When God Calls You to Wait

Paul Tripp with some wise words on God's will in your time of waiting (whew ... lots of "w's"):

In ministry there are often moments when you are propelled by a biblical vision but called by God to wait. Waiting can be discouraging and hard. So what does it look like to wait in a way that makes you a participant in what God is doing rather than someone who struggles against the wait? Let me suggest several things.

Read the rest ...

God Never Makes a False Assignment

Paul Tripp on passivity and God's calling:

God knows that in ourselves we are not up to the tasks he calls us to, but he never makes a false assignment. When he sends us we are sent as instruments in his almighty hands. He is the one who creates the change. He is the great Restorer. He never calls us to what we cannot accomplish in him, but he always calls us to what we could never accomplish without him.

Read the whole thing ...

A Good Conversation for Couples in the New Year

Couples, I encourage you to block off some time together this weekend to reflect on this past year and talk, pray and dream about the coming year.  My wife and I spent some time last night going through these series of questions below - written by Justin Buzzard.  It was a sweet time together and it helped us feel united and focused on the year ahead.

Remembering 2010

What one word best sums up and describes your 2010 experience? What was the greatest lesson you learned in 2010? What was the most loving service you performed in 2010? What are you most happy about completing in 2010? Who were the three people that had the greatest impact on your life in 2010?

Looking Forward to 2011

What advice would you like to give yourself in 2011? What are you looking forward to learning in 2011? What do you think your biggest risk will be in 2011? Who or what are you most committed to loving and serving in 2011? What one word would you like to have as your theme in 2011?

Read Buzzard's entire post here ...

Every Visionary Leader Should Read This

Will Mancini shares 4 kinds of subtle idolatry that seeps into the hearts of visionary leaders - convicting to say the least.

#1 Hardness: Loving the Vision More than the People the Vision Serves

On my first interview while still in seminary, an experienced senior pastor put a pie chart in front of me with three slices. The slices were marked “people,” “tasks,” and “ideas.” His question is simple, “Which one of these do you like the most?” As a budding pastor, my response was quick and confident- “people first, and then tasks.”

But some people are wired to love ideas. In fact, today, I would answer the question differently with “idea” at the top of the list. Many strategically minded leaders forge a ministry identity out of a love for people. But with success and growth they learn to leverage their skills with ideas and tasks. The problem is when this naturally ability trumps the essential motive of love and model of deep connection with others. Any vision you have is an idea. Therefore gifted visionaries can idolize the vision idea itself, either above the God who gave the vision or above the people the vision serves.

The great commandment is to love God and others, not to love the ideas that God gives you.

#2 Impatience: Wanting God’s Vision on Your Timetable

A God-given vision can be beautiful in an intoxicating sort of way.  When a leader experiences it and knows it’s from God, it can pulsate through your veins with a Spirit-inspired adrenaline rush. As soon as this happens, it opens the door for a form of indulgence- a holy sort of instant gratification, that in the end, isn’t holy at all.

#3 Entitlement: Using God’s Vision as a Cover for Personal Gain

We never  start out in ministry with this temptation or thinking that we will ever face it. But as a ministry grows, a subtle and unperceivable, mindset forms. Entitlement happens when the leader expects and demands certain benefits and “rights” as a leader. In essence, this form of pride layers over time with each “win” in the ministry. The leader looses the instrumental identity and assumes a cause-and-effect identity with them as the ultimate cause and not God.

#4 Buzz: Allowing the Success of the Vision to Provide Emotional Sustenance

This final idolatry is nothing different than enjoying the process addictions (shopping, gossiping,  pornography, etc) or chemical addictions that provide a high that you can’t live without. Being a part of a ministry that’s growing is a thrill ride with a lot of emotional benefits. This blessing  can easily replace the gospel as the centering driving force and  power center of our days. The emotional fruit of success becomes the functional savior.

(HT: Mark Peterson)

The Parable of the Sea

Sea Parable from ilovepinatas on Vimeo.

I was intrigued by this video.  I think it captures the reality that as churches get bigger they have a tendency to become comfortable.  They can get sidetracked and forget why they started in the first place.  It reminded me of the tagline of my blog.  Life Together  -- SO THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE.  Our community is not for community's sake.  It's for mission.  I borrowed the phrase (so others may live) from the coastguard rescue swimmers.  What a fitting picture for those of us who have been rescued by Christ and sent out like Christ to seek and to save that which was lost. 

(HT: Church of the Cross)

The Sweet Spot

Brent Thomas: [Our] Community Groups are made up of three spheres, “Communion,” “Community” and “Mission.” We first saw this diagram in Hugh Halter and Matt Smay’s book The Tangible Kingdom, and it made a lot of sense to us. Halter and Smay define “communion” as our connection with God; worship, both personal and corporate. Community is life together and mission is being focused outward, on others. Our Community Groups aim to be the intersection of all three, the “sweet spot.” It is when all three of these spheres intersect, that Halter and Smay say the kingdom becomes “tangible” for people. 

Community Groups are meant to be a context in which we can aim for the intersection of each sphere, where communion, community and mission so inform our lives that the kingdom becomes tangible. This means that they are not just small-group bible studies. They are that, but they are more. They are not just social gatherings. They are that, but they are more. They are not just service projects. They are that, but they are more. Community Groups at Church of the Cross are small families of learning, serving missionaries where we learn to live everyday life with Gospel intentionality.

Risk and Failure in Leadership

Leaders need room to risk and room to fail.  Todd Heistand writes well here on the leadership culture he's trying to create in his church:  We embrace creativity, innovation and risk for the sake of the gospel. 

One of the values we have held onto since our inception has been creating a culture of innovation, experimentation and risk taking. We believe God has gifted us to be creative and that he invites us to be that way with how we expresses our witness as a congregation. You don’t have to look very far to see how this has been expressed (Art Shows, Fashion Shows, We meet in a warehouse, etc). Seth Godin once said,"If your organization requires success before commitment, it will have neither.” What he is saying here is that there is an element of risk that is required for an organization (and I would argue, the gospel) to move forward. Of course, we don't just risk for risk's sake. We take risks when they seem missionally helpful and don't go against our core commitments (theologically and practically). It’s amazing how quickly people want to seek safety when faced with uncertainty. If you don’t set this up as a value early on and intentionally, you will always lean back into safety. Keeping this value a value is harder and harder the older you get and more established are.

We must learn to embrace “failed” projects and ideas as opportunities for growth.

In a culture of creativity and innovation, failure is not only inevitable, it is required. In an innovative environment there must be room to fail or innovation will be squashed and creativity will be stifled. For every iPod or iPhone there is a Apple Newton (Apple’s attempt at a PDA in 1993), Apple Pippin (apple’s foray into the video game console market - not to be confused with Scottie Pippen) and the Apple G4 Cube (a boxy computer that never sold). Never heard of those? That’s the point. Apple, a company that is a cultural icon of innovation and creativity, has had some major failures in its time. Some of the greatest lessons and learnings come from failed experiments. Often, failed projects, experiments, etc are good tutors for redefining our mission and vision by reminding us what is important.

  • Read the entire article, "Missional Leadership Culture."

Sunday Services Aren't Enough

Jonanthan Dodson has a great post on why Sunday services are not enough.  They are as he says, "important, but an incomplete experience of what the New Testament describes as church."  In the comment section of his post he lays out a few tips to move from event-based community to steady state community.

Your people will have to make three shifts:

1. Conceptual. Church doesnt equal a meeting or an event; it is the people of God on the mission of Christ. Continue to teach this in fresh ways. 2. Practical. They so believe the biblical concept they are willing to repent of living a churchless life and begin sharing life together. Continue to exemplify this. 3. Affectional. The hardest. They actually desire real missional community, to be a people gathered around Jesus an on his mission. Pray them into this.

1. Continually and graciously deconstruct church as and event and reconstruct it as a community. Using the family/household metaphor of Scripture can be especially helpful. E.g., What would your family be like if you saw each other once a week?

2. Train your leader on how to cultivate steady state community. Steady state community is a constant flow of gospel, social, and missional connections throughout the week. – Don’t eat alone. Share meals. You eat 21 times a week. Try to share 3-4 a week with people in your community. – Don’t hobby alone. Invite others into your hiking, working out, running, etc. – Invite your missional community into your life, not just into your meetings. – Use Twitter and other social media to let people know you are going somewhere and invite them to join you. – Don’t shop alone. Invite other women to join you.

3. Invite people into your mission not just your life. – Have MC people and neighbors over for dinner together. – Be on mission as a community serving your part of the city.

Why Matt Chandler Came to The Village

Many of you know that Matt Chandler, Lead Pastor of The Village Church in Dallas, Texas, was teaching and preaching around the world with big crowds and good money before God called him to shepherd a small (160 people) church in the suburbs. When he accepted the position many of his friends thought he had made a horrible mistake even going so far as to say that he was being disobedient and a bad steward of the gifts God had given him. So why did he do it? Here's his answer (and I encourage you to read slowly):

The truth is I didn't become the pastor of a church in a Dallas suburb because I had a grand vision for growing a dynamic, life-transforming, church-planting, gospel-preaching, God-centered church.  I took the position because after a great deal of conversation, prayer, and fasting, my wife and I felt it was the direction God, through the Holy Spirit, was leading us.

I came to The Village because I thought that by doing so I would get to see more of Him, experience more of Him, sense more of Him, see more of me die and more of my flesh perish.  I came to The Village because I wanted the old man in me to lose more power.  Christ is the great end that I am after.  He is why. (Catalyst GroupZine, Vol. 5).

I tear up as I think about how God answered his prayer in ways he would have never imagined.

Join God's Work in Japan

Michael Oh spoke at the 2009 Desiring God Conference for Pastors about his vision to reach Japan for Jesus.  Some of you know my twin brother, Mark Wolter, and his family are missionaries in Kyoto, Japan.  Please pray for them and consider joining God's work in Japan.  As mentioned in the video, the Protestant population of Japan is about .2%, with a total population of around 186 million. Japan needs Jesus, and needs your prayers.

LBC members: Mark and his family will be coming to speak our church, Lord willing, on August 15th.  He appreciates all of your prayers and support and would love to see you all this summer.

  • Read an interview I had with Mark awhile back. (Part 1) and (Part 2)

They're not just kids.

Mike Johnson with a good word of exhortation:

They're... just... kids.

To hear these words sends a streak down my spine. It's normally used as an excuse for poor performance or low quality in ministry. When people are too tired, too overwhelmed, or... dare I say... too lazy to do something great for the next generation, they say, "They're just kids, they won't know the difference." Where did this idea come from anyway? If you want to make any major change in the world, you have to start with the children. They are the adults of the future. They are the difference makers, the risk takers, the dreamers who have yet to be. Why in the world would we sell short our children, the group of people most open to hearing ideas of change? In churches all over the country kids are relegated to the "basement" of ministry. This un-supported, under-funded, just-keep-them-quiet mentality could very well be the ruin of the church as we know it. If the children of the church grow up and believe that it is irrelevant, boring, and lacking in quality, then the first chance they get, they are out of here. If that happens, the church will die.

I know we cannot all do the same level of work, but we can all have the same spirit behind the work. Let us all embrace the next generation and give our best to them with the resources God has given us.

Check out this video from C3 Kids 2009 that touches on this idea:

To those of you who serve the children and families of LBC and all over this world, be encouraged ... you're making a difference!

Don't begin at the wrong end in 2010

It's the first Monday of the New Year and all of us want to change.  And we want these changes to happen immediately.  So we run hard doing whatever it takes to change.  But all this running could be done in vain if we begin at the wrong end.  J.C. Ryle's words are worth meditating on as we begin this new year:

Would you be holy?  Then you must begin with Christ .... Men sometimes try to make themselves holy first of all, and sad work they make of it.  They toil and labor, and turn over new leaves, and make many changes; and yet, like the woman with the issue of blood, before she came to Christ, they feel "nothing bettered but rather worse" (Mark 5:26).  They run in vain, and labor in vain; and little wonder, for they are beginning at the wrong end.  They are building up a wall of sand; their work runs down as fast they throw it up.  They are bailing water out of a leaky vessel; the leak gains on them, not they on the leak .... Go to Christ.  Wait for nothing.  Wait for nobody.  Go and say to Him, in the words of that beautiful hymn -- "Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling; Naked, flee to Thee for dress; Helpless, look to Thee for grace."  There is not a brick nor stone laid in the work of our sanctification till we go to Christ (J.C. Ryle, Holiness, p. 49). 


3 Questions to Discern God's Call on Your Life

How does God call people?  Instead of waiting around for a burning bush moment, Jim Orrick shares 3 helpful questions to ask yourself: 1. Do you want to do it? 2. Do you have the ability to do this thing you are considering?  And furthermore, is this only your opinion, or is it also the opinion of unbiased observers? What does your local church think of your ability to do this? 3. Do you have the opportunity?

 Orrick says,

Some men are blessed with burning bush experiences. God can still work that way when he pleases. But when the bush does not catch fire, a man’s calling is just as surely from God if his bones are on fire with desire, his heart is on fire with resolve to use his God-given abilities, and his way is on fire with opportunities.

I encourage you to read this entire article!  Very helpful and humorous too.