Special thanks to my friend Buddy Cremeans in Upper State, NY for sharing this video of magician Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller.


LHC Downtown

In case you missed it, here's a link to this morning's Austin American Statesman article about downtown churches. Special thanks to campus Pastor Chad Zunker and his team for being a light and a haven downtown for so many people who would never have come to us if Chad and his team weren't going to them. Well done, to a lot of good and faithful servants.


Just for Fun

It's just the best commercial on TV. Enjoy.


Everyday Thankful

Here's some of the stuff that I'm grateful for RIGHT NOW:

  1. Coaching my son's basketball team. Practice starts in an hour, and after years of just "having fun," they're actually starting to actually hoop.
  2. The new Hank Williams Jr. playlist on my iPod. Bocephus rocks.
  3. Chilling out watching Life with Julie.
  4. People in the last month who've gone out of their way to tell me what God is doing in their lives through LHC.
  5. A technology roundtable meeting today with some of our staff to talk about how to communicate with different teams and families within our church.
  6. A frosty south Texas morning when the deer are moving and a post-hunt breakfast of coffee and Pop-Tarts with Mike McIntyre.
  7. The Family Stories that will be told this weekend at LHC as we continue Holiday Homecoming.
  8. Kissing Julie.
  9. The twang of a Telecaster.
  10. The sound of Emily and Joseph laughing, hollering, and making fun of each other while they clean the kitchen.


Billy Graham's Prayer for US

Below is Billy Graham's prayer for our nation:

'Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, 'Woe to those who call evil good,' but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self esteem. We have abused power and called it politics. We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment. Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and Set us free. Amen!'


Top 5 All-time

Last night at La Zona Rosa, the LHC family experienced one of the top 5 moments in the history of our church. For the first time since becoming one church in two locations, we were one church in one location, and the Spirit of God was overwhelming. It was a blast to meet so many people who are a part of LHC Downtown and to see the difference God is making in their lives and the difference they are making in the LHC family.

First, I have to thank Mark Groutas, Chad Zunker, Lane Wood, Laura Parker, Chris Heerlein, Scott Leger, and so many others who made everything go last night. The theme for the night was We Will Sing. And sing we did. It was awesome in every sense of the word.

I'm especially grateful to Chris Sanders and Scott & Susan Dunaway who shared their stories of what God is doing in their lives so openly and selflessly.

Here's just a quick recap that John Fones and Kristopher Rutherford put together right after the event (If you'll push PLAY quickly you don't have to scare any small children with the preview pane on the Vimeo player):

We Will Sing Recap from Lake Hills Church on Vimeo.


Bottom Line (3)

Any healthy organism requires checkups from time to time. People go to the doctor and she measures weight, blood pressure, height, cholesterol, and any number of other indicators of overall health.

Church is an organism that has definite indicators of overall health: salvations, baptisms, worship attendance, group/service participation, financial strength.

But, as we've seen this week, the church's primary purpose is lifechange. And that defies easy quantification. Here are some of the challenges attached to this fact:

  1. We never arrive. If we don't enjoy the journey, we may not enjoy much, because a destination is elusive.
  2. The "finished product" we're called to work toward is out of our hands. It's ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit through us and in spite of us.
  3. No matter how focused, diligent, or committed you are, someone will be disappointed or angry.
  4. The stakes are overwhelming. The same thing (see yesterday's #1) that makes this worth investing your life can make it overwhelming when you realize the enormity of our task.
NONE of that is woe-is-me poor-mouthing. It's like everything else: The greatest strength is the greatest weakness. And the call of the church--the Bride of Christ holds some unique challenges. But, it's those challenges that remind us that we cannot do this in and of our own power/talent/vision/giftings. It is by his power and for his purposes. Only.



Bottom Line (2)

As we said yesterday, churches are similar to businesses ONLY in that we, too, have a bottom line. There, the similarities end. Our bottom line is lifechange: people stepping over the line of faith in Christ and becoming more like him in everything we want, think, say, and do.

With that said, there are some distinct blessings and advantages to engaging in furthering that kind of a bottom line vs. producing a profit:

1. What we do really matters. Eternally. There is no wasted movement or effort when a person's life/spirit/soul/marriage/future is on the line.
2. We see people's brokenness healed/redeemed/fulfilled. Nothing's more fueling than that.
3. We discover the genuine purpose/presence of God.
4. Friendship/Community is built and strengthened around a common purpose that never dies.
5. God is glorified.

What a God-honoring, eternity-impacting kick in the pants to get to be a part of!


Bottom Line (1)

Every business has a bottom line. It's the amount of money that they earn after accounting for all the costs, investments, and depreciation of assets.

Church is no different. Well, we are and we aren't. We are NOT different in that we have a bottom line. We ARE different in that it is not money. Our bottom line is lifechange. This past Sunday night, we got a front row seat to see our bottom line impacted greatly through the celebration of baptism.

Baptism in and of itself isn't our bottom line, but it is an indicator of how we're doing in fulfilling the mission of Christ's Church and the particular vision He's called us to realize. Every person who was baptized into the life of LHC is a living testimony to and expression of the power of Christ to change a life in eternity-shaking ways. And, THAT is our bottom line.

In the next few posts, I'm going to explore some of the unique blessings and challenges of bottom-lining lifechange.



President-elect Obama. What an election cycle this has been. Now that the pre-election polls have become results, here are a few thoughts:

1. Pray. Pray for our nation, for all those who serve in positions of leadership. That's easy if your candidate won. But, it's incumbent upon all Christ-followers to remember them regardless of politics. I know that a lot of people had a lot vested in both candidates, and when your candidate loses, it's disappointing. Remember John Wayne's answer to reporters when Kennedy defeated Nixon in 1960: "Well, I didn't vote for him. But he's my president and I hope he does a good job."
2. John McCain is a great public servant. Whatever you think of his politics, you cannot intelligently argue this. After enduring what he did in Viet Nam, the fact that he can get up in the morning and have a coherent conversation is a miracle. The fact that he chooses to get up in the morning and go to work for his nation tells you everything you need to know about his priorities.
3. John McCain ran a lousy campaign. I don't mean a dirty or immoral campaign. I mean a dog. Low-down, dirty, egg-sucking dog of a campaign. He never forged a coherent message or gave a compelling reason to vote for him. He botched the economic meltdown because he tried to politic it. At that point, game over.
4. Barack Obama is an honorable man. Whatever you think of his politics, you cannot intelligently argue this. Everything that we've seen indicates that he loves his wife and daughters and he genuinely wants to serve the nation.
5. Barack Obama ran a genius campaign. Look at the electoral map. Consistent in his message, few details, no leaks, no in-fighting...All he did was unseat Hillary Clinton as the presumptive Democratic nominee and trounce a bona fide war hero on his way to the White House.
6. Now, the hard part starts. Seriously, can you imagine what it would be like to wake up this morning and realize that you had to begin assembling a team and a plan for holding the most powerful job in the world?

That brings us full circle to #1: PRAY for those who lead us.


LHC Downtown This Sunday

Downtown Membership Class Invite from Lake Hills Church on Vimeo.

To all LHC DOWNTOWNERS: This Sunday, we're holding our first-ever LHC Membership Class after the morning worship service. If you're already a member of LHC from the main campus, you don't need to stick around. But, if you're new to LHC, I want to meet you and let you know who we are and what makes us tick. Our vision and our values are the primary message of the Membership Class I'll be teaching, so come on and check it out.

As soon as the service ends, we'll have a box lunch available for you, childcare is provided and then we'll start the class at 1:00. It'll last right at an hour or so (depending on how much coffee I've had!). This first couple of months has been a great start for Downtown. I can't wait to see what God has in store for us as HE builds on this beginning.


South Texas and the Call of God

A good friend recently invited me to hunt with him in south Texas. It's a part of the world that really recharges and refreshes me every time I'm there. It is rough country, but it has a beauty that is raw and rugged. They say that down there if it doesn't bite you or have thorns, it's a rock. And that's pretty accurate.

I've wondered a couple of times what it would be like to earn a living as a writer living on a ranch in south Texas. It wouldn't be any easier than what I get to do now, but it would certainly be less complicated. Get up early, write until mid-morning or noon, and then spend the rest of the day managing the ranch for maximum deer growth, quail habitat and whatever else came to mind.

Whenever I have those thoughts, God reminds me that I'm right in the middle of what I was created for. To be Julie's husband, Emily & Joseph's dad, and pastor of LHC is as full a life as I can even imagine. I would so miss the communities that our family gets to be a part of, that we're strengthened by. I'd miss the beauty of Christ's Bride as she lives out through the people of LHC. I would miss the leadership opportunities to see and sometimes facilitate an intersection between people's gifts and passions and the needs and opportunities of the church.

Author Seth Godin relates a telling story that I think captures this idea:

It's four a.m. and I can't sleep. So I'm sitting in the lobby of a hotel in Jamaica, checking my e-mail.

A couple walks by, obviously on their way to bed, having pushed the idea of vacation a little too hard. The woman looks over to me and, in a harsh whisper a little quieter than a yell, says to her friend, "Isn't that sad? That guy comes here on vacation and he's stuck checking his e-mail. He can't even enjoy his two weeks off."

I think the real question--the one they probably wouldn't want to answer--was, "Isn't it sad that we have a job where we spend two weeks avoiding the stuff we have to do fifty weeks a year?"

Hit the COMMENTS button below and let me know what you love about what you get to do every day.


Who's at Vault?

This coming Sunday, I’m continuing the sermon series UNCERTAINTY. Below is a quick video preview of what we’ll be talking about on Sunday. After you check it out, I want to ask you to forward it to someone you know who doesn’t go to church, someone who is looking for the peace and the hope that God offers them.

We get to share that with the people around us regardless of what the economy is doing or who wins the election or any other circumstance. Thanks for being the church and sharing God with the folks in your sphere of influence.

Uncertainty // Week Three from Lake Hills Church on Vimeo.


Uncertainty on the Decline

It's been an amazing roller coaster ride for the last few weeks, and the world's uncertainty doesn't show any signs of slacking up any time soon. BUT, we are getting to see some clear evidence of God's grace and protection through the uncertainty.

In Sunday's community worship, one wife came to one of the morning services even though her husband couldn't come with her. Her takeaway from the service was all about the priorities they pursue as a family. After experiencing God and hearing clearly from Him, she encouraged her husband to come to the evening service. His takeaway focused almost exclusively on the consistency quotient that we explored. Together, they got it!

They are just one example of the people and homes that God is touching, teaching, encouraging, and shoring up through this sermon series. Another man and his wife shared how they have never really shared the faith part of their life together until they started worshiping with LHC recently. Together, they're getting it!

Thank you for being the kind of church where long-time Christ-followers and tire-kickers alike are encouraged, challenged, and--above all--welcomed. Thank you for inviting people to encounter and experience the hope and peace of Christ in the midst of so much uncertainty. Keep it up.


The Buddy System

When I was a kid on Beach Retreat with my church, whenever we went in the ocean we had to have someone go with us. Between undertow, sharks, and other oceanic hazards, it was good to have someone who was looking out for you. When the LOD (Lifeguard on Duty) blew the airhorn, we had to go find our buddy and raise our hands together until they sounded the airhorn a second time. That was the program for helping to make sure everyone stayed safe and accounted for in the Gulf of Mexico.

Last week, a phenomenal friend of mine flew in from Upper State New York to attend the Spur L'ship Conference with one of his staff members (I know it's Upstate, but we have another mutual friend that we like to harass for calling it Upper State). Buddy Cremeans is the Pastor of Northway Church. They have multiple locations throughout the Clifton Park-Colonie region of New York (and their Malta location is in process as we speak), and they are absolutely crushing it for the Kingdom in an area not noted for church growth fertility. (NOTE: If Upstate NY is accessible to you, next week on Monday, Oct. 13, Buddy is hosting a C3 Regional Conference with Ed Young. These one-day events are packed with hard-won principles that will promote mission-critical practices for a monster payoff in your church. You can get more info and register by hitting this link for CreativePastors.com.)

Since he left Austin last Friday morning, he has called or texted me four other times to encourage me, say thank you, and ask an opinion or two. Buddy is one of those people that fill my tanks. Every time I talk to him, or Julie and I get to be around him and his bride Debbie, we are fueled, in-couraged, and strengthened to go fight another day.

No airhorns, no literal sharks in the water or actual undertow. But, the Buddy System works. It's great to have people who are looking out for you and make the time to check on you.

Who's your "Buddy System" partner?


Monday Morning

Monday a.m. after three weekend services, a conference on Thurs. and the LHC Dntn taping on Wed.--I love what I get to do. And I'm tired.

So, this a.m.'s post is a Mark Cuban blog post from last week: How to Get Rich. Now, Cuban's borderline crazy but that doesn't mean he's wrong. You could also call this post "How to be Financially Smart."

Read Cuban's post and comment here with your thoughts about what he says and what's going on in our economy right now.


Preschool Pavarotti

Never been a big opera fan. Don't hate it. Don't love it. I've got a few pieces on my iPod so I'm not a complete Philistine, but it's just not my bag.

But, I do appreciate the talent required to pull it off well. The few times that I got to see Luciano Pavarotti perform on TV, he absolutely blew me away. There's just something about watching anyone who's the best do what they do. It's inspiring. Challenging. Fun. Contagious.

That's exactly how I felt this morning when I happened to walk past a classroom full of preschool kids whose moms were otherwise engaged in our Mom to Mom ministry. And, there in front of those kids was a woman so gifted, so engaging, so passionately teaching them the story of God's creation that I just sat there and giggled watching her.

She had those kids in the palm of her hand, waiting with baited breath for her next sentence or song or shimmy. It was literally a work of art to behold her teaching and inspiring those kids, giving them a desire and a hunger for the love of God and the Word of God.

I was blown away. Grateful for a church that cares that much about children. And their moms. And dads. Grateful for a volunteer who is so gifted, passionate, joyful, and willing to serve. That volunteer was an HD picture of what can be and what should be for all of us as we serve and lead.

(And I really believe that I would feel that way even if I weren't married to her.)


Uncertainty, The Series (2)

Just since I posted yesterday, the Dow Jones industrials have gone down 777 points--the single greatest one-day loss ever--and then come back up 485 points--the third greatest gain ever. This picture speaks a thousand words -->

Over the next few weeks, I'm asking everyone who calls LHC their church home to make our weekend services THE primary priority as we dive into UNCERTAINTY. This new message series is HUGE as we all try to make sense of the times in which we live.

God speaks repeatedly throughout the Bible to the reality of living in uncertain times. This series is going to encourage, equip, and empower us for that reality. Our world is uncertain. Our God is not. Bring someone with you to celebrate Him, his power, and his principles for the practice of stability in the midst of uncertainty. You can use this video to email/invite friends to join you this weekend:

Uncertainty from Lake Hills Church on Vimeo.


Uncertainty, The Series (1)

This weekend, we're going to set aside the new message series we have been working on for the last few months. In the midst of so much economic, political, personal, financial and social uncertainty, I'm going to do a 2-week series called UNCERTAINTY.

Everyone I talk to is treading water, either financially or professionally, as the U.S. economy lurches through the fallout of the Wall St./banking/mortgage fiasco. Some of those treading water will be able to ride out this storm. Others will have to start over.

The one certainty in this world is uncertainty. And, fortunately, we serve a God who is constant, who cares, and who offers us hope and practical help for handling uncertainty. That's going to be our focus over the next two weeks.

One thing that you can count on: People need hope. You and I get to introduce them to the greatest Hope there is, Christ. Make it a point this week especially and next to invite someone you know who's wrestling with uncertainty. In the next day or so, I'll post a video invitation that you can use to email them and invite them to encounter the One certainty there is:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Hebrews 13:8


Economic Uncertainty, 2

It's tough to distinguish between political posturing and actual leadership as Congress and the Administration respond to the economic crisis. I do think there are actual leaders and people of character and resolve who hold high political office. I don't think it's 100% of the people who hold high political office.

One of the things that we keep hearing over and over is that any bailout has to include protection for homeowners. But, where is their responsibility in all this? Didn't they commit to pay their mortgages? True, financial institutions shouldn't have kept feeding the Greed Beast with unsafe loans to unqualified borrowers simply to line their own pockets. But, it also seems like at some point there should be some personal accountability for the decision to sign a loan for more house than you can afford.

Three things seem necessary:
1. Remember that God is our Provider and not a bank, a government, or even ourselves.
2. Based on #1, Accept responsibility for wisely managing the resources God chooses to put in our hands.
3. Pray for God to give wisdom--and COURAGE--to those making decisions and policy that will ripple out to not only every single one of us, but also throughout the entire world.

But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.
Deuteronomy 8:17-18



Few places in the world offer as much to do on a weekend as Austin, TX. This weekend, our city plays host to the Austin City Limits Festival and 70,000 people will converge on Zilker Park for an incredible lineup of artists and some of the best people-watching in the world.

At the same time ACL Fest is happening, the Longhorns will host the Arkansas Razorbacks in a game that was moved to this weekend when Hurricane Ike steamed ashore two weeks ago. Another 90,000 people will shoehorn into Royal Memorial Stadium for that event.

There are always options available, sometimes more than others. I can't overstate how important our community worship is this weekend. We're wrapping up the series New with a message that is tailor-made for ANYONE who is far from God or struggling with ANYTHING in their lives.

From hurricanes to economic storms, from specific crises to life in general, we have a unique opportunity to share the love of God with people around us like never before. Please be in prayer for this service, for me as I prepare and study to preach, and for the people that you will invite to encounter God in a personal, dynamic experience this Sunday. We'll never be the same.


How Do You Know You're on Vacation in the South?

I just ran across one of my favorite vacation moments of all time. Given the news of the last few days, it seemed like a little levity couldn't hurt.


Economic Uncertainty, 1


700. B-Billion. Dollars

Let's let that just sink in a moment, shall we?

OK, that's the cost of the financial paddles that the government is about to use to jumpstart our economy's faintly beating heart. Clear! The consensus is that in order for banks to lend for businesses to spend so employees can be paid and hired, this is the only option left.

LESSON #1: Greed doesn't work
. True, a precious few walked away while hanging us with the bill,( see Newsweek's feature, Who Got Away With What), but look at the financial whirlwind that millions will reap in their wake.

LESSON #2: There's no such thing as a sure thing.
No matter how much or how little we have, the only constant is Christ. Period. And unless I live my life like that, I will ALWAYS pinball from one extreme to the next based on the ebb and flow of financial, relational, professional circumstances.

God is good. His throne is never threatened.


Something to Hide, 1

Last year, I was at a conference where Joyce Meyer spoke. Something she said that night really rang true and hit home with me: Anything you hide, controls you.

As I thought about my own life, I realized just how accurate that insight is. As I've talked to people and heard their stories of guilt or shame, they have borne out the reality that hiding is a form of imprisonment. It's the single oldest consequence of sin.

This weekend, I'm continuing the series New with a message "Something to Hide," and we're going to dive smack dab into the middle of Genesis 3. The biblical account of original sin is such an amazing lesson for all of us who carry any guilt or shame or sin. Not because it's a story of hiding, but because it teaches us that we don't have to carry that around. At all. Ever.

PLEASE, make it a point to invite someone you know this weekend. Someone who doesn't know how desperately God loves him, or how extravagantly God's forgiven her. The creative team has constructed some really powerful elements for communicating the power of new available to all of us in God's grace and truth. You'll be proud to share your church and your Savior with them.


A Great Day

Yesterday (Monday) was just one of those days. I woke up in a little bit of a funk--it's a rare occasion for me but it happens. For whatever reason, it just stuck with me throughout the entire day. Nothing really wrong, just felt out of sorts. (Which, if you're currently single, is another good reason to make sure you marry well! A patient spouse like Julie is a must for those days.)

But, today proved to be the perfect antidote to yesterday. First of all, I started the day taking our kids to school, and singing at the top of our lungs to whatever country trash was currently on my iPod is just a great equalizer. Second, the first bit of "work" in my day consisted of a meeting with our pastors.

This meeting typically involves a review of the weekend just past (worship services, sermons preached, attendance, prayer requests, giving, what worked/what didn't, etc.), calendar previews, ministry opportunities ahead, and strategic planning. All of that is preceded and followed by prayer, bathed in laughter, and comprised of straightforward evaluations and affirmations.

The net results of that meeting--decisions made, issues handled, plans developed, and community affirmed--set a tremendous tone for the rest of the day. We didn't get all the world's problems solved (or, even all of LHC's problems!). But, we did get a headstart on a lot of them and made significant strides to affirm and sustain what's going well and correct what can be better.

Ultimately, though, it was the people I was with. People who take what they do very seriously but do not take themselves too seriously. They are a great blessing to our church at large and to me personally.

(I'm also incredibly anxious to get into the next two weekend services as we wrap up New--more on that tomorrow.)


Post-Ike, Sat. 2:56p

I've just returned from one of Austin's Red Cross Shelters for Hurricane Ike evacuees. They're doing remarkably well given what they're in the middle of, but there's some very real apprehension about the whereabouts of loved ones they can't reach via phone yet, when they'll get to go home, and what they'll find when they do get home.

More than anything, please continue to pray for people displaced by the storm; Gov. Perry and all our national, state, and local leaders; and those first responders who put themselves in harm's way to rescue people in the wake of the storm.

For those of you who are in the LHC family, you should have received an email from me today listing some of the things that the Red Cross needs at its shelters. In case you missed it, here they are, plus a few items we just found out about:

* Board games--Hill Country Middle School is housing over 300 people and there's not much to do but watch TV reports about the storm.
* Bedding, including air mattresses
* Feminine hygiene products
* Lotion

We'll be collecting these items tomorrow at all services at both locations. Thank you in advance for responding to this initial call for help.


Hurricane Ike, 3:25p Friday

As of 3:25p Friday, Hurricane Ike is bearing down on the upper Texas coast. The LHC family has so many close friends, family, and connections to people who are smack in the middle of the storm's path. Please be in prayer throughout this weekend for safety as the storm comes ashore.

Also, we owe a prayer of thanksgiving for the wisdom and expertise of Gov. Perry and so many public officials who have done so much in advance of the storm to prepare and protect so many people. Pray for them especially as Ike pushes through and in the aftermath.

Stay tuned to this space for updates and opportunities to serve.


Core Strength

One of the new ministries that cranked up Sunday night was the slate of Core Classes that are offered after the evening worship service. Chris Larsen and his team have created a unique learning environment that offers something for everyone regardless of where you are spiritually. Currently offered classes include:

* Marriage for Life
* Raising Great Kids
* Overview of the Bible
* Spiritual Habits of a Christ Follower
* Discovering and Using Your Spiritual Gifts
* Living and Sharing Your Faith with Others

For a full course schedule list, click on this link to get more information and to see some of the classes that are coming later this fall. A box dinner is available between the service and the start of Core Classes, so if you're looking to take your faith to the next level, make it a point this weekend to join us at 5p.m. for worship and then stick around for the Core Classes at 6:30.

In addition to growing personally, the Core Classes are a great first step in meeting people and connecting with the overall life of the church. It's a great way to finish the weekend and be fully charged for the week to come.

Also, in case you didn't see it, here's the story that News8Austin ran on the LHC Downtown launch this past weekend:

LHC Downtown News Story from Lake Hills Church on Vimeo.


A Beautiful Day

I love the Church. Specifically, I love Lake Hills Church and the people who make it what it is. Yesterday was a historic day in the life of our church as we officially became one church in two locations with the launch of LHC Downtown. We also saw a new worship service and worship schedule at the mother ship create incredibly rich and powerful experiences for everyone who was there.

LHC Downtown welcomed 536 people to the inaugural worship experience at the Austin Music Hall. Campus Pastor Chad Zunker and his team created a phenomenal environment and community to welcome so many people who are brand new to church and encountering God like they did yesterday. Again, thank you to everyone who is working, praying, giving financially, and serving to make LHC Downtown possible. God is moving through you and I'm so grateful and proud to be a part of what He's doing through you.

Our new order of worship created some new opportunities for people to hang out and visit after the service, pray with pastors and staff members at the end of the service, and just really experience a richer, fuller time of worship and community.

Also, thank you SO MUCH to everyone who is inviting people to join you for worship. THAT is who we are. I'm so grateful to you for reaching out, getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, and just generally caring about people. There is nothing more spiritually mature or Christ-like than introducing other people to a personal encounter with God. That's why we're here.

If you missed yesterday, I want to invite you to make it a point to be back this coming weekend. I'm continuing the series NEW with a message, "A Place to Belong."


Guitar Man

The Guitar Man is gone. Jerry Reed who was most famous as The Snowman in Smokey & the Bandit passed away today from complications related to emphysema. He was 71. I still remember going to see Smokey in a movie theater in Beaumont with my mom and dad and grandparents. While it would definitely qualify for a PG-13 today, I was 11 and laughed till I cried. Jerry Reed was a large part of the reason that I saw it 8 times. In the theater. (The sequels were abominations and besmirched the legacy of the classic original.)

The wise-cracking, life of the party good ol' boy was definitely a part of who he was. But there was so much more to him. Behind the humor and the Snowman personna was a genuine artist. His guitar-manship was absolutely jaw-dropping--even when all you had was the audio, you knew that his was a unique gift. If you ever got to see him play--I mean, really play--live, then you knew you were in the presence of someone and something really special. I've included a YouTube clip just as a little sampler (for the uninitiated, Jerry's wearing the hat):

Jerry played a role in my childhood, and I'm sure my appreciation for his talent grew out of my relationship with my dad who first introduced me to him on the LP Jerry Reed's Greatest Hits. Especially on his version of "Georgia On My Mind" and his trademark instrumental "The Claw," his skill and artistry were on full display.

Because of the times in my life that his music and movies are connected to, there's a little sadness that he's passed on. But you really can't listen to his music or watch his movies and stay sad for long. He was very open about his faith in Christ and so there's the deepest joy in knowing that the heavenly angel band just added a phenomenal picker on lead guitar.

Guess who's leading that five-piece band
Well, wouldn't you know
It's that swinging little guitar man


NEW. Just the word itself is enticing and intriguing. There's something inside us all that is drawn to anything new and fresh and possible.

First of all, Sunday night we got to celebrate 71 people who marked their new life in Christ through baptism. It was a great night, not only for baptism but for hanging out, visiting with old friends and meeting new ones. Thank you to everyone who made that a priority and such a huge win.

Second, this weekend, you and I get to be a part of NEW, the next step in the life and journey of LHC. First, all of us are going to be beginning the sermon series New. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be mining the first three chapters of the Bible for insights and principles from the very beginnings of God's interaction with people. Genesis is a rich vein of reality and promise from God that is still so relevant for where we are right now.

Third, the LHC Downtown launch is finally here! Beginning this Sunday at 11am, the Austin Music Hall will be the site of our new campus. For more info or to invite someone to be a part of it, go to www.lhc.org/downtown. There, you'll see a video explaining what's going and how it's going to work.

Finally, don't forget our new worship schedule at the West Campus (aka, the Mother Ship): Sunday, 9:30 & 11:30 a.m., and 5 p.m. The 5 p.m. service will be followed by Core Classes, a slate of classes designed for further spiritual growth and teaching. You can get more info and register for these classes by clicking on this link.


This Sunday: ON TOUR

This morning, as I was studying and praying through some sermon prep for this weekend, I started to get really antsy about getting to preach this message. As I read and study the Scripture that we're going to mine this Sunday and pray over and think about our strategy as a church, I get so excited about what God wants to reinforce in our DNA as a called-out community of Christ.

As we conclude the series All Access this weekend, I want to particularly invite you to make SURE that you are in worship this weekend with an expectant and open heart and mind. Really everything that we've been talking about for the last few weeks comes to full fruition in the PRACTICE of what we'll talk about this weekend.

To all of you who decided to Rock Out and signed up to serve last weekend, welcome to the team! As we launch the new ministry season on Sept. 7, I know that God has positioned us in a place of indescribable promise. To everyone who is a part of what God's doing through and in LHC, thank you for your prayers, your service, your excitement, your giving, your inviting friends--everything that you do to make your church a healthy, vibrant, and welcoming community of Christ.


Spur Leadership

A local business leader and good friend asked me a great question over coffee this morning about the Spur Leadership Conference: How will this event hit my non-Christian co-workers?

This is an important point for this event. The Spur Leadership Conference is designed to equip and encourage all leaders in all arenas. There won't be any bait-and-switch where we offer to serve all leaders and suddenly switch to preaching or proselytizing. The speakers are all leaders from varied and different arenas who are also Christ-followers. But, this event is primarily about leadership practices that transcend both marketplace and/or ministry.

The first Spur Leadership Conference is just over one month away (Thur., Oct. 2) and NOW is the time to make arrangements and reservations for this one-day investment in the leadership culture of your organization, business, team, or church.

This one-day event offers you and your team the opportunity to learn from some of the strongest leadership practices of people who actually DO it every day at an incredibly high level:

* Rick Barnes, UT Men’s Basketball Coach
* Ed Young, Fellowship Church Senior Pastor, author of The Creative Leader
* Les Csorba, Partner, Heidrick & Struggles; former Special Assistant to the President of the United States, author of Trust: The One Thing That Makes or Breaks a Leader.
* Janet Mountain, Executive Director, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation
* Rocky Mountain,
Venture Capitalist and former VP and General Manager of Consumer Sales, Dell
* Steve Price, Vice President Global Consumer Business HR, Dell

These folks aren’t dealing in theories of leadership, productivity, and management. They are practitioners.

Early registration pricing is available through this coming Saturday, so register your team online and share the Spur Leadership experience with the people in your sphere of influence.


One of My Favorite Days

This morning was a mile marker day for the LHC family. First, AGAIN, what an amazing job from Mark Groutas and his team leading us in worship. It was a monster day of genuine worship. (And that was after having spent all week leading worship for our Middle School Beach Week in Alabama!)

Second, it was such a blessing to have Ben Young preach in our house for the first time in the history of LHC. Ben is such a gifted, unique communicator of God's Word, and he led us through a truly wonder-full story of grace from his own life parallel to the biblical account of Nicodemus (John 3, 7, & 19). If you missed it, you owe it to yourself to watch the online version when it becomes available on Monday.

As if that wasn't enough, LHC Downtown had another preview service this morning at the Austin Music Hall. Since Ben was preaching at the mother ship, I got to be downtown for a little while, and it was awesome. Campus Pastor Chad Zunker and his team have put us in as healthy and strong a position as we could possibly be four weeks out from the Sept. 7 launch of LHC Downtown.

God has given us the opportunity of a lifetime to launch this new ministry in a place and at a time that none of us could have orchestrated. What a blessing for us all to get to pray, work, give, and serve to fully realize the vision God has called us to fulfill.


Follow Through This Weekend

This weekend, I'm continuing the series ALL ACCESS with a message entitled "Sound Check". Part of my sermon prep included watching the DVD of Martin Scorsese's Rolling Stones rock-umentary Shine a Light. Now, Mick and the boys have been doing their thing for a while. But, WHOA! They really are amazing at what they do. It's an impressive film of an amazing group. But I digress...

This weekend's message is all about spiritual growth. For the last two weeks, we've looked at the very beginnings of a faith journey, but this week we're going to really get into HOW we grow and mature in the Christian faith. It's a fascinating combination of individual and community responsibility. And, honestly, it's one in which we as a church are stepping up our game this fall. So, make it a point to be there and to bring someone with you this weekend. You'll be challenged, encouraged, and equipped to take your faith to the next level.

Believe me, too, when I tell you that you will not want to miss the creative conclusion to the message that our team has prepared. They have definitely taken it to the next level.


Spur Leadership Conference

We are less than 2 months away from one of the most exciting ministry opportunities that God has ever put in our path as a church. On Thursday, Oct. 2 we will host the first SPUR LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE. This one-day event is designed to serve those who lead in any arena, whether in the marketplace or in ministry, non-profits or government.

If you lead and influence in any capacity, you need to be a part of the Spur Leadership Conference. One of the primary goals of the conference is to encourage and equip future and potential leaders to begin developing their leadership capacity more intentionally and more purposefully. So, consider bringing with you those members of your team or organization that may not be driving the boat right now but would may prove to be the future heart, brains, and backbone of your group.

For more info and to register, go to WWW.SPURLEADERSHIP.ORG and be a part of serving those who get it done.

Also, Early Registration pricing lasts through August 30th.



Yesterday’s worship experience was a monster reminder for us as we kick off a new week. The song “Revolution” really put us on notice that the church should never be about maintaining the status quo. That we are the agent of change that Christ commissioned us to be.

This week, as you enter into conversations, encounter new people, build existing relationships, do business — remember the privilege and blessing that we have to be the church. If you weren’t there on Sunday, listen to it online now.



I love climbing back into the preaching saddle! This weekend, I'm launching a new message series that we have been praying over, preparing, and working toward for months.

ALL ACCESS is a sermon series that will be (to borrow a phrase) good news for all people. ALL ACCESS is going to explain and explore the miracle and mystery of the Church. The Church is Jesus on Tour. In this world, we are his voice, his hands and feet, his children, his family, his ambassadors--literally, his Body. Literally and spiritually.

We are the Church. Imperfect. Flawed. Sometimes selfish. Sometimes exclusive. And, still, we are the Church. The Body of Christ commissioned, commanded, and empowered by the Son of God to bring hope to this world. To ALL of this world.

All because He is ALL ACCESS.

This weekend, we're going to welcome our good friend Malford Milligan once again. If you've never heard Malford sing...well, just believe me when I tell you, the House will be rockin'.

Use Malford's appearance as an opportunity to invite someone to come with you, to experience God through your church this week. Give them an excuse to come to church with you. IF you'll do that, I promise you they'll encounter God.


Thank you...

...that's really the only way I can think of to sum up how it feels to be fully back in the saddle this week. Back from summer vacation. Back from study break. Back to staff meeting today with an incredible team of people. Back to preaching as we kick off the series ALL ACCESS.

First, our family is so grateful to be part of a church that not only understands, but encourages us to take time to get away and recharge during the summer. So many pastors don't have that blessing, and we're truly grateful to be a part of a church that loves us like that.

I'm also grateful to Chris, Alex, & Kirk who did such a great job preaching. Their gift of teaching, work, and heart behind the messages were so good for us as a church. They tackled some ticklish topics throughout TXT MSG and really did a great job. We're better off and healthier as a church when we let God speak to us and lead us through multiple channels.

Real quick...I'll post more tomorrow about this, but for now, you DEFINITELY want to be in church and invite someone you care about to share in the experience this coming weekend for a number of reasons. But for now, I'll just give you one word: Malford.


Go to Church at LHC

This weekend, you need to be at LHC. IF you're in Austin, you will love what God is going to do this weekend.

As we wrap up the series TXT MSG, Alex Alexander is going to tackle one of the most-asked questions that was submitted for consideration: What about divorce?

As someone with first-hand experience (through my parents' divorce), I know how critical it is that we form a godly perspective on this subject. Unfortunately, as a pastor, I have also had way too much second-hand experience and exposure to this subject and the pain, confusion, anger, and uncertainty that always accompanies it.

AND, there is hope. In Christ. In the community of faith that is the church. There is always hope. Whether you have been through divorce, are going through it, or you're blissed-out married, with marriage's 50% mortality rate this subject is one that touches all of us.

Also, next weekend, I'm back in the saddle and starting a new message series that is for EVERYONE who considers LHC their church home. ALL ACCESS is going to be a milestone moment in the life of LHC. I'm asking everyone to make it a priority as we wrap up the summer and get ready for the greatest season ever in the life of our church coming this year.


Go to Church Somewhere Else (2 of 2)

This weekend, Julie and I got to worship at Journey Church in Norman, OK with Pastor Clark Mitchell and his wife Robin. What a phenomenal church!

The people are joyful and so welcoming. Their building is beautiful. The grounds are well kept. But, the thing that I walked away with was the depth and sincerity of their worship. Beautiful grounds, coffee and donuts, smiling people would never be able to hide hollow, going-through-the-motions worship.

And, their's isn't. Kyle, their worship pastor leads an incredibly gifted and loyal praise team, and their service radiates out from the entire church. Julie and I were so blessed to be there with them Sunday morning (and Saturday night for dinner and Sunday for lunch--both of which were through the roof).

Clark is one of those rare individuals who is a gifted, intuitive leader. Without even trying, he just gets it. But, then, he does try. And work. And pray. And study. He pays close attention to the details, but never takes his eyes off the big picture vision that God has given to him to lead Journey Church to fulfill. He's rare, because he voraciously adds to his intuitive gifts by reading and learning and seeking out other leaders to learn from. He's one of those people who just fill my tanks being around him.

Having said that, as blessed and honored as we were to be their guests, we loved flying home tonight and that home means the good ol' ATX. As wonderful as Journey Church is, we were reminded how deeply and profoundly we love Lake Hills Church--the people, the worship, the vision that God lets us be a part of every day.


Go to Church Somewhere Else (1 of 2)

That's right! I said it, and I meant it. But, it's not what you're thinking. This isn't some fly-off-the-handle rant. Not that I'm above that, but in this particular instance, I'm not doing it. No, instead, I mean something completely different:

This summer, if you're out of town on vacation somewhere, make it a point to go to church and worship somewhere that you've never been before.

There are some interesting and very healthy things that happen whenever Julie & I get to do this:

1. We're forced to remember what it's like for our guests to walk through our doors each week. You NEVER take that for granted whenever you put yourself in that position. (Sub-point 1-A: Whenever you think about other people and worship, you've burned up some of the bandwidth that is sometimes dedicated to thinking What's-in-it-for-me? thoughts.)
2. Our capacity for worship is stretched. When you follow the worship leader of another congregation--and therefore that church's style of worship--you choose to do something that you're not as familiar with, so you have the opportunity to remember that worship isn't about OUR comfort. It's about OUR adoration of God. Lifting him up in a style or through songs we're not used to can actually help us re-center our worship on the One it's supposed to be all about anyway.
3. It's really healthy to ask the Holy Spirit to speak a fresh word into your life through a teacher/preacher that you're not used to. Maybe even in a denominational tradition that you're not used to. Again, same principles apply here as in the worship thing in #2.
4. New experiences always hold new lessons about God and about life. Through these new worship experiences, God will build and deepen your worship repertoire--and that's great.
5. Every time we do this as a family, no matter how powerful the presence of God, or inspiring the worship, how good the band, how popping the projectors, mind-blowing the technology (or lack thereof), or how anointed the preaching--we're excited to come home to LHC and the people and vision that God has called us to be a part of.

So, this summer, on vacation...Go to church somewhere else! And, know that we look forward to seeing you back home.


When Meetings Are Cool

This morning, we had our first staff meeting in a few weeks due to VBS, Road Trip, traveling, etc. I was reminded why I love getting to do what I get to do. There were four things that jumped up and screamed their presence in that room:

I was surrounded by incredibly passionate people. Passion--when it's well directed and properly channeled--is a powerful contagion. Everyone in that room this morning is passionate about their personal faith and relationship with Christ. Now, not everyone is always at mountaintop moment in our faith. We have periods of drought just like everyone. But, we get to partner with the Holy Spirit in seeing lives touched, redeemed, and impacted for eternity every day.

But, they're not just passionate people. They are hungry for the Word of God and they go after it. They don't sit back and say, "Feed me! Feed me!" They take responsibility for feeding themselves and they serve other people and each other out of their spiritual diet. There is no religious flab on any of them.

Also, every person on our staff carries a burning torch for people who don't yet know how extravagantly God loves them. You can hear it in their voices and see it in their eyes when they talk about friends they have who aren't Christ-followers or when we talk about opening our downtown campus this fall; there's an urgency and a concern that flows out of Christ's heart.

And, maybe most infectious of all, they are joyful. For every one of them, ministry isn't a burden; it's a blessing. It's a gift to get to do what we get to do every day. Sure, we have bad days and meetings that don't go the way we want them to with people who are hurting or hurtful. But, all in all, serving Christ and serving and leading his church is a joy and a privilege that we wouldn't trade for anything else.

All of that, and Craig Ihlefeld killed a rattlesnake outside the worship center this morning that we got to see when we came out of the meeting. (Sorry no pictures were taken!)


Rocky Mountain Highlight

With less than 24 hours left in Road Trip '08, I can tell you that God has shown up huge-time. Besides the scenery (see right) and the temperature (it got all the way up to 74 degrees today!), we've gotten to see kids and sponsors' lives touched by God in powerful ways.

In addition to those things, it's been a week of incredible fun: Mountain biking--literally--rock climbing, wallyball (volleyball played on a racquetball court), white-water rafting, and swimming, no one has been bored or at a loss for activities.

Pray for our last worship service tonight, tomorrow's baptism, and safety as everyone begins heading home to Texas tomorrow.



Summer didn't just start for LHC and our family. It launched.

First, One Prayer is off and running. I'm so grateful to Craig Groeschel for the whole One Prayer initiative and his leadership in this effort. And, for his message last week. And, of course, Ed Young just flat brought it this weekend. If only Ed were a little more passionate!

This week, I'm with the LHC high school students for Road Trip 2008 in Copper Mountain, CO, while Julie and the kids are spending time with her sisters and their kids at the beach.

Now, I love living in Austin, being a Texan and all that goes with that. But, I gotta tell you, it isn't all bad waking up to 38 degrees and needing a long sleeve shirt. Yesterday, the high temp. was 71.

Last night was our first service of the week. Having just disembarked from a 24-hour bus ride (made longer by a 3-hour mechanical problem in Amarillo), the students were whipped tired, but they were great and God is definitely moving. Be praying for this time that God will use this week in a powerful way in each of our lives.

And, to everyone who has prayed, worked, and given financially so this week could happen: THANK YOU FOR BEING THAT KIND OF CHURCH!


One Prayer

This weekend, we're going to hear from the leader of the One Prayer movement, Craig Groeschel. Craig is the pastor of LifeChurch, which is based in Edmond, OK and has locations across the nation.

Craig is one of those people who just get it. But, beyond that fact, he is anointed by God with an amazing capacity for vision, leadership, and integrity. He really may be the poster child for Jesus' charge for his followers: "be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves."

As you might have guessed, Craig's sermon is entitled, "God, Make Us One." I've already seen it, and it is so encouraging and challenging--I'm grateful that what God gave to Craig is going to be a part of the LHC fabric going forward.

For just a taste of how far the reach of One Prayer has spread, go to the One Prayer website and join the conversation.


First Lessons from One Prayer

As we kicked off One Prayer last weekend, we also kicked off the era of sermon delivery via video in our church. Below is a sampling of some of the feedback we received on the video thang:

"I wasn't sure about watching the sermon, but it was great. Once it started, I was into it and forgot that it was video."
"I realized that unless I'm in the first couple of rows, I watch the screens anyway."
"It looked like Mac's eyes were two black holes--I couldn't see him."
"It was little distracting when he looked off to the sides and wasn't looking in the camera."
"I was surprised, but that works."
"I had been hesitant about being a part of LHC Downtown in the fall, but now that I've seen it, I'm in."

There is a learning curve to this and we're on it. In addition to learning from other churches nationwide that have used this strategy, we learned a few thing through this weekend (and will no doubt learn more as we go):

1. Video works. The idea of a sermon on video is tougher to describe and accept than it is to actually experience.
2. We need to improve our lighting so that the image is consistent, specifically uplighting.
3. The image that we used Sunday was produced at 24 frames/second, which is closer to how film appears, vs. video which is 30 f/sec. 24 f/sec. gives you a cool texture and is more artistic if you're shooting say a music video or a creative element to use in the service. But, for the purposes of delivering a sermon, we need to use 30 f/sec. It gives a more immediate, clearer HD picture. Both are shot and projected in HD, but you lose a lot of that at 24 f/sec.
4. The audio quality was OK--and OK is not our standard.

It's going to be a kick in the pants to see how God uses this in and through LHC in the months and years to come. If you're an LHC member, thanks for being a part of it and praying for your church (and pastor). If you're not, thank you for praying for us and the people that God is going to reach through us.




That's the number that drives me early this morning. That's the number that will fuel our staff meeting in an hour and a half. That's the number that reminds us why we do what we do. It's encouragement, affirmation, perseverance, and everything needed to keep going when you get tired, bruised, or just feel like coasting.

7. That's how many people stepped over the line of faith this past week in LHC worship services.

7 more people doing life this morning in relationship with God. 7 more people more aware of who they were created to be. 7 more people who will experience eternity in perfect, open relationship with Christ. 7 more people who are glad that LHC goes hard at ministry through the summer rather than easing up and just hanging on for fall and back to school.

7 more people who know that someone loved them enough to invite them and share with them the extravagant love of God. 7 more people who can now share that same love with others in their particular spheres of influence. 7 more people who are grateful that LHC brings God's tithe to fuel ministries that affect people's lives.



Old & New

In Church World, you don't get any older than Communion. Jesus instituted this tradition even before the Church Age technically began. But, even 2000 years later, what a powerful reminder it was yesterday of his extravagant love and call to holiness in our lives. I loved celebrating Communion on the heels of the great hymn "Jesus Paid It All" which followed some killer new classics of worship.

It was a unique platform for the introduction of video preaching to our church. I have to admit that I was initially skeptical a few years ago when I began hearing the subterranean rumblings of other churches applying this technology to ministry. But, I am absolutely convinced that it can be very effective when coupled with real, hands-on, boots-on-the-ground ministry and leadership.

I know that for some it is a leap too far, but when done right and well, God is using and blessing this strategy to multiply Kingdom resources and work. I love that we get to be a part of that together.


One Prayer, Pt. 2

One of the most powerful components of the One Prayer season of ministry is the opportunity we have to play a key role in planting new churches in some of the most remote corners of the world. The locations for these new bodies of Christ are:

Collectively, those nations are going to be home to 500 new churches. That's 500 new outposts and beachheads for the love and hope of Christ in places where love and hope are desperately needed.

This is the kind of focused, intentional, and uniting work that would not be possible without technology bringing together over 1,100 churches representing more than 736,000 people in weekly church participation.

What is your One Prayer for the Bride of Christ?


One Prayer, Pt. 1

It's finally here: the message series ONE PRAYER kicks this coming weekend at LHC (most participating churches will begin the weekend of June 7-8, but we're starting a week earlier because of our sermon calendar and summer camps that were already locked and loaded when we were invited to participate in One Prayer). The series is based on this premise: If you could pray one prayer for the Church, what would it be?

Big question, isn't it? What would you pray if you could pray one prayer for the Bride of Christ?

One Prayer is a series of messages that over 1,100 churches worldwide are preaching through in the month of June. Those 1,100+ churches represent more than 750,000 people in weekend attendance. I've never heard of Christ's Bride pulling off this kind of unity of purpose and practice at one time--EVER. I'm so grateful to Craig Groeschel of LifeChurch for having the vision, obedience, and leadership to bring this ministry to the world.

We'll kick off this series this weekend with my prayer for our church and the Church at large: God, Make Us Magnetic. This message is one of 60 that all 1100+ churches have available to them for this series.

In the weeks that follow, we're going to be challenged, blessed, and encouraged by some of the greatest communicators and leaders in the church today. I know that sometimes going to church falls off the radar a little in the summer. But, you will miss so much if you miss any of One Prayer. Be praying with us and for Christ's church. When you remember that the Church is the hope of the world, it kindof



It's Saturday night and as I'm wrapping everything up preparing to preach in the morning, I found this picture (kudos/credit to Patagonia's website). First, the colors just popped off the page and were so striking. Second, what a great moment for the angler to have brought the fish to hand and remove the fly.

It reminds of two very important things (one much more significant than the other):

1. Catching this species of fish on a fly is the most fun I've ever had on the water or in the field. When they pick up the fly, they rocket across the flats, rooster-tailing the line through the water. It is an absolute kick in the pants. First time I ever caught one, I stuck the rod butt in my stomach and just giggled while the fish went screaming the opposite direction.

2. Jesus made me a fisher of people. Not only because I'm a pastor, but because I trust Him and promised Him I'd live this life for Him. The only way you catch fish is if you're where they are and you present them with something attractive. It usually involves a lot of work, some discomfort personally, and thinking like a fish. But the payoff! There's nothing like it.

You know, I've met a lot of people who don't like to bait their own hooks, wait for fish to bite, or remove the fish from the hook once it's caught. But, I've never met ANYONE--(not sure I want to!)--who doesn't get a thrill from catching fish. There's just something about it when you've paid the price, done the work, and felt the tug.

Worship at LHC gives us all that opportunity every week--to see weeks, months, or maybe even years of work and prayer and relationship come to fruition when a friend or family member personally trusts Christ. Or, maybe it's in a conversation that you get to have with someone. Either way, I've never met a genuine Christ-follower who didn't love to have a hand in that--when they've prayed the prayers, done the work, and felt the tug of God in their friend's life.

Happy Fishing.

Bonus Question: What species of fish is pictured above?


www.SpurLeaders.org Goes LIVE

Thanks to Jon Jennings and his team, we are actually a day EARLY in launching the Spur Leaders website. The first post offers a sample of where this resource is coming from and where we're headed with it. The most significant offering you'll find there is the vision for Spur Leaders.

Obviously, the main event for this year is the SPUR LEADERS CONFERENCE, coming to Austin on Thurs., Oct. 2. Beginning today, registration is open. In fact, we have already received our first registration--even before the announcement that the site was active.

QUESTION: To help you as a leader, what topic or message would you most want a conference speaker to deliver to your team?


Opening Friday & Random ?s

This Friday, we're going to be launching the Spur Leader website. On one hand, it's going to be the result of months of planning, work, interviews, and research. Jon Jennings, Vic Dominey, DeAnn Wilson and a lot of other people have put in some serious hours to bring this public.

On the other hand, it's just the beginning of a concerted ministry and effort from LHC to provide real-world, soul-deep encouragement and equipping for anyone who leads and influences in the marketplace or ministry.

macrichard.com will continue and be used for more personal and LHC-specific postings once spurleaders.org goes live. I'll have more info and the URL later on this week in this space.

On another note, I have a few questions:

What do you think about Twitter?
Do you use it?
How often do you Twitter to let other people know what you're doing?
How many people are you following on Twitter?


Touching Them All

A lot of sports news happens off the field and isn't exactly the kind of stuff that inspires. But, then you see something like this story below. There are multiple lessons in what those young women did, but specifically, what are the leadership lessons? How do we cultivate that kind of character? Reward it? Feed the fire?

(Thanks to John Lewis for the headsup on this.)


Spur Leader

Today was a milestone day in the life of our new leadership resource Spur Leader. We had a hugely clarifying conversation that helped us define our role, purpose, goals, methods--all of which will soon be manifested in the launch of the website, spurleaders.org, and the opening of registration for the Spur Leader Conference, coming October 2, 2008.

The lineup of speakers for this one-day event looks like this:

Rick Barnes, UT Men's Basketball Coach, a proven winner at every stop of his career, Rick Barnes has led The University of Texas basketball program to a level of national prominence never before seen at the Forty Acres. In his first nine years at the helm of the Longhorns, the 52-year-old Barnes has guided Texas to a school-record nine consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and a school-best eight straight 20-win seasons entering the 2007-08 campaign, which saw the Longhorns reach the Elite 8.
Ed Young, Founding and Senior Pastor of Fellowship Church, one of the largest, fastest growing, and healthiest churches in America. Located in the heart of Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, the church’s main campus sits on 141-acres just north of DFW Airport. The church also operates four satellite campuses, one in downtown Dallas, one in the northern suburb of Plano, one just north of Fort Worth near Alliance Airport, and the fourth in Miami, Florida.
Steve Price, Dell, Inc. Steve currently serves as vice president, Human Resources for Dell’s Global Consumer Business. In this role, he is responsible for the overall HR strategy and execution for World-Wide Sales and Marketing, Global Product Development and Engineering, and Consumer Customer Experience and Support organizations located across North America, Latin America, India, and the Philippines.
Rocky & Janet Mountain, Rocky is a venture capital entrepeneur, formerly Exec. VP of Consumer Sales, Dell, Inc. Janet, also formerly with Dell, Inc. is currently the Executive Director of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, overseeing the administration of more than $150 million of philanthropy.
Les Csorba, Heidrick & Struggles and leads the Houston office. He is a member of both the firm’s Industrial Practice and the Board of Directors/CEO Practice focusing on the Petroleum Industry. Previously, Les served in the White House as a Special Assistant to the President of the United States for Presidential Personnel during the George H.W. Bush Administration. He is the author of Trust: The One Thing That Makes or Breaks a Leader.
Mac Richard, as Himself

On Friday, May 23, we're hosting a Spur Luncheon gathering a handful of business and community leaders who will be playing a role in the development of Spur to begin redefining leadership both in the marketplace and in ministry.


Mother's Day Blessings

This weekend I get to do one of my favorite things in ministry: Share the preaching with my bride Julie. She has such a gift and a passion for encouraging and challenging women and moms in particular that her passion reignites my own for what is possible through a God-honoring worship experience and study of Scripture.

We're going to be starting a series that speaks specifically to the blessing and purpose of Woman. We live in a world that has so cluttered and clouded the image of God that women are fashioned to represent. The whole male-female thang has gotten really muddled. This weekend and through the next few weeks, we're going to un-muddle, clarify, and celebrate true femininity.

Men, I promise you that our service this weekend will thoroughly bless the women in your life. Anyone who has a hand in blessing them is blessed themselves. Take some time and make the time to be with them throughout this series. There's an old saying that goes like this: If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. There's an element of truth in that, but the reverse is equally true and substantially more powerful: If Momma is blessed, everybody's blessed.

Whether you're a mom or not, or a dad or not, married, single, or undecided, truly celebrating God's creative genius in authentic masculinity and femininity is something that blesses all of us.


4 Books

Just finished one book and am in the middle of another one, both of which are absolute gotta-reads. And, then, there are two others I finished over the last couple of months.

The one I just finished is by Leif Enger, whose first book was Peace Like a River and also a gotta-read. This book I just finished is his latest (his second?), So Brave, Young and Handsome. Both are good stories well told. It's not Shakespeare or War & Peace on the gravitas scale, but So Brave is a great read that tells a great story of redemption, second chances, and consequences for decisions made. It's not neat and tidy, but it rings true. Would be super for a summer book in the mountains or at the beach.

The second is one that's taking a little longer, but is so worth it. Reason for God by Tim Keller may be the most essential read for any person of faith or for someone considering the Christian faith. But it is not religion lite. To read this book, strap it on and buckle up. Keller is well thought-out, humble, and direct in his defense of the Christian faith in the face of some of the most withering attacks it has ever encountered (i.e. Hitchens, Dawkins, et. al). I don't think it's overstating the case to say that Reason for God can more than hold its own with Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.

If you're a Christ-follower, you'll be strengthened and equipped, convicted and encouraged. If you're not, you'll appreciate Keller's low-key, non-dogmatic arguments for the man called Jesus, and perhaps even a little surprised by some of his admissions re: religion's failures, pitfalls, and hypocrisies. But, know also that he won't patronize you by not pointing out failures, pitfalls, and hypocrisies of atheism, pluralism, and universalism as well. He's too kind for that.

The other two books that are great for very different reasons: Not Between Brothers, by David M. Wilkinson. It's a "sweeping epic" that tells the story of the settling of Texas from 1816 to 1861. Very well written--on a par with Lonesome Dove. The last book I'll mention is an incredible memoir of two men who never should've met: Same Kind of Different As Me, by Ron Hall & Denver Moore. It's too long a story to even set up. Trust me: Read it.


Investing In People--Ken Blanchard

Below is a cut from the current issue of Inc. Magazine in which they interview leadership and business consultant Ken Blanchard. Below the interview, I posted a couple of questions for comment.

Twenty-six years after publication of The One Minute Manager, Ken Blanchard has written The One Minute Entrepreneur. Blanchard, co-founder of an eponymous, 300-employee consulting firm in Escondido, California, spoke with editor Mike Hofman about leadership and fair pay.

Your new book says that a leader's job is to make sure that the people in a company are taken care of. Does that mean that entrepreneurs who set strategy and demand results, no questions asked, are ineffective?
If your employees are disengaged, and they don't take care of your customers, it doesn't matter how good your strategy is-your customers will still go somewhere else. There's so much competition today that no customer has to put up with abuse. As a leader, you absolutely must expend your energy engaging your frontline employees so that they will take care of customers, who will tell stories about how great your company is to other people, who will become new customers. It's interesting to me that the distribution of salaries at most companies gives top managers a huge premium for their supposedly great strategic thinking, while people who deal with customers and operations are paid much less on average. This is not to say that strategy isn't important. Leadership is about taking your organization somewhere. But the how is as important as the where.

Do you practice what you preach at your own company?
We take steps to ensure that pay is fair. We try to make sure that nobody earns more than 10 times the lowest-paid full-time employee. And we have something we call a gain-sharing program, which means that when we hit a profit target, everyone in the company gets a check for an equal amount. Let's say in a given year it's $2,000 per person. For the people who make $30,000 a year, an extra hit of $2,000 besides their annual raise—well, I think that's a powerful way to engage them.

How do you handle questions of fairness and pay equity when the company isn't hitting its targets?
That happened to us in 2001. Much of our business is conducted at conferences and corporate events. After 911, we had a slew of cancellations. Nobody wanted to travel. We lost a million and a half dollars in revenue. I responded by opening the books to people so they could understand our financial situation. Then the question was, Should we have layoffs? I have three criteria for making decisions like that:
What is legal, what is fair, and what will the effect of the decision be on my self-esteem?
Layoffs would have been legal. I'm not sure they would have been fair. And I know they would have destroyed my self-esteem. So we decided instead to institute a hiring freeze and salary cuts across the board for six months. The cuts were higher for people who made more, and people who made below $50,000 a year were exempt. We felt that a salary cut at that level would have been too harsh. Everyone in my family who is on staff—five of us, including me—took a 25 percent salary cut. We also suspended matching 401(k) contributions for a year. And we told people that when we pulled out of the slump, we would take all 300 employees on a four-day, all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii.

What happened?
The business did rally, eventually, and we made good on our promise in 2005. The trip cost us $625,000, and in my view it was worth every penny. Can you imagine a public company worried about its quarterly numbers investing that kind of money in its people? We wouldn't take our company public if our last breath depended on it, precisely because you can't do things for the long-term benefit of your people when you're public. The problem with American business today is that Walt Street demands short-term thinking, which means that businesspeople focus on results and forget about the important people part of their jobs.


How should non-profits/churches "take care of their people"?

Why or why shouldn't non-profits/churches reward and recharge their employees financially or with trips and retreats?





34 people that we know of stepped over the line of faith and walked into a relationship with Jesus yesterday. And they did that almost exclusively because someone invited them to come, prayed for them, and followed through to bring them to an introduction to Jesus.

Thank you to LHC for being the kind of people who care about people and introducing them to the unconditional, uncompromised love of God.

That is who we are, and so that is what we do.


Fire & Water (2 Posts in 1)

Tomorrow's my day off, and I'm really working on Sabbath as a spiritual discipline, so here's two posts in one. It's funny that it takes discipline to take time off. And that God commands it!

FIRE ~ I just got home from an incredible opportunity with my son Joseph. A generous friend invited us to a dinner for Still Water Sports Camps. And the speaker was Mike Swider, Head Football Coach at Wheaton College.

I wouldn't say he's "on fire". He is fire. He is a capital-L Leader. His message was so right on the money on so many fronts, but the fact that Joseph got to hear from someone so passionate about Christ, enthusiastic about life, and challenging was an even greater benefit.

One of the things he said, among many, that resonated is this: Rules and demands without relationship result in rebellion. Rules and demands with relationship result in response. For a second, I thought I heard spurs jingling somewhere...

WATER ~ This weekend's message is designed for two groups of people (in this order):
1. People who are not Christ-followers. We are going to address some of the most prevalent challenges to the Christian faith.
2. People who are Christians. We're asking everyone who goes by the name of Christ to engage and invite someone you know this weekend who doesn't yet know how extravagantly God loves them. Pick them up, buy them some Starbucks, take them to lunch...do whatever works to introduce them to Christ.

My message is entitled "Water" and will kindof wrap up the series Overflow that we've been in. I'm praying for 5 people right now that I know are coming who don't know Christ that have been invited. God is going to use our faithfulness to Him in a powerful way this weekend and beyond.

Just a reminder: There is nothing more spiritually mature than pointing someone toward the love of God in Christ. Nothing. And we get to do that. Thank you in advance for being the kind of church that cares about people like you do.

Also, be praying for our Women's Retreat "Destination Retreat". Over 170 women are gathering at Horseshoe Bend this weekend for an incredible time of rest, fun, food, and challenge. Teri Brown and her team have done an incredible job of preparing for God to move in a big way out there.

And, now, Sabbath. Take care.