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I’m done listening to my pastor.

D.O.N.E. Done.

All this talk on believing the Gospel. Trusting God through pain. Loving my kids with all of my heart. Believing God’s way is better than my way. I’m done.

stop-listening

Will you join me?

Quit listening to your pastor talk about how much he loves you. About how God has a plan for your life. About how you need to link arms with other people and join a small group.

Quit listening to him when he says that it’s good for your heart to give generously.

Quit listening when he talks about turning your back on your sin. About trusting the God who loves you. About your need to repent.

And when he prays for you…stop listening then, too. Don’t listen when he encourages you to step up and serve others. Or to spend a week this summer at student camp. Or going overseas to share the love and hope of the Gospel.

Stop listening. Please.

Stop listening and start doing something.

Take what your pastor says and start living it. Let it resonate so deeply in your soul that it pushes you to action.

Listening alone is worthless. When the act of hearing Truth doesn’t end in some form of action, it’s not done you any good. As James puts it,

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. – James 1:22

If we listen, and don’t do, we’re a fool. James goes on to compare us to the person who looks in the mirror to make sure everything’s straight…and as soon as they look away, they forget what they looked like. That’s dumb.

So let’s quit wasting our pastor’s time by listening. It’s not doing either of us any good. A storm’s brewing, and we’ve got to be ready. The question is not whether we will have enough knowledge or not. The question will be whether we can do anything about it.

But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete. – Jesus, Luke 6:49

Stop listening to your pastor. And start doing.

 

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I read books outside the scope of my niche. I hope you do, too.

Reading books that speak in to areas where you’re not zoned in help stretch you in new ways, applying new truths to your well-worn paths. Not everything in these books will be applicable to you. Not everything will even be relevant. But at the end of the day, truth is truth. And truth is applicable across disciplines.

Business books help me think critically about the “system” of church. About how to spur on growth and change. About how to create systems that maintain growth over time.

I recently read Brand Against the Machine by John Morgan (on Twitter, Facebook, and Blog), and found it to be full of nuggets applicable to ministry.

brand-against-the-machine (1)

John talks a lot about “branding,” much outside of the context of ministry. So let me give you 3 ways to process this book.

1. Brand = your local church.

What helps your “brand” of church stand out from other “good” things a person could be doing on a Sunday morning? What is it that motivates them to consistently worship with you, instead of skipping out? YES, if someone doesn’t consistently show up for worship (or small group) it’s a spiritual growth issue. But let’s craft our message in such a way that the image (or “brand”) of our churches doesn’t get in the way of the Gospel.

John consistently makes the connection between “trust” and “sales.” If you trust a brand, you’re more likely to buy from that brand. We in churches aren’t in a completely different field. We just happen to have the best product in the world: Jesus! The more trust we develop with our congregations, the more likely we are to close a sale.*

2. Brand = the ministry you’re a part of.

What is it that helps your ministry stand out from everything else? What helps your “brand” of small groups stand out from the noises of life that distract on a weeknight, like going to a movie or watching TV? What helps your “brand” of student ministry encourage students to forego other activities in favor of linking arms with other students on Wednesday nights.

3. Brand = professional.

Feel free to read the book as it was originally intended, and think through your life in the marketplace. Process it through the lens of your company. Or even your personal “brand” online and in your community.

Giveaway contest:

I spoke with John, and he’s generously chosen to give a personally signed copy away. Just enter the contest here, and I’ll choose a winner on Friday, May 3, by 5:00 pm central time. Just fill in your information below and you’ll be officially entered. I’ll ship the book out next week.

Below each quote, I’ve included the question I’m personally wrestling with.

15 quotes from Brand Against the Machine

1. “Branding is about emotion, and emotion turns prospects into buyers.”

How am I stirring people’s emotions to help them “buy” into the idea I’m selling?

2. “People are willing to spend more money on a brand they trust. Do I want to drink a nice cold Kountry Mist or a Mountain Dew? Kountry Mist is a generic brand of Mountain Dew, and I have zero trust in that brand. Just because  it’s cheaper doesn’t mean I’m gonna have a sip. Plus, it’s annoying when brands get too cute with the spelling of their name. Spelling country with a K makes me worry about their education. It isn’t kool.”

Am I developing trust and innovating? Or just stealing from pop culture?

3. “Branding is not just about being seen as better than the competition. It’s about being seen as the only solution to your audience’s problem.”

What problem in people’s lives am I helping them solve through this idea? Am I communicating that through my pitch?

4. “You are your brand.”

Am I representing the church, and the ministry I lead, well in every avenue of life in-person and online?

5. “You may have an incredible product or service, and I truly hope that you do. But having a great product or service isn’t going to be enough. If no one knows you exist, the best product in the world isn’t going to save you. It’s estimated that 1 to 5 percent of people who come in contact with your brand will become clients. Are you coming in contact with enough people?”

Am I getting my message in front of enough eyes? Am I prepared for the vast amount of people I come in contact with to say, “No” to my pitch (to lead a small group, join a small group, or take the next step of faith?)

6. “When your message is focused and directed toward a certain group of people, those people respond. They respond because they realize it’s for them. That’s the kind of attention you want. With the attention of the right people and by taking care of those people, you can start to build trust and a loyal audience. You’ll never be all things to everyone, so don’t even try.”

Who is my “target audience” and are all of our communication pushes directed towards helping them move forward in faith? Or am I trying to be “all things to everyone?”

7. “Offer prospects a better product or service than everyone else. The most important element of branding is positioning.”

How am I positioning the ministry I lead as something that’s better than what culture promises them is best for their life? I.e., why is joining a small group worth bending your life around?

8. “Branding is all about emotion. Most marketing campaigns are lacking both emotion and passion. There’s nothing for people to get attached to. In fact, people rarely if ever feel an attachment to an individual marketing campaign, but they do feel an attachment with certain brands.”

How are we “branding” small groups? Are we using emotion (stories of life change) to drive our campaigns? Do people feel an attachment with groups?

9. “Fans are very attracted to a strong stance on something.”

Is our ministry positioned as something you “can’t live without?” What is it in their lives that’s missing without the element of healthy community?

10. “No one wants your product. They want their problem solved.”

What problem are we solving in people’s lives? Are we leading our promotions with that?

11. “The better you know your customers, the better you can create valuable content and products for them. There is no point in guessing, and making assumptions about your audience is extremely dangerous.”

How am I getting to know the people I lead at an even deeper level? 

12. “You are your bigest advantage in business. What you sell may not be one of a kind, but you are. You create the value for people, not your business name or fancy logo.”

Every church in town has the same Gospel message. Every small group at our church has the same end-goal in mind. What separates one from the other is our beautiful uniqueness…are we embracing that?

13. “One of the main reasons people don’t visit a new church is because they don’t know what to expect. They don’t know which doors to go in. They don’t know how to dress. People are always afraid of looking stupid. A church could ease these fears by posting a simple video on their website with a tour of the church and what to do and where to go, starting from when they pull into the parking lot. Video can take the unknown element out of the equation for prospects.”

Are we overcoming fears through how we promote small group life?

14. “Price often gets the blame when a product fails. Although price could certainly be the culprit, most of the time it is not. The problem is that consumers failed to see the value in it. When selling your product or service, focus on value, not price.”

Are we selling the value of small groups well? So that people understand that the price (giving up a night of the week, finding childcare, forming new relationships) is worth the value?

15. “Your fans want to be a part of something that is fun, exciting, and has a real sense of community.”

Are we having fun? Or just doing a job?

The book is full of even more nuggets, but this blog post is already too long. Honestly, if you’ve made it this far, I’m impressed. :)

You can pick up a copy of the book for yourself HERE.

 

*In no way am I discounting the work of the Holy Spirit to awaken the heart. I just want to posture myself, and our ministry, to be most ready for His work.

 

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Part of the reason I love Twitter is that I can scan it so quickly. Since it’s short, 140 character-max text-only updates, it’s easy to scan and get the highlights. It tends to be just the type and length content I’m looking for many days.

And from a writing standpoint, I love that Twitter forces you to distill what you want to say into 140 characters. You’ve got to cull down the content that you could unpack for 3 pages…into a sentence or two.

So I thought I’d share a few things I have been stewing on. Some of these I’ve found myself needing to stew on because I need to change…others I’ve noticed in others and hope I never see in myself.

These truths could each be pages long, with lots of references to research and theology. But I don’t want to bore you with all of that. :)

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12 tips for pastors. Twitter style.

  • Your family is your primary ministry calling. Other people come and go, but your family sticks around…for better or worse. #PastorTips
  • Quit complaining about people. It makes others wonder when you’ll complain about them. #PastorTips
  • Leading with a heavy hand will leave you with few people to actually lead. #PastorTips
  • Having a seminary degree doesn’t make you a good pastor any more than having a set of clubs makes you a good golfer. Love people. #PastorTips
  • The day you quit recruiting volunteers is the day you should start looking for another job. #PastorTips
  • If you ‘don’t have time for a small group’ then you will ‘have time to look like a hypocrite’ when you lead people to join one. #PastorTips
  • Put the theology book down and read a book on leadership. Your staff will thank you. #PastorTips
  • Work with the door open way more than you work with it closed. People need YOU, not just your ability to study. #PastorTips
  • Little steps in the wrong direction lead to bigger ones. Guard your heart NOW. #PastorTips
  • Encouragement begins when you help people see God at work in them when they don’t see it in themselves. #PastorTips
  • If you’re not leading people towards small group, your view of their spiritual growth is too short-sighted. #PastorTips
  • Quit letting ‘comfort’ drive your decisions. Let faith punch your comfort in the throat. #PastorTips

 Any Twitter-length tips you’d add?

 

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Working on a church staff, I deal with “church” people a lot. A lot.

Sometimes, we’re really cool. But sometimes we can be a bit quirky, especially to those outside of the faith. I mean, come on. We sometimes:

  • Overspiritualize everything
  • Spend 8 nights/week at church
  • Close our eyes mid-conversation and mutter things like, “Praise Him!” while raising our hand in the air and shaking it.
  • Brag about the new Bible app we just downloaded.
  • Judge someone for not going to church on Sunday, while we shove deep-fried potatoes down our throats by the handful.

And we tend to be wrong on our assessment of most people who are unbelievers. We think we know them because we used to be one. But we’ve quickly forgotten the way we thought about God, ourselves, and others. We’ve forgotten our past views on church, spirituality, and family. And it hurts our (the Church’s) reputation and perception in our community. It undercuts our opportunities to lead our friends towards Hope.

In turn, we treat them differently.

Screen Shot 2013-04-16 at 8.50.46 AM

image credit: CreationSwap user Ty Carlson, edits mine

bigot: verb, to treat someone differently based on your spiritual beliefs

We assume certain things about unbelievers that may or may not be true, and that drives our behavior towards them. In other words, we bigot them.

6 easy ways to bigot an unbeliever

1. Assume people hate God.

Most people don’t hate God, and aren’t antagonistic towards Him. They may be antagonistic towards you, and the way you’ve presented, and lived, the Truth. Especially if you’ve been forceful and pesky about it. But most people don’t hate God. Quit thinking that they do.

2. Assume they’re not curious about spiritual things.

Most people have thoughts and opinions about spiritual things. Most also have questions. Not necessarily questions that they want an academic theologian to answer. These are questions that they want you to answer. Some of these questions may be apologetic in nature (like inconsistencies in the Bible, or how the Bible and science line up), but many are much more practical in nature, like what God has to say about how to be a good parent. Or what it looks like to have purpose in life. Quit assuming people aren’t curious. Instead, be ready to give and answer…in season and out of season. (2 Timothy 4:2)

3. Assume they love a good tract.

Nope. Stop it. You know they don’t. You don’t either. If someone stops by your house to try to sell you on something, and they give you a brochure on it, what do you do with that paperwork? You throw it away. *Don’t make sharing your faith harder than it has to be.

4. Assume they love to be preached at.

They don’t. You don’t. Nobody enjoys being preached at, and told why they’re wrong. Nobody wants to hear the 11 reasons, all starting with the letter ‘P,’ why they are being a bad parent, why church is the best place to be on Sunday morning, or why sleeping with their girlfriend is wrong. Instead of preaching at someone, try loving them. That’s a better apologetic anyway.

5. Assume they won’t join your small group.

You’d be surprised how open people are to coming over to your house to eat, study the Bible, and pray. Oftentimes, because of past hurts, people are hesitant to step a foot in a church building. But they’re not hesitant to grow closer to God. You’ve just got to make the ask.

6. Assume they won’t visit your church with you.

If you’ve built a relationship with someone, maybe it’s time to invite them to church with you. Don’t pressure them in to this, but make it relaxed. Maybe invite them to join you for lunch afterwards, or invite them on a Sunday you know will be conducive for people curious about faith. Stop assuming your neighbors, co-workers, friends, and family won’t come to church with you. If you’ve done a good job building a relationship with them, loving them despite their shortcomings, you’d be surprised how far down the road of faith that’ll take you.

Can you think of anything else that we wrongly assume about non-Christians that drives our behavior and responses to wards them?

 

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My son gets to hang out in my office quite often. I love that he loves it. Maybe his love is rooted in the toys and candy I keep in the bottom drawer, just for him. But maybe it’s because he just genuinely loves me. I’m banking solely on #1 at this point in his life.

This week, though, my wife was out of town, and Rex had to go to work with me all day.

I had to jump on a conference call, and the movie he was watching was a little loud. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind putting some headphones on. Then he gave me this look.

He’s got the sass of his mama. :)

 

photo (1)

One of my goals of fatherhood is to raise a son that doesn’t hate church. It’s not a given reality that my son will grow up loving the Church. As a pastor’s kid, he’s got an uphill battle ahead, especially considering the pastor’s kids I knew growing up. Right now, he’s loving Longhollow, where I’m on staff. But we’ve got a lot of years ahead of us, and I’ve got a lot of work to do to keep us on this path.

My child loving the church his whole life isn’t a given…and neither is it for yours.

Should you ‘force’ your kids to go to church? Or let them choose?

Should you let them go to the main worship service with you when they want? Or put them in the kids area?

Let them wear what they want? Or dress them to the nines?

Here are some intentional actions I’m taking to keep my son from growing up to hate the Church.

8 Ways to Ensure Your Kids Won’t Hate Church

1. Make small group a priority in your life.

Every week, my wife and I go to small group. We help Rex understand how important it is for mommy and daddy to do this, and that through it, we become better parents.

2. Go to churches with amazing children’s ministries.

Check (Grace Community Church) and check (Long Hollow). Without ministries intentionally investing truth, and fun, into my child’s life, why would I expect him to want to come back?

3. Give your family your best time, not just your leftover time.

I don’t want to always come home tired and frustrated and burned out. It’s easy in the church world to give others your best consistently, and forget that your family is your priority. Whether you’re a volunteer or on staff, giving others your best is easy to give your best to others, because they “need” you and constantly affirm you. When you give others your best, you create resentment in your family.

4. Don’t make church attendance an option for your kids.

Our son never has the option of ‘bargaining’ his way out of going to church. Just like he never bargains his way out of going to bed at night or buckling up in his car seat. It’s not that we ‘force’ anything. We just never give him another option. “How dare you force your kids to go to church?!?” Really? Don’t you ‘force’ your kids to go to school? To go to bed? To eat dinner? To go to the doctor?

5. When I’m home, I’m home.

I don’t want him to think that daddy has to “work” all of the time. I want him to know that when I’m home, I’m really home, not just distracted by work. If you don’t work in a church, it might be different for you, but the principle is the same. Don’t be so distracted by ministry that you neglect the ministry right in front of you.

6. Live out your faith at home and at church.

I’m nowhere near perfect in my life, but my faith is real and active at home and at church. We talk about spiritual things at home, read our Bibles, and pray together consistently.

7. Make prayer a regular part of your public, and private, life.

We don’t just pray at church, or when other people are watching us. We pray together as a family even when it’s not what we ‘have’ to do. When all you do is pray at church, and for others to see, you create an unhealthy, hypocritical dynamic for your children.

8. Don’t rip your pastor in front of your kids.

I don’t try to hold our local church, or any, on a pedestal of perfection…but I also guard my words carefully so that my son doesn’t grow up with a jaded view of the bride for whom Christ died. I don’t want him thinking everybody is perfect, but I also don’t want him growing up not trusting anyone.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6

Do your kids enjoy church? What about you? What did your parents do to help you not hate church?

 

 

 

 

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Nobody wants to wreck their ministry. Nobody.

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image credit: CreationSwap user Boaz Crawford

Everybody wants to be a part of a church (or non-profit) that is flourishing. Everybody that steps into ministry wants to be a part of an organization that helps others grow, and take courageous steps of faith. I’ve never met someone who said, “Gee, I’d sure like to ruin some innocent people’s lives today at my church. Let’s get after it!”

But the truth is that wrecking your ministry, and the ministry of others, is easier than you think. Typically, through a series of poor decisions (or a lack of intentionality), a slippery slope leads you quickly to a rocky, muddy ditch.

The good news, though, is that with intentionality, flourishing in ministry is possible.

How to wreck your ministry

Obvious:

  • Have an affair
  • Kill someone
  • Quit praying
  • Develop an illegal addiction

Not so obvious:

Anything you’d add?
 

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Buried in the grave

Ben Reed —  March 30, 2013 — Leave a comment

Buried in the Grave, by All Sons & Daughters, is far-and-away my favorite Easter song right now.

Enjoy!

(lyrics below the video)


 

There was a day we held our breath
And felt the sting of bitter death
When all our hopes were buried in the grave
Our eyes awake our hearts were torn
Between our faith and what we knew
Before our king was buried in the grave

And grace was in the tension
Of everything we’ve lost
Standing empty handed
Shattered by the cross

All we had
All we had
Was a promise like a thread
Holding us keeping us
Oh from fraying at the edge
All we knew
All we knew
Was you said you’d come again
You’d rise up from the dead

There was a day we looked for proof
That you had risen from the tomb
And all our doubts began to roll away
We touched the scars upon your hands
You kept your word
Oh son of man
You buried death by taking on the grave

You came here to save us
Cuz everything was lost
No longer empty handed
Clinging to the cross

All we had
All we had
Was a promise like a thread
Holding us
Keeping us
From fraying at the edge
All we knew
All we knew
Was you said you’d come again
You’d rise up from the dead

It is is won
It is done

All we have
All we have
Is the promise like a thread
Holding us keeping us
Oh from fraying at the edge
All we know
All we know
Is you said you’d come again
You rose up from the dead

 

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RebukEncouragement

Ben Reed —  March 20, 2013 — 5 Comments
Screen Shot 2013-03-20 at 9.26.49 AM

image via Amber Sprung, CreationSwap, quote mine

Just the other day, someone was trying to give me a compliment. I think.

It’s great you are able to do ministry like this at such a young age, and be able to learn so much. You’re doing a great job for your age in life.

I smiled and cordially thanked him. My mind racing as he walked away. I kept thinking, “Was that an encouragement? A rebuke? A compliment? A slap in the face?”

A backhanded slap feels a little better when it’s couched with something nice, right? Especially if you can somehow mix God, ministry, theology, and “spiritual growth” all together. It’s kinda like being slapped by a sweet old grandma, while she gives you a kiss on the cheek. It’s kinda sweet. And kinda mean. And you don’t know whether to smile, be angry, run and hide, stand and fight, or curl up in the fetal position.

A few weeks ago, I was told, “For the task you’ve got in front of you, you’re doing well.” Again, I smiled and said thanks, but thought, “What does that even mean? If it were easier, would I not be doing well? If it were harder, would I be an abysmal failure?”

This is probably a reflection of my broken, depraved mind.

But I started thinking if there were other ways of encouraging someone…and backhanding them all at the same time. I came up with a few that we use in the Christian world. I call them “RebukEncouragements.” See what I did there? I brought together two biblical words and…well, you get it.

RebukEncouragements

  • You’re doing a great job for your age.
  • For the task in front of you, you’re doing well.
  • I’m glad God isn’t done with you yet.
  • If God can save you he can save anyone.
  • To pastors: Most pastors aren’t as normal as you are.
  • To pastors: It must be nice having a job where you only have to work one day/week.
  • To pastors: For all of the extra “ministry stuff” you had to do this week, it’s amazing you could have pulled together a sermon at all. I’m glad you at least preached something.
  • God can love someone even as difficult as you.
  • It must be exciting for you that you still have so much to learn.
  • God has used you in my life to teach me patience.
  • Without you I wouldn’t know how to deal with difficult people.
  • I can’t even imagine how God’s going to use you when you grow in maturity.

Anything you’ve heard/said before that is a RebukEncouragement?

 

 

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My pastor

Ben Reed —  March 19, 2013 — 4 Comments

My pastor, David Landrith, has just been diagnosed with an incurable cancer. He, and our church, covet your prayers.

 

PrayForDavid.com

#PrayForDavid

The Mission Ahead from Long Hollow Creative on Vimeo.

 

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IMG_4048

I love Sunday morning corporate worship. It energizes me to worship with other believers, and be challenged by good, solid preaching.

But corporate gatherings alone will dry me up, spiritually. I need small group life.

You do, too.

Why Small Groups are Vital to Your Spiritual Growth

1. It’s too easy to hide in a large gathering.

It’s tougher to hide in a small group. 

2. It’s too easy to be passive during a sermon.

Wallflowers don’t last long in a small group.

3. There is little to no accountability.

Follow-through is much easier in a small group.

4. We’re prone to think we matter too little.

Small groups remind us that we are loved.

5. We’re prone to think we matter too much.

Small groups remind us that others have problems, too.

6. We’re prone to think, “they need to hear this.”

Small groups challenge us to personally apply Truth.

7. We’re prone to think, “this is only for me…”

Small groups keep us from cycling into destructive self-pity and loathing.

8. When we cry, there’s nobody to ask us, “What’s going on?”

Small groups don’t let tears go unchecked.

9. No food is allowed in most worship gatherings. #Lame.

We eat well in our small group.

10. “Be quiet while the pastor is preaching!”

Small group gives you time to have deep, life-stirring conversations with people.

11. Convictions go unchecked.

When the Spirit moves in small group, you’ve got time to slow down.

12. Specific needs go un-prayed for.

Small groups pray for the specific needs of their group members.

13. There’s no time for questions.

Small groups ask hard questions and allow for discovery.

Are you in a small group? Has it helped you grow spiritually?

 

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