Saturday, September 30, 2006

I hate Minneapolis...

Yesterday I met Paul Schafer at the Hilton in downtown Minneapolis. Paul had flown in from Texas for the Desiring God National Conference (which is being live blogged by Tim Challies). I parked on 10th St. on the North Side of the Hilton at roughly 3:15 PM and went up to visit with Paul. Paul's room on the 17th floor marks the highest point I have been up in a building in downtown Minneapolis. We spied a Caribou Coffee a block away (next to Brit's Pub) and made our way there to talk. Paul and I had not previously met, though we had spoken once on the phone and interacted via email and on blogs for a couple of years. So we settled down and talked about life and ministry over a frozen coffee (Paul) and a bottle of water (me!). We eventually made our way back to the hotel, and went up into Paul's room to talk some more. It was a very nice time, and at about 4:35 we concluded with a prayer so I could make it to work by 5:00. When I left the building and made my way to the North side of the hotel, I discovered that my truck was no longer where I had parked it. Not good. Very not good. Immediately I called work to alert them to my pending difficulties to both getting to work, and getting to work with any work clothes (they were in the truck). I then called the Minneapolis Police to find out what to do. I explained what happened, where I was and asked what to do. I figured there was a chance it was towed and not stolen (I was praying for towed!). The police lady I spoke with was unable to find any listing of my truck having been picked up or delivered to the impound lot. She said it was possibly still in transition, or hadn't been processed yet. I asked if I should report it stolen or go to the impound lot, and her response was "it's up to you on that sir". Not a lot of help. I thanked her, and got off the phone to give it some thought (and to call and leave my wife a voice mail about my dillema). I went back out to where my truck was parked, and saw there was only a single car parked on the street, and the street was othewise very empty, with very little traffic for 4:45 on a Friday afternoon in downtown Minneapolis. The one car still parked on the street had a parking ticket on the window. I looked at all the signage on the street, nothing indicating that I shouldn't have parked there. Down the street was a sign with some handicapped stuff on it, but not near where I was parked. I looked at the meter I parked next to, and nothing on the side I put the money in. I looked on the street side, and in very tiny print was something saying "No Parking 4:00-6:00PM weekdays". So I had the doorman at the Hilton whistle me down a cab. I asked the driver to take me to the impound lot, which was about a mile away. $6.68 later and I'm at the impound lot. I tip the driver, who was working on some fractions on a notepad while he drove. They were simple fractions, things learned in 4th or 5th grade. I suspect he is working toward his citizenship, but I don't ask. I don't want to pry, and I'm focused on truck recovery. My computer is in the truck, with all of my past 4 years of seminary work on it. My text books are in there. Many of my CDs, my work clothes, a ton of tools. I really want my truck back.

I enter the impound lot, and am dissappointed. The building appears to be built to be bomb proof. I suspect this is because 99% of the people entering here are VERY unhappy people. Thick glass seperates you from the employees, like a gas station in the bad part of town. It has to be a terrible job I think to myself as I watch a very elderly man try to get his car out of the pound. I can see he is in poor health, and is very likely not able to afford this situation. In fact, everyone in the room looks like they probably are not in the best of financial situations. 2/3 of the people are black women, there is 2 groups of Latino men, and one other young white woman, and the old man. We're all in this together in some warped way.

I stand in line, watch other people's pain. Eventually I make it to the front of the line, but my truck has not come in yet. I'm getting worried. It is now 5:20, and my truck is nowhere to be found. I decide to give it another 20 minutes, then I'm calling it in as stolen. 15 minutes later a man from behind the thick glass motions to me and calls me over. He tells me it's my turn, and I begin to explain my truck hasn't come it yet. He says it just did, and they are finished processing it. $138 in tow fees, $34 in parking ticket later and I get the piece of paper that says I can take my truck. I then have to wait 20 minutes for the "security" to come pick me up and drive me 150 yards onto their lot to my vehicle. No foot traffic is allowed, all persons must be accompanied by security. I make it to work around 6:30 PM, missing some of the most profitable time of my shift. All told, the expense for parking was $2.50 in the meter, and then at least $200 for the last 5 minutes. 5 minutes. My truck was towed at 4:05 PM.

I hate Minneapolis.

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Friday, September 29, 2006

Culture: Friend, Foe, or...?

Phil Print of Crossroads Church in Cottage Grove, MN wrote:
I'm speaking to some pastors about our relationship with our culture next we (the church) view it and how we live in it. Some see 21st century American culture as the enemy, and they declare war on it (culture wars). They develop a "circle-the-wagons" mentality and isolate and attempt to insulate (think Amish here) themselves from culture. Other Christians and churches seem to go with the flow. They immerse themselves in culture and end up essentially no different from anyone else. They look, think, and act like everyone else.

I'm guessing we all would fall somewhere between those extremes (I hope). I know we're called to NOT copy the behavior and customs of the world. It's also clear, though, that we are to penetrate our culture in order to impact people for Christ. My point: I don't see our culture as a battlefield. I see it as a mission field. The difficult part is how we engage this post-Christian we live out what the Apostle Paul modeled for us in Acts 17:16-34 and 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.


My response:

Are you familiar with H. Richard Niebuhr? Niebuhr felt that there were 5 types of interaction between Christianity and Culture (see half way down the page in that link). While it isn't exactly within the framework of what you are talking to the pastors about, I think it is still relevant. It is something that made me think (though I don't necessarily completely agree with Niebuhr on a number of theological points). A book you might find useful is "The Church between Gospel and Culture - The Emerging Mission in North America" Edited by George R. Hunsberger and Craig Van Gelder - WB Eerdmans Publishing. There are a number of articles in there speaking directly to what you are thinking/talking about. Bethel should have a copy.

At the end of the day Christianity must be translatable to the culture we are reaching out to. This is true for foreign missionaries and for meeting our neighbors in our back yards. Christianity is compatible with all cultures, which is why we translate the Bible into the vernacular (though this hasn't always been the case WRT the Roman Catholic Church). Islam is not, and it continues to use a single language as it's "divine" language. Our God is the source of life and truth, and because of that we have contact points in every culture, places we can bridge to. While doing this, we must of course keep in mind that we are in the world, not of it (1 Cor. 7:29-31). The process of translating the Gospel into the culture does not mean we must seek to annihilate that culture, but we should maintain a critical attitude so as to not become syncretists. We must ride the razors edge between rejecting a culture and fully embracing a culture, because it is easiest to fall to either side. Staying in this point of tension is going to be uncomfortable at times, but it is where we are called to be if we are to reach a lost and hurting world. I believe Paul was an advocate of this very thing. He did not see there being a single culture favored by God. He ministered across many cultural boundaries (as did Christ). Paul is key in understanding this because he led the Gentile breakthrough which was an enormous paradigm shift for the early Jewish Christians.

In summary, there are points where our culture (and other cultures) are both battlefields and mission fields. There are segments of cultures that are diametrically opposed to Christianity, and that must be rejected or Christianity looses its distinctions, and the Gospel looses its life changing powers. But we cannot completely disregard a culture, or we become fully irrelevant and are unable to bring the Gospel to the world as we are clearly commanded to do in scripture.

Update: Justin Taylor has some relevant info to this subject from an article written by Don Carson.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Desiring God moving away from Radio

Radio Without Radio?

Why Desiring God Will No Longer Air on Radio Stations

September 12, 2006

Dear Friends,

We want to inform you about a major ministry transition that will occur at the end or September. The DG Board and Management Team believe that the Lord is directing us to redeploy our forces and resources on battlefronts where they will be more effective in winning the war. Therefore, after much prayer, research, and discussion, we have decided to cease broadcasting our radio program on traditional radio stations. The last day our program will be aired is Friday, September 29, 2006.

Now, just to be clear, we are not ceasing to broadcast our program. We will continue to produce Desiring God with John Piper. But instead of airing it on traditional radio stations, we will broadcast it on the internet and with alternative media like podcasts.

Radio without radio stations? Why? The first reason is because of a change in radio that is taking place, and the second reason has to do with investing resources strategically as this change occurs.

Radio Is Changing

We currently air the program on about 160 radio outlets around the country. We also broadcast it at, (a website featuring many evangelical teachers) and as a free podcast at Now here’s the interesting thing. The folks at tell us that Desiring God is among their most requested programs (50,000 to 70,000 requests per month). And our iTunes podcast consistently ranks in the top ten most requested programs in the “Religion & Spirituality” category (total subscribers currently unavailable). We frequently hear from online listeners. In fact, 85-90% of responses we receive from people who listen to our program come from those who listen online. But we’re not seeing growth in responses from radio station listeners, even though new stations were added this year.

Why is this? Well, there are a number of reasons. But one simple fact is that radio is changing. Just a few years ago traditional radio was still the best way for a ministry like ours to make our message accessible to the largest number of people. But we are finding that this is no longer the case. A rapid technological evolution is occurring. Five years ago most adults in the U.S. did not have access to the internet. Today most use the internet regularly and most have broadband access. Five years ago few regularly used portable MP3 players. Today the popularity of these portable devices is skyrocketing. 59 million iPods have been purchased since October 2001—30 million of those so far this year! What’s happening is that more and more listeners are choosing these new technologies over radio so that they may listen to teaching programs whenever and wherever they wish. This is especially true of those under 50 years old, who comprise the great majority of our listeners.

Spreading and Stewardship

Our calling from the Lord is to put our resources into as many hands, ears, and eyes as possible, while using our resources most strategically, so that people around the world will be transformed by the truth that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. So there are four words that shape our strategy:

* Accessible: We want people to have convenient access to as many of our resources as possible. Our new website has been designed for this purpose.
* Portable: We want our resources, whenever possible, to be in a portable format, so that you and others can read, listen, or view them where and when it’s convenient for you.
* Transferable: We want many resources that you can easily pass along or show to others, so that the vision of God we love together will most effectively spread.
* Economical: We are pursuing strategies that we believe will be the most effective at spreading a passion for the supremacy of God, while keeping our costs and prices low.

In light of the changes in radio, and these four criteria, radio station broadcasts no longer seem like the best use of our personnel, time, or financial resources. Our radio broadcast has limited accessibility—it only plays where and when stations are airing it. Radio is generally portable, but you can’t choose when you will listen to what. And radio is not nearly as transferable as an internet broadcast for passing along to someone else.

But the economical criterion clinches it. Altogether it currently costs us about $500,000 per year to broadcast our program on about 160 stations. When we launched our program in February 2004, we were told to expect stations to support themselves through the financial gifts of listeners in about three to five years. However, after two-and-a-half years, our total radio-designated support is about 35% of annual station costs. And the growth trend is so gradual that it appears station broadcasts would need to be subsidized indefinitely by the generosity of supporters who do not listen to the program on the radio. This makes the prospect of putting the program on new stations very difficult.

Here is another way to view the strategic spreading difference between the internet and radio. In 2006 we expect to have over 12,000 new people respond to us because of our internet outreach. But it currently looks like we will only about 500-600 new people will respond because of radio. Therefore, in light of the low listener response and the high broadcasting costs of traditional radio, we believe that it would be wise to take what we are investing into stations and redirect it toward other creative spreading strategies that will reach thousands of new people more effectively.

Radionet Lives On

It is important to emphasize that we are not abandoning what we sensed was a call three years ago to broadcast a radio program. What we’re doing is responding to what we see the Lord doing, namely opening new technological doors for the spread of the gospel. Three years ago we called our strategy “Radionet.” The idea was to use radio to reach new people and point them toward all of our resources on the internet. We still believe in the idea. But because listeners are bypassing long-form teaching programs on the radio, we want to use that spreading tool in other ways.

One possibility we are researching is 60-second spots that would air on all sorts of radio stations. Many stations play such short-form programming for free. The spots would give listeners a brief, compelling word from Pastor John and encourage them to go to our website for more information. Pray with us as we discern the Lord’s direction for this and other possibilities.

Though it will relieve some financial pressure, this change in radio strategy does not mean that we no longer need financial support. Under God’s providence, our friends make it possible for us to extend the glorious gospel of our happy God to thousands. So now, with broadcasting fees no longer being paid, we can allocate funds to more effective strategies.

Thank you very much for standing with us in the spiritual war. Battlefronts and tactics change, but our mission does not. We consider it a great privilege to join with you in seeing as many people as possible freed from the suicidal slavery of selfish pleasures to enjoy the freedom of the Son of God and the true pleasures at his right hand. If you have any questions you would like to ask or comments you would like to make, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

If you would like to give us your views on how we can improve the program in our move to online only broadcasting, please take our survey.

Your partner in spreading a passion for the supremacy of God,

Jon Bloom
Executive Director

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Rich Mullins on Wikiquote

To this day, Rich Mullins is my favorite Christian musician. His death is among the few I will forever remember where I was and what the circumstances were when I first heard about it. That moment in time is frozen for me. I miss the man that was Rich Mullins. I wonder if God will give him a dulcimer to play in Heaven? :-)


Richard Wayne Mullins (October 21, 1955 – September 19, 1997) was an American singer/songwriter born in Richmond, Indiana.

* "Never forget what Jesus did for you. Never take lightly what it cost Him. And never assume that if it cost Him His very life, that it won't also cost you yours."

* "So go out and live real good and I promise you'll get beat up real bad. But, in a little while after you're dead, you'll be rotted away anyway. It's not gonna matter if you have a few scars. It will matter if you didn't live."

* "It's so funny being a Christian musician. It always scares me when people think so highly of Christian music, Contemporary Christian music especially. Because I kinda go, I know a lot of us, and we don't know jack about anything. Not that I don't want you to buy our records and come to our concerts. I sure do. But you should come for entertainment. If you really want spiritual nourishment, you should go to should read the Scriptures."

* "We do not find happiness by being assertive. We don't find happiness by running over people because we see what we want and they are in the way of that happiness so we either abandon them or we smash them. The Scriptures don't teach us to be assertive. The Scriptures teach us—and this is remarkable—the Scriptures teach us to be submissive. This is not a popular idea."

* "I had a prof one time... He said, 'Class, you will forget almost everything I will teach you in here, so please remember this: that God spoke to Balaam through his ass, and He has been speaking through asses ever since. So, if God should choose to speak through you, you need not think too highly of yourself. And, if on meeting someone, right away you recognize what they are, listen to them anyway'."

* "I think if we were given the Scriptures, it was not so that we could prove that we were right about everything. If we were given the Scriptures, it was to humble us into realizing that God is right, and the rest of us are just guessing."

* "Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in your beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken."

* "Bear in mind, children, that they listen to you because you are kids—not because you are right. That's how our Father listens to us."

* "We never understand what we're praying, and God, in His mercy, does not answer our prayers according to our understanding, but according to His wisdom."

* "Yes, it's embarrassing to be born again, but imagine how embarrassing it must have been to be born the first time. At least this time you get to wear clothes!"

* "We are not saved because we're good. We're good because we're saved. Never forget what Jesus did for you."

* "If you've ever known the love of God, you know it's nothing but reckless and it's nothing but raging. Sometimes it hurts to be loved, and if it doesn't hurt it's probably not love, may be infatuation. I think a lot of American people are infatuated with God, but we don't really love Him, and they don't really let Him love them. Being loved by God is one of the most painful things in the world, it's also the only thing that can bring us salvation and it's like everything else that is really wonderful, there's a little bit of pain in it, little bit of hurt."

* "It's just that for so many people that I know, Christianity's this matter of ... it has everything to do with morals. Christianity is a religion about morals. And they will even talk about Jesus. And they will say kids need to know about Jesus so they won't smoke, drink, or dance, or go with girls that do, and all that kind of thing. And I kinda go, 'That's not why people need to know about Jesus. The only reason—the only possible excuse for talking about Jesus is because we need a Savior.'"

* "I am a Christian, not because someone explained the nuts and bolts of Christianity to me, but because there were people willing to be nuts and bolts."

* "If you want a religion that makes sense, go somewhere else. But if you want a religion that makes life, choose Christianity."

Retrieved from ""

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Where's God?

Pastor Phil Print asked the following on his blog:

Where's God?
Do you ever wonder why God doesn't make it a little easier for us to see/experience Him in our daily lives? Honestly, couldn't God be a little more "obvious"? Couldn't He use a little louder voice? Or hit us with a little bigger stick?

I've been thinking about that a lot these days. William Barry writes, "Whether we are aware of it or not, at every moment of our existence we are encountering God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who is trying to catch our attention, trying to draw us into a reciprocal conscious relationship."

I know what Barry says is true, but why is it such a struggle to encounter God?

Thoughts? Comments?

My response to his question was:

The issue stems from a Western modern dualism that can be seen manifesting in many other ways as well. We are prone to compartmentalize our lives by secular and sacred when this is actually a false dichotomy. This is worsened by something you mentioned in your sermon(9/16 or 9/17) in that we get so busy that we miss the God moments. The struggle to encounter God is based on the fact that encountering God is not a priority in our lives. We shove God to the cracks and margins of our lives. Our prayer life becomes a wishing well in the sky. Michael Jordan didn't become the basketball player we know him as over night. He worked hard at it, years and years of INTENTIONAL effort. While he certainly was gifted by God, it took intentionality on his part to develop that. The same is true for our spiritual formation. We must be intentional about it. Spiritual formation doesn't just happen on its own, we must work at it. We must raise its value in our community. This is also worsened by our microwave lifestyle where everything is about instant gratification. We don't want to be formed, we want to get the DVD and have all the answers 90 minutes later. Another factor is that we are not accountable in this area, and rarely are we willing to hold others on a personal level accountable for this. We (the church) speak corporately about these kinds of things, but rarely do we have a 1-on-1 plan for getting this done. Small groups are a very good entry point for this type of change. Making friends in your church will also help this. Moving from a consumer mentality into a servant mentality will also facilitate this. It will be an uncomfortable transition, change frequently is. But when you are standing on the other side, standing more closely with God, seeing His influence and presence in your life, you will know it was all worth it.

What do you think?

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Jim Collins - Good to Great for churches...

The following is taken from an article in Christianity Today's Leadership Journal. This comes from an interview with Jim Collins. Collins wrote "Good to Great" and "Built to Last", both of which are books worth your time if you want to learn about leadership (espeically Good to Great).


The subtitle for your monograph is "Why business thinking is not the answer." How is business thinking misapplied in the social sector?
The mistake social sector organizations often make is to implement "business practices," but they imitate mediocre businesses.

For instance, bringing in an outside change agent. That's what many average companies do, but great organizations have the discipline to grow leadership from within. There's also the practice of using incentives. Average companies spend a lot of time incentivizing desired behavior. Great institutions discipline themselves to get people whose character is naturally to exhibit great behavior.

Since discipline is so key, where do you most often see breakdowns in discipline?
Not being rigorous about who's put in leadership roles. In churches and other social sector organizations, the work is too important to let key seats on the bus be occupied by the wrong people.

Second is being unclear about your goals. You must ask, "What do we mean by great results?" Your goals don't have to be quantifiable, but they do have to be describable. Some leaders try to insist, "The only acceptable goals are measurable," but that's actually an undisciplined statement. Lots of goals—beauty, quality, life change, love—are worthy but not quantifiable. But you do have to be able to tell if you're making progress. For a church, a goal might be: Young people bring other young people here unprompted. Do they talk about the church with their friends? You may not be able to measure that, but you can assess it.

Third is undisciplined action, most commonly seen in the inability to stay with a coherent program long enough to get flywheel momentum.

Average organizations constantly lurch from one initiative to another. They're always looking for the next big thing, when the next big thing might be the thing they already have.

What role does leadership play in great churches?
One of the things from Good to Great that really resonated with church leaders was the Level 5 Leadership finding, that leaders who took companies from good to great are characterized by personal humility and by a fierce dedication to a cause that is larger than themselves.

I was delighted how the Level 5 concept took hold, and yet the deeper I got into it, the more I realized that Level 5 Leadership looks different in a non-business setting. A church leader often has a very complicated governance structure. There can be multiple sources of power, constituencies in the community, and constituencies in the congregation. With all of that, you're going to run into trouble if you try to lead a church as a czar. Church leaders have to be adept in a more communal process, what we came to call "legislative" rather than an "executive" process.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Lee Strobel is coming to Eagle Brook Church!

The following hit my inbox today from Pastor Bob Merritt of Eagle Brook Church. Even if you don't go to Eagle Brook Church this event is worth checking out. Lee Strobel is an outstanding writer and is very engaging in his presentations.

Men of EBC,

I want to let you know about a "don't-miss" event that is coming up in just a couple of weeks. We are hosting nationally-known speaker and author Lee Strobel (Case for Christ and Case for Faith) at an event built just for men on September 26 at 7 pm at Eagle Brook's Lino Lakes Campus. Lee is a former award-winning legal editor of The Chicago Tribune who went on a two-year investigation trying to find truth, and came to the life-changing verdict that God really does exist and Jesus Christ is his unique Son. Through this search, his life was changed-and you'll get to hear more about it on this night. We have some amazing things planned, with Lee speaking and Steve Duede leading our music. I'd like to challenge all of you to go online and buy two tickets; one for you and one for a friend at work, a teammate or a neighbor. Ticket prices go up after this weekend, but if you sign up soon they're just $10. Follow the link below to register.

Hope to see you there,


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Why I am a one point preacher - Andy Stanley

The following is written by Andy Stanley. Andy Stanley started and pastors North Point Community Church in the Atlanta (Buckhead), GA area and is the son of well known preacher Charles Stanley. Andy Stanley easily makes it on my short list of pastors I most like to listen to and learn from. He is incredibly gifted in communicating the Gospel to people.


I never felt called to preach. I just volunteered. I wanted to feel called. But it just never happened for me. Several of my friends felt called while we were in high school. They went forward during a Sunday night service and shared it with the congregation. Everybody clapped. Some of them are still in ministry. I think one of them is in jail.

One afternoon I was driving somewhere with my dad. After one of those long moments of silence that fathers and sons have when driving together, I spoke up and said, "Dad, does a person have to be called into ministry or can they just volunteer?"

He thought for a moment. "Well, I guess it's OK to volunteer."

"Good," I said. "I would like to volunteer." So I did. In fact, it was two volunteer environments that shaped me as a communicator.

During my sophomore year of college, our youth pastor, Sid Hopkins, asked me if I would help him lead our Wednesday night student Bible study. That was a really strange request since we didn't even have a Wednesday night Bible study. Upon further investigation, I discovered that he wanted me to start a study for our students. I had never led or taught anything in my life. I was a whopping two years older than some of the students I would be teaching. But I agreed to give it a try.

The good thing about being so young was that I knew what wouldn't work. Preaching wouldn't work. Teaching for 20 or 30 minutes wouldn't work. A verse-by-verse Bible study wouldn't work. Telling a bunch of stories and tacking on a point wouldn't work. So I decided to err on the side of simplicity. Nobody told me how long our "Bible study" was supposed to last so I didn't feel compelled to fill up a lot of time. I had been given a blank page.

On week one, about 20 students showed up. I passed out three by five cards with one verse printed on one side and one question printed on the other side. The verse for that first week was John 17:4: "I glorified you on the earth, having accomplished the work which you have given me to do."

We talked about what it meant to glorify something. I explained that glorifying the Father was Christ's chief purpose for coming and that it should be ours as well. Then I had them turn the card over and spend 30 seconds thinking about an answer to the following question: What can I do this week to glorify God in my world?

Then I closed in prayer. The whole thing took about 15 minutes. One point. One question. One application. Everybody stayed awake. Everybody was engaged. Everybody could remember what the lesson was about. Sid was a bit concerned about the brevity. But the next week the crowd grew. And it kept growing. Every week, I handed out a card with a verse and a question. No music. No pizza. We didn't even have a PA system. That was my first experience as a communicator. It taught me a valuable lesson that would be reiterated a few years later.

In 1981 I moved to Dallas, Texas, to attend Dallas Theological Seminary. At the end of my first semester, the principal of a local Christian high school asked me if I would present a message for their weekly chapel service. I accepted. Since it was high school students I decided I should pick a narrative portion of Scripture. Somehow I landed on the story of Naaman and Elisha. Naaman was the captain of the army of Aram. Elisha was ... well, you know who Elisha was. Anyway, Naaman has leprosy and Elisha sends him to take a dip in the river. Naaman obeys and is healed.

I spent hours pouring over the story. I drew upon my vast knowledge as a first semester seminarian. I went to the library and researched the Arameans. I had pages of notes. I had an outline that went something like this: Naaman's Problem, Naaman's Pride, Namaan's Plea, Namaan's Proof. I was so overprepared.

The night before I was to give the message, I was down beside my bed praying. I started praying for the students I was going to speak to the next day. I didn't know any of them personally, but I knew that from their perspective this was going to be just another chapel led by yet another unknown chapel speaker. Yawn. As I was praying, it occurred to me that they weren't going to remember one thing I said five minutes after I said it. I had spent hours preparing a lesson that no one was going to remember! What a waste of time and energy.

I got up off my knees, sat back down at my desk, and determined not to let that happen. I got rid of my alliterated points and boiled it down to one idea. Then I worked on it until I had crafted a statement upon which I could hang the entire message.

The next day I told the story. I concluded with the idea that sometimes God will ask us to do things we don't understand. And that the only way to fully understand is to obey. We will all look back with a sigh of relief or feel the pain of regret. Then I delivered my statement: To understand why, submit and apply. I repeated it several times. I had them repeat it. Then I closed.

When I left the platform that day I knew I had connected. What I didn't realize at the time was that I had stumbled onto something that would shape my approach to communication.

Two years later, on a Sunday morning, a college student walked up to me and said, "Hey, you're that guy. You spoke at my high school chapel." Then he paused, collected his thoughts and said, "To understand why, submit and apply." He smiled, "I still remember," he said. Then he turned and walked away. He didn't remember my name. I never knew his. None of that mattered. What mattered was that those 30 minutes in chapel two years earlier were not a waste of time after all. One simple, well-crafted truth had found its mark in the heart of a high school student.

That Sunday morning was a defining moment. Since then I have prepared hundreds of outlines and preached hundreds of sermons. But my goal has been the same since that exasperating night in my efficiency apartment wrestling with the story of Namaan. Every time I stand to communicate, I want to take one simple truth and lodge it in the heart of the listener. I want them to know that one thing and know what to do with it.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Another year older...

Yesterday was my 32nd birthday. Yes the day before 9/11. We started the day off with worship at Crossroads Church in Cottage Grove, MN. Pastor Phil Print gave one of the best messages I have heard in a long time. My wife was also enormously impressed, enough so that we are going to get a copy on DVD to give to a man we know. God is working in some great ways in this church, and it is exciting to see the fruit of many years labor. They are impacting their community in large God-honoring ways. I spend the rest of the afternoon watching football. I rarely get to watch football, so since it was my birthday I thought I would take advantage of it. We stopped at the store on the way home and got some good football watching food (pizza, sliced meats and cheeses for crackers). I have made my wife a lover of Freschetta's Brick Oven Pizza. If you haven't tried them (especially pepperoni) then you are missing out. I always add a bit of extra cheese to make it completely perfect. Home pizza cooking secret: If you want the golden brown on top without burning your crust, cut short your cooking time by about a minute. Turn your broiler on high (if you have a top broiler element in your oven) and let that finish the pizza for the last minute. You have to watch it, but it'll turn the cheese a delightful golden brown.

Last night my in-laws came over to our house for some cake and ice cream. My wife cooked a delicious lemon cake and hand made a cream cheese frosting. Yummy!

Later this week I am meeting with Pastor Phil Print about some ministry opportunities. I'm really looking forward to it, and am looking forward to getting to know Phil better. I was his teaching assistant for parts of two different school years, but that only gives me a limited window into him and his world. Phil is an enormously gifted communicator. He is one of the better sermon writers that I am aware of. I think he has a lot of experience that he could share with me to make me a far greater sermon writer.

On this day, 5 years ago, I was in Mitchell, SD going classroom to classroom in Mitchell Christian School's elementary building talking to boys about joining Cub Scouts. In spite of what was going on around the world, I kept going classroom to classroom doing my job. I actually visited a second school that afternoon, but was home while the buildings both came down and when the Pentagon was hit. My prayers are with those who lost family members that day. It is my hope that this day brings a renewed dedication by our country to the eradication of terrorism. I also hope that you know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, as you never know when your time will come.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

A pilgrimage of sort...

This past weekend my wife and I made a trek to my homeland, beautiful Sioux Falls South Dakota. We were treated to some beautiful weather and a lot of fun. Saturday my wife and mother attended Life Light Christian Music Festival at Wild Water West just outide of Sioux Falls. It had rained quite a bit late last week in the area, and the result was that the area where the Festival is hosted turned into a gigantic mud hole. They enjoyed themselves and the music though. Some 263,000 were in attendance over the extended weekend. While the ladies were taking in the music and mud, my father and I attended the President's Bowl at Howard Wood Field (attendance annouced at 16,000+). The games were entertaining, but unfortunately my former High School (Washington) was systematically destroyed by my father's High School (Lincoln).

Sunday morning, Banana (my wife) and I attended church with my family in the church I grew up in. It was a traditional service in an ELCA church, and to say I disliked it would be putting it lightly. I was reminded of many of the things that were "barriers" to my faith when I was younger. Sometimes it is good to see how NOT to do church.

From church we drove to Mitchell, SD (home of the Corn Palace!) where we attended a family reunion for one branch of my family. It was great to catch back up with those who were unable to attend our wedding, some of whom I have not seen in 2 years or more. It was the traditional pot-luck. In my family, pot-luck means good eating, and usually too much eating! This was to be no different, everybody brought their best stuff (except for us, we got the KFC original bucket of chicken, which is one of my favorite foods in the world).

Following the family reunion, we returned to Sioux Falls to visit with my grandfather. I really enjoy my grandfather, he's a great man. I got a great surprize when I visited this time. As we (the family) were sitting in the living room, my grandfather reached down next to his Lazy-Boy chair and lifted up a book. Turning it towards me, he asked "is this the one you reccommended?" Looking at it, I saw it was a copy of The One Year Chronological Bible (NLT version). A couple of years ago I had preached a sermon, and in the introduction I made mention of how I had been reading The Daily Bible which is 365 daily readings of the Bible in chronological order with some devotional insights included. The fact that they were technically different books is irrelevant. My grandfather said, "I've been reading this every day since I got it after hearing your sermon." I send video tapes of the sermons I preach back home to my family for them to view (if they are interested). It put a great smile to know that I had impacted him at that level, and that he was getting to know Christ more because of it. I think at the end of the day, that is what I am wanting to be all about. Life transformation, helping people to know and be like Christ.

Sunday night we went to the races at Huset's Speedway near Brandon, SD. This was my wife's first race, and she seemed to like it. She especially (wisely!) liked the Sprint Car races. Mark Dobmeier won the 410 Sprint class for his 6th win of the year at Huset's. Dobmeier will likely be running on the World of Outlaws circuit very soon. He is very talented, and has excellent equipment.

Monday morning we got up and had breakfast with my parents. My mother prepaired an excellent meal with more food options than most breakfast buffets. On the drive back to St. Paul we stopped in Cleveland, MN and looked at some F3 tornado damage from a little over a week ago. There was still a silo tipped over on one of the farms, and a lot of trees that were stripped and snapped/destroyed. Much of the debris had been cleared away beyond this though. (Wiki)

It was a great trip, but far too short. We are planning on going back for Thanksgiving, and I am looking forward to it!

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