The Best Self-Inflicted Pain I Subject Myself to Every Monday

Every Monday at 10 am, the pain comes. As crazy as it sounds, it’s good pain. It’s the pain I asked for. It’s time for the weekly worship service evaluation. Each week Mt Vernon’s creative leadership team sits down and rips apart the previous Sunday’s worship services. We nitpick stuff that most people don’t even notice: Was the service intentional? Were the transitions smooth? Did we achieve excellence? Was hope made tangible? 8.26.14

The first part is easy: we talk about the music. Song selection, notes missed, transitions. What did we get right? What could we have done better? It’s easy for me to pick apart someone else’s job performance. It’s all done in an effort to get better at what we do. The music’s the easy part. Then they get to the sermon. I’ll be honest: it hurts. I work hard each week to craft a sermon that engages and effectively communicates truth from God’s word. I labor over illustrations, applications, and an occasional one-liner just to keep things interesting. I always get the expected “amens” and “well done preacher’s” from the crowd on the way out. So why do I subject myself to the service review? Because I want to get better. As tempting as it is to hide behind the cloak of spirituality and assume that since I’m preaching for God every sermon is going to be a home run, I know better. I went too long in one area, I failed to adequately explain the main point I was trying to get across. Laying my work bare before others is never enjoyable, but I do it because I want to get better. I walked away from yesterday’s meeting with my sermon relatively intact, but more importantly, with an incredible piece of advice that will help me get better. Even if no one notices the results, I’m glad I subject myself to this every Monday.

Five for Friday (6.6.14)

five red buttonThe secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda.” John C. Maxwell

Take some time out today to continue learning and growing. Here are five articles to stimulate your thinking. Enjoy!

1. 10 Characteristics Shared By Great Leaders – great insight into some of the great leaders of today.

2. On Parenting Teens – Jen Hatmaker shares another incredible blog post.

3. Pornography, Cerebral Plasticity, and Transformation – insightful article about the neurological effects of pornography on the brain, and why it’s so addicting to men.

4. Five Reasons Why Most Southern Baptist Churches Baptize Almost No Millenials – Would love your thoughts on this. Definitely worthy of a blog at some point.

5. Stripper Ministry is Answer to Woman’s Prayers – Inspiring article from USA Today. If only there were more Christians and churches like this!

Five for Friday (5.30.14)

five red buttonThe world is a university and everyone in it is a teacher. Make sure when you wake up in the morning you go to school.” Bishop T.D. Jakes

Here are five links to help you keep learning today!

Leadership and the San Antonio Spurs – great leadership lessons for the sports fans out there

How to Engage the Demonic – insightful follow up if you’ve been keeping up with our War of the Worlds sermon series

The Irony of the New Tolerance: It Doesn’t Tolerate Christians – beautifully written

The VA’s Socialist Paradise – great opinion piece about the ongoing scandal about the VA.

How to Speak Your Spouse’s Love Language (And What to Avoid) – must read for all married couples!

 

Five for Friday (5.9.14)

five red buttonEnjoy your Friday!

Sex, Millenials, and the Church: Five Implications – Good insight into the next generation by Thom Rainer.

Leadership Lessons from Marvel – For all the comic book fans out there.

8 Things Healthy Couples Don’t Do – Must read for every married couple!

The Subversion of the Southern Church in the Civil Rights Era – Painfully accurate assessment.

Sunday is War! – Great perspective for those of us who show up to church each week.

 

10 Things You Learn After 50 Years of Ministry

chuckRecently I was watching an old Catalyst talk where Chuck Swindoll shared ten things he’s learned in over fifty years of ministry. Those thoughts are so great I thought I’d share them with you:

1. It’s lonely to lead. The more decisions you make, the more you lead, the lonelier you become. Leadership can be lonely.

2. It’s dangerous to succeed. Many of us have a plan for failure, but most of us don’t have a plan for success. Too much success too early can ruin any person.

3. It is hardest at home. Leading on Sundays is easy. Leading your family is something else entirely. It’s truly hardest at home.

4. It is essential to be real. You’ll never be like the famous preacher you try and emulate. Be real. Be yourself.

5. It’s painful to obey. Look in Scripture. Any time God called someone to obey him, it was a step of faith. It was painful.

6. Brokenness and failure are necessary. This is absolutely true. Until we’re broken of our own pride and self-reliance, we’ll never be vessels usable by God.

7. My attitude is more important than my actions. Some of us as ministers can be hard to be around. It’s not just our actions, but our attitudes that are important.

8. Integrity eclipses image. Ministry invites fakeness as ministers try to exhibit the aura they feel others expect from them. Image will always be eclipsed by integrity.

9. God’s way is always better than my way. You can learn this one the easy way or the hard way, but sooner or later you’ll realize that God’s way is always best. Always.

10. Christ-likeness begins and ends with humility. To truly be like Christ means to humble yourself and serve others. There is no other way.

36 Things I’ve Learned in 36 Years of Life

josh1A few days ago I turned 36. While 36 isn’t in itself a magic number, it’s an opportunity to pass on 36 things I’ve learned over the years. These aren’t the only things or most important things, just the first 36 things that came to mind. Enjoy!

1. There are no short cuts.

2. God really is faithful.

3. Even with the explosion of technology, success still comes down to how well you interact with people.

4. Be faithful with the small things. Earn your stripes.

5. Money fights account for 85% of arguments in a marriage.

6. After moving around all over, every place starts to look the same. It all comes down to the people you’re with.

7. If you work hard, you’ll be ahead of 90% of others in your field.

8. Entitlement will get you nowhere.

9. Life gets real messy when you move outside the four walls of the church.

10. Learn names. Learn names. Learn names.

11. A successful pastor is part politician.

12. Church doesn’t have to be boring. It can be fun and truthful at the same time.

13. Want to get over yourself? Have a kid. Better yet? Have four.

14. Marriage is the hardest and absolute best covenant you’ll enter into.

15. The church can be your family.

16. There’s so much more in life to live for than just money.

17. Everyone wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

18. People are desperately searching for hope.

19. You can loved an adopted child just as much as your own.

20. Every tragedy is an opportunity for God to do the miraculous.

21. Your kids grow up too fast.

22. Life is sweetest when done in community.

23. People want to be inspired and led to pursue a greater vision.

24. The local church is the hope of the world.

25. The problem with the church is that we’ve made church for church people.

26. There is value in an education, not just for the knowledge gained but for the discipline applied in completing a difficult task.

27. I started my doctorate wanting to be considered by a bigger church. I finished my doctorate never wanting to work at a church where I was considered only because of my degree.

28. I’ve learned more through personal reading and attending conferences than I ever have in seminary.

29. The growing leader can never stop learning. Never.

30. Holiness and excellence lead to success in the church. It’s not an either-or.

31. Money can’t buy happiness. It really can’t.

32. If you act like you know what you’re doing, most of the time people will believe you (that may or may not be a good thing)

33. A sermon is worthless unless it has application along with the truth.

34. Want people to remember something you say? Tell them a story.

35. Like the apostle Paul, I’ve learned the secret of being content in each and every circumstance, whether well fed or hungry, living in plenty or in want.

36. I never could have predicted the course my life would take, but I thank God everyday for it.

QUESTION: What’s something you’ve learned along the way in life?

David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell

10.25.13David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants is another triumph from acclaimed author Malcolm Gladwell. (I’ve reviewed his other book Tipping Point here). Starting perhaps with the iconic underdog story of our generation: David vs. Goliath, Gladwell begins to challenge our assumptions and force us to look at challenging situations from a different perspective.

For instance, in the classical biblical story, David is the outright underdog when he faces the giant Goliath, a mighty warrior over nine feet tall. Through the miraculous help of God, David emerges victorious. The danger in oversimplifying the story is that we build David’s feat up to mythic proportions, a level that none of us could dare to achieve. Yet, according to Gladwell, Goliath was in fact the underdog. He makes a convincing case from history:

  1. Goliath was heavy infantry, slow and cumbersome, ready to duel hand-to-hand with another heavy infantry warrior. David was artillery, a slinger. Historically, slingers were known to decimate the ranks of infantry in battles. David’s slingshot was not just a backyard toy. According to modern ballistics experts, a well trained slinger could hurl a rock with the explosiveness and impact of a fair-size modern handgun.
  2. Many believe that Goliath might have suffered from acromegaly — a disease caused by a benign tumor on the pituitary gland. It causes abnormal growth for those who suffer from it, but another dangerous side effect is that it impairs eyesight. Notice in Scripture how someone had to lead Goliath onto the battlefield, how slowly he moved, how late he saw David charging, and how he saw two sticks come at him when David was only carrying one shepherd’s staff. Not only was Goliath cumbersome and slow, he couldn’t see well.

When David charged Goliath, he trusted in his God, but it wasn’t a blind trust. David wasn’t suicidal; he knew what he was doing. Goliath was the true underdog.

This role reversal drives the crux of this book, as Gladwell looks at conceptions we have about life and turns them on their head. He explains how a newcomer to basketball took his underachieving girls team all the way to the state finals, all by looking at the game from a different perspective. He challenges the assumption that smaller class sizes in education is always a good thing.

A fascinating topic for me was his discussion of higher education. For so long, we’ve held to the belief that the better the college, the greater our chance at success. If we had the opportunity to attend an Ivy League university or a state college, for instance, we should always choose the Ivy League school. Gladwell begs to differ. He notes that the average ACT scores of Ivy League attendees are always higher than those attending state colleges, yet the dropout rate is the exact same. The lowest tier of test scores at an Ivy League school are higher than the highest scores at a mid-level college, yet the dropout rate is the exact same. The answer? Sometimes it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond. Your sense of achievement is determined not by your actual success, but by how successful you are in comparison with those around you. Although the bottom tier of students at Ivy League schools would have been the star students in a mid-level college, they viewed their success as compared to their immediate environment, and saw only failure. Thus, they dropped their chosen major. Sometimes, bigger isn’t always better.

Gladwell tackles this issue from two sides: sometimes things we think are advantages are actually disadvantages. For instance, he spends a chapter showing how kids raised in homes that are too affluent tend to struggle more in life than those that aren’t. But the opposite is actually true as well. Sometimes things we think are disadvantages can actually become advantages. He looks at the disproportional amount of business leaders, CEOs and iconic figures that are dyslexic, something we would all think is a disadvantage. What he discovered is that in the process of overcoming a difficulty, these figures developed a deeper strength that propelled them to untold heights. He also looked at the fact that a large majority of recent British Prime Ministers lost a parent growing up, something we would all hold to be a disadvantage.

All in all, I would highly recommend this book, if for no other reason than to challenge your view of the status quo.

LESSONS LEARNED

1. I am a huge Malcom Gladwell fan. I’ve read several of his books now, and one of the things that separates him from the millions of pages of copy out there is his ability to challenge our assumptions and shed light on what seem to be unexplainable mysteries to many. Reading his works will keep your mind fresh and sharp.

2. Gladwell punched through the myth of David and Goliath without questioning its veracity. I’m thankful for that. After reading Gladwell’s explanation of David and Goliath, David looks much less like a myth and much more like a man. I think that’s needed. The heroes of Scripture can too easily become larger than life, leaving us to feel like we could never accomplish what they did. Although Gladwell’s theories about Goliath are just that, theories, they make sense to me.

3. I was challenged to try and see my disadvantages as advantages. An invigorating exercise took place among my staff after reading this book. We took time to list some of the greatest ‘disadvantages’ facing Mt Vernon. Then, in the spirit of Gladwell’s book, we discussed how those disadvantages could turn out to be advantages for us. It was a worthwhile exercise that helped us see some of our biggest challenges from a different perspective.

4. A book doesn’t need to be overtly Christian to be helpful. I read a healthy diet of Christian and non-Christians books. I’m not ashamed to say that I gain just as much benefit from those books written for the secular marketplace. All truth is God’s truth.

Young Patriots: The Remarkable Story of Two Men, Their Impossible Plan, and the Revolution that Created the Constitution, by Charles Cerami

Originally posted August 7, 2012

Young Patriots is a riveting account of the creation of the Constitution. No seriously, I think this stuff is interesting.  The Constitution, which modern Americans take for granted almost as an afterthought, was and continues to be a revolution in the grand scope of human history.

Many modern readers assume that the Constitution was in place immediately after Americans won their independence in 1776. Not so. The Constitution wasn’t written and ratified until 1788, a full twelve years after Americans declared independence from Great Britain. In the few short years after the Americans won their independence from Great Britain and made peace in 1781, the young American nation immediately began to fray at the edges.  Americans, so afraid of centralized federal power (which abuses they lived through under Great Britain), created a weak and lackluster Articles of Confederation with a single legislature. The central government was nonexistent, leaving states to do what they wanted with no uniformity. Large states (such as Virginia and Massachusetts) shoved out the smaller states when it came to lucrative trade deals. States made separate trade treaties with European nations. The southern states were already considering secession to be able to preserve their slave trade. European nations had even made offers to smaller states such as Delaware to rejoin a European nation in offer for protection. In short, the first few years of American existence were absolute chaos.

In the midst of all this, two young men (early 30s), Alexander Hamilton from New York and James Madison from Virginia joined together with a vision for a new government. They called and gained support for a convention which eventually became the Constitutional Convention that attained mythic proportions. Hamilton was a self-made immigrant who rose to fame in George Washington’s revolutionary army, and Madison was a well-to-do thinker and politician who flew under the radar of Virginia politics because he was overshadowed by stars such as Patrick Henry, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Yet these two inspired the convention that set the course of American history.

The book covers the process of the convention itself, which took several months. The debates and compromises made are intriguing when read (once again, yes, I really think so). The first subject they tackled was the legislature, where they assumed all of the power would reside. A compromise was made between big states and large states with the House of Representatives and Senate. The creation of the Senate kept the smaller states from walking out. As much as the northern (abolitionist-leaning states) hated it, they also made compromises to ensure the free importation of slaves for twenty years, thus keeping the southern slave states in the convention. Although Madison personally hated slavery, he knew that if the southern slaves walked out, the convention would be over and the southern states would most likely secede.

The most wide-ranging debate in the convention concerned the Executive branch. There was no real precedence for what they were creating, so options ran from a lifetime president to one chosen at random by casting lots. The modern make-up of a four-year term was a last minute compromise. The judicial branch was created quickly and easily.

Within a few weeks of being there, even the convention members themselves (fifty-five men) knew that they were a part of something special. As the framework of an entirely new constitution began to take shape, they knew that they were a part of something much bigger than themselves and felt honored to be there. After the convention, much of these men went on to live unspectacular lives. But for these few short months, they lifted themselves to another level of capability, achieving beyond themselves to produce something that has withstood the test of time.

Although we see the Constitution as near perfect, many of the delegates did not see it that way. They saw too many compromises, in one section or another. Even the ratification process (where the Constitution had to be separately ratified by each state) was arduous. Several small states ratified early because they knew it was their best shot to gain some sense of equality in this new Union. Several of the slave states threatened not to pass it because of perceived infringements on slavery, and New York barely signed it because the then-governor was absolutely opposed to any change that might lesson his power. The Constitution did pass all thirteen states, but with bare majorities, not overwhelming mandates. Nevertheless, the Constitution became the law of the land, and within a century the United States became a player on the world stage.

The two men’s unique contributions helped make the Constitution a reality.  James Madison was the architect, the brains behind the Constitution. His handprints are all over the Constitution. He helped guide debates and frame arguments that made the Constitution what it is. Alexander Hamilton sparked the idea for the convention in the first place. Then, when the states were loathe to approve a Constitution that represented such radical change, Hamilton worked overtime through a series of articles and personal appearances to help sell the Constitution to the American public. Without his tireless work, the Constitution would have never been passed by the states.

LESSONS LEARNED

1. Men have the ability to rise above themselves and achieve something monumental, when inspired to do so. The constitutional convention consisted of regular men, yet they produced something far beyond any of their individual ability to produce. That’s why Jesus prays for unity for his future believers in John 17. If believers became united in purpose, what we could accomplish would amaze even us.

2. The resistance to change is universal. Even after producing a document that has been described as one of humanity’s greatest achievements, it barely won passage because of an entrenched leadership dead set on the status quo. Men like Governor Clinton of New York were willing to trade their country’s long-term success for their individual ability to hold onto whatever tainted power they have. This vice is seen too often in churches, which is why so many of them are plateaued and declining. Clutching onto power and outdated methods of ministry at the expense of reaching the next generation for Christ does nothing but condemn another generation to Hell and break the heart of God.

3. Our modern legislature could take a cue from the Constitutional Convention. One of Madison’s greatest victories came at the very beginning: he held the convention’s proceedings in secret. No publicity, no visitors allowed.  The anonymity allowed the legislators to consider new ideas and compromises without being handcuffed by an angry populace at every new turn. So much of our legislation is done in public, and much of that is to keep people informed and to keep back room corruption from seeping in. But it’s also taken our legislator’s ability to wrestle with new ideas and unpopular compromises away from them. Who’s going to even bring up the idea of tampering with Social Security or Medicare when modern media would transmit that call back to his or her home district before a serious conversation could be made? Too much transparency keeps our legislators from tackling big issues, which we see today.

QUESTION: How do you think our Founding Fathers would respond to the politics of today?

The Savior Generals, by Victor Davis Hanson

7.3.13The Savior Generals is an incredible perspective of a unique set of generals: five men who saved wars that were lost. While military commanders such as Napoleon, Washington, or Eisenhower all deserve their due, the five chosen for this book all came into wars at the point where they were all but lost and salvaged incredible victory from certain defeat.

Themistocles – This ancient Athenian general saved classical Greek civilization from annihilation by the conquering Persian army. King Xerxes and his insurmountable Persian army had staged an invasion of Greece that simply seemed unstoppable. Themistocle’s foresight to raise an armada of Greek trirenes and his ability to draw Xerxes into a favorable naval battle won a war (and classic Western civilization) that all believed was lost.

Flavius Belisarius – By the time Belisarius enters into world history, the western portion of the great Roman Empire had long since rotted away. The eastern portion of Byzantium had stood for centuries but faced decline on all front. A general of the Emperor Justinian, Belisarius had a successful military career in the Middle East, North Africa, Asia and Europe that saw the empire expand in the face of profound opposition and ensure the longevity of the Byzantine Empire for another 900 years.

William Tecumseh Sherman – This side of history it’s too easy to assume that victory for the North was assured in the Civil War. Far from it. In the summer of 1864, with a presidential election coming in a few short months, virtually everyone had written off Abraham Lincoln’s reelection chances. The war had gone on for four years with no end in sight. Horrific battles such as Antietam wiped out tens of thousands of troops with nothing to show for it. Even the recent promotion of Ulysses S. Grant hadn’t seemed to turn the tide. Lincoln was dangerously down in the polls to the Democratic candidate, who was under pressure to make peace with the South (and continue slavery) upon election. The only thing that could salvage Lincoln’s reelection was a major victory. Sherman gave him just that. By marching successfully to Atlanta, occupying it, and destroying the second largest transportation hub in the South before Election Day gave Northerners the hope they needed to reelect Lincoln and see a successful end to the war.

Matthew Ridgway – In the winter of 1950, Korea was all but lost. The seesaw war had gone back and forth. Communist North Korea’s surprise attack had pushed the allies to the southern most tip of the peninsula. Only a daring attack by Douglas MacArthur turned the tide, with the Allies pushing the North Korean army to their border with China. Victory seemed to be assured. And then the Chinese army poured across the border with hundreds of thousands of soldiers. All momentum was lost. The allies were being pushed back. The capital of Seoul was lost again. The allies were contemplating evacuating the whole peninsula. Some even claimed the only way to win the war was to bomb China with nuclear weapons. And then Matthew Ridgway took command. By inspiring his troops and making sound tactical decisions, he turned around a war that all had assumed was lost.

David Petraeus – Iraq in 2007 was a deadly place to be. A three-week war quickly led to claims of victory by the Americans, but the unending sectarian violence and terrorist attacks slowly drained away the support for the war. By 2007, body counts were lining up, many said that Iraq was in the midst of a civil war, and foreign insurgents were pouring into Iraq to kill Americans. Everyone had given up on Iraq. Then President Bush approved a very controversial “surge” and the champion of it to command the forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus. Through a change in military tactics, Petraeus snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and helped the Americans conclude their war on somewhat favorable terms.

LESSONS LEARNED

1. These men exhibit greatness for securing victory from unenviable conditions. It’s one thing for a general to go in and win a war with better troops, training, and resources. It’s even more remarkable for men to stand up where others failed and achieve victories from what everyone assumed could only be defeats.

2. The backgrounds of these men were average at best. None of these generals graduated at the top of their class. Many had mediocre lives before their wars. For many, the wide-range of real world experiences and failures helped prepare them to meet conventional problems in unconventional ways.

3. The key to their success was how they dealt with people. One of the most fascinating things to discover was how strong people skills ran throughout these five generals. They walked into situations that many others had tried before and failed. When they turned around their wars, it wasn’t because of a new piece of technology. It wasn’t because of a massive wave of reinforcements. They simply knew how to treat people. They knew how to inspire their troops. They knew how to empower their subordinates. They knew how to treat the locals. With the advancement of technology and weaponry, the difference between success and failure many times comes down to how you deal with people.

An incredible lesson for the church can be drawn from this. For most pastors, success or failure is not determined by your training, your education, or your position. It comes down to how you treat people. If you can lead, inspire, and empower people, you will be successful.

Missional Renaissance, by Reggie McNeal

5.15.13If you’re looking for a solid left hook to the solar plexus, read Missional Renaissance by Reggie McNeal. His thoughts are piercing, unsettling, and full of truth. If you’ve ever thought that ‘church as usual’ wasn’t working but you couldn’t put it into words, McNeal will give you the words.

I’ve heard about the ‘missional’ movement for years but have resisted it, mostly because I could never quite figure out what ‘missional’ was. People would ask, “Is your church missional?”, but they forgot to tell me what the code word ‘missional’ meant. It’s as if I needed to join the club first before I could find out what I was joining. No thanks.

Reggie McNeal does a tremendous job putting flesh and bones on the whole idea of ‘missional.’ He defines it as “a way of living, not an affiliation or activity.” It’s not another program to add to your retinue. In fact, it’s a reaction against the over-programming of the church. To become ‘missional’ you need to embrace three shifts in your thinking and in your behavior:

  1. From internal to external in terms of ministry focus.
  2. From program development to people development in terms of core activity.
  3. From church-based to kingdom-based in terms of leadership agenda.

The rest of the book fleshes out this outline, giving great examples and ideas in each area. Perhaps the greatest asset of the book are the three chapters he gives under each section titled, “Changing the Ministry Scorecard.” In these chapters he gets extremely practical. More than just throwing some great ideas at you and forcing you to handle the implementation alone, he gives the reader a clear picture of what a missional scorecard looks like.

McNeal challenges the very concept of church itself, stating “Missional followers of Jesus don’t belong to a church. They are the church. Wherever they are, the church is present” (19). He does a good job looking back through history to see where our view of church became skewed from people to a building. Throughout the book, he challenges the idea of church merely being a religious vendor of services and goods. Rather, he aims to recapture the first century ethos of what the church is. What is the biblical ethos of the church? Not to be a religious destination for the already saved, but to be a catalyst of change to better the world. As McNeal puts it, “The role of the church is simply this: to bless the world. In doing this, the people of God reveal God’s heart for the world” (46).

Embracing this mindset will force church members outside of the four walls of the building they refer to as church, which is exactly what McNeal intends. Many see this as an either/or against the attractional model of church. McNeal disputes that, stating “not all expressions of attractional church are bad. It’s a mistake to think so–and an instance of either-or thinking. Even Jesus in his Incarnation was an attraction himself. The real issues is about DNA” (50).

For McNeal, the antithesis of a missional church is a program-driven church. When he spoke on this, my heart leapt, because I’ve worked at program-driven churches before. A program-driven church exists to keep the calendar full, to gather Christians together in a safe environment and allow them to exercise societal activities without the nuisance of unsaved pagans being around. As he aptly puts it, “The program-driven church has created an artificial environment divorced from the rhythms and realities of normal life” (93). The result? “In this way, the church effectively becomes a desalinization plant, sucking salt out of the community” (54). Ouch. Painful, but true.

How does the missional church differ from this mindset? “The missional church assumes that service to others is the first step, not some later expression of spirituality” (105). With that, he makes a hard push for churches to get outside and begin serving their community. All in all, a challenging read, but well worth it.

LESSONS LEARNED

1. What makes the book so uncomfortable to read is that he so bluntly and so accurately describes a majority of churches in my denomination. As a Southern Baptist, he knows the typical SBC church. His portrayal of it is dead on. Many know it (or at least feel it), but he takes it a step further and actually says it.

2. Something has to change in the current church culture. If we can’t agree on that, we can’t agree on anything. We are losing ground in our culture. We’re losing the next generation. What we’re doing isn’t working. Missional Renaissance is a good place to start.

3. Deep & Wide and Missional Renaissance don’t have to oppose each other. A previously reviewed book, Deep & Wide, speaks to issues of the church. While some may call Andy Stanley’s Northpoint Church a purely attractional model, it would be a mistake to do so. Here’s how I reconcile the two works: Missional Renaissance talks about a mindset shift for the church in general. Deep & Wide gives a great example of what a ‘missional’ weekend worship experience looks like. It’s not enough just to serve in the community. When the lost come to church programs, they need to see a missional experience within the four walls of the church building as well. The two books complement each other.

4. When Helping Hurts is a great caveat to McNeal’s push to get the church serving in the community. McNeal makes a strong push for the church to move from program-minded to service-minded. When Helping Hurts (another great book) helps churches serve others in a way that benefits them, not harm them.

5. While not using much of McNeal’s terminology, Mt Vernon Church has been implementing many of his ideas for the past decade. We’ve made the transition from a program-heavy church. We’ve simplified our events, moving from an internal to external mindset. While we’re not there, we see God’s hand of blessing on the steps we’ve already taken.