Friday, October 31, 2008

Reflections from the Offsite

I took a half day off-site today. It's amazing how much work I can get done when I'm not at work. Here are a few thoughts I had:
  • When you walk around DC with "God of This City" on your iPod, you are overwhelmed with a profound sense of destiny.
  • They called it Capitol Hill for a reason.
  • I love the moon rock at the Air and Space Museum. I have to touch it every time I go in; it's a ritual.
  • Our zone leader/team leader retreat is going to be awesome!
  • Um, I gotta seriously get my writing butt in gear fast! I've got a manuscript due beginning of December. Yikes!
  • I need to be intentional about scheduling more reading time.
  • I need to get off-site more often.
  • I love our Proteges.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Everything is an Experiment

I think I'm going to start blogging on the 10 points I made during my breakout session at Willow Creek Group Life Conference, Everything is an Experiment: Creative Community for Emerging Generations.

Here is the outline:
  1. Understand Cultural Trends; Embrace Individuals
  2. Give Young Adults a Platform
  3. Harness the Power of Creativity
  4. Validate Community Where It Exists
  5. Make Groups Experiential, Intellectual, and Relational
  6. Make Discipleship Non-Linear
  7. Discover a Rhythm
  8. Harness the Power of Story
  9. Harness the Power of Technology
  10. Be You
If you are interested in listening to the audio from the session, you can purchase it here. You can download the MP3 here. I'll start blogging on these ideas in depth next week.

Write to Think

I was going over some old notes today in preparation for launching into some writing assignments that I need to do. I came across a quote from Don Everts, "I write to think." That resonated with me so much!

I've been really struggling over my calling as a writer. I think it's something I need to be doing. It's just not something I particularly enjoy doing or feel gifted in doing. I'm not a Mark Batterson who feels "as called to write as he does to preach." For me, I feel as called to advocate for the arts as I do to preach. But all of these writing doors keep opening up.

Writing to think. That makes sense to me. The more I write, the more I learn. About issues, about God, about others, about myself. It forces me to make sense (or try to make sense) of the confusion around me and find balance in the tensions. And perhaps that is why it's part of my calling.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Leaving the Beltway

After church today, I'm heading to Nashville. Can't wait! My little niece, Baby Ruthie, is celebrating her first birthday, and I figured that was a great reason to go. Also, I'll get to see my Gran. She's 91 , and I haven't seen her since her 90th birthday last July.

I think I'm due to escape the Beltway for a couple days. I've been outside the Beltway 4 times in the past month already. But three trips were work-related and the other one was such a quick turnaround that it doesn't count (plus, it involved walking through Central Park and all through the Theatre District in the rain, drenched, wet as dogs).

I'm excited to see family, eat BBQ, and teach Baby Ruthie to walk! :)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Creativity and Chaos

"Anything you build on a large scale or with intense passion invites chaos."
-- Francis Ford Coppola

So true, right?

Friday, October 24, 2008

DC Small Group Point Leader Connect Event

Calling all DC-area small group pastors and point leaders! NCC will be hosting a gathering of small group/discipleship point leaders on November 13 at Ebenezers Coffeehouse from 2pm-4pm. Whether you are a volunteer or a full-time paid staff member, if you are the primary champion of small groups at your church, we'd love for you to come.

  • Connect with like-minded and like-hearted people. It's good to be networked with other people who are doing what we are doing.
  • Compare notes. This is not a conference or a teaching seminar. It's a conversation. It's an opportunity for us to share best practices with one another. What's working? What's not working? What are the challenges? What things would we like to experiment with?
  • Gulp coffee. C'mon, who doesn't want some coffee?
If you would like to attend, please email Will Johnston with your RSVP. It's totally free. But we do need a head count so we know how much coffee to brew!


I'm doing a little studying on Rahab today. Next Wednesday, I'm teaching at the Georgetown Women's Bible Study, and I'm talking about Rahab. Last month, it was Eve. How do I get all the tough topics?

It's just so fascinating to think about all the people that God worked in and through to advance his plans and purposes. Rahab shows up in the lineage of Jesus. She's also the grandmother of Boaz, the hero in the Ruth story. There are so many people in the Bible that God used that we would completely overlook. Or they wouldn't be able to sign our leadership covenant or meet our leadership requirements here at NCC.

It makes me feel a little better about my own life. That God can use us despite our shortcomings, failures, and sin. I'm not saying we should get lazy and default to sin mode since God will use us anyway (Paul already addressed that in Romans 6). I'm just saying it's such a great testament to an amazing God.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

To Fight or Not to Fight?

NCC's Team Discipleship (affectionately referred to by me as "Team D") is reading through the New Testament together, and today we spent time comparing notes from our reading of the book of Luke. Does anyone else find Jesus confusing sometimes?

Let's consider the following:

In Luke 2:36, Jesus said, "And if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one!"

Later in Luke 22:49-51, as the crowd is coming to arrest Jesus, we read this: "When the other disciples saw what was about to happen, they exclaimed, 'Lord, should we fight? We brought the swords!' And one of them struck at the high priest’s slave, slashing off his right ear. But Jesus said, 'No more of this.' And he touched the man’s ear and healed him."

Whuh-huh? We can make sense of it today by saying that Jesus was speaking metaphorically about the swords, but good grief. I'm honestly not sure what Jesus was saying there. And poor Peter. We give him so much grief for denying Jesus, but he tried really hard to do the right thing. He really was willing to lose his life right then and there.

Hanging Out in DC

I love living in DC. Yesterday was my day off, so I packed up my Bible, a book, and my laptop and headed out to the National Mall. Spent a couple hours lounging around the garden next to the Smithsonian Castle reading the book of Luke and reading a little Dallas Willard. Then, I headed to the Air and Space Museum. For some reason, I can always dream bigger dreams there. I have a personal ritual of touching the moon rock every time I enter that museum. Maybe one day I will fulfill my lifetime dream of designing life support systems for a NASA lunar base.

Love DC!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Willow Group Life Highlights

I was so busy at the Willow Group Life Conference this week that I didn't get the time to blog. For whatever it's worth, my teammate Will Johnston blogged every session he attended. Very copious notes. You can check them out here.

Here were some of the highlights for me:
  • Hanging out with some of the brightest minds in small group ministry to compare notes on what's working, what's not working, and where we want to experiment. Thanks, Bill Search. And thanks for Simple Small Groups.
  • "Stop looking for best practices to implement and start praying bold prayers." - Bill Donahue.
  • Dinner with Laura Crosby from the Upper Room Community. Really amazing Italian food!
  • The arrival of my team-- I love those guys! Thanks Juliet, Leslie, Will, John, and Kim!
  • Walking into the Willow auditorium for mic check and feeling like I was entering the Colosseum to be tossed to the lions.
  • Lighting a pickle on stage.
  • Throwing moonpies at the breakout session. Sorry for hitting that light, Willow.
  • Bill Willits telling me he was proud of me after the main session. Wow. C'mon, you're one of my heroes, dude! And while I'm talking about heroes and encouragement, thanks to Rex Minor, Alan Danielson, Alan Pace, Russ Robinson, Dave Auda, Bill Donahue, Greg Bowman, and Dave Treat.
  • Meeting Frank Chiapperino, Cynthia Ware, and Mark Howell face to face. And seeing Mac Lake again.
  • Two girls running up to me on Thursday night, "You were in Steel Magnolias!" Whoa, worlds colliding.
  • Will Miller, Will Miller, Will Miller. I love you.
  • Eating pizza with my team at Giordano's and almost falling asleep from exhaustion.
  • Hanging out with the team from
  • Eating Steak and Shake with my team and feeling so glad everything was over. It's all about food.
  • Miles McPherson. Whoa. 'Nuff said.
  • "Let me tell you what will kill your ministry and your small group, keeping it to yourself. Worry about pushing people, transparency, being transparent. Let me tell you what won’t kill your ministry. Doing exactly what God told you to do."- Miles McPherson

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Highlight

I'll post more about the Willow Creek Group Life Conference over the next few days, but I wanted to start off by sharing the one highlight that trumps all the others. The phone call I received at 8:04 am on October 15 as I walked through the airport to catch my flight.

The call came from Mike Mathews, a discipleship pastor in Pearland, Texas, who has been a family friend and personal mentor to me for my entire life. I can't remember a major life or career decision that I've made that didn't involve a phone call or email to Mike for his prayer and advice. As a kid, I loved Mike because he would play all-time quarterback in our family Christmas football games, and he was a master at setting me up in the endzone for a touchdown. As I grew older, Mike's gifts to me on Christmas turned into books and resources about making disciples. Mike introduced the concept of small groups and Willow Creek Church to me over 20 years ago.

As I walked through the airport to check in for my flight, Mike called me to give me a pep talk and to pray for me. Those prayers and words of encouragement echoed in my ears as I walked into the massive Willow Creek auditorium the next morning.

You've probably never seen Mike's picture in a glossy full-color conference flyer. You've probably never seen him on a massive stage. But his influence is much more profound and long-lasting. He has influenced the hearts of hundreds of people who are passing the baton of the faith on to the next generation.

Of all the amazing encounters and experiences I had at Willow last week, the phone call from my friend was the highlight. The real-life, real-time experience of discipleship.

Back in DC

I'm so happy to be back in DC. I loved being at Willow Creek, hanging out with small group pastor friends, eating pizza, etc...but there's just nothing like being at National Community Church. Looking forward to seeing my awesome friends and small group leaders this morning.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Lunch at the Willow Group Life Conference

A number of people have asked to hang out with me and my team at the Willow Group Life Conference this week. Our schedules are all jam-packed, but we wanted to invite folks to join us for a meal. To make it easy and not lose people with bad driving directions, we decided it would be easiest to invite everyone to have lunch with us today.

If you walk out the left set of doors in the main auditorium, we'll round up near the couches and chairs (bar stool, table area) right outside. If you don't see me, look for Will Johnston. He'll be wearing a bright orange shirt.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Where Community Grows Best

I'm so excited to be at the 2008 Willow Creek Group Life Conference. Yesterday, I got to pick the brains of lots of the leading minds of group life and spiritual formation.

Today, Mark Batterson and I are speaking on the topic of Where Community Grows Best. We'll be exploring some of our core values at NCC and how they have served as catalysts to community development and spiritual formation in our unique environment.

Everything is an Experiment
Maturity Does Not Equal Conformity
Expect the Unexpected
Love People When They Least Expect It and Least Deserve It

Looking forward to stepping into the lab of the R&D department of the Kingdom of God to explore new ways of making disciples.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Moonpies Acquired

Most of my good ideas these days come from Julie Robinson Schaer and Bekah Kitterman. Bekah told me I couldn't go to the Willow Conference without my stash of moonpies. So today, I ventured out to Manassas with the Russells and Chris Jarrell for some good country fixins and to purchase two boxes of moonpies.

Intrigued? You'll just have to come to the breakout session.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Carrot Reproduction, Cereal Processing, and Pig Poop

All things I look forward to talking about at the Willow Creek GroupLife Conference next week.

I'll be joining a team of amazing people like Cynthia Ware, Frank Chiapperino, Mac Lake, and Mark Howell on Thursday morning for a pre-conference conversation on community and social media.

Then, I'll share the stage with Mark Batterson as we enter into the community lab to experiment with some new ways of experiencing group life and discipleship. We feel like we are a part of the research and development arm of the Kingdom of God, so we'll be sharing some of the experiments that we've tried and some of the discoveries we are making as we seek to engineer an environment Where Community Grows Best.

Then, I'll be leading a breakout session, Everything is an Experiment: Creative Community For Emerging Generations on Friday morning. I'll go a bit more in-depth in discussing the unique environments that young adults live and thrive in and how to engineer environments that facilitate growth in their lives.

So what do carrots, cereal and pigs have to do with anything? :) Come to the conference and find out.

If you're going to be at the conference, give me a yell. I'd love to meet you during lunch on Friday. And if you are from the DC area, check out the pre-conference coffee hosted by good buddy John Hasler.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Suffering Elephant

Despite the unanimous votes for The Holy Elephant here at Wineskins, I've decided to tackle The Suffering Elephant. Votes between here,, facebook, Twitter, and emails I've received were pretty evenly split, and the suffering elephant is very different from some of the other ones we've chosen.

Can't say I'm looking forward to it, but I think it's something we need to address. How do you respond when your circumstances contradict the character and promise of God?