Day of Deliverance

There is a lot of turmoil in the United States and around the world today. Stateside politics and Supreme Court decisions have us divided as a nation. People in countries all over Europe, Africa, Asia and South America are rising up in revolt, leading to unrest all over the globe.

But despite our troubles and the tumult all around us, today remains a dichotomous day of solemn reflection, and of celebration. I think our second President, John Adams, said it best:

I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not. (The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-1784, Harvard University Press, 1975, 142).

Americans have come a long way in our 237 years together. We have had turmoil and trouble throughout our history. But I believe it’s the pursuit and protection of freedom, and the “firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence” which have allowed this fledgling nation to rise to such prosperity that the entire world benefits from its existence.

Today let’s eat a burger, watch some fireworks, and celebrate. Let’s also pause to give thanks for our freedom—given by God, enshrined in our founding documents, and protected by the men and women of our military. We are truly blessed.

Happy Independence Day!

Work Hard


I was reading my Bible the other day, making my way through a one-year reading plan (which I’m only halfway into, after starting a year ago—but that’s another story…).

As I was reading, something grabbed my attention. So much so that I just had to share it.

In Acts 20 Paul is saying his goodbyes to some close friends. He has spent lots of time with them, and is pretty sure they won’t ever see each other again. Along with saying goodbye, he’s reinforcing the things he did and taught them while they were together. You can read it all to get the full story if you want. But as I read his words to the leaders in Ephesus, this part stuck out to me:

I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’Acts 20:33-35

Here were my immediate take-aways from this. I hope this might inspire you, like it did me:

  • It’s much better to give than to receive.
  • It’s also better to work hard and take care of those around us than to envy other people’s wealth.
  • God will always provide our needs. We are more valuable than the birds and the lilies. We know that. But if we are able to work hard and earn more than enough to take care of our most immediate needs, we should look for ways to bless others with our wealth.

This inspires me. I want to work harder, bless more people and be more grateful for what I have, rather than wishing I had more.

Richard Mourdock is coming to my church! Why am I not ecstatic?

It was in the news this past week that US Senate candidate, Richard Mourdock is coming to Granger Community Church this weekend. When I heard it on Friday, I was less than impressed, despite the fact that I like the candidate and love the church that my wife and I have been actively involved in for years. Why don’t I think this is amazing? Two main reasons:

  • Church isn’t a campaign stop. I’m all for politicians going to church, and I think the influence of the Church in our government is just as vital today as it was in the Revolutionary Period and in the anti-slavery movement. But being a part of a church is one thing. Showing up once and alerting the press is quite another. If he’s seeking a new church, anyone, including him, is certainly more than welcome. But, knowing that Joe Donnelly has been coming to our church’s annual Food Drop for years—without telling the media—it seems likely that Mourdock is trying to sway potential religious voters from the second district which Donnelly represented as a Congressman.
  • Endorsements of particular religions or denominations are forbidden by the Constitution’s First Amendment. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” is the precise language. Granted, by showing up, he’s not passing a law, or even endorsing my church. It just seems like somewhat of an implied endorsement. I understand that this church happens to be the largest in the area, and therefore, has the most potential voters, but what about the other churches in the area? I would have a different stance if the press release stated that Mr. Mourdock was spending a few weekends promoting the value of religion in a democratic republic, and that he was going to be making visits to the local mosque, the large catholic church nearby, a tabernacle and our church. In that case, it wouldn’t be as much of a political move as a person of influence promoting something our nation’s founding fathers felt was very important. It would be difficult to argue against that.

Having said all that, I do prefer Mr. Mourdock’s stances and policies to those of Mr. Donnelly, so at this point, he’s the one I’ll be casting my ballot for in November. But if I may borrow an analogy from baseball (since the playoffs are approaching), if Mourdock wins and goes up to bat as Indiana’s newest US Senator, he will be stepping up to the plate with one strike against him, in my opinion.

Surrounded by Wisdom


Yesterday I thought to myself, “I know just what the world needs: More self-pity and whining about petty things like the weather! On the internet!!” So I set about to do something about this problem. Just as I was about to send a tweet complaining about cold weather and questioning my allegiance to Northern Indiana, this showed up at the top of my Twitter feed:

“Are you kidding me?!” is all I could think. Don’t get me wrong—I’d much rather live in a place where going to the beach nine months out of the year is totally acceptable than in one where gray skies and cold weather seem to put people into hibernation for half the year. But in the middle of wondering what I could possibly be doing here I was smacked over the head with the reason I’ll happily stay here as long as God will allow me:

I am completely surrounded by a wealth of wisdom and insight.

If you happened to catch any of my posts from ReInnovate last week, you may have figured out that our church just hosted a conference where hundreds of pastors from around the country came to glean wisdom from the people I get to work with every day! I’ll admit—I often take for granted that every Wednesday I get to sit in an all-staff meeting where our leaders spend time just pouring wisdom into us. But as I sat in the conference, listening to people like Mark Beeson, Kem Meyer, Ted Bryant, Jason Miller, and others, I couldn’t help but be in awe of the place God has allowed me to be. Why do I get to be in the presence of so much wisdom, knowledge and insight?

I don’t know the answer, other than to say that God is so good.

But enough about my good fortune and blessing. This isn’t about me. I absolutely do not deserve this. I say all this to point out that really, anyone reading this can now get up close to some of the wisdom I’m around every day. Even if you’re all the way in sunny California, you no longer have to leave the beach to come to the treasure trove of knowledge we have in Indiana. (See what I did there? Any Californians jealous? Maybe??) Today you can get your own copy of Rob Wegner and Jack Magruder‘s book, Missional Moves.

I know from experience—these guys know what they’re talking about. And they’re not just speaking from some intellectual understanding of the subject of living on mission (though they definitely have that); they live it every day of their lives, leading Granger’s missional movement from downtown South Bend, to Tamil Nadu, India, right back to suburban Granger, Indiana. Last year I shared some of the experience of my trip to India and the work our church is doing there. And now, not only are thousands of people in India being changed by the message of the Gospel thanks to their work, but church leaders from all over the United States are starting to coalesce around these ideas and apply Jack and Rob’s tactics in communities around this country.

These two are definitely on to something huge, and are spearheading a new movement for the Kingdom of God, literally all over the world.

I’m so grateful to be living right where I live, getting to learn from these guys. And not just that, but getting a chance to join them on some of the work they do. It’s an incredible opportunity and experience, and if I ever leave here it won’t be (just) for nicer weather. I have it too good right where I’m at.

Connecting People to Online Church – Mark Meyer

Daryl McMullen, Mark Meyer and Ethan Hoinacki

“There are no experts in online church space.” That’s how Mark Meyer, Granger’s Online Church Director started Wednesday’s panel session on the topic. But these guys come as close as it gets to experts, with years of experience developing strategy and figuring out the best approach in a relatively new aspect of the church. That’s why I was stoked to be able to sit in—being a part of the Communications Team means I get to work pretty closely with Daryl McMullen and Ethan Hoinacki, but this was a great chance for me to get more of the “whys” and “hows” behind the “whats” of our church’s online strategy. Enjoy my bullet-point notes!

How we define online church:

  • Anything that happens online, 24/7, all week long, that helps people take steps toward Jesus
    • Facebook page where people can ask questions (e.g. “Why do bad things happen to good people?”)
    • Didn’t always think that way – started with “campus” mindset: expected it to be its own space, with giving, serving (somehow)
    • With 2016 Vision realized church isn’t a campus, it’s the people; in whatever setting it takes place

2009 – had custom-built church website

  • lots of added functionality, not needed or useful after a few weeks of “new” feeling

moved to LifeChurch.tv platform

  • bugs, glitches,
  • not very good metrics
  • not top priority; YouVersion‘s success demands more resources

Currently using Media Social

  • now offering live services online, in addition to “simulated live”
  • currently have 1-2,000 people watch on-demand services; a few hundred live per week
  • using combination of Google Analytics with Media Social’s stats

Churches can have online church presence with $100/month and a great volunteer posting videos

Videos on YouTube can be a facet of online church

Things Other Churches are Doing

Community Bible Church in San Antonion – 220k Facebook Likes

  • Use Facebook ads
  • Use Google AdWords

Elevation Church app

  • contains 2 years of Steven Furtick’s messages

LifeChurch.tv

  • “The best communicators across the world are now available to everybody.”
  • great content, great messages are now a commodity
  • services playing all week long

Northland Church – Orlando

  • prayer wall

Online church community is extremely unified – Great resource for online churches:

What comes to mind when think of Kansas?

  • Wizard of Oz
  • Jayhawks
  • tornadoes
  • midwest

Alan Hirsch talks about subgroups. Mark Meyer fits into these:

  • male
  • lives in Indiana
  • Dallas Cowboys fan
  • married
  • has kids
  • lives in certain neighborhood/high school district
  • all these groups start alienating people
  • psychology: in-group, out-of-group

These things aren’t necessarily good or bad, they’re just who we are, and when we define ourselves or others by these things they can be alienating. A church in Indiana probably won’t reach people all over the world through online church without investing lots of resources into catering messages, times, etc, to people outside of the region.

Questions to ask before starting online church:

Why do we do this?

What’s our church’s strategy?

Who are we trying to reach?

How?

Align your online audience to what your physical audience is, as much as possible.

  • our content screams Indiana
  • unless willing to neutralize content
  • pastors are willing to do specific message just for online community
  • not 1 hour 15 minute service to reach the world online

80 % of any ad budget should be to your core sphere of influence

  • for us, core is 50 mile radius ~ 600,000 people

20 % aimed at outer circle – 150 mile radius

40 % of people in America will visit a physical church campus

Mark closed the talk by saying that 2 billion people in the world are online. It would take 2 million churches, reaching a thousand people each, to reach them all. There is great need and great opportunity for churches to reach people in this way.

Partnering with Parents – Ted Bryant

Ted Bryant has been leading Granger’s Kids’ Ministry for over a year and yesterday he shared some of the challenges and successes he’s experienced as the new Director.

He started off by sharing Granger Kids’ Purpose Statement: “We partner with parents families to train up children to trust, love, and serve God.” (Side-note: Notice parents was changed to families, as they discovered there’s a large portion of kids in the church who come from non-traditional homes. I love that they made sure to include everyone; no one’s perfect, but Jesus loves us all—and so does this church. I love it!)

He then asked the kids’ ministry leaders from other churches in the audience for struggles they’ve faced in partnering with parents at their own churches. Here’s what they listed:

  • Parents want kids in church, but don’t want to go themselves.
  • Don’t use resources given to them by the church
  • Time commitment/scheduling
  • Sunday morning = job well done (no further teaching about Jesus, the Bible, etc, from the parents is needed during the week)
  • Clergy-ministry mindset/parents don’t feel qualified to teach kids about God

From here, I’ll give my bullet-point notes of Ted’s teaching on what Granger Kids has tried and where they’re going now, and some of the problems their facing, as they focus on parents (and families) becoming more involved with teaching children.

What Granger has tried to get parents more involved:

  • Get all in same room, to cast vision
    • We’ll keep kids 15 min. longer after the service; come to a meeting with us for 10 minutes right after the service.
    • Out of 1,000 families, about 100 people came, across all four services; had follow-up meeting during the week to have parents help partner with the Kids’ Min.
    • 12 people came to the follow-up meeting
  • Survey: online – data from the 200-250 families who took the survey:
    • parents: concerns about child’s faith journey -> many answers can be summarized as “entitlement”
    • what would be helpful to other parents in your neighborhood? parents say “activity away from TV, computer, etc.”
    • lots of answers show a sense of powerlessness of parents: “I don’t know what to do; even if I did, I don’t have the time or the energy for the fights it will cause.”
    • what media would you use from the following to access parenting resources if they were available for you and your family?
      • #1 – family activities on campus
      • #2 – website
      • #3 – family activites in the community
    • which topics want help communicating with your children?
      • respect
      • gratefulness
      • shows wisdom is not being passed down generationally
    • parents said things in survey they wouldn’t have said face-to-face
    • another survey sampled 1-2000 families – what worked for them in child’s faith journey:
      • prayer
      • eating dinner together and talking
      • reading the Bible together
  • Promoted book: Parenting Beyond Your Capacity by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof

Problems up against:

  • No onus – send kids to school to learn math/science; send to church to learn about God/Bible; send to music lessons, little league, etc.
    • starting with language: “partnering”, “equipping” – it is the family’s responsibility
    • creating more avenues for parents to take responsibility
  • No medium to tell our story
    • ramping up online presence
    • made videos of classroom leaders talking about what they do in their rooms each week
    • focus on equipping not replacing – we’re not replacing what they’re doing now with a better option; we’re meeting parents where they are:

As a fairly new parent myself, I took a lot out of Ted’s teaching for kids’ ministry leaders. Obviously he gave several great resources and tips – but my biggest take-away is that I’m extremely blessed and grateful that Ted Bryant is leading the charge for kids at the church my daughter is going to grow up in! No, I won’t be passing the onus of responsibility onto him, but I’m so thankful for the wisdom he’s bringing and for the chance to partner with him and his team in the care of my child.

Thank you, Ted!

Teaching with Your Life – Jason Miller

Jason Miller had some great tips for teaching—from the platform, and in day-to-day life. Here are the bullet points of my notes from his talk yesterday.

I didn’t leave music to teach, I took music with me into teaching.”
Great dynamic for teachers to think about:
  • piano – tender moments that feel like a one-on-one conversation
  • forte – reinforcing important points
Learned to write sermons as songs
  • Country song, “You’re Gonna Miss This”
    • Every good pop song has a chorus it comes back to
    • Winston Churchill says “When you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.”
    • Sermon as song structure idea: Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley
      • 3-point message should probably be a three-week series

Message/Song Structure:

  • Intro – build affinity with crowd; realize why I need this teaching; great songwriters write from their experience
  • Verse 1 – 1 & 2 are building the case for your message;
    • good if it has polarity (-) half the room might relate to the valley, half might relate better to mountaintop
      • from recent message: Jesus learns of John the Baptist’s beheading
  • Chorus – three times to hit the point home
    • should be explicit and precise
      • “Community with God is the lifeblood of your soul” – Jesus sought solitude with God no matter the circumstance.
  • Verse 2
    • (+) polarity
      • Jesus feeds 5,000
  • Chorus
  • Bridge – application: unpack what you’re saying and what you’re not saying
  • Chorus
1 Timothy 4:9-16 – Jason’s go-to passage
“‘Don’t let people look down on you because you are young’ doesn’t just apply to your age, but to your level of experience as well.”
  1. When you apply yourself to the work God’s called you to, your pride will take some hits.”
  2. Sometimes external factors
  3. Elusive impact
    • our level of impact isn’t quantifiable not because it’s flimsy but because it’s so dramatic and huge.
    • a society is more than its GDP
    • a community is more than the number of jobs in that town
  4. Any investment made into your work is more costly because the rest of your work doesn’t stop.
If you can’t sense the ways that what you’re doing for God is drawing you deeper to the heart of God, it’s time to call a timeout and figure out why that is. Refocus, reassess, etc.
Volunteers:
If you’re feeling your work is elusive and slippery, your volunteers probably do too. They work 40-60 hours/week. We need to give them specific positive feedback to reinforce the impact they’re having. Be aware of the work they’re actually doing. When we’re not giving good feedback, we shouldn’t be surprised when they’re experiencing challenges.
The reason volunteers are on your team is because they believe in it. Sometimes they need to be challenged.
If your gospel is narrow, you don’t have much to stand on in helping your volunteers appreciate the work they do. If it’s so narrowly wrapped around a future destination rather than the holistic vision of the Gospel as building God’s Kingdom here on earth, it might be difficult to cast vision effectively. Effect of work is often immeasurable/unquantifiable. Look up Scot McKnight for more on this concept.
Acts, along with the gospels of Matthew, Mark, etc, speak of two things:
  • coming of king Jesus
  • the redemption of the World/renewal of all things: light where there was darkness, truth where there was deceit.

Jason Miller is the Pastor of Arts and Teaching at Granger Community Church.

Make sure to check out the rest of the Blogs from ReInnovate Conference.

Simplifying Media Distribution – Daryl McMullen

Daryl McMullen is the Web Director at Granger Community Church. Today at ReInnovate he taught about some of the philosophy behind, and implementation of, Granger’s media distribution strategy.

Daryl described media as, “Your message, in whatever form it takes.” Here are the bullet points from his talk:

Questions to ask before diving in to your organization’s media strategy:

  • What is your church’s mission statement?
    • values
    • priorities
  • Just because you can, does that mean you should?
  • Will your strategy be sustainable?

Types of media GCC uses:

  • Online campus – live-stream of all four services
  • On-demand weekend service
  • Podcast – people listen while working out, while at work, etc.; PodBean, Hipcast, Blog Talk Radio
  • Audio playlist – list of songs from weekend, provided because worship pastor requested it, has become one of top-viewed pages
  • Images, photo galleries – flickr, SmugMug, etc: creative, unique ways to make pics available, especially for big events like Baptism weekend
  • Blogs – started with leadership team viewing as high priority for those in leadership
    • for team – another avenue to help cast vision and communicate
    • for other church leaders – pass on helpful tips, insight from experience
    • WordPress – great for campus blogs, site blogs, mini-sites (Christmas Productions, etc)
    • different from website bc it’s more frequently updated content
    • WordPress, Blogger, SquareSpace, TypePad
  • Social media – 2 methods:
    • create content (tweets, Facebook posts, etc)
    • connect to blog posts
  • WiredChurches.com – hosts conferences, e-commerce (via Shopify), distributes videos, message audio, various resources for churches
  • Pinterest, Instagram – have researched, but not a great fit at this point. (He’ll be posting a summary of Granger’s research on this to his Blog.)
  • Video
    • Live-streaming is our most recent platform; started with leadership team for when out of town; opened to public with online campus
      • options for online campus:
      • LifeChurch – church online (free)
      • Media Social (paid)
    • On-demand
      • Amazon S3 (very inexpensive, great way to get video onto server to stream from other services)
      • Bright Cove
      • Media Suite
      • Vimeo ($60/year for HD)
        • 5GB limit/week
        • one account for video clips
        • one account for full services
      • YouTube
    • places people go:
      • media players
    • feeds people subscribe to:
      • Vimeo
      • YouTube
      • can subscribe to user’s channel and get updated whenever new videos are uploaded

Ways to distribute content:

  1. Create a place people have to visit (website)
  2. Create a feed people can subscribe to (blog) – driven by RSS technology
  3. Apps – haven’t delved into, but are keeping an eye on the potential of apps

Happy 100th Birthday, Milton Friedman!


I have a lot of respect for Milton Friedman. For those who don’t know, he was a man who, in his time, saw the rise of Communist and Socialist schools of thought and actively sought to teach people why Free-Market Capitalism is a better solution for governmental economic policy. He had studied the failures and successes throughout history and understood the policies that drove both. Yet then, greed and envy clouded people’s rational thinking and led people to overlook the great failures of imperfect people given so much power over their constituents.

Sometimes the truth is an uphill battle. It’s easier sometimes to believe a simple lie than the complex truth. A powerful, evil (and smart) dictator named Adolf Hitler understood this concept well. That’s why he said, “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”

But often the truth is simpler than we think. I have great respect for those who understand complex philosophies and can break them down into simple enough terms that any college kid or TV-watcher can understand. If Milton Friedman was alive today, I have no doubt he’d still be doing the same things. He believed passionately in the freedom of every individual and the protection of the pursuit of happiness.

Enjoy some of his great teaching moments. And as you watch, try to see if there might be some very similar arguments going on right now. Does he answer some of the big questions and debates we’ve been having as a country over the past few years? Is the truth he speaks timeless (even if the video footage is not)? Are there politicians on both sides of the partisan divide getting off-track from the simple truths he presents?



For more, check out the entire Free to Choose series Friedman created back in 1980.
All 10 parts are free on YouTube!

There may even be things he says with which you disagree. That’s great! Just understand what they are and why exactly you disagree. I believe open, honest debate is essential and vital to the longevity and greatness of this nation. And understanding both sides of an argument certainly helps to foster legitimate debate, rather than the simple, lazy derision of people we disagree with. For these reasons, I’m extremely grateful for Milton Friedman and the ideas he invested so much of his life to promote.


Happy Birthday, Milton Friedman!

Happy Independence Day!


Enjoy and celebrate this day off of work. It’s a great day for friends and family, grilling, beer, great movies, and fireworks at night. I love that stuff, and believe times of joy and celebration are much needed in a culture where we work more and more and seem to spend less and less time with the people who matter most.

While celebrating this year, I think we should take some time to remember what this day is all about. The day we often refer to as the “Fourth of July” has a lot more significance when it goes by the name which gave it its reason for existence: Independence Day.

Just as Christmas is celebrated with presents, but we remember its meaning by reading the story of Jesus’ birth, this day ought to be remembered for its true meaning.

On this day, 236 years ago, representatives from this continent declared that they knew where our rights come from. They declared that since we were all created by God, and since we are all equal in His eyes, and since our fundamental rights come from Him, we ought not let men take our rights from us. If God desires us to be free, why should we give our freedoms to a tyrant king who, in the eyes of our Creator, is equal to every other human being?

After establishing the Source of our Rights and the role of Government, they went on to list the crimes committed by the King of Great Britain against the people of these young States. These “injuries and usurpations” were recorded and made known not only to the people of both continents at that time, but they are now recorded in history, and every generation since can read for themselves exactly the kinds of encroachments this tyrant made. This was important for them to do, as now no one can call into question the motives of a people who reclaimed their Freedom.

Finally, as they appealed to the “Supreme Judge of the world” for the integrity of their intentions, they declared their freedom and absolved their loyalty to the Crown. Then they declared the new subject of their allegiance. In taking on the British empire and risking everything they had to go to war with the best Navy in the world, they said to each other and the universe:

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Wow. Everything they had. They knew they could lose it all. Yet they firmly trusted God for protection and they pledged everything to each other for the sake of the greatest cause their lives would ever know.

That’s worth celebrating. And it’s worth remembering.

To help us all remember what this day is about, even as we celebrate, I’ve created an Independence Day playlist. It has songs about freedom, rebelling against oppression, and just some classic American songs. It’s no substitute for reading the Declaration again this year, but it’s another way to remind us today. You can Subscribe to it, share it, or take it with you to play at parties. While you’re relaxing with friends and family, remember where we came from. Remember why we are so free. Remember where our rights come from and how blessed we are to live in a land where those rights are protected.

Happy Independence Day!