leading the world to Christ starts at your local Applebee’s

server

i don’t post here much anymore. only when i feel like i really have something to say.

so sue me.

as some of you know, i recently left full-time ministry and am trying to find my place in the world outside of being a full-time, professional Christian.

and for right now, that means i work as a server at our neighborhood Applebee’s. and, much to my surprise, i really love it.

last week, i had the opportunity to serve a local minister. he is well-respected in the circles i used to run in, having grown several small churches to mega-church status. i knew him, but he didn’t know me.

and, after serving him lunch…he still doesn’t know me. in fact, he didn’t even look up at me. or acknowledge me. or say anything to me.

the irony: he and his friend spent the better part of an hour at my table talking about how to lead the world to Jesus.

all i could think to myself was: “how are we going to lead anybody, let alone the world, to Jesus, if we can’t even give the guy who serves us our lunch the time of day?”

it starts in our neighborhood. or our neighborhood bar and grill.

(now, i am not mad at this man. he meant no ill will towards me at all. he wasn’t trying to make it in to my blog. he’s a good…no, a great man.)

can we all agree to keep our eyes open to the opportunities right in front of us? can we start thinking a little smaller, perhaps? can we stop overlooking the hurt and lost and broken among us every day?

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4 things to KNOW instead of FEEL

4 Pillarsi’ve written quite a bit about how dangerous it is to trust what you feel. (read some here, here, here, and here). our hearts are deceptive. therefore, when faced with a choice between trusting what you feel and trusting what you know…i’m going to try and go with what i know to be true.

today, here are four things i want to know, even though they are sharply contrasting to what i feel. maybe you want to know these things too?

1) i know i need to pray.
prayer has always been a challenge for me. i think some of that stems from my role in ministry: i was always the “official pray-er” at every church and ministry event i attended. maybe i felt like i didn’t need to pray anymore?

notice what i wrote there? maybe i felt like i didn’t need to pray anymore.

i know i need to pray. i know that communication (both talking and listening) is vital to the development of any relationship. i know God wants to hear from me. i know God has a lot he would like to tell me. i know the discipline of prayer would be good for me…it would force me to slow down and quiet down.

2) i know i need to love others.
my kids. my co-workers. the guests who sit at my tables at Applebee’s. the unbeliever i really like and the Christian i don’t like at all.

no matter who it is or how i feel about them…i know i need to love. not just like. or get along with. or tolerate.

Jesus calls us to love our enemies, but i don’t feel like i have any of those. it might be just as hard to love those you feel apathetic towards. and i know i need more of the Spirit to do this well. see #1.

3) i know God is close.
it’s easy to forget how close God is when you have one arm full of hot plates of food, the other hand with a check to be dropped, two tables who need drink refills, and the expectations your managers, staff, and guests have for you to be perfect.

it’s easy to forget how close God is when you have 3 kids screaming at you and each other, 2 kids wrestling on the couch, and 1 kid waking up cranky from a nap with the worst kind of bedhead.

it’s easy to forget how close God is when your bills are past due, your friends ignore you, your dreams abandon you, and your heart is breaking.

he. just. doesn’t. feel. close.

but. i. know. better.

if anything, on my better days, i may be more aware of God’s closeness in the chaos of my full house and full restaurant than i was in ministry. at the very least, i am definitely more aware of my need for his closeness.

4) i know i’m not a big deal.
i think everyone likes being a big deal. our culture makes a big deal out of becoming a big deal.

i felt like a big deal in the previous season of my life. i was leading a growing ministry. i was sought after to speak in lots of churches and at lots of functions. i had successfully funded a book project, partnering with hundreds of people.

i felt like a big deal.

and i let my big deal-ness define  me. (but more on that another day.)

when you think you’re a big deal, you have to make decisions that help you stay a big deal. you don’t make decisions out of faithfulness or humility or for the benefits of others. you make decisions to help you maintain your rock star status.

here is what i know today: i’m not a big deal. i never have been. and that truth is incredibly liberating. it frees me to be a child of God, a husband to Keri, and a father to my gaggle of children. it allows me to be a lowly server at the neighborhood bar and grill.

i wasn’t making much of a lasting splash when i felt like i was a big deal. now that i know i am not a big deal, i receive the grace to try again and hope for a bigger splash for my family, my guests, and for the little corner of the Kingdom in which i reside.

a confession and www.mynameisbrandon.me

157507122it’s been an insane 6 months.

resignation from ministry.
temporary jobs.
moving to a new city.
new school for my kids.
new school  for me.
trying to sell a house.
deciding to rent the house.
the death of dreams.
the birth of new seasons.

the last six months have been about survival. sometimes you simply need to withdraw in order to make it. it makes me think of my cat growing up. vortex (his name…the coolest pet name ever…) had surgery once and when he came home, he immediately went to hide under my bed. no amount of coaxing or kitty treats would bring him out of hiding. he was wounded. and healing. and needing space. and when he was ready, he emerged. he wasn’t 100%, but he felt the call to re-enter.

similarly, i am ready to emerge. i am ready to write and create and share. i’ve got thoughts and ideas and stories and lessons learned.

if you’d care to keep up with the journey, here are a few things to know:

new address: you can now access this blog at: http://www.mynameisbrandon.me
(someone pilfered my old website address.)

new attitude: i used to write to build a platform. it made me feel dirty. no longer. the things i plan on writing will be more honest. i have no board of directors or elders to fire me if i say something out of line. this will be a space for me to clarify and voice my thoughts. in doing so, i think (and hope) it will benefit you, the reader. i know i am not blazing any trails. the benefit is in our journey together.

new content: i’ve made a painful realization over the last several months. so, here is my confession: my faith was dependent upon my role as a minister. i have no idea how to be a follower of Christ as a “non-professional.”

and so, much of what i write will be under the banner of my finding my sea legs. i hope this will be an encouragement to other “recovering ministers” and a help to those of you struggling to find or own your faith while still in ministry.

if you’d like to connect, there are a few ways we can do that:

you can find me on facebook here.

you can find me on twitter here.

you can subscribe to receive emails of my blog post by filling in that little box on the right side of your screen and clicking “subscribe.”

you can email me by filling this little form out.

7 ways to show your students you don’t care this summer

my office is a mess. campus is freakishly quiet. i’ve been moving slow in the mornings and in bed early in the evenings.

such is the summertime in campus ministry. and that’s a good thing. i believe most of us cram 12 months worth of work into 9 months.

so, breathe easy. rest. it’s OK. you have permission.

but don’t check out on your students completely. in fact, it would be wise to check in on them frequently this summer. say hello. find out what is going on in their world. ask how you can be praying for them. remind them that you are still around, still their campus minister, and still very much a part of their lives.

unless you don’t care.

and if you don’t, i am providing seven quick, simple things you should avoid this summer so that you are completely disengaged from all of your college students.

  1. don’t text them.
    today, i got an out of the blue text message from my campus minister. (mind you, i graduated from college twelve years ago.) i felt remembered, encouraged, and loved. it was the worst.
  2. don’t post on their facebook page.
    don’t go on their turf. don’t engage their world. leaving a post on someone’s facebook wall is the equivalent of finding a note in your lunchbox from your mom in grade school. don’t do that.
  3. don’t tweet them.
    keeping your encouragement or blessing for your students under 140 characters can be tough. don’t deal with the hassle.
  4. don’t chat with them on facebook or skype.
    if 140 characters is too much, then there is no way a facebook chat is feasible. too much typing. and you will definitely feel uncomfortable turning your cam on for some actual face time on skype. it would be a shame to there to be eye contact.
  5. don’t call them on the phone.
    who uses the phone for talking anymore? it’s all about angry birds.
  6. don’t drop by their home or share a meal.
    if students happened to have stayed in town, you should avoid stopping by their houses or taking them out for a meal or coffee. you wouldn’t step into the cage of a wild wildebeest, would you? never mind all that stuff Jesus said about being sent to the world on their playground.
  7. don’t mail them a real, live handwritten letter or card.
    nobody enjoys getting a thoughtful, hand-written letter addressed specifically to them containing encouragement that tells them they are being thought of and prayed for. nobody.

adventures in missional campus ministry, chapter 4

we need men to engage.

this last week, our large group gathering left the friendly confines of our ministry center and headed out to the heart of our campus. there, we were going to engage with and bless some students who had organized an event to raise awareness and donations to help end the homeless plight in our area.

we brought donated food items and money. then we received cardboard boxes and were told to make a cardboard house. it was called a “cardboard camp-out.”

when we got there, i looked around at all of the students who had gathered. and i noticed something…

we had brought the only men in attendance.

i pulled our 10 or so guys off to the side and i encouraged them. i told them to look around and notice the lack of male presence. i thanked them for engaging. for participating. for caring. for leading the way. and that we needed them to do so.

Blog Rant

I have been thinking about this all day. Can’t keep it in any longer. Here are some things I hate about the blogs of some folks, specifically the blogs of ministers and church planters.

  •  Every Sunday, on their blog, promises to be the best Sunday ever at XYZ Church. At first I was like, “Cool. They have some neat things going on.” Then, after the 100th time the minister promised the biggest and best Sunday was coming up at XYZ, I just ignored him. Be honest. Sometimes you have sucky Sundays too.
  • Reflection/Ramble posts. You know, the ones where they pick a topic and then vomit their thoughts about that topic into a blog post. It goes like this:
    • Had church today.
    • It was the best service we have ever had. Even better than last week.
    • The chairs in the gym were crooked. And the video projector hiccuped once during the service. Seriously, how can we worship when the projector is hiccuping?
    • I love the band that plays at our church. I know…I said that last week too, but I just love those guys. They are off the hook.
  • Phrases that are used over and over again in every blog post. Like “off the hook.” What does that even mean?
  • Name dropping. Good blog etiquette would have a blogger to link to other blogs when you are referencing them or talking about them. For example, if I want to say something nice about my wife, I would link. But, it drives me crazy to read a blog post that has a list of all the people that person saw one day and they are all linked. Almost every other word is blue. Church planters are the worst. When they go to one of their cool conferences (with cool buzzword names, like “Catalyst” and “Elevation” and so on) they talk about all the people they meet or heard speak and their blog posts look bluer than the sky. I love church planters, but c’mon.
  • Long lists of bullet points on a blog. Yuk.
  • End rant.