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.