What is the Rethink Leadership Conference?

I was just about to post a recap of the first day of the Rethink Leadership Conference when I realized that some people may not know what this conference is. So, I thought I would give you a quick description of what it is.
I’ve been to a bunch of conferences. Most of them end up looking and feeling very similar. Large numbers of people gather in a big room for the main sessions. Speakers come out and speak at you for hours, while you frantically try to absorb as much as you can. Rethink is different. Let’s look at how.
Senior leaders only. This isn’t about age. They are not offering a discount for AARP members. While there was a lot of grey hair in attendance, it is not a requirement.The Rethink Leadership Conference is a conference for senior leaders. It’s aimed at lead pastors, campus pastors and executive pastors. As a long term children’s pastor this would be the first such event I have attended. However, as I move from children’s pastor to starting a church this seemed like an appropriate step for me to take.
TED style talks. If you have never heard of TED talks do yourself a favor and Google it. TED talks tend to run from around 10 to 20 minutes. Sometimes a little longer, but usually 20 minutes or less. This conference was set up that way. Each speak was given around 15 minutes. If you don’t think that loads of powerful content can be delivered in such a short time I would again recommend you check out some of the TED talks that are available. I can certainly say from this experience that these short bursts of content were extremely effective.
Discussions encouraged. The brief talks were, occasionally, broken up with times set aside for Table discussion. The tables on the first day were assigned. This was designed to ensure that you ended up at a table with people that you didn’t know. The Rethink team provided discussion questions and table guides to help encourage discussion during these times. However, after the first session or too the conversation flowed pretty naturally. As I said earlier I have been to a bunch of conferences. None ever were this intentional about connecting people with one another and including time for discussion into the schedule of the conference.
Affinity Conversations, not Breakouts. Ok, this may seem like to just a clever, hip naming scheme. However, it really is more than that. The entire attendance of the conference was limited to around 700 hundred. I think only around 500 were actually in attendance. That meant that in these sessions there were only 30-50 people in each room. This was at least true for the ones I one into. The speaker was given 15 minutes to speak, then the remaining 45 minutes were open for Q&A. Generally it is the other way around the speaker speaks for 45 minutes to an hour and 10 or 15 minutes are given to Q&A. That’s assuming, of course, that the speaker doesn’t go over. So, conference attendees are stuck sitting there listening and hoping that the specific question they came to the conference or to the breakout with gets answered.
Final impressions. As i write this there are still a couple more hours of conference left. However, I can confidently say that I love this conference. The content has been perfect for my position as a senior pastor. The format has been great. I have always been one to seek out connections while at conferences. However, the people at Rethink made it so much easier to do. If you are a senior leader, I would highly recommend that you consider coming to the Rethink Leadership Conference next year.
Matt Norman

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Jesus Isn’t White

Jesus isn’t White…
He also isn’t black. He isn’t hispanic, or Asian, or any other “race”. Many times I have heard or read people talking about the image of a “white” Jesus that has become all to familiar in western Christianity. Just this morning I watched a video where a man said that this was evidence of white privilege. This is the question I would ask those that want to argue over the color of Jesus skin:
What difference does it make?
Jesus IS not white. There, I said it again. Jesus isn’t white. But, He also isn’t black. In heaven race has no meaning. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that there will not be different colors of skin. Rather my point is that the color of the skin is not something that divides us. The truth is that we know very little about what we will “look” like in heaven. However, I can tell you that the varied colors of our skin will be a celebration of God’s creativity. This is how it should be here, now.
What color WAS Jesus? Many might be willing to agree that the current color of Jesus’ skin is unknown, if not irrelevant. But, many will argue over the color of His skin when He was here on earth. The truth is the Bible doesn’t tell us. There are scriptures that give some description of Jesus. Some people will use those scriptures to “prove” their point that He was of a certain skin color, but none of these actually tell us what color Jesus’ skin was. I remember, years ago, a black woman I worked with said she knew Jesus was black because the Bible said He had olive skin and olives are black. They are also green. Some come in a rather unwholesome grey color. So, was Jesus the color of Marvin the Martian? Or, maybe of the aliens from the X-Files?
What difference does it make? Discussions of the race of Jesus have one goal, to divide. There is much that can be deduced from the tidbits of information that is given to us from the Bible. There are some things that can be assumed based on historical records and regional norms. But, the Bible never tells us what color Jesus’ skin was.
WHY not?
If it is really something of such importance, then why does the Bible leave it out? 1 Corinthians 14:33 says, “For God is not the author of confusion, but peace…” If God is not the author of confusion, than it stands to reason that if Jesus skin color was important, than it would be in the Bible. Because, leaving it out clearly causes confusion. But, it is left out because it does not matter. Jesus didn’t come to save black people or white people. He came to save ALL people.
My Jesus is bigger than that. To argue over the color of Jesus skin is to reduce Jesus to be as one of us. Truly He was a man. The Bible teaches that He was fully man. But, He was also fully God. To focus so much on the color of His skin is to elevate the importance of His being a man above the importance of His being God. Jesus is so much bigger than our understanding. Jesus is so much bigger than the color of my skin or of yours. Jesus is so much bigger than the color of His skin. To argue over whether Jesus looked like me or you is make Jesus no more than just another person. My Jesus is bigger than that.
So, what now? I would hope that we could agree to just set aside this issue and focus on what matters. For me, this means avoiding any man-made images of Jesus. Any depiction of Jesus could never come close to showing what Jesus IS. Any depiction of what He might have looked like would be only guess and assumption. But, the one thing I know is that no-one is ever going to come to Jesus because of the color of His skin. It is not his skin that saves us, but His blood. The only color that maters is RED, the color of His blood.
Matt Norman

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Where Have I Been?

First let me say thanks to all of my loyal readers… Thanks dad.

Anyways, I made a decision a couple weeks ago to take a month off from my blog. This site has always been intended to be a place to:

• Express my thoughts about SOME things in a healthy and uplifting way.
• Shed Scriptural light on some things.
• Share what God is and has done in my life.
• Share some of my own experiences in ministry, in hopes that others might learn from my mistakes, and a few successes.

There were also some things I wanted this site to NEVER become about:

• My own fame or notoriety.
• The numbers. (page visits, unique visitors, etc.)

Well, as often happens with such things, it started well but, over time, drifted from what I WANTED it to be to what it WASN’T supposed to be.

So, for this reason I decided to take some time off. That is why you will find that I have posted nothing for the month of March. I wanted to take this time to refocus and come back and, hopefully, offer content that is useful and, most importantly, brings glory to God, not me.

Matt Norman

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Music Review: Manic Drive

I don’t often do music reviews, but I am constantly looking for new Christian artist both for my own personal enjoyment and to share with the kids and families I minister to. So, when I was given the opportunity to review a new release from a band called Manic Drive I jumped on it. So, what did I think?

Band: Manic Drive
Album Title: VIP

The cover of the album gives us our first view of the band members and our first clue as to what to expect. My first impression upon seeing the cover was that it screamed boy band. Not really my style, but it deserved a listen. The first couple songs proved that my suspicions were correct. Manic Drive has a upbeat, boy band style that shows their high level of talent. While this is not really my style, I do think that it is something that would be very popular with younger girls, particularly preteens.

While the overall quality of the performance and production is good, there is evidence that these guys are young as the album lacks a little of the polish that comes with experience. This guys are good now, but with a little time they could be great. I sincerely hope that they get that chance. It could be exciting to see what these guys are able to do given the chance to hone their craft.

Lyrics are very important as it really is what differentiates Christian music from non-Christian music. The lyrics on this album are solid. They are uplifting, encouraging and even worshipful. Certainly I would consider these lyrics safe for your child. I’d let my little girl listen to them. As mentioned above I think that the lyrics show a lack of experience. They are good, but not great. What they do show is the ability to write. Given time and the opportunity I believe that they have what it takes to hone those skills.

Bottomline: A quick look on iTunes shows that this is not the first album by these guys. Still I think that they have some work to do to get their work up to the level of most of what is out there in the Christian music world. That being said, if you have young girls I would recommend that you check these guys out on iTunes. I am convinced that preteen girls will love these guys, even if this 40 year old man did not.

Matt Norman

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How DARE You!

How DARE You!

That is often my response when something doesn’t go my way, or when someone says something in disagreement with my views. Certainly I never actually say that and I can’t say that I am actually thinking exactly that, but as I think about it I can tell you that my reaction to such things proves that deep down inside this is what I am feeling.

Because I said SO! This is often the response when my kids ask WHY when I tell them to do something. Now there is some truth in saying that because I am their father and I have told them, then that is all the reason they need. After all, for our children we are their greatest earthly authority. How they learn to respond to us can reflect how they respond to God in the future. For this reason it is important that they learn to obey. But, how we respond to them can also reflect how they think about God in the future. Our kids learn a lot about our Heavenly Father from their earthly Fathers. When we lash out in anger, they can come to believe that God is the same. But, for me the true heart of the issue is m own pride. When I lash out at my children what I am responding to is the thing INSIDE ME that says, HOW DARE YOU question me. Or HOW DARE YOU talk back to me.

You should just submit to me. I am ashamed to admit that I often respond to my wife in the same way. We have both grown and those moments are far fewer than they once were, but they still happen. In that moment I am certainly not thinking that she should just be submissive like the Bible instructs her and I would never say it to her. The truth is that very thought is not true to what the Bible says about this. What I am thinking is HOW DARE YOU talk to me that way. HOW DARE YOU question me. HOW DARE YOU not go along with what I want to do. These are not attractive thoughts and certainly not thoughts that I am proud of, but it is clear that in these moments these are the deep seated feelings that I am responding to.

Do you know who I am? One of my biggest struggles in life is with pride. My pride leads me to respond poorly in a variety of situations. While I am not actively thinking or saying this, my reactions tend to say, DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? or DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE DEALING WITH? I can not remember any instance when I was actually thinking these things, but my reactions show that this is what I am feeling, even if not actually thinking it.

So, who am I. While my pride gives me an over-inflated view of who I am, the truth is that I am nothing. I am a broken person. I am a sinner. I am unworthy of being followed, obey, or submitted to. I have not value in and of myself. For this reason HOW DARE I respond in this way. HOW DARE I think myself higher or greater than the person I am lashing out at. HOW DARE I act in anything but love and grace. After all, that’s how God responds to me.

So, who am I REALLY? The things I have said about myself in the last paragraph are completely true. BUT, they leave of some very important truths. I am created IN THE IMAGE OF GOD. For this reason I have value. I AM LOVED BY THE CREATOR of the universe. For this reason I have value. I AM FORGIVEN by the Son of God. For this reason I have value. I AM CLOTHED IN THE RIGHTEOUSNESS of Jesus Christ. For this reason I have value. BUT, what I can never begin to believe is that this value is of my own earning. I can never begin to believe that the value that I have received from God elevates me above any others.

How dare I! In the midst of my sin, God loved me. Even as I continue to stumble and sin, God loves me. When I respond badly to someone, God loves me. God ALWAYS responds to me with love and grace, far beyond what I could even begin to deserve. If God, who is perfect would respond to me that way, then HOW DARE I respond in any other way.

Think about it. As with much of what I write on here, this post is as much for me as for anything else. But, I encourage you to think about these things. Think about how you respond to your kids, your spouse, to other people. Think about how God has responded to you. Keep these things in mind and let them begin to change the way you talk to and treat people around you.

Matt Norman

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