Sunday, February 28, 2010

Growing People

My friend and distance mentor Mac Lake once said "Growing People Grow People." It's a concept I have known and taught, but this summed it up more succinctly and powerfully than anything that has ever escaped from my mouth. Thank you, Mac.

That's become the foundation for our new coaching paradigm at National Community Church. For the first time, we are offering one-on-one coaching (as opposed to huddles), opt-in coaching (you are not required to have a coach if you don't want/need one), and coaching aimed at the leader as opposed to the group (if the leader is growing, the group will follow suit).

Right now, I'm sitting in our new coach's training. What I love about it is that Ryan is creating an environment where the coaches themselves are stretching and growing. It's not just about information, it's about experiences and questions that lead them to new insights and growth. We want to focus on leaders, make sure they are growing, and watch their groups grow as a result.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Highest Calling vs. Ministry

Don't neglect your highest calling in the name of ministry. We all do it. We don't read the Bible to grow closer to God; we read the Bible to get a message for Sunday. We don't preach for the glory of God; we preach to grow our churches. We cheat our families and our friends to tackle a to-do list of ministry activity that will never end.

Ezekiel gives us a sobering message in the 44th chapter for his book. In Ezekiel 44:10-14, we learn that the priests in the temple have served the people well, but have not worshiped God. So God allows them to continue to work in the temple and serve the people, but they can no longer enter the most Holy place to worship him and experience his presence.

How tragic to live a life of service to the people of God without experiencing the presence of God. And yet if we are honest, many of us must confess that we have found ourselves in that place before...if not living in it now.

Do not neglect your highest calling in the name of ministry.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Naming of Eve

Have you ever noticed when Eve receives her name? In the original "naming" of species, Adam simply refers to her as "woman"-- a rather sterile and generic moniker that merely describes her creation from the man. It is not until one chapter later, in Genesis 3:20, that Adam first calls her "Eve," "because she would become the mother of all the living."

This always strikes me as incredibly fascinating because Adam gives her this name after the Fall in the Garden. Of all the names he could have called her, he gave her one that signified redemption. Eve means "living," "life," or "to give life." Instead of naming her weakness, he named the God-created potential and purpose that remained within her despite her sin.

I'm so thankful for the men in my life who have "named" my potential and purpose. From a Granddaddy who believed in my gifts to a Dad who supported every crazy career path I have explored to an amazing husband who is my best friend, greatest advocate, and mischievous partner in crime. To godly mentors and pastors who have called out my gifts and given me ridiculous opportunities to experiment with them. To good peer friends who have served alongside me and grown toward God in small groups with me. Thank you.

Ladies-- we need to thank the men in our lives who have named our potential and purpose.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Leading on Empty

I recently read Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro. Book #3 in my leadership focus year.

Before I get started, I've just got to say how much I love and appreciate Cordeiro's heart for the Word of God. I stand up and cheery every time I hear him give the plain, simple exhortation to people-- especially to pastors-- to commit to reading the Scriptures.

This is a book leaders probably pick up when they are feeling empty, but in reality, they should pick it up well before they get to that point. In fact, most of us are so addicted to different dimensions of our jobs (speed, power, complexity) that we are probably leading on empty before we actually realize it. I'm glad I've read this book in a more "full" season of life and leadership because it's going to allow me to make some important pre-decisions to help me avoid or course-correct the pitfalls of leading on empty.

Here were some specific questions I need to ask myself continually:
  • What are the top 5% things that only I can do? What can I delegate?
  • What fills my emotional/spiritual/relational/physical tank? What fills the tank of my husband?
  • What drains my tank? What drains the tank of my husband?
I really appreciated Cordeiro's distinction between solitude and isolation. I think I tend to confuse the two, and I suspect other leaders do as well. I need to seek solitude out of humility-- recognizing that my leadership must flow from my personal walk with God. I need to avoid isolation out of humility-- realizing that my leadership must flow out of an environment of relationship that keeps me grounded and accountable.

I love this quote from the book: "Faith is living in advance what we will only understand in reverse."

I've already recommended this book to a friend in leadership who has tendencies towards depression, but I feel it's worth recommending to anyone in a position of leadership. We need to know the early warning signs before we shipwreck. We need to make pre-decisions that insulate us from our own pride and stupidity. And we need to learn how to rest well.

AWOL Again

Once again, I've been absent without leave from my blog here. I've been investing a good bit in helping launch the new blog for our Garden to City Bible Reading Challenge here at NCC.

The primary purpose of the blog is to provide a daily devotional thought to track with our readings. Different members of our team and leadership will be providing posts each day.

In addition to the daily devotional thought, we will publish blog posts to provide historical and Biblical background information on each new book with dive into. And at the beginning of each new "series" of readings, we will publish a post that explains what books are coming up, why we've grouped them together, and some ideas on how to get the most out of the readings.

Check out the following posts as examples:

Psalm 119
The Tears Series
Book Introduction: Job
Job 4-6

Saturday, February 13, 2010

From Garden to City

The website for our Lent-to-Lent Bible Reading plan is up- From Garden to City. We'll kick off our reading on Ash Wednesday, and we'll be tracking the readings with daily devotional blogs and weekly sermon series.

Take the challenge!

Sacred Roads: Chicago

Stop #2 on our epic cross-country trip from Oregon to DC was Chicago! Honestly, I would have been happy to have spent more time there because we missed the opportunity to see some really great friends.

I'm so thankful for Dave Treat, who didn't hesitate a moment to offer his home, his time, and his humor when I called him from Denver to tell him we might be making an extended layover at O'Hare. I'm grateful for every opportunity I get to hang out with Dave. Love his heart for people and his passion for community. And I got my New York pizza fix at this Chicago gem- the Lucky Monk.

The next morning, I got to hang out with another small group hero- Bill Donahue. Along with Russ Robinson, Bill practically wrote the book for churches looking to do small groups, and Building a Church of Small Groups is still my highest recommendation for those who are looking to pioneer groups in their church. It's like drinking from a leadership fire hydrant when I'm around him.

By dinner Thursday night, we finally touched down in Washington, DC. Our car and our bags are still at the Baltimore airport, but we've learned to live without them for so long that I think a couple more days will be okay.

I'm fairly convinced the delays we faced were actually God-ordained sacred roads for getting me to the right people at the right times for the right conversations. God knows better where we need to go and how we need to get there than we do.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sacred Roads: Denver

I'm so thankful for the body of Christ. Ryan and I are slowly and steadily making our way cross-country from Oregon to DC, but we have been stopped a number of times by the snow storms in DC.

Last night, we discovered we would be delayed in Denver. And perhaps for a while. The result? We've been on the receiving end of incredible hospitality and been blessed with re-connection with some great people.

First things first, call my childhood best buddy pal Jayne Fisher to see if we could grab dinner. Result- we were offered a place to stay. Great to reconnect with Jayne and another friend from Mobile- Amanda Alardo Clark- who I hadn't seen since she crashed at my place in DC ten years ago.

Then, we hung out with former NCC leader turned seminary student Jana Hoisington for lunch. Next- coffee with church planter extraordinaire Stephen Redden. Later- dinner with former NCC leader turned AERDO Director Chad Hayward. Final stop- back "home" with Amanda and Jayne.

Because of all these amazing people (and the connections provided through Facebook and Twitter!), an otherwise annoying delay has turned into a sacred road for us. One in which we find hospitality, encouragement, and communion of saints.

LXVI: The Secret Mission of Heather Zempel

Great comedy always revolves around a nugget of truth. In this gem from NCC Leadership Retreat 2010, my wonderful Team D decided to introduce my session with a mockumentary inspired by my original retreat theme idea. We wanted something that revolved around the idea of motivating our leaders to be captivated by the Story of God in the 66 books of Scripture, and we always look for themes with great "theming" potential. My idea? Route 66. Great, low hanging nostalgic creative opportunities. My Team D boys shot it down quickly. I abandoned the idea.

Then this happened...

NCC Leadership Retreat 2010 - Sacred Route 66 from Andy Pisciotti on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Voices From the Sacred Roads: Basil the Great

Incarnational discipleship happens when we grow closer to Christ by becoming his hands and feet to the world around us. It happens through missions, social justice, and service to our communities. The missions movements of the 18th and 19th centuries and the social justice movements of the 20th century have fueled this method of discipleship, but it goes back much further. Basil the Great started hostels and soup kitchens in the 4th century AD.

Basil the Great (330-379)
Along with Gregory of Nazaianzus and Gregory of Nyssa, Basil the Great was one of the three Cappadocian fathers. He grew up in a wealthy, Christian home and was educated in Antioch and Athens. After a brief period of rejecting his faith, he came back to faith in Christ and toured the monasteries of Egypt. Serving as the Bishop of Caesarea, he organized Eastern monasticism. Claiming “it is God’s will that we should nourish the hungry, give the thirsty to drink, clothe the naked, Basil incorporated service into the daily responsibilities of the monks While the monks were involved in personal disciplines just as prayer and fasting, they were also required to perform hard labor and care for the needy. He used his pulpit to preach against exploitation, excessive consumption, and profiteering, and he started hostels soup kitchens, hospitals, and ministries to those in need.

To read more about incarnational discipleship, check out Sacred Roads: Exploring the Historic Paths of Discipleship.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

LXVI: Wisdom from Pastor Mark

One of my favorite moments of the annual leadership retreat was the informational and inspirational "interview" that emcee Amanda Giobbi did with our esteemed leader Mark Batterson.

I don't know how funny it might be out of context and/or to non-NCCers...but here goes... (and thanks Andy Pisciotti!)

NCC Leadership Retreat 2010 - PM Interview from Andy Pisciotti on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

LXVI: Retreat Reflections

It's a little late coming, but I wanted to share some reflections from the 2010 NCC Leadership retreat. Some favorite moments:
  • Finding a brown banana on my desk (this is a long-running joke between Team D and the A Team)
  • Midnight discussions about whether or not we should write "DRAFT" as text or background on the Bible Reading Plan (the things you get concerned about at midnight)
  • Groove Lounge Promo- wow. Eye liner. Silver fingernail polish. Blue spiked hair. John Hasler. And people still went to the Groove Lounge.
  • Amanda Giobbi's "interview" with Mark Batterson.
  • John Hasler's book title suggestions for Pastor Joel.
  • Sacred Roads Route 66 spoof video (after years of making fun of people from the stage at leadership retreat, I should have known someone would be gunning for me some day...little did I know it would be the entire staff!)
  • Listing to Pastor Mark talk about vision and kneeling with 200 leaders to thank God for vision and provision.
  • Telling the Story of God, from Garden to City.
  • Watching Jeremy Sexton and Matt Ortiz and the production guys work magic to get our equipment back.
  • Watching our worship band lead with passion...both plugged and unplugged.
  • Praying with leaders to commission them for the coming year.
  • Reading Andy Pisciotti's newspaper masterpiece.
  • Getting snowed in and laughing until I hurt with some great leaders-- new and old.
  • Watching Jonathan Shradar and Amanda Giobbi doing their emcee thing.
I'm so thankful for our A Team- Dasha and Maegan- who did so much they must have had clones running around. And I'm thankful for our incredible Proteges who worked long hours to add awesome creative elements. I love the heart of our worship team and the sacrifice of our media and production teams. And I guess I've gotta be thankful for Chris Howell and John Hasler-- my Team D boys. It's so great to do life and ministry with such an awesome team!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Voices From the Sacred Roads: Thomas a Kempis

Personal discipleship was brought to the forefront of church history by Pietists and Puritans who sought to connect the mind of the reformed with the heart of a personal revivalist. Personal discipleship was fueled by the observation and practice of personal spiritual disciplines. But personal discipleship started much earlier. It can be traced back to the desert fathers, through the monastic traditions, to Renovare today. Thomas a Kempis wrote one of the seminal books on this topic.

Thomas a Kempis (1379-1471)
Thomas a Kempis is best known for his book Imitation of Christ, which has been embraced by both Catholics and Protestants. He was a medieval Christian mystic who lived in the Netherlands and joined the Brothers and Sisters of the Common Life. He copied the Bible in its entirety four times, not just as part of his monastic duties, but as an opportunity for growth and devotion. He invested much time in reading, writing, and prayer, and had little use for small talk. When conversation turned towards God or the care of the soul, however, he is reputed to find no problem in “pouring out a ready torrent of eloquence.” Imitation of Christ, which spurs readers to seek spiritual perfection by following the model established by Jesus, was first published anonymously in 1418.

To read more about personal discipleship, check out Sacred Roads: Exploring the Historic Paths of Discipleship.