I Met Jesus At the Best Western This Morning

I had to get up early this morning, well actually, I got up at the same time I always do, it just always feels early. However, this morning I had to get up early in Madison, Wisconsin and then drive back to the Chicago Area for a 9:00 am meeting. As you might guess from the title, I woke up at a Best Western in Madison. One of the nice things about staying at a BW is that they offer you a free breakfast. So, this morning I grabbed my luggage and headed down to the restaurant. All I wanted was tea … I don’t eat breakfast that early. So, I get my tea and begin picking up my bags. A gentleman, a service employee, approached me with a warm smile and asked, “You don’t have time for breakfast this morning?” I explained that I had a 2 hour drive and had to get moving. His face showed me that he understood, he had heard it before. He touched my arm and said, “Well, may God bless your day. May He bless your weekend.”

He did it! God had blessed my day through this man. And it wasn’t programmed. It didn’t use the latest technology. It wasn’t cutting edge in any way. But it is mid-afternoon and I am still affected by the gift of someone, a person who didn’t know me and wouldn’t gain anything from me, reaching out to me and being a part of God’s blessing. I felt noticed. I felt cared for. I felt listened to. I was inspired to be different. I was moved to be a part of a blessing.

I was blessed when I met Jesus at the Best Western. Have you met him anywhere else today?

And may the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives
and splashes over on everyone around you, just as it does from us to you.

I Thessalonians 3:12
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Do You Disagree?

How do you deal with people who don’t agree with you? Do you label them misguided? Uninformed? UnChristlike? Okay, maybe you don’t use those words but is that really what you mean?

How do you deal with people within the church that don’t agree with your philosophy of ministry? Your view on worship? What do you do when you don’t agree with the way someone expresses their art?

My heart is grieved over the number of conversations I hear about the wounded within the church. The church is supposed to be a place where the broken find refuge and hope. But it isn’t uncommon that the broken find themselves wounded within the refuge of the church by fellow followers of Christ.

How we handle differences should be a distinguishing mark of God’s people. Love. Grace. Kindness. Gentleness. Patience. Would these be the words you describe your behavior or others when involved in a disagreement?

All too often I hear the following words describe the behavior of those in the church that are in disagreement: Toxic, Immature, Narrow mind, Belligerent, Unkind, and Judgmental.

I think we need to do some self-examination when it comes to how we respond to people who don’t see things the way we do. It isn’t a matter of right or wrong. It is a matter of do I behave as if I have Christ’s eyes? Do I listen with his ears? Do I speak in a way that affirms another person’s value and worth regardless of whether they agree with me?

When we find ourselves in a disagreement and the other person’s behavior is less than admirable, let’s ask ourselves why they are reacting this way. What was the tenor of our relationship prior to the disagreement? Was it marked by truth, trust and love? Be honest.

If it wasn’t, might that explain the reason John walked out of the room angry when you told him that leadership has decided Clay should lead worship at the church’s anniversary celebration? John has been the lead worshipper for the past 10 years. This last year Clay came on board. Clay is 25 and is a gifted worship leader. No one would argue, including John. The problem is that no one really talked to John before the announcement was made. No one affirmed his past contribution or explained how they saw his role continuing or changing over the years. Leadership just expected that he would trust them. John tried. He tried to be supportive and encouraging to Clay. He tried to be a ‘team player’ and contribute ideas and serve in a supportive role. But now this announcement has him feeling insecure and embarrassed.

Why are we surprised at Jenn’s grumbling? She had been the primary script writer for the past 3 years, since the church started. As the church has grown so has the team. There are now 2 other writers. Most people think they are better than Jenn but no one has had a truth-filled and loving conversation with her. Instead everyone has tried affirming her role as an actor. Hoping she would see that this is her best contribution.

The members of the choir are stirring things up. People are talking about leaving the church. Spouses are calling up angry and asking to meet with arts leaders. It was a month ago that a letter went out explaining the church’s decision to make a change in worship styles. The letter thanked the choir for their contribution over the years and then they explained that they thought they would be used 2 to 3 times a year. Some people have talked to leadership. Most of the time those conversations have been heated and nothing seems to be resolved.

I am not na├»ve; I know that most situations are complex. And I know that many would take issue with my statement “It isn’t a matter of right or wrong. “ My point is, are we behaving as Christ would in our disagreements?

The truth is we all have areas within our character and behavior that needs maturing and growth. We all have views that are limited by our experience or lack of experience.

The wounds aren’t caused by the disagreement of the issue, the philosophy, the view or the expression. The wounds are inflicted by our behavior … our sharp and judgmental words. Our decision to not listen with an open mind and a tender heart. The damage is done by us choosing not to speak the truth in love.
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Arts In Canada

I’ll be investing the next few days in Canada, coaching Arts Leaders on Wednesday in Toronto, and then leading an Arts Conference Friday and Saturday in far Eastern Canada at a church in Moncton. I haven’t looked at a map yet, but I think Moncton is in New Brunswick, which vaguely sounds like Anne of Green Gables territory.
The church overall in Canada is not faring very well compared to the United States. I’ve lost track of the weekly percentage of church attendance in this vast country to the north, but it isn’t good. Yet there are some faithful leaders who adamantly refuse to give up, and keep looking for ways to ignite their brothers and sisters and to revitalize their local churches. I am inspired by their tenacity, and feel sobered by the challenge to be available the next several days to the work of the Spirit in me and through me. I’d appreciate any prayers – not so much for me, but for the encouragement of these Canadian leaders to persevere and to keep abounding in the work of the Lord no matter how hard it gets. They are such wonderful people, even though they say the word out funny…...
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A Mobster Captivates Our Church

This past weekend was electric at Willow, because of the dramatic story of a convicted mobster named Michael Franzese. Once a captain with the Columbo crime family in New York, Michael spent eighteen years in illegal businesses, making millions of dollars and, in his words, violating the laws of both God and man. Then in l985, Michael’s life took a huge turn when he met and was attracted to a young Christian dancer named Camille. The story of how the mobster gradually surrendered his life to God is a captivating tale of grace.

These days, Michael tells his story in many churches. He is an excellent communicator, and does not seek to glamorize the life of a mobster. He shoots straight, especially with men, about what it means to humble oneself and turn over control to God. Some friends I had invited could not make it, and I sat in church deeply disappointed I had not taken more advantage of this unique opportunity.

What I noticed most was the boldness with which Michael addressed our congregation. He held nothing back. He told the scandalous story of the gospel and stated that if he can be forgiven, anyone can. People lined up for literally hours after the services to speak with Michael. Clearly God used him to spur some folks to take a next step, to quit putting off their need to confess and come clean before their Creator. I suspect there will be new brothers and sisters in the kingdom family as a result of Michael’s ministry this weekend and wherever he goes. It’s just like our God to save the most unlikely of people and then launch that individual into the telling of a grace story. Sunday morning in church I was proud of my church for taking a risk and bringing in this man to give his message – but even more, I was so very proud of the God for whom absolutely none of us is a lost cause, the God who specializes in shocking us with the power of redemption.

Posted on Nancy Beach's blog, Sept. 11
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Free Download: A Welcome Thing Drama Script

It’s not unusual. We’ve all done it. When faced with a tough situation, we look for a conventional response or for someone else to step in. There are usually a myriad of reasons why we wouldn’t think we are a part of the solution. Our lives are full. There must be someone else more qualified. And it wouldn’t look right.

This drama gives us a glimpse into one of those tough situations and how two people step in to make a difference. Ron and Paul decide that God has asked them to step out of their comfort zone and to not worry about appearances. God is asking them to be His hands and feet to someone in need. He is asking them to share what they have. He is asking them to have courage to be the answer.

We think this drama has the potential to open our eyes and hopefully our hearts to how we might be part of the solution.

Click here to receive this free resource.

To learn more about this resource visit ServiceBuilder.

Let us know what you think!
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What You Said

A few months ago we asked you, "What would you like to see at next year's Arts Conference?”

Thanks to everyone who responded to our question. September is a significant time of ideation and planning for the 2008 Arts Conference. We appreciate your prayers and are always open to hearing any further input you might have.

Here are some suggestions we’ve already received:

A breakout focusing on photography
More drama at the main sessions
A time to meet and network with church leaders and artists “in my neighborhood”
A track that would focus on leadership, innovation and challenges facing small churches
A session focusing on a theology of worship
A n opportunity to observe a rehearsal for drama and rhythm sections
A breakout dedicated to brass and reed instruments
And a chance to observe a creative planning meeting

It isn’t too late to send us your suggestions and ideas, so if something came to mind while you were reading this, drop us a note! We hope to see you at the 2008 Arts Conference on June 11 – 13.
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Free Download: Let Go and Open Up- Drama Script

Trust. It isn’t easy. We’ve all been let down by someone. Some of us have been wounded. Some of us carry the pain and disappoint for many, many years. So then when it comes to our relationship with God … it’s hard. We’ve heard He’s faithful. We are told He is near. We are taught He listens … He wants us to talk with Him … to pray. For some this may come easy but for others they have a lot of past to get over. It isn’t easy to put their trust in God.

I like this script because I think it shows someone’s real struggle with trusting God. It shows their desire to want to give everything over but not having confidence in the process. Jen, the main character is so tired of the way her life is, but she's afraid of letting go and being let down. Again.

We offer this script for two reasons. First and most importantly we want to remind you of the people in your church, on your team, in your neighborhood and maybe in your family who are in the same place as Jen. God calls us to bring truth and encouragement to the broken. We can do that with our lives. With our art.

Second, we want to give you this script as a resource. You might be able to use it in a service or as an idea. We hope it feeds and touches the creative part in you.

Click here to get this week’s free download.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3: 5, 6

To learn more about this resource and to watch a preview of this drama visit ServiceBuilder.
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Big Idea Practicum Opportunity

Yesterday I met my friend Eric Bramlett for lunch. He’s the Arts Leader at Community Christian Church in Naperville, Illinois. Whenever I spend time with Eric, I feel a little tired just listening to all the new initiatives he and his team are working on, and I tell him it’s a good thing he’s so young! One of their latest ways to help serve other churches is a practicum they will offer in October on how they manage the creative process for what they call The Big Idea. Many other churches are following their lead in planning services 9 weeks ahead and using the main theme in all their age-graded ministries as well each weekend. If you’d like to bring a small team to Naperville to learn from them for a couple days, here’s the link to get more information: The BIG IDEA Practicum

Another project I was excited to hear about at Community Christian is their upcoming production of the tremendous play, Our Town. In a small black box theatre on their campus, this innovative church occasionally offers a theatrical production for their wider community, partly to sow seeds and give people a great experience on a weekend at their church. In addition, these productions stretch and further develop their team of artists because they can sink their teeth into something that is longer than your average Sunday morning drama sketch. I’m hoping to take my daughters to see the play next month.

I’m thrilled that Eric and the rest of the gifted and devoted team at Community Christian are serving the kingdom about an hour from where I live, reaching one of the fastest growing regions in our state. What a gift to be inspired by this brother yesterday, and to celebrate what God is up to in his life and in Naperville!
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Free Download: Integrity

Integrity: What It Is and Why It Matters
Nancy Beach, Henry Cloud and Bill Hybels

Integrity. It is a significant and weighty word. We don’t use it casually and unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be used often enough when describing leaders. Why? What does the word really mean? How do we cultivate it in ourselves and the communities we lead?

As you begin a new ministry season, approach new challenges and new opportunities, we would encourage you to take time out of your full schedules to listen to a message that will remind you, encourage you and teach you about the significance that integrity plays in your lives and your ministry.

Are we, the church, doing a good job in demonstrating integrity?

Click here to get this week’s free download Part 1

Click here for Part 2

Nancy Beach is executive vice-president of programming and production for the Willow Creek Association and a teaching pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. A champion for the arts and artists in the church, she is the author of An Hour on Sunday: Creating Moments of Transformation and Wonder. Nancy holds a master’s degree in communications from Wheaton College.
Dr. Henry Cloud is co-founder of Cloud-Townsend Clinic and president of Cloud-Townsend Resources. He is a popular speaker and co-host of the nationally broadcast New Life Live! radio program. He has written or co-written nineteen books, including Boundaries, It's Not My Fault: The No-Excuse Plan for Overcoming Life's Obstacles, God Will Make a Way: What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do, and Nine Things You Simply Must Do: To Succeed in Love and Life. His most recent books are How to Get a Date Worth Keeping and Integrity. In his consulting practice, he works with leaders of organizations and corporations, from family-held firms to Fortune 25 companies and non-profit organizations. With his extensive executive coaching background and experience as an organizational and leadership consultant, he speaks regularly at corporate and leadership events held across the United States and internationally. He is a graduate of Southern Methodist University, having earned a BS in psychology. He completed his PhD in clinical psychology at Biola University.
Bill Hybels, founding and senior pastor of Willow Creek, is well-known for his relevant and insightful Bible-based teaching. He is the author of 20 books, including Just Walk Across the Room, Rediscovering Church and Fit to Be Tied (both co-authored with his wife Lynne), Too Busy Not to Pray, Becoming a Contagious Christian (with Mark Mittelberg), and The God You're Looking For. He is chairman of the Willow Creek Association's board of directors. Bill received a bachelor's degree in Biblical Studies and an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Trinity College.
Link to pt 2 of this message – Defining Moments: Integrity: Cultivating Character – this is on the WCA site too.

Click here for Henry Cloud's Book, Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality
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