2 days with Rob Bell part 6

This is part six of a whole series of posts I’m doing on my trip to go hear Rob Bell in February 2014. If you want, you can start at the first post.


A little bit of the afternoon on Monday was focused on the process and presentation of teaching, particularly in churches. It was presented with a little more application to other careers and roles as well, as the audience at the 2 Days event was not fully pastors. Rob Bell has already made several presentations on this subject, most of which can be found on the old YouTube, so it wasn’t tons of new info to me. So, just for ease of sharing I’m going to go point form just to get this down and maybe be helpful.

  • Adam had a loneliness problem before sin entered the world. Loneliness is a problem independent of the fall. This was just an incredible thought to me – that things were less than absolutely perfect in the garden of Eden from the very start.
  • You know you are prepared for your sermon/presentation when you can give a 10-second version, a 30-second version, a 3-minute version, and a 30-minute version. And it has got to be memorized as much as possible because any energy you spend on recalling is completely wasted energy for the people listening.
  • Structure feeds the spontaneity. Improvisation works when the fundamentals are mastered.
  • Deconstruction can create a lot of energy, but where is it even going? Tearing things down is loads of fun, but then what have you ended up with? A beautiful vision can actually take people somewhere great. It’s so much better to actually build something new, something resurrected from the old.
  • If you communicate on a regular basis, having a system of capturing moments of inspiration is essential. If you can, use Evernote to do this, it has organizational capabilities that make this simple and effective. Also, capture everything without judgment – editing can be done way later – get it into the file.

If you are interested in more of what Bell has to say about the sacred art of preaching, start with this youtube, then click through the links and watch the whole thing…

Miller and Shales, Those Guys Have All the Fun

In 1979 a television station was started based on slow pitch softball, pub darts and tractor pulls. Nobody would have guessed that this was the future of sports broadcasting and that this channel would be the channel that revolutionizes sports in the western world – if not the planet! Except there were a couple guys who did believe and were willing to do the work to make ESPN the incredible cultural contributor it is. James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales set about to write a history of ESPN completely based on interviews with executives, on-air personalities and athletes and ended up writing a 750 page peek inside the mothership. This isn’t a one night on the couch kind of book, it gets bogged down sometimes in the details and gives you reason to skip ahead because you are a sports fan, not a venture capital businessman wondering about brokering multilevel international deals. The parts that give inside looks at what happened to your favorite shows, or when significant sporting world events happened are amazing. It was like a trip through my childhood from the perspective of sports…which pretty much dominates my free time. Learning about how they came up with the SportsCenter commercials was so fun – and seeing chaos behind the control is always a trip.

Really, there’s not much life changing information in this book, it’s pure fun – and this blog post is really just an excuse to talk about sports and post a couple ESPN videos. But you like it too, so just enjoy.

You will want to pick this book up for your next vacation…but get it on kindle because it’s so heavy it’ll put your luggage over the weight limit.




2 Days with Rob Bell part 5

This is part five of a whole series of posts I’m doing on my trip to go hear Rob Bell in February 2014. If you want, you can start at the first post.

During the first session Rob said (paraphrasing from my notes), “Life changes when you decide to be a recipient of grace – when all of life is seen as a gift. Entitlement is boring. Achievement is boring. Gift is interesting.”

This has me thinking because entitlement and worship of achievement seem to be two major flaws that different generations like to point out in each other.

These dang millennials think they are just entitled!

These dang boomers work 80 hour weeks and sacrifice their families just so they can be ‘successful’!

What Rob pointed to as the problem isn’t a generational divide, but is a lack of acceptance of grace. When people don’t believe in grace – in God’s extravagant gift of grace – then they need to act like it’s deserved, either for how special they are or how special their work is. The generational gap cannot be bridged in learning about each other or in changing generational behaviors. These strategies are, at best, temporary and tension filled ways to get people to behave long enough so some sort of cooperation can result. Imagine how much better of a result would be possible if different generations viewed all of their life as the unmerited favor of God.

While I am all for people feeling special and I love working hard to achieve goals, when I begin to think of my personal worth in these terms I tend to run into trouble. It always leads to competition, envy and jealousy. It never leads to grace, mercy, joy and life. So if it’s the latter list that I am living for, why try to live the way that leads to the former!

Rob mentioned a book by Michael Gleb, “How to Think Like DaVinci”, as a resource on looking at the world as an interesting place – a grace filled place. People who are interesting find the world interesting. Apparently Gleb writes about the habits DaVinci had which led to his genius and encourages readers to take them on in order to also be a genius. So genius is less about DNA and more about the habits that allow a person to receive the world with awe. It’s less about workaholism and more about opening one’s self up to what each day has to experience…as a gift!

When you move slow enough to be able to notice how amazing the world is, then you are able to interact with people about things that are fascinating. When busy people just talk all about how special they are or what they’ve managed to achieve it can get dull in a hurry. In reality, who you are and what you have been able to do is a testament to the people who invested in you and gave you opportunities to achieve. The connectedness of the human endeavor is incredible. When we embrace our commonality, we are able to live in a grace that is inevitable and irresistible.

Irresistible grace… now that is a creative concept.

11 Things You Can’t Find in Church Planting Textbooks

1. You can do anything you can pay for. This is actually something I learned from my pastor, John Breitmeier. It may sound crass, but it’s really true. You might have the biggest ministry dream in the world, but if it’s not funded, it doesn’t move. As a church planter, you are the main fundraiser and you have to be alright with straight up asking people to fund a church that doesn’t even exist yet. You dream first, but then you have to take a look at the budget and adjust accordingly; God will provide all the money He needs to do what He wants to do.

2. If you send out mailers/postcards/door hangers expect to see the kinds of people who choose churches by mailers. Honestly, what kind of a person gets a postcard in the mail and then makes major spiritual decisions according to what it says. 9 times out of 10 it’s crazy people. There’s the odd person who has been praying and asking God for a sign and then this is how God leads someone to a church, but mostly you are going to see crazy people. The crazy people will also call you and get mad at you for inviting them to your party in the park. It’s awesome.

3. Satan will come against you by coming against everyone close to you. When the devil comes against me it’s no surprise and I am able to stand strong. When those I love most suffer, it hurts in a completely different way. I can point to too many “coincidences” of extreme difficulties and trials in my immediate family, in the lives of my close friends and in my extended family. You may seek prayer cover for yourself, but I think those closest to you need it also. It’s important to not be surprised by opposition, when you make aggressive moves for Jesus, it’s going to be noticed by Satan.

4. Those first two years when everyone thinks you are the greatest invention since velcro shoes…don’t get used to it. In the first place it’s an easy time to get a big head and start believing your own hype. Even more, the third and fourth year is when opposition that has been simmering under the surface finally comes out and tries to kick you square in the face. It’s a special feeling to have someone tell you that you are absolutely terrible, that you are the primary reason that people don’t go to church (I think they meant all people everywhere, which is quite a compliment if you think about it), or have people dedicate their internet chatter to talking about your failings. So, it’s important in your first couple years not to get used to people thinking you are awesome – because some people don’t think that and they are just waiting their turn.

5. The church plant rises and falls on the preacher. People will be extremely patient and generous with pretty much everything about your church except the child’s safety and the preaching. If your chairs are uncomfy, it’s ok. If the school you are renting accidentally forgets the heat over winter break people will keep their jackets on. Even if your band struggles to find it’s voice the people will still worship and love it. But, if your preaching lacks fire people will burn a trail to the exit. Having all those other frills is great, but child safety that allows parents to focus and honestly strong preaching will have people showing up and growing! Also, pretty much all the research on church planting points to the major determining factor of success being the primary vision casting leader.

6. Having a killer band basically makes every Sunday easier. If you are able to create a culture where musicians have the opportunity to grow and play awesome music, they will show up and they will play magical music. Senior pastors who are terrible guitar players (I’m talking to you James Carmichael!) will do the gospel well by getting out of the way and allowing awesome musicians to be awesome. This should also inform the culture shaping process of what you chose to center your service on. Most churches are sermon-centric, but is that the way to be the church in your neighborhood?

7. Set the culture and allow the strategy to flow from it. Culture eats strategy every single time. You can copy the very best ideas from the very best churches and leaders, but if you fail to create a dynamic culture your strategies will be out of style quicker than crocs. Wait, they never were in style. And that’s the point. Let the leaders lead. Great churches have great leaders at all levels of the organization. If you are blessed with great leaders, don’t just delegate responsibility – also give them authority to make important decisions. If you’ve built a str0ng culture, they will be able to know how to make decisions that align with the organization.

8. Church planters need a community of church planters. The second most determinate factor in a church planter’s success is being in relationships with other church planters. The encouragement and mutual support of other planters is such a major factor that most planting organizations require it. This comes in the form of more experienced coaches and/or current planters. Finding and investing in those relationships make a huge difference in your church.

9. Be where the people are. For the Grove, this meant being outside at community festivals all summer long because these were the biggest gatherings of people in our city.  If we believe that God loves people and is working in their lives and we want to be where God is working, then we have to be where the people are. We do not set up shop, advertise and expect the people to come to Jesus because Jesus has already come to earth and the Spirit is at work!

10. Be a generous church even before you can afford it. To this day, I don’t know of a church that can ‘afford’ generosity. Churches (and people) chose generosity intentionally. From the very start set up your church plant as a source of blessing for others and you will have a lot more fun. Give locally and globally, to Christian and secular organizations, intentionally and randomly. Even while your church plant is being supported by outside organizations, decide to be a giving church and support others.

11. Start a church for unbelievers. Starting a church for church people is as easy as making it a little cooler than the coolest church in town. If the coolest church has a boss youth ministry, hire a young pastor with a mohawk and tattoos – church people will flock to you. Starting a church for people who don’t  know anything about church is stunningly more dangerous. First, it gets messy because they won’t know how to behave, and second, the church people will hate it and start gossiping all over town about how “emergent” your church is. This means you don’t need small groups when you start – only Christians think it’s awesome to meet in small groups to talk about their feelings. It also means you might not participate in the local ‘christian’ festival because all the christians are already there – so your band might need to play at the ‘ungodly pagan heathenfest’.

2 Days with Rob Bell part 4

This is part four of a whole series of posts I’m doing on my trip to go hear Rob Bell in February 2014. If you want, you can start at the first post.

While at the Rob Bell 2 Days event he made mention of the unique loneliness that leaders experience. This isn’t just a pastor issue either, it’s an issue for anyone who leads an organization. It is a strange issue for pastors though. When I was a supporting pastor, if I complained to my friends about my boss, I would be bad talking their pastor and undercutting all sorts of trust. So there’s a strangeness to the vocational pastoral role that’s difficult to navigate.

It makes me think there should be some training for this – like somewhere along in seminary they drop you off in the woods and you have to live by yourself for a month. It would be great training, and it would weed out the ranks in a hilarious way. So this got me thinking of other great classes pastors could use in Seminary:

  • Speaking in Alliteration: The very best preachers always alliterate and have 3 points at a time. Even when asking questions in this seminary class it will be useful to practice and show how smart you are. You were in bible quizzing for crying out loud, let everybody stand in awe at your knowledge of obscure Scriptures.
  • Mediocre Musicianship: Since you own an acoustic guitar, you should probably play it. After all, there’s likely not any good musicians in your church, so you should hold that stage as long as possible. Also included, planning services where the pastor never has to leave the stage.
  • Sporting Illustrations in Preaching: It’s important to be narrow minded and only pull illustrations from sports – preferably college football or NASCAR. God forbid an illustration from art or music or some other aspect of life. Optional seminar on how much people love it when you scold them for cheering at football but not at your church services.
  • Navigating Loneliness: With a special emphasis on woodland survival and a special project involving the ability to stop whining and remember what’s what.
  • Ancient Languages: Sure the Bible was written with Hebrew and Aramaic and Greek, but this class will take you back to the very earliest languages using caveman grunts and hand gestures to find the real original meaning. Class will focus on using “nuances” in original languages to change the meaning of a passage to match whatever topic you want to preach on.
  • Preaching when sick: Any dummy can preach a good 25 minutes when they are solid and healthy. In this class participants will be exposed to near-lethal viruses and still need to give a legible message. Emphasis on maintaining balance during closed-eyes praying and medications which will not induce speaking in tongues.



2 Days with Rob Bell part 3

This is part three of a whole series of posts I’m doing on my trip to go hear Rob Bell in February 2014. If you want, you can start at the first post.

The sessions for my 2 Days with Rob Bell were held at a cool event hotel close to the ocean in Laguna Beach. The room was actually out doors, with 4 walls but just a tarp on pulleys if we needed shade. So strange to go from Oregon’s worst snow storm ever to an outdoor event with loads of sunshine.

Rob began talking about some of the issues that only leaders really face. Things like the lack of certainty, fatigue, going through trauma without knowing it was trauma and still carrying it around all beaten up from trauma exposure. What leaders must do is instigate and navigate change, which isn’t always approved of by the mothership – so leadership in the current cultural context can also be a bit about map-making because we (as a culture) are going to places that humanity has never been (and before you say there’s nothing new under the sun, talk to me about Moses’ iPad…).  Today, leaders have to build things even when the parts required to build those things haven’t been invented yet; they have to jump off the cliff when no one has ever learned about the landing!

During this start of the day I really thought it was interesting because the things that Rob described as experiences of a leader could be experiences of anybody. The room was filled with people that I didn’t expect to be there. It was about 1/3 leaders, primarily church leaders, especially ones who liked to talk about the controversial books they had read and the beer they drank now that they were emergent. Then 1/3 Rob Bell super fans, who sat in the front with thick rimmed glasses and wondered when Rob got rid of his and started wearing contacts. Then 1/3 people who really needed a therapist and thought Rob would do the trick, which he seemed to enjoy doing for them. All of these people were relating to what Rob was saying about the life of a leader, even if they were only the leaders of their own selves (and that was pending a vote). Isn’t it a totally different experience to lead abnormally large groups? Isn’t there something uniquely suffer-able to giving leadership to dynamic movements?

The major difference I see is the number of people who are going to suffer if you screw it up. For an individual the splash zone for screw-ups is a lot smaller. I can’t imagine the pressure that a leader of a large organization feels when dealing with massive decisions. We can’t empathize with a multi-national CEO when he signs an order to lay off 10% of the work force. We don’t get to pretend we know what it’s like to be criticized by people who don’t know us and never will but have built careers out of dismantling everything we do. We can’t think we know what it’s like to be the president and know the codes for weapons that can wipe countries off the map.

Everyone experiences a lack of certainty – but not everyone experiences that with a large group of people staring at them wondering what the answer is.

Everyone gets fatigued – but not everyone keeps going the next week and the next day just for the benefit of the group that they lead.

We can easily end up swapping stories of how hard-core we all are, but those things always bore me because I know that no matter how big of deal you have propped yourself up to be you’re not the president, you’re not employing tens of thousands of people, you’re not Rick Warren, you’re not Barak Obama, you’re not Justin Beiber (just had to throw that in :). If you need to explain how great of a leader you are, then I don’t think I believe you. Instead, I start looking around wondering why your “followers” aren’t saying the same thing…

Yet, even if you are the leader (even if you are a bad leader) of a very small group – like a family, or a marriage, or a classroom or a workshop – these very issues drain you and cause you to doubt and wonder if you have what it takes to lead these people. And if you quit, it’s not just on you – it’s going to hurt others – and that is the most incredibly terrifying reality.

So, all that to say that leading people is an incredible experience. It’s tough, it’s exhilarating, its terrifying, it’s joyous. It’s reality-altering.

It’s why the presidents are all friends after they are finished running planet earth. They have had a life experience that is completely different and never understood by anyone outside of those who have sat in that chair with that power. They have conversations with each other that they can never have with anyone else.

It’s why athletes who were rivals in the sporting careers become great friends after they retire. It’s why the very best of the best never experience that comradarie. I’m looking at you MJ.

It’s why church planters always seem to be able to find each other at pastors’ meetings. Their experience of jumping full speed off a cliff and hoping that somebody in the group knows how a parachute works is one that the pastor of an established church will miss (and no this doesn’t make them better, everyone is good and your objection is boring me, so go back to your office after your assistant gets you a latte from your personal espresso maker).

Blazing a trail always seems like such an exciting and sexy thing to do. When the road ends and you keep walking, people (and your own self talk) either think you are crazy or genius and the line between the two is blurry. So those who have had the unique experience also have a shared loneliness – that they can only find empathy for among others who have jumped, who have kept walking, who have made maps instead of just following them.



2 Days with Rob Bell Part 2

This is part two of a whole series of posts I’m doing on my trip to go hear Rob Bell in February 2014. If you want, you can start at the first post.

The day that I was to fly down to Orange County my road was snowed in by an epic winter storm, unlike any seen in the Willamette Valley as long as anyone remembered. Churches all over had cancelled services and I had a 4 wheel drive truck with chains on and I was still spinning out. Thankfully Russell, who is the best Oregon winter driver I know, came to my rescue. I actually had to walk down to the main road with my luggage and meet him as he came down the ruts and drove me down to Eugene. The main roads were totally fine, but getting to them was basically impossible. Then when I was at the airport, all sorts of flights were being cancelled because of thick fog! When our plane landed it was awesome and people were clapping and stuff – this is what it is like to fly out of Eugene. When I got into PDX, we were so late I had to run to catch my connector so I didn’t get to enjoy the most beautiful carpet in the world.

The coolest part of my trip was after I landed in Orange County, I used a company called Lyft to get a ride from the airport to my hotel. The company is set up as an app on my phone that you use to call for a ride and a guy shows up with his car and drives you. It’s terrible for cab companies, but a riot for people who think technology can bring us together! It was cool to be able to try out because I don’t live in a big enough city to have Lyft. Considering the safety factor, I imagine it’s easier for a larger man to try it out, but the company has done a good job ensuring safety and professionalism. To get back to the airport on Wednesday, I left before Lyft was open (they went 24-7 only recently), so I used a different app called Uber. Had another great experience and got to know another stranger!

I also got to go for a run Monday morning that was simply amazing – up to the top of the hills in Laguna Beach. 1,000 feet of elevation gain in 2.5 miles! It was so rough I had to walk a bit, but the views from the park at the top of the hill were superboss.

the $12 million view

This is all preamble to an awesome two days, but it’s so much fun to be alive at such an incredible time of transition in our world. Everything we thought we knew about how to function in society is up for grabs – which is so terrifyingly awesome. There’s a lot of opposition from the structure that built the culture we live in, but to hold on to it is to deny the very spirit that built it. It’s not about staying at some kind of pinnacle, it’s all about taking the next step, going to the next level. Really, this is why I went to 2Days with Rob Bell, so, in a way, I got started before I got started.


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