The Life of JaWS

A blog by Jason Sansbury

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Thanksgiving Spectacular...

It is Sunday afternoon and I am enjoying a little time to myself, which is really, really unusual. It feels good to take a break though.

I spent Thanksgiving in Mobile, Alabama where my uncle and some other family live. Most of my Dad’s side of the family was able to make it and my uncle was a great host. A good time was had by all. A long trip home for sure but definitely worth it.

While there, I participated in my first Black Friday event. My aunt and I got into the Best Buy line around 4 AM in search for her a television. Mission accomplished as her family scored the plasma 42 inch television we came for. I scored a thumbdrive I needed and an external hard drive. So even as I write this, I am backing up tons of data on my new drive. My pack rat instincts mean that I have 12 years of youth ministry stored digitally and I almost lost it all, if my brother hadn’t been able to rescue a lot of it from an angry hard drive.

Had to make it home for Sunday morning, as I sung a song for the church offertory, which gave the Youth Choir a much needed break. I sang the hymn “Come Thou Fount” and Harry, the church musical director accompanied me on his resonator guitar (aka dobro.) People were fairly nice to me about it and complimentary and I got through.

Youth Sunday School…it just isn’t my thing. I can’t seem to muster any excitement or enthusiasm on any level. I don’t know if it is just morning or what. Thankfully, someone has agreed to take over in January, which will free me up to do some much needed PR work in some adult Sunday school classes for awhile. Spring focus is on building a youth leadership team of adult counselors and a few students. I need some support and back-up in making decisions and doing the work that needs to happen.

So this is annoying...

Today I spent some time looking over my bills and realized that my Verizon bill has been over what it should be for several months. So I start digging and think that maybe I need to up my minutes because I keep running over. Upon further inspection, it turns out when I got my Motorola Q, I was signed up for a data plan. All of this occurs because Sparky at the Cool Springs Verizon store thinks I am an idiot and don't understand that I can't use the uber-cool internet functions if I don't have the plan. I didn't want to use that functionality yet. I just wanted to use it to sync stuff to my computer and as a phone. Oh well. So for months I have been able to check email, etc. and didn't know that I was paying for it.

Well, Sparky. Look out. The problem is that I have all my contracts, my plan rates and your business card. I am coming for you Sparky and I will get my money back and/or several free months of service. I will not be denied. I will rise early, I will listen to Rage Against the Machine and I will be there when the store opens. See you next Monday at the store. Better bring your game face...

(PS- Sparky is the generic name that I use for all sales-weasels who try and stick it to you.)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Youth Celebration = a great weekend!

So this weekend I was honored to be a part of the team that was involved in shaping the South Georgia Conference’s Youth Celebration event. I was one of the two folks who helped write all the talks, devotions, small group times as well as recruit talent (worship leaders, speaker and drama folks.) This event is a great one that serves smaller churches in the conference extremely well. The average youth group there seemed to be in the 10-12 kid range and was ran by part-time or volunteer youth directors. I love those kind of groups and seeing God at work in them. All total there was just over 500 people there.

Some of the highlights for me:

  • Being able to partner with Keith, Brianna and Kevin. All three of them were put in my life path during my time at Cornerstone. All are excellent people and gifted. They gave up a weekend when there was much more for them to do in order to share their talents. It was bittersweet in the fact that I still wish we were all in one place, sharing life and ministry together. But who knows…. maybe our great God may pull us back into one place again. (Consider this a free opportunity for you all to move to Franklin at any point.)
  • Being in ministry with my friend Brian. He and I were once part of a fantastic retreat ministry that slowly fell apart, with my departure first and his second. There were some significant wounds there but over time, God has allowed us to slowly come back together and do ministry together. And he did a fantastic job in delivering talks and sharing his heart.
  • Watching people. It is very cool to be in an event where you aren’t carrying a lot of water yourself. I was able just to chill, worship and watch others worship. I was really touched by an older kid reaching out and encouraging a younger student in worship on Saturday morning. A little picture of what I’d like to see us grow into here at my church.
  • The band. These were all guys I knew from different places and they pulled together and made it work. All of them are involved in ministry and all of them put worship before performance. They connected with the crowd (both on and off stage) and they did well. Highlights: Seeing them perform “Jesus Freaks” and their Saturday rendition of Redman’s “You Never Let Go” which was a theme song for me from May through July.
  • Just being able to be renewed. This last stretch here has been a challenging one for a lot of reasons, without an obvious place for me to renew and refill. This weekend was a great one for that reason.
  • Knowing lives were changed. All weekend we looked at different people’s encounters with Jesus and how their lives are changed. We looked at Zacchaeus, (How do we see God?), the Rich Young Ruler (Are we willing to give up the idols in our lives), the woman caught in adultery, (Jesus changed her past, present and future) and the woman at the well (Sharing with others when Jesus changes your life.)
Sometimes I am blown away by how great and good God is to me and allows me to work with His people...

Monday, November 13, 2006

What;'s Going On?

So, this weekend I was pretty lazy and good for nothing. Which is okay once in awhile I guess.

Sunday- Youth Choir sang. Sounded pretty good actually. It was Laity Sunday at our church and we had a lay speaker. He was very good I thought. Speaking when you aren't used to it can be tough. Sunday night youth went great except for an injury. More "We are here, entertain us" attitude. But it was better. Trying to keep my eyes on the long term goals and vision.

Monday- Hung out at Barnes and Nobles for the first time. It is nice. Regular old B&N. Read about 30 pages of a good book that I will be adding to my wishlist.

What is happening this week:
A road trip that I am definitely looking forward to. First, I will head from here to Macon, GA for a meeting/run-through/prayer time for a retreat this weekend. Then I will be on to Augusta to see my family. Mom recently moved into a house and I want to make sure to see it before Christmas. From there, I head to Saint Simons Island for Youth Celebration, a gathering of 500+ students and adults from the South Georgia UMC Conference. I helped write all the talks, seminars, etc. and some friends are leading worship, drama and speaking. It will remind me of my former life as a big time event guy. Now I am just excited to be hanging with my friends and doing ministry together.

Saturday night will be a head rush drive back towards Nashville. Crash is some cheap hotel and then on the Nashville because we have our church charge conference and a church-wide Thanksgiving dinner. Otherwise I would be staying through the weekend in Saint Simons.

Coming up: Thanksgiving in Mobile. Adult Leaders meetings. I need them bad and have been slack about it thus far. And I am really looking forward to the Charlotte Youth Specialties Convention. In fact, I will be making address labels and things so I can become the Exhibit Hall free stuff guy, which is completely against my nature.

Right now: Loading all kinds of sermons, talks, training and podcasts on to my Motorola Q. I like driving and listening to stuff that challenges me and makes me think. I am reading two books during my morning hours: Andy Stanley's book on communication and the Kara Powell and Chap Clark book on deeper ministry. Reviews will be coming shortly. The short reviews: they are both challenging.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Some Wednesday Randomness...

Some really random thoughts on a Wednesday afternoon…

  1. The Atlanta Hawks are 3-1, including a big win over Lebron and the Cavs. Since Georgia football is in the tank and the Titans aren’t quite good enough for me to jump on their bandwagon, I am all juiced up about the Hawks. Enough so that I bought tickets to a Hawks-Grizzlies game in December in Memphis.
  2. I am very thankful that I won’t have to listen to another Bob Corker or Harold Ford, Jr. senatorial commercial. And they spend millions running those ads and you never once, ever see a “Thanks for voting for me” ad. Never. Jerks.
  3. Speaking of which- last night in Nashville when I went to sleep at 11 PM there were still people in line to vote. (Polls closed here in Tennessee at 7 PM.) The best part was one of the Elections officials saying that they were satisfied with the waits and more people should vote early. They were unhappy when the reporter stated that there was no demand that people vote early; that it was simply an option.
  4. I am so glad my “politics is going to save the world” phase ended about 8 years ago.
  5. The coke fast. Still going. I have had an occasional lemonade from the machine down the hall from my office. But that is mainly because I am lazy and haven’t brought in new drinks. Still no cokes. Less pain than before. Feel like I am turning the corner.
  6. Sunday update- I had one of those Sundays were I went home and looked at the ceiling and went “You think that was funny?” Just nothing worked, kids were belligerent, ornery, pains in the backside. I felt like I was a boxer pinned on the ropes and getting the crap kicked out of me. Thankfully, some good stuff has happened since that seems to be an answer to some of my prayers.
  7. We have a temp secretary at the office. Today she asked me something fairly basic and I didn’t have an answer. I left proud that for 3 months I have kept myself out of fixing everyone’s problems and didn’t know the answer.
  8. In two weekends I will be at a large youth gathering. I am looking forward to being in a place where I can sing, pray, listen, laugh and learn and have nearly no responsibilities. I need some worship where I don’t have any responsibilities that don’t relate to me. Side note: If anyone knows of a church that has contemporary worship on Saturday evenings in the greater Nashville area, I’d appreciate a heads up.
  9. Fantasy football- I am slowly fighting my way back into contention. Riding Tom Brady, Steven Jackson and Warrick Dunn, along with either Marc Bulger or Vince Young as my all-purpose person I have been fighting my way back from a 1-3 start. Outside chance it could go my way. The team I am playing this week seems unmanned, as 3 of the players on his active list are out.
  10. Football is over here. Both the high schools where I have kids lost last weekend in the opening round of the playoffs. It is always interesting watching the senior players, cheerleaders and band kids realize that for most of them, that part of their life is over. One of my kids came by randomly at the office after voting and it seemed because he didn’t know what else to do. (He is a football player being recruited. In fact, he got a recruiting call while sitting in my office.)
  11. Random things I am digging: Heroes (one of the best shows on TV), Studio 60, 30 Rock (Last week’s interaction between Tracy Morgan and the intern was some of the funniest stuff I have seen in awhile), Battlestar Galactica (I may soon write a post about if Adama was a pastor) and Lost. Tonight is the last Lost before the 13 week break, so it will be weird to see what happens.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Catalyst: Andy Stanley and John Maxwell

Catalyst: Andy Stanley and John Maxwell

In this session, Andy Stanley tried to re-create some early mentoring sessions he had with John Maxwell. I found it to be very great. One of the earliest training things I ever went to was a John Maxwell leadership event in Jacksonville, FL and I was impressed with his desire to train and raise up leaders!

Lead into your strengths. Don’t waste time focusing on your weaknesses. As quickly as possible lean towards what you do well.

On a 1-10 scale, you will only be able to learn and grow yourself up 2 points. People don’t pay for average.

Talk to your friends and if they give you a 5 or less in certain areas, that is a weakness.

Find people to cover areas you are weak in.


10 leaders attract 9 leaders.

We attract who we are, not who we want.

Investment- crowd- 12-3

Jesus didn’t spend his time equally. He spoke to crowds, he invested in 12 and really invested in 3.

Jesus picked leaders, gifts to advance the Gospel.

Think like a coach: design plays for the best players to shoot and try and score!

Difference between attitude, competence and skill.

Skills can only grow so much. Think +2 maximum.

Attitude is a choice and can climb much higher.

The more choice you have (attitude over skill) the more change you can make.

Key- find potentially great leaders to develop.

Choices = big growth

Spiritual development versus leadership development: Spiritual development is a choice.

360 degree leader- the ability to lead in the middle of the pack. Lead up and down simultaneously.

“Follow me, I’m right behind you.”

Lead up, lead across and lead down.

People who have influenced the world the most have never had the highest position.

On ending well in ministry:

What should happen: “The closer people get, the more they love you.”

People who fail morally:

  1. No accountability
  2. Not in the Word of God
  3. Never thought it could happen to them!

“Lead me not into temptation.”

-Accountability partner. Questions they can ask and probe you. The final question should always be “Have you been truthful with me in all these answers?”

Surround yourself with prayer partners.

Protect yourself, be safe and don’t get too close to the edge.

Catalyst: Rick McKinley and Donald Miller

Catalyst: Rick McKinley and Donald Miller

Donald Miller and his pastor, Rick McKinley did a little Q and A forum about the community of faith that they are both invested in, Imago Dei.

Rick McKinley shared some of his earliest experiences with the church:

“I didn’t care that I didn’t fit in. I just wanted Jesus.”

Outreach isn’t a how-to, it is a want to.

Sometimes we treat outreach as a version of Amway Jesus, trying to sell people our commercialized version of church.

In the midst of their efforts, they realized that God was at work in the streets.

They don’t come back alive because they aren’t worried about safety.

Risk= transformation

Lead hard, be willing to risk and be wise about discernment.

Church= sent people of God.

Church doesn’t exist for itself, it exists for those outside of it.

Staff serve the hearts of God’s people as they are out doing ministry.

The culture feels like we hate them.

Media is always black and white, shocking, not nuisanced.

If you protect yourself from the culture, you lose your voice.

The church is the hope of the world and when it is on mission, it is transformational.

Catalyst: Donald Miller

Catalyst: Donald Miller

First off, I wish I had listened to my brother Will and read Blue Like Jazz before last year. But after having heard Miller speak at Catalyst last year, I was definitely impressed and have since read all his works. He speaks in a language I understand: evangelical but not one of those evangelicals, smart but not perfect and stuck between the Reds and the Blues of both politics and the church’s politics. So I definitely appreciate Miller in general.

Here are my notes:
Dominant influences in Western Culture: Free market economic system, Darwinian theory and the Bible.

Formula that most marketing in the world attempts to use:

  1. Convince you that you are not happy
  2. Invest money in my product so that you can be happy

Favorite quote: “Like a home schooler discovering reality…”

Matthew 6, The Message

Spirituality works like reality

Jesus’ metaphors show how the natural world reflects God and spiritual growth.

Review: Orbiting the Giant Hairball

Book review: Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace by Gordon MacKenzie

So I have been working my way through my stack of books. This review is the first of a couple I should do this week.

MacKenzie is a very interesting person and writer and the book reflects as much. It is full of drawings and some interesting things that definitely compliment the work that he has written. In short, the synopsis of the book is that the “corporate” structure of an organization has the ability to suffocate your own inner creativity and ingenuity. The work is full of how ideas and encouragement to engage that structure (“the Hairball”) without getting sucked into it. (“Orbiting”)

It is a hard book to review but I would definitely recommend it, especially if you are as subversive as I am but struggling to live in a structure like the mainline church. Definitely a good read and encouraged me to think that I can survive in the “Hairball” I am orbiting.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Authenticity and Truth

Sign O’ the Times

No this isn’t a post about Prince’s amazing album. But did you see that he is a Vegas act now? Soon or later I going to go to Vegas. Anyone want to bankroll a reality show about some youth pastors who spend two weeks in Vegas. (Funny Vegas story at the bottom.)

In the midst of all the Ted Haggard stuff going on, there is an interesting dynamic at play. Mainly, that authenticity trumps truth. You see the thinking goes that the accuser is being “real” and “honest” so therefore what he has done gets a pass but he evidently sincerely and genuinely meant to be a gay prostitute who sold meth. And as long as you are “real” about it, then it is cool.

The flip side is that Ted Haggard is a bad man because he wasn’t being “real.” See, his sin wasn’t that he was visiting with a gay prostitute, it was that he wasn’t being honest about it. Saying one thing and doing another makes us bad people, not our behavior.

Let me blunt: sin is sin. That is the reality of it. Is it a terrible thing that Haggard has done? Yes. But mainly because it appears that at least to some degree he has betrayed his family, his church, his faith and himself. It isn’t that he wasn’t honest about it. It was that he did it. Things would not be better if he had stood in his pulpit and proclaim “I just want to be honest and real with you all…” and then told the whole sordid story. Authenticity is important but it doesn’t trump truth.

And now on a lighter note, my funny Vegas story. So my friend John was a youth minister at a Baptist church in a town near mine and one year the youth choir tour took them through Vegas. Just long enough to grab something to eat. So part of what John wanted to show was the evil of gambling and how easy it is to waste away money. So he buys a $5 slot chip and has all the kids stand at the edge of the casino line so they aren’t in the casino but they can see him. And he puts in the token, pulls the lever and…jackpot. He wins like $15,000. Kids are high fiving, the adults are cracking up and the music minister is not amused and John just won half his salary for a year. He managed to stay on staff and he donated all the money to a Rescue Mission in Vegas (that day) but I wish someone had been filming to get a glimpse of the look on his face…

Friday, November 03, 2006

Sad news...

So beginning yesterday, the news was filled with news about allegations that Ted Haggard, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals and pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs had engaged in a sexual relationship with a man and also did drugs.

People far smarter than I can deal with the truth of the allegations. Haggard is saying he bought and never used the drugs, got a massage from the guy but never had sexual contact. And evidently the one making the allegations failed the portion of the lie detector that said they actually had sex. So it is weird to say the least.

I don't think that what happened to Haggard is unusual. In watching the Dateline NBC's expose called "To Catch a Predator" last week, the announcer essentially said that they were no longer surprised when the suspect told that he was or had been involved in ministry somehow. So now in sting operations to catch child predators, we are finding enough people in ministry that it is now considered not unusual.

Leaders, either lead with integrity or take the time to walk away and deal with your stuff. One of the heroes of the faith to me is Reverend Billy Graham. His character, his integrity and his willingness to lead in tough times all speak volumes to me. And one of the lessons that I have taken from his life is this: he wanted to live in such a way that he is beyond reproach. And he has been. People have complained about Graham's theology, his politics and more. But no one has ever called into account his character. He put things in his life that insured that he was always beyond reproach.

And I truly think that from my experience that here are some of the factors that move people down this road.

We get wounded and never take the time to heal. I know as well as anyone that ministry sometimes greatly and deeply hurts. My experience of being “let go” from a church that I loved and served for 4 years was a deeply and profoundly hurtful one. Thankfully, I had a friend in ministry who enabled me to go to counseling and I still speak to my counselor from time to time. Even in the midst of that, there is still some healing that needs to happen in my life. Had I simply moved to another local church (which almost happened in my case) my anger, my rage and my pain would still be with me. When we don’t seek healing, we are asking for our issues to show themselves in deeply damaging ways.

So we need to cultivate a culture where it is smart and valuable for people to take a step away from ministry in order to seek healing for their own hearts. Ministry hurts. Healing takes time.

Too many people in ministry get damaged and then never spend the time needed to get well. More of us need to be willing to walk away from ministry for the sake of our own souls. But we become convinced that we are much too important to the kingdom of God to walk away from our posts. May God save us from our foolishness.

We don’t have real accountability. I have known and am friends with tons of people involved in ministry. And far too many of us have no real accountability in our lives.

Personally, I have always tried to grow accountability in my own life. I have some relationships with friends that are completely transparent. And there are some keys to why I think it works for me- there isn’t any competition, there is no chance of “exposure” and the care is for me first and my ministry second. So I have worked really hard to cultivate that. And most ministers I know don’t.

Instead we fall into the comparison game. Whose church is bigger. Who is making the biggest jump among churches. More money, more power, more connections and more egos. The truth is that we need people in our lives that can speak hard truth. If you are in ministry and you don’t have those people, then you may be headed for trouble.

Which leads us to…

We think it will never happen to us. Whenever you start to talk about this idea among people in ministry, you always seem to get a “Been there, done that” feel to the conversation. Everyone has an idea in their head that they would never head down that road. And while meth and weird massages might not be your beast, there but for the grace of God go you. (And all of us.)

We all have our weaknesses and our struggles. And when we become tired, wounded and don’t have accountability, we are already sliding down the slippery slope. We need to be able to realize that all of us could stumble and do everything we can to ensure that we don’t stumble.

So pray for leaders. Pray for Ted Haggard, his family, his staff and his church. Pray for healing to happen before the wounds manifest themselves in such damaging ways. Amen.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Catalyst Session: George Barna

Catalyst Session: George Barna

So I am still processing and blogging about the Catalyst Conference, which was a while ago now I guess.

So in my reading of blogs, it was interesting reading other people’s reactions to George Barna’s session in particular. Right now, I am guessing I probably read as many if not more church-planter blogs than anyone. Really I am doing it for preparation to what comes next and as a reminder to myself that folks like that (pioneers) are out there. And Barna evidently stepped all over their toes to some degree. Several of them were really unhappy with what Barna said, which I found to be immensely interesting.

The essential thing is this- Barna did some research and wrote a phenomenal book called Revolution. And that work really, really challenges people to look at the reality that people are dealing with their faith in a much less instituationalize format. And whereas a denominational leader would push the panic button and start down the road of trying to prop up the institutional church, Barna seems to say “Roll with it.” And to people who are dreaming of planting the next megachurch, that is bad news.

So here are some of the interesting things that Barna talked about.

  1. Transformation most often happens in the lives of children.

As I get older and as I have had opportunities to shepherd students in leaders in three very different churches now, I have come to believe that this is absolutely true. The students that I have seen grow the farthest and deepest in their faith are students that I inherited who were already well on the road to becoming disciples. That isn’t always the case but as a generality, it is true. The application part of that process would seem to me that churches invest more in the lives of kids and grow them up. And with the growing trend of teenagers becoming “mini-adults,” complete with overcrowded and overcommitted schedules, this may be the best time to reach them,

  1. God doesn’t give a rip about our methodology; He cares about our hearts.

Here Barna began to really break down some key stats that I think are really intriguing.

He talks about how the American church if it continues on this path will lost ½ its “market share” by 2025/ He spoke passionately about how some of the things that are going to go the church- alternative forms, services, house churches. Things a lot of people would lump into the emerging context of church. For Barna, this is an amazing sign of latent spiritual energy being released in new ways.

I tend to agree. The last church I left had a difficult time with my leaving. I was asked to resign and at one point, about 50 people came to me and asked if I would help them start a new church. And I was and still am absolutely convinced that 50 people meeting in someone’s basement could make more of an impact than the institutional church that we were investing in. Because the passion is there and the hurdles aren’t.

I loved this statement: God never called us to go to church; He called us to be the church. (Put that on the head ushers head count sheet at your church…)

  1. So if all of this is true, then we are called to evaluate things in a different way. “Working well” needs a new definition.

Amen and amen. Too many ministries I have been involved in settle and set the standard of success at “Enough Sunday School teachers showed up today” or “No one got hurt on the event” or “Everyone had a good time.” None of those things are bad things. But they aren’t the goal. Life change is the goal for the local church. Transformation in your congregation and through your congregation into the world is the goal. NEVER lower that bar. Because once you do, you have begun a slow, never ending spiral into mediocrity and maintenance ministry.

  1. 7 passions for revolutionaries.

A worshipping individual

Evangelism through relationships

Discipleship- enjoying time with God

Serving other people- blessed to be a blessing

Resources- how is your time, money and energy used

Building and sustaining community

Family being central to the church experience

Other thoughts he shared:

Don’t become a leader to be popular. Leadership is about change!

The people he classifies as revolutionaries are more committed to Christ than the average church goer.

  1. How this ought to affect ministry:

Focus on transformation and what that means.

Don’t build buildings and hire people/

Bigness isn’t as important as spiritual depth and community depth.

The challenge is how do we use the tools (internet, media, etc.) to keep the focus on God.

In retrospect, I dug this session because Barna resonated back some thing I have thought and felt for sometime. It may be bad news for my long term career, as in being paid to be a minister, but it may be exactly what the church needs!

My body is ANGRY!

So...nearly a week in and still no soda. Okay, I did slip up at the lock-out and took a swig off a kid's coke before I realized what I was doing. But other than that, I have held strong.
Some things I have learned:
1. Lunches and meals cost a lot less when you drink water.
2. I didn't have a caffeine addiction. I have a sugar addiction, which makes sense when you take in to account that I drank a lot of root beer, which is generally caffeine free.
3. I have better will power than I thought.
4. My body is going through a sort of detox and it is angry with me. I was okay until Tuesday, which was bad and today, which was bad again. Wednesday was good. No idea why.

So thanks for the encouragement and all. No signs of giving it up anytime soon.