Monthly Archives: May 2012

This isn’t everything you are

I recently purchased the new snow patrol album –

I quickly fell in love with the song – This Isn’t Everything You Are – Now, I am 99.9% certain that Snow Patrol was not writing this song thinking of pastors and their struggles with identity. I am still absolutely amazed at how God speaks through this!

Here’s a link to the song –

What strikes me about the song though is the chorus –

Here’s the lyrics –

And in one little moment
It all implodes
This isn’t everything you are
Breathe deeply in the silence
No sudden moves
This isn’t everything you are
Just take the hand that’s offered
And hold on tight
This isn’t everything you are

There’s joy not far from here, right
I know there is
This isn’t everything you are

Crazy as it sounds I think this message could be a message straight to many pastors hearts today!

& In one moment it all implodes – We all know what that feels like, we know the pain in the valley but we also know that our identity is not found in our ministry, in our title, in how many pats on the back we receive or how many speaking engagements we get each year.  Our identity is found in our son-ship with our King.  Yet there is always a temptation to make our job “everything we are!”

This isn’t everything you are – The crises you are walking through does not define you.  Your past struggles do not define you.  Your attendance last week, your offering last week does not define you.  This isn’t everything you are!

Breathe deeply in the silence
No sudden moves
This isn’t everything you are – I am learning that during struggles my tendency is to do two things.  The first is to plan and the second is to hurry.  I want to make a plan quickly, I am competent leader with years of experience I believe I can fix this on my own.  So I sit down I make a plan and I get after it!  Often times sadly, I don’t even slow down enough to ask God where I should go.  The second thing I do, is hurry to get out of the valley I am walking in.  Instead of discovering what God has for me in the valley, I want to quickly get out the grappling hook and I want to claw and fight my way out by my own strength.   A friend recently very prophetically told me, “Ben I think what you believe will kill you, will actually bring you life.”  There is good in the valley we just need to walk with our father to discover it.  When everything implodes, when things are tough, when our tendency is sudden moves, what if we breathed deep in the silence  and waited on God to speak, to work and to move in our lives?  What if our identity was so wrapped up in Him that he simply did not move until he said, Go.

Just take the hand that’s offered
And hold on tight
This isn’t everything you are – The Psalms are full of David crying out for Gods hand in the midst of struggle.  They are filled with requests for God to be his strength.   I think there are so many times when God won’t be strong in me, until I make myself weak.  “His power is perfected in our weakness!” Unfortunately, weakness is not a class we take at bible college, we are taught to be competent leaders not mold-able disciples.  Sometimes the valley is all about faith, just take the Lords hand, say, “I trust you dad” and hold on tight and allow him to take you where you need to go.

There’s joy not far from here, right
I know there is
This isn’t everything you are – As we hold on tight we realize God is shaping us, he changing our hearts, our character and our identity.  Then we begin to discover joy in the valley, the joy of knowing that our identity is not wrapped up in statistics or struggles, but it is found in our Father.  Sometimes I think I pastor to be successful instead of simply because I want to walk with, love and follow my father!  If you are walking through struggles, if you are deep in the valley and can’t see the light, what if the thing you fear, the thing you think might kill you ….. what if that is what will actually give you life?

What about you?  Where are you tempted to take shortcuts in the valley?  Where are you tempted to believe this is everything you are?

Study Less – Do More


My background is a teacher. I was trained as a teacher and loved teaching. So the following statement needs to be understood as someone who is all for education and knowledge.

Here is the statement: Christians, as a whole, need to study less.

Like I said I’m a teacher so let me explain.

When I was in college there was a big push to train teachers to not simply cover material but to make sure the students were mastering the material. An example of this was not only knowing how to spell a word but making sure a student knew what the word meant and how to use it correctly when speaking or writing. Until the student could use the word naturally, they hadn’t mastered the word. Spelling it correctly was simply a small piece of a bigger task.

In the same way, many Christians can take studying the Bible and do the same thing. They can recite some of the facts about a topic such as loving their neighbor, but they haven’t actually gained mastery of it.

They haven’t put it into practice.

They don’t know what it looks like when they see it. They’re not sure how it applies in their lives.  But they do know a verse or two.

Many of us stop well short of mastery. Why? Because it is hard. It is easier to pass a spelling test then to use new words correctly in everyday conversation. It is harder to love a neighbor that is annoying or simply different than it is to recite a memory verse.

But here is the thing I keep coming back to. Jesus asked us to follow him, not to study him. Do we need to do a little studying? Sure but that is only a small part of a bigger change that needs to happen.

This makes sense when you think about for a second. Who do you want to spend time with, someone  who knows a lot about the facts and theory of forgiveness or someone who actually forgives? Someone who knows a lot about the verses on kindness or someone who is actually kind?

So back to the original statement. Christians, as a whole, need to study less.

What if over this summer you decided to simply let God transform you with what you already know?

Most of us already know more than we ever put into use already.
If you’re wondering how to get started with this, and you are in the Louisville area, let me suggest our Mobilize Monday’s this summer. We’re not going to look at new and undiscovered ideas. Instead we’re going to look at how we can live out in our everyday lives so many of the things we already know but don’t really do.

For details about Mobilize Monday’s go here http://avechurch.com/mobilize-monday/ Our hope is that by the end of the summer we not only study Jesus but we’re following him more as well.

The following is a guest blog from –  Jeromie Jones – Pastor of Missional Communities at the Avenue Church

What I look for in Young Leaders

We are about to roll out the information for our residency program at the Avenue for 2012.  I am very excited about the opportunity for us to invest in a large group of young leaders.  (More coming on all of this)  One of the avenue’s goals is to invest in 20 to 30 young leaders each year and to simply say follow us as we follow Christ.  Our goal is to get them prepared for ministry in many different contexts whether they are a kingdom worker disguised as an engineer or a student minister at a local church.

Here is what I look for in young leaders:

  1. Humility / Teach-ability – Does he/she respond well to coaching?  Does he/she have a humble spirit that desires to grow?  Can he/she take constructive criticism and grow?  Does he or she want to be discipled?  If the answers to any of those questions are a resounding “NO” then they may not be ready for leadership.
  2. Character -In Mike Breen’s new book Multiplying missional leaders – There is a few brilliant chapters on Character & Competency.  He defines Character as being like Jesus.  Does the young leader desire to look like Jesus, live like Jesus and act like Jesus?  The Rich Young Ruler was interested in the answers but unwilling to change his  life in order to look more like Jesus.  I see the same problem in many young people.  They know the right answers but have no desire to do the hard work required to live like Jesus.
  3. Competency -Character & competency always go side by side.  While character is being like Jesus on the interior, competency is doing the things Jesus did.  A leader who is low character /high competency is dangerous while a leader who has high character but low competency is limited.  We are looking for leaders who have & desire the character of Christ but also have the desire to live and act as Jesus did.

This diagram from 3DM has helped shape my thinking of Character & Competency:

  1. Enthusiasm –  I want energy from young leaders.  I want excitement, I want questions, I want hope, I want enthusiasm.  Our young leaders should make us young, they should make us rethink the old ways of doing things, but they should do so not in a cynical or condescending tone but with enthusiasm.  Angry leaders make wars, inspired leaders make change!  I see far too many angry young leaders who believe they have solved the worlds problems at 23 instead of excited young leaders who want to really see the church change.
  2. Problem Solvers –  I was taught at a young age that there are 2 types of leaders.  One who can define the problem & one who can solve it.  Most young leaders excel at defining the problem.  They can sense what is wrong & have no trouble voicing their dis-approval.  Real leaders don’t only define the problem but they solve it.  I don’t need young leaders constantly telling me whats not right I need them coming up solutions to get to where it is right.  My boss when I was 25 asked me to never criticize an idea unless I had a better one, to never define a problem unless I had at least one idea on how to solve it.  That advice has served me well!
  3. Family Focused –  I want young leaders who are not looking out for # 1.  I want young leader who want to be a part of a family on mission together.  I want them to understand that in a family everyone has a role & I want young leaders to buy into their role the family.  Its not enough just to be humble and serve, you also need to let your church family know how much you love them.  Say thanks, young leaders, if someone is investing in you, make certain that you let them know how much you appreciate it.  I can always tell which interns are going to succeed by the way they leave.  If they leave saying thanks, I know they will do well.  If they leave feeling under appreciated, or under utilized, I am certain their character still needs some growth!
  4. Love the Church – There is an increasing frustration for God’s church in young leaders.  I am looking for young leaders who love God’s church and believe that the church although it is flawed is still how God will reveal His, “manifest wisdom” to the world.  I know the next generation feels let down by almost everyone.  Parents, politicians, the economy, the job market and even the church.  The best young leaders I have ever worked with loved Jesus with all their heart & because they  loved Jesus they loved His church with all their heart as well.  You can’t love Christ & hate his bride, it just doesn’t work that way!

Did I miss anything?

What would you add?

What do you look for in young leaders?

3 Questions from Sunday

As we studied the life of Abraham last weekend I asked 3 simple questions of our congregation.

1) – Where are you tempted to take shortcuts in your walk with God?

  • Gen 16 -21 is filled with shortcuts between the promise & the fulfillment – Where are you tempted to take shortcuts on the journey

2) – What are you holding back from God?

  • God says this to Abraham after Isaac was laid on the altar.  Because you have not held back, I will not hold back.  What are you tempted to hold onto.
    because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you

3) – Where in your life do you need to take the first step of faith?

  • God often moves only when we take the first step of faith.  Where in your life are your feet planted & unmoving, where has he said go & you said no?

I would love to hear your thoughts – Lets share together so we can grow together as a family on mission!

You can hear the message here –

Leading & Waiting

Two things have happened recently that have me thinking about leadership.  I got a call recently from a young man who wanted to write an article about me as being a “up and coming Christian leader.”  He said he was writing an article for a small publication and wanted to tell the stories of “Christian leaders” under the age of 35.  I politely told him that I was 37 and that I wasn’t sure an article like that would be good for my pride.  Things like that tend to puff me up & not lead me to thanking God for what he is doing but instead to thinking I’m something special.  So being old got me off the hook!

I also recently took a fairly in-depth personality test.  The one that sends you back 70 pages about who you are.   The type of test that kind of freaks you out with how accurate it is.  The one that makes you wonder how did they figure this out from me answering questions like – “Which of the 3 do you like more – Puppies – Babies or Cookies and Cream Ice Cream ?”

Well, on this particular voodoo test I was told that I am off the charts apostolic, that I am a pioneering  leader who loves to start new things.  That coupled with my desire to lead, and the high D on the DISC test means that I have a serious sense of urgency to get things done.  The results of the faith based test labeled me as a “Christian leader”

I guess “Christian leader” is the term I am wrestling with today!

Being a leader is a great place to be as a church planter or as a pastor but sometimes an awful place to be as a follower of Jesus.

Here’s the dilemma:

  • Leaders lead – Followers follow – I am never told to be a Christian leader – I am asked to be a follower of Christ
  • If I am a follower than God is the starter not me
  • If I am to walk by faith then I need to wait & listen to where He leads me
  • If I am to be lead by the Spirit – Then I can’t lead my own way
  • If I am to allow God to light my path then I can’t create my own path

You see I was taught to be a go-getter, to make quick decisions, to be assertive, to be confident & to lead the way.  I was taught to lead follow or get out of the way!

I wasn’t always taught to say

  • I don’t know – Because I’m not sure God has spoken and I simply want to follow Him
  • Lets seek God on that before we jump into something he hasn’t planned for us
  • Lets slow down, pray & wait for God to direct us
  • Or maybe the worst one of all – That is an incredible idea but I don’t think God is leading us there

Can I be honest – This doesn’t feel like what a leader does, it feels a little weak, a little too passive and a little bit lazy.

So we have started a simple exercise around our office where we create two sides on a white board (we have tons of them)

The first side simple says – WHERE HAS GOD SPOKEN

  • On that board we write all the areas where we know God has asked us to move & to go.  In those areas we plan, we act, we go , we do, we build.  We do what American Christian leaders are supposed to do – We act!  When God speaks we instantly move!

The second side simply says – WHERE DO WE NEED TO SEEK GOD – Where might God be speaking

  • This is for areas where God might be speaking.  Areas where God is stirring something but we are not yet certain of where he has asked us to go.  In these areas, we wait, we pray, we seek God, we ask for His guidance, we seek biblical counsel from other leaders and we are passive.  We do something very counter intuitive to the American Christian leader we wait.

One feels very much like leading – The other feels very much like waiting but both are teaching me that God speaks and we respond.  He sets the course and we act.  He guides and we move. That its His church and it isn’t run by “Christian leaders.”  Maybe, I’m just wrestling with semantics  but ultimately, I don’t want to be known as a Christian leader!  I just want to be known as a follower of Christ!

Where do you need to lead & where do you need to wait?

What happened to all our young people pt 4 – Consumer Creation

Let me start by saying, I was a student ministry pastor for nearly 15 years.  I know its tough, I know most student pastors are not only young but they are alone.  They are isolated and there is no one pouring into them.  I get it, in fact I personally meet with a group of student ministers in our community often and I hear their longing for some one to lead them as they lead students. I know how tough it is to work with today’s students and I feel your pain, I meet with a group of 15 year old boys 3 days a week and they are incredibly frustrating.  I speak at 15 to 20 student events a year and if there is anyone who is on your side youth ministers its me!

With all that being said, our student ministries are producing consumers and not disciples!

I know because I inherit consumers & not disciples every year.

We have catered to their needs, we have attempted to compete with culture to have the coolest program in town.  I spoke to a youth minister who in tears told me that over the last few years he had spent more time trying to create cool t-shirts & teaching series than he had in discipling students.  What we save them to is what we have to keep them with.  Unfortunately, we have a generation of young people who don’t know Jesus but know cool programs, bands, t-shirts, conferences & funny speakers.

The prophet Isaiah may have said it best with Is 1 – When he not only critiques but absolutely criticizes gatherings that don’t create lasting change!

Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
    Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons,Sabbaths and convocations—
    I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
    I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
    I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
    I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
    I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!

When our gatherings lose sight of Jesus we lose everything!  Instead of offering our students the abundant life of following Christ or giving them a vision of making disciples we give them a show, a production or a t-shirt.

So I could rage against the machine for quite some time but I’m not sure that is productive:

Here are 5 things I suggest every youth minister does to start making shifts from a consumer culture to a discipling culture:

1) – Be Discipled!

– 95% of you have not been, so find someone you respect, someone who looks like Jesus to you & follow them.  Ask them to disciple you!  Find someone who’s life is worth imitating & imitate them!

2) – Stop Counting Attenders & Start Counting Disciples

– You have to change the scorecard from how many butts are in the seats to how many students are in huddles, how many students are serving, how many students have an adult (not a 19 year old) pouring into their lives weekly.  I know you can fill an auditorium if you serve enough pizza, get a good enough band and do enough fun activities, but if that does not translate into disciples its all a “worthless assembly.”

3) – Huddle with a group of 6 to 8 students every week

– Make this your number one priority!  This is more important than sermon prep, event prep & t-short design. This matters!

4) – Find moms & dads who know how to disciple their kids & recruit them to invest in other students

– Look for parents who love their kids & who’s kids love the Lord & invite them to help you.  Listen to them!  They may not know whats cool but they know how to raise kids who love the Lord.  Invite them to help you, invite them to open their homes to other kids, invite them to huddle with groups of 6 to 8 kids in their homes.  Pray that God shows up!

5) – Start asking yourself important Questions

  •  Is my life worth imitating?
  • Am I walking with students close enough so they see my life?
  • Who am I intentionally investing in today?
  • Do the plans I am making this week make consumers or disciples?
  • Am I willing for our numbers to get smaller in order to make more disicples?
  • Am I inviting students to a relationship with Jesus while challenging them to live their life for him?

What these guys teach me!

This is my second year coaching an AAU basketball team from Portland area in Louisville.  Forget my love for basketball and my love for coaching, our missional community decided this may be a chance for some of us former coaches & wanna be coaches to start serving some students from one of the most impoverished areas of our city.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way:

1) – Drop off Missions does not work

Last year one of the boys asked me, “coach are you just one of those church people that comes around Christmas.”  I asked him to clarify & he simply asked,  “are you for real or are you just going to be here for a few months and then leave.”  These boys don’t need someone to swing by & drop of a turkey at thanksgiving, they will take it but its not what they need.  They need someone willing to invest in their lives.  We have to rethink the way we serve our communities so it is based on relationships!

2) – The Great Things of God Cost us Our Life

These guys are incredibly frustrating, and most days I walk away from my time with them thinking, “why am I doing this.”   We go one step forward 2 steps back everyday on & off the court.  This is life on life incarnational living & it means I need to exchange my ambitions for Gods.  These guys aren’t a sermon illustration, they aren’t a blog post, they are a few of the people that God has called me to.  It means I need to allow them to interrupt my pretty organized life, it means I need to have tough conversations that make me uncomfortable, it means I need to buy 12 boys dinner all the time, even when I don’t have the money and it means the more I want to be effective, the more I need to die to self!  Most days, I wish ministry to these boys was easier, its not but that does not change my calling.   We can’t undo 16 years of dis-function with one year of basketball and bible studies.  This will take time!

3) – When the soil is rough – When growth happens its very rewarding

A few of these boys come to church every week at the avenue, they are loved by our church and they have found a home within our church family.  One of our boys was baptized last year, a few of them have started attending FCA at their schools or churches in their community.  We have had a ton of breakthrough conversations this year from everything to sex, to school, to the trinity.  When God moves we are amazingly grateful because the mission is tough.

4) – It is a fatherless generation we are serving

We have 4 teams and around 50 boys in the program only around 10 of them have daddies living at home.  They are longing for and desiring father figures, these boys call me for advise all the time.  I have had the sex talk with many of them (its awkward enough with your own kids).  I have provided & protected many of these boys when needs arrise.  Dads we need to step it up and be prophets, preachers, providers and protectors of our families.  We also need to invite other young men into those families.  I am amazed that these boys want to be at my house everyday.  They want to hang out with my family, play with my kids, do chores around my house, and one of the big reasons why is that they simply want to see how a healthy family works.

Avenue People – What is your missional community teaching you?

What are you learning through the people you are serving?

Guardians & Fathers – How do you lead

In 1 Cor 4:14-16 – Paul writes to the church in Corinth and shares these thoughts:

14 I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. 15 Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me.

The word guardian is the same term for the word pedagogue – (If you want to learn more about a pedagogue ask Evan our intern he is yoda with these things)

A pedagogue is a teacher.  In Greco Roman culture as children of wealthy families grew up they were assigned a pedagogue, this person served as a teacher and protector.  In a child’s early years they would be entrusted to this guardian for a season until they were ready to follow their fathers & mothers & prepare for their trade.

The key role of this guardian was to pass on information & protection.

Then a moment comes when a child is handed off to his father, it usually came with some sort of ceremony where a son would then begin working with his father to learn his fathers trade.  So at the age of 12 or 13 a young boy would start working with his father to learn how to do whatever his father did.

The key role of the father is imitation.  The child was to imitate what the father did.  Whatever trade the father worked in the son would follow and he would learn by imitation.

Obviously, a child would follow his father until he was prepared to take over his fathers business at which point he would not only imitate who his father was but he would actually innovate and define new ways of doing the family business.

3dm has a great tool for this idea explaining what Paul is discussing here in 1 Cor 4:14

Our team today sat down and started asking the question throughout your life how have you been lead?

Like a guardian or like a father?

Paul says we have had 10,000 guardians, which I know has been true for me.  Information about Jesus is easy to find its everywhere with one click I could download volumes of books, hours of sermons and days of content about Jesus.  Having someone who says follow me as I follow Christ is much more rare.  Someone saying I am going to walk shoulder to shoulder with you & allow you to imitate me is not common in our culture.  The intentionality of life on life discipleship has been replaced with a corporate model of leading church teams in the same way we would lead a business.

Here’s the scary thing:

Our staff team who has a combined 40 to 50 years in church ministry felt like we had never had a boss on a church staff who lead as a spiritual father but only as a guardian.  We have never had a leader say imitate me as I imitate Christ but we have always had leaders who lead at a distance.

Guardian leadership is about passing on information, its transactional, it performance based, its seasonal, its formal and it keeps its followers at a distance.

This isn’t how I lead my family!  My love for my sons is not transactional, my affection for my daughter is not performance based or seasonal.  I would never keep them at a distance but I want to draw them in.

This also isn’t how a spiritual father leads a family on mission!

Leadership in a family is about imitation its not transactional its a commitment to each other, its not performance based but it is held together by love.  Its not seasonal or formal but life long and informal.  Its not about keeping our followers at a distance but it is about inviting them into your life.  We seem to have created teams with coaches but not families with spiritual fathers!

A team is great but a family is better!

So our team/family simply asked the question if their are 10,000 guardians and not many fathers than how do we start leading staff teams as Spiritual fathers and not as Corporate guardian leaders?

How would things change?

What steps need to take place?

How do we lead more like fathers and mothers of spiritual families instead of corporate business leaders?

What does it look like to lead out of imitation instead of information?

These questions and many more have my mind spinning – Pray for us as we attempt to not just listen to these words from Paul but as we attempt to live in them!  I would love to hear your thoughts as well!