Easter is Not the Super Bowl

I'm a raving fan of the Church and a proud card-carrying member of the Easter people. Seeing the creative and intentional expressions of local churches in this season of celebration is awesome. Countless people who are far from God will darken the doors of a church at Easter. This is an opportunity we should not miss.

With all of this being true, let me offer a few words of caution and hopefully encouragement to my co-laborers.

1. Wide doors and bright lights will never attract as well as door holders and personal invitations.

There is no shame in creating compelling experiences and easy onramps for the masses. Marketing should not be a dirty word in the church.  But even in the marketplace there is a metric that is the paramount measure of effectiveness: Net Promoter Score. This is the evaluation of how likely it is for a participant to encourage someone else to try a product or service. That is because the assumed reality is, even in the world of massive budgets and digital marketing ninjas, the apex impact continues to be the personal invitation.

The danger in large gatherings is anonymity. Somehow, we hope that people will discover Christ and then find community. Sure, this can happen, but there is a better way: when people who are already in community are invited to consider Christ. When a neighbor brings a neighbor. When a coworker invites a co-worker. When a soccer parent invites a soccer parent.

If we are going to have guests in the house we definitely should clean up, remove that weird painting, take out the trash, and get some trendy donuts. But the Maple Bacon Cruller, or candy-packed eggs, or laser show is not moving the needle.

2. Jesus is the main attraction.

This might be the most obvious thing that has ever been said on the internet. I want to encourage us all to tone down the pressure. Pastors: Easter is not your Super Bowl. This is our victory parade. Yes, put in the time, consider your words and how the Scripture is speaking. Don't fool yourself though and think if you don't hit it out of the park with the best crafted 27.5 minutes in the history of pulpits that you are messing it all up. The same for worship leaders and creatives. The fact is people are excited at Easter and will sing out as long as you lead them well with a shepherd’s heart.

Pastors: Easter is not your Super Bowl. This is our victory parade.

About ten years ago our church was in a pastoral transition. I was given an opportunity you rarely get as the young youth pastor: to preach on Easter. Let me tell you, my sermon is not being studied at seminaries as a case study on exegetical excellence. I nervously and joyfully preached the Gospel. We ended by trying something stretching for our church:  we invited anyone who had made a profession of faith in Christ to come and be baptized that morning. In their Easter finest more than a dozen people took that step of faith. Our creative strategy was not stolen from a cool church in the Bible-belt. It is amazing what will happen when we take our cues from Acts 2.

3. Love People. Use Systems. Not the other way around.

There is a massive difference between shepherding and equipping people to advance a collective mission and using people like disposable goods on the war path to saving the world. When I hear about church staff burning out after 6 straight 90-hour weeks, I can't reconcile that with the church I see in the New Testament. When I see leaders saying we will do everything short of sin to reach the world, I hope they include compassion and grace for the team of volunteers they already have on the team.

Church work is, and should be, hard work. It will often require long hours. Sacrificial investment of time, talent, and treasure are essential for the faith family, not a burden. Don't lower the bar, but also don't let evangelistic urgency blind us to sustainability. We can't red line until we die. Living sacrifices should still be living. We need to fuel our faith with the Holy Spirit, not Iced Dunkins with a triple shot of Red Bull.

Here's a practical heart check for my ministry leader peers: look at your text messages to your staff and key volunteers. How much of your conversation is asking people to give more and do more and how much is relational concern for the mind, body, and soul of your co-laborers in this glorious mission.

If the Easter hype machine at your church burns out your staff and steamrolls your volunteers you are doing it wrong. I’m all for hard work but the biggest circus is now out of business. The Jesus Movement however is alive and well.




So You Want to Be a Speaker

One of the questions I get asked from time to time goes something like this, “I want to be a speaker/artist, what should I do?”

Most times someone asks with incredible humility and grace and I want to cheer them on. So what do I say? Here is my email to an acquaintance who asked for my input on growing her platform. 

[Note: I made a couple small edits]

Dear Karen,

Thanks for the email and thank you again for investing your gifts at [the event]. Engaging in speaking is a great and funny endeavor. I love that you talked about two things in your email which would be my core advice. 

1) Don’t ignore the opportunities right around you.

Keep teaching at your church, investing in your community. A bigger platform is best anchored in the reality of life! 

2) Seek and embrace mentoring voices.

So cool to see you jumping into that piece.

Beyond that you are going to find the first season is likely going to be many volunteer or low/no compensation “gigs.” Think of this as your schooling. Learn how to connect with people who do not know you. Learn your voice. Learn to adapt to the environments (group sizes, generational distinctives, streams of the church, small rooms, big rooms). This is exactly what we did when I was endeavoring to build my band in 2009-2010. We played every little coffee house and youth rally, often with 12 kids who could care less who we were. A good place to start with this is to offer to teach breakout sessions at women’s retreats. I would offer two options that you know you could really connect with.

To get these contacts I would do exactly what you are doing. 

Reach out to friends.

These are always better than cold contacts.

I would encourage you to...

have some form of web presence.

Let me caution you: you do not need to build a big blog or spend lots of money on a website. Just know that it is likely that whoever is bringing you in will “google” you to do some research. I do. I look at people’s social media. Are they building people up and sharing ideas that are edifying? It can be as simple as your personal Facebook page, but posting three times a week about what God is teaching you. It could be a simple one page website that links your Instagram pics and has an about you page that describes your family and passion. Certainly you could build a web “platform” but I am more interested in what you are doing with the influence you already have to build and influence others.

I hope this is helpful…


Healthy Urgency

That crazy project with an equally insane deadline.
The overwhelming final paper that would make or break the grade.

We have all had moments where the job just had to get done. 
The pressure is on. Results must be produced.

I've seen countless peers excel in crisis. You want these people in the trenches with you. They show up and thrive when the heat is on.

But there is a trap, a crippling lie if we are not careful and aware. If the only time you have urgency is in a crisis you may believe the only time you NEED urgency is in a crisis. This deception severely limit what God can do through you. The abundant life does not need to be lived in a cycle of perpetual catastrophe.

This is one of the most important lessons I have learned: leaders create urgency before urgency is created for them. Growing leaders develop the skills to look down the road and see around the corner. We need to continually ask "What can I do now that will set us up for success later?" 

We will never manage every variable. As an event planner there are unavoidable moments of trouble, especially in the days leading up to an event. What allows our team to respond without fear is what has happened in the months prior. When something pops up we know most of the whack-a-moles have already been killed.

So ask yourself:

Where should I be creating urgency today so I can avoid crisis?

What can I do today that will limit the variables tomorrow and ten months from today?