Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Yes, we are going digital for this years Christmas letter. If you have not received this by email, please feel free to click on the following images in order to read through what's been going on in our family over this last year and what some of the exciting things are that lie ahead. Please know that we hope to see many of you over the holidays and really appreciate keeping up with all of you (no matter where you live) via the blog, email, and Facebook. Have a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Monday, December 07, 2009

USC's Numer One Fan Jake Olson

USC fan Jake Olson, who lost his eyesight to cancer, has become an inspiration to the USC football team. See the ESPN story here.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Verse Card Maker

Jacob Vanhorn just Facebook'd about the verse card maker and I've got to say, it's a pretty sweet tool for scripture memory. What a slick way to make a very nice set of scripture memory cards at the click of the button.

Friday, December 04, 2009

iPhone Orchestra

Wired Magazine features a student orchestra from Michigan (below) playing an entire song called "Drone" on their iPhones. I know some of you who own the iPhone have a love/hate relationship, but it's pretty cool how this little piece of technology is getting such unusual and creative use. Perhaps I'll be sporting one of these in 6 months or so.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Calvin's Commentaries and Institutes

Check out this great deal from CBD. $99.99 for Calvin's commentaries and institutes which would typically cost $1100. If you like the idea of having some great commentaries on hand, this is a hard deal to pass up!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Global Missions Conference Reflections

Parkview recently finished its Missions Conference with guest speaker Carl Medearis. Often times missions speakers have the reputation of being boring. This was definitely not the case with Carl Medearis. He managed to not only challenge our biblical understanding of mission but he did it in a way that showed these principles happening in real life. Here are a few of my reflections on the time:
  1. Christianity is a term that no longer represents what is true and good about the community of faith. The term Christianity has gotten a bad rap in most part because of those who have done horrible things in the name of Christianity. Because of this, it is most winsome to no longer make that the banner under which we associate. This is why many on the front lines of missions (both locally and globally) use the term Christ follower (or Jesus follower).
  2. Most Muslims are good and loving people. We must come to terms with the fact that our stereotype for followers of Islam is based on a small minority of hyper-fundamentalists. We can’t let ourselves get swept up in the conspiracy theories that paralyze us with fear in our relationships with Muslim people. They need Jesus and are willing to learn about him, as long as it isn’t flown under the misunderstood banner of “Christianity” (which to them is as much a cultural identity as it is a religious identity).
  3. Sharing about Jesus doesn’t require one to have an answer to every question. Let’s face it, none of us has all the answers. Why is it then that Christ followers believe the only way to share their faith is to do so in a combative manner? Sure we are to be ready to give an answer for the hope we have in Jesus (1 Peter 3:15) but we are to do so with gentleness and respect. This means it’s ok to answer hard questions with, “I don’t know.” The question that really needs to be answered is, “Who is Jesus?” It is in searching for that answer that people will find life.
  4. Biblical evangelism happens best in the context of followers of Jesus living with and loving lost people. We have been tricked to believe that evangelism can be boiled down to a slick brochure and polished presentation. It sounds like a great idea, but is it truly Biblical? Are there any examples of this kind of evangelism in the scriptures? The reality is that some plant, some water, but God gives the growth (1 Cor 3). If this is true, then like Jesus we need to see every encounter as an opportunity to share some truth that will help those we love step closer to the kingdom of God. Of course, we must preach the Gospel, but when we see it as our responsibility to plant, reap, and grow in 5 minutes with full-color gospel-track, we’re missing the point.
Well, there are more reflections I could share, but you get the point. If you want to learn more about Carl Medearis and his ministry you can go to his website here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Use What Works for Church Communication

As the old analogy goes, it's always best to pour sidewalks after the paths are worn. At Parkview we're finding this is often the best way to learn how to communicate with people. For example, let's face it, more and more people are on Facebook. So what do you do? Pay for mediocre version of a "Christian" Facebook service? There my be important reasons to join Christian web services, but more often than not your best move is to try and harness the communication mediums that are already in place and filled with your people. This is why Parkview now has a Facebook page...

And why my new church plant The Vine also has a Facebook page...

For project management here is a private blog set-up on blogger that is being used by our building committee at Parkview...

And here is one we use in the arts ministry...

Park Church is known for it's progressive use of technology for communication. Here is a video posted by Tim Schraeder that Park recently used in their church service allowing people to sign-up instantaneously for church texting notifications.

Bottom line, if you want to connect and communicate with people, do your best to use what's already working.

Monday, November 09, 2009

2 Pillars Church in Lincoln, Nebraska

My seminary friend Todd Bumgarner is preparing to plant 2 Pillars Church, an Acts 29 church in Lincoln, Nebraska. You can check out his blog here and video below. Lincoln is actually where I was born, so I'm glad to see the A29 vision coming to this part of Husker land.

2 Pillars Church Vision Video from Todd Bumgarner on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Chandler: Belong to Become

The following notes came from the RightNow conference presently going on in Dallas, Texas. Matt Chandler is the Lead Pastor of the The Village Church in the Dallas, Texas area. The following is a break-out session he presented on some of the challenges that exist in reaching 20-somethings. After discussing the problem, he went on to unpack some of the solutions from scripture. Unfortunately, I was unable to record most of the references because he moved too quickly. Despite this, you can get the gist of his talk below.


There are two needs within the 20-something culture...

DESIRE TO CONNECT: In 20-somethings there is a struggle for authentic community. Social networking has only served to intensify this problem. We know people but only know them in a shallow way. 20-somethings need to belong to a community.

DESIRE TO GROW SPIRITUALLY: 20-somethings are hungry for spiritual depth and are frustrated that they can’t get it. In the end they don’t exactly know where to find it. Because of this they are prone to religious fads and drawn to creative oration that is often times void of truth.

We must look to the scriptures to see how to meet these desires. Chandler contends that 20-somethings are struggling because their view of church has been formed by culture and not-so-good teaching. Our modern church environment of web churches, trendy churches, etc... is feeding into the problem. We must teach the truth in order to counter this.

Genesis 1-2

God said it was not good for man to be alone so God created community. God was saying I am not “into” people existing in isolation, I am into them having relationship with others. Because of sin we not only need to be reconciled to God but also to one another.

On the other side of the Exodus (Israel’s escape from slavery in Egypt) the people of Israel were given the law. Those laws were not only to restore relationship with God, but were also to help people relate to one another. Those laws instructed on civil issues like "don’t covet", "don’t commit adultery", etc... The bulk of the law is relationally based. God was using the law to encourage restoration both in his relationship to his people and in their relationship with one another.

What does the church do?

The church has a calling from the Bible to:
  • Worship God
  • Nurture and disciple believers
  • Minister to the world (evangelism/mercy)
  • Work at keeping the previous three purposes in balance
What makes the church the church?
  1. It is a place where the Word is rightly preached.
  2. It is a place where the sacraments are rightly administered.
Chandler explained that the enforcing of church discipline (i.e. disciplining those who are sinning in very significant ways) is not in the list because, in the early church, discipline was exercised by removing people from participating in the sacraments. The “right administration” of the table is referencing the exercise of discipline. 

Chandler then went through numerous scripture references showing how the Bible commands the church to exercise leadership and submission. A few references included:
  • Hebrews 13:17 - Obey your leaders and submit to them....
  • 1 Timothy 5:17 - Let the elders who serve well be served a double blessing...
We are all called by God’s Word to submit to the authority and leadership of the elders within our local church. Chandler developed this further by reading and teaching from 1 Peter 5:1-11 and 1 Corinthians 5:1-2.

How can you hold someone to account if they don’t belong?

Chandler went on to emphasize the importance of calling people to membership in the local church and the importance of people being under authority. 

As a side note Matt mentioned that unbelievers (i.e. people who don’t follow Christ) at his church are able to participate in everything the local church does, with the exception of The Lord’s Table (I’m pretty sure leadership positions in the church would also be excluded). His point being that they welcome unbelievers to participate fully in the community of faith. He wrapped up this segment emphasizing that people have lost their communal soul so we, as leaders in the church, have a responsibility to emphasize the need for belonging. The following are three Biblical reasons to belong.

Three Reasons To Belong To a Church
  • Obedience
  • Safety / Encouragement
  • Purpose and Growth
Three Words

The following three words capture an important calling for every person within the local church. Members in the church must:
  • Belong
  • Believe
  • Support
If you belong, believe, but don’t support (submit) you are a rebel.
If you belong and support, but don’t believe you are not a believer.
If you believe and support, but don’t belong you are a consumer.

Hundreds and thousands of books have been written on engaging lost people but very few have been written on ecclesiology (how the church is to function in a Biblical sense). Genuine community reveals where there is sin in your life that you didn’t know existed. Being in authentic community is an important part of our spiritual health and relational flourishing.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Barna: Six Leadership Checkpoints

The following thoughts came from the RightNow conference presently going on in Dallas, Texas. George Barna is the director of the Barna Group, the leading research organization focused upon the intersection of faith and culture. This is the second of two posts from his session on leadership. There are some really great nuggets in here for leaders of all kinds. This talk is based upon a new book coming out called Master Leaders which highlights his findings after interviewing some of the nations most successful leaders.

Six Leadership Checkpoints

1. Leaders can strategically change reality, but they cannot intentionally change people. Leaders must understand they can’t change anyone unless that person has the will to change within themselves.

Once a person reaches the age of 13 they change very little. This is why Barna contends that the most important ministry we have is the ministry to children and young people. By 13 their morals, values, beliefs, and world views are already well formed. Those will only change slightly over the course of their life. What you believe by the age of 13 is likely what you will die believing.
  • Pre-teen: Experimentation and establishment
  • Teen: Refinement and application
  • Adult: Consistency and transmission
  • Senior: Re-evaluation and finality
We assume we can reshape the raw talent of people, but we are setting them up for failure. We need to take stock of the people who we work with and work to accentuate their strengths, not to try and reshape them into something they are not. We can then move them into a team of leaders and help them achieve success in that setting.

2. Nobody is the “complete leadership package” so it’s important to work in a leadership team.

We often try to be sole-practitioners. At some point we will hopefully wake-up to our need for others to get the job done. A team ALWAYS out performs an individual. Leaders have a tendency to overestimate their abilities. Humility is one of the most difficult character traits to find among Christian leaders. Arrogance will ultimately undermine a leader.

Use diagnostic tools to learn the strengths of your team. Strength-finder tools helps you to learn how to build on your strengths. The Christian leader profile by the Barna group will help you to determine what is your primary aptitude as a leader. The key is to blend all four aptitudes in your leadership team.

The best teams:
  • are small in number (4-6)
  • spend time together, know each other well
  • lean on their captain (the internal motivator for the group)
  • have a shared vision, values, passion
  • have vulnerability and communicate well
  • are people who strive to empower people to achieve the vision
3. One of the most under valued and least common skills among leaders is listening.
  • Ken Blanchard, “When we try to lead, we need to lead with our ears... You cannot listen effectively unless you are willing to have your mind changed.”
  • If you want to solve problems you’ve got to listen. Many leaders think leadership is telling other people what to do instead of gathering as much intelligence as possible for the people with whom we work. Consistently listening shows our humility and respect for others.
  • Lou Holtz said, “I never learned anything by talking.”
  • Bad listening leads to bad leadership. Not listening undermines creativity and destroys enthusiasm. We need to listen, think, and then decide.
  • Can you repeat back to others their message so that you can seek clarification? Do you see the value their message has for your goals? Do the people who work with you feel safe about telling you what is on their mind?
4. Leaders must master conflict and confrontation.

John Townsend, “conflict is simply one of the realities of leadership... every leader must assume it will occur and be prepared for it.”

We cannot avoid conflict so we must expect, accept, and address. We must normalize it as a reality we will experience.

Some action points when dealing with conflict:
  • Seize the initiative: Be the one that gets the ball rolling when you see it.
  • Do your homework: Know the facts on all sides.
  • Position yourself as a friend, not a foe to those involved. Avoid the fight or flight syndrome. The brain is always trying to determine if what it is encountering is friend or foe material. You need to avoid putting people into an adversarial position. When threatened we go into defensive mode.
  • Ask clarifying questions and listen to what is said. Be open to having your mind changed.
  • Seek a win-win outcome for everyone. Sometimes you need to create conflict in order to root out bad behavior or get people moving.
Paraphrase from Erwin McManus, “Everywhere Paul went he found danger. Those places were probably safe before he got there. Sometimes leadership requires you to bring danger with you.”
People will not always appreciate good leadership because it is a little bit dangerous?

5. Success is helping people achieve their potential.

Barna found that most pastors have the following specific ways they gauge success. Our studies show these are the prominent standards:
  1. How many people attend the service
  2. How much money has been raised
  3. How many programs do we have
  4. How many people are on our payroll
  5. How much square feet of facility we have built
What’s wrong with this? Jesus didn’t die for any of these things! Why are these the ways we measure success? You get what you measure!!!! If these are the things we measure, then this is what we get. We get these things and wonder why our people are indistinguishable from anyone else.

Lou Holtz: He didn’t measure his success by his win-loss record. He measured success by how his players achieved greatness. Too many leaders try to be well liked. You need to push other people toward greatness because you believe others are capable of greatness.

Great leadership is not synonymous with popularity. A great leader motivates people to change the world. Vision is about change and people hate to change.

Never ask those following you to do what you are unwilling to do.

Lou Holtz: The most important thing you can do is help people see how it is in their best interest to reach the goal you are putting before them.

6. Do not accept a leadership position unless you are ready to pay a stiff price. The more significant the outcome you seek to achieve, the more substantial the price you can expect to pay.

Great leaders want the world to be right and operate at its highest level. To do this you will experience harsh criticism and face pressure. What is pressure? Pressure is having to make a decision that matters when you are not ready to do so. Pressure is very valuable for a leader because it purifies you and prepares you for a higher level of performance.

  • God: You only lead because you believe God called you to lead. If God hasn’t called you, don’t do it.
  • Convictions: Refuse to compromise those convictions. Be up front about what you stand for and let the chips fall where they may.
  • Family and close friends: Rely upon the help and encouragement of those close to you.
Concluding Comments:

People need to be lead. It’s not a job, it’s a calling. Your task is to commit your life, and other’s lives, toward a vision. The only vision worth committing your life to is one from God.

Barna: Seven Reasons the Church Needs Great Leaders

The following thoughts came from the RightNow conference presently going on in Dallas, Texas. George Barna is the director of the Barna Group, the leading research organization focused upon the intersection of faith and culture. This is the first of two posts from his session on leadership. I am not taking time in these posts to critique his presentation. Though there are a few concerns I have with his presentation, the statistics and conclusions do offer some very helpful information on the topic of leadership.

Seven Reason the Church Needs Great Leaders

  1. The more selfish our society becomes the more critical it is to have godly leadership. We are getting more selfish as a culture. We need leaders who can motivate us to get our eyes off ourselves and onto other more significant causes.
  2. The more choices we have, without a Biblical worldview, the more confused our priorities become. Research shows that less than 1 our of every 5 adults and less than 1 out of every 20 teenagers posses a Biblical worldview. 
  3. In a time of rapid cultural changes the rules are different, the competition stiffer, the stakes higher, the opportunities greater. These realities necessitate superior leadership to guide us forward.
  4. Recent poor decisions and behavior by high-profile leaders have ushered in an era of criticism, skepticism, and mistrust requiring a new generation of wise godly leaders to restore public trust and confidence. 
  5. In a culture that rejects moral and spiritual truth, the result is confusion, stress, distraction, busyness, and chaos. The antidote is focused leaders who can make sense of reality, provide vision, and deliver direction to make that vision a reality.
  6. Our culture has adopted a hyper individualism that undermines community and personal relationships raising the need for an emphasis upon team-based leadership. Those who are most successful in leadership operate in team-oriented leadership environments.
  7. Churches have given lip service to leadership but suffer from a paucity (meaning insufficient amount or scarcity) of genuine leaders who are guiding people toward true Christ-like transformation. Fewer than 1 out of every 5 senior pastors in protestant churches can be identified as leaders. Less than 2% posses a vision from God for the future of the church they lead.

Friday, October 30, 2009

How to Set Up Your Office

The What's Best Next blog recently completed a series on how to set up your office to maximize productivity. These posts provide some interesting information. Though I don't think I'll EVER be this organized, these tips can certainly help things run smoother at the office.

A New Look

I finally bit the bullet and adapted a new look for the blog. The old template was very outdated and unable to accommodate the functionality of the new blogger updates. Blog readers shouldn't have any troubles with the change, but do let me know if it causes any problems.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Women Are Less Happy

Albert Mohler wrote some interesting reflections here on the latest time magazine feature which focused in particular on the failures of the modern feminist movement. Despite the advances feminism has made in gender equality within academia and the work force, men are now more happy and women less. I don't share this article because I want to start a debate on the interpretation of these results, so please don’t follow this with volatile comments in that regard, but I do want to make one observation.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only force capable of giving true meaning and purpose to humanity. People are quick to blame Christianity for the historic sins of racism, sexism, and all forms of prejudice, but the movements they are criticizing were errant aberrations of true Biblical Christianity. The reality is that Jesus ushered in an understanding of equality that was socially radical in a day where racism and sexism was at a fever pitch. The gospel was and is the grand equalizer, giving value and purpose to people of every race and gender. This is what Paul is referring to in Galatians 3:27-29:

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

My point here IS NOT to argue for an egalitarian view of gender. I am a complimentarian and believe the scriptures celebrate the uniqueness of men and women both in the family and the church. The purpose of this post IS to challenge us to recognize that true human dignity requires us to recognize the “imagio dei”, the understanding that we were all made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).

This image of God was marred by sin (Romans 3:23). This is where the beauty of the gospel is so powerfully understood. The dividing wall of hostility between us and God (and between one another) was abolished by Christ (Ephesians 2:13-15). Our sense of worth and purpose can be strengthened by social and political movements, but it will only be truly fulfilled and fully understood through the gospel of Jesus Christ. This gospel is the true and lasting force for equality and happiness.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Participation in Worship

The programming team at Parkview recently developed a list of Biblical values for community worship. We are now taking turns as a team writing weekly devotionals on those areas that we use for our weekly team meetings and rehearsals. Below is the devotional I just wrote for our teams on the issue of participation in worship.

- - -

QUESTION: Why do you think the participation of God’s people in community worship is an important practice within the Christian church?

As we read the Old and New Testament it becomes obvious that our heritage of faith is one that highly values participation in worship. Read through the following segments which examine community worship throughout the historic Biblical narrative.

1. Following the Exodus and the crossing of the Red Sea, Moses and the people broke out in song.
Exodus 15:1-2 - Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD, saying, “I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.”
2. In the Psalms (the liturgy book of Israel) the people are encouraged to clap, shout, and sing in praise to God.
Psalm 47:1-2, 6-7 - Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy! For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth...Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!
3. In the Gospels we see that Jesus finished the passover celebration by singing a song with his disciples.

Matthew 26:30 - And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
4. In the Epistles (letters) we see Paul commanding the early church to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
Ephesians 5:18-21 - And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Colossians 3:16 - Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
5. In the prophetic book of Revelation we get a glimpse at the moments preceding the judgement of Christ when all creation is gathered around God’s throne, worshiping He and the Lamb (Jesus).
Revelation 5:13 - And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!
It would be wrong to assume that there are not acceptable individual worship expressions in the Bible like believers baptism, the preaching of the word, and the sharing of testimonies. Despite this, even in these elements we must recognize that they can only be exercised and fully experienced within the context of community.

The following are a few examples of “participation killers” in worship.
  1. When songs are pitched so high that people can’t sing because it’s out of their range.
  2. When too many elements in the service involve people observing and not participating.
  3. When the singers and musicians embellish to the point that they are hard to follow.
  4. When the content of songs or teaching are overly complex or theological to the point that people don’t understand what is being said. (the same problem can happen when songs are too simple and overly repetitive)
  5. When external elements draw attention away from God and community.... like volume that is too soft or loud, intelligent lights that are too active, or people on stage who are too charismatic or stoic.
QUESTION: Can you think of any other “participation killers” that are not listed? Think specifically of “participation killers” in your own area of worship ministry.

Prioritizing participation requires worship planners and leaders to become students of their congregation, not because they are trying to meet felt needs in a consumer sense, but because they want to plan songs and other worship elements that aid people in participation. Often times this means the hip new song won’t be a good fit for our church. Once we recognize the priority of participation in worship, it will make saying no to some things and yes to others a whole lot easier. It will also remind us that, whether we play an instrument or sing, what we are doing must enable and encourage all our people to participate in worship.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Support Site for Our Church Plant

Thanks to the generous volunteerism of Dan Van Oss, our support website for our church plant in Madison is now off the ground. It will be getting some more tweaks over the next few weeks, but it is now functional. Feel free to check it out at

You can also join our fan page on Facebook by searching "The Vine Church". In case you are wondering, the support site is specifically for those who are willing to pray, provide, and participate. The blog on that site will be a source for regular progress reports and prayer requests. We will be having another website dedicated for those within the Madison community that is being designed by a generous friend of Zach's in New Mexico. That site will likely be operational in mid to late November.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Google Wave, The Future?

Google thinks they've created the next "wave" in electronic communication. Pretty crazy the level of integration going on with this thing. Is this the next step from email? Looks pretty convincing.

(HT: Dodson)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Being a Servant Leader

I am presently reading “The Heart of Evangelism” by Jerram Barrs, one of my professors at Covenant Seminary (see link in my “currently reading” tab on my blog). Here is a very stirring quote from the book that is an outstanding exhortation to any leader in the church. Certainly this principle would also apply to leaders in any organization or business.

I regularly tell our seminary students that if I happen to visit the church in which one of them serves, I will not ask first, “Is this man a good preacher?” Rather, first of all I will ask the secretaries, office staff, janitors, and cleaners what it is like to work for this pastor. I will ask, “What kind of man is he? Is he a servant? Is he demanding and harsh, or his he patient, kind, and forbearing as a man in authority?” One of our graduates may preach great sermons, but if he is a pain to work for, then you know he will cause major problems in any congregation. Leaders in the church are required by Scripture to set an example in the areas of love, kindness, gentleness, patience, and forbearance before they are appointed to preach, teach, and rule. If we obediently require these attitudes and character traits of our leaders, what will our “new community” look like?

I pray this quote is a good gut-check for those of you in leadership. This is something we should expect of ourselves and those we appoint to positions of leadership. These qualities give credibility to the messages we preach and help others to see what loving community can and should be like within the community of faith.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Limits of Creativity

Bob Kauflin just posted this video on his blog from the Worship God 09 conference, which I so happened to attend. Here we see he and C.J. Mehaney responding to a question on the role of creativity in worship. Undoubtedly, some in the creative arts ministry world will struggle with some of the sound bytes from this clip. It helps to listen to it all the way through before judging. There are certainly some very helpful nuggets worth taking to heart. It does really concern me how we are tempted to see creativity as an end and not a means to something greater. Undoubtedly, we must be creative, but it must be for the purpose of powerfully communicating a greater message that leads people to both participate in worship (in a congregational sense) and in mission (in a global sense).

If you are reading this on Facebook and can't see the video link, you can go here to view the video.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Driscoll on Nightline

I just got done watching Mark Driscoll, Lead Pastor of Mars Hill Church and President of the Acts 29 Network, featured in the 10 Commandments series on ABC’s Nightline. I’ve got to say that he and ABC did a fantastic job covering the issue of idols in our culture. Without a doubt idolatry is a central issue in the scriptures. To whom does our allegiance lie? Celebrities or our creator? Self or Jesus?

Here’s some info on tonight's feature segment. When the full video comes available, I’ll be sure to post it. Thanks goes to ABC for doing a great job keeping the story the story!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Adoption Conference

Be sure to check out my buddy Zach's live-blogging of the Together for Adoption conference going on in right now. You can actually watch it live at the conference website and view extra video segments and written summaries at Zach's blog here.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Family Fall Retreat

To all of my Parkview Church peeps, I'll be speaking at the upcoming Family Fall Retreat on October 24-25. We've been to the retreat ever since it started a few years ago. It is always a great time for family togetherness and fun. You can read more about it at Parkview's website. Below is a brief summary:

Join us for Parkview's 3rd Family Fall Retreat, October 24-25. Check out these photosPhotos from last year. This retreat is for families of all ages. We are designing this weekend to be a time where families are strengthened and individuals are challenged. Students whose families are unable to come are strongly encouraged to attend. Only individuals 6th grade and up may attend this retreat without parents. Tribal Games are group games with two families and a few individuals on each team. There will be fun games & competitions throughout the retreat to create unity & to have fun! Enjoy family activities for all ages!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Introducing "The Vine"

Our future church plant "The Vine" now has a new logo. Our community website ( and support website ( are not yet operational, but should be up in about a month.

For those who are wondering, the name is based on John 15:5....

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Review of Priorities

1. Relationship with God
2. Husband, Father, and Friend
3. Pastor and Elder at Parkview
4. Church Planter (Preparation for planting in June 2010)
5. Seminary Student
6. Blogger

Whenever the upper priorities grow in scope, the lower categories diminish. Needles to say, this is why my blogging will likely decrease in frequency this year. I know the Lord will be teaching me a lot this year, but also know the intensity of life will likely keep me from maintaining some of the extra things I would otherwise enjoy (like blogging). Please say a prayer for me as I learn to be content with unending task lists and try to keep the main thing the main thing.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Cheap Alternative to Blackberry Servers and Mobile Me

It's pretty easy to use Google calendar, email, and contacts in such a way as to instantly sync between your phone and computer. An impressive alternative to the more costly Blackberry exchange services and mobile me membership fees. Read more here.

I should add, that there are some pretty affordable third party software packages out there that sync your standard computer calendars like iCal and Outlook with Google Calendar. Once you've got these systems in place, keeping your personal contacts updated wherever you are is a breeze.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Christ Centered Worship

My seminary president Bryan Chapell is releasing a new book on worship that looks like it will be a great resource to those involved in worship ministry in the Church. Check out the video promotion below (or by clicking here).

Below is your direct link to the book on Amazon.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Teens and "sexting"

Parents beware, this article highlights a growing disturbing trend among teens called "sexting". Here is a quote...

According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, one in five teens have sent a naked picture of themselves by "sexting" - using a cell phone to transmit the image; or by posting it on the Internet. That means your child or one of your child's friends has engaged in this sad practice.

Below is a sad story of where "sexting" lead to some terrible consequences for one girl. If you're reading this on Facebook to see the video click here.

The Dangers of Sexting from Family First on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Audio from WorshipGod 09

Here are links to the audio for the WorshipGod 09 conference I recently attended. Thanks to Vitamin Z for pulling these together.

From the WorshipGod 09 website:

The WorshipGod Conference is devoted to the theology, practice, and joy of God-honoring worship. Our 2009 conference was held August 5–8 at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

General-session audio is available for listening or download below. Seminar audio will be available in the coming weeks.

General Sessions

For all downloads, right-click and select "Save Target/Link As."

The God of Worship (John Piper)
Listen | Download

The Heart of Worship (John Piper)
Listen | Download

The Leaders of Worship (Jeff Purswell)
Listen | Download

The Church of Worship (Thabiti Anyabwile)
Listen | Download

Lessons Learned from Three Decades of Leading (C.J. Mahaney and Bob Kauflin)
Listen | Download

The Life of Worship (Bob Kauflin)
Listen | Download

(HT: Vitamin Z)

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Reflection on Worship God 09

I am on the way back to Iowa from the Worship God 09 conference in Gaithersburg, Maryland and thought I’d take the opportunity to synthesize some of the thoughts that were triggered from the time I spent at the conference.

The biggest lesson (i.e. reminder) is this; the central motivating factor for ministry must be Christ and the cross. The cross is central in the scriptures, from the covenant with Adam in Genesis 3:15 to the worship of the Lamb around the throne in Revelation 5. If we devote ourselves to loving God and exalting Christ, first in our life and then in our ministry, God will be honored and fruitfulness will result. It is truly that simple.

Having attended scores of conferences throughout my life as a worship leader, I have suffered under the pressure of coming up with the next cool innovation, having the latest technology, adapting to the newest trend. The pressure is immense and when you get on the conveyor belt that tells you effectiveness comes through creative effort and polished performances, it can be unbearable. When the church growth movement of the 80’s exploded on the scene everyone bought into the idea that our effectiveness at growing churches and reaching lost people was in direct proportion to our level of innovation and creativity within service programming. I lived in that world for so many years and still feel the effects as we scurry in planning meetings to find the next great thing that will bring people to the church. It’s like running on a broken treadmill that won’t stop. You run as long as you can and then, when you can’t take it any more, you fall off and are left battered and bruised.... completely burned-out.

Does this mean we don’t work diligently in preparation for worship services? No. Does this mean we don’t employ creativity? No. Does this mean we no longer concern ourselves with reaching people for Christ? Absolutely not.

What does it mean?

It means we consume our lives with loving and abiding in Christ and helping others to do the same. Don’t believe me? Read the words of Jesus from John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in Him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Want to be fruitful? Be compelled by your love for Jesus Christ and by abiding in Him.

This leads me to a few challenges...

First, we must be dedicated to growing in our knowledge and affection for God through intentional study. The argument that growing in faith shouldn’t require diligent study just doesn’t make sense. How does a husband best love and honor his wife? He does it by studying her. By learning how to serve her, what delights her, how she communicates, what her unique gifts and abilities are. If a husband is dedicated to the discipline of studying his wife, he will grow to love and appreciate her more. This is why we must study the Word of God, listen to Biblical messages in Church, read quality books, listen to Christ exalting podcasts and music. The more we know God, the more we are amazed and changed by His character and purposes.

Second, we must dedicate ourselves to delighting in God and seeing our worship of Him as an end in itself. Another way a husband grows in his love for his wife by delighting in her. As John Piper illustrated in several of this weeks sessions, a husband does not delight in his wife by bringing her flowers and responding to her “thanks” by saying “it was my duty.” Nor does he honor her by by saying “your welcome”, all the while hoping his generosity will result in a good supper. Our affection and love for Christ must be an end in itself. It’s not Jesus and something else (i.e. if you love Jesus, he will give you a nice car or provide you with health). The greatest way we can delight in God is by finding our satisfaction in Him and Him alone (versus finding our satisfaction in other things like new electronics, sex, money, or fame).

To clarify, growing in our knowledge of God and finding Him as our source of delight is not our way of manipulating God, it is His means for graciously bearing fruit within our lives.

One of my favorite practical examples of this came in the session where C.J. Mehaney and Bob Kauflin were interviewed about the dynamic between a pastor and worship leader. When C.J. was the Senior Pastor working with Bob, he would communicate critical feedback by pulling Bob aside and saying something like, “First, you did an excellent job with...... and second, I have a few minor things to share with you. To be clear, these things didn’t hinder the worship of God and His purposes for us, but they are points that will help you grow effectiveness for the next time you lead.” Did you catch that? He said, “These things didn’t hinder the worship of God and His purposes for us.” What C.J. was doing was not putting the burden of God’s work on Bob’s shoulders (i.e. if only you’d have performed better, God could have worked). The fruit of the service in the stirring of the hearts was ultimately God’s responsibility.

Do you get what I am writing here? By loving and abiding in Christ, and helping others to do the same through community worship, we are taken off the hook. The calling of people to faith and trust in Jesus is then in the hands of God and not ultimately contingent upon our ability to live up to the cultures standards of relevance or excellence. In our life this doesn’t mean we don’t work hard and live obediently, but it means we don’t put the cart before the horse. Obedience IS the fruit of a life that is abiding in Christ. Abiding in Christ IS NOT the fruit of obedience.

I pray this is can be an encouragement to those who labor in ministry. Ministry of any calling can be very difficult and even painful at times. Sometimes it is the calling alone that sustains us. For us to add to this by taking on the responsibility for “saving the world” is to take on a burden too great. A burden that must be left to God alone. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery!” Galatians 5:1

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

I Am Guest Blogging

This week I am a guest blogger on Zach Nielsen's blog, Vitamin Z. This is somewhat humorous since I am not exactly what you'd call a frequent blogger. Non-the-less, you can check out my posts there and should be seeing a little more activity here following the weekend.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Widmer Testimony

Yes, I am still alive, just on a bit of a blogging hiatus. Life is very crazy right now with trips, work projects, and this new 4 week series from Galatians that I'll be teaching the opening message for this weekend. Last Sunday we closed out a series on stress with a message on, "Rejoicing in Times of Stress". The following is one of the testimonies we featured on the Widmer family in our church. It was a moving story and a wonderful illustration of how to rejoice in times of difficulty. Watch and be blessed!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Back On the Job

After a week at seminary and week on vacation, I am now back and in the office. Please be patient as I take the week to catch up on email and my other regular duties at the church. I am looking forward to a busy summer as we program for the Fall, reorganize the vocal ministry (thanks to a vocal reorg team), develop a job description for a Pastor of Worship and Music (search starting soon), recruit architects, develop a master plan for a new church facility, and...... (the list goes on and on).... busy summer to say the least. I now leave you with a few of the fun pictures from our vacation. For those Parkies out there, see you Sunday if not sooner!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Cost of Adultery

A year doesn’t seem to go by without someone in ministry or the church confessing or being caught in the sin of adultery. It is a serious problem with serious consequences. So often people get to this point slowly, compromise by compromise. Often, by the time one gets there, they are consumed by their emotions and unable or unwilling to contemplate the destructive consequences of their actions. Surely there is hope for forgiveness and recovery, but more often then not the costs are great and lasting. Years ago Randy Alcorn assembled the following list as a reminder of the consequences he would face as a Pastor if he chose the path of adultery. It is a good and sobering reminder that there is a cost for every action. Lord helps us all to stay faithful!

Personalized List of Anticipated Consequences of Immorality

  • Grieving my Lord; displeasing the One whose opinion most matters.
  • Dragging into the mud Christ's sacred reputation.
  • Loss of reward and commendation from God.
  • Having to one day look Jesus in the face at the judgment seat and give an account of why I did it. Forcing God to discipline me in various ways.
  • Following in the footsteps of men I know of whose immorality forfeited their ministry and caused me to shudder. List of these names:
  • Suffering of innocent people around me who would get hit by my shrapnel (a la Achan).
  • Untold hurt to Nanci, my best friend and loyal wife.
  • Loss of Nanci's respect and trust.
  • Hurt to and loss of credibility with my beloved daughters, Karina and Angela. ("Why listen to a man who betrayed Mom and us?")
  • If my blindness should continue or my family be unable to forgive, I could lose my wife and my children forever.
  • Shame to my family. (The cruel comments of others who would invariably find out.)
  • Shame to my church family.
  • Shame and hurt to my fellow pastors and elders. List of names:
  • Shame and hurt to my friends, and especially those I've led to Christ and discipled. List of names:
  • Guilt awfully hard to shake—even though God would forgive me, would I forgive myself?
  • Plaguing memories and flashbacks that could taint future intimacy with my wife.
  • Disqualifying myself after having preached to others.
  • Surrender of the things I am called to and love to do—teach and preach and write and minister to others. Forfeiting forever certain opportunities to serve God. Years of training and experience in ministry wasted for a long period of time, maybe permanently.
  • Being haunted by my sin as I look in the eyes of others, and having it all dredged up again wherever I go and whatever I do.
  • Undermining the hard work and prayers of others by saying to our community "this is a hypocrite—who can take seriously anything he and his church have said and done?"
  • Laughter, rejoicing and blasphemous smugness by those who disrespect God and the church (2 Samuel 12:14).
  • Bringing great pleasure to Satan, the Enemy of God.
  • Heaping judgment and endless problems on the person I would have committed Possible diseases (pain, constant reminder to me and my wife, possible infection of Nanci, or in the case of AIDS, even causing her death, as well as mine.)
  • Possible pregnancy, with its personal and financial implications.
  • Loss of self-respect, discrediting my own name, and invoking shame and lifelong embarrassment upon myself.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Is It OK to Cast Lots?

I am presently wrapping up a residency week of studying the Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary. I’ve got to admit that the class is messing with a lot of my theological categories. We just finished having a discussion on the casting of lots that is a very prominent method used throughout the Old Testament and was even used for the selection of an apostle in the days of the early church (Acts 1:26). My conclusion is that, as long as it is used with caution, there may be circumstances in which is it appropriate to cast lots for making a decision.

Below is a video of John Piper discussing the issue of casting lots. Appropriately, he emphasizes the need for using caution.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Attention All Guitar Players

Last weekend I had my first opportunity to use Korg’s Pandora Toneworks processor in preparation for playing my Telecaster electric guitar in weekend church services. I’ve got to say, it was the coolest thing ever. Not only does it allow you to practice through headphones with eleven different guitar effects, but it also allows you to run an eighth inch stereo input from an ipod or CD player that can be instantly transposed into another key. In church, where charts are often lowered from the key of the original recording this is a gold mine feature. Though I haven’t used the feature, you can also record a 30 second segment (say for a guitar solo) and, without changing the pitch, slow down the tempo in order to practice at a more accessible speed. Practicing guitar will never be the same! BTW: This also works for bass guitar and can be found here for around $150.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Why People Become De-Churched

I just finished reading the book of Job this morning and was reminded how inappropriate it is, like Job's friends, to live our lives with the mindset that suffering is always a direct result of wickedness. The idea being, if you are struggling with cancer or facing bankruptcy, there must have been something you did to cause it. Certainly there are consequences for our poor actions, but when you understand the gospel you see that even our most obeident actions are incapable of reversing the judgment we deserve because of sin. The point being that God's graciousness produces everything and anything in our life that is good, it is not a result of our righteousness, or in the case of suffering, our wickedness.

This also applies to the belief that if we are good, we will be rewarded with blessings from the Lord. One need to only view a few minutes of Christian television to see this theology preached in extreme measure. To think this way is to strip the gospel of it's beauty and power. God's gift of life is His benevolent action extended to us in spite of our sin. This grace frees us from the guilt and condemnation that comes with us always trying to "measure up" to a standard we're incapable of reaching.

In this video Matt Chandler illustrates how moralism is the very reason many churched people become de-churched. Those raised in moralism either become moralists themselves or see moralism for what it is and run as far as they can from the church. Moralism is one of the greatest dangers in the church and something that must be opposed.

(HT: Desiring God)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Arts Ministry BBQ 2009

Thanks to all of you who were able to make this years Arts Ministry BBQ out at the Boatman's. The Lord was very gracious to give us a dry cool evening when, just the day before, it appeared rain was imminent. I am so thankful for the wonderful people I have the privilege to work with day in and day out at Parkview. What a great group of people who love the Lord and love doing life and ministry together! Thanks for hosting us Doug and Jean! The following are some pics of our time together.

Insanity or Creativity?

Thanks to Ryan Lamb in San Fransico for the pic!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Anniversary of the Flood

A year ago this week, Parkview was under 4 feet of flood water from the Iowa River. It's hard to believe all this church and community went through over the last year. Recently I went through all the photos and was surprised how much it moved me. The feelings were not of regret or frustration, but of fondness. Fondness rooted in the memory of working side by side with such wonderful people. Though some might think the flood got the best of us when it filled our facility with over four feet of muddy river water but, in my view, the Lord used the flood to cement our trust in Him and to fordge deep and meaningful friendships. For this I am grateful.

Here is a recent article in the Press Citizen regarding our return and below are a few pics and descriptions recounting some of the events that surrounded the flood. To see a complete review of the flood, you can visit my June blog archive for more pictures and written detail.

On Sunday, June 8th we began building a sandbag wall around the church. At the time we only expected to build the wall a few feet high.

Each day the flood projections required us to increase the height of the wall, leaving it at about 4 feet tall all the way around the building. Rain gutters were re-built in order to send roof water outside the flood wall.

Walls were fortified and sump pumps were installed all along the wall in order to maintain the integrity of the flood barrier.

Eventually trucks and tractors were unable to transport sandbags due to the eroding driving path. From that point forward long lines were made to pass sandbags where ever they were needed.

Here's our access to the main entrance of the church facility.

A boat with diesel fuel was ready to keep our generators fueled that were to power the sumps once land access was no longer available.

Sand bagging operations continued in our upper parking lot for both the church and area neighborhoods.

The water kept rising.

The wall on the southeast corner of the facility was holding back water by Wednesday, June 11th.

Sandbagging operations kept shifting further north as the waters rose.

On Thursday the 12th, we were ordered by the city to evacuate. At the time we were told flood waters were now projected to reach to the eaves of the building.

Most of the facility was evacuated in these crates that were hauled by lifts across the floodwaters into numerous semi trailers.

Services were relocated to West High.

Within a day the entire facility was flooded.

A few of us were joined by CNN (the guy with the camera) as we toured the flooded facility.

Here's the window in the main office.

On Sunday, June 22 the waters fully receded and we were given access to the facility to begin the process of clean-out.

On December 14th, we had our first services back at Parkview after almost 6 months of facility renovation.