Merry Christmas from The Hartsocks!

We put together a little something to say "Merry Christmas" to you and yours...enjoy.



As I sat listening to one of my favorite bands, Over the Rhine, this past weekend I realized how their music and several others have transformed my perspective and appreciation of music. It wasn't like I devalued music to begin with rather I didn't really appreciate it...I simply enjoyed it.

Music moved from entertainment to a language and story told like no other art form. I became moved by these groups and their mastery. So I thought I would share a few of these bands and the songs/albums that are responsible for this shift as well as so writing about some films, TV Shows and books that have also transformed by perspective.

Transforming Music :: Over the Rhine (Good Dog, Bad Dog)

As Karen Bergquist closed the annual Christmas concert with "Latter Days" I was reminded of how moved I was by this album time after time. There were times I would simply bathe myself in the music and the profound lyrics of this song and also the entire album. I realized that music spoke to something I could simply not connect to with words or conversation.

Transforming Music :: Ennio Morricone (The Mission)

This film lands also in my transforming films...an experience that left be stunned and silent at its end. The beauty of the Amazon landscape, the brutality of the conquests and the searching for meaning and redemption by so many characters was perfectly captured by Morricone's soundtrack. When music evokes images and emotions left long ago in the theater to make them as tangible and fresh as the first time...that's transforming music. This soundtrack also gave me my long-standing love affair for instrumental music especially soundtracks.

Transforming Music :: U2 (Achtung, Baby)

I know, I know...so many refer to U2 as a transforming piece in their musical journey but there's a reason. They are astounding! I was moving out from a relatively sheltered musical life and venturing into the vast sound filled world out there, and what should I find greeting me within days...this innovative and masterful album. I remain convinced this album, if released today, would still be hailed as a defining moment in music. Listening to songs like "One", "Mysterious Ways", "The Fly", and "Ultraviolet" made me believe music can mix deep themes of spiritual significance with amazing music.

Transforming Music :: Sigur Ros ( )

My brother has played a huge part in my musical journey. Almost daring me at times to listen to music outside the box and hard to nail down genre-wise. Sigur Ros has captured the dense sense of deeply layered music and set it free with such unique sounds that it is hard right now to find the words to describe the experience. Watch one of their music videos capturing precisely the ethereal quality of Sigur Ros's music.

Other Transforming Music ::
Dave Matthews Band (Under the Table and Dreaming)
Live (Throwing Copper)
Stone Temple Pilots (Purple)
Mute Math (Self-Titled)
DC Talk (Free at Last)
David Crowder Band (All I Can Say)
Arcade Fire (Funeral)
Pearl Jam (Ten)
Radiohead (OK Computer)

I will be writing soon about some of the transforming experiences I have had with film, TV and books as well. I also love to hear some of your transforming moments...

Four Corners Church :: Sunday, December 16th

Series Message: "Give us a deliverer" in the Keeping Promises Series

We look at the wonder and awe behind the Christmas story as God fulfills His promises then and now. As we peer into the promises He kept we look into a future bigger than we can imagine.

Music Set:
I will celebrate the day - Relient K
Bless His Name - Tony Sanchez
Burn for You - Steve Fee
It came upon a midnight clear (1849) - Edmund Hamilton Sears
O Come, O Come Emanuel - John Mason Neale
Angels we have heard on high - Unknown

Special Elements:
Missionaries from Ghana spoke
Advent Short Film "Peace"


Review :: I am Legend

In many ways this film could be described as a version of Noah and the Ark but instead of a flood, there is a virus bringing humanity to the brink of extinction.

When a cure for cancer goes terribly wrong, most of humanity is wiped out only to leave the immune wanders of the day or the infected sick vampirish creatures of the night. "I Am Legend" throws us headlong into the loneliness and determination of Robert Neville (Will Smith) as he tries to maintain his sanity in a desolate New York City.

The film works brilliantly on many levels. You can almost tangibly feel the tense loneliness of Neville as he roams the streets with his faithful dog, Sam. The cinematography and scant score bring the apocalyptic world to life. The outlook looks grim and hopeless as he searches for the cure...much like the world of Frank Darabont's "The Mist". Gone are the days of good versus evil where a clear strength of good triumphs, and here to stay are the murky waters of a true battle between seemingly equal powers.

Smith's performance is also dynamic and strong. His depiction of Neville's solitary life leaves us deeply symphatheic to his plight and palpably feeling his teeter between a daily routine and madness.

But the film also left me short in many regards. There was a whole sub-plot seemingly crucial to the overall storyline left completely unexplored. For example, why did the leader of the creatures risk himself in the light when Neville captures a woman creature? His analysis seems lacking and myopic especially in light of what happens to him on the road just a day or two later. Why did this leader of the creatures relentlessly pursue Neville to the point of almost killing himself? Why did other creatures follow his orders if they were "de-evolving" into complete chaos? This storyline would have added a dynamic layer to the story and deeply improved an anemic second half.

Overall I enjoyed the film but wish the second half and the end wouldn't have taken such a conservative path. Smith's performance deserves a better payoff. I think Christianity Today nailed it in their review when they said,

"The problem isn't really that the second half of the movie switches from atmospheric to action focused. Instead, the plot becomes action-based instead of the action being plot-based. Smith brings such heart to the movie, but the second half of his fight against the Darkseekers is just impersonal and, well, fake."

So sit back and jump with fear a few times at something close to being great but falling short...


An amazing artist

A new friend of mine had me look at a great friend of his...an astounding artist, Jonathan Queen. His work is eerily beautiful and transfixing. I have a feeling one of those paintings may end on one of my walls soon.

One of the things my wife and I have decided to do throughout our house is to buy and hang original artwork. The last 2 years Jill has bought me paintings and I love them...so we'll see what happens this year.


Stop wasting your time...

Ever wonder how many days of your life you waste doing the menial tasks of life? Parking, changing clothes, doing your hair, untangling what not...

Sprint has a great new campaign called "Wait Less". In a series of brilliant little webisodes they show you how to save hours and days of your life. So in the amount of time you spent reading this blog...you could have chilled a soda or made sorbet.

Can you pass the MAN TEST?

Popular Mechanics published their "Man Test" lately to ensure you're truly a functioning male. I'm about a C- according to them...see where you are:

1. Patch a radiator hose
2. Protect your computer
3. Rescue a boater who has capsized
4. Frame a wall
5. Retouch digital photos
6. Back up a trailer
7. Build a campfire
8. Fix an outlet
9. Navigate with a compass and map
10. Use a torque wrench
11-25. Click HERE to read them

How much testosterone truly pumps through your veins?


The Lie of being famous

"There's not an obligation to be famous. We live in a culture that has impressed on us that everyone not only can be famous, but should or must be famous. And if you're not famous you've failed. If you're making art and the world doesn't cheer you, you're a failure. That's just a lie."

Music Critic Douglas Walk talking about Jandek on NPR's "All Thing's Considered"


Golden Compass is a bomb

I'll write a bit more later about the whole "Golden Compass" hoopla in play right now. But I predicted before all this began that the film would be a bomb and much of the to-do about the film was wasted energy...and it shaping up to be the biggest bomb of 2007.

Read this update about the movie here.


4 Trends of 2007

George Barna has published his observations about trends of 2007. Here are a few:
  1. Americans’ Unconditional Self-love
    • Americans have a high opinion of themselves - and lingering reservations about others.
    • Many Americans want to continue to change and grow… and… are willing to change as long as the pathway promises benefit and enjoyment, and generally avoids pain, conflict and sacrifice.
    • Many Americans are seeking to be viewed as individuals distinct from the ever-growing masses.
    • Adults - especially those under 30 - regularly strive to be connected to a substantial number of other people and yet possess a nagging sense of loneliness, isolation and restlessness.

  2. Nouveau Christianity
    • The image of the Christian faith has taken a beating.
    • The result is that those who choose to remain Christian - however they define it - are also reformulating the popular notion of what “Christian” and the Christian life mean.
    • Some of those changes are producing favorable outcomes, while others are less appealing.
Read the rest of the report on Barna. Thanks to Church Relevence for the heads up.

Sending an E-Card just got amusing

If I mentioned the idea of sending an E-card to someone it wouldn't be something to spark much interest until now. So take a whirl and send a co-worker, friend or maybe just a random stranger an E-Card today. (Warning :: some of these cards could offend)


Four Corners Church :: Sunday, December 2nd

Series Message: "Do you know who I am?" in the Hard Questions Jesus Asked Series

Ever wonder how much easier it would be to follow Jesus if all of your questions could be answered? Ironically, when Jesus walked the earth he did not spend a lot of time giving answers -- instead he asked a lot of questions.

Music Set:
Solid Rock - Delirious
More than Ever - Robbie Reider
Somewhere I Belong - Linkin Park
Salvation is Here - Hillsong united
Happy Day - Tim Hughes

Special Elements:
"Baptism Stories"


Review :: Evan Almighty

Everything "Bruce Almighty" did to make itself so insightful and infectiously funny, "Evan..." did not. A disappointing sequel for so many reasons but mainly that it was just not that funny. Steve Carrell is left carrying a family film more interested in Hallmark moments than true satire and wit. It was a strictly by-the-numbers film in every regard leading to an utterly frustrating movie experience.

If you want to watch Carrell light up the screen with his charisma, charm and off-beat humor...watch "Dan in Real Life" instead.


Review :: The Mist

I have mentioned before that since becoming a dad several years back I have found myself changed when watching media. Stephen King's "The Mist" pricked my fatherly nerve quickly and often.

This suspenseful and tragic tale follows a father and son in a small Northeastern town suddenly crippled by a mysterious mist. A eclectic band representing a cross-cut of culture (the artist, the blue collar mechanic, gnarled Harley rider, teacher, lawyer, military man and religious nut job) is trapped inside the local A&P as this mist descends and begins its devastation. Suspense and drama abound as various plans are hatched to escape from their progressively desperate position. The religious nut spouts Jim Jones-type theology, a weird hybrid of the Old Testament and Revelation sans Jesus, getting scores of followers as the tale moves on. Eventually stirring the crowd to scream for "expiation" to calm the beast.

"The Mist" explores the heights and depths of the human condition under great duress, but in all this lies what many critics have called "one of the most daring endings in recent history". This ending has stuck with me almost a day later and mainly for its darkness and virtual nihilistic approach. While I understand the actions of the heroes, it is nonetheless pessimistic and depressing.

Now this is freaky...

I'm literally left speechless and will let the images speak for themselves...

Here's TREE MAN!


Listening to the other voice

I have tried to start up a routine after letting lay dormant in a strange imposed hibernation. If I am to grow as a leader, father, husband, friend and person then discipline is not my enemy. Discipline creates margin for me to operate freely in. Discipline creates time to reflect and learn from my many failures and few successes. And in my new routine I am trying to be far more intentional in reading from both Scripture and spiritual "giants" such as Tozer, Lewis, Chesterton and Kierkegaard.

In today's reading, CS Lewis talks about hearing the other voice:

"The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply of shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting the larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Stand back from all your natural fussings and frettings; come in out of the wind."

- CS Lewis

The Economy of Megachurches

Churches are slowly dying in many ways across this country. With the average church size of 60 or less the average Joe does not darken the do or of many houses of worship. But at the same time megachurches are growing and sprouting up around the country. Churches like Willow Creek and North Point, which have been around for years to places such as Elevation and Mars Hill have sprung up recently. Many of these churches of well over 1500 people are not your run-of-the-mill churches...they are deeply involved and influential in the local economies of their cities. The New York Times has an interesting article from this past week about this new phenomenon.


One Writer's Rant

My buddy Paul just sent me this clip from the upcoming film about Harlan Ellison called "Dreams with Sharp Teeth". In this time of a writer's strike, some poignant words.

WARNING :: the language on this is strong for those with weak constitutions.

Bad Writing at its best...

Anne Lamott and Grace

I have a love for Anne Lamott and her no-nonsense writing style. Her books "Bird by Bird" and "Traveling Mercies" are some of my favorites. Relevant Magazine recently interviewed her and she had a great definition of grace:

"Grace is miraculous, unmerited love and fresh air and the comfort of the Holy Spirit in our lives. In the book I write about going skiing and having a terrible experience where I ended up stunned and freezing in a shack where the ski patrol brought me to warm up. The kerosene heater in the shack was filling the air with a foul odor, but the cracks in the shack allowed more oxygen in. The smell of the trees through those very small spaces connected me to a bigger space. That’s grace."


What I'm listening to today....

If you're in and around Cincinnati this Christmas...come to their Christmas concert. An experience not to miss.

SeeqPod Music beta - Playable Search


Prepping for 2008

I've started preparing for the new year a little earlier than usual. My mind is constantly turning toward what lies ahead for our Life Groups, Creativity and Outreach. I certainly do not want to fascinate myself obsessively with what could happen instead of the reality in front of me. But I think is pertinent for me as a leader to constantly evaluate and flex to create a more vibrant environment for success.

I have fallen out of the habit of reading as I once did so I have started the literary engines again. I just ordered three books from Amazon..."Creating Community" by Andy Stanley, "7 Deadly Sins of Small Group Ministry" by Bill Donahue and "The Big Idea" by Dave Ferguson. Excited to see what wisdom I can glean and where it all leads...

Jack Bauer :: 1994 edition

I graduated high school in 1994 when the internet was sweeping the nation, AOL was all the rave, you were cool if you had a Geocities page and a pager meant you were somebody. So check out "24" if Jack Bauer had started in 1994. (FYI...some minor language ahead)

What I'm listening to today....

I'm experimenting with a little feature. Most days I'm listening to some kind of music or another. So I thought I would highlight some of the music I listen to each day. See what you think...

SeeqPod Music beta - Playable Search

I feel the need...the need for speed

Who doesn't love to smash the gas pedal down once in awhile to feel the quick burst of adrenline surge and escape ordinary life if just for a moment.

I was listening to NPR yesterday when I heard about Alexander Roy who knows this feeling but not for just a moment...try a hare over 31 hours in a BMW M5. He set the new cross-country from New York to California in the secretive world of outlaw "Cannonball Run-type" racing. Roy has a book out documenting the adventure called "The Driver". How 'bout them apples Burt Reynolds?


What's your name? (NOOMA)

Nooma has always put astounding media out since its inception and their newest piece is a crown jewel. "Name" talks bluntly about what we names we give ourselves and the way God sees us. So many of us, including myself, struggle to get comfortable in our own skin. Watch this and wrestle with what you call yourself...


How guilt stops the called

John Piper has a great article in Christianity Today out about how the current epidemic of sexual immorality within the church leadership is not the most looming danger for the church at large...a sad mistake most everyone makes. Instead the true danger is the guilt associated with so many Christians struggling with sexual addiction.

"…so many young people are being lost to the cause of Christ's mission because they are not taught how to deal with the guilt of sexual failure. The problem is not just how not to fail. The problem is how to deal with failure so that it doesn't sweep away your whole life into wasted mediocrity with no impact for Christ. The great tragedy is not masturbation or fornication or pornography. The tragedy is that Satan uses guilt from these failures to strip you of every radical dream you ever had or might have. In their place, he gives you a happy, safe, secure, American life of superficial pleasures, until you die in your lakeside rocking chair."

How many of us sit on our dreams because of our pasts? How much of our baggage defines us instead of the forgiveness granted us through Christ?


Four Corners Church :: Sunday, November 11th

Series Message: "Living Generously" in the Losing My Religion / Finding my faith Series

In this series we are talking about what not only defines Four Corners but how we can join with you on this journey. So throw off your baggage...it's time for an adventure of faith.

Music Set:

Forever - Chris Tomlin
Wonderful Cross - Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman
Hands that hold the world - Starfield
Blessed be Your Name - Tree 63
Did you feel the mountains tremble - Delirious

Special Elements:
"Money Rant" (video by The Veracity Project)


The biennial beard growing celebration has begun again! Men from around the world flaunt their hairy faces. We all shave "naked" on November 1st and don't shave again until March 1st. Follow my beard growth and vote for my beard on WHISKERINO as we do photos almost every day...


The customer experience of Church

FAST COMPANY has an insightful article in their latest issue about the future of customer experiences and how Apple has created nirvana for many customers and employees at their stores.

They have a section discussing the experiences in some of the world's largest service-industry companies such as Gap, Starbucks, The Container Store, and UPS. Alex Frankel worked at all of them in an undercover project and described his experiences with each in his new book "Punching In" which the article excerpts:

• Gap was "my gulag. I constantly waited for the end of my shift. Tortured with repetitive music and constant folding".

• Starbucks he describes as "a company with a company culture akin to kindergarten, where employees are taught to play well with others...".

• UPS offered "a highly regimented job but just enough independence for workers to feel energized."

Ouch...how would our volunteers at Four Corners or any volunteer-intensive church describe their experience though? Meaningful? Fun? Spiritual? How can we keep a keen and watchful eye for our volunteers' experience without losing our primary focus on new faces? Hmm...

The Apple mantra in their stores is to "reinvent retail". Training for each employee is carefully designed...ask questions of the customer to understand their needs, get permission to fire away and digging deeper to ascertain the best products. Apple's three P's: Position, Permission, Probe. Apple is trying to set a culture of employees less as sales people and more as distributors of needed information.

"When employees become sharers of information, instead of sellers of products, customers respond."

As churches move toward a more volunteer intensive environment, we cannot ignore the fact we are much like a customer experience at one of the above listed stores. We cannot deny religion has been commoditized for good or bad, and people look at many of their life experience opportunities as customers. They want information on our 'product' (i.e. where's the children's ministry? what does your church stand for? what kind of music do you sing? etc.) How we meet this challenge may decide the future for many of us...


Communication Arts recognized the ad agency Modernista! for their Interactive achievement. If you've never heard of Moderista! you're not alone but there is little doubt you've seen their work for the RED campaign, MTV, Hummer, Cadillac, Gap, Napster and more.

A crazy fact from one of Modernista's many projects...the U2 music video "Windows in the Sky" took 4 months, 2,500 man hours and a huge number of clearances from bands ranging from the White Stripes to The Beatles.

Keep an eye on these guys...I think they're just getting started.


The stars come out swinging their collective fists

You may have heard the Writer's Guild has started an industry-wide strike but the impact is far greater than many suspected. Soon shows such as "The Office", "30 Rock", "Heroes", "Battlestar Galactica", "The Unit" and more will grind to a halt with writers and actors alike picketing sets. Read more about what's happening in the industry right now on Ain't It Cool.


Review :: The TV Set

Rating :: Sour Patch Kids...enjoyable but you can't eat too many or else they burn your taste buds off.

This little indie film – with an all-star cast (David Duchovny, Signorney Weaver, Ioan Gruffudd, Justine Bateman) and an up and coming director Jake Kasdan (Freaks and Geeks and Orange County) – is a blazing ball of satire.

As an aspiring writer of a TV series, this film was amazing. It’s the classic conflict of artist versus institution. Duchovny plays Mike Klein a long-time struggling writer who has continually tried to get his shows picked by the network but to no avail until now. His latest show "The Wexler Chronicles" originally about a brother dealing with suicide gets changed by the network to be about his mother dying… which turns his dreams into a living nightmare. Change after change takes his material from decent into the abyss. He watched his dream get flushed by executives making decisions on shows based on their kids' opinions. The dumbing down of TV...

When the credits rolled and there was Judd Apatow's name I knew this was more than a movie trying to point a general finger toward network executives...this was an indictment film. Both Kasdan and Apatow were heavily involved in 'Freaks and Geeks' , a show now thought of as a cult-classic but at the time NBC shoved it on Saturday nights at 8pm. The show was a hard on to nail down...not a 'Wonder Years' because it was too realistic and not as sweet; but in contrast, it was also not a classic teeny bopper show like 'Dawson's Creek' because it had character in its character. So off to the TV graveyard with it… yet fans have continued to this day to keep the show's legacy alive.

This well-done film crackles with energy and humor as well as its stinging criticism of a system that promotes mediocrity often.

Perfecting Symphathy

My Big Lip
Originally uploaded by ryanhartsock.

My son, Soren, has recently perfected his look of pure pity. Whenever you say 'no' to anything (no matter how small or large) he strikes this pose. Magnum has nothing on this...


Review :: Dexter

Rating :: a steak...rare (and I mean bloody)

Showtime has taken over as the premier storyteller on cable TV. With shows such as "Californication", "Weeds", "Brotherhood" and "The Tudors" HBO's title as the place channel to watch is history.

A macabre and poignant series of a serial killer who is attempting to harness the beast inside of him. Dexter works for the Miami Police Department as a forensic specialist using his "killer" instincts to unlock the mysteries of murders everywhere. The audience is in a tug-o-war loving Dexter as he brings justice to those who take life and wondering if that love should be reconsidered as he slices and dices people who justice cannot reign in.

"Dexter" certainly is not a show for everyone. Too bloody and dark for most but too well-crafted to ignore.

Halloween Helicopter Candy Drop

Halloween Helicopter Candy Drop
Originally uploaded by 4 Corners

I have been noticeably MIA from the blogosphere due to this event and it was worth it. Over 1200 people showed to blitz a field for candy and prize filled Halloween Eggs. It was an amazing time for us as a church to practically serve our community...almost 85% of the people there had never come to Four Corners. Giddy up!


Watch this :: I AM LEGEND

Will Smith's movies are hit or miss for me. Loved "Bad Boys" but hated "Bad Boys 2". Loved "Enemy of the State" but did not care for "Legend of Bagger Vance". But check out his new film out in December...it looks AMAZING! In a 2-minute trailer I was sold...

I AM LEGEND trailer


Blind Reporting :: The truth of the Jena 6

Many of you may have heard of the story currently brewing in Jena, Louisiana. My friend Paul sent this to me as I have been following this case closely for awhile. I was deeply disturbed at what I heard. The Old South had reared its ugly racist again, I thought. But that doesn't seem to be the case...it seems the New Media likes to spin a story of racial injustice to sell more papers.

The Christian Science Monitor has an insightful and stinging commentary on the sad state of this story. Truth manipulated, lazy research and literally believing any story given to them. The author of this article LIVES in Jena has been reporting on it from the beginning. Please read this article and realize it is pertinent for us to remain educated as people and not simply informed.

Review :: Lives of Others

Rating :: A Sonata by Beethoven while sipping warm tea on a dreary day

Hailing from Germany, the winner of last year's Oscar for 'Best Foreign Film' is a stark portrayal of Communist life in East Germany (the DDR) in an era too easily forgotten. A time when you could not trust even your lovers because the State had invaded every facet of life...constantly watching and listening to every move, waiting to pounce on even a hint of dissension.

The story follows the lives of Georg Dreyman (a playwright played masterfully by Sebastian Koch) and Christa-Maria Sieland (an acclaimed actress played tragically by Martina Gedeck) who are lovers and who have no secret the Secret Police don't know although, of course, unknown to them. Ulrich Muhe plays Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler, the Secret Police investigator who delves into their lives with sadistic intensity only to find himself transformed in the process.

An amazing portrayal of life under scrutiny and investigation by the State and how life becomes more of prison than an opportunity under the former Communist regime. A reminder of the blessings we often forget living in a democracy...the freedom to speak freely, worship freely, create freely and love without fear.


Taking it deeper...

One of the things I love about a healthy life group is self-awareness and a desire to move deeper. You can ask questions about where you are and where you want to go without much fear. You reach a crossroads where decisions must be made.

At our last Life Group one of our members said frankly she wanted to move into some of the deepest questions of faith. The rest of the group echoed the sentiment and we dived in. So we've taken an exciting turn after a lot of time spent getting to know each other, our stories and gathering the trust together necessary to have a conversation of faith. And I'm looking forward to where this goes as we use Greg Boyd's book "Letters from a Skeptic" as a catalyst.


Helmet Cam to the rescue!

I found this little helmet camera online last week and decided to buy it for God knows what...but the possibilities are endless. How about Pastor Cam? Ever wondered what your pastor sees when he preaches? How about kid cam? I've always wondered what the world would look like through their eyes especially since I'm 6'5". We'll see where this goes...


Something to laugh about on a cloudy day

This is rap's pure essence...an amazing tribute by Eastern Europe's music legacy.


Four Corners Church :: Sunday, October 7th

Message: "Porn Sunday"
A candid conversation about the problem of pornography and practical help for those who want it.

Music Set:
Absolute - Thousand Foot Crutch
Hand that holds the world - Starfield
Marvelous Light - Charlie Hall
Majesty - Martin Smith
Happy Day - Tim Hughes

Special Elements:
"Elephant in the Room" (short film)

Porn Sunday

Four Corners just wrapped up Porn Sunday and it was AWESOME! Not only did Ben speak bluntly about God's perspective on porn and also gave people first steps if they want but we also got way more press than we expected from the event. Nearly every Cincinnati TV Station and Newspaper covered the event since it's not every day a church talks about porn. Check out our website for all the links to the various stories. Thanks to all who helped make it happen!


Arcade Fire

A good friend of mine, Matt, invited me to the Arcade Fire concert tomorrow and I'm excited to see them live. Doing some reading on the band and their latest release "Neon Bible" was a fascinating adventure. Their lyrics are not superficial and sugary but reveal a depth found few other places.

Christianity Today had an interesting article about the band. The album was recorded in an old church and speaks scathing critique and soaring praise of religion. The lyrics are chalked full of biblical allusion and challenge.

"There are two kinds of fear," Win Butler, lead singer, said. "The Bible talks a lot about fear of God—fear in the face of something awesome. That kind of fear is the type of fear that makes someone want to change. But a fear of other people makes you want to stay the same, to protect what you have. It's a stagnant fear; and it's paralyzing."

One would be hard-pressed to call the album a ringing endorsement of faith and God, but the band shows an honest side as it deals with religion and its practice these days.

Butler said Neon Bible is ultimately about "addressing religion in a way that only someone who actually cares about it can. It's really harsh at times, but from the perspective of someone who thinks it has value."

Needless to say I'm excited to see them tomorrow night...

The Israel Craze

I was listening to NPR this morning and heard an amazing story about 7000 Evangelical Christians in Israel this week to show their support for the Holy Land. Many don't often associate Judism and Christianity as bedfellows these days...Christianity marks itself by its strong and often aggressive exercise of converting others while that practice in Judism is not a thrust. But the "partnership" is hard to say no to for Israel when over the past 20 years, evangelical Christians have contributed billions of dollars to Israel.

I don't know where I stand on this right now but myself uneasy at remarks similar to this:

"The true and living God wants his people to be in an undivided Israel, undivided Jerusalem," he says. "There should be no more give-backs. Every time we give back the land of Israel, something happens in the United States. Katrina followed the give-back of the Gaza."

Anytime a "connection" between current events and God happens (i.e. 9/11 was God's punishment, Katrina was God washing out gambling, etc) I get wary. I can't say it is not true with certainty (although pretty sure it's not) but feel talking with such fervor over a connection does nothing but often spill gas of fires meant to remain sparks.

Four Corners Church :: Sunday, October 1st

Series Message: "Your Best Payout" in the Jackpot Series
God has a calling for all of us...we're talk frankly about discovering your purpose.

Music Set:
More that Ever - Robbie Reider & Allan Fuller
Everything Glorious - David Crowder Band
O Praise Him - David Crowder Band
Wholly Yours - David Crowder Band
Let Us Be - Robbie Reider
Everlasting God - Lincoln Brewster

Special Elements:
"Spiritual Gift of Dodgeball" (video)
"Porn Sunday Promo :: Save a Bunny" (video)



"It's now thought of virtuous to avoid offending....virtuous to avoid conflict."
(Rush Limbaugh following the "controversy" of the phony soldiers)


My personal growth and capacity

I finished reading Andy Stanley's "Next Generation Leader" a bit ago and felt a strong urge to take strides in my own personal growth and capacity. So I'm looking for a mentor...someone to help me grow and spread my wings beyond their current span. If I want to have an impact and influence on "my world" then I clearly need to learn much, much more.

A break that lasts a little too long

It's been awhile since I last blogged and I can feel it and miss it. I'm ready to start the engines again...


Four Corners Church :: Sunday, September 23rd

Series Message: "Calling" in the Jackpot Series
God has a calling for all of us...we're talk frankly about discovering your purpose.

Music Set:
How Great Thou Art - Carl G. Boberg and R.J. Hughes
How Great is our God - Chris Tomlin
Wonderful Maker - Matt Redman
Jesus, Be the Center - Michael Frye
Enough - Chris Tomlin
All to You - Lincoln Brewster

Special Elements:
"Teamwork" (video)
"Undeniable Calling" (video)
"Porn Sunday Promo :: Man on the Street" (video)


Steve Jobs is not like you and me

Those of you who have read this blog at all know I'm an Apple loyalist in many ways, but at the same time I won't turn a blind eye to the fact Steve Jobs is not like you and me.

"Steve has a love-hate relationship with, well, everyone. Customers buy Apple products and they appreciate Steve’s design and market sense, but they also have opinions and NEEDS — two characteristics Jobs (and for that matter almost any CEO) would like to do without."

- Robert X. Cringely, from "I, Cringely"

We want an instant fix that ain't comin'

"However you parse Owen Wilson’s desperate act, it is clear that in an instant-fix, cure-all culture — one in which we habitually reduce fraught real-life dramas into smart-alecky quips on late-night talk shows — we want instant-fix, cure-all answers."

- Daphne Merkin, in an editorial from the NY Times on Owen Wilson and reports of his depression

Review :: 3:10 to Yuma

RATING :: a spicy chimichanga with a severely salted Margarita

I love westerns...the scope, the characters, the clear quest for justice, and the gun fights. "3:10 to Yuma", James Mangold's late
st film, was a great way to spend an afternoon.

Christian Bale stars as Dan Evans an injured Civil War veteran who has moved his family to the wide open West to start again. He struggles not only against the elements but also with his family...struggling to find respect with his boys as he's about to get kicked off his land as the railroad plows through. Russell Crowe stars as Ben Wade a notoriously vicious outlaw who robs any railroad payroll that comes through with he and his gang slaughtering everyone on board the coach. The two of these characters collide with such impact all other characters simply fall into the afterglow.

There were certain places in the film where I found myself lost in Bale's brilliant character as I pondered on my own fathering and the difficulty that faces many of us face as dads...how can we command respect with our boys? And it is this very issue which drives Evans to join a posse taking Wade to prison. His hope, to regain his land and his stature as a figure worthy of respect.

This film is gritty and dark, certainly not a typical Hollywood film in many ways but well-worth a watch. In the era of remakes that simply retread where the previous movie went, Mangold pays homage to the original through rebirthing the story on his own terms.


Comfort the disturbed, Disturb the comfortable

Life Church's blog, Swerve, has a huge variety of content and contributors. A prayer was posted and it rattled me (with a bit of trepidation) in a good way. I work and crave comfort although the majority of growth in my life has happened when I have stepped out into the unknown were certainty and comfort are not options. I have seen the complacency comfort can bring me...a lethargy in my faith, vibrancy, creativity, parenting and relationships.

Four Corners is about to have "Invite a Friend" Sunday and for some reason I'm uncomfortable inviting my neighbors. But I have the feeling, regardless of the outcome, the discomforting step will be good for all. I will step past the "ease" of what Robert Frost once described as "...good fences make good neighbors..." philosophy of most surburbia and disturb the norm a bit.

So regardless of where we are on our journey...think about taking some deliberate time to make yourself a bit uncomfortable. And take some time with me and say this prayer:

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain in to joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done. (A Franciscan Benediction)

(Thanks Kem Meyer for the heads up)

MinistryCOM Conference

MinistryCOM is a relatively new conference designed specifically for churches to grow more in communication, marketing and design. Four Corners was to present about design and collaboration at the conference but some obstacles arose and we could not attend. Oh well...there's always next year.

Kem Meyer, the Communications Director of Granger Church, had a session entitled "Everybody Doesn’t Hate You...it just feels like it". Dave Crow attended the conference and has posted his notes. Some great nuggets to learn from...


"It's not that people are going to the culture to learn a different angle about God or faith. In truth, the values and faith of most of the people around us are actually being shaped by culture."

- Tim Stevens, leadingsmart.com


Four Corners Church :: Sunday, September 16th

Series Message: God is...convicting
When he comes, he'll expose the error of the godless world's view of sin, righteousness, and judgment: He'll show them that their refusal to believe in me is their basic sin... (John 16: 8-11)

Music Set:
Undignified - David Crowder Band
Salvation is Here - Hillsong United
Dwell - Casey Corum
O Lord my Shepherd be - Billy Somerville
We Shine - Steve Fee
There is no one like you - David Crowder Band

Special Elements:
Baptisms + Communion
"Trading Up" (video)
"Baptism Stories" (video)


Ayn Rand and Capitalism

“I thrived on Rand’s message that only quality work counted, not who you are.”

When I was teaching 8th grade English one of the novels by honor students read was "Anthem" by Ayn Rand. Even in this small compact piece her allegory is transparent as she introduces her philosophy of objectivism best defined by its extolling of individuality, freedom, and reason. Turns out that not only did White Oak Middle School see Ayn Rand as worth reading but many CEO's did too.

The New York Times has an article about how Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" was a major influence for people the likes of Alan Greenspan, James M. Kilts (who led turnarounds at Gillette, Nabisco and Kraft), Marc Cuban (owner of the Dallas Mavericks) and John P. Mackey, the chief executive of Whole Foods who found her supporting of “the virtue of selfishness" to be a rationale for success in our capitalistic culture.

And although I do not espouse any of Rand's philosophies (in fact, almost diametrically opposed to them), it is an interesting read and commentary on what influences key business and societal leaders.


Madeleine L'Engle 1918-2007

I found out today a tremendous influence on me passed away last week. Madeleine L'Engle, known predominantly for her writing of fantasy novels such as "Swiftly Tilting Planet" and "A Wrinkle in Time", was a voice of faith and persuasion to many an artist looking for the heart of God in the arts. Her book "Walking on Water" proved to be a major reason why I leaped in the film and creative arts world. She as well as several others (Flannery O'Connor, Anne LaMott, CS Lewis, and Bob Briner to name a few) helped me intellectually pursue what I believe God created me for. She will be dearly missed.

Porn Weekend Promo


Nolan's First Day at Pre-School

Wisdom on Money ('cuz I need it)

I have been learning a ton about money management lately. Up to this point in my life I would give myself a "D" grade for my money handling...so it's time to change. Ironically one of the pastors I listen to on a regular basis, Andy Stanley), has a money series on his podcast (his older messages) called "Take it to the Limit". His insight into God's wisdom about money is tremendous. His church, North Point, is also currently in a series called "How to be Rich". Both are well-worth listening to...

Here's food for thought:
"There are 2 types of people in the world...those who get interest and those who pay interest. You have to decide which one you want to be." (Andy Stanley)

Google Earth has a secret flight simulator

Google is notorious for their "secret" options in programs they don't tell anyone about. Try this:

• Open Google Earth
• Find a location you want to fly through
• Hold down (on a Mac) Apple/option/A
• Enjoy the flight!

Is MTV dying a slow death?

The MTV Video Music awards were a mess...again. Ratings continually decline and the network just isn't what it used to be in a now crowded entertainment market. ABC has a great article about the potential slow death of this once colossal cultural icon.


Four Corners Church :: Sunday, September 9th

Series Message: God is...forgiving
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31,32)

Music Set:

Bless His Name - Tony Sanchez
Not to Us - Chris Tomlin
What I've Done - Linkin Park
Amazing Love (acoustic) - Billy James Foote
Our King - tree 63
Your Grace is Enough - Chris Tomlin

Special Elements:
Taking Forgiveness to the Cross (nailing our resentment + requests interactive)
A Child's perspective - "What is forgiveness?" (video)
How NOT to invite a friend to church (video)

Taking faith out of our prison system

My brother sent me a story from a recent New York Times that talks about the quiet dismantling of all faith materials available to prisoners. The reason..."a 2004 report by the Office of the Inspector General in the Justice Department. The report recommended steps that prisons should take, in light of the Sept. 11 attacks, to avoid becoming recruiting grounds for militant Islamic and other religious groups."

I read the article in stunned disbelief. The president of Prison Fellowship said it best, "It's swatting a fly with sledgehammer." The fear of religion being used for "radicalization" (what this really means no one knows besides acting violently...so am I radical if I decide to step out from the culture and tithe a portion of my income or read my Bible and actually believe it?) grows when only a meager few do anything destructive with their faith.

Faith has been shown to extend life and a critical element for American youth. If the secular world continues to define mainstream faith by its extreme fringe elements then faith will continue to get pushed out of public life regardless of its "benefits".


An Iced Latte on a budget

Our budget is shot right now so I decided to make an iced latte tonight. It was rich and delicious (and cheap).

16oz Chocolate Milk
10oz Cold Coffee
Shaved Dark Chocolate
Ice Cream (optional)
Whipped Cream

Mix the milk, coffee and ice cream in blender until smooth. Add whip cream and shaved chocolate. Serves 2.
(thanks Dove for the idea)

Apple's stroke of $2 billion dollar genius

"Apple truly doesn't have any competition!"

Steve Jobs introduced the new iPod lineup on Wednesday but that wasn't the big news. People's jaws dropped when Jobs announced a sudden drop of $200 on the iPhone only 10 weeks after the phone had debuted. To put it in perspective monetarily, Apple intends to try to sell over 10 million phones by the end of next year. So if they dropped the price $200 they are basically forfeiting a potential $1.84 billion.

Foolish, you say? Dropping the price because the phone is not selling, you say? To the contrary. Orange Hues has an insightful blog about the reasoning of Apple's choice. And we wonder why Apple with a small fraction of the actual PC market can continue to make such huge tidal waves...

Should Starbucks be killed and resurrected?

A leaked memo by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz in February talked about the commodization of their brand and Schultz admits that "Some people even call our stores sterile, cookie cutter, no longer reflecting the passion our partners feel about our coffee."

The following idea is out of the box...I mean way out. BUT could this be the right direction for a company as large and exposed as Starbucks? Could this be the solution for more than just them? (thanks Brand Autopsy for the heads up)

"Kill the brand while it's still at its peak, and replace it with another one. Right now. Today, the Starbucks brand is extracting the absolute most it can from its brand equity. It is at the top of the hill. It has nowhere to go but down. The company should pull back and create another, new brand "from the makers of Starbucks" which redefines the coffee category and gets back to the essence of what Starbucks used to be all about. They would benefit from a glorious mountainous buzz effect. Everybody would flock to the new brand - a Starbucks for the new millennium."


What makes you pursue faith?

That's the question our life group chatted about last night. We have been meeting as a group for just over 3 months and slowly have been investing in each other. I'm amazed at the chemistry that has been generated even though we knew each other vaguely before getting together.

The reasons we pursue faith vary greatly but at the core lies a few similarities that may be universal...a desire to have a legacy of meaningful impact and influence AND a sense of wrong and right in this chaotic world. It lead to some great conversations and, I believe, in the end a sense that our life group was a safe place to simply say, "I don't always know why I pursue faith...".

Jill and I have found the "model" we use for Life Groups to be very effective...intentionally casual yet it always leads us to meaningful conversations about life and God. And beyond it all we find these people as dear friends. A slow run up to the deeper things...building relational trust over time. Too many times people rush into the "God-stuff" without spending time earning the right to be heard...we forget these are people and not simply ticks on a salvation score card.

Life Groups have given Jill and I true enjoyment of church...a place of friends and community where the deep conversations happen but also life simply gets lived together. Up to this point in our lives that was what was missing in our church experience.

One hairy dude

There was a guy in my high school named Kenny that may have been the hairest guy I have ever personally known...we always asked him to "take off his sweater" during the summer. But this guy takes the cake as he listens to Phil Collins.


Larry becomes Lana

The Wachowski Brothers are known for making the sci-fi epic trilogy "The Matrix". Well they are no longer 'brothers' but now brother and sister. That's right Larry has completed a sex transformation and is now known as Lana. It's a twisted and dark tale. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction...


Hollywood needs Jesus too...

Owen Wilson is known by most as the easy-going, smart-mouthed comic actor headlining movies such as "Wedding Crashers", "Royal Tennebaums" and "Behind Enemy Lines". But if you have been watching the news lately you may have heard he also attempted suicide. And he's not alone when it comes to celebrities and self-inflicted death...Kurt Cobain, John Belushi, Chris Farley, Michael Hutchence.

It would do us all well in this celebrity worshiping culture we find ourselves in that they are human just like us. Money and fame do not bring us any closer to purpose, meaning and hope. I forget too quickly that Jesus came for the common man and the famous man. We all need him whether your name is on a lit marquee or simply bellowed out by your kids in a small house in the 'burbs.

Four Corners Church :: Sunday, September 2nd

Series Message: God is...speaking
God is always speaking but often our ears aren't in tune...distracted by all the noise around us.

Music Set:

Broadcast - Steve Fee
Holy is the Lord - Chris Tomlin
No one like you - David Crowder Band
Word of God Speak - MercyMe
Salvation is Here - Hillsong United

Special Elements:
NOOMA "Noise"

And they just keep growing...

My boys are growing up so fast and it's amazing to watch their personalities continually emerge. They laugh often and their curiosity is insatiable.


Time to "Shoot 'em Up"

"The best way to describe it is as if you sat a thirteen-year-old down with a bowl of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream covered in Nestle Quik and pixie sticks, then let him wash it down with Jolt Cola and had him watch about a half-dozen John Woo movies. Then you asked him to write his own screenplay afterwards. THIS is the movie that kid would try to explain to his mother afterwards."

- a reviewer on Ain't It Cool after watching the upcoming movie "Shoot 'Em Up" (Sept 7)


Four Corners Church :: Sunday, August 26th

Series Message: God is...listening
In this series we chat about the characteristics of God and how they relate to us in our practical life.

Music Set:

Strong Tower - Kutless
Here is our King - David Crowder
Thank You for hearing me - David Crowder
Let the Praises ring - Lincoln Brewster

Special Elements:
"Note to my girlfriend" (rap) by Adam "MC Till" Hayden
Clip from "Nacho Libre"

Click how you feel

I just added a fun new widget by Post Reach for the Blog as a beta test. At the end of every blog is a "quick comment" bar...just click it to let me know what you think. Try it and let me know what you think.

If church were a coffee shop?

There are currently over 2,200 church plants in the United States.

Imagine this: Take all the churches in America and make them coffee shops. Now think about this...if you are thinking about opening a new coffee shop on a street already occupied by four others, would you? Sure, your coffee is a little different blend than the other guys but it's still coffee.

Imagine this: People in your neighborhood are fish in your "local pond". If you are thinking about fishing at this pond already occupied by six other fishermen, would you? I went to a local parade on Saturday morning and was hit up by more than 6 churches with everything from tracts to free water. I couldn't help but ask, is this "pond" is being overfished?

I know people need Jesus...that's why I do what I do. But is there a threshold? Is there a point of "market" saturation?

I wonder if the current (and most likely future) trend of church planting is a sustainable practice for us as Christians to engage. Sure...current churches don't meet the needs of many areas and that's why plants move in.
My church is a church plant and there were plenty of other churches in the area.

BUT does it take what could be a "centralized" place for community impact and dilute the it? Could I have people in my neighborhood that could be united to impact our streets for Christ separated only by the fact that we aren't "together" on Sundays? Does the minutia of theological difference between me and the Methodist, Baptist and Nazarene down the street cause us to forfeit potential tidal waves of spiritual impact for the ripples currently lapping our shores?

Four Corners is a church plant and there were plenty of other churches in the area...and therein lies the rub. How does this current revelation about churches and my experience line up? Not sure...but it's making me think.


Death by mediocrity

"Not innovating is more dangerous than innovating. The opposite of innovation is not death; it's mediocrity. In fact, death--or a near-death experience--might be a better outcome than mediocrity because people are forced to rebuild or move on. By contrast, people can cling to mediocrity indefinitely."

- Guy Kawasaki


Perry Noble's "5 Gut Check Questions"

I have enjoyed reading NewSpring Church's pastor's blog for quite some time. Perry Noble has a great post about the "5 Gut Check Questions" he asks himself as a leader and I thought they were worth posting:

1. Am I Listening To The Voice of God?

Am I Taking Risks?

Am I Understanding How Big God Is?

Am I Surrounding Myself With The Right People?

Am I Giving It My Best?

Read more about the details of each on his blog.


Killing the Overhead Projector Mentality

For years I grew up reading lyrics for our youth service on an overhead projector. It was pleasant enough unless the "overhead assistant" sneezed or bumped the projector and then, collectively, the room suffered motion sickness. There was also the strange boredom of the medium...it was often anti-climatic such as "Hey, look at this picture..." and then a slightly out-of-focus photo would jerk on the screen and we would stare...waiting for something to happen.

Times have changed...kind of. Many churches now have projectors yet still have the overhead projector mentality. They simply project the same static images with new technology, and though if may be bigger and brighter, the mentality has not changed.

In an article in "Christianity Today", Jay Delp talks about this in great detail. Why should we evolve and engage moving beyond the overhead?

"The effective creation and seamless projection of music, imagery, and full-motion video can move the human spirit."

I think we're missing a huge window of opportunity to not only share the greatest story ever told but also tell it in such a way that it's unforgettable and deeply moving. Let's take it to the next level.


Our prayers for the Reider Family

I just found out this morning that Gaile Reider, the mother of our worship leader, Andy Reider, passed away from a long battle with cancer. This woman radiated with the love of God...every time I saw her I could not help but smile. Our prayers are with their family as they go through this difficult time.


10 Movies Hollywood should but won't make

Cracked.com has a fascinating list about the movies Hollywood should but will never make.

Personally I would love to see the 3 novels written as sequels to the original Star Wars movies. As long as George Lucas surrendered his writer's scribe and director's lens for a producers credit like he did in Empire Strikes Back...the best of the three. If you haven't read the novels by Hugo Award winning sci-fi author Timothy Zahn, check them out... Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command.

The Powell Principles of Leadership

General Collin Powell spoke at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit this year. His words and his wisdom are profound. (Thanks Dave Ferguson and Ben Hodges)

1. Great Leadership will be hard
• Prepare to be lonely
• Prepare to disappoint people
• Check your ego at the door
• Reward your best performers, get rid of the worst performers

2. Great Leadership is about followers
• Only people get things done
• Leaders promote a clash of ideas
• Maintain an open door
• Probe the organization

3. Great Leadership always has a great motivation
• Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier
• Things always look better in the morning
• Fit no stereotypes

Dave Ferguson's blog goes into much greater details on each principle.

Utilizing the Web to communicate

Everyone knows the Web is the place more and more people go to get their information. At Four Corners we may not be on the cutting edge but we definitely utilize the Web as much as possible.

We currently offer our messages for download, on our official podcast through iTunes and via our media player. We also offer our messages via videocast through Google Video. It's good to offer our materials but it's better to see them being actually downloaded, watched and listened to.

Here are our latest stats:
Total Message downloads :: 17,000
Total Videocasts watched (since Easter 2007) :: 1,400
Total Podcast hits :: 27,000
Total Website visits :: 50,000


MUSIC :: Steve Fee Rocks!

I'm always on the prowl for new music and lately I've not found much in the way of decent worship music I would love to see us perform at Four Corners...but then I stumbled on Steve Fee and his band.

Lee McDermott
, the worship leader of NewSpring Church, blogs all the time on his Virb account. He also posts the set lists from every Sunday (very helpful for us newbies). I kept seeing Steve Fee's name show up in the set list and checked him out. He's the real deal...literally a whole album that's worth listening to. I love "All Because of Jesus", "Broadcast" and "Burn for You".


What do you do with a sex offender?

Today we found out that a convicted sex offender moved only about 2 blocks from our house. As a father of two young kids and many more children on my street it troubles me. I'm left perplexed at my options...

Review :: Little Children

RATING :: a fillet mignon with a shot of tequila as a chaser.

How many people say with bated breath, "I wish I could be a kid again" ? How many of us want to throw off the so-called fetters of being an adult and return to the innocence of childhood? Todd Field's latest film "Little Children" explores what happens when adults act like little children.

Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson star as two suburban dwellers longing for something more. With their marriages are on life support and boredom overwhelming them, decisions are made out of desire rather than wisdom. Small indiscretions become a lifestyle of secret lust...waiting for the next encounter.

Jackie Earle Haley, in an Oscar nominated role, plays a pedophile living back in the neighborhood following a stint in jail. His past haunts him like an albatross around his neck with the neighbors watching his every step. Eerily like a situation I find myself in now (I'll write more about that in another posting). We get to see the true consequences of someone who has no boundaries on their sexual temptations.

Overall this film sticks with you...finding yourself relating and then repulsed. Watching seemingly harmless actions become destructive. It reminded me of "American Beauty" without the over-the-top storyline. I highly recommend this film.

Elevation Church

There's a little church in Charlotte, NC. It started a little over 18 months ago and now it's running almost 2000 a weekend! I have been watching these guys carefully trying to cull from them what they do that has created such magnetism and what can we, Four Corners, learn from them.

Steve Furtick, the lead pastor of Elevation, keeps a diligent blog that offers tremendous insight into their staff and church. He recently posted their "Best Practices" and I love his analogies. It's great to see a young church having such tremendous impact and influence.


How to plan a series?

We are working through revamping our process of planning for programming a series at Four Corners. As with a business, we have a keen eye out for who we are aiming for...our key demographic. Creating an experience that not only is "entertaining" to draw people in but also meaningful to invite them to follow Jesus.

The other night, sitting around at TGI Friday's over appetizers and beer, we planned from now until Easter some awesome stuff. We're going to be talking about the character of God, hard questions, what we are about as a church, God's promises, Marriage, our egos, and a whole lot more.

Granger Church offered an inside look at their programming meetings and preparations. Some insightful and useful stuff including videos and actual planning sheets downloads.


Top 50 Marketing + Media Blogs

AdAge published its list of the Top 50 blogs for Marketing and Media. Sadly, I'm not on the list. I think my rank is around 1,257,301...there's always next year.

Church Dropouts

"People are looking for a faith that can change them and to be a part of changing the world."

But is the church the place people go to change the world? It's no secret the church at large is losing people left and right...but the question is why. USA Today has an interesting article about that very subject today.

A place to converse...

I just got back from a lunch with a friend who just wanted to chat about his questions of faith. I felt privileged he asked...

That's why I love this church. It's a place to explore God at your own pace, truly. Churches so often act as if you should be on board 100% with your beliefs and behavior before you can really belong, but it's flipping that very "equation" on it's head that has proven to be a magnet for many at Four Corners. It's a place they can converse about following Christ...doubts and all.


The 4 Focus Points of Four Corners Church

Over the past three years since we planted Four Corners, we have learned volumes. One of the main lessons we learned was simplify what you are about and communicate it clearly so people can, in turn, tell others what differentiates you from the "church" experience or notion they have.

We studied lots of influential churches around the country...North Point, Granger, New Spring, Mars Hill, Willow Creek, Fellowship, Mosaic, NCC, Rock Harbor, etc. What was their focus? How did they express their DNA? Here's what we distilled for our 4 Focus Areas:

Focus 1 :: Live Generously
I will give of my time, energy and money to help others every month.

Focus 2 :: Have a friend, be a friend
I will meet with friends who encourage my relationship with Jesus.

Focus 3 :: Take your next bold step
I will boldly take steps to develop my relationship with Jesus.

Focus 4 :: Invest and invite
I will invest in others and successfully invite someone to a weekend service or event.

Living Generously :: Backpacks

Living Generously is one of the main focuses of Four Corners. This past Sunday over 125 backpacks were loaded with school supplies for local elementary school kids and their families. It was a sight to see...people living generously because that's what Christ followers do.


Top 10 film directors working today

I love movies. I watch them all the time...over 2300 are rated by me on my Netflix account. So I thought I would compile a little list of my favorite directors working today:

1. David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club, The Game)
2. Terrance Malick (Thin Red Line, New World, Badlands)
3. Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Princess and the Warrior, Perfume)
4. Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Blackhawk Down, Bladerunner)
5. Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday, United 93, Bourne Ultimatum)
6. Steven Spielberg (Close Encounters, Saving Private Ryan, Jaws)
7. Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins, The Prestige)
8. Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings, Heavenly Creatures, Bad Taste)
9. Martin Scorsese (Mean Streets, Good Fellas, The Departed)
10. Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, Pi)

Honorable Mention (or ones I forgot) :: Wes Anderson, Michael Mann, PT Anderson, Coen Bros, Bryan Singer, Steven Soderburg, Francis Ford Coppola


Greatest Gadget of All Time

What do you think is the greatest gadget of all time? Vote on WIRED's tournament to put them head-to-head. It is amazing...we voted the sextant as the best gadget of all time, beating out the television by a hare.

Tumblr...a hub for your web presence

My buddy Paul pointed me to this little web site well worth a visit if you post on multiple places such as Flickr, a blog, Twitter, and Last.fm. Tumblr helps have a one-stop shop for all those sources so people can visit one spot to see your web presence. Four Corners is in the process of launching its own Tumblr.


Life Group Update

Things are moving and shaking with Life Groups at Four Corners. We really started asking for people to join a smaller community of people about 10 weeks ago and since then over 22 Life Groups have formed and are meeting consistently.

I'm convinced that a smaller community of people set within a larger church helps you get the connection we all hunger for and need. Church is not church without community...you'll be only getting the bare bones. It would be like going to a great restrauant and eating only an appetizer. You've sampled but not really tasted what makes the place memorable.

Here's how we're defining Life Groups at Four Corners:

"A Life Group is the best place for sustained life change to occur. In a Life Group, people study God's Word together and discuss the issues and challenges of life, and simply connect with each other. It's also where they pray, care for one another, and are missed if they don't show up.

Practically speaking, there will never be a way for the staff to personally minister to everyone who attends our church. That's why we place such a high premium on group life. It's how we minister effectively at Four Corners."

Wherever you are in life, whatever church you attend ...get into a group at your church. Let yourself be known and get connected!



We're about to start a new series this week at Four Corners called "Launch Pad" with the sub-title "Giving lift to the next generation". We're going to be talking about the importance of leaving a legacy of faith through good parenting, mentoring, and simply being available for those younger to live life with you.

The photo shoot for the bulletin artwork was a blast (no pun intended). We shot at a local park in a natural ampitheater with a small crowd of kids looking on. We asked the kids participating to make their own astronaut suits from things around the house...they looked great! As always, Paul's photos look amazing and capture the moment in every way. Come this weekend and see us LAUNCH!


Parenting = Joy and Maddness

My buddy Paul and I were talking about raising kids yesterday. We joked about how we both get driven crazy by the "peachy-keen" parents....ones that always talk about the joy of parenting, how wonderful the time with their kids is, and how their kids are always excelling. I don't know about you but that is not my experience. Don't get me wrong, I love my kids BUT my kids get my nerves a lot. The whining, the nagging, the meltdowns and temper-tantrums all wear on me. So it was refreshing for me to hear another parent talk about keeping their sanity in their crazy kid world. So never fear parents pulling your hair out...there are others like you.


Death's slow hand reaches out for us all

I have lead a life relatively sheltered from the harsh and devastating blow of death's grip. Sure I have had death find me at times. I have had two of my grandparents die but I cried more for my mom's loss than mine. I had two classmates die in high school...one fell from a cliff while drunk and another was murdered but I had only distant connections with each. I have put two dogs and two cats to sleep, but they were only a night of grief before I forgot about them as I romped around with my other childhood friends the next day. For the most part my life has been free of true grief.

But death finds us all. I know that as my parents age and some other relatives begin their twlight years, death's knock is coming soon. I have several close friends that are dealing with life threatening illnesses in their families, and I see the wear and tear it causes their heart. They are heavy with the potential fog of death. It makes my own heart mourn for the place they find themselves.

And as a Christian I wonder, have I really processed what Paul talks about in the New Testament. "Death has lost its sting." Why do I still often fear it? Literally quake at its potential. I hope I continue to grow in this life and find death something I see as something like Paul, "to die is gain..." instead of the bedrock of one of my deepest fears.

Distinctive. Memorable. And timeless.

Those are some of the criteria Church Relevance used for a "Top 20 Church Logos in the United States" list. They also looked at (all common designer sense when making a logo): aesthetically pleasing, scalable, and most importantly, a good logo communicates the unique qualities of its brand.

We're proud to announce Four Corners made the list. Well done creative team...you all are amazing!


You want to hear about your life

Seth Godin has long been someone I have respected and followed. His keen insight into the marketing and the culture at large. One of his latest postings was provoking (as usual) but left me wondering about actual application. If my blog is about me then many will find it "boring" and "unrelatable" in many ways, at least that's what Godin says. But if I know nothing better than my life what should I write about.

This then makes me look to Four Corners and what we do. We share often from our personal experiences and stories because we know our stories best. But in sharing those do we alienate many in the audience who want "universal" appeal in the stories that they can apply? It seems like a tightrope to walk...sharing what we know and have experienced balanced with an appeal that moves the truths of the stories beyond one life to the masses.

Free Vector Art

We all love free stuff. I've talked about a few places offering free stuff before and here's a design site with a heart full of altruism...and God love 'em for it.


Amish Barn Building

I remember watching the movie "Witness" when I was a kid and being struck by the scene where literally 30-40 people come over to help build a neighbor's barn in a matter of a day. Community in action. Well, out here in the 'burbs my HOA will not allow barns but they do allow playsets for kids.

So today was our modern day Amish Barn Building of sorts with a few of the guys coming over to lend their handyman know-how (God knows I have none) to Nolan's long delayed birthday gift. It's amazing to watch community in action (with a little beer and pizza as extra incentive). Thanks to those who helped. Remember...you too can have the 'Amish-way' visit your place...just call some friends.


Where did the middle go?

Leadership Journal has an insightful blog entry about the disappearance of the middle. It's the bell curve becoming the "well curve". At Four Corners this is as true as any other suburban church. We struggle with this immensely and it often is a mystery to handle properly. I look at the articles main points and realize we are in the middle of turbulent times both within the church and culture at large. People are either all in or simply just there...the middle ground is disappearing.

Most people who are new attendees to church are either very active or hardly active. This creates substantial problems in many areas such as 'membership', money, manpower, and overall movement of people from anonymous to connected.

How does losing the middle effect us as the church?



Look into someone's life when they think no one is looking? That's the basis of an incredible new web site by HBO. We just simply watch the mundane and ordinary (or in some cases extraordinary) events.

The site has us watching stories unfold before us all as a voyeur and it sucked me in. A clever and ingenious way of telling a story.


The next generation

Two of the coolest things we do at Four Corners are baptisms and dedications. There's nothing worth more celebration than people standing in front of a crowd acknowledging what God has done and will do in their lives.

We literally have a party atmosphere for baptisms...with whoops, shouting and wild applause. It's electric. And with dedications it's a celebration of what God is going to do with a new generation of Jesus followers. Check out some photos from the past 2 weeks when we did baptisms and dedications..