I’m coming to ABQ!

Next Saturday, October 9th, I will be emceeing and speaking at a LoveLife conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico with Mark Driscoll. The event is being put on by The HUB and it will cover the Song of Solomon. It is designed for anyone 16 years of age or older–whether single or married–and will be full of super practical, Biblical insight on love, sex, dating, romance and marriage.

I highly recommend this event to you, whatever stage of the romantic spectrum you find yourself in, if you live in the Southwest. I love the Song of Solomon and have found that a proper understanding and application of the principles that are in it will unlock God’s best in anyone’s love life. Unfortunately, it is often ignored. J Vernon McGee called it “the most neglected book in the Bible.” If we let it remain silent, it’s to our own hurt. You can purchase tickets here. I hope to see you there!


Chicago Harvest Crusade

Huge weekend in the Windy City! 47,600 people attended over the course of the weekend and 4,758 people made professions of faith in Christ! All three nights were webcast live and over 105,000 tuned in to the crusade digitally, and many responded to the invitation. All three nights are archived so if you want to watch them you can here. There are also amazing photos from each night that were taken by a crazy talented photographer.

I shot a little footage with my phone over the course of the weekend and threw it together into a little lo-fi recap video on a plane this morning. (it was early–so please keep that in mind!) But included is an ample dose of Skillet’s pyrotechnics and a little rejected footage from an interview I did with Jeremy Camp for my twitter. Enjoy.

There is one more Harvest Crusade left this year–it is in Seattle in November so keep that event in prayer and get more info at harvest.org.


The Windy City

I am in Chicago hosting a weekend-long Harvest crusade at the Allstate Arena. Last night 14,500 people showed up for the opening night and many made professions of faith in Christ. There was music by the ever awesome David Crowder*Band, as well as Heather Headley and Greg Laurie gave a powerful message called, “What do you live for?”

What is really exciting about this crusade is the fact that over 220 churches have come together to make this event happen. Chicago has a long legacy of evangelistic events with men like D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, and Billy Graham having held meetings here in the past. Remarkably, this event is the first time churches have worked together to put on a large-scale event like this in fifteen years.

I was also super stoked to have the chance to meet Dr. Erwin Lutzer for the first time. I have been listening to his messages and reading his books for a long time. My favorite books that he has written are, One Minute After You Die and Hitler’s Cross. He pastors the historic Moody Church in downtown Chicago. Pastoring there would be pretty intimidating considering previous ministers have had last names like: Moody, Ironside, Wiersbe, and Redpath! But he is a phenomenal preacher and it was an honor to meet him.


Dr. Erwin Lutzer and I backstage

There are two more nights to go! Pray and watch online at Harvest.org tonight starts at 6:30pm CST


I’m trying but the mouse is a beach-ball…

Last week was one for the books at fresh life. By that I mean the record book of how many technical things can possibly go wrong in a week. I think it was written by a dude named Murphy. I hate that guy. It would be hard to try and come up with more things that could have gone wrong.

Here is a snapshot:
While preaching at skull church my mic went out briefly and came back on with some terrible feedback that continued for what seemed like forever. What I didn’t know was that whatever had happened also took out the live radio broadcast. The webcast also crashed at some point in the night as well. And our system that sends txt msg questions, that come to my skulpit, to the screen went down. This weekend, I was supposed to preach the 11 o’clock at the Strand but, due to a series of events, they moved me to the Liberty at the last minute. I was supposed to be piped live into the Strand but they had to resort to a video backup because, for the second time ever, our fiber optic feed freaked out. When the video backup was fired it first came up with only audio before (fortunately) coming on correctly and playing all the way through. Man, just reading that list stresses me out.

Stuff like this makes the hair on the back of my team’s neck stand up. Excellence is something that we value highly. I can’t see how we really have a choice about that. Our mission is to see those who are stranded in sin find life and liberty in Christ. Eternity literally hangs in the balance. Like it or not, that injects importance into everything. We simply don’t have the luxury of dismissing even the smallest detail as being trivial. The stakes are too high. Hell plays for keeps and forever is a long time. Even small things deserve our very best effort.

Coming out of a week like we have had there is definitely the temptation to be upset, to be bummed, to beat ourselves up and only focus on every single thing that went wrong. But we won’t. You can’t live that way. If you do, eventually you will end up in the fetal position under your desk mumbling, “Laces out, Laces out, the Laces were supposed to be facing out...” And that’s not good for anyone. You have to accept that if you are are committed to thinking outside the box and pushing the envelope; there are going to be bad days. Things happen. Computers crash. People make mistakes. That’s life. Deal with it; don’t dwell on it.

Instead you have to learn to focus on all the good that happened in spite of the problems. The people who gave their lives to Christ listening to a message with feedback coming out of the speakers. The fact that people were blessed who were ministered to by the Bible study and felt God as they took communion even though according to our runsheets everything took way too long to come out of the meet and greet. The hundreds and hundreds of people who signed up for small groups even though at two of the services the amazing small group promo video never even played. And above all, the fact that the Word of God cannot be chained! (2 Timothy 2:9)

I think it’s also important to be thankful for the hundreds of services a year that have gone by without major meltdown. All the webcasts that didn’t go whack, all the times the fibre hasn’t failed and the projectors didn’t show the blue screen of death. Thank God for the other thousand times that your mouse didn’t turn into a beach-ball.

I’m not saying that you are supposed to just be ok with things that go wrong. You shouldn’t be. We aren’t. I can assure you there will be meetings where the glitches will be analyzed and assessed. We will ask: Why did this happen? Has it ever happened before? What could have prevented it? Was it human error or just a freak–the devil is in the details– kind of a thing? Do we need to upgrade a system? buy new equipment? Retrain someone? Conduct an exorcism? And we will do our best in the future to learn from our mistakes and move forward. We will pursue perfection and seek after seamlessness. As I said, I believe that the urgency of the gospel requires nothing less than our very best efforts.

But at the end of the day if anything eternal is going to be accomplished it’s not because of us, it’s because of Him. It’s all about Jesus and what He did for us at the place of the skull. In our weaknesses His strength is made perfect. If you keep that in mind, you can keep your eyes set on heaven even in the midst of a technological week from hell.


Why We killed Our Youth Group

For quite some time I had this nagging suspicion that there was something wrong with our approach to student ministries at fresh life. I tried to shrug it off. After all, our youth pastors were doing a great job. They were doing the same things I had done during my years in youth ministry, the same things that just about every other thriving church around the country was doing (I know that because we checked).

As time went on I couldn’t shake the thought that something was missing, that our approach was based on an institution, not on what God wanted us to do. After several months of meeting, praying and brainstorming with the pastoral staff we came to the conclusion that the real problem with our youth groups were the youth groups themselves. I mean having them–at all. So we decided to pull the plug. Here’s the story…

I wanted to make sure and chronicle the thinking behind this decision for other pastors and church planters out there. Perhaps some will be inspired by what we are doing and rethink preconceived notions about how youth ministry has to be done; and I’m sure that others will disagree. Regardless, I hope that, at the very least, this can serve to provoke discussion and fresh thinking about how we can most effectively reach the next generation and empower them to make Jesus famous.


The view is sweeter when you fight for it

We have recently made some changes at fresh life. We are simplifying and scaling back in order to expand our ability to fulfill the vision that God has given us. As a church, change like this is nothing new, it’s part of our culture and it’s practically a core value–I partially blame that on us being a little A.D.D.

These particular tweaks, however, have implications that impact us on virtually every front and as a result, there was more than a little hesitation before pulling the trigger. We had bathed this decision in prayer and were confident that, even if it wasn’t the easiest, it was right thing to do. I still felt as I always do right before shaking things up, scared.

Fortunately, once it was done and we were committed, I felt like I almost always do right after shaking things up, stoked. It’s funny, when you do something you’ve been needing to do, especially if you have been dreading it, there is often a surge of, I should have done that a long time ago! that follows. I think they call that 20/20 hindsight vision.

As we were processing all of this in our weekly, all-staff, prayer meeting we had a laugh at our track record of: gravitating towards complicated solutions to what are ultimately simple problems, having a moment of epiphany, subsequent streamlining, and repeat. I told our team, “I just wish I knew what I know now when we first planted this church.”

That same day I joined some friends on what has become one of my favorite bike rides, the world famous Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park. It is pretty much 13 miles up hill and then 13 miles downhill. You ascend at all of 9 miles an hour and then descend at 39. Once we reached the top we took our helmets off and enjoyed the view that we had fought so hard to reach.

As I stood there, catching my breath and drinking in the beauty, I thought of the comment I had made at the meeting and realized I am glad I didn’t know everything that I know now when planting fresh life. That would have been like being airlifted to the top of this mountain. Would that be easier? Absolutely. But without the sweat and burning lungs and legs I would never appreciate the view the same way.

I’m not saying you should make life harder than it needs to be so there are things to fix later. Let me tell you, the next time you are at the bottom of a ministry mountain choosing a vehicle and there is a helicopter and a bicycle–get on the chopper! But there will probably come a day when you will take the long way and suffer for it. When that day comes: throw your weight over your handlebars, give it all you’ve got and remember, The view is sweeter when you fight for it.

The view from the top!


Fresh Life Radio — Enhanced Streaming Player

Our creative team just rolled out a slick new interface that takes listening to fresh life radio on your computer to the next level. The player now tells you the name of the artist, song, and album (with artwork) that you are listening to currently. It also tells you the name of the last song that was played and the song that is on deck.

This is a feature that I think people will really enjoy, because we aren’t exactly a chart-driven radio station. (understatement of the year) We shuffle a blend of: killer teachings, modern worship, groundbreaking indie, and alternative rock. We play music we like and we hope you like it too. We also know that, in our quest to discover and play new artists, listeners will be regularly be asking, “who is this?” as they listen and we are stoked to finally be able to give an answer. And an elegant one at that–kudos to the code monkeys for building this classy little player!

If you haven’t listened yet, check it out. It’s great stuff. I’ll be honest, if fresh life radio didn’t exist I wouldn’t listen to radio at all. I’d just as soon rock Pandora or my own iTunes library. No offense, but on most Christian stations it’s the same 8 artists over and over again…ad nauseum. On fresh life radio, in addition to bands I already know and love, I am regularly being exposed to new artists and having to ask our music director and station manager, “I LOVE this song, who is this?” Fortunately, with our new player, they won’t have to be constantly fielding those texts from me! Plus, radio stations have a personality that playlists, even music genome generated ones, do not.

We also have a streaming app available in the Android market (link) And a stream at freshliferadio.com that will run in the background on your iPhone, iPod Touch or an iPad.

Try it, you’ll like it. (yo gabba gabba reference)


Look for the hidden blessing

I believe that God wants to bless you today. It’s how He rolls. He is a Father and it delights Him to give good things to His children. These gifts, however, are not always so easy to find. I’d be great to just wake up in the morning and find a blessing on the kitchen table, wrapped up with a bow on top, but that’s usually not how it works. Sometimes they come wrapped as trials, other times they look like letdowns and I believe we need to learn to look for the hidden blessing.

I recently read that in 1901, the year that Albert Einstein got his teaching degree, he was unable to find a job teaching math or physics anywhere in Switzerland. In ten years time there wouldn’t be a school, university, or country on the face of the earth that wouldn’t bend over backwards to have him educate their student’s minds but at the time the word, “Einstein” wasn’t a synonym for genius. He was just another guy looking for work as a teacher. Eventually he took a job at a Patent Office. It was during this period of his life, however, that in his spare time he produced a lot of his most amazing work and seven years later he began to be offered professorships around the world.

Could it be that you are in a season where you are striking out in some way so that you can stumble upon greatness somewhere else? Maybe God is saying “no” right now so He can say “yes” down the road. Some of the greatest gifts I have received from the Lord have come in the wake of a disappointment.

I know it’s tough to try and think of a hidden blessing when you are standing at a door He has closed, especially when you were so sure that it was His will, but you have to believe that He does all things well and makes everything beautiful in it’s time. Paul’s amazing ministry in Europe wouldn’t have been possible if he hadn’t been shut down all over Asia.

In the mean time, approach what is right in front of you with your whole heart. Give it all you’ve got. Don’t let the fact that no one is calling you a genius stop you from being one. Ask God to show you the hidden blessings in your life and thank Him for the ones you will be encountering today.

James 1:17 Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.


Revival

I spoke on the subject of revival at fresh life this past weekend. Our text was Nehemiah 8:1-12 where after 52 days of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem the focus of the book shifts to the spiritual restoration of the people. It is a killer passage. All of God’s Word is perfect, but this was a significant and special message to prepare and to preach. I hope that God uses it in the hearts of those who hear it even 1/10th as much as He did in my life as I studied for and delivered it. It rocked my world in a wonderful way.

I also hope that as you watch this teaching in other places you will join with fresh life in this season of; praying for revival and in taking radical steps to order our lives in such a way as to make a a work of revival possible.

The Bible says that God’s eyes run to and fro on the earth looking to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are loyal to Him. (2 Chronicles 16:9) God is going to move in power through somebody, He will find those whose hearts are ready to be ignited into flame and He will use them to shake the very gates of hell–why not you, why not now?

Remember–only you can prevent yourself from being on fire!