Friday, April 27, 2012

Check out the new post on the new blog:

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Moving Part II - Blogger glitch

The last post (and resulting email) had some HTML inserted by Blogger that will prevent you from reaching the new site by clicking on the link. Here's the proper link:

Moving Time - please read

We've been meaning to move this site over to Wordpress for some time now and with Blogger's recent redesign, I figured instead of taking the time to learn all the nuances of the new Blogger dashboard, we might as well take the time to move the site.

So, we'd love for you to check out:

the new home for my Proverbs Blog and eventually the home of the Man Up! ministry and other endeavors.

For those of you who are subscribed to this blog by email, you'll need to navigate to the new site and re-subscribe. Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.

Thanks & God bless,

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Calling to Kids

It’s really amazing to look back and see how God places all the puzzle pieces in order throughout our lives to work His will in and through us. Things we suffer through, God uses for the good. Physical, mental and spiritual pain is all used by Him. The enemy attacks and causes harm, then God uses that to do something wonderful, turning all bad to good as long as we get out of the way and let Him work.

In my life, there’s been a lot of pain revolving around my childhood, parents, and living situations. Through all that, however, God has raised up within me a huge love of children and a deep-seeded need to help them. I’ve felt drawn to children and youth ministry for many years and can thankfully say that God has used me to encourage more young lives than I can count, in more ways than I’ll ever know.

And, I’ve barely scratched the surface of what I believe He has in store.
In examining this “calling” through meditation, communion and years of sub-surface contemplation, a few things have really come together just in the last few weeks in my mind that I’d like to bring out into the open and see what you think.

While these are in no specific order other than the way God has laid them down in my thoughts, each point is a foundation stone to the building of ministry.

1) Youth and Children’s Ministry is not a stepping stone or a means to an end. It’s not a way station along the way or a pit stop on the road of a pastoral career.

This jumped out at me the other day when Angie and I were watching a video clip from The Elephant Room about Young Pastors. To paraphrase one of the Pastors, your calling is not necessarily your career. I think when some view being a Pastor as a career path, they view it through worldly eyes, as if it’s a corporate ladder to climb. First, you get a job as a volunteer leader, “interning” as it were. Then, you move on to a perceived lesser role as a Small Group Pastor, Child Pastor or Youth Pastor. Then, if you work hard enough and pray for God’s blessings, you can get “promoted” to adult teaching Pastor, and eventually CEO, err – I mean, Lead Pastor.

Worse still, some Churches view Youth and Children’s Ministries  as not nearly as worthy as the adult ministries, short funding it, marginalizing it, and in general treating the kid and youth leaders and pastors as if they’re second-class citizens. 

While many may disagree, I think the enemy is at work here in many ways. Children and Youth are not a pit stop. This leads me to the second point:

2) Children’s eternal souls are not less important that those of adults. In fact, from what I’ve come to understand in the bible, they’re MORE important than adults.
I’m guessing many of you don’t agree with that, but I’ll stand by it to the end.
In fact, if you don't understand how important the little ones are to God, you don't understand God.

Mark 10:14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

In order to prove my point, I’ll try to disprove it first. Consider this, if children were of lesser value than adults, would the enemy make any effort whatsoever to harm them, derail them, battle for their very souls to keep them from God? Of course not. But, the enemy knows better.

James 2:19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder.

Look around our world and see how children are under attack, every single day. Abduction, abuse and neglect are the overt ways that seem to get very little public attention. The food that’s marketed to them is harmful to their physical health. The food they're given in public schools is even worse. The toys and games marketed to them increasingly have a poor effect on their spiritual lives. Adults routinely ignore their needs, leaving them dying of starvation in third world nations, shriveling from neglect in second world nations, and targeted with poor education, poor nutrition and billions in greed driven advertising in first world nations. Meanwhile, the enemy does more and more to distract adults from the needs of children, even in our churches!

If kids weren’t important to God, the enemy wouldn’t care. Cigarette companies wouldn’t have spent billions throughout history to market cigarettes to children. McDonalds and many of the other fast food chains that bring on obesity, diabetes and a whole world of physical harm wouldn’t aim their products at kids. An entire industry of “energy drinks” that cause no end of harm to growing bodies has sprung up recently and is being marketed almost entirely at teenagers!

If God didn’t value them so much, there would be no child abuse, no neglect, no starvation. Kids would simply sit on the sidelines in our spiritual war until they came of age and entered the fray.

And, Jesus never would have taught on how much He and the Father value the little ones.
Matthew 18:6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Those are pretty strong words coming from the creator and originator of love. For those of you who don’t know what a millstone is, check out this picture:

I don’t know from personal experience, but I’d guess if you hung that around anyone’s neck and dumped them in the sea, they’d do nothing but die painfully. Jesus must think a lot of kids for him to say it’d better to die painfully than to be caught causing little ones to sin.

He also says those who do right by kids do right by Him:

Mark 9:37 "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."

So, for those of you considering youth or kid ministry, please understand how important the work is, how much God values it, and know this isn’t stepping stone or a career, it’s a calling.

Mark 10:16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Examining a Green Thumb, Part Two

In my last post, I mentioned having some additional thoughts that jumped out at me while reading the list from Joe Sangl. I'm going to detail them here and would love to read your thoughts on it as well.

1. No Vision
Communicate your vision to the congregation! No one wants to follow a leader who treats their mission like it's classified. I've seen one too many churches that play their cards close to the vest. It's hard to inspire people to follow you if they have no clue where you're going.

4. Never Asking People To Give
I think this also rings true with serving, joining a small group and doing outreach. If the leader of the church doesn't communicate how important it is to give of your time, talents and treasures, people will be content to remain motionless.

One underlying theme that jumps out at me as well is communication. Transparent, sincere communication is the universal salve to all relationships. If the congregation knows exactly where the church is headed, what the goals are, what everyone must do to achieve those goals, and they get regular updates of the triumphs and speed bumps, they'll take ownership. Everyone has a need God placed in us to be part of something larger than ourselves, but the enemy can quickly turn that need into a sensitive issue if people feel left in the dark. Great leaders don't keep secrets, intentionally or thoughtlessly. Doing so quickly opens the door for #7, breached trust. Don't open that door.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Examing a Green Thumb

After taking my Pastoral Leadership 450 class at Liberty, my eyes were opened to all the myriad challenges of leading in a church, as well as growing one. Being a "people person" more than a "numbers person" I mainly focused on team building, praying for your staff, nourishing the congregation and those things that are imperative for relational leadership.

Now that we're growing roots in the garden of Uncommon Church, I'm learning more and more about the other areas, particularly fueling resources, which is something God has seriously laid on mine and Angie's hearts more and more over the past year.

As no surprise to me (or anyone else who's seen God move) right as this topic really began to dominate our conversations, Pastor Perry Noble of New Spring Church posted a great resource on his blog about Church finances written by Joe Sangl. While I'll never be a number crunching wizard, like my beautiful wife, the theory behind Joe's words is something I believe anyone with a heart for growing a church can grasp.

I have some additional thoughts I'd like to add, but before doing so, I'll let the post stand on its own. 

Here's Joe's list:

Top Ten Financial Mistakes A Church Makes April 12, 2012 

1.  No Vision
The Bible states in Proverbs 29:18 that “Where there is no vision, the people perish …”  This is absolute truth.  Churches that lack clear direction and vision are poorly funded because attenders have no clarity on how their sacrificial giving dollars will be used to accomplish the vision and build the Kingdom.  Dr. John C. Maxwell has shared this incredible wisdom regarding this subject – “Where there is no vision, the people perish.  And where there are no financial resources, the vision perishes.
2.  No Margin
Churches that operate on the basis of “the miracle of the weekly offering” cannot prosper.  The leadership must constantly have conversations focused on who is and who is not being paid and determining which projects can no longer be funded.  Additionally, churches that operate with zero savings are highly susceptible to “God only knows” expenses.  A church that operates with no margin can be completely derailed simply because the air conditional unit fails.  Churches with a minimum of six week’s offerings in the bank will simply fix or replace the unit, and ministry efforts are unaffected
3.  Too Many Designated Giving Options
When churches offer the opportunity to contribute to fifteen different designated “buckets”, it can lead to confusion for members and frustration for the leaders.  A church could have thousands of dollars available in one fund while another important ministry objective barely survives – and it all happens because of stringent guidelines.  Remember this one fact – “In the presence of many options, the consumer will usually choose none.”
4.  Never Asking People To Give
Many people have been guilted into giving in the past or have attended a church where it was all about the money.  As a result, many pastors choose to not ask for money at all.  Neither approach is correct.  Jesus spoke of money or possessions in almost half of the parables.  He spoke of money via the subjects of giving, stewardship, and sacrifice.
5.  Failing To Equip People To Win With Their Money
Many leaders who are facing an under-funded vision do teach about money, but only from the perspective of giving.  While it is extremely important to put God first, it is not the only key to winning with money God’s way.  It is important to teach people that God is the owner (Psalm 24:1) and that we are managers (Matthew 25:14-30).  Teach them that we are to have a plan for our money and diligently follow it (Proverbs 21:5), and that we are to aspire to leave an inheritance for our grandchildren (Proverbs 13:22).
6.  Making Too Many Financial Asks
Some churches provide the opportunity to give to 15 to 20 different initiatives each year.  While all of these represent a great aspect of the ministry, it prevents maximum giving and limits ongoing giving to the general fund.  Why not consolidate all of the ministry initiatives into a single major offering?  This prevents “donor-fatigue” and leads to a more fully funded vision.
7.  Breaching Trust
A breach of trust is created when money has been collected for an initiative, but then the money is used for something entirely different without that reason being clearly communicated to the church.  Some churches have had multiple collections for the same project, yet there is no money in that account because it has been used for something different.  Without trust, nothing can stand for long.  If this has happened in your church ,be certain to clearly communicate WHY it happened.  Apologize as necessary and move forward to establish a new foundation of trust.
8.  Failing To Have A Regular Financial Review/Audit
Obviously, embezzlement is not helpful toward ensuring a fully funded vision!  A regular financial review or audit can ensure that your church finances are being managed well and with full integrity.
9.  Acquiring Unmanageable Debt
Over the past several years, many churches made the mistake of borrowing everything a bank was willing to lend them.  As a result, many ministries are facing the strangling hold of lenders and interest payments.  Seek to restructure the debt to obtain the lowest interest rates possible and resolve to never again borrow an amount of money that would jeopardize the ministry.
10. Allowing the biggest giver to dictate what will and will not be funded
Sometimes a large donor will attempt to abscond with the vision by threatening to withhold their giving unless their “pet project” is funded – event when the leader knows that the project is not part of the vision.  When a leader has a clear vision from God, it will give them the confidence to “offend man rather than offend God.”
BONUS: Asking for equal giving instead of equal sacrifice
Some leaders have looked at a major project – say it costs $1,000,000 – and then looked at their 500 members and did the math.  “If every family would give $2,000, we would have a fully funded project,” the leader will proclaim.  The math is correct, but the approach is not.  The leader is asking for equal giving, not equal sacrifice.  Consider the individual who possesses the gift of giving who would willingly give $50,000.  If they were asked to give only $2,000, they might make the decision to only give $2,000.  Be sure to ask for equal sacrifice, not equal giving.
You can read these posts in their original form, as well as other great bits of wisdom here:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday's Here!

Today is the first day of the rest of our lives.

Sure you can say that about any day, but this isn't just any day. Today is the first Sunday in a long line of Sundays marked by services at Uncommon Church. It's not often you hear about the very first service at a church, but today is one of those days.

And it's going to be dangerous, so beware.

The enemy has tried to stop this church in so many ways I don't have the time to chronicle them all, but next time you see me ask and I'll give you enough stories to make the hair on the back of your neck salute.

Through all the trials, God has turned it to the good.

This church has already overcome things that would end most start up businesses, close the doors of most new restaurants and end the days of most neophyte organizations before they even began. The roadblocks and derailments quite possibly would have seemed impossible to overcome if brought up in foresight, making most decide never to try.

But with God all things are possible.

Thanks to the prayers of so many, including you, God is planting this church on this day in history.

Just as storm clouds swirled over the cross before our savior was overcome, today's forecast calls for severe thunderstorms. And, just like what happened that fateful day over 2000 years ago, God's light will shine through.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Never Forget

Here's today's devotional from Pastor Bayless Conley:


Titus 3:1-7
Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Paul tells us to remember where we have come from. Notice he said to show humility to all men and speak evil of no one. Why? Because we also used to be foolish and deceived and disobedient.

I thank God I am a new creation in Christ, but I still blush when I think about some of the stuff I got involved in before I was saved! Disobedient? Been there. Serving various lusts and pleasures? Up to my eyeballs! Plus all the other things Paul mentions in this passage and a few more!

It is amazing how people in the church forget what they were like before the grace of God came into their life. When that happens they tend to get very haughty and judgmental towards those still lost in their sin. A harsh, judgmental church that lacks humility while verbally lashing out at sinners is one of the ugliest garments you can dress the beautiful gospel in.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Under Attack! Praise God!

1Peter 4:12-13 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

Our Pastor in Phoenix, Greg Rohlinger of Palm Valley Church, was often fond of reminding us that we should rejoice when trials and troubles came our way. If you live a carefree life, it’s simply because the enemy doesn’t view you as a threat. Why waste ammunition on someone sitting on the sidelines?

But, our human nature makes us moan and groan when trials and tribulations befall us. We complain and grumble when things don’t go our way. All too often, we allow our circumstance to paint shadows on the canvas of our lives.

Last week, on our way to the leadership meeting for Uncommon Church, we left the house late because Zach refused to get dressed. Then, we drove to the wrong location after I Googled the place and pulled the wrong address off the website.

After that, we arrived twenty minutes late and couldn’t find the meeting in the large complex where it was held (the Cedar Park Rec Center for anyone in the area – come out next Sunday!). While walking around looking for it, Angie and I almost got into an argument, until I could literally feel something urging me to fight with her and pushed it aside.

Once inside the building and settled in, Zach pulled the fire alarm in the kid’s room, forcing the entire facility to be evacuated. Back outside, our prayer vigil was interrupted by fire engines and first responders coming to verify there was indeed no fire, just a mischievous little boy.

After the meeting, we were given some very neat watches that work as a great way to open up- conversation about the church (you need one of these watches!). After wearing hers twice, Angie’s broke. It was as if the enemy was saying "You're not going to wear this or use it to tell anyone about Christ!"

In the midst of all this, our lead Pastor’s wife and son have had some health issues, a member of the board of directors has had to deal with some serious health concerns with a family member and, I’m sure, there’s way more “ammunition” being fired our way.

Praise God!

All this simply adds up to the fact that we’re all under attack, all seen as a threat to the enemy and all on a path to win souls for Christ, rise up those already won and do His work under the banner of Uncommon Church.

Praise God!

He is Risen!

Happy Easter everyone!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Encouraging Word...

Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Back when I was in my mid-twenties, I think I might have had a Master’s Degree in unwholesome, discouraging talk. Not only was I very negative in most any opinion I shared, I enjoyed “verbal jousting”, and I also cursed like I was paid by the vowel. Sadly, I took some odd pleasure in seeing those I thought were too uptight get offended by things I said.

I’m really not sure why I was that way, but chances are a little psycho-analysis could figure it out pretty quickly. To make it even more strange, I craved hearing encouraging things from others, but seldom did; most likely at that point, due to my penchant for anti-social behavior.

I met my beautiful wife when I was thirty and quickly learned that people could be encouraging. In fact, life was a whole lot better when they were. While this lifted my waterline quite a bit, it wasn’t until we surrendered our “control issues” to Christ and dove into scripture that we really learned how important encouragement really is to us, and everyone else.

In a microcosm of insight, we can watch our son inflate or deflate based on our words, tone and body language. Speak negatively, his spirit falls, positively and it rises. He’s only three, but that trait is universal in just about everyone, no matter their age.

Now, I’ve written about encouragement before on this blog but it wasn’t until just this past week that the passage above from Ephesians really stuck out to me.

I’m ashamed to admit that when things don’t go my way, I often backslide a little into that dark place where I criticize things a little too fervently. Maybe it’s some sort of defense mechanism, maybe it’s some sort of spiritual sour grapes, who knows. But, this week I really caught the connection between being that way and failing to be encouraging. It hit me like a hammer.

If I’m letting coarse talk come out of my mouth, stuff that isn’t solely intended to build others up, which side of the battle am I on?

No one encourage and criticize at the same time.

No one can serve two masters…

With that in mind, I’m thankful to the Holy Spirit for making this verse jump out at me. I’ve read Ephesians at least a dozen times, yet 4:29 has slipped past my eyes and ears in every instance without really sinking in. Until now.

I remember the day after I was baptized vividly. I clearly knew I was no longer the same. It was evident in no uncertain terms that I had to strive to live more in line with His will.

Now this week, after answering the call to help plant a church, that same feeling is back. It’s time to take another step up, and I think it all starts with Ephesians 4:29.

We all live in a storm. Our jobs, bills, relationships, physical needs and wants all collide in our hearts and minds, making it easy to feel pulled under.

Unfortunately, the negatives can often carry far more weight than the positives. But, if we always remember to let the negative die with us and only release what is helpful and benefitting to others, the storm will clear and He will be honored.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Long Time, No See...

Not only have I been absent from this blog for sometime, I've been absent from a lot of things due to my new job. Conversely, while I've not been seen around here, there are a lot of things I've not seen while I focused on the new occupation and more importantly, my family.

At the beginning of this year, I decided my family would be my ministry for the coming months. Obviously, God put this on my heart for a reason as our son has had a lot of health issues and we've spent a small fortune on Dr visits, co-pays and prescriptions. Thankfully, due to the advice of some good friends at Gateway Church, we found a new clinic to take him to and a solid, caring, attentive Dr who seems to have him on the mend.

Now that I have the hang of my new job, Zach seems to over the hump and we can start moving away from our introspective season, we started looking to the future and what God has in store for us.

For those of you who know the story, the Almighty had his hand all over getting us down here to Austin. Not only would we have never considered it if He hadn't put some puzzles pieces together, we couldn't have made it happen without a few minor miracles He brought our way, including the blessings from some awesome friends.

In the course of all that, we've been wondering exactly why He brought us down here. Thankfully, we're at a point in our walk where we're very open to whispers from the Holy Spirit. Just like a master landscaper, God has placed stepping stones in front of us along the way. We weren't sure where they were leading, but think we've finally figured it out.

This past Sunday we were invited to the first leadership meeting on campus of a Church plant. We had no idea we were going when we got up Sunday morning, but the invite came around 2:30pm and by 4:30 we were there.

The lead pastor, Michael Robison, has a great vision, great zeal and most importantly an unquenchable love of what Jesus loves. He reminds me in many ways of our first Pastor, Greg Rohlinger of Palm Valley Church.One of the puzzle pieces that struck me yesterday is how much we wished we'd been around to plant Palm Valley...

After leaving, Angie was very jazzed up while I was still processing it. After mulling it all over most of the day yesterday, then discussing it further with Angie last night, I went to sleep last night thinking this was why God had called us to Austin.

I woke up around 1:30am last night and laid in bed unable to go back to sleep until after 3. Once I realized I couldn't go back to sleep, I just started "chatting" with God. Praying, worshiping, honoring, asking and listening.

After well over an hour of communing with God, I recall feeling very peaceful about where He was leading us, then the next thing I knew it was 5:00am and time to get up. Upon climbing out of bed, I was as sure I'd finally "seen" what He has in store as I've ever been.

Something about being a writer really makes me appreciate God's master story telling skills. As I look back on what led us to this point, I feel flooded by waves of awe at God's craftsmanship.

For those who have been part of a Church plant, or anything else big that the Holy Spirit is guiding, I'm sure you can relate to what I'm feeling right now. For those who haven't, I encourage you to roll up your sleeves and get in the game. Nothing in this life compares to the feeling of doing something for the Kingdom.

If you're in the Austin area next Sunday, come check out the first ever service at Uncommon Church. We'd love to see you and for you to be seen.