Welcome to Metro 2

About 5 years ago a handful of worship pastors told me about a special group of worship pastors called Metro 2. They discussed what a huge encouragement it was and so I looked into it. When I first called, there was a waiting list, and it took a few years to get the call. When I finally got an email accepting me into the group, I was told that I had to attend their conference, but the date did not work with my church calendar and therefore I could not attend. No attendance, no membership. So, I tried to get in the list again, and this year all the stars aligned. This past week I was blessed to attend my first Metro 2 worship leader conference. Let me tell you, it exceeded every expectation, and in 4 days, I was literally blessed with the opportunity to make new life-long friendships. It was such an incredible blessing for me personally and for my ministry. Let me use this post to highlight some of the most obvious takeaways from the last few days.

The Word of God was Fresh and Powerful

I was blessed and challenged by several different messages brought from the word of God. Chris Winford Brough us a devotion from II Samuel 6 that asked the question, Are you in a Spiritual Quarantine? We were reminded that our most important discipline must be spending time in the presence of the Lord through prayer and time in the Word. Loved the fun explanation that David danced before the Lord in his underwear in 6:14. There were many takeaways from that message, the most memorable being:

The worship leader must stand before the Lord, before he stands before the congregation.

We must confess when we are peering out the window in judgment of others instead go dwelling in the presence of God.

I was also challenged by Psalm 103, Matthew 21, I Chronicles 14, 20, Isaiah 30, Ephesians 6, so thankful for the emphasis on the Word of God this week.

Resources

One of the greatest blessing this week was a whole new collaboration of resources and ideas from worship leaders who are in a similar context to mine. It was unbelievable to meet 55 other worship pastors from large churches with a choir and an orchestra. Sometimes it is easy to feel like the style God has called us to minister with at Westside is unheard of anywhere else, and it was nice to meet several guys who are serving in a similar fashion with passion and excellence.

We had many great breakout sessions where we discussed everything from preparing for retirement to audio broadcast, we discussed choir ministry outreach, generational worship, staff meeting strategies, managing a large music staff ministry, Ableton, Music Publishers, Spiritual and Physical Disciplines.

One of the most practical takeaways were this list of questions to ask in staff meeting:

  1. What was good about this past Sunday at WBC?
  2. What was bad about this past Sunday at WBC?
  3. What was missing this past Sunday from WBC?
  4. What was confusing this past Sunday from WBC?

I believe if we ask ourselves these questions each week, we will continue to move forward in every area of our ministry.

New Friends

There were so many incredible elements of this past week, but nothing was more overwhelming than the warm and friendly welcome that these worship leaders gave to me over the 4 days we were together. I do not think I have ever been in a more welcoming and gracious group of people. I met men who made me feel like we have been best friends for decades. There was one particular man who I noticed greeted every single person that he walked past, and made every single person feel special and appreciated. I want more of that in my life. I met guys who do massive $200,000 Easter event and they were so down to earth and humble about how God is using them in their ministry.

Everyone was willing to share anything they had. Ideas, resources, cell phone numbers. It was remarkable. Finally, there were a group of about 5-6 first timers who came without our wives and we were able to spend extra time together getting to know each other, talk ministry, music, people, and theology. It was a tremendous blessing for me.

Thank you, Lord

In conclusion, I will just say, thank you Lord for this group of men. They have made a significant impact on me personally and in my ministry within just a few days together. I will be taking the things that I have learned and putting them into practice in the weeks and months ahead.

Lets have a SUCCESSFUL 2022

It is almost too late for a Happy New Year, start the year off right kind of blog post. I am sure that many people have already begun and already quit their resolutions for 2022. Well, here is something that I am focusing on at the beginning of the year that I believe will make this year a very special and encouraging year for me, my family, and my ministry.

The beginning of the year is a time for reflection and hope. I almost always have a feeling of hope when starting a new year. It is surprising that I can still be so optimistic at the beginning of the year even while so many years do not finish out the way that I planned then from the beginning, however, I remain optimistic and hopeful that this next year will be the year that I am more disciplined, more organized, more efficient, and more like Jesus.

I was listening to a podcast this week by Craig Groeschel (Listen to it here) and he explained that we often fail because of three main reasons: 1. We focus on the what, but we don’t understand the how. 2. We generally don’t see results fast enough. 3. Our negative self-perception sabotages our success. This podcast is really excellent and I believe that it will guide leaders to determine and establish systems to achieve a higher level of success in the year ahead. 

A few other takeaways that I captured from this podcast were some quotes I have heard Craig share time and time again, and yet, I needed to hear it again.

“You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.”

In other words, just saying you want to accomplish something will not make it happen, instead, you must evaluate what measure of discipline is required to become who you want to be.

“My life and leadership is the sum total of all decisions”

We often think that the small decisions don’t matter, but they make all the difference. Success is based upon consistency in big and small things!

“Successful people do consistently what others do occasionally.”

There are so many disciplines in my life that need to be practiced more consistently.

Running. Eating. Contacting People. Blogging. Reading. Learning. The list goes on and on…

At the end of the podcast, Craig encourages his listeners to create 3 Leadership “I Am” statements that answer the questions: “Who do I want to become?” Here are the three four healthy identities that I want to achieve for 2022.

I am neat.

My wife would really love it if this creative man of hers would be a little neater. I will create systems that will encourage her in this area of my life.

I am growing.

I love to listen to podcasts and read books, but I go through seasons of ups and downs where I want to and I don’t. I will aim to have more ups than downs this year. 

I am healthy.

I need to say no more often when it comes to sweets and snacks. I am so good at saying no to a run, and so bad at saying no to an ice cream sandwich. Let’s change the systems that lead to this behavior.

I am influencing young people.

One of the most encouraging areas of my life is investing in two different student groups each week. I love my time with them and want to continue to make that investment a priority. 

Thanks for reading! I hope that you are excited and optimistic about 2022. One other goal is that I have at least 26 weeks of blogging at least 3 days a week. Wow! That will be a challenge! Thanks for sticking with me through it all!

Finished 2021 with a Bang!

For the last quarter of 2021 it seemed like all energy was focused on the Living Nativity at Westside Baptist Church. I could (and should) do an entire post about the differences between the first year and the second year of this event. In short, God exceeded our wildest dreams two years in a row. Everyone believed that God was going to do something amazing this year and that provided all the momentum we needed to do the work. In four days, we saw 11,474 people drive through our Living Nativity event. It was by far the most successful event that I have ever been a part of, and what a privilege it was to lead it. So thankful for the opportunity.

Thankfully after both 40ft storage containers were packed to the brim, it was time to go on a family vacation. We left on Sunday afternoon, after church and drove to Maryland where we spent two days skiing with the family at Wisp Ski Resort. We had the time of our lives! Ok, maybe it was just me, but I loved skiing! Our last day of skiing I literally went skiing from 9am to 9pm. I sat on the ski lift for 5 hours that day! We had a wonderful time and then got on the road to spend Christmas with Nana and Papa in Rhode Island. We had a wonderful visit.

Christmas Eve was the most magical winter experience I can ever remember. We woke up to snow everywhere. Went outside and played in the falling snow. made angels, snow men, played with the sled and had a HUGE Christmas Eve Bon Fire! It was Epic in every way!

Christmas Day was perfect. Watched the snow outside and stayed inside playing with the kids all day long.

The day after Christmas I had a surprise planned for Katie. I packed a bag for her, told her I was taking her out to dinner and then I took her to the hotel that we stayed in the night we got married. It was the Westin Providence, and now it is called the Omni. We had such a wonderful date night. We went to one restaurant for dinner, and another for dessert. Walked around and saw all the special sights that we saw 15 years ago. It was a beautiful date.

We left Rhode Island the next day and headed home with a plan to take our time. We stopped in NYC to visit some very special friends. They spontaneously invited us to spend the night with them, and then they took us downtown to Bryant Park, Rockefeller Center, Time Square and everything in between. It was a wonderful night.

We left the next morning and drove to Alexandria, VA where we stayed for the night. We enjoyed the beauty of the city and had a few fun Uber rides.

The next day we drove to Smithfield, NC where we stayed the night, watched a movie and made our very own Ci-Ci’s Buffet in our hotel room! That was a great memory.

Finally, we made it home on Thursday just in time for the last day of the year on Friday. It was a wonderful trip and I am so thankful that the Lord blessed our family with such a special time together. So what is the takeaway?

WORK HARD / PLAY HARD

Our time of relaxing was so much more appreciated because of the hard work that was put into the season leading up to Christmas.

Day 103 with Nicky Gumbel

Psalm 45:1-9

Psalm 45:6 “Thy Throne , O God, is for ever and ever.”

Remember the everlasting authority of God. This Psalm reminds us that Jesus is the King, chosen by God. He has all power and authority in this life eternity.

Psalm 45:7 “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”

Anointed means chosen. Anytime you hear the word anointed remember that God chooses. God chose Jesus, anointed Him to be glorified through His death and resurrection. God has anointed us, his children. He chose you! What grace.

Luke 15:1-32

15:2: “And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.”

The religious crowd complained. Sound familiar? Often times, the religious crowd are the ones still complaining today. They complained that Jesus would receive sinners and break bread with them. They still do the same today. Most of the time, It seems that the church would rather the sinners stay away. Not necessarily in word, but in deed and in spirit. Lord, help us to love the sinners like you love them.

15:8 “Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?”

These verses give an analogy of the value of a lost sheep, the value of a lost coin, and the value of a lost son.

15:20 “his father ran, and fell on him, and kissed him (over and over).”

What love. I can relate to this love. I love my own son with this love. Yes. I will watch for him. I will RUN to him. I will kiss him over and over and over and over… So thankful that my father does the same for me.

Luke 15:24 For this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

The friends would rejoice over a sheep that came back home, but not a boy? The community would rejoice over a coin that was found, but not a son?

15:32 “for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.”

Deuteronomy 19-20

This is part of Gods plan for justice. If you are involved in a fatal accident, there will be a city of security and protection. However, if you intentionally kill someone, you will be hunted down and you will repay what you have taken. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth… (What?! Ouch!) hand for hand, foot for foot, life for life. This news will spread, and people will fear (respect) the law, the consequences of their actions, and they will henceforth commit no more such evil among you.

Moses continues to give instruction to Israel about how to go into the land. How to battle against cities, and how to take the land for their own possession. Moses tells them who to kill and who to let live. Seems very brutal. God uses Israel as his instrument for judgment against the nations that have committed abomination against Him.

Take Away

Lord, Help me to love people like you do. Help me to see others through your eyes. Help me to show grace and kindness to the ones who deserve it least. Help me to value the souls of man, like you value the souls of man. I want to see people as worth more than my “sheep or silver”.

God, I want to obey your specific plan for my life. Help me to see your justice around me. Help me to see the difference between the political banter of justice, and your true justice. If my heart is out of alignment with your, please help me see from your perspective.

Today, I will look for opportunities to love your righteousness and to love those who are difficult to love. Please let your Spirit remind me of this throughout the day.