Category Archives: Leadership

The Final Secret: Part 5

2 Corinthians 6:2

For he says,

“In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”[a]

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

The key to this is just putting Him first.

We talk about the timing of God. You’ve heard it before.

“In God’s time…”

“In the Lord’s timing…”

Basically, it’s a way of people saying they really don’t believe in you, but if God wants it to happen he’ll surprise me. That’s the undertone. That’s the condescending, “In God’s timing.”

In reality, God is a present God. His timing is now. Today is the day of salvation.

I believe heaven is actually – fully – a present environment. Meaning you are fully in the now.

We talk about it, but seldom do we grasp that God wants us to experience everything he has for us right now.  That’s not how we think. We talk about it, but what we’re actually saying are words from a heart filled with doubt.

I ask people what they want to do and some want to be surgeons, musicians, to teach children life skills…yet, they’re doing something entirely different. So then I ask, “What are you doing today to work that out?”

“How are you putting God first to see it come to fruition?”

But, we compartmentalize our will and God’s will because we think they’re two different things. We think “I want to do this, but if I seek God’s will – his will for my life is going to suck.” So, we wait to do God’s stuff because we think it’s going to suck. But, the Bible says today is the day of salvation.

And, you know what? I realized this: God made you. And God made all the desires of your heart. And when you walk in them he fulfills them.

God’s not going to take you to a place that’s miserable. That’s not spirituality. I’ve met a lot of Christians who think being miserable is spirituality. But my guess is they’re not actually doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

The church I grew up in allowed me to become more involved the older I got. I helped out, led studies, and took offering, helped with communion. One day I asked one of the ladies how long she had been helping set up for communion. She told me she had been doing it for 18 years. I asked her what she liked about it and she shocked me with her reply. “Nothing.” Because she had to get up early to set up and she was miserable. And some would say she was doing God’s will when in fact she was just going through religious calisthenics. She thought she needed to be a slave for Jesus. There’s no reason to return to bondage. He has set you free.

When you are doing what God wants for your life it should produce love. And love should produce an individual expression of how youy can use your time and talent and energy for God. It’s going to be something you love.

God’s timing is not about all the spiritual stuff. God’s timing is now. The question is – do we have the intention to actually do it some day? Because a lot of dreams and callings we have – we want God’s blessings and his wisdom. So, why aren’t we doing it today?

We should want to do his will today and walk it out.  In finances, relationships, health…

When we submit our intentions to his way of thinking the result is action. The result is blessing. The result is – we experience just what we desire.

Some people say, “I can’t wait to be a millionaire because I want to give so much money away.”

My question is, “How much are you giving away now? A dollar? Five?” The amount doesn’t matter. What matters is the intention of the heart. And if you’re not generous now – you won’t be generous then. If you are not generous with your time now – you won’t be generous with your time then – when you’re financially free.

If you’re living for yourself now – you’re going to live for yourself later.

The question is – today is the day of salvation. God wants to invade your way of thinking and transform your attitude. And guess what – it’s IN you.

That grace, that seed – it’s been planted. You don’t have to dig it up. It’s there. It’s growing and it might take longer than you thought, but His grace is growing in you.

If you continue to put him first – not out of performance, but out of understanding that his way is the way to a blessed future – to our preferred reality…His path is the path to that if you understand that you will experience the life of your dreams.

Sure, there’s an enemy and he wants to choke you out. But greater is the One in you. And we don’t have to be afraid.

1 Timothy 1:7

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 

God’s wisdom is really simple.

Seek Him.

Seek what he has to say.

Remember when I started this series – I asked you to close your eyes and ask yourself what your life would look like if it was working? Once again I want to ask you to close your eyes. And this time I want you to ask yourself what your life would look like if you put God first. It should look better than the first time you pictured it. Because, now you have the secret. And the secret is simply this: Put God first. 

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Walmart Gets It…Do you?

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Walmart gets it.  They have factories, they make products – that’s their message.  But they also have trucks, shipping containers, delivery drivers; all of which are only concerned with delivering their product to you, via the local store.  But they didn’t just build a store and expect people to come out.  They marketed, they made commercials, TV ads and newspaper fliers, convincing you that they had something that you wanted…no, needed….so that you would come out and shop.

This is especially true during states of emergency.  Do you know what the most important commodity is before or during a natural disaster?

Water, milk, a loaf of bread?  No, you’d be wrong.

Strawberry Poptarts.

That’s right.  During times of emergency, Walmart sells out of Strawberry Poptarts faster than any other item on their shelves.  As a result, they have crafted a special delivery system to get Poptarts to you quicker than you can say, “sugar coma.”  They have the product that you need and they know how to get it to you on time, every time.

We all want our message (i.e. content) to impact our audience – to leave them different after encountering what we have to say and give. Right? But so often, this doesn’t happen.  We preach.  Nothing changes.  We post.  No one responses.  In today’s world, we’re communicating and sending messages all the time; emails, tweets, Facebook status updates, pictures on Instagram, text messages, and even Snapchats…whatever the heck that is.  But that’s actually the problem – we are spending all of our time on the message and no time on figuring out whether or not we have an audience.  So we write more, post more, regardless if anyone is responding.  After awhile, it becomes empty opinions – words that are never heard.

But most of us, especially those reading this post – are not a box store or a supermarket.  Your product is more intangible – it’s your music, your writing, your ideas, and your opinions.  You can’t just put your message on delivery trucks and send them to the neighborhood.  Bottom-line, today’s products are intellectual.  They aren’t sold in stores, they don’t come in fancy packaging, and you can’t sell them in some rundown strip mall.

This is where influence comes in.

Let’s talk about city water.  You turn on the faucet and water comes out.  In this case, water is the product or the message.  It is the thing that you want people to receive, rather that they need to receive.  It’s a commodity – and a highly valuable one at that.  But it doesn’t just magically appear in your kitchen.  No sometime, probably long before you moved into your house, sweaty men dug trenches to run waterlines from the purification plant to your neighborhood or apartment building.  Hundreds of thousands of miles of pipe line connecting every home with what they need to receive – water.

This is the problem with the current affairs of most of the church.  Pastors want everyone to hear what they have to say, to receive, literally “living water”, but they haven’t taken the time to build the pipeline.  So no one receives anything.  Their words and message go out empty every week and their posts go unread.

Your message will never go any further than your influence.

It can’t.  This is what we have to understand.

Every relationship, every person that knows that you genuinely care, every handshake, every returned phone call, these are all opportunities to lay water lines to your community and to the world.  Here is the truth – when we care as much about our influence, as we do our opinions, people will hear what we have to say.  Yes, it takes time, but it’s worth it.

I need a poptart.

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The Sign of the Rainbow: Grace and the Homosexual Community

I regularly receive questions regarding issues of what I call “practical” grace.  Lately some of the most common questions have dealt with grace and homosexuality.  Many pastors have chosen to shy away from answering similar questions, due to the immense controversy, but I personally believe that as this issue continues to gain increased attention both socially and politically, it is likewise important that churches and individual believers know how to respond to such questions.  More specifically, I believe that it’s important to know what the Bible teaches regarding faith and sexual orientation/sexual identity, no matter how controversial the answers may be.

Additionally, I think this topic is important to address, because many homosexuals are in fact seeking a relationship with God, but have been isolated and segregated in the past, or simply made to feel this way, from the church due to hate speech, bigotry, and religious thinking.  My hope is that by addressing properly and clearly what the Bible teaches about homosexuality, sin, and most of all God’s grace, that the church might once again be restored as a place of refuge and healing for all who are seeking a Savior.

With that being said, I would like to acknowledge from the start that issues of gender, sexuality, and identity are quite complex and usually trigger strong emotions on either side of the debate.  In no way, especially in so few words, am I able to adequately answer all questions related to sexual orientation, but hopefully the below questions and answers will serve to give initial insight into what we teach and also provide much needed biblical perspective to readers wanting to understand a gospel oriented view of grace and homosexuality, etc.  I trust not all will agree with my responses, but I very much hope that all will at least see this as a positive step in furthering the discussion.

Q: Are homosexuals welcome at your church?

Assuming they aren’t coming for nefarious reasons, absolutely everyone is welcome at any one of our Oasis’ churches.  At Oasis, we aren’t focused on sin management or trying to uncover everyone’s deep, dark secrets, rather we focus on love and identity in Christ.  People are very safe at Oasis to engage, learn, grow, and ask questions relevant to their lives.  Our assumption is that every single person who attends one of our churches has “issues” to some degree; shortcomings, secret sins, or character flaws.  It isn’t that we look at these struggles as if they don’t matter or aren’t important to God.  Our character matters deeply to God, because it affects the quality of our lives and the lives of those around us.  The difference though at Oasis is not in what we believe about sin or character, but rather in what we believe about God’s grace.  Titus 2:12 says that grace “teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age”.  At Oasis, we understand that the secret to life transformation and healing is experiencing God’s love and grace, and doesn’t come through finger pointing, fault finding, or condemning words – what unfortunately many people are used to finding at church.  Grace doesn’t mean that we approve of homosexuality, but simply that we believe that every person, regardless of their behavior, has value and worth.  Sometimes people hearing this will ask, “So you believe in going easy on sin?”  My response is always the same, “No, I just believe God went hard on Jesus.”  Make no doubt about it, sin can kill you, but Jesus is greater than our sin.  The Bible teaches that Jesus became sin at the cross and received in himself the full payment and penalty for our sin through his death on the cross (Isaiah 53:11, 54:9-10).  This is what we call the “Great Exchange”; that he took our sin and exchanged it for his righteousness.  As a result, we now have peace with God and walk in his grace.  In this way, we extend this grace to others, regardless of their struggles, because we trust God’s grace to lead people into truth and godliness.

Bottom line, if someone is coming to Oasis to hear the message and to explore their faith – that person is always welcome.  If someone else, gay or not, is coming simply to cause problems, that’s a different story and a person like this, assuming they refused to stop whatever issue they were causing, would be asked to leave until their attitude or agenda changes.

Q:  Nature versus Nurture?  How does grace respond to this debate?

First off, the homosexual agenda needs for the answer to this question to be nature.  If the answer is nurture, then homosexuality becomes a result of abuse, pain, and distorted emotions and thus something that can and should be healed.  The temptation here is to make homosexuality about this debate, but it isn’t.  Personally, I do believe that the primary cause of homosexuality is nurture, or lack thereof, (i.e. abuse, emasculation, bullying, etc.) but because of how pervasive I believe sin to be, I have no issue conceding perhaps some causality to nature, with the understanding that science is finding, and I believe the Bible confirms this, that our genes pass down programming and emotions on levels that we are just beginning to realize.  (Please note – this is NOT generational curse teaching, which is unscriptural, and something altogether different.)  So, if the answer is nurture, then certainly there is restoration and freedom in Christ.  But if the answer is nature or both nature and nurture, what should this matter?  If Lady Gaga is right, and we were all “born this way”, this still should not be an obstacle, for in Christ we can all be born again into newness of life.  Our nature, that was once dead to God, can be made alive to God and filled with the fruit of righteousness (i.e. God’s kind of life – life as it should be).

As the church, we need to be aware that to many in the homosexual community, talk like this simply sounds like Christians are trying to change people.  In order to be truly effective in reaching people with the gospel, especially reaching a group like homosexuals that have been subjected to decades of hate speech by the religious, we need to demonstrate and carefully clarify that our intentions in preaching the message go far beyond trying to make converts, and that our main goal is to see people renewed, restored, and full of the life of God.  Grace and sincerity, not debate, are perhaps the greatest tools that we possess in reaching this community.

Q:  Is homosexuality worse than other sins?

The short answer here is, yes and no.  From God’s vantage point, sin is sin.  People mistakenly think that the Bible teaches in James 2:10 that all sins are equal, and although this is true in some ways, this is only part of the picture. What it actually states is that “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”  This doesn’t mean that all sin is equal exactly, but that to commit one sin is to be found guilty of all sin.  Obviously, without Christ, the consequencesof this are dreadful.  So in this sense,to commit any sin, makes even a heterosexual man guilty of homosexuality.  Because of this, homosexuality is no worse than any other sin.  This should hopefully wake up some of the legalists out there who see homosexuality as the worst sin imaginable, since in the absence of Christ, they themselves, according to the law, are guilty of the same offense.

On the other hand, it would be foolish to think that horizontally, that is on earth, all sins are equal or that the consequences are the same.  The consequences of lying are typically less than the consequences of sexual sin, but likewise, the ramifications of murder far outweigh those of both deceit and any sexual sin.  In this way, homosexuality does have detrimental effects to one’s emotions, sense of self-worth, and at times, health.

All considering, I think it’s important that we keep in mind that the goal here isn’t to manage sin, rather to lead people into true,unhindered relationship with God.  Sin management is shortsighted and stems from a performance driven view of sin that does little to actually restore and heal those who are hurting.  To truly restore people, at a heart level, regardless of the sin, we must focus on identity in Christ, grace as God’s power for change, and most importantly the love of God.

Q:  If all sins are equal, and we all sin, should homosexuality disqualify you for ministry?

In regards to homosexuality disqualifying a person for ministry, part of the problem here is that the question is flawed.  The question begins by isolating homosexuality as a special class of sin, and thus makes it nearly impossible to answer the question in such a way that doesn’t trap Christians into saying that homosexuality is worse than all other sins. With this in mind, the better question is, does sin disqualify a person for ministry?

To answer that, let me remind us that in the New Covenant we understand that Jesus took upon himself the sins of the entire world and removed the dividing wall of hostility between God and man.   As a result, when approaching God, sin is no longer our problem.  With this in mind, we see that it isn’t sin that disqualifies a person for ministry; rather it is his belief about his sin that does.  If sin disqualified us for ministry or Christian service, then we would all be disqualified, for all have sinned.  To make sense of this, let’s look at 1 John 1:8-10 where it says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make himout to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”  This means that a man or woman who has homosexual thoughts or feelings, but acknowledges these tendencies as sin or desires of the flesh, chooses to honor the word of God and takes responsibility for their own heart.   This person, with time and grace, will find freedom and wholeness and I believe the church should model God’s grace towards them, by embracing them, as they would any other brother.  On the contrary, to deny homosexuality (or gluttony for that matter) as sin and to embrace it as part of one’s nature is rebellion and as John states, “makes him (God) out to be a liar.”  In this case, it is a man’s belief about his sin that disqualifies him, not sin itself.  Referring back to the previous passage, John illustrates this in verse 8, where he states, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

On the other hand, in verses 9 and 10, John reminds us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all righteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make himout to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”  The Greek word used here for “confess” literally means “to say the same thing”.  Commonly, people think of the word confession as having to do with rehashing all of your secret sins to a priest or even to God, but biblical confession really has little to do with this. Biblical confession actually entails agreeing with God about our sin; saying the same thing about it that he does.  Yes, we do this when we acknowledge that our sins are in fact truly sins, but we only fulfill the true definition of confession when we agree with God that our sin has also been covered by God’s grace and is no longer counted against us.  One who either fails to acknowledge sin as sin or fails to confess their sin as forgiven in Christ, both fail to “say the same thing” as God and really have no business ministering to others, when they themselves are still not walking in God’s grace.

So to the person struggling with sin, but who desires to live for God, I would say:  Simply agree with God that your sin was covered and paid for on the cross and receive his grace in your life.  Jesus is your qualification, both now and forever.

Q:  If you could share one thing with the Homosexual or LGBT community, what would it be?

To those in the homosexual and LGBT communities, I want you to know that at Oasis, our message is simple – God loves you and he’s better than we think he is.  I also want you to know that God’s not mad at you, but crazy about you.  In the book of Genesis, God gave Noah the sign of the rainbow in the sky, as a testimony of his promise and faithfulness towards all of creation.  Isaiah, the prophet, takes this a step further in Isaiah 54:9-10, where God says, “To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth.  So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again.  Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”  In all of this hopefully it’s clear, God wants a relationship with you – with all of us.  He wants to fulfill your hopes and your dreams.  He wants to give you wisdom, truth, and his abundant grace.  He wants to show you the real you.  Not the person you see when you look in the mirror, but the real you; the deep reality and beauty that is in your spirit, beyond the sum of your sexuality and your outward behavior – the person you’ve been searching for all these years.  He wants to show you who you were created to be.  God is extending to you the greatest offer that there ever could be – to be made truly alive.  But understand this, he won’t force himself on you, he won’t make you receive him.  That is your choice – you must invite him into your life.

Let me close by leaving you with the words of John in John 3:16-21:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

If you are interested in ordering more life giving resources from the Oasis Network For Churches or to receive additional information about starting a relationship with Jesus Christ, please visit www.oasnet.org or call 574.247.9800.

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Flying Cockroaches

Who would have thought that you could learn something from a cockroach?

We arrived in Mexico last night after a long day of travel. Overall the trip was smooth, other than the usual Chicago traffic and a lost bag upon arrival; nothing we can’t do without for a day or two.

Our hosts were waiting for us at the airport, helped us load our baggage into their pickup truck, and drove us to their beautiful home in Madeiro, Mexico. After some wonderful refreshments and some even better conversation, we made our way to our rooms for the night.

But shortly after Krissy and I got settled in, we realized we weren’t alone. La cucarachas, aka a giant flying cockroach, had invaded our space uninvited. Now before I start, let me just say that I’ve traveled the world, I’ve seen big bugs before, handled wild snakes, but there is just something about a lightning fast cockroach that still makes my skin crawl. But tonight my fear would have to wait, because I’m a man, and duty called and my wife wasn’t going to be able to sleep until that nasty bug was dead, right? So to battle I went, moving furniture, throwing shoes, checking under rugs, and even swatting my arms a few times; I mean I tore that place apart, but you know what, no matter how hard I tried, I was just no match for that flying beast, that is,…until I finally turned on the light. Man, with just one flicker of incandescent glory that bug ran for the hills never to be scene again. Who would have thought that it was that easy?

That reminded me of something. Problems are a lot like cockroaches, they surprise us, scare us, and despite our best efforts often times leave us feeling defeated and uneasy, that is, until we flip on the light.

Psalm 18.28 says, “You light a lamp for me.
The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.”. See problems, just like that pesky cockroach, have a way of fleeing at the first glimmer of God’s light. God’s light, his truth and opinion, lights up our darkness and causes our problems to flee.

I don’t know what you’re dealing with today, but keep this in mind, darkness doesn’t like light and can’t ever overcome it. Walk in God’s light today and begin to see your circumstances change.

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Church Planting 101: Recruiting a Team

Jesus makes recruiting a team look so easy, doesn’t he?  “Hey rugged fishermen over there!  Drop what you’re doing and come follow me,” he shouts.  And the amazing thing is that they follow.  For most planters I talk to, they seem to have difficulty recreating the same results.  The fact of the matter is that oftentimes recruiting a team, whether it be searching for initial staff members or courting prospective launch team members, can be extremely challenging.  But does it have to be, is the real question?

Before we look a bit closer at Christ’s recruitment model, let’s first identify the hindrances that seem to prevent greater recruitment success.  Church planters – here are the top 5 excuses we use when struggling to recruit the all-star team that we so desperately desire and need.

Top 5 Favorite Church Planter Excuses for Failing to Recruit Others (or the right people).

1.)     “I don’t know anybody.” – This is initially understandable since in many situations church planters relocate to launch their plant and obviously it takes time to meet new people.  With that being said, if you plan on pastoring a successful church – you’re going to have to meet new people – and a LOT of ‘em!  Focus on “watering holes”, you know like on those animal documentaries on the Discovery channel where all the animals come to together and intermingle around the pool of water.  What are the watering holes in your community?  If you live in suburban America, I’d suggest starting with the local Starbucks, Guitar Center, gym or YMCA, or a large bookstore like Barnes and Noble.  But remember, proximity to people probably isn’t enough…you’re going to have to actually say, “Hi”.

2.)    “I lack the finances to be able to hire the right team.” – Man, could I ever tell you about this one.  I hid behind statements like this for years.  Now I’ve realized, when it comes to recruiting the right people, money is nearly irrelevant.  If you believe in your vision, then so will others.  If you don’t, people will recognize that, and they’ll hesitate getting behind you.  We planted our church about 7 years ago and we continue to run with an extremely high percentage of volunteers on our team.  They aren’t doing it out of obligation or for the money, but because they love Jesus and they want to see the mission of our church accomplished.  Some church planters I meet are afraid to ask people to serve or come on staff without pay – let me remind you that unless you’re part of a large planting organization, my guess is that you have or are currently working and serving the ministry with little to no pay.  What made you do it?  Why do you think others won’t?

3.)    “No one I try to recruit is better at the task that I am, so it’s just easier to do it myself.”   Whoa there Lone Ranger!  This kind of attitude is certain to solidify the fact that your ministry will never be bigger than yourself.  I remind my teams and planters regularly, “The person who thinks that in order to get something done right you have to do it yourself, usually has to.”  In the beginning, this might be true, but long-term thinking dictates that we become master delegators.  When someone takes over a new task, understand that quality could decrease, but with the right leadership and training, you should expect this person to outperform you in the near future.  Delegating is a scary thing, but arrogance and shortsightedness are far worst.

4.)    “I don’t have the time to train people.”  A close cousin of #3, this excuse underestimates the value of duplication.  If Jesus did anything, he duplicated.  He went from 1, to 3, to 12, to 72, to 120, to 3,000, to the world.  In fact, the majority of what we read about Jesus doing in scripture was focused on training his disciples.  The reality is that you don’t have the time to NOT train people.  The best way to do this is to build regular training sessions throughout the month.  Do you have a weekly staff meeting?  Consider making the first 15 minutes a brief staff training or perhaps working in a longer training time into your next staff retreat.

5.)     “I’ve tried recruiting people, but no one wants to help.”  Asking someone to help or get involved is different than recruitment.  Asking someone to help all too often comes across as desperate and needy.  Recruitment is based not on need, but vision.  A good recruiter seeks to understand the person in front of them, discover their passions, creatively find meaningful opportunities for their involvement, and most importantly shows the value of the position or ministry.  Bottom line, the church is about building people and not people building the church.  Master this, and you’ll never lack people to help.

Understanding Jesus’ Approach to Team Buiding

In Luke 5:1-11, we read about Jesus calling his first disciples.  As the story goes, Jesus began teaching by the shore, and as the people began to crowd him, he eventually asked Simon to allow him to preach from his boat so more could see and hear him.  After he had finished teaching, Jesus blessed the fisherman by directing them to let down their nets for a catch.  They did so and as the scripture tells us they caught so many fish that they had to signal their partners to come help them bring in the fish and even then, both boats were “so full that they began to sink.”  At this, the fisherman was amazed and fell before Jesus.  He then said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.”  And the men left everything and followed him.

Here are the principles I see Jesus utilize.

1.)    Start Small – Jesus didn’t show up and just tell them to leave everything and follow him.  He first simply asked if he could use their boats as a stage.  Obviously, if they would have said no, this would have told Jesus something about them, but they didn’t so he continued pursuing them.  So what does this look like practically?  For me, most of the time I purposely don’t wear a watch, just so I have an excuse to talk to someone sitting next to me to inquire the time.  It might not seem like much, but I’ve had some pretty incredible conversations come from the simple request, “Could you tell me the time?”  Is one of your neighbors on your heart, ask to borrow one of their tools (and then make sure and return it.)  Is this person already part of your ministry, ask to serve for an hour without asking for any commitment beyond that.  How did they do?  Did they show up on time?  Did they serve with joy?  Did they complete the task with excellence?  The answers to these questions should tell you something and direct you with how to proceed.

2.)    Equip Them – Before Jesus ever asked for a commitment from his soon to be disciples, he first taught them the Word.  For me, in our ministry, we place a very high priority on understanding the gospel through the Word of God, so it’s important that before I ask for huge commitments that I know that the people I’m asking have been impacted by the Word in their life – that they have experienced grace first hand.  If prospective team members seem unaffected by the Word – I’d suggest looking for someone else.  When first meeting someone, it might not always be realistic to squeeze in an hour message, but you don’t have to.  I like to hand out books and teaching CD’s.  Do the people respond?  Do they ask questions?  Were they impacted?

3.)    Seek to Fulfill Their Dreams – Again, before Jesus ever asked for a commitment, he first filled their boat with more fish than they could count.  He showed that he wasn’t just interested in using them to fulfill his dreams, but that he was interested in fulfilling their dreams.  In his book, Leadership That Builds People, Dr. James B. Richards says this about the typical model of recruitment, “What is the first thing we say when someone comes into our church?  “Come on; catch the vision; become a part of it.”  That denies servanthood.  Our introductory statement says, “Give up your dreams; give up what you want to do and help me do what I want to do.”  Jesus model wasn’t about service, but wholeness.  A true leader says, “Come follow me and I’ll see that your dreams are fulfilled along the way.”  Get to know your people – what do they really want in life?  What are their goals?  How can these goals intersection with your ministry?  How can you use your organization to further their dreams?

In conclusion, my biggest encouragement regarding recruiting would be to envision yourself in a world of more than enough; more than enough people, more than enough resources.  When it comes down to it, essentially all of the excuses above come from a perspective of lack – from a place of questioning God’s provision and call for me.  Be encouraged.  God wants your church to succeed.  In fact, I would venture to say that (assuming you are preaching the gospel) that he wants your church to succeed even more than you do, because ultimately and in actuality – it’s His church.  So go out there and build that team.  You got this, not because you’re an awesome church planter (though I’m certain that you are), but because you have an awesome God.

For more information about planting a church or for other ministry resources, please visit www.oasnet.org

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The Power of a Humble Heart

There is perhaps nothing more powerful than a humble heart.  Humility, the most misunderstood of all virtues, is the ability to accept and acknowledge God’s opinion and perspective in our lives.  This is where the power lies.  The moment I accept and embrace God’s perspective, I share in his strength and am able to flow in his plan.  This level of empowerment is often missed in our traditional understanding of humility.  Typically, when defining humility, most would only associate it with being lowly in spirit, but this is incomplete.  True humility, simply put, is being sensitive to God’s perspective in our lives.  This definition allows variety in our personality while keeping the emphasis on embracing God’s perspective.  Regarding this level of empowerment, Psalm 149:4 states,For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.”  The surest way to victory is to embrace God’s perspective and that is that he “takes delight in his people”.  When we know God’s love for us, we are empowered to be truly humble. 

In this, when I know that I am loved, it becomes quite easy for me to admit fault, acknowledge weakness, and seek forgiveness from those around me.  This kind of humility seems may seem counterintuitive to our minds, but only in reaching this level of security in God’s love for us, can we ever really be free to be ourselves.  To admit fault, seems like such weakness, but in reality, it brings power.  In fact, humbling yourself to those around you, confessing your weaknesses, in actuality is the greatest sign of God’s power and personal confidence working in your life.  A truly great person, one who is fully established in who they are in Christ, should have no complaint in admitting their shortcomings, for regardless of their weaknesses; they know their position in Christ.  Additionally, they know Paul’s confession in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “for when I am weak, then I am strong”.  Like Paul, when we walk in true humility, we gain access to the power of God and begin the road to abundant victory in every area of our lives. 

Only a person insecure in their faith, unsure of how God feels about them, would struggle to demonstrate or show weakness.  This ignorance and insecurity causes them to overinflate their abilities, refuse to see their flaws, and make the false assumption that they are always right.  Like Adam and Eve in the garden, they desperately try to cover their shame with anything they can find.   Their self-worth is so low, that acknowledging one more fault, in their mind jeopardizes their personal value more than they are able to bear.  Therefore they stand firm in their positions and behavior, refusing to acknowledge that they are the ones to blame.  In actuality, all of us make mistakes, even the most spiritual of people.  In every situation and conflict, we all play a part.  Resolution comes by acknowledging this.  The sooner we acknowledge our weakness to those around us, the quicker we will begin to overcome our relational conflict.  Breakthrough is as close as our willingness to acknowledge our humanness.  (Please note, in Christ, we are complete in our spirit man.  In our spirit, we are righteous, holy, and perfected forever.   But in our minds and flesh, we are still being renewed day by day; none of us have fully arrived.  To only take the perspective of the spirit, will cause you to ignore areas of your mind that are still in need of renewal.  To only take the perspective of the mind, causes us to fail to notice our fullness in Christ.  So as far as God is concerned, we are blameless through Christ, but as far as our brothers and sisters are concerned, we must acknowledge our faults.)

As we further strive to maintain a life defined by humility, below are a few questions to consider.

1.)     When was the last time that I took even partial responsibility for another’s pain or an incident of relational conflict?

2.)    How often do I ask those around me how my behavior patterns affect their lives?  Would I be able to receive and deeply consider their answer if it was a negative response?

3.)    If humility is embracing God’s perspective, what am I doing in my daily life in order to gain this perspective? 

4.)    Make a list of 10 behavior patterns that you display (i.e. running late all the time, have trouble listening) and how these patterns might affect those around you. 

5.)    Make a list of as many promises as you can think of regarding God’s perspective towards you. 

6.)    Return to these questions often.

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Staff Envy

As a church planter, I  spent several of our first years planting very jealous, but perhaps not about what one might think.  I think most would assume that pastors would be jealous about attendance or perhaps money or buildings or something, but not me.  I was jealous of other churches’ staffs.  There I was, with a home office or sitting at Bella Vita Coffee (God rest her soul 🙂 ) all by myself trying to do the job of 4-10 people.  Granted, I live for stuff like this, but there were plenty of days when it was really hardwork and it would have been nice to have a couple other people around to help.  As I looked at other churches and pastors, they had people.  You know “peope”.  They would say things like, “no problem, I’ll have one of my people take care of this” and  things like that.  I had no people; heck, I didn’t even have a copy machine to talk to.  In thinking back, it wasn’t so much that my lack of partners in crime caused me to be lonely, afterall, Krissy was very much around and always engaged in the ministry with me (and let’s be honest, she can do the work of 5 others), but I really wanted a team.  I wanted to strategize, plan, promote, engage, attack, foster, and one just can’t imagine how difficult that is to do over a decaf latte all by yourself.  I mean, I know, I’ve tried it. 

Now, 5 years later, I have a team, but not just a team, but a SUPER TEAM!  It’s like the Justice League, but for Jesus.  To be honest, it’s hard to recall sometimes how they all got here, in fact, for many of them it seems like they’ve been here the whole time.  But somewhere along the way, God started bringing some amazing people along side of us.

I first met John Eicher Jr. while enjoying a  Sunday lunch at Houlihans with my wife and parents.  I love talking with servers and John equally loved talking with his tables.  Sometime after the appetizer, I discovered that John was a bible college graduate and had just returned from a 2 year mission in Hondorus.  Next thing I knew, we were at the driving range at Bobicks, and later traveling to Kenya together to minister in the urban slums.  From day one, John just fit.  He still does.  He is a man of wisdom, humility, and tremendous giftings.

Many might not know this, but I first met Jaime Hilton, who oversees our  worship ministry, at a job interview.  Krissy and I, for a short season, owned a Sylvan Learning Center in Niles, MI, and Jaime applied for a marketing position there.  It’s better to hear her side of the story, but essentially, she came in for an interview, we talked about the church most of the time, and I didn’t give her the job at Sylvan, which I really felt horrible about.  And which is why I was mortified when she showed up one Sunday AM at Oasis.  (This was back when we were meeting  at the bar.)  I was so embarrassed.  I thought, “man, this girl is persistent….didn’t I tell you that you didn’t get the job.”  After that her first Sunday at Oasis, I didn’t see her for awhile (which I couldn’t blame her, I wouldn’t want to go to the church of someone who didn’t give me a job either), but later ran into her several times at Bella Vita Coffee (I was there trying to strategize all by myself).  We would always exchange small talk, and inevitably, just like her interview, I would always talk to her about Oasis.  That was years ago.  Now she is overseeing our worship ministry and is writing some of my favorite worship songs. 

Ryan Knox was one of my youth group students at Oasis Wauseon.  He was one of those freakish kids that knew God’s call on his life at a really young age.  His freshman year of high school, he came to Krissy and I and told us that he intended to join us in Granger and help with the church plant.  I was like, “oh, that’s nice” in much the same way you pat an 8 yr old boy on the back after he tells you “when I grow up I want to be an astronaut.”  I just didn’t know he really meant  it.  Now Ryan, and his lovely wife Brittany, oversee our youth ministy and Ryan also oversees much of our building maintenance and construction. 

Lindsey “Sey” Blackford and I first met several years ago through a mutual friend.  After a series of events, Lindsey wandered into Oasis (she was serving on a church staff that had essentially dissolved).  She quickly assimilated into the people and culture of Oasis and with her came her amazingly large family.  (Lindsey has 6 other siblings)  Since then, Lindsey has proven herself to be an invaluable part of the team.  She spends much of her time behind the scenes, but Lindsey is responsible for much of the administration of our staff, major church events, and she also is part of our children’s ministry leadership team.  Beyond that, her family is dynamite…they’ve really made their mark here at Oasis, especially on our worship team (Thanks Chris and Michael).  (Mark and Sandy, you both are champions and have raised a great family.) 

Justin Prawat, who landed here just shortly after Lindsey arrived, continues to impress me.  I got into a pinch awhile back and needed someone to lead worship.  Lindsey suggested this guy she knew, named Justin, aka Superbomb.  Little did I know, that at that time, Justin had never lead worship by himself on a Sunday before – anywhere.  But he must have done a decent job that first Sunday, because now he is on the stage almost every week.  Beyond that, Justin’s day job is to be my assistant, at which he really excels.  Justin puts  up with my crazy schedule and always seems to find something funny to say while doing it.  He has become a good friend.

Though she technically works for OasNet, it probably would only be right to also mention, Becky Gritton.  Becky and I have been friends since youth and was one of the first people to come alongside Krissy and I when planting the church.  She has a tremendous heart for missions and coordinates relationship with many of our international pastors.  Becky, Krissy and I are both thankful to have you here at Oasis and in our lives. 

Last but not least, my wife, Krissy.  I already mentioned that she is essentially a work force on her own, but she is so much more than that.  Other than Christ, I’ve confident that I wouldn’t have made it this far without her.  She has spent countless hours listening to me ramble, complain, dream, and always seems to find some way of challenging me and encouraging me in the process.  She stood by me when no one else would and continues to be my number one cheerleader and friend.  (I love you babe.)

So that’s my team and ironically, I don’t have lattees all that often any more.  Thankfully, now, God has surrounded me with a group of sincere, hardworking, creative, and wonderful people to help carry the vision and see it through to completion.  There is nothing I wouldn’t do for all of you.  My sincerest thanks.

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Come get drenched in the Word – Sunday Nights at Oasis Granger.

girl-with-sunglasses.jpgStarting this Sunday night, January 27th, we are going to begin having a Sunday night meeting 1x per month.  I posted the schedule below.  It will be more of a classroom style teaching time that is topically driven.  If you see a topic that your interested in, feel free to come on out.  We’ll still be meeting at the McGann building and it’s from 6-8pm.  Depending on the turnout, we might even meet at the hightop tables in the cafe.  For me, it’s really sort of a feeler as to the interest in creating more of a mini bible college/discipleship training for people in the ministry.  If you are interested in pastoring or just going deeper in your understanding of the Word – this is FOR YOU.  Here is the schedule.

 January 27th – Understanding Baptisms

February 24th – Freedom from the Curse

March 30th – The Man Behind the Curtain

April 27th – Spirit-Led Evangelism

May TBA – Spirit, Soul, and Body

For more info, contact me the church at 574-850-0332.

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Charisma Online

Check out this great article from J. Lee Grady with Charisma online.  It’s great advice to young leaders today.

http://www.charismamag.com/fireinmybones/Columns/show.php

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A Different Type of Leadership

I was reading through the book of Luke this morning and came across this passage.  “And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.  And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.  But ye shall not be so:  but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.  For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth?  Is not he that sitteth at meat?  But I am among you as he that serveth. (Luke 22:24-27 KJV)

As the disciples were fighting over which of them was the greatest, Jesus stops them, and interjects a revolutionary picture of leadership.  He says that the Gentiles exercise lordship or authority over those below them.  Another translation states that they “lord it over them”.  But with us, Jesus says, “But ye shall not be so.”  And He goes on to explain that in Christ, the true leaders will be a servant to all. 

I know leaders and pastors talk about servant leadership often enough, but do we do it?  God has been showing me all sorts of areas in my heart lately that I’ve hung onto control and manipulation in order to establish my self worth.  This isn’t easy to admit and sometimes even harder to recognize every area, but regardless, it’s true and my guess is that it’s true with some of you as well.  The clarification, for me, came in the word “benefactors”.  Jesus said that the Gentile kings were known as benefactors; essentially, they were the only ones that benefited from their type of leadership.  In Christ, Jesus implies that it is the people that will be called benefactors under Godly leadership.  Which continues the discussion we’ve been having that true leadership fulfills its dreams, while helping to fulfill and develop the dreams of the people around them.  Everybody wins under true leadership.  Here are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself.

  1.  When people leave my team, are they more equipped and better people as a result of being with me?
  2. Do I make promises of helping people but never fulfill them? 
  3. Do people on my team accomplish their personal goals?  Their dreams?
  4. Do I demand things out of people that I myself am not willing to do?
  5. Do I need to be needed?

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