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Alex Bartlett is a graphic design resident with The Austin Stone Community Church.

With a Trip to California

 
 
 
I want this to be an encounter with the living God, that he becomes undeniable, where we move out of the ordinary and into the impossible.
— Erwin McManus
 
 
 The Austin Stone Communications Team, left to right: Clay, Ben, Me, Molly, Allie, Riley, & John

The Austin Stone Communications Team, left to right: Clay, Ben, Me, Molly, Allie, Riley, & John

What a month it has been! From the always active city of Austin, Texas all the way out to the sun-soaked bustle of Los Angeles, California, the pace of life here has quickly increased as I’ve began to get more involved in the life of the church. Since my last update I’ve started the Men & Women’s Development Program, begun meeting with my missional community group (MC), attended a three-day conference in LA, and have begun to see my own character broken and refined to be more like Christ. Through it all one thought has taken hold, and it’s that I need more of God; more encounters, more knowledge, more of His character.  While that might seem obvious, for me I’ve seen that desire grow from an apathetic one to something that’s rested on the front of my mind daily. I need more of God and this last month has helped to shape that desire within me.

That desire for more started to really kick in during the Mosaic Conference. I left the quote from Erwin McManus at the top to emphasize how big of an instigator my time in LA has been for me. Erwin leads a church called Mosaic there in Los Angeles that just recently hosted their first conference called A Voice in the Wilderness. My boss John lived there when he was younger and had a lot of his early faith shaped by Mosaic. As soon as he heard they were hosting a conference, we had our tickets. I learned and experienced so many things during my time in Los Angeles, but for the sake of not writing a novel, I’ll just share a taste of my thoughts and feelings about my time there.

In a practical sense, John gave the communications team space to relax and get to know each other better. Being only two months into my job, it great to have an opportunity to bond with my co-workers in a space outside of work. I think it’s in those moments outside of work that you really get to learn who somebody is at their most foundational level, when they are willing and comfortable to engage your questions and answers. As you'll see in some of these photos, we took some time to enjoy the city outside of attending the conference as well; going to the Getty Museum, cruising down the beaches, and enjoying many amazing meals thanks to our fearless “foodie” leader John.

The conference itself was unlike most any conference I had been to before. It was so refreshing for my soul to be around such charismatic big dreamers like Erwin McManus and the other speakers he invited to the conference. It was good to be reminded of the spiritual necessity that sparks creativity. Brian Houston (lead pastor of Hillsong Church) gave a talk on championing the development of next generation, which has encouraged and reminded me to think critically about how I can disciple students at the Stone. The worship band was an incredible source of artistic inspiration as well. Being exposed to new and refreshing ideas, visuals, and concepts is like doing drugs for a designer. You get an immediate sense of wonder, possibility, and fearlessness!  A lot of my takeaways creatively came in the moments between speakers, looking at the signage, the slides, the handouts, the resource table, the t-shirts, and so on. In short, my time in California was such an unexpected gift and the communication team can't thank the Austin Stone leaders enough for allowing us to go be stretched and inspired in such a unique way but such unique visionaries!

Back home in the motherland of Texas, I am currently starting the 6th week of the MWDP theology course and man, is it just rich with solid content. I've never thought so critically about God and of the things in the Bible. We've recently covered the incommunicable and communicable attributes of God and it's been blowing my mind. Incommunicable attributes are those that only God alone has, likewise communicable attributes are ones that He shares us. Learning that an omnipresent, never changing, and all-knowing God gives us the ability to learn things, to show mercy to others, and to even love somebody else is insane. We have characteristics similar to that of our almighty God, wow! I've enjoyed trying to let that sink in over the last few weeks as we start ramping up for our first oral exam, which I'm honestly pretty nervous about! They don't mess around here. Essentially the test wants you to be able to have a conversation with someone about the topics covered in the last section (revelation and inspiration, the incommunicable and communicable attribute of God, the Trinity, and spiritual disciplines) and be able to back your claims with proof from the bible. Practically, your MWDP group or "cohort" sits in a room opposite an instructor who pretends to have opposing or wrong views of God or maybe some questions about the church then your cohort must collectively answer their questions with wisdom, kindness, and scripture. Although nervous, I can immediately see the value in being able to answer tough theological questions and refutes that are thrown my way in real-life situations that have and will occur in the future. I'm excited to have been consistently challenged to work harder in this area of my life, reading, studying, and memorizing God's word.

With work, I think I'm starting to really settle in a bit. I'm slowly being given more and more trust to handle bigger projects too, which has been cool. I've definitely started to learn a lot about the value of humility in regards to being slow to speak and quick to listen as well. It's amazing how far a skill like listening really goes! It's sometimes a struggle, but man is it worth it when you're given a moment to speak and know that people are listening.

 I’ve also had a few requests for a little more insight into my daily experience at work. I don't know how much there is to say on that besides the people who work here at the Stone are incredible, kind, loving, and so much more motivated than any other group I've worked with before. There is essentially an internal mindset to the Austin Stone that says, "Work Hard, Rest Hard" meaning that when you're at work, you give it everything you have. Likewise, when you're off work, you're giving rest everything you have. Such a simple concept, but man is it a good way to shape a healthy work culture and personal mindset. You'll find just a couple photos of my office space to the left above. Keep in mind the office is on two whole floors, so this is just to give you a peek at the spaces that I frequently see myself.

In all, I've been challenged a lot. I just heard a great sermon by one of our church leaders about the danger of operating out of only your talents and not your gifts and the idea of getting burnt out because of that. I don’t feel burnt out at all, but I can see how such a focus on my job as a designer has and could lead me to find final satisfaction and fulfillment from my performance instead of from God. It's been encouraging to have many mentors and friends speak words of encouragement and correction to me in this area The importance of gaining respect with peers through being invited into conversations as well as the power of being available to serve and work hard at every moment of the day are big themes this month for me. I've seen how I've grown to start thinking of others before myself more too. Things that I would claim to have always been good at, but probably didn't believe until just recently.

Lastly, I want to again tell you how thankful I am for each of you. Most all of you care a whole lot and I hope this continues to give you a good insight into what my time is like here in Austin. More than just what it's like but even how I'm experiencing it as well. Before you go, I'd love to let you know how you can be praying for me in the upcoming month.

  • Pray James 1 over me; that I would, more than I ever have before, been slow to speak and quick to listen.
  • Pray that I would daily recognize the opportunity I have to learn more about my God through reading and studying the bible; that I may fall more and more in love with Him.
  • Pray that I would begin to step into opportunities I see to serve past my role as a graphic designer; that I may fall more in love with Christ's bride.
  • Pray from the city of Austin; that God would continue to move powerfully here!
 

I am going to be praying for each of your supporters by name throughout this year. Let me know what I can be praying for you about! There are a lot of you and only one of me, so don’t be shy in reaching out with a prayer request. Send me an email, a text, call on the phone and let me know what is happening in your neck of the woods! I’m serious! Let me know your thoughts on the blog posts. Tell me why you liked them and what you wished you could have heard a bit more about. I only know what to change or add if I hear that feedback from you guys so don’t be shy in sharing your thoughts with me. Your feedback has already been so helpful and enjoying to me. I love getting to hear how I can be praying for you!

Be encouraged and know that God will bless you in your faithfulness to Him.


–Alex

 

P.S.
Austin Stone Worship just release an incredible kids album called "Only Jesus" and I want to encourage you to check it out and share it with your friends! 

 Now available on iTunes, Amazon, and anywhere else you purchase your digital music!

For each song on the album they have included some phenomenal resources that you can use for FREE in your home or in the kids ministry at your church:

  • HYPE DANCE VIDEOS
    Every song features two versions of our dance videos: one with lead vocals and one without lead vocals (for you to lead). Both can be streamed on YouTube or downloaded to your computer to use within ProPresenter. Check out the "Only Jesus" playlist on our YouTube Channel.
  • FAMILY WORSHIP GUIDE
    Based on the lyrical and scriptural content from each song.
  • CHORD CHARTS
    You can download chord charts and numbers charts for every song on the album.
  • THEOLOGY OF THE SONG
    We've teamed up with our teaching pastors and kids leaders to provide you with a theological explanation of each song. These are so you can lead each song confidently in your home or from stage.
 
 
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