August 31, 2007

Final Thoughts On Perry's "Response"

Here is the post that prompted my critique. Yesterday, Perry posted his response to I'm assuming NOT ME, but to other blogs that have critiqued him or NewSpring this week.

One last time: Perry - some of us don't hate you! I know you will find it hard to believe that people can be critical of you or your church and its methods and not actually hate you. But it's true.

And to answer your questions you raised in your post:
1) Yes I do know you. We've met (although I doubt you would remember it - thousands of people come in NewSpring's doors). I have been to NewSpring. I attended a membership class. We enjoyed the time we spent attending.

2) Yes, I would say what I said to you in person. And yes, I said it on this blog. I find your lines about saying things in private and using Matthew 18 a little disingenious since you quite blatantly use your blog to A) Share your private opinions in a very public way B) Bash smaller churches and methodologies you don't agree with and C) Threaten to punch people in the throat. If you live by the megaphone, expect to hear responses via a megaphone as well.

3) No, I don't feel like I caused dissension in what I said. I found the tone of the post alarming and extreme. You can check this blog from the very first post to this one and you'll find that I have never once criticized your methods or creativity. Nor have I ever been disparaging of your passion. I have criticized your blanket assumptions (which are your forte) about how things HAVE to be done to grow or your "all or nothing assertions" that you make quite often. But your blog posts quite frequently take the tone of wanting to pick a fight and that is what is causing dissension.

Even your own staff people are saying as much in their blogs as well.

My encouragement and final words in this exchange are to exhort you as the mega-church pastor to promote the positives of NewSpring and leave the negatives of what you perceive is resident in "Christianity" or "other churches" off of the posts. It's fine to have passion, but this "us vs. the world" mentality you have is ridiculous. You do good stuff. You should be commended for it. Keep doing it and keep your promise to ignore your critics.


August 30, 2007

Back Where It All Began

And this is where it all began. 12 years ago I met someone like no other. A good friend, and a good man. Today we went back on the campus of Missouri State University and hung out for a while. We checked out all the places that we use to rule over a decade ago.

And while so much has changed on campus, things absolutely stay the same. A few things hit me today:

- I am old, and I am not cool
- I am ugly and college people are not
- I am smarter now than I used to be, but these people think they're brilliant (how much they have to learn)
- Churches have no idea what it's going to take to reach college campuses like this. They are hurting, and desperately in need of Jesus, but they will not come to programs at your church. They are a community all unto themselves and you will HAVE to go to them. There's just no other alternative
- College was fun. And in some moments, I wish I could go back. I loved those times, not so much for the craziness I was engaged in but because of the community of people I was a part of. Which got me to thinking:

Why can't churches build community like college campuses do? Why are churches so isolationist while college is so communal? Is it just because they live together in tight quarters? I don't think that's the whole reason. I think more and more it's because they are there to experience a new phase of life and they are looking for folks to experience it with.

Which differs from the church because A) We don't believe we enter new phases of life, we just think we have life and B) We DO NOT seek folks to experience it with. Parents and older folks just become more isolationist in the way they live. College kids gravitate towards community. Older folks don't. I think that's why I feel at home at college campuses or around young folks because community is something I thrive on.

12 years ago, in the room two windows above my head in this picture, the guy on my right walked in and sat down. He didn't come to win a theological argument. He didn't come to convince me of my sin. He cam in the power of the Holy Spirit and out of love for a friend, and he shared what was on his heart. In that room, God changed my heart, made me a new creation, and set me on a path of being a disciple of Jesus. George did what the majority of new Christians are not willing to do today and he just invested in the life of another human being.

He listened. He didn't judge. He held firm to what he believed. He shared what was appropriate. He spoke the truth. He hung out. He guided. He listened (so important I listed it twice). I'm eternally grateful that he did. But I'm more grateful that Jesus died the death I should have died and lived the life I should have lived.

I'm glad George is here this week. It's been a good time of looking back, enjoying today, and dreaming about tomorrow.

August 29, 2007

Take Time To Listen – What’s On Your Mind?

I've written over 220 posts and the subjects have been a variety of things. The blog has certainly taken on a different form than when I started. And the idea hit me, I've never asked the folks who read what they would like to read about…

So here goes, and I'm going to look really stupid if no one responds, (not that I'm averse to looking stupid, just would rather not) but what would you like to read a blog post about. What are some questions you have that you would like to hear my opinion on? What are some topics that interest you?

Leave em in the comments and I'll get to work on them. Make them as controversial as you'd like. But keep them clean.

Now I'll just wait…

August 28, 2007

It’s Not Only What We Say – It’s How We Say It

This morning was interesting. I'm reading my usual set of blogs, which includes Perry Noble's (for those who don't know him, he's the pastor of NewSpring in Anderson, SC), and I was stunned to read this blog post.

First off, I will repeat as I have said in other posts on this blog, I AM NOT A PERRY HATER. I read his blog daily, I listen to his podcast, and I admire his passion, his enthusiasm, and his fervor to see the community God has placed him in changed. So before anyone reads this and says: "Well see he's just one of those that's against us", you're wrong.

Now, let's take a look at the post.

People from a churched culture grow up with a "safe" picture of Jesus–he had feathered hair, wore a white robe with a purple sash, was a constant giver of hugs and carried a lamb where ever He went.However, in reading Scripture that is NOT the Jesus I am seeing. I am discovering that if I want to become more and more like Jesus that I am going to have to drop my Sunday school perceptions and embrace the following…

Yea, you're right Perry. Jesus isn't tender at all. That whole scene with the adultress who was about to be stoned. Not tender at all. The restoration of Peter after the denial, not soft. Revelation 21 – No more tears, no more pain, new heavens, new Earth – you're right – Jesus is one tough mother. Truth is Perry, you're seeing the Jesus YOU WANT TO SEE, and when the Jesus YOU DON'T WANT TO SEE confronts you, you move right past that passage. We all do that to some degree, but to paint Jesus as one dimensional as you do here, is just as bad as the what you find wrong in the people you rail against.

One of my favorite stories is found in Matthew 21:12-16 where His passion is demonstrated by the fact that He whipped some tail!

Yea, and Jesus also had some pretty strong words for the disciples whenever they shot their mouths off in arrogance as well. Yes, Jesus condemned the religious establishment, but he also rebuked disciples for their pride and even cleaned up after Peter made a terrible mistake in the heat of passion during Jesus arrest. Somewhere the Bible says "Be slow to anger".

Keep something in mind–it wasn't the atheists, agnostics or even the devil worshipers that murdered Jesus…but rather THE most religious people in that time period.

Perry, we all murdered Jesus. Every one of us. Our sin and rebellion against God necessitated the death of Jesus. Were the Pharisees the immediate perpetrators? Yes. But we have all exchanged the Glory of God for something else. Which is why Jesus had to come to die in the first place. Also, have you ever read Acts 2:22-24 and considered the fact that it was God the Father who killed Jesus as this passage clearly says. The Jews were the instruments, but God the Father delivered Jesus up. Oh I'm sorry that' going too deep which you come to here in just a second…

Like it or not–Jesus didn't go to a bookstore, get a theology book by a dead white guy, get a group of guys together that were just like Him and give the world the middle finger because He was obsessed with "going deep!" If I meet one more group of guys who think they are becoming more like Jesus because they are theological superior to people (which, by the way, is PRIDE!) but do not know a lost person by name or refuse to exercise their spiritual gift…and yet claim to be godly…I am going to punch them in the throat! (For everyone who just got mad about that–please refer to #2!)

Nice rant there big boy. I can see Jesus up on the cross saying the same thing. Oh wait – he said "Father forgive them". He was full of grace and mercy, not violence and condemnation. Dude, you have a good point. Don't ever let the pursuit of knowledge of God quell our passion to put that knowledge to use to help people and transform our communities. But why do you constantly bash people who want to know more about God, study their Bibles, and learn as much as they can. Have you read 1 Peter 1:10-12? Even the angels "long to look" into the Gospel and learn more. Shouldn't we?

Pastors will say that God reigns and is sovereign…and then they will back down before a board of deacons or elders because they fear them more that God. If you are going to be like Christ–obedience, not prostitution (being paid to perform a service) is required.

Be careful about the "I've got God's vision and you don't therefore listen to me" syndrome here Perry. Paul outlined Elders for a reason. There is wisdom in obtaining Godly counsel. And there is humility in being subjected to others. That's the way Paul laid it out, and that's why a lot of churches have Elder councils. I guess I would ask you this question…"Have you ever thrown something out to your staff and then changed your mind after a group discussion? " If so, then didn't you back down to your staff? Why didn't you just go with our original idea? Were you afraid of your staff? Were you disobedient? Were you a whore at that moment? My guess is no. You were a guy who wanted to get to the best idea possible and trusted and loved the guys who were giving you counsel.

I read on a website once that a vision could not be numeric…and I will have to say that I about threw up! Jesus had a desire to reach the NATIONS! (Matthew 28:18-20) Now I am not the smartest man on the planet…but that's a lot of people.

I'm assuming Perry might be referring to a comment I made on one of his staff member's blog (here). And I will say it again. Numeric visions are hollow, man-centered, and prideful. I won't back down from that. I won't stray from that. I've been there Perry. I've been a part of numeric visions and I've found one thing. Numbers don't motivate people, people motivate people. From Maxwell's "training 1 million leaders" to Welch's "baptizing 1 million people" to a parachurch's "reaching 1 million children", I only ask one thing…why is always a million and why is it always nice round numbers? I would also ask, why does it take a number to get you out of bed in the morning and passionate about reaching people. Why? See the problem is we don't understand the Bible. Paul planted, Apollos watered, God gave the increase. The numbers are not ours to shoot for. Ours is the faithfulness of our words and our actions.

I am as passionate about the Great Commission as anyone. But I do it because I believe the Gospel can transform people and I will not replace the Gospel with math. The Gospel gets me up, not arithmetic. People are people who have souls, lives, hurts, wants, desires, pains, victories, loves, angers, and opportunities. Do what you do because you love God and love People. Not because you're going after some freaking number.

This post is typical Perry. Huff, Puff, and blow your house down. But the rhetoric is beyond belief. In searching the Net, I found a speech given by someone rather famous which sounded eerily similar to this post. Here's the speech:

My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these religious people for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight against the religious poison. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice... And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly, it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people. And when I look on my people I see them work and work and toil and labor, and at the end of the week they have only for their wages wretchedness and misery. When I go out in the morning and see these men standing in their queues and look into their pinched faces, then I believe I would be no Christian, but a very devil, if I felt no pity for them, if I did not, as did our Lord two thousand years ago, turn against those by whom today this poor people are plundered and exploited.

The author: Adolph Hitler in a speech delivered April 12, 1922 and published in his book "My New Order".

For those who would freak out about this speech, I am not comparing Perry to a fascist Nazi leader. I am, however, expressing concern for the rhetoric Perry is using because it is alarming and because of his position, he is an authority for many. For Jesus sake, tone down the rhetoric and stop the "us vs. the world" madness. Your fellow "religious Christians" are not the enemy. Sin is the enemy. And we are all guilty of it. Be a positive force for change, not a negative one. Fight against sin, not fellow pastors or churches.

August 27, 2007

Planting Missional Churches – (Ch 8) Involving Lay Leaders

Everyone knows that we do church together. It's not a super-staff kind of thing where you pay people to do the ministry while the rest of the members of the church sit on their butts. But in a church plant, that becomes even more magnified. Everyone has to pitch in, otherwise the future of the plant is in doubt.

In Chapter 8, Stetzer spends a significant amount of the book talking about involving lay leaders and which leaders are the most critical as you get started. He issues a stark warning however: "Take care not just to put a warm body in a spot you need to fill, a common mistake I see church planters making".

He then lists what he believes are the five indispensable leaders in a church plant that should be in place before the first public service:

  1. New Member Assimilation (Small Groups)
  2. Network Evangelism
  3. Spiritual Gifts Mobilization (Servant Teams)
  4. Children's Ministry Team
  5. Worship Ministry Team

Here's a great paragraph:

It may be unfortunate, but an old adage worth paying attention to claims that the top three qualities people look for in a church (whether consciously or subconsciously) are good parking, nice women's restrooms, and excellent child care. The reality is that, as planters, usually we can only control one of these: child care.

Stetzer is idealistic, but practical. He advises starting with just pre-school ministry in the early days. Then build your children's ministry as more volunteers come along. He gives some very practical policies and procedures for safety in your children's ministry.

He then offers potentially two other leaders that he feels are critical:

  • Welcome Coordinator
  • Financial Organizer

He then ends the chapter with the following good advice:

"Pick leaders wisely – or suffer the consequences later"…

That should be a proverb or something…

August 25, 2007

Leading People To Be Real Christ Followers In Life….Together (3)

Part 1

Part 2

This is the post where I would like to focus on "Real Christ Followers". I have to be honest with you , I do not feel like I am the person to comment on being a "real" Christ follower. There are millions of people in the world that are infinitely more qualified than me to comment on such a weighty phrase.

But in LifePoint's context, I think what they are trying to get at is for folks to be passionate about Jesus and The Bible, not religion and "going to church". In Southwest Missouri, there is a definite tendency to believe "I was born here, I go to church, so yea I'm a Christian". I've been in other parts of the country where that is the case as well. Darrin Patrick, pastor of The Journey in St. Louis, would call that "Churchville". But here in the Ozarks, it's definitely a bad tendency.

So you have to preach against the church and teach people what a real relationship and what real following of Jesus is. It's easy to fall into the "Churchville" mode and forget that being a disciple of Jesus is a radical calling. And to be honest, I see that as the struggle of any church. Tim Keller would argue that it's easy for folks to get sidetracked on "self-salvation" projects and begin looking to something other than Jesus as their salvation (ie their works, traditions, self-righteousness, etc).

But LifePoint at least understands that "Churchville" does not equal "Real Christ Followers". It doesn't always mean that they're perfect in following that, but the recognition and pushing against it is something that is definitely part of the LifePoint DNA.

So I ask this question of the loyal "Syndrome" readers: "What would your definition be of a "Real Christ Follower"?

August 24, 2007

Planting Missional Churches – (CH 7) Planter-Pastor Leadership Issues

Stetzer breaks down the chapter into the following four categories that he says are unique to church planting leadership. I don't necessarily agree with the order these have been put in as I think not having a coach or mentor would help you avoid schedule problems or culture shock. I'm not convinced he put these in order of importance, but I think it would have made more sense in a different order. I'll simply share what I think are the best quotes under each heading.

Putting Prayer First

You cannot lead people to godliness when you are not regularly encountering God. Church planters are not particularly prayerful people.

Amen…put me in that corner. I know that I as go through this journey that my prayer life has to "seriously" improve.

Daily Responsibilities And Schedule

If pastors are to model leadership, a fifty-hour pastoral workweek is not unreasonable.

Stetzer then lays out what he thinks the breakdown should be for church planters in their workweek. Out of 50 hours, here is the breakdown:

  • Evangelistic Outreach: 15 hours
  • Sermon And Study Preparation: 10 hours
  • Administration: 10 hours
  • Ministry: 15 hours

So what do you think? Is the breakdown accurate? Off base?

Culture Shock And Fatigue

Stetzer says that even planting in your hometown is a challenge. This particularly applies to me as I am looking at precisely that scenario. Here's the quote:

You may be from that town, but as a Christian who's making the enormous effort to plant a church there, you're coming at this once-familiar place with new eyes and from a different culture.

Church Planting Mentors And Coaches

Meeting with a mentor has a similar positive impact on attendance. Planters who met weekly with a mentor, perhaps because they took seriously the process of learning from others, led churches that were almost twice the size of those who had no mentor. I believe a supervisor should focus on work issues, and a mentor should focus on personhood issues, providing encouragement and nurture to the church planter.

August 23, 2007

The Mother Theresa The World Never Knew

But if you've ever read any auto/biographies of folks such as CH Spurgeon or Jonathan Edwards then this article in Time will make absolute sense to you. Many times the people who commune the closest to God are the people that feel the most desperation and depression...

I can't fully understand that...but it's true nonetheless. Read the whole thing. Here's an excerpt...fascinating piece.

Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? The Child of your Love — and now become as the most hated one — the one — You have thrown away as unwanted — unloved. I call, I cling, I want — and there is no One to answer — no One on Whom I can cling — no, No One. — Alone ... Where is my Faith — even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness — My God — how painful is this unknown pain — I have no Faith — I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart — & make me suffer untold agony.

So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them — because of the blasphemy — If there be God — please forgive me — When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven — there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. — I am told God loves me — and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?addressed to Jesus, at the suggestion of a confessor, undated

UPDATE: I had to include this paragraph from the last bit of the article as it really crystallizes a lot of thoughts that ran through my mind as I read it:

America's Martin wants to talk precisely in religious terms. "Everything she's experiencing," he says, "is what average believers experience in their spiritual lives writ large. I have known scores of people who have felt abandoned by God and had doubts about God's existence. And this book expresses that in such a stunning way but shows her full of complete trust at the same time." He takes a breath. "Who would have thought that the person who was considered the most faithful woman in the world struggled like that with her faith?" he asks. "And who would have thought that the one thought to be the most ardent of believers could be a saint to the skeptics?" Martin has long used Teresa as an example to parishioners of self-emptying love. Now, he says, he will use her extraordinary faith in the face of overwhelming silence to illustrate how doubt is a natural part of everyone's life, be it an average believer's or a world-famous saint's.

On Queue

I no sooner have this post on mission statements done than Tony Morgan writes this post on vision...

Go read it and then come back...what would your vision for a local church be? Here's a glimpse into's not finished yet, but it's a rough start....

Leading People To Be Real Christ Followers In Life...Together (2)

In part 1 of this mini-series (I finally get to use that word on my blog...remember growing up how ABC or CBS always used to have the "groundbreaking mini-series"...I feel so cool now) I focused on the word "Leading" in LifePoint's mission statement...

Now I want to focus on: PEOPLE

I'm sick of local churches, para-church ministries, and generally people out for their own fame and fortune using people as statistics and numbers to justify their own greed and power play. I see churches all the time throwing out how many people they're reaching...statments like:

- We saw 165 decision for Christ
- We reached 500,000 kids for Jesus this year
- We had over 8,000 in attendance this past Sunday (a 26.5% increase same time last year)
- Blah - Blah - Blah

And the list could go on and on. Now here's my question for all the number lovers out there. I want you to define for me the term "reach" and I want you to tell me why "attendance" is in anyway a signficant indicator of your "ecclesiastical" and "gospel transformation" success?

I am tired of us making people a number. They are not numbers. They are lives. Souls. Hurts. Pains. Hopes. Dreams. Disasters. Tragedies. And you want to know why the state of Christianity is in the shape it's in?

Because pastors, ministry leaders, para-church ministries, et all have cared a whole lot more about the "numbers" at their churches/ministries than they have about the lives of the people involved. When you see people as a means to an end to justify your success or existence, you have failed miserably as a leader.

Numbers are not indicative of success - at least Biblically. And I'll hear people talk all the time about Luke recording the 3,000 conversions at Pentecost. I'll also hear people talk about "and there were many being added daily"..

Yea, you know there were. But they were adding daily because there valuable as people, not as another notch in the ministry belt. How does all this tie into LifePoint?

Because over the last couple weeks, every person I have asked the question "Why do you like LifePoint?", their answer has been remarkably consistent..."The People Here Are Great". And it starts with the leadership, and flows down to the church. The people at LifePoint care about one another and that's obvious from the outside looking in. They get involved in Community Groups, they fellowship together on Sunday mornings, they serve together when called upon, and they check up on one another in times of need.

To LifePoint, a person walking in the door isn't a number, they're a person. A person to know. A person to love. And a person to care for. You know it's funny, the people who worry about numbers never seem to see those numbers get big enough for them. But the people who care about people and not numbers, always seem to have the joy and fulfillment that the Lord brings...

Jesus never once looked around and said "Hey...look at the big crowds that are gathering...I must be doing something right"...

He did however look around and intentionally avoid publicity by saying "Go and tell no one". Jesus knew the danger of looking at people as numbers and as a means to an end for a selfish vision. But he chose to focus on the person and their lives and why their lives mattered.

I'm excited to be a part of a church where the focus is on people. Numbers may or may not come, but people will always be there to love, care, serve, and minister. The mission statement says more than you think it does...

August 22, 2007

Writing A Mission Statement

I've begun work on my prospectus for Eternity. And obviously some of the first steps you take are defining your mission and your values as a church.

So my question to the readers of The Jonah Syndrome is this:

If you were starting a church, what would your mission statement and values be?

Think hard...and leave your answer in the comments...I'm interested to hear what you think the most important thing about a local church is...and you never know, it might find its way into a prospectus...

Leading People To Be Real Christ Followers In Life...Together (1)

As many of you have probably picked up over the last week or so's worth of posts, I've started attending LifePoint Church in Ozark, MO. They are a Southern Baptist Church who is also a part of Acts 29. A strange combination in many respects but one that I think is working well.

Anyway, I wanted to blog about their mission statement. The more I'm around this church, the more I'm beginning to like. God is faithful and has done amazing things since my departure from Upward. REALLY cool stuff going on and more sharing about that in the upcoming months.

We'll take this one/few words at a time over the next days.

Everything rises and falls on leadership and that is absolutely true. However, many people think that this means our human leadership. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Everything rises and falls on Jesus' leadership. If He is the head of the church, limitless potential exists. If He is not the head of the church, we labor only in our human frailty and all is in vein.

Lane Harrison, Lead Pastor, gets this. He is a man sold out to God and is as close to the real deal as I have come across in a while. He is honest, a man of character, forthright, loyal, open, transparent, vulnerable, confident, outspoken, but also a good listener.

The more I have gotten to know him, the more I begin to understand why LifePoint has been successful over the last three years and why it's future is very bright. He has his flaws, we all do, but he is a leader sold out to God first, his family second, his church next. He is passionate about developing leaders in his church and creating an ethos where leaders are identified, trained, matured, and empowered to carry on the ministry of the church.

He gets it. He's not afraid on confrontation. Conflict doesn't bother him. Truth and integrity matter. All delivered in a very pastoral way.

After spending time tonight with him in a community group, I am more convinced of his pastoral heart and his love for his people.

Everything will rise and fall on leadership. Is Jesus - the real Jesus - leading the leader of your organization? Or is your leader concerned more about image than substance, legalism than grace, his own glory rather than the glory of God? Is your leader sold out on the Bible? And does your leader know the Bible?

LifePoint's does. Not perfect. But real. And he embodies the first part of their mission statement: "Leading"

August 20, 2007

You've Lost That Blogging Feeling

I've also lost high-speed Internet access which is just about to put me over the edge. I mean seriously, how in the world does God expect me to exist and glorify Him if I can't have my cable modem when I want it...

Ok..onto other thoughts and news:

- We're moved in and I had a post all ready to go on my family and why blood is thicker than water...yada yada yada and wouldn't you know it, the picture I took of everyone at my house on Saturday can't be uploaded because Verizon SUCKS. Now that I have that out of my system...

My family is awesome. Saturday was a reminder that while friends are great, family are really the only people you can count on in life when things are tough. They'll drop anything to help and you don't have to feel guilty about them being there. You don't have to worry about how you'll pay them back. You just feel great when they leave because they're your peeps. Thank you Ron, Joyce, Ruth, Brian, Janci, Janice, and Dad. You all are awesome. I love you more than you know.

- LifePoint Church is awesome! I've had a chance to really hang out with the folks at this church over the last couple weeks and have had some great "get to know you" conversations with members of the church.

- The Jonah Syndrome has now topped the 5,000 hit mark with two months left to go in its first year of existence. Hopefully, over the next few months, I'll have a chance to broaden the base of folks who are going on the church planting journey with me. God is doing some amazing things and I cant' wait to see what's next.

- Please pray for our house to sell. Get the word out. Tell your friends. Buy a 2nd home. Do whatever you have to do to let people know this is for sale.

- Can't we all just get along?

- It's about time for this!

- Today was my son's first day at school. He started the 2nd grade today and every year that this rolls around, I'm reminded of how little time I actually have left with him. Please Lord help me make it count. Help me enjoy every minute of it. And for all of you who read this blog, you have to ask yourself this question....

Off to bed, the cable company is coming in the morning to give my Internet back. I just don't know how you can spiritual without it...

August 16, 2007

Acts 29 Quarterly - A Day Late

(Left to Right: Lane Harrison, Dwayne Thompson, Me, Lee, Trent [In Front])

Sorry for being a day late on the post. Most probably didn't notice but for those who did, we had a huge day over in Springfield yesterday getting some things squared away now that we are on the ground.

The quarterly was awesome. The Journey did a nice job of putting this on. Not too long, not too short, but enough time to have some great conversations, meet some really good folks and then get out and get on with your week.

Darrin Patrick (Lead Pastor of The Journey) spoke to us for about an hour on the topic of being a Gospel centered missional church. He used Acts 2 as his text and just simply used each phrase as a bullet point of characteristics that the church should exhibit. He talked about Churchville (many of you have or currently do live in Churchville) and how the church has to be different today to be effective. Jonathan McIntosh then gave a session on how to exegete the culture. I didn't get to sit in on this one but am looking forward to hearing the audio of it.

The audio should go up on the Acts 29 site sometime shortly. I'll do a brief post when I find it so you can hear the two sessions.

With all that said, the best part for me was to see over 100 church planters, future church planters, and established pastors there to hear about how we can be missional in our culture. To be able to ask them questions about their churches, what they are doing, what they are stopping doing, what they would change, and just details about how they do it was really beneficial for someone looking to start a church in the near future.

A note on the picture above. Lane and Dwayne are the real deals. Spending two days with these guys was the absolute highlight. Two brothers in Christ, two guys who are flat gettin after it. And they're a scream to be around on top of it. It's nice to be around folks who are more concerned with substance rather than style and image.

More to come in the upcoming days. Including my thoughts on the missional church.

August 14, 2007

Acts 29 Quarterly - The Pre Party

Yesterday was an incredible day. The morning was busy taking care of necessary errands when you have a 7 year old about to start school and other such things when you move to a new area. After wrapping those up, we took off from Ozark and headed up to St. Louis for the Acts 29 Quarterly meeting.

It was a crazy car ride and I'll introduce you to my car mates in tomorrow's post. Needless to say with two church planters in the vehicle, Theology, Jesus, The Church, and many more things were thoroughly handled and discussed. World peace and hunger are on today's docket.

Last night, we had the chance to sit down with Trey Herweck (Refuge Church - St. Charles, MO), Steve Inge (Mystery Church - Joplin, MO), Dewayne Thompson (Fusion Church - Muskogee, OK), and then Lane Harrison (LifePoint Church - Ozark MO) and myself rounded out the group.

It was a great discussion with guys who are in the trenches. They aren't philosophying about how to reach people, they're working to reach people. BIG DIFFERENCE. They don't sit in offices and wonder about how to get involved, they wake up at six in the morning, read The Word, and then go to work reching people. Great guys, and all vastly different. But they all share one thing really important in common. They have a passion to see the Gospel get ahold of folks and radically transform them.

We covered all kinds of things. What to look out for in the first year of a church plant? What are the hardest things about planting a church? How church planting affects your marriage? How do you handle finances in the first years? But overall, it was a time of encouragement, support, question and answer, The Word, and just spending great time with like minded folks.

The one answer that stuck out to me last night that I'll take back home wiht me. I posed the question to Trey "What's the one thing you'd do over if you had the chance to in regards to you first year of Refuge"...

His answer was very revealing: "I wouldn't do anything over because I'm too scared to go back and have to do any of it over. It was hard the first time, and there wouldn't be anything appealing to me of having to do it again."

It wasn't that he didn't feel like they had made mistakes. But it was also that God had a plan, had a purpose, and that all the things they've gone through have made them stronger. He said God has shown up at just the right time in so many ways and to do it over again would be saying like God messed up the first time. Trey was a great guy and someone I'm looking forward to getting to know a whole lot better.

Well, we're off. Time to head to The Journey to meet more soldiers in the trenches. Today should be unforgettable. More to come tomorrow...

August 13, 2007

2:45 P.M (Central Daylight Time)

August 12th. When we arrived home in Nixa, MO. We made it. And God truly was amazing during the trip and answered so many prayers we had. Jenni was able to stay awake - which almost never happens. The boys were awesome during the trip. No automobile troubles. All valuable electronics and other assorted items made it to the rental house in tact. Now we wait for the rest of our stuff to arrive this coming Saturday.

Last night was awesome. And I'll be blogging more about it over the coming days, but I had the privelege of attending an event called "Celebrate Lifepoint". It was a Sunday night service at LifePoint Church in Ozark, MO. LifePoint is an Acts 29 church and is pastored by a good looking bald gentleman named Lane Harrison.

Lane, I, and several others are leaving today to go to St. Louis for a couple days to attend an Acts29 quarterly meeting at The Journey. It should be a great time to get to know a lot of the pastors in the network here in the Midwest and also to talk with folks about church planting and just getting to know them in general. Be looking for the updates and highlights from this.

For those who prayed for our trip home - Thank You. For those who didn't - we love you too.

August 11, 2007

The Road Home - Day 2

Greenville - Atlanta - Chattanooga - Nashville - Paducah
And Kentucky is where we landed tonight for the evening. This day certainly had its share of interesting moments. Now I might not be like everyone else, but I LOVE long drives. They energize me, challenge me, and crystallize me. I have time to get away from everyone, and everything. And be alone, in the midst of my air-drums, my loud music, my sermons on MP3, my Mountain Dew and my snacks. There are many things to love about long car rides, but spending time alone with God is certainly the main one...

A couple of things you'll find amusing about the past 24 hours.

- Try taking two young boys out behind a gas station where there is a deep line for the restroom and they've been riding in a car for three hours with lots of water in them. The results are hilarious

- If you want one of the best laughs you've ever had, drive down the highway with your spouse, right alongside one another, and talk to each other on your cellphones, while looking at one another. It's like watching a Japanese movie with English voiceovers. It was quite the riot.

We had the chance to hook up with a good friend (affectionately nicknamed "Salt") and spend a few minutes with him this afternoon. We talked about life, work, church, Jesus, family, etc. And he asked me this question:

"How do you take a guy who has grown up in church all his life, and get him to engage the lost culture where it is at, without judgementalism flaring up and getting in the way of everything?"...

I gave a long answer that I won't repeat here, but I so appreciate Michael and love his heart. He is a guy passionate about Jesus and he wants to reach lost people, but the question is "how"...and you know, I think that's a question that most people in Christianity are asking right now...and it's a topic I'll probably take up on the blog next week. Tonight, time for bed.

Tomorrow's journey takes us Paducah - Sikeston - Poplar Bluff - Mountain Grove - Rogersville - Springfield.

One more thing, if you're the driver of the Volkswagen Beetle who was going 40MPH in a 70MPH zone on I-85 today, I truly apologize for the incident...

August 10, 2007

The Road Home - Day 1

So this is what it feels like after loading your house? Dead to the world, unable to move, every bone and muscle in your body hurting. And you look back on the day and smile. It's a good feeling as we all head off to sleep.

I wanted to introduce you to some folks as they stood out today. First up:

These folks are awesome. They were our neigbors for the last 13 months and we couldn't have asked for better. You know what's funny. I've heard a lot of people who talk about Jesus. How grand their visions are for what they are going to do for Jesus. How many millions they are going to reach for Jesus. The great feats they will accomplish in the name of Jesus.

Bob and Leah. They do for Jesus. Small things. Little things. Meaningful things. When I learned of my mom's suicide in January, it was Bob who was there with a prayer and a $20 bill to help. When I needed a tool to complete a job, it was Bob who opened the door. When my wife needed help or my kids needed a very kind word, it was Leah delivering exactly what was needed. And today, they were the epitome of what living like Jesus actually is. They invited us into their home early this morning for breakfast. They were around all day asking what we needed. They were selfless. So many times, grand visions are nothing more than selfishness on display. It's small, humble acts that show Jesus truly has changed you. And they are wonderful people.

I will never forget them. And in many ways, they are the people that I am saddest to have departed from. Thank you Bob and Leah for always being like Jesus in what you do, say, and think. I hope I can put your example to good work in my life. I love you guys...

And one of Leah's great acts today (since it was like 200 stinkin degrees here in SC) was to get an ice cold pitcher of water for these guys:

From left to right: (Duck "Darren", Big Man "Terrence", Rick, Amigo "Jesus", and David)

We've moved SEVEN times in 9 years. I've never had a better loading crew. These guys were awesome and we had the best time together. Laughing, cuttin up, sweatin (hard), eatin Subway sandwiches (and BIG MAN could eat), and sharing stories. They flat got it done and they did it in a professional manner. They dont' make much money and most of them have to work 2 jobs to support their families. But there they were, in 105 degree heat, loading my worldly possessions onto a semi.

You know, these great people who have great visions for Jesus, I want to ask you a simple question - "WHEN was the last time you got to know somone like Rick in the picture above?" When was the last time you stepped out of your ivory tower "church" world and got real with people. Or is your world all about the "influential" Chritians who can get you somewhere. You know what, Jesus hung out with hookers, thieves, and liars. And I found out today, that I fit in much better with normal, everyday, hardworking guys than I do "proper", "legalistic", and "successful" Christian Pharisees.

If you are going to claim the name of Jesus, then you had better be able to connect with the common folk and live their life and share the Gospel and watch it transform their world. Otherwise, you are a phony. And if you want to know if your'e a phony...ask yourself one question:

"How many lost people do you have as friends?" If the answer is zero, you may want to re-evaluate whether or not the Gospel means anything to you or not....

Thank you Bob and Leah! Thank you CREW! You all are awesome...and you made the first day of my new chapter in life...a very memorable one. May God bless you richly. Thank you for letting me be a part of your world....

Now...time to be intimate with the inside of my eyelids...Adios Amigo...

August 09, 2007

Good Bye Is Hard To Say

So forgive me if I say it over the Internet. For those who are not affiliated with Upward, please feel free to delete this message. I hope that out of 207 posts, I'm allowed a personal indulgence every now and then.

First off, I want to tell you all how proud and honored I am and will always be to have stood shoulder to shoulder with you in a mission to communicate the Gospel to as many people as we possibly could. Five years ago, a stupid, proud, arrogant 26 year old punk showed up on the doorstep of a place called Upward. And in 8 hours, did all he could to potentially end it right then and there (sorry Dale Noles....).

I look back over this past five years and I remember so many memories.

  • A trip to Columbus with Tim Kelly and Juli Foster.
  • The infamous Ft. Wayne training session (Brad - for the love of God man - please make sure you have AC for future volunteers who help you lay flooring in your building).
  • Being short-sheeted at 2AM by Julio and Carmon.
  • The board in the old building where we "kept score" every time a church came to training
  • A mouse running in front of me at devotion and Julia King jumping a mile high
  • Josh Ridings talking to customer on the phone (so many there)
  • Debra Anderson and I having one of the best conversations I ever had at 7:15 in the morning (Debra - you are my personal hero - I respect and admire you more than you'll ever know)
  • An 8 hour trek in white-out conditions across the Cascades to go to Walla-Walla for an 8 AM presentation that the guy at the church didn't show for
  • Riding around Lowe's Motor Speedway at 185 MPH
  • The Cheesecake Factory in Columbus
  • September 11th - 2005 - CRM Implementation Day - A Day That Will Live In Infamy
  • Northwest Arkansas with Wade - I Guaran*($#Etee it
  • The Scenic Wolf Resort in North Carolina with the Growth Team - I will never spend another three days like that again
  • Vacuuming the new building at 3AM getting it ready for move in day
  • Cord Management
  • The Amazing Race in Atlanta, GA
  • 3 Putting after driving the green in Montevallo AL
  • The INFAMOUS bus ride to Little Rock, AR (NO TOOKIE)
  • Watching "Larry The Cable Guy" in Seattle with Doug (Git-R-Done)
  • "Thoughts From Under The Deer Head"
  • The Village People Skit for the new dress code (Robbie - don't ever let that video go out of style)
And the list could go on and on. And they're good memories. Of good times. With good people. I'm going to miss you guys. And here's where I'm different than most folks. You know how so many people say "I'll stay in touch" and then never do. Yea, well that's because you never do. You have the best intentions to do so, but you never do. The reality is that I will probably never see most of you guys ever again in this lifetime.

And that hurts to think about. But reality hurts sometimes. You'll always be in my thoughts and prayers. But most likely, we'll never cross paths. That's why when chapters close, you do things like this. You take time to say the things you always wanted to say. You close the book and put it on the shelf.

And so, I close this book of 8 years of my life and put it on the shelf. I've learned and grown so much from it. But a new chapter truly has begun and I couldn't be more excited. And all the pain from leaving is made so much sweeter somehow by the anticipation of what is to come. Saying good-bye is bittersweet when you have something remarkable awaiting you. So I ask for your prayer. I take so many parts of you with me as I go, and you have made me a better person and I will always be eternally grateful for it.

You'll never know what your friendship has meant. And I will pray for you as a group. That you stay close to God. That you stay true to the Word. That you always do what you do for the glory of God and not for the glory of Upward. May you always do what is in the best interests of the hard working men and women who give all they have to make their leagues successful in their local churches. May you always keep them in mind as you go forward. And may you honor their dedication and sacrifice by putting them at the forefront of all your decisions made.

Because in the end, the resources that have been entrusted to you that allow you to do what you do come from the wallets, purses, and bank accounts of hard working men and women, single moms, single dads, broken homes, hurting situations that just want something good for their child and when the kids show up at the gyms or fields on Saturday, they are given a time where all the troubles of life pass away and they can be kids again. They are their dollars, and not yours. Honor the mom's and dad's hard work by spending their dollars wisely.

Also, trust in God. Trust Him to lead you and guide you and to take you where He will and at the pace that He has set, not your own. Don't create artificial goals for yourselves. God is your goal. You are rewarded for faithfulness and obedience. Not numbers. Paul planted, Apollos watered, GOD GAVE the increase. Trust the God that has brought you this far and trust that He will be the God to move you forward as HE sees fit.

Take care of yourselves and always take time to play and to rest in God. Honor the Sabbath that Jesus provides for you. Flourish in your relationship with Him. There is nothing God honoring in a burned out life. Take time to Smile. Take time to laugh. Take time to do nothing.

I love you all. And thank you for letting me be your teammate for 60 months. I'm surprised you put up with me that long!..If you're reading this, please pass the link to this post along to all the folks at the office...I don't want anyone to feel like I didn't say good bye to them. But to be honest, I couldn't have come in and said good bye...I don't think I would have gotten through it...

With that, I leave you with this video. The movers will be here soon...and we'll head to Missouri. With Eternity (The Church) in sight, but more importantly, whatever God has in store for us. Take care ya'll. And stay in touch (even though you know you won't)...

In Christ,


August 07, 2007

We Are Living In A Material World

Madonna once coined the phrase "material girl". Others come to mind when you think of materialism. As Christians, being attached to stuff is IMO, the biggest hindrance to taking radical risks for the cause of Jesus. "It is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven"....Jesus, as always, was perfect in his assessment....

Now I know that this is going to come a shock to many of you who know me. I'm big, white, cornbread, midwestern America. I'm a JesusPiperKellerDriscollite...I'm a desperate man in desperate need of a Savior. I'm passionate about my faith. I'm passionate about truth.

But I have to confess that I love reading Penelope Trunk's blog. It challenges me. She has a completely different worldview than me. She is not a Christian, although her website developer is. She is outspoken, opinionated, and un-afraid of what others might think. She's a risk taker. She's honest and transparent. When you are all of those things, I find you very interesting....

And her blog post today is on materialism. YOU have to read this. If you don't, you're weak and afraid. She offers some stinging insight and I wish that a pastor on Sunday morning had this kind of guts to say these things in the context of Biblical truth. Because, even though Penelope is not a believer, she's more Biblical than a good many Christians that I have met in 10 years...

Here's the money paragraph, but you have to read the whole thing...

It’s a cliché for a reason. If you have a very low-cost lifestyle and very few physical things that you treasure, you cannot really imagine a rug being pulled out from under you because you don’t own that great a rug anyway.

People think that what’s holding them back from taking risk is some big financial idea of stability and well being, but it’s really fear of losing your comfortable material life, whatever that is. Mine is so spare that I can easily replace it. even if we got bed bugs again.

How many Christians are living lives that are pathetic, shriveling, shrinking existences because they are trapped by their stuff....

You can learn a lot from a Braazen Careerist...I hope someday that we get to talk about the Gospel....

As Long As We Live - It's You And Me Baby

There ain't nothing wrong with that - well we're movin on up........

Movin - a phrase made popular by the intro to the Jeffersons...I don't know about you but I was always a big fan of George Jefferson. Even tho he would have called a big white honkey, you had to love that show. And thus, it's movin week here at The Jonah Syndrome. Did you know:

  • 43 million Americans move each year.
  • 50% of all moves take place between Memorial and Labor Days.
  • 11 – the number of times an average American moves during their lifetime.
  • 2 Years: The time it takes a mover to "feel" settled.
  • 6 Months: the average time necessary to become familiar with the surroundings
If the normal person moves eleven times, then our seven times puts us well on our way to being average. For those who know me, that's what I've always wanted to be was average :)

The major lesson I've learned in moving is flexibility. You have to be flexible. Both on the move and in life. Moving has a way of reducing the amount of stuff you own. It also has a way of keeping you from "getting too attached" to your house. The statistic above about it taking two years to feel settled is absolutely true. Jenni and I have average 18 - 24 months at each of our stops and "settled" is something we have definitely never felt.

But is that a bad thing? Are we supposed to feel "settled" here on Earth? Do missionaries to foreign lands ever feel settled? And we as missionaries here to North America, put here by God on purpose, should we feel "settled" in the United States culture?

These are the questions occupying my mind this week. Box after box, package after package, we slowly get ready to move one more time. Everyone I've ever talked to, with the exception of one and he's just a freak show who attended the University of Tennessee, has said "I HATE MOVING". I understand the feeling. Change is hard. Packing is hard. Leaving is hard (more about that later this week here on the blog). But moving can be a very spiritual experience and a time of reflection and growth as we are reminded that this world is not our home and our house is not our treasure. Jesus is.

So if you're feeling down spiritually - pick up and move - either through going to another house (not recommended) or in your soul. Take inventory. Pack up the good stuff and make sure you have it organized. Leave the trash and get it out of your heart. And ask God to identify the next place he would have your heart to land. You may find he just wanted to clean house in you for a while.

One last thing - and this is for those who are actually moving houses - ALWAYS PACK YOUR OWN BOXES!

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August 06, 2007

Freedom Isn't Free - Politically Or Religiously!

This is cool, I don't care who you are: Link to the story here!

Dads - Be Your Kids Heroes

An Open Letter To:

Bud Selig - Commissioner (Major League Baseball)
David Stern - Commissioner (National Basketball Association)
Roger Goodell - Commissioner (National Football League)
Tim Finchem - Commissioner (Professional Golfers Association)


You face an unenviable task. You serve as the men in charge of the worlds most prestigious and successful sports leagues. Your influence is great and you must steward the tremendous resources that have been entrusted to you. And while doing that, you must make business decisions that most of us can’t even comprehend, grow your respective leagues in revenue and exposure, and handle public relations nightmares. Your job is not easy. Your job is not fun (at least all the time).

So I want to thank you. Thank you for providing sports entertainment to millions around the world. Thank you for helping cities to have common bonds to share. Thank you for making special moments like “The Catch”, “McGwire’s 62nd”, “Tigers Nike Putt At Augusta”, and “Showtime” possible. These are moments that I personally cherish as a sports fan, and I know my boys will cherish their own sports moments as well.

But I would also like to thank you for helping remind me that I am to be my son’s hero. Lately, each of your leagues has been tainted by all too pointed reminders that while sports are an entertaining thing, they should never become an idol. Michael Vick, Barry Bonds, Tim Donaghy, and even the great Tiger Woods have all served reminders lately that they are not role models. They are no heroes. They are not to be looked up to. They are entertainers. They are products. They are marketed, sold, spun, and held out for what you want us to see, not for what they really are. And the same is true for your leagues. There are very ugly and disgusting scenes that follow each of them and every week we are reminded why money and fame are not the answer to life’s deepest questions.

So many kids want to grow up and “Be Like Mike”. The tragedy is they want to “Be Like Mike” because dad is a loser. Dad is nowhere to be found. Dad has sold his soul and left the home to pursue his own money and fame. And the sad part is that in many ways, each of your leagues helps foster that notion. It is tearing the United States and the World apart. Dad’s who are abandoning their children. Children who have no one else to look up to, are looking at fallen, broken, men who are only on TV because they can hit/kick/shoot/catch a ball. There are so many things in the average dad to admire, unfortunately those don’t make TV. Your product does and so kids everywhere think that is what they should strive for. Unfortunately, they don’t understand the seedy and twisted world of professional sports and how hard it is to maintain your integrity and character while being a professional athlete.

There are very important lessons to be learned from sports. Hard work, teamwork, dedication, loyalty, sacrifice, etc are all lessons that I hope my boys learn on a baseball field, or on the golf course. But at the end of the day, I hope they look back and when asked who their hero was, I hope they say “JESUS”. And right after that, I hope they say “DAD”.

Sports are a good thing. But I think sometimes we make it into an idol and its players are OUR Gods. There is one true God. There is one true Savior. And He did things far more amazing than hit a ball 500 feet. I hope someday you as commissioners realize that the empires you are building are nothing compared to the kingdom that is to come. I hope each day you search your soul and your character. I hope each day you look at your own kids and display for them the truly heroic things in life.


Marc Backes

August 02, 2007

Piper On The Minnesota Bridge Collapse

Abraham has posted on the DG blog something that is unusally powerful. Putting a sermon over a video of real life illustrations of that sermon is worth watching!

August 01, 2007

Shutting The Door

Have you ever been in a situation in life where you've felt you've needed closure? A divorce, a job transition, a friendship, a nasty breakup with a boyfriend/girlfriend? We all come to those times in our life where a situation is unresolved or still up in the air and there is something in the human heart that longs for it to be over, for the conflict to be resolved, and the ability to move on with a clean slate and a truly new beginning.

And so my question is WHY? Why do we feel that way? Why do we long for that? Is it Biblical? What if you can't get closure? What does the Bible have to say about it?

Ephesians 4:26 says "Be angry and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger".

Matthew 5:23-24 says "If you are at the altar and remember that your brother has something against you, go resolve it and then come back" (my paraphrase)

Both passages touch on closure. Both passages touch on the dangerous effects of unresvolved issues in your life. And the Bible has much more to say on the topic but what I want to say is this:

Leaving issues open in your life is an open invitation and foothold for further and greater sin.

Not to mention the physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological toll it takes on you. And we have all seen people like this in our lives. People who have been hurt 25 years ago and they just can't let it go. They walk around with bitterness that has been fermenting and growing forever and they are just miserable people. They're hateful, full of anger, and mean. They don't see anything positive in the world. And on top of that, they're just not fun to be around.

All because they didn't get closure in a situation. There are still loose ends in their life that they never tied up. But how do you do this. How do you get closure? Great question. No easy answers.

I will say one thing that has struck me lately is that the wrong done to you by other people has already been dealt with in one of two ways and both ensure that the justice in making the wrong right is better and more perfect than anything you could do to them or carry around for the rest of your life. The wrong that has been done to you has:
  1. Been punished in the person of Jesus Christ on the cross OR
  2. Will be punished by that person spending eternity apart from God in hell
Either way, their sin, your sin, everyone's sin has been perfectly dealt with by God. So, what that leaves you to be is free. Free from anger, free from guilt, free from festering bitterness. Free to be who God made you to be. Free to be joyful and cheerful. Free to be a blessing and not a curse to those around you. Free to live. You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. The Gospel has all sorts of ramifications. The Gospel gives closure to everyone who needs it.

2007 has been a great year of closure for me in a challenging way. With my mom's death, with my transition from Upward, with moving cities, with continuing seminary. In many contexts, I have been and am in various stages of closure. I urge you to consider your life and find where you might need to bring closure to an unresolved situation. And then pray and ask God to give you the opportunity to "tie up" the loose end. Do it in a God-glorifying way. You'll be amazed at the results.

I know I was today.....

UPDATE: (This article is a perfect illustration of what I'm talking about...closure is important and finding it in Jesus is have to read this....)