Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Processing the Transition of a Pastor

While I was at work on Sunday my wife emailed me and said she heard there was a big announcement coming up during the church service.  I wondered as I worked what the announcement might be.  A big donation?  Moving to a new facility?  More staff being added as the church continues to grow.  I had a few ideas what it might be, but none of them included what it actually was.  Later in the morning I got another email from my wife.  One of our church's co-pastors was leaving the church to take a position with the church he served before starting CANVAS Church.  Wow.  Didn't see it coming.  At least not that morning.

Rewind.  Two years ago a friend of mine from Atlanta posted a message on Twitter about a friend of his who was starting a brand new church in Minnesota.  Being a church news junkie I responded to the tweet and asked where the church was going to be planted.  Knowing my friend in A-town I figured that his friend would likely be a pretty neat guy.  To say I was shocked when I heard back that the church was going to be in Northfield would be an understatement.  Stephanie and I had been waiting, hoping, praying for a church to come to Northfield that would be more along the stylistic lines we were used to in the cities.  I wanted to know more so I immediately started to do what any freak, online stalking would do.  I checked out the new pastor's name on Facebook and Twitter to learn any and everything I could about him.

It took a while to track him down in town so that we could meet face to face.  After a few weeks I finally cornered him as he was hunkered down using the library as a temp office.  I liked the guy right away and went home to tell Stephanie that we needed to check out this church a bit more seriously.  We were invited to a pre-planting meeting and although we loved what we heard and saw, I didn't feel the timing was right to leave the church in Northfield that we were presently attending.  The reasons why are another post completely.  I am sad that we missed all the buzz and the excitement leading up to the CANVAS launch, but I know we handled our church transition with grace and respect.

Current time.  It has been about a year since we fully came on board at CANVAS and it has been an awesome year.  I love the pastors and their families very much.  I respect them and I am excited about serving in whatever why I can to hep our church grow and accomplish all God desires for us to do.  There are a ton of great families in the church and we have watched as God is bringing new people all the time.  Both Stephanie and I know that CANVAS is right where we are supposed to be.  Which makes it all the tougher to think about one of our pastors... one of my friends...leaving town.

I want to go on record as saying that I consider myself extremely blessed to know and have served alongside Jon Hohm and his family.  The church he is going to, and the ministry he'll be leading there, are extremely fortunate to have he and his family coming there.  Jon is one of the most authentic, warm, encouraging, visionary leaders I know.  And his wife is so top shelf that even Jon doesn't deserve her.  Stephanie and I have always felt so encouraged and supported by them both.  They love Jesus, they love each other, and they love people in a humble, genuine way that you just don't come across often enough.  I'll miss hanging with Jon dreaming about Northfield.  I'll miss watching how excited he gets over a new creative idea and hearing how passionate he is about doing things with excellence so that space is created for people to be transformed by Jesus.  And I'll miss Kelli's smile and the kind, genuine way she looks at you and asks how you are.

I am so confident that Jon and Kelli have prayed through this call, and that they have sought wise counsel, and that they have had to process the very really feelings of loss as they follow God's leading to once again pack up their family and move to a new place.  I am grateful to God for them that he is calling them back to a place of comfort and familiarity, so that it is not another 100% restart.  I am excited to hear about how God uses them and I hope that we'll see each other again down the road and share stories about what God is doing through both our churches, a half a nation apart.

If you know them, pray for them.  Heck pray for them even if you don't.  And pray for us, and the people of CANVAS.  God will still do awesome things through CANVAS.  Our other co-pastor Jeff is a strong man of God who loves Jesus and loves people (and loves his wife too!) and I have no doubt in his ability to lead our church.  Ultimately CANVAS, just like every other church, belongs to Jesus.  He is the true Senior Pastor of the church, his Bride, and he will lead us where he desires us to go.  We, CANVAS, just like the Hohm's, simply must be faithful to listen to the voice of our Shepherd and follow where he leads us.

Friday, April 26, 2013

10 Easy Ways to Make Your Church Services More Boring

Tony Morgan wrote this list back in 2005, but I thought it'd be fun to revisit it.
10 Easy Ways to Make Your Church Services More Boring 
1. Don’t worry about when you finish. I’m sure no one has plans after the service. 
2. Straight Scriptures. No stories. Jesus didn’t teach that way, but you’re a better communicator than Jesus, right? 
3. Television. Movies. It’s just a phase. People don’t really need visual stimulation. They prefer talking heads. 
4. Use the same service order…every week…no exceptions…ever. 
5. Make more announcements. 
6. Encourage your elementary school kids to sit through your services. They love lively 45-minute sermons. It’s good for them. It builds character. 
7. Talk more about the past and the less about the future. 
8. Play the same Chris Tomlin song every week. And, try the chorus one more time. 
9. Use lots of big words that no one uses in normal, everyday life. 
10. Forget relevant topics and life application. People are really only interested in hearing what you think, not why it matters to them.
What are you doing to make your services memorable and impactful? Or, do you believe unchurched people, people who aren't in a relationship with Jesus, should just be expected to show up and put up with something they perceive as boring?

Thoughts, reactions, agree, disagree?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Losing Productivity with Old Technology

Anyone else get purchase anxiety like I do?

I need a new computer because the laptop I am using goes so...so....slowly.  During the evening I use Stephanie's laptop, but during the day she needs it at school so I am left with a choice between my ancient BM machine and the iPad, neither of which are great options for typing.

I am considering just getting a wireless keyboard for the iPad, but I think I would like greater functionality for writing and doing other presentation project.  I like the iPad for surfing the internet, using Twitter and using the many different apps that are outs there, but I haven't found a way to be real productive on it yet.

Anybody have any thoughts or recommendations for me?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Quit Blaming Someone Else and Own Up to Your Life

There's usually enough blame to go around.

That is a line from a Berenstain Bears book I was reading with the kids yesterday.  The story was about Brother and Sister Bear learning that instead of blaming and fighting with each other, they should own up to their part of the problem and work together to find a solution.

Think if adults read that book and put it's simply idea into practice everyday.  There would be less divorce, less road rage, less workplace problems, less complaining, and a lot less unhappy people in this world.

It is an exhausted cliche, but if I had a nickel for every time a grown adult at my place of business blamed another grown adult for something, I wouldn't have to work another day in my life.  It honestly blows me away until.  Then I look at my kids school, at my kids sporting events, at our city council, even the churches I've attended, the blame and complain game is epidemic.  Nowadays (myself included at times I'm quite sure) wants to own up to any error or short-coming.  It is always someone else's fault and we're glad to point the finger at who.

This problem is as old as Genesis when the first man God created wimpled out and blamed the woman for breaking God's command, and then the woman turned around and blamed the serpent for tricking her.  Have you ever wondered how God would have reacted if instead of blaming someone else, Adam and Eve would have just humbled themselves and said, "Yup, I did it.  Totally stupid move.  Please forgive me, and help me not do that again!"  I know as a manager of people I would be ecstatic about that kind of attitude and I'd do everything I could to help the person not make the same mistake again.

Let's do an experiment -----> for the rest of the week make it your goal to blame no one else - even if truly is someone else's fault!  Own up to all aspects of your life this week before God and others and, if your willing, share the results.  I'm guessing you'd see a major difference in how you experience God and in the relationships you have with others around you.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

This Day

God has been preparing you for this....

this day
this challenge
this opportunity
this new beginning

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. - Proverbs 16:9

As you go forth today day, do so in the knowledge that God has already gone before you. He has prepared the way for you. He has shaped and molded you so that you are ready to handle all that comes your way as long as you stay connected to him.

And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? - Ester 4:14

Extra, Extra -
How cool is the Lord?  I blogged these thoughts at a coffee shop in Northfield, and then I drove to a coffee shop in Fairbault where the same Proverbs 16:9 verse was written on a whiteboard in the coffee bar area.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Reflections on the Last Few Weeks, Boston Strong

Wow, the last couple weeks have been a whirlwind of crazy and fun.

Three weeks ago I was concerned about our townhouse and some of the repairs that were needed there.  so I took Jacob and drove up to Monticello for a day.  Then I went with Stephanie to Boston, MA for a long weekend with some amazing friends there.  Four days after that Stephanie and I took the kids to meet her brother and his family in Brainerd at a water park hotel for a weekend of swimming and hanging out with the cousins.  One day after getting home there was the terrible explosions at the end of the Boston Marathon.

Oh yeah, throw in a couple exciting meetings related to some doors I think God may be opening up for me, reading three books, Stephanie going to the Chris Tomlin concert with one of her best girl friends, and the kids starting practice for the Alice in Wonderland play they are doing this week!

Some reflections...

- loving friends are family are critical in making life delightful
- amazing that you can walk down a street not thinking one bad thought and a week later 3 people die and over 140 are injured right in that spot
- blessed that my kids have their cousins close by, and close in age, and that they're such good friends
- God is amazing and his ways and his timing are perfect
- we are a busy family
- making memories as a family is way more important that accumulating material goods
- I love reading
- mentors matters - you need them as a Christian, parent, and spouse
- I have an amazing woman by my side
- our nation is strong, and we will overcome the Boston attack
- it is encouraging to see our nation through aside all our petty differences and unite around a company enemy
- thankful for all the protection we do have and all the daily security we feel

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book Review: What is a Healthy Church?

One of the books I read on the plane during our flight out to Boston last weekend was a short book called "What is a Healthy Church?" by Pastor Mark Dever.  It is an insightful work exploring some of the key aspects of what makes up a healthy church.

The book is divided up into three parts:
1) What is a healthy church?
2) Essential Marks of a Healthy Church
3) Important Marks of a Healthy Church

Dever answers the question "What is a healthy church?" by offering this definition -
A healthy church is a congregation that increasingly reflects God's character as his character is revealed in his Word.
I like this definition because is allows for different sizes of church, different styles, different methods, and different models of service.  I also like this definition because it rightly puts the focus for health on knowing God and believing his Word.  This is critical.

Some of the statements in the book that were meaningful to me are as follows:

- You (the reader) and all the members of your church, Christian, are finally responsible before God for what your church becomes, not your pastors and other leaders --- you.

- Together we can display the gospel of Jesus Christ in a way we just can't by ourselves.

- Christian, are you ready for the day on which God will call you to account for how you have loved and served the church family, including your church leaders?

- The people of God will find life entirely and exclusively through listening to God's Word and obeying it.

- The church's [and the individual Christian's] job is to listen to the Word of God and echo it with all it is.

- The Holy Spirit is no fool.  If he has revealed something in his Book for all the world to read, churches should not think of themselves as so wise that they do better to avoid certain subjects.

- Uninvolved members of a church confuse both real members and non-Christians about what it means to be a Christian......By calling someone a member of your church, you are saying that that individual has your church's endorsement as a Christian.

"What is a Healthy Church?" is not just for pastors or theologians; it is a terrific book for all believers to read.   It is not difficult to read or understand.  It is faithful to the Bible and gives wise counsel to those wondering what kind of church they should join.

I encourage you to read it for yourself.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Special Thanks to Some Special Folks

Stephanie and I are getting ready for our last day in Boston.  We've been here since early Saturday morning and we've had a terrific time with here visiting the city and spending time with some very good friends/mentors in our lives.  There are many memories and photos to share, but before that happens I want to say thanks to the people who made this trip possible.

Without my parents, Stephanie's parents, our neighbors, some good friends, and the staff at Stephanie's school, none of this weekend would have been possible.  The whole experience reinforces my belief in how desperately difficult and dreary life would be without the love and support of friends and family.  Each of you special individuals know the role you played in making this weekend happen.  For that - thank you, thank you, thank you!

Sunday, April 07, 2013

How to Speak Boston


I love the accent out here in Boston, and this tutorial helped me better understand what people were saying to me.

Top 10 Things to Do in Boston

Yesterday we saw all of these except the top 3. We didn't have enough time to walk through the museums.

I think Fenway Park should have been #1.


Thursday, April 04, 2013

What Would You Do in This Situation?

I am very interested in what you readers think of the following scenario.....

A man and a workplace peer are in a conversation with an auditor.  The auditor is looking at how some new work processes are being executed in their place of business.  Both the man and his peer know that the expectations for running the processes are completely out of whack with the reality they face each day.  However, the scores given out by auditors are scrutinized very carefully by upper management and there is a large amount of pressure to deliver good audit scores.

During the conversation the auditor asks a questions about some of the employees running the process. There is a second's pause, and then the man's peer answers the question in a way that is not completely factual, but will satisfy the auditor's question and will earn the place of business a good score.

Here's my question to you readers.

Do you speak up and correct your peer, possibly costing your company a passing score?

Or, do you remain silent, thinking that because you yourself didn't hide the truth, you don't have a responsibility to say anything more?


Wednesday, April 03, 2013

3 Questions to Assess Your Maturity Level

Tonight at the retail store where I am a manager we had all the lights turn off for a minute or two as the store switched form generator power to utility power.  We made an announcement on the overhead paging system twice before the lights went out.  Not surprisingly, despite our forewarning, there where a few people confused and startled by the sudden change in illumination.  What made matters even worse, was that there was a man in the building screaming (in jest) because it was dark.

When we confronted the man he because very upset and defensive towards us, blaming us for turning out the lights while the building was open.  We told him we are a 24 hour store and that we had no choice, but he still complained and actually started to get aggressive towards us.  All because we asked him to act like an adult and stop screaming like a child while the lights were off.  The whole thing was rather remarkable.

Makes me think about my own behavior.

1.  Do I act like a child when I should be acting like an adult?
2.  Do I get defensive when people confront me, even when it is obvious that I am in the wrong?
3.  Am I self-conscious enough to think about how my behavior is affecting the well-being of the people around me?

All of these are helpful questions to consider as I look at the appropriateness of my actions and as I try to gauge how I am growing in maturity.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Winter Comes Before the Summer

On Sunday I received some wonderful encouragement from a member of my faith family.  A woman talking to Stephanie and I told us how much she cares for us, how her and her husband are always thinking and praying for us and how she can't wait to see all that God has in store for our family.  Then she shared how, in her life, she has seen so many breakthroughs and great things come forth for people after they have gone through a tough time.  The blessing comes after the trial.

In an astonishing, only God kind of moment, on the way home from church that same day Stephanie was talking to the kids about the cold weather and she said, "Think how much more we're going to enjoy the summer after such a long winter."  I immediately thought of the encouragement from church and connected the too statements as synonymous.

Trial = winter.
Blessing = summer.

You don't get summer without walking through a winter.

Monday, April 01, 2013

For the City, For Northfield, For Jesus

This photo is of the Archer House in downtown Northfield.
I started reading For the City: Proclaiming and Living Out the Gospel by Matt Carter and Darrin Patrick.  I love my city and I want to be a part of a church that cares for the good, not just of it's members, but also for the good of the entire community around it.

I'm glad that CANVAS Church is a church like this.  In its first two years CANVAS has worked hard to build in roads of blessing in Northfield.  Some examples....

- Before planting CANVAS our pastors visited local churches to build relationships centered on Christ.
- Volunteers have done multiple, awesome tasting, catered dinners for local school teachers during conference time.
- Last Christmas we collected thousands of dollars in cash and goods and donated them to a local Crisis Pregnancy Center.
- Volunteers have provided free meals to women in a Northfield therapy group.

Probably most importantly, our pastors continually remind members of our faith family that "church" happens Monday-Saturday, not just on Sunday morning.  This is so important.  I never want to be part of a religious club that meets for celebrations once a week and could care less about impacting the city for good and for God.

In For the City authors Carter and Patrick describe 4 different approaches churches can take towards the city around them.  These are:

1.  Church IN the City
2.  Church AGAINST the City
3.  Church OF the City
4.  Church FOR

In the first approach the church exists in the city, but never extends or concerns itself with what is happening outside the walls of its building.  Churches that are against the city spend time and energy railing against all the sin and all that is wrong with the people outside the church in the city.  The third approach is for a church to just become like the city; this often means theological and spiritual compromise.

The fourth, and final approach highlighted is to be a church for the city.  This means the church stands on her historical, theological, orthodox principles, but does so while also working and believing for the good of all people in the city - not just those within the church.  A church that is for the city boldly proclaims the Word of God as true and authoritative, and at the same time, joins hands with other community members and fights against societal injustices and systemic issues like poverty and poor education.  When a church is for the city it teaches it people that Jesus is the answer, and it commissions its people to go out into the world as ministers to the lost, hurting, lame and weak - no strings attached.

I'm excited to continue reading this book and to learn more about how to engage my city with love and the goodness of the Gospel of Jesus.