So Courtney and I jumped into this church planting thing last year very hopeful, but with no real idea of what would happen. We’ve known for sometime that Charlotte is the city God is calling us to, but who would be the people God would send with us to plant this church? Thus began our recruiting phase. We had vision nights that went way better than we could have imagined, and interest in joining the team started strong. But still, its a long journey from “hey that sounds interesting” to “hey man I want to pick up my life and help start a new church.”
The highs and lows of team building and fund-raising and strategy development over these past few months have put me in a deeper reliance on the grace of God than I’ve been in a long time. In fact just last week I had a really despairing couple of days as four different “bad news” events happened to our efforts. None of them devastating but all together took a toll on me. I told a good friend “Man, I’m an idiot. How did they ever agree to let me plant a church?” To which he replied “you are an idiot. and you need to embrace that cause that’s who God uses to build his church.” Fellow idiots, be encouraged!
But I digress. The moment we’ve been excited to get to is our first launch team meeting. With these awesome people I’ve been bragging on everywhere I go. For our rdu based team members, I can’t tell you how much fun it is to see people’s faces when they finally understand what I’m talking about when I say we are bringing “a team.” Their confused look is accompanied with some version of “wait, you are telling me 30+ people are quitting their jobs, uprooting their lives, and moving with you…for a church?” I love the Mercy Church will be characterized by such faith that surprises even christians. Then there are our Charlotte team members who are already building our reputation as a new church in Charlotte. These people are all over it. In many ways I wish we could move next week to get down there and join the work God is already doing through them.
So that’s our team. A growing group of people moving from strangers to family over this spring. We are in two cities right now, looking forward to the summer when we finally are all in one place. Pray for Mercy Church. We believe God is just getting started!
Ok so I went a little back in time for this week’s book review. Over the past few years my friend and lead pastor J.D. Greear has referred to many resources that have helped him become the leader he is today. One of those is a tiny book written around 400 B.C. (best estimate) called The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Sun Tzu was the heir of a clan with generations of skill in fighting, and winning, many battles. I finally found the space to read it myself and I really enjoyed it. This is one of those practical manuscripts that is definitely designed to be read and followed by those leading others into battle. The entire work is only 61 pages and is rich with tactics and principles for success on the battlefield that most certainly translate into many other realms of leadership. Here are a few of those that stood out to me:
- “There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.”
- “Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemies resistance without fighting.”
- There are 5 essentials for victory:
- He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight
- He will win who knows how to handle superior and inferior forces
- He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks
- He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared
- He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign (or king).
- Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.
There is plenty more in this short book that gives such great insight to leading people through conflict with wisdom. As one who has much to learn in leadership I will be leaning on some of the principles in tried and true work frequently.
One of the most important aspects of leadership is decision making. In fact, you could argue the single most important factor in the success or failure of any organization, group, or business hinges on the decisions made by its leaders. In fact that is exactly what Dennis Bakke presupposes in his leadership fable called The Decision Maker. We read this book this month as a leadership team at The Summit Church. In his introduction Bakke posits that this key to success is often woefully mismanaged in most organizations. He consults with many organizations who are used to having “management” and the rest of the people in the org chart simply follow procedure. As a result, the organization misses out on the ingenuity of most of its workforce, gets less efficiency from its employees, and creates an “average-at-best” work environment.
Bakke’s response to the typical org chart is to drive decision making power and responsibility down into every member of the organization. The line he threads throughout the book is that people are smart, creative, and are the experts at the job they are doing. Given the power and responsibility, they can make good decisions that will improve the productivity of the organization and dramatically change their work environment for the better.
I think this is a helpful read for those in leadership because it reminds them to think well about the people in their care. His idea that leadership should treat people like adults, not children, is one of those that I agree to, but perhaps need to be more careful to live by in how I lead. So, if you are leading people, this is a helpful short read. Nothing ground breaking, but an entertaining story that may shift the way you look at the people you lead. Which may end up being more ground breaking than you thought it could be. For us as a church leadership team, valuing and empowering people is at the core of what we are doing. So I know this one simple principle can have significant impact for the way we expand the ownership of the Summit Church vision and mission beyond where it is now!
One of the most trying times spiritually for me was my freshman year at UNC-Chapel Hill. I loved college and wanted to embrace every opportunity the social scene afforded. But I also had become a Christian as a 12 year old and had learned certain dos and donts that Christians are to abide by. This ethical code came under direct attack that first year as ‘freedom’ seemed to now be a temptress when she was supposed to be my ally in Christ. Why had she switched teams?
The reality is I came to college largely unprepared to THINK from a Christian perspective. I knew right from wrong, but I didn’t know why something was right or wrong. I couldn’t tie my ethics to anything other than ‘the bible says so.’ So when someone said ‘That bible isn’t even the same one from when it was originally written. It’s changed entirely over time and through translation errors,” doubt struck deep. I had nothing. “How can there be absolute truth?” “Ummm…” I wasn’t ready. I had the ethics, but I needed the worldview behind the ethics. If only someone who knew the college scene had prepared me for it. Maybe I could have gone in a missionary instead of as fresh meat.
My story is why I picked up J. Budziszewski’s book How to Stay Christian in College. This is a small, short book that has sold over 300k copies. J-Bud (cause i can’t keep writing his name) is a tenured professor in government and philosophy at the University of Texas and appears to be an evangelical Christian. He does an strong job writing on the level of his target audience: High school seniors, college students, and their parents. And he has a lifetime of experience in exactly this topic.
Strong Points: Easy, quick read you can skim. It is also structured well so you can pull it off your shelf as a resource when you encounter the challenges he talks about. He uses direct language and everyday illustrations so that you can not only understand what you read, but can feel confident wielding the ideas as weapons when you are in these worldview battles on campus. Lastly, he’s a
Weak Points: It brings up ALOT of subjects that it can only give introductory treatments of. If you get in anything more than a 5 minute discussion on these topics you are going to need more help. But that’s the point of the work so I don’t fault the author here. He picks one or two fights I would avoid (like R-rated movies) but I don’t disagree with the logic he presents. My only real critique is in his sample conversations he gives. I was real hopeful for these but found them a little too unrealistic at the end of the day.
You might be tempted to give this to a graduating senior going off to college. You’d have the right idea, but I remember getting books like this and Dr. Seuss’ oh the places you’ll go and both ending up in the “thanks for that weird gift I’ll never open” pile. So, IF you give it to them, commit to read it with them or at least send them here or another site so they get an idea of how valuable it could be to them.
Big God | Little Faith
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1.9
We prayed for 50 people in Raleigh-Durham to come hear the vision God was placing on us for planting a church in Charlotte. 100 came. A few people said they couldn’t come because they live in charlotte and it was a work night. So, we decided to do a small meeting for those 10 or so people. And last night in uptown 75 people came. What I love is that regardless of anything else that happens, 175 people in 2 cities drove out to hear about an opportunity to leverage their lives for the mission of God. We are following up with each person to discern whether or not the Charlotte launch team is the spot for them and we know it isn’t for all of them. BUT, we believe God is going to build a core team from that 175 that will believe God for the people of Charlotte. When I said what I said in this video, I believed it. But to see that faith already begin to become sight? A month later?
These next two to three months we get to hear individual stories of what God is doing as he directs people towards our team. And I believe it will be one of the most inspiring seasons of my life. Pray with me that my faith, our team’s faith, will begin to match the greatness of the God we are placing it in!
Hello friends! We had an incredible vision night at the Summit Church for our upcoming church plant in Charlotte, NC this past Monday. Next Thursday night we will be holding a vision night in the great city of Charlotte! If you are in Charlotte and are interested in hearing more about our upcoming church plant, please join us! We will be gathering at the Metrolina Baptist Association Building* in uptown. To plan well for everyone it will help us if you RSVP. Please RSVP as soon as you know if you can make it! Below is the video we showed at The Summit Church about our upcoming plant in Charlotte. We are getting excited!!
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:1-7 ESV)
The other day former governor – turned conservative talk-show host Mike Huckabee said a few words that apparently caught enough viral traction to make it to the daily news podcast I subscribe to (The World & Everything In It…Rocks).
One of the things he said as more of an off-handed comment struck me the most out of everything he had to say. He opened with a statistic: of the 80 million self-identified evangelical Christians only 50% are registered to vote. Of those 40 Million, less than half will vote in any given election.
To be transparent, I searched for a while for some hard research to back that up and while I found many who cite it, I’m still looking for a verified study for it.
Of course, “Christian” is not a political party. In our church alone there are christians that represent all shades of the red and blue spectrums. Yet If these statistics are even close, it is likely we’ve neglected a significant part of who God calls us to be in our day. One of the favorite church fathers for today’s budding theologians to quote is St. Augustine. He wrote a book called The City of God where he talked about the fact that every christian is a Citizen first of the City of God and second the city of man. We often use that to talk about how our first allegiance is to God and his purposes. And this is a good and true idea. BUT what about the other citizenship? As Romans 13 above points us to, a healthy biblical worldview would say that our citizenship in heaven should compel us indeed to be the very best citizens in our respective countries here on earth, submitting ourselves to the governing authorities and investing our lives for the flourishing of the city.
I’ve decided not to drill down too deep into the theology of citizenship in this post, but at bare minimum I think we’d agree Christians should be involved. Christians should vote, not because of their political affiliations but, because their heavenly citizenship compels them to seek the flourishing of their earthly nation. On November 4 our nation will give us the chance to serve it by influencing the election of public servants who will govern us. I urge you to choose to be an informed citizen and vote your conscience.
So look at your calendar NOW. See November 4 there a couple of weeks away? Go ahead and make plans now to go to your local precinct and leverage your citizenship.