I have really been digging Hillsong United lately. They are the youth worship band from Sydney, Australia's Hillsong Church. Their music is powerful - sometimes U2esque. Their lyrics are equally powerful - very raw and heartfelt.

I found this little gem last night. If you go to www.unitedalloftheabove.com/allaccess and enter the user name "united" and the password "allaccess", you can download a free 7-song EP entitled In A Valley By The Sea. It rocks! And honestly, rockin' for free is the best kind of rockin'!


Ben Stein's Expelled

I saw an ad for Expelled while we were at the Catalyst Conference last Fall. I thought it was an ad for a dumb reality show or something. Turns our it's a serious documentary about how reason, scientific method, and free speech has been expelled from academic and scientific circles if you try to bring God or intellegent design into the conversation. It releases next month. After seeing this extended trailer, I can't wait to see it!



Since I stated in my last post that my favorite speech is Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, I thought I'd post a little about it as well. I was stationed for 3 years in Washington DC while I was in the Army. The first time I ever read the Gettysburg Address was one perfect afternoon after running from Arlington Cemetery to the Lincoln Memorial by myself. I did this often. It was a short, but beautiful run and I always enjoyed the end of the run - pushing myself hard up the steps to the Lincoln Memorial (kind of a Rocky moment). Anyway, on the south wall of the interior of the memorial (to President Lincoln's left), is engraved in large letters the Gettysburg Address. I stood there on this day and read it and had to fight back tears.

I've visited the Gettysburg battlefield 4 or 5 times as well. It's one of my favorite American locations. History records that on November 19, 1863 (coincidentally 100 years before Dr. King's speech in 1963) as they were dedicating the Gettysburg Cemetery, before Lincoln spoke, Edward Everett gave a speech that was two hours long with 13,607 words. You have to search pretty hard to find that speech. After its conclusion Lincoln stood up and delivered his speech which consisted of only 10 sentences and 272 words. The New York Times reported that Lincoln's Gettysburg Address was interrupted 5 times by applause and followed by a "long, continued applause". The following is the Gettysburg Address in its entirety along with the only known photo taken of Lincoln delivering the speech.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent
a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition
that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or
any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a
great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that
field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that
nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can
not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will
little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what
they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the
unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It
is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that
from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they
gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these
dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new
birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the
people, shall not perish from the earth.



As we come up on this MLKJr. Day weekend, I wanted to post Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech. I listened to this speech in its entirety for the first time a little over a year ago and it just knocked me out. It is truly one of the greatest speeches of all time. In fact, I would probably rank it second only to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. This may be a little forward, but I seriously have to believe that if you can listen to this speech and not, at least, get a little lump in your throat, there's something wrong in your soul.


Breakfast in Bed a la Gordon Ramsay

All right fellas - here's a great recipe from my favorite chef for you to surprise the wife with. Looks easy and it's sure to score big points. (Although, I think Jamie would prefer to substitute the shrooms with a little ham or sausage.)

Natural Church Development/Good to Great, Part 4


What are you passionate about? The bottom line is that if the majority of the people in your church can't give an answer that has anything to do with Jesus or church or faith, then you have a fundamental problem. According to NCD, 71% of church members in growing/high-quality churches report that "Times of prayer are an inspiring experience for me." In addition, 76% say that they are "enthusiastic" about their church. Contrarily, only 52% of church members in declining/low-quality churches can say their prayer life is inspiring and only 33% say that they are enjoying their church. Obviously there is a direct correlation between church growth and personal spiritual growth/passion. So as pastors and leaders, what are we doing to foster meaningful encounters with God in our churches? I think sometimes the problem is that we can get so caught up in making the programs happen and other things that cause "busyness", that we forget that it's all about meeting with God.

G2G states that organisations who make the jump from good to great all had a "hedgehog" concept, or a "simple, coherent concept" that drives every decision they make. There are 3 questions you should ask yourself to discover your Hedgehog Concept: What can we be the best in the world at?, What are we passionate about?, and What drives our resource engine? The obvious lesson is that passion is often a prerequisite to success. Passion for the things of God are a pre-requisite to a fulfilling spiritual life and church life.



Natural Church Development/Good To Great, Part 3

Like I said, these two books have rocked my world when it comes to ideas about leadership and church health. I already posted on the first of the 8 NCD quality characteristics, Empowering Leadership (the G2G equivalent would be Level 5 Leadership). Now the next one and the G2G quality that goes along with it.


This is so key to a successful organisation, but I believe it's probably also the most difficult. From a ministry standpoint, you can't always hire or fire carte blanche to meet your needs. As pastors we are called to lead with humility and compassion. As we develop leaders, we have to think not only what's best for our church, but of what's best for the individual. Sometimes this means being patient through a less-than-ideal situation while a particular leader is learning and developing

However, most of the time this is not really the issue. The main issue tends to be making the mistake of putting the wrong people in the wrong positions. As pastors, we believe that God has uniquely gifted each Christian for a specific Kingdom purpose. But most of the time we recruit volunteers frantically in order to fill a position. Little thought is put into whether the individual's gifts match up with ministry.

In NCD, the healthy, growing churches that were studied were effectively utilizing people according to their giftedness. This requires effort to help people discover their spiritual gifts. It also requires flexibility in our thinking. Too often, God burdens someone's heart to create a ministry that we haven't even considered. When we free people up to start the ministries they are passionate about (and that don't contradict the overall ministry of the church), incredible, unexpected things happen. We have seen this happen in our church on several occasions in 2007. It may mean that your pet ministry has to wait (or even die), but God works everything in His time.

In G2G, the great companies always focused on getting the right people on board before they decided on the direction the company would take. People are more important than vision statements or ideas. In Good To Great and the Social Sectors, Collins recognizes that this can be a challenge for churches and other social organisations. His recommendation was to treat every new hire like an extended interview. Carefully evaluate new hires during their first 6-12 months. If it becomes obvious that they are not a good match to your church, cut them loose as quickly as possible, so that the right person can be found and less overall damage is done. This advice is probably not easy for most pastors to heed, because we are in the business of second chances and forgiveness. However, I have found in my own ministry there is great wisdom in setting short-term objectives with new volunteers. When I get a new person started in a ministry, I often say, "Let's meet in 3 months and re-evaluate things." A lot of times if things aren't working out, the volunteer feels it just as strongly and would appreciate an opportunity to make a graceful exit and try a different ministry.

Live at Radio City - Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds

I downloaded a great album last week - Live at Radio City: Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds. One of my other all-time favorite, most-listened-to albums is Live at Luther College: Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds. I think this one might be better.

The Dave Matthews Band is one of my favorite bands, but I have to be honest - I think that Dave sounds best when he is just playing acoustic with Tim. The two of them together is seriously magic. Live at Radio City (2 discs worth of music) is an incredible listening experience. I had listened to it a few times already, but last night I listened to it through my earphones when I went to bed. It was so good, I couldn't go to sleep. The earphones really bring out the stereo mix well. All Tim's guitar playing is left ear and Dave's is all right ear. You really get a better sense of what they're each contributing and how talented they really are. I especially enjoyed Bartender, Gravedigger, Eh Hee, Don't Drink the Water, Cornbread, and Grace is Gone.

Here are some YouTube clips from the concert you can check out. The embedding was disabled, so I couldn't put them on my blog, but here are the links:
So there it is - my first recommendation for your listening pleasure of 2008 is Live at Radio City: Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds. Enjoy!