Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merrry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Tonight we had a great Christmas Eve experiment - 2 Christmas Eve Services outside in the park in 2 different neighborhoods.

Although one neighborhood service was better attended than the other, we had about 70 or so people overall join us for carols, Scripture reading from Luke 2, a short message from me, and the cool Christmas vocal stylings of Kim Wells with her guitar. But no candles...high winds and dry weather caused a red flag burning ban! Definitely a great night, and we had many new people asking about Compass Church.

In other news, we were recently contacted by Birchwood Community Church, who is now one of our Sponsoring Church Partners! Very cool. I'm looking forward to an incredible 2006!

And now from me, my lovely wife Leona and the three M's: We wish you a very Merry Christmas and a joyous New Year!

Gotta rock. I have one more Santa role to play....

Monday, December 19, 2005

"Parents' Shopping Day Out" Photos

We've now posted a few photos on the Compass Church website from our recent "Parents' Shopping Day Out." The kids were great and had a lot of fun, and the parents were all very appreciative of the free time. This was an excellent event, and Brenda, Kim, Leona and Cassandra made it happen. Great job, ladies! Thanks also to Ricky, Dan, and my own Matthew and Melissa for being great helpers throughout the day!

Here I am leading the complicated and tricky game of "Simon (or in this case, Santa) Says."

See the rest of the gallery here: Shopping Day Out Gallery

On a side note, I can't believe how old my son Matthew (on the right) looks in this picture! And it was just yesterday that Melissa (on the left) looked like the little girl standing in front of me, here! It's not a cliche' it's just true - They grow up faster than you think, and time rocks on...

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Santa Fun Links From Dave

Dave Trotter of Revolution Church has 3 funny "Santa" links on his blog, today. Take a break from the holiday stress and don't take any of these too seriously...

After donning the red suit twice this year, I especially liked the "pictures of kids who were scared of Santa" link!

Check out the links here: Christmas Fun

Saturday, December 17, 2005

One More Podcasting Idea (or so...)

Terry Storch & Brian Bailey are writing a book called, "Blogging Church: Sharing The Story of Your Church Through Blogs" and have a great blog and podast over at

I did a post back in September called, "Creative Podcasting Ideas" that Terry graciously linked to today. I originally only posted 19 ideas, but in honor of the mention, here's one more.

Idea #20 - Leave them with a "cliff hanger." (This is similar to a previous idea, but with a different twist) Give people a reason to want to catch your next podcast. It worked in the golden days of radio, why not the golden days of podcasting?

Example 1: "And then something completely unexpected happened...And I'll tell you all about it in the next podcast!"

Example 2: "So there are 4 ways to affair-proof your marriage. In the next podcast I'll tell you about the 5th one. It's incredibly powerful, and pulls the last four together. See you then."

Example 3: "In my next podcast, I'll be making a very special announcement that you don't want to miss. I'm very excited about it and can't wait to tell you about it. Spread the word!" (This is a version of the previously mentioned idea.)

Example 4: "Jake, you've had an amazing experience. I want to thank you for sharing that with us, today. But something happened later that changed everything for you, didn't it?"
"Yeah, it was unbelievable."
"In the next podcast, I'd like for you to tell us all about that and what it has to do with us."
"Cool. I'd love to do that."
"Thanks, Jake. Well, that's it for today, folks..."
Well there you have it. A nice round number. 20.

... Ok, that's just dull.

So here's one more:

Idea #21 - Have a Contest & Give Something Away. Just like on the radio, only make it "email number 5" wins an autographed copy of your new book or something. Announce the winner on your blog.

Rats. Now I've messed up the list. Does that mean I have to take it up to 30? Hey, maybe there's an ebook in the making here. Oh wait a minute. I guess you're reading it now, aren't you? So never mind. I guess I'll have to create an idea e-book for something else...

Check out the blogging church link here: Podcasting Ideas

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Santa Epilogue

What happened next and random final thoughts:
  • The following Saturday I was Santa again at my neighborhood's holiday event. Wasn't quite the same as the week before, but I was now an old hand at this stuff. :) By the way, Leona was actually "Mrs. Claus" at this event. I may have to post that photo later.
  • I realized this week that I'll be on hundreds of people's refrigerators this year. They just won't realize it's me.
  • When I was at the Rec Center today, well over a week later, somebody walked by me and said, "Hey, Santa!" I'm not sure, but I think it was one of the members of my "Christmas Posse." ' I didn't really recognize him, though, without the Gingerbread head.
  • It dawned on us that this past Easter, Leona was the Easter Bunny at a city event, and that this Christmas I was Santa Claus. Surely people are going to begin to talk...
  • Life is full of beautiful, adventurous and unexpected "God moments." Determine in your heart to not miss any of them.
  • Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night. Or day. Or whatever.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Surprised By Santa, (Part the 4th)

While waiting for my cue to start the festivities, I ran into the wife of another Church planter in the Roanoke area. As she gave me a friendly greeting, I felt a slight feeling of remorse at having hit her husband upside the head with a candy cane thrown from a Christmas Float at last year's parade. But the feeling passed quickly, and I went back to thinking it had been a good idea...:)

To get to where I needed to be to get things rolling, I had to walk into the crowd, through the lobby, up two flights of stairs, down the hall, and through a classroom to get to the balcony loft where the Christmas Tree was waiting.

Making my way through that crowd was no small task. Halfway through the lobby I felt a tug and a weight on my right side, and turned to discover a little kid who was happily hugging my leg. My first reaction was to do a W.C. Fields' impression: "Go away, kid, ya' bother me..." Instead I gave her a gentle hug in return and then, just as gently, pried her little claws off of my Santa pants. Those baggy red trousers were loose enough already, and one more tug would create a show of hilarity and slapstick of a totally different sort.

When I finally made it to the balcony, the spotlight moment had arrived. "Tree lighting remote control" in one hand, I used my other to put the bullhorn to my fuzzy fake beard. With my best, deep, barrel-throated Santa voice I shouted, "Welcome to the brand new Roanoke Recreation Centerrrr!!"

I expected a thunderous applause, but instead got two crickets playing patty cake.

So I moved quickly into my act. I did a little of the "Have you all been good this year?" stuff, and it didn't get much of a reaction either. So I shifted to the countdown.

"Are you ready? Let's count it down! 3-2-1!"

And amazingly, I hit the button at the right time and at the right angle and the tree lit up like a... well, like a Christmas Tree. That's when finally the place erupted in applause. And what an incredible sound of relief that was to me.

When I walked into the gym where the "photos with Santa" were to be made, again the crowd applauded and cheered. That's when I noticed the Compass Church Team to my right, busily serving hot chocolate and cookies while signing people up for the Parents' Shopping Day Out. No one was applauding their efforts, but I couldn't help thinking how proud I was of them. I knew I didn't have to worry about whether or not they would do a great job with this serving thing - it's in their DNA (and the DNA of our church).

A servant's heart is not optional for spiritual maturity; it's an indicator of spiritual maturity.

The next hour was spent with various and asundry people sitting on my knee for photos, which believe it or not, was actually kind of fun.

There were kids who completely freaked out, kids who were overjoyed and ready to tell me what they wanted for Christmas, and kids who hadn't quite decided if they were too old for this stuff or not. There were teenagers just goofing around, a giggly lady from Germany (Vaht are you going to bdring to me, Zhanta?) and even all of the members of my "Christmas Posse." The Reindeer had apparently decided to forgive me for stepping on her foot earlier in the night. One of my favorite photos taken was with the spunky little old lady who told me, "Honey, I was rescued off of a roof during Katrina, and I want my picture taken with Santa!"

But one of my favorite moments during that segment was when the dudes from the Rec Center, Robert and Eric, brought me a glass of water at the request of my lovely wife, Leona. They handed me the cup and then stood guard, blocking me from view while I lifted my "beard" to take a drink! All those guys needed were shades and their fingers to their ears to finish out the scene. Santa Security. I sure wish I had a picture of that.

After a very, very long time, it was over. The crowds were gone and I could now get out of the Santa suit, which by this time was in need of some serious dry cleaning. The shirt I was wearing underneath the hot suit was definitely in need of a trip to the wash. Fortunately for me, the Rec Center Staff gave me a cool new Roanoke Recreation Center Golf Shirt as a lovely parting gift. I think that they were originally going to give me a T-Shirt, but then someone suggested that "We need to give Santa a golf shirt!" And voila' - I got the upgrade.

The night drew to a close with me and my family getting a ride together in the horse drawn carriage, and having a great conversation with the driver who led us in a stirring rendition of "Jingle Bells" while we rode along. I kid you not.

And then to completely top off the night, the city gave our church a special award. It is the first award we've received as "Compass Church." I didn't see that one coming, so it was a very nice and unexpected moment.

So I was surprised by Santa. I was surprised by the city. I was surprised by myself. And I was surprised by God. And you would have seen the look of surprise on my face, if it hadn't been covered by that nasty beard. It was no surprise that I was happy to get rid of that.

And when my head finally hit the pillow later that evening, there were no visions of dancing sugarplums to be had by me - only deep, peaceful, and (for the first time in a long while) ...surprisingly restful sleep.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Surprised by Santa (Part 3)

As the Christmas Posse (see the last post) and I got on the train, I started doing the first of my "Santa Schtick." Pulling out of the parking lot, I started shouting to those on the sidewalk, "Hey, hey, hey!" like Fat Albert. Then I quickly changed it back to "ho, ho, ho!"

Clever, ay? Too bad I didn't have a drummer who could do a rim shot. People cracked up, anyway, lame as it was.

As we rode in the little train from the Rec Center to the front of the parade line, I reflected on how we had created our own float last Christmas and threw out candy canes with info about our church to the crowd. I also thought about how incredibly ineffective that really was. In hindsight, it may have had something to do with people getting hit in the face with a card about a church when they were expecting something fun and festive. Hmm... I could really run with that right now, applying it to churches in general, but it's kind of a tangent and I'm starting to digress...

Hopping off the train, I found Robert from the rec staff waiting to escort me to the float of honor. It was kind of fun having my own security detail everywhere I went, but he was walking kind of fast. I had to almost run to keep up with him and was a bit paranoid that I was going to be mobbed by the crowd as I went! Isn't that a lovely sentiment? Santa Claus, beloved by all, running for his life to keep from being mauled by all...!

But I wasn't mauled or mobbed, and let me just say that it is really surreal to be a struggling church planting pastor one minute and an "instant celebrity" the next! Cheers, people waving, and excited shouts of "Hey, there he is!" coming from over my shoulder gave me one of the first of many surprises:

It's hard to be depressed when you're playing Santa Claus.

Strange how even "superficial" encouragement is such a powerful thing. To hear nothing but positive things being shouted at and around a person can do a lot for someone who's discouraged. I actually wish every pastor could have the opportunity to receive the encouragement and welcome that I, as Santa, received on that night.

I didn't realize how much I really needed it until I received a huge dose of it. And I found myself soaking it up like a sponge; not in a "seeking praise of man," arrogant kind of way, but in a humble, thirsty kind of way.

Encouragement is one of those nebulous things that everyone acts as though they can make it without, but is actually a vital need that we all have. It's one of those needs that goes deeper than we usually realize and one that we rarely (if ever) admit that we even have.

It's no wonder that God's Word stresses it so emphatically:

"So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing." - 1 Thessalonians 5:11 [NLT]

My guess is that you are "under encouraged." Most people are. And Pastors most definitely are. So here's a quick note to self and to you: Start encouraging people more. - a lot more. It's incredible the difference it can make.

Robert led me along to my "Parade ride," which turned out to be a horse drawn carriage, and to my "Parade riding partner," who turned out to be the Mayor of the city of Roanoke!

"Would you mind escorting Santa the rest of the way?" Robert asked.
"Well, that depends on who he is!" the Mayor responded in a good natured way.
"Hi, there, how're you doin'?" I said, as if we were old friends.

The mayor greeted me warmly, and we made our way to the carriage. For the next 30 minutes or so, I was the official Santa Claus in the Roanoke Christmas parade. I was "ho, ho, ho-ing" and "Merry Christmas-ing" and "Hello, boys and girls-ing" like a pro, all the while chatting with the Mayor here and there, and generally cracking him up as we went along.

And there was plenty to be cracking up about. Not the least of which was the fact that it was about 80 degrees outside. But never fear, by the time the whole evening wrapped up, it was down to about 40. ...Welcome to Texas.

As the parade progressed, it was amazing to see faces brighten and smiles appear when I simply made eye contact, shouted greetings to people and actually acknowledged them in the process. Everyone really responded to being singled out and greeted by this "character of Christmas joy." Noticing this was when I was hit with surprise number two, and it wasn't that I got to hang out with the Mayor.

I was surprised that all of this reminded me how much I care about people. Why I'm in Roanoke, in the first place. Why I'm planting a church.

It's because God cares about people. And He wants people to also care about Him; to understand that He's the answer to their problems. It's not that God needs us, however. He isn't pitiful. But He cares because that's just who He is. He loves and cares about people. He's holy and righteous, to be sure, but He's also the God who is moved with compassion over people who wander around like sheep without a shepherd.

I found myself joyfully trying to connect with these people and communicate hope through the silly guise of Santa Claus. Of course as "Santa" that fell short, but it was my heart none the less.

Recently, I had prayed that God would make my heart overflow with compassion for the people of this area. He surprised me by doing just that in an unexpected time and in an unexpected way - while I was waving at people as "Santa Claus" in a Christmas Parade. I actually felt my heart softening, my concern deepening and my compassion growing as the parade marched on.

All along the way, the Mayor sitting next to me had no clue who I was. But when the parade wrapped up, he was immediately asking anyone who might know.

"Who is that guy in the Santa suit?"

I was now beginning to wonder that a little, myself as I made my way from the carriage to the Rec Center. My evening of the "St. Nick Schtick" was apparently just getting started. There was a big crowd gathering, and it was "Santa time"...

(to be concluded...)

Friday, December 09, 2005

Surprised by Santa (Part 2)

I arrived early to the Recreation Center. I wanted to make sure I had a chance to look at the "Santa suit" and discover where I was supposed to be and when. It was kind of weird to hear the Recreation Staff greet me with, "Santa's here! Hey, Santa!" even though I wasn't yet wearing the suit. I kept looking behind me and side to side thinking, "Dude! you're giving away my secret identity!"

I greeted everyone and then touched base with my team from Compass, to make sure that everything on our side of things was set. They were ready to go - Compass Church Lanyards for team members, Hot Chocolate ready to be prepared and served, sign up sheets and flyers for our Parents' Shopping Day Out ready to be distributed (more on this later).

With my mind set at ease by thoughts of my team nestled snuggly in their posts, visions of sugarplums started dancing in my head as I started to make the transition into the right jolly old elf.

Mike, the Director of the Recreation Center, shared with me my "duties." He handed me a remote control for lighting the giant Christmas Tree, and began telling me what I was supposed to say. "Say?" I thought, "You mean I have to talk?" I had thought that I would just be riding on the back of a firetruck and waving at the crowd...

Basically, following the parade, I was to get everyone's attention with a bullhorn, welcome them to the Roanoke Recreation Center, do a little "Now have you all been good this year?" stand-up routine, and start the count down to the lighting of the Christmas tree, using the remote to turn on the lights at the magic moment.

The visions of sugarplums started dancing again, but this time with a few extra kicks to my stomach. That's when the sugarplums turned into Galadriel speaking very seriously to little "Frodo Santa Me" with the words, "This task has been given to you...and if you do not find a one will."

If you've never worn a real Santa suit, it's quite an experience. Belts, fake boot tops, big red pants, abominable snowman wig and a fake beard that is impossible to keep out of your mouth. I felt like I was kissing a stuffed animal all night.

The time came for the parade to begin, and I had to be escorted to the little train that was going to take me and my "posse" to our places in line. I hadn't had a chance to really meet the posse beforehand, but they were a reindeer, a snowman, a big gingerbread man, and a walking Christmas Tree.

On our way out the door, the staff said, "Wait, let's get you all together for a photo by the Christmas Tree before you head out." We posed like for pictures at Grandma's, and they put me in the middle. After the photo was taken, the Reindeer turned to me in an anguished voice and said, "You're standing on my foot!"

I apologized profusely on our way to the little train and thought, "Oh no, now the Reindeer hates me and doesn't have my back..."

And so it began.

(to be continued...)

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Surprised by Santa

Last Saturday night was one of those surreal and special evenings that I'm sure I will remember for a long time. It was also a pivotal night for Compass Church, with lots of laughter, great conversations with many new people, and the stirrings of some serious buzz.

Here's what happened.

Several days ago, the Roanoke Parks & Rec Staff was discussing the final plans for the Roanoke Christmas Parade, when someone asked, "So who do we have lined up to be Santa?" That is when they realized that they had lined up no one to be Santa. Then, amazingly, my name came up. The next thing I know, I'm on the phone agreeing to don the red super suit, although generally, I'm only mild mannered Johnny Leckie...

Now the Roanoke Christmas Parade is a one of a kind event around here. There are certainly other "holiday" parades in several other cities around the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, but this is the only one that I know of that takes place at night. Our church has served with the city at this event before, serving hot chocolates and cookies afterward, and last year we even had a float in the parade - but this is the first time the Newly Built Roanoke Recreation Center was in the mix.

It was also the first time I've ever played "Santa Claus" in such a public setting.

Let me pause to say that if you fall into the: "you know, if you rearrange the letters of of the word 'Santa' you get 'Satan!'" camp, and/or can't imagine a pastor actually portraying the jolly fellow during this or any other time of year, here's my gentle advice to you:
  • Realize that you could probably relax a little.
  • Consider that it very well may be time for a new laxative.
  • For heaven's sake, please don't take that last line too seriously.
  • To avoid any righteous indignation on your part, please skip the next couple of posts.
Otherwise, grab some hot chocolate or hot apple cider, and allow me to share with you about the night I was surprised by Santa...

And he was me.

(to be continued...)

A Prayer From Ephesians 3:16-21 (NLT)

- From my time alone with God this morning -

I pray:

• That from God’s glorious, unlimited resources He will give me mighty inner strength through His Holy Spirit. (16)

• That Christ will be more and more at home in my heart as I trust Him. (17a)

• That my roots will go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. (17b)

• That I may have power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love really is, (18)

• That I may experience the love of Christ, though it is so great I will never fully understand it. (19a)

• That as a result of that (above), I will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (19b)

• That I would continually say from experience: Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, He is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. (20)

• That He would be given glory in me & the church I pastor, and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages. Amen! (21)

And I pray the same for you.

[Ephesians 3:16-21]

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Why Do People Need Your Church?

One of the questions we've come back to again and again about starting Compass Church is this: "Is there a need for this church in this place at this time?" It's not the only question that every church must ask itself, but it is a foundational one.

Jason Bishop is planting The Journey, a missional church plant in Lubbock, Texas, and he was asked this question in a public setting today. His response goes to the very heart of the matter and clearly and simply puts things in perspective.

Read his answer here.

Why do people need your church?

Update: You never know where a conversation can take you. Read Jason's comment and check out the link : Lubbockfunclub

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Tonight's Turnout

Tonight was cool. We met some new people, reestablished some friendships, and generally had a great time talking, eating snacks and enjoying the holiday atmosphere.

Who stopped by:
Neighbors from around the corner (2 adults, 4 kids) - moved here in July
Neighbors from across the street (2 adults, 3 kids) - moved here in September
Neighbors from across the street (2 adults, 4 kids) - Friends from a sponsoring church
Neighbors from around the corner (2 adults, 4 kids) - Acquaintances from the past year or so
Friends who have been interested in our church (2 adults, 1 kid)
Team members (2 adults, 1 kid)

So at the end of the evening, there were 29 people (not including our family) at my house tonight.

Your results may vary... :)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Old School Outreach

I have now personally placed over 300 door hangers inviting my neighbors over to my house tomorrow. My feet and shins are killing me and I have an allergy headache, but I'm hoping for the best. I really wanted to put out about 600, but I'm just running out of time. I suppose if we have a 1% return on those 300, we'll meet 3 new families. I'm ok with that.

I think we've been lousy neighbors while we've been trying to "reach" people in the area, mostly because I personally know so few in my own neighborhood. How does that even make sense?

I am praying for significant relationships and friendships to form as a result of this. At the very least, more people in my neighborhood should now recognize Leona and me, just because of the door hanger.

Maybe it'll make it easier to talk with people later.
Maybe we'll have a house full of people tomorrow.
Maybe we'll have just my family.
I really have no idea. But I feel good about making the effort in a specific, measurable way.

It's old school outreach, but in a good way: feet to the pavement, personal and relational - but without being obnoxious or overly confrontational. Just neighbors meeting neighbors. Could it get any more old school than that?

If you are one of my neighbors and reading this, I hope to see you tomrorrow afternoon - and don't worry - there really will be no presentations or selling. Just drop by and say hello.

I'll post something tomorrow night with hard numbers: good, bad or ugly. :)

Friday, November 18, 2005

Do you know your neighbors? Text Copy

In response to my friend, Jason, here's a text copy of the "door hanger." And I use that term loosely because it's regular paper with a hole punched through the top and fastened with a rubber band. Pretty simple production by design, by the way - I want my neighbors to know it's from a neighbor, not a company. It's crisp, clear, sharp, but not glossy.

Here's the text:
Hi, We're Your Neighbors!

and we're not selling anything.

...not that there's anything wrong with that.

My name is Johnny Leckie and this is my lovely wife, Leona. We’ve lived in Harvest Ridge along with our 3 kids for a long time, but we still
haven’t met many of our neighbors.

So we thought we’d invite you over.

We’re having a Holiday Open House
This Sunday , November 20th,
from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
just to meet our neighbors before the holidays kick in and no one has any time to do anything.

We live at 1xxxx Blah blah Drive.

Leona is an elementary school teacher in Keller ISD, and Johnny is the Pastor of Compass Church, a new church that will be meeting at the new Roanoke Recreation Center in January. ( Our kids go to school at Bear Creek Intermediate, Keller Middle and Central High.

No need to RSVP. Just show up and stay as long or as little as you like. It’s come and go. We’ll have coffee, cider, and snacks.
There’ll be No selling and No presentations.
Just drop by and say hello!

Feel free to give us a call:
Anyway, who knows? I'll give you the run down on how it goes. Hopefully, many people will recognize us from the many events we've been a part of or led in our neighborhood. It certainly can't hurt, and at least most of my neighbors will learn who we are and can go to the website if they're interested in our church.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Do you know your neighbors?

Leona and I have decided that we just don't know as many of our neighbors as we'd like, so we're inviting them all over.

We'll have info about our church displayed prominantly if anyone is interested, but we hope to just have those conversations happen naturally as we meet and talk with people. No hard sell. We get a lot of invitations from neighbors who are selling things, so we thought we'd take a slightly different approach.

I created a simple, unpolished "door hanger" and I'm spending the next 2 days walking through my neighborhood, meeting people, and putting these on doors.

Our neighborhood is interesting, because there is a hunger for community and friendships, but crossing paths with neighbors here doesn't happen easily. People get home from work and go straight inside, and it's usually dark now by the time people get home. To meet most of our neighbors, we have to go knock on their door and introduce ourselves. No big deal for people on our block, but to meet people 3 blocks over, that's a little awkward.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Do you know your neighbors? How'd you meet them?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Update: God big; Johnny small.

I guess that's not really an update, is it?

First, let me just say, "Thank you." Leona and I greatly appreciate all of the prayers, comments, emails and phone calls. It really means a lot to us. Your prayers have been greatly sensed over the last few days, and have made an incredible difference.

So, what the fat is going on, you ask?

Well, that's a little hard to describe, really. Basically, on Friday I was at a really low place, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Discouragement has hit Leona and me from a variety of angles over the past few days: From finances to health issues to changes in our team to some important deadlines that were missed to a number of other things,...well, it's been a little rough.

Frankly, when I posted the request for prayer, I had just had it and essentially I felt like giving up. I hate that. "Give up" is not really in my vocabulary. My pride almost kept me from posting the request, but my smart and beautiful wife said, "Just post it. We need people to pray for us."

She was right, of course.

There were too many things hitting all at once, too many burdens, too little margin, and all at a time that seems too close to victory. But that's the way growth happens sometimes: Darkest before the dawn; pain before the breakthrough; struggle before freedom.

I am convinced that through that process the enemy is also determined to frustrate, discourage and bring down any and all who would seek to follow the Lord's call. He always attempts to stand between us and God and point fingers and accuse. Being the burning sticks we are, plucked from the fire as it were, God rejects those accusations and in spite of it all offers to cover us in fresh new clothes. [Zechariah 3]

Hope is a sweet and powerful thing. When it seems to disappear, it's a bitter bite.

This is not exactly a news flash. It's part of the journey. A journey that is definitely not meant to be traveled alone.

And that's why your prayers and encouragement have been so important to me and my family. It's humbling to ask for prayer, to disappear for a few days, to hope people really are praying and then to come back and try to explain the scoop in vague terms with words of thanks. But I know it's important.

Of course, I've always known this, but I do realize now more than ever before how much I need a vast and fervant prayer team to accomplish the task before me - how much our church needs a vast and fervant prayer team to accomplish the task before us. All of the challenges have not gone away. There are still some big ones ahead, but we have them a bit more in perspective, now.

God is a big God. He very much knows what He's doing, even when I sometimes don't.

We're ok. We're still standing. We're still going forward. We still need your prayers.

And now with eyes wide open, we're also praying more fervently for you.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Would you pray for us?

Would you pray for me and my family, tonight?

As a church planter I've faced obstacles, difficulties, hardships, and made sacrifices. I've always needed the prayers of friends and family along the way. And I'm generally a pretty upbeat guy.

But tonight, perhaps more than ever before, I really need your prayers.

If you'll pray, would you mind giving me a comment to let me know? Thanks.

I'll give you an update, soon.

Grace & Peace,


A little mystery solved

It's been a mystery since February. Now it's solved.

Read the words in red in this updated post: Some Great Lines...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Few Lessons Learned from Church Planting HKU*

There are really far more lessons that I am learning personally as we have been on this church planting adventure, but here are a few that are helping shape how we are preparing for the launch:

* The Importance of Relational Evangelism

* The Importance of Community Connections

* The Importance of a consistent, constant and well recognized meeting space.

* The Importance of the “Come Back” event.

* The Importance of excellence and creativity with available resources.

* The "StarGreens" or "Walbucks" Principle (Starbucks & Walgreens): The Importance of being ubiquitously and conveniently present. (This will be a post all by itself)

* The Importance of simultaneous Relational Evangelism and Strategic Marketing

* The Importance of making clear connection points and natural follow up with outreach events.

As I said, there are many more, like the importance of creating a buzz, the importance of being a hawk about the stats, and the importance of a well structured day that accomplishes one major goal that moves you forward and allows for interruption. "Reversing" the percentages of how I personally invest my work time for greatest effectiveness is also a future post in the making. Heck, maybe I'll post more about each of these in more detail later.

Take what you can use. Chunk the rest.

...Oh wait. That's another one.

*HKU - Hard Knocks University

Monday, November 07, 2005

A Little Digital Balance

Just to even out this post: "Analog Amenities" and this post, "Un-Wired-er Analog PDA Mindmap," here is a great article by Kevin D. Hendricks of "Think," "Church Marketing" and ""

And also because, as many who know me well already know:
"Time is my enemy, and technology has been recently out to get me."
So this article offers help on both fronts.

Check it out: Top 7 Technologies That Can Save You Time

By the way, Kevin is interviewed along with Brad Abare by Terry Storch on the Blogging podcast. Listen here.

Don't always fully agree with these guys, but really love the way they challenge stupid notions about what is and what isn't church marketing. Also glad that there's someone out there holding the church accountable for how they communicate the life changing message of Jesus Christ to a lost world.

Cause it's not always very pretty, out there. And yes, I realize that there are way too many links in this post...

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Professional Christians

I read a great article, today by Dan Reiland, the "Pastor's Coach" from Injoy Ministries on dealing with "professional christians."

Check it out here:

I think that there are a lot of well meaning people in some churches who just veered off course somewhere along the way. And now they're in a strange land, miles off the original course, with the great potential of being grumpy about it.

And they don't really understand why that's the case.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Being Missional in a Postmodern World While Trying To Emerge Past Modernity

Ok, so it gets a little complex, sometimes.

Or does it really?

First, a quote from Lucy to Charlie Brown:
"I think we'd better pinpoint your fears. If we can find out what you're afraid of, we can label it."

Some of you have no idea what I'm talking about in the title, and you are the ones I want and need to spend time with. Some of you understand it very well and are already forming your arguments and trying to pinpoint where I land on a variety of issues - and you're the ones who are spending way too much time talking to the wrong groups people.

"Moderns and postmoderns," "Emergents and submergents*" don't really need each other's permission to change the world, do they?

Unless of course, the moderns are funding the postmoderns, and then things get kind of surreal...

*"Submergents" is not a term or label that you are likely to find in many discussions. I came up with that one all by myself.

Analog Amenities

Turns out that my "Un-wired-er analog PDA Mindmap" reveals I'm on to something. And I just thought it was because I am poor...

Fast Company magazine recently pubished an article that brings me a bit of validation with an article about moleskine notebooks. Check it out: The Anti-PDA.

Man. Now even in analog, I need an upgrade...

[links via Scott]

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Pastor Electrocuted Performing Baptism

Kyle Lake was the pastor of University Baptist Church in Waco. Unbelievably, during a baptism this morning, there was an accident with a microphone and Pastor Kyle was electrocuted. He was 33.

I did not know Kyle. But I know his church. He has written several books, and The David Crowder band are members/worship leaders in his church. Read the Houston Chronicle article here.

Today's news reminded me of another tragedy from years ago. Before I was born, the church I grew up in was pastored by a man named T.C. Pennel. At the time, the church was one of the largest churches in Louisiana. One Sunday, Pastor Pennel had a heart attack while preaching and died on the way to the hospital. The impact of this event as you would expect, was huge. I am sure it will be no less for this church in Waco.

There is no way to explain away such things. There just is no good way to explain it. And I'm not going to try. But I am praying for the family, the church and all who hear this news and are dealing with the loss and the circumstances surrounding it.

And I will continue to preach the life changing message of salvation through Jesus Christ with boldness and baptize new Christ Followers with joy.

And today I commit to it with even more seriousness and zeal. God is good, true, my Redeemer and my Great Hope - and I will follow Him "to whatever end." There is true life in no one else.

Thanks to David for the reference.

Images from Backstage Pass

Our turnout was smaller than expected, but we were still pretty jazzed about the tour of our new Sunday morning digs. This place is incredible and it still humbles me to think that its availability came about as a result of our faithfulness and serving in the community.

I haven't figured out a better way to do this in blogger, yet, but here they are anyway. The images are kind of small because they are vidcaps from my camcorder. In order, they are:
  1. View from outside the entryway.
  2. Just inside the building. The window everyone is looking through is to the workout equipment room (pre-equipment). There will be four plasma screen TV's in that room to enhance people's workout. Notice the ladder. The Rec center isn't open yet, but it's getting close.
  3. This is one side of a huge room that has two full size basketball courts. The gym has a dividing "curtain" that we will use to make best use of the space. This room is huge. That's both good and bad. It's good because it gives us lots of room to grow, but it's bad because it's going to be a challenge to keep us from getting swallowed up in it at first!
  4. Beside one of two raquetball courts, walking back to the entry area.
  5. Leona and Cassandra (with friend's baby) checking out the preschool area. Yes. It's actually designed to be a preschool area! I'm not sure why they can't agree on which direction to point...
  6. The Aerobics room where we will be doing older children's ministry.
  7. One of 4 classroom areas - this one has a full kitchen. You can kind of see it in the background.
  8. View of the Registration/check in area and of the stairs to the upper level.
  9. View of the lobby area from the top of the stairs.
  10. View of the lobby area from the other side.
  11. On the elevated walking/jogging track that encircles the basketball courts.
  12. Finally, there is grass! View of the freshly landscaped area by the parkinglot.
We've got a lot to do and a lot to prepare for. It's an incredible open door we've been given; we just need to be ready for the numbers of people who I know will be coming through our doors when we open them. Want to help us? We are still looking for a few more individuals, churches and organizations to partner with us financially to make this opportunity the best it can be.

All church planters say this. But it's true.


Friday, October 28, 2005

Into the weekend...

Blazing full steam into a wild weekend. Find inspiration here, or learn from my missteps:

Did a little "Creative Consulting" with a pastor friend of mine the other day and am having lunch with him today to wrap up. I'm helping him work through the process of taking a series of messages from Scripture, and creatively contextualizing them for his setting: Concepts, relevance, series and message titles, vibe and extras to make the series sparkle. I'm often more of a great "idea man" than a great "implementer man," so it's cool to be able to help another pastor communicate the powerful Word of God in a powerful and effective way. (I definitely have more about this that will show up in another post!)

Tonight we're helping with my neighborhood association's fall festival. Our team will be wearing "Compass Church" lanyards, and will be passing out information about our "Backstage Pass" event that's happening on Saturday. Mostly we'll be helping run the different booths and assisting with the set up and tear down. This is far better than running our own deal this year, because of the number of "unchurched" people in my neighborhood who are far more likely to show up. After we serve at this event, we'll be doing some set up at the Community Center for "Backstage Pass."

Saturday morning Leona and I will be picking up our "Angel Food" order from a church in the area. What is "Angel Food," you ask? Something we discovered recently that is an incredible blessing. Church planters in particular should definitely look into this. Tons of food, no application to fill out, available to anyone for $25. No catch, except you place the order and pay in cash, then pick it up a couple of weeks later. And it's good food, not leftover type of donation stuff. Check it out here to see November's menu and find a distribution church in your area.

Saturday night, "Backstage Pass" is on. So is the tour of the Rec Center. Woo hoo! That's a great drawing feature for the night, so I'm glad it worked out.

On Monday, to celebrate Halloween, Leona is actually going back to the surgical center again. Ok, we don't really "celebrate" Halloween, necessarily, but this should provide sufficient scare factor for the day. It seems the Doc has determined that there is one more attempt to make before resorting to surgery. They are going to do a similar process as before, but this time do the injection from another angle to actually deaden the nerve that is causing the numbness. From what other angle, you may ask?...The front of her neck! (insert horror music here - Ranh! Ranh! Ranh!) In all seriousness, although done routinely as a very safe procedure, this one sounds a little more freaky to me, so please pray that all goes well. - And that I didn't just freak out my wife with this post...

And speaking of horrors, yesterday I received a bill from the Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector and almost had a heart attack. Then I remembered a little thing called my escrow account. I'm breathing a sigh of relief, but I'm going to double check on Monday, anyway. If there's a problem, I'm dressing up as a Tax man, going door to door with a bag that night and selling the contributed contents on Tuesday.

Who can take a sun rise, sprinkle it with dew, cover it in chocolate and a miracle or two...the Pastor man. The Pastor man can.... All together now...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A Stop On The Journey

Whoa. It's been a whole week since my last post.

Well, big whoopdeedoo. As many other bloggers have discovered, it's easy to get a little too caught up in the blog world sometimes and take it and myself too seriously.

So I'm over myself.

But in case you're wondering, here's some of what I've been up to...

Last week started with a couple of days at the Center for Church Planting conference at Center Point Church in North Richland Hills, Texas. Jay Bruner is the pastor of Center Point, the director of the new Church Planting Center, and a dude who is passionate about introducing people to Jesus. Jay's also been a great encouragement, supporter and friend to me over the past year. Good stuff at the conference, utilizing "Glocalnet's" Turbo training materials with a Center Point twist. I may have the opportunity to lead a session or two at the spring session...we'll see.

Update on Leona:
Fast forward to Yesterday. The surgeon decided that Leona needed one more cortizone steroid injection, so once again we were at the surgical center for the proceedure. The bummer is that it doesn't seem that the injections are really working their magic. We're beginning to think that surgery may have to happen, after all and of course, it couldn't come at less convienient time. (Like there's ever a convienient time for surgery!) More updates as we know more. It's just Tuesday; maybe the numbness in her arm will stop before the week's out...I love my wife. I hate it when she's hurting. Thanks again for the prayers!

Kim has been in the middle of a "day job" transition, and has also been "unblogged" for a few days. She's back online today with a great post on worship, however. I've said it before, but we are truly blessed to have Kim on our team. God's doing cool things in her life and leadership, right now.

By the way, if you want to hear a "snippet" of Kim's vocals, she opens the "Sunday Rewind " podcast of the "North Point Compass" message on the Compass site. Her opener and closer are original songs from a demo she recorded a while back - No big production, just guitar and vocals. She's only on the mp3's (part 1 and 2), though, not the wma file that's there. Check it out here.

Compass is official:
I'm happy to report that all of the little administrative details are complete in the transition from North Point Fellowship to Compass. We can now send and receive mail, write and receive checks and communicate to one and all as Compass Church.

Also, please note that our old website "" and my old email address "johnny[AT]" are history after November 1st. Please update your bookmarks to the new Compass Church site.

By the way, we joyfully allowed a church in California to have the North Point domain. Yeah, we just let them have it. It's good for churches to be generous. :)

Backstage Pass:
I'm very excited about this weekend. We are meeting at the Roanoke Community Center this Saturday night for "Backstage Pass," a night of "behind the scenes" info, testimony, music and vision casting for everyone with even the slightest interest in being a part of Compass Church as a member, supporter or attender.

The only bug is that we are waiting on final approval for what I hope is to be a cool bonus feature of the evening: A Tour of the New Rec Center, where we'll be creating weekly worship experiences in January. If it doesn't work out this week, I'm hoping it will happen in the next "Backstage Pass" that we'll do in November.

Sunday afternoon I watched this flick for the first time on Turner Classic Movies. I almost left it early on because it dragged a little at first and Audrey Hepburn was getting on my nerves. Glad I hung in there, though, because it became a fun little mystery by the time it wrapped up. Nice diversion from a busy week.

There's far more going on this week, I have a ton of work to do, and I may or may not blog about it all. Glad you're here, though. Who knows what may happen next?

And from my time alone with God this morning:
"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever." (Psalm 107:1 - NLT) Let me just vouch for that... And one more: "Those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the LORD." (Psalm 107:43 - NLT) ...So do you see the faithful love of the LORD in your history?

...Ok, I can't wait this long to post again. I'm over myself, but it just takes too long to catch up....

So, how are you?


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Spiritual Maturity "Sound byte"

"Spiritual Maturity does not exist apart from the mission." - Me.

This is one you either get or you don't.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Pizza by the yard...

Supper from Sunday night...mmm... pizza....

This recipe is from an old "Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook" from the 1970's that my Mom let me have a few years ago.

I dig the "cokes on ice" in the picture and the retro family feel of the whole thing. Not exactly low fat fare, but man - the peppers and tomato make it scrumdeliyicious.... Add family, a flick, a board game and enjoy.

Friday, October 14, 2005

2 Quick Updates

2 Quick updates:

1. Anthony Coppedge has now blogged about our meeting the other day, and said some fun and nice things. Check it out here. If you'd like to join us at Lynn's Coffee House in a couple of weeks, drop me a line.

2. Leona's medical proceedure a week or so ago did not fully do the trick. The pain in her shoulder is gone, but the numbness in her arm remains. So today at 12:30 p.m. we go back for another injection and another day of anesthetic "loopiness" for Leona. Appreciate your prayers for all to go well today. If this one doesn't work, the next step is surgery...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Un-Wired-er Analog PDA Mind Map

Also called a spiral notebook.

Cup o Joe With Anthony Coppedge

Had a pleasant surprise, yesterday when I received an email from the all time great church media guru, Anthony Coppedge. He had stumbled upon the Compass Church website, and sent me a very nice hello.

Well, it turns out we were able to connect today at a new coffee shop in Watauga called "Lynn's Coffee House." (Cool Coffee shop, by the way. Couches, Big TV, about four computers with free high speed connections, and nice atmosphere. There was also free wi-fi, I believe. I'd provide a link, but believe it or not, they don't have a website, yet!)

Anthony arrived a few minutes before I did and so my first image of Anthony when I walked through the door was of him stepping away from the computers to greet me. How stereotypical but cool is that?

We had a great conversation and I discovered that Anthony is a great guy with a good sense of humor and a very good handle on technology! Yes, the rumors are true. Anthony knows his stuff. He's had an amazing journey in ministry, and I really enjoyed hearing his story and hanging out with him, today.

On a side note, it was slightly surreal to find that we had common connections in blogland. As we talked, we were bringing up different names of people that we had never actually met in person, but only in the wonderful land of blog. (Maybe there should be a new movie called, "The Wizard of Blog." Hmm...) It is kind of weird talking about people that you feel like you know but whom you don't "really" know, and realizing that they have become a part of your life and way of thinking. There has to be a term for that. Blogality? Natural Bloggression? Blogfluence? Psychosis? Ok, I'm blogging down here, but you know what I mean.

One more thing. Those of you who've read this blog for a while already know this, but I've had to par back and become McGyver with technology over this past year for a number of reasons. Some are financial and some are just because I'm radioactive or something. So today when Anthony was checking his Blackberry, I was fumbling around with my "old school" spiral notebook because my Pocket Pc bit the dust months ago. Pretty honkin' embarassing!

Planning to get together with Anthony again, in a couple of weeks. Maybe he'll agree to a quick audio post, a la Steve Dilla? Who knows? Just have to wait and see.

Check out Anthony's Cool Church Tech blog here.