I have been using mind mapping ever since I read Doug Hall’s book, Jump Start Your Brain several years ago (a great book on creativity). Also, check out this Wikipedia page on mind mapping.

Mind mapping is a non-linear approach to brainstorming and note-taking. In other words, instead of starting at the top of the page and working my way down the page, I group thoughts/ideas together on the page as they connect to each other. I’ve used mind mapping for brainstorming, project planning, my master to-do list, research, paper/dissertation planning, sermon prep, and just about anything else that involves generating ideas.

For the past couple of years, I have been creating mind maps to use for my sermon notes, for which I like the term StoryMapping. Here’s a recent example (PDF) of my map/notes. The image in this post is last Sunday’s map. To see how they’ve progressed, check out this an early example and even this earlier one. For other examples of maps for sermon notes, see this blog post at to see how Ed Young uses mind maps. Ed also includes examples in his book, The Creative Leader.

On my maps, each section is color coded. I start at the top and work my way around the page, clockwise. My maps are a lot less complicated now than they were when I started. That’s due mainly to a change in my preaching approach (see one-point preaching). My maps are currently divided into three sections: Introduction, Scripture, and Application/Conclusion.

I normally try to internalize (not memorize!) the map so I only use my printed MapNotes to read the Scripture text, but I have it with me in case I need to refer to it. I don’t normally include notes on what I want to say about the text, but if I’ve studied/internalized the text well, I pretty much know what I want to say about it. I do this because if I include too many notes (as I used to), I feel too constrained and scripted, and I don’t like feeling that way.

Using mind mapping for my sermons has been one of the best things I’ve done for my communication. I’m not suggesting it’s the best/only way to do it, but it has been helpful to me. I use a Mac OSX program called OmniGraffle to produce my maps. There are also some free online tools, including

I hope this is helpful to you. I’d love to hear your comments, experiences with mind mapping, questions about mind mapping, and/or recommendations of any mind mapping resources.

(Since this post was written, I wrote StoryMapping Revisited after reading Resonate by Nancy Duarte, that you might find helpful as well.)

Formal Application Submitted

Today we mailed our formal application for adoption!

You may recall from a previous post, that we had just learned that a formal application for adoption was being mailed to us. Well, we just completed all of the requirements (application, physical exam forms, and various photos of us and our home). It will go out in today’s mail.

Once our application passes a screening, we will, in effect, be placed on a waiting list to receive a “referral” for a child from South Korea. We do not know how long it will take to receive a referral, but once we do, we expect to travel to South Korea 3-4 months afterward to pick up our child.

So, we’re one huge step closer!

Leaders Who Shape a Missional Culture

The ministry project for Randy’s dissertation.

Earlier, we said we’d write more later about our specific ministry projects. In the conversations with Russell West that we wrote about in that post, both of our ministry projects changed. Rather than conducting ministry projects in our local settings, we will now be looking for leaders who are doing what we want to do and then study them. It’s a change we’re both very excited about. Of course, we will apply what we learn in our local settings, so it’s win-win.

My project will involve studying/observing 3 leaders who are shaping a missional culture through their leadership and communication. After studying them, I will write about the lessons I’ve learned and that will provide the rest of the material for my dissertation.

My top two choices, at the moment, are …

Andy Stanley / North Point Community (Atlanta, GA)

Erwin McManus / Mosaic (Los Angeles, CA)

I will need to choose the third/final leader from one of the following

Kirbyjon Caldwell / Windsor Village United Methodist Church (Houston, TX)

Bill Hybels / Willow Creek Community Church (South Barrington, IL)

Ed Young / Fellowship Church (Fort Worth, TX)

Mike Slaughter / Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church (Tipp City, OH)

Adam Hamilton / Church of the Resurrection United Methodist Church (Leawood, KS)

Mark Beeson / Granger Community Church (a United Methodist Church) (Granger, IN)

Rudy & Juanita Rasmus / St. Johns United Methodist Church (Houston, TX)

Pete Hise / Quest Community Church (Lexington, KY)

T.D. Jakes / The Potter’s House (Dallas, TX)

Comments …

Not sure why there are so many Texas-based churches on this list! 🙂

Andy Stanley and Erwin McManus top my list (you’ll notice we’ve recommended some their books in the sidebar). Both are huge in shaping my leadership and communication. Choosing one of the others will be no easy task!

More than likely the third/final leader I’ll choose will either be Kirbyjon Caldwell, Bill Hybels, or Ed Young. However, since it might be a good idea to include at least one United Methodist leader/church, Kirbyjon might get the nod.

I also added one lesser known leader/church to the mix (Pete Hise, Quest Community). We visited there last January; it’s a young, growing congregation. I like that they have a female teaching pastor (Helen Musick) who seems to provide a good portion of the Sunday preaching responsibilities.

After I submit my second draft (in the next couple of weeks, hopefully), I will begin work on this project so I have a few weeks to make a decision. If you’d like to weigh in on my selections, or propose another leader who’s shaping a missional culture, please click on “comments” and add your thoughts to the mix.

Next Year in Wilmore!

Looking forward to graduation one year from today!

One year from today, 24 May 2008, is graduation day at Asbury Theological Seminary. As long as we stay on track and complete our dissertations this year, we expect to be in Wilmore, KY one year from today to receive our doctor of ministry degrees! Needless to say, we’re very excited and can’t wait!

The countdown continues.

Building Blocks

A great life requires great character!

Earlier this year (during the season of Lent), I preached a 6-week sermon series was on “Building Blocks,” the building blocks of great character. In this series I talked about humility, trustability, courage, obedience, endurance, and passion.

Here’s a brief synopsis of the series’ main points …

Humility: Your view of God will determine how humble you are!

Read John 1.19-27

Ask God to expand your view: “God, help me to see how big you are!” Read Scripture. Look for glimpses of God in the world. Your view of God will determine how humble you are!

Trustability: God entrusts his work to trustable people!

Read Matthew 25.14-30

How trustable are you? What are you doing with what God has entrusted to you? Are you digging a hole and hiding it in the ground, waiting for your Master to return? Or are you going out, taking risks, putting God’s resources to work?

Courage is doing the right thing, even when it’s hard!

Read Mark 11.15-19

God is serious about courage. The word “courage” and/or “courageous” appears about 50 times in the Bible. The phrase “Be strong and courageous” appears 12 times, and one more time as, “Be strong and very courageous.”

Jesus certainly modeled courage for his followers. Andy Stanley says, “Leaders instill courage in the hearts of those who follow. This rarely happens through words alone. It generally requires action.”

What have you been avoiding? Why not do the right thing this week?

Obedience to God allows us to live the best life possible!

In this message, we looked at several passages of Scripture that addressed obedience, including Philippians 2.1-11; Luke 2.51-52; John 8.26; John 12.49; John 5.19-20; John 8.55; John 7.24-27; John 3.36; John 8.51; John 14.15-24; John 15.10-14; Matthew 28.18-20.

Endurance is pushing forward when every fiber in your being wants to quit!

Jesus said, People “will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10.22).

Read Hebrews 12.1-13

Some early Christ-followers were sometimes called “athletes of God.” Paul wrote to the Corinthians Christ-followers, “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. … I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that … I myself might be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9.24-27)

Passion is the driving force that allows you to keep moving forward!

Read Matthew 26.36-46. Luke adds, “Jesus was in great pain and prayed so sincerely that his sweat fell to the ground like drops of blood.” I understand that it’s a medical experience called, Hematidrosis; that is, blood-tinged sweat associated with a high degree of psychological stress. Jesus was so passionate about humanity, that he was willing to endure anything, including taking on the sin of the world, to make us right with God.

In the movie, Serendipity, a movie about how Jonathan and Sara get together. Toward the end of the movie, Jonathan’s friend, Dean, who writes obits for the New York Times, said, “You know the Greeks didn’t write obituaries. They only asked one question after a man died: ‘Did he have passion?’

What about you? Do you have passion? Passion for God, passion to do God’s will, passion to finish the race set before you?

Reading the Scriptures

The importance of daily Bible reading.

There’s a lot of emphasis on reading Scripture. While there’s not a command in the Bible that says, “Thou shalt read the Bible everyday!” I recently came across a couple portions of Scripture that address the importance of reading the Scriptures consistently.

In Deuteronomy 17, Moses is preparing the people for the leadership of his successor. He gives guidelines for a King upon entering and settling in the promised land and offers specific guidelines regarding the “body of instruction on a scroll,” saying, the king “must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the Lord his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. And it will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel” (Deuteronomy 17.18-20).

Later, after Moses dies, Joshua becomes the new leader of God’s people. Joshua 1.6-9 gives the following instructions: “Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

The Bible is the story of our spiritual ancestors. We learn about God through their experiences. And, hopefully, our faith is strengthened and challenged by their experiences!

“Spider-Man 3”

The third movie in the series has more good life lessons.

Yesterday, on our day off, we went to see Spider-Man 3. We enjoyed the movie, and thought it was very well done. We read in a local paper that the movie earned a $100 million profit in its first six days (internationally), and it was a very expensive movie to make! Amazing. After the movie’s second weekend at the box office, the movie has earned more than $252 million, putting it at #54 on the all-time ticket sales totals list (previous Spider-Man movies are currently at #7 and #10).

The Spider-Man movies, based on the comic book series by Stan Lee, have had some great quotes and lessons. The first movie included the great statement, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Here are some lessons we saw in the third movie (feel free to add lessons you heard in the comments section) …

Every villain and super hero in this movie had to make a choice between good and evil. In fact, the movie’s tagline is “The Battle Within.” Peter Parker (Spider-Man) had his own battle between good and evil. The villains Sand-Man, Venom, and New Goblin (Peter’s friend Harry) also each had to make their own choices for good or evil in this movie. Peter says, “Whatever comes our way, whatever battle we have raging inside us, we always have a choice.”

There’s also a great message about forgiveness. At one point, Peter Parker (in a time of choosing evil) says to Eddie Brock (Venom), “If you want forgiveness, go find religion.” Elsewhere his Aunt May encourages him, “Start by doing the hardest thing. Forgive yourself.” Peter’s girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson (M.J.) says, “We’ve all done terrible things to each other, but we have to forgive each other. Or everything we ever were will mean nothing.” Toward the end of the movie, Peter says to one of the villains who killed his uncle (in the first movie), “I forgive you.” (You can read more quotes from the movie at

It’s worth seeing. Again, feel free to comment here on any lessons or reactions you had to the movie.

United Methodists Recruit Missionaries

The United Methodist Church expands its ministry around the world!

It was recently reported that the United Methodist Church, after cutting some of its missionary efforts in recent years, is re-igniting its missionary recruitment drive. We’re excited about that!

As reported, while the UMC continues to decline in the US, it has grown an amazing 177% in the last decade outside the US! The denomination is becoming much more global. That’s a reality that church leaders (i.e. the Council of Bishops, who met recently) have been wrestling with recently, specifically their leadership “role in the growing global denomination.”

May God help the UMC make a difference for God in the world by meeting people’s needs and helping people follow Jesus!

Spiritual Fitness

The journey demands that followers of Jesus stay in shape!

In my daily Bible reading yesterday, I finished Deuteronomy. Near the end of the book, at the end of Moses’ life and leadership of the Israelite’s, Moses wrote a song and taught it to the people he was leaving behind.

Part of that lengthy song caught my attention: “But Israel soon became fat and unruly; the people grew heavy, plump, and stuffed!” (Deuteronomy 32.15).

That makes me think of people who don’t stay in spiritual shape. Unfortunately, it’s easy to become complacent and comfortable with the way things are, and simply maintain the status quo. Rather than commit to a life of change and transformation, we remain where we are.

Before we know it, years, maybe even a lifetime, has gone by, and we have grown in the wrong direction. When we’re not in the process of being transformed, we become “fat and unruly,” and we grow “heavy, plump, and stuffed.” It’s something we must constantly guard against, and we guard against it by committing to a life of growth and transformation.

The American Heart Association offers some helpful advice on Following a Healthy Eating Plan. Tips for becoming more spiritually fit and healthy are similar, I think, and may include things like …

Give at least as much as you receive.

Put your faith into action (love God and love people).

Spend devoted time with God every day.

Develop healthy spiritual habits (i.e. disciplines).

Get enough spiritual nutrition, and in a variety of forms.

Avoid things that will make you spiritually unhealthy.

How spiritually fit are you? Is your spiritual health improving? How might you put some of these tips into practice in your own life?

Formal Application for Adoption

Got word today that a formal application is in the mail!

If you’ve been following our unfolding adoption story over the last few months you may know that the next BIG step in the adoption process is the submission of a formal application to Americans for International Aid & Adoption (AIAA) (we had already submitted a “pre-application,” which put us in line for a formal application).

Well, moments ago, we received an email from AIAA that a formal application is being mailed to us today!

We don’t know how long the rest of the process will take, but expect it to take at least several months. We’re also not exactly sure what the rest of the process will look like (there will be more paperwork sometime down the road, we believe), but our understanding is that this essentially gets us on the waiting list for a child from South Korea (well, just as soon as we receive, complete, and return the application, of course, which we plan to do in a very timely manner). And that’s a big deal!

(Note to selves: Must get dissertations done ASAP!) 🙂