Archive for June, 2007

The 2007 Buzz Conference really snuck up on me. Leadership Network had asked me to research and write a paper for them on how churches are using social networking tools for kingdom impact. Mark Batterson agreed that it made sense to distribute the piece at this conference (now avail here) and LN was gracious enough to enable me to attend. Though I ended up participating in one of the Q&A’s around the piece (and other topics) on Wednesday, I primarily went to network with other leaders.

I’ve been to a number of church conferences and technical conferences for my day job, and perhaps I’ve grown a bit cynical. Longtime emergesque readers are aware of our critique (here and elsewhere) of an evangelicalism that sometimes has seemed to subscribe to the omnicompetence of information transfer as the primary modality of spiritual transformation. We’ve suggested biblical information is necessary but that something else is also needful. Our conferences (and, without apology, I do consider myself to be an evangelical, though I know in some circles that seems to be increasingly unfashionable) have to me sometimes seemed to be too much of an extension of that.

But Buzz snuck up on me because today I realized that after this conference, I actually feel spiritually refreshed and deeply challenged! Evidence of that is the volume of notes that I took represented below – I don’t generally do this. I think there are at least three factors behind my response:

  • As I mentioned before, Mark graciously invited me to his home Wed night for dinner and I was able to spend some relaxed time chatting with the main speakers, their families, and some others. I appreciated the humility, the heart, and the spirit of the folks there.
  • Though there certainly was a ton of information transfer at this conference, there was something more. We didn’t just receive info from our speakers but they also gave us their hearts and showed us their passion. This deepened the impact of the truths they shared.
  • Mark has set up prayer teams for the participants of this conference. I believe I personally experienced the positive results of their faithful intercession.
  • Finally, I was just encouraged by the general direction that we are beginning to see in evangelicalism – and evidenced by speakers’ comments – away from the attractional model that focuses on church growth and toward the incarnational model that emphasizes the church moving out into the community. (I actually believe it’s a both/and situation.) A significant contingent of the folks at NCC’s Ebenezer’s site are homeless folks and I loved the mixture of demographics that was obvious in the NCCers that volunteered to work at the conference.

I just emailed NCC because I want to hear again today’s talk by Craig Groeschel. I resonate with what Mark Batterson blogged today when he wrote:

I honestly think that Craig Groeschel’s session today may have been the most powerful conference talk I’ve ever heard. I’ll be digesting it for weeks and months!

NCC is considering not doing Buzz in ’08. If you’re reading this and found Buzz ’07 useful, please join with me in campaigning NCC to by all means do it again next year!

Metapost to all emergesque Buzz Conference posts


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Mark Batterson of National Community Church in Washington, DC closed out the Buzz Conference with his final talk.

Mark continued his earlier talk on The Spy Rules:

  • Spy Rule #5 – Assume you are under surveillance.
    • people will only be as vulnerable as their leader.
    • the greatest freedom is having nothing to prove.
    • don’t be afraid to cry publically (john 11:35)
    • quit trying to be a pastor and start being yourself.
  • #6 – Blend into the Crowd
    • We are to incarnate Christ into our neighborhoods
    • There are 4 potential responses to culture
      • ignore it
      • imitate it
      • condemn it
      • redeem, engage, and create it
    • Jesus didn’t hang out at synagogues; he hung out at wells.
    • Coffeehouses are the postmodern wells.
  • #7 – Avoid Defensiveness at all Costs
    • it can be detected.
    • stay in the offense
    • The enemy uses guilt and fear to put us on the defensive.
    • When you are criticized, it’s easy to spend too much time on defense.
    • Erwin McManus says that we should not let criticism penetrate our hearts unless it’s processed through the filter of Scripture.
    • Criticism should be regarded in proportion to the degree to which the criticizer is close to you relationally.
    • Don’t allow negativity to take root in your staff or in your church.
    • Start every meeting with sharing wins.
    • You cannot preach out of your discouragement or an angry spirit.
  • #8 – Be Aware of Your Environment at all Times
    • Be a first class noticer of groups and of individuals (e.g. Genesis 40:7 when David notices the dejection of Pharaoh’s officials)
      • Read minds and read rooms
    • We grossly underestimate the way that subtle differences in our environment can affect us.
      • When we think of the DoubleTree Hotel, the first thing that we think about are the cookies!
      • What stands out about the Fractured Prune is that when you visit the first time, they offer you a free donut of your choice.
      • Many chapters of the book of Exodus are devoted to the details of the interior design of the Temple.
  • #9 – Never Go Against Your Gut
    • “I’d rather be biblically correct than politically correct.”
    • We live in a culture where it’s wrong to say, ‘It’s wrong.'”
    • We need more guts in
      • preaching
      • evangelism
      • leadership.
    • “The difference between where you are and where God wants you to be is the difficult decision that you refuse to make.”
  • #10 – Don’t look back!
    • We need to be casting vision more frequently.,
    • NCC does this in a number of ways
      • Leadership Retreat for all leaders (including Small Group Leaders) at the beginning of the year – paid for by NCC
      • Quarterly Leadership Summits
      • Monthly podcasts
      • Etc.
    • RK Kendall’s book The Anointing: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow asks if we are living under the anointing today or are we living on the momentum of yesterday’s anointing?
      • If we don’t experience an anointing every day, then it’s only a matter of time before we become yesterday’s man.

– Metapost to all Buzz Conference posts

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After Craig’s Friday talk, Mark Batterson interviewed Craig. Here are my notes from some of the exchange:

Q: What’s the 20% of your job that you don’t like?

A: Craig struggles with the organizational side of pastoring a multi-state, multi-site church – e.g. terminations, etc.

Q: What do you do for sermon prep?

A: The part of Craig’s answer that I found most interesting was that he runs each sermon by 2-3 groups of people that comprise demographics unlike his. He’s interested in the reaction of folks that are younger, older, etc.

Q: How do you balance work and family?

A: Craig’s a classic workaholic and it was an issue earlier in his career. One day after he told one of his kids that he would be home from work after she went to bed, she said, “Daddy, this isn’t your home, you live at the office.” So now he comes in early and leaves every day to workout at 3:45 PM. He only has any church-related meetings one night a week – six nights a week he’s with his family.

Q: Did you have any idea how successful LifeChurch.tv would become?

A: No. Craig’s mentor said that we tent to overestimate what we can do in the short run and underestimate what we can do in the long run.

– Metapost to all Buzz Conference posts

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This morning’s talk by LifeChurch.tv’s Craig Groeschel was definitely one of the most powerful of the conference. It was, in fact, so good that Mark Batterson commented during this talk afterwards that he was struggling to focus on his message because he was still thinking about Craig’s!

Craig called his talk “Confessions of a Pastor”

His talk was precipitated by his own sense of failure and weakness and this poem by Sir Francis Drake:

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

Some points from Craig’s talk:

  • Craig has a divine disturbance that he both hates and needs.
  • He confessed to us that he is a practical atheist.
  • He believes in God but has struggled with doing ministry as if He did not exist.
  • Craig quoted Isaiah 29:13,14 (below in NIV)

    13 The Lord says:
    “These people come near to me with their mouth
    and honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
    Their worship of me
    is made up only of rules taught by men.

    14 Therefore once more I will astound these people
    with wonder upon wonder;
    the wisdom of the wise will perish,
    the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”

  • An early mentor told Craig that he needed to maintain “the pastor’s mystique” by dressing in a certain way, speaking in a certain way, and – by all means – show no vulnerabilities.
  • Instead, Craig came to resonate with something that he heard Bill Hybels say – “The way I was doing the work of God was destroying the work of God within me” (may be loose quote).
  • Craig came to realize that he was a full-time pastor but a part-time follower of Christ.
  • Craig detailed three wrong belief:
    • First Wrong Belief: We believe that our effort is better than God’s power
      • We’ll be successful when.
        • we get out the right mailing,
        • or build the right building,
        • or make the right phone calls,
        • or have the right worship pastor,
        • etc.
      • If I just do a good enough job, then God will bless my ministry.
      • But there is a theological problem with this approach.
        • If I’m not successful, then it means that either
          • God did not come through for me, or
          • I suck.
        • In addition, if we blame ourselves for the declines, then we also must credit ourselves for our successes.
    • Second Wrong Belief: We start to believe that our private life doesn’t affect our public ministry.
      • You have to determine your point of vulnerability and you need to be talking to someone about it.
    • Third Wrong Belief: We believe that we must please people more than we must please God.
      • In recent years, we’ve swung away from irrelevant exposition of Scripture toward a relevant engagement with culture. But we need to take care that we don’t go too far in the other direction and be mostly about engaging with culture to the detriment of spiritual truths.
  • It’s easy to drift away from God, decision by decision, neglect by neglect.
  • 5 Things that Craig Stepped Into
    • The Spiritual Disciplines
      • Craig’s found no substitutes for
        • Time in the Word
        • Prayer
        • Fasting
        • etc
    • The Realm of Faith
      • We have to get to the place where we are taking steps that if God does not help us we will completely fail.
      • If we aren’t doing this every 4-5 years, then we’re doing something wrong.
    • Authentic Confession
      • Craig underlined that when we confess to God, we are forgiven by God.
      • But he said that to receive healing, we need to confess to others and cited James 5:16 (NIV):

        “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

    • Full-Blown Intentional Accountability.
      • We must be in an accountable relationship for every area of our lives.
      • “Your ministry will never outgrow your willingness to be accountable to others.”
    • The Boldness of Preaching God’s Word
      • We have to be careful that we don’t get so into cultural relevance that we lose the counter-cultural Word of God.

Craig re-affirmed that he was a practical atheist but that he’s in recovery.

“If I took my eye off the Cross for one minute, I would be back doing ministry as if it were by my power.”


I still need to give some thoughts to Craig’s talk. Very helpful.

– Metapost to all Buzz Conference posts

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Left Ellicott City, MD early this AM to make it to Ebenezer’s in Washington, DC by 8 AM to participate in the Buzz Conference Bloggers’ Breakfast with Tony Morgan, who is the Chief Strategic Officer at New Spring Church in Anderson, SC.

It occurred to me before I went that he might want to know how long we had been blogging and I really wasn’t sure how long I had been blogging. So I checked my archives and discovered that as of this month I have been blogging for five years.

He suggested “10 Reasons You Should Stop Blogging.” I’ll summarize some of his comments below and add a couple of my own prefaced by “ss.”

  • You haven’t determined your primary audience.
    • Tony’s primary readers are other church leaders.
  • You don’t post regularly.
    • ss: Tony’s argument here was that you can’t build a relationship with your readers unless you communicate with them on a regular basis. For months and perhaps years I’ve posted almost every day, though since I’ve returned from my blogfast, I haven’t been posting as often. I know that what Tony is saying is conventional wisdom but I wonder if today when it seems that most folks are using aggregators like Bloglines if it is as important as it used to be. In days gone by it was more important to blog regularly so that readers did not visit your site too often without finding new content. But now with aggregators, they are prompted when to visit your site. So I guess I would say that you should only post regularly…if you have something to say! (I’m sure Tony wouldn’t disagree!)
  • Your posts are too long.
    • The nice thing about blogging is that we don’t have to post fully-formed thoughts!
  • You’re trying to sell yourself.
    • You need to be vulnerable.
    • You need to show the real you.
  • You don’t use humor!
  • You’re attacking other people or ministries.
    • Tony’s made a commitment not to attack other leaders or ministries and invited his listeners to call him on it if they ever catch him doing it.
  • You’ve forgotten that blogging isn’t private.
  • You’re not a thought leader.
    • Tony doesn’t like blogs that merely point to others’ contents.
    • ss: “Confession:” I have done a lot of this. One reason is that I view my blog as a portal to the rest of the web (or what little part of it I see!) through the filter of what I consider interesting. One thing that emergesque readers have probably legitimately complained about in the past, though, is that I often make no comment as to the significance of what I’m linking too. I probably could do better in that regard. I tend to only post original material when I have enough for what I call blarticles which often turn into articles.
  • You’re listening to your critics.
    • You should ignore badly motivated critics.
    • By responding to critics you only bring them more attention and responding serves to legitimize what they’re saying.
    • ss: Brian McLaren has great advice about criticism: View every criticism and complaint as a request for assistance. I believe that before we summarily dismiss any criticism – irrespective of source or motive – we should always consider if we have anything to learn from it. That being said, I do think we often do well to avoid engaging our critics when we can see not good coming from the conversation.
  • You’re not revealing the real you.
    • People tend to follow blogs with a strong brand identity.
    • People are interested in who you really are.

On the whole, it was a helpful talk and Tony seems like a great guy with a lot of hard-won blogging wisdom to share.

– Metapost to all Buzz Conference posts

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If you want to see something truly amazing,

  • go to Granger Community Church’s site,
  • then click “Media Player” in the upper right hand corner of the screen,
  • then click on “Extras”
  • then scroll down to the video that’s labelled “The Truth” – Vertigo – Series: U2 Christmas and play that video.

It’s worth seeing and highly creative.

Tim Stevens tells me that it’ll be available in a few days to purchase @ wired churches.

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Todd Rhoades, Warren Bird, and I had a chance today to chat with Bobby Gruenewald about the new version of the Bible that his team at LifeChurch.tv is launching. It’s called YouVersion and here is the site they’ve just announced.

On Tuesday Bobby briefly described YouVersion this way:

“YouVersion is a free online Bible that allows users to associate video, audio, images, text, tags, and links to other websites with any verse or series of verses in the Bible. Each piece of contributed content can be labeled as public or private, so the application can be used both as a personal study tool and a public expression of user-generated commentary. In addition to contributing content, Scripture can be organized by assigning user-defined “tags” to any verse of the Bible.”

This will surely turn out to be a very interesting project!

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