With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 getting released earlier this month and the trailers for Spiderman: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok picking up traction, I thought it was time to put together some thoughts on my favorite films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Becuase there are so many I will just put them in Tiers, not a numerical order because who has time for that.
A Tier: (ordered by release date)
Iron Man – It started the rebirth of Marvel movies fantastically.
Captain America: The First Avenger – Finally Chris Evans found a decent superhero to play.
Thor – As a long time Thor fan, this was all that I could have hoped for.
The Avengers – This was perfection. In my opinion a near flawless film in introducing all of the characters and offering fantasy with humor.
Captain America: The Winter Solider – Fantastic!
Ant-Man: This was a delight! I had not bothered to watch it in the theaters expecting it to be average at best, but I was pleasantly surprised.
Iron Man 2 – This barely makes this Tier. In light of how good the other films have been this seems lacking.
Thor: The Dark World – Very good film, but far from great.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 – This won’t be popular with some (Jack), but I didn’t love it. I don’t know what it was, but it was great to me.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron – It didn’t have the magic that the first did. I just found it trying to get too much done in a couple of hours. Also, why am I watching Captain America and Iron Man having chopping firewood contest?
Captain America: Civil War – Again, good, but just not great.
Iron Man 3 – Really? This movie is total buns.
N/A (I haven’t seen these)
The Incredible Hulk – I have seen parts of this one with Norton and I have never found myself wanting to finish it.
Doctor Strange – I’m truly ashamed that I haven’t watched this yet.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – I’m working on it!!!
Last week, Tim Tharp and I got the opportunity speak to Small Churches at the Orange Conference. What an honor and privilege to be able to share what God has been doing in our community. I wanted to highlight the Pivots again for anyone who might have missed them (my wife reminded me that I talked way too fast…sorry about that).
- Pivot #1: Priorities
- From advocating for Adults to championing for Children
- Who gets the most time, energy, and money at your church? If you are like most churches – then it is Adults. Adults will get what they need. Kids need someone to speak up for them. Who is championing Children and Students being a priority in your church? If you don’t make kids a priority then no one will.
- Small Churches make the greatest impact when – we put Children at the center of our church
- Pivot #2: Strategy
- From a mindset of Scarcity to Sufficiency
- Feeling like we don’t have enough isn’t an emotion reserved for small churches. Everyone wants more – more volunteers, more space, more money! But what if we believed that we had enough of what we needed to make a difference in people’s lives. HOW we use what we have, our strategy, is more important than the quantity of our resources.
- Small Churches make the greatest impact when – we believe we have enough
- Pivot #3: Focus
- From focusing on our congregation to focusing on our community
- I’m not sure when exactly it happened – but at some point, during my last few years in ministry, I realized that I spend the majority of my time caring for and managing the business of ministry. Maybe I should say the BUSYNESS of ministry. When did we stop making time for people that needed help the most? It wasn’t a deliberate shift away from my community, but it will take intentional effort to get back to serving my congregation and community.
- Small Churches make the greatest impact when – we look beyond the confines of the Sanctuary – into the needs of our community
- Pivot #4: Perspective
- How we see other churches in our community from competition to colleagues
- This might be the hardest lesson for leaders and pastors. If we are honest, most of us have been trained that for our church to succeed, other churches in our community must fail. If you are like me you often see the church down the street as competition. Quickly my energy is spent trying to build my Kingdom instead of working to build God’s Kingdom. Guess which one will last?
- Small Churches make the greatest impact when – we realize that when any church in our community wins our entire community wins
I hope that this was helpful. I can’t tell you how cool it was to be able to share about some of the ways that Wrightsville First United Methodist has been utilizing these principles to transform our church. If you would like more information about the Breakout you can find me at – kirkhagan(at)gmail.
News Flash: People love to question good ideas when they didn’t come up with them. They will find a reason, or more often reasons, why your idea or the strategy that you are implementing isn’t right. They will find flaws and holes. They will think of ten different ways that are better than what you and your team came up with.
Don’t be surprised. People will be critical. Sometimes they are right. But lots of times, they aren’t. Have you prayed about your plan? Have you had conversations and discussed your options? Have you done the necessary work of coming to a good decision, involving the right people at the right time? Then don’t doubt that. People will always come in as the last coat of paint is going on the wall with an opinion that you should have gone with a darker shade. But you won’t. Because you are doing what best. Not because you came up with it, but because you followed your process and trust the team that is doing ministry. Listen to yourself. Trust your process. Follow where that leads.
Have you ever realized that you were getting great feedback…after it was too late? This happens to me constantly. I have an idea. I start making plans and arrangements. I get just enough folks on board to implement the idea. We execute the idea and it goes ok. Just ok. Afterward, I have people who could have offered invaluable information and suggestions. Unfortunately, it is too late.
As the leader, pastor, director, whatever – it is our responsibility to have the right people involved at the right time. Tomorrow is probably not the right time. After the event or decision is not the right time. It is difficult and hard work to have conversations where you might not get your way before the event happens. The old saying of, “It is easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission,” is funny and stupid. Don’t be that guy. You will not last long and you will not make a difference.
I was listening to a podcast a few days ago and heard a fantastic line, “Make only the news that you intend to make.” It was used when discussing a hearing that a public figure made concerning some sensitive and important information.
I wonder how often I succeed in, “making only the news that I intend to make,” in the meetings I attend and lead. How often do I muddy the waters by interjecting unhelpful comment? How often to I sidetrack our intended purpose by offering up an opinion that will get more “press” the following week than the original objective of the meeting? Make only the news that you intend to make…I couldn’t have said it better.
People want to know why. They want to know WHY you think you should create a new program. They want to know WHY you believe it is time to end a ministry that used to be so powerful. They want to know WHY you are sure it is time to pivot and change course. People aren’t thinking about the thing you are planning or plotting as much as you are and have been – it is all new to them. And they want to know why they should care…
When people want to know why, tell a story. Tell them why by painting a picture of a preferred future. Tell them about someone who could benefit from this new idea. Tell them a story. People aren’t moved by data or motivated by “this other church I heard is doing it…” They are excited by stories. Tell them some.
I don’t always recommend this – but stop being yourself! Let me unpack that. Stop being yourself, when you want to understand someone else. Most of us grew up hearing the expression, “walk a mile in their shoes.” In ministry and life, we often need to see something from someone else’s perspective. That is actually a pretty solid adage. But it still has one obstacle in understanding someone else – us. We are still imagining and envisioning the world from their perspective but with our history. I heard Reggie Joiner say it this way at Orange Conference in 2016, “Empathy is the ability to press pause on your own thoughts and feelings long enough to understand someone else’s.” To imagine what they are feeling, we have to be able to stop being ourselves. To press pause on ourselves and consider the issue as the other person. Can you stop being yourself long enough to be someone else? It is important if you want to understand those around you.
I recently bumped into a ministry situation that had me stumped. I didn’t know what to do. This is typical for some of us pastors. But the one thing that I know how to do is phone a friend. So, I called a pastor friend who has been through a similar situation. As I reflected on the solution I was reminded a valuable lesson – I should not think alone. It rarely is the best option. Get others involved in your processing so you find the best outcome.
I don’t confess to be, “that guy,” when it comes to Star Wars. I don’t know the name of the moons around Hoth or exactly how Stormtroopers died on the Death Star. But I have grown up watching the movies. I, like many many people, have been in engrossed in the films with the release of the Prequels and the newer canon in the last two years. It is just a great world to explore! The characters are timeless yet approachable. This past year I ramped up my geek cred by reading a couple of the Star Wars novels (Dark Disciple & Bloodline). I was reminded how great the storytelling of the first films that caught my attention as a kid some 40 years ago!
So here is my ranking of my Favorite Star Wars Films:
- The Empire Strikes Back (V) – This film is just about perfect. It transforms the story that we thought we knew so well in A New Hope (IV), and puts it on its ear. It has more action and suspense that we felt when the Death Star blew up for the first or second time!
- The Force Awakens (VII) – I know. It was just “A New Hope remake.” I don’t care, and I don’t totally agree. It was a party on a roller coaster and I loved every moment of it. Ok…I didn’t love every moment. I almost cried when I realized that HE was going to die. But Rey, Finn, and Poe! It was just fantastic.
- A New Hope (IV) – The film that started it all. I’m not going to try and argue about when Lucas wrote what, but this IS the beginning of the story and it does it marvelously.
- Return of the Jedi (VI) – As a kid, this film was the best! As I have rewatched it I am still moved but some of the campy-er moments rob it of the film it could have been. It was a fitting ending both when we thought it was THE ending and now that the story has continued. This might have edged out Rogue One because of the happy ending, I can admit that.
- Rogue One – I have wrestled with this film. I was able to watch it twice in the theaters, so I have been able to see it from both a “wow, first time!” and an “um…do I really like that” perspective. And I think I do really like it. So much that it could be #3 on this list. I wish they had done more to develop some of the characters and gotten rid of that mind reading monster (what was that about!?!). It was a long movie running at 2 hours and 13 minutes. But couldn’t they have added 5-10 minutes and let me care more about Jyn and Cassian? I wish they had. It was sad watching the ending unfold, but I didn’t feel like it was sad enough if that makes any sense.
- Mandatory Space for the gap that is between #5 and #6
- Revenge of the Sith (III) – We have gone from greatness to good. I’m sorry to say that Anakin is unbearable. I’m not trying to specific blame to the actor or the writers, but someone blew it. It is just painful to watch…and this is the “good” one of the Prequels. Of the Prequels this was not a return, but at least facing the right direction of action and adventure that we once believed about the Star Wars universe. Having rewatched these in the Fall, I was reminded how great Ewan McGregor did as Obi-Wan, he really salvaged the films.
- The Phantom Menace (I) – We had hopes, but then Jar-Jar. It was just Jar-Jar. It was all of the parts of the Galaxy that we didn’t know that we didn’t care about. It happened. Forgive and forget.
- Attack of the Clones (II) – As I mentioned I watched the films again in the fall in preparation for Rogue One release. I had to force myself to finish this movie. It is just so, so, bad. Anakin is at his worst. It literally feels like it belongs to a different movie franchise. It is closer to Fifth Element than it is a Star Wars film…an no. That isn’t a compliment.
Thanks for reading. Do you agree? I would love to hear!
Ok. I just realized that anyone (even YOU!) can create your own Geofilter for Snapchat. Geofilters are those cool logos and images that are available when you go to Turner Field, big concerts, or most cities on Snapchat. Awesome right?!? And it is actually pretty easy. I just did two for the community I live in (Wrightsville, Ga) in just a couple of hours. As someone who is trying to impact and encourage the community – what a fun way to do help give us some identity.
Here is my first one for the city. I actually had to submit it a twice because Snapchat wanted more information about the significance of this image (our town’s historic Courthouse) as the centerpiece of the geofilter. But after a couple of minutes tweaking the wording, I got a confirmation email without about 48 hours and it was approved.
If you want some more technical info about how to get start check out – http://www.idigitaltimes.com/snapchat-geofilter-makers-guide-how-get-template-create-and-submit-successful-509558.