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.