Song of Eternity


This morning we sang one of my favorite hymns.

155 years later and it’s still wonderfully powerful.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.

Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

As we repeated the words “Holy, holy, holy” there was a stillness in the room.  It was the sort of stillness that feels too big for the space you’re in.  It was vast and quiet and beautiful.

It was peace.  There was peace in the room as we joined together and called out, “holy, holy, holy.”  It felt like I was singing this song for the very first time.  I know the words and I love the melody, but today was different.  Today my voice joined the vast stillness of Forever, singing a song that Eternity already knows.  Isaiah and John describe their visions of the angels singing, “holy, holy, holy” day and night without ceasing.

For three minutes, we joined that song.  Our voices broke through the walls of the space and met those that have and will sing this song forever.  It’s an incredibly peaceful moment when you join the song of eternity.

Maybe you’re sitting by the grill all day, maybe you’re recovering from a long week, maybe your greatest plan today involves a nap.  My hope is that you can find time today to enter into the vast peacefulness of God’s holiness.  Join the voices of Eternity and sing, “holy, holy, holy”.


Plans and Steps

Most of my time spent the last 9 months of not writing on this site has been spent making plans and taking steps.  As some may know, my family and I realized last Fall that our time in Southern California was swiftly coming to a close.  We made a plan for a clean exit of Orange County and the Lord directed our steps to the Central Valley – Porterville, CA to be exact.

Since then we have tried to work out what the next steps are.  In that time I have renovated a home, completed a Master’s degree, moved my family to Idaho, raised 6 chickens, bought a dog, and lost a job.    Other than knowing I will have 2 fresh eggs and a wagging tail to greet me each morning, there are few certainties about our future.  The loss of a job was a hard kick in the shins for our financial situation – and my emotional situation – so needless to say, it’s been an straining few months.

Because I grew up in a “pull up your boot straps and figure it out” sort of family, I am determined to make plans.  I love making plans.  While I drive, I think through odd circumstances and how I would respond so that I can have a plan someday.  Each night I mentally check off where a flashlight and my shoes are in case I need to get my family out of the house in a jiffy.  I notice the quickest exit to every room I’m in, just in case.  I plan out what I am going to say before I say it (sometimes to my wife’s chagrin) and I always check my engine fluids and tire pressure before a long drive.

My next big plan, get a job.  The question is: where?  Our ultimate plan is to continue to move north to the Treasure Valley in Idaho.  We’d love to land in Meridian/Eagle/Boise area next summer so we are planning accordingly.  But the plan is only half the battle.  The other half is the excruciatingly painful practice of waiting and trusting on the Lord to direct our steps.  Proverbs is smart like that: a man makes a plan but the Lord determines his steps (16:9).

So what now?  Look for a job in Porterville to get by for half a year and then look for another job in Idaho to continue the move North?  Or….look for a job in Idaho now and make a temporary, solo move, a few months ahead of my family.

“Adult-ing” is difficult.  It demands far more emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical investment than we imagined when we were young.  The good news is that each of those investments are supported by the Lord.  If we allow Him to help us make a plan, we can trust that the steps we take are of His direction.

So I plan.  After I eat my 2 fresh eggs, pet my dog, and stir in a giant dollop of faith in my coffee each morning, I plan.  And hopefully the next step we take will not be mine, but His.


silent suffering

Sometimes a great plan becomes a great reality.  I’ll never forget the day that Brittney and I realized we were ready to grow our family.  On a chilly December night our friends had just delivered a beautiful baby girl.  Through the magic of FaceTime we were able to join them in the recovery room – seven states away – to celebrate and meet their tiny human.  That night we had one of those multi-hour life-changing conversations and came to the conclusion that we were ready.  It wasn’t long afterwards that we were able to FaceTime with our friends yet again, only this time we were sharing the news of our soon-to-be tiny human.

There is an incredible amount of excitement and joy that comes when we are proclaiming life!  We made Pooh picture frames for the grandparents, the siblings jumped up and down on the couch, grandparents cried, it was such a wonderful season.  Yes, there’s nausea and a myriad of body changes…yes, there’s odd evening cravings that as a husband you just need to deal with regardless of how many beers you’ve had…but throughout it all you are joyously, loudly, and likely obnoxiously proclaiming life!  Nine months of singing the same song, but it never gets old.  It starts out slow with immediate family and friends, but then grows louder and louder as the weeks pass until it feels like the whole world is singing along with you.  There will soon be a new human in the world!  It’s nothing short of extraordinary.

Years later, thousands of diapers, hundreds of sleepless nights, and more laughter than we ever thought possible, Brittney and I had another one of those life-changing conversations.  We felt like it was time for another baby.

Not long ago we had those same magical FaceTime calls, excited texts, and surprise visits to sing that song we loved so much.  And like last time it started out slow with just immediate family and a few of those might-as-well-be-family friends.  There will soon be another tiny human in the world!

Our great plan was a New Year’s proclamation of life!  But sometimes a great plan becomes a crushing reality.  We went to the doctor on the 30th and his words still scream in my head, “I’m afraid there’s no heartbeat.”  The weight of losing this tiny human felt like all the air was sucked from the world.  Our proclamation of life suddenly became a silent suffering.

There is no way to convey the brokenness of miscarriage.  It’s a soul-crushing, world-flipping moment when you realize you’ll never get to meet one of your kids.

In our first pregnancy we were able to proclaim life to every person we met.  There’s nothing like the first time telling somebody you’re going to have a baby.  It’s a uniquely magical moment when you get to proclaim life and invite somebody into your joy.  But this time that moment is marred.

Death is not something we want to invite others into.  So now we sit silently.  How do you share death with somebody else?  What do they do with that?  And when we get the obligatory question, “How were your holidays?”, we’re forced to choose: do we share death or suffer silently?

Honestly, I don’t have an answer.  I don’t know what to do.  I know that writing is therapeutic for me and somebody will inevitably read this, but how do we work through the suffering if we can’t share it.  Why would I want to invade people with our suffering?  So we sit and cry, or write, or draw, or pray quietly because it is our suffering.

But I’m done suffering quietly.  It hurts too much and I’ve realized that I’m not strong enough to bring all the air back into the world.

Each day is a little better.  We all process death differently.  Some days have been good.  Today is not one of those days.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading and seeing how other couples process through this and I came across one of those sappy quotes that I hate to love: “…and to think, the first thing he saw when he opened his little eyes was the face of Jesus.”  Reading that made me realize, the last thing our baby heard was the steady, beautiful beat of my wife’s heart.

Tonight my song is of those two realities.  You’re welcome to sing along with me.

The Syllabus and Secondhand

Suddenly you look up and realize your life is dictated by syllabi.  Your ‘syllabus’ of life; creating rhythm and structure, due dates and responsibilities, tasks and schedules.  Our syllabus of life dictates everything we do.  Even if you aren’t in school, you have a written syllabus structuring how it is you order your life.  Our bills are due by the 15th of the month.  The trashcans need to go to the curb on Thursday nights.  We water the lawn once per week.  We shower and dress before work.  We make sure to feed our children.  We regularly watch our shows.

Yesterday was the first day of class for my Summer Term.  I was sitting in class just after the professor handed out the course syllabus, listening to a reading of Matthew 11.  It was difficult for me to listen and pay attention to the reading of Matthew.  The gospel of Matthew was fighting the annoyingly consistent ‘tick-tick-tick’ of the secondhand on the wall, while simultaneously competing with the course syllabus on the desk.  Tick, tick, tick, the rhythm of the clock on the wall.  The course syllabus outlining the rhythm of my next few weeks.  And the words of Jesus trying to restructure those rhythms into His.

I’m not yet sure how to participate in this.  Jesus is asking me to enter into his rhythm and take up his yoke.  The yoke of Jesus is ‘easy and light’.  This is to say, the yoke of Jesus exists.  He has one.  He does not say, “leave the yoke of the world and take up my nothingness.”  Even Jesus understood that we cannot escape a secondhand and syllabus that orders our life.  Jesus has a rhythm and structure to life that operates differently than the clock on my wall and the syllabus on my desk.

I don’t think He meant that we need to abandon our work or he would not have invited us into His yoke.  The very existence of a yoke implies that there will be work.  We cannot escape this.  But approaching our life through the yoke of Jesus will reorient the end result of our work.  If we align ourselves with Jesus – the most loving, creative, gracious, diligent, compassionate being in the universe – the process of working through the rhythms of our life becomes easier.  The work does not decrease, but maybe it becomes easier.

This is my ‘task’ over the Summer: in the midst of the noise from the clock on the wall and duties of the syllabus on my desk, I must learn to put the yoke of Jesus around my neck, and continue through the rhythm and work of my life.

My Final Paper: A Parable Retold

For the final paper in my Theology of Jesus class, my professor asked us to write 1000 words on how our thinking has changed during this class.  He didn’t give us any other direction and said we could write however we wanted.  I decided to tell a story:


There is one word that can summarize this story: unbearable. It was unbearable to lay there across His shoulders for miles in the hot sun. It was unbearable to talk with Him and try to make Him understand how unbearable He was being. It was unbearble to lay there bouncing cross His shoulders all day trying to convince Him how right I was. It was unbearable to be set down on the ground at the end of it all and realize that I was wrong.

I’m not wrong often, but this time I was wrong in a big way. Typically I’m not wrong, not for any cleverness of myself, but simply because I do not need to make many choices. My choices are made for me, guided and directed by Him. He calls and leads me to eat and drink when I need to. He shows me where to lay my head to sleep at the end of the day. He points me in the direction of safe paths. He chooses my friends and whom I spend my days with. In essesnse, he sets up the framework for most of my decisions, I just need to participate in them.

It was on this unbearable day that I decided to help. So, I left. I left it all behind. My entire family, all my friends, all of the comforts He provided, I dropped them all and set out. I did not have a specific place that I was headed, I just thought that I could help. There were a lot of mouths to feed and it was just He that looked and found food. There were a lot of us to keep safe at night, so I left to find shelter. There was a lot to do, and I felt that I needed to participate in accomplishing those “to-do’s”, so I left.

I did not plan on going far. Initially I thought that if I stayed within eye-shot of Him I could come back easily when He called. But when I did not find what I was looking for within eye-sight of Him, I ventured a little further, and a little further, and a little further, until I was gone. I could not hear Him, I could not see Him.

I will not bore you with the mundane details of where I went and what I saw, for it was very little. Frankly, I do not fully remember what I did see simply because it was so unremarkable in contrast to what I did not see: I didn’t see Him. And His absense was much more vivid than what was in front of my eyes.

Thinking back, it seemed like ages had passed since I was with Him. It felt like much longer than it actually was, but the void of His presence made everything else seem askew. It was the sound of his gasp that brought me back to the normal rhythm of time and distance. I still do not recall if he actually gasped or if it was simply the exhale of relief in his embrace, but the ‘whoosh’ of his arms around me was frighteningly loud. And in one swift motion, he was carrying me. And so, our unbearble conversation began.

“Little One,” He said to me, “I have searched long for you. It’s going to be OK. I’ll show you the way back home.”

I was confused at this remark. What did he mean, “it’s going to be OK”? Of course I knew it was going to be OK. I was never in any danger. I was not lost – per se – since I did not have an end-destination in mind. I knew I wasn’t with Him, but that didn’t necessarily bother me at the time.

“Of course I’m OK,” I replied. “I know where I am, I know what I’m doing, and I know why I’m doing it. I have always been OK.” This seemed like a perfectly succinct answer me. Surely He would l set me down to continue what I was doing.

“Little One,” he continued, “and where do you think you are, and what do you think you are doing, and why are you doing it?”

“Well Sir, currently I am sitting on your shoulders. It’s rather unbearble, to tell you the truth. It’s hot up here, and I would prefer to walk.”

“But Little One, if you walk, how can I bring you back?”

This reply perplexed me. Back? Why would he take me back? I left for a reason and it seemed like He was simply getting in the way. I said to him, “I don’t think you understand what I’m trying to do out here.”

“By all means, Little One, explain it to me.”

So I began, “Sir, my family and I have many needs. We eat much more than You, we drink much more than You. We need more space to walk and run and sleep than You. And everyday You are walking around showing us where to eat. You point us in the direction of water. You keep us safe while we sleep. You show us where to walk, run, climb, and play. This is a lot of work for just one Sir.”

“You are quite correct,” replied He. “It is a lot of work indeed.”

“Well, we are in agreement then, Sir. Kindly put me down so I may continue.”

“But, Little One, you have not yet told me what you are trying to accomplish.”

At this point I was frustrated. I was frustrated with the heat on my back. I was frustrated with the joints of his shoulders pressing against my front. I was frustrated with the conversation and his apparent ignorance to understand what I was actually trying to do.

“Sir,” I continued, “You have a lot to do. I thought that if I were out here, I could help you do all that work. I can help find water, food, and a safe place to sleep. You need me to participate in helping You with your work. Don’t you understand that if I’m out here, I am helping you do the work?”

“Yes, Little One, you are helping me do the work. But so far out here, working on your own, how will I participate in that with you? If you find a place to sleep with shelter and warmth and a soft bed, then what? You have worked yourself apart from me.”

“But, you will have one less thing to do,” I argued.

“And how will you share that with me? You still do not understand who you are to me.”

At this point, my frustration hit a breaking point. Surely he was over-worked in the hot sun to ask such an unbearably simple question!

“Sir, of course I understand who I am to you. I’m a sheep. I’m herded, I’m sheered. I am a member of your flock. I’m a sheep!”

“Little One, are are quite correct. You are a sheep. But that is only what you are. Who you are is of far more importance to me. You see, you are a member of my flock. You live with me, you eat with me. You run, sleep, and travel with me. You learn from me. Your value to me is not as a sheep, but as a member of my flock.”

“Am I not acting as a member of your flock when I’m trying to help you do your work?”

“Yes, Little One. But I do not desire simple participation in my flock. I desire relationship with my flock. You have been distracted by what you are and have forgotten who you are. The goal my my flock is not participation, it’s relationship. I desire to be with you. When you leave me, even if it is to ‘do my work’, you are still apart from me. Do not be distracted by participating in our work and forsake participating in our relationship.

It was as he said this that we arrived back to the flock. I realized that I had been trying to work so hard in accomplishing the tasks of the Shepherd that I forgot about the relationship with my Shepherd. I had been wrong. I had been wrong to get caught up in all the “to-do’s” of membership in the flock and forgot about the relationships within the flock. He didn’t scold me for working, He scolded me for forsaking our relationship.

Quietly, and unbearably ashamed, I said, “Sir, I’m sorry that I went out on my own.”

In reply, he set me down with a smile, embraced me, and called to his friends and neighbors, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep!”

Of brotherly love and silly things Christians say.

I can guarantee that this is the first of many musings on my part brought on by a nice meal, some alone time, and good tunes.  A nice beverage may also have been involved.

The scene is this:  me standing at the kitchen sink with the sponge in my hand staring at the pile of dishes, my beautiful son asleep in his crib – likely with a foot or arm caught between the bars of the crib – and my one-in-a-gagillion–incredible-wife cozy in bed, the single recessed light shining on me like a bluesy spotlight with the sultry growl of Dave Matthew’s in my headphones.

Tonight I had dinner with some amazing people, my son got to play with his day-care-friend AND his church buddy, I got to spend some time with an old college friend and my priest, who is also my Father-co-worker-friend (since we work at the same church, share an office, and have so much of the same humor and vision of ministry), and my wife was able to connect with other incredible professional working moms.

Tomorrow I have a call scheduled with my mother at 9am, and my Tennessee friend at 10am (Pacific Standard Time; another post on the ridiculousness of Daylight Savings Time some other day…)  And at 10am I shall bid adieu to my mom because, frankly, I am excited to chat with my Tennessee friend.  I miss that guy.  And my mom will understand.

…back to the scene with the spot light and Dave Matthew’s… I was embarrassed.  Alone in my gym shorts and plain white Hanes t-shirt, doing the dishes, excited to talk to my friend for so many years, I was embarrassed.  Why?  I suddenly felt so Christian.  Because Christians say the silliest things!  We say things like  “I want to do life together” (this means we like to drink coffee and confess our sins in the afternoon), and “that was some great fellowship” (this means we like to drink coffee and confess our sins in the evening), and “I just want to love on you” (which means we like to drink coffee and you just confessed your sins to me so I’d like to give you a hug).  And this sounds so silly!

Is it because the masculine nature of “secular” has perverted the world of the silly Christian?  I think so.  I think what Christians say sounds silly because the rest of the world is uncomfortable with tenderness.  And those that aren’t Christians are afraid to embrace Jesus because he embodies the totality of sacrifice and tenderness.  Jesus, while pierced and bleeding proclaimed to those that did the piercing, “forgive them,”.  This sounds silly.  And when the Christian that is beaten to the brink of death in the Middle East says to his transgressors, “God loves you, and therefore I shall love you too”, this sounds just plain ridiculous.

So Dave Matthew’s growl persists, “And today, you know that’s good enough for me.  Breathing in and out’s a blessing can’t you see…”  And I thought, ‘what a silly Christian thing to say…’

And I was wrong.  It’s right to understand breath as blessing.  It’s wrong to tell Dave Matthew’s he’s silly and expect him to stop breathing.  It’s right to be excited about talking with my friend.  He was, and still is, an incredible influence in my life.  A lot of my Christian formation happened through his mentorship and friendship.  And tomorrow, while I’m speaking to my mother and the phone rings on the other line, I shall say with much tenderness, “see ya Mom, gotta go…”

Don’t underestimate the tenderness that we experience through Jesus.  And don’t undervalue it either.  Yes, it sounds silly to say things like. “lets do life together” (because literally that’s saying you want to exist in the same room together).  There’s something right to understanding the kingdom of God that necessitates a tender soul and tender disposition.

Just do it, again.

If you happen to work at a church you live in the reality of being in the people business.  Often this is immensely fulfilling.  Other times this is immensely frustrating.

I love working at a church because I get to be in the people business.  I love that my job is centralized around building relationships with the people in my church, inviting them into the life and love of Jesus, and equipping ministry teams to reach those that I, and the rest of the staff, cannot.

It’s a blessing to work with people exploring unique ministry opportunities in our church and community.  Sometimes these opportunities seem overwhelming; we realize there is so much good we could be doing and there are so many people we could be reaching, but we’re missing the mark here or there.

How could you not act?  How could you sit idly by?  So you act.  You do it.  You devise a solution, create a program, hire a person, fulfill the need, meet the opportunity.

And this point is crucial: in the coming days, weeks, or months, it’s quite possible that you realize that this might not have been the best solution.  You may have created an incorrect or poorly planned program.  You may have hired the wrong person.  You might have only partially fulfilled the need, and didn’t quite meet the opportunity.

You were *this close*!  And now in round two, having learned from the previous mistake, you devise a new solution, create a different program, fire the old person and hire a new one, fill in the needs you missed, and close the door on this opportunity.

This is the frustrating piece of being in the people business.  We love people and therefore want to bring them all into the life and love of Jesus.  We want to do all we can to bring them into our community, equip them with the tools to learn and grow, and send them out into their community to bring more.  We see a need or an opportunity and react to meet the need.

Our first question is typically, “How can we meet this need?”  I propose that our first reaction should always be, “Does meeting this need fulfill the vision and mission of organization?”  If you meet this need, does it advance the mission of the kingdom of God?  If the answer is yes, you should do all you can to meet this need the right way.

Too often we live and work with the idea that there’s just not enough time, so we rush the solution.  We hurry from problem A to B because along the way we’ve identified C, D, E, and F and feel it incumbent upon us to solve these problems.  Why is it that in the moment there’s never enough time to do it right., but then after the first solution has failed there always seems enough time to do it over?

Wherever we work, at every need or opportunity we discover, we must always ask, 1) Does meeting this need advance the mission and vision of the organization? and 2) How can we fully meet this need, the first time?

Sometimes the solution is not to act.  Sometimes the fulfillment of the opportunity is to pause, breathe, pray, and discern.  Opportunities do not always necessitate our action.  But alas, we’re in the people business.  It’s really difficult not to act.  So if you must act, just make sure you’re acting rightly.  Make sure your action advances the mission and vision of the organization, or you’ll likely need to revisit it shortly down the road.

Stand. Step. Walk.

Each week in church I hear the summary of the Law.  This might look like recounting the 10 Commandments, but typically we hear the passage from Matthew 22:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Simply put: “Love God and Love Others.”

But how the heck do we actually do that?  How do I participate in loving the humanity that is around me?  To make my case, I shall use my incredible 14-month-old son, Noah.

Day in and day out I’m trying to encourage him to walk.  (Other parents out there are screaming at me, “NOOOO!!!  Crawling is so much easier to manage!)  While it may be true that crawling is easier to manage, I simply cannot wait to go to the park across the street and see his little diaper butt waddle across the field and allow him to approach the playground and play where HE wants to play.  At the moment I’m simply carrying him around and showing him where he is to play.

Walk to the swings, put him in the swings, swing.  Walk to the slide, put him on the slide, he climbs the slide.  Walk back to the swings, put him in the swings, swing.  As entertaining as it is for him and myself, there is no choice on his part to swing, slide, or swing again.  It’s one-sided participation.  I know he can participate more fully.

So I take his arms, he stands, and we walkwalkwalkwalkwalk! (this actually what we say to encourage him every step he takes.)  Each day he is more and more confident and takes further and further adventures from couch to chair to footstool to gate.  Each day contains more progress.  He sees other kids walk and is entranced, he sees Mommy and Daddy walk and is excited.  He stands and takes a couple confident – yet wobbly – steps and down he goes with a diaper padding his fall.

Yet he still tries.  And why?  Because there is a tangible example of what walking looks like and he desires to participate in this activity.

Now, who we understand Jesus to be severely impacts our ability to follow his activity of loving God and loving others.  Unfortunately, I often hear the commandment to “love God and love others” framed within the context that this how God wants us to live because that’s what heaven is going to be like.  While I have no disagreements with the fact that heaven will redeem the world and we will be in perfect love with God and creation, I have major issues with simply framing Jesus’ greatest commandment as something that is only heaven facing.

Jesus came in such a way that contradicts this message and framing of the greatest commandment.  The opening sentences of the Gospel of John make this clear, “The Word was with God and the Word was God…the Word was made flesh and dwelt among man…”

Jesus, the actual historical human, lived and breathed in an actual living and breathing culture.  The historical references to the human Jesus are countless.  And John helps to explain that Jesus was the Word (Logos) and that this Word actually dwelt with man.  Completely divine, and completely human.  One what, two who’s.

Jesus lived and breathed this example of perfect humanity to show us that perfect humanity was possible now.  Yes, sin and evil make it incredibly difficult, but Jesus existed as the perfect human giving us a real example of what perfect humanity looked like.  If Jesus were simply one what and one who (the Word without the flesh), we would not have the tangible, living, breathing example of what it looks like to love God and love others.

And then what would we look to?  What would be left?  We would forever be crawling around the world hoping to attain the only other example of what God deemed righteous…Noah and Enoch and those dudes.  We’d have to grow beards and kill birds, and not eat meat, and….really we don’t know.  Without Jesus we would have absolutely no idea how to fulfill this commandment of Loving God and Loving Others.  We would simply see the commandment as a heavenly reality that nice to try on earth, but wasn’t really intended.

Thankfully the Word was made flesh.  Thankfully we know what it looks like, we’ve heard the words of the living, breathing, actual human that lived the example of perfect humanity.  We know how to love humanity because Jesus showed us how.  Not because the only real love is in heaven and therefore we need to practice before we get there, but because humanity is living and breathing around us.  Jesus desires that we participate in this humanity like he showed us how.

How do you love your neighbor?  Do you know your neighbor exists?  Do you know that Jesus existed in the world just as your neighbor did?  The incredible thing is that Jesus also existed as God.  So Jesus – commanding the world to Love God and Love Others – was simply saying, “Do as I do. Take my hand.  Lets walkwalkwalkwalkwalk.

First Impressions

The first impression is critical.  Is my title clear and engaging?  Is it easy to navigate the webpage?  Are there *speling* errors or haphazard posts?  While you’re here do you want to explore more, or just get in and get out?

Recently I read an article by Church Community Builder on assimilation.  The article addresses the question: how do you introduce others to what your doing and how do they continue to engage with it?  There are countless articles and books trying to promote systems of engagement to your church, i.e.: this, or this, or this and many more.

Some have of goofy parking attendants, free coffee tumblers, or a ‘coupon’ to a free Bible with purchase of a latte. (Maybe not the last one, but I wouldn’t be surprised.)

There is so much happening at the first impression. What are you doing to make the experience extraordinary?  By this, I do not mean the Disneyland experience of lights and sounds and balloons; I ask, how do you make the experience of your church better than the ordinary life we see the other six days of the week?

Theres two two avenues that need to be addressed: the passive experience and the active experience. I’ve recently been visiting churches in our area to explore what it’s like to be a guest on another campus.  I’ve gotten so accustomed to being a member of St. Matthews Church that everything is familiar. Thus, the church explorations.

I look at signage, I try to understand the welcome experience, I read printed material, I note how many trash cans there are; but most importantly, I ask two people, an ‘usher-looking-person and a regular-looking-person, “Where’s the restroom?”  If there’s one thing that can define a newbie, it’s asking where the restrooms are.

So, let’s look at this experience as a whole.  Even if all the passive elements were stellar (clear signage, clean facility, unlocked doors, etc.) this active moment of first impression will make or break my experience at the church.  The responses I’ve received have blown me away.  Official ushers – name badges and all – have simply stared over my shoulder while pointing at an unseen door, directing me like the folks at an airport.  People have told me the general “that way” or “over there”.   All of the responses have left me longing for more.  More engagement, more hospitality, more understanding of the value of this question.  The extraordinary response would be, “Good morning, my name is Brian. They’re right over here, I’ll show you. What’s your name?”

We’ve taken a moment where you just needed to pee, into an opportunity for me to show you that I’m thankful you were there and I care about you and your experience here.  This is critical!  Often we hear that we want to be a church that cares about people.  That must always be communicated within the framework of “we care about you, therefore we care about your experience here.”  Sadly, the second part of that is too often undervalued.

We get used the the experience and stop evaluating it.  We use insider knowledge of terms (“the adult education class is upstairs in the library“, said in a building that seemingly only has one floor), we offer coffee  after service without invitation or expectation (it’s just out on a table with nobody to welcome or invite you to break bread….you are just expected to follow to stream of people), or we offer a fantastic experience with no forum for follow-up and a continued relationship (people leave hoping for more, but are never found).

When we zoom out of this first impression, the weight of the moment is staggering.  The continuation of the mission of the church is dependent on getting more and more people involved and invested.  Does the first impression of your church communicate the value you see in people?  The first impression does not stop with just first time guests; are you continuing to communicate to members, attendees, friends, and guests that we care about you, therefore we care about your experience here.


Standing inside the "Welcome Center" of a church, not quite welcomed.
Standing inside the “Welcome Center” of a church, not quite welcomed.
The assimilation process begins with a person’s first visit to the church (for any reason) and ends when that person becomes connected to and engaged with the people, ministries, and programs that drive the mission. – Church Community Builder: “The Assimilation Engine

Welcome to

For the past few months I’ve desired to have a venue to connect with a broader sphere of influence.  Social venues like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Path, or Instagram have their pros and cons, but after time there’s just so much noise.  Plus, I would like to process some thoughts in more than 140 characters.  So here we are. my general musings.  This will be space for thoughts and ideas within the scope of my life: fatherhood, marriage, grad school, the life of the church, and ministry in Southern California.