Discarding the Truck: Guest Post

This is a guest post by Josh Riebock. Josh lives in Texas with his wife and dog. He’s the author of Heroes and Monsters and My Generation. He loves 80s music. He doesn’t think TV is evil. He once got a really bad tattoo and he sometimes tells the truth. You can visit him at www.joshriebock.com

Discarding the Truck

A little boy was in the backyard, playing with his brand new toy truck, when he heard his dad calling. Immediately, the boy ran into the house, looking through all the rooms for his dad. Eventually, he found him in the bedroom, sitting in a chair, reading the newspaper. The little boy ran to his dad, and said, “Dad! I was outside and I thought I heard you calling me. So I ran to you.”

Setting the newspaper aside, the dad lifted his son onto his lap. Then he looked into his son’s eyes, and slapped the little boy across the face.

“Son, you’re wrong. I wasn’t calling you. Next time you think you hear my voice, you better make sure that it’s me before you come running.”

In a nearby backyard, another little boy was playing with his brand new toy truck, when he heard his dad calling. Immediately, the boy ran into the house, looking through all the rooms for his dad. Eventually, he found him in the bedroom, sitting in a chair, reading the newspaper. The little boy ran to his dad, and said, “Dad! I was outside and I thought I heard you calling me. So I ran to you.”

Setting the newspaper aside, the dad lifted his son onto his lap, and smiled.

“Son, I wasn’t calling you in here. But the fact that you came running when you thought you heard my voice brings me so much joy.”

I find the idea of hearing and responding to God’s voice to be an incredibly fuzzy concept. It’s wonderful. It’s frustrating. It brings me comfort. It drives me mad. Sure, I believe God wants me to be able to recognize his voice, to respond to it. And I believe that as I grow closer to him I’ll become more familiar with what He sounds like, but what am I supposed to do along the way? How am I supposed to respond to a voice when I’m not sure if it’s God, or just some voice in my head? And how am I supposed to lead others through this fog?

The above story is about this very thing, and more specifically, about reconfiguring my understanding of who God is, what He values more, and what I, in turn, ought to value.

Like the second father, perhaps God takes greater joy in my desire to respond when I think I hear him calling, rather than my ability to hear him perfectly. Perhaps God wants me to go where I believe He’s leading—even if I’m uncertain that it’s him, even if I’m wrong altogether—and to lead others to do the same. Perhaps God wants me to long for intimacy with him over clarity from him. But for that to happen, I have to see God as the second father rather than the first. I have to believe that He is that second father. After all, it’s my fear of what will happen if I’m wrong that often keeps me from pursuing the voice of God. But if I were to believe in a loving father who takes great joy in my eagerness to run when I think I hear him calling, then perhaps I’d come running more often, and spend less time worrying about whether or not I’ve got flawless hearing.

 

What do you think? 

Election Results Prediction


 

Call me a prophet, but I have the results.

Here’s what you may not have known.

You’ve seen the commercials. You’ve seen the debates.

But it was really only a one candidate race all along.

And only one vote was cast.

Here’s my prophecy.

The votes are in and I’m happy to report.

Jesus wins!

He is Lord! He is King!

He has risen. He’s alive. He’s the Victor!

No need to stress. Don’t be worried. It’s all under control.

The election results are in and Jesus wins!

For the literal reader: Maybe there were three candidates if you count the Trinity separately. But really the three are one… (But that’s another post.)

What election did you think I was referring to? Is there one more important than this? 

Why most blogs never make it…

They don’t stand the test of time.

It takes months or years to build a strong, steady, daily audience.

The worst thing for your blogging may be the numbers you are monitoring. Stop it. Quit watching them.

Pick a subject you know and about which you are passionate. Write good posts. Engage with other blogs. Look for opportunities to promote your work. Then, ignore all the numbers and keep blogging. Be patient as your blog grows.

We miss a lot of great content, because you give up before we find it. If you have something that needs to be said, if you know a little about it, say it well, say it with passion, but keep saying it until we start to listen.

Any questions?

Social Media Changes Everything….

Okay, maybe not everything, but certainly many things.

The rules of the game are changing…

Thanks to social media.

As you may know, I recently transitioned from one church to another. The new church is more established. They have had 104 years to establish their systems and procedures. When it came to hiring a pastor…they had a predetermined system of how that was to be done.

The problem for me was when to alert my church of the possibility of a change. If I told them too early, and didn’t go, it could cripple my leadership. If I told them too late, or after they heard the news on the streets, I could injure people we love.

I was wise enough to discern that with social media, the chances of holding this information were almost impossible. I knew that as soon as either church knew the world would know.

The search team was awesome. They were willing to work with us as much as they could, but still, there was a scripted way the hiring of a new pastor is to occur.

I wanted to honor their structure, but more importantly, I didn’t want to hurt the church plant I love. It appeared the best thing for me to do was to resign my position at Grace before it was official that I was the new pastor of Immanuel.

As it turned out, when I did announce to Grace that I was leaving, it was on Facebook before the end of the first service.

Also, which couldn’t have been avoided either way, someone from Grace was sitting in the audience of Immanuel the Sunday I was announced there. They texted someone at Grace just before I made my announcement. It really is a small world and was a reminder how fast news can travel these days.

As I said, social media (and technology) changes everything.

It was a definite signal to me that we must rethink some of our rules and procedures when it comes to hiring staff members at our churches. Some of the bylaws we have in place, that script the way a person is hired, must be changed to compensate for the speed that information travels these days.

It was okay in my situation. God worked it for good and both churches were protected. I’m not sure it would work that well for everyone. I don’t have the answers, but I’m confident there must be better ways.

One thing I did initiate at Grace, before my departure, was a change in the bylaws that simply allows the elders in leadership at the time to script the way the search and approval process for a new pastor is handled. It could be that it’s unique to every new pastor, or at least that it’s unique to each time a pastor is hired.

Here at Immanuel I’ve asked the search team that worked with me to evaluate the system of calling a pastor. What changes are needed…in light of the changes in the way things are done now…in light of social media.

What do you think? How else is social media and technology changing ministry?

7 Tips to Acclimating to a New City

I recently moved to a new city. Lexington, Kentucky is a great place to live. I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t enjoy living here.

Along the process of adjusting to a new city, I discovered a few keys to acclimating quickly.

Here are 7 tips to acclimating to a new city:

Check out the local hamburger places – I figure if we can find a good hamburger…we won’t starve. Seriously, pick one of your favorite foods and check out all the options. For me, there are plenty of hamburger choices in Lexington. That’s made the transition much easier. I’ve tried many of them. I have a few more to go. (I’ve loved when someone tells me…”Don’t get the biggest one on the menu. You won’t be able to eat it all.” Really? So far, not true!)

Be a tourist – We have tried to find the places someone would go to if they were only in town for a few days. We’ve picked up the tourist brochures. These places will likely be what the town is known for and we want to identify with the city. I’ve also been listening to the stories and reading the history of the city. It’s been interesting a few times to remind the locals of things they’ve forgotten about Lexington, or to stir more conversation with trivia I’ve learned.

Buy a t-shirt – We wanted to find an identity with the community, so we bought some t-shirts specific to the area. In this case, I’m sporting a few UK logos too. If I’m going to live here, and I want to love living here, I want to love what the locals love. You don’t have to switch sports loyalties, but it will help acclimate if you can find some identity within the community.

Join a group that lets you meet people – I’m doing Leadership Lexington this next year. It’s a 9 month program that gives participants a comprehensive look at the possibilities and opportunities of the city. In addition to getting to know 42 local leaders, I get exposed to areas of the city it may take me years to discover otherwise.

Make a Gotta see/do/meet list – I’m keeping a list, and checking it twice. I can’t see everything in a week, maybe even in a year, but with a list I can slowly work my way through the key things I want to do and people I want to meet.

Avoid routines – I try to run different routes every day. I seldom drive the same way to get somewhere. I’m eating at different restaurants and ordering different meals. I want to experience as much uniqueness as I can.

Hide the GPS – Get lost. I’m purposefully trying to go places where I have to find my own way on my own. I’ve been confused a few times. That’s okay. It was by design. It’s helping me learn the city faster.

It’s quickly beginning to feel like home. Actually, sooner than I thought it would. I think part of that is that Cheryl and I have been intentional in trying to learn and love our new city. Obviously, however, some of you have moved far more times than I have.

How can you help me?

What tips do you have for acclimating to a new city quickly?

10 Elements of a Great Downtown

Cheryl and I love to travel. We’ve always enjoyed great downtowns, so usually when we visit a new city that’s the first place we head. We love it so much we even moved downtown when we became empty-nesters. When we moved to Lexington, KY recently, we looked for a place as close to downtown as we could find. We found a “downtown feel” less than a mile to downtown.

Recently we were on vacation and visited numerous different downtown cities in the upper Midwest. As Cheryl and I compared cities, we made a list of our favorite attributes of a downtown area.

Here are 10 elements of a great downtown:

Ample parking – We prefer free, but it needs to be plentiful and for at least 2 hours. We’ll stop, eat, and spend if we can find it.

Bicycle racks – Bicycle racks are almost a symbol to us of what to expect in a downtown. If people can ride their bike, park it and shop, you’ll attract a young, active crowd. They love downtowns and keep it vibrant.

Outdoor seating – People love to people watch. (Okay, maybe I’m alone, but I don’t thinks so.) Downtowns are perfect places to sit for a while and relax. It is one thing that separates downtowns from other more commercial retail developments.

Restaurants – A great downtown has several choices of locally owned, unique restaurants.

Gift shops – Okay, this is not for me, but I’m not carrying the checkbook. Places to shop and find unique items will keep her shopping and me nicely parked on a bench.

Benches – How is she going to shop ver long if I don’t have a place to sit? Benches downtowns…benches!

Churches – We love the steeples and the architecture of downtown churches. It also shows the community still believes in their downtown. The more churches, the more people are coming to downtown on a frequent basis.

Flowers and trees – The best downtowns have found ways to build in nature spaces.

Downtown living – If it is a great downtown, people will want to live there.

Grocery market – To sustain downtown living, a place to buy basic essentials needs to be in walking distance. It doesn’t have to be where people buy everything they consume, but it should include the staples.

Do you love downtowns? Where is your favorite? What elements do you look for in a downtown?

Arizona Pastor Arrested for Home Bible Study

I’ve updated this post, thought about taking it down, but I still want more information. I think there may be more for this story.

Fox News reposted that a pastor doing a home Bible study in Phoenix was arrested recently. The report says he was “essentially arrested because the bible study was at a private house .. and that essentially, it’s a church. Since they weren’t zoned for church, they were told they were breaking the rules.”

You can read the full Fox News report HERE.

What do you think?

  • Is there more to this story?
  • Is this a sign of things to come?
  • Is this an isolated incident?
  • What should be our response?

Hopefully you know this is a church leadership blog more than anything. I don’t use this to share political thoughts. This story, however, has my attention.

What do you think?

Update: Read the comments here and on my Facebook (Facebook.com/ ronaldedmondson). There may be more to this story.

7 Times “First” is the Hardest

In my experience, some things are so difficult the first time that people seldom see a second time.

The crazy thing is that with many things, if we will stick it out through the first time…or the first few times, it becomes much easier…even sometimes fun.

Here are 7 examples when the first time is the hardest:

Counseling – Some people resist counseling because of the stigma it has against it. I know married couples who go to counseling one time, then walk away from it and allow their marriage to continue to fall apart.  I’ll admit, as one who has done a fair amount of counseling, that the first counseling session is often awkward, boring, and doesn’t always seem helpful. The counselor is getting to know the person and vice versa. It’s a difficult process. Push through it and most people will say counseling improved the quality of their life.

Running or working out – I used to say I was a good “walker”. I ran some in school, but as an adult I just didn’t enjoy it much. I would try ever so often only to vow I would never try again. I couldn’t get past the part I hated about running…running. At some point, however, I decided to discipline myself and commit to running for 30 days, whether I felt like it or not. I can honestly say it’s become one of the best parts of my life.

Writing a blog post – The first one never seems good enough to push the “Publish” button. I procrastinated before I wrote my first blog post. Looking back, they were pretty weak, but the early days prepared me for today. (Some may say they are still weak, but people are reading…just saying. 🙂 )

Public speaking – Fear of public speaking possibly never goes away completely. I’m not sure we should ever lose that nervous edge before we speak, because it keeps us humble and makes us try harder. It’s critical, however, to stumble through the nervousness of the first speech if we ever hope to build the confidence needed to be an effective public speaker.

Failure – No one likes to lose. We don’t like to face the embarrassment of personal failure. At times, especially after the first major failure, it can feel as if life will never be any better than it is today. When we fail in subsequent times, however, it is easier to remember that time does heal wounds and that we can begin again…many times more successfully than before the failure. Some of us have even become “experts” in the subject area, because of past experiences. It’s made us who we are today.

Leading change – Change causes friction in an organization. People resist change and often resist the leader who introduces it. It can be intimidating enough that many leaders resist implementing change. When a leader pushes through the resistance and is able to see benefits of healthy change, the leader is more prepared to be an agent of change in the future.

Million $ – Okay, I honestly don’t know what this one is like for the first time. I got close on paper once. I’ve been told though that the making the first million dollars is the hardest. I do understand how that could be. Success breeds success, but, depending on the task, landing that initial success can often prove daunting. Many give up before it’s time. It seems when we push through the obstacles and realize a victory, that future success…though never easy…becomes more confidently pursued.

That’s my list.

What are other times you can think of where the first time is the hardest?

Promoting Your Church on Facebook

This is a guest post from Michael Cornett, the founder of Church Website Design .Co, a Christian web design company that helps churches share the Gospel through websites and free social media training. Michael can be reached at support@churchwebsitedesign.co or on Twitter @Website4Church.

I believe in using social media for Kingdom purposes, having done online ministry for over 15 years. I’m thankful for the intentionality of ministries and Christian-based businesses helping us to do that well.

Here is how to Promote Your Church on Facebook:

Your church is having a great new band visit in a few weeks and you want to let everyone in your community on Facebook know about it. The problem: your Facebook Page only has 200 “likes.” The solution: create a Facebook page post ad—yes it’s a mouthful to say, but not too difficult to do.

Why should your church create a Facebook page post ad?

1) Share your post with thousands users
2) Target specific demographics with your ad
3) Gain new “likes”
4) Increase awareness of events, mission trips, etc.
5) Inexpensive way to advertise your church’s events

How can my church setup a Facebook page post ad?

First, sign into the Facebook account that is the administrator of your church’s Facebook page.

Once you have logged in, post a short, eye-catching post about the event your church would like to promote. This first step is very important because this post is what everyone will see, so spend some time creating a post that will entice users to click it.
Once you have made a post that you would like to promote, you can begin creating your ad. To get started, go to your home page and click Ads (left hand column).

 

Next Click Create an Ad (top right).

 

Under “Destination” choose the appropriate Page. Type->Facebook Ads, Story Type->Page Post Ad, Page Post Selection-> “the post you just created.” Under preview it will show your logo, church name, post, and allow users to like, comment, and share your post.

 

Know Your Church’s Target Audience

Facebook allows you to control exactly who sees your ads, which is an essential part of targeting the right users and controlling your church’s ad spend. For example: If your church is hosting a new Christian rock band, targeting church members and others within the community 60+ probably isn’t the best use of your money. Choose appropriate ages, gender, location, or even select to only show the ad to fans or friends of current fans.

Summary

Creating a Facebook Page Post Ad can be a great way to share your church’s message with a larger audience and if setup properly, will help gain new “likes” for your church Facebook Page. Setting up an ad is a fairly painless process, and if your ads are targeted to the correct demographic, can be very cost efficient. I would encourage all churches to try out a new Facebook Page Post Ad for your next event, mission trip, or even to promote your pastor’s latest sermon on podcast.

Andy Griffith Prepared to Die

I was saddened, as many Americans were, to hear of Andy Griffith’s death yesterday. The show after his name is still one of my favorite. I’ve seen every episode enough times to complete the lines.

I read where Andy was buried only 5 hours after his death, at the wishes of the family. What I liked most about what I read was this statement by his wife:

“Andy was a person of incredibly strong Christian faith and was prepared for the day he would be called Home to his Lord,” Griffith’s wife, Cindi, said in a statement on Tuesday. (Source)

Andy was prepared to die.

Are you?