Urban Butcher

Yesterday, we had our staff brunch at The Bridge at a new place in Downtown Silver Spring called Urban Butcher. We discussed Chapter 9 of Deep & Wide by Andy Stanley and the importance of creating irresistible environments. All churches have environments. Our environments communicate a message. We can allow the environments to speak for us or we can be intentional about crafting the message we want to communicate.

If we were honest, we would probably admit that we struggle to maintain a high standard of excellence in our environments. Sometimes, lack of resources, time, energy, or creativity causes our environments to suffer. Furniture gets old and dilapidated. Clutter pile up. Our children continue to break furnishings. Equipment experience wear and tear. Employees fail to respect and honor customers. Seeking to creating irresistible and engaging environments can seem like an up hill battle at times. Though it’s difficult, it’s not impossible.

Here are some things we said that we look for in a restaurant that is often true of church environments, at least in the culture that we are in.

1. Customer Service

The way customers are treated is vital. One of our team members said she appreciates when workers takes ownership. They are willing to serve and attend to a table, even thought they are not the primary server for that particular table. Every Sunday, we have first time guests. We want them to feel welcomed and valued. Those that are serving must take ownership and go the extra mile.

2. Food

We all have different tastes. This was apparent by the dishes we ordered. Some look for savory food on a menu. Some desire all-natural ingredients. Some appreciate for variety. But at the end of the day, we all want good food. The content that we present in our environments are important. The content we present must be meaningful and helpful. Messages should be Scripturally based and apply to the lives of those who attend and are called to reach. Presentations should be engaging. Lessons and information should be beneficial to the audience. What’s the point of going to a restaurant if the food isn’t good?

3. Ambiance

We often look for an atmosphere that is clean and comfortable. Design and decor matters. Creating a warm and welcoming environment, for us, also involves our decor. Because we are a portable church, our equipment endures much wear and tear. This is a tension that we are always facing.

4. Evolving

We mentioned that we like to see restaurants evolve. We like to see when changes and improvements are made over time. We like to see new things added to the menu; tweaks are made in the decor. We like to see when the owners are committed to innovation, creativity, and change. We too must always evolve as a church. If our community is always changing and people are always changing, then we should also change.

What about you? What are some things that you’re wrestling with as it pertains to environments in your church or organization? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Four Big Time Wasters

September 5, 2014 — Leave a comment

Redeeming Time

There’s often much talk about pursing our dreams, accomplishing our goals, and fulfilling our vision. Having a dream, goal, and vision is not enough. We have to take steps to fulfill them. The ultimate key to achieving them is not necessarily being more passionate. We may already have passion. It may not be in getting more clarity. We may know exactly what God is calling you to do. The ultimate key is found in our clock. It’s in our ability to utilize the time we already have to work on our dream. My dream to write my first book, Lost In Love, remained in mind for years. The book became a reality when I scheduled the time to actually write it. Lost In Love is not only a product of passion, but of a series of calendar days kept.

Unfortunately, we still only have 24 hours in a day. We can’t get more time, but we can redeem the time we’ve been given. Ephesians 5:16 speaks of “redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Here are five areas where we tend to throw away our time. These may be areas where we can begin redeeming time to reallocate towards working on our dreams and goals.

1. Social Media

One of the greatest platforms for connecting with people is also one of the biggest time wasters. The average person in the United States spends 3.2 hours on social media per day. That’s close to 28 hours a week! Meanwhile, we wonder why we can’t find time to complete our goals. We may even tweet and post about not having enough time……….I’ll let that one sink in for a moment. I love social media, but if I’m not careful, it can take time away from things of greater importance.

2. Television

We spend an average of 2.8 hours sitting in front of a TV screen. According to Nielsen’s, the average U.S. American spends more than 34 hours a week watching live TV and an addition three to six hours watching taped programs. This is equivalent to working another full-time job! Thanks to Hulu, DVR and Netflix, we can now binge view our favorite TV shows. Hours of uninterrupted, commercial free television! We just may start seeing progress if we trade in a few episodes for more time.

3. Sports

Football season is upon us! Most people will spend six to ten hours a week watching football. This is not even including baseball, basketball, golf, tennis, soccer, or wrestling! You may have to skip a few games, or even an entire season, if you want to move your vision forward.

4. Partying

We head to the local happy hour to unwind after a stressful day. We go to a nightclub to dance the blues away. We go out with the fellas to grab a few drinks. The more people you know, the more parties you will be invited to. You may have to turn down some invitations to work on your dream.

What are some other areas where we can redeem time to focus on our dreams, visions, and goals? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Dealing With Clutter

September 2, 2014 — 2 Comments

Dealing with Clutter

One of my greatest struggles is dealing with clutter. Our lives are bombarded with many things: paper work, e-mails, junk mail, bills, etc. Eventually, some of these things begin to pile up. Any flat surface, such as a table, desk, or floor, become a refuge for more stuff. Even our time can become cluttered with fruitless activity. We may even experience spiritual clutter as various things “pile up” in our lives causing us to loose focus spiritually. Here are three benefits of having less clutter.

1. Reduces Stress

I feel less stressed when my surroundings are organized. Looking at clear space gives me a clear mind and helps me to stay focused. Clutter does the opposite. It creates an environment of distraction. Moving things from one pile to another does not count as organization. It’s just a transfer of clutter. The more organized we are, the less stress we feel.

 2. Saves time

When I allow clutter to fester, things tend to get lost. The average person in the United States wastes 55 minutes a day searching for things that they can’t find, as well as one year of their lives looking for lost or misplaced items. When I’m organized, I know where things are. When things aren’t organized, I can spend over an hour looking for an item that was simply covered up by something else.

3. Frees Space

Every item you possess is connected with a story. There’s the teddy bear that your co-worker gave you three months before she resigned. There are the sunglasses from your friend’s bachelor party. There’s the birthday card that was signed by all your family members. We hold on to things that have sentimental value. Over time, those sentimental things can pile up creating clutter. The reality is we never use 80% of what we keep. We file papers that we never refer to and hang clothes we never wear again. The sunglasses I mentioned? We won’t dear be caught wearing them in public. So why are we keeping them? Letting go creates space for things we actually use.

Question: What are some methods you are currently using or exploring to address clutter in your life? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

We can use what God has given us to build up or tear down. I discuss this in my third and final segment of Beach Nuggets. May we use the things He has entrusted us with for His glory and the benefit of others.

As promised, here is Beach Nuggets Part 2. Beach Nuggets is a three-part video series featuring nuggets to help you grow during the final weeks of the summer. Last week, I made a blooper by telling you it was a four-part video series. I actually realized that I miscounted the number of videos I shot. Now, you only have to suffer through three of them! Enjoy!

Love Without Conditions

August 20, 2014 — 6 Comments

heart

If we were asked do we love others unconditionally, more than likely we would say, “Yes!” Our actions, however, may beg to differ. Unconditional love is love without conditions. Conditional love is based on conditions. Honestly, this where we are often hang our hats. We tend to show love to others based on conditions and the way we are treated. Yet, relationships last when individuals choose to love each other unconditionally. Here are three questions to ponder as it relates to unconditional love:

 1. Am I Record Keeper or A Record Shredder?

1 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Love keeps no records of wrong.” Conditional love keeps score. It holds grudges. It only gives when others give to it. It does favors with strings attached. When it shows love to others, it looks for that love to be reciprocated. When others don’t meet its expectations or criteria, it moves on to the next person. Unconditional love realizes that people will make mistakes. It chooses to shred the record of a shortcoming rather than file it.

2. Do I Forgive People or Make Them Earn It?

People will hurt us. Some will ask us to forgive them. We can choose to grant forgiveness or make them earn it. Earning forgiveness is different from earning trust. When we forgive, it can take time to rebuild trust. Forgiveness is a gift. Trust is earned. Earning forgiveness, however, requires a person to uphold a certain standard before forgiveness is granted. The problem is people are imperfect and fall short. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. If we all fall short of God’s standard, others will definitely fall short of ours! To make someone earn forgiveness is holding them to a debt they can’t pay. Again, forgiveness is a gift. The receiver of a gift is always undeserving. If they deserve it, it is no longer a gift. It is a wage. People will never deserve our forgiveness. Unconditional love forgives.

3. Are People Innocent Until Proven Guilty or Guilty Until Proven Innocent?

We tend to put up emotional walls when others have hurt us. It is a defense mechanism to guard ourselves from more heartache and pain. We view people as untrustworthy until proven otherwise. We hold innocent people liable for the hurt others have caused us. Even the most innocent person will do things that remind us of the people that hurt us. Unconditional love means letting down our guard and learning to trust others again.

Question: What are some ways we can show unconditional love? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Risk Taking

In order to achieve anything significant, we have to take risks. We must leave areas that are comfortable and launch into the deep. Taking risks can be very costly. The fiscal, emotional, and social costs of risks often cause us to avoid them. But the potential pay off of risk-taking can be worth the cost. Here are five things I’m continuing to learn about risk-taking.

1. No one can take risks for me.

Sometimes when my friends and I wanted to do something risky as children, the person who came up with the idea would say, “You go first.” The person wanted someone to take the risk first to see if it was safe. If it is my idea, it is my risk to take. I can’t depend on others to jump in the ocean for me. The responsibility of the vision lies in the hands of the visionary. I must remember, no one can take risks for me. My risks are mine to take.

2. The failure of others isn’t a barometer of my success.

When we share our dreams with others, people will be quick to compare us to others who experienced failure or success in a similar venture. How much of it really matters? Just because someone failed doing something I desire to do, doesn’t mean I will fail. Likewise, just because someone is successful doesn’t mean I will be successful. At the end of the day, I have to take the risk regardless of another person’s experience. Yes, I can learn from their experience, but I can’t make a decision solely based on it.

3. I’ve learned to make peace with failure.

Taking risks mean that I may fail. I can’t be afraid to try something new out of fear of failure. At least I will be able to say that I gave it a try. Sometimes, it’s better to try and fail than spend the rest of your life wondering if something will work. Failure is often the launching pad to greatness. Failure sends us back to the drawing board. Very rarely is some thing great discovered on the first effort.

4. I can’t take credit for a risk someone else made.

Very often, when someone has to courage to do what we are afraid to try, we attempt to take some of the glory. We say things such as, “To be honest, I thought of that first!” Here is a popular one! “I could have done it, but didn’t sense God was leading me.” If God wasn’t leading us to do it, why are we even bringing it up? Let’s be honest. We hope to appear significant even though we didn’t have the courage to try. I can’t take the credit for a risk I wasn’t willing to take.

5. I must take risks with grace.

Everyone one will not co-sign on our risky ventures. It’s so easy to label non-cosigners  as “haters” or “unsupportive.” Sometimes, people genuinely care about us and don’t want to see us experience harm. Other times, people don’t understand or agree. I must be understanding when others don’t understand me. In the same way it took me time to accept the vision and venture of others, it will take time for others to accept mine. Some people need to see a vision come to fruition before believing in it. In the meantime, I may be the only one that sees my vision. That’s OK. God gave the vision to me, not them. I must show grace to others in the same way God shows grace to me.

Question: What are some things you have learned or continue to find challenging as it pertains to taking risks? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

This summer, I had the opportunity to speak once again at the Hope Festival in Tortola, BVI sponsored by Cane Garden Bay Baptist Church. As my wife and I were enjoying a day at the beach, I spontaneously decided to record four videos. They feature three personal growth nuggets to help us grow during the final weeks of summer. This is the first of four videos. Be on the look out for Part 2 next week! Enjoy!

What’s Your Price?

August 12, 2014 — Leave a comment

Price Tag

Many of us have a price. There are some things we will never sell…until we are offered a certain price. We sell out our values, standards, and vision for what seems like a greater gain. We prioritize our families, until a great opportunity arises. We remain honest, until we feel we may loose something or someone. We stand for God, until we are around people from whom we seek affirmation and validation. Here are three things for us keep in mind when you are tempted to sell something we shouldn’t.

 1. It’s Always More Costly Than We Think

Compromising comes with hidden fees. The bargain is rarely as great as it appears . A transaction we thought would result in tremendous gain, ends up costing us more time, energy, our family, the trust of others, and even our dignity. We may have thought we were simply compromising one value, only to realize there were others we had to compromise in the process.

2. We Are Most Vulnerable When We Are Most Desperate

There will be things that we will want more than anything else. When we are single, it’s a spouse. When we are married, it’s a house. When we have a house, it’s furnishings. When we have a good job, it’s a better job. When we want something more than everything else, we are most likely to risk everything else to get it.

3. We’re Not for Sale

1 Corinthians 6:20 says, “ For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” Jesus already paid a price for us with His blood. We already belong to Him. We can’t take what truly belongs to Him and sell it to anyone or anything else.

Question: Why do you think it’s easy for us to sell or compromise things that are most important? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Lost In Distraction

October 28, 2013 — Leave a comment

When it comes to romantic relationships, many people struggle differentiating between an opportunity and a distraction. When someone peaks their interest or another person shows interest, it can appear as an opportunity for a successful relationship.  Yet, that same person can derail and distract us from what God is calling us to do and be.  Very often, both healthy and unhealthy relationships begin with the same initial attraction. There is no formula to differentiating the two initially. The key is discernment.  There’s a thin line between success and failure, construction and destruction, forward and backward, finding love and finding chaos. The closer we stay to God, the more discerning we will be. The more we saturate ourselves with the Scriptures, the sharper our discernment. The more you get to know Him and the greater you know yourself, the more you’ll be able to know when you are becoming distracted.