The Core Values for a New Company

Our Core Values

I’m starting a new company.

The name, the model and the brand are all in the works but I know it’s going to help leaders.

I love working with churches to clarify things like mission, vision, values and strategy, but it’s so much harder when you’re doing it for yourself.  Isn’t that funny? It’s often much easier to help other people see clearly.

As I think through this new company’s core values, here are some things that have risen to the surface over the last several months.

  1. Team. Ed Catmull says if you give a great idea to a mediocre team they will screw it up.  But if you give a mediocre idea to a great team, and they will nail it or improve it.  As I get started with this new thing, I’m really thinking WHO before WHAT. I’m excited about some partnerships that are developing and am committed to working through a team.  I want to create a place where people love to work. This is not about cool offices with ping pong tables. It’s more about trust, feedback and clarity.
  2. Church.  I’m not going to talk about pastors as a market or a niche, because the church is eternally important.  We love pastors and church leaders. It’s why I want to treat pastors with respect and help them where they need it most.
  3. Helping people is a good business plan. I want my business to be about other people, and will fight to keep it focused on this mission. If we love other people and have great products to help them, we won’t have to hype it. Help really does beat hype.
  4. The 20-mile march. This metaphor is borrowed from Jim Collins, but it speaks to the long-term view. Leadership companies and people with newfound platforms are springing up all over the place, but I want to build something that lasts.
  5. Try things. We’re not going to be afraid to experiment, because everything doesn’t have to work. Besides, a good education always costs something.
  6. Constant improvement. Thomas Fuller said, “If better were within better would come out.” I want to focus on having quality, helpful and practical stuff to help leaders. If we do that and if we focus on getting better, then I believe we’ll also get bigger. Evaluation is a big deal.
  7. Treat people the way you want to be treated. This is probably my #1 core value, and it’s also the toughest. It really is so simple and powerful. It infiltrates everything – from how we sell to how we communicate.

I’m sure these will change and the wording will get better. But I’m working hard to define these values because they will define everything else.  What do you think?

Steve Jobs, Electricity and Ketchup

What do you think of when you hear the word innovation?

I think of Steve Jobs unveiling the iPhone.  Or the invention of the printing press.  Or electricity…that was a big one.   These types of innovations are impressive.  They change culture.

But here here’s an example of innovation from Chickfila and Heinz.



They took something simple – something used thousands of times a day – and made it better.  It wasn’t a world-changing discovery but it’s an innovative change that made life slightly better for people who eat more chicken.

It’s not on the cover of Wired magazine and it’s not attracting venture capital from one of the world’s biggest hedge funds.  It’s way to common for that.  This is innovation in the everyday.

Innovation is more ordinary than people realize.  It happens the small scale, not just in Silicon Valley. In fact, you can innovate right where you are.

  • If you’re married, how about planning an innovative date for your spouse.  Take the normal dinner and movie and add some ingenuity and creativity.
  • If you’ve got kids, how about innovating a family night.  Turn off Netflix and plan a family Olympics, complete with water games.
  • If you’re a volunteer at church, set aside some time and think about how you can serve bigger, better or more personally.
  • If your faith has grown a little stale, how can you bring fresh energy and ideas to something that’s so important?

Sure, you might invent the teleporter or pioneer driver-less cars, but you’ve got plenty of opportunities to innovate right where you are.

Three Things You Can Learn from Centerpoint Church

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to visit Centerpoint Church in Chillicothe, Ohio (not far from Columbus).  I attended their Sunday morning services and spent a couple of days with the lead team and some of the key leaders in the church.  I love this part of my job, because I get to see what God is doing in churches all over the country and get to dive into some great leadership stuff.

I truly enjoyed meeting the team and being a part of the weekend at Centerpoint.  They are doing so many things well that could help other churches.  Here are three things I loved and three things that you could learn from this young church.

#1 – Their vision is everywhere.

I snapped the picture below while I was in their office debriefing on Monday morning.


I love how clear their vision is and that they hang it right on the wall.

And that just wasn’t something I saw on the wall, I heard it in the halls on Sunday.  Their vision was everywhere.  I saw the phrase “Crazy Love” all over the place.  Volunteers had it on t-shirts and they mentioned it in the service.  I asked lots of people, “What is Centerpoint known for in the community” and people immediately answered “crazy love.”   The vision of Centerpoint isn’t just on a website or printed in a handout, it has worked its way into the fabric of the church.

This is a great example of having a clear vision, but looking for every possible way to talk about it, illustrate it, and keep it before the people.  Here are some ways other you can use your vision statement in the real world:

  • Put it in your email signature.
  • Print it on the front of your bulletin or handout
  • Create a pre-service slide
  • Get appropriate pictures enlarged and hang them around your facility.
  • Say it during your welcome or to set up the offering
  • Put it on your Facebook and Twitter header images
  • Put it on the homepage of your website.

#2 – They value constant improvement.

I wrote a fairly detailed report for Centerpoint, and as we walked through it it was clear to me this was a church that really valued feedback.  “Don’t hold anything back,” they repeatedly told me.

When I shared something, they didn’t get defensive or try to explain how I didn’t know the whole picture.  At a volunteer training meeting, they told all of the volunteers they would share my feedback with them as well.

Their leaders spend a lot of time improving and tweaking things to make them better.   Clearly, this is a group of people that values feedback and improvement.

Not only do they value improvement in the services and programming, they want to get better as leaders as well.  This is huge, because it’s leadership that keeps most churches from reaching their full potential.

You see, a lot of pastors want to blame the facilities or the service times or the changing community, but leadership is really the issue.  Centerpoint has a leadership team who wants to keep getting better.  They are not comfortable with coasting.

And they invested in bringing me all the way from Jacksonville, Florida to Columbus, Ohio to get an outside professional opinion and speak to their leaders.  That’s a sign of a church who will continue to grow because they are investing in their own development.

It’s too easy to keep doing what you’re doing without measuring the effectiveness or the results.  Before you know it, you’re busier than ever but the effectiveness is gone.  Here are some ways you can stay focused on improvement.

  • Do a review meeting on Monday and talk about the service.
  • Let a church member read your message and offer feedback before you deliver it.
  • Hire ten secret shoppers off Craigslist to visit your church and do a debrief meeting.
  • Survey your congregation and ask for their honest feedback on the things that matter most.
  • Get your staff or key leaders together and assign every ministry or event or item a letter grade.
  • Ask for people’s opinions and give them permission to be honest.
  • Do real performance reviews with your staff
  • Intentionally learn from people who are different from you.

#3 – They filter things through the lens of a first time first.

When I walked into Centerpoint on Sunday morning, I could tell they had put a lot of thought and effort into creating an environment that would be welcoming to guests.  From signs to greeters to kid’s check, they did a great job welcoming people and making them feel welcome (two different things!)

IMG_4317It’s really easy for churches to get comfortable with the way things are and forget to prepare for guests.  Centerpoint does this every Sunday, because they expect guests to be there.   They evaluate everything that’s said from the stage and everything printed in the handout through the eyes of a guest.

If you’ve been on staff for a while, you’ve probably forgotten what your church is like to a first time guest.  It’s why you don’t notice the smell of your own home….you’re used to it.

Here are some things you might pay attention to in order to stay focused on first time guests.

  • Is your signage clear? (A sign that says “three year old class” is better than a sign that says “kid zone”
  • Do guests know where the restrooms are located?
  • Do you do a welcome time int he service to explain what’s going to happen today?
  • Are you using insider language in your bulletin or handout?
  • Do you assume people know the Bible?
  • Is your children’s area secure and clean?
  • Do people clearly know where to go or what to do if they have questions?
  • Does everyone who speaks in the service introduce themselves?

Those are three things you can learn from Centerpoint Church – a great church reaching the lost and unchurched in Chillicothe, Ohio.

Five Things People Told Me But I Didn’t Hear

Jennie and I just returned from a fantastic vacation in London, topped by a 2-day leadership and marriage intensive with some new friends.  It was a great time to get away and refocus.

Part of the leadership intensive was talking about my wiring and looking back on my life story.  The result was insight into tendencies and behaviors, as well as how to leverage my calling toward a preferred future.

I say all of this to say I’m great at looking forward but not so great at looking back.  As a visionary, it’s easy for me to run through bad things and even good things to get somewhere else.  But I’m trying to get better at living in the sweet spot of looking back and allowing God to use who he created me to be.

When Jennie and I move to Atlanta to start a church, a lot of people told us a lot of things.  I heard those things, but I didn’t truly listen to some of them.  Here are a few things people told me but I didn’t hear.  I share them in hopes that you’ll both listen and hear.

1.  Put your marriage and family first.  

Planting a church is going to be tough on you and Jennie, they told me.  I nodded my head in agreement, but I did very little to protect against it.  I figured this was something other people would struggle with, but I could move past it quickly. I didn’t listen.

I let the pace and the schedule overwhelm my soul.  I would work hard all day, meet with people, and use up all of my energy.  Then I would come home and need peace and quiet.  As an Introvert, being with people all day was draining, so Jennie got the short end of that stick.  “You have used up all your words,” she would say.

I also didn’t seek help.  We had what I would consider normal marriage issues, but I just tried to power through them.  I viewed professional counseling as a sign of weakness when, in fact, it’s a sign of strength.

2.  What you reach them with you have to keep them with.

This lesson is more about the church rather than my personal life, but it’s a powerful learning for me so I wanted to share.  Our brand new church grew pretty fast, and I adopted some strategies and tactics to help it grow.  Within a year, we had grown pretty large, especially considering the size of our town.  We did pretty bold, audacious things to encourage people to show up.

I didn’t realize that we would have to keep outdoing ourselves if this was our model.  It was hard to move people into next steps because I had unknowingly created a culture where discipleship, missional living, and gospel life wasn’t modeled.  We had great services and we could attract a big crowd, but it wasn’t enough.

In the end, hype doesn’t help.  Today, I tell people it’s not that hard to draw a crowd.  You don’t even have to be that intentional to get people to show up.  But it requires a great deal of intentionality and hard work to take people on a spiritual journey.

3.  It doesn’t get easier when it gets bigger.

People told me this, but I didn’t hear them.  I figured a bigger church would mean a bigger budget, but in reality, it also means more expenses.  I figured a bigger church would mean more people, but in reality, it’s more staff and more ministry.

I sometimes wonder why we equate bigger with better.  Maybe it’s just an American thing. But bigger is not always better.  Bigger is just bigger.  It’s why people that aren’t generous with $100 won’t be generous with $1,000.  It’s why people who are not faithful in the little things won’t be faithful with the bigger things.  More people just magnifies the problems.

For the last few years, I’ve lived in the business world and I’ve talked with a lot of business people whose lives are far worse because their business has grown.  Does God want a business to grow?  I wonder about that sometimes, because a bigger business might make you a worse person.

4.  You can’t do it alone.

As a pastor, I had something of a Lone Ranger syndrome.  I wanted to do things different.  I acted aloof and it was tough for people to get to know me.  Part of me felt like this made me interesting, but in reality, it just kept people at arms distance.

Working on my personality and leadership a little bit helped me realize how much I need partners and people around me.  It’s healthy for me.  My personality type and wiring tells me I excel when I have a small team of smart people around me.  Not working FOR me necessarily, but working WITH me.  The one man band mentality isn’t helpful.

In working with pastors, I see this all the time.  I see it in others because I so clearly see it in myself.  I see it in the pastor who won’t empower a high capacity leader because he will do things different or (gasp) better.  I see it in the leader who tries to mold everyone else in his image.  I see it in the leader who can’t let go.

But we are not superheroes.  We are not saviors.

5.  Don’t neglect your soul.

Over and over, people warned me about this but I didn’t truly hear them.  Heck, Jesus even warned people about this.  “What good is it if a main gains the whole world and loses his soul?” he asked.  I had a big church and a growing influence, but inside, my soul was dying.

Taking care of your soul is one of the most important things any leader – or any person – can do.  Forget this, and you’ll be passing out in the airplane seat trying to give oxygen to another passenger.

You can be a great leader and not be a great Christian.  That happened to me.  Don’t let it happen to you.

Some of the People We Admire Most Failed Miserably









The Nation of Israel

The Disciples.

All failed big time then started over.   In fact, many of the people you admire most failed in dramatic fashion.

They were restored.  They were given another chance.  And they went on to do great things.

Failure is not final.

If you’re not dead, God’s not done.

How Do You Know What To Do Next?


I’m in a period of transition.

In March, I stepped down as CEO of The Rocket Company to focus on helping churches individually.  In June, my family and I moved home to Jacksonville, Florida.  And I’m working to start a new company – figuring out what it will be and how it will be different.

That’s a lot of change packed into a few months.  Naturally, I’ve thought a lot about transition.  And I bet some of you are thinking about making a change.

So how do you know when the time is right?  How do you know when it’s time to make a change?  Here are three suggestions.

1.  Consider your future.

When you find yourself dreaming more about something else than what you’re doing now, that’s a sign a change might be good for you.

Are you constantly asking yourself “what’s next” instead of focusing on “what’s now?”  Do you find yourself dreaming about a different kind of life in a new place?

One of the reasons we moved to Jacksonville is we asked ourself where we wanted to raise our kids over the next ten years.  Since I can work from anywhere, planting some roots near family and friends was attractive.

Tomorrow is not promised, but tomorrow is full of promise.  So when you think about your future, you should be excited about the opportunity.  Dreams should come to life.

2.  Think about your energy level.

If what you’re working on now brings you energy, that’s a good thing.  But if what you’re doing drains you, maybe a change is in order.

I don’t believe there are many jobs where you’re in your sweet spot and working in your passion 100% of the time.  But if you’re only there 20% of the time, that’s not good for your long term health.

Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, says, “working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.”

You might not be passionate about every single thing you do, but overall, you need to love what you do.  If you don’t, start taking steps to change something.  This might not mean quitting your job in dramatic fashion, but it might mean using your free time to learn, grow or build something.

3.  What do your friends and family say?

When I was praying through all the changes, I talked to lots of friends, family members and coaches (I learned the power of this from working with Casey).  I highly recommend you get feedback from two groups of people.

First, you should listen to wise people who are disconnected from the situation.  People who aren’t in your shoes are often in a great position to provide great advice.  Since they aren’t emotionally connected, they can give unbiased feedback.  This is where coaches come in.

Be careful when seeking advice, though.  If you ask enough people or spin something just the right way, you’ll find someone to confirm a bad decision.

Secondly, you should listen to wise people who love you and have your best interest in mind.  We all need people in our lives who can’t benefit from knowing us.  We need friends who get nothing from being our friends.  Listen to those kind of people.

Chip and Dan Heath say one of the best questions to ask yourself when facing a big decision is “What would you tell your best friend to do, if he/she was in the same situation?”  That’s a powerful question, built on powerful psychology.  When people are slightly removed from the situation, their advice is far less biased.


Six Ways to Clear the Clutter

In my Get Organized Course (registration is currently closed but I’ll do another round later this year), I’m helping dozens of people organize their digital, personal and financial lives.

One of the big principles of organization is to get rid of the clutter.  Whether it’s your desk or your car or your mind, excessive stuff inhibits your ability to focus.  The old excuse of “I know where everything is” just doesn’t cut it.

If you want to be more productive and effective, you’ve got to clear out the clutter.  Here are six ways to get started.

1.  Set a 15 minute timer on your phone.  Work on your desk, the kitchen junk drawer or your closet for just 15 minutes.


2.  Make a donate box.  You can go all Martha Stewart and make something pretty and leave it out all the time.  It’s a great reminder to continually de-clutter.

3.  Buy this scanner and scan all papers that come into your house.  Then throw them away.

4.  Get rid of any clothes you haven’t worn in the last six months.  I promise you won’t miss that Cleveland Browns shirt you’ve had for the last 8 years.  It doesn’t fit anymore anyway.

5.  Use to unsubscribe from mailing lists.  Just don’t opt out of mine….you’ll want to subscribe, instead.

6.  Implement the 2 for 1 rule with your kids toys.  Kids are clutter culprits.  So make a rule…If they want something new, they have to get rid of two things they already have.

Those are six quick tips.   Leave a comment and share one of your own.

How Long Should a Sermon Be?


How long should a sermon be?

As short as necessary.

We appreciate it when others make their clear point and finish on time. So why do so many messages come across like lengthly wandering?  We know attention spans are getting shorter, so why do our messages keep getting longer?

Here are five thoughts.

1.  You are afraid of leaving something out.

You’re afraid of offending someone, or leaving out a viable argument, so you fill your messages with disclaimers and alternate perspectives.

In the process, youbury a simple idea in a sea of words.

If you have something to say, it’s not improved with more words and paragraphs.  You don’t have to provide disclaimers for six different groups of people.

2.  Your topic is too broad.

Many topics are way to big for one sermon.

But instead of narrowing your focus, you try to cram in everything.

More information does not make a better presentation.  In fact, the opposite is usually true.   Shorter is usually better.  A narrower focus will lead to a clearer outcome.

Your job is to take a topic and make it simple and actionable, not cover everything.

3.  You like hearing yourself talk.  

This one might sting a little.

A lot of presentations are too long because the person delivering it likes to talk.  After all, you’re paid to talk.   You don’t want brevity in a message to turn into scarcity of paycheck.

But the length of your message is not any real indication of how good it really is.  The length of your talk measured in minutes is not the same thing as how long your talk feels to your audience.

Just because you like to talk doesn’t mean everyone needs to listen.

4.  You are not prepared.  

Blaise Pascal once wrote in a letter, “I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”  He knew brevity that leads to clarity takes work.

Too many sermons are longer than necessary because the preacher  is not prepared.  The stage is not the place to think out loud or form your thoughts.  Preparation should lead to more succinct messages, not longer ones.

The opportunity to speak comes with a responsibility to prepare.  This takes hard work, focus and time.  You can rely on passion and talent, but speaking from that place is a well that will run dry.

5.  You believe longer messages are more faithful to the Bible.

You’re afraid to water down the truth, so you decide to keep teaching long past the point of people listening.  In preaching, you have two goals – to be faithful to the text AND to impact the hearts of people.  Sermon prep should start with the Scripture.  And your message needs to be God’s truth rather than your opinion.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s length that makes you faithful to the text.  Shorter messages can also honor God’s Word.

So how long should a sermon be?  As short as necessary to honor God and inspire people to follow him.

The goal is not to fill the time, but to change lives.

Three Inboxes Everyone Needs

One of the best practices of getting organized and streamlining your work flow is creating a place for things that come into your world.  Creating a collection point for work you need to do is a great way to get started.

I actually have three different Inboxes.

1.  Email Inbox

Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 7.19.15 AM

All of my email addresses come to one place, and I empty that Inbox daily.  It’s honestly not that hard if you use a few basic rules.

I try my best to use the OHIO principle – Only Handle it Once.   My Inbox is not a collection point – it’s a holding point and my goal is to get it out of there as soon as possible.

My other email rule is the two minute rule.  If it’s something I can do in two minutes or less, I do it right away.  90% of my email can be handled this way.

2.  Evernote Inbox

Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 7.19.00 AMMy favorite online tool is a free program called Evernote.  It’s a digital filing cabinet and I use it to save everything.  From product feedback to blog ideas to research for projects – if it’s worth keeping it goes into Evernote.

I created a default folder called !Inbox.  Whenever I sent something to Evernote via the web or email it goes to the Inbox.  Once a week, I clean out that Inbox, assign tags and move items to the right folders.

If you want to learn more about Evernote, I highly recommend this eBook by Brett Kelly called Evernote Essentials.  It’s so good I bought a copy for everyone in my Get Organized Now course.

3.  Physical Inbox

Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 7.19.32 AMI have a physical inbox in my home office for papers, bills and other stuff that comes into my house.  It’s a simple two level letter tray.

The top level is stuff to process – bills to pay, items to read, stuff I need to do.  Creating a place for this stuff keeps it from being all over my house.  The bottom level is processed stuff I want to save.  Once a month, I clean out the bottom tray, scanning most of it using my Doxie Scanner and sending it to Evernote.

Those are my three different Inboxes and uses them have really helped me streamline my work.

Leaders Must Challenge the Process


That’s one of the shortest but most powerful questions any leader can ask.

If you’re the pastor or church leader in a church, you must fight the temptation to maintain the status quo.  This will require both courage and humility, because you will have to often change what you fought to implement.

In The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner say leaders must continually deconstruct ideas.  Being in the trenches means you cannot see the horizon, so you must intentionally come out of what’s normal and ask questions.  Questions like:

  • What hasn’t changed in your church in the last three or four years?
  • What are you doing because you’ve done it that way for a while?
  • What’s working just good enough to be left alone?
  • Why is the sermon 30 minutes long?
  • Why do we really have that particular ministry?
  • Why do we send that, say that or do that?

These are tough questions, but it’s your job to ask them.  You must find better ways – more efficient and more effective ways – to lead ministry.  You must challenge the status quo, question the process and continually ask WHY.

If there is a better way to accomplish a goal, it’s your job to find it.

Six Questions Every Leader Should Ask


There’s a great article from Andy Stanley in this year’s Leadercast conference notebook.  In the article, Andy shares six questions every leader should ask.  Here are those questions with a little of my commentary.

1.  Which gauges should we be watching?  In the church world, it’s pretty easy to measure attendance and giving, but those are trailing indicators.  You need to look at some gauges for leading indicators, too.

2.  Where are we manufacturing energy?  Some things churches do simply drain all types of resources.  Cut those things out, even if there are emotional attachments, and put that energy to things that truly matter.

3.  Who needs to be sitting at the table?  You want strategic people in strategic meetings, regardless of their title and position.

4.  Who is not keeping up?  This is a tough question to ask, but there might be someone who isn’t growing with you as the church grows.  It doesn’t mean you need to get rid of them, but you might need to reassign or refocus them.

5.  Where do I make the greatest contribution to the organization?  You need to do the things only you can do.  If you’re out of your zone, you’re likely acting as a leadership lid.

6.  What should I stop doing?  One of the best questions leaders can ask their team is “where do you need me less?” If you’re involved in everything, you’re making it all about you.

Do any of these questions resonate with you?  Which one do you need to ask yourself?  Which one do you need to ask your leadership team?

Download my full notes from LeaderCast 2014 right here.

Do you need help with something big?

Do you need help with something big?

I’ve got space on my calendar to work with your church over a period of FIVE months.  It’s personal consulting focused on solving one big issue.  The issue might be:

  • Developing a staff and volunteer leadership system or reorganizing your leadership structure
  • Creating healthy ministry systems and practices so things run more efficiently
  • Reaching more people so the church grows in size and health
  • Overcoming a big obstacle you’re facing or getting off of the ministry treadmill
  • Launching another campus or some other big initiative

Imagine working on a big project for about six months.  That time frame would give us time to truly identify the issues, create a solution and implement it.  I’m doing this with two different right churches now and we’re making killer progress.

You’ll get one site visit (with an option for more if you need them), monthly meetings with you and/or your team (can be via Skype), and weekly check in calls focused on the point leader. It’s totally customized for your needs.  And I’ll work with you and walk with you the entire way.  This is what I’m doing for a living, so it’s not free.  But I think it could be worth it for you and your church.

If you’re interested, let me know your challenge and what it would mean to solve it.  You can contact me here.

A Collection of Book Notes

I still read old-school books.  Ebooks are convenient, but I prefer a hardback and a pen in my hand.

Part of my reading routine includes typing out notes and quotes, which I often post to this blog.  Here are some of the most popular book note posts.

Creativity Inc.

The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization


The Road to Burgundy

Insanely Simple

So Good They Can’t Ignore You

Start with Why

Start Something That Matters

Necessary Endings


Michael Lukaszewski and Bob Barton

Jennie and I have been back in Jacksonville for a few days, and this morning, I had the opportunity have breakfast with my former Junior High pastor.

Bob Barton was my youth pastor at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville from 1986-1989.  He actually served in that role for 19 years.  This morning, we swapped stories about old times and God’s grace.  And I was reminded of a really powerful principle.

During my junior high and high school years at First Baptist Church, a lot of great people invested in me.  Here’s the thing:  I remember very little of what they actually said.  I don’t remember many Sunday School lessons.  I still have some old notes, but I don’t remember many sermon points.

But I remember people.

I remember Mr. Barton faithfully teaching, preaching and leading.  I remember my high school pastor, Calvin Carr,  inviting a small group of guys over to his home on early Saturday mornings.  I remember the feelings and the community and the impression that something important was happening.

It dawned on me today that it was his Godly example and faithfulness over a long period of time.  It was discipleship, but it was consistency and time.  That’s what made the difference.  And there’s really no substitute.

During our conversation, I reminded Bob of this difference.  “I know lots of people have probably told you this, but you had more of an impact on people than you may realize.”  I shared with him that it was his consistent love for people and Jesus that made a difference.

I’m all for strategy, leadership, programming and systems.  Those things can make powerful, powerful differences.  Heck, those are the things I love to help churches implement.   But no system can compensate for a lack of heart.  No strategy can make up for a shallow purpose.

Bob Barton knew the point of youth ministry.  It wasn’t entertainment.  It wasn’t to keep kids from trying drugs.  It wasn’t even friendship.

It was discipleship.

How NorthPoint Has Shaped Us These Last Three Years

My family and I have attended NorthPoint Community Church in Atlanta for the last three years, and it’s been absolutely crucial to my healing and our growth as a family.


For those of you who may not know, I pastored a church for about five years.  After what some call a moral failure, I resigned to work on my marriage.  Friends helped me, a recovery group prayed for me, and a counselor helped us process and understand everything.  I don’t hide this, because it’s a part of my story.  It has influenced me, but it’s not defining me.

That first year, we attended Buckhead Church while renting a small house in the city.  I needed to be at a church where I couldn’t be in charge of anything and I couldn’t find anything to critique.  You see, my issue wasn’t lust or anything like that – it was attention and power and being in control.  So I needed to be in a church where I couldn’t lead anything.  I needed to sit.  So for the first time in a long time, we went to church as a family.

After a year, we bought a house in Alpharetta and switched to NorthPoint.  It was awesome to attend the same church in a different location.  Our kids got involved and their small group leaders have been awesome.  Last week (our last week in Georgia), Matthew’s Upstreet leader took him to Andretti’s and out for ice cream.

And Jennie and I connected with two different small groups.  As a pastor, I always made excuses about how tough it was to be in a group, but at NorthPoint, we knew we needed to make the effort.  Our group in Buckhead and our group in Alpharetta have been incredible in different ways.

I’ve been in ministry for nearly 20 years – as a youth pastor and then a church planter – but these three years attending NorthPoint have been some of the most instrumental in my life and faith.

Here are some things I’ve learned about NorthPoint over the last three years – things that will shape my ministry in the future.

1.  There is a focused commitment to the mission.  NorthPoint is committed to reach people that don’t go to church, but this isn’t just something they say.  It’s something they do.  Everything – from the facilities to what is said during the welcome – is intentional.

2.  People will give and serve to an organization that gets this.  I’ve seen so many people give and serve at NorthPoint, because they know they are connected to something truly important.  You can say NorthPoint can do so much because they have money, but I believe they have money because they do the right things and people want to be a part of it.

3. There is an intentional development of other preachers.  Over and over, people ask me what’s going to happen to NorthPoint when Andy isn’t there.  I have absolutely ZERO knowledge of this, but I’m less concerned about NorthPoint than I am about other churches.  Because there are amazing communicators in NorthPoint world.  I believe Andy is one of the best communicators on the planet, and he doesn’t teach all the time.  If one of the best doesn’t have to preach every week, that tells you something about their commitment to develop other people and give them opportunities.

4.  There is a high commitment to family ministry.  A lot of churches say they value families, but NorthPoint backs it up.  Being family friendly isn’t about decorated hallways and quality production.  It extends to not busying up our schedule with extra activities and reimbursing people for childcare so they can participate in a community group.  Our kid’s group leaders and those who work in these ministries are heroes.  They are dedicated and passionate and they love Jesus.  They may not speak at Catalyst or publish books, but their influence in my family over the last few years will not be forgotten.

4.  Community is really important.   For three years, we’ve heard about community over and over.  For as big as NorthPoint is, it’s equally as small.  It’s funny – some of the most uninviting churches are actually small churches, where everybody knows everybody (but you!).  NorthPoint feels small to us because we actually know some people.  And the commitment to lead people into community runs throughout everything.  Lauren’s community group (she’s in 6th grade) has been huge for her life and faith.  They do stuff outside of church and it just “works.”  You can tell that groups are not just tacked on to the ministry menu at NorthPoint.

5.  Quality begets trust.  From the family ministry environments to the quality preaching, when you focus on being good, getting bigger is often a result.  NorthPoint does everything with excellence, and this starts with not doing everything.  When we go to something or participate in something, we know it’s going to be thought through and done well.  That kind of quality leads to trust.

6.  You don’t have to be a bozo to gain attention.  You don’t have to camp out on the roof or give away ski boats to attract people.   I just don’t see a lot of gimmicks at NorthPoint.  It’s quality and consistency that leads to a great reputation in the city.  When you truly know what people want and need, you can address their needs without coming across like a used car salesman.

7.  A consistent strategy over time equals results.  NorthPoint doesn’t change the mission or the strategy every couple of years.  For as long as I’ve known of them, and for as long as we’ve attended, things have been consistent.  Be Rich (the year-end giving campaign) grows every year because it builds on the success of last year.  Their system for recruiting volunteers is awesome.  I think a lot of churches would benefit from having fewer ideas and being more consistent and more creative with the ideas they already have.

8. You can accomplish exponentially more through a team.  Over the past few years, I’ve gotten to know Jeff Henderson and Gavin Adams and lots of other leaders in the organization.  There are some amazing leaders at NorthPoint.  Smart people.  People that get it.  In my next season of life and ministry, I’m carrying this forward.  I want to get the WHO right, and then the WHAT will follow.

9.  Andy is a great preacher.  Duh.  We’ve been so blessed to hear Andy in person over the last few years.  The things he says and the way he says them have been inspiring to me.  Andy has a depth to what he’s saying – you can just tell he’s not saying everything he knows about a topic when he speaks.  There’s so much more under the surface.  Besides, people can tell is you’re saying everything you know on a subject because you crammed for the exam.

10.  It’s been a place of recovery.  Our family is ready to tackle “what’s next” because of the investment NorthPoint has made in our faith, life and marriage.  The best thing I can say about NorthPoint is that it’s a church full of grace.  Nobody backs away from teaching the truth, but everything is saturated with grace.  We’ve heard (and seen) so many stories of restoration, and it’s awesome to see the church at the center of this.

As we leave Atlanta – our home for the last decade – and head home to Jacksonville, Florida, we leave better because of NorthPoint Community Church.  I’m very grateful.

For the friends we’ve met.  For the sermon’s we’ve heard.  And for the grace we’ve received.