Why RE.THINK Church

A little over 2 years ago when we decided to venture down this path of starting a church in an area where we knew no one and had no connections; we really had no clue what to expect.  Heather (my wife) and I didn’t know exactly what kind of church we wanted to create we knew what kind of church we didn’t want.  Nor did we know what to expect when we finally were able to move up to Merrillville, IN.  

I’ll admit we wanted to create a church based on our own personal experiences as well as our experiences as pastors on staff at several different churches, some were boring, some were way too fancy and uptight, and most weren’t innovative.  So when we decided to start a church we decided to start a fun, casual, and innovative church.

  1.  Start a fun church.

My first memory of church happened when I was about five years old.  The pastor standing on the stage babbled on and on about stuff I had no clue about.  Like most five-year-olds, I got bored… really bored.  My older brother and I sat there talking, fighting, and who knows what, but we were especially loud on that particular day.  

The pastor, Pastor Helmet Head, was the name I gave him because of his perfect depiction of a TV Evangelist of the 1980’s… his hair wasn’t moving at all hence “Pastor Helmet Head.”. He looked down from the stage as he stood behind the pulpit and told my brother and me to be quiet.  I simply responded back, “Yes, Pastor Helmet Head….”  I realized then that kids were expected to act like adults, and most adults just simply endured this version of church.  After Pastor Helmet Head, a new guy named Dave became our pastor.  Dave was pretty traditional but fun.  He helped me to get a glimpse of what church would look like when there is fun involved.

I think it’s time we started allowing the church to be fun.  I think it should be age relevant environments so that an adult can encounter Jesus just like a child can encounter Jesus.  Kids shouldn’t have to sit through an adult service and never move.  There should be dancing, fun, games, and the occasional loud screams of joy from the kid’s area.  All these things should be a sign as to what’s going on as adult leaders break down the complex truths of the Bible into simplistic forms meant for kids.  If these things don’t happen I would tend to question what’s really going on!   

It’s time for  RE.THINK Church to make it fun!  

We don’t take ourselves too seriously because let’s face it if God has a sense of humor maybe it’s time for His church to have one too!

  1. Start a casual church:

I remember waking up every Sunday and wanting to wear my jeans and a t-shirt, but no I couldn’t.  I had to dress up, put on my Sunday best.  The funny thing is I remember doing all this, but not doing my hair.  My hair was a mess most Sundays, but at least I wasn’t wearing jeans!  

One particular Sunday, in between our Sunday School and church service, I asked an adult, “if someone can’t afford dressy clothes can they come to church?”

The adult’s response has shaped me since, but not in a good way.  

The response I got was essentially this, “If you can’t afford dressy clothes coming to church is the least of your worries…” the adult caught himself after those words, but the damage was already done.  Like toothpaste that has been squeezed out of the tube, he couldn’t put the words back in his mouth.  There was no recovery for him, his attitude is one that I’ve seen in several churches throughout America. He just happened to voice it.  

When I think of a church a place that should be known for grace, mercy, love, and kindness. I shudder at the idea that church is known for the thing most people get dressed up in order to encounter Jesus.  Pastor Jud Wilhite states in his book, Uncensored Grace, “Sometimes people who have it together externally are a mess internally.”  Let’s not fool ourselves here, dressing up doesn’t make you any more godly.  

I’d rather have someone show up in what they can afford, what they are comfortable in. As long as bits and pieces are covered and there are no disrespectful writing or graphics, then we’re good.  

Having a casual church isn’t all about the dress code though.  

We understand that the message of Jesus and living life the way He intends us to live can be a  very difficult thing to live out.  We get it, we are still striving to do the same here.  Creating a casual church goes beyond the dress code and into the terms of how people mature through their relationship with Christ.  

People are in control of the pace at which they want to take their next right step.  We’ll explain everything up front as much as possible, but we expect people to take the journey as they see fit.  We’re here to journey with you along the way!   

  1.  Start an innovative church:

I’ve been a pastor since 2001.  I’ve been involved in churches to some capacity my entire life.  I’ve noticed something about churches… on the surface, churches have the same elements.  Every weekend there is a service, songs are sung, someone stands up to give a message, and someone says some prayers and that’s about it.  Some churches have kids ministries, some churches don’t.  Some churches have things for teenagers some don’t.  

RE.THINK Church has a goal, a mission to be an innovative church.  We don’t want to just start up a church that acts, feels, functions the same as churches we can find anywhere else.  Innovation goes beyond cosmetics.  I believe innovation goes down into our DNA.  

RE.THINK Church resides in Lake County, IN.  There are 220,000+ people who have no religious affiliation at all. We want to see that number eliminated.  Why? Because we believe the message of Jesus is one that will change people’s lives forever.  These 220,000+ individuals have stories, reasons, and beliefs that have led them to consciously check “No Affiliation” on their census.  I don’t know their story, but I want to.  

In order to make it possible for each of the 220,000+ people in Lake County to encounter Jesus in the same manner I have; I can’t depend on the same methods to work.  Let’s face it, they most likely won’t.  

I’ll admit, I don’t have this one nailed down completely, but I do know that my friends, neighbors, fellow parents at soccer games, football games, people I meet at the gym, and at the coffee shop and every other person deserves an innovative church, and that’s what we are striving to accomplish.  

I believe that if God really did create each human being in His own image there is a God-sized God give dream inside each of us.  We want people to discover that dream and unleash the potential in their own lives.  I believe when we start doing that we’ll start living into the full potential that God has for us as individuals, families, and communities.  

S.O.A.P

As a pastor who is starting a brand new church, I’ve been asked this question several times in the past few months. How can I read the Bible and understand what it says?

I realize that not everyone who reads this blog is interested in reading the Bible or may not care about a relationship with Jesus right now.  I would still encourage you to explore this.  There is so much wisdom found in the Bible.  I believe that your life will benefit from reading the Bible no matter your motivation.  Give Proverbs a chance and see if you don’t pick up some wisdom!

This month, I want to explain how I read the Bible and remember what I’ve read.  

#1.  Find a platform and method that works for you.  I personally use the Youversion Bible app.  It’s a great way for me to read/ listen to the Bible in a life-giving manner.  I struggle with physically reading and remembering some things. However, if I hear something, I remember it quite easily.  My wife physically reads from her Bible every morning.  

#2.  Find a translation that works for you.  There are plenty translations out there that work and are great for reading preferences.  I personally enjoy reading the NIV, NLT and ESV versions.  Every so often, I venture to the Message for its ease of reading and a fresh view on the scripture I’m reading.  Some translations of the Bible are more accurate to the original language than others. I personally enjoy the process of finding a translation that helps me understand the concepts, principles, and message of God.  This is important because the Bible teaches me how to live my life the way He intends me to.  

#3.  S.O.A.P. This is a method I’ve used for more than a decade.  Even with utilizing the first two tips, there are were times I’d find myself wondering what I had just read. I would ask myself if there was anything helpful in what I just read.  I came across this method when a mentor of mine explained how he read the Bible.  The S.O.A.P. method is a journal keeping method that helps me understand the Bible content and apply it.

Let’s walk through Romans 8:1 as an example.

S= Scripture

Write down the part of the Bible you’re reading.  If you’re reading an entire chapter, but two verses of the Bible passage stand out to you, write down the entire address i.e.  Romans 8:1-2.

O= Observation

What did you observe in verses 1-2 that stood out to you?  “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

  1. People who are in a relationship with Jesus are free from the law of sin and death….what does that mean for people who aren’t in a relationship with Jesus?  
  2. If there is no condemnation for people in a relationship with Jesus what does it mean for people who aren’t in a relationship with Jesus?  
  3. How can I live a life of freedom?  What does it look like for me to live in freedom from sin and death?

A=Application

Out of the things you’ve observed, what is one thing you can apply? -Freedom.  I want to live my life free from sin and death.  If that is the case, Jesus gives me the strength to live free from the sin that enslaves me.  

P= Prayer

This is the last part of the process.  Sometimes I write it out.  Some days I simply pray it.  Jesus, thank you for your word that offers me life.  Jesus, help me to live in that freedom in order to experience life the way you intended me to live.  Thank you for empowering people thousands of years ago to hear you and write what you directed them to write.  Thank you for caring for me that much!  Jesus, help me to <apply what I just read> live out that freedom from sin and death that can be found in you!  -Amen.  

I hope this helps.  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

What are some methods you use to help you read and understand the Bible?

 

Four Life Lessons to Support a Strong Marriage

So this month I’ve asked some of my dear friends to help me out with this blog post.  Mike and Tammy Oswalt are more like “framily” than friends.  I’ve worked with Tammy in the past while we were both on staff at First Wes in Battle Creek, MI.  Mike was a guy that I asked to grab coffee with so often and pick his brain on leadership, fatherhood, life among other random topics we discussed.  These meetings turned into monthly discussions over meals.  Our families vacation together. These two have one of the strongest marriages I’ve ever witnessed.  I wanted all of you to hear their story and insights as well.

Four Life Lessons to Support a Strong Marriage

by Mike and Tammy Oswalt

We hope to inspire and encourage other married couples by our love story that is our life. Our story began when we were still in high school. Mike Oswalt was 17 and Tammy DePalma was 15. For Tammy, it was love at first sight. Mike would soon catch up 🙂 We both went to the same high school and to the same church. Obviously, this made it easier to see each other on a regular basis. We became friends first and realized that we liked being around each other – a lot. We decided to enter a church costume contest together. At the time, Smurfs were popular and so, two smurf costumes were created – complete with blue face paint. For Tammy, this was a huge deal going out in public with her face all blue…but for the right guy 🙂  We won the costume contest and collected our prize which was a gift certificate to a local restaurant. Our first date was dinner out using that gift certificate. After that first date, our relationship moved forward pretty smoothly and when Tammy was a senior in high school, we were engaged. We married on May 23, 1987.

Being married brought excitement and also its own set of learning curves and challenges. We knew that we were in love and committed to making our marriage work. However, it was difficult at times as we learned how to communicate as husband and wife. Neither of us were brought up by parents that exemplified strong marriages, and the culture for our generation was if it gets difficult, get a divorce. We agreed this was not an option for us. We relied on God and our church leaders to help us navigate the first couple years of marriage. This is where we learned the first of many important life lessons – the more you put God at the center of your marriage, the stronger and better it will become.

We were young when we started having kids. Mike was almost 23 and Tammy was just 21 when our daughter was born. We were excited and scared at the same time. We now had a little being relying on us. Four years later, our middle son was born. Three years after that our youngest son was born. We had always wanted to be parents and wanted to raise our children to love God and love His church. Our kids were raised in church. In fact, Tammy worked at the church for eighteen years, so our kids didn’t just go to church on Sundays, they were there on Wednesday nights and sometimes Saturdays helping to get the children’s’ ministry classrooms ready for Sunday. Some weeks were hectic, to say the least. But now as our children are adults we see that they have continued to have a heart for helping others. If you find life being hectic, don’t loose site that children are learning from your example. Through that hectic time, we learned our second life lesson make it a priority for your children to have a relationship with Jesus and teach them that serving others is something that you are to do as Christ followers.

Speaking of hectic times,

If some of you are parents, you know that children put a certain strain at times on a marriage. Parenting is a blessing, don’t misunderstand us, but sometimes the tantrums and fighting between siblings can also create tension in the home. Learning to parent together, on the same page, is key. We were not perfect in that regard but did strive to parent as a team. This helped to alleviate tension between us as a couple. We also knew that we had God’s Word to fall back on and other couples at our church when we felt weak or inadequate as parents. Don’t ever feel like you are inadequate if you reach out to others for help. That brings us to the third life lesson – God gives you the tools for marriage and parenting if you only look for them and follow them.

We recently celebrated our 30th anniversary. Although we’ve had some struggles and heartbreaks that we have weathered together over the years, we have had a really wonderful marriage. We both feel blessed in that regard. We attribute our success to the most important life lesson keep God at the center of your marriage and put each other first. This is made possible when you learn your spouse’s love language – and speak it often. Also, make date night a priority, and by all means, don’t apologize for taking a getaway without the kids each year.


Continue reading Four Life Lessons to Support a Strong Marriage

Summer Time

It’s here…. School is out which means kids are out of the confines of school.  The issue is that most parents still work during the summer.  Life still has to happen, right?

If we aren’t careful or intentional, another summer will go by and we’ll look back and wonder what we actually did.  There’s nothing wrong with relaxing parts of summer.  Kids will always enjoy watching endless hours of TV or gaming, but should it be the norm for their summer?  Probably not.  

So parents, what can we do during the summer that brings life and intentionality to the summer for our families?  

Vacation:

These are a must for each summer.  Vacation allows us to get away and disconnect from technology and our “work family” and pour our lives and attention to reconnecting as a family.  

To make these times memorable, it doesn’t need to take millions of dollars.  It could be just a few hundred dollars.

Road trip it!  

Several years in a row, my family and I vacationed in the Smoky Mountains. At the time, we lived in Battle Creek, MI and drove each year.  We loved the time on the road together.  My wife is an amazing woman and decided to help our budget by packing lunches.  We packed a soccer ball and frisbee in the back too.  We would find a rest area along the way, stop for an hour get out and stretch our legs and spend more time together as a family.  These are some of my favorite memories as a dad.  

We stayed in a cabin for a week and planned our meals so that majority of the time we ate at the cabin.  We used our weekly grocery budget to supply our food during our week of vacation. We budgeted so that we could also eat out a few times at local restaurants during our vacation.  We simply added that amount to our weekly grocery budget while on vacation.   

We gave our sons the honor of planning the recreation part of the vacation.  We gave them the budget and told them to stay within the budget.  They called all the places they wanted to go to and visit.  It was great watching them call the attractions and ask cost, if they had any specials and whether the prices were negotiable or not.  This gave our sons a real sense of ownership in our vacation.  

We found several free activities as well during our vacations.  

Weekend Getaways or Staycation

Take half a day on a Friday or Monday and extend your weekend.  Plan a movie night or bonfire night.  Find a drive in and take your family.  Don’t tell your kids you’re going to do this.  This will be a great surprise.  If you can afford it, book a hotel room for a night or two and get away to a close by city or attraction.  

These little surprise weekends display to your kids that they mean something to you!  Parents here’s a little secret, as your kids get older you don’t know as much as you used to. They have access to all the knowledge they can ever have with Google searches, social media access etc.  We must become intentional at investing in their lives so that when they need guidance during the middle school and high school years, they come to us first.  As we invest in their lives during these intentional moments of vacations or staycations and spend time with them, they will continue to look to us for guidance and trust us.  

One summer that was abnormally stressful we decided to make South Haven our place.  Each Friday (our day off) we spent on the beaches of South Haven, Michigan.  We ended each Friday with a cone of ice cream watching the sunset over Lake Michigan.  Find a place your family can make their own!

One of the tensions we hold is RE.THINK Church is in the very beginnings of organizational life.  We are doing our best to create a church unchurched people would actually want to attend and still keeping our focus on our family.  My wife has said this for years, we won’t sacrifice our family on the altar of our church.  So we need to find the balance in the early stages of this process.  We are planning some getaways and fun times with our sons this summer!

What are your ideas?  

How have you invested in your family this summer?

 

The Middle

Who likes the middle?  Let’s face it, no one really does. Men, if there are three urinals and you have your choice, which one are you avoiding?  The one in the middle, right?  I dare you to find a child who actually enjoyed sitting in the middle of the backseat between two siblings on long road trips.  I loathed sitting the middle! As a child who only knew “husky” jeans, the middle was not a comfortable place to sit!

No one really wants to spend a lot of time in the middle, but maybe we should.  Maybe it’s in the middle that we find ourselves exactly where God has placed us.

Think of a bridge. I know a bridge is an overused cliche thing, but picture it anyway. A bridge is stuck in the middle. It doesn’t choose sides. Its purpose is to stay in the middle of the two sides and make the connection possible.  We live in a polarizing era in history.  It seems that we are only given two sides to things, two options.  I’ve always been told that we must choose a side because by not choosing we are choosing.  I understand where people come from in this way of thinking.  I get it, but I’ve starting asking myself a question over the past few years…. What exactly am I accomplishing by doing this?

I’m blown away that when I actually read and study the Bible, I see Jesus not falling into a category.  He doesn’t seem to stay to one side. He is His own category.  Humanity attempted several times to make Him choose a side and He avoided it.  Maybe if I say I follow Him, I should follow in His footsteps?

Let’s look back into the Old Testament and realize that God doesn’t choose our sides as we might assume He does.  Joshua was stepping into a new leadership role after the death of his dear friend and mentor, Moses, who had recently passed.  Joshua was scouting out the territory that the Israelites were about to step into and hopefully conquer back… hopefully.  He finds a man standing with a drawn sword.  Joshua approaches the man and asks a simple question, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?”  The man standing there responded, “Neither, but as the commander of the army of the Lord…..”  Joshua fell on his face and worshiped.  I agree with several scholars who hold the stance that the man standing there with a drawn sword was Jesus. There were a few times Jesus stepped out of Heaven for a moment during the Old Testament time period and into humanity.  

This might come as a surprise to some, but there are different views and sides within the same religions.  The religious setting Jesus grew up in was no different. One side was a very “conservative” religious side and there was another side that was more “progressive” side. There are times that Jesus, while He was on the earth for 33-ish years, made statements that might align Him with one religious side or another. If you keep reading,  you see him say something or do something that appears He is aligning himself with the other side. Jesus says in one breath that one letter of the law won’t pass away and in the next breath, He says, “you have heard it said…. But I tell you…..” Which is it, Jesus?  

Jesus calls his original twelve apostles from completely different political viewpoints and encourages them to look beyond their own political agenda for something so much greater.  Simon the Zealot has to work with Matthew the tax collector in order to help people see Jesus.

Growing up,  I have always been told that by not choosing a side, I stand for nothing. I get it.  But why do I have to choose a side that is presented?  Can’t I choose to stand in the middle at times?  Jesus isn’t a Republican.  Jesus isn’t a Democrat.  Nor is He a Libertarian.  Jesus is Jesus.  Political options might be easier, but I don’t think Jesus is asking us to find the easiest way.

Which Lives Matter?

Black lives matter and so do Blue lives.  I empathize with young African American people who struggle to be known and struggle with the concept that their lives don’t really matter.  The young man walking down the street matters.  I started connecting with a young man who walks up and down the street RE.THINK Church sits on.  As Cameron and I have connected, I’ve asked him this question “Can you explain the Black Lives matter issue?”  His insights have helped me come to a place to say “Yes, their message has validity”.  It has a place and it needs to be heard!  His concern is that the original message has been hijacked and might need to be revisited and reevaluated.  I have a brother-in-law who is a sheriff deputy.  I’ve heard his side of the story. I love and respect him as a man and an officer!  I know he is a fair law enforcement officer who wants the best for his community.  He also wants to come home safely at the end of the each day.  My desire is to stand in the middle of these polarizing messages and connect the two sides, my goal in connecting them is to have each side communicate with each other.  When we place people on sides, or in categories “You’re one of them…”  “You’re a….”  we objectify the person and remove their humanity.  I believe Christ-followers need to remove those obstacles and help our neighbors see each other as humans, and ultimately connect people to the God who loves humanity beyond any understanding.  

The Bible and humanity:

In this section, I want to be very clear.  I believe in orthodoxy, I believe that the Bible’s words give us the methods, paths, and examples of how to live our lives to the fullest as our relationship matures with Jesus.  The words found in the Bible, the teachings of our spiritual forefathers and foremothers, our ability to reason and our personal experience should guide us into truth, into the best life possible as we live in this world we live in.  I am not debating the truths, the grace, nor what Jesus calls sin or what Jesus calls good in the Bible.  

I honestly believe that the Bible was written for every human being and every human should read it!  It’s a collection of books that speak the loving message of God to humanity. I don’t view it as mine to protect and ensure that no one perverts it. God will do that.  It’s mine to read, grasp it’s meaning as much as I can and apply to my life.  As a pastor, it’s also mine to communicate and teach to others and give examples of how to apply these teachings to their own lives.     One of the most challenging parts of everyone reading the words of the Bible on their own or in a community is that they might read it differently than I would.  I think the benefit of having people reading the words of God on a regular basis are so much more than the downsides.  This issue is not a new issue, it’s been around since the beginning of the church.  

So, what do we do with people who have a sexual orientation and sexual lifestyle different than what is described in the Bible, and people misunderstanding what the Bible says?   I see Jesus stepping into the middle and leading with grace and truth.  He engages in a conversation with a lady who is caught in sexual sin.  He shows grace toward her and speaks truth to her at the same time.  He encourages her to leave her life of sin.  It is possible to stand in the middle as a church and as a Christ follower and to show grace and truth in their fullest capacity.

Connection Brings Tension:

In an era where people are desperate for connection, desperate for hope, and desperate for a voice; instead of choosing a side, maybe I should stand in the middle.  Maybe I need to make it possible for their voice to be heard, possible for them to have access to hope, and possible for them to connect with Jesus.  Jesus tells me that the world will know that I am His disciple by the way I love others, not by my ability to fix people or convince people.  So, maybe I should stand in the middle and love others the way Jesus loves me.  

Not choosing a side mean living with tension.  Pull a rubber band and where is the most tension…. In the middle.  Each side pulling whatever, or whoever is in the middle toward their side.  Standing my ground in the middle seems to bring the most tension, as well as the most opportunity to connect other humans to each other, and ultimately to Jesus.

 

 

 

Top 6 Books to check out in 2017

  1. Purple Cow and 2. Tribes by Seth Godin.  

I think these books should be read back to back.  To me, they are two sides to the same coin.  As I prepared to start RE.THINK Church, one thing our team desired was to not be just like every other church in NWI. Don’t get me wrong, we are FOR every church. We want to complete the Church, not compete with the Church.  In order to set ourselves aside, I started down this path of pursuing how to be different. I asked myself “ How does RE.THINK become the church that will get noticed the way a purple cow would standing in a field among black and white cows?”

“Purple Cow” and “Tribes” are a crucial read for anyone who wants to lead.  The author, Seth Godin, implores his readers to lead differently and be bold about it. The future will not be filled with people who simply settled for a paycheck. The future will be held by those of us who daringly pursue what is there for us?  What are you daringly pursuing?

I think these two books will help any leader who is attempting something new and daring.  I read these books and was so encouraged about the future, not only of my own adventure with RE.THINK Church, but also about what the future of business and marketing could be.

Don’t settle for what will be handed to you or what is presented to you. Challenge it. Pursue something else. There must be something better. I think Seth Godin is an amazing clear voice in this niche area to help this movement.

The book “Tribes” explains how to avoid the pitfall of over priced, over saturated marketing.  The author hints that people are becoming more and more tribal in the way we live. With such things as Crossfit, coffee, schools, places we live and work, society is starting to move toward informal tribes. The strange thing about tribes is that we still need people to lead.  Seth urges leaders to stand up and take their place.

I think the best method to reading these books is to read them as part of a group.  Find two or three other like minded people who are pursuing similar paths. Spend time reading and discussing each chapter in order to learn from each other.

3. The Power of the Other  by Dr. Henry Cloud

Dr. Henry Cloud does a great job laying out for us the types of relationships we have with others.  He also explains why we need the right kind of people in our corner encouraging us toward our goal. In those moments when we want to give up, having the right people in the right corner is so crucial.  

If you find yourself in the middle of a challenging season, read this book. If you find yourself in a time of ease, read this book and prepare yourself.  You won’t regret it.
4. Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment by Scott Sauls

I love this book.  I read through it quickly and now I am going back through this book a chapter a day.  I can’t get enough of the truths, insights and perfectly timed challenges.  

Scott is a pastor in Nashville, TN. He writes compassionately and challenges Christ followers like myself to befriend people groups that are outside my comfort zone.  I think any and every Christ follower who actually takes seriously the words of Jesus, “love your neighbor as yourself” should read this book.   

5. Essentialism by Greg McKeown

This. Book.  The words and insights go against everything I experienced working in the corporate world about becoming a commodity for everyone.  Attempting to be everything for all people will kill us, so don’t.  McKeown does a great job explaining that essentialism is about the disciplined pursuit of doing less, doing the essential thing.  In the end, we’ll see a deeper reward and more production. Isn’t that what every leader desires?  As I read through this book, I was challenged in so many ways to be in relentless pursuit of less, but better.  

The line that made me read this book through was the line about “most people want to make a millimeter of progress in a million directions”.  What would it look like if we did the opposite of that statement?  I believe this world would be better. I believe that we can do it as well!

6. George Washington’s Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger.

I love history. This book was a great book for me to read and simply absorb. I sat in awe as I read. How in the world did these individuals figure this whole espionage thing out?  How did they topple an empire?  Here we are centuries later living in the fruits of their sacrifice. As I write this blog, I’m sitting in a Starbucks drinking an Americano. That statement right there wouldn’t be possible if these individuals didn’t figure out the spying game. This book inspires me to figure something out now that seems impossible.  Not just for my own sake, but for the sake of the future generations.

I think these books have the potential of inspiring us to have the best year possible even though we’re four months into 2017.  I hope we can dig deep, get some wisdom and pursue a path that might not seem clear right now, but we know it’s the right path to go down.  The path that seems ‘easy’ might need to be avoided. It might lead us to mediocrity. It most likely will lead us down a path of repeating the same crap over and over again.  What seems impossible to us right now, might actually be what we need to head into.  In 2015, I had to repent of unbelief that God wanted me to start a church from scratch, that He could use me.  I thought I could, but honestly didn’t really believe that God wanted to or could use me.  These books, among others, inspired me to repent of my unbelief and to pursue the best path as RE.THINK Church matures who knows what is down this path of uncertainty and potential.  My hope is that we’ll become a tribe pursuing something bigger than ourselves and better than the paths that seem easy and convenient.  Chase after something better!

Continue reading Top 6 Books to check out in 2017

So, I have come across a guy who I believe is one of the most effective leaders in America.  I’ve read some of his books, listened to his podcasts, visited his church and have learned so much from him while going through his coaching program. Matt Keller is the Lead Pastor of Next Level Church in Ft. Meyers, Fl. It is a great place to visit, attend and be part of. I believe what God is doing in and through Next Level Church will change Southwest Florida and beyond.  

I’m going to give him credit for a majority of this blog. His leadership teaching about Trains, Tracks, and Future Cities has helped me immensely.   

One of my favorite things about past leadership positions has been clear guidelines of what I should be doing. When I worked at Denso, I knew exactly what to work on most of the time. The schedule dictated it. In previous churches, I knew pretty much what to work on because of the vision and business of church life. As great as those positions were, they didn’t offer me what I really wanted, the chance to lead the way God has wired me to lead.

If I had to be honest, since starting the process of launching RE.THINK Church in Merrillville, IN there have been days when I ‘go to work’ and realize “…umm, what should I be working on?”.  With the launch comes building renovations, creating a launch team, building the team, developing leaders and responding to emails and phone calls. I also have the task of completing all the necessary documents to start a church and not screw it up! I have felt overwhelmed and had no idea what I should do next. I have felt frozen.

I came across a teaching from Matt Keller about Trains, Tracks, and Future Cities. It is one of the most helpful teachings I’ve found for leadership.  

In Matt’s words, the “train” is working on our own business. It’s making sure things are running smoothly, bills are paid and events are taking place that is necessary for our business or church to be successful. The “tracks” are short term goals that are going to get us moving. The “future cities” are long term goals that we are on a journey to reach. I have spent a lot of time wondering what to be working on. This leadership teaching has helped shape me to know what to be working on.

RE.THINK Church launched weekly services Jan. 21st. Since that night, things have been crazy. It’s a good crazy, but still crazy. It is good to have a clear direction and certain things that I can focus on that have to be accomplished.  

It has been so helpful to be able to define what the “train” is, what my “tracks” are and what “future cities” we as an organization are headed towards. I love to dream and accomplish tasks, but Keller points out that it’s not enough to be working on Train, Tracks and Future Cities. We as leaders must work on a fourth task, “tracks back from the city”  in order to make sure the forward-moving tracks meet at the right destination. Reverse engineering is such a crucial part of dreaming and planning on any level.  

I’d encourage any leader in any capacity to spend time and determine what’s your “train”, what are your “tracks”, what “future cities” are you headed towards and how will you ensure you get there?

One of the most important groups of leaders that typically allow themselves to be overlooked is parents. I believe with everything in me that parents are some of the most important leaders out there.  Parents, we get to shape and influence the next generation in amazing ways!  What would it look like if we were to take the time and define our Train, Tracks and Future Cities and reversed engineered the tracks to ensure we arrived at the correct destination?

Leaders, take time and figure out where you’re headed. Where are you leading your organization, church or family? It would suck to get to the end of our leadership and realize we didn’t take our people anywhere or we lost all of our people because we never helped look for a future destination.

 

Sources:

 

Keller, M. (n.d.). Trains, Tracks, and Future Cities. Retrieved February 01, 2017, from https://mattkelleronline.com/trains-tracks-and-future-cities/