So I'm hoping to start blogging again very soon. There were some issues that cropped up with this space - specifically a Google account that wasn't mine got attached to the blog page, so getting in and fixing that was a MONSTER of a job.
My plan at this point is to work with our Communications Director at church to either:
a) Reset this page and restart my blog habit here.
b) Start over with a new page and restart my blog habit there.
c) Come up with a better idea than a or b.
So, if there really are any people who are still connected to this page, we'll have a solution soon.
Meantime, please come see what's going on at LifePoint Church anytime at www.lifepointnv.com.
All God's Best,
So two weeks ago, the pastors of LifePoint Church and I, as well as the head of our board and all the spouses, went to a conference in Austin, TX. called Verge. It was a really good conference, full of great ideas and excellent speakers, and not a few surprises. I'll do a future post on the experience, but between the conference itself, my wife's illness while we were there, and travelling there and back, there wasn't any time to post. Sorry.
Then, the week I'm back, it's the typical, "Pastor's been gone a week" week. It never fails that when I'm out of the office, there's more than twice the work waiting for me when I get back. Decisions on Easter, seeing our newest admin have to leave to move to California, pushing on our Student Pastor search, and getting ready for our 'Thanks To You' volunteer appreciation event. Somehow things always back up when I'm going to be gone.
So I'm still in catch up mode. I'm pushing to get interviews set up for the Student Pastor search, trying to make a few minutes here and there for work on my talk at Easter, plus all the rest of the stuff. But this is also what I love about my job: it's totally unpredictable. I never know what each week or even each day will hold. I have to trust God for wisdom and strength each day, starting when I get out of bed, and continuing till my head hits the pillow at night. The constant variety is one of the appealing parts of what I do, and the constant reminder that it's God who is in charge.
A book written in sorrow, Lamentations, contains this amazing reminder: "The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning." (Lam. 3:22-23 NLT) As I attempt to catch up in my life, as we press forward with all manner of agendas, projects and deadlines and as we anticipate the celebration of Easter in a few weeks, we all need to be reminded: God renews His love and mercy for us each day; it's fresh and new every morning. There's more than enough for what we're up to today, and God won't run out before tomorrow.
Now, on to the next on my "To Do" list...
I love to laugh. I’m not sure that makes me unique in any way, but it’s true. Laughter has always been a big part of my life. I grew up listening to my parent’s collection of Bill Cosby records (you remember records? I hear they’re making a comeback…), along with a half dozen other comedians. Laughing has a power to lift the spirit and brighten the day of people in most cases. But it’s not something that Christians are accused of doing very much.
Unfortunately, Christianity has gotten the reputation of being the “No Fun Zone” in life. Going to church doesn’t make people think about side splitting laughter. When someone invites a friend to church and says, “And it’s really FUN!” their friend most likely will not believe them. I’ve actually had people say that church is supposed to be boring. Not in so many words, but when you take out any and all elements of fun, joy and laughter, what do you have left? Yes, the B-word… BORING!
I grew up in a boring church. I know exactly how many ceiling tiles there were in the old building, because I counted them every Sunday. We sang the fast songs slow, and the slow songs at a crawl. The pastor was allowed one joke at the beginning of his sermon, then a stern face and a serious tone took over and ruled the morning. As a teen, I vowed I would never, EVER be a pastor when I grew up, because I could never live a life of utter seriousness and solemn boring-ness.
However, God being the Cosmic Comedian He is, had other plans. I’m a pastor today in part because I wanted to have fun in church. I wanted to experience God in joy, hear the music of laughter and see smiles on the faces of God’s people. And it turns out the Bible talks about this more than folks might think. 1 Thessalonians 5:16 says: “Always be joyful.” There can be joy in our lives, even in difficult times. Happiness might come and go, but we can always experience joy. And we should strive for joy because Nehemiah 8:10 says: “…for the joy of the LORD is your strength!”
I believe these verses are not only God’s truth to us to help us set our attitudes in the right direction in life and lean on Him for the strength to do it, but I believe they are true because I’ve seen them work in my life. In 2004 I was diagnosed with cancer and spent 8 months undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments, along with other complications. All through that season of my life, I focused on joy, on laughter, on fun, rather than on sickness, pain and weakness. God’s word proved true, and eight years later, I’m still here, and still laughing. So whatever you’re going through today, just know this: Proverbs 17:22 – “A cheerful heart is good medicine.”
That message resonates with my heart, because so many folks have been doing just that with our 12 Ways of Christmas and the ongoing opportunities to share generously the hope that we have in Jesus through the Diaper Drive for the Community Pregnancy Center (over 10,500 diapers collected!!!), and now the blood drive this February. We as a church are sowing seeds of the Good News with each act of generosity, and with each story of lives touched by our small groups, by individuals, and by our church family as a whole. It's amazing to watch what God is doing in us as He does this work with us and through us.
The other two friends I introduced are new, and I'm excited to be getting to know them and serve with them now and into the future. Josh Uht is our new Worship Pastor, and he and his wife, Johanna are joining our LifePoint family after a year long search. As I said this weekend, we had several very good candidates come through for the position, but Josh stood out as the right choice for many important reasons. We are blessed and excited to have him on our team and he is quickly assimilating to our culture and leading with grace and vision. Johanna is a delightful person and will be a great addition to our church family as well, so please pray for both of them as they land here and become a part of helping us all to be Loving God, Loving People and Leaving a Legacy.
It is a privilege to share my friends with my church family and my church family with my friends. I'm a happy, happy pastor today!!
3. People take themselves too seriously and God not seriously enough - It's a hazard of the job that when you stand up and talk about God in front of people, there will be people who will take offense at something (read: just about anything) you do, and occasionally fire a verbal assault cannon at you. As a recovering people pleaser, I'm better at absorbing and deflecting those missile missives and sifting them for actual constructive criticism that can help me grow. But this past year I've been reminded that some folks take themselves so seriously that no one and nothing will make them happy unless either they thought of it or had some part to play in approving of it ahead of time. My teaching style includes as much humor as I can fit into a message on the weekend. It's on purpose, it's intentional, and it's strategic, but it's also a reflection of my personality. I like to laugh, and I like to make other people laugh, but beyond that, humor helps to get the point across, even a difficult point, in an agreeable way. And especially to men, who are largely absent in churches in America. Men like to laugh, and they listen better when they laugh, so I like to make men laugh so they will listen. So when others decide my "comedy routine" is not serious enough for worship, I'm really okay with that, because everyone is entitled to their opinion. When they blast me for it, or demand I change who I am and what I do to please them, I giggle and remind myself that I don't have to please everyone. And especially not the cranky people. God likes laughter, and God likes it when people use their gifts to serve in His church, so I'm pretty sure what He thinks trumps what cranky people think.
2. NEVER. STOP. LEARNING. - No one knows it all, and the person who thinks they do is in for a rude awakening. I'm convinced that as fast as the world around us is changing (the Arab spring, the elections, the economic roller coaster, etc...), if you're not actively learning what you can about what impacts your world, you are being left behind at light speed. The church is no different, and as a pastor and leader, I need to be reading, listening and asking questions of leaders from all types of backgrounds and all kinds of points of view. Reading business and leadership books as well as church ministry books is huge for me. The privilege of sitting with some great leaders in a small group setting or going to a conference to hear big name preachers are both vital to gaining fresh perspective on what I do and what we as a church can accomplish for God's Kingdom. Having a personal coach and a group of leaders to learn with in community are also a major piece of gaining not only knowledge but WISDOM in my life. I'm smart enough by myself to know that I'm not smart enough by myself. As Rick Warren says, "All leaders are learners. If you stop learning, you stop leading." Truth!!
1. The more I am myself, the more effective I am for Jesus - One of the struggles in my life has been the idea that I need to be someone else, that just being me is not enough. As a kid, being me wasn't cool enough for the crowd. As a younger adult, being me wasn't hip enough for the hipsters. As a younger pastor, being myself wasn't quite good enough to please people in the congregation: why can't you be more like ____________? The pressure to be someone other than myself was often overwhelming for me. However, here in the role I have, in the ministry I am privileged to lead, I get the opportunity to be myself with very little pressure to be anyone else but me. And what I've found is both astonishing and obvious: the more I am who God made me to be, the more effective I am. When I try to be someone else, I am far less effective or impactful, but when I am who and what God made me to be, without reservation and without apology, I see the impact of what I do not just grow but multiply. I am the best me there ever will be, and I will be a lousy Billy Graham, or Bill Hybels, or Rick Warren, or... you get the point. The closer I come to being the Bill McCready that God imagined when He knit me together, the more joy, more peace, more energy, and more effectiveness flows in my life. For the record, I WANT THAT!!!
Okay, what did you learn last year?
6. - Leadership is Personal: There is no "one right way" to lead for everyone, but everyone is a leader. I love to read leadership books, blogs, twitter feeds, and listen to leadership podcasts, and I learn a lot from gifted leaders who share their wisdom in those arenas. I believe there are leadership principles and leadership concepts that can be learned and applied in almost every leadership situation, but I've come to discover that leaders come in all shapes, sizes, configurations and situations. There is no one kind of leadership personality, no one cookie cutter look and feel of a leader. Leaders can be introverts and extroverts, they can be organized or flexible, they can be up front people or behind the scenes people. Leadership is influence, as John Maxwell says, and influence can come from anyone, anywhere. Therefore, don't count yourself out if you're not a leader like someone else. You don't have to be like me to be a leader, and I don't have to be like John Maxwell to be a leader. Different people lead (with good leadership principles) in different ways. There are introverts that I know who are amazing leaders, and some that look at extroverted leaders and say, "I can't lead, I'm not like that." Don't let that lie have one more second of your thinking - you can and should be influencing someone in your life for the betterment of your organization and your world. Don't let someone else's picture of leadership keep you from being a positive influence and leading where you are.
5. - Leaders talk. Good leaders discuss. Great leaders listen. One thing all leaders, whether by position or giftedness or necessity, have to do is talk. All leaders share vision, teach principles, set goal, talk about the past, present or future. All leaders talk. Good leaders talk and listen; they discuss and get input along the way. If you're going to be a good leader, you have to involve other people with other perspectives, and you have to give them time to engage you in conversation in order to rise above and become effective. But the greatest leaders I know are really listeners. They know how to listen, learn, understand and grow in any setting. The truly great ones (and there are only a few truly great leaders) can both hear and listen, gather both what is being said and what it meant by it in deeper context. I realize in my position of leadership, if I do all the talking, I can maybe get us somewhere, but it's limited. If I engage in discussion, give and take with others, we can go much further than I can lead by just talking. But if I truly lead by listening (to God, to leaders, to teammates, to the congregation and to the community around me), there's a chance to make a much larger impact. I'm at my best when I'm a listening leader.
4. - Fire bullets, then cannonballs. (Jim Collins font) - Collins wrote one of my favorite books, Good To Great, and I've been listening to him ever since. His newest book, Great By Choice is amazing! I finished it in December, and I've been blown away by the wisdom contained in his research. This tidbit is particularly awesome - if you have a limited amount of gunpowder, you want to fire bullets (which take only a little gunpowder) first to see where they land before you fire a cannon ball (which takes a lot of gunpowder). The bullets let you know if you've hit the target so you can line up the cannonball and know you're going to hit what you aim at. To miss with a cannonball is to use up lots of resources (time, talent and treasure) and not get any return, but to test with smaller amounts of resources (bullets), you can find what you need to spend larger amounts on (cannonballs) in a more controlled, effective way. We've been doing that at LifePoint Church with a number of ideas. Most of our outreach the past year has been done on a smaller scale using our small group ministry to see what ideas will stick. Those ideas can be refined and retooled into larger, full scale ministries when we know that we've hit something. It's a strategy that moves us forward while still allowing us to use good stewardship, and when something fails, we don't have to panic. But if something succeeds, we can put more powder behind it the next time. Even in a big church or organization, it's okay to start small.
More to come...
BILL'S TOP 10 LESSONS LEARNED IN 2011
10. - Learn from the Pony Express: If you have to choose, choose the ponies over the mail. No ponies, no mail. I heard this idea from Pastor Larry Osborn at North Coast Church over a year ago, but this past year, the more I worked to implement this principle, the better it worked. You don't get very far with exhausted people on your team, so working to take care of the folks who 'carry the mail' has to be a priority for a leader. It makes people feel loved to know you are as concerned for them personally as you are interested in their productivity. Take care of your horses, or you'll be delivering the mail by yourself.
9. - From the hymnal: Trust and Obey, for there's no other way... Trusting God and obeying His call and prompting is the only way to lead in His church. Listening to His word and doing what it says, conditioning yourself to hear His voice, and leaning into the courage it takes to follow when it's difficult or when it's new and 'we've never done it that way before' is pressing in, these are keys to leading into the future and not living in the rear view mirror.
8. - "There's no substitute for TIME." (Pastor Roy font). This quote is from Roy Conover, one of our pastors here at LifePoint Church, and it comes up so often I had to include it. Growth takes time. Change takes time. Learning takes time. Trust takes time. Health takes time. Culture shift takes time. You can take some steps to move them each along, but in the end, time will always be a factor. You don't get to microwave people into their next level of maturity, it will always take some time.
7. - People will rise to the challenge if you are honest about the challenge. All this past year, as we've been working to grow in our missional side of the ministry here at LifePoint, there have been moments when people were concerned that people weren't going to get on board with serving in the community, or giving beyond themselves to see others impacted. But each time, as we've clearly explained the reason why we were moving in that direction, the steps we were going to take, and the hoped for impact those steps would bring, we got great buy in and cooperation. Our Project 40/40 was a huge example. We hoped we could get our 40 small groups to each do one project to serve in the community during the 40 days leading up to Easter. Some folks were nervous that we wouldn't hit our goals (no harm in that, they were just sharing their honest feedback). We never said it would be easy, and we never promised success. And when it was all over, we didn't hit our goals... we EXCEEDED THEM!! People stepped up to the challenge, groups served like crazy all over the Carson Valley and beyond, and (total bonus) NEW GROUPS WERE FORMED!! Don't back down from a challenge, help people step up to it by being honest and clear about the challenge.
More learnings to come, including two learned the hard way...
- Loved the way the crowd responded to Matt Hein and company this weekend in worship! Lots of energetic singing to some juiced up Christmas carols. It can be a challenge to worship to some of the carols, but the arrangements and the spirit of the leaders and the crowd made it a spiritual moment each service!
- Great to hear the response to the picture of Sunny and Jaxon (and Gracie, of course), and to share the joy of that family's new addition, as well and let folks know she's going to be back in February.
- Yes, there was a Josh Uht sighting in our 10:45 service! He, his wife Johanna and his mom Mary were here for a quick visit. If you haven't heard, Josh is our new Worship Pastor, and he's going to be starting in January, so pray for them as they prep for their move here from California.
- Heard great updates about the 12 Ways Of Christmas, SO pumped to hear that we had OVER 400 ORNAMENTS come off the Legacy Tree and turn into presents for people all over our valley. Lots of folks are going to get a gift of love this Christmas, thanks to generous people at LifePoint!
- And the Great School Bakeoff was a hit! 17 schools worth of teachers received goodies and encouragment this week from generous Lifers. NICE!!
- Can't wait to hear the total for the caroling parties this week!
- Lining up for our 5 Christmas Eve services, we've got literally 100's of volunteers ready to share God's love at our services. Can't wait to see what happens there! (Who are YOU going to invite??)
- Hearing a lot of folks taking up the challenges of the these past few weekends to allow God to mess up OUR plans in order to get in on HIS plan which is ALWAYS BETTER!!
- Bonus! Hanging with my small group tonight, we were working on how we can jump in on some more of the 12 Ways Of Christmas and share some love. It's great to be in a group with committed Christ-followers who are willing to get involved!!
Okay, for a blog that wasn't going to fire up again until January - That Looks Fired UP!!!
My goal is to start regular blogification in the new year, but for now, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good blog!
- A solid and lively crowd on Saturday night! That's the LOUDEST I've heard you sing in a while, folks! Glad to see so many there, and new faces, too!
- Saw at least 20-25 people raise their hands during the invitation this weekend. Praise God for people crossing the line of faith!!
- Walked through a small group leader training Pastor Mark was holding on Saturday night, that's so cool! New groups launching here soon, can't wait!
- Speaking of groups, got together with mine after a vacation induced hiatus. Good to catch up and get connected again.
- Hearing great buzz about Tahoe Baptisms! Don't miss it, it was a highlight of last summer, and it will be amazing again this year!
- Our guest worship leader got a lot of positive buzz. More on that down the road.
- Had a lot of folks tell me Pale Rider is a movie with a great portrayal of a tough, good hearted, man's man of a preacher. Yep. Love that movie. Wish there were more like it. With manly, tough, good preachers in them that don't die half way through. (If you missed the teaching this week on What Would Jesus Say About: Cowboys & Aliens, you didn't get this one) :)
Gotta go crash, it's been a long week. Looking forward to what God has next!!
When men plan, God laughs.
The past two weeks have been more than what I bargained for in the "get caught up after vacation" department. But now, I believe, we've seen a crest to the wave of 'stuff,' and I can start getting posts up, tweeting and (I can't believe I'm saying this...) regularly updating on Facebook.
I'm going to let you in on a couple of the thoughts that have been rolling in my head the last few months, and then move on forward with the part where my social media opportunities can be used to lead, serve and share better. I'm actually looking forward to it, as much as it has been a hit and miss thing for the last 6 months or so.
I'm taking the advice of CJ Alvarado and Margaret Feinberg, the two of whom spoke at a workshop at the Thrive conference last May. They gave all of us some pointers on the best way to leverage social media for the Kingdom of God and the ministries we've been called to serve. I'm going to try it out, and I'll let you know if it goes.
Meantime, check back here for more regular updates on life, LifePoint, leadership and most importantly, Loving God, Loving People and Leaving a Legacy.
- Jeremy and Amy Malekos announcing their departure from our church staff has been a mixed blessing. Of course we're excited for their next adventure, and we know God has something for them in California, but it hurts to see them go after all that they have invested in ministry here. They will be missed, and they do leave a whole that God will need to fill.
- One of our facilities staff, Dave Henry, has also tendered his resignation. He's taking a position at a local coffee roasting plant (and he better get me a tour...). We wish Dave all God's best in his transition, too.
- We're working to hire an administrative assistant in the church office about now, and that process is underway.
- We're still looking for a Worship Pastor, and are hoping to have one this summer.
- We're going to break ground this spring on a solar collection system that Nevada Energy is giving us for FREE that will power our campus almost entirely, giving us a huge cost savings each month.
- We continue to see new people connect to our church, and people in our church connect in small groups, and our small groups connect to serving in the community. NICE!!
- Included in that small group movement is our Senior Thursday group, just getting off the ground, but growing in enthusiasm and momentum.
- We baptized 22 people this weekend, 18 in regular services, and 4 more as a part of Jeremy and Amy getting some 'last chance' opportunities.
That's not even the complete list! There's much more happening around LifePoint, but it all reminds me that while there are hard things, there are also good things that God is doing all around us. And Easter means that we will need to ramp up everything: serving, helping, loving, inviting, giving, and most especially PRAYING!!!
Pray for your church, for the leaders, for the folks who are working to make Easter a special, hope-filled event, and for the thousands of people who will come through our doors looking for hope. Now is the right time to pray, and I hope you'll join in as we follow the road to Easter.
So before we make any other public announcements about this transition, let me say this: we will all need space to process this both mentally and emotionally, so let's give ourselves and each other permission to grieve and walk through this loss. We all will need time to process all that this will mean in our lives and our church, and no one is in a rush to 'just get over it.' We need to move intentionally to deal with all the feelings and aspects of this loss.
A friend of mine used to joke whenever someone stubbed a toe or hit their thumb with a hammer: "It'll feel better when it quits hurting!" That's actually true. It won't feel better before the hurting is done, so you can't rush it. Some things just take time, and as Pastor Roy Conover likes to say, "There's no substitute for time." But when it does quit hurting, when the grief and grieving are past, it will feel better. We will have a fresh perspective on our lives, our church and the steps God has ahead of us, and we will be able to appreciate where we've come and get excited about where we're going.
I just want everyone to know that the leadership at LifePoint is working on the details of moving forward in this transition time, so you don't need to worry about that just yet. Focus on loving the Malekos family through their transition, and then on healthy processing of this whole deal. If you need to grieve, then do so without feeling pressured or rushed. Just walk it through, and let God's wisdom and grace (along with His family, the church) help you through it.
And trust in the promise that God has our church right where HE wants us. It's going to feel better...
Yes, we've had a few friends over, and yes, we're not counting those as 'official' events, because we just called some folks and invited them to hang out. Yesterday was an Open House for our Senior Adults at LifePoint Church, and we had over 20 people fill up our living room with smiles, conversation and laughter. It was great!! We're launching a new Senior Adult ministry next week (we're looking for a cool name, don't have one yet...), and Beth and I wanted to take the opportunity to invite these precious folk over and let them see us in our 'natural habitat.'
It was great fun to talk to the folks, get to know some new people and enjoy some goodies, but the best part was hearing how they were so excited about where we are going as a church family and how they are looking forward to having their own ministry as Seniors, complete with small groups, Bible study and outreach projects to do. These folks have more experience and more time than working folks, and combined with a real desire to follow God, this is going to be the beginning of something great!!
The whole event reminded me why we own a house: it's a tool to do ministry. We live here, yes, and we raise our kids here, which is a ministry unto itself, but like everything God has given us, it's a tool for Him to use to serve His Kingdom. I love it when we get to enjoy the gifts God has given us with other people, and to use them to see His church grow. Our house is God's house, and His gift to us is a place to live and a base for ministry.
Here's to the good gifts God gives, and the opportunity to use them for Him!