Friday, September 29, 2006

questions about authentic Biblical community

I have questions and I would like to get feedback from anyone who reads this blog. Please leave me a comment or email me if you don't want others reading your thoughts. Here's my questions...
  • Should people have to attend the same church to be in a small group together?
  • What are the potential positives and negatives of small groups being made up of people from different churches?
  • What is gained and what is lost by Christians all going to the same Sunday gatherings?
  • Do you have to attend a Sunday gathering each week with people to be known and loved by them?
  • Can we be intimately involved with people and not sit with them each Sunday?
  • Is Sunday morning really a 'group' worship event or is it really an 'individual' event for large groups of individuals (meaning - is there more than an individual benefit to church attendance on Sundays beyond everyone hearing the same message or announcements)
  • How representative are 'same church only' based small groups of the universal church that will be gathering and worshipping at the throne of Christ someday in heaven?
  • Does a small group cease to be missional if all its people are not going to the same church?
Please respond or add a question. Don't just read this post. Interact with it. Use Scripture where ever possible. Thanks.

Pastors should be blogging

Only 10 percent of churches nationwide have links to or have created their own faith blog, according to Ken Gosnell, a Washington-based pastor and lecturer who is writing a book on church blogging. - "Local pastors tentative about blogging" (read the entire article here)
It seems like many pastors don't take blogging very seriously as a form of communication or teaching. I would disagree with that ideology. I think blogs have tremendous potential for the people in and on the fringe of our churches, but we have to lead them into discovering that potential.

In my local community blogging is not the phenomenon that it is in other places but that doesn't mean it is of no value. The fact that almost all of the middle school and high school students use and, should make it essential for youth pastors to have great websites and blogs. And, while on the whole, adults here are not as computer literate or savvy as their kids, we shouldn't write them off. We have to educate our people on what a blog is and why reading ours would be beneficial to them. And then we need to say it and point people there over and over again.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Desiring God Conference

I would really like to get over to the Desiring God Conference this weekend and listen to Timothy Keller, Mark Driscoll and John Piper. The problem is that it is sold out.

Does anybody know anyone with extra tickets?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Check out the article I wrote for the latest Prodigal Son magazine. It's a short feature called Rumors. You can read it by clicking here. I'd love to hear your feedback. Peace.

The relationship between Terrel Owens, Jesus and You and Me

I read this headline today and it didn't surpise me but I was saddened by it: Police report: Owens hospitalized after suicide attempt

Terrell Owens is one of the most dramatic, talented and out-spoken players in the NFL. The size, speed and skill he brings to the WR position is almost unmatched by anybody else in the league today. His flamboyance and antics make him exciting, surprising and unpredictable; he is not only a remarkable talented athlete but a gifted entertainer as well.

The problem is that T.O. is always trying to gain others approval by making himself look special. He has no inner confidence. It is my belief (which may or may not be confirmed by the headline above) that all his showmanship is an attempt to avoid feeling alone or empty. At the core of who he is -when he is off the field and out of the public eye - deep down at the soul level, T.O. is longing for something that fame and fortune can never provide. He needs Jesus Christ and he needs to come to grips with the person he is in God's eyes rather than in the world's. Until he does that, no contract or football game or anything will bring him the kind of satisfaction that he is seeking.

In many ways T.O. is a lot like me and you. We don't have the platform or the money or the physical skills that he has, but we are all seeking fulfillment in something. And if we want to be whole we have to seek Jesus, nothing else will ever be enough.

*Update: T.O. says he wasn't attemting suicide but that he was having a reaction with his pain meds and the supplements he takes. Maybe...but maybe not.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

remembering Grandma

Today I had the privilege of sharing a few words at my grandma's funeral. She was a wonderful Christian woman who overflowed with the love of Jesus in everything she did. It was a blessing to me to hear the stories of others in the room who knew and loved my grandma. She touched many lives and represented Jesus well during her time on earth. Thank you for your prayers.

If you would like to read what I spoke I'd be happy to email you a copy of the text. Please contact me by email at brentonbalvin(at)hotmail(dot)com.

Torii Hunter, the Twins and baseball

Sure he takes some wild crazy swings that leave the fans saying, "What in the world was he thinking!"

But check out these stats of Torii Hunter...
Torii Hunter hit another home run Monday, giving him 15 in his last 36 games, since Aug. 18 and 30 on the season, a personal record. Apparently inside the dome, when it rains, it pours. Hunter joins Justin Morneau (who hit his 34th later Monday) as Twins players with at least 30 homers this year. Before this, the Twins had not had a player with at least 30 home runs since 1987, when Gary Gaetti, Tom Brunansky and Kent Hrbek all did it. The only team that has not had a pair of 30-homer players since the Twins last did it is the Royals, who last did it in 1985 (George Brett and Steve Balboni).

The only major league player with as many home runs as Hunter since Aug. 18 is Ryan Howard who has 16. No one else has more than 13 over that time. - from ESPN

This has been one of the most exciting baseball/Twins seasons that I can remember. Four months ago everyone was riding the Twins off and debating whether to trade Hunter and start rebuilding the club. Now we're headed to the play-offs. Sweet!

Monday, September 25, 2006

come on' think about others please

The restaurant I manage closes at 10 pm. A family if 3 came in at 9:35 pm, stayed and ate, and now they just left. Its 10:21 pm. All I want to do is leave and go home to see my wife. Now I'm twenty five minutes late on our movie date. When you go out to eat, please think about the people working. If you get to a place towards closing time, that's fine, just be courteous and don't slow poke around when there are clear indication that the place is closing. That's all. Just think about somebody else for a couple minutes. Thanks.

Thomas Kelly on evangelism

Too long we have supposed that we must carry the banner of religion, that is was our concern. But religion is not our concern; it is God's concern. Our task is to call people to "be still, and know that I am God," to hearken to that of God within them, to invite, to unclasp the clenched fists of self-resolution, to be pliant in His firm guidance, sensitive to the inflections of the inner voice.

- Thomas Kelly, August 1938, from 'Excerpts from the Richard Cary Lecture' in The Eternal Promise

one reason I like blogs

Blogging has provided new avenues for companies and consumers to communicate. Today I got this comment on a post I wrote a couple weeks ago:

Hey, thanks for linking to our client, Crossings Church! If you ever need web or print design yourself, check us out at

I went to the Vale Studios website and I liked it. I especially liked the fact that they've included some quotes on their homepage that have been gathered from around the blog-o-sphere regarding their design work. It is cool to see a company grow and get noticed on the free word of mouth marketing that blogging provides. It is also cool that Vale Studios is reading blogs and thanking people for the pub, as well as returning the favor by promoting those blogs on their homepage.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Of compunction of heart

Earlier this year I was really enjoying Thomas `a Kempis' book, The Imitation of Christ. I was using it as a devotional guide and reading one short section a day but for whatever reason I had gotten away from the book. I picked it up again last night and read an amazing section called 'Of Compunction of Heart.' Here is a sampling:
Compunction opens to the sight of the soul many good things which frivolity of heart and idle mirth soon drive away. It is a marvel how any man can be merry in this life if he considers well how far he is in exile out of his own country, and in how great peril his soul stands daily. But because of frivolity of heart and carelessness, we do not feel and we will not feel the sorrow of our own soul, and oftentimes we laugh when we ought rather to mourn, for there is no perfect liberty or true joy except in the fear of God, and in a good conscience.
I guess we need to start with a few definitions before we can completely grasp what Thomas is saying -

compunction: anxiety arising from awareness of guilt
frivolity: of little weight or importance; lacking in seriousness
mirth: gladness or gaiety as shown by or accompanied with laughter
liberty: the quality or state of being free

Compunction opens to the sight of the soul many good things which frivolity of heart and idle mirth soon drive away.

There is great benefit to be found in slowing down enough to ponder the sinful state of our souls and to acknowledge how wretched we truly are. Many people avoid this looking into their darker parts, but we must realize that only when we acknowledge and accept these parts does the light of Jesus shine bright in our hearts. The reason this is such a difficult task is because we are so consumed with temporal pleasures and concerns. We medicate our hearts with simple things that make us happy rather than working through the depths to find true happiness. Unless we ruthlessly pursue compunction we with continue to live deceived, thinking we are happy when really we are just distracted.

It is a marvel how any man can be merry in this life if he considers well how far he is in exile out of his own country, and in how great peril his soul stands daily.

Thomas is here referencing the Christian's citizenship in a heavenly Kingdom which transcends his citizenship in this temporary earthly one. Without Jesus and his lighting up of our souls we would be in deep trouble, separated from the God who gives lasting life. When we are consumed with frivolous things we forget that without God's saving work would we be exiled from His kingdom eternally and that we would stand in condemnation before His holiness. Reflecting on these facts should, at least occasionally, cause a person to reconsider what is making them happy.

But because of frivolity of heart and carelessness, we do not feel and we will not feel the sorrow of our own soul, and oftentimes we laugh when we ought rather to mourn,

This is explained in my previous statements above.

for there is no perfect liberty or true joy except in the fear of God, and in a good conscience.

The place in which one finds true freedom and joy is in the place of desperate humility and dependence and thankfulness to God. Only when we live with our souls prostrated before the cross of Christ and when we walk in happy and faithful obedience to God will we experience the freedom and joy of Cod.

Catalyst Monthly. Andy Stanley and One Point Preaching

If you work in church ministry and you don't get the Catalyst Monthly then all I can say is, "You are missing out!" Each month you get helpful and insightful short articles written by some of today's most innovative and well-known pastors and leaders delivered right to your inbox.

Here are some highlights from Andy Stanley's latest article: Power in the Punch Line.
What could most preachers do to make their sermons more powerful?
Teach less material at greater depth. Less is more. Instead of leaving listeners with a list of five things to remember-which they won't-plant one powerful thought. Most communicators make the same mistake: they have too much stuff. They miss their moment.

Why do preachers "miss their moment?"
Preachers prepare with this fear: Am I going to be able to fill the time? The audience never worries about that. But every preacher sits down and thinks, Here's this great idea, but I have to fill 35 minutes.

I say to the preachers I mentor, "You've got to get that fear out of your mind, because it will drive you to over-prepare. It will drive you to have four points when you should have just one."

When you're preparing, how do you recognize that punch line?
I look for it. As I study I ask myself, "So what? What's the point? What's the takeaway?"

When I build a sermon, I clear away everything, no matter how good it is, that adds or distracts from that one point. Then I crescendo to it. Preparation isn't about finding a way to divulge everything I know, but about asking myself, "What's the thing, Andy? Just say the one thing, and then stop your mouth from moving.
For those of you who don't preach but who listen to it each week...
- How long do you thing a pastor should speak?
- Do you like multiple point sermons or would you prefer just one point?
- Do you take any notes during a message to remember it by?

John Piper on abortion

This quote is from a passionately written letter that John Piper sent in 1995 to the editors of my hometown newspaper The Star Tribune.
Now that is news and calls for profound reflection. Instead, your lead editorial the morning after (Feb. 26) glossed over this critical issue and endorsed abortion because it is "one of the most personal decisions a woman can make" and because "the abortion decision is undeniably sensitive." This level of reflection is unworthy of major editorials in good newspapers.

I assume you mean by "personal decision" not: having deep personal implications; but: having deep personal implications for only one person, the mother.

But abortion is emphatically not a "personal" decision in that limited sense. There is another person, namely, the unborn child. If you deny this, you must give an account of what that little preemie is at Abbot Northwestern. Abortion is a decision about competing human rights: the right not to be pregnant and the right not to be killed.
To read the letter in its entirety, click here.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Toys, Food, ER and The Office

I had a great night yesterday with my family.

Stephanie had a Tupperware party so it was me and the three little ones for a few hours. We had a good time playing, wrestling, watching 101 Dalmatians, doing some laundry, throwing and then picking up toys, and eating sandwiches at 8:30 pm (PB&J for Izzy, Ham & Cheese for Jacob).

Then once the older two were asleep I started watching ER. Stephanie and I used to watch it every week. I forgot what an intense show it can be. There were some very emotional themes going. Some parts of the show had me in tears and other parts had me feeling sick.

The highlight of the night was watching The Office with Stephanie. In my opinion The Office is the funniest show on TV right now. I can't help cracking up and all the stupid things that come out of Michael's mouth. Plus the intensity and insanity of Dwight (who has a blog on and the relationship between Jim and Pam all make the show hilarious.

Something makes me think it wouldn't be half as funny watching it by myself. Stephanie and I haven't watched too much TV together in the last couple years but I think we should do it more often.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

get deep and step up men

As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. - 1 Corinthians 14:33-35
This text has been debated over and over again by many pastors, theologians, lay persons, bloggers and just about everyone else. I don't want to spend the time now discussing the complete hermeneutics (current day application) of the text, but rather, I want to highlight something that I think is very important. It comes from this line in the passage:

If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home;

One of the things that has bothered me recently about the topically-driven preaching of many seeker-based church models is a lack of deep theological understanding and roots in the lives of people who attend. I know that this is a broad generalization but I'm willing to write it based on the fact that I listen to quite a bit of preaching from these kinds of churches (right now I have at least 15 different podcasts that I listen to while I drive).

"Why is this a big deal?" you might ask.

It would seem like getting people in the door and introducing them to Jesus is all that really matters, and on one level that is true. I am all for more people hearing about Jesus and making Him the Lord, Savior and Treasure of their lives. But we get into trouble when the only consistent teaching our people hear is on marriage, and parenting, and dating. When all our sermons consist of 'Steps to this and that' our people simply end up living in the shallow end of the pool for Jesus.

Let's be honest, most people don't have large libraries filled with commentaries and Bible dictionaries to help them understand the different nuances and genres and complexities of the Bible. In fact, the only thing in most libraries is DVD's of last seasons Lost episodes, the DaVinci Code, and the South Beach Diet book. Therefore, most men have no leg to stand on when their wife comes to them with a question. And the same is true when their kids need something.

Far too many men are ill-equipped to lead their families in theological and spiritual truths because they simply don't do the study and prayer and reading themselves. Plus, their church is not offering them any sort of challenge of in-depth teaching. So, we have churches filled with men who like, and actually probably love Jesus, but don't know much about Him, and would have a real hard time teaching anybody else about him. We also end up with women who are dependant upon women's ministry Bible studies for their theological training instead of the person God ordained to guide them - their husband.

Men, we have to step it up and lead our families. And we can't just use our churches as the excuse. We have to watch less TV and read more deeply. We have to find a way to listen to Godly, spiritually gifted teachers of the Bible. We have to take control of our homes and love and lead our lives as Christ loved the church, regardless of the cost to ourselves, remembering that Jesus gave up His life for His bride all the while knowing that she would continually rebel against his sacrifice.

Jesus, fairies, and rich dudes

“I love the statement by G.K. Chesterton who said that we could have a really good argument over whether or not Jesus believed in fairies. But we cannot have any debate over whether or not Jesus believed rich people were in big trouble. There’s just too much evidence that he did.”

-Will Willimon, bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

prayer requests

I need a few folks in the blog world to throw up a few prayers for my family right now.

My cousin's wife is in the hospital (and has been for a couple days now) getting some tests done to figure out what caused the multiple mini-strokes she suffered last week. She is young and has a two elementary kids at home. My cousin owns his own mechanical business and they have no health insurance so every day, medicine, and test she has done adds up for them. Please pray for wisdom and revelation for the doctors, a financial miracle for the family, healing for my cousin's wife, and the hope that all of this would draw the family closer to Christ.

Also, my grandmother's doctor told my mom yesterday that my grandma probably doesn't have too many more days left. She has been suffering increasing from dementia over the last 3 years and we are happy that Jesus may be taking her home soon, but it is still a difficult time for my grandpa, mom, uncle and the extended family as they face saying goodbye to someone they have loved so much and for so long. Please pray for an easy passing for my grandma and for the comfort for those she leaves behind.

*Update: My Dad called me today about 2:30 pm and told me that my grandma had died. I don't have many details right now, but thanks for your continued prayers.

Tiger Woods, pornography and the Ryder Cup

Tiger Woods is good enough when he's happy with life. I don't think giving him a reason to get all fired up to make a statement right before the 2006 Ryder Cup bodes very well for the European Team's chances. Yet that is what an Irish magazine and tabloid did by releasing an article that links Tiger's wife to several pornographic Internet sites.
"My wife, yes, she has been a model prior, and she did do some bikini photos," Woods said. "But to link her to porn Web sites and such is unacceptable, and I no not accept that at all. Neither does our team."
Even though Tiger is a bit redundant in his comment (and ESPN didn't spell check their quote very well) you can read the rest of the short story here.

17 tips for self-employed folks

Kevin has linked to a list of 17 Tips for Self-Employed folks. The guy who created the list has been a freelance illustrator but the tips can be applied across a wide range of disciplines.

Monday, September 18, 2006

rick warren emailed me

Since Mark Batterson posted the content of a Rick Warren email on his blog, I sort of feel like Rick wrote to me as well. Rather than me sharing all the details, here's Mark's version of what he said...
Rick shared some encouraging words and a really cool idea that got me thinking. Saddleback has always pushed the technological envelope. But I didn't know that they give all of their new employees an iPod--standard issue. How cool is that? Makes you want to apply for a job doesn't it :) And they do their staff training via podcast!

Granted, most of us don't have hundreds of staff members. But I love the way Saddleback continues to push the envelope despite their size!
In a small church it is always difficult to get volunteer leaders together for meetings. It seems like there is always a conflict or something else that comes up in people's lives. Often these are people who are every important servants and leaders in the church, but they are also very busy with things in other places.

Giving people a CD, or putting together a leadership podcast, is a great way to continue building into and training your key volunteers leaders without asking them to give even more of their time. This way people can download training and listen to it while they work out, or drive, or sit around the house playing with their kids. Heck they could even have it playing while they take a shower.

Plus something like a podcast would be a chance for people on the edge to check out service opportunities and be trained before they are ever even committed. It also makes all your training available to people who come on board later in the game and need to get caught up to speed.

can I please brag on God's goodness

Last week Stephanie and I decided to send some friends of ours a little gift. God had recently blessed us and we wanted to be conduits of that blessing to others rather than reservoirs for ourselves. So (and I only write the amount to show how cool God is) we sent our friends what we hoped would be a little $100 blessing.

Well, while I was working tonight Stephanie called me. She and the kids had just been eating at my restaurant and she said that when she got home there was a Cub Foods gift card for groceries on our counter; she wanted to know if I had cleaned out my wallet and left it there. I hadn't, which means that while she was gone someone went into our house, and instead of stealing something, they left something.

The most amazing part of the story - what they left us - a little $100 blessing.

2006-2007 NHL season begins

Last night the NHL kicked off its exhibition season. Just thinking about hockey gets me all jacked up! Hockey is my favorite sport (with golf running a close second and everything else sorting itself out somewhere in the distance).

There have been some great trades over the summer that should make the league more even and more exciting. I can't wait to watch the growth of last season rookies and the addition of some future stars to the league; not to mention that coaches have had a full year to transition their styles and teams to take advantage of the 2005-06 season's rule changes.

I love the fast-paced, hard hitting, skilled play of the NHL. I love the frantic play of teams trying to get a goal in the last two minutes of close games instead of calling seemingly unending time-outs, players intentionally getting fouled and shooting baskets by themselves, or quarterbacks just kneeling down and letting time run off the clock. I love that the league allows players to police the game themselves through fighting - save your comments I know this is abused sometimes by idiot moves like Todd Bertuzzi pulled a couple years ago. I love the drama of a one-on-one penalty shot and the amazing ability players have to shot the puck into tiny corners of the net.

I know that hockey is not the most popular sport and I'm not ignorant enough to waste time arguing that it is the best sport. But for me it is and that's all that really matters. I love the NHL!

Go Leafs go!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

7 times when pastors are at their best

I read this over on the Leadership Journal blog. Jim Martin writes about what pastors and those in ministry look like when they are at their best.

I honestly believe most preachers, pastors, ministers, and church leaders in general want to do what is right. We get bogged down in systems and models of ministry that are choking the life out of the body of Christ. It might be helpful if we think about preachers, pastors, ministers, and church leaders the way they were meant to be. I want to refer to all of these roles as “Jesus leaders.” So, what were Jesus leaders meant to be?

(You may recognize these as Matthew 23 in reverse.)

  1. We are at our best when we practice what we preach.
  2. We are at our best when Jesus – rather than our own ego – is front and center.
  3. We are at our best when we help move men and women toward the kingdom of heaven.
  4. We are at our best when men and women in the community can really be better off because of our ministry.
  5. We are at our best when the people in our church can trust our integrity.
  6. We are at our best when we, as leaders, stay focused on what is most important.
  7. We are at our best when through our ministry the hearts and lives of the people are changing.

it is just not fair

15-30 minutes: the time it takes me to clean up one room of the kids toys/ books/ animals/ and sports stuff

0-25 secs: the time it takes the kids to destroy all of my hard work

a quote and some recommended books on preaching

In his book, Pastoral Theology (1877), nineteenth century Princeton Theological Seminary graduate and Presbyterian minister Thomas Murphey wrote,

There is one counsel concerning the work of sermonizing so important and so comprehensive that it should not be omitted in a treatise on the general subject of pastoral theology.

The one advice which we would give to ministers here is, to aim at doing the very best in each sermon. It is easy to get into the habit of slighting work here - of feeling that the present is not a subject of sufficient importance to call forth all one’s strength - to yield to a sense of lassitude and haste for this once - to put off full the exertion of full effort to some other and more important occasion. Against all this we would very earnestly advise. The aim should be to do the very best that is in one’s power on the particular sermon that is now on hand. The strength should not be reserved for another time; the best should be done now…

As a motive to this it should be remembered that peaching is the ministers first and greatest duty. It was not to baptize or to wait upon tables that the Apostle Paul felt himself called, but he felt that a woe was hanging over him if he did not preach the gospel. It is the same with all ministers who have much of Paul’s spirit. They may slight anything, they may slight everything else, but they cannot slight the sermon.

Relevant Reads:

Pastoral Theology, Thomas Murphey
The Reformed Pastor, Richard Baxter
The Christian Ministry, Charles Bridges
Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, John Piper
The Radical Reformission, Mark Driscoll
Christ Centered Preaching, Bryan Chapell
The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text, Sidney Greidanus

link and original post: Joe Thorn

some good questions

Here is Joe Thorn's response to an article he posted earlier on his blog. Thorn asks some very good, pointed questions...

I imagine Sjogren would agree with this, but his encouragement to primarily rely on the words of others, not for understanding, but even in communicating, seems to miss the real power and effectiveness behind preaching. How does this not imply that God cannot use the common man? How does this not undermine one’s confidence in the word while calling us to trust in lofty speech and the wisdom of men?

Should we conclude that the “ministry of the word” to which we must devote ourselves does not involve real study, but primarily the use of a script? Where does the passion of a preacher come from if his messages are not his own? Are we to expect that what God is teaching Rick Warren and those at his church is the same thing he wants to teach our church 2000 miles away in a completely different context? How does this not encourage laziness? How does this not discourage the young preacher whose gifts are still developing? And if one does opt to use another’s sermons, wouldn’t this retard his own development? Wouldn’t this eventually rob the church even of those men we are all supposed to be imitating?

...People want to hear preachers who have something to say and believe what they say. We need experientially targeted, theologically established, words of grace to emanate from our pulpits that exalt Christ, and in doing so showing the way of redeemed humanity. We need men who are earnest in the pulpit, who love their people, who proclaim law and Gospel, who call us to repentance, who draw our hearts and minds to God in doxology. And I believe the path to such a place is walked as preachers spend time in the word, in the study, on their knees.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Top Ten Ways to Redeem Technology

Top Ten Ways to Redeem Technology (taken from Mark Batterson)

1) Start blogging
2) Start podcasting your sermons
3) Communicate with your congregation via e-newsletter
4) Redesign your webpage all the time
5) Shoot, Edit, and Produce video trailers for your sermon series
6) Launch a leaders-only podcast for vision casting and leader training
7) Send out an email version of your messages
8) Do word of mouse marketing via evites
9) Brand all of your sermon series with series graphics
10) If all else fails, hire a Digital Pastor

your family is your primary ministry

Thanks for reminding us all Ben.

Mark Driscoll pointed out an LA Times story on the broken relationship and discongruous theological views of Chuck Smith [founder of the Calvary Chapel movement]... and his son. The key line in this article:

"To his older son, he was more elusive: "He wasn't present emotionally, even if he was present physically. To hear him speak, you just get the impression this is such a warm and intimate person, but the closer you got to him, the more you'd realize he really didn't have those intimacy skills."

I'm not trying to point out flaws... just cautioning other pastors and church planters to put their kids before their ministries.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

brand spanking new church

Here is a cool website that a church planter is using in Glen Allen, VA. Very original and Brank Spanking New.

pastors please weigh in!

I know there are a few other pastors who read this blog. I would love to get your comments on the Al Mohler article post and on the Steve Sjogren article post. Thanks for sharing guys.

*Of course I always welcome the input of anyone, but I am particularly interested to hear how other guys in the pulpit feel about these issues

passing on the blessing

I'm a big Genesis 12:1-3 guy. I believe that God blesses us so that we can turn around and bless others. Over last couple weeks my family has been extremely blessed by others, so when I heard that someone we know well had a need I was excited to share with them. Ed Young Jr. (I think) talks about being a conduit of God's blessings and not a reservoir. I love that picture.

What we had to give wasn't much, but it was given out of joy and the blessings that God had brought to us. So, somebody we love is going to receive a small treat soon - they might even be someone who reads this - who knows?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

4 Tips for preaching from a colored manuscript

Dave Stone offers 4 benefits of using colored highlighters to mark up your preaching manuscript:

1. Improve eye contact. I select key words throughout the manuscript to help guide me as I tell the story. I highlight them in orange. This allows me to glance at my notes for shorter periods of time, which enhances my eye contact with the congregation and increases the impact of what I'm sharing.

2. Find your next point quickly. If you're accustomed to reading your outline or manuscript a couple of times before you deliver your sermon, then the colors will help you even more. Your eyes won't need to frantically scour the page in search of your next phrase. You will know where to look.

3. Be more persuasive. Think of it this way: Why don't you like to change Bibles every five years? That answer is simple: You've learned where certain verses are on certain pages, so your eye naturally looks there. In the same way, you can learn to associate colors with their placement on the page and what they represent. The less attention your notes require, the more persuasive you can be.

4. Present a balanced message. At times, highlighting has helped me to see whether or not my material is balanced. Too much pink and very little blue informs me that I've skimped on Scripture; I have an entertaining speech instead of a sermon. (The colors can also help in editing. If I have two stories that illustrate the same point, and they are in the same color, it may cause me to consider dropping the weaker of the two.)

plagiarism in the pulpit

Joe Thorn put up the link to a disturbing piece of work by Steve Sjogren. He is a pastor in Cincinnati and the title of his article is Don’t be original – be effective!.*

The main point of the article is that pastors are spending too much time studying, praying and meditating in the production of crappy sermons. To be fair, he doesn't use the word crappy, but he does say,

Think about it for a second: If you really were giving a killer message each week, would your church be the size that it is right now? Maybe you need to be open to doing things a different way."

First of all, is giving a 'killer message' the ultimate goal in preaching? How do you give a killer message when teaching your people about suffering or the reality of what Jesus felt on the cross? Sermons on these subjects are not the kind of talks where people leave thinking 'Wow that preacher was amazing." And yet they must be taught.

In regards to a pastor's preparation to teach the Word of God Sjogren advises,

"First of all, stop all of this nonsense of spending 25 or 30 hours a week preparing to speak on the weekend."

Rather than spending time in prayer and asking God to reveal the truth of Biblical texts, a pastor should just search the web and find someone else's sermon on a topic or text. That cuts the message prep time way down.

But why would we not want to be original and speak God's fresh words to our people? Well, because, as Sjogren so intelligently tells us,

"[We need to get over the idea that we have to be completely original with our messages, each and every week.] In my mind there is a tremendous amount of pride (let's call it what it is) when we insist on being completely original as communicators."

We should steal, and copy and plagiarize other pastors material because if we think God would give us revelation and community/congregationally specific words we are flat out arrogant. To think that God would want me to say something other than what he has already given Rick Warren or Andy Stanley to say is prideful.

Come on you really buy what you're writing here, or maybe you bought this piece from someone else and you're just passing it off as your work? You wouldn't want to be prideful would you?

*For an opposing viewpoint read Ray Van Neste's response

excuse me, do you have any crayons?

Yesterday as I was walking to the bathroom (which I do all the time because of the free fountain pop I drink all day) I overheard a woman ask one of my 'cashier kids' for some crayons. We don't have any to give and so the boy simply said, "We don't have any" and then he walked away from the counter and the woman went back to her table. I was so upset about the interchange that I decided to hold it and go talk to my employee.

Here's the deal: the woman needed the crayons to occupy a small child. I want my employees to recognize the totality of the situation and then do whatever they can to meet the customer's need. In this case, the cashier could have offered her a child toy (from our kid's meals) or at least a pen or marker from the back. Unfortunately he did nothing and just walked away. That is not an appropriate or acceptable customer service attitude.

I wondered as I drove home - how often do I go out of the way to make my wife's live better? Or my kids? Or the people who visit my church? Or simply just the people I pass on the street, at the grocery store or in the bank line? I need to be more aware that I am constantly in the customer service business for Jesus and that every interaction I have with another person is a chance to lift his reputation up or to knock it down.

Be on the lookout today for the totality of someone else's situation and then serve them well in the name and spirit of Jesus.

iTunes 7.0

I just downloaded and installed the newest version of iTunes. After using it for just a couple minutes I already love it. It looks very clean and crisp. The new features are easy to use and they have added some really cool things like iPod Summary and iPod Games (hopefully when my wife sees these she will be more willing to spring for a 30 GB video iPod).

If you are an iTunes user make sure you take a look at the overview and then get iTunes 7.0 right away.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

the power of the spoken Word of God

In an age where 'creative communication' is dubbed a spiritual gift despite it not being listed anywhere in the NT, I am sure that many people will disagree with this paragraph (especially the last sentence).

"Since preaching is itself a form of 'mental transport,' any loss of confidence in the word leads to a loss of confidence in preaching. Ultimately, preaching will cease to be Christian preaching if the preacher loses confidence in the authority of the Bible as the Word of God and in the power of the spoken word to communicate the saving and transforming message of the Bible. The preacher must stand up and speak with confidence, declaring the Word of God to a congregation that is bombarded with hundreds of thousands of words each week, many of them delivered with a soundtrack or moving images. The audacious claim of Christian preaching is that the faithful declaration of the Word of God, spoken through the preacher's voice, is even more powerful than anything music or image can deliver."

R. Albert Mohler - Online Commentary Aug. 28

my opinion on video venues

I have posted a couple things recently by different guys but I wanted to put in my own two cents on the subject of video venues and mega-churches (whom I include here because vide venues seem to be the route that many large churches are headed).

On one level I have no problem with big churches or video venues. I think that the existence of both offer tremendous opportunities for the spread of the Gospel and the edification of the already convinced. Large churches have the budgets to start and fund many ministry initiatives that smaller churches cannot do. This is important because when small churches feel like they have to do many things, they often get off mission and end up doing nothing well. Small churches should find the one or two things they can do well and they should camp there in excellence until God moves them forward.

I think video venues are good too. It is wrong for Christians to bash pastors who have a large following based on their speaking ability. Jesus himself said that some people are given different talents and they are expected to exercise those talents in the measure they have been given them. No teacher should have to apologize for having too many people listen. Remember Jesus teaching 5,000 people on a hill, sounds like a mega-church gathering to me (plus that number likely only accounts for the men in the crowd and not the large number of women and children in attendance as well). It is also clear from many of the NT epistles that Paul and other NT teachers had distinct followings. The problem is when preachers and/or people make the messenger more valued and loved than the message. Jesus was willing to lose large numbers of of followers in order to preserve the truth. Paul rebuked the Corinthians for fighting about who was a better preacher (Paul or Peter or Apollos or Christ), rather than clinging to the cross.

Video venues open up multiple other opportunities for followers of Jesus to discover and exercise their spiritual gifts. Opening another campus means the need for tech people, music people, admin people, prayer people, greeting people, ushering people, etc. expands greatly. Video campuses are like church plants in that they make the church present and alive in a specific community, instead of making the people come to another city. I think that churches with ongoing, functioning, multiple campuses - who use video for teaching purposes - is much more effective than simply putting up a video once a week and then retreating back to the home base the rest of the week.

One of the concerns I have for video venues is that they could potentially limit the development of other teachers. However, I think this can be remedied by churches creating other teaching venues outside the weekend gathering. Secondly, I believe that everything should be done in excellence and so the weekend stage may not be the best place to develop a teaching gift anyway.

There's a few thoughts anyway...

on the homefront

- Over the last couple days I have been forced to refer to my son primarily as 'the puppy.' This means I say, "Does the puppy want to play?" "Puppy, get in your chair." "The puppy is going to have to go to his room if he keeps barking at the table."

- Andrew is getting bigger ever day. His favorite activities include being held, nursing, being held, pooping, and being held. I can think of few better ways to fall asleep than watching the Colts win while my Sonic-like newborn sleeps in a curled ball in my chest.

- Isabelle has been waking up lately by crawling on all fours, putting her head about 3 inches from my face and saying (in the cutest/highest little voice), "Daddy?" Like a scratched record she will continue saying it until I open my eyes and acknowledge her with a kiss. It is so beautiful. I just wish it was at 8 am and not 6:45 am.

- The best way to describe Stephanie's life right now is the word - chaos. Thank you to all who have called, stopped over, brought meals and clothes, and prayed for us. Transitioning from 2 - 3 kids is difficult for anyone, but when your oldest just turned three it seems like the house is a perpetual mess and the noise level never stops increasing.

Monday, September 11, 2006

remembering 9/11

The first time I heard about the events of 9/11 was when I was going to class during my senior year at Bethel. My future wife Stephanie called me while I was driving over and told me some of what was happening. I remember getting to school and trying to locate a TV. Then, when I found out that classes were cancelled, I drove right back to my apartment to watch the coverage. There were all kinds of thoughts running through my head that day - what is going on? Are we safe? Is there going to be war? Is this the end times? Then, over the next few months, life sort of got back to normal.

I would love to hear some of your stories. What were you doing when you first found out?

*Also, do you know of anyone who posted a blog on that day? With all the news stations re-running coverage, I would like to read some of the very first blog posts about the events. Leave me a link in the comments. Thanks.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

something I invite mega-church leaders to think about and respond to

“Why is it that pastors of large churches are more willing to build bigger buildings than empower a group of forty to fifty people to plant another living body of Christ? If indeed the facts are true that the greatest conversion growth occurs in churches when they grow from fifty to two hundred people, why is it that we insist on building bigger churches after they have reached one thousand?"
- David Finch, author of The Great Give-Away

sermon cloud

I've been seeing mention of the website pop up more and more around the blog-o-sphere. Upon checking it out I'm not that impressed yet but the potential for the idea seems great. Here's some info...

Sermon Cloud is a website for a community to interact with sermons. What are the powerful sermons people are listening to? Who are the up-and-coming preachers of the day? Where are the messages about themes that you need to hear? How can you find a great preacher in your home town? Sermon Cloud was designed to help you with all of these questions. Sermon Cloud users help let each other know which sermons they amen. An 'amen' is a recommendation of the sermon. Users can post comments about their interaction with these sermons (even the comments can be designated as helpful or unhelpful). Sign-up for free to begin interacting, commenting and recommending sermons

For Churches and Preachers: Sermon Cloud offers churches FREE Advanced Sermon Syndication & mp3 services. Are you interested in podcasting, syndicating and using all the other 'Web 2.0' buzzwords for your church? Sermon Cloud Features include Resampling mp3's to be optimized for the internet, Syndicating content (Integrating directly into iTunes store, syndicating through RSS feeds.), Displaying recent sermons on your church website, Podcasting mp3, Sermon Streaming capability in our Jukebox player, Tagging System, Commenting on sermons, Community recommending sermons, Searching for sermons and more...

are multi-site churches acting as 'all things to all people?'

Mark Driscoll says,

I'm looking forward to speaking about what we are learning at Mars Hill and focusing on what it means to follow Paul's command in 1 Corinthians 9:22–23, "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel." Sadly, with the missional conversation often turning toward authentic community, the focus of using every possible means provided in culture for the gospel to reach as many people as possible is getting lost. It is as if the thought of thousands of people getting saved is a bad thing because it results in a megachurch without enough seats for all the people, as if the goal of ministry was to connect fewer people to Jesus. In saying this I am not defending megachurches in general, but am arguing that it is possible to be urban and evangelical, emerging and mega, authentic and video, evangelistic and reformed - because, in the missional world, "by all possible means" is to be taken literally.

What do you think?

*Check out the email Mark received and his reply underneath his post.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

a wedding and a shadow of what is to come

Today I had the privilege of officiating the wedding of a woman I met a year ago. Last summer our teaching team was preaching through a series that focused on the metaphors Jesus used in the Gospels to describe himself. Taking a page out of the Rob Bell playbook, our creative team wanted to bring a sheep on stage for the message 'Jesus the Good Shepherd.' Eventually, after a few phone calls and requests with different people in our town I was connected with a woman who was kind enough to let us borrow her sheep named Jellybean. Then, primarily through blogging and email, that woman and Stephanie and I kept in touch.

The wedding was very unique and very nice. Unique because the ring bearer was a dog named Cheeta and the only song sung during the service was performed by two sisters ages 6 and 7. I preached on Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. Everything was coordinated by a wedding planner who did a great job, especially considering all the things she was doing herself (burning the slide show, hand sewing dresses and the isle runner, printing off and assembling the programs, etc.).

It was very fun to be a part of the wedding. It is a privilege that I have as a pastor to speak into people's lives and encourage them with the truth of Scripture as they start a new chapter in their lives. There is always such joy and anticipation and love at weddings. How wonderful that God uses the wedding analogy to describe the relationship between Jesus Christ and the individuals that make up his church! How enjoyable will it be when we all gather with our Heavenly Groom and celebrate our eternity at the wedding feast! Praise to be Jesus Christ!

American Idol, self-deception and our depravity

All the news right now in MN is that American Idol try-outs are happening in our most major metropolitan area. Getting around the city is horrible because they have blocked off sections of road to accommodate all the people who want a chance to sing and be heard. People who want a shot at being famous.

The sad thing is that thousands of these people are completely self-deceived when it comes to their own talents. They think (and probably sincerely believe) that they are better than they really are.

It reminds me a lot of us, people in general and Christians specifically, and our ability to deceive ourselves when it comes to our own righteousness. We actually believe that we are decent humans, mostly good, with maybe a few blemishes. The fact however, as the Bible teaches, is that we are depraved in all areas of life. This means that the stain of sin is on all areas of our lives and that without God we are incapable of acting completely pure, righteous, just, merciful, or good.

We would do well to stop deceiving ourselves about our own goodness and to fall before Jesus and ask for his grace, his forgiveness and his assistance. While very few of the people who audition for American Idol will make it on the show, none of us will make it to eternity with God without a relationship with his Son Jesus as our Lord, Savior and Treasure.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

happy birthday Jacob!

Today my son Jacob celebrated his 3rd birthday. It is almost incomprehensible how fast time goes. It seems like only yesterday that I was holding a new born boy in my arms and crying at the miracle of birth.

This morning Jacob and I went to Perkin's for a special birthday breakfast. I think I'd like this to be a tradition in our family. Jacob really had fun being alone with me and I really had fun being alone with him.

Then Stephanie very courageously brought all the kids to come and visit me at lunch. Both of the kids got special ice cream sundaes.

Finally, we topped off the special B-day by having an extended family gathering at Chucke Cheese's. Jacob has been talking about going there for weeks. He was very excited to eat pizza, play games, open gifts, and see Chucke. I was surprised by how good Jacob was at playing some of the games. He was especially talented at the water gun shooter and the basketball hoop game.

I love being a dad and I love being Jacob's dad. Like his mom wrote, Jacob is loving, kind, compassionate, sensitive, and empathetic. His is quick with a hug or kiss when someone looks down, he shares everything he has (most of the time) and he usually listens very well. I am confident that he will grow up to be a man that loves God and loves others. If that happens I will consider myself a successful parent.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

just a little 'food' for thought

Things are pretty quiet at my A&W store right now so I want to tell you all something.

When you go out to eat at a restaurant that serves your food to you on plastic trays - DO NOT load down the tray with ketchup and mustard and other gooey junk. Please put your condiments in the little plastic cups that are provided. Otherwise all you are doing is creating a big mess for the people who have to wipe down those trays.

It is an action that you'll probably never be thanked for but it is a small grace you can show employees. I'd even be willing to bet that Jesus would use those paper cups!

when parents attack

Most of us have seen the amazing and scary videos where animals attack both people and other animals. These attacks usually occur when animals feel threatened or are provoked by something.

This video appears to be along those same lines. The main difference, however, is that the man in the video is attacking a 13 year old football player. The attack is believed to be a response by the man/assistant coach to a late hit on the his son by the opposing player.

This is a prime example of the idiotic behavior that too many parents of young athletes engage in. As a student athlete myself I can remember numerous examples of parents yelling at officials and umpires (often teenagers themselves), parents cussing and arguing with the parents of kids on other teams, and some parents ripping their own children during and after games. This kind of behavior is extremely childish and inappropriate.

Parents, please let your kids play and have fun. The fact is that you care much more about balls and strikes, fair calls, statistics, and the score than they do - this is especially so until kids are 13 yr. +. Until then all the kid really cares about is wearing a jersey, sitting on the bench by his buddies, and getting a free juice box and some cookies when its all over.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

the importance of rest

One of the things I am learning in my new job as a manager is the importance in leadership of getting good rest.

On Sunday we had a very busy lunch hour and I was functioning in the point spot on the food line. This means I was reading a rapidaly changing menu board, adjusting counts for how much food to prepare and getting the cooked food dished up and handed out to customers. Because I was tired from the previous week I made 3 or 4 mental mistakes during the day that I would not normally make. My brain just wasn't clicking like it normally does.

As a leader it is important that you get good rest. When you're in a position of leadership people will be looking to you for answers. They will need you to be sharp in your thinking and to make good decisions. If you don't rest and take care of yourself your thinking will be slower and less focused. Eventually the entire church/organization that you lead will suffer because of your inability to do good physical self-care.

Monday, September 04, 2006

see you later Mr. Alligator, after awhile Sir Crocadile

Steve Irwin, the hugely popular Australian television personality and conservationist known as the "Crocodile Hunter," was killed Monday by a stingray while filming off the Great Barrier Reef. He was 44. Click here for more...

This is a major bummer. Steve Irwin was funny, smart, brave, talented and experienced. He made watching animals shows both entertaining and informative. He will be missed on TV, but even more importantly, he will be missed by the wife, kids and loved ones left behind.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

free Derek Webb download

I know that this is old news but Derek Webb (formerly of Caedmon's Call) is releasing his latest album, Mockingbird, for free download.

Click here to get it.

I listened to almost the whole thing yesterday and I really like it. The lyrics are rich and pointed. There are lots of thoughts on this record to stretch you and make you think about your life and faith. Make sure you check it out.

Friday, September 01, 2006

I don't think they like me

Jason at The Study Corner informed me that his copy of one of my posts gathered the attention of a website and blog called the

Unfortunately I don't think I would be getting an dinner invites from the etransgender folks. Their short response to my post is not very flattering or friendly. Ironically, they are particularly intolerant of someone (me) who has a view different from theirs (which I find a bit odd - not to mention extremely hypocritical - considering they would most likely implore me to be more accepting of their diverging viewpoints).

However, I do acknowledge the fact that by calling the man/woman a freak I do not represent the kind of attitude that would make that person feel loved and accepted by Jesus Christ. Because I want to become more like Christ, and for that reason, I confess that I made a mistake in my choice of words. I still stand behind the intent of the post though, which is that this person should not be teaching students under the umbrella that their lifestyle choice should be treated as normal and acceptable behavior.