WestWay Staff’s 2011 Study/Learning Highlights

(That could quite possibly be the most horrible post title ever, but there’s really nothing else to call a post like this, so… you’re stuck with it.)

At the end of last year, I asked the rest of the staff here at WestWay for some lists of what had impacted them over the past 12 months or so. I intended to make it sort of an end of the year summary, but that went the way of most of my family Christmas letters and was unfinished until now. Instead of just giving you a list of stuff we read, maybe this can open a discussion in your own life. What’s God been showing you lately? What’s He using to do that?

I asked each of the guys, “What authors/books stood out to you from this year’s reading? How did God use them to shape your heart and your ministry? What speakers is God using in your life right now?” I want to share with you below some of what God has been showing us. Some of these resources would be a great place for you to continue your own growth as well. Get a few friends together and dig in.

Joe replied that he’d enjoyed an online audio series on the book of Revelation. The series was led by Shane Wood and can be found here in the free audio resources section. I also know that Joe enjoyed Mark Moore’s Acts series that can be found at that same site a while back. If you’re looking for some great teaching about the early church, and what it means to us 2000 years later, this is a great place to start. Joe also spent some time this year listening to messages from Francis Chan and Mark Driscoll, and he commented that “Their love and passion for taking Christ to the lost is contagious.”

In his reading this year, Joe mentioned Soul Cravings from Erwin McManus, Elijah from Charles Swindoll, and Max on Life from Max Lucado. He noted that what stood out in these books was how God is in control and we can be willing even when we don’t understand all the details of what He’s doing.

Willie noted Max DePree’s Leading Without Power, Jim Putman’s Church is a Team Sport, Mike Cope’s One Holy Hunger, and Juan Carlos Ortiz’s Disciple. He said he was also encouraged or challenged by messages from Shane Philip of The Crossing in Las Vegas, Andy Stanley of North Point, Steven Furtick from Elevation Church, Erwin McManus of Mosaic, Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill, and Tom Gerdts of Rockingham Christian Church.

Shane said that 4 books came to mind:
The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning was a great reminder that God’s love and grace are so much bigger than our self-doubt and hate and shame. He desires the best for us.
Radical from David Platt and Sun Stand Still from Steven Furtick were both used to teach that God is strong and mighty and desires us to join Him in His holy plan. We need to follow and obey to the best of our abilities and depend on Him for the impossible.
Activate from Nelson Searcy and Kerrick Thomas was a very practical book in planning for small groups ministry.

Marshall said, “I only read the red letters.” Just kidding – he didn’t say that at all. He did mention Celebration of Discipline from Foster, which he called the “best spiritual growth book I have studied,” and Terry Bowland’s Make Disciples (which offered some help understanding some steps to grow in our own discipline & help others at the same time).

For my own part, I’d put Platt’s Radical at the top of the list. I haven’t commented much about this book here because I’m still chewing on the implications, but this was definitely the highest impact book I read this year. It’s very challenging to someone like me whose grown up in the church and just accepted as normal some things that Jesus would probably rather do without in His church. The American Dream has blurred the vision of the North American church in ways that we have to correct. Now. What kingdom are we working to build? This is a great book that you should read.

I also liked 10 Stupid Things That Keep Churches from Growing from Geoff Surratt. If you’re serving the church in any kind of leadership capacity, it’s a good look at some things to avoid. I posted more about it in a series of posts

I didn’t ask about it, but if I had added film category, Love Costs Everything would be at the top of my list. It’s an eye opening look at what it’s like to follow Jesus in parts of the world where doing so is not the norm, but rather is a dangerous & persecuted act. We’ll be showing the film here at WestWay on March 11th.

“Love Costs Every Thing” Trailer from CIY Move on Vimeo.

If I had to pick a theme from all of this from our staff, it would be digging in to the question of what it really means to be a disciple of Jesus. Pray with me that in 2012 we’ll continue digging and finding what God wants to show us.

So, what’s God teaching you?

Don’t Just Stand There

It was a huge mess. After watching their oppressors being hounded by bloody water, frogs, flies, gnats, hail, dying animals, locusts up the wazoo, darkness, festering sores all over their bodies, and the deaths of their firstborn sons… now they were free. Well, they were on the edge of the wilderness loaded down with loot, with no homes to which to return, but at least they weren’t slaves anymore, right? Then it all started to look really bad…

Camped along the shore of the Red Sea, happy to be out of Egypt, the Hebrews looked out in the distance and saw the Egyptian army marching toward them. In terror at the realization that they were stuck between an army bent on their destruction and a Sea that left nowhere to run, they cried out to God and turned on Moses. “Why did you lead us here? We could have died just as well in Egypt! Why couldn’t you have just left us alone?”

Moses kept a calmer head and offered what seemed to him to be good advice, “Don’t be afraid of them, just stand firm and watch what God will do. He’ll fight for you, just be quiet and watch.” Doesn’t that sound comforting? “God’s led us here & it’s His fight – just watch.” I’ve got to admire Moses’ trust in God at this point. He knew that God had led them there, and he knew that God would deliver them. But his fight or flight response must have been broken by the burning bush experience or something. When the army’s coming after you and you’ve got nothing with which to defend yourself, you run! Hide! Hey, maybe you pick up some rocks and prepare to do your best to buy some time for your wife and kids to get to safety, but you don’t just stand there!

“The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.” Those are the words (NASB) Moses said to the people in the face of certain death. Does that not sound crazy to anyone else? I bet it did to a lot of them! Now, several thousand years later, we know he was right. We know what they could scarcely hope for as they stood near the sea, waiting to die. God did rescue them. But He saw the whole episode a little differently than Moses did. He said to Moses, “Why are you crying to me? Tell the people to get moving!” Essentially, He said “Don’t just stand there dummy. Go!”

Sometimes, we’re tempted to think there’s nothing we can do to make a situation better. We’re stuck, and we think the only thing we can do is sit there and cry (to God?). Or maybe we think we need to just wait out the storm and perhaps, somehow the impending army won’t crush us and we’ll survive. So, we whimper on the shore when God’s ready to break open the waters and let us escape to life with Him – if we’d only get moving… 

I don’t mean to make light of asking God for help – we do need to be desperate for Him to rescue us. Some of us need to be a whole lot less self-reliant. But we also need to get moving. When God tells us to move forward, into that brick wall, or perilous sea, or whatever obstacle is in the way… we need to get moving!

I wonder if Jesus had something like that in mind when He told Peter that He was going to build a church that even the gates of hell couldn’t stop? When He told His disciples to “Go into all the world…” did He hear His Father’s words to Moses echoing through time, beckoning this tiny band of misfits to turn the world upside down? 

Church, are we stuck between the army and the sea, just waiting for God to do something? Are we desperate for God to act on our behalf? Maybe it’s time that, in our desperation, we move AND see Him act… Maybe it’s time to take that first step toward the water. It sure beats dying on the shoreline. May we charge the gates He’s brought us to, following Him as He’s led the charge on His mission to rescue and reconcile.

12 in ’12 Tuesday

12 in ’12 is a series of posts talking about life in youth ministry with a 12 year old in the family this year.
This weekend, Emily got to go to her first Winter White Wash. It’s a ski retreat we take our Middle School and High School students to each year. This year, we skied at Snowy Range just outside Laramie, and had the main sessions at the new building of White Water Christian Church. (It’s awesome to see this new church continue to develop.) Emily wasn’t a huge fan of the whole skiing thing, but had fun the rest of the time. I’m tearing her away from the Republican debate to answer a few questions for you. Just for clarity’s sake, my comments/questions are italicized and Emily’s answers are in bold. (Like you wouldn’t have figured that out!)

What was the best part of the weekend?
   Pretty much the entire weekend was fun. NOT skiing though. I got ran over by a guy on a snowboard. It hurt. Very bad. [At least the kid felt guilty about it – I think he may have been crying as bad as you were.]

What was it like being the only 6th Grader in our group? Terrible I bet, no one to talk to at all, right?
    Actually, it wasn’t that bad. Most of the time I hung out with the high school girls. And some 6TH GRADE friends from Bayard. […and Laramie, and some tiny place with no name, and some kid from Rapid, and… I told you not to worry about it.]

How was the van ride? I heard your driver was pretty awesome.
     The van ride was fun. Except when we got caught in a blizzard (Not the DQ kind) and couldn’t see anything. Except white. It was scary. And by the way, the driver wasn’t that awesome. (It was you, Dad!) [I know! And I thought it was pretty good driving for not being able to see ANYTHING.]

How was it being the daughter of the youth pastor? Any specific challenges to being my kid? Or benefits?
      It’s OK being the daughter of the youth pastor. Not really any challenges. There are benefits though. Like you paid for my lunch even though I had my own money. And I know all the songs on your iTunes list and I can bug you until you play Lecrae. [It doesn’t really take a whole lot of bugging to get me to play Lecrae. He’s awesome. I’m sure there will be some challenges sooner or later – but I’m sure you’ll be up for them, too. Oh, and you owe me a lunch!]

Any advice for other youth ministers who are taking their kids on trips with their youth groups?
       The only advice I have is: Don’t embarrass them or they’ll just embarrass you right back. And trust me, you don’t want to be embarrassed by a Jr. High or High School kid. [Is that a threat? Alright, go to bed young lady, right now.]

Winter White Wash 2012 Day 2

 What is our focus? What are the things for which we hunger and thirst?
Today was Emily’s first skiing experience. Conditions weren’t great for first time skiing, but she gave it a go anyway. After lunch I talked her into one last run on the bigger slopes, but on the way down, there were a few places that were a little more steep than she thought she bargained for. (I may or may not have given full disclosure before I got her on the chair lift…) To keep her from taking off her skis and walking the rest of the way down, I skied backwards right in front of her and tried to keep her looking at me instead of the “gently rolling slope” behind me.

It reminds me of life with Jesus. When I chase after anything but Him, it’s easy to notice a lot of stuff around me that I know I can’t handle. It’s easy to get all wrapped up in my own “stuff”. (By the way, if you don’t notice anything that you can’t handle in life, you probably need to let your Dad coax you off the bunny slope for a change of pace…)

It is the living water of Jesus’ transforming power that we should be chasing. It’s only His provision that will really satisfy. We need to be “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 NASB) Let’s be done playing the game.

Winter White Wash 2012

 After what had to be one of the most wind blown drives I’ve had, we made it to Laramie for Winter White Wash. Hopefully the skiing will be good tomorrow, but even if not, the first session has been a blessing for our students.

We’re looking at Matthew 5:6, where Jesus said those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled. What does it mean to be filled? What is it that can really offer the satisfaction humanity craves?
The wind blowing the van around the road always reminds me of the Holy Spirit. You can’t control it, you can’t really make it do what you want it to do… You can fight it, but do you ever really win? But could we simply surrender to Him and let Him move us wherever He wants to move us?

Would we find there what we’ve been looking for all along?

12 in ’12 Tuesday – Launching

12 in ’12 is a series of posts talking about life in youth ministry with a 12 year old in the family this year.

Our twelve year old, Emily, has entered Middle School, which puts her into the youth category as far as our church’s ministry is structured. Actually, we are pretty flexible with our 6th graders, and most of them have some involvement in both the youth ministry and children’s ministry. As a first born, Emily’s always thought of herself as a few years older than reality says she is, so she’s been eager to get to be a part of the student group that I oversee.

As her father, I probably see her a couple years younger than reality says she is! This can cause some tension as she strains to exercise a growing amount of independence, so I’m trying to think of this in rubber band terms. She’s stretching out, I’m holding on, and when I let go, she’s going to fly. My job, as both a youth pastor and a dad, is to make sure that flight is a healthy one in a couple ways:

1. She needs to land where God’s intended her to go. Right now, as I hold on, I can still assert some influence. I can still “aim” her in the right direction. Once the launch sequence has reached its end and the tension is released to be kinetic – her flight path is largely decided. I need to make sure she’s learning how to handle the tools she’ll need to make course corrections on her own. Mostly, that means asking the question, “Does she know how to recognize God’s voice and is she willing to do what He says?” and doing everything I can to make sure the answer is “Yes.”

2. I need to also make sure the tension created as she’s pulling away isn’t so great that the rubber band snaps. I see so many parents hold on so tightly that when launch day comes, the excitement fizzles quickly and their kids are shackled by the doubts and fears their parents have unwittingly planted by refusing to let them make any choices of their own. Sadly, these flights look more like a balloon with all the air let out, often ending up in a stretched out shell of what could have been, lying around on the basement floor.

So how is a parent (or youth pastor) supposed to manage this tension? Here are a few critical questions to help:

  • Am I helping my kids understand God’s Word? If they can’t recognize His voice there, they’re not likely to recognize it in their day to day living either.
  • Can they see that I am following? If I’m telling my kids to listen and follow, they need to be able to tell that I’m doing what I’m doing because it’s what God wants done. (i.e. I didn’t stop and help the guy that was stuck just because I’m such a nice guy – but because God wanted him to be helped and I was there.)
  • Have I established clear boundaries within which my kids feel confident in making decisions? My 5 year old wants to go ride her bike. She may ride as she pleases, as long as she stays in the driveway. My 12 year old’s bike ride boundaries have extended far beyond the driveway, along with her capacity to make good decisions about where to go and where to not go. Most kids don’t misbehave because they’re bad – it’s because they don’t know where the boundaries are. Clear boundaries early in life really help kids later on.
  • Do I realize whose kids these really are? This may be the toughest question of all. Last night we caught a couple minutes of The Bachelor waiting for the next show to come on. (Horrible show, by the way – why would anyone think that situation would work out to be anything other than the emotional train wreck that it is? I digress…) Emily was sitting next to me on the couch and I found myself getting defensive on her behalf. “If you ever let a guy treat you the way he’s treating those girls, I will hunt him down…” actually came out of my mouth. But as much as I love and want to protect my kids, someone else’s image is stamped much deeper in their lives than mine is. Our Father has a capacity to love and protect His own far greater than mine will ever be. We need to trust God with His kids.

How else have you seen parents preparing their kids for launch?

Hypothetically Church

Let’s play a little hypothetical Monday afternoon:

Imagine with me… a group of people, mostly in their mid to late 20’s, living in the same apartment complex near the hospital where most of them work. There are a handful of single med students, several newlywed couples, a few widows & widowers, and even a couple families with young children (though, their apartments are getting a bit crowded so one of them may be moving out soon to a place with a yard where their kids can play).

It’s not a huge complex, so they see each other often, and there seem to be several running conversations in the group that are always picked up and left off as they pass in the hall and hang out in the lobby. These people know each other really well. It’s not uncommon at all to see one of the younger set helping out the older folks by carrying groceries or doing whatever else may be needed. The youngest kids talk excitedly about the grandmas and grandpas they have in the building, and if you had to guess, you’d probably think they really were family. And they are… just not in the way that has anything to do with genetics or legal agreements.

I go to church in their neighborhood, and have visited their building a couple times. When Bill got sick and had to retire from his work in the hospital’s ER, they threw him one of the coolest retirement parties I’ve seen. It was amazing to see people whose lives Bill had saved or whose broken arms he’d set get together and talk about what a difference he’d made to each of them. He never stopped at just the basic care they’d expected. The apartment crew, as I’ve come to call them, also went way above and beyond to celebrate Bill’s work over the years. The extra mile seems to be a pattern for all of them.

These people really seem to love each other, too. They don’t just live in the same space, they genuinely and excessively care about the well being of each one in their community. Several times a week, all of them who can get there will share a meal together in the courtyard (or the lobby when it’s cold), and no one ever eats alone.  I was surprised at one visit to hear them talking about some Bible passages they’d read lately, and how it motivated them to love even others outside their community the same way they loved each other. They’ve taken the word neighbor to a whole new level…

My neighborhood’s not like that, so I pressed them once about what the difference was. They said the difference was that they’d each committed to loving Jesus, loving others, and doing the things Jesus said to do – which I thought was kind of odd because most of them hardly ever go to church. I asked why they don’t go to church and they said they’d each chosen to work Sunday morning shifts so that other people could go if they wanted to. They did point out that they had been taking turns leading devotions in the lobby every morning before the kids had to be at school, and they’d built a prayer wall in one of the halls where they’d post stuff to pray about with each other. They showed me the board, full of notes from just about every one in the building.

As I visited yesterday, one note in particular really hit me. It was from Jake, one of the boys who may be moving soon. He only asked for two things:

  • That they could find a house big enough for the whole family. By the picture he drew with the note, I could tell ‘family’ didn’t just mean his brother and parents!
  • That moving to a house didn’t mean they’d have to stop helping at the homeless shelter the ‘family’ had started around the corner from their building.
Leaving the apartments, I noticed our church building just down the block. The parking lot was empty and I knew the doors would be locked, but I walked down anyway and sat down on the steps for a bit. I couldn’t help but wondering about myself and all my friends that get together here every Sunday. We talk about Bible passages and sing songs telling God how awesome He is and how much we love Him. We pray together and some of us chat a little bit after services. But then we all go home and mostly don’t see much of each other until next Sunday. I think we’re trying to love Jesus in all of this, but the more time I spend with those people in the apartment building down the street, the more I wonder if we might be missing something.

Why is our group called ‘church’ but theirs is not?

Just a quick, non-hypothetical point: This is not about the guy who claims to be worshiping God in nature because he’d rather go golfing on Sunday mornings. It’s not about Justin Bieber saying he doesn’t have to go to church because somebody else just religiously goes to church to go to church (more perspective on that here from Scot McKnight & Dan Kimball). It’s about the essence of church. When you strip everything away that’s superfluous in the church, what’s still there? I know this apartment dwelling group is fictitious. But the question remains: should it be?

Driscolls’ Real Marriage – Review

Last week, I received a free copy of Mark & Grace Driscoll’s Real Marriage from BookSneeze. Basically, the publisher sends bloggers free books in exchange for their honest reviews. (I haven’t been required to give a positive review, just honest feedback.)

Having been married for 17 years, I’m always interested in teaching that deals with life together as husband & wife. We want our marriage to be continually growing, and that doesn’t just happen by accident. Having worked in the church for most of that time, I’m also always looking for resources to help me help young people prepare for that life together as well. In addition to these reasons, I am usually pretty challenged by Driscoll’s forthright approach, so was looking forward to the book.

It’s broken into 3 sections, and while the 2nd one will get all the attention and spark a lot of debate (it’s the section primarily about sex), I found a lot of more practical teaching in the 1st section, and some great points of discussion in the 3rd.

Part 1 is essentially focused on the relational aspect of marriage. It talks about improving your marriage by being a better friend to your spouse, understanding differences you may have with your spouse, and dealing together with the sin in your lives. There’s a great emphasis on being more than just two people living parallel lives.

As I mentioned, Part 2 is about sex. I wonder how many readers will be either so distracted (because they’re too focused on sex) or offended (because they don’t want to hear anything about sex, or at least not that much) by this section that they’ll miss out on a lot of really good stuff in the rest of the book. The Driscoll’s didn’t write to avoid criticism, so this section will be too much for some. Which is too bad, because the book has some helpful things to say about this important part of the marriage relationship. While many in the church are uncomfortable talking about sex, this section will probably swing the pendulum too far for some to find the real message.

Part 3 makes the point that the most important day of your marriage is the last one. This is a point I could not agree with more, and one that I emphasize with young couples a lot. Our culture places so much focus on the wedding day… but what about the last day? Will it be full of regrets or bitterness? Or will it be a day where life together can be celebrated even amidst the sorrow of the death of a spouse? The Driscolls give a great list of questions for couples to discuss as they seek to live a life that makes the last day the best day. This section of the book will lead to some great (if difficult) discussions and in my opinion is the highlight of the book. It’s unfortunate that many will stop reading before they get here, or won’t be willing to do the work to actually have this conversation.

Some critics will be put off by the Driscolls’ frankness when it comes to talking about sex, but overall, I think Real Marriage could be a very useful tool. Going through the last chapter alone could be invaluable in helping young couples avoid becoming just one more set in the discard pile of broken marriages.

Please Don’t Call It A Miracle

I’ll try to keep this short, for my non football following friends… If you missed the Broncos-Steelers wildcard game yesterday, you missed something pretty awesome. A Broncos team that lost it’s last 3 games pulled out the victory over a defense built to force what everyone said the Broncos couldn’t do. The Steelers have been stopping the run all year long, and the Broncos have consistently depended on their run. The Broncos managed to plug away for about 130 yards, but had none of the huge back breaking type of runs that seem to have become a staple again this season. They HAD to be able to pass.

And they did. Broncos receivers caught 316 yards of Tebow passes, including several HUGE connections. They finally exorcised their 2nd Quarter demons and scored 20 points in that quarter alone. Despite holding a lead going into the half, the Steelers worked their way back into the game and tied it up by the end of regulation.

For the first time in the league, the new overtime rules would be in effect: no more sudden death in the playoffs. Each team would swap possessions – UNLESS the team with the first possession scored a touchdown. Should that happen, the game would be over. It took the referee a while to explain… then Denver won the toss & chose to receive the ball. They started at the 20, where Tebow threw a great 15 yard pass to Thomas that sailed precisely where it needed to be. Thomas pushed his way away from the defender and outran the safety to the corner of the end zone 65 yards away. TD. 11 seconds off the clock. Game Over.

I’m a big Broncos fan, so the excitement level here was pretty high. But almost immediately, a thought came to mind that made me groan: they’re going to call this a miracle. All season long we’ve heard how Tebow isn’t an NFL quarterback, then how he can’t even throw a football, then how he can’t win in the NFL, then how he can’t win consistently, then how he’ll never make the playoffs, then how there’s no way he can win in the playoffs… it makes you wonder what they’ll say next. (At some point you’d think people would stop embarrassing themselves with their claims of what can’t be done by a VERY determined young man.) A lot of people have uncritically bought into the dominant media meme about what Tebow can’t do…

So a win like this is called miraculous. There’s no other explanation, right? Only divine intervention in the natural order of all things NFL could account for this kind outcome, right? Wrong. Please don’t call it a miracle. It discounts a lot of hard work that’s been done by players and coaches to make it to this point… It ignores the way this team has pulled together and united to win football games… It ignores a game turning horrible call that allowed the Steelers to score on a drive that should’ve ended with a fumbled lateral toss… It ignores a dropped interception by All-Pro, future Hall of Fame cornerback, Champ Bailey that would’ve crushed the Steelers late game hopes…  It ignores the fact the men of God were roaming both sides of the field… This was no miracle. This was the result of a LOT of hard work, good planning, and gameday execution.

Again, I’m a big Broncos fan. I have Tebow’s biography on my table right now – I’m a fan of his, too. Above that, I’m a follower of Jesus and owe Him everything – I always want to give credit where it’s due. But to make a big deal about whether God is on the Broncos side and how Tebow threw for exactly 316 yards and his favorite verse is John 3:16 is just ridiculous.

Church friends, don’t make yourself look silly, if God really was for the Broncos, he’d throw for 316 yards every game, right?

Football friends, please don’t call it a miracle.

Broncos friends – Enjoy the postseason!

(Sorry, I guess I lied about the ‘keeping it short’ thing…)

A Church Planting Mindset in Youth Ministry

I read a great question on twitter the other day from Eric Bryantwho oversees the leadership team at Mosaic in Los Angeles (Eric is now a part of the team teaching and leading at Gateway Church in the Austin, TX area). He asked something to the effect of “If you were planting a church with the same number of people you have at your church and with your current income, what would you do?” I ponder this question on a couple different levels:

1. How would WestWay be different if we had a team of 300 church planters instead of 300 attenders? How would our system (the way things get done) have to change to support that kind of mentality? One of the things that I think would have to change is the under-utilization of gifts in the church. We need to do better at helping people maximize the gifts God is giving them. Instead of recruiting volunteers to fill the positions to maintain what we’re already doing, we would channel energy into developing, empowering, and releasing leaders to do ministry as the church. (Also, I’m not sure a church planting team of 300 people would only be planting one church at a time!)
2. What if I really viewed the students and adults involved in the student ministry as a church planting team? Could we effectively plant a church within a church in a healthy way that doesn’t just start separate churches for separate ages? Again, our system would need to shift from thinking about filling volunteer slots to unleashing creative leadership. Helping students identify and develop their gifts and channel their passion into Kingdom ventures would be vastly more important than talking more kids into going to camp every summer. The expectation of and dependence on God to be at work among us would have to be cultivated to become strong enough to quash the apathy that invades the soul of so much of youth culture… and that would be a very good thing.
I originally wrote this post about 2 years ago. It keeps getting visits, so I wanted to update it a little bit, but as I started to do that, I began to evaluate as well. What’s changed in the last 2 years?
– While adult attendance on Sundays has dropped lately, our Wed. night Middle School & High School group is 2 – 3 times larger in terms of attendance. The low count weeks are higher than previous highs. While there are still weeks when I feel like no one’s paying a whole lot of attention (to me or to what God has to say that night), they’re much less frequent.
– Students aren’t just “bringing friends to youth group” but are actively sharing Christ with them outside of our organized meeting times/activities. But I wouldn’t quite say they are passionately engaged in being a church planting group.
– There is a strong group of students that are committed to living by faith, but many of the students are still mostly concerned with their own little worlds. A lot of eyes & hearts are still pretty focused on themselves. We’re not “there” yet…

And so, I continue to ask: If I were planting a church with the same number of people I currently have, what would I do? Have I really wrestled with this question deeply enough to have forged convictions that make a difference? How would things be different if I viewed my 50 – 60 students as a team of 50-60 church planters?