This past weekend I had the chance to go snowshoeing up in Rocky Mountain National Park. I could have gone alone, but I decided to take my 8 year old son Joshua along with me. He had never snowshoed before, so I knew there was probably going to be a bit of a learning curve.
I’ve heard it said, “If you want to go FAST, go alone. If you want to go FAR, go together.” I want my son to go far in life, so I decided to invite Joshua along with me on this adventure.
I knew that this was a great opportunity to teach my son about perseverance, overcoming challenges, and the power of positivity.
Although the pace was slower than if I had gone alone, and although we had to stop pretty often to let Joshua catch his breath, I am so proud of my son for never complaining and for steadfastly climbing a mountain with me!
Together we finished a 2 hour hike in snowshoes, crossed two frozen lakes, and ascended to an elevation of 10,000 feet above sea level. It was cold, it was snowing, and it felt like there was no oxogen to breathe! But we did it! And we did it together.
To celebrate, we headed down to Estes Park and scarfed down a large pepperoni pizza and talked about how good it felt to face our fears and to climb a mountain together.
The picture of my son and I on top of a mountain reminds me of the role I play as teacher, coach, mentor, and father to my son. I want Joshua to go further than I’ve gone. I want him to know that he can climb mountains and face his fears. And I hope that someday, he climbs mountains with HIS son.
Whether or not you have kids, you can invest in the lives of the next generation. It’s great to accomplish our dreams, but I think it’s even greater to be Hero Makers and to help the next generation go further, faster.
Who can you invest in? Who can you bring alongside you, even if it means traveling at a slower pace?
Imagine how differently our churches, our cities, our world would look if we all intentionally invested in those coming up behind us. Imagine if our ceiling, the heights we ascended, were the floor, the starting point, for those that come after us. That’s a world I want to live in. I want to invite you to join with me in creating that better future.
We are currently working our way through the book of Luke at my church. This past Sunday we dove into Luke 4. The problem was that there was too much information that I wanted to share so I had to cut a bunch of stuff from my message! Here’s a little bit that didn’t make the cut:
As we dive into Luke four, we get this amazing snapshot of the temptation of Jesus Christ. Jesus was tempted. He was really and truly tempted! That tells us that temptation itself is not a sin. Satan has lied to some of us and we’ve believed that just because we’ve been tempted, we’re already defeated. That’s not true! Jesus was tempted and did not sin. We too can face temptation and experience victory instead of defeat.
Thomas Brooks, a Puritan author, wrote a book called Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices. What a great name for a book! I’m thinking I should write a book called Precious Remedies for Church Planters Facing Discouragement. Anyways- Brooks uses this amazing analogy. He says that temptation is nothing more than bait on a hook. All the fisherman out there will get this! When you are fishing, the goal is to reel that fish in. You will use whatever bait that you think will work the best to catch that fish.
Satan will come to you as he came to Jesus and he will bait your hook with whatever it is that will be the most tempting to you: food, sex, money, security, comfort, whatever it might be. Whatever it is, he’ll use it to bait his hook. His entire goal is to give you whatever you so desperately want so that you take a big bite of the bait, so that the hook gets embedded in your mouth. Then the the Devil can reel you in toward death. The problem is that people ignore the hook and only focus on the bait.
See, Satan, if he came to you and said, “I would like you to experience divorce or gluttony or obesity or drunkenness or drug addiction or ruined family relationships due to gossip or bitterness,” no one would bite down on that hook! No way! But our enemy is crafty. He finds ways to bait those hooks with whatever it takes to get us to take a bite.
Satan will use use things that all of us would agree are “good things” as bait. We can guess from the tactics that the devil uses that perhaps Jesus is struggling with what it means to do God’s will and bring about His purposes. The first temptation is not only personal but has a social justice slant: Will Jesus’ ministry be one of turning stones to bread to meet people’s physical needs? That’s a good thing, right? Feeding people and taking care of their physical needs?
The second temptation has a political angle. Will Jesus submit to the rulers of the world in order to achieve good for the people of this world? Don’t the ends justify the means? It MUST be ok to overlook a politician’s character flaws because they promise to help move forward our political agenda, right?
The third temptation is religious. Will Jesus win over Jerusalem and the Jewish people by works and miracles, thus avoiding the terrible scandal of death on the cross? It would be a whole lot easier to avoid all that blood and substitutionary atonement talk! A good religious show is much easier to market!
The devil will often tempt us with good things that get in the way of our true purpose. Feeding hungry people and meeting people’s physical needs? That’s great! Bringing justice through political religious coalitions- good stuff! Supernatural signs- great! But all were distractions from Jesus’ primary purpose. He came to live the life we could not live, to die the death we should have died, to pay the price we owed so that we can be saved from the CURSE of sin and welcomed into a COVENANT relationship with God our CREATOR.
The serpent didn’t temp Eve in the garden with the temptation to be like the devil. The serpent tempted Eve with the offer to be like GOD.
Are there good things that the devil is using in your life to distract you from your true purpose? Are there things that the devil is using as bait to get you to swallow a hook that he will use to reel you in to certain death?
With Jesus’ help- you can RESIST temptation! You can experience victory and freedom!
I was talking with my new friend Chris about church planting at my office this afternoon. And by “office”, I mean the Starbucks I work out of Monday through Friday. I love my Starbucks! (In fact, someone even wrote an article about it and called me “The Starbucks Pastor”!) So there I was at Starbucks, talking with Chris, who is starting a new church in New Brighton, MN.
As I listened to him talk about his church planting journey I couldn’t help but compare his journey to mine. His denomination has not been able to be much of a support to him. After talking for a while, he asked me what I would do if I was in his shoes. First thing I said? “If I were you…I would join Converge and be one of our planters!”
Why would I say that? Why would I tell him to leave his fine denomination and join our small but mighty tribe?
Being a part of Converge North Central has made all the difference in the world in our church planting journey! I love my “tribe” so much! I don’t think I ever felt like I truly belonged until I became a part of the Minnesota/Iowa Baptist Conference (now known as Converge North Central).
So what makes Converge so great?
1. I feel like I BELONG
The Converge pastors I’ve come to know in our district are super down-to-earth, normal dudes. I love that. They cheer each other on in such an encouraging way. The other church planters in our network are guys I actually like to hang out with. It is a great group to be a part of!
2. Amazing COACHING
I get to be coached by one of the greatest church planting coaches in the world! Dave Reno planted his church 27 years ago. Since then, his church has directly planted 26 daughter churches and his daughter churches have given birth to 8 granddaughter churches. That is truly phenomenal! There are 8x as many people attending a Sunday morning service at one of their daughter or granddaughter churches than attend his church. That shows the incredible power of multiplication! And I get to be coached by Dave- the “Yoda of Church Planting”!
3. Humble and Supportive LEADERSHIP
I have gone through some really tough ministry experiences. I have made some mistakes and have also endured some really hurtful church experiences. I was ready to give up on the dream of church planting. But then I met Dave Reno and Ben McEachern (my other coach) and the Converge North Central leadership. They have supported me, believed in me, and took a risk on me. I will forever be grateful to Dan Carlson, Joel Nelson, and Mandy Johnson at the district office and Dave and Ben. Not only have they supported and believed in me, they are some of the most humble and gracious leaders I have ever met.
There are many reasons to plant a church with Converge, but those are the top three that I came up with today. Two and a half years ago I was fertilizing lawns in Madison, WI, and didn’t know if I would ever get the chance to pastor a church. Today, thanks to Converge, I am leading a 15 month old church of 215 people that has baptized 25 people and seen dozens come to salvation in Jesus for the first time. God is so good and he has used Converge to help me in my church planting journey and to fulfill the purpose that God put me here to accomplish.
I pastor a church of about 250 people. We have a great prayer team and amazing small group leaders! But still, the weight of the prayer requests and the burdens of the people in our small/medium sized church is pretty incredible. I know I’m still pretty new to this whole “lead pastor” thing. I have a hard time imaging what it’s like pastoring a church of 500 or more and what those burdens are like!
But maybe it’s like parenting? When you are a parent to one kid, their needs feel almost overwhelming. Then you add more kids and your parenting muscles get stronger. Maybe it’s the same with pastoring?
God builds your prayer and shepherding muscles so you can care for more and more. I know I need to continue to also learn from Moses and take Jethro’s advice (Exodus 18). Some of that probably just comes as a church matures in age.
Anyways- my prayer is that God would teach me to know how to number my days and to let Him carry my burdens and the burdens of the people I shepherd and lead. Which made me think of this awesome song:
I don’t know what burdens you are carrying. But my prayer for you is that you too can learn that you don’t need to carry the weight alone. Let God carry your burden. Let God carry YOU.
Better days are coming my friend. We’re all on a journey. The best is yet to come!
Real Life Here: I’m so very tired. And I’m so very tired of sick kids. (Honestly, I’m just a little tired of my kids). And yet…
And yet, at the same time I feel so incredibly grateful for the many, many blessings is my
life. We suffered through 3 years of infertility and multiple miscarriages, not knowing if we would ever have a child, let alone 3 kids! And now we have been blessed with 3 amazing kids!
Yes, they are exhausting. Yes, having three kids 5 years old and under consumes ALL. YOUR. TIME. And energy! But they are still such a blessing. And I love each one so very much. Just look at those adorable faces! (Just please start sleeping through the night kids! In your own beds!)
I look around our beautiful suburban home and think how quickly it goes from clean and organized to looking like a disaster zone. And yet, I’m so incredibly grateful for this house God has provided for us. Our first “real home” in our marriage where we don’t have to share walls with someone! A beautiful home with tons of space to host small groups, leadership meetings, and newcomer lunches. I’m so thankful for this home and all the ministry we get to do in it.
And then there’s the church. Being a Church Planter means going to bed every night with things left undone on your to-do list. Starting a church is a lot like starting a new business or non-profit- there are ALWAYS more things to do! But as exhausting as church planting can be…man- I am so THRILLED that I get to do it!
This is what I was put here on this earth to do!
I feel like my whole life was a training ground that prepared me to do this. And everyday, I thank God that I get to do this.
So yes, today I am tired and overwhelmed and feel like a failure as a dad and a husband, but I know that God’s got this. When I am weak, He is strong.
If you are tired and overwhelmed and feel like you are not measuring up as a spouse or parent or at your job, I want to encourage you to know that
Don’t strive so hard. God’s got this. God’s got YOU! Count your blessings and maybe take a nap. Or get another cup of coffee.
Get your hopes up.
Rejoice in HOPE, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12 (ESV)
I was working out at the gym this morning when I saw one of our Mosaic Guest Surveys come through my inbox on my phone. I always love reading the surveys we send out to second time guests. As I read this one, I found myself pumping my fist and saying “Yes!” out loud. At they gym. Fortunately, pretty much everyone was in their own world with ear buds in, so no one seemed to notice.
Here’s what I read on my phone at the gym:
- What influenced your decision to attend Mosaic a second time? My wife and I have never truly found a community here in Minnesota (moved here 3 years ago), and it felt like we were pushed this direction by God to have Mosaic came into our lives at a time when we needed to let go of doubt and false labels.
- What was most memorable about your first or second visit to Mosaic? Many of the messages have lately been directly relevant to us lately.
- Would you feel comfortable inviting your friends to attend Mosaic with you? Why or why not? Sure, I appreciate a strong community and people looking for a home may find it with Mosaic. Actions speak louder than words, and perhaps people will ask what’s uplifted me recently.
- How could we improve your experience? I was actually talking with my wife about this last Saturday on the drive home and last night. I never really grew up thinking what could make things better for me, I grew up fairly poor and took heart in trying to service others through words and actions. Since moving to Minnesota however I haven’t spent much time outward. God has blessed us now and I feel like our blessings should be paid forward.
Here are 3 reasons why I think it’s a great idea to send out some sort of survey to your guests who come back a second time.
1.) Unfiltered Feedback. Sending out surveys is a good way to find out if your preaching specifically and your church in general is accomplishing the mission God has given you. It’s good to get feedback from people who regularly attend your church. But they already know you and hopefully love you! Getting survey results from guests is a great way to get unfiltered feedback. When guests are telling you that your messages are relevant to what they are going through, you know you are on the right track! If you aren’t getting that kind of feedback…well, maybe you need to change what you are preaching on.
2.) Encouragement for Your Team. When you get cool stories from your surveys, you can pass those along to encourage your team. They can be used to remind your team why they go through so much effort each Sunday to pull Sunday services off.
3.) Tool to Improve Your Team. Occasionally, guests will let us know that there is an area that needs addressing. It might be something that has become invisible to us because we just don’t see things the same way as a first or second time guest.
If you are a church leader or even a business leader, I would encourage you to figure out how you can offer a simple, short guest survey to those that are new to your church or business. Hopefully you’ll find it’s worth it for you too!