Saturday, June 27, 2009

Unlearning What You Have Learned

Interrupting the A18: Neighborhoods Posts for another comment about creativity.

One of my favorite long distance mentors, Yoda, said, "You must unlearn what you have learned." That's the theme of this great TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson about how school has educated us out of our creativity (thanks for the link, Dave!).

He said, "If you are not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original" and that our school systems are organized around eliminating wrongness. Wrong isn't good or a virtue, but when we are petrified of it, we cease to take risks and we no longer discover anything new. Picasso said that all children are born artists; the challenge is to remain an artist as we grow up.

How can we ensure we remain artists? How can we take calculated risks and find ways to make meaningful and productive mistakes? How can we create opportunities for trial and error, for learning from failure, for approaching everything as an experiment? I want to live with a mindset that the greatest risk is to take no risk at all.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A18 in MY Neighborhood

We kicked off A18: Neighborhoods at NCC last weekend, but my own group didn't kick off until last night. We had an awesome time hanging out with folks from Northeast DC, eating pizza (thanks Ian and Bekah), and sharing our expectations for the remainder of the summer. I sensed that beautiful collision of holy excitement and holy fear that often precedes a move of God. We decided to be the hands and feet of God in our neighborhoods this week by simply picking up trash as we see it. It might seem like a small thing, but in our neighborhood, a small act of picking up trash goes a long way. And on a personal level, it settles our hearts in an attitude of serving.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A18: Neighborhoods Kickoff Message

The A18: Neighborhoods sermon series kicked off this weekend. Here's a link to the message:

A18: Neighborhoods Promo Video

We kicked off our A18: Neighborhoods sermon series and small group semester this weekend. Love the promotion video that Dave Schmidgall, Brad McMath, Will Johnston, and others put together.

neighborhood trailer from National Community Church on Vimeo.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A18: Neighborhoods Confession

We kicked off our A18: Neighborhoods Experiment yesterday! Basically, this is our first church-wide alignment series. We've decided to fuse our missions department and our small group department to send every NCC small group on a mission trip to their neighborhoods this summer.

We ended services yesterday with a statement of confession:

We come to you today in humility, knowing that we have missed the point of your mission repeatedly in our lives. Forgive us for settling for a manmade gospel of convenience instead of embracing the true Gospel of the cross. Forgive us for focusing on ourselves instead of on those you have called us to serve. Forgive us for waiting on history instead of writing it.

Today, we accept the challenge to walk in your footsteps. We will set aside our selfish ambition, take up our cross, and follow you. We will be witnesses in our homes and in our workplaces. We will serve those that you place in our path. And we follow you with great anticipation to see your Kingdom established in our lives and in the neighborhoods of Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia. We ask for your favor and blessing, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Think Outside the Box

It's impossible to think outside the box if we never get outside the box. Maybe that's why Jesus did so little discipleship inside the four walls of the religious institutions and so much discipleship on the road and on the go.

Yesterday, I headed to NYC for a quick day trip with a couple of friends. I've been wanting to go to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) for a while. Knowing that Ryan would rather watch paint dry in the basement than gaze at Matisse, I decided to spare him the drudgery and went with two artist friends.

It was visual overload. So many significant pieces. Picasso, Matisse, Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Miro, Duchamps, Dali, Seurat, after room. Works that changed art history, culture, and even a little bit in the way I see the world. My synapses were firing in a million different directions. I don't know what it all means yet, but I know I engaged in a lot of thinking outside my usual box and that will ultimately translate into new metaphors and stories that will inform how I approach ministry. And perhaps more importantly, how I live as a human being stumbling through life trying to love God and love people better.

If we want to do ministry that is innovative and creative, then we have to hit escape velocity from our traditional ministry environments. We need to get into movie theaters and art museums and history books and nature and environments that spark activity in the parts of our brain that aren't often accessed. It will give us more to see.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pilgrimage Sites

I'm compiling a list of pilgrimage sites for my book with Threads. Here's a lit of the 5 places that were particularly meaningful to me and a list of 5 places that I really want to go.

My Favorite Spots (which all happen to be in the Holy Land)
Church of the Holy Sepulcher
Sea of Galilee
Synagogue at Capernaum
Qumran/Dead Sea
Jordan River

Places I Really Want to Go
St. Catherine's Monastery (Mt. Sinai, Egypt)
Camino de Santiago (Spain)
Castle Church (Wittenberg, Germany)
Isle of Iona (Scotland)
Ephesus (Turkey)

Friday, June 12, 2009

A18:Neighborhoods Curriculum Drafts

This summer, we are experimenting with our first ever church-wide alignment series. Which means we had to write a curriculum in-house. And when I say "we," it was definitely a team writing effort. Huge thanks to Brandt Siegel and his amazing team. I just sent a review draft version to our leaders so they could get a sneak peak. We'll spend the weekend cleaning up and then make hard copies for distribution to groups.

Here are the topics:
  • Mission: Taking the Gospel to Neighborhoods and Nations (Acts 1:8)
  • Presence: Being Salt and Light (Matthew 5)
  • Power: The Daring and Dangerous Act of Prayer (Acts 9)
  • Compassion: Seeing, Loving, and Giving to Others (Luke 10)
  • Conversation: Crossing Cultures (John 4)
  • Strategy: Building Solutions (Nehemiah)

Chart Your Course

Our Discipleship Atlas will be released this weekend at NCC!! I'm so excited!

This summer, we are doing groups a little bit differently. Every small group will be based on a neighborhood- the geographic neighborhood where you live, the marketplace neighborhood where you work, or an interest neighborhood where you play. For six weeks, we will follow a sermon-based curriculum that explores the questions "who is my neighbor" and "how do I love them?" The summer will culminate with every small group creatively and prayerfully sharing the love of Christ in a practical way with their neighbors.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Back to Leviticus 11 and more serious questions concerning its text. Verse 45b: "You must therefore be holy because I am holy." We can't skip past this one because it shows up again in the New Testament. Twice.

1 Thessalonians 4:7- "God has called us to be holy, not to live impure lives."

1 Peter 1:16- "You must be holy because I am holy."

There's a worship song that became popular when I was in college that stated "Holiness is what I long for, holiness is what I need." While I always felt genuine singing the latter half of that, I never knew for sure that I really meant the first part of it. For me, it seemed that holiness always worked its way into the same cognitive category as legalism. I know that's not true, but I never really understood how to properly "long" for holiness.

Perhaps it begins with a longing for God. After all, He is holy. And He is who and what we need.

No Catfish, Either?

One of my deepest theological questions has always revolved around food: Will there be BBQ in heaven? The deeper issue is whether or not Jewish levitical law regarding food will be applicable.

This morning, I was reading through Leviticus 11 and realized again that catfish are questionable, as well. The fish must have fins and scales to be permissible. I learned at a very young age the difference between cleaning a catfish and cleaning a bass or bream-- you gotta skin it. So catfish are out, too.

Man, forget rich people having trouble getting to heaven...what about Southerners?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

God is Jealous- Sermon Webcast

The video of my recent sermon, God is Jealous, has been posted here.

You can check out all of the God Is sermon series online at our media center.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Greater Things Workshop

The Greater Things Workshop is back for the summer!!

The workshop is an NCC sponsored workshop aimed at current and future entrepreneurs who want to advance the kingdom of God through their ventures. The goals of the GTWorkshop are to allow God to do greater things in us, for us, and through us via our businesses, faith-based organizations, and non-profits; to assist Christian entrepreneurs in establishing the foundations of a successful organization - foundations anchored in scripture and sound business theory; and to create a forum for Christian entrepreneurs to share their challenges and successes in an environment enveloped in prayer. The Summer Workshop will be held Thursday evening, June 25, 2009 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm and Friday all day, June 26, 2009 8:30 am – 5:00 pm. Registration deadline is Friday, June 19, 2009 and the cost is $145.00. For more information contact:

Greater Freedom: Turning your venture over to God
Greater Vision: Seeing the unseeable and achieving the unachievable through the power of God
Greater Results: Turning vision into reality
Greater Identity: Bringing who you are to what you do
Greater Foundation: Running your organization by “the Book”

Monday, June 08, 2009

Online Training

So, I'm thinking about transitioning to an online system for training leaders. Any thoughts? If you are doing it or have tried it, I'd love to hear what works, what doesn't work, what you would do differently if you were to start all over again, etc.

If you are considering it, then check out what Alan Danielson is doing at This is a great low-cost option if you are just starting out.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Holy Mischief

That's what I'm calling the culmination of our A18: Neighborhoods Experiment this summer. For six weeks, our groups will be exploring the questions "Who is my neighbor?" and "How do I love them?" The semester will culminate with every group sharing the love of Christ in a practical way with their neighbors. Holy Mischief. I'm pretty sure I stole the phrase from Shane Claiborne, and I'm not sure we are even using it in the same sense. But I love the creativity and energy that it sparks in me.

How can we spatter acts of holy mischief around the neighborhoods of Washington, DC?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Growing People Grow People

That's the phrase I'm chewing on today: Growing people grow people. And I gotta give credit to Mac Lake, development pastor at Seacoast Church.

At NCC, we talk about it in terms of "becoming a leader worth following" and "leading yourself well." It's the idea that developing your character and growing in your relationship with Christ are the most important things you can do to become a great leader. If you are growing, people will grow with you.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The I Heart Revolution

I suppose I'm a bit late finding this as it was posted months ago, but here is a trailer for We're All In This Together, a feature length documentary by The I Heart Revolution and Hillsong United. When you watch this, what makes you pound your fist on the table? More importantly, what are you going to do about it?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Salt to Taste

Working my way through Leviticus. Leviticus 2:13--
Season all your grain offerings with salt, to remind you of God's covenant. Never forget to add salt to your grain offerings.

The grain offering did not involve sacrifice and blood-- only the produce of their hands. Salt was a symbol of hospitality and friendship. It's a sacrifice not for atonement, but a sacrifice of gratefulness. And it sets a precedent for the bloodless sacrifice that we are asked to make of ourselves in Romans 12.

Season with salt. A little bit of salt can go a long way. I think I am often willing to sacrifice, but there is a big difference between a bland and obligatory sacrifice and a sacrifice that is seasoned with salt. How can I change the flavor of my neighborhood? How can I affect the flavor of culture? How can I make someone's day? How can I make God's day? I want to offer salty sacrifices.

Monday, June 01, 2009

On Behalf of All Pastors, Thank You

Still reading in Leviticus 1 this morning, and once again, I'm overwhelmed with gratitude. On behalf of all spiritual leaders, pastors, and priests, thank you Jesus for serving as our great high priest. I'm so thankful that my day does not consist of burning bulls, sprinkling blood, washing the internal organs of animals, twisting off the heads of birds, and tearing birds apart "though not completely."

One more reflection- spiritual leadership in the tabernacle was not for wimps. It was messy, raw, and required physical strength and stamina. While we no longer have to lift bulls up on the altar or tear birds from wing to wing, the fortitude required for spiritual leadership remains. And it's just as messy as ever. I need to stop whining at the end of hard days.

Bring Your Own Sacrifice

I'm only two verses into Leviticus, and I'm already convicted.

The Lord called to Moses from the Tabernacle and said to him, "Give the following instructions to the Israelites: Whenever you present offerings to the Lord, you must bring animals from your flocks and herds."

Bring your own animals. From your flocks and herds. From the work of your own hands, the investment of your own time. Bring your own sacrifice.

First of all, I'm extremely thankful that I do not have to go out to my flocks today to look for a spotless bull or goat. How long did it take them to go through the process of selecting a sacrifice? What if we invested just a fraction of that time thanking Jesus for his ultimate sacrifice?

And while we are no longer required to bring a sacrifice to atone for our sin and set right our relationship to God, we are still asked to bring sacrifices of worship. When do I rely on others to bring my sacrifice? Whether in worship, prayer, community, etc. Am I sacrificing from my own reserves, resources, gifts, opportunities? Or am I relying on another to make my sacrifices for me? What sacrifices from my own flocks and herds does God want in my life?

A Month in Leviticus

It's June 1!! That means warm weather, hot days at the ballpark, water sports, picnics in the park, and Leviticus!! Whoa, huh?

Yeah, I think it's time to dive in again. Not exactly the kind of summer reading most people look forward to, but I think it's healthy to hang out in that odd book for a while. I've found myself in a few conversations recently advocating the importance of reading the book, so I figured I would re-experience it myself.

Why Leviticus? There are a ton of reasons-- one being that it was the first book of the Pentateuch written, which gives it a level of significance, it seems to me. But I think it's primarily important for me to re-visit Leviticus because it reminds me of how thankful I am for Jesus Christ for serving as my ultimate sacrifice and for his role as Great High Priest in my life. And if there is something that makes me more thankful for Jesus, then I need to expose myself to it.