Rethink Leadership Conference Day 1 Wrap Up

As many of you know, I am working to plant a church. For this reason, I have struggled with whether I should be at this conference or at the Exponential Conference in Orlando. I mean Exponential is a CHURCH PLANTING CONFERENCE. Plus, it’s in my back yard. I could attend that one and sleep in my own bed with my wife each night. But, I had made a decision and a commitment to come to Atlanta. So, here I am. Before lunch time yesterday it was clear that I was exactly where God wanted me.
That was the topic go discussion for the first part of the Rethink Leadership Conference. You see many pastors and leaders have a vision. However, as they pointed out yesterday, many lack a solid strategy for how to accomplish the vision. Here are a few soundbites from these first sessions.
Reggie Joiner
  • It’s not your vision that determines your success. It’s your strategy.
  • It’s alignment the will make a different in achieving our goals or not.
  • You can’t get everyone on the same page if you can’t get them in the same room.
Carey Nieuwhof
  • Not having a strategy is like driving a 12 year old Ford Focus on the German Autobahn.
  • Mission and vision determine intention, but strategy determines direction.
  • The reason you can sleep at night is not because of clear vision, but because of a clear strategy.
Leone Crump
  • Strategy is good. It needs to happen. But, sometimes you get to a point where strategy meets reality and some things have to change.
  • What is our unique contribution during this era of God’s work and will?
  • The church is a centrifugal institution. If you poor into those at the core it will spin out to those on the outside.
  • It’s your job, not to keep every person, but to consistently communicate that your vision has not changed as you change the strategy that is moving you towards your greater goal.
  • Culture is an environment you build around people, not information you give to people.
  • Balance is a myth. Rather it is a matter of understanding the different seasons in your life and ministry. When are your seasons of rest and when are you sprinting?
  • Ignore the wrong people in your life and invite the right ones.
Jon Acuff
  • The hardest part of strategy is that it forces you to admit your limits.
  • If you don’t have strategy the things that re most important get the rest of your time, not the best of your time.
THIS was all just during the first main session of the Rethink Leadership Conference. At this point I was already blown away. But, there was more. Here are a few thoughts from the first “Affinity Conversation”. This is what most conferences would call a breakout session. However, these really were designed to be more of a conversation. The room I was in had about 30 people or so in it. The speaker spoke for about 15 minutes, then the remainder of the hour was open to Q&A. Different from any other conference I’ve been too and it worked great. Here are some of the highlights from this session with Leonce Crump:
  • What is our unique contribution in this era of God’s work and will? (Ok, I know I repeated this one from earlier, but it’s so good I had to. Plus, there was more to it this time.)
    • Demographics don’t come into play until you first answer this question.
  • Are all churches to engage culture? Yes, on some level or another. But, what does that look like for your church in your context?
  • I want to you be you, how you be you, while we do this to the glory of God.
  • If you can’t be committed to this local church, let me help you find a local church you can be committed to.
As you can see the content was rich in all of these sessions and this doesn’t even cover the entire day. I look forward to the content from day 2. Not sure I have capacity for any more, but I’ll take great notes and share with you all.
Matt Norman

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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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