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Is your church safe? I don’t mean “we have police officers” and “we have hidden cameras” and “I’m packing heat on my pew.”

Is your church safe for you to be you? Can you be the you that doesn’t have it all figured out? That has more questions than answers, some days? Can you be the you that you are on the inside that nobody else sees? The you that wonders how in the world a God that loves justice could also love you? The you that you’re ashamed of?

Is it safe to for you to bring your doubts?

Fears?

Questions?

Struggles?

Victories?

Insecurities?

Quirks?

Gifts?

Doubts?

Is it safe for you to bring the full force of these and not be shunned?

Not be cast out?

Not be shamed?

Not be laughed at?

Not be marginalized?

Not be made to feel “less than”?

Maybe a bigger question than, “Can you?” is “Do you?”

Do you lead the way in vulnerability? Because if you don’t, they won’t. If your current church environment doesn’t afford you this luxury necessity, create it. If you’re waiting for someone else to give you the permission, you now have it. I’m granting it to you right now. Be you. And when someone else brings their junk, don’t take a step back. Take a step forward towards them and with them. Give grace, mercy, and patience. Give truth in love. Give space for continued exploration.

If we have a Savior that died for us, and was the ultimate example of welcoming sinners, we as the Church should be the most welcoming environment on earth. The safest place to still be “in process.” The place where when you join our community you instantly feel at home. You may not be able to put your finger on it, but our people should feel like your people. Our group, your group. Our home, your home. Our grace, your grace. Your story, our story.

By our posturing, may we, the Church, be certain we’re not telling the world, “Fix your junk before you come in here. Otherwise we will boycott, marginalize, slander, and shun you.”

The safest place you’ll ever find yourself is in a small group community that simultaneously knows and loves you. (Tweet that)

Jesus was a “friend of sinners.” (Matthew 11:18) Are we?

 

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I wish I could forget

Ben Reed —  January 31, 2014 — 3 Comments

Ever said this? I bet you have. There’s something that’s happened to you that you wish you could wipe from your memory forever. You wish it would never pop up when you hear that song. Or visit that restaurant. Or smell that smell or see that movie. You wish you could go back to the time before it ever happened because the reminder is so deeply painful.

I was recently meeting with someone who had been deeply sinned against. He had been hurt by someone else, and he made the statement, “I just wish I could forget that this ever happened.”

Maybe you’ve said something like that.

You wish you could forget

  • that relationship
  • what she did to you
  • how he treated you.
  • when your dad left.
  • when you failed at ___.
  • when you quit ______.
  • the pain of divorce.
  • when you started your addiction.
  • when he hit you.
  • when you got fired.
  • when you had to ask my kids to forgive me.
  • the time he sinned against you.
  • the time he sinned against you again.
  • the time he sinned against you again and again.

It would be easier to just forget this pain, wouldn’t it?

But remembering the pain of someone hurting you allows you to love them in a way you couldn’t otherwise. It gives you the chance to offer grace where it is not deserved. Forgiveness where it hasn’t been earned. And it encourages you to seek God in a way you wouldn’t otherwise, being forced to lean on Him for support in a fuller way than you may have without the pain.

God doesn’t let us fully forget. Because by leaning more fully on God, and offering more grace, love, and forgiveness, we become more like Jesus.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. – the Apostle Paul, Romans 8:28-29

 

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How do preschoolers tell the Christmas story?

My church sat down with some recently.

I think you’ll enjoy their…retelling.

A Kids’ History of Christmas from Long Hollow Creative on Vimeo.

 

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change-flickr-david-reece

image credit: grist.org

Growing up, I played sports a lot, but golf was the game that stuck. On the other side of being able to regularly play competitive sports because of “life,” golf continues to be a sport I’m able to play, and not embarrass myself.

While playing competitively, I took lessons from a handful of coaches over the years, each of whom had their strengths, and taught me a different aspect of the game.

But one thing was constant with each coach and each lesson I took.

After changing my swing, even just a little bit, I always got worse.

Always.

There was never once where my coach would shift my grip, or adjust my posture, or shorten my backswing, where I would go out the next day and fire the round of my life.

Not. Even. Once.

I’d hit one or two good shots. And 75 bad ones.

Then the next round I’d hit 3 or 4 good shots.

Followed by another coaching lesson change.

Followed by a mere 1 or 2 good shots.

Over time, those 75 bad shots became less bad. And the 1 or 2 good shots became 8 or 10.

The positive effects of a swing change were never instantly felt. Even though I was making changes for the better.

Some times, when things got tough and I didn’t want to keep fighting through the difficult change, I’d revert back to old habits. In the heat of the moment, it made things easier. But never did it help in the long run.

If I went back to old habits, it would feel good, but I was no better off.

Organizational change

Organizational change is no different. It’s just on a larger scale. With more zeros on the end.

You know the changes that need to be made in your organization. Changes that will help move things forward. Changes that will open the door for new growth. Changes that will get the right people on your team.

Changes that will help position you for a bigger community impact. Changes that will lead you into the next phase of development.

But when you try to implement those changes, your organization will take a couple of steps backwards before it take steps forward.

My context for organizational change is the local church. Maybe yours is the non-profit board you sit on. Or the company you work for. Or the small group you lead. Or the running club you’ve joined.

When the change process begins, there’s a tension that exists between what “was” and what “could be.”

What “was” represents what

  • isn’t that bad 
  • isn’t completely broken
  • is “safe”
  • is comfortable
  • is known
  • is controllable

What “could be” represents what

  • is difficult
  • is painful
  • doesn’t instantly make you feel good
  • causes us to swallow our pride
  • stretches us
  • isn’t controllable
  • could fail
  • is unknown

But you know what change needs to happen. You see things differently. You see a preferred future, with more growth, more impact, more products (or ideas, depending on your industry), and more lives changed. That’s why you’re there!

Quit complaining about things being tough! Without difficulties, there’d be no need for leadership. And you’d be out of a job. [Tweet that!]

Don’t let the regressive, two-step backwards process of change keep you from moving forward. Going back to old habits, to what feels comfortable and easy and well-worn, isn’t what’s good for you and your organization. Even though it’s more comfortable at the time.

Aim for what could be, and don’t stop until you get there. [Tweet that!]

Even if you get burned. Even if you fail. Even if it’s difficult. And trust me…it will be.

If you give up on the first few steps backwards, you’ll never realize the growth that change can bring. [Tweet that!]

I’m rooting for ya.

 

Don’t give up and be helpless in times of trouble. – Proverbs 24:10

 

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If you’re married, or ever been in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex, you know that men and women communicate differently.

And I bet you’ve had an argument discussion that went something like this.

 

 

 

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Running from pigs

Ben Reed —  December 13, 2012 — 2 Comments

Why is it that when you place a seemingly innocuous quote on top of a cool picture, the quote instantly becomes cooler? Deeper? Moving?

I don’t know, but I’m willing to give it a try.

But I don’t want to take this too seriously. Unless, of course, you mean going over-the-top serious. In which case…yes, please!

Let’s do this together. I’ll prime the pump. You fill in what you think could be the stirring quote on top of this photo. Even if the quote doesn’t exactly match the tone of the photo. Make it a good one!

I’ll pick a winner, and post it to Pinterest. Because that’s where the majority of these kinds of pictures end up, right?

Here’s the pic, by itself:

photo-7

Here it is, with a couple of different “sayings.”

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 9.19.52 AMScreen Shot 2012-12-13 at 9.23.35 AM

Screen Shot 2012-12-13 at 9.18.46 AM

 

 

 

 

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My friend, Margaret Feinberg [www.margaretfeinberg.com], has a new book and 7-session DVD Bible study called Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God [www.margaretfeinberg.com/wonderstruck] (releasing Christmas Day). She describes it as “a personal invitation for you to toss back the covers, climb out of bed, and drink in the fullness of life.” I say that as long as that drink is coffee, we’re good. :)

I’ve enjoyed Margaret’s stuff. She has a way of writing that captures my head and my heart. That stirs me to love God, and the beauty He possesses, unlike most present-day writers. Margaret has a way of crafting language that can help you fall in love with your King all over again. In this book, she succeeds at helping you see the wonder of God in your own story.

Wonderstruck Cover Art Image

I recently received the insider’s scoop about Margaret’s new book. Here are some highlights from the interview:

Where did the inspiration for the Wonderstruck book and Bible study come from? 

Have you ever had one of those seasons where everything goes wrong, and when you think it can’t get worse, it somehow finds a way? My husband, Leif, and I had just gone through one of the roughest years of our lives. In the aftermath, as we processed the pain and loss, I had an unexplainable desire in my heart. I began praying for the wonder of God. In essence, I said, “God reveal yourself, your whole self to me. I want to know you as Wonderful. I want to know you as I’ve never known you before and see you in places I’ve never recognized you before.” God did not disappoint. 

What do you mean by “the wonder of God”? 

Sometimes talking or writing about wonder feels like tying kite strings to clouds. It’s ethereal, and you can never quite get a grip on it. But if you look in the dictionary, the two main definitions of wonder are: “being filled with admiration, amazement, or awe” and “to think or speculate curiously.” 

Those definitions come together beautifully in our relationship with God. That’s why I define the wonder of God as those moments of spiritual awakening that create a desire to know God more.

In other words, the wonder of God isn’t about an emotional experience or having some cool story to tell your friends, but the wonder of God makes us want more of God—to go deeper and further than we’ve ever been before. 

Why do you think we so easily lose the wonder? 

It’s amazing how quickly we can grow numb to the wonder of God in our lives. I think there are a variety of reasons. Paying bills. Getting that degree. Providing for a family. Raising kids. Caring for aging parents. The list goes on. 

All too often we find ourselves head down, pushing ahead, just trying to get through. Somewhere along the way, a gap begins to develop between God and us. A drifting takes place. We’re not only less aware of God’s presence in our lives, we’re less expectant. And so even when God does show up, we miss him. We pass by unaware. We’re spiritually asleep and we don’t even know it. 

Yet I believe that as followers of Jesus we’re meant to live wonderstruck. We’re invited to live on the edge of our seats in wild expectation of what God might do next. I want to live with this kind of divine expectation, that wide awake spiritual hunger, searching for God in how ever he may want to reveal himself. 

Why you do you encourage people to pray for wonder? 

This is an incredibly powerful prayer, because praying for wonder invites us to change the posture with which we live our lives. When we pray for wonder, we’re asking God to expand our capacity to see and savor the divine gifts all around and take us deeper in our journey with Christ and in the Scripture than we’ve ever been. A prayer for wonder essentially says, “God, I want more of you! Take my breath away!” And leaves us living expectant for how God will answer.  

What do you hope people will gain from the Wonderstruck book and Bible study?

My hope is that you will be awakened to the imminent presence of God in your life. We do not serve a God who is far off, but One who is near, ever present, and intimately involved in the most minute details of our lives. I think we can so easily forget this. 

So my prayer has been that you will begin seeing God in unexpected ways right in the midst of your routine, that your passion for God will be reignited, and you’ll find the Scripture coming alive in a whole new way. 

Follow Margaret’s snarky, funny, and inspirational posts on Twitter [www.twitter.com/mafeinberg], Facebook [www.facebook.com/margaretfeinberg], or her blog [www.margaretfeinberg.com]. You can learn more about this great book by visiting www.margaretfeinberg.com/wonderstruck where she’s offering some crazy promos right now with up to $300 of free stuff.You can snag it for $7.95 ($14.99 retail) on Barnes & Noble [http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wonder-struck-margaret-feinberg/1110904808?ean=9781617950889] if you like to get good things on the cheap. If you don’t, go ahead and buy it for full price at your local bookstore.

 

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We pastors have a lot of meetings. A lot.

6467027797_0b2bd073bc_b

image credit: flickr user universityymca

I should’ve included “How to lead meetings” in my list of things I wish seminary had taught me. Meetings end up eating the majority of many of my ministry days. Whether I’m meeting with current small group leaders, potential coaches, ministry team members, or random church members, I’m in meetings hours and hours each week.

I love people, which means that I don’t hate meetings. But I also value my time and theirs, and don’t want to waste my days and my life in pointless meetings. Throughout the 7 years or so I’ve been a pastor, I’ve learned a few things about meetings that may help save you some headaches.

10 Meeting Rules Every Pastor Should Live By

1. Always bring a notepad.

If you come without something to write on, it shows that you don’t really care about that meeting. If it were more important, you’d have something to jot notes down on.

2. Buying someone a cup of coffee makes them more likely to agree to lead a small group.

Call this a bit of manipulation if you want, but it works.

3. Always be on time.

I used to try to be early to every meeting, but I found that 10 extra minutes here or there was adding up. And that 10 extra minutes here or there that I recaptured helped me get caught up on email, make that phone call I hadn’t yet, or put the finishing touches on a project made those few minutes valuable to me. Be on time, and don’t shoot to be super early.

4. Make the sale in person.

If you’re going to recruit someone to lead a small group, or some key role, don’t do it over email. Don’t do it over the phone, or by text message. Make the ask in person.

5. Make meetings count.

People’s time is valuable…yours included. If you’re going to meet with someone, plan on recruiting them for something. Or pitching an idea their way. Or invest in them spiritually. Or something. Make a decision at every meeting you lead. Never walk out of a meeting with your only takeaway being “let’s meet again and decide ____.”

6. Don’t go in to a meeting blindly.

If you can help it, always know what you’re walking in to. Get a general understanding before you meet with someone.

7. Never meet alone.

Either bring along a leader you’re investing in and/or meet with multiple leaders at once. Relationships are key to leadership, and when you have more than one person at the table, relationships can be fostered.

8. Keep a to-do list handy at all times.

Don’t use napkins or the backs of receipts. You’ll lose them. Use a to-do list on your phone. I like Wunderlist and Things.

9. Check your email before you leave the house in the morning.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shown up for an 8:00 meeting, only to realize that they emailed me the night before to tell me they couldn’t meet.

10. Shut it down.

I’ve got to shut things down when I get home. When I began in ministry, it consumed my life and my family. I’m getting better at shutting off, but I’m still a work-in-progress. Meetings and people are important, but so is your family. And so is your personal time. If you don’t recharge, you’ll have nothing to give in meetings.

Question:

Do you ever feel like your life is just one meeting after another?

 

 

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Kittens are cute and cuddly and fluffy, aren’t they? They look innocent playing with a ball of yarn, or when they curl up next to you and purr.

You know the only problems with kittens, though? They become cats. If there was a way to keep kittens in the “kitten” stage, every house would be full of them.

The “cat” stage of being a cat dominates a cat’s life, which is why you’ll never find one in my house.

I had a cat growing up. His name was “Punchy.” Don’t ask me why. It was probably because he tried to punch my little brother. We ended up giving him away to my uncle, who lived on a farm. Punchy hunted mice and rodents to his heart’s content…which is the life cat’s should lead.

Cats

Everybody knows…

I’ve heard it said…

Someone wise once said…

 

I made this up, and I like it:

The only good cat is a dead cat.*

I’m convinced that nobody really likes cats. Some people claim that they like cats, but the reality is that they only like their cat. And even that’s a stretch.

I think I’ve figured out why nobody really likes them.

7 Reasons Nobody Really Likes Cats

1. They don’t come when you call.

Not that I need a creature to be at my beckon call, but seriously, if I communicate with something, and it doesn’t respond, I call that thing inanimate.

2. Kitty litter is nasty.

You’ve got an animal that you trained to go to the bathroom in your house, not outside? In some strange-smelling rocks that you keep in a plastic box? And you don’t find this odd?

3. Nobody likes “cat naps.”

If people truly liked cats, they’d not name the worst variation of naps after cats. Ever take a “cat nap”? A “cat nap” is what happens when you really wanted a “dog nap.” Nobody really sets out to take a cat nap. When you wake up from one, you’re just mad that one of the following happened:

  • your phone rang
  • someone rang your doorbell
  • your cat jumped on you and woke you up

4. They’ll purr one second and bite you the next.

You never can tell where you really stand with a cat. Are we best friends? Or worst enemies? I’m not convinced that a cat ever really likes a person. They could take you or leave you. So why do you like them?

5. I’m allergic.

I know, that one’s a bit personal and may not apply to you. But it’s a big deal to me. If there’s something that causes me to sneeze, cough and itch, you can guarantee I’m not going to have that thing in my house.

6. 1 word: claws.

Ever been scratched by a cat? Trust me…you’ll want to scratch that cat right back.

7. They’re never mentioned in the Bible.

Which means I can assume they’re a post-Fall product of this fallen world. There you go…I just dropped the God card on you. Come back from that!

Question:

What do you think? Are you a “cat” person?

*this is a joke post. I honestly don’t love cats, but I don’t actually want them all dead. If you’re a cat lover, I don’t think less of you. WE won’t be friends, though. :) (kidding!)

 

 

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Matt Chandler (Explicit Gospel), Josh Patterson and Eric Geiger (Simple Church) just released a new book this month with B&H Publishing called Creature of the Word. Here’s the trailer.

 


The book looks at the scripture-based beauty of a church that makes everything they do about Jesus and outlines practical steps that church leaders can take to help form a gospel-centered ministry.

On Tuesday, Oct. 23rd, Chandler, Geiger and Patterson will host a three-hour interactive simulcast about the book. They will each teach on a different topic from Creature of the Word and then answer viewer questions at the end.

So how about a giveaway?!

I am going to give away three copies of the new book, each that come with an individual simulcast registration to watch the event on the 23rd.

If you do at least 1 of the 3 options below, you’ll be entered:

1. Comment and tell me something that your church is doing to make everything it does about Jesus.

2. RT this post. Make sure to tag me, @benreed.

3. Share this post on Facebook. Make sure to tag me, /benlreed, or /LifeAndTheology.

Deadline to comment, RT, or FB share is Friday, October 12.

And.. go!

 

 

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