Category Archives: Reflecting
Every new year, there seems to be a pruning of things that just don’t make the cut to continue as a habit or tool that is effective. Here’s a few things that I picked up or continued in 2018 that have made the jump into the new year.
2. Nate Bagatze – How have I not heard of this guy before 2018?! Absolutely hilarious and very clean comedian. If you like Jim Gaffigan and Brian Reagan, you’ll love Nate. Check him out.
3. HIIT Training – In December, I joined a High Intensity Interval Training Group at our gym. Having been a Crossfitter and 9Rounder in the past, I’ve loved the intensity and brevity of this workout. And I love doing it with a group. 30 minutes – 15+ different exercises – 80%-100% of max heart rate for 20 minutes or more. I’ve lost 15 lbs, and a couple of belt loops. And planning on a triathlon on my 45th birthday in August.
3. Music: Jenny and Tyler – Not sure how I came across their music, but I’m hooked. Very deep and meaningful lyrics. Personal feel. A couple of their songs have been very special to me during deep waters over the last year.
4. The Christian Planner – I developed a reputation a few years ago in my professions circle for being a go to guy for media and technology questions. I’ve even developed and taught courses called Social Media and Ministry and Technology for the Church Office. Well, last year, I made the backwards leap to Paper. Paper Calendar – the giant one that sits on the desk, and Paper Planner. I’ve loved the Christian Planner. Great crowd funded story from a veteran turned entrepreneur. Very user friendly, simple, and always fun to open.
5. Podcast: The World and Everything In It – The best source of daily news from a Christian perspective, in a 25 minute, engaging format. I never miss a day. Looking for a Christian news source with positive voices. Check it out on Itunes or wherever you get your podcast.
6. Book: How to Read the Bible Book by Book – I talk about this book a lot. It’s my favorite “Read along” with my daily Bible Reading plan. It summarizes every book of the Bible, so as you read along and feel a little lost in the geography or history of the Biblical narrative, the summary in this book can get you back in the know, so you can hear from God. It’s not the only one. Any Bible Handbook will do the same, but I love this one. Check it out.
7. Youversion.com / The Bible App – I’m hooked on this app for Bible Reading, sharing Bible verses, and now our church uses the Events page for sermon notes. Check it out if you haven’t already. And when you do, let’s be friends.
8. Feedly.com – for staying up to date on news and blogs on all my favorite topics, which include theology, gardening, hunting, church, technology, marriage, parenting, etc. Great place for consolidating the things that you want to see everyday from around the internet.
9. YNAB – This will be our 6th year as YNAB’ers. Love this budgeting tool and App, that helps us keep up with our money and spending. I like what I see from Dave Ramsey’s Every Dollar as well, but we were YNAB’ers before that, so we’re hooked and not going anywhere. If you’re looking for a budgeting and expense tracking tool, check out YNAB. And I’ve enjoyed the YNAB Podcast this year as well.
What making life easier for you? Don’t be stingy. Please share.
I experienced a first this week. I ran out of gas in my vehicle while driving on the Interstate. Having never ran out of gas, I was thankful for a few things:
- I had a friend with me. Carlos Schmidt was with me to experience the emotions of the moment (laughter) and help me brainstorm next steps. My friend walked with me and told me about similar experiences he and others had along the way.
- I wasn’t far from a Gas station. I was a short 1/2 mile walk from the nearest gas station, so I didn’t have to call and wait for my insurances road side assistance or some other service to get some help. Replenishment was in sight.
- There were people that offered help, even though I didn’t need it. Those along the way did see my need and offered help, which gave the valuable feeling of other options being available, should I need them. It was great to experience caring individuals that were kind enough to show concern.
- It only took a little bit to get my truck back rolling again. I bought a small jug, filled it with two gallons of gas and my truck was back on the road. I just needed a little fuel to get going again.
I thought of times in life when I was spiritually and emotionally out of gas as well. What I needed was a friend, a nearby place to replenish, to know others care, and just a little bit of fuel (encouragement, correction, admonishment, compassion, resources, etc.). I also thought of those around me that are spiritually and emotionally out of gas. I hope I can be and that I can equip others to be:
- A friend to walk along with them.
- A place of replenishment and fresh air.
- A caring, concerned neighbor.
- A source of fuel to get them back on the road again.
Grateful for these people in my life. May their tribe increase.
In June of 1998, I joined my first church planting team in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We helped in late stage planting of Celebration Church in Rio Rancho and in starting Bible Studies in apartment complexes in Albuquerque’s north side. Since then, Heather and I have set up chairs for church in Apartment complexes, fire stations, store fronts, gyms, schools, a museum, and an old church sanctuary or two. Reflecting in my journal the past few weeks on some of the tough lessons learned and that I’m still learning along this journey. Here’s 20 off the top:
- Judge each day by the seeds you plant, not the harvest you reap.
- Communities have different degrees of spiritual receptivity or soil conditions (see Matthew 13). Timing of results may be dependent upon how long it takes to cultivate the ground.
- Expect to feel like a failure. Be patient. “patience is better than power” (Proverbs 16:32)
- Failure can be a friend. The best lessons have been learned in my failure and weakness. The first four events I planned as a church planter, no one showed up! Best thing that ever happened to me.
- Church Planting = burning shoe leather. Intentionality, determination, perseverance, relationships.
- If you’re not successful, someone behind you probably will be. We all stand on the shoulders of those before us, or we prepare the ground for the success of those who will come behind us.
- If God called you, he’s calling others to partner with you. Believe it!
- God has no small churches, and no big pastors. When you have 25 people, you should preach and serve just like there is 25,000.
- Persons of peace make ministry possible and show God’s favor. Pray for them. Watch for them. From Apartment complex managers, to fire chiefs, to restaurant owners, to community leaders; a successful church plant will have a long list of community people that opened the doors for ministry. Remembering these names and faces along our journey.
- It takes all different kinds of churches to reach all different kinds of people. One church can’t reach everyone around them. Many Christians don’t understand the gap between some lost people and attending their church. We. Must. Plant. More. Churches.
- The value of a godly, faithful wife along this journey is incalculable. I would have quit a long time ago were it not for the faithful love, prayer, faithful service, and counsel of my godly wife.
- Expect criticism. And don’t expect it to ever get easier to digest.
- Don’t compare your work to others. No two church planting scenarios or ministry settings are equal.
- If it seems like God is trying to kill you, He is. Death to self will be an outcome of faithfulness in church planting.
- It’s about the whole world, not just your church. From the beginning, get a vision for the people your church will impact all over the world.
- Expect pastoral competitiveness. Many pastors have had joy at my presence and success as a church planter. Some have sounded like David’s older brother, “with whom did you leave those few sheep?” (1 Samuel 17:28)
- Don’t ignore longstanding rules of thumb as a rule. The things wise, experienced leaders told me that I ignored, almost always came back to haunt me.
- Faithfulness trumps talent on a church planting and leadership team. Look for faithfulness and character first, talent second.
- The resources are in the harvest. The quicker you can turn the harvest (i.e. people reached) into the resourcers of the ministry the better. Mobilize immediately.
- When there are no other answers, perseverance is the answer.
I love church planting. I’ve also hated it a lot of times over the past 20 years. Lol! I’m stilled convinced of something I heard at the very beginning of this journey – “Planting new churches is the most effective evangelistic methodology known under heaven” – Peter Wagner. I hope and pray that God allows me to be a part of many more new starts over the next 20 years.
Parenting is hard. Much harder than you’ll ever imagine. Nobody can tell you how hard it is until you’ve experienced it. And each new generation has its challenges. One of my generations parenting challenges is definitely technology. We are learning more and more about the land minds that smart phones, social media, and gaming devices deposit before our kids every day. Parents must be vigilant to remain on top of this ever changing world. Some of the unexpected lessons we’ve learned over the last few years as parents and as a pastor:
- You can protect kids from internet searches and some harmful websites with filters, but filters have little affect on Social Media sites.
- Snap Chat is bad. Really bad. No child should have access to Snap Chat. Block it!!!
- From a local school principal: “Everything bad at this school – drugs, bullying, and sexting – can be traced back to Snap Chat or Instagram.”
- Instagram has grown more like Snap Chat, allowing anonymous sharing of pics. Monitor it or block it!
- Watch who your kids are following on Instagram. These people are discipling your children and shaping their worldview.
- Gaming devices are not just about playing games anymore. The unfiltered internet, Youtube, and many games offer views of the darkest parts of the fallen world to kids.
- Youtube is a great disciple making tool and mostly for bad. Figure out how to block access to it on gaming devices and smart phones.
- Kids and most adults are not capable of handling the emotional toll that constant connectivity offers us through smart phones and social media.
- Kids get up at night and reconnect with technology after their parents have gone to bed. They struggle to turn it off and stay disconnected. Turn off the internet! Place devices in a secure place. Model and teach the importance of rest from technology.
- Drug dealers are using Snap Chat and Instagram to entice your kids. Yes! Local drug dealers are on Snap Chat and Instagram advertising their services to your kids.
- Sexting is a huge problem for teens and many adults!!! Model and teach the importance of accountability with text messaging.
- Most parents are clueless of how their kids are being affected by technology.
I could probably go on, but we are learning more and more of the potential harmful effects of technology and how to shepherd our kids through these mind fields. I know, I know. There is good that can come from technology too. But parents, lets beware and be aware! And set limits and boundaries on technology use for your kids and for yourself.
Here are some good sources of info for parents that have been helpful to us along our journey of discovery:
- Book: The Tech Wise Family by Andy Crouch. This book helped us devise our own Technology guidelines for our home. Great resource.
- Blog: CovenantEyes.com/blog. Covenant Eyes is a great filtering and accountability tool. The blog offers regular articles that are informative for parents and leaders in setting limits and boundaries. The stories also share reminders of the potential danger of the internet and hope for redemption after inevitable mistakes occur.
- The Axis Culture Translator. This is a weekly email that deposits some good tidbits of info for parents trying to keep up with language and trends impacting our homes.
What are other good resources for families regarding technology? What are lessons you’ve learned so far?
Parenting is at the same time, the greatest joy and the most difficult task one can undertake. Now, I’m a veteran, and getting opportunities to share my failings and hard lessons learned more often with parents younger than me. Here’s what I find myself saying over and over:
- Parenting is hard. Much harder than you’ll ever imagine. Nobody can tell you how hard it is until you’ve experienced it.
- Parents must work to set the spiritual temperature and pace in the home.
- Limit technology. Limit technology. Limit technology. So much danger lurking on the other side of a click, finger swipe, and game controller.
- Say no to Snap Chat. Just do it. There’s just nothing good about it. Just say no!
- Recognize the competing voices in their hearts and heads and deal with them decisively.
- Get them around mentors and positive people early and often.
- Recognize God’s providence is greater than imperfect parental guidance.
What would you add to this list?
C.S. Lewis said it best: “Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”
This February, I’ve for the first time tackled preaching through the Song of Solomon. Sounded like a great idea last summer when I was planning sermon series for 2018, but as I got to digging in I began to think, “what have I gotten myself in to!?” Ha! As I studied, I began to see a beautiful love story outlined in the relationship between the bride and groom depicted in the Song. Here it is:
- God is the author of LOVE, ROMANCE, SEX, AND MARRIAGE. Genesis 2:18-25.
- Love is FOSTERED through God-given desire, attraction, and curiosity. Song of Solomon 1:2, 7-10; Proverbs 30:19.
- Love is FULFILLED in the marital relationship between man and woman. Song of Solomon 2:7; 3:7-11; 4:9-11; 5:1; Proverbs 5:19
- Love can be FRUSTRATING as two people bring their differences together and experience life’s difficulties. Song of Solomon 5:2-3; Proverbs 17:1; 21:9; 25:24
- The beauty of Love is found in FAITHFULNESS. Song of Solomon 7:1-2; 8:6-7; Proverbs 5:18; Ecclesiastes 9:9
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
And I’m glad to be living this story out with my bride of 18 years now (valentine of 21 years). Thinking about our story, here’s my Valentine’s Day letter to my valentine:
God created you just for me. Light shined from heaven and music started playing in my head the first time I saw you. You were different from anyone I had ever met. As I got to know you, the curiosity and desire to know more about you never dulled. Separation from you scared me because it made me feel incomplete. Our wedding day still seems like the best dream I’ve ever had. My every wish and idea about love has been fulfilled in this relationship. There has never been one day that I have regretted taking you as my wife. My heart still leaps when you walk into the room and my mind remains ever curious about your heart and your thoughts on everything. We’ve faced our share of frustrations with this life, with no doubt more trials and difficulties to come. I look forward to growing old with you and experiencing the beauty of faithfulness. Thank you for being my valentine and my wife. Thank you for putting up with the frustrations caused by me. Thank you for the promise of life long love. Thank you for making faithfulness easy and longed for. Happy 21st Valentine’s day!
What’s your Love Story? Can you see your story in the Song of Solomon? Take time to write it out. Identify gaps and close them.
Pastor Charles Starnes went home to be with the Lord on December 29th, 2017. He served as Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Slidell for 32 years. During that time the church baptized 485 new believers and added 733 other members to their roles. They also gave over $1.5 million to the Cooperative Program and other missions causes. I remember Bro. Charles as a great encourager of church planters, which included me, after moving to St. Tammany Parish in 2001 to plant a church about 35 minutes from Calvary. Under Bro. Charles’ leadership Calvary was part of planting six new churches, including the first Hispanic SBC Church on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain. I’ll never forget what he said at the constitution service of one of those church plants, Thompson Road Baptist Church in West Slidell. He said,
“Everyone always makes a big deal about Calvary planting churches. Thanks for the kind words, but I just thought that planting churches and missions is what every church was supposed to be doing.”
On another occasion he said it like this:
“Everybody makes a big deal about Calvary being part of planting churches. I always say, I didn’t know it was optional.”
Grateful for Bro. Charles and his vision for multiplication and encouragement for church planting everywhere. May his tribe increase.
Some of my favorite pics from my personal Instagram feed for 2017. See them all HERE.
- The Impact of Churches Under 100
- On Failed Church Plants: How Many Are There? And Why?
- Louisiana’s Healthy AND Growing Churches, Part 2
- BASIC MUD-OUT GUIDE FOR HOMEOWNERS
- Breaking the 50 Barrier in Church Planting
- The Final Week of Jesus – Chart / Reading Plan
- What is a DISCIPLE?
- Louisiana’s Healthy AND Growing Churches, Part 1
- Church Revitalization Tools
- Church Growth = Growing Friends + Growing Family
Looking forward to another great year of learning and growing. Lets stay connected. Follow the blog. Let me know your thoughts when you can.
He was born 8 days after the very first service of our first church plant in South Louisiana, which started in an un-air conditioned fire station.
- Because his dad’s a church planter, until he was four we would drive past a fire station and he would yell “church” and when we drove by a steepled church building he would yell “space ship.”
- Because his dad’s a church planter, the first time we attended a church besides ours on Sunday, he asked where their fire truck was and why their chairs were so long (pews).
- Because his dad’s a church planter, he likes to hang out in coffee shops and has great bedside manner in hospitals.
- Because his dad’s a church planter, he doesn’t have as much as many kids in our area, but never complains.
- Because his dad’s a church planter, he doesn’t know that you shouldn’t wear shorts to church or that you shouldn’t be close friends with people of another race or class.
- Because his dad’s a church planter, he knows who Rick Warren & John Piper are, & asked every Friday morning, “Do we have a Block Party this weekend?”
- Because his dad’s a church planter, he doesn’t know what it means to be a part of a mega youth group or ride on a bus to camp.
- Because his dad’s a church planter, he knows his way around Pro Presenter and online kids curriculum.
- Because his dad’s a church planter, he’s handled a lot of pressure to be the good kid, pray out loud, help with the nursery, etc., etc.
Proud of Jack. Grateful for his friendship and partnership in this ministry. It’s not always easy to be a church planters kid. Praying for Jack and all our church planting kids out there.