Our Staff just completed a 2 day Staff Advance (Elevation Church never retreats). We prayed and planned through our goals and plans for the fall. God is about to do awesome things. I asked my staff, “What was the greatest thing God impressed on your heart at staff advance?” Today you can read their answers all day long in the twitter section on this side bar of this blog.
I think I’m schizophrenic:
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
Elijah and I had a great time playing Wave Jumper at the beach last week.
Here’s a brief description of this sensational new game:
I stand behind Elijah, hold on to both of his wrists high above his head, and take him out to the place where the water hits his chest. When the wave comes, I jerk him up high enough that the water doesn’t cover his face or get in his ears. He then laughs uncontrollably, and proudly screams at the top of his lungs:
“I’m the Wave Jumper! Let’s jump another wave Daddy!”
And we jump another one, and another one, and another one…
I didn’t have the heart or feel the need to explain to my almost 3 year old son that technically, he’s not the wave jumper. Daddy is the wave jumper. He should probably scream something more like:
“I’m the Hand Holder”. I’m the one doing the heavy lifting here!
In actuality, here’s his only job in this partnership: to keep his hands in my hands, and trust that when the wave comes, I’ll lift him up high above it.
That’ll preach, won’t it?
When Israel was approaching the deep waters of the Red Sea, Moses reminded them:
“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
God will do the heavy lifting as the high tide closes in. He only requires that we have the faith to go out as deep as He dares to lead us.
If life has got you in some deep water right now, one of the worst things you can do is thrash around and try to jump the waves yourself. The only thing worse than that is to sit around on the shore and miss out on the action because you don’t want to get in over your head.
Grab on to God with all you’ve got. Have faith that He can lift you high above your circumstances and fears. He usually doesn’t do it until the wave is just about to wash over you. And that’s the best part-
I haven’t told too many people about this yet, so let’s keep it quiet, please-just between us.
This Sunday marked the first time in 2 and a half years that I have been gone from Elevation 2 Sundays in a row. I knew I was in full fledged preaching withdrawal last Wednesday morning at the beach when I woke up at 3:30 AM. I couldn’t go back to sleep for some reason, and after a sufficient attempt to fight it, I gave up and walked out to the beach.
I know a lot of people go to the mountains to hear from God. For me, the beach is a superior setting. The size of ocean makes a good backdrop for me to think about how big God is compared to whatever I’m praying about. And since I have a hard time with silence and stillness, the noise and motion of the waves creates the perfect soundtrack for me to reflect.
I also like how, presumably, no one can hear me praying out loud over the volume of the waves.
And there I was, praying out loud way too early Wednesday morning on the beach, and at some point, I crossed over and realized I wasn’t praying anymore. I was actually preaching a sermon. To myself and the waves, and the shells, because there wasn’t another soul in sight.
The altar call must have been powerful, because the waves just kept coming forward.
I don’t know if I’ve fully experienced Jeremiah 20:9 yet in my short ministry:
But if I say, “I will not mention him
or speak any more in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot.
But I can say now that I love my job so much, I’ve preached a sermon out loud, to nobody, on the beach, before 5 am, because I physically miss my pulpit at Elevation just that much.
Does this make me crazy?
This morning, I ate breakfast and went to church in Greenville, South Carolina with my friend Perry while he preached for me in Charlotte. Meanwhile, our friend Craig Groeschel preached for Perry at his church back in Anderson, without ever getting on a plane.
And during all of this, the three of us, along with dozens of other men of God, had the privilege to take part in ministry in over 1300 churches across the globe.
We live in an unprecedented day for the unity of the body of Christ.
If this generation of pastors will keep moving forward in lockstep, the gates of hell don’t stand a chance.
Nothing is impossible.
Last week I followed some advice from a good friend and left town for several days-all alone. My purpose was to rest, try to get rid of a 7 week cough, hear from God, pray through all the stuff we’re asking God to do this Fall, drill down on upcoming sermons, gear up for our staff advance later this month, listen to other preachers, read some of the books I’ve bought and neglected over the last 3 months, and think through some ideas for my first book, which I’m finally getting (kind of) serious about writing.
Thanks to my friend Bill, I stayed in a sweet crib on the best street in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, near my old stomping grounds. Holly came down for a night because I knew I’d have withdrawals and start getting depressed if she didn’t, thus defeating the purpose of my time away.
I was talking to one of my friends about how hard it was going to be for me to scale back on preaching and time in the office in the month of June. I like what he said back:
Watch out July.
Don’t Look at Your Feet
I ran cross-country in high school. We did pretty well too – we won 3 state championships in a row my sophomore, junior and senior year. And then, after I graduated, the team went on to win the next 8 years in a row. And when a team builds a dynasty like that, it’s much more than good running – it can only be because of good coaching. Our coach, Coach Johnson, who is now in his 80′s, spent the better 3/4 of his life coaching high school track and cross country – so when he gave running advice, it tended to be in our best interest to listen.
He’d tell us things like make sure our arms swung by our sides, not across our chest, so we could breath better. He’d tell us to run with our feet landing directly beneath us for a smoother stride. But the best advice he ever gave me was to never look at my feet…which is pretty funny considering that running is all about your feet. His point though, was not that your feet weren’t important, but when you focused on them, you lost sight of the race. He said run with your head up, always looking ahead on the course. When you look at your feet, you begin to self-critique – you think of how tired your legs are or how you’re not really that great of a runner and maybe this race just wasn’t your race. And once you break down mentally in your running, you might as well just cash in your chips.
And it wasn’t until years later that I saw this advice move from a running tip to life analogy. For most of us, its really easy to be critical of yourself – how much better you could be, and how there are always people who are better than you at what you do – whether it’s your job or your relationships or whatever.
As the graphic designer at Elevation, it ‘s so easy for me to be hard on myself as I try to bring the vision Pastor Steven has been given to life. I’ll look down, see how unworthy I am to do what I do, but then it hits me – the race is so much bigger than me. It’s not about my feet. The vision goes beyond my ability and my agenda and if I lose sight of that, my work, and my general mindset will start to tank. But when I look up, and look out and see where I am, and see where God has placed me in life – not for my ability, but for his purpose – I just run better. Just watch out for shin splints, because I have no idea how to fix those things.
-Ryan Hollingsworth, Graphic Designer
“Die to the dream of being a success and live to be a blessing-”
I heard Pastor Matthew Barnett say this a year ago. I never forgot it. That may not even be the exact quote, but I’m pretty sure I nailed the main idea. Now if only I could put it into practice.
Too much of our (ok, I don’t know about you, but at least my) time and energy is invested in our ambition to arrive. To make it. To prove “them” wrong. To prove myself competent.
For pastors, this success is often defined by an attendance number. Our self worth is subtly wrapped up in “how many ya runnin?“.
WARNING: when you arrive at that magic number, whatever it may be, it automatically increases, and the game starts over. You’ll just find yourself running to another gate to catch the next flight to temporary fulfillment.
For parents, this success sometimes takes the form our kids’ accomplishments. Instead of raising them to be a blessing to their generation, we raise them to be impressive to our neighbors. What a shame! Right behaviors, wrong motivations.
Let your dream of succeeding fall to the ground. Let it die. The seeds of that dead dream will eventually produce a non-perishable harvest. Chances are you’ll stay hungry for the some of same things (higher numbers, well-behaved children, whatever-). But you’ll want them for the right reasons.
Holly says I don’t post personal stuff enough. Everything’s too serious around here.
Here’s me trying to do better:
The other day, someone gave me a necklace with a fish on it.
I gave it to Elijah, and told him it was a whale necklace. (He’s fascinated with whales. I mean, really obsessed.)
A few weeks later, Elijah put the necklace around Graham’s neck and made this ceremonial announcement:
“Here you go Graham. You da King of the Whales.”
I proudly present to you, in his first concert appearance, the King of the Whales.
I love my boys.
Every leadership style has a downside. You’ve got to choose yours, and I’ve got to choose mine.
For example, say you are a leader who places a high value on harmony, honor, spiritual authority, etc. You may find that you have trouble soliciting honest feedback from those you lead, because they don’t want to even flirt with being disrespectful or overly negative.
On the other hand, if you create a culture of everybody speak your mind at all times/everyone has an equal say, you may struggle when people abuse the system. Individuals may become fixated on their agendas or entrenched in their opinions. This can make it very difficult to rally the team quickly around a unified vision.
Another example: If your leadership style is very hands-off, it can nurture a culture of empowerment. People will hopefully ascend to higher levels of leadership because you aren’t squelching their gift by micromanaging.
The downside of this approach: a hands-off leadership approach can leave a lot of room for vision misalignment. The leader may get blindsided one day by how far things have drifted from the original vision.
In a perfect world, we would keep ourselves dead in the center of each of these extremes, embodying the best of both worlds. In the real world, the balance is a struggle.
You’ve got to choose your downside, be aware of its implications, and do your best to minimize the liabilities.
Here’s the best way I can describe the current evolution I’m experiencing as a preacher.
My motivation in selecting series, topics, passages, and applications seems to be morphing fundamentally. In my first 2 years as a pastor, I may have given too much weight to what I thought people needed to hear about. I was (and still am) heavily influenced by the consideration of felt needs when deciding what to preach about.
I am charged to apply the Word of God to contemporary cultural concerns in a relevant way, to discern the times, yada yada, you know the drill.
But lately, the focus of my message prep is shifting.
I’m giving more attention to what I believe God wants to say
than what I think people need to hear.
And you know what? If my primary question in preparing a message is:
What does God want to say to Elevation Church this week?
we’ll kill both birds with one stone. What God wants to say will always be exactly what people need to hear. I’ll always bat 1000!
If I approach it the other way around, it’s hit and miss. What I think people need to hear is much too subjective. What God wants to say is always on point.
This is elementary-so basic that I’m almost embarrassed to blog about it. Kind of a which came first the chicken or the egg sort of discussion.
But you’d be surprised how much this subtle shift in my approach changes the process of preparing to preach the Word of God.
Because what God wants to say is what people need to hear. Every single time.
June Spending Fast
Pastor came to me a few months ago with the crazy idea of going on a spending fast for a month. Well we’re really doing it. We have entered into the month of June with the hopes and dreams of not spending a dime. Well-not exactly. We have, however, taken up all credit cards and given strict instruction that there will be no reimbursements for the month.
Don’t worry, we’re not going to have the power cut off or get evicted and everybody is still getting paid. What we are doing is going back to our roots. We moved to Charlotte to plant Elevation Church with no money and no sense. We didn’t turn in receipts because we didn’t write a check out of the checking account until we bought our first sound system.
We were scrappy and had to be creative to make things happen. God has blessed Elevation and we want to remain blessable. We aren’t reacting to any over spending issues. In fact, we just finished a financial review and things are good. We are simply trying to take some of the newer staff back to the beginning and remind some longer tenured staff what it was like to have a shoestring budget and a big dream.
We’ve always run it pretty tight at Elevation. We had over 900 people coming to the church before we made our 3rd full time hire- myself. Here are a few of the details of how we are conducting the June spending fast: No meals will be covered by the church. We are going on our Staff Advance in June (we never retreat) and we are splitting gas, paying for our own hotel rooms, and having to look at the prices on the menu at the restaurant because it is every man for himself. Volunteer appreciation will be done with hand-written notes and not Starbucks cards. And we are using credit card points to buy gas cards.
This is also a season to strengthen our stakes and plan better. Anything needed for our Sunday worship experiences had to be ordered before June 1st. We aren’t lowering the standards on Sunday just requiring the staff to plan ahead and learn to get out in front.
Don’t be confused, the spending fast has very little to do with saving money. In the end it is likely that we will not save a dime. The operating expenses we are fasting from actually make a very small portion of the budget and many things were purchased ahead of time.
In the end, we may make June our “no spending” month every year. It will show our staff where we came from and require them to plan ahead. It will also keep them from taking God’s blessings for granted.
Get ready to make history, Elevation! The revolutionary, groundbreaking experiment One Prayer launches this Sunday. Over 1,325 churches representing 779,111 people are participating. I believe it’s the beginning of a unity in the body of Christ unlike anything we’ve seen before.
If you’re not familiar with the series, you can catch up here.
This week I’ll kick things off with a foundational sermon. For the three weeks that follow, we’ll hear messages from some of the greatest communicators of our generation. Please send an evite (Butler, Providence) and invite someone to be a part of this with you. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m so glad we’re in at the ground level.
Sometimes when I think I’m making fantastic spiritual progress, I’ll run headlong into a bad thought, motive, or attitude that I thought I’d graduated from a long time ago.
At the risk of being overly vulnerable (there is such a thing), I want to let you in on some sins that surface in my heart sometimes that make my spirit go yuck.
And I’ll categorize them, for extra fun. Enjoy.
-When my wife asks me to do something simple to serve her and my silent instinct is: I’m too important/busy/tired/whatever to do that.
I’ll call this selfish yuck.
-When a pastor who doesn’t like me experiences the blessing of God, and I’m sort of sad to hear of his success. I can usually muscle my way through this by forcing myself to see it from a Kingdom perspective.
Still, I want my initial inclination to be: praise God!
Not: yeah, but-
This is jealous/competitive yuck.
-When I feel sorry for myself because of a minor inconvenience like a crying child at 6:30 AM, a long wait at a restaurant, or a stressful ministry decision.
Seems fitting to label this ungrateful yuck.
Because truth be told, some people would kill for the blessings that I perceive as inconvenience-a healthy child to wake you up with his crying, money to go out to a restaurant where you would have to wait, a fruitful ministry that would require stressful decisions.
Just wanted you to know today that if you constantly discover crud building up in your soul, you’re not alone. Be encouraged. Jesus makes you clean.
(This blog is not based on any current situation in my life. I actually wrote it after a conversation with a friend about something he was going through. Honest.)
People will turn on you.
They just will. You’re not the exception. I’m a young man, but I’ve lived long enough to see:
- Children turn on their natural parents, who loved them an did an above average job raising them
- Staff members turn on their pastors-and yank half the donor base out from under the church in the process
- Pastors turn on their congregations, committing unthinkable acts of immorality and deceit
- Husbands turn on faithful wives of 24 years because the girl at the office made him feel young, funny, and relatively attractive.
I probably haven’t lived long enough to speak exhaustively on
What to do when someone turns on you just yet.
But I think I can suggest a few things not to do.
1. Don’t fancy yourself a martyr. Yes, betrayal hurts. But Jesus was betrayed by the bum who managed His money and murdered by the people that He came to save. That puts “poor poor me” in perspective.
2. Don’t punish the loyal people in your life by becoming a stone cold, arm’s length, “I’ll never let anyone hurt me like that again, the world is out to get me” leader. That’s not fair. Paranoia is not a road to recovery. It’s a sure fire recipe for eventual collapse.
3. Don’t miss the blessing in betrayal. Because of betrayal, Joseph saved a nation. Because of betrayal, Jesus saved the world. If you walk in integrity and process your pain Biblically, your biggest betrayal could be the delivery system for your greatest blessing.
This post turned out to be a bit of a downer. Sorry!
I’ll make it up to you with a verse that has helped me through every time someone has turned on me:
“No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,” says the Lord.
Chances are there’s a relational confrontation that you’re attempting to avoid right now. Stop hiding from it. Instead, lean into it. You’ll come out on the other side with a stronger relationship (best case), or realizing that the relationship is no longer worth investing in (still a valuable outcome). Either way, relational progress is never achieved by bobbing and weaving.
I’ll also make a wild guess that God may be initiating a transition in an area of your life these days. (Because that’s what He does.) If God is urging you to leave behind a current way of doing things-and this could be something as major as your career path or as seemingly detailed as your daily schedule-don’t fight against Him. When you feel the internal pull to abandon a comfort zone for greener pastures, the worst thing you can do is put on the parking brake. Ask the children of Israel, who managed to turn a 3 day journey into a 40 year holding pattern.
Running away will keep you grounded.
Only when you lean into your change can God propel you to a higher place.
Today we celebrate the anniversary of a great modern miracle-
On June 1, 2002, precisely 6 years ago today, the inimitable Holly Boitnott embraced her destiny and became my wife, trading the last name Boitnott for Furtick. Whether this was an upgrade or not is debatable.
What’s not debatable:
I’m a much better man because of it. I’m cleaner, better dressed, more pure, more inclined to trust God, nicer, and a better dad because of Holly. Come to think of it, she’s the only reason I’m a dad at all.
Not to mention the spiritual significance of the number 6. Although 6 isn’t usually a good number in the Bible (by itself), when you multiply it by 2 (the number of unity), it makes 12 (as in, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 disciples), and 12 times 2 equals 24, the number of hours in a day, and the Bible says a day with the Lord is as a thousand years.
So if you look at it that way, Holly and I celebrate our 1000 year wedding anniversary today.
Now that’s remarkable!