The World Gets Smaller Via Skype

Today was an amazing day.  I connected with Brook and Sara Sarver, Missionaries to Thailand via Skype this morning.  It was if they were right next door.

Brook and I met via Twitter/Blogs almost two years ago on a Blog Carnival called Creative Chaos.  Each week we would post different creative things that we would do at church.  I think it was Brook and his love for photography that initially got my attention (he's a pretty good photog) and I began following him on Twitter and reading his blog.

I soon found that he was a young pastor in the Indiana area, working with kids, but with a love for the land and people of Thailand.  Not far into our journey he announced that they were moving there as missionaries. They've been there a little more than a year now and are adjusting to the culture and language of Thailand.

What I really enjoyed this morning was the connection we instantly had through Christ.  I met a new sister and brother in Christ and it was as if we had known each other a long time.  It's just that way with the spirit.

We talked about their work and I'll get the honor of introducing them to our church in October when we focus on Thailand. Hopefully we'll have a connection where they can see us and we can see them.  We'll add them to our world mission board here and keep them in our prayers throughout 2010.

Isn't the world getting smaller through things like Skype?

We Are Strangers--We Are Aliens

I'm just back from a day trip with our Sr. Adults.  We headed off earlier this morning to Roswell, New Mexico for a day of sightseeing at the International UFO Museum, historic houses and a natural Wildlife Preserve.

I must say that the International UFO museum was more than I expected.  We could have spent hours in there and we all came away saying "well...maybe it did happen"

After a delightful lunch in downtown Roswell we were off to discover the different architecture of the historic district. We saw great examples of Victorian, Tudor, Prairie, Bungalo and Craftsman style houses.  We then toured one of the premier historic homes (THE WHITE HOUSE--not the one from Washington silly) and it's turn of the century amenities that made this the home in Roswell.

We then journeyed to the Roswell Museum for exhibits from Peter Hurd, Heneritte Wyeth, and more.  I especially loved Peter Hurd's southwestern paintings and one of them had me entranced just imagining the sounds and senses that were running through his mind as he painted it.  And then there was one modern art piece just painted solid greed--called CELEDON!  That was it -one giant paint chip on the wall!

After that we went to the Bitter Lake Wildlife Preserve and saw some wonderful species and learned about the dragon fly who populates the area.  God is truly amazing to think of the dragonfly!

Back to downtown and one more stop at a local quilt shop for the quilters and then we were one the road again.

I love doing these day trips with these folks. We have so much fun!

A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE--The 80's/90's in Church Music

A recent discovery in a music closet that was flooded had me curious as to who the group HEIRLOOM was ( I never heard of them) and why we would have scads of this book ( A LADIES BOOK) in our possession.

First, I had to laugh at the cover.  I'm a child of the 80's and I know everytime I look at styles like this I think--"what were we thinking?"
I could date the book just by looking at the hair styles. Can you guess what year? ( Let me just say that I married in 1990 and my lovely bride wore one of these hair styles for our wedding.  Love you puddin'--happy anniversary on Wednesday--20 YEARS) (As I watch this it's Totally 80's night on CAKE BOSS--maybe it's coming back)

Second of all, who at the music publisher thought that this was a great idea  (Wait--I have to remember that in the 80's it was heavily photo intensify of the artists (Sandi Patti, Amy Grant, Steve Green, Larnelle Harris--am I dating myself here).  Today graphics for publications are more conceptual and graphic rather than identity driven.

What gems and jewels of the past in church music can you find at your place?  Believe me-there's more to come.  I saved a pile of it to blog about.  You won't believe it!

HEIRLOOMS--Gospel History

Jesus Manifesto-- I Signed Up Today

Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus ChristThe JESUS MANIFESTO book came highly recommended by my friend Chuck Harris and my friend John Voelz wrote a song inspired and commissioned for the book.

I can't tell you what an impact that this book has had on me.  I'm a little over half way through it and it is as if I've put on a new pair of glasses and I see things in such a different way.

It's coming out in my thoughts and in my speaking (message preparation and worship leadership).  It's even coming out in my counseling (as I tell people to live with the knowledge that this mystery is "Christ in you the hope of glory".

To live with the knowledge of the "presence" of Christ living in you makes you very conscious of what you do, think and go.  It's for me like the Father Lawrence phrase of "practicing the presence of God"

Have you every read a book that has had this impact on you?

Worship Confessional, July 25, 2010

This post is part of Sunday Set Lists over on The Worship Community Blog.  It's where worship leaders from all over the country post about their worship experiences today:

We're coming to the end of our series BECOMING A HEALTHY CHURCH.  We've been doing it since the end of May and Lord willing, we will have a new Sr. Pastor in place (he comes in view of a call next Sunday).  Today we focused on CELEBRATION and being aware of what God is doing in our midst.

The set list today was:

The Lord Reigns (Gateway)-- I love this song.  We haven't done it in awhile.  It has such a celebratory feel to it.  Tried to get our people to shout (hey, football season is only 1 months away).
Video: Wrap up from Student Life/ Super Summer Camps

Baptism (4 from Student Life Camp)--this was a celebration for us too as we celebrated this 4 kids who made professions during our recent camp.
Missions Moment--Kenya ( Interview and video with Tara Moore who just completed a 1 month internship in Kenya with Buckner International)
Offertory Prayer
Do It Lord (Walker)-- Again, this has been our theme song for 2010.. We continue to cry out to the Lord to "Do It Lord that your glory may be seen"
Glory To God Forever (Beeching/Fee)-We learned this one last week with Rich.  The kids did it at Super Summer.. I'm ready to dig into this one. It will be on our screens for a bit.
Morning Message:  Becoming A Healthy Church: Celebration--Dave Bilderback
You Gave Your Life Away (Baloche)--I love this song--such a simple melody and message.  I've been impacted this week reading JESUS MANIFESTO.  This song says so much!

5 Years Today---Looking Back... Looking Forward

Today I completed my 5th year of service here at FBC Snyder.  Tomorrow, Lord willling, I begin my 6th.

It's an interesting situation that I find myself in.  The picture to the left is of the original staff that I came with in 2005.  I'm the only one left in that group.  I guess you could call me the Survivor.

These 5 years have been some of the highest and some of the lowest in my 23 years of ministry.   I didn't expect to go through so much change (organizationally and structurally) and so much emotion that goes along with change.  But as I look back on all my years of ministry it seems that the Lord calls me to situations that are "in transition" and I'm graced to be there to lend some stability.   At least that is what I see.

What have I learned in 5 years?   I've learned:
1)  Pacing is important--you can't do it all in the first year/18 months. You have to save some back for the long haul.
2)  Pick your battles---some things that look like good things to battle end up being the ones that yield the least opportunity and benefit. Choose wisely
3)  Find a way to decompress--the wonderful discovery of being involved with The Ritz Theater came at a time that I needed a way to release my creativity in other realms and to meet others outside of the church.
4)  Getting a hold of your health is the best things you can do.  Regular exercise benefited me in this last transition as it gave me time to think and be free of "the things that weigh me down"
5)  It's all about people--regardless whether they like you are not.   I'm called to minister to the entire body --even those who have expressed a dislike for me, my ministry and such.
6)  Going another 5 years will require a new me... I'm in the process of evaluating "me" and what that means in the coming years.   I can't do years 1-5 again. It has to be a new experience beginning tomorrow.
7)  Change is going to come.  People will come and go in the church.  It's funny to be one of the older (in terms of time here) ones here and I've seen people come and go in my time here. It's just the nature of our world-people come and go.  I need to cherish the time I have with people.
8)  Err on the side of family---especially in these later years my kids will be winding up their school years.  I won't have them back ever again.  So--they will be my priority in the coming years.
9)  Invest in my marriage.  We hit 20 years this year.  That's a landmark--but we want to go the distance.  I need to do the things that make our marriage better.  I don't need to bring home to Diane seconds or thirds after ministry.  She deserves better.
10) God is faithful.  I look back at my panic moments in these 5 years and realize that the sun rose and set each day and God was faithful.  We never lacked or found ourselves wanting.. he was faithful to provide and protect.  For this, I am grateful.

Artists of Our Times-- Michael Gungor

At the beginning of the year I didn't know who Michael Gungor was, but I had been singing his music for years.  The writer of FRIEND OF GOD has been contributing to the christian music scene for years and just now has come into his own with the publishing of two successful solo projects.

I have come to love Michael Gungor for one reason alone:  he's an artist that thinks deeply about the combination of words and music.  I will regularly play through my collections of his and discover another gem in his songs that I had never heard before.  Just a couple of weeks ago we were talking about The Church as family and I found his song  "SONG FOR MY FAMILY" to rouse thoughts and emotions that no other song would do for that topic and service.  His songs linger with you long after the song is over and they make you think.

I would highly recommend his albums and his music.  He's an artist for our times.

Watercolor Time Lapse--Randy Elrod "FATHERS EYES"

This is my friend, Randy Elrod, who has been commissioned to paint a watercolor portrait based on one of Amy Grants all time favorite hit songs "FATHERS EYES".  It's all part of a tour that Amy will be doing this fall in small venues of 350 people and the proceeds go to Compassion International.

Randy is an artist:  musician, culture creator, wine taster, painter, runner, reader, blogger and writer.  He does it all.  I'm blessed to attend his RECREATE conference every year where he brings together 100 of the best and brightest creatives for a week of mentoring in Creativity, The Arts and The Church.

The real news is that Randy hasn't always been a painter.  This is something that he has taken up in the last few years and is basically self-taught.   I think he's awakened the Michaelangelo within himself.  What do you think?

How about you? Would you dare to take up painting and learn to paint.   My local artist friend, Shanna Covington, is going to teach art lessons this fall at College on The Square.  You might want to check it out--I might join you there too.

Who Leads The Church--VacantOversight Blog

What I love about blogging is that you connect with people that you never would otherwise meet or communicate with.

It came across Facebook last week.  "Think I could help my church without a pastor?"  I'm thinking someone is reading my mail or something.  Actually it was a friend in ministry who is going through the same thing I am (a pastoral transition--my 3rd here and 8th overall)  It piqued my curiosity so I click on this link and found a blogger who expresses well what it's like to go through a pastoral transition.  I've been hooked ever since.

Jeremy does an excelled job of capturing the thoughts and feelings of a second-chair (staff not in the pastor position) leader in the absence of a pastor.  He asks the question "who leads the church?" during this time.  For some churches it's clear; there is an established order for things to go.  For other churches, it's not so clear and there is a momentary power grab ( I like to call it the Indians running into the teepee and bang the war drum!)  This can be a confusing time for all (church and staff).

What I think Jeremy has done has opened the door to the discussion of pastoral succession in our churches.  We need to have a "hit by the bus" plan in place (what happens when the pastor leaves) and have that envelope ready and implemented when the time comes.  Prayerfully that won't come too often but it's better to be prepared than to wander in the wilderness of an interim time.

This blog has the makings of a book, and I've told Jeremy that he's hit upon something that needs to be explored.

The YouTube Effect (In Ministry)

Perhaps nothing has done more to expose the church (to vast audiences and criticism) like Youtube.   With over 100 million viewers, the ability for a church in a remote location to reach an audience half way around the world is not unthinkable anymore.

By creating their own content (even with a small flip camera) church's can document their faith journey, provide training for their leadership and document church history and events for posterity.

Below are some of the sites I found.  Village Church is using their site to keep the congregation (and the world) up to date with Matt Chandler's battle with cancer.  They also provide some training videos and instructional videos on church core values.

The final article is a great discussion of why and how the church can utilize Youtube (and some reasons not to)
Northpoint Ministries
Village Church
The Vatican joins Youtube
Youtube and The Church

If Big XII Schools Were Countries

I received this email from my brother and thought it was too good not to pass along.

Texas is like the USA - Wealthy, talented, and with seemingly endless resources. They have a big ego, but are deserving of it because they win at almost everything they do. Others often despise them out of jealousy. Their money and wealth make the world go round, and everyone wants a piece.

Texas A&M is like China - Big, powerful, and rival of Texas (USA). They live in a male dominated society, and thus their women are not allowed to be cheerleaders. Their money and power also make the world go round.

Oklahoma is like Mexico - Having no resources of their own, they have to invade the border of Texas (USA) in order to survive.

Oklahoma State is like Columbia - Oklahoma's poorer regional neighbor. Governed not by the government, but by the very wealthy "T. Boone" cartel.

Baylor is like Israel - A feisty little religious enclave that could not survive without Texas (USA). However, if provoked, they WILL kill you.

Colorado is like Canada - A small, unimportant bastion of liberals who are not very good at anything. Like Canada, they are bad at all sports other than hockey. Like Canada, they produce no GDP.

 Nebraska is like Russia - A former super power who frequently stirs up
 trouble because they still think they are a super power. Nebraska
(Russia) thinks it is the equal of Texas (USA), and pouts in public when
 it doesn't get its baby way. When they do not get their way, they take; their ball and go home. Go big RED!

Missouri is like Iran and North Korea - a definite member of the axis of evil. Coniving and loyal to no one, you can not believe anything they say (you can only watch in amazement at what they do). Like Iran and
> North Korea, they are hated and despised by everyone--even the Swiss.

 Iowa State is like Switzerland - Boring, unimportant, not good at much
 of anything, but neutral and without enemies. Even the hawkeyes like the Swiss.

Texas Tech is like Australia - Big, dusty, and a Texas version of "down under". Cowboys like Aussie's drink a lot of beer and carry weapons.

KU is like France - KU is full of socialists and they think they are
better than everyone else. This high opinion of themselves is not shared
 by anyone else in the world. Like France, KU can not be trusted or
counted on during a time of need.

K-State is like Ireland - A gritty, feisty, over-achieving little
country with a large inferiority complex. What they lack in resources,
 they make up by determination and people. Others can't find them on a
 map, but they like them because we are friendly, and like to drink beer.

Final note--Russia (Nebraska) and Canada (Colorado) have already left the fold of the Big XII UN!

If the ACC were countries

Family Devotions--Vacation Style

Today we, as a family, did church a little different.

We were away today on a one day "vacation" (it's my first Sunday off since February and I already had the day covered when my earlier plans fell through) and we escaped to a local town.

Last night was filled with "a double feature at a drive in" (which our kids had never done) and a late arrival back to our hotel about 1:40 this morning.  Needless to say, our eyes didn't pop open at the usual 6:00 am on Sunday morning.

Diane and I were up early to take care of the puppies (yes, they went with us--and they did great) and I went to pick up some "breakfast" since I knew the kids weren't getting up in time to get the hotel fare?

Around 11:20'sh or so we made it to a local park to search for my dad's memorial brick honoring his service in the Army in WWII and then we sat down by the lake and had church.  Yes, no building--no musical instruments, no ushers or formal prayers. We as a family gathered together around the Word.

I read from Hebrews 10 (about worship and it's forms--the sacrifices that were required).  We talked about how worship has changed, but more importantly where worship takes place.  I stressed to them that we were having church today--even as a family by the lake.

We closed by listening to a song I had which talked about how we can't keep Christ in our temples, tents--for they become idols.   When we got back in the car one of the kids said " now, that was cool!"

Have you ever done church---outside of church?

Worship Confessional, July 18, 2010

This post is part of Sunday Set List over on The Worship Community Blog. It's where worship leaders all over the world share their Sunday experiences.

I was away today on vacation (1 day only)  I had previously scheduled the week to be away with a family member--but plans changed and I was here.  My friend, Rich Smith, was already scheduled to be here and couldn't reschedule.  So-we took the day off.  First time not leading since Feb. 5--I guess I can take a Sunday off.

Here is his set-list for the day:

Great In Power (Fragar)
Majestic (Brewster)
Blessed Assurance (Hymn)
Welcome/Announcements--we announced today that we will have a candidate in view of a call as Sr. Pastor on Aug. 1
Love Lifted Me (Hymn)
I See You (Mullins)
Be The Centre
Message--Becoming A Healthy Church: Generosity (Dave Bilderback)
Glory To God (Beeching/Fee)

The LinkedIn Effect (In Ministry)

Continuing in the series on Social Media and Ministry brings us to LINKEDIN ( or Linked as my wife likes to call it)

Known more as a professional social media platform, LINKEDIN is used for connecting and recommending professionals and workers that are known or connected (recommended) by the social media circles.  Your value in the network is determined by your connections and their level (1st, 2nd, 3rd).

I use LINKEDIN to keep up with business professionals that I've met in ministry and also ministers who have connections to businesses or parachurch groups.  I rarely chat or update on it, but it's useful to keep this avenue open for resourcing or information.

I would say that LINKEDIN is most beneficial for the minister--to keep connections outside the church.  I don't see it used much in church organizations.

The following information is descriptive of LINKEDIN and it's an accurate picture of what the network offers.

From Anderson Analytics
  • “Savvy Networkers” (est. 9 million) are likely to have started using social networking earlier than others, are more tech savvy, and more likely to be active on other SNS sites like Facebook.  Savvy Networkers have the most connections (61 on average) and are more likely than other segments to use LinkedIn for a wide variety of purposes other than job searching. Savvy Networkers have the second highest average personal income ($93,500) and may often have the word “Consultant” in their job description.
  • “Senior Executives” (est. 8.4 million) are somewhat less tech savvy and is using LinkedIn to connect to their existing corporate networks. They have power jobs which they are quite content with, and are likely to have been invited by a colleague and then realized how many key contacts were on the site and started building connections (32 on average).  Senior Executives have the highest average personal income ($104,000) and have titles such as Owner, Partner, Executive, or Associate.
  • “Late Adopters” (est. 6.6 million) are likely to have received numerous requests from friends and co-workers before deciding to join. They are somewhat less tech savvy and are careful in how they use LinkedIn, tending to connect only to close friends and colleagues and have the fewest number of connections (23 on average).  Late Adopters have the lowest average personal income ($88,000) and have titles such as Teacher, Medical Professional, Lawyer, or the word “Account” or “Assistant” in their job description.
  • “Exploring Options” (est. 6.1 million) may be working, but are open and looking for other job options often on, perhaps in part because they have the lowest average personal income ($87,500). They are fairly tech savvy and use SNS for both corporate and personal interests.

From my own Linked In site:

Your Network of Trusted Professionals
You are at the center of your network.
Your connections can introduce you to 575,300+ professionals — here’s how your network breaks down:
Your Connections
       Your trusted friends and colleagues 78
       Two degrees away :Friends of friends; each connected to one of your connections 5,700+
       Three degrees away: Reach these users through a friend and one of their friends 569,500+
       Total users you can contact through an Introduction 575,300+

Third Place--The Great Good Gathering Place

“Life without community has produced, for many, a life style consisting mainly of a home-to-work-and-back-again shuttle. Social well-being and psychological health depend upon community. It is no coincidence that the ‘helping professions’ became a major industry in the United States as suburban planning helped destroy local public life and the community support it once lent.”

I'm finishing up the book "THE TANGIBLE KINGDOM" and towards the back of the book the author refers, in reference to community, to something called THE THIRD PLACE.  He's using the terminology coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg in his 1990 book THE GREAT GOOD PLACE.  In it Oldenburg says that the First place (Home) and Second place (work) provide for us means of relationships and sustinance, but that we need a Third place--where we can be known on another level.

I know, right now you are singing  the "Cheers" song--"You want to go where everybody knows your name".  But isn't it funny that a TV show from the 80's captured the essence of community and we still refer to it some 20 years later.  

Churches used to be the Third place.  When the church  was the center of the community culture, you were known in that place (culture and church were more similar then than now-agree?) as parties and gatherings took on more of a feeling of "community".  Not so anymore.  Can anyone remember what it was like when it was that way?

Third places are still essential to the culture of a local community.  I live in a small rural town with a "picturesque" downtown square.  I regularly hear people say that they remember "when" the downtown area was the place to go on the weekends.  That was their third place.

We have people who are trying to recreate that in our town now--not as it was, but as it could be as a gathering space for friends and family (Thanks to Marianne and Bill for bringing this back to our attention) and people who come to town notice this and remark "this is a happening little place down here".  Somehow in our own psyche it does encourage us when we find Third Places (be it a McDonald's coffee shop, or another local hangout) where people know you on another level.

Will the church ever return to THIRD PLACE?   I don't know .   I can't see the culture coming to our coffee shops and bookstores and things inside our buildings.  Maybe this is just the call for us to all "go" and "be" in the culture that we are called to.  There are far more ministry opportunities in these "THIRD PLACES"  than we'll ever find inside the walls of a church dwelling.

Third Place--Wikipedia


While worshiping with the kids from Super Summer last night, I was reminded why we need a historical reference in our worship.  Phillip led them in the song MYSTERY by Charlie Hall.   The song is really aimed toward's communion and the mystery of the bread of life (Jesus) broken for us.  It's a passionate song and one that I call a "thinking" song as you must process the lyrics and it's meaning while you sing it.

As I watched the kids passionately worship and sing "CHRIST HAS DIED, CHRIST IS RISEN, CHRIST WILL COME AGAIN, I was reminded that we needed to know Church history.  This phrase is part of the memorial acclamation of the Mass (the celebration of communion) and has been part of the church's expression since the third century.  It's historical and ancient and thus I believe this is why it is finding such resonance with this generation.   Not only in Catholic churches, this phrase and expression can be found in most churches who use a forma liturgical form and expression for the communion rite.

There is within the next generation of worshipers a desire to connect present faith with past faith and the way that they have found to do that is through prayers, forms and songs of the ancient church.  I'm hearing more and more of the influence of early church fathers in their songs, their writings, their philosophy and more.

Here's where we can help.   We must not only know our church history but we must know Biblical history and where worship has come from even before the church began.  By knowing these things we can help frame for this generation of worshipers the context in which some of these things were written and came to being as part of the church's worship expression.

Writers such as Matt Maher and Audrey Assad are some of the best examples I can find who weave these ancient practices into current worship songs.  The depth of these songs and their meanings I believe are what are drawing people to them as their expressions of worship.

Once and Future Worship

Plan B Book---A Must Read!

Life Today with James Robison from theagroup on Vimeo.

Today I finished PLAN B BOOK by Pete Wilson. I have to say that somehow, someway the Spirit always puts resources in my hands at just the time that I need them.

Pete is a friend and I've known about the book for a while, but hadn't put my hands on it until the National Worship Leaders Conference last month where Pete spoke.   Even then I had other books on my desk side.  However this last week I was prompted to pick it up and I found that I couldn't put it down.

Knowing what Pete's voice sounds like every chapter was if he was talking to me--and that made the messages even more personal.  There were times that I was furious at him for saying this or that but I knew that it was truth that I needed to hear and it made it even better to hear it from a friend.  Several chapters were very hard to get through just because of their reality ( he must be reading my mail!)

Tonight I was reminded of PLAN B situations that have surrounded me this week:
    * A friend diagnosed with cancer again
    * A friend who loses a second sibling to cancer
    * Family members struggling with life situations
    * and more

Plan B's are all around us and I guess the thing that Pete taught me through this book was to take another look at each situation and see where God is working and what he's saying.  There really is a depth and wisdom to the book that I cannot explain.  Some of it comes out in this interview that Pete did with James Robinson.   Believe me--you won't put it down either.

This is more than just a sermon series that was turned into a book.  I listened to the sermon series and it was fantastic.  But this book is as if Pete took that lesson and then spent the next 6 weeks with you at the coffee shop going over each of these things in detail.

It's a book that I would highly recommend for any family member or friend dealing with the Plan B's of their lives.  I plan to get more copies to give away to those in my life that are living there right now.

Are you in the midst of a Plan B?

Influencing The Next Generation--Worship At Super Summer 2010

Every once in a while God sits me down and says "Sit there--don't speak.  Watch me work and listen!" Duh... was that not the theme of this week at Super Summer (Ps. 46:10)

He did that tonight as I went to Super Summer @ Hardin Simmons and was led in worship by one of my former ministry students.  Phillip Cole and Burgundy Road were passionate leaders tonight and ignited the students in worship.  My birds eye view from the balcony gave me a venue to watch what God does with surrendered lives.

Watching Phillip took me back 12 years ago when I first met him and I knew then that God had gifted him in music.  I think Phillip would tell you that at that moment he couldn't see God using him like this now--but I knew God wouldn't let him waste his talent.

Tonight God reminded me that sometimes in ministry you plant the seed ( that of the gospel and of living a servant life) and you just never know who will pick that up and do something even greater for God than you did.

I have students from our ministries that are:
   Sr. Pastors
   College Ministry Leaders
   Spouses of Ministry leaders
   And more......

Over 23 years of ministry we have been blessed to see so many young lives surrender to ministry and to lead their generation.   I'm so glad that I've had a little part in influencing the next generation of church leaders. And man--are they ever passionate!