Monday, October 26, 2009


This Sunday James Underwood from Bethel St. Paul shared in Minneapolis. It was a great word about our true identity. In life we all wear different kinds of hats and those things aren't what truly define us. He had an awesome way of illustrating that with a bunch of different literal hats that he wears as part of his life and what they represent, but how those things don't define him. He read from Ephesians 2:11-15 and pointed out that God has bought the naming rights to our lives...just like big companies pay big money for the right to put their name on a building or stadium, in the same way, God has bought the naming rights to your life as Creator & Redeemer!
1. He Created us! (Genesis 2:6)
- Very personally: Formed us with his hands & breathed into us!

2. He Redeemed Us!
- He purchased us with His life and has the right to name us (Revelation 2).

There are many voices trying to label you, but only one has the right to name you and be the source of your identity. At the time of Jesus there were many voices labeling Him, but He looked to the Father for His identity ("this is my son in whom I am well pleased"). It was as people saw who the Father said Jesus was that they truly knew Him. Jesus asked His disciples "who do you say that I am?" His disciples picked up on what God the Father said and answered that He was "the Christ, the Son of the Living God." Jesus asked them for their good not His. It really should have been them asking Jesus "who do YOU say that I am?" Because being who God says you are is more powerful and more important than trying to be who others say you are or should be.
What about you, are there old "names" or labels that someone else put on you, or you put on yourself, that you need to get rid of today? Take off those hats!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Last year I read this GREAT book called "Boundaries with Kids." I wish I had read it before I started youth ministry because it makes the shaping process that kids need to go through so clear. It provides good ways to put boundaries in place for your kids no matter what age they are. I felt like I had learned some of those things along the way by trial and error (because nobody else was teaching this stuff) and other things I saw that I had totally missed (many "aha!" moments). Now that we have Abby I need to go back and read it and work on applying it to the stage she is at right now.

I want to read one book on parenting each year, but I also want to review this book each year because what it contains is so simple and powerful, yet easy to forget over time. I would HIGHLY recommend this book to ANY parent, no matter how long (or little) you have been parenting or grandparenting. You can take this and apply it to any stage of development in your kids' lives. You will probably have a few "aha!" moments along the way and be encouraged to keep pressing on as you train up your children in the way that they should go so that when they are old they will not depart from it!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Seven Practices of Effective Ministry

Last year I was privileged to get my hands on an awesome book that summarizes a lot of what I learned in my Organizational Leadership studies: 7 Practices of Effective Ministry.

It takes some fairly complex concepts and puts them in ways that are easy to understand, communicate, and apply. This is something that we were working through in Breckenridge when I left and something that we have started working through with our leadership team at Bethel Minneapolis!
Here's a quick summary. I highly recommend this book to you if you are in leadership.

Practice #1 – Clarify the Win: Define what is important at every level of the organization.
  • As long as the win in unclear, you force your team to guess at what a win looks like.
  • If the win is unclear, you may force those in leadership roles to define winning in their own terms.
  • When you clarify the win on every level you help your team stay on the same page.
  • When you clarify the win you can manage your resources effectively.
Practice #2 – Think Steps, not Programs: Before you start anything, make sure it takes you where you need to go.
  • Every step should be easy
  • Every step has to be obvious
  • Every step must be strategic
Practice #3 – Narrow the Focus: Do fewer things in order to make a greater impact.
  • Churches feel constant pressure to provide programs on the basis of needs.
  • Resist complexity and pursue simplicity.
  • Choose what potentially works best over what is presently working.
  • The more you focus the environment, the greater the relevance, the better the connection, the higher the quality, and the stronger the impact.
Practice #4 – Teach Less for More: Say only what you need to say to the people who need to hear it.
  • Decide what you are going to say
  • Decide to say one thing at a time
  • Decide how you are going to say it
  • Say it over and over again
Practice #5 – Listen to Outsiders: Focus on who you’re trying to reach, not who you’re trying to keep.
- (we really miss the boat the on this one sometimes)

Practice #6 – Replace Yourself: Learn to hand off what you do.
  • Prepare someone to do what you do and strategically replace yourself.
Practice #7 – Work On It: Take time to evaluate your work, and to celebrate your wins.

I highly reccomend you read this book if you would like to know some of the details involved in this process. You may also find it helpful to go through this with your leadership team and apply this to every level of leadership.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Goals Update

At the beginning of the year I set some goals of what I felt God wanted me to do as a steward of what He has given me this year. I share them with you briefly. I hope to get better at dreaming God's dreams for the future and moving towards what God has.

- Read Through the Bible chronologically in the English Standard Version in a year.

  • This is going great, especially now that I switched to an RSS feed.
Get Back in Shape
  • I've lost 20 pounds so far this year and am hoping to lose 8 more by the end of the year.
Finish Graduate School
  • I was blessed to complete a Master's degree in Organizational Leadership AND Practical Ministry. By starting at Regent University and completing at Beacon University I was able to get a dual emphasis in practical ministry (specifically small groups and other ministry things) as well as Organizational Leadership.
Work on Book:
  • I put a basic outline together last year. Unfortunately I haven't done any work on this in 2009. I do want to work on refining the outline and beginning to put content into the right spots.
  • Work on transitioning Valley Christian's worship and student ministries to continue strong after we leave. I was able to work with Dean and other staff members to setup some systems to keep things running smoothly and set the stage for MORE growth in those areas.
Work with a Church Plant that is an Intentional and Missional Community:
  • Sarah and I dreamed of doing this for a while, but it was a "some day" dream and god has blessed us to begin leading a church plant with Bethel Christian Fellowship.
  • The first thing I wanted to do was to work to clarify the "wins" and define our steps for implementing the vision and "win" in the ministry. And it's been awesome to begin this process.
  • One of the things we really wanted to make a part of our church life was to do small groups as part of the service after the message on Sundays and then to also meet outside of the church to DO ministry.
Message Series Prayer and Planning:
  • I have been working on praying and planning out the series of sermons for at least a year in advance; including concepts and images used in the messages. This is still a work in progress, but I am working towards it: I have sets of series plans, but need to work harder on filling in the message titles and contents farther ahead of time.

To Grow as an Effective Communicator:

  • By working on how I prepare and deliver messages using more than just words.
Lead My Family:
  • I decided a while back that I will not sacrifice my family on the altar of ministry! This is something that takes work and I have to move towards this intentionally (word of the week) by spending more time with my family by using the free evenings we have and by guarding my day off. I am a work in a progress, but I am looking for progress.

  • My goal is to read all of the books I own that I have not read yet...this has been a problem as I have continued to add books to my collection.

These are the goals I have been working towards this year and as the year ends I will be looking at what God wants for next year!

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I saw this as I was walking around Catalyst. The title jumps out to me :-) Here's what I firmly believe: I believe that the major problems & injustices of the world (hunger, AIDS, poverty, human trafficking, etc.) would be solved if the church as a whole cared about what God cares about as much as He cares about them! What if we united with others & with God in the advancement of His Kingdom, which is defined as justice (righteousness), peace (!), joy (in the Holy Spirit), & power!

I believe God has given us the power to do this with the Holy Spirit & the Body of Christ! May His Kingdom Come & His will be done in & through us!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bible in a Year

Earlier this year I made a list of goals for the year. One of those was to read through the Bible chronologically in the English Standard Version. I have grown to enjoy doing that each year, although there have been years that I have focused on specific parts of the Bible and just read them over and over. There was one year I just read and studied the Gospels over and over while another year I just read the New Testament several times. Although I don't know how many times I have read through the Bible I DO know that the chronological way has been the best way for me to get the most out of it. It really helps me to get the bigger picture of God's work throughout the Bible and throughout history.
If you've ever tried a Bible reading plan or a chronological reading you have probably had some difficulties keeping track of where you were, losing your reading guide, losing your place as you jumped around in the chronological piece. Or falling too far behind that you felt like giving up. Well don't be troubled because everyone that has ever set out to learn more about God has faced similar difficulties UNTIL NOW (cue the "ShamWow" music): I just found an AWESOME way to do my Bible reading the other day. has an awesome reading plan system that allows you to choose between 5 different plans. You can currently add your plan to your RSS reader and it will appear each day as your other blog posts do (they are currently working on an email system too). Here are several reasons that I have found most helpful:
  • You don't have to carry around reading plans (I just read my Bible and Bible reading on my phone or laptop).
  • You don't have to wonder whether or not you already read something.
  • If you miss a day it will be there for you when you come back.
  • When you're doing a chronological reading you don't have to jump all over the place and you can really feel the flow of the greater story.
  • If you're a blog reader, it sets up a system for you where you will be reminded of reading every day...which when you think about it, it's kind of messed up that we would have time to read a blog and not God's story...
So, in making the switch between my chronological plan and BibleGateway's I missed some pieces of the Prophets, but the overall benefits of switching to something that helps me be more intentional (word of the week) far outweighs that.

Another really cool thing was you can choose from multiple versions. I'm finishing up the ESV this year, but next year I'm reading the Bible in The Message translation. Trying different translations has helped me continue to gain greater perspective as I grow, so I'm very excited about finishing this year in the ESV and doing next year in The Message!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Church Planting

I'm at a meeting today and tomorrow where many things have been discussed and will be discussed, but the one that I was eagerly anticipating was the discussion on church planting. A group of pastors in our region (MN, IA, and Western WI/MI) worked on an intentional plan for starting churches in our area by working together that I am VERY excited about and today it was presented to the other regions. The plan is called Apostello (sent forth) and you can access the full version of it here. Today we talked about what role we need to play in church planting; locally, regionally, and nationally as the Fellowship of Christian Assemblies. The conclusion was that church planting is something that is already happening in our fellowship but that we can definitely grow more in that area by being more intentional. I'm excited that we're having this discussion about church planting and here's why:
  • I believe that we have to be intentional (my word of the week) about reaching people everywhere with the good news of Jesus Christ and one local church cannot do that.
  • I believe that churches should plant churches that plant churches that plant churches...I don't just say that because I am now working with a church plant, but because I firmly believe that healthy things grow and reproduce. Sarah and I talked about working with a church planting team "some day" for many years. I even had a vision for church planting 9 years ago. For doing many of the things we're doing as part of Bethel Christian Fellowship. Neither Sarah or I were expecting "some day" to come this soon, but we are blessed to be part of Bethel and be leading such an awesome group of people!
  • I believe that starting new churches creates opportunities for more people to get involved in ministering to other people.
  • I believe that churches that start new churches unleash leaders to serve in capacities in the new church and also creates opportunities for other leaders to take their place where they were. Many leaders also emerge from other areas of ministry in successful church plants and more leaders are raised up because there was a place for their giftings to be used in making a difference in people's lives.
I'm not saying everything will be easy for any church that decides to plant a church (or for us for that matter), but I do believe that working together towards what God has for us is better than working alone. I am eagerly looking forward to what God has in store for us in Minneapolis and throughout the churches of the FCA!