Settling In...

by: Kirk Gentzel - Director of High School Ministries

As I begin this post, I just want to thank all those at Lake Hills who have made our transition smooth and comfortable. Kerra and I are loving Austin!

Moving toward the New Year is always exciting, but since today is the last day of the year I find it appropriate to reflect on 2007. For Kerra and I, 2007 was quite an adventure.

August: We kicked of the school year ministering to students in Sherman, Texas.

September: We received a phone call from this guy named Alex Alexander from Lake Hills Church in Austin, Texas.

October: We interviewed for the High School Director position at Lake Hills.

November: I moved to Austin, Kerra stayed in Dallas and I began ministry at Lake Hills. She started the job hunt in Austin from Dallas.

December: God showed us of how faithful He is when Kerra got a job at Ridgeview Middle School in Round Rock.

As we move toward 2008, I’m reminded again and again of God’s consistent faithfulness and loving kindness toward us. Reflecting on the way He always provides makes me anticipate 2008 with genuine excitement and expectancy. In High School Ministry we endeavor alongside Lake Hills - to redefine High School Ministry for the city of Austin and beyond. We firmly believe that God wants to do just that in 2008, and I can only expect that He will be faithful to pull it off. We simply cannot wait to see what He will do this year. So please pray for the High School ministry as we seek to help students trust Jesus with their whole lives.


Following Jesus

by: Chris Larsen - Pastor of Spiritual Development

The last words of Jesus before He ascended into heaven were words of confidence to those who followed Him. Jesus told this emerging church that He has all authority in both heaven and earth, and with that confidence they were to go and make more followers. “Now that you see for certain that I’m in control of everything, tell others about me and show them what it really means to follow me” is a loose paraphrase of this challenge the Church has labeled “The Great Commission.”

At Lake Hills Church, we want to continue to remain on point with this Sovereign charge. As we look forward to 2008, the Spiritual Development team will be rolling out some brand new ministry opportunities that will help answer the question, “What does it really mean for me to follow Jesus?” The first new opportunity is a second level to our Membership class that will include understanding what a follower of Jesus believes, knows and does. We will also be unveiling a new weekday service opportunity with Mobile Loaves and Fishes where we can serve the needs of the poorest in Austin. We will also be offering more LHCi’s that will include Spiritual Disciplines, Defending your Faith, and How To Study The Scriptures On Your Own, among other things.

Keep watching the website and bulletin in the coming year for more details. The first Membership 201 class will be on January 13th during the 10:15 service. You can sign up at the Commit kiosk in the church foyer.

It’s going to be an exciting year! I can’t wait to see what God will do as we continue to redefine church for the city of Austin and beyond!



by: DeAnn Wilson - Director of Leadership Ministries

May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples.
(Genesis 28:3)

It’s been so exciting to be a part of what God is doing within and through Lake Hills Church. The response to our new community events has been overwhelming starting in November with our Baptism & Burgers Bash and most recently, our First Annual Christmas Tree Lighting event. Hundreds of people gathered as Santa made his appearance on the Hudson Bend fire truck. Almost 500 cookies were carefully & creatively decorated. Lines formed for kettle corn and train rides. Families volunteered to serve together by gently applying countless Christmas tattoos to tiny little hands! Needless to say, the church grounds were alive with joy, cheer and holiday happiness.

Doing life together outside of Sunday morning church and creating a scene like the one above is the heartbeat behind our community events. We’re so excited about our 2008 community event line-up, which will kick-off in February with a Chili Cook-off! Stay tuned to www.lhc.org for more info.

For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
(Matthew 18:20)


Challenge of a Lifetime

by: Mike Valiton - Pastor of Finance & Operations

“Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have enough room for it.”
(Malachi 3:10b)

What a challenge God gives us when he speaks about gifts and tithes to the local church. Can you imagine being blessed so much that you don’t have room for all the blessing? Every family should have that problem! The Lake Hills Church family has been blessed this year and, in turn, passed those blessings on in the form of ministries and mission efforts throughout the community and world. I hope and pray that your family has been blessed this year.

As the year draws to an end, you may be working on your tax planning for 2007 and your gifts and tithes play a large part, as all gifts are tax deductible. Any gifts received by year end will be credited to your account and statements will be mailed to you by January 31st. And please remember, your gifts must be received by December 31 for them to qualify for 2007 deductions. People will be at the church to help you if you have any questions. May God bless you and your families now and forever.


Giving Hearts

by: Chad Zunker - Director of Men & Mission's Ministries

LHC Missions ended the year with a huge bang! I love to see the way God uses His people to reach out to those in need. Take a look at just a couple of the amazing ways our people served this December.

1) We had 25 “families-in-need” personally adopted by loving families (or life groups) in our church. We even had dads out browsing through Wal-marts and Targets buying specialty items for kids who would have otherwise not had presents this year. There were so many very touching stories of families sharing Christmas with their sponsored family.

2) The LHC community picked up over 600 Giving Tree gift tags for the children of the Austin Children’s Shelter and the Pan de Vida Orphanage in Mexico. It took a huge trailer to haul the gifts to each place. And over $5900 worth of gift cards were also purchased. We can’t tell you what an incredible difference this makes in the lives of these kids.

Thanks to all of you who participated in some way. You helped give somebody loved by God a very special Christmas this year.


Christmas Eve SERVEice

by: Sarah Watson - Director of Assimilation

What an awesome opportunity it was for the Lake Hills family to
gather and celebrate the birth of Christ. I hope you were able to join
us. As Director of Assimilation, I focus on helping our members get plugged into the volunteer ministries that make our church tick.

I was blown away by the sheer number of volunteers that came together in service and enabled our members, their families and countless others to experience An Austin Christmas Eve. Having a great plan is useless unless you have a great team of volunteers to implement it with precision. We had that team! Our members stepped up and made it happen. It truly took my breath away as I walked around and saw all of the individuals giving of their precious Christmas Eve time to be at church serving God. And… doing it with huge smiles on their faces! We all know the demands the holidays place on our schedules and we are so grateful to those of you who carved out time to serve.

Christmas is over yet the joy lives on. It makes me so proud to be a part of the LHC team and the amazingly dedicated body of believers. I cannot wait to see what God has in store for us in the New Year! I hope you will join us!


Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and Thank you to everyone who made this year's Austin Christmas Eve such an incredible celebration of Christ's birth. This was the 10th time we've celebrated Christmas, and beyond any question at all, it was the best, the most personal, God-honoring one yet.

As we unwind around our house, I just want to wish everyone an incredible Christmas day. It is such a gift to get to be your pastor, to enjoy this incredible adventure with you.

Good Silent Night.


Home for the Holidays, (Pt. 3)

Just got an email from a friend who read yesterday's post and affirmed the sense that God is up to something. My friend said that he had invited two people and their families to our Home for the Holidays Christmas Eve service. Both of his friends come from non-Christian faith traditions and they both said "Yes" to his invitation. On the spot. No hesitation.

That is the church being the church.

Remember, our Sunday schedule is unique this week:

No services Sunday morning.
Christmas Eve Services:
Sunday: 4, 6, & 8 p.m.
Monday (Christmas Eve): 4, 6, & 8 p.m.


Home for the Holidays (Pt. 2)

Sometimes you just get a gut feeling. You always hope, but sometimes there's just a God-given sense that He's poised to do something more than all we can ask or imagine. That is exactly the sense I have as we approach An Austin Christmas Eve this coming Sunday and Monday.

Just about everything is in place and ready to go. The band has a few more rehearsals to go. Hundreds of volunteers are locked and loaded (and there's still room for more ViP's: send an email to serve@lhc.org to step up). I'm putting the finishing touches on my message between now and Saturday. There is just a sense that God is going to do something really incredible through the LHC family.

So many of you took the CD sampler to use as an invitation piece that we know many, many of the people who come will be guests and visitors looking to make Christmas more than just ritual religion or compulsive consumerism. LHC is going to truly be Home for the Holidays to 1000s of people who are looking for a church home where they can connect with God and with other people.

Thank you so much for being that kind of church, for making the effort to extend the love of God to the people around you. It's a privilege to be your pastor and to share the ride with you.


Home for the Holidays (Pt. 1)

One week before Christmas and it feels like everyone has picked up their pace just a little. I love this time of year and all the expectation that is just in the air. As we prepare and work toward 6 Christmas Eve services, I know I can feel my nervous energy and anticipation building.

From the very first days of LHC, we've prayed and worked to be a safe place for people to discover the extravagant love of God. That is exactly what this year's "Home for the Holidays" Christmas Eve celebration is all about. We want as many people as possible to be comfortable and at-home in our church on the way to being at-home in a personal relationship with God.

In advance, thank you to the LHC family for stepping up to volunteer, serve, and invite people throughout the Christmas Eve celebrations. I am so overwhelmed and grateful to you for doing it and to God for letting me serve with you.

It's true that there are only six shopping days til Christmas. But, more significant than that, there are only 6 days left to invite someone you know to share in an Austin Christmas Eve and truly come Home for the Holidays.


One Week & Counting

How great to wake up this morning to cold and clear a week before Christmas.

Check out Eileen Flynn's article in today's Austin American Statesman. In
addition to being a friend of ours, she's a great writer who makes a great point about the coming of Christmas.

I'm looking forward to getting up and going to church in the cold tomorrow. Just hope it'll be that way for all SIX of our Christmas Eve services next week.

...which reminds me: If you haven't seen the welcome page at www.lhc.org lately, you should really go check it out. It's just a cool way to introduce people to who we are and what God's doing through LHC.


Leadership on Steroids

Fallout from yesterday's publication of Major League Baseball's The Mitchell Report runs deep and wide. Regardless of what players did or did not do, one issue provides the underpinnings for every single conversation/debate that will result from the report: RESPONSIBILITY.

Struggling to remain relevant and win back fans in the mid-90s, baseball leadership at every single level focused on one thing and one thing only--winning back fans they had forfeited by canceling the '94 World Series. As long as TV ratings and ballpark attendance climbed back--read: revenue--they literally did not care how or why. Consequently, people's lives, records, integrity of the game, and the public trust are severely damaged.

Here are two lessons:
1. Disengaged leadership--whether intentionally misleading or merely incompetent--always costs an organization in effectiveness and credibility. Commissioners and owners who feign ignorance and shock don't deserve the offices they hold. Union leaders who facilitate and aid illegal activity by hiding behind a defective collective bargaining agreement are laughable. How do these people look Hank Aaron in the eye and say, "Thanks for all you did for the game. Look at how we've stewarded what you gave to us"?
2. Players named in The Mitchell Report should be given an opportunity to refute those allegations fairly. AND, we should all use common sense in hearing those answers. If I ever get to the point that I'm using legal-ese and loopholes to "clear my name", then I've crossed an ethical line.
3. Baseball's problems mirror and augment larger issues of honesty, integrity, and leadership throughout our culture. They didn't create a culture of cheating, but neither have they gone out of their way to be a part of the solution.

Leadership, like integrity, always costs. But, it's a far easier toll to pay than the absence of either.


'Tis the Season, #1

With Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror, it is now the Christmas season (Yes, I know that Home Depot had displays up at Halloween, but that doesn't count). I love the food, the cold weather, hunting, the music--everything about this time of year. But, there is one thing that stands out above all others:

It is one of the greatest opportunities of the entire year for reaching people for Christ.

Like no other time of year, people are looking for an excuse to connect with God. Christmas Eve is a night that un-churched people actually WANT to go to church. Some will go out of obligation or guilt, others out of desperation or curiosity. Whatever the reason for coming, we are going to give them a reason to come back in the weeks afterward.

This year's Christmas Eve services, Home for the Holidays, are going to give you a perfect excuse to bring people with you who don't realize yet how extravagantly God loves them. Begin thinking about, praying about, and talking about who God has put in your sphere of influence that he wants to touch through you this Christmas season.


Geaux Hornes!

What a Thanksgiving Eve! At 8:27p last night, our entire family was at the hospital as Brayden Matthew Horne made his entry into the world. He was about four weeks ahead of when his LSU Tiger dad Matt & Longhorn mom Ashley thought he'd be arriving.

Ashley joined our church--and the Richard family--as a sophomore in college as an intern at our church and only recently "retired" as my assistant. She was instrumental in keeping me organized and helped me stay focused on what I needed to do and delegate what others should do. She stepped down just last week so she could stay home as a full-time mom.

She and Matt were married two years ago just after Matt had opened his dental practice which is now thriving. They serve as zone leaders for young married Life Groups in our church and are a great example of all that's good about LHC. What a blessing to see their son born to parents who are passionate about Christ and absolutely devoted to each other. It really is all good.

Brayden's birth reminded me how over-the-top grateful I am
*For my bride Julie and our kids Emily & Joseph. God blesses us in ways that I'm not smart enough to ask for.
*For Lake Hills Church and all the people who are LHC. I can't believe I get to do what I get to do.

I hope you and yours have a phenomenal Thanksgiving and take some time to really thank God for his goodness in your life.


Leaving With Loyalty

As soon as I posted the piece on loyalty, I had to include a brief story about the fact that you can be loyal even as you leave someplace:

Brent & Leah Phillips joined our staff almost five years ago when Brent became our Children's & Family Pastor. Last spring, he came to me and said that God was leading him and Leah to begin a new ministry to the economically disadvantaged in another part of Austin.

At the time, Brent had no team, no plan, no money, no location. Together, we had no manual for how to handle this new direction as our relationship changed and they transitioned out of our staff into a new role. We just committed to pray together, think and plan, and overcommunicate throughout the process.

I've since told Brent that he should write a book or at least a pamphlet entitled, "How to Leave a Church Staff Well" because he and Leah so honored God and protected the unity of our relationship.

And, it was still hard. I hated to lose them. Brent's wisdom, discernment, joy, and experience are not easily replaced. And, God was and continues to be in our relationship. That new church, The Well, is doing well. They are led by great, godly people and are doing great, godly things for God.

It's a great story that deserves telling and emulating.

USMA, Pt. 4 - Loyalty


Somehow, the word almost sounds like a cliché. To be sure, the last 2½ generations have seen a corrosion of cause for loyalty: political, spiritual, and business leaders alike have repeatedly shattered the trust given to them in order to advance their own selfish agendas.

But, too many people have used those crimes and sins as a crutch and a smokescreen to stiff-arm any authority and withhold loyalty. Loyalty never means blind follower-ship. But it does mean honoring the authority and leadership you’re under. And loyalty is ultimately a statement of faith (more on that tomorrow).

I’ve even seen church leaders in other states gather a following through their teaching ministries in one church, only to leave that church, move down the street and open a new one. They either take with him hundreds and even thousands of people from the very flock they were trusted to serve or they at least create divisiveness by forcing people to choose which church to invest in personally and financially.

In another city, I know of staff members who’ve left a church to go to another one in the same city and taken other people with them. Now, those who will do that are clearly not a loss, but the personal toll that disloyalty takes on those who remain is substantial.

Of course, it’s all done under the guise of, “This is where the Lord’s leading” and “We’re all on the same team—it’s the Church, man. Capital C.”

Please. At least in the marketplace, people sign and honor do-not-compete clauses when they leave one company for another. Young, would-be leaders especially would benefit HUGE-time from mentors and teachers who call them to substantial, meaningful, God-honoring levels of loyalty. Authority is actually a gift and a protection for those who are being prepared and shaped for their own opportunity to lead.

One of the things that West Point has built into their development of leaders is the fact that every leader has to know how to follow. Before they can give orders, they have to take them. Loyalty begins at the beginning, and therefore it becomes a two-way street that strengthens relationships and the overall organization.

And it is non-negotiable.


USMA, Pt. 3 - Unity

Unity. West Point really believes in unity. Unity of purpose, unity of vision, unity of command, unity of the Corps. Obviously, with 4,300 students and another 4-500 faculty and staff, not everyone agrees with everything. But on the big picture issues, they cultivate, communicate, and tolerate nothing less than unity.

Again, for them, it's a matter of life and death. Divided loyalties, divided vision/mission, and people die. But, why cultivate anything less than unity in any organization, team, church, or business? Why tolerate anything less?

Because diligent protection and projection of a vision is hard work. The fact is that it's easier to let things slide, to ignore off-handed comments that betray mission-drift or vision-leak. There are times when you don't have the fuel in your tank personally to address decisions or people who distract and detract from where the group is going.

It is ALWAYS worth the effort to clarify, to remove ambiguity, and to foster unity. Every single time I have let things in this category slide, it has come back to bite me. Every time. Without fail. Most people will say they want unity. Few are willing to do what it takes to create it and protect it.

Leaders do.


That Kind of Church

What an incredible night Sunday night!

83 people baptized as an expression of faith.
500+ people celebrating that and hanging out in the parking lot, eating burgers & dogs.
Incredibly vibe-y music from Mark Groutas, Scott Leger, and our band(s).

The first-ever Burgers & Baptism--and certainly not the last--was one of my favorite moments in the life of LHC. Thank you so much to all the people who grilled burgers, set up staging and tables, and made the night so much fun for so many people.

It was just the church being the church. I couldn't help but think about what a blessing it was for all of us who chose to be there...who chose to walk away from the Cowboys-Giants game on TV; who chose to load up kids and family or made sure to be back from a mission trip to Mexico; who chose to make time to honor and celebrate the an eternity-changing commitment to Christ that everyone of those 83 men, women, and children had made.

Thank you for being that kind of church.


USMA, Pt. 2: THE Two Things

In two separate interviews at West Point, officers spoke of the two main things that a company of soldiers has to know when a new graduate assumes command:
1. That he/she is competent.
2. That he/she cares.

They have to be competent, because if they're not, people die. It really is that simple for these soldiers. If they blow off preparation of themselves, their equipment, or their mission, then people who leave on a mission will not return. Those soldiers don't care that their 2nd Lieutenant just graduated from one of the finest educational institutions in the world or that they were able to get into West Point. They have to know that the one in charge can get the job done.

But, these officers said, competence has to be coupled with caring. If a young officer really wants to lead, then she has to display a genuine concern for those who are following her. That happens most effectively by spending time with them in situations where it's not required. Meals, downtime, asking questions about hometowns, families, etc.

Again, it's Hebrews 10:24~

Let us consider how we may spur one another on to love and good deeds.
Spur Leadership. Love and good deeds. Do you care? AND Are you competent?


USMA, Pt. 1

Never. Ever.

I have never spent a day like the 10 hours that my son Joseph and I just spent. Wed. this week we woke up to 41 degrees and trees that were absolutely ablaze with the colors of fall (apparently, this "fall" is a season that people outside of Texas actually experience in addition to marking it on their calendars--who knew?). We were guests at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Our host had to return salutes every time a cadet made eye contact, and he always returned with a crisp salute and deeply heartfelt, "Beat Navy!"

Over the course of our day there, we were given a tour and I interviewed three different officers (two currently serving, one retired) re: leadership--leadership in theory and practice as it's conveyed at West Point, and leadership in their experiences serving our nation.

I'm still trying to get my head around everything that we got to see. But, there is one thing that is certain: Thank God. Thank God for the men and women who selflessly and voluntarily serve our nation and provide the freedoms we enjoy. Every single time I thanked one of them for doing what they do that allows us to do what we do, they responded by saying, "My pleasure, sir" or, "I'm honored to serve, sir."


Chocolate Invitations

As we rounded up the kids after trick-or-treating last night, a neighbor who also happens to be a LHC member stopped us at the curb. She said, "Just thought you'd like to know that the Hershey bars work! I handed it to a little girl's parents and invited them to this weekend's Family Frenzy. When I told her mom that it was at Lake Hills Church, she said, 'We keep hearing about that church. We'll be there this weekend. Thank you for the invitation.'"

Helen Edwards, our friend, said, "It was awesome!" What's awesome is that hundreds and thousands of people like Helen Edwards take the time to go out of their way--and out of their comfort zones--to reach out to people who don't have a church home.

We ordered 10,000 Hershey bars to use as invitations to this weekend's services and every one of them was taken by last Sunday. Let's assume that 1/100 were inadvertently ingested by someone who meant to use it to invite a friend to LHC. That still leaves 9,900 invitations to go out to people before this weekend.

Thanks, LHC, for being the kind of people like Helen Edwards who go out of your way to radiate the love of God everywhere you go. Remember, this weekend, I'm starting the new message series Love Wins. The message is entitled "...Because It Forgives & Forgets." I believe God is going to use this series in a powerful way in thousands of lives and in the life of our church. I don't know anyone who has too much forgiveness in their lives. And I've never seen real forgiveness fail.


Brett Favre & Leadership

As I watched Brett Favre on Monday Night Football do his thing one more time this week, three things jumped out at me:
1. At 38 years old, he can still make throws that 99.9% of the world would never be able to make.
2. He still plays with a reckless abandon and joy that infects the rest of his team--and makes other people want to be on his team.
3. He is flat-out tough.

I want to be like Brett Favre.

I don't want to play in the NFL. I don't want to fight some of the demons he has faced, particularly in such a public forum. But I do want to take the gifts and abilities that God has given me and sharpen them and use them for his purposes. For all the weaknesses and liabilities that I have, there are some things that God has gifted me to do. Those are the things I should do.

"The joy of the Lord is my strength." As a Christ-follower, my joy and passion should be so apparent, so flowing that it infects the rest of my family, our church, and those who don't yet know how extravagantly God loves them.

Playing hurt isn't just for football players and athletes. Being injured is one thing: sometimes you need to come out of the game, rehab a little. But, most of the time, I need to shake off the little nicks and bruises and keep fighting. Perseverance always pays off.

One of the things that I love about God is the Pragmatic Factor: His way works. Every time.



Some people just get it. Ed Young, Pastor of Fellowship Church-Dallas/Ft. Worth/Miami, is one of those people. When he spoke and taught this past weekend at LHC, our people got a front-row seat to someone who is truly a ViP--Vision-in-Person.

Ed never sees what isn't. It's always about what could be. His opening statement was, "God is preparing you for what he has already prepared for you." And, from there, he taught on Exodus and the nation of Israel and all that God did for them while they were wandering in the wilderness (NOTE: the next two services varied from the first one, anywhere from a little to a lot).

We were so blessed to have Ed & Lisa and their family and a few friends be with us this weekend. Their faith, marriage, and ministry have played such a huge role in the life of LHC, I felt guilty that it had taken us 10 years to have them come in for a weekend. But, God made up for lost time in a big way.

This coming weekend is FAMILY FRENZY WEEKEND. We distributed all 10,000 candy bar invitation pieces, so don't forget to give those out and bring someone with you this weekend. For more information, visit the LHC website.


Beauty Is Way Underrated

...Not the airbrushed, superficial, only-skin-deep beauty that most of the world settles for. I mean the God-brushed, transcendent, soul-deep beauty that draws us to works of art, mountaintops and seacoasts, and people who are comfortable in their own skin.

This weekend marks a confluence of real, authentic beauty here in Austin:
RENEW: The Austin Women's Conference opens for a night of pouring into the hearts and lives of women the power, the courage, and the grace of God. Tickets are still available here.

Bella is a new film that opens on Friday. Julie and I got to see a screening for Bella (Spanish for beautiful) back in the spring, and it is amazing. It has already won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival. Pay attention to the PG-13 rating, but go see this movie. Parents with teens and pre-teens should probably see it first before deciding whether or not to share it with their kids.

Ed Young, Pastor of Fellowship Church--who will be speaking in each of LHC's services this weekend--and I have written a book together that we are advance-releasing this weekend. BEAUTY FULL~Becoming More Than Just Pretty was born out of the growing realization in our ministries that women are constantly under fire in our culture. This book radiates out of the conviction that every woman's beauty is assumed by God. You can pick up an advance copy at the Austin Women's Conference or in one of our worship services this weekend or order them online here.



Lake Hills Church--THANK YOU!! God is in the middle of doing some incredible things through this church and it is the most incredible gift to share the ride with you:

Last weekend, 23 people committed their lives to Christ.
104 people registered for Commitment Class.
Wed. a.m. this week, 19 men left for the Men's Matamoros Mission Trip.

This coming weekend we're celebrating LHC's 10-Year Anniversary. It's going to be an incredible service of celebration and thanksgiving for God's faithfulness, including special musical guest and LHC friend Malford Milligan.

RENEW: Austin Women's Conference
, Fri., Oct. 26
is going to be an amazing night of refreshing and feeding for women. This is one of the signature ministry events in our church's year, so be sure that you make it a priority and bring someone with you to experience it. Tickets are still available here.

Ed Young, Pastor of Fellowship Church will be speaking in all our services Sunday morning, Oct. 28. In my humble opinion, Ed is one of the most gifted, creative communicators and leaders of anything going. Anywhere. Period. You will not want to miss what God's going to give us through Ed that week.

Family Frenzy, Nov. 4, offers everyone in our church a unique opportunity to invite someone to experience what God is doing in and through LHC. Don't forget to pick up your Hershey bar invitation this weekend (last Sunday we sold more than HALF of all the chocolate that we have!).

WOW! That is some momentum...


Passion as Compass

A few years ago, I sat down with the CEO of a publicly traded corporation and asked this question: Is what you do more art or science?

His kneejerk reaction was a big, ear-to-ear grin that told me where his answer was going. He said, "It's not even close--it's much more about art than science. I know the numbers, and we definitely measure the things that matter. But the decisions I make definitely come more from an intuitive feel than statistical or numerical analysis."

Then, he hit me with the Bat Spray so I wouldn't ever be able to share his candid answer with anyone on his board of directors.

His answer has been echoed in the years since in numerous other Q&A's with leaders and pastors from a broad range of experiences and backgrounds, educations, and perspectives. The overwhelming majority provide the same insight, usually while invoking the same veil of anonymity: Go with your gut. Your heart. Your passion. The Holy Spirit.

A God-given passion will not only fuel you when nothing else can, it will many times serve as a compass--moral and strategic--long after the numbers and statistics have folded under the weight of conflicting ideas, interests, agendas, and information.

We who lead in the church (or anywhere from a Christ-centered perspective) have to remember that while the Holy Spirit is infallible, our understanding is not. So, we have to lead from the heart, from our God-given passions, while always bringing every thought captive to Christ and measuring them against the standard of Scripture.

With that critical caveat in mind, our passions can and should lead us directionally, strategically, and relationally. If we're considering a life-altering or paradigm-shifting decision, a strategic course of action, or our personal investment in a relationship and we've considered all the facts and figures and examined the spiritual implications, then lead from the heart. Go with your gut and go hard.


Passion as HR

Passion provides incredible clues to your organization's Human Resources needs.

The things that I'm passionate about, those things for which God has given me a yearning, burning burden are the things that I'm going to pour myself into. But no one has the bandwidth to cover all the bases of a growing, dynamic, complex team, church, business, or government agency. So, your passion--my passion--points us toward the people and the talent and the skills and passions we should be looking for to complement our own.

Human Resources means so much more than compensation and benefits, compliance and buildings. Just like financial resources or time, human resources are a gift from God that carries even greater responsibility and accountability to those of us who lead.

A good friend of mine leads a large human resources department for a public corporation. I've learned by watching him and picking his brain that his greatest task is putting the right people with the right passions in the right position to accomplish the right purposes.

My passions should rarely if ever be duplicated. They should be complemented, supported , and amplified--but never replicated exactly. If you're in a position of leadership or influence, use your passions to direct your leadership and to feed the fire of passion in those you lead.


Passion as Fuel

One of the great gifts of a God-given passion is that passion can fuel you through challenges and obstacles that might make you want to quit, or settle for the status quo, or do just enough to get by. Every job, vocation, occupation, and career requires work that falls outside of our given strengths and aptitudes. Sometimes those tasks even fall into the "Unpleasant" or "Mundane" categories.

But that is exactly where passion propels us through the tedious chores that every calling requires. When it's a passion and not just a task, then you're able to see the mundane or un-fun part of it as a means to an ends and more than just a job.

For me, I'm a big-picture person. Details wear me out. But I've realized through some trial and a lot of error that I have to pay attention to the details of leadership. I have to attend to management issues of staff, finances, facilities, ministries, etc. if I'm going to lead at the level God requires of me. The devil's NOT in the details. God is, and so I should be also.

When LHC was getting off the ground 10 years ago, there were a lot of details that had to be handled if we were even going to survive, much less thrive. It was in those tedious, detail-filled days when my passion for a church that redefines "church" for the city of Austin and beyond was the fuel God used to keep us going.

Question: What are you so relentlessly passionate about to the point that you would do it no matter what? Regardless of a paycheck? Regardless of what other people think about you or it?


Sat. a.m.

It's early Sat. a.m. and the house is quiet. Emily left this morning at 6:30 for an all-day school event and Joseph's football game is later this afternoon. I've spent the last hour working on and planning for the next month and a half of church leadership and there is a lot coming up.

I get incredibly amped and fired up when I look at where God is leading us. Just off the top:
1. MOMENTUM Oct. 14, we kickstart a new season of ministry in our church called Momentum. In the weeks that follow, we'll celebrate baptism, we'll mark our 10-Year Anniversary as a church, and we'll welcome a very special guest teacher who knows a little something about Momentum. (More on that later.)
2. STAFF RETREAT Two or three times a year, we get away as a staff to dream, pray, plan, work, and play. It's one of my favorite things to do as a leader because of what it produces in me, in our staff, and throughout our church.
3. LHC LEADERSHIP SUMMIT On Oct. 18, we're gathering every single person who leads, serves, or volunteers in our church to an incredible night of worship, leading, challenge and equipping.
4. AUSTIN WOMEN'S CONFERENCE, OCT. 26 This is one of the flagship ministries of our church and I'm so excited that we get to do this. This year, I'm grateful to be a part of it as I'll be teaching one of the sessions.

And, before we even get to any of that, I'm really keyed up about tomorrow's message, "How to Pray". God has given me something to teach (and do!) so far beyond just the mechanics of prayer--although we'll touch on those also.

So, you can see why I'm a little fired up. And, at the same time, I'm incredibly peaceful about the fact that these ministries are exactly what we should be doing at this season in our church's life.

As you continue on our 21-day Prayerway journey, remember to pray for your church, your pastor, and your ministry through the church.

See you tomorrow.



I love my job. Matter of fact, job doesn't even come close to how I feel about what I get to do every day. Like everyone, there are parts of what I do that play more to my weaknesses than my strengths, but even those things feel like just a small price to pay to get to do what I get to do.

Earlier this week, I got to sit down with a wide range of leaders from multiple fields in Houston. I was there to shoot video and pick their brains and steal ideas from them for a new message series and ministry that we're launching in a few weeks.

One of those leaders is Dr. Ed Young who pastors the church where I grew up, 2nd Baptist Church. Among all the things God has given me through Dr. Young and 2nd Baptist, his passion might just be the greatest. At a time when most people are angling toward retirement--or just plain angling--Dr. Young is still driven by his passion for the Lord, for people far from God, and for the Church.

I think God-honoring passion is one of the key elements that God uses to shape us and direct us. You can't fake genuine passion. It's either there or it's not. If it's not, then often it's because I'm not pursuing God's purpose and will for me. Over the next few posts, I'm going to bring some wood to the passion fire.


Good Monday a.m.

What an incredible day yesterday was at LHC. This morning as I was praying through the Prayerway to Heaven prayer guide, it was great to be reminded just how much God really cares for and about us. For and about me. For me, especially as we're coming out of a weekend and cranking up the new week, remembering that the love of God, my relationship with God, is the fuel for everything I do. Or, at least it should be.

I can get really hung up in the weeds of "ought-a" and "gotta" and lose sight of the "get-to" factor. That I get to interact with the God of the universe anytime I choose to because he chose to make himself accessible in prayer because of Christ. That I get to invest myself and my stuff in his church and the mission and vision he's called us to realize.

Yesterday, I was shaking hands at the door and a guy walked out and said this: "I just want to let you know that I've been to church about 4 times in the last 10 years, and my wife and I have been here for the last few weeks, and we are really excited to be finding out more about God and all that."

I hope that fires you up like it does me. To know that God is doing that in his life and at the same time leading and growing long-time Christ-followers to grow and feed ourselves spiritually is why we get up and go one more round on a Monday morning.

Have a great week, and let us know what God is doing through the Prayerway to Heaven prayer guide in the comments section.


Magic 21

Prayer is the most critical component of the Christian life.

Prayer is the least understood component of the Christian life.

The reality of both of those statements fuels my excitement for the new message series that we're kicking off this weekend, Prayerway to Heaven. God is moving in some huge ways in and through LHC, and the lifechange that He's going to effect over the next few weeks is going to strengthen and build on what He's already been doing.

Not only are we going to be focusing on prayer on the weekends, our Pastor of Spiritual Development Chris Larsen is putting the finishing touches on a 21-day online prayer guide that will guide us all through a season of prayer together.

The purpose of the prayer guide is simple: Create a healthy habit. Do something for 21 days and it is ingrained in your mind, your heart, and your lifestyle.

So, this weekend, make it a point to join us for the beginning of what's next in your life and the life of your church. Come a few minutes early. Get the kids situated in their areas of ministry. Be on time to join Mark and everyone else for corporate worship. And be a part of Prayerway to Heaven~Taking the Next Step With God.


Great 48

First, there was ViP Orientation Sunday night. Chad Zunker did a phenomenal job organizing and kicking off a great event that saw so many people plug in to the life and ministries of LHC that make every weekend worship service happen.

Then, Jon Jennings, John Fones, and I piled in the truck and headed for the Dallas area for a video shoot on Monday. It was one of the greatest days I've ever had in ministry. We were shooting video for a message series that will launch a new ministry in early November. Only an hour and a half into a 6-hour shoot, I had enough illustrations and material for 5 different sermons. It's going to be incredible.

Then, I left Jon & John and did some reconnaissance behind what could be considered enemy lines: I went to Norman, OK--home of the OU Sooners--to interview and steal ideas from one of the greatest pastors and churches in the country, Clark Mitchell of Journey Church.

It was one of the greatest blessings I've ever had to spend time with Clark, meet his wife Robin, and share war stories, things that work, and things that don't. And to think God even moves in Norman, OK! When we parted ways, we did throw out the idea of some kind of a friendly, God-honoring...wager (?)... on a little set-to in the Cotton Bowl that's slated for the first weekend in October.

I was only there for about 16 hours, but there was so much openness, laughter, encouragement, and challenge that it could only have been a God-thing. But the biggest God-thing of all was coming home. Every time I travel--which thankfully isn't much--I'm reminded how glad I am for Julie and our home and the haven that she is.


Happy Birthday(s)

This morning represents an incredible confluence of time in our lives. Yesterday, our kids turned 13 and 11 years old respectively. Usually, when people find out they share the same birthday, the first question is, "Did y'all plan that?!"--to which I reply, "Yes. That's just how organized Julie and I are."

It's an incredible time to be a dad. Emily and Joseph are both becoming more and more who God created them to be, and we are really enjoying the process of parenting. We certainly have our moments just like every family, but we're finding that a relentless commitment to honesty and love, coupled with a non-negotiable respect for God-honoring authority in our home helps everything else.

And, it was 10 years ago this morning that Julie and I were getting up and getting ready for the very first service at Lake Hill Church. Under the watchful gaze of a papier mache Chinese New Year Dragon that was hanging in the Forest Trail Elementary School cafetorium, 15 of us set up chairs, sound system, and a coffee station and waited with baited breath to see who would show up.

We're going to celebrate God's goodness throughout these 10 years and where that's propelling us in an incredible service on Oct. 21. But, I'll be posting thoughts and ideas about it here between now and then (and probably beyond 10.21).

Just like with Emily & Joseph, it's an incredible time to be a pastor. LHC is becoming more and more who God is calling us to be. We're doing more and more of what he wants us to do. And, just like in a family, a relentless commitment to honesty and love and flowing in God's authority throughout the church helps everything else.

It's almost like God knew that when he set up the world.


Football & Jesus

The kickoff of football always brings great joy and excitement--in Texas. In Austin. In our home. I am a lifelong fan of the Cowboys and the Longhorns, but the truth is that I really love to watch the game. Period.

And this year it has new significance since my son Joseph is playing for the first time. For years, he has played video versions like Madden '05 (and '06 and '07...) NCAA 2005 (and 2006...). But this is the first time that he's actually strapped on helmet and pads, made contact, and gotten hit.

Two nights ago after practice, he had just showered and ran upstairs to show me the bruises on his arms and legs. Funny thing, testosterone...as he's showing me the bruises, he's grinning from ear to ear. And, he walked out of the room with as much swagger as a 5th-grader can muster.

Funny what God can teach you about faith and church through a 5th-grader's bruises:

1. THE BRUISES MEAN YOU'RE REALLY CONTRIBUTING TO THE TEAM. Players who sit on the sideline never get bruised. They hold clipboards and carry water and critique those who are actually on the field.

2. THE BRUISES PROVE YOU'RE NOT A PANSY. Players who are afraid to stick their heads in a pileup, block someone bigger than themselves, or tackle a runaway ball-carrier never have to worry about bruises.

3. THE BRUISES HEAL. Bruises aren't permanent. What's a little pain and discoloration in exchange for the unbridled joy and thrill of being on a team that's moving in the same direction and being someone who contributes to that movement.

4. THE BRUISES ARE REAL. No one ever got bruised playing a video game. Bruises mean that you've moved from virtual reality to actual reality. You're not talking about it, studying it, or critiquing how other people do it. You're actually playing the game.

Do you smile at the bruises or try to avoid them?


That's Why

Yesterday, all through our services, Lake Hills Church reminded me why we do what we do:
1. Over 300 people moved into our 9am service to make room in the later services for guests. Thank you so much for being that kind of church and keeping it going over the next few weeks.
2. During the singing part of worship, the rafters were ringing with people's voices praising God with everything they had.
3. Mark Groutas and his team were just on in a big way.
4. Our ViP's (Vision-in-Person) stepped up in a monster way to create a welcoming, joyful environment for everyone who stepped on our campus.
5. Matt Williams and his team in Sunday Morning LIVE hosted more than 260 middle schoolers at their back to school kick-off.
6. Brent & Sarah Davis led worship and teaching for 841 children and workers.
7. Jon Jennings and his tech and communications team created a worship experience that led us into the presence of God and clearly communicated who God is--and that was AFTER they crafted an incredible marketing effort to let people know what God's doing and inviting them to be a part of it.
8. Hundreds of husbands/wives were biblically challenged to see their marriages as a peanut butter & jelly sandwich and take their game to the H-N-L.
9. The joy and the excitement of God was all over the place.

The numbers only matter because they represent real people who matter to God. And THAT is why we do what we do.


The Most Spiritually Mature Thing

Mark Groutas, LHC's Worship Pastor, was telling me about his workout program earlier this week. His trainer Scott Hennig insists that his training regimen always be moving toward a specific, measurable goal. Whether it's to dunk a basketball, create core strength to improve posture, drop weight, add strength--whatever it is, it has to be identifiable and measurable.

Spiritual growth and development prove much more difficult to measure and evaluate. The religious ditches are littered with people and programs that stripped faith of its mystery and beauty by reducing it to "4 Steps to God," or "7 Habits of Highly Defective Dogma," and on and on...

But, there is an equal number of ditches on the other side of the road littered with people and programs that evade evaluation under the guise of "spiritual authenticity." This bent conveniently hyper-spiritualizes and then ignores the promise that our work will be tested as by fire.

So, how do you measure Christ-likeness? Clearly, no one solution can exhaustively answer that question.

But, how about this for openers: Identify (measure, evaluate, ...) the impact your life is having on people far from God. Jesus said that he abandoned heaven to seek them. IF I'm growing and becoming more like him, I'll orient my life more like he oriented his.

This weekend, I'm kicking off a message series called MARRIAGE TO THE H-N-L~Taking Husbands & Wives to a Hole Nutha Level. It is a prime opportunity to invite someone you know--someone you care about--to discover 2 things:

1. What marriage can be, and
2. How relentlessly and unconditionally God loves them.
The most spiritually mature thing we'll ever do is introduce one more person to the love of God.


Renewable Energy, Pt. 2

It was so good to be back doing what I love to do this past weekend. Looking back at what God accomplished through LHC this summer was an incredible kick as we head into what he now expects us to do with it in this next season of ministry.

As of this moment, in the last four days 202 people have stepped up to renew the energy of Christ's church through ViP (if you don't know what a LHC ViP is, you need to watch the message online), baptism, and/or membership. To those of you who have stepped up or are already renewing the energy of God, THANK YOU! As we said on Sunday, someone somewhere did it for us. We can't ever repay them, but we do get to reinvest what God poured into our life through them in other people.

If you're not currently a ViP, and you consider LHC your church, go to our website and dive in.

God is moving in monster ways and I am so grateful to get to share the ride with this incredible community called Lake Hills Church. Thanks for being a part of it.


Read This Book

Recommending a book is a lot like recommending a movie--under-sell it and people might not go see it; over-sell it and they'll probably be disappointed. That said, you should absolutely read In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson.

It doesn't matter who you are, what you do or how old you are, this book is a swift kick in the pants for anyone who has let fear choke out the adventure and mystery in their lives and relationship with God. Batterson writes with incredible insight, humor, and humility. You can get a quick taste reading his Lion Chaser's Manifesto here.

This past week I spent some time in Houston talking to a wide array of people...an amazing pastor at a growing, traditional Presbyterian church, an executive pastor at a church with an intergalactic reach, a sports executive, an energy industry head-hunter, and the CFO of a new energy startup. Every single person that I talked to and pestered with questions is chasing lions at this very moment.

They're unsure of what's next. They're making it up as they go along. They're working harder than they've ever worked in their lives. And through it all, they're discovering more and more every day who they are.

Stay tuned in the next few months and beyond--those conversations are part of the beginnings of a new ministry that is going to radically alter the trajectory of Lake Hills Church and thousands of lives in the next year...


Back in the Saddle

It feels so good to wake up at 5:08 on Monday a.m. dying to get into the week. This coming Sunday (8/19) will be my first weekend teaching at LHC since June 17 and it can't get here soon enough. If you consider LHC your church home, I want to ask you to do 3 things:

1. Pray for your church--not just this week, but every week, that God will continue to use us to reach people who don't yet know how perfectly He loves them.

2. Be on time to worship--God is doing some amazing things in our church's worship climate through Mark and his team. You NEED to be a part of it.

3. Invite someone you know to experience LHC and God's moving THIS WEEKEND.

This blog is a great way to stay up on what's going on and to let others know. You can go back through the last few weeks since we started and see where God is taking us. Just cut-paste the link www.macrichard.com and send it in an email to spread the word. There's a post at July 17 that explains just why the world needed another blog.

Have a great week, and we'll see you Sunday at 9, 10:15, or 11:45.


Cradle to the Grave Vision

This week, I got one of those rare opportunities to see the wide sweep of God's moving in and through our church. Thursday, I led funeral services for Mrs. Allyne Bunnell who gracefully passed away at the age of 88 years old. And, this morning in our church services, we are celebrating a Parent-Child-Church Dedication in which parents commit to rear their children in God-honoring homes, and the church commits to be a community and resource that supports the parents' ministry to their kids.

Mrs. Bunnell--or, Mimi as she was known--is one of the great blessings in my life. Having grown up in the Southern Baptist tradition, I feel confident that she never imagined to worship in her final years in a church like ours with our band, lights, and video and a pastor who would only wear a suit to her funeral. And, yet, every single time she walked into and out of our doors, she was absolutely beaming and encouraging to me personally. For her, worship wasn't about her. It was about her Lord, and if her great-grandchildren and their parents and grandparents were there worshiping, she would be too. She embodies the radiant beauty of 1 Peter 3.

The Parent-Child-Church Dedication is always an incredible encouragement and stout reminder of the responsibility we have to be a church that kids drag their parents to rather than vice versa. As you look at each life on the stage with their parents, I remember why we do what we do...why we make hard leadership decisions that consider where we need to go rather than where we want to go...how much of God's money to allocate to children's ministries when the whole world seems to be screaming for missions (isn't the whole church a mission?)...what caliber of staff to ensure leads and serves this mission-critical ministry...

I love that in the church we have the opportunity to learn from, to be blessed by, and to work for families from babies to great-grandparents and all points in between. This has to be the greatest job in the world.


Renewable Energy

In less than a month, Lake Hills Church will be 10 years old. Besides knowing Christ, marrying Julie and parenting with her, it has been the most intense, fulfilling, challenging, fun, scary, and joyful relationship of my life.

In just the last 6 months, we have experienced some seismic shifts in our leadership as God has redirected relationships and responsibilities toward new ministries and opportunities. And, through all the change, through some incredible time and prayer and relationship this summer, He is clearly teeing us up for something this fall beyond anything we can ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20-21).

For those of you who call LHC your church home and you've been out of pocket this summer, believe me when I tell you that there is an undeniable electricity, a joy, and a sense of purpose pulsing through our staff and leadership. My first Sunday back preaching will be next weekend, Aug. 19. The message that God has been shaping and clarifying for that day is called "Renewable Energy". I am literally chomping at the bit to be back with you and teaching and experiencing everything that God has been orchestrating and planning for us.

You might want to secure your seat belts and put your tray in the locked and upright position.


"...like men who dream"

Two weeks ago, my wife Julie tuned me in to a passage of scripture that I hadn't known before. The first lines of Psalm 126 go like this:

When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion,
we were like men who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
"The LORD has done great things for them."

Possibly the greatest gift of the time we took this summer to recalibrate personally and spiritually has been the renewed ability to dream. And, because of that, our family, our extended church staff family, is experiencing a recharged capacity for laughter, and music, and joy.

God strengthens the link between dreaming and joy. A God-given dream--vision--is born out of hope, excitement, life, a healthy dose of fear, optimism, blessing, faith...you get the point.

A few reasons why dreaming and laughing gets choked out:
1. We get tired. When we let ourselves get run down physically, emotionally, etc.--especially for an extended period of time--we severely compromise our ability to dream big dreams.
2. We get financially strapped. Lack of money over a long haul can create a survival-mode mentality that becomes a rut. Financial provision is part of who God is. Stacked up against the Red Sea and the Resurrection, funding the dreams He gives is a layup.
3. We listen to the wrong people. Love everyone, but move with movers. There will always be haters. Nehemiah stayed on the wall while the haters called for committee meetings and hurled false accusations against him. Don't waste the time and energy it takes to address their stupidity. Keep a trowel in one hand and a spear in the other, but stay on the wall.
4. We get spiritually dry. The word enthusiasm comes from Greek, en-Theos ~ in God. To even sniff a vision worth chasing, you've got to be en-Theos--in God regularly, through prayer, worship (personal and corporate), and in normal conversation with other movers and dreamers.

Fun. Dreaming. Laughter. That's God-deep.


Thank God and Guy

I know there's already a post for today, but I just read a GREAT post at Guy Kawasaki's blog. Every would-be and established CEO, pastor, church-planter, mom or dad who ever has doubts will appreciate it. Go read it: On the Other Hand~The Flip Side of Entrepeneurship.

Time to Lead

About 6 months ago, I started thinking about taking some time this summer to really unplug from the day to day routine of pastoring--leading a staff, managing details, preparing to preach, etc. The idea wasn't to take a full-blown sabbatical, but it definitely would be more than a couple weeks away.

It has been the single best decision I've ever made in the 10 years of the life of Lake Hills Church. This time gave me a whole new lease on life--not that I wasn't crazy about life beforehand. I love my life--God, Julie, our kids, what I get to do as a "job", the whole thing is more than I ever dreamed it could be.

But, it was in this time that we got some incredible time together as a family. We put the finishing touches on a book that's been in progress for over a year. We got to travel to upstate New York on the spur of the moment (The Power of Joy), and God blew some incredible encouragement into my life through a bunch of Yankees. And, in this time, God built into me some monster principles that I needed to adopt in leading what is an incredible staff of people at LHC.

Time to lead has taken on a whole new meaning for me. Wherever you lead, you have to take time away. First, that's really the only way to measure how you're doing as a leader. If I have to be there 24/7 for things to fly, I'm not leading. That's micro-managing and it's a leadership cop-out. How well you lead only really reveals itself when you're gone.

Second, you have to take time to recharge. I know all the excuses--I wrote that book: Well, people will think I'm that lazy pastor who just hangs out and plays golf...What about the preaching?...Our church just isn't at a place where I can do that...What will our people think?...I don't really NEED that much time...

What? You're better than Jesus? More critical to your team's success? Jesus took all kinds of time off and he only had a three-year career. Jesus lived his life for an audience of One--the Father. He let the haters hate, because they're going to do that no matter what leaders do.

Also, the cumulative effect of pastoring, especially week-in and week-out message preparation, takes a larger toll than you realize. I learned some interesting things about that dynamic that I'll post tomorrow.


The Power of Joy

Our family rolled back into Austin about 9:15 last night after a four-day whirlwind trip to upstate New York. It was incredible to be so encouraged and blessed on a trip that we almost didn't take.

We were last-minute tag-alongs with Ed Young and his family as Ed spoke at a youth conference in Utica and then at the weekend services at Northway Church, pastored by Buddy Cremeans and his wife Debbie. Northway Church has two locations in the Albany area, one in Malta and the other in Clifton Park.

The conference in Utica was sponsored by Mt. Zion Ministries--a church in an economically challenged community led by Pastor Mike Servello and his son, Pastor Mike Jr. These people are picking 'em up and putting 'em down. Not only does this church of 1,500 offer a conference for 3,500 students, offering them teaching from Ed Young and Joyce Meyer, they have the most incredible compassion ministry I have ever seen or even heard of.

Under Mike Sr.'s leadership, they invest about $100,000 a year in a ministry that creates $5 million worth of social services for a community that has been economically devastated by a military base closure and the departure of all the industry that supported the base.

Over in Malta/Clifton Park/Saratoga Springs, Buddy Cremeans is absolutely kicking it. Northway Church is all about one thing: seeing one more person discover how much God loves him/her. In four years, they have led Nortway from 0 to over 2,000 people. Buddy and his wife Debbie and their staff put on a How-to-Host-Guests clinic, not just for us, but for visitors and tire-kickers who come through their doors every single week. They are two of my favorite people on the planet.

I will be back in Upstate NY--it's a beautiful place and the people are unbelievable.

When we asked our kids what was the biggest thing they learned on this trip, my daughter thought for a second, and said, "The power of joy." Thank you, Mt. Zion Ministries and Northway Church, for giving us that.



The iPhone delivers. It really is just that cool and incredibly functional. Here's the thing: It takes a while to get used to just how simple it is. Apple has really done the hard work of simplifying and streamlining the intuitive flow of iPhone functions.
Three days ago, I had had my iPhone for all of about two hours and was having trouble getting my voicemail off of it. My daughter--12 years old--looked at it and showed me that I was already on the page I was looking for. I just didn't have any voicemail. Because I was trying to do too much, I was needlessly complicating the whole process.
Leadership at any level demands the hard work of simplifying. Simple rarely comes easy. Most people we lead don't gravitate toward simple. But simple always works better, longer, and smarter.
• Simplicity assumes relentless authenticity. Trying to be someone I'm not is just too complicated. Life's too short and people just know when they’re being shined.
• Simplicity demands ruthless discipline. In the hands of a leader, the knife of “no” is like a scalpel in the hands of a surgeon who excises dead tissue, tumors, or failing organs.
• Simplicity requires constant evaluation. If a person, plan, or program foments distraction(s), then it will prevent any traction in the right direction.

Every time our team has hit a wall--in growth, effectiveness, leadership--going simple has always been one of the key elements in knocking the wall down. Leaders simplify and help those they serve to simplify. And that's the paradox: Simplicity isn't easy. It's incredibly difficult work. But it is so freeing and empowering, both for the leader who insists on it and for those who choose it.


Why "Spur" Leadership

A pair of spurs is a tool. Spurs are not cruel tools used to punish a horse. Used properly, spurs achieve results more quickly than kicking a horse in the ribs.
David Stoecklein, Author/Photographer

David Stoecklein's insight about one of the horseman's most basic tools echoes the biblical book of Hebrews: "Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24)." All genuine leadership radiates from the intersection of love and good deeds.

The good deeds component of Spur Leadership is pretty obvious: Leadership facilitates results that are tangible, quantifiable, effective. But, for those of us who lead in the church, the good deeds component of leadership can present some unique challenges. How often we hear things like this whispered in hushed and hallowed tones:

It's not about the numbers. Or,
All we can do is pray and let God handle the results.

Translation: I don't want to work.

The reality is that the numbers DO matter. They represent real people and without people, there is no church. Money DOES matter. It fuels the vision God calls us to realize, to say nothing of the individual’s heart monitor that Jesus says it is.

No other entity in the world should be a better steward of people and resources than the church, and if we don't record, evaluate, and manage those gifts, we cannot be effective stewards. The church, or pastor, or Christ-follower who ignores "the numbers" creates a denial-fueled Never-neverland where navel-gazing passes for action.

But, for those who lead in the marketplace or in other bottom-line environments, the love component of Spur Leadership may seem soft or superfluous. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The fact is that any group, team, or organization that is going to produce great results over the long haul absolutely has to invest in the personal development of the people who comprise the group. The leader who chooses or fails to fully engage relationally actually only manages.

To fully engage people relationally by no means eclipses accountability or measuring against understood goals, quotas, or numbers. In fact, really loving people demands that they are held accountable for their actions and performance—their good deeds.

The truth of Spur Leadership that governs every people-comprised entity in the world flows out of the reality of personal relationships: If you really love someone, you manifest that love in good deeds. Good deeds, by definition, require love to be truly good. Without love, they are merely self-serving or, even worse, vain and morally bankrupt.

Spur Leadership flows out of this truth.



At long last, there's another blog. Just what the world needed.

Really, we've created this space with three audiences in mind: First, the people who find themselves either by plan or providence in places of influence. Teachers, coaches, moms and dads, CEOs, “middle managers”…whoever intentionally serves and empowers someone else or a group of someone elses.

Second, because I'm a pastor, I think pastor thoughts. So, most of what I do, see, and hear I filter through the lenses of those who specifically serve and lead churches to do things that can’t be done and that no one else is trying. They comprise a very particular group of people I love and want to open up a learning channel through which to steal ideas from them.

But most of all, it’s a way to stay connected to the most incredible group of people I’ve ever been associated with—the people of Lake Hills Church in Austin. This September will mark 10 years since this wild ride left the station, and there is nowhere else I’d rather be and no one I’d rather experience it with than right here with these people.

The good thing about creating a space with these three groups in mind is that in terms of content, just about anything goes. One of the things that we’ll be able to do is bring together a wide array of insights and inputs that anyone who wants to sharpen their leadership chops will be able to strain something out of whatever happens here.

For openers, check out the Getting It Done section for people and groups/teams who are making it happen in their particular sphere of influence. If you know someone not listed who absolutely should be, let us know.

Thanks for showing up.