Saturday, April 12, 2014

The complexities of the "A" Word

Sometimes when I use the word, I look around to see who will scoff, wag their finger, or roll their eyes. Sometimes...just sometimes I imagine getting tarred and feathered for using it. It's a dangerous and coveted word that can conjure up many emotions, opinions, and nasty comments.

Here are some simple definition of the "A" word I speak of:
1-A person who produces works in any of the arts that are primarily subject to aesthetic criteria.

2-A person who practices one of the fine arts, especially a painter or sculptor.
3-A person whose trade or profession requires a knowledge of design, drawing, painting, etc.
4-A person who works in one of the performing arts, as an actor, musician,  singer; or performer.
5-A person whose work exhibits exceptional skill.

So why do I have complicated relationship with this "A" word?  
Because of definition number 5:
 "A person whose work exhibits exceptional skill."

I feel pretty safe about definitions 1-4.  I produce a lot "aesthetics" in my job. I make a lot of media/branding to tell stories and illustrate truths. My job description includes spacial design, and I spend lots of time writing, acting and performing in numerous ways both for my full time job and for fun and my hobbies/passions (because I love to, and occasionally get paid to, as well). 

BUT the complications come from one question.

Who gets to declare that a person has exceptional skill? 

Simon Cowell can eat his heart out because I am my own worst critic. First of all I can feel a bit presumptuous even declaring myself an "artist," because I don't feel worthy of calling myself that at times.  But even more how weird is it to  self-identify as an "exceptional artist." That being said, I  lean on labels from others in this area, finding my identity in how others see me. But when you're telling stories, speaking, making art, and filmmaking you automatically become the object of people's opinions. And no one enjoys being judged critically and no one wants to be called a shoddy artist. If I'm labeled an artist who does crappy work, I'd rather not be called an artist at all. BUT so much of making art is being Ok with creating some "non-exceptional" stuff once in a while. It's imperative simply because 1-you must, 2-you want to, 3-you have ideas and 4- you need to practice! As creators/artists we simple must practice making our art! If for no other reason but to express ourselves, (and find ways to deal with the negative critique that might come after).
This is the complexity of being an ARTIST for me.
My first role in a community theater was Prince Hal in Shakespeare's Henry the IV part 1. I came alive. I gave two months of my life, five nights a week to perfecting my accent, sword fighting training, and rehearsing like crazy. Then came opening night! It was like being born again... only to die the next morning. That role got me a word whipping by the local newspaper critic. Over the next two years I starred in many principal and supporting roles at that theater, and never once did that critic give me a good review.  The first few times it really threw me off. I remember irrationally thinking I could devise a plan to buy up as many papers as I could to lessen the chance people could read them. All I could think about was my name being smeared in those negative words and the whole city reading them. He really had it out for me. (No joke,  in one Agatha Christie play, I literally had a small "walk-on" role with no more than a page of dialogue, and this critic gave me a paragraph lashing in his column). That was almost twenty years ago, and in some way those words still haunt me, but now I'm finding strength in them. 

I attribute this growth over the years to a great/supportive wife, loving friends, encouraging community of artists (so thankful for CREATIVE CREW RWC), and ultimately a bit of just having to "grow-up." I thank God that I've been able develop a thicker skin to recognize my life and work don't need to rely the approval of others. I've been challenged to create despite and because of criticism. Don't get me wrong, I want to better my art, and I seek and welcome feedback. But I've learned, and am still trying to apply, that I don't have to allow the power of negative words to attach to my identity.

This week I was reading this great book by Austin Kleon, "Show Your Work" who confirmed some practical tools in being an "A" word. (The whole book is fun, quick, and filled with great nuggets of wisdom).

In his 8th chapter he says artists need to learn to "Take a punch."
 "Don't feed the trolls. The first step in evaluating feedback is sizing up who it came from. You want feedback from people who care about you and what you do. Be extra wary of feedback from anybody who falls outside of that circle. A troll is a person  isn't interested in improving your work, only provoking you with hateful, aggressive, or upsetting talk. You will gain nothing by engaging with these people. Don't feed them, and they'll usually go away."

What if we didn't focus so much on end product or the "grade" of our "art/work?" What if  we allowed and elevated the  process of creating art to the same level as our end result? What if we simply enjoyed what we did, and sought out healthy, constructive feedback from people who had our good in mind? (And yes, yes, I know some of us want people to like our work, so they'll support it, and invest in it, and keep being our audience.  I want that, too, and  agree. But we must keep the negative, judgmental, and value based critiques in their place.

These thoughts are present for me right now because I spent my week preparing, collaborating, and installing a project that I had been working on since January based on EASTER. These thoughts have flooded my mind because just five short months ago I was doing the same thing, only it was Christmas, and I had an interesting critique come my way.

 I wanted to tell a story. I wanted to take the age old, simple story that took place in Bethlehem, and plop it down in our current city. Two thousand years ago there was a sign in the sky, a star. And today we have very different signs. What if those signs we'd see in 7-11's or flashing in bars, pointed us to the true north of Christmas? I was so excited about the idea, and a bunch of others were, too, as they flocked out to work together as a team and see this concept come to life.

We worked on the idea for about three months, collaborated with over thirty stage designers/carpenters/creators and "A-words." The installation took three days to complete and we were all shining with pride over the whole process.

But then one handwritten, anonymous comment crept in,  attempting to blow out our little light. 
"Would Jesus approve of neon lights? It feels wrong. Remove the cultural obscenity."

I read those words over and over. I scratched my head. I shrugged my shoulders. I was confused. It's not like a bedazzled a manger, or made a neon crucifix (although, that's art, too).
Did I commit heresy? I mean, this person called our work, "obscene."


I was deflated...for a few hours... and then I got over it.

 It didn't knock me out, I didn't lose any sleep or appetite, or try to devise any plans to keep the comment from others.

See, I had this perspective:

It was Christmas. I wanted to tell and illustrate a story. I wanted to take the two thousand year old traditional story that took place in Bethlehem, and plop it down in our current city. I wanted people to see the relevance of Christmas in our city, today. And we did get LOTS of positive feedback, but the most important fact for me, was that our team created and collaborated on something beautiful. We worked hard, and we accomplished what we intended.

So now, I'm reminding myself of this, as we head into this next season of SHOWING WORK for the Easter season. I'm attempting to take Austin Kleon's advice. Here's some of the projects brewing:
  • I casted vision for both a print and video branding illustrating HEAVEN!
(with the awesome design from my friend Mr. Jeremy Milford).

  • I wrote and directed an interactive story-telling experience for Good Friday. Please come experience the amazing words, music, and interaction created by a talented and passionate group of people centered around Jesus' crucifixion. (Friday 4/18/14, 7pm, PCC).
  • I worked on the ethos of our community's worship space to enhance our imagination of the season. It starts THIS SUNDAY as we RE-FRAME our perspectives on eternity.
  • I collaborated on and helped produce a video story celebrating the changed lives of six people getting baptized debuting  Easter Sunday April 20th. (8am, 9:30am, and 11:15am).

So, don't worry if you're expert or not, it doesn't matter. Practice, try, create, fail, and start again. It's OK! Enjoy who you are, and enjoy the process of creating. That's how we learn, and... THAT IS HOW we become an exceptionally skilled artist! (Lots and lots of practice).

If you're like me and you're an A-soul, or you have an A-soul in your life-- an Artist's soul that is, then be encouraged with these reminders...And go out there and CREATE!

 “You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
Winston Churchill

“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”

“I pay no attention whatever to anybody's praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings.”
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Monday, March 31, 2014

He got off the ark, got drunk, got naked, and started over.

It was 10pm last night when about twenty of us crowded in the coffee shop, with only 30 minutes until closing time. I still had the aftertaste of popcorn in my mouth. We were about to dive into what millions of movie-goers were talking about this weekend.

We had just seen THAT movie.
 Y'know, the one about the guy, the boat, and the animals?

Gosh, is it just me, or did this movie just seem to set people off?

To be honest, I didn't read one critic's review, media professional's article, or amateur film fan's blog (like mine).

Now, post-flood, I'm still not sure how much I want to read all the stuff going around because with the few status updates I saw, I had enough to convince myself I needed to avoid the hailstorm of controversial naysayers and make my own opinion.

Even before I saw the film last night,  I reminded myself, "It. Is. A. Movie."
This movie was made by an artist. Someone attempting to tell a story. Albeit a very famous, and "sacred cow" of a Biblical story, it is still an "attempt" to tell a story, which in the artist's words was "loosely based," on the original story.

And with that, I'd recommend you do the same. 
It's a movie, made by an artist, attempting to tell a good story.
(And I think he succeeded amazingly well).

Take it in... and see what you can take-away, see what you can learn.

If you go expecting something to line up with what you were taught in Sunday School, you'll be disappointed. (I wonder how many will see it that have no preconceived notions? People who don't know anything about Noah. Do they exist? It'd like to talk with them!).

This film is dark, violent, and not the happy, shiny story we see in cartoons and flannel graphs. But who wants that anyway??

 I like stories that look more like real life, that look more life MY life, which is the exact opposite of a perfect, got-it-all together fairy-tale.

Besides have you actually read the Bible? It is full of dark, crazily imperfect people who make tons of mistakes. (Murderers, prostitutes, and swindlers were all chosen and used by God).

For instance, most Sunday School lessons leave out the little part about Noah getting so wasted that his kids found him flat faced and naked (It's in this movie), right after he saved the world.  THIS IS IN THE BIBLE! Ya, oops, that's God's chosen one. "Cover him up quickly," his kids said in the text, and us Bible teachers, sorta did the same thing. Just leave that part out and talk about the dovey, dovey, abovey, abovye.

But that real, human experience is what I loved about this movie. It was full of pain, toil, jealousy, doubt, love, sacrifice, mercy, hope, death, and life. It's all there if you're wiling to find it and wrestle with it. (That's why I'd suggest going with some people you can pull it apart with over a meal/coffee).
Are there things that seem similar to movies like Transformers or the Never Ending Story?
 Ya, and even though I wasn't expecting it, I like it.

Are there things that might just seem a bit far-fetched, and supernatural?
Ya! But why not? Have you read this part of the Bible before? Genesis 6:4.
There are some things that truly deserve a "WTF?" (For all you people who might get offended by that, I mean, "What the FRICK.").

Are there things in the Noah movie you'd label ridiculous?
Duh? Yes. But, that makes for good conversation!
Did Russell Crowe have to sing in this movie?
YES! Did he not learn anything from Les Miserables??
If you get mad about anything, get mad about that. He sings again.
Just kidding.

The song he sang in Noah was actually really cool. (Your father is the healer, in the wind, something like that).

Sorry, I digress.

Noah's story complies about four chapters in the first book of the Bible, Genesis. It's an account of the world being flooded and every species of animal on the earth coming along for the ride. That's a little far-fetched in my opinion,  even though I believe it's true, I still don't get how it happen! That's the beauty of it. We get to use our imagination!  Disagree, ya, but don't write off the film because one guy attempts to tell the story. He had to give us something to watch for two hours! Big deal if he claims to be an atheist. (Which really surprises me).  He does an amazing job illustrating the human condition, and our human desire to know our life's purpose and to converse with our creator.

I'd say, God is and will use this film to "talk to" many people.

And God tends to use anyone he wants, even donkeys, to teach people truths.  

So there we were, gripping our espresso drinks, chiming in how the film affected us. Some were heated and felt it sorely represented Christianity. Others were open to the creative license and found the nuances exciting and even debating the mythical nature of Genesis.

For me, I saw myself in Noah. 

How often do I doubt and forget God's mission for my life?

How often to I feel lost in the midst of desperately trying to obey and honor God?

How often do I trample over those I love trying to do the work of God?

How often am I reminded of God's grace and call from the unexpected (a child) in my life? 

The answer is ALL THE TIME.

So, Darren Aronfsky, thanks for making this movie.
Thanks for giving the world something to talk about for a few weeks.
Thanks for causing us to open up our Bibles to read and wrestle with truth.
Thanks for reminding us, that God's stories have been passed down from century to century just like this: sitting around fires, or coffee shops. We are story tellers and receivers, retelling over and over again, what the great creator has called us to, redeemed us from, and brought new life through.


Thanks for showing us Russell Crowe's butt because we all have the opportunity to start again.

That's right.

 God allows us to start again, even when we fail, or think we've failed,  or gotten pissed drunk, or almost killed our (grand) children, or misinterpreted the Bible, or intentionally fabricated some truth.

It just so happens that there's something amazing called grace, and sometimes there is a rainbow waiting in the sky for us that confirms it.

Friday, February 28, 2014

(Re) Making something NEW

How many versions of Godzilla have been made? According to my "research," (on the Internet), around THIRTY-ish. That's a lot of sequels since the original.
But will that stop me, or millions of other people,  from going to see the new one? Heck no! (Especially because it stars Bryan Cranston).

King Solomon said, there was NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN.

Some preachers use that as an excuse to steal other people's stories and put them in the first person. Some artists use that excuse to do bad work, and still others roll their eyes at that statement and feel stuck, bored, and uninspired.

But others hear that, and hear an opportunity. They hear a challenge, an adventure, an outright MANDATE to CREATE, to TURN THINGS AROUND....and to find something new.

Making NEW stuff energizes me, and sometimes it exhausts me. It takes time. It takes work. Sometimes I am going constantly, non-stop with no breathing room to rest. There's always a deadline, another series, story, or branding to create. And there are some cheap and easy solutions. There are tons of "stock images" available to use for branding, canned videos, photos that other churches have used for their stuff, etc. (And yes, occasionally we have to use them, and not just because of time, but because they are good!).  I'm not bagging on using other people's stuff, because truly I hope other people use the stuff I create, just like musicians hope we sing the songs they write (and we do).

But when I'm tasked with casting vision for teams/events/gatherings etc, most times, I feel the need to make something new, that tells my story, OUR story, a NEW STORY, and with our people collaborating to do it.

It's a blast, and not only encourages me, but I see how all involved in making and consuming it get something out of it.

So, for me,  this next season if full of creating, or RE-Creating. Good Friday and Easter will hold some great new experiences for our faith community. Our  CREATIVE CREW,  an artistic community of Redwood City, will be trying some new projects together, too.

And THIS SUNDAY, 3/2/14,  we'll be debuting a brand new song written on the inspiration of Biblical wisdom, by David Cowart & Caleb Ibanez. An offering, if you will, of music and story.

Our church is studying the Biblical book of PROVERBS, we call it, THE GOOD LIFE, because it is full of truth to guide our life. I commissioned two creative musicians to tell a new story, finding something fresh to say with their musical abilities. I'm excited to share it (free), with our community.

I'll link the song to this blog, and we'll put it out on our social media handles, too. So you can download it for FREE!
So, until then...

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ragamuffin Film showing this Friday Night

For those of you who want to now, or need to have an answer for those who ask that question-here is what I am saying:

The film is independently made, and not a studio produced film or released in theaters yet, so there is no official MPAA rating for THIS Friday's (1/31) screening of RAGAMUFFIN-The Rich Mullins' Story. 

It's probably more of a PG-13 rated film-simply for some of the mature themes (alcoholism/smoking/depression/death by car accident) depicted in the film. I'm told by the producer there is NO nudity, no drug use, and just mild language.
I told a few people 1-I am not bringing my kids for that reason, and it's too late for them anyway, and 2-we do not offer childcare.
I hope we can see  the heart of this great story of God's redemption and use of one man's broken life, and see ourselves, and those we need to love, in it as well! So far it's getting a great response from churches that it has screened with.

Plenty of reviews online-Here's one.

So- this week---WHAT CAN YOU DO?
1-Hope you'll join us, and invite/ bring a friend.
(Engage in some great discussions around God's love and grace after viewing the movie).

2-Buy a ticket online--We've sold about 100 tickets online so far..PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD.

OR at the door-cash only. PCC does not make any $$ of this event.

4-RSVP and and share THE FB EVENT:

5-F YOU WANT TO CUT & PASTE THIS INTO YOUR FACEBOOK STATUS OR email out to your friends/ministry partners:

***My church is screening the premiere of a film called, RAGAMUFFIN, the true story of musician Rich Mullins. Come to 3560 Farm Hill Blvd. on Friday January 31st. Doors open at 6:30pm and the film starts at 7pm. The director and producer will be there after for some Q&A. $10. ***
Cash only at the door.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Pen, Ink, Simple, Truth, Good, Life

I was 17 when journaling became an addiction for me. I had to have colored pencils, sharpies, and every different colored ultra fine point pen I could find.

I loved writing, drawing, and bringing life to my prayers and thoughts to my blank (unlined) paper. Having three children has challenged my three hour coffee and writing sessions and have turned into  cat naps and nacho addictions..but when I was thinking of  THE GOOD LIFE and our church's focus on LIVING THROUGH THE WISDOM OF PROVERBS, I thought of these simple and yet profound times I had with God.

I thought about how Solomon, the writer of Proverbs, would have been reflecting on his life, in the same way. Through his proverbs, he reflected on  his words, his relationships,  his multiple marriages, his friendships, his finances, his family, and his sex life (yep, it's in there). He took up his sharpie (or one of his scribes took up a quill) to paint a picture for his children and grandchildren (and us) on how to have the best of everything.

This was obviously before Facebook, and Youtube--a throwback time when we had face to face interaction and letter writing.  This is the idea that sparked the branding around our GOOD LIFE series. I wanted to share something "handwritten," if you will. Something...

And our designer, IAN WALLACE (a friend and PCC'er) HAND WROTE all 14 proverbs we'll be studying. I love how people use their gifts and talents for others. Thanks IAN! You sharpened me!

If you're a part of PCC on Sundays, you'll see them eventually posted very LARGE all around the worship center. Our hope is to have a simple season of focusing on God's truth and finding his wisdom for our life.

You'll  also see a green chair on the stage (and in our bumper video eventuaally ) this Sunday--inviting you, inviting us to come sit, reflect, share, and live through God's wisdom.

Perhaps YOU want to SHARE at some point the wisdom you are finding as you seek God for direction in all areas of your life. May be you'd consider journaling this year? If so, check this challenge out:.GOOD LIFE WISDOM CHALLENGE

ALSO-Check out these orange Boards.  They will be outside the Worship Center on Sundays to act as a "water cooler" gathering spot. Every Sunday the boards will be filled with a handwritten Proverb for people to take home, use as a book mark, put on their fridge, pass to someone else (kind of like the "ID" post-in note if you were a part of our PCC community during Oct-Nov). You may even see them posted up places when you're checking your emails or as you use the "facilities." These orange boards will be on the patios on Sundays.

Ok--that's all for now. Going to be blogging more this season. It's time to share more stories about what God is doing! Hope you have a great start to the year.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The odd markings of death

Most of us have no problem celebrating birthdays...that is unless we're turning 29, 39, or 49.

Remembering the day we got married is usually an amazing day, as well... unless that marriage is difficult or has ended in divorce.

If you're not already depressed, read on, but know this post contains some heaviness.

The older we get, the more our years become filled with memories both positive and negative. We have more friends who enter our lives that bring us joy, but also conflict. As our families expand we have more celebrations of life through births and weddings but we also face the reality of tragedy through death and division. As we grow older, the more relationships we gather and the more we must say goodbye to people we love. It can be celebrities, neighbors, friends, and families... our lives become marked by death individually and corporately. One day someone is there, an another they are not.

One generation memorializes death by terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, and another generation will never forget the presidential assassination on November 22nd 1963.

So, as weird and unwanted as it is, our lives, our years, become marked by death. It's so odd. But it illustrates how our lives were meant to be lived. We live life in a rhythm, in seasons

 Ecclesiastes 3 says:
 There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
   a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build, 
 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing
  a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away, 
 a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak, 
 a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

In "times" like these, God encourages, permits, and urges us to sit quietly, express anger, shed tears, fall into the arms of others, and simply acknowledge this is not how life was meant to be. We can't always makes sense of it. We are not yet in Heaven. We are caught in a world where there is more than meets the eye, supernatural and evil forces pressing against God, his goodness, and his creation (us). And the whole time we make our way through, whether we feel victorious or defeated,  we can be confident that God is with us. (Psalm 34:18). And we are able, miraculously, to find and to pray, for Heaven (and all it's amazing qualities) to come to Earth, and to come to our lives, into our hearts!

Today, I'm marked by the unfortunate memory and unnatural death caused by suicide. It brings up sadness, confusion, and the reality that this world is not our true home. It reminds me that we are complicated beings, we are prone to self-destruction, to hurt others, to lose focus on our life's purpose, and to deny the beauty of our worth and value by the one who created us. But I"m thankful to be comforted by the love of God, and the promise of Heaven.

See, death was not God's plan. In our sin, humans initiated this (in the Garden of Eden).

We failed to trust God, broke his plans for our lives, and had to suffer consequences (experiencing distance from him and physical death). But the God sent Jesus to make all things right. Jesus makes things new. And now we are invited to walk with God as Father once again. Jesus reversed the effects of our sin. So although we still die a physical death, we are invited to live forever with him. We can live in his love and live in HIS comfort THROUGH the pain of this earthly life. God has given us a way of making sense of life's darkness. 

So whether you find yourself in a "season" of transition, hard decision making, unemployment, financial hardship, conflict, depleting heath, marriage difficulty, grief, loneliness, disappointment, or  ______________ (fill in the blank). You are invited to live in the abundant life and power of Jesus, who gave his life for us, so that he could offer us his Holy Spirit to live within us. He can be trusted, and with him, we can overcome anything. No sadness, discouragement, or trouble needs to overtake us. It's OK to enter and experience the odd markings and rhythm of these things, for we can't avoid them. But we mustn't be defined by them.

John 16:33

Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world!"

Monday, August 12, 2013

Note to self (& for all pastors & leaders to read)

If you're a pastor or church leader, I want to share this confession of sorts with you. And if you're not, I want you to eavesdrop because this involves you, too.

Last week I had the privilege to learn from leaders all around the world via Willow Creek's Leadership Summit. 

16 hours of people talking, about leadership, on a video screen. (I didn't get to go to Chicago, just watched it via satellite).

 Although that much TV watching did make me tired, I felt non-stop encouragement, challenge, affirmation, and a call to step up and out to lead. It came at the crazy, right time for me. I'm excited to see how some of this shapes me in the next year.

Some take-aways and reminders for me from the conference included:

*Good, clear, and often communicated vision is essential. People need to know where they are going.
* We need to risk and try new things, for failure is a must, because we learn and grow from it.
* Bravery is a must, for we  have been called into greatness, and it takes courage to change the world.
* Leadership is about multiplying our influence, but we must be careful not to diminish others in the process.
*We need to make room, equip, and invite new leaders to join us. We must pour into the next generation. Good leaders don't hoard. We need to make room for more leaders to emerge.
 * Great leaders repeat their simple themes.
*Choose great people to serve and lead with so you are not alone in leadership.
* Great organizations/groups create new expressions and experiment with creating new organizations/groups
*If you are one who helps others, who must be one who allows others to help you.
*The church is God's unstoppable force, never forget it

One of my favorites, a featured TED talker, Brene Brown, called hundreds of thousands of people
to vulnerability, to being honest and finding strength and bravery by being honest (which can result in living with out shame).

There was all that, and more, and I will be a better leader because of it all. 

But, I have to address and call out a message that I don't think this leadership conference meant to communicate. 

Because the conference vision was to raise up and encourage godly leadership, many of the speakers were pastors who speak/preach on a regular basis. I noticed a trend in these speakers. Many of them shared and affirmed (with many heads nodding in agreement) how difficult it is to preach week to week. Preaching is stressful and with it comes a lot of pressure. For instance, the weight not only of prepping for Sunday messages week after week is burdensome, but delivering them, and dealing with the aftermath, particularly on Monday can be overwhelmingly problematic for pastors. A few speakers even commented they feel so insecure about how "good" their messages were afterward (or how they were received by their hearers), that they were inclined to drive their cars over cliffs. Or if suicide wasn't their first choice they'd opt to crawl under a rock to avoid people until they could make themselves valuable again by preaching a show-stopping message.

I get this, I really do.

We put so much effort and energy into preaching, pastoring, presenting, (bearing our soul) etc, that we think somehow we can mess it up so bad that the church will crumble because of it. I've been there.

In our minds, if the people don't laugh at all our jokes, take notes on everything we say, or come running down the aisle to give us praise, I mean, give their lives to Jesus, because they were so moved by our words, then we SUCK and we should quit.

But what are we really thinking here?

I'll tell you what we're thinking:
It's all about us.

Are we that important that we think our life is worth nothing after one bad thirty minute speech?

What about God's power, and the work his Spirit is doing? What about all the OTHER people in the room on Sunday with whom God has gifted and are called to build the church up?  The work of the church is not about one pastor, it's about all of God's people.

When we pastors think the success of our church or ministry hinges on us, our abilities, our charisma, or our thirty minutes on Sunday, we need to have our own "come to Jesus moment."

This is where we need others, especially those not pastors and church leaders, to know how valuable and needed they are. Help out us pastors and remind us often, "It's not about you," because we need to call this what it is. This type of thinking is more about our ego and how good our "presentation" was, rather than if God moved in people's lives.

I love how Paul encourages us in 1 Corinthians 2: 3-5.

I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.   
My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

What is Paul saying? He knows what it's like to be nervous! But he was depending on God rather than on how clever his words came out.

Honestly, I think I'd/we'd rather have people's lives rest in our wisdom and how creative we can be at presenting it. We may be too familiar with settling and judging our success by our persuasive words that we miss out on actually seeing supernatural things happen.

Now, please keep in mind, I'm writing this blog for myself, you just get to eavesdrop on my vulnerability-- (thanks to Brene Brown who said it's good to admit your all your emotional baggage).

I get this. I really do. And I'm convicted by it.

When I/we think like this, it just shows I am/we are consumed with ourselves. The whole deal about pastors saying they want to kill themselves on Monday is a whole other conversation...for more on that see my suicidal thoughts blogs one and two. 

So....I made a note to myself, that funny enough, the week before I sensed God had already given to me.

I was praying and dreaming some things about the future when I knew God began to drop some knowledge on me!

This is what he said:

"My church is about me. You get to play a great part, and that part is equally important to all the other parts. so make room, invite, and empower all the church (God's people) to do it's part. 
So, with urgency I share this with you my fellow leaders, pastors, speakers, worship leaders, chaplains, etc. You, what you do and what you have to say, is not the most important part of the Church and it's gatherings. (Whew! For me, that's actually very freeing.).

We need to intentionally make a way for all of God's people to live into their roles as disciples, to express their parts of the body. That's when God's church is functioning completely.

So I told myself again, and I'm sharing this with you- if you are a leader/speaker in some way:

You are not the most important person in the church, Jesus is. 

That is so liberating. (Read Colossians 1:15-20).

When I/we think the church lives and dies off of what we have to say/do, we create this vacuum in which sucks all the life and power from the church and puts it right into us.

That is not necessary.

Here's what I think Jesus would say to us pastors/leaders if we let him look into our eyes and speak into us on this topic: 

That youth intern who hasn't been to seminary yet is just as important to the Father's work as you. Invite him to hang out with you and affirm his passion for prayer and the love he has for people on the margins. Invite him to teach the church about what he's learning with the students and that those students are just as important as your mission trips around the world. The music leader shares equal worth with you. So value her and empower her to share her stories as she strums that guitar to lead others to express their love for me. Tell her the Church needs to hear how she came to know me because they can learn from what I did in her life. And that quiet, stay at home mom trying to quiet her baby in the back of the room, is just as important to my mission  as you. Invite her to see her worth in my kingdom and her discipleship gifts as just as important as your preaching. Ask her if she wants to share a message on a Sunday some time, and train her to see her voice is just as valuable as yours. And that high school student with braces and acne texting while you're preaching? He is just as important to my church as you. Call him into using his tech abilities to serve and get the word out to others via Social Media and other creative means. Spend time listening to his questions and doubts, encourage him that his thoughts are valuable and that you need him to fulfill my call on the church and that you all serve together.  And that guy who always arrives late to the worship gathering and interrupts you with his loud motorcycle friends in the parking lot? He's just as important as you. Teach him that his relational compassion to reach out to his fellow biker buddies is just as important as your twenty hours of Greek interpretation. Remember I love you, and I live in you. Remind all my people that I died so that the Holy Spirit would come dwell and empower all of them.  All of my people together, make up my Church. So lead with grace, in my power, as I lead you.

So, I'm making this note for myself and sharing with you Reverend so and so, Minister she she, Chaplain he he, etc.

May you be free to live in God grace on you, and privileged to serve Him, knowing you are loved, and called to be A PART of His body, completed by many. And may I, may you, never forget, Jesus is the true leader, the true pastor of His Church. May we let him pastor us so we can live in his love, free from the need of our ego.  And remember, you ARE IMPORTANT, just not the most important.