Saturday, April 28, 2007



I just signed a contract with LifeWay's Threads yesterday to write the small group curriculum for In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day.

The Threads guys are doing some cool stuff with small group curriculum, and I'm so excited to be a part of that team.

This whole writing thing has been bugging me for about two years now. One day, I would feel called to do it. The next day, I would feel like it was distracting me from my focus. People kept encouraging me to write, but I didn't want to writet for that reason. Doors of opportunity would open, but I would glance at them with uncertainty. Recently, it seems God has caused the encouraging voices to multiply because I'm hearing it in surround sound. And I was kinda pushed into the pit with this particular lion by Mark Batterson.

I'm really thankful for people like Mark and Margaret Feinberg who have been a source of encouragement, butt-kicking, and inspiration. I'm also really thankful for my family and friends who have strategic placement in that whole surround sound thing.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Life By Meeting

"Meetings" is a bad word for most people in my circles, and Death by Meeting is a great book. I have been in my fair share of life-sucking, energy-depleting, creativity-stifling meetings. However, I think meetings can bring life if we are working with the right people.

I just returned from a 2-hour lunch "meeting" about a potential ministry opportunity (i.e., lion to chase). As I sat brainstorming with 3 of the most amazing people I know, I thought "this may be a one small step, one giant leap moment. We may look back on this meeting as a turning point in our lives."

I left that meeting feeling fully alive.

Sailing and Sleuthing

Our spring semester ends this weekend, and May Term is coming! We've got two great groups for May Term this year.

The Story returns-- a three-week high speed thrill ride through the entire Bible. We sail through the Old Testament in 2 hours.

And we are introducing Bible Study Methods-- tools, resources, and skills for going undercover and discovering the Bible for yourself.

We publish the Discipleship Atlas during the semesters, but we created postcards for these groups. Props to the amazing and talented Bekah Kitterman for the design work.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Thursday Leadership Lessons

The Zone Gathering is our online community for NCC leaders. We have regular features, including a weekend summary, book reviews, leader interviews, Bible studies, etc. One of the features is Thursday Leadership Lesson.

Thursday Leadership Lesson addresses topics that we feel would be helpful for our leaders. For the past 4 semesters, we have written these lessons around a unifying theme that ties back to topics discussed at the Annual Leadership Retreat. Today, we finished the series Foundations- principles for a laying a ministry foundation that will last. Here are links to the articles:

Laying the Foundation




Prayer Life







Personal Reflections

Previous Leadership Lesson Series have included the following:

Vision- 8 articles on receiving, communicating, and executing vision.

Communication- links to Leadership Lessons and other resources related to being an effective communicator.

Service- 12-part series on incorporating service into your small group experience.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Boycott Hell

My sister works for EMI/Christian Music Group and just sent me the following about an event she attended last night:
It was a great evening for our company topped off by a special ASCAP Vision Award tribute to DeGarmo and Key for 30 years of pioneering Christian Rock! Eddie and Dana reunited the original band and brought the house down with amazing performances of “Rock Solid” and “Boycott Hell “. You all would have been proud of Eddie.
I am jealous. You see, I am a child of 80's CCM (Contemporary Christian Music)-- Petra, Stryper, Whiteheart, Amy Grant, etc. And of course, the guitar-shaped-keyboard playing Eddie DeGarmo and Dana Key. In my youth group days, I proudly wore a black Boycott Hell t-shirt.

Good times...

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Little Pie Company

I've got to give a shout out to the Little Pie Company in NYC. If you are ever in New York, you've got to go! My friend Genevieve recommended it to me, so I am paying it forward to recommend it to you. Ryan and I decided to try the Mississippi Mud and the Three Berry-- yum. We brought home a cherry but haven't tried it yet.

Weekend Reflections

My reflections on this weekend have nothing to do with church services, leadership summits, or potential leader meetings. It's been a very busy first quarter, so Ryan and I decided to take a weekend off and went to NYC to recharge our batteries. It was a weekend filled with chocolate, caffeine, orange slices (the candy), pizza, pie, soundtracks blaring from our pathetic car CD player, Broadway, and more pie. We also had a near death experience on the NJ Turnpike which was pretty interesting.

Disclaimer: There's absolutely nothing related to discipleship in this post. Here's the rundown on what we saw.

Company- Wow. Wow. I've seen Raul Esparza twice-- Sunday in the Park With George at the Kennedy Center and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on Broadway. He was great in Sunday but not so great in Chitty. Company was fantastic. Barbara Walsh, Angel Desai, and Heather Laws ("I'm Not Getting Married Today") were also great.

Inherit the Wind- Plummer. Dennehy. O'Hare. This was amazing. Not as impressive as Dennehy's Salesman, but still really good. We were in the nose-bleeds, but it was still powerful. Loved the bluegrass band.

The Pirate Queen- Tee Hee. We went to see this one partially because, after a weekend of pathetic relationships (on stage, not my own) and Scopes Monkey Trials, I was ready to be entertained. I wanted smoke, spectacle, lights, lasers, sets, and the full comercialization of Broadway. I got it. And that's about all I got out of this one. Kacey liked the dance. Ryan liked the music and vocals. I just kept thinking that Forbidden Broadway is going to have a field day with it. Stephanie Block was great.

Friday, April 20, 2007

It Must Be a Rough Day...

I am a whistler. I whistle all the time and usually don't even realize that I am whistling or what I am whistling. That's the background.

Alright, as a pastor (and a pastor focused on building community), I know I shouldn't admit this. But what does it mean if I catch myself whistling "I Hate People" from the musical Scrooge? Certainly not a good sign?

The Organic God

Just got my copy of The Organic God in the mail. I did my normal shuffle through the pages thing and found myself totally sucked into the book. I was only able to put it down when Ryan and a zone leader walked into my office and demanded my attention. I'm only 3 chapters into it, but I'm already making a mental list of who needs to read this book. Really good.

I'm super excited about Margaret being with us here at NCC April 28-29 and at the Fusion Conference.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Baby News

I've got Baby News!!!

No, not us. :)

When my sister was in town two weeks ago, she informed us that Baby McClure was on his/her way, but we were sworn to a vow of secrecy until the first trimester mark was passed. Last night, I got the call giving the all-clear on celebrating!! Uncle Ryan and Aunt Heather are so excited!

Congratulations, Laura and Casey!! And Grandparents McClure and Sawyer!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Chasing Lions With Threads

Just got off the phone with Valerie from Lifeway's new Threads line. They are putting out some really cool small group curriculum for young adults.

And it looks like I'm going to be writing the small group curriculum for Mark Batterson's In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day! I'm super excited about it. Looks like it will be available next fall.

Godspell Reflections- Part 2

I just packed up all the Godspell scripts and scores to ship back to Theatre Maximus. On April 3, I shared some of my reflections about the cast, crew, and others whose creativity and energy propelled this project forward. Today, I want to put on my discipleship pastor hat and look at some of the reasons this fell under the discipleship category.

First disclaimer. I love small groups. They will always be my first love and primary focus. However, it takes several months for any sense of community to develop within a small group (unless it's out in the community serving or doing a lot of between-meeting stuff together). There are two unique experiences I've had that catalyze community like nothing else I've ever seen-- going on a mission trip and being in a cast. For some reason, those two experiences throw you into an intense level of community. I think it's due to the fact that both missions and working creatively together force you past the superficial places in relationships, stretch you beyond your comfort level and into areas of raw emotions, and require a level of transparency and authenticity that goes beyond the day-to-day. Also, for a missions trip or a show to be successful, you are forced to rely on one another. There's a level of interdependence that is often not known in other relational spaces.

Godspell created a community of actors, designers, musicians, dancers, ushers, etc. that grew to love one another, encourage one another, challenge one another, pray for one another...all those "one anothering" commands we see in Scripture.

How was it a vehicle for discipleship? At NCC, we believe that any interest, passion, or gift can be used by God as a discipleship opportunity. God can take our skills and spheres of influence and turn them into disciple-making places. We call it the Free Market System. I've seen this work over and over again-- from Fantasy Baseball to sign language to health and nutrition-- people coming together in community around a shared interest but then growing one step closer in their relationship with Christ through the process. So, in theory, I knew this Godspell thing could be a disciple-making effort, as well. The discipleship potential of Godspell went beyond what I thought was possible.

In NCC world, we define a fully devoted follower of Christ using the words Seeker, Learner, Influencer, and Investor. Here's how this happened with Godspell:

Seeker- our cast and crew prayed for one another. They sought God as they developed their characters. They worshiped. They took communion together. They tapped into that "spiritual" side of their faith journeys and grew closer to God at the heart level.

Learner- the cast memorized massive amounts of Scripture for the show. The dialogue is lifted straight from the book of Matthew, so they learned verses, the structure and themes of the book, and the tone and message. They had to dig into the Scriptures to understand the meaning of the words in order to deliver them properly. They had to discover the history and culture of the book-- exegetical work. Then they had to ask "What does this mean to us today?"-- hermeneutical work.

Influencer- as I've already mentioned, these guys developed a sense of community in 3 months that is rare in small groups. But they also became influencers evangelistically, and they invited families, neighbors, co-workers, and friends to see Godspell. Some of them came to hear the Gospel for the first time. Some of them heard the Gospel for the first time in a language they could understand. I'm not advocating using the arts as an evangelistic tool. That's how you get bad art and shallow theology. Rather, I am suggesting that the arts can be probe for exploring the questions of life, a vehicle for communicating truth, and a catalyst for personal and community transformation.

Investor- this one's easy. These guys all invested their finances, time, energy, and talent to this endeavor.

Godspell is over, but we aren't done. Our director, Kacey McGowan, is re-launching Stage Left, a discipleship and training ground for artists.

My encouragement to pastors is this-- give your artists a platform. Yes, I know-- it's a big risk and they are sometimes difficult people. But they can speak prophetically into your church and community. Not to mention into your own life. Love them, encourage them, equip them, and unleash them.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Fried Pickles

This image makes me miss home. It's fried dill pickles from Cock of the Walk. David Russell just sent it to me with the email subject line of "Mmm." He and Missy got to eat them while visiting back down South

I Love Margaret Feinberg

Margaret Feinberg is coming to DC in a few weeks for the Fusion conference, and somehow we managed to convince her to come in early to speak at our weekend services at NCC. Today, we've posted an excerpt from her book The Organic God on

Go read it here.

As always, her writing touches past the surface and stabs right at the gut of my life. I appreciate Margaret for so many reasons-- I admire her wit, her honesty, and her zeal for life. She's all about encouraging people to become all that God created them to be, and that inspires me to keep doing what I do. She's also prodded me and pushed me to chase some lions.

If you are in the DC area April 28-29, come here her at National Community Church. If you are around May 4-5, go to the Fusion Conference!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Chasing Lions Like a Headless Chicken

I love Mark Batterson's In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day. In fact, it looks like I'll be writing the small group curriculum for it (more on that later...) But one of the big questions that comes up when people read it is, "How do I know if 'XY and Z' is a lion that God wants me to chase?"

Great question. Right now, I am facing a few lions that all seem to be running in a million different directions. I would be running around like a chicken with its head cut off if I attempted to chase them all. Chasing all of them makes no sense, and the idea makes me tired. So...I tend to just sit down and watch them run.

And some of the lions are just plain scary. This weekend, one of the leaders at our Alpha retreat said, "You should ___________." Roar. Yeah, I hear it. Trying to ignore it.

This is a weird place for me. I tend to be more of a lion-chaser type of person by nature. I love the risk, thrill, and adventure and I'm not afraid of the potential failure. I'm afraid of chasing the wrong one. I guess it's time to prioritize and start running. At least God can redirect me if I run. It's kinda hard for him to redirect someone who is sitting.

Atlas Registration Day

Today is Atlas Registration Day at NCC. It's kinda like a holiday. Only it's the kind of holiday where you have to work. This is the day that all of our leaders will submit their group information for the summer semester. Once it's all in, then we start putting together the Atlas magazine.

Friday, April 13, 2007

My Brain Hurts

Did Jesus' brain ever hurt? Was he ever overwhelmed by the needs and the activity and excitement around him ? We know that he found regular moments of sneaking away to be with His Father. Were those preventative or restorative? Probably a mixture of both.

My brain hurts right now. It's all really exciting stuff- a new semester launching, a mission trip to Kenya, an opportunity to publish some small group curriculum, brainstorming the next chapter of the arts at NCC, gearing up for The Story and Theology 101, preparing for the Alpha Getaway this weekend, etc...

I spent several hours last night brainstorming with some folks about next steps for part of our small groups ministry, and my brain hurts now. Not in a bad way...but still hurting. I'm so thankful for the place God has put me and the amazing team he has given me to work with.

FAQ: Can someone join a group mid-semester?

Yes and no. We have both "on-going" groups that are easy to jump into at any time. And we also have groups that must be joined in the first two or three weeks of a semester. For instance, a person must join our core discipleship groups within the first 3 weeks (Alpha, Journey, Crown, OT and NT Survey, Spiritual Experiments, etc) or they won't get the full impact of the experience. Most of our groups, however, remain open throughout the semester. It's really at the discretion of the group leader.

I like having groups that can be joined at any time because our church is so transient. We only have some people here for a month or two while they work an internship, so it's good to have places for them to plug into. In other churches, a closed group model may make more sense. Northpoint Community Church does the closed group thing very well and is a great place to get ideas.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

How To Shorten the Discipleship Process

Every now and then, I will dig into my stats to look at what people are reading on my blog. The most fascinating things I see are the google searches that lead people here. One this weekend caught my attention. Someone had landed on this page after googling "How to shorten the discipleship process."

Not sure how they got here with that google search. I guess "discipleship process" and perhaps the fact that I am, indeed, short?

I was so intrigued by it that I decided I had to post about it. No, not intrigued-- shocked.

Here's the short answer, since this person apparently is looking for short answers: There is NO WAY to shorten the discipleship process. If you want to shorten it, then it's time to give up and do something else.

Discipleship is a whole life journey, not an 8-week class. It's about developing the fruit of the Spirit and spiritual gifts and looking more like Christ, not about checking off a set of boxes. It's a process of becoming, not a destination. There is no way to short-circuit discipleship. It's about turning every moment of every day into an encounter with God.

Read what Paul's final encouragement to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:
"Fulfill the the ministry God has given to you. As for me, my life has already been poured out as a drink offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful."
These are not the words of a man who has just finished a set of sprints. These are the words of a man who is on the last leg of a super marathon. Listen to some of his words.

He has been "poured out as a drink offering to God." Are we allowing God to pour us out? Have our lives spilled out all over those that God has entrusted to us?

He "fought a good fight." If you want to shorten a fight, there are three ways you can do it- die, surrender, or win. Unless Jesus returns, the final victory is not something we can control, and I know I don't want to surrender. So I have to keep fighting until the death.

He "remained faithful." Discipleship is not about us and our schedules. It's about remaining faithful to God and the people he has put in our paths.

If someone discovers a Biblical way to shorten the discipleship process, then I am all for it. Until then, I'm going to have to find some way to follow Paul's example.

What Musical Are You?!

What the heck?! I'm not sure I should even post this! Apparently, I am Rent. I know that's going to immediately make me cool in the eyes of some of my friends, but I don't even particularly like Rent.

I think it's time for me to leave the theatre world and go back to my day job!

What Musical Are You?

You're Rent! The best musical in the world! You're wild, crazy, and a little unorthodox. You live life to the fullest because there is no day but today.
Take The Quiz Now!Quizzes by

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Godspell Shots

Here are some pictures from our final weekend of Godspell.

The AMAZING band, under the musical direction of Sarah Chilcote.

This is my personal favorite of all the photos I have seen. Our cast terrorizing director Kacey McGowan.

And finally, the entire cast, crew, and creative team.

All photos by Sarah Chilcote.


I had to find a way to unwind after the crazy post-Easter weekend. We were running non-stop with baptisms, Godspell, Good Friday, Stations of the Cross, Easter services, family in town, etc, and everything came to a screeching halt on Sunday night-- no more Godspell, all the family left, and time to shift gears with the church calendar.

My Monday to unwind was awesome. It began with the Director's Cut of Kingdom of Heaven-- awesome!! Continued at Johnny Rockets with my sister and then on to Camden Yards for the Orioles' home opener against Detroit. Topped off the day with a slice of Ryan's toasted coconut chocolate pecan pie.

It was a good day.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Earlier this week, I did a radio interview with Mike Clark of about our production of Godspell. Most of the interview focused on the relationship between the church and the arts and how churches can incoporate theatre into their faith experiences.

You can read the transcript or listen to the audio here.

Crazy Weekend

This Easter is going to be one of the craziest and most exciting we've ever had! In fact, we've got so much going on that our staff had to put together a play-by-play "run sheet" of how our spaces would be utilized over the next 72 hours. Here's my stuff:
  • Pick up my sister at the airport at 0930 (okay, that's not NCC-critical, but I'm excited)
  • Take a group of NCCers to the Stations of the Cross service at the Franciscan Monastery
  • Attend Good Friday Service
  • Godspell
  • Set up the baptismal
  • Easter Eggstravaganza
  • Video interviews with baptism candidates
  • Saturday night service
  • Baptism service
  • Godspell Easter Vigil Performance
  • Tear down the baptismal
  • Sunrise Easter service
  • NCC Easter service
  • 2 more Godspell performances
Wow-- I'm so excited about all this stuff and can't believe I have such an amazing job!

By the way, the thing I am most excited about is baptism! Two members of the Godspell creative team are getting baptized this weekend, and I'm super excited about it. One of them posted her thoughts here. What an amazing story of God's redeeming love!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

FAQ: How do you connect newcomers with your groups?

Most of our groups remain "open" throughout the course of the semester so that newcomers can jump in at any time. There are 2 primary ways we get new NCCers connected to groups.

The first is the Discipleship Atlas. We distribute this magazine to everyone at weekend services during the 2 weeks leading up to a new semester. The Atlas lists all of the discipleship and small group opportunities for the upcoming semester, and it includes information on where to "start" in identifying and plugging into a group.

The second way we help connect new NCCers is the Connection Cafe. We host Connection Cafes for all of our locations on the kickoff Sunday of each semester. We serve a meal and have small group leaders on hand to talk to people. Each participant has the opportunity to register for a group at Connection Cafe.

A more indirect way we help people plug in is by offering shorter term groups, workshops, and seminars that serve as mid-steps between weekend services and small groups. Examples include our May Term groups, Week of Justice, and Marriage Matters.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Godspell Reflections- Part 1

Many of my regular readers are here to brainstorm discipleship stuff, and they probably wonder when I'll get off this Godspell kick and back to writing about semester systems, discipleship models, and training resources. I promise I'm going back to that. But much of my personal spiritual growth right now is coming from my involvement in the Godspell production, and I just have to write about it. I'm entitling this entry "Part 1" because I'm sure it won't be the last.

I've always been fascinated by the "dream" stories in the Bible-- Joseph, Jacob, Daniel, Peter, John. In fact, it seems that God spoke to people through dreams about 20 different times in the Bible. I believe God is still in the business of speaking through dreams-- both the actual dreams of the night and the dreams that we discover in those moments of wide wakefulness that seem to come from somewhere beyond.

I've just had the unforgettable experience of seeing God move one of the dreams he gave me from a crazy idea in the head of a high school freshman in Mobile, Alabama to the stage of a coffeehouse in Washington, DC. I saw Godspell for the first time in 1988, and I still remember the names of the cast and band members from that production. I was so moved that I decided then and there that I would be a part of it one day. It's been fun to watch God move the dream forward and how he has built a team of people to accomplish it. Isn't it interesting that God gives the same dream to multiple people?

We just finished our first weekend of Godspell, and wow...I keep telling myself "We just did Godspell." It's been hard to process. At times, I've felt too removed from the main action of this process to be fully impacted. At other times, I've felt too close to the main action to understand the impact. You never know how you're going to react when God allows you to be a part of the impossible-- uncontrollable shouts of joy, tears, peacefulness. For me, I just keep thinking, "We just did Godspell." I don't think it will hit me for a few weeks.

Let me make an observation about chasing God-sized dreams: you need a team. At this point, I'm more excited about being a part of this particular team than I am about Godspell itself. Our cast is amazing.

Nathan Spiwak heard about the auditions the day before they happened, and he landed a role that requires so much from an actor-- both onstage and off. He has committed huge chunks of Scripture to memory and helps people see Jesus for the first time every night he steps on stage. He's made significant investments, and they are paying off.

Dan Cummins' theatrical resume is my favorite-- the middle section of the dragon in his fourth grade play. It's been so much fun to watch his growth and development. He is singer, comedian, and at some point even turned into a dancer. I love his attitude. He portrays the everyman that each of us can identify with. I look forward to seeing how God uses him artistically in the future.

Chris Girardi is comedy central. So often, I have said, "I am so glad Chris is in this show." He's been a part of the Godspell conversation since it first started, saying he had always wanted to be a in play. He rocks his song every night and he brings laughs at just the right time-- both onstage and off.

Jessica Johnson was not even on my radar screen-- I had no idea she had such a wonderful voice and was such a great dancer until she came out for the audition. She also has the amazing ability to remember her lines and everyone else's, and she has saved this show and her fellow actors on more than one occasion. She sings two of my favorite songs from the show- On the Willows and By My Side.

Bekah Kitterman has one of the most critical roles in the show. It is the character that most clearly represents the story of forgiveness and healing, and she brings it every single night. There are a few people that I really enjoy watching perform, and Bekah is one of them. She's incredibly gifted in so many areas, and she did all of our graphics and branding work as well.

Robin Landauer took a break from small group leadership this semester in order to be a part of this production, and I'm so glad she did. Yes-- I just said I was glad that a small group leader actually stopped leading their group in order to be a part of this. While Robin has a lot of vocal experience, I think this is her first stage musical. She tackles one of the most difficult songs in the show- Oh Bless the Lord- and she reminds us that we have to continue to go to God in prayer through this process. She is an encouragement to me and to others in the cast.

JoyAnna Neiner has shown incredible persistence. Every actor knows that the process is a struggle, and JoyAnna has gone through that process with this show. She has a challenging role in that the character she was given is harder to develop than most of the others, and that has required her to make difficult choices. I've seen her step out of her comfort zone over and over again to bring life and joy to the stage.

Lisa Overman has been on since day one. I was so impressed with her audition, and I think we decided right then and there that she would be our Day by Day girl. The first time I ever heard her sing "Long live God," I thought I was going to cry. She has been a constant encouragement to the cast and has been a source of joy throughout this entire process. Bring back the chicken!!

Jen Watts has been one of our hardest workers and has one of the best attitudes in the cast, and she is hilarious onstage. Many times, character development is made in the small things-- Jen has made big decisions about the little things and it shows in her performance. It's the little expressions and gestures that round out the big stuff she does on stage.

Ryan Zempel is the best. Okay, he's my husband so I have to be biased. But I love his commitment to this process and his hard work. I'm so grateful that we've had an opportunity to be a part of the creative process together. And I love his Prodigal Son and Good Samaritan bits.

And that's just the cast. Then, there's the creative team. People like Pat Thomas who come early every night to set up chairs and stay late to strike the house. People like Genevieve Williams who has more experience than most of us could ever imagine having but has invested her personal time and energy into this show. People like Sarah Chilcote and Ellen Auer who are absolutely amazing at what they do and make people sound great vocally. People like Renee Vogel and Tiffani Hampton that can make the stage dance. People like Eryn Chaney who has tons of experience but came to be stage manager out of the goodness of her heart and encountered the goodness of Christ in the process. People like Kristen Hampton and Jared Johnson who have given their time and efforts to make sure the people on the stage look good. Our band- Dustin Exley, John Purcell, Jason Wolfe, and their fearless leader Sarah Chilcote.

And people like Kacey McGowan whose heart beats for God and the people and vision that God has entrusted to her care. She has poured countless hours, prayers, and tears into this thing, and there is no way anyone will ever be able to fully understand how much she has sacrificed to make this thing happen.

These are good people. If anyone questions what any of this theatre stuff has to do with making disciples, I simply point to the community that has been built, the lives that have been changed, and the way these people have transformed my own life. I will post later on exactly how this process has fit into our discipleship strategy of Be One Make One For One and how these people have grown as seekers, learners, influencers, and investors. For now, I'll just say that this is the kind of community that I believes Christ prayed for in John 17-- "that they would be one."