My Week at Exponential


I attended Exponential Conference last week. It's the world's largest church planting conference with over 5,000 attendees and almost every speaker you can imagine. This was a new experience for me, as I've generally grown weary of large conferences like this.

Here are some reflections from last week:

  • The theme of Sifted was perfect. We've had some of the hardest months of our lives since we began church planting. It turns out that we're not alone. If one can be encouraged by the suffering of others, I was. At least I felt like we're not alone.

  • I like church planters. They're a bit edgy and a lot of fun. One of the best parts of the week was the opportunity to hang out with other planters, and I loved it.

  • On a practical level, I needed what I learned at the conference. The seminar on prelaunch funding by Generis was excellent. I picked up enough content in that workshop alone to make the trip worthwhile. I also attended workshops by Auxano, and picked up some good resources from the displays.

  • I can't tell you how much I enjoyed hearing from the wives and families of some of the speakers. It seemed to bring a completely different dimension to their stories.

  • I'd developed bad attitudes against some of the speakers. I had to repent of this. I learned from some of those that I thought had nothing to teach me. I was wrong.

  • It felt good to get out of my bubble. I still like my tribe, but I also like getting out of it. If I ever become so entrenched in my tribe that I stop relating to other tribes, somebody please whack me.

I've generally not a fan of big conferences, but this one was really helpful. Check out the details of next year's conference if you're interested.

Stop Chasing Models and Start Chasing Jesus

From The Measure of Our Success: An Impassioned Plea to Pastors:

If church history proves anything, it's that the next church system or model will not fix the problems, the sin, and the hurt in our churches. Only Jesus, his love, and his power can do that…

Pastors, we must stop chasing models and start chasing Jesus again! The health of God's church depends on it. (Shawn Lovejoy)

Saturday Links

That Idol That You Love, It Doesn’t Love You Back

Here’s what you need to know about your idol: That idol that you love, it doesn’t love you back. False gods don’t love you. Idols don’t keep their promises. Anything you worship and build your life on other than God will suck the life out of you and destroy you.

The Pastor's Job is to Be the Lead Disciplemaker

The pastor has to take the lead because at the end of the day, it's all about making disciples! That's what Jesus sent His disciples to do. If the pastor isn't making disciples, He's a disobedient pastor.

The shepherd's responsibilities and liabilities

There may be no rewards on earth. There may be little to show for his years of affliction and labour, but - if God be with him - there is a reward to come: he does not walk away empty-handed if, in dependence upon God's grace, he has faithfully discharged his responsibility. He may have nothing in the present age, but he is rich in the age to come.

Pastors: keep your “gray” areas off the stage

Don’t raise gray issues to the level of black-and-white. When you do, you’re speaking authoritatively where God has chosen to be silent. Which is not ground on which I want to find myself.

It’s a Strange Thing Being a Pastor

This is strange work, being a pastor. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

How Grace Motivates

You will be amazed at the fruit the Holy Spirit produces when you focus on grace, rather than threats and incentives. Grace motivates.

I Think I’ll Just Be A Normal Christian From Now On

Sometimes all the labels can be a burden to me … So I think I might just be a normal Christian from now on.

Are you a Bridge builder?

When it comes to winning a client, or inking a new partnership, or developing a new friendship, there are some key things I’ve learned over the years that might be helpful.

How to Follow Up

Lead Pastor, I would argue that outside your weekly sermon preparation and leadership development, guest follow up is one of the most important things you should do. Don’t overlook it, don’t give it away, and don’t neglect it. Do the important work of following up and let’s shepherd the people Jesus is drawing to our churches.

Coping with Email Overload

When we don't control our email habit, we are controlled by it. Everyone I know complains about email overload.

Email pours in, with no break to its flow. And like addicts, we check it incessantly, drawing ourselves away from meetings, conversations, personal time, or whatever is right in front of us.

Review: You Are a Writer

You are a writer final gold 225x300

Jeff Goins has earned a place in my Google Reader. He's consistently putting out good material on writing. In particular, he's really good at busting through the some of the excuses we make for not writing.

You know the deal: there are lots of us who want to write, but never get around to actually writing. The excuses are endless, but the result is the same. We going to become a writer one day, but that day is always in the future.

Goins has been there. He's been the guy who wants to write. He's been the guy who blogs in obscurity. He's been the freelancer who's been ignored by publishers. More recently, his blog has taken off, and he's now approached by publishers. He's got a book, Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into your Comfortable Life, coming out later this year.

That's why Goins is the guy to write the book You Are a Writer. The book explodes our excuses for not writing. It encourages us to write for the love of writing, to realize that "writing is mostly a mind game." It gives practical advice on building a platform, establishing a brand, opening channels of communication, and writing a book.

According to Goins, the act of writing comes out of your identity as a writer. You don't become a writer; you declare yourself one and live out of that identity.

This is a quick read. If you read a lot of Seth Godin or Steven Pressfield, then what Goins writes will be familiar. But if you want to write and you're stuck, then this book may be just what you need.

Gordon MacDonald once wrote about the sadness of a book never read. There's also some sadness in a book, article, or post never written. You Are a Writer may help you get past the sadness of only intending to write, and get you actually writing.

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Word versus Deed: An Interview with Duane Litfin

There's been a lot of talk recently about the relationship between words and deeds. Books like What Is the Mission of the Church? and The Gospel Commission have generated a lot of discussion on this important topic.

120424I'm glad that Duane Litfin has written a new book called Word versus Deed: Resetting the Scales to a Biblical Balance. Dr. Litfin has served as President of Wheaton College. I've been in the classroom with Dr. Litfin, and I've appreciated his wisdom and sharp mind. I'm grateful that Dr. Litfin agreed to answer some questions about this book.

Why is there so much confusion about the importance of the relative roles of word and deed in what God has called us to do?

The subject is complex and it’s easy to lose the balance called for in the Scriptures. At any given time, cultural influences have tended to jostle the Church toward one extreme or the other. In our own day, postmodern tendencies tend to valorize deeds at the expense of words. And at all times society at large is much more likely to applaud our acts of compassion and mercy than the “word of the cross.” Hence the difficulty of maintaining our balance.

What's at stake in this discussion?

The Scriptures portray the Church’s verbal and nonverbal witnesses as complementary. To play down our verbal witness is to sacrifice what the Apostle Paul calls the very “power of God for salvation,” the Gospel itself (Rom. 1:16). But to fail in our nonverbal witness (our deeds) is to sacrifice our role as God’s agents in the world and undermine the credibility of the Gospel we proclaim.

What are some Scriptures that are frequently misunderstood on this topic?

I have a whole section of this book devoted to ways the Bible is misused in this discussion. Matthew 25:31-46 and Jeremiah 29:4-7, for example, stand out as fairly egregious examples.

Are there some dangers we face when we prioritize proclamation and word ministry and downplay the role of deeds within the local church?

I would want to resist “prioritizing” proclamation and “downplaying” the role of deeds. That’s certainly not what this book is about. What I’m after is a biblical balance that reflects their respective roles and gives due weight to both. The final chapter of the book discusses the challenges of deciding in particular cases which is needed most.

You write, "Even the clearest grasp of our biblical calling does not guarantee simple, straightforward (much less easy) answers in real-life situations." How can we avoid being paralyzed by the complexity of this issue, and the needs we see around us?

In the final chapter of the book I also introduce what I call the Nehemiah Principle, after the strategy he employed in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. The principle is, we are all called of God to build our part of the wall. We cannot do everything. But we can do something. So what is “our part of the wall,” that “something” God is calling us to do? Then we apply ourselves faithfully and sacrificially in fulfilling this call. Expending ourselves on the basis of God’s call, rather than futilely trying to be everything to everyone, is a far healthier and more biblical way to live the Christian life.

Thanks, Dr. Litfin.

Find out more about Word versus Deed at and