Pouring Out

Featured

We all carry an innate desire to be part of a purpose bigger than ourselves.

Even if we don’t have the language to verbalize it, nor the self-awareness to realize that our deepest struggles are the search to fulfill this desire, we long to be part of a movement that is making a difference in this world. The fight with your spouse, the argument with your children, the frustration with your supervisor. These moments are the unseen longing being projected onto the seen.

I recently wrote about the value of vision, as well as the current vision for the 801South community. I am convinced now more than ever that the abundant life is experienced by pouring out in order to fill those around you. When we find a never-ending source that continually fills us up, we can be free to focus only on filling others. Imagine the ways that this message can change the world for those who fully embrace it. How do we get this message out to people?

Screenshot 2017-04-04 20.37.10

Producing a video that creatively communicates this vision is one vehicle to get this message out. We recently had the privilege of working with a growing media production company here in Matthews. Silent Images is a great story. This group of videographers, photographers, and editors are a nonprofit committed to telling stories well. Go to 801south.org to see the amazing video produced by Silent Images.

Sunday, April 23rd, will be another opportunity for us to be a people who pour out. To celebrate the 3-year anniversary of launching 801South as a community whose mission is inviting people into the story of Jesus, we are partnering with an incredible organization here in in our local community.

Bright Blessings is a non-profit organization serving the greater Charlotte region whose programs will bring joy, care, and hope to more than 8,000 homeless and impoverished children in our community this year. 801South is very excited to help support their efforts and we are scheduled to serve at a Bless-a-Birthday party where Bright Blessings provides a full birthday party experience to put a child in the spotlight and provide a positive sense of self in the near future. For many of these children, it will be the first time they have ever experienced a birthday party.

As you view the short vision video, my hope is that you will be compelled to be a part of seeing this vision become reality and, ultimately, be a part of God’s mission to redeem the world He loves.

Happy Easter!

Tap Into Your Fullest Potential To Lead

lead

These are the principles no one told you, but would have changed everything. This is the stuff you wish you knew at the beginning.

While reading Clay Scroggins’ new book, How to Lead When You’re not in Charge, I continuously recalled situations from my past where I would have proven to be a much more effective leader had I approached the situation according to the principles Scroggins shares.

This book could have easily been titled, What to do with your Feelings as a Leader. As leaders, we naturally have certain thoughts and feelings toward the organization of which we are a part. This is a good thing. These thoughts and feelings are what validate your propensity to lead. The question is, “What do you do with those thoughts and feelings?” Clay gives incredibly wise advise on how to process and proceed for the benefit of everyone involved.

Through entertaining and humorous illustrations like the story of being hired to move a crotchety old man’s pool table in college; which contained one my favorite lessons in the whole book, Clay gleans wisdom from everyday life experiences and provides practical application for how to implement that wisdom in my everyday life. He is humble and vulnerable in his storytelling…all for the benefit of the reader and the organizations in which he or she leads.

Clay also lays out simple and practical advice along with brilliant questions that you need to answer for yourself. For example, Clay is very generous to share his Lead Me Plan…a process anyone can easily work through to develop better self-leadership; which is where it all starts. An example of brilliant question-asking is evident in Clay’s self-appointed 360 degree evaluation when he moved to a new role. He sent three questions to around 50 previous coworkers and asked them three simple questions:

  1. What did I do over the past few years that inspired you?
  2. What did I do that frustrated you?
  3. What do I not know about myself that has become a blind spot?

Who does that?? Leaders who want to get better do that. Leaders who desire to leverage more influence despite a lack of authority do that. I should do that. You should do that.

Clay is also direct and honest with words we need to hear, especially if you are a young leader. He comes right out and says, “You are not ready for your boss’s job.” How many of us have thought that we should be in that position…in those shoes?? He’s right. We’re not ready and we need someone to be honest with us while also helping us determine how to best lead right where we are to make the biggest impact, as well as prepare us for what’s next. This is what How To Lead does for a leader.

Personally, the most influential section of the book is when Clay explains the difference between thinking critically and being critical. His explanation of how to be an effective critical thinker and to share your thoughts in a way that adds value to the mission of your organization is amazing. Do you find yourself continually burdened to make your organization better? The good news is that you can…right where you are…with exactly what you have. Clay shares how to do it well.

When I first read the endorsement by Andy Stanley (senior pastor and founder of North Point Ministries), I thought to myself, He has to say that. Clay is his replacement. Andy writes, “This book you are holding in your hands will be one of the most, if not the most, pivotal leadership books you’ll ever read.” After actually reading the book, I totally agree with Andy. He’s right (as usual). This book should be required reading for everyone entering an organization at any level. I know this will be the next read for my team and it will help them in every role they play, rather it’s in the workplace, at the local rec league, and even at home.

Clay breaks down every myth and removes every excuse as to why we cannot have incredible influence and impact in our current position. If you are looking to be inspired to action and you are tired of feeling stuck, Clay’s book is exactly what you need. We are all leaders and we can either lead well or lead poorly. It starts with a decision. The next decision you should make to lead well is to pick up How to Lead When You’re not in Charge.

Leaders Grow Leaders

IMG_5430

The 801South staff team grew this summer and I’m full of anticipation for what these hires mean for the future. As the opportunity to bring more staff on board (due to some transitioning and restructuring) became apparent, I wanted to pay special attention to hiring around our values. Many times organizations will hire according to their perceived needs; which can be a mistake. I’m particularly excited about our most recent hires for two reasons. First of all, I’m excited because of who they are and what they stand for. Secondly, I’m excited about the way they came into these positions.

The most important value we strive to embody is community. We want to see people connected in new relationships—both to Jesus and with one another—through intentional community. This is why small groups are a big deal, which serve as the primary behavioral pattern to match this value. The second most important value is growth. We want to see people grow in their character and competency as followers of Jesus. Leaders grow leaders. This is exactly what happened in the case of our two most recent hires.

Molly Joyner has been with 801South since the beginning and her family has been one of the most devoted families to the mission of 801South. She has led small groups and has been effective in designing and executing opportunities for people to serve our local community as a volunteer. Her passion for creating community and serving our surrounding community has led to her staff position as Community Director.

Natalie Davies also recently made the transition from key volunteer to staff. I’m particularly excited about Natalie joining the staff team because she brings quality corporate retail experience. She too has demonstrated a passionate commitment to the mission of 801South (inviting people into the story of Jesus). Unlike many of us who have been professional Christians (i.e. church staff) for a long time, Natalie still has close relationships with many people who do not follow Jesus. These relationships remind her of the need to be inviting people into the story of Jesus and fuels her passion for the mission of the church. Prior to joining the staff, Natalie was apprenticing up to three people at the same time as a volunteer. As I’ve stated already, leaders grow leaders.

The manner in which Molly and Natalie have come on staff is exactly what I have hoped for from the beginning…rather than trying to discern a felt need, posting a description on job websites, going through dozens of applications followed by interviews, hoping that the individual will be a “good fit,” and trying to avoid falling into a bad hire. Instead there is a proven track record of leadership development and commitment to the mission for both Molly and Natalie. I never have to question their initiative. I never have to question their passion. I never have to convince them why. I have already witnessed them lending their gifts, talents and resources to further the mission. As a team, we will debate about the how, but never the why.

801South is in great hands under the leadership of our current Operational Team; which includes Ryan Devenney and Nick Hunter. The team has been working hard to prepare for expansion as we head into the fall. Join me in believing God for more changed hearts and lives through the environments of 801South.

I Am Racist (Part 2)

This post is the second in a two-part series. I suggest you read the first part before continuing with the post below.

jens-johnsson-121807

One reason I feel so inadequate in addressing this topic is because my kind has kind of been the problem. The real problem, however, is sin. Sin kills. Sin divides. Sin is no fun to discuss and we are often tempted to avoid the concept all together. If only it were that easy.

The issue with avoiding sin is when we don’t own our sin, our sin will own us. When I allow my sin to motivate my thoughts and behavior, everyone loses. If you prefer, we can use the language of selfish human nature in place of sin. They are not interchangeable, but close enough for this conversation.

The church, of all the organized institutions, must be the one to stand and say this is not acceptable. In order for our prejudices to no longer control our thoughts and behaviors, we have to change our clothes. Using the Apostle Paul’s metaphor from his letter to a gathered group of people in Colossae that we read in the New Testament of the Bible, we have to take off our old nature and put on a new nature. We must take off the nature of anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk. We must put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. This is most difficult (I would say impossible on my own accord and in my own strength) when in the presence of those who believe differently than I do and who may even choose to slander me.

For most of us, and this is where I will lose some of you if I have not done so already, this means we also must take off what daddy and grandaddy taught us. We must take off the goggles we inherited from those who have gone before us through which we see the world. Without this challenging and often painful separation from certain hereditary ways of thinking, the prejudices we inherit deter and delay putting on a new nature.

God is working to redeem and reconcile all of creation back to Himself. That’s you and me. At the same time, the ways we divide and segregate ourselves is bigger than us as individuals. I think what all means is…all. All includes everything. Therefore, we have to address the issue from a perspective of society and culture as a whole. Prejudice is an issue within the individual. Societies are comprised of individuals and we bring our individualism with us. Therefore, division among people according to skin color, economic status, and belief is also a societal issue.

We cannot simply jump to reconciliation to resolve these complex issues. There must be means of repair. If the real issue is sin, then we will likely never experience full restoration in our lifetime, but we can choose to put on the new nature and take off all that hinders us from loving people despite our differences.

I have participated in several diversity trainings over the years and they are certainly helpful to gain perspective. I will be participating in another diversity and bias education experience later this month. I highly recommend you do the same, but healing will ultimately be realized through relationship. It is in close relationship with those who are other that our own prejudices are proven to be misinformed.

What steps are you taking to develop relationships that will peel back the layers of your prejudice and aid in putting on a new nature? The church must be the place and the people who show the world how this is done well.

I Am Racist (Part 1)

Almost every week I am put in an impossible position. Most Sundays, I’m given a platform for which I am entirely unqualified. This is the way I feel when tasked to present a clear and compelling message in front of a crowd giving me their mostly undivided attention; which in itself is a rare gift in our over-distracted and entertainment-seeking society. There are less and less environments in which people will willfully sit and listen to an individual speak for an extended period of time. I try not to take this for granted.

This past Sunday, I felt especially inadequate to share the message that I believed was the right message for the moment. The topic of this particular message is always a touchy subject that instantly elicits passion and a range of emotions within each of us. 

Despite the strides our society has made in the journey toward acceptance and tolerance, I continue to read stories like those of Jacob Edwards and hear reports on NPR of racial slurs being yelled at minority Major League Baseball players throughout the country. On one hand, as an older Millennial, it’s hard to believe that this kind of behavior still goes on. On the other hand, however, I totally get it…

because I am racist.

More than likely, you are racist. Of course your first response to that is, “I’m not racist!” Before you defend yourself out of fear that reparations and repentance will be demanded of you immediately if you agree, hear me out…

To be reared in a racist society and not be racist is impossible. Notice the lack of an “a” prior to the word racist. I’m using an adjective to describe each of us…not a noun. We are all products of our environment and our environment has a racist history. Whether certain ways of viewing people groups who are other have been intentionally taught or unknowingly caught, we all carry prejudices. Those who look different. Those who speak, think, and believe differently. Those who have means or those who have not. Just the thought of a conceptualized them calls forth certain thoughts and feelings.


Segregation in our society is something we all feel. We go through our lives still seeing segregated lunch tables, driving by those neighborhoods, watching people come out of churches. It’s a tension we feel in our society. What do we do? Ignore it? Do we just start walking around those neighborhoods and churches? Sitting at those lunch tables? If we do, is it just to assuage some kind of guilt I feel, but am too scared to admit? Man, human nature is a beast.

Segregation may not be legislated today, however, there are deep-seeded prejudices that have led to it. We can pretend like the ways we divide ourselves are voluntary but most of us who are at all thoughtful and discerning can agree this is certainly not how it’s supposed to be.

How then do we deal with our prejudice?

I have some ideas that I will share next week…

In the meantime, how do you witness racism and other prejudices in our society today? Are you aware of your own thoughts and feelings toward those who are different?

Praying For CLT

Do you pray? If not, I encourage you to talk with God. Whatever you believe, you will lean even more into the person you were created to be and experience life differently when you do.

Last Thursday was the national day of prayer; of which I am not a huge fan. My lack of enthusiasm is partly due to the fact that we tend to create super fancy and complicated experiences around a practice that should be so simple, but (as usual) my wife straightened me out. I’ll try to have a better attitude next year.

The national day of prayer is encouraging because it reminds me of how many people really believe in God and seek Him on a regular basis. This is reassuring amid all of the reports and statistics constantly telling us church leaders that nobody believes in God anymore and society has moved on.

IMG_5755.jpg

This year, the 801South team took advantage of the day and got together with several other churches through the For Charlotte network. Thanks to the passionate leadership of Casey Crimmins and Jon Freeman, over 10 churches of different doctrines and denominational histories gathered together, setting aside any differences, to simply pray for our community. We prayed for one another. We prayed for the civic leaders of our community. We talked with God about the heartache many people experience in our community and the powers and systems that often times place people in a position of heartache.

People may assume that churches get together for events like this on a regular basis, but according to several church leaders who have served in Charlotte for a long time, this is an exception rather than the norm. I am excited to see leaders gathering together based on what we hold in common rather than allowing our differences to keep us apart. I’m convinced we will do much more together than we would ever do on our own.

There is small group of pastors who have been a lifeline to me over this past season of life. We gather once a month to share struggles, celebrate victories, and pray for one another. We also have a group text message through which we regularly use humor and scripture to entertain and encourage one another. I often hear pastors say that this is a lonely calling and career. I am very grateful to have a community in place so that I can’t say the same.

I’m excited for the ways that churches, especially here in Southeast Charlotte, are getting over themselves and getting out of their lanes to gather together, seeking God’s will for our city. One of my favorite sayings of Rob Kelly, the CEO of For Charlotte, is that Charlotte is not a city with a lot of churches. Instead, Charlotte has one church with many expressions. How good is that?? Whether it’s for a specific occasion like the national day of prayer or just a quick lunch meeting, we will benefit from church leaders gathering together and discerning ways we can join in the mission of God to redeem all of the city.

When we seek Him, we find Him.

God Is Up to Something

Last Sunday I got to celebrate a birthday.

Every year, the Sunday following Easter is the anniversary of 801South’s launch. At the party this past weekend, many people shared a “Happy Birthday” or “Congratulations” with me throughout the morning. I got a sense that there is still a genuine excitement as 801South has grown into itself and as we are still discovering who we really are.

Prior to launching, I thought that 801South would be many things and, honestly, these past three years have been a rollercoaster with lots of highs and lows. As I told the staff at Matthews UMC in staff worship several months ago, I knew leading this new community would be hard work, but I had no idea how painful it would be. Many people have come and gone. They have expressed their affection for the environments of 801South, but ultimately chose not to engage in the mission. That hurts.

Dealing with the disappointments has been formative for my faith and leadership. At the same time, the encouragement has far outweighed the frustration. For every moment of disappointment or negative word, there have been multiple comments such as, “We’re so proud of you and your team” or “You all are doing such great work.” Many times these comments have come from people who have no idea if we are doing great work or not, nor would they actually have any reason to be proud. Perhaps some of them were just being nice. Whatever their motivation for expressing encouragement, these comments mean more than they could know and I thank God for them.

Morgan

This past Sunday we were celebrating the anniversary of 801South as a movement of people committed to inviting others into the story of Jesus and there could not have been a more perfect illustration of God’s faithfulness during the party. I had the incredible opportunity to baptize my friend, Morgan, who recently professed faith in Jesus. Don’t miss the weight of this moment. There we were, celebrating another birthday of this movement, through an event that perfectly exemplifies the vision and motivation for the effort in the first place!

There have been very difficult moments of little faith, and even doubt, over the past three years. However, after all of the passion, time, energy, and hard work people have poured out over that time, there was no way we could walk away before reaping the harvest. Here’s what I believe about God: His intention will come to pass and way more often than not, His will is done through people. When you stop short, God does not. There is not retribution, but you do miss out on the blessing.

Of course the journey of 801South has been different than what I expected. The funny thing is this was the first time any of us have tried something new like this. It was silly to have any expectations at all…except one: that God has been, is, and will be faithful.

God has been at work from the beginning…there are numerous stories of people finding community and growing into the character and competency of Jesus. I am always grateful for these stories of life change, however, this current season is different and people can feel it. There is a new momentum. We are entering a season of reaping and harvesting.

I can’t wait to see what God does next as we commit to be a people pouring out!

Writing a Web-Worthy Story

Screenshot 2017-04-21 08.47.51

I graduated from seminary in 2006 and was shortly thereafter appointed to my first church as the Minister of Business and Administration. (I bet you didn’t even know that business and administration had to be ministered to!) Seriously, how fancy does that title sound? At 24 years of age, I was really into titles. I have since learned that titles aren’t nearly as important as I originally thought. These days, rather than being cute and silly with titles, I prefer to just stick with the basics. Banker. Doctor. Pastor.

Overseeing the website was one of the responsibilities I inherited in my first role as a pastor. This church kinda had a website. You remember when businesses and institutions kinda had a website? The internet (and our ability to communicate over it) has come a long way over the past 11 years.

The tools for online communication are always changing. Fads have come and gone. Having an app for your church was a fad that continues to limp along. Now many of these mobile “apps” are simply a portal to a mobile-friendly website. Various social media platforms rise and fall in popularity. It can become overwhelming as you attempt to effectively share your story online.

The need for a well designed website is one piece that has not changed.

At Pro Church Tools, Brady Shearer shares that nearly half of all people say a website’s design is their number one criterion for determining the credibility of an organization. Wow! The website is the cover by which your book is judged these days. Similarly, 94% of people cite poor web design as the reason they mistrusted or rejected a website.

For local churches specifically, 46% of church attenders said that a church’s website was important in choosing a church to visit. Therefore, the number one goal for a local church in developing a web presence has to be making it intriguing and compelling for the visitor. Technology gives our society the opportunity to immediately “check out” whoever and whatever we want at any time.

I would even say that nearly all people who are looking for a church will look at the website before ever thinking about showing up in person. This might not apply to friends, neighbors, or co-workers who are invited and actually attend with a regular church goer. When people are looking for a church, however, the web is the first place they turn.

At 801South, we recently redesigned our website. I say “we” but the truth is that our incredibly dedicated volunteer, Kim McGee, has given hundreds of hours serving as the 801South web developer. Kim (along with Ryan Devenney, the 801South Music and Media Director) has given tremendous thought to the potential impact our site can have on people who are not yet a part of the 801South community. I am so grateful for her efforts! Kim carefully considers how she can design the site to make it more compelling, intriguing, and helpful to all who visit the site. She’s a pro!

The site Kim has put together is an incredibly useful platform that serves the purpose of being a front door to people who come across it. Like all of our online efforts, the new site will always be a work in process. Check out the latest iteration for yourself at 801south.org.