When Carey interviews someone he captures the audio while you are interviewed on a video platform; that way you can see each other creating a more dynamic conversation. So, the first thing I noticed when I logged on was that Carey’s shirt perfectly matched his pillows and I quickly mentioned it to him in good fun. Carey countered by taking this pic of himself and accessories and then posting it on his twitter account! I could tell this was going to be a fun interview!
Once the interview started we immediately hit it off and went on for about 90 minutes, much longer than the 45 minutes we planned. We talked about planting churches, movement-making, the “5 levels of churches”, the rapid global expansion of the NewThing network, the rapid growth of the Exponential Conference and the five practices of a Hero Maker. I ended up telling a story I’ve never told before and even gave him a peak into my journal (which I think he took a pic he is going to post when the podcast releases). I thoroughly enjoyed Carey and the interview!
Before the interview Carey sent me about a dozen possible questions that he planned to asked me but also warned me that he will take the conversation wherever it goes. So that I could be ready for both I spent a little more than an hour typing up a few thoughts to all the questions Carey sent me. While the interview will be released on December 5th; attached are the planned questions and my prepared notes for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast in case you want to check it out.
You may recognize the two guys on the outside (Jon-left, me-right) but the guy in the middle was a huge help and influence in the conception of Finding Your Way Back To God. David Kopp was our friend, mentor and editor through this process. Starting about seven years ago, David would call me once or twice a year and ask, “Are you ready to write Finding Your Way Back To God?” After one false start five years ago we agreed to do start the process in 2013. This picture is of Jon, David and myself in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago after Kopp flew in to spend a couple days with us to get this book started in the right direction.
We interviewed about twenty-five people who described their journey as “finding their way back to God” so we could hear their story and see if we could find a pattern. We finally settled on the “5 Awakenings” as the path for someone to find their way back to God. But early on we struggled with how many awakenings and what words we should use to describe them. This is one of the early back-of-a-napkin drawings that included six awakenings and wording that is quite different than the final product.
Some good friends of our parents loaned us their condo near the lakefront in Chicago for a week so we could get a lot of writing done. It worked! Jon and I hunkered down and worked five eighteen hour days, and made a lot of progress. This is one of about ten giant post-it sheets covered with little post-its outlining the book. This post-it shows the first three chapters of the book. If you look close and have read the book, you can see that some of our ideas made the final edit and others did not. This kind of brainstorming lots of ideas made sure that we also got the best ideas. I would use this process again.
It was after that week in the Chicago condo that Jon and I had a yellow notebook of more than 60,000 words titled “Finding Your Way Back To God.” This version of the book also had twenty-two chapters. We thought we were done. Wrong! After a few more edits to make this book as readable as possible we eliminated about 15,ooo words and seven chapters. It was tough saying good-bye to all those word, stories and idea, but the book was better off for it!
Today was one of those amazing days in the life of COMMUNITY. I had a hunch that it was going to be a good service when I got an e-mail from Tony, our Arts Director at CCC-Romeoville telling me that we needed to cut a few minutes out of my message so that we could fit in the five baptisms that we had scheduled. And it was not just a good service…it was an experience to be remembered for a life time. After we got done baptizing the five planned we asked if anyone else wanted to make a public commitment to following Jesus. And for the next twenty minutes we saw seven more people get in line to be baptized. The pic you are looking at above is one of the guys who in the moment decided to get baptized and just jumped in with his clothes on. It was amazing day!
The catalyst for this amazing day was our Student Community. The five scheduled baptisms were all students and most of those that decided in the moment to get baptized were also high school students. It is remarkable what God is doing in the life of our students
If you were one of the dozen people who was baptized at CCC-Romeoville today this is what the crowd looked like from your vantage point. I love how everyone is on their feet, leaning forward, taking it in and cheering these people on. I love this church!
Scott Knollenberg is a guy who found his way back to God at COMMUNITY. Scott is also our brand new Campus Pastor at our Romeoville Campus. I asked Scott to share his story with you. Here it is in Scott’s words:
“In 1998, I was far from God and had just relocated to Romeoville. I was one of the first residents to move into the HighPoint Community, a new residential development built by 3 partners: HighPoint Apartments, Institute for Community, and Community Christian Church. Three months after moving in I was playing sand volleyball when I met a guy named Troy McMahon. After spending 2 weeks trying to figure out who this “Troy guy” was, I discovered he was the Campus Pastor of the Romeoville Campus that was launching in the new Friendship Center. Despite my past views of church people and being far from God, I made a huge step to attend my first CCC service because I felt HighPoint and its new church was a “cool place with cool leadership”.
Meanwhile, I was finishing up graduate school and advancing my career with Caterpillar. But God was changing me. While interviewing for a dream job at Caterpillar world headquarters, I shockingly declined the promotion explaining I could not leave my church in Romeoville and relocate. On the drive home, I called Troy and asked him to baptize me. I felt it was finally the right time because this was the first major decision I had ever made that was not about building my own personal kingdom. Two years later, I left the corporate marketplace and joined CCC staff first as the Kids’ City Director and now I will be the Campus Pastor. Because of CCC, IFC and HighPoint, I have accepted Jesus and have become a better husband to Michelle and father to my daughter, Chloe Grace. I’m excited to help make COMMUNITY-Romeoville the world model at reaching and building strong families. That’s what this place did for my family and there are many more “Scotts” out there in this community who are far from God.”
That is sooo cool! Scott’s story embodies what we want to see happen in the lives of people over and over and over again. 10 years ago Scott was far from God and today he is leading a campus
with hundreds of people who are accomplishing the Jesus mission!
“The first time entering the CCC Montgomery Campus I could not believe THIS was a church. The instant energizing vibe hit me as soon as I walked through the glass doors. The cozy, welcoming foyer area—high tech chalkboard, comforting fireplace, lemonade stand and all!! The bright detailed children’s rooms weren’t anything I ever experienced in a church before. Even the first service wasn’t comparable to any mass I’d previously attended. I felt like the guy on the stage was personally speaking to me. As if he knew my exact lack of faith at that moment…reaching inside to my personal thoughts. That first service I cried more than Cubs fans did when that Steve guy ruined their chance to the World Series!! I actually found myself commuting from my apartment in the city all the way to Aurora a few more times to check this place out. To this day, just over three months later, the same phenomenon brings me back and the impact is still indescribable. Now I look forward to weekly services…I actually plan my weekends around them!! I’ve become so hooked, I am working within Kids City helping out the 1st through 3rd graders with their spiritual path. Each time a volunteering opportunity presents itself I cannot wait to sign up. Finding my way back to God has totally allowed me to ditch the despair and loneliness while surrounding me with great people and a greater purpose. I want to be baptized as an adult to publicly and internally confirm I am one of Jesus’ followers finding my way back to God.”
I love baptisms! We had a whole bunch of people that got baptized this past weekend. It started on Saturday night I got to see my nephew Graham get baptized at the Yellow Box. He is a great kid who God has blessed with some amazing gifts and it was very cool to see this young man declare his loyalty to Jesus. Then on Sunday morning I was at Naperville-Downtown and Rachel Olivares got baptized. We heard her story of finding her way back to God and you could feel the buzz in room. I quickly drove back over to the Yellow Box to baptize Laura Pruett, someone I got to know through a tragedy 10 years ago; who then moved away and recently moved back. That was fun! And the morning was complete as Chris and her 82 year old Grandfather were baptized. 82 years old and committing himself to becoming a Christ=Follower!! Later, I was told this was the answer to 30 years of prayer! Wow. I love baptisms!
Last week at Community we gave our entire offering away to other parts of the Jesus mission around the world. It was amazing! The money is still coming in and it looks like the grand total is going to be almost a quarter of a million dollars from one weekend!! I’m so proud of Community.
Our motivation as always is to help people find their way back to God. And the people we wanted to reach were the 67 and the 20.
The 67 represents the 67% of the world that does not know Jesus.
The 20 represents the 20% of the world that lives on less than a dollar a day.
The coolest moment came in a note that someone dropped into the offering bag. The note simply said: “Thanks. I’m one of the 67%!”
It’s all about helping people find their way back to God.
We baptized 362 people last year at Community. Guess how many of them I baptized? I baptized less than a dozen of the 362 them. Do you know who baptized the most people at
our church last year? Small group
leaders and small group participants. The vast majority of the people
who made a commitment to follow Christ asked their small group leader or someone in their small group to baptize
them. Why? It was within the context and experience of
community that these people came to belief. This is indicative of a spiritual shift that has been taking place over the last decade – spiritually searching people need to belong before they believe.