Friday, February 29, 2008

Kids Can... what???

I know, I know, sometimes it gets really heavy around here doesn’t it? Well, like Randy Jackson always says on American Idol… “Just keeping it real dawg.” I sure hope you enjoyed Joey’s posts on Generation Me. Personally, I really enjoyed them, and they got me thinking (some of you think that’s a dangerous thing for me to be doing) about The Well and our passion for the lost, the hurting and the next generation. We have tried to create an atmosphere that lends itself to making sure that that passion isn’t just a mantra but a way of life. We love kids and have had some of the most amazing compliments about how incredibly well we take care of and serve our kids.

Sometimes, hanging with the kids seems so much more invigorating and exciting, that I wish I could be in with them and not with the sometimes “stuffy” adults who are still waiting for their morning caffeine drug to kick in before they crack a smile (you know who you are!) Our kids ministry is called Kids Can and the tagline is …worship, pray, know God. It’s true! At The Well we don’t think of kids as “Christians in waiting” but as legitimate “power tools” in God’s hands that can do as much damage to Satan’s kingdom as any one of the “coffee laden” adults.

So, with those thoughts rolling around in my head, I figured I’d give you something worthwhile to look at this weekend. Here’s a picture of Kayla taken last Sunday at church. It made me laugh so hard when I saw it, and then I realized… help, my job’s in jeopardy of being lost to little Kayla. So I decided. I made an executive decision (I can do that since I’m the Lead Pastor). Kayla can never be allowed near another microphone as long as she lives. No one is allowed near Kids Can unless they swear allegiance to me first. That’s how you do it! That’s how you take control of an otherwise testy situation. I’ll show them… Kids Can… mutter, mutter **7%@##!!! Before I forget… have an amazing weekend, and remember, kids really can worship, pray and know God.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Guest blog: Generation Me! (Part 2)

This is the final part of Joey's series on Generation Me. Please share your thoughts and ideas on this very "present" issue facing the Church today.

Yesterday we began to explore the “Why?” behind the rich young rulers’ idealism relative to how applicable it is to todays’ “Generation Me.” Much like Generation Me, the young ruler believed it was all about him. He could do anything he set his mind to; he was entitled; the world owed it to him. It was all about what he had accomplished. Jesus basically was telling him that it has nothing to do with him! Jesus was telling him forget what you have or think you have. I don’t want that, I want you! Follow me! He couldn’t handle it; he sadly walked away.

So how do we as the church address this narcissism and “self” pre-occupation? Jesus gives us the answer. He told the young man to sell everything and give it away. Was Jesus being literal? Did Jesus REALLY want him to sell all of his possessions and give the money away? I believe the short answer to that question is: Yes and no. There is no reason to believe Jesus wasn’t being literal, but I think more importantly, Jesus was trying to show that this person was consumed with himself, his achievements and possessions. It was all about how he had kept all of the commandments. It was about who he was. Unfortunately, who he was, was wrapped up in his things. How many young people today are identified by their “stuff,” especially in todays hyper-techie world?

As a church, we need to lovingly address this narcissism and help turn the focus from self (self-idolatry) and back onto Jesus. In an attempt to do just that, Jesus simply told him, “Follow me!” Isn’t it interesting, Jesus called 12 disciples who had nothing, they were simple fishermen and a despised tax collector, with a simple “follow me”. They had nothing to lose and they gained everything! Imagine what this young ruler could have gained if he could somehow see past himself. As we reach out to this Generation Me, we must be willing to lovingly and honestly confront this unhealthy preoccupation with “self.” Obviously this is not an exhaustive dissertation on the subject, but, to my mind it provides a platform for healthy conversation. What are your thoughts about Generation Me?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Guest blog: Generation Me! (Part 1)

I'm thrilled to have Joey Antrim, our Community Relations pastor, guest blog for me this week. Joey makes me feel like I have a long way to go when it comes to road biking and, as you will discover from his posts, he processes big ideas really well. Show Joey some love by visiting his blog when you're done reading this 360 degrees of life.

I stumbled across this article in the faculty lounge of the college where I work. The article was about the book Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before. Generation Me “believes that the needs of the individual should come first. This is not the same thing as being selfish – it is captured, instead, in the phrases we so often hear: "Be yourself," "Believe in yourself," "You must love yourself before you can love someone else." ” This is the generation that has been told by their parents, teachers and leaders that they can achieve anything they want. So, if this is the case, why is this the same generation that experiences more depression, anxiety and unhappiness than any other? They are narcissistic and self-focused. Their parents go with them to job interviews and call prospective employers on their behalf. Deny them something and they throw a tantrum. I’ve seen it; it’s ugly watching a 20 or 30 something throw a tantrum threatening to call their mom because something didn’t work out their way. They have the idealism but lack the fortitude to do what it takes to achieve.

So, I got to thinking, how do we as the church address this idealistic generation that believes it can achieve anything and deserves everything? Luke 18 tells the story of a leader (often described as rich and young) who I believe embodies the Generation Me personality. He asks Jesus what he needs to do to inherit eternal life? The Me Generation believes it can achieve anything and deserves it; a sense of entitlement, if you will. This young man seems to have the same idea. He asks Jesus what he must do to receive his due allotment of eternal life. Jesus counters him by asking him if he knows all of the commandments. He boldly asserts that he has kept all of the commandments since his childhood. He was resting on his “good” laurels. This young man is confident in his “self”.

One of the problems with Generation Me is that if you ask them why they deserve something or are qualified for a position, they can’t answer it. They may have an MBA from the best schools but ask them how that degree and the skills derived from it apply and they can’t relate the two. The Young Ruler had achieved his goodness and thought that was enough to inherit eternal life. So, back to my question, how do we as the church address Generation Me that believes it can do anything? Let’s look at how Jesus dealt with this young man. Knowing that he was rich and “self” motivated, Jesus tells him that he must sell everything and give it to the poor and follow Him. The ruler walked away devastated. Why? Well, you’ll just have to come back tomorrow to find out won’t you?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Flame On!!!

I heard a phrase a while ago that really left an impression on my heart. It simply stated: "A candle loses nothing by lighting another." Pretty profound isn't it? Well I've been thinking a great deal about that statement lately. As our church continues to grow and reflect the diversity of our community, certain things are becoming more and more evident. There are changes in our worship expression, changes in who sits next to you on Sunday, and changes in the variety of languages spoken. Why? Because the church should reflect the community, and I live in Orlando, FL, one of the most diverse melting pots in these United States.

These types of changes only happen intentionally. You don't fall or stumble into them. At The Well we choose to blend because we are convinced that the blended church is the church that looks most like heaven (Revelation 7: 9). One of my favorite dictionary definitions of the word blend, is from Webster's Unabridged Dictionary. It defines blend as: To mix various sorts in order to obtain a particular kind or quality. So if we have all these sweet scented candles that aren't lit, their fragrance is hardly noticeable, yet the true purpose of a scented candle is to give light and fragrance to dark and dank places. Imagine how amazingly overpowering the light and fragrance from so many scented candles could be in a place filled with darkness and the overwhelming "stench" of directionless lives. So what does it take to light them? A simple gesture of love that is authentic, relevant, and powerful.

Okay, I'll stop talking in parables (though I'm in pretty good company) and simply explain it like this: Every human is potentially a light or a candle if you will. The Bible refers to Christians though, as the light of the world. To increase the spread of light in our spiritually dark world, we need more candles lit. Each one of us must make a deep and lasting impact on the life of another so that their lives and world views are transformed to reflect a relationship with Jesus. The amazing thing about this is that we lose nothing by loving and touching people, instead we gain so much. I guess it really is true that a candle loses nothing by lighting another. So I've got a couple of questions for you today. How's your flame burning? Are you in the candle lighting business?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sparkling SPARQ's!!!

I’m all verklamped! I know it looks like you’ve seen this post before, but look a little closer. See that SPARQ rating? My son Demi’s Miami-Nike Combine SPARQ rating was 91.4. That was pretty impressive. He’s already getting a ton of interest from D-1 college coaches inquiring about him. The unbelievable SPARQ rating on this card was from the just concluded Orlando Nike Combine at which there were close to 2000 participants. It was the third highest rating of the entire combine (regardless of position) and is the eighth highest rating nationally from all six Nike Combines held so far. Why is this important enough for me to be bragging about you ask, and why does it warrant a blog post? Duh, well aside from the fact that I am immensely proud of my son, I guess the short answer is that there are leadership lessons all around us. Two weeks ago, after the Miami Combine, I was so excited for my son, and the options he had made available to himself by performing so well. He was the top rated defensive lineman at the Combine, and so I suggested that he forego the Orlando Combine and hang onto the great rating he had just attained.

His reply was an emphatic No! He felt that resting on his laurels was the worst thing he could do, especially because he had set very specific personal goals. His competition, he carefully informed me, wasn’t the other athletes around him, his competition was the personal goals he had set for himself. Because I am this amazingly brilliant, godly, faith-filled and encouraging dad, I reminded him of the potential to do worse at the Orlando Combine, thereby tainting his rating from the superb 91.4 that so many would kill to get. He simply shrugged his shoulders and assured me that that was a chance he was willing to take in order to improve his rating. This past weekend he taught me a valuable lesson in leadership:

You can settle for what you’ve accomplished so far and be quite content that you’ve been reasonably successful, or you can risk it all and take the plunge to go deeper, further, higher and better. There are no guarantees except the guarantee that you will always know that you didn’t settle and you gave it all you had. I’ve always told my son to “Leave it all out on the field.” In other words, don’t come back to me after the game is over and tell me all the things you could have done better. Just Do It! (Sorry Nike, you don’t have exclusive rights to the use of the English language) This past weekend my son returned the favor and placed the lesson squarely in front of my face. The student became the teacher. Demi reminded me that if I must lead effectively, I cannot afford to rest on the accomplishments I’ve already achieved. What did you learn this past weekend?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Friendly fire! (Part 4)

Okay, so here’s my conclusion to this subject of building intimate relationships with the people that you lead and pastor. I unequivocally suggest that it’s imperative that we as pastors and leaders are willing to sacrifice our egos, our time, and sometimes our privacy, in order to effectively coach people in living life well. I believe that we must be willing to endure pain and sometimes even suffer the loss of friendships to ensure that God’s purpose for our lives isn’t short-circuited. Craig Groeschel put it most succinctly at the ARC conference in Austin, TX last year. His statement: “The growth of your church is in direct proportion to the amount of pain you are willing to endure” made a profound impact on me. If anything has shaped my approach to, and philosophy of ministry, it is that statement.

Since for me the goal is to reach the lost (with the truth and power of God’s word), the hurting (with God’s enduring and unending love) and the next generation (with the relevance of His word for their everyday lives), I have settled in my heart that I am willing to pay the price that God requires of me, whatever that may be. My conviction has served to strengthen the bond in my family in the most amazing of ways. My relationship with my wife is better today (twenty years into marriage) than it was when I first got married. My children, rather than balk at the mention of ministry, are empowered by the way they have seen their mother and I walk through our struggles. They are convinced that what we believe in is real and true, and it has set the tone for their own personal relationships with Jesus.

Most of all though, it is the “fruit” of the people that I pastor, which lends credence to the idea that we must ensure that we are authentic, vulnerable, and accessible. I have a file full of letters I have received over the last couple of years, but especially over the last year. I have randomly selected two of them that were sent to me recently so that you can see first hand the value of building intimate relationships with those that you lead. Only the names have been withheld.

Dear Pastor Joseph,

I just wanted to take a moment to share with you some things that are on my heart. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for being the man of God that you are and being such an example to our whole family and everyone at The Well. We are so blessed to call you our pastor!

...Something which has really stood out to me over the last few months, as well, is your attitude of forgiveness and trust instead of vengeance and bitterness. It has been so evident, and I/we have learned so much from your example. It has pointed us to Christ!

...We truly are products of the vision of The Well, even though we had had a relationship with Jesus for years.

Love and Blessings,


I just wanted to take time to explain myself a little better since yesterday I was so nervous I was unable to express myself the way that I wanted to. You already know how we met, but when I said that leading up to that meeting I was struggling spiritually, what I was really struggling with was that I wanted (and still do) to know and experience God more. I was watching people struggle with family issues, debt, addictions, lack of knowledge, etc and it bothered me very much.

...I was getting tired of church because I felt like there are all these different religions and churches most of which are not preaching and teaching the whole truth and there are people that are blindly following and their lives are being messed up because of it.

... I just wanted to share some reasons why I have continued to come to The Well. It is mainly because of you: you have never gotten up and made promises of how God is going to bless me (w/ money, cars, good marriage, etc.) even though I believe that He blesses people in all these ways. Every time that you have received tithes and offerings all you have ever done is explain what it is and that’s it. God uses you to bring the message across in an effective way without all the fluff.

...In my opinion The Well is set up to help people grow in the Lord without beating them over the head with “You’re a sinner and you’re going to hell” and without watering down the message so that it strokes their emotions without making a positive spiritual impact. Thank you for continuing to fight the good fight, take it easy.


Need I say more?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Friendly fire! (Part 3)

If you didn’t read yesterday’s post you might want to start there so that you have a backdrop for some of the ideas I’m going to be tossing around today. The first big idea I want to discuss regarding ministry relationships with people that you pastor, is the fact that it’s not always about you. Many of the friends that had moved with me to Orlando, had to figure out how to walk the fine line between seeing me as their pastor and seeing me as their friend. This meant recognizing that, though we were a team, I was ultimately the primary leader. This would indicate that people in your church who are trying to build a relationship with you are also trying to figure out how to navigate that relationship in much the same way you are. Where are the lines drawn? What’s acceptable for me to say or do, and in what setting or context is it acceptable?

It is vital to understand the purpose of your calling as a pastor if you are to successfully embrace every aspect of the relationships that surround you. You are called to serve and not necessarily to be served. Jesus modeled that in the most amazing ways. We often claim that we want to reflect His character in our leadership styles yet we tend to scoff, or at the very least minimize the value of the idea that He washed His Disciples feet. He was a Servant Leader. That’s why people feel like they can routinely evaluate your performance as the lead pastor. That is what people do with servants. While you may be the visionary leader and the one who has “paid the heavy price” involved with planting or growing a church, you ultimately serve in that capacity only as long as people see you as their pastor and life coach. This means that there are one set of rules for you and another for the people. I have to admit that I struggled with this significantly. I felt like it wasn’t fair that people expected me to always “act” like the pastor, while they could take their “work” hats off at the end of their work day.

I quickly realized that the reason for this is the fact that as a pastor you live in a fishbowl, and your entire life is an open book for everyone to read and interpret whatever they choose. They will have opinions about everything you do or say. You are quotable! You must settle in your heart who you are, and make the determination to be that person all the time otherwise you’ll find yourself always trying to be who you think someone wants you to be in a particular circumstance. You will become everyone and consequently no one. You must regard somewhat lightly both the accolades and the criticisms of people. If authenticity is an essential part of effectively pastoring people (and it is), then you must be willing to remove the barriers that prevent people from seeing you as you really are.

In an attempt to be “real” I made myself vulnerable to my team and ended up paying a heavy price for my efforts (again you should read yesterday’s post if you haven’t already). At that point I had two options: I could remain hurt, angry and bitter and ultimately hurt the very purpose for which I was called (my ability to speak into other people’s lives), or I could walk through the process of learning what things I needed to let God change in me so that I could handle the relationships with people that I pastor, a lot better. I decided that remaining vulnerable and transparent were some of the qualities that I could not afford to give up if I was to build meaningful relationships with the people who serve at The Well with me. I borrowed an idea from a friend and named the room where we hold our staff meetings, The Bullpen. The idea is that this is the room where everyone’s ideas have free expression. This is where the gloves come off and we fight passionately (but fairly) for what we believe is the right direction for The Well and all its ministry arms. This means that you must be willing to check your ego at the door and take a punch to your prideful jaw every once in a while. Come back tomorrow for my concluding thoughts on this subject.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Friendly fire! (Part 2)

I told you yesterday that I would be vulnerable as I explored the question of intimate relationships in ministry. Today I will give you a snapshot of my story so that you have a point of reference as we explore the sometimes unclear ideas as to the best way to deal with these relationships, later in the week. My personal journey in planting The Well is a somewhat convoluted story so I’ll leave out much of the detail and focus on the parts that I think might be helpful for this post. Keep in mind that the subject at hand is the value or otherwise of building intimate relationships with people that you pastor. I moved to Orlando from Colorado Springs with a team of close to 50 people in November 2005. I had spent the entire year building a team. We met in my home once a week for months and I would teach on leadership, cast vision and simply motivate and encourage the team to dream big. We bonded and became a ‘family’ and I enjoyed watching the intimate relationships form between people who shared a common vision, yet were from such different streams and had never even met each other before they became part of the team.

We had a ton of money in the bank that I had raised towards a huge launch, accompanied by a ‘feverish’ sense of excitement at the prospects of what this church would look like. We had prayed, fasted, received all the requisite “words” from the Lord, and launched out with a goal of having 1000 people on launch Sunday. We had somewhere in the neighborhood of 375 people! I’m ashamed to tell you that I was gutted! My team sensed this and so they were gutted too. Oblivious to the fact at the time, I had bred a sense of entitlement in the team, and rather than see each individual as a gift from God that we were called to love and serve, we focused squarely on what we had done wrong, and on what we needed to do to get the rest of the 625 or so people through the doors. A series of completely unrelated events outside of my control prompted a mass exodus about 11 months into our launch. I began receiving letters and e-mails discrediting my calling, encouraging me to step away from ministry and stop ‘bilking’ people. I had “Dear John” letters telling me “it’s not you it’s me.” I even had false allegations leveled against me regarding some of the most dubious things you can think of, which don’t bear repeating here. I wanted to defend myself so badly, but I was counseled to let God do the defending. I never said a word! To those that were gracious enough to meet with me to inform me of their “call” to move on, I expressed appreciation for the time they had committed to serve at The Well. When the dust cleared we had about 20 people left who called me their pastor. I felt so wounded and angry. I spent many nights curled into the fetal position weeping like a baby.

Some of the people who had left had been dear friends. Some of them had traveled the globe with me doing ministry, over many years. Still others I had discipled, mentored and walked through some of the most harrowing and difficult experiences of their lives. I had prayed and fasted for them all. I had loved and served their families unconditionally, but now I was their sworn enemy. I was the source of their pain, I was the reason God had “released” them from being at The Well. I couldn’t process all this through my tears and hurt and I would sometimes just re-read some of the letters and e-mails trying to see if I’d missed something. What I didn’t realize at the time was that this process wasn’t about them at all. It was about me! How I responded to this situation would determine what The Well would look like, or indeed if there would even be a Well. I realize this is a lengthy post but I wanted to get this out of the way so that we can concentrate on the intimate relationships with this as a backdrop. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Friendly fire! (Part 1)

I read Craig’s post on Swerve yesterday and was really motivated to do a series as a result of many of the comments I noted. The post, directed primarily to lead/ senior pastors, was titled The Challenge of Ministry Friendships and basically explored the idea of being able to maintain personal intimate friendships with people that attend your church. Craig highlighted reasons why it was a challenge but also highlighted (in part 2) why it was essential. I would be redundant if the purpose of my post was to discuss Craig’s, especially since you can click on the hyperlinks above and read it for yourselves. The real reason I’m bringing it up is because I want to explore a few ideas surrounding this same concept.

I’ll give you a basic introduction to my musings on the subject and then over the next couple of days we’ll explore the ideas in a little more detail. Let me begin by saying: with all due respect, being an associate pastor is not even remotely similar to being the lead pastor. The expectations, the responsibilities, the challenges and the scrutiny among other things, are significantly magnified in the office of lead pastor. Someone actually stated that, as a lead pastor, he is the only one among his peers whose job is routinely evaluated by friends as well as by people to whom he is not necessarily accountable. That set me thinking: If I was the CEO of a large or medium sized corporation, would it be the responsibility of the people who serve alongside me, to evaluate my performance and provide feedback on a daily basis? Where are the demarcating lines between my role as a pastor (called and anointed for that purpose), and my role as a man, a husband, a father and a friend?

In many of the comments on Craig’s post (part 1) I noticed a distinct, demarcating, generational line between those who thought that pastors must build intimate friendships among the people they lead, and those who felt that a measure of “distance” was essential in order for you to maintain the ability to lead effectively. As we process these ideas let me tell you that I will make myself somewhat vulnerable as I will be talking about a number of personal things very close to home for me. Meanwhile, we'll make this fully participatory, so I'm asking you, what are your opinions about some of the questions I’ve raised above?

Monday, February 18, 2008


Thank you to everyone who responded to my last post seeking advice on how to counsel my friend regarding his struggles with fallen 'hero's' of the faith. No doubt your insight will serve to help many of us who find ourselves walking through such unwelcome but increasingly common struggles of pain and anguish over the betrayal of a trusted leader.

I also wanted to take a moment and tell you that our 2nd anniversary service of The Well really rocked!. It was an amazing time of reflection and introspection, as well as a great time of visionary planning for the future. There was coffee, cake and lots of other baked goods. I will be posting a few pictures and a little more detail about the day, later in the week.

Finally, I wanted to let you know that a good friend of mine has agreed to guest blog for me and so you should be looking out for that as I know it's going to be super stuff! Thea, thanks in advance for being willing to guest blog for me, I really look forward to what you have to share with our blogging family. Alright, that's enough trivia for one day, I'll be in a better frame of mind to write more tomorrow. See you then!

Friday, February 15, 2008

crushed by the Rock!

I received a letter from a dear friend today. He is struggling with "anger issues" regarding the fall of a prominent minister whom he had served for a number of years. He wrote to ask for counsel and help as he navigates through the gamut of emotions he is experiencing. I have personal experience with having served a prominent minister who also betrayed the trust reposed in him by God, the Church, his family, friends and his position of influence. People have asked me continuously since the exposure of his sin, if I am angry at him. I have processed that question from every conceivable angle and my answer is still, "No I'm not angry with him."

I suppose my realization that he is going through the "darkest" season of his life precludes me from passing judgement on him for his poor choices (don't misunderstand me to be saying I condone his choices), knowing that God has humbled him by judging him in a very public setting so that He can heal him. His family is probably more isolated than they've ever been, he is in dire financial straits, and all the good that he ever did appears to have faded into a distant memory for most people. When I think of all that, I feel as if the greatest gift I can give to him during this difficult but necessary season of repentance, healing, and restoration, is the gift of my friendship and love.

It's been said ad naseum that all too often, we discard broken and wounded Christians as if they are old, worn socks. I've often wondered at the hypocrisy of believing in a man's calling and anointing even while he was steeped in sin, simply because we didn't know about it. However, once the sin is exposed, and the process of healing is done, we cannot find it within us to trust that God is able to work even greater things through a person that has been healed. So today I'd really like your feedback. Whatever your position on dealing with a fallen Christian leader, I would like your input on what you think I should tell my friend as he processes through this confusion. How do you think he should deal with the issue of his anger? Please don't be silent on this as I really value all of your insight. Thanks for speaking up.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Would you lak a piece of choclit?

It's Valentine's Day today! I'm still trying to figure out what the heck that means!! Who is or was Mr (or Mrs. Valentine)? Why do we have to have a day to honor him or her? What exactly does the day represent anyway? And: Why is chocolate candy the preferred gift of choice? I suspect this is a vast (right wing? since everything is blamed on them why not this as well?)conspiracy between Hallmark and the stores, to create yet another reason to go "hog wild" on vacuous spending for no good reason. I love my wife, don't get me wrong, but for me, everyday is "Valentines" day because of the joy she brings to my life. I just can't relate to the idea of giving her a gift only because Mr (or Mrs Valentine) suggest it's the right day to do so.

So let it be noted that I am a conscientious objector to splurging on cards and chocolates that will both serve little useful purpose. The cards should hit the trash in time for Friday's pickup, while the chocolates will simply undo all the hard work that you've done working out to maintain your 'youthful' athletic figure (at least when you suck your gut in). Having said all that. I am certainly no fool, so I have purchased (at a reasonable cost) the requisite box of chocolates and a nice Hallmark card (I will be sending them a 1099 at the end of the year). I heard an ad in which a guy was rejoicing that his wife had said she didn't want anything for Valentine's Day. A helpful bystander casually informed him that, in actual fact, what that meant was that she didn't want anything really expensive or elaborate and not nothing at all!

So here's to the proverbial box of chocolates and here's to my beautiful bride, Sola. Happy Valentine's day to all of you in blogland.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

SPARQ's flying!

We were in Miami this past weekend because my son was attending the NIKE football combine. It's pretty much a testosterone meat market for aspiring college athletes. They measure you, weigh you, test your strength, test your athletic prowess: speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness (SPARQ), and at the end of it all they give you a grade that measures where you are, relative to the competition. The NIKE combine is seen as somewhat of an indicator as to whether or not you should continue to pursue a D1 athletic scholarship or focus completely on figuring out ways to pay off your student loans when you're done with college.

The top ranked guy at the combine scored a SPARQ rating of 116. Now let's not get technical and start a discussion about what goes into how they tabulate the score. For the purposes of our discussion today let's just say a 116 rating is... well, quite frankly, unbelievable! Pretty much every D1 school would be lining up to sign an athlete like that to their program. There were people who scored in the 20's on their SPARQ rating and the lowest score was actually a 12.7. If you're currently a junior in high school and you score less than a 68 on your rating, you should probably consider pursuing things other than athletics. I was thrilled to find out that my son scored a 91.4 on his rating. He was the top ranked defensive lineman at the combine and twenty-first ranked over all player (more than a thousand participated). At 6' 3" and 235 pounds, he has aspirations to get a D1 football scholarship to pay his way through college.

I can't tell you how proud I am as a father to see my son working so hard to accomplish his dreams. It is every fathers dream that his son will be better than him. I dare say that, with his commitment to his faith, his excellent academic work ethic, and his unimpeded athletic drive to become better each day, my son is well on his way to fulfilling my dream while fulfilling his.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Rest well Amy!

Some of you might remember my post titled "Sanctimonious ceremonies" of a few days ago. In it I mentioned the fact that we had recently received news about Amy Stockstills prognosis of 24-hours to live. I am saddened to have to inform you that Amy has changed "zip codes" and no longer lives on earth. Her husband Joel posted the following on his blog last night:
With both sadness and joy I regret to inform all of you that tonight February 11 at 9:40 pm my lovely wife Amy went to be with Jesus. This is a mighty victory and the half will never be known. With great love and appreciation to all who have joined with us.

It is hard to articulate in words what I feel right now, so without attempting to trivialize the pain of the Stockstill family and of Joel in particular, this is my tribute to them and to Amy:

For the Christian, death is only painful to the ones that are left behind. We are deeply saddened by the loss of one so young, so vibrant and full of life. We mourn the fact that we will never again hear her voice, smell her fragrance, or feel her touch... this side of heaven. For Amy however, the race is complete and now she rests peacefully in the everlasting arms of her Father and ours. She is now a part of the great cloud of witnesses that cheer us on to complete the race we have each begun. Adieu precious Amy, we'll see you when we get home!

Terrific Two's!

This Sunday is The Well's second anniversary. I am pumped! I know that statistics suggest that the two year mark for a church plant is pretty significant as there are major hurdles leading up to that. While we celebrate being two, in many ways we are really like a one year old church, considering the major transitions we've gone through since inception. I am really proud of the church that I pastor. I love the people, I love my team and I really love the things that God is doing in and through us all.

So If you're local and you're trying to figure out how to spend a couple of hours on Sunday morning... hmmm, let's see, I have an idea: come and hang out with us at 10.30am. There'll be coffee, donuts and even a 'birthday' cake (any excuse to eat is a great excuse). Did I mention that there'll be cake? Before I forget, we'll have a great message and phenomenal worship too, so don't get caught boring yourself to death picking 'boogers' out of your nose in lieu of something to do when you can be hanging out with great people like us. Plus, football season is over anyway so what excuse do you have to miss church? (Don't even think about answering that question, it was simply rhetorical).

Did I tell you how excited I am about this weekends anniversary service? Just checking to make sure you heard me the first time. I look forward to seeing you at The Well this Sunday, and if you're coming, come thirsty!

Monday, February 11, 2008

One week to live!

What would you do differently if you knew you only had one week to live? How would you spend your time if you knew it was your final week on earth? Would your week be full of tearful goodbye's and sad commiserations about all the things you have yet to do, all the places you have yet to go, and all the people you have yet to see?

In the final week of His life, Jesus had dinner at the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. He knew it was His final week on earth in human flesh, yet he didn't hold a big 'crusade', He didn't spend countless hours in the temple praying, heck, He didn't even spend it rushing around catching up on His 'miracle quota' for the week. He chose to spend it with friends. But you know what the best part of that is? It's the fact that they chose to spend it with Him. The final week of Jesus' life was not the best time to be identified, or for that matter seen with Him. In the eyes of the Jewish San Hedrin He was a 'political dissident', a trouble maker, and a proverbial thorn in their very ample sides. His head, and the head of anyone who was remotely connected to Him or considered His follower, were on the veritable chopping block. Yet Mary, Martha and Lazarus were willing to host a dinner in His honor in their home knowing that He was a wanted man. How amazing is that? I guess when you've been raised from the dead by the one you're hosting, or you were witness to the raising of the dead, your perspective does tend to change a little. Some have called it "risky love."

So back to the question: How would you spend your time if you knew it was the final week of your life on earth?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Do you blog roll?

I said blog roll not log roll... oh, whatever! Any way I've been wondering lately why we blogging types have a blog roll (for those of you living under a stone, that's a link list of favorite blogs). Blogging is quite the universal phenomenon, but why do we choose to highlight the blogs that we do? I don't know about you, but I really am drawn to various blogs for various reasons. For instance let me highlight a few from my blog roll. I love Craig Groeschel and Bobby Gruenewald's Swerve because Craig's posts are like mini sermons. They are chock full of nuggets and are so precise that it is pretty obvious that he put's a lot of thought into them and plans them well in advance. Bobby on the other hand, put the "i" in innovative. Then there's Ann Jackson's flowerdust. All Ann needs to say is "do you like red or blue?" and she'll have a thousand responses. People just love to interact with her because she seems so "now" yet so unpretentious.

Scott Williams' Big is The New Small focuses a great deal on stimulating interaction and discourse, while Perry Noble's blog is... well... flippin' #@***:#! Seriously though, Perry's blog pulls no punches and challenges the stereotypical "sacred cows" that are held sacrosanct for all the wrong reasons. I like Unveiling Hope because she is articulate and writes from the heart. Tony Morgan offers me real food for thought, while Guy Kawasaki makes me realize how 'uneducated' I am about a lot of things. Dino Rizzo's blog constantly reminds me what it's like to be hugely successful, well connected, and yet down to earth and deeply caring. Finally, there are the blogs of my Lead Team, Hope, Joey, and Jake that remind me of people who really love to serve others.

So why do you have the people you have on your blog roll? Please note that the above list is in no way an exhaustive listing of all the blogs I read regularly. I also want to say that this list is purely my list. It is not solicited, neither is it meant to say anything other than what has been said. Any resemblance to any other persons list, living or dead, is purely coincidental. And, oh... by the way, have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Elections and Ice cream

As an extremely interested observer of the political quagmire that threatens to overwhelm our elections, I am anxious to see who emerges as the nominees of both the Republican and the Democratic parties. My interest goes far beyond that of an observer as these are the first elections in which I will be eligible to vote. It will be my first election as a citizen of the good old US of A. Sadly, it is an election in which I strongly favor no particular candidate. Like my Father (God) I am neither Republican nor Democrat, but would certainly favor a candidate who espouses my values and understands the fundamental challenges that face our country.

Unlike the apparent voting trend in the primaries seems to suggest, the economy is not my main concern. The reckless and indiscriminate flaunting of our declining moral values bodes a more foreboding future than the current exchange rate of the Dollar. "Great Britain" as she was once known, is a shining example of what becomes of a nation that sinks into the abyss of moral decrepitude. She has simply become a nation where people seem to 'live to work and work to live'. In the UK, life is expensive, hard, and hardly comfortable. In many senses they still live in the 19th century. In fact, a good friend of mine refers to the UK as an "Overbearing, overpriced little Island of people who still believe that they rule the world." My primary concern is that, since only 4% of the present generation of children under 16 are being introduced to an intimate relationship with God, the next generation of leaders will more than likely lack any real moral compass.

I am concerned that we think the "seperation of Church and State" is a mandate from God and therefore willingly do nothing as laws are enacted that adversely affect the freedom of Christian expression. I am concerned that we fail to realize that, in a changing and increasingly hostile world, our way of life speaks a message of hypocrisy to those whom we would lead. Materialism and the accumulation of personal wealth seem to be our all consuming pursuit, while the rest of the world looks on in wonder at our excesses. I'm reminded of Rob Bell's Nooma video in which he reminded us that the amount of money it would take to provide a meal for every starving person on the planet is the equivalent of what Americans spend on ice cream in a year. So, while you're enjoying your ice cream this year, please spare a thought for the starving children around the world and consider supporting a child with Compassion International. And if that is too much to ask, if you're American, consider voting for someone who will think about more than the economy!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Sanctimonious Ceremonies

I give you fair warning: This is going to be a heavy post. If you want lighthearted, then at least for today, slowly back away from my blog and bookmark it for tomorrow. You're still here? Okay, here goes nothing! I am deeply gutted by a number of things that are going on simultaneously in my life. Well, not my life personally, but they impact me indirectly. I got an e-mail yesterday asking that we pray for Amy Stockstill, the wife of Joel Stockstill who is Larry Stockstill's son (Bethany World Prayer Center). My understanding is that Amy is less than 30 years old. Yesterday, she was given 24 hours to live having battled with Hodgkin's Lymphoma for more than a year.

About the same time I received the e-mail, I reconnected with some old friends on facebook who were part of the college group I pastored while at New Life Church in the late 1990's. One of them informed me that a young lady, whose wedding I had officiated back in 1998 or 1999, had divorced her husband and become an atheist and a feminist. I was gutted. I remember the young lady very fondly. Her life has not been easy. Her dad committed suicide because of some personal struggles he was having even though he had been a licensed minister. She got married really young (I think she was 19) and her first child (a son) is autistic while her second child (another son) has spinal cord cancer. Meanwhile, we in the Church continue to pay lip service with our loud rhetoric, our empty platitudes, and our weak attempts at becoming "relevant" to the culture.

Well, I've got an idea about relevant. I think relevant is being able to be 'present' in the lives of hurting people rather than concerning ourselves with how well they are matching up with our doctrines. I think relevant is letting the power of God be demonstrated through us even at the risk of looking stupid. No doubt that would have brought some measure of comfort to this young lady who ended up giving up on God because of the way He is reflected in the Church. Matthew Murray's (the young man who went on a shooting rampage at NLC and was himself gunned down) writings reveal a lot to us about where we are failing as the Church. We cannot afford to keep playing games, peoples lives depend on the authenticity of how we live out "Christ and Him crucified."

These aren't empty words, Jesus really did die on the cross for humanity, and that's got to count for something when we are dealing with the lost, the hurting and the next generation. We've lost Matthew Murray. But what about this young lady and others like her that have slipped through the cracks while we conduct our sanctimonious ceremonies. If you can pray, please pray!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The search for significance

Is obscurity an essential part of the search for significance? I would have to resoundingly answer yes! I read tons of blogs daily. I really enjoy the opportunity to experience people's lives; living vicariously through them as they bare their souls for the blogging world to see (that includes me mind you). I think we are all searching for some sort of significance (if that were not true, we wouldn't be thrilled to bits when complete strangers make positive comments on our blogs). As a matter of fact we wouldn't even be blogging if we didn't want people to hear what we had to say and give careful consideration to the validity of our thoughts and ideas. As someone so rightly said, if we didn't want people to visit our blogs we would just keep journals!

Obscurity is the perfect breeding ground for either humility and gratitude or bitterness. On the one hand, we can see the value of making so many of our mistakes in obscurity, and successfully navigating through them without too much fallout. On the other hand, we can become bitter about the fact that we labor and toil and seem to produce so little "fruit," comparatively speaking. The truth is though, that obscurity is the place that reveals the true nature of our hearts. We pray in obscurity because we love God and not because it is the right thing to do, or because others are watching and listening. We serve and love in obscurity because our hearts are consumed with a love for God and for people, and not because of the accolades of men who would see us serving. We endure pain and suffering in obscurity, not because we want people to see how resilient we are, not even because we have all the answers to the "curve balls" life throws at us, but because character is formed in us and demonstrated during these seasons of adversity.

I think that when we find ourselves in seasons of obscurity, we'd best embrace them and use them as a thermometer to test the "temperature" of our love for God and for people, rather than complain and moan about how unfair and difficult life is. Ultimately it is not the nature of the difficulties we face in obscurity that count, but how we navigate through them and allow them to change us. Are you being changed in obscurity?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Patriot Games

I probably should talk about the fact that I was so completely wrong in my prediction of the outcome of the Superbowl. I probably should discuss the fact that Plaxico Burress was incorrect when he predicted that the Patriots would score 17 points. (they scored less!) I probably should even discuss coach Bill Belichik walking off the field with one second left on the game clock. I probably should discuss all these things and more... but I won't. As exciting as the Superbowl was, and as wrong as most of us were about the outcome, I have something significantly more exciting to talk about today.

Selah Rachel Clark was born on Friday February 1, 2008 to Hope and Kenneth Clark, who are both part of my Lead Team. She was 7 pounds and 3 ounces for all of you who like such details, and she is the most beautiful baby you've ever seen. You know how, sometimes you go to the hospital to visit with a friend who's just had a baby, and all you can think is, "that is not a good looking baby" but you can never really voice that? Well, that is definetely not the case here because Selah is beautiful and already has a set of lungs like her mother except she doesn't use hers to sing quite yet

There is so much significance to her birth as it relates to The Well. She is the first baby born since the inception of our church. She was born by C-section contrary to her parents desire for a natural birth without medication. Like The Well, it was a difficult labor or incubation period, and the birth certainly didn't go like we expected it to. I believe that she is God's "firstfruit" to us as a portent of what He is about to do at The Well. We are thrilled to welcome Selah to our world so if you know the Clarks, or even if you don't, please give them some love here on the blog so that I can pass it on to them. I'm sure you'll agree that the Patriots games take a distant second to this incredible news, yes?

Friday, February 1, 2008

To splurge or not to splurge... might be the question!

Okay, everyone quiet down please. I am about to make a bold prediction... drum roll please... THE PATRIOTS ARE GOING TO WIN THE SUPERBOWL!!! So how deflating was that? I build up all this hype only to state the obvious? Well, if the press can do it why can't I? Enough already, Please. We are going to watch the game. We even pledge to watch the commercials during the game (at least the ones without wardrobe malfunctions). You don't have to sell us on watching the Superbowl and on what a great game it's going to be. If the Patriots play at their highest potential, it really won't be that great of a game. We're watching it because we know it's potentially epochal. It will rewrite football history, and place the Pats in a league of their own (sorry '72 Dolphins).

So here's an open letter to all you 'nice' people of the press. Save your tired rhetoric, and your well-worn speculations for Sunday. Until then, let's talk about something other than Tom Brady's "boot," his perpetual shoulder injury, Plaxico's prediction that 17 points is all that the Patriots will score, and all the other media hype that is threatening to bury us along with all the political jerrymandering that's going on at the moment. Can you do that for a brother? As for me, with my new commitment to simplifying my life in 2008, I'm trying to decide between splurging on Johnsonville brats or going with the conservative generic store brand for my game day meal. What are you doing Superbowl Sunday?