Ratatouille By Myself

All summer I’ve been wanting to see the film, Ratatouille. My teenage daughters weren’t clamoring to join me, and my husband called it a cartoon – so Friday night I just decided to go by myself. I’m sure I was the only adult there without a child to join me, and one of the best parts was listening to the delightful sound of children laughing. It is a terrific film, incredibly creative and fun.
Imagine the pitch meeting of Brad Bird, the writer/director genius behind the film, as he proposed to the suits the concept of a rat who becomes a superb Parisian chef! I really would love to have been in the room for that conversation. I’m reminded that sometimes an artist or team of artists have a vision that makes no sense to others, that sounds like it could never attract an audience, and yet is rooted in a terrific story that should be told. I don’t know who the powers that be at Pixar or Disney are who gave the go ahead for the making of this picture. Surely the reputation of the team of Bird, Jon Lassiter, and others contributed to the yes. But all creatives should take heart in seeing the success of this film that on paper sounds absurd.
The art we propose for church doesn’t always fit into neat little boxes that make sense either. Artists, over time, must earn the opportunity to be heard as they pitch their concepts and advocate for their visions. We only gain the opportunity to take risks as we come through with powerful stories and delightful moments. Surely there are times our risks will fail. But I also hope there are serendipitous experiences on Sunday mornings, not unlike Ratatouille, where we are all surprisingly moved by something that should not really work in the real world of objectivity and the measurement of results.
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Last week, I had the opportunity to be a part of a creative brainstorming group. As I walked in the room, I was greeted with music playing, colorful bins of markers and paper, baskets of snacks, and little toys on the table. There was even a corner with a colorful chair and comfy cubes to sit on. Right from the beginning I was feeling this was going to be a fun meeting. Over the hours of dreaming and discussions with a very diverse group of people, there were many laughs and a boatload of ideas scattered all over white sheets of paper posted on the walls.

As the meeting went on, we hit a wall. We were just not moving forward. Instead of just pushing through, the leader asked us to take a break, find a place where we could be alone to listen to God. She asked us to pray and ask God where He wanted us to go next. It was a great reminder that what we came together to do wasn’t dependent on us. God was in control. It was humbling to come back from that exercise and listen to how God had spoken to each person.

I am grateful that God speaks to us, inspires us and leads us … each week artists in the church face the task of filling a blank sheet of paper and then turning it to a transformational experience. Many of us are doing double duty as you begin to create Christmas services. Just think … in 125 days, all your Christmas services will be behind you!

I am wondering if there is anything special you or your team does to prepare for Christmas. Share your ideas…we all need them! Remember, God cares even more than you do about your services and He will give you all that you need.
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What You Said

A few months ago we asked you about the specific ways you are building relationships outside the church. You told us that you are making this a part of the way you do life – you need exercise, so you run with your neighbor; you both have kids – so you talk about parenting; you like to read – so you started a book club.

We know … believe me we know … life can be full, but making room to share hope with God’s beloved is IT! These words are from one person who talked about how God is working in a "very slow, arduous process." "I am so grateful because last week … one of the wives in one of the homes (in her neighborhood) showed up at church. No coincidence that I ran into her there and no coincidence that she was in desperate need of prayer."

One of the respondents, Heather Palacios, Pastor/Weekend Coordinator from Flamingo Road Church, sums it up very well … “Our neighbors will always have little needs that we can fill (a smile and a hello; an offer to bring their mail in while they’re gone); but they also have the biggest need…to know Jesus. I totally believe God’s gonna use me and my house to love these guys so they will come to love Him.”

Thanks to all of you who responded to the question in our e-newsletter, EQ[U]IP. We want to say way to go! And keep it up! Let us know what you’re doing. Don’t underestimate the power of your words. Your stories encourage and inspire the rest of us.

What specific ways are you building relationships outside the church?
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Free Download: The Big Idea

Creating a Healthy Relationship between the Lead Pastor and Lead Artist
By Eric Bramlett and Dave Ferguson

Radio. Newspapers. Email. Television. Blogs. Magazines. Books. Podcasts. Weekend service messages. From the moment we wake up, to going to bed, we are inundated with information. Our congregation is overwhelmed with messages throughout the week. So what do we do to make the mission and message of Jesus stand out? How do we help our people not just hear the message but apply it to their lives? Listen in as Dave Ferguson, Lead pastor of Community Christian Church and Eric Bramlett, Creative Arts Director, talk about their process, their relationship and how this produces the ONE BIG IDEA that will be communicated in their weekend service and throughout their church ministries. Learn how a strong, trust-filled relationship between the lead pastor and lead artist can lead to great services and an environment where risk taking is encouraged and celebrated.

How is the relationship between the lead pastor and the lead artist in your church?

How is your church doing with communicating ONE BIG IDEA at the weekend service?

Click here to get this week’s free download.

Eric Bramlett is the Creative Arts Director for Community Christian Church in Naperville, IL, and has been since 1996. Eric's background is in the professional theatre, with degrees in acting and directing. CCC represents Eric's first ministry experience, and he hopes to be at CCC for a long, long time. He is responsible for overseeing all large-group experiences from intensive artistic vision through production, and anything else he can think of overseeing. Eric co-authored “The Big Idea: Focus the Message, Multiply the Impact” for Zondervan and Leadership Network with Dave and Jon Ferguson. Eric has continued to be involved in the Chicago Theatre scene, most notably as an Artistic Associate for Porchlight Music Theatre Chicago, a theatre company he has been involved with since its inception in 1995. Eric loves his wife Kristi and their three kids, Sadie, Dillon and Anna.

Dave Ferguson and four friends from college launched Community Christian Church, a church passionate about "helping people find their way back to God" which has grown to more than 500 leaders and more than 4,400 people in attendance at eight sites every weekend. With Jon Ferguson and Eric Bramlett, he co-authored The Big Idea. Dave serves as a resource for churches and leaders seeking to expand through multiple church sites and provides visionary leadership for the NewThing Network, a catalyst for a movement of reproducing churches.
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Gently Whisper Hope

The Leadership Summit is a profound experience on many levels. To be inspired, encouraged, and envisioned is such a privilege. I think about so many leaders throughout the years who have felt so alone, so weary and the incredible gifts received because of conferences, books, and technology.

Some of the messages presented this year were spoken loudly and unmistakably, while others you had to listen for more closely, because they were spoken or sung in the midst of many beautiful and life-changing truths. Some of the messages, the attenders would be able to quickly recite back... “Nothing matters more than the ownership of a vision.” However, there is a danger and a temptation to only pay attention to the obvious.

In the midst of the opening of Session 2, worship leader Greg Ferguson sang words that hit me between the eyes. He sang about a person who ‘gently whispered hope’ to someone in need.

What is it about a whisper that can be so powerful? I think back over my life and the whispered words that have been spoken to me. Of course, some of those whispers tore me down, but many, many of those words have shaped me and kept me going. I think back to a few years ago and I am indebted to my husband, my mother, and some dear friends who gently whispered words of hope that sustained me through a tough journey.

The song not only led me to reflect on the blessings I have received, but also led me to think about the opportunities I have to gently whisper hope to those God has put in my life. I wonder if I am I gently whispering hope to my husband who has embarked on a new career; my sons who are just 2 weeks away from entering middle and high school; the staff and volunteers I lead, who week in and week out are giving all they have to grow a small and struggling church; my neighbor whose daughter is struggling with cancer; or the cashier at my local supermarket who has been on her feet for six hours. My whisper can be a gentle touch, a smile, or a kind word. I can make time to listen with my whole self. I can make time to slow down, say good morning to the people I pass on the street and in the hallways. I can listen to God and speak His words of life to the people He values so highly. ”How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are.” I John 3:1

What are the gentle whispers that God has used to give you hope?
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Raise Your Hand

Nancy received the following response to her “Do I Want to be Called a Christian?” blog post from Mitch Harrison, Pastor of Artist Community at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, NV. (Mitch also serves as an Arts Champion, an advisor to the WCA Arts Movement.) Nancy was so moved by Mitch’s thoughts, she wanted to share them in their entirety with you here, and allow you to respond.

I always had a desire to say to those outside the faith “It’s not like you think.” I left the traditional church a lot of years ago so that I would have the opportunity to say to real lost people that following Jesus isn’t stupid.

So, the latest round of “why the world rejects the church” is troublesome to me as well. The world doesn’t think we’re irrelevant anymore –now they think we’re mean. Great.

But I don’t think the answer is for the church to grow more tolerant as we try to hang on to our beliefs. Maybe the answer is to become more loving and live out our real beliefs.

We believe that love is the highest expression of Christian character. We believe love fulfills the law. We believe that love covers a multitude of sins. We believe that everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. That love is our new command. That love is the most excellent way. That love never fails. That we love because he first loved us. That the love of Christ compels us.

And we believe that the one true identifying characteristic of Christians is their love.

Those are our real beliefs. We don’t give up our doctrine to live that way – we uphold it. We fulfill it.

I don’t think the world would be on us about not tolerating their beliefs if we loved them like all of our beliefs say we should. Besides, who wants to be merely tolerated anyway? Tolerance isn’t exactly the top of the food chain when it comes to human behavior. Jesus didn’t say, “A new command I give you; tolerate one another as I have tolerated you.” Do any of us really want to find out that people have only been tolerating us? “Yes Mitch, we’ve merely been putting up with you all this time. Want to get a Coke?” No. “Nancy, over the years of our marriage, I’ve truly grown to tolerate you.” Someone would be sleeping on the couch for a long time.

Tolerance of others sounds bad to us Christians — and it should. Tolerance is way too passive for Jesus. It stops far short of the kind of self-sacrificing, personally engaging kind of love that got us the name ‘Christian’ in the first place.

I was at a church leadership conference at Willow a long time ago and Bill asked how many of the leaders there had a strategy for growing their church. Nearly everyone raised a hand. He asked how many had a strategy for growing people into full maturity. Again, most raised a hand. Then he asked a question that rings in my ears still: “How many of you have a strategy for becoming a more loving person? Raise your hand if you are more loving this year than you were last.”

Oh man. Few moved.

We were all so ready to tackle the world of church work but had moved too quickly past the one quality that must be the motivation for every move we make as Jesus’ people.

I’m still working on raising my hand.


Pastor of Artist Community
Canyon Ridge Christian Church
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The Art of Teaching

One of the significant marks of a prevailing church is strong teaching. People outside the church are convinced that the Bible is out-dated, boring, and irrelevant when it comes to their personal lives. So how do we bring life-changing messages to the people in our church? How do we convince them that they should build their lives on God’s Word? John Ortberg shares insightful and practical ways to hone your gift of teaching in this weeek's free download, a talk he entitled, The Art of Teaching. He shares from the wisdom of scripture and experience that will benefit both the new and seasoned teacher.

Click here for this week's free download!

You might be tempted to skip this resource because you are not regularly responsible for the teaching in your church but this talk is for everyone! I would encourage you not to miss it. John brings insights into the gift of teaching that are transferable to other gifts and areas of life. If you choose, his thoughtful and challenging words will stir you to go deeper in your personal relationship with God and will bring growth to your ministry.

Think about the power of teaching in your own life. Surely there was a time that a particular message reached into your heart to change your life. Or perhapw powerful teaching changed the life of someone you know. If so, we'd love to hear your story.

John Ortberg will be one of the featured speakers at the Willow Creek Association’s 2007 Leadership Summit. He is a highly acclaimed writer and speaker and is the senior pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California. He is the best-selling author of many books including, The Life You've Always Wanted, God is Closer than You Think, Everybody's Normal 'til You Get to Know Them, and the August 2007 release, When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box. He served as a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church from 1994 to 2003. He is known for his ability to craft messages reflecting the highest levels of theological and intellectual thought, while remaining understandable and applicable to listeners at all stages of their spiritual journey.
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Arts and the Summit

The most far-reaching, and influential event offered by the WCA is the annual Leadership Summit, held in North America in early August and then in the Fall in countries literally spanning the globe. Primarily, the Summit is known for offering outstanding teaching on the gift of leadership, provided by a faculty from both the church world and the private business sector. Anchored by Bill Hybels, this year’s team of speakers is potentially the strongest ever, including Rev. Floyd Flake, John Ortberg, Carly Fiorina, Marcus Buckingham, and interviews with filmmaker Richard Curtis, President Jimmy Carter, and Colin Powell. We are praying that God will impact leaders all over the world through what we learn together; leaders who will then impact their churches and workplaces and neighborhoods for the cause of Christ.

While the Summit is primarily known for its faculty, one piece of feedback consistently stresses that the attenders are also looking for moments when they will be moved, inspired, and stretched by the arts. That is why we put two of our most creative, soulish, and skilled leaders – Corinne and Greg Ferguson – as Executive Producers of the entire event, and surround them with a team of artists. For most of the calendar year, the Fergusons are praying over, planning, and producing potential moments for God to deeply touch the Summit attenders.

What excites me most is a 13 minute piece that will open the Summit this year, a piece that began in the mind of Greg Ferguson as he reflected on the big picture of the church and our history. All too often we evangelicals neglect to recognize the thread of God’s work through time. We think only of the Here and Now, ignoring lessons of the past that can serve to inform us and perhaps keep us from making the same mistakes our ancestors made. “The first time I heard Greg’s piece I knew God had inspired him with something rare and truly stunning, a gift to all of us who bear the name of Christ. The team wrestled for weeks with how to best communicate the piece with video, with just the right cast, with a treatment that will most effectively augment the vivid truths contained in the lyrics. I can’t wait to experience the results! There’s just something about the power of the arts that transcends all other efforts to communicate truth. Yes, we need to hear the words of the incredible Summit faculty. But we also need to be refreshed, envisioned, and captured by moments that emerge from the hearts and minds of men and women who have been gifted to write songs and scripts, choreograph dances and craft videos that deeply move us. As you prepare to experience the Summit this year – which I strongly urge all of you to do, right in your area – be on the lookout for the power of the arts, and thank God for the wonder of these gifts that so beautifully minister to our souls.
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Move that Bus!

I love it! I love a story about someone who reaches out for help and finds more than they ever dreamed. I’m sure that is why I love ABC’s Extreme Home Makeover. I have often said that this show has redeemed television’s reputation.

I just watched a Grandma fall to her knees as a bus pulled away to reveal her hope… home for her four grandchildren. It made me think about the church and that dramatic ‘move that bus’ kind of hope we bring to people’s lives. I wish we had the ability to hear what is going on in people’s minds as they sit and watch dramas, dances and videos. I wish you could know the buses that are being moved away to reveal hope as they listen to your stories, songs and messages.

It has been more than 30 years ago but I remember the story that gave me hope…I was a high school student sitting in someone’s basement listening to a 20-something talk about his time in prison. It was in a foreign prison that the church reached out to him and convinced him that God had a deep love for him and would be there for him. And then he moved the bus…he told me that God loved me and would be there for me…any time, any where. I so desperately wanted to believe him. I wanted someone who would be there for me always. It was some months later that I fully embraced that truth but that evening the bus moved away revealing my heart’s home…so now many years later I fall to my knees in gratitude.
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