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No church for me…So I’m home for the fourth straight day. The good news is that I got a lot done while being at home. But I’m ready to get my normal life back. 

So I have a question. I’m writing a series on the gospel. 6-7 posts…Hopefully I will be done sometime in the summer. Anyhow, here is my questions:

The gospel is a story of movement and action because it create a culture of redemption and restoration in the midst of brokenness.”  Maybe it’s just me…But somehow the “CHURCH” in American (and Europe I suppose) have lost the sense of mission and adventure. 

We call people to surrender to Jesus. But what is that suppose to look like? We live in a cubicle world filled with so many mundane activities like working, kids and caring for the home. On one hand this is good. But for most people I think we want to break free from a mundane life. The tension of course is we have to do the mundane, right? 

So how does the church not become a mundane experience? How do we call people to live a greater life filled with purpose, passion and adventure? Are we asking to little from those who follow Jesus? 



I had a really good time at the turbo intensive. I hope to post more on this next week. But here are some initial thoughts:

  • Glad to see so many Austin planters. Love that. God is doing something in Austin. We need more.
  • The vision I’ve had for the church has been affirmed. It can be done. We can be a church that really does make an impact in the glocal community and not just focus on how many people attended our Sunday service.
  • I don’t want to overstate this…But I felt like this vision is very “Acts 2.” Something worth living and dying for.
  • I think we need to re-define leadership. It’s not how many “come” to your church but it’s really how many “go” from your church into the world to make a Kingdom impact. As Northwood says “Kingdom In, Kingdom Out.”
  • The Kingdom creates chaos. We have to trust God in the midst of Chaos. It’s uncomfortable, hectic etc.
  • I need to focus on the spiritual and practical and not so much on the church organization. Pastors can’t sit in an office all the time. We need to be in the community, networking, serving, mentoring, learning and loving our city and world.
  • I can’t say this enough: Just because you have a growing church, people coming on Sunday, people attending small groups etc. Does not mean you have a missional church that is making a difference. We MUST redefine success. A growing church can be a good thing-as long as the church is sending people back into the community to love and serve.
  • The Church is the mission.

I know for many this type of thinking is a huge paradigm shift. We lose our comfort zones. I think pastors in the West have to understand that God is moving in huge ways in the Global South and we need to learn from this movement. It’s OK not to be the “top dogs” on the block. Maybe soon pastors from the Global South will come to America to do some “pastors training.” 🙂

Good times.

This week I took some time to hang with local Austin pastors. Some are starting new churches while others are five years into the journey. These are sharp cats that love Jesus and they are all smarter then me. I feel a responsibility to do life with these cats, to love them, pray for them and serve them in anyway possible. Church planting is a team sport. It’s about “us” and not “me” so together we can serve our city and encourage each other. I pray weekly for these pastors, that God will give them strength, wisdom and courage to stay the course and be the light in a city that is filled with darkness.

Together we serve under the leadership of Jesus…We are apart of the same body and we have the same end-goal.

So to all my pastor friends in Austin…May God bless your ministry.

The funeral yesterday went well-very well. I think I brought hope as I articulated the gospel. Most of these folks were “good ‘ ole boys” from Texas. The funeral director kept asking me if I was a “real” pastor. 🙂

“Son, you’re a pastor in Austin. Like, you speak on Sunday, or do you just attend the church?”

Anyhow thanks for the prayers and advice. They were helpful.

I think this past year I’ve really understood the complexities of being a pastor.  You have to know so much about a lot of vital aspects in life. Think about it…A pastor has to be good at speaking, counseling, organizational leadership, team building, vision casting, staff management, budgeting, leadership development, cultural engagement, theology, missional activity etc.  The list could go on-and-on.

Usually we have to be good at all that plus lack major resources and education. What seminaries teach you all of the above? NONE!

I would like to dig deeper into this, who knows what we may uncover. And how do we really use our congregation to do the things that they are good at? But through the lens of theology and mission and without burning them out?

BTW-Thank God I’m not really leading the church…Jesus is the lead pastor. Now if he could only run staffing meeting 🙂

So when I’m in conversation with people they usually ask the typical question “what do you do for a living/work.”  I hate that question because I usually have to say I’m a pastor at a local church.  (although the blank stares are priceless.) I automatically fill boxed-in and judged as preconceived notions create a perception that I’m not fond of.

Anyhow, I guess I’m a pastor-but I don’t want to be boxed into that specific title. It seems so confined or stale. I consider myself more of a missionary (loaded word for sure) or spiritual activist that comes in the name of Jesus. One who goes into the city to learn it’s culture and create spiritual pathways that help bring the city back to God.

I think a great example of this is the Fermi Project. I just received an email from them and this is how hey communicate who they are:

“Greetings to everyone that has joined the Fermi Project – a collective of innovators, social entrepreneurs, church and society leaders recapturing the Church’s historic role in advancing the common good in culture.”

What is we staffed our churches more like that? Instead of being so program driven or title specific. I think this is more in-line with a movement mentality as opposed to building one single organization.


This morning I’m not feeling well…I got the cedar fever thing going on or something else. Anyhow, I spent most of the morning studying churches that I think “have it going on.” I was not worried about theology or ministry philosophy-I just want to know what churches are making an impact and what can I learn from them even if I would never do church/ministry they way they do.

Brand Autopsy has a great post that I think is relevant to this conversation. And I think Rob Bell or somebody asked the same question at some conference last year.

If you’re church or business was gone today-would anybody care? Brand Autopsy uses some of the following businesses as example:

1. Subaru: Nope, I could care less about them.
2. Sears: Nope, it’s been years since I stepped into a Sears.
3. Well Fargo: I would not, but if WAMU was gone I would be depressed.
4. Chilli’s: I still enjoy Chilli’s. But I’ve only been there maybe once in the last year. So I would be sad, but not really.

Now what companies would cause depression if they disappeared.

1. Starbucks: I’m not a fan really, I prefer local joints. But I would still be sad, because I would miss the convenience.
2. In & Out or Chick-Fil-A: Yes for sure. I love these joints.
3. Harley: I want one-BAD. So yes I would be sad.
4. Amazon: Oh God-please…That would be horrible.
5. Target: Yes, love Target.

6. All the local pubs, coffeeshops and restaurants. (Mozart’s, Genuine Joe’s, Shady Grove, Freebirds, Waterloo Records etc.)

I think there is something to be said about culture. And I think my job as a leader is to determine how my church can become a community that would be deeply missed by Christians and non-Christians. When I was studying these churches, they seem to have that dubious “it” factor. They got vision, momentum and excitement. It really does not matter if you are a simple church or mega-church. There is still an “it” factor or maybe a tipping point. Something that generated momentum which then became a movement.

I’ve identified seven things that they all seem to have. This is just a quasi personal opinion, no formal research. So, hopefully after Christmas I will be able to post the seven things that every church had or seemed to have. In the meantime I leave you with this quote by Seth Godin via Purple Cow.

“The lesson is simple—boring always leads to failure. Boring is always the most risky strategy. Smart businesspeople realize this, and they work to minimize (but not eliminate) the risk from the process.”


So Jeff and I got back from our retreat. Basically we spent 2 days trying to develop a plan for 2008. Which includes our yearly teaching calender, discipleship map, leadership development plan and any other plan one can think of.

A few thoughts:

  • Being portable kinda sucks. Space is always an issue.
  • It’s complex to solve all the moving parts that go into ministry. So many issues and personalities that have to mesh.
  • Money: You have to always figure out the money issue. When do you take a step of faith? Are we being wise. Assessing risk is vital.
  • Gifting: Are we doing what we are gifted to do?
  • Focus is really big for us. How do we have a laser sharp focus?
  • What culture are we creating? Is our culture safe? Is our culture chaotic? Or is our culture one of mission and Spirit led living and planning.
  • Are we having fun? If not then something is just not right.

I guess I could go on..It’s really a never ending list. As I process our vision, strategy, systems etc. I think everything comes back to life-change. We have to see life change. People finding God, marriages being restored, broken relationships being mended…It’s really about transformation. If Austin and the people who live here, those we minister too are not being transformed them something is just not right, mission is not happening.

Therefore, every decision we make is based on the conviction of “will this decision help bring transformation?”

Rick McKinley, who pastor a great church in Portland, shares his thoughts on the Emerging Church here.

Last night the “Africa” team got together. Our goal was to simply pray; pray for Africa, for each other, for Amy & Steven and pray that God would somehow use the four of us while we are in Africa.

On the way home I was reflecting on the whole theory of prayer. The Bible places such a strong emphasis on prayer…Yet it just seems like a lost art in the church. I couldn’t help but wonder why. Why do we (I) struggle so deeply with prayer?

So last night it felt good to just spend time praying with my brothers and sisters.

For those of us who are stuck in suburbia and trying to find redemptive ways to restore the Kingdom below is a helpful list of 10 ways that we suburbanites can be the people of God for our community.
Ten Ways to be the People of God in Suburbia
by Chris Smith

In response, to Brian McLaren’s call for urban churches at the Mayhem gathering last weekend [in Cincinnati], my friend Mike Bishop has been stirring up some conversation on “suburban ministry.” Here’s my response to that conversation, ten ways for those called to suburban ministry to be in the people of God in radical ways in suburbia. This list is meant for people to chew on and not all of its points may be applicable for all suburban missional church communities.

1) Live with others from your church community

Whether you share your home with another person or family, or whether you have several families that have homes in close proximity or both, sharing life together is perhaps the most powerful (i.e., going against the grain of suburban culture) way to be the body of Christ in suburbia. If you can’t live together, at least find a way to share resources (power tools, lawn mowers, children’s clothes/toys, etc).

2) Work Less!

One of the major powers that enslaves suburbia is the idolization of the career. There are many ways to pay the bills that do not involve a 9-5 job, and even within a 9-5 job, there are ways to work less (turning down promotions, taking unpaid leave, etc.) Working less will free you to serve your church community, your family, your neighbors, etc. It will also spur creativity: finding a solution for working less, finding a way to “make ends meet” financially, etc.

3) Throw out the television

Another (and perhaps larger power) that enslaves suburbia is consumerism. You’ll be amazed at how your desire for things ebbs as you take the TV out of the picture. If you can’t bring yourself to kill the television, at least take steps to lessen its influence (get rid of cable, only use it for movies, put it on a cart that can be wheeled in and out of a closet, etc.) Throwing out the television will also stimulate your creativity.

4) Drive less

Suburban culture is also enslaved to the automobile. Find ways to loosen those bonds (much more difficult in suburbia than in urban areas). Share a vehicle with others in your church community (much easier if you are doing #1 above). Invest in a good bicycle. Walk. There was a segment on “60 minutes” a few weeks ago about how much we miss when we zip around in automobiles. Walking and/or biking will help you be more attentive to your surroundings

5) Have a garden / grow food

Suburban life is often very shut off from the food cycle (Food comes from the grocery store, of course!). Homegrown food is more healthy, it gives you a good excuse to be outside (see #7 below), and it provides you with a resource to share generously with your church community and your neighbors. Phil Kenneson outlines a number of horticultural lessons for the people of God in his intro to LIFE ON THE VINE that are additional benefits of this practice.

6) Get to know your neighbors / listen for their needs

To be human is to be poor. Or in other words, everyone has needs. The challenge of suburbia is that there are many more ways to conceal that poverty, and similarly that it will take more effort to get into a position where a neighbor can reveal their needs. Be intentional about building relationships. Share meals, play poker, have block parties, whatever it takes.

7) Be outside as much as possible.

Another temptation of suburbia – fueled by individualism – is that of the house as an impenetrable fortress. Dissolve this temptation by eating, playing, relaxing outside. This practice is also one avenue to interact with your neighbors.

8) Do not fence in your yard

All apologies to Robert Frost, but fences do not make good neighbors, and in fact they often keep us from making good human neighbors. This is a corollary to #7, the fence is a major component of the impenetrable fortress syndrome; it protects our privacy and keeps out our “evil” neighbors. It often is a statement of distrust. If you must have a fence (to corral a dog for instance) make it as low and as permeable (i.e., not blocking off the view) as you can get away with.

9) Take a stand against the greed of mega-corporations

Whenever possible, resist buying from domineering mega-corporations (e.g., Wal-mart, McDonalds, Starbucks, and others). These corporations destroy local economies and have little or no concern for the environment. Buy as much as you can from businesses that are as local as possible (family-owned businesses are preferable to local chains, local chains are preferable to regional chains, and regional chains are preferable to global corporations.)

10) Utilize and support non-commercial public spaces (parks, libraries, colleges, etc.)

This point is another corollary of #7 above. We must utilize and show our support for these public spaces, lest they be conquered by the powers of individualism (by becoming private property) or by consumerism (by becoming commercial or industrial property). This is also a wonderful way to foster relationships with our neighbors.

HT: Will Samson (Having issues linking right now)