Thursday, November 30, 2006

Church done right...

The past week or so, I've seen a great deal on where the Church has messed up. No one can deny that there are issues with today's church that needs to be addressed and fixed. It's important to remember the church is only as effect as the people she is comprised of. If we want to fix the issues with the church, then is stands to reason, we MUST look at ourselves. Where are WE failing people? Where can we do better? Where can we be more sensitive? What is it in our own life that is lacking? What are we doing to make the Church a place non-believers would like to come?

The church is a wonderful thing. If done right, it gives healing, wholeness, encouragement, acceptance, strength and so much more to those who are willing to engage her. So, instead of what we view as lacking in today's Churches, what are some of those things we find good about it?

I will give a few and leave room for others...surely, even if you've been hurt from someone in the "Church" you had great experiences too.

Why I love the church (God's People)

1. I love the Church because when done right, it is the most powerful force on the planet! People's lives are genuinely changed when they come into contact with God's Church. Their lives are better as a result.
2. I love the Church because the time spent with God's people is the best time in the world. To have a community of believers gather in one place all for the same reason, there is nothing like it!
3. I love the Church because Jesus gave himself for her!

Why do you love the Church?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Inward Focus Stifles Outward Focus

A few days ago I alluded to the idea that Church should be more OUTWARD FOCUSED rather than INWARD FOCUSED. Over the course of the last few days some pretty interesting topics have surfaced. Andrew at Moved Mountains and Jaime at MoreThanStone have both contributed great posts on the topic, "Church-The New Exodus?". I don't pretend to have all the answers but the more I think about this, the more I get extremely frustrated about it. There is a reason that millions have the left the church in recent years. Probably more reasons than we'll ever know but I think those of us willing to be honest about "Church", could name a few of those reasons. Let me say first of all, I love the Church. I love what she represents and I believe she is a wonderful work of God's Kingdom established on this earth. I do however become extremely disheartened with the way "Church" is done most of the time. My heart aches when the greatest message on the planet is rejected because "Church" has screwed something up for so many people.

I believe in organizational structure but I believe more in being led by the Spirit of God. Agendas, programs, models and the like are mostly tools to help give more to those who have been "getting" from the Church for years and years. The most oppressed of souls seem to be overlooked for what is best for the frequent attenders of the Church. There are entrance requirements and membership has its privileges. There those who are “in” and those who are “out” and the distinctions are made clear by the “ins”.
There are secret passwords and dress codes. (Service times, music styles, acceptable dress). The focus is on member services. (Most of the focus is on improving member services so we can attract more people like us.) This is due to the church being INWARD FOCUSED. When we continually strategize how we can make our "services" better for the member, we've lost touch with the heart of Jesus. We've become Pharisaical to the worst degree. We have allowed the consumer mentality to infiltrate our ranks and poison the true mission of the Church Jesus said he would build. We've sought conformity and in seeking it we've achieved it. We've conformed rather than having been transformed. The elitist mindset that many Christians have is so very opposite of what Jesus demonstrated. [end rant]

So, how do we become Outward Focused...Missional in our thinking? God knows we need it. I have some thoughts on it...

  1. Study Jesus! WWJD isn't just a catchy acronym. We must learn what Jesus would really do in today's culture. It is a must. The Bible is very clear about how Jesus went about doing ministry. If we don't love, accept, teach, care for, listen to, etc...we can forget ever being what God has called us to be in our world.
  2. Throw away the hoops! There came a time in Jesus' ministry where He could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere. Why? Because word spread around that Jesus would accept anyone who came to Him. He did not have a list of hoops that they had to jump through first. Membership requires pre-qualification. If you do this or meet this standard, you can belong. If not, forget it.
  3. Become Missional in our Methods! I love the concept of Missional. It's active and it's at work doing those things Jesus would really do. It's like living, on purpose. It's about realizing that the best "church" happens far from the proximity of a building. Why? Because the building isn't the church!
  4. Seeing God in everyone and everything! Ok, I may loose some here...I believe God exists in everything and everyone. I believe even the worst of people have God's goodness deep inside somewhere. Somewhere hidden deep within is a beautiful creation that God knows is in there! Many times we compare ourselves to non-believers and highlight their bad and our "good". We never consider the fact that we're more alike than we are different. We're both loved unconditionally by God. And as hard as it is for some to believe, God doesn't love you more.
  5. Admit we're not perfect! One of the greatest threats to Christianity is people who think they're perfect when in reality they are as screwed up as the neighbor they don't like.
  6. Seek Connectivity! We must connect with the non-believer. It's not likely to happen in our buildings so we must take it to them. Jesus took ministry to the people. He didn't have a come and get it attitude.
  7. Non-believer's matter most! Money we spend, expansions we make, ministry we do should be first and foremost geared to the non-believer or un-churched. This cuts across the grain for the consumer minded person. They thought all along it was about them! No it is not!
  8. Let People work through their problems! There is a great deal of hurt in peoples lives and most of the time it isn't resolved quickly. People need time and room to wrestle with issues and figure out who they are in God. It's our responsibility to just be there when they need us.
  9. No Perfect People Allowed! If you think you're perfect, you won't fit in here. If you think you're perfect, you won't like us.
  10. Accommodate the imperfect! Go out of your way to welcome and develop relationship with messy people. A messy church is the greatest church!
These are just a few of the ways I think any church can become more outward focused than inward focused. Perhaps if the church were more outward focused, we wouldn't be even discussing the issue of "Church-The New Exodus?"

I would also like to add that Living Springs is a Church committed to being a Church that God is glorified in and where the lost are valued, cared for and sought after. We are really working on being a greater church in our area. We have been able to accomplish great things with God's direction and we're excited about what He has in store...I'm honored to be the Lead Pastor of such a Church.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Where would I be without her?

As Lead Pastor, I know that there are so many people that contribute to the success of the Ministry. Usually the Pastor gets all of the recognition for things done right. The downside to that is the Pastor gets the blame for things done wrong. But most of the time it's the praise for things done right :) My point is, there are a lot of people that make the success of the church happen. Not just the pastor. In this post, I want to give praise to my wife. She is absolutely amazing. We've been pastoring Living Springs for 9 years and I don't think I could have done it without her. She doesn't know it all of the time but I look to her when I'm not sure what to do. I tell her about something and she'll give me her insight and I'm able to see things more clearly. She is the Supreme Administration Executive. It doesn't matter what it is, she's there. If she's not heading it up, she's in the mix in a big way. She's really the go-to person in the ministry. Every announcement made is followed by something like this...."If you need any additional information, see Tiff." Tiff has a wonderful singing voice and she leads the worship in our church. I think if one of us had to go, the church would keep her and let me go. :-) She's invaluable. I only hope I let her know that and that I tell her often enough how much I appreciate her dedication to me our family and our ministry. In many ways she is what keeps me going. I am in no way disillusioned in thinking that any success I've had is singular to me. We are a team and she is in many ways, the captain!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Is The Bible Central To All Life's Problems....continued

Jamie Swann has picked this conversation up on her blog.

She really put the question to the test when she said, "I think perhaps that the question we should be asking is “Is God Central To All Life’s Problems?" I love that!

Here's how I would respond to that.

Being a pastor, I am called on to counsel with individuals, families, friends, etc...quite frequently. Without fail, before every meeting I ask myself what can I share with them about their situation/problem that will really make a lasting impact in their lives? The fact is, only one thing will make a lasting change in our lives, God. I always point people to God's word for clarity and direction on their issue. The Bible speaks if we'll choose to listen. But it isn't just the text of the Bible that we should be steering them toward. Greater than the text is the author of the text. The connection with God's word is necessary but connection with God is more necessary. Though I essentially hold that the God and His word are inseparable, I agree fully with Jamie's question...I believe God Is Central To All Life's Problems!

Missional or Traditional??

I've been wrestling with traditional "Church" for quite sometime now. I don't have a traditional mindset but sometimes I feel trapped in traditional thinking. I'm more missional in my mind but I'm not sure how to escape some of the tradition of "church". I feel like my church has got to begin a missional journey that will connect us to what really needs connecting to. The people outside our walls. We have to realize that Christ has to be taken and shared with people in our community. We send missionaries all over the world to take the gospel message to the lost but in our home communities it would seem that we feel they should come to us in our "church" building. I mean, after all, we're there every week. The lights are on, the doors are unlocked and the breakfast tacos are in the kitchen. But, they're not coming! We have our core group and frequent guests but we're missing something. I'm convinced that which we're missing is waiting to be discovered outside the doors and walls of our building.

I consider Jesus and how he did ministry. I don't see him holed up in a synagogue to just graciously receive all who would enter. Rather the majority of his ministry was outside where the people lived. The church was wherever he went, wherever he was. I told my church tonight that we have to realize the church is not a building; it's an individual, unit or body of Christ-Followers. Where we are, the Church is! I so deeply feel that we must merge into our community to make the kind of impact that God deserves from our lives. We must make a greater impact!

More on this later...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

ITF Getting Geared Up!

Tonight I established my 2007 ITF team. ITF stands for Invent The Future. I feel like I've selected 3 very creative minds to help me in strategizing how we will do ministry in 2007. With this year closing fast, it's time to begin gearing up for the new. I want to hit the new year running wide open. I truly believe this year is going to be a hallmark year for Living Springs Church.

The task of my ITF team is to invent means of ministry. I no longer want to just wait for things to come our way, we're going to make things happen. We'll be considering where we are as a church and inventing ways to bring our church and our community together like never before. I am so excited about what this team is going to be able to accomplish for God!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

My Christmas Wish List...

Every year my kids will write out a Christmas Wish List. Because Chase is only 4 and hasn't learned to write yet, Grace will write down whatever he tells her to. Inevitably, Grace will have a list of about 20 or so things while Chase will have a list of about 2 things. I'm not quite sure how that works yet.

I haven't made a Christmas Wish List since I was just a boy but this year I think I'll slip into child mode and wish. Who knows, it may just come true!

~Shannon's 2006 Christmas Wish List~
  1. That the birth of Jesus be remembered and celebrated in my heart and family!
  2. That I can share this wonderful gift with someone else.
  3. That the idea of getting would be dismissed from my mind and the desire to give would fill my heart.
  4. That I would cherish every moment of enthusiastic surprise when my children open their gifts!
  5. That our Community Christmas Dinner and Angel Tree Outreach would change the way some in my community view church and Christians.
  6. That when the "Season" is past, I'll continue to celebrate!

Is The Bible Central To All Life's Problems?

  • Is there a place that exists in our world, communities, or lives where the Bible has little or no effect?
  • Is there such a problem in existence that the Bible does not have the answer for?
  • Do Christians put too much or too little emphasis and reliability on God's written word?
There is an interesting article by Rusty Benson that I ran across today at

I for one have always held that the Bible is the ultimate answer for the ultimate problem. Throughout the ancient text we can find every problem that has ever been known to man.


Wrapped in these 4 one can easily conjure up a host of dilemmas that we all have dealt with at some point in our existence. I know many Pastors who have sought out Professional Counseling to help them deal with personal issues. As a matter of fact, they openly encourage other Pastors to do the same. I haven't, yet. :) I don't think it's wrong to seek such help, I just don't understand it I guess. I think the Bible has answers to life's problems and if sought for, we will find the answer. I know I have had my fair share of problematic issues in life. However, I have always been able to go to God's word and get the strength, encouragement, desire, understanding, etc...that I needed.

"A lot of Christians seem to think that the Gospel is good for all the normal troubles of life, but when you get to the real complicated stuff, you need a more precise science." ~Tim Lane (CCEF)

What say you?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

How close is too close?

Jesus was very often accused of associating with sinners and even being their friends! What a tragedy! Right? I mean to be called the friend of sinners is a horrible description of the "Son of God". Or is it? I feel that many Christians today forget the fact that Jesus is our supreme example for life and living. I believe what He did, we should do. If Jesus was hanging around sinners, shouldn't we have a friends list that includes many of the forbidden types? You know, those that DON'T come to church. When is the last time you went out to eat with family that isn't following Christ? When is the last time you held a conversation with someone that doesn't appear to be interested in God? Have you engaged in any way a non-believer in the last month? Have I?

I've always believed that relationships leads to conversions. It's next to impossible to lead someone to Christ that you haven't developed some level of trust and confidence with. Loving the Unlovely isn't just a good title for a Sunday morning sermon, it must become a way of life for all Christ Followers! Love those that we would naturally not want anything to do with. Showing interest in the lives of non-believers is what Jesus did so well. He noticed them and they noticed it!

So, how close is too close? We've all been told that a little leaven ruins the whole lump, cast not your pearls before the swine and others like evil communications corrupt good manners. All of these are true but I also believe there is more to be said of these than what's easily pulled off the top.

I believe the Church has got to be outward focused. I fear that many times church is too inward focused to be of any outward good. We have to remember it's not about us....anymore. Jesus said that he didn't come to call the righteous but the sinner.

I want to solicit some feedback on this so here's the question I offer to you.

What does an outward focused church look like to you?

Monday, November 20, 2006


I forgot about my board meeting tonight!! 0_O
All day I had plans of watching the movie "Cars" with my kids so I totally spaced my meeting that was scheduled for tonight. I have never done that before. I felt so bad because when I got my phone, they had tried to contact me several times. On a funny note, all of us fell asleep during the movie :) So I'll have to watch it again. I won't watch it on a board meeting night though :)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

I'm HOME!!

I'll blog about my last two weeks on the road soon! All I can say right now is, I love home! I had a great time and great visits but Dorothy was right, there's no place like home... :)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

On the road again...

Ok, I had a great couple of days with my brother in Lexington, Ky! I arrived on Saturday night. We went to church on Sunday at his church. Incredible church at Southland Christian. On Monday, I helped him on his remodel. He's currently remodeling his entire TaeKwonDo Academy. It's quite an undertaking. Monday night we went to a UK Basketball game. UK basketball is HUGE in Kentucky. It was a great time! Today I left and am now in Evansville, Indiana with another brother of mine, Shane. I'll be here for a couple of days. I'm going to enjoy my time here wrestling with my nephew and kissing on my niece :) and visiting with Shane and Christa. I'll be leaving here on Thursday morning on my way to Rockford where I was raised. On my way through Chicago I'm going to go to El Faro...they are said to have the BEST Burritos in the WORLD!! I can't wait :) I'll check back in later! BTW, I reserved a Chevrolet Malibu for my road trip from Lexington and they were out. They had a Cadillac CTS...can you say Luxury and Style!!??!! I love it. This car is amazing. I loved them when they came out and I'm loving it now for sure! I'll post a pic of it later. I may have to get rid of my Ford F-150 Super Crew for one of these bad boys :)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Ready, Set, Go!

Well it's almost midnight and I'm all packed and ready to fly out tomorrow. I'll be gone for two weeks and I'm already missing my family, incredibly. I was in Alaska for 10 days last summer and I thought it was going to kill me :) I have an itinerary full of things to do while I'm away. It seems to change from day to day though. I guess once I get to Lexington tomorrow I can focus more and get some things in concrete. Being I have no "pressing" engagements to fulfill, the 2 weeks is really going to be off-the-cuff. Part of me likes that and the other part craves structure. I guess I'll have to find my way the next two weeks. I'll definitely be asking God to guide me. Especially when I get to Wisconsin and Rockford, Ill.

I'll be visiting my brothers in Kentucky and Indiana before heading on to Wisconsin and Illinois. I'm looking forward to seeing them both and my two nieces and nephew.

I have to leave for the airport tomorrow at 2:00p.m. so I'll be spending some quality time with my kids before I go. My wife won't be here though. Our church is hosting the San Antonio Women's Ministries Event for our Section tomorrow and being the "Pastor's" wife, she's in charge. I'll swing in and get a kiss and a hug before I leave. =)

Did I mention I'm going to miss my family?


A conversation I had last week reminded me of something. I was sharing our church story with a gentleman I had just met. In short, we purchased land to build a new church on 4 years ago. A year later, now three years ago we began building our new church facilities. Though we're near complete, we're still working. We've done all of it ourselves to save money and reduce the cost of construction. I have many pros and cons to this approach having been through it now. If you're considering it, ask me! I'll tell you no lies :) Anyway, I was sharing a story with him how that one day I was out on the church property and we had just finished our site work. A gentleman, who is a dear man, asked me this question. "How large is this building going to be?" I responded, "17,000 sq.ft. Upon hearing that he asked me, "Well, how many people do you have in your church?" I said, "25". This is where he looked at me with an amazing face of confusion. He looked at me as said, "I don't know if that's FAITH or STUPIDITY".

I didn't hesitate to answer, "Faith!" This is a faith effort. We're not building 17,000 square feet because we need it today, we're building it because we're going to need it tomorrow! Faith always sees past today into the future. To simply live for the here and now doesn't take any real degree of faith. What does require real faith is to engage in something that doesn't make sense. To do something illogical and plain stupid. So here's what I've come to believe and this is now a core conviction of mine. "Stupid Faith" To live in stupid faith. The vast majority of the time when you tell someone what God has asked you to do and you're doing it, it appears stupid in the natural. It's always illogical and almost NEVER makes any sense. I've come to believe that if it makes sense to me, it's not God and I should look real hard at what it is I'm doing. Since January of 1998, my wife and I have been living STUPID FAITH. Believing God to do amazing things through a small community church with God-sized vision and faith! We're no longer at 25 people....we're 80+ on our way to 500 or more! For a town with a population of only 950 something, it's sounds pretty stupid to think Living Springs can become a 500+ member church.

I'll take stupid faith over logic any day!

Whatever it is God is asking you to do, step out in stupid faith. It makes much more sense than you could ever imagine!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Feel like Blogging?

If you're like me, you might be seeking new ways to express your thoughts, feelings, ideas, etc... If so, blogging is a great way to do that! I began blogging in August and absolutely love it! I only wish I hadn't waited so long to enter the blogosphere.

If you're seriously considering creating a blog, I want to introduce you to someone who has helped me and many others out with great advice. His name is John Smulo. John is unique and he isn't so caught up with himself and his "blog" that he won't help you with yours. I had a lot of questions and John was gracious enough to point me in the right direction. He even went so far as to create a post on his own sight addressing many of the questions I asked and his subsequent advice. It's a great read for beginning bloggers! I dare say a must read :)

Check it out here

Don't forget to read the many comments on John's post, "Advice For New Bloggers" as well! You will find many additional tips on blogging.

Joust Challenge= $300.00

At our Hallelujah Festival on Halloween night, the event was almost concluded when a gentleman in my church challenged me to a jousting match. You know those inflatable jousting thingys...anyway, I couldn't refuse a challenge, could I? Especially when he stated that for every time I knocked him off his stand, he would give the church $100.00. When he said this, I was ready to rumble!!

It was best out of five. He knocked me down the first time and I thought, oh no, I just lost 100.00 for my church!! The next time he went down. I think he "fell" down cuz I didn't even touch him :). The next two falls would be all his as I knocked him down for a total of three times. I'm not convinced that he didn't let me win the matches but either way it was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it! Not to mention, the church got $300.00 for it. The best $300.00 the church ever received!

He is quite a guy and I enjoyed the challenge!

Anyone wanna joust?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Special Places

If you're anything like me, you have those special places where you love to get alone. You know, those places of quiet contemplation. I love those times of just me, my thoughts and God. No distractions, no rush.

I thought I'd share a few of mine with you.

I don't know which of these I like the best but here they are none the less.
1. My office. I can sit here for hours and do nothing but think, think, think.

2. Fool Moon Cafe. This is a new spot for me but I've quickly come to love it. I take a good book with me, order a chicken salad sandwich and just read. If you ever visit the South Texas Hill Country of Bandera, Fool Moon Cafe is a must!

3. Medina River! The Medina River makes a horseshoe bend around Bandera. The waters are calm and soft flowing. It makes for a peaceful setting to listen to God speak to my heart.

So these are my favorite spots of contemplation. I firmly believe in making an exit out of the normal routine of everyday and finding a place where you can get alone with your thoughts. Some of the greatest words God has ever spoken to my spirit are in these quite places.

If you don't already, find a place where you don't have to worry about anyone asking questions, interrupting or demanding your time. You owe it to yourself!

Showers are great thinking places...Part 2

Ok so I was in the shower and "reverse living" sort of pops into my head. What does it look like to live in reverse? Something like this...When leaving your house, you exit via the back door and when coming home, you enter via the back door. When getting into your car to leave, you don't use the traditional method of entry, you enter the car through the passenger side, climb over the center console and buckle up in the driver's seat. When going through McDonald's drive through, you do so backwards (I've done this before and it makes for a real good laugh :O), rather than keeping credit cards, cash, business cards, drivers license in your wallet, you just fill your front pocket with these items...We could on and on. All of these things have one thing in common, they would all be incredibly inconvenient to do.

I've lived in my house for 8 years this month and I don't ever recall leaving or entering my home from the back door. Unless you count the time I had to break my back door glass to get in :). I never get in my truck via the passenger door. I've never entertained the idea of carrying all of my "wallet" items in my front pocket! Though I have gone through McDonald's drive through backwards, I don't do it all the time, just when I'm with the right group of people. You should try it sometime it's a huge laugh and nothing illegal about it :)

Here's my point....As a pastor, having been pastor of the same church now for nearly 9 years, we can easily descend into a methodology. We do it this way because that's the way we've always done it. When my wife and I became the pastors of Living Springs, we were just 25 years old and had never pastored before. The church was very small...8 people to be exact. It was basically a new church plant as we saw it. At the very least an extreme revitalization effort. The church had 8 core people and 102.00 in the bank. We had our work cut out for us! Through God's grace and years of perseverance, we're seeing the blessing of God on our church as never before in the history of Living Springs! Within our first year of ministry, the church now had $20k in the bank and was in the process of bargaining for land to build a new church on. The new church is built and ministry is expanding very nicely in our small corner of the world.

As of February of this year, God has totally shifted my way of thinking about "Church and Ministry". I realized that after 8 years of pastoring, I was stuck! Stuck in a mindset of ministry. This is the way we do it. This is the way we've done it for 8 years! But I couldn't give a reason of why. Why do I do it like this? Why does it have to be done this way? Why can't there be room for change? Thank God I'm now living in reverse in many areas of my life. As a church, we have reversed ministry in many areas. If a ministry isn't working, we cut it or find a new way of doing it. No need for dead limbs.

Sometimes leaving the house from the back door changes our perspective and many times a change of perspective is all we need to better see what God is trying to do in us and through our ministry!

Live in reverse once in a while! You'll love it!