Expo Coaching

Over the years, Julie and I have had the privilege and blessing of meeting some incredible pastors and their wives. One couple at the top of the list is our good friends Bil and his wife Jessica from Bay Area Fellowship in Corpus Christi.

In December, Bil is leading a mentoring event especially targeted for pastors and church planters titled Expo Coaching. This is a unique opportunity to learn from someone who’s done it and doing it at a high level. Bil will share his proven track record knowledge and experience in an in-depth format that will help you grow your ministry, make it stronger and healthier. Jessica will also lead a mentoring program for pastor’s and church planter’s wives. Ministry for those of us married takes the full effort of both in order for it to thrive. Bil & Jessica get it. Julie and I have been blessed by knowing and learning from Bil & Jessica and are honored to call them friends.


GREATER THINGS Unexpected Lesson #1

Last night, I got to share with some LHC'ers the vision behind the GREATER THINGS season of ministry and where God is leading our church in the next few years. We talked about prayer, planning, giving, more prayer, and uniting as a church family through this season of ministry. It was a time of sharing, questioning, praying, eating, and a LOT of laughter.

The Unexpected Lesson from last night's gathering was the flat-out fun of community. This morning, we're making plans for another round of gatherings in the New Year where other pastors and I get a chance to just go and visit the LHC Community WEBs and fellowship and enjoy the amazing blessing of the LHC community. From the very first days of our church's existence, it's been clear that our greatest asset as a church is the people who are LHC.

Thanks to Bill & Laurel Daniel for opening their home and their hearts to make it happen and to everyone who made the time to be there and be a part of this amazing adventure called the Bride of Christ.

If you've received an invitation to a GREATER THINGS gathering, I hope you'll be able to join us. If you haven't and would like to, email Sarah Williams at swilliams@lhc.org.



Where There IS Vision...

In the King James Version of the Bible, Prov. 29:18 says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish..." It's an often-quoted axiom that is so undeniably true. Absent a God-given, God-honoring vision, dream, revelation of what might be, people die a little on the inside every day.

But, the flip side of that axiom is equally true and infinitely more powerful: Where there IS vision, the people flourish. Lock eyes with someone who's chasing a God-sized vision or calling, and you lock eyes with passion, joy, peace, determination, loyalty, clarity, and the power to bounce back from setback. (For another take on this see Mike Hyatt's post--very good stuff).

What's interesting about this is that the word vision chosen by the King James translators is more accurately rendered in our day revelation, as in the Word of God revealed in Scripture. With no vision, no revelation from God, people perish--they cast off restraint. REAL vision begins with what God has supernaturally given to people in the Bible. He gives us his Word in divine communication, protects it through human translation, and reveals its power through faithful application.

What's your dream?



Feed the Fire, Pt. 3 (Put Another Log on the Fire)

When you build a fire, huge energy goes into lighting the fire. Gather the wood...stack the wood...light the wood...re-light the wood...

But, once it's lit, just a little bit of kindling added in at the right times in the right places can continue to fuel the flames for hours. Before Lake Hills Church began generating its own heat, the Ground Floor Group who were there at the beginning poured huge amounts of time, energy, prayer, generous giving, and some more prayer into lighting the fire. As God has grown our congregation and increased our influence, one of the most flammable materials we use to feed the fire is Story.

Story feeds the fire like little else can. There's no way that we can even know, much less capture all the stories and moments of God's moving in people's lives. But, when we hear about them and share them, then those stories become logs that feed the fire in other areas. People naturally place themselves in the story being told and instinctively draw parallels to their own stories.

Managers instruct. Leaders inspire.

Manager: Person A should accomplish task #1 and then partner with Person B and they should...
Leader: Let me share with y'all what Gina did when she was approached about providing a service that our group has never considered. She set up a meeting to discover what their need really was, and then...THAT'S who we are. THAT'S what sets us apart from the other teams...

What stories are you telling that are feeding the right fires in your team/group/church/business?
How do you make sure they're told?


Feed the Fire, Pt. 2

As I've been processing the Feed the Fire leadership paradigm, I've tried to identify specific strategies, activities, and action items to share. And, there are some that are powerfully effective that I will share in a coming post.

But, as I was processing and thinking, one item kept leaping to the top of the list. When I think about the things that feed my personal fire(s), there's one that always works, every time, everywhere: PEOPLE.

There are a few people in my orbit who just fire me up, empower me, and encourage me every time I'm around them. When I leave their presence, I love life, my family, my calling--everything, that much more. These people fall into several categories:

  • Truth-tellers--everyone in this category who feeds my fires will tell me what I need to hear and not just what I want to hear. BUT...I listen because I know they truly love me and want God's best for my life.
  • Encouragers--these are people who routinely make time to breathe life into whatever I'm doing or trying to do. They know my strengths--and, therefore, my weaknesses--and they feed the fire of those strengths. They share stories about things I've done that have helped them and give me the courage to use those gifts and strengths to try something new.
  • Big-idea Thinkers--these folks are the ones who challenge me and stretch me intellectually or practically to do something better or bigger in the world. They're the ones who dream big dreams. I LOVE being around these folks.
  • Half-fullers--they know the world's not perfect, but they choose to believe that we can make a difference. They engage each day with hope, enthusiasm, and a let's-go mentality.
As I look at that list, it challenges me to BE that kind of person for the people I serve and lead, so that I'm feeding the fire in them.

What other fire-feeders are in your life?



Feed the Fire (Back from Hiatus), Pt. 1

Like Jack Bauer, I've recently gone dark in blog-world, not so much intentionally or for a lack of inspiration, but for a lack of time. Coincidence or not, this blog blackout corresponded to a fairly significant shift in my personal leadership paradigm.

Essentially, the shift comes down to this take-home: FEED THE FIRE. Where things are working, where people are doing well, casting vision, serving people they lead, executing and bearing fruit from their labors--wherever that is happening, FEED THE FIRE. Fan those flames into infernos, those sparks into flames, and those embers into steady burns. Feeding the fire is really another way of saying inspiration. The word inspire means to "breathe into." When we inspire someone, we're literally breathing life into their lives, their souls. That's a good business to be in.

Too many times, I've operated from a fireman mindset: Putting out fires that destroy what we're trying to build or accomplish. To be sure, course corrections are sometimes necessary. But, the majority of my time, energy, and leadership capital is better invested in feeding the fire that's generating the heat for what we're trying to build or accomplish.

Oil well firefighters use a counterintuitive tool to put out oil well fires: They set off an explosion near the fire that uses up all the oxygen in the area and therefore starves the fire of oxygen. When you feed constructive fires, you starve destructive ones.

(Preacher's addendum: What's true for day-to-day leadership is ESPECIALLY true for preaching: Inspiration is more effective than either information or condemnation. Obviously content and doctrine matter. And, again, sometimes a rebuke or correcting is necessary and appropriate. But, over time, feeding the fire works better at stimulating spiritual maturity than putting out fires.)

What are some ways that you feed the fire or have been inspired by someone?



Spur Leadership Conference

Two days from today, hundreds of leaders from the marketplace, government, ministry, the military, school districts and every imaginable arena will gather for the second annual Spur Leadership Conference. Months of planning, prayer, preparations, and work have been poured into making this a unique event that truly serves every single person who attends.

This morning, we were given an entire hour of morning drive radio time on KVET FM with Bucky Godbolt & Bob Cole. General Tommy Franks and GSD&M's Roy Spence called in and we got to share with the city a little taste of what's coming Thursday and Friday this week. KVET was kind enough to post the segment and you can listen to it here on their website (right underneath the blurb about Robert Earl Keen--good company!).

It's not too late to register and be a part of the Spur Leadership Project at WWW.SPURLEADERSHIP.ORG.


Faith vs. Science Resources

As I mentioned in this morning's message, here are the books that are a GREAT resources for the faith vs. science discussion:

(Huge thanks to John Fones for formatting this for me and making me look like I know what I'm doing w/ technology!)



Help the World--Vote for Dog the Bounty Singer

OK, our boys are in the home stretch of the Gatti's Pizza Jingle contest. Voting ends this Sunday, so I'm asking everyone who's ever enjoyed great music, great pizza, and great people to GO HERE AND VOTE RIGHT NOW for "Gatti's Good Time Jamboree" by Dog the Bounty Singer. The great pizza--well, who doesn't like great pizza, and Mr. Gatti's ROCKS--as long as they choose "Gatti's Good Time Jamboree" from Dog the Bounty Singer. The great music will be evident when you listen to their jingle. The jingle is a hot little jazz/swing number that will set your toes a-tapping and your mouth a-watering. And they're great guys who would use their winnings for good in the world and not evil. Seriously.



The Sound

John Ragsdale. True friend. Freak artist. Anointed preacher. Dumb-lucky husband.

He's one of the greatest gifts in my life and the artist behind The Sound, his new CD that drops today. A few months ago, I got to hear some of the roughs and was blown away by the diversity of styles, John's voice--which will melt your face off--and the genuine worship coming through the speakers.

If you're a musician, you need to download this amazing piece of art today. If you're a Christ-follower, you need to download this amazing worship today. If you're a worship leader, you need to download this milestone that shows where God is moving the Church.

Download The Sound here. You'll be so glad you did.



I Have a Dream

It's not an original line, but here's MY dream:

The Church puts the government out of the compassion business
Crazy? Maybe just crazy enough to work. Here are the dollars allocated to social programs in the current federal budget(these numbers are from the Congressional Budget Office):

$78.7 billion - Dept. of Health & Human Services
$47.5 billion - Dept. of Housing and Urban Development
$9.7 billion - Social Security Administration
$135.9 billion

Now, here's another number:

$168 billion - Amount available if U.S. churchgoers tithe (the minimum biblical amount, 10% of all God-given income).




One of Those Days

This morning, it was just one of those days when God creates a phenomenal gumbo of our worship with his presence, creativity, joy, challenge, affirmation and conviction. Yet again, Mark Groutas and our worship team took us to the throne with an inspired combination of fresh worship blended with a centuries-strong hymn that took on a new life of its own.

The message hammered me long before it saw the light of day this morning. “The Power of Compassion” holds so much potential and promise for anyone and any church willing to set aside our own comfort and just serve. I can’t wait to see what God brings to reality in the weeks and months ahead (If you were in the 11:30 service, I failed to tell you that God is moving us to begin making moves into Africa and establishing a foothold in Cuba. My bad).

And, then, our last worship song was led by…high schoolers??!! Yep. And they were amazing! Not only for the skill of their musicianship, but for the hearts and joy behind their leadership.

SPECIAL NOTE: If you missed ANY of the PowerHouse series, please make the time to check it out online. It is absolutely mission-critical to who we are and where God is leading us in the months and years ahead.

DON'T FORGET: This coming Sunday, we get to launch a brand new message and ministry series: Why I’m not a Christian. We’re going to address honestly and directly some of the most common objections to the Christian faith. It’s going to be good for those of us in the House. But it’s going to be great for those people that we choose to invite and introduce to the extravagant, unconditional love of God.

You in?


VOTE in the Mr. Gatti's Jingle Contest

OK, here's the deal: Jon Branch and Ross Tyler, two of our very own LHC staff members, have co-written a jingle for Mr. Gatti's Pizza and we need to put them over the top. Their "Gatti's Good Time Jamboree" is one of only five worldwide finalists. SO...everyone in the LHC family gets to vote for them and make them #1! In the world!

Go to the Mr. Gatti's Jingle Contest Finalists page
and vote for Jon, Ross, & Carter and their jingle, "Gatti's Good Time Jamboree". Seriously, these are great guys and their jingle rocks.


Just Another Day in Paradise

Monday is a weird day. For years pastors have jokingly referred to the "holy hangover" that we all wade through in the wake of a weekend of preaching, ministry, leading, preaching, praying, preaching, and praying. And, this Monday, in addition to a scheduled meeting I had, I called several impromptu meetings before reaching the end of my rope.

AND IT WAS GREAT. I got to participate in the following conversations:

  • new ministries we're launching to take the Gospel to unreached people groups (business leaders in the ATX),
  • website design (about which I know nothing except what works for me when cruising Al Gore's internets),
  • design issues for Sunday worship programs and newspaper ads,
  • scheduling of middle school and high school ministries for maximum effectiveness,
  • staff development models that might work for us going forward,
  • what grade of toilet tissue we offer people on our campus (ministry takes many forms)
  • a permanent site for our downtown campus
  • plans for children's ministry space
  • a staff member's car problems
  • an out-of-work college grad who's trying to find a place to use his gifts to honor God,
  • the future of the Church-at-large in the city of Austin with three other pastors and leaders.

And every one of those conversations were God-driven and Kingdom-centered.

And, then I got to have a date with my wife and enjoyed some sushi. Also God-driven and Kingdom-centered.



Apologies Waste Time

I'm an idiot. I didn't even realize it until I paid attention to who I paying attention to. Great leaders, Kingdom movers and shakers, people who God uses--go and do. They don't apologize for what they're doing. They don't try to soften the blow so fewer people will be suspicious. They don't try to gain consensus. Apologies like these waste precious time, energy, and confuse your communication.

Consensus is like balance. It's a myth. There's no such thing. Consensus is equilibrium and equilibrium is death. Everything that lives moves in seasons and ebb and flow.

Great leaders apologize when they're wrong and their leadership capital multiplies for it. But not when they're fulfilling a God-given vision and dream. When that's happening, it's time to describe what God has shown you about what can be, invite people along for the ride, and then roll up your sleeves and go to work to make it a reality.


Vacation Is Hard Work, Pt. 4

Why in the world post about vacation in August?

Great question. The reason is simple: You have to start now preparing, scheduling, and planning for an extended vacation NOW. It takes months to plan where to go, how long to go, and who not to go with (VERY important criterion, by the way--more in a minute). We're just back from our trip and already I'm saving my milk money for next year's trip, fishing, and unknown-at-this-point opportunities to unwind.

The first thing that has to happen is that you decide and declare that time away is a priority. Making that time to get away and sharpen the saw as Stephen Covey calls it has to be a priority in your year and on your calendar or it will not happen. Remember, it's not just "time off:" this is a mission-critical strategic decision to be better at everything you do.

Second, travel companions determine how restful and replenishing this time will be. Family reunions are not vacation. They can be great. They can be fun. They can be important. (They can also be none of those, but that's for another time.) But they are not vacation. Bill Hybels has long encouraged people to pay attention to their gauges: Emotional, spiritual, relational, physical--just like a car has a dashboard that registers engine performance, fuel levels, oil pressure, etc., we have gauges that we can often ignore always at our peril.

Vacation travel should only happen with people who fill your tanks. If it's an obligation, it's not a vacation. If it's a whip relationally, conversationally, or in any other way--it doesn't count as vacation. And, because we all have a limited number of vacation days, this means that we have to be very discerning and shrewd about how we spend our time away. Kindof like we should be shrewd about how we spend our time not away.


Vacation Is Hard Work, Pt. 3

Like just about everything else that requires hard work, vacation time is worth it. Nothing else provides the benefits and blessings that time off and away can provide.

Obviously, this idea can be pushed too far. Like any other gift, we can abuse and misuse it. But, if you apply a little common sense, pray for wisdom in setting the time (length of time and when to take the time), seek counsel from other people, and have a peace about it, then pull the trigger and go for it.

The great irony is that taking time off work in the way that I'm describing actually makes you better at work when you return. And, in every other way as a human being, assuming there is more to who you are than what you do for a living.

Here are just some of the reasons to make time off:

1. We are hard-wired to need rest. It's true every night. It's true once a week. And it's true throughout the different seasons of the year. No one--no, not even you--can operate at full capacity and highest effectiveness over a sustained period of months without some time to recharge.
2. We see the world differently in different locations. When I pick my head up and leave Austin, Lake Hills Church, even my house, I think differently. New sights, experiences, foods, people all cause us to expand the way we think and what we think about. Broadening our experiences stimulates our brains and hearts to think and feel in ways that broaden our capacity.
3. If you're calling is something that you truly love, time away from it will make you want to do it more. There's something about being away from the church, our team, and the work that makes me love it that much more. The rest is good, the new experiences are fun and exciting. But, after a few days or a couple weeks, those things make me appreciate my day-in/day-out so much more than I do when I'm at the end of my rope.
4. Family time. Like a lot of modern families, we have a LOT of activities going on. Sports, school, choir, friends, church...all of them are good things. And very, very few of them do we do all together as a family. Vacation time is where we reconnect and forge the ties that bind. From playing games--not one of my favorite pastimes, but I love doing it with Julie, Emily & Joseph because of the smacktalk, laughter, yelling and mockery that gameplaying entails in our house--to crappie fishing to deer hunting to trying a new flavor of frozen custard, we have lifetime memories together shaped through shared experiences.

Question: What benefits do you draw from vacation?



Vacation Is Hard Work, Pt. 2

Obviously, vacation is about rest, refueling, and recharging. But, for all those things to happen takes enormous amounts of intentional work. Just because you're out of the office or out of town doesn't guarantee that your vacation will truly refuel you for the next season of work/ministry ahead of you. Here is a list of things to DO so that you can unwind and recharge:

1. Carve the time out on your calendar for vacation. You will not drift into quality time off. You have to make the commitment to MAKING time to recharge. Set the dates and treat vacation as a commitment on your calendar.
2. Communicate your level of accessibility while on vacation. Let the people in your office know how to contact you IN CASE OF EMERGENCY. Then, YOU define "emergency" for them, not the other way around. Also, change any voicemail/email responses to let people you know you're not available and give them an alternative contact (make sure your alternative contact knows he/she's the go-to in your absence!).
3. Set people up for a win. Before you leave, make sure that your responsibilities are covered and contingency plans are in place for WHEN something goes wrong. Something will need attention before you return, so make sure that you've equipped someone to handle it in your absence and it doesn't have to be YOUR attention.
4. VACATE. Vacation means that you have vacated, left the building, quit using email...in essence, you're not working, so that when you come back, you can work better.

In the comments section, share strategies you've used that help vacation really be vacation for you.



Vacation is Hard Work, Pt. 1

Today marks our family's first full day back home after vacation. We got to play, rest, fish, eat, work out, sleep--on days we didn't fish!--hang out, and completely recharge for the new season of ministry and school that we're about to launch. All of this was made possible because of two huge factors:
1. We're blessed with a church family that encourages us to take time off and get away.
2. Lake Hills Church is led by a phenomenal team of gifted, passionate, talented, called people who make it happen day in and day out, regardless of where I am or who's looking over their shoulder.

The reality is, though, that neither one of those things just happens. It's taken years to develop, cultivate, and perpetuate both of those things. This year's vacation was a huge teachable moment for me. Over the next few days, I'm going to share some of what God is teaching me about the spiritual discipline of rest.

Also, make sure that you are a part of community worship this weekend. I'm starting a new series called POWERHOUSE that God has been pouring into me for weeks. I can't wait to share it and watch what he does with it.



Let Freedom Ring

From fireworks in Austin to the streets of Tehran, the conclusion is concrete: Freedom wins. Every single time.

The drive inside us is too strong, too innate to be denied or suppressed successfully. Sometimes freedom’s victory is a long time coming, but it will come. Every single time.

This reality raises a significant leadership question: What am I doing to facilitate or suffocate freedom in the people who volunteer to follow me? And make no mistake about it, everyone volunteers. Even those whose checks we sign (or auto-deposits we authorize) have volunteered to work with us rather than somewhere else.

Clearly, we have to move our organization forward in growth and health or we won’t have a platform. But, in the growth of the group, are we also facilitating the freedom to grow and develop individuals and their vision, their skills, their need for adventure, their fulfillment, their peace, their families, their creativity?

If we don’t, someone will. Guess who they’ll volunteer to work with.


The Power of a Blessing

Not the "God is great/God is good/Let us thank Him/For our food" blessing kids use before they eat. I'm talking about speaking truth and affirmation into people's lives. Recently, I've learned--I mean, really learned--how truly power-full, empowering, and in-courage-ing a tool we have at our disposal when we choose to affirm and reinforce the good in the people we serve and lead.

Every, single person with a pulse carries influence. A few intentionally use it constructively, which is why they typically stand out so prominently. They're rare. Affirming the character and heart of people we influence increases our influence and their capacities.

A couple of guidelines concerning affirmation and blessing:

1. Use it sparingly. If you constantly try to affirm just whatever comes to mind, you'll cheapen the significance of those times when it really means something.
2. Distinguish between blessing and kindness. Everyone should be kind all the time. Even in criticism. But a blessing, an intentional affirmation, should be strategically placed in the life of the receiver by the giver.
3. Be specific. When giving a blessing, reference specific behaviors that represent the character worth blessing.

Whether in the marketplace, your church, or your home, try giving a blessing to someone this week and watch them rise to the level and expectation of that blessing.

Post a comment below and share how well-placed words of affirmation/blessing made a difference in your life.



Sanford, Farrah, & Michael

The week of June 22, 2009 will long be remembered as one of the strangest on record. First, the Governor of South Carolina revealed a multi-year affair in Argentina. Before the ink was even dry on that story, word came down that 70s icon Farrah Fawcett had lost her 3-year battle with cancer. Then, news of the death of Michael Jackson pushed the Farrah story aside.


As I processed each of these stories, a common thread started to reveal itself: The necessity of community. Sanford's extramarital affair likely doomed his 2012 presidential aspirations. But, it was born in secrecy, deception, and hiding. Farrah's entire career after "the poster" and Charlie's Angels was a search for significance beyond beauty and body (if you haven't seen Robert Duval's The Apostle, you should; Farrah's talent and abilities beyond her appearance are on full display.) And, Michael Jackson's life began its bizarre unraveling when he chose to isolate himself and remove all reason and accountability.

Univsersal transparency is not the answer. Universal authenticity is. It's in our best interest as people to be authentic with everyone and transparent with a precious few. "The world" does not always have our best interests and development at heart, so to bare our souls (even on Facebook or Twitter!) is unwise to say nothing of somewhat narcissistic.

But that is why real community, true accountability, is in our own best interest. It keeps us honest. It tells us the truth even when it's what we need to hear and not what we want to hear. It's real. It works.


VBS--The Art of Inside/Out

Last week's VBS absolutely rocked the face off of just about anything I've ever seen. 1,200+ kids...400+ volunteer leaders...the worship...the fun...the Bible teaching...It was just amazing.

The genius of VBS is the Inside/Out dynamic that it fulfills: It gives those who are IN the LHC family a unique opportunity to serve, connect and grow as we plan, pray, and prepare to serve so many kids. The hours, the sweat, the exhaustion, the joy of seeing kids discover the love of God and what it can mean in their lives--all of it unites us around a common dream and vision.

But, then there are those kids and families who've never darkened the doors of a Sunday morning service at LHC that we get to meet, engage, and introduce to Christ and his Bride. There is the offering that kids bring every morning to serve overseas and across-borders missions and orphanages. This kind of mobilization to serve those who are OUTside the family of faith is a thing of beauty to behold.

I got to be there early before any of the kids and before most of the volunteers arrived, and I saw men and women, high school and middle school students show up at 7:30 a.m. in the middle of the summer, smiling, laughing, serving. And that was the big take-home for me: The undeniable link between joy/happiness and serving. The most joyful people I've ever known are those people who serve as a regular lifestyle. That link was on high definition display last week.

To all of you who served and laughed and worked and sweat it out through the heat: THANK YOU. You are Lake Hills Church and I'm so grateful to you for pouring yourself into the lives of those kids. And me. It was a blessing and a gift to get to be there with you.


The Best Father's Day Gift

Last night, we had the opportunity to sit down for a taped interview with UT quarterback and Heismann candidate Colt McCoy and his dad. It is salty. It's one of the strongest statements of faith that we've ever shared at Lake Hills Church. We're going to show it this weekend in our Father's Day services as we conclude the message series Manhunt.

Most people I know really wrestle w/ Father's Day. It starts with, What are we gonna give Dad for Father's Day this year? Dads are tough to buy for. Always have been, always will be. Kindof like men and women are different, it just is what it is.

So, go beyond the gift this year. Let me tell you the one-size-fits-all, slam-dunk, he'll-actually-use-it gift that works every time for every dad: Affirmation. Every dad worth his salt wants to know that he's doing a good job. That he's appreciated. Respected.

Take the time--no, MAKE the time--to tell him something that you know is built into your life that helps you live better, more faithfully, more consistently, joyfully, or stronger than if he hadn't given it to you. Think about the little things that aren't little when they're added up over the years.

We're going to help you do that. This weekend's service will affirm, IN-courage, and challenge dads for the amazing ride that is fatherhood. The rest is up to you.


State the Obvious (b/c it's NOT!), Pt. 2

Continuing the thought from Tues:

4. Humility/Servanthood. For God so loved the world means EVERYBODY. Which means I'm special to Him but not any moreso than anyone else.
5. Hope. Because He rose from the dead his promised return holds a lot of water for us. So we approach each day, situation, challenge, and struggle with a sense of reality-based hope.
6. Leadership (love & good deeds, Heb. 10:24). John Maxwell's right: EVERYTHING rises and falls on leadership. And leadership HAS to include love AND good deeds, community AND accountability. See this post from way back.
7. Contentment/Stewardship. Any hangup about money is a heart issue--whether you want it too badly or you're put off by it and think it's unspiritual to have a lot. And ministry requires money and the allocating of it. So get your stuff together where this concerned if you want to do ministry.
8. Loyalty. It begins with loyalty to Christ and extends to each other. What we do is difficult if everyone is rowing in the same direction. We MUST be loyal to each other. This is a non-negotiable, and we mutually engage in a zero-tolerance environment for violation of this one. It doesn't mean we always agree--BELIEVE ME. But it means when we leave the room together, we leave the room TOGETHER.
10. Excellence/Authenticity.
God doesn't do a half-way job. Neither should we. But we can't let our call to excellence be an excuse for perfectionism. Perfect love drives out fear. We plan and work and strategize a lot--which gives us enormous freedom to improvise when God leads us to. By the same token, authenticity can't be a smokescreen for laziness. Which it often is.
11. Proactivity. We agree that we're going to be figure-it-out, make-it-happen people.


State the Obvious (b/c it's NOT!), Pt. 1

In a recent meeting, the LHC Leadership Team was discussing hiring and hiring practices when I made the following statement: Whatever the skills may be, make SURE he/she fits in our culture. (Really insightful, I know.) At that, one of our long-time leaders and pastors asked, "What is our culture?"

I thought--privately--Are you kidding me??!! You've been here for 10 of our 12 years of existence and you're asking What is our culture??!!!! Thankfully, I didn't respond verbally with as many !'s. His point was that we had never articulated and stipulated what specific values comprise our culture.

So we did. Here are the values supporting who we're striving to be (with more to follow in coming posts):

1. Gospel. Period. Everything we are and do is tied to the fact that God so loved the world that He gave his only Son so that whosoever believes in Him will never die but will have eternal life.
2. Evangelism/Worship. We are radically committed to sharing Christ and worshiping Him because of #1.
3. Joy. May be the most obvious initial invitation to relationship with God. You can't overstate the power of joy.

The Culture Conversation is actually a fun, encouraging, affirming, challenging, and convicting one to have.

Have you stated the culture/values of your family/church/business/organization/team/non-profit/school/government agency?



Spur Leadership Conference Roster

After months of work, prayer, phone calls, coordination, and a healthy dose of God's favor, we are finally ready to announce this year's Spur Leadership Conference Roster (the conference is Oct. 1-2, 2009 in the ATX):

TX Gov. Rick Perry
Gen. Tommy Franks
Roy Spence
Pastor Steven Furtick
Kem Meyer
Steve Price
Les Csorba
Courtney Spence
Mac Richard

Each of these presenters is uniquely positioned to address this year's conference theme, WHO'S NEXT? The Spur Leadership Conference is a leadership engine for anyone making a difference in the marketplace or in ministry. This two-day event will stretch, encourage, and challenge your team in a fresh and dynamic way.

You can get more information and register and the Spur Leadership Conference website.




This weekend at LHC, we're kicking off the new message series MANHUNT. As we begin this series on Memorial Day, we'll be paying special respect to those who paid the ultimate price for our nation's freedoms and opportunities. It's going to be a very special service and a HUGE series in the life of our church.

I'm asking you to do THREE THINGS:

1. Check out the series trailer below. John Fones, Kristopher Rutherford, Alex Alexander, et. al created a phenomenal piece of work. I'm preaching and I get fired up watching it!
2. Use the video to e-vite as many people as you can to discover the greatest Man who ever lived.
3. Worship with us at either of our locations THIS SUNDAY. I know it's Memorial Day weekend, but this worship service will so be worth your time. If you Tweet, you can use this URL to share w/ your followers: http://bit.ly/5ZGyS .

Manhunt Trailer from Lake Hills Church on Vimeo.


Mentoring Works

One of the responsibilities for people in leadership is to regularly evaluate what's working, what needs course-correcting, and what should be taken out back and shot. One of the healthiest ministries I've ever heard of happens to reside at LHC.

Mom-to-Mom is a small group/Bible study/support group for moms. Those whose kids are in high school or older come alongside those whose kids are younger and mentor them out of their own experiences, perspective, and Bible study to help them navigate the waters of the most important job in the world.

The reason this works? Two words: Tonya Esler. Tonya is one of the most joyful people I've ever been around. Her joy, faith, and hope are absolutely infectious. AND...if she senses an issue, a leadership short-circuit or anything that threatens the health of the ministry, she addresses it with grace. Quickly.

Tonya and her leadership spend hours of prayer and thought before grouping mentor moms with ment-ee moms. They don't bat 1.000. But, they come pretty close.

And it's a model that we're copying and replicating throughout our church. Specifically, in the next few months, we'll be launching Leader-to-Leader, a marketplace mentoring ministry. I just hope that we're as faithful with this new one as Tonya and her team are with theirs.


New Works

Julie and I are heading home today from south Florida after a monster weekend at a phenomenal church. Church by the Glades is ROCKING the Ft. Lauderdale/Coral Springs area like few churches anywhere on the planet. Their pastor is David Hughes and they are killing it week in and week out. God is doing such amazing things, they have to offer SEVEN services to accommodate the people God is reaching through them (David shared that little factoid only AFTER I'd said Yes to preaching for him).

We've downloaded so much that we've seen and learned this week by being here, but the biggest thing that we've learned is how we learned. We got into a new environment, met new people and were challenged and affirmed in new ways (I even preached in coat and tie to their early traditional service!).

I had never seen Church by the Glades, didn't know any of their staff besides David, and didn't know what their services were like. But meeting with their staff, which is VERY lean--and effective--for a church of 5,000 (+/-), spending time with David and his wife Lisa, and stealing ideas and strategies will make a difference at Lake Hills Church in Austin.

And none of that would've been possible if we hadn't picked our heads up and gotten out of our normal traffic patterns, changed our perspective, and shut up and listened to other people. New works.

(OK, all that's true. But the fact that I spent my first day on a FL Keys tarpon boat sure didn't hurt the overall experience! And the fact that we got blanked just means I'll have to come back.)



An Idea's Best Friend

Julie & I got home tonight from a brief visit to Bay Area Fellowship in Corpus Christi, TX. BAF is served and led by Bil Cornelius and his amazing wife Jessica. Bil is one of the people who refuels my passion for Christ and his Bride the church and makes me love all the more what we get to do every day.

He is also, as Ed Young says, "an idea's best friend." Bil is one of those people whose mind is scary quick and always moving, thinking of more, better, and bigger ways to introduce people to the extravagant love of God. It's no wonder that Bay Area Fellowship has turned not only Corpus on its ear, but all of South Texas through church planting and launching of satellite campuses at a frenetic and well managed rate.

Very few people would sit around and dream big dreams and pray monster prayers for places like Alice (the Spinach Capital of the World, BTW)...Five Points...(North) Padre Island...and Kingsville, TX. But that is exactly what Bil & Bay Area are doing. And they're doing it well.

Just getting to be around Bil & Jessica and get to know some of their amazing staff was a huge blessing and recharge for Julie & me. I always love coming home to Austin, but tonight it was doubly sweet because of the excitement and passion that we got to rub elbows with in Corpus.

It's a blessing and a kick in the pants to get to be on the same team.



This Kid's Got It So Good

A close friend of mine just emailed me word that their first grandchild had arrived. Included in the email was a link to some pix taken on the birth day. I thought this one in particular pretty much summed up the whole thing for anyone who's a dad.

This child has no idea--yet--how extravagantly he's been blessed to be born into the family he just met. It's a great day for him and them. They're not perfect, but they are three generations, now four, who have worked hard to make decisions that honor God, love each other, and yield long-haul benefits vs. short-run convenience. And, on days like yesterday, they get to enjoy the payoffs.

And so does anyone who comes in contact with them.


Sweet Brown Sugar(land)

Sometimes it just all comes together.

A few weeks back I saw that Sugarland was coming to Austin and I looked into tickets to take my daughter. I had missed the window where good seats were available other than a ticket broker at noticeably higher prices so I punted. Then, we got a mass email from a friend who had extras for less-than-face value. I called, snagged the tix and invited Emily on a date without telling her about the concert.

Here's the takehome from the evening:

* Found Emily's new favorite hamburger in the ATX
*When we picked Amy's Ice Cream on 6th St./Lamar, we met and had pic taken w/ Billy Joe Shaver, reigning Texas Songwriter Emeritus
* Created lifetime memories in about 5 hours
* Realized all over again how blessed Julie & I are to have the kids for a few more years


For Leaders, It's the Relationship, Stupid

Thanks to the almost singular message of his campaign -- It's the economy, stupid -- Bill Clinton overcame significant personal and organizational challenges to become the 42nd President of the United States (Ross Perot's maverick campaign didn't hurt). For anyone in any position of leadership or influence, the singular message to ourselves should be, It's the relationship, stupid. Since we're talking to ourselves we should say it in love, but we should say it.

And live it.

Remember, famous does not = leader. Rich does not = leader. Same for innovative, creative, popular, gifted, talented, intelligent, and unique. But, for people who truly lead, it's all about the relationship.

That's not to say that the relationship has to be or even should be cuddly, sweet, or cute. Matter of fact, I would argue that it CAN'T be any of those things. But a real leader who's interested in long-haul influence does have to be respect, challenge, inspire, correct, equip, encourage, and motivate those she leads.

Playing, dreaming, eating, working, sacrificing, serving, calling out, and raising up are all weapons in the leadership arsenal that exponentially multiply influence capital rather than merely adding to it.

I'd love to hear from you in the comments: How do you develop influence capital through relationships?



Family Church

From the very beginning of LHC, we have pursued one thing where children and student ministries are concerned: We want kids to drag their parents to church, rather than parents dragging their kids. This weekend's installment of the Soulmate series brings a up a great question (that actually applies EVERY week):

*What ages are welcome in the weekend worship services?

First, EVERYONE is welcome at LHC-at large. But, there is no way that a worship experience can really meet children where they are and lead adults to truly worship in spirit and truth and process teaching spiritually and intellectually. When I say children, obviously every child develops at a unique pace, but there are many more commonalities between 2nd and 3rd graders than between 2nd graders and 30-year-olds.

WE DO CHILDREN'S MINISTRIES. WE DO NOT DO CHILDCARE. We invest significant time, talent, and treasure in creating meaningful worship and teaching experiences through our children's ministries. Even in infant rooms where all they do is sleep, eat, soil, cry and sit, children and their parents are prayed over and cared for by a committed staff and volunteers.

Most--not all, but most--people who demand to "worship as a family" do so out of nostalgia for their childhood experiences and because they remember boring, lifeless flannelboard Sunday School bits that they don't want to subject their kids to. That, I respect. It's just that that's not who God has called us to be, so that's not what we do. And in our context, it certainly isn't because it's what packs the most meaningful spiritual punch in the kids' lives. THAT happens in and through the various LHC Kids ministries.

That's why we ask all parents to lead their kids to the experience designed specifically for their kids. They are prayed over, thought through, and led by such gifted and committed people who are there specifically for kids.

It's a practice, based on a principle rooted in our values and vision as a church. It's part of who we are. Your kids will thank you.


Lifters vs. Climbers

Got an email yesterday from someone who was offended when I referenced a celebrity's marital track record in last week's sermon. At first, I thought, Seriously?? THAT ONE SENTENCE was the thing in the weekend worship experience that stood out?! But one sentence in the email made me stop and think: I just wanted to voice my opinion instead of just leaving [LHC].

And, the person who wrote that note was dead right. My intent and motive was never to take a shot at an individual; I really just wanted to personify a casual cultural perspective on something that should be honored and revered. But, the reality is that I did take a shot at someone else's expense. And I shouldn't have.

All of that is to say this: A few weeks ago, God led me to a principle that I violated in that sermon: I want to be a lifter, not a climber. REAL influence, REAL leadership, over the long haul encourages, lifts, and carries people forward. It NEVER demeans, belittles, or takes passive-aggressive pot shots.

That's not to say that leadership never critiques. It does. Real leadership and influence demands accountability, reviewing results. But real accountability is always connected to community and relationship. Lifters raise the bar, other people, results, and relationships.


Who's It For?

Craig Groeschel pastors Lifechurch.tv, based in Oklahoma with campuses over all the country. He's one of the rare people who gets it--spiritually, theologically, relationally, in leadership, in church. That's one of the reasons that God has done the amazing God-things that He's doing through Lifechurch.

His post on his blog today asks a few probing, revealing questions that every church should address. But, it also crystallized something very important for me about the sermon series Soulmate that we started yesterday and continue for the next four weeks, as well as our church as a whole.

This series is as much for those who aren't yet married as it is for those of us who are. If we can equip and empower young men and women to recognize the responsibility of marriage as well as partake in the privilege, then they have an exponentially increased chance of realizing God's design and desire for their homes.

That principle applies to LHC as a whole. If we build a church only for those of us who are here right now, or for those of us who are 35-50 years old, then there is NO WAY IN THE WORLD our kids will want to be a part of that and experience the blessings and community and accountability that Jesus calls his church to provide.

I'm so grateful and proud to be a part of a community that exists not only for the growth and encouragement of those already in it, but committed to doing what it takes to extend the love, and joy, and hope that ONLY Christ can offer.


Sometimes It's Just Fun

There's joy and then there's fun. Joy transcends circumstances, but fun is circumstantial.

I am so excited about the season of ministry that we get to walk through for the next 8 months. This weekend, we're beginning a sermon series about marriage called Soulmate. that God is going to use in thousands of lives, hundreds of homes, and multiple communities. I know that marriages will be strengthened and encouraged, as well as helped and healed. I know that single adults and students will engage in this series and set course for healthy, God-honoring dating lives that will ultimately result in healthy, God-honoring marriages for many of them.

And, then, after Soulmate, we're going to speak into the lives of men. May 24, I'm going to begin a series of messages called Manhunt that explores the God-given role of men in this world, in the church, and in their families (or families-to-be). I know that week is Memorial Day weekend and summer's coming. But, God is leading me and prompting me to serve this series NOW and not wait for back-to-school, January, or some strategic time. NOW is the strategic time.

Summer means kids at LHC. VBS, student ministry camps/events, Kids Camp--all these things impact kids at the most strategic times of their lives. And, Oct. 1-2 we'll host the second annual Spur Leadership Conference. We're finalizing the lineup of speakers, but the ones we have in the bag so far are WORLD CLASS influencers and difference-makers.

And, then...well, you get the general gist of why what we get to do every day is a joy. But, these days, it's just fun.


LHC Easter Insider Info

With Easter celebrations at both our campuses, we sent video-emails out tailored for two different audiences this week. They are both below:

Downtown Austin - Easter Invite from Lake Hills Church on Vimeo.

West Austin - Easter Invite from Lake Hills Church on Vimeo.


It IS Who You Know

For years, cynics have said, "It's not what you know, it's WHO you know," meaning that qualified people are passed over by people who know the right people to get promoted/noticed/advanced. And, the cynics are right. Just not in the way they think they are.

WHO you know really does matter. Who you follow, who you lead, who you trust, who you doubt--these things matter so much more than your expertise or technical know-how. I don't mean for a second that expertise or skill is insignificant. It's critically important. If you have no skill or offer no value, it'll be pretty hard to gain and hold people's attention.

But, the #1 aptitude/ability/requirement of leadership is DISCERNMENT. You must discern people's abilities, agendas, non-verbal responses, and the like if you're going to accurately evaluate whether or not their talents are congruent with the task at hand.

The best way to develop discernment: Follow, lead, trust, and doubt the right people at the right times. Spur Leadership Test: Identify ONE person in your sphere of influence right now you are following...leading...trusting...doubting. Are they the RIGHT ones? If not, what can you do this week to get the right ones around you?


Politics & God Don't Mix?

All truth is God’s truth. And, every day, we witness and live out some clear, biblical laws of leadership in the political arena. These are laws that just are, no matter what your definition of is is.

Some truly godly and gifted men and women have chosen public service over personal gain, and we are blessed by their choices. Others…not so much. Personally, I love politics. It may be the grandest stage with the brightest lights where authentic leadership—or the lack thereof—plays out. And, as a pastor, my calling and responsibility transcend political affiliation/endorsement. I do not believe God rides an elephant or a donkey. Desiring to offend no one, and to do so equally, here is a brief list of the Leadership Laws we see manifest in the political realm:

1. Communication helps (or not). Policy and motives aside, the eloquence of Presidents Reagan and Obama significantly increase(d) their leadership capital.
2. Public Opinion matters. Democrats’ victories in Congress and Presidential races give them the opportunity to set policy, seat judges, and lead. They were given this opportunity because the public lost confidence in Republicans who had been given the opportunity and squandered it.
3. Popularity is not leadership. President Obama’s approval ratings neither make him a leader nor ensure good decisions, while President Bush’s decision to implement the “Surge” strategy was spot-on despite his dismal poll numbers. Popularity comes and goes with the winds of public opinion. Leadership lasts.
4. Crisis clarifies. 9/11, Katrina, Economic Meltdown. All these crises reveal character, strength of leadership, effective management, and compassion. Or, the lack thereof. Either way, it’s suddenly very clear.
5. Performance matters. Had Republicans performed better, led more, and spent less during their seasons of majority, they would have a greater voice in the handling of the economic crisis. They didn’t, so they don’t.


Less Is More

Michael Hyatt is the CEO of Thomas Nelson publishers and he posted a great, brief post about the value add of LESS. Check it out here. Great word for leaders in any arena.


Sermon Preparation, 3

One of the greatest things pastors do to preach with God-honoring excellence is...NOT preach. Strategically, intentionally choosing when and where NOT to preach has resulted in some of the greatest seasons of creativity, passion, and effectiveness that I've ever experienced as a communicator. But you have to be really wise about it. There are some keys to remember when taking time off:

1. Schedule it only after a new ministry season is underway and running on its own steam. For example, the Sunday after Easter is an opportunity to reconnect with those folks who came Easter and decided to come back and see what it's really like. Good time for the primary teacher to be in the saddle.
2. Do the upfront work of developing and anointing other teachers. For your time out of the pulpit/off the stage to be truly time off, you have to know that the responsibility of God-honoring preaching/leading has just been handed off well and not fumbled. The lead pastor/teacher/preacher is still accountable for what happens in the preaching even though he/she isn't there. (And, the ultimate test of leadership always happens in the leader's absence.)
3. It strengthens your family. They need to experience the tangible evidence that they matter more to you than your job. Nothing communicates that more effectively than time. It is a great object lesson that needs no words that helps them appreciate, enjoy, and respect their spouses'/parents' calling rather than resent it.
4. Some issues are best left only to the senior pastor. The delivery of new vision/direction for the whole church, sermons about money, strong calls to repentance...these and other "big-picture" leadership issues are best delivered by, and received from, the senior pastor. It's a responsibility thang.

Preaching is one of the things that I LOVE about what God allows me to do. But, the reality is that Sunday is relentless. No matter what else happens, what leadership issues arise, what pastoral or personal crises need attention, Sunday is ALWAYS coming. And, to pray, prepare to preach demands big blocks of time. There is no short cut, no matter how long you've been doing it. Over a 2-3 month window, that takes a toll emotionally, physically, intellectually, and spiritually.

Time off and away from the weekly grind and blessing of sermon preparation refuels, recharges, and refreshes. And it's MANDATORY that a church not become dependent upon one voice to be the only reliable deliverer of God's word and leading. And, in this case, if it helps the pastor, it helps the church.



Hands & Feet This Weekend at LHC

We work and pray diligently for every worship experience to be an opportunity to introduce people to the extravagant love of God. However, this weekend I'm beginning a sermon series that is PERFECT to invite people for that reason. THROUGH OUR HANDS will be something you don't want to miss and a great excuse to bring someone with you to see what the Jesus thing is really all about.

Through Our Hands/Community Fair Invite from Lake Hills Church on Vimeo.


Sermon Preparation, 2

Very early in my ministry, Dr. Mike Hamlet (First Baptist Church, N. Spartanburg, SC) told me, "Preaching is 85% sweat." One of the things I've always appreciated about Mike is his candor (often seasoned with God-honoring sarcasm--no, really, it IS possible!) and the fact that he's typically dead right.

In his recent book Killing Cockroaches, Tony Morgan quotes David Foster, pastor of The Gathering in Franklin, TN:
"I operate on one key principle--great speaking comes from the overflow of preparation."

Preparation takes many different forms and comes in often unexpected ways. But there are a few non-negotiables:
1. PRAYER. Obviously, someone can get up in front of people and talk without praying, but that is not preaching. God-honoring, anointed, life-changing preaching begins, bathes, and ends with prayer. You have to invoke the power, presence, and prompting of the God you ostensibly serve by preaching.
2. STUDY. Scripture, Bible commentaries, topical books, alternative viewpoints, secular perspectives (contrary to, and consistent with, Scripture). If preaching is a spiritual/social exercise--and it is--then study is the diet that fuels the exercise.
3. EXPERIENCE. The most evocative, powerful illustrations are those that are born out of our life experiences. The audience automatically connects their personal stories to the ones shared in making a point. Almost every preacher I know is subconsciously trained to find illustrations in almost every experience. (Craig Groeschel posted some KEY thoughts about illustrations back in Feb. at swerve.lifechurch.tv)
4. FLOW. Prayer, Study, & Experience only help you find the ingredients. Creating a flow is what makes everything fit together in a cohesive, coherent way that people can and will follow you on the journey of a sermon. Flow is achieved through one thing: TRANSITIONS. It may be a word, a sentence, a pause, a phrase or a paragraph. But, transitions matter as much as almost any mechanical part of the message.
5. INFORMATION/APPLICATION. Bill Hybels says, "Tell them what they need to know. Then, tell them what to do." But long before Hybels ascended to a pulpit, that's how Jesus taught. Whether on the mountainside or in the synagogue, Jesus was much more deliberate about "how you should then live" than he was about the Hebrew root word chosen by Isaiah. Information feeds. Application leads.
Get it? Good.



Social(pathic) Networking

Let's say that you're applying for a job. Except, it's more than just a j-o-b. It's a calling, a vocation, that you truly want to invest your blood, sweat, and tears in and make a difference in the world while also earning a fair--OK, great--wage.

Now, let's say that in addition to your resume and references you are required to submit the last two months of posts you've made to Facebook, MySpace, and/or Twitter. Would you still be a candidate for the calling and vocation you long to fulfill? Would anyone screening applicants who are expected to make a difference in the world let you through the filter of discernment, emotional maturity, and good decision-making ability?

If not, why should your current employer entrust you with anything more than mid- to lower-level responsibilities? Why should they keep you at all?

It's one thing for students to post their "finding-themselves" moments and pictures of those moments on social networking sites. But, if I am chronologically expected to be an adult, my posts, tweets, and blogs should reflect it.

Sermon (Non-) Preparation, 1

Since I wasn't preparing to preach for the last couple of weeks, God opened up some things to me about preparing to preach. It's good for pastors and for church members alike to understand the dynamics involved in the mystery and miracle of God-ordained preaching.

Of course, no pastor would ever admit being un-prepared. But, we could all agree that there are weeks when we are more prepared than others (we'll talk about why later). Below are some critical misses that result from non-preparation:

1. Introduction-decarbonation. The introduction to a sermon is like shaking up a bottle of Coke. It’s where the pressure is built and sustained for a brief time before you take off the lid and release the energy contained in the sermon. If the introduction is weak or non-engaging, your sermon has no fizz. And fizz matters. Fizz is the equivalent of anointing and unction. It doesn't have to be funny to fizz, but funny sure helps engage your audience at the beginning of the message. Even better, funny AND personal creates engagement and empathy. But it's got to be real. Faux self-deprecation makes me throw up in my mouth.
2. Illustration-Apnea. Illustrations breathe life into a sermon that your audience inhales and exhales. It allows them to see inside your life and they reflexively draw parallels to their own lives.
3. Energy-overload. When a speaker’s not as prepared as he could be, he’ll tend to speak louder and/or faster in order to compensate for the lack of confidence in his material. Bombast is a good word and a horrible practice.
4. Transition-atrophy. Early in my ministry, Ed Young hammered into my psyche that transitions are the most important post-introduction element of a sermon (speech, address, etc.). He’s right. Transitions create flow and lead your audience from one point to the next almost without their noticing it. But, transitional statements/paragraphs/illustrations have to be prepared and refined and memorized in order to feel seamless to your audience.
5. Spirit-dehydration. Nothing can compensate for a lack of time spent in prayer and reflection for the message--and means of communicating that message--that God wants to deliver through the preacher. Without it, a sermon is dry, brittle, rough, and impotent. It loses its supernatural, mysterious, and genuine power to touch and change lives.

Nothing is more sacred or significant in the pastor's calling than the mission of preaching the Gospel. We have to guard our schedules and create blocks of time for prayer, study, writing, editing, and preparing to deliver sermons that God uses to change us and lead his church where he wants it to go. And, in larger congregations, we have to lead our congregations to accept their responsibility in honoring that commitment and accepting counsel/prayer/leadership/visitation/wedding- or funeral-officiating from other gifted and called pastors who do not preach on a weekly basis. What they need is the touch or counsel of God--who it comes through is much less important.



"Tough" is not the most frequently used term to describe most worship pastors. But, LHC's Worship Pastor Mark Groutas is not most worship pastors. This morning, he and his team led us to the throne in genuine, excellent, spirit-and-truth worship--all while he was suffering from a severely yanked back spasm.

I was standing backstage with Mark when a friend walked by and slapped him on the shoulder to say "Good morning!" and you could see the pain radiate through him--after he smiled and returned the "Good morning!" to the unknowing offender.

It's admirable when athletes play through pain and give their teammates everything they've got. How much more so when the stakes are eternal and literally, spiritually, life and death. "Tough" is rarely paired with spiritual character traits, but it should be. Spiritually mature, Christ-like people are tough. I was proud of him and proud to serve with him today in a new and fresh way. Thanks, Mark, for doing all you do as well as you do for the reasons you do it all.

Oh, yeah, how he yanked his back? Playing on the trampoline with his kids.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12


I want to introduce you...

...to a good friend of mine and an amazing leader. Dr. Rocky Kirk is the Superintendent of the Lake Travis Independent School District. Rocky leads one of the fastest growing districts in the state at a time of unprecedented uncertainty, opportunity, and challenges.

Every time I get to have lunch or coffee with him, he is relentless in his praise of his people, their devotion to excellence for the students of LTISD, and his commitment to do the right thing for the right reasons. In addition to all these things, he married over his head--which I truly appreciate!

Rocky is one of those people who fills my tank. He is an encourager, but it's much more than that. He's willing to make tough decisions on behalf of the students and community he serves. He is a leader's leader and someone I'm grateful and proud to know and call a friend.


Save the Daylight

I've known for a while that God is Provider--but until I started preparing for this week's message, I had no idea all the ramifications of that fact. I'm telling you right now, if you or someone you know is anxious/nervous/concerned/freaked out over the economy--and I understand if you are--then this weekend's service is HUGE for you and them.

Also, remember that Sat. night is night to set your clocks AHEAD one hour for the beginning of Daylight Savings Time. Check out this reminder:

Save The Daylight from Lake Hills Church on Vimeo.


This Weekend

The Dow reaches a 12-year low. The "Stimulus Package" has more pork in it than my two breakfast tacos yesterday (and that's saying something). People are financially freaked out and puckered up. And...the sun still came up this morning. We still have people in our lives to love, people who love us, and a lot more people in our lives who are more open than ever to the touch of God in their lives.

All of which means I cannot WAIT for worship this weekend. We're going to continue the message series Hello, My Name is God with a look at God Who Provides. Provider is one of God's primary roles that He chooses to play in our lives. This fact couldn't be any more relevant or important as we walk through this economic swamp. I promise you this weekend will in-courage, challenge, and stretch us as we continue chasing God together.

If you are a Christ-follower, there's nothing more spiritually mature or deep that you can do than introduce someone to Christ. If you invite them to join you at LHC this weekend, I guarantee they will meet Christ. We all will.


Deer Cat Fight

I caught this in a deer stand this season and it just makes me laugh every time I see it. The funny part is right at the beginning:

Deer Cat Fight from Mac Richard on Vimeo.


Good to Be Back

It's so good to be back--

1. From the flu. It knocked Julie + me down hard for 8-10 days and then took another week or so to feel like I'm back to what passes for normal.
2. From our first Pastors Retreat in too long. We got some great work and planning done. But, just as important, we got to get away and play some too. I am so blessed to work alongside some of the most gifted, loyal, godly men. Also, we're incredibly grateful to Mike + Holly Gardner for hosting us at San Miguel Ranch & Lodge just outside of Uvalde, TX. What an incredible place and incredible people!
3. From a blogging hiatus. It's been a wild few weeks to kick off 2009 and posting was just one of those things that got pushed to the back burner. We've got some changes coming in the next couple of weeks to macrichard.com that are going to be sweet brown sugar.

Can't wait for worship tomorrow--in preparing for the message, I've been so encouraged by the fact that God is a warrior who fights for us. Make sure you're a part of worship tomorrow either at the Mother Ship in Bee Cave or at LHC Downtown. And bring someone with you who needs to know that God is on their side.


Gran Torino

If you believe in the power of redemption, community, good film, and a great story well told, you should go see Gran Torino. It's accurately Rated-R for language which is pretty salty at times. But Clint Eastwood remains a force of nature at 79 years old. You owe it to yourself to go see it.


Fandemonium Conclusion/Beginning

Every week, sermon preparation can take a lot of different forms. This week, the message is going to include a truly unique introduction that you do NOT want to miss. While our team was preparing for it, I took this picture at the UT Basketball practice facility:

ATTACK * EXECUTE * FINISH -- Not a bad way to think about how we apply our faith throughout the week.

This weekend we're going to conclude the series Fandemonium, AND it's going to be the beginning of something really profound for anyone who wants it to be. No matter where you are in your relationship with God, in your own personal FANDEMONIUM, there is something for everyone in this weekend's message.

Please, make it a point to be a part of what God is doing through LHC this year and this week by attending and inviting someone to come with you who may not realize yet just how extravagantly God loves him/her.



This weekend, LHC continues the series FANDEMONIUM. And we're going to look at the promise of victory God offers to every single person through Christ...victory in life, in our homes, our relationships, our careers, AND in our challenges and losses. That's right, in Christ, there is always victory even in our losses.

Please make it a priority to join the Fandemonium. Make the effort to invite someone you know who may be experiencing a loss or walking through a challenge right now to discover they don't have to do it alone.

Apolitical Politics, Pt. 2

I really don't think I'm imagining this: Every time I've seen President Obama on TV since the election, he has a little different countenance. It's as if there's a small part of him that is asking, "What did I win?"

He assumes responsibility at a time of unprecedented challenges that have been more than thoroughly outlined elsewhere: 2 wars, economic recession, etc. But...agree or disagree with his policies, the man is really, really gifted. There are a few reasons that every American should be encouraged:

1. He is a principled man. He loves his wife, he loves his girls, and they are a priority to him. That's a significant mark of character that is often overlooked in the public arena. Character does matter. If a man will lie to his wife, nothing would prevent him from lying to his constituents except self-interest and the potential of getting caught.

2. He's smart as a whip. You don't become President of Harvard Law Review because you've got a winning personality and nothing else. I want my president to have a nimble, sharp mind. And ours does. (For the record, President Bush 43 meets this requirement in spades, though his communicating skills occasionally camouflaged his intellect.)

3. President Obama is a master communicator. Again, this has nothing to do with his policies. But communication is helpful for a leader, particularly one who has to lead us through the challenges before our nation.

4. He is a skilled politician and motivator. Winning the general election was big, but it pales in comparison to winning his party's nomination. He walked into Hillary's living room and took it away from her. She had the name, the contacts, the organization, the money, and the momentum--and he took it all away from her. To paraphrase Larry the Cable Guy, I don't care who you are, that right there is a good job.

Now, you can't put policies aside for too long. Policies and practices do matter. And the president has to lead and produce. Citizen-/Representative-/Senator Obama regularly championed some very troublesome policies and views. But he now faces some realities that he's never encountered. He should be evaluated for his leadership, execution, and principles as President. In the meantime, I'm going to pray for him and hope he does a great job as my President.

(I kindof like that he has to sneak out of the Oval for a cig every now and then and that his wife has tried unsuccessfully to get him to stop...makes him not quite as perfect as the media wants to portray him.)


Apolitical Politics, Pt. 1

Yesterday's inauguration reminded me of when a family member was getting ready to walk down the aisle on her wedding day. As the organ music played and the doors were just about to be opened for her, she beamed proudly, looked at her daddy and said, "Well, here we go, Daddy." To which he replied, "People get married every day, honey."

Barack Obama was the 44th individual to take the oath of office, yet every time it happens it is truly unique. The peaceful transfer of power is something that we should always hold in awe and appreciation. Even in our advanced state of development as human, it remains the exception rather than the rule around the world.

Regardless of your political persuasion or philosophical bent, those of us who go by the name Christ-follower are called to pray for those who lead us. President Obama faces monster responsibilities at home and abroad on our behalf. He will need divine wisdom, courage, and strength to lead as he serves our nation. It's in everyone's best interest to pray for him.

Also regardless of politics or philosophy, no terrorist attacks have been visited on us since 2001. As he departs public service, now-former President Bush deserves our gratitude and gracious appreciation for that fact.


Real Simple...

Here's the deal: Join me and read through the entire Bible this year. I know it's January 8th. You can start today and be caught up by tomorrow (Today's reading is Gen. 15-16, Psalm 18, & Matt. 10). If you're just starting, catch up tonight during the first half of the BCS Title Game. Do you REALLY care between OU-Florida?

Just a few minutes every day and we will have finished the all-time, #1 best-seller in the history of reading.

You in?