The Next Chapter for the Lloyd family

Shortly after Ellen and I were at a pretty comfortable place in married life, we saw God beginning to tie up the narrative and close out the chapter of life and ministry that we were experiencing. This was both thrilling and challenging for us. We were leaving a place of comfort and care at Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, Tennessee and moving to the last place we ever thought we would - Columbus, Mississippi. 

We didn’t know that Columbus existed and we had very few connections to Mississippi. However, we knew that God was leading us and we were met with a group of people who were gracious and kind, full of the compassion and care that we would require in order to grow our family. Mt Vernon Church under the leadership of Jeff James took a big risk on a young Worship Leader from Florida. They gave me the opportunities to succeed in encouragement and even made defeat feel as gentle and soft as it possibly could.  I learned a great deal from Jeff James and continue to gain wisdom from him as we remain close friends. 

While at Mt Vernon, our family grew. Madelyn was born in August of 2010 and Jude was born in November of 2013. We had accessible people in our lives who were ready and willing to give us meals, advice and encouragement. These people loved our kids in the unique way that a church family does. Because of them, Ellen and I were able to continue dating each other and growing our marriage. Through our relationships with other families, Madelyn had the opportunity to meet her first best friends.

One particular chapter that was difficult for us was the loss of my father. In October of 2011, our church expressed love to us in a multitude of ways. I recall kind cards, emails, texts, flowers and  the 16 hour round trip drive of four men to simply give us a 5 minute hug as we stood in the visitation line. Few things in my life have humbled me to the degree of that act of kindness and compassion. 

While at this amazing place, we have had the opportunity to develop life-long friendships. By way of the Air Force, we have seen friends come to Columbus and move away. Many of them with whom we share the commonality of being aliens to Mississippi who experienced great care from the natives. Our church staff are like family to us. We’ve grown to know them in the unique way that comes from long hours of sacrifice and love. Josh and I were able to serve together for a second time and create services that were creative and risky, exciting and passionate. This team excels, works hard and loves the people of Columbus deeply. They are forever a part of our lives. 

________________

TrueNorth Church is located in North Augusta, South Carolina. It’s just across the Savannah River from Augusta, Georgia - so close that the two feel like one town. TNC is under the leadership of a great group of people who care deeply about connecting with the unchurched. Steve Davis is an amazing lead pastor and I’m excited to walk alongside him as well as the Worship and Production staff to create environments that point to Jesus. One day I’ll spend more time detailing some of the things about TNC that make me the most excited. Things like excellent programs, passionate leaders, tremendous growth and amazing life change. I feel honored to be a part of it!

I will lead for the last time at Mt Vernon on January 26th and our family will transition to North Augusta in February to begin an exciting new chapter as we do our best to glorify God and lift High the name of Jesus.

 

I can't get enough of this...

The loss of my father is still unbearably heavy, but if there is to be any blessing in it all, it is surely the redemption of my false understanding of suffering.  

I still manage to view suffering, both momentary and longstanding, as painful speed bumps that are examples of the sin in life. That they are.  But what if much more exists in the difficulty of trials than simply the presence of sin? What if God is using every difficult moment and painful season for our good and His glory?

That would make trials no less painful, but much more purposeful. 

I can't get enough of this song.

 

Maybe one of the greatest living artists....

I'm a fan of John Mayer's music. His style definitely resonates with my personal taste for rock, blues and even country music. Aside from what you may think about his facial expressions, he is a very very talented guitarist and songwriter. After seeing this short film about the making of the album artwork on his newest record, I'm now a huge fan of David Smith. Anyone who devotes this much time and detail to their work deserves a tip of the hat. 

Slow down

We had a great Sunday at Mt Vernon yesterday. I'm proud to work with a team of volunteers who serve with a spirit of excellence. My band and production team work hard during the week and at our Sunday rehearsal to do their very best and I'm so thankful for them. 

July is an intentionally slow month for us. For years, we have made a point to cut out nearly all of our programming to promote rest among our volunteers and staff. As a small church we rely heavily upon this team to operate at a high level and they constantly deliver. 

Rest is such an important factor in the preparation process. In fact, in order for me to do my very best I must slow down. I must make a point to stop before I start. As a musician, I make rehearsal a very high priority. And while I rarely have long hours to dedicate to honing my craft, I always find time for it in my week. 

I've found myself in the middle of working through a melody line or a guitar part being completely frustrated. However, when I step away and return later I often find I'm able to play it with much ease. The same is true for my design work. This also applies to my creative process. It applies to nearly every skill that requires development.

It seems quite paradoxical that our ability to increase productivity and excellence can come from slowing down or stopping our preparation altogether. However it seems that I learn the same lesson each time I forget it. Slowing down is not an assistant to the process, but is part of the process. 

One of my hobbies is running. For me it's a non-complex excersie that frees up my mind to dream. I really do come up with some of my greatest ideas while taking an afternoon run. As a runner, I enjoy a race from time to time. It's so good for me to place myself on a dedicated schedule designed to prepare my body for running a long distance. The act of commiting to that system is so good for so many other parts of my life as well. I become keenly aware of the importance of rest as part of my running schedule. Not only do I rest better when I run, but I run better when I rest. 

As church leaders we need to be completely commited to producing our programs at a very high level of excellence. There is no argument in that. That ultimately means asking a lot of ourselves. If you're like me, when Sunday ends, I breathe a very short sigh of releif and then immediatly begin preparing - mentailly and spiritually for my next opportunity to lead worship. That's part of my system and I'll likely always be that way. But my ability to be more effective next Sunday than last will have a lot to do with my intentional preparation and intentional rest. 

So much about our journey as Christ followers is found in paradox. I love how the puritan prayer "The Valley of Vision" details that truth:

"Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision..."

In the same way, often time our ability to create margin in our lives will increase our ability to be at our best when we need to. 

I would be remiss if I didn't say that the opposite is true as well. Any strong leader knows that in order to be most effective we must work hard. There is a sort of stigma among church leaders that our job is easy. There is a reason that people believe that. And I know people personally that serve out of their own strength and don't spend time developing themselves or the people around them. Laziness is just not an option and the principle of rest should never be used as an excuse to avoid work. 

While I apply this rule to my own personal workflow, I'm sure it's a useful principle in many other professions. How does taking time to rest afford you a better workflow? How much better do you perform (in any task) when you think of rest not just as an assistant to the process, but part of the process?

The Rineholt Family

I've enjoyed the opportunity to tell the story of the Rineholt family. They are a family of seven from the upper east coast of the United States on mission to Barahona, Dominican Republic. Here is the first in a series of short videos that I'm producing for them as they travel stateside during the Summer to raise support and update partner churches on their ministry. 

I'm so encouraged by this family's dependence on God and commitment to each other. May we all find ourselves satisfied most deeply by our faithfulness to God's plan for our lives. 

 

Rineholt Story from Mt. Vernon Church on Vimeo.

 

 

"Clapping in Worship"

As a worshipper, I totally feel wierd when the worship leader asks the congregation to clap. That's why I rarely if ever "ask" the crowd to do so. However, I'm always glad when it happens organically.

I thought this post from Jon Acuff was funny...

Do worship leaders notice when I stop clapping?

Are you able to see me in the crowd refusing to clap along?

Probably not, because it’s dark. Unless you have some sort of worship leader sixth sense. Some sort of “I can only imagine” power that allows you to spot me in the crowd, arms not akimbo, standing there motionless.

Do you have that? Is that a thing?

Check out the rest of the post here

The Kindle - (my late review)

I was recently given a Kindle. 

You probably know what a Kindle is, but just in case... Made by Amazon, the Kindle is an electronic device that stores books. It is small, lightweight, very thin and easy to handle.

The beauty of the Kindle is it's function. In a world that seems to be getting bigger, this is an answer to a previously un-acknowledged problem: Books take up lots of space.

It seems fitting with our advancement in technology that we would embrace something like this. The fascinating thing about new inventions and gadgets isn't necessarily the fact that they are problem-solvers, but more the fact that they create a new-found need. They somehow shine a light on a problem that we didn't know we had or maybe they create the problem for us. 

In rating the kindle, I'd score it high. It does what it does well. 

If you search through other reviews, you'll hear kudos about it's e-ink screen. (It really does look great, even shockingly good.) You'll also read about it's ability to download books quickly - which makes sense if you have any background knowledge in the weight of data. (Words don't weigh much in the digital world, except the ones found on the sites of inconsistent bloggers, of course).

So I like it... but I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the fact that this is a sort of gateway drug into the future of the literary world. 

I'd like to say that books will always be around. I really really hope they are. But I think we've seen the entry into a very practical solution to what future generations will see as a given.

The artistry that accompanies books in their tangible form will be diminished if we lose interest in their weight in our hands. I think there is a sort of kinship that develops between a man and his book. You've received and pondered deep truths or even tensions from the pages that you held. If we enter into a world of digital-only text we lose something in the form of a conversation. 

This blog is a good example. I can write things here and people may or may not read them, but if I have any heavy subject to share it only translates as well as my words are arranged. And reading heavy subject matter just doesn't have the same intensity on a screen. 

I've got a friend who says every good reader does so with a pen in his hand. A book is best read when it's words are sloppily circled. When it's stained with coffee. When it's dog-eared pages are wrinkled and weak. Just like the transparency that comes with shared facial expressions during the translation of a sad story over coffee. It's also found in the laughter that ensues from the re-telling of a shared moment between two friends of the past. 

I like technology. I like the internet. It will always be a huge part of my work and pleasure. It's accessibility is nearly immeasurable. And (like the Kindle) it's becoming more commonplace among our day to day lives. That's okay. But in the same vein as Facebook, let's not get so consumed with the time-friendly nature of technology or writing on someone's wall that we miss the beauty in the lost art of letter writing. Let's not miss the feeling of slightly raised ink on a page for the speed of the cutting edge. 

So, for me... of course I'll continue to use my Kindle, but my office will always smell of old paper and my little girls bedroom will always have a bookshelf. Because as shiny and perfect as new gadgets are (and as much as I love them) there's nothing like the real thing. 

 

The Other "hat" of the worship leader

A challenge issued to my own worship leadership...

Do I look CRAZY?

It’s the thing that pops in your head nearly every time you hit the stage. What are people thinking when they see me up here? Can I be too energetic? Will people think I’m crazy? 

Stage presence is such a huge part of what we do each week. HUGE. Music is really important... I don’t have to tell you that. We spend a lot more time on our rhythm and our sound than we do on our smiles. But don’t ever think it’s not important. Here is a gut check... the congregation, for the most part, will feel inclined to respond with about 60% of the energy that we do. No pressure. 

When you come to the stage, you bring your life with you. The moments that you spend on stage are not separate from the moments that you live in your car, in line at Beans and Cream, and on the phone with your best friend. You are the same person. I believe the difference lies in the message. In our everyday moments our message is sometimes happy, sometimes sad, even angry. We can and will say any number of things in those moments. When we are on stage, however, our message is almost always one of praise.  Singing words of praise to the God of the Universe. Recognizing how we must become less and He must become greater (John 3:30)

When we sing scripture or lift up phrases like “...if this life I lose, I will follow You” we are really saying something! If we are listening to ourselves at all, it will affect us. It will interact with our emotions. It might cause us to smile, it might cause us to lift our hands... and that’s okay. 

We should be comfortable on the platform. We should smile. We should clap our hands (at the appropriate time, on two and four :) We should lift our hands. I think God wants us to be sincere. Reacting. Affected. Moved... as we worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and invite others to do that same. 

Let’s all work on this together. We all know it’s a process that takes time. This is the part worship leadership that we tend to forget about. This is just a gentle reminder. Have fun!

To keep the bad things out...

Madelyn experiences new firsts everyday.

First time to see a new color

First time to hear a specific sound

First time feel a certain texture

There is something that wells up inside me every time I notice the moment she experiences a first. I want to control it. I want to be sure that she experiences things in the right order. At the right time. Because for some reason I think I know best. I think I can protect her from the darkness by controlling her exposure to the light. 

One new game we play is called "daddy DJ" and it goes like this... I place her near me and press play on good quality music. We both listen. It's a simple concept but I love the idea that I'm controlling what's going into her ears. She's heard "Kind of Blue" with Miles Davis and his boys in it's entirety. She's also heard Radiohead, Coldplay and Johnny Cash. I'm confident by the time she is a year old, she will have heard more good music than most people hear in a lifetime. 

I know how prideful this all sounds. But the most prideful moment for me will be when she recommends music to her dad. And he likes it. That will be a moment. 

I'll try this for a while. I'll position her to hear and see and smell and feel only the things that seem safest for her. But at some point, I'll miss the mark. I'll not lock up the hatch that keeps the bad things out and she will begin to see more clearly. 

Recently Ellen and I ate at a local restaurant and a waitress passed by and after looking at Maddy said...

"she doesn't know... it's such a cruel, cruel world"     

She is probably right. There will be a moment when Madelyn just accepts the fact that for every good thing she sees happen, two more bad things will follow. She will begin to notice that her dad isn't as perfect as she once thought. That won't be an easy day for either one of us, but it will be the beginning of her understanding more deeply the importance of depending on her heavenly father. 

So when we find ourselves face to face with the cruel cruel world... when we see the unlocked hatch and are reminded that things aren't quite as perfect as we once thought, let's lean on the unconditional love of a heavenly father and find ourselves not only more aware of the darkness, but face to face with light.

Film - A new method

Lately I've been experimenting with some new methods of story telling on film. It's always great to have someone sit in front of the camera, but I think even that can become stale sometimes.

The following story is from a local student pilot who is stationed here in Columbus for the next couple of years. As with everyone that we baptize, Chris allowed us to make a short film detailing his story. Because of the uniqueness of the events, we really wanted to use scenes from an airport.  We were able to obtain full access to the local regional airport between flights one day and it really gave us the scenes we were looking for. The only thing we didn't have (that Chris' story did have) was a blizzard. Using FCP Color, we graded most of the scenes to have a cold harsh look. Using some reenactment and Chris' great talent in communication, we were happy with the end result.

This made me smile...

This a funny (but unquestionably) true look at why Apple computers are the better option. Written by blogger Stephen Altrogge.

There have been times when certain individuals have made fun of me and my love for Apple products. In my interactions with this individual, who happens to be pastor I work with, I have chosen not to retaliate. Why? Because I know one, simple, profound truth: Apple products actually make you a better Christian.

Is this really possible, you ask? Yes it is. It’s more than possible, it’s true. Here’s just a few reasons why:

Apple Products Don’t Tempt You to Anger and Despair

You’ve been working on an important presentation for the last hour, furiously typing away on your PC. Suddenly, without any provocation from you, a mysterious error message appears on the screen. Due to you pressing the enter key too many times, your computer must now shutdown and erase all the work you’ve done over the last hour. You want to scream. Then you do. You momentarily contemplate hurling your laptop out the window. You’re angry at the world, then at your computer, then at Bill Gates. Then you sink into a pit of despair as you realize that you must recreate what you just lost.

Apple helps you flee from temptation.

Apple Products Are An Evangelism Tool

You’re sitting in a coffee shop, sipping on a latte, when you see a hip looking guy a few tables over reading a Bible and writing in a Moleskine journal. You can tell that he’s puzzled, and you ask him if he understands what he’s reading. “No I don’t,” he says. “Can you help me?” You grab your backpack and sit down at his table. He tells you that he’s reading in John 1, and you say that you’ll pull it up on your Bible software. You pull out your Dell laptop and place it on the table in front of you. The hip guy looks at you, then looks at your computer, then says, “You know what, I think I’ll just keep reading myself. Thanks.”

Apple helps you be missional.

Apple Products Reflect God’s Creativity

Take a moment and look at that HP laptop sitting on your desk. What words come to mind? Behemoth? Clunky? The size of battleship? A clear result of God’s curse upon humanity? Uglier than a wookie? Now look at your iPod. Sleek. Beautiful. Possibly unaffected by the fall.

Apple helps you see God’s creativity.

Apple Products Give You More Time For Prayer

How do Christian PC users spend approximately two-thirds of their days? Booting and rebooting their computers. They would pray but their prayer list was on their computer, which just locked up. And caught fire. Time to reboot.

Apple furthers your devotional life.

Apple Products Are Biblical

Let me connect the dots for you. How did Eve sin? She ate fruit. What is Apple’s logo? An apple with a bite out of it. Coincidence? I think not. Clearly, Apple is seeking to do some culture making and restore what was lost in the fall. They are redeeming the apple.

Are you seeing my point? If you want to grow, go get an Apple product.

No comment. I think this speaks for itself. 

The Honest Church - Introduction

I recently attended a conference in Dallas where a conversation was presented detailing a distinct change in the way that modern brands are marketing themselves. In short, it was mentioned that in days of old, there was this unwritten rule that brands were required to present themselves as the only sane option.

Drink this because it's the tastiest.

Go here because it's the prettiest.

Wear this because it's the most slimming.

Today, however you find brands doing just the opposite. Honesty sells and people everywhere are buying.

Take Chik-fil-a who didn't so much invent the chicken, but invented it's venue: the sandwich. Or Jared's Gallery of Jewelry who consistently acknowledges the consumer's wide array of choices in the precious stone department.

Or look at the beer company Dos Equis. I don't drink, but I find their advertisements to be astonishing. Each commercial ends with a line like this...

"I don't always drink beer... but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis"

It's a major turn in the traditional rules of advertising when a company uses a little word like "prefer" because it immediately opens up a pin-sized hole of light to the possibility that other beverages may be just as good. Or better. 

 Or take this guy who is honest to the point of fear...

 So how does the church respond to this? Does the church need to embrace this new found sense of honesty that seems to be rising among the general pubic?

Well, to begin with I don't believe that there is any written rule that requires the church to follow the same marketing approach as corporate America. However, in looking at this change, we must recognize that the "honesty sells" approach is not simply a ploy or trick that works for the business world, but it is truly indicative of a distinct change in society. 

Advertisements aren't becoming more honest, people are.

It wasn't very long ago that people made most of their decisions according to the patterns set forth by family traditions. Everything from the make of car that they drive to the brand of blue jeans that they wear was a result of routine. This was no less true for the church that they attended and the expectations that they had for that church. 

Over the next two posts, I'll be discussing two angles from which I believe honesty should be at the core of who we are as church leaders. If we are to be culture shifters, we must understand our culture and that begins with knowing who we are and who we are not.