I think I'm going to buy this truck

Andy Stanley Catalyst Video

One of the great things about Catalyst is the fun. The team that pulls this conference together obviously spends a lot of time thinking of creative and fun elements. This year we had pink flamingos lining the entry, a dozen or so hammocks outside of the venue, small footballs to throw across the arena and hilarious videos as transition elements between speakers or interviews. The video below set up Andy's last talk of the day and he had no idea it was coming - enjoy!

Catalyst 09 Recap

My wife and I had the privilege of attending this year's Catalyst event here in Atlanta - it's the second one I've attended, her first. We enjoyed the conference w/a bunch of EC students - so happy to hang out with many of them, learn more about them and build bridges toward the next generation of leader.

Here are some of the thoughts that most captured me, followed by some links to other bloggers that did a better job of taking notes:
  • Most leaders won’t realize the significance of their mark until long after it has been left. (Andy Stanley)
  • “God takes full responsibility for the life that is wholly devoted to Him.” (Andy again quoting his dad, Charles Stanley) - Andy went on to give real life examples of how he had seen his dad live this out.
  • Living to make my mark is too small a thing to give my life to. But when God calls us to let him make his mark through us, that is the thing willing to give our life for. (Andy Stanley - the conference name was "On the Mark" - this was one of the most powerful things I heard)
  • 10 Things Chuck Swindoll Learned in 50+ Years of Ministry: 1.) It’s lonely to lead. Leadership involves tough decisions. The tougher the decisions, the lonelier it is. 2.) It’s dangerous to succeed. It is dangerous to succeed while being young. rarely, does God give leadership that young because it takes crushing and failure first. 3.) It’s hardest at home. Nobody at home is applauding you. They say, “Dad! You’re fly is open.” 4.) It is essential to be real. If there is one realm where phoniness is personified it is leadership. What I care about is that you stay real. 5.) It is painful to obey. There are rewards, yes, but it is painful nevertheless. 6.) Brokenness and failure are necessary. 7.) My attitude is more important than my actions. Some of you are getting hard to be around. And your attitude covers all those great actions you pull off. 8.) Integrity eclipses image. What you are doing is not a show. And the best things you are doing is not up front but what you do behind the scenes. 9.) God’s way is better than my way. God is going to have His way. 10.) Christ-likeness begins and ends with humility. (Chuck Swindoll)
  • A leader in the Bible named Joshua knew how to handle interruption. Four things that Joshua did in Joshua 3 that show us how to handle interruptions: 1.) Act immediately in obedience to God; 2. ) Act fearlessly; 3.) Acknowledge the presence of God; 4.) Anticipate God’s miracles. (Priscilla Shirer)
  • Sometimes the crowd thins, and people leave, even ones who are close to you. (Rob Bell)
  • Does your spouse get your very best, or does your spouse get what is left over from the church? Do your kids get your very best, or do they get the scraps? Our children pick up on what really matters to us without us saying a word. (Rob Bell again - and he brought it)
  • We think we need daring and bold decision making from our leaders in time of crisis. But we don’t. We need humility. (Malcolm Gladwell - retelling the story of General Joe Hooker and the sense of arrogance with which he led. Ultimately, he had better information and more troops, but his bold decision making and daring thinking led to defeat)
  • Incompetence irritates me, overconfidence scares me (another Malcolm Gladwell quote)
Finally, here are some other bloggers you can gain more info from:

Progress DEMANDS that we challenge

I've been teaching a series in Sunday school from the book by Mark Batterson titled, "Wild Goose Chase" - the teaching series is called, "Chase the Goose."

The basic premise is this - the Celtic Christians had a name for the Holy Spirit - An Geadh Glas - which means "Wild Goose." For them, following the Holy Spirit, pursuing God was an adventure - a "Wild Goose Chase." Anyway, pick up the book, read it, it WILL challenge you.

But this week Mark makes the statement to the effect that "Progress demands that we challenge assumptions" - that got me to thinking...what else needs to be challenged?

Here are some of my thoughts with regard to local church leadership, denominational leadership and Christian ministry in general:
  • Progress demands that we challenge structure - can we be more effective & more efficient? I know it worked last year/week/decade/century, but is there ANOTHER way it'll work better?
  • Progress demands that we challenge tradition - what should be remembered (but not idolized)?
  • Progress demands that we challenge practice - are we really doing all that we can do, or is there a better way to do it? I know it's always been done that way, is THAT the right way or is there a better way?
  • Progress demands that we challenge worldview - do we really have it figured out? Is there another way to view the world, issues, society, culture and mankind that perhaps is more honoring to God and redemptive in purpose?
  • Progress demands that we challenge theology - most will shun doing this, but challenging theology sharpens the theological sword and makes us better leaders?
  • Progress demands that we challenge ecclesiology? Are there other ways of "doing" church? Mark my words, the American denominational system will HAVE to struggle with the "house church" movement. It'll be tough and will create a divide unfortunately. This coming from a "denominational guy" - but the ones that wrestle with it and embrace it, I believe will benefit from it. God IS using the house church around the world...oh yeah, and it's found in the New Testament.
Just last night I was able to challenge a local church (and hopefully in a Christ-like, humble fashion - that was my heart and intent). I challenged them to experience their service from the view of a guest, their language from the ears of a guest, and their setting from the eyes of a guest.

What did I miss? By the way, Amazon challenged the notion that shopping had to be in a "brick & mortar" store. JFK challenged the assumption that man could ever walk on the moon.

What other areas of church/ministry need to be challenged so that we can progress?

I'm still learning...

I've spent the past 3 weeks preaching in a local church that is without a senior pastor at present. I offered to do so because I felt they were in need of some consistency in the midst of transition. They've spent several months hearing from some amazing ministers. They also have a great pastoral team in place that is capable and anointed to fill the pulpit. But I just felt that some consistency in moving the ball forward was important. I'd like to share some important lessons I've learned in sermon preparation as well as hear your's in this post. But first...

I listen to a lot of messages and preachers - I like to to stay sharpened, be stretched, challenged and encouraged as well as to hear what the Spirit of God is saying to others.

But there's something I've noticed...if we're not careful, we can easily start sounding like ourselves and not like God. The problem is that sounding like ourselves often means we're bringing "day old bread" to the platform when God has something fresh and piping hot to be delivered.

I challenge preachers to listen to themselves...if you revert to preaching about political/current affairs often and with ease, you may just be sounding like yourself...if you revert to telling some of the Old Testament stories and making them applicable to every message, you may just be sounding like yourself...if you spend a lot of time preaching about how people are living, what's wrong with "folks today" or if you spend a lot of time drawing up nice do/don't do lists, you may just be sounding like yourself.

Am I saying..."don't preach about current affairs," etc...No! What I'm saying is that if that becomes FILLER for the majority of your message, then I challenge and encourage you to withdraw for a longer time in preparation and hear more clearly from God.

Here are some lessons I've learned:
  • Preaching/teaching more than 2 times per week is crazy! In fact, it's crazy stupid! I can almost promise most preachers that are doing this (because that's what we've always done) are horribly being UNDER utilized for God's purpose - much better to allow them to preach once (twice maybe or occasionally), hear clearly from God the direction He wants to take the entire service and have a divine Word that is applicable and life-changing.
  • Come loaded for bear - each week I preached about 65-70 percent of my notes. I simply had too much - but I was ready! And that's the key - preparation is work (and to me it's fun) and it can't be taken too lightly. My view on this is that a lot of the "extra" that I didn't preach was most likely for me - it gives me the ability to preach from the "overflow" of what God is doing.
  • Don't wait till the last minute - once in this series I ended up waiting until Saturday for the majority of my preparation. I spent 13 hours preparing for a sermon and a Sunday school lesson I would teach that one morning. By the way, this was due to sickness in our family...I did some casual reading through the week and prayed a lot about the direction for Sunday - but yes, it took me 13 hours of prep for approx 90 minutes (total) of preaching/teaching. This past week I prepared all week and by Friday was about 95% finished. It gave me the freedom to enjoy a college football game on Saturday with just a bit of tying up the loose ends late Saturday night.
  • Sweat the outline - I have moved away from worrying so much about my word-for-word preaching/teaching event - I'm more concerned with making sure the outline is what God wants...that it takes people from one place to another...that it flows (not that it's an acronym or uses alliteration)...and that it's accurate for the main theme of the message.
  • Develop a main theme - for me this is probably where I spend the majority of my "prayer time", "hearing from God time" and "creative thinking time" - yes, I literally sit and "think" of different ways of saying the "main thing" that I want to communicate - when I land on it, that becomes my main theme and the outline typically flows or revolves around that. For instance, the first week was "When reality sets in, we have to let the Remedy set it" - I said that probably at least 8-10 times in my message and it framed my outline. It's the "takeaway" that I wanted people to have at the end of the day.
  • Sweat the transition - this is where most people are lost - transition. Transitions are key and when I'm reviewing my notes before preaching, I spend MORE time thinking through and perhaps even preaching through the transition either out loud or going over it in my head. Transitions tie things together and take us from place to place. It's like visiting Disney, but riding the monorail to get to the theme park - the monorail is fun to ride and builds anticipation at arriving at the destination - so should our transitions.
  • Have some passion - passion is a missing element in many preachers. It could be because not enough time was spent in preparation or because the preacher is not able to preach from "the overflow" (by the way, that's really difficult to describe, but once you've experienced it, you'll understand). Passion is not yelling, talking fast or adding "uhhhh" to the end of each word. Passion is seen and communicated when you BELIEVE what you're saying is from God and for this moment. When you believe you have God's Word for God's timing, it's easy to be passionate.
Of course there are many amazing, anointed preachers that much more gifted than I am. I would love to hear your thoughts...what have I missed, what have you learned? Let's talk about it...