An Interview with Ben Reed, Author of Starting Small

Ben ReedEnergetic, passionate, committed, relentless: these are just a few of the words that describe Ben Reed.

Ben is the small groups pastor at Long Hollow Baptist Church, a great faith community just outside of Nashville, where he is rethinking and restructuring group life. Before that he served as the groups pastor and then executive pastor for a church plant that grew to over 2000 in weekly attendance.

But more important to me than his impressive resume is that I have the privilege of calling Ben a friend, and I am excited to introduce you to his first book, Starting Small: The Ultimate Small Group Blueprint.

So Ben, for as long as I've known you, you've been a prolific blogger.  What made you decide to write a book?

I felt like I had more to say than a series of blog posts could handle. I love blogging, but I was ready to be able to carry a sustained idea a little longer than a blog can. 

The value of blogs is that they’re short and to-the-point. My book, though it’s intentionally short (70 pages), is a lot longer than you’d ever want to read on a blog post.

I love writing, and I really make sense of the world as I flesh my thoughts out that way. So the book was as helpful for me as it ever will be for anyone else.

You write about how your love of small group ministry comes out of your own experience in a group and the impact the group had on your life.  As I read it, Starting Small is about systematizing that type of experience so that others can have it too.  Other than picking up a copy of Starting Small, what advice would you have for folks who are just beginning to lead a small group ministry?

Grab the best leaders you know. Not necessarily the most spiritual, the ones who have been following Jesus the longest, or the ones that know the most Bible, but the best leaders. The ones that people want to follow.

And ask them to journey through life with you in your small group. Invest in them. Help them grow. Let them experience authentic community, see the beauty and power in it, then deploy them to lead as you coach them through the process.

That's good. Find the people with the most leadership capacity, and walk with them until they're spiritually ready... sounds kinda like making disciples. :)

In Chapter 2 you point out that few of us can name 10 sermons that impacted our lives but that we can almost certainly name 10 people who have invested in us.  How can we help our group leaders become not just meeting facilitators but people who are making a significant investment in the lives of the people in their groups?

Help them see that the value of groups is not found in completing a curriculum, checking a box that says you “met,” or in coming to all of the right trainings.

The value of a small group is in people taking steps of faith together.

And when you see groups doing that, celebrate it!

Because what’s celebrated is what’s replicated. So when you “catch” someone doing the right thing, let them, and everyone else, know it.

I love that. Let me say that again in case anyone missed it.

Groups are about people taking steps of faith together, not completing the curriculum, and if you want more people to take steps of faith together, celebrate when it happens.

Okay, I should probably step down off my soapbox now.

In Chapter 3 you talk about the importance of a senior pastor in group life.  If he or she is bought in, the congregation will notice.  And if he or she isn't, the congregation will notice. What advice would you give to small group directors/pastors at churches where the senior pastor isn't fully invested in small groups?

Find a new church. :)

No, seriously, your church needs you. Don’t give up! Invite your pastor to join your group. And don’t put the pressure of leadership on them, or expectation that they’d wear their pastor hat every week. Just let them be themselves. Let them be a follower of Jesus on a journey, just like everyone else in the group.

As they see lives changing around them in the group, and as God changes their own life too, their sermon illustrations will change from being generic “I’ve heard a story of a guy that…” to, “In my small group this week…” That’s a powerful shift.

It is. Nothing communicates the value of group life like stories or even just mentions of group life. It's invaluable.

Speaking of sermons and church services, one of my favorite parts of Starting Small is in Chapter 5 where you offer a critique of modern worship services as hyper-individualistic.  If you were designing a church service from the ground up, what would you do differently?

I would strategically use Sunday mornings as an on-ramp for community. Link the small group questions to the sermon. Tell the congregation that you realize all questions, concerns, and hang-ups can’t be answered here. And tell people constantly that what’s best for them is not that they’d just sit there and soak in, but that they (no matter where they are on their spiritual journey) can be used by God in huge ways to impact the people God’s brought into their lives.

Ben, thanks for spending a few minutes with us. If you haven't gotten a copy of Starting Small yet, be sure to order one.  It would make a great gift for the small group lover in your life.

While you're at it, be sure to keep up with Ben on his blog, Life and Theology, as well as on Twitter.

Living Missionally is Hard

If you don't know what living missionally is... we'll have to get to that another time.

But for those of you who do, I just had another one of those experiences that reminded me that it's a lot easier to talk about living missionally than it is to actually live missionally.

I'm right in the middle of preparing a talk for our small group leaders about missional discipleship and making our small groups missional when I get a phone call from a friend who volunteers with the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center.

My heart sank as I thought to myself, "How can I get out of this?"  The last thing that I want to do right now is spend the next six hours trying to figure out housing for a pregnant teenager or put my severely limited pastoral skills to the test as I try to walk through a situation so difficult I can barely comprehend it with someone who I have almost nothing in common.

Turns out she just need to get in touch with a housemate of mine and didn't have his number, but reflecting on the situation reminded me once again that it's a lot easier and a lot more fun to teach people about living missionally than it is to actually go out and do it.

Tags:

Andy Stanley & Craig Groeschel – Together – Catalyst One Day

AS: Leaning into what your strengths are means you have to give stuff away.  How has what you do or don't do changed over the years?

CG: I really believe that the more effective you want to become as a leader, the fewer things you do.  In the early years, I was the only staff member, so I did everything.  It was the greatest day when someone else cared if the toilet overflowed.

I wanted to do everything and kept my hands in it.  For example, we were the campus pastors at the pastors we preached at for too long.  People kept trying to free me up until finally I listened.

If I ask you about your church or organization and you can tell me everything, you're probably leading ineffectively.

AS: Someone asked me what my most important leadership lesson is.  Recognizing my strengths and delegating my weaknesses.  I wish I had done that earlier.  I think there was a lot of guilt there.  If I don't want to take out the trash, no one should take it out.  But when I learned to delegate what I didn't like and wasn't good at.

I used to do all of our small group training because I wanted to get it started right because it was central to what we did.  There is something to putting your time into those central place.

The hardest thing for me was giving up the senior pastor of our largest campus pastor role.

CG: It's not that we're not leading, we're leading through people, and that's even harder.

AS: Then you become the custodian of culture.  You're not doing a lot, but you pay attention to where things are going wrong.

CG: And you might sense those problems before someone else does.

AS: But I can't go in and re-own the responsibility.  I'll go to one of our churches and something will bother me.  I'll go to the senior leader and ask if something bothered him.  If it bothers him, then it doesn't have to bother me.  But if it doesn't bother him, if I think it's a four and everyone else thinks its an 8, then I have to do some retooling and some re-vision cast.

CG: How has your week changed?

AS: As your church grows and your family changes stage, you have to change your schedule.

I used to preach 2-3 times on Sunday and at 1 of our evening services.  I generally take Monday off.  I might start back in on Monday afternoon.  Tuesday is staff meetings all day.  It's almost 100% staff.  I used to have lots of lunches, I don't do that.  I exercise M, W, F.  That's important.  Our health is part of our ministry.  If you're the point leader, your physical health is part of our ministry. Wednesday is nothing but a study day.  Thursday is a study day.  Friday is the day I will schedule time I want to spend time with, elders, friends, a few people who want to meet.  Saturday, my brain is starting to lean into speaking.  We have never done anything on Saturday night for 20 years if I'm preaching on Sunday.

CG: I've been to counseling two different times for being a workaholic. I've found a managable schedule now.  It changes with the

Saturday, all day soccer games and kids stuff, 1-2 services saturday night, so I get to the church by 2:30 . Saturday is family night at the church, so my whole family comes.  The family parties on while I preach. I want them to associate being at church having a lot of fun.

I usually preach on Sundays twice, but if I like the video on Saturday night, I'll let it run on Sunday.

I have two set meetings on Mondays.  I do all of the paperwork and everything with my assistant on Monday, and then I shift into sermon prep on Monday afternoon.

Tuesday is full on message prep all day.

By Wednesday I'm finishing up the message and I go into do our videos, and every week I go in and do a bunch of videos for campuses, churches, etc.

Every day I try to leave by 3:45 to go to the gym.  Ministry is never, ever done, so if I put an artificial barrier on my day, it forces me to be efficient.  I believe I get more done.  I'm home by 5:15 every night.

Thursday is the day I meet with whomever I want to.

Friday is usually my day off.

We meet Monday mornings with our key leaders, and we meet with our board or key leaders as needed throughout the year.

That's the template, so people ask, "When are you a pastor?" This guy ended his life, and I called his wife.  There was a guy struggling with his marriage.

You can't get too big to just pastor people.

AS: I primarily pastor my staff.  We probably feel the weight to pastor a similar amount of people as a single site, single congregation pastor.  It's just that we have larger staff.

CG: I was raised that the church come first, but I've found that I have to keep myself spiritually healthy and my marriage healthy.

AS: I used to ask Sandra every now and again, just, "How am I doing?"

CG: I ask Amy all of the time, "What are the three things I do that are the biggest blessing to you?  What are the three things I do that could use work?"

 

Craig Groeschel – Creating a Culture of Self-Awareness – Catalyst One Day

It's easy for us to lie to ourselves. When we've lied long enough, it's easy to believe it's true.

When I ask people how many of you battle with significant self-deception, something like 3% raise their hands.  But when I ask who knows someone who's a good singer, or good manager, or good communicator, but they're not, all kinds of hands go up.

A lot of us are self-deceived, and many of us are self-deceived to the point we don't realize it.

I want to talk about creating a culture of self-awareness, or a culture of high-feedback.

Those who don't know don't know they don't know.

Many of us are very self-deceived.  The higher you rise in any organization, the more difficult it will be to get people tell you the truth, especially in church world, because nobody lies in church world.

In where I come from in the south they say, "Well bless your heart."  What they really mean is, "You're an idiot."

The problems you don't know about are the problems you can't fix.

My wife told me after several years, "Craig, put down the box."  I was like, "What are you talking about?"  When I spoke I looked like I was carrying a box.

Because we're so full of love, we rarely create a culture of truthful feedback.

Three Principles of Self-Deceptions

  1. We as leaders have a limitless capacity for self-deception.
    Perhaps the greatest example in Scripture is with Bathsheba and David.  Nathan tells the story about a rich man stealing a poor man's lamb.  David is indignant, and Nathan tells him he's the rich man.
  2. The longer we believe the lies, the harder it is to hear the truth.
    Psalms 36:2 - For in his own eyes he flatters himself to much to detect or hate his sin.
    I really believed I was good at interpersonal communications.  People told me I was warm and friendly on stage but not in person.  People over and over tried to tell me lovingly, but I just wouldn't listen.  One day, my small group members re-enacted the way I treated people.  Finally I saw it.  So I got coaching on how to do it better.
    There are a lot of you who very likely have had someone in your organization trying to tell you something about your leadership, and you're not listening.
    That's especially true in the younger generation.  We have not told the emerging generation the truth.  You have to work extra hard to be coachable, to posture yourself in a position where you want to learn.
  3. The leader's lack of self-awareness is the leader's barrier.
    I used to think I was good at delegating.  I was good at delegating tasks, not delegating authority.  Delegating tasks creates followers.  Delegating authority creates leaders.
    So often in the church world we're quick to issue blame for any of our problems, not enough money, they don't serve, wrong location, etc.
    I've trained myself to never say, they won't.  Anytime I hear another leader say, "They won't," I stop and correct them and say, "I have not led them to."

Uncovering the Truth about You

  1. Pray
    Psalms 139:23-24 - Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting.
    I used to use a lot of edgy humor in my messages.  I kept getting complaints, but I just chalked it up to stuffy, legalistic church people.  Finally one guy just asked me to pray.  I half-heartedly said I would. I prayed about it, and the next Sunday my oldest daughter had her first Sunday in big people's church.  I looked over at her about to tell an off-color joke.
  2. Listen
    Proverbs 15:31-32 - He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise. He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.
    The more I tend to believe that I'm right, the more likely I might be wrong.  Just like Peter says he's never going to deny Jesus like everyone else.

    1. Build a team that craves and gives helpful feedback.
      If you're a senior leader, it starts with you.  I get feedback after my first message.  I get feedback before my first message.  We build this into our entire process.  It's in our hiring process.  We have people prepare a 10 minute talk for 10 minutes and then give them feedback.  We want to see how they receive feedback.  We have them give the other candidates feedback.
      If you're a senior leader, people are afraid of you. You have to go ask for feedback specifically
    2. Implement annual 360° evaluations for every team member.
      I think we need to have anonymous feedback.  It needs to be anonymous, because that's when the truth really comes out.  It's so helpful, and it's so incredibly painful.
      I had two consecutive years where people said I was disengaged from the staff, that I was more concerns with mentoring other senior pastors. For two years many leaders in our organization said I was distracted.  Even though my heart was still in LifeChurch, my head was divided.
      It's one of the most painful and most helpful things I have ever done.
  3. Change
    James 1:22 - Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
    What have others been trying to say to you or show you?  What has God been trying to say or show you that you've been too proud to listen to.
    Some of the most common things I see:

    1. You're a workaholic. Give your family some attention. When my youngest daughter was three years old, God rang my bell, she said, "Daddy, you don't live here. You live up at the church."  My wife asked if we could have a meal without me typing on my phone.
    2. Some of you will do what I did years back.  I became a full-time pastor, and a part-time follower of Christ.  I'd pray when I prayed publicly.  I'd study when I was preparing for a sermon.  My self-worth was based on last week's numbers.
    3. Some of you are looking at some things you should not be looking at.  You're telling yourself it's not a big deal.  You're not telling anybody.  But your sin will find you out.

    Some of you need to go repent to your spouse or your children. If we build big churches and lose our children, that is a failure. The more I humble myself and listen to God, the more broken I am, the better my relationship with my spouse is, the better my family is, and the better my church is.

    There are so many people who continue to fight against the truth, when it's the truth that will set you free.

    Personally if there's some part of your life God is trying to show you is not where it should be, don't fight against it, embrace it.

Francis Chan – Catalyst 2012

Do you guys realize what just happened there?

You guys, we can't just do things like that. We can't say Gungor, awesome. Isn't Jesus great? Yeah!

Jesus is just in such a different category. I don't want my name in the same sentence as Jesus. I get caught up in this is awesome, that is awesome, oh yeah, Jesus is awesome.

I'm here, you're here, the musicians are up here all because of one being. We say that name Jesus all the time, but we can't let that name be common.

I want us to just stop right now and think about who He is who created us all and died for us all. I want to do something very sacred and just talk to him right now.

I just want to pray, to have still, quiet time.

I was looking at my notes from last year because that would be embarrassing if I gave the same talk again. Last year I told you the Trader Joe's story about how their refrigerators broke down right after we announced we had no meat for our outreach to serve thousands of meals.

So this year we're doing the same conference again, and the kitchen manager says to me we only have enough meat for one day. Half an hour after the staff meeting we get a call from Trader Joe's. They had a power outage.

We're like no way. It's just so nice to know he's with us, and he's leading us.

This last year there's just been miracle after miracle. I've never had a year where I've had so many miracles. I met with some guys just to type them out. We had the greatest time of celebration for hours. These crazy, crazy stories.

The thing is, even with all of the things that happened and all of these people we've been reaching out to. My ministry is in inner city San Francisco. On Sundays we sing for 10 minutes. I speak for 10 minutes, and then we go out for two hours to these apartment buildings and do outreach. And then we get back together after two hours and talk about what happened.

A couple of weeks ago my daughter called me. She's freaking out. She asked this guy to read his Bible when she visited him. She asked him to read Ephesians 1 and 2. And she goes back the next week and asks if he read it. He said this morning, I get this weird text message, and I pushed this button and the phone starts reading Ephesians 1 and 2.

These things just keep happening over and over and over.

But this thing is driving me crazy. The people still don't repent. It's just unbelievable. I wish I could say there's hundreds of people showing up who have turned from their addictions and we're going to baptize them right now. It's like two.

It's frustrating. It got me thinking about thinks. I'm seeing God work. God revealed to me at one point that I was worshipping revival more than I was worshipping Jesus.

The Bible doesn't promise revival. In 1 Timothy 4, he promises the opposite. He says people will be lovers of themselves and not teach sound doctrine.

He says go and make disciples. He doesn't say there will be revival. He says he will be with you.

There's this thrill of knowing we are walking with Jesus.

There's probably plenty of you in here that have had a discouraging year. As much as I've seen God do, it's been a discouraging year. I'm exhausted. But it's not about that.

Are you walking closely with Jesus? Are you living by faith?

I think at the end when you see Jesus, I think you're going to be surprised. I think who God looks at and says, "Well done," will surprise you. "Man, you made those 8 disciples." And you're like, man, that's all I did. We're a church of 9. And he's going to say, "Well done. You followed my model."

You see it happening out there. More and more people are saying, man, I need to make disciples.

I got so excited about making disciples and started writing down all of these reasons to make disciples. But then I started thinking and I thought, "We probably don't want everyone in this room making disciples." Because some of you don't really act like Jesus. People don't look at your life and say you're just like Jesus or you remind me of Jesus, so why would we want more of you? What we want is Jesus right? What the world needs is Jesus. What we need is more of Jesus.

What Paul says in 1 Corintihans 11:1 is "Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ." But we know there are people in this room right now who are cheating on their spouses, so why would I tell you, "Go, duplicate yourselves." There are people in here who are greedy, arrogant. Man, some of you don't really love and know Jesus, so why would we multiply that? You see what I'm getting at? So we're supposed to be about Jesus, but maybe we've forgotten that it's about exalting Jesus and making our lives look more and more like him, being selfless and giving ourselves to other people, but if we're not doing that, why would you make a convert that's twice the son of hell that you are?

So look at yourself and ask yourself, "Who am I?" We need to judge ourselves. Are you becoming more and more like Christ, I hope so.

There are times I get so busy and focused on other things that I'm not looking at my life, and I'm not asking if I'm becoming more and more like Jesus. Look at my life as I learn more and more about Jesus.

Part of being like Christ is making disciples. Jesus says, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." He spends his whole life making disciples, gets nailed to a cross, rises, and says go and start making disciples. So as we follow his example, we live a life of disciple making.

The church has to get back to making this the primary thing, right. If I'm going to be a pastor, then I want to act like Jesus. That's the question. Does he remind you of Jesus. That's what I'm supposed to do. When's the last time you had someone look at you and say, "Follow me ,as I follow the example of Christ."

So why be disciple makers? Well, it's commanded. I should be able to close with that.

Imagine a person rising from the dead and saying every bit of authority on heaven and earth belongs to you. And he prefaces that by saying, "Go and make disciples."

I get concerned. Again, "Be hearers of the Word, right?" No, be doers of the word, and not just hearers who deceive themselves.

We're hearing tough messages, but what are we doing? Walking away sad isn't achieving something. That's what the rich young ruler did.

I'm not trying to make anyone feel guilty. That's the last thing I want. Repent. Change.

I do it because I love the lost.

Paul says, "Be imitators of me as I am of Christ." RIght before that he says, whatever you do, eat or drink do it all to the glory of God, not to Jews or Greeks or the church of God, but I try to be all things to all people. Be imitators of me as I imitate Christ.

That's a weird thing to say. He's saying he's a people pleaser. He's trying to make everyone like him so that he might win some.

Let's admit it. I just want us to be honest. Don't you hate sharing your faith? Don't you hate it? Wouldn't you rather do just about anything than go up to a stranger and share your faith.

It doesn't make sense because based on what I know in Scripture this guy is going to spend eternity in hell because I don't want to talk to him about Jesus. I used to feel this as a pastor. I'm just so scared to talk to them about JEsus because I don't want them to reject me.

This pastor is telling me about this christmas program where people are spending 20 hours a week rehearsing. And I said, wouldn't that time be better spent just getting to know their neighbors? And he said, yes, but people won't do that.

That made sense to me then. Now I realize we don't change the system because it's hard.

Scripture says "Go, make disciples."

Paul tells Timothy not to be so scared. Paul asks for prayer from the Ephesians for boldness.

We do this also so that our people will experience God. Don't you want your people to experience God? That's one thing I can guarantee. I don't know if we will get that many people, but we will experience God. That's what Jesus says, he'll be with us when we're making disciples. He sends his Spirit so that we can make disciples.

This is it. This is the huge conclusion.

We've all heard the stats, right, how many of the kids walk away from the Lord when they turn 18. No one knows what the real number is, but let's go on what seems to be the low end: 60%. 60% of kids who grow up in church will ditch it at 18. I've got 5 kids, so if I played the odds, three of them will not walk with the Lord by the time they hit college? Are we okay with at?

When my daughter wasn't following the Lord, I prayed and balled my eyes out. SO I'm looking at the church, and my five kids and I'm saying, so three of them? We've got to have the experience God. We're raising disciple makers.

My daughter is experiencing God. The excitement on her face when she comes home after going out and trying to make disciples. MY daughter sees a homeless lady and asks if she can get her a cheeseburger, goes in gets a a double double and asks if she can sit and have lunch with her. So she sits down and starts laying out the Gospel to this lady, and the lady goes, "This is so weird. Two months ago this guy came up to me and started talking to me about Jesus, and I was thinking about him as you were walking up and this guy told me about this pastor moved to San Francisco and started this ministry." And my daughter goes, "Is his name Francis Chan? That's my dad." Is there any chance onEarth?

We have got to make disciples so that our kids follower our examples. We experience the presence of God. And our kids, we don't just keep them from all of the "bad people" they experience God. My daughter is going off today. I'm not scared anymore. I see how my daughter lives. I go wow, God. You love her. She's starting to experience you.

I don't know how we're going to get back there, how we say I'm just going to worship Jesus and become like Jesus and then just start talking to these people that I'm afraid to talk to. We've gotta get the church back to this.

We've got these people still coming back week after week who should be teachers who are saying, "You didn't feed me enough." I trained my daughter so that she can get her own job, have a family, not coming back asking for allowance. We've got to be training people and equipping people and saying go, start making disciples now.

That's my prayer. SOmehow we've got to get back to that. It starts with leaders. We ourselves don't go out and share the Gospel. We've got to get back to that.

We've got to do what they did in the Bible. They prayed and the earth shook. I worship the same God. But the issue isn't the earthquake. THe issue is they were filled with the Holy Spirit. I would like us to have a prayer just for power, that we would walk out of this room more courageous.

Christine Caine – Catalyst 2012

We've had a very full day, and there's nothing like a greek chick to come on at 5 to keep your mind off of dinner.

When I was here last time 2 years ago, we gave out about 10k keys, and it was one of the first times I had spoken about the A21 Campaign. We had one office in Greece then, we have 7 in different countries now, dozens of traffickers in jail, hundreds of girls rescued.

In July this year, like most people, I was glued to the TV watching the Olympics. And now my husband and I are actual resident aliens of the US. And so now I was watching this and realized most of the events I was watching Americans were competing in and Americans were winning.

I had to the opportunity to be in Sydney in 2000, and I was watching the 4x100 women's swimming relay, and the US should have won. They had the best team, but there was very sloppy baton passage. ANd then in Athens in 2004, it was the same thing in the women's 4x100 running relay. In 2008 there was a dropped baton in the 4x100 running relay. In 2012, we won gold, and I wrote to the Olympic relay and asked if we could have permission to show this footage.

You see the frustration of a baton exchange that didn't happen like it should have. What should have been a seamless exchange, all of those years of training of diet of discipline, it all came down to 1.9 seconds in the exchange circle. It didn't matter how fast any individual runner was running. That 1.9 seconds in a 20 meter exchange zone determines everything. It doesn't matter how fast any individual runs.

We are all a part of the Church of Jesus Christ in the year 2012. I watched the debate last night. This is one of the most pivotal moments. We are a generation of leaders alive in an exchange zone in the church. We have to decide if we're going to hand the baton off too late and be disqualified, if we're going to drop the baton, or if we're going to have a seamless exchange.

When we're talking about making, who's going to make the biggest church, the biggest ministry, it's all about understanding that it's all about handing the baton. We are part of history receiving the baton and handing it off. THat's what God has called us to do. It doesn't matter who's the biggest.

Hebrews 12: Therefor since wer are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangled.

We're surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. This chapter goes on to talk about the great witnesses of the faith. We are just a part of it. Ultimately the goal of everything we are being mad into is that we are being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.

I'm going to show you another text from the OT where the baton exchange did not happen well.

I wonder whether Joshua ultimately succeeded. Is this about the baton of faith going forward or is this about me and my ministry, me and my faith going forward. To me, Judges 2 is the saddest passage of Scripture.

The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him… After that whole generation died, another generation grew up who neither knew the lord nor what he had done for Israel.

He led a whole generation into the promised land, but what happened in the exchange zone. It doesn't matter how big what we build is if we don't hand it to the next generation. We don't have to stop it and start it all over again. We don't have to be lazy and sloppy in the exchange zone, we can actually do this in our generation. We can actually make the transition from one generation to the next without dropping the baton.

Remember that there is a great cloud of witnesses, that there are others who have come before us. If you don't know how to honor others who came before you, you will forget there are others to come after you. We need to make sure we are honoring the men and women of God.

To those of you in the little country town and not in the glossy pages of a Christian magazine or up on a platform, let me tell you you are on God's platform. You hold onto the baton every time you stick with that marriage a little bit longer, honor your senior leadership, work with those kids in that little country town, you hold onto the baton.

When you realize it's not about you, you submit yourself to the process so that God can make you the person you need to be.

You will reproduce what you are, not what you say. Far more is caught than taught.

My birth certificate says, "Unnamed." My social work report says, "Unwanted." I was sexually assaulted for four men several times a week for most weeks for twelve years of my life.

If I didn't deal with that, all I would have done is carry all of that into my leadership, and the last thing the Body of Christ needs is another wounded healer. When we carry our insecurities into our leadership, we are dropping the baton of faith. We transfer it from one generation of the leadership.

Let me tell you what the weight of this generation is:

Entitlement

Opinion

I deserve something

I won't do anything unless I'm paid for it.

I'm not going to do anything unless there's a position and a title with it.

We pick and choose what batons we want.

When I was growing up, there was no popular Christian culture.

Nothing will kill you faster than a spotlight. God makes you who you need to be in places of anonymity and obscurity. THe greatest ministries on earth are made in anonymity and security, but we want to bypass that process.

Our tribalism will kill us. The most important thing is the baton of faith, the love that we have for one another. People don't care about our opinions. They want to know about the love, justice and mercy of God.

We only care about one thing, the name of Jesus Christ.

I'm going to carry the baton in my generation. It's time to lay aside the weights and the sins personally, denominationally, culturally.

Let us lay aside the weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and let us run with perseverance.

Your talent will open the door but only your character will keep you in the room.

I utilize technology, but it does not control me or govern my sense of significance or value.

Let me put you all out of your misery right now. THere is only one love language. It's called die. Die to self. That is the only love language.

What's missing in the church are the words of Jesus in the garden saying, "No, I don't want to do this but nevertheless." When was the last time you got on your knees and said but nevertheless.

Do you remember when it was an honor to hold the baton of faith. Do you remember when it was like, Jesus it is an honor to carry the baton, but when you run into an exchange zone, I'm running full speed. The person I'm passing the baton to, there is a moment in that 1.9 seconds they have to be running full speed without the baton.

If you put yourself somewhere you have to keep yourself there. If God puts you somewhere, it's his job.

I can't put the baton into the hand of someone who isn't running. Some of you young men, your pastors are ready to give you so much more, but you're not ready yet. You just want the glory of leg 4 without running legs 1, 2, and 3.

We're obsessed with talent. Talent isn't enough. The devil is too strong and the world too hard, not stronger than Jesus, but too strong for a talented, gifted, unanointed leader.

Samuel went to anoint the next king of Israel and said, surely, it must be the oldest. But God said, "no, it's not him. I don't care how talented he is." Have you got anyone else? "Yeah, there's this guy in the back water town looking after 20 kids with no one noticing." And God said, "I've been making him in the backside of the desert."

When God marks you, it's better than when men market you.

And he says finally, fixing our eyes on Jesus.

Here's the advice for this generation, for a generation obsessed with comparison and social media, it's not about you. It's about the baton of faith. Some of us seriously need to get off of the Facebook and get our faces in the book. We are more worried about how many people are following us on Twitter than are following Jesus.

Perry Noble – In the Process – Catalyst 2012

Today I just want to talk to a certain group of people. The only group of people I think I'm really going to talk to today is the frustrated leader. If you're not frustrated, you're either lying… or you smoked crack right before this session.

You're frurstrated. You're frustrated with this session, with your people, with the leader who didn't come here. You're frustrated with your position because you thought you'd be further along in the process.

Some of you look at me and are like, "You're a megachurch pastor. What you're frustrated because your lasers didn't work on Sunday morning."

I worked as a youth pastor and was part of the problem of great van controversy between the youth group and the senior adults. The problem was that the youth group never cleaned the church van. 6 kids got saved on Wednesday night, but I'm being called into the pastor's office and he's like the senior adult director is breathing down my neck because the van isn't clean.

So I decide I'm going to clean the church van like it's never been cleaned before. I took the van to the car wash, took all of the seats out, hosed down the inside. I was like, "Let the senior adults say something about that."

They did. That was like a Saturday. On Tuesday, they went on a trip. Do you know what happens when Armor All gets really hot? It get's slippery. So they went on this trip in the mountains and their like sliding form one side to the next.

I remember going into my office and being like, "God, I can't make your people happy." He said, "Me either."

No matter what you do, there will be people who aren't happy.

1 Samuel 16-18

I think we can all agree that David is one of the greatest leaders in Israel. But I think there's some stuff that applies to every leader who is frustrated.

Jesse was told, "Go get your sons because one of them will be anointed king." What happened to David? He got completely ignored.

Maybe you're somewhere and you feel completely ignored. David learned in the sheep pen where no one paid attention where he learned a skill, how to use a sling, that propelled him into leadership.

If we want progress in leadership, there is no progress unless we embrace the process of leadership. That means sometimes we do some hard work, some difficult work, some unbelievable work, and no one is going to see it but God.

We've got to get passed wanting to get discovered and start worry about being developed. When we stop screaming at the world, "Discover me!" and start screaming at God, "Develop me!" That's when we'll reach our potential.

God's anointing comes off of Saul, and David plays the harp, so he gets a job as a part time worship leader. He goes and cares for the sheep and then puts on the skinny jeans and goes and leads worship.

David kills the giant. HOw did David get to the battle lines in the first place? His dad had him take bread and cheese to the front lines. YOu know what David didn't say, "I'm anointed. Why don't you take the bread?"

I'm all about anointing, but that doesn't mean you don't have to go through the process.

You know what, if you're gifted, you don't have to say you're gifted. You just have to use your gift and people will notice.

David was available. The Bible doesn't indicate he was mad about taking the cheeses and the bread. David sees Goliath and a tremendous opportunity, so he starts asking about him, and what happens, his brother gets mad at him.

I worked for a church one time where they told me, "We just want you to reach students, and we don't care what you do." You know what I found out, they cared. It was a Baptist church. I decided to teach them the electric slide. I got to attend my first deacons meeting.

That happens and either they don't like the way you're reaching people or they don't like the people you're reaching.

Saul pulled David in to full-time service, but David was working for a leader who was very insecure, who did not quite recognize what God was doing in the next generation.

Several years ago I had a guy on my staff come in and say, "Have you seen my Twitter?" I'm like, "You want to run that by me again? No, freak, I have not. I don't know what you're talking about right now." So he showed me what it was, "And I said that's the dumbest thing I have ever seen." My staff showed me a video of me in a staff meeting saying Twitter is the dumbest thing ever and I'll never do it.

You know what, those of us in our 40s, 50s, and 60s, it's not our job to reach the next generation. They'll reach themselves. We can either be a part of it or resist it and get passed over.

David worked for a leader that asked for ridiculous things. David had to bring Saul 100 Philistine foreskins.

For those of us who are complaining about what we have to do… at least you're not David. We complain that we have to do things we get paid to do that other people have traditionally given their lives to do.

David doesn't get 100. He gets 200. He is a good steward of where he is. If God can't trust us with where we are right now, how do we expect him to use us for greater things in the future.

So Saul throws a spear at David. You know how you know when it's time to leave the church? When the pastor pulls out a Glock. You know when it's time to go. But it's not time to go when you're having a tough time, it's when the leader is trying to destroy you.

You know what a church plant is, it's David in 1 Samuel 22. He was surrounded by the distressed and the dire and the in trouble. Normal people don't show up to a church plant. If you plant a church, every freak in a 50 mile radius is going to find you.

You know how you know David is a leader? He went somewhere and people would follow him.

David never dishonored Saul at any point.

There are some people here who are frustrated, and the easiest thing to do when you're frustrated is talk smack about a leader. If you want to embrace the process of leadership, instead of talking smack about your leader, talk to your savior. Say it doesn't matter if I'm here for the next 10 minutes or the next 10 years, I want you to make me.

BUt your'e saying, "But you don't know my story."

And I would simply ask you back, "Are you any better than Jesus?" Jesus embraced the leadership process. Jesus lived in obscurity for 30 years, swinging a hammer, being a carpenter, working in the family business. If you think nobody recognizes you, nobody understands you better than Jesus.

"But you don't know the clowns I'm working with." How would you have liked Peter on your staff? Or James and John who asked to be seated on the right and the left right after he talked about being crucified.

But Jesus took those people and launched a movement that has brought us to where we are today.

"Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion." He's bigger than your biggest enemy, greatest fear, and biggest dream, because he is always faithful to people who embrace the process.

Patrick Lencioni – Organizational Health – Catalyst 2012

I begin all of my talks with a confession, which makes sense because I'm a practicing Catholic.

I am a little nervous. It's not the number of people here, it's all of the things going on. My personality is an ENFP. If you don't know what an ENFP is, the prayer for an ENFP is, "Dear Lord, please help me to focus, oh, look, a bird, on the things I have to do."

The second confession is, the things I'm going to tell you today are simple, folks. People need to be reminded more than they need to be instructed.

Ken Blanchard said to me one time, "You know why your books are selling so well, don't you? It's all based on the Bible." WE're just restating what Jesus said.

The third confession is that I've never given a talk in jeans before.

I wrote this book called The Advantage - and here's the premise. Organizational health is the single biggest thing can have to gain a competitive advantage, and yet, it remains virtually untapped in most organizations.

It's free, and most anyone can do it.

So why don't people do it? I was at the Southwest Airlines leadership conference a couple of years ago, and I learned why. I was sitting there with the CEO, Gary Kelly, and I leaned over and asked a semi-rhetorical question. And he had a somewhat sad look on his face, and he said, "You know, Pat. I honestly think they think it's beneath them."

The truth is, it really is simple, but it's only for those who have the willingness to humble themselves enough to do it.

So what is organizational health.

Every organization that wants to be successful has to be two things:

Smart - The problem is that it's only half the equation but gets 99% of the attention.

  • Marketing
  • Strategy
  • Finance
  • Technology

Healthy

  • Minimal Politics
  • Minimal Confusion
  • High Morale
  • HIgh Productivity
  • Low Turnover

But we just keep tweaking the smart things because it's an objective, measurable area.  The health stuff is messy and emotional and hard to measure.

I never go into a company and think, "This could be a great company, but these people are just too dumb."

What's the thing that's going to make our organizations better?  Health.  The healthier our organization is, the more intelligence it's going to get to use.

Healthy organizations aren't smarter than their competition. Their culture is so healthy they tap into all of the knowledge they have.

If we can build a healthy organization we can make smarter decisions and strive.

There are four disciplines at the heart of a healthy organization.

  1. Build a cohesive leadership team.  The people at the top have to be behaviorally cohesive.
  2. Create clarity.  They have to answer 6 simple but critical questions
  3. Overcommunicate clarity. Leaders have to overcommunicate things.  Great leaders communicate so much, long after their tired of communicating the message.  If you're a leader, your people should be able to do a great impression of you
  4. Basic human systems

I want to talk more about number 1.  There are five behaviors of a cohesive leadership team.

  1. Trust - No duh.  It's obvious.  But I'm  not talking about predictive trust.  any two people who have known each other for a long period of time have predictive trust.  I'm talking about vulnerability trust.  When people can be that emotionally buck naked with one another and be completely honest about who they are, warts and all, it creates a dynamic like nothing else.I worked with a team once, a start up company, high-tech, start up on steroids.  They had all of this money in the bank.  They were going to change the world.  So they called us to work with them.   We learned they were losing to less smart competitors.  There was this funky dynamic on their leadership team where whenever one person spoke, everyone got silent.  I asked another person why.  He said because she never changes her mind, never admits she may be wrong.  Never sees things from our sides.  So we did an offsite with them.  And we went to dinner one night and had wine with dinner.  And this woman picked up her glass at the end of dinner and stood up and gave a toast and said, "I'm not going to be trusting you guys any time soon, if ever."  After the meeting I went outside and talked with the CEO.  And we said we have to get this woman to trust.  And so finally the CEO managed her out of the company and off the team.  At the next meeting, you would have thought we swapped out every member of the team for different people.When you have one person on the team who can't be vulnerable, it changes the entire dynamic of the team.  We know this from sports, right?  One guy in 50 on a football team can poison the team.  If that's the case, what does that do for our leadership teams, our church teams?The only way we can get to vulnerable is if the leader goes first.  It's a leap of faith folks, and it's not comfortable.I once worked with a leader who could not do this.  He's famous and brilliant and intimidating.  So no one on his team ever gave him feedback.  So we did 360 reports, but he didn't want to share the results.  So the head of HR got him to reluctantly share the results.  So he went down the list and just asked around the table what everyone thought.  And of course, they told him what he wanted to hear.  So if I'm going to be a good consultant, I have to do something and risk losing the client.  So I slide up next to the CEO and say, "But you guys were the only ones who filled this out."  But only one guy spoke up.  The rest cut his legs out from under him.  That company circled the drain and was sold off for a fraction of the cost.

    All that CEO had to do was stand up there and be human.  But what about not letting them see you sweat.  You know what, they see you sweating before you nkow you're sweating.

    I don't think you can be too vulnerable.

  2. Conflict - Conflict is a good thing on a team when there is trust.  Conflict is nothing but the pursuit of truth, but conflict without truth is politics.  A good team has to have conflict.We owe it to each other to disagree sometimes.  When we withhold our opinion, it's bad, because when we don't disagree with someone around an issue, it becomes about the person.You know, though that every church, culture, family, etc. Is going to have different expectations of conflict.  If you're working with culturally Japanese people and their sucking air through their teeth, it means they really hate the idea.

    Even here in the US we have these interesting dynamics.  Conflict is going to look different in different regions, different companies, different churches, but that doesn't matter.  You have to know that people on your team cannot be choosing their battles, counting their costs.

    Relationship is built on recovery from difficult moments.

  3. Committment - Force Clarity and Closure
  4. Accountability
    Peers are the primary source of accountability on a great team.  They don't go to the leader all of the time.  But that will only work if the leader is the primary source of accountability.Firing someone is often an act of cowardice.A leader who doesn't like to hold people accountable, like me, we're what's called a wuss.  I used to think I didn't like to hold people accountable because I don't want them to feel band, and I realized in a moment of honesty, I just don't want them to blame me for feeling bad.

    If I love someone, I owe it to them to tell them where they can improve.

    You know what taught me the importance of accountability?  I'm telling one of my twin seven year old boys a bedtime story.  The other twin is in time out.  So he comes in half way through the story and asks to stay.  I say yes, but my wife comes in and says, no, you have to go.  So my other son, Connor says, "Dad, if you don't hold him accountable, he's never going to learn the consequences of his actions.

  5. Results
    Ultimately great teams get results.  But something else happens when we build great teams.  We're building a ministry.  When we build great teams, people treat each other differently at home, in the store, on the bus, and I don't think that is beneath any of us.

Andy Stanley: How would you suggest people use The Advantage with their leadership teams?

PL: I think I'd sit down with the team, read the intro and then go through it section by section.

AS: What do you say to the point leader of a team with a good product but a bad culture?  Is there a first thing?

PL: I hate to say this because we're so used to offsite meetings being these touchy feely things, but it's going to start with us getting out of the office for a day and a half.  That process will become so important.  In a day and a half you'll see results.  You'll slide if you don't follow up, but you'll see results then.

AS: Sometimes senior pastors are in leadership positions that seem just a bit closer to God.  What do you say to staff members whose senior pastor seems to have created this shell.

PL: It's a tough role to be a spiritual father as well as a managerial leader.  Be vulnerable, let them in.  Tell them it's hard.  To be vulnerable, the people you care for every day, there are times they have to care for you.

Jeff Shinabarger, Leroy Barber, Jen Hatmaker – Pioneers – Catalyst 2012

JS: Can you share a little bit about the community you live in?

LB: Our neighborhood in south Atlanta was originally established for freed slaves. I live there with my five kids.

JH: We both have 5 kids, so earlier, I was just saying I'm glad to be here. I live in Austin with my husband Brandon, and we started a new church, and we discovered that our part of the city was called the church planters' graveyard. We've been there for four years and in Austin for 12. Our church culture is very missional in neighbor, and our mantra is "Love your neighbor. Serve your city." Austin is divided between the haves and the have-nots

JS: I live here in Atlanta, and I started Plywood People, which is an organization of social entrepreneurs. We believe that when business, creatives, and social entrepreneurs work together, lives will be changed. We have a mantra, "We will be known by the problems we solve." There are a lot of inauthentic things in social media. But we want to be known by the problems we solve.

We want to talk about this reality that we all have excess in our lives. All three of us have been a part of experiments to challenge our own excess.

JH: We started to challenge this in a somewhat radical way. We had so much, and I always wanted more. We started a project called "Seven" and began to tackle seven areas of excess in our lives and culture: food, clothes, possessions, media, technology, waste, and stress. We took each of those areas a month at a time. And we would only do seven things in an area for a month. Only spend money at seven places, shut down seven forms of media, eat only seven foods.

The more we began to give our treasures away, the more they weren't treasures at all. In our family and community we are maintaining a lot of those reforms. It's been truly extraordinary.

LB: I'm with Mission Year, and one of our big values is simplicity. We try to connect with our team members by living simply, and we also try to model that as a staff. We ask them to live on $17.50/week for food for five people. My wife and I spend $168 every two weeks for our family of 6. We try to model that and find that we are able to live on smaller amounts.

JS: My wife and I looked at our credit card bill after one Christmas, and we couldn't pay the bill. So we started to cut things out. Then we started cutting out grocery shopping. We lasted seven weeks without going grocery shopping. And we had this neighbor come by and ask for food every day. He didn't have a house or a car or walls, and we struggled with that, with our excess in the midst of his suffering.

What keeps us alive and excited is the glimpses of the kingdom in our communities?

LB: I would share about a couple of young men who have been a part of our youth group and are pretty creative. One of them wanted to start a clothing company. So they entered this contest where they could get startup money. And they took first and second and got something like $1000 and $500. So a couple of weeks ago one guy got his first clothing order and is trying to get it in local stores. ANd the other guy decided he wanted to start a studio. And his friends came to his studio at church and started to come to church and gave their lives to Christ.

JH: I have a 14 year old. Is it too soon to send him to you?

Our church has reached a place where it got too big. We don't want to grow a big church. So we started looking at where we would plant a new location.

So we sat down and Googled the poorest zip code in our city. And we have started a location there, and it's been so exciting to put a vision before our people and see what the Holy Spirit does. Our youth group is over there playing baseball. We've got several families who have moved there from suburban Austin. Almost our entire outreach ministry is through small groups.

JS: I love both of them because they're in these small communities and are going after these things.

There's this organization that started when a guy saw there were guys unemployed because of the decline in the housing market and they're beginning to build things. You see this guy meeting this other person and wanting to give them access and a better opportunity and you see all of these things beginning to happen.

How can you encourage the people here to live out the Gospel in new ways in their communities?

JH: I would reiterate what I said a second ago. I would resist the temptation to do all of the legwork for your people. That's what we did when we started. We ran the traps on it. We forged relationships. We setup the deal, and we said, hey y'all come, and we'll just do this thing. We'll still creating consumers, just for mission. They were consuming a mission project or a mission event.

Your people are probably like ours. It's not for lack of desire they don't serve. It's lack of time. So two weeks out of the month, we told our groups they would be regular-style groups. One week you're going to serve alongside others. We don't tell them how they have to do that. So together they are serving one week, at least, you're going to do more. One week, rather than gathering, this is your super-intentional week to live on mission. We ask our people to give away as much time as they keep.

So what we saw was that we went from one, big, huge corporate event every couple of months to 50 a month. This is really the way to make disciples. Our people truly become missionaries. They are truly invested where they are invested.

LB: I think I would want to give you permission. I would want to give you permission to go for that dream that's inside of you. To go after what God has made you to do. Really let that play out in your life. If no one else tells you that, I want to say that. If that's a book you think you could write, do the proposal, hand it in. If there's an idea you have go after it. I grant you permission to do it, to go for it. I'm old. I've started so much stuff. Half of it's got me in trouble. The difference is you go for it. You step out there.

JS: What are you thinking about when you wake up in the morning.

LB: We're at this place as an organization, and I am personally, is just that I want to be part of a larger community of people that are doing these things. If you want to start a year-long program, if you want to bring a group of people together, we're going to start doing that. We're calling this thing Launch. If you want to launch anything in terms of serving people, we're going to help you.

That's where I am as an old dude right now.

JH: We're dreamers, so, we're always dreaming, so I'm just going to pick one. This is something we're really just thinking through and praying through. My husband and I are adopters. Our youngest two are adopted from Ethiopia. Adoption has changed our lives. Our faith community is an adopting culture. 25-30% of our church community is adopting or has adopted. We're inextricably linked to the orphan crisis. And right now we're thinking about how we can effect orphan prevention.

I don't know what that will look like. I have no idea. It's in the dream stage. With all of the money mobilized in international adoption, that's something we could effect change with.

JS: These projects we've started through Plywood People are expanding to the point I have to pursue it full time. You've probably been there. There's this calling your supposed to pursue full time, but you don't know how you're going to pay the bills. So on Monday, that's what I'm going to try to figure out.

Audience Question: How do you get people in a traditional church setting mobilized to the missional movement.

JS: How do you open someone's eyes to the world they don't see? How do you shake their comfort to help them understand where they really sit in the world? The goal is for your community to understand their

JH: Our goal is to expose the need in our city. Our responsibility is to show it to them in their city.

There's a second way. Do it yourself first. Mission is terribly contagious. I'd much rather structure it or lead it. We started in the most awkward, clunky, uninformed way. And we just lived on mission in our city. Where well done trumps well said, this is going to have to be our starting point.

AQ: You mentioned you all are idea generators. Have you found effective ways to sell your ideas to those who need to back them.

LB: I don't think to get an idea started has a whole lot to do with resource. I think it has to do with living it out. I don't have money. And I grew up poor, so I don't have networks with money. There's no rich uncle somewhere.

AQ: To do the kinds of energetic, passionate, consistent things you are doing, can you share with us one or two of your personal, spiritual practices that has sustained you in your spiritual growth?

JH: One thing we do in our family is Sabbath. Clearly it shouldn't have been new since it's pretty much from Genesis to the end, but we practice it. We do it primarily on Sunday, the day of our communal worship. We have found it's done wonders for us as believers and as a family unit.

LB: I make it a discipline that every morning I read Scripture. That's where I'm grounded.

JS: It's interesting. I'm not good at creating practices, and I realize that I'm worn out. I started asking people in a down economy how they were doing, and they said, "I'm busy." We started talking about it like busy is the new fine. Everyone I know has created a life of busyness, including myself. There's a lack of slowing down, thinking about what I'm doing and why I'm doing it.

A couple of years ago I got the chance to hang out with Bob Goff. He said, you guys need to stop. You're doing too much. But we're like, we don't know how to do that. He said, I know, you probably can't stop everything now, but you can take a time to rest, to focus on your marriage again. That's the journey I'm on.

Chris Seay – Catalyst 2012

It gets really easy to forget the narrative and story of Jesus and who we're called to be with. Remember over and over and over again in Luke what Jesus was criticized for? He hung out with sinners.

My dad and grandfather both pastored churches in Houston. I love my city. There are a few sacred places there: my church, a couple of mexican restaurants, and the Astros stadium.

When I started my church I used to just sit in a bar and invite people to go to a game with me. I would sit there with a bunch of cheap tickets in my pocket.

One day I go to a game with this guy and he tells me he's going to smoke a joint and asks if I want to come. And it occurred to me that it has been a long time since I've been offered drugs. I haven't been hanging out with the right people.

I love to preach and teach and pray for people and all of that, but there's something in me that lights up when I get to walk with people who don't know Jesus.

All art is sacred. If it's beautiful and true, it belongs to God, so we do all sorts of art shows. But this last year we did an art show about Jesus. It was stations of the cross. We asked people in the church to get tattoos with the stations of the cross. And we have enough people with tattoos that I knew we could get 10 people to do this.

In my community, and in a lot of our churches, we have to begin to say, who are the outcasts? Because when the outcasts come to faith, it becomes such a beautiful narrative and marker to those around us of who is Jesus.

If you're in student ministry, this isn't hard to teach. There are outcasts in every school lunchroom.

I didn't care so much about the national attention, but the local media attention brought people who were uncomfortable in church and resulted in people finding Jesus.

This may not be what you're called to do, but you're called to do something.

1 Cor 9:17-27

Are you called to this, or are you just kinda in it because you're in it? Paul says he can't help but do it.

Paul's reward is to share the good news of the Anointed One.

When we started our first church in Montrose, we had our very first art show. This really tall lesbian woman asks me why I'm a pastor, and I tell her it's because I get to tell people about Jesus. Getting to share the love of Jesus with people is my pay.

Paul says he's going to be a lowly person. If you're a senior pastor, you're supposed to embrace the low position. He says that when he's around Jews, he talks about Jewish things.

How many of us have the ability to sit with people and make a connection? And I'm not talking about Christians. Do you have that place? The coffeeshop? The bar?

The way you make connections with people both inside and outside the faith is by embracing your weakness and brokenness.

We don't form strong friendships because we meet someone awesome and say, "You're awesome. I'm awesome. Let's be friends." It's when broken people meet each other.

Paul writes the majority of the NT, and he would describe his philosophy as saying he's flexible and adaptable.

How many of you would look at your church and be amazed at how flexible and adaptable it is?

But that's what we need to be.

What are you actively doing to reorient your life and schedule to tell people about Jesus? You do it for a race, which is what Paul talks about, but will you do it for the Gospel.

I want to leave us with a few practical skills. And it starts with just conversations.

We're made to be great conversationalists, just people who are great to talk to.

"A single conversation across the table with a wise person is worth a month's study of books." Chinese Proverbs.

If you're a great conversationalist, people will line up just to talk to you.

"There is no such thing as a worthless conversation, provided you know what to listen for. And questions are the breath of life for a conversation." -James Nathan Miller

The air that allows conversations to breath is good questions.

"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." - Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton

We want to spend an entire conversation rebuking people. We think if we have Muslim friends, we have so much not in common. I would say, find the two things we agree on, you've got a friendship. If you've just got golf in common, that's all you need. We've got to be good at finding those things.

A great art, television and film, is a great equalizing point. Food is the big one. It's hard to hate people we eat good food with. Something about the flavors ooze into your life. In that place, television and film that are telling narratives, spiritual narratives especially, are huge.

This is why I've written books on "The Gospel According to... Lost, The Sopranos."

(Lost Clip)

All of the sudden you watch this episode together, and you can have a conversation you could never have about sin.

Sopranos is violent and explicit and is filled with longing.

(Sopranos Clip)

Tony has wealth, power, pleasure. And his wife says, "The difference between you and me is you're going to hell." Tony thinks he's having a heart attack, dying, but he's really having a panic attack.

Every episode of the Sopranos is about who's going to heaven, who's going to hell and why. And if that's the conversation everyone is having, I want to be a part of it.

(Sopranos Clip)

It doesn't get any easier than that, to ask people how they answer the question who goes to heaven and hell and then to flip it and say, "I deserve hell, but I've been given grace."