Archive for the ‘friends’ Category

As a congregant you have a significant role to play in helping your preacher preach better. In the last post, we talked a little about time and the effect lack of time can have on sermon preparation. Think about this: After Seinfeld went off television, Jerry Seinfeld decided to retire all his old stand-up material (watch the movie, “Comedian”). He spent the next year crafting a new act. After a year, Seinfeld had 30-minutes worth of material. That’s right ONE YEAR! 30 MINUTES!

Guess what? Your preacher does 30 minutes every week!

Could he or she do less? Probably. But here’s my point: Many of us have been in church so long that we’ve forgotten or never understood what we were asking of our preacher in terms of the speech act itself. Your preacher, unlike Jerry Seinfeld, can’t simply use the same “material” over and over again and be effective. Also, read the sermons in the book of Acts. They are strikingly similar and mercifully short. Churches, however, asks their minister to speak a fresh word every week and sometimes to speak multiple fresh words throughout the week. Hear me correctly, this isn’t a preacher complaining about his job. Complaining is fruitless. It is, however, one preacher asking you to help your preacher preach better by understanding what they are up against. And here’s how:

1. Prayer – Seems obvious, but I’ve known preachers who were cursed more than they were prayed for. The prayers won’t just changed the preaching, it’ll change your heart about the preacher.

2. Feedback – Preachers are generally narcissist who are very self-conscious. (No worries, God made them this way in order to stand before great multitudes each week AND care about what’s coming out of their mouths.) But they are also overwhelmingly concerned about doing what they can to help your life and your relationship with God. When giving feedback, tell them what you LIKED, what was meaningful. Trust me, like a professional golfer walking off the 18th green, preachers know every shot they missed and where their swing was flawed. If you want more of something from your preacher, praise it. He or she is human-being, they’ll respond.

3. Force Time Away – Good preachers work all the time, they even work when they’re not supposed to be working. If you want to nurture your preacher, send them and their spouse away for a weekend. Be insistent and do what you can to make that happen. Sometimes that means paying for it yourself or with a group. You’re not paying for it because your preacher is broke, but because they’ll be less likely to turn it down if it’s paid for already.

4. Be Friends – Ask around, many preachers don’t have friends. You can be a friend. Just imagine what it would be like to stand in front of a crowd of people each week and having them ALL want something from you. It’s tiring. Try taking your preacher to a ball game, out to the movies, or to play cards. Just him or her, not their entire family, and build a genuine relationship. Here’s the inside scoop, when preachers get overtures from other churches, one of the overwhelming reasons they stay put, is friends.

You’ll notice that all the ways to help your preacher are relational, not technical. I bet relational connectedness is his or her greatest felt need. The best preachers I’ve known felt relationally connected to their congregation. They didn’t just look connected – which is different. They felt connected. Here’s the thing: There’s only one way to find out if your preacher feels connected and loved rather than looks connected and loves, you have to ask them.

Advertisements

Tiger Woods may have attended Stanford, but the past two weeks have proven how stupid he really is. I like Tiger Woods and believe him to be the greatest golfer of all time, whether he tracks down Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 professional Majors or not. Tiger is the best at what he does, but as we learned from Michael Jordan, being the best in a sport has very little to do with being good in the rest of life.

What’s odd is that we think it does. When I was a youth minister, I frequently told students that one of the best ways they could witness for God was by being good at what they did. Colt McCoy, Hunter Lawrence, Jordan Shipley and Tim Tebow are examples of this. By performing with excellence in one area, our very lives are granted credence in the minds others. It’s only natural that people believe that the excellent are excellent. But that’s not always the case. Through all the fist pumps, chest bumps, sunk putts and kicked rumps, we continue to find that our “heroes” are anything but.

Here’s El Tigre, the worlds most recognizable person, complete with a yacht named “Privacy” slinking around, hooking up with cocktail waitresses and pornstars – allegedly – and thinking, presumably, that he wouldn’t get caught; that no one would find out. You’ve got to be kidding!

That’s just plain stupid.

He was bound to get caught.

But it’s the best thing that could have happened to Tiger Woods.

Why? Because of Steve McNair and Michael Jackson.

Last summer, former NFL great Steve McNair was found shot by his girlfriend. A married man, McNair was having an affair with Shalel Kazemi, a 20-year old, who murdered him in his sleep before turning the gun on herself. (In case you didn’t know, if someone continues to hook up with a string of women who do not care that he is married, he will run across one who is crazy!) That’s what happened to McNair, whose girlfriend feared he was leaving her, and that would have eventually happened to Woods. It’s unlikely that it would have ended in murder, but it almost certainly would have been worse than bad press and a re-written pre-nuptial agreement.

And we all know the disturbing tragedy of Michael Jackson. Something dismaying happens to people when we are too tightly insulated. That was the case with Jackson and has been the case with Woods. No healthy person can exists in a world of yes men and staff rather than friends and mentors. Woods – due to our incessant desire to know everything about everyone – had created his own kingdom, perhaps with Elin and his own mother as the only citizens by choice, the only ones who wanted him for him and not cash or celebrity.

This has been his greatest weakness. Tiger has fired caddies and coaches for doing commercials and giving too many interviews. In Tiger’s world, it’s Tiger’s way or the highway. In fact, Tiger’s mom once reportedly told a former girlfriend of his, “There’s only one star in this family. Tiger.” That’s the problem. Everyone needs people in their life to tell us the truth, to remind us that the world, in fact, does not revolve around us and folks like Woods are woefully short of them.

The titillating headlines concerning the train wreck Woods’ life has become over the past two weeks, present Tiger an opportunity. If he can resist the urge to be handled or save face, he can come clean with himself. No one besides Elin needs an apology or explanation. Tiger has the chance, right now, to rewrite who he is, not to resurrect his shattered image, but become a new man. Right now, Tiger can take a big swing.

Deal with your issues, Tiger, – because it’s clear to everyone now that you have them. Become a better father to your kids (good dads don’t cheat on mom). Stop sporting for gullible, star-struck women, using them as objects, and stop doing whatever else you’ve got going on under the surface. Become a man who is honest, friendly, open, humble, straightforward, less the golf machine and more an authentic man. Just think what Jackson’s life could have been had he a chance to be more Michael and less icon. Today Tiger’s life has a chance to be genuine, something, I think, at the end of life, he would much more enjoy than the coat-check girl.

I’ve had a hard time convincing my wife and others like her why I Twitter. “Why do you use twitter? What’s the point? Isn’t Twitter just another in long line of mouthpieces for self-obsessed people with delusions of grandeur? Don’t people just post inane information about themselves in the vacant hope that someone will care?” These kinds of questions and taunts are routine and have recently been asked by my favorite sports talk show host, Jim Rome, who spent a good portion of his show last week mocking Twitter and those who tweet.mm_twitter

If you’re wondering whether or not some of the folks tweeting are self-obsessed and tweet only about their mundane lives, yes some are. I don’t follow those people! Those folks serve little purpose, and I’ve put the public on notice that those who tweet about what they’re having for lunch run the risk of being “unfollowed.” Still there are a great many people who use Twitter to great effectiveness for their mission, message and tribe. I think primarily of Michael Hyatt, Guy Kawasaki, Tim Sanders and others. And you can too.

Let me give you some reasons why I think Twitter is a powerful resource.

  • Impact. Through tweeting you can get your message in front of a lot more people. Because your text is limited to 140 characters, you can’t blather on, but you can inform, encourage, and direct your audience. Plus, they don’t have to come to you like a blog post. You go to them. All you have to do is figure out a way for them to follow you. I used to blog in this space quite a bit. Quite frankly, it got to be a hassle. I was an early-comer to blogging, and the medium has changed significantly over the last five years. One thing that was always true though was that to have a high readership I had to post 4+ times per week. Many times I didn’t have that much to say! With Twitter now, I simply reference that a new post is up and hundreds of people can potentially see it within minutes. The same number of readers it took days to accumulate, now access the blog within the first hour it’s posted. This combined with retweets has exploded blog readership (though not comments to my discontent). My impact is now far wider, and because of it, I can post just once a week and my content is generally stronger. This is a win-win when your message is the Kingdom of God. I reach more people with my messages through the web (blog + podcast + Twitter + facebook) than I do on a Sunday morning. Maybe up to 4 times as many. That’s an impact for God’s Kingdom. Brought to you by twitter!
  • Knowledge. Twitter, more than anything else, gets knowledge and information to me fast. I learned of Michael Jackson’s death, the uprising in Iran and countless other news items through Twitter. Most of the time, someone on Twitter “breaks” the story before traditional news agencies. An easy criticism is that the folks on Twitter can post anything and we should be slow to trust what we read there. That is a possibility, however, my experience has been that Twitter-ers, like me, are incredibly concerned with their own credibility and treating their followers as friends. We are generally slow to throw a disprovable “fact” against the wall. Interestingly, it has been those in the news media, politics and public life who most often tweet first and think later. More than that, I follow the tweets of people in the same industry I’m in or want to be in or those who have something to teach me. They direct me to great information that I’m blessed to know. I’ve learned about writing, leadership, marketing, technology, missional living and ministry by following people who know more about those things than I do. I draw from the wisdom of Andy Stanley, Greg Daniel, Donald Miller, Rick Warren and others without paying a dime to hear them at a conference. I know what they’re reading, what they’re thinking, and how they are working with and leading organizations. For free.
  • Followers Become Friends. I have friends on Twitter that are not my friends in the conventional sense. I have spent little or no time with Dave Lemley, Greg Kendall-Ball, Travis Stanley, Darin Campbell and others, but we share both a common faith heritage and common perspective on U.S. and world events. I’m allowed to dialogue with them about those particular items and build relationships with them though I’ve never spent more than an hour with any one of them. In other cases I follow and am followed by people like David Christian whom I have never met, yet we’ve had many discussions. That’s just cool! It’s a glimpse of heaven where we will know and be fully known.

  • Thinking. Like all writing, tweeting makes you think about what you think. Do you really want to advocate that position? Is this something I should post without being able to enter a conversation or give some background? How can I be coherent in 140 characters (in 119 characters if I want to be retweeted)?

I encourage tweeting and am trying to discern ways that I can incorporate it in meaningful ways during church services, and classes and with our staff.

To get started on Twitter, check here, here and here.

Richard and Mildred Loving

Richard and Mildred Loving

We’re in a season of celebrating at my house. The reason? Rochelle and I decided a few weeks ago that life was too short not to live with great joy! Plus, we realized that there is much to celebrate in life (and my mom bought me a sweet grill). One of our upcoming celebrations will be Loving Day!

Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving began dating when Mildred was just 11 years old and Richard was 17. In the early years of their marriage, Mildred and Richard were arrested several times together. The reason? Mildred was black and Richard was white. And in 1958 it was illegal for them to be married in the state of Virginia. Apparently, Virginia has not always been for lovers.

Threatened with years of imprisonment, the Loving’s changed history when they challenged the Constitutionality of Virginia’s marriage laws and in 1967 won the day when the Supreme Court upheld their right to marry. From that day forward, every state, including those in the south, which had laws forbidding it, were required to recognize interracial marriage.

Mildred lived a quiet life after Richard’s death in a car wreck in 1975. Not one for the spotlight, Mildred said of her life, “I never wanted to be a hero, just a bride. It wasn’t my doing, it was God’s work.”

Each June 12th, couples across America celebrate “Loving Day” which celebrates the legalization of interracial marriage.

So for marriages like mine and kids with mocha colored skin and long, curly hair I say to Mildred and Richard, “Thank you for Loving.”

Hebrews: Ancient Encouragement for Believers Today, by Edward Fudge (Leafwood Publishers, 262 pages, Expected Release: April/May 2009).

Mention the Book of Hebrews and many Christians start to yawn or even to nod. Mention commentaries, and they practically begin to snore. One would think, therefore, that a commentary on Hebrews would leave them out cold on the floor. In fact, this new book (due out for Pepperdine Bible Lectures in May) by Edward Fudge, my friend and former elder in Houston, is certain to waken the whole lot, and set their feet to dancing with joy! For at least three reasons.

First, it is all about Jesus. Edward sees the Book (it is really not an “Epistle”) of Hebrews as a sermon of encouragement to a group of unknown believers (who might or might not have been “Hebrews”) who, for a whole bunch of reasons were worn out, disheartened, and ready to walk away from their faith. To revive their spirits and renew their commitment, the unknown author re-tells the Story – the story of the Son of God who became a man, to make human men and women children of God. The whole book is focused on Jesus. We can never go wrong doing that.

Second, this is a “narrative” style commentary. Although the author covers every verse, the layout of the book is so arranged that it reads more like a novel than like a traditional commentary. There are 48 chapters, each covering a portion of the Scripture text. (The text is another story of its own! Rather than use a particular modern version and risk losing those who prefer a different one, Edward has created a new version of Hebrews just for this book which sounds almost like every modern standard English text but is exactly like none.) After the text portion at the top, each chapter has an intro section called “Why & Wherefore,” which relates this section to the big picture of the whole book. That is followed by “Unpacking the Text,” which goes into detail, but in narrative style with subheads to further enhance ease of reading.

Third, this is a “bridge” book. It bridges the gap that too often exists between the ivory-tower scholars and the Christian on the street, or even the preacher or teacher in the church. Edward worked from the Greek text of Hebrews but his book doesn’t have a single Greek word in it. He has about eight pages of bibliography including 80+ scholarly articles from theological journals, but talks in everyday language. For example, Hebrews 1 includes a cluster of Old Testament passages which the technical commentators call a “catena” or a “florilegium.” Edward refers to them as a “bouquet of Scriptures,” which is what that second word really means to begin with. With such bridges linking scholarship and simplicity, the reader gets the best of both worlds.

Although this book has not yet been released, the publisher already has 36 impressive endorsements from Bible scholars and church leaders in five countries and across the theological spectrum. This is particularly impressive, since Hebrews is highly controversial and different Christian “tribes” have strongly differing views about its meaning. Yet somehow, this book has gained endorsements from all over the map.

Methodist Bishop and author Will Willimon, for example, calls this “a strong, theologically-informed exposition that will be of especial help to preachers seeking to encourage contemporary believers.” Yet Simon Kistemaker, retired New Testament professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, says: “I heartily recommend this commentary which, written by a scholar for lay people, is balanced, clear and transparent.” The back cover includes seven endorsements (all 36 are found on the front pages) which, besides these two, include churches of Christ professor and well-known preacher David Fleer, Baptist professor and author David B. Capes, Pentecostal theologian Sarah Sumner, mainline Protestant scholar and former professor at Yale Divinity School David Bartlett, and my friend the well-known and much-read Brian McLaren. Talk about covering the waterfront!

Although the author sent me a copy of the manuscript, I am eager to get the book itself. Keep informed on its progress and grand arrival at Edward’s website, www.EdwardFudge.com .

Vote

Posted: March 4, 2009 in friends
Tags:

Vote for my friend Tquan’s song here: http://www.conversantlife.com/ucontent/dont-stop-praising.

Tquan is a great, emerging Christian recording artist and an even better person. So, go and vote for his song, “Don’t Stop Praising” Go ahead, you know you want to.

Acclimated

Posted: February 20, 2009 in Apple computers, change, family, friends, iPhone, life, ministry

Our family has been in the Bay area for 2 full weeks as of right now. Friends both here and across the country keep asking what differences we see between our new and former environment. At this point I’m not sure what the major differences are. We spent most of our time working; me at the church office and Rochelle trying to setting up house and getting Malia squared away for school next year. I really enjoyed living in Houston, so I don’t want to set-up a good/bad  or better/worse scenario. Nevertheless I thought I would list some of the things I’ve observed  about our new life in Redwood City.

1. My commute is 352 steps. I’ve moved for 20 miles and 50 minutes one way to less than 5 minutes and I don’t even have to get in the car, even when it rains. I eat lunch at home with my wife and girls and I haven’t cranked the car in over a week.

2. Cali is laid back. I’ve been wearing jeans and tennis shoes to work for two weeks (partly because we’re in boxes still and partly because our washing machine is broken) and no one seems to have noticed. For a T-Shirt and blue jeans kinda guy, you gotta love it.

3. I really miss the Houston 10:00 news. Because of the time difference, the late night news doesn’t come on until 11:00 — like it does on the east coast. Though I grew up with film at eleven, I’m too old for that now. By 10:30, I’m out!

4. There are Apple and Mac stores everywhere. Here’s a list of companies I’ve driven by in two weeks: FaceBook, Apple, Yahoo, Intuit, and a few others I can’t even remember. Homeless people in the Silicon Valley have iPhones, it’s crazy! 

5. I can see the mountains when I take out my trash. Already I’ve stopped noticing the beauty of God’s creation and I really hope to put a stop to that. This area is gorgeous. I hope to not be in too big a hurry and miss it!

6. There’s more Christian presence here than some people would have you believe. California is not Texas, but so far the difficulties faced by churches in California are the same as Texas. 

7. No drive-thrus. Land is expensive here, so some places (I’m particularly thinking about Starbuck’s) don’t have drive-thru’s. That’s already a pain.

8. The cold here is a wet, penetrating cold. The temperature may say one thing, but not being acclimated, I’ve found that it takes me a while to get warm here.

Anyway, since so many people had asked about things I thought this might be a good way to get the word out. Enjoy your weekend everyone.