Why You Need To Ask Yourself Tough Questions

Why You Need To Ask Yourself Tough Questions

Beatles or Stones?

Earlier this year I asked this question on Facebook and got around 200 comments. I love the question. It tells me so much about a person and their musical taste and preferences.

Good questions tell us so much more than a simple answer.

I wrote a piece on Why I became a Methodist. In the article, I mentioned one of the primary decision points being my belief in the effectiveness and necessity of Wesleyan discipleship.

Part of  historic discipleship and formation (growing closer to Christ) in the Methodist tradition is the act of asking questions. We ask them to ourselves in our own personal devotion. We ask them to others we are in accountability with.  This was important in the Methodist movement and I feel a recovery of the asking of questions will be a key thing to any spiritual development in our world now.

A little history…

Wesley organized his folks (you couldn’t really call them a formal church yet) into 3 groups. From largest to smallest; the Societies, The Classes and The Bands. Part of the fundamental design of the two smallest (classes and bands) was a series of questions designed to keep each person in forward motion towards Jesus Christ. The Class met as a mixed group of sexes and ages. When they met, these questions formed the main conversation points. They got SERIOUS!

When the Bands met, the questions got even more in depth. They also centered on this small group (usually no more than 5-6 and same sex) really keeping each other on track. You gave the others the permission to get into your business.

Here are another set of questions Wesley and his original small group, called The Holy Club, asked themselves in their lives and meetings.

Our life now

These questions matter. They help us to be real and honest with each other. One of the best small group experiences I have ever had focused on asking a few of these questions every week. This isn’t casual discipleship. It is changing and transformational discipleship. It is the kind of spiritual relationships each Christian needs to have in their life.

Several groups have done a great job trying to incorporate these classic notions of discipleship into current life. Most of them are going really well. What I really appreciate are the attempts to quickly get the emotive qualities of these HUGE lists into a few simple questions. You can answer them openly, in front of people you know and don’t know. You can be asked them by people who know you really well. The most important quality is these questions are approachable. It is frightening allowing others into what most modern Christians consider to be pretty private.  Here is a listing of the ones I have found, liked and used.

1. Are you growing closer or further away from God since the last time we met?
2. How do you see God moving in your life right now?
3. How is your life in God?

Lately, I have a new one I have been thinking about, asking myself and asking others. It comes from my own personal conviction and values.

How have you allowed God to change you lately?

This question tells much more than a simple yes or no. In my own examination it causes me to think about my openness to Christ, my expectation of his presence and activity, how my false self is being broken down, etc, etc. It is great and broad.

Self-examination has long been part of Christian tradition. It helps us to make the points in which we have grown closer to God, progressed in our sanctification, won victory over things controlling us or simply mark our maturation in Christ.

So friends, How have you allowed God to change you lately?

Productive Pastor 32.5: Meetings with Rev. John Allen

Productive Pastor 32.5: Meetings with Rev. John Allen

Welcome to the very first “sub-episode” of the Productive Pastor. Occasionally I will have either more content than I really can release or I end up getting connected (usually through a listener) to someone who can really add quality conversation to an episode.

I’ve been thinking about this for a few weeks and had a great interaction with Nathan Bledsoe (@revnayte) on twitter and he brought me into a conversation with his friend John Allen (@revjohnallen). John had some super interesting things to share about meetings and I recorded a quick conversation with him.

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Trust me, you will want to listen to this.

Rev. John Allen on Meetings

John really shares about the pastoral heart in meeting leadership and what it means to keep people engaged during meetings.

He talks about two important things.

1. Be a trustworthy leader.
Let folks know you aren’t going to waste their time. You are controlling and driving the culture of meetings in your church. Remember you are a pastor and this is their church, not a boss and a business. Invest in the relationships of the people you are leading.

2. Keep people engaged.
Dream big together. Imagine. Try to inspire their creativity.
Consistently tie your work in the meeting to the larger purpose of the Church. Remember to pray and be a spiritual leader in the meeting.



Wellesley Village Church
Church of the Pilgrims

Eschatological Expectation and Mad Max: Fury Road

Eschatological Expectation and Mad Max: Fury Road

For the last few days I have been looking at my wife and telling her “X” days. I have been waiting for Mad Max: Fury Road to come out for years. I was watching the production notes, digging through the internet for still photographs and I jumped with excitement the first time I saw a trailer in January.

Let’s just say I am excited about this movie.

For years I spent much of my time doing something entirely (but not unrelated) different. I spent hours and energy researching, writing, speaking and sharing about eschatological theology with people. Eschatology is the theological study of the end times. Fancy words for a subset of Christian theology that is potentially the largest part of a theological conversation inside of pop culture. We watch zombie films, write pre-teen dystopian novels (like The Hunger Games and the Divergent series) and always get glued to the television when someone makes a crackpot attempt at dating the end of the world.

I even wrote a gigantic Master’s Thesis on preaching Revelation and recovering end times theology in the church. I used plenty of cultural references in my research and conversation on the topic (you can read the paper here).

The place both my recent expectation of Fury Road and this heavier research into End Times theology meet is a conversation about waiting. We all wait. We wait in lines, wait for others and wait for many other things.

Waiting is a necessary part of life.

And I think those who wait well understand things better than those who wait with impatience. As Tom Petty’s sings…”the waiting is the hardest part.”

In waiting we learn to anticipate. We learn to value and to defend. Understanding waiting is the transition point between the immediacy of childhood and the patience of an adult.

So was Fury Road worth the wait?

Absolutely. I went on opening day with a friend. We hit up the 11am show.

I had hoped it would be good. I had hoped for something different from the abomination known as the remake of Red Dawn.

Fury Road looked exactly like what it was supposed too, but even better. For someone who is a gigantic fan of the first three Mad Max movies, it was not only a faithful representation, but a culmination of the vision of George Miller.

It was worth it because it was not only honest about the originals, but went much further past them. It created the “ideal” world for the story, with the ideal circumstances, issues and characters.

It was the exact opposite of a disappointment because it fulfilled the waiting.

This is the lesson we need to learn as each of us, scholar or every day Christian, think about Jesus, the things he promised and what scripture tells us about the world to come. No matter what we can imagine it being…it will be better. It will fulfill all of the waiting we have done.

Productive Pastor 32: Making the Most of Meetings

Productive Pastor 32: Making the Most of Meetings

Do you enjoy meetings? I have a love/hate relationship with them. I have worked in places with great meetings and horrible meetings. Now that I am in charge of most meetings, I want to make them part of a positive leadership experience for others.

Front Material

1. Back to Fridays.
I tried an experiment with Monday release dates, but I have heard from you (and seen the release day stats) enough to move back to Friday release days. Next episode will come out on Friday, May 29th.

2. iTunes review and rating.
Big thanks to Uriah Oxford and Jason Wnc for leaving reviews and ratings on iTunes. This really helps the podcast get out. Do you want to win a free book? The first person to leave a review and rating after release date will get a free copy of JD Walt’s book Called.

Making the Most of Meetings

Meetings can be a drag or an incredible tool for leadership. Think back to the places and experiences where you have had great meetings and bad meetings. What did you learn to do (or not to do)? What environments were great for meetings and what were crummy?

Social Media (2)

The four P’s of great meetings:

1. Plan
Why are you meeting? Do you need to meet? Think how many meetings can be accomplished through an email or text message. If you are just getting together to inform others of plans or because you have a meeting on the books…you probably don’t need to meet.

2. Purpose
Once you have decided you do need to meet, think about the purpose. What is being decided at this meeting? Who is doing what during the meeting? Perhaps another team member needs to be leading a certain part of the meeting or the entire meeting altogether. Run through a checklist to make sure you are prepped and ready to go. Send out a brief agenda so folks come prepared.

3. Pow-wow
Get your team together. This should be fun as well as serious. I once had a boss that would either meet in a formal room or during a walk to the gas station to get a snack. Great things were accomplished in both settings because the team was just that…a team. They were focused on what was going on and able to collaborate towards shared purpose.

4. Path
Don’t leave the meeting until you have a plan for what happens afterwards. Who is following up on what? What tasks are crucial to the goals the team is working towards?

If you put all of this work in and still don’t have a plan for afterwards you are going to miss out on all the great work you have done.

Resources Mentioned.
Teams That Thrive: 5 Disciplines of Collaborative Church Leadership
Nancy Duarte- Meetings: When to Present and When to Converse
Lifehacker-Meeting Checklist
99u- Is this Meeting Necessary?
Time Management Ninja-10 Business Meetings That Will Waste Your Time.

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