A Look at the Visioning and Planning Process of the Church Body

Monthly All Staff Meeting at Cornerstone

It may not look like it at first glance, but this is part of the hard work that goes into following Christ wholeheartedly, what we call, Leading People to Know and Serve Jesus. I have learned an amazing amount about how the church body functions since I went on staff in late 2008. One of the incredible things about being on staff is the behind the scenes look you get at the visioning and planning process the church body goes through, continually. To see God actively working, guiding his people through the process of being the church, is a great privilege. Today was one of those rare monthly staff meetings where almost everyone on staff was in the room. There are almost as many people behind me in the photo above as there are in front of me, and still we had a few people who couldn’t be there today.

One thing that never stops amazing me is how hard everyone works, not just at my church, but at most all the churches I have come into contact with over the years. There are so many people who make the church body what it is. Countless volunteers who have sacrificed time, and money, to be the hands and feet of Christ. Of the many topics discussed today, one was how to tell the stories of these volunteers and other people who’s lives have been changed by Christ’s work through his church, like some of our seniors going to Uganda last week instead of going somewhere like Panama City Beach for a party.

I’m not really sure why this particular post came to be tonight, this just happened to be what was on my mind as I recalled events from my day. I do know this type of planning and these type of stories, go on endlessly, because God is at work in His people endlessly. If you haven’t been in church for a while, there is no better time than now. Sunday is less than 7 days away, and you aren’t reading this by accident any more than I wrote this by accident. Don’t just keep looking around for that perfect church, there isn’t one. Christ, who built the church out of imperfect people, can change your life forever, and he can use us imperfect people of the church to do it.

Ministering to the Church At the Expense of the Family

This is an old topic, but one that never goes away, for good reason. Below is basically an excerpt from an assignment in one of my evangelism classes on Servant-Leadership and innovations in the Church, and also serves as a very short review of the book InnovateChurch by Jonathan Falwell. In a three part discussion on leadership, this was topic number one, learning how to minister to the church, but not at the expense of your family.

There are four non-negotiable commitments presented by Jonathan Falwell in InnovateChurch that pastors (and I would add church staff) need to make to themselves, and to God, for effective leadership in the church. As an administrative staff member I will admit, the one I found most difficult to keep is number two: I will not minister to my church at the expense of my family. On the surface, this probably sounds like an easy one to keep, and when I entered into ministry work in 2008 I was committed to this very statement right from the start.

In fact, if your ministry is to be more successful, however that is quantified, it must start with managing your household well. (1 Tim 3.5) There are a few basic things that have kept me focused on the proper balance, or margin if you will. It doesn’t always work in ministry as something, or someone, can always quickly pull you right back in with an “important” issue, or something that needs to be completed right away if you are not diligent.

  1. It is important to make our priorities line up properly, as stated in InnovateChurch
  2. God should be first, our family second, and our ministry third.[1] Saying or writing this isn’t good enough. This actually has to be lived out, and as such, will be proof of its importance in our lives.  How are we making God our first priority? How are we managing our household well, and where do we need to change or improve what we are doing day by day.

  3. We have to learn how to manage our time well
  4. This means learning how to say no without feeling guilty about saying no, even if it is something important. Often times in church ministry, everything is of the utmost importance, mainly because it is most important to the person asking. We cannot get into the habit of allowing our schedule or calendar to control our life in idol-like fashion.

  5. We have to learn how to focus on a few things we do well, and let the others go

This means learning how to delegate without looking back. Learning how to give tasks away is hard, especially if they will not be done as well as if we did them ourselves. This includes learning how to enlist volunteers, and building teams of people who can accomplish what we can’t simply because we can’t work 24 hours a day. Rarely is one person only gifted with the ability to do only one task, but God has gifted us with the ability to do a few things very well. This strikes in the face of our multi-tasking 21st century culture, but delegating allows us to focus on those things we can do very well, or are at least our highest priority.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means of course. I do know that when I have built in margin, giving time to my family, I am more productive, and better focused as a staff member. Sometimes that means the most important place I can be, especially in the evening, is in that chair next to Deborah (and Ebby) in our living room.

[1] Jonathan Falwell, ed., Innovate Church, ed. Jonathan Falwell (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2008), 14.

How to Determine if You Are a Linchpin :: Assignment

This week I was given a seemingly easy assignment. To answer the question; are you a Linchpin, and if yes, why? If you are familiar with the phrase that Seth Godin has made into a coined term at this point, the immediate answer to that question is easy, yes, of course. But the longer I thought about the second part of the question the more I got knotted up into a self debate of what exactly is a Linchpin before I could determine the why of the yes or no.

In short, a Linchpin is the irreplaceable person. You might say that in today’s culture and business market, there is no such thing as a person who can’t be easily replaced.  For a large percentage of the workforce, this is probably the case, but the key to that statement is “easily” replaced.  Many jobs today are just mental factory workers, plug and play, just take out person A and replace them with person B and in a short period of time, no one will notice the difference, certainly not the balance sheet.  It’s all about the value that each warm body adds to the factory by following the manual or map for each task.

The factory workers today are programmers, accountants, customer service reps, students (all positions I have done in the past), any position that can be given a set of procedures, required to then follow them without any thinking or creativity required, expected, or desired, to complete their task.

A Linchpin on the other hand is someone who creates spurts of enormous value to the company or organization by doing those tasks that can’t be written down in a manual because they require art, the art of thinking, the art of challenging the status-quo, the art of being a problem solver or troubleshooter, a person who is hard to replace in a replaceable world.

How about it, are you a Linchpin, and if so, why? I’m still thinking about it myself but I’ll let you know next week.

Confessions of a Pastor by Craig Groeschel :: Catalyst Photos

Craig Groeschel

Craig Groeschel

Craig Groeschel

Craig Groeschel

Craig Groeschel

I wanted to post an update of the books that have made it to my read (or reading) list.  I was planning on reviewing each one but just ran out of time. Over several months prior to my official start of Seminary (a topic I haven’t posted about yet, but will at some point) I tried to get back into the habit of reading, a lot.  In my first two seminary classes I had a combined 8 books for eight weeks of class, so getting into the habit of reading, all the time, has been very helpful.

One of the books I am almost finished with is Craig Groeschel‘s book called Confessions of a Pastor.  Published back in 2006, Confessions has a great combination of self deprecating humor of his own sin with real teaching and application of God’s principles for life in general.  What got me interested in reading Craig’s book wasn’t really the topic but meeting Craig and listening to him speak in Atlanta and most recently at Catalyst West Coast in Orange County California.

Here are some images of Craig speaking at Catalyst West Coast I took a week or two ago.

I haven’t made it to the end of Craig’s book yet but one of the last sections in the book, “I’m Afraid of Failure” had one of the best examples of how we condition ourselves for failure before we even begin (read the section called Failure by Numbers).

To avoid potential failure and pain, people abort their dreams.  They stop trying.

Confessions of a Pastor is a great church leadership type book, glad it made it on to my “read” list.

Review of Killing Cockroaches and Other Scattered Musings

Killing Cockroaches by Tony Morgan

I just finished up Killing Cockroaches on the Kindle and started wondering if I was going to be the first Kindle review of Killing Cockroaches?  Of course, you may be wondering why I am holding up a paper copy of Killing Cockroaches but you will just have to wait and read my review of the Kindle coming up for that explanation.

Killing Cockroaches is in a crowded field of church leadership books, written by Tony Morgan from NewSpring Church in Anderson, SC.  At the moment, there are so many books on leadership that I was thrilled to see Tony’s book written and presented in a slightly different format than the traditional chapter by chapter method.  If you love reading blogs like I do, then you will love this book… basically 131 (if I counted correctly) blog posts rolled into one leadership book, all tied together on an overall theme of how not to waste time doing the things you don’t need to be doing in the first place.

Basically we can waste much of our time each day just walking around killing cockroaches (or putting out fires), or we can choose to use the skills and talents we have been given to use in the most efficient way possible.  Tony did several one on one interviews with people in leadership roles in their respective areas which gave you a good sense of how and why other leaders spend their time killing cockroaches as well.

The Little Things about Killing Cockroaches

Some of the other little subtleties I liked about the book were the comic strip of cockroaches running around the book (if you flip through the book like you are trying to make a comic strip move, the cockroaches run around the edges of the book), and the “posts” or chapters were organized in alphabetical order.  I also appreciate the “notes” area in the back, that was very helpful, but I would have loved to have a list of just url’s of all the websites Tony listed throughout the book.  There were tons of them, and somehow I hadn’t been to a good majority of them before now.

Killing Cockroaches: Kindle vs Paper

There actually were a few differences in reading the paper copy of the book and the e-ink version on the Kindle.  Mainly, the thing I liked about the paper version is what I didn’t like about the kindle version.  The cockroaches along the side of the book on the Kindle are translated where they show up in the middle of the page along with Tony’s name and the book name.  This just became an annoyance because it would split a page where there were only a few sentences on one page and then a graphic of the book name, and a cockroach.  This is probably more a Kindle issue than anything else.

Top 10 Highlights from Killing Cockroaches

There were so many little zingers in this book it could be a line by line tweetathon if someone was reading it out loud, but some of the points I took away were:

  • Churches that embrace change value some things over others
  • change will flow naturally when we empower people to create rather than telling them what to do
  • If you’re trying to reach the unreached, remember – your competition isn’t other churches.  Instead it’s everything that’s competing for someone’s time and attention
  • Being a bit different is an important ingredient to success
  • Your leadership will only go as far as the relationships you’ve built… and no further
  • some would note that we are not here for or to entertain but it has to be relevant to their lives and enjoyable
  • make sure the guests know, we’re glad you decided to join us, we were expecting you, you matter to us and, more importantly, you matter to God
  • competition isn’t the church down the street, it’s any other experience your guests have had
  • the sacred cows (like church bulletins): We do it because we’ve always done it… are we worshiping our sacred cows or Jesus?  Does it still add value?
  • before you can move others, you must first be moved

If you are intersted in other reviews from other bloggers, Tony has compiled a good list here, Killing Cockroaches Reviews.

What I Hope to Learn at the NewSpring Unleash Conference

Spring Fog on the Farm

Josh Agerton

Scott Fillmer on the way to South Carolina

Today was one of those crazy days that started off a little foggy, then things just never rolled into a routine. I spent a good 4-5 hours on I-85 in the back seat of an extend-a-cab truck with four guys on our way to the Unleash Conference put on by NewSpring Church in Anderson, SC. My one instruction from Deb for this conference was to pick up a Clemson tiger for the dog but I am not so sure where in the world I would be able to find one of those guys. Anyone that happens to be in Clemson and is going to Unleash, and happens to have a spare (small) Clemson Tiger, that would be much appreciated.

Most of the staff here at Cornerstone Church made the trip out (in a few different vehicles) and as I write this in the back seat of the truck, one carload is in Atlanta, one is in Greenville, one is behind us by about 10 miles and we are about 2 hours before all of us meet back up at a restaurant for dinner. It is a pretty rare thing for all of the staff to be together in one place at one time, and I am looking forward to catching back up with each of them tonight.

On a side note, if you would like to follow us on Twitter you can do so with the following ID’s for Unleash

  • Rusty Hutson – @rustyhutson
  • Josh Agerton – @joshagerton
  • Jack Fisher – @jackfisher
  • Brian Johnson – @bslash
  • Amy Coxwell – @aecoxwell
  • Julia Farrow – @farrowj
  • Scott Fillmer – @scottfillmer

One thing that is really nice about traveling, when you don’t have to drive yourself, is the time you have you wouldn’t otherwise have to do those things you don’t normally get to do, like read in the middle of the afternoon or just sit and listen to some music. I use to travel all the time and miss it quite a bit for the free time it provides by nature of traveling. Most that travel a lot get quite bored with it, but in the 10 years or so I did nothing but travel, I always loved it.

Going to Catalyst just a few weeks ago to shoot for the event got me really excited about going to Unleash because I wasn’t going to have to drive. I could actually do something else, like write a blog post and try to finish up Killing Cockroaches (which I did not do). It got me thinking about how much I could get done if I was on vacation, but that sounds like an oxymoron (and I haven’t actually been on an official vacation that I can remember).

One of the guys going with us posed a great question when we piled into the vehicle. What’s the purpose and what are we supposed to learn from by going to Unleash? I starting thinking about what I really wanted to get out of Unleash and realized I hadn’t even given it any thought at all before we got in the car to drive to South Carolina.

What I Want to Learn at Unleash

Communications and Technology – I would like to get a better understanding of how a larger church effectively uses technology to communicate to their church and those not yet at their church

Networking – since I have been working in ministry less than a year I feel like those who have spent their whole life in ministry (which seems to be a lot) already know each other, I don”t, but like every industry, it is a slow process. I hope to meet up with a few people I already met at Catalyst and make some new friends I can connect with once I get back to Auburn.

Leadership – these conferences are always about leadership in the church, but I am looking for some differences between what I have already heard before and what kind of leadership we are looking for in the church that hasn’t made it out of school yet.  I am looking for information about where the church body is headed as far as raising up and developing new leadership for the church that will take it into the next generation.  I am already too old to make an impact as a young leader, but eventually I could make an impact on a young leader.

Tribes, We Need You To Lead Us by Seth Godin :: Review

Catalyst Conference in Atlanta

Catalyst Conference in Atlanta

I have written over 615 blog posts on this blog that span some 8 years from March 2001 until now, and today I am breaking new ground on my blog.  Back at the beginning of 2009 I decided that this year I was going to read more, which wouldn’t be to hard to achieve.  I have never been a big reader of books, although I read a ton of material on blogs, news, and other media areas, but it almost always comes from looking at a computer screen, not paper.  Taking a small amount of inspiration (I say small because I can’t keep up) from Brian on his quest to read a book a week, I thought I would just try to read “more” than I did last year.  So, this happens to be the first book I finished in 2009, and therefore the first review as well.

This particular first book, Tribes by Seth Godin I happen to given a copy by the author during the Catalyst conference where he was speaking.  Naturally I do have some photos of Seth talking about his theories on Tribes just before he gave away 12,000 copies to every person in the arena that day.  I will not have personal photos of each author, but in this case I do.

Tribes, We Need You To Lead Us // Seth Godin

I asked someone who finished this book before I did what he thought about Tribes, and his reaction was lack-luster but interesting.  He said “it wasn’t a how-to book, I didn’t know what to do with it when I was done”.  That was actually a very good description of the book, Tribes isn’t a how-to book, but a book that talks about how we go about being successful as leaders to build a following, or how we can fail at it miserably.

More than about the Internet, yet spawned by the growth of social networking, barriers to building a tribe have been removed and we have basically been set free to build (lead) our own tribe of followers.  In many cases we are already leading a tribe and don’t even know it.  Blogs, facebook, iPhone users, Twitter, or amazing restaurants that only open once a quarter all have followers that need a leader.

Probably my favorite line in the whole book comes down to this: “Change isn’t made by asking permission.  Change is made by asking forgiveness, later.”

Tribes is a great leadership book, a quick read, and Seth follows his own advice in the book at the end when he says:

Give this copy to someone else.  Ask them to read it.  Beg them to make a choice about leadership.  We need them.  We need you.

Here are a few of the highlights I took away from the book

  • Leaders don’t care for the “official blessing” they use passion to lead not threats to manage
  • In every organization everyone rises to the level at which they become paralyzed with fear
  • Heretics are too numerous to burn at the stake.  So we celebrate them
  • Change isn’t made by asking permission.  Change is made by asking forgiveness, later.
  • Religion at its worst reinforces the status quo, often at the expense of our faith.
  • Real leaders don’t care about getting credit where credit is due

If you have a chance to pick up the book I would recommend it, if you know someone who has a copy and has already read it, tell them to read the last page and hand it over.

The Internet is The Church's New Drug of Choice

The Internet can be many things to many people.  Can it be the drug of choice today or is that to harsh a term to describe what we as a society have done with the Internet?

Most of the time we have a negative connotation associated with a “drug”, but drugs can be just as positive as negative, especially when one company has promoted their product as the “wonder drug” of all time.  One legal definition puts it like this:

Some governments define the term drug by law. In the United States, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act definition of “drug” includes “articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease in man or other animals” and “articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals.

This is one of those random blog posts I couldn’t decide if I wanted to dive into or not, but I am going to do it anyway.  I started writing this several weeks ago but it culminated this week with a conversation I had with the worship leader (photo shown above) here and moved into the finer point of Calvinism (if only we actually had time to just sit and discuss these things).  And that is… what is the Internet doing to fellowship and how does it change how we read Hebrews 10:25 (in context) that says: “25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another€”and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

If you are reading my blog and are not a Believer, then insert “social skills or socializing” in place of fellowship, but for the rest of us, what does it mean to move our worship and other networking (i.e. fellowship) to the Internet?  This is what I envision when we combine the greatness of the Internet with the Bride of Christ.  Something totally awesome if I can still use that phrase, but how careful are we to not be slowly creating a generation of Internet only Believers that don’t know how to, want to, or even care anything about fellowship?

The ultimate online church campus right now is lifechurch.tv but this week I was really excited to watch the initial launch of the iCampus for NewSpring as posted on ChurchCrunch (read NewSpring Church Launches iCampus BETA).   I was so excited to see NewSpring launch a full blown service that I could sit here in my office and watch Sunday evening from a church in Greenville I have never been to (but will in about a month) and feel like I was part of the service, but was I really part of the service?

The questions that ran through my mind when talking to other about where the church is going through technology goes something like this:

  1. What about those Believers who really don’t like to fellowship in the first place, or worse, highly dislike it?  To say “they should” is what I would equate to saying a gay Christian just shouldn’t be gay (from Anne’s post Why is being gay a sin?).  Can we look at the issue seriously and not just say “because the Bible said so”.  I know that, but that often doesn’t change a person’s behavior or attitude.
  2. How do we fulfill Hebrews 10:25 online?  Can we fulfill Hebrews 10:25 through only online means?
  3. Can we effectively fellowship with others online?  I have gotten to know quite a few people online I have never met in person?
  4. What about those church-a-phobics (that would be the opposite of church-a-holics)?  How do you get people in the building when they highly dislike (hate) the thought of “going to church” but will engage online?
  5. What intentional steps do we take to move from online fellowship to discipleship?  Are we being intentional about the steps we take to pull people to our online venues in the name of Christ?

These are just a few, but serious questions to me, and quite personal.  I have asked myself these and many other questions for many many years and I will continue to try to find where technology fits into God’s kingdom.  It is not just something the church can ignore, or misuse.  In some respects, it is the future of the Church.  Thoughts?

Catalyst Conference in Atlanta Starts Tomorrow

Catalyst Conference in Atlanta

hyatt in Atlanta

We made it to Atlanta and made a quick run over to the convention center to check things out.  We just happen to run into Anne Jackson from Cross Point Church in Nashville, also hosting the Catalyst 2008 Backstage blog.  It was pretty obvious once we saw the sole-2-soul suv out front, great paint scheme.  Now for the hard work, setting the alarm.  Heath was busy at work about 30 seconds after we arrived (see photo below), but the alarm is going to go off very very early tomorrow, so time to wrap it up for today.  For more info on the conference see Headed to Atlanta for the Catalyst08 Conference // Catalyst Wednesday. For now, here are two arrival shots into Atlanta, Heath (@hspur on Twitter) and a HDR (high dynamic range) image of the Hyatt.

Check back tomorrow for some photos from the conference and we also want to shout out to the team arriving back in the United States from Uganda tomorrow, welcome home guys.

Headed to Atlanta for the Catalyst Conference :: Wednesday

It is finally time and two of us from Cornerstone will be headed to Atlanta for the Catalyst 08 Conference to today.  This will be my first trip to the Catalyst Conference (see Things you don’t know about Catalyst for some fun facts and a cool blog) in Atlanta and I hope to come back with some great ideas, and a good bit of photos from the two day event.  Catalyst is a leadership conference for what is the Church of tomorrow (see about), something I have been looking forward to for quite a while.

As stated on the events page for Catalyst, if you are unfamiliar with the event, it is described as:

Catalyst Conference

The Catalyst Conference is the largest gathering of young leaders in the country, but it pains us to call it just a conference. Catalyst is more than just a three-day event – it’s a movement, a convergence, an experience where you find yourself fully immersed in learning, worship, and creativity. Catalyst brings people together – the influencers, the do-ers, the cultural architects, and the change agents who will reclaim our communities and culture for good.  Catalyst has been described many ways but once you’ve experienced it, you’ll call it what we call it – pure leadership adrenaline.


We are bold, vocal, and driven. We have a unique perspective of the future. We are compelled by all things excellent and passionate about participating in something big. We are intentional about doing good and believe we can make a difference. We lead, yet we humbly follow. We are diverse, yet we are one. A leader’s life is by definition social. We value intentional community and long for biblical unity within the Church. The Catalyst community is like a family, which makes this event more like a family reunion. The practice of togetherness fuels love, life, and leadership. We need one another to finish well.

Twitter and other Media Forms at Catalyst

If you want to follow me along with several other people over at the conference, you can check twitter updates for me at @scottfillmer (and @hspur who is going with me) and you can also watch the twitter hash tags for #catalyst08 as they come through for everyone tagging for the conference on Twitter.  If you are not on Twitter, you can always just scroll to the bottom of this blog and watch under the “what am I doing” section, it will update live.  I already have a few blog posts ready to go out on Thrusday once some images of the day have been created and a new series post for Friday, so check back here starting tomorrow.  I might do a blog post from my phone (via an iPhone WordPress app) if I can post without messing up the format to much.

For those who are attending the Blogger08 Meetup in Atlanta on Thrusday night, I would love to hear the bullet points of the meeting if you get a chance to send over an email to me.  I found out about it to late to sign up and now it’s full.  If you get a chance, jump over to Brad Ruggles website who designed the Blogger08 Meetup (Just met Brad Ruggles last night, see his last post The Wheels On The Bus Go Round and Round who is on his way to Atlanta right now), he has some great website design elements for all kinds of applications.

I have heard from several people in the last few days who are coming to Atlanta from all over the country.  I would love to hear from you if you are going to be there, just send an email to [ scott @ scottfillmer.com ] or hit my contact page.  See you there.

Update on Blogger08 Meetup

Turns out we are going to be at the Blogger08 meeting, so if you are going to be there as well I love to hear from you between now and then so I can add your blog to my list here.  See the bloggers Thursday night!