It Took Disney 70 Years To Make Frozen. The Value of the Long View.

According to historian Jim Hill, Disney has been trying to make a version of Frozen—based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen—since 1943.  Throughout the decades, some of Disney’s brightest and most creative minds took multiple attempts at adapting the storyline into something that would be an amazing experience for the audience, but for myriad reasons, all failed.  Why didn’t they just trash it and move on to something else? By nature, I am an impatient person.  If I feel a project is not working out or don’t see any return on an investment, my knee-jerk reaction is to pull the plug, shake things up, or try something new.  I’m learning to fight against this instinct; in the hope of seeing the benefit that comes from sticking with something you know is good.  It is a discipline to stick with something you truly believe in—to have a “long view” of things—even if the return isn’t there yet. While at an impasse on the storyline for Frozen, someone on the story team suggested, “What if we make Elsa and Anna sisters?” It was as if a million light bulbs went off, the story came together in rapid succession, and the top-grossing animated film EVER was born. In the church, it’s tempting to flit from one branch of “nouveau ministry” to the next because you aren’t seeing an immediate return.  I read a great status update on LinkedIn by Pastor Rick Warren last week that stuck in my head: “What’s in style goes out of style. The only way to stay relevant is to focus on what’s eternal.”  No matter the project, you have to plan with eternity in mind.  If you put together a ministry plan that focuses solely on addressing the temporary needs of people, it may have short-term success, but it won’t hold up over time.  If you run every ministry, every project, everything you do as a church through the lens of eternity, it WILL bear fruit even if you don’t see it right away. In fact, it may take until heaven to see it. You see, when you know you have a great story it’s worth sticking with it. My daughter can sing every Frozen song verbatim, choreography included. Frozen is...

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A Word on Worship as a Product to Consume

People are consumers.  In fact, I’m consuming a tasty cup of coffee as a write this.  With worship, however, I challenge churches if the goal is to satisfy the congregation. What I mean by that is churches shouldn’t feel as though they did their job if they merely led people to the spiritual gas station in the hopes that they’ll come back again when their tanks get low. Eugene Peterson says that “Worship does not satisfy our hunger for God—it whets our appetite.  Our need for God is not taken care of by engaging in worship—it deepens.  It overflows the hour and permeates the week.” Yesterday was Sunday.  Were you spiritually filled?  If so, great.  Being spiritually nourished is a wonderful result of worship, but it is a secondary one.  The primary result from worship should be a deeper desire for God’s presence and input into your everyday: your family, your job, your relationships, your decision-making. We have to fight the temptation to focus on ourselves in worship (“I just didn’t feel it today”) and focus more on the cross and the fact that we are in the presence of God Almighty. In worship, you are in the presence of God Almighty. That is how we grow in answering the call of worship: when we realize more and more our dependence on God, and develop a deeper desire to be near...

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A Word on Churches Being Culturally Relevant

There are a lot of buzz words and phrases that are flying around churches today.  One provocative one is “Cultural Relevance.” This basically refers to a church’s desire to connect with it’s surrounding community in a meaningful way that will help the church grow in faith and in number.  Many see it as important.  Others see it as anathema.  In light of this polarization, here is a word on cultural relevance: Obviously we want the Church to be attractive and welcoming.  Churches must communicate in a way that people understand, but they shouldn’t sacrifice substance on the altar of relevance. Os Guinness comments that Christians today all too often live lives where we “worship our work, work at our play, and play at our worship.”  One way we play at our worship is when we try to emulate our culture in worship.  The temptation is to copy our culture instead of developing it.  The usual outcome from copying culture is to come off as gimmicky, which appeals to no one.  Our goal should be to communicate to our congregations that there is a responsibility in worship, and it’s not to be the coolest church on the block nor is it to be a passive, rote ritual for sixty minutes, but simply as Psalm 95 says, it’s to be focused on God.  When we focus on God, not only do we reach out to Him but also he reaches out to us—in that place—in that time—in that very moment.  That is why worship is holy: because the Holy One is there and he is listening to you and speaking back to you.  Our churches need to know that this is the heart of worship.  It needs to be preached from the pulpit and taught to our elders, deacons, and...

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How To Be A Jerk In Seminary

When I was in seminary, I was pretty much a jerk.  Not the entire time, mind you. It’s actually quite difficult to be a jerk for that long while surrounded by people nicer than you, but I gave it my best effort.  To give you a bit of backdrop, I took the more historical route into seminary: beginning the graduate program immediately after college.  I found my first years in seminary to be quite difficult.  Some of it was the school, some of it was the workload, but mainly it was me.  From a firsthand perspective, here are five ways to be a jerk in seminary. 1. Be In Seminary Even If You Don’t Want To Be For me, I felt seminary was the next logical step in my life.  The only problem was I wasn’t ready for this next step—spiritually or socially.  I had just graduated from college; a time in my life that I loved for a lot of great reasons, but also for some of the wrong ones too.  At the time however, I viewed beginning seminary as if playtime was over, and now I had to be serious.  But I didn’t want to be serious.  I still wanted to be in college (I should’ve been a bit more serious in college, too, but that’s another story).  My seminary abutted my old college campus, and I still wanted to stay out super late, go to the bar, hang out with friends, and make a few questionable choices.  This is the reality though: if you want to be in seminary and substantially gain from your time there, you absolutely cannot have this perspective because you’ll automatically see the entire experience as a drip, keeping you from what you could really be doing—which is having fun.  This leads us to number two on the list. 2.  Be Cynical If you don’t want to be in seminary but you are anyway (see above) the natural reaction is cynicism.  “Toward what?” you may ask.  Toward everything.  For me, I was in an incoming class that had the distinction of being the first class in recent history to go through a significant curriculum shift.  As is true with almost any change, there were some bumps in...

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How Nostalgia Can Kill Your Church

One of the most energetic people I’ve ever met was a man named Doug.  A friend of my wife’s family, he had the ability to single-handedly motivate you just by telling you about his morning: “Well, I went out for a quick 25-mile bike ride, then a short 7-mile run, and I finished things up with a 30-minute swim and a short sail around the lake.”  He would tell you all this by 10 a.m.!  One of my favorite things was when you’d casually ask him, “How’s it going, Doug?”  He would always respond the exact same way: “Today is the best day of my life!” One day, Doug went out for a run.  As he finished, he stopped to chat with some neighbors when he collapsed and passed away.  Doug had an amazing ability to live in the present, and he relished it like few people I’ve ever encountered.  He was never blind to the past nor was he dismissive of the future; but it was his perspective to see each day as an opportunity to do better—to be better—that was and is an inspiration to me. Churches could learn a thing or two from Doug’s perspective, as they often suffer from a “rear-view” mentality.  This is the tendency to filter the present because we see things through the lens of the past: “Remember the good old days, when the pews were packed and all we had to do was open our doors and the families would just pour in?  That was the best!”  “Remember when Pastor _________ was here?  What a wonderful time in the life of our church!  Now, it’s just not the same.”  In Isaiah 43, God reminds the Israelites how he powerfully and miraculously saved the Hebrew people from Pharaoh as they were escaping Egypt.  You know the story: God’s people were trapped between the Red Sea on one side and Pharaoh’s army pressing in from the other.  Moses held his staff over the water and God pushed back the waters to create a path on dry ground through the sea.  Once safely on the other side, Moses again held his staff over the sea, and the water that had been held back fell down, smothering Pharaoh’s army that...

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That Time In The Bible When Jesus Prayed For You

It’s always nice when someone unexpectedly remembers you.  Last year on my birthday, my friend JJ wrote a song about me and put it on YouTube (you can watch it here). It made me laugh, but most of all it felt nice to be remembered. Our church has been going through John 13-17, known as The Upper Room Discourse, where Jesus gives his final instructions to his disciples before going to the cross to be crucified.  Four of those five chapters are directed to the disciples, but chapter 17, the last in this section of John, is Jesus’ prayer to God the Father. His prayer is deep and rich and moving.  It has three parts–the first two are prayers for himself and for his disciples.  Then we get to a verse that is amazing, because it bridges the gap of time between a First century, small room in Jerusalem where Jesus stood and this very moment.  I have read this verse over and over, and it’s ability to impress has not faded.  It is John 17:20.  When Jesus finished praying for the disciples he prayed this: “My prayer isn’t for [the disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,“. Did you catch that? If you are a Christian, and if reading the New Testament has had anything to do with that, then God the Father answered Jesus’ prayer that he prayed about YOU.  Maybe you’re not a Christian, but you will become one someday–God the Father also answered Jesus’ prayer about YOU.  In one sentence, Jesus Christ catapults across time, into the future to pray for you specifically.  Why? Simple: because he loves you.  He is passionate about praying for you.  In fact he does it all the time:  “Christ Jesus…is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Romans 8:34 Maybe you feel lonely, and this time of the year you feel that way especially so.  If you ever feel lonely, remember this: the last thing Jesus did before being arrested and going to the cross was to pray for you. You are loved.  You are valued.  Jesus remembers you....

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