Beginnings Aren’t Sexy

There is a tribe of human beings who love beginnings.  Are you one of them?

  • Did you play with toys as a child for a day or two and then move on?
  • Did you have a slew of short or shallow dating relationships?
  • Do you find yourself dreaming of what could be even while what is right in front of your face is doing well?
  • Are you kind of good at lots of stuff because you like the rush of getting to know something but the knowing it well part sounds tedious?
  • Would you rather be on a new adventure than sticking with what you know is fun and fulfilling?

If you said yes to any of those things then you might be like me: a person obsessed with beginnings.

There are other ways to describe us — visionaries, entrepreneurs, self-starters, etc.  But those descriptions are too positive, too sexy, and too deceptive.  What people like me really are is this: we’re scared of slow success, we’re impatient, and we can be a terror to lead.

When I was a freshman in college I asked my parents for a guitar for Christmas.  My dad wisely resisted, saying something like this: “Why?  You’ll just put it down and not touch it for two years after you mess around it with it for a week.”

Does this sort of response sound familiar to you?  Well, it did to me then (and still does today!).  But I promised my dad that I wouldn’t quit, that I would stick with it no matter what.  This was going to be different than the skateboard, the remote-controlled car, the yo-yo, etc., etc.

And it was.  For what seemed like the first time in my life I put in effort.  I got past my obsession with beginnings and put in the hard and arduous work of learning to play the guitar as a not-so-musically-talented person.

I spent months learning how to play the G, C, and D chords so that I could play 95% of the worship songs out there.

I took three college classes on guitar and music theory for guitar.

I upgraded my guitar, selling my first one in the process, after months of saving up enough cash.

I practiced religiously for years, eventually upgrading again and helping lead worship for hundreds of people.

I finally got to experience the joy of something besides beginnings…and it was great!


Beginnings Aren’t Sexy

Here’s my contention — for some of us we need to be told again and again that beginnings aren’t sexy.  They aren’t all that they seem.  Sure, they’re fun and challenging and full of affirmation.  But their joy is short-lived.  Friends, the things in life that are worth living for can’t be fully enjoyed at just their beginnings.

What sorts of things?

  • Friendship: When you first meet someone that you think you’ll develop a friendship with it can be exhilarating.  But the joy that comes with sharing your innermost thoughts and fears with someone that you can intrinsically trust due to years of proof is too amazing for words.  Sure, there are bumps in the road.  There is difficulty.  There are tears.  But their are smiles, little victories, parties, empathy, vulnerability, and depth too.
  • Marriage: The wedding and the honeymoon are great.  But take it from an old pro (12+ years in the bank as I write this), the long car ride, the impromptu lunch, and the partnership through treacherous life stuff is better.  Way. Better.  If married people stopped at beginnings then there would be fewer epic love stories, fewer weathered rocking chairs on porches, and fewer places of uninhibited personhood.
  • Leadership: Starting out is great.  There’s stuff to learn, people to assess, vision to cast, and execution to look forward to.  But it won’t take long for those things to pass and the real work of serving the people you lead to begin.  That’s where the rubber hits the road.  That’s where people will actually buy into your vision instead of just saying that they will.  If leaders only stay around for beginnings, then they’re not really leading anything — they’re starting things.  Leadership requires patience, presence, and persistence — three things that only begin to make their presence known during beginnings.
  • Following Jesus: I want to end with the most important one.  When we first hear about and internalize the good news of Jesus and his kingdom and agree to follow him, it’s amazing!  We experience the reality of God’s love and the familial support of his people.  Often we are “on fire” and we start telling everyone we care about (and someone people we barely know!) how much God loves us.  But following Jesus isn’t just for the beginnings.  No.  Just like the things above, it is often over the span of many years that how God is calling us comes into clarity.  God takes his time to show us how we fit into his ministry of reconciliation and if we stop at beginnings we’ll miss out on all that he has for us.

So beginnings can be tantalizingly appealing.  But they really aren’t as sexy as they seem.  The real stuff comes with age, with time, and with experience.  The real stuff can’t be discovered overnight.  The real stuff must be teased out and spelled out over years and years if not decades and decades.

So here’s the challenge: Barring something exceptional (like abuse or a clear word for God), stick to the things you feel God has called you to.  Don’t jump around.  Invest in your human relationships.  Lead well for a long time in one place.  And follow Jesus for your whole life.


What do you think?  What’s is so enticing about beginnings?  And am I right, is the long haul actually better?

Missional Beginnings

How did this all start for me?  How did the passion for having a missional posture and incarnational habits begin in me?

Well, it all started for me just about a month ago at Exponential West.  Exponential is a church-planting network that hosts conferences during which folks from all over the world come to get inspired and to learn.  This year the theme was “Discipleshift” — helping churches make disciples.  I was asked to go by Lake Avenue Church, where I am a member, congregational leader, and a part-time, temporary staff member.  The work that I do at Lake is specifically connected with discipleship and my role as a congregational leader is as part of a leadership team for a diverse group of young adults called Crossroads.  In other words, I am fully invested in discipleship at Lake.

So I went to the conference with some other folks from Lake, both staff and non-staff members.  From the very first session that I attended to the last I was blown away!  A simple and basic theme ran through everything — we need to get back to what’s centrally important: making disciples.  Sounds pretty simple and I think that almost all of us would agree with that basic premise.

But our churches just aren’t doing a good job of making disciples anymore. I talked about this some in a previous blog entitled New Wine?. But to reiterate, basically the churches in the U.S. that are growing are growing thanks to transfer growth and most churches in the U.S. aren’t baptizing any new believers who don’t have familial connections with the church already.

But making disciples is more than just making new disciples; it also involves helping those who are already following the risen Jesus follow him better. Our primary means of facilitating this growth in most churches in the U.S. has been through cognitive learning done at the church. Now there’s nothing wrong with cognitive learning!  But the truth is that it simply is not enough on its own. Why not? Because there are different types of learners. Because cognitive learning does not always lead to different behavioral habits. Because some people who want to follow Jesus need to learn within intimate community and/or in experiential, hands-on kind of ways.

Also, a second common theme at Exponential West was that being a disciple means at least two things: 1) A disciple’s life shows growth in fulfilling the Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22.37-39: Love God and love your neighbor); and 2) A disciple’s life shows growth in helping to fulfill with others the Great Commission (Matthew 28.19-20: Go and make disciples).  So, to put it more simply, a disciple is a follower of Jesus who loves God, loves his neighbor, and seeks to make disciples of others.

What does this look like?  Well, this is where a third theme emerged, which I have given a shorthand: Up, In, and Out.  This Up-In-and-Out language came to me from the mission statement at Transformation Church in Rock Hill, SC, which is pastored by Derwin Gray.  But here’s the point, a disciple has a strong relationship with God (Up), fosters authentic and fun community (In), and cares about living out the gospel in the world (Out).  My understanding of this concept grew thanks to the book by Hugh Halter called The Tangible Kingdom.  Hugh calls these three ways a disciple lives communion (Up), community (In), and mission (Out).

After taking in all of this on the first day of the conference, I was lying on the hotel-room bed staring at the darkened ceiling asking myself how I had missed all of this.  How could I have so contrived what it means to follow Jesus that I’ve missed the simplicity of growing in fulfillment of the Greatest Commandment and the Great Commission?  Up, In, and Out is so simple and so straightforward.  And yet for most of my life as a follower of Jesus I’ve focused almost solely on Up, some on In, and very little on Out.

As I stared at the ceiling I felt a growing sense of excitement that some of the things that I had been learning about could be implemented in my life and into the life of the community of which I am a part.  I started dreaming about ways to change some of what I do to become more missional.  I started thinking about how to tweak a few things in Crossroads so that we could better encourage one another to fulfill the Greatest Commandment and the Great Commission.  I started to get a vision for how things could be different.

Upon returning home I started sharing this vision with my wife, Alida.  She loved it!  Immediately she and I began discussing some new difficulties that might arise as a result of doing church differently.  We also started thinking about how our lives as a couple could change if we adopted a missional posture and began forming incarnational habits.  We both got really excited about this idea!  Alida is also part of the six-person leadership team of Crossroads and she thought that it would be wise and fair to share the vision with the rest of the team as well.  So, over the next few weeks I met with each of the other leaders in Crossroads to share with them what I had been learning.  To a person, everyone was excited!

Fast forward a bit and we come to last night.  Since we have a leadership meeting coming up on Monday night, I thought it would be good to remind our team of what we had chatted about.  So I sent them all an email that had a list of talking points for Monday.  The goal was for us to all be thinking about how focusing on discipleship from a missional/incarnational perspective might change how we do things in Crossroads.  With that meeting just a few days away now, my excitement is growing as I think about what dreaming together with our leadership team might look like!

What impact might this new wine have?  Only time will tell!

If you are interested in some helpful tools, I highly recommend the following two books, both by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay: The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community and AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church.

Welcome to My Blog!

Over the last several years I’ve been on a journey.  I thought that it was going to be an educational journey; and it certainly has been that!  I also was sure that it was going to be a relational journey since I am married to an amazing woman who just so happens to be an uber-extrovert!  I was also pretty sure that it would be a religious journey as well seeing that I’m a follower of Jesus.  However, parts of this journey have been surprising, as tends to happen with journeys!  There have been unexpected joys, lots of opportunities to grow in patience thanks delayed gratification, and tons of experiences, nuggets, insights, failures, and victories that I think are worth sharing with the world.


That’s what the purpose of this blog is going to be.  I am going to use it to share with you some of my journey.  I’ll write about the three spheres of my journey primarily — the educational sphere (which I’ll call “Nerdy”), the relational sphere (which I’ll call “Relationships”), and the religious sphere (which I’ll call “Following Jesus”).  These spheres will intersect quite a bit, like a Venn Diagram, so sometimes a single post may fit in more than one sphere.  I’ll do my best to keep things clear by organizing my posts into categories so that they can be easily perused by those who are interested.

My goal is to post three times a week.  I’m hopeful that I’ll post more than that at times, but I’d rather promise a little and deliver more than vice versa!

Thanks for reading my first post and I hope you’ll stick in the days to come!