#TBT 2 Minute Unity, 25 Minute Unity, 25 Month Unity

christian-unityUnity between churches is challenging and time consuming but is also at the center of Jesus’ prayer in John 17.

As a general rule of thumb, if Jesus prayed for it, we want to be part of it.  Collaboration between churches is exciting and powerful, but if you’re not there yet, here are two easy-peasy steps any pastor can take toward true unity with other churches.

2 minute unity: Take 2 minutes in your church service to pray for other churches in your city by name.  We’ve been doing this for a few years now.  We invite people to pray for a local church they know and we offer a few suggestions if they don’t know of churches.   We pray for the mega church down the road, the smaller recovery church downtown and the lutheran church near us, among others.  Most of all, we mean it.  We sincerely pray for their blessing and well being.

25 Minute Unity:  Meet with other pastors and pray for each other, for each other’s churches, for each other’s people.  Because we’re wild and crazy, we pray once a month, 6:30am on Sunday mornings, but you might choose a less biblical more convenient time  :)  As pastors, we pray and worship together on a Sunday before going separately to pray and worship in our churches.

25 Month Unity: Pick a wound or gap in your city, gather church leaders who want to work on that wound or gap and serve together as one expression of church.  We have a small coalition of city churches all working together to face some of our city’s biggest needs.  You’d find wide variety in our theology and worship style, but we are brothers and sisters and we work as one voice to serve the city.  Skeptics can scoff at the church, but a city wide movement of churches serving the poor is a stunning display of the goodness of God.

Aside from moving toward true unity, there are many fringe benefits: Continue reading

Ira Glass on the Craft of Story



Ira Glass is one of the most gifted story curators today. His most known work is the radio show/podcast “This American Life” but he also has the goods on story composition. About every other year he stops by town to host a seminar which is part “This American Life” and part explanation of how he performs it.  For part one, “Exactly Human Sized Stories” click here.  Part two below are bullet point highlights of what Ira taught.


  • He earns his right to speak by being a great listener and by providing understated meaning to story, which is to say, to our lives. He has a light touch and doesn’t oversell.  Understatement is the new language of persuasion.
  • He learned story telling from his Rabbi.  Move the plot forward, then step out of it and verbally reflect on what happened, then back into the plot, reflect etc. Ira told us with chargrin, “I thought I had invented this technique. It turns out my rabbi used it, as does every preacher every Sunday. And then I found out that is how Jesus taught.”  A fine example of this was Brene Brown’s most recent talk at Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit.  
  • Narrative is the back door entrance to a deep place within us. It touches us deeper than argument or debate can. Narrative can actually change someone, debate rarely does.
  •  Ira was equal part storyteller, journalist and DJ. He spoke with an iPad in his hand and he was frequently launching audio as he spoke. We heard quotes from people, fade in music to change mood etc and somehow it wasn’t remotely hokey. It made me wonder what preaching would be like if it were modeled in a similar fashion with soundtrack fades and 3rd party quotes. Ira also mentioned that he has a full-time staff of 8 people producing the show each week.  Is the preacher constraint by resource in this area?
  • “Dialogue is the “ground zero” of a good story.”
  • TAL chooses amazing music for their transitions. Ira uses soundtrack and music that ‘isn’t too interesting.’ He starts speaking on top of the music about the time you’d start singing if it had melody.
  • One of Ira’s best shows was an episode where he played interviews from his earliest days as a journalist.  They were cringeworthy and awkward. Ira says, “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
  • Think the modern attention span is dead?  TAL runs for 58 minutes and the average time listeners spend with the show is 48 minutes. Ira, “once they tune in, we’ve got them until we’re done with them.”  Stunning feat for radio and evidence that Ira Glass and TAL are one of the most important story curators alive today.

TBT: Black Holes and Bright Lights

Ministry can be a roller coaster, except you rarely get off the ride. It can also feel like day trading at times. Never knowing what swing is about to take place. It is black holes and bright lights, but as Rust Cole movingly reminded us, “If you ask me, the light is winning.”


Black holes of church ministry: criticism, relational tension, mistakes, the ongoing pressure of limited or depleting resources, Monday morning blank screen syndrome, the grind of “3 steps forward, 2 steps back” and sometimes even 2 forward 5 back, the uninvolved critic who is technically correct. The person who makes it unnecessarily personal. Doubt, self doubt, exhaustion, the day you hear so much pain you struggle to keep each person’s story straight. When dear friends die. The list goes on and on. Its all a black hole.

The Bright lights: Everyday people discovering God@work in their life, the person who says, “I feel welcome in this church,” a hard working team of staff and volunteers. God showing up in surprising ways. (Does He ever show up in predictable ways?  I think not.)  The light going on for an unbeliever, or a dormant long term church person. Watching an everyday person flourish and shine in leadership, seeing unexpected people pastoring everyday people, feeling the church wide excitement of celebration when someone is baptized, getting calls and emails from people saying, “Whatever you need, I’m in.”  Getting an unexpected check in the offering. The privilege of serve God in this way. Seeing reception up close and personal, watching a group of Kenyans worship as if their life depended on it, being saved from my sins and my self absorbed ways. Breathing air, having the mental capacity to get out of bed. Taking a shower and eating as much as I want which is more than I can say for the majority of this world. These and many more are the bright lights.

Noticing the bright lights and not getting sucked into the black hole is actual ministry work. A black hole’s gravitational force is strong and relentless.  Its not about ignoring real and debilitating problems, its about noticing the wonder of God@work in our church.

Surely the beginning of this noticing starts with the wonder of God@work in our own lives.

Black holes have sucked us in and will surely do so again, but our role as leader is to keep people noticing and celebrating the bright lights. Then, inviting us all to worship of the Light Bearer in wonder and abandonment.

Matt. 4:16   the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”

John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”

My prayer for you today:  That you’ll notice the bright lights and give thanks to the Creator of Light.

Causes vs Humans

“Someone passionately interested in the cause of the leper very carefully avoids speaking to the leper in his path in order to get on with the cause.  And it occurs to me that Jesus couldn’t have cared less about the cause or rights of the leper.  Jesus stopped.  And healed.  And loved.  Not causes, but people…”  Madelene L’Engle

Many of the people hearing a sermon are in active violation or have been in violation of the teachings of Scripture.  So is the preacher and so has she or he been.  An effective preacher understands that the gospel is about people experiencing forgiveness, healing, freedom etc in the grace of God and will also err on the side of inviting the violator into the Kingdom over trumpeting a cultural cause.

If you love a conviction MORE than the people who are breaking your conviction, you are missing the heart of God.  

If you are living a lifestyle that Christians don’t approve of, the gates of the Kingdom of God are wide open to you, radically open to you, graciously open to you.  And I know they are open to you because they are open to me and if I’m invited, you are too.  After all, I am in the rare category of people who Jesus got really angry at: I’m a religious leader.

In today’s society, there are scores of Christians who have absolutely missed this.  They have constructed boundaries and walls and then taken shelter in the shadow of that wall.  God is busting through those walls and Lord have mercy on anyone who puts an unneccessary wall up to those who need God’s salvation and forgiveness.

#GLS15 Overall Reflections

I’ve had a few days to reflect on the GLS and in the spirit of our youth ministry debrief technique, I offer the highs, lows and weirds.

Highs: So many highlights from the Summit this year. For pure practical leadership and management application, I would rate this the best Summit I’ve been to.

  • Kudos for the video testimonies. Seeing how the Gospel informs business practices and national politics was incredible. Angola, NatureSweet, Duarte, Walgreens, Idi Amin’s son…..all incredible.
  • Surely the Satellite Location Experience is directly linked to the host church’s ability to be hospitable. By that criteria, Crossroads Church knocked it out of the park for us.  Amazing hospitality and great hosting between sessions.
  • The overwhelming majority of speakers brought a combination of passion, clarity and good delivery. Our team came away with copious notes that are implementable.
  • Bill Hybels is aging like fine wine, in my opinion. I always look forward to his annual talk, because he is usually very open about what he is currently learning. Great session on the intangibles of leadership. Bill is smart to openly share his own blindspots and mistakes.
  • Bill is a great example of faithful leadership over a long period of time.
  • I am loath to pick a favorite speaker. It is so subjective, based on expectation, what I had for lunch and who I’ve heard before.  So many of the sessions were excellent.
  • Ok fine. Brene Brown was my favorite. Her ability to be brave, tell a well crafted story seemingly off the cuff and get to the heart of the matter is mind blowing.
  • But wait, what about Horst, Sam, Sheila, Brian, Ed and Liz? All very strong. Jim Collins was his usual strong and is at an unfair disadvantage because he always brings it :)
  • Bill Hybels is a living example of his own convictions.  Every Summit, he clearly presents the gospel, knowing unchurched people are there.  He disarms them by letting them know ahead of time what will come, but then he always brings a clear message of the good news of Jesus.  This year was another brilliant presentation of what its all about.
  • While I’m sharing the Hybels love, he is a great example of how to ask for money.  Clear, succinct and concrete in his request, but not a lick of emotionalism.  A good model for us all.

Lows: sorry to pick on a guy, but Adam Grant, what were you thinking?   Continue reading

#GLS15 Session 6: Sallie Krawcheck

Thanks to Owen Smiley for providing these notes while I went back to work.  

Leadership and Ethics on Wall Street

  • The retirement savings crisis is so hairy, such a downer, that we’re not even talking about it anymore. $14T missing dollars, assuming Social Security and Medicare are solvent (they’re not).
  • What if you knew there were huge strides that could grow the economy in the US by 9%?
  • We need to shift our lens. We need to look at a different lens and recognize that the retirement savings crisis is a woman’s crisis. Women retire with 2/3 the money and live 6-8 years longer.

Continue reading

#GLS15 Session 7 Albert Tate

Thanks to Owen Smiley to providing these notes while I went back to work.  Italics are Owen’s thoughts.  

Can I just say the video before this about Angola prison in Louisiana was incredible?

“God doesn’t just say ‘do this’ or ‘do that.’ You think it, and then you think, ‘that’s an awesome thought. I couldn’t have thought of that on my own.'” says Warden Cain

Leading with Leftovers

  • Who should you believe? Lies in truth’s clothing or the naked truth?
  • A lie about leadership: you’re supposed to give it 115%. No you don’t because you don’t live on the field, you live at home, and if you leave it all on the field then you have nothing to take home.
  • How do you lead in a way to have something left? How do you lead not with an eye on your resume but an eye on your eulogy?
  • John 6: feeding of the 5,000. Jesus gives us insight on how to lead with leftovers. He asked how much money they had to buy food. It was a dumb question but Jesus asked on purpose because he wanted it to be clear they couldn’t have done what they are about to do on their own power.
  • The disciple has a dumb idea: hey, I found this boy with two fish and five loaves. I know it’s dumb but I had to say it. This disciple is not laughed out of the room – Jesus says to bring him forward.
  • There is power in dumb ideas, in dumb questions. You need freedom to ask these and think these. Dumb + God’s plan = life transformation.
  • It’s amazing how Jesus specializes in dumb ideas. “Hey Moses, you stutter. Hey Moses, I need somebody to go talk to Pharaoh and tell him to let My people go.”
  • Homeboy Industries. Google it to learn the story of this dumb idea.

Continue reading

#GLS15 session 13: Craig Groeschel

I’m pretty sure Craig is 50% more man than most of us.  Dude is distubringly handsome, ripped and coifed.

Expanding Your Leadership Capacity

  • Your brain doesn’t understand what your body is capable of.  Craig’s story of holding his breath under water and the recurring response, ‘there is more in you.’ He thought he held his breath for 2 minutes, but actually held it 2 mins 45 seconds.  
  • There is more in you than you thought was possible. 
  • A family with 6 kids has a different mindset than a family with 2 kids.  As your organization grows, your mindset about leading that organization must change. 
  • Anytime my organization starts to settle or struggle, I always assume that my mindset needs to change, I need to expand my capacity.  
  • Five C’s of expanding your capacity. Choose to work on just one of them.
  • Build your confidence.  Your words give you away.  Your language keeps speaking about ‘a lid.’  Change your self talk – no longer, ‘I need to clone myself…there aren’t enough hours in the day’ etc.  step out of insecurity and fear and step into calling of God.  Take one step forward out of your lack of confidence and step into the confidence of God.  You are not who you say you are, you are who God says you are.  
  • Expand your connections. Show me who yo listen to and I will show you who you are becoming.  You may be one relationship away from changing the course of your destiny.  
  • 136 church services each week at Lifechurch.  Mind blowing.  
  • Don’t copy what mentors do, learn how they think.  
  • Enjoy and embrace the gift of disorientation when you’re around people whose thinking you don’t understand.  
  • Improve your competence. What specific area do I need to improve. You may not know what it is, but everyone around you knows what it is. 
  • If you are not listening more than you’re talking, your organization is in trouble.
  • Delegate authority, not a task, if you want to develop leaders. I can never hear that enough,  such good, simply advice. 
  • ‘Honey, what in my preaching needs to change?’ It looks like you’re carrying a box and you need to put down the box. LOL!
  • Strengthen your character. Talent can get you to the top, but only character will keep you there.  If your character is not strengthening, your future potential is weakening.  Check your life for leaks. How are your important relationships, how is your time with God, are we telling white lies? Are we portraying something inaccurately? Unconfessed sin? 
  • If there is something in your private life that could affect your public life?
  • Why resist a temptation tomorrow that I can eliminate today? Eliminate temptations that can be eliminated. (Through guidelines, Internet accountability etc.)
  • Increase your commitment.  Hard to take notes here, because Craig entered into old time revival preacher/80’s motivational guy during this part.  He’s right, but it’s hard to take notes on it. 

Craig is having people stand up for the area they want to work on.  Good to declare publicly  what you’re committing to. For me it is increasing my competence.

Craig could use some modulation – the message was like having a relationship with a jackhammer, but the content was great. 

#GLS15 session 12: Liz Wiseman

Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing

  • Is it possible we are at our best when we know the very least, when we’re new, when we’re naive?
  • The rookie has the advantage because they ask a lot of questions and often they don’t know the ‘correct’ questions, and often the ‘incorrect’ questions help figure out what to do.  
  • Experience has obvious upside, but the clear downside: knowledge leads to assumptions, often bad assumptions.  
  • When you’ve seen something before, your mind fills in what is not actually there.  OUCH! Been there. 
  • Job Satisfaction level increases when challenge level increases.  Increased challenge forces a person to figure it out, thus decreasing the challenge level.  
  • Rookies are motivated to reduce risk, reduce tension and not stick their neck out, but rookies can give a gift to the rest of the team.  
  • Giving people work they already know how to do is demotivating.  
  • Signs you’re on a plateau: things are finally running smoothly, you already have the answers, (ready answers for known problems), you get positive feedback, you’ve become the mentor. 
  • When you’re at the top of your game, you’re in danger of getting stuck at a plateau.
  • The worst: busy, but bored.  This is contagious.  
  • Comfort is stealthy.  It enters the home as a guest, and then it becomes the host and eventually becomes the master.  
  • Can you lead as a perpetual rookie? Fantastic question!  You can do it, by pivoting between the dual roles of leader and learner. 
  • Pivots: throw away your notes, (my students deserve fresh thinking.), ask the questions. Admit what you don’t know, let someone else lead, take a new job that you’re incompetent for. 
  • There is no more powerful shift for a leader than pivoting from the person who knows to the person who asks.  BOOM!
  • In a growing organization, you’re under qualified every day.  Why not publicly admit that to your team. 
  • ‘Everyone here knows there is no such thing as vacation with small children.  You’re just shifting the zip code of where you work.’ So true!
  • Spend time with the new converts to renew your own spiritual growth. 
  • In our state of not knowing, we come to know God.

Wonderful YouTube video of ‘zia’ the 10 year old who tackles the steep downhill here