Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Yeah, this will go down in the record books as a pretty good day.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lessons Learned - Day 2

So, this morning I went to church. I went three times. Because I'm a sinner and need it. Or an overachiever pastor. Actually both. And I'm going to another in a couple of hours.

I'm sinner and an overachiever... OR I don't have much of a life.


I plan to write more when I process this more, but some quick, general observations.

1. If John is any indicator, my Saturday night preaching experience is pretty common.

Like mine, John's Saturday sermon was longer and not as tight as on Sunday. I actually liked it more. There was more historical stuff. He cut stuff on Sunday that I liked a lot. He also got more animated as the services progressed and ad libbed more. Interestingly, they use the Saturday message for the other video campuses, so even if it's not as good, it can't suck as hundreds of people will see it.

2. Prediction: video venues are the way of the future (if not the present).

Menlo is out of room. Saturday was probably at 50% capacity. The traditional 8 am service at 80%, I went to a second site at 9:30 and then back to the main campus for 11, which was at 90% or more. I think the balcony had some seats. The only way for them to grow, is to plant other campuses or build a bigger building (which they can't do as there is no land -- and the world doesn't need another pull barn).

This is only my third time visiting a site where the teaching was done on video, but all three times I WENT asking, "Why would people come to this?" and LEFT thinking, "You know, this might be the service I would go to if I went to this church." I watched John give the same message live on Saturday, and then watched the exact same message on video at one of their video sites. It was better on video. It was just uncanny. But honestly, people were more engaged watching the video.

Now, I think video works for a really large church where the sites are smaller. I'm not sure if it would work for, say, Central. But each of their video campuses are about the physical size of Central... and they were packed. I mean packed. I mean really, really, "I can't find a chair I think I'll sit on the floor" kind of packed. (Again, probably 90% capacity if everyone moved in and sat next to each other).

Here is the thing: What the satellite campuses had, that they main campus didn't have, was informality and intimacy. (You can bring in coffee, it's smaller and more intimate). The reason I wonder if video would work with a church the size of Central is that Central already has informality and intimacy.

But I actually think that video venues work.

There, I said it.

3. If people are excited about something, or if they get the big picture, they will put up with inconvenience.

There are a number of ways I saw this played out, but a big one was children's ministry. I had this idea for our second site and my staff "poo pooed" it -- but Menlo has their children's ministry for their cafe campus, at their main campus (about 3 blocks or so away). So people drop their kids off at the main campus, and then drive or walk to the cafe campus. When I asked, "How do you get this to work? Don't the parent complain? Don't they fear leaving their kids?" the children's person looked at me with this dumb look and said, "No. But we don't have a choice."

This kind of plays into the consumer mentality. I could go on and on about this, but I won't. But it was interesting to see what Menlo didn't offer.

Which leads me to the last one (for now), and this is a big one.


Cause I'm going to say it.

Here we go.

4. Central, we do NOT have a parking problem.

Quit whining. No really. Seriously. I mean it. Quit. There are people who parked 5 blocks from the church. Their lot is the size of a postage stamp. (Okay, that is a huge exaggeration, but it's way too small for the church). Now, granted, it's California and the walk was really, really nice. They don't deal with snow. But seriously, if the early church can meet in catacombs under persecution, we can walk a block or two. Really, we just need to get over this.


Top 10 ways to make this lunch really, really, uncomfortable for John.

#6. "Thanks John for having lunch with me. So I have this one question that I really, really, have always wanted to ask you. So... [pause], what's it really like to work with Bill Hybels? Is it as cool as I imagine? I mean... you must be so honored to have worked with him...." [gushing about Hybels continues on through the entire lunch].

An open letter to the Time Zones

Dear Time Zones,

We need to have a little talk. You see, 5:30 a.m. may be a good time to wake up normally, but because of YOU, it's 2:30 a.m. here in California. This is unacceptable.

So here's the deal: I'm going to try to explain this to my body. If it doesn't listen by tomorrow night, I'm just going to ignore all of you. You heard me, I will ignore each and every one of you.

So, I suggest you put in a good word for me and get this worked out soon OR you are dead to me. Hear me? DEAD TO ME!



Saturday, April 09, 2011

Everybody's Normal

Normal is good.

So today I flew to California to take a few days to study Menlo Park Church and, more specifically, to have lunch with John Ortberg. The flights were good... but man... I'm not sure you can cram many more people into that space. Sheesh.

By the way... my administrator rocks. She did all the logistics: booked my flight, car and room; and handed me a folder with all my stuff (in order) that I would need. She even included a sheet of bonus material, including an excellent Indian restaurant which I tried tonight. I can't tell you how much I hate doing that stuff... what a great gift to me. I don't want to post her name, but you Central people know who I'm talkin' about. Well done! Go give that girl a hug!

Tonight I went to the Saturday evening service at Menlo. I plan to go to 5 worship services this weekend: tonight, 3 on Sunday (including their satellite campuses) and their Sunday night "next gen." service.

Full Disclosure: It. Was. Not. What. I. Expected.

First, it's a traditional presbyterian church. Yes, they installed lights, screens and cameras.... but it feels "small church" in every way (Granted, it probably holds 700?) John's name is on the little sign out front. A lot of older people. I came early (of course), went around beforehand and just struck up conversations with people asking about Menlo from an insider's perspective.

They talked about it like it was the church down the street.

And what surprised me is that they talked about John just like he was another pastor.

This is very different from my other experience with John, which was while he was at Willow. Willow, by its sheer size and prominence, breeds a kind of "unapproachable pastor" aura. The pastors are the people on the stage. They are celebrities. Now, I'm not saying they are arrogant or even that they reinforce this image... but the medium is the message in this case. Put a person on stage in front of 7,000 people with their image on two huge jumbotrons... and you just can't help it.

John is a normal pastor here. He stood down front and talked with one or two people after the service... just like I do. People didn't crowd around him to get his autograph. (This is different from my common experience at Central, of course... where people clamber to get my autograph).

Actually, I spoke with 3 people for some time before the service and the first two people I met said, "Honestly, I'm not crazy about John's preaching. I liked the last guy."


So honestly, this makes me feel better about my life. Because, if John can't please everyone... man... I'm not sure who can.

With rare exceptions (none of which I can even think of right now, so maybe it's "without exception"), I have never visited a church and wished I was the pastor there. I love Central. I love my community. Yes, there are days when I have wondered if it was time to move on. Yes, there are days when I'm sure Central wonders that as well!

But the grass is not greener on the other side.

Even if you are a famous author.

Or if you are in a church and you get a new pastor who is a famous author.

Leaving, on a jet plane...

So I'm sitting in the Columbus Airport at AA gate 32. My flight doesn't leave for an hour, but I'm one of those, "get-to-the-airport-really-early-so-you-can- leisurely-stroll-to-the-gate-and-watch-the-people-who-show-up-5-mintues-before-boarding-run-like-their-hair-is-on-fire" kind of guys.

I'm actually flying to California to have lunch with John Ortberg (see previous post). I'm also visiting their other sites to see if I can get a better sense of how they do the multisite thing. Turns out I also get to attend an meeting of the executive team to do some strategic planning, meet with some staff and attend a creative team meeting. I'm pretty excited.

People have asked me if I'm nervous or if I fear anything about meeting him. Honestly, what I fear most is being perceived as a stalker. I mean, really -- I'm flying to California JUST to have lunch with this guy.

I actually think I have a healthy perspective on "celebrity." Plain truth -- in many ways John has been my pastor and mentor through his writing. (Pastors don't get a lot of pastors as we are usually pretty busy on Sundays.) I respect him a great deal. But although I deeply respect John, I really am not all that star struck.

Although, just for fun, my wife and I began a list of "Top 10 ways to make this lunch really, really, uncomfortable for John."

# 10. Have a shirt made with his head on it (older Central folks, think of the Aaron S. floating head shirt). Have something printed on the back like, "I [heart] John Ortberg."

#9. Bring a stack of his books (yes, I own all of them-- and a couple I have multiple copies) along with a pen to the lunch. Ask him to sign them all, "To my best friend Paul. I will never forget this wonderful day together. Let's do lunch again! Love, your friend, John."

#8. Bring a photographer along and stage random "grip and grin" photo ops. At various points throughout the afternoon, just throw my arm around him and smile. [FLASH!]

#7. Pull a picture out of my wallet and say, "Here's a favorite one I have of you and your family on that secluded beach. I had to use a really big zoom lens but eventually I worked my way closer."

I have a couple of more, but the plane is here. Time to fly.

But feel free to add to these. I would love your ideas. BTW, his wife nancy is joining us, so I also thought about asking for really explicit marital advice....

Saturday, April 02, 2011

One year.

Today is the one-year anniversary of my dad's death. Oddly enough, this morning I woke up at 5:32 am, the time my mom called to tell me dad died. I suspect the day will pretty much be as it is most weekends: House of Breakfast date with my daughter, work during the afternoon, Saturday evening service, dinner and hang out with Laura in the evening. And as of right now, I don't feel particularly sad or melancholy. But there is no doubt that my life is not as rich as it was when dad was around.

I hear my daughter talking. It's time for a date. Because everyone needs a secret store.