Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Madison #1 for Men

The purpose of this blog is not to just post stats on our new home in Madison, but my friend Nile who lives in one of the worst cities for men (Saint Louis) just brought it to my attention that Madison just ranked as the #1 best city for men based on 30 measurable categories by Men's Health Magazine. Not sure I feel like any more of a man living here, but I certainly appreciate Madison as a great place to live and strategic place for a Gospel movement of churches, which of course, is the reason we are here.


1 Madison, Wis.
2 Fargo, N.D.
3 Plano, Texas
4 Burlington, VT
5 San Jose, Calif.
6 Lincoln, Neb.
7 Austin, Texas
8 Aurora, Colo.
9 Virginia Beach, Va.
10 Seattle


91 Toledo, Ohio
92 New Orleans
93 Charleston, WV
94 Baltimore
95 St. Petersburg, Fla.
96 Memphis, Tenn.
97 Detroit
98 Birmingham, Ala.
99 Philadelphia
100 St. Louis

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Madison Ranked #2 at Rock

Madison was recently ranked by Songkick as the #2 place in the nation to see a rock concert. The calculation is based on the number of rock concerts per capita. The only city higher was Austin, which further substantiates claim that Madison is the Austin of the north. So, if you want to rock, come to Madison.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Using the Family Dashboard

On the Resurgence website Dustin Neeley posted the following tool for families. It was written to a group of guys who are Pastors in the A29 movement, but it is a helpful tool for anyone trying to keep family life in check.

Our Family Gauges

1. The speedometer. This is the “pacing” question: are we moving at a healthy pace that we can sustain, or are we running in the red? We can’t just monitor the things from ministry that directly include us, but we must also factor in the other things that make life what it is: soccer, gymnastics, the kids’ school, health, marriage, money, and home repairs. Never make this pace assessment alone. Men are not typically emotionally intuitive and can be blind to the relational redlining occurring. If you don’t believe me, just ask your wife. She will tell you the real truth.

2. The RPMs. This is the stress question. How hard are we pushing to make this thing go? Are we shifting gears smoothly in our relationships or are we “grinding the gears” like a 16-year-old driving a stick shift for the first time with a critical Dad in the passenger seat? Do Mom and Dad need more time together—alone? Is more time or energy needed with a particular child? You can usually “listen to the engine” through the tone of the conversations taking place at home to monitor the stress level.

3. The gas gauge. This is the margin question. Every ministry family I know is strapped for time and often other resources. The families that go the distance are the ones that have enough gas in their tank for the long haul. They are consciously and consistently refueling through weekly days off: “Date Nights,” “Daddy Dates,” vacations, and daily spiritual tune-ups to keep the engine running more efficiently. Again, if you want to know exactly how much gas is really in the family or marriage tank, ask your wife. She knows.

Monday, August 30, 2010

New Nielsen Jazz Release

Zach Nielsen, one of the guys on the team I am planting The Vine Church with, recently released the jazz trio CD, "Songs in a Minor Key". It is a fantastic recording of both jazz standards as well as several original tunes. Zach is already making a splash in the music community here in Madison and will undoubtedly grow in his popularity within the Madison jazz scene. Below is some background by Zach on this new project. Be sure to click the iTunes and Amazon link to hear samples of all his songs.

I am pleased to announce my first official jazz release. It's a five song EP called “Songs in a Minor Key”. This recording took place this past spring in Albuquerque, NM with some of the best musicians the city has to offer. It is far from perfect (what jazz recording is?) but I think you’ll find some rich moments throughout that will peek your interest and engage your ear.

Recording jazz is a very different process than my pop/rock recording experience in the past. In jazz, all the musicians play together and we do a few takes and simply choose the best one of three or fours takes. With a rock recording you usually analyze every square inch of the recording and slave over all the minutiae. Not so with jazz. We attempt to capture a performance that is rich with energy and life but perfection is not the goal. Communication, interaction, and artistic expression are the goals and I think those goals were met in these short recording sessions.

For some, jazz is esoteric and obtuse. To the unacclimated, it can sound like random noise that is challenging to listen to for extended periods of time. For that reason I recorded a couple songs that most people will recognize. The recording kicks off with my arrangement of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” and later on you'll find The Police’s famous hit, “Message In A Bottle”. In my experience, if people hear a simple melody that they recognize it greatly increases their enjoyment and overall listening experience. I hope that is the case for you as you encounter this recording.

The remaining three tracks are jazz standards from many decades ago. First, “Nardis” is a Miles Davis tune made famous by one of my piano heros, Bill Evans. Second, there is a lesser known Wayne Shorter tune that I learned back in college called, “Black Nile” and finally another jazz standard called, “Beautiful Love”.

I am excited to release this recording today and if you would be willing, please pass this info along to anyone you might think would appreciate it.

It can be purchased exclusively on iTunes and AmazonMP3. Take a moment and click over to either site and listen to some clips. If you would be willing, pass the links along via the various mediums of social media (Facebook, Email, Twitter, Blogs, etc). Here are the links you would need to share:



Recording Credits:
Zach Nielsen - Piano
Michael Glynn - Bass
Ian Byrd - Drums on Come As You Are and Message in a Bottle
Arnoldo Acosta - Drums on Black Nile, Nardis, and Beautiful Love
Chris Saiers - Audio Engineer
Mike Mulliniks - Mixing Engineer
Bryan Lopez - Cover Design
Ben Moore - Photography

Thanks to Fernando Ortega for letting me use his piano!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Our First Public Gathering

Today The Vine had its first public gathering as a church. It was a sweet time of fellowship and worship. Below are a few pictures from the service and below that a video of the event. If you're reading this on Facebook, you can watch the video by clicking here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Exciting Day at The Vine

Today at The Vine we had our second and final morning gathering with our core team of four families. This evening we followed with our final social and informational meeting for those interested in joining The Vine. Below are a few pics from both events. Next week we will start gathering together on Sunday mornings (location TBA) and we'll be launching our City Groups in September. Things are rolling forward and we're delighted, by God's grace, to be along for the ride. We appreciate your prayers!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

New Vine Site

We recently launched our new church website for those in the community of Madison desiring to learn more about The Vine Church. Be sure to take a few minutes to check it out. On it we will be regularly posting information regarding upcoming events related to the church. We are deeply indebted to Dan Van Oss for graciously volunteering his time to design this site for us.

Parkview Commissioning

Parkview Church has been an amazing church home for us over the last eleven years. We have learned so much and grown to love the people as our own family. Though we miss Iowa City and Parkview, we appreciate that they are continuing to play a strategic role in our support and encouragement. The following is the video of of our prayer commissioning in the 3rd service on May 30. Needless to say, this was very meaningful to me and Nate as we prepared to plant The Vine Church. If you don’t see the video below, you can view it here.

Why Plant with the EFCA?

Several weeks ago I wrote a blog post on our Vine Church support site regarding why we are excited to have our church plant in Madison associated with the Evangelical Free Church of America. Yesterday that post was republished as the featured story on the Reach National website of the EFCA. You can read the post here.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Jesus, Leadership, Tri-perspectivalism

A lot of guys these days talk about the offices of Christ as seen in the scriptures and how these offices are reflected in the church. These offices of Christ are prophet, priest, and king. The term for this construct that was coined by theologian John Frame is "tri-perspectivalism." 

This tool has been very helpful in understanding the different styles of leadership within the church. One example in our church planting team (The Vine Church in Madison) is that I am predominately King, Zach prophet, and Nate priest. As with any assessment tool, every individual has a mixture of qualities from the numerous categories. Nonetheless, this can be a helpful tool when it comes to understanding our strengths and weaknesses, as well as surrounding us with people who are complimentary in gift and ability. This is one of the reasons the body of Christ requires a diversity of gifts to be healthy and why the church is best lead by a plurality of elders. 

Here's a helpful chart that clarifies tri-perspectivalism in leadership. Here are some resources from Timmy Brister on the topic.

(HT: JTaylor)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Verizon iPhone

Is Verzon getting the iPhone? I've been asking that question for years. When I become a church planter I will be losing access to our Blackberry Enterprise Server meaning I'm either heading to Google's Droid phone or the iPhone. Here's the latest news which originated from the Wall Street Journal. If this is legit, I'm going to be a very happy camper.

If you are reading this on Facebook, you can watch the Fox Business report here.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

10 Things That Drive Me Crazy About Working for a Church

No, this is not my list, but it is Tim Schraeder's list. Tim is a communications guru at Park Church in Chicago. I've worked in churches for a little over 15 years and think he's got some observations worth noting.

Here’s 10 Things That Drive Me Crazy About Working for a Church

1. We are really good at burning people out.

For some reason we feel like working long hours against ridiculous timelines and neglecting our personal lives, health, or families is a good idea… as long as it’s for God.
Not so much.

The average church employee stays at a church for about 2 years before they peace out.

“It doesn’t pay to be a workaholic. Instead of getting more done and being on top of your game, you actually start a chain reaction that results in decreased productivity, poor morale, and lazy decisions." And don’t forget the inevitable crash that’ll hit you soon enough.”

We all need to learn one simple word: NO. Even though something may be for a great cause, it’s not worth losing your soul to make it happen.

2. We focus way too much on what we don’t have.

One of the most common complaints I hear from church staff members has something to do with what they don’t have.

In the Gospel account of the feeding of the 5,000 all they had to start with was 5 loves and 2 fish, but in the end, there was more than enough.

“Constraints are advantages in disguise. Limited resources force you to make do with what you’ve got. There’s no room for waste. And that forces you to be creative.”

Celebrate simplicity. Remember God can take nothing and make it into something.

3. We are afraid of change.

I guarantee we’ve all been a meeting where the phrase, “well we heard people say _____________ about _____________….”

Fill in the blanks… the music was too loud, they didn’t like that message, they don’t like this, they don’t like that…

These conversations usually center on a sensitive topic in the church: change.

And how do we respond? We quickly turn down the volume, change our minds, or reverse a decision.

“Sometimes you need to go ahead with a decision you believe in, even if it’s unpopular… remember negative reactions are almost always louder and more passionate than positive ones… so when people complain… let them know you’re listening. Show them you’re aware of what they’re saying. But explain that you’re going to let it go for awhile and see what happens.”

Give change time and be more concerned with what the voice of God is saying to you and let that influence you more than the voices of other people.

4. We use “let me pray about it” as an excuse to get out of making decisions.

I absolutely believe it’s important to pray about major decisions that impact the life of the Church – we shouldn’t move unless we feel God leading us. But all too often we use the “let me pray about that” card to delay simple decisions.

“Whenever you can, swap “Let’s [pray] about it” for “Let’s decide on it.” Commit to making decisions. You’re as likely to make a great call today as you are tomorrow. Don’t make things worse by overanalyzing and delaying before you even get going.”

Pray about what’s important but don’t sweat the small stuff… just make the call and ask for forgiveness later if need be.

5. We LOVE meetings.

For some reason we love meetings. Planning meetings, prayer meetings, planning meetings for prayer meetings. I feel like we have entirely too many and lose valuable time we could be devoting to things that matter.

“Meetings are toxic. If it only takes seven minutes to meet a meeting’s goal, then that’s all the time you should spend. Don’t stretch seven into thirty. Think about the time you’re actually losing and ask yourself if it’s really worth it."

What’s one meeting you could condense or remove from your schedule? DO IT!

6. We try to do way too much.

Most churches are hyperactive and never sleep. We thrive on activity. The whole “less is more” thing hasn’t sunk in yet.

What if we focused on doing a few things REALLY well l instead of doing a million things half-aced? << that’s my PG version

"Cut your ambition in half. Lots of things get better as they get shorter. Getting to great starts by cutting out stuff that’s merely good.”

What are some good things you’re doing that could be sacrificed for great things that will make a greater impact?

7. We try to be something we’re not.

If I see one more 40somethings pastor dressed in Abercrombie so help me…

Ok, but for real… not just pastors but churches in general tend to have a problem of trying to be something they’re not.

"Don’t be afraid to show your flaws. Imperfections are real and people respond to real. There’s a beauty to imperfection. So talk like you really talk. Reveal things that others are unwilling to discuss. Be upfront about your shortcomings. It’s OK if it’s not perfect. You might not seem professional, but you will seem a lot more genuine.”


8. We spend too much time looking at other churches.

We spend way too much time looking at what other churches are doing, be it a church across the country or the church across town. It’s great to watch and learn from others’ successes, but if you look at other churches as you competition your focus is waaaay off.

“Focus on competitors too much and you will wind up diluting your own vision. Your chances of coming up with something fresh go way down when you keep feeding your brain other people’s ideas. You become reactionary instead of visionary.”

Your church has a unique and specific role it’s meant to play in the life of your community. If your church ceased to exist, what would people miss? Whatever that is should be where you focus your time and energy.

9. We worry about people leaving.

We’re quick to cater to the needs [or demands] of people who have been around for a while instead of focusing the needs of people who are new.

We should spend more time figuring out how to create a wider front door instead of focusing on how
we can “close the back door”… even if that means losing people who give us a lot of money [there, I said it].

“Scaring away new [people] is worse than losing old [ones]. Make sure you make it easy for [new] people to get on board. That’s where your continued growth potential lies. People and situations change. You can’t be everything to everyone. [Churches] need to be true to a type of [person] than a specific [person] with changing needs.”

10. We don’t feel trusted.

For whatever reason churches tend thrive in a weird culture of mistrust. It’s not or conducive to a positive working environment. Some churches have crazy rules, policies and procedures that create layers of red tape that, while probably well-intentioned, communicate a lack of trust.

“When you treat people like children, you get children’s work. Yet that’s exactly how a lot of companies treat their employees. When everything constantly needs approval, you create a culture of nonthinkers. You create a boss-versus-worker relationship that screams, ‘I don’t trust you.’”

This is one I don’t have a quick answer to but know it’s something I’ve experienced and something I hear about consistently from others who are in the trenches. BUT, I will say working in a church that has a trusting environment, I’ve never felt so empowered to do my job and that has fueled my productivity exponentially.

Monday, March 01, 2010

L.A. Collaboration

Thanks to Kent Keating and Kristen Kufeldt for organizing the L.A. Collaboration concert with Parkview's choir and orchestra. Here's a pic from the event:

For more information on the L.A. Collaboration, check out there website here. Thanks also goes to Duane and Alex. They are talented artists with a great heart to bring quality music to the church.

The Best is Yet to Come

All I can say is my wife REALLY want's an iPad. Not sure what she'll think of the iBoard or iMat.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How Pornography Effects the Brain

I just read this review by Tim Challies on a new book that deals with how pornography effects the brain. It is both terrifying and fascinating. Sexual addiction is epidemic in our culture. We need a wake-up call and this book may help in that endeavor. For the full review go here. Below is a clip:

I read recently of a researcher who wanted to study the effects of pornography on young adult males. He carefully built the structure for the study, determining how he would compare young men who had experienced pornography with a control group comprised of those who had never come into contact it. Tragically this researcher had to cancel his study. He found that he was unable to put together a control group; he could not find young men who had not discovered pornography. The experiment was impossible to conduct.

That is the kind of society we live in today, a society that is absolutely overwhelmed with pornography. The lure of porn is almost irresistible, particularly to young men. If the devil wanted to find a way of destroying young men, of impacting the ability for men to relate properly to women, of disrupting families and hardening hearts, he could hardly do better than this.

Much has been written in recent years about pornography. But new to store shelves is a book that is different from all the others, at least all of the other books targeted at a Christian audience. William Struthers’ Wired for Intimacy looks not primarily to the heart but to the brain. He shows how the male brain is hard-wired for intimacy and relationships and how pornography affects the male brain. He says “Men seem to be wired in such a way that pornography hijacks the proper functioning of their brains and has a long-lasting effect on their thoughts and lives. … When we better understand the devastating spiritual, psychological, social and biological reality of how pornography violates our unique position in God’s creation, we will be better able to minister to hose who have been wounded by it.”

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hip Hop Meets Parkview Church

This last Sunday Parkview's choir and band had the privilege of performing with the Christian Hip Hop artist JSon. This is the second time JSon has been at Parkview in the last few months and I've got to say that this predominately "non-hip" church has been so blessed by his ministry. JSon, and many others in his circle have done such an amazing job at using their cultural expression of art to express Christ centered praise to God with a depth of passion and theological precision that is truly amazing. If you are seeing this on Facebook you can click here to watch the video of his performance.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Open House

We'll be having an open house this Saturday from 1-4 pm. For those of you in the Iowa City area, please be sure to pass this on to anyone you think might be interested in a 5 bedroom ranch in Tiffin. It's been a great place to live and will be a real blessing to whoever buys it. For more information including a video walk-through go here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Haiti Prayer Guide for Kids and Adults

Follow this link for a prayer guide that guides children and adults in how to pray for those in Haiti. We did the first prayer time from Psalm 123 with the kids. It was a great source of discussion and prayer. Thanks to Christ the King Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, North Carolina for making this resource available.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Planting and The Vine

There isn't a lot of time for blogging these days, but I am going to try to continue putting up occasional posts. Posts related specifically to our new church plant in Madison will go on our church planting blog. Today I shared a quote on that blog from a new book I am reading called The Trellis and the Vine. Go here to read how I feel living a radical life is related to church planting.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Successful Organizations Are Made of Ordinary People

One of the books I am reading as an Acts 29 candidate is called The E Myth by Michael E. Gerber. More than a million copies of this book have been sold to people desiring to learn how to operate and grow a successful business. The book has some good transferable concepts for church leadership. Today the following quote struck me...
The typical owner of a small business prefers highly skilled people because he believes they make his job easier- he can simply leave the work to them. That is, the typical small business owner prefers Management by Abdication to Management by Delegation. Unfortunately the inevitable result of this kind of thinking is that the business also grows to depend on the whims and moods of its people.

If they’re in the mood the job gets done.
If they aren’t, it doesn’t.

In this kind of business, a business that relies on discretion, “How do I motivate people?” becomes the constant question. “How do I keep them in the mood?”

It is literally impossible to produce a consistent result in a business that depends on extraordinary people. No business can do it for long. And no extraordinary business tries to! (Page 101-102)
I think one of Gerber’s points is that we have gone wrong thinking that the way to build a successful organization is with successful people. More than successful people, organizations and businesses need successful systems that can accommodate and empower people with many diverse gifts and many abilities. If the organization is dependent on successful people the success of that organization will lack in consistency because its effectiveness will always fluctuate based upon who is on the team.

The transferable concept for churches is to reconsider how we view leadership and staffing. The temptation of church leaders is to say, all we need is highly talented people and we’ll succeed. I believe Gerber would argue that a room full of highly talented people, with their own dreams and passions, is far less effective than a room full of ordinary people with one shared dream and passion. Is it possible to have a room full of highly talented people who also share one dream and passion? It may be possible, but I think it is extremely rare and difficult to maintain.

Unfortunately we live in a society that gravitates to celebrities. Can you think of any large church that isn’t built off of a personality? John Piper, Tim Keller, Andrew Stanley, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, and Mark Driscoll are a few of the examples. What happens to most of those churches when the celebrity dies or grows irrelevant? Under those circumstances most of these churches will die or suffer because the celebrity is no longer able to motivate the people and guide the vision.

Would it be possible to build a church whose only celebrity is Jesus? A church whose mission and systems are effective and reproducible on a grand scale? This is certainly a question I long to answer with a “yes”. I think the scriptures have given us this model but our cultural methods and environment often get in the way of this type of church becoming a reality.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Adopted by God

For those unable to attend services last weekend, here is my message from Sunday at Parkview Church entitled, "Adopted by God". It is a teaching based on Ephesians 1:3-14.

Adopted by God from The Vine Church on Vimeo.