When a fail is not a fail

This weekend in the Clutch series we looked at the life of Peter. If being clutch is having the ability to perform well under pressure, Peter’s story started out with him being anything but clutch. It seems that every time he came to a crucial crossroads he choked. Whether trying to talk Jesus out of going to the cross, falling asleep during Jesus’ greatest moment of need or literally denying Christ 3x on the same night he swore he would die to defend Him; he proved himself to be a serial choke artist.

In the book of Acts, though, we see a completely different Peter than we witness in the gospels. He is bold instead of just brash, humble, more of a team player and most impressively he learned to keep a cool head when things heated up. Where before he pulled his sword out and chopped off an ear, later on he fearlessly unsheathed the sword of the spirit and 3,000 were saved. Early on he could be unnerved by the smallest servant girl but he went to the grave as fearless as a lion. He had become clutch.

It was a remarkable contrast and a testimony to the reality of the resurrection and the raw power of the Holy Spirit. I think that when these two things are neglected, perhaps more than any thing else, will drain us of the strength, energy and ability that are ours for the taking. If we are not daily emboldened by the wonder of Christ’s power over death and infused with His Spirit we will be sickly and anemic, and our performance will be pitiful.

As I covered Peter 1.0, the Peter we see perpetually stuck in struggle mode, and chronicled his list of failures I intentionally omitted something others might have included. I’m talking about the night where Jesus came to the disciples walking on the sea of Galilee and Peter got out of the boat and then after only a few steps he sank. I’ve heard people make a big deal about his failure to keep his eyes on Jesus and how he could had kept going had he not gotten distracted by the wind and the waves. That’s all true and a worthwhile thing to think about. But I personally don’t classify that episode as a fail. I think it belongs on his highlight reel not his blooper reel.

Yes he might have sunk, but let’s remember, he walked on water! None of the other disciples came close to drowning, but none of them had the guts to get out of the boat either. Ok, so he got in over his head and Jesus had to intervene, but back to my first point, HE WALKED ON WATER. It’s easy to criticize people who try big things because there will always be some amount failure when you are willing to get out of the boat. But a fail is not a fail when you fail taking steps of faith. It’s just par for the course and part of the experience.

Billings Launch

Jesus said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” (Luke 5:4)

I love this verse. Jesus tells Peter to go fishing but first he has to push off from the shore. The nets they used wouldn’t work unless the water was deep. You couldn’t use them in shallow waters. The problem with deep water is that it’s unpredictable. Dangerous. Risky. Plus, you could potentially leave the safety of the shore and still come back empty handed. There’s no guarantee. Except this, if you don’t try you are guaranteed to not catch anything new.

That’s how it is in ministry. The shallow end of life is comfortable. It’s warm and cozy. Maintaining the status quo and enjoying the success you have already experienced is intoxicating. But you can’t let your nets down for another catch in the shallow end, you have to launch out into deeper waters. It would be nice if you could know in advance whether it will be fruitful. But it doesn’t work that way. You can either play it safe or potentially catch new fish. You can’t have both. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

These are the sorts of thoughts that flicker across my mind when my head hits the pillow at night. I am addicted to deeper waters. Tormented by tranquility. The thought of life passing by and freshlife having shifted into cruise control and playing it safe while there is a whole world out there to reach causes me to sit up in a cold sweat and panic.

I am so grateful that I get to serve God with a team that is as averse to the shallow end of life as I am. And this weekend it was a joy to watch months and months of intense prayer and effort come to fruition as we launched out into the deep once again and planted freshlife Billings. Believe me when I tell you that opening a campus 8 hours away, (Billings is the same driving distance from us as Seattle is) in a city you have never preached in before, came with more than just a few complications. I’ve never seen our staff or volunteers work harder as they have pursuing this dream of making Jesus famous in Billings.

In addition to the Billings team, the MOB and the support crew from the Whitefish, and the Kalispell campuses that were on hand to help, thirty-seven people attended the opening weekend. That’s more than twice as many as we had when we opened the doors to fresh life for the first time! We also saw someone come to Christ before Sunday morning. The MOB team was out inviting people and as they struck up a conversation with one individual they ended up giving their life to Christ on the spot. Amazing.

As I reflect on the excitement of the launch, the beautiful thing is that this wasn’t a one-off event. We get to do it again next week, and I believe the best is yet to come! There are seats to fill at the Billings West high school and there are people in that city that need Christ. It’s time to let the nets down…

last night’s party

I walk away from skull church events each month feeling a mixture of extreme elation and a sense of shock that I was able to be there. Any setting where Christ is preached and people are moved to repentance has that feeling to it. The gospel should blow your mind every single time you think about it. It’s way out of control. Christ dying in our place, resurrection power being freely offered, hell overcome by the kingdom of heaven–just typing those words fills my heart with worship and awe. I can’t believe that God was willing to save me. I also think it’s pretty insane that we get to be His ambassadors and be a part of Him saving other people.

As though all that weren’t enough, what further lights me up about skull church is seeing our team all perform at such a high level, and with such passion as we unite behind the proclamation of the gospel. It was also an honor to have my good friend and fellow evangelist Pedro Garcia preach last night. He pastors at an amazing church in Miami that is making Jesus famous in South Florida and beyond and has a passion for Christ that is infectious. We have become gangsters for life and share a common DNA in our approach to ministry.

If you weren’t able to be there or join us online, here is the lookbook from last night to give you a glimpse of what we saw go down.

Shrink your focus

A few months back I brought a quote into one of our staff meetings that was very challenging to all of us and gave great opportunity for discussion. I wanted to share it here. It was written by the CEO of Starbucks about coffee but there is the potential for application on many different leadership levels.

“A store manager’s job is not to oversee millions of customer’s transactions a week, but one transaction millions of times a week.”

This hit me hard when I read it. Typically pastors and church staffs speak about church attendance as a number. we ask, “what was attendance this weekend?” Whether the answer is 648, 2,042 or 199 the idea is that so many hundreds or thousands of spiritual transactions were facilitated this weekend. True. But to each of those individuals there was only one experience–their own.

I told our team that every single person who arrives at a campus has their own experience. Their individual time finding a parking spot, getting greeted, finding a seat, discovering where to check in their kids. It doesn’t matter if the greeters were super friendly to the 148 people that came in before them, if they weren’t greeted they assume that is how it normally is. They don’t know that the bathrooms aren’t normally this messy, but they were stuck in a stall with no toilet paper and that is not a good time. They don’t care that the last 1,242 people who tried to download our podcast found it updated on time, they just know it wasn’t there when they tried to listen. All they know about is their own experience.

We have to lead focused on the big picture, but we must also keep the small picture in mind. Don’t let the size of your ministry allow you to gloss over the small details that matter dearly to the individual. It takes practice, but it is a very helpful exercise to focus on the individual perspective and to shrink your focus.

Here is the rest of the quote from Howard Schultz.

“…The only number that matters is one. One cup. One customer. One partner. One experience at a time. We had to get back to what mattered most.”