The Faith of Leap

Crisis is no bad thing. In fact it’s an opportunity to rediscover the adventurous church. We will have to take risks, to chance failure, to be willing to walk away from the familiar paths that have brought us to this point.

It’s time to move, to cast off from safe shores, and take a journey again!

–Alan Hirsch, The Faith of Leap

It was a year ago today that I cast off from safe shores and set sail for the unknown. A day that I walked away from safety and security of what my family and I had known for a significant portion of our lives and stepped out in to an adventure that God was calling us to.  It’s been an amazing journey thus far; not like I expected and yet far better than anticipated. The people who have played a role in the past 12 months are the most important part of the story so if you will indulge me for a moment, there’s a few I’d like to thank.

  • Dennis Jeffrey – you’re belief in me means more than you’ll ever know. Thanks for supporting our vision and taking a chance on an unproven yet eager church planter.
  • Tom Greco – your weekly encouragement via text is a constant reminder that we’re not in this alone.
  • Chad Zunker – couldn’t have done it without you. Wouldn’t have wanted to.
  • Jeremy Self – who would have thunk it?  I know it had always been part of your vision to have a team. We’re just getting started.
  • Mac Richard – as my pastor for 12 years (and boss for 8 of those), I regularly apply lessons learned while at LHC. Grateful for my time there.
  • Chris Larsen – I’ve learned more about teaching and preaching from you than anyone else. There’s no better one out there.
  • Mark Groutas – it’s fun watching your faith of leap from a distance. So awesome to hear about what God’s doing through you in Denver.
  • Brandon Hatmaker – you challenge me bro. And I hate it (haha). Privilege to serve our city alongside you and ANC.
  • The Church at Lake Travis – no words, just tears of joy and excitement. Wouldn’t want to be anywhere else or serving anyone else.

And last but certainly not least: Wendy, Caitlin and Parker. You guys are my love and my life. Your support (and at times tolerance) of me in the last year has been incredible. You guys are my rock. I love you with all my heart.

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sincere apology

A few weeks ago I posted a thought on why some people stay (or can’t leave) a bad church situation.

Just yesterday it was brought to my attention that this article may be confusing to some in the local community who have questioned if the example used in the article is a veiled reference to my former church, Lake Hills Church – It is not.

Recognizing that we, in part, minister to the same geographic community, I’ve worked extremely hard in the last year to be above reproach when referring to my former church family and in representing my new church family.

If you attend LHC, please accept my public apology if this caused any confusion in regards to Mac Richard or the leadership team of LHC. It was shortsighted of me not to catch it in the first place.

Shalom,

Alex

why some people stay (or why they can’t leave)

The other day I was talking with a friend who had just recently resigned their position at the church where they served for a number of years. Seems that the leadership culture had soured to the point that it just became impossible for them to stay in their ministry position with the church.

In the process of leaving, they ended up sharing, in great detail, the leadership failings at the church on the part of the pastor and the overall moral decline in the leadership culture with a handful of their closest friends (lay people) that served along side them in ministry. While most of the friends actually believed what they were hearing about the pastor and leadership was indeed true, they decided to remain at the church.

Having spent the last 28 years in a handful of churches as a pastor (and as a lay person), I myself have witnessed this phenomenon time and time again. I’m sure there are several reasons why this occurs, but it does make one ask the question: Why do people continue to serve and support such an organization that they know is making poor decisions? Are they not loyal to their friends who have left? Are they turning a blind eye to the poor leadership? What gives? Again, while there is not a single simple explanation, here is what I shared with my friend to try and make sense of it all.

Organizational Development Behaviorists have a theory they call the Psychology of Sunk Cost. This is an irrational behavior manifested in a tendency to continue with an organization (or situation) once a significant investment in money, effort, or time has been made. In essence, most people don’t leave because their poor and costly investment of time, money, and emotions is motivating their present decision to stay, despite the fact that it objectively should not.

Restated; most (not all) people can’t bring themselves to leave a bad church when they consider the amount of hours they have invested in volunteering in ministry, money they have given to the church over the years, or emotional expenditures on relationships and community that now seem like a poor investment.

Think about these real world examples:

  • Should I continue this unhappy relationship with my fiancé? I have already put so much into it.
  • Should I continue with this terrible job? I spent a year in training to get this position.
  • Should I stay and watch this horrible movie? After all I did pay $10 for the ticket and another $10 for a coke and popcorn.

A sunk cost is an expense that you cannot recover so we linger until the bitter end. Most people often feel that they have have too much invested to quit, or just feel trapped. Most psychologists agree however, that this opportunity for loss should have no effect or bearing on the current situation. But it does.

So, why is that?  Why can most people in the church not bring themselves to separate from the organization?

I believe it’s because most of us have an understanding of and a yearning for hope and it’s hard for us to not account for it in any given situation.  Every situation or circumstance can be redeemed – including our church that is not meeting our expectations.

Hope promotes the belief in a positive outcome. And while all hope should not be lost, ultimately it’s this hope that “things will get better – I just know they will” that keeps most people from leaving a bad church.

Should we always leave when the going gets tough or things don’t go our way? Absolutely not. More times than not we should stay and hope. But sometimes we should when there are spiritual, ethical, or moral failings amongst the leadership.

So here’s to never giving up on hope, but also not allowing “sunk cost” to keep us from making the right decision in our present circumstances.

A New Season of Ministry

“The steps of a righteous man are ordered of the Lord.” Every time I read this passage from Psalm 37:23 I’m reminded that my life is not my own and that ultimately, I belong to God. Over these many years, Wendy and I have committed both our individual lives, our marriage, and our family to His calling and purpose. We’ve resolved to travel together down the path that He has set before us and we have entrusted our steps to Him.

It was God’s leading that brought us to Austin in July of 1999. It was also ultimately His plan for our family to find Lake Hills Church where we have served faithfully for the last 12 years (8 of those on staff). The blessings of God have been abundant and I’m convinced that our days at Lake Hills were ordained by God.

Through many months of prayer and Godly counsel we are convinced that God is asking us to travel down a new path, a path that leads us away from the LHC family. Pastor Mac has been more than gracious to us during this process, and has been more than accommodating in giving us the time and space to hear from God.

This decision is the most difficult one we’ve had to make up to this point in our ministry.  The difficulty comes not in saying “yes” to the Lord, but in saying goodbye to all the wonderful friends we’ve made at LHC over the years.  In our hearts we never thought this day would come. I guess that’s why God has reminded us lately of Proverbs 16:9. “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” 

In the pain of leaving, there is also joy in what lies ahead. The Lord has been stirring our hearts and we are excited about the new journey He is taking us on. We’ve been part of the Lakeway/Lake Travis community since 2004, and sense that God is leading us to plant a new church in this community that we so dearly love. The range of emotions are overwhelming as we are both excited and scared to death.

We will be sharing more information as God directs our steps. In the meantime, we covet your prayers for clarity as God reveals His vision, provision for our family, and the protection of unity in the body of Christ.

Check the blog for updates, or shoot us an email at alexanderalex@msn.com if you’d like.

Alex, Wendy, Caitlin and Parker

Life Interrupted: A Christmas Story

I know, I haven’t posted anything in several months, but this one was worth sharing.

Our student ministry is in the midst of a series called Life Interrupted: A Christmas Story.  One of our student pastors shared a story last night during the service that my 16 yr old daughter had written about her recent experience.  Being the proud dad that I am, I wanted to share it with you. Please indulge me.

It began on a Sunday morning before church. I was standing in front of my closet just staring at all the clothes. They were literally everywhere; on the floor, out of the drawers, on the hangers, when I thought to myself, “I’m pretty sure I have too many clothes. I won’t even wear all of these by Christmas time.” I let the thought just sink in and continued with my day.

Mom and I went to bible study that night when I finally said something to her. Francis Chan, who wrote Crazy Love, had inspired us. He had said what if we all lived in community with each other. What if we shared money and food? What if we shared clothes? What if? I followed on the idea. I got in the car and told my mom that I didn’t want any Christmas presents. I wanted to use the money for something else, for someone else’s Christmas. Jesus gave to me didn’t he? So why should I take away from people, it seems unfair.

It was then that our plan sort of made itself. My mom and I raved on and on about it in the car. We got home that night and told my dad. Almost immediately we all started talking about doing this and doing that and giving money to this person and their family.Finally our Christmas plans had been set. Starting on the 13th of December and ending on Christmas we vowed to do something of service everyday. Even Christmas day!

It did take a little getting used to… We told my brother the grand idea and he responded with “Yeahs and oh cools…” all in that monotone voice of a boy who wants an XBox for Christmas. Though it’s such an outrageous and unheard of idea it will probably be the most rewarding thing I’ll ever do. Already we have my cousins in on the idea, and as one big family we’re going Christmas caroling at an assisted living facility. We are excited to have adopted a family through LHC and are humbled to provide for a 19-year-old disabled boy and his caretaker. In addition we’re sending money to some of our favorite charities and a good friend in Seminary. I’m counting down the days!! Only 4 left!

Thank you God for making my family and I realize what giving means. Thank you God for humbling me. And most of all Thank You God for loving me and showing me what it means to love others.

To God be the glory, great things He has done.

saturday shout out

stealing a page from my friend Zak White, here’s the stuff i am excited/not excited about:

  • JACKED about attending NewSpring Church tomorrow.
  • SUPER JACKED about having the opportunity to spend Monday at the Masters in Augusta, GA.
  • NOT JACKED that there is a chance of thunderstorms on Monday.
  • NOT JACKED about leaving my family for 3 days.
  • JACKED about it being Passover week. 
  • JACKED about the new series, Soulmate, coming after Easter.
  • JACKED about www.examen.me. not bragging, but i’ve spent time in God’s Word for 13 straight days thanks to this new tool.
  •  NOT JACKED about missing services at LHC tomorrow.  Wish we had an online campus 🙂

the social gospel?

you would have to be living under a rock to not feel/see the change in the local church.  it’s become pretty fashionable of late for churches to expand their local missions opportunities and to develop a greater social conscience. it’s not necessarily a bad thing, i’m just not convinced yet that it’s a God thing.

i do believe that we should be compassionate and extend a loving hand to everyone we come in contact with  – not just the least of these.  however, let’s admit it, it’s easier to be compassionate to somebody who is poorer or less fortunate. extend that same compassion to your next door neighbor, coworker, or colleague. go ahead try it. i dare you. it ain’t easy. 

so to make ourselves feel better, we work at the local soup kitchen for an hour, or write a check to an organization that provides clean water or clothes people we don’t know. and we fool ourselves by thinking we’ve made the world a better place. but we haven’t  because we have focused on the temporal (hunger, thirst, nakedness) and not the eternal (salvation). 

in John 6 we hear about a story in which Jesus and his disciples feed a bunch of people. who knows how many exactly, but it was several thousand (more than five thousand to be sure). most of the time the story stops there.  it’s what comes after that i find most interesting.

the day after this miraculous event, Jesus tells the thousands of people who now have a full stomach that they are following Him for the wrong reason. see, they were hungry and he gave them food and now they are not hungry. but they know they will be hungry again soon and he can do magic and make food – so they must follow Him around in case they get hungry again.  Jesus is just a meal ticket.

here’s what He says to them:

47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

see I believe Jesus was not just interested in being a nice guy by turning 5 loaves and 2 fish into a meal for thousands. He was not just interested in keeping people from starving. He was concerned about their well being, but more importantly their eternity. the miracle he performed was about earning the right to be heard. about creating an opportunity in which He could share the gospel and tell them about eternal life with the Father.

so, if all we do is feed and clothe people, then all we have is fewer starving and naked. again, not a bad thing.  just not necessarily a God thing.

if we are not telling people about Jesus and the eternal life that He offers when meeting the needs of others, i would suggest to you that we are not following the example set forth by Christ.

am i wrong?

does satan exist?

667637_devil

not sure why (maybe because i’m appreciate the bold faith of Mark Driscoll), but i am excited about watching the “Does Satan Exist?” debate on ABC New Nightline Face-Off tonight.  the face-off pits Pastor Mark Driscoll and  Annie Lobert vs. philosopher Deepak Chopra and Bishop Carlton Pearson.

you can watch the debate online here if you don’t want to wait.

what do you think? do you think Satan exists?

i want a snuggie

so, i just bought one. actually, i bought two snuggies because you can’t just buy one.  laugh if you want. i’m not embarrassed.  i might even take photos of wendy and i posing in our snuggies after they arrive. wonder if we’ll look as good as this couple:

snuggie-couple-standing

admit it your jealous.