Letting Go

Instagram photo by gcccreative

Last weekend I played guitar at Granger Community Church for what may be the last time. This wasn’t an easy decision to make. I love music. I love playing guitar. It’s the only thing I’ve done really well since I was 19 or 20 years old.

It really comes down to two things: Taking care of my family, and discovering where I’m headed.

Our second baby is due October 7, and Kim has been very sick throughout this pregnancy. Kim is an amazing working mom who takes care of Kiersten and I in ways I never completely realized before the last few months. It is difficult for all of us when I need to leave for the weekend to help lead worship at church. Serving the Church is amazing, and in my opinion, a necessary part of being a disciple of Christ. But putting others before the needs of my family in order to serve in this way isn’t good for anyone, including the Church. My family needs to know their husband and dad loves them, and I believe the Church (and society as a whole) needs more examples of engaged husbands and fathers—not less.

I’m also trying to seek God and discover His will and direction for this stage in my life. That’s not necessarily a new thing. Hopefully I’ll always try to be aware of where He’s leading and how I should follow. But this is a time of increased introspection and scrutiny for me.

I believe God made each of us for a purpose. And I believe that we are uniquely gifted with, experienced in and passionate about the things that will help us live out that purpose. Playing music, and guitar specifically, is something I’ve done for most of my life. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed. It has taken me to New York, Florida, Nashville, Los Angeles, and India, among many other places. It has been a great way to meet people, and I have friends around the world that I never would have met if not for music in my life. It’s something I’m good at, something I enjoy, and something that has enhanced my life in more ways than I could ever enumerate.

When I was younger I thought playing music was what I was going to be doing with my life. I poured everything I had into it. It was my dream. It was my goal. And a career in the music industry wasn’t just some lofty pipe dream. It was where my band was headed. But when we called it quits at the end of a long record contract-negotiating process my dream slowly dissolved with it. Since then, I’ve moved on.

Somewhat.

I married, started a family, and bought a house—all the stuff grown-ups do. And for the past 6 years I’ve played guitar in various settings, mainly at church and with a couple bands.

As my life has changed and my interests and passions have morphed and grown, I’ve sort of held onto my guitar as a sort of security blanket. I want to embrace what’s next and God’s plan for my future, but I haven’t let go of the familiar, the comfortable. I’ve wanted to make sure I have something to fall back on, even if it’s only a faint memory of my past identity and the passion I once lived with.

Instagram photo by gcccreative

And that’s where this decision came from. If I hold tightly to the things I used to know and the old dreams, goals and passions I once had, I won’t be free (either in my heart or my time) to find and pursue other abilities and new interests, or to dream new dreams.

This may be completely psychological, but I feel like by completely letting go of the me I once was, the possibilities for the future are endless and wide-open. That is simultaneously exciting and daunting.

I don’t intend to spend years wandering or drifting. I feel a great responsibility to leverage my gifts, talents, experiences, passions, and resources for the God who made me and loves me and who wants the world to know He loves them. Wasting these things (in essence, wasting my life) would be just as bad, if not worse, than just lingering on in the same way I always have without ever stopping to evaluate where I’m going.

I love my church. I love the people, the leadership, the mission, the heart, the style, the excellence at every level—you name it, I love it. And I’m going to miss playing music on stage. I love the team I’ve been so privileged to serve with over the years, many of whom are some of my best friends.

I can definitely see coming back to play guitar. But if I do I want to come back either as a passionate, fully committed musician and guitarist who’s constantly working to become better at his craft, OR as someone who’s secure in his identity in Christ, has other passions and dreams, and who knows music will always be a part of his life—but isn’t clinging to dreams or an identity from the past.

I’d love to hear from you. If you’re going through a similar time, let me know how you’re processing through this, and if there’s any way I can help you. If you’ve come out on the other side of a time like this, I’d love to know what resources or practices you drew upon to find the insight and wisdom you were seeking.

I want to live my life intentionally. Passionately. On mission. This is a time of recalibrating and refocusing. Please pray for me. Thanks.

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.

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.

This Mutiny in My Soul: My “Acting” Debut

This past weekend, my church showed a video, featuring my “acting” debut. Acting is in quotes because I’m definitely not an actor. I don’t even feel like I did any acting in this piece. Let me explain:

When I was called a few weeks ago and asked to do this, and explained the concept of the video, I knew it wasn’t a coincidence that the director’s first choice had a family emergency and couldn’t do it. I knew this was a perfect fit for me. But like I said—I’m not an actor at all. If I start telling a joke and realize how funny I think it is, I typically start laughing halfway through and completely ruin the delivery. If I’m happy I laugh; if I’m sad I cry. I’m not an actor. And I’m definitely not a boxer. I’ve never trained to be a boxer; if I ever stepped into a ring and there was actually a fighter opposing me, instead of acting with me, I wouldn’t last long. That’s why I also didn’t have to act out the parts where I’m running away from Tyler Hufnagle. They call him “Tuff” in the MMA world for a reason, and if he caught me, I’d likely go down in less than 57 seconds just like his most recent opponent. So I’m neither an actor nor a boxer, in any sense of either word.

No, I knew this was perfect for me, because I felt like I was getting to play a part in telling my own story. It’s the story of evil, crouching at the door, waiting to attack. It’s the story of every human, who, in our weakness, though we want to do good, sometimes seem to lose more often than not to the whims and lies of our sinful nature. The apostle Paul talks about this quite a bit in the New Testament. He says in Romans 7:

“I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me…What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?”

It didn’t take any acting to call up the anger and frustration I feel when I fall victim to the evil of this world and my own sinful nature. It didn’t take any acting to learn how to strike a blow after getting knocked down and beaten up—it’s just taken a lifetime of falling and getting up and, after failing God over and over, relying on His grace and love to save me.

Paul says in Timothy, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” He also points out that “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”

It’s good to know I’m not alone. Neither are you. It’s with that idea in mind that the incredibly talented Cody Baker wrote his original poem which he then read in the short film he also wrote and directed, Mutiny:

To see the video in the full context of the service in which it was used, watch this.

A Change is Going to Come…

Over the past few years, I have been actively seeking God’s purpose for my life.

One of the biggest ways I feel I need to live out my purpose is by spending the biggest chunk of time in my life – my daily work – doing things that engage my values, skills and abilities, passions and desires.  Along with my increased Bible-reading and prayer time, I’ve read a few career-oriented books, talked with close friends and advisers, spent time writing down my dreams and talents, and of course, spent a great deal of time hashing it all out with my wife.  I believe I finally have a solid direction and focus for this next season.

I am thrilled to announce that in two weeks, I will begin my new role as the Communications Coordinator at Granger Community Church!  I am very excited to be a part of the writing & proofing team, as well as helping with online content maintenance, and event prep and support, among various other responsibilities.

Stay tuned for updates on this new beginning…

My Trip to India: One Year Later

Chennai Airport

Exactly one year ago, I was traveling home to the US as part of a team from Granger Community Church (GCC) after our mission trip to India. Now if you’re asking yourself, as I have often been asked, why would you willingly use your vacation time to go to India?, watch this:

I’m filled with all kinds of thoughts and emotions as I read through my journal, look at pictures and watch videos from that week. The time we spent with the Irula colony in Kalavai, Tamil Nadu was easily one of the best weeks of my entire life. It was there that I learned how much I have, how great the country I live in is, and how truly happy and generous people can be, regardless of their lot in life.

Here are some quick videos that more or less summarize my entire week:

http://www.facebook.com/v/10150136842755573

http://www.facebook.com/v/10150136838540573

A couple more pictures:


There are more pictures and video where that came from; just head to my Tim Burkey to India Facebook Group.

Also, if you want a more detailed description of my trip to India, you can read the letter I sent to my supporters after I had been home for about a month.

Finally, there’s an amazing book about the work our church is doing in southern India and the movement to grow the Kingdom of God that is spreading like wildfire. It contains stunning pictures (taken, like most of the pictures in this post, by Dustin Maust) from the trip I was a part of, as well as lots of stories from people in the village and local pastors. The book is called Share the Well; it was written by Rob and Michelle Wegner, and it is easily worth the $20 it costs to buy it because, along with the beautiful pictures and the heart-warming and inspiring stories, all of the money from the proceeds of this book go back into the work being done on the ground in India.


You can get your copy from the book’s website or on Amazon.

Thanks for letting me share a piece of my incredible trip with you!  This certainly isn’t the end…

Thanks to Dustin and J for the amazing pictures and videos!