Working with People I’ve Never Met

When our campus moves from the school where we’ve been meeting for over 200 Sundays to our new location we are rebranding. We will go from Mount Paran North Canton Campus (or MPNCanton for short) to Canton Church. We will still be a campus of Mount Paran North, but to help us identify a little better with our community we will go by Canton Church. We are excited about this new identity.

When we announced the move back in February and March 2015 we presented a logo that would go with the new name. However, once we began the rebranding process we ran into some challenges with the printing costs for the multicolored option we had chosen.

So we began the process of choosing a new logo to go along with our new name.

After talking with several graphic designers we settled on going with a crowd sourcing option. There are a number of websites out there that do similar things, but on the recommendation of people we trust we went with CrowdSpring.

The basic idea is that we contracted CrowdSpring to host our graphic design project. We chose how much money we wanted to pay and gave some basic information about what we were looking for. Then the freelance graphic designers connected to CrowdSpring started presenting ideas to us. The average project on CrowdSprint gets 110+ entries. We ended up with 122 entries to choose from. Some were outstanding, others…not so much! But the sheer volume of creativity that surfaced was amazing.

After the deadline passed we chose 10 of our favorites and created a focus group through their website and invited others to weigh in on the options. Once we selected a winner, the designer got paid and we started working with them to finalize our logo and get the files we would need to move forward. Once the contract was signed through Crowdspring, the design became our intellectual property. We actually worked offline with the graphic designer on some additional ideas.

It turns out he is from Guatemala. That’s a long way from Canton, GA. And yet we were able to work together toward our desired goal.

Sometimes the best idea comes from around your table. Other times it’s on another continent. Don’t be afraid to go searching. The payoff is totally worth.

Being Patient Stinks

The first week of December 2014 I found a commercial lease space that I felt would be the new home of MPNCanton from the second I drove into the parking lot. The next 6 weeks we negotiated a contract, met with our key leaders, elders and Trustees. We signed the contract at the end of January 2015. There was some buildout to be done but we were told that would take 30-45 days. So we were hoping to be in by Easter.

We announced it to our congregation. We started the architectural drawings and submitted paperwork to the city of Canton. Easter came and went…but maybe we’d be in by early summer.

Then we found our we had to get a conditional use permit to temporarily rezone the building so a church could meet there. We filed some more paperwork. Then we waited. Eventually we met with the city Planning and Zoning commission who had several meetings and considered our case. It was eventually approved. Summer came and went…but maybe we’d be in by the fall.

Then it had to go before the city council…twice. Eventually it was approved. Now we could get our building permit and start building out. But now our plans had “some issues” and the inspectors had to review our drawings again. We had to make a few changes. Fall came and went…but maybe…

As I write this I have been told that the plans are being approved today and we can finally get our permit and start building. I’m excited. I’m frustrated. I ready to get started…

I don’t know what you’re waiting on, but what I’ve learned over the last 11 months, and the last 9 months, and the last 6 months, and the last 3 months, and the last 3 weeks is this…

I can’t make something happen faster than it’s supposed to happen.

None of the details above are meant to cast a negative light on the people making decisions, reviewing plans or involved in the process somewhere along the way. It’s just the way the story has played out.

But something interesting has happened along the way while we waited.

New people showed up to our church at the school where we meet every Sunday. When we asked “how did you find out about us?” we heard something really interesting. More than at anytime in our nearly 4 years of existence we heard “I was just driving by and saw your flag (or the cars pulling in) (etc) and decided to try it out.”

Because I’m not God I don’t know if those people would have driven by the new building 7 miles away if we had moved in at Easter, or in the Summer, or in the early fall. But we’re still in the school…and now so are they.

When I get emotional and frustrated about having to wait I miss that something else might be going on.

So, again, I don’t know where you’re having to be patient, or what you’re waiting on, but ask yourself this question:

What is God doing NOW that I’m missing because I’m focused on what’s NEXT?

Once you see it, you might not be in such a hurry to move past it.

Talented People are Hurting You

When we first launched our campus we had (and still do) some of the most talented, “do whatever it takes”, mission-driven people on our team. So as we were learning how to setup and tear down church in a high school, run sound, do children’s ministry, create a guest experience, etc they just figure out how to do it.

While we are constantly trying to get better there are still some things we do more than 3.5 years later because someone in the early days just figured out a way to do it.

What we ran into pretty quickly was the fact that those people couldn’t realistically be there every Sunday. So when our volunteer team became a rotation of 1 week on, 1 week off, and then later 1 week on, 2 weeks off, we found some holes.

We didn’t have systems we just had really talented people.

I’m not saying that having great and talented people is a bad thing. I’m just saying that when you do, sometimes you get lazy in creating systems needed for longterm success.

We developed a phrase that we say pretty often in our evaluation:

“Is that a system or is it a personality?”

An example of a system is that we color coded every cord that plugs into the sound board and every cord that plugs into the “snake” (that’s the box where all your cords plug into on the stage so you can control the sound in another part of the room). Then above each spot where a cord was plugged in on both ends there is a corresponding colored piece of tape. Red plugs into red, blue plugs into blue…you get the idea. That’s a system. It was created because for several months the only person who knew where everything was plugged up was Darryl. And then something terrible happened…Darryl scheduled a vacation and had to miss church!

I’m only partially kidding. The reality was that Darryl is good with systems. So he anticipated being out and created a system that people could use when he was gone and he trained people how to do his job.

An example of a “personality” is that in our kids rooms when it was time to tear down, one of our workers would always pack up all the toys first into the bins. Then they would pack up all the supplies. Then they would help put away the pipe and drape. Another volunteer liked to pack up the room by location. All the toys and supplies around the changing table would go in one bin. Then all the toys and supplies by the craft table would go in another bin. This may not sound like a problem until one week a volunteer is looking for the crayons for crafts and can’t figure out which bin it’s in.

So we created a system. Every bin got a label. On the inside lid of the bin was a list of the items that went in that bin with a picture of what it looked like fully loaded.

Then every bin in the children’s hall was numbered and a diagram was placed in the truck showing where each numbered box goes. That way when anybody was loading the 24 foot box truck that carries all of our kids stuff they didn’t have to play Tetris with the boxes trying to fit them all in. They just had to put bin #1 in the square assigned to bin #1 and so on.

We don’t have it all figured out, but I bet if you looked around your church, organization, family, business or team you will see that you rely a lot more on personalities than you realize and maybe a little less on systems than you’d like.

The easiest way to evaluate is to ask this question:

“If (insert the name of a volunteer or employee) was out next week could someone else step in and do that job well the way our customers/attenders/employees are used to it being done?”

If the answer is no you have a personality. If the answer is yes you have a system.

Create systems and watch your efficiency and the multiplication of your team go through the roof.

Happy hunting!

Community

It’s been said “You are what you eat.” I’m not entirely sure I understand that quote since I eat Mexican food about 4 times a week and my Spanish is still lacking considerably.

I recently ran across this quote though

“You are who you hang out with.” – unknown

This one I can wrap my mind around. I’ve watching in my life and the lives of others the truth of this statement become the reality.

Relationships are so important for all of us. Whether you’re an introvert, extrovert or somewhere in between the relationships we have help shape our identity, experiences, and often our self-worth.

In a different context we read in Genesis 2:18 where God said

“It is not good for man to be alone…”

It is with that in mind that I challenged our campus on Sunday related to community and the church. Intentionally connecting our lives to one another. The primary arm of our church to do this is Life Groups. These are groups of approximately 12 people meeting in homes and businesses throughout the community, usually 1 or more times a month.

However, my purpose in writing this is not to get you to sign up for Life Groups at our church. I wonder how you view your life. Do you view it through the lens of individuality or in the context of others?

I said it this way Sunday:

Because we know the names Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Rahab, David, Esther, Nehemiah, Jesus, Peter, Paul, Timothy and John we may assume that God is into the stories of individuals…and He is.

But we forget that Adam’s story was incomplete without Eve.

Noah’s story wasn’t about solitude but about his family being saved on that boat

Abraham’s covenant with God was about generations of people

Joseph’s dream was about the salvation of his family and his people

Moses led millions of people out of captivity

Joshua led their kids into the promise

Rahab overcame her reputation by saving Israeli spies

David ruled a nation by rallying an army of outcasts

Esther was chosen for the palace to speak on behalf of her people who had to remain silent

Nehemiah rebuilt a wall to protect his people from their enemies

Jesus recruited 12 disciples

Peter received a vision and took the Gospel to the Gentiles

Paul planted churches filled with people across the known world

Timothy was his protege

John received a vision so people would know about the future

Every story in Scripture has similar qualities. It’s all about community.

Because we talk in the church about your personal relationship with God you may think God is only concerned with individuals…but we forget that your story is about others too.

What would happen if you expanded your thoughts beyond “What is happening to me?” to “How can what’s happening to me help someone else?”

You were created for community. Take the risk. Find people to do life with.

If you’d like to hear Sunday’s message click HERE.

 

Dream Days

When I’m in my leadership sweet spot I have a practice that accounts for most of my creativity.

It’s called Dream Days.

You may call it something else, but that’s what I call them.

It’s a day, or even half a day where I get away from the regular routine, rhythm, pace and place of my work to dream about what’s next. I don’t have anyone else with me. This is not “GroupThink” time. This is me and Jesus time. This is “creative visioning” about our/my tomorrows. I try to find a location that makes me feel creative.

I read the Bible. I pray. I sit quietly. I get a pen and paper. I write. I turn off wifi. I imagine what’s possible if God really does have His future for us in mind.

The details can be worked out another day if I don’t have all of those yet. The logistics aren’t really important yet. I make notes of things I think are important for my team that I want to make sure I remember.

I’ve done it in the mountains. I’ve done it by bodies of water. I’ve done it in buildings with modern architecture. I’ve done it in a park. I’ve done it in coffee shops.

When my schedule gets busy. When my calendar tells me what’s important instead of the other way around. When my leadership gets stale. When my team gets bored…

It’s almost always because I haven’t prioritized Dream Day. I’m more reactive than proactive. I’m processing yesterday more than dreaming about tomorrow.

Call it what you want, but it could be the secret to unlocking the next season of leadership, growth and productivity for you.

Stop what you’re doing and go block some time on your calendar.

You have permission to dream!

Worry isn’t Warning (Part 1 on Worry)

I want you to read something, and then let’s talk about it for a moment. This is Matthew 6:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear…  27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?“ And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin…34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

There are very few places in Scripture that are this explicit about us not doing something that most of us still do without fear of repercussions. We worry! And yet, here is Jesus saying “don’t worry about your life…Can worrying add a single hour to your life?…don’t worry about tomorrow.”

Jesus says don’t, and yet we still do!

I preached on this very idea at MPNCanton earlier this year. You can listen to the message or subscribe to the podcast HERE.

Prior to that message I asked people on Facebook to tell me what they worry about. Here were some of their responses:

  • Not succeeding
  • Making decisions or taking risks
  • If you’re doing enough
  • Getting older,
  • Unfulfilled dreams,
  • Children
  • Career choices
  • The future
  • Letting people down
  • Missing out on what God has for me

Obviously this list isn’t exhaustive but it seems that we are most worried about success, money, health, family and the future.

So if Jesus said don’t do it, but we do it anyway let’s look at 2 reasons most of us worry.

1) A lot of times we think worry might be a warning. We’ve heard those stories of someone who had a feeling or a premonition just before something bad happened, and so we convince ourselves that our “worry” is a warning that something bad is going to happen. I want to come back to this in a moment.

2) Sometimes we think worry is a way of life. What I mean is that we think as a parent we are required to worry for our kids. We think we are supposed to worry about our jobs and our future. Everyone seems to be worried about something so I guess it’s okay if we do too, right?

So let’s address each of these quickly.

1) Worry isn’t warning. The reason I can say this with certainty is because

Worry isn’t the voice of God. The voice of God is the voice of God.

When I learn His voice I won’t mislabel it as worry! If God wants to warn me of something, He warns me of something. He doesn’t give me an obscure worry that causes me to doubt if it was His voice, and that I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with what I’m feeling.

Jesus told us about a helper we would have after He left the earth.

John 14:26-27 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

He said that the Holy Spirit is our Advocate. That’s someone who is on your side. Someone who is there to help you. And when Jesus said He was leaving the Holy Spirit for us, He said that it was a gift of peace for our hearts and minds so that we didn’t have to be troubled or afraid.

So worry isn’t warning. Warning is warning. If I’m unsure whether something is a warning I would ask 2 simple questions:

  • Is this a way God speaks (to me)?Be careful not to interject that you think someone, somewhere, that one time felt something before something bad happened…has God ever specifically spoken to you this way?
  • How am I supposed to act in light of what God has warned me? I believe if there isn’t a specific response that it’s just worry and not warning. A warning is “Get out of the way, a car is about to hit you”. A worry is “This is a dangerous world where bad things happen to kids.” There’s nothing I can do with that other than to just worry.

So worry isn’t warning. Warning is a warning.

 

David and Goliath

Sunday I spoke on David and Goliath at MPNCanton. You can listen or subscribe to the podcast HERE.

This is a story we all know because it transcends the church and Scripture, as culture has adopted the language and imagery for its own uses and purposes. We resonate with this story because we all feel like David at times in our lives. We feel overpowered, overwhelmed, ill-equipped to deal with our adversity, small against the big, etc. This story gives us hope that we can succeed against seemingly insurmountable odds.

There are so many things to love about the story found in 1 Samuel 17.

Here were three of my takeaways Sunday.

1) David saw his previous experiences as preparation for his current battle.

But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him.  Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17:34-37a

When David was declaring to a bunch of scared military men and the current king that he would go and fight Goliath he did so with reference to his past experience against enemies of his father’s sheep. Something about his battles with lions and bears caused him to feel prepared to face this giant.

What if we viewed our present circumstances for the value they possess in our future?

What if the battles you are facing right now aren’t to overcome to you, but to prepare you?

2) David ran toward the fight, not away from it.

When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 1 Samuel 17:48

I remember in the aftermath of September 11th the stories that were written and the images displayed of those who ran into the buildings, ran into the rubble, ran into the chaos. They were heroes. Our humanity, we are told, gives us two options: fight or flight. Saul and his fellow soldiers were in hiding as 80 times Goliath called out for an opponent. David only had to hear it once to act. Then he convinced Saul that he could fight. Then he walked onto the battlefield and answer Goliath’s taunting. When the time was right he ran at his opponent.

We have a tendency to run away from our enemies, but our victory comes when we run toward.

3) Our battles are all about perspective. We are not standing toe to toe looking UP at a giant bigger than us, we serve a God who is looking DOWN on an enemy smaller than He is.

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord‘s, and he will give you into our hand.” 1 Samuel 17:45-47

David made sure his brothers, Saul, and Goliath knew that he was aware who was fighting this battle.

Often when we face our giants we are overwhelmed by their size in comparison to us. Why not change your perspective, zoom out, and focus on their size in comparison to the God who fights for you?

There are so many other things that speak to me out of this chapter. David was only there because he said yes to his father’s request to carry grain and cheese to his brothers. Faithful service of the father will always position in the right place. Saul didn’t believe David could do it. Others won’t always recognize what you are capable of. David’s brother, Eliab, rebuked, criticized, belittled, and questioned David’s motives. When you take a stand, people will speak up against you.

It’s not just a child’s story. It’s a reminder that when we put our trust in God the giants in front of us will come down.

Forgetting Your Child

I received the following text from my wife on Sunday morning at 8:20am.

DontForgetKinley

 

Kinley is the name of our daughter & youngest child. Corrie was reminding me not to leave the house without her…

Let the confidence my wife has in me just sink in for a moment.

Corrie left our house around 7:45am with our 2 oldest boys for All-star baseball games. I was taking our youngest two to church with me. We would all meet at the ballpark after church for more games. When Corrie left Tucker was already up, but Kinley was still in her bed asleep. I assume she thought I would forget that she was in there, and not that I’m a terrible father.

Fittingly I preached from 1 Samuel 16 that morning. You can listen or subscribe to our podcast HERE.

The story of 1 Samuel 16 is about David being anointed by Samuel to be Saul’s successor as King. I spent some time focused here:

And he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice…Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. 1 Samuel 16:5b, 11-13

I always thought Jesse was free from blame for not having David there because the prophet showed up unannounced. However, it appears that the prophet invited Jesse and his sons TO the sacrifice where one of them would be anointed. It appears that Jesse made a conscience decision not to bring David in from the field for this moment with the prophet of God. That seems like a big moment not to include one of your children. You could infer (though this is not in the Bible and only opinion) that Jesse didn’t think David was the one that would be chosen anyway.

He forgot his son!

Maybe Jesse’s wife just didn’t send him a text that said, “Don’t forget David” before he left.

If you’ve ever felt left out, you’re not alone. If you’ve ever felt like you don’t measure up to the people you assume God would choose, you’re not alone.

God’s got a plan, and thankfully He chooses people differently than we choose people.

The story in 1 Samuel is that God looked over the people Samuel assumed would be chosen because He wasn’t as concerned with their outward appearance or abilities as he was the content of their heart.

David was the man for the job.

It appears that in the economy of God the fastest way to the palace is faithful service in the field.

Quit eliminating yourself from consideration because you assume He won’t choose you.

Quit working harder on what you can do with your hands and focus more on cultivating your heart.

You may feel left out, but I can promise your Father hasn’t forgotten you!

New Sermon Series Starts Sunday

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I am PUMPED for our new series starting Sunday. We are going to spend the summer walking through the life and relationships of David, the “man after God’s own heart.”

The story of David has always spoken to me. I even wrote a book about him. I really believe this series has something for everyone.

This week I’ll be starting in 1 Samuel 16 and looking at David with Samuel and what God is looking for in people He uses.

Here’s info on the whole series if you’re interested.