Saying No to “NO”

Phil Cooke has a great piece of advice that serves as an excellent followup to a recent post of mine, Working In a “NO” Culture.

Most “no” people have taken the job because they don’t know how to inspire or motivate people – so they figure they might as well be good at something – and saying no is pretty easy to do. The challenge for you is to know which “no” people to listen to and which ones to ignore.

Phil Cooke – Start Identifying the “No” People In Your Life

Working in a “NO” Culture

I’m not really a huge fan of Jim Carrey (especially in this decade), but Yes Man was actually a pretty decent romp. I haven’t seen it recently but the idea must have been incepted (inceptioned?) into my mind… or, it may have just been a recent post by Craig Groeschel that got me thinking (specifically, about “That’s-not-my-job” mindsets).

Now I have these questions : does the thought of asking a colleague for help on a project make you nervous? Is it like pulling teeth trying to push positive changes through your staff meetings? Do you feel the need to aggressively defend your creative ideas?

If these ring true for you, then you may be working in a “NO” culture.

In many organizations, there is a grand pendulum that swings from the entrepreneurial, freedom-granting, creative “YES” culture to the rigid, policy-centric, structured “NO” culture. Both have their merits, and both aren’t without flaws; too much freedom in the workplace has chaotic potential, and too much structure poisons creativity and productivity. This is especially true for larger churches, where the size of the staff and the volume of ministry programs demands an appropriate balance of these two extremes. Many healthy churches simplify their ministry output as they grow and find focus, and that can sometimes lead to the dreaded culture of “NO”:

  • “Can we talk about our awesome upcoming mission trip in this weekend’s service?” “NO”
  • “Can I use that awesome community software for my group that meets at Starbucks?” “NO”
  • “Can I rent your awesome million dollar facility?” “NO”

The key symptom to watch out for in a “NO” culture is a general lack of good reasoning behind each declined request. Once “NO” becomes the normal response to people outside your staff or team, then it is only a matter of time before it becomes the normal response to colleagues and team members:

  • “Can you help me with this project even though it’s not really your area?” “NO”
  • “Do we have anyone who owns XYZ?” “NO”
  • “Can I implement this change?” “NO”

After that, the lack of collaboration, communication, and teamwork – and the addition of territorialism, silos, and disrespect – can become a deadly virus that will cripple your mission and purpose.

Now, I say all of this not as a personal complaint – Pantano has a good balance of staff players on both sides of the yes we can / no we can’t fence. This is simply a reminder to others in ministry that there is hope, and it can start with you – the next time you feel the urge to say “NO,” surprise yourself (and others) and say “Why yes, yes I can do that, and I’d be glad to.”


Photo by nathangibbs, via a CC license

Director (and no, not Spielberg)

This weekend I have the privilege of directing the worship services at Pantano. It’s a “Students Weekend” so there are teenagers everywhere, but I don’t mind! As director, I have to make sure everything is in its place and that everyone knows all of their cues. Not as exciting as directing Indiana Jones 4, but I think I can say tonight was fun. The Sunday services will be interesting because the student worship team has never had to deal with setting up in the very short amount of time available between our traditional and main services.

I have to say, I’m impressed with the professionalism exhibited by the student worship team. They came in knowing their parts, they rehearsed without a hitch, and I didn’t hear any complaining! As an audio engineer, it’s common to hear a lot of complaining… to be fair, it’s common to complain as an audio engineer as well. Hehe. The students’ attitudes and focus on worship was unmistakable.

It’s also fun be creative director because I have at least some final authority on the creative contents of the services. I let the students bring in their own epileptic-shock-inducing background videos to display with the lyrics. Fun times! I heard a little bird say that it was too loud, but I think that’s fairly absurd, considering I was mixing the sound as I mix sound every week, and nearly every instrument was digital/electric (which means I have full control of the volume). Even so, I pulled out the ol’ dB meter just to appease the masses.

It’s nice to mix things up; a lot of pieces to my job are mind-numbingly repetitive. I think that’s why I so eagerly accept web projects (that’s the other half of my job); there’s always something new to learn and some new technology I can utilize (the audio industry has new tech, sure, but most of it will definitely break the bank). Here’s to mixing things up!

insert obligatory apology here

Obligatory Apology
(thanks to Matt, btw, for the update post format I’ve borrowed)
Wow, I’ve become fantastically awful at blogging regularly. I hear that the less you blog, the more likely your friends will remove you from their blogrolls and feedreaders. Hey, at least we’ve seen some pic postings from Jenny at various big events that happened in the last few months!


Grr, sorry about that, Lili decided that my keyboard was the best place to get my attention (and she’s actually right – cats are too smart).

Decorating is for the SWEDISH and their IKEA oddities
In case you’re interested, Jenny and I are doing well. Jenny’s house decorating progress is 3/7 (office, bedroom, living room) and she’s planning to tackle the bathroom next. I try to stay out of the way; I have an opinion about everything, which is decidedly less helpful than a simple “looks great!” Besides, I’ve determined that my “home improvement” efforts are better spent outside the house. The rafters and a few walls could use a repaint/reseal and that’s something that actually bothers me. That’s not to say that painting a house would be in my top 10 list of fun things to do while bored, though.

World of Warcraft
We’ve adjusted our TV time in the evenings to playing World of Warcraft instead. Jenny’s Blood Elf hunter Jenivya finally hit level 70 (alongside my second level 70, Avastus the plays-with-fire mage). We both play a decent amount but I suppose you could consider us casual players, as neither of us are really into the end-game raiding content. We did join Resurgence, a raiding guild, just for fun. Jimmy, Christy, Tristan and Katie are to blame for that. Okay, enough about WoW. Hopefully it’s not as controversial as politics or as mind-numbing as Linux.

*pauses briefly to smack Lili off the keys again*

I Control All You See and Hear
My role at work got shifted around a bit. To make room for a full-time pastor for Pantano’s “elements” service, I left the team and took up the Audio/Visual Ministry full time. I’m now responsible for pretty much all technical equipment owned by Pantano, with the exception of the theatrical/intelligent lighting system. I supposedly manage a team of sound volunteers, but we’ll see how that goes as I’m actually better at communicating with machines than people. I also took on an expanded role as Chief Web Ninja, aka the Website Lead Engineer, aka the guy who does all the coding. Here’s my shameless plug for the recent (Jan ’08) overhaul/update of And yes, if you find it, I’m using a Simpsons Avatar on my church staff profile page. The perks of being a Web Ninja.

Speaking of web updates, InspiredMumblings is due (like two years ago) for a design update. I think I have some time in the next few weeks to work on it. I’ve been picturing some sort of circular layout, done completely in CSS. It’s probably never been done before (which is the real appeal). I’ll definitely head back to the garden for creative inspiration.

Church Management Software
Does anybody know of a really good church management software solution? Pantano uses ACS, Fellowship One is way out of our budget, and we’re eyeballing another system (which I won’t name since we’re still considering it). My compulsive, interface perfectionist side is whispering things to me about the usability of this system. You don’t need training to use Google Docs or Google Groups or Facebook. Why can’t someone just design a small group manager as bonehead easy-to-use as Facebook Groups? IT’S NOT THAT HARD FOLKS and I’d do it myself if I had time. Honestly, it’s surprising to see how many web-based software companies are still living in the Internet stone age.

Yes, we want anyone to have the power to create new groups. Yes, people should be able to join groups without moderation or intervention. And no, privacy is not an issue, except for with those paranoid tin-foil-hatters. So please, ChMS designers, give us more social networking options. Where’s the Web 2.0 in ChMS? Maybe tucked away somewhere between the extended training sessions and the “consulting” fees…

All your church are belong to us. /endrant

DISCLAIMER: Although I have seen and used the interfaces of many ChMS systems, I haven’t ever had the chance to play with Fellowship One. So if you or your church is considering a move to Fellowship One, try not to take my criticism out of context. You’ll note that the above rant is specifically directed towards the “unnamed” system we’re considering (not Fellowship One). Of the systems I have had the chance to use and see, I firmly believe they don’t have a grasp on what software usability means. Of course, who am I but a lowly self-appointed software critic?

8 Questions for the American Church

Do you ever feel like you just don’t care? Like somebody is talking to you about something, and you know that you are “supposed” to care about it, but all you can manage is a good fake smile. I feel that way sometimes, and I even want to care, but I don’t. At least, not completely. I just stand around trying to care, not doing anything but selling popcorn for the thing everybody else is so gung-ho about.

I honestly have developed an eye-twitch. Maybe it’s not involuntary, but it helps suppress other less appealing emotions I have to deal with when selling said popcorn. Did I ever say I wanted to get into “vocational” full-time ministry? I better read through my archives, because if I did, I was smoking crack. But don’t misunderstand me, the glass is not half empty. It’s half full. I mean, that’s what you want to hear, right?

So here are some questions I have. Not directed toward anyone in particular, but rather the American Church at large.

1. Why does a church have to be run like a business? When you run an organization like a business, even non-profits have expenses and income. Expenses, income and profit… but our 501(c)3 laws tell us that motivation and intent define what profit is. And if you run it like a business, what happens when the cash is gone? Pack up, go home? Are churches so dependent on the non-profit business model that they can’t function without that structure? And with a business comes the necessities for running a successful business: marketing, corporate policies, top-down structure, customer service, salesmen, etc.

2. Why do evangelical Christians, most especially the Boomer and X generations, think that huge costly stage productions are cool? I would ask the churches why they do huge costly stage productions, but there’s no need – the answer is in the people they are bringing in. At least, the Boomers and Xers. Maybe some Millennials are being swayed – those who are a little too caught up in the coolness factor of the Passion/Giglio movement. So I ask, why do Christians settle for theatrics? The rock bands, the videos, the dramas, the surface-deep theology…

3. A huge portion of the ministry world right now is wondering where all the 18-30yr-olds are. Traditional churches are way off base, trying to win Millennial hearts with the same style tactics that worked on the contemporary Boomer generation. Oddly enough, it seems to have partially worked for Generation X (the current 30-40yr-old group). Mainstream churches have caught on by offering completely alternative services, often with louder or different music, a grungy feel and a subcultural hipness. Really progressive churches move beyond even that by dabbling in to the “emerging” movement, where Millennial-focused worship gatherings throw out all of contemporary and bring all of ancient and traditional back. My question: is ANY OF THAT WORKING? Where are all the 18-30yr-olds?

4. What exactly is so great about a single local church launching and maintaining a bunch of video-fed satellite “multi-site” campuses across a city, State, or the country? Is it better than planting new churches? I don’t know. I do know that I bought into the multi-site “revolution” way too quick for my own good, and I will now admit I see its shortcomings. The real issue that multi-site churches highlight is the fact that “church” is so consumer-driven that it can now be franchised. The saddest truth is that there are dying churches out there who actually think partnering up with their local megachurch will make things better. Show me the money!

5. Why do so many evangelical Christians automatically associate themselves with the Grand Old Republican Party? I mean sure, most Republican politicians hold true the same social ethics as Christians. Like pro-life, keeping “In God We Trust” on the dollar bill, federal marriage definitions, and criminal executions. Oh yeah, and war. I hear that James Dobson of Focus on the Family will help start forming a new party if Rudy Guliani wins the 2008 Republican presidential primaries, simply because Rudy is liberal on social issues (abortion, gay-rights, etc). I think it will be GREAT to see Christians start thinking for themselves. On the other hand, I’d rather call myself a canuck and head north before enjoying the theocracy that a Christian-focused political party would create.

6. Why do so many American Christians hate? They hate gays, they hate Muslims, they hate Mormons, they hate people who drink and smoke, evangelicals hate Catholics, and vice versa. Sometimes the hate is completely authentic, transparent and maniacal like the insane members of the Westboro Baptist Church (who recently got fined $11 million for protesting at a soldier’s funeral). Other Christians show their hatred through their actions in utter disdain for their words of love.

7. Why are the difficult theological concepts held from the general Christian masses? At seminaries, pastoral students debate and toil over every imaginable aspect of God, the Bible and the Christian faith. But the toughest real issues stay in seminary and never make it to congregations. It’s almost as if pastors don’t trust that people can handle raw truth. They have to package truth, water it down occasionally, and add a dash of humor to alleviate the seriousness of theology.

8. Was Jesus more like Mr. Rogers or William Wallace? That’s a random, fairly shallow question, but here’s my answer: none of the above. From what I’ve read, Jesus wasn’t all that terribly meek like Mr. Rogers. He did hang around kids a lot, I suppose. But he also wasn’t a war general, fighting and killing for his life and freedom. Soldiers kill, fight and die for others’ freedom. Jesus died, minus the fighting, for everybody’s freedom. The Jesus I read about in the New Testament seems more like a Ghandi, or a Dalai Lama, or a Martin Luther King, Jr. He was like a pacifist, a non-violent protester. A revolutionary with a message of hope and peace. From what we know, he never wielded a sword against any other Jew or Gentile. Please forget about the violent Jewish stories in the Old Testament long enough to realize that Jesus came to change all of that. Did 1st century Christians fight back against persecution? No. That’s the kind of faith I want.

Those are my questions. I don’t expect many answers as it was mostly all rhetorical and intended for you to read whilst I vent my frust…er…feelings. As I type this I realize the common thread woven through those questions is my desire to see an actual real-life bona-fide revolution in the Church. Until then, there’s not much to talk about.

So sit back, relax, enjoy the productions. I’ll make some popcorn for you.

Am I Internally Motivated?

If I truly was, I wouldn’t have time to even ask the question.

“The more I consider this, the more I think that true disciples who are truly doing the work don’t have a lot of time to think about their standing before God or their motivations or about their own sin. They simply go out and do the mission to which they were called.”

Dan Edelen, in a comment on his blog Cerulean Sanctum, discussing the post The Two Christianities

Thanks to Carl for referring me to this great post.

A Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing God

After reading this blog post, I felt disgusted with what this guy had to say. I was really disappointed to see yet another “emergent legalist” (I made that term up, but it fits nicely) damning churches, especially churches without membership, by-laws or elders. (What he said about worship, however, I mostly agreed with).

The one thing that frustrates me most about the emerging postmoderns (and moderns, as this guy seems to be) is how damning of churches they are. There has to be a way to fit things in and let everybody do church the way they see best. You think Christ came to have people argue over how to worship Him?

So that’s been stewing in my brain and I’ve been frustrated with Christians in general, and then I came across this presentation for a new book – A Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing God

Now THAT’S what I’m talking about. I need some time now to process that link (and I need to order the book for sure), but compassion for the ordinary person is where my heart is currently focused.

Passion for the Extraordinary, compassion for the ordinary. HEH!

It’s Official – I have no idea what I’m doing

I sometimes receive incoming links from random blogs of random people I’ve never heard of – the blogosphere is mind-bogglingly large and interconnected. I also hear kudos from my friends, family (even Grandma) for the content and how intelligently I write.

So now it is time to remind everyone that I have no idea what I’m doing. I was gifted (or maybe I was trained) with the ability to write in English according to American style guide standards. I have less ministry experience than most of my ministerial peers. I have been blessed with an ability to merely touch a computer to make it work (you think I’m joking), but cursed with a hatred for the software that runs those computers. Don’t forget that I have, on occasion, wandered into the “Mumblings” half of “InspiredMumblings.”

I will continue to blog my thoughts on ministry, theology, Google, and Ubuntu (wink wink), and I appreciate the recognition for my humble attempt at a contribution to the blogosphere. But to keep things real, let me remind you that I’m 24 sans college degree, and I truly and honestly have no idea what I’m doing.

As an aside, I think God puts us in places like this when we are about to get into something big. Pantano has asked me, along with Bryan Lee, to be the leaders of a movement into the younger unchurched cultures. I don’t know what that looks like yet (to be honest, nobody has a good idea what that looks like yet). I do know that my passion is right there, reaching people that have rejected church (or people that the church has rejected). This isn’t like Uganda, where you can find a people group who has never heard the gospel. This is America’s rebellion, America’s next revolution – the Generation Next who have embraced postmodernism, postliteracy and postreligion. They’ve split into a thousand subcultures, each grouping based on interests or ideals, and not on geographic location. They reject the church as yet another means of control, or sometimes they reject it simply just because Republicans embrace it. This is the culture (and thousand subcultures) that I have been called to serve. Fantastically unsettling, isn’t it? More updates on this coming soon!

Organic Church

Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life HappensThis is a follow-up to Carl Cherry’s thoughts on Organic Church.

I’m reading Organic Church, too, and I’m starting see everything we do at Pantano as having organic tendencies and possibilities. Our life groups could and should be organic and self-reproducing. Many of them are a great model of a church, actually. Launching new sites and campuses can also be very organic. Community Christian Church has several examples of thriving multi-sites that have inspired the start of even more multi-site venues.

I can envision the day that I’m sitting at Starbucks, hanging out with people, and eventually get into spiritual conversations with them. Add a guitar, some bongos and maybe a DVD teaching from Pantano. That’s church!

I have seen countless opportunities in my 11 years of doing ministry where we could have done a better job at bringing Jesus to people, rather than trying to get people to church. Hopefully I can learn from my mistakes!

Culture Tribes

I attended a great conference earlier this week in San Diego – The Coast-to-Coast Multi-Site Conference. Presented by Leadership Network, Seacoast Church, Community Christian Church, and North Coast Church, it featured speakers such as Dave Ferguson, Larry Osbourne, and Mark Driscoll.

The recurring reasoning for sending their churches down the multi-site path (as opposed to church planting, or the ever popular “doing nothing”) was surprisingly NOT focused on church growth. In most cases, multi-sites were started out of a need for more building space, or because so many members commuted from another part of town. But every church blazing multi-site trails seems to understand one thing: we live in a Balkanized America.

There is no such thing as a “generation gap” anymore, and therefore, age-based evangelism is simply ineffective. We live in a society where your preferences define your culture. We live in a society where quality and options are expected. That is why there is a McDonald’s and a Burger King in nearly every US city. Or that Wal-mart and Lowes are spreading like wildfire, while mom-n-pop Ace Hardware’s can’t keep up. Cable television, the Internet, even FM/XM radio give American consumers everything they want, when they want it.

And who is the Church trying to reach? Well, the unreached of course. But what do they look like? Who are they? They are American consumers. They have a consumer mindset, and they will demand quality and options from you, even as a church. Hence, we see “box-store” churches such as Saddleback, WillowCreek, and Dallas Baptist. Those churches have the wherewithal and the resources to provide consumers with options and very high quality. You can’t tell a non-Christian to reject their personal consumerism at the drop of hat (or the rant of a pulpit). It is who they are. It is who we are.

Multi-sites provide the same quality and options as their parent campuses, but also have a unique “small-church” community feel. There should therefore be no question as to why multi-sites are spreading even faster than Wal-mart. Because of their size and flexibility, multi-sites have also now really tackled the culture question. Each multi-site is geared toward a specific culture tribe. Families with children? No problem. Goths, punks and loners? Sure. A retirement community? There’s a multi-site for that, too.

Here’s the bottom line: the most effective way to reach people is to embrace their culture. That is how we reach native tribes in Peru, and it is how we should reach American tribes in Tucson. I’m not talking about adding movie clips to sermons (a Family Guy quote comes to mind – “Hey! They’re playing music from The Matrix. We can relate to that!”). I’m CERTAINLY not talking about relativism – but I am talking about relevantism. Meet the people where they are. If the people prefer heavy rock music, hire a heavy rock worship band. If the people watch popular movies, actually TALK about popular movies (but don’t talk about Christian movies – that is about as culturally irrelevant as you can get, unless you are trying to reach deluxe-suburban-super-Christians). Multi-sites can even meet people where they are, literally. In coffee shops. In malls. In theaters.

Remember Revelation 5:9 (ESV) –

And they sang a new song, saying,

Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.

“Every tribe and language” rings true with me. I’m ordering a few new books. Check out this list and see if anything might be interesting or relevant for you. They are all highly recommended.

I’ve even thought of a title and topic for my own book – “What The Hell Does it Mean to Be a Christian?” How does that sound? Hmm, it’s a work in progress. Sorry, rabbit trail.

I’m excited to be a part of the planning process for launching multi-site campuses and venues for Pantano Christian Church. Pantano has a global, Kingdom focus and a strong outreach ministry. In fact, it is safe to say that more resources are poured into outreach and meeting people where they are than any other ministry at Pantano. (But – please don’t assume that there is no maturity or spiritual development – Spiritual Formation is one of the four core values, and is put into action through sermons, Life Groups, Theology classes, and even a resource blog on the website). We already have the DNA and the infrastructure in place to support multiple campuses. And God has even thrown several opportunities onto our doorstep – a group of disconnected, disenchanted Christians in Sierra Vista; a growing number of attenders from Tucson’s West side; the 29th St Corridor and a large Hispanic population; an ever-increasing number of members expressing a desire for an “edgy,” postmodern or Emergent worship service…

It’s going to be an exciting year as we push the culture-envelope and bring the message to the people.