2014 is in the rear view. Another year older. Another Cleveland season without championship.
Here's things I'm becoming more and more convinced about as 2015 kicks off. Some Jesus. Some family. Some sports.
1. Church planting is A) the single most effective way to reach people far from God and B) the single most certain way to experience crushing.
2. Experiencing depression and the counseling that has come with it have made me a better man, husband, father and pastor. I find myself weepy and moved by grace for the first time in a long time. It doesn't mean it's not hell to go through. It just means that the road to the Promised Land always goes through wilderness.
3. Chaia will not follow script. The same stubborn, fierce will that God infused in her to battle for her life is at work all over her life. If God chooses, she could lead something pretty amazing down the road. In the meantime, parenting her may take 10 years off our life.
4. Churches who lead with polish and production will repeatedly run into the challenge of "one-upmanship". We did this thing and it was epic. The only way to bring our people back to this experience with God is to bring the epic degree to the next level. In one sense, this can lead churches to take more radical risks which could be great. On the other hand, when a church experiences hardship and pain and things that don't feel very epic, people will leave in droves because they were promised Promised Land and not cautioned about the road to get there.
5. Following Jesus, leading a church, being married for the long haul and parenting a kid with special needs (as well as any kid) all teach one thing. Selfishness will steal your life. If anyone wants to find their life, they better plan to lose it. He must increase...but I must decrease...The former can't be had without the latter being desperately pursued.
6. At the same time, pouring out constantly to others is not equivalent to selflessness. Sometimes selflessness is letting others serve you and bless you. Sometimes to be effective distributors of intoxicating grace, we first have to humble ourselves to be eager recipients of intoxicating grace. From God. From our family. From our church. (This doesn't mean we demand it. It just means when we find it we embrace it.)
7. The single greatest mark of effective church planting/leading a movement is not size or charisma or money. It is the level of depth that exists in your first generation of leaders and how empowered, effective and willing they are to entrust that depth into a second generation of leaders. Anyone with some combination of hype, adequate funds and marketing skills and charisma can draw a crowd. But Jesus frequently drew away from the crowds to invest in the 12...taught to give away the funds rather than use them for selfish gain. Grow a church to 10,000 and fail at making disciples who can make disciples and you have failed unequivocally.
8. My wife is funny. I should laugh with her more. Even when her jokes are bad.
9. Being a Cleveland sports fan is like getting a tooth pulled. Only instead of relief after a season of pain, the dentist keeps pulling the tooth,over and over. At some point, it'd be worth considering whether that dentist is someone you should really be putting any stock in.
10. Encouragement is oxygen to the soul. You want to let someone know they are appreciated? Give them oxygen...not superficial/artificial oxygen...but genuine, thoughtful encouragement. People will go further than they knew they could if they have enough oxygen. A lot like that one time I ran a half marathon. There were only cheering sections at two points. But when we went through those spots it was like they believed we could do it...so we believed we could too...at least until the next mile marker.
11. Adversity is the catalyst to change. Some will balk and cry when adversity strikes, but those who pray, "make me teachable and have your glory" are moved to something deeper, bigger or better. Stop pouting and stalling in adversity and look for God there. He shows up. It's His nature.
12. It's possible that something can be everything you hoped for and nothing like you planned. Roll with it.
13. We've said it before, but it's a good thing Chaia is cute. If she wasn't, we probably wouldn't have made it this far with her.
14. If your community wouldn't be upset or have any clue that your church closed, you're doing it wrong. Invest. Be broken and poured out. Not to make converts. But to follow Jesus, who modeled the way for us.
Here's to 2015. May you find restlessness and disgust until you find satisfaction in Him.