Inciting Incidents

This week I finished an unusual yet captivating book called Inciting Incidents: 6 Stories of Fighting Disappointment in a Flawed World.

Each author found a way of digging beneath my casual engagement and compelling me to confront the emotions of disillusionment, isolation, loss and hope that they so artfully shared.

This book was raw, beautiful and redemptive.

You can share your story on the Inciting Incidents website.  Be sure to check it out!

Leader or Friend?

Every time I see a mom and daughter walking down the street in matching mini skirts and skimpy tank tops, I can’t help but cringe.  Fairly or unfairly I’ve made the assumption that mom has worked so hard to be her daughter’s friend that she’s forgotten to be a parent.

She’s elevated the desire to be liked above the need to be respected.

I’m sure the motives were good.  She wanted to stay connected to her daughter’s life as she enters the horrendous teenage years.  She wanted to remain a confidant so that the important things would be shared.

But more often than not, this approach doesn’t work… at least for long.  Secretly her daughter wants her mom to be stronger, wiser, and more mature.  She needs a confident role model to look up to, not a wannabe peer.

In an attempt to connect, that mom has actually lost influence and respect.

I’ve seen leaders do this too.

In a desire to relate, we become buddies to those we lead.  We try to take our proverbial “boss” hat off and just be friends.  We socialize.  We jump into the office antics.

And some of that is good.  But there is a fine line.

Our teams want to feel like we’re the wiser, stronger, responsible ones of the bunch.  They want to feel the support of our strength.  They want to know that when times get tough, it’s gonna be ok.  We’ve got their backs.

There is a time and place for us to lighten up and have fun, but there are also important moments where we need to be a leader, not a friend.

What do you think?  Can you be both leader and friend?


Sunday Lessons

Today was the official launch of our newest campus:

Cross Point Franklin

I’m so incredibly proud of Brent, our Franklin Campus Pastor and Eve our Volunteer Director, as well as their families who have poured hundreds of hours into prepping for this day.

I’m blown away by the volunteers who have prayed and pleaded for Cross Point Franklin to become a reality.  Their passion was what sparked the launch of this campus.

Today everyone on our team was hyper aware of the importance of the day.  They knew that many people would walk through those doors for the very first time.  They understood that there would be some who had never entered the doors of a church or others who have been gone from the church for a very long time.

They realized that every encounter mattered.  That every experience carried significant weight.  That this might be our one shot to share the love of Jesus.

The Cross Point Franklin volunteers did not squander their moment today. 

They greeted with joy.  They asked questions.  They helped people find their way around the campus.  They showered people with love and acceptance.

It was beautiful!

Today our team looked through the lens of a first-time guest.  We were hyper-aware of how it feels to attend church for the first time.  We remembered the awkward and uncomfortable moments and did our best to quell those fears.

The Sunday Lesson I hope we take from today is that every Sunday is the first Sunday for someone.  Every week someone attends one of our campuses for the first time.  Every week someone is insecure, confused, lonely or scared.  Every week someone is looking for a place to belong and be accepted.  Every week we get the opportunity launch a campus for someone new.

I pray that we begin to see every week as launch week… because it matters that much every week!

Such A Mess

Community is Messy.

If you’re in a small group, have led a small group or are a church leader who helps facilitate small groups, you understand this phrase.

So does my friend Heather Zempel.  She knows that community is messy but she also knows that community is life-changing and worth every ounce of mess it creates.  As discipleship pastor at National Community Church in Washington, DC, Heather leads through the messiness of community into life-changing beauty.

Heather unpacks the mess in her new book Community Is Messy: The Perils and Promise of Small Group Ministry.  She was gracious to answer a few questions for us about the book:

Why did you write Community is Messy?
Anyone who has led a small group for more than two weeks has discovered that mess happens. For those who serve as small group directors, discipleship pastors, and volunteers who champion group life in their churches, navigating mess is often the unlisted but most demanding part of their portfolio. I wrote Community is Messy to encourage those group leaders and group ministry leaders that mess may not be a hindrance to community but a catalyst to the cultivation of deeper community. My prayer is that leaders can embrace the mess and the promise that God can write his story of redemption through the mess.

You had an unorthodox path going from engineering to ministry. How does your background inform your understanding of community?
I have two degrees in environmental engineering—not a very traditional path into ministry. But small group leaders and environmental engineers have a lot in common. Both strive to engineer environments where growth happens. When I think about community, I picture treatment lagoons and pig farms. When I think about spiritual growth, I consider the differences between static friction and kinetic friction and remember the diversity of strengths in physical properties reflected in the modulus of elasticity. That’s all in the book.

You talk in the book about valuing people over programs. Why is this important?
In the church, we tend to invest lots of time, energy, and resources into developing and maintain programs. I think we do that because programs are easy to measure. The problem is that people aren’t discipled by programs. They are discipled by relationship. I would much rather pastor people than manage programs, but that takes focus and regular examination of priorities

What’s a story of mess from your own life that reveals God’s redemptive work?
There’s always mess in my life, and I think it gets especially messy when we wear multiple hats with people—pastor, mentor, leader, boss, friend, etc. Here’s one that happened just a couple months ago. I was talking to a young leader about her calling, and I sincerely thought I was building her up with encouragement. When I came to the end of everything I knew to affirm her, I said, “I don’t know what else to say.” She responded with a look that seemed to be a mix of anger and hurt and said, “You’ve said enough.” At that moment, I didn’t know whether to jump across the table to strangle her or to hug her. Everything in me wanted to strangle her, but the little pastoral instinct I possess informed me that the words I had intended for good had been received negatively. That situation led to a number of productive conversations about how I lead, how she grows, how I grow, and where God is at work polishing off the rough spots in both of us. Many times, messes that are navigated with prayer, honesty, and a commitment to honoring the other lead to growth on all sides.

You can get your copy of Community Is Messy HERE.


Don’t Resist Yourself

It was one of those morning runs where I would have done anything to not be running.  I felt like I was pushing myself up a monstrous never-ending hill mountain.

At one point I caught a glimpse of my shadow on the asphalt and realized my problem.  My posture was all wrong.  My shoulders were tight and my posture was completely upright – almost to the point of leaning back as if I was trying to hold myself back.  Given the level of pain and frustration the run was giving me, the last thing I intended to do was create more resistance for myself.

Sometimes we’re our own worst enemies.  The tension or stress that we’re facing subconsciously starts to inhibit us more than the actual challenge that we’re facing.

My painful run was made more painful because I was allowing the tension to add more resistance.  With a quick mental reminder to loosen my shoulders and relax into my stride, the resistance lessened.

The same is true in our leadership.

Whatever the challenge we’re facing, we must be aware of the resistance we create for ourselves – oftentimes completely subconsciously.  Rather than holding ourself back out of insecurity, fear, dread.  We need to lean in and keep attacking whatever challenge we’re facing.  It’s a posture of engagement rather than retreat.  It’s an attitude of confidence rather than defeat.

What challenge are you currently facing?

What resistance might you be creating for yourself?

Perfectly Unique

POST UPDATE: This book giveaway has ended.  Congrats to Pam Bakker who was the winner!


Today is a huge day for one of my dear friends, Annie Downs.  It’s the official release of her new book Perfectly Unique!

This is how Annie described the book to me in her own words:

The idea that God made us each on purpose and made us to impact the world for Him is something that every teen girl needs to grab onto and live out of. It’s been such a joy to hear women of all ages be moved and changed by what God reveals to them as they read the book. I’m honestly grateful just to be a part of this.

I’m so excited for Annie and eager to get this book into the hands of as many young girls as possible.  I’ve seen Annie live out this message and pour herself into the lives of some of the young girls at Cross Point.  Annie is one of our most dynamic community group leaders.  She truly does life with a wonderful group of girls and she compels them to find confidence in their own uniqueness and beauty.

I absolutely adore her and am so grateful that her voice has been blessed with this platform!

If there is a young women in your life, I would encourage you to check out Perfectly Unique:

1) Go buy a copy of Perfectly Unique.

2) Enter to win a signed copy by leaving a comment below.  I’ll randomly choose a winner this Friday, September 7th.

BONUS:  Annie also just released a free devotional which is amazing.  Be sure to check it out too!  You can download it here.

When Wisdom Isn’t For You

I’ve prayed for wisdom for as long as I can remember. Both because I know that I desperately need it but also because it seems like the responsible thing to do as a leader. But what if praying for wisdom is not the greatest prayer we can pray? What if we’ve missed a significant point in our prayers for wisdom?

Continue reading this article at CatalystSpace

Politics, Power & Glamor

On my recent vacation to California, my husband and I visited The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.  As I wandered through the exhibits and listened to the stories told by the audio guide, I couldn’t help but be moved by the enormity of the job.  Literal life and death decisions of global impact are made by the highest leader of our land and of the free world.

But I couldn’t shake the uneasiness I felt as I grasped the magnitude of our Presidential choices in this election year.  When I watch the debates, I see fear rather than confidence in the eyes of the candidates.  I see a struggle for power rather than an urgency to serve.

I fear that some of our greatest leaders are not seeking this platform any longer.

In my opinion the only thing worth the blood, sweat and tears of a presidential seat is a tremendous conviction to serve God and country.  Somehow the role of President has become glamorized to near royalty.   This job is anything but glamorous and I think we the people need to give it the honor it is due.  Glamor isn’t honor, respect is.

It seems that today’s candidates are enamored with the power of the position rather than the weightiness of the responsibility that comes with it.

But honestly I don’t think it’s all their fault.  I think we have a great deal to do with it.  Leaders rise to the demands and expectations put on them.

As followers we must:

  • Study the issues, not just read the headlines.
  • Remember that charisma matters but character is critical.
  • Take responsibility for our part rather than give in to the idea that we can’t make a difference.

Dare I open the political can of worms and ask you what you think? :)

It Could Have Been Me… or It Could Have Been You

Last week I had the privilege of joining Pete and a few of our staff and volunteers on a trip to the LA Dream Center.  We were simply blown away by the ministry and life-change that is happening at this place.

The Dream Center, a volunteer driven organization that finds and fills the needs of individuals and families alike, was founded in 1994 and currently serves over 40,000 people each month.

Services and programs offered include residential rehabilitation programs for teens and adults, a shelter for victims of human trafficking, a transitional shelter for homeless families, mobile hunger relief and medical programs, and a foster care intervention outreach that works closely with Los Angeles County’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to keep families intact by delivering the required furnishings, clothing and food to assure that their homes meet DCFS standards. Programs such as adult basic education, job skills training, and life skills counseling are also to homeless families and individuals continue to establish The Dream Center as a vital community development resource.

The Dream Center’s record of success has led to the launch of over 100 independent Dream Centers nationally, as well as internationally.

The purpose of our trip was to see the breadth and depth of the possibilities for replicating a Dream Center here in Nashville.  We’re currently renovating a building that will be our first Nashville Dream Center.

We met dozens of people – men, women, families, single moms with their sweet children – who are in recovery at the Dream Center.  But my heart was ripped to shreds when we met the teenagers who are in the program.  As we listened to several of them share their testimony, it all became so real to me.  One precious 17-year-old shared the details of her early life and the choices that she made that ultimately landed her in a situation where she was in desperate need for help.  As I looked at her, I saw myself.  The circumstances that occurred in her early life were very similar to some of my early experiences.  I became overwhelmed by the thought that “it could have been me.”

I don’t know why my situation turned out different than hers.  All I know is that up until a certain point, our stories were similar and then something happened that changed our trajectories.  Perhaps it was that I had more people in my life that spoke wisdom to me in the midst of pain and helped guide me from making bad choices.  Perhaps it was that God gave me an extra dose of the ability to discern right and wrong and understand the consequences.  Maybe there were a few more people whispering hope in my ear rather than despair.

I don’t know.

I really don’t and I don’t know why I was saved from that path and she wasn’t.

But I do know that being rocked by that reality gives me a responsibility.  I can see how close I was to being in her shoes.

Every person that finds themselves in need of hope, healing and recovery is not all that different from me and you.  We’re all one decision or one key relationship away from finding ourselves on a completely different path.

You or I could have been any one of the people that I met in the Dream Center last week.

Now you or I can be the one person that intervenes and helps change the course for others.

I’m so excited about Cross Point’s Dream Center that will be opening later this year and the opportunities we have to change lives in a powerful way!

Do you have a Dream Center in your city or another organization that you’re a part of that restores and redeems lives?  Tell us about it!