Showing posts from October, 2005

poetically confused about the end

Tsunamis and earthquakes, hurricanes of all names. Hatred and war, terrorism and more. The world sometimes seems like its falling apart, and based on the news I don't have a clue where to start. Should I run, should I hide, what should I do, I don't know. The only given is should I die I know where I'll go.

Everyone speculates, some cry and some moan. Some act like the world is falling apart, and it is there's no doubt. But not even Jesus was clear when he said, 'the end is coming before some of you will be dead.'

Its not up to us to speculate the time or the date, we just have to press on and eagerly await. The time when our Savior will set all things right, and we'll be able to rest peacefully in our sleep every night. To know that out God has it all in his hand, and we're dancing to the tune of his heavenly band.

This is the message that I'm called to teach, these are the words that I'm challenged to preach. It doesn't all fit in a bo…

oh man this is horrible

I just about Pastor Kyle Lake's death over on Gary Lamb's blog. This is a tragic story to read. He was 33 years old and the lead pastor of University Baptist Church in Waco, TX.

Here are some links:
University Baptist Church
Houston Chronicle Article
Yahoo News Article

yes, I wore a bra

So I did something yesterday that I never anticipated doing in my life. Sky diving...nope. Jet boat racing...nope.

I wore a bra (well not really the whole thing, just the strap)!

During our services at church we had a couple of people get baptized. It was sweet, largely in part because they are such awesome guys who I have had the blessing of getting to know in small group over the last year.

But why the bra strap? Mainly it was a creative solution by a great sound tech and his wife. You can read all about it on his blog by clicking here.

I did have an awkward moment though when I was putting it on in the hallway and having some people walked by and asked me if I needed to borrow a shirt.

After the baptisms we capped off our 'Be the Revolution' campaign by asking people to come forward and make financial commitments. Our goal was 500k and before the service even started we had 309k in advance commitments.

God rocks, and he is doing something incredible through the people of t…

backstreet boys gone to china

You guys, you have to check out this video of two Chinese students lip singing to the Backstreet Boys song "I Want It That Way." It is super funny. And seriously, what is that dude doing in the background?

Thanks to Tony Morgan for alerting me to it.

helping the world grow

Kiva is a good looking organization that is working to help small business owners find the money they need to thrive and survive.

Check out this post over at Seth's blog.

This looks like an awesome opportunity to put into action some of what I was talking about in an earlier post. To read that post, click here

spiritual lessons from ER

While I was putting my one year old daughter Isabelle to sleep tonight I had ER playing on the TV in the background. The episode centered around a middle age drunk who was dying. The man obviously had a broken relationship with his son, because as he blurred out of this world and into the next the visions of his mind were on a small child.

Fading in and out of consciousness the dying man address one of his doctors (Dr. Pratt) and they had this exchange.

Man: You don't know your dad do you?
Doctor: No.
Man: That's too bad.
Doctor: Its ok. I don't really think about it.
Man: I'll bet he does.

It made me think about how many people on this earth don't know their dad in heaven. And even worse is that most (like Dr. Pratt) don't really think about it. So God is left in heaven waiting and desiring a relationship with us.

We might not think about it, but He does.

erwin mcmanus on christian ambition

I was listening to a Mosaic podcast from a couple weeks ago and heard Erwin McManus say some great stuff regarding ambition. I don't think I can quote him verbatim, but I'll do the best I can.

"Sometimes Christians say that they want to sell it all and go live with the poor. But the problem is that the poor don't get that at all, it doesn't make sense to them, because they are not poor by choice. A better thing for Christians to do would be to go out and make money and then use those resources to bring people out of poverty. Make millions, give people jobs, food, and a future for kids and families."

Why do we squelch ambition in Christian circles so often? It is a God-given part of our spirit to want to create and succeed and produce. And God can use humble people who are ambition about brining glory to his name. Those people (though the might screw up sometimes) are a lot more valuable than non-ambitious bumps on a pew.

fearfully and wonderfully made

One of the blogs I have been reading a lot of lately is from a guy named David Russel. I really enjoy reading his blend of technology, ministry and life. He has a great podcast too.

Check out David's post from a few days ago. Our eyes and minds are so powerful and complex. Our God is amazing.

To see the illusion, click here.

messy spirituality

Wouldn't it be great if God and faith were all nice and clean? I mean, if we could just put God in a box and boil down following him to a few easy steps - that would rock. Everything would come easily, and we wouldn't have to think so much. We could just read Scripture in black and white literal terms, without having to deal with the troublesome poetry and song. God should just spell it out for us so we wouldn't have to spend so much wasted time in prayer and thought, trying to discern the call of His Spirit. It should all just be plain, leaving us no questions, doubts, contradictions, or conversation. Then we could all just agree with each other on every point and relegate our mental capacities to mush as preachers just spell out the clear points of God's Word. That would be so great - like if we were all robots, programmed to act and think in accordance with one another and the Spirit.

Nevermind (I was being sarcastic above). That would suck. Following God is messy.…

how can I help you?

Today I went with our lead pastor to a meeting with many of the local pastors in Monticello. We spent an hour discussing the best way that our churches can help the growing number of people who need help. It can be a depressing topic.

Last week a woman came into our church office needing help. She had slept the previous night in the entryway of a Walmart. She has no family, work or lodging. What could we do? In the end we let her hang at the office and sleep, and then a friend and I brought her to a shelter up in St. Cloud. I felt horrible dropping her off, but there wasn't much else we could do.

God calls his people to care for widows and orphans. The poor are close to God all through out the Bible. But what do you do with limited time and financial resources? I am considering finding a way to get our church at the front of the line for helping people get lodging. I don't know what it will look like exactly, but we have to do something. This is an action point for believers. W…

Top 10 Blog Design Mistakes

Recently the Church Marketing Sucks blog looked at the Top 10 Web Design Mistakes from Jakob Nielsen. They have now posted his Top 10 Blog Design Mistakes.

When it comes to blogs the top 10 mistakes are:

1. No Author Biographies
2. No Author Photo
3. Nondescript Posting Titles
4. Links Don't Say Where They Go
5. Classic Hits are Buried
6. The Calendar is the Only Navigation
7. Irregular Publishing Frequency
8. Mixing Topics
9. Forgetting That You Write for Your Future Boss
10. Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service

I have a ways to go in taking this blog to the next level. Thanks to everyone who reads here often, and welcome to those of you just checking things out.

To read the entire CMS post, click here.

seeker's diary: quarry community church

Sometimes you can get so enamored with yourself and the complexity of everything around you that you forget what life is like outside of yourself. In those times it is nice to get a look at things from another perspective. For Quarry Church that is exactly what happened on Saturday.

A couple weeks ago a woman from the Star Tribune newspaper and her daughter came to the Quarry as secret church investigator's.' The woman writes a column in the Star Tribune called the Seeker's Diary and she had decided to profile the Quarry. I thought her write up was fair, and that she painted the Quarry in good light. I appreciated her honest critique and kind compliments.

We strive as a church community to represent everything that is good and true and beautiful. We admit that we are a struggling broken people who do not have all the answers, and so we turn to God and one another to find the strength to embrace and thrive in life.

To read the entire article, click here.

indescribable tour, indescribable God

Tonight Stephanie, Peter, Erin and I went down to Grace Church to see Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman and Louie Giglio perform. Chris Tomlin is headlining what is called the Indescribable Tour. Together the three of them (with music from Tomlin and Redman, and a message from Giglio) worked to paint a picture of God as beyond our biggest words and thoughts, to make us pause and think and celebrate the awesome, indescribable nature of God.

I thought that the show was pretty good and if I had to rate it I would say 3.5 of 5 stars. What I liked most about the show was the heart for Christ that both Tomlin and Redman played in their songs and actions. One highlight was watching a woman on video paint the face of a person laying prostrate before God. What was so neat was that while I was watching her I didn't even noticed Matt Redman laying down his guitar and laying himself flat on his face while 4,000 people sang the chorus of his song. That was a powerful moment of worship.

I was not impr…

the role of the husband

I am excited about the chance I have tonight to share some thoughts on marriage with a group of men from our church. I am going to be focusing on the role of the husband. I think that at the very foundation of a marriage and family is the maturity and action of the husband. He is to be the leader of the family, the head of it all. Like the saying goes, "The buck stops here." And that is true of the husband. It all rises and falls with him.

I am going to speak from Ephesians 5. What I want to highlight is the fact that God has a plan for marriage. Husbands and wives are supposed to join together and become one flesh (Genesis 2)- characterized by love, mutual submission, respect, and servanthood.

So, at the end of the talk I want the men to consider these questions:
1. Are you an imitator of God?
2. Are you willing to give yourself up for your wife?
3. Are you leading your wife in love?
4. Are you united as one flesh?

the value of vulnerability

In his book Lifesigns Henri Nouwen has this to say about the value of vulnerability in relationships:

"only when we dare to lay down our protective shields and trust each other enough to confess our shared weakness and need can we live a fruitful life together."

My friend Erin posted this on her blog yesterday and it fits in nicely with the above Nouwen quote. This is from C.S. Lewis:

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one..."

To read the rest of the quote, click here.

the sky is falling, maybe

In a couple weeks I am going to be preaching a message on fear, specifically dealing with the anxiety and worry people have about our current world condition. The recent hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorism, and world conflicts have many people (esp. Christians) wondering, "Is the world coming to an end?"

There is an interesting post on Seth Godin's blog that says maybe everything isn't quite as bad as we think. Seth comments on the effect that instant media and news has on people's physce and perception.

Today's Globe & Mail reports that over the last 12 years, the number of armed conflicts in the world has gone down by 40% and the number of extremely deadly conflicts (more than 1,000 battle-related deaths) is down by more than 80%...

So, what's going on? Why is everyone so tense?

Today, bad news anywhere in the world shows up in your browser in seconds. Second, there are people making a full time living (and increasing their power) by scaring us (and no…

date night with my daughter

I had a sweet night tonight with my 10 month old daughter Isabelle. Stephanie was hosting a women's party at our home and I had to hit the road, so I packed up Izzy and we hit up the outlet mall near our house for our first ever father/daughter date night.

It was so much fun shopping with her. We went to Old Navy, Nautica, Polo, Carter's, Banana Republic, and The Gap. I am going to be such a sucker when she gets older. I will need to make more money.

Here's a rundown of the evenings purchases: some shoes for Stephanie, a pair of pants for Stephanie, two shirts for Stephanie, and a jacket for Izzy. I was searching for a pink dress shirt for myself but came home empty handed. Bummer.

the buzz on megachurch architecture

It is worth the time it takes to read the An Anatomy of Megachurches article and view the accompanying slide shows. What is the responsibility of the church to look architecturally like a traditional church? Are religious symbols, icons and crosses really necessary? Is that what God is after? I'm sure that many people will nod and say Amen, but I'm not so convinced myself.

The desire of congregations to make their place of worship a part of everyday life rather than a place apart is admirable, and one can sympathize with the wish to avoid the traditional ecclesiastical symbols that have been pretty much co-opted by mainstream religions. But having turned their backs on tradition, megachurches need to find appropriate architectural alternatives. Just putting up a sign and a fountain is not enough.

To read the entire article, click here.

o rose, thou art sick

O Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies at night,
In the howling storm,

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy,
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy

- William Blake

dreaming of community

I have had a couple of strange dreams lately.

A few days ago, while I was praying with a group of friends, I got a picture in my mind of a friend and I outside mowing our lawns at the same time (our backyards bumped up into one another). It was just us, pushing the mowers and having a great time doing it.

Then last night I had a dream that started with me standing in our dining room near the screen door. I heard someone calling outside and I looked out the door at a man and his son in the street. When I went outside he introduced himself and said that he heard we were looking to develop some relationships in the neighborhood and that he and his wife would love to have our family over in a couple weeks. Real nice guy.

Weird I know, but just the same, I believe God speaks in dreams and visions now like he did in the time of the Bible so I guess I had better pay attention.

how to keep your pastor

I was reading this morning in BGC World magazine (a denominational publication our church receives) about How to Keep the Pastor You Love. The article begins with some stats from the Fuller Institute of Church Growth that I think are worth noting here:

- 90 percent of pastors work more than 46 hours a week.
- 80 percent believe their ministry negatively affects their family.
- 70 percent have a lower self-esteem now than when they started.
- 40 percent have a serious conflict with a congregant at least once a month.
- 70 percent do not have someone they consider a close friend.

These are some amazing statistics. One source says that as much as 40% of the church's leaders are thinking about bailing out. This would be tragic. The local church is the hope of the world and I believe that its future rests on the shoulders of its leaders. We need to love and support Christian leadership.

Click here to read the rest of the article for some simple and practical things you can do to encourage y…

missional living

I was talking recently with one of my closest friends about how to balance loving those nearest to us with the call of the Gospel to love those far from God. And initially as we talked I was feeling defeated, like this was another one of those spiritual things that really has no good answer.

But as the conversation moved on, we started talking about how God could use our families to work in a common neighborhood. We talking about sharing a yard and building a hockey rink so that neighbors could come over and skate. And about how we could open up basements for hot chocolate after the hockey game. In the summer we could play kickball or go for walks. We could co-host block parties and progressive dinners and Halloween events.

Then the thought hit me, "By living in close proximity together and keeping a missional mind set, we would be setting up our lives in such a way that we would be freed up to love the world in the context of loving each other."

How sweet is that?

Not only …

when God shows up

There is nothing in life as sweet as when God shows up. Not the thrill of jumping from a plane, or scoring the winning goal, of hearing a thunderous applause. Nothing compares to when God shows up. And he's been showing up a lot lately.

- Today at the Quarry we had an awesome service capped by a very generous offering. This is huge because the old bank account had been getting low. We are thankful.

- Yesterday I heard that some very talented musicians may be looking to call the Quarry their home church. This is something to pray for. They would be huge additions to our team.

- At the Willow A2 conference I was reminded how much I love the church and how I want to serve in her for as long as God would allow. I love being a pastor at the Quarry and I am confident that God is continuing to grow and shape me for his greatness.

- God is moving in the hearts and lives of the people at the Quarry. Our 'Be the Revolution' campaign is in full swing. We have commitment Sunday on Octobe…

trying to sell Jesus

Brad Abare over at the Church Marketing Sucks blog posted recently about his experience at the 2005 Catalyst Conference. I thought that his thoughts about the role of marketing in churches were great.

Herein lies the fundamental problem with thought leaders and church leaders today as it relates to church marketing. On one hand, it is correct to say we shouldn't sell Jesus. When I put myself in Womack's shoes, I realize he goes to work every day and figures out how to get people to buy stuff they don't need. This is not what church marketing means! On the other hand, good church marketing and communication is all about telling a story and getting people to listen and respond. If you don't want to call it marketing, then find another word. Until then, church leaders who get better at reaching more people for Christ and making better disciples of Christ will continue to use church marketing as a method for the message.

Read the whole post here.

We must continually find new…

meeting erwin mcmanus

On Thursday I had the priviledge of hearing Erwin McManus speak at the Willow Creek A2 conference. He is the lead pastor of Mosaic church in Los Angeles. During his talk he told a story about when his son was 4 years old. Erwin was tucking him into bed and his son prayed, "Lord make me a leader among men." Amazed, Erwin shared this with his wife who responded, "Of course, that is what he is around all the time, he has simply absorbed that into his own life."

Just typing that makes me emotional. This morning when I told the story to my wife Stephanie I was crying like a baby. I want so badly for my son to pray a prayer like that. I want to model Christ for him and raise him to passionately love and trust God. Not that I want to brainwash or indoctrinate him, but I want to live life and put Jacob in environments where he will meet the living God for himself.

(by the way...I met Erwin today at the Bethel Seminary Transformational Church series. Awesome guy. I chicken…

lunch with Scott Hodge

Yesterday I had the chance to hook up for lunch with fellow blogger and pastor Scott Hodge. Scott is the lead pastor of Orchard Valley Community Church in Aurora, IL. I had a great time talking with him about what God is doing in his church. Scott is a guy who is passionate about opening up the doors of the church to all kinds of people and leading them to experience Christ in all fullness.

Isn't that what it is really all about? The A2 conference was such a reminder to me that when it all comes down to it, all that really matters is knowing Jesus Christ and serving him faithfully as his bride - the Church.

willow creek a2 conference tix

I have 3 tickets available for the Willow Creek A2 Conference this week. I also have a hotel room booked, so if anyone is interested leave me a comment and let me know. I just want them to be used so I will get you a really awesome price. The conference dates are Wed - Fri, Oct. 12-14.

marketing the church

I love marketing and I love church so a blog called Church Marketing Sucks is right up my alley. A couple days ago they had a post called Lingerie, Dodgeball and Golf Bring People to Church that was pretty interesting as it relates to a topic I have been wrestling with.

Does the church really have to work so hard to market its product? Is the life of most Christians really so broke and unattractive that we need the church to sell the Gospel product for us?

I believe that the corporate gathering of God's people for celebration is something that cannot be abandoned. I believe that the church should be relevant, innovative, creative, and excellent in everything that it does. I believe that we should constantly be looking for ways to connect the life-changing message of Jesus Christ to the challenges of people who don't know him. And I believe that corporate church gatherings are one excellent venue to do this.

I also believe in the power of Scripture, the power of prayer, and the p…

pimp my church

I don't know how I came across it, but today I found a blog called Pimp My Church that is pretty cool. Its a blog devoted to talking about things like blogging, podcasting, and God. While I was reading some of the old posts I came across a quote I had to share with you. It comes from Terry Storch and Brain Bailey over at the Blogging Church blog.

Blogging is a revolution in communication, community, and authentic conversation; a revolution that churches cannot afford to ignore.

I am beginning to believe in this digital discipleship thing more and more.

the slide to pride

A fellow blogger wrote this recently: "My heart & mind need always to be strengthened, but rarely my pride."

How true is that, especially for those of us who strive to lead people to where we feel God is calling them. Pride is something that always needs to be guarded against because it has a way of creeping into our lives so quietly, and what starts out as a God-honoring vision can discretely slide into a Self-glorifying ministry initiative.

Most everyone I read in the blogosphere is at Catalyst right now ( - why am I not there...!), and luckily for me they are all blogging about it. Andy Stanley spoke yesterday and one of the points he made was:

Your leadership ability has the potential to take you further than your character can sustain you.

Did you ever think about that? Scary thought. There is a reliance and accompanying humility that is demanded by God of anyone who will do great things for him. And the more His blessing is upon a leader's life and mini…

Mark Batterson is all about digital discipleship and redeeming technology. Check out the new website that was just launched This looks like some pretty sweet stuff.

Ed Young podcast

Josh just posted this over at The Leadership Blog:

It's great to see Ed Young and Fellowship Church get into Podcasting and looks like now offering a free weekly MP3! Click here for the Free Mp3.

I knew about it yesterday when I read the Creative Pastor's blog. This is going to be some sweet teaching for my digital discipleship journey.

catalyst blog reads

The prominence of blogging is becoming a good reason to never attend another church conference. Everyone puts the notes up for you, and then you can stay home, save the money, and watch the NHL season get under way. (Go Leafs Go!)

Here are some people blogging about the Catalyst Conference.

Bob Franquiz
Jason Powell
Mark Batterson
Tony Morgan

passion exemplified

From the journal of a martyred pastor of Zimbabwe...

"I'm part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The dye has been cast, I have stepped over the line. The decision's been made. I'm a disciple of his, and I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure.

I'm done and finished with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living and dwarfed goals. I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don't have to be right or first or recognized or praised or rewarded. I live by faith, lean on Christ's presence, lift by prayer, and labor by Holy Spirit power.

My face is set. My gate is fast, my goal is heaven, my road may be narrow, my way rough, my companions few, but my God is reliable and my mission is clear. I will not be bought, compromised, detoured, lur…

the power of a sanctified imagination

Why is it that when some people sing or prayer or read their Bible they seem so 'close' to God? How come when I do those same things I can feel like I am simply repeating another chorus, talking to myself or just reading black and red words on a white page? Most simply put, why do some people experience God as a reality in their lives (they know him) and others simply take in more of the available information(they know about him)?

Yesterday I was listening to a talk that Greg Boyd gave at a Jesus community called the Upper Room on August 14. You can download it for free by clicking here and searching the 'past series' section.

In the talk Boyd raises the questions above and proposes a solution to them by discussing what A.W. Tozer called 'the sanctified imagination.' Boyd makes the point that as humans we replicate reality on the inside of our mind. This means that we think experientially, we think in pictures. Think of a pink elephant right now. Now do it w…

moving beyond small groups to transformation

Small groups...almost every church is doing them. I have been in one and I have encouraged other people to be in one. But no matter how great the group time, or how good of friends everyone in the group was, there has always seemed to be something missing. Don't get me wrong, I have been with awesome people and studied some great material; I have made friends that I never want to lose. But...

John Ortberg, teaching pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, has a great article out called No More Mr. Nice Group. In the article he outlines 5 practices that take small groups beyond polite 'sharing' to the disciplines that change lives.

1. Confession: remove the masks
2. Application: look into the mirror
3. Accountability: stand on the scale
4. Guidance: follow the map
5. Encouragement: embrace each other

I am all for small groups, but they have to go beyond simply eating and hanging out (throw in a little Bible study and prayer). For small groups to be truly effective people must b…

6 Easy Ways to Grow a Blog

One of the main things I have loved about blogging is networking with other pastors around the US (and world). Blogging is an awesome way to spread ideas and tips for ministry; it is uniting pastors and church leaders from all kinds of churches and denominations.

If you are interested in networking, Josh over at The Leadership Blog had some great stuff to say about growing the popularity of your blog. Check out 6 Easy Steps to Grow a Blog.

I would add a couple things to make this a Top Ten list.

7. Decorate your blog with style.
Make your site attractive to the eye and reader friendly. This means add some photos, some videos, or a nice graphic on the template. It does not mean add pics to every post however. Clean and eye catching is key.

8. Make good blog friends.
Find a way to get on the blogrolls of bigger blogs than your own. (see #6 above)

9. Promote yourself.
Add your blog address to your signature on email and other communication pieces like business cards.

10. Be yourself.
This is a li…

check that off the "life to-do" list

Today I accomplished something that I never thought I would accomplish. I ran the Twin Cities Marathon. It was a really good experience. My goal time was 4:30 and my final time was 4:27. How cool is that? It really wasn't too bad during the race, expect that my feet got real sore (I needed new shoes). You can click here to see the official results.

It is 11:54 pm now and my body is yelling at me "I hate you!" My knees hurt, my feet hurt and my thighs hurt. Going up and down stairs is torturous. But a few days of pain is worth it to be able to say that I actually ran a marathon.

And what was really cool was what happened after. When I got home there were a bunch of my close friends at our house waiting to have a little post-marathon party. It made me feel good to have people think of me like that and to want to celebrate. They even got me an ice cream cake (yum - I love that stuff) that said "Way to go Brenton!" No one had to do that and yet they did. I know …

a final farewell before hell (i mean - the marathon)

It is now 9:40, I should be in bed. But after stuffing myself with all-you-can-eat pasta I have a few final preparations to take care of. Tomorrow I am running my first ever marathon. I can't believe that the day is finally here. Who would have ever thought Brenton Balvin would attempt such a feat?

Hopefully I will be functioning at a high enough level to post my results tomorrow night. My goal time is (if my foot allows me to finish) is 4 hours and 30 minutes. That is a bold goal for me. I am excited and scared and wondering what tomorrow will bring. If you read this before noon on Sunday say a little prayer for me all right? Thanks.

I look forward to telling you how it goes. Peace.