50 Shades of Theological Gray

How comfortable are you with theological unknowns?

My church upbringing formed a belief system that did not allow for any theological variance. There was black and white and not much in between, and a “lukewarm” verse taken out of context was always used to substantiate the point. If you ever hinted at a middle ground (the dreaded gray), you were called “liberal” and were considered to be sliding down the proverbial slippery slope. I’m not sure what is at the bottom of the slippery slope, but to hear my childhood church describe it, I assumed it was hell. Basically a slip ‘n slide with Satan.

It makes sense in some respect. There is absolute truth, and it certainly seems possible that opening up truth to interpretation could lead to a complete loss of truth. Many seminaries thrive on this fear. There is a legitimate argument to be made IF every issue has ONE absolute truth. To me, the definition of “issue” becomes the real “issue.”

Take Jesus, as an example. There is certainly absolute truth when it comes to his Messiahship. His death and resurrection are true and critical to faith.

But what about baptism (and the Christians get nervous)? Is it required for salvation? Does submersion count more than sprinkling? I won’t get us started on infant and age-of-accountability!

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Tip 8. FOR People – All People (Shutting The Back Door in Your Church, Blog Series)

In this blog series, I’ve identified 9 tips to help keep people from leaving your church (i.e., shutting the back door). I believe all 9 are important. In this post, I’ll address tip number eight:

TIP 8. Be a church FOR people – all people.

Who is your church for?

Not theological. But practically, who is your church for?

I know what all us church leaders would say, but what if you asked people in your community? What if you asked the unchurched in your neighborhood or workplace? What if you asked the golfers teeing off on Sunday mornings?

When we get outside of our church bubble, we quickly discover the rest of the world sees the church differently. They see judgmental, homophobic, and hypocritical. They associate, for good reason, the gathering of Christians with their bad Christian experiences and an angry God.

Unfortunately, people are more familiar with what the church is AGAINST than what we are FOR. For good reason, too. Think of all the things Christians have boycotted: Disney, JC Penney, Lowes, Home Depot, UPS, PBS, Oreos, Muppets, Cheerios, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts. Cabbage Patch Dolls. Barbie. World Vision… The list goes on and on.

Now some of these boycotts might be warranted. Some might be even necessary. But from the outside looking in, the brand of Christianity is marked by the word “against.” That’s regrettable, because when we open the pages of Scripture, we see a God FOR people. A loving God who has been pursuing people their entire life. A God that is so for people that he allowed his Son to die for them. It makes me believe if God is for people, His church should be known in the same way.

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5 Ways You Can Better Question Leadership Decisions

Have you ever questioned a decision made by leadership? Maybe EVERY decision made by leadership?

My guess is everyone’s answer is “yes” to the first question! For those of you who answered “yes” to both, we’ll write another post for you soon!

Everybody at some point questions those in leadership. In some cases the questions are warranted. But in every case there is a danger in not knowing what we don’t know. Let me explain by pointing to a recent news article published in the NY Times, and then we will circle back and try to learn something together.

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I Start Every Meeting With The Same Question

What happened recently that makes you feel you’re accomplishing your mission and vision?

I love that question. I love it so much I begin every single meeting, lunch, coffee, or gathering at Watermarke with this one question.

At our staff meeting today, I began (as usual) with this question. The answers brought both cheers and tears! Here is a sampling:

  • One answer involved a brand new unbeliever who had not been to any church in decades. A few weeks ago, she walked into Watermarke for the first time. It just so happened we were launching a new Starting Point group that week, and she decided to give it a shot (you can read more about Starting Point HERE). Her life is changing, and she has not missed a single week of the group! That’s worth celebrating.
  • Our high school (InsideOut) ministry is at their summer camp. We celebrated how many students and leaders attended this year and what we have already seen happen in some of their lives over the past five days. That’s mission success.
  • Our elementary team (UpStreet) created an amazing summer competition with our children based on inviting new friends to Watermarke. We shared several of their stories, including some who had invited literally dozens of friends throughout the month of June!
  • We even shared how a staff member from another campus location came to Watermarke on Sunday morning to help run sound when our sound engineer showed up with a 103 degree fever.

There were several more…

Sure, in every meeting, there are lots of things to cover. And this question can at times take half the meeting. But whether I’m meeting individually with a direct report, with our staff team, or with a volunteer team, I begin the meeting with this one question. Here’s why:

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Do you know the ONE answer for EVERY faith question?

Have you ever shared your faith?

It can be terrifying. I grew up in a church where every Monday night we had “Visitation.” That term is used for an alien invasion. And it happens in funeral homes. And that’s exactly what Monday night looked like to the people who unfortunately were at home when we knocked.

Visitation was an interesting event. In case you have not had the luxury to “visit” or be “visited,” let me give you an overview of the night. The church would gather together, names and addresses of recent church visitors would be distributed, and groups of people would leave to “visit” with these people – uninvited, of course. Basically, church people would knock on stranger’s doors, interrupt their evening, and invite them back to church or share something about Jesus. You can guess how successful it was.

I only participated a few times. Honestly, once was enough. I’m not sure who had the worst experience – me or the person I “visited.”

My biggest hesitation with visitation was how to respond to faith questions. I wasn’t a biblical scholar. I had not been to seminary. I hadn’t even read the entire Bible! So the thought of anyone asking me questions about faith, God, Jesus, creation, sanctification (I would not have even known that was a real word!) or the like just freaked me out. I was afraid to share what I did know, because I firmly believed what I didn’t know would come up and my lack of knowledge would make me look like a fake. Worse, my stammering could lead people further away from God.

But you should not be afraid to share our faith, because I believe we actually have an answer to every question that could be asked. Do you know the ONE answer for EVERY faith question?

Here’s it is: Continue reading…

Every Leader Loves a Little Evolution

Every leader loves progress, and driving environment, program, event, or even leadership evolution is part of of the progress loop. Great leaders practice the art of evaluation and evolution. Individually, they are equally important, but without their counterpart, each is purposeless.

Some definitions based on my personal use: Evaluation is the systematic process of analyzing against a standard of expectation. By definition alone, effective evaluate is far from accidental. But evaluation is nearly worthless without evolution. Evolution is the process of change toward the standard of expectation.

If you want to be effective at both evaluation and evolution, make sure you:

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The Moment When Innovation Appears

Other’s inspiration can often create or spark innovation in you. Gavin Adams

I love the moment when I discover something new. Even if I end up trashing the idea, in that moment, I feel motivated and empowered to be better and do better. That moment makes me feel alive to encounter new ideas that improve what I’m already trying to do or discover innovations that could change my direction.

I recently came across one of those moments. Time will tell if it is a game changer or just a bad idea that leads to something better down the road. Here’s was my recent moment: What if I incorporate better imagery in my messages to help visually invoke emotion and connection. Okay, I realize you are probably not impressed (maybe some of you have already done this or realized it’s a bad idea), but for me, I found myself transported to a world of imagination and innovation where things are always getting better. That’s my favorite land to visit.

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