Summer Reading Plan: A Fruitful Life

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Eric Bryant has a new project that just released called A Fruitful Life: Becoming Who You Were Created To Be.

Eric serves at Gateway Church in Austin, and previously he served at Mosaic in Los Angeles. His previous book is called Not Like Me: A Field Guide for Influencing a Diverse World (also known as Peppermint-Filled Pinatas).

I had the chance to ask Eric a little more about this new project:

Jenni: What is A Fruitful Life all about?

Eric: According to Jesus, we have unlimited capacity to influence others spiritually. No matter what we’ve experienced or what we regret or where we are from, in Christ’s Kingdom we can become fruitful – transformed and transforming the lives of others.

Derived from Jesus’ parable of the soils, A Fruitful Life will help you with the following:

  • Discover your calling.
  • Make decisions using a grid for hearing God’s voice
  • Overcome the most painful moments of life.
  • Make progress in areas where you are most tempted.
  • Experience renewal and bring change to others.

Jenni: In working with leaders, I often help them find their place to make a difference. What are some of the insights you share that can help people find their niche?

Eric: Sometimes we make simple things complicated. Jesus explained that if we can avoid being like the first three soils, we could have a life that is described as fruitful. In other words, if we can learn to be receptive (hearing God’s voice), tenacious (not give up on what we know we should do), and intentional (avoiding distractions), we will be who we’ve always wanted to be.

Applying the Scriptures to our life and developing the skills derived from the parable of the soils really is life-changing. I have seen God do remarkable things in my life, in the lives of others who went through this material in small groups, and in the lives of those who experienced the material in the context of a retreat or sermon series. When we are spiritually receptive, tenacious, intentional, and proactive, we are in the right place for God to work in our lives and through our lives.

Jenni: What makes this project different from others?

Eric: Like you, I am fascinated by creativity and innovation, so it was important to me to share this message in a unique, fun, and helpful way. By teaming with the Snippet App, we are offering something that is far more interactive than a paperback and much more than an e-book. Each Snippet in this series includes videos and other discoverables, plus the ability to interact with each other.

Jenni: You mentioned to me that you have a special offer for those who frequent my blog.

Eric: I do! I appreciate your leadership and your message to the world so much!

10 people in your audience will win the entire series. Here’s how: download for free A Fruitful Life: Becoming Who You Were Created To Be and be sure to check out the last chapter on how to become a winner of the next four snippets in the series.

Jenni: Thanks so much! Congratulations on this project!

More on Eric:

Dr. Eric Michael Bryant serves with Gateway Church in Austin as the team leader for Central and South Austin and as part of the teaching team. Known for their mottos: “no perfect people allowed” and “come as you are, but don’t stay that way.”

Eric coaches church planters and campus pastors, teaches on Post Christian Ministry, and leads a cohort for a Doctorate of Ministry in Missional Effectiveness through Bethel Seminary where he earned his Doctorate of Ministry in Entrepreneurial Leadership. More on these opportunities can be found here.

Summer Reading Plan: What Life Are You Waiting For?

SORRY.  THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED.

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This week’s summer reading is Pastor Pete Hise’s new book, What Life Are You Waiting For?

What Life Are You Waiting For Book Promo from Quest Community Church on Vimeo.

Pete is one of those guys who lives what he teaches.  His belief in the life-changing power of God will compel you and challenge you to take the transformational adventure that he believes God has called you to.  This book will push you to ask tough questions, grapple with unresolved heart issues and, most importantly, compel you to ‘push play’ on life.

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If you’re interested in winning a copy, share with us in the comments one adventure you’re taking this summer.

Happy Monday!

 

Turning Off the Critic

Another Sunday in the books. Four services, thousands of attendees, hundreds of volunteers, even a dozen commitments for Christ, and yet I couldn’t shake this gnawing sense of dissatisfaction. In fact, this aching feeling was becoming common every Sunday night as I drove home tired and spent. For all the effort and all the good, it still felt not quite good enough. For all of our great planning and preparation there were still problems. For all of our good communication, volunteers still didn’t always show up. For all of our backup measures, systems still failed in the moments they mattered most.

Rather than see the good that was happening in our ministry, all that wasn’t working was exceedingly overwhelming me. A critical eye consumed me.

Continue reading at Sunday Magazine…

Align Your Stars

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Every organization has them.

S T A R S

The employees that shine a little brighter than others.  They’re gifted.  They’re tenacious.  They do whatever it takes.  They believe in the vision.  They are problem-solvers and idea-generators.  They outrun the rest of the pack.  They’re growing.  They’re leading.

As a leader,  it’s your job to align your stars.  You must position them to shine.

Stars only burn brightly when they are in the right seat, empowered to lean into their strengths and develop their gifts.

If a star gets bored and lacks a challenge, or if a star gets frustrated by roadblocks in organizational bureaucracy, they will either burn out or move on.

A star won’t stay where it can’t shine.

What are you doing to align the stars in your organization?

*Original photo source

20′s Church

Long, late night conversations around the kitchen island.

We did this frequently.  Sometimes it was just recapping the day, sometimes it was boys, dating and that whole mess, other times it was our shared passion for the future of the church.

But one of those late night conversations sparked an idea…

Heather was living with Merlyn and I last summer during her internship at Cross Point.  (Btw, it’s the craziest thing to have a 20 year old living in your home and trying to figure out whether to be a parent or a friend.  I suspect I was a little of both.)

If you haven’t met Heather yet, you will soon.  This girl is a dreamer.  She’s not afraid of dreaming audacious dreams but more than that she’s not afraid to actually make them happen.  She has a way… a tenacity about her that is both inspiring and scary in all the right ways.

This summer Heather and Taylor (another intern from Cross Point’s Summer 2013 crop) are embarking on an adventure.

Heather

Hear what Heather has to share about her love for the church, her generation and her Summer 2014 project:

Just like the majority of pastor’s kids, I was raised by the church. I was taught by it, I was hurt by it, I was cared for by it, I was betrayed by it, I was loved by it. Unlike many pastor’s kids, though, my journey doesn’t stop there. I’m not finished with the church. I’ve seen the damage it can do, but I’ve also seen the life it can create, and I see the latter happening far more often than the former, despite what media and society tells us. The church is one of my biggest passions, not only for how much good I see in it, but for how much potential I believe it has. As a church we have done a lot of really great work, but if we are going to bring “up there down here”, we have a lot of work to do and we need to be working harder than ever to do so.

As a 21-year-old college student, I look around at my classmates and those in my generation and see so much potential for change in the church, but a lack of knowledge as to how to take advantage of that potential. According to a study done by the Barna Group, six out of ten 20-somethings who were “spiritually active” in their teens stop going to church in their 20′s. They found that “only one-fifth of 20-somethings (20%) have maintained a level of spiritual activity consistent with their high school experiences.” As David Kinnamen says, “You’ve lost us”. This generation is driven. We are motivated. We want to be challenged. We are searching for answers that aren’t as black and white as “yes” or “no”. We are a generation of world-changers, and yet there are relatively so few left of us in the church.

My point is not to criticize our churches because that has been done before and, quite frankly, I don’t think it does anything. Rather, I want to share with you a journey I am embarking on with the goal of sharing with the world all the good the church is doing in decreasing those sobering statistics and reaching out to what has been called the “Invisible Generation”.

In a little over a month, I, along with my friend, Taylor, will be touring the country and visiting over 20 different churches to explore how they are effectively reaching out to the 20-something generation. Through research we’ve conducted over the past nine months we’ve discovered several common themes that our generation seems to really be seeking out, and we are excited to see what those churches are doing with them! Throughout the summer we will be posting videos, pictures, and blog posts and we would love for you to join us as we explore how the church is reaching a generation no one seems to be able to figure out how to reach.

Will you join me in praying for them, encouraging them and then listening to them as the help us understand how to reach the 20-something generation?

Easter’s Over, Now What?

Well, we made it.

Another Easter in the books.

Churches everywhere celebrated big.  My twitter, instagram and facebook feeds were full of pictures of crowded rooms, overflow solutions, stories of salvations and baptisms.  It was a great day.  Love won!

For church staff, Easter is like the Superbowl of Sundays.  So much work and preparation goes into this day in anticipation of God revealing his heart to those who don’t yet know him.

We also know that Easter marks the beginning of Spring… of outdoor activities… Summer just around the corner.  Graduations. Vacations.

All great things but all things that move church-going a little lower on the priority list.

As church staff, whether consciously or not, we can approach Easter as the finale.  We know people will be hyper-engaged on this day and then we also realize that all those great things about Spring and Summer will be the distractions that hinder momentum for ministry.

Time and time again I’ve seen church staff give up after Easter.  We check out until the Fall when the routine of life will make church-going convenient again.

I want to challenge you to think differently this year.

Choose to build upon your Easter momentum rather than let it fizzle.

Here are 3 suggestions for how to maximize your Easter momentum:

1) Make people feel human.  Whomever you connected with this weekend, reach out to them this week.  First time guests, new families, people who accepted Christ or were baptized.  Whatever step they took, find a way to connect with them.  Make them feel like an individual not part of the masses.  Reach out with genuine interest and care for how to help connect them further.  Let there name be more than a line on a card or an entry in the database.

2) Build a plan.  If you don’t already have reasons for people to engage with your church after Easter, make a plan.  Give them a reason to come back.  Make it compelling.  Meet a need.  Serve your city.  What’s the best way you can communicate that you care about the lives of the people you connected with at Easter?

3) Commit to work on it.  Rather than wallow in the frustration of lighter attendance numbers this Spring or Summer, commit to work on it.  What can you and your team do to improve ministry experience for those who will return this fall?  Does your guest experience need an overhaul?  Do you facilities need a spruce up?  Do your staff or volunteers need additional training?  Define what you need to work on and use the summer to make it better.

Don’t let this Easter pass without some thought for how you can maximize it!

 

#LentChallenge Holy Week

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Holy Week.

I feel a weight… an awareness… a conscious awakening to what awaits.

The church I’m now a part of participates in a number of Holy Week services… Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter of course.  Some of these are new to me.  They have not been a part of my past tradition and so I find myself engaged to understand.  To learn the history.  To extract the significance.

I find myself present in a different way.

Perhaps  it helps that my whole world is quite different this year with my recent move.  My husband is still back in Nashville selling our house and finishing our relocation, so I have a great deal of quiet time in a strange city with few friends yet.

My view of sacrifice… of loneliness… of quiet… is different these days.  I’m sure it’s still quite incomplete but nevertheless it’s shaping me… growing me… stretching me differently.

As we enter Holy Week I’m praying for a continued awakening in my soul to Christ’s sacrifice and to God’s redemption in my life.

What are you praying for this week?

#LentChallenge for a “Case of the Mondays”

Before the alarm nudged me fully awake I was overwhelmed by Monday.  The weight of the week was already bearing down on me.  Today was just one of those Mondays.  The kind where you want to roll over and wake up to a different day.

So when today’s #LentChallenge reading was the book of Ephesians, it was pretty much perfect.  I love how encouraging Paul is in this book.  Most of Paul’s writing throughout the New Testament deals with cleaning up messes and providing clarity (the daily tasks of a great leader).  But in Ephesians he reminds us of what’s good.

If your Monday needs a dose of encouragement like mine did, here are a couple of passages to inspire you today:

I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people”.  Ephesians 1:16-18

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”  Ephesians 3:16-19

“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!”  Ephesians 3:20 The Message

Careful Selection

“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.  When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.”  Matthew 6:12-13

Choosing the twelve was a significant leadership decision.

These twelve would be the core group that Jesus would invest in the most.  His focus was on teaching and training them to establish the church after he was gone.

Jesus knew his time was short.  He had limited time to teach a group of leaders how to carry on his work on Earth.

While he went about his ministry, he also was strategically building into and investing in this group.

He modeled for us what it looks like to invest in others.  He displayed what it looks like to do the work we’re called to do while also developing others along the way.

None of us know when our season will end.  In our modern world, career change is common and we must constantly think about who we’re preparing to take over for us when we’re gone.

The first step in succession is careful selection.

The verse above says that Jesus spent the entire night before he selected the twelve praying.  It doesn’t say that choosing the twelve was his only topic of prayer but given that the first action he took after his night of prayer was gathering the disciples and naming the twelve, it’s a safe assumption that praying about who those twelve should be was likely a key part of his prayer time.

Prayerfully selecting our teams is essential.  Many of us in the haste and pace of our lives hurry to add staff members without counting the long term cost of that selection.

Building teams is a critical responsibility for every leader.

How much time, attention and prayer are you devoting to selecting your core team?

#LentChallenge – What’s Your Gift?

As I was reading Luke’s account of Jesus birth, I was struck again by the significance of God choosing Mary to birth the Messiah.  Why her?  What stood out about her?  How did she get God’s attention and favor for this tremendous gift?

I don’t know why God chose Mary.  I marvel at how honored I would feel to be chosen for that responsibility.  I anticipate all the emotions that she must have wrestled with.  I wonder what I would have done in her shoes.  How would I have stewarded this amazing gift?

But God has given me (and you) a gift too.  He has given me gifts, talents, experiences and opportunities that he hasn’t given to anyone else.  He has given me these to steward, to cherish, to develop and to release into the world for his good, for his glory.

What he’s asking me to do is the same thing he asked Mary to do, just a different gift.  He asked Mary to be faithful to steward the raising of Jesus.  We too have been asked to be faithful to raise up the gifts that God has given us.  Would Mary have ever dreamed of starving or neglecting Jesus?  Would she have kept him hidden?  Would she abandon him or abuse him?  Would she scorn him or ignore him?  I don’t think so.  Mary knew the tremendous value of this gift that was her’s to steward and she was faithful to that responsibility.

What are you doing with your gift?  Are you cherishing it and developing it or are you ignoring it and squandering it?

Whatever you’re gift, your responsibility is to be faithful.