Sabbatical: Week 8

Sabbatical: Week 8

Just like that, another week is in the bag. This last week was really special. It was 7 full days of doing nothing other than trying to love my family. A few weeks ago I went to New York with Kenzie, and this week was Katie and Noah’s turn.

I started this week on the coast in my pajamas for 4 days straight. Katie and I got some some great time together and she got some much deserved rest. The back half of the week was spent with Noah at Universal Studios in Orlando. It was a full week!

I have to say that these mini vacations with each person in my family is quite a unique experience. Usually I give Clark Griswold from Christmas Vacation a run for his money in outsized expectations that get run into the ground. And vacations that I have high hopes for to present like super dad, end up crashing and burning and instead of super dad, I end up the Incredible Hulk.

But these trips were nothing like that. And if I can remember this, I will be set for life!

How is a Christian supposed to navigate election day?

How is a Christian supposed to navigate election day?

Today is election day, and it seems like the whole world is freaking out. But, before you jump off the emotional cliff, as Christ followers, let’s take a step back.

First, let’s recognize that we have bought into our media’s scaremongering.

What I mean by “our media” is that each side no longer listens to news outlets that dissent from their own political worldview. And because of this, we have made the other side into characters. If you have Democrat leanings and are informed by mainstream news outlets you are convinced that Trump is basically Hitler and that his supporters are racist, bigots, homophobic rubes who want to make America white again. And if you have Republican leanings and informed by rightwing outlets and online media, you are convinced that the Democrats are Antifa without masks, a crazy mob of socialists, intersectional baby killers. What is a Christian to do?

Sabbatical: Week 7

Sabbatical: Week 7

As I cross the halfway mark I am finding myself at peace.

To be honest, to share this gives me such survivor’s guilt. I can not believe that it has taken 7 weeks to decompress, work through my anxieties, let things out of my control go, truly enjoy the moments I find myself in, and sit heavy with my family. What a luxury. Also, what a disaster I ended up being in this last season.

I can not be more thankful for my church to give me this opportunity and long to be faithful in caring for my body and soul so I can be the pastor, even more, the follower of Christ that our church deserves. I am continually humbled by God’s overwhelming grace and mercy extended towards me. And instead of feeling guilty about it, or sheepish about the amount that God has to heap on me, I am trying to live in response to it. Gratitude, and heaps of grace and mercy towards others.

I know this all sounds like christiany gobbledygook. But that is why I am processing this on my blog and not in real life, in front of people. With a heart of gratitude, I wanted to reflect back on this last weekend and a true highlight.

Sabbatical: Week 6

Sabbatical: Week 6

This week, halfway through, had it all. I had the opportunity to fly to Los Angeles and visit Hillsong LA Church, enjoy true rest as I watched an entire series of an unredeemable show, and then flew to New York with MacKenzie for our special, one on one date.


And in this week, with these three markers, I got to experience the full range of sabbatical:

Reflections on Hillsong, LA: This is the 5th different church I have visited while on Sabbatical. And with each new church visit, I am finding more and more joy simply attending another worship service, a worship service that I know nobody and am not in charge. I have been proud of my lack of judgment or cynicism as I have joined other congregations, and in the case of Hillsong, movements in the unique work that God is doing in and through them.

A diminished church is not going to make us more tolerant.

A diminished church is not going to make us more tolerant.

For my entire adult life, I have heard nothing but how awful the church is. We are judgemental, self-righteous, hypocritical, close-minded, a$$holes! We are racist, bigot, homophobes, and we must be put in our place. And, in fact, the larger culture has done such a good job at this, that even fellow Christians love to get in on it as well, calling out the small slights they see in Christian tribes that are different from their own, hoping to get some cultural street cred in the process. And the result?

The Church has been diminished, mission accomplished. But at what cost?

This last week there was an incredible article in The Atlantic called, "Breaking Faith." The tagline says, "The culture war over religious morality has faded; in its place is something much worse." It is a great article and I highly recommend it. The basic premise is that as church attendance has gone down what has taken its place in our culture is a more toxic tribalism that has almost no common values or aspirations.

Sabbatical: Week 5

Sabbatical: Week 5

Have you ever found yourself walking out of your house into your garage and not sure which BMW to drive, or opened up your wine cellar and bummed you have to open a Silver Oak because you have to make room for your next shipment, or that third night at the all-inclusive resort and having to decide between steak or lobster and feeling a bit of anxiety about that situation? I have never had any of those feelings, but I am feeling a little too bored and wondering if I have just too much time off. How jerky does that sound? :)

After 5 weeks I have accomplished all I wanted to accomplish in terms of my professional development. It was like training camp for my job and I loved it! But with my tasks being over, I have found myself spinning out. I mean there is only so many Burt Reynolds films one man can watch.

But, have no fear, just when my survivor's guilt was reaching its peak, I was able to spend some time on the golf course with a dear friend. This man has just retired, had his hip replaced, and brought his old guy wisdom to bear.

The false hope of growing your church by simply copying other churches

The false hope of growing your church by simply copying other churches

When I was a kid our homework was not on google drive, or even on xeroxed pages. We had math handouts printed on mimeograph machines. I don't even know if you know what that is. It is an old skool copier.

The way it works is simple. You have an original copy and then make a copy of that original onto an inked page. Then that ink page is put in a machine that prints a copy onto blank pages. For its time, it was an incredible technology and perfect for math pages. But as you could imagine, with every copy the integrity and quality would diminish. And I am afraid that is what is happening with the church today.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have had the privilege to attend a number of different churches. And one of the things I found happening in me was comparing my church to theirs. I immediately found a half dozen things they were doing better than us and scheming about how to improve the quality of our church ASAP. But after have the same experience over and over again, I realized I am getting caught up into a brutal and unhelpful death spiral.

Sabbatical: Week 4

Sabbatical: Week 4

I can not believe I am one month down. This last week I spent some time with a dear friend and attended his class at the University of Miami on entrepreneurship. Then I attended the Oceans conference. It is a faith-based conference for entrepreneurs. Seth Godin was the headlining speaker and he rocked my world! (Down the road, as I digest all that I have been learning, I will look forward to writing more about that as I process what this means for me and my ministry.)

With 4 weeks behind me I have had three big epiphanies:

Sabbatical: Week 3

Well, it seems like my sabbatical is finally underway. I got caught up on my sleep, had some professional development, and this week was a week of sitting heavy. I didn’t think much about it it until some dear family friends made a comment at a picnic. My wife and I were just visiting with our friends and enjoying some good food, when our friend commented that we both look so rested and in love. And you know what, she is right, I am rested and in love.

If I had to sum up this week of sabbatical I would sum it up as marriage restoration. It was a week full of great conversation, special dates and a glimpse of some of that empty nest lifestyle. I am not going to lie, it is pretty nice to have some intentional time with the wife and realize we have plenty to talk about, to dream about, and to enjoy together.

I could not be more proud of my wife and the woman she is. I know you probably say the same thing about your wife, and you should. But for me, I can not believe what an incredibly deep, reflective, and godly woman she is. I love the way she does the hard work and love that I get to be the recipient of all that hard work. Because she has continually worked it out for the last 20 years, our family, our kids, our marriage, and me as a person are all better off for it.

I am sad I don’t have more to say, but this has been a week of personal care and family love. Everyone had school and I spent a lot of time in my jammies and watched some great movies. But the rest week is over and it is time to get after the next couple of things on my sabbatical bucket list.

This week I head off to Ohio for an entrepreneurship conference and staying with some dear friends. We will see how the rhythm of family fun, then personal development, then family fun will work out. As of today, the end of week three, I feel rested, in love, my heart is full and my faith is strong. I love my job and miss it terribly. So now it time to see what God has to teach me in this discipline of time away.

Catch you next week!

bk

There is no prophetic voice without character

There is no prophetic voice without character

Watching the debate and protests of the last two weeks, the last two years, the last 20 years, I am starting to see some common themes:

1) Humans are naturally self righteous people.

2) We all think we are on the “right side of history.”

3) Turns out we are actually just tribal and only defend our side, our view with total blinders to our side’s shortcomings.

4) Because most of us live fully into these first three statements, we are totally blinded to our own hypocrisy and naturally spin out when others don’t take our view seriously.

The church has, in the past fully lived into this reality, most notably in the religious right’s power play in the culture war of the late 20th century. In our effort to defend traditional marriage, slow down and stop the coarsening of our culture, pushing back on the rampant promiscuity and drug use, we joined together used our voices, our votes, and our money to fight the culture war. AND WE LOST HORRIBLY!

Sabbatical: Week 2

This last week of Sabbatical was a jumpstart to some of my professional development. I got to spend time with an incredible friend and talk ministry shop and share life, was challenged by my preaching coach, and started my IDEO U class on Design for change. The combination of all three have sparked my thinking and have set the path from my professional reflection moving forward.

GREAT FRIENDSHIP: The older I get, the more I realize how unique it is to have deep friendships that have lasted for a long time. This last week I got to spend time with one of those decade long incredible friends and my heart and soul benefitted greatly.

My friend Erik might be one of the most gifted pastors and leaders I know. His heart for God and the church are contagious and the chance to spend days together sharing our lives, talking shop about the church, and frankly, to be challenged in my own leadership, worldview, and calling. But what I loved most about my time with my dear friend was the way I was simply encouraged to love God more and to find peace in the unique work He is doing in my life. I left my week in MN with a full heart, a full heart for my friend, for Jesus, and for His church.

PREACHING COACH: This last year I had the brutal realization that part of my calling as a pastor is that of preacher. For some reason I never really saw myself as a preacher and just tried to get through the preaching task with as little pain and suffering for me and for the congregation as possible. But as my job has transformed and I am moving from the occasional preaching voice to preaching 40% of the time, I realized that I should probably figure it out. So I called a friend of mine who is a genius when it some to communication and asked him to coach me.

He is also in MN so we got some face to face time, and over some pizza and beer he gave it to me straight. His feedback was not what I was expecting. You see, I have spent this year trying to get more polished in my communication, grow in my narrative structure, and give clear turn signals as I transition between points. And while I am making some progress in these areas, his feedback is that I have lost my edge. In my effort to “grow up” I have given up my edgy, irreverent humor that keeps people engaged and confirms their own questions and concerns. I will do some more thinking of this, but that means in December when I get the pulpit again, it may get a little saucy. :)

DESIGN FOR CHANGE: Part of my sabbatical is taking a 5 week, online class through IDEO. It is a class that is about using design theory for change. I am really far out of my element, but have really enjoyed my first week. Through our introductions I awkwardly entered this class as a local church pastor and get to share space with Twitter execs, marketing directors, and the like.

This week has been an introduction and I am playing catch up trying to learn the vocabulary and translate the assignments for my church context. My brain is already spinning about the kind of change that I might want to work towards in our church and how to develop a staff culture that builds trust and unites around vision so we can be more effective in our vision. This next week starts the heavy lifting so we will see where this goes!

THE PERILS OF HAVING TOO MUCH TIME: On a quick side note, not having to go to work has meant I have had way to much time for reading and watching the internet. And this week did not disappoint. The political theater and the heartbreaking implications of all that went down this week has got me spinning. It is probably a good thing that I am not preaching for a long time, because if I had the mic I could find myself in hot water. So, instead I am just spinning. I am sure there will be a conclusion of some sort and nobody will be happy. What is the role of the church, or the pastor in navigating this. We don’t have a say in the outcome or the process, yet our churches are full of people who are spun out about all that has happened and the implications of it all. For 10 more weeks I have to keep my thoughts private. :) . But, if you would like to grab a bourbon, or give me a call on your way to work, it could be fun to talk shop. My the Lord truly have mercy on us all!

OK, I THINK THAT IS IT!: Week 2 is in the bag. Looking ahead I another week of IDEO class, a couple of surf sessions, and I am unplugging from 8:00 pm to 6:00 am. I bought an old school alarm clock and a kindle, so the ipad and phone are getting put away and we will see how this break from tech will impact me and my family (because they will be doing the same). Week 3, lets do this!

bk

Sabbatical: Week 1

Sabbatical: Week 1

Every 7 years of pastoral ministry, our church gives its pastors a 12 week sabbatical.  This used to be common place for pastors, but due to changing culture, shorter pastoral tenures, and lack of resources, the sabbatical is becoming more and more rare.  Because of this reality, I do not take this sabbatical for granted.  In fact, I have spent much of my first week wrestling with my survivor's guilt about it.  

But more than my survivor’s guilt, what I really feel is an overwhelming sense of love and care from the the church I love and care so much about.  

As I spend these next few months on “break” from my day job as a pastor of a local church, I am jumping head long into some much needed soul care, professional development, family fun, and ministry reboot. Here are my goals:

What is the fruit when we are corporately devoted to the church?

What is the fruit when we are corporately devoted to the church?

This is my last sermon on Acts 2. When we individually abide in Christ, we are sure to bear fruit. This is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control. When we, together, are devoted to a corporate worshiping community we too bear fruit: prophetic ministry that restores, glad and heartfelt community, and the favor of all the people. Enjoy!

Be my witness . . .

Be my witness . . .

There is this brutal reputation Americans have overseas.  If you talk with people from Europe or Asia or South America, they almost all have the same impression of American tourists.  You know it, "THE UGLY AMERICAN."  We are loud, obnoxious, clumsy, rude, and entitled.  

Now, I am sure when you travel, you are none of these things.  But whether or not you are, people's first posture towards you is most likely girding themselves up to deal with the ugly American.  It is a witness that makes traveling less fun for those of us who enjoy cross-cultural travel. 

Whether we realize it or not, we are a witness.  Our being is forming or conforming a brand for someone else.  The way we live is a witness to our nationality, to our school, to our business, to our political party, and mostly to our faith.  We are not natural wanderers.  We tell a story with our very existence, so we need to take the most of every opportunity.  

How diverse is the body of Christ?

How diverse is the body of Christ?

I love the picture of the church as the body of Christ.  Each one of us is unique in our calling, gifting, and passions.  We each have a distinct role to play so that the body can fully function.  There is no hierarchy of body parts, just many parts, submitted under the headship of Jesus, working together for His purposes and glory.  

When we start to think of ourselves as more highly than we ought, when we put ourselves above others, our passions and desire above others, forget that we submit to Jesus, or forget that we live for the glory of Jesus and not ourselves, we become fractured and minimize our impact on the Kingdom of God.  As Christians who have been around the church for a while, this is not a new or revolutionary concept.  We work hard to keep this perspective and live in unity within our churches.  But could this picture be extended to the larger Church with a capital "C."

What I mean by this is can each church, each denomination bring with it their own unique passions, giftings and callings and be used by the headship of Jesus to run after a unique and specific ministry.  On the surface, many of us would say, "YES!"  But how we live, talk about, and interact with these other parts of the body of Christ would say, "NO!"

Why we must grieve our sin

Why we must grieve our sin

This has been a challenging week, much more than I was expecting.  You see, growing up, it was normative to be reflective about your own sin.  Confession was a regular part of the spiritual diet.  But something has happened, something has changed.  

In our culture, nobody confesses.  In fact, we are to celebrate who we are and the way God made us with hostility towards anyone who might suggest that we are not beautiful just the way we are.  This sounds great and makes for nice songs, but this is totally at odds with the life in Christ that we are invited towards.  

The only way we can move towards Christ is by repenting, turning away from the sin, the life, the attitudes, the beliefs, the actions of our flesh, of our worldly selves and then move towards Christ.  We can't go one way while our feet are faced another.  

This passage of scripture actually invites us into an even deeper level of reflection and spiritual work.  We are invited to not just identify our sin, but to grieve, mourn and wail!  Let's be honest, this version of sin does not sell!

Thank God for the artists!

Thank God for the artists!

Talk about an unsung hero!  Bezalel, son of Uri, the spirit-filled artisan who beautified the temple as an act of worship as well as to inspire worship in the people of God.  

It is easy to chalk the act of worship as a spiritual discipline, as focusing your thoughts and life towards God and his purposes.  And while this is true and right, there is this more subjective aspect to worship that is about the stirrings in our spirit that tap into the depths of our being.

The question is who do we lean into a more holistic version of worship that places God on the highest thrown in our minds, and at the same time have our souls stirred to match this intellectual reality.  The way this happens is through gifted and called artists!

What does the church need to affirm?

What does the church need to affirm?

In case you have missed it, the church has zero influence in the culture around us.  And whatever influence we have left, we are squandering it.  We are squandering it with infighting as we try to carve out our piece of the culture by offering virtue signals to those around us to show that we are the most, (fill in the blank), church around.  This is happening to churches from every background, style, ethnicity, and theological perspective.

One of the ways we are staking out the ground us is by letting our people know that we are "affirming." 

The question is, "What are we affirming?"  

In our culture, there is pressure to affirm all sorts of things.  This is true in the LGBTQ discussion but actually applies to just about every issue these days.  Clarifying who or what you affirm allows us to determine who is in our tribe.  We are now as asked to affirm lifestyles, political parties, and theological positions. Without even realizing it, we have changed the direction and purpose of the church.


The more you trust, the more joy you will find!

The more you trust, the more joy you will find!

Experiencing Joy is a strange discipline.  It is not something we can conjure up or try to make happen.  It is an emotion that resides deep within us and is a result of how well we are living into shalom, or at least the hope of shalom. 

It is the hope of shalom where this breaks down for many of us.  

We are situational in our emotional response to life and to faith.  When things go well, we love God, experience his goodness and grace, experience shalom, and therefore experience joy.  But what about when life throws you a few gutterballs.  When the bottom seems to fall out, we get frazzled and often spin out in fear and anxiety.  Here is where our faith in the God of hope is tested.  

We know that our faith is maturing when we can pray like the Psalmist in our lament.  We can cry out to God, we can wrestle with the challenges and even despair of life.  And in all of that, we can affirm that our trust alone is in God.

Our joy is completely linked to our hope, which is completely linked to our trust in God.  

Practicing the Presence of God

Practicing the Presence of God

In the 1600's there was a monk named Brother Lawerence.  He wrote a little devotional called, Practicing the Presence of God.  It is a simple book, based on a simple idea, that the day to day moments of our lives are not simply day to day interactions, but moment by moment encounters with the living God.  

This simple idea and change in mindset is a game changer in all of life, but even more so for those of us who struggle with fear and anxiety.  The best way to calm our fears is to recognize we are not alone.  Having someone with you in scary situations or times our trouble is a balm to our souls.  And the stronger, more powerful, and more loving towards us the more our fears subside.  So, when we can get our head around the idea that God, the all powerful, all knowing, creator of the Universe and lover of your soul is walking with you, resides inside of you, and longs to bring you comfort and peace, fear doesn't stand a chance!

Practicing the presence of God is a simple discipline that builds on the discipline of mindfulness.  It is becoming more and more popular in therapy circles to tap into this ancient practice where you get out of your head and get in touch with your body.  Our bodies give us all sorts of data and help us understand the world around us and give us clues to what is going on in our inner life as well.  It is simply a discipline of slowing down, paying attention to the details in and outside of your body.  This tiny step does wonders in grounding us and calming our anger, fear, and anxiety.