but you can’t lead with it.  Caution needs to come later, in the shaping of things.  In a wild kingdom our predisposition needs to be “Yes.”  Then, we come alongside to train and support. 

From Ideas that Matter…

Learn to say "Yes, sure, you bet."  Our goal is to cooperate with God in what He is doing in the lives of people.