I’ve taken a few years off from writing anything substantial – mainly because I found myself to be saying very little of what I would consider to be anything of value.  I’m not sure that I’ve turned some magical corner and found the fountain of profundity, but there have been a few times when I’ve had the urge to share my thoughts.  I’m not sure if that means anyone reading this would be inspired or drawn to read more and I think I’m ok with that.  Spoiler alert – this is really more for me… 

I’m not sure where Off QUEUE will take me this time, but I’m thinking it’s going to be more broad than in the past.  When I started Off QUEUE, I was knee deep in all things “church”.  Sitting where I now sit, I’m thankful for that time, but also recognize that I am not there any more.  In saying that, I kind of laugh inwardly, as my family is happily, once again helping with a new church plant that is meeting in a school.  Likewise, the thing that I pour a lot of my energy into is a service that helps churches do what they do better.  I may have progressed to waist deep in “church” stuff again, but with a much more healthy view of how that involvement intertwines with my gifts, my beliefs and my willingness to play a role in His plan.  

Over the past six months I’ve made a change in my physical health that has opened a door for me to enjoy God’s presence as I push my physical limits.  This has been extremely refreshing to me as it’s been a new experience – or at least a return to a place I haven’t been in a long time.  I’ve recently logged my 800th mile cycling and am loving everything about spending time on the open road – even those goofy shorts that make a huge difference when spending two hours on a tiny bike seat.  Don’t judge… Oh, go ahead and judge, it’s ok.  But I’m currently shopping for a winter pair of cycling tights that will help me look goofy in a colder climate.

Also, since the last time I was posting anything on Off QUEUE, I’ve taken on a more significant leadership role with Ascension Worship.  With Jamie and the rest of the leadership team, we’ve taken a problem, an idea and a bunch of resources and found that together we can change what a worship experience looks like in a church of any size or flavor.  That is exciting!  I’ve been able to watch small churches grow, old churches become young, young leaders gain seasoning and old leaders loosen their grip on how they’ve always done things.  No, it’s not always easy.  No, it’s not always been successful.  And no, it’s not always going to be…  But it is working more than it’s not and the majority of those involved with us are seeing great benefits as we grow.  

Over the years I’ve not been able to let Off QUEUE go.  Its idea of not becoming so entrenched within a culture that you’re operating out of habit and not a clear direction is just a relevant to the leader that has grown up in an environment as one that is brand new and discovering the intricacies around every obstacle.  I believe this becomes even more relevant as we join together and journey with each other down these paths that God ordains.  I hope that as I start putting my thoughts in print again, that I’ll gain a clearer understanding of what God is teaching me.  And maybe, just maybe, we’ll find some common ground to journey together as well.  

much love,
– mark


And then finally, Andy Stanley returned to the stage to conclude the conference with a discussion that may have been the most applicable session as I continue in this leadership journey that I seem to be on.  Andy formed the foundation of his talk around the idea that healthy people will not stay in unhealthy environments.  And that the way we create a healthy culture is through trust.  He used the illustration that often there is a gap between what we expect people to do and what they actually do.  How we fill those gaps will create the type of culture we live in.  We can choose to believe the best or assume the worst.  He took those ideas and tweaked them out a bit, but that was the gist of his talk.

There were three quotes that Andy used during his talk that are worth repeating:

“The moment you feel the need to tightly manage someone, you might have made a hiring mistake.” – Jim Collins.

“Teams use trust as currency.  If it is in short supply, then the team is poor.  If trust abounds, the members of the team have purchase power with each other to access each other’s gifts, talents, energy, creativity, and love.  The development of trust, then, becomes a significant leadership strategy.”  Reggie McNeal

“The moment there is suspicion about a person’s motives, everything he does becomes tainted.” – Mahatma Gandhi

I’m certain that as I continue in leadership, these ideas will remain prominent in how I operate.

There were a couple of other things that took place at Catalyst that are worth watching on YouTube.

The first was Professor Spash who belly-flopped into a world record from 35 feet in the air into just under 12 inches of water.  Watch it here:

And the second was when a guy who had been sponsored through Compassion was introduced to his sponsor for the first time.  I’m told there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as this took place.  Watch it here:  http://vimeo.com/7072300 (it’s worth waiting for the download – if your’s is slow)

Ascension Worship is taking on a new level of organization this year.  If you’ve followed along the past few years as Ascension has grown, then you probably have noticed the production getting larger as the events progressed.  And then last year, we kind of tripped over this theme that carried us through the year. 

But this year, we’ve begun with an over-arching theme that will walk with us through the 10 events for 2008.  This year, we’re focusing on “UNIFY” and some of the many different ways that plays out for us as individuals and members of our communities. 

We’ve also added an element where each month we’re partnering with another ministry that will give an opportunity to become involved in something going on beyond your own backyard.  Some of these are ministries that you’re aware of, buy some of them may be new.  All of them are ones that we as Ascension have been supporting or following. 

If you’ve never been to an Ascension event, you’re probably wondering what to expect.  Quite simply, our passion is to ignite (or re-ignite) a passion within the local church and exists only to provide a means to worship God.  There’s typically worship music with video and lighting elements that help portray the emotion of the music.  There’s typically a short message that connects the evening with the year’s theme.  And there’s typically time to ponder what you experience – with others or by yourself. 

2008 kicks off February 22nd with a bang at The Fellowship at Celebration Baptist Church.  They are located at 13720 McCormick Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32225 (Google Map it here).  The doors open at 7pm and the evening will begin promptly at 7:18.  Hope to see you there.

I started this little reading plan as a way to be intentional about reading something from God each day.  If you’re like me at all, it’s just too easy to rely on what I already know and listen to God through somebody else’s filters.  I realized that I needed to spend time with God through my own filters.  My reading plan is a short and simple one that will take me through the New Testament between January and the beginning of December.  Each weekday, I begin my computer time with a short time of reading and then a little reflection. 

Funny how God works.  I’ve already noticed, been made aware of, recognized… however you want to say it, words are leaping off the pages that directly correspond to who I am and who I want to be.  For instance, in Matthew 11, Jesus is talking about cures to problems (blind-see, lame-walk, deaf-hear) but he comes to poor and he doesn’t rebut with wealth of any sort.  Not enough to get buy, not enough to be comfortable, not enough to give away, not even as much as you can handle.  He solves being poor by having good news (the Gospel message of Jesus) preached.  How jacked up is my thinking that when I think of being poor that I immediately stay bound to this existence and focus on wealth.