Thursday, October 7, 2010

Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley’s retelling of Esau and Jacob and trading a birthright for a bowl of stew began the conference.  He pointed out that we each have an eternal tension that we carry because of our appetites.  And our appetites want “more”.

Progress                      Growth                               \

Responsibility           Fame                                        \These are a reflection of God

Respect                        Achievement                          /and we are made in His image.

Win                              To Be Envied                      /

God created these appetites and sin distorted them.

They are never fully and finally satisfied.

They always whisper “now” and never “later”.

But my response to them will define the rest of my life…

Genesis 25:29-32 (TNIV) tells the story of Esau and Jacob with v. 33 ending in Esau despised his brother.  We could have read God described as the god of Abraham, Isaac and Esau, had it not been for an appetite that created two issues:

–      Impact Bias :: simple appetite that is magnified out of proportion

–      Focalism :: focuses mind on one thing and blurs out everything else

Posing the question then to me:

“What is my bowl of stew?”  For what am I willing to sell out my dreams and future?

Andy left us with one task, create an actual list completing the statement; Ten years from now…  I’ll share my response to that in a few days.

Scott Harrison

Scott Harrison, founder of charity: water (, sharing the idea to trade our birthday for clean drinking water.  If you’re like me, you’re constantly having to remind yourself that the last thing you need is one more thing…  And birthdays are a time when people like to give you more things.  So this year, I’m going to jump on board with charity: water and give my birthday away.  Expect to see more about this in May.

Daniel Pink

Daniel caught my attention when he pointed out that we’re all artists trying to give the world something they didn’t know they needed.  He talked about how every great person has a sentence that defines them.  For instance, Abraham Lincoln’s sentence would be something like; “I held the union together and abolished slavery.”  He posed the question to us, what is our sentence?  And he then went on to suggest that we ask ourselves each day; “Was I better than yesterday?”  There will definitely be days when that answer is no, but if we’re always asking that question, we’re not likely to answer no two days in a row.

Christine Caine

Christine’s poignant comment was, ‘’Let’s not just do church. Let’s be church. Let’s find darkness in the world and illuminate it.”  She’s founder of the A21 Campaign and you can learn more about her and it at

Rani Hong

As we learned of the treacheries of human trafficking, we see more than ever that there is evil in the world. There are 27 million victims of sex trafficking, but it doesn’t become real until you hear the story of just one.  It was amazing to hear about how much of this goes on within our own cities in the states.  Check out to find out more.  Watch for a new film “The Candy Shop” and learn more about it at

Seth Godin

Creativity, originality and innovation have become a necessity. No longer is competence enough. Through collaboration and freedom, we find motivation. As we have seen the power of tribes in our culture, we see that we cannot do anything of significance alone, and it doesn’t really matter who gets the credit.

**I had several “ah-ha” moments during Seth’s session, but I didn’t write them down, so I’ll have to default to the comment above from someone else as to what he talked about.

Beth Moore

Beth challenged us about the insecurities we have in our own lives.  And she pointed out that insecurity is just as self-centered as pride.  We live in a culture that allows for instant criticism and scrutiny.  But God’s desire is that we find our identity in Him.  That we not sell out to ourselves, but fully surrender to His will no matter what it looks like.  She posed the observation that we are too quick to share or tweet something that we hear before we have given it a chance to be absorbed into who we are.

She used Proverbs 3:21-26 (NLT) as her main text and then later referenced Ecclesiastes 7:25 and Job 8:14-15.

And I wrote down a few quotes from her:

“Know who we are and know who we are NOT!”

“Don’t just know we have the spirit to start, but also the spirit to stay.”

“Know what we want to be when it ends.”

Francis Chan

Intermixed with a fantastic night of worship with Aaron Keyes, Francis opened up about where he’s at in his faith journey.  He used Jeremiah 9:23 (ESV) to begin and then walked through many other scriptures that I’ll list below.

He posed two thoughts that I wrote down:

–      If his story, as strange as it might seem to us today with selling his stuff and resigning his position, were recorded in Acts; it would seem normal and insignificant.  We would likely pass over it and get back to the “real” stories being told.

–      When we look back at history, we see many things done around the world in the name of Christ (crusades, witch hunts, slavery).  What will people hundreds of years from now look back at from our times and find “weird” that we are doing for God?

James 5:17, 1 John 3:16-18, Ezekiel 16:49, Jeremiah 22:16, Proverbs 19:17, Proverbs 28:27, 1 John 2:6, Matthew 25:44-46, Luke 12:33, Luke 14:13-14, Romans 12:13, Psalms 37:25, Proverbs 21:13, James 1:27 (all ESV)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Tad Agoglia

And upon hearing the extraordinary story of Tad Agoglia, founder of Disaster Recovery Solutions’ First Response Team, we learned that it is impossible to love people and avoid tension at the same time.  A huge shout out to Tad for getting our friend, Chance Craven ( involved at Catalyst this year.  If you’ve wondered what itsChance looks like in a few years, look at Disaster Recovery Solutions’ First Response Team (

Perry Noble

Perry Noble followed with a story of hope. Though we can be dismayed by current circumstances and often will question why God has called us to this place, if we could only see a chapter ahead, we would see His provision is just ahead. Just as God told Elijah to go by the brook and the brook dried up, so often we face obstacles that feel hopeless. God wants our dependence not in big donors, but in Him alone. A chapter later in 1 Kings 18, God leads Elijah to the top of a mountain calling fire down from heaven. Don’t give up on God.

Some quotes from Perry:

“After invitation often comes desperation.”

“God often leads you places you aren’t sure you want to follow.  But once you’re there, you’re sure glad you went.”

And on a side note, we had the seats right in front of the crew from Perry’s church.  I’m sure I would have been excited if my pastor was speaking to 13000 people and would want to support him.  And I’m sure that if I were that pastor, I would want to feel supported by my people as well.  But, if I’m ever that pastor and you’re there to support me, please know that I don’t need you to yell out, “Get it Mark!” or “Preach it M!” or anything of that sort for me to know that you’re there to support me.  It might just distract someone from actually hearing what God had to say…

Gabe Lyons

As the morning progressed, Gabe Lyons, author of The NEXT Christians, brought a cultural understanding to the church and how to embrace the full picture of the gospel, instead of simply being cultural Christians or isolating ourselves from society.  In going back over my notes, I think Gabe was the speaker that spoke to where I’m at right now on my faith journey.

Gabe defined four pieces to the Gospel message as being creation, fall, redemption and restoration.  He then diagramed Christians as falling into three groups, those that separate, those that restore and those that blend in.  Those that separate from the rest of culture tend to focus their faith existence on the fall and redemption of man.  Those that blend into the culture tend to focus on creation and restoration.  But those that whose focus is to restore lost people focus on all four pieces of the Gospel message.   He used 2 Corinthians 5:17 & 18 as his primary text with verse 18 being the key for restorers.  He also cited Isaiah 58:9.  His book The Next Christians delves into this topic in much greater detail.

Craig Groeschel

We all see and feel the tensions that exist generationally. To the older generation, Craig Groeschel encouraged leaders not to resent, fear or judge the next generation, but to believe in and invest in them: they are the church of today. To the younger generation, Craig warned against entitlement and challenged leaders to recognize their need for those who have paved the way. If you want to lead, you must serve under the very people you want to lead. We didn’t choose God. He chose us!

Craig’s voice is one that you should have on your radar!  His openness and honesty amaze me.  He had two great quotes that are going to seem quite lame on paper and outside the context of his session, but they are significant to everyone that heard him speak.  “If you’re not dead, then you’re not done!”  This one made me think of my Dad.  Stuck on the backside of nowhere, in a church that is dying and holding onto what has always been.  Dad, if you read this – you’re not dead, so you’re not done!  Be the difference!

Craig spent a bunch of time emphasizing the honor that is due to those that paved the way for us to be where we are.  Being the fourth generation from my family that has served the church in a ministerial capacity, this struck a cord in me.  I fully believe that because of the choices my Great Grandfather made, his kids clung to the church and shaped it during their time.  And because of their choices, my Dad and his cousins have done the same.  And now, as I stand in the gap between my Dad and my son, I have a sense of responsibility that resonates with what the Kings from the O.T. must have (or should have) felt.  My family has been blessed, we’ve seen the hand of God upon us and just as easily as many of the Kings of Israel chose, I could be the one that forgets that it’s because of God that all things are possible and convince myself that I can get this done on my own.  And while that might be a tragedy for my life, it’s my kids and grandkids that would feel the impact of that.  So, I do honor those that paved this path that makes it so easy for me to walk, but not lightly as it’s my turn now to smooth the road and prepare for those behind me to glide where I’ve walked.

And the second quote was “Leading up is because honor is given to those above you.”  For everyone that has sat across the desk from one of those older and wiser people that thought you were crazy, but allowed you to chase a dream and change the direction of what was being done, you only got the chance because they trusted you with what they held dear.  And for those of you that are ready to give your dream a chance and are looking for someone to buy into it, you’re only going to get that chance if you honor those above you.

Craig used Mark 6:4-6 as his text.

Bishop T.D. Jakes

With probably the hardest act to follow of them all, Bishop T.D. Jakes took the stage after a guy was shot out of a cannon. He went on to share Jesus’ vision and ultimate call to go into ALL the world. It’s not safe to be a leader, but until we’re willing to be uncomfortable, we cannot grow. “When you go, go nervous. Go praying. But for God’s sake, go.”

This was the first time I’ve ever been in a room with T.D. Jakes speaking.  He wasn’t the militaristic guy that I’ve seen on the tv.  He had a simple message to hear, but one that is hard every time you’re in the situation.  His point was to speak to all people and share your story in all areas.  That sounds easy, until you’re faced with that person that intimidates you.  That person that makes you feel insignificant, inferior or just plain scared.  But his point is that God has given us our story to share with the people he puts in our community, not just the people we choose to hang out with.

He made an analogy that if you do a great job in your little fishtank of existence, but you were called to an ocean, it’s insignificant, because it’s not what you were made for.  He compared our influence to that of the size of a fish.  They are limited in growth by the size of the body of water in which they are contained.  Until you’re willing to move beyond your tank, you’re going to be limited in growth based on its size.  He went on to challenge us to do a cell phone test.  Look at your contacts in your phone.  If they’re all like you, then you’re contained within a tank and need to expand your boundaries.

Andy Stanley

So how do we wrestle with these tensions? As Andy Stanley closed out the final session, we have to realize that the role of leadership is to manage and leverage tension for the benefit of the organization. The difference between problems that need solving and tensions that need managing is that the latter are constant. And those very tensions are necessary for any organization that is making progress.  Like Andy’s final session at all Catalyst’s, this one was like all the others, VERY practical.

1)    Every organization has problems that shouldn’t be solved and tensions that shouldn’t be resolved.

  1. For example:  What’s more important?
  2. If you “resolve” any of those tensions, you will create new tension.
  3. If you resolve any of those tensions, you will create a barrier to progress.
  4. Progress depends not on the resolution of those tensions, but on the successful management of those tensions.

2)    To distinguish between problems to solve and tensions to manage, ask the following:

  1. Does this problem or tension keep resurfacing?
  2. Are there mature advocates for both sides?
  3. Are the two sides really interdependent?

3)    The role of leadership is to leverage the tension to the benefit of the organization.

  1. Identify the tensions to be managed in your organization.
  2. Create terminology.
  3. Inform your core.
  4. Continually give value to both sides.
  5. Don’t weigh in too heavily based on your personal bias.
  6. Don’t allow strong personalities to win the day.
  7. Don’t think in terms of balance.  Think rhythm.

Andy cites a book and website on Polarity Management for further references on this point.  He also made two suggestions in making this work:

1)    Understand the upside of their side and understand the downside of my side.

2)    Need passionate people that champion their side and mature people that understand this dynamic.


I was also introduced to a new organization that captured my attention.  It could be because Chance, a friend of mine and Ascension’s, spent his week working with them and took a few minutes to tell me about what they were doing.  If you’re like me, you’re willing to spend a little more or be a bit inconvenienced if you can purchase something that you were going to buy anyway and in turn help someone else.  For instance, I’m willing to buy shoes from TOMS because I know I’m also providing a pair to a child in need at the same time.  I’m willing to buy Ethos water at Starbucks because 5% of their profits go to helping people gain clean water where there is none.  Project7 ( has taken a similar stance, but instead of focusing on a single problem or using a small percentage of their profits to accomplish their mission, they are using 50% of their profits to address seven needs (healing the sick, saving the earth, housing the homeless, feeding the hungry, quenching the thirsty, teaching them well, and hoping for peace).  They are doing this through the sales of water through Caribou Coffee shops, a new coffee program for your home, office, or church and the sale of gum and mints that will hopefully be available in your neighborhood WalMart.  I was thoroughly impressed with what they are doing and would encourage you to spend a few minutes looking at their website.  When the main page comes up, stay on it long enough to watch the video of what they are doing.  It’ll play after a few moments and might be one of the best “commercials” that I’ve seen in a long time.

I can’t recommend this conference enough!  I’ve gone for the past 4 years and each year I walk away having been challenged in my faith, my leadership and my character.  There are very few things that are on my must do each year, but this is one of them.  If you’ve never been, I implore you to consider going next year.  It’s worth it!  I promise!

Luther, Calvin and Wesley were three men with great convictions many years ago.  Where are those kind of men today?

And finally, this really isn’t a thesis, but maybe it’s half of one…  A few hundred years ago there were these men that had an impact upon the direction of Christianity.  I’m not sure that the three of them could have attended the same church or served on the same committee, but they were firm on their convictions and were willing to sell out for the greater cause.  Maybe hundreds of years from now, someone will be looking back at our time and be able to pick out a few people that had as dramatic of an impact.  If so, I’d love to associate myself with those people.  They will be ones that challenge the way I think, what I believe and will hold me to a higher standard than the majority of my peers.  They are also the ones that will push me to wrestle with these other 9 theses and the ones that I add as I travel this journey.

A pastor’s message is not “good” if it doesn’t strengthen your stance or change your direction.

This is a new one for me.  I’ve been guilty of walking out of a service, having listened to a pastor speak about something that seemingly made no sense to me.  But because it didn’t ruffle my feathers, I stopped by and let him know that it was a “good” message.  But I’m coming to realize that our time to make a difference is limited to an ever-shrinking window.  If we miss that window, we might not get another chance.  So, my measure of “good” lies within the boundaries of firming the ground upon which you stand or redirecting your steps in an alternate direction.  I take this stance because if a pastor is going to capture a group of people’s attention for a given period of time, he ought to have something to say that will make a difference.

I don’t have to convince anyone of or defend God to anyone – He’s got that under control.

This has been a liberating thesis to learn and live by.  If God is who He says He is and the Bible accurately tells of the beginning and end of man’s days (both of which I believe to be true), then there’s nothing I can say to convince another of who God is.  Now, I don’t think this absolves me of living a life that displays God’s love and provides a conduit to those that would like to learn more, but I can’t find anywhere in scripture where we are told to convince of or defend God to another.  And in light of my sixth thesis, I don’t think I am qualified to do so outside of God speaking through me anyway.

Being in the majority does not mean that I’m right.

We live in a society where majority rules.  If there are three people and a dispute comes about, the third mediates and casts the deciding vote.  If you’re accused of a crime, you have the right to a trial by a jury of your peers.  Church denominations gather together on some regularity to agree on the manner in which their denomination will uphold their theological stance.  Church boards gather to agree upon how to guide the local congregation.  Leaders attend conferences and neighbors talk over coffee – all to determine the common ground of the majority.

In our brief history as a country, we’ve watched our majority believe we would be best served to own other human beings as slaves and repress females from having a voice.  Both of these issues were debated as Biblical issues and are now argued as Biblical issues in opposition to the previous stance.  I use these examples as a reminder that being in the majority, no matter how exhilarating it may be, does not conclude one’s rightness.

God does not conform to my reasoning.

I am bound to the limitations in which I was created.  Much like a picture frame was created to hold an image and not power an airplane, I do not possess the capability to reason with or dictate to the God that created the heavens and Earth.  And for that reason, what He chooses to do doesn’t always make sense.  Why are babies miscarried by their mothers?  Why doesn’t every couple have the ability to become parents?  Why do children get cancer?  Why do mothers die when their children are young?  Why don’t parents ALWAYS love the kids they’ve been blessed with?  Some things don’t make sense from my point of view.  But I believe that’s because I don’t have the luxury of seeing the entire picture or the capability of understanding the good that comes from what seems as bad.

Tradition is not gospel.

This thesis became a glaring problem in my life a few years ago when I looked in the rearview mirror of life and realized that a good portion of my theological belief was rooted in tradition and not the Bible.  I’m not talking about style or musical preference or whether it’s OK to wear jeans to church, but in where I gather my view of God.  Is He simply the flannel-graph cut outs from the 50 Sunday School stories that were repeated from the age of 5 until 12?  Or was I wrestling with a God who would rescue a son from slaughter (Abraham and Isaac) on one hand and then would protect a father (Lot) who offers his daughters to be raped by an angry mob on the other.  I began to question where my beliefs were coming from and am embarrassed to admit that it was mostly from tradition.  And while tradition’s great when it comes to Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July, it doesn’t build a very firm foundation for faith.

The U.S. is a mission field.

Let me preface my explanation with the fact that I’m glad there are people that God has called to leave their home and make a difference in a region of the globe other than where they originated.  That being said, you don’t have to leave home to be a missionary.  The U.S., on paper is still a nation formed on principles of those that have followed Christ.  But if you sit down in your local Starbucks or McDonalds or the food court of your local mall, or wherever you might be and listen to the people around you, you’ll quickly hear that they don’t know the God of the Bible anymore.  They are searching for something – anything that will put the pieces of the puzzle together for them.  I’ve grown up listening to people being trained in dialect, moved to a foreign region and becoming entrenched in the local culture to become like Paul in Athens and create a bridge from where people are searching to where God remains.  At the same time, I’ve listened to the argument that “good Christian people don’t listen, watch, wear or go to that” – whatever “that” might have been.  Again, I go back to our command to go and make disciples.  Very few people are going to uproot and go way over there to make a difference.  But, every one of us is surrounded by people that aren’t following Christ.  (If you don’t know anyone that’s not a Christian – then that’s another issue and I question your value to the cause.)  Become a backyard missionary.  Love the people God puts you in contact with.  Maybe you’ll be the spark that ignites the flame.

“They” will only change the world if you won’t.

I’m amazed at how easily people are inspired by what someone else does but sits on the sidelines and just watches as the world changes.  Thirty years ago, listening to the stories of missionaries from around the world compared to reading a fictional tale.  But today, with news being instantaneous and the Internet expanding our backyard into the four corners of the Earth, we have a connectivity that has never been experienced before.  I can hear the excuses welling up already, “But what can I do?”  I’m going to stick with three simple examples.  There’s thousands, but here’s three.

Blake Mycoskie, while on a reality TV show fell in love with the people of Argentina.  He combined that love with a need for footwear and created a company called TOMS Shoes that gives away a pair of shoes for every one sold.  This has been mimicked by countless other organizations now and may not have been new with TOMS.  TOMS has now provided shoes all over the globe and there’s no end in sight.

Austin Gutwein, at the age of 9, inspired by kids orphaned by HIV/AIDS, began a program called Hoops of Hope to make a difference in their lives.  To date, the small program that he began has enlisted tens of thousands of participants and raised more than one million dollars for the cause.

Craig Gross and Mike Foster banded together a few years ago to offer the love of Chirst to the porn industry.  They’ve been documented in film, print and on video as being the porn pastors.  Together, they created a software accountability tool that nearly every one of my pastor friends is running on their computers.

Leverage what you know, enjoy, surrounded by, and what you’ve been gifted with.  Join with a few other people and make a small difference to someone.  Grow with a vision or try something else.  Just don’t give up!  Americans spend more on their morning coffee than most people live off of for an entire day.  We have an abundance of resources available.  What are you doing with them?

“Christian” is not an adjective.

At which point did we begin using the noun as an adjective?  I understand that in America, we’ve created this nice little bubble of all things related to Jesus and tied it up into this little bundle labeled “Christian”.  We’ve defined music, films, clothing, educational institutions, sections of bookstores, whole bookstores, types of tattoos, and on and on as “Christian <insert item here>”.  I understand that this probably occurred in a very innocent manner trying to make items of similar content easy to identify, but as a follower of Chirst – a Christian – I’ll stand up and ask, if we’re supposed to be going into the world, why do we bundle all of this stuff together and market it to only those that are already followers of Chirst?  And where’s the quality control?  And originality?  If we’re just going to change out a few words and create lame knock-offs of yesterday’s fads then can’t we label it with some title other than the name of the unique Creator of everything?

Next Page »