Sunday, April 29, 2007

Noche de la Luz (Night of the Light)

This was a really cool event we hosted for kids in our community, as a wholesome alternative to Halloween. We called it "Noche de la Luz" (Night of the Light). There was a ton of candy, great music, games and some really great interactive discussions with the kids about what Halloween actually represents, and what a healthy alternative celebration can look like. Even Spider Man dropped in for the evening!

Mexican Santa???

I guess some might call it a paradox. A Mexican Santa? What's up with that I hear you ask? Well, the truth is that I had this brainwave idea that Epcot Center weren't the only ones who could take advantage of a great idea. So we came up with the idea of an event called the "Colors of Christmas."

It was essentially an event where we had the cuisine, culture, and costumes of a number of different nations. People walked around in the hundreds sampling food, asking questions and examining different cultural artifacts. We also had a couple of drama skits highlighting the birth of Jesus as viewed from the perspective of the shepherds, the Angels and some rather intellectual Scientists. It was an amazing and well attended event and a local Hispanic radio station covered the event live. Under my Poncho is a full Santa Claus outfit. The heat was almost unbearable but the success of the day made it all worth while. So how come your'e just showing us photos of an event that happened last Christmas? Truth to tell, I only just downloaded a bunch of photos from my digital camera onto my computer and so I figured I might as well do something with them. That means you'll be seeing a few more photos that I discovered on my camera that I thought would be fun to share with you. Enjoy!

Friday, April 27, 2007

It's all beginning to make sense (part II)

So, back to this "working idea" that could change in six months, about "It." What is present when "It" is present in your church? Craig gave us a list of seven "working theories," along with seven questions that he suggests are present when "It" is present in your church.

  • Vision Alignment - Always make sure that you have a strong, clearly communicable vision that people can jump on board with. Without a vision, people cast off restraint (Proverbs 29:11)
  • Question: Do you have a God given vision? Is your team in alignment with the vision?

  • Divine Focus - What do you do as a church? You can't successfully or effectively be a full-service church and so you must figure out what you do best and what you are passionate about, and focus on those things. If you are doing too much, you need a strategy for a "planned abandonment" of some of the things you are doing.
  • Question: What are the things we are doing that we need to stop doing? (We don't need to be adding stuff to our To-do-list but to our To-don't- list).

  • Unmistakable Cameraderie - On teams that have "It," there is a divine flow. People genuinely like each other and enjoy working together. There are nicknames, practical jokes, and a ton of fun. This really enhances an atmosphere of creativity.
  • Question: What would make your ministry more fun?

  • A very high pain tolerance - When you have "It," and others don't, they will find every excuse in the book to attribute your success to something negative (you're compromising the message, your'e too seeker sensitive, you're drawing people in with smoke and mirrors, and the list goes on). Generally speaking, the main difference between the larger church pastor and the smaller church pastor is not the fact that the larger church pastor is a better preacher (this is often not the case), but simply the fact that the larger church pastor is willing, and has chosen to endure more pain. You have to be willing to make some tough decisions, endure criticism gracefully, smile when you are hurting, and learn to play hurt.
  • Question: What painful decision are you avoiding?

  • You have a willingness to fail - Failure is not an option. It is an absolute neccessity! (I personally really love this big idea because I have experienced it first hand). Peter could not have preached the rousing and passionate sermon he did in Acts 2, if he hadn't experienced the failure of rejecting Jesus and then being so absolutely forgiven. Until you have failed and know what it's like to be loved by God even through your failure, there are some things in you that you may never really accomplish.
  • Question: What has God called you to do that you are afraid to try?

  • You have a Kingdom mindset - You must be willing to share what you have since it really isn't yours anyway. Your success is not primarily a result of your skills and your labor, but is the will and purpose of God being played out in your life. You can and must still make it about Jesus no matter how successful you may become. It doesn't have to be When you have "It" you give "It" away.
  • Question: What do you have that you can give away to others?

  • You have "It." - For your ministry to have "It," you have "It." It keeps you up at night, it makes you mad at the devil. It begins from the passion that burns inside of you. Remember though, that the fact that you have "It" doesn't mean that you can't lose "It."The innate danger for many of us who serve as "full-time" pastors, is that we can become "part-time" followers of Christ in the midst of our busy, important lives. What caused us to have "It" in the first place was what was burning on the inside of us and became manifest on the outside. If we stop concentrating on the inside and begin to focus on the outside, we are likely to lose "It."
  • Question: Do you have "It"? If not, what are you going to do to get "It"?

Craig concluded this mind blowing "working theory" with an excerpt of a prayer by Sir Francis Drake attributed to him in the 1500's, and it goes like this:

Disturb us Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves. When our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little. When we have arrived safely because we have sailed too close to the shore.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

It's all beginning to make sense (part I)

This blog is definetely random. I am still trying to piece it all together as, what I'm about to share with you is packed with "nuggets" of truth that are incredibly powerful. I am still reeling from an amazing two days at a conference I'm attending in Austin, TX at Celebration Church. It's a church planters conference sponsored by the ARC (Association of Related Churches), a group of relational, visionary, and forward-thinking guys, who pastor some of the most innovative, dynamic and successful churches in America.

I should tell you that I am not one who is easily wowed by other pastors messages, and at the risk of sounding arrogant, I consider myself somewhat of a decent thinker, communicator, and leader. At least I did until I met and heard Craig Groeschel of speak. To say Craig is a brilliant mind and an incredible communicator, is to truly understate the truth. I was blown away by the ideas he had to share. I came away fully convinced that the success of his church is no accident of circumstance. He is focused and intentional about building the Kingdom of God, and consequently has built a successful church along the way.

As I continue discovering the esoteric truths along this journey of pastoring a church, many things are finally beginning to make sense because I get the chance to hear people like Craig tell their story. Craig talked about something which he titled, "It." He explained that "It" is that thing you find in a successful church that creates a spiritual buzz that is almost perceptible to the human ear. In actual fact it is a sense you get when you walk into a church, that something is about to happen.

He further opined that, when a church has "It" most things that you try, work.

When you have "It," creativity flows. When you don't, you are at a loss for what to do.
When you have "It," you are part of a divine mission. When you don't, you are simply drawing a paycheck.
When you have "It," the room is a buzz. When you don't, the room is dead.
When you have "It," lives are changed. When you don't life is static and you just go through the motions of doing church.

When you have "It," it is obvious to everyone.

Having so skillfully whet our appetites and prepared us for the big insight, Craig crushingly informed us that he really can't explain what "It" is. He didn't leave us hanging however, as he graciously explained what "It" is not!

"It" is not the music, lights and videos. "It" is not the 4-color mailouts or the fact that we keep up with the current dress styles. "It" is not even the fact that we are so "cool" and contemporary. "It" is not something that you can copy. In fact, he emphatically encouraged us not to insult the heart of God by trying to be the next (fill in the blank), because he has "It" and so we think if we are like him we will have "It" too.

He gave us his working, in-progress idea of the nebulous "It" by stating, "It is a rare combination of the anointing of God, passion, creativity, teamwork, focus, faith, intensity, drive, hunger, desperation, and divine expectation." He emphasized that all of these in combination would be manifest through each person that has "It" in its own unique way.

To my mind, these are incredible insights into successfully accomplishing God's calling and purpose in the lives of those who are privileged to be called to serve Him by serving others through pastoring churches.

(watch this space for the concluding instalment of what is present in a church when "It" is present).