Thursday, April 30, 2009


i was a late registrant to the national new church conference, called exponential. i'll admit that i'm somewhat leery of these national christian conferences with well-known speakers; they are often characterized by a kind of hero worship that is off-putting to me and seems out of place among members of the family of God. but in this case, i was invited by pastor friends from lighthouse (our mother church), and the chance to process the content with them, as well as to enjoy their friendship, ultimately won me over.

an early highlight was the pre-conference workshop with jim putnam of real life ministries. a former national champion wrestler and coach turned church planting pastor, his small group based church grew rapidly from a mere four families to some 8000 weekend participants, many of them previously unchurched. but what really impressed me is their deep commitment to producing committed followers of Jesus, not just counting numbers. they have produced a small army of committed leaders and have begun planting new churches, some of which are also growing rapidly and by conversion. inspiring and challenging.

other especially meaningful experiences included a one-on-one appointment with tom clegg of, whom i found insightful and remarkably helpful in a one hour session, and francis chan's powerful message about depending on the power of the Holy Spirit at the closing session of the conference (listen here). all in all, a moving, thought-provoking time -- good enough that i'd be interested in going back next year.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

the birthday of a lifetime

yesterday, i celebrated my birthday. it was mostly a restful sabbath day, but did include a couple of games of four-person scrabble (my family was kind enough to comply with my insistence that i be allowed to win, since we were celebrating my birthday!) and dinner with a few friends at amante, our new favorite spot for calzones. a good time was had by all.

but the real story of this birthday is that it was my 47th -- a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. the sharper among you are thinking, "yeah, like every other birthday," and of course, there is some truth in your shallow logic. but 47 is special. aside from the obvious fact that 4 + 7 = 11, 7 + 11 = 18, 11 + 18 = 29, and 18 + 29 = 47 (coincidence? i think not), legend has it that pomona college math professor donald bentley once produced a convincing proof that all numbers are equal to 47; since no one seems to be able to reproduce the proof, one has to think it might be the new 'fermat's last theorem' (especially since that one was finally proven). but consider these facts:
  • according to legend, a 16th century official named wan hu attempted a flight to the moon by using two kites fastened to a sedan chair on which he had strapped 47 black powder rockets. 47 servants simultaneously lit the fuses and wan hu disappeared in a burst of flame and smoke. a crater on the far side of the moon is named in his honor.
  • in monsters inc., the scream factory had enjoyed 47 accident-free days at the start of the movie.
well, i could go on (you can find many other astounding examples here), but it should be clear by now that this one was something special. and yes, i'm already working on what makes 48 extraordinary!