Season of Life

This week I read a great book called Season of Life by Jeffrey Marx. Dixon's Varsity Football Coach, Scott Winslow, attends Living Hope Church and let me borrow this book. He had his coaching staff read it as well, I believe. It's really not so much a book about football as it is about manhood in America.

In a nutshell, Season of Life tells the story of a couple of football coaches (one of them a former NFLer) who coach a high school football team, but are much more interested in teaching their players what it means to be a man. They state that there are three components of "false masculinity" - athletic ability, sexual conquest, and economic success. This is the American ideology of manhood. But these coaches taught their team that true manhood lies in how you handle your relationships, accepting responsibility, leading courageously, enacting justice on behalf of others, and faith.

This book really got me to thinking about the importance of teaching my own son what it means to be a Godly man. But also about being very intentional about it, instead of just hoping all the lessons I want to teach him naturally come up while he's living at home.

The whole father/son relationship is probably one of the most awkward relationships in a man's life. I believe the majority of fathers and sons desperately want to know, be known, love and be loved by each other. But for some reason, in most cases, trying to do this just feels embarrassing and unnatural. However, I also believe some of the greatest things in life worth doing initially feel foreign to us. I hope as Isaiah gets older I can do some things to foster a meaningful relationship with him that we can carry on into his adulthood.

Anyway, this is a great read. Check it out.



I've been giving a lot of thought to strategy of ministry lately. I'm a big believer that every church is unique. Because something was very successful in one church doesn't necessarily mean it will be so in another. When developing a strategy, I try to consider factors like location, culture, community needs, gift make-up of the church, obvious spiritual needs of the church, etc...

I try to be very thoughtful in the implementation of new programs. This is why I'm thinking so heavily on strategy. I'd like to develop an overall ministry strategy for Living Hope Church that we can settle into for at least a couple of years. If I just go start programs without any thought of the overall strategy, then there's a good chance we'll be saddled with a program that conflicts with our strategy once it finally comes into view.

This is a process that requires a lot of patience on my part, because I naturally want to come in and impulsively say "let's do this, this, and this" and just do it. But I know from experience that this kind of approach only leads to a ministry with a very disjointed feel and loads of internal problems. If the LHC staff, elders, and I can decide upon an overall course, we'll eventually have a ministry with a sense of intention, connectivity, and journey. I want LHC not to be a church of 200 different programming options, but rather, a church with intentional steps that guide Christ-followers toward maturity and mission.

John Maxwell said, "Attempting everything, like attempting nothing, will suck the life out of you."


Spring Break & Easter

What a great weekend! We had a fun Easter Sunday. I was so proud of Living Hope. They did a tremendous job inviting their friends and family members. We had so many people in church that hadn't darkened the door of a church in many years. I'm confident God moved and will continue to. We also set a new LHC record - 184!

Mollie and Isaiah are on spring break this week, too. Since Monday is my day off, we all headed to the beach. It was a perfect day! Clear skies, warm temps, my favorite people in the world, KFOG music, and a beach with a Taco Bell. About a year ago I saw a Travel Channel special on the Top 10 fast food locations in the world. There were some pretty interesting ones, but #1 was a Taco Bell right on the beach in Pacifica, CA. It's a beautiful thing to behold. It literally sits 30-40 yards from the water and has a walk-up window on the backside you can access from the beach. It was about an hour and a half from us in Dixon. We had a blast!


Creating Community & How Oprah Changed My Life

Tonight I finished Creating Community by Andy Stanley and Bill Willits. This is one of the North Point Resources books and every bit as good as the other two I've blogged about. While this one doesn't include a fictional leadership parable like the others, it is a very quick read. Willits did the majority of the writing and has a very conversational style. Creating Community is a lesson in how to do small groups - NorthPoint-style. It does not go into the nuts and bolts of how to lead a small group or what the meeting itself should look like. It does teach small groups from a leadership, administrative, and overall concept viewpoint. Willits does a great job of laying the foundation for why small groups are necessary and even critical to spiritual development.

One segment that really spoke to me as a leader was the emphasis on word association. Everyone is known for something - something that can usually be narrowed down to one word. Coke is known for cola. Bayer is known aspirin. Starbucks is known for coffee. The chapter titled "Find Your Word" talked about how important it is for an organization to find the word they want used to describe themselves. Willits says, "When people think of your organization, what is the word you hope they will associate with you? Something is going to come to mind. What do you want it to be?" The crew at North Point decided they wanted that word to be relational. They wanted their mission to be encouraging their congregants to pursue three vital relationships - intimacy with God, community with insiders, and influence with outsiders. It just got me to asking myself that question about Living Hope Church. It's something I think our leaders will be trying to formulate in the near future.

I also wanted to share something that I am now a big fan of that I saw on Oprah. She found this new highlighter pen with post-it flags built in to the pen. They're great. As you read, you can highlight portions that you find important and then flag the page so you can find it quickly later. It's all built into one handy pen. Just thought I'd pass it on. I'm loving using it right now and I'm sure it's going to be invaluable in the future when I'm looking for quotes and info from past reads.



I know I've been reviewing a lot of books lately, but I'm trying to watch less TV and read more instead. I just finished unChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. This book was being promoted heavily at the Catalyst Conference I attended in November. Kinnaman is president of the Barna Group, a Christian polling organisation. The main premise of the book was to research and report what the perceptions of American Christians are by those outside of the faith. There were no great revelations in this department. You could probably list them yourself without doing a study. The top negative perceptions were: anti-homosexual (91%), judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), too involved in politics (75%), out of touch with reality (72%), old-fashioned (78%), insensitive to others (70%), boring (68%), not accepting of other faiths (64%), and confusing (61%). (Percentages are perceptions of outsiders, ages 16-29.)

I know a lot of people really love Barna-type books, but honestly I'm not one of them. This is a good book, but it's not a great book. It probably could have been half as long as it was and been fine. After a while, you can only handle so many statistics. I actually enjoyed the chapter summaries more than the chapters themselves. The summaries were basically commentary from other church and community leaders on the issues being discussed.

In the same vein as unChristian is a much better book that I reviewed last year by Dan Kimball - They Like Jesus, but Not the Church. I would still highly recommend Kimball's book.

Leading Leaders

Last night I had the opportunity to meet with my ministry staff, which consists of a Worship Minister and Youth Minister. Out of everything I do as a pastor, this is my favorite. I really love leading leaders. On the flip side, I also love being led by great leaders. I love sharing resources, setting goals, dreaming, stretching each other...all of it.

There's nothing more exciting to me than seeing someone become a better leader. Especially if you were able to contribute to it in some way. I really love it when I can recognize leadership potential in someone, when they can't yet see it in themselves. When you can get that person to stretch and step outside of his/her comfort zone - it's incredible. The look of surprise that they're doing something that they didn't know they could do is great.

I've said it before, but I just can't emphasize enough how important reading is to leading. With the right books, you can stretch yourself and help yourself grow in amazing ways. I've found, too, that there are great blogs out there that are helping me in areas of leadership, too. Blogs are great for that because they're free and bite-sized. It's a great time in history to be alive. The access to great minds and great information is amazing.


Welcome, Myers Twins!

In honor of the birth of my new twin nieces, Katherine Irene and Sarah Jean, I thought I'd post a picture of the creepiest twin girls in the history of cinema - the twins from The Shining. Jason and Roxanna, congratulations! I'm sure your twin girls will be delightful (but I'd hide the axes just in case).


Talent is Never Enough

I picked up this latest John Maxwell book in the Sacramento airport on the way home from our first visit to Dixon to check out Living Hope Church. I sat down in my cramped airline seat and began reading it. After the introduction and the first chapter I turned to Jamie and said, "If I become the pastor at Living Hope, I'm taking the staff through this book." The beginning was that good. Over the last couple of months I've been reading a few other books simultaneously and not reading as much because we've been busier than normal, but I finally finished it tonight. The end was just as good as the middle was just as good as the beginning.

Talent is Never Enough asks the question that I've often asked myself over the years - why do some talented people fail and others with the same, or lesser, talent succeed? We've all seen people with tremendous talent that are never able to get off the launch pad. (If I'm honest with myself, I've fallen into that category at various points of my life.) Maxwell aswers the question with the title of this book and states that success comes when you're a "talent plus" person. He states "thirteen key choices that can be made to maximize any person's talent". These choices also make up the chapters of the book.
- Belief lifts your talent.
- Passion energizes your talent.
- Initiative activates your talent.
- Focus directs your talent.
- Preparation positions your talent.
- Practice sharpens your talent.
- Perseverance sustains your talent.
- Courage tests your talent.
- Teachability expands your talent.
- Character protects your talent.
- Relationships influence your talent.
- Responsibility strengthens your talent.
- Teamwork multiplies your talent.

This is a great read. I'd recommend it to any leader.


The Importance of Being Foolish

I just finished this Brennan Manning book today and it was definitely worth the read. I really enjoy Brennan's books but when I'm reading his stuff I always feel like I'm alternating between wading through portions that are a little too intellectual and then soaking in portions where I feel the love of God through his words.

I'd say The Importance of Being Foolish is one of Brennan's most theological-feeling works. He really spends a great deal of time emphasizing the supremacy of Christ, the importance of the cross, and that true life-change only comes through Jesus. The chapter called "Diversions" had me tearing up and was itself worth the price of the book. This is probably my second-favorite Manning book after The Ragamuffin Gospel.

Allow me to ruin the ending for you:

"How long have you been a Christian? How long have you been living in the Spirit? Do you know what it is to love Jesus Christ? Do you know what it is to have your love unsatisfied, endured in loneliness, and ready to burst your restless, ravenous heart? Do you know what it is to have the pain taken away, the hole filled up, to reach out and embrace this sacred Man and say sincerely, "I cannot let you go. In good times and bad, victory and defeat, my life has no meaning without you." If this experience has not illuminated your life with its brilliance, then regardless of age, disposition, or state in life, you do not understand what it means to be a Christian.

This and this alone is authentic Christianity. Not a list of dos an don'ts, not a tedious moralizing, not a list of forbidding commandments, and certainly not the necessary minimum requirement for avoiding the pains of hell. Life in the Spirit is the thrill and the excitement of being loved by and falling in love with Jesus Christ. If the Spirit is not fire, it does not exist. The prayer that rises from my heart is this - if you haven't already, may you come to know in surpassing measure the incredible, passionate joy that I have known in the love of Jesus Christ crucified, the power of God, and the wisdom of God."



I was reading this morning in Deuteronomy and had a good chuckle when I read Deuteronomy 25:11-12 in The Message:

When two men are in a fight and the wife of the one man, trying to rescue her husband, grabs the genitals of the man hitting him, you are to cut off her hand. Show no pity.

Now if you're a woman reading that you're probably thinking that is really excessive. But I guarantee you if you're a man reading that, you're thinking, "Yeah, that sounds reasonable."

(Sorry. You can remove the man from being a youth pastor, but you can never remove the youth pastor from the man.)


Brennan Manning

I had the privilege of seeing Brennan Manning at William Jessup University last night. It's been about 8 years or so since I'd last seen him. He's aged a lot since then. I think I've read just about all of his books. My favorite is The Ragamuffin Gospel, but a close second is the one I'm reading now - The Importance of Being Foolish. I was honestly tearing up within the first few sentences of his message last night. Not necessarily because of what he was saying, but because of an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the lessons I've learned through him. Nobody has had more of an impact on my life when it comes to helping me understand the vastness of the love and grace of Jesus.

Last night's message was powerful and one that I really needed to hear. In fact, as I'm beginning this new adventure in the "pastor" role with a new church, I can't think of a message that could have been more appropriate for me to hear. Brennan spoke of the life-giving, life-changing power that we have through Christ when we affirm and love other people. I'm embarrassed to admit this is a real struggle for me. I tend to get so caught up in my own agenda and busyness that I normally am looking back on the day wishing I would have invested in individuals more. I hope I can retrain my heart and mind to care for people first and "church work" second. I just think this is probably one of the truest marks of a great leader. A leader who can lead an organisation without losing focus of the individuals. I hope I can be that kind of leader.

Colette, Brandon, and Kathy joined Jamie and I last night, too. It was great hanging out with them for a little while. I'm loving my church more and more every day. Living Hope is a great bunch of people!



OK, I'm a bit unsettled. Jamie and I were just over at the outlet mall buying shoes (for me, not her). As we were getting Isla back into our car, a man in the next car called out and commented that we "must be proud grandparents"! YOU'VE GOTTA BE FREAKIN' KIDDING ME!!!


1st Service at Living Hope Church

I had my first service as pastor of Living Hope Church today. It was a lot of fun! The band sounded great. The service was ordered as a Pastoral Installation Service. We were joined by Raleigh Galgan, pastor of Valley Church in Vacaville, the parent church of Living Hope. Gil Stieglitz, EFCA Western District Superintendant, also was with us and gave the charge to the new pastor. It was an incredible honor having those guys with us. I know Gil from my days at Bay Hills Community Church and he has a lot of wisdom and is a great encourager/equipper. I'm just starting to get to know Raleigh and already have a tremendous amount of respect for him. I'm looking forward to more time with him. Those two ministers and our three elders - Harvey, Gary, and Phil - prayed over me before I gave my message. It was an exciting and moving service. Living Hope Church is poised and ready for God to do big things. We had a big meal after the service, too, and that's always good!

One of the most exciting things about the day was that it was a record-setting day. We had 146 in attendance and as far as anyone remembers, that's a new high for Living Hope! Here's to more shattered records!


The Skinny on Dixon

I found this great website called http://www.zipskinny.com/. You enter your zip code and it gives you all the demographic stats for your area (education, ocupation, marriage, race, income, age, etc...). Here's Dixon's.

There's more info on the website, but this is a visual synopsis. This chart compares the 95620 zip code (Dixon, CA) with the state of CA and the overall US stats. Some points I found interesting:
- The marriage rate is higher and divorce rate lower in Dixon than CA or US.
- Dixon has a lower poverty level.
- The percentage of Hispanic population is considerably higher in Dixon than CA or US.
- Dixon has a higher percentage of kids/teens than CA or US.

I just found this a little interesting. I love looking at demographics. They can be helpful in gaging areas of need in ministry.