Speaking at CFNI in Dallas

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Last weekend I had the opportunity to accompany my good friend (and Pastor) Sam Masteller to Christ For the Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas. Sam was asked to speak to the 1st and 2nd year students during their 11am chapel, and I came along with him to help him in a number of ways. I helped him prep some of the material, I helped him navigate the highways of Dallas when our GPS became possessed with the spirit of Babel, and I took about 10 minutes of the speaking duty off his shoulders on Monday and Tuesday.

Here’s a few pictures from the weekend:

On Saturday night we drove over to Gateway Fellowship in Southlake with our friend Buddy Watts. They’re a super fast growing church with multiple services and multiple locations. We loved the atmosphere, the venue, and the spirit that was there. We weren’t crazy about the amount (and placement) of screens in their sanctuary. I think we counted six. How many Thomas Miller’s can you count leading worship in this picture? I count 3. Great place, though.

On Sunday morning we drove over to Fellowship Church in Grapevine and enjoyed that service as much as we enjoyed Gateway the night before. This church had an even bigger feel, and did some things differently than most churches. Only 2 worship songs, no bulletins, and they didn’t mention Jesus’ name once. No, I’m kidding, they mentioned Jesus’ name early and often, and Christine Caine from Hillsongs told her powerful story of adoption, abuse, and ultimately finding her identity in Christ. Great stuff.

(Btw, If you’re waiting for me to rail against megachurches and everything that’s wrong with them, don’t hold your breath. I’ve got better things to do than nitpick with people who are reaching their communities with the message of Jesus. Which I believe both of those churches are.)

Here I am making some last minute tweaks to what I’m going to say on Monday morning. Sam and I were each put up in our own apartment on campus, so that was nice. I look sharp because Erica dressed me. Yes, even from 1400 miles away, I am dependent on the fashion savvy of my amazing wife. (If you’re wondering, the sweater, shirt, and pants are from Banana Republic Outlet, circa last week. The couch I’m sitting on is from The Ugliest Furniture Ever Outlet, Circa 1971.)

Here’s Sam backstage in the green room a few minutes before we went out to speak. Now before you accuse him of taking Performance Enhancing Drugs to be a better speaker, I can assure you that he is drinking decaf coffee. He’s not like some preachers who get all jacked up on espressos so they can hit it out of the park with every sermon. This man is fueled by the Holy Spirit alone. (Though he has admitted to drinking Mountain Dew before some sermons back in 2002, but that was a loosey-goosey era of preaching. Everyone was on the juice.)

You probably think he’s working on last minute tweaks to his message, but he’s not. He’s actually playing Tic-Tac-Toe against himself. He says it boosts his confidence right before he speaks.

Always good to go over your slides and videos with the tech team before you speak. Too bad Sam is not doing that here. He’s up in the crow’s nest with the media team, but instead of prepping, they’re watching an episode of Judge Judy. There’s 30 minutes of his life he’ll never get back.

I got to sit on stage since I was speaking. Pretty good seats, actually. A few minutes after I snapped this picture, I grabbed that mic in the foreground and shared some facts and stats with the students (between 600-800 of them) about how Christians are perceived in our changing culture. I got a great response from this sequence:

We think of Christians as good people, the world thinks of us as hypocrites (show pic of disgraced pastors)

We think of Christians as loving, the world sees us as hatemongers (show pic of picketers)

We think of Christians as forgiving, the world sees us as judgmental (show pic of Simon Cowell)

We think of Christians as tall and handsome, the world sees us as short and unattractive (show this pic of Sam and CFNI Director, Adam McCain)

The kids ate that one up.

On Day two I spoke more about how church styles are adapting to keep up with changing culture in America. We don’t change the message at all, but we change how we communicate it. (We used a lot of Mark Driscoll’s stuff in our preparation.) I got the crowd going by giving away some Prayers For Blowouts T-shirts and playing an interactive crowd control game. It was a bunch of fun.

Before leaving Texas on Tuesday we got treated to lunch by CFNI in their “crapeteria”, as one of the kids called it. The food was great, even if we were cordoned off in our own special section away from all the students (which made us feel like lepers). There’s Sam on the right, Buddy in the middle (good friend who now lives in Dallas), and me on the left posing in front of the CFNI bookstore. Not in the picture are the hordes of students who heard us speak seeking an autograph. They are not pictured because they do not exist.

On the way home I smoked a pretend cigarette (rolled up facial tissue) in the airplane bathroom. I guess all that preaching made me feel a little too pretend holy or something. Had to balance it out with some pretend rule-breaking. I’m such a rebel.

And an idiot.

It was a great trip and a great experience. I loved catching up with old friends, loved hanging out with Sam for a few days, loved seeing Dallas again, and loved having the opportunity to communicate with over 500 people at once. Wasn’t nearly as nerve-racking as I thought it would be.

Although, I have to admit, I was on Performance Enhancing Coffee at the time.

I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.