Friday, June 29, 2007

Heading South

I haven't had a chance to blog notes or reflections from the Buzz Conference, and I don't have time to do it now. But I've got to say that Craig Groeschel's talk today was probably the most convicting message I have ever heard in my entire life. After the session, I went to the prayer chapel to help our prayer team pray for pastors, but I found myself needing to spend some time with God on my own. Get the audio.

Anyway, more on that later...

I'm heading South in just a few hours. My Gran, Edith Berry (known for years as Gran Berry to all of my friends) is turning 90 on July 5. So Ryan and I are heading down to Mobile for a little birthday bash. We are hoping to consume some fried dill pickles, BBQ, and good Southern living while we are down there. I'll be checking out of the blogosphere for a few days.

When I return, I'm sure I will have a special series of posts on Why I Love Alabama.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Frequently Asked Questions

On this blog, I've been addressing some of the frequently asked questions that get emailed to us or asked at conferences about how we do discipleship and small groups at NCC. I've compiled a complete list of the questions that have been tackled to date. They cover our discipleship philosophy, the design and content of our discipleship map, our semester system and leadership structure, our training and communication, and how we recruit.

If there's something you would like me to address, please let me know.

Discipleship Philosophy

How do you do discipleship in rented facilities?

Why do you do small groups?

What is the "free market" small group system?

We want to start small groups in our church. How do we begin?

What if the church has a bad taste in its mouth because small groups were tried and failed in the past?

Are you a church "of" small groups or a church "with" small groups?

What is the difference between a "small group" and a "ministry?"

I've seen the "Be One, Make One, For One" slogan. What does it mean?

What is Seeker, Learner, Influencer, Investor?

Does "Seeker, Learner, Influencer, Investor" represent a linear growth process?

Semester System

Why do operate on a semester system?

What are the dates of your semesters?

Do Sunday morning ministries operate on the semester system?

What is May Term?

Discipleship Map

What is the Discipleship Map?

The 2007 Updated Discipleship Map

What's the deal with non-linear discipleship?

What are the components of the discipleship map?

Is the discipleship map implemented and followed by groups or individuals?

Can people take a non-linear path through the discipleship map?

Do you focus the entire church around one aspect of discipleship at a time?

What is Alpha?

What is Journey?

What is The Story?

What is Inward Bound?

What is Crown?

What is "Spiritual Experiments?"

What is Holy Spirit Encounter?

What is Old Testament Survey?

What is Bible Study Methods?

Leadership Structure

How do you structure your leadership?

What are the requirements and expectations for zone leaders?

What are the requirements and expectations for team leaders?

How many of your leaders are in full-time paid staff positions?

Leadership Training

What's the process for becoming a leader?

How do you train leaders?

How often do you meet with your leaders?

What is the annual leadership retreat?

Practically speaking, what does a typical annual leadership retreat look like?

What is the leadership summit?

What are zone meetings?

What is Leadership 101?

How do you recruit leaders?


How do you communicate with your leaders?

What is a win sheet?

What is

What is the First Friday Podcast?

Group Recruitment

What is the Discipleship Atlas?

How do you connect newcomers to a small group?

Can someone join a group mid-semester?


Why are people only at NCC for two years?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Just Arrived

Add two more books to my Theology 101 prep stack, newly arrived from

Who Needs Theology? An Invitation to the Study of God (Stanley Grenz and Roger Olson)

Christian Theology (Alister McGrath)

Thanks to Mike McGowan for the recommendations.

As usual, had a great discussion at Theology 101 tonight as we explored the doctrine of God. Looks like we are going to have to schedule a special breakout night to talk more in-depth about creation.

On My Desk

Back at the office, here's what's on my desk for preparation for Theology 101. I thought I'd post it for those who have asked questions about how we are structuring it, what issues we are covering, etc.

Bible Doctrine (Wayne Grudem)
Christian Beliefs (Wayne Grudem)
Systematic Theology (Stanley Horton)
Renewal Theology (J. Rodmann Williams)
Theology for the Community of God (Stanley Grenz)
Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology (Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy)
Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Walter A. Elwell)

On the Stage at New Amsterdam

I stood on a Broadway stage for the first time on Sunday evening- the New Amsterdam Theatre, home to Disney's and Cameron Mackintosh's Mary Poppins. I was tempted to belt a line or two from On My Own, but my deep respect for the ground on which I stood encouraged me to keep my mouth shut. I'm pretty sure Ryan did a little shuffle step while no one was watching.

Ryan and I headed up to see the show this weekend because my old theatre buddy Matt Loehr was performing the role of Bert. I came to know Matt first as the mischievous and pesky brother of my good friend Kira, and then watched him grow from a kid in a furry Wilbur costume to a talented teenager in community theatre to a leading man on Broadway. I'm so proud of this guy. He's a triple threat- actor, singer, dancer. And he can tap dance all the way around the proscenium. You'll have to see the show to completely understand.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Friday Feature: Funny Things in Church

For some reason, John Hasler and I stumbled across this video earlier this week. Hilarious.

Why I Love Alabama

Here is another reason why I love Alabama:

#73- No legal limit on quantity of exterior Christmas lights per household.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Names for the Grandparents

I'm not sure what to think about the fact that my most commented-to post so far in the history of this blog is related to the naming of Baby Mac (my sister's kid). Anyway...seems like now we need to come up with some names for my parents-- Regena and Norvelle--the grandparents-to-be.

Obviously, we can't use the names "Regena" and "Norvelle" as any part of their grandparent name because the poor kid would be a teenager before learning how to spell them.

The current option includes Skeeter and Scooter, which I am guessing won't have a long shelf life in the warehouse of possibilities once Regena hears about it.

Anybody got suggestions?

NCC Undercover

I just typed up my notes for NCC Undercover. It's a special session of the Buzz Conference where NCC staff will talk about how they do what they do and best practices for creating culture and doing ministry. Here are a few of the best practices I plan to talk about:
  1. Ask the tough questions. (Why are you doing groups? What mission or purpose do you hope groups will fulfill in your church? What is your philosophy of community? What is your philosophy of discipleship? How do you expect groups to facilitate and promote community and discipleship within your congregation? What is your culture? Do you expect every church member to be in a group? What role will the lead pastor play? How will the groups grow?)
  2. Harness the creativity, passion, and innovation of the leaders.
  3. Find a rhythm.
  4. Develop a discipleship strategy.
  5. Market your groups internally and externally.
  6. Focus your time on leaders, not groups.
  7. Implement a relational structure.
  8. Ask the tough questions...again
To hear more, register now for NCC Undercover.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

It's a Girl

Just heard from my sister Laura. She and Casey are having a girl! YAY! It seems more real to me now that we know the gender of the baby.

They had a couple boy names picked out, but none for girls. Feel free to throw out your two cents. She didn't seem to like Gertrude or Matilda.

Semester Goals

Each semester, I spend a day setting semester goals. These include the regular calendar events that roll around each semester, like Leadership 101, Leadership Summit, monthly podcasts, etc. They include bigger picture events like missions trips. And they include personal study goals.

I just closed out my spring goal list, and I realize now why spring was so busy. I wrote a small group curriculum, produced Godspell, and led 22 people to Kenya. I knocked out 4 life goals in a 3- month time span.

The summer looks like it will be a bit more relaxed. Now, I just have to avoid the temptation to load it up with big projects.

Which Theologian Are You?

Evidently, about half of my small group wasn't able to access the Theological Worldview quiz last week because their work filters blocked it for "porn content." Great. Leave it to the discipleship pastor to lead their small group into bad websites. I guess these quiz sites have the potential to be bad.

At the risk of causing more trouble, here is another quiz: Which Theologian are you? Some of these questions are weird-- and opposing questions don't cancel each other out. Hence, my struggle between Arminianism and Calvinism is once again apparent. I don't like the pelagianism comment. Actually, I think a lot of this quiz is pretty messed up. Some of the questions are really bad.

You scored as Charles Finney, You're passionate about God and love to preach the Gospel. Your theology borders on pelagianism and it is said that if God were taken out of your theology, it would look exactly the same.

Charles Finney


John Calvin


Karl Barth




Friedrich Schleiermacher


Martin Luther


Jonathan Edwards




Jürgen Moltmann


Paul Tillich


Which theologian are you?
created with

Monday, June 18, 2007


I picked up a great new CD recently: Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby. It's an adventurous blending of two amazing musicians. This is good bluegrass. They've re-done Hornsby's Mandolin Rain, and it's fantastic. There's also a very interesting bluegrass rendition of Superfreak.

I'm not a country fan, but I do love some good bluegrass. Throw in Skaggs and Hornsby and you can't go wrong.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Why I Love Alabama

Here is another reason why I love Alabama:

#80- Mayors who also conveniently sell insurance and used cars.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Kenya: Ten Things to Remember

I just posted Ten Things to Remember on our Team Kenya blog, and I thought I'd list them here, as well:
  1. Chapati
  2. Java House
  3. Steph Modder leading worship in Swahili
  4. Heather Gonzales sleep-talking (Doug, bugs, etc)
  5. Bumpy bus rides through the streets of Nairobi
  6. Arriving at the Kichwa Tembo tented camp at Maasai Mara
  7. Puking out the window of the bus
  8. Excited kids grabbing Book of Hope and “making melody in my heart”
  9. Tanny Ho’s Mary Poppins-like bag, complete with 3 flashlights, sewing kit, and bubble wrap
  10. Late nights and early mornings under big African skies

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Theological Worldview

In celebration of the kick-off of Theology 101, I am posting my results for this Theological Worldview quiz. I took this a couple years ago and came out a little bit higher on the emergent/post-modern side. I'm not sure how I can be so Wesleyan, Reformed, and Pentecostal at the same time!

What are you?

You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan,You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Reformed Evangelical






Neo orthodox




Classical Liberal


Roman Catholic


Modern Liberal


What's your theological worldview?
created with

Monday, June 11, 2007

Theology 101

Theology 101 is a stop on the Learner Island of our NCC Discipleship Map. I'm shooting for a quasi- systematic theology approach to the curriculum, drawing from a number of resources. Our first group meeting is tonight, and I have no idea what to expect. We didn't require RSVPs for this one, so I don't know if we'll have 8 or 80. If we have 8, it will be more like a facilitated discussion small group. If it's 80, it will be more platform/lecture driven like The Story. It's really difficult to prepare when I have no clue how many people might show up.

Regardless, it will definitely have a more academic feel, and I think the syllabus will look something like this:

June 11- Introduction, Goals, and Definitions
June 18- The Doctrine of the Bible
June 25- The Doctrine of God
July 9- The Doctrine of Man
July 16- The Doctrine of Christ and Redemption
July 23- The Doctrine of the Church
July 30- The Doctrine of the Future

Perhaps a bit ambitious? Did I leave anything out?

Why I Love Alabama

I wasn't planning to post another "Why I Love Alabama" until Friday, but this was too good to pass up.

Busy Day

It's going to be a busy day in the office of Heather Zempel. My deadline for the Chase the Lion small group curriculum is today, so I've got to finish that and email it off to my publisher. And I crank up the Theology 101 small group tonight. Theology 101 is one of the "stops" on our Discipleship Map, and this semester is our first time to offer it.

12 hours to go...and then a few days break!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Kenya Highlights Video

Last night, Nathan Gonzales and Jeremy Sexton edited our Kenya highlights reel. I just watched it.


I am so glad NCCers will see that before I get up to preach this weekend. It will help put my comments into context and perspective.

After Sunday, I will try to post it here and over on our Team Kenya blog.

Variety Show 2007

Every year, NCC does a Variety Show. It's a variety of insanity, mostly, with a few legitimate acts and talents thrown in. I'm still trying to forget the fiasco of last year. Elvis.

I just got my staff assignment for this year's show, and it seems there will be more potential embarassment. I can't give any more details at this point, but you won't want to miss it. July 2007.

Why I Love Alabama

A few years ago, my mom gave me abook, Why I Live in Alabama: 101 Dang Good Reasons. I no longer live in Alabama (though there are some days I wish I did), but I do love Alabama.

I thought I'd share a couple of those 101 reasons today:

#89- Fried Catfish

#28- Fried Pie

The word "fried" shows up a lot in this list.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Great Team

I will be posting personal reflections on the Kenya experience for several days. They are going up as I have the time and the thoughts, so they are in no particular order and may not even make much sense. Oh well.

My thought for today: what a great team. I minister alongside people like Brian and Kim Hill, Nathan and Heather Gonzales, and Steph Modder every day in Washington, DC. But there was something about seeing them do their thing in Kenya that made my heart swell with gratitude that I get to be a part of their lives and do ministry with these people.

Brian and Kim are zone leaders, and I know they are gifted group leaders and disciple-makers. But watching them in action in Kenya as they shared from the Bible and their experience stirred a new appreciation in me. Brian and Kim were also my Aarons and Hurs on this trip, stepping into leadership capacities when I needed a reprieve.

Nathan and Heather are amazing communicators. They teach from a place of humility and learning. They don't present as those who have arrived, but as fellow pilgrims on the road of following Christ. They are funny and engaging and their words are practical and memorable.

Steph is a gifted worship leader. We all know that. And we take it for granted. I've heard Steph lead worship hundreds of times. But I don't know that I fully appreciated her until that one unforgettable worship set in Kenya. I think I probably wrote in my journal "Thank God Steph is on this trip" about four times.

I could go on and on about each and every person on our team and the unique contributions they made.

We have a little formula around here:

Change of Pace + Change of Place = Change of Perspective

That has proven true in my life over and over again. On the Kenya trip, my perspective change came profoundly in the way I viewed and appreciated the people that God has placed in my life. In the future, I hope it doesn't take a trip half-way around the world to remind me how blessed I am to minister alongside people like Brian, Kim, Nathan, Heather, and Steph.

Who is on your team? When were you last in awe of the way God worked in them and through them? When did you last tell them how much you appreciated them?

Let's take some time today to appreciate the people on our teams. Thank God for them. And thank them.

African Rhythm

One thing I learned in Kenya is that the whole "African Rhythm" thing is a myth. You watch movies like Out of Africa or I Dreamed of Africa and you hear it over and over: "There's a different rhythm in Africa." Things happen at a slower pace. Relationships take more time. It's slow.


Nothing slowed down for us. We were up at 6 am most mornings and not in bed before midnight. That whole African Rhythm bit must have been cooked up by the East African Board of Tourism and weaseled into Hollywood representations of life in Africa to lure weary Americans over there. There's a rhythm, but it often feels more like the DC rhythm.

The African Rhythm kicked my butt, and I'm still recovering from it.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Kenya Pictures

I've posted some more Kenya pictures over at our Team Kenya blog. You can see them here. I'm too lazy right now to post them here, as well. At least for now.

I'm heading out of the office today to process some of our experiences and try to brainstorm some next steps for our team.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Home Again

Safari: Elephants

Book of Hope: St. James School

Safari: Lion

Team Kenya returned yesterday; you can read about our adventures here. I'll post some more personal thoughts on this blog later. For now, I'll leave you with some images from the trip.