October 16-17, 2004
[A dining room table and four chairs are on stage.]
How many of you guys were here last weekend? Lift your hand. All right! Man, if you were not here, wow! We kicked off a little series of talks called “The Table.” That’s why this table is up here. We said last time that the church is the table where people come to get fed. We discussed the cuisine. We talked about the context and the conversation. We talked about a bunch of fun stuff.
THE CHURCH IS THE TABLE WHERE PEOPLE COME TO GET FED, AND THE TABLE HAS CHAIRS AROUND IT
Jesus said in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life.” The ultimate food deserves the ultimate presentation. In any healthy church, in any healthy spiritual ecosystem, you’re going to have three chairs. This one, of course, is for me to sit in. But this first chair represents the mature. A third of a healthy church should have mature people in it. I’m talking about people who are serving and inviting and giving of their time, talent, and treasure. The other third would be those whose faith is fresh, those people who just stepped over the line, those people who’ve just made a commitment to Christ. That’s the other third. The final third in this healthy spiritual ecosystem would be those who are seeking, those who are investigating Christianity, those who have not made their minds up yet.
A healthy church is going to be full of thirds because if the mature are doing what they should do, they’re inviting their friends who are facing the Christ-less eternity to the table. [In turn] they’re getting fed, they’re becoming brand new believers whose faith is fresh, and they are moving into the mature chair. Every time we do anything here at Fellowship Church we think about the chairs. Every time I communicate I’m communicating, I’m talking to the chairs.
My wife and I love to entertain. We like to have people over to our house. And every time we entertain, we give our kids a pep talk. “Hey, no burping, no fighting, or food throwing. Guests are coming over. We’re going to think about their needs. We’re going to think about what they like or what they dislike. And we’re going to defer to them and honor them because they’re our guests.” Now, we’re not being hypocritical. We’re not compromising. We’re still serving the food. We’re still feeding our family. We’re just being strategic.
At Fellowship Church we’re about two things. We want to build believers and serve seekers. Say that with me. We want to build believers and serve seekers. We build believers by feeding them the ultimate food, the word of God, the bread of life. They’re getting fed. And then they’re pushing away from the table and serving seekers. As they’re getting fed and nourished at the table, and as they serve seekers, they’re feeding themselves. Because after all, all of us are hungry. And I’m just one beggar telling another beggar where the food source is. That’s what I’m doing. Every time I talk, I’m thinking about the chairs. I’m conversing with the chairs.
James Carville headed up the Clinton campaign. He had a sign on his desk that said, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Bill Clinton won because he focused on that very thing. At Fellowship Church we say, “It’s the weekend, stupid.” It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that most people show up for this weekly feeding. Hebrews 10:25 says (paraphrased), “Do not diss, do not forsake, the gathering together of people together to hear God’s word and to experience it in worship.” The Bible says that. We put our eggs in this basket. The weekend is the most important thing we do here at Fellowship Church because we know the chairs will be represented here.
Whenever I go to a restaurant and see a thick menu, I just say to myself, “You know what? This food’s going to be sorry. This restaurant is trying to do too many things.” A restaurant can’t do it all. I like a restaurant that has like 10 or 15 things on the menu. Man, I know they’re going to serve up some serious food! The food’s going to be high quality.
And that’s the great thing about Fellowship Church. We say, “It’s the weekend, stupid.” We serve the food in a creative and compelling way, because we’re serving simply what God said. And because of the food, because of its quality, we have a bunch of people going out and saying, “Whoa! This restaurant is good! Whoa, you need to come this restaurant!” Because all we’re doing is we’re handing out samples of the bread of life to people that we see passing by our lives. God has put you where you are, he’s put me where I am, to hand out samples of food. So many people we come in contact with are just one invitation away, one sample away, one meal away from eternity—eternity with Jesus.
THE LEAD COMMUNICATOR IS THE CHEF WHO SERVES THE FOOD IN A CREATIVE AND COMPELLING WAY
The church is a table where people come to get fed. That’s the first statement we need to digest. The second statement I want you to think about is this: the chief communicator/teacher/senior pastor is the chef who serves up the food in an innovative way. I’m the dude with the food. The food is this book, the Bible. Now, if Tianne or Laura happens to be teaching they are dudette with the foodette. But, you understand what I’m saying. Nothing, nothing, nothing, puts more pressure on me; nothing, nothing, nothing causes more fear and stress in my life than teaching. I freak out about it every single time I prepare for talks. And the moment it becomes flippant to me, the moment I’m like, “I’ll just go off the cuff,” the moment I’m not worrying about it is the moment that I’m going to say, “Man, something is dead wrong in my life.”
To say a word on God’s behalf? I’m a self-centered sinner just like you. I don’t have it figured out yet, just like you. But to stand up and to talk and to teach God’s word? That’s a heavy responsible, a heavy burden that I carry. I carry it because of God’s calling on my life. I can’t put off the weekend worship service. I can’t say I don’t feel like it. I can’t say I’m kind of having an off week. I’ve got to be on. I’m facing 15,000 to 20,000 people every weekend. [Of course] that number fluctuates due to the Cowboy’s schedule! I’m facing that many people with the opportunity to rightly divide and to teach God’s word.
And a while back, I discovered that I was putting too much pressure on myself. I was becoming like the creative bottle neck to this venture. So what I did was, I began to bring people around me—people who are much more talented than I am, much more creative than I am. And I went to a team approach and it really changed the course of my communication. And if you’re in the secular world, if you’re in the corporate world or whatever, team creativity, I’m telling you, is the way to go!
Jesus said this one time to Simon Peter in John 21:18, he said, “Feed my sheep.” Well, our goal at Fellowship Church is to have a well fed church. How do you have a well fed church? You have to serve them a balanced menu. It’s got to be balanced. And every year we look at a menu of messages. We have a lot of people look at it and we serve a balanced menu before God.
We always do a series on relationships. I’ve done “I Don’t,” remember that? What you don’t do before and after you say “I do.” I did a series recently called “RPMs – Recognizing Potential Mates.” We do a series normally on emotions, too. I did one called “Espresso Yourself” a while back. I’ve done one on fear, current events. One of the most popular series we’ve ever done was a series called “Just Lust.” For five weeks we talked about lust. We usually talk about beliefs, doctrine. I did a series called “Tri-God.” It was a message, in fact three of them, three messages on the Trinity. I did a series a while back called “What about God?” We talked about the character qualities of God. We do a series every year on Biblical characters. I did one called “Character Tour – Great Characters With Great Character.” Did one on leadership. We did one a couple of weeks ago called “Questions” about asking the right people the right questions to get the right, what? [The audience responds, “Answers!”] Oh, you’re good, man! You’re good!
Team creativity, though, has really changed my life. And, let me give you some things that I have put into practice over the last several years. Due to some health problems, due to stress, I thought, “You know what? I’m going to delegate and share a lot of the preparation with some people who are creative geniuses.” And the first thing it’s done in my life is it’s helped me to become me. Having a team of people around me has helped Ed become Ed. Because after all, I’m the only Ed that will be out there. When I get to heaven, God’s not going to say, “Ed, why weren’t you more like Bill.” He’s going to say, “No, no, Ed. Why weren’t you more like Ed?” And you’re the same way. If you aren’t you, there’d be a hole in history, a gap in God’s creative order. So be yourself. No one else has that laugh or that look or that personality that gift mix but you.
You know what’s interesting about preachers? Sometimes preachers, have you ever heard them use that preacher voice. (Ed imitates the preacher voice) “God loves ya! And ya gotta get into his word-a!” That’s crazy isn’t it? I often wonder what if I took one of those preacher’s out to eat or something, would they talk like that in a restaurant? (Ed imitates the preacher voice again) “I’d like an appetizer-a! Give me the shrimp cocktail-a! I’d like some ice tea too-a! And a little bit of lemooooon in it!”
I don’t know. I don’t know. But I just say to myself, “I try to serve organic food, real food.” I don’t ever want to talk down to you, because I can’t. We’re on the same level here, same playing field.
Also, it gives me just a huge influx of fresh ideas. Man, some of the creative ideas we’ve had over the years have been just awesome. Some of the best ideas we ever had don’t come from me. They come from others. It gives me on site critique. As we formulate the message, we have teams of people helping me and critiquing my thought process. It also keeps us consistently inconsistent. The church should be consistently inconsistent. We should be on the crest of creativity.
Anybody lift weights in here? If you lift weights, you’d better change the workout regularly. Arnold Schwarzenegger coined this phrase. He calls it the [in Ed’s best Arnold voice] “Confusion principle.” You confuse your muscles. You confuse them. Like one time you’ll do a bench press this way; another time that way. One day you’ll do curls this way; another time that way. If you do that, your muscles get confused. They go like, “Whoa, what are you doing to me?” And when they say that, they grow and you become stronger. So the church and Christians should apply the confusion principle as well. Even in marriage. Confuse your mate. Be consistently inconsistent.
It also takes a lot of the preparation pressure off me. And also, team creativity helps me train other speakers without them even realizing it. These people that show up in our team creativity meetings, I’m training them to speak when I’m not here. A while back, Laura Strickland, who started out as our receptionist and was my assistant for a while now oversees a leadership training series that we do here called “Leadership Uncensored.” We send leadership tapes to many, many people around the country. And a while back, I said, “Laura, guess what. Not this weekend but the next weekend, you’re going to speak at Fellowship Church.” And Laura walked up in front of, what, 17,000 people and did a slam dunk job! Amazing! Well, she’d been in training for several years and she didn’t even realize it.
I’ve discovered something, it’s important to take breaks. I try to take breaks. I try to take breaks regularly. And when I take breaks I’m thinking, I’m strategizing, I’m working on leadership. And I’m praying and thinking about the focus and the tenor of Fellowship Church. Because if you don’t take breaks, you’re schedule can break you.
And you know what I’ve discovered about breaks? When you take a day off, for example, or maybe you take a week off, or maybe you take some trip or whatever; have you ever noticed you have these incredibly creative ideas when you’re in a relaxed state? Have you ever like been the shower and gone, “Whoa! That’s a great idea!” Maybe you’re driving in a car listening to music, “Whoa, that’s a great idea!” Or maybe you’re like fishing or, I don’t know, hunting or playing golf, “That’s a great idea!”
You know why you have those great ideas? Those are theta waves—I studied this—in the brain hitting on the shores of your brain, on the coast line of your consciousness. When you’re relaxed you have these theta waves moving. And the best stuff that I have ever taught usually will emerge out of a weekend break or a break where I’ve missed several weekends straight; where I’ve been studying and praying and thinking. I don’t have the pressure of that big wave hitting me Saturday and Sunday. And you’re the same way, too.
Another aspect that has helped me with this team creativity thing has helped me to see the different people and the kaleidoscopic range of individuals who attend Fellowship Church. Because these people who come to this creative team meeting—and they change regularly—are telling me about relationships that they have and people that they’re praying for who don’t know Christ personally. They’re telling me about the mature. They’re telling me about those whose faith is fresh. And they’re also telling me about the person who’s testing the waters, who’s investigating Christianity. And when I’m thinking about those chairs, I’m writing and I’m writing and I’m praying and I’m delivering messages to those chairs.
The church is the table where people come to get fed. The pastor is the dude with the food who’s serving the food, hopefully, in a creative and compelling way. And, like I always say, if you ever go to church and hear a boring message, don’t blame God. He’s not boring. Blame the person who’s giving the message.
THE NOURISHMENT FROM THE FOOD PROVIDES THE FUEL TO SERVE OTHERS
Here’s a third statement I want you to think about: The nourishment from the food provides the fuel for us to serve others. The nourishment from the food provides the fuel for us to push away and serve others. I read, I guess about a year ago, that Dallas has more restaurants per capita than almost any other major city. I also read that Dallas is one of the most obese cities in America. Maybe there’s a correlation.
That’s true in the restaurant world. It’s also true in the spiritual world. We have more spiritual restaurants, I mean churches and ministries, than any place I’ve ever seen. People who visit me from around the country go, “Ed, there’s a church on every corner. This is unbelievable! This is the belt buckle of the Bible belt,” they say.
But also, we have more spiritual obesity here than any place I’ve ever seen. Again, the church is a table. We have the chairs—the mature, the one who’s just stepped over the line, and the baby. But we also have people who are obese in the church. There are more diet-driven Christians here than any place I’ve ever seen. People who just feed on the word of God, and eat on the word of God. And they feed on the word of God. And they just study the word of God. You’ve got to feed on God’s word. I’ve got to feed on God’s word. You’ve got to diet with God’s word. I’ve got to diet God’s word. But what does the medical community say? To live a vibrant and healthy lifestyle you’ve got to watch your diet and you’ve got to do regular exercise.
The Bible says the same thing. John 4:34 Jesus said, “My food…is to do,” what? “…is to do the will of him who sent me and finish his work.” James Chapter 1:22, “Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
We have so many diet driven Christians here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. It’s crazy. And as I told you last time, I did not want to come up to Dallas/Fort Worth as pastor. I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to go somewhere where there was a lot of spectacular sinning going on—South Beach in Miami; Las Vegas, Nevada. That’s where I wanted to go. Not the belt buckle of the Bible belt! Not up here.
But I discovered something. Most people up here don’t go to church. Most people up here are seeking. Most people up here are clueless. But we do, man we do, have some overweight believers.
You might be saying, “Well, what chair do these diet-driven overweight believers sit in?” Well, they sit in a very special chair. [Ed brings a high chair on stage.] These diet-driven, obese, pot-bellied Christians will go “high chair” on you. They’ll just go high chair on you. They’re bellies are so big, they’ve spilled over on the tray. All they can do is navel gaze. Their Bible belt is on the last hole.
But this is not actually called the high chair. It’s called their “I” chair. “I just want to get fed. I just wanna go deep. I just want more worship.” It’s the “I” chair. The fat, obese, diet-driven Christian. It’s unbelievable! They’re bellies are so big they’ve eclipsed their feet. In fact, their feet are just hanging from the high chair. They can’t exercise. They can’t serve. “Just feed me, Mommy. Feed me, Daddy.”
Well, what do we do about these whiners? What do we do about these self-absorbed people? What do we do? I have the opportunity, because of God’s grace and blessing on Fellowship Church, to travel the country and speak to hundreds of pastors every month. Tomorrow I’m hopping on a plane to Chicago to talk to 2,000 pastors from around the world about how to communicate and how to preach. I’m going to talk to them about Fellowship Church and the great things God is doing. When I talk to these pastors, they say, “Ed, what do we do about the diet-driven people? What do we do about the high chair people?”
And here is a huge leadership principle. It’s so tempting for pastors to turn around, to turn their backs on the masses, to turn their backs on the three chairs and just try to appease the high chair people. “I’ll feed you. I’ll go deep with you. I’ll give you more worship.” I, I, I, I…. And what’s so funny is the me-istic mentality is the antithesis of spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity is not about me. It’s not about you. It’s about others. It’s about others.
So we love the high chair people. We understand this is Dallas/Fort Worth, the belt buckle of the Bible belt. And we understand that a lot of people are fat and diet-driven. We say, “You know what? Good for you. Man, you can hang out here. But there’s also some other churches you can go to, because we need your seat. We need your seat.” And that’s okay. But I challenge leaders all the time, “Don’t worry about it. Don’t freak out about them. Talk to the chairs. Build the believers and serve seekers. Nourish them and feed them and give them the fuel to push away and to do the stuff; to push away and to serve.”
I have a close friend of mine who pastors in central Florida. A while back, he was just sharing some things with me. And he said, “Ed, man, my church is doing really, really great. But, you know, several years ago we began to make a lot of changes and be really creative and stuff like that.” And he said, “You know, I talked to a young man who became a Christ follower here. It was awesome. I had the opportunity to baptize him and it was just a great thing.” He said, “This guy kind of got involved in the church. And after a while, though, he kind of went into spiritual retirement. We began to change and still be creative. And one day this guy came up to me and said, ‘Pastor, I’m leaving the church. I’m going to another church.’” And my friend John said, “Man, it had hurt my heart. I looked at this guy, I said, ‘Hey, we did all of this change just for you. And just because we were changing, you accepted Christ. And now you’re telling me you’re not going to change for the next people who need to know Jesus?’” He said, “Ed, what do you think about what I said?” I said, “Man, that’s awesome! You’re exactly right. You’re exactly, exactly, right.”
I’m so thankful Fellowship Church is a church of the thirds. I’m so thankful that Fellowship Church is all about diet and exercise, because we want to build believers and serve seekers. The church is a table where people come to get fed. I’m the dude with the food. The nourishment gives us the fuel to serve others. We have a bunch of people here who’ve done the push back. When you pulled into this parking lot, did you see all the parking crew? These people have pushed away in their serving. Did you see all the greeters out there? Did you have some coffee, maybe an oatmeal cookie? You looked at people who’ve pushed away and who are exercising. Did you see the people who help us with security, who help us in the pre-school area, and the children’s area? Did you see the people working in the missions ministry who are going to Brazil tomorrow? They’ve pushed away and are doing the stuff. So we have a hunk of people who are pushing away, who are diet and exercise people.
Thursday I got my hair cut. And it’s amazing how God just deposits things in our lives. I was just walking into this place and this lady walked up to me in her early 20’s and she goes, “You’re Ed Young!” “Yeah.” She said, “I want to thank Fellowship Church. Let me just thank you. Just tell the staff this,” she goes, “Fellowship Church has changed my life. My boyfriend and I attend and I love Fellowship because you guys explain it in a way I can understand.” I said, “Thanks. I really appreciate that. I’ll share that with the staff and leadership.”
So I walked in, talked to the guy that cuts my hair, and he goes, “You need your hair shampooed.” So he leans me back and as he is beginning to wash my hair, I could tell someone was looking at me. And I looked up and a lady was looking down at me. She goes, “Are you Ed Young?” “Yes, I am.” She said, “Man, my family and I, we go to Fellowship and we love it! Man, my children love it. My husband didn’t like church at all until he came to Fellowship Church. He loves it!” And then she said, “You know what? I just want to tell you this about Fellowship Church.” I said, “Okay!” She said, “Don’t stop what you’re doing.” I said, “Man, I really appreciate that. You’re so kind. You know, I work for a great company. And God’s been good.”
After my hair cut, I walked into a tiny café and ordered some espresso, my favorite drink. A woman, 61 years old [was standing there and said,] “Oh, wait a minute! I’ve heard that voice before. Aren’t you Ed Young?” “Yes.” “Well,” she said, “I thought that was you. I sit up in the balcony. Fellowship Church has changed my life and my family’s life.” She goes, “I have a whole row that comes to Fellowship Church every single weekend!” She goes, “Hey, my husband hates church. I could never get him to church. Now, he is the first one in the pickup truck, literally revving up the engine on Sunday morning to get to Fellowship Church.” Isn’t that cool? And then she told me that her sister had cancer and we put her sister on the prayer list. It was just a great thing to hear about the life change that’s taking place. It’s just a great thing to see the chairs and how people are serving and being served, how people are eating and also sharing the food with others.
THE TABLE IS ALWAYS IN A CONSTANT STATE OF EXPANSION
There’s one more statement that I want to talk to you about. If the church is doing all this stuff, the church, the table, should be in a constant state of expansion. We have expanded. I mean, from MacArthur Commons office complex to the Irving Arts Center. From the Irving Arts Center to MacArthur High School. From MacArthur High School to this facility. We have bought the Apex and turned that into an office/youth area. We’ve built our Creative Communications Complex. We have built a beautiful lake and prayer garden and walking and running track. We’ve added parking lots. It’s been cool. We’ve put a leaf in the table. You know what I’m saying to you? We’ve added all these services and stuff like that. Now, though, now we are leveraging technology to reach out in an even more strategic way—out into the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
I’ve been doing some research on the early church, and the early church had this whole thing down. Because an apostle, for example, would write a letter. And then he would deliver the words to a local church, and they would, of course, record it. Then they would take the letter and circulate the letter to all the churches in the area. And the sermon portion would be people reading the very letter from the apostle.
I said to myself, “Whoa, that’s what we’re doing with technology!” You know we’re going to Plano. January the 16th is our first weekend in Plano. We’ve had 25,000 people visit Fellowship Church from the Plano area over the last four years in our database. So we’re leasing a 110,000 square foot building, and everything will be live in Plano. We’ll have the staff, we’ll have pastors, children’s stuff, music stuff, the total package. The only thing that will be videoed—on high definition screens, even better than this one [behind me]—will be the teaching portion. Whether I’m teaching or Laura or Tracy or Tianne or whoever.
You might be saying, “Well, man, that’s kind of crazy.” But as I’m talking to you right now, from about the sixth or seventh row back, you’re not even looking at me anyway. You’re looking at the side screens. So, you know? Caught ya!
And the other one that we’re opening—and this is cool. I can announce this tonight—is the facility in Uptown [Dallas]. Do you know where the West Village is? Take a map and look at it. West Village is right across from some of the main shopping areas, and North Dallas High School is an older high school there. We’re going to lease that high school and do a full church there. Everything will be staffed. The whole thing will be live, except the video [teaching] portion.
So here’s what we need for you to do. Because we want to continue to reach up—that’s worship, to reach out—that’s sharing Christ, and to reach in—that’s discipleship, we need a lot of you to step up and serve. We need a lot of you to step up and serve here in Grapevine. Fellowship Grapevine. We need you. And you’ll see in your worship guide this card that says, “Hey, I want to serve Fellowship Grapevine.” As you want to, we’ll sign you up. Just check that little box off.
Maybe you’re saying, “Well, you know what? I live in that North Dallas quadrant. Man, I’m, there!” We need you in Plano. Boy, we need you. Sign up for that. Or maybe you’re an Uptowner, or you know someone downtown that lives in a loft or an apartment or whatever. We need you! We need you! To do what? To serve. We need you to invite people. You know people that I’ll never know. I know people you’ll never know. All we’re doing is handing out samples of the bread of life. I’m a beggar telling other beggars where the food source is. Isn’t this cool? People can be more involved in these areas than they could ever be here in Grapevine, just due to location.
How about giving? You realize you’re sitting in a beautiful worship center because someone did the push back and gave sacrificially? We have to give to make this happen. The Bible says 10% of everything we have should go to Him and to his house. That’s what the Bible says. I didn’t make that up. The Bible says that. And quite frankly, a lot of us are kind of tired of picking up the check every time. You’re eating free. We’re serving this food day in and day out, and you’re just eating it. And some of us are paying for everything. And we’re kind of tired of it, you know? Time to pay your way. You ever go out to eat with people and they never pick the check up? You always have to ask, “Me again? Me, again?”
That’s the way a lot of us feel who’ve been giving for a long, long time. I mean, we’ll continue to give. You can’t out give God. But some of you have got to step up. And that’s one of the quickest ways to see God’s blessing your life. It’s the financial thing. Christ talked more about money than he talked about any other subject. I wonder why? Because he knew we’d struggle with it!
When I was talking to one of those people the other day at the hair salon, one of them asked me, they go, “Well, what’s it like at Fellowship behind the scenes? I mean, what goes on—like the nuts and bolts before the service? Like, what do you guys do during the week?” Well, this kind of answers that question.
[A video is played on the side screens showing the brainstorming sessions Ed and fellow staff go through in preparing a message. After the video, Ed comes back on stage to close the service with a prayer.]