Monday, January 28, 2008

Reflections From the Road

Hopped in my car today for a week of vacation in Nashville, TN. The trip takes about 10 hours, so it's an easy quick getaway. I'm so thankful for my sister Laura and brother-in-law Casey who always graciously open their home for me when I need a quick escape from the Beltway. And I love getting to see my little baby niece, Ruthie.

Some reflections from the road:
  • A fully charged iPod will keep you entertained from DC to Nashville.
  • Babies sure change a lot in 2 months.
  • The State of the Union seemed pretty bland tonight. I guess it's typical going into an election year. And I was disappointed he didn't mention switchgrass this year (only about 2 of you will understand my connection to that, but oh well)
  • I'm already thinking about Leadership Retreat 2009. I can't shut it off!
  • I saw the final episode of Lost Season 3 last night. Oh my goodness.
  • I did an interview today with Bill Donahue of the Willow Creek Association. He's doing a highlight article on NCC's small group ministry for an upcoming issue of Rev magazine.

Mission Being Accomplished

Thanks to all of you who prayed for our leadership retreat this past weekend. I haven't been able to fully process it or put into words what God did in my own life. Not to mention what he continued to work within the lives and ministries of our leaders. We are now committed to Forcefully Advancing the kingdom of God in Washington, DC through prayer, sharing our faith, serving our community, and living for the heartbeat of God.

I posted some of my initial reflections here on We'll post notes from sessions and breakouts in the coming days and weeks.

If you lead small group ministry or leadership development at your church, I can't encourage you enough to do an annual leadership retreat. It's probably the most important thing we do in the discipleship department at NCC.

Friday, January 25, 2008


I'm outta here. Heading to West Virginia for our Annual Leadership Retreat. If you're reading this, please lift up a quick prayer for us. Our theme this year is Forceful Advance, and we'll be encouraging our leaders to be on the frontlines of forcefully advancing the Kingdom of God through strategic evangelism, exponential discipleship, and sacrificial service. It's going to be a great time for our leaders to catch vision, connect with one another, pray, play, and gear up for leading their groups and ministries.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

My Favorite Small Group Leader

My favorite small group leader today is Team Leader Lisa Suwandi. Why? Because she showed up today with goodies in hand for her leaders at leadership retreat. But more importantly, she showed up with goodies for me. An entire box of moonpies and a collection of Reese's candy. She also brought me a pad of Wicked Witch of the West sticky notes. So very fitting for this week, in particular.

So today Lisa is my favorite. Yes, I have favorites. So did Jesus.


Just returned from a 2-hour tour of the Northern Virginia Targets, Best Buys, and B&Ns to pick up some prizes for games at Leadership Retreat. It's probably one of my favorite retreat planning activities. I can't divulge the actual prizes yet, because some of our crazy leaders actually read this blog. I wasn't particularly creative this year, but it will still be fun.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Late Night

I'm so excited about our Annual Leadership Retreat that I almost can't contain myself! Half the staff is still up here in the office cranking away. Jeremy's making trailers. Dave's making videos. David is working on the online atlas. John's scheming with his new "Collective" guys.

We're actually pretty ahead of the game for this year's retreat. I usually pull a couple of close all-nighters the week of the retreat, but it looks like we'll have most stuff wrapped up COB tomorrow. There's a sick side of me that loves the last-minute pressure, the punch-drunkenness and shared experience of the late night, and the fifth wind adrenaline rush after the 2-hour sleep. But I don't think that sick side will be fueled this year.

Tonight promises to be a late night, though. But I'm excited about it. It's time for Forceful Advance!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Groups Go Live

Our Online Discipleship Atlas launched on our website this weekend. Huge props to David Russell for all his hard work. You can search for groups by type, area, day of the week, etc. We've got about 85 opportunities this semester (there are a couple more groups that need to get registered)-- Bible and book study groups, core discipleship groups, groups for men, women, and couples, service groups and interest groups. I'm really excited about this semester!

Check out the groups at

Friday, January 18, 2008

Hallway Full of Food

Right outside my office door is a mountain of food-- cookies, candy bars, fruit, cokes, chips, snack mix, etc. Thanks to the leadership and influence of zone leader Leslie Adams, the presence of "heavy snacks" has assumed an important and much appreciated place of prominence at our Annual Leadership Retreat. But it's really tempting as I sit here today merely inches away from a snickers but miles and days away from my ability to enjoy them. It will be an exercise in discipline to refrain from opening up these goodies. Thanks to Chandler Hill for grabbing all this stuff and keeping Costco in business today.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Annual Leadership Retreat: Forceful Advance

Our Annual Leadership Retreat is in one week. I posted about the theme and content over at earlier today, and I've re-published it here.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
In Acts 1:8, Jesus left his disciples with an impossible goal- to spread the Gospel to the entire known world. And they did it. They surrendered their reputations, their careers, their comfort, and their lives, but they accomplished the mission. The story of the Bible is a story of God forcefully advancing his Kingdom in the world of his creation, and he has invited us to play a role.

At the 2008 Annual Leadership Retreat, we will talk about the responsibility of our generation to forcefully advance the Kingdom of God in our time by sharing our faith with others here and abroad, living and giving sacrificially, and influencing others for Christ. We will talk about having a dream worth dying for, living like we are playing offense, leaving a legacy, and leading through sacrifice.


What are you living for? Is it worth your life? Would it be worth dying for? For centuries, people have run after the vision of advancing God's kingdom, and it's a vision they've given their entire lives for. The early church was watered by the blood of the martyrs and heroes of the church continue to lay down their lives for the Gospel today.


Are you playing defense or playing offense? In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, "I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." Gates are defensive measures; they assume an attack is coming. That means the church is supposed to be on offense, forcefully advancing against the darkness. Too often, we approach our lives like we are playing defense. For too long the church has been ignored and swept away to the margins of society. Many times, we have removed ourselves from the fight for culture, truth, and beauty. When Martin Luther stood up for truth and nailed the 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, he forcefully advanced the Kingdom of God. When missionaries packed their entire lives into a coffin and sailed around the world to live in unknown lands, they forcefully advanced the Kingdom of God. And when NCCers go to Uganda to build an orphanage, they forcefully advance the Kingdom of God.


Is your influence lasting? What lives are you impacting? Are you making a name for yourself in this life, or are you making a name for Christ for eternity? In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul encouraged his young pastor apprentice, "You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others." Paul didn't just have Timothy on his brain; he was also thinking about the trustworthy men that Timothy would influence and the other men that the trustworthy men would influence. The Kingdom of God is advanced by Pauls, Timothys, faithful men, and others who are willing to keep passing their faith down through the generations. When Paul discipled Timothy, he forcefully advanced the Kingdom of God. When John Wesley developed his class meetings to help his ministry partners grow in their faith, he forcefully advanced the Kingdom of God. When NCCers invite others into a journey of spiritual growth in small groups, they forcefully advance the Kingdom of God.


What does your leadership cost you? If we are truly leading, there will be a cost. Just ask Daniel during that long night in the lion's den. Ask Paul in prison. Ask Jesus as he drags his cross up a hill with the hatred of the world spewed on him. In John 15:13, John said, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." The Kingdom of God is forcefully advanced through sacrifice and service to others. When the martyrs willingly entered the flames, they forcefully advanced the Kingdom of God. When Mother Teresa gave her life for the lepers and the unloved, she forcefully advanced the Kingdom of God. When NCCers hand a sandwich to a homeless brother or sister, they forcefully advance the Kingdom of God.

Are You In?

We are here today because the generations before us have played offense, left a legacy, and sacrificed for the Kingdom of God. They were captivated by a vision worth their lives.

It's time for our generation to march to the rhythm of God's heartbeat and to advance the Gospel in our day. Are you in?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Small Groups are Coming

I'm really excited about our Spring 2008 semester! We'll be handing out these postcards this weekend, and we'll hand out the Atlas on the weekend of January 26-27. Our new online group directory will go live this weekend.

Bedside Computer

I've decided I need to put a computer by my bed at night. I keep waking up in the middle of the night and early in the morning with my head spinning (yes, it's only 9 days until leadership retreat, and I'm starting to get a little loopy). I realize I should discipline myself to turn this craziness off and sleep, but it's no use.

I don't think I've ever been this excited about a leadership retreat!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Weekend Unwind

Wow, what a weekend. Here are some highlights and what I've been doing to unwind:
  • Reconnected with my old friend Mike Jeffries from Dauphin Way Baptist Church days. It's really cool to see how God is using a lot of my buddies from that place.
  • Preached the second message of our How series at NCC-- How to Read the Bible. It was painfully practical, yet I felt more inspired and excited about that message than just about any other I've ever preached. It's so important that we be swept into the Word of God.
  • So excited I got to sit down and watch the Cowboys and Giants. Bummed about the outcome, though.
  • Ryan fixed our washing machine. YAY!
  • Finished Disc 3 of Lost Season 3.
  • We have cable now. It's a whole new world. That guy on Man vs. Wild is crazy.
  • I can't wait for Leadership Retreat.
  • Ryan's oatmeal pancakes are amazing.
Okay, that's all. Gonna go read some...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

How to Study the Bible Notes

Last year, I prepared How to Read the Bible resource notes for our Journey series. I uploaded them earlier on, if you are interested in checking them out. It gives guidance on how to read devotionally, how to study inductively, how to meditate Biblically, and how to memorize for life change.

How to Read the Bible

We kicked off a new sermon series at NCC on Sunday: How. We are exploring different spiritual growth disciplines/activities and striving to be painfully practical about how to do them. Pastor Mark kicked off the series last week with How to Set Goals. Goal-setting is an exercise of faith when those goals are set in prayer and with a mind towards worship.

This week, I'm continuing with How to Read the Bible. Last year, I talked about 4 different ways to approach the Bible- devotional reading, inductive study, meditation, and memorization. This year, think I'm going to focus more on 5-8 principles for how to read the Bible that are applicable across the board.

I also really want to inspire people to read their Bibles; I think that's probably the most important thing I can do. I think we take it for granted so much here and we need to hear stories about people who walk for 7 days to the closest village to obtain a copy of the Bible. We need to rediscover an appreciation for the Word of God and cultivate a hunger for it.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A Big Leadership Retreat

I just got the final attendance count for our Annual Leadership Retreat. Looks like we're going to have 140+ leaders there. Wow! When did we get so many leaders? This will be the largest leadership retreat we've ever had.

Our theme is Forceful Advance, and I will begin posting notes on later this week. I'm so excited!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Littlest Tiger

Wow-- how 'bout them Tigers last night? I was a little worried there in the first quarter, but then they started playing like an SEC team, and I was super proud of them. Great game. My condolences to Christina Regule, Nick Schaer, and Jeremy Sexton. :)

Check this out! My little niece Ruthie is ready for the game! How cute is that?

I have to point out how much happier she looks with her LSU doll than she did with that awful Alabama hat on her head earlier this year.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

One More

Totally forgot one of the best books I read last year-- unChristian by Dave Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. I even wrote an online review of it. So...I guess that makes 42.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

2007 Book List

I set a goal to read 50 books in 2007. I only read 41, but I'm hoping that writing the Chase the Lion curriculum (and thereby reading In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day at least half a dozen times) and New Testament book introductions for an upcoming Thomas Nelson project count for something!

Anyway, here is a complete list of what I read with a short description of why I read it and links to any online reviews that I might have written.
  • Humility: The Journey Toward Holiness (Andrew Murray; personal development)- REVIEW
  • Humility: True Greatness (C.J. Mahaney; personal development)- REVIEW
  • Feminine Appeal (Carolyn Mahaney; Radical Femininity sermon preparation)
  • Imagine (Steve Turner; Godspell preparation)- REVIEW
  • Christian Beliefs (Wayne Grudem; Theology 101 preparation)
  • Living the Cross-Centered Life (C. J. Mahaney; personal development)
  • The Blogging Church (Brian Bailey and Terry Storch; professional development)
  • Captivating (stasi Eldredge; Radical Femininity sermon preparation)
  • Fight Like a Girl (Lisa Bevere; Radical Femininity sermon preparation)
  • Why Small Groups? (C. J. Mahaney; discipleship/groups R&D)- REVIEW
  • Confessions of a Pastor (Craig Groeschel; personal development)- REVIEW
  • The Kentucky Cycle (Robert Shenkkan; just for kicks)
  • Go Big With Small Groups (Bill Easum; discipleship/groups R&D)- REVIEW
  • Who Needs Theology? (Stanley Grenz; Theology 101 preparation)
  • Across the Spectrum (Gregory Boyd; Theology 101 preparation)- REVIEW
  • Bible Doctrine (Wayne Grudem; Theology 101 preparation)
  • Systematic Theology (Stanley Horton; Theology 101 preparation)
  • Theology for the Community of God (Stanley Grenz; Theology 101 preparation)
  • Making Small Groups Works (Henry Cloud and John Townsend; discipleship/group R&D)- REVIEW
  • Ancient-Future Evangelism (Robert Webber; discipleship/group R&D)- REVIEW
  • They Like Jesus But Not the Church (Dan Kimball; professional development)- REVIEW
  • Why Didn’t You Warn Me? (Pat Sikora; discipleship/group R&D)- REVIEW
  • Organic Community (Joseph Meyers; discipleship/group R&D)- REVIEW
  • Simple Church (Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger; professional development)
  • A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 (Phillip Keller; zonegathering series research)
  • Steel Magnolias (Robert Harling; just for kicks)
  • Vision That Sticks (Andy Stanley; professional development)
  • When Leadership and Discipleship Collide (Bill Hybels; professional development)
  • Static (Ron Martoia; Neighborhoods and Nations preparation)
  • Practical Justice (Kevin Blue; Neighborhoods and Nations preparation)- REVIEW
  • Just Walk Across the Room (Bill Hybels; Neighborhoods and Nations preparation)
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (J. K. Rowling; just for kicks)
  • The Way is Made by Walking (Arthur Boers; personal development)
  • Following Jesus- Biblical Reflections on Discipleship (N. T. Wright; personal development)
  • Reimagining Evangelism (Rick Richardson; Neighborhoods and Nations preparation)
** This list doesn't include 6 pre-published manuscripts that I read for publisher review requests. I'll post information on those books when they are released.