January 26, 2009 Tony Morgan

5 Questions with Mark Waltz

I recently caught up with my good friend, Mark Waltz. Mark is the Pastor of Connections at Granger Community Church in Granger, Indiana (my old stomping grounds). He’s also the author of the best-selling book (at least better selling than my books) First Impressions. A few weeks ago, his latest book, Lasting Impressions, came out. Here’s my candid interview with Mark about his new book and life in general.

TONY: Who are you?

MARK: Few people know this, but I’m actually Martin Short’s little brother. No, not really. But I have been told more than once that I look like him. I don’t know what that means, so I haven’t spoken to those people since.

Really, I’m a fortunate family guy, passionately committed to my wife, Laura, and our 15-year old daughter, Olivia.

I’m also deeply devoted to the mission and team at Granger Community Church. I serve with the senior management team, carrying the charge for adult relational environments and their spiritual development as pastor of connections.

I’m a writer, kinda. I’ve only written two books, and I post a new article on my blog about every 17 ½ days, but I love to write. I’m a gamer – which has nothing to do with gambling, unless you consider it a gamble that I’m risking my online avatar and reputation by playing with all the young bucks. Frankly, I suck.

I’m an initiator. I love starting something new. I love it even more when someone else keeps it moving, once it’s launched.

TONY: Your first book about “first impressions” was a big hit. Why were you compelled to write this follow up book?

MARK: Well, I’m guessing you want me to suck up and tell everyone that it was your idea. And that’d be the truth. Before you left the northern Indiana tundra for Wussville, SC, you told me – and this was three years ago – that I should write a second book. I think you actually suggested the title, “Lasting Impressions.” I’m going to regret saying that. You’re going to expect some kind of kick-back now.

Beyond that, though, every workshop, every consulting conversation I’ve had with churches over the past three years ultimately gets around to this question: “So, after first-time guests return to your church, then what? What follows the “first impression?” Every church that cares about their people taking intentional steps toward Christ wants to develop culture and practices that help people navigate their journey. That’s the motive and premise behind “Lasting.”

TONY: In a nugget, what makes a great lasting impression?

MARK: In a nugget? You’re not talking “numbnugget,” are you? That whole McDonald’s thing is disturbing.

Oh, so, like “in a word”? That’s different. Great lasting impressions happen when people know you really care. Even though the local church has a clear agenda to help people meet and follow Jesus as disciples, the environments created (weekend services, groups, classes, etc) remain focused on the individual and his or her unique journey. Lasting impressions communicate “you matter right where you are” and “this is a safe place to question, explore, and choose next steps in relationship with other so-journers.”

TONY: Give us an example of how this is shaping ministry strategy at Granger?

Mark: We accept the weighty challenge that comes in being responsible to people, but we are leaning into the work of being responsible for environments that allow people to wrestle with and live in the wonder of relationship with God. So, we’re not telling people they have to be in a small group or attend a particular class, rather we’re creating group launches and short-term classes and (working on) online resources that help people own their journey. Their steps are their steps.

TONY: Do people still confuse you with me? I’m just wondering if I’m still getting credit for all the smart things you say and write.

MARK: Happens all the time, Tony. In fact Tim Stevens wants to write another “Simply Strategic” book with me. I told him I’d rather kill cockroaches.

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Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group, theunstuckgroup.com. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.
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