Thursday, March 29, 2012

Kingdom Assignment At Mountaintop Community Church

If you weren’t here last Sunday at Mountaintop you may have heard that we had two offerings.  The first is what you might expect and what happens most every Sunday morning – ushers passed baskets and those in attendance gave to support the ministries and work of  Mountaintop.  The second was just the opposite.

At the conclusion of my message I invited 50 people to accept the opportunity to go on a Kingdom Assignment (20 at 9:00 and 30 at 11:00).  The challenge for each person who responded to the invitation was simple:
  • Receive a $100 bill recognizing that the money belonged to God but was being entrusted to them because God has confidence in them as a steward.
  • Use the $100 to bless someone else.  How the money is to be used is up to each individual.  The only requirement is that it can’t be returned to Mountaintop, it has to be used outside the walls of the church to further God’s kingdom. 
  • Come back in six-weeks and tell us the story of what God did as $100 was invested as a blessing.

55 individuals responded to the challenge and so another $500 was quickly found (thanks Wayne Hudson) so that we gave out $5,500 for these Kingdom Adventurers to go out and use to bless the world.

This Kingdom Assignment adventure is already stirring generosity that is growing and spreading. Some of the $100 bills have begun to multiply as others make matching gifts or add their own contributions.  An elementary school aged boy told be that his $100 had become $320 before he left the building.  Yesterday I received a gift to cover the cost of the money invested at 9:00 and an anonymous gift of $500 that came with a challenge that I needed to participate in the challenge of the assignment myself.  I’ve always been the one giving out the challenge and not the one receiving so I’ve begun to do just what I instructed the other 55 to do – pray about how God wants me to invest in His Kingdom.

Some of the blessings will go to individuals and others to support agencies that are caring for those in need here in Birmingham and all around the world. 

As I shared on Sunday, the idea for the Kingdom Assignment comes from Pastor Denny Bellesi of Coast Hills Community Church in California who in 2000 was looking for a way to illustrate the parable of the talents that Jesus told in Matthew 25.  Over the last 12 years the Kingdom Assignment idea has spread to other churches all around the globe and last week to Mountaintop.

One two different occasions when I was pastor Grace Presbyterian Church in Houston, TX I also presented a Kingdom Assignment challenge.  The first time was in 2008 immediately after Hurricane Ike and the stock market crash.  It was an opportunity to demonstrate that even in the tough economic times when we invest in God’s Kingdom amazing things can happen.  One of the lessons that we quickly discover when we accept a Kingdom Assignment is the power of generosity.  I am confident we will have the same experience here at Mountaintop.  Our God is the most generous Being in the universe and when we invest generously in caring for the things He cares about and advancing the good news of His Kingdom we reflect that generosity.

Over the next six weeks amazing stories of generosity are going to be written through 55 good and faithful servants who accepted the challenge to go on a Kingdom Assignment.  Keep those servants and all of us in your prayers. God is on the move and doing a new thing here at Mountaintop!

To His glory!

More background on the Kingdom Assignment concept can be found at Kingdom Assignment.

To find out more about the results of the Kingdom Assignment at Grace Presbyterian Church read the article from the Houston Chronicle: Houston Church Shows $100 Can Go A Long Way

God's Pie

An elder sent me this video earlier today and I just loved it - so thought I'd find a way to share it:

As 55 Mountaintoppers head out on a Kingdom Assignment this is a great reminder of how we are supposed to share the pie!

The only thing that would make this video better is if the pie were lemon meringue or sweet potato (or from God's House of Pies).

Monday, March 26, 2012

Catalyst One Day

An awesome 36 hours in Atlanta that included worship at Passion City (Louie Giglio and Matt Redman), dinner at Doc Chey’s in Virginia Highlands, midnight milkshakes with my daughter Jennifer and a day of being inspired, encouraged and challenged by Andy Stanley and Craig Groeschel.

Here are my tweets over the past couple of days:

 Worship at Passion City w Matt Redman leading

·      marriage works best when 2 people are head over heels in love with Jesus

·      Louie's take on The Bachelor is hilarious

·      Louie's take on The Bachelor is also tragic and convicting - for 15 million of us

·      in our brokenness after the fall we can come with a reason for everything we do and a workaround to God's plan - but God's plan prevails

·      Don't b yoked 2gether w unbelievers. 4 what do righteousness & wickedness hav n common, what fellowship can light hav w darkness? 2 Cor 6:14

·      based on the message at Passion City there are going to be a lot of breakups in ATL 2nite - and a lot more people falling in love w Jesus!

Yesterday was amazing: Kingdom Assignments, Passion City Church, Doc Chey's and midnight milkshakes w Jennifer. Today Catalyst!

Catalyst One Day:  Introduction

What's going on in the culture of our organization? Cultural issues have to be addressed to solve number problems!

5 Inescapable Truths About Culture

1. Leaders shape organizational culture whether they intend to or not.

2. Time "in" erodes awareness "of" culture - manufacture ways to get a snapshot of culture - ask new people - staff - to evaluate us

3. Healthy cultures attract and keep healthy people. Unhealthy people are attracted to unhealthy cultures. Healthy people are productive.

The healthier your culture is the quicker you will discover the unhealthy people - low tolerance for poor performance.

4. Culture impacts long-term productivity. Healthy culture impacts the bottom line - 100% of the time

5. Unhealthy cultures are slow to adapt to change.

The healthier you are the more outwardly focused you become and more willing to change

God's Word and Faith are more than enough - in the right culture.

Catalyst One Day Session One - Values and Culture

Healthy cultures never happen by accident. They are created.

The #1 force shaping your culture is your values.

What we value determines what we do - Matt 9: 10-12 Jesus values people more than the Pharisees rules

Leadership exercise: Google "Chick-Fil-A Values"

If we value survival we focus on keeping people happy; tradition, the past; evangelism, the people not here...

How we allow values to shape our culture. 1. Determine honestly what your actions say you value.

2. Identify the values God has put in you. Don't try to be someone else
Craig Groeschel "be yourself - I tried being Rick Warren but I'm too accidental - Joel, but I'm not that happy"

Remove people with distinctly different values.

3. Narrow down your values to 10 or fewer (7 better, 5 even better)
Hire and recruit for your values.

4. Once you define your values share them in short - tweetable - statements that move you emotionally and to action.

What do you passionately love? What breaks your heart?

5. Shape your culture and build your people around your values. Lead toward your values the future depends on it.

Write values on hearts not walls

If you don't like where you are going - change direction!

Quit whining, you're sharp ( and empowered by the Holy Spirit - so quit whining and fix it!

To reach people no one is reaching you have to do what no one is doing Craig Groeschel

Session Two Building A Healthy Staff Culture, Andy Stanley

The local church should be the greatest place in the world to work!

THE thing that WILL create a healthy church culture is MUTUAL SUBMISSION - the most powerful relational principle

How do we create a staff culture characterized by mutual submission?

Every time you add a title you add distance

“not so with you....”  and “for even the Son of Man...”. powerful phrases from Mark 10

1. Healthy and productive staff cultures are characterized by mutual submission.

a. The message: I'm here to facilitate your success.

b. The assumption: While our responsibilities are different we are all essential.

c. The question: What can I do to help?


Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone. don't be fair - be engaged

Systemize top-down service

Create and maintain a sustainable pace. Without margin there is no room to serve. Without margin we seek first our kingdom.

Confront your ego. Decide what's more important a great organization or a name for yourself

Drop the term loyalty from your vocabulary - if you ask to ask for it you can't get it! You have to earn loyalty.  If you ask to ask for it or demand it or have people sign a document pledging it, YOU are the one who lacks it.

the thing that undermines mutual submissions the most is when some people believe they are anointed by God and therefore more special...

if you serve your volunteers and work to facilitate their success they stay and recruit others

Public loyalty equals private leverage @AndyStanley

Design your worship services for who you want to be there @AndyStanley

Catalyst One Day takeaway - got to get some of them armor bearers..... NOT!

@louiegiglio the local church is still THE plan

@louiegiglio leadership is answering the question: Who did I give a BLANK about today?

When we look through the lens of our existing models we limit our possibilities #catalystoneday

Session Three: Creating a Culture of Self-Awareness - Craig Groeschel

Those who don't know don't know they don't know  - we are incredibly vulnerable to self-deception

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

The higher you rise in any organization the harder it is to get people to tell you the truth - and no one lies like church people

3 Principles of Self-Deception

1) we as leaders have a limitless capacity for self-deception

2) the longer we believe lies the harder it is to hear truth - For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin.

3) the leader's lack of self-awareness is the leader's greatest barrier

·      Quit blaming other people by saying "our people won't" - accept responsibility "we haven't lead them to" @craiggroeschel

·      When you delegate tasks you create followers. When you delegate authority you create leaders @craiggroeschel  

Uncover the truth about you –

1) PRAY- Psalm 139: 23 - 24

2) LISTEN Proverbs 15: 31 -32 listen to life-giving rebukes @craiggroeschel

a) build a team that craves and gives helpful feedback  - set the tone as the leader by giving and receiving feedback

b) implement annual 360 evaluations (anonymous) for every team member

·      What is God trying to show you that you aren't listening to?

3. CHANGE - James 1: 22 - don't just listen and deceive yourself - Do what it says! Change!

·      Don't let your work for God replace your heart for God @craiggroeschel #catalystoneday

Churches need our leadership more than our preachership @craiggroeschel
(take 2 Sundays off between series)

North Point Band playing Freebird - thank you Maury Hurt for the introduction!

Session 4 - Creating A Come And See Culture: Andy Stanley

@AndyStanley "we are unapologetically attractional so that people will want to come and see - and then come back".

The clearer the target the more likely you are to hit it. Clarify the win! @AndyStanley

You are known in your community by your programming. @AndyStanley
The leader needs to define a great program environment

3 Essential Ingredients

I. An Appealing Setting - every setting communicates something - there are no neutral physical environments

·      Make your environment look like what's important to you - don't settle for what is looking tired - Be proud of everything on your campus!

·      If you have to clean your car every time you give someone a ride - you can't see a mess

·      Periodically we all need fresh eyes on our ministry environment

·      "the sermon begins in the parking lot" - because we are expecting guest - people know how to park!

·      Design, decor and attention to detail communicate what and who you value the most.

·      Disorganization communicates that we don't care and we're not serious about what we are doing.

II. An Engaging Presentation - we are in the presentation business and the unique responsibility of the church

·      18 - 25 years don't go to church because they used to go to one - think about that... @AndyStanley

·      A relentless commitment to engaging presentations at every level

·      Great Presenter + Great Content = a Great Presentation

·      You need engaging presenters or an engaging means of presentation

·      The audience's attention span is determined by the quality of the presentation

·      Presentation makes content interesting

·      Whatever standard of excellence you adopt as a church will determine who you attract

·      To engage is to secure one's attention - zero tolerance for bad presentations. We are not going to bore anyone & we will sacrifice 1 for the many

III. Helpful Content is useful and directly addresses thinking and/or living.

·      All scripture is inspired its not all applicable at every age and stage

·      Content should be age & stage of life specific. Content that does not address a felt need is perceived as irrelevant & just doesn't stick

@AndyStanley & @craiggroeschel inspired and encouraged. Grateful for the recharge and challenge to build a better culture

@AndyStanley awesome 1 last thought: maybe you need to stop doing something so that you can only do what you can do well

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Twitter 1977

I was 14 in March 1977 and finishing my freshmen year at Wando High School.  That seems like years and years – even a lifetime – ago.  Recently I discovered that the (what is the best adjective to use here… hmmm) Doug Gleditsch has begun a Twitter feed dedicated to 1977. 

Finally, a practical use for Twitter.

If you were around in 1977 and remember you will enjoy following @Doug Gleditsch and #TweetsOf77 – great (and not so great) memories 140 characters at a time.

Twitter1977: Dad in a bad mood--Gulf raised gas prices to 62¢ and it cost him over $10 to fill the tank today. At least he got green stamps.

Twitter1977: Caught new show "Eight is Enough." I'm not sure an hour of dad shaking his head in exasperation is going to be successful.

Twitter1977: But that "Nicholas" kid is going to be a big star for a long time. #EightisEnough

Twitter1977: Bugging mom to take me to see VIVA KNIEVEL! this weekend. Who knew Evel could do daredevil motorcycle stunts AND act!?!

Twitter1977: I'm going to pull for U of Detroit in this year's tournament. Their coach seems pretty crazy! Dick Vitalis or something.

Twitter1977: Saturday morning TV just isn't the same since they canceled "Land of the Lost." I actually miss the Sleestaks.

Monday, March 19, 2012

I didn’t expect to cry….

I didn’t expect to cry, really I didn’t, but I did.  Just before we headed out to Keeke’s wedding Angela, who was in the service with me, went and found Kleenex just in case she got teary.  I, of course, knew I wouldn’t need any – I don’t cry at weddings.

But then I did.

I’ve done a lot of weddings, but Keeke’s was the first for someone who I think of as one of my own daughters (she’s even tried on Kim’s wedding dress with the girls).  That made me emotional.  Keeke’s dad, Tommy, died last year which brought back memories of my own dad’s death prior to my sister’s weddings.  That made me emotional.  Leading in worship with me (in addition to Angela) were some of my favorite people in the world (Brian Mann and Ben and Jenna Kuykendall) and that made me emotional.

So right before I got to the vows – I started to cry (or at least was too choked up to speak). 

I paused, took a few deep breaths and made it through the rest of the service all the way through the “I now pronounce you…,” “you may kiss….” and “may I introduce Mr. and Mrs….”  but I was always right on the edge of tears.

And I decided that crying at weddings (or anywhere) is a good thing.  As Jenna reminded me afterwards, it showed to everyone present that I actually do have a heart!

Now I’m not a big fan of crying preachers – and I know some who can cry on cue at the same moment in every message.  But I am a big fan of letting what is inside you show.  I’ve shared before (maybe too often) one of my very favorite thoughts on preaching is from Robert Frost:

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. 
No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.

The point is we can only authentically and effectively share what is inside us.  This weekend I was reminded that we shouldn’t try to keep it all inside and it’s good to cry at weddings!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bumping the Lamp

Over the years a significant source of influence on my leadership and ministry has been lessons learned from the Disney Institute.  Disney has an amazing understanding of leadership principles, service, vision, “branding,” and creativity.  Every time I read a Disney book or attend an Institute class I am challenged in ways like no other program I know.

Perhaps my favorite Disney concept comes from a scene in the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit?  The scene always causes me to ask myself, "Am I bumping the lamp?"

In the film there’s a moment in which a character bumps his head on a hanging lamp and the swinging lamp casts moving shadows all across the room.  In the original version no one bumped the lamp and therefore the shadows didn’t move.  But the creators thought the scene lacked “something” so they went back and “bumped the lamp.”

It took more money and lots of extra hours to bump the lamp and the creators will admit that viewers would have never noticed if there were no shadows in the scene.  It would have been easier, less time consuming and less expensive to leave the scene as it was.  But Disney creators weren’t satisfied with what was quickest or what was good enough.  Their goal was to produce excellence – so they went back and bumped the lamp.

In ministry our task is to look for ways to “bump the lamp.”  There’s a great illustration of what that looks like in 1 Kings 7.  There we find a bronze worker named Huram (not to be confused with Huram the King of Tyre - I'm sure lots of you were confused by that) who is summoned by King Solomon to participate in the construction of the Temple.  Huram was responsible for two large bronze columns.  At the top of the columns - more than thirty feet up in the air (and this is important:  where no one would be able to see it) Huram added the detail of 200 pomegranates cast in bronze.

Here's the point:

Huram paid just as much attention to the details no one would ever notice as he did to the things more visible.  Huram was working for an audience of One - the only one who would ever see the top of the Temple columns - God.  Huram could have finished his work quicker, settled for good enough and headed home – but instead Huram bumped the lamp.

So here’s the question for you are for me:

Are we settling for good enough – or are we bumping the lamp?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Last Night in Arusha

Tomorrow evening, after a morning in Kisongo and one last night of teaching at the Bishop’s church (Sayuni (Zion) EAG), I will be boarding a KLM flight and beginning a journey home (via Amsterdam and Detroit).

Today was the final day of the medical clinic at Suye TAG.  Our team saw 192 patients (120 medical and 72 eyes)!  I love the fact that with something as simple as an eye exam and a pair of glasses we are restoring sight to the “blind.”  Even more exciting were the 12 patients who made a decision to receive Jesus Christ as our team ministered to them.   I spent most of my time entertaining kids and I know by heart the phrase:  Yesu ni mchungai mwema (Jesus is the good shepherd)!

This afternoon a portion of our team attended Ezekiel’s funeral in Kisongo.  More than 300 gathered and among the songs sung were “Shall We Gather By the River” and “When They Call the Roll Up Yonder.”  Wayne said he felt like he was back home in Alabama (minus the Kiswahili).

Tonight was the second night of the 3-day seminar and after my teaching 4 young women gave their lives to Christ.  I led them in a sinner’s prayer and then the Bishop and I prayed for their healing.  I love the instructions the Bishop then gave the church to go home with these new believers to let them know that they are now a part of the family of God.  A powerful evening in every way!

Since its my last night in Arusha and I don’t expect to have time to post for a couple of days it’s a good time to reflect upon the week –and three Biblical images come to mind:

First:  We began the week with plans for a clinic and revival at Kisongo.  A storm, a collapsed church and a tragic death changed those plans.  But throughout the week we’ve experienced what Joseph told his brothers in Genesis.  What they had intended for evil (selling him into slavery – and its evil to sell your little brother) God used for good to save His people.  Sunday night we felt as if we were under attack by the evil one (and likely we were) and our plans seemed so uncertain.  Looking back tonight, it is clear that God had everything under control and has used this week to His glory.

Second:  This was my first experience with a medical mission clinic and I was blown away by the healing that took place and by watching the numbers grow each day.  Growing crowds meant that at the end of the day we had to turn people away.  Hundreds of patients were seen this week.  Hundreds more could have been seen but we simply ran out of time and resources.  That’s hard to accept.

The churches I’ve served have blessed me with the chance to experience firsthand the work of mission partners in 8 different countries (Mexico, Ethiopia, Hungary, Romania, Ecuador, Kenya, Mongolia and now Tanzania).  Each trip has opened my eyes to new ways that God is on the move around the world.  And each trip has reminded me that the needs of the world are far greater than our human resources.  There is much that we can and should do.  Americans have so much of the world’s resources and we must distribute those resources to places in need.  But at the end of the story our confidence can never be in our own mission efforts – it must always remain with God.

I’ve been reminded of that truth again this week.  And reminded of the account in Luke 4 of Jesus’ response to the crowds that came for healing.  Although, He stayed up all night laying hands on each one of them, in the morning He left – and there were still people waiting to be healed. 

Today we left Suye and there were still people waiting to be healed but God’s work calls us elsewhere.  And we are confident in His provision for them and for us.

Finally:  My mind has already begun to shift back to Birmingham.  In less than 72 hours the 9:00 Sunday morning service will begin (and I’m not quite ready for that – especially since we will be “springing forward”)!  It’s been an amazing privilege to be part of what God is doing here in Tanzania but there is much work to be done in Birmingham (which is where God has called me).  40% of the population of Birmingham are non-Christians and 28% live in poverty.  There are struggling single moms, children at risk and more needs than we can begin to meet.

I’m reminded of the realization of the 4 lepers in 2 Kings 7 (which will be my primary text for the message tomorrow night).  When they come to recognize God’s deliverance they tell themselves:  We’re not doing right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves.”  So they hurried back to Jerusalem to share the news.

We’ve experienced good news this week and its time we head back to the city to share it with those at home!

But first one more day in Tanzania!

PS – If you ever think US news agencies are a bit biased try listening to Al Jazeera for a week!