Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Top nine of oh nine (that i can remember)

1. Polar Plunge
Who doesn’t want to start the new year by jumping into Lake Michigan amid snow, 20mph winds, floating ice, and lake ice bergs.

2. 10 year anniversary in Lake Geneva
Vicky and I celebrated 10 years of marriage on June 5, 2009 with a small vacation in Lake Geneva. We enjoyed finding turtles, eating pizza, and big jacuzzi tubs.

3. 2009 Leadership summit
Wow. This was a great opportunity to spend time with our team from Veritas and hear some excellent teachings. The standouts were Wes Stafford, President of Compassion international, sharing his story of God using his pain to end suffering for children around the world. Also Tim Keller’s teaching on the story of the Prodigal Son was epic and life changing.

4. Berkley Community Church 90th
The church my Great Grandfather started in 1919 celebrated its 90th anniversary. I wasn’t able to attend any of the festivities but for me this was of the greatest highlights of the past year. I will do everything in my power to be there for the 100th anniversary. I can’t believe Caleb will be 12, ugh. I’ll be 41 UGH.

5. BVNA leadership Conference
This was a leadership conference hosted by the Bay View Neighborhood Association. It had good content and God used this event to speak to me about the future of Veritas more than any other thing this year. Main take away-Use your strengths to address your weaknesses. This changed the game for our church.

6. Caleb being potty trained
Four days of the Wilson Family Potty Training Boot Camp and he mostly got it. He is doing well with the process. I am so incredibly proud of my boy. He taught me so much in four days of us forcing a new behavior on him. He adapted well with much suffering but he got through it and is better on the other end. I have so much to learn from him.

7. Chill on the Hill family night
I was so proud of our people on this night. We had frogs, elephants and an incredible Ark all built and dreamt up by our people. LOVED IT

8. Veritas first baptisms
EPIC. It was such a joy to do our first baptisms as a church on July 26th at South Shore Park. We will always do them outside. I loved it. The stories of lives redeemed never gets old.

9. I got a hobby
I finally got a hobby. I spent much time down on the shores of Lake Michigan this year. While I was there I started collecting Sea Glass. This is glass that has been tumbled and worn down by the waves and rocks of the lake. Its fun but it makes it on the list because of what God has taught me through this hobby. Every time I needed to hear from God this year he spoke through this medium. Also it helped with making some cheap Christmas presents.

Honorable Mention
Seeing Matisyahu, No Doubt, and Paramore in one night at Summerfest for $8.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Christmas, placentas, and evergreens.

I am into Christmas more than I have been in years. I usually don’t get into it. If I had my way I wouldn’t put up a tree, stockings, or lights. Well, maybe a few lights but thats it. I would still watch Elf just because its hilarious. I haven’t gotten into the whole Christmas buzz in a while. For the past couple years there has been some big things going on in life through the holidays. So the stress has kinda outweighed the joy.

This year though I am finding myself in awe of it all. I’m looking at this story of Jesus and his birth and just laughing. I am choosing to be more conscious about the story I’m listening to.

I was asked to teach about a movement called the Advent Conspiracy. It is a movement within the Church to not spend as much during the holidays but then to give more away and worship God more throughout the season. The main thing I came away from that teaching with was to be conscious of what story I’m listening to this season.

There is one story that is told to us by the marketers, other consumers, and massive corporations. This is the story being told to us that says that the house has to be decorated, cards need to get out, presents need to be bought, that we need to be busy and get caught up in the buzz that surrounds the season.

There is another story. This story is not glamorous. This story is about God becoming human. This is an excerpt from the teaching I did about the Advent Conspiracy: “The first breathe that filled Jesus’ lungs was filled with the particulate of manure and straw. He was born in a place that most moms today would make sure to bathe their kids in Purell after leaving. Through the contractions, screams, breathing, and pushing of young girl named Mary Jesus entered into this world in a way that showed a solidarity to the poor and the left out. The first announcement of the messiah, the person that would be the culmination of all that the bible was and is, was told to Shepherds. I know you have heard this before.

God entered this world just like you and I. His entrance involved screaming, pushing, blood, amniotic fluid, and placentas falling to the floor. The cord that he drew the foundations of his human existence from had to be cut. It was gritty, real, and messy. No one puts that scene on a Christmas card. It looked nothing like the nativity scene that was on my grandparents mantle with the slightly chipped orange lightbulb sticking through the back wall of the stable.

Then the first record we have of visitors to this scene are shepherds. Really God? You send the culmination of your plan for the redemption of humanity and you tell shepherds? You couldn’t come up with a better plan? Shepherds? I know when we had our child some of the last people I would choose to be around my newborn would be grimy, dirty, smelly strangers. Imagine this group of very rough around the edge guys who smell like they have been sitting in a field around a fire hanging out with animals (because they had been) knocking on your door, without warning, as your wife is nursing your newborn son. They say that angels told them to come here and see your kid. Then because angles talking to people about this kid seems normal at this point you let them in.

Christmas isn’t about what the marketers tell us it is about. Jesus was crammed into the middle of a bunch of pagan festivals and traditions surrounding the winter solstice. The Jesus story does not have anything to do with what Christmas is about because it never was until someone from the church crammed him into the middle of mistletoe, evergreens, and presents. The birth of the messiah. The birth of the culmination of everything the story of God is about has nothing to do with evergreens with lights and tinsel. It has to do with God coming for the not so good. God intimately involving the grimy, dirty, and smelly into his story. It is about God breathing my air so I could one day breathe his. It is the opening sequence of the last installment of the trilogy. Its the beginning of our story. Its about God becoming man so we could be his children.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Teachers, asses, and tour guides.

Just heard Chuck Swindol on the Catalyst Podcast say, "The word of God is alive, active, and sharp, not what I have to say."

For some reason God has given me the gift of teaching. I sometimes wonder what God was thinking for giving this passion and skill to me. But the more I read the Bible the less sense I can make of God. So I guess its just par for the course.

I am a teacher of the word of God. Anything anyone ever gets out of what I teach has nothing to do with me. I just get to be a guide to the most amazing amusement park, most interesting museum, or attraction you have ever been to. I just get to highlight the things that maybe you miss when you just walk through it alone not knowing what you’re looking at. I don’t always do what I teach. I sin. I fall short. I don’t teach what I have mastered. I teach what is there. Some would say I’m a hypocrite. I might be. I might not be. What I do know is that I’m forgiven. I know that its only by the grace of God that is given to me through his blood that stained the dirt around the cross that I can do any good with my life. I am in awe of the grace of God.

Rich Mullins once said, “God chose to speak through Balaam’s ass and he has been speaking through asses ever since. So if God so chooses to speak through you, you shouldn’t think too highly of yourself. And, if upon meeting someone, right away you recognize what they are, listen to them anyway, because God chose to speak through Balaam’s ass and he has speaking through asses ever since.”

I am just an ass God has chosen to speak through. If you ever think you are changed by anything that you hear me say. You weren’t changed by what I had to say you were changed by Jesus. I’m just a dumb ass Jesus chose to give a voice to.

Weddings, Marriages, and Roses

I have caught Vicky watching some show on We network where this guy helps brides plan their wedding. I either change the channel to football or sit there and watch it with her cause she wants to watch it.

This guy takes what they have already done, which most of the time is hideous, and creates this lavish experience out of it. They have party favors, decorations, the dress and maybe a location. Most of the time this guy takes what they have done and takes the essence of it and then trashes the rest. He helps them pick out a dress that is perfect for the particular bride. He helps them pick bridesmaid dresses, plan the ceremony, and plan the reception. It turns into these lavishly incredible weddings.

We were watching one last night where the bride originally had a couple roses on each table. The planner plastered the reception room with roses. They were everywhere. I think they had over 30 varieties and dozens upon dozens upon dozens of roses flown in from Columbia to New York. They spent more on flowers for the reception than we did on our entire wedding.

It is not uncommon these days to have a wedding that costs in the tens of thousands of dollars. There are months of planning, massive amounts of debt that is accumulated, dozens of people working toward one goal of making a one day event to celebrate a wedding.

I think its interesting that we are willing to put months into planning, thousands of dollars of investment, and coordination of dozens of people to make one day happen. What would happen if when the marriage gets rocky we put that kind of energy, effort, and money into saving a marriage. I know someone who I know spent a significant amount of money, time and planning into a beautiful wedding day. Less than a year later they are getting divorced. I know for myself when in my own marriage we have faced hard times the level of effort I was willing to put in looked nothing like the effort put into making those wedding days happen on that show.

Maybe by some standards I can seem like a good husband. Most of the time though I am selfish, show love the way I want to receive it instead of the way I know will speak to Vicky, I watch too much sports, I am on the computer too much and countless other things that I do that don’t move our marriage forward.

I am trying to turn over that leaf. I am trying to do better. I am trying to love, honor, and cherish more. Am I even doing a good job at that? I don’t know. It would be better to ask Vicky. At this point if she said yes it would probably to just protect me in your eyes. I want to be able to have her bring it up without people even asking. I want her to brag on me with random people. I want to give her a husband that she is proud to be with. I want a marriage where we both make each other better.

I think if people put a quarter of the energy, effort, work and resources into their marriage as that guy puts into those weddings on TV the divorce rate in this country would be negligible.

Let us be a people that care more about the marriage than the wedding.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Off The Menu

So I frequent Stone Creek Coffee in Bay View. To say I frequent it might be an understatement. One of the baristas the other day was telling another customer that I am more like a plant at Stone Creek than a customer. I am a fixture.

Now Stone Creek like many other coffee establishments offer the punch card. I can carry a card around with me and when I buy a coffee they will use their special punch on my card. One coffee one punch. Well sometimes its more than one punch but we won’t go into that.

So after you purchase ten coffee drinks you have earned the free one. I used to get lattes so this would require me to spend about $40 to get a free one. Now I drink straight coffee. So now it only requires approximately $20 to get my free drink. Much better stewardship of resources.

In my opinion when you have earned the mystical free drink you can’t just waste that on a regular coffee. Sometimes I save it for a special occasion. Sometimes I will just use it instead of buying my normal drink. But the important thing is to wait. You have to wait till the right barista is behind the counter (you can’t have some newbie make your free drink) and you have to wait till there isn’t a line. You see when I have the free drink I always order off the menu.

There is a pastor down in Dallas that I heard talk about going to a restaurant and ordering the “Feed me.” The feed me you see is when you let the waiter know of any food allergies you have and then you put the meal into the hands of the chef. You let him create whatever he wants to serve you. I shared this concept one night in a bar with one of the owners and cooks at Comet Cafe and Honeypie restaurant. He was like “Oh ya I would totally do that.” He said “if you come in during the rush on a Friday night you will get a fish fry and just pay more than everybody else. But if you come in at an off time I would cook you up something incredible.”

This is the concept I use with my free drink. These baristas have to sit there all day making the stuff on the menu. Then someone comes along and says create. I don’t want anything on the menu. My only personal stipulation is no chocolate. I don’t like mochas. I have had the cream city liam which was made by Liam and was a blended creamy ice drink with espresso grounds and some combination of chocolate and vanilla syrups. I know I said I don’t like mochas but this was cold it worked. I have also had a vanilla honey latte. I am told of a latte creation that tastes like a cinnamon roll that I haven’t tried yet. The most recent off the menu creation was a cherry hazelnut latte. As my son would say, “so good so licious.”

Its is almost worth it to buy the ten drinks so that its free and there are no constraints on how to figure out how to charge you for this kind of drink. They don’t have to figure out how much each shot or squirt of syrup should cost. They just make a drink they think would be awesome. To remove these constraints is a delightful experience and usually results in a fabulous sensory overload for my tongue and brain to enjoy.

So I dare you. If you earn your elusive freebie or you go to one of your favorite small restaurants order off the menu and see what ensues.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Glass by God

I have taken up a new hobby. It actually came from a combination of a travel channel episode I watched a long time ago and recent walks on the beach thinking about church and life. The beach near our house is quite rocky in places. So as I was walking along I would take a look at the rocks every now and then. I would pick out some interesting ones every now and then. Then one day I found a small piece of glass. This brought my mind back to the old travel channel show about Sea Glass.

Sea Glass is glass that has been worn down by water and tumbling across rocks till it has been smoothed so it resembles a small rock. So a lot has been going on with church and life lately and I find that I can gather my thoughts and listen best near the water. So I have been down by the water a lot lately. I have been honing my sea glass skills and have been learning a lot from my walks on the beach and my gathering of sea glass. So these are some of the lessons I have learned.

-You have to be attentive to what God is doing around you. There are a lot of rocks on the beach not much sea glass. You have to pay attention. You have to look for it.

-The more you look for it the more you see. God is working all around us. Sometimes we just walk by and don’t see it. Although if you’re looking for it you will see it. The more you sea glass you find the more your eye gets trained to notice the distinct colors and textures in sea glass. We can train our senses to see God in places we couldn’t see him before.

-God is not done with us. There is a line between broken glass on the beach and sea glass. The line can sometimes be hazy. I have found the more pieces I discover the more I am throwing ones back. If it isn’t totally smooth I am throwing them back now. There are some exceptions if there is something unique about a piece but I didn’t used to do that. I kept ones with some hard edges still on them. I have since gone through my collection and taken some back to the beach and threw them back. God isn’t done with us. Until we are a tiny smooth little piece of glass he isn’t done with us yet. So many times we think we have arrived at some plateau. And we have. We got to the beach so we could take a look at ourselves and get thrown back in to be worked on and be smoothed out some more.

-You can be selective. I think when we started Veritas we were looking for good people and didn’t care as much about other things. I am finding that it is ok to let good people go. They might not jive with who we are or it may not be the right place for them at this time in their life. Thats ok. I hope they find a good church somewhere else. I can let good things go now. I am passing over good pieces or throwing great ones back because they aren’t quite smoothed out yet. I can do that with life too.

God has met me so many times over that past couple months out walking and finding this stuff. I know there are many more lessons to be learned. I am looking forward to it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

One percenters

I was reading Seth Godin’s blog the other day. He shares a statistic: of the 13 million songs for sale online last year, 10 million never got a single buyer and 80 percent of all revenue came from about 52,000 songs. That’s less than one percent of the songs. I found this idea very interesting.

Of course I started to think about church. There are the one percent churches out there like Northpoint, Willowcreek, Elevation, Mosaic, Mars Hill (both of them) and some others. Their leadership does the conference circuit and they write the books and articles. Now don’t get me wrong I admire most of these places and what they are doing in the kingdom. But…. They are the one percent churches. They are the stuff that gets played on the radio all the time. Doesn’t make what they do bad. There is good music on the radio.

What I wonder about is how many great musicians are in the 3 million other songs that were purchased. They just don’t have the right look or they live in a town of 100 people so they don’t get the exposure someone else does. How many beautiful expressions of the kingdom of God in a local context are there that we never hear about?

I have another observation I think is odd when I think about this music and church relationship. Most churches are looking to that one percent of churches and trying to be like them. Now I know there are some bands that try to be like or cover popular bands. Don’t we all just kinda feel sorry for them though? I have much higher respect for a local musician that is doing their own stuff. Yes, maybe they cover a song here or there to pull the audience in but mostly they play stuff they have written. Why don’t churches do this? I feel like churches are trying to be like the next big thing. In the 90’s everybody was trying to be Willow Creek or Saddleback. Why? Sure they are in the one percent and we can respect them and listen to them. But why not work on our own stuff? Why do we listen to what the spirit is telling Rick or Bill over what he is saying to us? I think it is easier to listen to what God is telling other people instead of hearing what God is telling you.

What is God telling you to write and sing?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What Veritas can learn from Michigan Football.

I love University of Michigan football. This is no surprise to anyone who knows me even a little. If there is a game on TV there is a 95% chance I am watching it. If I am not watching it the DVR is running. I’ve had a guy who was in the marching band at Michigan admire my fandom.

Last year Michigan was horrid. They hired a new coach to bring in the spread offense system. This ran upstream while swimming backwards into the tradition of Michigan football. Going into the year they lost four key players to the NFL draft. One of which was the number one pick. Then they had others like Ryan Mallet who transfered because of the shift to the new spread system.

The team had three wins - nine losses. Worst season in a one hundred plus year program. They sucked. They sucked bad. They did beat Wisconsin which was nice for me here in Milwaukee to at least hang a hat on that. It was bad year to be a Wolverine.

But three games into the season this year they are playing much better and have already matched their win total from last year. They also have a legitimate shot at bowl eligibility and maybe more.

What changed? There was some coaching shifts but the system remained the same. The major thing that changed was personnel. They got this freshman in to play QB named Forcier. He has played in the spread system all through high school he knows how to play the system. He has been a difference maker. The rest of the team has also had time to adapt to the system. They understand the new system better. They have had time to shift their thinking from one way of doing things to another. Because they understand the new system better and they have had time together to practice it they are executing it more effectively.

I think in our adventures with Veritas we are introducing a new system. We didn’t start with an established team. Everybody is new to this system. Some of the people used to the old system that thought they were interested in something new have transferred or come for a visit and chose another “school.” It takes a special people to run a system that swims upstream. I feel like we are only playing about 5% of the playbook. God hasn’t let us see the rest of it yet.

We are past our one year anniversary. We didn’t make a big deal about it. No need to. We are in a new season. We haven’t had many wins but we have had some and we will build on those. When all seemed lost with the Apollo 13 mission most people were looking at all the problems and seeing failure. Gene Kranz looked at all the problems and said, “This could be our finest hour.”

We as a church can look at all of our problems and see failure. Michigan could have looked at a three win season and said the system doesn’t work. Or we can choose to look at where we are and see the potential. “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.” 2 Cor. 4:18

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

First Church of Stone Creek?

Stone Creek Coffee is where Vicky and I work. We work AT Stone Creek Coffee not FOR Stone Creek Coffee. We were away from our corner table for eleven days while on vacation. Vicky and I got a Facebook message from one of the baristas while we were gone that Stone Creek just wasn’t the same without us. Then when I came in this morning there was a look of relief on one of the baristas’ face. Then another came in just to pick up some coffee and gave me a big hug from behind. When I was ordering my espressjito, because it was the last day it would be available, the baristas told me that while we were gone at least three people had asked where we were.

So I sat down and tweeted this:

@brewcitytimmy We are officially a fixture at Stone Creek Coffee Bay View. People asked the baristas about us when we were on vacation.

@brewcitytimmy Do people in the community that don't go to church miss your pastor when he is out of town?

I was intrigued that us sitting over in the corner was enough of a staple that people noticed we weren’t there. Then it lead me to wonder how many people who are in the community at large would notice if a pastor left town for a couple days? Are most pastors out in the community enough for anyone to notice that they are gone? I am a firm believer in presence. Even if we had offices I might only spend one or at most two days there a week. I would probably use it as a space for solitude. Keep it generic so anyone could use it.

But then my buddy busts out this reply to my tweet:

@bargeria @brewcitytimmy So, Stone Creek is your community? ; )

Granted I was trying to capture that previous paragraph in 140 characters so it lost something in translation. But what a statement! This sent my gears spinning. So I tweeted that back to him.

@brewcitytimmy@bargeria SCC my community? Spending 4 days a wk @ scc more church than Sun? Gears spinning. 2 soon after vacation for this thought pattern.

Is me sitting in Stone Creek Coffee at least four days a week more an expression of church than what we do when we gather together as Veritas Church on Sunday mornings?

Vicky and I have built community here. We know the baristas. Some definitely more than others. Some are quiet and don’t talk much with us. Then others we could chat with for hours.

There are other costumers we have gotten to know. I know Jim is a health nut and likes classic cars. Mike comes in to play World of warcraft and is a tattoo artist on the east side. Dee owns a bar and Bridget is moving in with her. There are many Daves. Heavy Metal Dave is only one of the many. Rob is a tall confident guy who owns a boat, is a house appraiser/inspector, and drinks tea. Steve gets a Boston latte and sits at the table over by the entrance. Stephanie works for a non profit trying to improve a neighborhood in Milwaukee. Dan the hair man runs a salon down the street and comes in to get four or five coffees at a time. His always have the most espresso shots. Those are some of the regulars.

Then there are all the occasional encounters. The independent film maker. Emily who thinks the downtown art museum is one of the most beautiful buildings ever conceived. I kept an eye on her computer while she took a phone call from her mom. Haley and Matt who were expecting their first child this past summer. Joe who crafts hair at a local salon (not the before mentioned Dan's salon). Two woman who were having coffee with a beautiful little girl in a stroller. There names are Gesa, Megan, and little Johanna. The moms with kids, hipsters with their own travel mug, the tattooed, and the three piece suits, the homeless, the police and the people who come in and have no idea what they are looking at when they look at the menu and end up ordering a Black Bear Soda.

Is this my community?

I know more about some people at Stone Creek than people in our church. I have had deeper conversations about prayer, Jesus, and faith with people here than I have with some at church. I have prayed with people at Stone Creek. I have prayed with people at church. I have cried as God moved in me at Stone Creek and Veritas. I am with people here more than I am with people from Veritas.

Am I more a part of the First Church of Stone Creek than Veritas Church?

I love being at both. I love the people at both. I pray for the people at both. I am probably a pastor for both. People are spiritually seeking at both.

What is community? What is Church? Where does God use me more? Would God rather have me at Stone Creek from 9-noon on a Sunday or at the Beulah Brinton Community Center doing Veritas? These are questions I don’t know if I necessarily have the answer to.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Resist the Devil

James 4:7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

I was cleaning out my email and ran across an email my mom sent me. It was about my Great Grandfather Orrin Van Loon. It was a link someone had sent her about her Grand Daddy. It was a picture of “Da.” It was a picture of him from 1924. Five years after he started Berkley Community Church. Every picture I have ever seen of him he is smiling. He has a look of joy on his face. You can’t see his face in this picture. The picture is of his bare back. Now I know that most of you don’t have a picture of your Great Grandfather’s back. I do. I have that picture because it is a picture of the marks of truly following Jesus.

You see Da lead a church in a community that was an epicenter for the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK had been doing cross burnings in the city of which he lead this church.

"The Reverend Orrin Van Loon, pastor of a community church outside of Detroit, openly criticized the Klan in 1924 from his pulpit; the next night a gang of hooded men forced their way into his home and dragged him to a waiting car which sped off to a lonely spot where Van Loon was branded on the back with three large letters: KKK." - The Great Pictorial History of World Crime- Jay Robert Nash

He spoke up for those who had no voice. He was probably attacked by people sitting in his pews the day before. He was missing for almost a month. He was found in a field hours north of where he lived. He remained Pastor of that church till he died in the late sixties.

Resisting the Devil is real work. It isn’t a passive thing and it might cost you. I believe that Da’s renewed body in the life to come will have those scars on it. It is the true marks of a disciple taking up his cross. What an honor to keep that for eternity.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Journal entry November 9, 1920

This is a journal entry from my Great Grandfather Orrin Van Loon Sr. Upon his ordination.

Nov 9, 1920 – Ordained at Orion, MI 2:30 p.m. Bros. Smithee, Diller with me. “ ‘Twas a great day! Never before did I realize the full importance of MY obligation to God, especially as a minister. In my weakness, O God, manifest Thy strength – Thy Power -- Thy Glory -- Thy Son -- Thy Spirit Thyself. Make me a faithful witness of Thy Redeeming Grace. Oh, Mighty God, manifest Thyself though me – May many, many find the peace of Thy love through the earnestness of my preaching, the sincerity of my devotion to Thee. Blessed God, there is none beside Thee. This was a great day for me. Grant, dear Lord, that it will be a great day for many who shall accept Thee through the foolishness of my preaching Christ and Him crucified for the salvation of souls.”-Orrin Van Loon Sr.

I was named Timothy because of the godly people who had gone before me in reference to 2 Timothy 1:5-7. I think it is interesting that we are not defined by those that come before us but they do have influence on us. We all have both positives and negatives that are part of our heritage. Positive examples and negative patterns that are passed down to us. We still have a choice to fall into those patterns, build on the good, or break free from the negative.

What are you doing today to build a legacy to pass on so that your great grandkids will be blogging about you in 90 years?

What will they be blogging?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Church Planter?

Ok I once had a job title of “Church Planting Resident.” Veritas has been called a Church Plant. This whole thing of starting new churches in the church world is called Church Planting. Why do we call it this? It sounds so weird. Business entrepreneurs are not called business planters. New businesses are not called business plants. The world doesn’t understand this language. It is church jargon. We have leaders who are supposed to be relating to communities and trying to start a church in that community bathed in jargon. Normal people don’t talk like this! Why can’t we call leaders Church Entrepreneurs and new churches a Church Startup. I think people would more easily understand what is going on. I would much rather be a Church Entrepreneur than a Church Planter. I would much rather lead a Church Startup than a Church Plant.

But these titles don’t even come close to encapsulating what this calling means. I wore a frog costume yesterday at a busy Bay View intersection holding a sign that said “We (heart) Bay View” with our website on it. I had a couple people yell out their window “We love it too!” All I could think was “not like we do.” Yes, you love living in this neighborhood. You love the proximity of parks, independent businesses, and great restaurants. I love it that way too but I also love this neighborhood in a way they don’t understand. They don’t know the love that breaks my heart for the 30,000 people that live in this zip code. You don’t know the love that brings tears to my eyes when thinking about a zip code. You don’t know the love that when sitting at a concert with over 1,000 people all I can think about is how many of them really don’t understand how crazy in love God is with them. What would it take for the lesbian couple sitting on the blanket to come to church and feel loved? What would it take for the guy sitting alone on the grass drinking really cheap beer all alone to know someone cares? What would it take for these people to find the real Jesus?

All it takes is people who love Jesus to show that love to them. We (I) need find common ground with everyone, doing everything we can to save some.

I always struggle when people ask me what I am at Veritas. I feel like just another person in this church. I usually say I’m a Pastor at Veritas. I don’t feel like that though. I feel like a guy who’s heart has been expanded and wrecked to be able to be wrapped around a neighborhood in a city that is foreign to me. That can only be done by God and doesn’t look good on a business card. I am someone that wants to do everything I can to find common ground with people in the Bay View Neighborhood of Milwaukee so that I might be able to be a part of God saving some of them. If that is a Church Planter than fine call me that. But the talk that surrounds Church Planting is more about core teams, meetings, launch services, vision, advertising and serving teams. What I feel like I am doing is being present with people who don’t yet know Jesus to be available for God to work. One of the most recent visitors to our church I have been building a relationship with for a year now almost to the day. That relationship has been built around community concerts, birthday parties, bar shows, and an invitation over a Miller Genuine Draft in a neighborhood tavern at 11pm on a Tuesday night. She came last week to church. If hanging out in bars, going to community concerts, standing on a corner in frog costume, and going to birthday parties after I had been hosting my son’s birthday party all day is church planting than sign me up. Church planting seems complicated. What I do seems simple. Maybe we could just simplify things and just be Jesus instead of planting so much.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

If I had a Million Dollars

So I heard today that a church startup that I knew about who had a significant amount of resources given to it is struggling to get going. Then I also saw some media from a new church plant that was amazing. I was looking around their website and they had on there what their “needs” were for the first two years. They want to raise over a million dollars to cover the first two years.

Veritas had some incredible financial blessings given to it. I am so thankful to Metrobrook for having me on staff for two years to start learning this church startup thing. We also had a very significant gift from a family and many normal people giving twenty dollars a month.

There are a lot of things I thought we needed that we don’t need. There is equipment, resources, and people I thought we needed that we really don’t need. Do I still want some of that stuff? Yep. But we don’t need it.

Is stuff wrong? No. But it is not necessary. This is what I would say to a person talking about a new church startup:

#1 Make sure you are called to do this. You have to KNOW this is what God is calling you to do. If you don’t you will give up. It is too hard. If there is something else you can do, Do it. If you are at a place where doing anything but a church plant would be a sin. Then do this.

#2. You need Jesus to grow a church. You don’t need Jesus to put butts in the seats but you do need Jesus to grow the church. You can do a church plant in a white suburb that targets families that has good teaching, music, and kids programs and put butts in the seats. You don’t need Jesus to do that. Your need for Jesus needs to be greater than the need to grow the church.

#3. You don’t need what you think you need because all you really need is Jesus. Remember this. All you need to be the church is a calling, vision, and Jesus. You don’t need a great sound system. You don’t even need a mediocre sound system. You don’t need a building. You don’t need a children’s director. You don’t need a seminary degree. You don’t need video projectors. The church grew and is growing all over the world with way less resources than most kid’s ministries have. The average global church startup leader is a 18 year old Chinese woman with no budget.

We have been lied to. Satan obviously does not want more churches to start up. He has convinced us that we need state of the art this or that. He has convinced us that we need mass amounts of resources to start up another church. Number one that creates a large obstacle for churches and number two puts our faith in the resources instead of Jesus.

You don’t need a million dollars to start a church. If you need Jesus more than you need everything else than go ahead and gather your resources. Our trust needs to be in Jesus and not a bunch of dead presidents.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Baptism by Pobby

Wow.  What a weekend!!! Vicky and I celebrated quite a bit of life change this weekend. 

First we had our baptisms at South Shore Park here in the lovely Bay View Neighborhood of Milwaukee.  It was encouraging to hear the stories of those getting baptized. When I doubt what we are doing sometimes I can go back to these stories.  I know God is using Veritas as his tool to do what he wants to do.  

Also we experienced quite a bit of life change at home.  Caleb went from peeing in his diaper to peeing in the pobby. (He pronounces potty as pobby)  I can’t believe how proud I am of him. He had some really rough moments but he came through in the end.  Are we accident free? NO  I caught him pooping in his cute little elmo underpants this morning.  

The one thing I saw this weekend is that life change is hard.  For Caleb it meant tears and holding his pee for an incredibly long time.  It meant a massive shift for him from diapers to the pobby.  To change a behavior he was comfortable with and was easier.  It was harder to go in the potty and not in his pants.  It was new for him.  He had times of failure. He had times of success.  We gave him grace and correction in his failures and encouragement and reward in his success.  In the end the payoff will be greater then the trouble.  Who wants to be fifteen years old having “accidents” in their pants?

For the people getting baptized it was about shifting from living for themselves to living for Jesus.  They stood in the water and identified Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Also they declared that they have chosen to follow Jesus for the rest of their days.  They will not be perfect but God will be there to give grace and correction when they fail.  He will also send encouragement and reward along the way with their successes.  There might be tears. It will be easier to live for themselves.  In the end though the is the payoff of life lived on earth with purpose and in heaven with God for eternity is so much more worth it then the alternative.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Life Change is hard work

So we have completed day one of Potty Training Boot Camp as we are calling it.  Vicky took the day shift while I was at work and then I took over for a couple hours before Caleb went to bed.  Caleb was exhausted before bed.  He seemed so tired from the day of hard work.  I was also pretty wiped out after the couple of hours on duty as the pee sergeant. 

This is a fairly drastic change of behavior for Caleb.  He is moving from pooping and peeing anytime he wants to having a place and time to do it.  He is taking on, mostly we are making him, a whole new set of behaviors and patterns.  He is doing a good job for day one.  He even told me he had to go pee and then went pee. To me that is a good milestone for day one.

We are doing baptisms this weekend at Veritas.  We are going to a park for our service, baptizing people in Lake Michigan, then having lunch at the park with everybody.  As we are taking on this potty training adventure I am thinking about the people to get baptized this weekend.  When we give our life to Jesus we are moving from living for ourselves to living for God. This should be a drastic change of behavior.  My biggest trepidation about doing baptisms is that I have seen so many people get baptized and then walk away from Jesus.  Truly giving our life to Jesus involves changing what our life is about.  It should take effort. It is going to be hard.  You should be tired.  We all have patterns in our life shaped by a natural tendency to do things our way.  Those patterns need to be put to death.  Those things in our life should be changed because they don’t please God.  Maybe we should all go through a LIfe Change Boot Camp. Why don’t we take more drastic measures to change our behaviors?  Why are we still comfortable going in our pants and letting it sit there so to speak?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Why go to church?

Why would I take time out every week to go to church? Is weekly attendance just something to check off my to do list? Do I think somehow I get in good with God if I show up to a church on the weekend? 

This is not the case for me. 

This is probably not the case for most people. You see the average “consistent” church goer attends about twice a month. This means that there are many people who identify with a church community that only show up to half of the gatherings of that given community. Now keep in mind that most churches only gather together once a week for maybe an hour and half TOPS. So church obviously isn’t something to check off because if it was people would find a way to etch out an hour and half a week if it was something to be checked off. So if that isn’t the case maybe showing up to church is a way to get in good with God. Although I don’t think this is the reason either. If weekly attendance was a way to get in good with God then it would be important enough to go every week. If I only show up half the time then I am doing a miserable job at getting in good with God. 

So I am kinda at a loss of why people go. As a pastor of a small church I notice when people are not there. I notice that this twice a month attendance from “committed” people is fairly true. 

I know why I go though. I know why I have given my life to the church. I know why I continue to be the pastor of a small infant church in the city of Milwaukee instead of giving up to find another job at a church with a bigger budget, more people, and the ability to get paid to do what I love to do. I know why my two year old son has missed less church in the past year than you probably have. I know why I am leading this church with no guarantees of getting paid come the new year. I know why I am at our gathering place every week and hour and half early. I know why I have took a pay cut from warehouse work to be a student pastor, and then took another pay cut to become the lead pastor of a church start up. I know why I have probably missed less weekend gatherings at church in my lifetime than most “committed” church people miss in a year. 

I go because it is worth it. 

You see I chose to give my life to follow Jesus at a young age. I asked that God forgive me for the evil things that were and are in my life. I am trusting him with my future. I am trusting that Jesus is who he said he was. I am trusting him for everything. I am trusting that what he said is true. That he came to this earth and was murdered for me. That because of the sin in my life there is no way I could ever get to God. There was no way I could ever get to heaven because I was good enough. My good enough would never be good enough for God. God is Holy and he cannot tolerate anything less. I believe that Jesus was perfect. He lived out the holiness that God required and then took what was coming to me. He took the death I had earned by my sinfulness on himself. He gave his perfect life for my imperfection. He was laid in a tomb so that a tomb would not be my final resting place. That it isn’t because of anything I can do on my own that God should take me as his own. It is only through the undeserved grace of God that I have any hope. I believe that because I have put my faith and trust in Jesus, God doesn’t count my sin against me. When he looks at me he sees Jesus’ sacrifice instead of my sin.

You see this is why I go to church. I am human. I fall short all the time. I sin all the time. I try to live out the way of Jesus as best I can but I am daily, hourly, sometimes minutely doing things that don’t live out the way of Jesus. I am frail. There is this bent we have as humans to do it our own way. So I have made this choice to follow Jesus and live life his way. Sometimes I still do it my way instead. It never works out for the best when I do it my way. Although God has proven himself over and over I still doubt him.

I go to church because I am frail. I doubt. I go because I have bad weeks. I have bad days. I have times that I choose to do it my way instead of God’s way. When I gather with other people that are either trying to live out the way of Jesus like me or are seeking out the way of Jesus it reminds me that I am not in this alone. That I am not the only nut out there that believes this stuff. When I teach or hear teaching it reminds me that this life that Jesus calls me to really is amazing. When I sing out loud about God’s amazing grace or that he is mighty to save it reminds me that others believe that too. It reminds me that there is a God who loves and has died for all. It reminds me that God is still on his throne and that there are others that call him Lord. 

When we as a church come together at church to worship, learn, and be with each other. We are also saying that we identify with a community that acknowledges that we need God. You may have time throughout the week you set aside to focus on God or pray but when you gather with others publicly you set a priority in your life. You communicate to your friends, family, and mostly yourself that my life with God and others is important. Important enough for me to be here every week. I may be having a great week and maybe on a given Sunday not need to be reminded of that, but someone else might be. By showing up and identifying yourself with this community you are making the statement that this life following Jesus is a priority in your life. I think we need to remind ourselves of this and maybe by just showing up you are supporting someone else that is wondering if it is worth it.

I go to church every week I am able because I need to. If you don’t need to and you have this life with Jesus thing all figured out good for you. I don’t have it all figured out. I still need to be reminded that God is great, that there are others around me that believe the same thing I do, that I am part of a community where God is changing people, transforming our relationships, building his church and impacting the world. That there are people who will pray, encourage, and be the church with me. 

So for all those who don’t have it all figured out, for all those who still need to reminded that you aren’t in this alone, for all of those of you who call Jesus saviour and don’t always act like it, for all of those of you who wonder about this Jesus, for those of you who don’t think God believes in you: I’ll see you on Sunday.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Veritas Prayer Update 7-21-09

Hello everybody.  I know that it has once again been a while since we sent out the last update.  Here is a quick catch up.  We last left you with Tim transitioning back into doing Veritas full time and moving to a morning gathering.

Well that transition is going well. There is a renewed sense of power in my teaching and it is a joy being able to lead the church again along side Vicky.  It took me a couple weeks to get back into the groove and align my focus again.  

Since coming back on full time and moving to the morning we are seeing God working.  God is raising up leaders in the church to take over key areas.  Jodi has been with us for a while now and has made a home here at Veritas.  She was helping with worship vocally and now has asked to take the lead in that area.  We also had someone from Metrobrook join us at Veritas to play guitar.  These are two huge answers to prayer.  

Also we had Zac and Sara step up and take over leadership of our kids ministry.  I can’t believe the passion they have to lead and teach these kids the way of Jesus.  It is also special because they are two former students of ours from our student ministry.  To see God raise them and give them a vision is such a joy.  

We asked our people to put into practice what they learned in our last series “Lead Where You Are” and plan for some summer Bay View events for us to be able to meet the community and introduce ourselves. They hit it out of the park!  We will be doing a Noah’s Ark theme at some key community events (August 4 and 8) - and it will be OVER THE TOP!  We are “building” an ark, we will have people in animal costumes walking around, games for kids, etc.  We have yet another new leader Anita heading up this project and everyone else is pitching in somewhere!

We are seeing God building the leadership infrastructure for growth. We are seeing God put puzzle pieces into place that weren’t there before.  We have people that are excited to serve.  We are READY for God to bring the people!

We also found out because of some church connections we could get a really good rate for Willow Creek Association’s Leadership Summit. So we presented it to our church.  We have ten people going who are taking two days to increase their leadership quotient.  Keep in mind we probably have around 20 people tops right now on a Sunday. I love this church!  We have at least half of our church going to the Summit.  We can’t wait to see what God is going to ignite in our people through this experience.  

We see God working in this expression of the bride of Jesus.  We love where we are right now as a church because our only hope is God.  Philippians 4:6-7 says “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”  We have every earthly reason to worry.  I don’t know if we will have a church or income in the new year.  Our desire is not to worry about that.  We want to instead tell God what we need. We need Him! We need Him more than we need Veritas to grow.  We need Him more than we need an income.  I want to know Jesus and the power of his resurrection (Phil 3:7-8).  If our church grows, great.  If it doesn’t God is still good and he is still on the thrown and he has other plans for us.  

As you pray for Veritas pray that our first love and desire will be to know God.  I pray that for you as well. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Meet the Owner Day

No surprise I’m at Stone Creek. This is not just another day at Stone Creek.  It is “Meet the Owner Day.”  It seems a little odd to me.  Some people come in here every day like me and for some this is the occasional stop on their way to work. I am not understanding why this guy is here.  For the regulars our connection is with the people who work here everyday.  For the people for whom this is a stop on the way to work they just want coffee.  I don’t think they care who is at the top of the money making chain.  This guy has no relevancy for me.  Stone Creek to me is Erica, Ben, Natalie, and Liam.  Its not this guy sitting next to me?

I would have to admit sometimes when our church gathers I see it as a “Meet the Owner” experience.  In reality there are some people who want to meet the leader of a community of faith.  I need to realize though that those people’s connection is with the people they came with.   The connection to any organization most the time will not be with the “top” of the organization its with the bottom.  The connection is with the people who love the organization and are fans of it.  

Our real goal should be to empower the people who have the connections to help drive the organization.  Let the manager at a certain location do what he feels would best for his store. The suggestion box needs to be a vital part of the organization.  Then follow up with those people to develop the idea, explain the obstacles the idea faces, or clarify the idea.  

Monday, July 13, 2009


I have been a Christian for over twenty years.  I grew up in the church.  God has always been entwined into my life.  I have always known about prayer. I have prayed too many times for me to count.  I have prayed with confidence like it talks about in Hebrews.  When we approach the thrown of God with confidence.  I have prayed for many things. I have prayed responding to who God is.  I have worshiped through prayer. I have confessed the ways I fall short of my Father’s desires.  I have prayed.  

Why then is prayer still such a mystery.  I am discovering new rhythms to prayer.  These rhythms are not in 4/4 time.  These are not the rhythms I am used to.  It feels awkward.  It feels unnatural.  My arms and feet have to move with effort to play with these new rhythms.  

The rhythm is foreign but I love the song I am hearing.  

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Toilet Paper Holder

There is a toilet paper holder in the men’s bathroom of the coffee shop that we work in that doesn’t work well.  You see it is a fancy toilet paper holder.  It doesn’t have the spring loaded stick through the middle.  The spring loaded stick works great for me at home.  I have never had a problem with that system.  The coffee shop has a holder that has two arms that have nubbins on them to hold the roll from the side.  There is nothing that goes through the tube.  It just holds the roll with these nubbins that only go a little way into the tube.  The problem lies in the fact that the nubbins don’t hold the roll.  The arms are not tight enough to hold the roll. So when the roll gets about halfway down the holder barely holds the roll.  

As a leader in the church I have a temptation to reinvent what we do.  I think most of us can admit that the church as a whole isn’t hitting on all cylinders.  My temptation is to change and question everything, to reinvent the wheel.  Sometimes we forget that the wheel works.  Its round, it rolls, and it works.  We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. The toilet paper holder doesn’t need to be reinvented.  The spring loaded stick through the middle of the roll works.  I don’t need arms with nubbins failing me when there are spring loaded sticks in the world.  

There are reasons that all the other entities that do what you do, do what they do.  Fast food joints have drive through windows.  This works. Maybe we could make it work better but to have fast food without a drive through window would be either stupid or groundbreaking. 

What is it that you question that just works?  What is something that we have accepted as the way to do it that could be reinvented? 

Monday, June 29, 2009

Noah and David

I taught this weekend about Noah.  Couple weeks ago about David.  What I have been seeing lately in these familiar tales is the idea that David killing Goliath and Noah building the ark is not really the story.   The story really is about what happened before.  The story is more about the prequel than the sequel.  I am seeing God more at work in the preparation leading up to these events than the actual events.  

There are so many circumstances that prepare David for Goliath.  So much so that I really wonder how much of Dave Vs. Goliath was actually God actively working that day.  I see the hand of God guiding David through his life to prepare him for that point more than God miraculously working through a young David to kill the giant.  David is the youngest in his family.  This gives him the task of watching sheep. This task give Dave the opportunity to kill bears and lions. This develops incredible courage and fighting skills. Watching sheep also give Dave a lot of time sitting around being able to work on his harp playing.  The harp playing creates a relationship between David and King Saul.  David plays the harp to soothe him.  The killing of Goliath required great courage, skills, and David knew the king which gave him the OK to go fight the giant.  Also David is at home watching sheep when Goliath is taunting the “army” of Israel.  David wasn’t in the army.  If he had approached Goliath with army tactics he would have been killed.  Was God more at work making David the youngest in his family or guiding a stone into a giant’s forehead?

Take also Noah.  Ya Noah built an ark and saved all of humanity and the earth’s wildlife.   Was this the big deal? We certainly make it out to be. Or was it more significant that the beginning of Noah’s story said he was a righteous man, the only blameless person on the face of the earth and that he walked closely with God?   

I think we as followers of Jesus like to focus more on the event rather than the preparation.   The event is sexy and exciting.  A boy killing a giant or a single man saving humanity from God’s wrath.  I think we do this because we want God to use us in incredible ways without the work God needs to do in us to prepare us for incredible things.  We want God to wave his wand and do something magical through us. 

Ephesians 2:10 says that God planned the good he wanted us to do and then created us to accomplish that good.  You are the way you are so you can do what God wants you to do.  

Do I want God to do something incredible through me with wanting God to do something incredible in me?

You will never accomplish an audacious mission from God without audacious obedience to him.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Caleb says "Hi" to everyone all the time.  This is his go to word.  I think he has figured out that if he says this word people will say it back to him. “I don’t know what it means but its kinda fun to hear other people say this word back to me.”  When we take him to a restaurant he will say “Hi” to people as they walk by our table.  When he wakes up in the morning and we walk in to his room he probably says “Hi” about 15 times before we get his diaper changed.  “Hi” is his go to word. He has mastered it and it usually works for him they way he wants it to.

What is our go to thing?  What is that thing that we are comfortable with and so we use it over and over?  It has worked in the past.  It works most of the time I use it.  I use it and get expected results.  The results are not outstanding they are just consistent and comfortable. 

What if Caleb switched it up.  What if Caleb busted out a “Greetings”?  Two year old saying “HI’ is expected, two year old saying hello to you with a “Greetings” unexpected.  Could he say “Hi” and get a “hi” back?  Yes.  If he busted out the “Greetings” I believe he would get more reaction.  

Take a risk and switch up your go to thing.  Change your order at your favorite restaurant.  Get water instead of soda.  Go to a different park with your kids.  Go a different direction on your evening walk. Read a translation of the Bible your not used to.  Kneel while you pray.    Change something.  Switch up your go to thing.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Five Percent Better

Ok so in my recent years I have been more a fan of watching golf than I have previously been in my life.  I love to watch Tiger play golf.  It is always amazing to see what he does on the golf course.  Now that I have, in the past couple years, actually started playing the game it is that much more amazing to see him do what he does.  

It was frustrating, as someone who loves to watch him do what he does, to see his play at this most recent US Open.  To see him only lose by four shots and be only one of a few players to hit under par on the last round is disappointing.  I'll admit I would love to see him keep winning and get the most majors of all time.  I want to be able to say I saw him play.  I watched him do that.  But there is something more that bothers me about this most recent tournament.  

4% was the difference between winning a fifteenth major victory for Tiger and placing where he did.  If Tiger had shot par on three holes that he shot double bogeys on and par on one more of the holes he boggied he would have been repeat US open champ.  That is only 4% of the holes over the course of four rounds of golf.  Could I approach 4% of what I do differently and have it be the final outcome be dramatically changed?  

You want to get more specific?  If Tiger’s shot total would have been two percent lower he would have won the US Open championship.  What is the difference between being the best and being good?  Two percent, Four percent. This is the margin between good and best?  That bothers me.  

If I did 5% of what I do better would it make that dramatic of a difference? To give 50% more energy or time into something is overwhelming.  But 5% I can do.  How do I become 5% better at what I do?  

Tiger said that his putting was off this week.  Ok that boils it down further.  Could I do one thing five percent better. If he had putted 5% better he would have won.  Could I do one thing that I do five percent better and have that mean the difference between average and exceptional?  What if I put that 5% extra into the wrong thing?  What if I only gave 3% more?  But what if all i needed to do to be exceptional was put 5% more into one thing and my outcomes would totally be different?  

What thing can I/you need to do 5% better at? 

What do I/you need to do to be 5% better at that thing?