Donny's Ramblings


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Residency: Notes from Class

I’m clueless and I had no clue just how clueless I was until I showed up here in Louisville to listen to those who do have a clue talk about… their clues. I can’t even begin to describe to you how my cluelessness has been reinforced in my mind in the last 3 days as I’ve listened to some really great speakers giving lectures on really great things.

Today as I was sitting in class I put down pen and paper and fired up my trusty MacBook Pro. I can type much faster than I can write. Another benefit of taking notes on my computer is that later I’ll actually be able to read what I’ve written. For each lecture, I took notes in a program called Journler. I chose to use it instead of Word because I like the layout a bit better for note taking, and I can have multiple tabs opened. I had a tab open for notes on every lecture, and in a separate tab I took notes that I’ve titled Random Thoughts: Londen Institute Residency. The Random Thoughts tab is just that: random thoughts of things I want to remember so that I can write about them later for you, my constant readers.

Here are my Random Thoughts for today:

  • Today any doubts I may have had about the Londen Institute are completely gone. This is a great program. The speakers are actively involved, highly educated, and highly successful. They bring in relevant, current information to prepare church leaders.
  • Many of those in attendance are already working in churches. Some of them are Pastors, even lead Pastors. Others are church Elders. Still others work in young adult or children’s ministries. This school seems to focus on practical, applicable information.
  • When Todd Wilson mentioned that many of the older, (almost) dying churches are coming to his group asking if they can be satellites of new churches I was intrigued. That’s a really good idea, in my opinion. It kind of reminds me of what LifeChurch.tv is doing.
  • Greg Malcom, a fellow classmate and Elder in his church, took the time to explain to me know that many modern churches fall right in the middle of being conservative or liberal, and take a more realistic viewpoint… they are more “with the times”. Those types of churches are really the ones that are growing today. Lots of independent churches fall into this category.
  • 18,000 people supporting a multi million dollar site like Southeast blows my mind.
  • Remember last night’s message about taking a risk. Particularly the “creating a story” story. That was a really good illustration. Be sure to tell W. about that one.
  • Note to self: buy Out of the Saltshaker by Becky Pippert (Becky is one of those who lectured today – the rest of my bulleted notes are things I wrote down while she was lecturing).
  • Jesus was so upset with religious hypocrisy that he threw furniture down the stairs. He isn’t the type of guy who would walk away from someone struggling with a sex disorder, rage, screwed up lives, etc.
  • The “religious” hated him, but prostitutes and lepers were crazy about him! The chief complaint about Jesus was that he was NOT religious enough! The world needs to know what he’s like! Pick out Bible passages that show these parts, and read them with “seeker” friends.
  • Be real. Develop a style of witnessing consistent with your personality. “I want to talk to you about the Bible, but I’m afraid of how you’ll react”. You don’t have to be someone else for God to use you.

I’m not up to date on the “who’s who” of modern Christian culture, but I’ve been told I should be impressed by our list of speakers. I think going into this seminar with no prior knowledge of the accomplishments of our speakers has made me better able to “judge” their lectures based on content, rather than on the reputation of the lecturer. So far I’ve been really impressed! I’ll list some of the speakers: if you know them feel free to “ooo” and “ahhh”. If you’re like me and you have no clue who they are, just know that these people have really accomplished big things for God with their lives:

  • Dr. Ken Blanchard
  • Mike Emmert
  • Allie Harding
  • Pastor Buddy Howard
  • Pastor Ben Merold
  • Pastor Greg Nettle
  • Dr. Bob Pavelsky
  • Becky Pippert
  • Dr. Bob Russell
  • Pastor Dave Stone
  • Todd Wilson

One thing I really like about the Londen Institute is that they’re bringing people into these Residencies who are currently working very hard for God. These people bring relevant insights into what’s going on in their world as leaders of today’s churches. Practical advice is given. Practical knowledge is applied in small group settings, which allows a lot of interaction with the lecturers. There are 3 Residency events per year.

Once I return home I’ll have a series of back-to-back course assignments to complete, each of which last a minimum of 15 weeks and include a lot of reading and a lot of writing. It’s been awhile since I’ve been a college student but I’m looking forward to all of it.

I’ve never seen a church as large as the one hosting this Residency. Here are some stats for Southeast Christian Church:

  • 770,000 square foot main building
  • There are two other buildings (youth center and administration building) of 150,000 and 115,000 square feet
  • 18,000 members (1,500 nursery aged children alone)
  • The sanctuary seats 9,100
  • It cost $80 million for the land and the main building, took more than 3 years to build, and sits on 117 acres
  • It took more than an hour for us to take the tour
  • It has the 2nd largest kitchen in Kentucky (refrigerator is more than 40 feet wide) – 2 coffee machines turn out 10,000 cups of coffee an hour
  • More than 300 staff members
  • It was started in a basement with a handful of people

A few photos are in order (if you’d like to see several more click here – there’s a great coffee shop, children’s area, etc). This is the lobby… to put this photo into perspective let me tell you that the spot where I’m standing to those escalators on the other side is the length of a football field:

Southeast Christian Center

This sanctuary seats 9,100 people:

Southeast Christian Main Sanctuary

Click here for more photos

Days start at 7:30 am and go until around 9:30 pm. I’m pretty tired.

Off to bed I go, looking forward to tomorrow.


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National Porn Sunday: Overwhelming

Today is National Porn Sunday. I was flown into Oklahoma City to spend the weekend with the XXXChurch team at LifeChurch.tv, who hosted this event. I have to tell you: Life Church overwhelms me. This church has done something no other has done before: they use advanced technology to broadcast to more than 40 services on 12 Campuses – more than 20,000 people. Each campus has a Campus Pastor, holds their own worship service, then tunes into a live broadcast from the main campus when it’s time for the sermon. Their incredible website also streams the service live to a worldwide audience.

Besides the 12 LifeChurch.tv campuses, almost 100 other churches participated in National Porn Sunday. Each of them was sent a kit which included a DVD, the same DVD that was shown here in Oklahoma. A few blog entries back I posted a trailer. Now you can see the entire production by clicking here.

Between services I had the opportunity to meet and speak with some of those in attendance. Such meetings always move me. At every service at which I’ve spoken, there are always people who thank me for being “so brave”, putting myself out there and telling my story, telling me how God touched them while hearing it, encouraging me to continue doing what I’m doing, telling me that God is going to use me in powerful ways.

I don’t feel brave.

I don’t know how to respond when someone tells me that I am.

I feel humbled that people are touched. I can’t put into words how it makes that part of the Bible come to life for me… the part where it tells us God can use ALL things for good. I’ve produced almost 2 million pornographic images and shot hours of video content. I’ve contributed to ruined lives, both of the people involved in my productions as well as the families torn apart by the pain caused by pornography. Yet God uses my story to touch others? I never get over that. I hope the day never comes when that doesn’t give me goose bumps. It’s easy to feel like I’m not worthy to be used by Him.

A man recently pulled me aside at a Porn and Pancakes event and asked how he could forgive himself for the depths to which he’d sunk. He told me that there was nobody he could talk to, but he wanted to tell me what was on his mind, because after 9 years in the porn world, I could probably listen without falling over in shock. He then told me of things he’d done. It’s not something I’ve heard very often, and I don’t want to share it here. I have to admit I didn’t expect him to say the words that escaped his mouth. But he also told me he’d repented repeatedly, asked God’s forgiveness, spoken at length with his wife about the issue, and was actively involved in personal counseling. I felt like God wanted him to know that he’d been given a gift of grace and forgiveness. Not forgiving HIMSELF was like taking that gift and telling God it wasn’t good enough.

I have to remind myself of the same thing sometimes.

Last evening and this morning thousands upon thousands of people saw my face and heard my story. Some of those who approached afterward acted as if I was some sort of celebrity. One woman thanked me for talking to her. To those of you who meet me in the future, please…please…please… don’t do that.

I am Donny. I’m hard headed. I’m stubborn. I’m a sinner. I often times have a short temper. I’m overweight because I like food more than I should. I’m a man who made a living hurting people for 9 years. I feel like thanking YOU for talking to ME. You show Jesus when you talk to me with respect and compassion, rather than venting your anger and frustration at what I’ve done with my life, especially if your own lives have been negatively affected by porn. I really want every reader to understand that.

If you want to encourage me by telling me that God touched you while hearing how He transformed my life with HIS power, I am happy to listen. When you tell me you’re proud of me for speaking out and for enrolling in Seminary, I am strengthened. You are my brothers and my sisters. I feel a love for each of you that I can’t describe. Those are not cliché words in a blog article, I mean them. I love you guys. I love PEOPLE. I love being introduced to your families. I love hearing your stories. Every story you tell me fascinates me, even when overwhelmed by crowds flocking around wanting to shake hands after services, I really like hearing them. They remind me that my life now has a purpose. They remind me, as stated earlier, that the God I serve is so powerful he can use anything to do his work. Even a man who produced pornography.

You inspire me.

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This morning I listened to a woman tell Craig Gross that she was inspired to work with the homeless after reading his book The Gutter. That was really cool.

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My first residency begins October 20th. Yes, Seminary has begun! I’m excited.

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To my dad…

Dad, you have been great. During all the years I was producing porn you stuck up for me to those who gave you grief about my decisions, telling them that I’m your son and you love me no matter what. I never felt like you were passing judgment on me. Not once. People ask all the time if our relationship has been restored since I surrendered my life to God. I am proud to tell them it was never in need of restoration. I love you, dad. I know you’ve always found reasons to be proud of me, ’cause that’s what good daddy’s do. But I’ve also seen the difference in you since this New Life has begun. I know you’re proud for many different reasons now, and I wish you could be at these events with me. Your efforts teaching the right way didn’t go to waste, dad.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he’s old it won’t depart from him.”
God knows what He’s talking about, doesn’t He?

You are a man I am very proud to call my father.